Tag Archives: Camp of the Rising Son

Running Through 2012

This has been a great year! I spent more time with my wonderful family. I have expanded my circle of friends, strengthened bonds with old friends. This was year I proclaimed, I am never too busy for my family and friends. I look forward to 2013 with fond memories of 2012 in my heart! Here are my top ten adventures of 2012… in no particular order.

Trip to Big D – A two days before Christmas my brother took his sons to a Dallas Cowboys game and I got to tag along. We drove from Mississippi to Tyler, Texas, birthplace of Johnny Football. Ate at the coolest and best Tex-Mex restaurant I have had the pleasure of eating at. Sunday morning we drove to the stadium for the game. The game unfortunately was a loss, but the adventure is the most important thing. The highlight of the trip was arguing with Rhett and Reece about having their photo made with the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. The argument turned out positive, you can see by their smiles!

Camping at DeSoto State Park – In January, Amazon, Snapper, Speedo and I went camping near Mentone, Alabama in DeSoto State Park. It was the coldest weekend of the year. The low temperature was 18 Fahrenheit. We survived the cold temperatures, but we should have brought along a bag chair or two. During this camping trip the four of us made a pact to run the Warrior Dash in Georgia in May. It was apparent after that camping trip, 2012 would be a very different year and it has been.

Animals – Having the greatest dog in the world has definitely been a highlight of the past eight years. He is my most faithful companion. He is never more than a few steps away from me at home. He would follow me to work if I let him. His kind and gentle eyes make all things bad ok. This year we lost George, our giant white rabbit. Also during 2012, we added two rabbits to our petting zoo. These two rabbits gave us a litter of 7 kits. Have the worlds greatest dog and bunny rabbits only make me want a few goats, maybe some chickens and hopefully a pig or two someday.

Pirate Night with Hoot – It is always fun when the story includes Hoot Gibson. However, when you cap the night off with eye-patches and mustaches you know you have made an epic memory. Hoot was the rogue Naval Captain who stood toe to toe with the notorious pirate, the Dreaded Pirate Squirrel, who was stealing food from his bird feeder. Captain Gibson fired at the enemy Squirrel with his tactical pellet gun. The squirrel fired back as the pellet ricocheted of the bird feeder. Captain Gibson was doomed to wear an eye-patch. If it is good enough for Hoot… it is good enough for his Space Camp fan club! While at Otter’s, Hoot left the room and Marcia, Snapper and myself donned mustaches and eye-patches to support Hoot in his relentless battle with the Dread Pirate Squirrel.

The Dirt Bike – One day in late August, I visited Mississippi and hung out with my brother and his sons. During a trip to Leland, Mississippi, we purchased a Honda dirt bike. Some people say they want to grow up to be an Astronaut. Some people say they want to win a Super Bowl. I can honestly say, one of my first memories, was to own a motorcycle or dirt bike. I was a stupid, novice, dork the first time I rode the little Honda. However, I loved every moment of the stupidity. I road the little bike at Christmas. I was somewhat  scared of the little bike after hurting my knee, but I learned that the little dirt bike could still be fun and safe.

Running – This was the year that Red Bull got in shape. I ran relays, 5Ks, mud races, duathlons and triathlons. It all started when Camp of the Rising Son held at 5K in April of this year. I ran the CRS run in 32:59. I finished 2012 with the Rudolph Run in Huntsville by running a 5K in 28:48. Between the two, I hurt my knee and ran a 200 mile relay with 11 other crazy people called Ragnar. I don’t know how many miles I ran, but I am sure it is the most I have ever run in one year. The goal for 2013 is an Ironman 70.3 or half distance triathlon.

Swimming – I am not Missy Franklin or Michael Phelps, but I love to swim. On January 10th, 2012, I started a masters swim class which changed my world. This would be the spark that would lead me to run triathlons. I ran my first triathlon since college in Decatur, AL in July. It was so much fun. At the end of the summer I swam an olympic distance relay with Amazon and Snapper as my teammates, and oh by the way, we took second as a relay team. Not because of me, but because of my teammates!

Florida – I visited Florida a record four times in 2012. The first time was for a Youth Preparedness Conference in Orlando. I was there to talk about Be Ready Camp; however, the highlight of this trip was Mouse and Marguerite Long at Friday’s near my hotel. Trip two was Tampa for a Yankees Spring Training game where I saw Mariano Rivera pitch two outs in the fifth inning. His season was cut short in Kansas City shagging fly balls. This was my Tampa highlight. In August, I spent a few days with my brother in Destin. Just a few days with my family on the beach was magical! Finally, the Magic Kingdom. After recruiting at ERAU at Daytona Beach, I finished my year with my buddy Mouse near Cinderella’s castle. Enough said… my time in Florida was special!

