Tag Archives: Holidays

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.

Last Day in Baku

Moon RockI am in my hotel listening to Amy Grant’s 1992 Home For Christmas CD.  I am about about 90% packed, however I still have some souvenir shopping and a few more memories to make and good byes to say.  I can’t help reflecting on this amazing journey I have been on the last month. Last night after an amazing dinner at Sumack, which serves a traditional Azerbaijan cuisine, I tried to tell Mel all about the first few days of the build.  It was hard to remember the smaller details. But here are a few things I will never forget!

The people of this country and that I have met here are truly amazing.  They are remarkably caring and very hard working.  From Jimmy who worked in the set up to Erkan my Turkish friend who I didn’t get to say good bye to, I have met some grand people.  Anar and Slim to Khagani have been incredible patient with use.  The boys who work the simulators are an outstanding unit.  They work well with each other and take care of each other.  They showed me kindness that I will never forget.  We gave them call signs, wings and even a challenge coin.  But those gifts are not as wonderful as the last impact they have made on me with their outstanding spirits and hospitality.

What I have been doing is not curing cancer or ending poverty but it has been wonderful to work with wonderful people doing really neat stuff.  I have enjoyed working with my hands however, I think I need a manicure.  Working with the people from camp I don’t get to work with on a daily bases was awesome.  I love Cowan! And Michael is a funny guy!  But I will look back and always be thankful for meeting Joel.  He taught me a lot.  I think the original plan was for him to stay only a few days, but he stayed over two weeks.  Without everyone pitching in an extraordinary amount the exhibit would not have open before Thanksgiving and many people would have not been home with their families.  Plus the stuff I got to work with.  I have held meteors and a moon rock.  I have build display cases and stripped a Russian mannequin… the Russian mannequin was one of the coolest things.

Being away from my family and friends has made me miss everyone so much more.  Put thousands of miles between me and my parents, all the crap they gave me as a kid to get me to eat green beans melts away.  I have tried a lot of different foods. I have talked more to my parents this last month than any month I spent in Alabama.  But also, my dad had back surgery a week or so before I left and my mom just had knees surgery last week.  I have been a bad daughter being in Baku.  Thanks to Facebook, Skype and Oliver Florist I am not a total loser. Even people who live a few states away from me and only see once or twice a year I miss more.  I guess you don’t truly appreciate something until you don’t have it.

This trip and work has taught me a great lesson.  I think I have spent too much time in my left completing task and I have failed to connect with the people around me.  I love connecting with people.  But I really suck at it at times.  I rush, rush, rush and I don’t truly connect.  Over here, I haven’t been able to communicate as effectively using language, but I have still connected with them.  Heck, language is not my strongest quality.  I am not so good with words, you know?  But I need to stop and connect with more people.  Stop talking so much!  Just listen and connect, even if I have to use Azerbaijan charades.

As the song, I’ll Be Home for Christmas comes on I will end this post! I need to finish my shopping and make just a few more memories. Elvin, here we come!

Thanksgiving in Baku

I am going to try for a light hearted blog post today, because if I start listing off all the truly wonderful people and things I have in my life back home in Mississippi and Alabama I may just walk into traffic.  This is the first time I have spent a major holiday away from my family.  And if you know me, family means an awful lot to me.

Last year my Thanksgiving blog post list thirty things I was thankful for.  Similar to what everyone has been doing on Facebook day by day.  I am going to list ten things I am thankful for associated with my trip to Baku!

Sim Trainers

Not Being Detained – For those who do not know, I aways carry a knife.  Most of the time it is in a bag or tucked inside a pocket.  The Sunday morning after arriving in Baku, I discovered I’d traveled on an airplane from Huntsville, Alabama to Baku Azerbaijan with my orange handled Spyderco rescue knife.  Since September 11th knives have been banned because of security measures by the TSA and FAA for airline flights.  I went through security checkpoints with x-ray scans of my carry on luggage in the United States and in Germany.  Obviously this was an oversight on my part by packing the knife and a security oversight by them for letting me keep the darn thing.

