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

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

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

done is better than perfect

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

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

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

litterbugs

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

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

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

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

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

punk rock peer group

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

Pretty Toes and Melancholy, Too

Pretty Toes and Melancholy, Too

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

mani pedi 2

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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.

Tamale Tips and Guacamole Recipe for Cinco de Mayo

Tamale Tips and Guacamole Recipe for Cinco de Mayo

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

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

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

Laura's flags

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

animal shaped tortillas

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

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

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

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

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

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

making tamales

 

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

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

guac

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

INGREDIENTS:

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

INSTRUCTIONS:

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

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

So here’s to a happy Cinco de Mayo!

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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.

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!

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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 1MillionWomen.com 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.

RESOURCES

Paper recycling facts

Things you can do…

On Straw Use

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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.