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

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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!

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.

sss

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.)

sss

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)

sss

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!

dd

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