Pondering the Writing Life

Pondering the Writing Life

I suppose if I had to pin it down, I would say I’ve been writing since the third grade. That was the year Steve Bowers, my across-the-street neighbor, and I came up with a Halloween story about a haunted house. I was inspired enough by writing it to enter a contest at school where I won a box of stationery for a short story about a girl and her dog. I would love to say, “… and thus a writer was born,” but it wasn’t quite that simple.

I wrote some really terrible poetry in grade school. Was the master of last-minute book reports and papers throughout junior high and high school. It wasn’t until I got to college that I realized that my native skills lay in nonfiction writing – so that was the degree I obtained, rather than actually challenging myself to improve my weaker fiction skills or develop my pretty much non-existent poetry abilities. I did write several fiction pieces for a few undergrad classes: one was a rather terrible story about a handicapped young woman who falls in love with a cop; another was based on the true story of a high school friend whose girlfriend was killed in a head-on collision, and his severe bout with depression that followed and included a couple of suicide attempts. The critique from my classmates was that my fictional version of the true story was too over-the-top to be believable. Clearly, I was doing something wrong.

So I put aside fiction for a L-O-N-G time. Then I picked it up again with a very aspirational story about a guy who travels around the world with his dog. For my first novel. I’m still working on it. I began writing it as part of the 3-Day Novel Contest over Labor Day 2004. That’s not a typo – it’s been almost 14 years in the works. I have a bunch of other fiction ideas percolating, but I am determined to finish the first one first. I’ve committed to my mastermind group to have this novel out by July 4 of THIS year (2018). And I’m writing it here. Therefore, in the immortal words of Jean-Luc Picard, I will “make it so.”

This blog is a great distraction when I am looking for ways to procrastinate writing that last scene for the novel. Or the penultimate scene. Or the antepenultimate scene (that is a real word, by the way), as it were. The fact is that the blog is just easier to write because I don’t have to make it up. Sure, I have to write the words, but they are words describing real things, real people, real events, real memories. With fiction, the author is god, creating stories, scenes, characters – sometimes entire worlds and languages – out of whole cloth.

Perhaps not surprisingly, my novel is very much based in reality. Which means I had to do a lot of research, something I happen to be pretty good at, thanks to my dad. For instance, I had to go find out which present-day New York Yankees (as of 2011) had been on a Yankees Double A club in 1993. (Answer: Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte.) All the real stuff aside, it is still up to me to decide what the main character does, where he goes, how he gets there, who he meets along the way, and what he learns from the experiences. That’s a lot of stuff to make up, especially for a character who’s traveling all the way around the world.

The reality of the blog topics just makes them easier to write.

I know writers – some of whom are paid very handsomely for their craft – who refer to writing as the most difficult job they’ve ever tackled. When I hear comments like that, I always wonder why – and how – they stick to it. I understand the desire to push yourself to improve, but if a particular line of work is as excruciating as some of them make it sound, I can’t help but think there might be easier, more rewarding ways for them to make a living. I’m no Steinbeck or Alice Walker, but neither have I ever found writing difficult.

Another thing you often hear writers mention is writers’ block: the fear – or reality – of that blank page staring up at them from the pad or laptop screen. Blessedly, this hasn’t really been a problem for me since high school, the last time I had a timed writing assignment and procrastinated the first 30 minutes of the writing hour, and then scribbled furiously to finish the piece by the end of class. I didn’t do that once or twice, but every single instance we were assigned to write a paper in class within a certain amount of time. Since then, though I might procrastinate, it’s never because I don’t know what to write.

Until this blog. And even then, it’s not writers’ block in what I consider the traditional sense. As I mentioned in my last post: “ [I]f I want to write a quality piece, I’ve got to be ‘in the mood’ to write, and lately, very few of the ideas in my idea bank have sparked the requisite creativity to come to life on the page.” Once I settle on a topic, I’m fine. However, the settling sometimes takes much longer than I think it should.

I was discussing this with my friend Justin the other day. Rather simultaneously, I was showing him a concept I came up with a couple of years ago, but have yet to implement. I borrowed the idea from the person who originated the 30-Day Ultimate Creativity Challenge – only mine is called the 52-Week Ultimate Writing Challenge. I made 3 columns: Theme, Subject, and Genre. These are the directions, as I’ve distilled them so far:

Choose one entry from each column. I recommend you use random.org to generate a random number from each column – then cross off each one as you use it, move the rest of the list up, and reduce the number of items each week.

Write one piece per week, using the theme, subject, and genre you randomly selected. There is no minimum or maximum word count – but you’ll do best if you compose a complete paragraph, story, or concept. Keep it short enough, however, to give yourself time to do other things and stay motivated to continue as the weeks turn to months, and the months stretch into a year.

Write away and share your weekly results with the group. We’ll vote on our favorites (feel free to invite your friends and connections to vote, too) and reprint the week’s “winner” on our group blog.

Here is a sample of ideas from each column:

1.      Learning Holidays Nautical
2.      Love Housing News article
3.      Memory Internet Obituary
4.      Motion Languages Op-ed
5.      Mourning Light Parallel universe
6.      Novelty Machines Paranormal
7.      Panic Mammals Personal ad

Justin immediately loved the idea – and suggested that I use it to generate ideas for this blog. My first three selections were: Bravery (theme), Caves (subject), and Song (genre). I reminded him that this was a FICTION challenge, whereas my blog is very specifically NONFICTION. “That’s OK,” he said. “Write something for the blog from this list anyway.”

So I thought about it for a moment and realized that while I won’t be combining all three items into one post, I do have an adoption topic related to bravery, and another one related to songs. The caves concept still stumps me, but I’ll ponder it a bit further and perhaps come up with something. In the meantime, be sure to check back in on April 3, 2018, when I share my thoughts on Bravery & Song.

