A Family Update–Albeit, Not a Positive Post

It’s true I have dreaded writing an update on the blog.  So much has happened since our last post–and yet, I feel my heart is a little heavy.  Maybe it’s like that because I am not going home this summer–not for a visit, and not to move (as we had originally planned…)  Maybe it’s because it’s the end of the school year, and I always get a little stressed at the end of the school year.  Maybe it’s just life–a little good, a little bad, a little happy, and a little sad.

For whatever reason, I haven’t felt the need to write here.

Victor went in early May for his visa appointment.  It was scheduled for July, but we were able to change it in April when the calendar was updated in Ciudad Juarez.  He stayed with some of our friends, which was nice.  He was there for a week, which wasn’t too nice.  Everything went well for his appointments, and he received his denial on the last day.  That’s really what we were waiting for–the denial.

With Victor’s denial, we can submit his waivers.  As soon as we can get together the money, we will send those in.  Each waiver costs nearly $1,000–and the last appointment to Ciudad Juarez cost around $1,300.  That brings our total cost to over $2,000 so far.  This is without the aide of a lawyer which would, of course, cost more.

It isn’t that I am not glad I am here in Torreon another year…I am.  It’s just that things aren’t exactly super stable right now.  Between school, tutoring, Victor’s changing schedule, and the regular housework, life is nutty.  We also have the workers staying with us regularly, and this changes our schedule a bit.  (In Mexico, they eat lunch at around 2 and supper around 8.  Needless to say, that puts us in bed later–and creates pretty grumpy nights around here.)

Ale is finishing her second year of school, and will start kindergarten in August.  Jojo will also start school with us–something we are all looking forward to.  She asks if she can go to school almost daily, and has even gotten out of the car to go in a couple times.  It will also be nice to have our schedules more of the same.

Annnndddd… good things are happening at work too.  FINALLY, Responsive Classroom will be coming to train teachers.  I’ve been asking for this for a while.  Additionally, some other things that I am pretty proud of.

I guess I just feel really nervous.  We know we have some big year coming our way–and I don’t feel too positive at the moment.  That isn’t something I am really used to.  Every day it seems like something else is in the new about immigrants and the way they are being treated.  Families are being split up at our border and families are being split BY our border.  The hardest thing is that I suspect it will be our family next year split–due to the processing time and the money associated with the waivers.

So, speaking of immigrants and their struggle for a better life: the minimum wage is about $4.30 USD a day.  Not factoring in the cost of food, housing, water, school, clothes, or other necessities in life, it would take a year and a half of working six days a week saving EVERY peso you make to get as far as we have at this point.  Of course, if you think the immigrants should be able to eat, have money for transportation to work (bus fare), send their kids to school, pay for water and electricity, or have clean drinking water you might be able to see the problem that many immigrants face.

Immigration Costs (in USD): $830 + Medical appointment, visa appointment, translations, travel, other costs for a week in Juarez $1,300= $2,130 total

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Preparing for Juarez

I belong to a few groups on Facebook. I guess one might call them support groups–as they are made up of people like us trying to get visa approval for immigration to the United States of America.

It was there I first learned that my understanding of the process for Victors waivers was incorrect. It was there I learned of the change in processing time for waivers. (They used to be processed in 4-6 months. Now the processing time is officially 13.5-18 months.) It was in one of these groups that I read something welcomed: the calendar of appointments in Juarez was updated to included new appointments for April, May, and June.

We changed Victor’s appointment from July to the last days of April. Now we are preparing for his appointment.

Once the appointment is made, we can start really preparing. Victor will have to have several appointments prior to his actual visa appointment (in which we know he will be denied). He will have an in-depth medical appointment, which costs a couple hundred dollars. The price includes of they determine that he needs additional vaccinations, etc. Some people end up paying around $500 just for the medical appointment. We are going to try to get Victor’s immunizations here at the clinic to save us $250 or more…

Additionally, he has to get fingerprinted well ahead of his visa appointment. If we were like most people, we would also need to rent a hotel room for Victor for around a week. That’s an added expense we are hoping to avoid by staying with friends.

Of course, when it comes to expenses, Victor will still need to pay for the visa appointment ($320) and for the travelogue and from Juarez. Additionally, he will need money for food, etc.

You’ve heard me tell you before this isn’t an easy process–now let me tell you that this is also not a cheap process. We will be lucky if we spend less than $1,000 USD for this step. And this isn’t even our complicated step…

Once he is denied, he will be notified of the waivers that he can file. Together, to file those papers will cost just shy of $2,000 USD. Oh, and you must pay for all of these items in advance. The payment isn’t upon approval–you pay, and really hope you get approved, because who can afford to do it all again?

The money is secondary to the stress that I feel preparing for the visa appointment. There are so many papers required, it feels like a struggle to get them together. Additionally, all documents in Spanish must be translated. That costs around $12-15 per page. Copies of the documents are to be made and labeled for quick access. The originals must accompany Victor–as they might also be requested.

