Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Pay day.  Drove to Windsor to get my hair done.  Since i was early, I drove around the Alexander Valley, near the Russian River.  I drove through Healdsburg and Santa Rose, through undulant green hills and baby grape vines. Black and white cows chewed on the sweet, green grass.  Lakeville Road is one of my favorite drives.  

I have been listening to a lot of Grateful Dead on this adventure.  Back east, I never got into the band, because i was too repressed. Out here, I get it.  The Grateful Dead is the perfect soundtrack for rolling through the hills, like i did today.  

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

No subbing today.  First day back from spring break.  Stayed in bed for a really long time, before getting up and out around ten.  Drove around Vallejo's historic district.  There are so many great houses in this town.  After, i drove over to Mare Island, down by the almost empty shipyards. Did some writing at a picnic table overlooking the ninth hole at the golf course.  What a gorgeous, dizzying view of the San Pablo Bay and Mt. Tamalpais.

Stopped over at Richard's and Gregory's to visit with them and the dogs.  Richard's garden is magical and green, smelling so delicious, like orange blossoms.  

Monday, March 28, 2016

School is still on spring break, so i sat in my nook at Nathan's, had another amazing breakfast sandwich on sourdough bread, and a very large latte.  

My newly found ten-year old nephew surprised us all and face timed me this afternoon.  I got to meet them all, not in person, but in animation.  still, it was delightful to see these people with whom i share DNA.  My brother and i have the same face and coloring.  I was overcome with emotion when he said how much i look like our mother.  I am glowing, having seen my brother, my sister-in-law, my nieces and my nephew.  It was so weird and so normal, at the same time.  

In a month, they will be here and we will see each other in person.  

As if things were not surreal enough already...

Yesterday was my first dazzling Easter Sunday in California.  We had brunch in Sonoma, at the Swiss Hotel. Later in the afternoon, we all convened at aunt Jean's, in Fairfield, for ham, scalloped potatoes, and roasted spring asparagus.  Nancy made another delicious banana caramel poke cake, along with a sinful oreo peanut butter ice box cake.  

As always, Nancy and Ann looked beautiful.  Their necklaces were flowers, perfect for spring, and Ann was wearing cute floral pumps that looked like an easter parade on her feet.  

One month from today, I meet my siblings. Got texts yesterday from them and i cannot even describe the warm, wonderful feeling that gave me.  

Life is so different than it was, even just a year ago, and in the best possible ways.  

Friday, March 25, 2016

Woke up once again, with no idea as to what i was going to do all day.  So i showered, dressed, and got in my car to see what would happen next.  Drove toward Sausalito, but ended up in Stinson Beach, after a very windy drive through the redwoods in Muir Woods, because there was too much traffic going toward Sausalito.  

Had ok fish tacos in an overpriced eatery between Point Reyes and Stinson Beach, where i stopped as I drove north.  My cousin, Karres, called and we had a nice chat while I sat in my car in the parking lot.  

Drove home through Marin, through more redwoods and green hills, with cows and sheep hanging off. Richard invited me to watch a movie, but i knew that if I went home, I would never go back out again, so i showed up at his house, and we drank red wine in his gorgeous garden.

Katy is doing great, and if you didn't know she got bit by a rattlesnake, you would never know what trauma she had experienced.  She looks completely normal. It is so good to see the pack complete once again. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Headed out earlier this morning, down to Panama Bay, in the Vallejo Ferry Terminal Building.  Another gorgeous day in the bay area.  There was a large crowd of spring break travelers, going in to San Francisco for the day.

Spent most of the day writing, and realizing what is good about being in this precarious, uncertain phase of my life.  First of all, i am not depressed.  Every day, i have to wake up and figure out my own life, and i am doing it.  And while i still get anxious and impatient, i have really learned how to manage both, for the most part.  There is room in my day, and space to breathe. I am seeing and doing so many things I never even imagined existed.

Had a long phone conversation with Rose Massa, an old friend and neighbor from Yonkers.  She saw Uncle Jim's obituary in the Herald Statesman, and called to express her condolences.

The Massas and my parents were friends before they had children.  My dad sold them their house in Bryn Mawr Knolls, where Rose still lives.  She was like a sister to my mom, who had left her sisters back in Youngstown, when she moved to New York with my father.  Rose and my mother had so much in common. They were both creative and had an aesthetic flair.  They were adventurous. There were plenty of road trips around the NY metropolitan area where we all ended up lost, on our way to some interesting thing they'd read about in the NY Times.

