Tag Archives: Camp

Looking Back at 2010

To make a tradition stick forever you must do it year after year. I am not sure if year three of this blog review makes this a tradition. However, let’s still call it my “Traditional Year End Countdown” of all the major moments in my life over this past year. This year Chris went back to work for PricewaterhouseCoopers, I changed jobs and the changed again, I made it to Fourth of July on the farm for the first time in a long time and who could forget all the times I tried to give away my dog, poor Boo. While looking back I realized this year could be known as the STS 131 Year! Let’s take a look at the top ten moments of 2010 for this redhead.

Facts of Life Summer: It was one of those summers that you take the good, you take the bad, and there you have the facts of life! I always loved Jo on that show. I did have a great summer in retrospect; however it was difficult not being around camp programs. Since I was 15 years old, I have spent my summers working with children. In April I left camp operations to be the Director of Education and work with teacher camp.  Leaving that was not easy. However, I learned lots about myself, good and bad. Now that I am back where my heart is happy I just have too work hard and do what I am called for! I loved my job as Director of Education, but helping a kid overcome homesickness is more fun than teaching teachers! Sorry, love you teachers (Rhonda & Veronique).

Red Bull Racing: Driving back from the launch of STS 131, I checked my email. NASCAR driver and Red Bull Racing team member, Ryan Vickers was going visit camp the day we returned to work. I felt it was my duty as Red Bull to volunteer my services as tour guide and show our friend around camp. Ryan Vickers is such a nice guy! He was so friendly and nice. He was really interested in space and what we did at camp. The neatest thing I observed while hanging with the NASCAR driver was when I offered him a bottle of water. His assistant took the bottle from my hand, removed the paper label and then handed it to Ryan. It was not a Coke product. He wasn’t in the winner’s circle or on a race track, but the sponsors are still priority.

The iPad Revolution: I know that this may seem silly, but starting the iPad revolution at camp was monumental for me. When I started working nights at Space Camp I saw the value of my iPhone (this too was a great adventure of 2010) when answering questions and concerns by campers and staff. I have had fun teaching Marcia about the power of the iPad. It seems like a magic window that helps me get my work done more easily. With all the apps and multi-tasking tools, emailing, and fun facebooking, the iPad is one of the best and most useful gifts Chris has ever given me. I only wish that Bill Cosby would create a Picture Page app for the iPad! To all my Aerospace iPad friends, let’s have a productive 2011.

Snapper and Redbull at Oak CreekRiver Adventures: I have recruited for Space Camp at colleges far and wide for four seasons. There are two colleges I look forward to visiting each year, Embry Riddle in Arizona and my school, Delta State in Mississippi. This year our recruiting involved adventures around rivers and creeks. In Arizona, Snapper and I trekked up Oak Creek at Slide Rock where I discovered the meaning of Slide Rock. In Mississippi, I took Snapper to one of my favorite hang outs during college, a sand bar at Rosedale along the mighty Mississippi River. Both of these rivers have come to mean a lot to me. However, the adventures I had on both of them made this year’s recruiting season the most enjoyable on to date!

Yankee Adventure: Chris and I made our second trip to New York City. This time we didn’t just spend a day in the Big Apple. We adventured around the city along with watching three MLB games. Among our stops along the site seeing tour was the U.S.S. Intrepid, Chelsea Market, B&H Photography – the most amazing store in the world, the Top of the Rock, Grand Central Station, and Central Park. The great thing about New York City is that visiting the concrete jungle is totally out of the normal for Chris and me. I would much rather play in the mud or work at Pottery Barn, but visiting America’s welcome center is always a learning experience. Go Yankees!

Christmas Calendar of Awesomeness: If you don’t know me, I haven’t been a fan of Christmas for the last few years. It is a time of travel and in-laws and not much focusing on the greatest of Christmas. Christmas is a time for family and friends to remember the great gift of Christ’s birth. But for many of the past years it has worn away at me. A few years back Snapper promised to help me find the Christmas spirit again. Unfortunately that was the year of mono for her. This year she made good on that promise. She made the Christmas Calendar of Awesomeness. It was simple, each working day she gave me a small happy with a Christmas quote. It made an advent calendar of sorts. It helped me remember the coolness of Christmas. Christmas this year was great for this and many other reasons!

