Featuring Joy & Geoff, Big Brother , Little Brother , Sis , and various household (and outdoor) critters...

Thursday, 31 December 2009

2009...Thanks!

Thanks 2009! You have not been everything we anticipated, but you turned out ok. New dogs & babies in the family network, camping experiences, graduation, travel, renovation progress, new job, adoption agency restructuring...certainly never a dull moment.

Yesterday, we had our immediate family Christmas celebration at my sister's, complete with a visit from Santa:


Here are Geoff & I with the little ones, who humoured us with a quick aunt, uncle, & cousins photo:


And here we are with a gift from my sister, reminding us of summer camping adventures to come in the new year (and my long-term dream of being the proud owner of an actual Airstream):

So, tonight we will celebrate the remainder of 2009 with friends, and welcome 2010. I never set formal resolutions, but I am thinking in the direction of moving much further toward non-toxic eating, cleaning, and self-care, crafting, music-playing, home organization & simplifying, etc. Ok, more exercise is likely a good goal, too, perhaps along with starting a "saving for an Airstream" jar (used is just fine)...

Anyway folks, have a happy December 31, 2009! See you in 2010...

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Christmas Scenes

Christmas morning! (The Father Christmas tree in the dining room)...and at least it was festive inside, because the rain poured all day:


Side entrance...


Time to ramp up my sewing skills to make me worthy of this new gadget (which I am having Geoff learn, so that I don't have to teach myself how to use it - my old Kenmore is absolutely primitive in comparison):


Mmm, remnants of Christmas breakfast (Eggs Benedict):

New toys!


All to themselves...(recall my recent post about my hounds' limited capacity to share):



Mom & Dad's hound, Jim, having a rare mellow moment:

And...at last! We have snow...arrived starting the evening of the 28th...this is what we woke up to this morning. Now it is Christmas:


Today, not much on the agenda. Tomorrow is our immediate family Christmas with my siblings, so the season is still alive and well. We actually have a couple of quiet days to loaf about, organize & order photos, read, craft, play Rock Band 2 (given by me, to my husband...fun times), and maybe take the dogs for a hike or two if we can get through the snow!

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Christmas, Irony, Etc.

Soon, I will be getting ready for our Christmas Eve service, waiting for the candle-lit to work its magic and inspire a peaceful, but festive, mood.

Christmas Eve, and Christmas Eve Eve, have really outdone themselves this year! Last night we were up late preparing and waiting for my parents' arrival. Preparations are never complete without a good vacuuming (especially with a house full of pets), and the vacuum chose yesterday (the 23rd) to stop working. As we were attempting to drift off to sleep sometime just after midnight (Geoff in particular hoping for some solid sleep, as he worked this morning), my mom called, and we were back in action. Seems they hit a deer (sadly ironic just as we were starting to anticipate the sound of happy hoofs on the rooftop tonight), in the country not far from us. Thankfully people and travelling pets were fine, but the van does not seem so fine. After picking them up & unloading their van into ours at the mechanic's, we eventually headed to bed sometime after 3:00am.

Today, the 24th, involved the usual last-minute shopping with my mom (hers, of course), a trip for Geoff to Sears to see about vacuum repair (and now a pricey part he hopes to avoid opening if he can fix ours at all), grocery shopping...and our new tradition.

(Side note: I have been thinking the past few days about how we need some Christmas Eve traditions, so it serves me right that one has come to us).

For the second year in a row, Geoff is back at work, having been called in on his way home due to a mechanical failure in his building. He missed the Christmas Eve service entirely last year due to a pager call (not a terribly common thing), and we are hoping to hear from him before we head to church this year. Not the kind of tradition I had in mind. And of course, that also means the vacuum is not yet fixed and the final odd jobs (including removal of a book-case which is in the kitchen waiting to be stored in the garage) are not yet done. Looks like our other Christmas Eve tradition will involve late evenings doing the things we didn't get done during the day while Geoff was back at work.

Ah well. Such are the holidays, it seems. And as daylight is slipping away, my lights are casting a warm glow about the kitchen (although the bookshelf really looks no better in the middle of the floor, even with pretty lights around). It is Christmas, folks! Enjoy!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Double Drum Roll...

I actually have adoption-related news today!

This has been a hugely exciting week for Imagine. They just received confirmation of their Ontario license renewal, and today received confirmation that their Ethiopian NGO approval has gone through.

AND...

(This is a big deal, folks)

...referrals were actually given out today! And yes, that is plural. So far, I know of two. And, it is also very cool that we have met one of the couples who received their referral, as they attended the same adoption BBQ with us this summer...oh, and we also met them at our area meeting of affected families right after the bankruptcy announcement. Just so you know how very exciting this is for folks, the restructuring proposal projected referrals starting in March 2010, so we are three months ahead of schedule. The proposal also forecasted approximately 5 referrals per month for the first 6 months, so I will be very curious to see how thoroughly they can surpass that estimate!

There is more.

Obviously, I am very pleased about this in a general sense, but even more so today because we took the plunge - I actually came home to all this news after heading out to put our retainer agreement and first installment of renewal fees in the mail. I paid double to make sure it gets there tomorrow morning instead of by 5:00pm tomorrow. Even though we have until Friday...I hate taking risks with the post office. And an extra $10 is pretty inconsequential at this point.

I think that is enough for one day, so we are at the end of my post, and at the beginning of something new.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

A Little Taste of Christmas

Ah, the tree. Here is our one "real" tree, trimmed with a combination of new, vintage style ornaments, actual vintage from grandparents' collections, plus childhood pieces, etc. May still do a little retro garland, and definitely need a topper...but at least it's up. This one is our kitchen/foyer/lounge tree, and the other ones up at the moment include the living room (polar bear), dining room (Father Christmas), kitchen nook (kitchen utensils), entrance/landing (primitive), master bedroom (mixed green/white/amber tones), nursery (African animals), and spare room/office/family room (dogs & cats). Don't have the sugar plum, music, miscellaneous trees up yet, but hoping for this week if more construction materials get cleared out. Love having tree lights twinkling in each room!

And...I have actually cooked up some Christmas fudge - a quick, easy cheater recipe using marshmallows. And I've done a couple of batches - one for a cookie exchange, and one as a gift. Unheard of (which is why I had to capture photos of the experience)!


Here are the hounds, hanging out in our bedroom as we wrapped gifts up there over the past week. Everything is packaged and sorted according to where/when it will be opened. I always feel much calmer and more prepared once the gifts are done and under the trees.

This weekend I finally got around to working on props for our Christmas pageant...not sure what we got ourselves into...but it has been fun working with the Jr. High students on their play - they had the general idea, I wrote the script...and painted some props. Somehow ended up with a speaking part, too.

And here we are, all spruced up for my work party. Thought we should get a photo while we were looking festive.

Anyway, there's a little photo journey of our Christmas season to date. We're off in about an hour for our church Christmas concert, featuring our choir and some guest instruments doing things like Vivaldi's Gloria, and some carol singing - should be fun! Hopefully my made-for-TV Christmas movie will end in time to get ready...although we have been watching plenty of these, and the recipe seems suspiciously similar for each one..ah well, 'tis the season.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Old Houses, Dog Coats, & Christmas Cheer

Just taking a little break to change position, snack on some chips & dill cream cheese, and plan what to do next, now that I've finished gift-wrapping.

It is winter here today - there has been wind, and some snow (more on the way, I think), which have already wreaked some havoc. Yesterday a couple of outdoor Christmas decorations blew over, so I may need to re-think their placement and/or anchorage. A window fell out today (hooray for old houses...really...much more interesting stories to tell). And I happened to glance out a kitchen window while the dogs were outside earlier, discovering to my horror that the verandah gate was sitting open (must have been wind, even with a barricade and spring-loaded mechanism to keep it shut). I ran out, feeling that surely the dogs were gone, and was so relieved to find them coming toward me from within the yard. I hope this does not mark the beginning of a new string of pet-escape-related nightmares. At one point I was dreaming about dogs escaping onto our busy road so frequently that I thought we might have to move. Far too many gates around here.

