January 20, 2011
After keeping all of you (or some of you) in suspense we're now ready to share our big news, we have decided to return to Canada in this year of 2011.
It's unbelievable the amount of mental, creative and emotional energy that have gone into that one little sentence.
Many of you know bits and pieces of our plans already, for others it is fresh news. For all of you however, we’d like to share the story of this intended move. To make it easier to tell this story I’m borrowing the journalism technique of answering the following questions: What, Where, When, Why & How (the Who you already know - it’s us!)
We’re moving back to Canada - this I’ve already stated.
We plan to move to the Gaspé Peninsula of Quebec. Let’s have a visual shall we?
Our tentative move date is mid-May. The exact time depends upon finding tenants for our house.
Ah, now we can start actually telling a story. In one word we are moving for freedom.
How ironic considering the US is the land of the free and home of the brave... only if you are permanent resident or citizen. And there’s the rub. After eleven years of living in the US, paying taxes, contributing to our community and putting down roots we still are not permanent residents, except for the youngest two members of the family who were born here.
We applied for our permanent residency status, aka: green cards, four years ago and the waiting time is still another estimated two to three years, though it’s really anyone’s guess.
In the fall of 2009 we found out that the queue for processing our accepted application (ie: we’ve cleared the first phase but now we’re in line for the limited number of green cards they give out each year) had a four year backlog. Upon learning this we were crestfallen to say the least. Maine is home. This is the only home our children have known (or at least remember) and we love the farms, mountains, ocean and all around natural beauty of this state. This is where we had planned to stay.
So, if we like it so much what’s the big deal about waiting for our permanent residency?
Without those green cards our employment and ways we can provide for our family are very limited. As in, limited only to Damien’s sponsoring employer, the college where he works. They have been a wonderful employer and the job has been good to Damien and our family. However, we are not able to explore any other options for earning income at a time of life that we feel the need to do so.
Renee can’t earn any money from her writing, photography, soapmaking and other endeavors. Celine is unable to work odd jobs as she approaches her young adult years. Damien is limited as a provider to one job, one employer. He has no opportunity for pursuing other interests that might generate income (don’t all computer guys have some side gig?)
praying for guidance as we navigate our way through this
God has provided for all our needs and then some with Damien’s current job. It is not for the money making opportunities that we are moving but for the freedom to explore creative endeavors. To experiment with professional and personal development, pursuing our passions and interests as a family.
Our children are growing, the “baby” is eight and Celine is nearing twelve years old. We have dreams and plans for family life in this next stage of raising our children. We want to travel more, we want to thru-hike, we want to be together at home as a family - doing work we love with the freedom to explore all the opportunities and open doors that come our way. This is not possible in the United States without our permanent residency.
Basically we have limited freedom to experiment, create, explore and pursue what we want. This situation is no longer acceptable for our family. We either need our green cards (yesterday please) or we need to move.
And so we made the difficult decision the autumn of 2009, when we found out we had four more years of waiting, to move the year of 2011 if we didn't have our green cards by this time.
Our current working and dependent visas (paperwork that allows us to live and work here) expire this October. Our plan was to get all our ducks in a row to move by the summer of 2011 while we waited for an immigration miracle that probably wouldn't happen. And trust me, a miracle is needed when dealing with an unyielding bureaucracy like immigration and homeland security.
That brings the story to the present. No miracles, except for the daily ones of grace, forgiveness, laughter, food on the table and roof over our heads (and then some!).
There's two reasons we choose the Gaspé region of Quebec, even though we don't speak the dominant language:
Since moving to Maine we discovered a love, in Damien’s case he re-discovered a love - the mountains and hiking in them. Also since moving to Maine my parents moved out east after living their whole adult lives in western Canada (which is where Damien and I grew up). I moved far from my family once before (when we moved to New Jersey in our twenties) and simply could not do it again. Not in this stage of life where my mom is one of my best friends and Nana and Papa mean the world to the children (and vice versa).
Somedays we feel more like west coast folks. Our interests, the way we eat, our environmental ethic, very much of what we value and do is much more common on the west but we find ourselves in the east and are trusting God that we’re here for a reason.
So, last Christmas we scouted out the beautiful Gaspé peninsula and determined that yes, we could move there. The culture, natural beauty, outdoor opportunities and local agriculture are what we were looking for and the area is financially accessible.
And the fact that most everyone speaks French? Well that’s just an added bonus in this adventure!
On our two trips to the Gaspé last year we discovered that most people can speak English if you ask but our sincere desire and excitement is to learn a second language - an amazing opportunity for our homeschooling family.
To pull this move off we are relying heavily on God’s providence, and a bit of human creativity and a little parental support.
We can’t sell our home right now for what we owe on the mortgage (that darn market crisis) so we’ve decided to rent it out. We have always rented out the basement apartment and we live in a good area for renting. We have found a property manager who will be our eyes, ears and hands in Maine until such time as we can sell. This winter we will be doing some more work on the house and in early spring we plan to find a tenant.
As far as employment, much work remains to be done. Damien has been working on projects for months that have the potential to earn income once we move. These past few months has been focused on making connections and contacts, looking for the open doors that can lead to paid work when we move. Some opportunities are already in the works. Sorry to be so vague but many details remain to be resolved and we won’t really know how it’s going to all play out till we’re living it - in a couple months.
This summer we will move temporarily to my parent’s house in Nova Scotia because we will be without a home and without a steady job (and living on savings). Once we get the employment piece kind of figured out (which will be computer based, ie: we can live and work from anywhere we have an internet connection) we will make the move to Gaspé. Though I think my parents are hoping we’ll decide to build a little cabin on their property (smile).
I could write on and on about why we feel the need to move and what our plans are but the most important thing is this, we believe this move will be beneficial for our family and the time to do it is now. Even though we must uproot, make sacrifices, go through uncertainty and other challenges we have a goal, we have dreams, we have vision and the time has come to put our hearts into action.
You can be absolutely positive I will be blogging about this much more. It might dominate the scene for a while because this is family life right now - working, de-cluttering, packing, preparing.
I look forward to sharing the ups and downs of this journey (and trust me, there's been many of those already). But mostly I am excited about moving forward to create the life we want as a family.
sunset on the Baie des Chaleurs, Gaspe Peninsula
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