Waiting… so hard

Guys, I am so anxious. I should be receiving notice that the USCIS (US Customs and Immigration Services) has received our paperwork. I sent it off three weeks ago–and now I am waiting.

Meanwhile, we are packing up, selling, giving away, and moving. It’s tough–seven plus years in a country allows you to accumulate a lot of “stuff.” It would be easier probably if it were just my stuff. But there are the kids and Victor to consider. I am trying to keep an eye on things that they aren’t playing with. Actually, we’ve already packed up quite a bit.

I’ve been thinking, scheming, and planning to figure out how to move across the border. It’s a bit tricky with the doggy. I will have to figure out how to get him all packed up and ready to go. He also needs a letter from the veterinarian to say he’s had his shots. It will be a little bit more of a hassle to take him along. I will be limited to hotels that accept dogs, and that’s a bit annoying.

I feel so full of emotions right now, it’s hard to even put into words how I am feeling. One minute I am excited–the next sad. I try to push all of the negative thoughts out of my mind. It’s way easier to go day to day thinking happy thoughts!

Vaya Con Dios

Jojo’s school performance with her papas!

The other day I read a post on a Facebook support group for people who are going through the same paperwork process as us for immigration. The lady said, “Waiver is in the mail! Now it’s in God’s hands.”

I was caused to remember this again yesterday when I finally sent off Victor’s waiver. I had to remind myself that this has always been in God’s hands, but I understand what the lady on Facebook meant. You work so hard for so long to prepare the best possible case with the strongest evidence. Then when you finish, you have a choice: embracing desperation or hope, worry or faith…

I choose faith.

In Chiapas when when you say goodbye to someone, they often reply with this farewell, “Que la vaya con Dios.” It basically means, “Go with God.” And that is what I kept saying to myself yesterday. It is literally out of my hands now. There’s nothing I can do now. I just have to wait and trust…

People have been asking about our plans, and it is hard to explain how this whole process works. I explain our future like this: There is a VERY slight (practically non-existent) possibility that Victor will get to come home this summer. That is based on an expedite that I can request once the immigration-powers-that-be receive our paperwork. Honestly, it will be almost impossible to get the expedite–they aren’t given out easily. (This isn’t a negative thought, just a realistic one.)

Most likely, our expedite will be denied, and then we have to wait for regular processing like everyone else. Right now processing is taking 10-14 months. So at the earliest, Victor might be approved next March.

If Victor’s waiver is approved, then he will have to go through the visa process again–new vaccines, new police records from Mexico and the U.S., and more money. BUT this is all money that people are happy to pay at this point, as it means that their loved ones are returning home. If he is approved, there are additional fees for the greencard.

There’s also a chance that the evidence that I sent won’t be sufficient for approving his waiver, and they could either deny our application or request more information. Normally they request more evidence, and that is when people know they are close to a decision being made. If Victor’s waiver is denied, the girls and I will return to Mexico next summer.

We are approaching this next step much the way I did when I moved to Mexico: trusting that God is in control and has the best plans for us. “Precious thought, my father knoweth, in his love I rest. For what e’re 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…”

Now we are reaching our final months and weeks in Torreón, and there is so much to do. I’ve started selling or giving away whatever I can. We’re setting aside things that Victor will be able to use in his new house, and making plans for what needs to return home with us. I’ve got a couple boxes packed, and I am trying to talk myself through this process with positive thinking. It’s hard though, I won’t lie.

This little girl is full of life, but she’s picky with whom she shares all that spirit.

Ale is super excited AND nervous. She woke up this morning, and the first thing she said was, “I can’t wait for school in Tennessee.” But last week at meeting she wrote me this note, “I love Tennessee, but I am not ready to move.” I am mostly sad about the girls not being close to their Papi. He plays such a vital role in their daily life, and I don’t know what will happen when he isn’t there. All I can think is that we HAVE to make sure to Facetime every day! Oh! it breaks my heart to think of it…

Update on Immigration Costs (in USD): $2,130+permission to reapply ($930)+waiver ($930)= $3,990 total

This is our favorite place to eat. Ale surprised us with this message on their cool chalkboard wall, and because I am a literacy mama, I asked for a photo! ❤

Seven Years of Adventures

Wow.

