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faith, God, parenting, Uncategorized

Dear Trans Kid, I Love You

And other things I want to say to unaccepted transgender teens

Originally published in Medium.

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Jordan McDonald @ Unsplash

Dear Trans Kid,

If you are reading this, I want you to know that you are not alone. It might seem like that, but you’re not.

Perhaps you are part of a community that is outwardly hostile toward you.

Maybe your family says they love you, but they just don’t love your orientation.

Maybe your family thinks this is just a phase and you’ll grow out of it.

Maybe you are terrified yourself because you don’t want to be trans, but deep inside, you KNOW you are.

What if I told you that while you’re terrified now, the terror won’t last forever?

What if I told you that sometimes the things we fear the most are the very things we need to break the mold of who we “think” we’re supposed to be and become everything who God intended us to be?

Yes, I’m using the word “God” in the same sentence as trans. Why? Because my own sweet teenager recently came out as trans. And while at first I was devastated at this surprising news, I knew in my gut that I had to believe her to be the same child of God she was before she broke the news.

I also knew that the tugging I felt to leave evangelical church a few years earlier was not the devil leading me away from “truth.” I realized, at that very moment, that the nudging to leave was none other than God himself walking me from black and white thinking into a new technicolor rainbow of acceptance.

Trans Kid, it is not enough for you to be tolerated. You deserve to be celebrated. Because if you weren’t supposed to be this way, you wouldn’t have been made this way.

I don’t know about you, but my God, my Jesus, he doesn’t make mistakes. I believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, just like the Bible promises, that you were formed in your mother’s womb with a plan and a purpose. And while this might not seem so clear at this very moment of confusion, it will be crystal clear sooner than you think.

What if this dark night of your soul is the very thing you need to go through so that, like the caterpillar, you can transform into something beautiful and truly fly?

I just hope, when you get your wings, you won’t forget to land on the shoulder of another who will likely be feeling exactly the way you are feeling right now.

In closing, during this time of Thanksgiving and Christmas, I hope you will remember how grateful so many people are that you were born. And for those people who aren’t grateful, guess what? They aren’t your people.

God loves you.

I love you.

And if people in your close circle can’t love you, then you just love yourself until it gets better.

Because it will get better.

Love,

Your Virtual Trans Mom

About Me

Image for post

I’m a published TV, blog, magazine and book writer who also coaches moms and grandmoms to write books rooted in wisdom, spirituality and humor.

CONTACT ME

Find out more at Andrea Frazer Writes or at Facebook. Email me at Andrea@AndreaFrazerWrites.com

DON’T MISS A NEWSLETTER!

You can sign up for my email list here where I’ll send you a newsletter all about book writing every Wednesday. Happy Hump Day indeed!

Coaching and Wellness, faith, God, parenting, self improvement, Sobriety, spirituality, Uncategorized, writing

Want Peace? Stop Defending Yourself and Let Go

How silence, not explanation, was the answer to all my relationship nonsense

Originally published on Medium.

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@cooljonez @ Unsplash

I got a private message today from the father of a friend of my almost full grown daughter. After a brief “Hello, how are you?” he launched into a full blown expose about the potential reasons my kid wasn’t returning her daughter’s texts and emails. The deductions he came up with for my kid’s silence were quite impressive. If it were a soap opera script, the dialogue could have won an Emmy.

The old Andrea would have freaked out about this person’s discomfort. After all, that Andrea’s only happiness rested on someone’s opinion about me. If someone was happy with me, I was happy. If someone was upset, it was my job… my duty… to make it right so they could feel better. And, better put, so I could feel better. Today my response to such insanity is super simple: silence.

Strong Silence vs. Punishing Silence

I’m not a fan of giving someone the quiet treatment just to be cruel. That kind of act is manipulation at its finest and not kind.

But when someone sets me up for a game I can’t possibly win, I am a fan of the quiet that says what words cannot ever express: “I am not playing this game.”

In a perfect world, having dodged their emotional overhand, the ball ricochets back from the wall and hits them upside the head, forcing them to bellow, “Ouch! That hurt!” followed by a quick, “Golly, gee, maybe I should look at my asinine behavior!”

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world full of people who put their soul over their ego and give people the benefit of the doubt. We live in a very real world full of very real, hurting, dysfunctional people… people who are not willing to take the time to heal from their past hurts. And that’s a problem.

If we don’t heal our wounds from the past we will bleed all over people who never cut us.

I should know. I used to be that person. It was much easier (and low brow) to blame and shame others than it was to stop, look my actions squarely in the eye, and change. But, as they say in many a 12-step programs, “Grow or Die.” Me? I didn’t want to physically die. The only death I wanted was death of my old behavior to become a better Andrea. So I took the ball in the face a few times.

Okay, a few thousand times.

But I don’t regret a thing.

The Gift of Pain

Pain is no fun. It would be so much easier to drink, drug or deflect. This kind of emotional escape is akin to a ball hitting a catcher’s mask. The catcher might get klunked on occasion. They might get shook up. But it doesn’t hurt them. They don’t truly change from the experience. They just take off their mask and go home.

But what if the mask wasn’t there? What if, without thinking of the consequences, the masked man, “Protection be gone! I’d rather chew gum and look at my phone?” Then what?

We all know the answer. They’d get socked in the face. Hard. That would suuuuck. It would require potential surgery and loads of therapy and recovery, but eventually, if they were lucky, they would not go blind from the injury. They would heal and they wouldn’t make the same mistake again.

Now I’m no masochist, but sometimes we need a little hurt as a wake up call to ask the right questions and transform. I know I did, especially when it came to raising kids, marriage and friendship. After at first not even being aware of my transgressions, I eventually caught on and started asking myself, “Hey, is my behavior helping or hurting a relationship?”

When I learned to ask the right questions my life shifted. The fact finding process of truly seeing my part was not unlike being hit in the face by a ball. Except for one difference: I wasn’t alone. I had begun to bring God into the batting cage with me. I had someone reminding me when to duck, when to dodge and when to sit still.

“But what about other people’s part?” you might ask. The answer, with all due respect, none of our business. If we want peace we must stay in our own lane. (Or batting cage as this analogy calls for.) I didn’t get sober five years ago to take the bait from people anymore.

I’ve done the hard work to figure out what my defects are. If someone else doesn’t want to grow, and would rather concoct a story and project their insecurities on me, that’s on them. But I’m not losing sleep over the drama any longer.

Here are just a few tips I’ve learned when it comes to engaging with drama queens and stop defending myself.

5 Ways to Stop Defending Yourself and Be Free of Insanity

  1. Nature of the Friendship: I have learned to ask myself, “Is this person a friend or an acquaintance?” If they are just an acquaintance, I don’t explain. I don’t engage. I stay silent. If they are a true friend who maybe crossed a line, I either let it go or, if it’s really really bugging me, I will make an appointment to talk to them. But… and this is a big “but”, if I can’t talk to them without being mad, I wait.
  2. No Texts: I don’t engage in long, spirited texts anymore. It’s too easy to have my words misunderstood. I, too, can’t always read the emotional nuances behind other’s words. It’s a set-up for more anger and hurt.
  3. Detach With Love: When I remember that people who cause drama are often just hurt people, I’m able to disengage with love instead of anger. I can pray for them because they, like me, are sometimes spiritually sick.
  4. Forgive: This has been, and still proves to be, the hardest act for me. But it’s a fact that everyone makes mistakes. If I want to be forgiven for my past mistakes, I must remember that one wave does not define the whole ocean. I can forgive someone for dumping on me and let go.
  5. Let Go: When I remember I’m not King of the Universe, I can let stuff go. When I think everything has to go my way, and people need to behave in a certain way for me to function, I am miserable.
  6. Trust God: When I trust God, it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks, says or writes. I can stay calm. On the flipside, if I have forgotten to meditate or pray that day, I take everything personally.

God’s Doesn’t Explain Himself (or Herself) so Why Should I?

The truth is that I’m here to God’s work, not explain myself. The quicker I get out of someone else’s way, the quicker they can potentially look at their behavior and have a spiritual awakening also. (It’s been my experience that 99 times out of 100 they ain’t gonna be lookin’ to change themselves. But I changed, and that’s good enough.)

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Denise Jones @cooljonez @ Unsplash

When people get crazy on me, I remember that I owe them nothing. Happiness is an inside job.

I love the picture above, because the street is not lined with defensive statements. It’s not littered with “If only you would stop talking” notices. It’s just quiet… a path leading toward some new and exciting destination.

If you’re ready to go some place new, far away from the old mindset that tells you to fight insane people, places and things, I encourage you to keep your ego in check and let go. I encourage you, when tempted to retaliate, to sit in silence and ask God what he would have you do.

These days life is simpler and peace flows where negativity and hurt used to live. And while I don’t live in Serenityville all the time, I’m happy to say it’s a solid summer home for me. As long as I keep trusting God I’ll be there year round soon enough.

And, with practice, you can be, too.

About Me

Image for post

I’m a published TV, blog, magazine and book writer who also coaches moms and grandmoms to write books rooted in wisdom, spirituality and humor.

CONTACT ME

Find out more at Andrea Frazer Writes or at Facebook. Email me at Andrea@AndreaFrazerWrites.com

DON’T MISS A NEWSLETTER!

You can sign up for my email list here where I’ll send you a newsletter all about book writing every Wednesday. Happy Hump Day indeed!

Coaching and Wellness, faith, God, humor, sobriety

I Gave Up Coffee and I Didn’t Die

The hot, steamy, spiritual truth on why pulled the plug on my coffee maker

Originally published on Medium.

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Mike Kenneally@asthetik @ Unsplash

I have been an avid coffee drinker since I’ve been 16. I’m now 50. Even my special ed math kids can come to the approximate conclusion that I’ve been drinking coffee for 34 years. A more traditional learner such as yourself could equally surmise I’ve been drinking it for more than 50% of my life.

Just scroll through the internet and you’ll find a ton of writers citing case studies on why coffee is great for you. Benefits include everything from anti-oxidants to pre-work out boosts and extra go juice for late night work and study sessions. Plus there’s the whole “focus” and “way to jumpstart your morning” deal. Bottom line: this wonder drug has no limits!

But here’s the problem with this no limit stimulant: humans have limits, and I’m one of them.

Why Give Up Coffee After 30 years?

They say that as you get older you get wiser. I am far from being a saint, but it’s a fact that I’ve gotten much closer to my true self these past few years. Wisdom and faith were hard earned. I searched and found. And along those lines of finding, it became all too apparent that although I love the taste of coffee, I found that my authentic soul didn’t really need all those extra stimulants via my delicious expresso.

Maybe other people can handle it better than I can, but I had to wave the white flag. After drinking up to four cups/day (very strong cups, I might add) I still lacked the energy I needed to get through the day. It was as if I needed a cup of coffee to boost me awake after the inevitable let down of the last cup of coffee.

Then there was the fact that I caught myself thinking about it all the time. “When was my next coffee break?”… “Happy about that new client? Drink coffee!” … “Sad about not getting that new client after all? Drink coffee!” … “Need something to get you through the online zoom day teaching? Drink coffee!”

As a sober alcoholic, I know that java isn’t such a big deal compared to drinking a bottle of two buck chuck per day, but it still caused its fair share of problems:

Problems from Drinking Coffee

  • Last minute bathroom runs: Yes, coffee made me do my business in the morning, but it would also sneak up on me when I was in traffic. Or taking a jog around the block. Or on a train downtown during the Women’s March when I had to exit my group of gals to beg a Kaiser facility to let me use the girls’ room.
  • Crankiness: I am high strung to begin with. Adding caffeine into my day in large quantities was like revving the motor on my inner bitch button. I don’t want to be on edge, but coffee took away the space between “I’m going to give that person a piece of my mind” and “Hmmm… maybe telling your family member the best way to live their life when it’s none of my business is not such a hot idea.”
  • Bad breath: My dog has breath that could start a car, but on coffee I could start a semi truck. Herbal tea is much kinder to my husband when he wants to sneak a last minute kiss on his way out to work, and while I now drink 8 cups of that instead of a decaf/regular coffee combo, at least I’m not filling up my stomach with more acid than a Costco battery pack.
  • Dependency: After giving up wine almost 5 years ago, I just don’t covet the idea of having to have something to get going in the morning. Like Merlot, coffee worked until it didn’t. When it became more of a “have to” instead of a “want to” I had to kick it to the curb.

Where Have You Bean All My Life? Close By, Baby

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Nathan Dumlao@nate_dumlao @ Unsplash

So I’m not gonna lie — giving up coffee has been one of the difficult things I have ever done. I love the smell. I love the taste. I love the feeling of a kiln fired mug in my hands and a thick dark coffee waiting inside. So many of my happiest childhood memories are traced back to my parents drinking coffee and laughing with good friends in the kitchen… studying at Nordstroms with girlfriends at UC San Diego where, as broke college kids, we could get unlimited refills of Joe for 25cents.

Coffee to me is what smoking is for others. It’s sexy. It’s late nights at dim lit diners after seeing an amazing piece of theater. It’s writing scripts at the counters of old delis and vintage pie shops. It’s long distance road trips. It’s sitting around the campfire and swapping ghost stories. It’s waking up on Christmas morning and that lovely anticipation of opening gifts while eating a slice of last night’s pumpkin pie. It’s a handsome man taking me to a bistro and sharing a brownie with me over an Americano just so we don’t have to say goodbye.

Just typing that out is making me yearn for it. But… like with wine… it started becoming an idol. Like the Kenney Chesney song, “One was one too many… one more was never enough.” A better way to put it is like this:

When I controlled coffee, I couldn’t enjoy it. And when I enjoyed it, I couldn’t control it.

Some of you might say, “Oh, for God sake, lighten up, Andrea. You already don’t drink. Give yourself a vice and enjoy your life!”

And friends, that’s what I told myself for years. And while I found my relationship with it starting to fade, I still found I enjoyed it a hell of a lot more than anything else out there. And that kind of sucks. For me, that looked like building my life around coffee and not the other way around. Ex: I didn’t get a kick out of parties that didn’t have coffee the way I like it. (Yes, dumb, but true.) I wouldn’t go to certain restaurants that didn’t serve it the way I liked it. (Super dark with rich cream.) Even my own coffee, unless it was thick enough to start a car, it wasn’t worth drinking, and then I’d be cranky.

I once switched to decaf for a year, but that only left me drinking 6 cups of thick decaf each day which was the same as one cup of regular coffee anyway + dry skin to boot. #addict

This kind of mental back flips toward the end over something I used to enjoy so much had end. I felt in my gut — where the God of my understanding lives — that it was time to release this ridiculous obsession to make room for new pleasures in my life.

Pleasures that didn’t cause me stinky breath, emergency pit stops and gobs of money at every Starbucks in town.

Immediately after that last cup I felt amazing.

Kidding.

I was depressed. For about two weeks. I still am, mildly.

Giving up the coffee was akin to giving up a toxic boyfriend who once was so delightful. Sure, I’d miss its company, but it no longer served me. It had to go.

The Spiritual Side of Less Caffeine

There are some perks (no pun intended) to giving up the mud. In slowing down, thanks to lack of caffeine, I started having insights that I never would have had thanks to the dopamine high I was so used to experiencing. The main one was that, despite many years of work on myself, there is a piece of me that is consistently restless, irritable and discontent. Oh, sure, it doesn’t drive the bus like it used to, but it’s ready to take the wheel at any time. Giving up coffee, and allowing God into these moments of discomfort, has forced me to look at things I haven’t wanted to for a long time.

I am not into self-deprivation (though it might appear to that living without alcohol and coffee now) but there is a place for stopping distractions… to letting our souls fill with the God of our understanding instead of always turning for the next fix.

Do I think I will give up coffee forever? I don’t know. But I do know this: I’m going through a very holy period of my life right now. I have never seen so much change. It’s like living in Upside Down Land at times. There is simply not enough coffee to make me feel like it’s all going to right itself back again. But… and here’s the big BUT… I’ve had an epiphany since giving up the brown juice:

Life before coffee was never ideal. It was just life, like cream in my java, a mixture of good and bad mixed together. I saw it through a lense of steam…a projection of what I wanted it to be rather than what it really was.

Letting go of my favorite escape is helping me to get my daily fixes with God as I know Him. It’s causing me to sit in my discomfort and realize I’m not going to die.

Priscilla Du Preez@priscilladupreez

A New Tradition — Holidays Sans Cafe’!

Tonight I sat at my kitchen table with my Covid bubble. This includes my friend, her two littles, her sister and her family and, of course, my family. While my teens played Among Us with a few friends socially distanced outside, the adults planned our Thanksgiving dinner.

My chosen family is El Salvadorian, and I was delighted to hear that this comes with new recipes I have yet to try, plus I won’t be making the turkey! (Let’s get real… my husband won’t be making it. I rarely cook.) Instead, mis amigos will bring the bird, complete with soft bread and tomato sauce.

As for the after dinner extravaganza, I might not get coffee with the Cheesecake my friend is bringing for dessert, but I’ll have a delicious cup of decaf Stash Chai Spice. And, remembering that experiences trump idols every time, I’ll be sure to say an extra prayer of gratitude that I followed my gut to unplug my coffee pot… and my over caffeinated brain… to settle down and appreciate the new pleasures this season has to bring.

Until next time —

About Me

Image for post
Image for post

I’m a published TV, blog, magazine and book writer who also coaches moms and grandmoms to write books rooted in wisdom, spirituality and humor.

CONTACT ME

Find out more at Andrea Frazer Writes or at Facebook. Email me at Andrea@AndreaFrazerWrites.com

DON’T MISS A NEWSLETTER!

You can sign up for my email list here where I’ll send you a newsletter all about book writing every Wednesday. Happy Hump Day indeed!

Coaching and Wellness, faith, God, writing

How to Create Your Dream Job in Just 45 Minutes/Day

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Andreea-Maria Juganaru@andreeajuganaru @ Unsplash

And other tips on balancing a day job with a passion

Originally published on Medium.

I’m not gonna pretend I have this big, sexy, Everything I Could EVER WANT IN A DREAM JOB.

Yet.

But I’m getting closer every day. Or, better put, every morning.

In good times and bad, in sickness and health, Monday through Friday, I’m getting closer and closer to it every day in just 45 minute bursts.

Now that might not sound too amazing — to build a business in just 45 minutes per day. But given all the interruptions that come with modern life, from social media and teenagers to extended family responsibilities… to my spiritual and 12 step practice and… oh yeah, an actual decent paying job with benefits because my kids actually need to eat every single day, this tiny block of undistracted attention has proven to be crucial to the development of my coaching business. Besides, how can I tell the women I work with to defend their 45 minutes/day of passion project time if I can’t defend mine?

Be not afraid of growing slowly. Be only afraid of standing still. — Chinese Proverb

There’s so many reasons why I will defend this 45 minute block to the death, but here are just 10.

