My Year in Review

2019-12-30 – Everyone does it at this time of year. When else would you do it? At year’s end. So here’s my review of 2019.

I started the year in a sort of crisis. But everything is a crisis when things are changing in your life. That’s the definition of crisis. My crises were minor in the scheme of things but they were turning points.

I came out of 2018 with my best bike riding year ever. But my perennial hypochondria was being poked by a vague something in my chest—pain is too serious a word to describe it. It was simply a vagueness. It wasn’t even enough to go to the doctor for. I went for a seasonal cough that was lasting too long (as they often do) and I vaguely mentioned the vagueness to the doctor.

To make a long-story short, my doctor sent me for a stress test, which revealed a vague imbalance, which ultimately led to a trip to the cardiologist and, in March, to a little angioplasty—one stent in some artery in my heart. Scary, but actually good news. No heart attack. They caught it before the blockage caused anything more than a vague feeling in my chest.

I didn’t ride my bike at all between January and March.

Starting in March I did cardio rehab (Phase II, whatever that means) three days a week, which was a good thing. I got to test my endurance while on monitors. The fact was, unlike many in the rehab class, I was actually in great physical shape. Sure, I had just had a clog cleared from the plumbing, but I rode over 3,000 miles in 2018. The muscle was strong.

So, once I got a few sessions of cardio rehab under my belt, I began riding again. My goal was to equal my 2018 mileage. And once that was passed, my “stretch goal” was to hit 3,650 miles (10 ´ 365 days). As of today, I’m at 3,373.9 miles for the year and, with the forecast I see, that’s going to be my total. Didn’t make the stretch goal, but did pretty good, considering that I was out of the game for a quarter of the year.

Crisis overcome.

The other crisis from last January wasn’t a crisis of threat, but was rather a crisis of opportunity. After years of inactivity, I had reactivated my law license in 2018. The plan was to do some volunteer work helping immigrants. It took a lot to get back on the rolls—lots of continuing education and lots of fees. But all that was behind me.

Then there was the project of finding a project. Connecting with a volunteer organization also took some doing. But, as of January, that was behind me, too.

So, In January, I went to a training session sponsored by the National Immigrant Justice Center. It was a snowy day when I went downtown for a few hours to learn about a program called the “U Visa.” This is a “nonimmigrant” visa that is available to immigrants who became victims of certain crimes after arriving in the United States. If they helped the authorities to investigate or prosecute the criminal, they have an opportunity to normalize their status here.

It’s a long and involved process. And, as I learned, it involves documenting two major ideas: first, that the immigrant client “suffered” from the crime; second, that it would be in the national interest to waive their undocumented entry into the country—in other words, that they are good people. Sour and sweet.

Because of my heart appointments, plus the need to set up the basic infrastructure of a “law office” for myself (a dedicated email address, a post office box, etc.) and find a Spanish interpreter, it took until April before I had my first client. As of today, I’ve filed three visa petitions. Because of the rules, I’m told not to expect resolution of these cases for several years. But it’s a start. It’s been a great experience working with these clients, learning about their struggles, and seeing them overcome their obstacles.

One of the interesting things about this work has been working with the interpreter. Without her, I could do nothing. But it is definitely frustrating as the client and the interpreter talk back and forth in a language that I can’t understand. So, for my birthday, in August, Kit got me Spanish lessons. And a week into it, she decided to join me. So we are now both learning Spanish.

Learning a language is really hard. I had some experience in learning Hebrew, but that was decades ago and not undertaken in any sort of urgent way. This time, I have more of a sense of urgency. No, I won’t be dispensing with an interpreter anytime soon. But I can start catching bits and pieces of their conversations. And already, I’ve been able to carry on, some side conversations with the clients in Spanish, when they arrive before the interpreter does.

My creative writing, this year, has taken a bit of a hit. This blog has become a sporadic thing. I wasn’t able to find a composer for the musical version of my novel, Cain’s Mother-in-Law, so I decided I had to go back and finish the novel once and for all—but, as of today, I still have a lot more to do. In the end it will be good that I digressed into musical theater land. I learned a lot about the structure of my story. But bringing those lessons back into the novel will probably take a few months. But my new year’s resolution is to finally finish the thing in 2020 and publish it—one way or another.

And I need to start sending my stuff out. Kit keeps telling me that. Okay. I’ll be doing that in 2020.

Before I sign off, I have two more things. One is the new dog. The other is living in the age of Trump.

The smart one is the dog. We got her in June from a rescue shelter called Felines and Canines. She is part Carolina dog and part Australian cattle dog. G’day. We’ve named her Rebe. (She came with a different name, but when we asked if it would be disruptive to change her name, they said she only had the name a few days, so it wouldn’t matter.) She was 8 months old when we got her. She’s now past a year.

We’ve gone to a lot of training sessions and, although she still has more to learn (or, I should say, we have more to learn), she does pretty well. A couple weeks ago, she earned her Good Canine Citizen award, which is apparently sponsored by the American Kennel Club, so it is actually a thing. I never heard of it before. Next week we start another training session.

Unfortunately, there is no training for the President of the United States and no Good Presidential Citizen award for him, even if you could get him to sit for the lessons. (Sit, Trump. I have a treat for you. Rollover. Go to your bed. Heel.)

Fortunately, for those of us who have to live through this period of time, there are some opportunities to test your good citizenship. In 2018, I participated in a campaign to flip a nearby congressional district from red to blue and we won! He took office in 2019 and has been doing a pretty excellent job, so far. This year, of course, my immigration work has taken precedence. It’s been too early for 2020 (though I have written some register-to-vote letters) and there’s been too many candidates. In September, an opportunity came up to possible become a delegate for the 2020 democratic nominating convention, so I applied to be a delegate for Elizabeth Warren. I didn’t get a slot. But as long as her campaign continues, I expect to be a volunteer. And, since I won’t be a delegate, I will likely work on a congressional campaign in the new year, but I’m not sure what, yet.

So that’s my year. See you next year.

(Oh yeah, I continued with my guitar lessons at the Old Town School of Folk Music. But that’s not new, just a continuation of previous years.)

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