I can’t believe it.

It has officially been seven full years since I arrived to Mexico. Well, seven full years and a couple days… Our workers reminded me that seven is a perfect number.

Seven years ago, I wanted to find my place in the world–and my place in God’s kingdom. I applied for jobs literally all over the world. It is amazing as I go back and read those posts. I never planned this for myself. I thought six months in Mexico would be a sufficient amount of time for my quarter-life crisis. It turns out, it was just enough time to get swept away (first by Mexico, then by Victor…haha!)

Having gorditas with our workers for lunch December 31, 2018. Gorditas are delicious tortilla pockets filled with whatever you might put on a taco.

This last year has been unique. Because of the lack of homes with extra space in our field, we’ve had the privilege of having the workers live with us for a week to two weeks at a time. They leave here to visit the next state over for about a week, then come back. That gives me just enough time to procrastinate cleaning their rooms until the night before they arrive! There is one other home here in town with room for the workers to stay–a couple who left Monterrey to move here to help out. It’s amazing. And the above photo was when I didn’t prepare lunch in time to feed my crew. Insert a sheepish grin… (It’s vacation, y’all!)

I know this coming year will be one of great changes. We are preparing for the unknown for Victor–and a move back to Tennessee for the girls and and myself. I am (trying) to put my trust and faith in the right place. That which is meant to be…will be! We’re trusting in the living God! Victor and I chatted about it the other night: if his visa isn’t approved, it won’t be a big deal. We will move back to Mexico for a couple years–the girls (and I) will have a couple more years to speak Spanish. If he gets his visa, that will be great too. We will build a little life in the hills of East Tennessee.

It’s hard sometimes for me. I am a dreamer. I have my house designed, sleepovers planned with my sisters and the cousins, and a job (almost) lined up. Of course, there have been other times in life that I had everything planned to go my way…and it didn’t.

This is what I know: God has nothing but the best planned for us. We will be fine, because no matter where we go, he will be guiding us. If things don’t go my way, it just means a better way is waiting for us!

Love to you all in this new year! I hope to see you soon–with all of my little Mexican loves in tow.

A Letter to You

Dear Readers,

Thank you for reading this blog.  Thank you for caring enough about my family to take a minute to read what pops up in your email. Thank you for your patience during this hiatus from blogging.

This blog has always been something therapeutic for me.  I started writing seven years ago when life gave me lemons.  I tried to make lemonade from broken hearts, unexpected curve balls, and celestial redirection.  I’ve shared my highs, my lows, and my in-between blahs.  You’ve read my political pleas and my letters to my loves.

I hope someday we can sit down together over a plate of tacos or a cuppa coffee and chat like normal friends.  I hope someday you will be able to meet my favorite souvenirs from this mad adventure in Mexico.  Until someday comes, we will be content with this one-sided chat.

Saludos from Mexico,

Jania

Bubbles

Ale was really sweet trying to determine what was up with Bubbles!

Who’s the greatest dog around?
Who’s the cutest dog in town?
Little Bubbles, he’s our pup
And we love him oh-so-much!

It’s Bubbles! It’s Bubbles!
A wiggly-waggly Bubbles
It’s Bubbles! It’s Bubbles!
Good ol’ Bubbles, Yeah! Our golden dog

This is Jojo’s request at night when we begin to sing.  It’s based on a song in a Clifford book that I read to Ale–and not knowing the music was at the back, I just made up my own as we went along.  We sang that song for years, so when Jojo wanted a song about Bubbles, it was what popped into mind.

I couldn’t sing about him starring in Hollywood, so the verses have changed to fit our dog.

