Breaking the Adoption News

Breaking the Adoption News

Once upon a time, people had a sense of humor. Some of them told jokes – and most of the rest of them laughed. Some of the better joke tellers even made careers of it, a few of them landing their own TV shows and becoming household names. Not everyone laughed, though, because someone had to be the adult, the parent, the schoolmarm, the one with the common sense – and the stick up their ass. But most people laughed. A popular magazine even had a regular feature titled “LAUGHTER: The Best Medicine.”

Slowly, however, this idea of laughter became unpopular – to the point that making jokes became a sensitive issue. People began to feel that laughing was akin to rudeness or insensitivity. Political correctness swept the land, and comedians stopped performing at college campuses where students were the most prudish of all the citizenry.  The best comedians still told their jokes anyway – refusing to apologize or be cowed into shutting up for fear of offending. Some went out of their way to be even more offensive.

Sadly, this is not a made-up story. And it makes my lazy ass hesitant to post a joke about adoption, because we’ve all become so conditioned to overreact about everything these days. I was determined, though. So I looked high and low. If you find this cartoon – or my language regarding it – offensive, I can only offer you a quote from one of my all-time favorite comedians, Bill Burr: “Go fuck yourself.”


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.

Things Don’t Always Go as Planned

Things Don’t Always Go as Planned

Recently John and I bought bikes. We were actually walking – an amazing number of people walk in our new neighborhood – to get pizza at a nearby restaurant and happened by a bike shop. I’d been mentioning wanting to get a bike, so he asked me if we wanted to stop and look around. So we stopped and looked around, and came home with two bikes. They’re nice, as bikes go, particularly for people like us who are not bike people – yet. We got all the accoutrements to go with them: helmets, locks, water bottles, water bottle holders (called cages, if you want to use proper cycling parlance), tire liners, and a rack for the back of the SUV so we can take them with us on an upcoming trip to Los Angeles.

Zippy the Wonder Bike

On our first ride together through the neighborhood, we saw other bike people who had their bikes hanging on U hooks (or maybe they were S hooks) from the ceiling of their garage – right ABOVE their cars. What a marvelous space-saving idea! When our handyman came to do some more awesome work on our house (really – find and call Home Rehab AZ if you need handyman work in the greater Phoenix area!), we had him install similar hooks on our garage ceiling. Now we even look like bike people when we’re not riding our bikes!

In all seriousness, we’ve been working on getting in shape for a while now. John’s a lot LO w helmetmore diligent than I’ve been lately, hiking an average of about 4 miles a day just about every day. We also work out with our trainer twice a week. And I’ve recently committed to walking a minimum of 10 miles a week. So the bikes are icing on the cake, really.

Except that I’ve never been all that athletic, or that big of a fan of exercise. Volleyball my freshman year in high school and a weird city league for a season with some coworkers from Lehman Bros. when I lived in the Tri-State Area. A little softball from about 5th grade through freshman year. The longest distance I ever ran was about 5 miles, back during my first stint with a trainer, about 15 years ago. The fact that I bought a bike (and boxing gloves, but that’s for another post) perhaps means I seem to be voluntarily getting into this whole exercise/fitness/sportiness thing.

I’ve had bikes for most of my life, just never ridden consistently. In fact, I won a 10-speed bike in the third grade, selling raffle tickets for the school carnival. My aunt walked with me, door to door, encouraging me every step of the way. She was handicapped her whole life as a result of an accident that happened when she was about 3 years old. She was also married to a couple of very abusive men. And yet she was one of the pluckiest, most inspiring woman I’ve ever met. She made me feel like I could do anything if I put my mind to it. It was about three years before I could ride that bike, but it was a proud three years.

People who try to convince you how easy something is to do sometimes say “It’s like riding a bike.” The gist is that you’ll remember how to do this momentarily difficult thing because your body already knows the movements. And riding a bike really isn’t all that difficult, in the short term. But I watch these cyclists who appear seemingly everywhere within about a 5-mile radius of our home, and I think I could never do that. These are guys (they seem to be mostly men) who probably ride many miles daily. John did offer to buy me cycling shorts and a jersey when we got the bikes, but I declined. It’s not the gear – it’s the seriousness, the near-total focus it would take to get to be that good. I think the same thing when I see great swing dancing teams or CrossFit competitors. I’d love to be able to do it, but only if it didn’t take every waking moment to get there.

