Saturday, April 30, 2016

Friday was sunny and warm. We took the ferry from Vallejo into San Francisco, where it was much colder. We spent the day being tourists.  We took a Grey Line bus, and got a glorious tour of SF, including going over the Golden Gate Bridge and back, Fisherman's Wharf, Haight Ashbury, and the Tenderloin. We had lunch at Floating Boat Sushi, where the sushi cruises to you at your seat at the counter, kind of like a reverse buffet, in Chinatown. My nieces and nephew, of course, are brilliant. But they are also a lot of fun to be with.  
Helen is 12, and tall and graceful. She is smart, and according to her dad, full of common sense.  She's athletic and really sweet to her little sister, Emma.  

Emma is six and adorable. She has no teeth, but seven are growing in. In SF, she spent the day counting all the dogs she saw, more than 130.  

Harry is sweet and sensitive, and very intelligent.  At times, i felt like i was conversing with a middle aged man.  

We took cabs back to Fisherman's Wharf, and then walked back to the Ferry Building, and took the ferry back to Vallejo.

We had a cozy evening back at Chris and Nancy's.  I brought pizza home, and Emma had everyone under her spell. 

On Saturday, we drove to Sonoma, with Harry and Lin in my car. Gorgeous day, and our first stop was Stag's Leap (, the vineyard that put California wines on the map in 1976, after a tasting in Paris.  We tasted four divine reds, made from grapes grown right outside the huge floor to ceiling windows.  A few months ago, i had no idea that the word "terroir" even existed, let alone knew what it meant.  There i was, seeing and tasting it first hand. (

We had a leisurely lunch at Mary's Pizza, in Sonoma, and then Shelly and Lin took the kids to the shady plaza, and Pete and I went to taste more wine at the Roche Tasting Room. (

It was surprisingly emotional to say good bye to my family, these people who i just met in person a few days ago. I am still having difficulty with words to describe it all.  Relaxed is a good descriptor.  

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Spent yesterday taking care of business, getting the paperwork required to work as a tutor.  Peter and his family didn't get in until late, and they were out of cell range all day.  I didn't realize that, and got anxious for about fifteen minutes, thinking it was all a dream. 

But i finally met everyone this morning in the breakfast room of their hotel in Suisun City. It was so wonderful walking in and seeing Emma sitting on the couch, playing a video game.  Peter and Shelly were sitting at a table in a corner, drinking coffee.  We took some photos and then talked for over an hour, before heading out to tour the Jelly Belly Factory, followed by lunch in Mankas Corners. It was such an easygoing, relaxed day.

After our late lunch, we dropped Shelly and the girls at the hotel, and Harry, Peter, and I drove to pick up my sister, Lin, who was flying into San Francisco from Syracuse, NY.  While we waited at baggage claim for Lin to arrive, my palms were sweating and my heart was pounding.  I had to sit down because, suddenly, i felt very light headed.  

And then there she was. We hugged for a long time, and it felt good to hug someone who feels like me. Harry took photos, as I unwrapped all the maple treats Lin brought me from NY. I got teary when i unwrapped the last bundle, a butterfly suncatcher with the word "sisters" on it.  

We all sat and talked for a long time, eating pizza and drinking wine. It felt so normal.

I came home and shared it all with Chris.  

Guess where we went?

Lunch at Mankas Corners

Family resemblence

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


My brother and his wife and three children are arriving tonight.  It has been a trying trip due to weather and logistical issues. I am acting patient, but the truth is, i cannot wait to see them all in person.  

This trip has done for me exactly what i hoped it would do, and more. My anxiety and complacency has diminished, and so has my fear.  In the desert on Friday night, I wasn't afraid. I was grateful for my phone and my AAA membership. It was stupid on my part to be in that situation, but I survived. Other than the cars and trucks whizzing by, it was peaceful.  I am really proud of myself for not letting my fear and anxiety overwhelm me and stop me from doing things.  

