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.

To Declutter or Not to Declutter

To Declutter or Not to Declutter

Birthmoms may relate to the notion of taking a certain pride in knowing our children take after us in particular ways. I previously mentioned playing board games with Eric and his girlfriend over Christmas, and the odd sense of pride I felt in noting that he and I often came up with the same answers during one particular game. It’s never been terribly surprising that he’s a smart kid, given what I know about my own intellect and the near-genius intelligence of his birthfather.

But there’s another way he seems to have taken after me that has left me wishing he might be more like my sister – that’s the arena of orderliness. I know that many kids keep their rooms a mess – but I’ve seen Eric’s, and heard his mom comment on the tornado it was for most of his childhood. Until I was about 12 and we finally got our own rooms, Corina and I shared a bedroom. You could have drawn a line down the center of it where my side ended and hers began, because mine was a constant jumble of books, clothes, papers, and toys, while hers was always oh, so tidy.

The older I get, the more appealing I find the idea of orderliness, even though it is anything but native to me. I’ve been trying to tell myself that the reason I’ve never been neat was that I never had enough space. When you think about it for even a moment, though, you discover the folly of that thought – because less space is all the more reason to be orderly, isn’t it? One thing that has been true is that my last two moves were rather hurried, and unpacking never quite occurred in the most robust sense. Some of those mostly unpacked boxes still sit in our new garage – but the inside of our house is so tidy that you wouldn’t know the same people live here as lived in our prior home.

John asked me, as my friend Barbara and I were busy unpacking box after box, “We’re not going to become those ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’ people, are we?” As if that would be a terrible thing.

“If at all possible, yes, we are going to become those people,” I quipped in response. And I have to say, he seems to be pretty pleased every time he asks me where something is and I know exactly where to find it: box cutter, plastic gloves, Phillips screwdriver, beach towels, ice pick, step ladder, and power strips are among the items he’s asked about so far.

So imagine my surprise when, while putting away laundry earlier tonight, I found myself thinking, I could see this putting everything away all the time getting kind of boring after a while. Translation: “At least part of me misses the chaos.”

In looking for an image to illustrate the famous quote, “A clean desk is the sign of a sick Perfect Mess bookmind,” I came across a book, titled A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder. The tagline is: “How crammed closets, cluttered offices, and off-the-cuff planning make the world a better place.” Of course I immediately ordered a copy. Book after book and expert upon expert tell us that our external world reflects our internal world – and if we want to become more diligent, efficient, and bountiful in our results, it behooves us to embrace order, as opposed to living in chaos.

It seems, however, that a part of me feels more comfortable in chaos. It is very nice, I will admit, not to have to waste minutes (which become hours and days and months, in the aggregate) looking for things. But too much order somehow feels stifling and artificial to me. Perhaps that’s why those clothes waited almost a week between coming out of the dryer and making their way into my closet and dresser drawers.

I suppose the best thing is for me to aim for a middle ground between the disaster in this before image and the squeaky clean after picture.

messy desk before and after

As for the kid? There’s still lots of time for him to grow into his own sense of orderliness. Or not.

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.

Not Parenting Means Never Having to Say No

Not Parenting Means Never Having to Say No

My parents scrimped and saved every penny they had to send Corina and me to private school, first through twelfth grades. To this day, I still get the occasional odd look when I tell people where I went to high school, as there was a certain aura about most Xavier girls, and I don’t really have it because I was neither a legacy student, nor did I receive a BMW for my 16th birthday. I hated almost every minute of the exclusive, all-girls Catholic school – the cliques and sense of not fitting in at all – but I stuck it out. My sister lasted through her freshman year before she begged reprieve and was allowed to transfer to North High, just four blocks from the house where we grew up. It pained my mother to see her switch, though, because she was no longer able to say, “My daughters go to Xavier.” Losing that “S” on the end – and having just one daughter go to Xavier – didn’t carry quite the same heft when it came to bragging rights.

Having only attended public school at the university level, my knowledge of it comes only from the stories I’ve heard from others – and Hollywood. I imagine my experience would have been different, still. With all this talk about education these days, as teachers in Colorado and my home state of Arizona are on strike, it occurred to me to wonder what I would have done, had I been parenting Eric. Arizona has ranked somewhere near 49th in education for the last 20 years or so – but who knows where I’d have been living, had I chosen to parent Eric, so I cannot really factor that into my hypothetical decision.

