Tag Archives: Family

Not a Mediocre Dog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hail State

Hail StateWhile standing in line at Barnes & Noble behind three Mississippi State fans buying Sports Illustrated, I realized this week has been very gratifying for a Mississippi State fan living in the state of Alabama.  I’ve lived in Huntsville, Alabama since 2002.  I quietly come and go each day not knowing how many Mississippi State fans and alumni surround me. However this week, it seems like they came out of the woodwork, but really they have been around me all along.  In a state full of houndstooth and War Damn Eagle, we have lived vicariously through other schools’ success.  No disrespect, we have been the yard dogs for quite sometime.  Mississippi State has never been ranked number one. But this week, we have been invited to eat with the big dogs.

Monday morning, I wore my MSU pull-over to the gas station where I encountered a man who I had never seen before and appeared to be homeless called me a band wagon fan.  Little did the man know, I grew up on a farm 45 minutes from Starkville, Mississippi, a farm with parents who both attended Mississippi State University, a farm where I had yelled and cried at radio and television broadcasts detailing the ups and the downs of the Bulldogs.  No sir, I am not a band wagon fan!

Thursday night, a chaplain going to the Space & Rocket Center’s Biergarten saw my maroon and white colors.  He stopped in his tracks and gave me a hug. “So proud for those dawgs”, he proclaimed and then talked about how much he admired Dan Mullen.  So many people at work have been excited for me and the other fans of Mississippi State.  It really is uncharted water for Mississippi State.  I think Dan Mullen and quarterback Dak Prescott will captain the ship through these waters to a successful season.  I am still just like any true MSU fan, it isn’t successful unless we beat Ole Miss!

In a response to more cowbell, they are selling cowbells in Huntsville, Alabama!  Local book stores have ordered extra issues of Sports Illustrated over the last two weeks. There was a sign last week at the MSU and Auburn game, “Win or lose, at least I don’t live in Alabama”.  I miss my home state tremendously, but this week has been really fun.  The Magnolia State Mayhem has bled over into houndstooth country which makes me happy and proud of my Bulldogs!  I am not about to predict Mississippi State making it past University of Kentucky, but I have enjoyed this week in my second state!

Take the Ambien

Dear 2004 Ruth,

Please take the Ambien!  You need a good nights rest!  This is the biggest decision of your life.  I know you are restless and have many worries rumbling about your head.  Love is patient, love is kind! It does not keep track of wrong doing. Just sleep, you will thank me later.

You will go many places and see many things over the next ten years.  You will live, you will love, you will accomplish many goals!  There is a bale of cotton in your future, maybe a few tears and an adventure or two in Lynchburg, TN.  Just take the Ambien and sleep well tonight!

Ruth, you must go to sleep!  You need the rest!  You need to think clearly tomorrow morning! Many things will be said, many promises will be made – take the Ambien. Sleep.

A perfect spring morning may greet you with chatter by the orange desk with your father.  Your mother readies for a party.  There is a plane, a run way, and a future ahead.  Think clearly, make the right decision!  Look carefully at the path a head!  This choice you make is so important!  One love lost… one love needed.  Will this be bologna and love?

Take the Ambien!

Oh wait, it was never offered…

 

 

Slacker in 2013…

So I am a lazy blogger.  I make many excuses, but the simple fact is I am lazy!  And now I missed my “year end blog” deadline.  Each year I write a top ten list of my favorite or most memorable events of 2013.  It is currently 2014 and I am just now sitting down to write.  Let’s see, where do I start.  It has been a tough year with many ups and downs.  There has been twists and turns as well as lots of change in my life.  But I have kept chugging through the days, weeks and months.  So lets look at some of my highlights!

