God, humor, Jesus, reading, spirituality, taco tuesday, Tics, writing

If I Squeeze Your Taco… I Mean Head… I’m Sorry: Taco Tuesday with Writer, Gwen Vogelzang

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Tonight I had 12 people around my table for tacos: My mother-in-law, my sister-in-law,  her two kids, my two kids, Amelia, her daughter Avi, her baby in-utero, her friend and, of course, our pitbull mix always ready for a handout. (It’s her – and Rex’s – favorite night of the week because it’s the one night there’s meat on the table thanks to Amelia.)

It was my mother-in-law’s birthday so we pulled out all the stops including two dayglo orange and green plastic taco shell holders in the form of trucks. Combined with the mariachi ducks and the sombreros we were a truly a classy joint.

After 2 tacos with 14 fixings, two sets of brownies, a gluten free cake with sprinkle stars and coffee, I was so happy I could have squeezed someone’s head. But I didn’t. Instead I decided to put up tonight’s post, an interview with writer Gwen Vogelzang for her upcoming book, If I Squeeze Your Head, I’m Sorry.

I was honored to be introduced to Gwen through her agent, Stephanie Alton, who asked me to write an endorsement. (Her book deals with a boy who has Tourettes. Turns out that not only do our kids have that in common, but we both have similar journeys of faith, are straight shooters when it comes to transparency with our lives and not afraid to try new adventures. Plus she’s a fan of tacos, so she’s in automatically.)

I love meeting new people like Gwen, but rather than talk about, why don’t I let you read about it!

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Where are you from and where do you live now?

My husband and I recently moved from 18 years in Denver to Grand Rapids, Michigan.

What do you do for a living? 

I own and operate Four Birds {Airstream Gathering Spaces}, where we rent out a vintage Airstream trailer for events and meetings.  We had it gutted and restored and it’s an open space with a mini kitchenette.  Unlike most Airstreams, it’s not used for camping but rather as a boutique venue space where small groups can gather.  We deliver the trailer to locations of our clients’ choice and host creative workshops on our 5 acre property in the Michigan woods.

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I’m also publishing a book with our son, Rylan.  He’s 12 and lives with Autism and Tourette Syndrome.  The book is drawings he created, paired with his descriptions about what it feels like to live in his brain.  It hits shelves this Fall and we couldn’t be more pumped to put his unique, inspiring work into the world and see what God does with it.
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What influenced you to write a book?

 During a semester of homeschooling, Rylan and I were studying what it takes to be an entrepreneur.  We interviewed a local cafe owner we frequented in Denver and she offered Rylan the opportunity to host an art show at her cafe.  We decided, after negating the idea of focusing the show on Pokemon, to use the them of what it feels like to live in his brain.  The work we did together was more valuable in understanding my son and the way he walk this earth than the tens of thousands we spent on therapy over the years.  And the feedback on the show from the public was inspiring and humbling.  After the 10th person told us we should consider turning the art show into a book, we put together a proposal and 8 months later, we had a publishing contract.  We knew how much value a vast array of audiences would benefit from his work and felt obligated to share it.

Have you always wanted to write?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember.  My basement holds boxes full of old journals documenting very dramatic middle school feelings up through journals written during our first years of marriage.  I’ve been blogging for 10 years, which continues to evolve into audiences resonating with stages or our family life.  It’s therapy.  Writing is how I tick and process and form connections.  

What is your marketing strategy and how important is this for writers who are publishing their first books?

This being my first book, it’s a huge learning process, but my 15 year career was in non-profit marketing and public relations which helps tremendously.  I find so much life in searching for creative and bold ways to spread important messages.  We’ve formed a list of influencers who are conencted to autism and tourettes to help us launch the book and will host various events supporting pre and post sales.  We also did a fundraiser to fund a book trailer video to utilize during our launch and developed a fun, engaging website specifically for the book.  Our social media through Instagram and facebook will keep audiences engaged and cause them to love our kiddo as we prepare to launch the book.  Without effective marketing, books are incredibly hard to sell just given how saturated the market it.  It’s a tough gig putting a book into the world. 

What was the most difficult part about writing your book?

The toughest part was definitely making the design and look of the book to match our vision.  It doesn’t always match what the publisher views as the vision, so navigating those waters has been tricky. 