Peyton Manning Returning to the NFL – Honestly, I had so many emotions last January when it was apparent that my long time boy friend Peyton Manning would not be the starting quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts any longer. He didn’t play in the 2011 season due to a neck injury. There was a part of me that wanted Peyton to retire from the game all together. I didn’t want to see him less than great! I tried thinking of every option for Manning. I imaged Peyton in a Cardinals, Miami, Texans, and Titians jersey and helmet. I was resigned to watching Peyton wherever he ended up and turn my back on Mr. Luck and the Colts. Fortunately, Peyton landed on his feet with his “laser rocket arm” in Denver. He has had an MVP caliber season in his orange and blue. Lets hope that in 2013 we can celebrate something more for number 18!

Ragnar – This was most definitely a highlight of 2012. I ran with my team, I slept with my team, and I even cried with my team. Nothing can really top spending 30 hours in a van with some of your closest friends and heroes. I am sure if we didn’t have Amazon it would have taken our team 48 hours to get from Chattanooga to Nashville. In the process of this whole thing, I learned I was approaching the old lady stage of my life. Check out our video from the adventure. VIDEO LINK

To everyone who has played a part in my life past and present, THANK YOU! I can’t wait to see what 2013 has in store!

Tri Anything…

Most people know that I am an adventurous red head. However, I haven’t been as outgoing as I would like in recent history.  I did spend a few years in the wild world of retail working at the Barn, better know to many as Pottery Barn.  Then a stint as a tour guide at Jack Daniel’s Visitor Center in Lynchburg, Tennessee. I gave up my part time jobs to spend more time outdoors. In other words, my time has not been spent with Cameron Drape or chilling not the couch, thus causing my blog to suffer.

I am sure you may be wondering what I have been doing in the meantime.  The answer to that question is… A LOT!  Last August, my mom saw a picture of me at a wedding on Facebook. She commented to me on the phone that I had gained weight.  What I heard was, “Ruth Marie, you are fat”.  And she was correct, I had gained too much weight and needed more physical activity than giving tours at Jack Daniel’s.  The new year rolled around and I joined the YMCA to start swimming. Shortly there after while on a camping trip I committed to running the Warrior Dash in Mountain City, Georgia in May with my three friends, Snapper, Speedo and Amazon.  If you are not familiar with Warrior Dash, it is a run with obstacles and lots of mud and some flames. To get ready for Warrior Dash, I ran my very first 5K in April at Camp of the Rising Son in French Camp, Mississippi.

After running about three or four races, I was hooked.  I wanted to run more however, I am an Oliver. Olivers are not known for their lightning fast speed or gazelle like agility.  I continued to swim and run no matter the speed.  At some point after Warrior Dash Snapper, my training buddy, and I decided to run a triathlon. To make this goal a reality we would need to start bike training.  At this point is when the fun really started.  My first bike race of any type was Muddy Buddy in Nashville, Tennessee. Muddy Buddy is a relay where I started riding my mountain bike and Snapper started running.  We would switch at an obstacle, I would run and she would bike. Needless to say, this event was super fun!

The next race is the big one, my first triathlon.  Saturday, Snapper and I, with a few hundred other people, swim, bike and run the Wet Dog Triathlon in Decatur, Alabama.  Snapper’s main motivation is the tri sticker she will place on the back glass of her Subaru.  My motivation is the adventure behind it all. Meeting new people, doing new things and losing some of the fat my mom noticed last year.  I am a little nervous but I have had some really great people help me along the way.  I think this is what life is all about: trying new things, sharing life’s lessons and being daring enough to try anything once, even green beans or deviled eggs.

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!

Wedding Gown

I visited Camp of the Rising Son this week. It was wonderful visiting briefly with the camp staff and experiencing all the sights and sounds of camp again. I am truly amazed at how that place has shaped who I am today. Looking back, there are a few crystal clear moments that I remember impacting my life. Others are concepts and values that have become the backbone of my leadership and management philosophy.

