Foster family a respite from the battle

Friends are celebrating a new addition to their family. It’s a boy. He has dark hair and dark eyes. And he weighs 105 pounds.

That is National Enquirer large for an infant, but he’s not an infant. He’s 14.

With their biological children grown, and more love and resources still to share, this couple became foster parents. They fell in love with this young man and adopted him. He’s nearing the peak of teenage boy awkwardness, yet he nearly beams and is at ease with his new family.

Ironically, the finalization of his adoption nearly collided with the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. He is one of those that easily could have been an abortion statistic. But he wasn’t. He has had a brutally hard start to life, but now he has a good family and a bright future. We think we know from the beginning how every story will unfold, but we don’t.

We don’t know how Roe v. Wade will continue to unfold. According to a Pew Research poll only 44 percent of adults younger than 30 know that Roe v. Wade legalized abortion. They’re like the young tart in “Monster-In-Law” who thought Roe v. Wade was a boxing match.

In the early days following Roe v. Wade, it was not uncommon to find family practice doctors performing abortions. Today, 87 percent of all counties lack an abortion provider. Abortionists have become the pariahs of the medical community. There are only four abortionists left that still perform third-trimester abortions, a grizzly procedure too gruesome to describe here, but a procedure nonetheless voted in favor of twice by our sitting president.

During the past four decades, post-abortion syndrome has been identified as a disorder needing treatment. Even Planned Parenthood clinics offer post-abortion counseling.

Abortion is an issue that ties your brain in knots. People drop from the trees to fight for animal rights, but those same activists are usually pro-abortion when it comes to the rights of unborn humans.

Here in Indianapolis, a pregnant woman tried to take her life two years ago and failed, but the poison killed her unborn baby. She was charged with murder and feticide. Unravel that one with any semblance of logic if you can.

NARAL quotes a poll that claims 63 percent of Americans oppose overturning Roe v. Wade while pro-life camps cite a CNN poll that says 62% of respondents want abortion illegal or legal only in certain cases.

In the early days the debate centered on whether “it” was life. Technology has answered loud and clear in 3-D ultrasound. Today, the consensus is that it is life; the question now is whether one life has the right to terminate another.

In a sense, adoption and opening the doors to foster children have become the pro-life counterattacks on abortion. It is a case of actions speaking louder than words – it is the answer to the scurrilous charge that pro-lifers only care for life in the womb.

In the midst of an ugly battle with no end in sight, giving life, caring for life and making a home for the homeless is a beautiful act of both courage and charity.

Cracking the cracker caper

If this was an episode of “CSI,” the title would read: “Peanut Butter Crackers.”

Eight empty cellophane wrappers for peanut butter crackers are piled on the floor of the playhouse the husband built for the kids years ago.

The grandbabies haven’t played out there since early September. Plus, they don’t eat peanut butter crackers in the playhouse. They have chocolate milk and graham crackers in the playhouse. So who could it have been?

My first thought was teenage boys. I was immediately ashamed of myself. Why is it we always point the finger at teenage boys? Why aren’t our first thoughts ever 6-year-old girls? Why yes, that’s who painted the graffiti, that’s who knocked over the mailbox — 6-year-old girls. Why don’t we ever suspect elderly women? Yes, the old ladies have been at it again, scuttling from playhouse to playhouse eating peanut butter crackers. Probably that red hat group.

OK, so maybe there’s a reason we automatically think teenage boys.

And yet, it’s a playhouse. It’s a wood frame playhouse so small that an average teenage boy can barely stand upright in it. So who was it?

There was one paltry clue. Of the eight wrappers, not a one had been opened from the top or the bottom. They had been torn down the middle, like something razor sharp had slashed them. Plus, whoever had eaten the peanut butter crackers either had been very neat or very hungry. There wasn’t a single crumb in sight.

A profile began taking shape. I recalled a case a few years back that involved a bird feeder. When night fell, the large bird feeder was completely full. By morning it was completely empty.

We refilled the feeder and wired the door shut. The next morning it was empty again. Yes, little old ladies and six-year-old girls were scavenging the neighborhood eating massive amounts of birdseed. No, that wasn’t it.

We filled the bird feeder and put a thumb latch on the door. The next morning the bird feeder was empty again and we caught the culprit in the act. The bandit even wore the mask of a bandit. He lumbered when he walked. Who wouldn’t lumber after eating so many big meals night after night? Maybe the varmint that cleaned out the birdseed was the same one that had been eating crackers.

I checked for prints. Sure enough, the intruder had left dirty little hand prints on the door and footprints on the floor. There was even a scratch mark where he’d clawed open the clasp on the door.

Yes, we were closing in on a perp and about to solve the case. Let this be a lesson to you furry woodland creatures. There is no such thing as a perfect crime.

