Thursday, 31 July 2008

Something Happy

Since we got our cat, the grandkids of our next-door-neighbours have started to find our house irresistible. (There have been an awful lot more balls lost over our back fence since he arrived, that's for sure. This usually results in a knock on the door, some patting of the cat, some playing of the piano and maybe a jellybean or two. Or twelve. Hey, I'm not above bribery). Anyway, yesterday evening there was a knock on the door and it was J, who is 11, with a present for us:

It's acrylic on canvas, and I think he's very talented. Especially great is the fact that the cat is sleeping on the rug - every time J comes over, the cat runs away from him and hides on the rug under our dining table. He said that he was going to paint a table as well, but then we wouldn't have been able to see the cat. I love it!


I did it! I made a medical appointment. (Cue cheering). It's tomorrow. It's probably too late to start exercising, isn't it?

Monday, 28 July 2008

Other cultures have so much to teach us

Here's what I learned this week:

From the Germans:

The joys of Aldi. We've just got a new Aldi supermarket (almost across the road - certainly less than 50 m away) and it's a ton of fun. Turns out that if you provide no customer service at all, expect people to queue for hours and never provide the same stock two weeks running, you can sell stuff really cheap. I guess it must work, because here's me trying on glasses, and I don't even need glasses. More helpfully, they had traffic-light packs of three peppers for 69p, so I bought four packs - this was on Thursday- and we've eaten all twelve already. I'll definitely be going back .

From the Japanese:

The joys of a growing international student population on campus. Turns out that you can make delicious savoury snacks out of peas. Who knew??

I'm hoping that our adoption panel will view my growing cultural awareness with the awe and respect it deserves.

More to come, I hope. In other news - still no medical appointment. But our social worker did call on Saturday and we've set up our first meeting - August 11. This will be the meeting at which we set the date of the other NINE meetings we need - each will be about three hours, apparently. At least nobody can accuse anyone of not being thorough.

Friday, 25 July 2008

How hard can it be?

To make a medical appointment, that is. I've had 'make medical appointment' on my task list for a few weeks now, and for a little while it just stared at me accusingly. Then I thought 'get on with it, woman!' and phoned the doctors' surgery. Here's how I thought the conversation would go:

Me: "Hello, my name is Claudia. I need to make an appointment for a medical evaluation for adoption. I have the standard BAAF form and I need to pay any fees myself because we aren't adopting through the Council".

Receptionist: "Well certainly. Does 2pm on Monday suit you? That will be £xxx"

Me: "Yes, that's fine. Thank you very much - I'll see you then".

Needless to say, that wasn't quite what happened.

Scene: My open plan office. I'm alone - I've waited until everyone else has left for lunch / coffee/ meetings/ croquet / whatever else university administrators do.

Claudia: Hello. I need to make an appointment for a medical evaluation for adoption.
Receptionist: Really?
C: Yes. I've been told I need to go to my usual doctor, so can I please see Dr X?
R: Well, actually, Dr X has just gone on maternity leave.
C: Oh. Well, one of the questions on the form is 'are you the applicant's regular doctor'
R: Oh, that's fine, anybody will tick 'yes' for that.
C: Oh. Right. Good. So, errrr, I'm wondering how much it will cost?
R: Well, it will be free for you. The council will refund the charges.
C: But I'm not adopting through the council - it's an international adoption.
R: Oh, dear. Well. Hmmm. Okay. Do you have a letter addressed to the doctor?
C: Yes, I think so, but it is in a sealed envelope with a big red 'confidential' stamp.
R: Well, I think you'd better open it.
C: But it's not addressed to me.
R: Well, maybe I can talk to the head doctor and then phone you back.
*****************wait of several hours*******************
R: Well, we can't make the appointment unless you tell us what's in that letter.
C: Errr, okay then. I'll phone you back when I've looked.
*******a few days later, C having struggled with her conscience and eventually ignored it*****
C: Hello. I need to make an appointment for a medical evaluation for adoption.
Different Receptionist: Really?
C: Yes. I'm going to need to pay any charges myself.
R: Well, it will be free for you. The council will refund the charges.
C: But I'm not adopting through the council - it's an international adoption.
R: Oh, dear. Well. Hmmm. Okay. Do you have a letter addressed to the doctor?
C: Yes, it says I need to pay any charges myself.
R: Well, maybe I can talk to the head doctor and then phone you back.
C: Thank you. That would be very helpful.
*****************wait of several hours*******************
R: Okay, I've spoken to the head doctor. You're going to need to bring the letter in.
C: I'll do that tomorrow
*******the next morning, in person**********************
C: Hello. I need to make an appointment for a medical evaluation for adoption.
R: I think you probably need a letter.
C: I've got it right here.
R: Okay, well, I'm going to show this to the head doctor. I'll call you when she has had a look at it.
C: That sounds excellent. Shall I give you my phone number?

