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

Why Putting Off Your Dream Is a Terrible, Furry, Hellacious Mistake (And that lie we all believe about working a “real job”)

(Also published on Medium.com)

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

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.

Photo by Ian Dooley at Unsplash

“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. )

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

I Said No and My Potentially Crappy Day is Now a Giant Hellllll Yes (And more on how trusting God is everything or He is nothing)

https://unsplash.com/@vidarnm

This post is dedicated to Tessa who left me such a sweet comment on my last post. Made my day. Thank you, darlin’.

Two days ago I had one of the worst substitute teaching experiences of my life.

I was told by my sponsor, “You don’t trust God. In fact, based on how you keep walking in the opposite direction of your gifting I believe the real truth is ‘You Hate God.'”

If I didn’t feel terrible before I called her I did when I hung up.

I didn’t feel much better the next morning as I swirled in shame for canceling a sub assignment I had previously accepted. (Truth bomb: I’m way less driven by my emotions now that I’m sober, but I have not yet reached enlightenment.)

Instead of taking contrary action and help other people to take the focus off myself (as we program people are encouraged to do because it works) I moaned to Tuskany about my horrific road blocks. I complained about how I couldn’t sleep the previous night due to my rapid heart beats of fear and trying to figure it all out. I complained about how I’m terrified of being at odds with Rex about finances, that I think maybe having a birthday party is a terrible idea and that perhaps I’m never going to find my purpose in life after all other than to find a magic genie at one of my thrift stores who agrees the only thing I need to do to be happy is drink coffee, inhale carbs and watch the final season of Glee.

Sorry you all missed the Pity Party. I’ll send you an advanced invitation for next one.

But that fiesta won’t be today because… the rest of my day turned out to be Duckin’ Awesome!

https://unsplash.com/@leorivas

Why the quick emotional turn around? Well, it’s pretty simple. I trusted God. I decided I didn’t need to do everything perfectly. I didn’t need to decide that yesterday was the day to go into a downward-spiraled depression over my floors that need re-varnishing, my walls that need repainting or the lack of funds in my account for Disney passes and a trip with my kids to this super cool Finland hotel that would make Elsa weep with jealousy.

Image of The Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Saariselkä, Finland taken from
https://worldinsidepictures.com/8-spectacular-ice-hotels-around-the-world-that-you-must-visit/

I could ask God to remove my fear of not being a good enough parent, a good enough daughter, a good enough worker and a good enough friend.

I could trust that God has me subbing because I’m growing my soul right now, if not my bank account, but that I don’t have to do it every single day anymore.

I could trust that in turning down a 20-day guaranteed assignment in an emotionally disturbed classroom might cost me $1000 (to cover my kids’ driving lessons) but there is no hourly rate on my own personal mental health.

With all this ridiculous amount of surrender and trust out the way (I’m super greedy with God’s love) I was able to BE loved rather than BE God (as I’m wont to do) and things just lit up like a slot machine for the rest of the day. I mean, God really showed off.

With that psycho-analysis/dark night of the soul/mental loop to loop THANK GOD I LANDED IN PEACE epiphany out of the way I was able to write. I could trust that God did not give me all sorts of words and ideas only to say, “Just kidding. Go and be miserable at a sub job for the rest of your existence.”

For me, after almost 24 hours of hell, that was exciting news! And it still feels amazing.

And… here’s best part of my current pink cloud awakening – and the reason for this post: When I woke up at 530am to the sound of the school system calling me for a job, I was able to listen with confidence in my heart, not pounding fear, thanks to this news.

When I heard they wanted me to teach music in a prison like middle school where the kids ditch my classroom would rather play their phones than a tuba, I did something I’ve never done before.

I said “No.”

God is everything or he is nothing.

I put my head back on the pillow with confidence that something better would come along.

Five minutes later I got a call to teach a super chill high school. “Yes Please!” I drove to work with joy – yes, joy – and even got a great space in the parking lot.

Similar to my experience at this school last week, I have done very little teaching. All classes have either been taught by other math teachers (and let’s get real, I wouldn’t know the quadratic formula if it pinched my white butt on Main Street) or they have been populated with only 7 students. My last period of the day? I’ll have 5.

I trusted God and I got rewarded. I’m starting to get this.

God is everything or he is nothing.

