Tag Archives: Aviation Challenge

Not a Mediocre Dog

A few years back I lectured a group of Mach III – 12 Day students about the importance of not settling for sloppy bunks during bay inspection.  I told them if they would accept average bed making they would continue to settle for mediocrity their entire lives.  “No one wants a mediocre dog” was the quote that seemed to strike a chord with the students.  See, if you didn’t push yourself for greatness, you will end up living in a mediocre house with a mediocre spouse with a mediocre job and a mediocre dog.  Looking back at Boo’s life, my dog was not mediocre!  He was an exceptional dog who lived an extraordinary life.

Boo was “rescued” and taken to The Ark on October 31st, 2004.  He was taken from the cruel streets of Five Points in Huntsville.  Where he had a family that didn’t realize how unique he was.  Why would anyone neglect such a special animal?  We were not anticipating looking for a dog until our house was complete and we had time for a puppy.  I opened an email from a co-worker who also volunteered at The Ark.  The moment I saw his eyes, I was hooked.  Since he had been found abandoned without a collar on the streets, he was a lost dog and there was a period time he had to spend at The Ark before he could be adopted.  On the very day he could be adopted we went to visit… He came home with us on November 6th, 2004.  We were two weeks away from closing on our house.

He seemed like a normal pound puppy.  It would take a few years before his true super hero powers were seen.  At first, Boo gravitated toward me but Chris traveled a lot during the first few years with us.  I guess, Boo bonded with me more.  Boo became the most consistent thing in my daily life.  Wake up, feed the dog and go to work.  Come home, play with Boo and go to bed.  Boo loved playing with a red laser pointer we had.  He trained us well.  If he wanted to play with the “bug” he would act like the bug was on the ground to encourage play time.  He was spoiled only after a few months.

He was bright, well behaved most of the time and for the most part house trained.  However, he used urination as a way of expressing his displeasure with our behavior.  When Chris would leave, Boo peed through his crate on to the tile floor.  This would become a theme even after we trusted him outside of a crate.  To be fair, he peed on many of Chris’ office furniture.  He hated to be left alone for any reason.  He seemed more stressed out when I would leave.  He would cry, anxiously pace the floor and often chewed on the window blinds.  Days I went for a run, he would greet me at the front door with his nose implanted in the window as if he was doing research on the molecular make-up of glass.  Once home from anywhere he often would follow me anywhere, including the bathroom.  When his sight got bad, he would use his wicked sense of smell to follow me.  However, sometimes the trail looped around the kitchen and then into the bedroom, but I was already on the couch.  No matter, the goal was to find me and get as close to me as possible.

He was loved by many people.  I would take him to work at Space Camp and Aviation Challenge even though it was against the rules.  He was given the call sign Bernoulli from the staff my first summer at AC.  Each time I would take him to Aviation Challenge, his first piece of business was to do his business in front of the MiG by the rail cars.  I felt it was more of a political statement than anything else.  Boo opposed the godless commies of the Soviet Union.  And the MiG was a symbol of their Cold War regime.  But the ritual continued for many years.  And visiting camp continued even when I was at Cha-La-Kee.  However, visiting Cha-La-Kee was more rewarding for Boo.  He would get treats from the kitchen staff and rides on the pontoon boat.  Many campers wanted to love him, but Boo’s mission was clear.  Don’t get in the way of me finding food or RMO.

The trick he was most known for was sitting upright on the back legs like a prairie dog.  His first owners must have taught him that or it was simply a part of his DNA.  Boo would use this stance and his adorable eyes to beg hopelessly for food.  We tried not to give him human food after he OD’ed on Thanksgiving dinner just a few weeks after adopting him.  He loved parmesan cheese so much he would come to the kitchen anytime we opened the zip-lock bag.  We gave him just a little from time to time.  He became a cheese snob only liking freshly grated parmesan.  But his favorite treat was a greenie.  If left to his own wishes, he would ingest greenies like a chain smoker consumes Marlboro Reds.  Or a fat kid goes through Twinkies.

