Sunday, April 18, 2010

Photos 3

Laura and the underwear eating Laci...and a clock in downtown San Francisco...

Photos 2

Note the organic straws....

Pictures from my trip.

One of those interesting stores....

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Last of it.

I met three of Laura's friends, each different, but all interesting. Laura also took me to Berkley, a session of meditation, and to various intriguing stores. There was also a concert where I heard play the 'Red Violin.' I was pleasantly surprised at freedom that Gays and Lesbians had in expressing themselves publicly. There were street performers that we listened to. Later in the week, we went to San Francisco where Laura works an attendant to handicapped woman who could move nothing but her body and head. At first, I was embarrassed, and wasn't sure what would be rude or not. So I played with her 3-month puppy (a yellow lab) and won over the owner by the acceptance of the puppy for me. The puppy even brought me toys to play with. I needed to see her, she had no self-pity for her condition and had a life that was full and productive -- by choice and hard work. (I don't give more details about the handicapped woman than this to preserve her privacy.) If I ever get to this point (and I still could if my nerve degeneration comes back), I see that I don't have to let it keep me from a life of my own design. Nor do I need to wallow in self pity of any length. She invited me back as we did not have a long time to get to know each other. Laura told me that this was a compliment as her employer was a very private person and does not invite everyone back. We also did the touristy thing and rode the over-crowded trolleys down to the heart of San Francisco where we got accosted by three separate pan-handlers in three separate events. One we managed to stump when we gave him our left-over salad from our dinner instead of the money hand-out that he had asked for.

The last part is the hardest. On the last day I was to be there, (which turned out to be the next to the last since the plane I was to take was canceled due to weather in Denver--we used it to visit the Mystery House in San Jose, and slept the rest of the day and night. A perfect way to rest for the very tiring journey home.) Dinner with Laura's parent was arranged. I had been dreading it the entire visit, yet Laura made it easier for me by telling me that her mother had some guilt for adopting her children, for taking them away from their mothers, that it was important for them to know that we (I) thought they had done a good job. I had not thought of it from that viewpoint, only that Laura's mother would judge me for not going back to school and becoming a doctor like I had originally wanted. That I had not become a 'pull-my-self-up-by-my-own-bootstraps' person that I had first shown promise to being.

Yet, I do not consider myself a failure; my family is out of debt, my husband and I have a good marriage, my children are in my life and we have enough income that I don't have to work and hence can stay home and do all this fancy research and writing. That I have the freedom and the money to pursue this passion with the full support of my family. I only feared that SHE would see me so. Because I had not graduated from college, nor gone on to some profession that paid well.

At the dinner, it was at first awkward, and stiff but when it gradually loosen up. And I found a place to tell them that I thought that they had done a good job of raising Laura. I was surprised to see both of her parents visibly relax at the same moment as I spoke, I had not expected to see them as tense about the meeting as I had been. Then, it was over. Both the visit and the dinner. I haven't related everything that happened, to retain privacy for the people involved, and because of the sheer volume of the experiences. Her parents spoke of my coming back, as a matter of fact, Laura's friends did as well. But more important than all of that, my daughter invited me back, back into her life and into her space. We love each other, more than friends, less than parent and child. Still, it is more than enough for the both of us.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Second Day

The next day, I woke up early because the sun was early. I hadn't yet noticed that the window had blinds that could be shut (Laura showed me that night.) I got up, and padded my way into the kitchen. I knew we weren't planning to leave for the Stanford Library until about ten, so I had plenty of time to wake up and have breakfast, etc. I had been given frig. privileges the night before, so I looked into the cabinet and into the fridge. Most of a three tiered cabinet was filled with organic this and that. Mmmm. Might have better luck in the frig. Looked in the frig. Things were pretty similar, most things had labels that said organic or soy and well, to be frank, things I had never seen before. Oh, no, not in that way, I meant food that I had never heard of before. I took a deep breath and repeated to myself -- when in California...

