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I Miss You Today

ocean waves, elaina avalos, live well be well, elaina avalos fiction, elaina avalos blog

I miss you today. I miss you often. Some days hit a little different though. Today it’s the sound of your voice and how I feel when you look at me – in that way you do – that I’m missing. The way you look at me always knocks me a little off center. Mostly because I equally long for it and fear it, at the same time. Fear it because I love you through this wild, alone.

If there’s one thing I need now, it would be to hear you say my name – to hear your voice. That and having this thing that stands between us, a distant memory.

When I was a kid, we camped on the beach. The waves crashed against the course sand – endlessly through the night. They were an ever present reminder of how something so wild and unruly can also be stable and predictable. How weird is that? Loving you is like that. Deeply comforting. Wildly unpredictable. And on days like today, as needed as the breath that fills my lungs.

I miss you today.

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Self-Care Sunday

self care sunday, elaina m. avalos, elaina avalos, self compassion

I’m not sure how often I’ll make time for these posts on Sundays, but I’m working on some new aspects of self-care right now. And when I discover something that’s useful, I will share. First, I am in therapy. I think there’s goodness in therapy for many. For some reason, many of us are uncomfortable with admitting or talking about this, however. But what could be better than talking to someone about things in our lives we want to change, learn, or heal from? Both of the things I’m sharing today were suggested by my therapist. Second, when I first tried the mediation practice below, a number of months ago, I wasn’t into it. In fact, I could barely go a minute without being totally distracted. I don’t think I truly heard enough to really know whether it was a useful tool or not. So, all that to say that if you’ve wondered how meditation could help you with anxiety or anything else for that matter – give it a shot and if it doesn’t quite feel right, give it time and try again. Or maybe search for a different one.

Self-Compassion:
The concept of self-compassion honestly felt weird to me. I didn’t really get it. And the first time I tried this, I don’t think I was at a place where I understood it or even would have accepted it. But in recent weeks, some things have changed for me and for the first time, this concept of self-compassion makes sense. It doesn’t just make sense though, I feel it in my heart. I’ve seen where in my life I have been “at war” with myself and have allowed messages of unworthiness to be reiterated over and over again – but in my own thought processes – which then in turn repeats in circumstances in my life. If you find yourself noticing in your thought life that you’re super hard on yourself, expecting perfection or warring with yourself over things you can and can’t control, you may feel some release from this practice of self-compassion.

A quick note – if you are someone that is uncomfortable with meditation because your Christian worldview has led you to believe it’s not okay – I get it. But, I would say that what I’ve come to over the years is that God does use many things around us to teach, heal, and open our eyes. Where meditation or yoga or whatever, feels uncomfortable, it’s very easy to replace terms or foundations with Biblical truth. This idea of self-compassion should truly be seen from the perspective of how God views us as His children. This meditation allows us to connect with the person we truly are, absent of the constantly repeating messages of our own unworthiness. Which also means that we are seeing ourselves in our identity in Him. If you find that you’re repeating negative thought patterns that are impacting you in the day to day, give this a shot. I am honestly blown away by not only the emotion I felt through this practice, but in how at peace I felt as I acknowledged how I’m feeling about myself and then practiced a little of the compassion and grace I need (that, oh by the way, God offers me so freely).

Podcasts:

I’ve been adding podcasts to my weekly lists of to-dos. I love learning, experiencing life through other’s views, and finding ways to grow as a person. But honestly, for a long time, I’ve kind of shut off this curiosity in me. National Public Radio has always met this need for me and as I’ve been listening again to some of my favorites, it has gotten me into the habit of seeking out podcasts that meet this curiosity and desire for growth. Below are a few of the podcasts I’m listening to on a rotating basis. But for today, I wanted to share Untangle. I subscribe through my Apple podcast app – but you can find it at the link, too.

If you’re looking for some understanding about relationships, I highly recommend the February 16th episode, called “Navigating Love and Relationships Anytime” with Daphne Rose Kingma (see link for one of her many books on relationships – this one called Coming Apart: How to Heal Your Broken Heart). While I could see myself listening to this again, one of the things I took from this was being at peace with what a relationship brings to your life – even when it doesn’t last. Additionally, I learned a little about accepting a man’s ability or inability to be expressive of emotion. Good stuff.

Here are a few others I am listening to:
This American Life
The Bible Recap
Being Well
The Moth

Do you have any favorite podcasts {in the self-care or self-help genre}? What is something you have to do each week {or every day} for your own self-care?

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Fiction Friday: One Way or Another

Here’s another excerpt from my novel, A Thousand Years.

On Friday evening, after we’d stuffed ourselves with pizza and we’re comfy in our favorite spots in the family room, watching a movie, Gray came through the front door. Total chaos ensued, as he was a whole week early. I always love seeing him like this – such a contradiction. He is dirty and smells. He’s mostly cleaned up before his drive home, but even still he’s looking and smelling rough. It’s a total contradiction from this quiet, studious man I’ve known most of my adult life. Amelia is in his arms in an instant and Jake is talking a mile a minute. We’ve paused the movie for the mini-reunion. When they finally relax a little, Gray lifts up a backpack. “Can I shower and change?” he asks.
“Of course. I set out some fresh towels. They’re on the counter in the upstairs bathroom. There’s pizza when you’re finished.”
“You are literally the best. The best everything.”
“True. I am. Now go shower – you stink.”
“True story,” he says.
A few minutes later, when I hear the water turn off, I walk into the kitchen to heat him a plate of pizza. I choose his favorites from what’s left of our four different types and put them in the microwave. As the microwave finishes, he walks into the kitchen. He didn’t shave – which I love. And he smells amazing as always. “You are a saint. Thank you for being there for us – as always,” he says, hugging me.
“You’re welcome. I’d do anything for you and the kids,” I say. He’s not letting go. I don’t want him to. And I want him to at the same time. Isn’t that just like us? I pull away from him. “Eat,” I say pointing at his plate. He pulls out a bar stool at my kitchen island and sits down.
“Listen, I hate to bring this up now but, you need to talk to Jake. He’s having a hard time with the stuff Adria is doing and he’s frustrated that you don’t just cut her off. He asked if he could move in with me.”
Gray put the piece of pizza in his hand, back on his plate. “Yeah? What did you say?” He doesn’t look mad. But I can tell that he’s not thrilled with me.
“I told him that wasn’t possible, but that I would always be there for him. For all of you. I told him that he needed to talk to you about how he’s feeling and to ask you the questions he asked me.”
“Oh,” he says flatly. “What kinds of questions did he ask?”
“Rather than specific questions I would just sum it up by saying that he’s tired of Adria’s behavior and doesn’t understand why she never has to deal with consequences for her bad choices. He said that when he does bad things, you hold him accountable.”
“Ah. These are big thoughts for a little boy. I can’t blame him,” he says, the defeat of recent years etched in the new lines in his forehead. He runs his hands through his hair. He needs a haircut. I don’t know how it’s possible, but the older he gets, the more handsome he gets. “I don’t know why I let her stay in our lives, Bird. Why do I allow this?”
“I don’t know, Love. I ask myself this all of the time.”
“Thank you for being there when he had these big worries and questions. You’re a good mom to Jacky. And you’re a good mom to my kids, Bird. You love us well. And you deserve -” His statement trails off. I already know where he’s going with this.
“I deserve to be with the love of my life,” I say, as I put the pizza boxes back in the refrigerator and walk back out to the family room. I sit back down on the couch and Amelia crawls into my lap.
“Will you braid my hair now, Aunt Birdie?”
“Yep. Run to the bathroom and grab the comb and some hair bands, okay?”
“K,” she says, running down the hall to the downstairs bathroom. As a boy mom, Amelia is my only chance to enjoy girl stuff, so I keep a basket for her here with makeup and hair barrettes, and nail polish. She races around the corner with her basket and climbs back into my lap. “Got ‘em!” she says.
She leans back as I start brushing her hair. Like every other time, since I’ve moved back to Newton, we’ve done this very thing, I’m overwhelmed – with love, hope, fear, and a dread that surrounds every moment with Gray and his children – worrying its end could come any moment. I make myself a promise, as I braid Amelia’s hair – Gray will not ever devastate me again. So one way or another, this foggy haze that hangs between us, is gonna clear, one way or another.

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Use Your Words

mark anthony poet, mark anthony
For more from Mark Anthony, go here.

I just want a little bit of attention in the form of words is all – to know I’m being thought of, to not compete with a phone, or someone else. I want to hear or read the words {I’d probably read them over & over} – that I’m cared for and thought of {without prompting}. But even if there aren’t any ill intentions behind picking up your phone when you’re with the one you care about, we all take in or receive love in different ways. The Five Love Languages has been as popular for a long time, for that very reason. The concepts are powerful. But not terribly complicated. We all accept or feel loved in different ways. I mean, duh. Showing our loved ones love, in the way that they best understand it, is a gift to them and to us. So even if there’s no ill intention in there by picking up that phone, being cognizant of what your love needs to feel cared for, is so important. Maybe they’re a quality time person. If you spend most of your time with them, distracted and doing other things, they’re going to struggle to feel loved and cared for in the relationship.

