Here is its! a collection of images from our recent tour to the East Coast and back. Aryeh and I are narrating over the images. There’s no way to capture all the adventures we had, and I even missed including a concert or two, but you get the idea. It was a very successful tour, but a lot of hard work as we did every aspect of it on our own. It’s a new world out there for musicians and artists. Do it yourself is the new way of doing things. I will be writing a book soon about how to create your own tour and be successful on the road. So look for that soon!


Aryeh and I

did a little visit to a PBS station to promote a series of concerts.
Aryeh and I played “Morning Star”.. An original piece of music I wrote for a Windham Hill Christmas record. It’s one of Aryeh’s favorites, he is playing Swedish Nyckelharpa.

I have been having a wonderful summer with so many exciting events, I have so much footage but no time to edit it!

This one features Cazadero Performing Arts Family Camp. It was my first time there. Not long ago I was doing a concert in Oakland, and an important person was in the audience. She heard me talk about my traveling harps, and thought it would be perfect for the Camp that she runs. It’s for kids of all ages to come and learn various arts and musical styles and instruments. I was happy to do it and had a wonderful time. I met many new friends and kindred spirits and learned that I actually love to teach! I have done a lot of workshops in the past, but this was every day four classes, about half the people were younger kids around eight years old.
I had so much fun every minute. I hope I can make a tradition of it.

Here is the video that gives an idea what it is like. I feel like I barely scratched the surface of what all goes on there, but you get the vibe from here.

On June 14, 2011, I met my birth mother Olivia. After a lifetime of not knowing who or where I came from, it finally happened. Not only did I get to meet the woman who gave me my life, but a whole family of warm and loving people that are now in my life! I feel so blessed. I am still searching for the words. It’s a profound self-puzzle with the pieces coming together everyday.

My family, Olivia’s family, all of our loved ones have been so touched by this. The story takes on another level of complexity as Olivia is a stroke survivor. Eight years ago she suffered her second massive stroke which left her unable to walk, and with Aphasia, where the language part of the brain is impaired in both expression and understanding.

So, what we are experiencing is all about the heart. She was absolutely there and her spirit is bright and buoyant. She was smiley, a hearty person, and even spunky. I wondered beforehand if we would all be bawling our eyes out, but Olivia was steering the ship. She was joyful and playful, all smiles and thumbs up. She was full of connection and expression, taking it all in and clearly proud of all of her loved ones. Here are some moments from this powerful day.



How the connection happened..
It was January this year. It was harp day in the hospital and I was visiting in the office of a retiring administrator at Kaiser Permanente. She is a wonderful person and very hip senior nurse responsible for bringing my program in their units now over seven years ago.

She told me she’d be spending time with her newly found daughter she had given up for adoption. I told her I was adopted too! She said that not a day went by that she didn’t think of the baby she gave up. She had found her birth daughter with the help of a woman from North Carolina who loved to help folks find each other.

It was a sign for me to start again. I wrote to the nice lady. I was driving to do a concert with Aryeh when she called with my real name and my biological parents names. We had to pull over..My birth mother chose the name “Maria Elena Hart” for me, and “Hart” was the real name of the biological father. She chose his last name for me even though she never married him, or even told him she was pregnant. I was so effected by this I could hardly concentrate on the music we performed. I ended up confessing to the audience what was on my mind that night. Many up to me afterward wishing me well and sharing their own story.

I remember that night well!
A fun jam at the end


Because my birth mothers maiden name was common and no first name was given, she referred me to someone who specialized in hard cases. His name is Paul Brown and he started his company “Miracle Search” because he found his own birth mother, and wanted to help others do the same.

He spoke to me at length and told me his story. I knew he was the right guy to help me, but I had to time it right. This was so huge to me, even when the smallest fact came in, I was lost in it for days, I can’t concentrate on my life and what needs to be done. My days and weeks are always so busy with so much going on.





These first details affected me so much it was hard to absorb. In the meantime I wanted to write her a love letter and tell her about my life. Maybe she would be alive, but not able to meet me. Maybe she has family that doesn’t know and she wants to keep it private. If she could read my words and know where I was coming from, then maybe she would see me. Or at least know how I felt about her. Because I also wanted to honor my family I grew up with, I wanted to write it for all of them. That letter became this blog.

As I went through scanning my paper photographs long boxed away, my heart went through so much. I was admiring the pictures of my family, missing my dad and Grandmas. Remembering old boyfriends, and what a worried teenager I always was. It took a lot longer than I thought. Weeks went by.

