I awoke to a glorious Easter Sunday in Boise! Always a blessing to get up and greet the sun. We’ve had a winter that didn’t seem to want to end. There was snow just last Thursday.
Our minister told a packed house; “Anyone who likes to garden has faith. It is an act of faith to put a seed in the ground and look forward to it springing forth with new life.” Let’s get out there planting little sprouts to bring hope to ourselves and others.
Five years ago I would never expected to see police in uniform on duty with a bomb sniffing dog at church. Now we are getting to use to it. We had one at the Cathedral of the Rockies at Christmas too. This time the policeman was extremely kind to everyone and the gorgeous German Shepard was very photogenic. Fortunately, their presence was not needed.
We always buy flowers at Easter from the church youth group to help support youth mission trips in the summer. The pink and blue hydrangeas have thrived in my back yard. The one we go this year practically shouts, “Look at me!”
I buy the Calla Lilies in honor of my daughter Kayla, both the lily and Kayla have roots to China but grow well in Idaho. This year I am blessed to have both flowers and daughter grace my house with beauty.
This is the twenty-second year I have hidden Easter baskets, a family tradition. I will miss it when Kayla goes away to college, one more year of baskets. We learned this year with Scott home for a while that you are never too old to bite off the ears of a chocolate bunny.
My son is off to Seattle May first to expand his world and hopefully hunt down a good first job. We are all very excited for him. The purpose of parenthood is to raise children who can float by themselves. I will miss his good humor, beautiful photographs and noise around the house.
Our male tom cat, Satch, had a good Easter. He discovered a box in the house just his size, always a delight. The weather was perfect for cats to lay outside and soak up sun.
Easter is a time of new beginnings. May this year bring out the very best in you and your family. Thanks for reading.
My daughter is a high school junior. We have spent recent school breaks and long weekends touring colleges. I started this project with the concept that we are fortunate to have resources. We have saved enough in a 529 plan for Kayla to go to the University of Idaho and only be responsible for incidentals. Kayla is Asian. The last couple of years she has begun feeling the pressure of being a rare exotic flower in a sea of all white. She will frequently mention to me that we are once again in a room of Caucasians. Her father and I decided we needed to kick up our savings a notch to allow Kayla to attend an out-of-state school with a more diverse student population. My husband is 70 and still working and I am 66 and retired. Increasing the college fund actually means reducing our retirement savings. I realize these are the same trade-offs most families make but they probably have fewer resources and are at least 10 to 20 years younger.
Idaho is part of the Western Undergraduate Education program (WUE) which means that at participating schools, you do not pay full out-of-state tuition rather you pay instate times .5 This assumes the student has adequate test scores and grade point average. Kayla meets all the achievement criteria. Kayla has toured Montana schools twice. They don’t offer better diversity than Idaho. Montana is, however, slightly more liberal. Montana schools’ tuition aligns with Idaho’s. We have also toured Nevada-Reno, more diverse and a brand new campus purchased by large donors, demonstrating money makes such a difference. UNR is in a price range with Idaho slightly more diverse but not as academically well-rated.
Kayla has always wanted to go to Colorado State. We attended an immersion program over President’s weekend and she was delighted. I was a little less delighted because the in-state tuition and room and board is topping out at $100,000. The WUE tuition is $125,000, significantly above our slight bump-up in tuition. As the financial aid officer was reviewing costs, one mom started crying in the back. She asked, “What if my daughter can’t meet achievement scores?” The financial aid officer suggested loans. I was satisfied we could probably make this work by increasing our savings the next 2 years and continuing to pay for Kayla’s college costs the next four years (mind you my husband will be 76 and I’ll be 72 when we get Kayla through school). I said to the financial officer as I was walking out door, “If we come up with $125,000, this will fund 4 years at CSU for my daughter?” He says, “Probably not, with inflation the cost is more likely to be $140,000.” That sum of money is about the same amount as we sold a 3 bedroom rental house in Meridian last year. It was a number that made my heart sink. We are too well off to qualify for any type of financial assistance. I don’t expect the public to be paying for my daughter to go to a state school. But I do think that public colleges are too expensive. As my husband says, our tours have made the University of Idaho look like a great value. CSU rates slightly better than U of I on academic criteria but not substantially better for almost twice the cost.