My biking will be casual for now – for exercise, transportation, and a bit of fun.

Here’s what happened when I headed out tonight to get that bit of exercise. I thought I’d ride around, check out another part of this new neighborhood of ours. I told my husband I’d be home within 45 minutes. Everything was going so well, until I wound up on one street, thinking it was a different street a mile in the opposite direction. How the hell did I get here? So I backtracked and headed home – or so I thought. Until I wound up on that same street a second time. These lovely maps will illustrate the story better than my words can explain it. I had to laugh out loud at one point, because I felt like Billy from the Family Circus comic strip.

Biking plan

The keen observer will notice that my plan doesn’t take into account the fact that there are no through streets at the point I thought I would turn and head East.Biking reality


Then I got home, thinking, Well, at least the speedometer I installed on my phone will tell me how far I went. Turns out, the speedometer only works when you turn it on.

speedometerThe reading at the end of my ride…

Things don’t always go as planned. My son is living, breathing proof of that. And sometimes I am reminded of this fact more often and more inelegantly than I’d prefer to be. Eric’s birthfather was a jackass in a lot of ways, but he was a great travel companion. For one thing, he’s an amazing map reader. And even if we did somehow manage to get lost, it never really stressed him out. My husband, on the other hand, would prefer we drive directly there every time – wherever there is. Sometimes, though – inevitably, even – our journey is windy and unpredictable.

As far as I’m concerned, getting lost isn’t that big of a deal if you keep a few things in mind:

  • Remember to breathe.
  • Keep in mind that, like Steven Wright says, “The world is round – you’ll get there.”
  • You’re never really lost (inside the city limits, anyway) if you have your cell-phone with you.
  • Sometimes when you get lost, you see things you’d never have seen otherwise.
  • You can meet interesting people, too, if you stay open to all possibilities.

When’s the last time you got lost? Was it more terrible or wonderful? Share, if you like, in the comments below.

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.

Go Ahead, Dance the Night Away – It’s Good for You!

Go Ahead, Dance the Night Away – It’s Good for You!

If you haven’t heard live music in a while, you owe it to yourself to get out and see a show! Doesn’t matter the genre – country, hip-hop, classic rock, classical, bluegrass, flamenco – just go out and see a band. According to an April 2016 article from Science Alert, listening to live music can reduce the levels of stress hormones in your body. And a 2017 study out of Australia found that “people who actively engaged with music through dancing and attending events like concerts and musicals reported a higher level of subjective wellbeing.”

The first album I bought was Journey’s Escape. I saw my first concert, Asia, the same year, with my BFF Jane at the original Compton Terrace in Phoenix. I was 14. My husband, the musician, bought his first album, AC/DC’s Back in Black, at 9 and attended his first concert at 11. It was the Rolling Stones. He was a precocious music aficionado; I was a precocious reader. Since getting together, we have attended a LOT of concerts.

John still goes far more often than I do – he’s becoming a regular on Sundays at Cactus Jack’s, a neighborhood bar near us that features a Grateful Dead cover band called The Noodles. I’ve heard them a couple times – and it was plenty. I can take the Dead, and jam bands in general, in small doses. John’s probably watched a couple dozen Dead & Company simulcasts in the last few years. So there’s overlap to our music tastes, but we definitely diverge. Rod Stewart and Cyndi Lauper are coming to Phoenix this August, and I was surprised when John was surprised that I wanted to see them.

Walt Richardson
Walt Richardson, center

One artist we agree about is a local guy by the name of Walt Richardson. Walt is a music institution in the Tempe/Phoenix area. He started as a solo act, playing the Tempe Festival of the Arts and in front of Moons Cafe in Tempe. In the mid-’70s, he and a guy name Aziz Chadley started a reggae band called Driftwood, which eventually morphed into the Morning Star Band. That’s when I was introduced to him. Walt Richardson and the Morning Star Band opened for Ziggy Marley at Mesa Amphitheatre my senior year in high school. And I am a semi-centarian – so this guy’s been playing for a lonnnnnng time. The Morning Star Band traveled all over the country – so Walt’s also a much loved and well-traveled music man.

