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Rest

I choose a word for each year, every year versus a list of resolutions. After a rough end to 2018, I kept coming back to the word, rest.

I haven’t decided yet whether this is ironic or not.

In almost every way I can imagine, this year has been anything but restful. It has been painful, hard, tense, a battle, and frankly, hope-sucking, bone-wearying exhausting.

For the most part, it’s not my story to share. It’s my foster son’s story. What he has been through, what he has put me through as a result, and how far we have gone to find some semblance of peace is just . . . not mine to share.

But for four months, I have battled things that have happened in his life and now here I am.

A little over two weeks ago, my doctor said he wanted me to have a blood test to determine if my health issues were due to heart failure.

What the heck? I’m 43 years old.

Turns out my symptoms were a combo of medication (I have rheumatoid disease) reaction and anemia. My anemia is bad enough that I have go in for two iron infusions (IV iron). But the fact that he was even willing to consider a heart issue stopped me in my tracks – as did my subsequent appointment with him two weeks ago.

I am not resting – not in any way.

Reality has set in. We’re nearing the halfway mark of the year and I know that significant and lasting changes must be made in my life. While my health is a continued work in progress, that takes some work with my doctor – there are other changes I have to make on my own.

It’s hard to know where to begin at times. One thing I know for certain is that saying yes for the sake of people’s opinion of what you should be doing, running without stopping or slowing to take a proverbial breath, and believing work, other’s expectations, or their plans are more important, certainly do not help.

I’ve been off work since Friday. While we went to the beach on Saturday (that wasn’t restful at all – like I’d planned), I have done a great deal of resting this weekend. I had a long list of household chores to accomplish. But rather than do everything at once, I ended up slowly tackling my list over many days.

I’ve still got a couple things to check off today, before going back to work tomorrow. At first I was critical of myself for not getting it all done. And then I beat back that condemnation with a stick.

That kind of stinking thinking is one reasons why I’m here. So . . . I did a little bit every day. Yesterday, I napped on and off for huge chunks of the day while my foster son played outside or watched movies. It was until almost 6:00 PM that I worked on one of my “to-do” items.

Friends – this life is hard and if you’re battling chronic illness, are a single parent, facing down childhood trauma in your foster or adoptive child, or any number of other potential issues – be kind to yourself. Take it one step – one day – at a time. If you have to go hour by hour than do it.

Rest. I’m trying to get better at it. I’m probably going to get it wrong sometimes. But now that I’m here, I know there is no turning back. I hope you will take good care of yourself. Learn these lessons now – before you’re functioning at an extreme deficit.

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I Want to Age Like Sea Glass

I want to age like sea glass. Smoothed by tides, not broken. I want the currents of life to toss me around, shake me up and leave me feeling washed clean. I want my hard edges to soften as the years pass — made not weak, but supple. I want to ride the waves, go with the flow, feel the impact of the surging tides rolling in and out.

When I am thrown against the shore and caught between the rocks and a hard place, I want to rest there until I can find the strength to do what is next. Not stuck — just waiting, pondering, feeling what it feels like to pause. And when I am ready, I will catch a wave and let it carry me along to the next place that I am supposed to be.

I want to be picked up on occasion by an unsuspected soul and carried along — just for the connection, just for the sake of appreciation and wonder. And with each encounter, new possibilities of collaboration are presented, and new ideas are born.

I want to age like sea glass so that when people see the old woman I’ll become, they’ll embrace all that I am. They’ll marvel at my exquisite nature, hold me gently in their hands and be awed by my well-earned patina. Neither flashy nor dull, just the right luster. And they’ll wonder, if just for a second, what it is exactly I am made of and how I got to be in this very here and now. And we’ll both feel lucky to realize, once again, that we have landed in that perfectly right place at that profoundly right time.

I want to age like sea glass. I want to enjoy the journey and let my preciousness be, not in spite of the impacts of life, but because of them.

By Bernadette Noll

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Sick & Tired of Being Sick & Tired

This post is my way of holding myself accountable for the health journey I’m finally ready to start.

I’ve been on a sixteen-year journey with autoimmune disease. In the last several years, the inflammation in my body increased, my joints started swelling more, and my pain increased along with the inflammation. The fatigue got worse too. Sometimes I think the fatigue is the worst part.

We’re not just talking tired. We’re talking complete and total – hard to function as a normal adult – exhaustion. This is the kind of exhaustion that is overwhelming and life-altering.

With a busy career, that sometimes required long hours no matter what was happening in my own life, all of my energy went toward being able to succeed at work. When I came home, there was nothing left. I often talk about being an introvert as the sole cause of my not getting out, making new friends, dating, etc.

