Once a year in Northwestern Ohio, “The Harp Gathering” brings harp lovers and harp players from all over the country and Canada. They take workshops all day from incredible harp artists around the lovely Sauder Village Inn. In the evenings there are shows where wonderful performances from the visiting instructors take place. I got to hang with my buddies Kim Robertson, Charlene Wallace and Louis Trotter. There were several more amazing harpers that I had never met including the hosts Denise and Michael Grupp-Verbon from Tapestry, also Frank Voltz, and Timothy Harper from Canada. I was loaned this harp to use by Jeff Lewis from “Lewis Creek Harps” to use. As you can imagine, it was a love fest with all those lovely people and harp enthusiasts in one place, and it was a busy three days. I taught three workshops, one about working with other musicians, one about music business and promotion, and one about my “Hands-on-Harps” programs for hospital harp music. Every minute was fun, and the hotel was first class.
I edited together a few bits from my part of the evening concerts. For more information about this event, visit http://www.HarpGathering.com

 

This is part two of my adoption story. If your just joining me, there is “part one” below, just scroll down to the explanation there of my intentions with this writing and how the story begins. Thank you all so much for the support you are giving me. I’m so glad I have all of you to share this experience with. It gives me courage.

Here goes..

There are two parallel things happening at the same time.
Once I made the decision to hire a specialist to help find my biological mother, its happening much faster than I imagined. There are lists, names and possibilities already emerging, and I am pulling open boxes of photos from my life. I feel as though I’m running to catch up, and also going backwards in time. I want to have my story place in case I make contact with any of my biological relations. In case she would rather not meet, maybe she would read this and know I was okay.

There is a lot of curiosity from my family and friends, so I will tell you this much. Soon I will be caught up with the back story and we’ll be in real time.

Based on my unique circumstances and a very common maiden name of my birth mother. It’s a miracle we can narrow it down. But we have. There are 347 potential women that match the information. From that, there are 47 in California, eleven in Los Angeles, (where I was adopted) and there is one of the 47, who might have all the right details that we are looking for. I have a name, the contact info, and it will be up to me to make the first contact. I’m getting advised how to do it. And I’ll go one by one down a list until I find the woman who has been in Thailand.

I get a little dizzy just thinking about what I’ll say, but I am being coached by an expert with vast experience at bringing out the best situation possible. I am going to try my best to go about this with the best wisdom I can. It’s possible I will have answers very soon. So I’m rushing to write this down!

So, this story is for my biological mother, this is what happened in my next chapter of life.

I left off when I was eight, learning to play guitar. It was the best thing that could have happened to me. It shook my soul. When I first saw my twin cousins playing their guitars, I was transfixed. They taught me “Blowing in the Wind” and I played it over and over, and bought my first guitar with my own saved money from the Sears catalog for $14.99. After some lessons my dad surprised me with a new classical guitar from Mexico. My first guitar became a home for my hamster.

Two years later my parents separated and then divorced. I took it really hard. My mom tried to explain that people who marry young often grow apart. I was angry and sad. We moved to Long Beach and I suffered migraine headaches and stomach aches for the next several years. I didn’t like my very curly hair so I tried everything to straighten it. I had to baby sit a lot and I regret to this day how I was mean to my sister.

My dad picked us up for every other weekend. He did as well as he could, he showed up for us. In their 16 year marriage he was a homicide and narcotics detective in East LA. An intense job, and those guys partied pretty hard to relieve the stress. When my mom left to find herself and seek a happier life, he was suffering. He remarried quickly to another sheriff woman who felt envious of his great love for his daughters. It only lasted for seven years, but that was a hard time of life for all of us. My father later referred to that time as his darkest seven years. They were mine too.

My mom was working two or three jobs to make ends meet. At home I was a gloomy teenager who blamed her for the divorce. I was often not helpful and disobeyed.

Not long ago, when I was remembering those years with my mom. I said I felt so sorry how I was. I would even endure puberty again if I could do that part over. She said she didn’t remember that I was bad, she remembered that I was sad.

