faith, Uncategorized

When You Let Go, It Happens

If you had asked me a year ago if I would be teaching art full time for LAUSD, in North Hollywood no less, I’d tell you that you were nuts. But today, after a two week sub assignment, I was asked to step into a role full time until June. This class – with its painting and noise and Vision Boards is pure chaos mixed with fun. It’s loud and different and intimidating all at once. AKA: Perfect for me.

The money is so needed. (And I’ll get my 100 days now for insurance next year!) It’s not without its downsides, tho. A close family member recently passed. I’ve got a writing assignment that is not yet done. The distance isn’t ideal.

And yet, the circumstances have all played out so well. When life flows, I know God is in it. Less resistance and organic movement are also signs that a power higher than my understanding is orchestrating the wacky music of my life.

Peace in my circumstances are always a sign. It reminds me to not stress about outcomes I can’t control (the recent teacher’s strike for example). Life is always more manageable when I just put one foot in front of the other and leave the outcome to God. I can have an attitude of fear (too far! not enough experience! too tiring!) or I can view everything happening exactly as it’s supposed to be unfolding. And when I do that, worry becomes an adventure. And in this rodeo mistakes alongside fearlessness coupled with exhaustion is part of the norm. Adventure expectations mean zero expectations. And in such mad cap “down is up”, joy can break through.

It beats being broke having anxiety attacks. You should try it.

Happily Ticked Off #15: When you let go of what you think you are supposed to be there’s room to become who you are meant to be.

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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education, faith, meditation, self improvement, spirituality

The Audacity of Non Personalization

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I’m not the kind of teacher that automatically yells at kids.

“You want to sit with your friends? Go for it.”

“You want to listen to music while you paint? That works!”

“You want to use the restroom ten minutes into class? Feel free!”

And this all works very well for 90% of my class who are kind, respectful and so grateful  there’s not a teacher who is screaming like a banshee out of hell on speed which, frankly, is not out of the ordinary for a middle school teacher.

But there’s always that 10% who take advantage.

Who linger for 20 minutes in the restroom.

Who think I don’t see them bent over like the Hunchback of Notre Dame in their California hoodies playing Fornite.

Who want to ignore me and speak over directions I have given over… and over… and over… and then have the audacity to ask me what the hell is going on.

And that right there… the “who have the audacity” statement… is where I must catch myself. It’s not because I’m wrong. It’s because it smacks of judgment. And judgment for this lady means I’m personalizing. And when I personalize, I get resentful, which brews frustration, which causes me to raise my voice, which causes kids to listen to me as much as Democrats want to hear about Trumps border wall.

The solution: Clear expectations on my part. Not just sometimes. Every time. And when they don’t do what they are supposed to do, I ask them to move to a new table. Or talk to them privately. Or ask questions about what they need to best learn and achieve the lesson goal.

Having been someone who is slow to certain life lessons myself, I know only too well that behind every reactive behavior is a hurt or a need. If I would want someone to be patient with me, that means I must be patient with my students. It means I don’t have the luxury to pretend like they’re ditching class to be personal. I get to stay calm and kind and give them every opportunity to access a lesson. I must stay open. Even if I want to run screaming like a BTS fan at the Grammys.

And if after all my work at staying calm and not taking things personal my methods still doesn’t work and they blow me off defiantly, then they get a lower grade.

Nothing personal.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #14: Show lots of grace but take no crap. It’s a killer combo.

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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education, Uncategorized

Art, the Harlem Renaissance and the Pursuit of Dreams

As I mentioned a few blogs back, I am knee deep in Vision Board creation with my art class. For 5 periods/day I talk Langston Hughes, what it meant to be an African American artist during the turn of the century, and what Hughes’ poem, Dreams, can mean for them for their own vision of their future.

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Me: “How many of you have printers at home?”

Only half the kids’ hands go up.

