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Book Discount

elaina m avalos, chasing hope, beaufort nc, elaina avalos, book discount

I wrote a novel. It’s called Chasing Hope. You can read a few reader comments about the book, here. You can find it on Amazon, here. Do you love a good book discount? I mean, if you’ve see my overwhelming number of books, you’d know that I do. When movers move me, they make comments on the number of book boxes I have. I can’t help myself. I absolutely refuse to give most of them away.

The price of Chasing Hope is now discounted (Kindle & paperback)! You can download the Kindle book for $2.99! And the paperback is at the lowest offer I’m allowed to give – at $6.54!

You can see ratings/reviews on Goodreads, here.

Here’s the first paragraph & a description of Chasing Hope:
In a stroke of sheer genius, or maybe it’s a sign of a quickly approaching mental breakdown, I left D.C. seven and a half hours ago and headed toward the coast of North Carolina, with the pain of a secret dream’s loss, taking up the most space in my truck. Besides my personal effects and the furniture I brought into my marriage, I left everything else to my ex-husband and his Legislative Assistant.

Dr. Ava Cooper has it all. Scratch that – she had it all. Leaving behind the wreckage of her old life, she moves to the coast of North Carolina, without any fight left in her. As she settles into small-town life, she meets a baby in the foster care system that could change everything. Will Ava be able to let hope in long enough to get back the life she so desperately longs for?

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I Don’t Want to Die Alone

braverman family, parenthood, braverman dinners, parenthood backyard, braverman backyard dinner, parenthood backyard dinner

I don’t want to die alone.

There was a show on TV called Parenthood. Have you seen it? I adore this show. It’s probably just behind LOST in my list of all-time favorite shows. Mostly because the writing was real – funny, touching, painful, and beautiful. The family was messy and complicated. But there was a frequent tradition featured in which the family would come together in the backyard of the parent’s Berkeley, California backyard (see above & below). All you have to do is Google “Parenthood table” (or something similar) for dozens of photos of this backyard scene. The dinners were chaos and love and hard things. And every single time, I thought to myself – it’s this. This is what matters to me. This is what I want (minus fake TV drama).

braverman family, parenthood, braverman dinners, parenthood backyard, braverman backyard dinner, parenthood backyard dinner

I want to grow into old age with my kids (or “step” kids or “adopted” kids or whatever) and their spouses and their kids all around me. When my grandparents passed away – I was there – with all four of them – hugging them, saying my goodbyes, or holding their hands long into the night. What a gift this is, to be with the people who helped form you into the person you are, as they leave this world.

I’ve always dreamed of a big family and all that comes with it – loud, a little unruly, and full of joy and laughter (arguing and craziness and all the other stuff too). My own family is small. My parents are divorced. I’m not very close to my brother, but wish that I was. I am not very close to my dad, either. But I love them both dearly. Today, my dad was rushed to the hospital due to a stroke. If my brother had not gotten to him as quickly as he did, things might have been much worse. I suppose that deepens this unsettled feeling in my soul, as I grapple with what comes next. As I age and consider what family means to me, this dream, this hope – seems more and more at the forefront of my heart.

If you’d asked me twenty years ago what I thought life would look like right now, it certainly wouldn’t be the life I’m living. I’ve made the most of the life I do live. Don’t get me confused with someone that didn’t live fully though life looks different than expected. I’ve done things I have wanted to and tried things I’ve wanted to. I certainly learned how to make the most of the little joys in life. But this life, as it is right now, isn’t the life I want. No matter how long and how much I pray, I come away with the belief that I’m not supposed to let it go. So I’m not going to. Though life right now isn’t what I think I’m meant for – it doesn’t mean I phone it in. I give what I have – to what and whomever is in front of me. It’s not my style to give, or work half-heartedly.

The thing is, there are just some things you can’t take with you into the next life. I can’t take my pension, any books I write, or any accolades from any career I hold. When I leave my job, I’ll be replaced. Life will go on. I won’t be remembered. When my days are done, it doesn’t matter if I’m rich or poor. None of it will be carried with me. I am not famous and won’t be remembered by anyone, but those around me.

And what of this solitude I live in now? It’s not what I want. I want a messy, loud, big family, and a complicated, beautiful life. I don’t want to die alone. Who does? Do any of us set out on a path that would take us in that direction? Except in rare cases, I’d venture to guess that answer is no. But that’s the path I’m on. So how do I get where I want to go?

I have a few ideas. They’re swirling in my head. I’m unsettled in this in-between – questioning if I can survive one day longer working for the federal government, when my heart longs for creativity and artistry and beauty and celebrating and making something lovely with my hands and my words. There are things that fill you up, even when they’re tiring. I’m not being filled now. There is no symbiosis between me and my work now. I give and there’s not much filling me up. There was at one time. But that was lost a few years ago. There’s not much to be changed about that – it simply is.