One of the first things I learned is there must always be someone in charge. During my first three summers working at CRS, I served the campers as an Assistant Counselor or AC. The role of AC was to help serve the campers at meal times, help the Counselor in the cabin, and teach activities throughout the day. Waiting the table at meal times was the most daunting, especially when you are in Cheyenne cabin at the end of the dining hall. The Counselor’s job was to lead the group of campers and the AC through all the cabin’s activities. It was compared to the role of a family. The father is the leader and the mother helps and cares for all the needs of the family. I know, old fashion sounding, but it worked. This idea of service was so deeply-rooted in my camping philosophy when I became a Counselor, I would serve one meal each day. I wanted to serve my AC, April Gunn Duval, to show her how much I appreciated her. “Service before self” was the motto I learned quickly at CRS.

I have discussed the motto “camp is for the camper” a few times. I guess it is crazy to think that in putting others first you will be getting more out of the experience than if you put yourself first. So often the leadership at CRS would remind the young teenage and twenty-something staff that we were there to build relationships with the campers not each other. However, camp staff relationships would spring up without even knowing. There is a dynamic at camp that makes people want to open up and share life experiences. I think, because you share so much of your time with 12 kids and 50 staff members doing the same thing, eating the same food, living and working on the same schedule you simply bond.

Some of my best friends have come from CRS, Twin Lakes, Space Camp, and Aviation Challenge. Why? Because you share this dynamic, sometimes life changing, experience with another individual, and you want to stay in touch. You want to keep living on the mountain top that is camp! But everyone comes down from the mountain top. Each summer for years, I have experienced this blue phase. Call it a mini depression or just a slump, the point is I am sad when summer is over and all my new friends are at their homes and I am left behind. This all started at CRS. I remember telling my mom I missed having snack time at 830 each night before bed time when I returned home from camp.

The last thing I learned from CRS is to give all I have to camp. Give my heart, my soul, and even my earthly position to camp. At CRS there was a program closet with lots of costumes and props. In that dusty moth ball laden closet was a wedding gown. It wasn’t mine, I wasn’t married yet. It was Chief Margie’s. Chief Margie and her husband built CRS and she gave so much to that camp. She poured her heart into it each day.

My wedding gown is in the attic of my in-laws house. I don’t think Space Camp needs my wedding gown. The example of making your job fun and personal was instilled in me at a young age. However, recently I have been made to feel like a job is just a job, but it is so much more to me. If camp is for the camper then my job isn’t just a J-O-B. It is something more; it is something deeper and more dynamic.

In a day and age where weddings are the most precious thing in a woman’s life, I feel like the gift of a wedding gown to a program closet is the ultimate symbol of “camp is for the camper.” The camper experience is one of dynamic friendships and life changing days under the watchful eyes of the camp staff. If you pour yourself into your job and you give service to others, you will be rewarded by all the friendships you will make along the way. It is the gift that keeps on giving.

Why No Post?

I haven’t been blogging recently; maybe I am just blocking the whole output of emotional or creative flow. My life has changed so much in the last three weeks. I have learned the one thing that can make Red Bull cry. I have started grad school. I have visited family and friends. And, I have limited my time at the Barn. I write a lot about my personal life, dreams, and feelings and I guess I have avoided that by not blogging. (WOW, I have been watching too much Glee! Drama isn’t my strong suit.)

We lost my brother, Will, in 1985. He was my best friend. True, he was my brother and that is not always the case with siblings, but Will was a special little kid. In 1992, I ventured to Camp Garawya in Clinton, Mississippi for an Acteen’s weekend. God did one of those “God things” in my life that weekend. He showed me a tiny, little part of his plan for my life. That part was sticky, hot and humid summer camp! More over, I saw the over arching theme of working with kids in my future.

Before then, I had shallow dreams of being an astronaut or maybe an architect. In 1994, I decided at Camp of the Rising Son that I would be an educator, for two reasons, the first being summers off. The second and most important reason, I get to work with kids. I don’t know why I have a gift with kids, but I do! Being a teacher at St. Paul and Discovery Middle was awesome; I got to see how kids matured over 10 months not just a week. I got to try new ways to present materials. At Delta State, I had a college professor tell me I would never make a good teacher because I have issues with spelling and writing. My message to her is, sit on a tack or in her case a rake.

I learned it really doesn’t matter if you can spell if you want to inspire people to grow and learn. Teach kids to dream big dreams. That has been my motto for a while. Working at the Barn has allowed me to work with kids at times, heck Cameron Drape and her Turkey Plates exercised my mad ninja kid skills once or twice. Leaving the Barn tonight, Manhattan Chair pointed out something that is important for me to remember. Kids are important to me. I love teaching and inspiring kids to mature and discover the world around them.

