RSS Feed

Category Archives: Just My Life

Tubin. Tubin. Tubin on the River


Yesterday I got to take my kids and their friends tubing down Rainbow River in Dunellon, FL.

We had been once before, last year, with our church high school youth group.  I was warned then that the water would be cold (I don’t do cold) because it is spring-fed.  Cold didn’t even begin to describe it.  I spent the entire 4-hour ride down the river (Yes, I said 4-hour ride.  At least the passengers on the SS Minnow only had to suffer through a 3-hour tour.) perched balanced atop a tube, never allowing my bottom or feet to enter the river.  It was probably the equivalent of a 4-hour ab and back workout.  I was exhausted.  And it was all futile effort because, as is the norm in Florida during the summer months, we had an afternoon thunderstorm.  So, we all ended up completely drenched, stranded on someone’s private property for about 30 minutes while we were waiting out the storm (lightning and water are a bad mix) so that we could continue our torturous ride down the river.  Hopefully, only 3 other people on that trip last summer knew how miserable I really was (two of them would be my kids because they know I don’t do cold).

So, you might be asking yourself, why in God’s name did I agree to go back down this cold, crystal clear, spring fed river, on purpose?  Because I’m a mom.  And that’s what you do when your kids want to do something that you know is good for them, will bring them joy, and get them outside and off of the electronics.  (To be honest, the kids didn’t ask to go.  I suggested it because of the other good-for-them reasons, and they agreed.  Then I thought, ‘Oh dang, now I have to actually take them.’)  Oh, how we moms suffer for our children (cue the hand-to-forehead-nearly-fainting-from-exhaustion pose).

Now for the good news, yesterday was a BLAST!

I was a  little worried as we drove up there, my little truck full of 6 different tubes and one raft and 5 human beings and one cooler.  Dark storm clouds were all around us.  This didn’t bode well for the day, and it wasn’t even Florida summetime yet.  But we pressed on.

We got to the launching area and the first thing I noticed was a sign that said flotation devices over 60″ diameter not allowed.  Dang!  My raft was over that limit.  That was going to be my salvation in this river….I wouldn’t have to get wet at all and could carry our “necessities” such as waters, snorkels/masks, and phones in plastic sealed baggies.  Leaving the raft in my little truck, I again, pressed on.

We all dug in to the food we had packed so we wouldn’t set out completely starved.  I inflated 5 tubes while Sunshine Boy went up to the counter to pay for park admission and transportation back to the launch point at the end of our 2-hour ride.  (Make note here.  We planned to only go down the river for 2 hours, get out at that exit, and be returned to my little truck to go get something for a late lunch).  One of the rafts was much larger than the others, and had a net bottom.  I claimed that one reasoning that I could carry supplies with a reasonable assumption that we wouldn’t lose them because this tube had a bottom.  Plus, it was the biggest.  And it had a bottom.  That would certainly help keep me out of the water, right?  Riiiiight…

So we get the tubes into the water and the sun is shining and the water really doesn’t feel too bad at this point.  I’m thinking this is going to be a piece of cake today and I’ll most certainly receive a round of applause at the end of the day.

And we headed down the river and about an hour into the lazy ride, we came to the tree swing. Someone rigged up a rope swing from way up high in a tree on the bank of the river, and nailed some 2×4 planks into the tree and a small piece of wood on a broken branch as a platform to jump off.  Perfectly safe, I’m sure.  So the boys wanted to jump and I thought it would be awesome to get some pictures.  So I dug around into the pool bag I had in my large, net-bottomed tube and found my zipper-closure baggies with my phone and keys so that I could take a few pics.  And I discovered that zipper-closure baggies aren’t waterproof, even when you put one inside of another.  My phone and keys were swimming inside of a baggie filled with water inside of a baggie filled with water.  Dead phone.  So I “paddled” over to the riverbank (careful to look out for gators) and tried to stand up out of my tube and realized I was kinda stuck.  My tube had been leaking air for the entire hour and I hadn’t noticed.  But that would explain why it was becoming increasingly harder for me to keep my bottom out of the water.  I just thought I was really, really out of shape.  So I proceeded to blow up my tube, keeping an eye out for gators (Pretty sure I spotted on on the opposite bank, but the kids tried to convince me it was turtles.  Funny how they were the ones convincing me.) and thanking God that at least I only had to deal with a leaking tube for one more hour and could get my phone out of the water in an effort to start to dry it out and save it.  Yeah, right.

