Reflections on 2016

2016 was my first full year of retirement. Over the 2016, my top ten best memories are:

024
Loosing 10 lbs is like dropping this cat off my waist.

10:Meeting  my two personal goals for the year,  writing  a weekly blog and  working  out regularly.  I managed to achieve both of these, posting  78 blogs with 2,782 views and 1639 viewers and loosing ten pounds along the way.  For 2017, I have the single goal to loose 10 pounds more.  I remind myself that my goal is the same as dropping my white cat Angel off my waist.

9: Growing my hair long for the first time in more than 30 years. I was able to compete with my son this summer in the man bun/mom bun contest. At a Christmas party, someone asked my sister for the name of her daughter (me).  Fortunately, my sister has a good sense of humor and this made both of us laugh uproariously.  My older sister, Jane, was my idol growing up and remains so today.  I am three years younger than she. I have found people do view women with long hair as younger.

249
My long hair and sister with Mrs. Claus.

8: Taking up a new hobby, paper mache which I have now renamed paper sculpture. Late summer and early fall, I made whimsical cats, dogs, and angels, a statue of Trump and a Boo-tiful Witch scarecrow all of which amuse me.  Along the way I raised a few dollars for charity. In 2017, I will be developing stories for my creations and working on showcasing them better.  I am planning on making cats with cowboy hats.  My productions may be called “Cowgirl Ugly”.

Paper scupltures.jpg
My paper mache collection, sent across America for Christmas.

7: My pets continue to amaze and amuse me. I was so thankful when Violet, my rat terrier, was returned after she was stolen this summer by a marijuana dealer from Oregon.  But since her return, she has transformed again to her Devil Dog ways.  I have to remind myself sometimes that I felt really, really, sad when she was gone.

20160925_125347
Violet, the devil dog at home

6.I have volunteered helping refugees learn English and been blessed to see how much we have in America from the eyes of someone who has just gotten here. I sometimes forget that I have coats for rain, wind, snow, and fashion. My car rolls out of my warm garage when I go to tutoring while some of the people I tutor have come by an undependable public bus system in inclement weather. They always seem to be so pleased to be in America and have the chance to better themselves.

5: I have had the opportunity to travel to Mexico, Canada, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Hawaii.   I always enjoy these adventures but I love to walk in the door at Ashtree Way and feel the warmth of a home filled with love and kindness.

4: I find great joy in my friends who live both in Boise and far away.   In 2017, I hope to get to Colorado, Wyoming, Portland, and Arizona to see friends.  My best days in retirement are when I have Bible Study, lunch, coffee, or  a project scheduled with someone I hold close to my heart.

3: My son graduated from college. Living in a state where only 1 in 10 students graduate from college, it has been wonderful to have him beat the odds.

2: My family and I stayed healthy. As I  age, I am glad to wake up every morning and get out of bed. I struggle with some chronic conditions, particularly my declining ability to stand for any period of time but I can still walk, swim, dance and bicycle.  I enjoy any day where I am able to move in the out of doors.

1: I have had the opportunity to be married to my husband for 27 years and have a kind, smart adult son and strong-will, brilliant, beautiful 17-year-old daughter. We are an inter-racial family. My daughter was adopted as an infant from China.  In a country where race has become divisive, I am pleased to let you know that it makes absolutely no difference to the heart and should make no difference in our politics.  Our family loves each other fiercely through good times and bad.  We have shared many small and large moments of joy this year. We never consider race to be a factor in who we are. We are simply the Robinson/Kozisek Family.

Wishing you the best in 2017 from Boise, Idaho

281
Julie, Scott, Peter, and Kayla at Scott’s graduation from the University of Idaho, December 10, 2017

 

Top Ten Worst Christmas Gifts in 2016

Now that Christmas has come and gone, I can turn my investigatory energies to more important obsessions  (other than politics) such as identifying 2016 strangest Christmas gifts. We teach our children that these gifts are made at the North Pole but we all know they come from China.  Rather than being produced by happy, elves dressed in green and red felt, paid with nothing but a smattering of magic dust and Christmas cookies, these items  are probably produced by abused child workers, violating ever American labor law and  paid by the piece rather than by the hour. This is why Americans are squabbling about the renewal of Asian-Pacific trade agreement and not a North Pole  agreement combining  fines for melting icebergs because of Santa’s unregulated energy use with a  tariff on flying sleighs bringing untaxed goods into the country.

sarah-palin-gunThe proposed North Pole agreement would be easy to enforce because Sara Palin could be appointed Nordic ambassador and provide enforcement services from her Alaskan front porch, pulverizing those pesky elves  with buck shot when they tried to slip into the US in search of our highly coveted minimum wage jobs on dairy farms and in  fast food joints.

I waited until after Christmas to release this list because I wanted to save my friends the agony or ecstasy of choosing the appropriate gift  for their worst enemy. P.S. I understand from Santa that President-Elect Trump got one of each item on the list in his stocking this year.  Trump was hoping for lumps of newly mined coal given his promises to restart America’s coal industry but Santa wanted to reward  Obama’s strategy to ban offshore drilling in the Artic and Atlantic so this year Santa handed out pinwheels with blades saying “Support alternative energy” to those who had been naughty.  Santa’s failure to leave all the naughty businessmen a sock full of coal may result in a coal shortage among billionaires, which could further the stock market’s zeal for fossil fuel but it is too early to tell.

Top Ten Worst Christmas Gifts in 2016

handrapants10.Handrapants: These fingerless gloves (designed to look like men’s tidy-whities) are a perfect gift for anyone with fixation on being touched by real human hands but still wanting to be able to engage in real world activities. I actually own a pair of fingerless gloves that I find quite handy (please excuse the pun) but they are suede with a gorgeous fur muff around the fingers.  The men’s brief design for fingers must meet  some sexual  fantasy of where the hands want to go.

wowwee9. WowWee: Chip is an interactive dog robot, programmable to a special watch (included). Chip will greet you at the door, follow you around, play with a programmed plastic ball and has a strange low woof for such a small dog. Chip doesn’t need to go outside, be fed, bark at guests, and tear up panties or the other assorted novel character traits of a real dog. He recharges himself during the night ready for the next day without having to be let outside or taken for a walk.

unicorn-farts-cotton-candy-38. Unicorn Farts: These are bags of cotton candy. As I understand the design concept, while you can’t see human farts but you can see people, in this case you can’t see unicorns but you can see and actually eat their farts. Clever indeed and to provide further incentive for purchasing these tasty treats 10% of the proceeds go to a children’s charity.