I took another look and found some organic, vegetarian cheddar cheese. Ah, something I had heard of before. Organic shouldn't be too bad, and vegetarian just meant, that no animals had been harmed in the making of the item. I could live with that. So I cut off a small piece of the cheese, looked for crackers, found something that looked sorta like crackers, and located an apple. Ah, a feast for the gods. I brought everything to the table, and took a nice bite out of the cheese. And spit it promptly out. It had a rubbery texture and a taste that resembled the texture. Honestly. It was horrible. I settled for the apple, and that was my breakfast.

After breakfast, and well, because I wanted to be a good guest, I went ahead and tidied up the living room and the dining room. Then unloaded the dishwasher (noting that the soap had not dispersed) and reloaded it up. Laura woke up a bit later and asked me if I had tidied up. I beamed as I nodded. She said it was nice to have someone to help her with the housework as her husband rarely thought to help. I eagerly planned to repeat my activities every day I was there.

We got dressed and headed to Stanford. It was a beautiful campus, and I kept stopping to look at building details. Finally, we got to the library, and had to sign in on a computer just to enter the library. I got Laura to type the information in because I still had on my fancy nails that I had put on for airline flight--they were beautiful but too long to type with. That's what I told her, but the truth was actually that when I changed to the Dvorak keyboard I l0st my ability to type on a Qwerty keyboard-weird, huh. Then go down some corridors and up some stairs to get to the Green Library where the special collection was held. The Shafter papers had to be ordered up the day before in order to be available. There we had to show ID, sign into the computer again, and then we were given a key to a locker where we had to put our purses, pouches, coats, etc. Nothing personal was allowed to be present with the historical documents. They even supplied us with pencils and paper. On the ceiling were cameras and I am sure someone was watching us the whole time as we and one other man were the only ones in the library.

We had from 10:30 to 2:30 that day to get the research done. Laura had set me up to have a massage from a co-worker at work. So we got to work and I had to restrain myself to keep the noise down as I kept getting excited about what we were finding in the boxes of material...but I am getting ahead of myself. The papers were in folders inside boxes. The actual documents. I ran across McKinley's signature on one of the letters in the box. Other names I recognized from history kept flashing before me as we were looking in the folders for the Astor name. Pretty heady stuff! The plan was made for us to find the Astor stuff (Eight or ten items out of the whole set. Each folder had about 50 items, and each box had about 20 folders, and there were 6 boxes) and then look back for interesting articles or background material. Laura helped a great deal by filling out the two slips of paper for each article I requested to be copied, and also by looking herself in the folders. I realized that a whole another fascinating story was in those folders, eager to be teased out...hints of problems- with the men, from higher ups, with the weather, from reporters, with prisoners and survivors. America was not ready for this war, so it was a good thing that the Spanish weren't really interested in fighting--at least not in Cuba. Ah, but that's another story. I could have spent my whole time there just reading in the folders but I chose not to, so I could spend time with Laura and seeing California and getting a taste, um, look at the California lifestyle. We managed to find all the Astor references just in time for us to leave, so there was no need to come back unless I just wanted to. I was skipping by the time I got out! So very cool to see history that close. To see real telegrams and even their secret codes, and the letters and know, really know that these people were real, and alive once, just like me.

Laura then took me to her work-an upscale spa--where I was not comfortable at all. Too much money floating around, and a lot of naked women. However, it was interesting to see where she worked and the environment. Her friend came out, greeted me and took me back for a Cranial-Sacral massage. Basically, it is not a touching massage but one where energy work is done. Using energy (not electrical but like universal energy) to help the client's energy to work better. I can't explain it better than that. It's a California thing. I really wasn't expecting anything much. Some waving of the hands, some closed eyes, I'd get a nap...but that's not what happened. As soon as she put her hands on my feet, yes, feet, I felt a charge of electricity from her hands that made me jump. My massager actually apologized for having her energy up too high--saying that her teacher said she was supposed to be in neutral when she 'read' the body. That she wasn't always good at doing that. Staying neutral that is. I have a very strong inhibition about strangers touching me and visa-versa, and wasn't even sure if I could stand a traditional massage (and that's why Laura got this one for me instead since you remain clothed during it.) But I trusted this woman, I could feel the healer in her, and the obvious some-thing, some-thing going on. I am very practical and pragmatic. I don't have to believe in something to use it. If it works, it works, even if I can't explain it. Nor am I going to pretend that I feel something just to make the person doing the waving of hands feel good. So this went on for about 1/2 hour to an hour. I felt heat coming from her hands like a heating pad, my own energy moving around, some pain, some shifting, some things I can't describe. Before the massage was even over, I knew that I needed to see her again before I left California. She agreed with me. But not at the spa. We arranged with Laura to meet another time at her home, later in the week. I got up from the table feeling like I do when I get up from the dentist chair with full gas an novocaine--I was shaken all the way down to my toes. Pretty amazing for some waving of the hands, uh?