So, after several jumps from the tree, I convinced the kids to keep moving on the river and we approached the 2-hour exit and got out.  I had never used this exit before, so I was unfamiliar with where to go.  Two of my adventurers took off ahead of us but made so much noise that I knew pretty well where they were.  And then we encountered another group going the opposite direction as us.  I recognized them as the group that had set out right before us at the launch site.  They stopped us and said don’t bother going all the way up to the parking lot because there’s nothing there.  It’s a ghost town.  Ummmm, what??

So, since my adventurers were so far ahead of us, we had to travel the long and winding boardwalk through the swampy hammock.  I carried my now-almost-thoroughly-deflated tube and increasingly-heavy gear to the sidewalk and walked up to the parking lot with a building with bathrooms and a little convenience store just to catch up to them.  The place was deserted.  The building was locked up and no lights were on.  The bathroom doors were locked.  There were no cars in the parking lot.  We saw signs that said the last shuttle run was at 3:30.  Without my phone, I could only guess that it was around 1:45.  We sat and we wandered and we talked and we kind of stared at each other for a good 30 minutes while we waited hopefully for a shuttle.  And the actions of the previous group were echoing in my head, knowing that they had decided to cut their time losses and get back into the river and finish the entire run….2 more hours.  If we did that, we’d be returning home way later than we had planned.  This could cause some problems since we all had someplace to be in the evening.

One of the boys decided to run up the road from the parking lot a little ways and came back to report that there was a padlock on the gate to the entrance.  Not lookin’ good.

So we made the decision to trudge…uh, I mean walk purposefully back to the river and get back in and finish the rest of the run.

On the way back to the water’s edge, one of the boys played a fun little game called, “What would you do if there was a Zombie Apocolypse RIGHT NOW?”  The kids shared their creative and stealthy ways to survive a Zombie Apocolypse.  Ahhh, the optomism and feelings of immortality of teens.

So we got back into the chilly water and I told the kids we’d actually have to paddle (vs. just floating) down the river because this stretch of the river has almost no noticeable current and the signs on the 2-hour exit said the last transport runs at 3:30.  Considering the time we spent waiting at the little convenience store/parking lot, and walking into/out of the river exit, I guessed it was nearing 2:30 now.  And we supposedly still had 2 more hours on the river until we reached the “end” of the ride.  And I had no idea what to do if we got to an empty parking lot and I had no phone and no car and no transportation was coming to get us.  I totally would have figured out something, but I just didn’t know what at the time.

I got into the river and I started paddling and I was making great strides in getting down the river muy rapido.  The kids, not so much.

After a few “encouraging words” only garnered short spurts of paddling from the kids, I decided to just let it be.  We (mostly) floated down the river (because I really just can’t let anything be….just ask Mr. Sunshine).  And it started to rain.  And I got cold.  Really cold.  And I seriously considered climbing out of the river onto one of the properties with one of the smaller “Private Property” signs (My reasoning was that the people who went out and bought really big “PRIVATE PROPERTY” signs really meant it.  But the people who only put out small “Private Property” signs were just making a suggestion.) and asking, or begging, them to drive us back to the launch site and I’d pretty much just hand over my Visa.

But I didn’t.  I. STUCK. IT. OUT.

And the kids?  THEY. WERE. AWESOME.  They continued to play the entire way down the river.  And we got to the end and got out and walked to the parking lot with my now deflated tube and 4-ton bag of gear.  And we waited about 10 minutes and a van showed up and took us back to the launch site where we all felt a little refreshed and successful.