My mom Carol during my teenage years

Jr. high and high school were not my finest years, but
there were two very bright spots, music and sports. I found out I could run and high jump, so I did that. My dad drove far to my track meets to cheer me on. I was also on a softball team that went to the championship. I was just an okay player, but while daydreaming in center field a game winning home run hit came right to me. I froze, but held out my shaking glove. The ball plopped in, and we won the championship. They hoisted me up and I cried happy tears. I couldn’t believe it.

And of course there was always music. It was the ongoing soundtrack of my life which I buried myself in. At every age I was consumed with albums of the time, pop music, rock music, even classical and Latin music. Every night I spent holding my transistor radio to my ear under the covers and listening for hours to AM pop radio of the 70’s. I made up shows with the kids I babysat. We pretended to be in bands like the Partridge family with big adventures.

In high school I met two singing sisters. They had sweet harmony voices so we sang songs of of my favorite groups. This was the beginning of my soul waking up.

Things got better. We moved from a tough Jr. High school in Long Beach to Huntington where I spent my teenage years. I spent high school being shy and quiet, but finally found friends with some fellow misfit musicians. I moved out of my moms apartment at 16 and started playing electric guitar and bass in garage bands. I always had a part time job and did well wherever I worked. I was good at creative writing in school. I graduated Marina high school in 1981.

During that time I also experienced an awakening of sort. I was given a simple book about meditation so I tried deep breathing and relaxing my head and stomach. I stopped being so worried all the time and realized that I could choose to be happy and be relaxed about things. Like a veil was lifted, it happened very swiftly. I started again to understand how lucky I was. I went back into a place of thankfulness. Like how I felt as a girl, and I’ve been there ever since.

I loved getting dressed up with my friend and playing our original mandolin music at Renaissance fairs.


It was at the Renaissance fair in Agoura, California that I first discovered the Celtic Harp in a booth selling harps. I sat down at it and felt the most familiar thing I had ever felt. I could play all the chords I knew on guitar. It took me a year to save up $700.00 for my first harp. It was 1985. I was totally in love with the harp. My heart and hands felt on fire when I played.

From around 18-20 years old, I was working in retail at a record store. I was the youngest assistant manager in the chain. I had headaches often, and a hurting stomach when I took aspirin. One day it was unbearable so I went to a hospital. It was a perforated ulcer that tore a whole wall of my stomach. I had emergency surgery that saved my life. I had to lay flat for three months to heal. I still have a long scar from it.Thankfully, I had always paid my health insurance.

Not long after I turned 21, I was willingly drafted into  playing bass for an all female classic rock/blues band that had steady gigs at biker bars and military basses. I joined and played full time with them 3-5 nights a week for the next eight years.

I also worked as a food waitress in the daytime and went part time to Jr. college for music. I traveled to Greenland and Alaska on long tours playing top 40 music for dance clubs. I also played in a popular original band of all guys that played heavy metal in clubs around Orange country. I brought my harp everywhere and even on the hard rock stage to see if the rocker kids would like it, and they did.

Exploring Greenland

The traveling I was doing was not glamorous. It was playing bass doing Top 40 music six sets a night, six nights a week in various dance clubs or military bases.

During the daytime I would go off exploring various things to see. I always took my harp on the road with me too.

When I was not traveling I was playing harp at restaurants, for weddings, and any kind of job I could find. I was determined to save enough money to go to Musicians Institute in Hollywood. It was my dream to study there and it took me a quite few years and a lot of waitress tips to save the tuition.

The Island of Sitka, Alaska,
The early 80’s was a great time for my Dad. He met Margaret, it was true love for real. Margaret was also a single mom working hard to support two daughters of her own. It was true love. Soulmates. They married in 1985. Margaret was a happy addition to our family and uncountable good times were had. So I had yet another mother to love too!  She made my dad so happy, and that made us happy too.
I was always very close to both of my grandmothers, and was so lucky to have them well into my adult years.

