education, faith, spirituality

The Truth Looks Better with Accessories

I love my new office, but I am never in it. Instead, I am commuting to North Hollywood to spend the day in someone else’s office all day filling it with love and purpose.

Technically that “office” is actually someone’s “classroom” and, well, I’m not sure if she’s been booted out, left or just on a weird medical leave. Either way, I think she’d see my time there as less “love and purpose” and more along the lines of “obnoxious squatting” but she’ll have to get into acceptance just like I do.

With this squatter.

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Why yes, that is laundry.

Mixed with a bucket of “to be put away” crap.

Highlited with a white basket of recyclable bills and a random sock from an indoor trampoline park.

I’d say I’m stressed, but I’m not. It’s gotten so crazy – this little work/parent/relate-to-spouse/deal with family grief/attend 12 step – that I am just sort of packing myself into the river of life and taking it as it comes.

The Takeaway of Insanity

Acceptance of insanity is sanity, and then everything is funny. (Though I won’t lie: If I weren’t a vegetarian alcoholic I’d dive face first into a Hoagie and a Green Flash faster than Jefferson raps on Hamilton’s Guns N Ships track.)

Instead of drinking and eating away my bad emotions, I’ll just have to celebrate sober emotions with gluten free lasagna, a bath in a less than perfect tub and a fire.

Not such bad deal if I do say so myself.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #20: When you don’t should all over yourself there’s nothing to freak about because it just is what it is. And in that space God can do his magic. (Not sure about you, but my God is a cheeky one and loves a good laugh. So that allows me to chuckle and take things less seriously, too.

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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parenting, writing

The Best Advice I Forget to Take

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I am lucky that I am really close to my teenagers. Part of it is that we are huge people, so we are literally close.  (I’m not kidding. Stink is on his way to being 7 feet. We live in a 1950’s starter with low ceilings. We might have to move in a few years. To a yurt. Or a circus tent.)

The thing is that I’ve learned one powerful tool over the past few years. I mentioned it a while back, but it’s such a bootie saver that I’m repeating it. It goes like this:

#1 Parenting Tool to Save Your Relationship (And head from spinning off its axis like Linda Blair after smelling too much High School Axe)

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“Do you want my opinion or do you just want me to listen?”

Then just follow their lead.

Even if you are dying to say something.

Even if you have to super glue your mouth. And then cover that with tape. And cut off your tongue. (Don’t do that last part. You’d never get to enjoy coffee again. That would suck.)

I am telling you, this parental response is like crack for an addict. It just calms everything down.

Still not sure? Think about it: When you’re upset, do you want someone just spouting off their opinion? No, you don’t. If they did, you’d want to punch them in the throat.

Or wash down a Chipolte plate with a large Diet Coke and silently resent them (and hate yourself for being such a wussy).

No, asking before breaking and entering a teenager’s vulnerable emotions is the best course. Every. Single. Time.

Which is why tonight I am typing this a bit defeated. Because not only do I not like listening to other people’s unwelcomed advice, I don’t even take my own.

Come to think about it, you’re not asking for my opinion either, readers! But you’re reading, so I will, unlike how I ever want a date to end with my teenagers, assume consent is implied. (Thanks to Tuskany’s lightning speed text “Is everything okay?” I will clarify the consent reference. It’s from watching One Day at a Time. Such a remarkable series that covers so many issues our teens face – sexual consent notwithstanding. My kids are fine… they are not into dating yet. Thank God.)

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Oh, man, being a parent is hard sometimes. Why couldn’t I just be a crystal gem, like my kids’ favorite show of late, and fight virtual demons while morphing with other dysfunctional beings to create life?

Actually, I think that last part is how I ended up with my kids in the first place.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #19:  When your teen is upset, try asking “Do you want my opinion or do you just want me to listen?” It’s a game changer and keeps you a safe space for future conversation.