When I finally gave the go ahead to Paul, he called me at an airport soon after. I knew when he was going to call and was ready with my laptop and headphones. While I sat there amongst hundred of other travelers, I was receiving some potential answers to my life.

There were 347 possibilities in California, women born in the right year with the correct last name. 47 with at least one brother the right age that she had mentioned in her interview at the adoption agency. Of those 47, 10 were no longer living. Of the 37, 11 were still in Los Angeles, and of the 11, there was just one, that seemed to have only one brother at the right age.

So, because I chose the option of a “partnership” search, I had to make the calls myself. Paul prefers this middle option because he believes that the sound of the voice, talking to the birth mother has a potent effect in the heart connecting.

The idea of me cold calling this list of potential “targets” sounded impossible to me. I have a hard time even calling a festival to see if they received my promotional pack to perform there. The idea of calling a woman after over four decades to find out if she gave birth to me, was more than I can wrap my mind around. Now there was a list. And she was on this list somewhere.

Paul was a wonderful coach. From his vast experience he told me that 80% of birth mothers are happy to be found. 20% are hesitant or unwilling or even upset. That 20% is the percentage you have to prepare for.

I carried around this one name and phone number with me for the next three weeks. Working on my story letter to her and her family, about me and my family. I thought I had to get everything in place before I could call her. Plus I was nervous and I was stalling for time.

I was in Morro Bay for a memorial day festival weekend with my dear Aryeh, and he said over newly served enchiladas, “Why don’t you just call?” My heart pounds just from that!  “but I’m not finished with my blog” excuse.. excuse.. but suddenly I knew he was right and it was actually the perfect time. I had written out all my suggestions from Paul, about how to talk to the women I would call. So we practiced.


Aryeh and I on cell phones in separate rooms. He used his best ‘older-lady-with-Spanish-accent”-voice, while I practiced my lines..

“My name is Lisa and i’m wondering if you can help me figure out where I fit into the Ramirez family” we ended up being goofy and silly, but I felt better about it.

He gave me every possible reaction we could think of. “I don’t know what your talking about” or “I don’t feel comfortable talking about this” “say what?” “go away!” etc, so I could practice every possible answer, but I kept flubbing it, we did it over and over.

My plan was to call the next morning, Memorial Day, because it was a holiday maybe she/they would be free and together, and maybe we could all have time to recover from whatever happened before a normal work day.

So, alone in my friends lovely home and surrounded by Angel images, beautiful crystals, wise quotes and Goddess treasures, overlooking a magical forest and bay, I knew this will happen here and now. I just can’t get my heart to stop thumping. I called Paul for a last minute pep talk. He said, “It could be any one of these 347 names, you won’t be this nervous for each one”

I had my questions and answers all spread out on the table in front of me. I knew everything that I would say, but the word that was going to mean everything was Thailand.

I knew from her vague pre-birth interview paper that she had been in Thailand.. and also it was for the government? (a mystery), and I had to somehow get that into the conversation, and when I did, it could go either way, I would know it was her, and she would know I knew, or it would be a dead end right there.

So there I sat, 10:00 AM, deep breath, almost press the number.. wait.. deep breath,….close the eyes.. start again, no wait, need water.. I should pee…almost press.. just another minute, maybe I should meditate, or pray.. ok do that.

10:15, 10:30. My heart still pounding, but there was no turning back. I couldn’t stay like this I would have a heart attack. I do a lot of pulse raising things.. big stages, audiences, talking to large groups, I even play my harp right when people leave this world. But nothing felt like this.

I wanted to chicken out, but like in swim class when your at the edge of the diving board, you want to turn and run back to safety, but there is already a line of kids waiting to go. Can’t go forward, can’t go back. Just GO!!

So I pressed the button, and a woman answered the phone. She wasn’t the person I was asking for, she was her sister-in-law.She was so very nice, I relaxed some.
She said that the person I was calling for no longer lived there.

The person I wanted had been moved to a full time care facility, since she had her major stroke eight years ago. My heart is thumping. She said the person I was calling for was severely affected by the stroke and lost her ability to speak. And she never married, and she never had any other children.

“Do you know if she’s been to Thailand?” She said I should call back in a few hours when her husband was home. He was the brother of the woman I was asking for. She said she knew that her sister-in-law had been in the Peace Corp.

I called Paul, he said to me “Peace Corp! are you kidding!!!” Of course, the Peace Corp!! It must be Thailand!! You got it on the first call!!!!  He was thrilled and amazed, and it was only then dawning on me, I might have reached her. On the first call.
The Peace Corp. My heart was exploding, with happy and sad.