A week or so ago we were both feeling completely overwhelmed with pretty much everything. The house in constant reno & decoration-related disarray, Christmas pageant preparation, anticipation of busy times with holiday company and commitments...Anyway, this week has been a bit better, as we have tackled a pile or two of "stuff", put up the real tree (after shopping around and around for just the right one), wrapped the gifts, and put stamps on the cards at last (they have been sitting around for a while, after I "lost" the stamps I bought. Finding a couple of dented ones on their own under a chair last week made us suspicious that they were not lost, rather EATEN by Gladwyn - which would have happened the same week she ate a rope toy and caused a tense Friday afternoon of $$ x-rays and waiting at the vet while hoping we would make it to the Cranberries concert).

Oh, and we also found dog coats for the girls! This is newsworthy from my perspective (and perhaps for those of you with hard-to-fit dogs like mine). Gladwyn is tall, but very skinny. She would stand pretty much even with a lab-type dog, but is built much differently - closer to a sighthound like a greyhound. She usually needs L/XL for length, but then drowns around the neck and chest in any other coat I've found (and often I can't find them big enough to start with - most dog coats seem to be made for the 30lbs and under crowd). My other issue has been that most coats out there are "fashion" coats - cute but totally impractical - either too flimsy for warmth and wind protection, or styled with legs which prevent the dog from actually walking. For Hesper, even reasonably-cut coats seem to fall too far down her leg at the front, also preventing her from walking on those stumpy basset limbs, and the length/chest ratio is an issue for her like it is for Gladwyn.

Anyway, we decided to bring the hounds along when we went tree-shopping, figuring we wouldn't be out of the van long at each stop, and they could be cozy waiting for us with blankets and things around. And we also needed Gladwyn with us to try on coats at a store where they can't be returned. I had seen coats by RC Pets (www.rcpets.com) a while ago, and they are sized in 2-inch increments, for tiny to great big dogs. Turns out they fit BOTH Hesper and Gladwyn very nicely. Long velcro strips make for lots of chest adjustability, and they are cut high enough around the shoulder and under the neck so as to allow free shoulder and upper leg movement when walking. They are water-resistant, and have a fleece lining. Now, Gladwyn could still use something cozier for really cold weather, since she shivers noticeably, but it's a start (and I can easily make a fleece under- or over-coat with some extra coverage to use along with this one, now that I know what shape works for her). Yes, I could have custom-created something from scratch, but wasn't getting around to it, so these are a great find (and getting my hands on polar fleece I like, for a good price, seems harder than I thought). Anyway...it's amazing how much I can blab on about dog coats - some of you are likely snoring already - but blogging lets me humour myself a little!

So, that's the news from these parts. Lots of Christmas festivities coming this weekend. Speaking of which, I should be getting back to that do-to list now that the cream cheese and chips have been taken care of!

Friday, 4 December 2009

Irresponsible

Adoption confusion, drawn-out mortgage renewals, pre-Christmas renovations, pageants, and life in general have taken their toll in a tangible way at last. Last night we forgot to attend a restaurant dinner with other adopting families. It had not crossed my mind since I sent our RSVP weeks ago, but I woke up this morning with a vague recollection that this was coming sometime soon, so obviously some corner of my mind retained the information...unfortunately it is either a dusty, unused, or overcrowded corner. Having attempted to host just a few little gatherings over the years, I am always quite bothered when folks who have stated they are coming, simply don't show up. Really bothered. And now I am that person. Will stop kicking myself eventually, but a blog confession seems necessary in order to achieve some kind of closure. Ok, that's a bit dramatic, but hopefully I can write about it and move on!

Monday, 30 November 2009

And There We Have It

Imagine received enough renewal agreements by today to continue operations. It is fun to read the excitement amongst other Imagine clients, who have been waiting with baited breath for this confirmation.

For us, the announcement resulted in mixed feelings. This morning, we received confirmation regarding one outstanding detail in regard to our situation, and were disappointed to say the least. So, the good news arrived in the midst of a let-down, which is making it harder to join in the celebration. However, when I think about all Imagine clients, and how this all came together - that is pretty amazing, and I am so pleased for everyone that it looks like the agency will be able to really start working on things...like referrals!

Stay tuned...eventually we will make our decision (we just want to feel really clear about WHY we choose a particular course of action, rather than going with an easy default reaction, so are taking our time).

At some point, Imagine clients will be given a list (without names, for confidentiality) showing how many folks are waiting, and where your own family falls on that list. Adoptions do not happen in exact order (due to things like age, gender, and sibling requests), but a list will provide a general idea. The actual referral wait time is to be determined - the new Board developed "conservative" estimates for the next couple of years, but are hoping that referrals can happen sooner and more frequently than proposed in the restructuring plan. It looks like our wait would be on the longest side, since our date of entry will be considered the date our file went to Ghana (February 2009). Sad. That will partly depend on how many family renewals came from folks who already had a file in Ethiopia, and how many were still in the stages before having a file sent overseas. I am not counting on knowing this before we have to make our decision, but it might be nice.

Anyway, same old routine for the next couple of weeks, then - thinking, talking in circles, etc. Hopefully the circles evolve into some kind of direction.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Potential Interim Adventures

All this waiting and uncertainty must be getting to my head...because (and this is totally a not-for-sure thing at all) we actually discussed, and then replied, to an email that had been sent to our pastor from our larger church association, exploring whether anyone MIGHT be interested in spending 2 weeks in Northern Thailand, in the spring. Which apparently is the hot season (I checked). This would be no traditional vacation - folks would be staying at a refugee camp for refugees from neighbouring Myanmar (Burma - mostly from the Karen tribe) and facilitating Vacation Bible School, maybe some English instruction, etc. Seeing as I don't really like heat, or unfamiliarity, or travelling (especially air travel, group travel, and anything involving borders and customs), contemplating this makes total sense, right? Our church has officially sponsored a number of Karen refugees who have come to our city in the past couple of years - we have personally done a bit with the Karen youth, and have been somewhat involved in a working group within our church, focused on the Karen people. I may have to decide pretty soon about moving from considering this in theory, and committing to it for real. Yikes. Again, the trip is not even confirmed yet - just looking at who might be interested and so on. No promises. And I am open to being talked out of the idea ;)

Stalling...

We, along with other families who were not with Imagine's Ethiopia program, have been granted an extension on the renewal date to consider our decision some more...I think we know what we want to do, but there is one main detail we are still sorting out. Hoping to hear about that in a day or two. While we have until later in December, I expect that we will be making a decision within the next week or so...hopefully. It will be good to get going on an actual action plan again shortly!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

The Deadline Approaches

Oh boy. Just a few more days before our signed renewal agreement needs to arrive at the agency, if we plan to continue with them in the Ethiopia program. And we still have not done it...but that doesn't mean we are not going to. It's mainly the long wait for a referral that is giving us pause, but not enough pause to seriously pursue another agency and program, so I suspect we are just waiting for the last minute, during which we will feel that we had better get that renewal agreement in the mail to keep our options open with Imagine...

The reasons we initially chose Imagine's other Africa programs had nothing to do with a lack of desire to adopt from Ethiopia - in fact, when we chose Imagine, that was the only Africa program, and we were ok with that. There were just some things that steered us toward the Zambia and Ghana programs at the time - at first thinking that during a trip to Zambia we could meet our World Vision sponsor child and visit children's homes affiliated with folks we know here was one reason. By the time we realized Zambia would not work out, Ghana seemed like a great option because the wait time seemed nice and short (particularly appealing after months in the Zambia program), whereas Ethiopia's wait list had grown substantially. In the end, though, it looks like we are coming full circle - hard to say if we should have just gone with Ethiopia in the first place, but certainly if that is our decision now, we may be able to say more confidently that it was meant to be...after our decisions ruled out other options, we may be heading in the direction we needed to be going in the first place.