Growing up, I had dozens of great dogs.  From the black Doberman that rode in the truck with my father even before I was born to my first German Shepherd to the Christmas Dalmatian, Dottie and our blue Doberman, Scarlett, we had until I was in college; they were all outstanding creatures.  Often the dogs we have as children are the ones that leave the paw prints on our hearts.  For the most part Boo was an easy dog to love.  But he still loved me more.  I enjoyed his company and companionship especially while at home alone.  He went with me everywhere he could the last months of his life, but he couldn’t go to Chile with me.

Saying good bye to him has been more difficult than I imagined.  He wasn’t like your average pet.  He was fully integrated into my daily life.  He gave me just as much peace and comfort as I gave him.  Chris has taken videos of him crying when I would leave.  I naively thought I understood how Boo felt.  I was wrong.  Now, I am the one crying because he has left me.  He was just as much my comfort as I was his.  Good bye, my dear friend

Mount Rushmore Style

Headed to Chick-fil-AThis is has been a really good year! Could have been great with the exception a just a hand full of moments.  This year I wanted to do something different from my normal year end blog. Since the mighty Bulldogs of Mississippi State had a great year and at one point in time were in the top four in college football, I am going to honor that top four ranking system in a series of blog post. You could call it a Mount Rushmore style to topical blogging.  All of the topics this month will be focused on the best four of 2014.

To start out, I have picked a simple topic: the most important meal of the day, breakfast!  Here is a list of my top four most memorable breakfast meals of 2014 in no particular order.

Big Ed’s in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina is a traditional country style breakfast.  They are known for their hot cakes in the morning and southern style meat and three lunch menu.  During my 38 years on this planet, I think there are only two places that had pig brain on the menu, Winona City Cafe and Big Ed’s.  Truthfully, I didn’t eat pig brain or Big Ed’s hot cakes.  I played it safe with traditional eggs, country ham and grits.  It was amazing!  Big shout out to Jen Kramer who floated in to Big Ed’s like a master culinary critic with her little man, Isaiah.  Kramer selected Big Ed’s for breakfast for me and my road tripping friends.  All there will agree she floated!

Aretha Frankensteins in the north shore area of Chattanooga, Tennessee is a spot that even Rachel Ray has enjoyed.  I have eaten at Aretha’s before, however 2014 was my first chance to eat breakfast at the small twenty or so patron restaurant.  I chose an omelet with ham, cheese and jalapeños.  All was right in the world!  We had to show up before the doors even opened to make sure we secured our seat in a home that was converted into one of Chattanooga’s most famous places to eat.  I sat at the bar with friends where I could watch the comings and goings of the staff.  The place was hopping, but I feel like it is always hopping. Great breakfast… food, especially an omelet, is the fuel of an athlete!

Cracker Barrel, could be a Cracker Barrel anywhere because I always order the same thing.  However, the breakfast I remember was with a group of veteran Ironman triathletes in Nashville, Tennessee on a Sunday morning after an open water swim.  It was the same morning I saw two A-10 Warthogs fly over Nashville in formation.  For this breakfast I had my standard Old Timer’s Breakfast with toast not biscuits and gravy.  I enjoyed good nutrition that day, but I learned about   the nutrition that would save my butt during Ironman Chattanooga. I am very thankful for that meal and all the useful advice!

The last breakfast should probably be one of the many Chick-fil-A chicken biscuits eaten at Aviation Challenge on Fridays and once this summer on Saturday during a kids triathlon.  However, I remember each calorie of my Ironman Chattanooga breakfast.  I had a protein bar and Diet Mountain Dew to start the morning at five o’clock and then snacked on a pack of brown sugar cinnamon Pop Tarts and water while waiting for the swim start.  Might not sound like the most healthy of meals, but each portion served a purpose.  I think I have written about this breakfast so I won’t bore you.  That was a good day and each an every day is a glorious day if you keep the main thing the main thing.

