Birthmothers Day 2018

Birthmothers Day 2018

So we had a little event this evening. And when I say  little, I mean little. We had 4 birthmoms in attendance – 3 of us who spoke, and one who was there but didn’t say anything or contribute. Glad you showed up, Ana’s birthmom!

If you’d like to see the video, please click here to watch it.

I was just poking my head around a birthmom support group on Facebook. Lots of angry rants – and sad ones. Easy to judge, I realize. Hard to relate, though, because I never spent time in that wallowing, victim, poor-me space. I empathize, for certain. But so many of these women’s comments remind me of the comments from those women in  that chatroom all those years ago. I wasn’t in that headspace then, when my son was a toddler; the intervening years have only given me even more time for healing. I worry when I read rants from women whose children are in their 20s. That means they’re well into the double digits of years, still feeling angry and hurt and sorry for themselves. That’s an awful long time to carry around such powerfully negative emotions.

I realize that the grieving process is different for everyone – but the goal should be to move through the grief and get on with life, not suffer with it for the rest of forever. I believe one way to help women exorcise that grief is by normalizing and destigmatizing the birthmother experience. Virtual events like the one we held tonight go a long way toward doing that by taking the birthmother story out in the open where people previously unaware can become more enlightened about the path – and struggle – of the birthmother in any adoption.

One woman in this support group comments, “Why single us out?” She is missing the entire point. It’s not about singling out birthmoms, but rather giving them a day where they don’t feel out of place. Birthmoms who’ve had no subsequent children, who are still keeping the adoption a secret, and/or who don’t consider themselves moms in any true sense tend to shy away from Mothers Day. Birthmothers Day recognizes them, specifically, just as Mothers Day recognizes all moms, not any specific kind of mother.

Many years ago, I wrote the following poem. I no longer have the original, so I don’t know the date. Suffice to say it was sometime between March 1995 and today. It’s called The Birthmother You Know. Please feel free to reprint and/or share it at will, as long as my byline remains attached.

The Birthmother You Know


We are women.
We are soul. We are spirit. We are body. We are mind. We are voice.
We are 19. We are 39. We are 79.
We have college degrees. We are dropouts.
We are lesbians. We are hetero.
We are sane. We are institutionalized.
We’ve parented. We’ve aborted. We’ve remained childless.
We are marginalized. We are united.
We feel guilty. We are proud.
We are sickly. We are healthy.
We are married. We are divorced. We are single.
We are grieving. We’ve released our grief.
We are leaders. We are followers.
We are flaky. We are brilliant.
We are beautiful. We are plain.
We are strong. We are weak.
We are passive. We are aggressive.
We are angry. We’ve made peace.
We are shy. We are popular.
We are addicts. We are in recovery. We are drug-free.
We are famous. We are obscure. We are infamous.
We are students. We are teachers.
We are homeless. We are employed.
We have lots of regrets. We have few regrets.
We are sexy. We find sex shameful.
We are spiritual. We are agnostic. We are atheist.
We are spenders. We are savers.
We’ve followed our passions. We’re held hostage by lives we’ve settled for.
We are optimists. We are pessimists.
We are tall. We are short.
We are fat. We are thin.
We are friends. We are enemies.
We are chaotic. We are organized.
We relinquished. We surrendered. We placed.
We are lovers. We are fighters.
We are simple. We are complicated.
We are vegetarians. We eat meat.
We’ve had reunions. We long for reunions. We run from reunions.
We are accomplished. We are struggling.
We are fearless. We fear everything.
We are silent. We are outspoken.
We’ve shared our adoption stories. We’ve told no one about our adoptions.
We are wives, daughters, sisters, aunts, cousins, nieces, grandmothers, granddaughters.
We are mothers who love the children we said goodbye to.
We walk among you.



Here’s to the Birthmothers

to my other mother

Here’s to the Birthmothers

Today is Birthmothers Day – the day set aside to commemorate and acknowledge women who have placed at least one child for adoption. We don’t really say “Happy Birthmothers Day,” as for some, it is a bittersweet to truly difficult time of year. Instead, we commemorate, recognize, acknowledge, thank, and love the birthmoms in our lives, both known and unknown. Chances are good that someone you know is a birthmother, but she’s never revealed that fact to you.

Please join us for a live virtual spoken word event – the first of its kind for the women participating (and maybe anywhere), where we will come together to share our stories. I’ve written a poem for which the event is named – The Birthmother You Know. Others may share fiction, prose, or just talk about their experiences.