Goals:  Early in 2013 my goal was to become a better runner!  I set the goal to run 500 miles during the 2013 calendar year.  I didn’t make that goal.  I hit 446 miles on November 9th.  Seems like I should have been able to run 54 miles in 8 weeks.  The running goal didn’t happen, but I had another goal for 2013 that did.  I wanted to get a stamp in my unused passport.  The week before my buddy left Space Camp in April I told her how envious I was of her adventurous spirit.  On November 16, I entered Baku, Azerbaijan and got my passport stamped.  I didn’t run while I was overseas and then I contracted the Baku Flu upon returning to the US.  I have 2014 to run 500 miles.  Plus, I did run a half Ironman triathlon, which was a goal.  It wasn’t terrible missing the mark!

Baku:  I spent a month in a crazy country with a made-up sounding name, Baku, Azerbaijan.  How could I turn down a chance to work with power tools in an all white building in a country whose language I had no clue how to speak. Seems like a win-win situation only if you throw in a bartender named Elvin! I loved working with the people of Azerbaijan and I miss them tremendously.  Forget the cow heads or bucket of hooves on the street curb or the fact that a restaurant told me my credit card was not accepted because it was black.  People should not judge someone’s credit based on color.  It was amazing, even if I missed a lot of great SEC football!

HTC:  In 2012, twelve of my favorite people, against our better judgement, decided to run Ragnar Relay from Chattanooga to Nashville, Tennessee.  Well by the grace of God and the sharp eyes of Sandy Henson, twelve more of my favorite people traveled to Oregon for the grandfather of all 200 mile relays, Hood to Coast.  We ran from Mount Hood to the Pacific coast near Seaside, Oregon in 29 hours.  It was an amazing with a wonderful storyline.   Shaggy had to go to the hospital. Jennifer Bell traded her shirt for a beer.  We had zero cellular coverage.  We slept in a van.   And I made some amazing memories.  It was an amazing adventure, one I would have never thought I would have been a part of just a year earlier.  My team mates were terrific and the scenery breath taking.

Grandpa:  This year we said good bye to a great man.  Most of the time you don’t recognize a death in a year in review, but I was lucky to know Grandpa!  I am lucky to know his family.  The DiCarlo and Hailey families are my Huntsville family.  They take care of me and make me feel at home.  Jerry Groff was their cornerstone for years.  Grandpa never met a stranger.  He was always concerned about other people, even if he had known you for 20 minutes he counted you as his friend.  I have a family here in Huntsville, because of Grandpa’s example to his daughters.  One of my favorite nights this fall was outside the Hailey house with Grandpa watching the Mississippi State and Auburn game. He was so concerned about each of his guests.  He told stories of life in Buffalo and Mel Tormé.  I hope when I am in the twilight of my life, I can be as gracious as Grandpa!

Homecoming:  I know a lot of my favorite things this year have been tied to my trip to Baku, but I can’t leave off the homecoming.  I missed so much while I was gone, Thanksgiving, birthday’s, football, Peyton Manning, and my mom even had surgery.  They didn’t have chicken biscuits or Diet Mountain Dews in Azerbaijan.  It seemed like being on the other side of the world makes you miss everything just a little bit more.  When I returned home, I had my best friend to pick me up.  However, little did I know a few more friends where their to greet me.  It was amazing.  To see friendly faces was so precious.  The hugs were priceless… but the puppy dog Santa graphic and alliteration of the welcome home signs was, I am sure, the work of a million dollar artist and wordsmith.  Thanks, little Snap, Hoot, Marcia and you too Kim & Tank!

HOF:  True, the Space Camp ditched their Hall of Fame event this year in a mysterious on again off again fashion.  Instead, I visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame with my nephews in March and attended the National Aviation Hall of Fame Enshrinement in October.  Both adventures should have made my list separately but remember, I am a lazy blogger.  The adventure with my nephews was too cool.  They shared many toots and farts in the car ride with me.  We had fun in Louisville on the ride home.  I made them a promise to visit again when Peyton Manning is inducted.  The other trip was one I will remember for a life time because my high heel shoes killed my feet.  No really, I was truly honored to be in attendance when my astronaut hero Hoot Gibson was enshrined as a legend in aviation history!

