Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Importance of Small Joys

This was the start of a thread I posted on Twitter this morning. I wanted to keep it all in one place, so I am sharing it here as well.

In every quiet moment, I try to focus on hope. And I repeat this over and over:

May all beings be held in lovingkindness.
May all beings be at peace.
May all beings be free from suffering.

I struggle on social media about boosting all of the terrible acts of evil around us.

Am I adding to the despair?

Or helping to warn people of good conscience?

If I let the evil pass without comment, am I complicit?

If I celebrate small joys, am I minimizing the pain & suffering around me?

If I deny those small joys, am I allowing evil to win?

A dear friend posted this to my FB wall. Because I love word-based puns, & I'm a potter.

I had two loved ones send me silly things today that made me laugh.

I am grateful for the momentary respite. It feels right and good to find something positive to cling to.

Right now, it's a blue VW Bug with the license "Alonzz" my son sent me.

My son took this when he was stuck in traffic this morning. Any day that starts with a Doctor Who reference is a good day.

Maybe that small joy is what allows someone a burst of hope & energy to keep fighting.

So I will keep sharing silly dog pictures & groan-worthy word play.  And I hope you will keep sharing those with me, too.

As we fight. As we keep fighting.

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Sunday, October 28, 2018

There is no "them"; there is only us

Our synagogue sent out an email last night inviting congregants to gather for a service in remembrance and in honor of those who were slain in Pittsburgh.

I am not a religiously observant Jew, despite attending Friday morning services nearly every week. I don't keep kosher. I don't quite believe in a biblical God. But I am Jewish and have been part of my local synagogue community for nearly 25 years.

When I do attend services, I meditate. I read the English translations of prayers and argue with that God I'm pretty sure doesn't exist. I breathe. I lift my voice in song with melodies that have carved their way through me to my core. Melodies that link me in an unbroken chain with my far away ancestors. In those moments, it doesn't matter what I believe: I am whole.

Today, I woke up early on a day I might have slept in.

I dressed and drove to the synagogue.

As I parked in the midst of other cars, I wondered if any of the other people here came with hatred and harm in their hearts.

I went in anyway.

Inside the small chapel, I gathered with other congregants. Some of whom I knew, others I did not. Their eyes all wore the same haunted look. Many were red rimmed. Others were openly weeping.

It was an act of resistance: raising our voices together in prayer in a sacred space knowing that just yesterday, someone had violated such a space. In that terrible moment, our community became inextricably tied to other communities of different faiths whose peace had been desecrated by hate. To classrooms of school children whose joy of learning had been shattered. To victims of violence in our streets when a normal trip to the market or a night out dancing became a death sentence.

This is not a Jewish Issue. Or a Black Issue. Or a Muslim Issue. Or an LGBTQ Issue.

This is an Human Issue.


I am afraid. Not so much for myself, but for my loved ones. Particularly for my children and the world they have come of age in. 

The world I have helped shape. I cannot absolve myself of my part in a terrible complacency that has allowed hatred to flourish. We believed that things were getting better. That society had moved beyond narrow tribalism to embrace a multi-ethnic culture. Perhaps the truth is I allowed myself to believe that because I was prospering. 

Over the past several years, a small voice inside keeps asking the same question: At what cost?


What can I do to help repair a wounded world? It feels so trivial to gather to say a prayer for the dead when the living are in so much pain.

Even in my current anguish, I argue with the translated blessings. Instead of reciting the Amidah, I meditate.

May all beings be held in lovingkindness.
May all beings be at peace.
May all beings be free from suffering.

To those reading this, thank you for being here with me.

May you be held in lovingkindness.
May you be at peace.
May you be free from suffering.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

This is Me: An Adoption Story, Part 7

Coincidences and Connections

If you haven't been following along and want to catch up, here are all the prior installments of this strange and mostly marvelous tale:

Part 1: http://ljcbluemuse.blogspot.com/2018/07/this-is-me-adoption-story-part-1.html
Part 2: http://ljcbluemuse.blogspot.com/2018/07/this-is-me-adoption-story-part-2.html
Part 3: http://ljcbluemuse.blogspot.com/2018/07/this-is-me-adoption-story-part-3.html
Part 4: http://ljcbluemuse.blogspot.com/2018/07/this-is-me-adoption-story-part-4.html
Part 5: http://ljcbluemuse.blogspot.com/2018/07/this-is-me-adoption-story-part-5.html
Part 6: http://ljcbluemuse.blogspot.com/2018/08/this-is-me-adoption-story-part-6.html

Part of the weirdness of this journey for me was watching all these odd coincidences unfold. Realizing that I had a circle of friends in common with my Uncle Paul was certainly one of them, but not the only one.