We’ve had many women who were invited opt out of participating – because it’s too difficult, or they expect it will be a maudlin event and they’re just not up for that. In my experience, every birthmothers day event I’ve taken part in has been an uplifting and/or cathartic experience for the birthmoms involved – and an edifying one for the others in attendance.

My friend Beth Kozan, a retired adoption caseworker and my co-host for this event, told me recently that one woman – not a birthmother – was surprised by how “normal” all the birthmothers were at the event she attended.

“What did you expect?” Beth asked her.

“I don’t know – a lot of wailing and tears, I suppose.”

There may be tears – most likely there will be tears. But they won’t necessarily be sad tears – just the tears that come when we acknowledge both the good things and the challenging things life brings.

If you missed us for the live event, you can watch the video at this link on my personal Facebook page:
Please share this post with anyone else who may have an interest in learning more, understanding more, loving more.

How Do You Forgive a Ghost?

How Do You Forgive a Ghost?

I am, by the grace of temperament, biology, psychology, and/or God, not a grudgeholder. Never have been. And while not exactly a Pollyanna, I was most definitely born an optimist. I remember, on more than one occasion, missing my bus stop on the way home from work while living in Jersey City and consoling myself with thoughts like, Well, it’s cold but at least it’s not snowing. Thank goodness I don’t have a broken leg. It’s only a 10-block walk, not a mile. And I realized, while pondering those thoughts, that mine was perhaps a fairly unusual outlook. Most people would just be pissed off, perhaps using that anger as an excuse to lash out at loved ones when they got home, pop an extra cold one, or pocket a lipstick at the drugstore – bad behaviors we so often convince ourselves are justified because the world is just not on our side.


One of my heroes is a guy named Rob Brezsny, who writes a most unusual syndicated horoscope column called Freewill Astrology. He is also the author of a fantastic book called Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia: How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings, in which he explains just that. The book is not for the faint of heart – unless you want to lose all your preconceived ideas about the value of victim thinking, shame, complaining, and blame. Rob is one of the most visible optimists I know of. Yep – he’s a woo-woo weirdo, but I’m of the opinion the world could use a few more of those right about now.

Like Rob, it has always been easy for me to see the good in almost any situation, even when my conversationmates are hellbent on seeing only the dismal, awful, horrible reasons to complain. My friend Sunil is still recovering from a series of strokes, and he was in a snarly mood when I went to visit him last night. I do my best not to make light of his situation when he gets in those moods, because I can only imagine how awful it must be not to be able to get your body to do the things you want it to do. And yet, every time he gets down like this, I challenge him to pull himself out of it, because that’s the only way he’s going to get well. By the end of our visit, he was much cheered. I hope he can call on some of the blessings I reminded him about the next time he’s feeling a bit sorry for himself. I am quite fortunate that, when I’m in a rare whiny state, my husband is there to buoy my mood or play devil’s advocate and remind me why entrenching in my momentary misery would probably be a less than ideal choice.

But it’s not like I’ve never undergone hardships. I’m a human person living on Planet Earth – so I struggle, just like everyone else. The years 2014 through 2017 were pretty intense and anguished for me and my husband, as we lost three close loved ones in that short span of time: his dad, my little sister, and then his grandmother. Some people get mired in the sadness, grief, blame, anger, and myriad other dark emotions. I can neither take credit for nor explain why I don’t. It just doesn’t work for me.

I was rather surprised when a very intelligent, spiritually focused friend of mine recently started a sentence with, “If you ever need to seek revenge against someone…” and then proceeded to tell me how to exact such revenge. “REALLY????” I wanted to scream at her. But she’s not the type to accept coaching – probably most especially when she’s in the middle of sharing her secret for getting even.

A couple years ago, I attended a well-known personal development seminar. One of the exercises was to think of someone with whom we were angry or had a beef. Although I believe most people could probably quickly think of several people who fit that bill, I struggled to think of anyone who brought up enough residual feelings to qualify for the rest of the exercise. Sure, there are lots of people I could be angry with. Whom some people would tell me I should be angry with. And yet, I just don’t stay angry with anyone – at least not for very long.