We are now taking a spring break to tour California schools. I call it our fantasy land tour. I have three girls with me including my daughter. One has a trust fund and can afford to go to any school she can get into. One is having trouble funding her meals on the trip though she has excellent grades. I am paying for everything but food. We are staying in hotels where breakfast is provided so she only needs to cover lunch and dinner. She asked to come on the trip because she has never been to California. I am sure she will probably qualify for financial aid but not enough for the high cost of California schools. Then there is my daughter. We think she should be somewhere with high academic standards and where diverse populations are welcoming and abundant (sounds like California to me). But when we looked with my son six years ago, there was a gap of $60,000 annually between the scholarship he received and the cost of the school where he wanted to go. We said we wouldn’t pay it and he ended up at Idaho. He has graduated now and we are hopeful a college education will help him land in the middle class as it did my husband and I. But I don’t know that for sure. He has yet to land a job on the west coast where he wants to go for the same reason my daughter wants to go out of state, more diversity and more liberal thinking.
What I do know is if upper class, highly educated professionals find the cost of education daunting it must be terrifying for most families. I think we need a well-educated workforce. To achieve that, college needs to be accessible to most people. That means public universities need to have a reasonable tuition for the middle class. I don’t agree with Bernie Sanders that college should be free for everyone. But I do understand why his message resonated with college students trying to make their way through school while studying, working, and carrying large loans. I think public colleges need to be affordable. If that means, my husband and I pay more taxes to make that happen so be it. We need a workforce of the future that is well-trained, creative, and not dragged down by debt.
“Every day is a journey and the journey itself is Home”
(Matsuo Basho, Japanese Poet 1600’s)
There are approximately 11 million people living in the United States illegally. The question is not so much how did they get here but why did they get here and why historically have we offered these individuals a home. We have invited many people to come to our country and serve in positions that we are unwilling to take. I heard an Idaho Dairy farmer on public radio before the election say he was voting for Trump. The farmer employs illegal workers, Mexicans, who have been in Idaho working on his farm for many years. When asked about Trump’s plans for deportation, the farmer explained that Trump wasn’t talking about removing his workers; Trump was talking about removing the criminals.
A Wall Street Journal article, March 4th , 2017 entitled “Time Makes Migrants of Us All” argues that in a global economy rapid change means that at some point in time, even if we never travel afar we will feel foreign. This week, I was visiting with several older women who were discussing how difficult it is for them to keep their computers up to date and how stymied, frustrated and panicked they feel when their computer isn’t working. My attorney recently had his office flooded by Idaho’s ongoing winter. Removing the water and remodeling his office has totally disrupted his work flow. My kids laugh at me when I refer to “The Google” or the snappychat (still a foreign entity to me but certainly a prime purchase on the stock market last week).
If we take a longer historical view and accept that we are all on life’s journey together than we are all immigrants forging our way forward towards a new future. We all came to American from somewhere. I read an article this fall about the drama in our DNA. If we really analyze our DNA and look at human development through the ages, human evolution is a scientific soap opera. The drama of human history revolves around climate waves of decimating cold and surging heat. History includes killer romances. Humans and Neanderthals apparently had love affairs in which the human DNA proved toxic to the Neanderthals. Interbreeding proved a disaster for the Neanderthals who never recovered decimating the race in the course of millennium. Humans went on to become stone tool makers, who were also artists (40,000 years ago).