Alex and Luke Visit Camp: When Alex and Luke visited camp I wasn’t their escort that was the job of Charity the social network guru. I met Alex and Luke at the Astronaut luncheon with Bob Springer. Charity had chatted with them about their adventures around North America on their social media directed tour of the greatest country in the world. I gave Alex and Luke something I thought was just a simple happy, a Space Camp coin. Luke mentioned later in a road trip recap video it was one of his favorite tokens. This made me so proud of the work that has been done since Alumni Andi and the Space Camp coin first started. Alex and Luke are great people and I am envious of there road trip… I also wish I could live Red 3’s adventurous life!

STS 131 Trip: In early spring a group of Space Camp staff traveled to Florida for the launch of STS 131. This wasn’t any shuttle launch for Space Camp. Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger was a Mission Specialist on board and the first Space Camp alumni to travel into space. It was the perfect event! Night launches are the best. Hanging out with co-workers and friends was amazing. The road trip down was a great adventure. And how can we forget Doug Wheelock, “Pig on the right, Shuttle on the left.” Tears and cheers were on the balcony of the OSBII that morning as we saw STS 131 lift off with Dottie and Space Camp riding along!

The 4th HOF Event: This year we had the Hall of Fame that we all wanted and looked for since its inception. Max Q played after dinner under the Saturn V, Hoot Gibson was simply a guest, Dottie joined us for the event, and the whole family seemed to be there. Personally, having Rhonda, Veronique, Snapper, and Safety there, and others who have been there every year, made the HOF very special for me. This year the HOF event was more like a family reunion and less like a production. Thank you, Mike Flachbart!

Wings in Space: I think I was taking a shower when I thought about asking Dottie to take along a few Space Camp wings on STS 131. It only seemed fitting that she take along the symbol of a Space Camp graduate along with her. I was so honored that she agreed to take a pair of Space Camp and Space Academy wings. What was even cooler was to discover after the mission Dottie took them out and posed for a family photo onboard the ISS. She and the over 500,000 graduates represented in those wings, floating in space! The day she presented the wings at graduation was one of my proudest moments at camp. The wings currently can be found on the wall of Discovery MOCR on the MCC floor at Space Camp.

All in all this has been an outstanding year! I look forward to 2011 and the many adventures I will go on! I do hope to write more, laugh more, and have more free time… next year.

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!

Fueling the Dream

On Friday night, Space Camp held its fourth annual Space Camp Hall of Fame celebration to induct four new members into the HOF family. After months of preparation, and in my opinion with three previous HOF events as practice, we had the best ever HOF event. While it took us a few years to get the full vision of the event worked out; sometimes it takes a little time to get the recipe right. If I can continue with the cooking analogy, the HOF Executive Chef was Mike Flachbart, he was the sole reason the event was such a success.

I arrived at work just after six o’clock. It was like Christmas morning, I could not sleep the night before and I was just ready for the biggest event ever for Space Camp. Not the largest for the USSRC or the largest in number of attendees for Space Camp, but Space Camp Hall of Fame 2010 was years in the making. It had finally arrived and was a mix of huge wedding and giant family reunion. Even the previous day was filled with buzz and anticipation as guests and friends arrived in Huntsville.  These feelings carried on to Friday morning.

Friday morning at graduation we had special guests Don Thomas and Dottie Metcalf-Lindenberger. Dottie is Space Camp’s first astronaut, a teacher and a really nice person. She graduated from Space Academy in April of 1990 and twenty years later flew onboard STS 131 in April of 2010. On STS 131 she carried with her two pair of camp wings. I was greatly honored to be there when they were presented back to Space Camp. Helping get the wings into space has been one of my proudest endeavors as a Space Camp staffer. I was shocked that she took photos of the wings while on the ISS. It was very kind of Dottie to fly the wings and even more thoughtful to take pictures of them on orbit.

The inductees this year were Francis French, David Hnyda, Andrea Hanson, and Danny Jaques. Each inductee is very accomplished in their field and has made Space Camp very proud. Francis was a camper and now is the director of the San Diego Air & Space Museum. David Hnyda and Andrea Hanson were both Space Camp counselors. David is currently at the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School in Maryland. Andrea is a post-doctoral research scientist and engineer continuing her passion of Space Life Sciences. Danny Jaques is a middle school teacher in Colorado and has shared the dream of Space Camp by bringing dozens of his students to camp each spring.