My fathers mother Adelina Franco was a traditional Mexican grandmother. She adored all of her children and grandchildren, of which there were many.
I visited and stayed with her often especially in the later years of her life. She was always blessing, and kissing and praying. She enjoyed her Spanish soap operas and nobody could come close to her cooking, as much as we tried.

Margaret Hughes was my mothers mother, she was a world traveler and we went on many trips to Mexico together. Her favorite place was Mazatlan.

Even though I had so much love in my family, I always wanted find to find my birth mother to let her know, if she ever wondered or worried what became of me, that I had a good life, and I always understood she did a great and selfless thing for me. At first, it was going to try right when I was 18, then 21 and each time, I put it off, thinking that I wanted to be far in my music career so she would be very proud of me.

But the years went by, and I was a struggling musician for a really long time. I always thought it would cost a lot of money to find her. But I was finally well at least with supporting myself with music. So I took the first step by at least writing to the original adoption agency.

It took over a year for them to pull my file. They could not release names but they could release some general info. So a big envelope came, and it was so big to me that I would know something. It took me days until I could even open it. This was what was inside.

It went on to say that the birth mother was 24, her height and weight, and her special interests were music, dancing and all sports. She had a brother who was 16, her mother was a seamstress who was separated from her father.

It said the birth father was Polish, born in New Jersey, 23 years old. 6.1 with hazel eyes, black hair and fair complexion. He was a recruiting soldier in the marines who enjoyed fishing and hunting. They were engaged, but she broke up with him and opted not to tell him of the pregnancy. So he never knew I was born.

I remember reading these papers over and over a thousand times. The adoption lady said even though I could not contact, I could put something in my file, and my birth mother was free to check the file if she ever wanted, so I wrote her a letter.

End of part two.

Here is part three

 

This event meant a lot to me, as these brilliant people attending were from all corners of the globe. They were doers of good, creators of excellence, specializing in the finding and creating ways to implement arts and music in the healthcare field. I tried to edit down to a manageable size, but my editing got sloppy and I was too tired of it to fix it, so I’ll hope you don’t mind. I was working a slide show from my laptop on the screen, but for this I just inserted the same pictures. At the end of this presentation, there was a standing ovation, my favorite part is the very end after the websites, the moment she says.. “enjoy your lunch”.

 This is a really big for me. I am learning things that have been a mystery for my life. This story is meant for my biological mother or father, or any of their relations I may find.

This account is also for my wonderful family and friends who are so excited about this. They are all so supportive and anxious for updates. This is a way I can tell them all at once. It also helps me to write this as I go. Most importantly, its for my biological mother. If she needs time, or doesn’t wish to meet me, maybe she can at least get my message from this.

My primary reason for finding her has been the same all my life. I want her to know that her decision turned out as she would have hoped. I’ve had a happy life, I became an artist, a music maker.
Most importantly, I have always thought of her with so much love and reverence for the brave decision she made so long ago.

I want her to know if she has ever thought of me, maybe she thinks, today I am 10, or 18, 21, or 30. I was also thinking of her and so grateful for my life that she gave. I have imagined all the possibilities and I know that anything can happen. Or not happen.  I have learned much in the past few weeks, and I’ll share that as I go. It seems like its really going to happen. I’m working with an adoption specialist who is wonderful, leading me through all the steps. My heart pounds when he gives me updates on the phone.

So thank you for being with me for this. As soon as I get some of this background written, I will be writing in real time. It’s all happening much faster than I thought it would, so I’m scrambling to catch up. So here goes.

I always knew I was adopted. As long as I can remember my mom would tell me the story like a fairy tale with a happy ending. The year before adopting me, they lost a baby born premature.  As my story was told to me, a mom and dad were sad because they lost their baby boy. They prayed for another baby and God gave them his smallest angel, and that was me, and I made them happy again.