Me: “No excuses for those of you who don’t! I will send you to the library in three’s… with the exception of Parker, Carlos and Jack. I don’t want it burned down… But everyone else, you can take turns.”

Blank stares.

Me: “Or… you can send me an email directly at my LAUSD account. I will print and bring it back the very next day! This is the easiest A you will ever get!”

Murmurs of understanding ripple through the classroom.

Much to my surprise, I received quite a few requests for printouts. These ranged from colleges, professional basketball players, doctors and anime characters.

From several I heard about how they, too, wanted to live dreams that inspired them beyond their present circumstances.

And from one girl, I received this:

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I call this an A+.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #13: Never underestimate bathing in a tub full of hard cold cash. (Or wet cash, as the case may be here.)

Until next time,

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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faith

Losing My Religion. And Tacos.

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I found a new writer who pretty much describes the transition I’ve been in for, oh, the past 20 years. Her name is Elizabeth Baker and she writes about her move from Evangelical Christianity to Progressive Christianity in places like HuffPo, her own blog at ElizabethBaker.com, Scary Mommy and more. Call it the wanna be Evangelical in me, but I’m still a bit uncomfortable with some of her word choices (ex: Why People Think Christians Are Assholes) but I get her drift. She’s over hiding her questions. And so am I.

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For a long time I felt like I wasn’t good enough. I drank over it. Raged over it. Hid behind my feelings that “something just doesn’t feel right” with my soul. When I found a big church, it felt like the pieces came together just enough to keep me from breaking apart. I loved the sermons and the pastor. I loved some of the people. It felt safe. People were kind to me. But there was also a bottom line: There was one way to heaven. Doubt, resist and flail, but in the end, put down your guns.

I wanted to do this. I was used to doing this. After all, when everyone else is right, and you are wrong, this is an easy creed to follow. And yet, there were issues. I had a Jewish father, lots of Jewish family members, and many friends from other faith traditions. I tried to swallow the idea that my conservative church’s way was right, and their’s was not, but I never felt the need to convert them. The only thing I wanted to ask them was if they could pass the bagels or the Tikka Massala shrimp.

As time went on, and I found my strength through a 12 step program and a flock of girlfriends who just let me be me (as well as raised independent thinkers who asked hard questions that couldn’t be answered with just black and white Bible verses) my facade of “it must be this way or I’ll crumble” well… crumbled.

And in the rubble, with just me, the Holy Spirit and an empty cup of Yuban, it hit me: I didn’t want my church’s “religion” so much as I wanted the assurance so many of the members seemed to have. For the first time, I had honesty about my doubts. And while that honesty was uncomfortable, it was like finally taking off a pair of jeans that were too tight. I felt free. Less burdened. I didn’t lose Jesus. I just lost my need to have someone else’s Lord.

The Awkward Rebel

I know that many conservative folk would say I’m being rebellious, but if they knew me, they’d know I’m the most tender, rule following good girl there is. But often that has been at the expense of this good girl’s wellbeing. And that felt bad.

So Now What? 

I believe with 100% certainty that God is for me, not against me, but I also believe he is for you if you are naturally born gay. I don’t believe it’s a choice. And I can no longer attend a church that counsels people to deny this aspect of their being.

When I get quiet, which is where I hear from God (just like Paul did… just like many male prophets did) I hear a tender voice that reminds me, “You don’t know everything, Andrea, but you were fearfully and wonderfully made. I love you. Now go out and love others and put down the judgement today. And by judgement, I don’t mean of others. You have always loved others. I mean of yourself. And eat a taco while you’re at it.”

And so I did.

I joined a tiny open and affirming church that allows me the respect to question, seek and love my fellow worshippers exactly as they are, not as religion tells them to be. And I’ll be providing the taco bar for fellowship in a few weeks. If you, too, are a seeker, come join me. Services start at 10.

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And if you’re happy at your more traditional church, that’s okay, too. I don’t want to be right. I just want peace. And I wish the same for you.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #12: Find Your Own God, Not Someone Else’s. If You’re Wrong, God Will Let You Know. And It Will Make a Fun Story at the Welcome Back Church BBQ.

