Category Archives: Family

Spin Class

Today, we have a special guest post from the lovely Mrs. Thompson, our official wife here at APoC . . .

I am so excited; I get to the Gym early. Dork early. 4:45pm, for the 5:30 class.

The locker room is weird and intimidating. They have a scale like my vet’s office… I don’t want to leave my bag in there because I don’t have a lock for the locker. Who has a lock for their locker?! I throw my hair in a ponytail, put on some chap stick, and head out.

I walk upstairs and think I will check out the spin room and become one with my nervousness, but there is a class going on. It is so loud. I decide to find a corner and sit down. My phone battery is at 10%. I have no charger, so I don’t surf social media. I actually sit and look around at things. It feels…exposed.

A gaggle of women seem to be forming around me. A hot, buff dude walks in and says they are doing a boot camp class and do I want to join them? No, no I don’t. I am here to spin. I am woman. Hear me roar!

I watch boot camp for a while. It looks easy.

Finally, other people start lining up for the 5:30 class. I worry I might not get a bike. I go stand by the door, next to the girl with the shaved head, the old man with skinny legs, and the hot blonde. We don’t speak.

The door opens and lots of sweaty people come out.

I get a bike in the very back corner, then see a girl who looks nice. I walk up to her and say, “Hi, I’m sorry to be this person, but I have never done spin, could you help me out?”

She sighs at me. Actually sighs at me. Then proceeds to give me the low down, bike seat adjustment, handlebars, etc. But I can’t have the bike next to her, because her friend is coming, so could I just scoot down one?

Sure I can.

I am amused.

Finally, the instructor comes in. She is nice, Jody. She walks around and I say, “Hey, I’m new.” She says “Oh, we got us a spin virgin.” I am already uncomfortable on the bike seat, and I say, “it feels like that’s all about to change in a very real way.”

Class starts, and the girl’s friend still hasn’t shown up. She assures me her friend is just running very late…I eye the empty bike between us. A cycle of suspicion.

We start to spin. The music sucks. It’s techno club music and I was looking forward to something I know…like you know, ‘Lil Wayne or Taylor Swift. Raffi. Whatever they have lying around.

The instructor is a yeller. She watches me specifically and I know her eyes are burning into my soul. I think I will impress her, as the quickest learning spin virgin she’s ever known.

She yells “WOODY. PUT YOUR HANDS AT 2!” I look up and she’s yelling at me. She laughs and says, “We call new spinners Woody.”

I smile and move my hands.

2 minutes in, we have turned our knob 10 times. I am keeping up.

3 minutes in, I realize I can’t do this anymore, so I sit and turn my knob all the way back down to nothing. Jody yells GET UP.

I get up.

I warm up, and get a groove. We keep tightening the knob. I finally figure out if I do half of what she says, I can sort of keep my legs moving. Sometimes when she tells us to tighten the knob, I loosen mine. I’m not proud.

Half way through the class, the girl’s friend shows up. I feel better that maybe it wasn’t personal.

At some point, we are sitting more than we are standing. I start to feel…things. I value my lady bits and I become concerned for my own welfare. What if things stop working? What if I have a permanent bike seat disfigurement? Will Travis still love me?

I decide he will, and I peddle on.

15 minutes later, we are back to standing, and I have never been so happy in my life to be standing and peddling a bike. I consider wrapping my towel around my seat before we sit down again, just for a little something.

I wonder what time it is.

This goes on and on. I look around for the clock, hoping that we are close to done, but I can’t find it. My arms are hurting from spin class, and I marvel at how out of shape I must be.

I finally find the clock. We have 4 minutes left. I feel a burst of energy. I can do anything for 4 minutes!

4 minutes later we are still going. I realize the class started 5 minutes late, and Jody is going to give us every bit of time she can.

Turn your knob 3 times to the right!, she says.

#@%& you! I actually say out loud.

I turn my knob once to the left, an act of rebellion that gives me the strength to go on.

Finally, we are done. The girl who sighs and her late friend tell me I should try a different class because they have better music. I walk to my car, feeling good. I feel great actually.

I think…I think I liked it.


You think this is fun?

If my kids were writing this blog, it would probably go something like this:

Dad is so nuts.  Every Saturday, I’m talking about every one, he’s all like “we’ve got to get up
at the butt crack of dawn and go do something.  It’s like he’s got this crazy lens for looking at “fun” and it’s all about hunting and fishing and Bass Pro shops and taking boat rides.  He’s out of his mind.

