The Year I Was Bad at Blogging

I was bad at blogging this year. I used to try to blog every Sunday; this year, I posted a grand total of six times. SIX. In looking over those posts, I’ve also realized that I’ve left a ton out. Since I use this as a time capsule for myself more than anything else, it’s disappointing to know that this is kind of a lost year. Instagram fills in the holes somewhat, but it’s not the same as reading your own words and being able to see how your memories about a time have changed or stayed the same. So in this post, my last post of the year, I’m going to try to correct this lapse and fill in the holes of what happened this year. Grab yourself a glass of wine and settle in, because this is a long one.

There are no cats in America (and the streets are filled with cheese)

You might remember Baba and Dedo, our host parents in Vatasha when we first moved to Macedonia:

At our swearing in ceremony

After we left Macedonia, their daughter won the green card lottery! And after almost two years of paperwork, interviews, delays, and more paperwork, they finally came to America on the fourth of July. They moved to Chicago, and spent their first month in the states living with us. While it was a bit crazy to have so many people under our roof, especially because it was around the same time we were buying our new house, it was so much fun to get to introduce them to their new home. We were so lucky that another Peace Corps volunteer who had stayed with their family more than a decade earlier, Regina, lives in Evanston with her family during the summers; it was a true group effort to get the family off to a good start.

The whole process was a reminder of how much possibility there is in the US to make a new life for yourself. It was also reminder of how hard that whole process can be, and how many obstacles you need to overcome to even a achieve a basic level of self-sufficiency. I remember sitting at our dining room table with Frosina trying to figure out how to get them a city ID, and having no idea where to even begin. And I’m from here! And I speak English! And I have a Master’s degree! Just trying to get them a library card was a complicated process.

On top of all of the tasks to get the family settled, we also helped them file paperwork for their daughter to be able to come to the US. If you want a story of how broken and frustrating and genuinely unfair our immigration system can be, this is it. Marija was 19 when her family won the diversity lottery, and during this process your age is usually frozen to this date so that you don’t age out due to delays; children under age 21 are considered minor dependents. So everything was fine – the whole family, parents and three kids, would be coming to America. But when Trump came into office, one of the first things he did was put a temporary halt on all immigration proceedings. I still don’t know what happened in official terms, but I do know that the impact of this was to essentially unfreeze the ages of everyone in immigration proceedings. Because Marija turned 21 during this time, she was 23 days too old to be considered a dependent by the time their immigration interview took place, and had to stay behind in Macedonia. Because she isn’t married and doesn’t own property, she’s considered too high a risk to overstay her visa to even be allowed to come to the US as a tourist to visit her family. The process to find this out was both expensive (attorney’s fees, visa application fees) and heartbreaking.

On a more positive note, in the six months they have been in the US, it has been so amazing to see Bojan and Filip excel in school and adjust to life in a new country. Frosina and Goran have jobs with a company that treats its employees well, and are taking English classes at the local high school (where they are star students). They have an apartment in a great neighborhood in Skokie with nice neighbors from Bulgaria. I can’t wait to see what they do next!

We’re homeowners! And landlords!

On September 1st, we moved into our house! It has been a completely crazy four months since then, consuming much of our savings and our sanity. When the previous owner moved out, we discovered that the downstairs unit of our two-flat needed more extensive renovations than we’d planned, including a gut of the bathroom. And to have walls torn off and replastered. And to paint every. single. surface. of every room. On top of having the entire HVAC system in the house replaced. And then Kyle got deployed to North Carolina for two weeks to help with recovery from Hurricane Florence. We’re very lucky in that we found awesome, patient tenants who could wait to move in until the work was done, but it was still down to the wire – we ere installing the toilet as they were moving in. I’m super proud of our work though, and overall it has been a pretty smooth transition. Next on the fix-it list: tuck pointing the side of the house that leaks when it rains, and getting rid of the sparrows that live in the wall over our dining room window (I wish I was joking about this. Yay homeownership!)

You get a car! And you get a car!

Jelly Bean has been with us for five years, 60,000 miles, two and a half cross-country road trips, and everything in between. As reliable as she is, we decided it was finally time to upgrade. Power windows! Bluetooth! Heated seats! 600 miles to a tank! Yay new car! Name pending.

Our shiny new Hyundai Ioniq!

Accidental side hustle

My coworker Dee asked me to take her engagement pictures, and it was really fun! And then her friend liked them so much that she asked me to take hers too! I don’t have a lot of chances to do portrait photography (other than when I force Kyle and Abigail to model for me), so it was a cool change of pace. I don’t think it’ll be an actual business, but I may offer up my photography services more openly next year. I also officiated my first non-friend wedding this year! I’m still trying to figure out how much time and energy I want to devote to that, but it’s something I have so much fun doing that I hope to continue it next year too.

My mom retired!

After more than 20 years of teaching first grade, my mom retired and my parents moved to Williamsburg, VA. My grandpa sold his house in Las Vegas and moved in with them. We went to visit in August a couple of months after the big move, and I’m happy to report that they’re loving the east coast! They’re especially enjoying the deer and turkeys that they can watch from their back windows – definitely not something they could ever do in LA.

Other stuff

I walk/ran an 8k in 20 degree weather! This summer I played hooky from work and went to the beach by myself all day, and it was the most relaxed I felt all year and I should do it more often. Abigail started going to day camp and loves it. I got to go to DC for a work conference, and then to Minneapolis to see our friends Molly and John get married. We stopped in Eau Claire on the way home, which is a super cute town! I cooked my first Thanksgiving dinner in the new house – definitely going to need some more counter space when we get around to the kitchen remodel.

I basically swung into full adult hypermode this year, and it all turned out pretty well. On to 2019!

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