Another delightful discovery was that I had a cousin who lives a few towns over from me. He and I met for an extended breakfast last December and pretty much talked nonstop. G's father is my maternal grandmother's brother, so I *think* that makes us second cousins.

(Parenthetical aside: No matter how many times I look up the difference between a cousin and a cousin once removed, I can't keep the distinction in my  head. It makes sense when I look at the genealogy charts, but vanishes after a few minutes.)

I realized, when putting this blog post together, that it's been nearly a year since G. and I met and I definitely need to reach out to him and reconnect.

So to recap:

  • In October of 2017, I found the adoption file that I had believed was lost in our 2010 house fire while looking for something in the attic.
  • I fired up google and typed in my birth mother's name
  • I found her; but she had died in 2010
  • Through the family tree that was posted for her, I found her brother, my uncle
  • He and I were connected by a circle of science fiction & fantasy creators
  • Through Paul, I was embraced by my large extended maternal-side family (cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and my birth mother's 2nd husband) with one exception:
  • My maternal half brother utterly rejected me
That brings me up to the Spring of 2018. To that point, I had not yet connected to any of my paternal family. 

During this process, I had signed up with both Ancestry and 23andme. Despite my initial misgivings about the confidentiality of my genetic information, I decided to go ahead with the genetic testing mainly because I hadn't known at the time if I would ever get my health history from any relatives. Given that I have children, and given how much we are discovering about the importance of genetics in health and disease, I chose to risk the privacy issues. 

One of the things that 23andme does is sends you periodic reports when it finds genetic matches and gives you their best estimate on how close a relationship you share. 

In late June of 2018, I got an update from them with a new genetic match. RB was listed as a likely 1st or possibly 2nd cousin. And his last name was the same as my birth father's. This was my first clue to discovering my paternal side family!

I sent an email through the website and got a response back a few days later. Here's where it gets tangled.

The person who answered my email was LA, the daughter of RB. She had been the one to manage the DNA test for her father. It turns out that her father, rather than being my 1st cousin, is actually my half-uncle on my paternal side.

RB's half brother is my birth father, but R did not grow up with his half-siblings. They shared a father but had different mothers, as my paternal grandfather divorced his first wife, who moved with her child (R) to Utah. My paternal grandfather then remarried and had multiple children with his second wife, one of whom is my birth father. 

Through this half-uncle, I was connected to a huge branch of the family, much of which live in Utah. I have corresponded with multiple levels of cousins only to discover that one of my (2nd cousins? Removed? Gah, this gets so complicated!) is a science fiction writer with whom . . . wait for it . . . we share an entire network of mutual friends. 

Yes, folks, there are bone fide science fiction geeks/writers on BOTH sides of my genetic code. 

And it was utterly delightful when I discovered that both Paul (my maternal uncle) and Karen (my 2nd cousin, something something removed on my paternal side) were both attending WorldCon in California this summer. The two of them found one another and took a photo together for me. 

Paul and Karen - the 2 sides of my heritage meet!

To be continued. . . 

P.S. Happy "Foundaversary" Paul! It was just a year ago that we spoke for the first time!

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Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Potter of Akrotiri

Photos taken by me at the Museum of Prehistoric Thera

The Potter of Akroteri*

She has no patience for the way the wind
whips the hair into her eyes and mouth and binds it
with a leather strap. Her back is broad from digging,
her firm arms wedge the clay free of air, her right leg
drives the kick wheel in a relentless rhythm as a pot blooms
between her capable hands. She rises
from the wheel to ease the ache in her hip, takes a sip
of cool water drawn from the cistern below her shop.
Her assistants roll coils of clay into fat snakes
that swallow their own tails round and round
as amphorae grow tall and straight. Far below in the harbor,
ships bear treasures from Crete, from Egypt, from Turkey.
Her vessels will fill theirs, trading olives and wine
from her beloved island to strangers across the sea.
We are ghosts to one another – this potter and me – we share
only the dust of dried clay and the secret knowledge
of our alchemy. In the museum, docents glare as I stand
close to each display as if they know my secret desire
to hold that delicate cup, to stroke the surface of this burnished pot.
Some were untouched by time, freed whole from the ground
that had sheltered them. Others lovingly pieced together,
archaeologists able to separate fired clay from rock and stone.
I lean in to study the decorations: complex spirals
and tiny swallows, their upswept wings captured
in a single deft brushstroke. These shapes are so familiar.
The belly of her cups will fit my palms exactly, as if
this ancient potter had just emptied her kiln
and set them out for me. 
 --LJ Cohen September 2018, Thira (Santorin), Greece

*Inspired by our current travels in Greece, my love of pottery, and the recent discovery that a skeleton discovered on Crete with unusual patterns of wear is in fact of a woman master ceramicist. 

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