Will the REAL parents please stand up?


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Today, May 29th, would have been the wedding anniversary of my adoptive parents, Richard and Reva Beard. Eighty-five years ago, they created a bond that lasted their lifetimes and resulted in my orphaned self landing in a wonderful home.

OK. I was adopted at age five. and you’d think I’d be over it by now. Yes, in many ways I am happy and grateful to have been raised by Richard and Reva Beard.

The two Ohio natives, Richard and Reva, married right before Richard was drafted to serve as clinical psychologist in WWII’s China-Burma-India theater. After Dad ended his 18-month overseas stint, were finally able to adopt. Instead of the envisioned newborn baby, they took on five-year-old me and my 17-month-old brother Johnny. My original mom, Velma, had been abandoned by her sailor husband after the war ended. She, in turn, deserted my brother and me, leaving us alone, then in a series of foster homes. It was a dismal beginning to life.

When along came Richard and Reva. Johnny and I were “the chosen ones.” We went from rags to riches, both materially and psychologically. We were given every advantage that Dad, on a college professor’s salary, could afford. A downside was that Richard couldn’t talk about my life before adoption. As young adult author Cornelia Funke said “In lieu of facts, fantasy rushes in.” I imagined that I was somehow to blame for my original mother giving me up. Either I wasn’t good enough or she was a monster. Either extreme was uncomfortable. And of both extremes were not true. The circumstances were just that. Circumstances. Many adoptions, I’ve learned, happened after WWII. One report stated that after Armistice Day, in the U.S. alone there were 150,000 children needing placement. Lucky for my brother and me, we landed in a good place.

For my version of what it was like growing up in an age of mostly closed adoptions, check out my autobiographical book, The Goodbye Baby- Adoption Diaries (available from Amazon). Whenever I asked about my “other mother,” no one could say a word). The silence might have been a sign of the times, the 1950s. Certain unpleasant topics were, to use a metaphor, swept under the rug.

Four decades after I asked about my birthmother, I was able to meet her. For many reasons, it was not a rewarding reunion. Of course it was good to meet that original parent, but it was verification I needed. My adoptive parents were and are indeed, the REAL PARENTS.

Join Elaine for bimonthly blogs, publishing on Mondays. She reflects on the writing life and various other topics…nature, books, opera, gardening and more. Life as seen through adoption-colored glasses. If you like what you read, please subscribe by clicking “follow” box on the left side. If you’re an adoptee, adoptive parent or birthparent, I will be happy to consider a guest blog proposal. Contact me at this wordpress site.


Chasing Two Rabbits


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I find myself taking an unintended sabbatical. May is nearly gone and the only writing I’ve accomplished is writing haiku and journaling. Two books — a memoir and a novel — are calling me, but to move forward on either, I will have to quit chasing two rabbits.

Project #1 is titled All the Right Places. Project #2 is a novel that will tell what happens with Clara and Dottie, characters in The Hand of Ganesh, after their return from India. Because I am trying to focus on two goals at once, I’m progressing on neither. A bit like my friend Jennie Cooley’s painting, “Chasing Two Rabbits.”

In early May, I spent a week in California. The meandering mode began in San Diego. With my son, I climbed a peak called Black Mountain. I walked around lakes in the neighborhood, reconnected with teenage grandchildren, read Jennet Content’s fascinating book 109 East Palace and listened to Bonnie Garmus’s Lessons in Chemistry. I highly recommend both books.

I’m getting my ducks in a row.

Ducks, coots, and croaking frogs made my daily lake walks a delight. I’d visited the lake on previous visits but never encountered any birds with blue bills. Ducklings wandered up to me, followed by Mom and Dad and looking for a handout. I could hear but not see the frogs. One bellowed loudest. My 12-year-old grandson told me that one was “Jeffrey.”

Conant’s documentary work was especially rewarding. I worked in the 1990s as a technical writer at Los Alamos National Laboratory. It was rewarding to read Conant’s version of “the city that never was,” the human interest inside story of the Manhattan Project. She unveils the bigger than life story of J. Robert Oppenheimer and write about the scientists that created the atomic bomb, the so-called “gadget.” In producing a radio program titled “Los Alamos Then and Now” I’d learned a lot. Conant’s book opened my eyes to much more.