Until next time,

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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Uncategorized

The But Luckily Theory

Today didn’t go as I had hoped. We were supposed to go camping, but instead I ended up with a sore nose which could, or could not, have been a sinus infection. Exhaustion can easily lead to frustration for this mama, but luckily I have the “But Luckily Theory.”

BLT works like this:

I didn’t get to go camping, but luckily it’s not a sinus infection.

I spent my day at urgent care, but luckily my daughter went along for the ride which made it much more enjoyable. (She’s a veritable wealth of Musical Theater songs/memes and Ted Talks. I adore her.)

It was a dumb to spend $65 co-pay to find out I only needed a neti pot rinse out…

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But luckily Evie and I treated outselves to some Starbucks and had the pleasure of randomly stopping at a Japanese gluten free/tofu made/dairy free/vegan doughnut shop. (She’s my “Let’s go on an adventure in our hometown” kind of girl which, honestly, is so life affirming. She also makes me walk on curbs and jump across speed bumps. It’s not normal, but it makes life more joyful.)

Said doughnuts did not taste amazing…

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But luckily my son with the dietary restrictions wasn’t complaining.

I am about to play Minecraft with my family which I am dreading, but luckily I have teenagers that still want to hang out with me.

Today’s events felt smashed and rushed. I was a bit overwhelmed: running to doctor’s appointments while cramming food shopping and laundry in between, not to mention attempting not to control everyone else’s reactions to my requests. (I mean, why should my kids want to watch “One Day at a Time?” Though you guys totally should. It’s sooo good.)

And no, I can’t control if my husband will, or will not, join us in Minecraft or if Stink will get defensive over my request to not randomly throw entire loaves of goat cheese out just because they were left accidentally on a plate in the sink – covered in plastic no less.

And here’s the real truth: I was bone tired. Yup, even if I went camping, it’s not what I truly needed. I needed more of a vacation where I was relaxed.

But luckily, two days earlier, I had that with my birthday. After a long day of teaching art, I took a bath and plunked myself on the couch. Rex made pizza, my daughter made me a cake, both kids gave me a card, and Tuskany and her family came over, spoiling me with gifts. We had a fire and talked. I was duly spoiled.

I could get into victim mode about today’s turn of events, but luckily I’ve been practicing BLT enough to know that negative feelings will pass. A warm bath, followed by a warm bed, means that tomorrow I’ll be rested to start again.

Big shout out to one of my readers who prayed with me in front of the market tonight while I was avoiding being cranky with my family. (No, Irish Mama, Costco did not have what I needed. They were closed. But luckily I got what I needed at Trader Joes and nobody starved.)

This post is rather windy, but luckily, it’s over now.

Until tomorrow,

Happily Ticked Off Tip #11: Employing the “But Luckily Theory” does not make problems go away, but it helps you to focus on what is working in your life, making your problems more manageable.

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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Uncategorized

Gratitude: It’s the Answer to Homicide and Suicide(and ulcers)

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I’m hardly a saint of happiness but I am way more content than I used to be. I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that it has everything to do with gratitude – Not just acknowledging it here and there but actually practicing it every single day by writing it down. My husband shares this practice with me and we each text another couple for accountability.

We first started doing this because our misery was killing us.  And I won’t lie, it felt very cheesy.  But as I learned in my primary program, my ability to feel serenity is in direct proportion to how willing I am to be inconvenienced.  And when you are brought to your knees with exhaustion it’s a perfect time to pray and be willing.

At first my gratitude lists looked like this: “I am grateful for food, a car to drive, a walk, kids who love me and a job.“ (Nope, Rex didn’t make the list in the early days.)

