You’re Not the Daughter I Thought You’d Be

You’re Not the Daughter I Thought You’d Be

I spent some time yesterday with my dear friend Karen and her daughter, Kelly, the one she placed for adoption 36 years ago. Theirs was a tumultuous adoption experience, yet things between them are good now. Karen was 18 when she learned she was pregnant, a senior at a suburban Delaware high school. It wasn’t uncommon for girls her age in her town to find themselves pregnant – but they all made one of the two other choices: they got married and parented their babies, or they had abortions. No one chose adoption, and Karen was ostracized for her decision.

Her mom didn’t help, insisting that her daughter give up her future plans for college and a career to stay home and raise this baby! Karen selected a new set of parents for her baby girl and placed her daughter with them in spite of her family’s protests.

Here’s the thing: adoptions sometimes go sideways, in spite of the birthmom’s best intentions. In Kelly’s case, her adoptive mom, Patricia, never quite came to terms with the fact that her daughter was not her biological child, so she didn’t take after her in looks OR personality. She was her own person, with different traits and skills and interests. Kelly said she understood very early on exactly what it took to please her mother – and that was pretending to go along with all of her mother’s choices, from clothing to food to hobbies and playmates. Eventually, though, Kelly tired of pretending. She realized the payoff of her mom’s happiness wasn’t enough reward to warrant faking it anymore. So she started to express herself – her real self. That didn’t go over so well. And as she hit her teens and it became apparent that she wasn’t going to look anything like her mother, Patricia lost all interest in parenting her.

Though Kelly didn’t say this, it was almost as though her mother treated her as a doll or a plaything: as soon as she could no longer make the doll do what she wanted it to, she tossed it aside.

Skip forward some years to Karen’s reunion with Kelly. Lo and behold, Kelly is a mini-Karen. She strongly resembles her birthmother in appearance, speaks like her birthmother, has similar interests to her birthmother. Meeting Karen was like coming home. And the mere thought of it devastated Kelly’s adoptive mom. Even though she was never close to her daughter the way she’d envisioned their relationship in her dreams, Patricia would be damned if she’d let this interloper (aka the person who GAVE BIRTH to her child) be the mother she could never be to her daughter. So even though Kelly was a legal adult before she and Karen had their reunion, she’s had to run the gauntlet of guilt trips and psychological terrorism to pursue a relationship with her birthmom.

As she’s gotten older, Kelly’s begun to learn better self-care – and that means fewer interactions with Patricia, regardless of the guilt her mom still tries to heap on her. It means conveniently forgetting to tell her mom when she’s been to visit Karen, or how much she and her half-brother resemble each other. Karen married 17 years ago and has a 13-year-old son with her husband, Henry.

Kelly is involved in politics, working as a grass-roots organizer and campaigner for several local candidates in New Jersey and other Eastern states. During her work on a recent campaign, she met a man a few years younger than she – a man she thinks she might like to marry one day. How to hold a wedding, though, when you have two mothers, one of whom refuses to acknowledge the existence of the other? It sounds like the drama straight out of a Lifetime movie of the week, but these are real people who are dealing with these emotions today, in 2018.

I’ll admit that given my place in the adoption triad, I generally have a natural bias toward the birthmother. But I cannot help but think that even if I had no stake in the adoption arena, I might see this one from Kelly’s and Karen’s perspective. And, if given the opportunity, I might tell Patricia that just because her daughter wasn’t her clone, didn’t fall in line or measure up to her standards, just because their relationship wasn’t what she’d imagined it would be in her pre-adoption fantasies, doesn’t mean her daughter doesn’t love her. It doesn’t mean she failed as a mother. And it doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with her. But I would also tell her that it’s not her daughter’s job to make her happy. It’s not her daughter’s job to live up to the fantasy standards she dreamed up before she knew the real person her daughter would become. And it’s not fair to hold any of her shattered dreams against her daughter.

As I’ve written before and will, no doubt, write again, I firmly believe that because of their place in the relationship – older, more experienced, and hopefully more emotionally mature – the parent sets the tone and builds the framework for the relationship with their child. All the child can do is react and respond to whatever raw materials their parent gives them. If the parent gives them love and support, the child will likely give that back, in kind. But if the parent gives her child grief and guilt and emotional blackmail, it’s unlikely – perhaps impossible – for a healthy relationship to develop under those circumstances. The onus for that is on the parent every time.

Only time will tell whether Kelly and Patricia will ever find a bridge to a less combustible relationship. Stranger things have happened, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

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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.