The week of vacation should have been a perfect time to work on the memoir, to start that novel. Right? Wrong! I had not brought my writing materials or my spiral notebook of ideas. Instead of applying myself to All the Right Places or (working title) The Ganesh Girls I played online bridge. Instead of writing fictional scenes, I watched “Queen Charlotte” on Netflix and “Great Expectations” on Hulu.

When I returned to Santa Fe, the month was only half over. I could have plunged into writing projects. However, there was the lure of Farmers Market, where I sell my books every Tuesday morning. And then, there was the Santa Fe International Literary Festival, with fascinating speakers, literary luminaries. I’d bought tickets to hear John Irving and Gillian Flynn, both of whom turned out to be fascinating presenters, talking about their latest novels and their respective writing processes.

Beadwork by Albuquerque artist Lujaqui.

The Tuesday morning Farmers Market in Santa Fe’s Railyard District offers crafts, jewelry, woodwork, leather creations in its indoor artisans pavilion. Outdoors, you’ll find produce, plants, vegetables, baked goods, fresh eggs and much more. My book table is located inside the pavilion.

Then, there was the vegetable garden to plant, the wardrobe changeover, the garage organizing. The copier broke and I’d have to buy a new one or learn to use the scanner that came with the printer. A memorial service for a friend who’d died, an anniversary party, a dinner invitation. Finally, I gave up on May.

June first, however, will begin a new writing regimen. The secret will be to chase one rabbit, not two. Right now, I believe that will be the memoir. No more MAYandering!

Join Elaine on Mondays for reflections on the writing, hiking and the outdoors, Santa Fe life, and the world as seen through adoption-colored glasses. Check out her newest novel The Hand of Ganesh. Follow adoptees Clara Jordan and Dottie Benet in their  quest to find Dottie’s birthparents. Order today from Amazon or http://www.pocolpress.com. And thanks for reading!



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April is National Poetry Month. Not only that, it’s the BIRTHDAY month of the great English poet and playwright, William Shakespeare. For me, it means ADOPTING SHAKESPEARE- HIS LANGUAGE, HIS PLAYS, HIS SONNETS, and you’re invited to join in. This week, the Sweet Swan of Avon (who lived from April 23, 1564-April 23, 1616) turns 459! To celebrate Shakespeare’s Birthday, please send favorite quotations to elaine.coleman2013@gmail.com, thereby entering my annual Shakespeare contest.   Also, tweet them, using my twitter name @TheGoodbyeBaby. Quotation competition takes place during the remainder of April. The prize, my two suspense novels (Beast of Bengal and All the Wrong Places, will be sent to the top contributor via snail mail. Past winners include poet/memoirist Luanne Castle (@writersitetweet). To honor Shakespeare and celebrate poetry month, read Sonnet 18 aloud to someone you love.

William Shakespeare



Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st;
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

The contest ends May 10, after which my novels will be sent to the top contributor. So, as the song goes, “Brush up on your Shakespeare…start quoting him now!”

Join Elaine each month for musings on adoption and life.

The Angels of April


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NOTE: April is a month with very special gifts.

“April is the cruelest month.” T. S. Eliot

April is full of dazzling sunlight and the earth seems greener

April is full of dazzling sunlight and the earth seems greener

“April, the Angel of Months.” -Vita Sackville-West

April is full of surprises: one day sunny and mild, the next day snowy.
Here in northern New Mexico, April can be luminously beautiful. Fruit trees blossom and deciduous trees turn that electrifying shade known to painters as “sap green.”  Darkness diminishes as our own special Season of Light increases in strength.

Like many in the adoption world, I’ve learned to “flip the script.” On the one hand, I will never know what it is like to have blood-related family. My biological parents were a fact essential to my being in the world.  In the final analysis, however, they were distant figures who I ostensibly got to know, but actually merely encountered. On the other hand, I was fortunate to end up with wonderful adoptive parents.

