Tag Archives: Jack Daniels


Katie Beth PhotoIn the last twelve months I have completed three sprint triathlons, three olympic triathlons and three half Ironman distance triathlons.  Next Sunday, I will run my first full Ironman distance triathlon in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  I have been asked: Are you ready for IM Chattanooga, Are you crazy, and What are you thinking?  All of which I am not sure of the answer.  This has been a crazy year for me.  Training has been a hurdle for me in every area of my life.  The one thing that has remained constant has been training. Here are the top ten things I have learned along the way!

You are what you eat! When I eat pizza and drink Jack Daniels I am more like Beavis & Butthead than Mirinda Carfrae.

Amazon is more of a beast than I ever will be!  People have asked me, how can I run alongside someone who is fast and strong when I am puny!  My answer is Amazon is encouraging and makes me want to try harder.  She keeps me honest!

Training brings me closer to God! Whether it be Bible versers or hymns I am recalling God for strength!

There are hills and then there are mountains!  Many times during training I have felt like I cant do this… I can’t finish the race or the training. Then I remember to keep climbing.  Keep the heart rate down and just keep chugging along like the “Little Engine that Could”.

Sandy Henson is evil!  I remember volunteering for a half triathlon with Sandy Henson (aka Dash) where she told me I could do a 70.3 distance triathlon.  She also encouraged to reach for more.  If she believed in me… I guess, I should believe in myself.

I hate chaffing!  There is a spot on my chest near my neck where I am rubbed by my tri-suit and it hurts like shit!  However, I haven’t found a better tri top!

Rhonda is a bad ass! For those who do not now, my friend Rhonda Cox, who inspired me to try triathlons in the first place, was hit by a vehicle while training this summer. Her dedication before and after has been inspirational! #RC23

Admiral McRaven and the Navy SEALs are better than I am!  The YouTube video of Admiral McRaven’s University of Texas commencement speech has inspirited me to work harder, change the world and make my bed!

Thank you!  Everyone who has supported this run, thank you!  I watched ABC’s Wide World of Sports as a kid to see Julie Moss come in second in 1982.  I learned it doesn’t matter where you finish, it matters how you finish.

Keep the main thing the main thing!  God has taught me a lot through this journey!  I guess that is the most important thing! Thank you Lord!  I couldn’t do this without you! I sing your hymns to get me through the run. You have kept me safe!

I will do my best next weekend! (Photo credit Katie Beth)

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…



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.


I am that person! I always said that if I had a blog, I wouldn’t ignore it. I wouldn’t let it sit for months with out updating it. We it is official, I have ignored GraphiteFree. I could blame it on my schedule or on my crappy laptop or on a host of other reasons. But the simple truth is, I have ignored my blog. I am sorry, blog! I didn’t mean to abandon you for so long. I didn’t mean to not write!

I have had lots to write about! There was the Mid South Farm and Gin Show in Memphis I started writing about. Chris and I stayed at the Peabody where we joined my brother, his family, and my parents. Great weekend, I drank a “Presbyterian” or Jack & Ginger. I had an epic adventure to Atlanta… Gosh I hate Atlanta! However, I do love Chipotle and Pinkberry. I visited with Cameron Drape at the Barn a few times. She called the Barn one night to ask when American Idol aired. Lucky for us it is a seven o’clock show, which kept her away from the Barn until the next day. And I should have written about my Jack Daniel Distillery tours.

Since I have fallen out of grace with my blog, I should update what I am currently doing. The last paragraph told you where I have been. Now, I need to tell you where I am headed, because there is much on the horizon for me. This week will mark my seventh wedding anniversary – Copper. Chris and I will be touring the distilleries of Kentucky. I am sure we will see lots of copper while we are exploring. I will be leaving the Barn for another part time job. I love working at the Barn, but I have had a dream of working as a tour guide for a long time. I am also most there, this week I go to the Jack Daniel Distillery for my audition as a tour guide. That should be an adventure.

This summer I will be back at Aviation Challenge, back with the Raptor and back around the lake. I also told our new Social Media Director I would write a blog post for the Ready Room. So I really do need to get back into the writing mood. I will be going on a Disney Cruise with Tim&Anderson and their bridal posse in July. I will get to make another trip to NYC to see my Yankees in August. It will be a Yankees/Mets tour with Snapper. Even though the Mets play the Braves (I hate Atlanta) the trip will be so much fun.

