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“I love you, whatever you do – But I got a life to live too…”

“I love you, whatever you do – But I got a life to live too…” – Brandi Carlile

As I wade through my options and look forward to the future – and to building the life I have waited so long for, there is one thing that feels . . . off. I guess it was bound to happen. It doesn’t surprise me that I’d get here – to the fork in the road and feel unsettled – in spite of knowing what I want and sensing the path I need to take to get there. As I hope & pray for a new opportunity – including one that may take me across the country, I know I’m taking more steps toward letting you go.

When I wrote “Wild Things” in August of 2020, I was already predicting this fate. It’s just really hard for me to give up and let go. I suck at it, to be honest. And so, as I throw my heart and soul into pursuing this life I’ve been waiting on, I do so knowing I’m also taking steps that seal my fate – settling into the cold, wild – alone.

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My Kind of Love

Before my recent vacation started, I started re-watching my all time favorite television show, LOST. You have to type it out that way . . . L-O-S-T, or you’re not a true LOSTie. So anyway, the show will always stick with me because of what the Show Runners, writers, and directors did with the characters throughout its six seasons. For a show that was filled with everything from time travel to age-old questions of faith vs. science, mystery, and even violence – it did what other action-packed dramas on television have never done for me – made me love its characters.

As someone that writes character-driven fiction, it was only natural that I’d fall in love with the characters themselves. They’re not exactly lovable. They’re not exactly worthy of hate, either. While there are a few characters that I will never like, for the most part, I love all of them. Each character is complex. None of them are fully good. Most of them aren’t fully bad, either. They’re like most of us – a healthy of mix of what’s good and what’s not.

Though I’m drawn to love stories in movies and books, those remain secondary to what has made me such a loyal fan of the show. That said (you knew I was going to throw a however comma in there, right?), there are some great love stories woven into the six seasons. It’s hard to pick which is my favorite – though Sawyer and Juliet and Jack and Kate certainly rise to the top. I’ve shared before that Desmond and Penny share one of my favorite television moments of all time. Above is another. While the whole clip is pivotal – in terms of the plot – it’s also another one of the perfect moments that passes between Desmond and Penny. Much like in my favorite moment between them, in The Constant.

It is ultimately their love that changes things, for everyone on the island – at least on the surface. But I love their love. It’s my kind of love. These two stay the course, in spite of insurmountable odds. Desmond – poor guy – he takes the worst of it, thanks to Penny’s horrible father. And even though there are moments when she wavers, in the beginning, she knows. She knows how loved she is. She knows how far Desmond will go to show her that.

Because of that, she waits. She doesn’t give up. While she waits, she’s constantly trying to figure out how to find Desmond so they can be reunited. At about 2:50 in the clip, Desmond recalls the words Penny has written him in a letter he keeps – to remind him of how and where they started. I remain uncertain that in season 1 – these two would become as important as they are in the rest of the seasons. Nonetheless, it is their determination and dedication to each other that keeps them on course.

This is my kind of love. If only. Strip away all the craziness of a TV show – these two have a few things going for them in addition to loving each other – loyalty, determination, and patience are a pretty solid foundation. It’s what sustains them through the darkest moments when all seems lost (pun intended). Like I said – if only.

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What Comes Next?

“I hope
you can find
peace
while
breathing
deep
without
knowing
what
comes
next.”
– Morgan Harper Nichols

What I know for certain is that life is uncertain. Making decisions about the future is tough sometimes. As I apply for jobs in California and various other locations around the country, the unknowns are mounting. What I don’t know, far outweighs what I do know. The challenge in moments like these is to keep my eyes fixed on God. My goal throughout this journey is being at peace with whatever comes my way.

I’m always up for an adventure. It has been awhile since I’ve had one, however. I think I’m due for one. So while I don’t know where the path is leading, I’m at peace.

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Birthdays, Vacations, & Other Random Thoughts

Captain Bob Beck, Captain Bob Beck's Marina Cafe, Jacksonville NC, elaina avalos, onslow county, only in onslow
Birthday lunch location…

A famous literary agent recently wrote a blog post about the need for writers to stop with the random blog posts. Oops. I respect almost everything she has to say. But, if I’m not random, I’m not sure I have anything to say (or write). So whatever.

