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

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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?!

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.

Are You Kidding Me? (Immigrating Sucks)

“Are you kidding me?”  I literally just said this.  Today Victor went to go get his new passport so that we (I) can fill out his application for a visa to our wonderful country.  (Sarcasm intended…)

So, let me tell you a little something about the application for a visa:

You can’t just fill out an application for a visa like you might other applications.  I have filed in the past for the girls’ American papers (i.e. the report of birth abroad).  I have printed the other applications that Victor needs to be able to join us in the U.S.  That’s the key in many applications.  You can print them.  You can see what they require.  You can work on them, then return to them.

Not this lovely application.

First of all, you have to ask if you can even file the visa application.  I literally had to prove that Victor and I are married enough.  I spent the fall preparing that paperwork (asking for affidavits from friends who have spent time with us, making a photo timeline of our lives as one, compiling a PILE of papers that are requested by my country, etc.).  THEN, I scheduled an appointment in Monterrey to present my paperwork and file the i-130 (Petition for Alien Relative).  The man we met with (an agent from Homeland Security) was the best part of that visit.  He was a gentleman–and a very kind and helpful person.  I imagine that by the time people get to him, they need someone kind and helpful…

My process for this was much quicker than most applications, because I am filing from Mexico.  The application was approved and the case was sent directly to Juarez.  For many applicants in the U.S. they wait on this first step for MONTHS.  I received notice two weeks later that our petition was approved.

So, my friends… at this point, I began waiting.  Because even though our application was approved, I still needed the official letter in order to begin the application for the visa.  So I thought.

Nope.  Victor needed a new passport.  More waiting.

Today he got his passport, so I continued the application.  Another roadblock.

Let me tell you: you can’t even preview the application to see what you need online.  You receive access page by page.  So, I get to the page that asks for address.  Not just the address for where we live now.  Not just the address for the last five years.  No, they want all the addresses from the time Victor was 16.

16 YEARS OLD!!!!!!!!

How many people keep up with all of their addresses for 20 years?

Oh, and to make this application SO much fun: the website logged me out twice, and neither time would it save what I had added.  AND it won’t let me save the addresses that I have access to, then add the others later.

Guys, you need to know this: Our country does not make it easy for people to immigrate.  It doesn’t even make it easy for an American citizen to register their own children as Americans.

Do me a favor?  Stop saying, “It’s okay for people to come to the country, as long as they do it legally.”  Unless you have been through this process, you. have. no. idea.

I am ready to toss my teaching license down the shithole (a proper use for the word–as I am not referring to anyone’s country, but rather the commode that you shit in), and chill as an expat for the rest of our lives.

The Long Road Home

I have avoided writing.

At one time, this blog was therapeutic to me, and it really helped me get through a rough transition period in my life.  There was also the added benefit that I could share my experiences in another country with my loved ones at home.

But I have avoided telling a story that isn’t quite mine to tell.

And I have avoided taking the risk of sharing our story with many of my friends and family who have an oppositional view on immigration.

I really think stories like our story should be told.  It’s through stories that people can learn empathy and compassion for ideas that they don’t understand.  We teach children, through stories, how to embrace new siblings, deal with “enemies” or “bullies,” and learn social skills.

So, I am going to begin to tell our story… our story of immigrating to the United States.  I am hoping, that in the process, it will also help me to deal with these new changes in our lives.

This time around, it isn’t a single 27 year old off on an adventure of finding her place in the world.  This time, it’s a family: a honest, humble, loving father… A scared, strong, forward thinking mother.  A little girl who looks forward to a life in a new place, with a lack of understanding about all that will be left behind.  And the final person: a pichita–lively, funny, and just coming into her personality…unaware of changes at hand.

These are the characters of our story.  This is us.

family in chiapas

Our family this January in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas.  (The place that Victor and I met, six years ago…)

Hear Me Roar

Saturday millions of women all over the world took to the streets in protest.  Friday, a great (tremendous, terrific) defiler of women was sworn in as the president of my country.

I sat in the school office Friday, and watched the speech that he gave.  And I cried.  I cried as he spoke about being a president for the people.  The secretary next to me turned around in surprise at my tearful expletive, “Are you crying, Jania!?”  I explained, yes… I am crying.  I am crying for my country.  For my family.  For my daughters.