I called again a few hours later. A man’s voice on the phone. Her one brother. All my questions and plans went out the window. He had the questions, he was very direct, “are you looking for your birth mother?”

Finally, I said, “yes”. He said, “you found her”. And I was talking to her brother, my uncle. It was her brother who was the key!.. because of him, and that he was an only brother, was the reason I found them all.

He was protective and asked my intentions. My voice felt like it was hardly coming out as I explained that I only wanted to let her know that I had a good life, and that her decision so long ago turned out good for me.

We talked for 45 emotional minutes. Yes, she was in the Peace Corp and stationed in Bangkok. There was so much to say, so much relief, so many questions, and putting puzzle pieces in together for each other. It was a surreal dream. It felt like the skies just opened, and sun was coming in. It all went by so fast, its hard to take it in still. But my birth mother was alive! and near San Diego, my uncle was helping with her care. He saw her often and they went out to parks sometimes in her wheelchair, and my birth mother could communicate with nods of yes or no.

He was going to see her the next day and he would tell her about our contact and read her my blog story! Just like you have read here! He told me he had found out about her giving me up years later. He had always wondered about me. I had been on his mind many many times over all the years.

I realized that even though I was so sad at first to learn of her physical situation, I was so happy that she was alive, and this wonderful uncle cared so much, and it mattered so much to him, and there was more family.. and cousins, and second cousins! The blessing felt so enormous.. He was being her voice for me. It was so big, for all of us!

Everything was so surreal. Aryeh was there thank goodness. I think we were laughing and crying all at once, he helped me so much. All in the parking lot of a dairy queen in Morro Bay.. on Memorial day!

By the time we made the four hour drive home to San Francisco, there were photos in my email! I couldn’t believe my eyes were looking for the first time of my life upon
the woman who gave me life. And I could see how I came from her! Perhaps I will post photos of her in the next writing, but I want to make sure that’s all okay first with their family.

Best sister ever for my whole life

And… I will soon have photos of us all together! Because in three days on Tuesday the 12th, I will meet them!  Me and my sister Jenny are driving down together to go to her care home, and there I will meet my uncle, his wife, their daughters, and my birth mother all at once!

My uncle said she listened to my letters from my blog very intently. He asked her if she understood and she nodded yes, he asked her a few times to make sure she understood, and he asked her if this all made her happy, and she nodded yes, and would she like to meet me, and yes. He printed out these photo’s I sent of me, and she now has these pictures with her!


My parents
My sister Jenny




I know that there will be a lot of emotions. I don’t know how my birth mother will be as she is on a lot of medication. My uncle has done his best to prepare me for the reality of the situation. I’m not even sure what I will say to her, or how much we can connect. Or if she will realize its me and what is happening at the time. All I can do is show up and just try to do and say the right things. An think of lots of “yes or no” questions! Maybe she would like to hear me play my harp. There are already so many blessings. This story so far has unfolded much differently than all my many imaginings . But it is my story, and now I have one.

So, my friends and my precious family.. stay tuned. Much more to come and
very soon.

End of part four

 Part 3

In 1990 I received my first information about the circumstances of my adoption. My biological mother’s privacy was protected by the LA county bureau of adoptions. So I couldn’t know her name, but could leave a letter in my file. But only if she checked the file, it would be there for her. So I typed out one page on and old style typewriter and told her about my life. I had a wonderful family, a fine childhood, and that I was a musician, and a happy person. I said the things I loved and experienced. Mostly I let her know that I always thought so much of what she did, to give me up in hopes I would have a better life than she could give at the time.

Strangely, after I wrote the letter I felt a sense of peace about it knowing that if she wanted to look and see there would be a message from me there.  It’s probably still there now.

To go back a little bit…

By 1985, I had been working as a professional musician. I moved from Orange County, CA to Hollywood and finally attended Musicians Institute of Technology in 1988 & 1989.

Right when I got into school in 1988, I had a car accident.  I had only whiplash but it ruined my van which I relied on for all my gigs. I had to take another three month Top 40 tour in Alaska to afford another van and re-start school again in six months. I learned about video editing on the side, and although I was in the bass guitar program, I ended up creating my first serious band for my harp.

After that I was working various music jobs and was also a cocktail waitress in a Hollywood club were I waited on rock stars and movie stars. I ended up writing a popular column in a music paper that tattled on the stars that were bad tippers. I was an anonymous columnist of “True Tales from Behind the Tray” by Jackie Daniels.