The Magic of Parker and Friar Tuck

The Magic of Parker and Friar Tuck

Adoption is, perhaps, the strangest of all relationships. Though ours was not open from the beginning, I am blessed to now have a fully open adoption, an adult son who is smart and funny and kind, and adoptive parents who have welcomed me with open arms into their home for this visit to celebrate our kid’s graduation from college. It’s lovely and odd and complicated to have this other family – they’re kind of like in-laws, but different because it’s our son who is the bridge. I’ve had the most contact with Kathy through the years, but have been getting to know all of them for some time now. This trip, in particular, I had the delight of spending quite a lot of time with Eric and his lovely girlfriend, Meaghan.

Last night, Eric and Meaghan when out instead of dining with the family – so my bridge and conduit was missing as I had dinner with Kathy, Bruce, Kathy’s nephew Parker, and her brother Todd. Parker is an astonishing kid. Good-looking, charming as all get out, funny, and sharp as hell. Mary Anne, Todd’s wife and Parker’s mother, passed away from breast cancer nearly five years ago. It was a year before we lost my husband’s dad and a couple years before my sister was diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Mary Anne and Corina were close in age at the times of their deaths – and when Kathy and I talk about Mary Anne’s passing, it’s sometimes still an emotional trigger for me. The big difference between them was that Corina’s daughter was grown when she left us. Parker – just 8 now – was barely 4 when his mom passed away. He seems to be doing OK. Spends a lot of time with Kathy and Bruce – but he worships Eric and wants to hang out with him every chance he gets. Though Eric left to head back up to Boston this morning, he’ll be home in New Jersey again next weekend and has promised to take Parker to the driving range during that visit. You-Know-Who will be beside himself when he finds out.

Many years ago, I became involved with an amazing nonprofit organization called Gabriel’s Angels, which offers healing pet therapy to abused, neglected, and abandoned children throughout Arizona. The philosophy is this: because these children have known nothing but disappointment from the adults in their lives, they have a very difficult time trusting grown-ups, or anyone, for that matter. Through the love of an animal (mostly dogs, but also the occasional pot-bellied pig, cat, or miniature horse), though, these kids learn what it means to bond, to love, to have empathy, and to develop compassion. The goal is to disrupt and permanently break the cycle of violence so that these children can grow up to experience healthy adult relationships. While it’s been amazing to be involved with this organization, it wasn’t until yesterday – watching Parker with Kathy and Bruce’s border terrier, Tuck – that I actually witnessed first-hand the miracles pets can work with otherwise troubled kids.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like for Parker to lose his mom at such an early age. She was not only his pal, but his confidant. Kathy manages to fill in a lot of the gaps created by Mary Anne’s absence – but it’s Tuck in whom Parker confides. One of the amazing things about younger kids (and sometimes older ones, too) is that they quite often forget adults are in the room, and they just talk. Parker is mature for his age – sassy, confident, and quite a jokester. But the minute he sees Tuck, his voice changes. He gets soft, and he sits down on the floor to pet and play with Tuck. He tells Tuck what a good boy he is, how special he is, and how much he loves him. The change in demeanor is incredible to witness – and listen to from around the corner.

Parker’s dad, Todd, is a nice guy, but a bit of a curmudgeon by nature. He doesn’t share his son’s enthusiasm for the dog. While we were out visiting with Eric’s family over the holidays, Parker convinced Kathy and Todd to allow Tuck to come spend the night with him and his dad. Parker was over the moon – until the first potty accident in the house. The other thing about Tuck is that he’s a whiner/yelper. He’s also an early riser. I don’t think Todd could have gotten that poor dog back to Kathy fast enough. But the drama of that overnight visit did nothing to dampen Parker’s enthusiasm and love for Tuck.

In spite of suffering an unimaginable loss, Parker is fortunate to have the Stanfields as his family. Kathy and Bruce adore him – and he has a lifelong friend in a little brown pup whose full name is Friar Tuck.

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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.

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…

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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.

What’s at the Top of Your Lifetime Playlist?

What’s at the Top of Your Lifetime Playlist?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

Meeting the Grandparents

Meeting the Grandparents

Although John and I have taken many short trips together – mostly for music or book events – we’ve never had a proper honeymoon. We spent the day after our wedding with my son and his family. We knew we wanted to do something together – and John was happy to go along with whatever plans we made. Yet it was an interesting process, trying to decide how to spend that day. I cast my vote for the Pink Jeep Tours, an opportunity to go off-road and see the rugged terrain of the Sedona area. However, the majority won, and we wound up visiting the Out of Africa Wildlife Park in Camp Verde, a small town a few miles from Sedona.