Laura offered me other services of the spa but I turned them down because of how shaken I was. And this feeling took about twenty minutes to pass.

That night, I offered to buy pizza for everyone -- and ordered extra so that there would be plenty. We brought the pizza home, and started to share it around, when Trent went to the kitchen to get some dishes for the pizza. And noticed that the dishes weren't clean. The ones that I had put up. It seems that they have an old dish washer that you absolutely must pre-wash everything before sending through the cycle. I have a new one and no-prewashing is necessary. I had forgotten that the old ones needed that to wash well. The dishes I had put up had not been washed yet. I had looked at them, and they had seemed clean, except for one or two more obvious items that I repacked into the load I had washed. I apol0gized multible times, as I heard Trent and Laura going through all the dishes to fish out the ones I had put away. I offered to wash everything up tomorrow but since I was the guest and perhaps not wanting a repeat of the same disaster wouldn't allow me to help.

At least Laci liked the pizza.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Finish of the first day

Day one cont.

We got back to Laura's house in the early evening, where she showed me her home. It was marvellously eclectic, with surprises everywhere...yet it all seemed to work. For example, she has live fish on the wall in bubbles in the bathroom (a half-bath attached to a whole bath--first time I had seen that arrangement.) In the room where I slept, she had put up pictures that spoke to her - hundreds of them in no particular order except to her. Tons of books, just like me, arranged in a fashion that made sense to her but without her telling how she had sorted them, I never would have guessed it. She had a lemon tree, an orange bush, and other flowering trees in her backyard, along with a pool that was being used by the neighborhood frog for a dating site. All of these touches made for an artistic, flowing sense to her home. Even on my last day, I kept finding artistic things or influences that I had not noticed before -- and I have a good eye for detail. There were Chinese influences with Mayan and Modern Art. There were lots of plants, growing or not growing-- her motto on that "Only the strongest survive..." Yet, I did not feel out of place in her home. She told me later, that Abigail,my other daughter, was the first overnight guest and I, the only more than one night guest they had ever had. They are jealous over their privacy and basically never invited anyone there before. I feel honored that they trusted me enough to let me in. I tried to be a good guest and respect their space...but there were a couple of misteps that I will mention later.

Her house is about the size of mine, 1600 sq. feet, but I was astonished to learn that they bought it for about half a million dollars. That they had managed to purchase for less than the owner had wanted due to the whole housing bubble bursting. Wow. Our home is worth about 70,000 so houses in CA are about 10 times what they cost here. Ouch! How does anyone afford to buy a home? If Laura's husband not had a trust fund from his father, they would not have been able to do so either.

Laura was concerned that my being there would disrupt her sleep routine, and told me how fragile it was, and how necessary to her work. Yet very easy to get off track, and how hard to get back on it. (I am exactly the same, so I did understand. I am just lucky that I work at home so it doesn't matter when I sleep, nor does my boss care when I start work.) So her plan was to have me stay the first night, then put me up in a hotel for 3 nights, then back at her house for the rest of the visit. But this plan was not able to happen because her brother was suppose to help her with the reservations and he went incommunicado after the second day of talking with her about it.

I promised her that I would not try to keep her awake past her bedtime and to respect Trent's gaming time on the sofa (another concern of hers) as well as the winding down period that she needed before bedtime in order to get ready for bed. For the most part, all that was successful. I had to tell her three times the first night to 'go to bed', even though she still wanted to chat--and because I did that, she felt like I could stay and not be a disturbance, so I ended up staying all the nights with her. There was also a plan for me to rent a car, but that wasn't needed either, which gave me money to do other things with later in the week.

