Is It Stalking or Sleuthing?

Is It Stalking or Sleuthing?

February is Eric’s birthday month – he’ll be 24 on the 24th. I shrieked a little to myself in the car the other day when I realized that he’ll be just three years younger than I was when I had him. Wow – no real sense of what I was doing when I was 24. Probably my last year living in Tucson – planning, as it were, for a move to the Big Apple (actually, Jersey City, NYC’s wormy little brother across the Hudson River). I had a job of sorts, but no real plans for the future. Definitely not planning to have a baby and place him for adoption. Calls to mind that great John Lennon quote:

life is what happens

So birthday gifts are always a bit of a challenge. I didn’t get anything for the first few years. Later, at my sister’s recommendation, I’d buy gifts as I saw them and just hold on to them. Even after we’d opened the adoption (I learned the Stanfields’ address before Eric’s 3rd birthday), I never wanted Kathy and Bruce to feel pressured or threatened. When Eric and I finally met in person for my wedding – he was 16 – I gave him all the gifts I’d been keeping for him. Most of them were Christmas ornaments – one per year – and small stuffed animals I’d collected from the various places I’d traveled through the years.

He’s a sensitive kid, so he seems to appreciate thoughtful gifts as much as fun ones. Usually I try to do a little of both. I remember Kathy telling me that when Eric was in maybe second or third grade, he came home with that typical childhood project: the family tree. Sensitive, brilliant kid that he was – even as an 8- or 9-year-old – he asked for two pages, so that he could do two family trees: one for the Stanfield family and one for his birthfamily.

family tree

As it turns out, I have rather detailed family trees for both sides of my family. A cousin on my dad’s side did some fairly sophisticated research, so that tree is bigger, with many more branches. My mom’s tree is kind of like her family – a bit scattershot, misspellings here, wrong dates there. But it’s a good start and contains a lot of info I wouldn’t have access to were it not for the fact that somebody thought to record even these convoluted details.

So this year for his birthday, I was thinking I might finally try to put a family tree together for Eric, since I do have most of the pieces from my side of the family. Felt a little silly to realize that both of my sides still equal only one side of Eric’s family tree. Which means I’d need to research Tony’s family tree in order to do both sides justice.

I lost touch with Tony a number of years ago. The last time we saw each other in person was February 2002. We had a failed attempt at a reconciliation, after he broke up with a woman he’d been living with and was feeling lonely, I think. Back when Eric graduated from high school, I took some time and finally tracked Tony down via Facebook and other online tools. It was a circuitous process, but I’m a good researcher. I couldn’t find Tony outright, so I started with his Aunt Judy, which led to his sister Wendy, which led to him – and his wife. That enabled me to find his address in Bedminster, NJ – which it turns out was just 10 minutes from the house where Eric grew up and where he once again lives with his family. No surprise, when I stopped to consider the vast number of coincidences that have occurred and helped shape this entire adoption relationship.

I wouldn’t call it stalking, necessarily, but every now and again I would try to check in on Tony and Wendy. She posts much more frequently – and it was on her page that I learned that their dad had passed away a few years ago. My most recent foray revealed that Tony and his wife have split up – so that address I found for Eric a few years ago won’t do him any good now.

hatchet cake

Ever since Eric’s college graduation last May, I’ve been thinking on and off about reaching out to Tony, just to let him know his kid is all grown up – a smart, good-looking, thoughtful man. Glad now that I didn’t send a copy of the graduation photo to that address I had for him. But my walk down Memory Lane via Wendy’s FB page was a reminder that Tony really did cut ties with both Eric and me rather completely. There were photos from the time we were dating – but none of Tony and me. It almost felt like I never existed in his life. Perhaps not so surprising, in that this was his sister’s feed – but as much time as I spent with his family, you’d think I might have shown up in one picture. There’s actually a photo of him and his dad in front of a Trump casino in Atlantic City, wearing identical leather jackets. I remember that trip – I’m standing frozen in time, out of frame, but just a few feet away from them. A very similar picture of Tony and me was taken – I actually gave that to Eric a few years ago.

dale & tony

I was also reminded about the Christmas when Tony and I went gift shopping together – for his family. Turns out, he didn’t get me anything, and then took all the gifts I’d helped him wrap and toddled off to Baltimore to spend the holidays with his family, leaving me on my own in Jersey City. Yeah – there were some real douchey moments, and I was an idiot for sticking around as long as I did. Live and learn, isn’t that what they say?

