The best kind of mail

I love getting mail and I love living in a community where (for now) the mail is still delivered door to door.  There is something magical about opening up the mailbox to find an envelope with your name on it.  You know the letters I hate receiving?  Letters from the government.  There’s nothing more alarming than a thick manila envelope from the government of Canada.  I always think, did I forget to pay my taxes?  Did I not pay enough? Am I being audited?  Am I ready to be audited?  I’m sure most of you can relate to those dreaded envelopes.

During the adoption process checking the mail has become our full-time job.  We seem to always be waiting for updated documents, letters of approval etc., and with each piece of paper we are one step closer to being matched.  Mail is a big deal for us!  Today, like many days in the last week we received another piece of the adoption puzzle.  We are the midst of redoing some of our clearance checks because those expire after one year.  Last Friday I received my police clearance and today it was husband’s turn, but the biggest surprise?  The 8 1/2″ X 11″ brown manila envelope from the government containing the final piece of the puzzle.  Today we received Part 1 of our Citizenship application for our daughter.

For the average folk this may mean nothing.  To someone who is adopting internationally, this piece is huge.  This is the document that allows us to apply for citizenship of our new child.  It’s big, and it takes forever to receive.  I had just about given up ever getting receiving this approval.  Here’s a brief run-down of how this whole Part 1 application went down, so that you can understand the importance of this particular piece of mail.

We applied early July for Part 1.  We had left it a little late, but after switching programs from Haiti to South Africa, we needed to be approved with everyone before we could go ahead and apply for this.  So…July 5th was the official application date.  July 23rd, I received a letter from the CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) stating that it would take approximately 14 weeks to complete the application and that I could call the Call Centre should I have questions.  That day I took out my calendar and set an alarm 14 weeks from July 23rd.  Fast forward, it’s October 29th and still nothing.  At 14 weeks +1 day I made my first call to the Call/Help Centre.  This call left me frustrated as once you have entered a series of 6 different digits from 6 different menus a lovely voice lets you know that the volume of callers is particularly high that day and you should call again later.  CLICK. 14 weeks +2 days, I figured out how to dupe the phone system and wait for an operator; enter your series of digits as soon as you have selected English as your language.  At 14 weeks +2 days I finally spoke to someone and after 40 minutes of waiting they told me they couldn’t help me.  CLICK.  I called everyday that week until the following week someone spoke to me as if they cared why I was calling.  At 15 weeks, they finally put a note in my file, or at least they told me they did.  I repeated this every week until week 18.  At that point I was mad.  We had been waiting 4 weeks past the expected due date and I was not satisfied with the level of communication.  I asked some fellow families in waiting and they suggested I contact my MP as they can work on your behalf with the CIC.  At 18 weeks +4 days I signed an authorization form for Jason Kenney’s office to contact the CIC on behalf.  At 19 weeks +5 days I received the most depressing call back from his office.  It went a little along the lines of…”it could take 24 months to process.  It’s a case by case basis.  Why don’t you know the name of the girl you are adopting? We are trying to stop child trafficking.”  CLICK. It literally deflated me.  I cried all the way home and that night starting writing to other MPs to see if they could help me.  After 4 MPs I ran out of relevant options and my husband said “you’ve done all you can do”.  Two days later an email from the CIC stated: you are now approved!  Who knows why we were approved when we were.  I’d like to think that it had nothing to do with the MP who so rudely told me that they were protecting children and that it had to do with my advocacy.  With the fact that I called everyday for a week and then once a week thereafter.  That I showed those CIC Call/Help Centre employees that I cared about my situation and I wanted to know what I could do to move the process along.  Honestly, I think we were approved because they were sick of hearing from me.

Hopefully this helps put into perspective what a small piece of paper means in the eyes of a family in waiting.  It means that we can accept our match and not have to wait for further approval.  It means that once our court date is set in South Africa we can hop on a plane or two and make our way to our daughter.  It means that while we are in South Africa we can apply for our daughter to become a Canadian citizen and a passport can be made for her.  This one small piece of paper, 21 weeks in the making, literally means everything.