Most of the time, though, I wasn’t truly truly grateful. It just felt like something to say,  because if I didn’t, I’d sound like a complete self indulgent schmo. Truthfully I was always annoyed at somebody or something. And the coveting and jealousy? Guilty. I was forever looking at what I could have more of…. her body, their job, your house, you name it. I could not have admitted that before either – it just didn’t sound nice – but in getting real I got aware. And by getting grateful for what I had (not what was missing) it got easier to let go of those other negative attributes.

After a while my negative mindset literally started to shift and I couldn’t believe how lucky I was in actuality. Soon I started incorporating more things in my gratitude list, and in becoming happier I became happier with Rex. I became less angry at my kids. Call it “odd” or “God” but more work started coming in also. I started enjoying even the hard days. Because most of the time it’s was my perspective that needed to change, not my circumstances.

Today in class a kid was back talking me and I was getting irritated. We were both locked in defensive blame. Instead of  staying mired in a power battle (old pattern and no one wins) I walked away. A few moments later I came back and asked her why she was upset. She told me that she wasn’t there yesterday for the assignment and didn’t know what was going on. I took a breath (“Did I really have to go through this explanation  again?”)  and blocked out the rest of the chattering kids. In that moment it was just her and me and I was grateful for the opportunity to start again.

None of us know what’s going on in other peoples lives, but when we develop a new attitude, we allow a little bit of space between our circumstances and our reactions. In that space connection can grow. As for those feelings of joy that come from relationship restored? You guessed it: I’m grateful.❤️

Happily Ticked Off Tip #10: Texting someone 5 things a day you are grateful for can dramatically improve your mental outlook. 

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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Uncategorized

It’s My Birthday! So Here’s a Poem

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It’s my birthday. The big 49. As one friend wrote me, it’s my last “birthday around the block before the big 50.”

I’m fine with it, really. In fact, now that I’m more focused on what I’m finally supposed to be doing with my life (the whole writing, taking things as they come and staying in God’s will deal) I’m enjoying taking it as it is. No big expectations.

Lest I not ask for anything and then have a big pity party instead of a birthday party, I did request some home made pizza and a cake courtesy of my husband and daughter. My bff Tuskany is coming over with her family to play Apples and Apples. We’ll have a fire, a cup of coffee with some icecream for toppers, and call it a wonderful night.

I thought in honor of my new goals I’d share one of the 100 poems I aim to have completed for each 100 days of subbing. Here’s one I wrote on Day 22.

  • Note: All poems are written from the perspective of an 8 year old boy being raised by a single mom.

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MommiTations

The best time of day

Is always the morning

When I’m still half awake

And our pit bull is snoring

 

Incense fills the air

And the sound of harp strings

Floats through an old Smart Phone

Set on silent ring

 

Light streams through the window

As the sun starts its day

There’s a candle and coffee

And toast on the tray

 

There’s the ring of some chimes

And the purr of a cat

And if I’m real quiet

I can sit on Mom’s lap

 

My ears hear her heartbeat

It’s utter elation

Just deep breaths and stillness.

It’s name? Mommytations

Shout Out to the wonderful Mr. Fish Lee who I’d love to illustrate it if my publisher doesn’t go with someone in house. Check him out at https://twitter.com/MrFishLee. Here’s just one of his amazing samples. (But no, my poem book is not dealing with Tourettes. I just know of him from the T.S. community. He’s uber talented.)

this one

That’s all I got for you today. I’d love your feedback.

Until then, I’ll be enjoying my birthday fiesta and heading over to North Hollywood again tomorrow where we’ll continue a lesson I started on Langston Hughes’ poem, Dreams, combined with a Vision Board and Evan Hansen’s song, You Will Be Found.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #9: Don’t stop your goal, even on your birthday. It’s a present to yourself. 

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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Uncategorized

Waving Through a Window (And the Feeling of Connection)

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It’s my second day subbing in North Hollywood for an art teacher who has been gone quite a while. This scenario is a lot like my own ruminating brain: Too much free time = feral behavior. 

With no prepared art lesson, I went into sub ninja mode in a hurry.