Why do I still think about getting in touch? I guess because I really do want Eric to have all the information he can – before people die and there’s no way to retrieve it. This is his birthfather’s family – people who are his blood relations. Tony told me he’d told Molly (the live-in girlfriend from 2002) about Eric and still planned to tell his family, but I have no idea whether that ever happened. How could he NOT? ricochets through my head – but pretty easily, I’m guessing, if he still compartmentalizes the way he used to.

I remember a while back seeing that Wendy was pretty invested in the whole genealogy fascination, so the thought occurred to me that I might reach out to her, instead of Tony, and just take my chances that she’d get back to me, regardless of whether or not she’d ever learned she has a nephew (or that her daughters have a cousin). If anyone would have their family tree info, it would be Wendy. Reading through her FB posts, I believe we’d get along a lot better today than we did 29 years ago – but considering further, I recognized that her loyalty will always be to her brother first, so I think I’ve pretty much talked myself out of that idea.

Instead, I decided to take a 2-week trial at Ancestry.com and see what I could dig up there. Learned the date their dad passed away – July 6, 2015 – and that he was a college graduate. I would not have guessed that. Tracked down the family’s old address in Cedar Rapids, and confirmed the birth years for both Tony’s mom, Diane, and dad, Dale. But not much more than that. If Wendy’s been working on a family tree of any sort, it’s not public.

One night back in the late ’90s, when we were out playing pool at a bar near work, Tony was a little drunker than usual for a worknight and he (accidentally?) let it slip that there was adoption on both sides of his family. Apparently his Aunt Judy, on his mom’s side, was a birthmother who’d relinquished a baby in her teens. He had no idea whether his cousin had been a boy or a girl – or whether Judy had ever had any sort of reunion. Then, there was his dad’s side – where things get really complicated. The way I remember Tony telling the story was that his dad was one of seven kids, all of whom were adopted out of the family due to what he assumed were financial complications. It was the late 1940s/early 1950s – not sure what other reason there could have been. A few decades later, his dad finally located the last of his brothers – and it was such a big deal it was written up in the local paper. That was the only time Tony ever brought any of this up – so my vague memories of that conversation were all I had to go on.

When I was looking through Wendy’s FB page to try to figure out how long ago their dad had died, I came across an image of that story from the Cedar Rapids newspaper. I didn’t read it at the time, but now that I’m looking for every clue I can find about their family, I went back and pored over it with a microscope. Either I remembered the story incorrectly, or misinterpreted the information, because according to the newspaper article, Dale was one of 15 kids – seven of whom were adopted out. The story doesn’t fill in too many more blanks. But between it, my memory of meeting an aunt and uncle who lived in Tucson, and a few photos I perused on Wendy’s page, I’ve been able to put names to 10 of the 15 siblings. Still no names, dates, or locations for great-grandparents, although I did find separate photos of Diane’s mom and dad.

finding lost brother

And that’s where this story ends, for now. I’ll probably take as stab at the family tree, though I’m not sure I’ll get it all compiled in time to send as a birthday gift. If by some miracle Eric were to decide he’d like more information, I might one day try to contact either Wendy or Tony. Should that happen, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, I’m gonna hang up my sleuthing ways and let bygones by bygones.

______________________________
Laura Orsini is an author, speaker, consultant, and publisher who coaches other authors to make loand market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who recently graduated from college and began his engineering career. 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 the first book, The Least Likely Criminal, from her brand new publishing company, Panoply Publishing.

Puzzle People

Puzzle People

There are puzzle people and there are puzzle people. Eric and I are the latter. I started doing puzzles with my sister a long time ago, but our puzzling was sporadic. We’d do one, look at it for a couple hours, box it up, and then it might be six months before we’d do another one. When she moved in with me the last year of her life, we resuscitated our interest in puzzles and even designated our dining room table as the “puzzle table.” From there out, there was always a puzzle going. Corina didn’t like the TV because she found it energetically disruptive. I think she enjoyed puzzles because they’re play as you go. No pressure to finish within a particular time constraint, unless you self-impose one. You can listen to music, or have a conversation, or just get lost in thought.