The point is that I didn’t have to make that decision. Or any others. Things like circumcision – which, as I mentioned in a prior post, I had no idea was my decision to make at the time of Eric’s birth. Or vaccination. Yep – I’m one of those people who seriously questions all things related to allopathic (traditional Western) medicine, vaccines included. Twenty-three years ago, it wasn’t the great controversy it is today, but I’m pretty sure my sister did not have Samantha vaccinated.

g rated

Big things and small, parents must make decisions about them. I never had to say no to sugary foods or Disneyland or a cell phone before the age of reason. I never had to decide about pets – most likely the answer would have been yes, whether it was a gerbil or a pet monkey, because we were just always animal people. Whether to join Boy Scouts or have sleep-overs or watch this movie or that one. I lost count of the times I would rent movies, only to come home and have Corina ask, “Is it something Sam can watch?” I wasn’t parenting, so it never occurred to me to check the ratings of the films I brought home – I just got what I liked. She also put the kibosh on a couple of books Samantha had to read in school, Roald Dahl’s Witches being the one I best remember. Goodreads describes it as a “children’s dark fantasy novel,” which is probably accurate. But they were reading it when Sam was in fourth grade, and my sister thought it was way too scary for her at the time. So she said no – and Samantha had to deal with the fallout from that, in terms of being teased by her classmates.

I didn’t have to teach Eric right from wrong. I didn’t have to explain why I stopped going to church when he was about 10. I didn’t have to decide between healthy food and convenience because I was too tired to cook on a given night. I never had to tell him there was a limit to the number of after-school activities he could take part in, or that I didn’t care for a particular friend – or that friend’s parents. I never had to say no – or yes – to anything.

have vs get

I heard a while ago that one way to get past procrastination is to switch from viewing them as things we “have to” do to viewing them as things we “get to” do. For example, it changes things considerably to view it as, “I get to make some phone calls to clients this afternoon,” rather than groaning, “I have to make a bunch of client calls today.” The word get implies that the activity is a privilege, while have to makes it feel and sound like a chore. I was deliberate in my use of “have to” versus “get to” in the preceding paragraphs, because in the contemplation that stemmed from those thoughts about the education decision I never made, it occurred to me that I never made any of the rest of those choices, either – because I never had to. When I placed Eric with Kathy and Bruce, I relinquished both the right and the responsibility for making all of those decisions.

And for a moment, it felt like the biggest cop out ever. I took the easy road, rather than the complicated one where I’d have to make hard decisions, sacrifice my personal desires at times, and give a significant amount of my time, effort, and energy to this little person who needed it more than I did. I’m not ashamed of that choice – just aware in a way that I’ve never been before how much work and effort my son’s parents put in, in my stead. And grateful that they were able and willing to do such a phenomenal job of it all.

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.

Making a Difference a Little at a Time

Making a Difference a Little at a Time

teacher strike

Teachers in Arizona and Colorado walked out on their jobs today, in demand of better pay for teachers and support staff, as well as improvements in learning conditions for their students. You may have an opinion on the strike as a tool to accomplish such a goal and the politics behind it. I was once of the opinion that our deficit in education is the most crucial of all social ills, because everything else (homelessness, addictions issues, obesity, and teen pregnancy come to mind) can be addressed if education is done properly. However, as I see it today, two of the most significant problems with education will not be solved with this strike or any others like it. First, we need to stop teaching students according to their chronological age and instead teach according to their ability (and willingness?) to learn. Secondly, we need to teach our youth not WHAT to think, but instead HOW to think. I’m certain some would disagree with me on Issue #1 (“But little Joey’s feelings would be hurt if he were 12 years of age but had to study math with 7-year-olds”), and we’re so far down the rabbit hole on Issue #2, in terms of the way we do education in America, that it would take a seismic shift to move us even remotely in another direction.

While I still feel education – and all the other topics mentioned above – are of vast importance, a different one now stays top of mind for me. It’s the subject on which I post and repost most often on Facebook. On his podcast today, comedian Bill Burr noted that this subject is the single most important issue to millennials: the environment. Hear, hear! In case you are (or have been) wondering, millennials are described as kids born between 1982 and 2002. Born in 1995, my son falls right smack in the middle, there. And I worry often for the state of the planet we are leaving to him and his children. My husband’s niece will be 10 in June, and Eric’s sister is pregnant right now with her first child. What will the world be like by the time that baby gets to be my son’s age? Pretty unpleasant if we don’t start doing something immediately to right the sinking ship that is our home planet.