(We found out from this driver that the 2-hour exit is run by the state and they only run on the weekends, only until 3:30.  And they will not come get their customers at the 4-hour exit if they miss the 2-hour exit, EVER.  The 4-hour exit is run by the county and they run every day.  And the state does not allow them to drive onto the 2-hour exit property to pick up river adventurers.  Oh, and the country runs their transportion until something like 5:30.  So if you go on the river, you need to know who you are paying to pick you up where on what day and until what time.)

We got changed into dry clothes (bathrooms with changing rooms on site, but no showers.).  And we deflated the rest of the tubes and put all of the gear away and decided to go celebrate a great day with a gourmet meal from McDonalds.  (Which could probably be a whole other blog post because our orders were totally messed up and these kids are stinkin’ hilarious!)  And I actually got everyone where they needed to be just in the nick of time (though they all still had dirt and river muck on them where they might not have been able to wipe it off before they changed clothes).  I was even able to make my 2 meetings at church with nasty rain/river smeared hair, damp bathing suit under my sweatpants and tank top, and exhausted makeup-less face.

And later last night, after we all had showers and had our pj’s on.  My precious children said, “Thanks for taking us tubing today, Mom.  We had a great time.  It was probably one of the most fun days we’ve had in a long time.”

My standing ovation.


Like Sands Through the Hourglass…

I picked up a Home Health job a few months ago just to be able to earn some extra money in the big and little gaps of time I have between seeing my pediatric cuties and homeschooling my own two kiddos.  (After all, we’ve got a 16-year-old boy about to drive, and they don’t come […]

Rat in Me Compost – Part 5 (Or: The Saga of Nala the Bobcat)

Sooooooooo, turns out Nala is, in fact, most likely a Florida Bobcat.

After my last post (Rat in Me Compost – Part 4), I ran into one of my more distant neighbors at the store.  (“Distant” refers to the geographical span between our houses, not a description of her personality.)  Technically, she’s from the neighborhood you have to drive through to get to my neighborhood (we’ll call it FV).  You see, my neighborhood was built first, then years later her neighborhood was added on as a separate neighborhood, then many years later another neighborhood (we’ll call it AL) was added back behind mine.  So, my neighborhood is between two other neighborhoods and you have to drive through one of them to get to mine.  The reason I’m telling you this is so you’ll understand when I explain our conversation at the store a few weeks ago.

So, I ran into this neighbor at the store and she told me that they (homeowners in FV) had just received an email from their Neighborhood HOA President warning them that there had been 6 sightings of a Florida Bobcat and one of a coyote in the area.  Someone(s) had also found the remains of 2 housecats which looked as if they had had run-ins with a predator (they were all assuming that it was the coyote, not the bobcat).  She wanted to make sure I knew about this information since she knew we have two small dogs.

To say my jaw hit the floor would be an understatement.  I told her about my interaction with Nala and when I finished telling her, she was now the one with the jaw on the floor.  She politely suggested my roots might be blonde after realizing I sat about 10 feet away from an alleged bobcat and fed it salmon.

This morning, I ran into this same neighbor at Publix and we caught up on the latest news of the wildlife in the area.  She said her lawn guy had seen the bobcat recently, and he described her exactly the way I described Nala.

She also told me about her neighbor who has about 8 pet bunnies.  These bunnies are HUGE.  We have often driven by as we were leaving the neighborhood and seen this lady sitting on the bench under her trees with her bunnies hopping around the front yard.  Super cute scene in the neighborhood, especially around Easter!

Back to the story.  So this lady had a little area of her side yard fenced in with a picket fence and would let the bunnies hop around out there for exercise and fresh air.

Do I need to go further?  Can you guess what she found one day?  Sad, really.  But there is a silver lining.  On this particular day, she only put two bunnies out in the yard.  So she still has the rest of them.  And she is keeping them inside her screened patio from now on.