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What was the most fun about writing your book? 

Definitely working with Rylan as he drew and described his experiences.  He would verbalize why he drew what he drew and I typed as he talked.  It was such a collaborative experience and one that was incredibly unique to anything I had experienced as a parent.  It proved to me just how powerful art is in a therapeudic realm for kids of any cognitive or developmental ability. 

How did you go from “ticked off” to “happily” ticked off? (Basically, how did you use any of your challenges to motivate you to move ahead?)

This book has directed me away from the mentality that I need to “change” my kiddo to one of contentment and awe in who he was created to be.  His “challenges” are in fact gifts that I was stifling by trying to alter the way he behaves and reacts to the world around him.  Allowing him to express just how he sees and feels and hears and touches the world brought peace and inspiration in my relationship with him and in my understanding of how to advocate for him.  That doesn’t mean we don’t struggle day to day and have challenges to face, but I see them at face value and don’t assume that they can be fixed.  They just “are.”  And that’s okay.

Give a shout out to a few bloggers or writers who have influenced you the most.

Watching Heather Avis with The Lucky Few advocate and shout the worth of her kiddos is inspiring on so many levels.  Her feeds warm my soul on days when I want to give up.  Her spirit is infectious and vital to our kids with different abilities.  I also admire Sevy Marie and her Mama bear, Lisa Eicher.  Their dedication to finding joy in their daughter’s trauma is incredible.  Another example of the power of art and advocacy through a kiddo’s strengths.  Last, Shelley Moore is a storyteller, inclusive educator, researcher and author who I saw headline an inclusive education conference.  She captivated me at her assumption that ALL children can be included in regular education and the brilliant strategies and coaching she offers educators who need guidance.  

What do you want people to know most about your book? 

12-year-old Rylan thrives and struggles with Autism and Tourette Syndrome. He and his Mama Bird, Gwen, are publishing their first book, set to hit shelves in September, 2019. This one-of-a-kind picture book, “If I Squeeze Your Head I’m Sorry” will uplift, educate, create dialogue, entertain, and allow readers to enter the brain of a child who sees, feels, and understands the world from a remarkably and refreshingly unique perspective. Their work reminds us how important it is to listen to each other in an effort to truly understand and to assume immense value in one another

Send Links and Brag or Forever Hold Your Guacamole

Tell your neighbor, your hairstylist, your teachers, your great Aunt Gerty, Tell ALL your people. This book is an inclusive experience, so get on board Broskis! Pre-orders available soon!  Visit http://www.ifisqueezeyourheadimsorry.com for all the crazy fun details.  Follow us on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/ifisqueezeyourheadimsorry/.  

Does faith play a role in your writing? If so, how?

We believe in an inclusive God.  And that God is the reason this book is about to become a real thing.  Rylan and Jesus are pretty tight – always have been.  Rylan has a lot of questions about God, but in his heart he feels connected to a love not available anywhere else.  Jesus and Rylan knew how important it was to use his words to help create more understanding and conversation around living with special needs and by golly that’s what they’re doing.  I’m the tool making it all happen in the literal sense, but the opportunity came through grace and Jesus.  I’ve tried explaining it other ways, but I fall short every time.  

When we meet in person for tacos, what food item would you bring and why? 

Always guacamole.  Every day guacamole.  Avocado, one lime per avocado and pink sea salt.  

 

Have You Written a Book and Want to Be Featured on Taco Tuesday? Leave a Comment or Just Say Hola to Gwen! Comment and Share

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. )

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

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education, God, Jesus, reading, self improvement, Uncategorized, writing

Writing Conferences: Yes They Are Worth It

I had had the privilege of teaching a tv pilot writing class today at a weekend conference. I got so much more than I gave thanks to all the other workshops I got to attend. Being that I’m at a crossroads in my career, it’s a bit overwhelming to consider “Do I do tv? Movies? Books? And why did I never promote my last book correctly? Is it too late for a relaunch?”

Tonight my roommate, who happens to be an agent, said she would love to see a funny chapter book for kids. I have one half written. How this will fit into me maybe getting a masters and teaching I don’t know, but I do know that God loves me. If I just be willing to trust the right path it will all work out.

