Tag Archives: Delta State

Turkey Blog 4.0

Do you know where you were a few days before Thanksgiving four years ago? Well, my answer to that question is, right here. I was sitting on this couch with my laptop computer creating my blog, GraphiteFree.  I haven’t been the most faithful companion to my blog. Life sometimes happens and it is less than eventful when you put it into print. This post is to help mark the anniversary and the Thanksgiving season.

The latest Facebook trend this month is to put what you are thankful for each day of November.  I didn’t discover this until a few days ago. I am less than observant at times. This is my futile attempt to be as cool as everyone who started on November 1st, listing what they are thankful for and desperately hoping to keep my blog relevant.

One – God:  I am very thank for our gracious Creator. Knowing that our God and Father is watching over us and loved us enough to save us is the most precious thing in our lives. This is what I am most thankful for.

Two – Family:  I have a wonderful family. Being home in Mississippi recharges my heart and soul. I love being on the farm near my family with my mom cooking in the kitchen and daddy in his chair. On top of that, I have a wonderful extended family in Madison County Alabama.

Three – Blinkers:  I love safety. I am the Be Ready Girl! Blinkers represent planning ahead… look for the safest route to your final goal… and not running into the driver next to you. Blinkers are important.

Four – Freedom:  Until the socialist take my freedom. I will be very thankful for this. Don’t believe everything you read. Thinking for yourself is the best way to experience freedom. The ability to pick and choose what you want to do on a daily basis is a glorious thing.

Five – Great Friends:  Throughout my life I have all ways been surrounded by wonderful people. Life is not much fun unless you have great friends to enjoy life with.

Six – Sports:  I am very thankful to be a fan of sports, a lover of ESPN Sports Center and a competitor in many sporting events. I love crying at sports movies and those touching “Inside the Lines” stories on Sunday mornings.

Seven – Bunnies:  This year, I was blessed by having a litter of rabbit kits. There were seven of the little guys. It was one of the coolest things ever! I now want to start a farm.

Eight – Health:  God has truly blessed me with great health. I can do all things I need to do. I have been given great endurance and I am seldom sick.

Nine – Ragnar:  On November 9th, a team of crazy friends and I ran from Chattanooga to Nashville. I am thankful for friends and for the ability run… I am still not fast, but I can run.

Ten – Soda Box Cookies:  These cookies are not made from some super secret recipe. These cookies however are the best ever conceived and my grandmother taught me how to make them. I miss my grandparents and are truly thankful to have some of the greatest to ever live.

Eleven – Electricity:  I could be one of those people who lives in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. However, electricity and technology has given us so much extra enjoyment in life. Without refrigeration our modern day Thanksgiving would not be possible.  It is great to type a blog and not use graphite to record all my ramblings.

Twelve – Cowbells:  No, Mississippi State is not known for its multiple national titles, but it is know for its cowbells. Mississippi State is a wonderful place with many happy memories attached to it. Hearing a cowbell ring gives me great joy! I am thankful for the Bulldogs and I hope they beat the University of Mississippi on Saturday.

Thirteen – Thanksgiving:  Thanksgiving is the best holiday ever conceived.  There is not a push to over commercialize it. People don’t get lost in shopping to help fuel our economy.  It is a day where we all pause and thank God for those things that are truly important in our lives.

Fourteen – Pencils:  The Dixon Ticonderoga is the quintessential American pencil.  It has been in my backpack, on my desk and behind my ear for many years. I love the pencil, because it does not expect me to be perfect like the pen does. The pencil is a non-judgmental companion that I am very thankful for.

Fifteen – Peanut Butter:  I was a picky eater growing up.  Some say I am still a picky eater.  However, if it wasn’t for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I might not have lived to see the age fifteen. Heck, I didn’t like pizza for a while. I feel sorry for all the poor souls who are allergic to peanut butter.

Sixteen – Golf:  Is there anything better than taking a club and beating the crap out of a small round object. To focus your energy on one single point in space and driving the ball beyond your own expectations is one of the best ways to release stress!