There you have it! Big Ed’s, Aretha’s, the crack house and an ala cart meal the morning of a big race.  2014 has given me some great memories.  I should have been better about sharing these moments during the year, so I am now.  I hope you enjoy this Top 4/Mount Rushmore approach to my year end blogging.  If you have a topic for me to pick four on, please share that with me on Twitter @Graphitefree.  Enjoy your holiday and please be safe!

What Was I Thinking

What was I thinking while caught up in a moment of “Billy Bad Assisum”?  What was I thinking signing up for a FULL Ironman triathlon.  I guess I really thought I knew what I was doing.  I guess I thought… “that which does not kill you makes you stronger”!  I guess if I have come so far along this path, I can go just a little further.  The problem is that a full Ironman is twice as long as I have ever swam, ran or biked before.  Can I do this?  Am I strong enough?

Yes, I believe I can finish a full Ironman, but will it be within the time limit?  Yes, I feel like I can train enough to finish a full Ironman, but what will be the cost?  Yes, I feel like I can give what is needed to do all of those things and be the Vice Principal of Space Camp, but will that even be enough?  I am not Amazon.  I am not a freak of nature, physical specimen of what God ordained as a triathlete.  Heck, Amazon was a triathlete before she could even swim!  I am seriously in over my head.

Well, the next four months will tell me if I can swim 2.4 miles in the Tennessee River, if I can bike 112 miles through Tennessee and mostly north Georgia, and finish with a marathon through the streets of Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Will I do it?  Will Dixon Ticonderoga still use graphite as the pencil core?  Will Aviation Challenge still be associated with the color green?  Well, I am only sure about one thing.  I am in over my head!

As Derek Jeter is my witness, my number one goal until the morning of September 29th after 140.6 miles is Chattanooga!  I don’t know Derek Jeter personally, but he dated Mariah Carey and he is a New York Yankee!  He can be my pinstriped patron saint of athletic endeavors!  Peyton can only be my boyfriend!

Frankfurt

So here I am in Frankfurt, Germany! I am trying to type a quick post for two reasons! First, if I start out posting to my blog, I may post more than just one time while I am abroad.  And secondly, if I am typing, I am not falling asleep.  It is approximately four o’clock in the morning back home in Alabama and eleven o’clock in the morning in Germany.  I did have a Red Bull once I got off the plane from Chicago.  However, there is only so much taurine can do for a sleepy “Red Bull”.

I would like to set a few expectations for my blog posts while I am in Baku, Azerbaijan.  I am traveling for work, so work will need to be my number one priority.  Please do not expect spelling to be a priority.  Lets be honest, when is spelling a priory for me.  I will be posting commando!  Trish Brown is my travel buddy on this trip.  I do not want to torture her with my disability. Look at it this way, I can spell Azerbaijan. Please do not expect much more from me.

My goal is to post twice per week, if not more.  However, I am not sure I have a large enough vocabulary or the creativity to write a comprehensive blog post at this rate without inspiration from a twisted taco cup or my daily dose of ESPN.  I am sure the common Azerbaijani does not know who Peyton Manning is nor do they care about his ankle.  I will have Mike Flachbart in Baku to help me stay in touch with some sports.  He is a fan of all things Boston, including Tom Brady.

Today is overcast and a little gloomy in Germany.  I must be honest, leaving was tougher than I expected.  As the Boeing 777 climbed into the sky and the lights of Chicago were behind me I struggled a bit.  I am excited for this adventure, however it has been a long time since I have been away form home.  The world is a different place and I am becoming old and stuck in my ways.  This is my chance to be Indiana Jones.  No, I am not searching for lost religious relics with a bull whip and pistol nor am I expecting to eat monkey brains.  It is an adventure to a place that I never even conceived of visiting.  Didn’t know much about it until two months ago.

