Jardine: A little joy on a stressful birthday

From the e-mails and voice mails, or March madness leftovers:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY -- Adi Wedegaertner turned 31 last month, and it became her most eventful birthday.

What made it so unique?

In the morning, the La Loma Junior High School special education teacher received a layoff notice from Modesto City Schools, telling her she might lose her job because of budget cuts.

That night, after an open house at the school, the Oakdale resident took an unwelcome ambulance ride to a hospital emergency room because of complications from having gastric bypass surgery seven years ago.

All bad, right?

But in between, she encountered a simple show of humanity that made the other stuff seem inconsequential.

"A while back, I'd found this old ring of my husband's," she said. "It's Black Hills gold. It had a couple of little tiny diamonds missing. It needed some work."

She'd taken it to the Jewelry Vault in north Modesto and planned to pick it up after school on her birthday, March 12. When she got there, she realized that, in a daze over the layoff notice, she'd left her purse at the school and didn't have the $19 to pay for the repairs to the ring. Wedegaertner told store co-owner Maxine Douglas she'd come back later, money in hand. Douglas owns the store with husband Gene, and Mike and Sue Smith.

"I took the ring off and gave it back to her," Wedegaertner said.

Maxine Douglas noticed something was bothering Wedegaertner and asked if she wanted to talk. Wedegaetner explained she was just having one of those days -- you know, the kind when you get very bad news on your birthday.

"(Douglas) takes my hand and puts the ring back in it and said, 'What you do is worth so much more than the $20 you could give me,' " Wedegaertner said. "This is a woman I'd never met and just wanted to thank me for doing my job. She didn't have to do that at all."

Douglas felt it was the least she could do.

"We value our teachers," Douglas said. "I just comped her."

So later that night, after the gastric problem surfaced and Wedegaertner made a sudden emergency room visit, she could look back on Douglas' random act of kindness to put a positive spin on an otherwise negative day.

"Because of that one thing, I'll never forget this birthday," Wedegaertner said. "I could focus on her humanity. It honestly was one of the best days I've ever had."

A DIS-SERVICE -- Thieves have a strange way of supporting our troops. They stole containers of items from Debra Galaviz's car March 28 when it was parked in front of her home in the south Modesto/north Ceres area. Galaviz is a member of the South Bay Blue Star Mothers. Her son is an Army veteran, and her brother recently returned from Iraq.

That day, she carpooled to work in the South Bay and came home to find someone had taken items the organization sells so it can send packages to the troops serving overseas.

They got T-shirts, pens, ball caps and other items bearing the group's logo or service branch logos. They stole lapel pins, car magnets, cookbooks created by the South Bay Blue Star Mothers showcasing their military kids' favorite recipes, and brochures explaining the organization's purpose.

"It's stuff nobody else would sell," she said.

In all, they got about $1,000 worth of the fund-raising stuff, plus a cash box used to make change whenever the moms sell their wares.

They also took the emblem off her Camaro's hood, she said.

Some of the items bore the words "God Bless America" and "Support Our Troops."

You can do that, in this case, by calling the Ceres police if anyone tries to sell you items with the South Bay Blue Star Mothers logo on it.

FORBES FODDER AGAIN -- After being ranked America's fifth-most miserable city by Forbes magazine in February, Modesto took another beating last week. This time, the magazine listed Modesto as the nation's worst metropolitan area.

An excerpt:

"Modesto, Calif., ranks as the worst metro area with more than 500,000 residents. This crime-wracked enclave in the Central Valley demands the same moderately high cost of living as Portland (Maine, ranked the best) with a third of the job growth and nearly three times the unemployment."

But before folks in any of Stanislaus County's eight other cities snicker or smirk, remember that they're ranking the Modesto metropolitan statistical area, which includes all of Stanislaus County. If left to its own 210,000 population, Modesto alone wouldn't be ranked.

So everybody gets to share in the joy.

Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at 578-2383 or