Laura Orsini is an author who works with other authors to help them make and market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who is finishing college in Boston this summer. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about her novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.

Permission to Change Course Occasionally

Permission to Change Course Occasionally

Blogging can be a lonely business. You write for yourself –  but also for others, or why else publish your writing on a blog? And you hope people read what you write. Sometimes they do. When I was posting daily on Eric’s Other Mother, readership was pretty steady. As soon as I moved to posting every other day, readership dropped off dramatically. I’m not holding a pity party – simply pointing out that I was rather surprised by the steep decline that followed what I thought would be a simple shift in frequency.

Blog views

However, continuing to post every day was not really feasible. For one thing, there’s the time commitment. Some posts flow easily and are complete in mere minutes. Others take quite a bit of time to conceive, write, rewrite, edit, and tweak. Then there are the photos to find, and sometimes rework.

There’s also having material to write about. I do have an idea bank, to which I was adding with some frequency while I was blogging daily. The only thing is that if I want to write a quality piece, I’ve got to be “in the mood” to write, and lately, very few of the ideas in my idea bank have sparked the requisite creativity to come to life on the page.

These ideas include:

  • Adoptions in my family and Tony’s (my son’s birthfather)
  • Spending a day in Hoboken getting to know Kathy and Bruce
  • “No one wants to hear a story about birthmothers” – saving this for Birthmothers’ Day in May
  • Asking my caseworker if every couple who applies is cleared to adopt
  • The utter dearth of books and literature by and for birthmoms
  • Birthfathers – there are several topics under this umbrella
  • Search and reunion (in general terms)

And many others. I will tackle most – if not all – of them in future posts. That’s the beauty of this blog: although I truly appreciate the readers, I’m beholden to no one in terms of what I write or the order in which I write it. I suppose, if there’s anyone’s approval I’d want, it would be Eric’s. But even as I write knowing he might be reading these posts, he might one day read these posts, or he might one day read the book that comes of these posts – and awareness of him is ever present – it does not dictate what I write.

I have received some really nice feedback from a couple of readers.

Blythe wrote, in response to my post, “The Unique Pain of Being Adopted”:

Thank you for writing this. My husband and I are working with an agency and currently involved in the adoption process (as the adoptive parents). My husband is adopted and it was a closed adoption. After years and years of searching for his biological mother, we finally found her…and he was rejected. Not only by her, but by her entire family. It was devastating for my husband. We have definitely made a point for our adoption to be absolutely open. It is so important and everyone’s right to know where they came from and who they are. I have also been trying to not make this process about us (two people who cannot have biological children because of infertility) and about the child who has no say as well as the birth mother that has made the decision she can. So many emotions… I hope that I can remain selfless in the process.

And more recently, Celeste wrote:

Thank you for sharing your story! I’ve been jumping around reading various posts of yours and now I’m starting from the beginning to read them straight through. 😊 I really appreciate how your blog has been expanding my understanding of what adoption is like for birth parents and adoptees. My husband and I are preparing to become foster parents. Adoption is not our goal, but we know it may very well end up happening. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I look forward to continuing to learn.

Even if Eric never reads any of this, it’s worthwhile to have written for my own peace and processing, as well as knowing that my posts have helped at least a couple other people. Far more people are reading than are commenting, so who knows what other butterfly effects could be occurring that I’ll never know about?

That being said, today I decided to give myself permission to occasionally expand the topics I write about to life in general. I am a birthmother in an open adoption. My kid is brilliant and beautiful, and I have a very nice relationship with him and his family. As adoptions go, we could not be more blessed. That truth runs throughout my life, day in and day out, whether or not I find myself specifically focused on adoption on any given day. So the majority of my posts will continue to be, essentially as advertised, in some way related to adoption. Nevertheless, when I veer off onto the occasional other topic, I’ve realized that I’m still staying true to my own tagline, one birthmother’s perspective. My life, my perspective, wouldn’t you say?

Today, I find myself focused on trying to locate my birth certificate. I had it in my hands just days ago, when I was cleaning and organizing my office in advance of our housewarming party. My husband’s birth certificate arrived in the mail yesterday, so I went to retrieve mine (we’re getting ready to apply for passports) – and I can’t find it anywhere. I know it’s here – probably in a box that got re-stashed in the garage. Or maybe it’s in one of the folders housing the family trees from both my mom’s side and my dad’s side of the family. (I stumbled onto those while unpacking – future blog post, for sure!) My office has never been this organized – so it’s frustrating to be unable to put my hands on this important document.

Deep breath. It’s here somewhere. And now that I’m only blogging every other day, I have extra time to look for it!

Laura Orsini is an author who works with other authors to help them make and market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who is finishing college in Boston this summer. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about her novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.

The Magic of Gratitude

The Magic of Gratitude

I wrote in my last post about the power and effects of magic in my life. I also mentioned a house party my husband and I threw this past Friday night. John’s friend, the fantastic guitarist Dave Nachmanoff, played a private concert for our guests, and he closed his show with a song called “Grateful.” Wow – I’ve been humming or singing it ever since.

Then, yesterday, I found a book called The Magic at a yard sale. It’s by Rhonda Byrne, the the magic bookwoman who wrote The Secret. What amazing timing!

In her first chapter, Byrne writes:

I am here to tell you that the magic you once believed in is true, and it’s the disillusioned adult perspective of life that is false. The magic of life is real – and it’s as real as you are. In fact, life can be far more wondrous than you ever thought it was as a child, and more breathtaking, awe-inspiring, and exciting than anything you’ve ever seen before. When you know what to do to bring forth the magic, you will live the life of your dreams. Then, you will wonder how you ever could have given up in believing in the magic of life.