I've spared you the part where I confused a blood test with a blood PRESSURE test (the main difference is an independent lab evaluation and about £450, from what I can gather), the part where one of my colleagues walked back into the room and I suddenly had to pretend I was talking about something else entirely, and the part where I had to hide in the stationery cupboard to take one of the calls.

So this is where we're up to right now. I kept expecting to see Franz Kafka looking over my shoulder and taking notes, but so far no luck. For the record, the confidential letter says:

Claudia needs a medical evaluation for adoption
She will need to pay any charges herself.

I am truly, honestly, 100% thrilled to be adopting right now. But the process? Sometimes I think it's going to kill me. My doctor's surgery is HUGE - lots and lots and lots of patients. And open for many many years. They've clearly NEVER done an international adoption assessment before, which tells you as much as you need to know about how abnormal it is to do international adoption in the UK.

****Update, 24 hours later***********
They never called me back. I guess I'm going back in on Monday.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Back in Time - or not

A few days ago, I had a plan. I had kind of meant to start this blog a long time ago, but never did, for complicated reasons (Bet you didn't know laziness was complicated. Okay, actually it wasn't just laziness - I didn't want to start it if we weren't going to go ahead with the adoption option so I decided to wait until we were official). This means that I never blogged about any of our decision making processes, and I was planning to include some old emails in this blog as some background instead (that was the supposed brilliant plan - I outlined my intentions below). However, I decided not to. Because:

  1. I reread those emails and they were really whiny
  2. Even more crucially they were really boring
  3. They were usually in some kind of response to specific questions, and i couldn't be faffed to try to pull all of those out and contextualise them
So the blogosphere has been spared. Oh, and also:

4. There are limits even to my self indulgence.

By the way, I realised that I haven't specifically said that I'm in the UK. This would have been clear from the self indulgent whiny boring emails. Instead, I've given myself away by spelling 'contextualise' with an s instead of a z. Truly, the excitement never ends at our house. You should all move here.

Mental Health Day

Earlier this week, my wise and wonderful husband encouraged me to take today off work. I knew I married that man for a reason - he's a genius, and this was one of his best ideas yet. Basically the plan is to spend the day charging my batteries (both literally and metaphorically - ha!) for the day of many photos tomorrow.

So far I've slept in, had a long bath, spoken to my brother in Australia and spent ages just stroking the cat. My next job (ha! Like having a bath was a job!) was to clear my memory cards of the hundreds (literally - hundreds and hundreds) of flash practice shots I've taken over the last week and a bit. These have got to be the worst shots in the history of my camera - you saw the cat as victim earlier in the week, and since then I've convinced a few friends to pose while I run back and forward adjusting things and overexposing their faces. One friend, bless him, let me gatecrash his picnic with his mother so I could practise outside, but I faithfully promised him to immediately delete all the evidence so I won't be posting any of those. Out of the hundreds I took, in amongst the ghostly white faces and red eyes, I found three I wanted to save from the general data purge. Number one:

Some male bonding. It was J who discovered that Kevin will freely give out cat kisses. Told you he was a genius. Next:

I'm quite happy with the lighting on this one of my friend H- bounce flash success! And last:

Just because it was still on one of the cards- my favourite shot from our Italy trip.

Right. I'm off to eat some jellybeans and read the manual one more time. Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Twenty Nine Candles

So, today I'm twenty nine.

I think this is when I finally need to accept that we are not going to have a baby by the time I am thirty.

And yet. I need to remember how fortunate I am that I have had twenty nine years of life. Sometimes I think about my DNA, and I cannot wrap my head around the fact that every single cell in my body is programmed wrongly. Genetic problems are the ultimate in incurable medical issues - unless you want to replace every single strand of DNA in my body, nothing is going to change. Of course, the good thing about this is that nobody can offer me stupid home remedies. 'Oh, have you tried green tea? Or koji berries? Or cutting out dairy? Apparently that is REALLY GOOD at re-programming your genetic code'. No, I don't think so. So sometimes I feel really sad when it hits me yet again that nothing in the world is going to be able to fix this and I am never, ever going to be able to do the uncomplicated pregnancy thing that everyone around me seems to be doing.

