Fitting In

Jeremiah had always hated the first day of school, but it was particularly worse when it was at a new school. He should be used to it by now. As a child of a military parent he’d never stayed more than two years at any one place.

But what do students wear in Vallejo? At Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, his last home, everyone wore t-shirts with crazy sayings or movie references. Granted, he was in eighth grade then, a time when kids could still be silly, so things might have changed if he’d stayed there for high school. He’ll never know, though.

But he’s got to be prepared. He has to have the right clothes before orientation, which is tomorrow. If he walks on campus wearing out-of-fashion clothes, his entire academic career will be shot.

“Mom? Can you take me shopping?” he asked when he spotted his mom cleaning the bathroom.

She sat up, brushed hair out of her eyes and said, “What do you need?”


“You’ve got plenty of clothes. Why do you need more?”

“I don’t know what kids wear here and the only way to find out before the orientation is to go to the mall. Whatever’s in the stores is what kids will be wearing.”

She sighed. “Let me finish here and then I’ll take you.”

Jeremiah went into the kitchen and fixed himself a peanut butter sandwich. He poured himself some water and took an apple from the bowl. He carried it all to the front room where he turned on the television, shuffled through stations, eventually landing on a baseball game.

“Let’s go,” his mom said several minutes later as she picked up her purse and keys. “We’ve got about an hour before I need to begin dinner.”

Within minutes they were at the outlet mall, one of those that sold discounted designer labels. Jeremiah found two awesome shirts and a pair of shoes at the Nike store, two shirts at Under Armour and one at Adidas.

“Thanks, Mom,” he said. “I didn’t want to look like a dork.”

She smiled as she drove toward their military housing. “You’re not a dork.”

“Anyone can be one if they don’t wear the right clothes.”

At home Jeremiah removed the tags from his new clothes and put them in his drawers. Then he got out his bike and rode around his neighborhood looking for kids his age. He was sure there would be some since this was the family housing section. For the longest time he saw no one, but on a third trip around the block he spotted a couple of teenagers standing in front of one of the units.

Jeremiah stopped next to them. “Hi.”

They stared at him like he was crazy.

“I’m new.”

They snickered. “Yeah, we figured that out as soon as we saw the bike.”

Jeremiah looked from side to side and saw no bikes. Okay. So he’s already discovered one rule here: nobody rides bikes. “Do you go to Fairfield High?”

“Yeah.” The blond haired boy said, “I’m Josh. I’m a sophomore.”

The black haired one said he was called Trevor and he was a freshman.

“So am I,” Jeremiah said. “Are you going to orientation tomorrow?”

“Yeah. It’s required,” Trevor said. “Besides, I’m new here, like you.”

“Do you walk to school?” Jeremiah asked.

“Nah. Our moms are friends now, so they’ll take turns driving us.”

Jeremiah wanted to ask for a ride, but that would be dorky. “Well, I’d better go. Maybe I’ll see you.”

When he got home, he told his mom about meeting the boys. She was happy for him. “The best part?” Jeremiah said, “They were both wearing shirts like my new ones. Now I know I won’t stand out.”

The next day Jeremiah was ready early. He was wearing his new shoes and the Adidas shirt. He felt pretty confident that he would fit in.

They arrived about twenty minutes before the orientation began. In the office she filled out some forms and picked up an information packet. Jeremiah was given his class schedule. Using a map they walked around campus, following his schedule, so that he’d know where to go. Jeremiah knew he could have figured this out on his own, so se was glad when his mom left.

He went into the gym where the first session was being held. Trevor waved to him, so he climbed up the bleachers and sat next to him.

“So,” Trevor said, “let’s compare schedules.”

It turned out that they had PE and English together. Considering that there were eight hundred or so freshman, that was pretty good. “Maybe we can study together,” Trevor said. “I struggle in English but I’m awesome in Algebra.”

“Sure,” Jeremiah said. “That will make it a lot more fun.”

“I’ll ask Josh, but maybe you can join our carpool.”

Jeremiah nodded. “That would be great.”