My adoptive father Florencio Ernesto Franco was a sheriff in East LA. My mother Carol Lee Franco was a homemaker. Like many people in that era, they met in high school, were engaged and then married after his time in the service.

This is the only time I will call them “adoptive” because they are my mom and dad,  so I’ll refer to them as that. For the woman I hope to find, I will call her “biological” mother. Florencio and Carol Franco took me home just weeks after my birth, and named me Lisa Lynne Franco.

My mom speaks of they day they brought me home as if it was yesterday. It was a full year after applying to adopt. There were many interviews and a lot of hoping and waiting. They finally got the news that there was a little girl who was here and she would be theirs. My mom said they were taking me home for the first time and she could not believe the length of my eyelashes. My dad had to keep pulling over the car so they could look at me.

We went straight to the home of my dad’s parents. My Nana and Tata, where there was a party for me! I had many aunts and uncles, lots of cousins, I could feel how happy everyone was.

Adelina and Florencio Sr.

This might be hard to believe, but I’m certain I remember that day. Just brief moments, images, and smells. I was wrapped in a blanket and facing the ceiling. I remember the lamps from the ceiling, I remember being passed around from arms to arms, big giant smiley faces peering at me, kisses from sweaty happy kids on my forehead.The smell of home cooking and sound of my Nana’s voice singing my name.. There was mariachi music on the radio.  I know I remember this, and I remember having a very conscious thought.
This is going to be just fine…

I grew up in Southern California around Whittier and Diamond Bar. It was a middle class upbringing and a lot of fun and celebrations.

 
My dog Pokey

I loved sleepovers with my cousins playing endless board games, riding bikes, putting on shows. We dressed up for Sundays with homemade Mexican food, always a birthday or new baby, and music.

Water sports

When I was five my little sister Jenny came along, born in the usual way.

It was a surprise to everyone!
Me on the left, –  hmmm… not so sure about this.
Well…. I guess its okay.

Baptisms, first communions..

Bubble baths

Lot of outdoor adventures

An avid reader of fine literature

We went camping often. My dad taught me to fish.
I loved fishing with him and would sit patient for hours.
I caught some big fish too and could reel it in myself.

We went on summer long trips in our trailer.
We drove and camped our way to Alaska.

Home was fun too.

Me in 2nd grade.

I was in bluebirds and campfire girls

My moms mother Margaret married many times and
was a globe trotting adventurous woman.

My moms family is also very close. My mom Carol is quite the beauty,
she is quiet but very funny. She’s on the left with the big hair.
Me, the skinniest legs of all.

My dad worked in the East LA sheriffs station his whole career. He worked undercover for burglary cases, homicide and narcotics. He would sometimes bring me by the station on his day off and we’d have orange soda there.
When he came home from work my sister and I would run to him knowing he would give us a flip in the air and say “va va voom!!” .. and we would say
“do it again dad!!” over and over.

I started playing guitar when I was eight years old. I got pretty good so I got lessons and learned lots of songs. My dad would always ask me to play my songs at our campfires. My mom had read that if you play music for a baby, they will be musical.
So she put music on for me in my crib in hopes that would happen.

End of Part 1

Since my duo/flute partner George lives in Florida, we get to play in some of the most beautiful places in the country. Cedar Key is no exception, and one of George’s favorite places. This past weekend was very cool, and I tried to capture images as they happened. I never seem to be able to get much of us playing though.. because we are always playing at that time! But we stayed in some lovely homes and got to see some of the local community. This video starts on the plane, and ends on the plane too! I do all my editing on the ride home. Hope you enjoy!

 

I know when I was growing up, I loved looking at the liner notes of the albums I owned.

Back in those days we had vinyl with big covers filled with artwork and words, and I would study it while listening to the music over and over again like we all did.  Those big covers were gold to me.  I’d devour every picture and line of Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, YES, Beatles, Carole King, Genesis, to name just a few.. before that it was The Partridge Family, The Osmonds and the Jackson 5. The list goes on and on…

I always wanted to know what was behind the inspiration of the album and every song.. and I have missed that with artists now. Because of the small CD covers, and more so as people are getting their music by download. So here is my attempt to share a bit more about this recording.

