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I just spit into a tube, repeatedly, until my saliva reached the wavy black line. I put the cap on the tube, releasing the blue stabilizing solution, and shook it. I put the tube in the plastic envelope, sealed it, and put the plastic envelope in the little postage paid box, and sealed that. Tomorrow I will mail the box to a lab in American Fork, Utah.

Magically, or miraculously, or you might even say through science, my quarter teaspoon of spit will reveal to me who my long-lost relatives are and just what I am made of, at least genetically speaking.

I confess I have already done this spit-in-a-tube activity before, and I received endless pages of reports that I did not quite understand about how I relate to neanderthals and confirming what I already knew that I am half Ashkenazi Jew and the rest a fine but certainly unexotic blend of Irish, Scottish, and German with some other Western European stuff thrown in.

I am repeating the exercise–through a different DNA testing company this time–because of an unexpected conversation I had last summer with the mother of one of my best friends. I was at a street festival in the neighborhood where I grew up, and my friend’s mom happened by. We ended up sitting on the curb for a while talking about how to mobilize democratic voters, and then the subject turned to one of her favorite hobbies–genealogy. I knew she had spent years conducting copious research into her family’s history, but I learned when we talked that she had also spit into several tubes to maximize the information she could gather from various testing services which might have access to different pieces of her genetic inheritance. She assured me that was the most comprehensive in terms of helping you build a family tree and finding family members to nestle among the branches.

Did you know you can buy these DNA spitting kits all over the place now? I ordered mine online, but I recently saw them on a shelf at Target. Once scientists unlocked the human genome, we ran with it until vast stores of genetic information are as easy to get as it is to fill your red cart with over a hundred dollars worth of stuff you didn’t know you needed every time you shop there.

Here’s what I really want to know–what were the lives like of my great-grandparents who came from Romania and Hungary? Are there other descendants of them out there who I might meet? What could I discover about my Jewish roots? My dad has a small family. He has one surviving brother and one surviving first cousin. I know my Grandma had younger twin sisters, but I don’t know their names or their children’s names or anything else about them. I don’t know if my Grandma or Grandpa had cousins or if they did where they lived or if they had children. I know my Great-Grandfather was listed in census records as a peddler. What did he peddle? I desperately want to know.

I have no idea whether my questions are beyond the scope of the quarter teaspoon of spit that I have collected for analysis, but I cannot wait to find out.

button flowers

I painted and and cut and pasted these.



collage for Randy


collage for Zoe


collage for Zeke


collage for me

via Invocation for Christmas Eve

Given the number of corners of my house I have completely emptied, cleaned, and reorganized over the past couple weeks, I feel certain we must live in a geodesic dome. At first glance our house does not appear much tidier or emptier than it did before, although we have now put 11 bags of detritus out for the trash. I have been working so hard, and I feel like I must have made progress, but so much of it seems invisible.

It started when I was looking in my office closet for Hanukkah wrapping paper. This is the closet where everything is thrown or shoved when you don’t know what else to do with it. A closet where things have often literally cascaded out of it when you open the curtain or move one item. It was the abyss. When I attempted to retrieve the wrapping paper, I noticed that one of the overhead shelves was sagging. I thought the boxes on it must be too heavy. So I took them all down. It turns out the shelf had actually ripped out of the wall on one end. For some reason at that moment it seemed like an excellent idea to empty the entire closet. So I did. And I went through every crumpled cardboard box (and forced my husband to sort through his boxes as well. In one of them was a homemade wooden dagger he had no recollection of making or owning. In another was a scouting patch that reads “Totin’ Chip” and featured an image of an axe. He did not recall what that meant or how he had come to possess it). I found hundreds of postcards and letters–some handwritten on pages of notebook paper, some typed on notebook paper, and some printed on dot matrix printers with the perforated edges still intact–from friends and family members. I found tens of hundreds of pages of emails I had printed out during my semester in Oxford and from old boyfriends. I consolidated all the correspondence and put it in labeled file folders. I couldn’t bear to throw any of it away, except for a few cards and letters I found signed by people whose names brought no faces to mind. This included a couple letters from someone named Larry, who mentioned how much he missed me. I could think of no such Larry. Eventually I found a reference to this Larry in a letter from my friend Jonathan who lived upstairs from me when I lived in England. “Larry is still the same,” he wrote. But I still don’t know who he was…