We moved from hunting and gathering to farming in the Fertile Crescent, planting crops and domesticating animals. We learned to digest milk and metabolic fats. We got taller, developed lighter skin and eyes in the colder climates. Leprosy and TB emerged and threatened us as did the plague and flu. We are all carriers of this genetic history. The fact that we are here means that our ancestors were survivors. Among us today 2% of us have DNA that goes all the way back to those Neanderthals who we wiped out 50,000 years ago. Their genes are still with us.
A rudimentary look at my own family tree suggests many opportunities for diversity. My son is a fifth generation Wyomingite. My great grandfather moved to Wyoming territory as a miner. His tiny one-room mining cabin in the Snowy Mountains still isn’t accessible by road even in the summer. Hard to believe that a mountain man living high in the Rockies by himself didn’t do some womanizing at some point in time. He later became a railroader when the Union Pacific came through Wyoming, served on the first territorial legislature, and eventually killed himself. No one ever said why. His wife took to traveling all over the nation by train. My grandmother and grandfather were both highly educated for the time. Grandmother was one of the first classes of women to graduate from the University of Wyoming. My grandfather held an engineering degree from the University of Michigan and served as Wyoming’s first Highway Engineer. On the surface, our Wyoming lineage looks extremely homogenous, Caucasian builders of a new state but just like Thomas Jefferson’s family, I can’t swear there aren’t other branches that are more colorful than we are.
My dad’s family is even more likely to have a dramatic history. He grew up in South Carolina on a plantation that was downsized by the time I was young. The big house remained but the land had been sold off and other houses built around it. My grandmother still had “colored” help (her terminology in the early 1950’s). I don’t think my grandmother ever learned to cook. The history of long-term southern families is thwart with secret interracial mixing. I can’t image that ours is not the same. I have an adopted daughter from China and my sister has an adopted daughter of Mexican/Native American descent. So if the historical roots of our tree are not diverse, the new leaves are bright indeed.
When we as a country talk about sending people home, maybe we should first think about where our home is. I don’t mean our literal home but where did we come from in history. Where would we be now if our ancestors had been sent home or couldn’t develop the genetic structure to continue forward? Even in our life time, are we not all immigrants in the new global high tech world? Have we not had to learn a new languages to dwell among the ever evolving technology.In this life time, have we not journeyed far from the party-line rotary dial telephones and manual typewriters to the new frontier virtual reality?
Is my home Ashtree Way, Boise, Idaho, the United States, the world, the 21st century, or all of the above?
In 1988, “Gorillas in the Mist” was a big hit. I went with my boyfriend, now husband-Pete, and our friends, Teri and Jack. The movie is the true story of naturalist Dian Essey, protector of hunted gorillas. Blood is featured prominently throughout as gorillas are hunted for cash, gorgeous animals with huge hearts attacked for no reason, their hands sold as ash trays. Essey lived and died among these rare creatures. The last scene is especially bloody. Essey’s throat is cut. Viewers see the knife slice and blood dripping from her neck. Her assailant is never identified.
As we stood up to leave the movie, I realized I could not speak. Unbeknownst to me, the movie had touched some hidden well-spring releasing a huge surge of darkness that engulfed my senses. The only two bright spots were: 1. I knew something was terribly wrong and 2. I was surrounded by supportive friends. By morning I was able to talk but dark shadows were still hovering like ghostly cobwebs in the corners of my mind. I would not wish that catatonic blackness on anyone. I understand some people can’t surface on their own towards the glimmering light of reality as I had. Trapped in that blackness for a significant period of time, I would find the experience unnerving, unbearable and ultimately unlivable.
