Resolving to be Me in 2013

changeDetermined to make my resolutions happen this year, I checked the first one off my list and attended a new church on Sunday. True to form, Stink dove right into his Sunday school class. “I loved it!” he beamed. “They taught us everything through music and song and games. I could actually pay attention!”

Pipsqueak, on the other hand, was less enthused. She is my conservative throw back paper doll child. She wears black Mary Janes in winter and white sandals in summer and will not wear shirts with logos or faces of tween singers. No sparkles or glitter for her. She is pragmatic and elegant and a big fan of order and ritual. “I miss our Catholic Sunday School,” she moaned on our way back to the parking lot.

I can’t really blame her. Routine is important to me, too. If it was not, I would not be so hell bent or reorganizing the house. I would not drool like a love sick fool inside Home Goods when my eye lands on a set of toille shoe boxes.

But there’s a fire in me as well. The older I get, the less I like the feeling of stuffing my emotions inside my chest, like one might stuff socks inside that chic container set. Sure, it might look polished from an outsider’s view, but inside, you’ve got mismatched footies with stains and holes. Why not just get real about it? “I’ve got old socks! They don’t look good all the time, but they keep me warm and they are functional and I’m confident enough in myself I don’t care who I impress!”

T.S. has taught me this attitude. While I’d have liked my son to be just like his other friends in fourth grade – no throat clears, no eye rolls, no annoying Tarzan “uh uh uhs…”, the truth is, he is different. He makes sounds sometimes. He twitches.

And best of all, he’s okay with it. If my own son can be so comfortable in his skin, then I sure as heck deserve to be comfortable in mine. And this means finding a place of worship that lets me be Andrea.

“Pipsqueak,” I said to my daughter as we were tucked in bed last night, “I know you like the old church. And I’m not saying we won’t ever go back there. But you know how much you love your current school?”

She smiled wide. “Yes! I can’t wait for vacation to be over so we can go back.”

“Well, I didn’t have that same experience at school. In fact, did you know that I went to school at the very church you miss so much?”

“No, I didn’t know that,” she said.

“It’s true,” I answered. “And did you know that, for whatever reason, Mama never felt totally comfortable there?”

“Why not, Mama?” she asked.

“I suppose because I was good at academics, but I was not good at sports. I was taller than everyone else. I liked to sing and dance and act, but there were no programs for that. So instead of being myself, I had to kind of shut it all down to fit in with everyone else.”

“That’s sad, Mama,” she said.

“It is. And for a long time, I kept going back to that old church, hoping that maybe the people there were different than how they were when Mama was a little girl. And some are quite lovely! But some, well, aren’t. And that’s not good enough for me. It’s not going to be good enough for you or Stink, either.”

Pipsqueak didn’t say anything. She just held my hand and kept on listening. ”

“You need to be in a church where you can laugh and dance and be a bit more relaxed. It’s important to Mama. I want to try this new place. Will you do it with me?”

“Yes, I can,” she said. “I love you, Mama.”

“I love you, too, Pip.”

That night, I thanked God for Stink who would have told those old school bullies at the old church where to stick it.P1120241

And I said one for my daughter. My sweet, kind, ritual driven daughter who, despite not being a thing like her effusive mother who never met a yard sale she didn’t love, trusts me enough to try something new. (At least she has her father to keep the order around here.)


james and pip

Happy 2013, everyone. May you be surrounded by people who let you be you.


2013 Goals: What Are Yours?

The holidays are over.



Time to get back to a routine again. My kids are FERAL. I mean, it’s bad. And who can really blame them? We’ve given them a steady diet of sugar, no sleep, gifts, music, song, lights and social events. It’s time to open up a big beefy can of Reality Check and start over.

This leads me to my top 10 goals for 2013. (Yes, I have 10. Because I do best when I am busy. A-Personality Type? Helllooooo!)

1. A Spiritual Home: Although we go to church every Sunday, and I do a Bible Study on my own, I’d like to give my kids a more enriched spiritual life. This very well might mean staying where we are for church and getting more involved, or it might mean moving on (finally) to something more engaging. If I’ve learned anything in the past few years, it’s that my God is one of transformation. I love my Catholic rituals and the sacredness, but I also love the more boisterous congregations where God is front and center in EVERYTHING from youth groups to outreach. Maybe there is a happy medium. I’m ready to have their lives be less about them and more about what they can do for others. Perhaps this means 10 minutes of scripture reading at night. Maybe a steady volunteer gig? I will let you know. (What about you? What do your kids do?)

2. An Organized Home: My home is 3 bedrooms. We have a renter, which means my kids share a living space. There is a fine line between not spending a boat load on organizational systems and not living in squalor. Same goes for all the other rooms of my house. With a place for everything, I can finally finish my book, blog more, take on some new projects and enjoy company.

3. More Independent Children: My kids are generally kind and courteous, but they have gotten quite obnoxious lately. Apparently they think it’s my job to cook, clean, entertain and remind them of everything from putting away their socks to clearing the table. No more. Along with #2, they are going to become more involved in actively participating in household chores.

4. Writing: I would like to blog 3 times/week. I am happiest when doing so.

5. Reading: I am ready to get back to reading about other people’s lives. I have met some very dear people through their writing and I am ready to get back to it.

6. Book: I am going to finish that darn book! I’m about 2 months away if I remain disciplined.

7. Exercise: Right before my mom broke her hip two weeks ago I had been working out every morning immediately after I dropped off the kids. It was a life changer for my disposition. I remained calm, peaceful and joyful throughout Christmas. I will continue that!

8. $ – I will continue to make a small income Ebay or a job or a corporate blog or magazine writing or a part time job. This is something I can do in conjunction with my book if I am disciplined with a schedule.