In the next chapter, she writes:

No matter who you are, no matter where you are, no matter what your current circumstances, the magic of gratitude will change your entire life!


Gratitude can magically turn your relationships into joyful and meaningful relationships, no matter what state they are in now. Gratitude can miraculously make you more prosperous so that you have the money you need to do the things you want to do. It will increase your health and bring a level of happiness beyond what you’ve ever felt before. Gratitude will work its magic to accelerate your career, increase success, and bring about your dream job or whatever it is you want to do. In fact, whatever it is that you want to be, do, or have, gratitude is the way to receive it. The magical power of gratitude turns your life into gold.

So there it was, right in front of me. These two seemingly unrelated themes coming together, as if by divine providence, at the precise time I am most ready to receive them and study them and jump into them with both feet. Generally speaking, I’m a grateful, optimistic person. Many days, I offer a mantra upon waking:

Thank you for this day, my life, my liberty, my faith, and all the love in the world. Thank you for peace.

I want to make waking with this mantra an everyday habit. So far, discipline and I are wary frenemies – but I’m getting better at various aspects of it. That’s why I so related to Dave’s song. His chorus contains the line, “but sometimes I forget…”

Here are the lyrics:

I’m grateful for the sun that warms this valley
I’m grateful for the water and the wind
I’m grateful for the cool of summer evenings
And I’m grateful when the morning comes again

But sometimes I forget, so for now I’d like to say
I’m grateful for this day

I’m grateful for the family that surrounds me
And I’m grateful for this time we have to spend
I’m grateful for my teachers and their wisdom
And I’m grateful for the company of friends

But sometimes I forget, so for now I’d like to say
I’m grateful for this day

And I know there may be troubles yet to come
But still I have to smile
And I know our time is short
But I’m glad to be part of the dance, for a while

I’m grateful for the gift of sharing music
I’m grateful for the sweetness of the wine
I’m grateful for the bounty at our table
And I’m grateful for my baby’s eyes that shine

But sometimes I forget, so for now I’d like to say
I’m grateful for this day

And here’s a link to the song itself. Take care if you watch it, though, or you too may find yourself humming it for days!

Laura Orsini is an author, speaker, and consultant who coaches other authors to make and market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who is finishing college in Boston this summer. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about her novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.

Magic and the Art of Vibing

Magic and the Art of Vibing

Yesterday would have been my sister’s 49th birthday. It’s weird to think that in my memory, she will never age past where she left us, at 46, just a little more than two years ago. We had a party to celebrate our new house, John’s and my seventh anniversary, and – at least for me – Corina’s birthday. We were finishing cleaning and making the house look like a home when I realized that most of our photos were still in storage – except for one of John when he was about 10, in his Little League uniform. He’s cute as can be – and I’m guessing thousands of parents across the country have similar photos of their smiling kids. As I write this, I remember that I have several versions of the same photo of Eric as a boy. Jesus – where did the time go? He’s my kiddo, but certainly no longer a boy.

I remember being pregnant with him and trying to see into the future. First, to when he would turn 18 – the legal age at which I would no longer need his parents’ consent to seek him out or talk to him. That, of course, was before we opened our adoption. Even as he grew, I would try to picture him as a teen or young man. I knew I would be 45 when he turned 18, but I had no idea where I’d be or what my life would be like by then. I couldn’t even imagine what he might be like, probably because I wasn’t watching him grow up day by day.

I recall one particular time in my pregnancy when I was focused on this whole concept of the future. I was at Sunday Mass at St. Anne’s Catholic Church in Jersey City when the pastor, Fr. Vic Kennedy (amazing that I still recall his name!), was giving a sermon about the evils of magic. I wasn’t aware of using any magical powers at the time, just bored with the sermon and trying to “see” far enough into the future to imagine my still unborn son as a young man. It was impossible, because I didn’t know him yet. But then Fr. Vic started in on the same things my father always carried on about – that anything that smacked of soothsaying, fortune-telling, of any other form of future divining was forbidden by the church. The pastor’s reasoning was that using magic was a way of trying to make ourselves on par with God. I’m not sure if he mentioned Adam and Eve eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil – but it would make sense if he did.

I remember being incensed in that moment. How dare you? I thought. You’re the pastor and you’re telling these lies. If God didn’t want us to have magic – whether it be in the form of psychic knowledge or the actual ability to make a things appear and disappear – he wouldn’t have given it to us! The fact that it exists and we know about it means he wanted us to have it and use it. Sure – some people use it for evil, but some people use spray paint and fire for evil. You don’t see the church preaching against spray paint or fire, do you? And the worst part is that all of these people sitting here in these pews are going to walk out of here believing you that magic is of the devil!

In spite of my dad, magic has been a part of my life in various forms for as long as I can remember. I was about 6 years old when I caught a glimpse of the tooth fairy. Seriously, I saw a tiny streak of bright blue light flash across the bedroom I shared with Corina. I remember it like it was last night – not 40-plus years ago. Then there have been various magical moments across the years – like my visit to Blarney Castle in May 1998, driving down the highway at midnight with U2’s Joshua Tree blaring at full volume, and swimming in the Pacific Ocean with John.

I saw a psychic when Eric was about 11 who had absolutely no knowledge of him. During the reading, she asked me who Betty was (my mom) and told me that I had a son, about 10 years old, who lived a great distance from me (I was in Phoenix; he was in New Jersey). Some people really have access to this kind of information – and it’s not from the devil. Nor does it mean they’re competing with God – just that they’re tapped into the same information that God has. One of my earliest coaches told me we all have that ability: we all know everything was how she put it. It’s just a matter of whether we choose to tune in to the knowledge or not.

