Monday, October 25, 2010

MomSense Monday: From Jhen, Spell-A-Thons and Silver Dollars

Spell-A-Thons and Silver Dollars

When Jhen was in kindergarten, one of the PTA fundraisers was a Spell-a-thon. All the kindergartners in her school were given a list of 50 words. They had two weeks to learn the words, and gather monetary pledges for each word spelled correctly. Students who spelled all the words correctly – a hundred percent – would also get a shiny, fresh-from-the-mint silver dollar. 
Jhen came home with her list, excited. Her goal was to get all the spelling words right for one reason only: she wanted that silver dollar. She vowed to do whatever it takes to learn all the words.

“What would you do with that silver dollar?” I asked.

“It’s a surprise!” she whispered with an air of mystery.

She studied her words diligently, and nagged us to quiz her several times a day. At school and at home, she would write her words in order, again and again, going through several pencils and pads of paper. Before her prayers each night at bedtime, we would give her a “practice test”. I would correct her test, put a giant 100 % on top of it, and she would smile her secret smile as she got one night closer to her silver dollar. While I asked friends and neighbors for pledges, she asked God to help her “get a hundred”.

On the night before The Big Spelling Test, as I was getting paper and pencil ready for her final practice test, Jhen stopped me. “I’m not practicing tonight, Mom,” she informed me. “Tonight I’m just gonna relax because I already know I’m gonna get that silver dollar.” So she said her prayers, ending it with “and thank You for the silver dollar.”

As expected, she came home the next day with the shiny silver dollar, still in a sealed cellophane bag. “Now will you tell me what you’re going to do with the silver dollar?” I begged as I hugged her.

She flashed a giant grin as she whispered in my ear, “I’m gonna give it to Jesus!”

“Jesus will love it! Dad and I and Jesus are SO proud of you – you worked so hard!” I pulled out a dollar bill, and told her she could give the dollar bill to Jesus, and we could put the silver dollar in her scrap book. She refused. I offered her a five dollar bill. Still she refused. Finally, I told her I’d give her a twenty-dollar bill to give to Jesus if she’d give me the silver dollar to put in her scrap book. Adamantly she shook her head.

“Mom, I didn’t work hard for the $20 bill. I worked hard for the silver dollar, and that’s what I wanted to give Jesus!”

That Sunday morning, Jhen reverently placed her shiny silver dollar, cellophane and all, in the offering plate. And somewhere in one of the dusty boxes in the garage, is an old silver dollar taped to a $20 bill taped to a yellowed page in her kindergarten scrapbook.

Jesus doesn’t look at the face value of a gift, He places value on the heart of the giver. 

Jhen in her Valentine Tea Party Garb in Kindergarten

Sunday, October 24, 2010

People to People

    I used to love it when Uncle Bobby and his brothers would come down from San Francisco, because that meant learning new songs having  a jam session with "the band".  Uncle Bobby taught me how to sing harmony -- the note that wasn't written in, but he heard it in his head, so he had me singing the same section over and over and over until I got it right, and then he would bring all the vocal parts in one at a time until I got used to hearing MY part and how it sounded with the rest.  I miss that.
     I also knew that I'd learn a new song whenever he would visit.  Sometimes he'd call me ahead of time, tell me what song he wanted me to learn, and on what record I'd find it.  The following song is one of my favorites that he taught me.

How do you share the love of Jesus with a lonely man?
How do you tell a hungry man about the Bread of Life?
How do you tell a thirsty man about the Living Water of the Lord?
How do you tell him of His word?

How do you tell a dying man about eternal life?
How do you tell an orphan child about the Father's love?
How do you tell a man who's poor about the wondrous riches of the Lord?
How do you tell him of His Word?

How do you tell a loveless world that God himself is love?
How do you tell a man who's down to lift his eyes above?
How do you tell a bleeding man about the healing power of the Lord?
How do you tell him of His Word?

People who know go to people who need to know…Jesus
People who love go to people alone without Jesus
For there are people who need to see, people who need to love,    
People who need to know God's redeeming love.
People who see go to those who are blind without Jesus
And this is People to People, yes,
People to People all sharing together God's love.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

WifeSense Wednesday: Off the Wall

I woke up that morning…well, I didn’t actually  wake up because I hadn’t slept at all that night.   Who could sleep when you had a date with Bud Stud?  OK, so it wasn’t a date, more like an after school  field trip -- to a German movie with the German Club.  The plan was for him to pick me up, and we would all go to Carl’s, Jr. and then to Ventura College where a German movie was playing.
After that first note, we started writing each other letters;  not love letters per se, more like “I-think-I-might-like-you-like-a-lot-lot”  letter, and we’d exchange them during second period.  He also started walking me to my classes, and even carrying my books.  A couple of  times, after school, he came over to my house during weed pulling time, and he helped me weed the lawn.  He got more weeds pulled in ten minutes than I did in ten days.
He even met me at the Ventura County Fair  on the day of the parade – we had arranged to meet at the gate where the drill team was going to be dropped off .  He told me that he had won a stuffed animal, but he gave it to Alice.  He bought me lunch, but didn’t  buy any for himself – he said he wasn’t hungry  (I found out later that it was because he was broke).  We walked around in companionable silence until it was time for him to be picked up, and that was the end of that.
As a senior, Bud Stud had last period dismissal, but one day, he surprised me by meeting me at my locker after my last class.  He took my books from me, and began walking  me toward  the girls’ locker room where I had to get changed for drill team practice.  When we stopped just outside the locker room, he shoved the books into my arms, and before my face could register surprise, he leaned over quickly, kissed the side of my mouth, and then took off running.
The next time I saw him, he asked me if I wanted to go with the German Club to watch a movie on Friday night, and handed me a permission slip.  The next day, I gave him the permission slip signed by my dad, and told him I’d love to go.
The morning of the German Club movie was Oktoberfest, and I had the morning free from class.  The first hour, I had free, but the next two I had to work at the Drill Team’s Orange Julius booth.  We had agreed upon a meeting place, where he was already waiting when I got there.  As soon as I said hi, a pair of  boys with fake badges accosted me with a warrant for my arrest, which said someone had purchased a fifteen minute jail time for me for having long hair. 
Actually, it was two back to back sentences, both purchased by Bud Stud.  To give him credit, he stayed outside the jail talking to me the entire time… he said he like having me as a captive audience.  Once I was free, we walked around the quad and looked at different booths until it was time for both of us to serve in our respective booths. 
We agreed to meet again at lunch, which we did, and sat together on the grass in the middle of the quad.  When the bell rang, we got up to walk to class, and right by the stairs where we usually parted ways at this time, he stopped and out of the blue asked, “Would you go out with me?”
“Where to, and when?” I answered.
“I mean would you be my girlfriend?” he clarified.
“I have to have my parents’ permission,” I replied.
“O.K.” was all he said before he left for his class.
He was waiting for me at the end of class, and handed me a slip of paper.  “Here,” he said, “I’ll pick you up at 5.”  And then he was gone.
The slip of paper was another  German Club field trip permission slip, but the part that  said  “my child has my permission to attend the German Club field trip to Ventura College  from  Friday, October 20, 1978  to Friday, October 20, 1978” was crossed out in red ink.  Above it, in the handwriting I’d grown to recognize and love, also in red ink, it said, “JoAnn Cajiuat has my permission to be Jim Hammer’s girlfriend from Friday, October 20, 1978 until October 20, 1979.
I got home and  handed the permission slip to my dad.  “What’s this?” he asked.
“Jim Hammer  asked me to be his girlfriend, and I would like to say yes.”
“It’s fine with me if it’s OK with your mom,” my dad replied.  I  hugged him and kissed him on the cheek after thanking him, and ran into their room where my mom was putting on make-up.
Nay (Tagalog for Mom), Jim Hammer asked me to be his girlfriend, and I would like to say yes, and Tay (Tagalog for Dad) said it was OK with him if it was OK with you.”  Then I handed her the permission slip.
She laughed, got a pen, and signed where it said  “Parent Signature”.  Then she said, “You can be his girlfriend for a year.”
I thanked, hugged, and kissed my mom, and then ran upstairs to get ready for my “date”.  But before I started, I took down the other pictures off my Wall of Fame, including Bud Stud’s.  I ripped up the others, but Bud Stud’s – I mean Jim Hammer’s – I pinned back on my wall, the one right next to my bed.
I was indeed his girlfriend for a year.  Or two.  Or thirty-two.
That was 32 years ago.  Today, for lunch, in celebration of the day he asked me to be his girlfriend, Jim “Bud Stud” Hammer took me out to lunch – at Carl’s Jr. where he took me for our first dinner date, right before the German Club movie.  I’m still his girlfriend, and he is still my Bud Stud.
20 October 2010.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Totally Random Tuesday: "Your Will, Lord, Not Mine."

