Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Do you have an update now?

Well, it's official. We are totally out of the Taiwan Program. Our first child will not come from Taiwan. Sorry. I'm just not comfortable with the fact that they may change the requirements for the other Taiwan program…even after we wait for a year. Not interested!

We did lots of research, and we are now leaning more towards Russia. This is a very popular program, and most of you probably know someone who has adopted from Russia. In 2008, 1,861 children were adopted from Russia by citizens of the United States. The only countries with more US adoptions were China (which we don't qualify for because of our age) and Guatemala (which has slowed it's adoptions in order to redo some of the adoption laws in their country). I love statistics! Check out this site for more information on adoption statistics. Did I mention how much I love statistics!?

I decided that after the disappointment that came from our first agency, I will do more research this time. I'm currently in the process of seeking references for different adoption agencies. My social worker gave me a link to the most wonderful site. There is a group of people from Louisiana called the Louisiana Eastern European Adoptive Families. Their website has so much useful information and it even gives you a list of people you could contact for adoption references. What a novel idea! Lets' be honest, I'm sure the list of references from the adoption agency have been checked out thoroughly by that agency. No way are they going to say anything negative. These are real people, with real children.

This week I e-mailed a few of the people on the list. I've received a great response. Adoptive parents are some of the nicest people you will ever meet! I've got a new blog follower, and I started following a new blog. …The Heap Family. If you are interested…check them out.

For those interested in adoption…this is a necessary step. I did not do this with my first agency and I regret that. Talk to people!! Ask them about their experiences. To help you out…I'm going to give you the list of questions I asked all my references. Be specific. If you ask someone "How was your adoption?" they are likely to tell you how wonderful their children are and how much of a blessing they are in their lives...and while this is great…you really need to know some specifics on how the adoption went down.

These are our questions:

  • Which country did you adopt from? What area of that country?
  • When did you begin the adoption process? When was the adoption finalized?
  • What was the age and health of your child you adopted? Was this what you requested?
  • My husband and I are seeking a health infant. We don't really care what the sex of the child is. Was your agency willing to work with you on this type of criteria?
  • How accurate were the cost and time estimates that the agency gave you? Were there any hidden charges or delays?
  • Did you have any problems with the agency? If so, were they resolved?
  • How promptly did the agency return your phone calls/e-mails? I ask this question because my husband and I recently signed up for another country through another agency. They called us one day and told us that the country changed their requirements and we were not old enough to adopt from that country. They explained that there were some other options, they would check on those for us and get back to us. I didn't hear from them for almost four weeks (I called them nearly every day and sent 2-3 e-mails a week). We were very disappointed in their response time. I want to make sure the next agency we work with will answer our questions in a timely manner.
  • Would you recommend your agency to someone else? Why or why not.

A special "thanks" to Brooke!! The book you gave me is wonderful! To get a copy for yourself click here.

Monday, June 29, 2009

How was Youth Camp?

As many of you know, I spent a week in Orange Beach, Alabama with the youth from my church, First Baptist LaPlace. We had a wonderful time. We took about 35 kids and 7 "adults" (I use that word loosely because we act just like the kids most of the time).

As a kid, I grew up in a Missionary Baptist Church. It was a small church with a youth group that consisted of me, my sisters, and maybe 7 other people. Youth camp was never something I really got excited about. It was just something we had to do. The camp we went to when I was younger was in the middle of Texas, no A/C, and our counselors didn't like for us to go swimming (I guess because someone might be able to see through the XL t-shirt they made us wear over our swim suits??). Not a very pleasant experience.

I find that most churches have a genuine concern for the teenagers in their church, but so often they don't know what to do with them. I'm 27, so I'm only about 10 years older than these kids…and I don't know what to do with most of them! Last year, my husband convinced me to go to youth camp. I must admit, I was a little cautious at first, seeing as how I had no idea what I was in for. Last year we went to a BigStuff Camp in Florida. The music and the speaker were great. All my time spent as a youth, I never really got to enjoy this type of worship. You know, I might have been more into this whole "God Thing" when I was in high school if I had known it could be so much fun.

Well this year, our wonderful youth pastor, Brian, decided that we should try out a Student Life Camp. What a smart guy he is! The speaker for the camp was David Platt. For those who have not read some of my earlier blogs, I love David Platt. He is an amazing speaker, and his ability to use scripture in every word that he preaches is just amazing. His passion for Christ is something that I envy.