Once we get to Baku, Trish and I will have a good night’s rest.  Then we will join the Rocket Center team who are currently there to help stand up the Cradle to Cosmos exhibit at the Heydar Aliyev Center.  The opening date is December 2, at which time a few more Rocket Center diplomats will join the team.  I don’t know the exact date I will be home since I am helping to manage the exhibit until Mel Siroky joins Trish in Baku.  I hope to help out as much as I can, use my Aviation Challenge survival skills and learn a lot while I am gone.

For those back home, I love and miss you all.  To those in Baku, we are on our way with lots of SD cards, HD cables, a book, a few NASA backpacks and a few surprises in our bags!  We did pack our own personal gear too.  Here we come!

Reminiscing

Yesterday, I picked up my dear friend Dan Oates from the airport.  He had been in Boston for the annual stockholders meeting of Sam Adams. Dan had to hurry back for the first day of teacher camp training. As we drove back from the airport we chatted about beer and the good old days.  See, Dan and I started working Space Camp’s educator program thirteen years ago this month. I was just a young twenty something school teacher from Mississippi and Dan was a wily veteran of SCI-VIS and a few teacher camp sessions as a guide.  Wow, if I could tell the young Red Bull a thing or two… Would I?  Probably nothing more than enjoy the ride, the Space & Rocket Center is going to change your life!

This morning while traveling into work, I got to thinking about this wonderful journey I have had at Space Camp.  So much of it is very serendipitous, the people I have met, the things that I have done, and the awesome tasks that have been given to me. I never would have thought I would meet the first man on the moon or have dinner with Homer Hickam or Christa McAuliffe’s mom.  Growing up if you would have told me that I would be responsible for training hundreds of Space Camp & Aviation Challenge Crew Trainers, I would have sneered at you and ran the other way! On a day like today, where I can be reminded of my Space Camp roots by welcoming back old friends like Jennifer & Wes Kennedy to camp and get to experience what I see is my lasting mark at Space Camp, Crew Trainer graduation.  I must thank God for this wonderful adventure.

On May 5th, I ran in a triathlon at Kennedy Space Center. There I ran past Paul’s Steakhouse which overlooks the Banana River on to the NASA launch facilities.  This restaurant was where Kat Balch and I reminisced about our favorite Space Camp moments with Alpha 19, the first group of Advanced Space Academy teachers.  This trip is where I made many dear friends, one was Rhonda Cox.  She deserves a little credit for my triathlon addiction.  Sitting on that screened in porch at Paul’s those many years ago was so precious.  That evening would have to be one of my favorite Space Camp moments. But I have too many to really pick just one.

There have been so many wonderful people come into my life because of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.  I have met master teachers, young campers with dreams of flying jets or wearing a military uniform, notable authors and artists, ordinary people with passion for adventure and aspiring college students who want the experience of being a crew trainer. If I had to list the people who have impacted my life from camp, the list would be as long as the tax code.  The people are what give the Space & Rocket Center it’s magic. The greatest asset of Space Camp are the people, past and present, who call the rocket center home even if for a few days.

As Dan reminded me yesterday, always focus on the positive.  Space Camp, just like any other organization run by people, is flawed.  But if we spend all of our time focusing on the cracks in the mortar we won’t see the beauty which is the mosaic of Dr. von Braun’s vision.  He wanted to teach and groom the next generation of explorers.  I feel like I am doing that. And if I can be lucky enough to see another thirteen years on this earth I hope to dream bigger and better dreams for myself while encouraging others as well.  Whether or not it is at Space Camp or at Camp Red Bull, this is my hope. Thank you Dan… now I need to buy you a beer or two!

The Elusive Blue Cable

I guess I don’t get out much and that is why I don’t blog much anymore.  I can’t help but want to share this wonderful fishing story with you.  I hope you enjoy it.  One thing I ask you, please read this post as if you were whispering to yourself.

I found myself in Daytona Beach, Florida with Jitters and Baywatch recruiting students at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University to work at Space Camp. We ate lunch at Ocean Deck restaurant just off the beach here in Daytona.  Today the Thunderbirds were practicing for their air show this weekend.  Being Aviation Challenge staffers once upon a time, we had to hit the beach to watch their aerial assault verses the seagulls.  It was amazing!!! Only thing better was watching F-16s landing at Luke AFB a few years back.