Yesterday was my 46th birthday. I’m on vacation this week. Vacation seems to connote trips to exotic locales and exciting adventures. I’m at home – near the coast of North Carolina – it’s not exciting or exotic. I’ve napped. I have done ridiculous amounts of laundry (there’s a backstory for this). I re-arranged my living room/dining room/office space, with my mom. I ate at a restaurant I’ve never been to, though I’ve passed by it for 21 years. I’m applying for jobs and praying for God’s will for my career & life. I’ve cleaned up my kitchen, caught up on randomness, and maybe came to terms with all that’s missing.

Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center, Beaufort, Beaufort NC, NC Maritime Museum, Beaufort Food & Wine, elaina avalos
Wine, Bread & Cheese Seminar – Beaufort Wine & Food Festival. Photo by Elaina Avalos.

Tomorrow, I head to the “Wine, Bread, & Cheese” seminar of the Beaufort Wine & Food – Spring Festival. The winery featured tomorrow is Napa Cellars. I can’t say for certain if I’ve ever had any of their wine. But I’m certain I’ll enjoy the pairings. While this year’s event is not at the Watercraft Center (huge bummer), it’s impossible not to love any locale in Beaufort. While we’ve had a cold front blow through and it will be a tad chillier than it has been, the salt air is about all I care about. I live in Beaufort when I first moved back to North Carolina, after a few years at home in California, and I miss it. On Friday and Saturday, I’ll be volunteering at a couple of other events. I am looking forward to that as well.

As my birthday month seems to do (the last six years), I’ve got much to think & dream about. And more to plan. One thing that has come into focus, is how much I’ve held onto the last few years, that I don’t want to hold onto – any longer. Everyone’s way of weeding their way through these types of things is different. I suppose the point at which we’re ready to dispose of them is different for everyone. This is my line in the sand. Tomorrow, I’ll add another. I’ll share that later. All in all, I continue to press forward, hoping someone will finally respond to my resume (so many jobs applied for) and that I might feel a little sense of closure.

No matter what, I’ll just keep plugging away until I know what comes next.

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Counting Down to Vacation

When I leave work on Friday, I will be on vacay until May 2nd. I cannot wait. I am counting down to vacation.

I’m on my back patio as I write this. It’s 7:10 and I should be starting my Sunday evening routine. But I am not ready for Monday and so I’m sitting here as the wind blows through the trees and as my playlist , plays – pretending it’s not time for me to wind down. The good news is, when I get home from work in the early evening and it’s still light out – I will make my way back out there.

So what happens on vacation? Rest. Projects at home. Writing. And the Beaufort Wine & Food Festival . This year, I’ve only bought tickets to one event. I’ll be volunteering at three others. I’m excited for that this year as something different.

Abby approves of the patio.

Speaking of wine – I’ve been making more deliberate choices when it comes to wine. I am choosing specific wines I’ve learned about through a variety of podcasts or on SOMM TV (yes, I subscribe to a streaming service about wine). Food & wine people are my favorite. Wine people more specifically. I adore them. When I used to attend wine dinners or wine tastings regularly, one thing I loved was how you could be with the most random people – from all walks of life – and have the best time even though you might initially think you don’t have anything in common. There is always, always something to find in common with folks.

Anyway…I’m working on being more deliberate in my choices when it comes to wine. But recently, I decided that I’d try a wine that I was drawn to only for it’s name. Hampton Water. I mean, weird. It’s a French rosé.

Hampton Water & its annoying glass “cork.”

Here’s the thing, it has a glass cork. I’ve never seen this before. I literally had to watch a video to learn how to open the wine. But I didn’t just have to watch a video, after the second time trying to open it (took me a half hour), I left it open on the counter – refusing to cork it again. Lol. “Vivino” – an app I use – decided that I would like this bottle and expected me to rate it 4.0 stars. I did not rate it 4 stars. I rated it 3. But now that I’m several days from trying it, I’m not sure if I rated it 3 because it wasn’t great or because I was so annoyed at how hard it was to open. I’m leaning toward the latter. I may try it again (if someone else opens it).

This guy is not bad. It’s on the cheaper end of what I’ve buying lately. But I have been enjoying it more than the more expensive Hampton Water. I love the stories that accompany the wines I’ve been choosing. And though I didn’t choose this Bordeaux wine for its story, choosing a wine with a high price point or its bottle or name is pretty pointless. I’d much rather drink a “cheaper” bottle over a trendier wine, at a higher price point – if I don’t enjoy it. Seems like a no-brainer, right? But people are out there doing that and it seems pointless.

