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

Friday, 28 May 2010


Sorry, this won't be very informative...in fact, it may simply be confusing (which kinda reflects our thought process, so fair enough).

Not much to say, but there may be a little hint of movement in our epic decision-making journey...

Had an interesting chat today.

Seems that as soon as we started challenging ourselves about our adoption plans to date, we became open to so many decisions, possibilities, avenues...and it all got very confusing. When considering one idea, we have then been faced with all the other potential, hypothetical consequences (good, bad, and neutral). Trying to play out various scenarios, and weigh various desires and interests, almost always takes us in circles. Sometimes it seems pointless (and certainly, over-thinking things is not helpful), but letting the mind linger here and there can, I think, help sort out what is MOST important and desirable, deep down.

Tricky though, since what is deepest and truest in our desires and motives often seems most intangible, revealed in fleeting sensations, or broad perspectives that just maybe tell us something about ourselves.

Friday, 14 May 2010


Right now, I am feeling thankful that we have not updated our homestudy to reflect our country switch to Ethiopia. If we had done so, we might soon be doing so again.

I suppose, in all the "not knowing what to do" of recent days, that the one thing we are perhaps doing, which needed/needs to be done, is sitting still and waiting. I have been feeling that doing the paperwork for the country switch was not yet necessary (despite also fearing that I would let a decade go by without doing anything...and watching my life pass by in blandness for lack of action). Today we received an email from our agency outlining the pattern of sibling referrals since restructuring, and providing a bit of history regarding sibling referrals pre-bankruptcy. The numbers are not encouraging.

This means we need to consider a few things - like whether we will continue to request siblings (which we really want to do), whether we want to increase our age request (which we have been considering very seriously - not just in response to a slow wait, which would be a poor motivation for making such a change), whether there are certain "special needs" with which we are comfortable (sometimes medical conditions which can be easily managed or corrected here), and so on.

The agency cannot predict or explain referral trends in regard to child referrals, but the pattern in their experience with the Ethiopia program has been very few available siblings, particularly babies and young toddlers.

If this had been a complete surprise, I would likely be more troubled right now. As it is, we have been watching nothing happen in regard to sibling referrals, and have been wondering what our adoption process will look like, so it is simply confirmation that there is a bit of an issue.

Good thing I'm already wearing my thinking cap.

Who Am I? On Naming, and Being Named


- What’s your middle name?

- “Joy”

- No, your middle name.

- “Joy”

- You’re Joy Joy? (I will refrain from commenting further on this..and yes, it actually happens)

- “No, Joy is my middle name” (stated clearly and patiently)

- Then, what’s your first name?

- “Catherine”

- Weird, I never knew your real name was Catherine! (Variation: Wow, so you’re really a Catherine! – or, worse yet - So, Joy isn’t your real name?)

And yes, I do let the conversation run like that, rather than helping people out right from the start even if I can see where things are headed. I like to know what type of person I am dealing with :)

Allow me to introduce myself: I am Catherine Joy.

Sorry, should I have told you to sit down first? Well, after dusting yourself off, and planting yourself somewhere safe, feel free to continue reading about the fascinating issue of “going by your middle name.”

After reading a bit of adoption board discussion around naming and re-naming children, I decided to do a little “research” to see what I could find about using middle names in everyday life (to clarify, the adoption discussion is not what I am responding to – that was simply interesting – I am moving away from that friendly & innocent chat, into my own off-shoot, in which I may have some stronger sentiments to express).


I have always been amazed that some people truly don’t seem to have been exposed to others who “go by” their middle names. And I have generally been mildly amused by people’s responses when they learn my big secret. But I am beginning to realize there is a much deeper cultural system involved. That I am part of a sub-culture - a cultural minority – and that I actually cannot grasp the meaning of this phenomenon to people in the majority culture (e.g., those who go by their first names, particularly those who have little/no exposure to people who go by their middle names).

It makes me wonder: did I miss the mandatory pre-kindergarten class where everyone except me learned that first names are “real” names, and middle names are…fake…or that people who go by middle names are like some sort of fantasy creature come to life…something you can’t possibly be prepared for, so there will be no way to mask your confusion and surprise if and when you actually meet someone like this?

Maybe while everyone else took that class, I was in the “How Not to Act Shocked or Uninformed When You Are Exposed to Something Different Than Your Own Personal Experience” session.