I steered clear of things Corina and I did together for at least the first six months after she died. To this day, every time I go past the freeway exit that took me to the last house she lived in before she moved in with us, I think of her – and I never go that way. But the puzzles were a different story, for some reason. In fact, I went the other direction and became something of a puzzle maniac. I got so good at them I was doing a 1,000-piece puzzle every other day, at minimum.

I bought most of them at the thrift store, opting for $2 to $4 per puzzle, rather than upwards of $20 each. This is a risky enterprise if you’re a puzzle purist, however, in that you never know whether all the pieces will be there. One puzzle I got for less than a dollar – a picture of crayons – must have been missing 20 pieces. It was rather comical, and I always thought that was part of the fun. Not so with my friend Andrew Greess, who lost a single piece from one of his favorite puzzles and actually painted a piece of cardboard to fill in the spot. As it turns out, Eric informed me there’s a company that will do this for you! Of course, there’s an enormous amount of trust involved, as you must send all of the surrounding pieces of the actual puzzle to The Jigsaw Doctor so they can make a mold for the replacement piece and match the colors as closely as possible. I didn’t check the price because I’d never bother – but clearly there must be enough people who will bother for them to have built a business around it.

jigsaw doctor

My biggest solo puzzle, to date, has been 1,500 pieces. I have maybe two or three 2,000-piece puzzles, but I haven’t started any of them yet because I’m not sure my old puzzle table is large enough. And, I haven’t done a puzzle since moving into our new house, because I know the addictive nature of the things – and I’m not sure I want to go down that rabbit hole again. I see them in the garage every now and then, though, and I’m always quite tempted.

Eric’s biggest solo puzzle was a 9,000 piece beast. He said it took him nearly 10 years to complete it, but he made a big push on the last half over one six-month period. He has his eye on another one, similar in size. He’s just waiting to live in a space large enough to accommodate it. The map of the world is still on the floor in a spare room adjacent to his parents’ garage.

20180523_104402

Who knows what will happen after I return from my trip, as far as my own puzzle practice goes? I’m sitting at the kitchen table in the house where my son grew up. Kathy is out on the deck. The dog is at the groomer. Bruce is a the dentist, and Eric and his girlfriend are still sleeping. The puzzle we started yesterday afternoon – probably the hardest one I’ve ever done, personally – sits on the dining room table about three-quarters finished. It’s the blue sky that’s the problem – with no clues other than shape to go on, it’s a matter of trial and error, trial and error, trial and error until you get one piece. Then repeating that process with the next piece. This puzzle came from the local thrift store – and so far all of the pieces appear to be here. We may yet meander around and find a newer, easier – more fun! – puzzle, or we may move on to a board game.

20180523_100247

Regardless of what we do, I’m amazed and grateful and blessed to be sharing this time with Eric and his family. I don’t know if he gets how special it is. He’s very communicative, but not terribly demonstrative, so it’s a little hard to read him.

I love watching him with Meaghan, though. They are cute together – and, I believe, good for each other. There’s no visible competition – just cooperation. I bought them each these metal puzzles – the goal is to pull them apart, and then put them back together again. Meaghan solved both of them! The infinity one had all of us going, at one point. I went into New York City to see a Broadway show with a friend from Phoenix, and received a text from Eric while I was at the show: “Meaghan got it!” He was eager to share her success with me – if there had been that ugly competition that sometimes brews between couples, he never would have sent that text.

20180523_103420.jpg

Through the puzzles and games, we’re getting to know each other a little bit better and just spend some time together. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

ADDENDUM

The New York City skyline puzzle was completed about 5 hours after this post was published. Thank goodness all the pieces were there! Eric glues and hangs the puzzles he likes – I feel privileged that this one passes that test! Now, we’re onto a 1,500-piece job, albeit perhaps a somewhat easier one. Goal is to finish before he takes off for Boston on Friday morning at 10.