Yeah.  I mean, he’s always pointing things out to us, like the whistle that a wood duck makes, or how to tell when a snook strikes, that distinct “pop” sound . . .

How to tell which way a gobbler is going, and whether he’s already on hens.  The right time to take the ducks as they’re dropping into the decoys.  How to set the decoys out so that the ducks will want to land inside them, not outside.  How to let a shrimp drift just right, so it doesn’t appear to be hooked at all, but still be able to detect the bite . . .

I’m saying, he’s so bananas that he holds classes on the boat to teach us how to tie a knot, or bait a hook, or how to get more distance out of a cast.  I mean, who does that?

What high school freshman girl needs to know the difference between a full choke and improved cylinder?  What 8 year old boy needs to be able to identify every shark indigenous to Florida?

He’s even gotten us hooked on bird dogs!  Do you know how awful a wet Brittany Spaniel smells?  Like soured fertilizer baked on oysters . . . but my room doesn’t feel the same without that faint odor . . .

His latest thing is the smell of rubber boots – like some tire factory has captured their essence into a perfume . . . we get to the snipe field and he’s like “smell that – the dew? And the grass? The dogs and those boots?  Doesn’t it smell magical?”

He thinks this is fun?!?!?!?

We’re seriously thinking about having him committed . . . we just can’t find the time to do it . . . maybe after turkey season . . . no, then it’s tarpon time . . . then redfish . . . then dove . . . then ducks . . . deer . . . small game . . . oh well, maybe it is kinda fun . . .

At least, I hope that’s what they’re thinking . . .


on bird dogs . . .

I’m not exactly sure how or when my infatuation with bird dogs began.

I came by this naturally, by the way.  My maternal grandfather was a quail hunting tour-de-force, almost always with a pointer or 3 leading the way.

My dad raised beagles when we were very young, so gun dogs were abundant.  There were always 2 or 3 in the kennels, until a litter came along.  Toby and Max and Dutchess and Bear wandered through my adolescence with their tri-colored saddles and soulful howls.

But somewhere, and I don’t remember the switch exactly, we ended up with a Brittany.  Abracadabra was her name, which we shortened to Magic.

Magic was an appropriate name for her, as she promptly disappeared anytime there was gunfire.  She had those piercing green eyes that come standard issue on Brits, and I was determined to cure her of gunshyness.  My plan was two fold – I took my portable electronic drum sticks, complete with belt attached speaker; I would crank the lawnmower up, and have it idle in the background so my parents would think I was mowing, plus it added to the noise.  Then I’d stand over poor Magic, that speaker precariously close to her ears, and bang on those imaginary drums.

It didn’t work.

Copper was a natural, another Brittany who pointed a covey of quail his first time out.  He was dad’s dog, really, orange dappled with style on his points.  A freak kidney stone accident took him from us before his time . . .

Daisy was an English setter – a Llewellyn, to be exact, with blonde feathering beneath the silky white.  Daisy was another born natural, minus a couple of quirks . . . She covered so much ground that she’d be on point in the next county before you’d get near her; also, she hated me.  This one is still baffling, as when she was small she slept in my room, my hand in her crate all night.  But, for some weird reason, she would not come near me.  My sister, who never spent any time with the dogs, Daisy would lick her in the face; me, begging to show her affection, nada.  She would run in circles, just outside of arms reach the whole time I was in the yard.  In hindsight, Daisy was like a prep course for my first marriage.

Ozzie, the gigantic liver and white Brittany who towered over my mother but had no interest in hunting.  Swish, the ill named and incestuously bred Brit that yelped every 4 seconds for 7 straight days.

Even today, my house is alive with the clatter of nails on hardwood as two French Brittanys clown their way through life.

I’d love to romanticize the idea – a cold, rainy, winter’s night; the hunter sits in his chair, in front of the fire, reading a Ruark novel, the Brittany asleep at his feet, worn out from the morning’s hunt.  In reality, though, I’m probably watching a rerun of the Office, one dog chewing on my shoes while the other does lay in front of the fire, but not too close in case he farts and ignites the entire scene.  Having just taken them out to pee in the rain, the smell of wet gun dog mingles with the smell of the fire, some mystical humidifier from hell permeating the room.  My wife, like a million wives before, will come in to chastise the pups for some trash can they’ve overturned, or bed they’ve unmade, or chew toy they’ve created, and I’ll watch as they cock their head and look at her, trying to understand, and I’ll smile, and I’ll think . . . there’s just something about bird dogs . . .

Mailboxes and catalogs . . .

When I was little, getting the mail was a big deal.  And I’m a little sad that that’s coming to an end.

