Director of Foodservice, Corpus Christi Independent School District in Texas
Hometown: Corpus Christi, Texas
Education: Bachelor’s in nutrition and dietetics from the University of Texas in Austin and a master’s in business administration from Corpus Christi State University
Two Children: Heather, 23, is a teacher and Joseph, 20, is in the Army
After Jody Houston’s children graduated high school, Houston was looking for something to fill her free time. A friend mentioned scuba diving. Houston, who has been an avid water sportswoman all her life, decided to give it a shot. Here, Houston, director of foodservice for 38,500-student Corpus Christi (Texas) Independent School District, recalls the beauty—and the fear—of scuba diving.
“Susan, a good friend of mine, and I were eating dinner and we were talking about what we were going to do now that our children were graduated from high school because she and I both spent a lot of time following them around. She said, ‘My brother goes scuba diving and he’s always wanted me to do it,’ and I said that sounds kind of interesting. So we took lessons. We got our open-water certification in Lake Travis in Austin.
There is some bookwork, class work and testing to get certified. When we did our open-water certification, we went down about 30 feet. We got hotdogs and fed some catfish. One of the catfish bit my thumb; it was about half the size of me, but it was still fun. When you are down there you have to take off your gear and then put it back on to make sure that you can do that if you need to. You take off your mask and your air supply to demonstrate that you aren’t going to freak out.
During my open-water certification, I got lost. I was with my friend and we started going down further and she had a problem with her mask, so the master diver told me to go ahead and he’d be right back. So I went down and sat on the bottom for quite a while. It was probably 10 minutes, but it sure seemed longer. I kept looking at all my gauges and saying, ‘OK, I know what I’m doing and I know how to get out of this if I need to.’ I thought I was sitting [still], but apparently I was going with the current. The diver went up to the surface and saw everybody there and said, ‘I’ve lost Jody.’ So a few minutes later, he came down and he found me.
He was then going to show me a sunken ship and he signaled for me to keep my buoyancy, which I obviously hadn’t learned at that point. I put too much air in my buoyancy compensator and the next thing I knew, I’d popped up to the top. You aren’t supposed to do that. You are supposed to come up slowly so that you don’t do your body damage. When I popped up to the top, it really scared me. From the shore they said all they could see were my feet coming up because I kept trying to swim back down.
Susan’s family was taking a trip to Cozumel and they invited me. It’s beautiful. There are all these coral reefs and they just drop off. You’ll be swimming along and then you look down and see this abyss and you can’t see the bottom. On the first dive, Susan’s brother held my hand the whole time. It was a little frightening. We went down 100 feet one dive. I don’t think I was supposed to go that deep. But there was a couple from England on our boat and they wanted to go through a cave. Susan’s brother was pretty experienced so he said he would take us around the cave. So we did that. Susan and I were swimming along and I looked up and Susan was way above me. I swam up to were she was and there was this big barracuda right in front of her.
It’s a whole other world. It’s so clear. You see the above-water world all the time and there are lots of things I haven’t seen, but the underwater world is completely different. It’s like you’re swimming in an aquarium. We’ve seen sharks, great big turtles, all colors and manner of fish, lobster and crabs.
Every time I go down, there is a an adrenaline rush, but once I get down, it feels really natural.”