ADDENDUM 2

Irish cottage

Puzzle #2 was NOT easier than the first one. Just difficult in a different way. We got it about 3/4 complete before we moved it onto a large poster board. Eric promises to finish it next time he’s home, which should be next weekend. We shall see…

__________________________
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.

Esperanza and the Swan – An Adoption Fable by Laura Orsini

Esperanza and the Swan – An Adoption Fable by Laura Orsini

Have you ever had that dream where you went to class all semester and then forgot to take your final exam? Or you realized on the day of the final exam that you hadn’t attended class once all semester? I had versions of that dream for years. Other similar dreams, too. Missing the bus. Catching the bus, but being unable to get off at the right stop. Missing my plane. Arriving at my destination, only to realize my luggage had been misdirected. Again and again and again, I had these kinds of dreams. I began to call them my Dreams of Incompletion, but I was puzzled by their meaning.

Then, about 8 or 9 years ago, I took a storytelling class with my friends Steve and Resa Ferreira. One of the assignments for the class was to write and tell a fable. There weren’t really any rules, except to craft and share a simple story that had special meaning to us. Those crazy dreams had ceased, but they suddenly came back to me and, more importantly, I finally understood what they’d meant. And so I wrote the fable, Esperanza and the Swan.

I’d been thinking for a while that I’d like to share Esperanza with Eric someday, as the fable tells the story of a mother losing her infant son, only to find him later. I imagined putting the story into print somehow. I pictured line drawings on translucent paper. Though I thought about it and thought about it – it never came to pass. But I saved the story, moving it from laptop to laptop. Then, Eric’s college graduation loomed large, and I knew this was the right time to gift him with this simple but important story. However, my visions of putting it into print no longer seemed the proper vehicle for the story.

So I approached my friend Rita Goldner, award-winning children’s picture book author and illustrator, and asked her if I could commission her to create a single painting that would encapsulate the whole story. That was a stroke of genius – as she created the most wonderful painting. I was still a bit concerned it would seem an odd gift to Eric. I was certain he would appreciate it one day, but I wasn’t sure he’d appreciate it now. Silly birthmom. I needn’t have worried. I waited until after his party and all the guests had gone to share it with him, his girlfriend, and his immediate family. He couldn’t have been more touched – and all of them loved the painting.

The text of the story is below.

Esperanza gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy whom she named Marco. Shortly after Marco’s birth, a wicked wizard cursed her husband, turning the boy’s father into a stone sculpture. Grief stricken, Esperanza decided to journey to her homeland to visit her native people. She wanted her son to meet his ancestors, and desired for the elders to bestow ritual blessings on the new man-child in their lineage.

As Esperanza lived along a busy seaport, she believed the easiest way to reach her homeland would be to seek passage on one of the many merchant ships that docked in her port town. She arranged travel for herself and Marco on a ship that would depart in three days’ time. To prepare for the journey, she washed clothes, packed dried fruits and nuts, gathered necessary medicinal herbs, and made ready her cottage for her extended time away.

Esperanza awoke early the day of departure and arrived at the pier several hours before her ship was due to set sail. As she stepped across the gangplank, she realized she had forgotten to bring along the leather pouch containing her identification documents. The journey would require travel across several countries, and Esperanza knew she would more than likely be asked to show her identity papers at some point along the way. Not wishing to disturb her sleeping infant, she touched his head softly and left him in his cradle on the ship while she ran home to retrieve the vital papers.

As Esperanza approached her cottage, she saw, to her horror, an enormous lizard lying across her doorway. Lizard was ugly, with many spiny protrusions running along the length of his long back. He switched his tail back and forth, lazily. Esperanza approached. Lizard hissed and spat at her. She was running short of time to return to the ship before it sailed, so she pleaded and bargained with Lizard to allow her into her cottage, promising him the modest home and all its contents in exchange. Satisfied, Lizard allowed her passage through the front doorway. Esperanza grabbed the leather pouch and was on her way in a matter of minutes.

To save time returning to the ship, Esperanza followed a shortcut that took her across a rickety bridge over a narrow tributary of the river where her merchant ship was moored. With great trepidation, she took a huge breath and began to make her way across the shoddy bridge — when suddenly, her foot went out from under her and she slipped, dropping the leather pouch into the rapidly moving stream. As it happened, a swan was passing under the bridge, just as the pouch dropped. The pouch’s leather strap caught on the swan’s bill. Swan paddled to the edge of the stream. “Majestic Swan, thank you for rescuing my leather pouch. But now I beg you, please, oh please, beautiful Swan — what will it take for you to return the pouch to me?”