One of the great things about the Ethiopia program is that there are so many other families in our area who are also adopting from there - a ready-made adoptive community in which these children will be able to grow up with others in the same situation. There is also a bit of an Ethiopian population in our city - two Ethiopian restaurants, actually, which says something. We recently attended a fundraising dinner in the city for an Ethiopian NGO and its Canadian partner. It was great to learn more about the country, its needs, and work being done there. I have started seeking out more information on Ethiopia, as we did two years ago when considering this option. I find its history and culture quite fascinating - the ancient roots and traditions, and uniqueness from neighbouring countries. There will be much more to learn (which means books to buy - always exciting) and explore if this is our final decision. Won't be long now - we will let you know!

Online Shopping!

Just learned about this site:

http://www.amharickids.com

Word is going 'round that from November 29-December 5, 15% of proceeds from the sale of almost all items will be donated to the new and improved Imagine Adoption agency...I plan to have a closer look, but I've already seen some lovely things - scarves, jewellery, books, CDs, toys, etc.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

The Cranberries - 20 Years


We were there, in person, in Toronto! I thought I would never see the Cranberries in concert, but with the announcement of a "just for fun" 20-year tour this fall, we jumped at the chance. Such a great band - they've been our favourite for years (although this concert made me realize we have not been playing them as much as we used to...). Actually, I kept checking for ticket sales announcements, and somehow missed the date by a few days. By the time I tried to get tickets for November 21, they were sold out. I was momentarily dismayed, then noticed a second date - and we ended up with aisle seats for November 20 (near the back, but it is a small auditorium, so no problem with that). The day before, Geoff had flu symptoms and came home from work. Then on the day of the show, Gladwyn vomited up a rope toy and was under the weather, so I ended up taking her in for x-rays (to make sure there wasn't more in there causing an obstruction) only a couple hours before we planned to leave. In the end, we made it (and Geoff and Gladwyn are just fine), and had a great time!

The evening was not without the usual camera-related glitches. I always carry a camera, and have three to use for various purposes. So, after a few concert-type venue experiments, I have decided that my older Canon digital point and shoot is best (my Canon SLR would in theory be best, but it's more of a pain to carry, and I worry about confiscation at events like this). The old Canon takes a clear picture from a distance, and has great zoom. Biggest drawback is the multiple AA batteries that have to be charged and ready. On the way to the concert, I decided to ensure that all was in good working order. Two sets of batteries charged, and ready to go. Then I tried to take a picture. Nothing except light streaks bouncing across the display. Nothing. Playback worked just fine, but I could only take pictures of light streaks. When Geoff had a look, he noticed some marks inside the viewfinder, as if something has been chewed up (meaning, most likely melted). I think my lovely camera is dead. And what a time to find out. That is the big disappointment of the night. No clear shots of Dolores for the photo album. Everything from a distance...so sad. Thankfully, I had my trusty, go-everywhere Fuji with me. It's a decent, compact point and shoot, which takes ok shots in the dark, but it just doesn't have the zoom I need for these occasions, and has a bit more trouble with distance. Aaah! I did take a few pictures, for better or for worse. What ended up being most useful was the video feature. Since I couldn't really get good photos, I ended up taking a few videos. Of course, since I had not planned to use that camera, I kept having to delete pictures from the nearly-full memory card to get more space. Now I think I need to have two cameras at all events, with two charged batteries, and extra memory cards. *Sigh*

An Adoption Story

Here is a nice article wherein a family outlines their adoption process and the beliefs around that. They have adopted both domestically and internationally. A good quick snapshot explaining a bit about how adoption happens, the reasons for some of the paperwork, etc.

http://www.transcriptbulletin.com/pages/full_story/push?article-A+Labor+of+Love%20&id=4557787-A+Labor+of+Love&instance=home_hometown_left

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Chemicals...Run Away & Head Toward the Green, Green Grass

I was a late bloomer when it comes to hair colour. For years after succumbing to professional haircuts (managed my own through high school just fine, thank you - ok - a little natural wave hides a multitude of trimming flaws, but still...) I resisted my stylist's encouragement to add colour. As long as I had natural colour of my own, I was happy enough...and I was cheap...mostly it was because I was cheap, because I was curious. Eventually I agreed to some highlights, and it wasn't long before I was having my whole head coloured. And, as I suspected, I was hooked. I love trying new colour combinations and highlight patterns - I pretty much let my stylist try any new little skill she has learned, and we go from there. Well, for much of the past few years, I have basically ignored (and honestly forgotten, after a few days) a bit of scalp itching and irritation, and occasional node swelling behind my ears, after having my hair coloured. Sadly, but I suppose fortunately, after my last visit the irritation did not subside after a few days, and the node swelling was quite painful. Overall, it took a few weeks for all the symptoms of the reaction to go away. So I have to face the facts. I have an allergy, likely to PPD. And in the end, it is a good thing I expect, because otherwise I might have continued putting toxic chemicals into my body every 10 weeks or so. I actually did a little research a few years ago, and didn't find anything terribly alarming. I wasn't using dark dyes regularly, and nothing permanent. But the colour has been consistently dark lately, and I think my stylist is using more permanent colours, and there also seems to be a bit more research available now. So I have to admit that even if I wasn't having reactions, using this stuff is not likely a good idea based on what I have read recently (and experienced personally). I still have to call my stylist to break the bad news and see if she has any ideas for my upcoming appointment, just in time for Christmas. Bad time to stop colouring, after being so used to it. Thankfully, there are some non-toxic and less toxic alternatives, and some natural options (never tried henna, but who knows), and for those who just want greys to vanish (without any real colour change), there are recipes online for rosemary and sage-based do-it-yourself rinses. I am still pretty sad about this, but ready to find some new options.

Now, after researching hair dyes, I decided, out of interest, to look into various other things, like makeup and lotions and soaps (as I have also been on the hunt for seasonal scents in handsoap for fall and winter). Of course, all this stuff is commonly made with toxic ingredients as well - my foundation, eyeliner, perfume - all of it. At home, we have already made the switch to non-toxic laundry detergent, household cleaner, and (usually) dishwashing detergent. Still lots of chemical-based products on our shelves to use up, but we're getting there. Now I guess it is time to do the same with our personal care products. It's pretty hard not to act once you are wittingly adding proven and suspected toxins to your body. Also very sad...I do love my perfume (and will use it up rather than throw it out), and must admit to being a little nervous about the effectiveness of the shampoos and styling products I might have to try, but it's worth a shot.

Here are some websites I have found interesting and useful so far (most are Canadian) - I do not claim to be an expert on this stuff (yet), and have not tried most of it, but hey, it's a start:

General information about product ingredients: http://lesstoxicguide.ca/index.asp?

On-line drug-store with LOTS of products, including a green/organic section (and FREE, fast shipping in Canada on anything): www.well.ca

One example of natural hair colour: http://actbynature.com/

One home-made herbal hair colour recipe: http://www.ehow.com/how_5294388_cover-grey-hair-naturally.html

Organic soaps: http://www.rockymountainsoap.com/webpage/1003154/1000144

Organic soaps, lotions, etc.: http://www.greenbeaver.com/new_products

Organic & non-toxic beauty products, various brands: http://www.karmavore.ca

Organic perfume: http://www.natural-living-for-women.com/organic-perfume.html

Non-toxic (sugar based) nail polish: http://suncoatproducts.com/index-polish.htm - I ordered one of these polishes, and the remover. The polish looks great on, and the remover did the job without the stink!