In closing, I chose the picture at the top of this post because I often feel like that house: I like adventure, but I want to stay warm and cozy on the inside. I want to dream my own dreams while people braver than me go out into the cold winter air and fight wolves.

But right before posting this blog a friend from the program wrote me. And, similar to my serendipities of late, her message had a different spin.

The Spiritual Takeaway?

When we can trust ourselves, and set boundaries (though difficult at first) we can experience so much more excitement than just playing it safe. And readers, we can do this with the God of our understanding.

God is everything or he is nothing.

And One More Takeaway for Good Measure

Even the nicest high school students don’t say “thank you” when they leave your classroom. They also think it’s okay to leave free cafeteria food on their desks and check their phones rather than do their math work. As a teacher, this must be frustrating. But for this writer, who is also a sub so IT’S NOT MY PROBLEM I’m learning that acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.

Throw in saying “No” to crap sub jobs and thermos of hot dark decaf and you can have yourself a pretty damn good day.

Happy weekend! I’ve sooooo enjoyed many of your blogs – old friends and new ones – and I’ll catch up with you Monday.

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

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

Where Are You, God? It’s Me, Andrea

I love our church hospitality, in particular the coffee urinals!

I sat down to write a post about Magic Church today, only to find that there was an active shooter at a garlic festival not terribly far from me in Gilroy.

Really? Is this what we have come to? Slaying people at forums whose sole purpose is to eat stinky veggies and forget worries for at least one day?

I know that violence has been going on forever in so many communities. I know that guns and crime and poverty isn’t new. But what IS newer and newer is lack of community. We spend more time on phones than with real people. It’s easy to be up on the latest trends but not notice that people are slipping away from us slowly from lack of contact with others.

I suppose this lack of connection that I sometimes feel in my own life makes me enjoy Magic Church even more than someone who has a big extended family in and out of their life on a daily basis. I can’t get enough of the rag tag worship team, the bell choir in their white gloves ringing in a new holiday or a modern hymn, or today’s post-church luau.

I don’t understand the world lately, but I do know one thing: When we lose our connection to people – even the ones that bother us down to our core – we lose humanity. And when that happens, we get the idea that maybe taking a machine gun and killing innocent people is a better idea than facing our own wounds and healing.

I beg of all of you, this Sunday night, to consider talking to someone in the grocery store. Offer a kind word to your neighbor – even the one that chats too much or uses you for too much flour. Call your mother tomorrow (Yes, Mom, I’ll call you) and stop worrying about shit that doesn’t matter. It’s the shit in our lives that DO matter. Find a community you can heal in.

And if nothing else, you heard it from me: You are loved. You are valuable. You are going to be okay. You are worth a banquet of nurturing. Yup, even the good glasses!

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You can also like my page, Happily Ticked Off, or join my female only closed Facebook Group, Happily Ticked Off, where we trudge toward happiness one step at a time (focusing on solution, humor and God.)

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.

faith, God, humor, Jesus, spirituality, writing

Camp Honesty

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.)

Also stay tuned: I do have a few very nice items that I’m going to run a giveaway at my Happily Ticked Off Facebook group on.

Leave a Comment and Join Me on Facebook! (It’ll be fun to get to you know on a more personal, private forum!)

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.

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

sss

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!

taco tuesday 2 gwen vogelzang

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.

taco tuesday 4 gwen vogelzang

taco tuesday 3 gwen vogelzang
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.
taco tuesday2 gwen vogelzang

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. 

taco tuesday 2 gwen volgelzang

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.

books

education, faith, God, Jesus, spirituality, Uncategorized, writing

We’re All Seeds in God’s Hands

sss

It’s Sunday. A beautiful Sunday after a long 3 day conference in Fullerton teaching “How to Write the TV Pilot” to a huge group of students who flew in from all over the country.

Okay, I had 3 people attend my class, and I’m pretty sure one of them was another instructor.

That’s okay. After teaching on Thursday I spent the other 3 days attending more than 6 screenwriting and book marketing classes, as well as had the opportunity to sit face to face with a few interesting people in the Hollywood and publishing business.

A lot has changed since I went to this conference two years ago. For one, I know that I can’t just publish a book and expect it to sell. (Durrrr) There’s a real business to it. I completely encourage anyone who wants to publish books to attend a conference and immerse yourself in the knowledge. It’s a bit like drinking from a fire hose, but it’s well worth it.