I mention this because that’s the first thing that has to change. Whether it’s today or 12 months from now, I’m not sure I know. What I do know is that my life – my writing, my someday family, and my deepest dreams, are all worth far more than a pension, or the security that comes from this life I created accidentally. This accidental life doesn’t mean it hasn’t had value. But it shouldn’t come at a cost of everything that matters to me.

I don’t want to die alone. And before I go, I want a rich life that creates space for writing and healthy habits, and the family I’ve spent a lifetime dreaming of, and praying and hoping for. I told my therapist (as cartoon-ish as this image sounds) many months ago that the pace of my life, due to work, has me barreling forward, so very fast, that I feel like a snowball, bumping its way down a mountain, packing on more snow and ice as it goes. I hit the bottom – or some plateau – and come up for air and can’t believe another month, another six, or another year – has passed. And then something knocks me down the mountain and off I go, barreling down the mountainside again. I look up and two years has passed.

It’s time to stop this barreling down a mountain, life – because I’m missing the beauty and sweetness along the way. And more importantly, in the safety of the paycheck and pension, I’ve lost precious time that should have gone toward building the life I’ve dreamed of. I don’t know when, or how, or what my next step is – I only know that someday, when my life is done, I won’t care about my pension or how many bosses complimented my work or getting awards for my years worked in an organization that has literally broken people for so long, it doesn’t know anything different. Recently, the man who steers us all wrote a document that is supposed to guide this organization into a new era of managing its “talent” in a whole new way. I haven’t read it – mostly because I find it terribly sad. For years it has used people and spit them out. They’ll just find another person to replace the ones lost along the way. I won’t be missed. But I will be desperately heartbroken if I give up anymore time and my own life and dreams.

I won’t die alone. I don’t know where, or when, or how this will all come together. Mostly because the industry I want so badly to walk into, ignores literally every resume I send out. I see it as part of me moving on. But someday things will come together. In the meantime, I will look forward, with joy and anticipation, to the day that this dream becomes a reality.

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I’m at a Crossroads

The rental market is challenging these days. I was faced with a recent ultimatum – pay $400 more in rent than my noisy, moldy (yes) apartment is worth, for month to month – since I don’t know where I want to be. Or, sign a year lease for around the same as what I was paying before. But if I did that, I’d be locked into a year lease in a place that I hate – that also isn’t being cared for by management – as it should.

I applied to live in a housing development that I was told there was minimal wait for. I contemplated my options, knew $200 more was way too much – so I made a judgment call that I thought was best – give notice on the apartment & move into this neighborhood with no wait. Bonuses to the other neighborhood included utilities included, no lawn upkeep, and easy commute.

The rental market in my area is awful. It has been since a hurricane in the fall of 2018. But with the real estate market being what it is, it’s even worse. More people here, are putting their homes on the market than ever before (at least in my memory). Rental prices have gone up, too. Competition for rentals is like it was after the hurricane blew through.

But here I am. Weeks away from moving and I am actually extremely low on the waiting list (which they don’t tell you until you apply). I’m so low it could be a year or more. Apparently, the advice given by a member of their staff was incorrect. So what do I do now? I saw a house today (I saw several), but I’m not sure it’s the one. Even though it was just listed, the management company has already said if I don’t apply today, I shouldn’t fill out the application without talking to them because it will likely be rented already.

This is quite the mess for me. And while this sounds like it’s just about housing, it’s not. It’s also about my faith. My faith has been so severely tested in the last few years. At every turn I’ve felt I’ve made good decisions that have led me to some situations that have caused extreme stress – at best. But I thought I was making very sound decisions – weighing things carefully and jumping in – under what I believed were correct motives – only to be utterly crushed. Or in the case of my home life – constant noise and drama (and calling cops and CPS on neighbors and living with mold that doesn’t get fixed properly) at home. Who wants to be stressed at work and then come home for more? I certainly don’t.

So here I am. A couple weeks shy of moving and I have no idea where I’m going. That’s certainly a problem. But maybe harder for me – am I ever going to find confidence in my decision making abilities again? As someone who has a faith that I believe should guide me and I pray and feel that I have been given wisdom to make a decision based on advice given to me about housing available to me, then it puts me in a terrible position, seems like something is off somewhere.

The truth is, I don’t want to stay in this area. But all attempts at applying for work out of the area have failed miserably. No matter what, I feel like I’m placed in positions where I’m forced to choose between options I don’t like. And then when I feel like I have more clarity, to make some decision, I end up worse off than before. What the hell is that about?

I’ve felt at such a crossroads for so long. I know what I want and hope for and yet it seems so far out of reach. I’m at a crossroads. But I’ve been here before. And my options stink. Because I can’t seem to get where I want to go.

How does one decide what to do in a situation like this? I’ll tell you what I know for sure, I long for change and the hopes and dreams fulfilled that come with moving on. But here I am. Stuck between equally crappy options that appear so far from what I hoped would be happening right now.

What would you do?