Rose is 94, and in good health. She is going to be a great grandmother in July.  In 2012, I stopped to see her at her house on Long Beach Island.  It was the next best thing to being in my mom's kitchen. Rose is a fabulous cook, and served seafood pasta in a delicious red sauce, tomatoes and basil from her garden, with mozzarella, crusty Italian bread, and red wine.  We spent the next few days reminiscing, as well as talking about current world and personal events.  I left on my drive north feeling nourished and loved.

Stopped at Mare Island and stretched out in the sunshine on the lawn in front of St. Peter's Chapel.

Chris did his spring planting today.  my view as i wrote this afternoon.  

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Itwas another lovely day Up Bay, as Gregory would say.  There were no parking spaces available when i drove by Nathan's this morning, so i went to the Ferry Terminal, and drank coffee overlooking the harbor.  

The atmosphere was festive as families and commuters lined up to go into San Francisco on this shiny, sunny day.  

I am remembering how grateful i am to be on this adventure, this weird writing retreat full of material.  I am so blessed with loving family and supportive friends.  When i can tame my impatience, I realize that I am where i am supposed to be, learning what i am supposed to learn.

Katy is doing so much better.  Richard said she devoured two bowls of food yesterday before conking out again.  Gregory sent a picture via e-mail and her swollen snout is almost back to its slender self.  

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Woke early to the news that my uncle Jim died this morning.  It hasn't sunk in.  He was truly a renaissance man.  I cannot imagine this life without him.  

Balint, Robert J.
On May 6, 1930, Robert James Balint became the third of the nine children born of the marriage between John J. Balint and Margaret Lucas Balint. He graduated from Most Holy Trinity School and Sacred Heart High School in Yonkers before enrolling at The Catholic University of America where he earned a degree in Architectural Engineering in 1951. After graduation, he was employed by the Bureau of Ships of the Navy Department. He was on the team which designed the aircraft carrier Forrestal. Thereafter he became a commissioned officer in the USAF and was given the assignment of overseeing the construction of the hospital at Dyas AFB in Abilene, TX. While there his vocation to the priesthood resurrected itself. He was ordained a priest at St. Patrick's Cathedral in May of 1961 and celebrated his first mass as a priest at Most Holy Trinity Church in Yonkers. He became an "adopted son" of the Dallas-Fort Worth Diocese where he performed teaching and parish duties for the first five years of his priesthood. He spent the next twenty-three years as a chaplain in the USAF at various bases in Europe, Asia and the USA. He retired as a full colonel in 1990. He continued his priestly duties as the founding pastor of Prince of Peace Catholic Community in Plano, TX. He retired in 2010 and was the "Pastor Emeritus in Residence" until his death on March 22, 2016. He died as a result of the serious injuries he suffered in an auto accident in Boynton Beach, FL on March 11, 2016.
He was predeceased by his parents, a brother, John, and a sister, Kathleen Kane. His sisters, Margaret Murray, Bernice Flynn and Judith Fasano of Cape Cod and MaryLou Blute of Plano, and brothers, Vincent of Fairfield, CA and Andrew of Yonkers, survive, as do countless nieces, nephews, grandnieces, grandnephews, two great grandnieces and one great grandnephew.
His funeral mass will be held on March 29th, at his beloved Prince of Peace.

I drove to Berkeley, and had the most delicious grilled cheese and tomato soup at the Saturn Cafe.  Took a walk at the marina to let the news about Jim sink in.  It is Holy Week.  Uncle Jim said my dad's funeral mass, and he said that my dad joined the spiritual banquet in heaven.  It comforts me to know that now Jim is enjoying that same spiritual banquet, along with my parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles.  As you can see from the photos, Jim was literally and spiritually the center of our family.  

Monday, March 21, 2016

Pouring rain.  I am sitting at the Benicia fishing pier, listening to Van Morrison, watching the rain fall and the sea gulls revel in the wet.  

My brother, Peter, and his wife are bringing their three children out to the west coast for their spring break, which is the last week of April.  They are going to come to the Bay Area.  My sister, Lin, is coming, too.  I am so happy and excited.  

Katy is doing better. We drove up to UC Davis to visit her, and they said she could come home.  Her poor little snout is still so swollen from the snake bite, but she's home, with her dog siblings, and her loving master.  

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Took a ride through Green Valley to Napa on the Wells Fargo Road.  Gorgeous day.  