John played in a band called Dry Spell back in the ’90s, and would occasionally run across Walt around Tempe, although they didn’t know each other. Today, Walt hosts a weekly open mic event at Tempe Center for the Arts, and John (aka Mickey Clement) is becoming a regular performer there. He had the chance to chat with Walt at a recent Noodles show, and it came up that Walt himself would be playing at Cactus Jack’s this past Friday night – so we went. What a treat! I repeat, if you haven’t been to a live show in a while, put on your dancing shoes and get out there to see some music. You don’t have to spend your kids’ college fund to do it, either. Although we’ve paid a pretty penny to seem some major acts, local acts are sometimes even better, and they’re often free.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Watching my husband dissect the music, learn new songs, rehearse a minimum of three hours a day, and take the stage around town, I have such appreciation for the work these performers do. If there’s live music and you didn’t pay a cover fee, please tip those musicians well. They’re working their butts off, and often the crowd doesn’t even seem to realize they’re there. You got in free – the least you can do is toss them a five. If they’re good, tip ’em extra!

Walt is always fun to watch. Another local act John and I really like is a cover band called The Walkens. These guys do the most amazing job covering everyone from Michael Jackson to AC/DC to U2. We first heard them at a street fair about seven years ago. It had rained earlier that day, so the crowd was pretty thin, but we were utterly shocked at how few people applauded this super talented band. We liked them so much, we went out of our way to plan one of my birthday dinners at a restaurant where they were playing that night.

One night a few years ago, we happened into a local indie coffee shop. To our delight, a jazz trio was just setting up. We hadn’t planned to stay long, but this unlikely group – a long-haired woman perhaps in her mid-30s, an old guy with a golf hat, and a kid who couldn’t have been out of his teens – captured our attention and held it for the next 45 minutes to an hour. We have subsequently discussed, on more than one occasion, how there is nothing like listening to live music to make you feel connected to other people who also are willing to dance and sway and clap and move their bodies to the beat. (In retrospect, perhaps I should have known something was off about my son’s birthfather: he could watch an entire concert by one of his favorite bands and not move a muscle, never even crack a smile.)

Christopher Shayne Band
Christopher Shayne Band bassist, Mark Blades

We recently saw an excellent local Southern rock group called the Christopher Shayne Band at the Pot of Gold Music Festival. Those guys were hard-rocking – and a lot of their songs were drinking themed – but they were excellent. Neither of us had heard of them before, but neither were we surprised to learn that they will be opening for ZZ Top this coming weekend at Arizona Bike Week.

Joe Rush

A Tucson artist whom I grew to love but never had a chance to see live was a guy named Joe Rush. My friend, the marvelously creative Gawain Douglas, introduced me to Joe when he designed the cover for Joe’s first album, Play and Play and Play. You have to know the music is impactful when it stays with you for 30-some years. When I made Eric’s Playlist for him for Christmas, I was thrilled to be able to include a song from Play and Play and Play, which unlike all the other songs on the playlist, is not available on iTunes. It just so happens that someone liked one of my favorite songs on that album, “The Blackbird and the Bluebird,” enough to make an animated video of it. As often happens when books are taken to the big screen, this artist’s rendering is not how I would have interpreted the song, but it’s clever nonetheless.

I’ll admit, my favorite band is a major act: I’d probably go to the ends of the earth to see U2 play live. That said, the most fun I’ve ever had at a concert was the Police reunion tour with opening act Elvis Costello at Desert Sky/Blockbuster/Cricket/Ashley Furniture/Ak-Chin Pavilion. That was when it came home to me that live music is meant to be listened to al fresco. I guess my biggest bucket list concert at this point would be the Cure, since we knocked Huey Lewis off the list last fall at the Lost Lakes Festival. But we’ll enjoy whoever we see next, more than likely a local group. I’m excited just anticipating 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.

