Chasing Dreams – Book Anniversary

Chasing Hope, Elaina M. Avalos, novel, indie author, fiction, novel, Beaufort NC

One year ago today, my novel was published. It was a long time coming. I started writing this book so long ago. Like all of us, as we grow and change over the years, it changed too.

But it was always about family, adoption, and love. To celebrate the anniversary of finally chasing my dreams . . . the book will be on sale, starting June 12th!

You can read an excerpt, here & here. You can find it on Goodreads, here. You can find the Amazon reviews, here.

What dreams have you been chasing lately, friend?

First Grade – Kiddo Update

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Today was my kiddo’s first grade awards & end of year party. He has been so excited about it all week. Yes, he asks about the last day of school. But he also asked how many days until the 7th.

He came to my bedroom door at 6:15 this morning, knocking loudly. I thought something was wrong. I got up & opened the door and before he could say anything else, he said, “Today’s my party!”

I picked out a shirt & shorts and left them for him while I went back to my room and got ready. When I opened my door again, I could see him going through his clip-on ties. A couple of minutes later he walked over to me wearing a mis-matched tie. He beamed.

He felt it was important to wear a tie today. So I gave him a little fashion advice and encouraged him to find a different color. He came back with it on. He looked adorable. He said, “I look handsome,” when he checked himself out in the mirror.

He is so precious and sweet.

When I arrived at his classroom, I got a, “Mommmyyy!!!!” He ran to me and threw his arms around me. It was the sweetest thing. He’s never called me mommy though he’s used a variety of “mom/mama” names for me. He tells the kids in his class that I’m mom. But 9 times out of 10 here at home, he calls me “Miss Elaina.”

He was so proud to show me his desk (which I’ve seen of course…lol) and his art projects. He could not contain himself. He was so excited. His “award” for the year was the “Snicker Starter” because he’s always snickering and making the class and his teacher laugh too.

His classmates voted him as having the “best laugh.” Between his smile and his laugh, it’s hard not to feel joy around him when he is happy. He is such a sweetheart. I’m grateful he had a teacher that was patient with him after all the changes he’s gone through.

I do have to say, I got a little teary-eyed. I was emotional not only to see him so happy, but because there was a time in my life when I’d doubted I’d ever have the opportunity to do something like that. He’s not “mine.” But how sweet for us both to have each other today. I had fun experiencing something I haven’t as a “parent.” But I also enjoyed seeing his joy at having me there.

I’m so proud of this little man and his determination. I have a playlist for him because he loves music so much. I put a few songs on it that he didn’t know, like “Overcomer” by Mandisa. I explained to him what that song means. We watched the video on YouTube.

I told him, “You’re an overcomer!” This morning I told him that I thought we needed a motivating song on the way to school. He said, “How about Overcomer by Mandisa?” I said, “YEP! That’s the one.”

He’s an overcomer.

His heart is so tender. And I know God has great things in store for him. I don’t know how long he’ll be with me, but I have a feeling that if he leaves my home, I’ll see his face somewhere – doing something incredible & awesome.

Love that little guy.

Trauma Mama

to my foster child

I haven’t provided much in the way of foster care updates on the blog. I’ve been trying to figure out the balance between privacy and what I want so badly to write about (because that’s what writers do). I have a private Facebook group of family and some friends. In that group I share some blog-like updates.

It’s challenging to be in the midst of something you’ve waited decades for and not be able to share. So I’ll do my best to update without diving into too much detail.

This afternoon through 9:00 PM was a little rough up in here. Trauma parenting is a thing. Hello, my name is Elaina and I’m a Trauma Mama. Most of the time I think my son’s past therapy, prior to meeting me, has made a significant and positive impact on him.

And then something like today happens and I wonder how I could possibly have the skills and abilities to help him through what remains. I do (in Him) but I still question these things.

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Today was not good. Today was a day that made me hate being a single foster parent. Today was a day that made me long – desperately – to be free of a 9-5 so at the very least, I’ve stripped off one layer of stress in my life – so I can be more present for him.

Truthfully, we’ve had some very hard moments since the week of Mother’s Day. I’ve wondered who this kid is lately, because the little boy his teacher knows, my mom knows, I know, the kids our street know – is not the little boy I’ve been seeing.

It hurts my heart for him. He bears so many burdens. I sometimes wonder how he keeps it all together. Today was hard. Recent weeks have had some very hard moments.

