Mom of the Year

Mom Award

“And the Mom of the Year Award goes to…”

Anyone but me!  So far, I’ve managed to frustrate Ruby in the usual getting-ready-for-school routine (no holey leggings at school, thanks) and annoy Zac.  Did I mention nagging Zac?  Yeah.  He’s behind on his schoolwork and not doing so hot academically, either.  I don’t know how to motivate him.

This is the hard part of homeschooling, at least to me.  I want him to succeed and catch fire with all he’s learning.  But I can’t *make* the light bulb turn on.  All I can do is wheedle, cajole, encourage, edify and possibly maim.  Not the last one.  Though at times it’s tempting.

“Why are you making me do all this work?” Zac growled.

This is where the wheels fell off.

I took a deep breath.

“Zac, I’m not making  you do this work.  You wanted to be homeschooled. The deadline is today:  September 30.  You need to get all the overdue assignments done. You know this.”

I admit I got a little hot.  I hate receiving blame for things that aren’t my fault. We got into a brief time of intense fellowship. In the middle of all this, I was making cookies.  Cheap therapy, folks.  As I moved the cookies from the sheets to the cooling rack, I realized I was only trying to encourage Zac the way my dad encouraged me. Dad believed in me 24/7, nonstop.  He still does.   I will cop to the fact that Dad got under my skin.  He would never let me quit anything until I’d given it everything I had.  I kept at volleyball, band, basketball, track, softball, driving a stick shift, you name it.  Because of Dad’s constant and sometimes excessive (it seemed) pushing me, I overcame. I learned to persevere.

Remembering this legacy, I got onto the school website from Zac’s login point and dug around.  The gradebook!  That’s where all the past due assignments are, along with their point value.  Yay!  In all fairness, Zac’s homeroom teacher pointed it out to me.  I started writing them down and Zac took it from there.

After a time, I brought Zac a cookie:  a peace offering of sorts.

“I don’t know how to motivate you,” I admitted sheepishly.  How to translate into actions, if not words, how much you dream of the best for your child? You bring that tiny baby home from the hospital and your heart swoons. True love.   As they grow and develop, you see your child’s giftings. You want the world to share in them and to see your kid succeed.  Zac has many abilities – natural athlete, writer, mathematician, scientist, comedian, debater/potential lawyer…He will have to put effort and time into any of these areas.  How do we as parents get out of the way and yet continue to uplift our children?  At the end of the day, Zac will decide, hopefully by listening to the Lord, where to best invest his time and effort.  I must step aside.

As I write this, Zac’s moving from subject to subject, knocking out the items due.  Kapow!  He still feels overwhelmed but his attitude improved exponentially.

Guess who’s in school, right beside Zac?  Yep.  I’m pulling up a chair.

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The “T” Word

Trust.  It’s a five-letter word meaning:

firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.
As you know by now, I stink at trusting.  I have a hard time trusting people.  I have a hard time trusting God.  I have the hardest time trusting myself.  Did I really do the right thing then?  Did I hear God correctly?
 I find myself in this “school” again.  Financially, I must rely on God.  As much as we’ve employed the Dave Ramsey program to get control of our finances and achieve a measure of peace, sometimes it seems a little frenetic to me.  Sell everything you can!  Live on beans and rice!  I panic, thinking I’m not doing enough with what we’ve received.  And I don’t much like beans and rice. I don’t think that’s Mr. Ramsey’s true message.  Yet my type A personality feels like I’m falling down if we’re not masochistically paying debt first and not ourselves.
It’s pretty much the same with eating.  I gave up sugar, but I believe the Lord wants me to learn to eat sugar and everything else in moderation. Most Americans eat it on a daily basis; it’s part of our culture.  I’ve done time without sugar.  I learned a lot.  I may still have seasons here and there where I need to get completely off it, a fast of sorts. Most of the western world eats pie, cake, cookies and drinks lattes.  Sugar is not the enemy, at least not in my universe:  my attitude is.
I’m getting it.  I’m hearing that still, small voice in this area like He’s spoken in so many others.  It’s okay to rest and wait on God’s timing.  In fact, it’s obedience.  Me striving and making things happen out of fear or anxiety is not the plan.  When I finally let go of control, I find peace.  My surrender allows God to work. We find money in the strangest places (not the laundry).  The stubborn scale moves down despite no extra exercise.  It’s puzzling because it’s not the American way.  “I did it my wa-a-ay!” To quote Queen Latifah from “Last Holiday”: “You put your head down, and you hustle, and you hustle…Eventually, you look up and wonder how you got here.”
But doing it our way is contrary to being a Christian.  Yes, Jesus guides and directs and plops situations in our paths.  Pushing our own agenda forward creates turmoil.  Self-made men and women are a bit too homemade around the edges for me, to paraphrase a former pastor of ours.
So, I’m testing it. This trust thing is a muscle.   I will put it through its paces.  I’m not pestering Zac about his schoolwork.  Much.  Lo and behold, he finishes it! I celebrate shopping at the store and what we are able to purchase.  Presto!  It stretches and we all feel blessed by what we buy.  I tell Ruby I expect her to pick up after herself one time…and she rises to meet it.  Mostly.  Every time it works, I gain a little ground.  I see my Father at work and I am grateful.  My trust-muscle gets stronger.
Psalm 138:8The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.

