Words just can’t describe this wonderful music camp, so I’ll just let my video do it.
Words just can’t describe this wonderful music camp, so I’ll just let my video do it.
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 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
End of part four
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
|Me on the left, – hmmm… not so sure about this.|
|Well…. I guess its okay.
Baptisms, first communions..
Lot of outdoor adventures
An avid reader of fine literature
We went camping often. My dad taught me to fish.
We went on summer long trips in our trailer.
Home was fun too.
Me in 2nd grade.
I was in bluebirds and campfire girls
My moms mother Margaret married many times and
My moms family is also very close. My mom Carol is quite the beauty,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.