Thursday, April 09, 2015

Class Time

John and I had our first class on fostering and adopting a couple of weeks ago. It was quite a bit different than what I expected. As silly as it sounds, I kind of had the image of a small group of us all sitting around in a circle on comfy chairs, maybe on the floor cuddling over-sized pillows while drinking a flavored coffee. Typing this now, it seems I had imagined more of a Lamaze class.

We got to the room that was more of a conference room, tables set up in one big U shape. I arrived before John and picked two seats right at the front. Some of our valuation is going to come from the class and I am not going to be a shy wallflower. The instructors introduced themselves and then we dove right in to introductions. Each person was given either a parent or a child card and we had to find our match. One person might have the parent card of “I can foster a child that has a history of abuse and has difficulties handling their emotions” and then of course you would have to find the person with a child card that went with that.

Then, we got into the first lesson talking about physical and sexual abuse, neglect and other things many children go through. We talked about the feelings they might have as a result of different types of abuse. I answered a question about one of the topics and then was asked to read the definition. It was difficult. I know what it’s like to be physically abused. I know what it’s like to have all the feelings that go with that. Feelings that as a child are so big they seem impossible.

We were also given an application packet to complete. When we got home that evening, I read through the questions. Some are very basic such as income and expenses. Others are hard, including talking about how anger was expressed in the home when I was growing up. Then there are the questions about our relationship. What would we change about the other person? What would they change about us? I don’t think in those terms at all and it was challenging and great to realize I had to dig to really find something and even then, it is not something that really matters. John and I had to complete the same application about ourselves and each other. I haven’t yet read what he wrote, but I know there are no surprises and if nothing else comes out of this process, we will know each other even better than we already do.

There were times in completing my personal history that I had to take a breath or even just stand up and walk a bit. Grab a coffee or spend some time with the dogs. It’s not that the past bothers me. I don’t mind talking or writing about it, I just prefer to be in charge of when the subject comes up.

In the middle of last week, I had a bit of a meltdown. Suddenly it all felt so overwhelming. Will they like us? Will I be a good dad? Will I revert to behavior I grew up with? Am I ready? Should we wait? What if this is a mistake? The questions just wouldn't stop and I ended up having to leave work early as I couldn't keep focus on anything work related. I went home and John and I spent a lot of time talking about it. I realized these are the questions any parent-to-be asks themselves. I know we may never be truly and completely “ready” in every sense. How could we be? How could anyone be? There will always be a reason not to do this, but for me I know that the reasons to move ahead far outweigh any questions and doubts I have. John and I are a great team and we have a lot of support from people around us. We will not be in this alone.

Monday was our third class. It seems like it is flying by. Only seven more to go. Waiting for the background checks to be done and for classes to start seemed to take forever and now we are about one-third of the way through. We have to be ready for licensing by June 1 and the clock seems to be speeding up. So many things to do and I have learned we just have to remember to take it one piece at a time, and breathe. Lamaze style. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Next Big Step

I have wanted to be a dad since I was in my mid-twenties. It was something I pretty much kept to myself as that was time when gay men weren’t fathers. It was something I wanted and knew I would never have. Like living on the Starship Enterprise or traveling through time.

When I was married to Ulco, we talked about adopting someday and as happens, life gets in the way. I also liked being selfish. Not in a bad way, just I liked traveling on a whim, spending my money on what I wanted and not having to worry about someone else. No thoughts of braces or college, just the pure enjoyment of self indulgence. But always, I wondered what it would be like to be a dad. In Europe, the rules are such that you have to be no older than a certain age when you receive the first child and then there are other age restrictions after that. I am past that age and many years ago, resigned myself to the fact that I would never be a dad.

Coming back to the US and being around my niece and nephews rekindled that spark. I love taking them out and even though it is sometimes a convenient to drop them off at home sometimes, there is always a part of me that is sad to have it end. Even when they are on my nerves the most, they are still my favorite people in the world.

Before John and I ever got together, when we were great friends and nothing more, we had the occasional conversation about children. He wanted to be a father as well and also due to the way life works out, he never acted on that want. He never let go of the dream even though he realized it was not to be.

After we got into a relationship, John and I talked about it a few times. He is amazing with my niece and nephews and I sometimes wonder if they don’t love and enjoy him more than me. If they do, it’s perfectly okay with me. He’s an amazing guy and I love watching him with them.

In December, a woman came to my office. She came to participate in a small event we were having and even though I had never seen her before, I knew I had to talk to her. She worked with families that fostered and adopted children. A week later, John and I attended an information session to look into the possibility of adopting. Since then, we have been through two background checks, and Monday, we start the 30 hours of classes we have to complete before we begin the home study, after which we will be eligible to foster and adopt.

As we want to adopt, we will only be matched with children who are available for adoption. We want to adopt older children, between the ages of 8 and 12 and we are probably looking at siblings. Once a child reaches 8 years old, nobody really wants them. Everyone wants a baby, then they want an only child. We are looking at older siblings, open to whoever crosses our path that seems like a good fit. being older, not only can we choose them, but they get to choose us. And we know there’s a risk in that. It’s a vulnerability I’ve never felt before.

Since December, I can’t help but look at things in a different way. I know that there is someone out there who is going to change our lives in ways we can’t imagine or understand. There are children out there that have no idea that we are here, waiting for them. Waiting to open our home, our hearts and shake our lives up in every way possible. I sometimes wonder what they are doing. I wonder and hope that wherever they are right now, that they are with someone who loves them. I hope they are being treated well.