We walked down to the pier where Joe’s Crab Shack is located.  We wanted to walk all the way to the end of the pier to see the wonderful waves crashing into the shoreline.  There was a fisherman with a lady fishing toward the end of the peer.  We noticed the lady first, because she was wearing a hot pink bikini top with jean shorts.  I knew I was in Florida when I saw the jean shorts.  All of a sudden, the fisherman yells, “I have caught one!”  The lady comes running to help.  I am captured by the drama unfolding. We are excited, because we are about to see a giant fish leap from the water.  The man is wrestling with the rod and reel.  A crowd of bystanders start to form around the fisherman when the lady goes to retrieve her matching hot pink camera.

The lady comes over to her fishing buddy ready to take a photo of this tireless fish that must be extremely large.  The struggle for the fish had taken almost five or so minutes.  I survey the water below in hopes to catch a glimpse of this mammoth creature.  I see the line and the beast that has been caught by the heroic fisherman is none other than an elusive blue cable.  Yes, a blue cable/rope tied to the pier with a net attached to keep the day’s catch fresh while the fisherman was fishing. Yes, the fisherman had caught his own equipment from the opposite side of the pier.  The reason this elusive blue cable was putting up such a fight was because there was a gallon milk jug tied to the rope as a weight.

The fisherman continued to fight with his line.  All I could do was look at Jitters and Baywatch and say, “would you just look at that!”  We walked away, into the sunset, never to be seen again.

The End

Ignored

I am that person! I always said that if I had a blog, I wouldn’t ignore it. I wouldn’t let it sit for months with out updating it. We it is official, I have ignored GraphiteFree. I could blame it on my schedule or on my crappy laptop or on a host of other reasons. But the simple truth is, I have ignored my blog. I am sorry, blog! I didn’t mean to abandon you for so long. I didn’t mean to not write!

I have had lots to write about! There was the Mid South Farm and Gin Show in Memphis I started writing about. Chris and I stayed at the Peabody where we joined my brother, his family, and my parents. Great weekend, I drank a “Presbyterian” or Jack & Ginger. I had an epic adventure to Atlanta… Gosh I hate Atlanta! However, I do love Chipotle and Pinkberry. I visited with Cameron Drape at the Barn a few times. She called the Barn one night to ask when American Idol aired. Lucky for us it is a seven o’clock show, which kept her away from the Barn until the next day. And I should have written about my Jack Daniel Distillery tours.

Since I have fallen out of grace with my blog, I should update what I am currently doing. The last paragraph told you where I have been. Now, I need to tell you where I am headed, because there is much on the horizon for me. This week will mark my seventh wedding anniversary – Copper. Chris and I will be touring the distilleries of Kentucky. I am sure we will see lots of copper while we are exploring. I will be leaving the Barn for another part time job. I love working at the Barn, but I have had a dream of working as a tour guide for a long time. I am also most there, this week I go to the Jack Daniel Distillery for my audition as a tour guide. That should be an adventure.

This summer I will be back at Aviation Challenge, back with the Raptor and back around the lake. I also told our new Social Media Director I would write a blog post for the Ready Room. So I really do need to get back into the writing mood. I will be going on a Disney Cruise with Tim&Anderson and their bridal posse in July. I will get to make another trip to NYC to see my Yankees in August. It will be a Yankees/Mets tour with Snapper. Even though the Mets play the Braves (I hate Atlanta) the trip will be so much fun.

All in all, I have lots to write about. And I am going to do better at this I promise. I know that only a few people read my blog, but I really don’t want to be the person that starts writing and then abandons the poor thing. I love GraphiteFree. It all started as an exercise to make my writing better and I need to keep it up! GraphiteFree, please forgive me.

PS… Jeff Benton is still a scumbag, but the law suit has been settled!