Even though we spent it together, Eric largely kept with his parents while John and I sat together during the tour. Bruce was busy with his camera, photographing the wild animals that came up to the window of the bus. I remember a friendly giraffe with a huge tongue, in particular.

After our visit to the park, we went for pizza, and then made our way back to Phoenix. The trip back was a bit of a friendly competition, John and Bruce trading the lead back and forth between them as we drove down the hill from Sedona.

Though my mom had been ill, we decided to stop by the nursing home to see her, so that Eric could meet at least one of his birth-grandparents. My dad had passed away five-and-a-half years earlier, and it remains unlikely Eric will meet Tony’s mom – though I do believe anything is possible. According to my occasional FB research, Tony’s dad died nearly three years ago. What I remember about them was that Dale could be extremely sarcastic, often making his wife, Diane, the butt of his jokes. I would watch her wince at his comments and think to myself that I would not be surprised if one day, after 30 years of marriage, she walked out. As far as I know, that did not happen. It was also a teaching moment for me and Tony, because when he tried to belittle me the same way, I let him have it. Turns out I did have a few boundaries with him.

My mom had been on a progressive decline for the few years prior to going into the nursing home. For years – as long as I can remember, actually – her behavior had been odd. It wasn’t until after the massive stroke that would take her life that Corina and I received an explanation for her strange behavior: the vascular surgeon called in to officially determine that hospice was our only option told us that our mom had indications of severe vascular dementia, the likely result of multiple strokes that had occurred throughout her life. By the time Eric met her, about five months before she passed away, she was already severely incapacitated. Though it’s possible she understood when I introduced her to Eric and his parents, she was unable to say much. But she nodded happily and smiled a lot.

I’ve never spoken with Kathy – or Eric – about that meeting, so I really have no idea what his response was. I do believe he was grateful for the opportunity meet at least one grandparent, though.

My husband was blessed to have known all four of his grandparents – and to have a close relationship with his paternal grandfather and grandmother. His grandpa died nearly 25 years ago; Grandma left us just last June (2017). Though she doted on him, he had a difficult relationship with her, as she was every bit the family matriarch, with high standards, particularly when it came to what others might think … about everything. He was a smoker until almost two years ago – a fact he tried to keep hidden from her. I doubt she could have missed it, though she might have chosen to ignore it, as her sister died of lung cancer and she claimed to abhor smoking – and, by association, people who smoked. He said at one point a couple months after her passing that he wished he’d been able to be more of himself with her. She loved him nonetheless.

It occurs to me as I write this that I don’t know much about Eric’s adoptive grandparents – which ones he might have met or had relationships with. I believe Bruce’s father was still living when Eric was born – but I’m not one hundred percent certain about that. Kathy, again, would certainly have all of those details.

I have few regrets about the adoption, but I do wish Eric and my father had had the chance to meet. I know my dad would be so immeasurably proud of his only grandson. My dad was a college professor, once upon a time – and, if my experience is at all reflective of his teaching skills, perhaps not a very good one. He’d find one way of communicating an instruction – on pretty much any topic – but if you didn’t understand him and asked him for further explanation, he’d say the exact same thing again, just more slowly and with greater volume. No, I would think, it wasn’t that I didn’t hear you – rather that I didn’t understand you. Can you explain it in different words? But he was kind and gentle, and he gave me the gift of compassion. He was a year younger than John’s grandmother – so they were of the same era where etiquette and proper manners mattered greatly.

Unlike John’s grandmother, Mary, my father was a scholar of his faith – knew the Bible inside and out (rare for a Catholic) and understood and accepted every aspect of the church’s dogma, pretty much without question. We had a pretty intense argument when the retired bishop of Phoenix was accused of a hit-and-run accident that left a man dead. My father felt it was unseemly for the bishop to be treated as a common criminal. I insisted that shepherd of the church or not, he’d killed a man and left the scene – it was only right that he pay the same price any other person would pay. Mary had no such highfalutin ideas. She went to church most Sundays, but had a difficult time distinguishing between the holy seasons of Lent (leading up to Easter) and Advent (leading up to Christmas). For her, church was more of an obligation with the benefit of marvelous social interactions.

My mom was pretty much the polar opposite of my dad. She got her GED the same year I graduated from high school. I remember some of the sessions with Mary, my social worker at the adoption agency. As we talked, I would tell her about my parents and she’d scribble furiously on her yellow notepad, taking notes she would give to the Stanfields’ caseworker to share with them (before they knew the adoption would eventually become open). One of the things that most caught her attention was when I told her that although my mom had very little formal education, I thought she would have been a very good student. “What makes you say that?” Mary asked. The fact that she read everything she could get her hands on. She was a slow reader, often vocalizing her words as she read. But she loved books of all sorts. While she was functional, she was curious and loved learning.