They stayed together for the rest of orientation, even getting into the same small group led by a senior. When there were breaks they talked about their interests. Trevor played baseball while Jeremiah wanted to be on the football team. Jeremiah liked horror movies but read fantasy. Trevor also liked horror movies and played video games.

By the time the morning was over, Jeremiah knew he had a new best friend. He smiled as he climbed in his mom’s car. “Guess what? I’m going to fit in here just fine.”

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I Have Truly Been Blessed

Every day I count my blessings.

When I awake, I am blessed with another day.

When I rest my head on my pillow at night,

I am blessed because I lived through another day.


I have a most wonderful husband.

He blesses me in all the wonderful things he does

To fulfill my life.

To keep my strong with his cooking.

To support me in all the endeavors in which I partake.

In being by my side through all these many years.


I am blessed to be the mother of three wonderfully

Talented, special grown children

Who live fulfilling lives of their own.

It fills me with tearful joy whenever I hear their voices

Whenever I get to spend time with them

Are some of the best days of my life.

They make me feel intense pride

And joy and love.

And I miss them, even though I am proud that

They are doing fine on their own.


I am blessed with family

That comes in many forms.

There are my seven grandchildren who are

Uniquely gifted.

Who are kind and generous and caring.

Who are succeeding in diverse ways.

And whom I love dearly.

There are other family members who

Hold special places in my heart.

They call, ask how things are going,

Share stories, sit and talk, share meals

And many more special ways.


I am blessed with friends

Who care about me

Who enjoy being with me

In whom I find support and comfort.

They nurture me artistically,

Share fun times and with whom I have great talks.

Our connections span years,

And even when separated by space and time,

We connect when chance encounters brings us together.


In all these ways,

God has been there for me.

He walks with me, helps me, cares for me.

For all this, I can say with all honesty,

That I am truly blessed.

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Scary Experience

On Monday of this week I had a real scare.

I had eaten lunch and gone to the gym. Then I went to a local store to buy some things I needed. After picking out a nice birthday card, I ran into a friend that I had not seen for many years.

We fell into our old friend patterns, talking, sharing, asking questions. It was wonderful to see her! It reminded me of all the talking did while we played on the same soccer teams, the visits to each other’s houses, and all the good times.

All of a sudden it felt like all the blood was flooding out of my head, pouring down my neck and out of my body. I half expected to see a pool of blood at my feet. Thankfully there wasn’t, but it didn’t alter the fact that I suddenly felt quite woozy.

Most stores do not have chairs placed about, and this was so. I knew I needed to sit. The only thing nearby was a display. As I headed toward that, my friend started calling for help.

A young man came to my assistance. He just happened to be a nursing student and he knew exactly what to do. While he was tending me, my friend called my husband and told him to get over to the store. Someone else called 911.

The store employees also came to my assistance. One got a wheelchair. A couple of others blocked me off from all the lookie-loos that were stopping by to stare.

Somewhere along the way I actually lost consciousness. It was supposedly only for a few seconds, but when I came to, the young man was cradling my head.

Meanwhile several people helped move me to a wheelchair and out of the aisle so that things were a little more private.

My friend told me that employees helped guide the paramedics to me. One stood outside in the cold, without a jacket, until they arrived. Another stood just inside the door and walked them to me. Both of these employees oversaw my care while my friend kept watch for my husband.

The decision was made to transport me to the hospital because my blood pressure was quite low. I heard the numbers, but they mean nothing to me.

In the ambulance the first thing they did was run an EKG, then my blood pressure was monitored and an IV was begun. The paramedics were awesome. The one riding with me kept me calm by explaining everything that he was doing and by asking questions to keep me focused.

By the time we reached the hospital my blood pressure had improved, but was still low. I was taken to the ER. Tests were run. The only thing they could find was that my kidney function was a bit low, a sign of dehydration. I was given fluids. Lots of fluids.

Because of fainting, the ER doctor insisted that I spend the night. It was long and boring. I was not moved to a regular room, but kept in an observation part of the ER. Of course this means all kinds of noise and disruption.

I think I got about four hours sleep, but none of it was in a block.

