faith, God, humor, taco tuesday, Tic-O Tuesday, Tic-Oh Tuesday, Tourettes, writing

Taco Bluesday and Letting Go

My older daughter (formerly Stink) recently moved super far away. OK right across the street. We don’t see her very much, and while that’s because she’s chosen to be more independent, it’s not always easy.

I have had enough life experience to know that nothing is forever – It’s not my business (or in my power frankly) to change what she needs to do as a 40 hour-week working /rent paying adult. (Proud of that!)

When I wrote my book, Happily Ticked Off about #tourettes syndrome all those years ago, one of the main themes was that if you can’t fix the tics fix yourself. I’m proud to say that I have lived that truth. The light on my taco Tuesday table will always shine for her but it will shine for me first – and that’s what is best for her anyway. (A mom who is happy is the best mom there is.)

Perhaps this letting go created space for God to work because earlier this evening, although she couldn’t make dinner, she spent 10 minutes on my porch talking about her day.. I kept it light, listening and giving no opinion – no criticism. ”Maybe if you were less critical when she was younger she would want to have dinner with you more,” my mean voice shouted.

“Or maybe this has nothing to do with you and everything to do with your daughter’s path so stop trying to fix it,” my soul piped in.

Trying to figure things out is just busywork to keep me from feeling my pain. So I had a good cry and then ate a taco.

Here’s to parents of older kids. Don’t let them break you – they are just growing up. Parent yourself. Be good to yourself. Trust the journey. For them and for you.

Everything’s Unfolding Perfectly.

And for my Tourettes mamas, remember: If you can’t fix the tics, fix yourselves!

If you’d like to join my private T.S. Support Group, click here

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Twitching, Bitching and Ditching

For over a month I’ve been on a long term gig teaching sixth graders English at a low income school not far from me. I’m not gonna lie – I’ve been having a blast doing it. The school has this total 1950’s vibe with the checkered tile linoleum, old school phones, honeycombed bathroom tile and walk-up bungalow classrooms. Each day, while collecting the breakfast carts, I collect some amazing stories.

The kids are old enough to understand some of my life lessons (“you’re not in charge of adults’ emotions – ever – find someone safe to talk to!”) but young enough to be freaked out about the six foot sub in the checkered pants who says she’ll add ten points to every missed assignment so they’d better hop to it and finish their essays. (Um, I don’t have a Masters in teaching. I know how to lesson plan and grade about as efficiently as my spoiled pit bull staying off my bed, but they don’t know that, so shhhh.)

Lest I come off too cavalier, my non-English speaking kids are not as easy to manage. Just last week four kids ran out of my classroom. I only knew it because as I was going over individual student’s essays at my desk, I happened to glance out my window to find mops of black hair bobbing just over the security screens.

I suppose I could have been furious, but I found myself laughing. It’s sort of my new thing these days – to not take things so seriously. My spirituality is less “go to church so you don’t die in the fiery pits of hell” and more “If God resides within all of us, then the divine in me connects with the divine in you, which means… I’m really a part of everyone so who am I to judge?”

This philosophy might sound woo woo, but it helps a lot. I see God very simply now: where there is peace, so is God. (And apparently there’s no peace throwing tantrums over what isn’t. It’s much easier to accept what is and make adjustments.) Ex: When a student who doesn’t speak English is talking back at me, why get annoyed? Aren’t they my mirror? And if so, then how can I not see myself in their eyes? Have I not often found myself talking back at someone in anger?

When one of them grabs extra honey buns at the “share table” and doesn’t say thank you, can I not relate to swiping extra food or attention from a place of greed or fear?

And when someone leaves my class to frolic with a friend in the ivy outside my window, can I not relate to the very need to escape some of the less than exciting circumstances of my life – especially the past two years? (Covid, a kid transitioning/moving out of my house, age related changes, etc.)

I used to feel bad about not getting a real teaching credential – instead remaining for the fifth year in a row bobbing on the water of subbing – but in truth, my days slogging it out for a public school system have been the greatest credential I could ever have graduated with. I have discovered that going wherever that robotic sub system sends me and beaming love at everyone I meet (yup, I beam… it’s another one of my spiritual decisions… plus being so tall, I’m practically a light house anyway… a big boobed ocean building) I am learning more about how to drop my ego and lean into God’s will for me than anything I ever knew possible.

Tonight, over tacos, I was telling Rex and Phia that I ended up getting an extended gig at my current school. It was kind of cool, because at first I was going to miss the extended combat pay by 2 days (that would have sucked.) But then they said maybe they’d keep me through Day 20. And now they want me well into October.