“I’m not sure,” Swan replied. “What exactly does the precious leather pouch contain?”

“My identity papers. Oh, please, Mr. Swan. May I have them back? It’s urgent that I have them now if I’m to catch a ride on the merchant ship that will depart shortly.” Just at that moment, the ship’s horn blew loudly, indicating its imminent departure. Esperanza sat down with her hands over her face, and cried.

“What troubles you so, fair maiden?” Swan inquired. “Of course you may have your pouch back.”

“The horn! Did you not hear the horn? The ship is departing, and I shall never make it in time.”

“There will be other ships,” Swan said, matter-of-factly.

“No, there won’t! My son is on that ship. I’ve missed it now, and I have no way of getting back to my baby. What am I going to do?” Esperanza wailed.

“Well, what are your options,” the wise swan asked gently. Esperanza looked up at him. She shook her head back and forth. “Options? I…I…I don’t know.”

“Well, what if you had to know? What if ever seeing your son again depended on your knowing?”

Wow! Esperanza thought. What are my options? “I need to find a way to catch up with the ship. If only I had a boat or a ship of my own. How can I quickly secure a boat and a pilot who will help me catch up with the merchant ship?”

Swan slowly moved his long neck from side to side. “Does it have to be a boat?” he asked after a thoughtful moment.

“How do you mean?” Esperanza was confused.

“Does it have to be a boat that carries you?” Swan asked.

“No. I suppose not. It does have to be something that floats, and that can support my weight, and that has a means to navigate its way back to the ship, though…”

“Like what? Do you mean a raft?” Swan asked.

Esperanza looked carefully at Swan, a smile spreading across her face. “Like a bird with a sturdy back and a good wingspan!” Esperanza clapped her hands and jumped to her feet. Esperanza reached out to remove the leather strap from Swan’s bill. Then she climbed on his back and they quickly set sail after the now long-departed merchant ship.

It took 11 days, but Esperanza and the Swan eventually caught up with the ship. Esperanza and Marco were reunited, and they continued their journey to meet the ancestors where they were welcomed like royalty.

LO, Eric, & Esperanza

____________________
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.

Wow!

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.

Where the Hell Did the Time Go?

Where the Hell Did the Time Go?

I remember being pregnant with Eric, trying to envision our lives – his and mine, distinctly separate – when he was 18. That’s the magical number to many a birthmother, as it’s the age of consent. They no longer need trouble with pesky adoptive parents when considering contacting the child they placed for adoption all those years ago. Of course, I exaggerate. I don’t have any idea how many birthmoms actually try to circumvent the adoptive family to reach their child, but I’m sure there are some. Particularly if the adoptive family has been extraordinarily stand-offish or breached the agreement after promising a certain level of contact.

As heartbreaking as such behavior no doubt is to birthmothers – birthfamilies – I actually understand it. I don’t sanction it because it’s more than likely born out of fear, but I can imagine an intensely overprotective adoptive parent thinking they’re doing the right thing by shielding their child from his or her family of origin. I believe this thought process is utterly misguided and will do more to hurt their child and harm their relationship with their son or daughter – but I get why they might behave that way.

Fortunately, I had none of those worries. Thanks to Kathy, our adoption has always been open, and I have had nearly unfettered access to my son – to whatever degree he was comfortable with. She always let him set the pace, and I never once got the impression that she felt threatened by me or my presence. And even so, I had a very hard time imagining this unborn baby – barely a seed of a human – at 18 years of age, or older. I used to ask my sister what she thought Samantha would do with her life, and she would tell me she didn’t want to speculate. She preferred to watch Samantha’s progress and growth unfold in real time. My niece is an interesting individual. She is simultaneously both one of the most amazing people I have ever known, and one of the most narcissistic and caustic ones. Cori got to see Samantha reach her 25th year – and given Sam’s extreme behavior the final year of Corina’s life, it’s probably best that my sister didn’t envision it ahead of time (or have a crystal ball).