Nick Morrison@nickmorrisonunsplash

10 Reasons to Work 45 Minutes a Day Toward Your Dream

  1. Focus Focus Focus: So I said it already, but I can’t stress it enough, it’s so easy to get stuck taking care of other things or, equally as challenging, just being distracted. Knowing that from 8:15–9, come hell or high water I’m building my business, has kept my hummingbird brain laser focused on what my end goal is: to quit my day job and coach women full time.
  2. Start with the End: A coach of mine told me a long time ago that if I wanted to succeed at my goals, I needed to think about what the end-goal was. I know mine for sure: In addition to coaching women to write their memoirs and e-books, I want to have financial and time freedom. I KNOW this possible with doing only a small portion each day, so I lay down my comfort of catching up on Schitt’s Creek and just do the work. (Plus I love those characters so much, I’m almost terrified to watch the last season. I already went into a mild depression thinking Season 5 was “It” and then, praise Jesus, Netflix dropped season 6 in like a ray of light in a Covid nightmare. But I’m digressing… something I do not do from 8:15–9am each day! I swear!)
  3. Set a Timer: “Alexa, set timer for 45 minutes!” Yup, that’s me, every single morning after rushing in from my walk. I don’t check Instagram. I don’t look at my phone. I don’t check personal email. All I do for 45 minutes is whatever is on the task list that day. If I can’t get it done, no worries. I refer to #4.
  4. Stop Worrying: One of the hardest things for me with the 45 minute deal is to know that while I’m getting things done, they aren’t necessarily being completed in that exact time frame. The control freak in me has to work super hard at chilling out, letting go and trusting that, in time, it will get done and I will move onto the next task at hand. It’s progress, not perfection. When I remember that, it’s nothing but rainbows and sparkles. 
  5. The Power of “Yet”: One of the best things I’ve learned from teaching special ed math is that in teaching my kids the power of a growth mindset, I’m re-wiring my brain as well. I often tell them when they are frustrated, “I know it’s annoying that you haven’t figured out that problem…But you will. You just haven’t figured it out YET.” The same goes with any new skill I’m learning. For 45 minutes/day, I work on saturating myself with a positive mindset so fresh concepts and skills can stick, and besides…
  6. “I Can Do Anything 45 Minutes/Day”: I got that little nugget from one of my teacher friends. When I was just an assistant and chasing an autistic girl across campus every day who would run as far as she could away from me, scream and punch me (yeah, that was amazing) Cathi would often remind me, “Andrea, you can do anything for an hour/day” (referring to the periods of class I would be in charge of my little escape artist). I have adjusted that to my business building, and it sure takes the pressure off. But that can only happen with #7.
  7. Your Spiritual Life: Did you think you’d see a post from me without a nod to my Higher Power? No such luck! I could never do my 45 minutes of focused attention to my business — with all my negative thoughts pounding at me to “give up!” if it weren’t for belief in a power greater than me that wants me to succeed. So I’m reminding you, too, that with the help of your higher power you can tap into an energy that believes in you! You can ask the God of your understanding in to help you learn, grow and create your dream. (And here’s the best news: your higher power already sees you as successful! He/She has no timeline on where you are at in the process. If your Higher Power doesn’t subscribe to this unconditional belief in your bad ass self, by all means, borrow mine!)
  8. Defend Your Quiet: I admit I’m lucky to have my own office. Granted, it came only after years of renting our house out to make ends meet while my husband started his own business and I went back to school as a special ed aid/then substitute teacher. (My hubby and I used to to live in the dining room to give space to the renter — no joke!) But even if you don’t have your own office, you might have your own bedroom. Or a corner of the kitchen. Or your car. It doesn’t matter. Wherever you must do your work, do it. Make headphones your friend. Trade with your sister to help with the kids. Do it when the kids go to bed or during naps. And, special shout out to the moms, our kids don’t need more stuff. What they need is the example of a woman who lives out her own dreams so they can grow up and live out there. Show them your positive mindset!

The one thing I can promise you is that as hard as it is sometimes to find 45 minutes a day, it’s worse spending the rest of the day thinking you COULD have worked toward your dream… but you didn’t.

Sonja Langford@sonjalangfordUnsplash

9. Remember You are Worth It: Sometimes we say we don’t have 45 minutes/day to work on our dream, but that’s a lie. The real reason so many of us don’t spend that time is because somewhere deep in our soul we don’t think we’re worth it. When we face that lie for what it is and wrestle it to the ground, dreams can come true.

Note: If you are an A student at dream deprivation, don’t be surprised if the first month you spend the entire time just staring at your screen. I’m here to tell you, “So what!” As long as your intention is to build your dream, eventually your brain will catch on with your body and your new habit will pay off in major productivity — 45 minutes at a time.

10. Take Opposite Action: This one is always the hardest for my clients. They often think that because it feels wrong, it is wrong. I could say the same thing about giving up drinking. Every ounce of my body was screaming, “Gulp the wine! It’s just a glass. Or six!” But my soul, where the God of my understanding lives, reminded me, “Andrea, it’s hard now. But think of how much closer you’ll get to living as your authentic self if you aren’t buzzed every night.” The same can be said when it comes to taking action on our dreams.

When we stop listening to the lies that tell us our dreams aren’t worth it, and instead bring the God of our understanding in and work 45 minutes on our projects, something miraculous happens. We land on the flip side fear.

Today was a great day. After 3 months of dealing with a book formatter out of Australia and knowing in my gut that he was wrong for the job, I hired a woman from the U.S. who is going to get my book formatted within a week. And it looks soooo good. There is no way I would have been able to pull the trigger and hire her if I hadn’t put in the 45/minutes a day of hard work to know what was working for my business and what was not.

This is my book cover!

Along with my new graphic designer’s typesetting, I will have my new book out within a month. Am I nervous? Heck yeah! But I’ll just keep taking my own advice and inch it forward a bit each day. I will use all these new skills to help my future clients with their amazing books.

And, each day, I will thank God that when I wanted to quit I just put on my big girl panties, fired up my computer and kept going… 45 minutes at a time.

I’d love to hear where you are with your dreams. You are worth it! Push forward!

About Me

I’m a published TV, blog, magazine and book writer who also coaches moms and grandmoms to write books rooted in wisdom, spirituality and humor.

CONTACT ME

Find out more at Andrea Frazer Writes or at Facebook. Email me at Andrea@AndreaFrazerWrites.com

DON’T MISS A NEWSLETTER!

You can sign up for my email list here where I’ll send you a newsletter all about book writing every Wednesday. Happy Hump Day indeed!

education, faith, God, self improvement, spirituality, writing

Each of Us Has Absolute Value

And other lessons from teaching special ed math

Posted originally on Medium

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Lina Trochez@lmtrochezz @ Unsplash

Every day I fire up the computer and teach Special Ed math for one of the largest school districts in the country. And while my end game is to coach women to write books full time, this waiting period in my life is a wonderful reminder to remember my daily mantra:

Instead of asking “Why is this happening to me?” I always ask “What is this trying to teach me?” Then God gives me a download I never would have come up with on my own.

Today was no exception. My first class of the day consisted of 10 sixth graders. These kids are in my room because they struggle with things as basic as two digit multiplication and single division. When I first began teaching in August, I had very high hopes for this online class. I’d spend my days encouraging them to memorize their times tables.

When that wasn’t happening, I encouraged them to use their online multiplication charts to get an answer.

When that wasn’t happening, I started reminding them to “Give me a thumbs up!” to at least know they were paying attention.

When that wasn’t happening I began calling their names, one by one, asking them to unmute and shout out the answers.

Yay! That worked!

Kidding.

Crickets.

Desperate, I asked them to use the Chat feature to type out their answers.

Chat was a big success! Well, for them, not me. Instead of using it to go over math, they used it as a social forum. “Hiyo!” “Hi!” “Hola!” “Wasss up, homie?” and the occasional, “Who likes to play Among Us?” flooded the screen. I quickly learned how to work the Zoom security feature. “Chat Disable?” Check!

It’s not a shock that discontent settled in by Month 2. Thoughts of “Why bother?” were the norm, and while I’d attempt to combat it with my positive self-talk “You’re getting paid well, Lady” I often ended my day with one very conflicted jumbo thought: “You’re getting tax payers dollars to re-enact the teacher from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Is this what you’ve become?”

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Taken from this site. That was me, but with longer hair.

But, thanks to a few solid years of a strong Morning Practice, my mind very quickly shifted to a more productive question. To quote a woman from my 12-step program, that question was no other than, “What would God have me do?”

That’s a pretty powerful question, because sometimes we enter hard seasons. But it’s really the only one to ask if we want to stay grounded and serene, despite some rough wind in our sails.

If we look for life to reward us like a slot machine, we’re going to be sorely disappointed at our empty pockets. But if God is the ultimate wealth, then we can shift our attention to the real riches that await us if we are willing to do His will.

I’m lucky enough, after years of wandering around aimlessly with a talent for writing and people skills, but not a plan, to know what my ultimate purpose is: It’s to be of maximum service to God and others.

This doesn’t mean I want to be part of some rigid religious system or personal self-denial routine where I self-will my way into being a saint. (I get grouchy and eat far too many quiches for the austere deprivation lifestyle.) But it does mean that I can have all the creativity in the world, but if I’m not aligning my purpose and daily plans with my Higher Power’s, I’m like a bull in china shop, causing damage wherever I roam. And no one gets more damaged from being untethered than me. I need guidelines to feel centered. My boisterous aunt used to refer to her engineer husband as “The string on her high flying balloon” and so it is with my spiritual practice.

The real secret for me in becoming grounded, then, is quite counter-intuitive: To find serenity, I often must do the opposite of what I, as Andrea, wants to do to be happy. (Example: No sleeping in ’til 10 each day, spending my entire savings on a house remodel and drinking enough caffeine to jumpstart a Porsche.) Instead, it’s about doing more of what I believe God would have me do to make others happy.

When I keep my mind on service, instead of self, it’s shocking how peaceful my life goes. And, in doing so, I end up happy! Who knew?

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John Schnobrich@johnschno @ Unsplash

Everyone Has Absolute Value… and Other Life Lessons Stuffed into Math

Today, after my Morning Practice, I was still feeling rather tired from the past two months of madness. I threw in an extra prayer, “God, please, help me get out of the way so I can do your bidding.”

When I surrender my self-will run riot, I find God’s purpose for me in a most unexpected, but typical of my cheeky Higher Power, way. Today was no exception.

I was showing the kids the difference between negative six and positive six on a number line.

“It’s all about the steps back to zero!” I said. “No matter what direction you head, the absolute value is the same. And, here’s a fun fact, absolute value can never be negative!”

That went over like a Trump speech at a Democrat rally. Without even thinking — which I instinctively knew was my Higher Power talking through me — I continued, “It’s like you as people. You are all so important. Think of ‘Zero’ like your Higher Power, or your mom, or some amazing person who loves you unconditionally. It’s natural to want to take steps closer to it. And, like the numbers on the number line, it doesn’t matter if you have ‘negative’ qualities. You are loved so much. You are precious. You have absolute value.

Seconds later a beautiful brown eyed tween turned on her camera and just looked at me, eyes sunk in… tired. I looked right at her and smiled big.

“You know, Devi, you have absolute value. Are you aware of that?”

Her voice cracked a bit. “Yes,” she muttered. I could tell she meant, “WTF, who are you kidding, Ms. Frizzle?”

But her eyes stayed locked on mine. And I told her how glad I was she was in my class, even if was over the internet. I told her how I couldn’t wait to see her in person when school opened. I told her I’d hug her if I could, but I can’t (and don’t want to be fired for being a perv) so I’d just high five her from 10 feet away. Behind plexi-glass.

I think she got it. Who knows? She exited class early and I didn’t see her the next day.

So here’s the deal, readers: I’m not trying to get a pat on the back here. In moving on with her daily routine, it’s possible she forgot all about being loved unconditionally. But I like to think that she held on to it for the day, the way a smell of a birthday candle and people’s laughter lingers in the room long after the candles are blown out.

And even if she doesn’t remember her value, by telling her she had it, I will remember mine. And for a rough couple months, that’s a pretty good place to start again.

Until next time,

About Me

Image for post

I’m a published TV, blog, magazine and book writer who also coaches moms and grandmoms to write books rooted in wisdom, spirituality and humor.

CONTACT ME

Find out more at Andrea Frazer Writes or at Facebook. Email me at Andrea@AndreaFrazerWrites.com

DON’T MISS A NEWSLETTER!

You can sign up for my email list here where I’ll send you a newsletter all about book writing every Wednesday. Happy Hump Day indeed!

faith, God, parenting, spirituality, writing

Simple Pleasures Are the Best Pleasures

And other decisions to consciously slow down.

Originally published on Medium.

Patrick Fore@patrickian4Unsplash

I was standing in the middle of a choir room with 70 middle schoolers when I first heard an 1848 Quaker song that made me my stop in my tracks. As a war torn sub racing day to day across the city to a variety of dark and dingy public schools (that looked more like prisons than educational facilities), this moment of unexpected pleasure was nothing short of a miracle – like waking up to a dozen deliciously wrapped presents on the kitchen table in July when your birthday isn’t until mid December.

What a gift it was to find myself in a 1930’s brick building building complete with wood floors and industrial lighting that looked like a scene out of Matilda the Musical. Add in vaulted ceilings, wood paned windows, diamond tiled linoleum and fresh paint, it was if I was transported back in time — to a time that was simpler.

The chatty kids were called to attention by a peppy sixth grade comrade in afro puffs who commanded the respect of even the largest Draco Malfoy’esque 8th grader. She whistled shrilly, picked up what could only be a magic wand (as it even got the attention of the lovebirds sneaking a kiss in the corner to high tail it to the risers) and soon the whole room bellowed:

’Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,
Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

Antoine Julien@antoinejulienUnsplash

With their voices blending in perfect pitch and harmony, I almost forgot how tired I was from the hour of bumper-to-bumper traffic I endured to get here on time. (Not to mention my frantic search for a Starbuck’s pitstop — just one more reason I’ve given up my morning java.)

Being among those soaring young voices, I forgot about the musical project I desperately wanted to complete but, due to bills and parenting and life responsibilities, remained lagging on my desktop.

I stopped obsessing about whether I would, or would not, get enough days to cover my insurance for the following year.

I just remained in the classroom, in the moment, soaking in the beauty of the notes and the fresh faces before me.

Now I’m not naive. It was possible that some of those kids had more checkered pasts at 13 then I did at 48. But there’s something about being still, about being as Eckhart Tolle reminds us, in “the power of NOW”, that showered me with unexpected peace.

The same could be said this weekend when I found a book, Simple Abundance, that had been sitting in “Andrea’s Box of Books” for 20 years in the garage. I had recently transferred this behemoth of literature to my closet and, in my own answer to my soul’s cluttered spirit, I finally picked through the titles one by one.

I tossed most of the books to make room on my shelf for the ones I truly cherished (not ones I “may” or “may not” ever read) but this beautiful pink treasure I kept. It was brand new, and something called me to set it aside. I’m so glad I did, because every single page in this 365 day devotion to simplicity speaks to my fractured spirit.

Each page reminds us to slow down. To get rid of what we don’t use. To make room for the richness of experience. To remember that we do not lack a thing to have a life of joy, peace and beauty. We only need to notice.

I don’t know about you, but if I’m not careful, I can find more things to do in a day than is possible to get done.

I can live in the past in my mistakes, or I can live in the future with my fear, but in doing so I tend to forget the beautiful wonder and joy of what is right in front of me.

One of the things the author reminds us to do is to not only to not forget to notice the loveliness right in front of us… the scent of a beeswax candle… the beauty of a clean pavement after an overdue rain… but to cultivate it.

From the January 7 entry, she writes, “What is missing from many of our days is a true sense that we are enjoying the lives we are living. It is difficult to experience moments of happiness if we are not aware of what it is we genuinely love. We must learn to savor small, authentic moments that bring us contentment. Experiment with a new cookie recipe. Take the time to slowly arrange a bouquet of flowers in order to appreciate their colors, fragrance, and beauty. Sip a cup of tea on the front stoop in the sunshine. Pause for five minutes to pet a purring cat. Simple pleasures are waiting to be enjoyed. Simple pleasures often overlooked.”

Is this possible to really do? Even when politics suck? Even when someone is mean to you on Facebook? Even when the kids don’t understand you? (No, I’m not talking about me. Ahem.) The answer is, YES. To live a life of richness means to intentionally seek it out, no matter how simple they are.

I did just that on Sunday. After returning from a trip away by myself to a cottage by the beach that had, gulp, two fireplaces, a kitchen and a sunken tub- more than simple abundance by a landslide- I stopped by the market to grab some wood to continue the cozy vibe at home. 

Side note on the cottage: I might have kept both fireplaces running at the same time just to giddily run back and forth, buck naked, for the sheer joy of being able to do so in splendid, blessed quiet. #noregrets

(Pier Point Inn, Ventura. Beautiful and, turns out, possibly haunted. I did feel a spooky vibe but I didn’t care. .It was too quaint to worry about and likely any ghosts, seeing a six foot 50 year old racing through the parlor, would have been more terrified of me than I of them.

After getting a jumpstart on my car, I finally returned home to my own lovely cottage — a two story house I’ve been lucky enough to inhabit for almost 20 years. Sitting in the driveway, I made a conscious decision to not get irritated about dishes that would inevitably be left in the sink. (They were.) I refused to get crazy about the dog who would likely jump all over me with excitement at her long lost mistress finally back from the salt mines (She did… complete with a puddle.)

Instead, I did what I often do before I enter my house these days. I took a breath and offered up a simple, hopeful prayer, “God, go before me.”

And so, with my Higher Power’s help and a mind set on acceptance of the simple abundance that could be mine if I kept my mind as calm as the two bedroom rental I just nested in, I brought my full suitcases and my full heart into the house.

“Mama, you’re home!” both teenagers said, getting offline for just a moment to hug me.

“I missed you!” I said back. And, to my surprise even after the stressful past few weeks we’ve had, it was true.

After doing dishes, I put on my pajamas and sat on the couch. I took in the smells of the pizza my husband was baking in the kitchen. I made a point to thank him… to not take this simple Sunday ritual for granted. I then lit a fire.

Before long, the teenagers and their friend sauntered in. Sitting 10 feet apart, we laughed and watched the crackle of the flames. There were no phones. No Netflix. Just the five of us trading stories about Star Wars and our favorite books.

I can’t lie. As much as I loved getting away by myself, the very best part of the whole weekend was tea in front of my very own fire. It was simple. It was comforting. And the mood was, yes, abundant with peace.

The next day, my dog must have felt the vibes, because I found her happily snoring on the couch. Normally a stickler for tidiness, I was content enough from the night before that I didn’t even feel the need to clean up the dishes left under the couch. I didn’t straighten the magazines or the pillows. I left it all there for the day as a reminder that, indeed, “Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free.”

It has been my experience that happiness is not a destination. It’s a choice to live in peace, to take notice of the little things in our lives and set a tone for radical joy that is not dependent on stuff but on love. Always love.

DAILY QUESTION: “Is there something you can do that is simple that can bring joy to your home… that can set the tone not just for you but for everyone you come in contact with?”

I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

About Me

I’m a published TV, blog, magazine and book writer who also coaches moms and grandmoms to write books rooted in wisdom, spirituality and humor.

CONTACT ME

Find out more at Andrea Frazer Writes or at Facebook. Email me at Andrea@AndreaFrazerWrites.com

DON’T MISS A NEWSLETTER!

You can sign up for my email list here where I’ll send you a newsletter all about book writing every Wednesday. Happy Hump Day indeed!

faith, God, self improvement, Sobriety, spirituality

10 Reasons a Spiritual Solution is Better Than Zoloft

Confessions from an ex pill popper

Originally published on Medium.