For much of our lives, Corina and I were very in tune with each other’s thoughts. One night, we had the identical dream. And sometimes she would send me messages – particularly when I was at the store and she’d forgotten to ask me to get something (in the pre-cellphone days). I’d grab a bag of ice for no apparent reason, only to get home and have her say, “Cool. Glad you got my vibe about the ice.” If I came home without the ice, she’d be disappointed that her vibing hadn’t worked. It got to the point where we couldn’t play Pictionary on the same team because it was an unfair advantage over the other team. I’d start drawing a straight line and she’d say “Hangar!” Yes – it was just the base, but she knew. She’d draw a circle and I’d say, “Bicycle!” But of course.

Somehow I missed the fact that she was as sick as she was – and that she would be leaving so soon. I think I needed to believe she would get well – we both did – because otherwise, that last year would have been unbearable. Though I still miss her every day, I know she’s OK now and I am so grateful for all the time we got to spend together over the last 18 months. And she still visits with regularity, usually through my dreams. I asked her to give me a sign she was around for the party – and all day, the apps on John’s cellphone kept turning on by themselves. The flashlight. His iTunes. His stopwatch. Would make sense that it was Cori, saying hello.

In my office, I have a giant tie-dyed wall hanging in deep reds and yellows serving as a curtain. In the center is a big yellow Om. It wouldn’t be my natural preference, but Corina would have loved it, so I keep it there to remind me to breathe and to keep her nearby.

According to Gaia.com:

The syllable OM is an ancient Sanskrit letter originating between 1500 and 1200 BC in the Vedas, a collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns sung in praise of the Divine. They were not written at first, but were vibrated into existence using human speech. Teachings on the metaphysics of OM were later elaborated on in the Upanishads, ancient Indian mystical texts. Later, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali categorized the 8 Limbs of Yoga. The sixth of these, Dharana (meaning concentration), described various methods of supporting the mind to achieve single-focused attention. Repeating a mantra, especially the syllable OM, was an important aspect of accomplishing this sixth stage of yoga, or union with the Divine origins. Patanjali taught: “Chant Om and you will attain your goal. If nothing else works, just chant Om.”

Prayer, magic, chanting Om … all of them seem to have the same purpose: to help us achieve our goals. Fr. Vic, I think you were dead wrong. Of course, my sister now probably knows for sure. If we can figure out how to pick up the vibing again and I have a chance to ask her, I’ll let you know.

Laura Orsini is an author who works with other authors to help them make and market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who is finishing college in Boston this summer. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about her novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.

Parenting Lesson 101: Raise the Best Kids You Can

Parenting Lesson 101: Raise the Best Kids You Can

My friend and personal trainer, Miles Beccia, is an adoptive father. He and his former wife adopted two children from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. They are excellent students and seem to be thriving, in spite of the divorce. Most recently, Miles and his current partner, Brittany, welcomed a new baby into the family. As Miles tells it, the older children seem to be adapting well to having a new little sister.

My husband and I were talking with Miles today about the challenges of raising a child in today’s world. Though my question that sparked the conversation was pointed and specific – “How will you handle having ‘the talk’ with your kids, particularly your son, about how to behave around the police?” – Miles’ answer taught me a lesson I forgot, perhaps because I’m not parenting. It’s not about raising a black child in a white family/community/city, or raising black kids in an culture where a disproportionate number of people of color are dying at the hands of cops. It’s about raising the best kids you can at this moment, and preparing them for all of what life may bring their way, good or bad.

Miles has a lovely, very positive outlook on life, and he appears to do everything he can to instill that in his children. To that end, he’s teaching them to respect police officers and that more of them are good than are bad. He’s also teaching them to “turn the other cheek,” but only insofar as they are not being systematically abused. If someone is attacking them with the intent to harm them, they have full permission to fight back. A delicate line, to be certain, but one I think he approaches with grace. He explained to his son and daughter that bullies and name-callers probably don’t have loving families or kind parents or safe homes where they can be comfortable; more than likely they act out because it’s what they’ve learned to do as a defense mechanism, not because they are innately mean. My husband said, on hearing that, “Can’t imagine how different my life would have been if I’d heard that while I was growing up.”

I don’t know – have never asked – what Miles and his ex-wife know about their children’s birth families, whether they know who the birthmoms are or still have any contact. Partly, it’s just my way not to be nosy. I would have made a terrible investigative journalist, as I generally avoid asking prying questions unless I know a person really well or they seem to be giving me the green light to ask. I’m sure Miles would answer any questions I have, and perhaps I will ask them someday, if they come up organically in a conversation.

Adoption is an interesting way of making a family – but like all families, every family created through adoption is different. Certainly there will be some overlap, in terms of the kinds of issues that arise with adoption. Yet, families built through international adoptions will face challenges and, perhaps, obstacles that those involved in domestic adoptions don’t typically experience. In the end, however, families are just families. Some are better adjusted than others; some are happier; some are more secretive. And yet, most of them are doing the best they can, even if their attempts fall far short of what the rest of us would judge to be the mark. Parenting is not an easy gig – my hat is off to my son’s parents, Kathy and Bruce; to Miles; to my sister, Corina (tomorrow, March 23, would have been her 49th birthday); and to all the parents who go out of their way to make sure their children are equipped to grow into the best adults they can be.

Laura Orsini is an author who works with other authors to help them make and market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who is finishing college in Boston this summer. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about her novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.

Enjoying Life NOW

Enjoying Life NOW

I’m working on a book for a client about career advancement – essentially a primer for how to move up from the lower levels through middle management to senior management. It’s a good book, written by a man who’s been in the trenches. He’s been dragged through court, threatened by a gun-wielding former employee, and hired and fired more people than most managers have reporting to them. I believe this book has its place.