Life According to Zac

I have another guest blogger today.  Here is a short memoir Zac penned this morning as an English assignment.  This is the first draft.  He said I could share it.  I did ask!  Hope you like it.

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Get yer own box!

Get yer own box!

We all have those embarrassing moments in the summertime.  For some, it is bringing a white top to a squirt gun fight, for others it may be slipping and hitting your face on the pavement while washing a car.  However, my experience was completely different than most people’s summertime pranks and jokes.  My experience involved a Cheez-It box and my friend’s dog.

It was a cold July morning, around ten o’clock. One of my friends, John, was out in his yard.  I coincidentally live about a block away from him, so the walk was terribly easy.  I had some spare change, and we were hungry as ever.  (If you don’t already know, most teenage boys have not one but TWO hollow legs, if you catch my drift).  We promptly headed down to the local Safeway to get some snacks, when we were met by an old friend by the name of Gibran.

Gibran was one of those kids that you almost never see, but you consider him a good friend.  One thing you have to understand about him is he is tall.  When I say tall I mean he was a good 5’7 when we were twelve.  I, on the other hand, was a measly four foot eleven.

Gibran asked if he could walk with us. I didn’t see any harm in that so we walked down to Safeway, all 3 of us. Soon we arrived, and John and I realized we hadn’t had anything in mind to get at Safeway, so we browsed the snack aisle like those old women with the glasses with cords in the back browse the shelves at the library. We found something decent: a sale on Cheez-Its.

John and I asked Gibran if he wanted some Cheez-Its as well, and he quickly agreed. Our band of preteens was merrily heading to the counter with a prized possession of on-sale snack food, when we found out, after counting change, that “Hey, we can buy TWO boxes!”  We all sprinted for the snack food aisle, much to the astonishment of the nearby shoppers, and ruthlessly grabbed another box.  Now content we couldn’t buy any more snack food, we headed for the checkout line once again.

“Would you like a bag for these?” the clerk asked.

“No, we’ll just carry them.”  I responded.

We headed out of Safeway with big grins on our face as we tore into the first box.  After our appetites were sated for a few minutes, we started brainstorming ideas for the remaining box to be used so we didn’t have to throw it away. I devised a solution: we fill it with John’s dog, Romeo’s feces to get it off the lawn. We hit a brick wall when we realized that we’d have to actually pick up the poop to put it in the box. We all vouched for a different solution: use a picket fence post John had lying around. This actually worked for about the first thirty seconds surprisingly, however, we hypothesized that this was going to go on for hours to fill the box up.  Gibran stopped for a second to watch another neighborhood friend, Eric, come out from his house and wave. We all waved back as he walked over.

“What are ya doin’?” he asked.

I replied, “Eating Cheez-Its. Want some?”

“Sure!”

This is the start of this getting awkward. We didn’t show him the full Cheez-It box, we gave him the one filled with dog poo.  I stifled my laughter as did the others as he shoved his entire hand(up to the elbow) into the box. I could not contain it and laughed so hard I started crying.

Eric, on the other hand, was infuriated and confused.  He pulled out his defiled hand and started trying to prod us with it, much to our astonishment. However, his hand was not brown, oddly enough.
In the course of one day, I bought two Cheez-It boxes, made Eric look stupid, and found Gibran.  This was a successful day for me as far as “seizing it” goes.  John, Gibran, Eric and I all headed up to John’s room in the attic after that to play some video games, barring Eric until he washed his hands.