Applebee’s

Looking at my cork board I see lots of really great memories. But there is only one that has multiple memories attached to it. One thing most of the stuff on the board has in common with each other is that it was given to me by one single person with one single memory associated with the item.  The Applebee’s gift card is different in that respect.

I received this $30 gift card from the 2009 Mach III 12 Day group. We had a cook out under the bubble at Aviation Challenge the night after S.E.R.E. (no, not the real S.E.R.E. but the puny AC version).  It was a perfect night. The kids were tired, but reveling in their accomplishments. Chops and a few other campers pulled me aside to present me with a gift card to Applebee’s. The real cool thing about this gift card is it is an aerial view of Aviation Challenge, the greatest place on earth! Chops thanked me and the other staff for “bringing back 12 Day!” Really though, the kids brought back 12 day camps.

The second memory attached to the gift card is the night the AC gang converged upon Applebee’s in Madison, Alabama. We sat around telling stores and laughing. If I remember, it was Biscuit, Divot, Slip Knot, Snapper, and Tank. It was the whole gang, but a few others. It was really nice. It wasn’t often that we all got together. But we did that night. And we enjoy a little something from Applebee’s on the 2009 12 Day kids.

The greatest aspect about the card is that Aviation Challenge is forever honored in plastic because Applebee’s has a design your own gift card program! What a great concept! This gift card screams, PRIDE, PROFESSIONALISM, and LEADERSHIP! Thank you Aviation Challenge campers and staff for wonderful memories.

The Shizzle

What should I write about next? What item on my cork board should I tell you about? When I asked Rachel Ray, she had a hard time deciding between the Wisconsin cow post card and the photo of her training class. She looked at the 2009 training group and said, “The Shizzle!” I am sure she meant that group was the shizzle. I have difficulty interpreting things. Call it my stubborn red headed nature or the fact that I am very self centered, but the shizzle definitely is referring to my job!

True, in this photo is of a solid group of outstanding staff and many of whom are now supervisors at camp or have gone on to work at other camps and fantastic places. I could list off names, but I am sure I would leave someone out. But just look, there is Michael Hall (Digger). He is now selling furniture at the Red House in North Carolina. Kim Thornton (Spud) has started her own baked potato restaurant on the campus of Boise State. Faith Laska is in Hollywood working as a body double for Zooey Deschanel. And who can forget Rachel Ray. Well, she isn’t my favorite, but she can spell really well.

I look at this photo and see how lucky I am to get to know each and every one of these wonderful people. They are different and special each one of them. They come to Space Camp for a season or two but their impact stays around for years. I am lucky! I get to teach, train, coach and mentor new Space Camp staff and most of the time I learn much myself along the way. This group may not be the best group ever to train at Space Camp, but they are near the top of a very short list. I have the greatest job! Maybe “The Shizzle” is describing this group, but I am lucky to be included!

The photo was given to me by Brandi Wahl. She has just recently returned to camp from working at a few different camps. Until I put this photo on my cork board the photo was safely tucked in my moleskin journal. The photo, just like most everything on this cork board, is very dear to me.

Recruiting Mississippi Style

Tuesday – October 26

I am definitely lucky to be a Space Camp recruiter.  This week, I recruited at Delta State, my school and home of the Fighting Okra. Unlike my trips to Arizona, each year that I visit Mississippi, I get to take a new recruiting pal with me. This trip is a chance for me to show off my home state and places that I am so proud of.  This trip to the Delta has topped all other recruiting trips. Hopefully, we will have lots of great staff from this visit to Mississippi.

We started off on Tuesday with a stop in Winona for lunch with my parents at the Mexican restaurant. Yes, you don’t have to call it by its real name when it is the only Mexican restaurant in the town. It is always great to see your parents in the middle of the day.  It is like being picked up early from school unexpectedly for just because! Even without the El Big-O Margarit-O, it was a fantastic meal. There will be a running theme through this blog post – food.