My son’s father comes to mind, but I’ve long since released most of the anger I had toward him. More recently, my niece is probably the best candidate for my anger – as she was unbelievably awful to my sister (her mother) and to me in the last few weeks of Corina’s life. And while I’ll admit there’s sometimes a twinge of $#%^#@&*! when I think about Samantha, it dissipates quickly and I don’t spend any unnecessary time there. My sweet, beautiful sister, on the other hand, was a master at mustering anger and then holding onto it for a very, very long time.

When she started seeing a naturopathic oncologist to treat her cervical cancer, her doctor told her that her particular version of the disease generally had two root causes: (1) the HPV virus and (2) unresolved anger. Bingo. She even knew who she was angry with and why – and yet, she couldn’t let it go. She nursed it and relished it and cheered it on, even she said, as she knew that it was making her physically sick. She had a reprieve there for a while, when she was able to spend some time apart from the people with whom she was so angry. And while she was separated from them, she started to recover and rebound. We saw so many signs that she was getting well and truly believed she would survive this unrelenting illness. And then, she let both of these folks back into her life, without having ever really resolved the old anger – or developing a coping mechanism for having them around again. The cancer came roaring back – and she died a few short months later.

I cannot fathom hosting enough anger within my body to cause it to become my enemy. Many people make that choice, though, consciously or unconsciously.

A dear friend of mine is trying to work out some unresolved anger right now – but the grief recovery handbookperson with whom she is angry passed away, so she can’t do it face to face, in the here and now. She is working through the processes laid out in The Grief Recovery Handbook, a book gifted to me by another friend shortly after my sister died. My brother-in-law, Matt, was really struggling at the time I received that book, so I passed it along to him. As highly recommended as it comes from both of these friends, I have not yet felt compelled to read it myself. As I understand it, the steps are related to things left undone. Intense anger because of unresolved issues with someone who’s died is a form of grief, albeit not necessarily the kind of grief we’re programmed by society to expect and endorse.

My friend admitted the other day that she’d gone through the forgiveness steps detailed in the book for other people she’d lost in her life, but she’s just not ready to stop being angry with her mother-in-law. This friend knew my sister – and I reminded her how Corina’s anger had turned out for her. “You still have a choice, you know? No matter how much you still hate her and how justified you are in those feelings, you’re not hurting Jackie with your anger. I mean – she’s gone! The only one being punished by those intense feelings is you.” I think my comments surprised her – perhaps she hadn’t ever really thought of it in those terms. But she promised to start working the forgiveness process for her mother-in-law – both for things Jackie did or said to her, and for things she did, said, or failed to do or say to Jackie. In so doing, she may finally be able to release all those years of pent-up hostility and get down to the business of healing herself.

the one who angers you

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.

You’ve Gotta Know the Rules Before You Break ’Em

You’ve Gotta Know the Rules Before You Break ’Em

My husband had an astrological reading today with a gal who told him he had the most fantastic chart she’d ever seen. Yippee – now someone else has confirmed he’s a brilliant musician, performer, writer, and artist, so maybe he’ll believe me when I tell him the same things. As we are married, she also asked about me (birthdate, time, location, etc.). I was overhearing this from the next room, mind you. Then she asked him if I was a perfectionist and set in my ways. He hemmed and hawed a little – I don’t think either of us really see me that way. But when he mentioned that I was an author and editor, she said, “And an editor must have things just so.” Ah – turns out she is correct.

done is better than perfect

As the day wore on, it became a bit more apparent to me that even as I’ve always seen myself as a devil-may-care rebel, the fact is that I care quite a bit about how quite a number of things are done. I don’t know that I’d call it perfectionism – but I do seem to have an inclination toward having certain areas of life just so. First and foremost, I care about correct grammar. Even though I’ve been moving toward living more in the spirit of “Done Is Better than Perfect,” I’ll usually go back and reread these blog posts a couple times – and when I notice a typo, I can’t jump on the EDIT button fast enough.

Then tonight, I heard a speaker at the Arizona Marketing Association monthly meeting. She was very good – talking about how various generations have different values and ways of communicating, so smart marketers will take this into consideration when creating campaigns to reach members of each age group. And even while I was hearing her message and learning from it, in the back of my mind, I was aware that she was on the stage in a sleeveless red top. Somewhere in my past, one of my mentors told me that professional women ALWAYS wear an outer garment (jacket, sweater, overshirt, etc.). To omit this – to be in her shirtsleeves – is the height of unprofessional presentation. Was this speaker in any way unprofessional? Not at all. And yet, this rule I’d encountered all those years ago came around to interrupt my experience tonight.