Instead, move to where you want to live, do what you want to do, start what you want to start, and create the life you want to live today.

Dale Partridge

As I head into my last five days before a break of nine days, I am determined – more now than ever before – to create a life that I don’t feel a desperate need to get away from. It’s a phrase used frequently. I think it’s probably seen as cliché-ish, but as with many things that get overused – there’s still some truth to it.

My goal in the coming weeks and moths is to do just that.

P.S. Another 50 by 50 goal – learn how to make my own wine!

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Our Response to Stress

stress, maureen killoran, tiny buddha, tinybuddha.com

“It’s not what happens to us. It’s our response to what happens. And response is something we can choose.” – Maureen Killoran

It has been a while since I’ve shared a podcast recommendation. Today, on my second favorite podcast (Being Well) Dr. Hanson & Forrest Hanson tackled the topic of stress in a episode called, “Understand and Manage Stress: Causes, Biological Basis, and Increasing Resilience.”

Here’s a bit of the description:
On this episode, Dr. Rick and Forrest Hanson take a deep dive into defining stress, how it functions, how it impacts our lives and bodies, and what we can do to repair from its effects. We discuss how to distinguish stress from effort, the influence of the modern world on how stressed we feel, the various biological mechanisms involved in stress, and the challenges presented by chronic exposure to it. We then consider what we can do to increase resilience, including positively responding to stressors even in the midst of limitations and uncertainty.

This is definitely worth your time. But you will need a little over an hour to tune in. It’s so worth it. I’m already on my second listen. If you’re prone to stress, work in a stressful environment, or just generally feel like your brain and body haven’t caught up after a traumatic or painful event, I think you will get a lot out of this.

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Neurons That Fire Together…

Neurons that fire together, wire together. ~ Donald Hebb

This is another one of those random rambling posts . . .

  1. Donald Hebb, a neuropsychologist said “Neurons that fire together, wire together,” many years ago. Essentially, it describes the process of neural pathways being formed and reinforced, in your brain, over time. This can be a positive thing. It can be a negative thing. Ultimately, it does highlight the power of our brains and our ability to positively change negative thought patterns or habits that hold us back. I’ve been working on this. Primarily, my goal is to learn how to stay on track as the positive, person I was born to be – who delights in the little sweet things and serving & taking care of people – no matter what’s happening around me. I had a rough week this last week. I can see, from my vantage point of my comfy couch, on a Saturday evening, how much better the week would have gone, had I remembered to practice mindfulness and a little meditation when things were particularly challenging in several situations that were negative and beyond my ability to control. At the end of the day, we have the ability to remain calm, at peace, and focused where we want our energy focused – even when there is chaos and negativity around us.
Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center, Beaufort, Beaufort NC, NC Maritime Museum, Beaufort Food & Wine, elaina avalos
Photo by…me, at the Wine, Bread, & Cheese Seminar in 2017.

2. April is my birth month. When I turned 40, I went to the Beaufort Wine & Food Festival (now referred to as the Beaufort Food & Wine Spring Festival – because there’s a fall event, too!) as a gift to myself. A friend bought me a ticket to one event, too. I went for several years and then missed out when I had kids in my home (foster care) & then COVID ruined 2020’s event. This is the first time I’ve been in a while and I am excited to attend the “Wine, Bread, & Cheese” seminar (a favorite). This time & because I am trying to move my way into the hospitality world, I’ve decided to volunteer at two other events. I’ll be volunteering at the Spring Soirée & the Vin de Mer Epicurean Village. I cannot wait. I’m taking the week off, too! Though it’s a month away, I’m already counting down the days.

event planner, event management, wedding planner, coastal carolina events, elaina avalos