My love language? It’s words of affirmation. It’s not surprising – considering the writer thing and all. I struggle to feel loved when I don’t have that. I try – but I inevitably feel hurt, not appreciated, or even unloved {or a combo of all three}. If your spouse or significant other’s, love language is physical touch, can you imagine how hard it would be to feel connected and loved, if you were distant or unaffectionate? I think physical touch is a close second for me, so that’s not a hard one for me to show. But what if my SO’s love language is receiving gifts. Honestly, I’m a sucky gift-giver because I can never make up my mind what to buy for someone. The receiving gifts thing could be anything from a small token to a larger gift – something that shows you’ve thought of them and just had to get it for them. But because it doesn’t come natural to me, I would need to find a way to learn, for my significant other’s sake.

So while your significant other’s love language may not come natural to you, it is, in my opinion, a beautiful thing to choose to learn that language. Making those deposits into your mate or significant other yields long term benefits for both of you.

Do you know your love language? Do you know your significant other’s?

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Getting Through

And in the category of getting through, here’s a little music getting me through. Just gotta get through it. There’s no way around it. I’ve tried. Have you ever had something standing in the way of what you want? And as much as you try to finagle your way around, it’s just not possible. You just gotta get through it, until you end up on the other side – with what you want, more than anything.

So while I work on getting through it, music keeps me writing and pushing forward.

Mom is not gonna like this one. Haha.



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Wild Things – An Excerpt from A Thousand Years

a thousand years, elaina avalos,

Here is Wild Things – an Excerpt from A Thousand Years.

2003

Dearest Graham,

It is untamed. Wild and unplanned. I wake deep in thought, recalling the mornings in the Redwoods – the air cold and damp. There was nothing around but the untouched forest. Standing there, facing the west, I saw the Pacific resting between the hills – the brush wild and untamed. So perfectly beautiful and lonely. This is what it’s like to love you. On a day I least expected you, there you were. We are perfect partners. We think alike. But not. In that place in between, where we differ, you shine most.

There are more questions than answers. In the beauty of this wild thing, I long for you. What is and will not be follows me around like a coastal fog. Through the haze I see you. I don’t hold it against you – you can’t tame wild things. I live here in this tension, with what will not be, settling into the cold, wild – alone.

Yours Always,

Carolina

***

Present day

The long winding road to the house and the visit to Ragged Point, after my time in the city, were enough to clear my head. For now. When I get to the house, my sister Alejandra’s mini-van is in the driveway. I’m grateful she’s already brought Jackson home. I’m ready to see him now. But for the past 24 hours, I’ve been in a near state of panic over seeing him, as if he’d know. I pull into the garage and turn off the car, just as Jackson opens the door wide, excited to see me – if the smile on his face is any indication. He’s as sweet as pie that one. He waves and heads my way. I open the car door and hug my baby – my giant baby. I’m so grateful for this sweet boy. “Hey Bub,” I say. “I missed you so much. Did you have fun with Ali and the kids?”

“Yeah. It was kind of fun to hang out with them even though they’re too little to do really fun things. But I’m ready for the quiet again.”

“I’m glad you had fun. Are you hungry? I thought I could get cleaned up and we could go grab dinner at Deetjen’s. What do you think?”

“Oh. I’m going out. I can change plans though,” he says.

“Of course not. Just make sure you’re home early. What are you up to?”

“Surfing at Sand Dollar.”

“Go have fun. Do you want me to pick you up?”

“Nah. Casey’s sister is driving me home. Can you pop the trunk? I’ll get your bag.” he asks.

“You are the sweetest, Jackson Langston. Thank you,” I say, as a I pop the trunk of the car and head into the house. Jackson grabs my bag and climbs the stairs to my room. I walk through the mudroom, drop my purse and jacket, emotionally spent – slipping out of my shoes – while hoping that Ali doesn’t start peppering me with questions the second I walk inside. I open the Dutch door that leads into my kitchen.

“Welcome home!” Ali says, handing me a glass of wine, before I’ve even shut the door.

“Thanks. You’re the best,” I say, taking the glass. “How did everything go here?”

“Good. Great. He’s a good boy. You know that. The kids loved him staying over. It was a joy having an older kid around. Question is – how are you? How are things? Tell me all the news,” she says.

“Let’s wait until Jack leaves. Do you have time to have a drink on the deck?”

“Duh,” she says. “I told Charles he was on duty and to not expect me back very early.”

“You’re a saint. I have a lot to talk about.”

“I’m sure you do.”

***

A half-hour later, Ali and I are settled into two of my deck chairs, a second glass of wine poured, and a fire lit in my Chiminea nearby, as the fog slowly rolls in like a white blanket, toward the ranch and vineyard. “Tell me all the things,” she says.

“There’s much to say. I guess I’ll just start with the main thing. I’m definitely interested in buying -”

“Carolina Langston. That is not the main thing and you know it.”

“I tried to start at the easier point,” I say, smiling at my baby sister – knowing from the moment I arrived, I’d have to talk about Gray.

“Easiser smeasier. Talk, sista.”

“Yes. I saw him. We talked. He’s an older, slightly gray around the temples, version of the Graham I once knew.”

“So? I mean, how was it?”

“Like coming home,” I say.

***

The Bluefin is a seafood restaurant and wine bar with a stunning view of the city skyline and the Bay Bridge. It’s also a weird spot for us to meet, but on trend, Gray didn’t ask me where I’d like to go – nor did he read much about the restaurant, apparently. He texted me, about fifteen minutes ago, to tell me that he’d gotten us a table outside. I haven’t been this tied in knots for years. Before rounding the corner to face him, I take a deep breath and close my eyes. I lean against the side of the restaurant, offering a quick prayer to a God I doubt exists half the time. “Here goes nothing,” I whisper. I round the corner and as I imagined, he is steps away from me, his head in a menu, unaware I am there. Before saying a word, I watch him for a moment. He is as handsome as he was the day I watched him drive away from me – except now the years have weathered him. I take a deep breath and sigh, without meaning to, as I shift my purse on my shoulder. His eyes must catch a glimpse of me moving, because he looks up and our eyes meet. He puts the menu down on the table and his smile, the one I’ve loved for more than fifteen years, spreads across his face.

“Hi,” he says, standing.

I take a few steps and before I can pull the chair away from the table, he has bridged the distance between his chair and mine and opened his arms to me for a hug. “Hi,” I say, wanting to resist, but knowing I can’t. Our hug is brief and awkward. I sit down and have never been more grateful for an attentive server – who gives me a moment to recover. I can feel Graham’s eyes on me though. I question my sanity for agreeing to this.

“Can I start you with a glass of wine or cocktail,” the young server asks.

“I’ll have a glass of the Red Car Rose, please,” I say to her without needing the menu.

“Sure. Do you want to look at the menu for an appetizer or small plate? I am guessing you’ve been here before?”

“I have. Many times. Maybe the fish tacos? But if you can give us a few minutes, that would be awesome.”

“Sure. I’ll be back with your glass of Red Car,” she says. I can feel Graham’s eyes on me again. I take a deep breath.

“Hi,” he says again. “It’s so good to see you. Its been . . . what? How many years has it been?”

“Almost 14.”

“Doesn’t seem possible.” he says. “You haven’t aged at all. You look great.”

“Oh, please. I have aged. I feel ancient,” I say. “You look great, too by the way.”

“So now that we’ve settled that we both look great,” he says smiling, “Thank you for meeting me. I wasn’t sure if you were still in California until I ran into Lane a few weeks ago. I’m not sure if she explained, but I got orders back to North Carolina. We ran into each other and she filled me in on the missing years. I hope you don’t mind that I reached out. She said you wouldn’t.”

“Of course I don’t mind. I’m happy she did. You’re here for a wedding, right?”

“Yeah, an old friend is getting married – I’m the best man. The wedding is at Golden Gate Park. And I knew you lived on the coast, so I figured it was worth a shot. I would have been willing to come to you. You didn’t have to drive all this way.”

“It’s no big deal. I had business in the city anyway. Our wine is in restaurants all over – including this one and in bars all over the city. I’m here a couple of times a month, at least. I needed to stop by one of the wine stores. I’m actually thinking of buying it.”

“I hear that your Grandad’s winery is quite successful these days. I remember you talking about the dream of it, when we were – when we -”

“When we were dating? Is it that hard to say it?” I try to sound light, like I’m teasing. But I’m not. I try hard to push the hurt down. I didn’t think it would be so close to the surface of my heart, all these years later.

“Of course not,” he says. “I guess I was just stumbling over my words because I wanted to see you to -,” he pauses and looks down at his drink – probably whisky if he’s anything like he was all those years ago. “I wanted to apologize.”

“Oh,” I say. Not expecting us to go there so quickly. I take an unladylike swig of my rose, that the server had set down and by the looks on our faces, must have known she needed to scram – because she was out of there in a hot second. “Oh. I don’t, I mean – I guess I didn’t expect our conversation to take such a swift turn.”

“I never have had good timing,” he says, sounding sincere and a little embarrassed. “I’m sorry for dropping that on you.”