Why do you think that is? I go back to my best buddy, little Will. He loved learning; he wanted to be everything from a cowboy to a cook, from a doctor to a dozer driver. I love working with kids, because it reminds me of my little brother. He is my inspiration. It isn’t about working at a camp or in a classroom. So tonight when I started saying goodbye to the Barn, I was also saying good bye to something else. Working with kids is important to who I am. Yes, I am bigger and deeper than this blog could ever describe, but this is my inspiration. I have struggled for a few weeks on how to express this feeling in my heart, but now I found the right words.

2009 Year In Review

Last year I had a lot of fun with my year in review blog. Therefore, I made an executive decision to continue the tradition this year. The year 2009 was a great year for me and my hubby Chris. We spent most of the time sleeping under the same roof which was a drastic change from the previous four years in our marriage. During the year I took an exploratory outlook on life. I returned to the Barn after a ten month break and began blogging about the misadventures of the Barn. It was a year of great highs and a few lows, but overall it was a wonderful year! Here are my top ten moments of 2009!!!

Green Bay Pre-Game10. Trip to Wisconsin: Visiting Lambeau Field would have been great if I had seen just any game. However, our visit to Lambeau field was for the Packers vs. Vikings game; the game where Brett Favre returned to the Frozen Tundra, his former home. The best part of the road trip was sharing the adventure with my mom, dad, and Chris. The part that sucked was throwing up in the back seat of my mom’s Lincoln Navigator. All is well in the world, and Brett Favre was victorious!

9. Arizona Traffic School: This doesn’t sound like it should be a highlight of my year’s adventures. However, the recruiting trip to Prescott, Arizona is one of my favorite work assignments. During the fall, Snapper and I made our way back to Embry Riddle for the third time. On the trip into Prescott, a traffic camera caught me speeding. I am well versed in what to say to an officer when they pull me over. I was left speechless when I received a speeding ticket in the mail. One Saturday morning in December I played Mariah Carey music while I completed my online traffic school. The only thing that would have made Arizona traffic school better would have been a PBC Wedge from the Prescott Brewing Company.

8. The Plumber App: With a Twisted Taco cup in one hand and a crescent wrench in the other hand I attempted to fix my tub’s broken facet. I am not a plumber nor should I ever become one. In this attempt I broke my Motorola Razor and made way for my darling husband to purchase me, at long last, an iPhone with Plumber App. Looking back at this mini adventure and all the laughs it was well worth the mess I made in my bathroom.

7. Flaming Hookers: I am not going to tell the whole story, but the night of the Space Camp Hall of Fame a few friends and I continued the party at a local watering hole (ATO). This is where I was introduced to a Flaming Hooker. No, it isn’t a lady of the night who is being cremated. It is a drink made popular to space geeks in the book Riding Rockets. This story really isn’t the highlight but gives a great example of the fun I have had socializing with friends, astronauts, and space geeks. The top memory for me wasn’t the night of the hall of fame, but happened a few weeks later when I visited with a few members of STS-125 and Hoot Gibson. It was great sharing Story stories with Michael Massimino. Now I know how the bolt on Hubble was over torqued.

Jack Daniels (Dec 2009)6. Becoming a Squire: Last year while standing in line at Jack Daniel’s, waiting in the bitter cold to have bottles signed, Divot and I made a commitment to visit Lynchburg on a regular basis until one or both of us were Squires. In April of 2009, I received my deed to land at Jack Daniel’s making me a Tennessee Squire. Divot and I continued to visit the distillery and go to bottle signings. Visiting Lynchburg is fun, and being a Squire is a big deal to me!

5. Houston in February: Right after training dozens of new Space Camp counselors, I get away from my job by flying to Houston Texas to attended SEEC. Yes, it is a vacation to me! Learning more about space may make me a space geek, but hanging out with teachers from all over the U.S. is fun to me. Hanging out with my friend Rhonda is a plus! Last year we took a break from the conference to watch Pat Summitt win her 1,000th game as a head coach. I think Urban Meyer can learn a few things from Pat Summitt. She has 8 NCAA Championships over 35 years of coaching. Meyer has two BCS Titles in his young career. Coach Summitt, Rhonda, and NASA are all pretty dang cool!

4. Bourbon Trail: In late August I took a road trip to Kentucky. I was all by myself on this excursion. I visited Mammoth Cave and five bourbon distilleries. Along the way I learned a lot about Kentucky’s history, how to make bourbon, and why Jack Daniel’s is the best whiskey. True, you may think I am a traitor for visiting Jack competitors, but I wanted to see for myself what the difference was between Kentucky Straight Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey. If you decide to visit the Bourbon Trail, make sure you visit Maker’s Mark and Woodford Reserve. By far, those two distilleries have the best tours and a better product than the other bourbons.