3. I love entertaining, hosting, cooking, and serving. I love the act of choosing wine to go with a meal I’m serving. I adore events with good food & great wine. Food & wine people are my fav. They are from all walks of life and when the drinks are flowing and the food is amazing, no one cares what you look like, where you come from, or what your degrees are or are not. I love when people attend my events and have a ton of fun or they’re so busy enjoying themselves, they don’t even know what time it is. When I’ve planned family events – like holiday parties, the best feeling (ever) was seeing our kids running around having a total blast. But even better was when I’d catch our young, single Marines, having fun (against their best efforts to have fun). My fav event ever, was when our Marines & families were so busy with stand up paddle boarding and kayaking, hiking, and enjoying our meal, they had no idea we were packing up to head home. Although it’s not talked about a lot, those who have a Christian faith, as I do, believe there are various gifts that we are given – by God. Hospitality is a “spiritual gift” and it’s one I have. One of the best feelings I have had in the last 11+ years in my current career, in addition to what I’ve already mentioned, is how often my “co-workers” told me they came to my office because it was so “peaceful.” They came for snacks, for a break in the quiet of my office, and because “it smells so good in here.” Haha. I got such a kick out of that. Hospitality – it’s a joy to me. I absolutely love welcoming people into my environment (whatever that may be). And though it may take a while, I know that my next career has that as its primary focus.

event planner, event management, wedding planner, coastal carolina events, elaina avalos, oprah winfrey

5. Tonight, it’s this song . . .

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LOST & the Love/Hate Relationships with Your Favorite Characters

Big Sur, Big Sur California, pexels, piccing from pexels, elaina avalos
Photo by Piccinng from Pexels

I don’t live near the sea anymore. I thought I would miss it – but the mountains of North Carolina have taken up residence in my heart. I was raised beside the wild Pacific, on a ranch and vineyard, one of only a few along that shoreline, nestled into the mountains and hills of the Big Sur coastline. The coastal landscape along the winding Highway 1 is at once stunning and agonizingly lonely. It’s melancholy – like me. Giant Redwoods tower above you on one side and then within a few steps, cacti and wild California brush co-mingle with an intoxicating scent that you get to enjoy when it rains – or when the landscape is warmed on summer days.

It was there, on those lonely hills, that my life became both deeply painful and shockingly beautiful.
When I left California, nearly seven years ago now, I did so with little more than a weekend trip to the mountains of North Carolina to decide it was what was next for us. I knew very little about the place that would be come home to Jackson and I.

***

I put aside my novel, A Thousand Years, for a while. But I may have found a good way ahead for a novel that was floundering. It’s still a lot of work and a major rewrite. So much so that I’m contemplating making part of the wall in my dining room (that’s really just an office and a place for the dog to sleep her life away), into a plot wall. I have no idea how I’ll make this work, but in my head, it’s something like this . . .

🙂

But I’m thinking character’s names, important dates, scenes, etc. and then plugging in and moving around as need be. In part, this novel is two distinct stories – and that’s where it got weird and confusing. I wanted to get the thing written. But no matter what I did, I couldn’t fit the entirety of this story into one novel. It just didn’t want to work with me. What I’m saying is . . . it had a mind of its own.

If I’m honest, this “novel” should probably be written as a script. Except I have no clue what I’m doing in that regard. I have never attempted, nor do I know where to start, when it comes to writing a script. Two of my favorite writers, directors, and show runners – are the two men above (Carlton Cuse & Damon Lindelof). What they did with LOST – in terms of the characters, is and always will be inspiring to me. While I loved the storyline, that faithful viewers followed throughout its 6 seasons, it is actually the characters themselves that I grew to love more than the plot.

I didn’t care about all of the explanations about the weird things that happened on the island as much as I cared about the character’s journeys. They were weird, complicated, beautiful, and sometimes, really bad people. It was hard, at many points, to determine whether you hated or loved a character. Or maybe hated is too strong a word. Either way – they were complicated. A character like Sayid Jarrah, for instance, was terribly hard to figure out. He was a torturer – literally. Yet, he was deeply burdened by his past life – regretting all of it. He also found it much easier to slip back into his old ways when the need would arise. But I digress. The point was, I loved Sayid. But it wasn’t always easy to love him. Sawyer is another example. He was deeply, deeply flawed. He pushed everyone away and seemed, at times, to happily convince others to hate him. Yet, we learned throughout the show, what started him on this path. And that made all of the difference in the world in how you viewed him.

I love writers and directors who can tell stories like that – stories that make you love the characters in spite of their flaws, that is. All along, A Thousand Years, was a novel about family. The problem is, I started too far along into the story. Birdie Langston’s story didn’t start where I started writing the novel. It went way back. Way, way back. That became apparent quite quickly. Birdie (the protagonist) was trying to get through to me the whole time. I listen well. Except when it comes to writing. Sometimes I get something in my head and don’t see around the original vision, even when a bigger story is taking shape.