There to help celebrate these worthy inductees where a large number of other Space Camp Hall of Famers. Staff, community leaders, friends, and families were in attendance. Also there was Max Q, the all astronaut band. Having Max Q there was an accomplishment that was two years in the making. We asked the band several times but schedules and shuttle launches prevented the group from attending. Sitting in with the band was one of the founding members, Hoot Gibson. Hoot is definitely a friend to Space Camp. And if you didn’t see the Weather Channel on Friday morning, Stephanie Abrams was at camp doing the weather and to be emcee of the Hall of Fame event.

Needless to say, it was an amazing night. But amazing nights require hard work and preparation. I think the best part of the preparation was during the sound check for Max Q. A dozen counselors were setting up tables and center pieces under the mighty Saturn V as a band played in the background. It wasn’t just any band.  It was the all astronaut band. Moments like that, I realize how truly lucky I am to work at such an awesome place. Honestly, I felt that way most all of Friday.

So looking back at it all and reflecting on an amazing day. I am so proud to be a part of Space Camp! I love the place. It is a camp and educational facility where kids gain self confidence as they learn what it takes to explore the world of space and aviation. Don Thomas talked at graduation about the sign above the doors at Space Camp – Through these doors enter the next generation of Astronauts, Scientists, and Engineers. But it really wasn’t completely true until Dottie visited the ISS this spring. The dream of von Braun is still alive and well in Huntsville, Alabama. Not even a dull politician can extinguish that flame. I am just thankful to be part of this great place… even if I am mean! Thanks Danny!

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!

My Space Camp Adventure

Pathfinder out my window at Space CampRight after my alarm clock goes off each morning I start my preparations for work. This ritual is true for millions and millions of Americans. I shower, brush my teeth, feed the dog, put on some clothes, and so on. I then get into my Toyota 4Runner and drive to work while I listen to Rick & Bubba on the radio. I am sure you are familiar with this routine. However, unlike most Americans I end my commute into work by parking by a space shuttle. No, I don’t work for NASA, I work for Space Camp!

Working at Space Camp is probably the greatest job in the world; at least it is for me. Growing up I was captivated by space flight. I remember my mom calling me inside to watch Challenger’s maiden voyage launch from Kennedy Space Center. This was the mission were hometown hero Donald Peterson and Story Musgrave performed the first EVA of the shuttle program. I was hooked on space from that moment forward. Donald Peterson visited my school growing up and working at Space Camp has allowed me to meet Story Musgrave.

In seventh grade I persuaded my parents to send me to Space Camp! I was headed for a career as an astronaut or fighter pilot. For me, Space Camp was not only a great place to learn about math and science but it was also far more of a cultural experience. I am a cotton farmer’s kid from Mississippi. I got to meet kids from all over the United States. There was a kid who could speak Russian and one that would be studying in France during the summer. Kids from other countries attended camp. They all loved space and wanted to study math, science, engineering, and technology.

In high school my focus did change from wanting to be an astronaut or engineer to wanting to work with children. I wanted to teach or work at a summer camp. After leaving Huntsville in the spring of 1990 I wouldn’t return to see the rockets until 1999. I was in my final semester of college doing my student teaching at a school in Madison Mississippi. The fifth grade attended Space Camp each year. I was re-energized about space and would join the staff the very next summer as a counselor.

For the next few years I would work during the summer at Space Camp and teach school in Mississippi. It was a great combination. I knew more about the space program than most anybody in my small town. Some people thought I actually worked for NASA, but I was simply a camp counselor. My summer time job would eventually lead to a position in the education department and then the chance to work in camp operations. I am lucky enough to be working in the recruitment and training of new staff – the camp counselors. I am living my dream. No, I am not an astronaut, but I get to inspire the next generation of explorers. No, I am not a fighter pilot, but my call sign is Red Bull. I do get to work with some of the greatest people in the whole wide world!

Working at camp I have met moonwalkers and shuttle commanders. But the greatest thing about camp is the kids that flood through the doors. They come here with open eyes and minds to learn about what is possible. Yes, it is hard work and the hours are sometimes exhausting. The whole experience is so amazing. Each year we recruit some of the best and brightest to work with our campers. Most of our new counselors know nothing about the space program, we teach them everything they will ever need to know, including Alan Shepherds’ pre-launch story. We have staff in all phases of their life. We have college kids, new graduates, adventurous sojourners, empty nesters, and a few retirees on staff as Space Camp counselors.

Currently we are looking for our next class of Space Camp counselors. We are trying to get the word out. The recruitment team has visited college campuses and there has been an online effort. Often people hear about Space Camp job opportunities through moms, dads, aunts and uncles. Sometime people are trying to find a year round camp job. Either way if you are reading this blog please help me find people to work at camp. We are looking for bright, energetic, adventurous, fun loving, team minded camp counselors. We are looking for people that want to encourage and enrich the lives of young people. If you know someone send them to our website for prospective staff at www.spacecamp.com/counselors.

