We Know Best What We’re Missing

I mentioned recently that I’ve started a new novel. This is certainly not a final product, since I’m only 10,000 words in, but here is the “blurb” I’m using to describe the novel now.

Ellison Whiting writes bestselling novels about families and relationships. She has made a name for herself – doing just that. Her novels become movies. Her fans become so invested in her books, she sometimes questions if they realize they’re fiction. Ellison Whiting’s problem is she writes novels about families and relationshipsbut she’s never known what it is to be in a family, or a healthy relationship, for that matter. Abandoned by her mother as a toddler, she is convinced of one thing and only one thing – based on the necklace with her few belongings – she was born by the sea. She’s spent a lifetime imagining her life before foster care. After another break-up, after a long string of break-ups, she decides it’s time. She leaves California behind, to uncover her history – along the coast of North Carolina – where she finds the family she’s always wondered about. But at what cost?

Here’s a brief excerpt.

“The secret to writing a great book is that there is no secret. Just a lot of hard work. I’ve written a fair number of bestsellers over the years. The kind that get you movie deals. They’re all still in development, by the way. I have a loyal fan base that would buy anything with my name on it, even if it’s awful. The truth is, everything I’ve written the last two years has been crap. I tried. I’ve tried. But when Carter left, something in me died. It’s not exactly like he was my muse. Honestly, he sucked at being in a relationship. It’s just that he’d been one of the few I’d trusted and that went right the hell out the window along with my will to write about love and family. I’d had a long string of relationships that never went anywhere. That’s the irony of course. I make my name, tons of cash, and I happened to garner critical success – writing about love and family – of all things. My books aren’t romances per se. They’re women’s fiction. I write about women and their relationships – motherhood included. It just so happens each book has a very strong romance element, even if the protagonist’s love interest is a secondary character. My most popular books, without a doubt, however – are love stories. The weirdness of writing a life I don’t know and have never experienced, is not lost on me. But I guess sometimes we know best, what we’re missing. That certainly seems to be the case with me.”

You can read the opening paragraph of Sea Glass Hearts, here.
You can see my Pinterest, inspiration board, here. And yes, of course I have a Spotify playlist, too.

Saying Goodbye

Melrose Abbey Memorial Park, Matt Avalos

I wrote a eulogy for my brother’s memorial service (held yesterday). Here is what I wrote. I missed sharing a few things as I was standing in that chapel. The emotion took over and I was shaking. I couldn’t read my notes. But I got through most of it. The photo above was where the service was held. We had to add chairs because there were so many people the wooden pews were full.

Matt Avalos ~ June 8, 2022

There’s a quote from a football movie, Rudy, that Matt & I loved growing up. The priest in the movie says to Rudy, “Son, in thirty-five years of religious study, I’ve come up with only two hard, incontrovertible facts; there is a God, and, I’m not Him.” I feel like I know slightly more than two things – but not much more. I don’t understand why this happened. I may never understand. The day I found out about my brother’s death was the worst day of my life.

But what I do know for sure is that Matthew is the happiest he’s ever been. He is the healthiest he has ever been. He knows no more pain. He is at perfect peace. I’m sure the first thing he did was find all four of our grandparents. He loved them so much. They were four of the most important people in his life. While I grieve the loss of my only sibling and my parents grieve the loss of their only son, I also know that he knows total joy and happiness and that comforts me some.

Matt was a special kid and grew to be a loving, caring friend and man. When he was a kid, he was a daredevil and rode a “Big Wheel” like a big kid, before he was even out of a diaper. When he was about five, he jumped off a booth at church, fell flat on the concrete, knocking out his front teeth. Why? Because it looked fun, I’m sure. In the slideshow, you can see his school picture – the one where he looks mad and he’s not smiling – it’s because he was hiding a toothless grin.

He loved a good adventure and was always up for leading some mischief with our apartment complex friends. He was always making friends and always finding fun. He was the extrovert – I was the introvert. He made friends everywhere – he reminded me of my Grandpa Avalos in that way. When we moved into a bigger apartment, with our own rooms, he was so excited. To top it off, he had his cousins and apartment friends there the day we moved in. He headed toward the sliding glass door that led out to our patio. His toy guns were out there and he was in another world – excited to have so many people to play with. He literally ran straight through the sliding glass door. He ended up with some stiches in his hand and near his forehead. But he came through otherwise unscathed. But something about that is so Matt to me because he was too excited and happy to notice anything around him – including the closed door.