Household, beauty, natural health: www.shaklee.ca - we use the laundry concentrate and all-purpose household cleaner. Seems to do the job quite nicely.

Ok, there's some research for you to do in your spare time. I haven't even touched on the world of green/organic/natural/non-toxic baby products out there - cloth and unbleached disposable diapers, skin care, etc. And as far as online shopping in Canada goes, there are LOTS of options for the baby stuff, which is nice to see. Have fun exploring!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Dogs, and Human Nature

Yesterday we came across a great deal on a nice, big, comfy dog bed. Our other ones are a little flat, hard, and lumpy, so we picked it up.

Well, it is a hit with Gladwyn in particular. She stayed on it all evening - not even following me upstairs where I spent some time. However, she won't let Hesper on it. Typically a good-natured hound who loves to play with Hesperantha, snuggle up beside her, and who lets Hesper boss her around the food dish, she growls and blocks Hesper from the new bed. Hopefully once the novelty wears off, all will be well, but I have to say I am always disappointed when my hounds mirror the less savoury aspects of human (and I suppose, animal) nature. I mean, I do realize dogs are generally thinking of themselves - even their affection, which I enjoy, seems pretty suspiciously self-gratifying - but at least when they are being nice about their "me first-ness" they can still be endearing.

Not sure how to categorize things like our little Scat-cat's food thievery - it makes me laugh when she growls and grumbles while dragging off a piece of meat, but I do think she would let us all starve while making off with choice meats, cheeses, and milk from the counter when our backs are turned. Don't think any of my pets have ever come close to embodying the qualities of heroic and unselfish animals occasionally featured in news stories - I guess maybe that is why those animals make the news.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Adopting Older Youth

http://www.parentcentral.ca/parent/article/642985

This is a current, and quite interesting Canadian article about adoption and family plans for older, or "transitional age", youth. The point made, which is something I have considered from time to time, is that foster youth still need a family after age 18.

In my previous work with teens in a mental health facility, and through church youth work, I have experienced a real sense of sadness for these young people, off on their own at 18, expected to find housing and get themselves into full-time work or post-secondary education (or to complete high school credits). I am not sure how many 18 year-olds with secure family backgrounds and lots of opportunity to learn social responsibility would fare heading out entirely on their own, let alone the addition of lifelong disruptions leading to extra vulnerabilities. I actually toy with the idea of pursuing "something" along the lines of developing supports and networks for these youth.

One statistic presented in the article really caught my attention - traditionally only 21% of foster youth end up maintaining the employment or academic pursuits necessary to continue receiving financial support through Children's Aid. I think that would have surprised me at one point, but having seen some youth struggle in this area, even when I would have bet they had the skills to stick with the plan, maybe even more so than others, this number just confirms the level of need.

I have seen bright young people become so wrapped up in social and emotional chaos that they cannot maintain housing or work. Then they end up crashing temporarily here and there, or ending up in various kinds of trouble. One of my last clients in my previous job was a strong, yet exceptionally vulnerable, young woman to whom I waved as she was driven away in the taxi taking her to her new, empty little apartment located in an area of town where she would in all likelihood have difficulty separating herself from the influences that kept bringing her down. I have certainly seen a few manage their independence effectively, which is encouraging. But even then I have seen loneliness - like the young man who maintained outpatient appointments with me for months, working on a goal I suspect was not his primary need or priority. But he needed those sessions to have regular adult contact.

Some of my experiences involve youth who were not in foster care, but who had extremely limited or disrupted family contact. But the examples are the same for foster youth, too. And employment and academic progress speak mainly to the economic part of it - because even if you stick with the job or the school program, where do you go for Christmas dinner, and who comes to your college graduation?

Dancing the Night Away

We actually had fun at dance class tonight!

Since Geoff and I started social dance lessons last winter, we have been compelled to continue (and have actually dared trying out some rudimentary steps at various weddings). We have seen it as a bit of focused time together, a bit of exercise, and I suppose just something new to do. The reality of being a true beginner, as with any technical skill, is that the fun factor can be elusive. There can be a lot of frustration and disillusionment as weeks go by having to re-learn moves each week, stepping on and kicking each other (all accidental, of course), feeling like a rusty robot (isn't a waltz suppose to feel like gliding as well as look like it??)...you get the idea.

But for some reason, we were totally on the ball tonight. Geoff led me into a diagonal right off the bat during the foxtrot, and our conversation step came right back to us. The single swing went off without a hitch, including arch turns, and lady & guy unders. Then the new move (can't remember its name) made sense right away. And, our final waltz felt (despite likely not looking) lovely. We did not take a break between 6-week sessions this time, and my theory is that doing more than 6 weeks consecutively may be paying off. We can only hope. And I also hope we actually remember some of this stuff in the long-term :)

Friday, 13 November 2009

November

November has proved to be a stressful month the past few years.

In 2007, we spent November digesting the news that our basset hound was living with untreatable tumours. We were also still recovering from minor whiplash injuries sustained in our July 2007 car accident - which was difficult given that I had already received an extension on my masters thesis and could not sit at a computer through the evenings to work on it. That year, we were also making big decisions through November, having attended a late October information session on...yes, that's right...international adoption with our soon-to-be agency. That part was generally good stress, but still a big deal with lots of discussion and organizing to do. Especially with some pieces we wanted in place within certain time-frames to avoid additional costs. We do have a lovely "family" photo of Geoff and I with our pets, taken that November, which is a nice memory.

November 2008 contained my thesis defense, and immediately following, news that the Zambia program was in trouble. Pretty exhausting. The happy memory there is dinner out right after my defense, and the pretty necklace Geoff gave me. And I think we pretty much finished getting our leaves gathered up for just about the first time ever...

So far in November 2009, our mortgage is due, so we are running to and from appointments and have been making decisions about what type of mortgage we would like to try this time. To add some planned renovation expenses to the mortgage, we need to have an appraisal done, which means it is crunch time for some of the projects we are trying to do, like build, stain, and install baseboards (want that done before an appraiser comes calling). It would also be nice to have those projects done before our homestudy update (once we finally decide what we are doing - the other BIG thing on our November agenda) - not necessary to get baseboards done for a home visit, I realize, but nice to show that we actually have kept working on the place since our last visit. As well, our adoption medicals likely need to be updated (unless we can get the homestudy updated and sent to the Ministry before sometime in December), so there are appointments and paperwork to coordinate for those. And the bottom line is that all this "stuff" means I am way behind on Christmas decorating, which is sad and also stressful. Need time and order to get that off the ground, which is too bad because once those lights are twinkling away, the whole place becomes just so soothing, which I need. I did get two trees up yesterday - one in the computer/family room/guest room upstairs, and one in our room. Unfortunately, I am having second thoughts about the dog/cat tree in the family room, and thinking I should have used the primitive/folk ornaments in there instead (which are homeless after our master bedroom re-do). If I catch up, I would not put it past me to un-decorate that tree and move the cat/dog theme elsewhere. I compromised a bit in our room, which is not totally ready (still need a bookcase and curtains to call it finished), but it was nice to see some decorating progress. Good thing I started my Christmas letter in August (what else to do with a broken back?) and my Christmas cards in October, so only have part of that project to complete. Anyway, we are just halfway through November so far, and I am hoping that the second half of the month is where all these loose ends get tied up...