We had a funny conversation that first night, where she said, "do you remember where you said you wanted to wait until you came before you bought us gifts...?" I said, "yes." She goes, "I know what I want, if you are willing, I want to get a tattoo." I told her that if I did not have to pay for the motel or for the rental car, I would have more money for things like tattoos..." And I left it at that, because we had already broached the subject of my possibly not having to get a motel room. I had never been asked for a donation to a tatoo fund before...

Oh, Laci. I completely forgot about her. I am not crazy about dogs in general. I get to like dogs after a while, after I get to know them. Laci was a rescue dog that Laura and Trent had adopted and after a year still had a lot of fear issues that they had been working with her about. A mutt with Labrador influences, white all over except for two lines of eyeliner black around her eyes, 50 pounds maybe, and a little over knee high, she was a beautiful dog. Would act friendly towards newcomers, but if you reached to pet her, she would suddenly become a barking, fearsome beast. Laura would have to dominate her to get her to quiet down (The dog whisperer is her hero) and then Laci would be okay as long as you ignore her completely. She barked at me a little the first night, and after that, only if I startled her unexpectedly. By the last day, she was allowing me to pet her for longer and longer periods. Giving her multiple pizza and cheese crusts helped quite a bit with the process, which she'd take delicately out of my hand. On the next to the last day, Laura had to tell me that Laci had stolen one of my uh, used, undies...and that she had found it gnawed on in Laci's dog bed. After that, Laci treated me as one of the pack.

I told Laura later, that she could have just trashed the underwear and I never would have known the difference... Maybe, by next year, when my embarrassment has faded a little, I'll find the story funnier. Well, actually, it is a funny story *now.* Except, I wish it had happened to someone else....

More to come.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Day 1 cont.

Did I show people my Astor pictures? Why, yes, I did. To Mr. Santa, to a traveling business woman, to the man on the plane. And on the way back-- I show moderation and restraint by showing what I had left to just one woman who was waiting for the flight back to Little Rock with me.

Mmmm, okay, while I did travel first class and I didn't have to pay for things like snacks and drinks, earphones or a blanket, etc. I found that I didn't really need all that and it wasn't worth the whole lot extra I paid for it. I met interesting people but I would have back in economy as well. I appreciated the extra room in the first class seat, but the seat belt was more snug than I would have liked. The Red Carpet club helped me more than anything else.

Laura was a bit late for picking me up. We had had a conversation about my arrival that Sunday and as a parting shot she said, "See you Thursday." I interjected, "No, see you on Tuesday." We laughed about it but waiting for her, with my bags already claimed from the baggage claim...all I could think was, "Not Thursday, not Thursday." But she got there before I totally panicked and all ended well.

I do have a confession to make. On the last leg of the journey, when that fellow traveler asked me about what I did--I said I was a writer. (That's not the terrible part.) Oh, really, he said, would I have read any of your work? No. I said, ...and proceeded to make a story about my non-existent career and my non-existent, I grant you, that most of what I said was true. I have been published, I have won prizes, but I don't have an agent, or been published by any publisher with major imprint. I lied, *was* first class and I had always wanted to fly first class, and be a famous writer, and well, telling him I was a wantabe and hadn't broken that glass ceiling of having a novel published by a major publisher...okay, fill in the rest, and let's move on. I only feel a little guilty about it, because ...because the rest of what I said was the truth.

Now Laura, she is my biological daughter that I gave up at birth for adoption. I have been blessed with an open adoption and have had a real relationship with her all of her life. She's been to my house, and now this visit to hers. Phone calls, while not regular, tend to be long and full of laughter. We have a bond, but its not like that I have with my other daughter. I love her, and she me, yet not like parent and child...more than friends, less than parent and child. She and I are very similar. She told me that she thought she was unique in the world since nobody in her family was like her, and then I come; that it was disconcerting that here was someone so much like her. Not the totally the same, but enough by the end of the visit, that we were picking up thoughts from each other.

We have talked about the whole adoption thing and she doesn't hold it against me, nor is angry about it. For me, it would have been worse if I had not had that contact, and knowing that she was being well taken care of. I have run out of time, so more of day one, tomorrow.