Other places to find Space Camp Counselor Stuff:





I love my job!!! I don’t want to work anywhere else in the world. I want to share my life of learning and teaching with every space geek in the world. I am very lucky to work at Space Camp and I strongly encourage anyone who has a passion for teaching young people and the freedom to live a Space Camp adventure to apply today!

Good Okra Hunting

Fighting OkraToday we ventured to the book store to purchase our Fighting Okra paraphernalia! I’m sure you’re thinking, “What’s this Okra thing all about?” Delta State University’s official mascot is the Statesmen. And it is lame. Yes, I know that many Delta State alumni will disagree with me and accuse me of blasphemy! The older generation of alumni frowns on the popularity of our un-official mascot, the Fighting Okra. However, since the 1980s it has grown in popularity. Simply put the image of a politician is not particularly frightening. Wait? Some politicians are frightening but in a very different way.

Legend has it that the Okra was the inspiration of the DSU baseball team. I heard one story that the baseball field was once an okra patch and one stubborn plant returned seasons after the field was converted into a baseball diamond. I do know that tall baseball players clad in all green look similar to okra pods. The angry looking okra cartoon is much more villainous than an athlete. Its sinister sneer could be intimidating except that you do notice that it is a violent vegetable leering at you. There are really too many stories to tell, but as the popularity grew so did the tall tales. Heck, plus cheering for a “Lady Statesmen” is like cheering for a “straight lesbian.”

When I was a student… ten years ago(!!!!)…a student brought the cartoon character to life. Brian Formby made the first Fighting Okra costume from a green sleeping bag to be worn on the side lines. He converted the green sleeping bag into the angry veggie with a donation from Lynn Sullivan. She gave her father’s boxing gloves and boots. Paired with some funky green leggings, the Fighting Okra was brought to life. Way back when I was a student, the book store only carried one t-shirt and a coffee mug with the un-official mascot. Today, there were over a dozen items with the Fighting Okra! The items range from shot glasses to hoodies and beanie veggies to baseball caps. Wow, how the Okra has grown!

The popularity of the Okra is not the only thing that has changed since I graduated in 1999. My favorite eateries way back when were Airport Grocery and A la Carte! Both are still good, but not excellent. They have lost something. Airport moved away from the airport and A la Carte changed ownership. You really can’t be great forever. And I am sure my memories of all my friends and the wonderful times I had in college has clouded my current judgment. I have found two new spots that are absolutely fabulous. Please if you visit Cleveland, Mississippi stop by Hey Joe’s or the Warehouse, two super restaurants with great atmosphere, excellent service, and really good food!

On this recruiting trip I was able to look back at my time here at DSU. I loved every minute of it. I recall the hell of my first semester. I think I had all the toughest professors. I visited one of those professors today. Dr. Elizabeth Sarcone was heading to class when I popped in her office. I wanted to say hi, because after three semesters of Sarcone the Terminator, I actually learned something. I only got to spend a few moments with her, but I thanked her for encouraging me to write. I always respected her for teaching with fervor and integrity. I remember her never compromising her educational philosophy even on a bonehead like me. It was wonderful to see her, shake her hand and thank her!

All in all today was a wonderful day. Our trip was extended because we are speaking to a room full of pilots tomorrow. Great break for us! I visited with several librarians tonight as Amazon ate more food. She ate a gallon of loaded baked potato soup today at the Warehouse. Tonight it was more Mexican food! Whether it is an Okra or a Statesmen it is still my first home away from home. Whether it is Airport Grocery or Hey Joe’s this place has a special place in my heart. Whether it is a librarian or a rocket scientist my life is blessed from all the wonderful people I meet along the way.

Learn More about the Okra…

In Nickname Realm, Fighting Okra Snappiest

Good Eats

Weird Mascots

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.

Rite of Passage

Under the pine trees around Lake Anne, Jennifer D. Davis carried a little three ring binder. Inside this Top Secret binder was the contents of all the week’s blunders and spills. It also contained the list of homesick campers. I remember the early morning unit meetings where I was introduced to this binder and we discussed all the day’s events and activities. I learned so much from these meetings in the crafts cabin at CRS.