The truth of the matter was {and is} that I couldn’t function. I only had enough energy to get through my work week. My evenings and weekends? I was running at a deficit. There was nothing left to give. There is nothing left to give.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”

– Hippocrates

As a result of the constant struggle to be healthy and get in remission, I started taking a series of “biologics.” I started with injections at home and then when I was at my worst, I started receiving infusions at an Infusion Center near home.

There was one drug that seemed to work and work well – within 48-hours of every infusion, remicade made me feel like a million bucks. But continuously throughout my treatment, as my hair fell out and I read about what is in that drug & the others like it, I grew more and more uncomfortable with them.

The longer I’ve been on them, the sicker I get when I catch bugs from my son. My last cough {we are talking scary, hacking a lung cough, here} lasted three months until I could get a nebulizer at home. The stomach flu, respiratory infections, etc. hang on and on.

And yet, inflammation markers don’t decrease and in multiple cases, they’ve continued to increase, as have questions and concerns I have about other test results that indicate active disease. In the last round of tests this week, one particular result that’s always high – is even higher now.

If I read up on how that test is used, it can demonstrate current disease activity {i.e., I’m not in remission} in autoimmune diseases like mine. I know, I know. I’m not a doctor and neither is the Interwebs.

But guess what is not doing me any good at all? Doctors and traditional medicine. So I’ve decided to figure this out on my own. My immune system is being suppressed by these biologics {one famously made out of mice “protein”}, I’m getting sick with every little bug, and yet they do nothing for the pain and inflammation.

So guess what? I’m done.

Done.

Done.

Done.

Over time, I have read about many others in my situation. They were sick and tired and not getting better – all the while, they were being pumped full of awful drugs that in some cases, made them sicker. I’m in several Facebook groups with folks like these. Folks like me.

But there are also some within these chronically ill communities that I follow, that fight back – for their health. They find healing and remission, without dangerous {aka “high-risk”} drugs.

I’ve spent a lot of time reading, watching, and following along. I’ve toyed with a few ideas – like the keto diet. But a full blown keto diet is not for me. I’ve settled into a belief that the Paleo “diet” is, however. Though much of what is at the heart of keto, stripped down, is right on {we need good fats to survive & thrive}.

About eighty percent of the food on shelves of supermarkets today didn’t exist 100 years ago.
― Larry McCleary,

The new drug I’ve been on is doing very little for me. I’m not surprised. Honestly, neither is my rheumatologist. So why? Why am I taking this serious medication that is doing me no good?

I’ve seen no benefit. But I have seen a benefit to the therapeutic levels vitamin D I’m taking, thanks to Rodan + Fields. It isn’t helping my pain levels, yet. But it sure has helped my fatigue & energy. My energy levels are dramatically improved.

So let’s get this straight . . . dangerous meds are not working and cause me to get random viruses. Vitamin D has increased my energy level causing me to get more done in the last four weeks than I have in nearly a year.

This is my public way of holding myself accountable. I’m making some changes which include going off of the immune suppressants. I’m going to be cutting out grains & legumes, reducing my dairy intake, and cutting out processed, refined sugar. I have been mostly gluten free since 2009. But I’m fully committing now, after a nice chat with my new GI doctor.

I’m going to take my supplements daily. Which ones? All of them. Ha. Probiotics, fish oil, enzymes, vitamins, iron, magnesium, etc.. I’m going to drink more water. I’m also going to be using CBD oil. My GI doctor has recommended a specific brand but I’m going to do a little research before purchasing.

I’ve wanted to try CBD for some time, because I’ve heard great things about the way it impacts inflammation and pain levels. On a recent trip to Asheville, I purchased a cream from the Asheville Salt Cave, made with CBD, essential oils, Himalayan sea salt, and a couple other ingredients. Using it on my hips, on my trip, I was able to get in and out of the car on my long drive home, with zero pain. None. I got out of the car like I was a kid.

Wait . . . isn’t that what these “high-risk drugs” are supposed to do?

Getting home without pain & stiffness in my hips? That might as well be a miracle. Since getting home, when I use it, my hips are in great shape. When I don’t use it, I have a lot of pain and stiffness getting up from my desk, in and out of the car, etc.

I’m so done with this traditional medicine nonsense. It’s getting me nowhere. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and a place. But the truth is, I don’t believe modern medicine wants a cure for what ails us. They want to treat symptoms – not cure disease.

If you take any time at all to watch any food documentaries out there these days, they are powerful reminders at how our first world life in America, has caused us to change and manufacture what is supposed to be food – into something that resembles it – but is not actually food.

I’m going to make changes. I’m going to eat actual food. And I’m going to hope and pray for a total transformation of my health.