Shutting the Window

dead sunflower

Just a few minutes ago, I turned on the heat.  The heat has been off since sometime in June.  I had hoped to wait until October, but it got too cold.

Summer is over.  Dead.  Finished.  See picture above.

Fall, with all its cold, damp fogginess, is here.

I closed  the living room window this morning.  The lazy black cats liked to languish in that window, dozing and keeping an eye on the neighborhood while warm breezes swept over them.  Closed for business now.

Upstairs, we secured our bedroom window during this past weekend.  Our neighbors behind us like to get rowdy nightly anyway, but even with the fan on to drown the noise, the temps dipped dangerously low.  With the window closed, the room stayed a little warmer and quieter.  We left the bathroom window open, however.  Even that portal is shut now, as of today.

Because last night, it reached the high 30s in temperature.  It’s been raining, off and on in spurts, for days and days now.  We can’t fight the change of seasons. Take yesterday morning for instance.  I walked Ruby to school. The sun shone with all its might out of the east, promising a glorious day.  As I walked back, I quickened my step.  Black clouds engulfed half the sky out of the west.  A few raindrops  hit my face as I got to the gravel drive leading to our house.  Once I was inside, the deluge.

Rex was not amused.  He seems to mourn summer the most.  He goes outside, self-confined to the carport.  He pouts at the wet pavement and the endlessly dripping sky.  He returns to the warm and dry indoors, meowing his confusion.  Whatever happened?  Who *did* this, anyway?

I feel his pain.  Everyone I know ,it seems, loves fall.  I like it.  Right on the heels of fall – a short, transitional season up here at best – comes winter.  We have more than our fair share of cold and wet.  We seem to breed dreary gray skies that never clear.

The summer feels like ice cream sundaes every day, checks in the mail and a hot-air balloon ride every day.

I will miss it.

Seasons don’t last forever. It’s part of the earth’s life cycle.  I know this.  Time for the trees to shed leaves and hibernate.  Time for flowers and plants to stop growing and producing and rest.  Time to embrace crisp days, boots, fleece and pumpkin-flavored everything.  So my attitude must change, as well.  I don’t want to miss anything.  Each season has its own pleasures.  I’m remembering the joys of being cosy in our snug house while the rain pours down.  Hot chocolate, anyone?

The window is down, keeping the cold autumn air out. So long, summer.  Don’t be a stranger.

Birthday Tribute

Need more candles.

Need more candles.

A good friend of mine was born many years ago today. He will probably be embarrassed at this post, but it needs to be said:  some people in our lives stand tall and make an impact. They need to be feted and celebrated and thanked.

As I texted him birthday felicitations this morning, all I could think was how glad I am to have a friend who gets me. Both of us are musicians and writers and Christians. We are married to wonderful spouses we met at the same college. We shared some classes together, which is where I really started to see the depth and humor in my friend.

I didn’t know B. that well then. We took a science class together before this, two music majors picking up the missing required classes.  I did not look forward to it.

I sat behind him the first day of that class.

“Susan, what’s with all the weasel posters?”B. queried, glancing around the room.

I looked around.  Sure enough, the chief decoration of the room were life-size, colored posters of the North American Weasel, the Great Barrier Reef Weasel and the Common Cardboard Box Weasel.  I started laughing.  What message did this send to future Christian leaders?  We still don’t know.

Fast forward to my junior year with this literature class, we were together again.  As we started discussing the symbolism of the poem, I felt a kinship arise between us. Someone else who cared!

My friend B. and I formed a small study group for Early American Lit.  Read:  two. Well, maybe there was another guy, but he never showed. Even then, we were both excited to read and discuss great literature. This particular time, we needed to dissect Walt Whitman’s “Out of the Cradle, Endlessly Rocking”.

Since we attended a small Bible college, some areas were off-limits to the opposite sex. Also,  another gal -let’s call her Lola – invited herself to our group at the last minute, so we decided to meet in the lobby of the girls’ dorm where both Lola and I resided.

“I don’t quite get what Walt meant here…” Lola interrupted, pointing to a stanza.