And yet. On the other hand, isn't it incredible that I'm alive? All that wonky DNA, and no health problems. I might be a dead-end twig on my genetic family tree, but actually, I'm fine. Phenotpyically, there is nothing wrong with me at all and if it wasn't for Mr Crick and Mr Watson, I would never have known there was an issue. And I should be really, really grateful for this. I'm only going to have a finite number of birthdays. Nobody knows what number that will be. Sometimes it's so easy to see the things I want, and don't have, that I forget how greatly I've been blessed, and what future promises I have to look forward to.

Three verses that seem appropriate:

For now, I should be learning this:

"Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."- Psalm 90:12 (NIV)

When I feel tired of waiting, I should be thinking about this:

"My times are in His hand" Psalm 31:15

And when it all feels too much, I need to remember this:

"and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." Revelation 21:4

Monday, 14 July 2008

wedding panic

No, not MY wedding - that was years ago. But I mentioned below that I have to photograph a wedding on saturday, so now I'm watching the weather as nervously as any bride. I've spent what feels like every waking moment trying to figure out how to master my new flash, the frighteningly beefy SB-800, and it continues to be a daunting task. Especially when the cat won't - sit - still ... here, kitty kitty!

This one (left) didn't have enough flash and didn't work too brilliantly (brightened a bit in photoshop, but still a bit flat). On the plus side, the cat is doing a great impression of a lead singer from a thrash metal band, which is not something you get to see every day.

Same goes for the one below (not bright enough, rather than the kitten rock). And I should probably explain that the cat doesn't usually have a black forehead - we think he stuck his head up the chimney when we were asleep. Silly kitty.

Apologies for the awful layout, by the way - I don't seem to be able to change the alignment once I've chosen it.

In true goldilocks style, the third one is (kind of) just right. Shame it makes kevin look like a big furry white slug.

Sigh. I still have a lot of work to do. And it would help if i could practice on a human. (J is out installing a bathroom - long story).

Saturday, 12 July 2008

I've just realised...

... that today I've put up links to a whole bunch of people who have no idea who I am (see blogroll). I also have reason to believe that due to some kind of magic blog technology, there is a way that people can find out when someone links to them (I have no idea what kind of technology this would be, but I've heard it's possible). So, I should probably say, if you've clicked here because you just got linked by a stranger, well hello there! I hope you dont' mind that I've been stalking your blog. I'm really enjoying reading your story. Hopefully I'll get up the courage to leave some comments soon.

A note and an apology

This is the note:

I really meant to start this blog a long time ago. I've learned so much from reading about other people's experiences and I have felt that strange AP urge to write, write, write so a blog has seemed logical. However, I really didn't want to start anything until we had made our big decision and knew that we were going to go ahead, which is why this blog only got off the ground a week ago. I'm glad I waited, but it means that I never blogged about any of our decision making process or what I was thinking before it came time to hand over the money and sign on the dotted line. So, I've decided that I'm going to create a few 'back in time' posts, and like any good historian (not that I'm a historian) I'm going to use primary sources. Of course, the only primary sources I've got are the emails I sent to friends, and I found a whole load by putting 'adoption' as a search term into my gmail.

This is the apology:

I've decided that I'm going to copy and paste some of what I wrote into a few posts, although I won't tax your patience with too much. There isn't all that much that is new, and I was embarrassed when I read through to realise how much I repeated myself. Of course, they're going to be totally out of order but I'll write the date when I wrote the email at the top. I'm sorry if this seems really weird. I promise that I wasn't planning to cannibalise our correspondence at the time. I won't use anything that anyone else has written, and I will cut out anything that refers to the person I was writing to, because I do have some principles

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Episode Three: in which claudia wishes to get off the emotional rollercoaster

After all the excitement of the weekend, both J and I have had a pretty bad emotional crash. (Of course, J would object to me using the word 'emotional' about him, but it's true). The last few days have not felt very easy. We were so pleased with ourselves for getting our form done so quickly, and during that time of rush we didn't have much chance to actually think about this thing. So it wasn't until after we put the envelope through the letterbox and the dust had settled that we started to freak out. Things that have been difficult:

#1 We had to tell two sets of people about our plans on the weekend, because we needed to ask them to be referees. Both were extremely kind and supportive, and this was great. However, when you tell someone 'we're hoping to adopt', what they hear is 'we're infertile!' and then you have to have the 'how sad' conversation, and wow, that is emotionally draining. (Especially when it's not actually strictly accurate). We've decided that, in general, we won't be telling people until we have some concrete good news to tell them - for us, that would be when we have passed panel and are officially approved adopters. (If. I mean if). Hopefully then we can turn 'how sad' conversations into 'how exciting'.