So, apparently Nala has been confirmed as a Florida Bobcat.  And it is possible that she has actually attacked domesticated pets (it’s also possible it was the coyote).  Which is really, really sad.  And scary.  And I’m taking that seriously when it comes to my little pups.

But you know what?  I haven’t seen any rats or mice since she arrived on the scene.  And for that, she just might deserve a small bowl of salmon.

Rat in Me Compost – Part 4 (Or: Introducing Nala)

So the saga continues.  If you’re keeping up with this story, you know where I left off.  If you haven’t been keeping up, you can catch up here, here, and here.

Many days had passed since we had had the run in with the injured fruit rat in the street.  We were dutifully taking our compost out to the compost bin every few days and seeing no signs of furry critters.  (We have a plastic, air-tight container in the kitchen we keep compost in until it’s full, which happens every few days.)  We still had all of our rat traps set (4 in the garden around the now bare tomato plants, 2 outside of the compost bin, 2 inside the compost bin) and they continued to remain empty.  We were feeling pretty cocky (well, I was feeling pretty cocky) thinking we had taken care of the problem.  But, alas….

One evening I was taking the compost out to the bin, and a mouse scurried under some rotting produce.  Here we go again.  Sigh…

So, I stood in front of the open bin yelling for someone in the house to come help me.  (By now, I have lost most of my fear and jitteriness of these furry little critters, and I’ve become angrily militant against these fruit thieves.)  Mr. Sunshine and Sunshine Girl came running out.  I instructed Sunshine Girl to get the pitchfork out of the shed, and either Mr. Sunshine or I (I honestly can’t remember which one of us) went to go get his oars out of the garage, while the other kept watch over the infiltrator in the compost bin.  (A shovel, hoe, or pretty much any other sharp metal garden tool from the shed would probably have been a better choice, but apparently we now believed a wooden oar was the go-to weapon against rats and mice since it had performed so beautifully during our last encounter.)  Weapons, er, tools secured, we proceeded to go after the mouse by stabbing the compost with the pitchfork (Mr. Sunshine) while the oar was used to block the exit (my job) for about 15 minutes.

To our disappointment, we never saw “proof” that this technique worked.  (Surprising, I know.)  So, now we have a mouse on the loose.  And apparently he’s smart enough to avoid the traps we have set.

And then it occurred to me that we used to have 3-4 cats that roamed the neighborhood, and we didn’t used to have rats or mice (or at least we never saw them).  But in the past few weeks I’ve only seen one of those cats.

So over the next few days, I asked my cat-owning neighbors about their cats.  (Sounds like I was on a cat-hunt mission, but in reality I am outside all of the time, and talk to my neighbors very often.)  One of the missing cats belonged to my neighbor across the street, and he was on his last legs (the cat, not the neighbor).  So that accounts for one.  She also owned the slacker cat that couldn’t finish the job with the rat in the street on Cinco de Mayo.  That’s two.  The neighbor next door’s adult son moved out and took his cat with him.  That’s three.  No idea what happened to the 4th cat.  So now there may be only one cat roaming the neighborhood trying to do the job of 4.  And this cat is obviously a slacker.

Can anyone else see the solution forming in my head?  GET CATS.

Here’s where it gets tricky.  I’m allergic to cats.  Mr. Sunshine is less than fond of cats.  And we both never appreciated outdoor cats (who insist on leaving paw prints on our vehicles any time we leave them out in the driveway for more than 20 minutes).  But it really seemed to be the only solution at this point.  Get cats.  Set them free.  They will eat mice and rats to survive.

Before you call PETA on me, relax.  I didn’t get any cats and set them free.  (Yet.)

What I did do was take my dogs for a walk one morning.  (Stay with me here.)  When I got home from taking the dogs for a walk, I let them off of their leashes to run around in the yard and chase squirrels while I sat on the swing under the oaks.  While I was sitting on the swing, I glanced down the side of our house toward the back yard and a large, beautiful, golden cat walked around the corner and sat down and looked at me.  I had never seen this cat in the 6 1/2 years we have lived in this house.