Environmental problems include:

  • Climate change
  • Pollution
  • Deforestation
  • Water scarcity
  • Loss of biodiversity
  • Soil erosion and degradation

check phone while car idles

Sounds kind of hopeless when you hear those big problems listed out like that, but Mother Nature is nothing if not resilient. However, we all need to do our part, and we need to start today. Even small things count, because they add up when each of us begins to do more of them. One thing I’ve noticed, in particular in Arizona, is the number of people who get into their cars and let the engines run while they check their phones, sometimes for minutes that run into the double digits. This is an easy habit to fall into, especially in the crazy summer heat here. But if we pay attention and stand in the shade (or remain inside the store or office building) we don’t have to idle our engines and pump all that extra carbon monoxide into the air.

plastic bag litter

One thing my husband is getting much better at these days is taking reusable grocery bags to the store. Sometimes we forget them at home, but my personal policy is never to request a bag if I have 3 items or fewer – and often I will juggle many more than that to avoid bringing home another plastic bag. Think it can’t possibly matter whether you use one less bag a week? Did you know that an estimated one million birds, 100,000 turtles, and countless other sea animals die each year from ingesting plastic? Even if you throw those bags away in a trash can, garbage is regularly being dumped (legally and illegally) into the ocean – so your plastic might just go and sit there for 15 to 1,000 years – or until an unsuspecting creature eats it for dinner. If you are a bit crafty and you’d like a tip or two on making your own reusable bags, this video may help. We also recycle just about everything we can: paper bags, toilet and paper towel rolls, plastic bottles, all manner of cans, Styrofoam, and plastic bags (both the grocery variety and others).

recycle toilet rolls

John a has also recently made the decision to stop eating all mammals – which leaves him seafood and fowl, in terms of animal proteins. This is also another huge step in the way of helping the environment, because factory farming is one of the biggest causes of pollution on the planet. I have not yet given up meat to the same degree – nor do I promise that I ever will – but we do consume a lot less meat these days than we used to, and I’m OK with that.

Another thing I’ve been paying attention to for a long time is straws – the ubiquitous NoStrawChallengeplastic drinking implements that are actually wholly unnecessary, in terms of our ability to consume most liquids. As the website points out, we use the things for roughly 20 minutes at a rate of 500 MILLION a day and then throw them away – and then, they NEVER break down or decompose. A quick internet search will reveal heartbreaking images of animals that tried to eat the because in the ocean (WHY do they end up in the ocean, again?) they look like food. The Sidewalk Cafe, a restaurant where we dined recently in Venice Beach, had actually posted signs explaining why they serve straws only upon request – and challenging patrons to take the #NoStrawChallenge.

I know these are small details, but the average American household throws away 10 plastic bags per week. Picture it, if you can. If every one of those houses used just one less bag per week, that would be 125 MILLION fewer bags discarded a week. Or six-and-a-half BILLION bags in a year. Just for using one less bag a week. Now add in recycling the things, and we’re really starting to make a difference, right?

I have no idea what my son’s family’s total recycling habits are – but if I recall our last visit this past December, they definitely had a recycling bin that went out separate from the landfill trash. These are habits I would have passed down to him, had he grown up in my house. My hope is still to one day have these conversations with him, if only to learn his perspectives about the things that are important to me. And if his generation is making the environment its number one priority, maybe there’s hope for us yet.


Paper recycling facts

Things you can do…

On Straw Use

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.

Turtles and Talismans

Turtles and Talismans

John and I saw a seal today. We’re still in the Los Angeles area, taking a couple days’ R&R before heading back to Phoenix. The back of the Tahoe is loaded with book festival paraphernalia (mostly books, but also chairs, table cloths, email sign-up sheets, postcards, etc.), and we added a rack to cart our brand new bikes with us. Seemed like a LOT of extra effort, until we got them out and road 8 or so miles along the Santa Monica/Venice Beach bike path. The weather was perfect and it was the most delightful ride! It was on the pier at Venice Beach where we encountered this little guy.

Venice Beach seal

I always thought of my sister, Corina, as the animal person in our family. Then I met John, and it seemed he and Cori had a lot in common – not the least of which was that he’s an animal person, too. The owner of the VRBO guest house where we’re staying has a very friendly Golden Retriever by the name of Jessie – and John has been cheating on our dogs with him. His owner has been away, so we’ve been taking Jessie for morning and evening walks, just like we would with our own dogs, Lucy and Sugar. I sent this photo to our friend, Barbara, who’s pet-sitting for us, so she can let them know John’s been seeing another dog.