70.3: I have always loved sports, but I haven’t participated at the level I should have.  I have always been a failure when it comes to sports.  I played basketball for a few years, quit.  I played golf and softball pretty consistently, but never as committed as I should be.  I even played college soccer for a year or so but sucked at it.  In 2012, I started running triathlons and in 2013 I completed a half Ironman.  I drove to Augusta, Georgia for the Ironman 70.3.  It was a great weekend.  I struggled on the run but smoked the bike.  It was a great accomplishment, but I do look forward to Raleigh 70.3 in June and Ironman Chattanooga in September.  I feel like I have given my all to the sport of triathlon.  We will see, I got a lot of shit to do to prepare.

Football:  Everyone knows that Peyton Manning is my boyfriend.  Well, Peyton may not know!  This has been a terrific year for MVP Peyton Manning and his Broncos.  More than just Peyton, this football season has been amazing and outstanding.  Much of the college and NFL season I spent overseas.  I spent many early mornings glued to my iPad or listening to ESPN Radio just to connect with SEC football and dear ole Peyton.  The nights I will remember for the rest of my life.  Bo Wallace coughing up the football in overtime during the Egg Bowl and my phone having an aneurism when Chris Davis ran a missed field goal back for a touchdown in the Iron Bowl.  I am lucky to have a boy friend like Peyton, to grow up a Bulldog, and to be adopted by my fellow War Eagle fans!  I love football!

Historically I have picked 10 things to write about.  However, I opted not to because I would dilute my memories.  I had a great year, but it has been a hard year.  I look to 2014 to be bigger and better.  I thought I would put my goals for the year as a conclusion.

Duh… Ironman Chattanooga:  I will have to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles.  I want to just finish, but I want to finish with a pace of no more than 14 minutes on the run.

Happy, Happy, Happy:  I want to find more happiness in my life.  I am sometimes described as grumpy or intimidating.  I want to be considered as friendly and giving.

Adventure:  I want to see more, do more and live more.  I want to travel and be adventurous.  Baku gave me a great start.  I just need to continue.  Let’s light this candle in 2014.

Definitely

Looking back over my blog history I have talked a lot about many things. One blog post that was really fun to write was my 100th post. I listed my 100 favorite words. If I wrote that post today, there may be a few words that I would add or change. But for the most part it is a good representation of some of my most favorite words. One word I am certain to add as my most favorite is definitely. I use it all the time. As a matter of fact, I use it so much and yet I struggle spelling it almost every time I need to type it. At work, I have posted a note with the spelling on my computer. I love this word so much that today I will give it its very own post.

Definitely used as an adverb means, “in a clear and definite manner; unambiguously or unequivocally; positively”. To be absolutely clear or certain is something I strive for on a daily basis. However, if you know me or have spoken to me, you will know that I am certainly not absolute in my word selection. I struggle with finding the right thing to say. I am possibly the biggest hot mess when speaking in an impromptu fashion. However, if I know the words to string together in sentence or phrase, I can be clear and absolute.

The 2008 romantic comedy, Definitely, Maybe is one of my favorite movies. I love romantic comedies. The movie title is similar to my personality. I am definite… some of the times… well when I have my act together, I am absolute. I know that I can present myself in a manner reflecting that I don’t want to be questioned. However, when questioned I grow and most always learn something about why I believe and feel the way I feel. This could just be the stubborn mule gene of a hot tempered red-head. No matter how I may act in conversations or in debate, I always want clear, well defined, unambiguous borders, boundaries and rules. I like rules and I definitely need them.

I know that I am a dork, a goober, and possibly the biggest geek that works at Space Camp. However, I know who I am! Growing up I struggled with not being the cool kid or not making the best grades. Once I accepted geek-hood in the world, I definitely knew who I was. I struggled being the fish that swam upstream when all the others were swimming downstream. But I completely knew the direction I should go. The course was clearly planned out for me. I simply need to follow the breadcrumbs along the trail.