This afternoon, I took a couple of bottles over to Richard's, and we sat in the garden.  Katy, Richard's beloved dog who came from Thailand, was bit by a rattlesnake yesterday and is at the UC Davis Vet School Medical Center, getting an anti-venom treatment.  Poor, sweet pup.  Gregory joined us, and we sat amid all kinds of greenery and flowers.  Richard showed me his rose bushes and gave me a bag of a meyer lemons.  He crushed some lemon verbena and i smeared the citrus scent all over my neck and hands.  

Tonight, we ate pizza and watched a documentary, "Ellis", starring Robert DeNiro, followed by a beautiful movie filmed in Austria, called "The Wall", which was intense and allegorical.  

Made it through another beautiful day of uncertainty.   

Friday, March 18, 2016

No sub job again today, since it is the day before Spring Break, and the elementary schools have a minimal day schedules.  No matter how ill they feel, teachers don't burn partial days on being sick.  I drove to Berkeley and found a coffee shop near the UC campus.  Snagged a seat in the crowded cafe, on a low sofa in the dark recesses, before moving to a window.  Had an ok panini and a latte that tasted burnt.  Didn't stay too long because I got a call from a friend from Vero.  

After we chatted, I walked down Euclid Avenue and onto the campus.  Wandered along the winding, leafy paths until i found the library.  It had a great coffee shop, the Free Speech Movement, and a gorgeous outside terrace, complete with outlets and wi-fi.  

Had dinner at Ann and Doug's tonight. Once again, I have a new favorite meal.  Doug grilled (!) corned beef, and Ann served blanched purple and green cabbage with hot bacon dressing, and steamed red potatoes.  Nancy made the most delicious banana poke cake for dessert.  Doug served some of his homemade stout, which went perfectly with the beef.  

At lunch the other day, Kate reassured me that the state of flux i am in is temporary, a transition.  I believe her.  

Thursday, March 17, 2016

No work yesterday, so I went to look at an apartment on Kentucky Street, in Vallejo.  Great street, great view, but the place was too cramped and dark, even though it was a two bedroom. 

Brought vietnamese soup and spring rolls to Kate's house for lunch. We sat in her idyllic pastel pink and green  backyard and chatted, and ate delicious fruit and ginger lemon cookies for dessert.  

This morning, I sat in Nathan's, in my nook, and thought about all the new spurts on my family tree.  I am so touched by the openess of my siblings.  They may be coming out at the end of April.  

Uncle Jim is still running a fever, so no surgery today.  Talked to Lulu this morning. As worried as I am about Jim, I am more worried about her.  She laughed, saying she and Mary Catherine were strong, czech women. Jim opened his eyes when Andy called his name, and smiled when Lulu told him that the parish children said the rosary for him yesterday.  

And i got to talk to my friend and former neighbor from Vero, Tine.  I really miss her! 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Today i was the special needs kindergarten teacher for seven 5 years olds at another elementary school. They were really cute, and again, it was such a calm difference from my time in middle school last week.  No one curses at me in kindergarten.  The staff is helpful and friendly. The copier worked.  I would definitely go back. Ms. S., the para, was a doll. I ripped things apart for her and made copies.

We had circle time, and then the students did language arts and reading on their i-pads.  The teacher had strep, so it may be a two-day job, not that i am wishing illness on anyone.

Uncle Jim is awake and conscious. He's got many broken bones and they removed his spleen. Lulu and Mary Catherine arrived from Texas to be with him yesterday.  He can't talk because he is intubated, and they need to operate on his neck, to keep him alive.  But he has feelings in his feet. He is supposed to have surgery tomorrow.

Peter, my brother, texted me to let me know that he and his wife told their three children about me.  I am just so amazed and happy at this.

Monday, March 14, 2016

My uncle Jim was in a horrible car accident on Friday night.  He was visiting my other uncle in Florida, and went out to dinner with friends.  The man who was driving pulled into traffic and the car was hit by an oncoming SUV.  The driver of the car died. His wife and Jim are in extremely critical condition.

It is so hard to wrap my head around the news, because my uncle Jim is supposed to be indestructible.  He is 86 years old, and still leads an incredibly active life, playing golf, traveling, skiing, and working almost full time, even though he retired as the pastor of the parish he began in Plano, Texas many years ago.

An engineer by training, he became a Catholic priest and then a chaplain in the Air Force, which enabled him to live in far off locations like Alaska, Aviano, and Japan.