Back in the days when my husband worked in commercial plumbing, he left the house by 4:15 a.m. to get to the jobsite. There was no one on the roads at the time, so he occasionally ran a red light if it was taking forever to change and there were no other cars to be seen. I bristled at the idea – and yet I will walk straight across almost any road against a red light if there are no cars in sight. How is that different? Am I a rulebreaker when it suits my needs – the rules apply to everyone else but not to me?


A couple months ago, I mentioned my friend Mike – Tony’s best friend from childhood. Mike was the slobbiest of slobs – and I found out later that Tony, my son’s birthfather, was the exact opposite. When given the opportunity to keep his own house the way he preferred it, Tony kept his place immaculate. Now that I’m traveling back down Memory Lane, I recall that Tony used to nag Mike whenever Mike would dump out the garbage from his car (mostly fast food wrappers) onto the side streets near our apartment in Jersey City. To his credit, he never added enough trash to make a visible difference, as every street in Jersey City was a litterbug’s haven. Nevertheless, it was not the behavior of a mature adult. And every time, Tony would say to him something along the lines of, “Hey, why don’t you just put that stuff in the trash can? Don’t lower yourself to live like these animals.”’

Imagine my surprise one day, then, when I saw Tony toss all of the junk mail from our mailbox onto the floor in the vestibule of our 3-story walkup apartment. A case of “do as I say, not as I do”?

“What the hell are you doing?” I let him have it. “You yelled at Mike, and now you’re doing the exact same thing. You’re no better than the rest of the degenerates in our neighborhood.” I don’t remember his response, but I never saw him do it again.

A few weeks later, Tony’s mom and dad were in town visiting. They’d rented a car, and we were heading down to Atlantic City for the weekend, when suddenly we saw a Pepsi can go flying out the front window. I could not believe my eyes. Tony’s dad had just chucked a soda can out the driver window of our moving vehicle. “Hey!” Tony yelled at his dad. “We have to live here after you go home, you know!” I remember being pretty surprised to watch my reformed little rulebreaker calling out his own dad.

My dad wouldn’t have thrown a gum wrapper on the ground – and you know where the apple falls. But still, I was determined not to bend to his every whim. Given my very strict Catholic upbringing in a house where all my dad had to do was look at us for us to know we were in deep trouble, I probably didn’t have to push the envelope too far to rebel. Sneaking 11 p.m. phone calls to my best friend in junior high might have been the extent of it. I never ditched school. Never got drunk. Never had purple hair. Never got any body part other than my ears pierced. Still have yet to get my tattoo.

punk rock peer group

What, exactly, does a rebel look like anyway? Are you really pushing any boundaries when you and all your friends are clones of one another? There are lots of ways to break the rules, though. I did it in the most massive way possible by getting pregnant without the benefit (or imprisonment?) of marriage. And I was in no hurry to share that news with my every-so-strict father.

Going against the tide isn’t always a bad thing, though. I’ve been in more than one circumstance in my life where a person was having a public meltdown, and all anybody else did was stare at them. Once, a friend was giving a speech during a Toastmasters meeting, when he suddenly seemed to be choking because his mouth had gone so dry. He asked for someone to help him out with a sip of water. This was the summer in the desert, so nearly everyone in the room had a water bottle sitting on their desk, and yet not one person from the front row offered this guy a drink. I leapt from the back row to hand him my water bottle. Really, though? No one could be bothered to let another person who was in obvious distress drink from their bottle? Because rules or decorum said so? Or was it something else?

A similar thing happened when a woman a few rows in front of me broke down hysterically during a weekend workshop. Though the subject of the workshop was some aspect of marketing, this particular presentation was touching on personal development – and something in the speaker’s talk touched off a strong emotional reaction in the woman. Everyone around her stared, horrified, as she sobbed uncontrollably. Yet no one moved a muscle to help her. I got up from my seat, went to her, put my arm around her, and offered her a tissue. When it was clear she wasn’t going to get herself together all that quickly, I guided her out to the vestibule. Why do we freeze when we see strangers go into distress? For whatever reason, they’re breaching the rules of decorum, so we must avert our eyes and dissociate from them?

Of course, I’m happy enough not to follow the crowd in more pedestrian avenues, too. For example, I’m thrilled when I don’t love a movie or TV show (the Roseanne reboot comes to mind) that everyone else seems gaga for. And, in the reverse, I feel like I must apologize or make excuses for liking some mainstream things, like Pink and the occasional Katy Perry song. And I consider most romantic comedies guilty pleasures.