And then there is the rest of the time. I literally laugh out loud at him constantly. He loves being silly. He loves making people laugh. His smile lights up a room. He is sweet – so very sweet. He talks from the moment he knocks on my door in the morning until he falls asleep, at night. He talks about everything and anything.

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He is conscientious and anxious and must understand everything. His why questions are rooted in this inquisitive longing to understand…everything. Boy does he ever stump me. There are so many times when I’m like…huh. I don’t know. Let’s look that up. 🙂

Since the week of Mother’s Day, he isn’t far from my presence – ever. Until that week, he would happily play in his room, with me across the hall, before bedtime (our usual routine). Now, he needs to be with me. In the evening, after his bath, his cars and trucks have found their way to my room where he plays until it’s time for reading, prayers, and sleep.

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He’s only been with me a few months. But it seems like there wasn’t life before him. And honestly, I can’t imagine life without him in it. So I wait for what comes next. We have six more months of the status quo – per the judge.

Six more months of limbo for him.

I know. Three months with me and six more months of waiting, is nothing in foster care land. But for him, he has been in limbo for far longer (two years). He longs for security, safety, and the stability of his forever home. I want this for him so badly. Six months will pass in the blink of an eye, right?

I hope so. I hope that at the end of the six months, whatever happens, the little boy that stole my heart, will be a step closer to his forever home.

Are you a foster parent? What strategies have you found to help you and your kiddos out when the trauma rears its ugly head?

New Fiction to Share

On Facebook, I’ve shared some quick, “new” fiction.

One, flash fiction of sorts, can be found HERE. It’s a love story in less than 500 words. It sounds like something from my Macon & Ava’s story. Maybe it will go in the sequel?

“He, the beautiful man of the hard way, is a challenge I am sometimes convinced I can’t meet. Even after all these years. Today, in a quiet moment in the midst of a busy day, I thought about the way his eyes hold mine. There has been fire and light for me in his eyes – for me, for as long as I can remember. Me. His fierceness lights me from the inside out with just one look.”

Read the rest, here.

New Bern NC, flash fiction, love story, love, romance, Elaina Avalos

You can read my short story, called “It Looks Like This,” HERE!

Tell the Story

elaina avalos, chasing hope by elaina avalos, maya angelou, writer

Tell the story.

Tell your story.

For far too long I’ve known it was time to tell my story.

There’s a story to share, because by God’s grace, I am not where I was. There’s a story to tell because He has redeemed and restored me.

I need to share my story. But beyond that, I’m called to do so. I’ve resisted for one reason or another. But most of the reasons ultimately come back to living my life for the betterment of an organization, versus my larger purpose on this earth.

In recent months, the why I’m here on this earth has crystallized and yet even still, I’m working my way through the details. But I do know that I need to tell my story.

Years ago I heard Anne Marie Miller (aka Anne Jackson) speak at a church. She talked about how there may be times in our lives where we’re called to give the gift of going first.

What does that mean? It means that we might need to tell our own story so others know there is hope, healing, freedom, etc. We may need to go first so they feel free to seek help, healing, and take a chance on hope.

I knew before that evening in Corona, California, that I needed to go first. Listening to Anne confirmed it.

And then life happened. I made choice after choice after choice that put me at odds with that calling. I put everything in front of my faith and the calling on my life.

The organization that deposits a paycheck in my checking account every two weeks, won. What I was being called to do by the God that chases me down, did not.

But in recent times, I’ve grown more and more certain that God is asking me to leave this old way of life, behind.

I’ve become more certain that telling my story is what He’s asking of me.

And yet, I’ve still held back.

After some of the hardest weeks and months of my life in 2016-2017, in which I lived in fear, some of the worst anxiety I’ve ever experienced, and my heart was broken (so very badly), I knew something had to change. And I knew I had to tell my story.

But I’ve still held back, ya’ll. I have such a hard head. Tell me I’m not the only one…

Fast forward to tonight. Our worship team at church somehow picked the exact songs I needed tonight. The words, as I sang them, were prayers, commitments, and reminders of the God that chases me down and is owed all of my life – every part of it – to include my story.

I didn’t notice our worship pastor’s shirt until the service was almost over and we were singing the last song (Do It Again).

It has been a favorite worship song for a while. But as the song started, I saw George’s shirt. White letters on black, “Tell the story” it said.

I smiled big.

You may think it’s a coincidence. You may not think it’s a sign. You may deny that there’s a message there for me or anyone else. But I know, like I know today is Saturday, that God could (and did) use a black t-shirt to slap me upside the face.