I found an assortment of political bumper stickers that do not yet have significant value on eBay. But perhaps someday, and they don’t take up much room, so I’m hanging onto them. I found many, many copies of publications I wrote or edited in past jobs. I threw most of them away. I can’t even remember the last time a client requested a print copy of a writing sample. I have one of everything, just for the heck of it. I found binders that include every clip I ever wrote for my college newspaper, The Flat Hat. Zoe was impressed by those. I found a folder containing almost every report card I ever received from kindergarten through college, and the Old Testament part I course I took at Wesley Seminary and the continuing education course in typography that I took at the USDA grad school. I got As in both of those classes. I was surprised, however, that my grades overall were not as stellar as I had remembered. My story was always that I earned all As except for math from 4th through 12th grade, but that wasn’t always true. I definitely remembered that my grades at William and Mary were not particularly good, at least until my senior year. But apparently none of that has kept me from doing what I’ve always wanted to do with my life. No clients have ever asked what my GPA in college was, or what my SAT scores were. But I have them, just in case you need to know. I found report cards belonging to my dad and my Nana. She had much better grades than I did and she had to work in her family’s cotton fields a lot of the time she wasn’t in school. I found a million poems I wrote over many years, many of which I didn’t recognize. I had no idea I was so prolific. I found dozens of mix tapes that I made and that friends made for me. I don’t have a tape player anymore but I can just look at the labels and remember all the songs and everything they meant to me. And someday when my kids are grown I can create digital playlists with whatever technology exists then, like an mp3 chip implanted in my brain.

I found so many photos–most of which I just put in a big container to sort through after Christmas when I have more time–including many of people who I didn’t recognize, although they were taken at parties at the apartments I shared with my friend Melissa for several years. I texted her images with arrows pointing to the people asking if she could identify them. She said, “Are you sure this was at our apartment? I don’t know who these people are!”

I went to Target and stocked up on large plastic bins and disposed of all the cardboard boxes and now every container has a theme. They are neatly stacked in the closet. The shelf has been repaired (thanks, Chris Flanagan!) and I was able to easily slide the Christmas decoration bins back on the shelf after we put up the tree today. For the first time in years, I don’t have to worry about something falling on me when I open the closet.

Meanwhile, the kitchen cabinet that holds our glasses and mugs has been gradually inching out of the wall, threatening to shatter its contents all over the floor. We had to completely empty it out, as well as the neighboring cabinet containing all our plates and bowls, in order for our friendly neighborhood handyman–the aforementioned Chris–to take them down and shore them up and reinstall them. So we did that and when he was done I ripped out the gross old shelf liner and wiped everything down and went to Target (again) to get new shelf liner. In the process of doing all this, I found a lot of lids with no cups or containers, and broken water bottles, and bits and pieces of long departed kitchenware. That led me to clean out the tupperware cabinet, which always descends quickly into chaos but I have to fight the good fight. And now I have a big stack of lonely lids and unmatched bottoms waiting to be disposed of in an eco-friendly manner.

Somewhere in between the excitement of the closet and the cabinet, Zoe’s phone went missing. We are pretty sure it’s in the house, because she was using it last Saturday to film videos with her friend Andrea, and then we went to skate night but she didn’t bring it because she noticed the battery was down to 7%. But where she left it before we headed out remains a mystery. In attempts to solve it, we have cleaned out under her bed, which was a trove of wonders but contained no phone. We cleaned out under Zeke’s bed, which was mostly junk that I threw away, but which contained many unfinished activity books and a massive amount of paper and so many markers and a lot of happy meal toys that I tossed. There is now enough room under both beds for people to crawl in and hide, should the need arise. Because the phone still had not surfaced, Zoe and I cleaned out her area downstairs, including her desk, the game shelf, her Legos, her American Girls and their accessories, and the absurd amount of art supplies that the kids share. I made her consolidate all her slime and slime-making supplies into one large container. We threw away many empty bottles of glue and assorted items. We moved the couches. I mopped. I removed vast quantities of dust bunnies. We started to put Legos she had built on the bookshelf, but ran out of time. I started finding things on the bookshelf to get rid of, but we ran out of time. There’s still work to be done over there. Still no phone. Just in case she had set it down in the kitchen, I cleaned out the space under and around the kitchen cart, and on top of the refrigerator (we found a large red plastic bat and a red plastic golf club that had both been confiscated from Zeke probably two years ago when he was likely using them as weapons). We threw away some yucky old lunchboxes and consolidated half-full boxes of Cheerios. Still no phone, but my theory that somehow it could’ve ended up there was validated by the discovery of an old Arlington County car registration decal.

