Happy old year! As of today, 2017 is receding in the rearview mirror. But before it disappears completely, let’s check in with some of the people I wrote about last year.
In February, I wrote about Jalal Al Farttoosi, a barber who moved to the United States from Baghdad in 2010 after working as an interpreter for U.S. forces in Iraq. He bought a barber shop in Silver Spring, Md. In 2016, he traveled to Beirut to marry his Iraqi fiancee, Rasha, and then set about bringing her here.
Things hit a snag with President Trump's travel ban affecting several Muslim-majority countries. The visa process dragged on for months. Jalal's customers rallied to support him — sending him flowers and the names of immigration lawyers — and finally, in December, nearly 14 months after she'd filed for it, Rasha's visa was approved.
On a cold Saturday morning in early December, some of Jalal’s American friends went to Dulles International Airport to greet the couple after their long flight. It’s taking Rasha a little while to get used to our frigid weather.
In February, I wrote about the twist that Debbie MacDougall put on the old lemons/lemonade adage: When life handed her a messy divorce, she turned it into a humorous coloring book.
But Debbie’s “Divorce: The Comic Coloring Book” wasn’t the most unusual thing to come out of her failed marriage. The divorce had been dragging on for six years, ever since her ex’s attorneys noticed that the date a rabbi signed their marriage license didn’t match the date the marriage license was issued. Debbie’s ex argued that they weren’t really married at all.
The case crawled through the courts, and in November, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled 4 to 3 in Debbie’s favor. Things aren’t over. Debbie’s ex filed to have some aspects of the case reheard. That may happen in the court’s next session.
In the meantime, 2018 marks 20 years since Debbie lost her first husband to cancer. The anniversary has inspired her new book, out in February: “Can#*-: The Cancer Coloring Book.”
Wrote Debbie: “It was a natural choice, tackling another difficult subject to bring a little laughter and hope.”
In March, I wrote about Nicole Adams of Gaithersburg, Md., who dreamed of filling a Metro station with photos of cats. Nicole was inspired by Glimpse, a guerrilla marketing group in London that pioneered what it called the "cats-not-ads" concept. We're so bombarded with advertising images in public, wouldn't it be nice just to look at kitties?
Nicole set up a Kickstarter campaign to raise the $30,000 it would take to fill a Metro station with cat photos. Alas, she raised only $4,000.
“At first I was disappointed that it didn’t go through, but at the same time I was glad that I got that far and was even picked as a ‘Project We Love’ with Kickstarter,” she wrote in an email. “What I learned was that maybe I should’ve done more to promote the crowdfunding.”
Nicole said she has something else up her sleeve, not involving Metro. Stay tuned.
In August, I wrote about a painting by artist Nancy Shanklin Werlich hanging in the Peabody Room of the Georgetown Neighborhood Library. It depicts an antiwar riot that shook the neighborhood on Oct. 2, 1970. Many of the figures in the painting seem as if they'd be identifiable. Librarian Jerry McCoy hoped visitors might drop by and recognize themselves.
“I’ve had several people come by to see it,” Jerry wrote in an email. “A couple of them were in Georgetown that night and were arrested. They even sent copies of their booking papers! I still hope to be contacted by any of the artist’s children.”
In September, I wrote about Michael Feshbach, the rabbi who two months earlier had moved from his Chevy Chase, Md., synagogue to head the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Then came two unwelcome visitors named Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.
It was 108 days before the Feshbachs got their power back.
“I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about the difference between need and want, desire and necessity,” Rabbi Feshbach told me.
It has been easy to get angry and frustrated over the past four months, he said.
“So this has been a great lesson: that people can rise to the occasion in wonderful ways, but that everyone needs to be understanding and compassionate in moments when other people are rude or annoying,” he said.
That sounds like something worth remembering in 2018.
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For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/people/john-kelly.