B. and I looked at each other. Really? The conversation continued.

“But how did you get that?” Lola pumped us for information. She sucked up all our golden nuggets of understanding like an industrious bee gathering nectar.  Symbolism, a concept beyond her surfer-brain’s capabilities, flummoxed her.  I had a flash of déjà-vu.

I started holding back. I flashed back to high school again,  working on an assigned group project for government class. “Psst!  Susan’s in the group! We don’t have to do any work!” my classmates crowed, perching precariously on their tilted-back chairs. Years of this kind of treatment left me wary.

We quickly and by silent, mutual assent, decided we needed to drop Lola. No offense, Lola, but you gotta contribute something! We get that you don’t understand literature. Perhaps you should talk to the professor about it. We won’t be able to get you up to speed in a couple of weeks.

This is just a tiny sampling of why I appreciate B. He is one of the smartest people I know. He can smell fakey stuff a mile away, yet leaves his heart open for truth to show up in whatever way it can. He cares deeply for his family and friends and serves them well. He encourages me to be a better writer, a better mom and a better person. I find myself so grateful for his friendship and humor and kindness and constancy. I am so glad to know him.  Happy birthday!

Sweet Spot

sweet spot

One of Ruby’s little friends doesn’t like me much.  She thinks I’m too strict, I reckon.   I’m not changing how I do things just because some girl thinks I should let Ruby eat Pop-Tarts for dinner on a regular basis, or strip leaves off trees in order to swing on them, or make seesaws out of a flimsy tree branch and a handful of nails.  I know.  Just call me Czar Susan.  Bow to me!

Which brings me to something else I’m learning:  to hear God for myself. Or maybe it’s that God has been speaking to me in a variety of ways for so long, when I need direction for something very specific, I blow off the first answer that comes to me.  “Is that all there is?” I learned as a young woman to pray and to fast and essentially, in my mind, to strive for answers.  Our flesh is strong and our will doesn’t die easily.  Both of which are true.  Crucifying our flesh has a place.  But sometimes, we’re in the “sweet spot” already.  I would hope as we grow and mature we hear from God more readily, our ears and hearts attentive to His word and direction most of the time.  He can trust us with more.  We don’t have to get goosebumps to know God is speaking to us.  We can detect Jesus’ guiding even when every other light has gone out.

I can trust what the Lord shows me.  For example, I led pre-service prayer yesterday.  Earlier in the week, as I prayed about it, I got a scripture. It didn’t seem “wow” enough.  I didn’t feel different.  However, I got a spiritual application to go with it.  I kept praying and giving God opportunity to say more, to change things.  I wanted to be open to doing it His way.  But I got nothing else.  Turns out that *was* the wow.  The Lord showed up powerfully and the prayer time was impacting.  He is faithful.  I don’t have to push hard to make something happen.  Its simplicity was beautiful.  I got schooled.

I’m not sharing this to show how wonderful I am.  You all know about my ahem, fabulousness.  Sure, I screw it up sometimes.  But it won’t be the end.  I will get up, apologies all around to those I hurt, and move on.  I will try to be careful and do no harm – but mistakes happen.  I’m not perfect, despite singing on the platform and occasionally leading pre-service prayer at church.  I’m still human.

As for parenting, I’m not going to let Ruby  live on hotdogs, chips and ice cream, at least not every day.  Since I’ve given people tons of latitude on how they parent over the years, it’s probably time to extend a little bit to myself. We will eat veggies and fruit and meat and bread, even cheese.  Food groups matter.  Eating a variety of foods will ensure we get the nutrients we need.  Spiritually, it will be the same:  we will hear from God as we keep on listening, no matter the venue.

The Mystery of the Missing Turquoise Hoodie

This is a (mostly fictional) short story I shared with the writers group yesterday. Enjoy!

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He couldn’t believe it.  It was gone.  So many memories attached to it.  They flooded over him in a wave.

Zac slumped on his bed.

“What am I going to wear?” he wondered aloud.

He pulled on his favorite long-sleeved red shirt. A good inch of wrist showed once his shirt was on.   He jerked a pair of gray jeans from his dresser.  A good inch of sock showed below his pant leg.  Zac never noticed.

Zac trudged downstairs. He scowled at the clock:  7:07 already?!  He had to leave in less than a half hour.

“Morning, Zac!” his ever-cheerful mom chirped.