In 1990, we lost my father’s father, Florencio S. Franco. a  loving man who adored is four sons, one daughter, 11 grandchildren including me, and many great grandchildren. He worked for the railroad in Los Angeles his whole life. He loved music and had a lovely soprano voice which he sang to us in Spanish. While his heart failed, my Nana never left his side. They were so in love, all the way to the end and married for over 50 years. He always said “mama was the boss”. She wouldn’t leave his hospital bedside. When finally she did for a moment to eat. He went to heaven. She lived another decade but counted the days until she would join him.

My sister Jenny married Jeff, a super terrific guy. They have two kids, Trevor and Annelyse who are a great joy in my life, the biggest blessing ever. I never had kids of my own, I love them as much as if they were mine.They are now 14 and 10.

We do a lot of fun stuff together, we make video movies with special effects, cooking shows.. music shows, dance parties, arts and crafts. Trevor’s too old for that stuff by now, but Annelyse is always ready for fun. I visit them in Laguna Beach pretty often. My sister Jenny is the best mom ever.

My father was diagnosed with Cancer and twice he was able to beat it with surgery and radiation. In between those times he was able to enjoy traveling in his RV for  summer long trips with Margaret and visiting the kids and now grand kids.He still loved campfires and outdoor grilling and was always ready to go anywhere to see me play my music.We have so many great photos because Margaret was a photographer.

My mom Carol never remarried but enjoyed a life of working in National Parks and living in beautiful places with mountains and forest. She loves nature so much. She, my aunt and my grandma were always doing crafts and inventing good ideas.

I was sending out tapes of my music while still waitressing and got my first record contract in Germany. I traveled there several years in a row to do concerts and make my first few records there.

Those records never quite made it to the US, so I was still street performing on Venice Beach Boardwalk. This lead to more traveling and street performing around the country and Canada.

International Buskers festival in Nova Scotia, Canada


There were years of day after day performing long hours for tips and tape sales in every place possible. College campuses, art fairs, street festivals and shopping malls. There were snow storms and broken down vans, terrible motels, walking pneumonia IRS audits and US Customs fines.

One time I had a late night gig, and an early morning recording session. I opted to park my van by my bedroom window and leave everything inside. When I came out  the van was gone. For three days I posted pictures of my harp at every pawn shop. That’s all I cared about, not the guitars or mandolins or electric gear, I just wanted the harp. A Latin TV station I had just performed on showed pictures of the van and told my story. The next day the van was recovered and I was told to go to impound. The van had a screwdriver still stuck in the ignition. It was stripped and empty. Except for the harp.

Somehow I sold over 100,000 tapes and CDs on my own little label. Because of that, I was invited to the top floor office with my harp to RCA/Windham Hill. I was asked to play my harp, and to show my manufacturing receipts for my CD sales. I was signed to a major recording contract.

Around that time I met my magical musical partner George Tortorelli at a festival in Florida. We were a couple for the first two years of our now 13 year friendship. He plays flutes for all my music, we have toured extensively as a duo and had every kind of adventure. He lives in Florida where we perform often. He was already a well known musician in his own rite. We have a very special sound that people truly love. He taught me all about enjoying life, shutting off the pager and canoeing through nature…and where to hang hammocks in Maui. He is truly the wise brother I always wanted in my life. Still is.

George and I at the Florida Folk Festival on the Swanee River

Right when my first major label album release came out, I had an extreme headache so I went to an emergency room and while I was filling out forms I had a seizure. I had brain swelling and the left side of the brain was torn in two places. I was in critical care and it was a mystery why it happened. I also developed blood clots in both of my legs from the hip to the ankle. I had emergency surgery to put a permanent device in my main artery that would protect my organs from stroke. I was bedridden for six months. It was a slow recovery and it was eventually determined that I had contracted west nile virus in Florida, which caused the brain swelling. I was trying to feed a baby owl that had fallen through a fireplace. The owl was sick and dying. The mosquitoes were biting the owl, and then me. The legs were hardest to endure and recover from. I have had a few more blood clots since then and my legs have never fully been the same.

So after all I had been through to that point in my music life, I missed my big chance to promote that album and do all the planned performances and activities around it.

But the next year I had another chance, and things changed for me. I was touring in beautiful performing arts centers and theaters across the US. Making more records in fine studios, and performing with some of the greatest musicians you can imagine. After many tries I finally had a record in the Billboard Top 10 New Age Music charts. I had a full band of my dreams.