For years before I got sober, I was on a variety of anti-depressants for all of my outside issues. My marriage was in the toilet. My son had a condition I couldn’t cure. I was struggling with balancing my writing with my domestic responsibilities and frankly, I was just having a hard time transitioning from my childhood to the intense demands of adulting.

Zoloft calmed me down. After all, my issues were in my tissues, and I hit the genetic lottery in many ways. My family on both sides were kind, loving, funny and smart people. Many of them also struggled with mental health.

If my relatives came with a Tarot card reading, you’d say I came from a line of Bi-polar with Neurosis and Addiction Rising.

I don’t blame my parents for my emotional disposition. They loved me well and gave me an amazing childhood complete with private education, art lessons and lots of time in a beautiful home to work on my writing. In fact, one of my main regrets for a long time was that I was not able to give my own kids the life I had growing up. I felt I had somehow failed because we weren’t celebrating at Jerry’s Deli once/week with Corn Beef sandwiches and black and white cookies. Life wasn’t a constant loop of performing arts and vacations back east or cruises. I wasn’t able to take my daughter to the mall every time she needed a new pair of shorts. Thrift stores became our go-to and “making due” was our motto.

Yet despite my longings to give them more (and some occasional bouts of anger) my kids had a great life.

Looking back over my mothering now, I see that it wasn’t the inability to financially provide for my kids that I regret most. It was not having the tools to navigate the pressures that come with parenting. Enter Zoloft.

freestocks@freestocks @ Unsplash

Zoloft took the edge off of a very confusing time of my life and allowed my very spinning and creative brain to CALM. DOWN.

It allowed me to focus just a bit more and, like a grace note in a sheet of music, provided just enough pause for me to think rationally about how I wanted to handle my failing marriage and special needs parenting.

But here’s the problem:

Zoloft itself didn’t fix my situation. Only a spiritual solution did. It’s been five years now since I’ve been off the psyche meds and, while life hasn’t been perfect, I have never looked back.

Benjamin Voros@vorosbenisopUnsplash

NOTE: Before anyone reaches through the internet and wants to throttle for me for saying that pills aren’t a reasonable way to cure depression and anxiety, you can hold off. I am not a doctor. I am simply telling you what worked for me. Take what you like and leave the rest.

10 Items from my My Spiritual Tool Kit

Here are ten nuggets of wisdom that have transformed my life. I use them still every single day and, while life isn’t always easy (especially the last two months) I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the God of my understanding is with me. I don’t need to dull the pain anymore with alcohol or Zoloft. I simply need to practice some very simple principals, face what isn’t working, and give it God. These simple steps have transformed my life, and they can transform yours (whether or not you choose to be on medication or not!)

12Gabrielle Henderson@gabriellefaithhendersonUnsplash
  1. Gratitude: Every day I write a list of five things I’m grateful for. Staying grateful even in troubling times does not take the difficulties away, but it makes them bearable. I have done them so consistently, in fact, that now my mind automatically goes to grateful even when I’m less than enthusiastic about my Monday morning routine. Ex: Grateful for a working computer! A cup of hot tea on a desk my husband made me! My beautiful brick wall pictures of my kids smiling down at me! Netflix playing a cozy cafe’ scene in the background! My ridiculous camel lamp lighting up my office, reminding me to ‘Get over the humps with God’! Yup, gratitude lists have re-set my negative thinking to positive thinking and it’s made all the difference.
  2. 12-Step Programs: I go to 4 12-step programs a week. I have a sponsee. I take calls daily. I reach out to others who are struggling. I would say I spend, on average, 10 hours/week dedicated to this practice. And while, yes, that’s a lot of time, I also used to spend a lot of time being depressed, anxious and out of control with my emotions. Being an active member of 12 step groups allows me to be connected to a community. To not feel alone. And most importantly, to be reminded that God, not me, is in charge. This reliance on a power greater than myself has kept me out of my head and into action where the solution lives. This leads me to my next point:
  3. Service: In helping others every day, I get out of self. Unlike in my past where I’d help to subconsciously be liked, or to feel worthy, I now do it because it’s what I feel God would have me do to help others heal as I was able to do. I get to pay back what another so kindly paid forward to me. (Thank you, Violet!) Seeing someone else transform their mindset or simply get temporary comfort is a mental boost I never got from Zoloft.
  4. Music: I’m not going to lie. I play Christmas jazz all year long. The sounds of the bells and the happy voices put me in a cozy mood that transcends any negativity in the world. It also sets a joyful tone in my home. Sure, my teenagers roll their eyes when I lip sync “All I Want for Christmas Is You” with my wooden spoon microphone, complete with 50-year-old bootie shakes #okBoomer, but I know they are grateful for my present day levity instead of the past heaviness. I also know for a fact that God has wired me to be happy, joyous and free, but it’s so easy for me to forget with the myriad of tasks on my to-do list. Music is my soul’s gentle reminder that it’s okay to feel happy even when I’d rather get back under the covers and sleep.
  5. No Coffee: I know! I know! This one is crazy. But in giving up caffeine I’ve found I have more patience for my family, friends and co-workers. Every time I think “Man, I could use a cup of Joe” I automatically picture myself pouring out this bad breath juice, saying, “God, I’m emptying my self-will. Fill me with your spirit today.” And I swear, it works. (Though I won’t lie. I miss the taste like crazy. And no, I won’t do decaf. Too many chemicals. Like alcohol, coffee’s treat had become my prison with last minute bathroom trips and an overly stimulated nervous system. Like Marie Kondo, I thanked it for it’s service and ushered a host of delicious teas into my kitchen instead.)
  6. My Will Vs. God’s Will: My default mode is “Control Freak.” In remembering each day, and sometimes on a minute by minute basis, that God is in charge, I have so much more peace. It also helps me make better decisions. When I’m in God’s will, there is serenity. When I’m in my will, I often find myself hurting the people around me in a mad attempt to be right or get my way. I find myself clinging to ridiculous beliefs like, “If only my kid would fold the towels exactly this way I’d feel better about the linen closet and I wouldn’t be angry.” Um, how about instead I look at what is going right instead of what is going wrong? I have a kid who is home, during Covid, folding 1970’s towels. I’m pretty sure the only thing “wrong” in choosing my will instead of God’s is that I make towels and rigidity more important than the loving, easy going spirit of God’s will.
  7. Inside vs. Outside Based: As an A+ Catholic student, who was far too tall to attract the popular boys and not good enough athletically to make any sports team, I found that my grades were a super big validation for me. Unfortunately, it was very outcome based. It didn’t matter if I was feeling overwhelmed or exhausted, as long as I got that “A” all was right in my world. Ummm… “my” world as opposed to “the whole big world”… a world I was ill prepared for with this thinking. My tenacity with grades might have landed me in top universities, as well as landed me as a TV writer when the competition was super fierce, but it wasn’t sustainable. I could not “study” my way into getting people to like my scripts once I was hired. I couldn’t “A+B+C” my way into getting my kids to remember to take the trash out. I couldn’t “1+ 2 = 3” my way into getting my husband to want to spend $5k on getting our house painted. Enter frustration. And yes, Zoloft took the edge off this anger. But in getting to the bottom of the anger, and surrendering to the fact that God loves me… and I don’t have to control everything to be happy… the anger faded. Takeway: When I remember that my insides are more important than the outcomes, I feel peace.
  8. Prayer: Keeping constant contact with something greater than me reminds me that I am never alone. Instead of getting into a “My Will” vs. “God’s Will” battle, I can just choose God’s way first. I can pray something as simple as “Thy will be done.” In doing so, I can surrender to whatever is happening in my life as happening on purpose for a reason. I don’t have to agree with something, but I can get into acceptance. And ah… the Land of Acceptance. It’s a destination that I can keep in my heart and soul twenty four hours a day and doesn’t cost a thing. (Note: Not being in acceptance costs plenty in terms of lack of sleep, fractured relationships and anger.)
  9. Meditation: You’ll be sick of hearing this, but meditation has quieted my brain in a profound way. If prayer is talking to God, meditation is listening. Every morning I take just 10 minutes and get still. In doing so, like in #7, I’m offering up my insides to God to take care of my outsides. It helps me be less outcome based and more present. It reminds me that rest and beauty and nurturing is just as important as my pay check. And when I slow down, I am more aware of beautiful synchronicities and signs that remind me I am on the right path.
  10. Keeping it Light: When I think I’m in charge of the universe, anger and frustration enter. When I remember that life is one giant game to grow my soul, I can laugh at misfortunes. Ex: Yesterday my car broke down. Twice. Once on the way home from my overnight stay at the beach (which was supposed to be my spiritual retreat for myself) and once at the Whole Foods parking lot with a car full of groceries and beer that this alcoholic was delivering to my 90 year old mama. I could have gotten furious, but I remembered to say, “Thy will be done” and just called a tow truck. If I had not been in fit spiritual condition I’d have been calling my husband in a spitfire rage of pissiness, inwardly cursing him for not showing up quickly enough. I’d have stayed in my victim story. Instead, I simply walked back in Whole Foods, asked for a cup of hot water, and drank some herbal Chai while waiting for the driver who, miraculously, appeared within 20 minutes. This brings me right back to #1: Gratitude.

When I Surrendered My Outsides to a God of my understanding, I didn’t need Zoloft for My Insides anymore.

Arno Smit@_entreprenerd

I know many of you out there are suffering. Perhaps my reasons for suffering are different than your reasons. And I can’t pretend that doing one thing on my list, or all of them, will “cure” you right away. But I can promise you this: There is a greater being out there that loves you. And if you can take the time to tap into that being, in whatever form works for you, your burden will lighten.

You will find freedom.

And most importantly, you will find peace.

Today I wish you joy, hope and love. Whether you are on meds or not, I hope you will find time to get outside and see the beauty of a flower. Take a strong sniff of the sea. If your house is a mess, stop focusing on the dishes in the sink and find one small corner of your home where you can sip some tea and get into gratitude for what is working instead of what isn’t.

There is always something to be grateful for.

There is always something to hope for.

I pray that in a world that can often feel dark and despairing, that, as my 12-Step Program promises, you ask God to “Grant you the serenity to accept what you cannot cannot change, the courage to change what you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” In doing so, with the God of your understanding residing within you, your outsides might not change over night, but inside you will transform to the radiant person you were meant to be all along. And your life will never be the same.

Why not start today?

Until tomorrow,

Andrea

About Me

I’m a published TV, blog, magazine and book writer who also coaches moms and grandmoms to write books rooted in wisdom, spirituality and humor. Find out more at Andrea Frazer Writes or at Facebook. Come back Monday — Friday where I’ll post about spirituality, writing and sobriety. And sometimes tacos. Because Tacos make everything better. Always.

DON’T MISS A NEWSLETTER!

You can sign up for my email list here where I’ll send you a newsletter all about book writing every Wednesday. Happy Hump Day indeed!

Coaching and Wellness, faith, God, self improvement, spirituality

What is Your Motivation? When You Know You’ll Stop Blowing Out Other’s Light and Shine Your Own

Prateek Gautam@pgauti @ Unsplash

I didn’t set out to revamp Happily Ticked Off as a blog about trusting God, trusting signs, and asking the right questions. But as I say in almost every post, life began for me this very week when I started asking a profound but simple question:

Instead of asking, “Why is this happening to me?” I began to start asking “What is this trying to teach me?”

In asking this question my very self started to unravel. Because in seeing the truth behind the crazy events of the past 60 days I saw that God wasn’t sending me heartache and change to make me uncomfortable. He was making me uncomfortable to shake me awake. And here’s what I realized:

  • I am controlling
  • I play the victim so I don’t have to have accountability
  • Deep down — despite all my outside achievements — I don’t feel worthy in my own life

I hate to put all this on record for everyone to see. After all, on the outside I’m a six foot, fairly attractive fifty year old.

I’ve got a good job, I write on the side, I have a nice husband and two kids that, so far, have not over-sexed, over-drugged or stolen beer from our local A.M./P.M..

But the truth is, I have parented, friended, daughter-ed and wife-d from a place of brokenness. I have not trusted God, as much as I say I do, that who I am — as Andrea — is enough.

In not trusting God, I’ve attempted to manage people, places and things around me (outside issues) to fill the hole on the inside (inside issues.)

I thought that in giving up alcohol five years ago I had surrendered my will power, and while I had let go of much of my control, I hadn’t given up all of it. How do I know? Because the people around me are miserable. This morning was no exception.

My Wake Up Call

Khadeeja Yasser@k_yasser @ Unsplash

I woke up late today. I was able to meditate with my husband and do a quick spiritual reading with him, but I was rushing to get my morning pages done. And yes, I did do them, but the whole time I had an agenda going. “How will I get the blog post in, school work done and get a few things cleaned up before the cleaning service comes over?”

#1: I realize how lucky I am to have a cleaning crew come twice a month. It’s a luxury I have only recently been able to enjoy. The problem, of course, is not that my house was such a mess before. (It was.) The problem was that I was not trusting God that I could get my blog done (my purpose) and let the cleaning crew deal with the little tidbits I’d rather them not see. (The overflowing trash/the excess Halloween decorations/the fur on the couch which can only point to the furry member of the family who is really in charge round these parts.)

Exhibit #1’s theme? Fear of judgement (What does this point to? “I’m Not Enough”)

I rushed through my shower, threw the dishes in the dishwasher and made my way to the garage to start a load of laundry. In my head I was thinking, “Why aren’t the kids doing these dishes?”… “Why didn’t I print the household contract and stick it on the fridge like I said I would?”… “God, I’m setting the worst example!”

Looking out the kitchen window didn’t help my mood. “Could there be more dog crap in the yard?”

Exhibit #2 — Negative thinking, Overthinking & Too Hard on Myself (What does this point to? “I’m Not Enough.”)

On the way back from the garage I looked through the window and noticed my sweet older daughter was still in bed. She is supposed to be up daily at 8.

The conversation basically went like this:

External Me: “Hey, you’re not awake!”

Internal/Sane Me: “Walk away, Andrea. You’re cranky. This won’t go well.”

External/Insane Me: “I guess that means no electronics for 3 days.”

Her: (Groggy) “What do you mean? I’m awake! I’m just checking my texts like you asked me to.”

Internal/Sane Me: “She’s really trying. It’s been a hard season. Love over judgment is always best.”

External/Insane Me: “You’re pissing your life away!”

Her: “Wow. Ouch. That hurts, Mom.”

Internal/Sane Me: “She’s right. That kind of really sucked. Why would you say that?”

External/Sane Me: “Save it for your therapist.”

Then I walked away. Furious.

Exhibit #3: I’m unhappy with my own progress so instead of coming to my child with love, I come with anger, insinuating that she is not enough. (Where does this come from? Oh, right… “I’M NOT ENOUGH.”)

I felt like crap for obvious reasons and went to talk to her 30 minutes later. Her head was low. She hadn’t moved from bed. After a few back and forths, she basically told me, “Mom, sometimes my self-esteem is low because I can’t do anything right. I feel like you’re going to get mad. And it just doesn’t feel good.”

Oh, God. That felt like a knife in my heart. This precious child is someone I adore more than life itself. We used to be so close. But based on some things going on in her life, we just aren’t right now. And while I don’t take 100% responsibility for her emotions (I’m not that powerful) I knew, in my gut, I had done some damage. And, well, that didn’t feel good.

I asked for a hug on the way out. Her response? “No.” And who can blame her?

I went upstairs and did what I’ve done every day this week. I called my sponsor, and thank God I did, because what she said forever changed the trajectory of my thinking.

Violet: “Instead of seeing this as a moment of despair, Andrea, why don’t you use it as an opportunity to forgive yourself?” she asked.

“I don’t know if I can,” I said. By now I was really freaking out, because in addition to cleaners coming by in 20 minutes I had to teach class. (Negative Thinking Self: “You fucked up your kids. Why bother anymore?”)

Exhibit #4 — Regret and remorse instead of self-forgiveness (What does this point to? “I’m not worthy.”)

My sponsor gently reminded me that I’m asking the wrong questions. “Who is in charge?” she said.

Me: (half-heartedly) “God.”

Her: “Is it possible that God is using this opportunity for you to finally wake up and see that you are parenting through a lense of fear and control instead of love?”

Me: (Big sigh) “Yes.”

Her: “And does God make mistakes?”

Me: “No.”

Her: “Then you get to start over. You get to remember, once more, that you are worthy. That you get to love yourself for being human.”

Me: “What if my daughter doesn’t forgive me?” I asked.

Her: “Whether she forgives you or not is none of your business. She has her own God, and you aren’t it.”

She went on to say, “The issue is not that your child sleeps in. The issue is that you are ‘Outcome based’ and when it doesn’t go your way, you get angry. What if you didn’t approach either of your kids unless you were free of expectations and could approach them with love?”

“But what about consequences?” I balked.

“Consequences are fine if they are done from a place of love. Unfortunately, your child sees you giving them from a place of anger and shame. And that never feels good. And it’s not allowing God to operate when you’re in control.”

Ugggg.

Who We Are, Not What We Do, Is God’s Agenda. Do You Believe That?

Jamez Picard@truemedia @ Unsplash

That last statement hit me like a ton of bricks. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, I had been playing God in both my children’s lives — but not the loving God of my understanding today. I was playing out some BC Old Testament God who was quick to anger and smiting.

Yes, I did a lot of wonderful things for them when they were growing up, but I also felt extremely guilty for things I couldn’t provide for them. In the end, they didn’t need the stuff.

What my kids wanted growing up… what they still need as teens… is for me to show up as an example of a balanced, loving woman who knows who she is in God’s eyes. That is it.

I thanked my sponsor, got off the phone, and headed downstairs. In the three minutes I had before class I found my daughter and read her a text I’d written her. It basically went like this:

Hey, Mickey. I want you to know that I’m sorry for this morning. I was mad at myself and I took it out on you. And while I’ve made mistakes over and over in my past, I am realizing now that this came from a place of unworthiness on my part. I don’t expect you to forgive me — and I’ll likely still make mistakes- but the mom I want to be is loving, kind and understanding. I know you’re going through a lot, and I want to be a safe place for you. I love you.

She looked me, and- although I was willing to surrender the outcome to God no matter what her response was — she said, “Mom, I love you. You are very special to me. I don’t always love what you do, but I love you. So much.”

And then she hugged me.

And inside, despite feeling like once again I crapped on the person I love most in the world, I felt a feeling of hope.

My soul acknowledged, for the first time, that I didn’t have to earn God’s love. Just being me was enough.

From that place of love, I will start a new journey with my beautiful daughter — one with less criticism and expectation.

And so, friends, I leave you with the two questions I will be asking myself as I continue down this parenting road and don’t know how to respond to a situation:

  1. Am I angry and controlling? (That’s self-will… I will walk away)
  2. Am I coming from a place of love and compassion? (That’s God’s will… I will stay and connect.)

I am going to finish up this post by saying that sometimes life is super brutal. But if we’re willing to ask the right questions, we can transform everything and begin to shift. For me, today, I am grateful that God added some spiritual dynamite to my soul.

I was blasted with the truth — truth that I don’t always believe — that I am worthy.

I love my kids more than life.

God loves me more than life.

And when I remember how very worthy I am — since God made me — I can drop any unrealistic expectations I have for my kids and parent them from a place of love, joy and radical compassion.

