Friday, June 30, 2006

At Last

I have gotten home from work, and we are preparing to get out of town. 9 work-free days. I'm having a hard time believing it...but I made it here.

The Wife is dropping Mitch off at the shelter, and then we're away. "Josie" is going with, and by the look of her she's bored already. Ah, well. There are things in this world that I care about, and "Josie's" level of entertainedness is not currently one of them.

Time to fire up the motorcycle pretty soon and hit the road. I can pretend I'm headed for the open road to travel the continent, and then I can pretend that I just happened to stop at the cabin for awhile because it looks like a cool place to stay. Yeah. That's it.

I may or may not post, depending on availability of internet connectivity and availability of the will to sit in front of a keyboard.

You all have a great week. I should be posting again in 10 days or so, if not sooner.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Almost Vacation

I've been counting the days until vacation and hoping against hope that things at work don't turn south enough that The Boss asks me to postpone. Things are now coming together at work and it looks like I might actually be able to take off Friday night.

That being the case, I'm whipped and don't feel like writing a whole lot (and probably won't be writing much while I'm vacating) but I owe you the latest on "Josie".

As regular followers of this series of domestic screeds know by now, we hung our asses in the wind (sorry, Mom) for "Josie", sticking up for her against the Powers That Be because she was about to be sent up and we felt that would be the worst possible thing for her long-term. Our side won that one and she's been with us since. The social workers have started again with the too-frequent home visits, but we've just had to content ourselves with beefing up our spy network and clamping down when we can.

Well, now "Josie" has a job, and she's started telling us she has to work until such-and-such a time when she really only has to work until an hour or two before that. She's been hanging around with a mind-boggling array of boys who have started calling the house a LOT. She's been treating her best friend pretty shabbily. She drank alcohol last weekend and thinks she's fooled us. In short, she's forgotten completely again how close to the edge she is, and I reckon she's about to pitch herself into the abyss any day now.

I know she loves us...I'm comfortable with that. Now she's just a girl who knows way more than she should about adult life who is grappling with emotions I'm all too familiar with. When I was a teen I had pretty close to an ideal family situation, and even I had this stupid, undirected rage against nothing. I suspect most teens have that to one degree or another, but when you combine that with knowledge of and familiarity with sex, alcohol, drugs and whatever else, you have a pretty much unstoppable moron on the loose. And that's what "Josie" is right now.

So I'm praying for two things in particular right now: 1) that she doesn't hurt herself or anybody else when the fall comes and 2) that we have another crack at her in 9 months or whatever when she gets back from whatever lockup she gets sent to.

What else can we do but redouble our efforts to save her while letting ourselves detach a little bit emotionally so it doesn't hurt quite so much when she goes?

Pray with us, won't you?

In the meantime, I'm preparing for an entire week of nothing in particular to do. I'm gonna drink coffee and soda, read (a lot), fish, swim, walk, talk with the most beautiful woman in the world (it's a good thing I'm married to her), visit with the folks, and maybe take a field trip for a day to the town where I went to college and visit some people.

I'm gonna eat melon, grill steaks, watch the pelicans, listen to music, lay in the sun, and generally lay back and smile.

Life is good.

Monday, June 26, 2006


Okay, look you guys, it's not that I've decided to blow you off, it's just that life has once again caught me in its web. A full weekend with the Battle of the Basement Dad and I won, by the way), followed by revelations and trouble with "Josie" that I'll share later, and now I just got home from work at 9:40 or so (I started at 8 this morning).

I'm whipped and I'm going to jump in the shower. I hope I make it to the bed before falling asleep. Hopefully more tomorrow night.

Friday, June 23, 2006

A Visit from Dad

Mom has a tradition where she and her sisters get together once a year for "Sisters' Weekend". This is a completely separate and distinct ritual from the also-annual "Purple Hat Tea" (the genesis of which is unclear to me to this day).

The problem is that while the Purple Hat Tea is an open affair, where visitors are not only welcome but their presence is occasionally demanded, the Sisters' Weekend is more of a private spouses. You can see from this that my inclination to get old friends together at the lake cabin is most likely genetic.

So we saw an opportunity to not only welcome a wifeless refugee and give Dad some company, but also to get some extra work done on our basement. Several walls need to go in, and hopefully tomorrow is the day.

I. Never. Refuse. Dad's. Help. It would be stupid. He doesn't eat much, he's good company, and he can create an explosive device with chewing gum, fish guts and twine. MacGyver, eat your heart out.

That piddling basement doesn't stand a chance. I almost feel sorry for it. Almost.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

And Then There Were Two

"Angel" is gone, and "Josie" is gone overnight since her home visit schedule has been tweaked. This leaves The Wife and me home alone together. A time for romance. A chance to reconnect with each other. A perfect opportunity to soothe our souls with each other's comforting presence...perhaps to reawaken our passion with a sly look here and a brush of a hand on an arm there. A glorious pause in our workaday routine to wash the world and our cares away in the burning love for each other that sustains and nourishes us and gives our lives their most important purpose.

Or at least a time to weed-n-feed the yard and clean the garage. Eh.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Focus on "Josie" (again)

With "Angel" now out of the picture, I find myself considering "Josie's" situation a little more carefully. I find that really, our recommendations are still being largely ignored. She's still being pushed back into the home that created her problems, though I'll admit the push seems somewhat more measured and hesitant. I'll call that a victory for now.

Today she was to be at her grandma's for awhile, after which she would meet her friend when her friend got off work and she would be with her until her mom got off work. After that, she was to spend the remainder of the day and overnight with her mom. This is every's supposed to be a "therapeutic" family reunification exercise. This would be made easier if her mom didn't leave her at home and go to the bar, but facts don't seem to enter in to the equation. Sigh.

So I got a call just before lunch and it was "Josie" telling me her grandma had a dental appointment and did I want to spend my lunch with her before she met her friend (who works in the building next to mine)? Sure, I said. That sounds like fun. And it did. And it was.

She had already eaten, so I grabbed a couple of tacos and a bottle of soda and we headed for the park. I've discovered that the park on the lake south of town is a glorious place to eat my lunch on nice days. It's even nicer when you spend the time with a girl developing a deeper relationship with her.