The best thing about this new level was the tools you get to use. Writing and recording the music was my highest love. To be able to record with state of the art technology was the greatest experience so far. To be able to hear at new levels.

My next very important relationship was with Gilberto “Gil” Morales. He was my good friend and gifted audio engineer for my music before we were together as a couple for eight years. He was an important part all that decade of music. He also was a musician who played many instruments. A true friend for life.

My fathers’ mother Adelina lived a long life and we made a lot of plans that she would visit me from heaven and how I would know it was her.

This is her 90th birthday party surrounded by all of her children. All my aunts and uncles and cousins I grew up with and their babies came together to honor Adelina. This is the whole Franco clan, me on the right.

Only the very last weeks of her 95 years did my Nana lose her memory. But in this moment when I held up her face she recognized me and Margaret took this photo. It came out with a white star reflection of light on her chest. She passed just a few days later.

As the record industry changed and the economy shifted, the big bus mega tours weren’t happening  anymore. Windham Hill label folded up shop and I ended up signing to New Earth Records and working more on my own label and my own touring and promotions. I had a big experience around the Columbine tragedy and started doing Therapuetic music in hospitals. My programs grew faster than I could keep up with. Weekdays were playing music in intensive care units and weekends flying to the east coast for shows. I handled all parts of my business from my mobile office and worked a lot in airports. I never stopped day or night.  I got another blood clot in my hip while performing in Utah, and had emergency blood thinning shots, and now pills too.That was hard for me because I have always gone the natural route. But the blood thinners helped me out a lot. I finally admitted.

My father’s Cancer returned and this time it was in his lungs behind his sternum and there was no solution for it. He endured many procedures to prolong his life. It was a hard four years while his health declined. Margaret was devoted to him every moment. They were so in love after 24 years of marriage. He just wanted us to be normal and kept telling us not to be sad and worry. How much he enjoyed his life. He never complained.
He kept telling us how proud he was of all of us.

I stayed there with them in Nevada to help Margaret and be there for his last part of life. I wanted to tell him how much I loved him, and how I couldn’t have had a better dad in the whole world. There was so much I had to write it all out. Even though he already knew it. I wanted to tell him anyway everything I learned from him. And that I would do all the things he wished for me, and we would all be okay even though we would miss him our whole lives.

On one of the last days of his life, I read him my letter with shaky hands. Margaret took a picture of the hug he gave me. I will treasure this photo my whole life.

He died on January 22, 2009. With all of us around him.

My grandma on my moms side passed just a few months later. But she still came to my fathers memorial with my mom. She was sharp right to the end. She knew how to live and taught us all how to enjoy life. We released white balloons for her in the park where we gathered.

George and I had a funny gig playing on a cruise ship. I brought my mom along. We sailed the Caribbean and thought it was funny that folks kept wanting to hear our cosmic version of theme from Titanic.

I decided to start taking better care of myself and moved to a place right on the beach in Marina Del Rey for a year. I just kept taking walks to strengthen my legs and figure out what I was going to do differently than the workaholic thing.

Along came Aryeh, and his beautiful son Abraham. I fell in love with them both.
So I moved to San Francisco. Its a happy life here. A healthy life too. Aryeh is a great musician and we create music together as well. I love his parents too.

I still go to L.A often. I have my hospital music programs now over 10 years. I have special gigs and speaking engagements. I get invited to present my music and story at large conferences and spiritual retreats. I am fullfilled most when I bring my 15 harps to schools and hospitals to teach people to play. I still fly for shows and festivals, but half as much. I take more time off and spend time with my friends, I do cooking and mosiacs. I take much better care of my health.

My mom Carol and I bought a house together in Northwest Montana, she lives there now and we visit. She says she has never been happier in her life.

As I was just writing this, my mom just read part two
of my story and posted this: 

“Right now there are tears on my cheeks as I have just finished reading the blog my oldest daughter is writing about her adoption, childhood and search for her biological mother. I am crying because I made many mistakes over the years but I’m also crying because the woman gave me the greatest gift and these are tears of joy and gratitude.”

See how lucky I am?

Jenny is a full fledged soccer mom. They are busy bees having lots of fun too. She’s been married now for 16 years.

Margaret is just starting to come out a little bit. Her grief is long and hard. She visits us and I her. She carries on the festivities that she and Dad enjoyed doing for the kids. Her two daughters are grown. My stepsister Gwen and I visit sometimes.
We all miss my dad so much.

So, were up to date. An unusual set of divine interventions happen, and I decide it’s time to look for my birth mother again.

I had no idea it was going to happen so fast.

End of part three.

Here is part four