     In May 1994, after suffering from debilitating headaches for more than 5 years, I received news that that rocked my world, not the good kind. I had been going to a chiropractor for a year, to help with my headaches, and was waiting for my insurance company to approve neck therapy. The news came from Beaver Clinic's Insurance Review Board: Request has been denied. Call your neurologist as soon as possible.
     I called my neurologist, and they had been waiting for my call. I was told to have someone pick up a neck brace from the clinic, and I was to wear it at all times, and I was not to drive, and I was to not to make any sudden, jerky movements, and I was to avoid being in a car as much as possible, since if I got rear-ended at a stop sign, it could be fatal, or at the very least, could cause permanent paralysis.
     So, I did what they said: went out only to church and medical appointments. I went to a neuro-surgeon, the best in the West Coast. He told me my problem: a congenital defect -- I was born without the dens (that's the bone on C2 that supports C1 and helps your skull pivot and roll). My neck muscles had been keeping C1 in place, but as I was getting older, the neck muscles were getting weaker. Whenever I look up, down, or turn left or right, C1 was sliding into my spinal cord, causing all kinds of problems with my organs and their functions.
     The solution: Take some bone from my hip, use it to fuse C1 and C2 together. Take 2 3-inch titanium screws, and screw C1 and C2 in place. Just for good measure, take 24 inches of titanium wire, and tie C1 and C2 together.
     The good news: there is a 90% chance of complete recovery (just no more bungee jumping) and only a 10% chance of paralysis.
     The bad news: the procedure is so close to the brain stem that one little glitch could be fatal, but Dr. Abu-Assal was known for his steady hand. There is a 50/50 chance of surviving the procedure (but 90% recovery should I survive). I would have to wear a halo for 6 months (that's a brace that's secured by four screws attached 1/4 inch into the skull), and a neck brace for the rest of my life. The operation would take about 4 hours.
     The decision: Go for it. I was scheduled for surgery August 19.  Sometime in June, after a doctor's appointment, I took a detour to Wal-Mart, and they had set up a temporary glamour shot studio.  I got glamour shots done, and paid $300 for a 17X20 canvas oil rendering of the shot of my choice.  I did this because I wanted a nice picture of me to put on top of my closed casket should I not make it out of the operating room alive.
     Sunday, July 31, 10:45 AM: Coming out of Sunday school, I lost feeling on my entire left side, and then I passed out. I was taken to the hospital, and they ran a slew of tests that ran into the next day. They bumped up my surgery to Monday, July 31 at 5 PM.
     Monday August 1,  5:00 PM: several people from church were in the waiting room, praying. I had an I.V. already in, I had said see you later to Jim, and I was waiting alone in the holding area for the anesthesiologist.
     While I waited, I talked to God. I reminded Him I had a 9-year-old, an 8-year-old, and a 6-year-old at home. I gave up my schooling to be home with them, and it would be cruel to take away their mom. I reminded God that I had given my spare time in service; that if I wasn't at home serving my family and friends, I was at church serving Him. I reminded Him that I was the best person to be the mom for my kids, and hadn't He chosen me for them in the first place? So I told Him I'd better wake up from this surgery.
     Monday August 1, 7:30 PM The surgical team came in with the news: No surgery that night. As they were setting up the instruments, they noticed that the screws were not the right kind. They were sure they got the right ones, but on the double-check, it was confirmed that the screws were not the 3-inch titanium ones needed. They'd been scrambling to find the right screws, making phone calls to other hospitals, with no luck. They ordered the right ones from the manufacturer, and at best they should arrive in 3-5 days. In the meantime, I couldn't eat anything in case they have to do any emergency surgery for anything.
     Tuesday, August 2,  5:00 PM: While other patients were being served dinner, I was frustrated, discouraged, and utterly defeated in my hospital bed. I had been reading my Bible and singing praise songs in my head all day, and by this time, I was ready to talk to God again. I thanked Him for my family and friends, for blessing me with the time at home with my babies, and for Jim who would continue with raising them in a godly home if I didn't make it. Then, I finally said, "Lord, You know best. I am now ready for Your best, even if . . . especially if . . . that means I go home to be with You. I know You will not abandon Jen, Jax, and Jimmy. Help them to remember how much I loved them. I know Jim will rely on You - help him to remember You'll always be there for him. So I'm ready. Lord, Your will, not mine." I felt an overwhelming sense of peace as soon as I said "not mine", and I fell asleep.
     Tuesday, August 2,  5:25 PM I woke up, looked up at the clock, it was 5:25 (5 is our family code for I love you, and 25 is 5 fives, one five for each of the five Hammers), and I was reminded of God's love. At 5:30, Dr. Abu-Assal and his nurse Dexter came in with the good news: Loma Linda just happened to find two of the exact screws we needed, about half an hour earlier! The surgical team had been summoned, and surgery scheduled for 7 PM that night.
     Wednesday, August 3, 3:00 AM After a 7-hour operation, I woke up in the recovery room with nothing but a Philadelphia collar (the styrofoam kind). Jim came in the room, shocked at my bruised, bloated face, and the sight of the collar. He had been expecting a halo. He called the nurse, who looked at my chart, and in a panic, paged Dr. Abu-Assal. Dexter came, and explained what happened: when they opened me up, they saw that the base of my cervical bones were thicker and wider than normal -- another congenital defect --, and would secure the screws without the help of the halo!