They say that rules are made to be broken. I suppose it depends on the rule – and the situation. But I’d definitely agree with one maxim: You’ve gotta know the rules before you break ’em.

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.

Pretty Toes and Melancholy, Too

Pretty Toes and Melancholy, Too

I know people who consider mani-pedis not a luxury, but an absolute life essential. My general pattern is to wait so long between salon visits that my fingernails look like I’ve clawed my way out of a coffin and my feet have fish scales on the bottom. Then I wail to my husband, “I haaaaaave to get a manicure!”

“So go get one,” he says with a shrug. You think it’d be that easy. I could have gotten one last week, during that hour I played a video game on my iPad. Or instead of binge watching another British crime drama. Or instead of reading the latest novel I’m working on (7th so far this year – although I only read The American Marriage to page 63, because it was at that ridiculously early point in the “mystery” that I figured out how it was going to end). But, no. I played and procrastinated doing a task that has specific hours attached to it – the salons are open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. – until I couldn’t stand it any longer. But now I have a client deadline and a meeting and other things pulling at my attention.

No matter. Today I went and got the damned manicure and pedicure.

Once I get there and allow myself to relax, it really is luxurious. First, they remove your old toe polish – OK, maybe they skip this step for the guys. Then they cut your nails down to the length of normal humans, rather than those of tree sloths. They also go to town on the cuticles, cutting away all that excess skin. I always pay a few bucks extra for them to do a callous removal treatment. Bye-bye, fish scales! Next, they break out the lotion, for a lovely calf, ankle, and foot massage. My salon also adds the treat of hot rocks, followed by a hot towel. No – not as torture, but to remove any remaining aches and stress. Then, they paint your toes with the dazzling color of your choice. OK, again, maybe the guys opt out of this step. But at the end, your feet look lovely and feel even better. The manicure, which comes next, follows much of the same process for your hands.

In spite of the delightful end results, it’s a bit of a lonely time for me, which I suppose is why I don’t really look forward to it like I used to. Many (most?) women do the mani-pedi thing as a group activity, because it’s just more fun that way. For years, I went with my sister. Even that last year when she was sick and living with me, we still went to the salon with some regularity. After she left us, I started taking John’s grandmother, Mary, to the nail salon with greater frequency. I think I might have taken her once or twice prior to Corina’s passing. After that, we went pretty much like clockwork at least once a month to a salon close to her home in Chandler – the house I now live in. In fact, we went to the salon together the day before the heart attack that ultimately claimed her life.

When John’s sister and her daughter were here for Mary’s funeral last June, we all went to that same salon, but it was a one-time thing, as they live in New York. I’m really not much into superstitions, but I think I might steer away anyone else who offered to be my regular salon buddy, as the survival rate for the job is rather, well, zero – so far.

I’ve tried on more than one occasion to get John to come with me. He’s a regular hiker, so his heels are pretty rough. For those who are reading this and have never had a pedicure, I encourage you to try it as a delicious way to pamper yourselves. Gentlemen included! It’s far more mainstream for men than you might realize. I do find this statistic a bit suspect, though, but according to an October 2017 story in the New York Post, “The International Spa Association reports in its new Consumer Snapshot that 49 percent of spa customers are men, up from 29 percent in 2005.” John, however, is having none of it. One of his former fellow plumbers had regaled the guys with a horror story about infections and lost toenails incurred from a nail salon visit, so he says “Thanks but no thanks” every time I bring it up. Even when I ask every so sweetly.

That leaves me to go on my own to treat myself to this indulgence that is both pampering and melancholy. Which is definitely better than not going at all, but not as much fun as it once was.

mani pedi 2

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.

Tamale Tips and Guacamole Recipe for Cinco de Mayo

Tamale Tips and Guacamole Recipe for Cinco de Mayo

If my son were a dog, he’d be a mutt. Irish, Italian, and Mexican on my side, and German, English, and a few other Waspy ethnicities on Tony’s side. We know mine with some certainty – but what he knows of Tony’s side was only a stab from my memories of vague conversations that might have happened some 30 years ago. So, understandably (and like many adopted people), Eric had his DNA analyzed by Most of it was not surprising, but there is one bit we’re uncertain about – most likely on my mom’s side.