“It’s okay. I didn’t really know what you wanted to talk about. But I figured we’d at least have a little small talk first. I wasn’t really properly prepared for this particular conversation.”

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry for everything. I’ve spent years regretting how I treated you at the end. You were such an important part of my life and I let you go in an instant – for what was truly no good reason. I hurt you.”

“You did. The worst pain I’ve ever experienced, actually. I appreciate the apology though, Gray.”

“I don’t even have a good explanation. Not now. From my vantage point, so close to retirement, I look back at my decisions and see how immature I was.”

“You were young. We both were. You did the best you could,” I say, feeling the weight of his apology knowing that this is a deeply layered conversation that I’m not really interested in having with him. Because if we go further, there’s more to say – that I’m not ready to say.”

Our server returns, filling my glass again without asking. She’s good. “Can I interest you in those tacos?”

“Eh. You choose. I’ll eat whatever you bring. Sound good?”

“Yes, ma’am. I know just the thing,” she says. And then continues, “Would you like me to bring the bottle?”

“Please. Thank you. And if you could, can you let Chef know that I’d like to see him before I leave – Carolina. Langston,” I say.

“I knew I recognized you, Ms. Langston. I’m sure he will be happy to know you’re here. I will let him know.”

“Thank you!” I say, cheerfully, hoping the shift in conversation is enough to break the spell of the sadness settling into my heart.

“You’ve always known literally everyone,” he says, shaking his head with a smile. “When we met I had no idea you were the Birdie Langston. Like everyone knew you – wherever we went. I don’t know how you do it. You still do it, apparently.”

“Well, this is a little different,” I say, as my ex-husband walks out of the restaurant we own together – and onto the patio.

“Hey love,” he says, as I stand. He embraces me in the bear hug Michael’s famous for.

“Hey,” I say as he releases me from a weirdly long hug. I don’t know how he knows – but he must. Probably Ali. “Michael – this is Graham Ford. Graham, this is Michael Turner – my ex-husband.”

“Nice to meet you,” Michael says, reaching for Gray’s outstretched hand. Michael is different from Gray in every way you can imagine. He’s a bear of a man, stocky, short compared to Gray, and muscular to Gray’s tall, lean and sinewy. Gray is a tri-athlete. Michael was a football player – playing in the pros for a few years before hanging up his helmet to settle into life as a family man. He is easily the best looking man I’ve ever laid eyes on. Tats cover his arms and his beard – that he’s famous for – and which he loved far more than he ever loved me, is a legend. But we are and always will be, in spite of the divorce, the best of friends.

“Nice-to-to meet you, too,” Gray says, obviously thrown off kilter. Thankfully.

“What did you order?” Michael asks.

“I told the server to surprise me. She’s good. And obviously new since she didn’t know who I was at first. You need to keep her around.”

“I plan on it,” he says, “I’m hoping she’ll stick around to take over the wine program. Should I send her over to you sometime soon?”

“Please do. How are you?”

“Good. Busy as usual. Grateful for that. I’ve been meaning to get down to see Jack, but you know how it is. Maybe I could come by next weekend? I’m taking a couple weeks off. But I could drive down before flying out.”

“You know he would love that,” I say to the man who did the best he could for us, until he couldn’t live any longer with the presence of Graham Ford around every corner of our marriage and life together.

“I’ll text you,” he says, as I nod my head. He turns to Graham, “Gray, I’ve heard a lot about you. It’s nice to finally meet you. Do me a favor?” he asks.

“Sure. What’s that?” Gray asks, likely not expecting the zinger I’m sure is coming.

“Whatever you’re here for, don’t hurt her,” he says, walking away. As he reaches the door of the restaurant, he gives me a slight wave and winks. That is the most confident man I’ve ever known. And I reduced him to a shell of himself because I could never love him fully – the way he deserves.

“I guess I deserved that,” Gray says, looking at his drink again.

“Yeah, you do. There are consequences for everything in life, I guess. And Michael paid the price every day of our marriage, for my inability to trust and love him the way he loved me. He’s a good man. He’s hot as hell. I don’t know why he’s still single. I keep trying to fix him up, but I’m sure he’ll find someone when it’s right for him.”

“When did you get married?” he asks.

“2005,” I say.

Gray nods his head. And then quietly says, what I already know, “I got married in 2002.”

“I know,” I say.

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Falling in and Writing About Love

I had a couple questions about some of the free-verse poetry I’ve written here. Anything I’ve written here that is in poetry form {at least so far} is part of the novel I’m writing, A Thousand Years. In the novel, my protagonist has a star-crossed romance, as a young college student, with the love of her life. Outside forces cause their break-up. Though she eventually marries {and later divorces}, she never truly lets go. In the intervening years, though she tries to reach out to him on various occasions, it’s futile. She eventually gives up trying to talk to him and pens notes and letters on slips of paper, notebooks, and in journals. Those bits & pieces you see here, are a bit of Birdie’s angst coming out – in the only way she has to express her love {and grief} – in written form.

Loving, falling in love, and wanting what’s best for another, or settling into the reality of your situation – when it differs from your own feelings and desires – is complex. “Love is love” became a popular saying in recent years. Love is love. You can’t help when you fall in love with a person. Nor can you make your feelings disappear. For more than 15 years of Birdie’s life, while not always front and center, her love for Gray – remained a constant. She was successful, accomplished, and had a meaningful life. But, under the foundation of her success, happiness, and accomplishments, she lives with the what if and a constant, daily living reminder of their love.

Falling in love doesn’t always follow a linear line. It doesn’t always makes sense and follow some perfect pattern. That’s Birdie & Gray’s story. Falling in and writing about love {which is what I do}, isn’t always going to be tied up in a perfect bow and make perfect sense. And sometimes that means letting go of someone you love – choosing to let go – though it’s tearing you up inside. Where do you go and what do you do with all of that when you make a conscious decision to let go?

Birdie writes it out on slips of paper and presses forward.

My A Thousand Year fiction posts, are:
A Thousand Years
Your Eyes
Fix This
Just One More Moment
My Heart is a Liar
The Autumn Light
Do I Wait
As Soon As You Can
Argue With Me, Baby
This Canyon Between Us
I Miss You Today
It’s The Way You Say My Name
Wild Things – What started it all…

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Chasing Dreams – A Tip for Beginning Your Journey

elaina avalos, chasing dreams,

I’ve mentioned that I’m ready for a new adventure & that I’ve got a timeline for making some decisions about the future. The closer I get to needing to solidify my plan, the more convinced I become of this one thing – I have more dreams to chase. When you grieve, it’s easier to lay aside the big, fat scary dreams that require stepping out of your comfort zone. It’s easier. It’s safer. I’ve done that (avoided scary things) since the moment I said goodbye to the sweet boy that made me a mom.

I don’t like easy & safe. I never have. I’m not made for it. I’ve never feared chasing dreams and I’ve never shied away from going after them.

That may mean that I have to travel paths others don’t, but I’ve always been good with that. As a writer and artist at heart, I’m comfortable with the hard things and grey lines. Those hard things make writing and creating, richer. If you’re willing, it also makes you a better lover of people. It makes you better able to love and care for others in their hardest moments. I think it adds more to my writing too. I don’t like to live on the surface. The hard things we face can either make life richer or they dwarf us and make us bitter.

I must be a mermaid, Rango. I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.”
― Anais Nin

I’ve lived in a dwarfed state, because of my grief, much longer than I’m comfortable with. I’m done with all of that though. I am chasing dreams again – whatever that means and wherever that takes me.

So, if you’re anything like me, and you’re ready to chase some dreams, what’s the first step? The first step is letting go. Letting go of what, you may ask? That I can’t tell you. Maybe it’s other’s expectations. Maybe it’s fear of the consequences of heading in a new direction. Maybe it’s a combination of a few things. Whatever it is, that’s your first step – let go.

By the way, the first step is the hardest one. But if you’re chasing dreams, it’s where the meat is. Make. Up. Your. Mind. And. Do. It.

Let go.

There’s a scene in The West Wing in season 2’s “Two Cathedrals” that I love. If I could have found it for you, I would have shared (below is what happens just before the press conference). The show has spent multiple episodes up to this point, dealing with a popular president’s hidden multiple sclerosis diagnosis. President Bartlet knows he wants to run again. But the looming possibility that by hiding his diagnosis, it will all go up and flames, is consuming the Bartlet White House. They’re all focused on the consequence of what happens when the country learns that he didn’t divulge this important information. They’re worried about the future – all of them.

Meanwhile, President Bartlet is reliving memories of his beloved secretary (that he’s known since high school – she worked for his father) who died in a car accident and is buried the very day he’s going public, with his diagnosis. The truth is, he wants to run again. He believes he has more to do. He has a dream. And in his gut, he knows what he needs to do. But the circumstances are seemingly insurmountable. Their pollster has already given them the skinny – you can’t win after telling the country you have MS (and hid it from the world).

But on this painful day that he buries Mrs. Landingham, he faces down the circumstances, the dream, and work left undone. He fights it out with God in the National Cathedral and has a conversation with “her” afterward – just before his press conference. As he stands there at the podium, soaking wet from an unusual May hurricane-like storm, with questions being shouted out at him, he goes against his Press Secretary’s advice and takes a question from the wrong reporter. She asks him if he’s going to run for President again.