Wednesday, November 1, 1994:  
I was back at work as a substitute teacher.

Today I am a living testimony of God's love, grace, and provision. God's way is WAY better than mine, and I am humbled to know that He kept me as the "best" wife and mom for Jim, Jhen, Jax, and Jimmy. I still pray "Your will, Lord, not mine."  I originally wrote this blog in 2002.  My prayer remains the same.  Even now.  10.19.10




Monday, October 18, 2010

MomSense Monday: On Heat and Shadows

Lessons I Learned from My Kids (When I Was Supposed To Be Teaching Them)
     He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1
On Heat and Shadows
     One particularly hot Sunday morning, when Jimmy was around 4 years old, I was detained on the way to signing Jimmy in to his Sunday School class. While I chatted with a friend, I watched Jimmy in front of me, looking like he was dancing his own version of the “Hokey Pokey” in the middle of the church courtyard. He lifted his right arm over his head, then straight out to his side. Then he stuck his right foot in front of him, then out to his right. He did the same thing with his left foot.
     When I was done with my conversation, I began to walk toward the Children’s Building, and Jimmy was intently watching the ground as he maintained an even distance ahead of me. Thinking to outwit him, I began to slowly walk in a zigzag path, and sure enough, he maintained the distance between us, but I remained behind him.
     When I stopped, he stopped. When I zigged left, he zigged left. When I zagged right, he zagged right. Finally, my curiosity got the best of me. “Jimmy, what are you doing?” I asked.
     “I figured something out,” he replied, without turning to face me. “Look at your shadow, Mommy,” he instructed. “Can you see my shadow?” he inquired.
     “Nope,” I replied, “I don’t.”
     “Now watch,” he commanded as he raised his hand over his head. “Now, do you see my shadow?” he questioned.
     “Well, I see the shadow of your hand,” I answered.
     “Well,” he continued matter-of-factly, “every time I can see any part of my shadow, I can feel the hot on that part of my body that’s not in your shadow. So, I’m staying in your shadow so I don’t feel the hot!”
     Then he “followed” in front of me to his Sunday School class, making sure he was protected from “the hot” by staying in my shadow.

Any part of ourselves that is not in the shadow of the Almighty will definitely “feel the hot”.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Makin' the Moves

Bud Stud couldn’t wait to get home from the beach so he could get to his yearbook.  According to Alice, two girls thought he was cute.  He  knew one of them – she had been in a couple of his Spanish classes with Mrs. Ontiveros, but he also knew she had a boyfriend.  He’d seen her at the park with Juan, and after that fiasco at the prom, he had made up his mind to stay clear of girls with boyfriends.
He turned to the sophomore section of the yearbook, looked for her name, and at first glance, he thought to himself that his parents would never approve.  His friend Rob flat out said, “NO WAY!”  His folks expected him to someday date a nice All-American girl – preferably blond and blue-eyed like himself.  Nope, this was NOT going to wash with his parents, but he thought he’d ask around anyway.
None of his buddies knew her, but from what Alice had said, she was squeaky clean, didn’t have a boyfriend, drives a van with “JESUS SAVES” in red, glow-in-the-dark lettering on the back.  Not a problem, as long as she doesn’t push religion down his throat.  She was also on drill team, and they were practicing at school everyday for the rest of summer until school started.
So, he and a couple of his buddies went to Channel Islands’ campus to watch the drill team practice, and sure enough, there they were, and there she was.  She looked nothing like her yearbook picture,  but his friends still didn’t think she was worth his time.  But hey, SHE liked HIM.  She had his picture up in her wall.  That right there demanded he MAKE time to learn more about her.
One of the perks of being vice-president of the German Club was that he got to work Registration, and got to register for classes early.  He had seen her at the orientation meeting, so he knew she would be working at the Foreign Language table with Mrs. Ontiveros.  He’d already registered for a class with Mrs. Ontiveros for Spanish 3, but he found out that she was taking Spanish 3 with Mr. Varnava, so while she was on a break, Bud Stud walked to the Foreign Language table and asked Mrs. Ontiveros if he could switch classes.  It was a lot easier than he had thought, because Mrs. Ontiveros was grinning at him from ear to ear when she switched his homeroom to second period Spanish class with Mr. Varnava.  “She’s a very sweet girl,” winked Mrs. O conspiringly.
On the first day of school, he was early to Mr. Varnava’s class, and sat at his assigned seat.  He recognized people as they trickled into the room – Gale, Norma, Gricelda, Debra – all nice girls.  Then SHE walked into the room, looked at the seating chart, sat at her assigned seat:  front row, in the center of the class – and began chatting with Gale.  He walked quietly to Mr. V and asked for permission to sit behind her.  Mr. V nodded with a grin, and  he picked up his books, moved to the seat directly behind her, and sat down.  This was going to be a great year.
A few weeks later, he decided he was going to take a chance and make his move, but he’d never done this thing before.  At least not since sixth grade, when Lucrecia became his “girlfriend”, but he blew it when just as she closed her eyes for their first kiss, he had run away instead. 
So now, how does one tell a girl he likes her?
“How does a guy say that he likes a certain girl?  Was that the way?”  the note began.  I had found the note tucked in my Spanish textbook, written in pencil on lined notebook paper in neat, rounded cursive. 
I was on cloud nine, ever since the day Bud Stud asked the teacher if he could move his seat to the one behind mine.  He never said much, except to answer a question in his marginal Spanish. 
I looked forward to Period Two, which was homeroom and therefore fifteen minutes longer than other classes, and it was also Spanish 3.  Sometimes, when the bell rang at the end of class and I stood up, I’d feel a sharp sting in my scalp, and I’d find a strand or two of my hair wrapped around the screw at the back of  my chair. 
Sometimes I’d get up and feel unfamiliar weight on my head, and as I would spin my head around, pencils would start flying around me…tied to single strands of my hair.  Sometimes there would be only one pencil, but more often than not, there would be three or four or more.  I’d look around, but no one would make eye contact with me, and most especially NOT Bud Stud.  Even Gale would just smile at me.  So, I would walk out of second period trying hard to hide a smile, with my head held high and pencils hanging from my hair.  Sometimes a pencil or two would fall to the floor, with a strand or two of hair still attached to it (hmmmm…that might explain my lack of hair now!), but I didn’t care.  I picked them up, and during third period I’d carefully remove the other pencils from my hair, and add them to my ever-growing pencil collection at home.
So, after weeks of silent, speechless torture, instead of my hair tied to the chair or pencils hanging from my hair, there was this note, and it said he liked me.  Bud Stud liked ME.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friendship Friday: Armie