 

poop7. Poop Like a Champion: This is a cereal for those of us old enough to remember the advertisements for “Breakfast of Champions” Wheaties but now find our digestive system is a little slow. The advertisement for this cereal is “Number 1 high fiber cereal for number 2s”. Imagine going through all the effort to receive a  marketing bachelors degree  and your first job assignment is to create slogans for a cereal that provides the pinnacle of pooping performance. The cereal is currently sold out after a pre-Christmas rush (please don’t let you mind wander in the direction of that pun).  Kudos to that new marketing graduate, you exceeded everyone’s wildest dreams, possibly because of a constipated electorate in all the Blue states. But don’t despair, if you need an extra push in the bathroom, you can load up for the New Year with a 25% off coupon and emailing your name in to be wait listed.

small_chihuahuas6.Wonderwoof:  This is an activity tracker bowtie for your dog.  You and your dog can begin a new healthy life style in the New Year. Designed in stylish colors such as baby blue, red, orange, teal, pink, black, grey and for an extra $9.95 you can add designer bands to match your outfits. Before Christmas a tracker was a $100.  Unfortunately, these guys didn’t sell out . You can now own one for $65.  If you live in a big city and hire a dog walker, these little gizmos are for you.  They are particularly helpful if you are paranoid imagining your highly paid dog-walker lazing around your high rise apartment sipping a latte from your cappuccino machine rather than out marching Fido around Central Park.  One dog walker in New York reports taking 40 or 50 dogs for walks 5 days a week, spending about 25 hours a week  and making about $110,000 a year.  Take that you lowly U of I graduate starting out at best around $45,000 as a professional in Idaho. My advice, if you need Wonderwoof for Fido, you should probably consider trading in your dog and getting WowWee for Valentine’s Day.

cockroach5.Giant Inflatable Cockroach: Almost 6 feet by 6 feet and a foot deep, this ugly guy can either scare people out of your highly sought after swimming pool or provide a lovely floatation device for someone large enough to cover most of it. The roach’s legs hang out in any possible scenario. I have to admit to an aversion to cockroaches of any size. When my husband went to medical school the only apartment he could afford was roach infested.  We had to buy dozens of tiny roach hotels to strategically place around the apartment in hopes one would stop by for a visit and be terminated.The Inflatable cockroach was judged the “best new inflatable toy for summer 2016″ suggesting to me that America needs to find new designers for pool toys.

toliet-bowl3:Toilet Bowl Dog and Cat Fountain: If your pets like to drink out of your toilet and this grosses you out, this gift is for you.  Shaped just like a toilet only smaller,  the tank provides fresh water on as-needed gravity basis.  Also works well for improving the self-image of height-challenged dogs, like dachshunds, which have always wanted to drink out of the toilet but couldn’t reach it.

creamed-possum2.Creamed Possum in a can for holiday dinner: This holiday treat is also sold out but may be available in time for the Super Bowl and Presidential Inauguration . A red neck staple, this tasty treat includes Canned Creamed Possum with Coon Fat Gravy, garnished with Sweet Potatoes! Guaranteed to be made with only the freshest road-kill available

 

1.Trump Matryoshka (Hand-crafter Russian nesting dolls): These dolls were a rush order after the election. On the largest doll is a likeness of Trump wearing a surprised expression and holding a sign “The Apprentice and you’re hired!”. Inside is Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson holding his 2013 Russian Friendship award and waving an ExxonMobil flag. Beneath Tillerson is President Trump’s strategic advisor, Stephen Bannon in a Prince of Darkness costume. All three larger dolls cover a tiny replica of Russian President Putin, wearing a Cheshire cat smile and holding a sign “Russia Wins!”. These dolls sold out quickly to the alt-right. Plans are to have them mass produced after the inauguration. Right wing enthusiasts are anticipating a juggernaut in sales in the New Year as part of the new administration’s focus on economic development and new trade alliances.

 

The Longest Night

295But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31.

Wednesday, December 21, is the Winter Solstice-the longest night of the year. My church celebrates the longest night to acknowledge and sooth some of the pain, sorrow; grief and darkness many of us have suffered or are currently suffering during this holiday season.

For some this grief is raw, a death of someone young or in their prime, a shocking loss with no good-byes. This grief is a vise on the heart, the pain sometimes so severe breathing is difficult.  There are softer but still lingering losses for others. The pain of putting down a dog who took you on walks every day and won’t be there tomorrow to greet you. The cat who slipped through your legs one night and never returned home. Some loss is hard to explain to others but still bittersweet for you; the death of the beloved ancient oak tree whose shade made your west facing backyard bearable in summer. You know you won’t live long enough to have the same shade at your house again. Or maybe the pain is just beginning because you have learned you or a loved one has some condition that will keep them from spending another Christmas with you. You celebrate shared joy today but dread the year ahead and feel the small kernel of coming loss beginning to grow deep within.

My mother died 30 years ago, a week after Christmas. She suffered from a rare liver condition which both my sister and I have genetically inherited. As her liver failed her, she turned an odd sinister yellow, her face and feet bloated, her skin stretched like a balloon with too much air. When some small part of her liver was working, she knew us and except for her distorted appearance, she could joke with us and share memories of better times. But over the course of her 18 month decline, these moments of lucidity became less frequent. The poisons seeping from her non-functioning liver gave her dementia. She would think I was her mother, that my father was her daddy. Just when I would get used to the new reality of my lost mother, she would reclaim a piece of herself and know me again. On her last day, she knew everyone and told us how much she loved me. I went to a basketball game planning on moving her home in the next few days. This was before cell phones and by the time I got back to her room from the game, her bed was empty and new people were moving in.

Because we are blessed (or possibly my mother would have said cursed) with financial resources, my dad and I took mom to Denver to specialists and then to Omaha to see if she was a candidate for a liver transplant. These were early days in the transplant world. We had to put up $100,000 just to be seen in Omaha. We got the funds back because she didn’t qualify. But it was a lesson to me about the differences in treatment in this country based on income. As we waited to see if mom physically qualified for the surgeries; other younger  qualified liver candidates with young children waited to see if they could raise enough money in their communities through bake sales and other events, carefully orchestrated by the hospital to pay for the operation.