John and Jessie

We’ve also seen squirrels, geckos, and these regal gulls who even agreed to pose for a photo.

Lois and Larry

Haven’t yet seen any turtles, my favorite of all the water and land animals. My fascination with them began some dozen years or so ago, when I stood and watched them for about an hour, outside the main gates of the Phoenix Zoo. They were sunning on a log, sometimes climbing over each other for better position and other times content just to sit and soak up the sun without moving for the longest stretches of time. I was reminded of the time I saw a turtle – decent-sized guy, maybe 10 inches wide by 14 inches long – wandering down the street in my neighborhood as I walked from the bus when I was a freshman in high school. I ran home to get a box to carry him in so I could take him back to my house (I’ve since learned that pet turtles frequently escape their captors), but he was gone by the time I got back to the spot where I’d seen him. I figured some other turtle-saving kid must have scooped him up in the interim.

Phoenix Zoo turtles

Having missed my chance back then, I’ve never actually had a living turtle as a pet. I do have many inanimate turtles, though. When I was planning the design of my still-fledgling atrium, I knew I wanted a way to incorporate my many turtles into the design. Found this awesome wrought iron shelf with wood slats – and it has become the new home for a little more than half of my turtle collection. My friend Kebba recommended I change the name from atrium to turtlarium. I like it! The other turtles are still in a box in storage, so I’ll have to g over there and rescue them soon! We also have a pewter turtle that guards our wedding bands, in addition to my small turtles and turtle earrings.

Back in December 2015, I got a henna tattoo at a street fair. It was a Celtic pattern on the inside of my left wrist, and every single time I looked at it for the roughly three weeks it lasted, it made me smile. So I have decided to go for the permanent version – but the design will be a turtle I cobbled together from a few different cultural images I liked. The center two are Celtic. A Facebook friend described it this way:

So your graphics seem to have different cultural origins. The one below is Gaelic. The one above, not sure – maybe Asia Pacific? And the overall image is Northwest tribal.

LO's Turtle TattooFirst, I planned to get the tattoo for my 50th birthday, but that’s come and gone. Then I was going to do it to celebrate reaching a specific weight goal – but that’s taking longer than I want, and my trainer encourages me not to tie rewards like that to my goals. Now, with Eric about to graduate from college, I could have it commemorate that – or I could just effing do it, right?! No reason attached to it other than that I want to do it.

I’ll be sure to write about it when I actually get the ink. In the meantime, you can check out my turtle collection on Pinterest, as well as just a few of the meanings ascribed to turtles and tortoises:

  • The turtle is a sacred figure in Native American symbolism, as it represents Mother Earth.
  • The turtle symbol signifies good health and a long life.
  • Turtle symbolism is characterized by its association with the Earth and the earth symbols of groundedness and patience.
  • The turtle is a symbol of the world.
  • The turtle symbolizes deliberately slowing down and pacing yourself.
  • The turtle is a symbol of determination and persistence.
  • The turtle represents emotional strength and understanding.
  • The turtle symbolizes ancient wisdom.
  • In Tibet, the tortoise is a symbol of creativity.
  • According to the principles of feng shui, the rear of the home is represented by the Black Tortoise, which signifies support for home, family life, and personal relationships. A tortoise at the back door of a house or in the backyard by a pond is said to attract good fortune and many blessings. Three tortoises stacked on top of each other represent a mother and her babies.
  • In Taoist art, the emblem of the tortoise represents the triad of Earth, humankind, and heaven.

Do you have a talisman that represents something special for you? Tell us about 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.

Turning My Brown Thumb Green

Turning My Brown Thumb Green

I finally got my own room when I was 12. My folks had an addition built onto the back of our house that included a master bedroom and bath, as well as a family room with a fireplace. I got my parents’ old room and Corina got the room we shared to herself (the larger room). We used that fireplace all of about three times because the chimney released soot – as chimneys do – that dirtied the roof of my mom’s white sedan. That, and the fact that one of the dogs knocked the Christmas tree over and some of her favorite bird ornaments were scorched to little charcoal puffs.