I might be able to help figure out that mystery bit for Eric if I were to have my own DNA analyzed – but that’s probably not going to happen. Even as I understand anyone’s need to know who they are and where they come from, I find the idea of voluntarily giving my DNA to any sort of corporate entity distasteful, at best – and exceedingly unwise, at worst. Comedian Bill Burr (whom I seem to reference with some regularity) has a funny rant that pretty much nails why I won’t buy in. There’s more to it, but the gist is: “Why would you send your saliva into the internet? Why would you do that? Why don’t you just go to the Illuminati and help them build your robot replacement?”

Perhaps it’s easy for me to shrug it off because I have always known my full history. And even if there’s a bit of mystery to my mom’s ethnicity, it’s nothing that keeps me up at night. One thing I’ve always found kind of interesting is how similar all of the flags of my ethnicities are.

Laura's flags

Another odd thing is my strong affinitylady of guadalupe for all things Irish, given that it was only my paternal grandmother with the Irish ancestry. My dad’s father was Italian, and what we know of my mom is that she was Mexican on both sides. So I grew up in a house where the Mexican culture dominated. Both my mom and dad spoke Spanish fluently – it was my mother’s first language and my dad studied it in college and then became fluent as he continued to use it. And neither of them thought maybe they should raise bilingual children? Huh. We marked all of the Mexican holidays; the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, celebrated annually on December 12, seemed to have special meaning for my mom. And our house had a distinctive Mexican flair to it. I always thought it was just my mom’s weird decorating taste, until I heard comedian John Leguizamo describe the inside of his mom’s “typical Mexican house” as “looking like a papaya exploded.”

animal shaped tortillas

We ate what Americans know as Mexican food with regularity: Spanish rice, homemade tortillas, refried beans, huevos rancheros, guacamole, and tamales. Though we had them week in and week out for years, I never mastered the art of rolling tortillas into round discs, deciding at one point I might have stumbled onto a new product line with animal-shaped tortillas. (Mine in no way resembled the ones in the adjacent picture, which were cut out with cookie cutters.) While tamales are a Christmas tradition for many Mexican families, we tended to have them two or three times a year, whenever it struck my mom’s fancy. The reason so many people do it only one a year is that they are a LOT of work.

I was going to give you a recipe for tamales and instructions here – but it would make this post crazy long, and there are lots of good resources on the ol’ interwebs. Here’s an excellent step-by-step guide. There are also all kinds of videos on YouTube, if you’re a more visual learner.

A few things to keep in mind if you plan to make homemade tamales:

(1) STEER CLEAR  of corn oil. It is the worst possible oil you can consume. Regardless of what the recipes, say, don’t use it!

(2) Most recipes call for you to make the masa (corn dough) from scratch. We almost always bought prepared masa from a Mexican restaurant. It will save you sooo much time and hassle. Be sure to get the flavored masa, though – or plan to flavor it yourself. Otherwise, your tamales will taste terrible.

(3) Tamale-making requires a team effort. Figure out how to form an assembly line for greatest efficiency.

making tamales


(4) It takes a while to get good at rolling the tamales. Don’t worry – just keep practicing. By your final dozen (yep, you’re gonna make a LOT of them if it’s to be worth your time), you’ll be a pro.

(5) WASH YOUR HANDS before touching any part of your body if you’ve come in contact with any kind of chili pepper – fresh, dried, or powdered. I was helping my mom and aunt make tamales when I was about 10, and I rubbed my eyes with my chili pepper hands. Don’t make that mistake unless you’re a masochist!


Instead of a tamale recipe, in honor of Cinco de Mayo, I will give you my very simple guacamole recipe. My in-laws have loved it since the first time I made it for them. There’s really nothing to it. I think the only reason they think it’s so good is that it’s fresh every time I serve it.


  • 4 or 5 medium avocados – be sure they’re ripe
  • A cup of grape tomatoes
  • Small to medium onion (red, yellow, or white)
  • 2 fresh garlic cloves or ½ teaspoon of garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A splash of vinegar (to keep the avocados from browning)


Peel and pit the avocados. My sister taught me that the easiest way to remove them from the skin is by using a table spoon or small serving spoon. Cut the avocados into small pieces, an inch or so. No need to measure – your next step is to mash them in a medium size mixing bowl. Cut your grape tomatoes as small as you can – or to whatever size you prefer. I usually cut one tomato into three pieces. Dice your onion – again, make the pieces as small or big as you like. Add the tomatoes and onion to the mashed up avocado. Mince the garlic if you’re using fresh. Add it, or powdered garlic. Add your splash of vinegar, and stir the whole mixture with a fork. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve as a side dish with organic blue corn chips, or with your favorite Mexican dish.