Remember when I mentioned how hard it is to immigrate? I’ve said this before: I am an intelligent, literate, educated citizen…and I struggle. Now, let’s think of all the people who cross the border from a place of desperation. This isn’t easy. It isn’t quick. There is nothing about it that makes this an enjoyable experience for any of us. The only comfort Victor and I have is knowing that we serve a God who has good things planned for us.

On that note I will sign off for now.

Immigration Costs (in USD): I-130 $420+travel costs $300+translations $100+photographs $10=$830 total

An Immigration Update

I’ve avoided writing this post as I wait to figure out what is going on in this crazy world we live in. This morning I read the news while lying beside the girls, and one article stood out to me. A family, separated when the dad of three was deported. He wasn’t a drug dealer, a rapist, or whatever other ugly term is currently in fashion for describing undocumented immigrants. He was a dad of three, working in agriculture in the U.S. with nothing on his record in addition to his immigration status.

The article mentioned that while more immigrants were deported under the Obama administration, the biggest change is the increase in arrests of people who aren’t hardened criminals. It suggested that raising fear in people was the intent. Then it’d said something, about how children are in a constant state of anxiety. Parents are being advised to have “what if” plans drawn up giving legal rights to someone in the event of their deportation.

Families are being split up without getting a choice in the matter, but I have a choice.

I am going to stay in Mexico one more year while we wait on my husband’s papers. I am not going to move the girls away, just because that was our original plan. I will file the papers, and wait.

See, last week we found out that it is taking 15 months for approval on waivers that once took 4-6 months. This, apparently, is due to a shortage of staff in Customs and Immigration . If we file when we think we can, it means that we will be in the U.S. while Victor is here for around a year and a half. Ale would be nearly 7 and Jojo nearly 4. It isn’t worth it…

A friend reminded me of God’s timing a few days ago. And so, again I find myself in the place of realizing how hard I tried to make something happen in a time that it wasn’t meant to happen.

One more year in Mexico is all the difference between us paying for two households, us finding child care for Jojo, us stressing to find Victor a house to move into… now we will have one more year to work on Spanish, one more year to help out here in the meetings, one more year to work on getting ready for this big change that’s coming our way.

One year passes quickly, and who knows what gifts it has in store for us?!

You and Your Guns

Dear America,

Can we talk for a moment about your guns and your gun policies?  Yeah, I know… you can’t escape this attention right now.  I mean, it is everywhere.  That happens after a school shooting…  Scratch that.  Your shootings aren’t just happening in schools, are they?  They are happening at music concerts.  They are happening in churches.  They are happening at military bases.

I know what you’re thinking–and I’ve heard the arguments:  It’s kids and how they don’t have limits?  Yeah, except… remember in Las Vegas?  That terrorist wasn’t a kid.  Well, it has to be that people “need Jesus.”  Hang on a second… what about those church shootings?  The answer must be that more people need guns!  That’s got to be it!  Teachers and civilians with guns would be able to protect us from people with mental health issues who have guns.  Can we be real?  People with guns weren’t able to stop the shootings at the military bases…

When are we going to admit that we have a problem?  You know what they say? The first step is admitting that there is a problem.

It’s time to do something about this, America.  It isn’t a normal thing for citizens to head out and buy weapons to protect themselves.  It isn’t a normal thing to suggest that teachers should be able to take their guns to school to protect their students.  It isn’t a normal thing to suggest that snipers should be places on the roof of all school buildings.  It isn’t normal.  It scares me.  You and your guns scare me.

Get it together, America…
Sincerely,
A concerned citizen

 

El Otro Lado and My American Dream

My every waking moment (and many of my sleeping moments) are filled with thoughts about immigration. So here I am, lying beside my youngest, who for the first time in four nights is sleeping peacefully, and I am thinking of our big move.

You know, I feel like a stranger in our country. Sometimes people ask if I am from the US, and I always say, “Yes, but I am Mexican in my heart.” It’s true. This country has been good to me. Teaching here is a dream. Raising a family here is almost perfect. Mexico is IN me now…

But…

I know there are things that are good for us in el otro lado too. The other side has my family. It has the fellowship that I’ve craved spiritually for six years. In the other side, my husband can be paid for his labor. En el otro lado, our family will be able to set up a good life…

But…

On this side, my girls won’t have the same temptations I faced as a teen. On this side, our family isn’t judged harshly for being “mixed.” In Mexico, eating fresh is a normal part of life–even fast food is freshly prepared! In this side, I can work for schools that provide housing and private school education for my girls.