When I was I elementary school in the Philippines, we used to play long jump at recess. The object of the game was to jump a particular distance, and we usually used someone’s shoe to measure. If any part of your body touched the starting line or the distance marker, you were out. We always started at three shoes. Each player took a turn jumping, and once everyone had a turn, the next round started, and the marker moved another three shoes (keep in mind, we were 8/9-year olds, and Filipinos had small feet).

The first few rounds were really easy, and most of us were very silly in the beginning. Some would take a running start, stop inches before the starting point, and just step over the marker. Some would just casually walk over it. Still others would create elaborate steps and dance movements and dainty walks, just to get over the marker. And so it went, until the first person was out, then we started to get serious.

If you got OUT, you can call on someone to “save” you, and if that person clears it, you are safe. If, on the other hand, the “saver” touches any of the markers, you are out and so is the “saver”. The only time you couldn’t be saved was when there were only two players left.

Now, those of you who know me know that I am not an athlete, and I have never been. However, not one for being left out, I always played long jump. Of course, I never took it seriously, I played just to fit in. I never even had to put any effort in it, because there was one classmate who always saved me.

Armie, even in back in second grade, was the most athletic person I knew. She could outrun, outjump, out-hit, out-DO all the girls AND ALL THE BOYS in our grade, and I, like the rest of my classmates, was in awe of her. I used to LOVE to watch her -- I was sure she was flying! She absolutely excelled at recess! She was also one of my closest friends, and I knew I could count on her to save me if I asked her to. And because I often asked Armie to save me, I often took second or third place, and we all knew that Armie would take first. In every game, though, I always got out, albeit towards the end.

There's only one time in my recollection that I didn't get out. It was in 4th grade, and the distance to jump was at least three times my height. I remember thinking, “How in the world did I get this far in the game? I can’t jump that far! (but in Tagalog of course, because my English at the time was not quite so extensive)” I was just about to give up when Armie grabbed my arm and said, “JoAnn you HAVE to try. I can’t save you if you don’t even try.”

So I went back as far as I could, took a running start, and at the right place, closed my eyes and took a giant leap. I was airborne for what felt like an eternity, and then one foot touched the ground, and then the other, and I ended up in a crouched position. I opened my eyes, and there was the marker – at least a yard in front of me, and I was crestfallen. Then I heard her say the words: “ I’ll save you. If you ask me to, I will save you. Trust me.”

And so I said, “Save me!” and got out of the way. Armie took a running start, and then she flew, and landed effortlessly on the other side, clearing the distance with room to spare. With a big grin, she ran to me and cried, “See, you’re saved!”

Just then the bell rang to end recess, which meant the game was over. I remember being on cloud nine the rest of that day because for once in my life, I was not out, because a friend had saved me.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thanks: My GPS

     I am very thankful for the built-in GPS in my car – I try not to leave home without it.  It has taken me to places I never would have dreamed of, through which I never thought to drive, (like the Antioch Bridge between Lodi and Antioch, pictured below);  areas through which I wouldn’t  normally pass; and routes which I didn’t even know existed.

     I wish I could say that car’s nav system keeps me from getting lost.  Au contraire – I am almost always lost (for this reason, I give myself an hour’s head start so that I am only half an hour late going to unfamiliar places).  My nav system merely CONFIRMS that I AM lost!
     Part of the reason for the constant disorientation is the fact that my brain has a difficult time processing left and right directions, as well as North, South, East, and West.  It might have something to do with mild sydlexia.  When The Voice says “In the half mile, make a right turn, then immediate slight right,”  for some reason the car turns left, and then I’d have to watch Sarge (that’s what I started calling The Voice, because it is so bossy) recalculate.
     Sarge isn’t without drawbacks.  After all, the system is only as good as the input.  For example, just today, I plugged in the address for Jim’s work.  It took me to an empty field across a Toys R Us warehouse.  I’d been to Jim’s work in Stockton before, and I didn’t remember a Toys R Us warehouse.  I didn’t realize that the difference between 1976 W. Charter and 1976 E. Charter was 4 miles of road, 20 minutes of traffic. 
     A 5-year old software can also cause problems.   For instance, today, Sarge told me to take the Antioch exit.  THERE IS NO LONGER AN ANTIOCH EXIT!!!  The freeway signs now say Charter.  It was a good thing I was watching the blue line on the screen, instead of the road.  I was able to take the Charter exit which was labeled Antioch on the screen.  Never mind that it took me to Toys R Us instead of Caltrans!
Still, even with all its drawbacks, I am thankful for Sarge, because I know that even with unexpected detours and other bumps in the road, Sarge will eventually get me to where I need to be.