I have actually enjoyed going by my middle name. I don’t mind being a bit “different’ (although am sometimes surprised by how “different” some seem to think I am as a result of this name business). During name discussions, I often begin to sense that I am interacting with someone whose cultural experience is very different than mine. Folks who seem totally comfortable with the fact that they are surprised, and even confused by my name situation – as if I am the strange one. I, on the other hand, feel a mixture of embarrassment toward the OTHER person for their apparent simplicity of mind (sorry, kind of), and mild annoyance at their seeming inability to grasp something so…clear.


Most of us have two given names (some more, some less). I simply grew up knowing that, and knowing that a person was generally called by one name or the other. I don’t recall being surprised even to learn that some people go by neither – perhaps some variation or traditional alternative to one of their given names, which is not always a direct short form – the John who is called “Jack” scenario, for instance). These truths are just part of my experience.


This so-called research was not exhaustive, but a few forums, including an extended discussion at babycenter.com seem to capture the primary perspectives and opinions I found online regarding the use of middle names in everyday life.

I Don’t Get It

“I know of a few girls my age whose first name by law is Mary, but they use their middle name as their first name. I was just wondering if anyone here knows the tradition behind this? I understand it could be a family namesake, and they use their middle name so as not to confuse family members. Or is it because they don’t really like their first name and choose to go by their middle name.”

Comment: I need to point out that both the first and middle names are lawful, if they are on the birth certificate (and they are both “real” – just as adoptive parents are “real” parents…just had to throw that one in there). One does not generally use a middle name by actually calling it a first name (unless filling out a form which does not require a full legal name, perhaps, and just putting the “called by” name in the first name space). The middle name is a middle name. One may go by either the first or middle name – going by the middle name does not have to be considered using it as a “first” name. And in regard to why people go by middle names…there’s not really any big mystery, and there is more than one explanation. I could ask, “Why do people usually go by their first names? Is there some rule about that in their culture or family? Do they hate their middle names? Was the name order given on purpose? Have they always used their first names?”

“Funny…in class…the professor was calling role and got to Megan, and she said she goes by Paige. I was like, how…do you get Paige from Megan? [Now I realize] Maybe it’s a middle name.”

Comment: Um, yes. Perhaps it is. You really didn’t consider that possibility until stumbling upon a middle name discussion?

“I was shocked to learn that one of my oldest and dearest friends from childhood (Sam) is actually James. I laughed so hard because I couldn’t believe that I knew someone for so long and had no idea that they had a different name!”

Comment: Keeping my mouth shut.

What a Pain

Blech, not my style at all. I mean, really? What’s the point in setting up your kid for a hassle their entire lives?”

Comment: I have never felt “set up” or “hassled” and…”blech”??? Is it yucky to use a middle name?

“Don’t do it!!!!!!!!! I go by my middle name and it’s a total pain, especially now that everything is computerized.”

Comment: I am sorry that something like this is so stressful.

“I hate when I go somewhere, like the doctor’s office, and my insurance card doesn’t match my file and I eventually have to go into this long story [about my grandmother and mother’s names, and the pattern of names in my family]…”

Comment: Then don’t go into a long story. I automatically provide both names when I introduce myself at appointments, simply explaining that my record may have one, the other, or both. And if I am called by my first name, I either go along with it (which is interesting, knowing this person thinks of you by a name you don’t normally go by), or quickly clarify that I use my middle name. On forms requiring both names, I circle my middle name as a cue. I actually have more trouble with my hyphenated last name than my first/middle name situation. Now that is another discussion altogether…my last name starts with the letter of the name before the hyphen…not so tricky. The name before the hyphen actually counts. Moving on…

No Big Deal

“My older brother goes by his middle name. He always has. As far as I know it just mildly shocks people when they find out. It hasn’t ever caused him any issues.”

Comment: True…and it is mildly amusing that people are so easily “mildly shocked.”

“I teach school and there are always at least two kids each year who go by their middle names…it’s not a big deal to me.”

“My youngest daughter does by her middle name, but it wasn’t something we planned at all. Her given name is Caroline Margaret, with Margaret being after my grandmother. My grandmother died shortly after my daughter was born and we just sort of started calling her Margaret and now she will tell us adamantly that her name is Margaret, not Caroline.”