He preached a message on finding God's will that left me totally changed. After the week of listening to him, I have been challenged to do things differently.

The worship leader at this camp is one of my all time favorite Christian artist….Todd Agnew. The music he sings is deep, and I love that. It makes you take a look at yourself and challenges you to see things differently. As a worship leader, he was not at all what I expected. It was so much better than anything I could have imagined. He broke down the songs and made us really pay attention to what we were singing…and who we were singing these songs to. At one point he told us not to even sing unless we really mean the words that we were saying. Powerful.

A special "thanks" to the Youth Minister that put these two wonderful trips together. Wouldn't have been the same without you!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What do you do when you have a difficult decision to make?

So I've been putting off this post for quite some time now (ok…just a couple of weeks). I don't want to post something out here for all of the world to know, unless my mind is made up. I want to be completely sure about something before I let anyone else comment or give advice.

See, ask anyone that knows me, I do not take advice well. Or criticism, helpful suggestions, tips, hints, instructions, directions, commands, orders, etc…you get the picture. I'm a little hard headed. I really don't like it when people tell me what I should do, and I get even more frustrated when they start offering these suggestions when they know nothing about what I'm going through.

Ok. Let me step down off that soapbox now and continue with the real reason I'm writing this blog post.

Well, Jace and I found out a couple of weeks ago that we can indeed apply for Taiwan Program II. "So what is stopping you from applying?" you might ask. Well, during that wait time between when we found out that we couldn't apply to Program III and when we found out we could apply to Program II, we did lots of research on other countries, just in case we were told Taiwan is a "no go." While doing all this research, Jace and I kind of started leaning toward another country. I know, this is just crazy. I love Taiwan. Why would I not want to get a beautiful baby from this wonderful country? Well, there are lots of reasons why Taiwan Program II may not be right for us.

So in order to assist us in making this difficult decision, I have created my very own Pro/Con list. Yes, that's right…all my nerdy friends…you should be so proud.

I'd really rather not share the list with the entire world, but suffice it to say that it appears that another country may be winning. I really want this thing to work out.

I'm sure this is not exactly the update you were looking for. Believe me, I wish I had more answers, but unfortunately I don't.

Keep praying that we make the right decision.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

What are friends for?

Ok. So I had no idea I had this many diehard fans. This blog is really kind of an outlet for me, to vent my frustration, to inform the world wide web of all the happenings in the lives of these Raney's and to help myself remember what I was doing during this time in my life. I've had several people over the past couple of days ask "when are you going to update your blog?" Who knew?? Crazy.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to spend some time with some really great girls. They are wonderful friends, devoted mothers, supportive wives, and I'm so fortunate that they keep allowing me to go on these crazy girl trips.

This is our forth time to go away, just the three of us. We decided a few years ago to make this an annual thing. The first time we went away, we went on a tour of plantation homes in St. Francisville, LA and Natchez, MS. We left out of Ruston early one morning and visited four homes, and returned to Ruston later that night (none of us could afford a hotel room, because we were all still poor college students).

A few years went by, we all graduated, I got married and moved to Baton Rouge, one of the girls moved to Memphis to attend Seminary (she later returned to Ruston), and the other got married a month after I did and moved to Pineville, LA. Our lives were pretty busy for a while, and we really weren't able to take a trip.

We discussed it this weekend, and none of us can remember who it was that decided that we should go on a "girls only" trip again, but it was decided and we all agreed we should return to Natchez, MS. That was two summers ago. Last year we partied hard in New Orleans, LA. This year we went to Atlanta, GA.

In honor of these two wonderful ladies, I wanted to dedicate a blog entry to them. As I mentioned before, I have a terrible memory, so please feel free to correct me if I have printed something incorrectly!

I met Lisa during a quarter break trip to some camp in Texas (I don't remember the name or even the city where this camp was located…sorry). It was my freshman year of college and as mentioned earlier, I spent most of my freshman year trying to get Jace's attention, and then trying to keep Jace's attention, so there wasn't much time in during all that attention grabbing to get to know people. I regret this.