Seventeen – Math:  Seventeen is a prime number.  So is 37, which will be my age this time next year. No matter the number or age, I love math. I loved teaching math and doing math. I even like the new exhibit at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Math Alive.

Eighteen – Peyton Manning:  True, Peyton is not with the Colts anymore, but he is still my most favorite boy friend. But I am still very lucky to see my favorite Manning playing football this season! Thank you for Peyton’s health! Also, I am very happy Peyton attended Rocky Top and not Ole Piss.

Nineteen – Okra:  Delta State is a wonderful university found in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. Knowing how quirky I am, you should know that I would go to school where they have a mascot like the Fighting Okra. I am an okra girl. The Statesmen is a dumb mascot!

Twenty – Salt:  What would we do without salt? It a multifunctional tool which I can not imagine a day without. It makes stuff taste better. It is used for many great Biblical analogies. And it is useful in making ice cream.

Twenty One – Antiperspirant:  Let me be honest with you all, I sweat more than most human beings do. If it were not for Degree antiperspirant I wouldn’t have friends and my Ragnar team mates would have kicked me out of the van after my first run. I am very thankful for the help I receive in the use of antiperspirant.

Twenty Two – Cotton:  I love being a farm kid. I love all the amazing memories I have either in the cotton field or the cotton gin. I loved having acres and acres to roam when growing up. I am very thankful for my farming family.

Twenty Three – Proof Readers:  I can’t spell or write very well without an army of people to help me. I need to have proof readers to make this blog thing a reality. It is fun connecting with people though my blog. I couldn’t do that without people to help me.

Twenty Four – Weddings:  This is going to seem like a crazy thing to be thankful for, but I am thankful for Anderson’s wedding last year. After the wedding my mom saw pictures of me on Facebook. She thought I was fat and told me I was fat. Later that fall she told me again after another wedding. I am thankful for this, because it was the kick in the pants I needed to get in shape!

Twenty Five – Running: I am thankful to be able to run, because it makes me not so fat. However, I wish I could be thankful for good genetics which makes me a good runner. But that is not the case, I am slow and thankful for the abilities I do have.

Twenty Six – Recruiting Staff:  Yes, I am very thankful for the efforts made to recruit new staff for Space Camp. But one of the most coolest things about staff recruitment, is staff training is not far behind. Did I mention, I have the coolest job in the world.

Twenty Seven – Baseball:  Since I was 20 months old I have been fascinated with the game of baseball. I have been to many professional, college and high school games. It doesn’t matter if it is a World Series or a little league game, I love the game of baseball. Get well soon Derek Jeter.

Twenty Eight – Gadgets:  I love knives, first aid supplies, tools and electronics. I like being ready for most anything that life could through at me. I am thankful that Lysol can kill 99.9% of germs. I am thankful for those who invented these things and the spirit of innovation.

Twenty Nine – Space Camp:  I am truly thankful for being able to work at a camp that operates year around.  Space Camp has wonderful staff. Everyday is a different day! I am thankful to work at the coolest place for space!

Thirty – Turkey:  I am a turkey for some of the things I have listed. But all in all, I have enjoyed this exercise. I will enjoy my time with my family around the Thanksgiving table. Thank you so much Mr. Butterball!

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!


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

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

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

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

Blogging for Blog Sake

Lots of GraphiteLast year on November 27th I posted my first blog on Blogger, and I have enjoyed every minute of the adventure. I am not blogging to make money, market a product, give cooking tips, or improve your golf game. I am not a mommy blogger or topical blogger. I am blogging to improve my writing skills. Yes, you read that correctly, I am blogging just for the heck of it. I am not hoping to get a book deal or have fifty-two minutes of fame. I am simply doing it to grow as a person and as a writer.

