Long time no chat. So much has happened over the course of 2020/2021 I don’t even know where to begin, so I just will:
My childhood home of 45 years was sold and my mom moved to an apartment. There’s a lot of memories in a 3000 square foot house to throw out/accommodate, but we did.
Sweet Grandma Stella died. What a bummer. No more visits to her retirement home to sing “Fly me to the Moon.” No one to tell me my ass looks too big or that I “Can’t clean worth shit.” No more jokes about men thirty years younger than her, pointed bras, pumpkin thongs or gin martinis to start a car. But she’ll forever be in my heart, “tidying” my kitchen and telling me to keep “my mouth shut and my legs crossed.”
My sweet Stink became Stinkette. While I’m so happy that she has found her true self, it took some time to adjust. I wish I were a faster student, but I’m here now and so grateful for the new beginnings for her, for us – for everyone in the family.
I went from subbing part time to full time, thanks to the dire need for teachers with Covid. No one was more shocked than I was to find I liked it and am seriously considering getting a credential to keep a classroom full time. (I have learned when it gets noisy to silently dance with an invisible man. My kids know. “Quiet! She’s dancing with Sam!”) Have you seen Sam Heughan? I love you all, but if you steal my invisible boyfriend I will block you.
I started working with some producers on writing a Hallmark movie. (Will it sell? Who knows. I just put one foot in front of the other. Or, shall I say, one “hoof” in front of the other which leads me to…)….
…I finished my camel musical! It needs to be rewritten, but so it shall.
Pip became a senior in high school and, over Covid, I learned just how much I needed to change in my parenting style. It wasn’t easy, but the growth we have experienced has been well worth the experience to shift.
I tell you all this, Mamas, because I learned all the ways to pivot and change thanks to a little something we all call “Tourette Syndrome.” Lots of things over the past year aren’t what I expected (nor – if I’m being honest – are what I’d choose) but in accepting them as they are, I made room for magic. I made room for more writing, more dreaming, more consistent income.
You, too, Mamas, can DECIDE that despite T.S. you can have an amazing 2022. I will aim to write here a bit more often and cheer you on along the way.
Thanks to all who have bought my books or just followed me here all these years. It’s a pleasure to get to know you and I wish you the most wonderful New Year!
PS: It’s Tic-0 Tuesday today, which means I’ll be cooking up some simple tacos and cheese/guac just for Pip, Rex and I. Maddie (formerly Stink) is at Starbucks and apparently I’m not the sun which she orbits any longer. THAT was way more heartbreaking than even the tics. People, life shifts in an instant. Don’t miss it.
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I am writing to you on the eve of the best day of the week, Hump Day, to ask you a very simple question: Are you taking care of yourself?
I ask because I continue to hear from loads of mamas, either from my writing or T.S. circle, that are drowning under the weight of all their worry and responsibility.
I get it – because that was me for a very long time! But despite a pretty crazy year this year, I have to admit that these days I’m doing pretty well. There’s a bunch of reasons for that:
I’m 51 now. I just care a hell of a lot less about what anyone, other than my own soul, thinks
Everyone is healthy, despite a scary Covid season
I continue to remain employed (despite wearing some outfits that look like Good Will had a buy one/get one free sale)
My book writing/coaching business is picking up traction
One of my kids went back to school (thank GOD)
My other is almost graduated (thank GOD)
But the biggest reason I find joy is because I take care of me. I no longer wait for approval from people, places or things. If my kids or Rex are unhappy with me, for example, that is never fun, but I have made a commitment to be less enmeshed. Last I checked they had their own God, and it wasn’t me. The time I spend seeking approval from others, or trying to manage other people, is better spent doing what my higher power wired me to do. And, shockingly, it turns out those are the things I love most!
Writing my musical (it’s 50% done! Wait til you see my camels dance and rap!)
Creating content for my writing and T.S. support groups (info to come with a new website!)