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Ethiopia's Orphans

Here are a couple of links to interesting articles about Ethiopia's orphans, their care, and issues surrounding adoption.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/africa/article6032044.ece

http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=52622

Good News Regarding Ethiopia

http://www.bdo.ca/extranets/imagineadoption/index.cfm

A team representing Imagine and BDO (the bankruptcy trustee) has recently returned from a trip to Ethiopia to assess and re-establish relationships with key staff and orphanages. They have signed contracts with two out of four orphanages, and continue to talk with the remaining two. The key staff members in Ethiopia have agreed to continue working with the agency, and seem well-qualified and well-positioned to assist. The contracted orphanages have stated they anticipate referrals beginning sooner than projected in Imagine's restructuring proposal, which is excellent news! All in all, it was a productive and encouraging trip, which is great to hear.

Inching Forward

Still thick in the middle of indecision. One thing we know for sure is that our paperwork will need to be updated no matter what route we go. So, we are starting with our Ontario medical forms. Geoff has booked an appointment with our physician, and I have sent emails to the agency and our social worker to see who can provide fresh copies to us. Hopefully we get a response and the forms before Geoff's appointment...

These decisions would be a lot easier if the old baby in a basket on the doorstep scenario actually played out, or someone called us up and said, "Hey, I heard you wanted to adopt..."

*Sigh*

Oh well.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Ghana - The Continuing Story

While we have been given the news that our agency does not plan to continue with a Ghana program, there is a strong voice, primarily from those with referrals, to find a way for these adoptions to proceed. It seems there may be some key individuals who may support a movement to keep Ghana alive and well. The closure of the program does not mean that Ghana adoptions cannot happen in Canada, but there are definite obstacles which would take a significant amount of effort to overcome. It seems like such an unlikely possibility, given that we have essentially been told twice that the program is closing. But if there is a small chance, especially for those with referrals...

One family with a referral for siblings learned that their children had been sent back to their village of origin during the Hands of Mercy orphanage issues. Tragically, one of these children has since died. Now, the Hands of Mercy Shutterfly site has just posted that another baby, also sent back to his village with his twin brother, has died as well. He was apparently to be referred to parents in Canada. We will of course have no way of ever knowing who would have been referred to us, but I suspect now that we were closer to a referral than I might have guessed, since at least one of the Ghana referrals came to a family whose dossier was sent after ours (they would have received their referral ahead of us likely because of a broader age request). While I am glad we did not receive a referral only to find out that we could not complete the adoption, thinking that some of these children impacted by the orphanage closure/restructuring could have been referred to us makes the situation more real in some ways.

http://handsofmercy.shutterfly.com/

Change at Church

In non-adoption-related news, our church may be heading into an interesting, and likely challenging, time of change. Ours is a unique church in our area, essentially the only evangelical church to maintain a formal/traditional service with a few "high church" elements. We also offer, in our gym, a contemporary service. It is not a large church - we have averaged close to 200 in our traditional service the past few years, which is a dwindling number. And around 100 people attend the contemporary service, which is fairly steady, but perhaps growing a bit. Our sanctuary can easily fit 400, I believe. Being a downtown church, the congregation is eclectic - we have students, lots of elderly folk, single adults, and families, all from various backgrounds culturally, economically, educationally, etc. We are also the home church for most of the large group of Karen (Burmese) refugees who have arrived in our city the past couple of years, and the building is used by a Spanish congregation. Over the past year, an ad hoc committee has been meeting to examine future needs and make recommendations. They believe that at this time we need o consider joining our services, while trying to preserve elements that are core to each. They are proposing an interesting model - one where the core part of the service is quite "neutral" - sermon, scripture, announcements, etc. On either end of the service would be an optional music experience - some hymns and so on before the service, and some band-led praise songs afterward. The logistics of this would be a bit of a challenge, as would considering the place of music throughout the core service. These details have not really been discussed yet, as there needs to be discussion and agreement about moving forward with the general idea first. Anyway, a congregational meeting is coming up in a couple of weeks, and I do hope that we are all able to have a productive discussion together. Anyway, this morning I was reading a blog, and the author had taken this from someone else's blog, and I felt it was fitting, so I have in turn borrowed it for my blog! Here it is:

From, The Peacemaker, by Ken Sande:

"Contrary to what you may have heard, God's highest purpose for you is not to make you comfortable, wealthy, and happy. If you have put your faith in Him, He has something far more wonderful in mind for you ... He plans to conform you to the likeness of His Son. He began to change you the day you yielded yourself to Him, and He will continue this process throughout your life. Conflict is one of the many tools that God can use to help you develop a more Christlike character. To begin with, He may use conflict to remind you of your weaknesses and to encourage you to depend more on Him (2 Cor. 12:7-10). The more you depend on His grace, wisdom, and power, the more you will be imitating the Lord Jesus (Luke 22:41-44).


God may also use conflict to uncover sinful attitudes and habits in your life. Conflict is especially effective in breaking down appearances and revealing stubborn pride, a bitter and unforgiving heart, or a critical tongue. When you are squeezed through controversy and these sinful characteristics are brought to the surface, you will have an opportunity to admit their existence and ask for God's help in overcoming them.


There is more to being like Jesus than simply recognizing weaknesses and confessing sin to grow; you must also practice new attitudes and habits. Just as athletes develop their muscles and skills through strenuous training, you will see greatest growth when you repeatedly think and behave properly in response to challenging circumstances..."

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Listening


Listen and be led
L. M. Heroux

How do you listen when you are not sure where to turn your attention? That is the question. I think part of having to re-think our adoption plans, again, really involves listening, observing, reflecting - on where we have been, why we have gone/been there, and what it means to be where we are now. One of the hardest things to sort through is what meaning to take from everything that has happened. Some people stop their adoption process after multiple closed doors. Is that what this means? Some people strengthen or maintain their resolve, and simply look for new ways of accomplishing the original goal. Is that what this means? Some people continue the journey, but head in a completely different direction. Is that what this means? We have started, this past week, to chat about where we are going from here. Trying to evaluate what we actually want and need to be doing at this point, after so much uncertainty, is difficult, but seems to be the place to start. Taking the time for conversation has been helpful - getting to know any inklings, preferences, "for sures" each of us has, and seeing where that leaves us. So far we are at:

1. Yes to kids - Each of us pictures our family including kids, somehow.
2. Yes to adoption - Both of us get most excited when we picture those future kids coming to us through adoption.
3. Yes, most likely, to Africa - This is still under discussion, but it looks like we generally feel most strongly about proceeding with an adoption from Africa, particularly since one of us clearly voiced that continuing, specific desire. Exploration of public adoption is on the table, but still not the most likely scenario for now. If we explore local possibilities, there has also been discussion about the meaning of our process so far, and all that we have invested in preparing to adopt transracially and transculturally - we have read, attended workshops, joined a transractial parenting group, etc. - feeling like it makes sense to keep going in a direction we have started, unless there is a clear and specific reason not to...

So, for now it seems important to listen - to each other, to others in the same process who are also contemplating their options, to available information - to pay attention and process what we see, think, and hear. Hopefully we make use of the listening time by tuning in where we need to...which seems like the hard part. Hopefully by listening, we will know when to act, and what that action should be. Hopefully our listening is not passive, but active in the sense of taking time to talk, reflect, and learn.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Official Ghana Announcement Link

Here is the official news on the Ghana program, posted publicly by the bankruptcy trustee:

http://www.bdo.ca/extranets/imagineadoption/index.cfm

Back to the Drawing Board

I received a call from Imagine this morning, to address any questions we might have and to outline our options, which are to withdraw from Imagine or join the Ethiopia program. Seeing as we initially thought we would be going with the Ethiopia program, when we chose Imagine two years ago, it seems we may have come full circle. At this point we have not decided what we will do. Our options outside of Imagine include, for example, public adoption in Ontario or looking into international adoption through another agency (which means starting from scratch financially). We have just about a month to decide whether to renew with Imagine. Yikes - busy few weeks ahead, it looks like as we engage in major future planning.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Hound-Related Interlude