Mom didn’t want to do anything to extend her life. She would ramble on about “wanting to go where the angels sing and the flowers bloom.” During this period she would have us read Isaiah 40:31 to her two or three times a day. We flew her home from Omaha on a private plane a few days after Christmas and she died soon after.

I carry a piece of her around in my heart but her soul has flown free. In her illness, she knew more about God and spirituality than my sister, father and I combined. Sometimes, it is a gift to let go of the person you love. Extraordinary measures to keep a loved one alive are often for the family not for the one who is suffering. Thirty years ago she was lifted on the wings of eagles, soaring joyfully to sing with her beloved angels. She was just about my age.

Now when I pray for those in need, I visualize them being lifted up on eagles’ wings by the Lord’s enduring spirit. As I age, my Christmas card list shrinks as friends and family pass. My father died 10 years ago, my step mother last Christmas. I grieve their passings but take joy in their memories.

Weeping lasts through the night but joy comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5-6

sunrise

 

Dogs of Hell on Rampage in America

dog1The Dogs of Hell were trained Rottweilers, who escape a military compound and terrorized al small town in a cult movie of the same name (1982).  Replicating the actions of these fictional canines, the most racist, bigoted Americans have been unleashed by Trump’s unlikely Presidential win to terrorize people of color, the LBGT community and other vulnerable individuals.

Previously suppressed by societal norms and national leaders committed to inclusion and diversity, the day after the surprise win by Mr. Trump, these marauding dogs began shredding our fragile web of political correctness. The real face of the ugly American is now in full view. Apparently, I have been living in a fantasy world believing that we were slowly eradicating these attitudes but I have discovered to my chagrin that our progress in the area of inclusion is  an extremely fragile safety net loosely tethered by a web of civil rights laws, court decisions and public civility.

These Dogs have previously been muzzled by the broader community’s values. muzzled-dog The Dogs’ attacks after the recent election have taught me that bigotry is flourishing in this country in hidden places like  mold spores invisible to the naked eye, thriving in dark moist environments. The election provided the necessary well spring for an explosion of white backlash.

These dogs are even rampaging in Boise, Idaho. Last week, they wrote “Nigger!” as graffiti near our Black History Museum. My family was horrified when I used the “N” word at the dinner table describing the incident.  My daughter scolded me and said, “Never use that word again!” I would like to comply; but the only way to grasp the harshness of these attacks on the population they are intended to traumatize is to speak truth. The “N” word does not capture the abuse and rebuke inherent in this demoralizing word  scribbled in large letters in plain view for the sole purpose of causing pain.

The lone black female in the Idaho Senate, told me this graffiti is not an isolated incident. She described to me the experience of a two black children playing outside in Boise being accosted by white adults the day after the election and being told; “We can kill you and your parents, now.”

My sister tells of the Asian man she knows, born and raised in Caldwell, Idaho (a town of 50,000, 25 miles west of Boise) who has never experienced discrimination in Idaho. Last week a car driving by him, rolled down the window and an invisible male voice shouted, “Go back to where you came from!” The fact that this man would be returning to Caldwell would be amusing if it weren’t so horrifying.

These are just a few incidents from Idaho, a small, almost exclusively white, homogeneous state. We are generally pro guns but peace abiding. Imagine the power of this unfettered hate in larger cities with more diversity and opportunity to choose “We” versus”They”.kinghallgraffiti

post-truthThe Oxford Dictionary has named “post truth” as the 2016 word of the year. The word describes a culture in which an individual’s decisions are based on appearances, frequently generated by incorrect or deliberately false social media postings, not on facts.  I am fascinated and nauseated by our “post truth” world.  In our current political milieu, the Dogs of Hell can become vicious overlords of the most vulnerable. Made up stories of Muslim attacks lead to hatred of innocent neighbors.  Women wearing head coverings, symbols of respect for their religion, are suspect.

The trial of Dylann Roof is currently in the news. He is the white young man who joined a black Bible study group at Emanuel African Methodist Church, Charleston, South Carolina and ended up killing nine church members (2015).  He has been quoted as saying he, “wanted to ignite a race war.”  Roof’s actions resulted in public outcry, prayer vigils and persecutors seeking the death penalty.  He failed in his revolution.

Unlike Roof, if not restrained, the Dogs of Hell are capable of phenomenal harm to our constitutional rights. This election, we, the people, have unleashed violent forces of hatred in America.

As Christmas approaches, as Christains let us not just pray for peace on earth as if we are speaking of some distant land. We need to pray for peace in small town Idaho and other parts of America. We must actively engage our spiritual communities and push back the forces of hate which are spreading dark clouds of fear over our land.

 

Best Things to do on the Big Island in Winter

20161126_161724Volcano National Park: Plan an entire day including the round-trip drive from Kona or stay in the park at Volcano House.  The active lava lake spewing red fire creates fine strands of golden fiberglass, called Pele’s Hair, after the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes. They’re formed when lava is ejected into the air and small droplets are caught by the wind, which then cools and stretches them into very thin strands.  This melted gold is breathtaking to see and touch but be careful it can cut your hand.  Touring an active volcano is a good reminder that earth is always changing by forces outside human control.  Be sure to take a tour with a ranger to have a better understanding of man’s relationship to nature.  Before man brought predators to the islands, large birds and flora were the only inhabitants.  Our ranger described how the birds became large and flightless because of the lush vegetation.  Imagine a five foot tall owl greeting you as you walked the rainforest.

Hawaiian Tropical Botanical Gardens (near Hilo): The flora in this garden is absolutely stunning.  The pathway winds through a rain forest, past water falls to the ocean.  If you are lucky, you will be caught in a rain storm providing a sense of why everything stays so green. This garden reminded me of Mother Nature gone wild with her paint brush.  The number of exotic flowers and colors was astounding.