I am saying all this, people, because T.S. taught me so much. It reminded me that often my fears about how my child would fare were unfounded. That I often made it so much worse by sticking my nose into stuff that I didn’t need to. What my kid needed most was for me to be a calm and rational mom. I can’t say that was always the case. But late is great!
These days, I am making up for lost time – not just to my kids but to everyone I come in contact with. That doesn’t look overly fancy on the outside. I’m still the same six foot, red headed, cat eye wearing Taco Tuesday loving lady I’ve always been. But my inside? It’s wild with joy. Because my peace does not come from what I thought it would come from – a cure for T.S.. The cure was in me all along. The cure was to focus on my own gifts and talents so I could better support my kids with theirs.
I hope this week finds you doing some things that you love just for you. I’d love to connect with you either in one of my support groups (coming soon) or on Facebook!
Or email me. I don’t bite.
INTERESTED IN TAKING A JOURNALING CLASS WITH ME?
I’m going to be leading two workshops this Spring:
For mamas of Tourette Syndrome kids who want to heal through journaling and connecting with other moms in the same boat.
For mamas who want become more authentically themselves through journaling, laughter and joy.
Both will be 4 weeks. I’ll share more as it gets closer. Sign up for my newsletter below or leave a comment! I’d love to have you!
BE PART OF MY NEWSLETTER!
For updates on my recent projects and to get a copy of my newest book, WRITE LIKE A MOTHER, sign up for my newsletter here!
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
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.
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.
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 —
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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)
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
I love this picture. It brings up images of parents that are there for their child but willing to let them run free. It’s a wonderful symbol for what I strive to be for my own kids.
In my last post I spoke about how I was going to take advantage of my forced vacation from school (AKA: My Coronacation) to spend more time with my children. By “children” I mean “very tall teenagers.” And by “spend time” with them I mean “not micro-manage their every move.”
To be clear, I by no means am going to let my 4-bedroom home become a movie set for Lord of the Flies, Coronavirus 2. Nor am I sewing myself a cosplay outfit ala Captain Vontrapp either, complete with a military style schedule and a whistle. (I could never look as hot as Christopher Plummer, so why bother?)
But this wasn’t always the case. There was a time in my parenting career where I lived and breathed everything my children did. I wasn’t a helicopter parent, but I was absolutely an enmeshed one.
Definition of an Emeshed Parent
According to Psyche Central, you might be an enmeshed parent if this applies to you:
“Your children’s good or difficult behavior, and successful or unsuccessful achievements, define your worth.”
“Your children are the center of your life — your sole purpose in life.”
“Your entire focus is on taking care of your children, rather than also taking care of yourself.”
“Your happiness or pain is determined solely by your children.”
“You are invasive — you need to know everything about what your children think and do.”
If you asked me if I fit that description, I’d give you a hearty, “Hell, no! Just look at my house. Do their disorganized bedrooms, and their less than perfect school grades, match the traits of someone who is overly concerned with her kids?
But the more I researched it, the more I realized how wrong I was.
An enmeshed parent doesn’t apply to a child’s exterior life. It applies to their emotional ones which, to their supreme detriment, is bound up co-dependently with their parent’s feelings of well being.
My Daughter and Her Enmeshed Mother in Transition
As I’ve mentioned before, my daughter is super independent. She’s smart and sassy and doesn’t take to people telling her what to do. That said, she is still only 15. She simply doesn’t know what she doesn’t know. As her mom, it’s my job to set boundaries with love.
It just so happens that yesterday, on our first day of our Coronacation, we decided to take a walk on the beach. There were no people there… lots of open space… no fears of people coughing Covid 19 over our sun screened faces. It was a perfect time to talk about something that had been on my mind for a long time: her grades, her time management skills, and a particular class next year she really wants to get in.
That last item? She doesn’t just want a spot in this prized class. It’s all she’s been talking about all year. There is an audition component to getting in and, as much as I hate to admit it, I’ve been super anxious about her getting in myself.
Happy vs. Enmeshed in Our Kids Lives
I mean, who wouldn’t want their kid to be happy, right? But if I’m being honest, it’s more than that. I have the tendency to want her to be happy so I can be happy, and that’s never a good combination. That’s enmeshment.