This is probably a foreign concept to my kids, but, back in those days, you rushed to the mailbox.  The mailbox was a Pandora’s box of dreams come true.  You never knew when you’d receive a letter, or a postcard from a more adventurous relative.  Maybe birthday money.  Or the hopes that were contained inside the Publisher’s Clearinghouse envelope, the one promising you 6 million dollars.

Magazines were big for me, too.  Field and Stream and Florida Wildlife and Sports Illustrated* and Florida Sportsman all showed up on some sort of interval, bringing a sort of mini-Christmas with them.

*It was very important, come February, to beat your Southern Baptist mother to the mailbox for your date with Kathy Ireland, otherwise the swimsuit issue would land in the garbage.

But, for me, the highlight of the mail run was the catalogs.  Remember, this is 10 plus years before Amazon would become a mainstream word.  There was just something so thrilling about opening the mailbox and seeing the latest from JC Penney, or Sears.  Or, the greatest of all, the outdoor companies . . .

Cabela’s and Gander Mountain were standard affairs . . . I’d circle and fold all of the things I knew a 13 year old Florida boy needed – an 8 person tent, a sleeping bag that would warm to -60 below, knee high snake boots.  Canada goose decoys and pronghorn antelope calls and snow colored camo and bear repellant.  Dog training aids and lamps with bobwhites mounted under glass and pheasant pelts were must haves.

Clicking it into a higher gear were Orvis, and LL Bean, and Dunn’s.  Only a true gentleman would hunt woodcock with a side by side Greener, while wearing a wool vest over a houndstooth shirt.  Sure, that Browning Citori would cost more than my college degree, but the knowing looks from the gentlemen I hunted with would surely be worth more in social currency.  A Billy Pate fly reel would surely catch handsomer fish . . .

I’d sing from the heaven’s, if, come Christmas morning I unwrapped a watch with a greenhead on it, or a vintage ammo sign, or a plaid shirt color matched to a grouse . . . anything that came from those tattered pages . . .

I only think about this now, in this age of 24/7 online availability.  In fact, I can buy 3 or 4 Greener’s right now on Gunbroker, and have them before the end of quail season.  I debate about whether I need a different shade of camoflauge on my jacket, or whether or not the 7 1/2’s pattern better in one of my guns than the 8’s do . . . about which hats to wear duck hunting vs dove hunting vs turkey hunting . . . about sealed bearing drags vs traditional drag systems . . . lures that walk in circles vs hooks sharpened by moon rocks and lasers . . . I can guarantee, that at this very moment, I have carts with items waiting to be bought at Bass Pro, and Cabelas, and Mack’s Prairie Wings, just begging for the “checkout” button to be clicked.

And it makes me think about the simplicity of a boy that just wanted to be outside, circling dreams in a catalog as place holders for ducks he’d one day shoot, and fish he’d one day chase . . .

38 lessons for 38 years . . .