Another thing I learned is that no one, and I mean no one, makes me nervous anymore. I felt completely comfortable chatting it up with people like Pam Farell who has sold thousands of books. (I believe she’s written 44 in total – don’t quote me.) I laughed my butt off with someone whose sole job is writing both her own romance series as well as ghost writing for Harlequin. (I believe she has written 114 books since 1999. That’s a lot of books.) I roomed with respected agent Stephanie Alton, ate salad next to a Hallmark Christmas movie writer and even landed a potential freelance job writing some church shorts for a woman who is head writer for a company in Oklahoma.

I tell you all this because the older I get, the more I realize that we’re all just people. And, at conferences like this, the connections you make over a meal and hanging out in the dorm rooms are often more fruitful than those you’ll ever make pushing your way into a meeting through manic emails and forced networking.

What Matters Most

I loved being there, but I also felt torn. Over a phone conversation with my mom, I told her that I miss sometimes just “being.” There’s been a lot of production in my life lately, but there’s also been a lot of striving. It can be hard to tell when my ego is at work and when I just need to push through to use the gifts God gave me. At the end of the day, I only know this: if me “making it” in any career means losing the ability remain present with those that matter most, it’s not worth it. As a production exec at Marvel asked us, “What is success to you? When you can answer that question, you’ll know what your path is.”

As for me… sitting in church surrounded by friends and a hearing a member of our congregation strum to his guitar and sing, I was once again reminded that “We are all seeds in God’s hands.” Whether I grow to be a beautiful rose or a tiny petal is not really the point. All are valuable. And when I remember to stop and smell the beautiful flowers in my life – my precious children, mom, friends and every one in between – being a prized bloom in someone else’s eyes doesn’t really matter much. What matters is if I’m using my colors to serve others. If I do, that’s a hell of a good garden.

I’m not sure if it’s a good or a bad sign that the geraniums on my front porch are currently almost dead, but I sat in front of them with my husband and daughter tonight. We ate homemade pizza and felt the breeze on our faces. (My son played computer games. I think I deserve an award for just letting go and not micromanaging this! Or I’m a crap mom who allows indulgence. I like the first so let’s go with that.) For the first time this week I didn’t think about my career path or my bank account. I enjoyed the moment and was grateful that, for the time being anyway, I knew I was in God’s hands.

Until we talk tomorrow, I hope you remember how loved you are also.

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. 

books

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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faith, God, parenting, self improvement, spirituality, Uncategorized, writing

Ping Pong Blogging: Trying A New Schedule (Again.)

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One night a few weeks back my son came pounding on my office door. “Mom, we MUST go on a walk NOW!”

He’s 16. He spends most of his time in his bedroom on the computer coding games or playing video games. He’s a good 4 inches taller than me and the days of sitting around the table every night eating off Scooby plastic plates and toasting apple juice are long behind me. When he offers a jaunt through our ‘hood, I drop everything with a resounding, “Okay!”

The purpose of the walk was an amazing treasure. A gorgeous ping pong table that just happened to be left on the curb.

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Just kidding.

It was a lopsided/rain corroded/missing a net/spider webbed/OH MY GOD IT WOULD KILL A SMALL CHILD OR CHIHUAHUA ping pong table.

So I put my foot down. “Absolutely not!”

Just kidding. I said, “Sure! Let’s take it!”

But then we got it home. And it sat on our lawn for a few days. Our front lawn. We already live next to a house with a missing chimney. Our grass is less than green. #redneckwriter. And so we had a few choices:

  1. Ask Rex to fix it on top of his demanding job schedule, our weekly communication class, painting in the bathroom (which will, for the record, be robins egg blue with rain gutters to hold Stink’s 200 rubber duck collection #classy) new roof paint for my SUV and helping move the rest Grandma Stella’s loot from her mobile home.
  2. Fix it ourselves. You know, get all crafty with all my wonderful Pinterest talent. We could bond at Home Depot over green paint! We could use the time in the car to listen to his techno music and my penchant for Billy Joel.
  3. Reality. (Door #3 is so boring. Living with magical thinking is so much more delightful.)

Guess what Door we chose! Yup, it’s now on our curb for the next bleeding heart who wants to give it a good home.

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My Blogging Goals – Like Ping Pong!

My writing goals for this site aren’t that different than ping pong. Just a few days ago I proclaimed that I’m only going to write here on Sundays and Wednesdays. Earlier in the year it was every day.