Lucy's First Egg Bowl3. Lucy’s Bell: What do you get when you mix family with Mississippi State tailgating? The answer is, the best Egg Bowl ever! It was Lucy’s first Egg Bowl so she got a brand new pink bell from the Barns & Noble at State. Mississippi State gave Lucy and all their adoring fans lots of reasons to ring their cowbells this year in Starkville. Once State took the lead in the third quarter they didn’t give it up again as they pounced on Ole Miss 41-24! I know there have been bigger wins in MSU history, but for me this was the best one ever! My whole family was there for the game as we joined my aunts and uncles for pre and post game refreshments. Days and games like the Egg Bowl can show everyone outside of the South why SEC football is so near and dear to its followers!

2. Epic Return to the Barn: I left work at the Barn in the spring of 2008 just shy of five years with the store. I didn’t think I would return, but in March of this year I did. I was surprised after returning that I love working at the Barn more now than ever before! There is something about it. It is like when I left I was simply a Barnyard Hand in Training. Now, I feel like a Barn Ninja. And on top of all the fun I have working at the Barn, when I get home I can write about working at the Barn. It is truly the gift that keeps on giving. Working with characters (boy, are they characters) such as Hudson, Manhattan, Josephine Bedding and all the others is fun and enjoyable. Isn’t that what we should want in any job?

Red Bull stew1. Chief Reunion: In late July Chris and I visited Camp of the Rising Son for its 30 year reunion. Wow, CRS has been around for 30 years! I enjoyed visiting the camp that gave me my start as a camper and my first job as a camp counselor. It was wonderful visiting with old friends, I mean Chiefs. The whole process was a blessing as I reconnected with so many people. One of the highlights for me was my team winning the Camp Stew Cook Off! The secret is in the bacon! Unfortunately for me, some stories of the past did surface. I would like to tell everyone reading, I am truly sorry for tossing a bucket of water on a past Chief. And yes, the bucket had a few frogs in it. As a camp manager, I have learned that pranks are bad for camp.

Camp is my life! It has molded me into who I am today. I am a rambunctious, redhead who isn’t afraid of adventure. I love my family more than camp, but it is good going to a job you love every single day. My job has given me a lot of the experience listed above. I am lucky to have a great life surrounded by people I love, and who I think love me, or at least they don’t dislike me. So I am looking forward to the adventures of next year, and the next decade. I wish you all a very Happy New Year!

More Cowbell

Reece and BullyTwo years ago Chris and I joined my brother and his boys in the upper deck of Davis Wade Stadium to watch Mississippi State play Ole Miss, the in-state rivalry known as the Egg Bowl. State trailed late in the game until mounting a fourth quarter comeback. This was the point where my husband, the Alabama alumni, started his cowbell ringing career. There was a loud mouth Rebel fan in front of us during that game. He made our lives miserable the whole time State trailed; however, we had our sweet and noisy revenge when state took the lead and the golden egg home!

I am sure if you are not a Bulldog fan you probably will never like the sound of cowbells. But to a kid who grew up going to State games it is sweet music. Chris learned two years ago how much fun it is to ring that bell! Two years ago we had fewer cowbells than people in our group. We were forced to share. Unlike then, this year we came to the game packing a whole lot of bell! Lucy had a small pink cowbell, Chris had a houndstooth cowbell, Walt had an extra-large cowbell, and the boys and I had our cowbells from two years ago. The great thing about today was we had a lot to cheer about!

We started our game day off with some tailgating at the cheese store on campus. There was almost enough family at the game today to have our annual gathering and pass out Christmas presents. My mom had two of her four sisters present. There were five out of six cousins and their spouses. Finally, we had what all good family reunions have, a whole lot of food. Tailgating has evolved into an overgrown potluck social extravaganza. There is not a lot of tail in tailgating anymore; our truck was parked almost a mile away. The boys played a little football, while everyone was shared stories and caught up.

My mom’s family is mostly State people and my daddy is alumni of the cow college. I didn’t go to school there, but my brother did. We do have a few Ole Miss alums in the family, but we love them anyway. I am sure you can pick them out from the group photo. After a few photos we headed to the game. Unlike the cowbell clanging walk to the stadium, standing in the cue line to enter the game is very quiet. You don’t see a cowbell or hear any clanging (they’re technically not allowed). It isn’t until you emerge from the ramp and see the field that you start to see bells coming out of purses, out from under coats, and from the backs of blue jeans. But don’t tell the SEC or NCAA my secret hiding spot.