All in all, I have lots to write about. And I am going to do better at this I promise. I know that only a few people read my blog, but I really don’t want to be the person that starts writing and then abandons the poor thing. I love GraphiteFree. It all started as an exercise to make my writing better and I need to keep it up! GraphiteFree, please forgive me.

PS… Jeff Benton is still a scumbag, but the law suit has been settled!


September is an amazing month! On Saturday morning when I opened the door to let Boo out, I discovered fall was here. It was 54 degrees and I was headed to Lynchburg for a tour and barbecue. This makes for an amazing day! Later in the day there would be lots of college football!

The only downside to the whole plan was the in-laws were tagging along on this Jack Daniels trip. Not to worry, just because they were bored and not much fun, I still had a blast. The best story from the day was when Mrs. Key went 10-12 steps out of her way to use the crosswalk on the square in Lynchburg. Lynchburg is a town with one traffic light and lots of pedestrians. Mrs. Key is a very cautious individual who doesn’t even like to use the word “risk.” Don’t get me wrong, it was nice visiting with the Keys, especially since they don’t come around much. It has been three years since they visited us in Huntsville.

Football, it was an amazing day for college football! Ole Miss or University of Mississippi, whatever they want to be called lost to Jacksonville State in overtime. Houston Nutt proclaimed it the toughest loss of his coaching career. Colonel Reb was not in attendance for the game. Why does political correctness even have a place in college football? I would like to think Ole Miss has cursed themselves; which I am fine with. They are killing off an iconic figure in Oxford, Colonel Reb, for Rebel the cutesy Black Bear. I don’t follow Ole Miss, but why would they give up a piece of the history? What are they thinking? It is silly, but I am enjoying ringing my cowbell this morning!

September is filled with wonderful reasons to love this month! Be Ready Camp starts next week and almost 90 kids will be at Aviation Challenge to learn about preparedness. It is a little about learning real life skills. College football is all around and there is lots of excitement. My favorite TV show, Glee, will return to FOX during the week between college football games. After BRC we will have SCI-VIS and more college football. And I am sure; I will go to visit Lynchburg a time or two since it is Jack’s birthday. Lets all be sure to enjoy September, the best month of the calendar year!

Friends of Jack

“It is just our feeling that too little time is spent in this day and age enjoying the friendship of others. The Tennessee Squire Association is but one small attempt on our part to speak up.”

About this time last year I received my deed to a small, tiny piece of land in Lynchburg, Tennessee on the grounds of Jack Daniel’s Distillery. The micro lot of land is a part of being a member of The Tennessee Squire Association. The association was started to help keep happy fans of the Old No. 7 brand during a shortage in the 1950s. When the distillery was unable to supply all their admirers with Jack’s whiskey they kept in touch with everyone through letter writing. Call it a gesture of good will or marketing, but what truly happened was a friendship created between the residents of Lynchburg and loyal Jack drinkers around the world.

I have been to Lynchburg more than a dozen times. Each time I bring a friend along or make new friends while I am visiting. To me, Jack is just as enjoyable when visiting the small town with one stop light, as when it is served over ice or mixed with Coke. Lynchburg is a great community with very friendly people. Lynchburg’s extended family is really all over the world. When Chris is on the road in Minneapolis or wherever, he finds lots of eager friends to share stories of Jack Daniel’s with. Once when I was in Houston I made friends with a Squire. Just taking friends to visit Jack from other places is fun! Today was a really good day; we had a field trip to Jack with more friends!

Chris and I, along with friends, visited Prichard’s Distillery and Jack Daniels. He had invited one of his Booz Allen friends and I had invited a large Space & Rocket Center delegation to meet my friend Leesa at JD for a special day. Leesa and I have known each other for a few years, but our friendship was cemented when I discovered her appreciation and dedication to Jack Daniels. She asked if we could gather up a group of friends to do a whiskey tasting. This was not a difficult task.

If you are not familiar with Prichard’s Distillery, it is in Kelso, TN. It is a specialty brand that is small, so small that its pot stills are in an old school’s utility closet and the aging room is made of old shipping containers out behind the school. The small rum distillery has taken a rundown school in the middle of nowhere Tennessee and created a very successful small business out of a great hobby. Our group was lead around by Mrs. Prichard, the distiller’s wife. It is a great place to stop and enjoy a sip or two of Sweet Lucy, their most popular spirit.