I don't know if I'm a father figure to her or not. Sometimes it seems like it, but other times it seems more of a big brother or really good family friend sort of thing. I know she trusts me more than other men in her life, and that feels good. She has developed a gentle manner with me that makes me know she's fond of me, and she has become sort of anxious to please me. I'm anxious to please her too when I can...that is when she's not being a normal sulky 15-year-old girl.

But our relationship is slowly starting to really blossom, and there are really, really good things happening there. We had a great talk at lunch about her readiness to go home. She admitted (not in so many words) that she didn't really feel ready to go home, and absolutely didn't feel ready to go home full time. This is something she doesn't tell her counsellors and she should, but I don't think she trusts them.

I cussed her for always coming home wrecked after being at her mom's place overnight. She's always very tired, sometimes has rings under her eyes, and is generally pretty sour to be around for a day or so. I told her I understand that her mom isn't being fair or even sane, but that she has to for her own sake.

I harped on her to remember her meds and get some fercripesake sleep tonight. We'll see if she does.

While we were in the park, she dragged me over to a little raised gazebo thing that she wanted me to sit in with her and look at the lake. She said how she used to come there and sit by herself a lot when she was younger. She started to talk about how the town was shrinking, about how she wasn't sure about what she wanted to do after high school, and some other very interesting things. I was almost holding my breath, because these were EXACTLY the thoughts of hers that I've been wanting to hear for a long time. When she would pause I would simply look at her and nod, and she would keep talking.

I'm really, really getting to know her, and it's really, really good. She's no angel...her family situation has forced her to grow far beyond her years in some areas. But there's still a surprisingly large part of her that's still 15 or younger and yearning for parents to talk to and give her a little guidance.

She is apparently considered to be one of the more difficult placements in the whole area by some, and she was when she got here...but she's warmed to us an incredible amount and I have to say the feeling is mutual.

When I asked her what she would think if they sent her home again, she said she'd hate it, and she'd come visit us as much as she could and stay with us sometimes if it was possible. Now that's definitely a question for the social workers as to whether that's a good idea, but it makes me very happy that she would want to spend time with us. Very happy indeed.

There are deep scars on The Wife and I from the "Angel" experience that we'll need a little time to heal, but "Josie" is like a salve on the wound.

Right now we need her almost as much as she needs us, I think. I love that girl.

Monday, June 19, 2006

No More "Angel"

I've had to let this cook in my mind, processing it for a few days before I was able to write about it. It's painful, and liberating, and everything in between plus a few things that aren't.

Our marriage, as I implied before, was under strain, and both of us needed a break from the daily grind. We took our break last week from fostering and though I had to work it was pretty refreshing. We both did our separate thinking and then we did some talking when The Wife got back. Our talking and thinking, combined with the fact that "Angel" seemed to completely flip out on Friday, led us to the final conclusion:

We've done all we can for this girl, and we can't take anymore or things will happen that can't be taken back and could destroy everything we're working for.

There was no help of any kind for two months. There should have been help after the first week. "Angel's" former foster parents clued us in that they had run into the same brick walls we had with no luck getting any assistance. They apparently burned out too.

You haven't felt out of your depth until you've seen the behavior The Wife witnessed (and I barely missed but heard her reaction from the next room). I can't even go into details for fear of probably breaking some laws and for sure violating every foster confidentiality ethic in the book, but suffice it to say that one of the things that happened Friday alone should get that girl committed for psychiatric evaluation. Yesterday. So, of course, today she's sitting in an emergency foster home, waiting to go to yet another foster home.

Yes, the system does let some kids down horribly. People should lose their jobs over this case.

Among the things I can tell you about Friday is that "Angel" decided she wasn't going to have any seatbelt restrain her. She tried to lock The Wife out of the house, though she's been warned about that almost daily for the last month. "Josie" watched her walk up to Tasha, grab her collar and begin methodically bashing her fist on Tasha's head.

And the kicker...when The Wife wouldn't let her lock her out of the house, she went out on the deck with Willy to pout. Then she grabbed Willy, looked defiantly up at The Wife, lifted Willy's hind leg up and bit him on the hamstring. That dog has supernatural patience. She could easily have broken a bone, and as it was he would have been fully justified in ripping her ear off and spitting it in her face, losing our fostering license for us in the process and probably sending us to court.

But the bottom line is we're not equipped to deal with this kind of thing and we aren't going to. We've reached our limit. Pool's closed, everybody out.

You could tell a huge weight had been lifted off our entire household within a couple of hours of coming home Saturday. Mom was so torqued up over our state of mind that she and Dad came to visit (inspiring my last post) and counsel us. We needed it...but I think our ship is now magically righting itself.

The difference is palpable with "Josie". She had started to truly worry (and rightfully so) about both of us, and particularly The Wife. She had been on very good behavior, helping with "Angel" and generally being an angel herself (if still a pretty lazy one...some things don't change).

"Josie" is really, really starting to bond with us now. She gave me a shirt for Father's day that says "Best Dad Hands Down". It came with some packets of ink, which kids could use to put their hand prints on the shirt. Today when I got home from work, she had put both hand prints between the words, and on the back she had written "Love Ya!" I had to use a kleenex when The Wife wasn't looking.

We're also getting reports back from her family, teachers, counselors and so forth that she really loves it here. I guess we're at least getting the job done with that one.

The thing with "Angel" hurts and we feel like failures to a degree, regardless of how much other people in the system are at fault. But you know, I still don't feel like it was time wasted. We learned a lot out of that, and according to her former foster family (who did the respite last week) and other observers, she came a long ways with us. I did get to have a little daughter and get just a taste of what that is. And I think in the grand design we were just placeholders for her.

You see, there is another foster family downstate that's just coming online, according to our sources. The foster mom is a psychologist. Big score there. AND..."Angel's" ethnicity is "African-American", or "black" to people like me who don't give much of a rip about that political correctness garbage. That new foster family is also black. I don't think that usually means much...but who knows? Maybe in this case it will make her feel more like she "belongs".

Maybe God gave that beautiful child to us as a training mission and a test for us to learn for ourselves whether we're supposed to be doing this? Maybe He gave us to her to love her and take good care of her until her real plan was in place? Who knows why He puts us in these predicaments? I do know that it feels to me like it's all going to work out the way it should...and if there's a chance of a happy ending I guess I'm not going to complain too bitterly.