You, too, my friends, are so very worthy.

Happy weekend.

About Me

Image for post

I’m a published TV, blog, magazine and book writer who also coaches moms and grandmoms to write books rooted in wisdom, spirituality and humor. Come back Monday — Friday where I’ll post about spirituality, writing and sobriety. And sometimes tacos. Because Tacos make everything better. Always.

DON’T MISS A NEWSLETTER!

You can sign up for my email list here where I’ll send you a newsletter all about book writing every Wednesday. Happy Hump Day indeed!

Coaching and Wellness, faith, God, self improvement, spirituality, writing

An Abundant Life is Yours for the Taking – Are You Willing to Trust the Signs?

Austin Chan@austinchan @ Unsplash

As I mentioned in this post, I’ve had a lot going on. And it’s been exhausting. I am grateful to God that I keep a spiritual practice every single day which forces my monkey brain to calm down and trust that something other than me is in charge. This spiritual practice doesn’t take away life’s relentless challenges, but it certainly allows some joy to creep in, even if that joy lasts no more than the hour I spend each morning getting centered.

The Power of the Right Questions

As I often say — and it bears repeating — it’s not what happens to us that matters as much as our response to it. But how can we respond positively if we are not happy with what is happening? The answer for me always comes back to the same question.

Instead of asking “Why is this happening to me?” I must always ask “What is this trying to teach me?”

If I don’t ask that very simple question I will forever play a victim and deflect my issues onto the people I love most. And, well, that’s just ridiculous. And not just that — if I don’t get to the bottom of what a certain situation is trying to educate me about — there is very little doubt that I will be presented with yet another situation along the same theme that will attempt to get me to wake up and pay attention. I’d rather figure it out earlier so I can give it to God, let go, and move on with my life.

The Trap of Busyness

One of the ways I try to pretend that everything in my life is okay is to stay busy. On the surface, my brain lies to me. “You’re just trying to help people,” it tells me. “It’s just your season of life to take care of everyone,” it whispers. “What are you going to do? Not work and not eat? You can’t just sit around all day and do nothing.”

But the truth is that, on some days, this is exactly what I need to do. I need to make room for the joys of life that don’t come with a pay check… that don’t come with the rush of dopamine I get when someone says, “Thank you so much, Andrea. I couldn’t do this without you.” Um, yes they could. And it’s time I start letting them just a bit more.

The Joy of Letting Go

One of the things I’ve learned to do, thanks to my practice, is to listen to my spirit. And that spirit has been screaming to me lately to “Let go.” This has taken the form of me literally tossing out 50% of the items in my house I don’t use anymore. How many wooden spoons do I need in the kitchen? Do I really need two boxes of VHS tapes as a reminder of my kids’ childhood? (And honestly, raising teenagers is tough. Seeing a simple Elmo video can put me in tears. It was so much simpler back then!) How about a whole box of letters I wrote to my cousin when I was knee deep in my Ricky Schroder obsession? Couldn’t I just save one pin and call it a day? The answer, of course, is “Yes!” And I know this to be true because I am starting to see the signs pointing this out.

The Signs Don’t Lie

As an ex-wanna be Bible thumper, I used to think “Seeing the signs” was for people who were nuts. But the more I meditate and pray, and the more I trust my gut to “Let go” of things that don’t serve me anymore (both ideas and personal items) I make room for God to operate. I start seeing messages designed just for me — that make my soul zing like a slot machine bell — that would not have been present had they been covered up in material goods or an exhausted mind.

This morning, for example, I woke from a 12 hour sleep (courtesy of giving up all forms of caffeine) to find myself a bit groggy. Today started as yet another day of endless tasks to do, from working and food shopping to paperwork for an outside issue, one of my kid’s appointments and a meeting later in the evening.

Despite prayer and meditation, my head immediately started working on me, “What are you doing with your life, Andrea?”… “ You’re still teaching on top of your coaching business!” … “When is that musical ever gonna get done?”

Instead of listening to my head, which used to be my favorite past time, I picked up a book on my bed which had been hidden in my closet for almost 20 years. I found it during the Great Office Purge of October 2020. The title? “The Art of Doing Nothing.” It spoke about exactly what my very own spirit has been telling me to do… to rest. To remember I am a human being, not a human doer.

I smiled as flipped through some of these comforting pages and then, something told me to check out my bookshelf. There was another book along a similar theme: “Simple Abundance.”

For over 20 years I’d kept this book in a box and never looked at it. But today, as I opened the first page, I was struck with how perfect it was for me: The author writes:

“What I wanted was to write a book that would show me how to reconcile my deepest spiritual, authentic, and creative longings with often-overwhelming and conflicting commitments — to my husband and daughter, invalid mother, work at home, work in the world, siblings, friends and community. I knew I wasn’t the only woman hurtling through life as if it were an out-of body-experience. I knew I wasn’t the only woman frazzled, depressed, worn to a raveling.”

She goes on to say how she found in writing the book she found the answers she had been looking for all along: to slow down and to savor life.

This has been so true of my experience, too. That in writing my books I have found healing, and in helping others write their books I have aided in their healing, too.

I am grateful today that I took some time to slow down before the beginning of a crazy day. To read something comforting. To be reminded that I am not just the sum of my bank account or my children’s accomplishments. God created me to be of maximum service to others through my heart and through my writing. And when I forget that, I only need to pause and look for the signs in my daily life that will point me back home… to a heart that reminds me that “Simple Abundance” is indeed enough.

Until tomorrow, may you have a day full of signs and wonder that remind you that you, too, are so deeply loved. And that who you are, and who everyone around you are, is enough.

It really is.

Andrea

About Me

I’m a published TV, blog, magazine and book writer who also coaches moms and grandmoms to write books rooted in wisdom, spirituality and humor. Come back Monday — Friday where I’ll post about spirituality, writing and sobriety. And sometimes tacos. Because Tacos make everything better. Always.

DON’T MISS A NEWSLETTER!

You can sign up for my email list here where I’ll send you a newsletter all about book writing every Wednesday. Happy Hump Day indeed!

Coaching and Wellness, faith, spirituality, writing

Want Peace? Build Your Life Around Your Spiritual Practice (And not the other way around)

Ellieelien@ellienelie @ Unsplash

I actually wrote this post yesterday, but got rather heavy withdrawl symptoms from giving up coffee. I bring this up to remind all of you that sometimes we have to rest, despite our obligations, and trust that all will get done that is supposed to get done. And so, on that note, here is yesterday’s post!

As I mentioned yesterday, life has lately felt like walking up Mt. Everest in cement boots. With cast iron cylinders on my head. In the rain. And yet, one thing has kept me consistent and calm despite the world seemingly seeming to fall apart around me — and that is my spiritual practice.

Every day, whether I feel like it or not, I get out of bed, hit my knees, say a prayer, grab some tea and do my Morning Pages. (More on this another day! In simplest form, they are 3 pages worth of free flowing writing to get your grr out at the beginning of the day so you can feel fresh, balanced and ready for new adventures to begin.)

When my writing is complete, I do 5 minutes of meditation with my husband (a miracle in and of itself) and then we do a spiritual reading.

When that is done, I read my own devotions and, if there is time, I’ll do ten minutes of meditation myself.

This whole routine takes about 1 hour. And while, yes, I could use this time to finish up some house cleaning, move ahead with paperwork or scroll through Social Media, the bigger question is, “Why?” I have found that unless I am centered — allowing the God of my understanding to connect with the most sacred part of me where my creativity, love and true being live, I view life only through a lense of fear and anxiety.

Keeping a small routine allows me to stay anchored when the storms of life blow all around me. And, unlike much of my younger days when my happiness depended on other people, places and things, keeping a practice reminds me to count on one thing and one thing only: God.

God is Not Weakness

Reliance on the God of my understanding does not make me a little woman, content to just sit around and let success pass her by. Do I want my musical to sell? Yes. Would I love Covid to be over so I could finally use my Disney passes and hang out with my friends in a beautiful cafe and watch babies in ridiculous outfits shriek in delight at oversized park characters? Of course! But if the spirit I bring to this job or event is restless, irritable and discontent, why would it matter if Covid ended and I could go to such an event? I wouldn’t enjoy my time there and, more importantly, I wouldn’t be of service to those around me. Anger, like a virus, is contagious, too.

Focusing on the Inside

Simply put, when I don’t take quiet time in the morning with God, I focus on the outsides of life, then try to control people, places and things to fix my insides. This never works. Just try it on some teenagers and you’ll see what I mean!

You Are Worth Rest

Christopher Burns @ Unsplash

Keeping a spiritual practice reminds me of a lighthouse on the water. It might be freezing outside, and ships are sinking all around me, but in that lighthouse is a warm bed, a fire, a hot cup of tea and beautiful music playing. (Okay, so my lighthouse is more of an AirBnB but you get the idea!)

Instead of focusing on the chaos on the stormy sea, I can stay in gratitude that I am cared for inside. Because God is my keeper, I don’t need to worry about the rent or people coming in to steal my stuff. That house is open 24 hours for me with a sign on the door, “Come on in, Andrea. You are loved. You are welcome.”

There, in that lighthouse, I can lay down any expectations I have of myself and remember that I am a child of God and nothing else matters.

And, from that place of rest and contentment, I can light a candle and look out my window. Sometimes I’ll see sun. But sometimes I’ll see other fellow travelers who are drowning in horrific waves. Having been there myself, I can understand their struggle. And then, best of all — and only because I will have had my time of rest — I can leave the safety of the lighthouse with a sense of purpose. I can get into my boat and, with a spirit stronger than the weather around me, motor out to help some of them.

My purpose isn’t to do better, it’s to be better.

As a perfectionist, I struggle with always wanting things done a certain way. But when I remember I don’t have to be perfect, because only God is, I can relax and let my true nature come out to play. I don’t need to check off one more box on an endless to do list. I simply need to sit still and, once again, be reminded who I really am… who my authentic nature is. Who is that nature? She is someone who likes to feed people. She has Taco Tuesday complete with mariachi hats… who is writing a musical about camels… who reads Roald Dahl to her homeroom every day and can’t pass up a yard sale or a stray dog. I love that Andrea, but the only way I can let her out to play and to “be” is to bring God in. And the only way to do that is to begin each day in prayer and meditation.

My practice is my answer.

And so, friends, if you already have a morning practice where you can connect to the God of your understanding, that’s awesome! If not, I encourage you to start. It’s not easy at first (that’s why they call it “practice”) but in time, like any routine, a pattern will establish. I can promise you that in nurturing your spirit, you will find you are more able to face whatever comes your way each day. And not only will your soul thank you, everyone around you will, too.

Until tomorrow,

Andrea

About Me

Image for post

I’m a published TV, blog, magazine and book writer who also coaches moms and grandmoms to write books rooted in wisdom, spirituality and humor. Come back Monday — Friday where I’ll post about spirituality, writing and sobriety. And sometimes tacos. Because Tacos make everything better. Always.

DON’T MISS A NEWSLETTER!

You can sign up for my email list here where ’ll send you a newsletter all about book writing every Wednesday. Happy Hump Day indeed!

FOLLOW ME

Follow me @FacebookAndreaFrazerWrites or drop me a line: Andrea@AndreaFrazerWrites.com

faith, sobriety, spirituality, writing

Want An Amazing Life? There’s Only One Thing to Do: Ask the Right Questions

So yes, tonight is Election Day. It’s also the day I decided to move ahead with my blogging again. I’m sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. So I’m back.

Emily Morter@emilymorter @ Unsplash

I woke up yesterday morning like I’ve woken up the past 60 days: tired, exhausted, and hell bent on starting my day again.

I did my Morning Pages. (Thanks, Julia Cameron! You’ve yet to let me down.)

I meditated for ten minutes with my husband.

I cleaned out my wreck of an office the best I could and took my sorry ass for a walk.

I wanted to feel joy and be in the moment, but all I could think about was the horrible feeling of dread I had in my stomach for everything that conspired against me like an epic shot of “Screw You” juice.

The Past 2 Months of Hell

In addition to the “normal” life of Covid, elections were looming.

I’ve had a LOT of personal challenges in my immediate family and my extended family.

I had unexpected stitches followed by surgery on my hand. (Um, don’t ever push your hand down as hard as you can on a trash can that is full of broken glass.)

My husband had mouth surgery last week. Add in a full time job teaching special ed as well as my consulting job coaching women to write books, and I was exhausted.

Normally a person of deep gratitude, I felt the weight of unwanted burdens piling up to the point where I was having a hard time concentrating. I was cranky with my family. I was angry at the dog. Despite my best efforts to “let go” and do the next indicated step — as my 12 step program so magnificently reminds me on a daily basis — I felt stuck.

The Power of Contrary Action

Dmitry Schemelev@enioku @Unsplash

In an attempt to avoid self-pity, I took the opposite action of sitting in my house ruminating like an old record player stuck on a bad song and went for a walk. But when the beauty of the Fall leaves, a Labrador puppy, a waving/smiley baby and the smell of baking bread didn’t unhinge my negative mind, I did the only thing I could think of. In true Anne Lamott fashion, I muttered under my breath the most holy of holy prayers that one does when they are sinking in a quagmire of despair and unshakeable grief: “Help.”

And that’s when a tiny, but strong voice, came bubbling up. “Call your sponsor,” it told me.

So I did.

And what she said absolutely changed my life. I told her everything. How I couldn’t see the sun no matter how hard I tried. How I was in so much grief over my childhood home being sold. How I was terribly worried about one of my children’s life path and how if I heard my husband click his fork against his molar ONE. MORE. TIME. I would slide across the table Bruce Lee style and strangle him with the Italian cloth napkin. I mean, that would really put a bust on our lovely Italian meal out and then I’d be stuck with the bill.

“Why is all this stuff happening to me?” I lamented. “I pray. I meditate. I go to meetings. I am of service to people. I admit when I’m wrong. Why can’t I feel better?”

“You’re asking the wrong questions,” she told me.

“What do you mean?” I shot back, dumbfounded. I realized, with some irony, that that was yet another question, but I shut my mouth and let her continue.

“When you do things to feel better, you are in self-will. When you do things to be better, you are in God’s will.”

I had to admit she got me on that one, but I wasn’t ready to give in yet. I was paralyzed in a trance of Self-Righteous indignation with Self Pity rising. This state of mind didn’t feel amazing, but it was like a toxic ex-boyfriend from 1998… I knew he was gay, but I wasn’t quite ready to let go. (“Couldn’t I just have one more night of musical theater with him before we went our separate ways?” I used to ask myself. Of course, in the context of my sponsor’s statement, perhaps if I had asked a better question I would have saved myself endless mornings of remorse. But that was before I was sober. And I didn’t give up booze to repeat stupid patterns over and over, so I continued listening.)

“Instead of asking ‘Why are these things happening?’” she gently stated, “You need to be asking ‘What is this here to teach me?’ ”

Okay, she had me there. And as much as I didn’t want to admit it, all my circumstances, ALL of them, came down to the one character defect that gets me every time: control.

Yes, on the surface, my life felt like a Shit Show Circus. But in not trusting God, I was the only one to blame for constantly buying the tickets.

Image courtesy of Cyrus Crossan@cys_escapes @ Unsplash

She continued, “When you insist that your way is the right way, Andrea, you are not leaving room for God to act. And worse than that, you are playing the victim so that you don’t have to change.”

“Ouch!” my ego shrieked.

“#TRUTH” my spirit leapt, not unlike a tight rope walker at the Greatest Show On Earth — my very own life.

Her final question went straight into the center of my being, “What if, from this point on, you never tried to control anybody ever again? What would that do to your relationships?”

I didn’t say anything. How could I? She was right. But I can tell you how I felt — like I was going to throw up.

“Are you willing to never again blame anyone else for what is happening to you? Are you willing instead to look at your life like a giant game and see what it can teach your soul?” she asked.

“I guess,” I said, half-heartedly. I felt destroyed — like my gut had taken a giant hit. Which, of course, it did. I mean, if I couldn’t blame anyone, then it was all up to me. And if was all up to me, then I was really doomed to fail. Because me, just little old Andrea? She was only human. And how could little old human Andrea manage everything going on?

“What if I am not capable of not blaming people?” I asked her.

“You’re asking the wrong questions again,” she told me. “A better one might be, ‘Are you capable of doing this with God’s help?’”

And that’s when, for just tiny moment, I felt the giant weight of the entire world that had been my life for the past 60 days ease. And, just as quickly, all these questions started flooding in — questions that my very own soul had the answers for.

The Beauty of the Right Question

“What if I’m not in charge of my almost adult child’s life decisions at this time?”

“What if I focused on what was going right with my kids instead of what was going wrong?”

“What if it didn’t matter if my husband and I agreed on everything financially?’

“What if my childhood home being sold was not a travesty but the best thing in the world to bring on new beginnings for my mom, my brother and my entire family — to gather in a beautiful new place and create new memories?”

“What if in not ever playing the victim I can expose some of those final tapes from my past that are holding me back so I can release them to God and transform into the person I have meant to be all along?

I couldn’t believe all the questions my soul had for me.

But I can promise you this. I already knew the answers. And one of them, friends, was to fire up this old blog again and write.

I’ve missed it. And I’ve missed you. And most of all, I’ve missed the me that is always happiest when I’m writing. And so, I leave you with this:

“How are you feeling about life these days?”

“Are you asking the right questions?”

And, most important:

“Are you willing to not be a victim in your own life and see what life has to teach you so you can be better, instead of do better?”

If so, you’re in the right place. Follow me as I write Monday — Friday. I can’t wait to grow with you again!

About Me

Image for post

I’m a published TV, blog, magazine and book writer who also coaches moms and grandmoms to write books rooted in wisdom, spirituality and humor. Come back Monday — Friday where I’ll post about spirituality, writing and sobriety. And sometimes tacos. Because Tacos make everything better. Always.

DON’T MISS A NEWSLETTER!

You can sign up for my email list here where ’ll send you a newsletter all about book writing every Wednesday. Happy Hump Day indeed!

Follow me @Facebook, AndreaFrazerWrites or drop me a line: Andrea@AndreaFrazerWrites.com

Coaching and Wellness, faith, spirituality, Tics, Tourettes

IGG Food Testing Vs. Traditional Allergy Testing

sss

About 10 years ago – during the time I was freaking out over my son’s Tourette Syndrome – I had Dominic tested for food allergies. I wrote about this in my book. Basically my husband thought I was a nut job as it didn’t follow the traditional route of blood testing through a lab. It instead involved vials and muscle testing. I was desperate for answers and I was relieved to find out what Dominic was allergic too:

Dom’s Allergies

  • eggs
  • peanuts
  • dairy
  • gluten
  • ham
  • …and a whole host of other things. When I removed them his tics dramatically improved

Note: He did not throw up or go into major shock when eating this food. His throat did not close up. But he was much less focused, hyper and, alternatively, lethargic afterwards.

Over time, with his resistance to bringing pizza to birthday parties that tasted like cardboard and moldy rubber, he chose to eat more of what he wanted. For him this meant consuming everything but gluten.

Then he decided he felt bad for animals so he gave up meat, chicken and even fish. I supported this. I made a lot of very bad veggie meals including gluten free mac n cheese with nutritional yeast for “flavoring.” YUM!