When you go to the Gardens, make a quick stop by Rainbow Falls in Hilo. This is a state park, no fee and the falls are right by the parking area.20161125_160808

Honokohau Settlement and Kaloko-Honelieh National Historical Park: This is a national park and takes either your Golden Eagle pass for entrance or $5.00 a car.  Once a thriving Hawaii settlement (1200 A.D.) the park provides remnants of the past including a massive wall surrounding a long ago demolished palace, a place of worship, wood carvings of Gods and individuals re-enacting activities from the period.  We saw a man in a loincloth making rock tools.  We also saw live sea turtles on the beach.

A short walk away is Honokohau Boat Harbor. There is only lava to sit on but the area provided the clearest blue waters and most variety of fish for snorkeling of all the places we stopped to snorkel.

20161122_163454Akaka Falls State Park:  There is a short loop walk to see amazing falls in a tropical rainforest setting. Cost of entry is $5 per car to park in the lot at Akaka Falls State Park or $1 for walk-ins (if you park on the side of the road outside of the park boundary). The 0.4-mile loop trail to the waterfalls is paved, although there are some stairs. Plummeting 442 feet, it’s easy to see why Akaka Falls is one of Hawaii’s most famous waterfalls. A viewing area includes protective railings so that you don’t fall over the edge while capturing the waterfall’s slender but powerful plunge into a gorge created by years of erosion. My kids had fun doing pictures for snap chat of the falls going into their open mouths.

Waipi’o Valley Lookout: On the way to Akaka Falls stop at the Waipi’o Lookout. Take the time to view “The Valley of the Kings”  at the end of the Hamakua Heritage Corridor. Once an important site for Hawaiian history and culture, it’s also a place of dramatic tropical beauty. I could feel a sacred spirit surrounding me when I viewed the gorgeous valley.20161122_142250

Beaches: We spent three days visiting various beaches up and down the Big Island Coast line. As my son remarked, “The best beach is relative.” At one beach, there were shady trees, gentle water lapping on the shore and children building sand castles. At another we had to drive over lava in a four wheel drive vehicle and hike to a length of white sand with life guards because the surf was rough.  Guide books can describe the various attributes of the beaches to you but the ones you like best will depend on what you like to do sun, surf, snorkel.  The water at all of the ones we visited were glorious variations of blue and  the temperature of the water warm.  All Hawaiian beaches are open to the public.  The government of Hawaii has done a good job of providing clean rest rooms and showers where ever practical.

Kona Coffee: Kona is known for coffee and there are many places to take free coffee tours.  The purpose of the tours is to sell local coffee.  I found the opportunity to learn about how coffee is made very engaging.

Local Restaurants worth trying:

  • Merriman’s at Waimen pioneered Hawaii’s farm to table cuisine. Plan on eating luscious local dishes in an elegant environment. This is a high end restaurant but worth the price.
  • Kona Pub and Brewing: A fun outside restaurant which provides good food while allowing the beer connoisseurs in your group to try out different flavors. Examples of beers are Big Wave Golden Ale, Lemongrass Luau, and Lavaman Red Ale. Prices are comparable to brew pubs on the main land.
  • Lucy’s Taqueria, Hilo. We ate here twice because it was inexpensive, had lots of options for vegetarians (we have one in our crowd), food was served quickly and it was scrumptious.

Most of all take the time to enjoy your surroundings and the people you are with.  The Big Island is big, beautiful and tranquil. Don’t plan so much that all you are doing is rushing hither and yon.

20161122_131346

A Week of Adventure on the Big Island

The Big Island, Hawaii is a land of white, black and green sand beaches, flowing lava, gorgeous flowers and rainforests. If you want to go to fancy restaurants or walk long stretches of sandy beaches with small waves choose a different Hawaiian Island. I say this from experience.  We have been to Hawaii five times and visited three different islands.  If you are like us and like to  set  out each day to explore a new locale, the Big Island is for you.

My family of four(my husband and I, my 17 year-old-daughter and my college-age son) spent  Thanksgiving week  in Kona at a Vacation by Owner condo near the water. Exploring the island requires a rental car.  Since some of the so-called roads  are like traveling the moon in a rover, I would recommend an SUV.  We would be giggling as bounced we bounced along in our jeep and see some cars turning around because they were too low to navigate the terrain.  I likened it  to the jostling  on the airplane (our flight in was really rough and we were at the back of the bus).  My son, Scott, said, “Yeah and we’re on the ground.”

We carried snorkeling gear, beach chairs and towels and boogie board with us every day. No telling when that special black rock road will lead to great snorkeling.  Flip-flops are a failure on lava.  Bring a good pair of hiking sandals.  When headed towards the rainforest have rain gear with you.  You will need it.  Buckets of rain can pour down on you without warning and then disappear in a few minutes.  The rain is warm but you’re still wet. The scenery is so breathtaking it’s hard to know when to stop taking pictures and just sit and soak in the view.

I had clothes for a week and I spent most of my time in a two piece swim suit, long-sleeved sunbrella shirt and sun visor. I burn badly so sun screen and lots of it was a must.

The nights were mild. We never needed long pants except at the high elevations when we went to the Volcano National Park. The temperature dropped to the low sixties causing me to pull on my lightweight workout  jacket.  At the volcanoes, we wore our hiking shoes not our sandals.

 

When looking for places to eat, we would ask our trusty friend Siri for local restaurants and then make our decision based on reviews and dollar signs. We found many unlikely places to dine off the beaten track with great local food distinct from the usual tourist fare. Of course, Kona coffee is world renown for its dark color, thick texture and strong body flavor.  A daily cup helps keep the group going.20161123_115528.jpg

Our adventure was appropriate for teenagers, young adults and active seniors. Young children would have a terrible time driving so much and many of the beaches were too rough for children to just play in the sand.  For people seeking active adventure, the Big Island has so many choices the hardest thing you will do each day is decide where to go next.

Home

I have been taking a memoir class that focuses on writing short bursts of memory about your life.  This week’s assignment was:  Develop a list of things that seem trivial or small but upon reflection are vital.  Since it is Thanksgiving week, my list is about my home and family.

20160620_151530
Pete and I on vacation in Wyoming

Peter: 

Around 6 a.m. each morning my husband noisily scuttles around the end of the bed and kisses me briefly on the mouth, occasionally missing and hitting my cheek in the dark. He rotely says, “Have a nice day!” I’m still dozing, catching the last misty grays of dreams, gauzy thoughts I can’t return to. Sometimes he forgets the first time out the door; then he comes back.