For our part, we've decided that the rest of the summer or so we'll content ourselves with "Josie" and focus on doing for her what we can. At the same time, we'll focus on each other and make sure we both still remember to keep each other first in our lives.

That won't be difficult for me. You see, there's one other curious thing that's come out of this for me. It started a couple weeks ago, and my guess is that it was the building stress and then The Wife's trip out of town last week that started it and the semi-happy resolution that's continuing it, but I have to admit that I've been especially...frisky.

No bull. I feel like I'm 20 again. Heh. Now...I've heard women complain about that, and I've heard other women complain about the lack of it. Being...well, a guy--I'm not sure which school of thought is prevalent among the estrogen set, but I haven't heard The Wife complain yet.

I'm taking that as a good sign. Yes, a very good sign indeed...because "Josie" just started a part-time job, and that could leave us all alone in the house frequently for a few hours at a time.

I don't mind driving her to work once in awhile.

UPDATE: The Wife has a spatula to my head and is forcing me to emphasize to you that it is me, and not she, who is the "horndog". That is all.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

To Dad for Father's Day

Dear Dad,

You didn't have the easiest job in the world trying to make me into the man you wanted me to be. I was stubborn, willful and generally not a very likeable kid all the time.

I did inherit some things from you. I always try to do the right thing, even though I don't always make the right decisions. My heart is in the right place. I love my people. I tend to be instrospective, though I'm not as thoughtful as you usually are about things. And though I'm not able to be a biological father myself, I do love the feeling of being a father of a sort. I take it as seriously as you do, and I'm willing to put out whatever effort and sacrifice it takes to make sure my "kids" get what they need and deserve.

I remember one time when I was little you spanked me. Mom was usually the one who did that sort of thing, but that time I'd been an especially eggregious little shit, and Mom tapped you for the job. I knew at the time you didn't like doing it, but you did it because you thought it was the right thing. It was.

I remember when I was 14 and broke my arm. While I was in traction for a month, you kept banging your head on the apparatus holding my arm up, and that hurt. It hurt worse to see how badly you felt about it. You've gotta admit, it's fun to think about now, though.

You watched with pride when I got my Eagle Scout award. Afterward, you shook my hand. That was worth more to me than anything else I can think of.

I remember once I was out on the deck crying over a girl that was very important to me at the time. You came out and just stood by me. You were feeling my pain and not saying anything...and you just put your hand on my shoulder and stood with me. That was just the right thing to do for me at that time. Your quiet, wordless reassurance has been a constant presence all my life, and I try to provide the same kind of thing to my foster kids. I guess I probably use more words than you do...but sometimes I think of you and just shut up, because sometimes that's the best thing to do. Sometimes words just get in the way. You taught me that.

I remember the letter you sent me at a very low point in my life, in the summer of '90. I kept that letter for years, and I may still have it. I had just quit college...your letter was one of the reasons I went back and finished what I started. I simply could not allow the disappointment I read in that letter stand. I inherited my core of steel from you, too, though mine usually shows in much different ways.

I remember the day I finally left the nest for good, bound for the Big City to seek my fortune. In a sense, that was my final good-bye hug, and I knew it at the time. Whatever happened after that, I knew I was never coming home again except as a visitor. Time to be a man.

All the trips you took me on. All the times you drove the boat so I could ski. All the times you've helped me with projects around the house. All the times you've helped me fix my car. All the times we walked together and talked with each other--as father to son, as friend to friend and as man to man.

I still feel a deep sense of shame for the times I've let you down. The time I was 12 years old and got caught shoplifting a candy bar, I still remember how you sat that night on my bed next to me and cried. I don't remember another time offhand that you ever cried...unless maybe when your brother died. You don't know how it's pained me over the years every time I realized that I'm the only one I know of that ever made you cry with shame and disappointment. I also know that the only reason you felt that shame and disappointment was because I was everything to you.

It must have been very difficult for you all those years to watch me try to destroy myself. I can imagine the hurt--and hope--you must have felt when you first heard I had been arrested for DWI. That episode pains me less than the others, because it was the start of my "awakening". It was then that I found my sense of self-worth, mostly missing for a decade or so, and began to live my life after your example again.

In the time since then, I hope that I've improved your opinion of me and my life. I hope I've made you proud. I plan on spending the rest of my life continuing to try to make you proud of whatever I'm doing. I won't always succeed, but I'll always try.

A series of books I love describes the sense of having betrayed or shamed yourself as "forgetting the face of your father". That seems to me a particularly apt phrase. For a long time, I forgot the face of my father. Then I finally remembered it, and I promise you here and now that no matter what difficulties I find in life from here on out, I will continue to remember it for as long as I live. I hope that I'm able to live my life in such a way that I'm able to make it smile with pride.

You're my idol. You're my role model. You're my father. I love you, Dad, more than I quite know how to say. And I still want to be just like you.

All my love,

Thursday, June 15, 2006

A Fresh Influence

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you realize I love old rock music. Soft, hard, long as it came out in or near the 80s, I love it. And when you listen to a thing as the soundtrack for your life, maybe it's the thing to change if you want to change your attitude. No, I'll never give up Bon Jovi and Def Leppard, but maybe I should make them more of an occasional thing instead of the main course. A guy's gotta grow and change, too, right?

I started my current job near the end of last May. I had to commute about 60 miles each way from my folks' lake cabin until we closed on our house June 30 or so, and I was alone much of the rest of the time. Most of my music was packed or otherwise tied up in the process of moving, and the only reliable stations I could find were country.

Toby Keith. Lonestar. Martina McBride. People like that. You know, it wasn't half bad. There have been little streaks I've gone on where I listened to a lot of country and the soundtrack for about the first 13 years of my life consisted mainly of Dolly Parton, the Oakridge Boys and Johnny Cash. But I don't recall ever actually buying a country CD. That may be about to change.

Think about rock vs. country for a moment. Now, take away from each style all songs related to love, sex and the music/lifestyle itself. You're left with a LOT more country than rock. Sure, country singers spend a lot of their energy on love and sex. They are, after all, some of the most powerful emotions and experiences we have. It would be shocking if people weren't obsessed with them.

