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

How to Help Foster Parents

National Foster Care Month, Foster Care,

It’s National Foster Care Month. People probably have two responses to foster care – “I could never do that.” Or, “I think I’m supposed to do this.”

If your response is “I could never do that” but you care about people who do or you think “I’m supposed to do this but I’m not quite ready,” here’s what you can do right now.

Limping. That’s what I’m doing right now.

The Sunday dread is starting to settle in. Before some changes started taking place in my home in February, my Sunday doldrums were usually about going back to work. With a “new” program at work, without much guidance to go on for implementing it – I was having trouble feeling motivated.

Now on Sundays, I’m gearing up for what has become a Monday-Friday cycle of worsening behavior struggles for my kiddo.

He has his moments on the weekend. He had one yesterday in a restaurant. I saw the signs and asked my mom to pay our bill so he and I could go sit in the car. We sat in the car, we talked about what was starting to happen, and he admitted to me what was bothering him. We de-escalated the situation before it blew up.

That’s how it should work & how it was working until February.

But during the week, I can’t do that for him when it’s happening. By the time he comes home, he has long since past the point of no return. I wish every day I could be home with him. I’ve never been a home school type. Until now.

The behaviors have grown worse & worse.

I’m tired. Exhausted really. I don’t think there’s any one answer about what is happening. I think there are a few things going on. None of which are resolved easily. One of these reasons will end the last day of school. I’m not necessarily known for being super logical (haha) – you can blame the artist in me. But it doesn’t take a genius to see the pattern.

Whatever the reasons, our lives have become so very hard Monday-Friday – I know one thing to be true – you cannot be a foster parent, alone. Not everyone is cut out to be a foster parent. So if you’re not cut out to be a foster parent, but have foster parent friends or you know them from church, or they’re your neighbor, you’re close enough to make a difference because they cannot do this alone.

If you have a friend that is a foster parent, there are likely times (okay, 100% likely) they feel as I do now. My anxiety is . . . phew. It’s a lot this morning. To the point that I just doubled up on a dose of CBD oil and have the “calm body” essential oil blend diffusing.

What can you do? Maybe you’re not called to foster or adopt. But maybe you still feel a burden to help in some way. Here are a few ideas:

  • Start a meal train – or randomly tell a foster parent you’re sending them dinner
  • Send a message that says you’re coming to pick up laundry & want to know the best time to do that. Do the laundry & then drop it off when it’s all clean and smelling purty
  • Offer to become respite care parents (caring for a foster kiddo for a day, a few hours, a weekend – and you get paid for it while helping your friends)
  • Send a “care package” from Amazon Prime – maybe a movie night for the kids & a pampering theme for mom/parents
  • Pray for them & tell them you are
  • Become a Guardian ad Litem or CASA (court appointed special advocate)
  • Be a mentor for a child in foster care
  • Donate supplies to foster pantries in your area
  • Depending on agency restrictions – offer to take your friend’s kiddo out for ice cream, or a trip to the McDonald’s with the best playground in town, and tell mom to take a nap.

We had nearly 11 months without the kind of stuff we are dealing with now. It has been jarring to my system. There are foster parents out there who need you. I promise you. There are foster parents out there that just need to know you see them. Send them a text, FB message, or DM on Insta, and tell them you care and are thinking about them.

Just reach out in some way. It’s a dizzying journey and the best way to support is to just do something. Don’t ask how you can help – just do it.

Love Is Not Enough

Love, elaina avalos, elaina-avalos.com, foster care, this is foster care, foster mom, parenting, boy mom

When you are a woman that longs to have a baby and to be a mother, you dream of what it’s like to be pregnant and to finally hold that tiny one in your arms. You think about motherhood . . . a lot.

Baby fever. I have had it for more years than I haven’t, now.

I know not every woman experiences this. But I certainly did/do. For me, I wanted to give birth to biological children before becoming a foster or adoptive parent. It’s the way it’s supposed to be. It’s what I believed would be true in my life.