At first, he seems disoriented. And then, and then. His gaze is steely, he puts his hands in his pockets, and he faces the wild press corps. He knows what he has to do. He lets go of the grief, he lets go of the circumstances (all telling him he shouldn’t do this thing), and he lets go of the worries about how hard the path ahead is going to be. The show ends with his Chief of Staff saying, “Watch this.”

He let go and went for it.

So that’s it – friend. Let go. That’s where you have to start. It’s not going to be easy. You’ll face tests along the way. But I’m convinced that’s often a good sign you’re where you need to be. Take the first step and the rest will become clear.

What dream are you contemplating pursuing? What holds you back? What are the chances you’re stuck at what could do wrong? Don’t stay stuck at what could go wrong . . .

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Novel Progress

Random photo of a hot & bearded Dierks Bentley for no reason except I love dudes with beards (see below).

Recent weeks have been challenging on the writing front. But the novel inspiration has kicked back into high gear again, so I’m looking forward to spending time this weekend on getting through a huge portion of my remaining edits (for the second draft). I thought I’d share a notes on my novel progress.

1. I am continuing to post little vignettes and poems here on the blog that may (we’ll see) appear in the novel. I’m adding another page to my Fiction menu where they will all be located. Also, the photography I’m using can all be found on Pexels or Unsplash. This weekend, I’ll be tagging each photo with the photographer’s name and will add a category to catalog the photos. These are all royalty free and don’t require link backs. However, I feel like it’s necessary. I just wasn’t sure the best way to do it. My most recent was Your Eyes. The very first was Wild Things.

2. I have a Pinterest board that’s slowly taking shape, where I pin images that stir up inspiration. You can find it here. As a visual person, sometimes I just need a little more than what I conjure up in my head. I’ll be adding more to that soon, too! As a side note, I unexpectedly changed my protagonist’s ex-husband out for a new ex-husband (haha). And now I want to write a book about him (new ex-husband). “He” (or at least a little inspiration for his character) can be found in the first few photos of the board I just shared. He’s a chef. With a beard. And tattoos. He’s totally made up, but I wouldn’t hate meeting one of them. Haha.

3. I’ve previously shared the Spotify playlist for the novel. But I’ve been bouncing around a lot lately. If you’re on Spotify, I’d love to connect with you there. You can find my profile, here.

I just wanted to share a few quick notes. If you’re on Pinterest or Spotify, I’d love to connect with you.

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Your Eyes

elaina avalos, a thousand years, your eyes, pexels-luizclas-556662

You speak to me with your eyes.
I tried to let that be enough.
It was. But now it’s not.
These brief moments aren’t enough.
No moment, no flash in those beautiful
Eyes of yours – is enough. I only ever
Want and long for another moment more.
You speak to me with your eyes.
But I need more of you.
– Elaina

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Through the Fog

In the evenings, along the coast of Southern California, the marine layer rolls in part of the year and covers wide swaths of the southland. It’s what makes for blazing hot days – but cool evenings that require sweatshirts or jackets. The marine layer is also what makes cities like Temecula, perfect for growing grapes & making wine. I spent the first twenty-three years of my life watching this layer of cloud and fog roll in from the coast and over mountains. I spent my summers on OC beaches, with the “June Gloom” making our blue skies dark & grey (but not enough to keep us from the beach). The low hanging grey is as home as the Santa Ana winds, real Mexican food, and those places and people that I treasure and miss the most.

Along the central and northern coast, thick blankets of fog roll out from the sea toward land. San Francisco is one of my favorite places. Roaming around the city as a kid or teen, in the middle of a summer day – the temp could turn to chilly and the sky suddenly darker – as the fog blanketed the city. There’s something deeply comforting to me about the way it settles in. Maybe it’s the melancholy that follows writers around, that makes this comforting to me?

Except for right now. Right now, I’m in the midst of a fog that’s disorienting. It’s like the most socked-in fog I’ve ever experienced, except there’s not actually any fog in sight. I’m not intimidated by hard feelings, stressful circumstances, complicated relationships, dark nights of the soul, greys and shades of truth. We can suck the marrow out of life in these dark moments, in a way we can’t, when the sky is blue and everything is light and airy. But right now, I am dizzy and lost – as the dark settles in lower and lower. I can’t see past my own hand. After summers camping at San Clemente or in the Redwoods, or wandering through my favorite city, or watching the marine layer roll in over the “Ortegas” from my Grandma’s backyard, the fog, as it turned a bright day, dark – is comfort and home. It was the best kind of feeling and attached to so many of my favorite memories.

But right now, I can’t see clearly. It’s dark. Dark in a way I’m not comfortable with. And I’m not afraid of dark feelings and greying lines. I’m not afraid of wild things. But now? I can’t see through. I can’t see around. And I’m no closer to knowing what to do next, than I was the day the fog settled in.

And so I hope and pray that I’ll understand soon – why I’m here and how to find my way through the fog. Because right now, it’s too heavy and I long for clarity.

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I Need a New Adventure

Elaina Avalos, Elaina M. Avalos, comfort zone

The days repeat, each day bearing resemblance to the one before. In the quiet of my evenings, as the day fades and I prepare for a new one, I think about what the months ahead will bring. I long for change. I wait, not so patiently (though I try), for what has eluded me so far. I hope against hope that on the other side, the life waiting there is what I’ve prayed for, for so long. I am ready for the next steps. I don’t know where they’re leading, but I know where I want them to lead.

“The comfort zone is nothing else but a graveyard for your dreams & ideas.” -Anonymous

I question, as I sit here alone, what I’m waiting for. I know what my heart is waiting for. But I know why my head wants to press forward. I turn 45 in a few months and as April gets closer each day, the pull I feel, to pack up and move on, gets stronger. This birthday feels significant to me – far more than so many others. I tell myself to wait just a little longer. I get to an end of another long weekend and waiting seems futile in this silence. Today, I feel defeated in the midst of all this waiting. But I wait a little longer still. I honestly don’t know anymore, what exactly it is that I’m waiting for. If there was a clear sense that I was called to something greater or that I was meant to be here, making a difference, perhaps it wouldn’t be quite so hard? Perhaps I could press on. But the truth is, the wait appears on the surface to hold no purpose.              

“You can choose courage or you can choose comfort. You cannot have both.” -Brene Brown

In the wait, I only grow more certain that major change is needed. And more importantly, that I’m ready for it. I’ve never been able to turn down an adventure. The desire for new scenery, opportunities, people, and places isn’t new to me. It is what brought me across the country to Washington, D.C. in 2000 and then again in 2005. It’s what brought me to the desert of California and to the coast of North Carolina a few times. So here I am again. I need a new adventure. I don’t know how much longer before I get to start out on this new road, but I know it’s coming. I am ready.

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Delight and Joy

delight, elaina avalos, the book of delights, ross gay

I have always been really good at finding joy in the little, simple things in life. When I was living in the desert of California, I read a book called One Thousand Gifts* by Ann Voskamp. She challenged readers to write down all of the big and small gifts you run into throughout your day. I started doing just that. And on the original version of this blog, I created a page where I shared these gifts as I encountered them.

I got out of the habit of doing this a few years ago. I know exactly when it happened. But that’s another story. I miss the me that is easily entertained {haha}, can find joy in random silly things, and finds peace from a hike in the woods or stopping long enough to listen to the wind blowing through pine trees. Recently, I caught an episode of This American Life on my phone. It was called The Show of Delights. It hit the spot. I literally needed to listen to that particular show.

The show was entirely about delight. And as they say in their intro, that’s a radical thing to talk about in these dark times. I smiled the whole way to work listening to the stories shared. I loved the episode so much, I listened to it twice. If you enjoy podcasts, I highly recommend This American Life, if you don’t have an NPR station locally that plays it. But I digress.

In “Act One,” Ross Gay, a poet, shares a few of the things he finds delight in. It all started with him recording whatever random delight he experienced each day, in his journal. The journal turned into “essayettes” that became The Book of Delight. One of the stories he shared was about the day he carried a tomato seedling through the airport and onto a flight. It was a sweet story that kept me smiling throughout. After listening to Ross talk about delight – and the other stories – including an adorable one about a four-year old boy riding the bus for the first time, I knew it was time to revive some of the delight & joy that used to be so easy for me to see and find.

joy, delight, elaina avalos

I ordered a journal that’s the perfect size to slip into my purse & take with me wherever I go. I made a commitment to myself that I would work harder at finding and recognizing the little flashes of delight that come across my path. Gay mentions within the podcast that essentially – acknowledging the delight – ensures you continue to see it. I’m out of practice and atrophied in that area. I hate admitting that. But it’s true. Life doesn’t look how I expected it to look. Unfortunately, for far too long, the pain of that has stuck around. Which also means that I haven’t been seeing these pops and flashes of delight that are all around us, all of the time.

So – that means I’m going to practice. If you could use a little more positivity in your life, especially in these dark times, a gratitude or delight journal just might be the thing for you, too. The more we look for it, the more we’ll see it. Getting back as much delight and joy in my life as possible, is exactly what I need. If you want to join me, let me know! I’d love to have some folks join me. I’ll share here as often as I can.

