Monthly Archives: March 2015



Here are some Qs for you, Elle Caurdaigh:

  • 1- Elle, please tell us about yourself. Where are you from? Your kids? Married? Your job?, etc.
  • Hi Paige, AKA My Favorite Reviewer. I need to start with a disclaimer of sorts. Elle Cuardaigh is my pen name. I prize my anonymity. So I cannot share a photo or identifying information. I hope this won’t take the fun out of it for you. With that in mind…
  • I was born in Tacoma, Washington and have always lived and worked in the Seattle-Tacoma area. I have four beautiful daughters from an otherwise disastrous marriage. I do have a job outside the home, but prefer to keep that private.
  • Fair enough.  Privacy is a huge deal, and we Internet Masters do understand that!
  • 2-  So, when do you find time to write?
  • Writing is something I do every day. It’s just part of my routine. My favorite time is early morning, when the house is quiet. You can picture me in my robe and slippers, with a cat and cup of French Roast coffee by my side. And it’s raining.Kitties & coffee!  Yay!  (High-fives to you!)
  • 3- Besides Tangled Red Thread, do you have other writing projects, past or present? 
  • My memoir The Tangled Red Thread was supposed to be the one and only. Then Lynn Grubb contacted me.
  • Well, I’m glad she did!
  • 4- In your essay for the Adoptee Survival Guide and in your memoir, you wrote about how badly you wanted to lay eyes on your birth father and the frustration in not being able to do that. Have you been able since that time to have any sort of relationship with either him or his family? Except for seeing my father that one time, I had no contact with him, at least none that was reciprocated. I briefly had a friendly relationship with his two (kept) daughters, but they cut off communication over ten years ago with no explanation. It still hurts.

I am so sorry to hear that!  I hope that turns around for you one day!   5- I think something you and I have in common is that we are both moms who are very involved and dedicated to our own children’s learning and development. How have you talked about adoption with your kids? What do they understand about your story?

 I was determined to find my birth mother before ever having children, so there would be no “gap” in their knowledge of family members. Since their dad also had a double family – due to remarriage by his parents, not adoption – it was normal for them to have this myriad of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I have always been honest with them, but only gave as much information as they asked for, in a way they could understand for their age. Though they are all adults now, most of them don’t *ask* about my story. I’m just Mom. I sure can relate to that!  6- when did you decide to write your memoir and what inspired you to get started?

Elle, Thank you so much for stopping by and letting us get to know you a little better!


Adoptee Survival Guide Interview with COntributing Author, Rayne Wolfe: #flipthescript

1-  You are both an adoptee and a journalist, Correct? What other jobs have you held in the past?

I’ve done a lot of things, cause I’M OLD. So, as a child I worked in stock brokerage trading rooms and worked in retained executive recruiting in San Francisco. Then I was a newspaper business columnist for the San Francisco Examiner/San Francisco Chronicle Sunday. Then I was a Staff Writer (a reporter) for the New York Times Corp. at the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. I covered business, philanthropy and teen culture for about a decade. I left there to write my book Toxic Mom Toolkit, which I published in 2014. I have also volunteered as a law enforcement chaplain (5 years) helping the police make sudden death notifications in Sonoma County, where I live now.

A former writing instructor, I now consult as a Writing Coach, helping others give birth to their books.

I’ve always taken “little” side jobs and have worked as a bartender, as a “night nurse” for a big political campaign consultant (answering private lines after hours), walked dogs, and I’m a prop stylist for cookbook photo shoots. I’ve also been a Judge (three times!) for Petaluma’s World’s Ugliest Dog Contest, which Animal Planet loves so much.

 2- And according to your essay in the Adoptee Survival Guide anthology, you were born and raised in California?

Yes, although my original mother lived in Iowa, she travelled to SF where I was born. I grew up in the foggy Richmond District.

3-  What is the status of the adoption and birth record law in California? Have you been able to access your original birth records or make contact with your biological family?  Do you still keep in touch with any of them or get together?

I’m not up to speed on California laws, but officially my records are closed. I know when I searched in the 1980’s it was extremely difficult and there was no sympathy at all. I actually had a friend of a friend of a friend, who WAS sympathetic, risk her job to look up my original birth records and scribble down some information. That’s how I eventually found my birth mother and birth family. She and they didn’t really want to hear from me and there is little contact. I have one friend who lives in this little Iowa town and if something big happens, a death, a birth, I might get a note.

4-  I find it interesting in your entry when you say you had times when you identified with many different ancestries and types of strong women-figures because adoption and not knowing all the facts gave you the freedom to do this. Would you say that’s one of the (few) positives about being an adoptee?    