The best part of the day was our lunch, a picnic! We had sandwiches and chips right outside the visitor’s center. The last time I visited Lynchburg there was snow on the ground. Today’s glorious weather was a great blessing after all the cold weather, but most of all it was a great setting for a wonderful lunch. Blue sky, warm temperatures, and a gentle breeze makes a sandwich taste better and a Sun Drop more enjoyable. But all of this stuff wouldn’t be glorious, enjoyable, or even fun without friends; and that is what Jack is all about. Well that and millions of dollars in federal tax revenue.

Single Again

In my Blogging for Blog Sake I recalled a trip to Jack Daniels and Miss Mary Bobo’s that resulted in a job change for my husband Chris. He moved from the prestigious firm which counts the Oscar ballots to Booz Allen Hamilton which forced us to be married for the first time in five years. Don’t get me wrong, with the exception of the in-laws, I love being married to my wonderful husband! However, today I am here to report that we are single again. Chris is back working for PwC and traveling around the country in search of platinum status on Delta and to find the perfect concierge lounge. Unfortunately this break up will not keep me form Christmases at the Key’s, though it does mean my husband gets chocolates on his pillow each night.

To look back at out brief life together, living each day under the same roof, sharing the same shower, and using the same toilet paper, I will give you the five things I will miss having Chris around and the top five things I will enjoy being single.

Things I will miss while Chris is traveling…

1.  Dinners with my Chris! I know Chris will enjoy having chicken fingers from room service, but I will miss cooking meals from him. I would make chicken and rice, or pot roast, or PB&J. He wanted to take leftovers to work to save money, because Booz Allen didn’t pay for him to eat out in Huntsville. See PwC pays his expenses while on the road.

2.  I will miss having someone bring all the stuff I left at home to me at work. See, I forget stuff all the time. It was nice that my husband left for work after me. Hey Punkin, can you bring my keys, badge, or phone to me when you come in? It was wonderful! God bless my pokey little husband!

3.  My Bartender! I will miss having someone to make my Jack & Coke. True, this will mean I won’t drink as much, but it is always nice to have someone to make a drink for you after a long day. Especially when the drink comes with a kiss.

4.  I will miss having someone to watch Glee with! Yes, it is a morally bankrupt show about teenagers who can sing and dance. However, having someone to get addicted to the show with is worth something in the world of 10,000 TV channels. Remember, I only watch one TV show per season.

5.  Cuddling… enough said!

Things I will enjoy while being left all by myself…

1.  I will really enjoy parking in the middle of the garage. I know this seems like a small thing, but having to squeeze on one side of the garage is a strain on my free spirit. I want to park wherever I want.

2.  I will enjoy not having to fight over the TV. I, like all women should, enjoy watching Sport Center in the morning, Mike Rowe whenever I can, and the Food Network in between. Heck, I bought Chris a TiVo and Sling Box, does he really think I should watch Chuck with him every Monday night?

3.  I get to have the whole bed! Which means no one is snoring in my ear… well, there is the dog.

4.  I will enjoy be able to keep the house clean during the week. Unfortunately, I haven’t cleaned the house for the ten months Chris lived here.

5.  All the Marriott points which will lead to great hotels in cool vacation destinations!

Good luck Chris! I will miss you during the week, but I know you are really happy at PwC. Heck, they count the Oscar ballots!

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!

Snow Day

Jack Daniels SnowLast weekend I made a pilgrimage to Lynchburg in a driving snow storm! It was treacherous making our way to Tennessee through the blizzard. I didn’t even have bread or milk in the 4Runner with me. Those are the most valuable staples in a southern snow storm. Honestly, it wasn’t as bad as it sounds, but it was a gorgeous drive. We headed north early to make it to the bottle signing at JD so we could make it back to watch the SEC Championship and then to the Sprocket Christmas party.

Last year Divot, Tank and I made the trek up in the freezing cold to our first bottle signing. Little did I know that Divot and I would make our faithful commitment to visit Jack on a somewhat regular basis and go to all the bottle signings until we were Squires. Last year, just like this year was the day of the SEC Championship game. Unfortunately, this year Divot had to work. This year it was Chris, Gina, Ryan, and me standing in line for what seemed like a frozen eternity, but it was fun as we made friends with the crazy people around us.