     There is another GPS  upon which I rely – this one has no errors, no miscalculations, is never outdated, and will never steer me into a questionable direction or situation, and would NEVER put my well-being in danger.  When I was lost, it steered me to The Cross.  It gives me the direction I need, and even the routes I need to take.  It tells me that although I CAN go there (All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. I Corinthians 6:12a), I shouldn’t.  This GPS – God’s Problem Solver – is my Bible.  I don’t leave home without it.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Momsense Monday: On Knowing His Voice: Learning from Sheep and Soccer

Lessons I Learned from My Kids (When I Was Supposed to Be Teaching Them)

On Knowing His Voice

I am the Good Shepherd.  I know my sheep and my sheep know me. . . my sheep listen to my voice;  I know them and they follow me.   John 10:14, 27

            Right before a soccer game one Saturday morning, Jacky anxiously came up to me with a look of panic in her face.  She had known that her coach would be out of town that day, but somehow she had hoped he would be there anyway. 
            "Mom!" she wailed, "Coach Dan isn't going to be here today!  Coach Bob is taking his place!"
            "So what's the problem!" I asked.
            "I won't know what to do.  I'm used to looking for him in the sidelines and hearing his voice to tell me what to do.  Now I'm afraid.  Pray with me, Mom, please?"
            So the two of us walked off, and prayed that God would keep Coach Dan safe, that Coach Bob would be able to coach the team wisely, that Jacky would remember all that Coach Dan had taught her, and that there would be no injuries.  We also asked for victory, but Jacky added that if the other team needed the victory more, that would be OK, too.
            The first half of the game was exciting, but our team was behind by two goals.  The girls seemed tired and discouraged, and seemed to have given up.  At half-time, Jacky came over to me very frustrated. 
            "They're giving up, Mom.  Some of them aren't even listening to Coach Bob, they're just giving up." She looked up at me with fierce determination in her face.  "Well I’m not giving up.  I want Coach Dan to be proud of me, and I'm gonna play like he's here!" 
            And so with that resolve, she rejoined her team.
            In the second half, true to her word, Jacky played her heart out,  and Jacky scored two goals to tie the game.  Her spirit of determination caught on, and the team scored another goal to win the game.
            Afterwards  I asked Jacky what made the difference in the second half,  since Coach Dan still wasn't present.  "Easy," she replied, "I tried to remember everything Coach taught me, and even though it was Coach Bob saying it, it was Coach Dan's voice I heard in my head.  I could hear him say, "Go wide, Jacky, go wide!" or "Not down the middle, Babe!" and "SHOT, JACKY, SHOT!"  I didn't listen to all the yelling from the side, I just concentrated on hearing Coach Dan."  Then happily she skipped off to join her teammates.
            "My sheep hear my voice," said the Good Shepherd, "and they follow me."   Jesus isn't with us in body right now, but we know He'll be back, we just don't know when.  Until then, though, we all have decisions we have to make, paths we have to follow, and risks we have to take.  The Good Shepherd may not be physically in sight for us to obey, but we can listen for and hear His voice and follow it.  We know what He expects from us, and so we do it.
"SHOT, JACKY, SHOT!"  Take a risk, my child, take the shot.  Remember everything I've taught you, and then do it!
~ o ~
            Coach Dan and his team took the League Division championship, and  went on to take his team to the Commissioner's Cup finals, with a season record of 12-1-1.  His All-Star team went undefeated to first place, but that is another lesson on another day.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

He’s Everything To Me

When I was a little girl, there was a song that I loved to sing, especially in times when things weren't going the way I hoped they would go.  My dad had brought back an LP album named Suzanne Johnson:  Suzanne Goes Folk and one of the songs on there was "He's Everything To Me".  I remember playing it over and over until I memorized all the words, and I would sing it in my head whenever I could -- walking to the jeep stop at the top of Torres Bugallon on the way to school, walking back to school after lunch from my friend Brenda's house,...anytime I was lonely or upset, happy or just thinking, I would sing this song.

He was everything to me then...

In the stars His handiwork I see, in the wind He speaks with majesty
Though He ruleth over land and sea,what is that to me?

I will celebrate Nativity for it has a place in history
Sure, He came to set His people free…what is that to me?

‘Til by faith I met Him face to face and I felt the wonder of His grace
Then I knew that He was more than just a god who didn’t care – who lives away out there and

Now He walks beside me day by day ever watching o’er me lest I stray
Helping me to walk the narrow way –

He’s everything to me…
He’s more than a story – more than words on a page of history
He’s the air that I breathe, the water I thirst for
And the ground beneath my feet – He’s everything…
…everything to me.

...and He's still everything to me now.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Beach Buds

I had to be at work by 3PM, but it was only 10 in the morning, so I decided to take my siblings with me to the beach.  It was the end of July, the summer between my sophomore and junior years in high school, and we hadn’t been to the beach much, and school was starting in a month, so today was as good a day as any.  In fact, registration was in three weeks, and Drill Team practice started in a week, which meant this was my last week to go to the beach.
I had gotten my driver’s license in March the second half of my sophomore year (never got held back in school, only “back started” since the Philippine and American school years did not coincided, and whereas I should have been placed in 6th grade when we moved to Guam, they put me in 5th grade instead supposedly because of my limited English), and so gone were the days of riding bikes to Bubbling Springs or to the Library.  My family had a white 12-passenger Chevy Sport Van with 18-inch, red reflector  “JESUS SAVES”  lettering in the back.  I became the chauffeur of what was dubbed The Hallelujah Mobile (THM). 
So we packed THM with blankets, straw mats, towels, and a cooler full of junk food and we headed to Hueneme Beach, picked out a spot, set up camp, and began our favorite sport:  boy watching.  To my dismay, we had forgotten our pair of binoculars, so  my ever resourceful sister Jean fashioned one by touching the tip of her forefinger to the tip of her thumb on either hand, putting them together, and began scanning the shore with her makeshift binoculars.
“Hubba-hubba” she crooned, “Fox alert along the edge of the water.  Two of them!”
“Lemme  see,” I shrieked, as I grabbed her binoculars, nearly knocking her sideways toward me, and I peered through her hands. 
“Make your own binoculars,” she laughed, and yanked back hers.  “I think that’s Rick Dionne!”
Per Jean’s instructions, I fashioned my own pair of binocs and scanned the shoreline.  Sure enough, there they were, Rick Dionne and another fox, kicking the water as they walked along the edge.
“Oh my gosh, that’s Alice!”   exclaimed Jean at the very same time I gasped, “Oh my gosh, that’s Bud Stud!”
Alice was Jean’s classmate, and Bud Stud’s photo currently occupied the Far Left spot on my bedroom’s Wall of Fame.  In case you forgot or haven’t read,  there were five photos on my Wall of Fame, ranked in order, Far Left being the one that, should Serendipity cause him to meet me, was most likely to get a yes if he proposed marriage.
For a while, we just enjoyed boywatching (ok, so I drooled and imagined myself walking barefooted on the beach, hand in hand with Bud Stud) for a little bit, and then Jean got bored.  She jumped up and announced, “I’m gonna talk to Alice.”
“Alice! Alice”  Jean called, waving her hands over her head.  I watched in horror as Alice turned around, and ran toward Jean.   They met halfway, exchanged a few shrieks and giggles, and then Alice and Jean were both running toward our blanket.
“What’s this I hear about you being in love with Bud Stud?” asked Alice.
“I’m not in love with him, I just have a huge crush on him,” I clarified, “but YOU CAN’T TELL HIM ABOUT ABOUT IT!”
“Why not?”
“Just ‘cuz!  Besides, I just think he’s cute.  I don’t know enough about him to be in love with him.”
“Liar!” accused Jean.”She has his picture on the wall in her room and she watches him pass by our house every day with googoo eyes!”
“I’ma go tell him” grinned Alice.
“Alice, please don’t,”  I begged.  Then I covered my face with the current classic literature I was reading and lied down, hoping the sand dunes would hide me from Bud Stud’s line of sight.  I didn’t think Serendipity would be  kind enough to strike me dead with a lightning bolt on a cloudless day at the beach in the middle of Summer.
To my great consternation, Alice announced again, “I’m telling him.  He needs to know!” and off she ran.
My sisters gave me the play by play of what was going on, but I wasn’t listening, I was too busy planning rest of my life.  Maybe I could go live with relatives in the Philippines.  Maybe I could join a convent, then dismissed the idea – one had to be Catholic to become a nun.  Maybe I could…
“They’re gone,” announced Jean.
With a great sigh of relief, I took the book off my face and sat up.
There he was, along the edge of the water, just standing next to Alice, who was pointing at me.
And then he lifted his arm, held it up for a few seconds, and waved.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Lessons I Learned from My Kids (When I Was Supposed to Be Teaching Them)