“It hasn’t really been an issue…the first time we go to classes, preschool, or doctors, we have to tell them to make a note, which isn’t a huge deal.”

“My husband does by his middle name and always has. He signs documents “John T.” but goes by Tom. It hasn’t caused any real problems, and most people don’t even know he goes by his middle name.”

Comment: And I just sign using my first initial and full middle name along with my last name (pre-hyphen last name included…because it is a real name, too – just look at my ID).

“I have always gone by my middle name, and my daughter goes by her middle name. And if our next one is a boy, he will go by his middle name. Why? Well, my mother wanted to name me after my grandmother but not call me by that name, and the names just sounded better with “Susan” (the name I go by) in the middle. And if it were such a hassle would I have done it to my daughter? No, I would not. We named our daughter after out two grandmothers, one of whom is Ann. We thought that name was a little too common for our taste, so we call her by the other grandmother’s name, but Ann just sounds better first.”

“It is only mildly confusing when you’re, say, getting a prescription filled or on the first day of school. Other than that, the people who know you call you by the name you go by, and it’s very easy to tell when a telemarketer who’s just pretending to know you is on the phone!”

“My daughter goes by her middle name and I don’t think it is at all confusing or a hassle. She uses first and middle names on medical stuff but everyone should do that anyway. A few people call her by her first name and she knows what it is so she answers. At school, it has her first and middle names, but most teachers know her by her middle name before she gets to the class, but she can always tell them she goes by her middle name. I just don’t see where it would be confusing or a hassle. I’ve taught for over 10 years about 100 kids per year and about ¼ of them go by their middle name or a short version of their first name.”

“My husband and I are both prime examples of going by our middle names. We are both named after our parents and it has always been easier for us to go by our middle names instead of the first names our parents go by. I don’t find this strange or weird. And never have I had an issue of confusion.”

Comment: Thank you.

“They are BOTH her names and I imagine if she likes using her middle name as the name to address her as she gets older, she’ll want to stick with it. I don’t know why it would cause confusion since it’s part of her full name.”

Comment: Yes, yes, and yes!


Could I have been doing something more productive with my day than organizing this long blog post? Yes.


Please teach your children that there are many ways of naming and using names. Even if they go by their first names, if properly informed, they will appear very smart when they meet people who use their middle names, and may make new friends from a different name culture! Better yet, call your children by their middle names – we’re pretty cool people :)

Monday, 10 May 2010

Never a Dull Monday...Especially When Septic Renos Are Involved

Monday could usually win worst day of the week award in my book. Dull would normally describe it to a "T"

I find them long, tedious, and emotionally draining. Every fibre of my being resists being back to work (yes, even in my "good" job - really have no reason to complain - either hit the road to visit clients, or sit at home in sweats while working on reports or the millions of miscellaneous 5-minute tasks which eventually manage to equal 7.5 hours...), "trapped" at my computer, fighting a day-long urge to do anything other than job-related activities. 7.5 hours typically takes more like 8 or 9, once I add up time spent taking mini-breaks, getting food, letting dogs in & out, etc. And getting an early start is not really something with which I am familiar. While it is usually a bit stressful late on a Monday afternoon, I am thankful that we have been heading out for dance lessons around 6:00pm, because I need that deadline. (And yes, it is just Monday - Tuesdays, and my typical half-day Wednesdays are not so bad, but Mondays have resulted in full-blown existential crises on more than one occasion). I don't even have to work Monday, really, but the thought of Thursday & Friday off at the end of the week keeps me motivated enough to slog through.

Anyway...today was not a typical Monday.

I ended up working a couple of extra hours last week, and have a full Tuesday & Wednesday ahead, so really only had to work a half day (less, actually, given the extra hours to my credit). Turns out this created an ideal scenario, since I had a call at 7:15am (yucky) from our contractor friend, saying he'd be here around 8:00am with the guy doing our septic bed re-build. Ok...so be it. Squeezed in another 45 minutes of sleep (yeah, I'm that bad in the mornings), and got up just before the dogs sounded the alarm that people were in the back yard. So, between getting some work done (ended up fitting in over 5 hours somehow), chatting with contractors, paying septic pump-out guy, accepting a work-related delivery, refereeing dog interactions (contractor friend brought his young basset along for the day - and all three dogs have been a little disgrunted being inside most of the time, and, my two didn't warm up to Sydney as quickly today, being out of sorts with all the commotion), cleaning up after guest dog (managed both bowel & bladder functions, plus vomit, all in the house...but she is cute), photographing the transformation of my back yard for the renovation visual history books, it has been quite a day.