Geez.  Some of us are NOT morning people, he wanted to retort.  Instead, he grunted.  He picked up an empty bowl from the counter and dumped cereal into it.  He filled in all the airy spaces he could with milk, leveling the liquid at the bowl’s rim.

Zac took his bowl and spoon.  He sat down in his spot at the table.  His little sister Ruby was already there.  She pushed the cereal around in her bowl, her expression sour.  If it were up to her, every day would start off with a hot breakfast.

Mom sat at the head of the table.  She sipped her coffee.

Zac quickly shoveled in the nourishment.  He sucked down the last of his cereal, artfully tilting the bowl into his maw.

Ruby abandoned her despised cereal for her latest creation:  cardboard paper dolls with duct tape dresses.

“Ruby!” Mom exclaimed.  “Finish your breakfast, then play.”

“Sorry, Mom”, Ruby repented.

“Mom,” Zac started, fully fueled now, “have you seen my blue sweatshirt?” Oh please, oh please, he mentally begged.

Mom thought for a moment.

“Hmm.  I thought it was on the floor in your room.”

Zac heard, “You slob!  You threw it on your floor. If you took care of your things, this wouldn’t happen!”

Zac shook his head, mentally rolling his eyes.  Moms could be so impossible.

“It’s not there!” he asserted, his blue-gray eyes daring her to contradict him.

“Well, I haven’t seen it.” Mom returned to her imbibing.

Zac paused a beat.

“Did you take it?”

Mom sat up, startled.

“Did I take it?!  Why would I take it?” Eyes wide open now, she truly looked mystified at the suggestion.

“Come on, Mom.  I know you wear it sometimes,” Zac countered, smirking.

“Yes, I do.  We’re about the same size.  But Zac, I would never take something of yours.  I’m no thief.” She stood up, ending the conversation. She dumped her coffee mug into the sink.

Zac sighed.  Now he would have to actually look for it.  He went back upstairs.  Why did they have so many stairs anyway?  He stalked to his bedroom, at the end of the short hallway.  He peeked under his bed.  He opened his closet and poked around in the clothing littering the floor.  He even picked clothes up, dropping them just as quickly, in his quest to find his favorite article of clothing.

He remembered when he got the sweatshirt, years ago now.  Zac and his mom were back to school shopping for 6th grade.  She made him try on 100 pairs of jeans and at least 50 shirts.

This is tedious, he thought.  He got a brainwave.  He layered all the shirts, one on top of the other, and walked out of the dressing room to where his mom waited.

She looked up.

“Why are you so…round all of a sudden?” Mom asked.

She lifted up the top shirt.  And saw green fabric underneath.

“What are you, a refugee child?!  Nice try, mister.  One at a time, please.”

Zac recalled spotting the turquoise hoodie as they were leaving the boys’ section.

“Hey, that’s cool”, he said, careful to show a proper but not excessive enthusiasm. He shoved a lock of dark blonde hair out of his eyes. Don’t get your hopes up, buddy, he thought.

“That would look good on you,” Mom replied.  She peeked through the rack to find his size.  Zac peeled it off the hanger and shoved his arms into the garment.  It was soft and fleecy inside, a blanket with sleeves, hood and a zipper. Perfect!

Zac had a surprise up his sleeve.  He turned to Mom.

“And….lunch is on me!” He produced a $20 from his back pocket with a flourish.  He saved his allowance for this very purpose.

“Zac!  What a surprise!” Mom grinned.  “Sneaky boy, you just don’t want to go back and do your homework.”

“True,” Zac admitted.  But he also wanted to keep his mom to himself, just a little longer.  They found the food court and he even let her choose the place:  Subway, his least favorite.  He managed to keep his disappointment to himself.  He didn’t want to spoil the meal.

Zac wore gray jeans pretty much every day, changing to a clean pair in the morning.  He also wore a clean shirt every day.  But the hoodie went with everything.  He wore it, zipped up, each day of 6th grade.  He wore it on rainy days and sunny days.  He wore it to school, a protective shield of sorts.  He craved retreat from the world.  He could cover his nearly unrecognizable, ever-changing body.  The hoodie was a safe place.

He met his best friend Carlos wearing that very sweatshirt.

“Dude, what’s the answer to number 1?”

Zac turned around.  A  skinny boy with dark hair and eyes had asked him the question. Math class meant homework and sometimes working problems together in class.  The boy’s brown eyes watched Zac.