We made our way to Itta Bena, home to Mississippi Valley State University.  MVSU is the university that gave us Jerry Rice. The campus looks old and run down, but the people on campus were super friendly. It was almost like we were transported back in time to 1965. With the exception of their Mobile Command Vehicle (Spotted that vehicle because of Be Ready Camp) everything on campus seemed sad and run down. We only really spent a little time on campus, but I think their famous alumni, Jerry Rice, should donate to the building fund.

From Itta Bean we moved west to Leland, Miss which is the proud birth place of Kermit the Frog. Leland was the childhood home of Jim Henson, the creator of Kermit the Frog and his Muppet friends! There is a small exhibit dedicated to Jim Henson. Birthplace of the Frog: An Exhibit of Jim Henson’s Delta Boyhood is a collection of photos and such along side an original Kermit the Frog puppet. If you ever find yourself with thirty minutes to kill in Leland, you should take the time to visit. I am proud of my home state because of all the very creative people who started their lives in Mississippi. I do not consider Brett Farve creative at this point in his career, except for the Sears commercials.

We stayed the night in Greenville, Miss with Snapper’s friend, Jessica. Our goal was to eat at Doe’s Eat Place. This place has history and there is a story behind our choice of Doe’s. Way back when I was too old to be Snapper’s friend. Snapper text messaged me at Dodge’s Chicken & Gas station in Cleveland, Miss on her way to visit Jessica. I told Snapper to “Eat at Doe’s!” She was excited to be where I went to college and I was excited she was headed to Greenville. Unfortunately the wait at Doe’s was unbearable to her travel buddies and they ate at Shoney’s instead.

This trip we would wait for as long as it would take to eat tamales and steak! I was so excited to visit this shrine to Delta cuisine. Alton Brown visited Doe’s in his “Feasting on Asphalt” series.  I respect Alton Brown! Bill Clinton has eaten at Doe’s, that man knows good food (and it shows). When we walked into Doe’s I saw Brent Wong’s mom. Spoke to Brent’s mom. How did I know it was Mrs. Wong? She was the only Asian in the place.

Jessica and her husband, John would be our hosts for the evening. They were wonderful hosts. Doe’s doesn’t have a menu so John ordered for us. If you know Snapper and me, we hate making food decisions. John simply ordered tamales, shrimp, salads and oh by the way a steak to feed four people! Wow, stress is gone, time for a wonderful meal. It was a wonderful meal. I love Doe’s tamales. Story goes that Doe’s son’s wife doesn’t even know the recipe for the tamales. I don’t want to know the recipe, I just want to visit again and eat more. All the food was wonderful. I just hope Chris and I can visit Jessica and John soon!

Wednesday – October 27

Delta State’s teacher recruitment day was the reason why we were in Mississippi. On Wednesday morning when we were setting up in the Union I felt special. True, I am an Okra too! However, I felt special because of my friend Emily Erwin Jones, archivist at Delta State University, had already been by to visit. Snapper and I had so many great candidates stop by our table. One student in particular was one of the best prospects ever. He seemed to be well rounded with great personality.

We ate lunch at my favorite lunch spot in Cleveland, A la Cart. Then we visited the airport and looked into the Boo Farris Museum before we left campus for the afternoon. Snapper and I would go to my favorite place in the Delta, the banks of the Mississippi River at Rosedale. When I was in college and I needed some time away from school but couldn’t go home to Winona, I would hike out to the sand bar and spend time near the river. The river is an amazing thing. It is calm, and without the river my state might be named something like Washington.

Our evening meal was at Hey Joe’s and we played trivia. The team that we joined was amazing! Didn’t realize there was such at giant difference between trivia and “NERD TRIVIA!” We were playing nerd trivia. I lost Snapper at some point in time during the night; she found her way back to campus somehow. We gained another red headed friend name Lola. Besides the trivia Hey Joe’s has an incredible atmosphere. Thick brick walls, antique signs hanging and they sell old vinyl records. This place is cool with spicy seasoned fries!

