We are all immigrants through time and history

“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).

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Neanderthals exterminated by interaction with humans.
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?

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Depression, my experience with deep darkness

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.

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.

 

 

Baby Blue: My first tiny home

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.

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House remains blue and white with black shutters 40 years later.

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.

 

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My brother-in-law and friend installed the European Wood Burning Stove and brick surround. The hard woods were uncovered within weeks of moving in. These pictures are from a real estate advertisement for the house a couple years ago.  Some things in housing don’t change after 40 years.

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.

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Floor my future husband installed is still there or it looks  the same.

 

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.

Chinese New Year 2017—Kozisek Style

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.

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ShaSha and Jillian (9th graders) with Kayla (High School Junior).  All came from China as infants.

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.

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Billions of red envelopes filled with crisp new bills are given out during Chinese New Year

 

One-fifth of the world’s populations celebrate Chinese New Year. More than 200 million Mainland Chinese travel long 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.

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Kozisek/Robinson Family enjoying Thanksgiving on the Big Island of Hawaii.  We had many blessings in 2016 and look forward to a safe and peaceful 2017.

Trumpisms Lexicon Update

The Trump Lexicon keeps evolving as a our President moves forward on his agenda.  To see the latest Trump lexicon go to: pinkpoliticsllc.com   Prior to the election, I wrote an update of new words evolving during that campaign. The original lexicon can be found at https://wordpress.com/post/julierobinsonblog.com/5172 .  Since President Trump was sworn in a short couple weeks ago,  many new words are entering my stratosphere.  Here is a list of the most prominent at this time.

Alternative Facts: Terms used by Counselor to the President, Kellyanne Conway in a Meet the Press interview on January 22, 2017 to explain White House Press Secretary’s Sean Spicer’s description of the crowds at President Trump’s inauguration as “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration. Period.”the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in-person and around the globe,” Spicer claimed. These remarks were contrary to the numerous photos taken of the National Mall on Friday that appeared to show a smaller audience than the crowd at former President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration.  Mr. Spicer later clarified it was the largest audience if streaming; tv etc was taken into account. Urban dictionary defines explains alternative facts as lies invented to protect an individual when the truth is too unfavorable to the presenter.

Alt-right (Alternative Right): Loosely organized group of individuals who reject mainstream Republican conservatism. The term was originally coined in 2010 by individuals who supported white nationalism and white supremacists to refer to themselves and their ideology, emphasizes preserving and protecting the white race in the United States.  Because of it’s fluid structure alt-right groups have been associated also been associated with anti-Semitism, antifeminism, and homophobia.  The generally support President Trump, emphasize preserving and protecting the white race in the United States, oppose multiculturalism and political correctness. The positions of the alt-right exist in a virtual world of web-pages,  twitter,  and internet memes (a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users).

Bannon, Steven: Former head of Breitbart News (see below), CEO of Trump Presidential Campaign and now Mr. Trump’s Chief Political Strategist in the White House . Mr. Bannon is considered the primary ideological officer of the Trump administration. Mr. Bannon was quoted in an interview after the election that “Darkness is good.  Darth Vader. Satan. That’s Power.”  President Trump has given Mr. Bannon a seat at the National Security Council table, a move considered unusual for a political strategist.

Block Grants: While entitlements programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, require that every person receive the same minimum level of service, a federal block grant consolidates a number of programs into one and provides a capped amount of funding to states. Block grants to states during the Reagan administration allowed for significant federal cuts to social programs  from previous  federal expenditure levels.  The argument for block grants is that states should not need as much funding to operate block grants because they can redesign the program, eliminate federal red tape and provide the same services at significantly less cost.  Block grants in operation and have led to significant reduction in services because states have been unable to identify significant cost savings measures. Republicans suggestions for eliminating the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) have all included the provision that the Medicaid program be changed from an entitlement program where states receive funding for eligible individual to a block grant.

Bowling Green Massacre: Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President, told Chris Mathews on MSNBC’s Hardball that President Obama had instituted a six month ban on Iraqi refugees after the Bowling Green Massacre. She complained the media had failed to cover the incident. The media didn’t cover the massacre because there never was one. Bowling Green Kentucky was never home to a terrorist attack. Two men were arrested in in Bowling Green in 2011 on federal terrorism charges after one of the men’s fingerprints had been traced to a roadside bomb detonated in Iraq in 2005. Ms. Conway corrected her error through tweeting “Bowling Green terrorists” rather than “Bowling Green massacre.”