Cats:

White cat, called Angel but a stinker in a slinky fur coat is carefully washing Satchel, the grey Tom cat’s face. He is preening on her behalf, neck extended, eyes closed in ecstasy, macho man for sure. Angel lunges. Satch takes a surprise bite to the neck.   They simultaneously link legs, lego-like, replicating a gyrating hair pillow of intertwined grey and white, rolling off the bed and chasing each other into the floor length curtains, fluttering now like animated ghosts in a fun house.  All goes still.  Each cat marches out a different side, tails twitching, parallel metronomes, heads held high—a draw.

20160420_160028
Violet in repose

Violet:

The rat terrier, bolts through my legs out the front door, across the street, over the berm, hair on her neck raised, resembling an enraged porcupine’s quills, tail pointed rigidly out, barking in a loud, sharp, rat-a-tat-tat, a sergeant leading a non-extent platoon into battle.  I am the bugler shouting repeatedly, “Violet Come!” Out of sight, the barking is interrupted by a guttural, primeval, wolverine growl.  High pitched screaming and screeching echoes over the hill in response to my call.  Head down, whimpering, tail between her legs, all body parts intact; Violet limps home, a vanquished warrior.

Shani:

20160819_143909
Shani, a mini-me Lassie

 

Shani,is my giant miniature collie, a mini-me lassie look a-alike with an absurdly fluffy coat resembling  caramel-colored pom-poms. Today, she, keeps gently nudging my hand with her long pointed nose, her head is all olfactory lobe.  I finally realize I have put her food  where Violet’s bowl goes. Shani is either too polite or timid to touch it.  I move Shani’s bowl to its proper place and she chows down.

20160728_203312
Kayla this summer

Kayla:

My 17 year-old daughter texts from school:

  • Can I go to a concert? My homework is done, I have my own money, I’m taking my car.
  • Mom?????

 

At the concert she texts:

  • Here now.
  • Can I stay until 10:30?
  • Leaving now. Taking Emma home.

10:50 p.m. I hear the garage door open.

20160604_175847
Scott, home this summer using his room.

Scott:

When we moved into our home 11 years ago, Scott controlled a third of the upstairs; his bedroom, attached bath, a playroom usually filled with teenaged boys playing video games and the best view in the house off his balcony. The balcony has been used for tossing a five foot stuffed Mr. Simpson off regularly, testing rope ladders, a cat escape hatch to the roof and a feline wrangling corral for said cats, but hardly ever for contemplation and viewing.  Since Scott has been largely absent for the last four and half years, his sister has stealthy slunk in and helped herself to his sweaters and shirts  much to his chagrin. Now, I pass a closed door with a plastic sign reading, Scott Kozisek, Keep Closed.

Me:

The night owl. I crate the dogs, walk through the house, turn off the lights, check the dishwasher is set to wash, flip the gas logs off leaving only the blue glow of the pilot light where a warming flame just resided, test the locks on the outside doors. I snuggle under the heated blanked wrapping myself around my husband like a clam shell protecting a pearl. The pesky cats are nesting on my side of the bed, entangling my feet.

20160702_214247
Pete and I on our 27th wedding anniversary this summer.

 I hope each of you has a wonderful Thanksgiving!  My family has much to be thankful for.

The Day After

Late last night as the election results calcified, I received a text from a very good friend of mine in Wyoming reminding me that I had correctly called the election this summer.  I told my disbelieving liberal friends in June that Trump had a very strong chance of winning.  When FBI Director Comey announced 11 days ago that the Clinton email fiasco re-emerged, I knew in my heart that Hillary’s chances of winning were minimal.

What led me to have such a strong sense of Trump success even though I vote Democratic? First, Hillary never could shake, even among highly educated white women, the tinge of dishonesty or more correctly, covertness.  Everyone says Hillary is a private person but I believe in transparency in government. Hillary began her national career at Bill’s side as First Lady leading the failed health care reform effort behind closed doors.  I totally disagreed with her policy approach at the time though not the recommendations for a national health card.  This sense that  Hilary is not being completely candid has haunted her for years.  I wanted to love her but I couldn’t.  I  respect her years of tenacious advocacy for women and children, her policy knowledge, her ability to be knocked down and get back up again but I never got chills when I thought about voting for her. I would love to live to see the first woman elected President of the United States.  I would have been fine if that woman was Hillary but personally I was never captivated by her. Today, I could feel Hillary’s pain when she conceded.  She has given it her all to lead this country  on two different occasions and I think we all realize now that this is a dream that will elude her.

I am not sure Hillary could have done anything differently during this campaign. Her failure is one of charisma which I’m not sure one can learn.  The Obamas both have it in spades. I cried with joy when Obama won the Presidency the first time.  When he and his family walked on stage after winning, I felt the world had moved.  I had goose bumps when Michelle Obama spoke at the 2016 Democrat Convention about how “When they go low, we go high!” Having watched The Apprentice for many years with my daughter when she was younger, I know that Donald Trump is capable of captivating an audience.  In a world of social media, the personal image is political reality.  Trump correctly assumed as the polls and pundits did not that the large crowds he was drawing would result in a swell of passionate, dedicated Trump voters. These folks were what I call shadow supporters, not readily available to traditional pollsters. Can you see a big think tank reaching out to someone who goes to a rally wrapped in fake green turf to show their “grass roots support.” My guess is Trump supporters got chills voting for him and cried when they saw the swing states predicted blue  turning to bright red right before our eyes.

Winning a national election requires great outpourings of emotion (Of course, it can be argued Trump didn’t win the election since Clinton got more votes but given our electoral college approach, he put together the strategic states to run the board). In our electronic world, the charismatic individual whether we like their ideas or not has an advantage from the starting line.  Trump is nothing if not charismatic; even his greatest detracters followed his every move providing tons of free publicity for him through tweets, late night comedy shows, news stories.  I admit to some dark part of me daily checking what new strange tweet he had sent out.  Silencing his tweeting near the end of the campaign and keeping Trump on message further strengthened my sense that he could win this thing.  Throughout the campaign, he had been his own worst enemy.  Once someone wrapped up his spontaneous outbursts and put him on an airplane crisscrossing rural America,  Trump’s personal image solidified as a political outsider, pro-life business man who could build our economy,  relished a fight, told it like it was and was focused on protectionism.  HIs consistent mantra that America needed change struck a cord in America’s heartland.  His other failings such as sexual predator, misogynist, inconsistent statements from day-to-day, no clear policy positions on many issues, and a protectionist approach based on racism never stuck. Hillary’s image on the other hand, as  a policy wonk, part of the power elite establishment and probably dishonest to boot was with her from day one and stayed with her throughout the long arduous campaign, the dishonesty piece finally solidified for undecided voters with the Comey announcement of more emails for the FBI to check (so much smoke there must be fire).