So, to summarize the positively off the wall rant on a word, a single word. I know what I want in life. I don’t say anything I truly don’t mean. I may regret those words five seconds after they vibrate off my vocal cords and enter the atmosphere. But I will learn from the regrets I have. I will leave my life with clearly defined boundaries, a loyalty to the people around me, and unquestionable love for life. Whether I am prepping for a race, helping a friend, completing a task, driving down the interstate, giving a speech about pencils or a spastic response to a question, I am definitely trying my best, even when spelling.

Running Through 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Against Our Better Judgment

It has been a week since our team completed the Tennessee Ragnar Relay.  It took months to prepare for our Ragnar adventure.  So it is fitting that it took me a week to write about this experience.  Our team was made up of families and friends.  Whether we were all close friends or met for the first time last Thursday, we now have a connection which is rooted along the highways that lead us from Chattanooga to Nashville.  There is a mutual respect and gratitude we have for each of our team mates.  Let me tell you just a bit our our epic adventure.

I had never heard of Ragnar until I stumbled across a race brochure in Fleet Feet here in Huntsville for this crazy adventure.  I had heard from Sandy a few months before about Hood to Coast, the grandfather of all 200 mile relays.  But really, I was completely uneducated by what this relay would be.  Sandy and Snapper immediately committed to forming a team. I knew my friend Amazon would surely join the insanity, because at the time she was riding her bike from Maine to Key West! She and her bother Rob would soon commit.

It wasn’t until a Sunday afternoon dinner in Madison where the Ragnar team became a reality.  Snapper and I talked about this possible adventure while sitting on her aunt’s front porch. This is when Chris and her friend Barb committed to running. Kitten would soon join the team. On a whim I started text messaging counselors and staff from Space Camp.  Ham thought it was a 200 meter relay.  Sometimes text messages can be deceiving.  I asked Marcia to join our team. Surprisingly she said yes without skipping a beat. It didn’t take much to convince Ham and Shaggy joined our team.

Now we had a team, next up was a team name and logo. The logo was a joint project by Snapper and her Uncle Russ which would take some time, because we needed a name.  Our first option for a team name was the Chuck Drivers, because Sandy and Marcia’s husbands both named Chuck would be our van drivers.  This name didn’t catch on. Eventually, Marcia would suggest Against Our Better Judgment.  I think at that moment I really felt like we had a team and would make it to Chattanooga.

For me training didn’t come easy.  I had a knee injury in mid August that would side line me for weeks.  I only swam for weeks and didn’t start running again until the Racin’ the Station duathlon in late September.  I honestly think that I wouldn’t have been ready to run if I had not started to work nights at Space Camp in mid October. I ran in the mornings and worked at night.  I was ready, but still not a lightning fast runner.  Amazon, woke up one morning during her training and ran a half marathon.  Let’s be honest, Amazon is a freight train!

November finally arrived.  Hotels were booked, rental cars secured, training was over and our team was making their way to Chattanooga.  We replaced a runner at the last minute for an injured team member.  Dena would be a tremendous asset to our team.  Ragnar goes through her home town, so for years she had wanted to run this crazy relay.  She would get her chance and we were thankful! Wow, I am at 567 words and I haven’t got to the running.

The morning of the race came.  Van 1 was at the start line with Sandy leading off the race for Against Our Better Judgement.  It was foggy in Chattanooga and not the best conditions for running in morning traffic.  Sandy was a trooper and we quickly learned the routine of supporting our runners.  Really nothing except starting the relay could prepare us for this adventure.  The miles clocked by and it was Snapper’s turn to face the climb up to the Cumberland Plateau.  She muscled up the mountain passing many runners.  Barb smoked down the mountain Snapper climbed.  Barb passed the baton to Chris, who would pass it to me.  It was now my time to run.  The whole reality of Ragnar was not real until the orange slap bracelet was around my right wrist.  It was my time to take our team further down the road.