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Hardwiring Happiness: Dr. Rick Hanson

My favorite podcast – Being Well, has been a huge blessing to me over this last year. I can’t say that I’ve perfected any of the concepts I’m learning. Haha. In fact, this week, my first back to work after a lovely break, revealed that I have much to learn. It was a rough week as I face some things I haven’t wanted to face. But I have been learning a great deal, nonetheless. I get a little closer to where I want to be, all of the time. Today, I had a few minutes to listen to these videos, after working on some packing – as I prepare to move. Packing before a move is always stressful to me. I can get overwhelmed. I was definitely feeling that today. Slowing down to watch these left me with a sense of hope, in spite of what I had been feeling in the moment.

In this video, Dr. Hanson talks to his son, Forrest about “taking in the good.” He talks about ways you can change your brain – for the better. There was a key moment that really left me with a sense that no matter where I am or what I am doing, happiness and contentment are possible. Around the 2:48 mark is when he talks about this concept that you can take in the good and have it transform your day instead of the day being a “long, slow slog.” I loved this part (2:48-4:30).

I also watched the video below – Hardwiring Happiness: Dr. Rick Hanson. In this Tedx Talk, Dr. Hanson talks about turning experiences into the “happiness, resilience” and other strengths we need to have happy and contended lives.

From the description:

Hardwiring Happiness : The Hidden Power of Everyday Experiences on the Modern Brain.
How to overcome the Brain’s Negativity Bias. Rick Hanson is a neuropsychologist and the author of Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence, best selling author of Buddha’s Brain, founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom and an Affiliate of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, he’s been an invited speaker at Oxford, Stanford, and Harvard, and taught in meditation centers worldwide.

This is seriously good stuff and truly excites me on this journey to healing (that I’ve been on since my (foster) son left my home).

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Never Walk Away From Love

elaina avalos, never walk away from love, the bold type, oliver grayson

I never start my year with resolutions and a list of “shoulds.” I’ve done that to myself twice already in the last five days. I was determined to do 30 days of yoga with Adriene Mishler. I didn’t take into account how very poorly I’m feeling right now. I have to ease into this. And I started this crazy Bloganuary thing and look, dude – I just can’t. I’m not good with writing prompts because I genuinely just don’t care about a lot things. 🙂

It doesn’t help that this new year has caused me to face, or begin to face, that someone I cared for – just didn’t care for me. We all know that actions speak louder than words. But sometimes feelings can blind a girl a little – delaying reality. So here I am, finally facing reality. Sort of. I will never, ever – never in the history of ever – stop being a romantic, who loves love. And I will never stop being real about how much I care or who I care about. I am, however, facing my reality.

Which brings me to my new favorite show, that I wished I’d watch, while it was airing. It’s The Bold Type from Freeform. I am absolutely loving this show even though it’s geared toward the millennial crowd (the younger end of that generation). I’m enjoying the friendships and the weird & wonderful work sitch there. If only work environments were actually like Scarlet magazine. One of the storylines I love the most, is the romantic relationship between Sutton Brady and one of the members of the publishing company’s board, Richard Hunter. Sutton is my favorite character in general. But when she faces the hard choice between her career, avoiding rumors, and her relationship – she chooses her career. It’s unfortunate that we are still making choices that cost us on either the personal end or the work end. But I digress.

As I’ve watched the first two seasons, I’ve really hoped that Sutton and Richard would get back together. Sutton’s boss, Oliver, the head of the fashion department for the magazine, is rarely personal with Sutton – as his assistant. But he gets personal and a crying Sutton shares that she made a horrible decision to let Richard go. In reply, Oliver, tells her to go back to New York (they’re in Paris for Fashion Week) and tell him how she feels. Sutton says, “I can’t just leave.” Oliver says, “I’m telling you to. Never walk away from love. No white after Labor Day. And never walk away from love.”

That line – it got me. I might have cried. I’ve been, in spite of my usual stance of taking risks and remaining firmly outside of my comfort zone – as much as possible, regretting sharing my heart so openly. Especially to one who just doesn’t care about me. That’s a shitty feeling, you know? This isn’t an exact correlation here, so work with me. 🙂

What if it had been though? What if taking the risk to open my heart was the right call? Clearly it wasn’t. I mean, it didn’t mean anything to him. But what it it had? So here I am – realizing that looking like a freaking idiot is well worth the risk, in spite of the hurt. Because you know – never wear white after Labor Day and never walk away from love.

On that note, the other thing I’m not going to do in January 2022, or any other month this year, is should on myself because I was real and the woman I am made to be. So here’s to continuing to be sincere and sharing my heart even when it hurts.

Never walk away from love.

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Favorite Childhood Toys

For today’s Bloganuary post, the prompt is What was your favorite toy as a child? It’s hard to pick as I had a few favorites. They included Strawberry Shortcake, my Barbies, and any of my baby dolls. But my absolute favorite was a Holly Hobbie doll (Holly Hobbie’s friend, Heather). The vintage Holly Hobbie Heather doll, looked like the one above.

My “Holly Hobbie” doll wasn’t known as Holly Hobbie or Heather, however. I called her “Amy.” My Amy doll went everywhere with me. When I went to my grandparent’s house for the weekend, Amy came with me. My Amy doll was so well loved that my Grandma Light (mom’s mom) performed a bit of a facelift on her because she was starting to fall apart. Amy got a new face (haha) and dress. My Grandma was an awesome seamstress.