Yet one nagging question about the cracker caper lingers. Where does a raccoon get change for a vending machine?

When the baby ties the knot

The baby is getting married.

The husband has been copying photographs putting together a video for the reception. He made a wonderful pairing of two photographs. In the picture on the left, she is 10-years-old wearing my mother’s old wedding gown playing dress-up and I am adjusting her veil. In the picture on the right, she is standing in her real wedding gown and I am kneeling on the floor pinning where fasteners will go for the bustle.

A quarter inch of space is all that separates 16 years. The time went exactly that fast.

She’s about to take the plunge. Every marriage has an element of jumping off a cliff. You know the other person as well as you can, that he loathes tomatoes and you like them. You do the pre-marital counseling, read the communication books, then close your eyes and leap. The act of marriage takes grit and courage.

Marrying someone is not the same as living with someone. Living together is test driving the car. Marriage is having the guts to buy the car knowing it is still yours even after the 5-year/ 50,000 mile warranty has expired.

Marriage is a public commitment, a legal contract and covenant of faith, in which a bride and groom vow before God and witnesses to uphold a life-long exclusive faithfulness.

It is mildly nerve wracking knowing that the model of marriage your offspring knows best is your very own. This is why many people work with a bridal store franchise when arranging their wedding so the day can be perfect.

Did she see that marriage is the most important relationship she will ever nurture?

Did she see that the cornerstone of marriage is courtesy? Tone of voice, dear. Ask, don’t tell. Suggest, don’t demand. The world outside is rough, so be tender.

I hope she heard me say at least once that women do not have to be first responders. Often it’s better not to say the first thing that comes into your mind. Or even the second.

I hope she knows I married her father because he’s a good man. She’s marrying a good man, too. Respect him by speaking well of him, both to him and to others.

I hope she saw the power of the mundane – that the shared laughs, small surprises, kitchen disasters and everyday routine and monotony are what cement you as a couple. Even the crises and catastrophes become part of the memories that build your history.

Our daughter and her fiancé will be glowing on their wedding day. I pray they enjoy every moment of the day. I also pray that they will weather all the seasons of marriage, and that one day in the distant future they find themselves with a few extra pounds, salt and pepper hair, a thousand inside jokes and still enjoying one another.

Robert Browning said it well: “Grow old along with me. The best is yet to be – the last of life for which the first was made.”

Snow accumulation grows with age

The snows of your childhood are always better than the snows of your adulthood. For one thing, the snows of your childhood were much deeper. This is because you were lower to the ground as a child, but why let facts leech drama from a good story.

The only things nobody remembers fondly from the snows of their childhood are the snowballs. There were always a few wise acres with their eyes set on the major league pitchers’ mounds. These boys kept their arms in shape over the winter by hurling snowballs. Five, ten, hundreds, sometimes thousands at a time were launched from snow igloos they had crafted with their bare hands.

These boys were so skilled they could pick off a fellow 12-year-old at 100 yards. They sent other kids diving for cover and more than a few running home bawling with tears frozen to their frostbitten cheeks.

The snowfall of your youth may always have been soft, but the snowballs were always hard.

I have always loved snow. Adults like me are shunned by grocery store clerks, strangers making weather chit chat and every snowbird over 40 with a condo in Florida or Arizona.

Why wouldn’t I love the snow? I spent the first part of my childhood growing up in Nebraska. Every other picture of me in the family album is against a snow bank twice my height. I was short as a child. Family, friends, random passersby liked to take my picture against towering mounds of snow.

Somewhere right now there are people looking at old photographs of me in a red snowsuit against some snow bank asking, “Who is that?”

“I don’t know,” someone answers. “But look how deep that snow was. Clear over that kid’s head. Sure doesn’t snow like it used to.”

My first newspaper job out of college was in Fargo, North Dakota. They do not have snow emergencies in North Dakota. They do not have snow days. They look forward to relentless snow and frigid cold by anticipating a mention on the Weather Channel.

I like snow even more as an adult than I did as a kid. Today, I have insulated snow pants guaranteed to protect me from frostbite at 5 below zero. My coat is made of some high-tech material that actually makes me hot. My boots aren’t so great, but at least they have zippers and not some elastic loop you have to stretch over a button with frozen fingers.

This year, nearly a foot of snow blanketed the Midwest the day after Christmas. And then another four inches came a week after that. One of our 2-year-old granddaughters and I were outside in the snow yesterday. The kid loved it — head first, on her back or pulling a sled with nobody in it.

She is on the short side, so naturally I had her pose for a picture in front of a huge drift. When she is grown and tells her own children that snowfalls were deeper when she was a child, she’ll have the picture to prove it.