I’m not sure if I’m just wired this way, but I always felt that not knowing my history gave me tremendous freedom. I studied other girls, other families, other strong women and took on parts and pieces that I liked. One constant hero has been Amelia Earhart. Another is Out of Africa author Isak Dinesen.

5- “It only takes one caring adult to help a child conceived in the dark to thrive in the sunshine.”  I ABSOLUTELY LOVE this quote!  I just have to put that out there, even though it’s not a question!

6- …And when you talk in your article about your dad who was left in an orphanage during the Great Depression, you mean your adoptive dad?  Wow!  He sounds like he was an amazing person! That’s how he could relate so well with you!   

Yes, my adopted dad, who is my father, Al Rembold, was a twin, a beatnik printer, an artist, just a joyful man. He was very kind and understanding. It wasn’t until I was in my early 20’s that I circled back and created an adult relationship with my dad. But I’m so grateful that I made it a priority.

7-…So, on to other things…What are your other writing projects for now?

I’m gathering string for an anthology about running away. I was a runaway and I grew up when people often ran away and I sort of want to mark that as a cultural thing that is lost. Did you know that California’s Amber Alert System has a 100 percent success rate? It’s a great tool, but I still wonder if there is some value in hitting the road as a teenager and fending for yourself. I left home at 17 with a duffel bag, a hair dryer and $20 dollars and I never looked back. I’m not the only one and I want to capture those stories.

8- What do you do for fun? 

I have a little shop inside a shop at an antiques collective and that stops me from becoming a hoarder. So, yes, garage sales, antiquing, junking are big pastimes. I also collect and re-fashion vintage linens. I sew my own Mexican blouses and embroider them by hand.

 9– Are you currently working or have you embraced “retired life”?

 After a nice two-year run, I recently stopped writing a Food & Drink column for two newspapers and that made me realize that I didn’t really need to do so much anymore. I’m 59 and I’ve been working since I was 17. But I am an eternal Cub Reporter, so urgently curious about everything and I miss having assignments, so I give myself assignments. The other day I watched the parking lot of cigarette sales store for a couple of hours; research for a freelance piece I want to write. I keep tabs on the houses of prostitution in my town — more cat houses than sushi places! – because I’m just fascinated by it. My husband has banned me from stealing their garbage. So, I’m hardly the retiree, taking up quilting. Of course, respect to quilters! They rock.

 10- Please share with readers any links you have to your blog(s) and social media you have so that fellow writers and adoptees can know you better.

 If anyone wants to see what I’m up to the first stop is Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook. That’s where a global community of adult daughters and sons of super toxic mothers support each other and exchange positive information and inspirational images. I promise, we laugh a lot. There is also a blog at and of course, lots of related stuff on Pinterest. With over 6,000 bylines in the NYTimes system on a huge cross-section of topics, really, just Google my name and you’ll find all sorts of links to interesting stuff.


Interview With Contributing Author, Von Coates from the Adoptee Survival Guide Anthology:


1-  Hi Von,  Please tell us about where you were born, to where you’ve moved, your current family?

I was born in Adelaide in a maternity hospital, then known for admitting ‘poor’ women and those who were unmarried. My mother was in the RAAF and transferred to a Mother and Baby Home some months before my birth. She had to scrub floors and undertake any work she was given in exchange for her keep. I was raised not far away from where I was born in a small village  outside the city and regularly visited the town where my parents met and where I was conceived, although I didn’t know that for 50 years! When I was 21 I went to live in London, then Bristol, Nottingham and finally a small Derbyshire village, before returning home, after nearly 30 years away!

At my age I am now the oldest in my family. All my amother’s side of the family are long gone, as are my afather’s generation. I have a small family of adoption left, mainly cousins and the girls of the family are good friends. My biological family is large and complicated and I now have contact only with the cousin who searched for me a few years ago and was responsible for me finding my father’s family.

The hospital I was born in survived as a hospital for many decades until it was converted into a block of smart apartments with a restaurant at ground level. I sat there one day drinking coffee and trying to come to terms with the fact that I was born on the site – rather disconcerting!

2- What have you done as a career?

My first career was in teaching the very young and I had the privilege of having my first job in a newly opened school in a large ship-building city which was expanding rapidly at the time and had many immigrant families newly arrived. I worked in other schools including several in London, the last being a school for the daughters of the rich and famous, minor celebrities, politicians, television personalities and so on, a very vivid contrast to my first school. In attempting to pursue a double degree in Botany and Zoology, I earned money in working as a Home Help for elderly and for people with disabilities. My Boss believed I would make a good Social Worker and I changed directions rather radically and after time at University, entered a profession I loved until I retired. I have wide experience, having worked generically and in several specialisms, one of those adoption and fostering work, but particularly in reunion work.