Here’s what I know about my back and forth and what I’d tell my own kids when they are learning something new: Sometimes it takes a bit of throwing the ball of your goal back and forth across your net of learning. Sometimes you have a groove, sometimes the ball gets lost. But just keep staying in the game. If it’s a game just for fun, just play for fun! But if you want to learn and get good, have a goal and stick to it.

For me, it’s both. I just can’t not write. But, as said earlier, I want to get back into making money with my talent again. That’s the goal. And so, a bit of enjoyment and discipline required. With that in mind, here’s the new game of blogging pong I aim to stick with for a month. And if it doesn’t work, I’ll readjust my strategy again. (You know what? We women can change our minds. It’s perfectly fine.)

Motivation Monday. I’ll talk goals and plans for my life and hopefully I can learn from you also!

Taco Tuesday: Taco Tuesday Guest Posts. Yup, I aim to have a new guest each Tuesday either at my real table for tacos or here on this blog.

Writing Wednesday: I will be showing a portion of my published book or my upcoming books in the making and would love to see yours.

Free Friday: Like this post, I will talk about what I want!

Shameless Saturday: This is where I brag about something that turned out pretty good for me. (I got something to tell you! Come back tomorrow) Plus I want to hear about your bragging, too. It’s so important to celebrate the wins!

Sunday: Posts about faith. I love my faith. I can’t not talk about it. One of my next books deals with this from the perspective of an 8 year old little girl who lives with her mom and grandma in a mobile home that smells like lavender and mothballs. Her name is Ray McRubble but everyone calls her Ray McTrouble because, well, she just can’t seem to keep her mouth shut.

All my other Twittering and reading of others work Monday – Friday will remain the same.

Why Am I Telling You This?

Because perhaps you, like me, want to do something other than what you are doing. And how do you do it? You get smarter and a bit more disciplined. And you write.

Oh, I also applied for a job at Goop recently as a content writer. I think I’d be pretty amazing and Gwyneth Paltrow would make a great guest at my table on Taco Tuesdays. (But second only to you, Irish Mama! So glad you stopped by with your beautiful family!) Re: getting an interview, fingers crossed, prayers lifted and if not, I’ll sub in the Fall as planned and write from my beautiful new office. I gave it my best shot. It’s a win-win!

Happily Ticked Off Tip #55:  Having a goal isn’t that different than a game of ping pong. Sometimes you have to go back and forth a bit before you find your groove. Just don’t lose the ball and give up. Because then you can’t play. #bummer

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. 

books

 

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. 

books

 

 

faith, God, Jesus, parenting, spirituality, Uncategorized, writing

When You Know Someone’s Story Things Change

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In December I switched from an Evangelical church to an open and affirming congregation that allows me to address doubts and concerns I’ve had for many many years.

It wasn’t an easy transition for me. I came from a background where everything I was supposed to believe was rolled out like a red carpet for me. I only needed to dance.

I’m an awkward dancer. I’m six foot tall and my husband isn’t a party guy. I’d often find myself alone on the carpet trying to figure out the beat of the songs. When the kids came along, we’d ring-around-the-rosy every Sunday and be appeased with doughnuts and life groups, but in the end, I felt exhausted from my shimmying to something that I thought I was supposed to get but just didn’t.

When I started opening my mouth about my questions, I was shocked to find many people on the carpet had the same ones as I did, but they chose to accept what worked and moved on. I have zero disrespect for these people, it’s just not me. I am not one to go with the flow if I’m not comfortable. I had to, in the end, quietly leave. Much to my inner narcissist’s surprise, there was no banner shouting “Andrea has left the building!” Nope, not even a phone call or an email. I was either that much of a disappointment or not important enough. Either way, it was an immense relief. (If not a bit terrifying. Now what?)

My New Building

No one was more shocked than I was to find that at my new tiny church God showed up even more strongly than he had before. I felt a sense of peace and belonging I had not felt in years. It’s a place where, in true Rachel Held Evan’s style, we all are called to the communion table. We don’t have an agenda to push. We have only God’s love and grace to receive.

rachel

This kind of message seems radical and hippy dippy to many more conservative folk. But to me, it reminds me of Jesus: a rebellious conviction to love everyone. (Unfortunately this kind of acceptance got him killed. But I get it. He was no longer able to live with the hypocrites. And that goes for me being able to live with my dual personality of wanting to fit a mold I just wasn’t cut out for.)