Who takes his mama for a walk?
Who plays with Simon in the park?
Who chases chickens in the yard?
Who…

You get the point, right?  Because I forgot what we usually sing on that last line.  The song changes every night with the exception of the Chorus: It’s Bubbles!…

Bubbles has been a bit of a point of contention for us.  I got him without Victor’s full support.  I have really good reasons, but I probably should have waited until he was more on board.  Let’s just say he’s learning to love Bubbles…

When we got Rocky a few years ago, it was mutual.  He was a free bassat that a high school student was giving away.  We loved him so much in his short little life.  Ale was almost two at the time, and she would wake up and RUN to the door looking for him.  When Rocky got sick, Victor and I employed country thinking: let’s just see how he does, and if he doesn’t get better, we will take him to the vet.  The next day, Rocky seemed better.  Then he died…  I’ve never seen my husband so distraught.  It was the saddest thing to happen to us in the few years we were together.

A few days ago, Bubbles seemed sick.  It isn’t too surprising–he does try to eat every smelly thing he finds.  BUT we have taken him for his shots, so we really thought he was going to be fine.  We waited a couple days, but the poor guy seemed really out of it.  Now, you should know that I do the same thing with my kids.  I don’t rush them to the doctor, they aren’t fully up-to-date on their immunizations, and I let fevers burn for a bit before administering medicine.  So this isn’t a case of us treating him as less than our children.  Sometimes little bugs work themselves out: two nights ago Ale threw up all night long.  I didn’t send her to the doctor the next morning, I just slowly added some electrolytes back into her diet before giving food.

Last night was my limit with my little Bubs.  I started googling his symptoms, and I worked myself into a frenzy.  What if we had another Rocky situation on our hands?  We would never forgive ourselves.  Luckily, the veterinarian is about 1/2 a mile away.  He responded to my text by letting me know that he was still in the office, and I could come on by before he left.  We loaded up our sick pup, who had spent the day lying around and looking at us with sad eyes.  The doctor gave him antibiotics and something to reduce his fever–and instructions that included not taking him to the street until his vaccines are complete.

Today he’s better–not completely, but much better.  And if anything, we all love him more.  Even his reluctant papa…

Summer Lovin’

I’ve been out of school for a few weeks now, and I am reminded how hard it is to be a stay-at-home mom.

In any case, I’ve enjoyed getting to see my kids grow and interact with one another and the people around them.  Days are full with a routine that I’ve come to enjoy:

When I wake up, I can smell the coffee wafting upstairs.  This lets me know that Derek is already awake, and he pushed the button.  I roll out of bed, throw on some leggings with a skirt to keep a few secrets from all my friends.  By now, Bubbles is barking, anticipating his walk.

I struggle into my tennis shoes, reminding myself that 1) I need to stretch 2) I need to lose weight.  I hurry outside to cajole the pup into sitting through his excitement.  I clip on my fanny-pack full of baggies for poop (How low has mankind stooped to pick up canine poop?), money for tortillas, and doggie treats.  I begin my audiobook and fitness tracker, and Bubbles and I set out.

If you’re like me and you struggle with exercising, you should download an audiobook.  It’s amazing to WANT to exercise so that I can find out what happens next in my book.  Nerd alert?  Currently I am listening to The Zookeeper’s Wife.  That’s because I couldn’t find a good young adult novel quick enough the other day.  It’s nice to pretend I am grown-up for a change.

Bubbles and I trot along the street, following the shade when we’ve left the house too late.  I remind myself that I need to leave earlier tomorrow.  We say hello to dogs, runners, and domestic workers on their way to work.  We greet the guard at the school and wave to the groundskeepers who daily water and clean up the pristine lawn.

Finally, we turn back towards the tortilla shop, buy the beans and tortillas for breakfast and head back home.

Once home, Bubbles gets fed and watered.  A handful of dog food goes with me to chicken coop along with the scraps from the day before.  I collect eggs and turn to go back inside to begin breakfast for the day.