This recording is the second full collaboration of Aryeh and myself, and also features another of my favorite musicians in the world George Tortorelli. I have been working with Aryeh for about three years now.  Our first CD is called “Two Worlds One”. We’ve also appeared on each others separate projects as well.  George is my longtime music partner and we have been performing, touring and recording together as a duo and in groups pretty much full time since 1997.  George lives in Florida where we still tour often. (Even as I write this now) For those of you familiar with my previous recordings you have heard him often as he has been featured on just about everything I have done for the past decade. He is a wonderful musician and dear friend/brother as well. Here is George recording his bamboo flute.

Finally this recording puts all my favorite people and sounds together and I’m so happy about that. I was a major fan of Aryeh’s music long before we met, (and long before I ended up being his partner/partner) and finally we are able to merge all of our gifts together in one place. Aryeh and I play all the instruments you hear except the flutes played by George. Our combined instrument collection is vast, and we feel so lucky to have so many instruments to make this music. Here are just a few of them.

So what is it like on a typical recording day?  We’ll, because of the advances in technology, home recording studios have the capability to record as high quality as professional studios. I have been in many high end studios in my day, and when I compare our current home studio recordings to my expensive pro studio recordings on Windham Hill Records, you cannot tell a difference. I do have some excellent microphones (those were quite expensive) Aryeh has his own recording gear and can run pro recording computer programs.  I wont bore you with those details, my eyes glaze over when the talk turns to gear, but it suffices to say, between my gear and Aryeh’s, we have quite a good setup.

Our studio basement is totally sound proof, so we can record anytime of day or night. Aryeh likes to record early. Earlier than me, so a typical morning would be quick toast and tea and at 8:00 AM we get going. Me with my second mug of tea, sitting there blurry eyed and grumpy until the heater kicks in. San Francisco mornings can be quite chilly.

When the room warms up, the tuning begins. That is the most tedious part of recording. All our instruments, all our strings.. temperature changes, the tuning has to be perfect for recording, so often it takes multiple tries. Sometimes you are minutes into a perfect take, and you have to stop for one note being out of tune and start over.  Sometimes digital information gets lost or corrupted for some bizarre technical reason, hence you may hear some rare-but-salty-sailor-talk from Aryeh. Its challenging to say the least, when your all warmed up to play, filled with inspiration and ready to rock, but that one note goes sharp or flat so you have to start all over again, tuning note by note.

Finally the music starts happening and the ideas fly. We get thrilled about some parts, we debate others. I might play a tune three times through and we choose the favorite, sometime we have to make choices between technically perfect takes or imperfection but with more vibe and feel. To find the balance is key, to capture what is real, combine our years of experience and hope that the finished piece conveys what we meant to say.
The new tracks get listened to upstairs on all different stereo systems. Aryeh likes to go back and work on string parts by himself and play them for me when he’s done. Then I say, “its too much, or its beautiful, or its too weird.”  Eventually we find the place where we are both happy.

As we go along, when its time to add George’s flutes, sometimes we record while on the road, even in hotel rooms! Sometimes the parts are recorded at his place in Florida, and sometimes if he’s out west we do it in our place. Here is a movie clip of George doing flutes in our studio.

After a few months of this.. We move on to final mixing in a bigger studio. Most of the mixing is done by Aryeh at our place, but we need more specialized outboard gear, and so several days are spent going back and forth to nearby sound studio in San Francisco fine combing the details, the balances, the levels of solos, go home and listen again, go back and tweak a little more.  We can get quite caught up in the tiniest details.