Not wanting to scare her away, I slowly got up and put the dogs in the house.  While I was in the house, I found some salmon and put it in a small bowl and brought it out with me.  When I got outside, the cat was still in the same location, so I put the bowl near the front of my garage and sat back down on my swing.

Over a period of about 30 minutes I watched this cat cautiously approach the salmon, and me.  The closer she got, the more impressed I was with her.  She was muscular.  She had large ears.  She had beautiful big green eyes.  The dialog in my head went like this, “That’s a pretty cat.  She looks like a lion cub.  But not like Simba.  She looks like Nala.  So I’m going to call her Nala. Nala was a good hunter.  I’m going to put salmon out every day so she likes to come to my yard.  But not enough salmon to sustain her.  Just enough to draw her here.  Then she can feed on rats and mice for sustenance.  Yep, that’s my plan.”

I don’t really know if this cat was a male or female, but because of my internal dialog, I am calling her a girl, and naming her Nala.

While she was approaching and eating the salmon, I tried to take pictures of her on my cell phone.  (Unfortunately, I had pretty much fried my cell phone’s camera on vacation at the beach a week prior to Nala’s visit, so the pictures are not good at all.)  But check her out below.


Here’s an interesting tidbit.  After I told Mr. Sunshine about our good fortune to have a cat come visit our yard and how she looked so muscular and like a good hunter, he asked me some questions about her.  Before I showed him pictures of her, he jokingly suggested that she might be a Florida Bobcat, or a juvenile Florida Panther.  Ha! Ha! Ha!

Then he looked at the pictures.  And said it’s not outside the realm of possibility.  ha. ha. ha.

So, apparently I may have gone from having a rat/mouse-in-my-compost-problem, to a beautiful-stalking-predatory-possibly-wild-cat-who-would-probably-prefer-to-eat-my-dogs-to-a-rat/mouse- problem.  All because I wanted to grow fresh organic produce.

Publix tomatoes aren’t really that expensive after all.

Rat in Me Compost – Part 3

Maybe you remember that I’ve written 2 blog posts already about a furry little critter (rat/mouse) that Mr. Sunshine and myself have both seen in our compost bin. (Read about it here and here.)

Well, the saga continues.

When we originally set the rat traps in the compost bin and caught a little mouse, I figured we both had only seen a mouse (or mice), and not rats, and that we were taking care of the problem with the traps. I should have known better. This is Florida. There are fruit trees everywhere. What rat wouldn’t love to live here?

A few weeks after catching the little mouse in the compost bin, we started to notice that the tomatoes on our tomato plants were disappearing from the vine right before they were ripe, and we’d find remnants of them throughout the garden. We suspected a fruit rat was to blame (since everyone knows that tomatoes are really fruit, not vegetables). No wonder we weren’t catching the little bugger in the compost bin, he was eating fresh fruit from the garden! Now I was getting mad!

I had Mr. Sunshine go out and buy 4 more rat traps, and I set them all around the tomato plants, hoping that I’d snap his little neck as he was trying to steal my organically grown tomatoes! After a few weeks, all I had to show for my effort was bare tomato plants and 4 rusting rat traps. Grrrrrr!

Fast-forward to May 5th. Mr. Sunshine and I were getting ready to go out to a Cinco de Mayo party at a friend’s house. I was wearing an adorable skirt and fancy flip-flops. There’s a reason you need to know this (well, you probably don’t need to know that my skirt was adorable, but it was). Because as we were preparing to leave the house, I went out in the driveway to wait for Mr. Sunshine to pull my little truck out of the garage.

