Most everyone who visits
or will visit the www.lemonadefromlemons.com website already
know us or have heard about us, and I grant you, the stories are probably
true. Dave and I will be married 28 years this coming October 21st,
2006, which is pretty amazing since we met in May, 1978, got engaged
two months later, and married three months after that. Our entire life
together has been completely unconventional, save for the first year
we were together. Dave was an elementary school counselor at High Ridge
Elementary and Maria was a special ed teacher for the Special School
District of St. Louis County. Let me tell you, those two life paths,
when mixed, result in unthinkable, unexplainable, crazy things.
Take for instance our
decision to chuck it all (that is, liquidate) within one year of wedded
bliss and take off in the VW van in search of the perfect (in other
words, affordable and floating, ideally) sailboat. It's not like either
ONE of us knew how to sail, but heck, it sounded so romantic. That adventure
began as school dismissed in the summer of 1979 and lasted until sometime
in the summer 1980 when we were in the Bahamas. We remember the day
like it was yesterday.
We had made the crossing
from Key Largo, FL to Bimini, Bahamas in our little 27 foot sailboat,
Foreigner. After high 5's and a good night's sleep, Maria broke the
news to Dave. "Hon, I think I'm pregnant. And just to show how
well I packed for the crossing, I have one of these EPT tests!"
I don't know what's more memorable, the look on Dave's face or what
he said. "How did that happen?"
Well, back in those days,
the "instant pregnancy tests" took two hours, and the specimen
had to be on some stable the entire time. Not exactly the scenario on
a pitching sailboat. So, we loaded ourselves into our dinghy and ventured
into town, heading immediately for The Complete Angler, Ernest Hemingway's
favorite bar in Bimini. It opened at 10 a.m. and believe it or not,
we were NOT the first customers.
Needing to be discreet,
we chose a booth w-a-y b-a-c-k in the corner of the bar where it was
dark. Neophytes at instant pregnancy tests, we read the directions twice
before drawing the sample which would tell us whether or not we were
pregnant. Once the urine same was taken, completed, and reverently placed
in the center of the table we looked at one another and said, "Well,
what do we do for two hours?" (That's how long it took way back
The only plausible answer
was to order a pitcher of beer, which the waitress delivered promptly.
Two hours is an awfully long time to just sit and wait, and by and by,
curious locals ventured w-a-y b-a-c-k in the corner of the bar where
it was dark and said in that wonderful Bahamian accent, "Hey, Mon,
what's that?" Dave explained that it was a test to determine if
I was pregnant. As if chances on the Holy Grail were now being sold,
the first inquisitive Bahamian pulled out five Bahamian dollars from
his pocket and bet that I was pregnant! As though this was not an uncommon
occurrence, the bartender whipped out a clipboard and pen and began
notating all of the bets! Between the beer and what was going on around
us, I completely lost track of our purpose in being there, but not to
worry, the original gambler announced that two hours had passed. Now
there was a MOUND of money on the table, and lots of onlookers curiously
looking at the urine sample, anxious to know if I was pregnant or not.
A flashlight was necessary
to read the directions. If it looks this way, she's pregnant. If it
looks that way, she's not. Uh, oh. Our urine sample didn't look like
Needless to say, the crowd
began getting restless.
What to do? Call in an
expert, naturally. The expert, in this case, was a woman who herself
was the mother (albeit, a little tipsy at this point) of six. The consensus
was that if anyone knew what a pregnant women looked like, it was she.
So, I was hoisted atop of the table and this woman walked slowly around
me one way, and then the other. A pin dropped would have been heard
as everyone waited patiently for her ruling. After a third circling,
she chugged what remained of her beer and proclaimed, "You're pregnant,
That was good enough for
the masses. Money was divided. People drank in celebration. Dave and
I sat in the booth w-a-y b-a-c-k in the corner of the bar where it was
Fast forward. We went back
to stateside (not uneventfully, but that's another story!) and left
the boat in Fort Lauderdale. Foreigner was now up for sale. Back in
those days, you could get on a list of drivers that were needed to take
a car from Point A to Point B, and lo and behold, a Buick needed to
be driven from Ft. Lauderdale to St. Louis. Animals and trailers were
unacceptable, but no matter. We had our cat, Jack, in tow, as well as
a U-Haul carrying the few belongings we had. We initially went back
to live with my parents. I got my old job back with St. Louis Special
School District. Dave substitute taught for St. Louis Public Schools,
watched "General Hospital" with my mom when he wasn't working,
and took computer classes five nights a week. Somewhere in there we
got our own apartment. Kate was born in May of 1981. Dave graduated
as a computer programmer.
Making the transition from
Education to Computers was easy then, or so it seemed. The most lucrative
offer came from a place called Fort Rucker, Alabama. To talk me into
going, Dave alluded that it was only two hours from Panama City, Florida,
a place I could relate to. So we went. We lived in an itty bitty town
called Newton, so small that the listings in the phone book (the small
version you see in small towns) took all of three pages. Believe it
or not, we loved it there. Situated between Dothan and Fort Rucker,
only one blinking light slowed cars down. Mail was not delivered; I
pulled the kids (DJ was born while we were there, April 1983) in a red
Radio Flyer wagon every day to collect our mail. Life was easy. Dave
got his feet wet in the computer industry. I learned how to become a
mom, and just to make sure I made time for myself, I enrolled in acrylic
painting classes and belly dancing.
Again, fast forward. Now
it's 1985 and Kate is nearing the time to go to school. She LOVED KinderCare
in Dothan where she spent three days a week, but we couldn't help noticing
the twang she had acquired. For instance, when reciting "Jack and
Jill" they went up a "heel." No, Kate, "It's hill."