I also see that the world is changing. People complain of millennials as lazy, unfocused, wanting to be coddled. Those attributes may well apply. But then I listened to my 23-year-old son talk at the holiday dinner table about what he didn’t want in a job: 16-hour days reporting to people less intelligent than he – people who would, because of their position on the engineering totem pole, get to take credit for his creative ideas and resourceful solutions. How does he know this? Because it has already happened to him while working several internships before he’s even finished college.

Eric’s father, Bruce, is old school. He came up in a time when all of the concepts in my client’s book were in full force, because the primary way to succeed in the world was to go to college, get a job, and then make your way as high up the food chain as you were able. That may be Eric’s goal, too. But it might not be, and I sense a bit of tension around the idea that Eric may be rejecting the old ways.

I, for one, applaud him.

Perhaps the kids of his generation are less driven than I am or his parents were or, most certainly, than my husband’s grandparents were. Is that necessarily a bad thing, though? Maybe – if you still define success by how high up the corporate ladder you can climb. But what if success is driving your own boat? What if it means having a life you enjoy right now, rather than a life you plan to enjoy down the road someday, after you retire at 6o or older? What if it means traveling the world and/or running your own small business instead of buying a car or going into debt for a mortgage or collecting all of the things we older people associate with “making it”?

Personally, I suspect that this millennial generation has discovered a secret many older people only wish they’d stumbled across a lot sooner. Investing in experiences – rather than a ginormous diamond ring or a vast estate with a lap pool – may actually be much more meaningful and memorable.

To be sure, it will be interesting to watch and see how these next dozen or so years of Eric’s life unfold. Regardless of which path he decides to take, I’m rooting for him.

Laura Orsini is an author who works with other authors to help them make and market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who is finishing college in Boston this summer. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about her novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.

Meeting the Grandparents

Meeting the Grandparents

Although John and I have taken many short trips together – mostly for music or book events – we’ve never had a proper honeymoon. We spent the day after our wedding with my son and his family. We knew we wanted to do something together – and John was happy to go along with whatever plans we made. Yet it was an interesting process, trying to decide how to spend that day. I cast my vote for the Pink Jeep Tours, an opportunity to go off-road and see the rugged terrain of the Sedona area. However, the majority won, and we wound up visiting the Out of Africa Wildlife Park in Camp Verde, a small town a few miles from Sedona.

Even though we spent it together, Eric largely kept with his parents while John and I sat together during the tour. Bruce was busy with his camera, photographing the wild animals that came up to the window of the bus. I remember a friendly giraffe with a huge tongue, in particular.

After our visit to the park, we went for pizza, and then made our way back to Phoenix. The trip back was a bit of a friendly competition, John and Bruce trading the lead back and forth between them as we drove down the hill from Sedona.

Though my mom had been ill, we decided to stop by the nursing home to see her, so that Eric could meet at least one of his birth-grandparents. My dad had passed away five-and-a-half years earlier, and it remains unlikely Eric will meet Tony’s mom – though I do believe anything is possible. According to my occasional FB research, Tony’s dad died nearly three years ago. What I remember about them was that Dale could be extremely sarcastic, often making his wife, Diane, the butt of his jokes. I would watch her wince at his comments and think to myself that I would not be surprised if one day, after 30 years of marriage, she walked out. As far as I know, that did not happen. It was also a teaching moment for me and Tony, because when he tried to belittle me the same way, I let him have it. Turns out I did have a few boundaries with him.

My mom had been on a progressive decline for the few years prior to going into the nursing home. For years – as long as I can remember, actually – her behavior had been odd. It wasn’t until after the massive stroke that would take her life that Corina and I received an explanation for her strange behavior: the vascular surgeon called in to officially determine that hospice was our only option told us that our mom had indications of severe vascular dementia, the likely result of multiple strokes that had occurred throughout her life. By the time Eric met her, about five months before she passed away, she was already severely incapacitated. Though it’s possible she understood when I introduced her to Eric and his parents, she was unable to say much. But she nodded happily and smiled a lot.

I’ve never spoken with Kathy – or Eric – about that meeting, so I really have no idea what his response was. I do believe he was grateful for the opportunity meet at least one grandparent, though.

My husband was blessed to have known all four of his grandparents – and to have a close relationship with his paternal grandfather and grandmother. His grandpa died nearly 25 years ago; Grandma left us just last June (2017). Though she doted on him, he had a difficult relationship with her, as she was every bit the family matriarch, with high standards, particularly when it came to what others might think … about everything. He was a smoker until almost two years ago – a fact he tried to keep hidden from her. I doubt she could have missed it, though she might have chosen to ignore it, as her sister died of lung cancer and she claimed to abhor smoking – and, by association, people who smoked. He said at one point a couple months after her passing that he wished he’d been able to be more of himself with her. She loved him nonetheless.

It occurs to me as I write this that I don’t know much about Eric’s adoptive grandparents – which ones he might have met or had relationships with. I believe Bruce’s father was still living when Eric was born – but I’m not one hundred percent certain about that. Kathy, again, would certainly have all of those details.

I have few regrets about the adoption, but I do wish Eric and my father had had the chance to meet. I know my dad would be so immeasurably proud of his only grandson. My dad was a college professor, once upon a time – and, if my experience is at all reflective of his teaching skills, perhaps not a very good one. He’d find one way of communicating an instruction – on pretty much any topic – but if you didn’t understand him and asked him for further explanation, he’d say the exact same thing again, just more slowly and with greater volume. No, I would think, it wasn’t that I didn’t hear you – rather that I didn’t understand you. Can you explain it in different words? But he was kind and gentle, and he gave me the gift of compassion. He was a year younger than John’s grandmother – so they were of the same era where etiquette and proper manners mattered greatly.