Since we are the midst of having no idea what is happening with our adoption, this is a post about hounds. Why not. Here, you can see Gladwyn sharing a long stick with Jim (Captain Kirk), visiting with my parents this weekend. Jim, being a pup of 7 months or so, was initially a little overwhelming even for energetic Gladwyn (herself merely 18 months), but they seem to be sorting things out well. Jim is reportedly a beagle mix, but at pretty much the same height, and with a stockier build, than Gladwyn, I am thinking bluetick coonhound, around 50 pounds so far. Who knows (Jim was taken on by my parents, who planned to find a collie again, when their neighbours decided they would not be keeping the pup, so there is little known background on the lad). Hesper is somewhere on the sidelines here. She has not quite decided to let loose with Jim, preferring at this point to bark encouragement from a safe distance while he plays. Which is a step up from putting him in his place whenever he entered her personal space zone. At least they move efficiently through the getting acquainted phase, seeing as we are only at the end of day one. We shall see if we have to go through this again when we host Jim for a weekend in about a month, and then for a while at Christmas. Anyway, time for bed. That is all the hound news for today :)

Now We Know

We have received the sad, but somewhat expected, news that we have been waiting for regarding Ghana. It does not look like Imagine will be offering this program due to a number of significant obstacles. The email from our agency is fairly detailed, but another update will be posted by the bankruptcy trustee on Monday. We have also been informed that the agency will be calling to discuss our options with us. At this point, that likely means switching to Ethiopia, or withdrawing from Imagine. But we shall see...

If there is any good for us in this right now, it is that we received the news now, rather than a few months down the road (as we did not know how long the Ghana investigation might take) when even more time had passed. However, there are families with child referrals, and I do so hope that there are ways for them to complete their adoptions.

That is all for now. Guess it is time to get out of permanent waiting mode and into thinking and planning, and as of this moment I am not quite sure where this will lead, or even where we want it to lead. We will keep you posted.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

October 31 - Weighing In on the Debate


I love a costume. I love any excuse to wear one. And since I'm over the age of 5 or so, October 31 is the only chance I have to wear a costume in public during the day (yes, it's true - I always wore a costume to work, and found a reason to run an errand or two on my way home - one drawback to working from home now - at least October 31 is a Saturday in 2009)! And, I enjoy catering to the very few neighbourhood children who take the extra time to come by our very slightly off-the-path house for candy. I also like being in costume along with other people in costume...so, every year for the past many years, I've been hosting a costume party in late October. Oh, and I decorate a bit, too, pretty much because I also love a reason to accent each season with some festive notes (just a little foretaste of the much larger-scale Christmas decorating to come starting in November)! Now, growing up, Halloween was only modestly observed in our home. We were allowed to wear wholesome costumes - bunnies, ballerinas, that kind of thing - and visit the homes of known neighbours and church members in our small town. My parents handed out candy, and we always carved a pumpkin. No ghosts, witches, or horror features at our place as kids. Now, it gets a bit tricky. I don't like to focus on supernatural elements that depict demonic influence, or on grotesque elements that celebrate mayhem and destruction. However, I've always enjoyed classic gothic horror themes in literature - some of my favourite reads, like Frankenstein and Jane Eyre, include the somewhat bizarre, and sometimes macabre even as they illustrate truth - oh, and I like a little Poe now and then as well! I also like a good pirate story - so a few pirate motifs reflect that interest . For me, this season is more about dressing up and having fun with quirky decor based on my interests. I think it can certainly be tricky (no pun intended) finding a good balance. I definitely respect those who choose not to observe Halloween at all, or who keep it limited to some cute costumes for their kids. I did a search on Christians and Halloween to see what's out there. Most of what I found is written by strongly anti-Halloween folk, but the link below stood out to me. Likely because it does a very nice job of articulating my thoughts as they stand at this point in time. I like how it honestly acknowledges various roots of Halloween, yet distinguishes between those roots and culturally relevant seasonal activities for the sake of entertainment (again, using discretion, and respecting individual differences - and I may not have worded that well, as I am of the opinion that we don't "need" to take pagan holidays and turn them into our own entertainment...if I think of a better term, I'll change it). Anyway, worth a read, whether you agree or disagree. Here it is:

http://www.wcg.org/lit/church/holidays/halloween.htm

P.S. Here is an interesting Catholic perspective - I wouldn't take the same stance on everything here, but worth a look:

http://www.ancient-future.net/halloween.html

And another interesting discussion (arguing a less pagan root to Halloween) - I'm not offering any comment, just putting some varied perspectives out there...

http://blog.beliefnet.com/bibleandculture/2009/10/should-christians-celebrate-halloween.html

Yet another one - this one I like, for the same reasons I like the first link I posted - I will admit bias, because this pretty much reflects my position:

http://www.carm.org/questions/other-questions/where-did-halloween-come-can-christian-celebrate-it

Not bad either (in my opinion):

http://answers.org/holidays/halloween.html


Saturday, 24 October 2009

Where Are We Going?

We still don't know. Imagine has received the Ghana report, but there has not been an announcement yet regarding the Ghana program. Without knowing what findings, conclusions, or recommendations are in the report, we are still hoping for good news. This week, waiting for information we know is coming, reminded me what it felt like through June, knowing news of the Ghana program was imminent. In many ways, it was easier to wait through July, August, September, and the first half of October, after the agency collapse, knowing that news was a long way off.

We have tried to resurrect some sense of forward movement, and attended the first meeting of a local satellite group for transracial adoptive families. We enjoyed the people there, and plan to continue attending. We have also set up the nursery again this week, after using the space for storage since last winter as we worked on flooring and trim throughout the upstairs. It is SO nice to have our upstairs rooms in order again. What a relief!

As usual, fall is catching up with me. This is the point at which I invariably realize that Christmas is much closer than I imagined, and that I am once again a little behind schedule. Although I do have my cards pretty much done, other than address labels. And with the house shaping up again, I should be able to start decorating the first week of November. Before putting up Christmas trees, however, I should likely empty and store my garden pots and planters and things. That will be near the top of the agenda for the coming week...at least we are all ready for trick-or-treaters next Saturday!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Coming This Week???

The lawyer working on the Canada-Ghana adoption situation has submitted his report to our agency. Apparently we may hear something early this week regarding the status of the Ghana program. Hoping...

Friday, 25 September 2009

A Lull

Ok, so some of you may argue that the past, oh, 15 months or more, have been a lull in our adoption process. This new lull may contain a bit more impatience again, though. The summer space between bankruptcy and proposal acceptance was pretty manageable for us overall - in addition to being distracted by my broken back (ha), we knew roughly when to expect news, and things followed a pretty predictable course. In between, there was really nothing to do, and nothing to expect. Now that the agency will be up and running within a week or so (what a great turnaround time-frame!), any day could bring news of some sort or another. In the proposal, it is clear that the agency will take until February at the latest to review all the countries, and determine which programs are viable for them. However, bits and pieces of news will likely trickle in over the next few months, so I will still be busy checking & checking message boards and email inboxes just in case! Since Monday's restructuring vote, things have been VERY quiet on the forums, which is disappointing, because I keep checking and finding nothing new to read. I think it's particularly hard to adjust to quiet after the frantic pace of messages leading up to the vote - at least the chatter fills the lull and keeps adoption in the forefront of daily life. If the silence keeps up, I may have to start channelling my restless energy into something productive, like crafting all those hand-made Christmas gifts I have visions of producing, and maybe catching up on adoption reading. At least autumn brings with it all kinds of projects and events as we pass through Thanksgiving and Halloween (yay, costume party!), and then dive right into Christmas preparation (a good thing, in my opinion - a whole season of festivity - major celebrations should be more than one day, most definitely). Anyway, that's where things stand. Waiting to see where they end up...

Monday, 21 September 2009

Yes, all 'round!