He continued to eat cheese and eggs (with little regard to the conditions of these animals in their cages, but hey, I figured he’d cross that bridge when he got there.)

Today we had a call with a traditional allergist today because his nose has been stuffy and he’s sick of it. The allergist gave me the same spiel that I got years ago. “Because I’ve been trained with Western Medicine, and the FDA doesn’t yet approve muscle testing, I can’t offer the IGG testing route.” But… she was great. She was honest and said that she’s seen great improvements with her patients who have gone off… wait for it… the SAME stuff Dominic went off ten years ago.

My point: Go with your gut, Mamas. If you think there’s another way to treat your child and it can benefit them, do that. If you’re only doing it out of fear, don’t do that. Take some quiet time for you and go along for the ride, because at some point your kid is going to be 17 and telling YOU what they need for their health. And if you honor them along the way, and don’t baby them when they are 5 inches taller than you, you just might be giving them the wings they need to survive in the world. And that, my friends, is far more important than fixing tics.

Until next time,

May God grant you the ability to accept the tics you cannot change, have the courage to change the tics you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

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. )

Need an editor, book coach (transformational non-fiction) or a ghost writer? Contact me at HappilyTickedOff@Gmail.com or find me on Facebook @AndreaFrazerWriter

faith, God, humor, Tic-O Tuesday, Tic-Oh Tuesday, Tics, Tourettes

Tic-Oh Tuesday #4 – F/U on Jessica Smith

Happy Tic-Oh Tuesday! With the riots and Covid regulations and the news that my kids likely won’t have a ‘regular’ high school experience next year (likely it’ll be a hybrid of online and drastically changed physical school) it’s a shock I’m not ticking myself. (Unless you count eating M&Ms by the fistfuls and drinking more decaf than Donald Trump uses bottles of fake tan.)

Note: Drinking 12 “mugs” of Decaf – extra strong – really equals about 25 cups of decaf/day. Um, that’s really not normal, people. Plus it means I was really drinking about 4 cups of caffeine/day. I cut down to 3 mugs and, lo and behold, my skin came back with a glow and I’m sleeping. It’s amazing! Moving on…

Hope Despite a Crazy Nation

I am not saying I’ve been happy over the past few month’s events. And to say I’m scared for our nation is an understatement. But I also have hope. I believe, just like I did when I was raising my son, that the human spirit is resilient. I refuse to fall into despair for more than a day. What’s the point? I am still breathing. I still have my home. I still have food. Alexa is still churning out jazzy Christmas music for me. (Yes, it’s June. Don’t judge. It makes me think of family, egg nog and happy lights.)

It’s also clear that my dog isn’t too worried about the turn of events.

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Like Brooklyn, I can rest in the knowledge that this, too, shall pass. And when I can’t change something, I can reach out my hand and help another. Is she worried about the perfection of my bed not made? No she is not. Maybe I can relax, too.

Writing News

Okay, people, I FINALLY landed on what I’m doing with myself! I hired a coach to help me set up my own book coaching biz. More to come, but in my gut – the place where the God of my understanding lives – I KNOW this is the right track for me. It will allow me to teach (which I love… just not in big groups and with kids that smell of Ax body spray.)

It will allow me to work while my kids are at school (or, in the case of next year) it will allow me to manage them so they are actually turning in school work instead of watching copious amounts of Youtube. (Which, um, has been quite the challenge of late.) But mostly it’ll give me the opportunity to write another book myself. I know that books themselves don’t make a fortune, but as a gateway to a business (in my case, a coaching one) they can be quite lucrative. It will also allow me to work on my musical – my hobby – on weekends.

I’m thrilled! No more circling the drain!

And guess what? If I am WRONG, I fail. Big deal. But I don’t think so. Not this time. I’ll keep you posted. And I can always sub while I build up my clients. (But you know what? I think this is IT for me.)

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So enough about me and back to you lovely people. Jeff commented a few weeks back on the post I did on writer, Jessica Smith (Pen Name: Paula Ferri). He wrote:

I find it interesting how some people innately are able to simply accept the tics and others struggle so much with self-loathing. I wonder how much of it comes from the comorbid conditions. You and Jessica don’t mention any comorbidities, so perhaps they aren’t a big deal in her life. I’d love to hear a follow up from Jessica on how much of her TS experience is tics v. how much is other conditions like OCD, anxiety, etc. Personally, I smoosh them all into a big ball of wax I call Tourette.

I did a follow up interview on this and here’s what she said!

Jessica Smith (AKA Paula Ferri – her Tourettes inner voice gal pal. Watch out – she’s cheeky)

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1) Why do you not struggle with self-loathing now?
I don’t struggle with self-loathing now because I have worked really hard at it lol. It’s a process and the journey is different for everyone. I think the biggest change is understanding that these labels are all in my interpretation. I can be stubborn, which is often seen as a bad thing, while I choose to see it as tenacity, or the ability to stick to something I care about. I can hate myself for being stubborn or admire myself for my follow-through. <– This is HUGE. This works on ANYTHING!
We focus on the negative instead of the positive. Take one thing that you dislike and find a way to make it a good thing. How does it make you a better person? How do you use it as a strength instead of weakness? It doesn’t matter what co-morbidities I have, I choose how to use them. I take control of how I use them rather than feeling like a victim of my circumstances. 
2) Was there a period where you DID struggle? (ex: you said you were suicidal in H.S.)
Struggle is a part of life. I struggled with depression in high school through about 2010. I struggled with self-esteem and self-love through probably 2015. I still struggle with various things. One challenge is conquered and a new one arrives. Life isn’t easy and just because I don’t deal with one particular thing doesn’t mean there aren’t other issues I deal with.
My goal is to deal with things as they come, rather than shove them to the side until I have a pile of garbage to deal with all at once. That gets to a point of not being able to function. Been there. Not a place I want to return to. When you have a huge pile of challenges to deal with, you pick them out one at a time and deal with them. It takes time, and it’s hard. This is a huge contributing factor to my second book, Tragically Strong.
I’ve been through some really rough things, and honestly, TS and the co-morbids are the least of my concerns when I have been homeless and wondering where I can sleep that night, or when I was being sexually abused. They can affect the situations, yes. Co-morbids were certainly present and weren’t making it easier. So I dealt with it one day at a time. When things calm down, I work on the things that will make it easier next time life throws me a curveball. 
3) How do your co-morbid conditions (if any) affect you individually? 
Honestly, I don’t think about it much. I know they are there. I think I just make sure I have a proper outlet for them. I still am very detailed and OCD, so when I quilt, I allow myself to make incredibly tiny hand stitches. Quilting is more of an outlet, something that I do for me, so I have no deadline or timeline that it has to be complete. I can take as long as I want to make it perfect. it also comes in handy when editing and making sure my work is perfect.
When my anxiety flares, if I can I will go for a run to release all the excess energy. If I’m dealing with rage, I keep a stack of spare plates under my bed so I can pull them out and smash them, rather than destroying something I need. There are tricks to provide relief without destroying my life, no matter what co-morbid I may be dealing with at the time. I just try to channel it into something productive rather than destructive.
4) Do you consider yourself to have “Tourettes” and that’s it? All the co-morbids smooshed in? Or do you isolate them?
Half the time, I forget I have TS. It’s hard to know if I’m just angry or if the rage is a co-morbid. Where do you draw the line? Everyone has some form of OCD, ADHD, and ALL the co-morbids, it’s just the extent that it affects your day to day life. Rather than spending my time figuring out where the line is, if it is part of the TS or not, I would rather focus on what is going on around me and what I’m doing about it. So I guess I don’t really know how to answer the question. They are all part of me, so smooshed? Though I deal with them individually as they come up, so isolated? Does it matter? I don’t think there will ever be a definitive answer on this one way or the other. I’d rather live life than analyze it to pieces. Just do stuff.
5) What do you say to folks who truly struggle with their issues related to TS? 
This is going to sound heartless, but know I say it with all the love in the world… Everyone struggles. We all have different struggles, but you are not a victim. What are you doing about it? There was one night in particular where I was really struggling. There was a battle going on in my head. I felt so depressed and confused and worthless and alone and I was trying to “fight back” reminding myself of people who loved me and I could tell myself all day til I’m blue in the face all the good things… but I just wasn’t feeling it. It was exhausting and I was pleading for some kind of relief from these demons that were haunting me and from this emotional turmoil.
All of a sudden, I had this thought… “so what?” So what if I wasn’t loveable, or talented, or funny or pretty or smart or anywhere near what I wanted to be in life. So what? I may not be that right now, but that doesn’t mean I will forever be stuck that way. I can grow and change and learn and BECOME whatever I want. Life is a constant journey and we won’t attain perfection in everything. What is most important and what are you doing to get there? There are people who run track and there are people who run track with hurdles. ANY struggle is a hurdle that you have the power to jump over. Or go around. Or dive under. As long as you don’t sit in front of the hurdle and wait for someone to move it for you. Others can cheer you on, shout encouragement and ideas from the sidelines, but you have to run the race. You are not a victim. You still have options. Find something that helps, that works, and keep moving forward.
6) Would you ever consider coaching teens or parents of kids with TS?
I have considered it and would love to. I’m just still working out the specific details of what I want it to look like. But if someone out there wants to work with me, contact me and we’ll work something out.

Jessica’s Info

You can find Jessica on FacebookInstagramTwitterMedium and at her blog. And don’t forget to check out her books! Awkwardly Strong and Tragically Strong.

 

  • And she’s got a 3rd coming soon!

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Until next time,

May God grant you the ability to accept the tics you cannot change, have the courage to change the tics you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

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. )

Want to Write a Book? Contact Me!

Need an editor, a mentor or a ghost writer? Contact me at HappilyTickedOff@Gmail.com or find me on Facebook @AndreaFrazerWriter

taco tuesday, Tic-O Tuesday, Tic-Oh Tuesday, Tics, Tourettes, Uncategorized

California Dreaming… On Such a Quarantine….

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So yes, it’s Tuesday! And… there’s not a Tic-O Tuesday post. I’m just writing to check in to say that we are all alive and doing okay. Dom is busy catching up on school work, as is his sister. As I told Tuskany, I’m pretty proud that I was able to sit down with each of them, go over their schedule and  help them chart their course to not flunk out of 10th and 11th grade toward turning in all their overdue assignments.

How are all of you doing???

I don’t know about you all, but it can be hard to find that line between “let the crap fall where it may” and over-parenting. I think I leaned a bit too far to the left, so I’m finding y way.

Just like this blog. I can’t seem to find my footing here anymore. Thanks for being here as I figure out my path. All I know is that I’m excited to have found a business coach, I’m narrowing down my niche for my writing, and I’m turning it into a for profit deal. It’s pretty darn exciting and I can’t wait to share it with you!

And, on a Tourettes note, my son is barely ticking at all. I mean… none. He’ll be 18 in January, so for you people out there with kids in the thick of the tics, hold tight and know that sometimes it clears up.

I’m so happy with my little family these days. And while I have definitely flipped around finding my footing with my writing and blog the past few years, I am so proud of the life I’ve created and focused on here in my little home in Los Angeles. That’s a great place for me to start my next journey.

Love you all.

Andrea

Tic-O Tuesday, Tics, Tourettes, writing

Tic-O Tuesday #3 – Writer Jessica Smith AKA Paula Jean Ferri, Her Ticking Muse

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It’s Tic-O Tuesday! Today I had the pleasure of Zooming with Jessica Smith, who many of you know from her Jars of Joy video series on Facebook. With her beautiful long hair and ray of sunshine personality, you might think she’s just another author with a story to tell. But then a little squeak comes out that reminds you: Oh, yeah, she also has Tourette’s! And she’s dang proud of it, too!

Tic Acceptance All the Way

Jessica’s tics don’t bother her. In fact, as she talks about in her first book Awkwardly Strong: From Insecure to Inspirational, she is in full acceptance of who she is regardless of some occasional squeaks and body movements.

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“My tics are hilarious,” she gushes. She’s even named them “Paula” who, being the sassy ticker and diva that she is, also takes credit for having written the books (hence the name Paula Jean Ferri on the cover.)

Jessica’s Tic History

Jessica wasn’t diagnosed with tics at an early age like most people. “I’m an outlier,” she says. “I not only was a woman with Tourette’s – with 75% of cases being men – but I also didn’t start ticking until age 17. You might say I grew into my tics instead of out of them!”

Jessica now lives in Mill Creek, UT, but she grew up in Logandale, Nevada. Her life wasn’t all sunshine and roses (as described in her second book Tragically Strong: Navigating the Change When Life Turns You Upside Down).

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But her attitude, along with her faith, kept her moving toward the positive. Her sense of humor shone through the interview and, once again, it was a big reminder to me – as the parent of a ticker – that the right attitude is everything.

Her First Tics at 17

“My first tic came out like a strong squeak – as if I was stepping on one of those dog chew toys,” she said. “Ironically, it was at the library!” She laughed. “I started doing it two times in a row… then three times in a row. My co-workers started to count them for me!”

Her tics didn’t stop there. They followed her to university where she was studying music with the full intent of being a choir teacher. “My tics starting mimicking the notes on the scales,” she chuckled. “Because of my Echolalia (mirroring of different sounds around me) I would also mimic the time clock at work. Like a cough or a sneeze, I just couldn’t stop it.”

Her Greatest Tic Challenge

She went away on a mission for two years and came back with the intention of getting a degree in social work. Unfortunately, the professors weren’t too encouraging of her abilities to work with others one-on-one due to her “distracting” noises. She was so disenchanted by her teachers’ reactions that she began failing her classes – a very new phenomenon for this straight A student.

She might have dropped out had a psychologist not insisted she come in for counseling. He took one look at her, knew she had Tourette’s, and recommend she continue pursuing a degree more suited for her needs. (She ended up with a degree in International Culture Studies with an emphasis in Communications!)

Work with What You Got

I always tell parents I work with that it’s not what happens to us (ex: an unexpected Tourette diagnosis) but how we adapt to it that makes all the difference. Life changes! If we can embrace it for what it is – a gift to do things differently – life can take on beautiful meaning and purpose! In Jessica’s case, she wrote a thesis paper on Tourette’s and How it Affects Communication. It got such praise that she then turned that into her first book, Tragically Strong.

Family Support

Jessica’s family was as surprised as she was with her tics, and while they were never outright mean to her, it took a while for them to get used to. “My father’s job as a mechanic was to listen to squeaking parts under the hood,” she said. “So you can imagine driving with me how that must have thrown him for a loop!” she laughs. Her younger brother would sometimes ask her to “close her mouth” so the noise wouldn’t escape. To that, Jessica simply responded the way many a good big sister does. “Um…. NO.”

Diagnosis at 24 and Treatment

It wasn’t until age 24 that Jessica was officially diagnosed with Tourette’s. And listen up, parents: this is what she did to cure the tics…. Are you ready?….

Nothing.

“They are what they are!” Jessica said proudly. “I can’t tell you how many cool people I’ve me from them… and all the stories I have.” Her tics never kept her from dating. And Paula (her tics) is particularly delightful at parties. At one point she shrieked fairly loudly and unexpectedly. A man came running into the room, flirting, “Is that your mating call? ‘Cause I like it!” (He felt terrible when he discovered later that she had T.S., but Jessica assured him it was “No big deal.”)

A Great Attitude and Sense of Humor is Everything

It’s Jessica’s attitude toward tics that has made all the difference in her life. She is a writer first, not someone with tics. “I encourage all parents to just let their kids be who they are. That’s what they need more than anything else.” I couldn’t say it better myself.

Need a Tic Coach?

If you are reading this, and need to talk to a parent who has “been there, done that” don’t hesitate to reach out and contact me. I will talk to you via Zoom or phone, share my story, and help you walk this new path by your side. I’ll even throw in my book for free. Email me at HappilyTickedOff@Gmail.com for a free 30 minute consultation!

Jessica’s Taco Choice

Being Tico-O Tuesday, I asked Jessica to describe what she’d eat on her taco should she ever join me and my fellow ticker for dinner.

“I’d like it on a corn tortilla (fried) with meat, cheese, shredded lettuce, diced tomato, no salsa, guacamole and sour cream.” I was a bit unsure if her inner diva, Paula, would approve of such excess. But it turns out Jessica’s love of tacos trumps Paula’s princess ways.

Jessica’s Info

You can find Jessica on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Medium and at her blog. And don’t forget to check out her books! Awkwardly Strong and Tragically Strong.

As always,

May God grant you the ability to accept the tics you cannot change, have the courage to change the tics you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

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. )

Want to Write a Book? Contact Me!

Need an editor, a mentor or a ghost writer? Contact me at HappilyTickedOff@Gmail.com or find me on Facebook @AndreaFrazerWriter

Tic-Oh Tuesday, Tics, Tourettes, writing

Tic-O Tuesday #2: Comic Ticker Fish Lee!

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Welcome to Tic-O Tuesday #2! Many of you might know Fish Lee from his stint on the A & E television show, “The Employables.” Others might know him from his Facebook Page @TourettesLife which features his amazing Tourette Syndrome art work. Still others might know him thanks to his bestselling Tourette’s comic book, T-Man & Hyperstrike (copies are sold exclusively on his Facebook Page @TourettesLife.)

As for me, I had the pleasure of getting to know him today by chatting his ear off for over an hour. We discussed everything from his childhood with tics, his life as a struggling artist who had to live through some pretty severe Tourette’s, and his current success today as one of the most sought after comic book illustrators around. (Plus he’s barely ticking thanks to the right combo of medication, sleep and weight loss.)

Fish surprised me, because he is more than just a talented artist. He’s a human being who took adversity and kicked it to the curb. If you’re like me – a parent who is worried about your child due to an unexpected diagnosis – you need to take a seat and get a boost of inspiration topping for your taco this Tico Tuesday.

Fish’s Past

“I wasn’t diagnosed until I was thirty,” Fish said. “It was confusing and tough to not know what was wrong with me.”

Fish began with mild tics as a child. He would repeat things he heard on TV, hold his breath and rub his nose. He would obsess over things and have a hard time reading social cues. “I had a pretty bad temper, too,” he said. “It wasn’t easy making friends.”

That said, he was not officially diagnosed as a child – not even when he stayed home for three weeks because of his eyes being crossed. “My single mom must have taken me to the doctor 15 times, and in the end, no one believed me that I couldn’t help it. The doctor said there was no way I could have had Tourette Syndrome since I never cursed.”

After having every imaginable test run on him to rule things out (from diabetes to severe heart issues) Fish just had to live with this “mystery illness.” He went on to say that most of the time it was manageable, but one to two times a year things would get really bad. “It was terrifying,” he said. “Especially because people thought I made it up to get attention. There was a point when I got better where I wondered myself if I had made it up.”

Lucky for him they disappeared in middle school and high school, but it wasn’t just because of genetics and good luck. “I self-medicated big time,” he said. Fish, who has now been sober for a good long while, fully admits what would have been better than not having tics at all would have been to feel that who he was, as he was tics and all, was okay. But at the time, that simply wasn’t the case.

A Rough Time of Tics

The tics came back with a vengeance after college when he was newly married and sober. At 21 it really became a problem, and by 30 he could barely see, walk or talk. His wife had to bathe him. Despite seeing a respected neurologist (who said there was no way he had Tourette Syndrome) it was not until he saw a news show with professor on TV who had the syndrome, along with a weatherman who reported that he had it also, that he realized, “That guy is me!”