While the initial depressive episode was almost 30 years ago, I was reminded of the experience this week while visiting Wyoming friends in Colorado and Arizona. While I was in Colorado, my friends Teri and Jack drove down from Cheyenne to see me. We laughed about our many shared good times, i.e. Like when their cat, Tiger, stole the pork roast, bigger than he off the table as we were sitting done to eat. We don’t talk about how I couldn’t get to their wedding in Jackson even though Pete was the best man because I was struggling to keep the darkness at bay and wouldn’t travel for an extended period of time. I had lunch in Phoenix with my dear friend, Holly. During my mental health struggles I would camp out on Holly’s couch for the night to make sure I wasn’t alone. Excellent counseling, medication, funds to pay for it, and a strong support system of friends helped sweep my blackness away though I still watch for triggers, such as no depressing movies. I am always thankful for the light.
My friend Holly in Arizona
Jack and Teri in Wyoming
I have been planning a spring break trip to California for my daughter and her friends to tour universities the last couple of weeks. She wants to go because her brother and his friend made the trek with my sister and I six years ago. The circumstances of that trip were very different than the one we are contemplating now. When I planned the trip in 2011, I didn’t know the challenges we would face. The week we were to leave I received a call from the friend’s father. He told me his wife had killed herself the night before while the family was in the house. I told him we would the cancel the trip but he insisted we go.
Right after the mom’s funeral in a Boise Episcopal church filled with Juniors in high school, we started out to California. We wound our way down the California coast, touring Stanford, UCLA, Santa Clara and finishing in San Diego. We turned home driving through Yosemite. After the park, we drove straight home, a week away in La La land resulted in my son’s friend beginning to come to terms with his mother’s death. Understandably, he wanted to get home as quickly as possible. I was so pleased this December when my son’s friend, a first generation college graduate crossed the stage at University of Idaho. After such a tragic beginning to his college career, his success gave all of us in our family a spurt of joy.
Over the years, mental health issues have grabbed more of the spotlight. The Affordable Care Act(ACA/ObamaCare) now about to be repealed requires that insurers pay for behavioral health treatment at the same level as other medical services (the technical term is parity and insurance payment for mental health is a recent development). I am an example of the success of having access to resources. Unfortunately, treatment still carries a stigma unlike cancer and too many people can’t access appropriate care either because it isn’t available or they are unwilling to admit they need help. Idaho has one of the worst community mental health systems in the nation. Our suicide rate is too high. We can strive to do better as a state. As individuals, we can all be supportive friends to those in need. My friends kept me going when I was surrounded by darkness and despair. Thirty years later whenever I’m with them I bask in their light.
When I was 28 years old, I purchased my first home in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The home was tiny, 900 square feet on the main floor, 2 bedrooms, one bath with a one-bedroom, one bathroom, basement apartment complete with outside entrance of about 600 square feet. The purchase price was $27,000, a princely sum at the time for such a tiny piece of real estate. The big draw for me was the basement apartment. I had an executive job which required a lot of travel. I knew I could rent the apartment to airmen at Warren Air force Base. The house was only a couple blocks from the base. In fact over the years I owned Baby Blue, I only rented to two different young men. They obviously liked it and stayed for long periods of time. I never advertised to rent the apartment. I simply called the base and asked them to post a notice. The military personnel are great to rent to. If you have any problems with payment or destruction, you can simply follow-up with the base Commander. I never had any of these issues. Instead, I had a steady roommate, I never saw except to say, “Hello!” The agreement was that the renter would help with snow removal and lawn mowing for reduced rent.
I bought Baby Blue without consulting anyone. My boyfriend at the time broke up with me because he felt it didn’t show that I had a long term commitment to our relationship. My mother spent time explaining to me how difficult housing could be to sell and it could mean I was rooted to Cheyenne and/or singlehood forever. My boyfriend was probably right about my lack of commitment and mother was dead wrong. I think my mother’s real problem was that single women didn’t own homes of their own at that time. I purchased the house because my accountant had suggested it for tax reasons but more importantly I wanted pets. Identifying rentals that allowed pets was extremely difficult. I had a cat. As soon as I had my own place with a fenced yard, I got my first sheltie, Ginger Rogers.