Apparently God did not hear about my plan. So when I became a mom through foster care, there were moments – many moments when I did {and do} grieve the loss of biological motherhood.

Now, before you tar & feather me, let me just say that I love my {foster} son with all of my heart. I would die for him. And I’d make every last person on earth hate me if it meant I could find him the best of everything – the best therapy, the best school, the best teacher, & the best resources.

For nearly a year, my sweet boy has done so well. He’s grown and changed by leaps and bounds. Somewhat recently though, he started regressing. And while I won’t tell that story, I’ll tell mine.

It has been hard on me – watching how hard this is on him. I’m exhausted. He’s exhausted. I long to be past this. What’s this? There’s a lot happening at once. But one of the primary issues is that we are now in the “I want to go home,” phase of foster care life.

You’d think that would have happened sooner. But it didn’t. He was asking me if I was going to adopt him and said his last name was Avalos, months and months and months ago.

My desire to be a mother had been realized, right? It had. It has. But there’s this other side of foster care. In the broken and messy places of biology and our hearts and trauma and our emotions – lies the deepest pain. For a child, it’s also terribly confusing at best.

My boy loves his mama. How could he not? She is mommy and always will be. He has fantasies of what that life used to be. He once said that he wanted to live with her because he didn’t know what it was like to live with her. His memory only gives him bits and pieces of that life.

He longs for her and the life his very inner being, was woven from. He was not woven inside of me. He loves and trusts me. We have bonded and I know he feels loved and I know he loves me. But mommy is mommy.

So when the little boy you’d lay your life down for, reacts in anger to his hard days, by telling you hard things about your future together {I just want them – not you}, it hurts in a way I can’t explain.

Rejection, right? It’s a rejection. When I’m the one who’s lap he crawls into {though he’ll be taller than me soon enough}, who comforts him on hard days, or is there in the hardest fought battles and the greatest victories, you long to know that you’re finding your way through his pain and trauma to his heart.

Winning hearts and minds . . .

But love isn’t enough. It just isn’t.

Which brings me to my comments about biological motherhood. When you haven’t known the joy of carrying that little one that was woven from your innermost being, the pain of the messy & ugly moments in foster care, when you are raising a child that is another’s, hurts in the deepest way you can hurt.

But that’s also where the beauty can find its way in. In a hard moment today, as I heard another rejection {just one day after he announced his last name would be Avalos}, I also had this very clear truth flash across my heart & mind.

He knows how this feels. He knows. He knows what it means to be rejected. But He also knows what it is to love and chase hard after one He loves desperately. And yet, even still, be chosen last. You do that to Him. He chased hard after you. And time after time, you chose Him last.

Friends. Phewie. That was some heavy stuff. I prayed that I’d know how to deal with my emotions when my sweet boy says not so sweet things. I prayed I would know how to feel, what to say, and how to act. As we sat at McDonald’s and I longed to get away, where I could cry my whiny heart out, I realized that I, who have far less reasons than my boy, do the same to God.

Somehow, this moment cleared up the cloudiness in my heart. I rejected Him so many times. But His love was faithful even still. I might as well have spat in His face. He loved me even still. So what does one do when you long to have the love of your child, returned?

You keep loving.

And because love isn’t enough, you press forward finding every way you know how, to beat back the six years of trauma and the toxic relationships that his biology created. You read. You search. You send Facebook messages to acquaintances and friends who know so & so and such & such.

You listen to Brene Brown read her book, Daring Greatly, because frankly, there should be no more vulnerable person than that of a parent – especially one who is fighting hard for the heart of her boy – for his healing, freedom, peace, and future. But you listen hoping for some nugget of wisdom to teach him with words and actions.

You ignore friendships and feel terrible. But you don’t have the emotional energy because he needs it more than you. You make your son’s school hate you. You tell social workers that all you care about is your little boy & that while they may not have time – you will get what you want – because what you want is your boy’s healing and wholeness.

I am nothing and no one. I don’t hold any special positions or titles. I was raised with very little. Our toys came from yard sales. And my clothes were hand-me-down clothes. I’ve got nothing in the eyes of the world. But I know one thing for certain.