If you’re a Paleo {or keto, or AIP} person, I’d love to hear your favorite tips, websites, and recipes. Care to share? I’m not sure how I’ll often I post on my blog, but I hope I’ll find time to share some of this journey. In the meantime, I would love to hear about your experiences.

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If a writer falls for you . . .

You walked by me one day a couple of years ago, totally unaware I existed. I sat up and took notice. I thought maybe you were the most handsome man I’d ever laid eyes on.

I know now that actually is the case.

You feign calm indifference. But I see through you. Your gentleness and sweetness seeps to the surface.

Maybe you did see me back then. I try to understand how I gained trust & the gentleness. There’s no logical explanation.

But I live for these moments – when you breeze across my path. They are never long enough and always enough to keep me wanting more.

You’ll walk away. I’ll move on. But I’ll relieve your sweetness, your quiet checking on me, and the way you catch my eyes, for a very long time.

If only.

Someone once asked me if Macon is a real person. The truth is, I dreamed him into existence. And then I met you. You are like him, in so many ways.

Maybe you’re enough inspiration to get the next book written?

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Dreamers & Risk Takers

Walt Disney, Elaina Avalos, Dreamers, Chasing Dreams, Dream Chaser, Dream Catcher, Disneyland

I took this photo about 10 years ago, at Disneyland – one of my favorite places on earth. That’s probably the last time I was there. I can’t wait to take another trip (hopefully with my son) soon.

When I was growing up, Disneyland was such an inspiration to the creative dreamer in me. My favorite places in the park were of places I dreamed of visiting – the French Quarter being one. In Pirates of the Caribbean, as the ride ends, you pass by the restaurant inside the ride (the Blue Bayou) and with the Spanish moss and “star” filled sky, I just knew I had to live in the south someday. How a girl from Orange County, California comes to live on the coast of North Carolina probably has its roots in those summer trips to Disneyland as I dreamed of live oaks and Spanish moss.

I had never seen this quote by Walt Disney until last night. So much of our talk of dreams can seem so flighty and honestly . . . just downright silly.

Or so it seems. Sometimes our dreams are exactly why we were placed on this earth. I love that in this quote he mentions that he tests his dreams against his beliefs. I love this – especially for me – who tries to live a life of faith.

But after a little examination – it’s time to take risks and act. This is the stage I’m in now, on several different dreams. Once you get there, it’s not always easy. I have had doubts, even recently. But you never get anywhere in life if you let your doubts rule you.

So . . . what are your dreams? What was that thing the little you dreamed of being & doing? Chances are . . . that’s truly who you were and are, meant to be.

Do a little dreaming. Take some risks. And jump in.

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Sunday Nights if You Were Here

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Sunday is the ever so weekly reminder that the work week has returned and I’m being drawn away from what I most want to be doing.

It’s Sunday night again. If you were here, our lazy day of rest would turn into a relaxed evening as we cook together. We would turn on the music and talk our way through our plans for the week.

You are the calm to my storm. You are my deep breath. Sunday night if you were here, your larger than life presence filling up this small space, I would think twice as I watch you washing dishes, about complaining that Monday is on our heels.

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/12104616/playlist/6OkGLXpaRl9LIR8nDIY3v8

It has taken us so long to get to this moment. I don’t want to take a single second for granted. In the mundane of this every day moment, while you wash dishes, and I finish making our meal, I am reminded that this is everything I’ve ever wanted as quiet and normal as it is.

Sunday night if you were here, you would be another reminder of how the days and weeks conspire, with God’s hand on it all, to bring us exactly where we are meant to be, at exactly the right moment in time.

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Flash Fiction: The Hard Way

new bern, new bern nc, flash fiction, elaina avalos, chasing dreams

It is summer. Eastern Carolina is a sight to behold in the summer, even more so on the coast where the air is like a sultry, sexy Flamenco. It just seeps way down deep into your bones. The light in the early evening is like this living thing. It almost breathes. Deep. It wraps me up – safe and content.

He, the beautiful man of the hard way, is a challenge I am sometimes convinced I can’t meet. Even after all these years. Today, in a quiet moment in the midst of a busy day, I thought about the way his eyes hold mine. There has been fire and light for me in his eyes – for me, for as long as I can remember. Me. His fierceness lights me from the inside out with just one look. In the middle of an everyday moment, I look up to see his eyes on me. And there in that moment when I’m nothing special on my own and living in the mundane, I am all there is in his eyes. I am the only one in a room filled with people.