When he realized he had true neurological disorder – where his brain misfired and mixed signals like crazy – he was sent to a movement specialist in Houston. The moment he walked into the room the doctor took a look at his severe shaking and asked, “How long have you had T.S.?” to which he responded, “I don’t have Tourette’s! I don’t say bad words!” She said, “Oh, yes, you do have it. The bad news is that it’s the worst case I’ve ever seen. The best news is that it can’t get any worse!”

Fish laughed as he recalled that story. It was the beginning of an understanding for his disorder.

While Fish’s wife, who he is now divorced from, was horrified that her husband would be confined to a wheel chair and potentially be on disability, Fish was thrilled. He finally had an answer. “It wasn’t Huntington Disease. It wasn’t a stroke. It wasn’t MS. It was bad, but I was alive!”

Unfortunately he had to stop working for a while with his condition worsening. He could no longer foster children – which he loved. But he had 3 of his own still at home. And in the process he was able to go on Facebook and meet other adults living with Tourette’s. He no longer felt alone. “My whole world opened up,” he gushed. “I wasn’t the only person needing help bathing and feeding myself!”

The Mouthpiece – A Miracle Cure

A turning point in Fish’s life was a mouthpiece that was made for him in Memphis, Tennessee. Made in conjunction with NFL mouth guards, it was a Godsend for Fish’s constant movement. “It was made of rubber and soft on the inside… no metal,” Fish said. “It truly worked.”

(Note from Andrea: I can’t offer you parents medical advice, but I have heard so many good things about this device. Google and find a doctor in your area or give me a call and I’ll work with you to help you locate one.)

Advice for Parents

Many parents are scared about their kids’ diagnosis, and that’s understandable, but Fish encourages everyone to be careful about how they talk about tics both to them directly and around them. “They have it tough enough as it is, but it doesn’t have to define them,” he said.

He, in fact, pushes his own son, Bear, to go way beyond what someone might expect of him. “I remember as a kid at 7 that I personally could not focus because of seven trains of thought in my head: a fight I had with someone… a girl… a TV show,” he said, “But at the same time, this wild thinking was also what made me unique.” He went on to gush,”Tourette’s kids are so smart, creative and empathetic. So what if they are a bit ‘weird’ to others. That’s what makes them so amazing.”

He continued, “I encourage all parents to fully accept their kids where they are at. So what if they tic!”

Fish’s Medication and Tic Management

As far as managing the tics, he himself is on a combo of Guanfacine and Primidone. “Everyone reacts differently,” he said, “But for me the combo of these work perfectly. There are some side effects, but it’s been worth it for what I am able to do every day in my life.” And boy what a lot he does.

Fish’s Current Life

Unlike his past where he was confined to his bed and a wheelchair, Fish spends his days illustrating for some of the biggest names in the business, including Eric N Bennett. He shops, drives and spends time with his 3 kids whenever he can (Marcus 20 – who is giving him his first grandbaby in June), Jay (19) and Elisha (“Bear” /16 who, according to Fish, is “killing it” with his tics).

Fish’s Projects These Days

Fish has inked Empyrean Command #0 and illustrated Sentinels #269 and Fivestar #3 (coming after after Covid) (pencils, inks, colors).

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He colored The Power Company #2 (and has #3 in the works which will be done after quarantine is over.)

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Most of his stuff is up for sale at www.indyplanet.com Fivestar.

He is working on Sentinels #270 right now, then the next Fivestar, then the next Power Company which will be all of his art work. “I’m already booked for most of the rest of the year,” he says proudly. And with artwork like this, it’s understandable!

Other Social Links: Find Fish

@TourettesLife on Facebook

WWW.MrFishcomics.com

Instagram

He can also be found on Deviant Art and on Twitter 

Twitter

Your Child Is not His or Her Tics!

As a writer and mother of a beautiful 17 year old with Tourette’s, I can’t tell you what a thrill it was to speak to Fish today. I want to encourage all of you parents to keep coming back every Tuesday where we’ll bring a new success story to you. And if you, yourself, have Tourette’s and are thriving (or know someone who is – young or old) drop me a line at HappilyTickedOff@Gmail.com. I’d love to consider them for a Tico-Tuesday post or at least as happy face or art work on my Success Story wall!

Until next time,

May God grant you the courage to accept the tics you cannot change, the courage to change the tics you can and the wisdom to know the difference.

Andrea

taco tuesday, Tourettes, writing

TIC-O Tuesday! Wait, I Have a Question (Coronavirus, Anxiety, TS and More!)

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When the Coronavirus hit in March, many parents were faced with questions about jobs, healthcare and homeschooling. And they weren’t the only ones. Lots of kids had questions, too. Luckily authors Amber Lappin, M. Ed. and Stephanie Machado-Jenkins, M.S.W., LCSW created a delightful book Wait, I Have a Question! which put a lot of younger minds to ease.

Since anxiety is such a common co-morbid condition of T.S., I reached out to these authors who graciously granted me an interview. And so, to re-boot my Taco Tuesday (which I’m renaming TIC-O Tuesday) here’s what these professionals had to say.

Book Description

Wait! I Have a Question!  is a book written for families with young children who are trying to find out how to explain the mixed-up, wild world of social distancing. Beautiful illustrations and a relatable story help kids make a little sense of this WEIRD crisis.

What Kinds of Kids Would Benefit From this Book?

The authors wrote, “We’re hoping children ages 3-7 will relate to Sebastian, a young boy who has BIG questions about why he has to stay at home, why his brother’s home from college, and how his sister is going to school. We hope that Sebastian’s feelings will be familiar and that the ways he learns to navigate them will open discussions for families.”

Why They Wrote It? (Psst: Steph and Amber became friends in high school- Class of ‘90!)

Steph began to first see the need in her client care. Parents were struggling with navigating the challenges of little separation between work and home life, and littles were responding to the physical presence of their parents and the lack of their availability during “work” hours.  Here’s the actual text:

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(Note from Andrea – any writers out there – this is how things get started sometimes. Check out my site over here or follow me on Facebook for more encouragement!)

Stephanie and Amber’s Professional Backgrounds

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Stephanie Machado-Jenkins is a clinical Social Worker.  She graduated from UCLA with a BA in Social Psychology and USC with a Master in Social Work. She owns a private practice and specializes in treating adults with a trauma history.  “I combine old fashioned ‘talk’ with expressive therapies,” she reports. She also teaches at a local university in their School of Social Work Department and serves as a field instructor for Master level Social Work students who are learning the art of clinical work.

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Amber began as a preschool teacher at ABC Child Care Centers in Temecula, CA, where she still works today. “This gave me an excellent foundation for learning to love and care for children-and the people who care for them,” she says. In the years that followed, she wore many hats: in the preschools as a curriculum and literacy specialist, in a large children’s ministry as a part of the admin team, as a trainer and as a curriculum writer and consultant.

“I soon found that my biggest passion was in caring for the adults who care for children, so I went back to school to earn a BS in Human Development at Hope International University, and a M.Ed. with a specialty in Early Education at Grand Canyon University. Now, I am part of the faculty team at Mt. San Jacinto’s Teacher Education and Developmental Studies Department (TEDS), a foster parent educator for Riverside City College and I still get to work with ABC and as a freelance a conference speaker, trainer, and writer.”

Personal Background

Stephanie is a first generation Mexican American and the daughter of an immigrant Mother.  “I grew up in the Los Angeles area and moved with my family to Riverside County in my Junior year in high school. I moved to West Los Angeles in 1990. I continue to reside in Southern California with her husband David and son, Xavier.”

Amber lives in Riverside County with her husband Jason and 20 year old twin daughters. “We also have a three-legged cat and a perfect dog.” She goes on to say, “My son works as a firefighter in New Mexico- which is way too far away for my liking.” She and her husband will celebrate their 29th wedding anniversary this year. “In our pre-pandemic lives, our hobbies were travel and eating at restaurants. Now, our hobbies are staying thankful and trying not to walk in on each other’s Zoom calls.”

Kids, Anxiety and This Book

In Wait! I Have a Question! Sebastian has GREAT ideas for addressing all sorts of feelings, including anxiety.  His “I CAN” list is a nice start. Instead of focusing on what he wasn’t allowed to do while social distancing, he made a list of things he could do.  Caregivers who are working with children struggling with anxiety can help kids make a list of things they can do, and then use it to help them focus on the now instead of what has happened or what might happen.

The authors stated, “Depending on your faith tradition, you may also find prayer helpful. It’s important that we don’t teach our kids that praying is a magic shield that keeps us safe from germs. Instead, we can use the time in prayer and meditation to take our worries and cares to God, and allow God to calm our hearts and minds. Incorporating deep breaths and undistracted times can settle our spirit as well as benefit our bodies.” They go on to add, “You may find apps like Calm and Headspace helpful.  Each app has a number of soothing meditation recordings that are great for kids.”

Talking About Feelings

Stephanie says, “I also strongly recommend that parents encourage their children to talk about how they feel.  Sometimes adults overlook that their children are also hearing newscasts that talk about people who are sick and the numbers of people across the world that have died.  This can have huge impacts on our children.  We have developed a conversation talking guide for this reason.  We encourage you to use the guides and get your children processing.”

In addition to talking about feelings she adds, “Movement is also a huge help.  In the last few weeks, we have enjoyed urban walking paths and outside water play (it’s been hot here) and this is also a good source of recreation and fun!”

Parents and Self-Care

(Note from Andrea – Ya’ll know I love this topic!) The writers encourage parents to engage in their own self-care. Stephanie says, “I am mindful of the fact that many of us no longer have work-life separation that could create an incredible imbalance in how we feel.  It’s important to set aside time to engage in activities that you enjoy.  Also, keep in mind that doing ‘nothing’ is in fact doing ‘something.’”

Routine vs. Play in Times of Quarantine

“Structure is important,” Stephanie says, “And it’s essential to lean into play and creativity.  Dr. Dan Siegel says, ‘Play produces possibility and potential.’ I have and will continue to stand by this. These times require an outlet so that we can move anxious and worried energy ‘up and out,’” she insists, going to on to emphasize, “All sorts of play allows us to rid ourselves of the feelings that weigh on us.  I’ll add that play is not just for kids.  Adults need to play too!  I regularly engage in play so that I feel connected to myself and that I am connected to a creative outlet that restores my soul.  I absolutely enjoy my ‘go to’ play activities such as painting, collaging, photography and baking.  I also reach out to my circle of friends and loud laugh regularly!  We clinicians have an awesome sense of humor!”

Structure

While Amber admits play is critical, she points out that structure is an equally wonderful grounding opportunity for both kids and parents. “During crises, when chaos seems to be an overarching theme, it helps when children can lean into the stability of at least a few familiar routines,” she says. “Keeping developing brains regulated with the structure of expected patterns in the day can also help minimize tantrums, anxiety, and squabbles.” I am recommending to parents of young children to draw up a loose version of the basic times of their day- a ‘flexible schedule’ if you will. As tempting as it is to let set times slide, this can be the root of some really wild behavior.”

She goes on to say, “Because it’s a totally mixed up, wild time, it’s okay to make bedtimes later and allow some ‘sleeping in.’ This may afford the parents some time to get up early and get work done before their littles wake up. But don’t forget that children under the age of 5 need about 11-13 hours of sleep a day (this can include naps.) That didn’t change just because of the pandemic! When you have a set bedtime (even if it’s later!) and a set wake up time (even though waking up small children seems plain wrong), you help your children get the sleep patterns they need to be able to rest well and function better throughout the day. (Hint: same for parents! They need healthy sleep cycles too!)

Collaboration During Times of Quarantine (For my Writers Out There!)

Amber and Steph had daily Zoom meetings including many a Sunday to get it done! They were aware of the many responsibilities they also had and were mindful of ensuring that their time spent was efficient and productive.

“We also shared Google pages so that we could jot down ideas and exchange thoughts as the book was being created,” Stephanie reports. “We were also good about the occasional late night texting so that we did not forget a critical piece of information as a thought struck us,”

Would They Do It Again?

“Absolutely!” both writers say. They have a few ideas in the hopper and would love to keep Sebastian’s adventures alive.  They are considering how they might collaborate on bringing social/emotional developmental workshops to different organizations and agencies.

The Illustrations

They had an incredible collaborator in Rock Barcellos, an illustrator in Brazil. He was able to perfectly catch the writers’ vision to bring Sebastian and his family to life!  He was also super patient with them as they were trying to work as quickly as possible to get this book out while it could still be useful for families (“We must’ve checked in with his progress several times a day!” Amber admits. “We could not be more pleased with the work that he did. He’s AMAZING.”

Tacos

Taco Tuesday is all about sharing joy with friends and family. If you were at my table, what kind of taco would you eat?

Amber says, “I’m a street tacos girl. Just give me some carne asada with some grilled veggies and some guac on a nice, soft, handmade tortilla, and you’ll not hear a single complaint out of me.”

Stephanie reports,”It has to be a chorizo potato taco!”

With that order out of the way, you can find more about these authors, the illustrator and the book here!

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FREE companion printables

Until next time,

May God grant you the serenity to accept the tics you can not change, the courage to change the tics you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Andrea

Tics, Tourettes, writing

A Little Laughter Goes a Long Way (How to Keep from being a Beach on Wheels)

Mom + Daughter @Beach = Contentment

I don’t know if you can relate to this, but I’m reacting to this Covid 19 crisis in one of two ways:

  1. Everything is Fine! I will not freak out. All I can do is wash my hands, cut back on trips to the market, have faith that my job will still be there in a few months and enjoy every second I can with my kids before they graduate and try to block the memory of their mother shaking her bootie to Maroon 5’s “Sugar” every Taco Tuesday like a menopausal groupie.
  2. I am Freaking the BEEP Out.

Since #2 isn’t all that attractive, I’ve given myself some serious boundaries to make life more enjoyable in the Casa de Tic. And honestly, folk, after navigating Tourettes for over 10 years, I can promise you this: I might not have the “cure” for tics in the form of a pill or a magic diet, but my attitude goes a long way in keeping the symptoms down.

Yup, when I’m relaxed and not creating undue stress (yes, yelling and being generally a crazy person about where to place the potentially Corona infested Cheetos is not particularly helpful) my son is calm. And when he’s calm, there’s less tics!

Here’s 5 more things I’ve implemented on a daily basis that have gone a long way in setting a happy tone for the home.

  1. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: If my son wants to have the last word on why he’s not comfortable going to the beach, despite quarantine restrictions being lifted in Ventura County – and despite my daughter and I being clear that we are going to stay 20 feet from people and just walk on the shoreline – that’s his right. I don’t have to cajole him. I don’t have to guilt him into leaving the house. I can worry all I want about him having been in the same two rooms of this house for the past six weeks, and conjure up all sorts of worst-case scenarios that involve a 35 year old man eating gluten free pizza in my basement in two decades, but I don’t have to share those projections with my son. (Also, we don’t own a basement, so that works out, doesn’t it?)
  2. Be Intentional with My Tone: Not all days are going to be winners for me, but for the most part, if I set out to have a good day, I have a good day. That often means being intentional about my attitude, even when things aren’t going particularly amazing for me. (Ex: Disagreements with my hubby about money, or my website having issues, or fear about this virus.) Despite perfection I can still play Michael Buble in the kitchen while I make toast. I can still read books every morning and take my mind into a new world rather than my own. I can still blast musicals on my way to Costco and call other people and ask how they are doing. When I go about making myself happy, I don’t take it out on my kids – especially my sensitive ticker.
  3. Stay Current: By “current” I mean that I have stopped living in the past or the future. I get to live in the “now” where the magic happens. The past, for me, includes how things used to be before he was diagnosed with Tourettes. (Back when he was three, and I thought his entire life was going to unfold as perfectly as an origami crane. But with no wrinkles. Nope, unlike you suckers, my baby bird would be perfect!) By “future” I mean I stopped judging his current situation by some ideal far ahead of where he is at this moment. I wasted a lot of years drowning in the fear of what was, or what could be, instead of grasping onto the gift of this very beautiful present. Staying current has made all the difference. I can only do this by sticking to #4:
  4. Gratitude: I am in so much gratitude these days. Yes, Dom’s tics are almost gone now – and I’m so grateful! (Parents of new tickers, did you hear that? There is HOPE!) But I’m in gratitude of far more things than tics. I’m grateful for a home. For a husband who I love and can count on. For a daughter who wants to sing show tunes with me. For a mom who still lives 15 minutes from me. For more friends than I can shake a very big stick at. By focusing on what is working in my life, as opposed to what is not, life is so much sweeter.
  5. Relaxation: With this imposed quarantine, I know how lucky I am to have a 4 bedroom house to hunker down in. I don’t want to waste this precious gift of time freaking out. Granted, I have had a few days of misery. And I give myself slack for those. This is a new normal and I’m an extrovert! It’s haaaard! But for the most part, I’ve had a ton of joy. Much of this is because I have given myself permission to keep a lighter pace. My kids also have had a lighter pace, and this helps in keeping tics to a minimum. Throw in a lot of dancing and really bad karaoke and you have one happy Andrea which, always, goes back to #1: A happier tone in the home.

Positive Outcome Stories

I want to share a snippet of a letter I got from a dad who says he read my book two times. He wrote me to let me know how happy he was that this blog, and my next book, would be focusing on positive outcomes. To summarize, he wrote, “The internet is full of worse case scenarios…we need more writing out there that reminds us worried parents that our kids will be okay.”

So that, my friends, is what you will continue to get. You will get a ton of posts that remind you that a positive attitude can go a very very long way in raising a child that is successful despite a few tics. And, of course, I will continue to bring you interviews with top experts, parents of kids who are older and doing well (right, Carrie?), videos, books and… wait for it… a chance for you parents of younger kids to sign up to play Minecraft with Dom.

In closing, as I always say, thank you for reading. If you’re scared, feeling alone, worried about your child or generally confused about what to do next, I have a suggestion for you. Sign up for this blog (bottom of this page), join me on Facebook and let this sink into your bones: Your child is perfect, Tourettes or not. You are not alone. We’re in this together.

So happy almost Monday! And remember, if you can’t fix the tics, fix yourself! Do something fun for yourself, okay? I promise you – it will make all the difference.

Until next time,

May God grant you the serenity to accept the tics you cannot change, the courage to change the tics you can and the wisdom to know the difference.

Andrea

Tics, Tourettes, writing

A New Look – A New Start

Danielle MacInnes @Unsplash

Hey everyone! I’m so excited to announce that I finally made some major progress on revamping this dusty old blog.

It’s got a ways to go, but for the first time in forever (cue Elsa music) I am really following through and Just. Slowing. Down.

This site, along with a lot of input from Dom (no longer “Stink”… he’s growing up!) will go back to its original theme of Tourette’s and Tics.

There will be many more updates as I harass the Happiness Engineers here at Word Press, but I’m taking total advantage of my time here at home to do so. My daughter will be doing some filming, and Dom and I are thinking of all sorts of fun ideas to make this place pop. Tee shirts? Youtube videos? Book a Minecraft Day with Dom?

It’s fun to get my groove back. Along with my musical and rebuilding my freelance writing gig I am really settling in.

How are you all doing with this quarantine? What is the hardest part for you? What do you find inspiring? I want to know.