It’s been said that every problem is also an opportunity. April has proved this to me. When I recently pulled a back muscle during a yoga class, the pain was excruciating. I went to Urgent Care, then to my regular medical doctor…nothing helped. It was hard to walk. All I could think about was how much my back and leg hurt. This led to a most fortunate discovery: a community acupuncture clinic. After five consecutive treatments, the pain had nearly vanished. What’s more, the clinic’s doctor (of Oriental Medicine) prescribed various supplements and minerals.  The alternative measures, in addition to relief from the injury, cured leg cramps and dietary imbalances. I was given a regimen of back-strengthening exercises. What might have been a disaster turned out to be a blessing.

Easter brought the best gift of all. My granddaughter, age 12, chose to visit me during her spring break. She is not a granddaughter I get to see very often, as her mother and father, my son, are divorced.

Angels can arrive as the young ones in our lives.

Angels can arrive as the young ones in our lives.

During the week this lively pre-teen spent with me, we went to see “Cinderella,” lunched at favorite restaurants, read together, toured the local botanical garden, visited art galleries and museums.  The paints and drawing supplies I’d put in her room were put to good use. I gave her my favorite Walter Farley Black Stallion books. She had such a good time, she wants to come back this summer for another visit.

Since the publication of The Goodbye Baby, I’ve heard from hundreds in the online adoption community—adoptees, birth parents, adoptive parents, men and women who are still searching for reunions with their original parents. This response has deepened my understanding of why people are seldom happy that they were adopted. Even though adoption may have been “for the best,” it leaves one with  the feeling of a shaky foundation. Despite all that, it is possible to create happiness.

Is April cruel or is it, as Sackville-West maintains, the angel of months? I’ll let you decide. In the meantime, the angels are there. Even for adoptees!

Join Elaine every other Monday for a look at the world through adoption-colored glasses.

Join Elaine on Mondays for reflections on the writing, hiking and the outdoors, Santa Fe life, and the world as seen through adoption-colored glasses. Check out her newest novel The Hand of Ganesh. Follow adoptees Clara Jordan and Dottie Benet in their  quest to find Dottie’s birthparents. Order today from Amazon or http://www.pocolpress.com. And thanks for reading!

March Madness and A Walk on the Mild Side


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March seems to be a month of “Anything Goes.” During this end of winter/beginning of spring, a lot happens: Change to Daylight Saving, Tax preparation, collecting seeds for spring gardening, St. Patrick’s Day, Oscar’s Night, the Ides of March. Here is Santa Fe, as we begin Spring, the weather is wildly unpredictable. One day it’s warm and sunny, the next may bring several inches of snow.

View from the Winsor Trail, Santa Fe National Forest.

In Tehran, where I lived in the 1960s, March signaled the beginning of a new Year. Naw Ruz (pronounced “No Ruse”), was, and still is, a time for festivities and exchanging gifts. It is a day recognized around the world. Occurring at the Spring Equinox, it has been celebrated for over 3,000 years. The celebration dates back to the ancient religion of Zoroastrianism.

My older son was born in Tehran right before Naw Ruz. Iranian friends and American friends who were also living in Tehran — brought flowers and presents to the house. For my first Naw Ruz, I was immersed in mothering, somewhat oblivious to everything else. Later, I would learn of the custom of the laying out of symbolic greens and leaping over a fire.

The “haft seen” table  includes seven symbolic items all starting the with an “s” sound: sabzeh, senjed, sib, seer, samanu, serkeh, and sumac. •Sabzeh (sprouted wheat grass) symbolizes rebirth and renewal; Samanu (sweet pudding) stands for affluence and fertility;  Senjed (sweet, dried lotus tree fruit) represents love. Leaping over a fire the last Wednesday before Naw Ruz allegedly brought good luck. I was too busy nursing my brand new son to set a proper haft seen table or leap over a fire, but I was fascinated to learn of these customs.

In addition to remembering Naw Ruz, I’ve recently had the unwelcome experience of coming down with Covid. Fortunately, a light case. Walking my way back to health, I was strolling about Santa Fe Plaza last week — definitely a “walk on the mild side” — when I encountered peaceful protesters walking to save Tibet. The day was beautiful, and though spectators were few in number, I felt confident that awareness was being raised. The Tibet supporters seemed a fitting welcome to the change of seasons.