Good news! We spent the morning in Kitchener, to attend the creditors' meeting where the final vote was held on the agency restructuring. There were 248 votes in favour of restructuring, and 20 against, so looks like things will be up and running in no time. There is a court date next Tuesday (September 29) for official approval, and the hoped-for start date for the agency is October 1. I spoke to a Guelph reporter for 570 News - microphone and everything, so will check later to see if I'm on the air. And a great couple we are getting to know, also with Ghana, did an on-camera interview with CH TV (Niagara, Halton, Hamilton, etc.). So tune in!

www.570news.com

www.chtv.com

Friday, 11 September 2009

Yes

We sent in our 'yes' vote to the restructuring proposal today. I appreciate the folks with business and accounting backgrounds who have been posting their assessments of the proposal and cash flow projections, which mean little to me when I look at them. There are definitely differing perspectives, and some concerns about long-term viability, but I have faith in those who have worked to build a sound proposal, and we want to see this agency resurrected! Looking forward to discussion at the creditor's meeting on September 21.

Still don't know if our future as Imagine clients will be with Ethiopia or Ghana, but don't give up on Ghana yet, folks - it can still happen, and barring definitive Ghana program closure or other insurmountable obstacles, that is still what we want to do.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Restructuring Proposal

Well folks, we have a proposal - now, if a majority of Imagine clients vote in favour of it, then the agency will be restructured with the goal of facilitating adoptions for all Imagine clients. You can read it for yourself if you like:

www.bdo.ca/imagineadoption

There is a creditor's meeting in regard to the proposal on September 21, and in the meantime, we send in our vote. No news yet regarding Ghana. If, sadly, Ghana cannot continue, one of our options would be to switch to Ethiopia, with our "place" in the program being determined by the date our file was sent off originally. But we're still holding out some hope for Ghana in the absence of a final verdict...

Monday, 31 August 2009

If You Sew Them...

(This tan one is now on hold - I can't replicate the lining, but could get more of this cord, and can replicate the tan plaid Africa).

(This is a sample picture - don't think I can replicate the lining - the exterior can be "almost" replicated in a small-print black/white houndstooth).

(This bag, above, can currently be replicated).

(This bag is one-of-a-kind - a few of the fabrics (but not the black denim) can be used in other bags. The bag below - tan with paisley Africa - can currently be replicated). Feel free to send a comment with your email if you have questions or want more pictures!

This bag-making I started about 18 months ago has been such a neat experience. After making 60 bags and thinking I would gradually, and with great effort, try to sell them to friends and family - and then selling all of them in a week after posting them on Facebook in July 2008 (say what you will about it, but Facebook has been a fantastic tool for lots of reasons) - there has been a steady trickle of interest which has pretty much kept pace with my availability to sew. These days, I've been mainly sewing on demand, just a bag here and there, but have a few ready-made bags again with plans to keep them coming. And just as I get back into sewing (after some busy times adjusting to work changes, summer activities, and my broken vertebrae), I've had a Jr. High classmate (through Facebook) offer to host a purse party featuring my bags! What a fun idea - just need to sew up a good supply - and with fall and Christmas on the way, the timing could be just right. So while we continue to have no idea where our adoption journey is headed, I keep being prompted to continue sewing...so I suppose I will do just that...

A Little Seasoning...

As things have been pretty repetitive here in blog-world lately, I wanted to post a few pictures to spice things up a bit. I finally have a couple of Gladwyn pics where she's not nervously glancing at the camera - here she is "camping" with us at the trailer a couple of weeks ago:

And here's Hesperantha, posing with as much dignity as she can muster. She's all grown up now, having turned two a week ago (but she hasn't figured that out yet).
One of my hibiscus blooms after a rain:

And a rainbow, spotted as we approached our campground:
We have definitely made the most of our little getaway this summer - driving into the campground provides an instant sense of calm, and it's been lovely spending nice, full days together reading and walking the dogs. Life there is just simple, and it's nice not to be surrounded by visual reminders of chores and yardwork and renovations - the trailer is easy to keep clean & tidy, the deck is fresh & sunny, and the little garden is super-low maintenance (and we don't cut the grass!). And then, at home, we've been making some headway again on renovations, so there seems to be a reasonable balance. This coming long weekend will mark the end of full summer weekends away - we will soon be back to Sunday School teaching and other commitments, so will be making shorter trips up through mid-October, when the campground closes for the season. I am always sad to see the summer season draw to a close, and this year we've certainly had some early reminders of fall, which I could have done without. However, this means that I can't get fall off of my mind, and I must admit to a hint of anticipation as I think about fall decorating, crisp air and leaves, and of course, the lead-up to the Christmas season. Don't want to rush things, but may as well savour what's coming...

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

One More Chance...

Ok, so earlier this week the "though-the-grapevine" on Ghana was not sounding good. Today, however, there is still a glimmer of possibility for all of us would-be adoptive parents and all the lovely children waiting for us in Ghana, as an experienced and qualified professional will be retained to look into the matter and work on getting some firm and final answers as to whether there is going to be opportunity for Canadians to adopt from Ghana. There is room to hope and pray that a restructured Imagine (again, a distinct possibility - will know more about that very soon) would be able to process Ghana adoptions - there are still LOTS of big "ifs" and obstacles in this regard, so keep those prayers going! I must admit, the waiting is feeling more tedious now, as we watch time continue to pass without offering answers. However, we still believe it is best to sit this out rather than make any big changes in our direction unless we need to...still hoping so much that there are open doors and open minds so that barriers can be lifted.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Sound Familiar?

We're still waiting.

We are happy to keep waiting to hear about possible agency restructuring plans, BUT we are really hoping to start hearing some specifics about the Ghana situation in particular. People are working on getting a sense as to whether Ghana adoptions will be able to proceed, and whether a newly restructured Imagine would be licensed to continue with Ghana adoptions...but this continues to be an ongoing question mark, apparently with no easy-to-come-by answers. We trust that the necessary people will quickly have opportunities to come together for information-sharing, decision-making...whatever it is that must be done so that we know whether Ghana is an option. It would be so lovely to have a bit of a plan again - for now we just float without a compass.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Reflection of the Day

Philippians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

"The spiritual truth Paul describes cannot be grasped. This peace doesn't just surpass the understanding of the worldly man but surpasses all understanding. Even the godly man can't comprehend this peace. Paul is promising something that is not humanly explicable -- that a man surrounded by care and anxiety and harassment and concern can still live with the tranquility of God in his soul!" (http://www.preceptaustin.org/philippians_47.htm)

Friday, 7 August 2009

Signs of Life

A very little thing, perhaps, but I was just pleasantly surprised by an email update on the Ghana program from an Imagine staff member who is working along with the bankruptcy trustee - there is no particular progress in regard to Ghana, but even receiving an email update is evidence that there is still work being done, and that the agency still has a heartbeat! We continue the wait to learn about a proposal being developed to (hopefully) restructure the agency, so the future is certainly still open to any possibility, happy or sad. Anyway, there are some excellent, qualified folks trying to clarify the status of Canada-Ghana adoptions, and some key connections being made with people who might offer significant support and assistance both to clarify whether Ghana adoptions are possible, and then (if the answer is "yes") to help establish a process for these adoptions. So far, there has been a ray of hope that the doors may not be entirely closed to Ghana, which I admit I didn't expect to hear, so we are not ready to back out yet!