And then as quickly as he is fierce and passion, strength and fire, he is vulnerable. His tenderness for me still churns my insides like it did from the beginning. In those moments, I think I love him more than I knew was possible. On nights like these when the lightening bugs pop and flash in the approaching night, as we sit quietly on the porch, I’m overwhelmed by the beauty of it all. There is stillness and quiet between us just like it used to be in the beginning, when he said all he needed to without a word spoken. The heat surrounds us in spite of the encroaching darkness. The rising moon isn’t bringing relief from the swelter.

But somehow, in spite of the sweat that trickles, and the air thick, all I can think about is the way fire and heat burn off the dross. We have been tried and tested in the fire. In the quiet, he reaches over and takes my hand in his. Ten years and a handful of days after the first time he did that very thing, it lights me up inside. Still. I close my eyes, lay my head back, and breathe deeply of the contentment that comes from loving him above myself – even when we do it the hard way. Even when we are tested in the fire.

– Flash fiction by Elaina M. Avalos

New Year. Not New You?


“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” – Matthew 11:28-30 The Message (MSG)

It’s that time of year. You know . . . the time of year that causes you to think about all you didn’t do the past eleven months. You may contemplating the new you, for the New Year, right this very minute.

A Washington Post, article from January 1st 2018, stated that 40% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. But how many more of us don’t formalize resolutions but make inner promises to be better, to do better, or to try harder?

This is the year I’ll go back to church. This is the year I’ll finish my degree. I’m going to work out and lose weight. I’m going to drink less and eat better.

May all your troubles last as long as your New Year’s resolutions.

I think the number who don’t finalize resolutions, but still long for change, is quite high. There are many of us out there who silently long to change those things about our character, appearance, or circumstances that we wish were different.

But when the newness of the year wears off, where do we stand with all of those things we wanted to change about our lives? If you’re anything like I used to be, I found myself defeated, frustrated, and overwhelmed when I couldn’t keep up with my own demands {on myself!}.

How exactly does one go about making changes that are lasting and significant?

The article mentioned above has a couple of good tips – like “piggybacking” your goals or resolutions to something you really love. The example was to tie going to the gym to your Game of Thrones binge watching {i.e., only watch Game of Thrones while working out}. There’s some validity there.

Perhaps that might make those new goals stick around longer – if you had a tangible way to tie the “exercise” of working on your new goal, to something you already love.

Be stubborn about your goals, but flexible about your methods.

But, I found another way quite a few years ago now. When I really examined what my year had been like and where I had “failed” to meet my own standard, there was a common thread woven throughout my failures. There was also something in common with my successes.

Nine times out of ten – it was ONE single thing that kept me going to find success. And still other times, it was ONE single thing that kept me from meeting my goals.

Which brings me to how I started transforming my life, my goals, and chasing dreams. One word. That’s it. Not a list of resolutions that I’d never keep – a word.

It came about in a weird set of circumstances – this one word thing. All at once I felt this discomfort with my resolutions and thought I need to focus in. I heard about people using a word to live by in the new year. I liked the idea! Shortly thereafter, I heard from an online writer friend that used one word, too. The rest is history – it has been at least 10 years that this one word thing has touched my life in a profound way.

Friends – these words over the years have absolutely been right on. I may sketch out things I’d like to see happen in my life in the coming year. But what remains the theme throughout is always, always, always tied to this word. It’s in the living out and practicing of the word, I find myself meeting some of those standards I’d sketched out at the beginning of the year.

I find ways to act – ensuring my word is a verb. Other times, I find myself forced to live out the word because of circumstances beyond my control. Still other times, God shows me, much to my chagrin, when I’m not meeting the intent of the word.

This year, my word was fearless. In 2017 it was hope. There were never two more perfect words for the last couple of years. I have the evidence to prove it. This year, I did live fearlessly in all the ways it counts. I was fearful – but I pressed forward. And that’s what this is all about.

Resolutions stifle me. They hold me back and hold me down because I can’t meet the list of standards. But one word? It has changed me – every year, for the better. Even the year that I failed at being intentional – until December – when I learned a hard lesson through my lack of intention. But dude . . . did that word ever change me!

Guess what? I’m more intentional about everything now – including my one word for each year.

So here I am . . . in the final day of 2018 with a new word already being tested. My word is rest. I fail at rest. I fail at it in the deepest sense of the word.

OneWord365, OneWord, Rest, Abide, Faith, Elaina Avalos, Elaina M. Avalos, Chasing Dreams

Even now, I feel the pressure, strain, and tension beating at the door. But it is clear that rest is the word for 2019. Choosing a word over a list of resolutions isn’t easier. But it is easier to manage bite-size pieces of life – particularly when it’s areas of your life you want to change.

Rest. This might be my hardest word, yet.

So how about you, friends? Are you a resolution person? Or are you open to trying one word? I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you want to try the one word experience, check out, this website where you can register your word and find others with the same one.