But in country, you also learn about a girl who's struggling to make it as a singer so her parents will be proud of her and hasn't made it yet. You learn about a smartass who did make it and wants to rub it in on the girl who wouldn't date him in high school. You learn about a little boy who can't hit his own pitching. You hear how a boy's grandpa and grandma met and ran away to live happily ever after, until she died. Kenny Rogers advises us of how gamblers are. Did you ever notice that most Christmas songs fit much better to a country adaptation than to rock?

I have usually thought of country music over the years as "old peoples' music". It never occurred to me that someday I would be "old people". I better get on the stick, so I can start complaining about all these young 'uns and their damned loud music. The next time I'm in a store, maybe I'll buy a country CD.

This morning I saw a poster for We Fest, a big annual multi-super-country-group multi-day festival that happens each August not so awful far from here. Maybe we should go this year or next? I was in town for it once years ago, though I didn't hit any of the concerts...I was more interested in the girls in the campgrounds at the time, as I recall.

Times, they do change.

Oh, and I'm now also taking recommendations for current country groups that have good CDs that I might like to buy, in case there are any avid country fans out there.

Lunch With "Josie"

The Wife really had to jump through a few hoops to get child care arrangements set up so she could be out of town for a few days. Today was my turn to cover the bases...since "Josie" was done with school but her friend and her dad weren't out of work for an hour, I got to have another lunch with Our Little Darling.

I began our date with what I considered to be a witty conversational gambit: "so, you catch any carp yet today?" Heh. After I rubbed the owie out of my shoulder, I shifted the car into gear and drove to the cafe, where we proceeded to eat a normal, everyday lunch. Or it would have been an everyday, normal lunch if "Josie" hadn't been vibrating at a tone of about high "C" because of the six (!) "energy drinks" she had imbibed this morning.

I'm glad I wasn't her teacher. Holy cripes. She started talking as we pulled out of work and I don't think she took a breath until we got to the cafe.

I also got a kick out of the reactions of the ladies having lunch when we got there. She seemed only to know one of them, and all of them gave me what I took to be a speculative look: "what's "Josie" doing with this man, and should we inform her mother about it?" I love that kind of thing. People just love to talk, don't they? Especially in small towns. I'm guessing half of that little burg knows now that we ate there today.

Anyway, we ate, we chatted, she wanted to come home tonight and keep me company since I had mentioned I was bored last night, I thanked her for the offer but declined with a nod to the carefully-listening hens at the next table, we chatted some more, finished and left. It was fun, and I plan on doing that with her semi-regularly.

If I haven't mentioned it before, "Josie" was born to be a heart breaker. To quote an old Swedish band, "She's Got the Look". She's really cute, she's really fun, and boys can't seem to help themselves when she bats her eyes at them. It's like hypnosis. She's also hypersexualized and can't understand it when we tell her that she'll be much more attractive if she dresses with a little class instead of a (very) little material.

But the problem is, she knows she's cute, she knows she can have pretty much any boyfriend she wants, and she doesn't seem to care whether she hurts them. That bugs me. I got hurt a lot when I was younger, and sometimes that pain can follow you like a ghost for a long time.

Ask The Wife. She was one of the ones that unintentionally hurt me when I was younger (probably more my fault than hers, it's a long story), and while the sting is gone from that for obvious reasons, I haven't forgotten what it feels like. Not all guys are probably as sensitive as me about things like that...but some are. And they don't forget, either, I'll bet.

I've been trying to think of not-too-painful ways to clue her in on what she might do to some poor boy who falls for her. It's sort of a case of "watch where you point that, girl." And I'm trying to look out for the boys that might get steamrolled in the next few years....I know there'll be a few, but I hope to reduce the number and severity if possible.

Ideas will be most gratefully received.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Point of Order

And here's a blog that may or may not be an official fostering blog (it's hard to tell from the quick read I just gave it), but it most assuredly is far too cool of a blog not to point out for your reading enjoyment.

(hat tip: referral log)

Midlife Crisis

Yeah, that's gotta be it. I'm getting a little bipolar or something lately. One night I'm a sentimental sap, the next night I'm doing a rock show for the dogs and nobody else, and now I'm just at loose ends and don't know what I'm feeling.

The Wife is on her vacation, and took the cell phone and the only long-distance option I've got along with her, so I can't even call Mom & Dad. Tried the cell twice with no answer, and even the dogs don't seem interested in conversation tonight. Not that they're all that sparklingly witty, but c'mon. Somebody should want to talk to me for 10 minutes.

I should be happily relaxing tonight, and all I can think about is work. I was going to go fishing, but then that sounded entirely lame after I thought about it. The same for a motorcycle ride, going to rent a movie, bicycling, mowing the lawn and everything else I've thought of to do tonight. Even fercripesake music doesn't interest me tonight. I feel...anxious. About nothing that I can identify.

This is no way to run a respite break.

UPDATE: The Wife called back after all, and then Mom called and we talked for half an hour. I now have some Tylenol PM in me and I do believe I could sleep after all. May the next 8 or so hours be dreamless. My mind needs a rest much more than my body does. I crave contentment and peace right now more than anything else I can think of.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Set Break (Updated)

I gathered the crowd in the kitchen. Tasha was indisposed, busy laying and looking at the wall in the dining room, but Willy and Mitch were rearing to go. I even put a bandanna around Mitch's neck so he would look like a rock fan.

I tuned up the audio equipment (the computer), grabbed the microphone (wooden spoon), turned to face the gallery, and launched into my set:

Don't Treat Me Bad (Firehouse)
Mony Mony (Billy Idol's remake)
Like a Rock (Bob Seger)
Pour Some Sugar on Me (Def Leppard)
Working For the Weekend (Loverboy)
Livin' on a Prayer (Bon Jovi)

It was when I got to the high notes on "Prayer" that I had a very distressing vocal incident. I did well through the first three. I couldn't hit the high notes, but then I never can. I hadn't broken into any coughing fits from trying make my voice all raggedy-cool like the rock stars, which was a switch, and I was going strong. I had a few weaker moments and could tell I was losing it in "Sugar", but "Working" brought me back strong.