The Republicans now control the Presidency, Congress, and with Trump’s nomination in January the Supreme Court. Our nation will no longer have divided government though we remain poltically and socially divided as a country.

It will be interesting to see what a Republican health care approach looks like.  My bet is thousands of individuals will once again be thrown off insurance.  But a step backward may be the only way to leap forward.  I agree with Bernie Sanders that  the only viable long-term health care solution for the U.S. is a national health care plan. Radical right regression may be what will unite progressives where nothing else has.

Democrats have every reason to be discouraged. They are without any recognizable leaders, they won the national vote, lost the election, failed to gain  control of the Senate, lost the opportunity to transform the Supreme Court and will need to reorganize and re-energize.  But as another friend of mine says, America made it through the Civil War and we will make it through this.

I was in McCall, Idaho last weekend when the Christmas Tree for the nation came into town.  It was cut down at the little ski hill outside of McCall.  There were crowds of people mulling around,  an announcer shouting  repeatedly the tree was coming, , the giant Idaho Potato came into sight, the McCall High School Band came by on a truck, a hundred or so disorganized children paraded by and then this big shining red semi-truck turned the corner dragging a gaily wrapped something which turned out to be the tree, covered for its journey East.  I thought at that moment this is America at its best, small town America coming together and celebrating something as simple as a giant pine tree on the move across our great country.

My husband and I were probably the only two Democrats in the entire crowd given how the voting across  Idaho went.  Idaho Democrats lost five legislative races on Tuesday bringing the Republican Legislative Super Majority to 84%. Idaho is the redest state in the Union.  I have a friend who chides me that Idaho Democrats can meet in a phone booth there are so few of us if we can find a phone booth anymore.  I still hope to see a woman elected president (Preferably a Democrat though I open to any strong, thoughtful female leader) in my life time. But for  now I am glad to be an American.  I celebrate we can have a contentious, nasty, close election and get up the next morning  knowing  we will be free to walk out the door,  talk about how crazy the voting was yesterday over a cup of coffee, express our opinions openly on Facebook or a blog and not worry about our safety.

God Bless America!

A Lexicon of Trumpisms

The Trump Lexicon keeps evolving as President Trump moves forward implementing his agenda.  To see the latest Trumpisms go to: pinkpoliticsllc.com

Our words have the power to destroy and the power to build up (Proverbs 12:6). 

trump-and-clinton

I volunteer to tutor refugees. These individuals have escaped unspeakable horrors and are  learning English. Working alongside these kind, hard-working adults has taught me how blessed we are to live in America.  Mr. Trump has created his own language to describe America, Trumpism. Mr. Trump’s own description of Trumpism: “I know words, I have the best words but there is no better word than “stupid”. Words most frequently used by Mr. Trump: win, stupid, weak, loser, moron, politically correctness, smart, tough, dangerous, bad, lightweight, amazing, huge, tremendous, terrific, zero, out of control, classy.

Listeners know when we hear Mr. Trump that his terminology is slightly off but those of us who grew up in the U.S. intuitively understand what he is saying. I challenge you to think about what you would think if you and your family had just escaped extreme violence half way across the world for sanctuary in the United States and you heard Mr. Trump describe America.  Below is a short list of Trumpisms.  There is no attempt to capture all of his misused words or to provide citations.  Rather, I want to capture the essence of his language.

Trumpism: Words made up by Mr. Donald Trump in his run for President of United States in 2016.  Mr. Trump has a vast, original lexicon which creates sweeping indictments and vicious mental pictures using just a couple of words or phrases. Some of his words are spoken; others have been tweeted in the wee hours of the morning.  Trumpism could also be considered Mr. Trump’s political platform.  Trumpism pushes nativism (foreigners are suspect) and populism (giving power to the people rather than political elites).  Through twitter and his speeches, Mr. Trump has created a mish-mash of images of America as a dark, dangerous place in deep economic decline.  Mr. Trump’s America needs saving.  His slogan is “Make America Great Again” as if returning to the past is a positive. His primary policy proposals are deporting illegal immigrants, tightening and/or stopping future immigration of certain groups particularly Muslims,  emphasizing  that foreign individuals living in America commit the majority of violent crimes particularly  rape and robbery while taking away American jobs.  Trumpism’s primary focus is that Muslim refugees are terrorist infidels, illegal Mexicans are criminals and global trade has crippled America.

trump at convention
Trumpism, can be defined as both a political philosophy based on fear, nativism, populism, and a contortion of the English language against women, minorities, and anyone who disagrees with Trump

 

The Wall: Mr. Trump’s proposal to have Mexico pay for a wall dividing Mexico and the United States with the intention of stopping  Mexicans from illegally entering the U.S. Mr. Trump estimates the wall will cost $5 billion dollars. He promises the entire cost will be paid for by the Mexican Government. The Mexican President has refused to pay for the wall in a tweet.  Tweeting seems to be the primary form of policy development in this election year. Mr. Trump sees the wall as a beautiful thing with a door right in the middle for legal Mexicans to be welcomed to America.

Bad Hombre: Uncomplimentary reference to undocumented Mexicans living in America.  Hombre is Spanish for man. Trump used the reference to reinforce his vision of increasing hordes of criminals illegally crossing the Mexican border.  In fact, the Pew Research Center documents that the number of illegal Mexicans coming into the U.S. has stabilized in recent years and declined by about 1 million since 2007.  About 2/3 of all illegal immigrants have lived in the U.S. for a decade or more.  About half of immigrants coming into the U.S. are women.  There are 5000 children in foster care whose parents have been detained or deported by U.S. immigration authorities.  This figure is estimated to rise to 15,000 children over the next five years because of tightening immigration policies.  These women and children have not been part of any policy discussion during this presidential season.