Here’s to new beginnings and new friendships, like this one with Zena, an adjunct screenwriter at a college. I am lucky to meet so many beautiful people. Til Sunday, take care!!!!

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education, parenting, reading, spirituality, taco tuesday, teenagers, Uncategorized

Taco Tuesday #1: The Book: Middle School Matters (Author Phyllis L. Fagell, LCPC Talks Writing, Middle School and… Sigh… “Balancing It All”)

Taco Tuesday 1 Phyllis Fagell

Every morning at 5:45 I meditate and pray for 15 minutes with  my husband. We levitate above our bodies and let the world’s sorrows and money woes slip into the ethers all before our Venti triple shot Starbucks hold the sugar Americano . We do a quick spiritual reading and then share about our day. It is an anchoring process that helps us each put what matters most at the beginning of our busy schedules. Being intentional with our priorities is grounding, illuminating, sometimes challenging (when I am hit with revelations about myself I would rather avoid) but always connective.

A theme I find myself circling round a lot is this idea of being present for my teenagers and family while making daily time for my writing pursuits. (Oh yeah, and the work thing! I gotta make a living – enter substitute teaching and freelance articles.) It’s not Rex’s job to fulfill me. It’s mine – not 99% of the time. 100% of the time. This ownership of personal responsibility has led me into a personal strength I didn’t know I had, but at the end of the day, sometimes my purpose still eludes me.

I write this all to say that I know I’m not alone. And while I know that who I am is what is most valuable, I often feel this pull to get more done. Regardless of my insecurities growth challenges, would I want to pass this striving onto my teens who are already in enough angst about surviving school? No. My goal has always been to help them focus on being kind, good and engaged people who are so very worthy. So far so good, minus a few 2 day couch protests over the horror of doing dishes and the Lock-Thyself-in-Thy-Bathroom-for-Holiday-Plans-Not-Working out Incident of 2016.  (Okay, I’m talking about me, not them.)

Yup, it’s often a struggle for me to stay present. Perhaps if a book like Middle School Matters, by Phyliss L. Fagell, LCPC, was around when I was growing up, more educators would have focused on teens being human beings, not human doers. I might have found my artistic passion earlier instead of my penchant toward people pleasing/perfection and having to take every single stray planting pot found on the side of the room home. And while I can’t place blame on anyone else for my own personal wiring, I can every day strive to lay down perfection and encourage both my kids, and myself, to be who they are meant to be, not who they think they are supposed to be.

In this first Taco Tuesday interview of many to come I’m thrilled to give you an interview with someone who wrote a book explaining just how focusing on what matters is possible.

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Taco Tuesday with Phyliss L Fagell, LPCP

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Where are you from and where do you live now?

I’m originally from Newton, Massachusetts and now live in Bethesda, Maryland. 

What do you do for a living?

I’m the counselor at a K-8 school in Washington, DC; a psychotherapist who sees tweens and teens in private practice; and a journalist. I frequently contribute to publications including The Washington Post and Your Teen magazine. I’m also a regular columnist for Kappan and The Association for Middle Level Education magazines.

How has that influenced your decision to write a book?

I started my career as a health and science writer and magazine editor. I went back to school for school counseling after the birth of my second child (I have three kids–two teens and a tween). I took a fourteen-year break from writing, then found myself writing for The Washington Post about counseling issues. My kids were a little older at that point, I had the bandwidth to take on writing assignments, and stuff was getting me fired up–things such as gender stereotypes, myths about middle schoolers, breakdowns in parent-teen communication, unhealthy perfectionism and achievement pressure, and stigma around mental health issues. The book is a natural extension of my freelance work and a way of compiling all my thoughts on middle school in one place.

Have you always wanted to write?

I wrote my first article for The Boston Globe when I was 14, about the Doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction (!), but I wrote my first creative “book” in second grade. I stumbled upon it the last time I was in my childhood bedroom, and it’s a very clear rip-off of The Velveteen Rabbit.Plagiarism notwithstanding, I remember how much I loved writing, illustrating and binding that book. I was seven at the time, and it’s probably when I first realized I wanted to be a writer. I was an English literature and creative writing major in college, then got my master’s in journalism, so if anything, it’s surprising to me that I switched to counseling and stopped writing for so long. It’s all come together nicely in a way I never anticipated.