Who could it be?The first and second quarter seemed like typical Egg Bowl football, emotional but sloppy play. My whole family sat together in the shadow of the jumbo-tron. Lucy seemed sleepy and the boys just wanted to know who would win the game. Every five seconds Reece would pull on my pants leg, “Who’s going to win, will it be Mississippi State?” Mom and Dad left at the half to join the family back at the tailgate. They enjoyed drinking coffee and watching the game on TV with family. After the game, we all thanked my Dad for leaving. State plays awful when Daddy is watching. I remember one Thanksgiving where Mississippi State was beating Eli Who? (the guy who doesn’t have his own website). We had to stay quiet and at times mute the TV to keep from waking my Daddy. We all knew State would loose if we woke Daddy up!

I have heard that there was a clock in State’s locker room. It was counting down from some point this spring until today. Dan Mullen said that he looked forward to Thanksgiving weekend. He looked forward to the sound of those cowbells ringing in celebration of a victory. Mississippi State has had one of the toughest schedules in the nation. The Bulldogs played six ranked opponents at home this year. They faced #1 Florida and #2 Alabama and lost. Even so, Mississippi State could remember this season as a success if they won the Egg Bowl. All the hard work and planning paid off for Dan Mullen and the Bulldogs!

Dawg Fans UniteThey gave us so much to ring our bells and there were many cowbells that lost their clappers. My dad tells a story about ringing his cowbell so much the clapper fell out. I have never experienced this phenomenon until today. Early in the third quarter when things started going States way, I noticed a wounded clapper under the stadium seats. Later Chris’s clapper went flying through the sky. The girl a few rows above us lost her clapper. Then finally at the end of the game something hit me in the shoulder. Guess what it was another cowbell clapper. Either they don’t make cowbells the way they once did or there was just that much ringing in the stands today! When you ask for more cowbell, make sure it is built well!

It was only fitting that I saw my good buddy Jennifer D. Davis after the game. We have shared digital cheers on Twitter and Facebook this whole season. Today, we got to enjoy the win face to face. It was a great day for State and a great day for my family. I was able to visit with family and friends! Leaving the stadium ringing my cowbell was so much fun! Now, we have to rebuild Chris’s cowbell!

Welcome to Missi-Sloppy, Rain Boots Required

This week recruiting I get to visit my home state, Mississippi! My companion is Amazon, fearless X-Camp Counselor and guardian of half names. Our trip to Missi-Sloppy (a Marcia Lindstrom term) started off rainy and wicked! The whole trip down, we drove under gray skies. We arrived in Starkville on the campus of Mississippi State University in the middle of a flood. Quickly we noticed random girls walking around campus with designer rain boots and running shorts. Yes, rain boot and running shorts.

It was not just a few girls. It was enough sightings while we were looking for parking that we felt obligated to ask a few who passed. The first girl we asked said she didn’t have clean jeans. The second girl said that her jeans wouldn’t fit in her boots. Hum… We met a good friend of mine at the student center of MSU. We asked her at the same time I was text messaging Auburn alum and sister of a current Auburn student. It was uncanny how precise the story duplicated itself across the SEC. I even asked a friend who lived in Oxford, home of Ole Miss, about the boot phenomena.

All girls witnessed with boots and running shorts wore designer boots. They had paisley, polka-dots, stripes, or plaid boots on and Nike running shorts. Why? What fashion statement does this send? Is it a cultural thing? Is it a sorority hazing? Or better yet, is it the minimum leg required shown on campus before the first frost of the year. Maybe it is a dress code for cow colleges (Miss. State & Auburn). No wait, it has been spotted at Ole Miss as well. Maybe this is the female answer to guy’s Bama Bangs.

As we left town we stopped at a local store that sold MSU gear, footwear, and Greek-wear. We found a rack stocked with hundreds of Nike running shorts and over in the corner were those fashionable boots. So if you want new rain boots, Sperry is the brand to buy. They will look great with your running shorts. If someone can figure out why these girls decided to make this fashion statement, please tell me. Until then I will continue to think for myself and wear what I want. Maybe they should pick their own clothes out too.

After leaving Starkville we visited Camp of the Rising Son. I listened to the rain falling on the trees and longed to be seventeen again. I loved working at CRS. Now, I am traveling all over the southeast recruiting staff to work at Space Camp. Amazon and I stood on the back porch talking to Carrie Browning, CRS Camp Director for about an hour. When I was seventeen, Carrie and I worked as cabin mates. She was the counselor, and I was the AC. If someone would have predicted that she would be the director of CRS and I would be managing Aviation Challenge as grown ups, we would have both thought you were crazy. It was good visiting Lake Anne, even if the dock was covered in water.