Red Bull is an International Drink – Two years ago I never drank energy drinks.  After making a few long distance trips in the same week I started drinking Red Bull.  Darryl, the meteor guy, bought me a Red Bull at the local market.  One Red Bull after another helped to keep me going after long days with limited sleep.  Red Bull’s country of origin is Thailand and is sold by an Austrian company.  Over 5 billion cans are sold world wide each year.  With Red Bull’s stake in media advertising and sponsorships of extreme sports, auto racing and air racing, I have heard comparisons made between Red Bull’s founder Dietrich Mateschitz and the Dos Equis brand character, “Most Interesting Man in the World”. .  I am simply happy I can find Red Bull almost anywhere in Baku.  And I wouldn’t trade the long hours of work… it has been a great experience.

Space Camp Family – Trish, Ed, Mike, Roger, Carolyn, Cowan, Michael, Nathan, Daniel and even Joel have made this trip wonderful.  So often when you work doing the same thing in an organization you forget about the other people working around you in other departments.  This project has been rewarding just for that reason.  However, each day Trish does something crazy to make me giggle, laugh or just fall on the floor in hysterics!  She is a great travel buddy especially to this region of the world.  She spent time in Georgia teaching last year.

The Underground Tunnel to Work – Since the hotel fired George, our most favorite driver, and the new driver doesn’t know how to drive, Trish and I have been walking to work.  We are staying in a hotel just across the street from the venue, however you dare not try crossing the street.  The drivers in Baku are on a mission from God to control the population in Azerbaijan.  They do not stop for anyone or anything. The traffic in general is chaotic at best!  They do not have traffic lights and you are twice as likely to being hit by a car if you cross the street in an area designated for pedestrian traffic.  This underground tunnel has saved our lives countless times!  It is somewhat out of the way, but it is tunnel or death by Mercedes-Benz.  We could take some time off our walk if we crossed the Kentucky Bluegrass which surrounds the venue, but we fear snipers would gun us down.  They are serious about turf management here!

Being a Farm Kid – There have been many things I have done while setting up the exhibit that I had limited experience doing.  But in the words of Story Musgrave, they picked me because I was a farm kid to fix it… He fixed the Hubble Space Telescope and peoples bodies.  I have fixed  electrical gear, used a table saw, constructed barriers around artifacts and undressed a Russian Cosmonaut mannequin.  Being a farm kid and seeing my mom and dad work with their hands taught me a lot. I love working with my hands.  I have loved building things and seeing this exhibit take shape.  I saw chaos turn to order in a few weeks time!

Overall, I have a lot to be thankful for! I thankful for being an American and the wonderful life I have.  I miss my family and friends, however, it is an adventure, and life is about adventures.  The thing I miss most about not being at home in Carroll County is the smell of the turkey coming out of the oven at 6am and the whole family standing around the chop block making the dressing.  I will have to wait a few weeks for that tradition!

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Minions

First, I am having a ball in Baku! Sleeping in late and going to spa are some of my favorite things about my adventure to Azerbaijan.  Most mornings starts with room service and then I go sightseeing… Who am I kidding!  It has been hard work, but very rewarding.  I have made friends with people from Huntsville, Turkey and locals here in Baku.  For those who do not know, I am here with an exhibit from the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.  It is an amazing exhibition in a wonderful venue Heydar Aliyev Center.

I know I made a commitment to write twice a week.  Well, lets make that an average of twice a week.  Last week was very busy.  We worked twelve plus hour days and sleep was precious.  The only time we sacrificed sleep was to send off our Huntsville friends. When Trish and I arrived the project was already behind schedule.  Everyone was giving the extra effort to make sure things where ready.  The first to leave Baku was Daniel, Nathan and Michael.  Michael couldn’t stay very long in Baku, he was expecting his second child any day.  The next to leave was Carolyn, Cowan, and Joel.  Joel doesn’t work at the Rocket Center, but he sure has a special place in his heart for the USSRC.  He stayed ten extra days to help pull off the feat! Each day since he left, Trish and I have tried to find our inter Joel.  Then waiting until the last possible minute to finish things was Roger, Mike and Ed.  Ed left for Huntsville the day after his birthday.  He missed having the longest birthday every.