In the process of all the organization, I have emptied a drawer of my nightstand and a drawer in my office. I don’t remember ever possessing an empty drawer. And there are so many more drawers I haven’t yet explored! I am by no means done. There is still a pile of stuff on my desk that I haven’t figured out how to sort, and there’s a mountain of items to be sold or donated or freecycled taking up a lot of space in the hallway. Not to mention that we haven’t yet found Zoe’s phone. If you have any ideas about where it might be, please let us know, or better yet, come over and take a look! Chances are you will come across some unique and valuable items that you might want for yourself, and I will be delighted to give them to you. If you would like to make Christmas presents with glass bottles, we have some to spare. The more I clean, the more ruthless I am in my decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of. The persistent challenge is how to purge in a compassionate, responsible, and environmentally friendly way. I can’t just throw something perfectly useful in the garbage! Just because I don’t need it or want it doesn’t mean someone else won’t! So if there’s anything you’re in the market for, please let me know because we probably have an extra. And special thanks to the trash collectors who will be coming tomorrow morning to pick up several more bags than usual that are a significant weight off my shoulders.


My daughter once taught me a game that her third grade teacher taught her called Fortunately Unfortunately. Someone starts a story and the next person continues with a twist of fate, either positive or negative. It can be very funny, and more philosophically a good reminder to count your blessings. There’s a story told by Stillwater the Panda in Jon Muth’s Zen Shorts with a similar moral.

I feel like our lives this weekend have been a litany of good fortune and misfortune. Not all of them are funny, but all of them are true.

Unfortunately my wallet fell out of my back pocket into the toilet. Fortunately I had only peed, and the $25 in cash remained miraculously dry.

Fortunately I accomplished a lot of cleaning and organizing. Unfortunately, I fell hard after mopping the floor because the soles of my feet were covered in lint and therefore slippery…

View original post 853 more words


At 11pm, the grocery store is blissfully quiet, but not empty. I find my items: bacon, milk, laundry detergent, and two kinds of bread–healthy whole wheat and soft and delicious Martin’s potato bread.

At home everyone is asleep, or almost, and I set to work mashing the eggs I boiled the other day. The yolks are ringed with green, which I learn is from boiling them too long.

After I turned the stove off I set the timer for 20 minutes but then got distracted and abandoned the eggs for some other activity.

I mix in the mayonnaise and sprinkle salt and it’s all an odd shade of yellow green, but I don’t care. On the potato bread it tastes perfect.

I think about everyone who has made egg salad for me, and deviled eggs, and chicken salad, and meatloaf, and slaw with freshly grated cabbage and carrots, and macaroni…

View original post 319 more words

At once weary of returning again and again
to the ragged scrap of memory ripped
from your long ago life
folded over and over into a tiny square
and shoved into a back pocket
yet feeling one small breath of relief
each time you open it up and
air it out and you hear the choir of one million women
singing, “i hear you ~ i believe you ~ i know you ~ i am you”
their refrain is your lullaby

it is our song now

We have been told
by petulant, bullying, liars
wielding weapons of ignorance and egomania
that our bodies are not our own
at any moment of our lives–they are the domain of men and babies

It has been etched in stone
that truth means nothing
compared to getting what they want
No matter if it is our truth
or the truth we expect from others
Fingers crossed behind their backs
as they take the oath,
like the juveniles they are

We will not forget this week of
the defensive outrage of privilege
the sneering sarcasm of entitlement

We will not forget any more than
we could forget our own moments of
being pushed into bedrooms
being laughed at
while someone put a sweaty hand
over our mouth

We will never get over it
but we will survive
we will persist
we will sing
we will write
we will make art
we will preach
we will march
we will meditate
we will pray
we will love
we will listen
we will volunteer
we will campaign
we will gather
we will vote
we will protect ourselves and each other

We will look those men in the eye and say
and we will teach our children to say it too



October 2018

(c) 2018 Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso |
please only repost or reprint in entirety and with credit given

Screen Shot 2018-10-04 at 12.33.51 AMThis morning I rearranged my office while in my underwear because I needed to shake things up. My office is cozy at best with a propensity toward absurdly crowded when everyone discards their stuff in it or it becomes a staging ground for various family projects.