On the First Day of School
           September 1991 -- The first day of school for Jenny, my little lady, was a very traumatic time.  There were hugs, kisses, and tears – lots and lots of tears (and not a drop was shed by Jenny!).  Jhen had two church friends in her kindergarten class, so she was really excited.  I think leaving her in the church nursery and later on in her own Sunday School classes at church prepared her for the first day of school, but nothing prepared us, her parents, for the heart-wrenching reality of the significance of that day.
            For the first time in her life, I would not be in control of her surroundings.  When she was born, I decided to quit the work force to be at home with my baby, and I have been for the last 5 ½ years.  From the time she was born, I was in control of her environment.  I volunteered to chair the Preschool Department so that I could have an active role in what went on.
            I carefully screened TV shows, books, and music that came into our home, and rejected those I deemed inappropriate.  Even her young friends who came over to play were “under my control” – they knew immediately the kinds of language and behavior that were acceptable.  No matter what the rules were at their home, kids who came over to “Miss JoAnn’s” had to go by MY stringent rules.
            Wherever she went, whatever she did, Jenny was always under a watchful eye -- either mine or someone else’s who had met my approval.
            When she walked into that fenced playground that first day of kindergarten, her face flushed with excitement, I felt the lump in my throat turn into a cannonball that dropped in the pit of my stomach and then explode into painful fragments in my chest.  Tears began to gather, but I would not let  them fall lest my little lady see my fears and feel them herself.
            With a pasted smile and my head held high, I went up to where the rest of the anxious parents were.  I watched as Jenny proudly entered her classroom, dropped off her backpack, and happily skipped to her friends.  For fifteen minutes, we watched, waited, and took pictures as our little lady went her merry way.  Occasionally, she would glance our way and wave the family “I love you” signal.    In my mind I kept saying “It’s not too late, I can still opt to homeschool!”
            When the bell rang for the children to line up, Jhen was second in line and never once looked scared or unsure, as some other children did.  As she went through the classroom door, the reality of that moment opened the floodgate of tears.  On this day, she left the safety of her home to begin a journey through life, equipped only with the tools she’d gathered during her first five and a half years of life.  With that dismal thought,  we headed home.
            With my thoughts and emotions in turmoil, I sat down with my morning cup of coffee to regroup and plan my day.  Jacky, my other little lady, came up to me with a worried look on her face.
            “Mama,” she frowned, “who’s taking care of Jhen and making sure she’s OK while she’s in school?”
            “Her teacher,” I replied a little sadly.  She thought for a moment, and then a smile that lit her face replaced her frown.
            “Then I won’t worry about it, Mama,” she explained matter-of-factly, “God’s the boss over her teacher, so He’ll make sure she takes care of Jenny right.”  And then she ran off to play.
            I thought about what this little lady had just said, and then a peace came over me.  I still had a few fears, but what parent didn’t?  I only knew that her life was no longer in my hands.  I surrendered and placed all in God’s hands.  Her life, her friends, her teachers – from that day on, I yielded control to a Greater, Mightier Power.  This was a day to “let go and let God.”  She was in God’s hands, and oh, what gentle, loving, and capable hands they are.

Fast forward, August 2004 --  I can’t believe it’s been thirteen  years since I first walked Jhen into the kindergarten playground.  Once again,  the lump in my throat has become the cannonball that dropped into the pit of my stomach and exploded into painful fragments in my chest.    Once again, I have to let go and let God.
     I am so proud of my little lady who has withstood disappointments in her life with her head held high and her eyes fixed on Jesus.  From the unrequited loves of junior high to lies against her character; from sitting the bench on the basketball team to being overlooked for the Allstar Team,  this little lady never once gave up on herself.  She knew her worth was not based on what people thought of her or how much she accomplished; her worth came from knowing that God loves her so much He sent His Son to die in her place.
            Along with her trials were triumphs – her quizzing out AWANA,  her toothpick bridge in 6th grade,  her mission trips to Macau and Jamaica, and Jon – all of which she faced with the confidence in knowing that God continues to be in control.  With a fierce passion, she “championed the underdogs”,  with grace she loved those who  hurt her;  with tenacity she defended  those who loved her.
            I will miss my little lady who does me the favor of letting me massage her; who makes my physical maladies larger than life, who sings unashamedly whatever song she pleases whenever she pleases, who comes up with verses in Ezekiel to remind me the God is God, and He will have the last Word. And as much as she has blessed my life, I know she will bless the lives of those around her.  She continues to be in God’s hands, and oh, what gentle, loving, capable hands they are!

September 2010 -- my little lady now has a little lady of her own, with a blog of her own (THIS little lady's thoughts).  And she continues to be in God's hands, and oh, what gentle, loving, capable hands they are.