9. Marriage – I want to spend more time with my husband this year. For a long time it was about the Tourettes and feeling sorry for myself. Now that I have a handle on Stink’s tics, it’s time to give gratitude to the guy who makes the money that allows me to write and stay home and set all my goals. I will never be a submissive anything you say wife (tried that, done that, not a good scene) but I don’t need to be an aggressive me me me wife either. It’s going to be about time together, boundary setting and joy.

10. Family – I don’t spend enough time with my immediate family. By having more of a routine with church and a organzied home, there will be more opportunity to focus on what really matters in life. It’s people, not stuff, that grease my wheels.

So there you have it. I feel so much better having put this on paper! So, what about YOU? What are your goals?


Things Are Okay

It’s four days before Christmas. My mom broke her hip, so we’re not doing the holidays at her house this year. Instead, we’ll have our normal Christmas Eve tradition here as well as a few merry surprises for the kids which I’ll share later.

Stink’s tics remain reasonable. They were up a bit the other day. Apparently macaroni and cheese along with fried breaded chicken sticks aren’t a good combo for our gluten free/dairy free wonder child. But it’s the holidays. I’m over thinking there is a cure out there for TS. I’m going for the bucket theory: Joy, balance and discipline. Shake it all up and do your best.

On a doctor’s note, the good doc at UCLA of months past continued to irritate me last week as I went for a prescription of Intuniv and found he did not fill it. He had never returned my phone calls or emails either. This is an all too familiar pattern from last year when he wouldn’t return my calls for an initial appointment, then once we had an appointment (enter me kicking and screaming) he did not follow up a month later as promised. Three months later, plus a ridiculous dog and pony show for some trial for Aspergers which we still don’t know if Stink has or has not, we have no official diagnosis. What do we have? Some Intuniv that I could have received through a regular physician.

The takeaway from this? You need to be a pitbull with your kid’s medical care. There is no easy 1-2-3 so don’t waste time being frustrated over lack of follow through from doctors. YOU be the follow through. This is no time to throw a hissy.

Another takeaway? Most labels are crap. I don’t know if my kid is an Aspie. If he is, he’s super high functioning with great grades and friends. What I do know is that he is hilarious, smart, creative and has the soul of a preacher/conman. He’s okay in my book.

Treat the condition, but don’t neglect the spirit of the child. The second will take him much farther in life.

How are you all doing? What are your Christmas plans?


The Gift of Tourettes

When my son was about seven, I was in a really dark place. Two years of railing against tics that were present, as well as invisible “what if” situations that maybe would or maybe would not come to pass in the future, had me very down.

All my gluten free cooking helped, but it did not erase the minor eye rolls.

All my dedication to prayer and letting go soothed my aching soul, but it did not eradicate the occasional “Tarzan” warble.

My husband – who could fix everything from a leaking toilet to an elephant game whose motor was no longer shooting butterflies into the air – could not fix Tourettes.

I was, to put it bluntly, in grief.

I had heard about the stages of mourning, but for some reason I thought one experienced them one step at a time. “Ooh, today we have desperation. Awesome! tomorrow? Anger.”

For me, it came like a whirling tornado of emotions – forceful and overwhelming – all at one time. “Despair! Disbelief! Fury!” It was like one giant trifecta of intensity. In Buddhist language this is often referred to as “losing ground.” In Andrea language, it was referred to as, “This SUCKS.”

During this exciting chapter of my life I brought Stink to a specialist. He wasn’t having any behavior problems that are associated with Tourettes on other fear inducing websites, but he sure was unfocused and at times defiant. I suspected ADHD and wanted help managing it. The good doctor was phenomenal. Within a week, we had a routine down at home that took the responsibility off of me and put it onto Stink.

Looking back, it was nothing but good old-fashioned common sense. But I was too distraught to figure it out on my own. I was smart enough, however, to book a follow up appointment. But it wasn’t for Stink. It was for me.

This psychologist,  a gentle soul in his late sixties, happened to be a Catholic. As a Catholic myself, I was curious about his God-take in what I considered to be so… frigging… unfair.

We spoke about what I thought parenthood would be and why I was so distraught over a syndrome I never saw coming.

We chatted about my husband and my different world views – me being of a spiritual mind and my husband being of a pragmatic one.

I admitted that, perhaps, I wasn’t as equipped as I thought I should be in dealing with marriage and parenthood. Maybe there was a mistake.

This man, with his kind eyes and quiet demeanor, reminded me that our God is not one of mistakes. “Your marriage won’t always be happy, but it can be holy,” he reminded me. “Stink was knit by God in your womb,” he said. “Tics change constantly, but our God is one who stays the same.”

I wanted to say something that sounds like “Duck” and ends in “You.” That was not an answer that was going to fix Tourettes or my relationship issues!

But instead, I shook my head in agreement and started crying. Of course he was right.

After a moment, he posed the simple question: “Do you know what God’s greatest gift to you in all this is?”

I had no idea. I really didn’t.

He looked me right in the eye and said, “The biggest gift God is giving you is Tourettes.”

Three years later, after a ton of processing and times where I still rail against the machine, I know for a fact that this man was 100% right. In a media induced culture where everything is “now now now” and instant-gratification based, diagnoses and relationships are rarely easy. But they are a present – a true gift – because we get to live life on life’s terms.

In this season of light – whatever you celebrate – please know that if you are hurting I have been there. And I get it. And while you may want things different, there is a true plan for your child. You might not be able to always change tics, but if you allow yourself to change and be open to how glorious life can be despite perfection, I promise you will have one present you will never want to return.

My favorite presents of all time is shown below. Go hug yours today! Andrea

a okay