When we were kids, Matt and I played a ton of video games together – but Super Mario Bros was our favorite. We watched movies together and when we were with my dad, spent a lot of time mini-golfing at Camelot. I live across the country and hadn’t been in SoCal for a while. I was surprised to see it was still there. We watched a lot of movies with my dad too – some of our favorites where Ghostbusters, Strange Brew, and Stakeout. I’m sure my mom wasn’t too thrilled with some of those movies especially when Strange Brew had us walking around saying, “Hey Hoser,” to each other.

During summer football practice (my dad was a coach) and during the season, we would be walked down to the high school (it was at the end of my grandparent’s street), by our Aunt Diane or Grandpa. We’d hang out there in the coach’s office while they were watching game day tape or we’d go play “tennis” on the tennis court, or hang out with the football players in the weight room. I’ve always believed those years were formative and impacted Matt and his interest and skill in coaching, later.

Matt as an adult was a loyal and caring friend. He loved his people and that is obvious from what we’ve seen and heard from his friends since May 27th. Matt took good care of the people in his life. He was a good caretaker for my dad and he was a loving son.

On my birthday, just shy of a month before he passed away, he sent me a birthday message that made me cry – it was so sweet. It meant the world to me. One of the things he said was that we should take a trip for our birthdays in 2023 – we are both April babies. I loved the idea and began wondering what we could to do. I’m still going to do that trip – maybe camping – since we loved it so much. I will take that trip in his honor.

Here’s a quick note to add: One thing that has become clear to me since May 27th, is that I won’t – absolutely will not – waste anymore time. Our time is too precious & we just don’t know how much of it we have. I’m also determined as never before, to be honest with those that I love (about how I feel about them) and to never regret being myself, sharing my heart, and sharing it openly. I was regretting some of that over the last year – particularly sharing my heart with someone I never heard from again. But, I won’t regret being honest about how I feel, ever again. Losing my brother has reminded me of how quickly life changes. And I just refuse to live with regret any longer.

My Brother’s Memorial Service

It has felt like a lifetime since we learned that my brother passed away. At this time, the preliminary cause of death is hypertension and an enlarged heart. My brother was younger than me by two years. We have heart issues – including congestive heart failure on both sides of our family. It has awakened this determination in me to get healthier. Matt was on that journey too. He’d lost 40 pounds by his birthday in April and was still working on it. I was proud of him for focusing on his health & well-being.

Matt Avalos, abby the wonder dog
My very scared of men, dog – meeting my brother for the first time (2011). He crawled to meet her since that was about all she could muster – a small crawl over to him. He was very patient with her.

Something about that has made this harder to take in a way. He was young – too young to die because of a heart issue and high blood pressure. It’s sobering. And mixed in with the grief is a building determination to reduce my own risk factors.

Matt Avalos, Elaina Avalos

We are working our way through our to-do lists so we can focus on my brother, seeing our families, and for me – trying to figure out what my Dad may need, that I can help with.

The memorial is not an expected expense any parent plans on. It’s not something you prepare for – to bury your youngest child – regardless of their age. I created a GoFundMe for my parents to help with the costs. We have about a 6,300.00 need and we’re about halfway there between the GoFundMe and private donations. Another thing you don’t think about when you’re in your 40s – purchasing some additional life insurance to cover burial costs. But I absolutely will be doing that for my mom and me both, as soon as I can. These are things you just don’t think about. It’s overwhelming: https://gofund.me/9beeea72.

matt avalos, cindy avalos, elaina avalos

We are heading to California and in spite of the circumstances, it’s the first time I’ve been home in far too long. The last long trip was 2014. In 2015 I was there but I think it was only to pick up my mom (who was moving to NC). I am looking forward to seeing my family, being in SoCal, eating real Mexican food :), and being “at home.” I also have a mission to complete on my brother’s behalf. I’ll share that later.

Tonight, I’m working on a photo slide show for Matt’s service. I think I know what song/songs I want to use, but it’s going to be hard to tone down my photo choices. There are so many I love.

Grief is exhausting. But I’m thankful to be moving forward.