Jack Daniel's Masters I am always amazed at how many crazy people show up and wait in line for the Master Distiller and Master Taster to sign bottles. There was someone from Alaska and several people from outside of the good ole deep south! It was cold, but it was a great day to make new friends and see old friends. The Master Distiller is an Alabama alumni and it would be a day for Alabama. I think my husband calls it “The University of Alabama.

Later in the day when Nick Saban chose to receive the ball after the SEC coin toss we all knew the game was on! Alabama dethroned Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators as the number one SEC team and the number one team in the nation. I am neither a Gator nor Alabama fan but I love good football! It is time for Tim Tebow to head for the NFL. I am excited for my husband in the Alabama win but why are there so many bandwagon fans? The next day while working at the Barn there were hundreds of Alabama houndstooth disciples. I saw three houndstooth fedoras, 94 sweatshirts, and 158 Bama logos. There was one lady who wore a sweatshirt into the Barn that I believe was worn last during Bear’s Bama reign.

Jack DanielOh well! Life is good. I saw snow on the ground in Lynchburg. Chris and I made new friends. We watched Alabama punch a ticket to Pasadena and hopefully their 13th National Title. There is no such thing as a National Championship in NCAA Division I-A football but that is another story for another day! Last weekend was wonderful and I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and New Year! My New Year’s resolution is not to be a bandwagon fan of any kind, visit Jack Daniels often and watch the Title game with Pumkin!

Blogging for Blog Sake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great, but Not Perfect

I am currently sitting on the couch watching SEC football, Auburn and LSU on ESPN 2 and #1 Florida playing the Mississippi State Bulldogs on ESPN! We got home from a long day trip just before the end of the Alabama and Tennessee game. That game was a nail biter. SEC football is most definitely a gift from God to the people living in the south!

Today Chris and I traveled to Nashville to a yard sale, yes a yard sale. The sale was held on the grounds of Lipscomb University and hosted by Amy Grant and friends to benefit Project Redesign and Project S.E.E. Both charities are very special. One redesigns rooms in area low income families’ homes and the other is an educational ministry. Last year was the first year for the yard sale and raised over $25,000 dollars. The event is more than just raising money for good causes. It is also about bringing communities together.

We had a friend working the event. Well… we met Allan at an Amy Grant book signing in Birmingham a few years back. Until I met Allan I thought I was a big Amy Grant fan. I had followed her since I watched her “Old Fashioned Christmas” special in 1986 with my Pom Pom. I had all her albums and followed her in the media. As a middle schooler I went to her concert on the “Heart in Motion” tour. As an adult, I volunteered to work during Thanksgiving to help with a TV shoot at Space Camp for Three Wishes on the possibility that Amy Grant would be there. She wasn’t, but that was ok.

Allan, on the other hand, plans his vacation around Amy Grant’s tour schedule. He sends the Gill family fudge on their birthdays. He even knows the brand potato chip she likes to eat when recording. I learned I wasn’t that big of a fan. I was just an average fan. We exchanged business cards, our paths would cross again and a friendship was forged. I get crap all the time from Allan about my schedule not being in sync to the tour schedule. I am just not a fanatic. But I will, however, go to support two really cool charities, see a friend, and bump into Amy Grant.

It was a cold morning, and while Chris and I milled around, a cute kid asked if I wanted some hot chocolate. I asked how much? He stuttered just a little bit and said, “$5 and you get an autograph.” I melted at his business strategy, plus it was for charity. I really wasn’t that interested in the autograph. I am more about the experiences in life, not the stuff I collect in life. We chatted with the friends and families working the event as we drank our hot chocolate.

After the yard sale, we went Barn hopping in Nashville. I could tell at each Barn I visited that it didn’t have a Hudson or Heather Chenille working for them. The phrase, “Were you raised in a barn” comes to mind when I visited. Beds were unmade, towels were scattered, and shelves not stocked. This was all a few minutes after the Barn doors opened for the day. Chris has to remind me that I wasn’t in my home Barn and the standards might be different in that district. (Or maybe it is just better product.)

We traveled to Murfreesboro to catch up with one of my favorite astronauts and friends. We meet Hoot at the airport as he was returning from a business trip. It was a great chance to see his planes and hear a few flying stories. One is an experimental aircraft that holds two world records, really cool! Airplanes and airplane hangers are always fun, but Murfreesboro was only a stop along the way today. Chris and I were headed south to Lynchburg to visit Jack Daniels.