What is your marketing strategy and how important is this for writers who are publishing their first books?

I’m learning as I go, especially as a first-time author. Many writers, myself included, are more comfortable with the writing part than the publicity part. I’ve had to remind myself repeatedly that this is about sharing ideas, not about having a big ego. I think women in particular are uncomfortable with self-promotion and have a tough time taking ownership of their work. I’ve been lucky in that a lot of other writers– both men and women– have been incredibly supportive and have given me great advice. But mostly I leave the strategizing to the publicists. I know my strengths, and that isn’t one of them!

What was the most difficult part about writing your book?

I struggled the most with work-life balance. I work full time and then some, and as I mentioned, I have three kids. I had to let a lot of stuff go in order to meet my book deadline. After I finished the first draft, I realized I hadn’t opened any mail in months. I also picked up a LOT of Chipotle along the way. My kids probably never want to see another burrito. Fortunately, my husband appreciated what I was trying to accomplish and really kept all the balls in the air. I’m glad I didn’t know what I was getting into before I started, as I might have had second thoughts!

What was the most fun about writing your book?

I loved, loved, loved talking to experts across the world in industries ranging from technology to maker learning to education to psychology and medicine. There’s nothing like talking to people who are most enthusiastic and knowledgeable about whatever subject you’re covering, whether it’s learning or resiliency or teaching tweens about sexuality. I enjoyed nerding out and learning from the best, most passionate people. Writing can be lonely, but pulling this book together was not a solitary pursuit. I made real connections with individuals who share my obsession with everything middle school-related.

How did you go from “ticked off” to “happily” ticked off? (Basically, how did you use any of your challenges to motivate you to move ahead?)

That’s a great question — one that no one has asked me before! I definitely was agitated prior to writing this book. I wanted to write something preventative, something that would get all of us — kids and adults alike — back on track and focused on the right priorities. College isn’t the end goal, and achievement shouldn’t trump kindness. I also wanted to provide both educators and parents with some concrete, evidence-based strategies. Basically, I saw a giant unmet need and felt we were missing out on this prime opportunity to raise good people. Middle school is probably the most neglected and most critical developmental phase. I’m hopeful that the tide is shifting. As for the “happily ticked off” part of your question, writing this book has been an empowering experience. There’s nothing like amassing and sharing a book’s worth of tips with readers.

Give a shout out to a few bloggers or writers who have influenced you the most.

This could be a long list! Jess Lahey, Michelle Borba, Rachel Simmons, Andrew Reiner, Ken Ginsburg, Katie Hurley, Amy Morin, Adam Grant, Susan Cain, Brene Brown, Claire Shipman, Josh Starr, Richard Weissbourd, Amy Joyce, Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Mary Alvord, and Amy Cuddy, to name a few!

What do you want people to know most about your book? 

I’m proud that Middle School Matters just got a starred review from Booklist! To be honest, I’m not sure if I’m more thrilled or relieved. It’s the first official review, and being a first-time author is nerve-wracking. The book is really a guide to everything that could happen during the phase, and also a road map for raising a decent, self-aware, accepting, confident, inclusive, capable, resourceful, and ethical human being. It’s a mix of stories, articles from the news, conversation starters, concrete tips, my own perspective, advice from experts and current research. It’s available for pre-order here: https://www.amazon.com/Middle-School-Matters-Beyond-Parents/dp/0738235083. I also have a professional website where you can find my articles:www.phyllisfagell.com. I tweet frequently about related issues at @pfagell as well.

Questions for Phyllis?

Leave a comment if you any questions and consider purchasing her book if you’ve got kids or grandkids entering this period. I know I could have used all the help I could get.

Until next time, let’s all try to remember that relationship is so much more important than being right.

And always eat tacos.

They really do make ya feel better.

Andrea

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

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Coaching and Wellness, education, faith, God, Jesus, reading, self improvement, spirituality, Uncategorized

What Is Your Brand?

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LA at Waking Up on the Wrong Side of 50 wrote a post the other day that caught my attention. It was called “What’s Your Brand?” Like a lot of LA’s posts, she got me thinking about this. And, because I had already been thinking about it which makes me quite the narcissist I took it as a nudge from God that it’s something I need to pay attention to.

