Never Changing my Cell Phone Number

Elaina Avalos, Foster Care,

In the fall of last year, I taught my foster son my cell phone number. He’d already learned our address. When he first moved in, we had tried the cell phone number along with our address, but he wasn’t too interested.

So we worked on the phone number again in the fall. By December, he knew it by heart & would randomly bring it up.

He called me during a visit with his family.

He still knows the number. We talked about it a lot in the last couple of months before he left my home. In a card I gave him right after he left, I reminded him that he knew my phone number and that he could call me anytime he needs help.

He may never need to call that number. That is my hope and prayer.

But I’m never giving up that phone number. Like over my dead body will I change that number. I want him to know that he truly can find me and ask for help if he needs it. I don’t want him to need that. My heart longs for a hopeful, joy-filled life – one in which he never needs to call on me.

He deserves the absolute best. And I know he is destined for great things. But I needed him to know that I’m a phone call away.

We are inching closer to two months since he left. I miss him terribly. My emotions are all over the place. I wonder sometimes if I’ll ever feel able to do this again. But in my heart of hearts, I know I want to be a foster parent.

Risking my heart is worth it for them. Though I don’t always feel it right now.

I took a week off from work. Combined with the Labor Day holiday, it has been a good break. I hoped that during some time off from work, I’d feel a little more even.

Now that it’s time to go back {well, after the hurricane that is}, I’m not ready. I won’t tell a lie, I looked into ways to take a leave absence. But there’s no easy way to accomplish that.

I spent a lot of time doing nothing in the last week and a half. Quite literally. I felt guilty about it at first. Then I didn’t. Sometimes you need to just to do nothing.

While sometimes I feel like I could use about four more weeks of this, I know it’s time to keep marching forward.

But my heart is still in about September of 2018 – when I couldn’t imagine any other life than one with my foster son. Not because I didn’t understand foster care & its goals, but because he hadn’t seen his bio mom since March. And all signs pointed toward a plan change and adoption.

While I have come to understand foster care {and adoption} as deeply complex and not understood in black & white terms, I also know that I wasn’t alone in the belief that this would be our ultimate path. More than one person estimated by summer of 2019, he would be adopted.

We had a very different course. Ultimately, that course changed drastically in about a three-month period. I still haven’t wrapped my brain around it. So I’m giving myself a break.

I’m not ready to go back to work. But I’m going. When I go, I’ll probably won’t beat myself up much about the pace I need to keep – which is frankly probably more than I should keep anyway.

I’m not ready to stop being sad sometimes. So I will let myself.

Sometimes we should probably give ourselves a break.

And I’ll never change my cell phone number.

Sea Glass Hearts

Elaina Avalos, fiction, author, #amwriting

I am made of salt and sand and the deep jade green of the Atlantic. The salt air courses through my veins. This place, these waves, the sea glass and shells with rounded edges, beaten constantly in the surf, are the pieces and places of my very soul. The heady scent of the ocean air tells me I’m finally home, though I’m not at all conscious of having lived near this shore. In the setting sun of a July evening, the billowing thunderheads in the distance play with the sun. Shadows and light dance on the surface of the ocean at once bringing out the sparkle, and then moments later shrouding the light in darkness. “So this is it?” I ask no one. Home. The word and all of its implications fill me with competing emotions. I look back towards the car, parked a hundred yards away in the parking lot of the town’s traffic circle. It’s the center of this beach town, on the Southern Outer Banks of North Carolina.


I turn back to the ocean and breathe deeply, taking it all in. Just up the road is the house I bought, sight unseen, sitting first row, pointed towards the sea. I have spent a lifetime, nearly thirty-eight years, dreaming of what it would be like to find the place where I began, to return to my beginnings. To the place where I had been knit together in my mother’s womb. When I was a child, before I had been adopted and floated between countless foster and group homes, I made day trips to the beaches of Southern California. In the course sand of those crowded beaches, I convinced myself that I might as well have been a mermaid for all I really knew. One thing I knew for sure, in the deepest part of my being? I belonged to the sea.

Somehow, as I would stand there, as a kid, wearing my church charity last year’s style bathing suit, I knew that the sea called me, and would continue to call me . . . home.