Growing up I struggled with the English language, and yes, being from the south there is a wise crack there somewhere. I couldn’t spell, didn’t know how to diagram a sentence, nor could I tell you the difference between a preposition and a participle. Despite my struggles I graduated high school and college. In fifth grade I was evaluated for a learning disability. My parents and I learned that I don’t decode words the same way most people do. I see the shape and my brain breaks words down like it would art or a geometry problem. I see shapes not sounds. The examiner told me that a typewriter was in my future. Wow, he couldn’t tell the future but was close, because I got a laptop!

My freshman year at Delta State I had one of the toughest English composition professors, Dr. Sarcone. I was scared to death of her. She kicked my butt, however I didn’t give up. She would tear my papers to shreds and then stomp on them. If only she had used a Dixon Ticonderoga correction pencil I could have found some positive in the class. There was one paper I wrote about living in a small town that she liked. As shocking as that was, I still couldn’t spell and I didn’t read so well, but this small bit of encouragement fueled me not to give up on school.

I sometimes feel like my blog is very “me” centered, like I want to draw attention to myself. This is not my intention, but I do want feedback. I want people to tell me if I have typos or misspelled words in a blog. I would like to know if I make sense to the general public. Looking back on my year of blogging I asked people on Facebook what their favorite blogs were. Facebook is where most people read my digital ramblings. There was no clear cut best blog and it seemed like all I was doing was drawing more attention to myself and butchering the English language. I have narrowed the list down to ten of my favorite blogs. Before I give you my top ten blogs, here are a few fast facts about my year in blogging…

  • I have written 83 blogs. Combine them all together, they account for more writing than I did in all four years of college at Delta State.  Sad, but true.
  • I started blogging on Google’s Blogger, but recently I have switched to WordPress.org using a personal server. I have some regrets to the switch, but the editing flexibility is worth it.
  • I have divided my blogs into seven categories and my favorite category to write about is the Barn. I get to use more creative license with Barn blogs than any other.
  • Facebook pushed more people to my site than any other referral site, almost as much as direct links to graphitefree.com. If you are considering blogging, make sure you have a great network of friends on Facebook.

After those few facts, I am sure you will not be interested in my best blogs to date; however, I will tell you anyhow. You can stop reading; we do still live in a free country! In no particular order here is a few of my favorite ramblings.

Boo in Sleeping BagHouse Guest: I loved writing this sentimental blog, but I knew that I was hooked on my new hobby of blogging when in the middle of the night Salem the cat used me as a pillow. I thought to myself, “This would make a great blog”. I was addicted and I didn’t even know it at the time.

Plumber App: Plumber App was a great way for me to poke fun at my awkwardly ironic life. It was short and to the point, but funny. And it was fun to write.

Barn Gone Wild: I enjoy writing Barn blogs more than any other topic. I started writing my twist on my retail experience in June. I have to be creative with my Barn banter to help protect the identity of those who shop and work at the Barn. And those who know what I am talking about seem to think it is funny stuff.

Dead Bird: This blog give a great description of why my job is one of the coolest jobs on earth. I can walk down a sidewalk, get distracted and meet a moonwalker. Or I can hang out with space shuttle commanders at Otters giving a new meaning to ATO!

Raptor (1997)Piggly Wiggly Flu: A very deep topic, I almost didn’t post it because it may be too heavy for readers, especially on Facebook. I was wrong. A lot of people enjoyed it and was pleased that I wrote it. Keep washing those hands and taking vitamin C!

Ode to the Raptor: I write about camp, a lot! Since I was young all I ever wanted to do was work at a summer camp. From Camp Garaywa, to CRS, and now at Aviation Challenge I love the dynamic educational environment around camps. This blog represents the best in the camp spirit. I love my AC family and that includes the Raptor.

A Jack Daniels Still Bourbon Trail Blogs: I love my adventure blogs, because my first journal was a travel journal. Lookin’ for Adventure, Joe and Jim, Who is Elmer T. Lee? and White Dog were the blogs I wrote while on my Kentucky adventure. I can’t just pick one because I like them all. While I was gone I realize that if I don’t make it with my real job or working at the Barn, I could write for travel magazine.