And, so, I did.

I had a good conversation with myself. Some might call this being psychotic. I call it having a rational conversation with my brain and my soul.

Brain: Andrea, why are you writing this blog?

Soul: It makes me happy. It helps me figure stuff out.

Brain: No one wants to hear your whining. Use a journal for that. (My brain can be a real bitch. If you’ve read my book, I once referred to her as Rhonda – named for a blacktop bully from my Catholic grade school days.)

Soul: People can connect with my dysfunction wisdom.

Brain: But what is your brand? Are you a book writer? A script writer? A poem collection writer? An influencer? A faith writer? A “whatever you feel like writing/how many cups of coffee did you drink to influence your manic thought process” type of writer?

Soul: I am all of those things. How can I pick?

The conversation in my noggin took a different turn when I realized that LA was not really talking about her brand for writing so much as her life. (Or at least that’s the idea I took away.)

Brain: Pay attention more!

Soul: Shut the beeexxxp up. Nice observation! I will! But right now, I don’t want to talk about fitting into perfect molds.

LesleyKluchin, a blogger I found through LA, wrote a pretty decent response to LA’s branding question. She basically said it’s IMPOSSIBLE to choose just a few things about  oneself. We are all many things at once. This made sense to me on a personal level so I decided to play along.

Who Am I?

I am:

  • A lover of books
  • An avid thrift store shopper
  • A lover of coffee1.jpg (I took myself to lunch at a beautiful restaurant Friday called LadyFace. sssThis coffee, along with the veggie burger, fries and beautiful breeze with a view of the canyon almost made working as a substitute teacher worth it. Okay, it did. I’m grateful to this small act of self care which started me off on a great weekend.sss                             It also leads me to my next branding point. I am…)
  • Someone who demands to live in gratitude
  • A lover of faith (Oh my God, my new church. I just love it. Today someone gave me an outfit just because she thought I’d look nice in it. sss-5.jpgI am getting involved in a Mom’s Against Gun Violence group there. There are all sorts of people from all walks of life who are open, kind and willing to share their stories. It’s like AA for Jesus. I’m beyond grateful for the ability to lean into God like a pair of comfy shoes – in my own way, with ease and gentleness.)
  • Someone who digs a good conversation about, well, pretty much anything (“Oh, you’re a lesbian wood cutter in Germany? I love women, I love trees and I’m learning German on DuoLingo. Hooray for the fraus!”)
  • A fan of snacks at Costco and samples of coffee at Trader Joes
  • Obsessed with musicals (Yes, I did take my kids to see Les Miserables on Saturday. And no, it was not life changing for them. But I don’t care. Yes, I did “Hear the People Sing” and I was overjoyed, even though 80% of the cast was dead by the end of Act 2.)
  • A giddy Christmas caroler/tree trimmer/cookie making have everyone over and celebrate kind of person
  • A lover of Taco Tuesday
  • Someone who writes every day because it makes my heart happy
  • An overthinker avid thinker
  • A good friend
  • A lover of animals with very good boundaries. Ahem.4
  • A huge believer in education
  • A fan of creativity, poems and the obscure
  • Someone who is writing a musical about camels
  • Passionate about transforming from one way of living to another by staying humble, open to change and willing to lay down my guns – such as my marriage to this guy
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  • Earnest
  • Hard working
  • Honest
  • Someone who loves progress over perfection – like this office! Look how pretty it looks!6.jpg
  • …and someone who can rap off the top of my head to pretty much any subject

My Blog

While all those things above are true, I did use LA’s branding question to think about my blog here. I thought about how I was writing every day for a while, and that served me to get my writing started, but it became clear that the time spent on this site could be spent finishing up my pilot. So, for the past two weeks, that’s what I did and… it’s done! I turned in! And I’m so proud of the way it turned out! (Lots of exclamations! If you’re a praying type, please pray that the producer thinks so, also, and can sell it.)

And that last bit – the tv writing and my dream to get back into that field – it was just one more reason to think about what direction I want to take with this blog. I’ve read enough of Cristian Mihai to know that what we focus on we grow. Why shouldn’t that be my true passion? I mean, what am I waiting for?

