She Knits – I Crochet

She Knits – I Crochet

My husband is the TV watcher in our family. He gets up, and first thing, the TV goes on. I lived without a TV for the six years prior to meeting him. But having a TV in the house without watching it is like having a bag of M&M’s on your desk without eating them – it’s not likely to happen. So I started watching TV, just a little at first. After seven years of marriage, it became something I wasn’t thinking about anymore. Until I got together with a few of my very smart girlfriends a few times and started to notice that we never had a conversation in which our favorite TV shows didn’t come up. Really?

read instead

This year, however, after attending the Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend in January, I committed to reading more – which means turning the TV off. I’m halfway through my seventh novel since making that commitment, and I’ve been delighted to rediscover the joy of reading. We didn’t get rid of our TV, though, so I still watch occasionally. But I’ve never been able to watch television without having something to occupy my hands. For a while it was adult coloring books – but you miss a lot of details if you’re not actually watching the screen with some regularity. Same problem with video games on my iPad.

When we cleaned out my husband’s grandmother’s house after she passed away a year ago, one of the things I came across was a bag of knitting materials: balls of yarn, needles, scissors, and a pattern book. It was strange because Mary had always said she had no skill whatsoever at handcrafts – so we’re not really sure who the knitting bag belonged to. Made me think for a minute, though, that I might like to learn how to knit – or at least resurrect my middling crochet skills from my high school days. I even looked into classes in my area, but the next one was starting the following day, and I wasn’t quite that ready to jump in. My friend Katie, who’s an avid knitter, told me to hold onto the bag, because I might get into it someday.

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Well, lo and behold, someday has arrived. As it turns out, Kathy – Eric’s mom – is a knitter. She’s busy these days making a bunting for her grandson before he makes his appearance sometime in mid-August. Like Katie, she belongs to a knitting group, which she enjoys for the company and the relaxation knitting provides.

I guess I mentioned to Kathy that I’d like to get back to needlecrafting – but I wasn’t sure knitting was for me. My older sister taught me basic crochet once upon a time, so I thought that would be a better place to start. Then Eric went home to Boston last Friday, even though I’m still hanging out with Kathy and Bruce so I can attend Book Expo America in NYC this week. Since we had a couple down days early this week, Kathy offered to arrange a private lesson for me with a teacher from her yarn shop. What a thoughtful gift!

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My beginner project is a scarf, so I chose some worsted yarn. Fortunately, crochet is like riding a bike. I never got too far with it all those years ago, but apparently the muscle memory is still there, because it was pretty easy to pick up the two “new” stitches I needed for this project: single and double crochet. For advanced crocheters, this project will seem simple. I’m pretty proud of the start on my variegated colored scarf, even if it is a bit uneven. Not sure yet whether it will be a gift, or if I will just keep it. Bruce asked me today if there was need for a scarf in Arizona. “For me, yes,” I told him. “For you, probably not.”

crocheted scarf

So there we sat on the couch watching the first game of the Stanley Cup finals last night, Kathy knitting, Bruce on his iPad, and me crocheting. Kathy texted Eric about the cheesy start for the Las Vegas Knights and they went back and forth for a bit. It was so normal and comfortable. If you’d told any of us 23 years ago that this would be the outcome, I doubt we’d have believed it. And yet, here we are. For all those birthmoms who can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, I can only suggest that you keep the faith and hang in there. It can get better – but sometimes it takes a while. And in the meantime, you have to get out of your own way and choose to allow the miracles to 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.

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.

Puzzle People

Puzzle People

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

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

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

jigsaw doctor

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

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

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

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

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

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

ADDENDUM

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

ADDENDUM 2

Irish cottage

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

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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.

Esperanza and the Swan – An Adoption Fable by Laura Orsini

Esperanza and the Swan – An Adoption Fable by Laura Orsini

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

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

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

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

The text of the story is below.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How do you mean?” Esperanza was confused.

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

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

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

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

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

LO, Eric, & Esperanza

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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.

Life – Are You Lovin’ Every Minute of It?

Life – Are You Lovin’ Every Minute of It or Counting Off the Days as Another One Bites the Dust?

I remember precisely the moment it happened. It felt like such a grown-up awareness: you get a lot more out of life if you live in the present moment than if you’re constantly looking forward to the next exciting – or not necessarily all that exciting – thing. I was about 12, on vacation with my family to visit my dad’s brother in Toronto. We were four or five days into a week-long trip, and I thought to myself, Only two more days of vacation. The vacation wasn’t even over yet, and there I was, mourning the end of it instead of enjoying the remaining days to their fullest.