But…

You get the point, right? This is the hard part. We go back and forth between the good and bad of both of our countries. At the end of the day, I find myself chasing the ever familiar, yet ever-elusive American dream. It is easier for me to think of how much more money we will make in the U.S. It is easier to think of the home we can build, and the family we can raise. That’s easier than making a pro/con list in my mind with ever conscious thought.

I think of our family–nestled on the porch of Granny’s cabin, surrounded by the mating songs of crickets. I think of that sweet breeze blowing away any lingering sticky of the day’s humidity. I think of waking up early, making a coffee on my fancy new espresso machine, and sitting down to read my bible before the girls wake. I think of Saturday mornings, and tables full of biscuits and gravy. I think of summer evenings, the faint smell of cows and freshly cut grass, while listening to the ring of laughter as the girls play. I think of planting a garden, harvesting tomatoes, and making salsa on demand. I think of milking cows, laying hens, and daily chores. I think of hosting family dinners, and having sleepovers with cousins. I think of porch swings, barbecue grills, and magnolia trees. I think of convention and gospel meetings with the people that I grew up with. I think of crisp curtains and open windows–listening to the rain on a tin roof.

My American dream is what keeps me going. Just like all the other immigrants who’ve crossed that border before us–risking their lives and their freedom for a dream of something better for their families.

(I let myself be deceived right now–it’s way easier than noticing how the con side outweighs the pro side.)

I focus on my American dream…not just for me, but my family. And I hope that we find it waiting for us en el otro lado.

A Letter to My Baby-No-More

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Dear Sweet Little Girl,

When did you become such a big girl?  One minute, you’re my little baby looking up at me with a big smile and twinkling eyes…I turn around for a second and that baby is gone.  Now, in her place is a big girl who is always running, laughing, and talking.

“I lub ew, Mama.”

“I love you too, Jojo.”

“Gra-chias… Gra-chias, Mama.”

IMG_3062Ahh, my little Jojo… the little rainbow of our family.  I hope you know how much you are loved by us all.  Your sissy couldn’t wait for you to stop nursing.  I think it was partially because she wanted to be the one to take care of you.  She told me the other day of how you hug her when you get upset.  She’s your lighthouse, isn’t she, Sweet Pea?  She’ll be there for you forever–showing you the way to keep from crashing into the rocks.

“Qué es? Qué es, Mama?” you ask me all the time.  What is it? What is it?  You want to know about everything.  I see that curiosity, and I know it will keep you searching for more and more knowledge.  (Just go into some other field, please, my dear…don’t choose education!)  Maybe you’ll be a scientist…an inventor…a discover of new cultures…  I can’t wait to see what you become, little luz mia.

My favorite thing about you is the way you steal the show.  Your sister doesn’t even mind.  You march into a room, command the attention of everyone, and make them fall in love with you.  You shake hands at meeting, as you twist the ladies around your little finger.  You wave to the guards and say, “Gra-chias! Adiós!” as we walk out of stores…and their gruff expressions melt away to show something tender.  You grab ahold of us SO tight with the biggest squeeze around the neck, and we all just hold on.

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You are the morning light in our family.  Ale is more like a sunset…She’s quietly beautiful.  She’s the calm after the storm.  You are the storm.  You aren’t the kind of storm you hide from–more like the storm that you snuggle under blankets on the front porch to watch.  And oh! how you love to snuggle!

You, my baby, are just what our family needed.  You make us laugh.  You make us love bigger.  You keep us guessing…keep us smiling…  You make us “un poco loco,” and we love it (just as you love to sing it!).

You’re asleep now.  Snuggled onto the bench of the double rocker after falling asleep in my arms.  The room is quiet, which gives me a minute to write my love letter to you.  In a few minutes, you’ll wake up.  You’ll kick up the dust and get everyone hopping.  I love you like that, but I love you like this too.

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You’re are our sunshine, baby.   I am starting to see the light peeking around the edge of the mountains.  The sky isn’t quite lit up yet… you are the glorious light.  You light up our lives, and we are happy to have you as our center.  And aren’t you our center?  We all revolve around you…

Mami loves you.  Papi loves you.  Sissy loves you.

Gracias, baby, Gracias…
Love,
Mama

 

A Matter of Heart (The Immigration Version)

You guys should know that all my immigration news has led me down to a sad place.  Last week I felt like a heavy weight of worry and doubt was hanging over my heart.  When my inside is a mess, I make my outside very tidy!  I clean.  I organize.  I create order.

This is a pretty good method–and it tends to work well for me.  That’s what I did this weekend.  I tackled one bedroom (our summer bedroom that has the air conditioner and most of our clothes).  I did laundry, and then I sorted the laundry: clothes we can still wear went in the closet.  Clothes that are winter clothes went to a missionary here in Coahuila or to my friends with small children.  And I began my first box of things to move.  Right now it contains the girls’ baby blankets and our winter items that we bought in Chiapas during Christmas vacation.

