PHOENIX BOUND by Angie K. Elliston: the real life story of an Adoptive Mom of 13 Shares Her Struggle Raising Traumatized Children.
Phoenix Bound is an unfettered detailed account of our family’s adoption experience in America. Our honest heart-felt story will explore how we navigated through the obstacles and trials of raising 13 children, society’s expectations, and their eventual rise from the ashes of destruction to start a new life. The goal of Phoenix Bound is to educate, support, raise awareness, and challenge all those associated with adoption.
Our family has been uniquely blended with various personalities, backgrounds, expectations, and ethnicities. My husband practices Law and I have, for the most part, remained a stay-at-home mom. I worked in the mental health field for 18 years (sometimes just as a relief worker when someone was sick or on vacation) and completed my master’s degree.
After getting married, we immediately pursued our dream of adopting. We were young and naïve’ but excited and ready to take on any challenge our dream presented us. We wanted to show these kids that someone loved them and cared about them enough to call them their very own. Through the next 20 years, we adopted 13 children through the foster care system, internationally and privately. We adopted sibling groups, single ‘groups’ and fought to keep siblings together. Our experience can be an invaluable resource to all who read it.
Interview with Angie
Q. How was your journey as a writer to a published author? How long did it take you to get published?
A. It took me 5 months to finish my book, but it took about a year and a half to find a publisher that was willing to publish such a raw and honest book. I made several revisions, edits, and even cut 20,000 words at one point.
Writing my book was healing for me. I can now forget the bad and concentrate on the good and on today.
Q. What inspired you to write your first book?
A. Hearing parts of our ‘story’ as adoptive parents, many people told us we ought to write a book, but I had no idea how to compile our active lifestyle, the stories of 13 children and all that went on in between, into a neat 200 page book. It wasn’t until we went to Dr. Federici (the guy who did my Forward) for the purpose of testing our children, that I understood the need for my book and knew that it was nearly time to write it. He said that he wrote 3 books but I could reach more people and write a more powerful book by being an adoptive parent rather than an expert in the field.
Q. Writing can be a difficult job, what inspires you to keep going?
A. Once I started, I was on a roll. I had a specific time I would write, I had peace and quiet and I was on a mission. I knew that others needed to hear what I had to write, and it was therapeutic. There are no other books to my knowledge, with such an open and honest look at adoption and society’s view of adoption.
Q. What’s your writing process, schedule, or routine?
A. I generally wrote from beginning to end. Having a bit of ADHD, I needed peace and quiet so the only time I wrote was after I had put all the children to bed. So every night at about 9pm, I would type sitting up in my bed with my 7 year old (now 9) laying against me asleep. He didn’t have a bed yet because we had just moved to Arizona, so I always say that he ‘helped me write my book.’ I would write until about 1 am or later each night.
Q. Who is your favorite book character of all time? Why?
A. It sounds a bit silly but I think it would have to be PolyAnna because she was always filled with joy and looked at the good in life and in people. When she had a difficult time doing that because life had begun to look so glum, others around her lifted her spirits and taught her what she had done for them.
Q. What’s your favorite quote?
A. I have several favorite quotes but probably the one that comes to mind the most in what I do in life is from Mother Theresa – “We are called to be faithful, not successful”
Q. Who would you most like to have a cup of coffee with? (Dead or alive)
A. Elvis Presley. I’m a fan of his style, his voice and his life. I feel badly that he felt that he had to take drugs and to overdose. I know that he started his career with Gospel Music and he believed in a higher power than himself so it’s sad that his fans, fame and society and lack of privacy seemed to push him to this end. I would love to just sit down by the pool and chat with him. He seemed like a good guy with a good heart.
Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?
A. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people undermine my husband and I or our parenting, in front of our children. They have no idea what that does to our children. Biological children have a hard enough time respecting their parents. Now amplify the fact that their adopted and they did not live with us as their authority figures their whole lives. Undermining can be very detrimental. And it has been to our family.