I loved her so much for everything she did for us. I was quite worried about how things would turn out with the Amy doll (I said she was my favorite) and my Grandma was so sweet to humor me and take such loving care with something that was so important to me. I actually still have my Holly Hobbie doll. This is what my loving Grandma did for me so long ago. 🙂 Grandma even made me a sack (behind the doll) to carry her, my favorite blanket, and any other toys when I would go to see my dad or other grandparents.

I have some very sweet handmade things from my Grandma, in addition to her facelift on the Holly Hobbie doll. 🙂 She made me clothes and even purses. Here’s one I have saved. Isn’t that sweet?

I was definitely a kid that loved her dolls, barbies, playing house, and anything related to being a mom, having a home, and caring for others. So it’s not surprising that my favorite toys revolved around that.

It was fun to take this little walk down memory lane for #Bloganuary.

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Comfort Zones

Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC, elaina avalos
Summer of 2017

I just found out a few short minutes ago, that WordPress is holding its first ever “Bloganuary” challenge. They’ll be sharing one writing prompt per day. The goal is to write one post each day, to go along with these prompts. I’m two-days behind, but being late to the party has never stopped me before – so here I am. Today’s prompt is to “write about the last time you left your comfort zone.”

I have many examples of stepping outside my comfort zone. I’m a weird person that likes home and the routine of it. I’m an introvert. I’ll go out of my way to not have to deal with people (because I spend all day being extroverted). But I also love a good adventure. I could pack up and move to Africa or Spain, tomorrow – if I felt it was the right call for me. I’ve pushed myself to leave comfort many times – since my very early 20s. The biggest example of this was in 1999 – when I left behind California, my family, my university (I was still about 2 years shy of getting my Bachelor’s degree), and everything I’d ever known in Southern California, for the East Coast.

I had worked with kids up until that point – as a nanny and a tutor in Orange County, California group homes for foster kids. I loved working with children. To be honest, I never saw myself having a career working with kids because I had such a strong belief I would be a mon. I figured that’s where all my kid energy would be focused. I sometimes wonder if I should have gone into a career working with kiddos. All that to say, I am really good with kids – to include kids from very hard places and with challenging backgrounds. I interviewed for nanny jobs in several places to include Buies Creek, NC, Connecticut, and all over the Bay Area. But it was the Washington D.C, area that won my heart.

U.S. Capital, Elaina Avalos
The last time I was in D.C. I stumbled onto a concert. It was so cool. Serendipity.

So off I went. I took a nanny job living a couple blocks from the “Courthouse” neighborhood in Arlington, VA. I was in love from the moment I arrived. In love with DC, Arlington, and this new little life I had created. I’m a huge history and political nerd & living in that area was a constant source of joy and excitement. I left my comfort zone and went to a place where there’s snow, ice (I had never seen snow fall ever before in my life – let alone drive in snow or ice), and metros to take you where you want to go. I adored most everything about life there.

But it wasn’t easy. I had to learn some lessons the hard way. Aren’t most of us like that in our early 20s? I wasn’t smart about some things. I had a lot to learn. But, I lived. I did things I’d dreamed of doing. I met my church/small group friends at the Tidal Basin for lunch – sitting under blossoming cherry trees. I was at the Supreme Court when big decisions about our 2000 election, impacted our country. I stood on the National Mall the day President Bush was inaugurated (it was a freezing misty rain that day), and I watched fireworks on July 4th, from the Iwo Jima memorial. I would eventually work for a Bush political appointee – but that’s a story for another day.

I will always be proud of myself for leaving my comfort zone and choosing to be uncomfortable some of the time, because it gave me some incredible experiences. I will always be grateful for those. Even with some things about those years I wished I’d done differently, I will never regret taking the leap. I think comfort zones are fine & good – for a while. But shaking ourselves and our lives up a bit, is often where we learn and grow the most.

Arlington Virginia, Elaina Avalos
Looking toward Arlington – near the Lincoln memorial.

How about you? What are some comfort zones you’ve left behind?

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Yoga – Move

Yoga with Adriene, Elaina Avalos, Elaina M. Avalos, #ywaMove

It has been far too long since I’ve dipped my toes into the yoga waters. It’s about time I return. I’ll be kicking off 2022 with Yoga with Adriene’s “Move.” If you’re interested, it’s free! To sign up, go here: https://yogawithadriene.com/adriene-mishler/ and click on “learn more” at the top of the page. You can find Adriene’s videos on YouTube. Here’s an introductory class.

Her channel can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/c/yogawithadriene. If you sign up, I’d love to hear from you. I could use an accountability partner. 🙂

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Free Fall

Anyone know who took this photo or the background on it? Haven’t had any luck tracking it down.