Don't--just don't--try to sing Livin' on a Prayer near the end of your set when your voice isn't fresh. You're just inviting the voice demons into your mouth to rip your vocal chords out of your throat and show them to you. Especially if you're a hair-band geek like me who can't seem to stop once you've started.

Assuming I can continue, I have quite an ambitious second set planned:

I've Got My Mind Set on You (George Harrison)
It's So Easy (Guns n Roses)
What About Love (Heart)
Dude Looks Like a Lady (Aerosmith)
Centerfold (J. Giles Band)
Carry On Wayward Son (Kansas)
Lick it Up (Kiss)

I have a lot more, but if "Dude Looks Like a Lady" doesn't take me out early for the night, "Lick It Up" certainly will later. Paul Stanley rawks.

At that point, I will continue the Matrix-a-thon I started earlier this evening. I'm gonna get through the first two films at least, and if I'm not wiped at that point I may pause for another set of fine classic Rock n Roll, and then the third. My boss probably won't get his money's worth in the morning, but I don't get a chance like this every week.

Foster moms out there take note: if you leave your husband in the house alone without the foster kids, he may well lose his mind. But hey, it could be worse, right? I mean, some guys left to their own devices might invite friends over, swill Old Milwaukee and Jack Daniels and trash the place. I just have one dirty pot in the sink and two confused-looking dogs sitting here looking at me and wondering if they should be helping me get over my fit somehow. And barring that, if they could just please have their damn supper now.

Ooh, one last note, I almost forgot. In fact, I did forget to mention it to The Wife, but I guess she'll read it here...

Last night I went fishing with "Josie". It was nice. She was depressed over what she perceived as her friend lying to her (reality may differ...your mileage may vary, but I've found that just listening and commiserating is the best thing to do in a case like this).

She out-caught me again, which she seems to do every time. Often enough that she's even stopped ribbing me about it. But oh, dear me, the one that got away. Heh. Yes, indeed, the one that got away.

She completely freaked out, and in turn freaked me out, when she saw what was probably about a 15-pound carp swim out from under the dock. Mind you, we had on about 4-pound test line on our rods, if that. The basic line that comes with a cheap rod. She decided she was going to catch it. I told her she was nuts. She'd never get a carp to bite on a spinner bait (if you're a fisherperson, you know that carp don't usually bite on artificial lures), and even if she did manage to snag it the line would break in about a tenth of a second. She wouldn't listen, and dangled her bait in front of it.

The carp reached up and chomped down on her spinner. My jaw dropped. "Josie" screamed. The carp started away. "Josie" screamed for me to take the rod. I began to laugh and told her to reel in her own fish. The line broke. "Josie" dropped the rod on the dock, stepped back, and screamed again. I broke out laughing like I have not been able to laugh in a couple weeks. "Josie" showed me her quivering arms, l laughed some more, and finally she started to laugh.

Oh, my, how we laughed. It was good to get some quality, focused time with "Josie", and I think it was good for her to get out of "Angel's" shadow for awhile. I think there's been a little understandable jealousy there.

I've been warned about spending time alone with her...false allegations by a cute 15-year-old girl against a 38-year-old man being easy and all that. But The Wife and I have talked about it and while it does make us nervous, "Josie" just doesn't seem the type to play those kinds of games...her problems lie in different directions, it seems to me. I judge it worth the risk to be able to be a closer friend to her.

I'm already hampered by the normal generation gap stuff and the necessary distance and formality of a relationship between a kid and a non-parent adult. I'm willing to chance it. Especially when I get to see her scream like she did last night. We lost a spinner bait, but that was a bargain at any price.

UPDATE: Those two blonde ghost-guys in Matrix: Reloaded are really, deeply cool. I had forgotten about them. When my time comes to leave this world, I'd like it very much if I could just become one of them, please.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Burnin' a CD

Tonight, I shall sit on the deck and override the frog-owl-and-cricket orchestra behind my house with mood music. In honor of my current mood, I am about to burn the following list on a CD:

Two Steps Behind (Def Leppard)
Cruel Summer (Ace of Base)
How Can I Fall (Breathe)
Drive (The Cars)
You're Not Alone (Chicago)
Wicked Game (Chris Isaak)
Father Figure (George Michael)
Time After Time (Cyndi Lauper)
In My Dreams (Dokken)
The Heart of the Matter (Don Henley)
Second Chance (.38 Special)
Seasons Change (Expose)
Don't Know What You Got (Cinderella)
I Want to Know What Love Is (Foreigner)
Against All Odds (Phil Collins)
Careless Whisper (Wham!)
Miles Away (Winger)

Now, I ask you two questions:

1) What mood am I in?
2) About when did my taste in music freeze in place for all eternity?

Starting tomorrow night, I have three nights off from being a foster dad. I'll warm up by being a sentimental, forlorn sap because I'm tired and don't know how else to be tonight. Tomorrow I'll probably dance around the house in my underwear and sing myself hoarse.

Life is funny, innit? burn a CD and begin The Great Veg-Out.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Hard Times

Burnout. Complete and total. The Wife has had to deal with "Angel" all day, every day for months now. I've helped when I can, but I've had my own issues with a very hectic work schedule and haven't been as much help as she's needed. "Josie" has actually been some help, but not THAT much.

Much help has been promised by many people, but none has actually quite gotten here except that Mom and Dad have been great in giving us at least a tiny respite now and then. It was actually a treat Friday night to leave the house and check in to a hotel a few miles down the road so we wouldn't have to drive so far to our foster training all day Saturday.

It's beginning to affect our relationship with each other, never mind our relationship with the kids. We're both irritable and probably not much fun to be around. We didn't sign up for this kind of thing.

The good news: it sounds like the PCA services might actually be arriving starting Tuesday. I'll believe it when I see it, but it actually sounds like help might be on the way. Further good news: we've arranged for respite care Tuesday through Friday, and The Wife will get to go out of town (back to that city I blogged about earlier) and visit old friends. She should have a good time. I have to work, but it will still be heaven to be able to come home to a house empty of all but mutts.

When that starts to look like heaven, ladies and gentlemen, you have reached foster burnout.