See, Mexicans don’t understand how Americans are JUST feeling this way.  Politicians have been less-than-wonderful and undeserving of respect for years here in Mexico.    They have risen to power because of the money in their pockets, and the exchange of that money from hand to hand.  Politicians  have rallied in poor communities, bribing the people with promises of good roads and clean water, while literally PAYING for their votes.  Mexicans have snickered at the poor english spoken by their leader, and joked about the connections that he has to the cartel.

My Mexican colleagues don’t understand that I have never felt like this.  But at the same time, they understand how dangerous the world just became.  They understand what people all over the world can see: America just crept into the rat’s trap.  They understand what the rat doesn’t: that no matter how tasty the cheese might be, the chance of never tasting cheese again is just as sure.

Has America been embarrassed by our leaders before?  Sure.  Have they ever been this fearful?  This disgusted?  This disillusioned?  Not in my lifetime.

(No doubt some readers of this very blog post are disagreeing with me right now–and no doubt those readers are white middle-class citizens who have probably had access to fair pay and healthcare most of their lives.)

I didn’t vote for the former (and far superior) president in his first campaign.  But I attended his inauguration with thousands of others.  The air was electric with promise of change.  The metro was so full of people, that moving was like something from a cartoon.  Everyone was pressed together as one unit, shuffling their feet, and moving as possible onto the train and through the platforms.  Every inch of the lawns were full of people, and not just white people.

Say what you want about Obama, but he was the people’s president.  He made hard decisions that were made for the good of MANY, not just a few.  And that was evident that day eight years ago.

Which brings us to the protest of women all over the world: Has there ever been such a huge protest in reaction to a president taking office?  Has there?  Not in our country.

I wrote a post the day after the election in November, and since then I have seen many posts pleading to give Trump a chance.  But he hasn’t earned a chance yet.  And if anything, he has time after time shown how unworthy he is to be our commander-in-chief.  Unable to take responsibility, full of accusations and immature finger-pointing.  Even after his speech on Friday he shook hands with many standing behind him,  but skirted around the one who secured more votes from the people and her husband.

I watched with pride as a far more worthy politician held her head high,  pasted on a smile,  and continued to stand with pride.  Isn’t that what women have done for years?  She didn’t need to speak out in the protests, because the voices of many others rang out for her.  

And so here I am: a mother of two little girls, a sister of three strong women, a daughter of two respecters of human kind, and a teacher of the future.  I may not have marched in protest, but I am ready to defend our future.

Shock and Sadness on the Day After Elections

I feel sick.  I am literally crying as I write this a country away.

When I visited home during the summer of 2015, Trump had recently began his race.  He had gone on camera talking about Mexicans, and we all were still wondering if it was a joke.  

And that was a question even during the spring of this year:  Is this a joke?   We have all been waiting for the punchline to be delivered.

You know what?  Hate is no joke.  I cannot believe that my countrymen just voted for a man who says the things he says.  Someone who has repeatedly spoken out against Muslims, Mexicans, homosexuals, and women.  Someone who makes fun of people with disabilities.  Someone who jokes about using weapons of mass destruction on other countries.  Someone who every living president has warned us about.  Someone who opens his mouth and spews anger, ignorance, and hatred with every word.

I am reeling, thinking of my little family here in Mexico.  I am wondering  if I need to apply for Victor’s visa earlier than planned.  We were planning on applying for a visitor visa in January.  But now?  What does this mean for us?  Do you, dear readers, realize that with the exception of one brother and my mother, my own family hasn’t met my husband?  Not one family member or friend from home has met my child?  Did you think of us when you voted?  Did you think of the thousands of families like us–or families who have to live seperate in order to survive?

And what does this mean for our country?  Do we really belong to a nation that wants this man as the leader?  I am appalled.  This is the first time in my life that I can say I am embarrassed to be American.  

And I am scared for our future.  

Halloween (With a Three Year Old)

Halloween with a three year old means buying grey hoodies to make shark costumes.  It means singing “baby shark, doo doo…” over and over (and over and over…)

Halloween with a three year old means that the night before a school Halloween party she informs you that, no, she is going to be a witch.(duh.) It means she will need a broom.  A hat.  A skirt.  Witch tights.