That epiphany was one of those life-altering wake-up calls. I decided in that moment that I was never again going to fritter away my present by spending time focused on my imagined future – or pining for a fantasy past. It wasn’t long before I started noticing how many people cross off the days on their calendars; this seemed strangely macabre to me, as if they were crossing off each day of their lives. “And another one gone, and another one gone. Another one bites the dust.”

Sometime in the last year, my friend and mentor Blaine Oelkers introduced me to a concept pioneered by Jerry Seinfeld. Early in his comedy career, Seinfeld set a goal for himself to write a joke a day – and marked each day’s joke on his calendar with a big red X. He saw the chain of X’s grow, and it became a mission: “Don’t break the chain!” Before he knew it, he’d written a joke a day for an entire year. In Seinfeld’s case, the X’s were denoting progress. Even so, when I’ve attempted to implement the Don’t Break the Chain process, I used happy face stickers or some incentive other than making X’s on the calendar. Just a personal preference, I suppose.

The night before last, I went out to dinner with some friends, even though I was leaving for New Jersey the next morning (yesterday) at 6 a.m. It wasn’t until I was driving home from dinner that it hit me that the trip to celebrate my son’s college graduation – this day I’d been imagining on and off for years – was finally here. And then I began to get excited for the trip. This is coming from a gal who once upon a time could not even get to sleep on Christmas Eve night because she was too excited anticipating Santa’s visit. I used to get so amped up for upcoming events, and then the letdown after they’d passed would be equally enormous.

People still ask me, “Are you excited about __________________?”

“Not yet,” is my standard reply, unless the thing they’re asking about is less than a day or two away. Yesterday I went through the lovely TSA experience, incident free, bought and ate a bagel, boarded the plane. The plane had taken off and we were in that steep incline as we climbed to cruising altitude before I realized, Wow! I’ll be there in a few hours. This time tomorrow I’ll be waking up in New Jersey! It was just one more life event – not a momentous occasion. This is not to say I’m opposed to having big emotions in proportion to the celebration or occasion. I’m just noticing that the more I focus on the present moment, I the more time I seem to spend in the joyful emotional middle ground, the pendulum swinging neither to breathtaking highs nor cataclysmic lows.

This is a combined trip for me – both business and pleasure. While I’ve got some concrete plans, I’m also remaining flexible. Things change. Plans sometimes go sideways. I’m on my own this trip, and I was surprised to feel my stomach clench up yesterday at the thought of riding the NYC subway by myself. I used to work there, take the subway regularly, and ride the PATH train (between NY and NJ) every weekday! But I’ve become a Phoenix girl again – now quite used to the slower pace and decreased intensity of day-to-day life. Rather than steel myself for the onslaught that New York can be, I’ve decided to go the opposite direction and slow down even more. Breathe deeply. Take time to meditate and get in my planks for the 30-Day Plank Challenge. Walk slowly. Observe. Notice things I’ve never noticed about the City and northern New Jersey. Relish every moment of this trip, whether it’s the graduation party, a meal with my son, or time wandering on my own.

I like to think of it as living even more in the moment. My goal is to carry this renewed commitment back into my regular life when I get home. Only time will tell how successful I am…

pooh's favorite day

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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.

Will You Party with the Grief or Choose to Be Happy?

Will You Party with the Grief or Choose to Be Happy?

I get that I’ve had a near-fairytale experience, as far as my son’s adoption has gone. Kathy wished me Happy MOTHER’s Day on Facebook – emphasizing the word “mother,” which I am blessed to receive as her acceptance of me simply as Eric’s Other Mother. None of the competition, aggression, anger, resentment, antagonism, or other low-vibration feelings that unfortunately so often seem to be a part of the birthmom/adoptive mom relationship – whether they are acknowledged or not.

I get that I don’t have the anger, angst, overwhelming sadness, guilt, anguish, or so many other negative emotions tied up in my feelings about Eric or any aspect of the adoption. OK – I was a little irritated not to hear from him for my birthday (a little over a week ago), but I did get a Happy Mother’s Day text from him that made me smile. Once upon a time, such a text would have made my week. Now, perhaps I’ve become complacent, because while I was grateful for it, it didn’t stop me in my tracks, make my eyes well up, or even really give me pause. Cool. He remembered. And then I moved on with my day. Or maybe it’s because I know I’ll be seeing him in just a few days, as I fly back to New Jersey for the party to celebrate his graduation from Northeastern University. Funny how when I lived out there, so many of my vacations seemed to be coming back here, to Arizona. This will be my second trip back to New Jersey in five months – so we’re in Opposite Land now. Point is – maybe it’s easy for me to be so preachy about the perils of holding on to all of those negative emotions because things have gone so well for me within the adoption space.