She was creative, too. My dad was efficient – my mom resourceful and imaginative. I suspect I blend gifts from both of them in my writing and in building and running my business. I see some of that in Eric already – but he also has a great deal of Tony’s super-analytical mind.

I still have no idea whether Eric even knows about this blog – or is reading it. Still, a part of me writes every post for him. Better still than him reading these words would be the chance to sit and talk about this stuff with him. Maybe someday…

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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.

My Six Soul Mates … So Far

My Six Soul Mates … So Far

In his book Journey of Souls, Michael Newton posits that rather than one soul mate, each of us likely has a soul group – an assembly of about 150 “people” we travel with from one lifetime to the next (yes, this post presupposes you can, at minimum, entertain the idea of multiple lifetimes). He arrived at this conclusion after recording the stories of thousands of people he hypnotized in his analysis practice and hearing the same pattern repeated time after time, regardless of the person’s religious beliefs at the time of the hypnosis.

When his patients were taken back to a prior lifetime, their reporting of what went on between lifetimes followed a pattern that included recognizing the same others from lifetime to lifetime. The most vivid depictions tended to be of individuals who showed up as close family members: mother, father, siblings, spouses – although their roles tended to change from lifetime to lifetime.

Given those very loose parameters, I’ve identified a handful of soul mates – people from my soul group with whom I am traveling this lifetime. It’s hard to define exactly what makes them a soul mate, other than that they “get me” or that I have an inexplicable comfort level with that person. Maybe for you, they are people you seem to relate to from the first moment of meeting them. Except, of course, my mother – with whom I was not at all close, and yet whom I am certain is in my soul group. Because of a history of vascular dementia, she demonstrated mental health issues from the time I was very young, and was thus incapable of a “normal” mother/daughter relationship. Yet her very presence in my life, the fact that we were never able to have any sort of a “real” conversation, and the unfinished nature of things between us leads me to believe that there’s still more to come in another incarnation.

Others who fall into the prior category have included: my sister, Corina; my best friend, Jane; the only man I ever loved besides my husband, “Tom”; my husband, John; and my son’s birthfather, Tony. My sister and I had our ups and downs, as most same-gender siblings probably do. But toward the end of her life (thank god neither of us knew it was nearing her end!), we grew very close. And even at our most distant, she was always the one person I knew I could count on – no matter what. Jane and I just clicked from the moment we met at a summer program for gifted high schoolers held at Arizona State University.

Tom and I never dated, but we had an emotional affair more intense than any romance ever written. He was kind and thoughtful and so incredibly smart. He constantly challenged me, and I appreciated the fact that I always had to be on my toes with him. And he had a girlfriend he couldn’t/wouldn’t leave – so eventually I ended things. I finally spoke with him a couple months after my sister passed away for the first time in a half-dozen years. Things with him had always felt so unfinished – and this conversation was eye-opening because it seemed he hadn’t moved an inch from where he’d been when we last connected. I’d been through so much and grown so much as a person in those intervening years – and he seemed still to be in the exact same place, in spite of having gone through some difficulties of his own. Talk about closure!

My husband seemed to recognize our connection much sooner than I did. Part of the challenge for me was that, even though I was falling in love with John, things with Tom were still unresolved in my memory and psyche. I remember my friend Sunil, my relationship guru, for lack of a better term, suggesting to me that I stop looking for the person of Tom and instead look for his essence in the next person. John – though he couldn’t have physically resembled Tom less, most definitely embodies the amazing parts about Tom’s essence – the parts with which I so inextricably connected. While I never had that “prove the universe wrong” determination about Tom, I was so sad when that relationship dissolved, and yet today I am so glad that I had the sense to leave it when I did, because otherwise I couldn’t – more importantly, probably wouldn’t – have met John.

And then there was Tony. He’s actually the hardest to put my finger on, in terms of what the connection was. Other than that he was just instantly comfortable to be around. There was no pressure to be or perform or say anything. He was fine just being with me. We could wander around New York City or make dinner or sit around watching TV or play video games in perfect harmony. For the first 24 to 48 hours. Then, inevitably, we’d begin to get on each others’ nerves and the antagonistic, overwrought, dramatic push/pull pattern would emerge. So we’d step away for a few days to a couple weeks, and then come back together. And the cycle would repeat. Things would be idyllic for a day or two – and then we’d bug each other again. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. If he truly is a member of my soul group, it’s no surprise, then, that it was so challenging to break off and remove myself from that intense relationship. Makes me so grateful that things with Tom never blossomed into a physical romance when I think of it in those terms. And it wasn’t that I didn’t love Tony, as much as I don’t think I even understood what love was at the time we were together.