Sometimes, you just gotta take the leap – even when it doesn’t pay off. What if it had? What if the result of taking that risk meant you stumbled your way into all that you’ve been waiting for? I’m a risk-taker. I’ll jump out of the proverbial airplane and say the thing – or do the thing – first. Sometimes it pays off, like when you make a life for yourself, thousands of miles from home. But, sometimes? I crash & burn.

The last few years have led me to question literally every decision I make. I have never been so uncertain of anything. When my words blew up in my face earlier this year and I felt the sting of rejection and silence, the questioning grew louder. But I don’t and won’t live with regret.

I’m ready . . . again. We’re mere minutes away from the last day of 2021. I won’t make bold predictions or resolutions for 2022. But I will leave the rejection, pain, and losses, behind. I’m not dragging them with me. They’re too heavy to free fall with.

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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! I know the last couple of years have been hard. A global pandemic, sometimes isolation from the people we care about, and so much instability in the world. It’s hard to see the good things, at times – especially when that’s what fills our Facebook “newsfeeds,” social media, and what we see on the news.

But the Good News is, there is hope. This has been a hard few years for me. I’ve lost a child I believed I would raise, I lost in love, and I faced a toxic situation that has now contributed to my health facing new challenges. But there is hope. There is always hope. No season lasts. No trial endures forever. The Good News for me is in the form of Emmanuel – God With Us – Jesus.

I don’t care much for religion and the ways in which we’ve perverted His message and the reason He came. But I do know with complete certainty that I’d be lost without Jesus. And so, that is where, in spite of all of the ugliness, where my hope lies.

I wish you & yours a beautiful holiday season. And I hope your day today is filled with peace, joy, and all the good things.

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But You Won’t Forget Me

Fleetwood Mac is one of my all time favorite bands. This song is my favorite – just behind Sara. In spite of how much I love this song, I had not see this video until recently. The emotion from Stevie as she sings & stares down (haha) Lindsey Buckingham is…phew. She’s an incredible story teller and this video drives home that point (in my opinion). While I am waiting in a ridiculously long line, this song came on and it seemed to fit my mood. “Time cast a spell, but you won’t forget me.”

“So I’ll begin not to love you
Turn around, you’ll see me runnin’
I’ll say I loved you years ago
And tell myself you never loved me no
Don’t say that she’s pretty
And did you say that she loves you?
Baby, I don’t want to know – Oh no
And can you tell me was it worth it?
Baby, I don’t want to know Time cast a spell on you but you won’t forget me
I know I could’ve loved you
But you would not let me Time cast a spell on you but you won’t forget me
I know I could’ve loved you but you would not let me
I’ll follow you down ’til the sound of my voice will haunt you
Give me just a chance, you’ll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you”

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Green and Red Flags in Relationships

I shared part one to this Being Well podcast, last week. This week includes red and green flags and Dr. Hanson starts off strong with his first requirement being emotional sanity (haha). Here’s part two’s description.

“Dr. Rick and Forrest Hanson expand their conversation focused on finding a long-term partner to include what traits to look for, and how to navigate early sticking points. They discuss life growth curves, how to manage early conflict, healthy approaches for dealing with rejection, and how to support those still navigating a difficult search.”

You can find it here.

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How to Find a Long-Term Relationship

I’ve listened to this a couple times and wanted to share, as I’ve done before. I sometimes feel as though it’s a thing to not admit that you want or are seeking a long-term relationship. But I think that’s ridiculous, to be honest. If you, like me, are seeking a long-term relationship, you might find this podcast useful. They talk about intention, skills, and though this made me laugh at first – marketing yourself. If you’re wondering how to find a long-term relationship and you’re serious about that intention, take the time to listen.

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Giving Up

I have a hard time letting go and giving up. I’ve said before that I think it’s a good quality in many ways. But sometimes a girl (me) hangs on too long. It’s time to let go of A Thousand Years. I’ve tried so hard to make it work. And I just can’t. At this point, it’s holding me back. I’m not 100% sure which novel will take its place. To be honest, it’s a bummer. But it’s time for it to go.

Giving up doesn’t come naturally to me. It has taken far too long to come to this conclusion, about this book, for that reason. It’s a novel that I’ve probably written 80,000+ words too since 2020. But I’ve given up. And now that I have, I’m not sure what needs to take its place. As a writer, one of the hardest things to witness, when it comes to your writing, is to watch words you’ve worked so hard to write, sink.

Someday, the heart behind the story will live on somewhere.

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No one here cares if you go or you stay

Love writes a letter and sends it to Hate
“My vacation’s ending, I’m coming home late
The weather was fine and the ocean was great
And I can’t wait to see you again

Hate reads the letter and throws it away
“No one here cares if you go or you stay
I barely even noticed that you were away
I’ll see you or I won’t, whatever”

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Let the World Fall Away

Kiefer, Let the world fall away, let it just be me and you, until we see the world no more, elaina avalos, elaina m. avalos

“Let the world fall away, let it just be me and you. I don’t need anything from this world that doesn’t exist in us. We can create our own world, one that doesn’t have schedules or alarm clocks, one where we can be free to lie in each other’s arms and watch the day slip quietly away, a place where we can get lost in each other eyes until we see the world no more.” – Kiefer

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Writing is Occasionally Like Torture

I officially edited or wrote 51,691 words on A Thousand Years, “winning” NaNoWriMo (as of today). The only problem is, I spent my second NaNoWriMo (that’s National Novel Writing Month) working on a novel that I may abandon, soon. I don’t know what to do anymore. The novel has lost its way. And I guess that means I have.