For the first few months I knew Lisa I thought her name was Kim. No lie. Not sure why…she doesn't really look like a Kim, she doesn't act like a Kim, who knows. Lisa started dating Keith a few months after our trip to this unnamed camp. I could write an entire story just on Keith….but sorry; this story is not about Keith. Anyway, when Keith told us that he asked Lisa out, I had no idea who Lisa was (I was still thinking her name was Kim). He described her and quickly set me straight…her name is indeed Lisa.

So after Keith's first date with Lisa, he called me and told me that Lisa was no fun and it was a horrible date. She was rude and they were never going out again. Well, I was about ready to take Lisa down at this point. No one could ever treat Keith like that…he's such a great guy! (It wasn't until I had talked ugly about her with another friend for about 45 minutes that Keith called back and set it straight…she's a great girl and they had a great time). So for some odd reason (probably because we were the only other couple at the ABS at the time), Keith and Lisa invited me and Jace to go with them on their second date….to the circus. Two words…Elephant Poop.

Well after that, Lisa and I became really good friends. She has the best laugh, and I love to hear her tell the story of how she did a paper or presentation or something (obviously I remember this story really well…geez) of all of her different laughs…she had like 15 different laughs. I wish I could remember what they are now. I think my favorite was the joc laugh (imagine in a deep voice "huhuhu"). So funny. I guess you would have to actually hear her do it.

Now for Brooke. Brooke and I met one night at the ABS. I don't even remember when. She and I had a lot in common because we were both raised in Union Parish. After I knew her for about a week, we decided it would be a great idea for us to live together. We were both desperate to move out of our house, and she had some really great connections on a place with cheap rent. Sign me up!

We moved in together in May 2001. I knew very little about her, and she knew very little about me. I guess it worked out. See Brooke is a bit OCD ("a bit" might be an understatement). This worked out well for me. I never had to clean the tub, toilet, or dishes. She did most of the laundry and one time she even cleaned up my bedroom. I am not so OCD. I know she must have wanted to pull her hair out while living with me. There were very few things that didn't bother her…dust and silverware. She never dusted (and neither did I) and the silverware drawer was always a mess.

I can only remember having one big fight with her…which is impressive because we lived together for over two and a half years (Jon can you say the same??). One day I came home, after having a really bad day, to find that my George Forman was in the sink. See you can't put a George Forman in the kitchen sink…it is electric, with a plug, and you have to hand wash it outside of the sink. I have no idea why this set me off, but it did. I picked up that George Forman, marched into Brooke's room and in front of a few of our friends, I told her that I did not appreciate her treating my George that way. Well we worked through our issues.

The three of us actually lived together for a few months. Oh what fun! We would sit in front of the TV each night and watch another hour of "North and South" with Patrick Swayze. Well this movie/mini-series inspired our first girl's trip. We visited two of the houses featured in this movie.

I consider myself truly blessed to have friends like this. They inspire me. Now if only I could find a way to get summers off and not actually have to teach…that way we could spend more time together.

Below is a picture of the three of us at the World of Coke in Atlanta, GA.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Do you have an update yet?

Yes. I know you have all been anxiously awaiting an update on how the adoption process is going; since we found out we no longer qualify for Taiwan Program III. Well, we are no further along than we were three weeks ago.

I have been doing my best to become the Adoption Agency's "Most Annoying Client." Oh yes. I've called nearly every day since we got the news we were out of Program III, and I have yet to receive any definite word on where we stand.

Below is an example of the conversation I have daily with the Admin Assistant at the Adoption Agency:

A: Journey's of the Heart, how may I help you?

Emily: Hi A. It's Emily Raney.

A: Oh, hi Emily, how are you doing today?

Emily: I'm good, and you?

A: I'm just fine. I take it you have not heard from David yet.

Emily: Nope, still waiting on his call.

A: I was hoping he would call you yesterday.

Emily: Yes, well, I was too.

A: I'll put your name on the list again, and hopefully he will call today.

Emily: Ok. Thanks A. If not, don't worry, I'll call back tomorrow.

A: I know.

Ok…so the last few lines may not be totally word for word, but that is definitely what we are thinking.

I'm doing my best to be patient, but come on! It's been a week and a half since I last spoke to him, and he was going to get me some additional information on the Taiwan Program II. Do we qualify for that program? What is the wait time? Are there any other restrictions we have to meet? Hello? Can I get some response?

Can you hear the frustration in my writing?

Once I hear more…I'll let you know.