Written By Elaina M. Avalos

Childless Mothers – The Beauty & Grief of Being a Foster Mom

Jason Johnson, foster care, Elaina Avalos,

What makes a woman a mother?

Is it biology? I mean, yes. Duh.

But it’s more than that. Sometimes we are loved best by those who don’t share a single tie to us biologically. We’ve come up with a term for it – framily.

Sometimes a mom by biology doesn’t want to be or is not capable of being a mom.

I’m a mom. I was a mom. “My” boy isn’t with me anymore. But I love him fiercely and always will. Today, in this quiet house void of noise, chaos, and without the boy mess left in his wake, I fight for the words to express the love, loss, grief, and the hope I fight to find.

Beyond the grief of saying goodbye to my boy, I grieve the loss of the family that I had waited so long to have.

Motherhood was my biggest dream and deepest longing. As I’ve faced the reality of having said goodbye to this little boy who I thought made me a mom, I started to wonder if I had also lost motherhood too.

I mean, I was childless before. I’m childless again.

There have been more than a few times in the last three weeks that I’ve wondered if I can ever do this again {foster or adopt}. I don’t think I can answer that question for quite some time.

But I did begin to wonder what truly makes a woman a mother. For my friends who have never given birth, but love another’s child as their own, here’s what I know for sure . . . you are a mom.

I am a mom.

If you comfort a child in their grief and in the midst of them facing tremendous trauma, you are a mom.

If you wipe their tears, comfort them when they’re sick, and cheer them on when they are facing their Goliaths, you are a mom.

If you clean up the puke, the pooh, and your boy’s uncanny ability to get pee everywhere, you are a mom.

If you advocate, fight for, and sacrifice for a child, you are a mom.

If you endure court, biological families that may hate you, constant unknowns, lack of resources & support for a child you didn’t give birth to – but love with all of your heart, you are a mom.

If you endure school fairs with junk food, hyped-up-kids, and blow cash on crazy games your kid can’t win, you are a mom. If you endure Chuck e Cheese, you are also a saint.

If you held your child on his last day of school, when he sobbed, as he said goodbye to his friends and 1st grade teacher, you are a mom.

If you walked hand in hand with him as he started his first day of school nervous about the year ahead, you are a mom.

If you were physically pained because of your child’s pain, you are a mom.

I may not have shared biology. I could never replace his first & forever mom.

But I was a mom.

I am a mom.

You, my hurting friend, if you find yourself here – you are a mom. What you did for that little {or big} child in your care was and is a beautiful gift that will forever be part of their journey.

I know you worry whether it’s part of their healing journey {did I make a difference, you ask} – but I can say with confidence that the only way any child can heal from trauma, is to learn to trust adults, be nurtured & loved unconditionally, and to bond.

What you’ve built into your child, no matter how long or how short, will last forever and will not return a void.

Your pain, your grief, and your loss may not be understood. People may not realize what it feels like. You may feel alone. But you are not. You are going to hurt and grieve. Others may not understand. But I do.

Let yourself grieve. Rest in the knowledge that your grief is a sign of how deeply you loved. The depth of your love is woven into their story forever – the best and good parts of their story. That is a beautiful gift.

Goodbyes

For those who have been reading for a while, you know that I had a {foster} son I expected to adopt. He is now living somewhere else and won’t be back with me.

There’s not a chance I’ll share details here. But I will tell you for sure that I am grieving this loss.

I am heartbroken. Not because I didn’t understand throughout the last 16 months that the goal of foster care is reunification and I was dead set on having it go my way. But because you make choices to love someone, pour your life into them, and love them as if they’ll never leave and will always be yours {even if they won’t}, it tears your heart in two pieces when they do leave.

I am working on a few posts about foster care as a whole and motherhood as a foster mom. But I wanted to share. The last few months have been the hardest and most painful of my life. I think today I am starting to finally believe God has all of our best interests in mind. Sometimes it’s hard to understand this when nothing makes sense – when you can’t understand the why.

I’m not sure what my future in foster care is. Hopefully I will figure that out soon. I’ll trust God to make clear what isn’t so clear right now.

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

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.