As I finished my run, I would learn quickly that I loved to see Marcia in the exchange shoot.  She would cheer me on the final few meters of my run and off she would go.  My next step was chocolate milk and the car chalk to dot my first leg.  We kept track of our progress by marking off boxes on the van windows.  Van 2 would mark off the miles after their runs.  Running this crazy Ragnar relay is really just completing one small step, followed another small step.  Progress was marked by our victories along the way.  It was so motivating to finish a leg and cheer on the next runner.  After Marcia completed her leg Van 1 was off and Van 2 would continue on.

The exchanges between Van 1 and Van 2 were far too brief.  We loved seeing our team mates and wanted to know more about their adventure.  We enjoyed hearing about the play list of van 2, the fact Rob ran each of his legs shirtless, and the fact Amazon got blue all over her from a porta potty… yuck!  Van 1 would drive along the relay route to a Dollar General and then rest in a field behind a middle school.  It would soon be our time to run again and darkness was upon us.

Darkness was the one variable we really didn’t consider.  I think we all felt like there would be more light, more people and more comfort along the dark roads.  It was tough running through the night.  I took the baton near Lynchburg.  I enjoyed running in the dark because I felt like I was on the county roads near my home in Mississippi.  I saw opossums and two deer along the way.  There were some scary dogs, but I tried not to let them bother me.  I have heard dogs smell fear.  It was on this leg that I got my only road kill. Forgive me team, I am slow!

We would see Van 2 quickly at Moore County High School and there we would start our off time.  It wouldn’t be a long off shift, Van 2 smoked through their legs.  Our naps would be cut short and we were running again.  These early morning legs were very difficult but our runners rallied together.  Chris had the darkest and coldest leg of all the race.  Seeing her commitment to the team to push on was awe inspiring.  Others on the team ran along side her, Barb ran the first 2.5 miles along side Chris, then Sandy and finally Snapper. The greatest thing I experienced during this adventure was the commitment each runner had to the team.  We couldn’t let any of our team down.  We had to make it to the finish line.

Van 2 would take over shorty after I finished my last leg.  They had the sun beating down on them while Van 1 made our way to Nashville and the finish line.  We showered, which was a team sport as well.  Marcia and Barb showered in the fitness center showers sharing hair products and mascara.  Sandy, Snapper, Chris and myself rotated through the shower in our hotel room.  I am not sure about Chuck, but he was clean when he joined us. I remember being so eager to make our way to the finish line.  I wanted to see the rest of our team mates.

I think my team mates would all agree with me, the hardest leg for each runner was their third leg.  We were mentally and physically exhausted.  To complete our finial legs, we had to pull our strength from somewhere else.  One of the most touching memories I will carry forward is Rob, Amazon’s brother, running to join Amazon to finish the race.  We all needed a little bit more to finish the relay.  Hymns and Bible verses, cheers and chats pushed our runners along the final stretch.  We did it! We finished the relay.  Twelve friends joined together to get us from Chattanooga to Nashville! It is one of the coolest things I have ever done.  Thank you team! Thanks for every memory!

Tri Anything…

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

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

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

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

King George I

In 2006, two days before Christmas Chris and I arrived at my parent’s house in Mississippi with our little dog Boo.  I had just walked in the door and sat down at my father’s desk when I got a phone call from my brother asking me to meet him at the canal bridge. Chris and I met Walt and his whole family at the bridge near US 51 Highway.  Some despicable human being had released twenty to thirty domestic rabbits to fend for themselves because that despicable human being didn’t want to care for the rabbits any longer. The rabbit chase began!

We chased the little critters around the thicket, inside the briers and in the cow pasture. Some predators had already feasted on a few rabbits. There were a few brown rabbits but the majority where common white rabbits with pink eyes. The white rabbits were the easiest to capture. Boo even helped to flush the rabbits from the thicket and help in the grand chase for the rabbits. Once we captured the little guys and gals we placed them in a dog kennel in the back of Walt’s truck. As the end of the chase, we had captured seventeen rabbits all white.