If I Could Do That, I Can Do Anything

If I Could Do That, I Can Do Anything

I was 27 when I got pregnant. Employed full-time, with health insurance and paid maternity leave. Probably in better straits than many women who find themselves Bravepregnant. Yet I wasn’t ready to be a mom, especially since there was a very good likelihood that my son’s birthfather wasn’t going to stick around. I say “very good likelihood” because he told me he wasn’t going to stick around. Never mind that after I signed the papers, he conveniently changed his story and said, “You know, I would have stayed.” Thanks for nothing, big guy.

Even as I never really waivered from the adoption plan that formed in my head pretty much as soon as I confirmed the pregnancy, I wondered daily how I’d get through it. When I was about six months pregnant, I attended one meeting of the Spence-Chapin birthmother support group and took comfort from being introduced to a handful of birthmothers who had placed their children for adoption, even though one of them, with whom I became good friends later, told me she hoped she’d never see me after I left that night. She knew what I would have to go through, and from her perspective, I would be better off not doing it.

Whenever I would wonder how I could ever go through with the adoption – bring this amazing little person into the world and then walk away from him – I thought of Peggy and Lynn and Cathy. They had done it and lived through it, so living through it was something people did. They didn’t die. The earth kept spinning, sunrises and sunsets right on schedule, every day. They went back to work. Two of them got married – not to the birthfathers – and had other children. Their lives moved forward.

It was clear, even from that single meeting I attended, that these women still had issues and challenges and strong emotions related to their adoptions – but they’d moved on, as best they could. Moving on was possible – they were proof of that.

It’s funny. I’ve lost count over the years of how many people have told me how lucky I was to have found such a great family for Eric. While I will happily agree they are a great family, I have always taken issue with this idea that I was lucky. I’ve detailed in many of my past posts how much effort I put into making sure I found the right family – so from where I sit, luck actually had very little to do with it.

The thing I’ve only heard one or two times was that I was brave. As defines it, bravery means the quality or state of having or showing mental or moral strength to face danger, fear, or difficulty. Danger? No. Fear and difficulty? Yep, in spades. And I faced them. So I guess maybe I was brave.

Just as I used my meeting with Lynn and Peggy and Cathy for encouragement to get through the adoption, later in life I used getting through the adoption to get me through other challenging times. If I could live through the adoption, I could live through losing my dad and my mom, and my sister’s illness and passing. I could live through moving and impossible clients and the challenges of marrying after 40. Thankfully, it hasn’t come up in a while, but when the going gets tough again, as it inevitably will, I will take comfort in knowing I’ve already done perhaps the most difficult thing I will ever have to do. Whatever comes next, I’ll be brave enough to get through it.

I’ve never been a Disney gal. My sister despised Disney, and my husband has pretty similar reactions to all things Magic Kingdom-y. So I haven’t seen many Disney films. But on a friend’s recommendation, I did see Brave, and I really liked it. I loved that this imperfect little girl with unruly red hair was the protagonist. I loved that she stood up to the boys and did things her way. I loved that she really was brave.

I promised last post that this one would be about bravery. So now I am complete with my trio of posts drawn from three randomly selected words: Bravery, Caves, and Song. If you think you might like to participate in the 52-Week Ultimate Writing Challenge, drop me a line and I’ll let you know when we’re planning to begin and how to register.

In the meantime, practice up by sharing the bravest thing you’ve done so far this year in the Comments section below.

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.

What’s YOUR Favorite S Word?

What’s YOUR Favorite S Word?

So I was sitting down to do some work when my laptop decided it was time to perform updates – you know, the ones where you hit the SAVE TILL LATER button a dozen times until the computer decides later is now and it’s updating, whether or not you have time or the desire to do an update right now?

I’m three minutes in, and it’s on Update 2 of 14. This is going to take a while. I think I may as well go grab a book, until I remember I have a blog post due tomorrow, so I’d better get writing that now. I have two self-limited topic choices, due to the encouragement from my friend Justin about writing from words randomly chosen from a list. Last post was about Song. My options for today were Bravery or Caves. I opted for Caves, but not in the way you might expect.