Breitbart News: Website featuring right wing views run by Steve Bannon before Mr. Bannon became President Trump’s campaign manager. Mr. Bannon referred to Breitbart News as the “platform of the alt-right”. Known for taking on establishment Republicans such as House Speaker Paul Ryan.  Critiques say the website is a platform for white nationalist sentiments of hate groups. http://www.breitbart.com/

Dreamers:  President Obama implemented through executive order a program called  Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The program initatited in 2012 offered a two-year, renewable reprieve from deportation to unauthorized immigrants who are under the age of 31; entered the United States before age 16; have lived continuously in the country for at least five years; have not been convicted of a felony, a “significant” misdemeanor, or three other misdemeanors; and are currently in school, graduated from high school, earned a GED, or served in the military.  The 718,000 individuals taking advantage of the program are called Dreamers. There are an estimated  1.8 million potential Dreamers in the United States presently. Seven-tenths of the dreamers are Mexican American and half live in Texas and California though the rest are scattered throughout the United States.  The program is currently accepting applications but the long term status of the program in the Trump administration is in limbo.

Going Nuclear: Nuclear option is a parliamentary procedure allows the U.S. Senate to override a rule or precedent by a simple majority of 51 votes, instead of by a supermajority of 60 votes. The United States Senate has a tradition of requiring a 60 vote threshold for confirmation of Supreme Court nominees.  Going nuclear refers to changing Senate rules so a Supreme Court nominee could be confirmed by a simple majority, which the Republicans hold in the Senate.  the nuclear option would allow Judges to not only be “nominated to the Court by a Republican president, but also be confirmed by only Republican Senators in party-line votes.”

Johnson Amendment: An amendment to the tax code in 1954, introduced by then Senator Lyndon Johnson, providing a legal separation between religion and politics. Under the law, churches and charitable organizations are unable to directly or indirectly participate in political campaigns on behalf or in opposition to a candidate or risk loosing their tax-exempt status. President Trump has vowed to destroyed this amendment to appease conservative religious groups who want to actively engage in politics and maintain their tax-exempt status. Rev. Jerry Falwell Jr. has said it would “create a huge revolution for conservative Christians and for free speech.”  Repeal raises significant questions about the separation of church and state required in the Constitution.

post-truthPost Truth:  Post-truth describes the milieu of the 2016 U.S. presidential election in which appeal to emotions and personal opinions were more impactful than facts.The 2016 Oxford Dictionary word of the year, post-truth, was selected because usage  dramatically rose during the last year becoming a mainstay when describing national politics.

Repeal and Replace (Affordable Care Act or OBAMA Care): The first executive order signed by President Trump was to scale back as many aspects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)(Obamacare) as possible. The one page order gave broad latitude to federal agencies to change, delay or waive provisions of the law that they deemed overly costly for insurers, drug makers, doctors, patients or states, suggesting that it could have wide-ranging impact, and essentially allowing the dismantling of the law to begin even before Congress could repeal it. Congress voted to repeal the act the following week. The authorization to repeal will only impact budgetary provisions of the act, specifics of this action are still unknown.  The Republican intent is clear to kill the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In 2015, HHS estimated that ACA had provided insurance to 16.8 million Americans who previously did not have insurance and dropped the U.S. uninsured rate by over 5%.  With so many Americans receiving insurance through ACA, the Republicans have vowed to repeal ACA but simultaneously replace it with something better.  The something better is still undefined. There have been suggestions of replacing Medicaid the state/federal entitlement program with block grants to states.  If ACA is eliminated and states are blocked grant  Medicaid, funds will be available for the lowest income, even if less funding is available.  Funding to help higher income individuals and families now receiving incentives to purchase insurance would be gone.  Other popular ACA requirements that would be erased are requirements for insurers to cover individuals with pre-existing conditions and allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance until they are 26. Republicans have found themselves in lala land as far as how to replace ACA.  It is much easier to vote against something than to find creative, cost-effective replacements.