Everyone worked super hard. Early on before I arrived Michael rallied the local workers, while Nathan defied gravity by hoisting tons of equipment and displays from the ground floor to our second and third floor nest. It has to be an eagles nest, because we have the Apollo 11 astronauts hand cast on exhibition.  Roger worked on the sims, while Cowan built MIR and all the other giant displays.  I loved Roger before, but I now have a huge place in my heart for him and Cowan.  Carolyn did all things related to the artifacts and kept Ed happy.  Ed made sure everything was precisely placed and all the many items were on display. Mike had to be Mike, plus he had to help build, answer questions from everyone and make sure we behaved!

We were a happy family.  Now it is just Trish and me from Huntsville and Echo from Turkey.  He has a real name, but since I am writing commando, why bother trying to spell it.  Yesterday, we left work after the venue closed.  We walked back to the hotel and crashed for double digit hours of sleep. We walked because George, our shuttle driver, took vacation and the other driver had only been driving for fifteen minutes.  We got lost multiple times on the morning drive and had to teach the new driver how manual transmission works.  Closest to death I have been in a long time.  George will be back on Thursday, which will be perfect since it is Thanksgiving!!!

This will be only the second Thanksgiving I have not spend in Carroll County, Mississippi. The only other time was with my two aunts and grandmother in Indianapolis when I was senior in high school.  Trish and I have decided to have dinner with Echo on Thursday night after work.  Echo has been looking for us a Turkey with no luck!  However, we will have Turkish food on Thanksgiving.  Echo is from Turkey so it all makes sense.  I will miss my family and being in Carroll County.  But I still have a lot to be thankful for!  This experience is one of them.  It has been crazy, but very fruitful.

So much fun!

It took over three weeks to complete the set up of the exhibition.  While all those hours seemed difficult at the time, one of the things that made it so rewarding was working with the locals.  They have the biggest of hearts.  I mean this with no disrespect, but they are a lot like the Minions from Despicable Me.  They talk in a language I can not understand, they are the hardest working people ever, and all they want to do is make us happy.  The similarity was sealed for me when I realized the yellow vest they wore made them look like the Minions.  Jimmy is my favorite.  Oxran Cavadli is Jimmy’s real name but he really likes when we call him Jimmy.  He and I bonded over our iPhones.  He thought I had a 5S, which would have made me cooler than reindeer nuts. But nope, we both have iPhone 5’s.  Now, we both have translation apps on our phones.

Now matter what, we all worked together as one big family.  No, we are not trying to steal the moon.  Just inspire kids and adults to travel there someday soon.  We are all like minions trying to fulfill JFK’s vision again fifty years after his death.  It has been a good week and a half.  Hopefully there will be more blog post! Good night, good morning, or good afternoon whichever time zone you may be reading from.

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!

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.

Facebook Christmas

Seeing people on Facebook today has driven me to the brink of frustration! Why do people have to be negative and grumpy during Christmas? Yes, sometimes the holiday season isn’t the most joyous time. But can’t we at least try? People post dramatic posts like, “This is the worst Christmas ever!” or “Please stop crying… why is there always crying at Christmas.” I am kind of fed up with Facebook’s drama.

What if Mary and Joseph had Facebook when they rolled into Bethlehem on that first Christmas? I don’t think they would have gone negative, but what if? To all those who post drama on Facebook, you should think about Mary and Joseph when you post poo on your profile.

Mary didn’t post these statuses, but I know people that would…

Mary’s FB “Just arrived in Beth-Town. Jo forgot to make reservations. We will be staying with the critters tonight.”

Joseph’s FB “Mary is mad! Forgot to call ahead and we are staying with the goats. I am really in the dog house.”

Mary’s FB “At 9 cm. Hope this kid comes soon.”

Joseph’s FB “Found a great manger to lay the babe in. Can anyone suggest a donkey dung removal product?”

Mary’s FB “It’s a Boy! That angel knew what she was talking about!”

Joseph’s FB “Shephards showed up at the barn… They have been following us on Twitter for a few hours now.”

I know this wouldn’t have happened and it may be a little tacky of me to ask “what if?” However, why do we live our lives in a cyber world? Why is it important what our “status” says? Why can’t we look people in the eyes and tell them what is on hearts and in our heads?