Meanwhile, come rain or shine, the neighbor’s brass Samuri stands guard over my part of town.

Join Elaine on Mondays for reflections on the writing, hiking and the outdoors, Santa Fe life, and the world as seen through adoption-colored glasses. Check out her newest novel The Hand of Ganesh. Follow adoptees Clara Jordan and Dottie Benet in their  quest to find Dottie’s birthparents. Order today from Amazon or www.pocolpress.com. And thanks for reading! 

Still Reading the Nights Away


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Like most bibliophiles, I discover plenty of books on my own. But every month, fellow readers (think Reading Club) suggest wonderful titles that I might otherwise miss. When The Vanishing Half was chosen, such was the case. Brit Bennett’s latest novel is a treasure. Enlightening, energetic, and deeply moving.

What most held me with this work was the existential question it asks. Who are we, really? Are we the product of our environment or are we the product of our genes and DNA? How much is related to the color of our skin?

In Bennett’s novel, African American identical twins Desiree and Stella Vignes escape Mallard, their hometown, when they are sixteen. They follow different life paths, but the most important divergence is their respective racial identities. Both are fair-skinned. Stella presents herself as white while Desiree represents herself as black. When the twins’ daughters meet, the sisters’ fates once more intertwine. The closely threaded stories unfold in the Deep South and California and span years from the 1950s to the 1990s.

Along with other adoptees I’ve met over the years, I’ve striven to reconcile my adopted self with the original version. I continue to search for answers. Outwardly, I lead a full, rich existence. Inwardly, there has always been a missing puzzle piece. Which is the real me? Yes, I am the daughter of Richard and Reva, the wonderful couple who adopted me after WWII ended. But also, I’m the daughter of Velma and Giovanni, the ill-matched couple whose marriage resulted from a pen-pal relationship. Velma was living at home in Iowa; Giovanni was a Navy man, out at sea. When World War II ended, so did the marriage. At age five, I was put up for adoption and landed, metaphorically speaking, in a very good place. Despite everything, part of me seemed absent. As I grew up passing as “the real daughter,” I felt the pain of a vanishing half.

Bennett’s masterful novel opened my eyes to those who “pass” for multiple reasons; it inspired me to learn more. If you’ve not yet read Brit Bennett, add this book to your winter reading list.

Join Elaine on Mondays for reflections on the writing, hiking and the outdoors, Santa Fe life, and the world as seen through adoption-colored glasses. Check out her newest novel The Hand of Ganesh. Follow adoptees Clara Jordan and Dottie Benet in their  quest to find Dottie’s birthparents. Order today from Amazon or http://www.pocolpress.com. And thanks for reading!

My Opera Dream Came True

When did I first long to be in the audience at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera? I can’t say exactly, but the desire was probably born in 1967, the year I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Our city boasts a fine company, Santa Fe Opera, and I’ve never missed attending their productions. Wonderful, but not the Met. During not-so-long-ago months of the Covid lockdown, most nights found me watching HD Met Opera productions on the computer. Along with thousands of other opera buffs, I found my spirits lifted, worries forgotten. I imagined myself there.

This January during a visit to the East Coast, I finally attended the Met. Thanks to a kind friend who secured tickets for us, I got to see “Fedora” by Umberto Giordano. Involving the tragic, entangled love affair of two aristocrats, the opera was melodramatic, sumptuously presented, brilliantly sung. The play on which this little known opera is based was written by a Frenchman, Victorien Sardou. Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva sang the role of Princess Fedora; Piotr Beczala, a tenor from Poland, performed the role of Count Loris, Fedora’s lover. The plot becomes impossibly tangled and — no surprise —Fedora ends up tragically poisoned by her own hand. As one critic quipped, “Fedora” is about as opera as opera gets.”

Being at the Met exceeded my expectations; it was incredibly rewarding. But there were other highlights of the trip back East. Thanks to the kind friend, I saw the Berkshires, the Catskills, the house of Robert Frost in South Shaftsbury, Vermont, and the Clark Art Museum in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Even though I would never choose to live anywhere but Santa Fe, I was reminded that beautiful and fascinating sights and experiences are to be enjoyed in the Northeast.