Sitting here waiting for my laptop to finish its updating, instead of grabbing a book to read, I grabbed a notebook to write – the old-fashioned way, with pen to paper. And instinctively, I put CAVES at the top of the page. It just glared at me for a minute or two. Then it began to look like an acronym. Throw some periods in there, and you have C.A.V.E.S. But what do the letters stand for? Ah, the mystery of it all.

Call a Variety of

Create a Very Expensive

Then I changed one letter. Went from expEnsive to expAnsive. Now we may be onto something.

Create a Very Expansive …

Wait. What is the last word? It starts with an S. Create a Very Expansive S-word. That rather looks like a stuttering sword – but what would an expansive sword be, and why would anyone want one?

So, I changed it to look like this: Create a Very Expansive S________________.

Now all I had to do was fill in the blank with the appropriate S word. So began brainstorming all of the S words I could think of. Yes, I could have used a dictionary, but (a) that would have meant finding a printed dictionary (remember, this is all happening as my laptop is updating) or looking it up in teeny-tiny print on my phone, and (b) I figured my brain could use the workout. So started making a list of every word I could think of that begins with S.

No – not every word. Every NOUN – as we are creating an expansive thing, so the S word would have to be a noun. Here is the list I came up with, in the order the words popped into my head, over about 5 or 6 minutes. You’ll see some word association at work, and also some very random shit. Hmmm… shit did not make my word list, but that’s probably for the best, wouldn’t you say?

Stun gun

For the record:

  • There are 82 words on this list.
  • I had no duplications.
  • I had to look up the spelling of sayonara.
  • Schizophrenia and synchronicity are tie for the longest S word on my list, at 13 characters each.
  • Son and sun are tie for the shortest S word on my list.
  • Stormtrooper is not a proper noun.
  • MS Word does not know the word stinkiness.

So now I’m going to turn things over to you. If you could create an expansive thing that started with an S word, what would it be? You can choose from the words on my list, or make your own list. If you want to get really creative, come up with your own entirely new acronym for C.A.V.E.S. Share your answers with us in the comments section below.

As for my personal preference, I would be hard pressed to create a more expansive synchronicity than we are already experiencing in our adoption, so I think I might want to create a more expansive sweetness, strength, and/or story – as they pertain to our adoption, and to my life in general.

Check back in on April 5 when I promise to write about the last of my three chosen topics: Bravery.

BIRTH CERTIFICATE UPDATE: Those who are regular-ish readers may recall my recent challenge of having misplaced my birth certificate. Well, you needn’t lose another wink of sleep, as I found it last night, right where I speculated it might be, in the family tree folder. Now John and I can start the passport application process. Woo-hoo!

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.

What’s at the Top of Your Lifetime Playlist?

What’s at the Top of Your Lifetime Playlist?

Being married to a musician, I probably spend a lot more time listening to, watching, and learning about music than the average non-musician. It helps that I’ve always loved many kinds of music, even though the extent of my musical training and skill ran to a six-week course in the recorder back in second or third grade at St. Agnes Catholic School. I think we learned “Baa-Baa Black Sheep” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” The boys used the recorders as swords – I’m not sure what ever happened to mine.

So when John tries to explain using this chord instead of that one or how Dave Nachmanoff doesn’t use traditional tuning for a lot of his songs, it’s mostly lost on me. He tells me, however, that I have a pretty good grasp of sound for a non-musician, even though I don’t know the musical terms to precisely convey what I mean. When we’re watching those singing competition shows and I say, “It’s not round enough” or “It’s very tinny,” he knows exactly what I mean, and usually agrees with me.

My mom’s family was very musical. I wish I knew what happened to it, but there was a black-and-white photo of her with a number of her 11 siblings, each standing around a tree holding a musical instrument. My mom held a violin – but I never heard her talk about playing it, so that may have just been a pose for the picture. Back at about the same time I was tinkering with the recorder, my Aunt Molly (Modesta) made an album of Spanish songs of which my mother was both very proud and very envious. That, like the photo, disappeared into the wind with my mother’s illness. She spilled stuff on or broke or tore up or otherwise destroyed most of the mementos I – and, presumably Eric and his family – would cherish today.