When you write fiction that is primarily character driven (vs. plot driven) and you run into a character problem, you’ve got an entire novel problem. And . . . A Thousand Years has a character problem. The problem is, I love the heart of this novel. Which means that this little fear churning inside – that I should dump it, when I don’t really want to (but also don’t know how to fix it), is a little like torture. Like, you know, as if I’m water boarding myself. Who willingly tortures themselves?

Writers. Writers willingly torture themselves. So here I am, it’s the day before Thanksgiving, I’ve technically hit a 50,000 word count goal and I’m absolutely nowhere. I don’t know if it’s salvageable – though I long for it to be. Torture, I tell you.

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Creating a Secure Relationship

It has been a bit since I’ve shared a Being Well podcast. This week’s episode is on Creating a Secure Relationship. Not only did they talk about strategies for working through issues, but they also talked about when it may be time to let go or walk away from a relationship.

While I don’t agree with 100% of this, for the most part, I found it useful so I wanted to share.

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Is this what this feels like?

Autumn has finally started showing up around here.

It’s Sunday evening. And while I can’t say I’m bummed about that, I already miss my weekend. Okay, so technically I’ve been off work since Wednesday so this time off has felt extra good. Nonetheless, I love weekends. How do I get more of them?

This weekend has been weird and also, super productive. Not only did I reorganize the master bedroom and move my gynormous “headboard” (which isn’t a headboard at all) out of my room, but I shifted furniture around, too. I made major changes to my spare bedroom, (mostly) finished decorating for Christmas, and then created an office in the spare room.

I moved from a four bedroom house to an apartment. That second bedroom of mine, here in the apartment, has been a mess of boxes and stuff – for ages. I was also a foster mom with two twin beds and a crib. All of that furniture moved into this apartment with me and has sat there – taunting me, to be honest. Some of the other items piled up in there included kid’s toys and books. It was depressing thinking about it.

But I started working on organizing and didn’t stop until I could set up one of the beds (for now it’s a daybed kinda couch sitch) and move my desk and a bookcase into the room. There’s still more work to do, but I’ll probably leave that until I take vacation time in December.

My writing space will take shape soon enough. I’m happy with how it looks for now.

I kid.

Here’s the thing, I also made beef stew, maple Dijon chicken thighs, and edited/wrote 11,211 words for NaNoWriMo. I’m now at a grand total of 28,149 words edited/written, since the 1st. Where did all of this energy come from? Probably my infusion on Wednesday – in part. I have another one this coming week. If I feel this good before the second one – I’m hoping after #2, I’ll be feeling like a million bucks.

After a busy day yesterday, I made an apple cider margarita, turned on all of the Christmas lights (and a Hallmark Christmas movie), and relaxed with the dog.

It feels good to be productive. Which probably sounds dumb. But when you have a chronic illness and all of your energy goes to the 9-5 job, Monday – Friday – there’s usually nothing left for my personal life. So is this what this feels like? Having energy to accomplish life things? I like it. How do I get more of this energy? 🙂

I hope your weekend has been either super restful or productive! What’s something good happening in your life these days? I would love to hear from you.

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Me Before You

elaina avalos, me before you, elaina m. avalos

Each day passes. Today
Like yesterday and all
The days before. Since
I saw you last, nothing
And everything has changed.
Me before you – I can’t go
Back and I can’t have
You. The words have
Flown through me as
Never before. You’re the
Only one that does this
To me. You were never
Mine & never will be. But
Me before you – I don’t care
To go back. I miss you
Every day. But I don’t want
To go back to a world
Where you didn’t cross
Through mine.

By Elaina M. Avalos

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A NaNoWriMo Update

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November 1st was the kick-off of National Novel Writing Month! Here’s a NaNoWriMo update. I dropped off the writing/editing last week for a few days. But I picked back up tonight and edited and/or wrote, 5,515 words. I decided at the last minute to re-write and edit, A Thousand Years.

I’ve written some new content, switched up where the novel starts – and therefore where my protagonist met her love, Graham Ford. I feel much better about where the whole thing is going. With the slow down earlier this week, I’ve only got about 6,000 words written/edited in the last seven days. But if I sustain my daily word count goal for the remainder of the month, I should finish a couple days early (pats self on back).

There’s still some stuff I’m unsure about, but I’m hoping that with the switch-up I’ve started working on, that will work itself out too. Are your participating? Hoes’ the writing (or editing), going?