“I got 27, “ Zac said.

“Me too!” Carlos beamed approval.  Zac smiled back.  He had a tough time making friends, but his lucky sweatshirt helped.

But that was last year.  Back to reality, dude, Zac reminded himself.  He scanned his room desperately.  Where could it be?  His digital clock screamed 7:27.  Out of time, he dashed downstairs.

School was school, normal and predictable as a rainy November morning.  All day, Zac felt a little off-kilter without his sweatshirt armor.  Even Carlos asked about the missing sweatshirt, a staple on Zac’s back. It couldn’t be helped. Zac stepped off the bus in the near twilight and headed home.  He had stayed late to finish up some school work and his little sister greeted him at the door.

“Hi, Zac!” Ruby called, brown eyes shining with admiration.

“Hi, Ruby!” Zac said.  Little sisters helped to boost one’s ego, he found.  They thought the world of you.

“Hey, Zac, look at what I made”.  Ruby twirled for him.  She sported a new blue skirt, swirling around her ankles. Loving sewing, crafts and art, Ruby was the resident wunderkind for invention and creativity.

“Wow”.  Zac was genuinely blown away.  His sister was amazing.  A seven-year-old who could sew her own clothes?!

Wait a minute.  Was that a zipper down the side? And black block print on the back?

“Ruby”, Zac asked carefully, “where did you get the material?”  Zac knew that sometimes his mom gave Ruby old clothes destined for Goodwill.  Ruby turned these found items into pillows and doll clothes, usually, or made blankets to line cardboard boxes as beds for her cat.  It could be this item was from that stash.

“I found it”, Ruby said.

“Where did you find it?”

“It was on the floor in the bathroom after you took a shower.”  Ruby peered up at him, gauging his reaction.  Was she in trouble?

Zac had a choice now.

Zac’s fists clenched involuntarily.  She.  Took.  My.  Sweatshirt!  He forced himself to breathe in and out, in and out.  She’s just a little kid, he reminded himself.

“Ruby…that was my sweatshirt.  You took it and made it into a…a…” he fumbled as he squeaked out the word.  “Skirt”, he finally finished.

“Oh.”  Ruby looked a little perplexed.  “I thought since you left it on the floor, you didn’t want it anymore.”

What?!  How could she think that? He exploded.

“I can’t believe you did that!  That was my favorite sweatshirt, and you ruined it!”

Zac stomped up the stairs to his lair.

Ruby dissolved into tears and ran to Mom.

Alone in his room, Zac fumed.  How could she take it?  He thought of all the good times he’d had with his friends, laughing and clowning around.  The sweatshirt kept the Northwest drizzle off and the chill away.  It was a constant in his world.

Someone knocked on the door.  Mom, he thought.

“Zac, can I come in?” Mom was tentative.

“Sure,” he begrudged.

Mom came in and sat on the bed next to Zac.  She put her arm around his shoulders.

“Zac, I’m sorry about what happened with your sweatshirt.  So is Ruby.”

He spied Ruby, peeking in at the door, eyes red from crying.

He felt bad for yelling at her but still angry at her willful destruction of his property.

“Zac, I made something for you.”

Ruby crept into the room, fearful of more Zac wrath.  She held out a pillow.  It was blue.  A blue sweatshirt pillow.

Zac couldn’t help but smile.

“Thanks.”

“I’m sorry, Zac.  I really am.  Cross my heart.”  Ruby, all solemnity now, watched her brother.

“Now you can have your sweatshirt even when you sleep!” she said, hopeful her offering pleased him.

How could he resist that pleading face?

“Ok”, he sighed.  “Next time, ask me first.”

He hugged her as Ruby whispered another apology into his leg, a couple of remnant tears on her cheeks.  He watched her swish away in his skirt-shirt.  She had added lace to the bottom.  Ugh!  Little sisters.

The next day at school, he met up with Carlos on the way to algebra.

“Nice sweatshirt, brah,” Carlos said as they ambled along to class.

“Thanks”, Zac smiled as he zipped up his new black hoodie, wrists covered now.  He needed another one anyway.  His mom agreed.  A cozy blanket with sleeves covered his torso. Enshrouded in fleecy goodness, he felt safe again.  New friends and new memories awaited. Life was good.