Unlike John’s grandmother, Mary, my father was a scholar of his faith – knew the Bible inside and out (rare for a Catholic) and understood and accepted every aspect of the church’s dogma, pretty much without question. We had a pretty intense argument when the retired bishop of Phoenix was accused of a hit-and-run accident that left a man dead. My father felt it was unseemly for the bishop to be treated as a common criminal. I insisted that shepherd of the church or not, he’d killed a man and left the scene – it was only right that he pay the same price any other person would pay. Mary had no such highfalutin ideas. She went to church most Sundays, but had a difficult time distinguishing between the holy seasons of Lent (leading up to Easter) and Advent (leading up to Christmas). For her, church was more of an obligation with the benefit of marvelous social interactions.

My mom was pretty much the polar opposite of my dad. She got her GED the same year I graduated from high school. I remember some of the sessions with Mary, my social worker at the adoption agency. As we talked, I would tell her about my parents and she’d scribble furiously on her yellow notepad, taking notes she would give to the Stanfields’ caseworker to share with them (before they knew the adoption would eventually become open). One of the things that most caught her attention was when I told her that although my mom had very little formal education, I thought she would have been a very good student. “What makes you say that?” Mary asked. The fact that she read everything she could get her hands on. She was a slow reader, often vocalizing her words as she read. But she loved books of all sorts. While she was functional, she was curious and loved learning.

She was creative, too. My dad was efficient – my mom resourceful and imaginative. I suspect I blend gifts from both of them in my writing and in building and running my business. I see some of that in Eric already – but he also has a great deal of Tony’s super-analytical mind.

I still have no idea whether Eric even knows about this blog – or is reading it. Still, a part of me writes every post for him. Better still than him reading these words would be the chance to sit and talk about this stuff with him. Maybe someday…

Laura Orsini is an author, speaker, and consultant who coaches other authors to make and market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who is finishing college in Boston this summer. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about her novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.

Two Reunions and a Wedding

Two Reunions and a Wedding

Tomorrow is John’s and my 7th wedding anniversary. We chose St. Patrick’s Day, a Thursday, because of my affinity for the Irish part of my bloodline and because it was pretty nontraditional. As important a day as it was, the day before – seven years ago today – was perhaps more important, because it was the day I had a face-to-face reunion with my son for the first time since he was 2 days old.

It took John and me a while to figure out the right date and decide what we wanted to do for the wedding. We decided on an outdoor wedding (at Bell Rock) in Sedona. As soon as we knew the details, I phoned up Kathy and told her that she, Bruce, Eric – and Jill, if she could make it – were invited. She was quite happy for us – and nervous about telling Eric. He was 16 at the time and, understandably, we weren’t in as direct contact as we are now. Though Jill wasn’t able to attend, Kathy, Bruce, and Eric made the trip.

Next, we had to plan that first meeting between our son and me.

I invited Eric and his parents to meet me at our favorite diner – the place John and I had breakfast almost every weekend the entire time we lived near downtown Phoenix. John decided not to go, as he didn’t want to crowd the meeting. He figured there’d be enough tension without Eric having to meet my husband, too. I was giddy – and nervous – for the whole week leading up to the meeting.

Thankfully, I tend to have some common sense – so I planned for what I figured were the two significant possibilities: Eric would be like Tony, close-lipped, quiet, reserved, smart as hell, and saying very little. Or he would be like me: open, warm, and easy to talk to. Strangely, I didn’t feel like I had to do that much in the way of psyching myself out for possibility #1. Though the odds were pretty much 50-50, he’s a guy, so I tended to lean toward the assumption he would behave like Tony. And I was ready.

I felt I had done very little in the way of pestering or interfering with Eric and his family through the years. I’d let Kathy know that I was available if Eric had any questions (he never did), and he and I had exchanged a few emails. I sent a Christmas ornament for their tree every year, and acknowledged his birthday with a humorous ecard and the occasional gift. But I’d been as hands-off as I could be, because I didn’t want to overreach or scare either Eric or his parents. Kathy had told me several stories to indicate that our kid was a caring child, growing into a caring young man, but this was going to be an unprecedented meeting for him. How do you get ready to meet the woman who gave you birth and then gave you away?

Quiet and uncommunicative would have made sense to me. Turns out, I needn’t haveEric & Lo worried at all.


My sense of our son is that he took after Tony physically, but he seems to have more of my emotional makeup. He was obviously nervous at the meeting, but we sat, him between his parents, and I on the other side of our booth. We all chatted for a bit – and then Kathy and Bruce made a gracious exit and allowed Eric and me to talk, which we did for about an hour.

I was ready – expecting – for him to be quiet, and he was anything but. We talked easily like old friends catching up. He chuckled as I described my initial meetings with his parents. When I told him that their social worker, Anna, had described his dad as “hard to get to know,” he laughed out loud.

“Yeah – pretty much exactly,” he agreed with Anna’s assessment.

His folks swung back by to pick him up when we were done. Kathy said she asked him how it went – that was when he got quiet. “Fine,” was his only response. I’m sure he told her more later – but he probably needed time to process things. As far as I was concerned, the meeting could not have gone better.

The wedding was the next day at about 2 in the afternoon. Earlier that morning, we all made our independent ways up to Sedona from Phoenix: John and I; Eric and his parents; my sister and her husband; John’s family; our wedding officiant; and our photographer. Corina and I had hired a caregiver to look after our mother during the ceremony and throughout the weekend, but our mom came down with pneumonia a couple weeks before the wedding and we decided the day before that she wasn’t strong enough yet to make the trip. The caregiver didn’t get the message, though, so other than the gal who married us and the photographer, she was the only non-family member in attendance – other than the hikers and tourists who gathered around to watch. It was quite an experience!