The day started out gray and gloomy! The fall colors were out in all their glory but under gray skies it just isn’t the same. As we drove and made stops along the way the skies cleared. Meandering down small Tennessee roads to the distillery, we were both amazed and awed by the beauty of the golden trees that flanked us. There were colorful hill tops alongside the road. We stopped to visit the Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational Barbecue competition. We visited the Squires tent during our visit. The organizers said that over 1,200 Squires visited during the day. The sights and smells in Lynchburg were just as wonderful as the drive down. Our visit was short, but perfect in length, parking, and refreshments.

The day was great, but not perfect. I got to visit with friends, chat with Amy Grant, hangout at an airport, and shop for the Ducks Unlimited bottle at Jack Daniels. Mostly I enjoyed an adventure with Chris. However, it wasn’t perfect because Mississippi State didn’t beat Florida! They fought hard, but came up short. And thank God for small miracles. The American League playoff game was postponed because of rain. That way I could focus on all the great college football tonight. It was a wonderful adventure!

White Dog

Buffalo Trace, Frankfort KYThis morning I visited Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort. If you are not familiar with the name, give them a few years as they have only been producing bourbon under that name since 1999. Before then it was known by George T. Stagg Distillery and the O.F.C. Distillery. Historical record shows that distilling started at that location sometime before 1773. The first commercial distillery and permanent structure was built in 1812 by a Mr. Blanton. During prohibition this distillery was allowed to continue production for medicinal purposes, yeah right. Just like all the other brands of bourbon it was purchased, sold, or changed hands many times. Currently, it is owned by a New Orleans company (isn’t that where all bourbon goes anyway) named Sazerac.

That is a lot of boring facts, sorry. But Buffalo Trace is not a brand or distillery that I knew a lot about. From its history that I learned on the tour I should have known something about this company. It is a large distillery with a great history. It is very industrial in nature. So industrial you think anything could be made or produced at Buffalo Trace. And it kind of is, today they were fermenting sweet mash for vodka. But yes, it is known for its bourbon first and foremost.

Maker’s Mark and Woodford reserve were pretty distilleries found off the beaten path. Buffalo Trace just by the nature of its names is not such a distillery. The name Buffalo Trace is given to the trails and ruts the buffalo used to cross the Kentucky terrain making their way to the plains. Settlers used the buffalo’s trail to find their way into American’s frontier. Bourbon is America’s spirit. I bet you didn’t know we had a spirit. If you look at the history of Kentucky and the survival of commerce, bourbon is a major player.

The neat thing about bourbon is once it comes off the still it is crystal clear. It tastes awful. They call the clear spirit white dog. The white dog goes into a new American oak barrel. Over the next four to twenty-six years it experiences the seasons in a barrel house. The clear liquid ages and matures based on the dark, dank world of a warehouse. When the spirit has finished its adventure it is dark, rich, and flavorful. All the way its care taker is the Master Distiller. He may be the care taker, but the spirit is entrusted to the barrel and a barrel is only as good as the oak stand it was harvested from. Every little detail of whiskey production can play a role or factor. Similar to the aging and maturing process we all go through.

We all come in to this world ready to learn and grow. Some of us are placed into strong enriching families where we grow and gain “flavor.” Some of us are placed in other areas of the barrel house and later will be blended with other barrels to make a fine bottle of whiskey. But we all gain wisdom, color, and character through our own aging and maturing process just like bourbon whiskey experiences during its life. The adventure in life for humans is just like whiskeys adventure. We are influenced by the people we are surrounded with. Our barrel is our friends and family. Whether you are the spirit or the oak, soak up the experience of life.

One last distillery to visit… On my trip home I stopped by Jack Daniels. I had to visit Jack. I felt like I had been cheating on him this week. It was raining cats and dogs. But I had to pick up a bottle or two for tomorrow’s signing. I saw Angie, my favorite tour guide. I spoke to her briefly. The Bourbon Trail was great, I learned a lot, but I am still loyal to Old No. 7. If you ever get a chance to tour the distilleries along the Bourbon Trail, please do. You will learn a lot about yourself and your country! Experience life, don’t stay white dog forever!