What’s one thing around you that brings you joy or delight, that other people might not notice?

*Affiliate links

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Fiction Friday – Fix This

Here’s a quick excerpt for my work in progress, A Thousand Years.

My son cooked for me on the open fire – just like Michael had taught him from the time he was toddling around, following my ex-husband around everywhere. It was a perfect night, with a bit of a chill in the air – the fire kept us cozy. It was magic, like every other time we’d done this very thing. The Redwoods surrounding us and the distant sound of the ocean remind me of my good fortune. But just like the day that Gray came back into my life, I knew the magic of our lives in Big Sur would be over soon. I’d built up this safe little world for us here. We had our friends and our family and the constancy of the Pacific beating against the shore below our home. But it was only part of Jackson’s story. It was only part of mine. He had a whole other life out there. Along with a dad, half-siblings, and a longing to know his biological father. The longing was more intense than I ever truly realized until last week.

Michael had come to see us before leaving the country for some solo adventure – probably risking his life climbing some mountain somewhere. Our divorce, final for over two years now, had shocked everyone around us. We were quite the team. The chef husband and the vineyard owning wife – a duo that had taken the hospitality world by storm – beyond this wind beaten shore. It truly did shock everyone around us. Michael is a beautiful man. I mean, he’s beautiful to look at. But he’s also good and patient. And terribly kind. He’s one of the best men God’s ever made. He had his flaws. Don’t we all. He’d done the best he could for us though. It was never good enough for me. My friends thought I was insane when I asked him to move out. In only the way Michael can, he got it. I mean, he didn’t want to leave. He didn’t give up on us easily. But he’d settled into reality long before he actually moved out – maybe a year? In that year, we became roommates and best friends. Friends that shared a home, business and, raised a child. But friends just the same.

When he came over, before flying off to parts unknown, I knew Michael and Jackson would find some adventure to get into. After a hug and dropping off some food from the restaurant, he wandered out back with Jackson. They got in Michael’s Jeep and headed out. I knew they’d show up before dusk with fish or wild stories of finding some new waterfall or swimming in the freezing water of Castro Creek. And as expected, they did. They came home with fish and manly stories, smelling of the woods. Jackson hugged me when he came home and then wandered upstairs to watch TV. I stood with Michael while he cleaned the fish in our backyard, at the sink he’d installed when Jackson was a toddler. “Did you have fun?”

“Of course. We always do,” my ex-husband said, sounding more restrained than normal. My sense was, there was more.

“Is everything okay?” I ask.

“No,” he says, getting straight to the point, like he always does.

“Well don’t make me guess. What’s up?”

“Jackson figured out who is father is. I mean, he isn’t certain – but not five minutes into fishing he started talking. And the more he talked, the more he’d figured out.”

“He knows Gray is his father?”

“Yep. And the only thing saving you from your kid not hating you right now is that you’ve talked about his bio-dad his whole life. He knows how much you respect him and cared for him. But he’s angry, Birdie.”

“Why? What? How did -”

“Yeah, that. I mean, the two of them are spitting images. He knew that day Gray showed up here. He told me he didn’t know for sure until he heard you arguing with him on the porch. He said he listened at the door and couldn’t make out everything – but heard enough to think that there was a good chance.”

“And then Gray left.”

“And then Gray left. So as you can imagine, that sweet kid of yours is feeling a little lost and hurt. And rather than hurt you, he waited until he could talk to me about it.”

“Michael. My god. I’m sorry that you’ve been cleaning up after our mess for so long. Thank you for always being there for our boy.”

“You know I love him like he’s mine. I never, not for one second, want to know a life without that kid in it – some way, somehow. But he’s hurting now because Gray walked out and here we are three weeks later and you haven’t talked to him about it. As far as he knows, Gray’s gone forever.”

“I’m a horrible person,” I say.

“Not horrible. Just blind, sometimes,” he says. “I love you, Birdie. I always will. But you need to fix this before you lose that sweet kid. Promise me,” he says, turning off the water and turning to face me.

“I promise. I don’t deserve you. I’m so grateful you’re still here, in spite of what a shitty partner I was.”

“You weren’t a shitty partner. Don’t be dramatic. You just didn’t love me, like I loved you.”

“Oh yeah. Just that little thing. Thank you for coming over. You are the best.”

“I am. Truly.”

“Let me know when you’re home safe?” I ask, as he finishes up and hands me a platter of freshly caught fish.

“Of course.” He washes his hands with the soap I keep under the sink. The way he moves reminds me of how long we shared a life. I know his every step.

“Thank you for everything.”

“You’re welcome, Birdie,” he says, drying his hands on the towel I brought out for him. He sets it on the counter of the old vintage sink we’d found at an estate sale in Morro Bay, right after we got married. “I love you,” he says, as he brotherly side hugs me on his way out. His eyes tell me he’s not yet moved on. I ache that I can’t be the wife to him that I longed to be.

“I love you, too,” I say. Michael walks down the long sidewalk that leads out to our carport. I watch him as he goes and wonder how I ever deserved being loved by him. I’m grateful he walked alongside us for so long. He loves my boy and that alone is more than I can repay.

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Let It Be Me

About five years ago, I encountered a couple in the parking lot of a grocery store. They were probably in their late 70’s. I remember this because I wrote it about it when I got home. The husband was fiddling around with something in the car. The wife waited for him. When he closed the car door, she reached out for him. He took her hand. She looked at him with the sweetest look and biggest smile. It’s the kind of look you’d expect from a couple newly in love and infatuated with each other. It was a vision of what I want my life to look like, more than thirty years from now.

Around the same time, I ran across the photo below, on Pinterest.

elaina avalos, let it be me, live well be well.

I don’t know their story. But obviously, in the midst of her laying in a hospital bed, they’re laughing. He’s holding her hand and they’re laughing their way through. Maybe I put too much thought into a random photo? Or maybe, like the couple I saw at the store, they’ve figured out the secret to lasting love.

Except it’s not really a secret. I think people like this – who have a lasting love – understand what it means to commit to love each other in the good times and bad. They are partners. True companions. In the good times and in the bad times, they hold each other up. Or, as sometimes happens, one partner has to carry the other for awhile. People always say relationships are 50/50. I don’t agree. I think both partners have to give 100%. And then in those times when things are bad, your 100% may be a whole lot less. This is when we pick up the slack, as the stronger partner in the moment. This is how we stand in the gap for the one we love.

As a woman who writes novels, short stories, and poems – usually about love – I don’t need much to ignite the inspiration when it comes to the infatuated, falling for someone, rose-colored glasses part of love and romance. But I also think the greatest thing about sharing your life with someone is when you do so when it gets hard or when it’s just the every day normal. This is where you grow as a couple and as individuals. But it’s a conscious decision to do so. Honestly, it’s easier to give up, let go, and retreat. Choosing to love, trust, work through, and to carry your love when it’s hardest – is how love and respect deepen into something richer and more beautiful.

“Do you know what a pearl is and what an opal is? My soul when you came sauntering to me first through those sweet summer evenings was beautiful but with the pale passionless beauty of a pearl. Your love has passed through me and now I feel my mind something like an opal, that is, full of strange uncertain hues and colours, of warm lights and quick shadows and of broken music.” – James Joyce

I saw this quote a couple of weeks ago and it’s been on my mind a lot. There are a variety of versions of this same idea. But I love the opal and pearl variation by Joyce. Opals and pearls are two of my favorites. Opals are so unique. I’ve loved them since I was a little girl. It’s because of the cracks, fissures, and odd shapes in its surface, that the fiery colors can truly shine. That’s the thing about loving well – our color and beauty deepens, as light beaks through those fissures and cracks. I’m not afraid of the hard places, knowing this is where the real work of lasting love takes place.

In a world where we talk more about what we deserve, I’m more interested in the choices I make every day to love well – when it’s romantic and sweet and when it’s so damn ugly it hurts. “So when all your faith is gone and it feels like you can’t go on – let it be me.” Let it be me, friend. In the light and the dark, when it’s easy and when it’s excruciatingly difficult – let it be me.

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As Soon as You Can

When the fireworks lit the night sky, I missed you beside me.
When the conversation flowed today,
around topics that remain just out of my reach,
I thought first and only of you.
When the fireflies danced around me, I wanted you to see it too.
When I think about the future, it’s your advice I need.
When I turn the key, it’s your voice I want to hear, calling out.
When I shop for groceries, mop the floor, and put together furniture,
it’s you I wish to be near by.
As soon as you can.
I’d like you to get here as soon as you can.
~ Elaina M. Avalos

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We Will Be Stronger

I started out last week wanting to share a few posts about where I’m at in the novel writing process, a quick sample of my “work in progress,” and a post about some wellness related stuff. But then Wednesday, January 6th happened and I didn’t feel much like saying anything at all.

I don’t have the words to fully express my feelings about what happened at the Capitol on Wednesday. I have lots and lots of feelings and thoughts, but none of them feel quite right to express in this space. And as a result, I didn’t want to post anything here.