My niece, Samantha, has quite a vocal talent. Corina and I thought for some time that she would study music and perform professionally, but after high school, she gave up singing entirely, except to occasionally sing with her church group. She sang two songs at my father’s funeral – and we wanted her to sing at my mom’s memorial Mass five years later, but she refused. Cori finally cajoled her into it, and she sang “Ave Maria,” after which all of my mother’s relatives clapped, like it was a recital. I thought the priest was going to have a heart attack. I really wanted her to sing at our wedding reception, but that didn’t happen. John’s stepmom, Gayle, stepped in and did an amazing job covering U2’s “All I Want Is You.”

In spite of my father, who preferred silence to any sort of music, I have appreciated music from my earliest days. And, I have what I sometimes think of as a series of soundtracks from different eras of my life. I put those all together into a musical version of my life story for Eric this past Christmas. I vacillated about giving it to him, as it felt more than a little self-indulgent. Nevertheless, my history is his history, so I gambled that he would find it at least somewhat interesting. I won’t share the whole list here because it was a very personal gift to him. If this blog ever makes it into print as a book, I’ll reconsider. I will, however, give you my intro to Eric’s Playlist:

So the last time I heard “Forever Young” on the radio, it occurred to me that I might make you a “mix tape” of the songs that were important to me throughout my life – and as I put the playlist together (we actually recorded them on cassettes when I was your age), I started jotting notes about each song. My initial goal was to record the whole thing on an MP3 player for you so I could include these descriptive bits as audio recordings – but that became labor intensive, so I decided to move into the 21st century and do it the sensible way, with an iTunes playlist (or, more accurately, two iTunes playlists).

The songs are more or less in some attempt of chronological order. Some will seem weird to you, no doubt – but all played a key role in my growing up, development as a person, are things I just love, and/or are pieces of music I’ve shared with John. Maybe you’ll enjoy listening to them – maybe just reading about them. Either way, here we go.

  1. Rod Stewart – “Forever Young” –This song is the whole reason I made this playlist for you, Eric. Every time I hear it, I think of you. I’m not sure how well we will ever get to know each other, but I hope you have even a small understanding of how much you are loved and that I wish only the very best things in life for you.

Eric never commented on the playlist, so I have no idea what he thought of it. No matter – it was a wonderful walk down Memory Lane for me. I had a blast playing most of the 92 songs on it a few times each as I put the list together. I say most because I included music I didn’t especially like, if it was important for some reason.

So there you have it, the first of my promised posts created from randomly selected words. Still have Bravery and Caves to tackle as topics from the same writing prompt, so stay tuned!

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.

Easter Traditions

Easter Traditions

Today is our first Easter without John’s grandmother, Mary Kelemen. She was an amazing lady, and though she slowed down in the last few of her 93+ years, to the end, Easter was the holiday we continued to celebrate at her home, with formal dinner, fixings, and eveything that entailed. She was raised in the Russian Orthodox Church, and their Easter is often on a different day than most Christians celebrate it. This year, for instance, today is regular Easter, while the Russian church does not celebrate Easter until next Sunday, April 8. The latest I recall celebrating Easter with Mary was May 5.


A couple years ago, I was let in on the family secret: the recipe for hrudka, a traditional Slovak dish made and served specifically for the Easter meal. It’s a sweet egg cheese – and I never liked it. Let it be stated that I may be the fussiest eater on the planet, something I never realized until I married into John’s family. “You don’t like that, either?” they’d exclaim through the years, as I just shook my head apologetically.

Side note: the Kelemens refer to this hrudka dish as (phonetic pronunciation) yay-ech-nick, yet I cannot find that word on the web anywhere – perhaps because I have no idea how to spell it. Yet site after site after site uses these exact words to describe its name: “It goes by various names, including hrudka, cirak, sirok, sirecz, and on and on.”

Each component of Mary’s Easter meal had a meaning behind it, coming out of the Czech tradition:

Paska: a special Easter sweet bread, rich in eggs and butter. This is symbolic of the risen Christ, known to many Christians as “the Bread of Life.”

Baked ham: symbolic of the great joy and abundance of the Easter season.