Let me know what you think of the changes so far and any ideas you have for updates. I’m all ears.

Andrea

Coaching and Wellness, faith, God, Tics, Tourettes, writing

Boundaries vs. Expectations and Teenagers + Tic Update

So today, like Saturday, started out so good! I meditated! I prayed! Today was Day 2 for me in Oprah and Deepak’s free meditation and it’s soooo worth the time. Today’s theme? Hope. Um, yeah, we can use this a bit these days!

I journaled. I prayed for friends. I was so refreshed! I was ready for the day – one foot on the earth and one in the heavens where the God of my understanding resides.

And then I came downstairs and the teens had different ideas about being ready for the day than I did. I didn’t show frustration or dish out shame like Saturday. (Hooray for progress!) But the co-dependent in me was irritated that they were irritated. If people would just behave I wouldn’t have issues, right?!

Mark Nepo, in his book, The Endless Practice, talks so beautifully about how problems – so often of our own making – occur when our soul that wants to soar like a hawk is bound to the earth. It’s not the challenge of being on the earth but in our resistance to being rooted that causes conflict.

Like I am reminded of in my 12 step program, “Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.” When I get into grr over not getting my way, it’s never the situation itself that is the problem but the fact that I fight what I think I deserve. I argue with people not meeting my expectations (as if I know all the answers?) And in the middle of that tug of war I forget to take a breath and ask God for help. It doesn’t have to be a big drawn out prayer. “Help!” works just fine.

Awareness – A Double Edged Sword

Awareness is a beautiful thing in my life, because I’m learning ever so slowly that the only person I can truly control is myself. In times of quarantine, it’s particularly lovely to remember this. But it’s also a painful lesson to learn, because “good parenting” and “toxic control” for this A-personality sometimes get mixed up. I take things too personally and really, that’s not good for anyone.

For you parents of kids out there – especially teens – tell me how you are managing setting expectations but letting go when they do what teenagers do!

Tic Update

For those of you who have been following me for a long time, I want to give you an update on Stink with his permission. That update? He barely tics at all. Some of this is because he is now 17 and a half. Tics naturally slow down as the teen years come to a close. Some of it is because he is not that stressed out anymore due to a more lax school schedule. But a lot of it, and I really believe this last bit, is because I have calmed down.

I’m a big believer in energy, and as woo woo as this is going to sound, I believe that my energy and his are very interlinked. We have always “gotten” each other so well. When he started ticking as a young boy I was so worried about it that I’m convinced my spike in fear created additional spikes in his symptoms. When I calmed down – with a boatload of work on myself and faith in something greater than me – he calmed down.

One of my readers here, Jeff, talks about his Tourettes sometimes. So, Jeff, I want to know: do you agree with any of my thoughts above? That in releasing my fears of tics that his tics have settled down? Would love your opinion.

Isaac, Abe and Eye Rolls

I’m reminded of that Old Testament chapter where God asks Abraham to put Isaac on the altar. Good Old Abe doesn’t want to, but he trusts God, and when he does, Isaac’s life is spared.

To me, this is not a story to be taken literally, but rather it demonstrates what happens when we place our idols down. I was making Tourettes an idol, and when I said, “God, you take Stink, he’s not mine to control” peace was granted both for Stink’s symptoms and my own internal emotions.

Happy Monday! I hope you are finding some peace within the fear of the virus and some love despite less than perfect circumstances.

Whether your kids tic or not, or drive you crazy (or not) I wish you nothing but the best as this week goes on. And be good to yourselves! You – and the kids – are worth your peace of mind.

Andrea

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. )

Want to Write a Book? Contact Me!

Need an editor, a mentor or a ghost writer? Contact me at HappilyTickedOff@Gmail.com or find me on Facebook @AndreaFrazerWriter

faith, God, humor, meditation, sobriety, spirituality, writing

Coronavirus Rushed in While Our Focus Was Elsewhere


Jez Timms @Unspash
The click bait title above was waiting for me in my in-box first thing this morning.
The Los Angeles Times wrote, “The Trump impeachment. The death of Kobe Bryant. The crowded Democratic presidential field. We dive into the fleeting days of 2019 and the first three months of 2020, when America and the world were looking elsewhere as an intruder crept in.”

That’s some heavy stuff. I’m not surprised, with headlines like this, that everyone looks at each other in the super market with just a little less kindness. As if simply asking about their day is some sort of manipulative gesture to snatch from extra toilet paper from under their cart. I can’t help but wonder if we put as much in energy into focusing on what was working, instead of what wasn’t, if our mental attitudes wouldn’t be that much more serene.

More Gratitude/Less Attitude

Okay, so that sounds super cheesy, but but I do feel like I have so much to be grateful for. I’ve been in 12 step too long, also, to not see the miracles that happen to me and those around me when I look for the good. It doesn’t mean that bad things aren’t happening in the world, but it does mean that good things are happening, too.

Covid 10 is a Virus, But So is Love. And Guess What? Both Are Contagious.

It is a simple fact that so many of us are feeling the strain of Covid 19, but my geraniums? Not so much. In fact, they’re more alive than ever! (Including a new baby second to the front that I snatched from a neighbor’s garden. My son, ever the honest chap, was not so happy at my thievery. I told him to go back and play some video games. Jesus would understand.)

On the subject of gratitude, when I stepped outside tonight with my husband and daughter for our nightly walk around the block, I smiled as my eye spotted a wind chime given to me by my ex-inlaws for Christmas one year. (Did you know I was married for a year back in college? Well, now you do. He is no longer alive, sadly, but his parents and I still keep in touch. Sidenote: This is why you and I can never meet in real life, because once I know you, you’re stuck with me for eternity. Right, Jodee? And that’s a lot of Christmas gifts to be sending everyone!)

Windchime toward the top.

I have a fridge full of food, a husband making pizza and Alexa is currently playing Christmas classics because, in a pandemic, I need a little cheer to remind me that there will be gifts at the end of this crisis. The gifts might not come in the form of material items, but when I’m patient, I can find them just about everywhere I look.

Reading – My Favorite Gift to Stay Present

Today’s reading from Mark Nepo spoke about trust, and for me, it’s become very clear that when I trust God, I’m fine. When I don’t trust Him – when I think it’s up to me to run the entire show – I get agitated, cranky and I blame everyone else for my issues.

Mark Nepo’s The Endless Practice – such great insight and beauty

I don’t want to live like that, people. But yesterday, despite a great beginning to my day, it didn’t end so well. The trick for me, because I’m in constant gratitude, is that I didn’t have to live in my pile of resentment. Unlike my drinking days, where I didn’t like being stuck in my crap but at least it was warm, these days it stinks too much.

So this morning, after sleeping in from an emotional hangover, I got up and meditated. I read some Mark Nepo. I journaled and I said to God what I often say when I can’t get out of my own head: God, help me set aside everything I think I know about this particular issue, and direct my attention to how you’d have me be.

Notice it’s not “What would you have me do.” Either God is, or he isn’t. I don’t need to self-will my way into “fixing” everything. Sometimes I just to let it pass, whether that means butting into someone’s business, giving unwanted advice or somehow thinking I know more than the next person. Um, not true.

I don’t know who your God is, but maybe you can relate to what happens you don’t trust this energy source. It never ends well. I’m so grateful for do-overs every single day.

Here’s what I published on my Facebook page. And I’m happy to say that all’s well that ends well. Not all days are gonna be winners, but with some trust in God – especially on Easter – I’m grateful to rise above my own anger and start over with love again.

Who remembers this episode?

Easter, 12PM

Yesterday started out so beautiful. I woke up deliciously late. I prayed and I meditated. I journaled.

For the first time in a very long time I allowed myself to rest.

No agenda.

No rushed pace.

I prayed for the world in crisis, but I also made an intention to enjoy my present. And that present was mine for the taking: beautiful weather, a walk with my husband, and a trip to Costco where I’d shop for myself and a few folk who can’t get out. Given I would not be back for two weeks at least (please no more messages to me about hand washing and shopping – I get it!) I thought I was in great mental and spiritual shape to get my groceries and go.

But when I got there, the mask kept steaming my glasses. And while I remained patient and asked for help, I started to feel defeated. “Is this what it’s like to be old?” I sighed. “To take 15 minutes to find beans because I can’t read the numbers on the aisles?”

When I got to the register – exhausted – the women (looking more like surgeons than cashiers with their gloves and face coverings) kept pushing me to get my items on the conveyor belt quicker than was my comfort level. “I need to split these items into sections,” I explained. “Are you ready now?” they would bark any time I’d stop briefly to check my cart.

“I’m not ready” I told them, inhaling air to center myself (as best I could with the little oxygen I had inside my mask) and attempting to remember that they deal with crazy customers like me all day long.

“Please wait while I figure it out,” I stated calmly, watching my food roll forward at a pace not unlike the episode where Lucy finds herself madly rearranging chocolates at the candy factory.

The conveyor belt doesn’t stop!” grunted one of the women who I swear was a Sue Sylvester look-alike.

I took a deep breath, looked at her in the eye and stated not unlike a female Terminator of big bulk shopping: “Stop the belt.

Which she did.

A miracle!

Either she found the pause button on the endless metal machine or she, like me, decided if she didn’t pause her own mouth she would murder me before ringing up my total.

$325 later, one stop to a friend and a big unload to a neighbor, I made it home.

It was now 7PM. I had promised my son I’d play Dungeons and Dragons by 730PM. Assuming that nothing got in the way of unpacking, all would be well. (Side note: I’m really working on being someone of follow through. If I can’t be on time for my kids, how can I expect them to be on time for me?)

But somehow in that limited 30 minutes left I had allotted myself, I forgot about dinner. And then my husband – in an effort to be helpful to get us closer to our 730 game time – put the food I had intended to sit out for 3 days to “de-Corona bug” on the clean side of the table. Oh, and my nutritious intake that day? Nothin’ but some dry toast and jelly. (It’s shocking I wasn’t in my fittest spiritual and mental condition.)

I lost it.

In front of the kids.

In essence, I forgot to tell myself to “Stop the belt!”

“Noooo! That’s the clean table cloth side! Now I have to remove the table cloth, do laundry and start over again before the game!” I barked.

In my mind I was going to be that hipster doctor from Michigan, calmly separating the food and spraying down the cardboard/cans with clean white rags and measured breath. Instead I morphed into the Tazmanian devil jacked up on Starbucks fighting invisible germ bugs with In and Out Burger napkins because Lysol Wipes have been about as elusive as the end to this crisis. It wasn’t pretty. #insanity

And all those big attempts to be present for my family and be a good neighbor went to hell. There would be no game because James and I were not speaking. The kids, who aren’t used to us arguing anymore, went into their shells and began drawing instead. I once tried to sit down to which my daughter, calm as a cucumber, said, “We would like a little time to ourselves, Mom. No disrespect.” None taken. Who could blame them? I wanted some time away from myself as well, but I don’t drink anymore. There was no where to hide. I just would have to sit in my feelings for a little bit.

I was consumed with guilt. What’s the point of praying and meditating if I’m going to let my own family down. And, more to the point, let myself down?

And then this voice came into my head that answered that very question – that voice that I can only hear when I don’t try to fix stuff but instead allow myself just to feel what is going on. “Because you are human, Andrea. You are not God. How about you let it go. These aren’t exactly normal times.”

So I attempted to do that. James had gone to bed so my apology to him would have to wait until later. But I told my kids that I was sorry for not being my best.

I listened to them instead of making excuses. (Ouch, that wasn’t easy.)

And at midnight, when I still couldn’t sleep, I took a long ride through the city with my daughter. We looked at the empty streets and I finished listening to her new love “Hadestown.” I then offered up one of my old favorites, “The Jazz Singer” (“Those are some serious power ballads, Mom!” she informed me).

We then sat in the dark front of my childhood church – the one I would not be able to go to for Easter services a few hours later thanks to Covid 19 – and just took a breath.

Like today’s reading from Mark Nepo, I’m starting to really get the fact that life isn’t always about the ups. The downs are part of it also. It’s in the acceptance that I don’t have to get it right, but keep pushing that ball of light up the hill, that I can find serenity.

This Easter morning are no eggs. There are no baskets. But perhaps new life can begin again with my family. I can talk to my husband about what was really behind my reaction to the food on the table. (Fear.) I can play some music and make some lunch. (Nurture.) I can ask if my kids want to try again on Dungeons and Dragons next Saturday. (Openness) And I can trust that the God of my understanding doesn’t expect me to be perfect. I just need to get off that Costco Conveyor belt of life and remember that this, too, shall pass.

Happy Easter, everyone. May you die to the harsh expectations you have of yourself and others and live in the new life of today. Even with our struggles, if we are present to them, there is so much joy to be found in their teachings.

Andrea

Happy Easter everybody!

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. )

Want to Write a Book? Contact Me!

Need an editor, a mentor or a ghost writer? Contact me at HappilyTickedOff@Gmail.com or find me on Facebook @AndreaFrazerWriter

Coaching and Wellness, faith, God, teenagers, writing

My Ego Is Not My Amigo

I owe so many of you a read. I hope you are staying safe, sane and being good to yourselves. As for us, my husband is still going into work every day. We’re lucky that he works alone and isn’t in any immediate danger. I’ve been fortunate to continue to be paid by my substitute teaching gig (halleluia! those crazy students finally are doing something for me for a change!) and I’m moving along with a few writing projects for pay and for fun. My kids? They’re “homeschooling.” And by that, I mean they check in for a few hours/day with their online assignments. Are they getting it all done? They’re getting enough done. Honestly? I don’t care that much. This is not the time to freak out about perfection. I’m just glad they’re here with me. That they are safe.

My Forced Vacation

What began as elation (no work! rest!) turned into frustration (gaaaad, this extrovert is going to go insane if she can’t get out of the house and spend money on an overpriced coffee) but it’s since morphed into a steady rhythm. I can’t take for granted that I have the luxury of being quarantined in a 4 bedroom house with wood floors and a fireplace. I mean really, people, I’m the luckiest woman on earth.

All this down time has not gotten my house repainted (yet) or my closets organized in Pinterest perfection (there’s time) but…I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching. In doing so, I’ve discovered how hard I am on myself. How I equate “what I do” with “who I am.” And, given I’m substitute teacher – not an executive producer of some fancy show – this can often be demoralizing.

But in the pit of my soul – waaaay in there… past the “you’re not good enough” and “what the hell happened to you” pieces… I realize that the life I’m leading this very minute is everything I really want: the slow languid starts, the easy pace, the drives through nature and loveliness that comes with sitting around with my family each evening.

In a nutshell, my soul is in pretty sharp contrast to my ego.

My soul loves quiet walks. Books. Fires. Conversations with people – even the old, annoying ladies in the grocery stores who spend ten minutes talking about their favorite Bible hymn and how to make a perfect meatball recipe using only hamburger, Corn flakes and McDonalds ketchup (to save a few cents, duh!).

I don’t cook, I don’t read the Bible, and up until very recently, I wasn’t eating meat, so there’s no reason at all I should care what someone I’ll never speak to again is shopping for on some random Tuesday.

And yet, I do. I’m super engaged. I love the story. I love the connection.

On the other hand, there’s my ego – that piece of me that loves the razzle dazzle of something bigger. I want the money that comes with a fast paced project. Instead of learning how to make that meatloaf from the lady in the supermarket, I want it served to me on a fancy dish by a waiter in an upscale restaurant. I want witty banter and fast music and I certainly don’t want to wait in line to pay for it. This ego is bossy and mean and doesn’t have time for conversation. Nope, my ego is not my amigo.

With all this downtime I’ve had more opportunity to feed my soul then satisfy my ego. It’s been a beautiful and restful period. The only time I’ve been upset is when my mind travels to the place of “Am I doing enough?”

I don’t know about you, but that kind of question for an overachiever like me can get me in all sorts of trouble. And really, with this virus threatening to do damage to so many people’s businesses and health, what purpose does it serve? At the end of the day, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be on my deathbed wishing I had more likes on Facebook or money in the bank.

But I might just want a good conversation with a piece of meatloaf.

I am so happy to be inching slowly, ever so slowly, to the purpose that God has for me, not my own ego. The God of my understanding doesn’t expect me to achieve. He just wants me to be. And thanks to my friend, Irish Mama, I’ve been reminded recently that it’s perfectly fine to push myself toward my writing dreams, but it’s okay to have a place that is just for me. Like this blog.

Like my home with my son telling me all about his latest video game he’s creating. (And how he’s okay with me talking about his tics again… stay tuned!)

Like my car with my daughter singing show tunes in my ear. My 1998 Acura isn’t fancy, but there’s no place else I’d rather be on a rainy Monday then in it with my sweet girl who, despite having her moments of nuttiness like we all do, is turning out just fine.

Like my husband taking daily walks around the block with me while we talk about nothing, our hands entwined, just grateful to be alive another day.

One day I’m going to be that old lady in the grocery store, sharing my stories with someone. And maybe, just maybe, there will be someone on the other side of the conversation, like me, who thought my taco recipe sounded just delightful.

Wouldn’t that be grand?

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. )

Want to Write a Book? Contact Me!

Need an editor, a mentor or a ghost writer? Contact me at HappilyTickedOff@Gmail.com or find me on Facebook @AndreaFrazerWriter

God, self improvement, writing

10 Reasons I Canceled the Time Suck That is Medium!

Well, after writing daily for almost 3 months I canceled Medium. It was not an easy decision, because I kind of thought for once I had found something that I could really excel at.

But at the end of the day, after 3 months, I made a total of $5.73.

I learned a ton. I found a great site with amazing free stock photos (Unsplash).

I learned that people do, actually, make money on that site. It’s just not going to me.

I also believe, with 100% certainty, that I could be one of those writers that makes a crap load of money off of going viral. But to go viral, there’s a lot I’d need to do. In addition to writing – a lot – I’d have to:

  • Have a mailing list
  • Have a blog with affiliate links here that tracks back to Medium
  • Have a product to sell
  • Have a kick ass web page
  • Spend a really big part of my life leaving comments for folk throughout Medium so they would then “like” me back and I could get more money from the big pot.

Honestly, that sounds like too much work. It sounds like my high school experience where no matter how much I tried, I just was never going to be the most popular girl on the block.

I am not snarky enough.

I am not pushy enough.

And, if I’m being totally honest, I’m not “Top 10 Reasons You Need to Write a Blog” bait clicky enough. And, even more importantly, if I’m going to have all those fancy bullet point items (which I plan on) it might as well be for my own updated dream website, not Medium’s.

With time off from subbing, and as I continue to write my musical (hey, I’ve stuck with that… bonus points for me!) I now have time to learn how to build that website… a site with affiliate links and a shopping cart for my books – one with a nice big “Buy” button and “Hey, check out my webpage where I can help you write books” button. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having this kind of site, but it must serve a purpose.

My purpose? I’m a story teller. My goal is to continue to get paid to help other people tell their stories while I tell mine.

I’m tired of spinning my wheels feeding the corporate writing machines.

To end on a positive note, I continue to make some decent side money writing for a few magazines and working with two memoir clients. This on top of my taking care of my family during this crisis, not to mention myself, is enough.

For those of you who have followed my many journeys to figure out where I want to write and what I want to write, I thank you. I hope that you, like me, give yourselves permission to find your dreams, make mistakes and grow along the way.