After running an electrocardiogram on Tuesday and finding nothing, I was released. Actually, the electrocardiogram was the most exciting part of the whole affair. It was pretty neat watching the beating of my heart, from the inside!

The bad news is that I cannot drive until I’ve been cleared by my doctor.

Tuesday afternoon my husband drove me to the store so I could get the items I had intended to buy. While there I asked to speak to a manager. I thanked her and the employees for their care and assistance.

As I was about to leave, two employees who had been there came up to me and asked how I was. This was quite touching.

Today I contacted the store’s website and explained what had happened and how much I appreciate all that the employees did to help me.

I hope this helps the employees. They deserve all kinds of recognition. I just wish I knew their names.

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Back in March I experienced the first of the most incredible pain I’ve felt, other than when I had my knees replaced. This pain was an intense squeezing of the chest. I thought for sure that I was having a heart attack and was soon to die. But I said nothing at the time.

In fact, I experienced several of these episodes over a period of months before I finally said something to my doctor about it. She immediately thought of spasms of the esophagus, something I’d never heard of.

I researched the condition, and lo and behold, those were my symptoms!

The spasms continued, sometimes with incredible intensity, sometimes to a lesser degree, but altogether painful.

My doctor ordered a barium X-ray which showed that there was a hole in my diaphragm. My stomach had moved upward, with a good one-third sticking through the hole.

I was referred to a surgeon who is going to fix everything, but his first requirement was that I lose a substantial amount of weight before he would fix a date.

Time has passed. I have lost 32 plus pounds. My surgery will be this coming Friday, March 2.

While the months passed, I didn’t concern myself with the details. It seemed so remote that there was no purpose served in thinking about it. My main concern was losing weight.

Now that I am down to days, it has become real. Last night I found myself thinking about it instead of sleeping. I assume that this will continue all week, until Thursday night when I won’t be able to sleep at all.

It’s odd that I am concerned. I trust the doctor. While the surgery details may seem complicated, he made it sound like a piece of cake. I am confident in his ability to perform the surgery with no complications.

But that does not mean that I don’t think about it.

I’ve taken care of the details. I’ve packed my personal items, including a book, for Mike to bring me after my surgery is complete. I’ve packed my clothes that I will wear home from the hospital. I’ve purchased the liquid diet drinks that I will consume for the 8-10 days after I come home.

I will clean my bird cages before the surgery even though it’s two days early. I will change the sheets so that I come home to a clean bed. I will make sure that all laundry is done, folded and put away.

I am as prepared as I possibly can be.

Please keep me in your prayers and thoughts.


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Nighttime Adventure

It was not a dark and stormy night but rather a clear spring evening, the sun just going down, rays of golden light streaking across the sky. It was a night for being out, for great adventures, for having fun before the expected rains began to fall the next morning.

And so it was that Jon Michaels and Steve Johnson huddled against the back wall of the high school, obscured by shadows that had fallen as the sun slowly sank below the horizon.

Steve, the older of the two, had bulk and brawn on his side. He played football, basketball and baseball, the star of all three. The golden boy, the most popular kid in school, but not necessarily the brightest.

Jon, on the other hand was slim with narrow shoulders and hips. His head barely came up to Steve’s abs, but what he lacked in size he made up for in dexterity. His fingers flew over the keyboard, tapping out code faster than any other kid in school, even faster than his teacher.

For some unknown reason the two dissimilar boys were friends. Had been since Jon moved into the neighborhood during the summer before freshman year. Shortly after Jon climbed out of the family’s minivan, Steve showed up. Four years later they were still friends.

Tonight, however, would test the strength of that friendship and Jon knew it. Success depended upon him and he was so nervous that his teeth chattered.

Steve stabbed Jon in the chest, pushing him up against the wall. “Look, you can do it. You’ve practiced it a hundred times.”

“No, I can’t,” Jon whined. “My hands are shaking.” He held both hands out for inspection and then stuck them in the pockets of his baggy jeans.

“Just remember the steps,” Steve said. “It’s not rocket science.” He turned Jon around to face the downspout. “All you have to do is shimmy up, find the door and pick the lock. Piece of cake.”

Jon attempted to step away, but Steve had him trapped. “What if I can’t climb this thing? What if I get caught?”