3- I notice you cross-post/ reblog a lot of other adoptees’ posts.  If I miss someone’s update in one place, I’m sure to get the news from you one way or another, which is great!  Thanks for being such a steady communicator.  Just have to say that!  What else do you like to read/study besides adopted life? 

I love to post the work of other bloggers because I’m a great collector of information and enjoy passing on the things that interest me. I greatly enjoy reading the work of other adoptees and like to support and encourage adoptees in  speaking out. My interests are wide. I enjoy a variety of podcasts, love my Kindle and audio books also, on days when it is a great luxury to be read to. My particular interests are astronomy, history, psychology, sociology,  philosophy, architecture, poetry, politics  I love to cook and collect interesting recipes to try.

4- What sort of adoption policy changes would be most important to you?

In my own State I would like to see the law change for those adoptees who are currently vetoed by their mothers. Australia wide I’d like to see Birth certificates better reflect our adopted status. For my fellow adoptees in America I’d dearly love to see many changes giving them all their rights to all the birth information and their Birth Certificates. I am currently very concerned, as are many adoptees, about the move towards ‘Americanising’ adoption, making it quicker and less well assessed.

5- Is there any specific moment or “trigger” that sparked your desire to search? (In my case it was like eating chocolate.  The more info I had, the more I wanted, so I kept going back for more “samples”!)  Did you also start out just curious but having the experience continue to grow as you progressed?  Did you search alone or have an “angel” or supportive friend/family member?

When I was 32 my afather asked me if I would like to know my mother’s name. He had it carefully typed on a scrap of paper and informed me that he had heard of someone who was reunited very successfully. It was part of his rejection of me as an adult or perhaps he was a lot more sensitive than I understood at the time.What he had handed me was a ‘red herring’ – right name, year of birth but wrong person. The support I received at the time reinforced what I’d been given, so was unhelpful, damaging and ultimately kept me from meeting my mother for another decade. It was eventually sorted out by the Department of Family Services who received applications for contact from my mother and from me in the same month. We were reunited within weeks and met shortly before my 50th birthday. It didn’t feel like curiosity but more like my birth-right and I was grateful that my mother showed so much generosity in sharing what she knew and had, which included photographs and documents. My father’s name came along with that and as it is an unusual name wasn’t so hard to trace with the help of someone I knew who dabbled in geneaology.  As luck would have it my cousin was searching and the rest as they say is history. I had never expected to know anything about my father or even his name, so it was all a bonus. I don’t remember any specific triggers although the searching can become addictive – just like chocolate!! What would life be without it?


6- I think I’ve read that you have kids, or at least one daughter?  What does she think of all your activity in adoption as an adoptee who researched and as one who writes and promotes others and the cause for reform?

I have one adult daughter who is enormously supportive of my activities, my writing, my blogging and my journey. She was with me in the House on the day the South Australia Apology for forced adoption was made and she has a deep understanding of the significance for adoptees of this validating, acknowledgement and recognition. She has supported and encouraged me and been there for me every step of the way. She is able to acknowledge the effect adoption has on the next generation and it is something we discuss when we can. I am extremely lucky to be so blessed and am very proud of her, who she is and her achievements.

7-  I love the paragraph in your ASG essay when you discuss ” …that identity is a fluid, ever-changing part of us, which does not remain fixed. We can be whoever we want to be!”   Before you found your birth family, what did you imagine/fantasize that they might be like?  How accurate were you?

My cousin who found me is a beautiful woman with a Japanese mother and a deep commitment to healing and well-being. I suppose I hoped the rest of the family would be like her, but of course I was completely wrong. They are all down-to-earth , hard-working people who were raised by an abusive father and a somewhat remote and/or troubled mother. They love to bicker and feud. They have many good qualities but I found it difficult to find my place and had never been a sister and it seemed too late to learn now despite my views on identity. Sadly I had to cut off contact with them all but have no regrets as they were very generous in sharing information about our father and his history. He and his brothers were abused in an orphanage run by priests after their mother died and the effects of that abuse run through the family.

8- I admire your positive and wise “den-mother” presence in out adoption community.  What advice would you give to adopted people who are considering searching and or to those who have recently found, (but not yet met) their missing family?   Do you have advice for birth parents?  How about any wisdom for prospective adoptive parents?