#2: One of our VERY SMALL group of 'people who know' decided to tell someone else, which made me so mad that my vision really did go all blurry when I found out. (For reasons above, I really want to keep this quiet for now). I really need to learn to forgive and forget on this one. I know they didn't realise how much it would upset me. And J has done some damage limitation so hopefully there won't be any real fallout.

#3 I'm tired. I know - everybody is always tired, so I try not to let myself say that too often. But at the moment my whole being just feels drained. I've been wanting to get to this stage for ages, but now - I'm looking forward into the next few months and thinking about the number of things we are going to have to do to make this all happen and I find myself wishing that we could take a break! I know this is crazy - we haven't even really started. Life always, ALWAYS feels too busy but it never feels like anything can be cut out. The first things to go in my house are cooking and cleaning so if I don't get some more sleep we're going to be hungry and living in squalor pretty soon.

#4 I'm photographing a wedding in a week and a half. This seemed like a REALLY good idea when I volunteered (almost a year ago) but seems like the most insane kind of foolishness right now. Of course, a year ago, I didn't realise that I'd be starting an international adoption the same month as the wedding! However, it's given me a great excuse to go and buy a proper flash, which is something that has been on my wish list for ages, and I really should have bought before now. This arrived on Tuesday, and I feel like a fool for having left this so long - partly because it is fantastic, but partly because it is complicated. I googled 'flash 101' - thinking that surely someone has put up a beginner's guide to flash photography - and they have- but practically the first sentence was 'Photography using a flash is at least three times as complex as photography using ambient light'. Oh, good. Ten days should be plenty then. Speaking of first sentences, the first sentence of the instruction manual for the flash said 'if the batteries begin to leak corrosive liquid, and this liquid gets in your eye, rinse your eyes immediately'. Very helpful advice, thank you Nikon.

#5 I still have to go to work every day. Obvious, but annoying. If there was any way I could drop my hours down to 0.9 I would do it immediately. One whole day off a fortnight! The bliss! I feel that if I had a bit more space to do 'life' things (eg, apply to adopt a baby, just to pluck an example out of the air) then work would get a better quality of me. However, that is simply not going to happen at the moment for workload reasons that are waaay too dull to go into. And at least work is okay at the moment, and that is a real mercy.

Errr, that's it for the moment I think.

Monday, 7 July 2008

It's official!

Well, the big news is that John and I are now official Ethiopia PAPs - we have have submitted our application form to PACT!

It feels like it has taken us forever of thinking, talking, reading and praying to reach this stage, but now that we've actually done it (and handed over a cheque) we feel a bit shellshocked. The last week has been a total emotional rollercoaster - after our information day last Friday, we had our SW 'counselling' session on Tuesday, where we were told that if we submitted our form by today we could probably have places on the preparation course starting July 29. So, the last week has been pretty intense as we sorted ourselves out, went to photo booths, considered cosmetic surgery (photo booths are CRUEL), spoke to referees (two of whom also needed to be told for the first time about our medical issues and plans to adopt - intense), tried to put our reasons for adopting into two lines, tried to remember all the places we had both lived in the last ten years, and, errrr, got a cat (long story).

At the beginning of thinking about adoption we were really concerned about choosing a country, but in the end it didn't really feel like a very difficult decision at all.
Now, I just have to figure out what to say to anyone at work who asks me 'what did you do on the weekend?'...

Sunday, 6 July 2008

an excellent start

So, what possible better way could there be to start this blog than by serious procrastination? I'm about to go and fill in our official adoption application form, which I've been waiting to fill in forEVER, so of course I'm avoiding doing it and messing around on the computer instead. So far, I've sent emails to everyone I've ever met, stalked other people's adoption blogs and ordered a flash for my camera. And, well, I've been meaning to start one of these for a while so it seems like as good a time as any. The last week or so has been full of adoption-related activity, and I'm losing track of what I've told to whom, so from now on I'm going to try to put the definitive updates here. Starting from - well, maybe tomorrow I guess. Or the day after. For now - hello, blog world! I hope we will be friends.