Thursday – October 28

Our last day on campus was just as rewarding as our time at the job fair. The students at DSU seemed to enjoy our presentation and hopefully that will pay off in excellent Space Camp staff next spring. My favorite classroom visit was the aviation students in the Gibson-Gunn building. Overall we had an excellent visit to the Delta. But our trip was not over yet. We had to travel back home! Luckily, I got the chance to show off one more place I was proud of, Camp of the Rising Son, when Snapper and I visited CRS. Funny thing, I started to work at CRS when Snapper was ten years old. Heck, she could have been a camper. I guess I am too old to be Snapper’s friend.

All my visits to Mississippi are precious to me. I remember when I was a camper at Space Camp, I felt disconnected to family and friends because I was in ALABAMA. Crazy how sister states can be so different. The Mississippi Delta is a special place! But more over, the people we met this week are special. Jessica, John, Emily, Matt, and hopefully all those Okra we recruited this week! I love my home state and I love my Mississippi friends! It was so great that everyone rolled out the red carpet on our visit! Thanks y’all for making this trip great!

Oak Creek

One little beer cap with so many stories. Let’s start with the obvious, it is from Arizona. In 2007 Snapper and I visited Arizona with little known about each other in hopes of finding Space Camp counselors. We found Minnie! All was not lost! We found beer too, at least Snapper found beer. She didn’t know much about good beer!

Thing is, this bottle cap came from Arizona 2010. However, Snapper and I would find this beer in 2008 at the Hassayampa Inn with our favorite barkeep, John, at the helm. Oak Creek Nutbrown Ale is a 2004 Gold Medal winner in the North American Brewers’ Association competition. This Arizona favorite has a consistent nutty flavor with just a hint of spice in its depths. A slowly emerging bitterness crops up along the way and is unobtrusively incorporated into the smooth flow. It finishes with a gentle nuttiness and spiciness. This beer bear is great with sandwiches and subs, as well as recruiting at ERAU.

Ok, let’s cut the bull! At one point in time Safety would retrieve a resupply of Oak Creek for people in Alabama. As he drove cross country to work at Aviation Challenge. This beer is so epic that it has followed me on two canoe trips in Tennessee. When Oak Creek made the trip on the Elk River, only Red Bull and Snapper enjoyed the Arizona beer. This year as I was off recruiting in Arizona, Nemo was trusted with the care of my puppy. She shared in the goodness of Oak Creek beer by drinking the last of Safety’s beer.

However, the best way to drink Oak Creek Nutbrown Ale is to drink it in a small chilled glass at the Hassayampa Inn with one of your best friends. Prescott, Arizona is special place and that is why this Arizona blazoned bottle cap is on my cork board. This beer, these memories, and Arizona it’s self are special to me!

Okra

Near the center of my cork board there is a white button that has everyone’s favorite fighting vegetable on it with the words, “I’m an Okra too!”  This button was picked up while recruiting at my alma mater, Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi.  This is the coolest idea for a happy I have ever seen.  Recruiters that graduated from DSU are given these buttons to wear around campus while recruiting.  It shouts to the college students, “I love my school and proud of my career! Please work for us!”

My time at Delta State was great! It was the perfect university for me.  I was somewhat fearful of the college experience, but I was lucky to have wonderful professors and friends at DSU.  It is amazing how much Delta State and Space Camp helped to form the Okra I am today.  During my student teaching at DSU, I met Julie Ferris at Madison Avenue Elementary School.  At that time, Julie was a second grade teacher at Madison Avenue and would later be my first boss at Space Camp.

Next week, I will get to again visit DSU to recruit staff to work at Space Camp!  I will see my good friend Emily, visit with new friends, and hopefully recruit a few Okras to work next spring at the most amazing camp in the world! So my button serves as a happy reminder of who I am, where I came from, and where I am headed!  Thank you Delta State!

Shameless Plug… if you want a job at camp use this link to learn more.  Space Camp Staff Application