Anticipation.  I feel like i am waiting for a new baby to arrive, except that baby is a husband and a father of three.  

It is so weird. There is no etiquette for this, how to meet siblings who did not know i existed until February.  

Just texted my sister, Lin, to tell her how excited I am and that i would see her tomorrow.  wow.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Thought I would work today, but I was too tired.  Yesterday's drive took two hours longer than it was supposed to.  I drank so much water that i had to keep pulling over to use the rest room.  Listened to a lot of Grateful Dead, Springsteen, and Tom Petty, before finding a public broadcasting station outside of San Francisco playing an amazing tribute to Prince.  It was a peaceful ride through the flat, dry desert, and then all of sudden, it was green and hilly.  

Got a library card at the Vallejo Public Library.  

While I was gone, Nancy and Chris painted the guest room a really beautiful green, and Nancy organized me and freshened everything up.  It is so pretty and peaceful.  The kitchen is finished and looks gorgeous.  

Monday, April 25, 2016

It seems like a dream that I am here in Las Vegas. The desert is dry and disorienting. I went through several bottles of water while driving, and still needed more, because i am so parched. i keep slathering on moisturizer.  

Took part in another lavish, decadent, delicious brunch here in the hotel this morning, before saying good bye to my cousins. After all these miles and years apart, these people are familiar. I can see my mother's features on their faces, and they all have her mannerisms.  My cousin's daughter reminded me of our grandfather, with her leadership skills, as she explained her buffet strategy.  She surveys the entire buffet before making any selections, as opposed to several of our relatives, who just go wily-nily, and then end up too full to eat something they might have really liked.  She also came back with plates of food for the table, something I remember my uncle Charles, who was a lot like our grandfather, do at many family weddings. 

In these times of everyone coming out about something, I finally came out to my family about something important.  I confessed that i really wasn't a chocolate lover, that I could take it or leave it, and that I really love anything but chocolate.  If i had announced that i was considering gender reassignment, the reaction would have been similar.  

"It's chocolate, or it isn't worth eating," said my cousin, Carole.  

Helen apologized for not giving me the grand tour of Vegas, and for taking me to what she described as probably the worst food place in the city.  I still had a blast with them, and told her I would travel anywhere with them again.  They got back to the hotel last night at two and gambled for a while.  So i better get in shape if i want to travel with them.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Viva Las Vegas!  Needless to say, i was overwhelmed by the Strip.  What a place.  The drive out of Arizona was fun, with Carole, my cousin, riding with me for the first two hours, and then her sister, Helen, riding with me for the next two hours.  

In the tradition of our grandfather, Fred Shutrump, Jim entertained all of us at an incredibly luxurious, decadent, delicious brunch at his country club.  Our grandfather would rent a hotel ballroom to feed his family at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, once his children began having lots of children.  What a brood we have.  I don't feel so all alone anymore.  

I got to spend a lot of time with my cousin, Michelle, and her husband, Vince, which was fun.  Earlier in this trip, I stayed with them on my way out to California.  

After brunch, Carole and I were supposed to be following Christy, her other sister, out of Arizona.  But we got to talking and we ended up losing her and Helen within three miles of the club.  We told them to just go ahead, and we would find our way to Vegas on our own.
We laughed as Carole told me about her gambling limit.  I asked her what happened when she reached her limit and she said that, often, she increased it.  We had a great time, talking about our parents and good memories.  

Midway to Vegas, we stopped for gas and snacks, and Helen joined me, and Carole went with Christy.  Again, the laughs were abundant, especially about our family.  I told her about meeting my biological siblings this coming week, and she was so thrilled to hear about it.  I am surrounded by Helens - my grandmother, my birth mother, my mom's middle name, my niece, my cousin.  

When we got to  the Paris Hotel, I had to go to the bathroom so badly, and was chagrined to find a huge line for the valet and to check in.  I don't know how i did it, but i managed to hold it, and with only one kidney. After a quick stop in my room to dump my bag, I met my cousins, and we walked up the Strip to Caesar's. 