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So this gentle nudging, along with Saint Anne Lamott, forced me to dig a bit deeper and think about “Do I want to make a living writing or do I not?” And since the answer is an emphatic “I Do” (yup, I’m committed for life) then I need to make a commitment. Like a marriage, it works out better when you date, and so here’s my game plan for summer.

Summer Plans

  • Write this blog 2 days/week (Sundays will be like this one – more open ended and whimsical –  and Wednesdays will be guest posts)
  • 5 days/week: Tweet/Facebook my blog in case I decide to write a book. You know, be smart! Get an audience! (God, that sounds so clinical and premeditated. Not very organic. But it’s a good business move and unless I want to substitute teach forever, it’s just smart. I’m worth it and so is any writer who wants to sell a book.)
  • 5 days/week: Read other people’s blogs and get new perspectives on life! Keep reading books.
  • Summer: Finish my writing portfolio site http://www.andreafrazerwrites.com. I have written over 3000 articles in my past. Why not start freelance writing again while I wait for my scripts to sell? (Unless I want to substitute teach forever which, as said before, I DO NOT)
  • 5 days/week: Take one hour and pitch article ideas to magazines
  • 5 days/week: Take one hour and finish up new writing projects
  • Take one whole day each month to work on your camel musical (more to come on this. I’m not normal.)

The above disciplines will take me about 3 hours/day. This is perfect work in between hauling both kids back and forth to their respective summer schools. It will take follow through and discipline, but anything work having does. But worse than that is wishing I could have written and did not.

This Time Next Year

If nothing, and I mean nothing, goes my way writing (and I think that will be impossible if I do as I say) then I will get my Masters and teach, writing books during the summer.

So that’s my plan.

What is your plan? What scares you the most but is something you want so bad you can spit? Are you willing to set aside time to make it happen? And what’s your brand – personally and with your blogs?

Let me know in a comment! 

(Meanwhile, I can’t wait to catch up on your blogs. Talk at ya Wednesday!)

Happily Ticked Off Tip #54:  Decide what your brand is for your life and your blog and make a promise to yourself that you will get ‘er done. (No one will do it for you. Which is a good thing. You know, that whole pride of ownership thing. Think about how proud you will be of yourself in one year when you DID IT!)

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

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

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faith, reading, Uncategorized

How to Read 5 Books in 4 Weeks in Ten Minutes/Day (Hint: You Gotta Think SMART)

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Most of you know I’m a sub. And ya’ll might think subs are just in it for the glory and fame. The feeling we get when we are pounded 100 times in less than five minutes with questions like “Where’s our real teacher?” and “You don’t have a credential, do you?” and “We don’t have to sit where you want us to sit because you don’t know what you’re doing anyway.” It’s really fun.

All the perks aside, I didn’t get sober a while back to freeload off the education system. And so, while I far from teach them how to dissect War and Peace and form it into a Haiku, I do attempt to help them to think differently.

Because Yeah, I Care So I Do This

At the beginning of every class I give a short life lesson. It’s the one time of day I insist they put down their phones and don’t talk. (Note: It’s not that I think being on the phone during the movie we are watching is an amazing use of their time, but I’m realistic. I’m a long term sub the last month of their senior year. If they choose to “sneak” behind my back and text friends ideas for their ideal promposal rather than be illuminated by Adrian Broady’s incredible performance in The Pianist, it’s up to them.)

Similar to the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, another movie we are finishing up this week, I can either freak out about what I can’t control and spray the problem kids with Windex, or I can be like Ian Miller’s character: Chill, go with the flow, change what I can and ignore the rest. (Ah, Ian Miller…. Played by the handsome, rugged and oh so sexy John Corbett who I did not just announce here on the blog is actually in the running for world’s hunkiest man right up there with Rex. No, I did not. Oh, and I did I just use the word “hunky?” Yes, this 1970’s child certainly did. Along with my penchant for flared jeans and the word “groovy” I am not ashamed.)