The backhoe is still hard at work, and Geoff is out there with the team, so looks like we'll be skipping dance tonight. One interesting side-effect of this septic project (building a new weeping bed in a new location - from the side, near the tank, to the very back centre of the yard) is that we now have to re-build the entire back yard lawn. Ok, it has never really been the best lawn around - bumpy and weedy. Sadly, though, the parts dug up today were the sunniest, and therefore grassiest areas we had. Mixed feelings about that one. We're cheap when it comes to lawn maintenance - if it's relatively green, it can be bumpy and weedy - there are other projects I find much more exciting. But I can probably get into the idea of this (especially if we do a package landscaping reno and fix up the flower beds with rock and whatnot, like I've been wanting to do).

Which reminds me - if anyone has great ideas for super low-maintenance but striking gardens, feel free to share! I originally had romantic notions of cottage-style gardens, and have realized my taste is for something a little more crisp and clean in my own yard. This is after nearly a decade here, with over-zealous and fairly random planting of a little bit of everything without a particular plan (other than the actual outline of the gardens). Thinking river rock and ornamental grasses - kind of Zen, but suited to an older, Craftsman-style house. I think it will work...really. Especially if I admit that garden design may not be my greatest gift in life (sad, but true) and partner with a professional.

All right, off to finish up one or two little work tasks, and call it a (Mon)day.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

All Over the Map

That's me.

My body is going through the usual routines of daily life, but my mind is flitting about everywhere.

Since getting back from Thailand, my brain has very seriously taken up my more general idea of re-focusing on the adoption plan , and seems to be running on overdrive. Re-focusing on the adoption involves considering when to update our documents for Ethiopia (fingerprints and medicals have expired, and a few things need to be re-done for Ethiopia rather than Ghana, having a homestudy update to do the country switch to Ethiopia, deciding whether to make any significant changes to our child request (ages, etc.), working on toning down the hounds' enthusiasm when people come to the house (before the homestudy update visit, preferably), and so on.

This has, of course, led to more existential musing on my philosophy of adoption, why we have chosen international, why we decided on such a narrow age range, what our whole motivations are for doing this in the first place, and on, and on, and on. Having floundered in programs which never worked out, and then having waited for agency re-structuring (only to find ourselves deep, down in a long sibling list which is moving much more slowly than a snail), it is likely not a bad idea to re-visit our situation. All that time with nothing happening has resulted in a sense of unreality - and a lost sense of direction. Everything just came together so well in the beginning, from discovery of the agency to the opening of a program which seemed great for us - we felt very confident of the path we had chosen. Not so sure what we feel right now, and all the thinking, thinking, thinking doesn't really amount to much. Well, it does - I think it amounts to more confusion. But it also seems that if we don't think and talk and think and talk, that we will end up being in the same spot a decade from now - nothing any clearer, and nothing happening.

The decision-making process is tricky - What do we want? Is what we "maybe" want in line with what we "should" do? Is there such a thing as "should" do, or is the answer just "do something" as long as it is a good and right thing to do (but I want to feel that there is THE right thing for us...so much simpler that way...maybe, but maybe not)? If we do "a" then what happens with "b"? If we choose "c" will we regret not picking "a"? What about timing? When to sit back and wait, and when to act (both have their place, but how to know)?

There, that's basically a peek inside my head these days.

Wish I was the type to dive into tangible, productive projects (at least I would be getting some sewing or organizing or gardening done in that case) in the midst of this murky kind of situation, but no, actually attempting to DO things makes my brain protest with more meddlesome thoughts and distractions.

In other news (because my head is starting to spin typing about my thinking process), our campground opened on the weekend, and we squeezed in a very quick one-nighter (have ended up with lots of Saturday afternoon commitments in May/June, which makes camping kinda tricky). No mice, no water issues, overall things look good, and we are really looking forward to 5.5 months of get-aways. Just have to tell everyone to host their Saturday events at the campground...