I’m trying to get back to a more normal schedule this week. It’s my first full week back at work since mid-December and while the country has a long road ahead, I am using a few more filters {watching less news}, to try and calm some of the anxiety that Wednesday’s events brought up, for me.

I will say this. I lived in the D.C. area a couple of times in my life {and would love to move back one day}, as a much younger woman. The first time, I was the personal employee for a political appointee {she worked at The White House}. The second time, I worked for a human rights agency. As a history & political nerd, who is also ridiculously patriotic, there’s really no better place to live. Northern Virginia and the Capitol are filled with our history, of course.

But, it’s also a beautiful city with a phenomenal park system, trails, fun activities, festivals, markets, and awesome restaurants. I did and experienced things there that will stay with me forever. I don’t like a lot of things happening in my country, but I love it nonetheless. And I love the actual, physical place that holds so many of the symbols of our unique democracy.

It was painful to watch what happened on January 6th, 2021. I hated watching these symbols of our freedom in that condition and the safety of public servants on the line, by my fellow Americans. But even more than that, I was deeply saddened that a road I worried we were on – was ending where I had most feared. It has given me a lot to think & pray about.

I will sign off for now – with one last thought. Quite honestly, the United States works because dissent and disagreement are cornerstones of our system. In years past, we see this when we elect a President from one party and a Congress of the other party. We as the public tend to not want all of one party in charge for too long. This back and forth happens often. Additionally, we have a “balance” of the three branches of government, for a reason. The sadness I’ve felt this week is not about conflict. We have been in conflict as long as we’ve been a country. It’s part of what makes our system work. What I am sad about, however, is that the very principles we were founded on were clearly and horribly trampled on. They were sickly encouraged, given a voice, and evil had its day – parading as patriotism.

The former governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, spoke to the public very eloquently today about the Night of Broken Glass in Austria and called the 6th, the U.S. version of “Day of the Broken Glass. His words were moving and eloquent – particularly when he talked about how swords are formed. He’s right of course – “the more it’s tempered, the stronger it becomes.” We have a lot of work to do. But on the other side, we will be stronger.

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The First Step Toward Change

elaina avalos, take the first step, accomplish goals, chasing dreams, nathaniel branden

My apartment is a disaster because I’m halfway through taking down the Christmas decorations. I have a second bedroom to organize & clean out {went from a 4 bedroom house to a small 2 bedroom apartment}. I have a bunch of food to meal prep for my week and I need to write. I’ve been up since 7:00 AM, but I’ve accomplished next to nothing. Nonetheless, I am reminding myself to apply liberal helpings of grace on myself. I still need to {and will} accomplish what’s in front of me {the above mentioned items are just the tip of the iceberg}. So while the day isn’t going as planned & there’s a huge mess, I also know that this year and last, were hard and exhausting. I’m getting back to normal. But after what I’ve been through, I can’t expect perfection nor should I. I am aware of my limitations and my strengths and what I need to do, to accomplish what lies ahead. That is the first step – awareness of what I need to do to change and acknowledgement of my current limitations.

In a world where we’re constantly inundated by what everyone else is doing and accomplishing – shared online in a perfect photo – it’s overwhelming and honestly, it’s discouraging. While there are many out there I am encouraged by – it’s usually those who are real about life – in their triumphs and failures, that are most encouraging to me. But I have already taken the first steps, not only to accomplish what I want to accomplish while away from the office, but in the upcoming year, too. Those are the first two steps of change – awareness and acceptance.

If you’re anything like me and you are holding yourself to standards that are based in superficial or artificial requirements or because you’re comparing yourself to others – give yourself a break. While the goals are still ahead, the Christmas mess still needs to be cleaned up, and my healthy meals still need to be made – what good is beating myself up? What do you accomplish by beating yourself up? Usually very little except keeping yourself stalled in place.

Take the first step toward change. Then take the second step. And then give yourself some grace along the way.

How do you motivate yourself when you have a goal to accomplish?

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Merry Christmas!

While I am sure I will have more to say on 2020, between the 26th and the 31st, I hope that you have a Merry Christmas – even if it’s quiet and not quite like you hoped. It surely isn’t for me. I know countless others feel that way too. It has been a hard year. As we celebrate Christmas and gear up for the end of 2020, be kind to yourself. I hope you have a peaceful & joy-filled holiday.

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A Meal Shared

elaina avalos, live well be well

In the late days of spring, when the chill is gone and summer sits right at the gate, quietly whispering its promise, I’ll cook a meal, our first to be eaten outside for months. The table will be surrounded by candles and white lights. The flowers I found at the farmer’s market gracing the table with pops of color.

In the kitchen, with Pandora choosing our soundtrack, I’ll dance around, my spirit light and full of hope. I don’t know why it is that cooking does this for me {or maybe I do}, but it gives me joy.

Coq Au Vin, parsley potatoes and if I want to really Julia Child it, buttered green peas. There’s a joy that takes over me when in the kitchen, but it increases when I’m cooking for others. The routine of chopping, pouring and measuring is better than therapy. Cooking for another increases this soul satisfaction.

When the food is ready and we sit to eat, you’ll pour the wine – perhaps a red from the southern Rhone Valley? I’ll wait for you to take the first bite. And then I will wait for your approval (which, I will get). But I’ll wait with anticipation just the same.

There’s something so absolutely beautiful about a meal shared. Food, made well, and with passion, is sensual and life-giving. It meets a basic need for nourishment. And yet, there’s something so luxurious about the process of creating. And then, the slow process of savoring a meal with company you treasure, begins.

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Naming Novel Characters & Editing

In November, I wrote 50,000 words of a novel, that I’ve titled A Thousand Years. The novel needs another 30,000-ish more words but I’m still proud of myself for getting out the first 50,000 in 30 days. Here on my blog, I’ve shared some short fiction or vignettes from the novel here. These little bits & pieces will appear in the novel as reflections or letters, that my protagonist writes to her long lost love. Now that I’ve written the bulk of the novel, I’ve had to take some steps back and work on naming novel characters and editing.

I’ve written a novel and parts of others, but this has been a unique experience from the beginning. Not only have I struggled with naming the characters, but I’ve now drastically adjusted the plot too. From the beginning, this novel has been unlike any other I’ve worked on.

I’ve named the characters several times now. Eek. I wrote a short story about the characters and picked names that sounded southern to me. Then I wasn’t sure I wanted both of them to be from the south. The male character’s name sounds too much like a character in another novel I’ve started. Then I asked for folks on Facebook to pick a name for me! I picked one of those names and was comfortable with his name at the time. I wrote the entire novel using that name.

And then lo and behold . . . I realized it’s much too contemporary. It’s more like a name the characters would name their son versus a name of a man that’s 40 or older. Oy vey. I wanted my protagonist’s name to be southern and finally settled on Carolina – with the newly popular {in the south} again – Birdie, as her nickname. But it wasn’t just Graham and Carolina I struggled with. I struggled with allllll of the characters. This is one thing I never have an issue with. Character names come to me very easily. Weird. I think I’ve finally settled into the names now, however. In my experience, a name can come to you and it’s not until later that you realize you don’t want to name a certain character that, because it’s the name of someone you know and it’s your villain. Oops. Totally an accident.

The other issue with the novel is some very shaky plot points and concerns pointed out by my first two beta readers {thanks, Jackie & Mom}. Thankfully, after thinking and talking through where the story was struggling, I think I have a great plan for getting back on track. As of this evening, I won’t be back in the office until after the New Year, so besides cleaning up my spare room to set up a nursery/toddler room {I’m getting re-licensed as a foster parent}, I’m also looking forward to writing and editing.

I’m excited to get working on it – now that I’ve got some time off. By the way, the photos are part of my inspiration as the central coast of California is part of Carolina & Graham’s story.

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I Don’t Need Much

The greatest wants in my life have never been things, but instead, my greatest want has always been a lasting love & a family – however that family is built. That will be my greatest accomplishment when I leave this world. I’m certain of this.

I don’t need much – just him and the life we will build. It’s a simple thing, really.

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If You Were Coming in the Fall

Emily Dickinson, If you were coming in the fall, elaina avalos, elaina m. avalos

Emily sure knew how to write them.

Part Three: Love

VI

IF you were coming in the fall,
I ’d brush the summer by
With half a smile and half a spurn,
As housewives do a fly.

If I could see you in a year,
I ’d wind the months in balls,
And put them each in separate drawers,
Until their time befalls.

If only centuries delayed,
I ’d count them on my hand,
Subtracting till my fingers dropped
Into Van Diemen’s land.

If certain, when this life was out,
That yours and mine should be,
I ’d toss it yonder like a rind,
And taste eternity.

But now, all ignorant of the length
Of time’s uncertain wing,
It goads me, like the goblin bee,
That will not state its sting.

If you’re not a big fan of poetry, this is a good {and quick} analysis. In short, this is a poem about love, longing, and I’d say – anxiety too – as Emily ponders how long their separation will last {and weighs if it will end}.