Getting clean with who I was felt so refreshing. But I had been warned about this kind of serenity before from my more conservative church: “It’s the devil.” And yet, having done an immense amount of spiritual work through 12 step, I knew this simply wasn’t true. In my 12 step, it is crystal clear that to not live a life of honesty and integrity is to drink, and to drink for many is to die. I was not willing to die in body or spirit. Instead, I chose surrender.

The Power of Surrender

I could go on and on about the power of surrender and what that means to an over-thinker like myself, but in a nutshell it means: I am not God, neither are you, how about we just lay down or guns and admit we don’t know everything? How about we let go and trust that each person has a God of their understanding to guide them to make decisions for themselves?

For me that is Jesus. But until he shows up at my door with a cappuccino and a doughnut, I’m not willing to tell all my other friends of faith that they are 100% wrong in who their higher power is and aren’t going to heaven “until they know the truth.” The path to destruction might be wide, and the road to salvation might be narrow, but that simply cannot be true of our hearts. Hell is happening NOW, with our minds too narrow and our compassion not wide enough. People are dying. People aren’t getting the healthcare they need. People are being sent to prison for making heart wrenching decisions for their children.

Surrender also means listening. In joining a new church, I asked question after question of my gay pastor. “How do you reconcile your sexuality with the Bible? How do you keep from creating a God of your own understanding?” These open questions and resulting communication was both scary and transforming. But in the mystery, like driving through fog, light came at the other side. In being patient in the dark, I felt more of God’s all encompassing love than I ever felt listening to straight up theology.

It also meant asking my friends about their feelings on abortion. I heard story after story about why they did, or did not, choose to terminate a pregnancy. Instead of feeling judgment or elation, I was led right back to surrender. And in doing so, I was overwhelmed again and again with the idea of dignity: That a woman must decide for herself what she can or cannot live with. That her life, and others’ lives, are as valuable as the one in their womb. And as painful as that is for me to admit to my inner evangelical, it’s what I believe now to be true. No one – especially a rich white man – gets to decide this.

I am not writing this to convince you on what you should or should not do with your life and your votes, especially if you disagree with me. But I am writing to you to consider asking yourself the very tough questions that I began asking myself a few years ago:

  • If your child came to you and told you he or she was gay, would you pound them with theology and Bible verses or would you wrap them in your arms and tell them you love them?
  • Do you really believe that everything written in that Bible is 100% without error? Because if you do, you have a lot of explaining to do. And if that explaining makes sense to you only from a place where, in our society today, straight white people win, would you consider that maybe, just maybe, it’s possible you are wanting to interpret something that best fits your view of the world versus real people with real struggles and needs?
  • Do you truly think that God stopped talking 2000 years ago when the Bible was shut and that we can’t possibly see God in people and situations outside the book of Revelation?
  • If your 16-year-old daughter comes to you pregnant, are you willing to tell her that she must have this child or face prison time?

None of these questions are comfortable, but they are real. Is our God big enough to handle them and have us talk to others with dignity and respect? Mine is. And for that I’m so grateful.

Conversations

I am being clear with you all because, like my decision to leave a conservative church, I can’t live with pretending to be someone I’m not. While on one hand I can’t stand what the internet has done to our culture (the polarization, the vamping, the lurking) I also am in acceptance of the fact that it’s not going away anytime soon. And so, with that in mind, I felt it important to be have my virtual life match up with my human life. Unlike the Andrea of old, who might have done this out of defense or wanting to fit in, the Andrea of now is doing it from a place of transparency and truth. Right or wrong, this is who I am. Maybe you are in a place I was and need to know that someone else is out there.

Consider this your virtual red carpet to dance in the unknown. To rub shoulders with other people and ask about their stories. To make decisions based on real human beings with hearts, not just theology, and begin to trust your journey.

Services at my new church start at 10. Perhaps you’ll join me at the table.

The Table reminds us that, as brothers and sisters adopted into God’s family and invited to God’s banquet, we’re stuck with each other; we’re family. We might as well make peace. The Table teaches us that, ultimately, faith isn’t about being right or good or in agreement. Faith is about feeding and being fed. – Rachel Held Evans

Happily Ticked Off Tip #53:  When you get to know someone’s story, your heart transforms your head and not the other way around. Every 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. 

(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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