That said, I’m also generally not an overly emotional person. My sister’s death hit me harder than anything in my life – including the adoption. But it didn’t cause me to curl up in a ball or want to stop living. When we’ve lost pets, my husband’s grieved for many days. I tend to be OK a bit sooner than he does. We’re all made differently – and what I know about grief is that there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Everyone’s timeline is different. But I’ve been reading a few posts from birthmothers on this Facebook support group, and most of them are so disheartening. I have a difficult time relating to these women who are so beside themselves about Mother’s Day. I empathize, but I cannot relate to their feelings of inadequacy or anger or isolation because of a holiday made up by the greeting card, candy, and flower industries.

The description for the group reads, in part:

This is meant to be an UPLIFTING and SUPPORT group. Any down talking, hate, or trying to project your guilt onto others will not be tolerated.

But what it seems to be is a place to seek collaborators in misery. Or so I was thinking, perched ever so haughtily on my high horse as I considered removing myself from the group. And then I read two posts that broke my heart. One was from a birthmom who’s had regular contact with her daughter, now 6, since the little girl was placed at birth. However, the daughter is having trouble in school, and all evidence points to emotional upset about the adoption, as it seems difficult for her to process her birthmom’s place in her life. So the adoptive parents have decided to sever the contact … “for the time being.” Yeah – that one knocked me soundly off my lofty perch of self-righteousness, because I have no idea what I’d do or how I would feel in her position. I’m not a terribly emotional person, but I welled up as I read my poem “The Birthmother You Know” for our virtual get-together on Birthmothers Day this past Saturday. I couldn’t even tell you why I was emotional – given the generally positive experience I mentioned above. Somewhere, deep inside I suppose, I was still acknowledging the loss. So if Kathy and Bruce had decided, when Eric was 6, to stop sending photos and letters, that probably would have been torturous.

The other gut-wrenching post was from a woman whose daughter is now 12. The woman’s uncle was the girl’s adoptive father – and he passed away from cancer yesterday. The little girl came home from school and could not wake him up. Oh my god! That birthmom is in anguish, not only to have lost her uncle, but to know what a terrible loss her daughter is experiencing – complicated by the fact that she was the one who discovered his lifeless body. So sometimes there’s just loss – and the only answer is grief and tears and sadness. And this group offers these ladies a virtual hug whenever they need it. A place to come and vent. To cry. And, I very much hope, to laugh and share the good moments, too.

I was wondering, as I pondered writing this post, how many of those overwhelming negative feelings – the anger, guilt, shame, blame, and unending grief – come out of a sense of unworthiness. How many of those negative, super-disempowering emotions do we hold onto because we’ve simply convinced ourselves that we don’t deserve to be happy, that we don’t deserve to laugh and experience joy? Those are lies we tell ourselves, though. And birthmoms have a special reason to lie to themselves about their worthiness that most other people don’t have. They can opt for joy and celebrate the fact that they chose life for their children – or they can lay down and party with the grief every day and every night.

Every birthmom – every human – deserves laughter and joy and love and the free feeling of simply being at peace in the world. But those feelings – even for that birthmom who’s temporarily lost contact with her daughter and the one whose uncle just died – are, by and large, a choice. We’ve got to believe that regardless of where we are in this moment, happiness is ours for the taking, or it will be, one day, soon enough. And then we have to do whatever it takes to grab onto that positive emotion and hold it close.

David R. Hawkins wrote a well-discussed book a number of years ago called Power vs. Power v force emotionsForce. In it, he explained this concept of lower- and higher-vibration emotions. The low ones are the negative ones I’ve been naming here, like anger and sadness. The higher ones are things like love and gratitude. You can think about it in terms of how you feel in any given moment. For example, do you have that person in your life who is so high-strung that his or her stress rubs off on everyone they meet? The second they leave the room, the air seems to lighten and everyone else breathes a collective sigh of relief? That’s a person who may be stuck in a low vibration. We’re all made up of energy – the question is whether it’s positive, negative, or neutral energy.

So, yes. These women – and birthmothers everywhere – are entitled to their opinions, feelings, and beliefs. And that means feeling them and expressing them and discussing them and receiving condolences for them for as long as they wish to do so. It is my opinion, however, that the longer they allow themselves to stay mired in the emotional muck related to their adoptions, the less likely they are to have more good days than bad ones. There’s no magic wand to whoosh away the pain. But there is owning it, blessing the people who’ve wronged you, loving your child – and loving yourself enough to move on and find reasons to celebrate again. Every birthmom deserves to be happy, regardless of her past.

deide-to-be-happy

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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.