If you were coming in the Fall,
I’d brush the Summer by

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Decorating for Christmas on a Budget

decorating for christmas on a budget, elaina avalos, elaina m. avalos

I love Christmas. I love the lights, the music, the movies, and the childlike hope of it all. Decorating for Christmas is a pure joy for me. But one thing I’ve never done is spend a lot of money on Christmas decorations. I like to see Christmas everywhere I look, so that includes additional bedrooms and bathrooms. And while that’s not hard to do in my tiny apartment, this is only the second Christmas in ages I’ve lived in an apartment {thank you, Hurricane Florence}. Decorating my houses took a bit more effort.

But I have a lot of decorations now, so when I finally get back into a house again, I’m all set. So how does one decorate on a budget? I know the temptations this time of year. When you don’t, won’t, or can’t use credit to create a Christmas like you see on TV, or one that keeps up with the Joneses next door, how do you create the beauty you envision, without the price tag that comes with it?

I wanted to share a few of the things I’ve done over the years to create a collection I love – even though the vast majority has cost me very little. If you want to add to or change your decor and don’t have a lot of cash to do so, it just takes a little patience to get there.

First – Start with a goal. Do you want a color or theme? Do you want a variety of themes? Are you a white lights on the tree person, or a color light person? Once you have that figured out, there are some great ways to start your tree out inexpensively and then add from there.

Decorating Your TreeDollar Tree is your best friend. If you’ve never bought Dollar Tree ornaments, you’re missing out. The photo above is the first set of ornaments I bought about eight years ago. They’re sold in sleeves of multiples – so for $1.00 you get, depending on the colors, at least 6. I believe the larger packages have 10-12. When I wanted to change over from a red/gold theme, to something more coastal, I went with the white and silver. I honestly bought more than I needed, over a couple of holiday seasons. Filling the tree with those ornaments, plus the silver beads shown, allowed me to fill in as I could, with the various shades of blue I’ve added. While I’d hoped to link the balls at Dollar Tree, they’re not on the website {but likely still in your local store}. These are similar and reasonably priced at $7.99 for 24 pieces.

Now that I’ve added more ornaments to my tree, some of the white and silver ornaments have found their way to vases, trays, etc. for other rooms in the house.

Decorative Hooks – While this might sound kind of silly, one of my favorite inexpensive finds was the pretty decorative hooks I found at Wal Mart originally. They add a nice touch, in my opinion. These ornament hooks can be found just about anywhere – including Target, Wal Mart, and Amazon – like these.

I went with a variety of shades of blue and silver as my accent colors. When I receive ornaments as gifts that are either clear glass or silver, I also add these to the main tree that sits in my living room. Because I adore all things vintage and mid-century, I bought blue, glass, or silver ornaments, when priced right, at thrift stores, small boutiques, or antique stores.

When Hobby Lobby starts it 50% off sale on Christmas decor, I also purchase 1-2 boxes of ornaments using them around the house – not just on the tree. This Santa came as a set of three. There is one on the tree and the other two are around the house.

Also purchased in the Hobby Lobby half-off sales – two different types of icicle ornaments in shades of blue.

I spent full price on two sets of glass ornaments in the last few years. But that’s a rarity. I love them though!

When I decorate around the house, I remove much of my day to day decor, placing it in the same boxes as my ornaments. It’s a one for one switch. My shelves {what little space I have for them in this apartment} are all decorated. The small glitter houses I use on the display below, have been added to my collection over the last few years. I have never spent more than a couple of bucks {Wal Mart, Hobby Lobby, or Big Lots} on each piece with the exception of two of them – which are ceramic. Those were purchased at Hobby Lobby on sale and came to about $10.00 for the two.

Most of these are ornaments take up a couple of shelves {top & bottom} with my white ceramic Nativity set {given to me by my mom} in the middle. I highly recommend buying multiple sets of glitter Christmas trees for a village like this, as it adds to the sparkle. They can be used and moved anywhere for new displays. They are sometimes sold in sets, but are often available individually for very little.

Because of my love for vintage decor, any time I was offered ornaments or decorations from my Grandma Light, Mom, or my Aunts, I said, “YES!” That includes my Grandma’s ceramic Christmas tree. I usually display it with some of the colorful ornaments I’ve started buying in recent years that aren’t mid-century – but have that look.

The white tree is a mid-century piece owned by my Grandma Light. It is an appetizer holder {see small holds for toothpicks}. The others are new but fit my vintage Christmas theme in the kitchen.

Finally, I had always wanted a Christmas village, but couldn’t ever imagine paying full price for any items for it. I’m such a cheapskate. And honestly, I wouldn’t want to trade my mismatched one now. I’ve included a special set of items from my Grandma’s collection and then added to it over the last couple of holiday seasons with . . . you guessed it, Dollar Tree, Wal Mart, and Big Lots. Big Lots has some fun sets {for around $16.00} that come as complete scenes. These are fun ways to add to your village or finish one. I used their sets for inspiration {for instance a Christmas tree lot} and made my own. I found the bridge at a flea market. The silver barn is from the Target “Dollar Spot” and has battery operated lights inside.

I have two Christmas trees. But this post is long and my Sunday afternoon responsibilities are calling me. The second tree is all of my childhood ornaments, things my kiddo made me, and eventually will be come a vintage-themed tree. I am ridiculous for fitting two trees into this tiny place, but whatever. I’m fine with being ridiculous.

Additionally, I haven’t shared the other decor I have around the house. But my Nacimiento in the entry way and the small trays or vases used in other rooms – all make me just as happy to see – even in rooms I’m not in as often.

This sits on the side table, next to my couch. The vintage ornaments are sitting in a vintage glass appetizer tray. But DT’s silver trays work great for this purpose too.

Use Pinterest and even those pesky IG influencers, with their perfect houses to inspire you. But don’t feel like you can’t decorate your home in a way that makes you happy, when you can’t afford to keep up with others. Find what you like online to inspire you & then keep your eyes peeled for sales, glittery baubles that look expensive – but aren’t, and go to Dollar Tree {even if you have to find one in another town that’s better than yours}.

Do you have an heirloom pieces or favorite decor that has cost you very little but has become a favorite over the years? I’d love to hear about it!

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The Battle is Between our Ears

elaina m. avalos, the battle is between our ears, three tips for finding peace and calm in trying times

The photo below was posted today on Pastor Craig Groeschel‘s Facebook page. The timing was perfect. I’ve been working really hard at keeping my mind focused and on what I can control versus the vast world around me that I simply cannot. What can I control? Not much. I can control what I allow to impact my emotions. I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with any emotion. The issue is what we do with it once it pops into our brain. I’m so over and done with letting situations, people, and the world in general steal my peace and joy.

Aren’t you? The world is a hard place right now. Between a global pandemic, economic instability, political tensions, and so many other things impacting us {that no one ever sees or knows about}, the best form of self- care, as far as I’m concerned, is to not let everything around us, win the battle for our mind. I am absolutely convinced we do have 100% control over that.

The battle is between our ears, friend. I’m certain. Please hear me on this point though – I know there are physiological causes of depression, anxiety, etc. Sometimes medication is what we need. Sometimes, we need therapy. Sometimes we need a combination of these things. But if you’re anything like me, I can {and do} spin myself up into a frenzy of anxiety & frustration over what? Someone else’s behavior I can’t control? Decisions made by politicians I can’t control {outside my vote}? I have literally no control over these things. And yet, somehow, they control my emotions.

No, bro.

My peace – your peace – it’s precious. So is our time. We only have so much of it. We can’t live forever. If it’s our jobs that steal our peace, think about what’s left after the job is gone and we’re left with what’s left? Did we build enough and invest enough in our own lives, that when we look back, we have what lasts, surrounding us? What’s left when we retire or move on to the next place? Hopefully it’s the people that mean the most to us. The job certainly won’t. Titles and awards and so-called accomplishments only get you so far.

What’s happening in the world today is no different. All of this will pass. We will get on the other side of this. We will. The masks, the limitations on our ability to do what we want, when we want, the people fighting over COVID and vaccines, and presidential elections – it will all go away soon enough. When it’s gone, what will it have stolen from you? Relationships? Time?

I won’t tell a lie – there is one area where I struggle with this more than others. I won’t share details about that here. But I’m trying. I think the hardest place to fight this battle is when it’s the people you care for the most, that are throwing your emotions into a tailspin.

But for me, I just can’t let any of the negativity around me, steal time, peace, or joy from me. So how exactly do we do that? I think it looks different for everyone. Here are three tips for finding peace and calm in trying times:

craig groeschel, elaina m. avalos, the battle is between our ears, three tips for finding peace and calm in trying times
  1. I’m picking my battles. I can’t fight or win all of them. If you don’t know where to begin, start with what lies ahead of you. Lay it all out in front of you – literally or figuratively – and choose to fight & wage the battles you can win. There may be less wins than you’re comfortable with. But if you make it through to the other side with your peace intact and you haven’t wasted time on things that don’t matter to you, that’s all the winning you need, friends.
  2. I’ve got a list of things I’m using to keep myself motivated & my head in the game. Quotes, Bible verses, music, yes, even essential oils. I’m walking again. I am working on getting back into a regular yoga practice. I am using meditation and mindfulness. I am praying. I am using apps like Headspace & Oak. I use a devotional app called Lectio 365. I don’t always keep up with Lectio 365. But when I do, I’m really glad I do. I’m asking myself a few questions when something happens to steal my peace: Can you control this? Can you change this person, this situation, or even their perception? Is my lack of ability in controlling them, impacting my emotional state or even my ability to accomplish tasks I need or want to accomplish? Why am I letting someone who will soon be a memory – impact my life today, tomorrow, or even six months from now?
  3. I’m taking breaks, giving myself some grace, and slowing down. I can’t be all things, at all times, to all people. If I need a break at work, I take it. If I need to lay on my couch longer on Saturday than I “should,” I give myself a freaking break. Give yourself a damn break. These are hard times. Even harder when you through in all the “normal” shit that can weigh us down. Give yourself some grace. You are not and cannot be all things, to all people. Do the best you can and leave it at that. Literally leave it at that. Leave it. And trust that the rest {or whatever} you’ve gained, is more than worth it.