Robert Frost House/ Sculpture of Frost writing “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”

Join Elaine on Mondays for reflections on the writing, hiking and the outdoors, Santa Fe life, and the world as seen through adoption-colored glasses. Check out her newest novel The Hand of Ganesh. Follow adoptees Clara Jordan and Dottie Benet in their  quest to find Dottie’s birthparents. Order today from Amazon or http://www.pocolpress.com. And thanks for reading!

Letting Go of the Perfect Holiday


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By: Emily Shirley

We have all seen the Folgers commercial where the big brother comes home from college and starts making coffee. As the coffee smell reaches upstairs, the family comes down to greet him. They are all smiles in the perfectly decorated home with this perfect holiday moment of love all around and… well, perfection.

In other Christmas commercials, the adult children with their perfect families drive up, all smiles and carrying gifts. The food somehow magically appeared without anyone shopping for days, standing on their feet preparing for hours, and stressing over.

I have been guilty of trying to have the holiday depicted in commercials. But I have decided to be honest with myself this year. Those commercials were made up by someone, and many people are doing what I used to do, pretending to have their own version of a ‘perfect Christmas’ because others tell them this is how this season and Christmas Day is supposed to be.

It’s media like the commercials that creates an unrealistic expectation for holiday perfection, that hijacks the moments we could be having with others, or even spending the day alone. And it is this kind of emotional feed that makes us think we have fallen short if our Christmas doesn’t look like the commercials. We get upset with our adult children for not being what the commercials have told us they should be. And what about those people whose lives have changed, and they no longer fit the mold of the families in the commercials. What about the single parents, or those that have lost their spouse, or even children, due to death.

Many older parents are feeling left out of their adult children’s lives at this time of the year. Perhaps these adult children are behaving in ways the parents don’t understand. This can happen when we have certain unrealistic expectations that are not met by someone else. The more likely explanation for their not involving their parents more than they do is that they are working very hard to have their own version of a ‘perfect’ holiday.

We think of Christmas as the season dedicated to everything merry and bright. But let’s face it. Sometimes, it can also be one of the most stressful times of the year. Most of us want a little holiday magic, whether it’s conscious or unconscious. What if the magic happens in the simple moments that we often miss because of our heightened expectations causing this to be a stressful time of the year?  One of the first things we can do is admit that Christmas will never be perfect, or like any of the commercials. They never have been, and they never will be.

We can give ourselves credit for all those “almost-perfect” Christmases that we provided for our children, and others. Now, we can enjoy seeing others having whatever version of Christmas they want for themselves, while we enjoy our own version of this holiday. We can stay home, relax, and simplify things. If decorating is too much to do every year, we can even consider taking a year or two off and just decorating every three or four years, if ever. There are no Christmas police!

The real gift we have at this stage in our life is experience that allows us to step back and accept how things are. We can relax and be grateful for what we have and think about those ‘Christmases past’ that we survived. Rather than stressing over what we must do, we can be grateful for what we don’t have to do. We should all remember the real reason-for-the-season, and beyond that, this day can be focused on young children. It is nice to be able to take it easy. We can even meet up with friends and go to a nice restaurant for dinner, and walk away from the table and not have to clean up after ourselves.

Our gift to ourselves should be to get through the next few weeks without guilt for not participating in this season the same way others are. We can let go of some of the unrealistic ‘magical thinking’ of the past. It is time to adjust our expectations and embrace our own imperfect holiday. We can practice self-care through the holidays by carving out time each day to do whatever reconnects us with ourselves. This is especially important if we are alone this time of the year. 

The magic is there. We must be willing to look for it. We can do our version of this holiday season, based on the season of our lives. The part of the Folgers commercial we should consider is relaxing with a nice cup of hot coffee, Folgers or otherwise, and breathing in that coffee smell, while we munch on store-bought cookies that someone else made. 

About Today’s Guest Contributor:

World traveler and master gardener Emily Shirley is a part time resident of Louisiana and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Writing all the while, she divides her time between two homes. Past careers include Social Services Case Worker and Director and Human Resource Manager. She is currently at work on a memoir titled And Then There Were Ten.