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may have seen mention of the many powerful coincidences that punctuate our adoption experience. It was a monumental coincidence that helped us open the adoption in the first place. There are also all kinds of birthday coincidences, too. On the day of our wedding, we learned of another astounding coincidence that did not involve me or my family at all. As we all gathered in the parking lot of the hotel to drive down the hill for the ceremony, it was the first time the Stanfields were meeting my sister, and also the first time they were meeting John and his family. So imagine all of our surprise when both John’s grandmother, Mary, and Bruce did double-takes. “Don’t I know you?” one of them asked.

Mary and Bruce

“Yes – from the bank in New Jersey 30-plus years ago.” Mary had been a teller when Bruce was starting in auditing at the same bank branch back in Clifton, New Jersey, decades earlier. I still shake my head at the odds of such a thing occurring. There had never been any doubt that Eric was where he was meant to be – but this was absolutely uncanny.

After getting over our shock, we made our way to Bell Rock and had a beautiful ceremony. The reception dinner followed at Heartline Café – and Eric was so gracious as John’s dad (unintentionally?) pummeled him with questions about his plans for the future. I was so pleased that Corina got to meet and chat with Kathy and Eric. It was the only time they ever connected, but important to all of them, I think.

Life with John has been such a blessing – it’s hard to believe it’s already been seven years. And right alongside that wonderful relationship, I’ve been developing one of the other most precious relationships in my life. So glad to be connected to you, my beautiful son!

Lo with Stanfields


Cover Photo: The whole wedding – pictures courtesy of master photographer David Bell. L to R: Matt Bustos, Corina’s husband; Corina, my sister and maid of honor; Gayle Kelemen, John’s stepmom; Laura; John’s dad, John Sr.; John; Ed Snible, John’s bro-in-law and best man; Charlotte Snible, John’s niece; Gayle Snible, John’s sister; Kathy Stanfield, my son’s adoptive mom; Mary Kelemen, John’s grandmother; Eric, my son; Lauralee Green, our officiant; Joan Pearlman, my mom’s would-be caregiver; Bruce Stanfield, my son’s adoptive dad.

Eric and Laura

Mary and Bruce meet again

Kathy, Laura, Eric, and Bruce

Laura Orsini is an author, speaker, and consultant who coaches other authors to make and market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who is finishing college in Boston this summer. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about her novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.

Is It a Dream or a Memory?

Is It a Dream or a Memory?

As a little girl, I used to have a recurring dream about being in a car driving up, up, up over a steep hill, kind of like the cartoon image you see of those crazy rollercoasters with extreme drops. It would terrify me every time – I would sit, white-knuckled, in the backseat, as nervous as if I were driving. Usually, the dream was about a driving vacation – we were never at home when these steeply hilly situations occurred. An alternate route would be available, but it would be so far out of our way that my dad (or whoever was driving) would elect to take the steep, steep hill, rather than take the very extra-long way around. To this day, I find driving up and over steep hills a bit stomach clenching.

I must have mentioned this dream at dinner one time, because I remember my mom being convinced that I was remembering the drive she and my father made from Detroit to Phoenix when I was mere months old. As I heard the story – and perhaps vaguely recall seeing in a photograph – my folks packed up what I imagine must have looked like the Beverly Hillbillies’ wagon with every stick of furniture, dish, and item of clothing they owned, and hitched it to the back of their 1967 Chevy Impala.

Then they headed west.

I’ve made that drive, starting farther north and east. Regardless which way you go, there are some pretty scary stretches, particularly if you’re pulling a perilously packed trailer stacked to the rafters behind a low-riding boat of a car. As my dad described the journey, he was terrified at several points as the trailer wavered severely that it was going to topple over.

So I suppose there could be some analogy between that actual journey and my crazy, recurring dreams. But is it really possible that I remember something that happened when I was less than 4 months old? My earliest conscious memory, also car related, is of pulling up to the house where I grew up in the backseat of my mother’s Oldsmobile, all squared off and olive green. I had to have been at least 2 years old when that would have happened.

My husband swears he remembers being bathed in the kitchen sink as an infant – so his conscious memories go back a lot further than mine do.

Dreams are weird things. I often balk when a fiction author uses a dream as a device, as it tends to feel like lazy writing, unless the whole story somehow involves sleep and the dream process. I feel the same when movies or TV shows use them. Yes – the screenwriter or author is God, creating the characters, story, and scene – so he or she should know their character well enough to know what they’d dream, but it’s never just a dream. It’s usually a plot device. There’s almost always a special or hidden meaning under the dream, and it usually feels very manufactured, as if the author couldn’t be bothered to write dialogue or paint a scene depicting whatever the dream is supposed to help explain away.

Dreams can be harbingers of events to come; they can be reflections of memories; and they can be patchworks of the past, present, and future – as Mr. Scrooge experienced. Sigmund Freud famously expounded upon universal dream symbols, but I’m not convinced. While I have ABSOLUTELY no authority on this subject, it seems to me that accurate dream analysis is a highly subjective art, as dream symbols probably vary from person to person, from geographic location to geographic location, and from culture to culture. For instance, dreaming of an owl in certain cultures has ominous prophetic meanings, while in other cultures, the dream might be viewed as a positive message.

My sister and I were not twins, but we most definitely had a psychic connection, to the point of having the exact same dream on the same night. She’s been gone for more than two years, but I still dream of her often – and she is always beautiful and healthy and smiling in those dreams. Sometimes they are so real, it seems I could physically touch her.