Do you know how many times this week I’ve begun this post? Not about a song or t-shirt but about “telling the story?” I’ve started this countless times but stopped myself every time.

So no. It’s not a coincidence.

Tell the story.

In my heart of hearts, I think we all know what our calling in life is. I think you know, yours. I know mine. I may not always know what that looks like or how the pieces will come together, but I know, that I know, that I know.

My friends – I’ve got some writing to do. Non-fiction…a devotional, a book about how the trauma of my childhood has impacted my entire life (but isn’t the end of the story because of God’s grace). I may have some other stuff to write, too.

Tell the story.

I’m going to tell the story.

 

Hold Fast to Your Dreams

chasing hope, elaina avalos, fiction, novel, hold fast to your dreams

A year ago today, I posted this photo on Instagram & Facebook. I had finally finished editing my novel, Chasing Hope. This novel, set in beautiful Beaufort, NC, had taken me far too long to write. Over the years, as I grew and changed, the novel did too. In many ways I’m thankful for that.

However, there is one primary way I would change things if I could. It is this . . .

I would not have let anything stop me from writing every day (or starting the foster care/adoption process sooner). I take on too much. I put things off in the name of my job. It was always, “Later. I’ll get to it later,” with me. I am sensitive – sometimes too sensitive. The way people treat me deeply impacts me. I take those burdens home.

chasing hope, elaina avalos, beaufort nc, fiction, novel

Or, I am burdened by other’s hurt, trials, etc. On one hand, this is not a bad thing. I don’t want to change who I am. However, I didn’t do such a great job separating out my own life from my career or the organization that employed me.

When you’re weighed down by the extras, it tends to hold you back from what it is you actually want to be doing. At least that’s true of me. I’m sure there are many others out there like me, however. Especially those of you that are sensitive, artists, or just generally don’t believe in yourself.

Even after publishing Chasing Hope (read an excerpt by clicking the link) last summer, I have done what I did for so many years – I put off writing the second book and stopped working on promotion of the first one.

There is an extra person in my house that impacts when I can write. But that’s really not the biggest impediment to me holding fast to and pursuing my dreams.

It’s the way I let my day job impact my personal life. Here’s the thing. I love what I do. I love the people that I have been working with since 2010. I truly do. I wouldn’t trade these 8 years.

What was so badly needed, was for me to learn sooner, how to leave work at work. The truth is, after all this time, the Marine Corps has made major changes to the program I love. And though I won’t lose my job (this time), in an instant, they’ll part ways with me, without a second thought.

chasing hope, elaina avalos, chasing hope by elaina avalos, fiction, novel, beaufort nc, pamlico county nc

A wise man, who knows this organization so well, once told me that it will do what is best for itself. No matter what. So . . . I probably should just go ahead and do what’s best for me and be who God has called me to be, right? Why silence, hide, or put other things first?

I do not regret for one second the two units I have invested so much of my heart in. Not even for a second. What I do regret is that I forgot to do that at home. That was my choice. No one else’s.

In the last two weeks, I’ve come to face some hard truths about myself and the organization I love. I’ve come to realize how patient God is with me as I put off the me He created me to be.

elaina avalos, chasing hope by elaina avalos, maya angelou, writer

Waking up this morning to that post was a reminder of what I want so badly for my life. In the book “Draw the Circle,” Mark Batterson talks about “circling” people, situations, dreams, etc., in prayer. Essentially that just means pray without giving up. I have a 3×5 card of the main things I want to circle in prayer.

On that card is my dream to write full time. Now that I have a little guy living in my house, this has grown in importance. Every time I pick him up from childcare and I’m reminded of what I wanted to be true of my life, I know that I need to throw everything I have at being home full time with him and whomever else joins our little family.

This is the dream. It may not be your dream, but it has always been mine.

For those of you sitting on your dreams, don’t do it any longer. Maybe that dream is your side hustle right now. Maybe you can’t begin to imagine how you’ll make it all come together. I understand.

You know what they say? Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Here’s the thing, I can pray until I’m blue in the face. But if I’m not out there doing my part, how exactly do I think doors are going to open for me and my family? If I’m not hustling, how exactly do I expect this dream to happen?

So, my friends . . . hold fast to your dreams. If you’re a pray-er, pray.

But get to work.

I’ll get to work with you.

What dream of yours has been languishing, as you put other things first? Care to share? Maybe it’s time to share and speak that dream out loud?