The Wife is feeling a bit better about things tonight after Mom helped us decide we had to have a break at all costs and arranged these things. My jury is still out. I'm going to wait until the week of July 4, when I have the week off. I'll probably have at least part of that week off by myself at the lake cabin, where I will have work-free time to relax, think, and maybe do a little plotting for the future.

I've reached the point where I not only am doubting whether fostering is for us, but whether any sort of parenting at all is really within my abilities. I've been getting too angry too quickly. I dread going to work, and I dread coming home from work. "Angel's" screaming and tantrums have turned from cute--or at worst mildly annoying--to just plain ugly.

I've gotten annoyed more quickly with The Wife, and I'm sure she would not only affirm that but enthusiastically put forward the idea that she's gotten annoyed more quickly with me. Both of us probably have good reasons...but we just had to do something before this started to put permanent or semi-permanent scars on our still-pretty-young marriage.

Mom says (noting herself that she was speaking only with 20-20 hindsight) that we have just tried to do too much through too many changes too quickly to be able to absorb it all, and maybe didn't spend enough time tamping down that pesky little marriage relationship thing. I suppose she's probably right, annoying as it is.

Most people who foster seem to have been married much longer than us before they start, and also most of them seem to have had their own kids for awhile. We have some pretty unique qualifications that mitigate the former issue. The latter issue being impossible for us, we forged ahead and the Devil take the hindmost. I guess the Devil finally got his cut, huh?

Well, I suppose we're not the first to hit a rough patch, and this rough patch maybe won't be the last for us. But a rough patch it is, and it's probably the main reason for the reduced blogging lately. It's hard to feel like writing when you feel like I have the last couple of weeks.

We've got a mini-break this week as I described, and next weekend I'll be hoisting shingles to the roof at the lake cabin, which sounds like work but will really be fun doing another project with Dad (nice Father's day activity if you ask me) and some much-needed manual labor to work out aggression. I have a week off work next month and another week the following month. "Josie" has started a job which gives us a little more of a break now and then. We'll just need to give ourselves and each other as much TLC as we can, and hopefully we'll get out of our tailspin and back on track.

End of griping for now. Thanks for listening.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Real Life Catches Up Yet Again

Blogging has been light and will continue to be until at least Sunday. Tonight The Wife and I have our first real night completely alone together in (I think) months. We need it....or at least I do. I'm burning out on too much stuff, all the time with no let-up.

Summer is a habitual light-blogging time for me anyway, as there really are better things to do while there's not three feet of snow on the ground. Guess it's a tradition.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Eye Arre Smarte

I couldn't help it. I was surfing the web during lunch and decided to see how smart I am. 5 or 10 minutes later I find out:

Your IQ score is:131

You scored 131 on Tickle's IQ test. This means that based on your answers, your IQ score is between 121 and 131. Most people's IQs are between 70 and 130.
In fact, 95% of all people have IQs within that range. 68% of people score between 80 and 120. The following chart to your right, shows these percentages and where your IQ score is on that scale. There's more to intelligence than a single number, a single score or a single label. Tickle uses four distinguishable Intelligence Scales in the Ultimate IQ Test. By analyzing your individual scores on those four scales, we are able to look beyond the raw IQ score into how you process information and thereby determine your Intellectual Type.

Oh goody. What type am I?

Like a meticulous collector, you've fed your brain a unique set of facts and figures over the years. Words, numbers, you've got it all. That's what makes you a Facts Curator. Whether or not you intend to absorb every piece of information that comes your way, your mind has certain steel-trap qualities to it. You are a knowledge sponge. You have almost enough words in your head to fill a dictionary, and you're equally adept when it comes to manipulating numbers.

It's all those words in my head that drove me first to usenet, then to blogging to relieve the mental constipation. It's as much a curse as a blessing, trust me. I can't imagine how horrible it must be for Stephen King.

You can also detect important patterns in number sequences, and probably remember the mnemonic devices you were taught in grade school.
You may feel comfortable in classroom settings where absorbing details is critical. You're also able to learn from example and piece together all the little facts in life to get to the big picture. That's why you never stop accumulating information as you walk through life. Your strengths lie in both the verbal and math realms — placing you in the same arena as someone like Bill Gates. Gates has the ability to not only store and retrieve an especially large amount of specialized data, but to translate and present that information to the population at large. His entire empire is based on this unique talent. And to think — your brain works in this same way! When it comes right down to it, you and other Facts Curators can ride a wave of information to live a truly enriched life.

I don't want to be Bill Gates. Bill Gates is the antichrist. I have documents and software systems that prove it.

But what could I have done with my life?

Great Jobs For You
Because of the way you process information, these are just some of the many careers in which you could excel:
Tech writer
Computer engineer
Algebra teacher
Copy editor

I guess I'd be considered a computer engineer of sorts. My dad was sort of an algebra teacher, so I guess I come by it honestly, anyway.

But the part that convinces me that this test is a complete hoax:

You scored in the 100th percentile on the logical intelligence scale.This means that you scored higher than 90% - 100% of people who took the test and that 0% - 10% scored higher than you did. The scale above illustrates this visually. Tickle's logical intelligence questions assess your ability to think things through. The questions determine the extent to which you use reasoning and logic to determine the best solution to a problem. Your logic score was relatively high, which could mean that when the car breaks down, your friends look to you to help figure out not only what's wrong, but how to fix it and how you're going to get to the next gas station.

Stop laughing, Mom & Dad. They said it, I didn't.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Anticipation (Warning: Long Mental Dump With Some Naval Gazing Ahead)

While I was in college, I developed a group of very close friends. I sort of went insane and drifted away from them toward the end of college. You'd have to be insane to allow yourself to drift away from a group like this. Far more my loss than theirs, I guarantee you. At that point in life (the last year or so of college) I wasn't really much fun to be around, I made cruddy decisions, and generally made an ass of myself. I wouldn't have hung around me when I was like that, either...a condition that really only worsened most of the time until I quit drinking.

But I did one thing right that year...I took time out from making horrible decisions and being a drunk with few real friends to invite my older and in all ways better group of friends for a weekend at my folks' lake cabin.

A legend was born.