If all goes according to schedule, we should be licensed around early August. Given the ages of the children we would like to adopt, the chance of welcoming a child very soon after that is big. We know there will be hard times. We know there will be a lot to handle, but we will handle it. I can’t wait to see John be a dad or to be a dad myself. Every second the clock ticks is one closer to a new life, to a new family.

One second closer to being a dad.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Getting Shaved

Just over a week ago, I had my head shaved. I had done it many times before, but this time, things felt very different. I shaved my head for the St. Baldricks Foundation, to raise money for childhood cancer research. I heard about the organization and the event just a couple of weeks before it would all take place. I knew I didn’t have much time and I also knew that I had to be involved. I signed up to get my head shaved and actually had no idea if I would raise any money at all, so I set my fundraising goal at $1000. It didn’t seem like a lot, but suddenly, there was this number looming and the clock was ticking. I had never done something like that before, and while I know that every cent helps, I wanted to reach my goal. And finally, I not only reached it, but I went a little bit over. 

The event itself was not what I expected. I imagined I would arrive at McMullen’s Pub, have a drink with friends, get my head shaved and be done with it. I hadn’t anticipated the emotions that filled the place. It was crowded to overflowing. So many people there to have their heads shaved including children and women who were donating their longer hair to be used for wigs. There were tears and laughter and hugs and smiles. It was such a mix of emotion. I have friends and family that have dealt with cancer. Some have beat it, others have not, including my dad who passed away almost 13 years ago. And then, while I have never had cancer, going through two strokes taught me the importance of giving and accepting help from others, no matter the size. I would never had made it through had it not been for the kindness and support of others. Sometimes it was just a kind word, sometimes it was more involved, and it was all necessary. 

So I sat in my chair with the buzz of the clippers in my ear and the cold metal on scalp. I was sad and happy and excited and filled with so much emotion. It wasn’t about shaving my head, it wasn’t about any of us shaving our heads, it was about children whose names I will never know, families who will go through things I can’t even begin to wrap my head around and honestly hope I never have to. It was about the parents there that had lost children, about the people that had lost brothers and sisters. It was also about celebrating life, having a beer with friends and realizing that being there, just being able to be there, alive and healthy, was an incredible gift.

I left feeling elated and introspective and since then, I spend quite a bit of time thinking about the event and what it really meant. It has caused me to look at things a little differently and has started me on the path of change, something I have felt coming and now I have had just the tiniest push and the momentum has begun. More on that in time.

I have decided I want to do this every year and I want to do more than that to help. I am gong to reach out to see what I can do to help raise money and raise awareness. I never imagined that such a simple act as getting my hair shaved off would have such an impact. It has shown me that we really don’t need to do big, huge things to make a difference. A difference can be made with a flick of the clippers.

Thanks to everyone who donated and helped me reach not only reach, but pass my goal. It was an amazing feeling! If you are interested in joining me next year, or getting involved, let me know. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

My So-Called Lifestyle

There has been quite a bit of talk about the gay agenda and the gay lifestyle lately and so, always being one to jump on a bandwagon, I decided to chime in. As I have a lot of friends who do not live a gay lifestyle, I am going to take a few minutes to describe mine, so they too can live one if they so choose. Since a lifestyle is a choice, I think it only fair that my straight friends have all the education they need to live a gay lifestyle. Pay attention, because this is a day in my gay lifestyle life. You may want to take notes to make sure you get it just right.

On weekdays, I wake up around 6:30am, shower and get ready for work. I get in my car, sit in traffic and sometimes mix it up by stopping at a Starbucks for a coffee. It’s usually something pretty gay, like a Pike Roast, but sometimes I go all straight like some of my friends and opt for an upside down Caramel Macchiato. When I get to work, it’s usually a fabulous day of emails, meetings, research, planning, reports, phone calls and facilitating the odd training class. I work on marketing strategies, business plans and advise existing and aspiring small business owners. Because I like to live on the edge, my lunches vary from smoothies to burgers and on occasion, I enter into a more international lifestyle by having Thai food or sushi. After lunch, it’s more of the same at work until I get back in my car and sit in traffic all the way home. Once there, I have to spend time with each of the three dogs before getting really crazy with a book or an episode of Big Bang Theory. If feeling particularly ambitious, I serve as the fourth judge on Chopped, often while laundry is going. My evenings usually include dinner, doing some dishes and feeding the dogs, maybe cleaning the bathroom, going to the gym, practicing my Spanish lesson or even dropping in on my sister and her family. Crazy, I know. Around 11pm, I tuck into bed where I sleep until about 6:30am and I start it all over again.

My weekends might include paying some bills, cleaning around the house, making breakfast at home, grocery shopping, taking the dogs to the park, spending time with family and/or friends, going to the gym or maybe just being lazy. Sometimes I like to go hiking, camping, or maybe taking a drive or walk around town to shoot some pictures. If I’m feeling really frisky, then a short road trip might be in order. In fact, if you want to know something really scandalous, I am thinking of going to Bryce in a couple of weeks to shoot some pictures while there’s snow in the canyon. 

John’s gay lifestyle is far more exciting than mine. He gets to pick up the dog poop in the backyard on a regular basis. I sometimes feel jealous, as though I am on the outside looking in on a life I may never have.

So that, folks, is a secret look into a gay lifestyle.

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines lifestyle as “A particular way of living : the way a person lives or a group of people live." When I look at my “lifestyle”, I can say that my black friends live pretty much the same way. As do my straight friends. My single parent friends. My widowed step-mom. My sister. My Indian, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Jewish, Mormon, Iraqi, Dutch and other friends.

Can we all please stop referring to the gay lifestyle? It doesn't exist.