I’ve never spoken with Eric about his dreams – he’s a fairly analytical person, so it’s possible he might not tap into them very often. On the other hand, perhaps he’s like my husband and has memories that go back to almost his earliest days. Either way, it would probably make for an interesting conversation. Who knows? Maybe we’ll actually have it one day.

Laura Orsini is an author, speaker, and consultant who coaches other authors to make and market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who is finishing college in Boston this summer. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about her novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.

The Last Emotional Tentacle

The Last Emotional Tentacle

When I met Tony, he was working on the sports desk at the Arizona Daily Star. His job was coding agate – the scores and stats now readily available online that you could once find only in the newspaper. The dress code, if you could call it that, was lenient – T-shirts and jeans were OK for non-reporter staff during the week, sweatpants on the weekend. Tony took the art of sloppy dressing to the greatest heights.

So it was odd to hear him say, that one afternoon we spent wandering around the World Trade Center shops the day after he drove out to the NYC area with me, that he might like to have one of those white-collar jobs that required a suit and tie. And as soon as he moved out there, he got one – all buttoned down with cufflinks and wingtips, just like the big boys. Funny thing is, while I could do without the whole torn/wrinkled/grunge aspect, a casual guy in a t-shirt and ballcap was always a lot more attractive to me than a business type in a three-piece suit.

There were so many things about Tony that made him the least likely guy for me, his 180 in apparel choices the least among them. First was his taste in music – Guns ‘N Roses, AC/DC, and Jimi Hendrix were never at the top of my playlist. The baseball was good, but not so much with the basketball. He was a Celtics fan; I thought they were an overrated team full of cheaters and crybabies. He’d done one semester at the UA before dropping out; when we met, I was getting ready to graduate with my BA. Not only wasn’t he Catholic – he was basically irreligious. He had to ask his mom whether he’d ever been baptized. She was pretty sure he had been.

And yet we flirted, and I found him mesmerizing – probably because he was a “bad boy.” But falling in love with a bad boy isn’t everything Footloose and Dirty Dancing make it out to be. Typically, they’re ill-behaved for a reason: they prefer not to be encumbered by a relationship, or encumbered just enough for regular sex, and no more. Every girl who falls for one thinks she can change him – to her peril. Most of us wind up eventually giving that old dead horse a break, even if it’s many eons down the road.

Tony and I did the constant push-pull dance cycle for years and years. Whenever he wanted distance from the relationship, he’d do his well-practiced disappearing act. Sometimes, I would hunt him down and confront him, perhaps even weasel my way back into the immediate picture. It’s kind of strange to think of myself being so needy – but that’s how our whole relationship worked. If I hadn’t been needy, he might have changed to meet me in another space, or he might not have stuck around at all. We’ll never know – unless I can somehow figure out how to jump to that alternate universe and then come back and tell myself in this here-and-now.

While I was in Tucson over the weekend for the book festival, I was telling my friend Justin – my social media guy who’s just a few years older than my son – that I avoided Tucson for pretty much the first 10 years after I moved back to Arizona. Another behavior that seems so “not me,” but it was me, at that time. The problem was that everything in Tucson reminded me of Tony – how we’d met, where we’d lived, where we’d worked, where we’d played. Although I don’t think of myself as a particularly sentimental person, I still found myself triggered by the sights, sounds, and reminders that seemed to have been cast so casually and thoughtlessly about the town where I met and began dating my son’s birthfather,

I was telling Justin about all of this – feeling rather cocky that I no longer experience the emotional roller-coaster when visiting my once-hometown. Then we found ourselves on our way to the store, and out of nowhere, a feeling of anxiety began stealing into the pit of my stomach. Minutes later, we drove past Clicks Billiards, one of those very same places where I’d gone to track Tony down all those years ago. The memory was hazy, but complete – a memory I hadn’t even know was there.

I once read that memories are the thoughts that come to us from the past – regret doesn’t arise from them. Regret comes from the thoughts on which we dwell, day to day, week to week, month to month, year after year – those thoughts that never have the chance to come to us because we’re so busy going back to them, time and time again. It would make sense that this blog is dredging up some long-hidden, perhaps still-unresolved emotions. I thought I was done – the last of the emotional tentacles unwound years ago. Looks like there might be a stray hanger-on or two. Good news is that I’m finally OK enough to just swat it down and snip it off, without worrying it will grow sibling tentacles that could come and threaten to strangle me again.

I’ve never regretted my relationship with Tony, primarily because my beautiful son came out of it. But I have, on occasion, beaten myself up for not doing things differently. So it’s good to have a loving, supportive husband, wise counsel from friends, and the self-awareness to realize that the entirety of my past paved the way to my present.

I heard the story a number of years ago about a therapist who worked in the mental ward of a prison. He made a practice of meditating/praying over each patient’s file, using a mantra that went something like, “I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I thank you.” Within a year’s time, every one of those patients who’d previously been diagnosed as criminally insane had been returned to the general population, and the mental ward at that prison was closed. It could be a wives’ tale for all I know – although you can google the man’s name (Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len, Ph.D) and find lots of alleged proof.

The point is the lesson under the message: We actually need to forgive others a lot less, sometimes, than we need to forgive ourselves. I’m not using this mantra with any regularity – though perhaps it would be a positive thing to do. But when I get stuck, when any sense of regret or not-enoughness starts to occasionally invade my thoughts, it’s a good tool to have at my disposal. Including those invading thoughts of the “Why did you put up with him so long?” variety.

Laura Orsini is an author, speaker, and consultant who coaches other authors to make and market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who is finishing college in Boston this summer. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about her novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.