Oh, we drank our share and raised some hell, but that wasn't what we were really about at base. The old lady who lived year-round next door was even disappointed in us. She offered to come out and show us how partying should be done. What we were really about was enjoying each others' company, playing whist, drinking plenty of beer, eating steak, doing some skiing, swimming and suntanning, catching up on news, and so forth. Nothing spectacular to anybody else, and for a long time I thought I was the only one that enjoyed it so much. It actually may have saved my life...I was very, very down at the time and that weekend (and several others like it later) helped remind me that I did still have friends who cared.

Fast forward a few years. I had lost touch with most of those people, more or less. I was rapidly losing touch with the rest. And one thing I don't handle well is letting old friends go easily. Good, true friends with whom you share good history are way too difficult to find and develop just to let them slide away in the tide of life.

I was stuck in what was rapidly developing into a bad marriage entered into for the wrong reasons, and it was dawning on me that the only thing--the only thing--I liked about my life was my career. One night I was reflecting on that, and on a sudden whim I called one of these friends--one that at that time lived in the city I recently blogged about possibly returning to sometime--and asked them what they thought of having a reunion at the cabin. They thought it would be great.

That shocked me for reasons I still don't quite understand. Somebody from my "old" life actually still liked me, in spite of what an ass I'd become by the end of my association with them. It became a mission for me. I made up formal invitations on my computer and everything. I made a rule (still in force today) that there should be no spouses, no kids, and no significant others. Just us. I called everybody, organized it, and when the time came a couple of them actually showed up early.

The best part was that it was every bit as fun as the first time, if not more so.

Fast forward two more years. We did it again.

And again the next year. And again a year or two later. Only one year did nobody make it but me (lonely weekend, and one that almost ended the tradition)...but most years out of six regulars 4 or 5 make it, and several times all six.

The last one was two years ago, and it's time again. In August, this group of friends, at least two of whom read this blog regularly including The Wife, will gather one more time to remember what it was like when the dorm halls rang with Bon Jovi tunes and people thought it was cool, to reminisce about how it was that a woman couldn't be considered hot unless her hair was as big as the rest of her put together, to find out how each other's marriages, relationships, and (gulp) child-rearing is going, and to ponder the fact that we're all staring 40 in the face. To realize that this year marks the time when if you put our lives on a time graph, the point where we all met each other would be almost exactly in the middle.

I wonder if this won't be the last time we do the no-other-people thing. That gets to be hard for those of us who have family commitments...and I think we'd probably have almost as much fun if we just all got together at a state park and camped together with our families, or maybe got together in Minneapolis and went to the state fair or Renaissance Festival or something. But it sure is something special when it's just us...

I used to be embarassed that I seemed to be the one who was most gung-ho about these gatherings of ours. I felt like a dork when someone would show up looking harried, distracted, and generally not in the spirit. But over the years it dawned on me that most times when somebody showed up in that frame of mind, by Sunday morning when you really looked at them you realized they looked rested, happy and relaxed. And I ask you...what is such a weekend for? Mission accomplished. And I helped.

The years have taken their toll on these friendships, though. I no longer am in regular contact with a couple of these people, and I suspect if I stopped calling the gatherings that they probably wouldn't give me a thought for many years, if ever. I doubt most of them think of me anymore unless they happen to see a particularly drunk, obnoxious fool and think "hey, Dan used to get that way sometimes". Heh. It would only be fair, I guess.

But there was a time when we saw each other every day. We watched "Days of our Lives" in the college lounges or each other's apartments, we got drunk and went bowling or sat on the roof of the house we rented and looked at the stars. We played video games and foosball, we visited each others' parents houses a few times, we hit the casino, we had really fun Halloween parties, we studied and we prepared for "real life".

Years later, "Real life" has now overtaken most of us almost completely, with kids and jobs and car payments and life insurance and houses in the suburbs. Nothing kills that youthful spirit like years of mortgage payments.

I look forward to at least one more break from all that. Some of them might be looking at this get-together as just another social obligation. A mildy annoying draw on their time that might be fun in some ways anyway. But I suspect by the time we part ways yet again that Sunday they may just remember what it was like when we were younger and less cynical.

At least I hope so. Else why do it?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Playground Observations, etc.

Today "Josie's" friend graduated...the same one that came with us to the cabin last weekend. She's in a little family trouble apparently, because "Josie" already "jokingly" asked us if she could come live with us for awhile.

And you know...this is the only one of "Josie's" friends where that question doesn't make me fall on the floor laughing. I think they're actually pretty good for each other if someone's watching. I have a feeling it would be unworkable logistically with her new job and stuff, but who knows. We'll see what develops with our efforts on finishing the basement. There will be another room, and rent might come in handy.

But the real interesting thing to me today was going to her party in the park. Whenever there is a jungle gym, swingset, or other playing area, "Angel" will NOT be denied, and today was no exception. It was a good chance to see if her socialization skills have improved any.

When we walked up, there were two boys who looked like brothers and a girl "Angel" had met before already playing. The boys were arguing over a toy Vikings fishing rod, of all things. "Angel" walked up, sized up the situation, and grabbed ahold of one end of the rod yelling "mine". Not a very auspicious beginning if you ask me.

But then, it only took a word from me and she let go, looked properly ashamed for a moment, then beamed her brightest smile and demanded the right to go down the slide. Problem over at least for the moment, I guess.

While she was busy running up and sliding down presumably on autopilot, I noticed the girl sitting there. She was grabbing a handful of rocks, examining them carefully, then giving a big smile and hurling them straight up into the air. She would watch as they went up, then duck her head down when they came down, spattering her with pebbles. She would pause a moment, mutter "ouch" to herself, grab another handful, and begin the process over again.

She did this 5 times in a row while I surreptitiously watched, and seemed to enjoy it immensely. Apparently children tend to go on autopilot on that particular playground.

At one point while I was enjoying the festivities, "Josie's" friend's father walked up beside me and struck up a conversation. I immediately was on guard, because from what I've heard this guy isn't exactly a model parent if you know what I mean. But all he really had to say was that he was impressed with "Josie's" progress and he was impressed with what his daughter had told him about us. Apparently she talks about us "all the time". I know there could be good and bad things about that, but I was charmed just the same.