When i lived in DC, Jim was stationed at Bolling Air Force Base. We got to see a lot of each other.  I took care of his beloved dog, Bucci, who ran away while staying with me. He stayed away for weeks, even after Jim returned from his Florida trip.  Two weeks after he returned, a woman called him and said she had his dog.  Luckily, Bucci had a tag with Jim's phone number.

He taught me, when i was in first grade, that stories like Adam and Eve were metaphors and parables.

I really thought he was invincible.

I got up and out yesterday, even though i still felt yukky and it was pouring.  The loss of the hour was making me bump into walls.

Took a road trip in the rain, through the hills of Napa. I stopped for lunch at a cafe in a strip mall on route 29, called La Paris ( Lunch was a tri-tip and havarti sandwich on a croissant, followed by their raspberry bread pudding for dessert. heaven.

After lunch, i called Lin, my sister (i just love writing that) from my car. We talked for an hour and forty one minutes. So much to talk about.

This morning, I took a job at an elementary school. I was the art teacher.  The sub coordinator was supposed to call the school to tell them i would be late, since i got the job late. but she didn't.  the school secretaries were not pleased and the copiers were not working right.  I had to push a cart to five different classrooms, getting very lost on the way to the second classroom, which, again, was out of sequence.  It was a rather delightful day, especially because no one told me to fuck off.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Took a job in a different middle school resource room, because i didn't feel like getting an early start.  Middle school starts at 8:30.  Love this office staff. They are so organized, handing out maps and giving clear directions.

When i got to the classroom, there were several kids waiting in the rain, under the overhang.  I introduced myself to them, as i was unlocking the door.  Very kindly, they explained that they weren't my students. they were just hanging out under the overhang where it was dry.

One of the department heads welcomed me and told the students what websites they could go on, and then she left.  The kids did what they wanted.  One cute girl who has been diagnosed with sickle cell anemia, talked to me the whole first and most of the second period.  She comes from a big family and doesn't get much attention.  

Third period was quiet, with only two students, until a delightful seventh grade girl showed up.  J stormed in, cursing at me, and throwing chairs.  I stayed calm and quiet, and welcomed her to class. She told me to shut the fuck up.  She said a few more things before throwing the trash can and storming out.  She stayed gone, which was good for me.

Now i am listening to the sixth graders.  What filthy mouths they have.  I am someone who always loved to swear, especially because I had to be so careful about my language as an elementary school teacher.  I think my cursing might be cured, after listening to these kids talk to each other.

Four sixth grade girls came in during what should have been my planning period, to hang out and talk to each other.  They said i was nice. Most subs, they said, were mean to them.  Jeez, go figure.  Of course I'm nice. I didn't make them do anything.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Felt so much better when i woke up, but not good enough to work a full day.  Hearing my prayer, the substitute teaching gods sent me a job at a school on the way to Napa, in the middle school resource room.  The school secretary is nice, and laughed when i said i got lost.  And then i got lost trying to find the classroom.  Would it be so hard to actually put classrooms in numerical sequential order?

I wandered all over the campus, sticking my head into different classrooms, asking directions. No one seemed to know where it was.  Finally, I stumbled upon the portable, tucked way at the back of the campus. When I arrived, two serious conversations were happening, right in the path to the classroom, so i had to interrupt.  Mrs. M, the para, said she'd be in to be brief me in a moment.

It started out fairly easy, until the fourth period seventh graders came in.  They were horrible.  Several of them opted to be good, once i sent one of the students to the office.  The only girl in the class was the worst.  She mimicked me, told me to fuck off, to shut up, to stop talking to her, to stop looking at her. I kept my mouth shut, breathing deeply and smiling, and that totally pissed her off.

Later, Mrs. M told me she had a horrible home life (no kidding?).  Her older brother was diagnosed with an awful, terminal disease that was supposed to kill him quickly, but he's still alive, and totally over indulged.  Her parents ignore her.

Oh well.  As much as i like this school, I will never sub in this class again.  The conversations I walked into this morning when i arrived were about another sub, who got so furious with the students that she cursed them out and then she cursed out the principal, before she was escorted off campus.  Cautionary tale.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Full blown sick, and it sucks.  Lots of noise due to the kitchen renovation and  new roof being put on next door.  Heated some chicken soup and tea, and went back to bed. This is my third day not working.  I have a fever. I keep praying i'll find a place to live and that i'll have the money to pay for it.

my head hurts every time i cough. Outside, it is grey, dark, and rainy, like my mood.  Sitting up for too long is exhausting.  Back to bed.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Woke up way too early, with the hint of a cold, a runny nose.  