Tonight, I hope for peace and kindness around the world. If you want to know how Mary and Joseph handled that first Christmas night you can read Luke chapter 2. Stop being dorks on Facebook and love thy neighbor!

Maybe we all should just put Facebook up for Christmas and spend time with family in our “RL”.

Don’t Forget Thanksgiving

To all those who listen to Christmas music in October or the people who have already visited Santa in the mall, happy Thanksgiving! Today is that day that American’s stop what they are doing to give thanks for all they have been given. In my humble red headed opinion, far too many people look past Thanksgiving straight to Christmas. People go from sugary Halloween to the gift giving frenzy of Christmas. And for what, why do we look over the greatest holiday ever invented?

Thanksgiving is designed to stop what you are going, gather with your favorite people, eat food and give thanks for what you have been given. I am a firm believer in doing your Christmas decorating after Thanksgiving Day. You can shop before Turkey Day, but only if the item is hard to find or you can get it at a discounted rate. But under no circumstance should you wrap the present before black Friday.

What is black Friday anyhow? It is the day after Thanksgiving where all the stores bring in tons of cash from selling piles of stuff. But what it really is – it is just another day that takes away from the greatness of Thanksgiving. People go from the hustle and bustle of their Wednesday work day, drive through killer traffic, and pause for one day only to jump back into the zoo that is retail mania Friday morning at 4am. Four o’clock in the morning is too early for people to even be awake, and especially too early to shop. If I haven’t proclaimed this a life rule, I would like to submit it for the record that, I don’t shop on black Friday (Life Rule #7).

I encourage everyone to pause (today and tomorrow) to spend time with the ones they love, the people that are important to them, eat lots of food, especially carbohydrates, watch copious amounts of football, and most of all be thankful for all we have been given. We live in a great country with unlimited opportunities. Don’t spoil this great day by omitting it just for more Christmas time! There are twenty-four days in December before Christmas. That should be plenty to prepare. Let’s at least have one solid day with no distractions to give thanks.

Welcome to 2010

Survival TrainingI started this grand and glorious year with my brother and nephews at Pilot/Co-Pilot camp, a program of Aviation Challenge. It was so much fun! Whoever runs that place is a redheaded mastermind of fun! It was great hanging out with my family at AC for the weekend! It didn’t matter that Reece, call sign Pigskin, looked like a homeless Vietnam War vet. God love the little man, but he doesn’t care how he looks. Rhett, call sign Yankee, was concerned with shooting Alvin down. We all wanted to seek revenge on someone. We are a very competitive family! Shot down everyone in the sims and won the Flag Award. We had our fire built before Cornbread came back to the Boy Scout Area with matches.

Great weekend. I think Walt and I will be remembered as the college football people (Ole Miss and Florida played in Bowl games), because everyone knows I have to keep up with Urban Meyer and his boy! Ole Miss, I was hoping, would get wrangled by the OSU Cowboys. Great weekend only leads me to believe this will be a great year!

I am looking forward to training the newbies, presenting at SEEC and Honeywell Leadership Academy, the Star Wars exhibit, another AC 12 Day camp, and who knows, maybe another trip to Prescott for Oak Creek Nut Brown Ale and a PBC Wedge, or maybe, just maybe a winning season for MSU football! This year I started a really cool five year journal. Every day for five years I will add a paragraph about the day. Quick thoughts, maybe the quote of the day or something like that. Sounds like fun!

With the new journal, I am going to make a few changes this New Year. And they are as follows:

  1. Wear more pink, “Pink is my signature color!”
  2. Watch more reality TV. I want to create a new show, “Real Housewives of the Barn.”
  3. Be more huggie! Being affectionate is the true sign of a great leader!
  4. Stop using Dixon Ticonderoga pencils. Truly, you can’t tell a difference in Dixons and the Staple’s brand.
  5. Finally, break up with Peyton; I think I am more interested in younger men now. Tim Tebow is a hottie!

Good luck and God Bless in 2010!

2009 Year In Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great Deep South World Tour

Tour MapEach Christmas Chris and I venture across the state line several times to visit family. Chris calls this journey the Great Deep South World Tour 2009! I call it crisscrossing the Southeast in hopes to find sanity at the end of the trip, or somewhere in between. Don’t get me wrong, I love it! However, it is a little crazy if you break it down. Try and follow along.