Adoption, Lifestyle

What Not to Say…

Happy Wednesday!  I can’t believe it’s only mid-way through the week.  It seems that the closer we get to winter holidays, the longer the weeks seem.

A few months back this video appeared in my inbox.  We had just shared our adoption news with some of our closest friends and had shared our concern about what others might say to us about our adopted daughter.  My words must have resonated with my girlfriend as a few days later she sent me this video and said “maybe this’ll help!”.

To be honest, when I first saw the title I was a little taken aback, but as I watched I was amazed at how powerful and thoughtful the video was.  It aims to educate those around us who do have questions about adoption but are unsure how to ask them.  It is difficult when talking about race.  No one wants to come across as racist, but friends and family are and have been curious and this video is a great tool to help educate on how to ask questions related to adoption.  Adoption in general can make some people uncomfortable and generally speaking most questions come from a place of curiosity and love but people are unsure how to frame their questions.  This video is not a cure all but it does expose some of the most common questions asked and given alternative forms to asking them.

I hope you enjoy!


Adoption Option


I wrote this post while laying in a Winnipeg hotel room and watching Something Borrowed on TLC. My husband and daughter were home in Calgary and I was in Winnipeg to lay my amazing grandmother to rest in the town in which she grew up.  It’s Thanksgiving weekend and we are gathered to give thanks for having had one of the most amazing woman in our lives.

While in Winnipeg I visited with friends and family and their first question was always “what’s happening with the adoption?”, and of course my answer was always the same, “we are waiting to hear.”  Sitting in that hotel room alone of course had me thinking, and when I think, it’s usually about one thing, my family.  Family was a big part of my late grandmother’s life.  She was invested in all that her children did, in what her children in-law did and what her grand and great-grandchildren did.  She was one of the most genuine and caring people I have ever met and when I first told her about adoption all she could say was “when is she coming home.”  In the late stages of my grandmother’s life many things needed to be told and retold to her; however, she remembered my mentioning the adoption back in January and asked me about it every time I visited.

In the last number of days and weeks I have had several people ask us about the process of adoption and I thought I would share the main points when it comes to adoption, and the answers to our FAQs.

  • There are two types of adoption. Domestic and international or inter-country.
  • Domestic adoptions are mainly open adoptions meaning that the birth parents do have some contact with the adopting parents.  At the most basic level the contact would be the birth mother choosing the adopting family.  Contact after the birth and placement in some cases remains and in others contact after the placement is lost.
  • International adoptions are mainly closed adoptions, meaning most children have been abandoned or are orphaned and contact with the birth parent or parents is minimal if at all.  In fact, in South Africa, seeking the birth parents out is extremely frowned upon.  Any contact that may occur is done through the social workers.  Contacting the birth family can have serious consequences in South Africa.  This is not the case with all international adoptions.
  • Adopting does cost money.  In international adoption there is no transfer of money to the birth family for their child.  You are not buying a child and  I really want people to understand that.  You are simply paying the overhead associated with caring and providing for a child in an institution and again for administrative costs and salaries both in Canada and in the country from which you are adopting.  Cost varies from country to country and it is very important that you investigate all costs associated with adoption, be it domestic or international.
  • Birth certificates, passports and all identification for a child will be changed to reflect the adopting family’s last name.  The children who you are adopting are your children.  You may even change their first name if you so desire.
  • Adoption is a lengthy process that requires a whole-lot-of patience.  We are just about at our 1 year starting date and this year has flown by and crept by all at the same time.  The process involves a training session, a home-study and interviews, visits to the police and RCMP units for clearances and fingerprints, paperwork, paperwork and more paperwork.
  • Yes you can choose gender and age.  Keeping in mind that if you specify you may have to wait a little longer.
  • You must work through an agency.  There are local agencies and in the international adoption route there are also international agencies.  If you choose inter-country adoption and you live in Alberta you will need to work with two agencies, one local and one other (located in Canada) depending on the country you choose.  Alberta is not licensed to do international adoptions and so you will need to find an agency that adopts out of the country that you have chosen.