On the drive to the farm I think Amazon discovered why all the girls needed rain boots. We turned of highway 407 onto to a dirt road. Yes, I am sure there is a redneck joke somewhere. Amazon thought I was going to take her out in the middle of nowhere and feed her to alligators. She said, “What is this?” I was shocked. I thought she was a country girl from Tennessee. I asked if she had seen a “dirt road” before. Her answer was classic! She said, “Only in movies!” The roads were messy and sloppy. And I am sure the crew that works on camp vehicles will look at the Endeavour and ask if we went off-roadin’. No, we didn’t need to play in mud puddles, but we did visit my home. And to me home is from Starkville, to CRS, to Winona, and across to Okra-Land, Delta State University. But that is tomorrow’s story.

Three Decades

Hall Lodge on Lake Anne at Camp of the Rising SonThe Mega Reunion is winding down. We have already raided the kitchen, and there is still activity in the lodge. Groups of staff from one generation or the other have congregated for the last time before they say good bye. It is similar to the last day or the last week of camp. Everyone chats and visits more often or reflects sentimentally after every activity, meal time, and flag rising.

The trip down memory lane is somewhat surreal. While looking back at my camp maturation this weekend, which started with so many of the people at CRS, has made me realize how much the world and I have changed. So funny, I have worked at a half dozen or so camps. Present this weekend are multiple people I have worked with at multiple camps. It is so amazing to see all the grown-ups with their children years later. Now so many people I have worked with work at other camps all around the U.S.

I have forgotten as much or more than I remembered. I was reminded of the car alarm, the waterslide, camp-outs with camp stew, and Pow Wow breakfasts. I visited with April Gunn Duvall and her little one. I got to see the greatest of all Chiefs, Mrs. Newman. Jennifer D. Davis was here, Brandi Lewis came all the way from Dallas, and lots of digital age staffers. The cabins look the same but they resembled the AC Bubble not the immaculately clean campus in my childhood memories. Seeing the slide show brought forth a flood of memories.

Looking back on my first summer I was so overwhelmed at the responsibility of camp. I grew and became more daring and stupid all at the same time. I was reminded of the frog bucket, raiding camp store, and sneaking into the Scout Unit on Unit Night. Wow, I was dumb! I remember driving around camp in my red Sunbird. Oh, all the trips to Starkville or running to Ware (Where?) to the grocery store. And how could I forget all the pukie kids.

Now the youngsters are in the lobby talking and the old people are sitting in a circle in the dinning hall. April has her little one bundled up next to her, Carrie and the Morgan’s have put theirs down for the night. I have called Sarah Annie for the millionth time and she has seen fit not to kill me yet. Brandi is hanging with us too. We hear chatter and laughter from the lobby, but our conversation is focused on baby names and pet stories. Chris and I can hold our own with the pet stories. He will tell rabbit stories anytime, anywhere, and to anybody.

There is a great difference between the digital generation and my generation. I am jealous by the amount of food they can devour. I can remember during my first years at camp eating two hamburgers, bag of chips, can of soda, and two cow patty cookies. Tonight I was doing good to nibble on my chicken, drink a diet coke, and down a cookie. I have my priorities and eating a cookie is one of them. Oh, I hear the guitar. There are some songs that are new. Some have been forgotten and some have been altered. Susie is now interchangeable with RJ. Who is RJ and why is he picking up papaws and putting them in Susie’s basket?

The constant across the generations is the focus on Jesus and serving others. They are good people. They all have a servant heart event though at times I wanted to go Red Bull on them. I think Chief Carrie said it the best: “Camp of the Rising Son is a special place in our heart. Probably what is the most special to me about CRS is how a diverse group of people is united each summer and across decades for the purpose of sharing the love of Christ with children.”

That absolutely sums up the weekend perfectly. All Chiefs have a common summer or two or three working together for kids and Christ. They leave on different paths but for a few days in July we have been reunited to share our memories but mostly what we have been doing since our summers around Lake Anne. There is still the common thread and that is the love of sharing Christ with children, but now that includes the staff’s own children.

Along the Trail

Today at Aviation Challenge we graduated our Mach 3 – Twelve Day trainees, campers that are so die hard they come back year after year. They survived our watered down version of SERE, flying F-15s into simulated combat, several bumps and bruises, and a few trips to the hospital. Years from now they will remember their two weeks spent around “the lake.”