Shock and Awe: These terms come from  the military  and refer to rapid deployment of military strikes to demonstrate dominance, forcing an opponent into  a rapid reactionary response. President Trump’s rapid issuance of executive actions has been referred to as “shock and awe” approach to executive administration. In an effort to impose Trumpian philosophy on the federal government and force Democrats and the world into a reactive position, President Trump has acted aggressively  through executive order causing significant problems for many vulnerable people in the wake of his pen. Whether America is safer as a result of his actions remains to be seen.

Travel Ban: Trump executive order issued January 27, 2017 banning all immigrants and visa holders from seven majority Muslim countires(Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Syria)  from entering the US for 90 days,  and opening the door to more country-based bans in the future. Also bans all refugee admissions for 120 days—and bans Syrian refuges indefinitely.  The order essentially overhauled US refugee policy—laying the groundwork for a fundamental shift in how the US allows people to enter the country. Signed late Friday afternoon without consultation with Congress or impacted federal agencies, the order caused chaos at airports for individuals traveling from the seven countries listed  and all  refugees in transition who had been granted approval to come to the United States.  By Wednesday, February 1, 2017, the Trump administration said the ban did not include citizens from the 7 countries  who held a valid U.S. green card, a permit allowing a foreign national to work permanently in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security asserted Friday, February 3, 2017, that the order does not apply to dual citizens with passports from countries other than the seven listed. Also on Friday, the Justice Department estimated that the order impacted about 60,000 visa holders.  Tens of thousands of visas for foreigners inside and outside the U.S. have been revoked without notice.  If any of these people are in the U.S. and leave, they have probably lost their ability to return. Judge Brinkema, Federal District Court in Alexandria, described the Trump’s administration lack of planning and notice as causing “chaos.” Judge Brinkema went on to say, “This order touched something in the U.S. I’ve never seen before. People are quite upset.” By Friday evening, a Federal judge in Washington State had temporarily blocked implementation of the order across the nation.  The Department of Justice has appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit located in San Francisco.  On Saturday, the Justice Department said individuals with approved Visas would be allowed to travel.

Women’s March:  Protests for human rights and other civil rights issues  and against President Trump’s positions on these issues held January 21, 2017 in Washington D.C. with sister marches throughout the world.  The largest single day demonstration in U.S. history, drawing at least 500,000 marchers in Washington D.C. and  an estimated 4.8 million world wide.  A theme was “Build Bridges not Walls” in response to President Trump’s inauguration speech the day before the march which focused on “America First”.

A Taste for Australia

I spent three weeks in January, 2017, traversing Australia with my husband and son. We flew from Boise, Idaho, USA to Auckland, New Zealand to Sydney, Australia  for 4 nights to Cairns for 3 nights and to Melbourne for 3 nights.  My husband left us in Melbourne to return to work.  My son and I rented a car and spent three nights driving the Great Ocean Road and Australia’s outback.  We ended our trip with 3 nights in Adelaide, considered some of Australia’s best wine country.  All totaled we traveled about 3,780 miles in Australia and saw major cities in the East and South along the South Pacific, Tasmanian and Indian Oceans.  We moved from sea coasts and rain forests near the equator to beaches where wind from the arctic oceans cooled the air.  While we covered vast expanses of land, we saw less than half of the country, none of western or northern Australia and none of the interior.  Here are some of my observations:

1.Kangaroos are old hat, quite literally. You can buy men’s hats made from kangaroo. Kangaroo pelts are for sale everywhere. Weird tourists gifts like kangaroo balls made into flasks are on display in tourist shops. Kangaroo filet is on some menus. At the Sydney Zoo, I heard a mom shout to her child, “You don’t want to look at that—it’s just a kangaroo!” We saw only four kangaroos hopping in the wild. The one’s I saw were magical. One was as tall as my son, 6 feet 3″. He turned and glared at those of us who had jumped out of cars to watch. The animal troupe made short work of hopping across the pasture, across the road and into the bush. When we drove the outback, I expected to see lots of kangaroos and emu. We saw lots of warning signs to watch for kangaroos and we saw at least five dead ones by the side of the road. But I only spotted one kangaroo in the bush and no emus outside the zoos. As an animal advocate, I worry that all the tourist items will make the kangaroo, like so many other sought after animals of yore, into a an endangered species.