Nasty Woman: Mr. Trump’s description of Mrs. Clinton at the 3rd and final debate.  He uttered it to interrupt Mrs. Clinton presentation on Social Security.  His intent was appeal to the old boys club where powerful women are seen as unpleasant and pushy and frequently described in private as “bitches”. In this case, Mr. Trump’s effort to belittle women led to a social media backlash from women who saw Trump’s remark as sexist rather than as descriptive of Mrs. Clinton’s temperament. As a young professional woman in the seventies, I can attest that smart, ambitious women were not described in positive terms by their male coworkers.  I am proud to be a Nasty Woman.

Miss Piggy: a revered children’s puppet on Sesame Street. Miss Piggy is a large female Pink Pig who dresses in extravagant outfits and frequently wears a crown.  Most American’s know Miss Piggy. Mr. Trump referred to Miss Universe 1996, Alicia Machado, as Miss Piggy when she gained weight after winning the Miss Universe title.  Using Miss Piggy as a descriptor is a classic example of Mr. Trump’s skill at choosing short phrases to create a lasting image.

28machadoweb1-master768
Alicia Machado, Miss Universe 1996. Mr. Trump labeled her Miss Piggy and Miss Housekeeping

Miss Housekeeping: Another term, coined by Mr. Trump, to describe Ms. Machado, who represented Venezuela in the Miss Universe Pageant. This image is premised on Latino women largely serving in housekeeping positions in the U.S.  This nickname can be seen as a sexist slur against Latino women and as slamming hard work done by many Americans who are surviving on pay below a living wage.  Nationally, unauthorized workers compose 23% of all domestic workers.

Locker Room Banter: Mr. Trump’s justification of the conversation he was having with Billy Bush prior to an appearance on Access Hollywood in 2005.  In the recorded encounter, Mr. Trump used extremely vulgar terms to describe women and what he would do to them. When the tape was released, Mr. Trump defended the conversation as the kind of talk that routinely goes own in all male places such as locker rooms.  My husband played college basketball and when I asked him about it, he responded that young guys might not use the best language but this is an example of a 60 year old man (at the time) who could be expected to have outgrown the titillation of talking dirty. Billy Bush was relieved of his position on Good Morning America for his role both in the conversation and for not bringing the tape to light sooner.

Bigly:  Frequently used by Mr. Trump to describe an idea or policy which is large in scope.  Bigly is an adverb and Mr. Trump has used it correctly.   On questioning, Mr. Trump’s staff clarified that Mr. Trump is not saying “bigly”.  He is instead saying, “Big League.”  Here is an example from an actual speech: Donald Trump has said, “Iran is taking over Iraq and they’re taking it over bigly.”  According to staff this is incorrect reporting. Instead, Mr. Trump said, “Iran is taking over Iraq and they’re taking it over Big League.”  I personally think bigly is easier to understand in the contexts he uses it.  Either term gives us the idea, that this is something big.

Extreme Vetting: Mr. Trump’s proposal to conduct ideological screening of new arrivals from countries with a history of terror (specific countries are unspecified).  Mr. Trump had previously said he would ban all Muslims from coming into the country.  This proposal would allow in some individuals.  However, all individuals from countries harboring terrorists would be banned from the U.S. until this new screening test was designed and in place.  The U.S. already has extremely rigorous screening approaches in place sometimes taking many years.  In addition, it is difficult to assess an individual’s most innermost beliefs and private opinions.  In a country that values free speech, this proposal may be difficult or impossible to implement.  Finally, individuals from other countries are less likely to engage in violence than native born Americans.

Yuuuge: Mr. Trump’s unique way of saying huge.

Braggadocios: A braggart who boasts so much about themselves that they become annoying to their audience.  The term was commonly used in the 19th century.  The word is so seldom used in the 21st century, braggadocios is not considered part of our common vocabulary.  Mr. Trump, who usually says he does not want to seem braggadocios, has breathed life back into this word.

Birther Movement: People who question of the legitimacy of President Obama’s birth certificate.  Starting in 2011, Mr. Trump persistently demanded to see President Obama’s birth certificate to demonstrate that Obama was born in the United States as required by the U.S. Constitution.  Recently, Mr. Trump has said he believes Mr. Trump was born in the United States.

Speaking Mexican: Reference to Jeb Bush in a tweet.  Mr. Trump means that Mr. Bush is fluent in Spanish, something Mr. Trump obviously is not.

Taking the Shackles Off: A twitter comment on Mr. Trump’s revised strategic campaign breaking free from the traditional Republic platform and policy.  Trump’s new approach was the result of some Republicans disavowing their support of Trump in the wake of NBC sex tape. This announcement was followed by a stream of tweets filled with rage and resentment towards traditional politicians.

Rigged Elections: As political polls have begun indicating that Mr. Trump might lose, Trump has become more strident in his claims that the media and the Democratic machine are rigging the election.  Mr. Trump has said he would accept the election results if he won.  However, when questioned during the third debate, he refused to confirm that he would accept the results.   The charge of rigged elections is at the very heart of the U.S. democracy where for centuries Americans have cast their votes and lived with the results.  Mr. Trump’s charge also suggests he is not familiar with the structure  of U.S. elections.  Elections (even for national candidates such as Congress and the President) are under the control of the states. Forty-seven of the fifty states and the Puerto Rico have  a Secretary of State position. The primary duty of this individual is to serve as the chief election officer for the state.  In the three states without a Secretary of State, the responsibility for elections falls to the Lieutenant Governor.  Given the diffuse structure of elections in the U.S. it would be difficult to rig the outcome nationally.  As we know from the 2000 Bush/Gore Presidential election, the role of the Secretary of State in a close election can be very important. Former Vice President Gore received about 540,000 more popular votes than Bush across the nation.   In Gore’s presidential run, the Florida Secretary of State, Republican Katherine Harris certified that Bush had won the popular vote in Florida.  Her decision was confirmed by the United States Supreme Court on a 5 to 4 decision preventing a recount of key precincts in Florida.  Former Vice President Gore honored the decision and has been largely invisible on the national stage since.

gloriasteinem_marioanzuoni
Gloria Steinman appeared live in Boise, October 17, 2016

Gloria Steinman told a sold out crowd in Boise on October 17, 2016  that the right to vote is what makes America great. People have fought hard and lost lives for each of us to have the equal opportunity to weigh in on America’s future. The America of 2016 is far more expansive and inclusive than our forefathers envisioned. We are a nation where each of us can vote regardless of race, religion or gender.