Me: “Who here knows the musical Hamilton?”

1/4 of the kids raise their hands.

Me: “Who here knows the musical Dear Evan Hansen?

5 kids out of 40 wave. 3 out of the 5 have dyed hair, more than a few piercings and outfits that look like soldiers who had a knife fight with anime characters.

Me:”Dear Evan Hansen is a story about a kid named Evan Hansen who fakes the friendship of another high school senior, Conner Murphy, who has recently killed himself. He writes letters to Connor, and vice versa back to him, to pretend he had a huge friendship with this troubled boy. The sole purpose for this ruse is to date the dead kid’s sister.”

Student #1: “What’s a ruse?”

Student #2: “It means, ‘You’re a dumbshit,’ Carlos.”

Me: “It means ‘fake game’ and it also means if you call out profanity again without raising your hand I will be sending you to the office. And that’s no ruse.”

Ooohs and ‘That is cold, man'”erupt, along with a few, “Roasted!!!!!!!!”

Me: “Back to Evan Hansen’s lie: It’s not a great scenario, but in the process of dissecting this kid’s past we learn that Connor was bullied and felt alone. Connor felt like he had no other choice but to end his life. Dear Evan Hansen is about what can happen when people feel connected. Like they matter.”

All eyes are now on me. (Except for this one female couple who have their hands intertwined and are drawing happy hearts up and down each other’s forearms. You can’t win them all with your . Moving on.)

Me: “In the beginning of the show, Evan sings a song about what it’s like to wave through a window at a scene he can’t be a part of. We are going to listen to this song and then create a drawing based on the emotion it draws out of you.”

Grumbles and mumbling.

Me: “Oh, you don’t want to that?”

Epic shouts of protest.

Me: “Why don’t you ask me if you really have to participate?”

Them: “Do we really have to participate, Ms. Frizzle?”

Me: (Stonefaced) Yup. Now listen.

And they did.

And while some of them created something akin to stick figures on crack, some of them did masterpieces this.

this one

And that made it all worth it.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #8: Push through and teach a lesson in the classroom of your choice, even if at first it seems like no one is listening. They just might be and you’ll be glad for the connection. 

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Who did you make a connection with today?

  • Note: Artwork granted with permission from amazing student.
  • My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. books
Uncategorized

Dormant Not Dead

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It’s been almost a month since the teachers’ strike, and I’m excited to say I’ve subbed every day but one since then. If things continue along this line, I’ll make my 100 days without a problem.

Insurance! Yay! This sounds great until you hear the other part of that scenario. You see, I had to give up insurance this year to put in my time to get my benefits next year. (That’s how LAUSD traps you. It’s so scary to do this, and one is so grateful once they get the insurance, they fear leaving the machine lest zombies of “I Told You This Was Dumb Butt Wipe” stalk you for life and you never recover.)

Given this toxic insanity, my husband and I went back and forth for a few months on whether this new gig would be such a good idea. Sure, it would mean more money per day, but only if I worked every day. And it wouldn’t matter this year as the extra cash would have to pay for our insurance. But next year it would work. If I banked the hours.

Lots of buts and ifs. This kind of someday/maybe thinking is not for the faint of heart. But we made a decision on faith and haven’t looked back. (Well, I looked back. I didn’t suffer the fate of Lot’s wife, but my normal low blood pressure rose from the faux salt stress increase anyway.)  Rex? He’s been surprisingly optimistic about my subbing. In the end, thanks to a lot of prayer, meditation, 12 step meetings, family, friends and the occasional pit bull lick of support, I can now say I am thrilled made the choice to try something new. Here’s what I’ve learned which I’ve applied to my life in general.

5 Ways I Got Happily Ticked Off About Substitute Teaching

1) Fearlessness: I learned that to do new things I had to be fearless. Jobs weren’t always a guarantee, and setting the alarm each morning at 5am so I could be ready for the 530am sub call took some adjustment. But instead of going into meltdown mode (okay, once or twice I went there) I incorporated some morning meditation into my routine for the wait. I set the intention of being where God would have me for the day. Turns out, it wasn’t to dwell in Complainville. My spirit daily whispered that I could cry or have a good attitude. The good attitude made all the difference.