We also had the privilege of watching a hero of Vietnam pin a medal on a hero of our current wars. SGM Jerry Gleason is Aviation Challenge; he wrote the survival curriculum and lived what he taught. He has inspired many campers to pursue their dream. SGT Whitfield or Safety is one of those campers. Safety served his country diligently for five years and now he is working at Aviation Challenge.

I am so lucky to work where I work and have the chance to do the things that I do. I work with a tremendous group of people. I am blessed to see the campers grow up in the Space Camp family of programs. Recently, I have had the chance to ponder on my time around the lake, my career in camping, and what the future may hold for me. Where would I be and what would I be doing if I had not been exiled to the lake?

First, I guess you need to know a little bit about my career path and possible goal. Growing up all I dreamed of was one day living on a paved road. I didn’t plan to be a doctor, lawyer, or engineer because I wasn’t that smart. At the age of fifteen I volunteered as a CIT at Camp Garaywa in Clinton, Mississippi for a few weeks. I didn’t realize how hooked I was at the time, but I was addicted to camp and working with kids. The next summer I had secured of job at Camp of the Rising Son as an Assistant Counselor or AC for short. I spent four wonderful summers working along the shores of Lake Anne. That led me to Delta State University pursing an Elementary Education degree.

Choosing a college will impact your life and career! I worked at various camps throughout college. All of this in hopes of one day landing a full time job in summer camping. During my student teaching I was lucky enough to travel back to Space Camp as a chaperone. I fell back in love with the space program and with Huntsville, AL. Life and love led me back to work at Space Camp even when I was working year round at Twin Lakes in Mississippi. Eventually and unknowingly planned, I moved to Alabama to work full time at Space Camp. But I would not work in the full time camp operations.

My first job was in education, work with teacher camp. I loved it. Honestly, I dream of the day I would return to work with the teachers. Full time called me to the service of NASA Stars a program that would allow me to work along side camp operations preparing teachers and kids for an out of this world experience to Space Camp. Kids from low income areas of Alabama would travel to Huntsville for a three day camp experience. I had no clue about the kid’s portion of Space Camp. The fall flew by, I was engaged, and working in education. Along the same time came a decree from above that I would spend my summer at Aviation Challenge in the operations side of the house.

I didn’t enjoy the thought of being exiled where old aircraft sit and rust or cranky old men yell at you for running on the grass. I wanted to work with my friends in education. I felt that the Space Camp gods were punishing me for being a bad alumnus of the programs. That summer turned out to be great. I worked with Lurch as a supervisor, met Safety as a camper, and heard of the glory days where Gordo, Spanky, Sandrat, and Joker ran wild on AC with the 77th Black Knights. I remember reporting at the assigned time of nine o’clock in the morning. My boss, well renown fighter pilot in the F-4 community, didn’t show up until some point after me. I learned quickly that wake-up is at seven o’clock and good Assistant Managers should report before that time.

I learned a lot more that summer, lifeguards are hard to manage especially when she resembles a bearded goat, graduation days need to be well organized, there is no need to drive from the office to Gate 5 if there is a staff member having a seizure near the F-14, or never leave an Asperger’s Syndrome kid alone under the bubble with a bully. Learning a lot didn’t make up for me feeling like I had gotten off the trail somehow. Had I looked away from my dream and found myself at AC?

I think I have felt that way for five years. “I’m in the wrong place, I want to do more, I need more of a challenge!” were the lies I filled my head with because I wasn’t where “I thought” I should be. Life mellowed me out, calmed me down, and Marcia Lindstrom took over as Director of Ops. Things changed and I learned a more few things.

I left Camp of the Rising Son because I thought I had something to prove. I have always regretted that decision. And that may be the first time I have admitted that to myself, much less the world. This week I looked back on my career, where I want to go and where I have been. I considered having been exiled to the lake, and now going back to education, this time as the director, and returning to CRS for their Mega Reunion. Looking at all of these things were more like a crossroad not a straight path, but a scary dragon showed me the correct path. I realized how much I love the kids, how much I love my job, and how much I love the people I work with. But most of all I realized how much I loved working with the kids. I am in the right spot. I don’t have to do anything different to prove a point.

Chief Margie taught me a great truth long ago and that is “Camp is for the Camper.” If you aren’t in the game for that end you shouldn’t be in the game. Life is sweeter when you put others first! I am very thankful my path is along side campers, counselors, and other staff! Graduation today was a wonderful testament to the old and new guard and you can’t get away from Chief Margie’s teaching even in Huntsville, Alabama.