I have a long list of the things I admire about my husband. Somewhere on that list is that he never loses his cool. No matter what the circumstances, he seems to stay calm and upbeat.
I first noticed that four years ago when we were celebrating my birthday by going to the opening of a new water adventure park in Orlando.
We arrived in Orlando right in time to join the other thousands of motorists traveling to the theme parks bumper to bumper, a few inches at a time.
Finally, Dave thought the exit to the water park was at hand. I told him it was the next exit. So we passed the way we should have gone and were treated to an even heavier traffic jam.
I apologized for the mistake, knowing I was responsible for keeping us tied up in traffic for at least another hour.
Dave acted as if he were on his boat, basking in sunshine. No short temper. No recrimination. Nothing but easy going. I knew right then and there that anyone who could stay upbeat in that traffic was worth marrying.
This week, I got to watch his coolheaded calm in more trying circumstances. On a kayaking trip to a new area, we separated from the group to head back early because my back was acting up.
Instead of getting back faster, we got lost in the many tributaries that jut off in every direction. OK, let me clarify "lost."
Men never get lost. You know that, don't you? So I need to make it clear we were not lost. We were just paddling longer, looking for the way back – at a time when every stroke hurt my back.
There were other complications besides my pain. The wind was howling, making it difficult to make progress on the water. Worse yet, it was creating waves that were crashing over my boat, soaking me every few minutes.
Things went from bad to worse when my kayak got stuck, wedged between fallen logs. As the waves kept swamping my boat, the kayak rocked from side to side. I thought it would tip over with the next big wave. By that time Dave was too far ahead to hear my cries for help.
Did I mention the alligators? We were on a creek known for its many alligators and had just seen a monstrous one on the side of a bank.
A while back while kayaking with Pennsylvania friends Moe and Colleen, they worried about alligators. I told them there has never been a reported case when an alligator ate a kayaker.
But if you get out of the boat for any reason, you are no longer a kayaker. To a hungry alligator, you're called lunch.
So where was I stuck? Uh huh. On the side of a bank, the kind of location alligators love.
Adrenaline pumped through me at the thought of being an alligator's dinner. Fear gives you strength you don't normally have and I finally found the strength to move my boat out of there.
But I was all by myself and had no idea which way to go.
After what seemed like forever, Dave realized I must be in trouble and doubled back for me.
"It's going to storm," I said, "and we're going to get caught in it."
"So what if we get a little wet?" said the Optimistic One.
"We'll never find our way back," I wailed as we hit one dead end after another.
"Now, honey, don't talk like that. We're not lost," he insisted. "We just made a few wrong turns."
I was praying so hard for some kind of human life. But there was no sign of it. I prayed harder.
I knew enough not to complain because it wouldn't help us. But in my mind, as darkness was closing in early because of the storm, I was wondering when they would find my body.
Then I remembered the alligators and knew there would be no body to find if we had to stay there overnight.
Finally, one of the club members who knew we didn't make it back came looking for us.
Of course, being a guy who understands guys don't get lost, he told us he wasn't searching for us. He was out "exploring."
Dave said we were "exploring" too.
Back on land, he insisted I was never in danger and we were never lost.
"You weren't the one who was stuck with waves crashing over your boat threatening to capsize you," I said.
"You were near the edge of the water. You could have easily gotten back in the boat," he said. Sure I could. If the alligator didn't get me first.
The bottom line is, one of us was being "over dramatic" and not believing in her husband's ability to save us.
The other was unruffled, calm throughout the ordeal.
I'm usually calm in a crisis. Then I shake when it's all over. This time, I had a hard time trying to stay calm when I thought I would end up as an alligator's next meal.
Well, I always talk about how much I love adventure. This was just one more adventure in the life of an outdoor addict who loves being in a kayak – alligators and all.
And the best thing is, I lived to tell about it…and to have one more reason to say "Thank you, God."