Monday, October 4, 2010

He Couldn't Believe His Luck

He couldn’t believe his luck. 
He had taken a chance and gone to the Fifties Dance hoping she would be there.  The only other time he’d gone to a high school dance was at Sadie Hawkins with Norma.  Norma was fun, a great dancer who didn’t make fun of him for not knowing the latest dance moves, and who didn’t press against him during slow-dances.  To him that meant she was a nice girl.  It didn’t even bother him that he had to wear overalls and a plaid flannel shirt – everyone said their Sadie Hawkins pictures looked cute.  He had had a blast that night – Norma was a friend and there was no pressure of unspoken expectations, because when she had asked him if he would be her date for Sadie Hawkins, she had emphasized the “I’m asking as a friend” part. 
This night was different.  This night, he had gone stag so he wouldn’t have the encumbrance of a date in case things went the way he hoped.  He wore his letterman’s jacket over a white t-shirt, and rolled up the pant-legs of his blue jeans, and proceeded into the gymnasium sporting what he hoped was an Arthur Fonzerelli attitude in a Richie Cunningham look. 
He had scoped the gym until he could see the lay of the land with his eyes closed.  To his left were the folded up bleachers, and in front of them were groups already formed, with girls in ponytails and poodle skirts and guys in either leather or letterman’s jackets and rolled up blue jeans.  Occasionally he would hear an explosion of laughter or an eruption of high-pitched screams, and he was reminded of a scene from Grease. 
To his right was a set of bleachers pulled out for seating, and already a few couples were hot and heavy and the lights hadn’t even gone down yet.  Right past the bleachers was “Arnold’s” – what the promoters of the danced had decided to call the concession stands.  He looked at the price list, and breathed a sigh of relief knowing that he had plenty to cover what he might need for the night.
He had scanned the gymnasium until he found what he was looking for:  the short, blond ponytail bobbing up and down as she animatedly told a story to the girls around her.  He headed in her direction, and found his buddies near the group of girls.  As he joined his buddies, he positioned himself so he could keep his eyes on her while participating in whatever guys talked about in these gatherings  which, if he were to base it on THIS conversation alone, was a whole lot of nothing.  Occasionally, she would raise her face to meet his eyes, and smile at him while continuing to talk.  On those occasions, his brain temporarily shut down, and all he could feel was his heart trying to beat itself out of his body.
He heard someone make a few announcements and the music started.  He decided he would throw caution to the wind and bust a few moves if he had to, but he was waiting for the first slow dance.  He would then walk to her, not say a word but just hold out his hand, and she would take it, and they would start dancing.  He knew she had an on-again, off-again boyfriend, but rumor had it they were in the off-again phase, and his goal was to change that  off-again to off-for-good.
As his luck would have it, the first slow dance was a ladies’ choice. He couldn’t believe his luck when he found himself dancing with her, her body pressed close against him and her forehead almost touching his as she looked into his eyes while they danced.  Not a word was said, but her eyes and smile said it all. 
The song ended, and another one began – a fast one – and the two of them didn’t even leave the dance floor.  He didn’t remember where he got the moves, -- all he knew was that she was dancing and laughing and dancing and laughing, and his heart sang.
After a couple of songs, he asked if she would like a drink or a malt – she said a malt sounds good, and so he floated towards Arnold’s, ordered two malts, and walked back to her.  The rest of the night had been a blur, but it was a happy blur. 
Later the next week, he had asked her to the junior prom.  She had told him then that she had a boyfriend and that they had an understanding about dating other people, and he had said that was okay.  He couldn’t believe his luck when she said yes to the prom.
In the weeks that followed before the prom, he walked her to her classes, carried her books, bought her treats for lunch or snack.  They got to know each other, and the more he learned, the more he liked.  He had decided that at the Prom, he would ask her to be HIS girlfriend.  He was lab partners with Bill, the supposed boyfriend, but Bill never gave any indication that he was upset over the turning of events.
The night of the Prom finally came, and the anticipation of the previous weeks was nothing compared to the anxiety of the minutes before meeting her parents.  Never mind his luck that he still didn’t have his license so his dad had to drive.  Never mind that his tux was a little too baggy and the arms were too long because his parents insisted they knew his size, but they were off  by a digit and a half.  Never mind the fact that when he finally saw her in her prom gown,  words left him and all he could do was stare, and that he had to decline when her mom told him to pin her corsage on her dress when her gown was only held up by spaghetti – no, vermicelli – straps.  Never mind that the side of his oversized slacks were almost wet from his having to wipe the sweat off his palms every ten seconds. 
Luck had been with him from the beginning and was not going to abandon him now; it was with him during dinner, because he didn’t make a fool of himself or spill sauce on his tux; it was with him on the ride to The Prom because he didn’t spew all over her gown, even though he felt like it;  and it was with him as they sat down after getting their pictures taken.  They had moved to the area where other couples sat, most of them already involved in some heavy public displays of affection.  He took the seat right next to her, and with every ounce of luck and courage he could muster, he slowly lifted his arm and laid it gently on the back of her chair, waiting for the right moment to ask her to be his girlfriend.
He couldn’t believe his luck.
“We need to talk,”  she exclaimed as she rose abruptly, took his hand, and led him to a hallway where more couples engaged in affectionate displays, oblivious to the strangers that had just brushed past them.
He couldn’t believe his luck.
He didn’t remember dancing even ONE dance at his junior prom.   He hadn’t expected to get home in the wee hours of the morning like he’d heard some people were doing, but neither had he expect to be leaving the prom early.  Like three hours early.  He had left her in the hallway to look for his dad, hoping his dad had chosen to wait in the parking lot instead of going home to get a TV show or two in before playing chauffeur again.  When he found his dad, all he said was “I’ll be right back, we’re going home.”  He went back inside to get her, and she silently followed him back to the car.  He didn’t remember opening the door for her like he had done earlier that evening.
When they got to her house, he got out of the car, helped her out of the car, and while she paused in front of him as if expecting some gesture of affection, like a hug or a handshake or something, he said, “Goodnight!” and got back in the front seat and slammed the door.  He didn’t even walk her to her door.
I heard about it that following Monday – how Bud Stud had taken her to The Prom after weeks of carrying her books and walking her to her classes, how he was hoping to ask her to be his girlfriend at the prom, right after taking pictures, and how she had said shot him down before he could even get off the ground.  She had only been making her boyfriend jealous, and that it was beginning to work. 
I cried for Bud Stud, for his heartbreak.   I just couldn’t believe his luck.  
Later that Monday evening, Bud Stud was back on the Far  Left spot on my Wall.
I couldn’t believe MY luck!

