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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I will be going into the seventh grade soon. I'll be in all advanced classes, and I am also doing several sports. My problem is I'm very nervous.

I'm afraid of getting lost on my way to my classes, that I'll have a hard time meeting new people and that I'll be overwhelmed with work. One night I had a dream about all my fears coming true! Is there any way I can get past these feelings and enjoy my first few days at school? -- NERVOUS IN CHEYENNE

DEAR NERVOUS: Absolutely. Just remind yourself that every single student who will be entering seventh grade with you is probably experiencing similar feelings. If you get lost looking for a classroom, a teacher or someone else will be glad to help you find your way. It won't be difficult to meet new people because they'll be all around you, and everyone in your grade will be in the same boat.

P.S. You wouldn't have been assigned to advanced classes if you weren't up to the workload. So, trust me, and relax.

DEAR ABBY: My husband is starting to seriously embarrass me. He has to relieve himself almost every time he walks outside. We have a truck sitting in our yard, and when we have company he walks behind it to do his business. He says it "saves water." What? A nickel's worth?

Our 14-year-old son is starting to do the same thing. He can be walking down the street and stop to pee by the side of the road. It's impossible to correct him when his dad does it, too.

How do I fix this? I have tried talking to them, but it doesn't work. -- TEED OFF IN TENNESSEE

DEAR TEED OFF: Not knowing your husband, I can't determine whether he's "marking his turf" or has trouble controlling his bladder. If your husband's behavior started recently, inform his doctor. He should be checked from stem to stern because he could have a medical problem.

As to your son, he is imitating his dad. Depending on the laws in your community regarding exposing oneself and public urination, he could get himself in trouble. So please impress upon him that what he's doing is not only socially unacceptable but also could have a negative impact on his future, and you want it stopped immediately.

DEAR ABBY: After years of soul-searching I have finally realized that I'm an atheist. I am happy with that realization and at peace with myself.

One minor thing, though, has been baffling me. When expressing compassion, usually in letters or other written form, I see the phrase, "My thoughts and prayers are with you." I like the phrase, but cannot in good conscience state an outright lie when I know I won't pray.

Can you think of any non-religious alternative that I can use? I feel that using "My thoughts are with you" alone is missing something. -- JILL IN MICHIGAN

DEAR JILL: I disagree. The phrase "My thoughts are with you" is direct and sincere. If you think you must add more, describe the emotions you are feeling, i.e., "I miss you," "I hope you're feeling better soon" or, "Please know you're always in my heart." In other words, tailor your words to the occasion and the person to whom they are directed.

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