Thank you Paige for that perspective which I appreciate and value. I try to see all sides if I can, although sometimes that is difficult. I have believed for many years that we can never prepare too much for reunion. That involves reading all you can, researching and seeking help from a suitable professional with the ‘hard bits’ which we all wrestle with as adoptees. I have personally approached those ‘hard bits’ in each decade of my adult life and found it invaluable. I also believe it is important to not rush in, to think things through carefully and to prepare your approach with sensitivity, compassion and as much wisdom as you can muster. I think that applies across the board to all involved in adoption. If prospective adoptive parents did their research fully they might find it hard to reconcile the process of adoption with ethical standards, but that’s another story! I am very wary of advising biological parents in anything, given the experiences I have had in recent years. However it is fairly safe to say it is never a good idea to refer to adoptees as ‘children’ or to make assumptions about them, their lives and their goals.

9-  Totally off topic:  What do you do for fun?

I am lucky to have lots of fun in my life!   I  have a partner with a very active sense of humour and a deep understanding of the adopted life and how to combat it! We live on 12.5 acres of hilly country with kangaroos, many beautiful birds and wildlife, including two resident koalas. Every day presents some new wonder, challenge or joy. We live in a wine-making region which is rich in wonderful foods, cafes, restaurants and has many talented, creative people to make life full of fun. Last night we attended a beautiful music event where we knew many people and our daughter raised over $1300 for Leukaemia Research, by having her head shaved. Our supportive community rose to the occasion and not only was it fun but it was a wonderful time of connection and community closeness. I am completely untalented when it comes to music but I greatly enjoy live music particularly the didgeridoo, the cello, the harpsichord and drums of various traditions. Other fun includes swimming at our beautiful beaches and eating out, catching up with my daughter and being entertained by the antics of three resident cats and a flock of geese. My Daughter and I recently had a holiday in New Zealand and enjoyed ourselves enormously. We experienced many funny outings and incidents as a mother and daughter duo, our favourite being during our visit to Auckland when a very beautiful American musician chatted my daughter up as she pushed me, in a wheelchair, into one of Auckland’s howling gales!

10-  How can those interested in learning more about adopted life connect with you?  (blogs, writings, Facebook, etc.)

My blog is at and I am on Facebook as Von Coates, also on Twitter and Pinterest.

 It is always a pleasure to hear from other adoptees or for those who are genuinely interested in the adopted life.

Thanks, Von for sharing your time with us both in the Adoptee Survival Guide book and in these interview sessions!  

I am always happy to share time when it is to do with adoption and justice for adoptees of any age. I intend to continue for as long as I can in whatever way I have to. I am passionate about our rights and about our progress in being heard. That does not diminish as I age and I know my family will encourage me, support me and assist me if necessary in the future.

Thanks Paige for this enjoyable opportunity.

Good wishes,

Von 💗

New Law = New Era for Ohio Adoptees Starting March 20, 2015|/journal/


            When I was a child, growing up in the 1960s-80s, I hated being “the adopted girl”. There’s no sugarcoating it.  My home life was good. I had a loving family, a fine education, lived in a nice neighborhood with a dog, good food, toys, etc., but I would have given anything to be just a “regular-born” kid and not an adoptee.  I detested that label so much that I lied to friends in order to both protect myself from peer ridicule and to create the illusion that my genetics and heritage were the same as everyone else’s in my family. I didn’t want to be from some other mysterious people I knew nothing about. That felt like science fiction. Secrets and other “forbidden” information were always red flags that indicated something was wrong. (Good thing that in 1962 I’d been placed with people of the same race with similar physical features and could pull off the façade!)

            It took finding my birth family in 1987 to change all that. That’s when I “came out”, if you will. That’s the year I faced myself and found out who I wascompletely and understood at last that nothing was wrong…ever.  My birth mother at the time had financial and serious health issues, but she was not a bad person. Nothing was wrong with my birth parents. Nothing was wrong with me. During my search and discovery I also learned that I fell into a “lucky” category of adoptees because I was born and adopted prior to 1964 in Ohio. Many fellow adopted people with whom I connected during my journey were born in different years and or were from states with more rigid rules about these matters.

            At my local adoption support group meetings, members commiserated about their bad fortune in timing regarding their location and birth. We could all relate to the growing up adopted angst, but at least I had successfully found my people, so it was difficult to share my challenges and joys while so many searching adoptees and birth parents were struggling with the disappointment and injustice of potentially never knowing where their birth children or parents went, if there were siblings, health concerns and what biological family members looked like.