When I bought the house, the outside was yellow and brown. The interior was carpeted in a magenta shag rug. There was flocked wall paper in the main bedroom that proved extremely difficult to remove with plaster beneath. Because the house was small, major changes were relatively inexpensive. I could do some of the work myself or beg others to do it for me. The first thing I did was paint the outside blue with white trim and added black shutters. The color and shutters remain to this day so that choice was obviously a good one. I’m sure it has been repainted many times in the 40 years since I first acquired Baby Blue.
I pulled out the shag carpet and reinstalled it in the basement apartment bedroom. I was lucky to discover beautiful hardwood floors throughout the upstairs. I talked my brother-in-law and a friend of his into installing a fancy European wood stove which remains to this day. I stripped all the wall-paper myself and did all the painting. I remember my mother came over one day only to discover me sitting on my bedroom floor, covered with plaster, glue in my hair, crying because the yellow I had picked out for the room was a horrible mustard shade instead of a bright sunshine yellow. My mom said, “Julie, it’s only paint. You can do it again.” Of course she was right. I learned a major lesson for all the future paint jobs I would do. Test small cans of paint first.
The kitchen was laid out strangely. One winter day when I was snowed in with a beau, he took a chain saw to the lower cabinets to make room for a rolling dishwasher. While the remodeling approach was impetuous and terrifying the end result was not too bad. It did, however, lead to another break-up. The next boyfriend helped me repaint the wood cabinets yellow and white and put on decorative wood molding and new hardware. Steadily moving through boyfriends, the final boyfriend helped me lay new flooring in the basement for the basement apartment. That boyfriend was a keeper. I’ve been married to him for 27 years. But then that is another rather long story. My husband and I dated for 10 years from when we met until we married.
I sold the house for about $40,000 (The County Assessor appraises it today at about $130,000). Obviously, I made a good return on my investment. I moved to another house in Cheyenne by myself. My next house was in a better neighborhood, all brick, larger, with an attached two car garage and a basement apartment. But I never loved it as much as Baby Blue.
I will always have fond memories of Baby Blue. Home ownership allowed me to assert my independence as a professional woman, provided a financial base from which to start investing since owning the home with a rental was cheaper than paying rent, allowed me to have pets who significantly improved my life and in the end allowed me to move up to the next home— following the American dream.
My husband and I talk about downsizing now. Our home is about 3200 square feet and worth a King’s ransom. If we ever downsize, it won’t be to get money out of the house because smaller houses closer to town in Boise are going for more than our house. Downsizing would be about the convenience of living small in walkable communities. Small homes are easier to maintain and not being in the suburbs appeals to my small town upbringing. For now, we are staying put until my daughter graduates from high school and my son finds a job (hopefully my son’s job hunt is successful before my daughter graduates next year).
I feel like I have one more adventure in me. I watch International House Hunters and fantasize about living in a tiny apartment with a balcony on the coast of Spain. Sometimes, I dream of buying an adobe house with land for a tiny horse in Sante Fe. For now Ashtree Way, folds its arms around all of us whenever we walk in the door. I have the same sense of being home as I did when I would walk into “Baby Blue.” Home truly is where your heart is.
I have an adopted Chinese daughter, Kayla who is now 17. We have been celebrating Chinese New Year sometime during the traditional two week celebration since she was a very small child to honor her heritage. Unlike New Years in the United States the Chinese date moves around from year to year. This year Chinese New Year began on January 27th (the eve of the lunar New Year) and ended with the Lantern Festival Feb. 11, 2017. We chose to celebrate with friends and family on Sunday, February 5th. We always go to a local Chinese restaurant, owned by a Chinese family to celebrate. This year we were greeted with a red menu with Chinese New Year specials in an almost empty dining room because of the Super Bowl. But because of our trip to Australia and the great skiing in McCall, we had to double book activities to get in our annual Chinese dinner (we saw the first half of the Super Bowl and recorded the last half. The two halves were like two different games).