I’m really careful about these days about this toxic parenting. But I wasn’t always. The old Andrea would have been up my daughter’s butt for six months telling her what she needed to do to get ready for the big try out. But this new Andrea — the one who is writing enough herself to not have to live through her daughter’s dreams — was able to be more chill about it.
I’m pretty proud of how the conversation went. It involved more questions than directives. I only brought up the topic when I was calm. (Hence not in the car when I was still pretty irritated about a dental appointment that didn’t go so well.)
Instead of launching into a lecture, I said a little prayer before I began speaking: God, let this conversation be about what is best for Evie’s life, not my enmeshed Mama ego. Let me remember that this is her life, not mine. Let me remember the difference between control and suggestion and have the wisdom to know the difference. (That last bit, God, I suck at. So feel free to smite me when I go overboard.)
Our Healthy Conversation Along the Beach
Me: So, Evie, I’d like to talk to you about your tryout. Is this a good time?
If she said no, I’d have dropped it. I mean, what’s the point of having a conversation with your teenager, unless it’s truly life threatening, if they are not ready to listen?
Her: Sure. What’s up?
Me: Well, I know how badly you want this particular class. And I told you in September I wouldn’t bring this up anymore — and I didn’t. But… you now have three extra weeks to prepare for the tryouts thanks to our enforced time off from school.
Me: And… I’m not seeing you rehearse that much for it. What’s up with that?
Her: Oh that’s simple. I’m not rehearsing!
Me: And… this is because…
Her: It’s because there’s another piece to the audition that I’m much weaker on. I have been using my time to work on that instead.
Me: (Starting to get frustrated… enter enmeshed mama trying to break in) So the first piece isn’t that important?
Her: Oh, no, it totally is.
Me: (Truly stumped) Can you explain to my why, if it’s so important, you’re not doing it?
Her: Yeah. It’s because forever I felt that you wanted me to have this more than I did. And that didn’t feel particularly amazing.
Note: “Hmmm” is my go-to when I know my kid just needs me to listen. And also when I know she’s right. Translation: May day! May day! My ego has just taken a big hit and it needs comfort big time! Pass the wine!
Crap, you don’t drink anymore! Pray! Breathe!
So I did. Then I pressed her for more detail and braced myself. (Her frankness is not always pretty.)
Her: I sometimes think you don’t see how hard I’m working at other areas of my life and just focus on the areas that are important to you.
Me: Yeah, I can see that. But on this occasion, I do know how much you want this class. I wouldn’t be a great mom if I didn’t at least point out where you have an opportunity to improve.
Her: I know. It just reminds me of how you used to be.
I wanted to scream, “And I was right then, too! Just as I am now!” Instead I went with:
Me: Okay, you have my word I won’t bring it up again.
Her: You won’t have to. Because, don’t freak out, Mama Llama, I’m going to practice more. I just needed you to back off first.
Enter angels singing on the beach! (Okay, not that last part — but it was a victory!)
Lest the above conversation sounds like a cheesy script for the Family Channel, those sentences really did come out of each of our mouths.
We didn’t yell. We didn’t get snarky. We just shared from the heart. None of it would have been possible had I still been acting from my enmeshed mama’s ego.
I Want My Kids to Succeed!
Of course I want my daughter to get into her class, but more important to me is that she wants it. There is nothing in my kids’ lives, minus their health, that I should want more than they do. If I do, I’m bordering on obsessive again. And that, my friends, isn’t healthy.
As an adult, I’m only now finding my way in this world without needing to be propped up by anyone but my own higher power. Rather than have my kids have to figure this out in 12-step rooms, I’d rather they learn this now.
This comes from being a mom who listens more than she talks.
Who asks more questions rather than assumes.
And who has enough of her own life that my kids can go on to have their’s.
As far as my daughter goes, it means that if (worse case) she doesn’t get into that coveted class, she has a safe person to share her disappointment with.