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National Novel Writing Month

Live Oak, spanish moss, elaina m. avalos, chasing hope, lacey mays
Photo by Ashley Knedler

November is National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo). I’ve been a NaNoWriMo participant since 2009. But until last year, I never actually finished a project. In 2020, at one of the wildest times for me professionally, I wrote a 51,640 word novel. The words poured out of me. The novel, A Thousand Years, has been varying states of editing for 11 months. I start in on re-write and it doesn’t feel quite right and I start over. It has been weird. I love the story. But it has changed dramatically from what I started writing in 2020.

As I gear up for NaNoWriMo 2021, I have a decision to make (real quick like). Do I focus in on a final draft of A Thousand Years, or do I write Sea Glass Hearts (which I’ve started)? I also have another book – still untitled, about a character named Lacey James that desperately needs to be written. I have until Monday to decide. I thought tonight I’d play around a little with all three and see if my muse catches fire. He’s finicky. So . . . eh, we’ll see what happens.

You can read some of Lacey’s story, here & here.

Sea Glass Hearts excerpts are here.

A Thousand Years, is here.



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I have loved him for a thousand years…

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Mendocino, California – Photo by: Mario Mesaglio

An excerpt from a novel in progress, A Thousand Years.

I have loved him for a thousand years and it seems as if I will love him for a thousand more. We are destined to remain apart. But it seems as though I was made out of a part of his soul and he mine. Our love burned bright and kept us warm. And then my world went up and flames. But loving him remains.