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. )

Want to Write a Book? Contact Me!

Need an editor, a mentor or a ghost writer? Contact me at HappilyTickedOff@Gmail.com or find me on Facebook @AndreaFrazerWriter

Coaching and Wellness, God, writing

I Have LOVED Being Quarantined

I’m not kidding.

After spending more years than I would care to admit wanting to run from my home, my family runs like a well oiled machine right now. Plus with working my bootie off subbing and then trying to mash in writing and family, I feel like God has swooped in and plopped me into a much needed rest for my soul.

Don’t get me wrong – I know how serious this virus is. I don’t wish it upon anybody. And I certainly don’t feel happy that I have rest while this virus wrecking so much havoc on people emotionally, physically and mentally. But the negatives don’t nullify my positives. I am just in a good season right now, and I am comfortable enough with myself to say that out loud.

On a different note, I’m not making my life’s fortune on Medium yet, so who knows if I’ll be subbing next year still or not. But I’m thrilled that my freelance side gigs have picked up a bit and that I am moving steadily toward a niche market with it writing memoirs and helping people write their books. Stay tuned for more of that and a link to subscribe to my newsletter!

In closing, my daughter and I took a very safe social distancing car ride to the beach yesterday. The mountains were so green. And while there was definitely evidence of the Malibu fires there, thanks to dark charred sticks of trees shooting up through the canyon, wild flowers were dancing like crazy. Yellow mustard seeds and purple lupines. It was like being in nature’s candy store. As we snacked on pretzles and M and M’s (here’s to the Corona 15!) my daughter narrated the story of Hadestown in between singing some of the lyrics.

We eventually made it to the beach and ambled our way up a deserted lifeguard tower. As we watched the parasailors glide and duck above the waves – fifty feet ahead of us – she leaned into me and sang me a few lyrics from her musical audition song, Stay (which, ironically, is not that different than the Corona virus! The song was not from Hadestown but from an older show, Amelie)

Stay where you are
Don’t come too close, and don’t go too far
I’ll make you count to 100 so I have a good chance to hide
Don’t expect me to play fair
Move in, I move even deeper inside
I like you right there
I like you right there
Stay

Thanks for Your “Stay” At My Blog!

I have said this before and I will say it again. I will always try new places to write. I do want to make more money in this field and I have zero problems learning how to market myself. But in the end, my relationships with people in my life, as well as some steady readers here at WordPress (you know who you are) are so much important than some flash in the pan success at Medium. (Um, I have made $3.47, despite being curated in five publications there!)

I am grateful to everyone who reads here and has followed me from the beginning. As Belladonna says, you could have chosen any blog to read, but you chose this one. Thank you!

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. )

Want to Write a Book? Contact Me!

Need an editor, a mentor or a ghost writer? Contact me at HappilyTickedOff@Gmail.com or find me on Facebook @AndreaFrazerWriter

Coaching and Wellness, education, self improvement, teenagers, Tics, Tourettes, Uncategorized, writing

Everything I Learned About Parenting I Learned from Tourette Syndrome (An update on Stink who is, gasp, 17!)

Stink, 17 and Pip, 15

Some of you know me from reading my book, Happily Ticked Off. Others of you found me by Googling “tics and Tourettes” and voila — here I am! Others of you might have found your way through a Tourettes forum or randomly googling “Misophonia.” Either way, I’m super stoked you are here.

Tourettes and My Son

My son was diagnosed with Tourettes when he was 4. Tourettes is a disorder that causes uncontrollable verbal and physical tics that change in nature and last up to one year. My boy’s tics never included cursing (which happens in only 10% of kids) but did include quite a deal of vocal sounds (gulps, clicks, throat clears, coughs) and physical movements (neck stretches, arm thrusts, neck rolls, eye blinks).

He’s now 17 years old, 6 foot 6, and a year and a half from heading out to college. For a long time I wrote about my adventures with this unknown disorder on my blog, HappilyTickedOff. Armonia Press even published a book about it which, to be honest, is one of the best things I’ve ever written. I didn’t get rich off of it, but every time I get a small residual check, or a tired mom from Kansas writes me to tell me that I made her laugh and cry over her pea soup or in the carpool line, I’m beyond thrilled.

Why I Ceased Writing About Tourettes

For a while my son told me to stop writing about him altogether. Like my drinking days, it was okay until it wasn’t. And so, just like I honored my kids by getting sober, I did the same thing when it came to writing about him.

I continued to write on my blog the past five years. In addition to that, I also dipped my toe into the water of education. I became a special ed aid and then a substitute teacher. But by far, my greatest teacher has been my two teenagers. And while I write quite extensively about my daughter, such as this post, but this particular article? It’s all about my son. And it was his idea, which shocked the hell out of me.

Why I Started Writing Again

“Mom, if you want to write about me and my Tourettes again, it’s totally okay,” he told me one day while I was making him an after school snack. By “snack” I mean “meal.” And by “meal” I mean four gluten free veggie tacos with a huge side of guacamole.

“Why is that?” I asked him, trying to sound cool but on the inside more thrilled than a new Grace and Frankie episode appearing on Netflix. I’ve missed talking to other moms about this often misunderstood syndrome.

“I am super happy with myself,” he told me. “I have so many friends. I’m loving my computer programming.” He went on to add, “I guess because you’re okay with me, I’m okay with it.” And that last piece, my friends, is why I’m writing this article.

I Was Not Okay with His Tourettes for a Long Time

Before you judge me, I want to be clear that I didn’t want to not be okay with his syndrome, but I struggled. Part of this is because I was not confident in myself. I worried that I would be judged. And I was worried about him and how he’d be treated. (Yes, he was bullied a bit for noises he couldn’t control.) But most of all, I had a condition I didn’t know I had called Misophonia where certain noises drove me nuts. Combined with a marriage on the rocks, and drinking more than I cared to admit (until I had to admit it) the grunts and squeaks sometimes put me over the edge.

As I mentioned in this article on Misophonia, our relationship was super strained with all the “fixes” I tried to get him to stop making vocal sounds. I tried everything from:

  • Acupuncture
  • Special diets
  • Meditation
  • Medication
  • Supplements
  • Therapy…

And on and on. He went along with the program from ages 9 to 13, but the rubber hit the road for me when I realized:

  1. He doesn’t want me to fix him.
  2. He didn’t mind his Tourettes

Just like drinking, I had to give up my need to fix him or our relationship would be doomed. So I did. Here are just a few things I implemented over the past 4 years that changed our relationship from one of strife to one of safety and calm. (And, my friends, I’m convinced this is a huge reason why he is doing so well today.)

How I Gained a Safe Relationship With My Son

  1. Questions: I ask more questions than I give commands. If I’m not sure about his grades, I ask “Why is your Chemistry at a C?” instead of demanding, “Why are you not at an A?” Lack of stress has greatly reduced his tics, too.
  2. Positivity: I keep my negativity to myself. If I’m frustrated with a writing project, or a lack of a writing project, I leave that outside before I walk in the door. In doing so, I’m not bleeding all over someone who never cut me.
  3. Listening: I stopped talking so much about myself and just asked about him. Often times I’d just sit on the couch with a book. If he came by to read with me, great. If he didn’t, that was fine, too.

By just being a still presence I was creating a safe harbor for him to just be him, tics and all.

4. Self-Improvement: In working on myself, and realizing what I needed to change (less drinking/more writing) I stopped trying to live through my son. I mean, it’s one thing to want your kid healthy for him. But I was doing it for me. And friends, that sucks.

5. Laughter: We laugh a lot. He is the worst joke teller in the world, and also hilarious. Ex: “How do you call someone who collects phone books?” Answer: “You don’t. They call you!” Stink (his nick name) and I pun like professional ping pong players. We have Scooby Doo marathons. And we trade ridiculous memes over text. Each example is super small, but it’s the little intentions that build a strong relationship over time.

6. Forgiveness: Last year, as part of my 12 step program, I made an official amends to him for asking him to change his tics. I cried. He listened. And he honestly, truly, forgave me. I also made a promise to never ask him about his tics again. Because we have gotten so close over the past four years, he believed me. And I’ve stuck to my word.

My Son Barely Tics Now

I’m writing this post to tell any of you scared mamas that not only is my son okay emotionally, he’s okay physically as well. He rarely tics these days. Some of this is because he is 17 and tics do, indeed, subside. But some of it is also because he is not stressed. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is more important to me than how my son feels about himself. If it means me backing off and letting him go to a Junior College instead of a 4 year university so he can navigate high school at his pace, I do that.

In the end, more important than curing Tourettes is my son’s keen awareness that his mother accepted him 100% for who he was in his soul. Everything else doesn’t matter.

No Regrets

I am proud to say that despite making mistakes raising this beautiful boy, I have no regrets. I, like everyone else on this globe, am a human being. I wasn’t raised by perfect parents. I got bullied in school by kids who were also not perfect.

Right or wrong, I placed many of my unhealed issues onto my son and raised him through a lense of fear. But I’m not doing that now.

Your Child Will Be Okay — Especially If You Are Okay

I want to tell you that I know how hard it is to get a diagnosis you were not expecting. But I also want to remind you that your child is not his or her label. He or she is their spirit. I can 100% promise you that if you nurture their spirit, far more than focusing on their disorder, everything will be just fine.

Think of Tourettes as a giant invitation to a party on life’s terms. It might not be easy, but if you allow it to be, it just might be the best adventure you’ve ever been on.

Want to Write Your Own Memoir? Contact Me!

Are you a writer who wants to write a memoir? I can coach you! Reach out at Andrea.Paventi@Gmail.com or find me at my blog www.happilytickedoff.com. You have a story and I can help you make it happen!

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. )

education, writing

Ready to Finally Write That Musical or Book? (7 ways to do it in a year)

Note to my WordPress friends (my faves): This is my latest article on Medium. It comes to you after a long day of shopping for the Great Hunkering Down that is about to hit L.A..

I, like many of you, fluctuate between fear and faith. But mostly, for whatever reason, I’m calm. I went to the beach with my daughter today (keeping a good gajillion feet away from everybody else.)

I had a lovely dinner in front of our fire.

I played music and I shopped for neighbors and I called friends.

This is a time in history, more than ever, that we need art and music. We need less fear and more love.

And we need each other.

Thank you for being there for me always.

David Beal @ Unspash

Most people aren’t exactly breaking out in song over their forced unemployment and quarantine or writing their Great American Corona Novel. But I’m not one of them.

Part of this because I have a pretty strong spiritual practice where I just refuse to fall into self pity. Either God’s got this or he doesn’t. Part of it is because, as a sober alcoholic, I can’t afford to be play the victim. “One day at a time” is how the saying goes. But the biggest reason I’m not freaking out is because I can finally write my musical.

I’ve had the idea in my brain for three years. I even have one whole song and a few others started. Now that I’m not going into class every day to sub, I don’t have any excuses to not take at least one hour/day and knock this sucker out.

I’ve Never Written a Musical. I Don’t Give a Poop.

I’m not trying to sound delusional here when I say, “I’m writing a musical with no experience.” I’m simply stating that I’m doing it. For those who want to question my logic, I have a very simple answer: “When I think about not following through with it I feel like throwing up.”

I Refuse to Hit the Snooze Alarm on My Dream

Malvestida Magazine @ Unsplash

Time is ticking by. I just turned 50. I have spent my life raising my kids and writing for a gajillon outlets for pay. And while I’m proud of my ability to context switch from blogs and magazines to everything in between, there’s something in my soul that wants to write something that comes just from me.

My passion project is not about my ego. It’s about about my purpose.

I didn’t get sober to live someone else’s life. I got sober to live mine. In doing so, I was able to untangle all the lies of who I thought I was supposed to be and lean into the person God wanted me to be all along. That person is an artist. (Surprise!)

But I Have to Make Money (And All Those Lies We Tell Ourselves)

I’m not that different from many of you who read and write here on Medium. I have a day job, too. In addition to my freelance writing, I substitute teach. I have kids and a husband. I have friends. I’m not exactly loaded with Benjamins.

But if I’m being totally honest with myself, there is always an hour a day I can spend on my musical if I choose to do it. (I can use my lunch break, get up early, take an hour after school, etc.) And now that I have 3–6 months of unemployment, I can do it in the mornings while the kids are sleeping.

What Are Your Gifts? Whatever They Are, Do That

If someone asked me what I loved more than anything in the world, I could very easily tell them. I love music. I love books. I love writing. And I love to laugh. If that isn’t the perfect formula for a musical I don’t know what is. Now I only need to do it.

Here’s 7 ways I’m planning on getting started to make my dream happen. Perhaps you can use some of these tips for your dream, too!

  1. Follow Your Destiny

“Musicians must make music, artists must paint, poets must write if they are ultimately to be at peace with themselves. What humans can be, they must be.” ―Abraham Maslow

As I already alluded to, I can’t not write this musical. The idea came to me over three years ago when I was going through a particularly rough period of my life. It was as if all the pieces of this transformational story were drop shipped into my brain one night in the bathtub. I literally heard the tune to my flagship song, along with lyrics, singing in my brain. Either I’m psychotic or finally listening to the signs in my life. I’m going with Door #2.

2. Don’t Be Afraid of Your Own Power

I was bullied a lot in school. Subconsciously I bought into a belief structure that I simply wasn’t as good as everybody else. And though I knew in my head that wasn’t in true, in my heart it was as if my soul had frozen.

This frozen belief structure became a problem because, also within my soul, was where my true power lived- my voice- and it was throwing a pretty major tantrum to be let out.

Instead of seeing this power for what it was, “Oh, hello, powerful Andrea. Let’s get you moving toward your destiny!” I got scared. It felt like an enemy attack, and I shut down. I drank to keep it quiet and acting dignified.

But that power, like a true love, remained. It was a gentleman. It didn’t force me into submission. Instead it waited, like a lover, for the time I would put away my fears and dance with it. Now is that time.

Thomas AE @ Unsplash

3. Get a Theme Song

My theme song is “Defying Gravity” from Wicked. I speak about this song a lot in my book, Happily Ticked Off. In it the Wicked Witch (from the Wizard of Oz) decides she is tired of listening to everyone else. She is ready to fly. She is ready to defy gravity. To her I say, “Amen, sister!” (Plus it doesn’t matter how many times I hear Idina Menzel sing that last note. I cry. Every. Time.)

“Something has changed within me. Something is not the same. I’m through with playing by the rules of someone’s else’s game.” — Elphaba (Lyrics by Steven Schwartz)

4. Don’t Judge Your Past.

“The path to our destination is not always a straight one. We go down the wrong road, we get lost, we turn back. Maybe it doesn’t matter which road we embark on. Maybe what matters is that we embark.” ―Barbara Hall

If I had a dime for all the jobs I’ve held over the past 30 years I’d be living in Beverly Hills. I’ve been an usher at the movies, a tour Guide for NBC Studios, a TV writers’ assistant, a TV writer, a production secretary, a receptionist, an Ebayer, a special education assistant, a substitute teacher and even a barista at Starbucks.

Sometimes, okay a lot of times, I’m ashamed of my checkered job past. Why couldn’t I just be a middle school teacher? Or a doctor? Something stable? But when I put the emotional whip down, I see a different picture— that I have tons of material to write my musical with. Besides, my kids, family and friends love me just as am, not for what I do. Maybe it’s time I start agreeing with them about how fabulous I am.

5. Stop Second Guessing Yourself

“Too late for second guessing. Too late to go back to sleep. It’s time to trust my instincts… to close my eyes, and leap…” — Elphaba, Wicked

I’m gonna have to give #5 to my girl, Elphaba, again. She didn’t really know what she was doing when she picked up that broom and ascended into the heavens. Like her, I don’t know 100% what I’m doing with this musical. But she flew anyway, mistakes be damn. What if I follow in her footsteps? Even Lin Manuel Miranda got laughed at for wanting to write a hip hop musical about the treasury department.

And no, I’m not Lin Manuel Miranda, but Lin Manuel Miranda wasn’t Lin Manuel Miranda until he did the same things I’m doing now to become Lin Manuel Miranda.

(That makes perfect sense to me. I hope it does to you, also.)

6. Stop Talking and Start Doing

Everyone in my immediate circle knows about my musical. The kids at school know me as the sub who is writing a funny show about camels. I’m honestly tired of talking about it. It’s time to sit down and do it. I am committed to one hour/day, five days/week. It’ll be done in a year.

Here’s what Sebastian, the blind mole rat from my musical, has to say to a very princess-y camel, Rose, about her long trek through the desert:

Sebastian: “If you want to go to the Great Mirage, first you have to get out of the garage.”

Rose: “But what I really want is a massage…”

Sebastian: “It doesn’t work that way.”

If my characters have to do the hard work to find their destiny, so do I. And that leads me to #7:

7. Have Faith

Joseph Plenino @ Unsplash

I don’t know exactly how all this will pan out. I don’t have a producer in mind. I don’t know any producers. I don’t write music notes. But I have seen enough of my Higher Power to work in my own life that if I just take the action the results will follow. Translation: I will meet the right people to come alongside me when the time is right. But first I must get started.

“God provides the wind, but man must raise the sails.” ―St. Augustine

Are You Willing to Get Started?

I know some of you are so scared about our current times. So am I. But friends, we need art now more than ever. We need you. Come on back and support me as I continue my journey. You know I’ll support you!

Need a Writing Coach? I Got Ya Covered!

Want someone to coach you toward your dream? I’ve already got two clients I’m working with to make their books a reality. I can help you, too! Reach out at Andrea.Paventi@Gmail.com.

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. )

humor, poems, writing

Ode to Covid 19

A poem about Trader Joe’s stampedes, fear and toilet paper

Hello I’m Nik @ Unsplash

Twas March 15, friends

And I hit Trader Joes

For snacks and for drinks

Heck, I thought they were closed

There were just a few people

But I soon find out why

There was nary a noodle

To be found there inside

Only a few apples left

And of course Two Buck Chuck

But toilet paper, you say?

Nope, you’re shit out of luck

I didn’t freak out much

It’s not as if I

Couldn’t wash with a rag

And a bucket of Tide

But what bummed me out most

About this great food stampede

Was the Buckets of Gimme

And the Bottles of Greed

It must be nice for some folks

That feel good about stealth

But not everyone’s wallet

Has that kind of wealth

Look: Some friends I know

Not too different from me

Live paycheck to paycheck

(And these folks have degrees!)

As I sauntered the aisles

And tried not to sneeze

I got so very sad

At our nation… you see

We don’t just have a virus

That we can’t seem to manage

We also have fear

Which can cause equal damage

If instead of just thinking

About ourselves and our kin

What if we let love

Stir us from within?

What if we took what we needed

A few weeks… nothing more

Then there’d be plenty of bread

For old folks at the store

There’d be chocolate for me

There’d be wine for my friends

And there’d be plenty of TP

For each other’s rear ends

So, while I can’t cure the food deal

I at least can commit

To not scrounging it all

In a me-me-me fit

My friends, I do beg you

As freaked as you feel

Is to honor your fear

But remember what’s real:

We can smile and laugh

We can sing in the streets

We can still go for hikes

(Until they quarantine streets)

How ‘bout we remember this virus

That ripped through the equator

As one of our world’s

Most profound educators…

… as a professor that taught us

While it’s scary some days

We still have each other

And we’ll all be okay.

(I promise. Be kind, people)

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. )