 

The refugees I work with fled totalitarian and military reigns with the hope of becoming Americans and gaining the right to vote. Hidden in Trump’s mangled phrases is the clear threat to equal opportunity. Isolationism doesn’t create greatness but it does breed fear.  I am yuugely hoping that Americans in bigly numbers will not pick a braggadocios birther, who engages regularly in unseemly locker room banter demeaning women, for their next president.

 

How Barbie became Bewitchingly Boo-tiful

While innocently reading my email, I opened a challenge from the Idaho Botanical Gardens to create scarecrows for their annual scarecrow crawl the first weekend in October.   Since retiring last year, I have been expanding my craft activities.  This email literally shouted at me, “Do it! Make a paper mache scarecrow!”  The Botanical Garden Theme was Idaho history and I immediately thought to make Sara Palin.  Ms. Palin attended the University of Idaho so met the Idaho history criteria.  But farther down in the rules, it stated scarecrows would not be allowed that had any political theme or were derogatory.  I don’t have an expansive enough imagination to link scare crow, Palin and paper mache into any type of positive image. I immediately rejected the Palin concept and moved on to a scarecrow witch.  I thought I could handle dressing some type of large doll and making a paper mache face and hands.  The real challenge was getting the doll to stand up on a pole. The entry materials warned that the scarecrows would have to last seven weeks through potentially vile weather including rain, wind and hail.  The apparatus to support the doll had to be substantial.  Fortunately, I have a friend who does wood working and agreed to help me suspend the doll once decorated.  So my entry went in as “Bewitching”.  As the project grew in scope and scariness, I later added Boo-tiful. My final entry was the Bewitching Ms. Boo-tiful!

I researched online “big dolls”. I discovered there are many variations of inappropriate life-sized sex toys.  I also discovered much to my delight that Mattel makes a My Size Barbie which stands over 3 feet tall, the perfect form to make a paper mache witch. I ordered my used Barbie princess on EBay. The big doll came in a golf clubs box. The shipping cost more than the doll.   My daughter, Kayla, informed me she didn’t like large dolls and didn’t want the doll in the house.  So when Barbie arrived, I invited her to sit with us for dinner a few nights in my son’s seat (he’s away at college).

20160910_165003

Kayla was incensed to have Barbie sitting across the table at meal (this just proves that I am fundamentally a wicked mother).

I had planned on dressing Barbie in a black plastic garbage bag because of the weather concerns. I had years of 4-H many moons ago so I felt I would be able to sew a credible dress from a plastic bag.  However, I discovered at Wal-Mart that My Size Barbie fits perfectly into size 2 toddler clothes.  I bought her black hot pants, silver Lycra leggings, little tiny, black leather boots and a black lace shirt.  A black cape, red wig, Halloween socks, black children’s mittens all came from the Dollar Store; as did glittery orange and black spiders and a flying bat.  I ordered online a child’s witch’s broom for the cross bar of the scarecrow along with child’s witch’s hat.  The broom arrived all bent up with the straw broken but it was too much bother to return so I taped on the little pieces of straw with black masking tape.  I learned on this project that masking tape is a cure all for all sorts of production problems.  When we had a week of rain as the project was coming together, I cut an orange cape out of an old plastic table cloth to keep downpours off Ms. Boo-tiful’s back (only the best for my witchy fiend).

20160912_152152
Barbie dressed for Halloween

 

Ms. Boo-tiful’s face and hands were the reason I started this wacky project to begin with. I wanted another venue for my paper mache crafting. The big concern was how to keep paper mache from dissolving when it has to be outside for seven weeks.  Of course, the internet is full of advice on how to sustain paper mache.  My favorite video was a research project conducted in England by a man who made paper mache creatures out of balloons, coated them with different varnishes  and placed them outside to see which if any of the balloon people could survived England’s’ notorious wet climate. Regular varnish vanished into a caved in puddle of cardboard within a week but the balloon man coated with marine varnish (used on boats and quite expensive) made it through England’s winter looking largely the same only a little more yellow with age.  Ms. Boo-tiful’s face and hands were coated four times with marine varnish and left to cure 4 days.  Hopefully, this keeps her together through October.

The most enjoyable part of the project was assembly. My friend, Henry Reents, mounted Ms. Boo-tiful on a 4 foot pvc pipe using a large toggle bolt in the back.  Her broom stick was also screwed into the CVP pipe.  Her paper mache hands were screwed into the broom.  She is wired at the waist to the PVC pipe.  Her wig is screwed on and her hat is held in place with push pins Henry pounded into place with a hammer.  We spent two delightful afternoons assembling Ms. Boo-itful.  We found ourselves giggling evilly together as Henry continued to put screws and wires into the transformed Barbie.  Who knew creating the perfect witch could be such devilish fun.

Ms. Boo-tiful went out to the Idaho Botanical Gardens on Thursday, September 29th.  The Garden provided a rebar pipe in the ground and I just popped Ms. Boo-tiful on it.   Sue and Henry Reents and my husband and I went out to see her at the Botanical Harvest Festival on Sunday.  It was a beautiful fall day. There was music, arts and crafts booths, food vendors, and a beer garden. The place was packed with little children, running wildly about.  A couple accidently tumbled into us as we strolled.  There were 16 scarecrows entered in the Scarecrow Crawl. They were eclectic group and ranging from objects made by kindergarteners to gorgeous displays from Boise’s largest family-owned garden shop. After viewing Ms. Boo-itful who truly is a fantastical, scary, scarecrow, we spent time sitting in the shade watching all the activities.  The Harvest festival is a “must do” for families in Boise the fall.

Ms. Boo-itful has to be removed between November 1 and 3. At that time, I’ll get to see up close how the marine varnish worked.  I will hazard a guess now that she will be frightening indeed after being out in the Idaho fall weather for six weeks.

julie-and-boo
Ms. Bewitchingly Boo-tiful and me