I am a mother – who was handpicked for this boy – because God knew he needed a fighter. I don’t care about systems or rules. I will fight until I have nothing left, for him. Whether he rejects me in the end or someday looks back and sees how hard I fought.

By the grace of God, love is not enough. But He is. So for now, I’ll rest in that.

And I’ll keep fighting.

A Year. Chaos. Joy. Blessing.

Seventeen days ago marked the one-year anniversary of my {foster} son, moving in with me. The month of March 2018 was one of the worst months of my life. I’ve never felt more alone, more exhausted, and more certain I’d made a horrible decision.

My son moved in with his little sister. And the combination of the two of them was too much. From my vantage point in March of 2019 I understand so much better why this was the case. And now, I know that saying yes to these two children was a tremendous gift though they needed to be separated. It wasn’t a horrible decision – it was God at work in all of our lives.

When our placement was disrupted & FD5, went to live with another foster family, our world changed so much. She has done well. She is doing well. And my son? He is a different boy than he was in March of 2018.

We’ve had our struggles. He has had his struggles. But his fear has lessened. The joy that makes him literally scream with excitement and pure happiness, as he plays in the waves at the beach, is such a beautiful thing.

He has a tremendous capacity for joy. I have only learned in tiny little chunks why this great joy is sometimes beyond comprehension. One of the things I hate most about foster care is how little I’ve been told about his case & life. You’d think someone would want me to know. And yet, well…no. They don’t want me to know.

But I’ve learned more of his story recently. And my heart grieves for him. My heart grieves because it’s not supposed to be like this. The world is so twisted and sick. Innocent kids are caught in the midst of family strife, cycles of poverty and loss, and so much more.

Yet, in spite of this, he is determined, joyful beyond belief, so caring & kind, and absolutely adores life. His excitement over the biggest and smallest moments in life are honestly mind boggling. They’re mind boggling because in this passion for life, I am reminded of the mercy & grace of God. My boy’s life could have been very different.

He refuses to sink. I refuse to let him.

Tonight, his eldest sister sleeps in the bedroom next to his. It’s odd how life works out. The baby of the family moved out at the end of March of 2018. And in mid-February of 2019, the eldest girl, in a family of seven children, moved into our home.

I didn’t think our journey would bring us here. And if you would have asked me in November of 2018, after meeting their mama {whom I weep for} if this would have happened, I would have laughed at you. And possibly flipped you off. Mostly because I am hated by his family. I so wish this was not the case. But I am. That’s pretty much the gist of it. So who could imagine that this smart, beautiful, determined young woman would agree to stay here?

It’s funny how life works out.

My sweet boy is growing and changing every day. We have a long road ahead of us. His case is not as clear cut as I’d come to believe. It seems to get more complicated and hopeless with every court hearing. I grow fearful and desperate at times – thinking we’ll never reach the end.

Or worse? That he’ll be taken from me. I fear for his future in those moments and want to claw my way out. And then, when I cannot stand the desperation one second longer, God reminds me that He is writing a story. It’s one I’m just not going to be privy to the ending of until it’s upon us. Lord knows I’m not good with ambiguity and confusion.

But “through all of this chaos, you are writing a symphony.”

So though I do not trust family court in this county, DSS {because of the resources & manpower they lack}, nor do I trust that justice prevails, I trust the One who loves my sweet boy more than I ever could.

I trust him, his sisters, his brothers, and their mama to the One who loves them so desperately that He’s chasing hard after them. There’s nothing I can do to change what’s happened before, what happens in the coming days, weeks, months, and years, or where this road leads.

I can only love and respond.

So in the midst of the chaos, I’m trusting Him to write this beautiful story.

Sick & Tired of Being Sick & Tired

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Hippocrates

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

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

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

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

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

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

So guess what? I’m done.

Done.

Done.

Done.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Sunday Nights if You Were Here

elaina avalos, chasing dreams, sunday night, sunday nights if you were here, love, romance, cooking

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

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

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

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

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

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