While the extra pay is great, more important in my book is that I absolutely surrendered the outcome. It was going to be what it was going to be. It was going to land where it was going to land. Instead of manipulating the endless possibilities of extra pay vs. not, I stopped playing chess in my mind and instead focused on the duties at hand: how can I be of service every single day? How can I love what is instead of what isn’t? It’s such a simpler, not to mention more fun, way of living. (Plus I heard from a producer about my Christmas movie. It’s been sent to four people – fingers crossed this sucker sells!)

Bottom line: life can be so wonderfully surprising if we let it. In a world where we can’t always predict the future, I offer you the more exciting and fulfilling path: beam love, see yourself in everyone you meet so you can have compassion for them and yourself and always eat tacos. Like tacos, life falls apart sometimes. It can still taste delicious.

And for my Tourettes mamas, remember: If you can’t fix the tics, fix yourselves!

If you’d like to join my private T.S. Support Group, click here

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Coaching and Wellness, faith, God, humor, spirituality, taco tuesday, teenagers, Tic-O Tuesday, Tic-Oh Tuesday, Tics, Tourettes, transgender, Uncategorized, writing

Me Gusta Su Cara

After bailing out of getting a Masters in Teaching to spin in the ever constant of vortex of writing after school while subbing full time and coaching high school seniors on their college essays, it is with true irony that I found myself absolutely loving my current long term gig: teaching sixth grade English.

I am at a school quite dilapidated on the outside, but overflowing with trees stem to stern on the inside. Every morning, lap top in hand, I find myself strolling through what can only be described as a teacher’s treehouse: oak trees, birch trees and pine trees, all intermingled in green leafy goodness.

The scene is the perfect metaphor for most people I know: old and a bit dodgy on the exterior, but take a few moments and the interior will blow you away with a garden of stories and overflowing life.

One of my favorite classes is the non-speaking English class. It would be easy to be intimidated by the lack of speaking skills, but humans are humans. 90% of them speak Spanish, and they laugh as I attempt to articulate my great appreciation for their willingness to let me practice my Espanol. “Tengo muchas palabras en mi cabeza!” I will progclaim which, translated loosely means, “I have many words in my head.”

At six feet tall, I’m a good six inches over most of them, and between the hoodies and the masks, it’s hard to tell if their huge brown eyes are squinted in laughter or disdain, but, honestly, I don’t care. I made a decision a long time ago that absolutely everyone I meet wants to be my friend – that the divine in me will connect with the divine in them. I often share these spiritual truths with them in my broken Spanglish. It might be a lot for 9am, but worse case, there’s Fruit Loops.

Side note: Originally I bought the Family Size Pack (see above) for Stinkette’s new place. She’s doing the whole pad up Halloween style, so what could be more perfect for my spooky-loving, queer half-adult than Halloween Rainbow Pride O’s, but she turned me down via text. “I can’t eat it. Gelatin,” she reminded me. (I don’t know if I trust her logic. This kid would rather spend $1300/month in a rented room across the street than live with her mother, but I digress.) My point: I brought them to school and they were a HUGE hit with my English learning kids.

“I want more!” Carlos politely informed me. I smiled back. “Excellent words, but say ‘I would like more please!'” which, of course, he did and was rewarded with a handful of marsh mellow ghosts and bats – gelatin and all!

Seeing these kids every day remind me of how it used to be with my own kids: repeating the dates, repeating the words, not sure if they are understanding my phrases but knowing from their body language and laughter that they understand my heart.

“Me gusta su cara” I always tell them each day. “I love your face.”

If you think about it, isn’t that what we all want to hear? That our faces – all individual – were created by something bigger than us and worthy of love? That nothing we do can separate us from that divine love?

As I watched Evie tonight after tacos doing her college work, I whispered to her, “Me gusta su cara.”

I looked at the greedy pitbull under the table, hungry for my ridiculous tacos, “Me gusta su cara.”

I looked in the mirror and reminded myself, “Andrea, me gusta so cara.”

And when I looked at my Stink’s empty room, I reminded myself that she might not look like the old Stink I once knew – now with her long curls and slowly transforming feminine body, but I smiled at the image of who she is now. “Me gusta su cara.” I love her face.

And I always will.

And for my Tourettes mamas, remember: If you can’t fix the tics, fix yourselves!

If you’d like to join my private T.S. Support Group, click here

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Tico-Tuesday: Everything’s Unfolding Perfectly

The other day I decided it was a great idea to move Grandma Stella’s China cabinet.

By myself.

As if in slow motion, the shelf which housed some of my favorite momentos – from her 1940’s egg dish to my own mom’s English tea cups that sat in her dining room bay window – went crashing to the ground.