Parked my car on Mare Island, in front of the VA hospital, where i called Peter. We talked for another hour and he shared so much with me. After I talked to Peter, I talked to Lin, for another hour.  We had a great conversation, too.  Finally, though, I had to get off the phone, because the cold was kicking in and my throat was really hurting.  But i am just getting used to the lovely idea that i have a younger sister.  

Got my go-to sick food, hot and sour soup, from China Wok.  The kitchen is being renovated, but we have a microwave, so i heated some up, put on clean pajamas, made some tea, and went back to bed, thinking these new branches of my family tree.  

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Met Kate at Moschetti on this wet, rainy morning, and then she drove us to Palo Alto, to see the etchings exhibit at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University.  We also saw the breathtaking exhibit of Rodin sculpture, including The Thinker and the Gates of Hell.  We had lunch at a cute french cafe and then the most delicious ice cream i've had since milwaukee (or since the jack fruit ice cream a few weeks ago) at a place called the Tin Cup.  

Heard from my siblings today via text.  Peter sent more pictures. I cannot wait to talk to him and Lin tomorrow.  

This feels like a gift from both of my mothers, and it no longer feels like it's all about me.  

Friday, March 4, 2016

Spent the day in the resource room at another middle school.  At first, i thought i got into another unmanageable situation, like last Monday's.  But the paraprofessionals were amazing at keeping the lid on things. When i first arrived, one boy was pacing like a tiger. He told the para that his meds had not kicked in yet.

I like this school. the staff smiles in the morning, and the tension is minimal.  The teacher left directions to just follow the paras, which i am always glad to do.  These paras are so cute with the kids.  One of them really impressed the kids with her knowledge of Black Chynna and the Kardashians, hoping to get them to write. Anything.

Unlike the room on Monday, this room is spacious and airy, with high ceilings and carpet.  These are kids who need to be able to move around, and it makes a huge difference in their behavior.

Even though these kids look like adults, when the para began reading aloud to them, they fell into a serene stupor, just like the elementary kids.  It takes really special people to work with middle schoolers, in general. But the people who work with this population are really special and incredibly patient.  They are pleasant and unflappable and it is evident that they really love these kids.  It's like watching professional ballroom dancers, despite the outrageous behavior of their charges.

One of the paras uses knitting as an incentive to get these boys to behave.  They love to knit.  She taught them and they are working on gorgeous, gossamer scarves.

When everyone else went outside to PE, I stayed behind with Julio, who uses x-box just dance for PE. When i asked him where he fit in in his family, he said, "I am the dancing one with the dark, murderous eyes," as he walked toward me with menacing eyes.

He danced contentedly for a half an hour and it was a joy to watch.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Yesterday I subbed at Tolinas Elementary for Rob Oldham, the resource room teacher.  It was the perfect antidote to Monday.  Elementary school students don't have the raunchy, mean vocabulary that middle schoolers have.  It was a later assignment, so i stopped at Nathan's, for kombucha that Daniele ground ginger into, and latte. 


Just as i was pulling into the parking lot at school, I got a call from my biological half brother.  

Before I left Vero Beach, I contacted my half sister via Facebook private messenger.  She didn't see the message until recently.  She sent me a nice text.  

I called Peter back, after I finished subbing.  Parked my car at a park by Lake Hermann, and waited for Peter's call.  When I finally heard his voice, i felt joy. I kept seeing shades of pink.  I have the advantage of not being surprised by all of this. We talked for over an hour.  Four out of six of my half siblings are interested and excited about my existence.  The other two aren't, and that is ok.  Peter sent me photos of his family. He has three children. I sent photos to him.  He mentioned that it was amazing that, out of the two sisters, i contacted Lin, the one who would be more receptive.  I told him i think this whole thing is divinely inspired.  

No one who isn't adopted understands what it feels like to be given up for adoption.  I didn't, and still don't, understand all the feelings.  Does every adoptee have a desire to meet their birth parents?  Maybe not, now that  the process is more open and less shameful.  I know plenty of people who have children who are adopted and they are not interested.  I wasn't, until my late twenties, when I finally hired a private detective to find my birth mother.  

He found her and she didn't want to meet me.  She had put that part of her life away, and was a wife and mother of six children.  She was also sick with her second round of breast cancer.  We exchanged letters and that was it.  For a while.  Peter was so open and welcoming on the phone.