As I was walking out of the garage, I noticed a furry little critter “ambling” from my neighbors’ house across the street toward my driveway. Their cat was nonchalantly following behind it. At first, I thought it was a little bunny rabbit. I rushed to the edge of the driveway to yell at the cat to leave it alone. As I’m sure you’ve already guessed, it wasn’t a cute little bunny rabbit. It was…(drumroll please)…. a fruit rat! Apparently the neighbors’ cat had gotten to it and did some damage, but was unwilling to close the deal.

So, there I was. Walking toward an advancing injured fruit rat. By myself. In my skirt and fancy flip-flops. Mr. Sunshine still in the house.

Well, I did the only sane and sensible thing to do. I screamed and jumped and danced around and took my fancy flip-flops off and prepared to throw them at the rat. The rat was oblivious to my histrionics and kept coming toward my driveway and house!

But my hero, Mr. Sunshine, was not oblivious to my histrionics. He heard me from inside the house and came running out. He immediately sized up the situation and figured out what was going on. (Could my jumping and screaming, “It’s a rat! It’s a rat! Get it cat!! Get the rat, you stupid cat!!” have clued him in??) (Oh, and apparently I rhyme when I’m hysterical.) He ran back into the garage, as I continued to threaten the slow-moving rat with my fancy flip-flops, and he reappeared with a fishing net and an oar.

He scooped the rat up into the net, all the while yelling at me to stop screaming and calling attention to our situation. (Turns out, he was afraid that some animal-loving neighbors might object to what was about to happen to the rat. Some people will sympathize with anything, including a rat. Whether it’s in my compost or in the Whitehouse.)

So, I composed myself (easier to do now that the rat was secured in the fishing net and no longer advancing toward my wide-open garage door) and picked up the oar and followed Mr. Sunshine to the side of the house, out of sight of the street. Mr. Sunshine asked me to hold the net secure on the ground (I could not force myself to get close enough to hold the handle) while he “put it out of its misery” with the oar. I was able to go get 5 plastic shopping bags and we layered the dead rat in them and put it in the trash can.

Job done, we went inside to wash our hands, grabbed the black bean and corn salsa with chips, and proceeded to go to the Cinco de Mayo party, albeit, late. As always, we had a really good story to explain our tardiness.

And you would think that that was the end of the story. But it’s not.

(That’s what you call a teaser.)

Neighborhood Covert Operations

Maybe you’ve already picked up on the fact that we tend to be fairly patriotic in our house.  (See Land of the FreeJust American, and Raising Patriots)  Apparently Mr. Sunshine and Sunshine Boy decided to take it to a whole new level today.  But to totally understand, you will need a little more background.

Mr. Sunshine is retired from the US Army.  He takes great pride in the flag that flies in front of our house, and becomes quite perturbed when he sees an American flag in disrepair.

Approximately 3 years ago we had new neighbors move in across the street and almost immediately, they hung a beautiful new American flag on their front porch.  We were tickled pink, and complimented them.  But their flag flies on the eastern side of their house, is often in the shade of the beautiful huge oak tree in their front yard, and their flag gets more moisture than ours and doesn’t tend to dry out completely.  Because of that, it wasn’t long before it began to show wear and tear with dirt and mildew and fading.  To say that it was becoming a thorn in the side of Mr. Sunshine would be an understatement.

Now don’t misunderstand our relationship with these neighbors.  We actually have a very good relationship with them.  We talk often.  We joke around.  We politely confront each other about animal graveyards and barking dogs and roaming dogs and proper outdoor attire.  The wife and I are great supports for each other.  We’ve spent holidays together and gotten to know extended family.  But for some reason, we never felt comfortable bringing up the topic of the flag needing to be replaced and retired.  Mr. Sunshine mentioned to me the idea of replacing it for them, but I nipped that idea in the bud (or so I thought).  I explained that if we  do it for them, much like our children, they won’t learn to take care of it themselves.  (I know I could say this to their faces, and I’m sure they would respond much like my kids:  with an eye roll.)