Inspired by Kelly Corrigan’s father in The Middle Place, I enthusiastically tell each class what I tell myself when I wake up every day. Picture a big smile on my six foot frame, likely surrounded in polka dots, shouting: “This is going to be a GREAT day!” I remind them that I no longer wait for circumstances to dictate my mood. So now I’ll tell you that also. I mean, if I look hard enough (especially the last few months) I’ll find plenty to complain about. Sure, my ship might go off course a bit even under the best circumstances with my emotional rudder, but if I don’t set my sails right at the beginning of my daily voyage I won’t just veer off course, I’ll go to another destination all together. If you catch me on a day with little food or sleep, I might drown.

In relaying this to my kids yesterday, I realized that I should also model for them what new thought looks like. And what better way to do this than with a book? And right on the spot this idea was born: Read out loud 10 minutes before the film starts. And… since I have five classes…. I can read five books! That means by June I’ll have read stuff I might not have time to read after class.

As I mentioned a few days back, I’m already reading The Great Gatsby at home. And I have decided to read Tales of the City to Period 2 and The Alchemist to Period 3. That leaves 3 other books I could use suggestions on. Thoughts? (I have already read Tales of the City but that’s it. I’d love to read 4 that are new to me.)

Leave a Comment

Okay, I’m ready for book suggestions for 18 year olds! Go!

Happily Ticked Off Tip #51:  Reading 10 minutes 5 times/day can grant you 5 books in a month! It’s worth taking the time!

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

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faith, reading, self improvement, Uncategorized, writing

Daily Magic

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I recently picked up The Great Gatsby. It was sitting in a pile of free books at my daughter’s summer school location and it was begging me to read it.

“I’ll read it also!” my daughter said.

I jumped at the offer. The past few years I’ve only read books she has recommended to me. Wonder. The Fault In My Stars. Holes. I see dozens of books scattered in her room that I’ve not been privy to. The Book Thief. Night. And so many more.

She’s almost 15 now. I’ll admit to being more than a tad jealous of her secret world that she lives in her books. That world used to be through me.

Some of my favorite memories were reading to her out loud. When she was five I read her the original Secret Garden. I can still remember cuddling on my bed with her – those long languid days before I had to scoot out the door for work and time wasn’t such a rare commodity. Lazy moments seemed to grow like those flowers up the garden wall… slow and relaxed. Why rush? Why not bloom in our own sweet time?

That same theme of quiet, languid living is now coming alive to me as I read The Great Gatsby again. It’s been thirty years and I had forgotten about that beautiful house… the white dresses and fluttering curtains. I had not remembered about the racism and the affairs. The anger and the snobbery. And the dump near the train tracks… oy, vey, the dust!

Despite not remembering the details of this book, the themes and tone of it, and so many others, are buried deep in my subconscious, because there’s a familiarity when I enter a new location that comes from a knowing deep in my gut: “I get this person,” I think. Or, “I’ve been in this old town before… at some point.” This knowledge keeps me feeling connected always.

And that’s when it hit me this weekend, while walking on the beach with my husband, that reading to my kids when they were younger was the same thing as giving them a positive mindset. If we are literally what we think, then filling their brains with as much literature as possible at a young age made so much sense. Their world couldn’t help but be richer and fuller and full of sneaky hidden passages. It’s not the school that made all the difference in the end. It was the adventures in their brains.

As humans, it’s so natural to compare ourselves to where we are at any given moment. But if where we are is building a giant tree house to a new land or forging our ways through wilderness in covered wagons with Pa and Ma, than what some dorky five year old says to us about our thrift store skirt really has very little significance.

Maybe for some of you this idea is obvious. But to me, it really came out of the blue and I am feeling so much gratitude: for books, for adventures, for education and Jane Eyre which, hooray to this last statement, my daughter is allowing me to read to her out loud this summer! In between the summer schools and the dishes, and the commuting and the braces, we will sit side by side and enter Jane’s world. We will talk about spirituality and class conflict, relationships and abuse, mansions and horses.

And mostly I will be grateful for Jane. Because she, like so many other characters, have helped my daughter focus on the things of life that matter most. And it’s not her looks or her money or her job. It’s her very spirit, bursting within her, reminding her that she is, indeed enough.

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Happily Ticked Off Tip #50:  Reading is an adventure into a world that keeps you from worrying too much about the crud in your own world that doesn’t matter. It’s a portal into bliss, confidence and courage.

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

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