Glass mixed with china mixed with porcelain jumped out to me as the perfect physical manifestation of the past two years: family members passing on or getting sick… my children’s transitions from my story for their lives to their very own story (how dare they be their own people!) … my childhood home being sold. All of these items I naively thought would never change, but thanks to Covid and circumstances/choices completely out of my control, I found my once long held ideals shattered in million tiny chards on my freshly washed checkerboard tiles.

Similar to my Evangelical days, I’d love to put a big shiny bow on this story with a happy ending ala, “Golly Gee, God inspired me to turn those messed up pieces into a shiny Mosaic table over Memorial Weekend, the kids helped out, my husband brought me a latte since God works everything together for good.” But that’s not what happened.

Instead, I took a broom, swept it all into a dusty pile and chucked of it into the trash can. Clank! Then I went on with my day. (Someone had to buy the toilet paper, and it wasn’t my teenagers who no, are still not driving. Nope, no shame here. I totally don’t compare myself to other people whose kids have been driving since they day they turned 16 because that wouldn’t be very spiritual, would it?)

To be clear about my quick clean up, it’s not that I don’t care about the treasures pictured above. And it’s not that I don’t wish some things were different with my personal life and my career. But I learned the past few years that wishing things were different than they actually are is about as insane as thinking that a bit of crazy glue will somehow make Grandma Stella’s Easter dish look like the same as the day she bought it at Montgomery Wards, 1957, to match her Crazy Daisy China pattern .

No. The longer I try to hold on to what was, the less space there is for new memories and beautiful momentos to fill the shelves of my china cabinet as well as my own memory bank. Either everything is happening in God’s timing or it isn’t. The first thought brings me peace. The second is pure regret. And with the world as it is, I try really hard to not Choose Door #2 anymore.

On this most holy day of the week – Tico Tuesday/Hump Day Eve –  I invite you to let go of anything you’re holding onto that is no longer serves your current reality. What if your kid’s diagnosis is not the issue, but it’s your thoughts about the diagnosis that are holding you back from creating new experiences in your life? What if your strained relationship or unsure job path is not the big, hairy, scary challenge but rather your thoughts about them (grounded in coulda shoulda woulda) that are causing your heart palipitations?

Whatever items are taking up space in your head, I invite you to let your thoughts about it crash to the ground.

Sweep it up.

Put it in the trash with other crazy thinking, such as “I’m going to be a size zero by Wednesday” or “Sam Heughan secretly reads this blog and wants to take me on the back of his bike to an Outlander screening party” and let it go.

Make space for the new.

Everything is unfolding perfectly.

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Tic-O-Tuesday, 2022

Taken New Years Day! Maddie (Stink) is 18, Pip is 17. WHAT???

Hello lovelies –

Long time no chat. So much has happened over the course of 2020/2021 I don’t even know where to begin, so I just will:

  • My childhood home of 45 years was sold and my mom moved to an apartment. There’s a lot of memories in a 3000 square foot house to throw out/accommodate, but we did.
  • Sweet Grandma Stella died. What a bummer. No more visits to her retirement home to sing “Fly me to the Moon.” No one to tell me my ass looks too big or that I “Can’t clean worth shit.” No more jokes about men thirty years younger than her, pointed bras, pumpkin thongs or gin martinis to start a car. But she’ll forever be in my heart, “tidying” my kitchen and telling me to keep “my mouth shut and my legs crossed.”
A few years ago at her retirement home. At 97 she’d complain about all the “old farts” who “hang around this place” and wished people would just call her “Bubbles” like in high school
  • My sweet Stink became Stinkette. While I’m so happy that she has found her true self, it took some time to adjust. I wish I were a faster student, but I’m here now and so grateful for the new beginnings for her, for us – for everyone in the family.
  • I went from subbing part time to full time, thanks to the dire need for teachers with Covid. No one was more shocked than I was to find I liked it and am seriously considering getting a credential to keep a classroom full time. (I have learned when it gets noisy to silently dance with an invisible man. My kids know. “Quiet! She’s dancing with Sam!”) Have you seen Sam Heughan? I love you all, but if you steal my invisible boyfriend I will block you.
My students know I love Rex, but if Sam comes knocking Rex has to go.
  • I started working with some producers on writing a Hallmark movie. (Will it sell? Who knows. I just put one foot in front of the other. Or, shall I say, one “hoof” in front of the other which leads me to…)….
  • …I finished my camel musical! It needs to be rewritten, but so it shall.
Grateful for a few writing classes and a mentor, also, to kick this camel loving mama into action
  • Pip became a senior in high school and, over Covid, I learned just how much I needed to change in my parenting style. It wasn’t easy, but the growth we have experienced has been well worth the experience to shift.