It was hard to believe that we could be hungry, after the amazing brunch, but we were. We ended up finding a food stand tucked under Caesars, and i had a meh asian chicken salad. Carole had a burger that was bloody. Helen had a pretzel.  

I was exhausted and they wanted to meet their brother, so I went  back to the hotel and went to bed at 10:00. I know, i am a huge loser. but i am also a sucker for a comfy bed with clean sheets and air conditioning.  

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Had a great ride yesterday.  Pulled off for lunch around Pismo Beach, and found a really nice deli, and a friendly waitress.  Got a ruben to go, and galvanized myself for my trek across the desert.

The scenery was amazing, driving down 101, and then across 40, through pinnacles and needles, and into Arizona, as the sun set behind me, casting a gorgeous pink light on the buttes.  

Prince died on Thursday night, so I have been listening to a lot of tributes.

Arrived in Glendale, Arizona at 11:30 pm last night, even though i ran out of gas in the desert, just like everyone warned me not to do. I totally spaced, not giving a thought to my tank, mesmerized by the desert, and then the empty light went on.  I found a safe place to pull off the highway in Joshua Forest, 16 miles from Wickenburg, and called AAA.  It took about an hour, under the full moon, for the guy to arrive with enough gas to get me to Wickenburg.  AND I DIDN'T GET RAPED OR MURDERED.  I did have to go to the bathroom really badly, though.  

After I filled my tank up and emptied my bladder, I got back on the road, and was stopped by a fourteen year old policeman for doing 60 in a 45 mile zone and for having a license plate holder that covered too much plate.  He said he couldn't tell what state i was from, with those peaches. I said they weren't peaches.  They were oranges. He gave me a warning and sent me on my way.  

Jim, the oldest Shutrump cousin, and Jaci Nuth had a slew of people (that is the only way to describe the crowd that is our family) to their house this afternoon, and we spent hours chatting, eating, drinking, and listening to music. It was so relaxing and joyous, with over a hundred people, a mere fraction of the entire family, attending.  

my cousins - Gerard Hoyt and Carole Nuth Petrillo


more cousins - victoria hoyt and michelle humphrey cook

cousin-in-law Vince Cook

cousins Joyce Nuth and Helen Nuth Italiano

cousin and host of the weekend Jim Nuth

Friday, April 22, 2016

I was sad leaving the school on Wednesday, but i must have looked happy because Laura, the school secretary, remarked on it.  I thanked her again for being so kind, and the principal came out. I told him what a great school he had. He was ecstatic to find out that i am fully credentialed, and wanted to know if i was interested in a full-time position.  I said i would consider anything he had, because of the great school climate.  Laura put me on their preferred sub list, and told me they were sorry to see me go.  

Ludy, my angel who took care of my dad before he died, and me and mimi after my stroke, texted me today, just to say hi. I needed to hear from her.  

Yesterday, I met Kate for coffee at Nathan's before heading to Arizona.  We had a great talk and laughed a lot, before i went to kindergarten at Cleo Gordon Elementary, from noon to three.  They were so cute. THey loved my hair, my green scarf, my turquoise tights, and my toes with blue nail polish. on them.  

One little guy, with smoothed back black hair and red sneakers, told me, in his tiny helium voice, that his doctor said he had to get a drink of water when he was thirsty, and he had to be allowed to go to the bathroom whenever he had to go to the bathroom.  He and another little boy wearing a red shirt and red sneakers talked incessantly, until i brought them up to the front table, where i could keep an eye on them.  They thought they were my special helpers.  

After school, i went home, packed up, hugged Chris, and was on my way south (680 to 101) at 4:10. 