Before we knew the fireplace would be a bust, a neighbor who was cutting down a tree offered us a load of lumber – a nice find, actually, because fireplaces were not (and still aren’t) all that common in sunny Phoenix, Arizona. One of the pieces of wood was less a piece and more the actual stump of the tree, minus the roots and dirt. This stump had a little shoot sprouting from it, so when my mom saw it, she said, “That’s not dead. We can plant it!” And plant it she did. By the time we moved her into a nursing home some 30 years later, that tree had grown to nearly 40 feet. There were regular citations from the utility company because it interfered with their wires, and we could never rake fast enough to keep ahead of the leaves and pods that fell from it.

shoot on stump
The stump my mom replanted grew to more than 40 feet.

That was just one example of my mom’s gardening prowess. She would also take the seeds from the watermelon we had at dinner and literally throw them on the ground – and weeks later, a fully formed vine could be found growing along the next-door neighbor’s fence. Before her illness really took hold, my dad built her a greenhouse and she grew all manner of vegetables. The one that stands out was a cucumber the size of a fire extinguisher. She most certainly would have won some sort of prize if she’d entered that thing in the Arizona State Fair.

Mom’s green thumb didn’t exactly make its way down to me. I had my moments, of course. I grew fantastic sunflowers and a few decent vegetables at my house in Tucson before I moved to New Jersey. Then I grew nasturtiums and mini pumpkins from seeds in containers in the backyard of the house where I lived when Eric was born. I never minded the squirrels the way native Northeasterners do … until those thieving varmints ate every last one of my mini pumpkins clean off the vine. For some reason, though, all growth seemed to stop at the threshold – my indoor plants were usually doomed. I’d buy a few, forget to water them, and they’d die. Then I’d get re-energized and head out to try again. I came home one time with a few terra cotta pots, all ready to start anew, only to have Tony quip, “Oh, look. Little plant caskets.” I wanted to punch him at the time, but now it makes me laugh out loud every time I remember that. He was always funny in that sardonic way.

little plant caskets
“Oh, look – little plant caskets.”

About the time I met Tony, I took a road trip with a coworker out East. We met up with her boyfriend’s family and were invited to dinner at his dad’s home. I still remember the lush plants his stepmom had growing in one particular corner of their Baltimore home. I always wanted that kind of greenery in my house – but never quite got it together to do. Space was often a factor, as was attention to detail. Turns out that most of the growing will take care of itself if indoor plants have appropriate light and are watered once in a while.

Our new home has provided me a chance to try my hand at both indoor and outdoor gardening, once again. I think I’d have to put some real effort into destroying the outdoor plants – mostly rose bushes – we inherited with the house. Mary, John’s grandmother, brought them as clippings when she moved here from New Jersey in the late ’80s – and they are still thriving. They require little effort, other than trimming the dead flowers, as a drip irrigation system was set up when she built the house, so they are always receiving just the right amount of water and sunlight. We are planning to change up the front yard a bit, and this will involve planting a new rose bush and some bougainvillea – so there will be some original effort required on my part to get those going. Fingers are crossed already!

Mary’s original rose bushes, transplanted from New Jersey

Perhaps all will be well, because I will have had a couple months to practice in our atrium – which is sort of the best of indoor and outdoor gardening. When Mary lived in this house, the atrium was finished with the same ugly rocks as the front and back yards have – and a GINORMOUS concrete fountain that weighed about 200 pounds. Perhaps the fountain worked at one time, but in all the time I ever visited with Mary across 8+ years, I never saw a drop of water in it. It was one of the things I was happiest to release at the estate sale.

My initial thought was that I would grow edible plants inside the atrium, but the more I got to thinking about it, the more I remembered my friend’s stepmom’s plants – and I wanted to do something like that. So, the attempt is underway. So far, so good. Of course, it’s still only getting to the mid-80s to high 90s right now. Once summer comes, that place is probably a heat column – so even with the green shade screen, we may need to install a mister to keep it cool enough for things to actually survive in there.

Laura’s atrium Zen

I’ve picked up a number of plants in various places since I decided to go for the green. A few of them I inherited from my sister. I neglected those a bit in the months leading up to our move, but they seem to be doing better, now that they have a secure home and some regular TLC – oh, and water. So my goal is to honor both my mom and my sister by reincarnating their green thumbs. Perhaps the nicest facet of the new plant-festooned atrium (you’d think that’d be redundant, wouldn’t you?) is that I can look into it from the desk where I type up these little posts. Seeing those plants – and actually stepping down into that space – makes me happy every time. Imagine how delighted I’ll be if I can actually keep them alive. Wish all of us luck!

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.

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.

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.