Q. Favorite comfort food?
A. Chocolate Peanut Butter Milkshakes
Q. Five books that inspire you.
A. The Holy Bible
The Family Nobody Wanted By Helen Doss
All I really needed to know, I learned in Kindergarten By Robert Fulghum
Refuge By Bruce Beakley and Rev John and Bessie Gonleh
Captivating By Stacey Eldridge
Q. Tell us the one most important thing about your novels. The one thing that makes them different from all other books out there.
A. My books are open and honest, and unique in that it shows the ‘not so pretty’ side of adoption and how we dealt with it on a daily basis. Too many people, having good intentions, get into adoption for the wrong reasons. Infertility, for example, needs to be dealt with before choosing adoption because the child is not going to look like you and probably will not act like you. Adopted children also have many underlying rejection issues and security issues. As adoptive parents, we need to deal with our own ‘baggage’ before we can help a child with their ‘baggage.’
Q. Tell us a bit about the series? How did you come up with the concept and how many books will the entire series consist of?
A. It isn’t a series yet. This is my first and only book. I plan to write a sequel PHOENIX BOUND. Phoenix Bound has a dual meaning – Bound for Phoenix, AZ and Rising from the ashes like the mythical Phoenix. We are rising from the ashes of destruction, condemnation and oppression.
Q. Are your books available on Amazon or other digital retailers as e-books?
A. Amazon has my e-book.
Q. What is your marketing strategy for your books?
A. My primary target audience is professionals in the helping profession. I am also willing to do workshops and seminars for groups. My second target audience is potential adoptive parents and adoptive parents that are struggling with their child’s behaviors. Phoenix Bound’s audience can be anyone in the adoptive triad, family and friends of adoptive families or readers who enjoy a good read (true story) with many twists and turns.
Q. What are you working on now? What’s next?
A. I am currently working on a novel geared toward foster/adoptive pre-teens and teens struggling with rejection, and security issues. The book’s goal is to draw them to a Loving God.
Q. What is your advice to a new writer who is trying to get a publishing contract or thinking of self-publishing?
A. Marketing is the tough part, especially when you do not know the ins and outs of it all.
Facebook: Phoenix Bound book
LinkedIn: Angie K Elliston
Personal Blog: www.phoenixboundbook.com
My book is available on: www.farabeepublishing.com
Excerpt from Chapter SO SOON, page 34
One cannot imagine what it was like to live with and to raise Drake unless they have had a child like him. We wanted so much for him, but he did not seem to want anything for himself. We wanted to love him, but he would not let us into his world. Or, perhaps we did not know how to reach him and we were angry because he would not reach out to us. When we got the call about two little hurting girls, my heart broke. I wanted them, but my logical, unyielding husband was hesitant to add young girls to our family with Drake’s issues. I begged and pleaded. I explained that I could do it. After all, when we want something bad enough, we feel we can do anything, similar to a superwoman attitude. James gave in. He too, was taken by their description and the older girl’s desire for a home. He too, was excited about adding to our family. My only hesitation now was the realization that the washer would now be working overtime.
The next day, I called the county back and told them we would adopt the two little girls.
“Oh no, we are looking for a foster family that is dually certified as an adoptive home, not necessarily a home that will adopt them.”
I said, “Right. We are an adoptive home. We are not a foster home. You did not call a foster home. We would like to adopt them.”
“But you have not met them yet.”
“Good point,” I thought. Then I asked, “Why? Did you meet your children first?” I knew this worker had not adopted one child, let alone any of her children. My comment was met with silence for what seemed like several minutes. Finally, the voice on the other end of the telephone line agreed with me that she had not met her children before having them. It gave her a new perspective. After dealing with foster-adoptive workers for more than two decades, I see that they do not agree with adoption. They feel the children need to resemble the adoptive parents, and they do not feel that adoptive parents can truly love a child that is not their own. As a result, workers typically misunderstand families who have a troubled adopted child.