It was another dazzling, dizzying drive, first through wavy green hills, and then through rolling hills around Paso Robles, 4 1/2 hours from Vallejo, where I stopped for the night. Stayed at a clean, comfortable, reasonably priced motel, called the Adelaide Inn, just off the freeway.  The front desk clerk was friendly and there were fresh baked cookies.  I slept soundly on a cushiony comfortable bed.  

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Quiet morning. It's my penultimate day at my new favorite school.  I let the principal know how how well my sweet, angry boy did on Friday.

Went to see an apartment on Carolina Street yesterday after school.  Ugh. Depressing.  If the rent was $800 instead of $1350 a month, I would have considered it.  But it was small, with no view, garden, or air conditioning.  Once again, my generous cousin, Chris, said to take my time.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Since I went home and went to bed way too early yesterday, today I am doing my best to stay out and about until at least 5:00 pm.  It is a gorgeous day. Summer is here, and i just finished breakfast at Gracie's, a local bar-b-que place.  Had tri-tip with poached eggs and home fries, served with a huge mug of Moschetti coffee, while sitting on this delightful patio with its roof top trellis.  

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Spent much of today in the library, studying.  It is really boring.  But i keep reminding myself that it is a means to an end. As is the case with everything i undertake, i put way too much pressure on myself. I have to keep reminding myself that i know a lot of people who are not as smart as i am who are real estate agents.  

At least it is a beautiful spot. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

My sweet angry boy kicked a first grader and stole his soccer ball.  The teacher called him down to talk about it, so i went with him.  She was so kind to him, and felt awful that she had to speak to him at all. She didn't want to write him up.  But she spoke to him firmly because she wasn't doing him any favors by not holding him accountable. 

I met Richard and Gregory and the dogs after school at the cemetery on Mare Island.  Gorgeous afternoon.  

Thursday, April 14, 2016

One more week here at this wonderful school, and then i am off to Phoenix.  Beautiful day.  My sweet angry third grader is here with me, working on the computer.  I walked him to and from the cafeteria, so that he could get his lunch.  The poor kid was struggling to hold his food tray and his pants, because he doesn't have a belt.  

I am homeless by choice, and i am not even that homeless because i live in a quiet, lovely house, with civilized people.  Most of my important needs are met. I have managed to develop a modicum of impulse control and mental health.  Even in the most ideal circumstances, I still have melt downs and times of decompensation.  

This child has no idea what a peaceful, abundant life looks like.  He is 9 years old, and almost feral, unable to connect with kind people who want him to be successful.  He has no idea why he is so angry.  

Yesterday, the school nurse told me that his mother is a prostitute, and has solicited johns with the kids in the car.  

One of the paraprofessionals is a minister, and his church adopted the family for Christmas.  Parishoners spent the Sunday before Christmas, listening to carols at the church and wrapping the many toys and articles of clothing they had purchased for the family. Several church members take the kids out on the weekends, to breakfast, to six flags, to do anything that will make them forget for a little while that they are in a shelter. 

School is their safe place, where things are peaceful, and people speak nicely to them.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

I love this school.  The character trait for this month is courage, and the principal speaks about it every morning, over the announcements, in an engaging voice, using terms the kids can understand.  

These children need so much.  What are we really doing to help them?  When the CEO of Verizon is making $18 million a year, how is it that so many people, including children, are going hungry and homeless?  Just a few of his millions, some he probably wouldn't miss, could help so many people.  

more studying today, at the Solano County Library in Fairfield.  Beautiful public library.  

Monday, April 11, 2016

It was a beautiful morning. I hardly recognize myself anymore.  Little Miss on Top of Things.  Once again, I got to school early, before the school secretary.  None of my former colleagues at Osceola would believe it.  I was a late a lot, when i was a full-time classroom teacher.  It drove the principal crazy, which is why i did it. Not at first, but then with the vengeance of the most oppositionally defiant child. Now I appreciate having spare time, purse cleaning time, writing time, going to the bathroom time.  

Spent most of the day, while the kids were doing their work, studying real estate, so i can sell houses here.