Our dinner this year was both smaller and larger than we planned. Smaller because two of Kayla’s friends who usually join us along with my sister were sick. We had invited our neighbors down the street who have a Chinese daughter and have joined us before. Sadly,their family was smaller this year because the husband/dad, a big man with a big personality to match had died two weeks before. Our party was larger because our neighbors added in a third family with a Chinese daughter who we had not met before. Our final group included three beautiful Chinese girls, all adopted from orphanages as infants, and their families for a total of nine.
I brought along red envelopes with money for the girls. Red envelopes filled with fresh new bills are the traditional gift during the Chinese New Year celebrations. A red envelope bestows happiness, blessings and wishes for another safe and peaceful year. As we enter February, I have high hopes that we will have happiness and peace this year despite national divisions. I would be remiss not to give a “Shout out” to the 9th Circuit Justices for recognizing how important it is to allow people from far away to travel to this country when appropriately screened and carrying approved documents–a judicial blessing as we begin the New Year.
One-fifth of the world’s populations celebrate Chinese New Year. More than 200 million Mainland Chinese travellong distances for these holidays. Billions of red envelopes are exchanged. While our daughter and the other two Chinese girls celebrating with us that night are a minority in Idaho, Chinese make up the largest ethnic group in the world. Having a Chinese daughter and having visited China, has helped me understand that there are simply not enough Americans, no matter how well armed to take on the majority of the world alone. Globalization requires a commitment to understanding other cultures and learning to value the traditions of countries along with our own.
This year, the two week Chinese News Years celebration welcomed in the year of the Rooster. The Chinese zodiac has 12 animals representing different years. The year in which you were born is your zodiac animal. Kayla is a rabbit. Rabbits are frank, straightforward, ambitious, hard-working, but slightly reserved. Rabbits tend to be gentle, quiet, elegant, and alert; quick, skillful, kind, and patient; and particularly responsible. Female rabbits are pretty and pure of heart. These words definitely describe my girl.
My husband and son are dogs. Dogs are loyal and honest, amiable and kind, cautious and prudent. Due to having a strong sense of loyalty and sincerity, dogs will do everything for the person who they think is most important. These adjectives describe both my husband and son well.
My husband is a Fire Dog making him particularly intelligent, hardworking, and sincere. Anyone who knows, my husband knows these adjectives describe him to a “t”. At 70, he still gets up every morning at 6, heads out the door by 7 and returns home around 7 from the hospital where as a palliative care physician he has spent the day treating people who are dying or suffering from severe chronic pain. He doesn’t need to work but his work is his passion and defines who he is.
My son is a Wood Dog, sincere, reliable, considerate, understanding, and patient. My daughter would say these terms are a bunch of hooey when used to describe her brother. But one can always hope as he moves into the world of work he will demonstrate his “ good dog” qualities.
I am a tiger. People who know me would say the animal is a great characterization of me. I am known to be fierce, ambitious (before I retired) and sometimes off-putting with my strong opinions. Tigers are enthusiastic, brave, competitive, unpredictable, and self-confident. They are very charming and well-liked by others (some people who know me might not find me to be sooo charming). But tigers can also be impetuous, irritable, and stubborn. Believe me, my husband would say he has experienced the angry, impetuous tiger more than once in the 27 years we’ve been married.
At our house, we have four dogs, two cats, a rabbit and a tiger, quite an eclectic mix. I wouldn’t have it any other way. The Koziseks found blessings and joy in 2016 and I hope those gifts will extend into 2017. As I age, I realize how fragile life is and how we must celebrate together when we can.
Kayla is my adopted 17 year-old daughter from China. She came to America when she was 8 months old. She weighed 9 pounds, couldn’t sit up because she had been confined to a crib most of her short life and had no hair, head sheared to avoid lice. The poem below was written about her.
A small sprout transplanted from China,
you toppled out of the crib, raced out the door, dashed into sports,