“It’s Sunday night. There’s no one on campus. You won’t get caught.” He smiled encouragingly and slung his arm over Jon’s shoulders. “We’re buds, remember? Buds help each other out. I’ve been keeping you safe from the bullies, now it’s your turn to save me.”

Jon sighed. “What if there’s an alarm, hunh? I’ll be caught while you run away.”

Steve wrapped Jon’s hands on the spout. “Climb.” He held his interlaced fingers together, forming the first step of the climb. “Do it. Now.”

Jon put his right foot in Steve’s hands and using his own, pulled himself up to a standing position.

“Pretend it’s a rope. Use the clamps as leverage.”

Jon climbed, but it wasn’t easy. The bricks left his knuckles red and raw. His sneakers slipped over and over, causing him to slide down several inches each time he moved his hands up. The spout, despite being made of metal, seemed fragile. Jon was afraid that it would collapse, sending him flying to the ground where his body would break into a thousand pieces.

Because of his fear, it seemed to take forever, far longer than either boy had imagined.

The plan was simple. Scale the spout. Pick the rooftop lock. Go down to the first floor where English classes were held. Pick the lock to Grady’s classroom. Find the test on Grady’s desk and take just one copy. Then go out the front doors even though it would set off the alarm and run like heck. By the time the cops showed up, both boys would be sauntering down Main Street as if nothing had happened.

To prepare they had watched videos on YouTube about picking locks with nothing but a hairpin. Getting the pin was easy: Steve took one of his mom’s when she was watching television.  She’d never miss just one.

Unfortunately it took ten before they successfully picked the first lock, then another three before they could do it in five seconds or less. With his nimble fingers Jon was the fastest, which is why he was now scaling the spout.

Up and up Jon went, moving slower than a snail, but making progress. Steve whispered encouragement, not daring to shout for fear that a passing neighbor might hear noise and investigate.

It was scary enough waiting until all the groups of kids shooting hoops had left. Steve and Jon had joined in, pretending to be interested in the activity, all the while silently hoping that the others would soon give up and go home but it wasn’t until sunset that the playground was finally empty.

Jon reached the roof and slithered over the small wall at the top. He landed heavily on his left side, temporarily pinning his arm under his body. It hurt like heck. Added to that was the pain from the scrapes, the cramps in his legs and the persistent shaking of his entire body.

He lay there for what felt like hours but was probably only a minute or two. Once his breathing had stabilized, Jon stood, leaned over the wall and waved at Steve. But Steve was not there.

Jon looked all over for his friend, but couldn’t see him huddling against the fence or by the wall. He shrugged. “Might as well get to it,” he said.

Jon had never been on the roof so he had no idea what a maze of pipes and vents it was. He had to zig and zag to avoid tripping or banging against something. On top of that was the bank of solar panels that created deep shadows.

He was proud of the panels, though. It was nice to know that his school was embracing the new technology.

When he reached the door, Jon took out one of the hairpins which Steve had straightened using a pair of pliers so that it would easily slip into the keyhole. Jon bent down until he was eye-level and stuck the pin in the slot.

Jon maneuvered it as he had practiced, waiting nervously to hear the satisfying click, but nothing happened. He moved it up and down, side to side, over and over, taking way more time than any of the practice locks had taken. Finally, it happened. The click. Jon felt it and heard it. A sound so small that it there had been any noise, he wouldn’t have heard a thing. But it was there. It was real.

Jon turned the knob and pulled. The door opened and best of all, no alarm sounded.

It was dark inside, so Jon pulled a mini flashlight from his pocket, turned it on and flashed it around. There was nothing texcept a flight of narrow metal stairs, pretty much what the boys had expected.

He carefully went down the steps, wondering when he might trigger an alarm. But nothing happened. No screeches, no wails, no sirens.

Jon came to another door. He picked it, much quicker this time and pulled it open. That’s when it happened. The alarm went off so loud that it hurt his ears.

At first he froze, standing as still as possible, hoping the noise would end if there was no movement. But that didn’t work, so he ran down the remaining two flights of stairs.