Until next time, may you be less enmeshed, ask questions and, when in doubt, go for a walk on the beach. It really is the balm for all grrrr. (Even more than wine. I promise.)
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. )
Happy weekend, people! I survived my 50th birthday and so far haven’t died from the Coronavirus. I’m grateful to have had so many friends and family celebrate with me. My good friend, Irish Mama, came out to visit with me and I must say it was glorious. One of the highlites was fish tacos in Malibu and watching her giggle with joy when she saw a pod of dolphins frolicking through the waves.
In honor of those dolphins, I’m continuing my pursuit of frolicking in my own life. That begins with my writing.
Thanks to all of you here at WordPress who inspire me every day to read and continue writing. Below is a post that was also published on Medium. I’m giving myself permission to double up on the sites until I figure out what each site will be. (Medium will for sure be more of a niche while this site will be more personal. That said, even if I double up, please go over there and give me some love. Your time on my post gives me financial support and I will of course do the same for you.)
Stay safe, wash your hands and for fxxx sake enjoy your life. (This comin’ from an official old lady, so listen to me!)
“You’ll never be able to escape from your heart. So it’s better to listen to what it has to say.” — Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
Not too long ago I was subbing for a public school. I was attempting to teach middle school kids to go after their dreams while simultaneously dodging milk cartons being lobbed at my noggin. It turns out something even more powerful than cow juice was directed at my brain. It was a life changing thought: “How can I empower students to live their dreams when I‘m not living mine?”
This insight was not an obsessive compulsive devil in disguise, taunting me on my shoulder. It wasn’t my misfiring mind out to derail me. This knowledge was a real deal truth bomb that lodged into my heart and exploded like emotional shrapnel right into the center of my soul. It shattered the glass walls I had been constructing around me that kept me from doing what I knew was my life’s purpose: to write.
Working a “Real Job”
It’s not like I hadn’t made money writing before, but life, kids, marriage, sobriety (and a pesky pit bull who insists on flying through window screens to maniacally search for our dearly departed roommate) got in the way.
I thought I needed a “real job” to keep all the nuts and bolts of my complicated existence purring like a top. The only problem was that while my family was able to go to the doctor for every scrape and ailment, thanks to my amazing insurance package, they were suffering daily with the sickness of my discontent.
After this one fateful day of subbing, it dawned on me that my “real job” wasn’t just to put braces on my kids so they could one day have perfect teeth while working at a job they also hated. My only “real job” was to show up as my authentic self so I could model for my children what they needed to do to live their true purpose.
“But I Can’t Just Leave My Day Job” and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves
Listen, people, if you’re yelling at the computer screen, I relate. I told myself for years that I, too, could not just quit my job and go after what I really wanted to do with my life. But honestly, I wasn’t asking the right question. And perhaps you aren’t either. So let me help you out with this million dollar inquiry: If you’re not ready to bolt from your secure but lifeless job, are you at least ready to leave your negative thinking behind so that one day you will have the power to leave?
For me, this last question was a game changer, because subconsciously I was addicted to my victim thinking. “I’m too old.”… “I’m not good enough.”… “My family will be mad at me”… “I need the money.”
The real facts are that I was not lacking talent in writing. I was lacking in faith. Yup, I was missing the divine belief that the shepherd boy possessed in The Alchemist. I was not trusting that something much bigger than my own human plans could work everything out.
What Good Is a Higher Power if You Don’t Trust It?
When I got sober, I had to choose a higher power that was bigger than myself to keep me from downing a bottle of Two Buck Chuck over my daily restlessness, irritability and discontent. This higher power was absolutely vital because, as it turns out, it wasn’t my drinking that was my biggest demon — it was my thinking.
Sobriety encouraged me to accept that my higher power, who I choose to call God, loves me unconditionally. But that sweet emotional froth means nothing if I don’t trust it to work in my life. I had to take the plunge. Like Indiana Jones in the second movie, I had to trust that if I took a leap, something invisible would appear beneath my feet and allow me to not crash to my death.
