Sitting here feeling very thankful — appropriate for the weekend following the fourth Thursday in November or any other weekend in which one has been surrounded by friends, family, and good food — so it seemed right to knock out a few words to the folks I haven't seen or talked to in far too long.
It's been a hectic summer and fall, and while I'm not crazy about the thought of scraping ice off of car windows and cleaning and drying dogs' paws after every trip outside, I am so ready for winter and it's slower days, longer nights, more time sitting by the fireplace, reading a good book and listening to Van Morrison, leisurely dinners over a hearty soup or stew and fresh bread, and in general a slower, more deliberate pace.
The big news is that Michele and I are officially certified as foster parents and have completed our training, inspections, home visits and home studies, and the various pokes and prods from government officials to make sure we're not just doing this because we need help with the dishes, vacuuming, and dog walking. It’s kind of crazy that just anyone can go and have a baby and the government doesn’t get involved one lick, and yet if you volunteer to help out where there most definitely is a need, then you get treated like an extra-terrestrial in a lab at Area 51. Financial disclosures, medical records checks and a full physical, police checks and finger-printing and references, and a home inspection to make sure that our water heater is set to 118.5º and that our kitchen does not contain any sharp objects (like knives), our medicine cabinet does not contain anything toxic (like medicine), and our home is generally free of those dangerous things like stairs and hard floors and gravity. I laughed when I realized that our wine rack contained both intoxicants and heavy, blunt objects that could pose a hazard to the industrious and inquisitive non-ambulatory infant.
The whole process could be a bit silly at times, but I’d be lying if I told you it wasn’t worth it. Having watched kids from afar for so many years, the whole process of child-rearing seems like one of those things you’ve always taken for granted yet never seriously pondered (right up there with, “why isn’t a toothbrush called a teethbrush?”) With the perspective of a visitor to another planet, I kept finding that the list of known unknowns and unknown unknowns was a lot longer than the list of stuff I did in fact know. We were maybe three weeks into the training, and Michele and I were talking about attachment issues, trying to understand Medicaid benefits for foster kids, and other Big Picture items when all of a sudden I screamed out, “I don’t know where the school bus stop is!! They’ll never give us a kid, because I can’t get him / her / it to the bus stop!!”
But that part of the problem is over, fini, put to bed, so now we’re just sitting by the phone, waiting on the call for us to come down to the fire station or hospital or the county family services department to pick up a screaming bag of joy. I think it was Eleanore Roosevelt who said you should do something that scares you every day. This should cover me for the next 18 years, I imagine. Forty-four years old and about to be a first-time father, probably on a temporary basis at least once but quite likely for keeps. So, we’ll see what happens, and we’ll keep you posted.
Had our first real snow this weekend, which has me itching to get up into the mountains. Not enough of the cold frozen stuff yet for any fun, but enough to remind us that it’s just around the corner. And more than enough for the dogs, who ran around like puppies on their last walk, chasing the flakes and sticking their nose into it and then flipping it up into the air. That kind of stuff is good for the soul. When I lived in Korea, my best buddy used to say that everyone needed the occasional mental regression weekend, where you act like a kid and run around outside, getting muddy or playing in the snow and forgetting about grown-up worries and concerns. This place definitely has that in spades.
What’s funniest about the dogs running around like puppies is that one of them couldn’t run at all just a couple of years ago. Zo’s arthritis had him walking around like Freddie G. Sanford, and the “G” stands for “gimpy.” He’s been getting acupuncture for a couple of years now, and the difference is night and day. But still, he just turned nine, which is like 80-90 in Great Dane years. Watching him get old has been rough (was so tempted to type “ruff,” but I held back), but on the handful of occasions when the puppy in him comes out, it’s a healthy reminder that age is just a number and it’s our job to make the most out of every tick of the biological clock, since none of us know when that last alarm is going to go off, and hitting “snooze” isn’t an option.
So that’s our plan for the next several months: standing by the phone, and trying to get outside and soak up the daily dose of solar-delivered vitamin D. In between, I’m going to try to wear out our Dutch oven with stew and soup recipes and then struggle through my painful attempt at the Great American Novel (spoiler alert: it was the White House barber).
I hope 2008 has treated you well, and that 2009 brings nothing but wondrous new experiences, or at least a lot of the same old stuff that you have enjoyed from previous editions. If you’re ever in the neighborhood, give us a shout. And if you’re not, feel free to shout at us anyway.
Bon hiver, happy winter, mele kalikimaka and a hearty zum wohl to everyone.
Steve and Michele