What do you do with seventeen rabbits after rescuing them from being a coyote’s breakfast, lunch and dinner. You give some away, you take one home to Huntsville and you keep a few on the farm. The one we took home to Huntsville was later named George. A very predictable name for a rabbit that would be loved for many years to come. George became our family pet just like a dog or cat would. For the first few months after George arrived in Huntsville, my parents would ask, “Do you still have that rabbit.” The answer was yes, but for a rabbit who was rescued off the side of a dirt road it was a little shocking he was still hanging around.

George was not just any rabbit. George was a twelve pound Monty Python rabbit. If Chuck Norris had a rabbit, it would be George. George once drop kicked our Jack Russell, Boo, and was known to bark at our neighbor’s dog. He spent many a nights indoors because of the cold. George loved the power outage that followed the April 2011 tornados, because he had so much company in the back yard. We camped out, we had a camp stew cook out, and a nightly bond fire. George was at his happiest!

Who could have imaged a thrown away rabbit having such a good life. He was fed and fed well. I would proclaim in his first year of living in Alabama that he is more expensive than a dog. He had a wooden hutch on the patio and a rabbit run under the trees in the back yard. He was a handsome rabbit too. He would have wild rabbit girl friends hop through the yard on occasion. He was a good rabbit!

Sadly this morning we put the aging hare down. Yes, he died just as Michael Jackson did, an overdoes of anesthesia. Our vet was very kind and loved the story of George. Looking back at his life, he was larger than life. He was also a large rabbit, only two pounds smaller than our dog. He was treated like a king and he gave us a lot of happiness. And just like the kings and monarchs of old he was given a royal burial in an undisclosed location. Long live King George I!

Holiday Traditions

The year 2011 is an odd year, which means it is one of the most glorious years! Every-other year the Egg Bowl is played in Starkville, Mississippi. This year I found myself in the stands of Davis Wade Stadium ringing my cowbell on the Saturday after Thanksgiving with my family.  The Saturday, I renewed a four year tradition of visiting Jack Daniels with Divot and friends for the December bottle signing with JD’s Master Distiller and Master Taster.  I also added a new tradition to my beloved list this week, watching Rudolph with my Madison, Alabama family as we enjoyed hot chocolate.

Traditions are important to me.  I have documented my tradition of wrapping Christmas presents in brown paper and displaying a feed troff (manger) in my home rather than an evergreen tree. I have always loved Thanksgiving and recently I have loved the years that Mississippi State played Ole Miss in Starkville even more. The past few Egg Bowls played at Mississippi State I have joined my nephews to enjoy the game from the stands. This year was no different. But I just have to mention how much I truly enjoy having my family together to watch a game and ring a cow bell.  Ringing a cow bell is absolutely addictive.  I suggest everyone try ringing a cow bell at a cow college before you die… but please ring responsibly.

This weekend, I visited Lynchburg, Tennessee for a bottle signing with Snapper, Kitten, Divot, and Christopher.  Divot and I first ventured up to Lynchburg for a signing four years ago and it was just as cold today as it was that first time.  Since the first visit, Divot and I have become Squires, convinced Snapper to enjoy bottle signings and I even spent time as a tour guide at JD. The point of me mentioning the tradition is a new tradition started at Jack, the Holiday Select bottle.  Jack Daniels released a line of 100 proof whiskey from 140 barrels.  The used barrels from the special Holiday whiskey were then fashioned into a Christmas tree.  How cool of an idea? Yes, I know that it is all marketing.  However what a clever idea to provide your customer with a product and a symbol of Christmas.

Rudolph, I am sure everyone has watched the 1964 TV movie.  But have you watched it with your family and friends gathered around you as if it was as important as The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or the SEC Championship game.  This past Tuesday night I visited the DiCarlo family home for dinner and a movie.  We watched Rudolph.  I had not watched the movie since I was a young child.  I honestly didn’t remember the story line.  This fact only made it more memorable for me.  It is so special to enjoy peoples company at Christmas time and share family traditions.  Recently, I have missed my family a lot.  I can’t even describe how important family is to me.  This Rudolph tradition maybe simple, however, it is a wonderful time spent with the people you love.