            Believe me, if you have been denied the blessing of looking into another blood-related person’s eyes, you know EXACTLY what this feeling is all about. If you have NEVER lived a day of knowing even one honest detail about your biological parent, child or sibling’s well-being you do understand how meaningful it is to make this connection, even if only once.

            By meeting my birth family via letters, phone calls and with in-person visits, (remember this was the pre-Internet era!) I’ve been able to take back andown my adoption status.  I am no longer ashamed. I no longer have hate for the industry or the circumstances, which were out of everyone’s control back in 1962. I am an adult adoptee and am proud to be me!

            I don’t agree with and also don’t judge how lawyers, convents and social workers often practiced adoption placements 40-plus years ago, but I believe that regarding the concept of adoption, our society is in a vastly different place now. We are open about “non traditional” couples and family units. We freely discuss and watch on TV how family and other personal relationships play out. We live in an age of social media and easy access to many public records, news events, and we need to realize that the notion of “private” will never be the same. 

            Fortunately, the new Ohio adoption law, which becomes official on March 20th seems to recognize this new reality, and I am pleased to be from a state with progressive enough thinking and heightened awareness (finally!) for not just one segment of the adoption constellation. On March 20th, 2015 I will be cheering away with my fellow adoptee and bio-parent friends, plus policy makers and promoters who have supported and worked for adult adoptee rights to make this victory happen, and I wish for successful searches and relationships for all touched by this new law!

Here are a few very helpful links for anyone who wishes to better understand this law:


I’m Interviewed by Fellow Memoir Writer and Adoptee, Elle Cuardaigh:

Review of Adoptee Memoir, Worthy to be Found, by Deanna Doss Shrodes:


Deanna Doss Shrodes, a writer, pastor and adoptee in Florida has recently written a memoir about her relationship with her birth family, specifically her birth mother, whom she found in the early 1990s. She shares her account of the search and reunion stages with candor, feeling and humor. The title of her book is: Worthy to be Found.

One, (of many), important points Shrodes makes in her writing is that every adoptee’s experience is unique, and what works for one person or family doesn’t always work for another. For Deanna, her connection to faith and the support system of her husband and children have kept her grounded and serve as reminders that no matter what happened in the past or what happens in the future, she is loved.

Another significant concept Deanna Shrodes addresses is the notion of worthiness. Many folks representing the adoption constellation, (biological parents, adoptees and even adoptive parents), struggle with feelings of low self-esteem. This is usually due to perceived expectations of society regarding conception, and how we conduct our personal and family life. Adoption may be an option, but it isn’t “traditional” for forming a family, and some members of the triad can feel stigmatized and frustrated by unanswered questions, physical limitations and assumptions sometimes made by non-adopted people.  

In Worthy to be Found, everyone involved has value, regardless of past actions, familial status and abilities. There are “good” and “bad” people everywhere, but it has nothing to do with the adoption process. Everyone has worth. This memoir is a great reminder of that.

Review of Adoptee Survival Guide, by Lynn Grubb, et al:

Adoptee Survival Guide Review:

This book isn’t just about how to survive being adopted and overwhelmed by government policies and archaic traditions and practices.  It’s more than that. This compilation of essays is a collective wisdom of many adopted adults from diverse countries, upbringings and educational experiences. These writers together share their personal views on the positive and not-so-positive aspects of growing up adopted and how they view the world. Many nuggets of advice are applicable to all people from any walk of life. For example:  

“You are not your past.”

“Focus on the issues, not the person, because you can never change the person, but you can deal with the issues.”

“Give up the illusion that someone else will make you happy.”

The Adoptee Survival Guide is appropriately titled because by nature, we adopted folk have mad skills in self preservation and adaptation.  Like a chameleon, we blend in when we need to, move quickly, observe quietly and have delicate hearts with cool dispositions.  However, unlike a tiny lizard, this book shows that Adoptees today are learning to bond together, speak out and educate the modern public on what it’s like to grow up as a product of both nature and nurture with conflicting feelings and unanswered questions about our lives, which non-adopted people often take for granted.  

The diverse writings in this book are honest, entertaining and enlightening as they address a subject not often discussed or well-understood in this society.  The Adoptee Survival Guide eliminates the labels adopted people have been assigned, such as “happy”, “grateful” and “angry”. If anything, it shows that adopted adults today strive to be known as inquisitive, educated, outspoken and reflective.  

I am proud to be a contributing author in this unique anthology, which is fantastic reading for all members of the adoption constellation plus associated family members, professionals in social work, family court systems, education and other areas of child care and development.