Category Archives: Camp

Path of Life

Growing up my daddy was a farmer and my mother was a momma. That is what they choose to do with their lives, their career. What a person chooses to do with their life is an important part of who they are. Every child dreams of what they will become when they are “grown-up.” I wanted to be a motorcycle police officer in the California Highway Patrol. This was because my favorite TV show was CHiP’s and I loved Ponch and Jon! We are influenced in many different ways on what we will become when we grow up.

There are rewards and benefits to what a person does with their life. Some people define this as a job, work, career, or profession. But I think these words are a poor definition of what you do with your life. For example, job is defined as a piece of work, especially a specific task done as part of the routine of ones occupation for an agreed price. Doing something for an “agreed price” does not sound like fun or enjoyable. Yes, there are rewards and benefits to what a person does with their life. Commonly we think of these rewards and benefits as a salary or wage. Do you do what you do because of money or because of love?

Many motivational speakers, self-help guides, and career coaches give keys to success in the work place or layout plans on how to better enjoy your job. But that is talking about your career and job. Yuck!!! They make it sound like a mathematical equation that can be solved rather than the scientific process that more appropriately defines life’s journey. Is the road to success a mathematical formula to get the most cash out of your job? Look at Wall Street currently, do you think those CEOs are happy even with the millions in their personal bank accounts?

Look at my parents, one was a farmer and the other a mother. Cash wasn’t the only reward. Each season brought pride and joy to my dad. Each season had its toil and heartache. If my father did it just for the cash it might not have been worth the labor, the fluctuating crop prices, dealing with chemicals and their sales reps. I don’t think a pile of cash makes the handwork, sweat, toil, or sorrow worth it all! That is in the eyes of whoever is holding the bag of cash.

Even though I wanted to be a motorcycle cop in California I turned out to be a space geek in Alabama. There is no four year college program to become a space geek nor is there an apprenticeship for this field of work. The path to being a space geek is not clearly defined on but it is an actual profession. To a doctor, lawyer, teacher, fighter pilot, or veterinarian they may think I am making this space geek thing up. But it is what makes me happy. And isn’t that what you want to do with your life? Rather than finding a J O B shouldn’t we find what makes us happy in life?

Success is defined in many different ways to many different people and I am not about to give you a quote from the great big book of success. But success is finding happiness along the path of life. Success or accomplishment is finding people to enjoy your life with a mate, friends, or family and being excited each day of your life from wake up to shut down. Balancing work and play is the key but enjoying the two is what makes life remarkable!

So look around you, are you at work? Are you at home and are you happy? Do you have just a J O B that gives you an agreed price for your grief and heartache or do you have something that you do that gives you more back than just a pile of cash. The rewards and benefits of being a space geek are enormous. I get to work with wonderful people, travel to fantastic places, and learn fascinating space stories. But one of the largest benefits is where I work. I have a Space Shuttle outside my office window during the winter months and I work in a rail car surrounded by aircraft and a lake in the summer months.

Training the Newbies

I thought about making a life rule about writing about work. It would have gone something like this, “Thou shalt not write about the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in the past, present, or future tense.” However, I did not make the rule and I feel compelled to write about my favorite season of the year. No, it isn’t spring or summer. My favorite season is training season followed by Be Ready season.

I have the best job in the world. I work at Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. That is the big umbrella name, but in reality I work as the Program Manager of Aviation Challenge from about March to September. Aviation Challenge is a realistic military aviation experience. If Space Camp trains future astronauts, we train the future Mavericks and Gooses. In October I shift gears to staff recruitment and training until AC rolls back around in the spring. Before Thanksgiving I get to travel to fun places like Embry Riddle Prescott, Troy University and many points in between.

Along the recruiting trail we get to meet the future staff on their college campus or in their home towns. We spend time in hotel rooms and in cars driving down long highways in Arizona… look there is a cactus! The recruitment team has an important job to excite hopeful candidates to leave school for a semester for Huntsville, Al and Space Camp. Some candidates put off starting their careers or entering grad school. To me the choice seems like a no brainer. But it can be daunting at times.

On January 7th of this year we accepted over fifty new staff into our camp family. I have the good fortune of teaching and organizing a lot of training. Ok, I don’t teach as much as the counselor staff members that are selected as mentors, but I do get to educate the masses on the importance of a quality pencil. It is long hours and can be stressful, but along the way I get to hang out with some of the greatest people. The simple enjoyment of being a teacher can be my greatest experience during this time of year.

The mentors are the best of the best, the Top Guns of the counselor corps. They guide the new staff each day through all their activities, tests, and teach backs. I only have to worry about keeping them straight on which room to meet Kerby in for the Art of Debriefing. They only have to worry about making cookies and other snacks for their teams on test days. Joseph’s oatmeal raisin cookies are amazing and Jason’s chocolate cookies with the caramel centers are slap your co-worker good. Nothing is slap my momma good. She would shoot me.

We have learned about all the major milestones of the early space program, most all anyone ever needs to know about the space shuttle program, how to be a team leader/counselor, and all the logistics behind working at Space Camp. The new staff will be rock solid before they take their first teams. The mentors, trainers and staff have given their very best this year. I am so proud to be a part of this training team.

2 and 3 of 249

In the winter of 2006 my friend Charity and I created a MySpace page for our mythical character Alumni Andi. The purpose of Alumni Andi was to drum up support for Space Camp’s 25th Anniversary. We were both alumni of Space Camp programs, we both loved the idea of getting our hands dirty around work, and we both enjoyed every moment of our project.

At the time Charity was working in scheduling and I was the manager of Aviation Challenge. We had just completed our greatest triumph with Be Ready Camp and Be Ready Day! I was struggling through my second year of marriage and she was still enjoying the life of a somewhat single chick. I can’t remember how we came up with Alumni Andi other than it was some random idea that came out of my eccentric brain. We had our purpose, our goal.

Demo 25th Anniversary Flag I remember Andi’s first words like I just wrote them, or like I just read them, a few minutes ago on MySpace. It was a very fun time. It was my first blog. Please, let me reminisce.

“What do you get when you put a red-headed step child and a planning and logistics person together (who are both alumni)? Well, with a little bit of Space Camp magic mixed with AC lake water, you get Alumni Andi. Andi is the brain child of US, the players to be named later.”

Jump forward past two classes of inductees, an injured camper in Iraq, a marriage, and reaching the 500,000th camper to today. It was a special day. I woke up thinking it would be an average Friday and the highlight would be my consultant hubby coming home from Newark. But it wasn’t that way at all. Today Andi received a nod of thanks and I remember how great it was back in the winter of ’06. It was great to work with my “appendage.” Two and Three are Andi’s flags. I don’t consider my flag as my flag. It belongs to Andi.

Yes, I did look lustfully at the flags that were shoved in Kelley and Holley’s office corner; the flags that were too damaged to give to VIPs. Yes, when I presented my favorite astronaut with his 25th anniversary flag, I was jealous. But today standing up with Andi – Charity, Mike, and Geoff, I was more honored than I could ever be.

I love my job, I love my purpose, and I love my place in this world. Being Andi taught me two things: Anyone can be influential, even a mythical character; and I love to write.