When I walked back to greet the guest of honor, she was talking with her family and as I walked up they were talking about last weekend. "Josie" mentioned that I had given her friend her first motorcycle ride last weekend. I couldn't help it. The first thing that flew out of my mouth was "yeah, and I'm still trying to get the pee off my bike". You shouldn't say such things when there are people around with squirt guns, but somehow I got off the hook with an embarassed smile.

Maybe she does like us. That would be cool.

That's about it for today, except for the side note that with one thing and another, I haven't started biking yet. I swear I will yet this summer, but it's like the second I made that decision, the weather hasn't cooperated or I have to watch "Angel" or Mom & Dad are around and we're working on a project or visiting or whatever. Aargh.

Saturday, June 03, 2006


When we moved outstate and began our "new life" "in the sticks", I was well aware that while I had landed a decent job (for the area, at least) it could cave in at any time for a variety of reasons. Tonight I sit and wonder what would happen if I suddenly didn't have that job.

How would this affect our fostering status? What would we do? Where would we go? "Josie" couldn't move with us...what about "Angel"? To my knowledge, there are only a couple of other potential employers for my technical skill set within a reasonable driving distance. That's not heartening for our chances of being able to stay in our current town if something happens...and it very well could, since our company is, after all, a fairly new startup.

Plan A would be to find another employer in or near town...a doubtful prospect. What would be a more solid plan B?

I went to school a couple hours up the road from here. It's a growing town in the next state on the border. It has some thriving industries. A couple of quick checks revealed that real estate prices are reasonable and jobs in my discipline can be had relatively easily for much more than I'm making in Hicksville. I have friends there...and both The Wife and I have history there, individually and together. It's also less than two hours from Mom & Dad.

Important point: real estate sells here, but usually not nearly as fast as in a larger city. It's very likely that it would take several months to sell the house. This city is close enough that I could get a job there, rent a room temporarily and fairly cheaply from one of our friends for during the week, and go home on weekends. It wouldn't be fun, but it would be doable.

I didn't stay in that town after college for two main reasons as I recall. First, there were a lot of painful, shameful and confusing memories there, and I needed to run from them. I'm over that now. The second was that I wanted to go to the Big City and Seek My Fortune. I'm over that now, too. It was a fantastic experience in many ways to go to the Big helped me grow enormously professionally and as a person. I don't regret doing it (though I wish I had gotten out sooner) but I finally had to get back closer to where I came from, and I did.

One of the best things about this city is that it's also in the same PATH region as the jurisdiction where "Angel's" case is based. We could probably bring her there, especially if we announced an intention to adopt at some point.

That's most likely where we'd go if push came to shove. It's like an old shoe, and if a time comes when I must leave this town, it would be almost like a homecoming to arrive there.

Life is funny that way. I kicked the dust of that town off my heels for the last time (except visiting friends and courting future wives) in about November of 1991. I was very glad to be leaving, and I would have sworn that nothing would ever bring me back there to live permanently. Nearly 15 years later, contemplation of returning to that town and spending potentially decades living there brings nothing but a certain kind of peace.

Until now, I never really spent enough time thinking about what I would do if my idyllic-but-precarious situation suddenly blew up in my face. Now that I've spent a day thinking about it and a nervous half-hour updating my resume which hasn't been touched in a year, I have a contingency plan.

Feels good.

UPDATE: I would of course, under whatever circumstances, continue to foster and probably continue to edit this blog, though moving might interrupt it for awhile. I find this blog to be an invaluable outlet for the joy, frustration, rage, boredom and uncounted other emotions spurred by our fostering experience and by life in general. We may someday cease to foster...but today is not that day, and that day will not be determined by a simple change of scenery. There are kids in that town that are in trouble too. There are kids EVERYWHERE like that.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Down But Coming Up

I've been trying to shake off the blues all week. I'm not sure exactly what's the matter with me, but I suspect it has something to do with all work and no play making Dan a dull boy. Or something. Nothing like an outing with "Angel" to break up whatever mood you're in.

We went to town to pick up a swimming pool. Yes, that's right. We're asking for it. We picked up a 15-foot-diameter swimming pool that's like a few feet deep or something. "Angel" loves the water so much, we couldn't resist. Plus, I happen to like the water too and I can't think of a better way to while away a few hours on a summer Saturday afternoon than to sit in a floating chair with a book, occasionally saving "Angel" from herself, and drinking a mint joolip. Or maybe a diet Mountain Dew...but the point still holds.

We had gotten through our find McDining experience and were walking the aisles at Menard's before I realized how easy it is to have "Angel" out and about. When did that happen? There weren't even any fusses to put up with, much less the sort of rampage that sends me grabbing her on my way sprinting out the door to the parking lot. I was impressed in the extreme.

I'm still not quite out of my recent funk completely, so I'll just mention one more thing..."Angel" has a real way with her Daddy. Her constant questions still annoy (mildly) and her singlemindedness about some things (whenever there's a shopping cart daddy's hand MUST be on the push-bar for whatever reason) can irritate, but one warm smile and all is well.

I had a lot of sad, frustrating years in the last couple of decades or so of my life, and my recent downer is just a remainder of that, I think. I have a tendency to live in the's a curse, trust me. I'm learning to shake that (except for the 80s music thing which I don't think I'll ever quite get rid of), and The Wife makes it a lot easier. Without her I'd be lost. But "Angel" on top of The Wife makes it positively easy at times.

Who says fostering is all about helping kids? I think sometimes it's about the kids helping me. And they're doing a good job of it. I'm really glad they're in my life.

Blogger's Block Last Night

Last Night:

Me = bad mood. The Wife = tired & crabby. "Josie" = brat. "Angel" = bright, sunny, annoying. Dogs = just annoying. Everything = disjointed and wrong.

Straighten kitchen after supper. Clean van to try to get The Wife happier. Didn't work. Start biking. Rain the minute I step out of the garage. Maybe tomorrow night. Bad, bad mood. Depressed. Must cheer up.

Blogging? Wrong mood. Watch part of "Say Anything". Doesn't help. Crack open Stephen King's "The Stand".

Ahhhh. Never fails.

Woke up in better mood. Must work now. Hopefully more and better blogging tonight.