So here’s to a happy Cinco de Mayo!

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.

Proud Mama

Proud Mama

When I graduated from the University of Arizona in December 1989, I could not have imagined arriving at today. I wasn’t thinking about having kids at all at that time – or not having them.

My dad said an odd thing to me the day I graduated. He told me it was the happiest day of his life. I remember wondering, “What about the day you got married? Or the day I was born? Or Corina was born?” Perhaps those had been happy at their time, but according to him, my university graduation was even more important to him. It wasn’t until I started considering his comment for this post that it occurred to me that it was probably the genesis for my caring about being considered intelligent. Other people are flattered to be considered pretty, funny, or athletic. For me, the height of compliments always has been to be thought of as smart.

Two things about this December 1989 graduation: it was at my informal graduation party when I first really connected with Tony, Eric’s birthfather. He surprised me by showing up at all, and brought me a Boston Celtics shot glass as a gift. Telling, in many ways, now that I look back on it. And now, 24 years later, our son is graduating today from Northeastern University with a degree in Civil/Environmental Engineering. Even if it was in spite of himself, I’m sure Tony would be a proud dad, if he knew.


I’m not there – but I will be in New Jersey later this month for the graduation party. In the meantime, we’ll toast Eric tonight, proud as hell to be in the orbit of this very special kid.

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.

Why a Special Day for Birthmoms?

Why a Special Day for Birthmoms?

Since 1990, Birthmother’s Day has been the day set aside annually to commemorate the birthmother experience – honored on the Saturday before Mother’s Day. I’ve long thought it was such a fitting day, because it’s not tidy like Mother’s Day, which is always the second Sunday in May. Because the Saturday before Mother’s Day can be either the first or second Saturday of May, Birthmother’s Day moves, according to when Mother’s Day falls.

According to my research, Birthmother’s Day is controversial, as many birthmoms either don’t feel they deserve a day (all the more reason they should have one!) or feel that Mother’s Day should cover it for everyone. From personal experience, though, I know that many birthmoms don’t quite consider themselves mothers in the traditional sense – understandably, I think. I’m guessing things get a bit murky for those who have both relinquished a child and raised at least one of their own. I get that Mother is by no means a one-size-fits-all title. My husband and I celebrate Mother’s Day every year with his stepmom, who was much more of a mother to him than his biological mother ever was.

What feels like a VERY long time ago, but was actually only about 21 years ago, I was involved in creating a Birthmother’s Day commemoration at Spence-Chapin, the New York City adoption agency through which I placed Eric with his parents. Since the holiday didn’t pre-date my son by too many years, we weren’t on the cutting edge, in terms of creating a ceremony at our agency, but we were certainly early adopters. I don’t exactly remember who came up with the idea or how it was proposed, but I know it originated with Spence-Chapin’s Birthmother Advisory Board, of which I was a member.

Once we had the green light, we were tasked with planning the event. Five or six of us got together at an Eastern restaurant (the specific cuisine has slipped my mind) in mid-town Manhattan, and banged out a plan that included: the date and time, a rough outline of the program, who would be invited, where the event would take place, the kinds of food and beverages we would serve, and a budget. We each agreed to take on a task or two, and we were off. I remember Judy Green, Soence-Chapun’s birthparent department coordinator, being particularly shocked when we came back a week later with our plan all spelled out on paper. It seems she was used to those meetings where you get together to plan the next meeting wherein you discuss the date and time for the next meeting – and nothing ever gets done.

The event was a solemn occasion – we knew we had a mix of birthmoms, some of whom had had joyful reunions, some who’d had difficult ones, and some who had been unable or unwilling to try to locate their children. We crafted paper flowers that each birthmom “planted” in a container in honor of the children we’d birthed and relinquished to others to raise. A few people read. Some spoke. We made a printed program. Unfortunately, I no longer seem to have a copy of that.

The second year was easier, because we’d been through it before. Instead of flowers, we made leaves that we stuck to a large tree on a wall. If I’m not mistaken, that tree remained on that wall for quite a few years after we originally put it there. I moved back to Arizona before Spence’s third Birthmother’s Day, but the gals all made sure I knew they’d acknowledged my part in creating the original event – and they sent me a copy of that program (lost, along with the original one, it seems).