See, all the chiefs sat around the craft and pottery tables chatting about camper issues. All we needed was a TV camera and a few cups of coffee, and it would have been the early predecessor to “The View,” but with bantering about kids. I remember being completely overwhelmed with the daily logistics and some of the emotion of being an assistant counselor or AC at Camp of the Rising Son. I remember a camper named Virginia being homesick and Cheva reassuring the UD that all she needed was “tough love.” I remember all the rounds of get-the-camper-to-the-next-lunch-or-dinner. Trying to get the homesick camper to the next meal, next activity, or next day was a diversion.

Now many years later and all grown up, after serving as the band aid brigade at Twin Lakes, and reading a few books on child physiology, I have an understanding of this thing we call homesickness. Fortunately for the younger version of me there wasn’t a large population of hel-i-kop-ter parents. Moms or dads would say goodbye at the screen door with a hug and a kiss that was all. Currently, moms and dads focus so much of their time and attention on the kids; they need constant contact, and constant reassurance that Johnny or Suzy are ok.

Going away to camp is a necessary right of passage. It is needed to grow independence, perseverance, and self confidence. I have told countless kids that being homesick is a good sign. Homesickness shows that a kid loves his family and enjoys being at home. For some kids they dread returning home because of some unknown evil. I grew up in a very encouraging home. They pushed me to stay with my commitments and not to focus on the negatives the world may throw at me. Keep your head down and plow through whatever adversity you find yourself in. I like to think God gives us the valleys so that we will cherish and rejoice our time on the mountain tops. I am sure no camp will use that as the marketing slogan, but it is a great way of looking at homesickness.

At CRS, one of the strategies we used was to point out the fact Christ left his heavenly home for a time. It was back during the WWJD bracelet era. We pointed out that Jesus didn’t give up on this world and the camper shouldn’t give up on camp. Maybe it is a little corny, but it worked. I encourage campers at Aviation Challenge by pointing out that homesickness is natural and they need to learn to cope with separation before they are freshmen in college. Imagine Aubie Bryant of Cullman, Alabama crying in the freshmen dorm room because he misses his mom and dad. Aubie doesn’t feel like going to the football game because he thinks his ATO brothers wouldn’t understand. This strategy works well! Football and crying do not mix in the state of Alabama unless you are Alabama getting the thumb a few years back!

The first step to dealing with homesickness is diagnosis, is the patient/camper “terminal” or “treatable”? A terminal camper is miserable and they will make camp miserable for the other campers around him or her. There is always going to be a sacrifice when dealing with bad campers or homesick campers. One camper for the whole team’s success or one camper’s success for the whole team’s enjoyment. This can be difficult at times. Most of the time terminal campers should leave camp and try again next year. These campers should maybe try again at another camp or with a buddy next time.

When dealing with a treatable camper it is all about finding the correct medication. Sometimes a strong word of encouragement works. But other times they need compassion and time to talk to parents. Other campers may just miss their brother, sister, dog, or goldfish. Making a kid feel valued and not letting his or her feelings get the best of them is always a winner. Often youngsters don’t understand their feelings and this can create panic. I have seen homesickness manifest itself in many different ways. Vomiting is my least favorite. Just because a camper is classified as treatable doesn’t mean they will not have physical symptoms.

It is common for a camper to let their brain get the best of them. The night before arriving at camp kids are anxious to arrive and see camp. This will lead to not enough rest going into the first day at camp. Kids that are not rested are cranky; even I am cranky when I don’t sleep. The camper arrives and there are so many emotions when meeting other kids for the first time, and suddenly and almost unexpectedly mom and dad leaves. It happens so quickly that sometimes sadness strikes. Parents, I do a suggest quick good bye. Long and tearful goodbyes are sometimes hard for a camper to bounce back from. The hardest night is the first because of the good bye, and the first night in a foreign environment.

Tears happen in life. The second night is better than the first and hopefully will be the last real tough night. Often campers will have twenty-three hours of tear free summer camping in a day with only one hour of sorrow. This is acceptable. What is not acceptable is fifteen or sixteen hours of activities to be a sobbing nightmare for a kid. Believe me; this will break anyone’s heart into a million pieces. Sadly, I have seen too many parents leave campers at camp and refuse to pick them up. The worst thing ever was when a kid was sent to camp while mom and dad cruised around the Mediterranean on the QE2. The kid was miserable and everyone one around the kid was miserable while mom and dad was living the high life!!!