Did I leave my job Norma Ray style in the arms of a handsome man that looked like a cross between Jamie Fraser and Liam Neeson? I wish. But no. Instead, I made the simple decision to cut down from working five days a week to three. I already had a small writing gig in my pocket, and I trusted that with some time off to breathe I’d get more.
Spirituality Can Be as Simple as Getting off Your Ass
Trust is lovely, but action seals the deal. That very night, fingers trembling, I reached out to Sesame Street. I ignored the lie that told me, “You’re nervous. This is a sign you shouldn’t be doing this, Dumbass.” How many times had I gone out with a man who didn’t wear his pants above his butt cheeks and convinced myself he was Prince Charming? Maybe my mind wasn’t such a good source of help after all. No, this time I would go with my gut where truth lives, not my head where confusion lives.
I told this iconic television show that I had a computer full of songs and scripts. I told them that I had exactly the talent they needed to creatively partner with them for new story ideas and lyrics. I was so proud of myself! (You need a melody and poem to tell kids to not fear the Coronavirus? I’m your gal!)
I excitedly emailed my sponsor to let her know that, despite wanting to puke all over my new chevron gray and white rug, I was finally following her guidance: to take the steps and leave the results up to God.
While I’d love to say that Sesame Street immediately returned my email and I’m now writing award winning songs for Cookie Monster, that did not happen. But something else cool did happen: My sponsor informed me that someone in our group composed music for Sesame Street. “Write him!” she nudged me. So I did.
As it turns out, he was just in a similar place to me: confronting his financial fears and wishing he could go after his real dream of writing. What we had here was a miraculous problem: He was a composer that wanted to write, I was a writer that needed help composing music. We made an appointment to meet the very next day to talk about it. Crazy timing. Was it odd or God?
Since that day I have not only begun a fledgling partnership with a brilliant thinker, I have polished up my resume, landed a few more freelance writing clients and begun working sub jobs only in high schools where kids’ brains are more fully developed than a lump of Trader Joe’s pizza dough. (Plus I don’t need to worry about 8th graders smoking Mary Jane in the middle of a math quiz. Yes, that’s happened.)
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”- Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
Have I gotten rid of my real job yet? No. It’s only been two weeks! But to quote one of my favorite songs from Frozen, “For the first time in forever….” I am trusting that what I’ve been gifted to do is not an accident. I don’t have to people please my family, my culture, my parents or even, most importantly of all, myself. I only need to trust that when I lead with my heart, everything else will roll out like a red carpet, ready to have me dance toward my prize of serenity and joy.
Living Your Dreams is Actually Quite Simple
I had been making everything so complicated, and it’s really quite simple: I have a purpose that was planted in my soul. When I go against that purpose, I feel like crap. When I work toward that purpose, I feel good. And not just that: When I run toward my talents with God at my side, doors fly open quicker than the castle gates at Arendelle. I deserve to feel content and satisfied. And friends, you do, too.
God is everything or he is nothing.
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. )
I just got back from a weekend of camping. I’d like to say that it was a time of amazing family bonding. Of great talks under the stars and walks along the river where we pushed ourselves a bit more than we normally would, cheering each other on to be our best selves in matching tee shirts.
And it was. Minus the matching tee shirt part. Though if we did have matching shirts, it would be these.
But it was also a lot of last minute rushing (despite all my prepping and shopping runs) to get to our destination. Some ingredients for much anticipated recipes were left behind. Shrimp that was supposed to go into Saturday’s gumbo was left on the counter overnight by a certain teenager who saw the brown wrapping paper as being trash instead of hosting potential stomach seizing bacteria. And the trash in the camper?! The bodies bumping into each other at 2am to cross the road to find the bathroom?! This kind of experience can only be described as a five part Oy: Oy Oy Oy Oy Oy!
Half of me wants to just get more organized for next trip. You know, shop a few days in advance. Perhaps I could use paper plates or we could pre-pack the trailer with items that we’ll always need, instead of arriving at a campsight with four cans of black beans but no can opener.