So that’s six soul mates I’ve identified. Meaning there are some 140 others I haven’t yet recognized quite so specifically. That’s not to say they’re not in my life now, or are unimportant in my life. Just that the connection hasn’t presented itself quite so viscerally and clearly. I’d like to think that Eric is among them. After 23 years, we’re still getting to know each other, so I’m guessing he might well be an important member of my soul group. All I know is that I’m staying open to all possibilities.

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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.

Valentine’s Day with “The One”

Valentine’s Day with “The One”

Today is my 9th Valentine’s Day with my husband, and I have lost track of the number of cards and gifts he has given me in the years since we met. Such a stark difference from my relationship with Eric’s birthfather. I told John the other day that I can probably count on two hands the number of gifts Tony gave me over the 10 years we were “together.”

“Really?” John asked. “Even including birthdays and stuff?”

Yep. Including birthdays and stuff.

I still remember what may have been the only Valentine’s Day gift I ever received from Tony a Chieftains CD the year Eric was born, 10 days before his birth, to be exact.

Looking back now, there were so many clues that Tony wasn’t “the one,” and yet I clung to that relationship for dear life. I had a loving father and (through no real fault of her own) an absent mother. I remember realizing how similar my relationship with Tony was to my relationship with mom. Although I lived in the same house with her, it was like she wasn’t really present. And though I was in a relationship with Tony, he was never really around. One of first things I had to get used to with my husband was being able to go to the movies by myself by choice, as opposed to going alone because he didn’t happen to be calling me back that week.

I long ago gave up trying to figure out the low self-esteem that must have driven my willingness to stay and stay and stay through the years. I’m just grateful for the day I finally had enough and decided the only way we were truly going to move on from each other was by putting physical miles between us. When I originally moved to New Jersey, it was with the thought that Jersey would be just a pit stop; ultimately I would make my way to Boston. Though I visited Boston a couple times, I never made the move there. Interesting, it’s where Eric chose to attend university.

By the time I was finally ready to leave Tony, I had neither the money nor the emotional stamina it would take to start over somewhere new, so instead of moving to Boston, I moved back home to Phoenix even though the desert has never, ever really felt like home to me. Those divine plans being what they are, it still took nearly 10 years for me to disentangle all the tentacles from my relationship with Tony so that I could finally be open to meeting John. We met though a blind date via Craigslist in July 2009 and have never looked back.

And just as there were all those signs that Tony was not the right guy, there were many signs that John was. For one thing, he had a cat. A single, 30-something guy had taken it upon himself to head to the Humane Society in search of a four-legged friend. He told me he had originally intended to adopt a dog, but when he saw Libby, she told him she was going home with him, and she did.

He was also the first one in our relationship to give the other a greeting card and a gift. Long was my habit to be the first to make such a bold move, but on our third date, John brought me a card and some flowers. He’s sentimental like his grandmother was. When she passed away in June and we cleaned out her house, we found what appeared to be every greeting card she’d ever received, going all the way back to high school. Whether it’s his birthday or Christmas or our anniversary, John sets the cards out on the coffee table or his desk in his office and displays them for a while.

Most importantly, though, John was where he said he’d be when he said he’d be there. He had a job that required him to be up before dawn, so even on weekends he went to bed early. I remember going to his apartment one Friday night around midnight to leave a surprise on his car. I wrote messages on a couple pads’ worth of heart-shaped sticky notes and stuck them on the back windshield of his car in the shape of a large heart. As I made my way over to his place, the old doubts started creeping in. Would he be home? Would his car be in its regular parking space at his apartment complex? Man, what a sigh of relief I breathed when his Corolla was right where it was supposed to be.

Over the years, he has surprised me with concert tickets, flowers, balloons, stuffed animals, jewelry, and seemingly countless other thoughtful gifts, big and small. Today will be no different, I am sure. The best thing about Valentine’s Day with John is that it’s not that big of a deal because every single day with him is special.

One of the best relationship books I’ve ever read is The Surrendered Single, by Laura Doyle. In it, she explains that the right guy will never make you wait for his call or wonder if he cares about you. He will treat you like a queen, and you will always know how much you mean to him. I spent a lot of years giving the wrong guy the benefit of the doubt. He was the right guy for just long enough, though, or our son would not be here. Nevertheless, I couldn’t be happier that I moved on and gave the actual Mr. Right a chance.

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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.