Then comes audio mastering, and that is key. That is where we spare no expense to get the highest possible fidelity and clarity that technology has to offer. We send the finished project for post production to Bernie Becker’s Mastering studio in Pasadena, (near LA)  Mastering is taking all the elements, boosting them, creating a sparkling sheen on the overall sound, making sure everything is even and clear and bright and warm as can be. Bernie Becker is a legendary guy, and the nicest man ever. He and his son Dale have worked on every recording I’ve done for years. Here’s Bernie.

Meanwhile time to decide on the artwork and do credits (my job, and my longtime awesome graphics and webguy John), and everything to do with the actual manufacturing.. and in about nine months total (same as making a baby) viola.. you have it.

Then comes the promotion (also my job) so a whole new set of tasks around sending it out to radio stations, retail outlets, press releases, concert performances.. the list is long.  At this point in time Aryeh runs away and hides… in the studio, already working on his next music!

n this day and age, the way the music industry has changed, its more often independently done in-house by the artists themselves. I have experienced many different levels of album releases, some were big time with lots of people and help, and money. And some on my own label, humble and modest. This one is somewhere in the middle. But every album might be like having a new child.

You do the best you can, give it all you’ve got, and send it out in the world, hoping it does well, and is happy. But in this case we hope it makes people happy. We hope it makes them feel what we feel.. the love and reference for the instruments and sounds, the music that comes into the heart, out of the hands..hopefully into other hearts.

When we start hearing back the wonderful comments from the listeners, we breathe a collective sigh of relief that all that work and dedication, wisdom, faith and perseverance, debate, devotion, and even a few tears, (or was that beers)… was more than worth it.

And after all that work we have no choice but to go to Mexico and celebrate.

I don’t have any kids myself, but have one sister named Jenny, she has two kids that I adore, and we do a lot of crazy fun creative stuff together. Trevor is now a teenager, so he’s rather busy with other things, but Annelyse is my buddy, my partner in crafting and crime.. so we make movies. Here is the latest when she got her first pair of skates. I do the filming, directing and editing.. Annelyse provides the the star power, she is also does all her own stunts. With a little help from my Imovie effects.  Hope you enjoy!

 Here’s a short excerpt of bringing all my harps to Marion Cancer clinic in Central California. It’s always so amazing to me how quickly people can play. I think it amazes them too. The thing about the harp is, its so much more friendly to the beginner than people realize. I love it so much to see people light up when they hear the music they are able to play. And all the harps playing together in surround sound is quite something to hear.

Mostly I see people being empowered by the experience. Most are dealing with very serious health challenges and to accomplish this unique thing that they didn’t realize they could, I think that makes them know that other things are very achievable too.  So that’s why I do this. I love every minute of the workshops. I have to admit that loading and tuning the harps is more of a task. It takes me about two hours to set up, and with 17 harps its about 600 strings to tune. One by one. But I try to think of that time as a meditation time. I am usually struggling against the clock still tuning as people are coming in, but I think I’m the fastest tuner in the west. I also set up my projector with images, do a little concert, with all the harps in a row behind me, like ships. I tell stories of the harps, and we have questions and answers. After the intermission I select a harp for every person based on their personality, or body size, or medical condition. I see big smiles as each person holds their harp, and we commence making music. Its that rare time, when you know you are in exactly the right place, doing exactly the right thing, and all is well in this place and this moment, and its my favorite feeling in the world.

As part of a Central California tour we stopped to visit an elementary school in Taft, California. We brought all of our instruments hoping the kids would be interested. They were so many of them and they were so young! So you never know what could happen, but we hoped for the best and sure enough it was a rousing success. We shared all about our instruments and played for over 400 kids.They were totally attentive and interested and with some very, very good questions.. “how old are you?” “are you married?’ and so on. It was a true highlight of the trip. Here’s a peak of a song we all did together.

Aryeh and I are hosting guest musicians in the group “Parahulta” from Finland this week, and last night we played together some of their beautiful music. This song is called “Waltz for Kuisma” written for their son. Aryeh met them and learned it from them on a trip to Sweden. He loves the song so much we recorded it on our first “Two Worlds One” CD and this is the first time we have all played it together.