Wednesday 5:05pm I complete a shift at the Barn. Chris, Boo and I drive feverishly to Winona, Mississippi 4.5 hours away. We unload the vehicle share a few stories and off to bed. We wake up at my parent’s house and prepare for a day of celebrating my father’s and sister-in-law’s birthday along with our Oliver family Christmas. Mom is not feeling well so we placed her on injured reserve for the day. Walter and Christy led the food prep team as Chris entertained the little ones and helped out where needed.

After we finished a wonderful meal of meats and carbohydrates, Daddy read Luke 2 from an English Standard Version of the Bible. He threw in a few thee’s, thou’s, and a goeth here and there to be reminiscent of the King James Version. Unfortunately, there was a Bible misplaced during set up for the day. No worries, we made it through the day! We made out like a bandits with Mississippi State Cheese, silverware, and a really cool flash light; all useful gifts. The night ended early because Santa was nearing North America in record speed. Did you know that you can track Santa on Google Maps? Very useful in getting kids to go to bed!

Boo the Traveling Dog!Christmas morning started at 5:30am with several, “I don’t want to get up” and a few “really do I have to?” Chris and I did have enough time to empty our stockings Santa had left for us before we hit the road heading for Hoover, Alabama and the Land of Houndstooth! We stopped by my brother’s house to check out the damage Santa and the reindeer caused to the roof of their house. By the way things looked under the tree, Santa landed well over his weigh limit, dislodging a few shingles in the process. We were back on US 82 at 7:20am an in Hoover, Alabama by 10:03am.

There is a great contrast between Chris’ family and my family. Chris would describe my family as loud and I would describe his family as quiet, reserved, almost boring. His family’s house feels like a very sterile place. His family has moved all over the US following their father’s career in the coal mining industry. So their home doesn’t really have the same lived in feel that the farm has. My parents still live in the home they built just before I was born. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when the new grandparents placed plastic under the 10 month old granddaughter’s high chair. This is the best comparison I can give. I am sure there are still hidden green beans in my childhood room from when I was stubborn and wouldn’t eat them; meanwhile Chris’ parents are a little worried about macaroni and cheese on their Persian rug.

We exchanged gifts at his parent’s, which is contrasting from Christmas on the farm. In Hoover, we all unwrap gifts at the same time. If we chose this method with my parent’s we would lose track of who gave what to whom. Did I mention we are loud on the farm? I got bath gear and Chris received three or four flash lights. I am not sure what message this sends, but useful gifts, so bonus points for both families this year. Great gifts given to me by my quiet mother-in-law… a THONG! Yes, thong! However, it wasn’t what you would think; it was a “Book Thong” bookmark. Why name it a book thong? I don’t know, but it is funny!

We left Hoover at 1:34pm headed north to Huntsville, Alabama and back home for Christmas on the creek! Chris and I chose to exchange gifts at home; this hopefully starting a new tradition for us. We enjoyed leftovers and hanging out in the peace and comfort of our own home. But wait; the weekend is still not over! I worked at the Barn the day after Christmas to find out that everyone visiting the Barn wanted items we didn’t have. We were out things which we had been sold out of weeks ago. I ended my Barn session at 8:00pm on Saturday.

Christmas Game of TossThe last leg of our journey was back to Mississippi to visit my mom’s side of the family. The Land clan gathered in Ridgeland, Mississippi to visit and share gifts. My cousins and my brother reminisced about epic backyard football games of our childhood as we tossed the football back and forth with the next generation. Things like that make zig-zagging across Mississippi and Alabama all worth it!

We ended our trip at 10:09pm Sunday night (just a few minutes ago) traveling 1,290 miles visit all of our families. We stopped for gas five times along the way. Boo peed on seventeen trees and lost tons of hair during the stressful trip (most of which seems to have landed in the vehicle). We passed Tuscaloosa’s Chipotle twice, stopping to eat only once. We crossed the state line four times and traveled through four area codes. However you slice it or dice it, Chris and I love our families and we enjoy visiting them. We shared homemade Kahlua with the reserved Key family. This would be the play of the entire tour! The combined trip time of nineteen hours in the TEV was worth the time spent with family! Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!