     
  Halloween with a three year old means she can remove the spider dangling from the witch’s hat, because she doesn’t like spiders.

Halloween with a three year old means giggles ensue when she talks about her calzones that Pablo looked for under her tutu.

Halloween with a three year old means toys have to be picked up before trick or treating.  It means you have to help, because she has forgotten where they go.  (And that the clean up song is for school.)

Halloween with a three year old means keeping little hands busy by gluing notes onto the marshmallow bags you are handing out to neighbors.  It means she will groan with sheer exhaustion when she can’t handle gluing one more.

Halloween with a three year old means that 30 minutes before it is time to trick or treat, she will change her mind about her costume.  It means she will be a “princess.”  It means you will have to move the bed to find her crown that fell off after she went to bed with it on.

    
Halloween with a three year means they can trail behind the big kids hollering, “Queremos Halloween!”  It means they lug their bag of candy  without help while you watch from the street.

Halloween with a three year old means you stare in disbelief that the neighborhood party starts at 8 and keeps going strong at 9.  Those people clearly don’t have three year olds.  

Halloween with a three year old means leaving the park after she screams at you–a bit embarrassed but mostly glad for an opportunity to use love and logic.  It means you get to say things like, “Would you like to walk or would you like me to carry you?  Would you like a sip of water or would you prefer to go straight to bed?”

Halloween with a three year old means hearing for the first time how little your daughter likes you.  It means she will tell you she wants a different mami, and that she wants to give you to the police.  It means you will have to hide your smile even as part of you dies a little inside.

Halloween with a three year old means that cuddles, laughter, bedtime stories, and hand holding will remind her how much fun it is to be a three year old.  It means that you made it another night. 

  
Get your sleep, mama.  Threeangers are out to get you again tomorrow.  Because Tuesdays everyday with a three year old…

Sweet Will of God

Today I had a friend ask me about what brought me to Mexico.  She and I have known each other for two years, but for some reason, the topic never came up.  She asked, “Did the thought ever cross your mind that you would find a boyfriend in Mexico?”

Whoa.

Talk about a major trip down Memory Lane! As I began telling her the story of coming to Mexico, something occurred to me: this year and last year line up perfectly with the days matching the dates for the year I left the States and moved to Mexico.  That means the day I quit my job (FIVE YEARS AGO?!?!) fell on the same day of the week this year.

Which means that this day, this time five years ago I was having a really hard realization that a relationship with a man I loved was coming to an end.

Which means that it was this month five years ago that I took a trip to West Virginia with some dear friends where I received renewing and encouragement I didn’t believe I needed.

Which means that it was five years ago that I sat in a Sunday morning meeting and cried throughout the hymn that said, “I worship thee, sweet will of God…”

Five years.  A lot can happen in five years.  Thankfully, God’s will for our lives will always be the best.  And when we allow him to have control of present, he can make something spectacular for our future.

So tonight I sit in my home in Mexico–five years later.  My baby is gnawing on my toes and pulling at my skirt-tail.  My daughter just yelled at me to come help her from the other room.  The four of us just got back from walking to the store to buy tamales and burritos from the street vendor.  And tomorrow I will (hopefully) go to Sunday morning meeting and we can sing the words of this hymn.  The words in English still have such great meaning for me!  I worship thee, sweet will of God, and all thy ways adore–and every day I live I seem to love thee more and more.  Perhaps  it’s the third verse means the most to me in Spanish–because the others are practically translated the same:

  I have no regrets today–I trust in your goodness.  I enjoy now the blessing of pleasant freedom. 

 

Hope of Rain

Until I lived in the desert, I never understood that hope of rain.  Just a little water falling from the sky freshens the air, the ground, and my attitude.

I have the same hope tomorrow–knowing that two of God’s servants will be in our meeting.  And for weeks from now–as we prepare for Torreon convention and the visitors that come with it!  Even September holds hope in the palm of her hand with the arrival of our larger convention in the next state over.

A spiritual shower may not make my tomatoes grow, but it sure does help love to grow:  Love for my meeting, my family, my place, and love for a world struggling to find a foothold in the midst of chaos.

Rain down on me.