I’m now rambling on – but while I’m on my tangent – let’s talk about LOST again and how characters take on a life of their own. Carlton Cuse & Damon Lindelof could certainly clear this up for me, but there are times I wonder if two of the LOST characters were intended to become who & what they became (when the show runners began working together). Those two characters are Desmond & Penny. They played pivotal roles, in the development of LOST overall, in my opinion. But I’m not 100% convinced it was always meant to be that way. Or perhaps I should say, I’m not certain they started out this way. And yet, in spite of that, the two are among my favorites. They also happen to be the stars of my favorite moment of all six seasons of LOST. It’s hands down my favorite. There’s no way to explain what brought these two to this moment, so I won’t even try. But it is, without fail, the moment that always, always gives me chills. I have seen it dozens and dozens of times and it still gives me chills at exactly the same moments, literally every time. Penny is Desmond’s “constant.” And man, this was an incredible TV moment. It’s romantic, beautiful, and a bit of encouragement – for all of us hoping that rescue was somewhere on the horizon.

If I’m wrong, and Penny & Desmond were in the plan from day one – to always have this moment (that would usher in a whole new direction for the show) – it only drives home for me how important it is for the writer to take a backseat. A story that wants to be told should be indulged. Even if it takes you to Scotland, England, and a freighter in the middle of the ocean – way out of the action on the island.

And so, I’m back. But the clock is being reset and the story is starting somewhere else – in another day and time. It starts with the family that raised Birdie and the soil they love, the hard work that made them, and the determination – that created the woman that Birdie would eventually become.

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Frida Kahlo to Marty McConnell

frida kahlo, marty mcconnell, elaina avalos, frida kahlo to marty mcconnell, take a lover who looks at you like maybe you are magic

Frida Kahlo to Marty McConnell
by Marty McConnell

leaving is not enough; you must
stay gone. train your heart
like a dog. change the locks
even on the house he’s never
visited. you lucky, lucky girl.
you have an apartment
just your size. a bathtub
full of tea. a heart the size
of Arizona, but not nearly
so arid. don’t wish away
your cracked past, your
crooked toes, your problems
are papier mache puppets
you made or bought because the vendor
at the market was so compelling you just
had to have them. you had to have him.
and you did. and now you pull down
the bridge between your houses.
you make him call before
he visits. you take a lover
for granted, you take
a lover who looks at you
like maybe you are magic. make
the first bottle you consume
in this place a relic. place it
on whatever altar you fashion
with a knife and five cranberries.
don’t lose too much weight.
stupid girls are always trying
to disappear as revenge. and you
are not stupid. you loved a man
with more hands than a parade
of beggars, and here you stand. heart
like a four-poster bed. heart like a canvas.
heart leaking something so strong
they can smell it in the street.

I’d like to add – perhaps I should insert my own name in here “Frida Kahlo to Elaina Avalos…” Also, I deserve better.

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It’s the Little Things

Trader Joe's Flowers, Trader Joe's Daffodils, Daffodils, Elaina Avalos

It’s the little things that mean the most, sometimes. The joy – for me, is in the hike in the forest, when the only sounds around me are the birds, or the wind through the pines, or in the view from my kitchen window.

In no particular order, here’s where I’m clinging to the little things & the way they bring me joy & delight . . .

1. Fresh daffodils in my favorite vase.

Kitchen Window View, Trees, Woods, Elaina Avalos

2. The view from my kitchen window.

3. The hope that God’s plan, which I can’t fully see yet, is far better than my own.

Your Plan and God's Plan, Elaina Avalos

4. Memories of our chats (and maybe even arguments) are priceless to me now. Your defense of me, support, our conversations, and your eyes (maybe also your cologne) – are the best thing in the absolute mess of the last few years. I miss the joy I felt being around you. I truly miss you, my friend.

5. My quiet home.

6. Being heard.

7. Sunsets.

Eastern NC sunset, Carolina sunset, ENC Sunset, Elaina Avalos

8. New to me songs…

Honestly, it’s the sweet moments, in my quiet house, with these little “things” – that have helped me feel like I’ve finally returned to myself.

So what are some of your favorite “little” things?

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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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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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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. 🙂