Our houseguests and friends enjoy a Mexican breakfast, as does my husband.  So breakfast consists of fresh salsa, tortillas, beans, and eggs.  Occasionally it includes bacon or hotdog sausages.  Sometimes we make migas–where old, cold tortillas are cut into pieces and fried with eggs and onions.  Afterwards, I clean up and we have a little study or sing a couple hymns before Victor heads off to work.

The girls and I do some chores or go shopping for groceries.  Then it is time for a nap.  Jojo and I nap, while Ale hangs out.  I can’t figure out why she isn’t tired like we are.

By the time we get up from our nap, it’s time to prepare Mexican lunch (2:00 p.m.).  Sometimes the girls and I will eat before our nap if the workers are heading out for visits in the area.  Victor pops in at some point and eats, or we take him lunch wherever he happens to be.

Cleaning…more dishes…more chores… and it is time for Mexican supper (8:00 p.m.).  On evenings that the workers are visiting for supper, we eat like Americans around 6:00 p.m. then we head out to walk or play with the dog.

The girls each have their little moments of hilarity.  Jojo is speaking more English now, in addition to the Spanish that rattles out all the time.  She asks for us to pray in English (Engish) when we sit down to eat or pray in the evening.  She says, “Coco-Mijo” in the place of con permiso or “excuse me” in Spanish.  She calls Ale, “my baby” and her daddy, “mi Victor.”  When Victor loses his patience with the dog or Ale, she will say, “Daddy, tu a babe!”  She means to say, “She’s a baby!”  She loves me to sing a song about Bubbles at night, followed by a song about herself.  She tells her sister what to do, and will mock her at every opportunity, “Mami, mira! mira!”  Look! look! she says–then makes a face as she copies her sis.

Ale has started to ask me questions like, “Mom, how does it feel to be a mom?” or “How does it feel to be a teacher?”  Today she told me, “Mom, I don’t know when I get big if I will be a mom or not–but what if I don’t know how to cook?”  We’ve been reading chapter books when Jojo is asleep, such as Junie B. Jones.  She’s growing to be such an amazing kid, which makes her little fits with her sister sting even more!   Last night, she was washing dishes, and her sis was climbing up beside her to play in the water.  Ale kept saying, “Mom, I don’t need Jojo’s help!”   She begs us for a cell phone (WHAT?!), and walks around with rectangles of plastic or paper pretending that she’s texting, taking selfies, and playing games.  She will even pass it to Jojo in the car to watch videos.  If there’s one thing I am proud of, it’s that: the moment where she says, “Be quiet, Mommy, I have to talk to Karen,” then proceeds to talk, in Spanish, to her neighborhood friend on a Jenga game piece that she decorated to look like an iPhone.

The girls play babies together, which is a nice change.  They have a cocina and a bathroom area in their play corner in the living room.  Jojo throws a fit at night or when we leave, demanding that she has her baby AND the baby blanket.  They play like one is the mama, one is the babysitter.

Victor’s dad is a little sick right now–we aren’t quite sure what’s going on.  One doctor said he has cirrhosis of the liver, and another said he has something wrong with his prostate.  Neither of these reports are good news, so understandably, the family is pretty worried.  The problem is, in order to practice medicine in these remote towns, you don’t always have to have a medical degree.  We want him to visit Tuxtla to see a real doctor, but we don’t know what the family is planning to do.  Victor’s been a bit preoccupied with worries about his dad, and is trying to work as much as he can to be able to send some money to Chiapas.

We still haven’t sent Victor’s waivers, so no news on the immigration front.  We are waiting for August when I receive another paycheck–and the retention money the school saves from my check each month to cover the cost of teachers who take off in the middle of a contract.  When that comes, we should be able to submit his waivers, so stay tuned!

Summer days are quickly passing–and one day I know I will look back on this time fondly.  IMG_5585

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

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