Friday, 31 July 2009

Come Together

Yesterday we attended the creditors meeting facilitated by the trustee handling our agency's bankruptcy. It was a really positive experience - something so devastating has the potential to be a very exciting time of united action, hope, and restoration. There was completely unanimous agreement in the room to work together to restructure the agency so that all clients can continue their adoptions. There is a great deal of energy and a strong sense of collaboration in this group. The trustee was excellent, and enthusiastic, and there was a display of cooperation and negotiation amongst those willing to represent all creditors as an "inspector" (a committee of 5 people who will now work with the trustee to oversee primarily financial decisions moving forward). I had a real sense that everyone wants to make this work, is willing to collaborate to do it, and that there are some very skilled people with lots of wisdom playing key roles in all of this. It was worth making a spectacle of myself in my reclining lawn chair, pressure relief cushion, and back roll to be there! Oh, and I did answer a few questions from a reporter afterward - also exciting. I just can't remember his name and haven't found any quotes by me in the new articles I've been reading :) Ghana families met for lunch afterward to chat about our unique situation and action plan to see if there is a way our Ghana adoptions can continue...but that's a long story, so we'll leave it at that for now and see what unfolds!

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Domestic vs. International

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/westview/international-adoption-is-more-difficult-in-manitoba-51691682.html

This article is worth a look for those wanting to understand some of the complexities of choosing international vs. domestic adoption...

Friday, 24 July 2009

Press Conference

Imagine clients speaking live to the media - pretty much sums everything up:

http://toronto.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20090724/imagine_adoption_090724/20090724?hub=Toronto

Imagine Family Website & Blog

Keep up with news, plans, and other information related to efforts to find solutions for families of Imagine Adoption! Thank you SO much to everyone who is putting time and energy into this effort. We believe exciting things will come of all this.

familieswithhope.org

unitedfamiliesofimagine.blogspot.com

Encouraging Efforts & Support

Here is some public information that I wanted to paste here for quick reference, showing some of the efforts and support for Imagine Adoption clients so far (there are more examples, including official government statements, but these are quite lovely):

1. This an excerpt from a notice by Imagine's bankruptcy trustee, which is particularly pertinent to folks in our situation - there may still be hope that families without referrals will also have support to complete their adoptions along with those who have already been matched (and please remember to include these families in any letters, phone calls, etc.):

BDO Dunwoody is continuing discussions with the licensing government office, stakeholders, individuals and other organizations regarding continuity of services that were provided by the previous organization. If successful, and fully compliant with regulatory requirements, the unmatched files would continue to be managed. This objective is not typical for a bankruptcy of this nature; however, the sensitivity of this priority is recognized. We will continue to communicate the status of this option for the unmatched families between now and the creditor meeting on July 30th.

See http://www.bdo.ca/extranets/imagineadoption/index.cfm for more information

2. Here is a link to a blog post by a London MP for the Liberal Party, sharing his experience at our London area meeting last Sunday:

glenpearson.wordpress.com/2009/07/19/adopting-a-new-attitude/

3. Also, many, many thanks to Yamana Gold (www.yamanagold.com), who have so generously donated to keep Imagine's transition house in Ethiopia running - BDO states that Yamana's contribution will keep the home open until the children there are able to return home with their families. Beautiful.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Back-Breaking

Ah...so I slipped and fell on our wet deck today, and broke a lumbar vertebrae. Had my first ambulance ride, hours and hours lying on my back waiting for a diagnosis and clearance to move...now time will tell how things go. Maybe more time for letter-writing and so on to support our adoption agency advocacy efforts, though...

Monday, 20 July 2009

Standing for a Cause

Ok, so I feel like I'm the kind of person who likes the idea of causes, and has ideas about causes, but who doesn't actually invest much in causes. I'm basically a cause "poser" - and now I'm faced with the opportunity to choose - will I invest, or will I keep posing?

Well, last week I was following all the news and discussion, but without being terribly active. I figured Imagine was done, our Ghana process was done, and that was that - just accept it and start planning our next steps. On top of everything, all this time spent in limbo (which I realized has actually been since April in regard to Ghana - and if you count some of the major uncertainties we faced starting over a year ago when we were investigating other programs, coming up against obstacles, etc., our adoption journey has included about 8 months of hopeful optimism, and 14 months of 'known unknowns' (= major uncertainty). Anyway, 14 months of uncertainty forces a bit of detachment while waiting and waiting and waiting for news and major decisions about programs, and it seems to have made me feel a bit lost in regard to what I want to do next. But when I stopped to think about this issue outside of my own situation, I had to decide how much it matters. And I realized that even if I've lost some perspective on our own situation, if I really believe in international adoption and in the significance of the current situation for all Imagine clients, and for adoption in Ontario and across the country, then I need to participate. So, for our family, for Imagine clients, for the children, and for international adoption, I am taking up this cause. Nothing too wild yet, perhaps just a few letters, but it only feels right to stop posing and start doing.

Informed vs...not so much

I find it unsettling to observe the willingness of some to make hurtful, uninformed statements about others and their choices. In online comments to many of the articles covering our agency story, quite a few postings suggest that international adoptive parents are:

* Wealthy, since we managed to come up with the money to pursue private/international adoption. To me, this assumption really shows that some folks are having difficulty considering alternative scenarios...like maybe families have put off buying new cars, or bigger houses, or taking trips, or have taken on side jobs...and this may have taken years...

* Trying to be like celebrities. And to that, I really need to say that I am the last person to do something to be LIKE popular culture - I tend to go the other way. And I've wanted to adopt since childhood - way before international adoption became linked with celebrity...

* Participating in baby-buying. Ah, I'm not even sure how to respond to that one. A business needs incoming cash flow to pay staff, operate a building, etc. Adoption professionals do this as their JOB, not as a volunteer work. We are helping keep an organization running, ensuring that matched children are fed and clothed until they are in our care. This is the same as paying for the services of a lawyer to complete a private domestic adoption.

* Ignoring Canadian babies and children in need. This assumes (and there are some comments to this effect as well) that Canadian babies/children are easily available for adoption. Well, there are long waiting lists for private Canadian adoptions, so for those children, needs for family will be easily met. Canadian children are not in orphanages with low staff ratios. Foster situations are much preferable to orphanage care (still with a goal of family re-unification or adoption, not as a permanent solution). And, there are other considerations with domestic public adoption and older child adoption that are highly personal in nature. The fact is, worldwide (not just in Canada) there are children needing families. I am quite glad that some families feel led to pursue domestic adoption, and some to pursue international so that needs of children around the world are met...

Anyway, it's not the comments themselves that bother me - truly it isn't - but I am bothered by the ugliness of human nature sometimes. Not everyone has to love the idea of international adoption - and I can respect an opinion based on careful consideration, good understanding of the issues, and so on, even if it is different than mine. Feel free to offer enlightening comments when you read these articles...and if you are inclined not to say something nice, well, there are already plenty doing that, why not take a pass!

Suspension

It seems there is an active suspension of Ghana adoptions to Canadian families in place. What I don't know is whether there is a plan to review and possibly lift the suspension pending necessary information. I will be looking into this, as it is the first barrier to processing Ghana files even if a plan is put in place for Imagine clients...that is the first of a few barriers, but we'll start at step one. If there is any possibility of having the suspension lifted, pray that this will happen.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Options?

As I continue to follow the news and plans in regard to Imagine's bankruptcy and its implications for families in the program, a couple of issues have captured my attention.

1. Can existing adoption programs in Ontario support Imagine's clients to pursue adoption if we are forced to look elsewhere?
2. If the government builds even short-term supports to help Imagine clients see their adoptions through to completion, will this include clients who did not have referrals, and those who were not with the Ethiopia program?

I believe that we need to continue advocating for Imagine clients to have their files processed through to completion of their adoptions, in light of a concern that the Ontario adoption system likely cannot handle the influx of families who may be exploring other programs. I have realized that there simply may not be options for all of us if the existing adoption system is overwhelmed with new applicants. I have concerns for all families, but particularly those who did not have referrals and who were not with Ethiopia. I am following online discussions and posting around these issues, to see if any action has been taken to give voice in this regard.