Excerpt taken from pages 55 and 56, Chapter: A MIRACLE AMID OUR PAIN
That prayer was answered one night a couple years after Brittani and Chloe’s adoption. The week following Kelven’s death we went to an old-fashioned tent revival in the middle of a cornfield in a nearby town. There was a guest speaker from the Netherlands who I am sure was fantastic. Now and then we would hear something he was saying, but much of the time was spent pointing out the people seven rows ahead of us. Brittani stared, whispering to James that she and Chloe had visited this woman’s home with their mother and Toni’s father. She remembered writing on her basement wall with crayon. Being a child’s distant memory, it was a cute story, but when James noticed the little girl sitting with the family, he declared emphatically, but quietly, “Yeah, well, that little girl looks like Brittani.” One of the girls in that family had turned to see us and seemed to have told the mother. Soon after, this family hurriedly got up to leave in the middle of the service.
James and the two girls immediately got up and chased them down outside the tent. He began speaking to the woman by explaining that the girls, Brittani and Chloe, seem to remember her. The woman hesitated nervously and replied, “Yes, I am Dedra,” and as she spoke she turned the little girl to the front of her and announced, “And this is their little sister Toni.” Onlookers outside the tent revival activity caught on to what was going on, realizing it was a miraculous reunion of blood sisters torn apart by life’s circumstances, and began to smile and tear up. Our families exchanged telephone numbers, and Dedra agreed to let us visit with Toni soon.
Excerpt from page 118, Chapter: Our Little Melting Pot
Our family was the melting pot for Josh and Samuel. African little ones joining Hispanic teenagers with African American and Caucasian older children. I understand it is not ideal that children are not raised by their birth parents, but where that is not possible, I believe that a uniquely-blended family can make all the difference to a child in need of the love and safety of a family. As a family, we incorporate their differences, their individuality, their ethnicities, and their similarities. We celebrate their differences without making them embarrassed or putting too much emphasis on them. We also celebrate the fact that they were adopted without putting it in their face regularly. We kept the lines of communication open to all of it.
Every day was filled with joy for me as I watched our newest little ones play. During their naps, I missed them dearly. I hated to put them down for bed at night. I could not wait until they got up, so I could watch them some more. I was mesmerized. It was as if I was finally happy and complete for the first time in my life. I was not being treated like a second-class citizen by them in my home like the older girls often had. Brittani stated that it was difficult to be in a bad mood with those two boys around. I was glad because a bad mood seemed to be her norm, but Josh and Samuel’s presence slowed her down. The two boys had a joy I had never seen before. It surprised me, especially being from a third-world country, being malnourished and coming from such poverty. They laughed. They played. They smiled. Everyone loved them. Our family was melting together one more time. I was content.
As an expert in international adoption medicine and child development for the past 30 years, reading “Phoenix Bound” brings home the complexities that adopted parents are challenged with in dealing with children coming from traumatic backgrounds. While this book not only highlights the intense struggles of the children as well as the adopted parents who are often left with virtually no substantial support from educational, psychological or private sectors within the community, the book also brings forward the innate strength and resiliency of families such as the Elliston’s who have taken upon themselves to “navigate the maze” of unchartered and “restricted ground” as our educational, psychological and social service system has absolutely and unequivocally no “unified understanding” of how to deal with adoption-trauma cases in children who have come from the most profoundly damaged backgrounds.
Additionally, the authors of this book have found their own means of developing a “support system” and, painstakingly, have found a way to develop a “set of resources” with adoption medicine professionals who have been able to both support them while also unraveling the mysteries and complexities that all of their children have been challenged with throughout the course of their development.
Phoenix Bound makes no secret of the severity of abuse, neglect, deprivation, chaos and confusion that their children have experienced in their home countries in addition to the unwillingness of American medicine and psychological professionals to understand and support their cause. This is an incredible book highlighting the resiliency of the human spirit of the children in addition to the incredible commitment of parents who have taken on the most damaged children in which traditional psychology would have failed them every time and the parents, themselves along with their own “network” have found ways for positive change and rehabilitation on their “Phoenix Bound Quest.”
It is with great pleasure and respect that this forward is being written as this book will provide a “road map and blueprint” for other families who continue to be on a journey in finding ways to find peace for their children as the Elliston family has found in the warmth of Phoenix as well as the community which has welcomed the entire family.
It is truly a moving and poignant story that should be read by all adoptive parents and professionals alike who work with children and families from adoption-trauma backgrounds.
LinkedIn: Angie K Elliston