Join Elaine on Mondays for reflections on the writing, hiking and the outdoors, Santa Fe life, and the world as seen through adoption-colored glasses. Check out her newest novel The Hand of Ganesh. Follow adoptees Clara Jordan and Dottie Benet in their  quest to find Dottie’s birthparents. Order today from Amazon or www.pocolpress.com. And thanks for reading!

Reading the Nights Away


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There is no friend as loyal a book.
— Ernest Hemingway

Outside of a dog, there’s no friend like a book.
Inside a dog, it’s too dark to read.
— Groucho Marx

Winter days are short and the evenings long. Here in the high desert country of New Mexico, it’s bitterly cold. Snow is predicted, temperatures below twenty degrees. The weather tells me to relax by the fire with a cup of tea and a good book. I’ve neglected a multitude of quotidian household chores to delve into some waiting volumes. Lately, I’ve decided that chores can wait. Below, a few books that turned me into a couch potato.

Taking Flight with Luanne Castle

Luanne Castle’s newest poetry collection is titled Rooted and Winged. I was thrilled to receive this book in the mail, as I’d long anticipated its publication. A thoroughly rewarding read: Many gems embedded in this slim volume! Castle’s view of the world touched and inspired me. I relished her metaphors and descriptions, along with insights that seem to rise from her innermost being. With keen eyes and incisive commentary, she travels from her past, to possible futures, from interiors to the wilds of nature.

In “Tuesday Afternoon at Magpie’s Grill,” Castle writes “No matter what I notice, no matter what I record, I will never capture the ease of wind-filled wings, tail feathers a translucent backlit fan…” Actually, the poet accomplishes what she says she cannot, capturing the ease of wings. With grace and clarity, she creates such lines as “I’m trying, really trying hard to form a meditation on plants…My rosemary bush might do the trick, with its strong scent and evergreen resilience.”

Being There with Tommy Orange

Returning to Santa Fe Indian School after thirty-five years, I sat expectantly in the audience. We waited for the appearance of Tommy Orange. As we sat in the packed auditorium, I reminisced. In the late 1980s, I had been a language arts teacher at this school. I’d mentored ninth graders and juniors from New Mexico’s eight northern pueblos. My 2017 novel, All the Wrong Places, was set in a fictitious school based on Santa Fe Indian School. Having read Orange’s debut novel as part of a community read sponsored by our local library, I was eager to hear what this Arapahoe and Cheyenne author would say. Two easy chairs were soon occupied by Orange and Antonia Gonzales, a Native American radio commentator/interviewer. Orange told about his discovery of books and reading, well after his formal education ended. He worked in a bookstore, an experience that triggered a reading and writing breakthrough.

There There, Orange’s debut novel, depicts 12 young Native Americans all going to attend the Big Oakland Powwow. The backstories of these attendees are related, most in first person narratives. There are many interconnections, which also come to light. All arrive at the Big Oakland PowWow. The robbery of a large bag of gift cards is planned. Events spiral out of control, and most of the young people are killed. The stories themselves and the tragic finale stayed with this bibliophile a long time. Sad, haunting, and well worth the read.

Camping out with Nancy DeYoung

The Girl in the Tent ~ Memoir from the Road lives up to its title. Especially to fans of Jessica Bruder’s Nomadland, this is a terrific read. Inspired by her lifetime love of tenting and a desire to see the country, DeYoung embarked on nine months of a nomadic life. The author invites the reader along. She chronicles her adventures in a friendly style, including details and humor. Her chapters are illustrated with photos and drawings. I found the Route 66 experiences particularly fascinating: roadside signs and the importance of the route during dustbowl days from the 1930s. Her takeaway: “Get your kicks on Route 66.”

Join Elaine on Mondays for reflections on the writing, hiking and the outdoors, Santa Fe life, and the world as seen through adoption-colored glasses. Check out her newest novel The Hand of Ganesh. Follow adoptees Clara Jordan and Dottie Benet in their  quest to find Dottie’s birthparents. Order today from Amazon or www.pocolpress.com. And thanks for reading!