Last summer, we were living in a month-to-month rental in Missoula with every intention of returning to Mexico for the winter when we found out that I was pregnant. Suddenly, everything was up in the air. Should we have the baby in Mexico? Should we stay in Missoula, ‘settle down’ and live a ‘normal’ life? What would it be like to give birth in Mexico? Would we be able to keep working south of the border with a newborn? How would we feel if we gave up on our dreams?
Before finding out that I was pregnant, I’d made a little list of goals for the summer. Number one on the list was ‘Apply for Mexican temporary resident visas.’ This would allow us to stay south of the border for a full year instead of just 6 months on a tourist visa. After moving back to Montana for the summer, we were all realizing just how stressful it was to find housing and make a living in two different places. Acquiring the resident visas would also be the first step toward working legally in Mexico. While researching how to do this, I quickly realized that our family didn’t qualify. Mexico had just changed the requirements, so as a family of three we would have to show around $3000/month coming into our account in the States even while in Mexico. We have rental income from renting our house, but it sure isn’t $3000! I asked two different attorneys—one in Mexico and one in the States—and both confirmed it. I really didn’t want to return to Mexico again and work with just a tourist visa and have to cross a border after six months with a 2-month-old baby, a 6-year-old and a dog. So that decided it. We were staying. It was heartbreaking, but it seemed to make sense.
In the midst of all of this, we started putting out feelers to find a full-time, year-round job for Mark. He hadn’t had a ‘real’ job since 2010 when he’d quit as General Manager of the Western Montana Grower’s Cooperative to build our house. Since then, he’d been piecing things together, working seasonally doing ecological restoration to allow for our winter escapes south of the border. On one particularly fear-filled day, I approached someone to inquire about work with their business. Talk turned to meetings, and meetings turned to a sweet job offer. After much hand-wringing and discussion, we decided that he should take the job.
Before leaving Mexico, I had applied to be a permanent vendor at a market in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. At the time, I considered it to be The Best Market in the Bay of Banderas. While we were trying to make the decision about the job offer, I kept saying, “I wish I could find out about the market before we decide anything.” Well, two days after Mark accepted the job, I heard that I’d been given a spot in the market. This alone was amazing news. But on the exact same day, I shot an email to my attorney contact in Mexico asking if having our baby in Mexico would change anything regarding the visa situation. “Absolutely” was the answer. She would be a dual citizen, and we could apply for residency without any problems. Unbelievable. I. Was. Giddy. But shit! Now what?! I knew what it all meant. It was crystal clear to me what it all meant. We should go to Mexico. But we didn’t decide to go for it overnight. Because staying in Montana seemed like the safe choice, the responsible choice. Maybe even the best choice.
Mark’s job wasn’t to begin for a few weeks, and this turned out to be a blessing and a curse. It meant that we had time to waffle back and forth and drive ourselves crazy trying to make a decision. It was one helluva summer and fall. Owen started Kindergarten to ‘see how it felt.’ (It felt okay.) We put our house on the market to ‘see how it felt.’ (It felt bad.) We decided to move back into our house to ‘see how it felt’. Well, on the night that we moved back in, I stared at the walls of the house that we’d planned for and built and painted and at the concrete floors that I’d stained and sealed and thought, ‘This isn’t enough.’ It wasn’t the bright colors of Mexico. Or the endless sunshine. Or the amazing street tacos. Or the smiles of Mexican strangers. Or the ocean waves or the beach or my son boogie boarding or the locals touching his ‘recitos de oro’ (golden curls). It wasn’t exciting or exotic or interesting. It was nice and comfortable but not right.
Mark was simultaneously having a very different experience. After living in other houses and apartments for two summers, he was falling back in love with the solid, near-perfect house that he’d built with his own two hands. And who could blame him? He started talking about how the new job would allow us to _______________________ (fill in the blank) while I was wondering if the new job might get us stuck. There is nothing wrong with living that way: working 9-5, kids in school, etc. Unless you don’t want it. But I was also appreciating how we could have a nice little routine in Missoula for the first time in years. For the 8 years that we’d lived at 428 and 434 N. 1st St. W., we’d worked our tails off renovating the old house and building the new one while juggling jobs, a baby and all of the rest that life brings. Now, if we stayed, we could live more freely with just a job and no house projects. That sounded pretty sweet.
But then I started really taking stock. I imagined my days: Mark would go off to work all day. Owen would go to school all day. I would spend my days home alone with a new baby and maybe try to fit it my art. That didn’t sound like the worst thing in the world by a longshot, but it sounded damn lonely. We’d just spent a couple of years being together as a family like never before, living the life that we wanted and I wasn’t ready for that to change. Not yet anyway. One night it just all came together. I said to Mark, “You can go to work all day every day building someone else’s business and being away from your family. Or you can work with me growing OUR business, have whatever schedule you like and be with your family whenever you want.” That made things pretty darn crystal clear. We both knew then that we had to go for it. So he turned down the job. It felt exhilarating and scary and crazy. And really, really good.
And so we started packing.
This was fun to read! It was a great recap of the decision process that I witnessed! Miss you all tons and tons, but I’m sure happy that you are happy down there. I started an email to you a month ago and it is still in my draft folder – ridiculous. Any thoughts on Yelapa as a destination? XOXO!
Les!! We miss you all, too! So much. Yelapa? I’ve not been, but I’ll go check it out and let you know! Wanna talk on the phone? 🙂 xoxo!!!
Well, shit. I love this and I love you guys. And I admire and get your push to do it, to go, and live the life that your heart calls you to. I also miss you guys, and I also love this place (love that your post about choosing to go, had such lovely pictures of HERE. It’s not always that soft and welcoming-looking, as you guys well know– ) this Missoula, where we’re loving our community, building our home-place, and yet grinding around in a weird way at times. It’s all life, all the right choices, because, they’re the life you choose, right? If you and Mark and Owen tooled around the corner on bikes right now it would be the most normal thing in the world. (Ok, there’s India, who would be entirely new and immediately part of the neighborhood family as well.)
Grace!! I almost called this ‘Torn between 2 lovers, feeling like a fool.’ Ha ha! I miss so many things about Missoula and Montana…the community on the same level as the beauty! It would’ve been so easy to stay. (And more comfortable in many ways, as you’ll see from future posts.) Yes, the MT photos had me scratching my head, too! That was our life while making the tough decision…not a bad life! But no pics of cold, hard, gray skies. Wish I could get all of my favorite people down here, because you guys would be at the top of that list. I’m so glad that you appreciated my post, and thanks for reaching out! xo
Wow reading your blog is exactly what I think ever summer coming back home to Vancouver. I
Love the Mexican life and the beach and sun and all the colors, and the markets, but my family doesn’t get it and doesn’t get my free spirited way of life. They all live the cookie-cutter style life, which is nothing wrong with that, but it not me, and the guilt they throw my way sometimes gets too much. Congratulations to you and your beautiful family. See you in the fall at the markets! Have a great summer and enjoy every moment of it.
Christina, thanks for your reply. Funny lives we lead, eh? I’m sure our families have been equally curious about our decisions! Especially to have a baby here! Enjoy Vancouver, and if your family gives you any grief, maybe have them read my posts about Mexico. Might help? Can’t wait to see you and MJ back here in the fall!!