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, spirituality, writing

The One Spiritual Truth that Will Set You Free

 

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So much has happened this week, it’s become apparent that sometimes the only thing to do, in no particular order, includes:

  • Get up a wee bit earlier to meditate and not rush.
  • Find new places on the way to work to do one’s business.
  • Thank said gas station owner for use of facility. If it’s a Starbucks, be grateful you only deposited a piece of yourself and not an additional $5.00 on a drink that would only make you search yet again for a place to do one’s business.
  • Not overthink everything (Are you on time? Do you have a plan? Are you flexible? If so, let the overflowing art sink go for one more day.)
  • Buy a notepad and try to stay current with tasks.
  • Don’t look at the end result. Just put one foot in front of the other.
  • Practice gratitude.
  • Get your nails done with your daughter.

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Today I did the Call to Offering at church. This basically meant I tell a bit of my story and ask for money. In the past I would be worried about such an event as this: What would people think? I’m so new! Am I being hypocritical? After all, I’m not exactly throwing down hundred dollar bills in the offering plate myself.

But when an unexpected death occurs – both in body (last week – someone from my hubby’s side) and in soul (my own over the past few years) you start to realize that true resurrection comes in dying to self and becoming the person God intended you to be, not the person you thought you were supposed to be.

Don Miguel Ruiz writes an amazing book about breaking the four contracts we unconsciously sign that set us up for a lifetime of suffering.

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The book is a one day read and has transformative nuggets of truth that have been life changing for me.

This book aside, dying to self can also often mean not having all the answers.

It means honoring myself where I can with rest (14 hours snooze Friday night? That’s me!)

It means stating some ground rules with love to not sink in exhaustion Hi School Secretary. I’d love it if for one week you don’t schedule me to cover other classes during my conference time. When she responds back with It’s because you’re a sub You gently stand your ground. I’m a long term sub through June. I’m really at less of an advantage than a teacher because I don’t have a real lesson plan yet. I truly need the time to prep. And then you smile, because this particular secretary is super nice and just doing her job.

And, to be a decent human, you add on, If you must schedule me, though, I get it. Just asking.

And then when you inevitably get the call to sub, you thank God you have a fancy Chulux (it’s the bastard child of a Keurig), brew a cup of java, and head out to the bungalow clear across campus.

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And you do this because at the bottom of all your hard earned faith is a cosmic nugget that you will share with said readers that will transform their frustration to acceptance. To put it bluntly, it’s the one spiritual truth that will set every single human on earth free.

Zero Fucks Given.

You’re welcome.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #18: Zero Fucks Given is an attitude that allows you to surrender to God’s will for your life. It’s like the red carpet for the spiritual set.

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, spirituality, writing

Sychronicities, God and Peacocks. It’s a Thing

Beginning this summer I started hiking every day in the beautiful hills of Santa Susana. In between chatting with fellow teacher friends and attempting not to fall on my ass (or that it didn’t bug me when I actually did fall on my ass…which was about every day) I felt like I could see Indians still living in the hills. Sometimes I’d see a snake slither by or a coyote slink past due to recent fires. I loved these hikes. Not only did I develop a beautiful friendship with women I only knew on a surface level the prior year at school, I also felt a deep spiritual connection to the God of my understanding.

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I am Christian. I love Jesus. I feel the Holy Spirit stir in me constantly, nudging me sometimes to push harder, other times to just rest in his love. Like the big JC, there’s a time to pull out the whip and a time to kick back with homies and have a fish fry.

I also, however, discovered a well of spiritual truth that goes beyond my Christian framework. And that well was tapped by peacocks.

It started with my friends driving me to an adjourning neighborhood where wild peacocks roamed. Vibrant and colorful, it was hilarious to see them preening and strutting next to garbage cans and brick patios.

The next day I saw an ad on a bus that involved a peacock.

This wouldn’t be a big deal to me if I hadn’t also seen a peacock in some stained glass while lunching with Tuskany and the kids at a funky pizza restaurant.

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And at LAUSD headquarters. 14 stories up. In the tiny corner of a banner that just caught my eye.

Or on a Trader Joes grocery bag I randomly picked up near the chocolate almonds.

Or at a friends house… in the middle of the city… where there was a water bowl. “What’s that for?” I asked. I was visiting her to discuss my latest faith crisis. I had not yet moved churches yet and I needed the wisdom of this lovely 70 year old hippy. More than that, I needed an ear to just listen while I sorted it out.”Oh, that bowl is for this peacock that just started showing up at our senior complex. It’s weird. We have no idea where it came from.”