Chapter 5:  Beach Bud

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Heartache on the Dance Floor

There he was, standing on the other side of the gymnasium, wearing his letterman’s jacket, talking to some girls. Bud Stud, the one guy who has remained on the Far Left Position on my Future KISA Wall of Fame.  The reason I lost a ton (O.K., 40 pounds) of weight, because I walk three to four times as much every day for over a year just so I could walk right next to or right behind him to class without his knowing it. I’d had a major crush on him since the first time he wore that letterman’s jacket to school and rumor had it that he was coming to the Asian-American Club-sponsored Fifties Dance stag, so I made sure I was working the concession stand that night so my dad would let me go to the dance.
My friends all knew I was crazy about Bud Stud, and  tried to talk me into asking him to the Sadie Hawkins dance, but I chickened out, and he went with someone else. At the Fifties Dance, I watched him from across the gym floor when I wasn't dancing, and even when I WAS dancing, I always knew where HE was.
On the first "Ladies' Choice" my friends finally convinced me to go up to ask him to dance. Summoning all the courage I had, I memorized where he was across the gym, threw caution to the wind, and began the long trek across the gym, but with my eyes on the floor.  I was on my way to helping Serendipity fulfill her purpose.
    About three-quarters of the way, something made me look up, and there he was, the love of my life (he just didn’t know it yet), slow dancing with this girl (whom I knew to be just using him to make her boyfriend jealous!), and the music hadn't even started. A cannon ball hit me in the chest, dropped in my stomach, and began forcing its way back up. I ran to the bathroom and promptly threw up from the heartache.
The rest of the dance, I worked the concession stand, and I even served him as he ordered two malts, one for him and one for her (and no, I did NOT spit in her malt, much as I wanted to). The two of them danced together the rest of the night, while I served malts and Frito Bellies to a sea of strangers.  I didn’t dance again the rest of the night.
I spent the rest of  that night crying after I removed Bud Stud from the Far Left Position and demoted him to the farthest right, and I cried into the rest of Saturday and Sunday. But   Monday morning was the start of a new week, and after claiming God's promise in His Word that He knows the plans He has for me, I made the decision to move on.  No more walking the long way to my classes just so I could walk beside him.  No more “From Your Secret Admirer” boutonnières on Fridays.  No more gawking at him as he rode past my window in the afternoons between 3:45 and 4:35.  Bud Stud was history.
Well, not entirely.  He remained on the Wall of Fame even after he asked and took THAT GIRL to the Prom, and even after he asked her to be his girlfriend.  He SHOULD have come of the wall and should have ended up in a pile of ashes in my fireplace, but he didn’t.  After all, she DID turn him down, and she DID break his heart and he ended up going home alone from the Prom.   
There was still hope for Serendipity.

Chapter 4:  He Couldn't Believe His Luck

Friday, October 1, 2010

Bud Stud

“Susan, Susan, who is that fox with the letterman’s jacket?”  I shook and tapped my best friend as we stood in the lunch line, pointing to the fox with my chin as Filipinos are wont to do.  The hunk was about 12 people from the window, which meant I had that much more time to unobtrusively stare at his shiny blond hair, a beautiful contrast above the royal-blue-and-off-white of his leather letterman’s jacket with the woolen “C” over the left chest, indicating he is a Channel Islands athlete who has proven his mettle in his sport by earning a letter.  I didn’t know what color his eyes were, but in my heart, I just knew they would be bluer than the blue on his varsity jacket! 
“That’s Bud Stud! (OK, so Bud Stud wasn’t his real name, but I changed it to protect the not-so-innocent…we had a guest speaker come to our school one time, and picked him out of the crowd and dubbed him Bud Stud and the name stuck).   I’ve been trying to get you to notice him all year!”
Apparently, Sue had been pointing him out at lunch time almost every day since the beginning of our freshman year, but I usually responded with a perfunctory “neat.”  The difference that day was that he was wearing a letterman’s jacket -- one of my requirements for a potential KISA – Knight in Shining Armor.
“Well, I’m noticing now,” I replied.  “ What do you know about him?” I demanded.
“He’s a sophomore, he went to Blackstock, and he lives in our neighborhood. You know where your street bends and ends into that cul-de-sac?  Well, he lives at that cul-de-sac.  He’s really nice and he’s really cute. He’s taking college-prep classes, and seems to be the all-around decent All-American kid. Oh, and he skateboards and rides his bike around the neighborhood a lot.”  Sue was a veritable encyclopedia of Bud Stud information.
That day, after asking around, I also found out he was an only child, didn’t have a girlfriend,  was a little shy, and his letter was in golf.  Oh well, a varsity letter is a varsity letter.  It was the jacket that looked good, and I couldn’t wait until I got to wear it a some football game someday.  I made a mental note  to find out all I can about golf, so that when Serendipity did her job and caused us to meet, I would impress him with my knowledge of golf.  I also ended up taking Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced Golf classes as my P.E. electives for three consecutive semesters.
By the end of the week, I knew Bud Stud’s class schedule (it paid to have a friend as an office assistant, and even more if you helped her with her homework), I knew the routes he took to his classes; I knew where and which one his locker was (I drew the line at knowing his locker combination – after all, the guy deserved SOME privacy), and I knew that he liked to order the fish fillet sandwich for lunch, and occasionally the tuna salad with thousand island dressing. 
I also knew the route he took to school.  Someone would drive him to the railroad tracks, and then he would walk the tracks to school.  In the afternoon, he would walk the tracks back, and someone would be waiting for him at the end of the tracks and drive him home.  I quit taking the long way to and from school, and I, too, began walking the tracks to and from school, shaving a mile each way from my pedestrian commute.
That week began my two-year investment in the Channel Islands “Islander Drill Team” Friday Fundraiser.  Every week, I spent a quarter on a boutonnière for him, which would be delivered to his second period class, and signed only with “from your secret admirer” (Of course, once in a while I also spent a quarter on Jim Woodward, the one with the Camaro).  After second period, I would rush out to my next class which was right above Bud Stud’s next class, and I could watch him from his locker to his class, wearing the boutonniere I got him. 
In the afternoons I would race home and finish up my chores and do my homework as my siblings and little cousins played outside, usually riding their bikes or rollerskating up and down the street.  Then I would hear my little cousin race up the sidewalk yelling “Ate JoAnn, he’s coming!!! He’s on his bike!” and I would race up the stairs, fly into my room, position myself at my window, and wait as Bud Stud rode by either on his bike or on his skateboard, his long blond hair flowing behind him.  Sometimes, when he was on his ten-speed, he would leisurely ride by, his hands hanging at his side, as if he silently commanded the handlebars to go where he wanted them to go without having to hold them. 
For the next year and a half, Bud Stud was on my Wall of Fame, and while the others were constantly rearranged in positions two thru five, Bud Stud occupied the Far Left Position.

Chapter 3:  Heartache on the Dance Floor