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.

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.

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.

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.

What’s in a Name? How we chose a name for our Chinese daughter, Kayla

Almost seventeen years ago, my husband and I learned that we had been selected by the Chinese Government to be parents of a little girl. We were ecstatic.  Her Chinese name was BiYunYang. But the question for us, as for many new parents, “What would we name her?”

After rejecting a long list of names for a variety of reasons, I remember sitting on the floor at the Boise Barnes and Noble store going through books of baby names. I came across the name Calla.  The name was a derivative of the Calla Lily which grows wild in China and Idaho.  Since our baby had started her life in China but we hoped would thrive in Idaho, I thought this was a perfect name.   The strong “K” sound also went well with my husband’s last name, Kozisek.

I went home and told my husband I wanted to name our daughter, Kayla. I have trouble with pronunciation.  I actually thought “Calla” was pronounced “Kayla”.  He corrected me on the pronunciation indicating the first “a” was short with a strong C in Calla.  “Kayla”, on the other hand, contained a long ”a” and strong” K”. We both were undeterred by my mistake.  “Kayla” seemed a perfect name for our new daughter.  The story of Kayla’s name originating from the Calla Lily, rooted in China and Idaho, is still part of our family folklore.bell-shaped

Every Easter, I buy a Calla Lily from our church youth group to be displayed on the alter. We bring Kayla’s plant home after Easter services and display it on our kitchen table before replanting into our yard. Some years, the lily, a perennial, survives Idaho’s winter and returns the next spring.  But more often, we only have the lily throughout the summer months.  The tall-stemmed plant with the glorious, glistening bell-shaped flower and arrowhead shaped leaves is a regular reminder all summer of the gift we received in spring 2000 from China.

The language of flowers has existed for hundreds of year. For example, during the Victorian period, lovers sent secret messages to one another with small bouquets, called tuzzy-muzzies. Today, the symbolism continues, as lilies displayed at church represent new hope, new life and new beginnings of the Easter season.  I personally believe that we saved Kayla and gave her a new life and a new beginning when we adopted her from China.

golden liliesThe Bible references lilies on a number of occasions.  One of my favorite Bible verses about lilies is Luke 12:27: “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” This verse refers to the natural beauty of the earth. God’s world does not need additional adornment.  The verse, however, also reminds me that my Chinese daughter is a gorgeous girl and we are fortunate to have had the opportunity to share our lives with her.

I became interested in Chinese adoption after seeing several beautiful Asian girls in Helena, Montana. When I investigated the adoption process, I learned that these girls were available because of China’s one child adoption policy.  Since boys were seen as more valuable in providing for their extended family in later years, girls of poor Chinese families were given up for adoption.  Many of these girls were left at bus stops, on door steps or otherwise without any identifying information. Relinquishing a baby was also against Chinese law so babies were deserted in public places.

We now know that these policies have proven to be short-sighted.  China has a shortage of marriageable age young women.  Recently, there have been reports of occasional gangs of young Chinese men in rural areas crossing Chinese borders to kidnap young women.

China has lifted the one child rule and made international adoption much more difficult.  But during the period when I was interested in expanding our family, adopting a young girl from China was relatively easy. All one needed was to be patient and diligent about paperwork and have the funds to pay the Chinese government for processing and travel.

Our Kayla lily has proven to be true to her American name. She came to us as a malnourished, 8 month old, weighing only 9 pounds and unable to sit on her own.  Within months, she was sitting, crawling, and full of wonder.  Now 16 and half, Kayla is an honor student and outstanding athlete.  She is a beautiful person both inside and out.  We chose the right name for Kayla. Her soul is truly rooted in the beauty of the wild lilies, that thrive in Idaho.

As William Blake wrote in his poem, The Lily

The modest Rose puts forth a thorn, 

The humble sheep a threat’ning horn: 

While the Lily white shall in love delight, 

Nor a thorn nor a threat stain her beauty bright.

 field of lilies.jpg