38 Things I’ve learned as I passed 38 late last year:

  1. Never make the first or third out at third base.
  2. Girls LOVE getting flowers.  No matter what they say.  “Don’t waste money on flowers” is the “do I look fat in this” of gifts . . .
  3. Dogs are important.  Pet them.  Spend time with them.  Their only true fault is they don’t live very long.
  4. No matter if it’s week 42, and she’s wearing an “it’s a girl” t-shirt, and an OB is following her around, do not, under any circumstances, ask if she’s pregnant . . .
  5. Make time to write.  Or run.  Or read.  Or whatever makes you tick.
  6. Sometime, within the next 18 years, your kids won’t be here every day.  So turn the TV off and spend time with them.  Read to them.  Build a fort or bake a cake or ride a bike.
  7. Intentionally add value to people.  Every day.  Got that from John Maxwell.  Should tattoo it to my forearm.
  8. Choose trust over suspicion.  It’ll get everyone further.
  9. Try to watch as many sunsets or sunrises as you can.
  10. Be nice.  It’s honestly easier.  Ask people, as often as you can, “Can I do anything for you?” . . . mean it . . .
  11. The person on the other end of the line is someone’s husband/mother/daughter/brother.  They got up this morning, just like you did.  It’s not their fault that Dell outsourced support to India.  Yelling at them won’t make Dell rethink it.  It won’t make you feel better.
  12. Listen to “All I Want for Christmas” in July.  Or September.  Bonus points if you crank it up with the kids and belt it at the top of your lungs.  Double bonus points if you roll the windows down and belt it out as your middle-schooler walks into the school.
  13. When you roll your eyes, and you’re on the phone, people can hear it in your voice.
  14. Catching the fish again is better than eating the fish.
  15. Never tap a white tiger on the nose with a microphone.
  16. Clarification on number 11.  It may actually feel better while you’re doing it, but you won’t after you hang up.
  17. Remember who you are.  Don’t try to be someone you’re not.
  18. “the Art of Possibility” is one of the best books of all time.  Pick it up again from time to time.
  19. ALWAYS thank veteran’s for their service.  And hold the door open for the person behind you.
  20. Don’t shoot the ducks after they’ve landed.  It’s not sporting.
  21. They will remember that you made time for them, took them hunting, took them fishing, rode bikes; the time you were PRESENT.  Yeah, that’s kinda the same as number 6, but it bears repeating, don’t you think?
  22. Take care of your back
  23. If you feel it in your gut, you should probably follow that feeling.
  24. Red Sox, Ohio St. and Gator fans are the WORST.  Try to avoid mixing with these fanbases, and, under all circumstances, don’t date them . . . .
  25. Dressing nice and dressing inexpensively are not mutually exclusive.
  26. The Cubs don’t win in the end.  Ever.
  27. Close doesn’t count.  Wait – that’s not entirely true – sometimes close does count.
  28. Black and white is a hard way to live; gray is way easier
  29. Do NOT judge others.  You cannot possibly know all of the factors surrounding their situation.
  30. At 30, your body stops being resilient to cheeseburgers for breakfast.
  31. It’s impossible to listen to the opening of “Sweet Home Alabama” and not feel happy or sing along with the chorus.
  32. Kiss your wife. Every.  Day.  It’s easy, and fun.  Make it required.
  33. Snook always bite better on an outgoing tide.
  34. Make time for grandparents.  They can be gone very quickly . . .
  35. Don’t be resistant to change.  Change is your opportunity to change, too
  36. Spend money on good shoes and a good coat
  37. Watch “White Christmas” with your family at least once a year.
  38. Say “I love you” – but think about the fact that you mean it, don’t just tag it onto the end of phone calls and visits.

Creative mowing

I suppose a blog is nothing, if not a place to share stories.  I like that idea.

This post should be subtitled “The time my mom should have beat me but didn’t but still almost killed me because of what I did to our yard”

September 28th, 1991.  I was 3 months shy of my 15th birthday.

How can I be sure that was the day?  Oh.  I’m sure.  See, Florida State was playing Michigan in Ann Arbor.  Amp Lee was the FSU running back, and he was silky smooth all day long.  State won, by like 20 points.  It was an epic moment for my football youth fandom.

Some of the details of the day are a bit foggy, but some I remember like it was yesterday.  Because, the day wasn’t really about FSU/Michigan so much as it was about Night of Joy.

Night of Joy.  If you were a teenager in the Central Florida area, this was one of the greatest nights of your life.  For those of you outside the Central Florida region, NoJ is a Christian music festival held at Disney World.  The park would stay open until midnight or 1 am.  Kids that had never been to church in their life would suddenly appear at youth group the week before, and then be on the van for the ride over.  As a hormone filled 14 year old (almost 15) boy, this event was met with wonder at the fact that the hot cheerleader who never seemed to notice you at school was now sitting behind you on the church bus.

I just want to also take a moment and interject here that, in full disclosure, as a devout Southern Baptist raised teenager, I knew that sex and kissing would both send me to hell.  But I also knew that I could be forgiven for my sins, and that honestly, how could I help it if she came onto me during the Haunted Mansion ride, and I could just re-pray the sinner’s prayer come Sunday morning and we’d be all good.  Needless to say, I had it all figured out.

3:23 – our youth pastor always always ALWAYS picked odd times like that for us to leave.  I don’t remember for sure that it was 3:23.  I am certain that it was an odd time, like 3:23, or 4:17.  He felt like we would remember those times better.  I believed him.

Anyway – I’m rambling.  The story goes something like this:

I had won a free ticket to NoJ through some kind of game at youth group.  FSU/Michigan was, to my recollection, a noon kickoff, which meant it’d be over by 3:15 or so, 10 minutes to the church, 45 minutes to Disney, and 30 minutes later I’d be in 7 minutes in heaven with Miss Junior Cheerleader.

And, as I remember it, my dad waltzed in around 11 (again, these times are from memory, so they may be off by a minute or two), and announced that, unless the yard was mowed, I was not going to Night of Joy.

Yeah right.  There’s no way Steve and Joy (as my parents are called by people who aren’t their offspring) are going to keep me from going.  I’d won a free ticket.