At that point he had a decision to make: get into Grady’s classroom and steal the test or make a run for it out the front doors.

Steve would be angry if Jon didn’t get the test, so he headed to the room. As the alarm wailed, Jon calmly picked the lock. It only took one try. He ran in, found the test in the center of the desk and then took off down the hall and out the front doors.

As planned, he ran toward the trees next to the schoolyard fence and ducked behind the first one. He crouched down, making himself as small as possible. He hoped that his black clothes would make him invisible.

From his hiding place he saw a cop car pull up in front of the school, soon followed by another. Two cops got out of the first car, paired up and headed around the back of the building the remaining two went to the front. Jon watched their flashlights bounce as they walked. They scanned every window, most likely searching for a breech.

Jon had watched enough cop shows to predict what would happen next. He knew that once they found the unlocked doors, they’d search the neighborhood. So he took off running, hoping to find Steve huddled behind a tree or boulder.

He didn’t. He was alone with the stolen test tucked under his shirt.

When Jon came to the end of the trees, he stuffed his hands in his jeans’ pockets and strolled across the park as if nothing was wrong, even though the test seemed to burn his chest.

He came out on Second Street and turned left. He passed Melanie’s house which was lit up, a light on in every window. She was a senior like him, only super good at socializing. The type that belonged to every club on campus. Jon would have liked to be her friend, but he was invisible to her.

Next was Luke’s house. He was two years younger, but in his senior year. One of those super smart kids who skipped grades, graduating from middle school at twelve.

Jon strolled across Alder, waiting as a cop car zoomed by, lights flashing. He was surprised that the town had so many cops, then thought that maybe the chief had called for backup. That scared him so much that he almost peed his pants. He ducked behind a bush in front of a dark house and urinated against the wall.

Before stepping out, thankfully, he looked left and right. Another car went by, this time using its beacon to scan both sides of the street. Jon ducked down, making himself as small as possible, even though the smell of his urine gagged him.

He stayed like that until the streets were quiet. When he thought it was safe, Jon headed to Steve’s house.

When he threw a rock against Steve’s window, Steve opened it and stuck out his head. “Did you get it?” he asked.

“Yeah. But I almost got caught.”

“Hand it over.”

“Not until I get to look at it first. That was the deal,” Jon said, “and I’m sticking to it.”

Steve extended a hand and pulled Jon inside. “Let’s look together,” Steve said. “That way if anything happens to it, we’ll both have seen what’s on it.”

They sat on the bed. Jon took it out from under his shirt and smoothed it out. They bent over the paper, eager to find out what questions Grady was asking.

“Wait a minute,” Steve said as he shoved Jon in the chest. “You got the wrong test.”

“No,” Jon said. “I took the one from the middle of the desk, just like you said.”

Steve pointed at the top of the paper. “Read it.”

“First period. College Prep Junior English.” Jon fell back on the bed. “All that for nothing.”


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Seasons of Love

 When winter winds roar through the trees
And snows softly fall upon the ground,
I’ll think of you.

When spring rains dance in patchy puddles
And flouncy flowers fluff in color bursts,
I’ll think of you.

When summer sun beats down upon the parched land
And children’s cries chorus in syncopated laughs,
I’ll think of you.

When autumn arrives in sprays of orange and brown
And plump pumpkins prance on Halloween night,
I’ll think of you.

Whenever the sun rises and sets
And stars brighten the skies of my dreams,
I’ll think of you.

Wherever you are.
Whatever you’re doing.
Forever and forever.
I’ll think of you.


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Sing Today

Music calls me

To fly with angels

In an azure sky

With gossamer wings

And crowns of golden filigree


Cymbals, harps, and lutes

Create magical tunes

Giving glory to God

And all His mighty works

Music of the soul

Heavenly prayers


Voices lift in harmony

Filling God’s ears with

Sound rejoicing

Blending, splitting, lifting

Toward heaven in

Wondrous rapture


Joining in mysterious

Psalms choruses praise

God day and night

Filling my soul

With delight


Praise God all ye peoples

Of the earth

Join in perfect harmony

Sing with me today

Alleluia!  Alleluia!

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