The best thing anyone one can do is be a positive encouragement to a sad camper. If you are a parent it is best to reinforce your love, remind your child how proud you are, and don’t tell them how much fun you are having without a kid in the house. As for staff working, there is not one answer or solution. It is a combination of things: support, affirmation, kindness, and a little bit of structure. There are thousands of tricks but I caution, never try drugging a kid with Benadryl. This method could back fire on you. Always be honest and never promise anything you can’t deliver.

Life is hard, it is complex at times, and it can be so much fun. Homesickness at camp is a time where kids can see life’s twist and turns. They get to try on being an adult for a week while wearing their favorite shorts or t-shirt. Kids can make new friends and keep the old all the while growing through life’s challenges. Whether it is jumping off a 60 ft zip line tower or sleeping away from home for the first time, camp is meant to be enjoyed! I have enjoyed my life at camp! From Camper, to Chief, to Lifeguard, and now as a Manager I have learned so much! And it all started around Lake Anne.

Call Signs

Growing up I always wanted a nick name. With a double name like Ruth Marie life is made difficult in the 80s. Most girls only had one name and many pops stars didn’t even have a last name. So I was out of the cool circle. Many people didn’t get the Ruth Marie thing; I was either Ruth Ann or Rose Marie. Heck, my current boss called me Rose for the first six months I work at Space Camp. I tried dropping the Marie, but Ruth wasn’t much better. It was plain, only four letters. I shared my name with old ladies and a dead baseball player. I couldn’t have had a plainer duller name unless it was Pat.

I longed for the day to be cool enough to have a nick name. I am resigned to the fact that, that day will never come. But I do have a call sign. It is a little different, but you don’t have to be cool to have a call sign. The call sign itself is cool. Call signs are typically used in the military and pilot world. The rules are you are issued or assigned a call sign, if you don’t like it, tough! If you whine about it, you will be given an even more unpleasant one. You have no say in your call sign and if you think you can give yourself a call sign, you will be given Pookie.

It took me a long time to earn a call sign that would stick, heck at one point they wanted to call me Teflon. Crosswind, Staple, Pencil, Scully, and Ping were some of the others issued to me during my tenure at Aviation Challenge, a realistic military aviation experience. I received my current call sign in March of 2007 after my first season training the Space Camp counselors. But it wasn’t until September of that year that it officially stuck. Be Ready Camp 2 was the glue!!! I am so proud of my call sign. I smile on the inside each time someone calls me Red Bull.

I am Red Bull because during counselor graduation I give out the wings. Counselor graduation is very special to me. I remember getting my wings as a camper; I thought they were the coolest thing in the whole wide world. When I became a counselor, they didn’t just give them to us, they pinned them on our collar. I always try to duplicate that in counselor graduations. In 2007 following graduation one of the new staff said my call sign should be changed to Red Bull, because “Red Bull gives you wings.” WOW, something that makes sense. I have red hair and I give out wings. A perfect match and since some people think I am bull headed that can be included too.

Everyone has a story behind how they earned their call sign. Chris, my husband, falls asleep all the time; during his stent at AC he earned Gordo, because Gordo Cooper fell asleep waiting to launch during the Mercury Project. Snapper got her call sign call because she snapped at all of us during counselor training. Biscuit is so skinny that she should and could eat more biscuits. It was either that or Lunchbox. Dumpy was a tall lanky guy who worked my first summer. I love Dumpy! Divot loved golf, and it was random, just like him. But all I remember is when we gave him Divot as a call sign we were standing next to the dumpster. I wanted to call him dumpster.

A lot of counselors come to camp and their call signs stick so well that I don’t know their real name. They are forever called Crash, Speed Bump, Safety, or Summit! There are others whose call signs don’t stick like Marlon or Kim. If your call sign sticks you don’t want me calling you by the name your momma gave you. Staff have noticed I have a tell. The staff can read if I am angry by which name I call them by. If I call you by the name on your birth certificate or the one on the waist band of your underwear, I am most likely mad at you or you have done something heinous. Something bigger and more severe than you are out of dress code.

Gordo has even been given an additional call sign. Most of the AC staff thinks his call sign is Punkin, but that is just what I call him. I have told them, I never met Gordo; I most likely would not like the guy. But when I meet Chris he was a sweet man and Punkin is my loving husband. See how fun call signs can be!

So know I have another name other than the one my momma gave me. It too is a double name. Call signs are a great thing. They are one of the benefits of working at a camp and one of those things that make you smile on the inside. You can call me whatever you like, but please don’t call me Rose or Ruth Ann. I might go Red Bull on you!