Kielbasa (pronounced kil-bah-see in the Kelemen house, for some unknown reason): a spicy, garlicky, smoked pork sausage that originated in Poland and the Ukraine. It symbolizes God’s favor and generosity.

Red beet horseradish: symbolic of the Passion of Christ, yet typically sweetened with a little sugar since, after all, Christ did rise again.

Salt: used for flavor and to serve as a reminder to Christians of their duty to others.

butter lamb

Butter, molded into the shape of a lamb (ours always had cloves for the eyes): symbolic of the goodness of Christ which Christians should exhibit toward all other living creatures.

Yay-ech-nick: egg-based cheese made into a “ball” and cut into slices. It’s supposed to be served with bitter herbs that indicate the moderation with which Christians should approach all things, but we never had the herbs, so that point was a bit lost on us, perhaps.

Hard-boiled eggs: Mary had the coolest shrink-wraps for her eggs with amazing Russian patterns on them. She would tell us stories about her mom and her aunts painting the same designs by hand on actual eggshells. The eggs symbolize the rebirth of Christ.

Potato salad: not a Czech tradition, but a family one, as John’s stepmom, Gayle, makes the most amazing potato salad you’ve ever tasted.

My family did not have quite as many Easter traditions, at least as they relate to the meal. Every year, we did attend all three days of the Triduum services, the days, beginning with Holy Thursday, leading up to Easter Sunday.

Holy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper. In the Catholic tradition, Jesus’ washing of his disciples’ feet before the start of that meal is reenacted during Holy Thursday Mass. Twelve parishoners are selected to be seated at the front of the church as the priests literally bathe their feet. Our family had that honor on two occasions during my growing up years.

Good Friday is the day that commemorates Christ’s death on the cross – the holiest times being noon to 3 p.m., recognizing the time he is supposed to have actually spent on the cross before dying. Good Friday is the only day of the year when no Mass is said anywhere in the world – in honor of Christ being gone for those three days. Most churches have a Stations of the Cross ceremony during the afternoon, where the entire Passion of Christ is reenacted through a prayerful walk around the church, stopping at statues or paintings that depict various events throughout that time of Christ’s life.

Though Easter is supposed to be the Big Day, Holy Saturday is really the Catholic church’s Super Bowl: it is the day all the new people who have been studying and preparing to become Catholic for the last six months to a year are baptized and receive communion for the first time. In college, I sponsored a gal to convert to Catholicism. Mary also sponsored a woman who converted to the Russian church, so we had that in common.

You get a sense of how deep the theological indoctrination runs – and not necessarily in a bad way – in that I have not attended these services for more than a dozen years, yet I can still describe them with great detail.

My family’s Easter Sunday traditions were milder: an egg hunt in our backyard, followed by a midday meal featuring a ham. This continued even into our adulthood, as my mom really loved the searching and finding game. Who knew what happened to the Easter baskets after the hunt was over, so each year, I would head to the thrift store to get new ones for all of us. Mom’s was, without a doubt, the blingiest basket I could find.

I’m not sure I ever heard the Stanfields’ Easter traditions described. If I did, it’s the one detail I failed to commit to memory. I imagine it involves Mass on Sunday morning and a large family meal. I do know that my kiddo has taken after me in the sweet tooth department, so he probably loves the candy and jelly beans.

Speaking of Easter candy… my sister Corina also had a sweet tooth, and a few years ago, she sent her daughter, Samantha, to the store a day or two after Easter to grab a couple bags of discounted Easter candy. She gave Samantha a twenty, expecting her to return with about $15 in change. Things did not go well when Sam came back with a giant bag laden with every candy imaginable and no change. “They were all on sale and I couldn’t decide, so I got one of each,” was her explanation.

Everything being different this year, John, his stepmom, and I have decided to take ourselves out for Easter brunch. If you ever decide to try this, I recommend making your reservation before 9 p.m. on Good Friday, as most people do. Your choices will be (understandably) limited if you wait. It will be quiet, but nice. I’m sure we’ll express gratitude for the abundance with which we’ve been blessed – but we’ll also acknowledge all the people recently gone from our table.

Wishing you Easter blessings and a beautiful spring!

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.