It was a few years before I realized that I missed my connection with other birthmothers, so I decided to try to create a Birthmother’s Day commemoration here in Phoenix. I reached out to every adoption agency and adoption social worker I could find – remember, this was pre-social media, so this meant going through the phone book and hoping someone would call me back. The only person who did call back was my now good friend, Beth Kozan, who was nearing the end of her long career as an adoption caseworker with Catholic Charities. She thought the event was a great idea and invited all of the birthmothers she knew who she thought might want to attend.

We held our event, which we called The Birthmother You Know – named for a poem I wrote – at a local coffeehouse, and it was packed. I asked a friend to act as emcee for the evening, and we had about a dozen women come and share their stories, through various mediums. Some read poems. Others stories they’d written. One shared the letters she and her daughter had exchanged via email, in advance of their reunion. It was much different from the events I’d helped launch at Spence-Chapin, but wonderful in its own way. One birthmom was there with her daughter and her daughter’s adoptive mom. That was powerful to observe, although I know that Kathy would have attended, had we still been back on the East Coast.

I tried to get the story into the newspaper, to no avail. I remember having recently met a birthmother who was working as a confidential intermediary, helping connect adult adopted children with their birthparents. She told me, woefully, “People want the gossip and the scandal. No one wants to hear a happy birthmother story.” She was one of the most depressed people I’d ever met at the time.

Imagine my surprise – and that lady’s – when the following year, a reporter from The East Valley Tribune called me up in late April. My news release, it seems, had made its way to the features department at this newspaper, and been stuck in a tickler file for stories that might work “someday.” This reporter was new to the paper, and came across my information while looking through her predecessor’s desk. She – and her editor – thought the idea of a Birthmother’s Day commemoration was newsworthy enough to warrant a full two-page spread in the features section on Mother’s Day 2006. This online version contains the words but fails to convey the amazing layout and full impact of the story.

We’re coming up on Birthmother’s Day 2018 – so this year, I proposed something new to Beth. We’re going to see how it goes to hold a virtual commemoration. Participants will all be online together via a Zoom conference call, and then we will broadcast that to the public via Facebook Live.
If you are – or know – a birthmother who might want to participate, please forward this post to her.

Here are our requests for participants:

  • Birthmothers of any age or form of adoption
  • Willing to participate in this event publicly, via Facebook Live
  • Willing to send us a headshot – does not need to be formal
  • Willing to send us any written text they want to share during the event ahead of time so we can display it while they’re reading/talking

Please have them contact me directly at phxazlaura @ if they wish to join us, and I will forward the information they’ll need for the Zoom call. If you know people (other than birthmoms) who might just like to join us for the Facebook Live event, they can find details and RSVP here.

Here’s to birthmothers everywhere!


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.

Are You IN? The 30-Day Plank Challenge Begins Today

Are You IN? The 30-Day Plank Challenge Begins Today

My friend and mentor, Blaine Oelkers, recently threw down the gauntlet to a group from the Arizona Marketing Association: he dared us to join the 30-Day Plank Challenge. He credits his wife, Beth, and her fellow nursing school students, for introducing him to the challenge. At any rate, I accepted, and as of today will be making my way from holding the plank position for 20 seconds to holding it for 5 minutes within the next 30 days.

30 Day Plank Challenge

The good news is that my husband and I have been working with our trainer, Miles Beccia, for a couple years now, and our regimen has included regular core work and planks. At one point in the past, I got up to 2 minutes in the plank position, so I know I can go at least that long without too much further conditioning. Because of that, I’ve made my own personal chart that deviates from this one. Since I know I can already do a minute without much difficulty, mine starts at 1 minute 15 seconds. And then I bump it up in 15-second increments, with no days off.

Yep – those could feel like the longest 5 minutes of my life – if I watch the clock and focus on the pain, rather than figuring out a way to train my brain to enjoy the challenge instead of fighting it. Perhaps the bigger challenge will be to smile like this gal at the end of the whole thing.

It seems rather a fun thing to be taking on this challenge with a big group of other people, many of whom I do not know. I’ve done (and hosted) blog challenges in the past – but this is different, because it’s physical, which makes it more personal for me.

Cheer us on – and if you want to participate and join our Facebook group, shoot me a note and I’ll add you!

5 minutes, here I come!

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.