Add in citings on stationery, cards, devotional covers and fat men with tattoos at the gas station covered in peacock memorabilia and I finally got the idea to look up the meaning of the peacock.

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Here’s what I found this wild fowl signifies in the Spirit Animal world. (Note: My inner evangelical started screaming at the woo woo ness of this idea, but my inner spirit had bigger muscles. Yup, that brute chokeheld my uppity church gal and urged me onward.)

Note: I have always believed that God is in sychronicities. I pay attention – hence finally getting my head out of my feathered arse and looking up the peacock meaning.

The Peacock Meaning

  • Awakening
  • Spirituality
  • Many eyes of God (like the feathers)
  • Resurrection
  • A love of language, lovely things and eccentricity

Okay, okay… maybe this represents me. But come on, really?

Then post my big church exodus, this book randomly comes across my Facebook feed:

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And to think this whole time I thought my spirit animal was a taco truck.

(Thanks God, I’m listening. And strutting!)

PS: One hour after I wrote this post I was waiting in line in the restroom of the Pasadena City Playhouse. My friend, Cat, had bought me tickets to Ragtime. She’s a p.e. teacher and I’ve never seen her use a real purse. Until tonight.

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Of course.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #17: Pay attention to synchronicities. It’s God’s way of getting your attention.

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, parenting

This is the Greatest Show! (Of Anger and Resentment. Send in the Clowns, Baby!)

I thought I hit “publish” on this post yesterday. But after a less than stellar day dealing with a new job, a family death, being low on gas, being a speaker at a meeting with my husband and the realization that “Yes, I CAN do it all, just not all at once” I goofed up. Please enjoy a post where I out myself on being a less than perfect parent. #progressnotperfection.

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Yesterday…

Today I totally overreacted with one of my kids over something I had asked them to do the night before. (Not once, not twice, three times.)

My requests often feel like a stack of dishes on my counter. No matter how high they grow, they are not often met with “Let’s bolt out of our chairs and get right to that, Mom!”

But I had already danced the dance of “Am I nagging if I ask a fourth time? / When will they learn to be independent if I bug bug bug?” so I dropped it. Well, not quite. I also texted from work.

Crickets.

And the request still wasn’t done. I was irked when I finally saw my child and really raised my voice, throwing in a few examples of other things said child doesn’t do in a timely manner.

And then I huffed into the living room. And shock of all shock, my self indignation did NOT make me feel better.

After a bit I remembered that just a few hours earlier the dean had called my classroom regarding two kids who had escaped from my room and were found pounding on bathroom doors.

Um, is it possible I dumped on my kid because I felt dumped on?

Ding ding ding!

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Why do I always go back to the same well? I guess I need to keep getting hit with the same lesson until I change. It’s not unlike what I’m teaching being taught at school with my art students. Just like the classroom kids, I have every right to give my teen a consequence for not following up. But getting angry and surly? It does nothing.

What’s it about, Andrea?

It’s all about ME setting expectations, letting go and knowing that some things are just what they are – age appropriate defiance/immaturity/distraction. Doesn’t matter. It only matters how I perceive and react to it.

Bottom line: ITS ALL ABOUT ME! (Hey, I normally like that last part. Just not in these cases. You know… the ones where I need to give God my character defects and be willing to change to avoid pain.)

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Ten minutes later I had prayed, gotten quiet, saw my part and was ready to start fresh. This meant going back into the kitchen and apologizing for my outburst.

Which I did!

Only to be met with a slow, direct stare and be told, “Please come back in 20 minutes. I need time to decompress from my grrrr’.”

I wanted to pop the kid. But at the same time, this particular knows who themself, and said self means not deigning to dive my instant gratification/push push push/apology well of crazy. I had no choice but to respect it or head on over to the big clown tent for another show.

Now if I only I can learn this same lesson before my emotional explosions instead of afterwards. Constantly buying circus tickets is expensive.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #16: When I try to fix or criticize other people, there is always something disturbed in me. And that gets me mad. Because that means there is no one to blame but myself. #Stupid truth.

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, 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.

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 Audacity of Non Personalization

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.

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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