"No, Mama. It's HEEL." Okay, then. We need to move.
By that time Dave was offered
a job in Destin, Florida. We drove down there (1986), only to find sand.
Beautiful, beautiful water. But really, just sand. Where's the grocery
store? Where are the houses? Where is the MALL, for crying out loud?
Obviously, we needed to pass this job up.
ourselves. Kick ourselves. Kick ourselves.<<<
Dave ended up taking a "secure" job at the Pensacola Naval
Hospital and we lived in that area from 1986-1990, eventually buying
a house in Gulf Breeze, a bedroom community just across the Bay Bridge
in between Pensacola and Pensacola Beach. Life settled down, as much
as it's possible for us: I was Room Mother for both Kate and DJ's classes,
inherited the role of Girl Scout Leader when my friend, Diana, moved
away, and even became a t-ball coach at the urging of my single friend,
Tracy, who assured me that the experience would be "fun."
Thank God our sponsor was the local physical therapy group that gave
us complimentary massages for coaching the six-year-olds. Talk about
the carrot and the stick!
The next decade found us
moving, moving, moving. In late 1991 Dave, who now worked for SAIC,
transferred from Pensacola to San Diego, CA. The transition, in a monetary
sense, was so hard to believe. Here we had sold a 3-bedroom brick home
in Gulf Breeze with a huge yard, in-ground pool, attached garage and
plenty of landscape for $86,000 and thought we had come out like bandits.
In San Diego, $300,000 bought a "fixer upper" in a place no
one would want to raise children.
Liquidation #2. Sell everything
we had accumulated up to this point and buy a boat. That being Discovery,
a 42 foot Californian trawler. 3 cabins: 2 staterooms, galley up. Twin
Catepillar diesels. Watermaker. Washer/dryer. Everything you could want,
But it least it DID have
everything we needed and we lived aboard Discovery from 1992 to 1997
in San Diego, Corpus Christi, TX, and Washington, DC. In 1997 we cruised
from DC to south Florida and ended up buying a piece of property that
was near foreclosure in North Palm Beach. It needed a LOT of work, but
the potential was so great that we bit the bullet. We owned that from
1998 until 2003 and thankfully, the market was good to us. Liquidation
#3. We knew we had to get out of there. North Palm Beach is an interesting
microcosm of the world. For gypsies such as us, it's a nice place to
visit, but it great to be able to leave.
Kate and DJ were homeschooled
for the most part and now that they are 25 and 23 respectively, I can
honestly saw that they have not spent one hour in a psychiatrist's office.
They are doing well. Upon graduation from Cornell, Kate joined the Army
and was a part of the 101st Airborne. She went to Iraq in 2005, only
to find out that she was pregnant with Bobby, born June 4, 2006. Her
husband, Steve, is a Kiawa helicopter pilot and just came home this
past Saturday, thank God. They live in Hopkinsville, KY.
DJ works full-time for
Whole Foods and has just made the decision to transfer from Palm Beach
Gardens, FL to Austin, TX in the hope of pursing a career in music.
We think it will be a good move for him.
Dave and I both worked
"Women Aboard" from its
inception in 1994 until we sold it in late 2002. It was a wonderful
experience to be able to connect women in boating and offer camaraderie
in a world that had, until then, been male oriented. The newsletter,
the classes on boat handling, trailering, living aboard, and the chapter
get-togethers offered a camaraderie that the male-dominated boating
world had not thought important. The membership included women from
all over the world, in fact, one of our very first members was from
the Netherlands! Women Aboard is something that will always hold a special
place in my heart.
After the sale of Women
Aboard, Dave and I captained Boston Whaler's "Unsinkable
Legend Tour," towing one of their cut-in-half Dauntless' all
over the continent in three years. Launching it, driving it, putting
it through it paces for dealer events, boat shows, and national events
like Tall Ships
.we did it all. On one of the events, we discovered
Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Several people we talked with encouraged
us to check it out. Sure enough. It was everything we wanted. Waterfront.
Affordable. Good people. Outstanding restaurants. A small town, yet
close enough to bigger towns like Gulfport and New Orleans. For us,
it was perfect.
The final event of the
2005 Unsinkable Legend Tour occurred on August 6 in San Francisco, and
I cannot tell you how exited we were to go to back home to Bay St. Louis,
MS. After delivering the half-boat back to Boston Whaler, we went home.
That was August 23, 2005. On August 26, Hurricane Katrina emerged in
the Gulf of Mexico after crossing south Florida and that is when we
got our first inkling that the storm was predicted to head our way.
On Saturday, the 27th, we topped off the gas tank in the truck (knowing
that fuel was going to be a premium) and began earmarking items that
we would take along with us when we evacuated on Sunday. Around 10 a.m.
on the 28th we pulled out of our driveway and the water was already
covering the roads. What normally takes seven hours to drive to the
Russell homestead in Kingsland, Arkansas took eleven, since millions
of people were also headed north. Hurricane Katrina struck on the 29th,
and you know the rest of the story. Liquidation #4 was totally unplanned.
The blogs written since
then tell our story post-Katrina. On August 1, 2006 we took delivery
of our new home, the Montana 5th wheel. Ironically a year to the day
later, Tropical Storm Ernesto has formed and is predicted to take the
same path as Katrina. While a day doesn't go by that we think of Bay
St. Louis and our friends who remain there, we know that, for us,
we made the right decision. Today is the first day of the rest of our