Then, two weeks ago we went out to dinner with a couple who are like-minded when it comes to flag flying protocol.  They related a story of how the husband had gone out in the wee hours of the morning to replace their neighbor’s worn flag with a brand new one, without the neighbor knowing.  To the best of their knowledge, the neighbor still hadn’t realized they had a new flag flying on their house.  I watched Mr. Sunshine’s eyes light up, and I knew it was just a matter of time before our neighbor’s flag was replaced.

So that brings us to today.  I took our daughter out to spend some gift cards she had been accumulating.  I left Mr. Sunshine and Sunshine boy at home, content in the knowledge that they wouldn’t get into trouble with their list of to-do’s, and just enough time to lounge in the pool before I got home.  Apparently, Mr. Sunshine saw this as his chance to defy my edict.

Mr. Sunshine enlisted Sunshine Boy to go out and buy a flag and new pole for the neighbor, probably as soon as I was out of the driveway.  Then he had him go steal the old flag.

Then Sunshine Boy put the flag/pole kit together, and, according to Mr. Sunshine, paraded across the street as if leading a marching band.  So much for covert.

In the meantime, Mr. Sunshine was here at home, snapping “before”, “during”,  and “after” pictures of the neighbor’s front porch.  My guess is that he was hiding behind the Magnolia tree in case the neighbors came home and caught Sunshine Boy in the act.  Mr. Sunshine would have allowed Sunshine Boy to divert their attention as he made a beeline into the garage, no doubt.

But, they were not caught in the act.  The new flag was hung.  They were proud undercover soldiers.  I received pictures from Sunshine Boy bragging of their success and about what great neighbors we are.

When I got home from shopping, I had to admit that the new flag did look beautiful.  I wondered if and when our neighbors would notice their new flag.  Then the neighbors got home and immediately texted me, asking if we replaced their flag.  (Kind of disappointing that they immediately suspected us, but not really surprising.)  I played dumb on texts at first, until they mentioned what they were going to do with the old flag.  I asked where the old flag was.  “Folded up on the rocker.”

My undercover soldiers left evidence.  So much for covert.

All in all, it turned out great.  The neighbors laughed (they said “lol” in a text, so I know they laughed out loud) and thanked us for the flag.  And now we get to look out our front window and see our neighbor’s beautiful flag flying in the breeze!  Mission accomplished.  Good work soldiers!

25 Years and Counting

Once upon a time, waaaaaaay back when, I met this skinny young man in my 9th grade English class.  He sat in the row behind me and to my left.  His best friend sat right next to me, so they cut up a lot.  They thought they were funny.  I thought they were annoying and distracting.  I remember trying to “discipline” them and get them to act right.  No such luck.

Our first date.

Then, in 10th grade, this same young man was in several of my classes again.  For some reason, he still thought he was funny.  I still didn’t.  I knew he was annoying and distracting, and I further determined that his pracical jokes were beginning to go too far.  So I went around undoing them.  I would watch him put classmates’ books on top of speakers mounted on the wall, and before the unsuspecting classmate discovered their books missing, I retrieved them and arranged them on their desk neatly.  Then I would “gently” lecture him on the proper way to treat people, sure that he would see the error of his ways and fly right.  Again, no such luck.

Moving on to 11th grade, we were again placed in a class together.  This time, it was Trigonometry.  I struggled from day one.  But this class clown didn’t.  Turns out, he was actually pretty smart.  And as I ran into him at school events, I discovered he was kind and considerate too.  He offered me his jacket and tie at a soccer game when he noticed I was cold.  (Yes, he wore a tie to school every day.  It was the 80’s.)  We ended up double dating to Homecoming our Junior year.  Special things were said.  By the end of the year, we were a couple.

That was over 29 years ago.  Today, that class clown and I are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary.  It’s been a hard road at times.  We weren’t sure we were going to make it.  But we have, by the grace of God.  And with love.  And hard work.  And perseverence.  And determination.  And kindness.  And consideration.  And yes, laughter.  Because that class clown’s sense of humor is one of the things I love most about him.