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Kangaroo staring down my son and standing over 6 feet (picture by S. Kozisek)

2. Koalas are as cute in person as in pictures. These fascinating creatures are said to be “punch drunk” because they sleep about 19 hours a day. We paid for pictures with them both at the Sydney Zoo which did not allow you to touch them and in the Kuranda Koala Gardens where we were allowed to hold the Koalas and feed wallabies and Kangaroos. Koala fur is not as soft as kangaroos’ hair. The only way we saw koalas in the wild was when other cars were stopped to view them. We would jump out, ask where the koalas were and people were kind enough to point them out nesting in the high tree branches. Their gray fur blends in with the bark. My old eyes weren’t good enough to spot them from the car as we drove along. The process reminded me of when bears or moose are spotted in Yellowstone National Park. Everyone pulls their cars over and jumps out to spot the animal and if possible capture them on film.

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Koala, outside Apollo Beach (taken by S. Kozisek)

3.Visiting Australia is like falling down Alice’s proverbial rabbit hole. When we left Boise, snow was falling and the plane had to be deiced to make it off the ground. When we arrived in Sydney it was summer and 80 degrees. Christmas decorations were up everywhere we went but it never got colder than about 60. Not only were we visiting in summer, the continent was headed into fall starting in about March. We heard on several tours how gorgeous the fall colors on the trees were in late fall (beginning in March). Australia broke away from Africa over 400 million years ago. The warm climate led to the evolution of an econ-system different than anywhere else in the world. Australia is home to fabulous creatures living on the Great Barrier reef, in rivers such as platypuses and crocodiles (both fresh and sea water) to billibies to emu to wallabies, to koalas, to kangaroos (just naming a few).  I had one lady on a bus who wanted to discuss deer with me because she had never seen one in the wild. I, on the other hand, wanted to discuss kangaroos.  Apparently, kangaroos are like deer in Idaho.  They are pretty to look at but can get in your yard and eat your flowers and trees. Australia was settled in 1788 by the British as a penal colony after the American War of Independence when the U.S. refused to take any more English convicts. As an English colony everything in Australia like England is focused on the left. You drive on the left and walk on the left. Signs are posted on the roads to remind you that you are to drive on the left. While everyone speaks English, we sometimes couldn’t understand what was being said. Australians can understand us because American movies are everywhere at the same time as they are released in the U.S. but Australians have their own unique accent which becomes more pronounced in rural areas.

4. Australia’s diverse  and unique ecosystem encompasses vast expanses of mountains, rain forests, beaches and scrub bushes.

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My son, Scott, at Blue Mountains outside Sydney, Australia

 

  • Blue Mountains: During our time in Australia, we visited the Blue Mountains outside Sydney. The mountains are named for the blue mist created by oil from the Eucalyptus trees mixing with the environment.  While touring the mountains, we saw a burst of white birds rise from the trees far below circle below us and disappear into the rocks.  The sight was breathtaking and mystical in its beauty and silence.
  • Great Barrier Reef: We took a tour boat to visit the Great Barrier Reef.  Snorkeling the reef was the first time, I personally realized the power of the ocean.  At our first snorkeling site, the crew started shouting “Current!” and throwing out ropes to the divers.  When  I got in the water, I could barely swim the current was pushing so strong against me.  The divers used the ropes to pull themselves down to the reef. Fortunately, the other two snorkeling spots were less strenuous.  The Barrier Reef is clearly suffering. There are large expanses of white or dead reef and the colors are not as gorgeous as we saw when snorkeling in November in Hawaii.  There may be no reef to see in 20 years from now.
  • Rainforests: The rainforests flourish throughout Australia’s costal areas.  There is beach at the sea and a few miles in major forests where ferns weighing as much as a thousand pounds hitch a ride on the top of a tree to sunlight.
  • Oceans, the defining boundary: Cairns was so humid my swim suit wouldn’t dry and when we reached the Great Ocean Road, the wind from the arctic was so cold one had to push into it head first to make it to the look-out stations.  Along this rugged coast, the twelve apostles, large rock formations carved from limestone stand guard against the crashing waves of the ocean. Beaches in the city are jammed but the beaches near the outback are long, beautiful stretches with almost no visitors.