I don’t have any illusions that the great outdoors is going to be easy. Nope, stuff takes work and, as much as I’d love to own something like the camper below, I don’t. And that’s okay.
But I know, deep in my gut, I’m not an outdoors work-til-I-drop person. I’m a hotel lady. I’m a lover of conversations and coffee, not black tea and neighbors in the adjoining campsite snoring while I desperately try to climb over my spouse cowboy style on the way to a midnight pee run.
My goal, as you all know, is to laugh and keep things light. But I also didn’t get sober to just deal with things that aren’t working for me. Like that car full of used clothing I dumped on Friday, I’m ready to dump old ideas of what my life needs to look like. And guess what: If everyone in my family loves camping, but I’m not so sure, it’s okay for me to have a simple conversation. “Hey, I thought I wanted to do this, but I don’t love it. How can we do it differently next time?” Or, here’s a perfectly acceptable conversational starter also, “If we can’t leave the shoes outside the camper, I can’t continue to camp. It’s too dirty for me.”
I bring this up because people, especially women, often have a hard time saying when things don’t work for them. (Thanks, Shauna Niequest, for reminding me of this concept!)
At almost 50, I’m ready to change that dynamic around. Happiness never comes from me doing things I think other people want. It only comes when I stand in my own truth and admit exactly where I’m at any given time.
My needs matter. Wow, what a concept!
This Sunday night, I thank God for his beautiful gift of nature. I thank him for a family that has always been by my side, through the amazing adventures and the sticky muddy camper ones. And I also thank God for the burgeoning truth that my happiness does not depend on other people agreeing with my feelings. It only matters that I express myself and let God handle the outcome.
Join Me in a Private Facebook Group!
If talking more personally sounds interesting to you, hit me up on Facebook! I’ll be happy to add you. Find me at the group @HappilyTickedOff (not to be confused with my Facebook Page, @HappilyTickedOff.)
It feels weird having a whole lot of space to myself. It’s not just my office that is cleared out. My head is, also. All that crap I’d been holding onto to sell for a few bucks was akin to sunscreen on my face: blocking me from the sunlight of my very own spirit.
All this beautiful new office space has given me permission to focus on my own writing. I don’t have to worry about last minute post office runs, or forgetting packages altogether because I was too busy running carpool or rushing to a last minute sub gig.
I don’t have to bolt out my house anymore to inconveniently meet a client random neighbor to grab their old stuff (stuff that is worth $5 but they swear is valued at $25) and flip it online at the expense of my own sanity flipping out. And equally as important, I don’t have to serve my family the scraps that are left with all my nice energy being expended on other people.
I think what kept me in the game so long was the idea of having a little extra spending cash. And I did have it. But at what cost? Avoiding smarter budgeting conversations with Rex, or being firm with what I need, is not a good reason to hustle for pennies. If anything, this mentality kept me from pushing my own career forward, as well as being more forthright with my needs.)
Absolutely sticking a stake in the heart of my Ebay delusion feels a bit like getting a cast off. Or a divorce. We got used to each other’s eccentricities. Both of us weren’t getting much from the deal, but there were some fun perks, like outings to our favorite resale haunts. But, to quote my old pastor, the deeper the death, the higher the resurrection. Sure he was talking about spiritual items, and not used Keens water shoes that smelled like baby pee, but the idea is the same. I can’t rise above my circumstances when I’m being buried in old ideas and products.
So while I still toy with the idea of owning my own online clothing empire akin to retro Ms. Frizzle dresses, I am going to take a huge leap of faith and construct own my own Andrea empire complete with scripts, books and an private online presence where we can get together and talk about how positive attitude and prayer can transform our lives into what we’ve always wanted them to be but were too afraid to do.
Join Me in a Private Facebook Group!
If talking more personally sounds interesting to you, hit me up on Facebook! I’ll be happy to add you. Find me at the group @HappilyTickedOff (not to be confused with my Facebook Page, HappilyTickedOff.)