It’s an interesting thing to be involved in your child’s life from the sidelines. This is NOT a complaint, merely an observation. I made a choice about which I have few regrets. But as Eric’s birthmother, I saw things through the very long lens, rather than through the day-to-day microscope. I received his annual school photos, vacation pictures, and occasional updates about this class project or that sports event. The good news is that I didn’t have to imagine him as he was growing up – I always knew where he was, what he was up to, and that he was safe and loved. Birthmothers – both domestic and international – in closed adoptions have spent their children’s entire lives wondering how they were turning out. I still can’t imagine how difficult that must be.

Five years ago, I received a somewhat last-minute invitation to Eric’s high school graduation. Kathy didn’t want to invite me until she knew there would be a ticket available for me – and she managed to wrangle one at the eleventh hour. It was quite a trip – not my first visit to Eric’s family’s house, but the first where I was fully enveloped into the family. I arrived a few days early and spent them driving around the Stanfields’ little New Jersey hamlet with Kathy, preparing for the graduation party. Everywhere we went, Kathy would introduce me to the clerk or attendant as her son’s birthmother, and they were fairly uniformly impressed by our close relationship. The woman who was our server at the restaurant on graduation night was straight out of Central Casting. Big hair, made up like a cancan girl, authentic New Jersey accent. She teared up when Kathy introduced me, and told us she was going to include our story in her memoir, which she said she was in the middle of writing at the time.

Many, many things have happened and changed in my life in those last five years. And now, our son sits on the precipice of Real Life – about to graduate from Northeastern University with a degree in civil/environmental engineering.

graduation invite

 

Due to the extremely limited number of tickets, I didn’t receive an invitation to this year’s graduation. I know Kathy feels bad about that, because it’s in her nature to want to make everyone happy. I’m OK with missing the graduation, but a bit disappointed to miss the graduation night dinner. Nevertheless, I’ll be there again for the big family party. As much as it won’t be new to me this time, it will be different. This time, our kid is all grown up. He’s an amazing young man of whom I could not be prouder. He’s got his whole life ahead of him, and my heart swells, thinking of the amazing future I hope he will have. Only he can really decide that – but from what I’ve seen, he’s got a giant heart, a brilliant mind, and a whole caravan of people who love and support him. In other words, a huge head start.

When it came to his high school graduation, I didn’t want to give him anything as impersonal as money as a gift. I was stumped about what to get, but then John’s dad came up with the idea of a gift card to the Boston Garden, since we knew he would be attending college in Boston. His pleasure at receiving that seemed genuine. I also gave him the info I’d tracked down about his birthfather – call it a side gift? This is a bigger occasion, so the gift will be commensurate. I’ll write more about that after I return from my East Coast visit in May, as I don’t want to spoil anything ahead of time.

So far, all I know is that I have plans to spend four days in New Jersey. My plane reservations are for a week, though – my plans are open for the rest of that time. Eric will undoubtedly be the center of attention that week, so I’m just going to plan, as usual, to go with the flow. I can always find a way to entertain myself, so there’s no need for anyone to worry after me, although I do hope to get in at least one private meal with the kiddo while I’m there.

Right now, he’s in the middle of finals, so I’m just sending good thoughts and keeping busy with my life in Arizona. I blinked and 23 years flew by. I’m not sure where the time went. Before long, we’ll be sending his kid off to college!

____________________
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.

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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.

Back to School (Temporarily) at 50

Back to School (Temporarily) at 50

I recently attended a writers’ conference at Arizona State University. First time back on campus in many years, at least as a student. And I was most definitely a student for those couple days – commuting, parking, backpack, lunch at the student union, the whole enchilada. I was wandering around looking for a specific building, trying to appear nonchalant about it – apparently without much success, as one young man pulled his earbuds out and asked me if I was lost. Thoughtful kid to even notice, let alone take the time to help out a stranger who could easily have been his mom. “Why – do I look lost?” I asked him.