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

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

~~~

There’s a small roadside – hole in the wall – diner on the far end of the town I call home. It’s called the Hot’n Tot. Yes, really. It’s the kind of place that has stayed open for eons. It’s not fancy in the least. Some of the old booths are a little worse for the wear. But it doesn’t matter to locals, because we’ve been climbing into the booths our entire lives. The food isn’t fussy and the cook doesn’t take kindly to diners who want something different than what’s on the menu. It’s a “you get what you get,” kind of place. There’s an old, but entirely charming, mid-century diner sign that welcomes tourists, on their way to San Francisco, wine country, or along their winding path, up or down Highway One. They see the quaint sign and the full parking lot and they know they’ve stumbled on a rare gem – in a state known for its pretentious ways. Of course, most of those people don’t know the real California. The California that’s the real deal, is nothing at all like you think. Up and down the San Joaquin Valley and in small, one-horse towns and down country roads – that’s where the real Californians live. The Hot’n Tot is a real slice of Americana.

     Years ago, I asked Manny – the owner, if I could work here on my summer breaks. And though I’ve long since graduated, I still work a shift or two when they’re really busy. My Grandma finds this unbecoming. That’s what you get when your mother’s parents are wealthy, old-world Mexicans. I’m not sure why working at the diner is unbecoming, but mucking stalls with Granddad on the ranch, isn’t. But whatever, I don’t make the rules. My Mexican Grandma does. But when I’m at the diner, it reminds me of the best parts of my childhood. My grandparents and my parents are wealthier than should be allowed. I never knew what it was like to go without. But my Granddad worked hard at ensuring me and my sister didn’t take our privileges for granted – in spite of the snobby ways of my mother, father, and Grandma. Granddad used to take me and my sister to the diner in his old beater ranch truck, on our school breaks or during the summer. My mom has never been known to like kids. The second school wrapped up, she shipped us up the coast or across the country.

     Those days on the ranch were the best days of our lives. My sister and I learned every inch of the land. We were taught about the plants and the vines my Granddad raised with care, for wineries all over northern and central California. We played in the dirt, mucked stalls, and followed my Granddad’s every step, when he was moving cattle from one valley to another. It was idyllic in many ways. When we were at the tail end of primary school, my dad moved overseas for a tour. He was a Marine. Mom refused – RE-FUSED – to move us to Japan. We packed up our lives and moved home to California, from North Carolina. It was then that I grew to appreciate the Hot’n Tot and the back corners of rural, real California.

     Now that the cold wet of our central coast winter has given way to the warmth of the sun and a wild breeze blowing off of the Pacific, the diner fills with our neighbors and the first tourists of the season. I always work the first full weekend of the start of the tourist season. Grandma still hates that I do. But the clank of the pots and pans from behind the swinging doors, that lead to the kitchen, and Paul’s gravelly voice announcing service, is as comforting to me as the scent of my granddad’s tobacco pipe. I cannot help myself. At the end of our day, after one of the busiest starts to the season, in my recent memory, the servers and line cooks take a seat at the bar stools in front of the lunch counter. Manny and Paul cook for us – usually a weird mix of Mexican and American food. It’s the only day they cook for the staff like this. And I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

     I settle in next to Mary, a server that has been working for Manny since I was a girl. As we stuff our faces, quiet falls on the diner. Even Manny and Paul are quiet now – and they’re rarely quiet. The door to the diner opens suddenly, the bells jangling as the door swings open. None of us stop and look up – not a one of us. We are all consumed by the food. As she has in years past, Manny’s wife, Lola, has brought us homemade tortillas – flour and corn. And as I’ve grown up doing, we sop up our food with the flour tortillas and scoop the shredded beef up into the corn tortillas. I dip my corn tortilla into some beans and shove an unladylike bite in my mouth. The guest clears his throat. “Excuse me?” he asks.

     He’s broken the spell. “Oh gawd. Not another one,” Mary says under her breath. We all turn to see who has interrupted the spell…

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Till There’s Nothing Left

“I wanna know what it feels like/To disappear into you and/Never have to say goodbye…”

This is a song I hadn’t heard before until I started listening to a “Country Kind of Love” playlist on Spotify. It’s kind of addictive. I’ve listened to it about a million times the last couple of days. I thought I’d never heard of the singer before, but found another song of hers, Burning House, on YouTube. I do remember that song (from 2015). She’s good. It’s sad that I had no idea who she was and hadn’t heard this song before. Country radio is really crappy, to be honest.

But I digress. Some songs just stick with me and this is one of those. My muse is . . . I miss him. He’s a him, right now. Maybe always will be. But songs like this, help. I have the itch to write today.

Till there’s nothing left by Songwriters: Hillary Lindsey / Jeffrey Bhasker / Cam Ochs / Tyler Sam Johnson

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How to Like Ourselves More

steven furtick, highlight reel steven furtick, elaina avalos, elaina m. avalos

I’ve shared before that I really enjoy Dr. Rick and Forrest Hanson’s Being Well, podcast. I’ve gotten a lot from it over the last nine-ish months. I listen every week. Last week’s episode was “Building a Better Relationship with Yourself (aka How to Like Ourselves More).” Here’s the description:

The most important relationship we have is with ourselves. You’re the only person you’ll be around every minute of every day for the rest of your life. And, unfortunately, that relationship is often our most difficult one. Today Dr. Rick and Forrest Hanson explore how we can become better friends to ourselves, and learn to like ourselves more.

What I found useful in this episode is the conversation surrounding the ways in which we are overly focused on the faults in ourselves – hyper-focused in some cases – and compare our lives to those around us. We use everyone else’s highlight reel as the yardstick with which we measure our lives, judge ourselves, etc. As Pastor Steven Furtick says, “The reason why we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” This is never more true than now as we are constantly exposed to other people’s social media version of their lives. We don’t see their inner thoughts. We don’t necessarily know when they’re behaving badly. We don’t see their bad habits. And we compare ourselves and our own hyper-critical narrator, against a version of others that is not likely to be a full picture of who they are.

In this episode, Dr. Hanson shares a way to practice “being for yourself.” While I can’t possibly recap the whole thing and wouldn’t want to – as Dr. Hanson’s words are incredibly poignant, here’s an important quote. And then I’ve shared how he basically summed up the entire practice of being for yourself.

“Can you look at yourself, as someone, like any other human, who deserves decency and fairness – including in the accurate appraisal of yourself – seeing yourself accurately, & holding yourself to the same standard that you hold other people to, no less – no more?” – Dr. Rick Hanson

If you view yourself in the ways that I used to, the answer is probably no. Here’s how he summed up the practice – or ways of thinking about how to be “for yourself.”

1. It’s okay to seek good for yourself.
2. Be compassionate toward yourself (as you would others).
3. Be strong on your own behalf.

I think there’s something really powerful here and in the “positive inner voices” that we should be focusing on – in the same way we would be positive and compassionate toward those around us. If a friend were hurting, would we be cruel or compassionate? Would we beat them up? It’s not likely. We want what’s best for them.

I believe we behave out of what’s in our hearts and thoughts. If we wouldn’t beat up our friends or speak condemnation and ugliness into their lives – why do we do it to ourselves? If a friend told me her husband was abusive with his words – though he’d never hurt her physically? What would I say to her? I would point out all of the lies in his words and tell her she deserves better than to be treated that way. I would point out all of the ways in which she is a great person, with a good heart, that deserves to be loved and cared for.

And yet, we frequently beat ourselves bloody, focusing more on what we’ve done wrong or how we’ve made mistakes – versus viewing ourselves compassionately and through a lens of self-acceptance. Do condemning words and focus on our faults – get us anywhere? Not with me. This whole idea of “being for ourselves” absolutely does not mean that we’re narcissists or that we somehow don’t have our own stuff to work on. But what I’ve come to accept is that without that compassion toward myself, I’m actually less able to work on the things I’d like to change about myself. Beating myself up holds me back.

There’s something very powerful about seeing ourselves accurately. If you’re a believer, this also means that you accept the way in which God views you. There’s little evidence to show that he views you as a horrible, rotten piece of trash. I mean – that’s the whole point of Grace. The Bible talks about the way that God redeems us and offers us this grace so freely. We exchange the old person for the new person. But so often there’s a hyper-focus on the stuff we’d rather not admit to. That’s not at all what God is focused on. It’s not the identity that He’s given us. I’m convinced that seeing ourselves accurately requires that we offer ourselves the same compassionate response we offer others and seeing ourselves as He does, in Him.

If you’re really great at beating yourself up and not so great at being compassionate toward yourself, listen to the podcast (linked above). It’s worth your time.