Finally, this year is most defiantly an odd year.  In my house for the first time is a Christmas tree.  I know you are thinking what is wrong with Ruth Marie.  I finally caved to the power of the tree.  However, the feed troff is still being displayed right next to the tree.  I have realized that life is so much better if you have lots holiday traditions.  Life is so much greater when you have things to look forward to.  Life is so much sweeter when you have your favorite people around to enjoy the ups and downs, the good and the bad, and most importantly the traditions of life.

Game Seven

I saw my first Major League Baseball game in Riverfront Stadium when I was 18 months old and saw Pete Rose play as a Philadelphia Philly. My mom tells me that I watched the game more attentively than some grown-ups. Growing up family vacations often included an MLB game along the way. As a youngster we visited Wrigley Field, old Comiskey, Busch Memorial, the Astrodome, and Arlington Stadium. Only one of those still stands today. As an adult, I drove 14 hours on the second to last weekend of the 2008 season to watch a game in old Yankee Stadium. I have seen Cy Young winners, MLB MVPs, Hall of Fame players. However, nothing topped the ball game I saw on Friday night.

Early friday morning my brother text me “Want to meet me in St. Louis?” On Thursday night with a miraculous victory the St. Louis Cardinals  forced a game seven in the World Series agains the Texas Rangers. St. Louis was just seven hours away from my home town. My brother has two baseball loving sons. There hadn’t been a World Series game seven since 2002. I am a serious baseball fan who had traveled longer to see a less important ball game. All things considered, how could I not meet my brother and go to St. Louis.

I didn’t have a tooth brush, a change of clothes or my favorite Cardinals t-shirt but I left work just before nine o’clock friday morning drove to Memphis, Tennessee to drive to St. Louis with Walt and his sons, Rhett and Reece. Snapper even joined the crew heading to the game. By the end of the trip Rhett and Reece wanted to trade me in for Snapper as their aunt.

We arrived in St. Louis just before 4:30 on Friday afternoon. The streets were crowed with cars and fans headed to the game. We walked around just a little bit before the gates opened. The best thing about visiting a ball park is walking up the concourse ramp and seeing the green of the field for the first time. Seeing the World Series logo painted on the field game me goose bumps. Busch Stadium is one of the best ball parks to watch baseball in the MLB. The whole city of St. Louis is dedicated to the Cardinals organization. We were there… Game 7 of the World Series… a Champion would be crowned at the end of the night and we were there to see it!

We watched the game from the upper deck along the first baseline. These were not bad seats. We ate hotdogs, pretzels, and I had a Sprite along with a few Anheuser-Busch products. We all had St. Louis ball caps on… wait Rhett had on a Texas Ranger cap.  The images of seeing the players take the baseball diamond on defense and the hits produced throughout the game will be memories that will never leave my head.

As the ninth inning started Reece was standing on the stadium seat peering around the head of the fans in front. The last out got even closer. I thought with a four run lead the Cardinals would pull this game out, but after Texas lost their lead the night before five different times, no one would prematurely celebrate victory. The last batter drove the ball into deep left field everything froze for a second as Allen Craig who hit a home run earlier in the game positioned himself under the ball. As he caught the ball the stadium erupted, confetti flew everywhere and the players pilled on top of one another as fire works blasted beyond the out field stands.

Simply being a baseball fan watching the game gave me joy. I have always wanted to go to a World Series. I think every fan does. However, after family vacations to St. Louis and watching the incredible comeback of the Cardinal which started in early September this night will not soon maybe never be topped by another sporting event. Thank you Walt, Rhett, Reece, and Snapper for game seven! Thank you St. Louis for being a great baseball town!