2) Laughter: Things didn’t always going to go smoothly. (Like the time I marched 61 middle schoolers into a darkened gym without knowing where the light key was. This meant 61 hairy, stinky 13 year olds yelling, shrieking, making hump sounds and playing BTS on recurrent loop from phones way more expensive than mine. Yeah, that was about as fun as a colonoscopy.) Despite the discomfort of living in the dark sometimes (literally as it turns out), not taking screwups so seriously gave me courage to try it again. (With light keys in tow.)

3) Confidence: Big shocker coming: I can overthink things and get insecure when I don’t know what’s happening. Whether it’s taking roll on an antiquated system, working with a school wide computer system that’s slower than I am during my 5am wakeup call, or getting 12 kids with special needs and wheelchairs onto a bus, I worry that I won’t get it right. Guess what? I often don’t. But I came up with a motto that keeps me from being paralyzed with perfectionism: “If don’t kill anyone, that’s good enough.” So far so good. And in just doing stuff over and over I gain more confidence.

4) Honesty: I don’t pretend to know what I don’t know – especially in front of the middle schoolers. They see through b.s. quicker than Windex.  Being honest about the fact that sometimes “I just don’t get Geometry but I can talk a great game about John Green Books” gets me a lot of respect. (Plus wearing a Nine and Three Quarter necklace along with some floral Doc Martin’s doesn’t hurt either. “Who is this 6 foot muggle?” They are thinking. I’m funky enough, and scary huge enough, to keep their attention.)

5) Joy: Going back to my Ms. Frizzle meets Hogwarts fashion statements, I remember each day to have joy. I don’t just remember. I radically insist on it. Without it, my soul suffers and so do the people around me. And how is that helpful? It isn’t.  I no longer allow myself to be a victim of my circumstances or my often fluctuating moods. I am here to be of service to the kids, my family and to myself. That means focusing on what is working, not what isn’t. And to do that, I must have joy. That comes from practicing #1 – 4 .

My Committment

I have made this commitment before, but it’s become even more apparent the past few months that I need to make it again: I am going to blog every day. EVERY DAY. Even if it’s just a line about my kid’s new mouth gear. (Note: Stink got braces! But… he was supposed to get Invisalign. That means I was pretty surprised yesterday to walk into the dental exam room and find his mouth full of shining metal. So I asked the orthodontist “Hey, what happened?” At which she showed me the contract I signed which, at the very top in bold letters read: “FULL BRACES.”

How did I make that mistake? Because my mind had been all over the place this month: Working, kid pickup, cleaning, shopping, worry over finding time to write this script I’m on deadline for, a new pop up camper and why oh why is the dog using my wooden spoon as a bone? When will I ever get those Christmas thank you notes out and what ever happened to my book of poems? The point: I just signed that contract without really looking at the fine print. (The upside: My poor son will be shiny example to me to SLOW DOWN in the future. Two years of an example, in fact!)

I can’t give you answers to all the neurotic questions that often bombard my brain, but I can say this: When I blog life flows better. It makes the orthodontic mistakes funny instead of shameful. It connects me to those of you who also wonder sometimes if you’re doing enough for your teenagers in this world of instant gratification and social media confusion. It validates the simple truth that shared happiness, and pain, through honest postings means far more than memes on Facebook that talk about personal growth without actually growing.

When I’m blogging, I’m growing. Like the plant in the photo above from a classroom I subbed at last week, I’m not dead. Just dormant. I’m thrilled to be back in the place that waters my soul and brings me a little light.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #7: Commit to doing something you love every day. 

Leave a Comment

What about you? What hobby makes you Happily Ticked Off?

Until next time,

Andrea

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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