I also made a conscious effort to settle myself spiritually.  Saturday morning I worked through this question: What is different between my life now and my life six years ago?  Six years ago, I had no problem leaving it all in God’s hands and trusting his guidance.  What I realized is that I am not taking the time to read and pray like I used to.  When I wake up, I am usually followed by a couple munchkins, and then my day gets busy.  I have to make an effort to read and pray!

I am recommitting my purpose to trusting God.  There is no way any of us will make it the next year (month? week? day?) without trusting God.  I KNOW he has good things planned for us.  I KNOW there is a reason he is bringing us back to East Tennessee.  I KNOW that without trust I will continue to feel sad and hopeless.

I believe in his plan…although I don’t know what it is.  Until it all comes to light, I will continue to make a daily effort to communicate with my heavenly father.  We heard recently that our time of prayer can’t just be us talking, talking, talking.  There has to be time for us to listen to what God has to say.

Are you there, God? It’s me, Jania.  I am listening…

P.S. The literary reference came naturally…

11 “…For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord…  (Jeremiah 29)

Immigrant Visa Update

So, you know how I mentioned the ups and downs of the visa process?

I waited for Victor’s passport so I could progress with the visa application.  He got his passport.

THEN

I had to compile a list of all his addresses for the last twenty years…  I progressed through the addresses in a mad rush–because I knew from previous experience that one error could keep me from being able to save all the work for a future time.

THEN

I had to figure out all the addresses and a timeline for all the places that he worked for the last 10 years.  (Remember, Victor was a laborer in the States.  Those guys work wherever they can get a job!)  We compiled the list of all the places, addresses, etc. of where he worked.

THEN

I finished his application!  “Hooray!” I thought, “Now we can finish his application so that we can make his visa appointment!  My friend made her visa appointment in January, and she was able to be scheduled in February.  So, I didn’t think it would be too difficult.

Now, this is where we stand: Victor’s visa appointment isn’t until late July.  The girls and I are leaving Mexico at the end of June.  Why is this important? you may be asking…

Well, in order for Victor to be able to file his waivers, he has to have his visa appointment.  An appointment that is basically a big waste of money, time, and effort.  He has to pay the money to travel Juarez, pay for the medical appointments, get fingerprinted, etc.  (All the normal visa business…)  Here’s where we are different:  we know that Victor will be denied the visa due to his deportation.  We can’t file the waiver(s) until he is denied.  The waivers take 4-6 months for processing (if we’re lucky…)

Basically, this means that best case scenario is I will be without my husband, and the girls will be without their dad from the end of June until December.

This is why we needed that appointment sooner than later.

Nothing about this process is easy–least of all on my emotional well-being.  I hate hearing and seeing all the ignorant posts that people put on Facebook regarding immigration.  It puts me in a fury.

I will continue to check the calendar.  Apparently it is possible that other appointments show up before July.  Here’s to hoping that is our case…

Good Times Are Coming

It’s easy to get discouraged and depressed right now. I feel a bit in limbo, and that’s not a great feeling at all!

The future is so unknown. To be fair, the future is always unknown–but we don’t admit that to ourselves. We plan our lives with comfort, scheduling vacations, parties, and general business as if those days are really guaranteed.

Nothing feels more uncomfortable than half-plans. “We will do this, but we don’t know the outcome…” Normally when we make plans, we do it with security–not taking too big of a risk. Risk is scary.

That’s what makes Victor’s paperwork so difficult. We don’t know how it will work. We don’t know when he will get to cross la frontera. There’s a lot of risk in us filing thousands of dollars worth of applications with no guarantee.

Here’s a fun fact for you: did you know it is possible to be approved on a visa, but still denied access to the United States? True story.

Last week was rough–one setback after another. Sometime late last week I though of something my husband said on the night we met. He said, “I believe that God sends us hard times because he is preparing us for the good times that are coming. And maybe we wouldn’t appreciate it if we didn’t have the hard time first.” A wise man, my husband.

So this is my comfort again:

Precious thought, my Father knoweth; In His love I rest,
For whate’er my Father doeth
Must be always best.

Well I know the Heart that planneth Naught but good for me;
Joy and sorrow interwoven–
Love in all I see.

It’s so easy to get discouraged, but I know that is why I have to keep pressing forward! The good things are never easy. And although I feel scared and nervous, I also try to keep my eyes forward. God has a plan for us, or this situation wouldn’t be the one we are facing. We just have to wait for it to be revealed.

A Random Saturday Night Thought

Tonight, as I drank root beer (diet) and made tuna salad, I had a flashback.  It was this moment many years ago as a teen, when my dad made a salad and then dumped a can of tuna on it.

I thought it was the most disgusting and weird thing I’ve ever seen.

Guys… let this be a lesson: we become our parents.  I will give in to tuna salad and root beer, but that’s where I draw the line.

Now, let me go move the car, because Victor didn’t park it straight enough…