He grinned and nodded. “Yeah, kinda.” Then he proceeded to walk me in the direction of the building I was seeking. We chatted a bit on the way. His name is Ernesto and he’s from a tiny town called Rio Rico, not far from the U.S./Mexcio border. I mentioned that I’d gone to the University of Arizona, ASU’s arch-rival. He feigned upset and pretended to walk away. Then he told me he’d started at UA – makes sense, as it’s a lot closer to his hometown than ASU. But he didn’t like it. Felt it was cliquish and uninviting. A hard place to blend in and make friends. I told him that was funny to hear, as I’d thought the same thing about ASU back 30-some years ago when I was considering applying to schools.

At any rate, he’d transferred to the big city college at the start of this school year, and hasn’t looked back. The sheer size of the Phoenix area still overwhelms him, but he likes the campus, the town of Tempe where ASU is located, and the people much better. I say good for him for knowing his own mind. Reminded me a bit of Eric’s comments that so impressed me during that one dinner we shared with his family back in December:

He’s in his senior year at Northeastern University in Boston, majoring in environmental/civil engineering. At the one family dinner we shared with him, Eric explained a bit about his process for choosing Northeastern. He and his dad had gone to tour a number of schools in Boston, and Eric found himself paying particular attention to the demeanor of the students on the various campuses. Immediately he rejected a couple of schools, simply because none of the students looked even remotely happy. That’s a pretty significant level of awareness for an 18-year-old. And I couldn’t have been happier or prouder to hear him describe this thoughtfulness.

So chatting with this kid, Ernesto, of course reminded me of Eric. I rather suspect that my son would be the one to pull out his earbuds to help a lady the age of his birthmom find her way around campus. He’s charming and considerate that way. I was also just reminded of him in general, being on that campus again. While I never attended ASU as an undergrad, I did take part in a summer program for smart kids back in high school – that’s where I met my amazing friend Jane. There’s a reason they segment school into various age groupings. We might have been in a gifted program, but we were still a bunch of high school kids, running amok on a college campus. So you might not be surprised to hear that one of the things that delighted us that first summer was going up to the roof of the Modern Languages building and making a game of trying to peg the people below with Skittles. I never liked the taste of those candies – but I still chuckle at times when they come up in conversation.

I did grow up and move on to become a real undergrad. I look back now and wish I’d taken a lot more advantage of the speakers and concerts and general-interest programs that were offered on the campus. The good news is that our new house is pretty close to ASU, so we still have the opportunity to do those things. Although, the attitude and demeanor of college campuses across the country seems to have changed so much since I was in school.

When I was at the UA, mall preachers would hold signs and shout at anyone who’d listen. Now, they are confined to a tiny corner – and I suspect their speech is closely monitored. I had several teachers I despised for various reasons (mostly opinions with which I disagreed) – today on certain campuses, I could file a grievance that might actually affect their pay and status and even tenure prospects. A-list comedians are opting out of stops on college campuses because the PC Thought Police are wringing every last ounce of fun out of comedy. Thoughtful commentators are being labeled as extremists, as the actual extremists – uninformed students – shout them off the stage. The campus protests of the ’60s were before my time, but I suspect from the videos I’ve seen and what I’ve read that people were at least allowed to air their perspectives – even if it was through a megaphone or while bike-locked to a chain-link fence.

So things are different now.skateboard lock

And I really have become my father. I was making my way to the student union for lunch, when I suddenly heard the rumblings of something that sounded like a cat being murdered. Turns out, whoever determines the tunes that get played in the breezeway in front of the student union has what my professional guitarist husband would call comically juvenile musical taste. It was thumping, bumping, ear-splitting EDM (electronic dance music) – and no one even seemed to notice. The 19- and 20-year-olds carried on their conversations, shouting to be heard, but without flinching or batting an eye.

I also noticed something I’d never seen before that made me feel old: skateboard lock racks.

Then I headed to the library. Some things have stayed somewhat the same. Though many technology options abound that didn’t exist when I was in school, it’s still a quiet place where studious kids seem to congregate. One cool thing was the school’s prominent encouragement toward sustainability and recycling all across campus, including a large sign painted above the photocopier in the library lobby. (I do, however, take exception to the encouragement to print anywhere.)

ASU sustainable

The kiddo is getting ready to finish up his college career this summer and make his way out into the wide, wide world. I imagine that one day, as he looks back to his university days when his 7-year-old cousin Parker is a college senior, things will have changed even more. As well they should – it’s the only constant in life.

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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.