In recent weeks my office has also become a vortex of lethargy. One of the perils of operating my own business is that it is all to easy to walk back into the house after the kids have been dispatched to school and collapse on the futon in my aforementioned office. Especially because I often sit on the futon instead of in my desk chair, for no particular reason except maybe there are comfy pillows nearby and the window through which I can gaze out onto Columbia Pike. Oh, and I should mention that I have a sleep disorder, and if I forget to take my medication for it then I get really sleepy when I sit down at the computer. Under ideal circumstances, I shower before my kids leave for school, and the act of getting clean and dressed sets me up well for the day and I’m good to go. If I don’t shower because I’m busy getting the kids ready or because I oversleep, or because I’m just lazy, then it’s that much easier to slip into morning nap mode, because I’m still in pajamas. On bad days I shuffle back to my futon, shadowed by the twin gremlins of anxiety and depression. I had the epiphany a couple weeks ago that the transition to new schools for both my kids was not challenging for me just because of my overactive sense of empathy and my concern for them, but because of my deep need to be part of communities, and the fact that I was leaving the nurturing preschool community that had embraced my family for the past decade, and the elementary school community that we had loved for the past six years. In their new schools I know very few people yet, so I am emotionally adrift.

And then came the horrifying yet disgustingly unsurprising spectacle last week in the Senate. I won’t recount it all here because you’ve probably read and seen and heard more than enough coverage of it. I began reading articles so obsessively I feel like I am now an expert on the life of federal judge Brett Kavanaugh. I consider Dr. Christine Blasey Ford a hero. And, like most women, I have my own #metoo/#whyIdidn’treport story but I am still too scared to publish it here. I have been reading about how to talk with your children about consent, which apparently it’s never too early to do. I’ve implemented a plan with my 11-year-old daughter in which she can always text us at any time from any place if she feels uncomfortable and needs us to come get her and make an excuse for her needing to leave. Of course I am registered to vote and of course I will vote in November, but where I live is already bright blue. Every day I think about victim blaming and shaming, about rape culture, about pervasive misogyny and sexism, about all the very old straight cisgender privileged white men who run the country right now and who have never experienced and will never experience what it’s like to be a woman or a person of color or any sort of person who has been marginalized or mistreated. Every day I read threads on twitter and in comment feeds on news and opinion stories by women and men who were sexually abused as children and whose parents either did not believe them or told them to just suck it up and not cause trouble. If any news cycle was going to cause me to pull the covers over my head and play solitaire on my phone until I fell back asleep, this one would do it.

And there’s more to the story, because there’s always more to the story, but that’s as much as I can stomach retelling right now. Thankfully, however, there is soccer. When I played Monday night, in my third game this season, it was the first one I wasn’t dreading as I drove to the field. I knew that the moment I stepped onto the turf I would completely forget about all these people and all their pain. I play on a fantastic team of strong and supportive women in a women’s league, in a 40+ division. Some women on teams we’ve played are in their 60s or 70s. Talk about resilient. And thankfully, there is rearranging furniture. As I set about my task this morning–which I started envisioning in the middle of the night last night when I couldn’t sleep, but realized if I started then I would wake up my whole family–I thought about one of my college roommates who always cleaned the bathroom when she was avoiding studying for a big test or tackling an assignment she didn’t want to do. We enjoyed an unusually clean bathroom for college students. But moving furniture–and cleaning the bathroom–isn’t just about procrastinating, it’s about taking control. Here is a mess, here is a room where I have not been productive lately and I’m sitting here wallowing in a toxic brew of emotions, and I can clean it up. I can reset. I can take control. So I spent the morning moving the desk to one wall and the futon to another wall and vacuuming up the clouds of dust that emerged from underneath things, and shifting pictures, and throwing stuff away, and prioritizing, and now I can sit at my desk and look out the window and be in charge of myself.

Of course the closet in the office is now even more crammed with junk, but that’s a project for another day. And my neatened desk does nothing to restore my broken faith in our democracy. But I did talk with three new clients today. And I made a new to do list and crossed one thing off. It’s hard these days, it really is. Nevertheless, we persist.

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