So I settled in and watched FSU/Michigan.  It was a turf game, wherein Bobby Bowden would claim that the Noles would go in, beat an opponent on their field, and bring back a block of the turf to some sort of cemetery for sod in Tallahassee.  I remember learning about turf games on ESPN right before kickoff.

This is incredibly nerdy, but I remember Terrell Buckley intercepted an Elvis Grbac pass and returned it for a touchdown.  I’m savant-like that way.  I also remember a trick play where Casey Weldon passed out to a backup quarterback named Charlie Ward, who passed it back to Weldon for a big gain.

The game was INTENSE.  Like.  If I hadn’t been home, I might have VCR’d it, ’cause it was huge.

So the game ends, and I go get dressed to hit up the church.  And my parents drop the hammer.

“You’re not going to Night of Joy until the yard is mowed”

Did anyone else’s mom have that tone, that “damn right I’m serious boy” tone?  This was that.  I knew that arguing was pointless.  I trudged outside and cranked the lawnmower.

Someone should remind me to do a post about lawnmower theatrics, because how I survived my teenage years with my lawnmower experiences is a definite thing.

My parents lived on an acre lot, about 2/3rds of which was mowable.  So I started plugging along.  With a push mower.

The days were getting shorter, and the sunlight was almost perfect.  I could see my jerk best friend Tony sidling up to blondie on 20,000 Leagues under the Sea while I was toiling in the Florida heat, where a fall evening is still 82 degrees.

By the time I reached the field between our house and the neighbor’s, I had made up my mind – this was not fair!  I’d had to forgo my free (earned!) ticket!  Tony was getting the girl!  My parents were slave drivers!

And that’s when it hit me – what could I do to protest?  How could I show them that I would mow their stupid yard, but not without lodging a complaint.

Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy with a push mower.  I had to stop at the end of every row and raise and lower the wheels with precision.  It probably took me an extra hour.  But it was.  SO.  WORTH.  IT.

Because, while my friends were busy scoring at Night of Joy (in all honesty, no one ever scored at any youth event – we just all thought we would), I was having my Sistine Chapel moment.

There, on the gently sloping field between our house and the Swart’s, I had carved the perfect Disney Channel logo, complete with Mickey Mouse ears, alternating stripes, and the words “Mickey Mouse” above and below it.

To this day, I’m fairly certain the only reasons Steve and Joy didn’t kill me were: a) the yard was mowed, and b) they were laughing too hard . . .

Bedtime Stories

Every night, almost without fail, I pile into Will’s bed to read Harry Potter.

August 24th, 2012 is when we started.  Every night they are at my house, we read.

Some nights it’s a page.  Other nights it’s a chapter.  photo

Liv has crashed in for some of the highlights – the first page, the introduction of Delores Umbridge, Dumbledore’s death; but it’s usually Will and me.  Me and Will.

And I’ll read.  I’ve been know to read for over an hour.  He’ll raise his hand when he has a question – “what does condescending mean,” or “Who is Cattermole?”

When we’re done, without fail, he’ll ask “how many pages did we read?”

And I answer.  2.  12.  28.

So far, we’ve read about 3800 pages.  187 chapters.

Every time we finish a chapter, he studies the illustration on the next chapter . . . there are these little drawings above the chapter names . . . We spend a few minutes, every time, talking about that drawing, and what we think it means, about what’s coming, about what’s next . . .

The thing is, the end is in sight.  Harry and Hermione are in the tent.  We only have about 10 chapters left.

Will’s a different little guy.  When I was his age, I was all about baseball and kickball and football and hunting and fishing and being outside.  He isn’t.  I mean, he goes fishing with me, or hunting, but he’s way more into electronics and gadgets.  How things work and why.  So sometimes he comes to my world and sometimes I go to his.

I’ll fumble my way through a minecraft session, he’ll play with the fishfinder on the boat.

But, for that brief period every night, no matter how our days went, our world’s intersect . . . our interests blend . . . over magic and wizards and heroes and villains . . .

And, each night, at the very end, he’ll look at me, with those tired brown eyes – “Can I roll over on you daddy?”

I lie there on my back, and he crawls up on me, and nuzzles his head against my neck.

And we lay there, and listen to each other breath, and he giggles at my heartbeat.

“I love you daddy . . . you’re my best buddy.”

And I lie there, my arms wrapped tight around my son, my boy, and I think about what it means, about what’s coming, about what’s next . . . and I reply “I love you too buddy . . . I love you too”