    I started this year with wellness as my One Word for 2020. Ah, the irony. But in the long run, as usually happens, I find myself in December, seeing the ways my word has followed me all year, teaching me major lessons. And in the final three months of this crappy, dumpster fire of a year, I got one of the biggest lessons {for me} on being well and living well: the battle is in my head. And I know how to win that battle.
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Apple Cider Margarita

apple cider margarita, elaina m. avalos, elaina avalos, cocktails, pretty cocktails

Here’s something you should know about me – I enjoy good food, great cocktails, and wine. I don’t cook as often as I would like to these days. I hope to get back to that. Until I do, I figured I’d share some of my favorite cocktails.

Apple cider margaritas are a favorite this time of year. Here’s something else you should know about me – I am not a big sweets person. Even with cocktails, I’d go more with a refreshing, dry, or citrus flavored drink over something super sweet. But combining apple cider with bourbon or tequila is a favorite in spite of my not-so-sweet tooth. Another thing? I love orange-flavored anything – especially this time of year. Orange & cranberry, orange & chocolate in desserts, orange, orange, and more orange.

I like the way the orange cuts into some of the sweetness of the cider, versus one that is straight apple cider.

apple cider margarita, elaina m. avalos, elaina avalos, cocktails, pretty cocktails

Don’t worry, I won’t make you scroll through some long story 😉 for ingredients, directions, or substitutions.

Ingredients:
1.5-2 oz of gold tequila {or your fav silver – I rarely buy gold anymore}
1 oz of your favorite triple sec. I prefer this one.
1 orange
Your favorite apple cider
Sugar for rimming your glass
Cinnamon sticks
Your fav margarita glass
Cocktail shaker & jigger
Hand-held grater

Directions:
– Wash your orange & then add some orange zest to the cocktail shaker, with your grater.
– Quarter your orange. Use one quarter to add fresh orange juice to the shaker. Use the spent orange quarter to rim your glass. Set your orange aside.
– Rim your glass with sugar. I don’t use white granulated sugar. I use either demura sugar or pure cane sugar. It looks better with this drink than white & I rarely have white sugar in my house.
– Pour tequila, triple sec, and apple cider into shaker. Add some ice & shake!
– Use a peeler to peel a nice curly q or two from the orange.
– Pour your margarita into your marg glass and add your orange peel slices to the top. Cut a thin slice of orange as a garnish. Enjoy!
– I also added a cinnamon stick as a garnish yesterday – just for the heck of it. I used it to stir my drink. 🙂

Substitutions or Variations:
– Mix ground cinnamon in your sugar to rim the glass.
– Use bitters. I am out of my fav bitters {womp, womp} but used a dash of Angostura.
– Gold tequila is probably more traditional for a drink like this. I just don’t buy it very often. If you aren’t a big tequila drinker and want recommendations, let me know! In general, I highly recommend Camarena. It’s a good moderately priced tequila.
– Add a 1/2 to 1 oz of Fireball whisky {instead of triple sec & orange} for an extra cinnamony punch.

apple cider margarita, elaina m. avalos, elaina avalos, mcm barware, mcm glassware, culver glassware, mid century modern glassware, mid century modern barware, cocktails, pretty cocktails

What’s your favorite go-to cocktail in the fall & winter?

¡Salud!

apple cider magarita, elaina m. avalos, elaina avalos, cocktail, pretty cocktail
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Five Ways to Show Her You Care

  1. Give her your time & attention. When you’re with her, be all there. Don’t pay more attention to your phone, a football or video game (or whatever), than her. This fits nearly all women’s desire to feel listened to and heard. But it becomes even more important for those of us who may have not been a priority, were cheated on at some point, or had trust broken in some other way. This is a hard one for me. And I know I’m not alone. It’s the worst feeling.
  2. Buy her chairs.” If you don’t know what that means, you need to watch one of my favorite movies of all time – Phenomenon. What is that one thing she “throws herself into?” How can you find a way to invest yourself – in some form or fashion – into something she’s passionate about?

Besides “Lacey’s chairs” which George bought so many of, he had an entire room of them stacked to the ceiling, there’s also a sweet secondary storyline where Forest Whitaker’s character falls for his housekeeper and learns Portuguese to talk to her. It’s very tender and sweet.

3. Send her random texts to let you know you’re thinking of her.

4. Bring up the things she’s told you about – things she likes, things you’ve discussed, etc. Demonstrate that you’re listening and paying attention. When you repeat the little things she’s shared, that show you really pay attention, it makes a lasting impact not only on her self-esteem, but in her confidence in you and helps her feel cared for.

5. Compliment her.

What else would you add to this quick list?

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Wild Things

jeff-finley-FfGSxv4lITs-unsplash
Photo By: Jeff Finley

“My love for you is strong
Lord it brings me to my knees
It was born in the wild”
– Ryan Adams

It is untamed. Wild and unplanned. I wake deep in thought, recalling the mornings in the Redwoods – the air cold and damp. There was nothing around but the untouched forest. Standing there, facing the west, I saw the Pacific resting between the hills – the brush wild and untamed. So perfectly beautiful and lonely.

This is what it’s like to love you. On a day I least expected you, there you were. We are perfect partners. We think alike. But not. In that place in between, where we differ, you shine most.

There are more questions than answers. In the beauty of this wild thing, I long for you. What is and will not be follows me around like a coastal fog. Through the haze I see you. I don’t hold it against you – you can’t tame wild things.

I live here in this tension, with what will not be, settling into the cold, wild – alone.

emma-gossett-mEeXTctzwBs-unsplash
Photo By: Emma Gossett

The Trouble With Wanting, Is I Want You

It’s Tuesday and I’m feeling all sorts of feelings today. I’m also diving into another freaking re-write of A Thousand Years. Sometimes I think it’s torture to be a writer {can I get a witness?}. This would be the third reincarnation of this love story. Maybe the third times the charm.

Here are some random musings & three four of my favorite songs this week:

  1. Feeling resigned to my fate, today. I’m learning to be at peace with this. Maybe my new adventure needs to cook a little while longer? Perhaps it will come when it’s good and ready?
  2. I am enjoying a glass of cheap cabernet sauvignon {Winemakers Selection} tonight. I haven’t bought wine in a while because my old lady metabolism needed some drastic help to get working again {getting older as a woman, is just plain rude}. I’ve lost 10 pounds so I’m having a little treat. Also, for a cheap wine, it’s pretty good.
  3. Below are three of my newly discovered favorite songs for the week. Into the Mystic by Van Morrison is an honorable mention. I’d forgotten how much I love this song “I wanna rock your gypsy soul…” How do I get a hold of the man that will rock my gypsy soul? Also, why is Van Morrison so good? Oh! The second honorable mention goes to the stunning Joy Williams with The Trouble with Wanting. Oh shoot, maybe that’s my favorite this week? I just added it. “The trouble with wanting is I want you/And I want you all the time.”
  4. I love planning events. I’m currently in the process of planning two – with a small get-together happening this Friday {the first of three}. It gives me such joy. I’m an entertainer & hostess at heart. I don’t know why – but it truly brings me joy.
  5. I’m currently procrastinating starting the third re-write of A Thousand Years. Someone tell me to go write.
  6. Okay, I started working. But I’m easily distracted. I think I might as well formally set up my “office.” Perhaps that will help me stay on target? I’m currently lounging on the couch like a bum. Not the most conducive for writing. Maybe that’s my project for this weekend?
  7. I promise this post has taken me quite some time to write. I am actually accomplishing something.
  8. I think that’s the end of the random, this evening…

RAIN Meditation Technique

On Sunday, I shared a YouTube video from Dr. Tara Brach, on the RAIN meditation technique. But this morning, I saw that Dr. Laurie Santos had an interview with Dr. Brach on her podcast, The Happiness Lab. If I failed to explain well, please check out Episode 18 where Dr. Santos talks with Dr. Brach about how our emotions (often seen as negative emotions) or difficulties give us an opportunity to stop in the moment and connect with “what is really important to us and our happiness,” through mindfulness. The RAIN acronym stands for:

  • R – Recognize what is happening
  • A – Allow life to be just as it is
  • I – Investigate inner experience with kindness
  • N – Non-Identification.

To view more, go here.