Like I have said before, adoption may not be the choice for every family or couple, just as children in general may not be the choice for every family.  If you have questions about adoption please feel free to ask.  I may even know the answer and if I don’t I’ll help point you in the right direction.



A long journey

family africa

It’s been one hectic six or seven months and to tell you the truth (in case you haven’t noticed how few posts I’ve actually done in the past couple of months) I really haven’t been focused on the design side of things in my life.   I have done little things here and there, such as help some friends and colleagues out with colour choices, cabinet choices etc. I’ve answered questions from family and friends and reply to some photo texts with a yay or a nay, but that’s the extent.  It is a little sad that design has taken a back seat to my “real life” but that’s what has happened.  Please though, don’t shed too many tears for me and the lack of design in my life, all is good.  This “real life” that I speak of has been more than amazing and to be honest I have enjoyed being focused on my family and friends for the entire summer, and now that I’m back at school, focused on my family and friends and my new position at work.  In all of this real life we have been productive though, which brings me to the here and now and the fact that for the past 11 months we (my husband and I) have been working on a BIG project.  No I’m not expecting, well at least not expecting in the traditional sense.  Here’s the scoop on our BIG project, and how it will affect the blog for the next little while.

11 months ago we decided to adopt.  Yes, adopt, and from South Africa to boot! It was a big step for us, as would have been deciding to conceive a child.  At that time late last year, we shared our decision with our family only and waited to share any details with our friends.  This was mainly in part due to the fact that with adoption there are a lot of bits and pieces and ins and outs and we weren’t really sure how to answer everyone’s questions once they started asking, and we knew that once we opened the flood gates to questions they would come.  When the flood gates were lifted, the questions that rolled in were so supportive in nature that I wasn’t sure why I hadn’t shared earlier.  Many questions were about the process, the costs and all were questions were sensitive.  Truthfully, we have only had a handful of people ask us why we chose to adopt versus birth a child and, though I personally think it is none of anyone’s business I am going to share why we chose to adopt in the hopes of educating people on adoption, and shedding light on my experience with my first-born.

In high school at an appointment with a GI specialist I was told that if I had children it would be a miracle.  I had gone 14 years with an undiagnosed autoimmune disease and this particular disease when undiagnosed could and ultimately did, build up scare tissue in your muscles and your reproductive organs.  Let’s just say our first born was a miracle and both my husband and I thank our lucky stars every day for our beautiful daughter.   Needless to say my pregnancy with that miracle baby was not all leprechauns, rainbows and pots of gold.  The commode and I became very good friends and shared a special close bond for nearly 10 months.  After an unexpected c-section, a battle with postpartum depression and the struggles that come with being a first time mother we as a couple (a strong vote on my end) decided not to birth another child, but to adopt one of the many orphaned or abandoned children that already exist in this world.  For us, the idea of growing our family in this manner just seems so natural, and it isn’t about being a great humanitarian, it’s just about being human, being globally aware and wanting to build a family albeit via a different channel  No, adoption is not the right choice for every couple or for every family, but it’s the right choice for us, and we are ecstatic.

Although it’s been 11 months and our dossier is in South Africa we don’t expect a match any time too soon.  At some point in my adoption blog journey I will get into the nitty-gritty time lines of adoption, but for now, we are happily a family in waiting.

So what does this mean for this Never Plain Jane?  The site will remain a design blog; however, I will be posting about our adoption because truth be told, adoption blogs are few and far between, and it’s a scary world to navigate by yourself.   Thank you to the subscribers who have remained faithful to the blog.  I will continue to post about design but to a lesser extent and at some point the blog may morph into a full-on adoption blog.    If you know of someone interested in international adoption have them subscribe to the blog.  I will be posting on choosing a country, the cost of adoption (financially and emotionally) and other various adoption related topics.