Benefits to Jack Daniels: Chris made a contact with his current employer while sharing a meal with strangers at Miss Mary Bobo’s in Lynchburg, Tennessee. His move from PwC to Booz Allen Hamilton has forced us to be married… first time in five year of marriage.

Good Okra Hunting: I love my college. Sharing my love for Delta State and the Mississippi Delta is so enjoyable to me. I wrote this blog after a recruiting trip to DSU with Amazon. I got to find new places to eat and catch up with a few professors and friends.

I Think I May Lose My Job: My blog is about my random rambling about my life. When Bill Belichick went for it on fourth down against the Colts I knew I wouldn’t get much done at work the next day. I love Peyton Manning and I love went Boston teams loose!

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

Mosquitoes and STDs

Rain, rain and more rain! I left North America and was transported magically to Southeast Asia or a tropical rain forest in South America. Oh, did it rain! Being in Cleveland as it rained today reminded me of all those days I didn’t want to go to class. I would rather hibernate in my room! But not today, we had to find staff to work at Space Camp and Aviation Challenge. Today we focused our efforts at DSU’s Teacher Career Fair and visited three Aviation classes.

The Teacher Career Fair was great, lots of great kids wanting to expand there knowledge base and have fun with kids. There was one lady I spoke to this morning that had a love hate relationship with the Mississippi Delta. She was telling me how many mosquitoes the Delta had. Her comment was, “The Mississippi Delta has lots of mosquitoes and STDs!” In my head I thought, “STD’s did the mosquitoes contribute to that high number? Where did this come from?” I grind and commented with the Delta has lots of great food and wonderful people. Her response was when right back to the gutter, “Oh, lots of food to make us obese and wonderful people to fall in love, giving us all those STD’s!” I didn’t know how to respond. I just asked if she should would like a coozie? Wait, we are in Mississippi, the people here call them huggies.

The Delta is a wonderful place. Lots of food places to eat! This afternoon we visited one of my all time favorite places A la Carte Alley on Court Street! I love it! My favorite sandwich from there is the Turkey & Cheddar on Kaiser roll! Sounds simple, but yum, yum good! Not as good as the PBC Wedge, but it would be on the map of good sandwiches. Amazon did enjoy her loaded baked potato soup and grill cheese sandwich but the butter had a sweet taste to it. I love how the Delta has so many great little shops and eateries! I miss the Delta, but I wish this rain would leave.

This afternoon we visited a few Aviation classes. We chatted with lots of wonderful people. In one class there was a guy, Mr. Talks-a-lot! He had on a John Deere ball cap. My comment to him was, “Did you know John Deere built airplanes way back when?” Obviously he didn’t know about this trivial factoid! We covered our material and hopefully encouraged a few Okras to work at Space Camp. Later in the afternoon, I check my email to find an email from “the John Deere Hat Guy.” He wanted to ask more questions about camp and such.

We met up with Mr. John Deere Hat at a great new restaurant called, Hey Joe’s. Great place, it looks like a warehouse but really funky and cool! It was non-smoking with lots of brick and old soda signs around the room. It would be the restaurant I would open if I could open a restaurant! It was a very fun place with lots of cool music. We heard Pearl Jam and Journey on the loop multiple times. Amazon is eating for a whole team of X-Campers. Since we have been on our trip she has eaten a large plate of fajita nachos, two sausage biscuits, soup and salad, and 12 wings from Hey Joe’s! WOW! I am use to traveling with Snapper who doesn’t eat much! Amazon eats everything. Wait… she is eating my computer.

Today was a gloomy day. It could have been because I realized that it has been ten years since I graduated from DSU in education. I still love being an Okra, even if the skies are gray. We visited the gym. I showed Amazon the six national championship trophies and the Margaret Wade Trophy. My school has tradition! It was fun showing a ball player around my school! I love Hey Joe’s! For me it is the new Airport Grocery! After Airport Grocery moved, it isn’t the same. It is dead to me! Bring on Hey Joe’s and bring on more recruiting.

Tomorrow we will purchase Fighting Okra shirts… America’s Favorite Fighting Vegetable!

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.