5.Australian cities are home to amazing architecture. Most people are familiar with the iconic Sydney Opera house, a multi-venue performing arts center at the heart of the Sydney harbor, graced with a roof of sails rising towards the sky. The Sydney Opera house is just one of many architectural  symbols of Australia’s technical and creative achievements, we saw during out trip.  We were more amazed and delighted by how much creative architecture is found throughout Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide. The buildings are multi-shaped, decorated in bright colors. Some feature art, others host glass triangles or pyramids for windows. We visited open-air malls in Melbourne and Adelaide which were full of wonderful sights, sounds and smells and gorgeous to boot. We saw elaborate winding staircases of shiny aluminum and pure wood in the universities.  Seemingly  weightless bridges soared over harbors and rivers. The city skylines were traversed by  huge cranes building new towering edifices. Australia is a country that is growing in a vibrant, creative way we do not see in America.

6.Australia is a good place to call home.

  • The cities  have excellent infra-structure. We were able to get everywhere by mass transit which was either affordably priced or free in certain areas of the city. Some of the cities provided free wifi through the downtown but even when they didn’t, wifi was readily available whereever we went. Walking paths with lots of green spots and benches to take in the moment, clean public restrooms and facilities to fill water bottles were available everywhere tourists might be. Street concerts, modern art displays, and sporting events, including the Australia open meant something was happening all the time.
  • The food is  diverse and we found universally great. We ate everything from dumplings in China town in Sydney to hot curry Tia in Adelaide to pizza covered with greens in Robe, to salads packed with delicious nuts and berries in Cairns–all excellent and different. Our last night in Australia, my son and I treated ourselves at a high end restaurant recommended by our hotel (Blackwood) for a true Australia meal. My son is a vegetarian and had potato gnocchi and I had fish cheeks made into some type of fried cake delicacy over green beans. It was a great ending to our adventures.

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    Sydney had the first China Town in the West
  • The cities are safe. When we were getting off the plane in Sydney, one of the American tourists said he came every year to Australia and he loved everything about it, “except the gun laws. The Australian gun laws are terrible!” This led to extremely odd looks from the Australia citizens on the plane because the gun laws are one reason Australia is so safe. Australia first introduced its gun laws following a tragic mass shooting  in April 1996,  The government responded by banning all rapid-fire long guns, including those that were already privately owned, and introduced strict punishments for anyone caught in possession of the weapons – including jail time. In the past 20 years, since the passage of this law there have been no mass shootings.
  • Pay is good. My son visited a friend who he met during a semester abroad in Spain. She was working part-time as Christmas retail assistant making $55 Australian dollars an hour for retail services (holiday pay), a lofty sum in our minds. She told Scott she wouldn’t work for under $17 an hour.
  • Health care coverage is available for all. Australia provides national health insurance to its residents but encourages higher income families to purchase private insurance by penalizing high income earners using public insurance with additional taxes.
  • Australia is expensive to visit and to live but the high quality of public services makes up for much of this cost.

scan0011Final Reflections: This trip had been on my bucket list since 1984 when I saw an exhibit about Australia at the New Orleans World Fair. Thirty-three years later, I was able to take the trip I had been planning for  about half of my life. I could write on for hours about rain forests, riding on trains to the Blue Mountains, women striding through city streets in the shortest skirts and highest heals I’ve every seen, gliding through tree tops in gondolas and watching thousands of bats take flight at sun down in Cairns. But I know there is a limit to what a reader will read and I have far surpassed the usual 800 words. I had a wonderful time on a trip of a life time.  I think the best recommendation for those considering a trip to  Australia is I would do it again in a heartbeat even though the flight over and back is over 25 hours each way and it took me several years to save the funds to go.

Kayla

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,

embracing soccer, track, cross-country, skiing, volleyball,

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Cross-country meet, fall 2016

 

running, jumping, digging, striking;

fierce, competitive, impatient, aggressive, bold.

 

Spanx and sports bra, the daily uniform,

going all out–all the time.

Building strong biceps, sinewy tendons,

Nature’s glitter ; translucent shimmering sweat

crowns your brow, glazes your arms.

 

A flourishing STEM bud, nurtured in curiosity,

math and science are puzzles to solve.

complicated chemistry formulas,

elaborate derivatives–no problem.

English and history–suet for the birds.

 

A stunning tiger-lily,

rooted in fairness and compassion

your heart, a vibrant piñata,

burgeoning with raw emotions, jumbled together;

happy, confident, sad, anxious, angry, loving.

 

You’re an authentic explorer,

propelled by your virtual pinioned,

zeitgeist cloak of inquisitiveness;

restless to break free,

soar, create, love, and chase your dreams.20161120_130321