I tell you all this, Mamas, because I learned all the ways to pivot and change thanks to a little something we all call “Tourette Syndrome.” Lots of things over the past year aren’t what I expected (nor – if I’m being honest – are what I’d choose) but in accepting them as they are, I made room for magic. I made room for more writing, more dreaming, more consistent income.

You, too, Mamas, can DECIDE that despite T.S. you can have an amazing 2022. I will aim to write here a bit more often and cheer you on along the way.

Thanks to all who have bought my books or just followed me here all these years. It’s a pleasure to get to know you and I wish you the most wonderful New Year!

PS: It’s Tic-0 Tuesday today, which means I’ll be cooking up some simple tacos and cheese/guac just for Pip, Rex and I. Maddie (formerly Stink) is at Starbucks and apparently I’m not the sun which she orbits any longer. THAT was way more heartbreaking than even the tics. People, life shifts in an instant. Don’t miss it.

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Coaching and Wellness, faith, God, meditation, parenting, spirituality, taco tuesday, Tic-O Tuesday, Tics, writing

Are You Raising Your Kids Through Your Fears?

I love this book!

I thought having a kid diagnosed with something I couldn’t control was super scary, but it turns out that life itself terrified me.

From the time I was a little kid, I remember thinking everyone else had the answers and I didn’t know anything. It was like this giant train wreck of loneliness ran through my soul. Other kids seemed to effortlessly kick shiny balls around the field or get up in front of large groups of people and sing, talk or crack jokes. Me? I was the tall kid in the back trying super hard to get an A on the test and want everyone to give me validation for it (at the same time horrified if someone looked my way.)

These feelings eased as I got older – or so I thought – but having children of my own had a way of putting miracle growth on my character defects. These tiny little beings were the love of my life – and while I raised them with a ton of love and magic – fear was always at the bottom of it. “Was I doing it right? Was I managing the diagnosis okay? Were they happy?”

They’re almost full grown now, and I know more than ever now that in the end what they needed, and still need – more than ever – is a mom who is happy with herself. They don’t need one more vacation. One more trip to Disneyland. A full ride scholarship to college. All of that would be nice – don’t get me wrong – but these kids are looking to me still for guidance. And I’m so excited to say that I’m happier now with myself than I ever have been. I haven’t arrived, but I am not that sad, scared person who needs validation from other people. I’m right in the middle where the magic lives.

So much of my personal success I owe to my spiritual walk. To journaling. To showing up at 4 twelve step meetings a week and doing the work. To making a conscious decision to not drink, not blame others, not blame and shame others and, when I feel the old CADS creep up on me (Compare and Despair Syndrome) I talk to someone.

This book, Return to Love, has made such an impact on my life. It reminds me that when I’m in fear, that’s not the real me raising my kids. Only love is real. When I can let go of the outcome and just love my kids unconditionally – which starts with loving ME because God love me me first, things go so much smoother. (It’s more on the spiritual side vs. religious, and that works perfectly for this hippy.)

Life is difficult, but it’s also such a trippy and beautiful ride. I’m so happy to be on it with you all. And mamas, if you’re new to the T.S. world, know that you are not alone. While it can be scary, I promise that if you keep an open mind and learn to love yourself in the process, you will be okay. You really will.

INTERESTED IN TAKING A JOURNALING CLASS WITH ME?

I’m going to be leading two workshops this summer:

  1. For mamas of Tourette Syndrome kids who want to heal through journaling and connecting with other moms in the same boat.
  2. For mamas who want become more authentically themselves through journaling, laughter and joy.

Both will be 4 weeks. I’ll share more as it gets closer. Sign up for my newsletter below or leave a comment! I’d love to have you!

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Tico Tuesday – Go Bananas

Yes, I am wearing a banana on my head. #nojudgement

Why yes, that’s me, live on the banana cam. Why? Because it’s Tico Tuesday – the day of the joyful taco as well as the reminder that if we can’t fix tics (and other unmanageables in our lives) we can fix ourselves. That often means adding some joy and whimsy to your day.

For me personally, it meant showing up for class even though, sigh, I didn’t want to. And, well, this makes me a not so great candidate to get a degree in teaching. I wanted to get this degree.

THE SKINNY, ON MY NOT SO COVID 5 EXTRA POUNDS SKINNY, ON TRUSTING MY GUT

Listen, people. I wanted to love the stability and the pay check and influencing other kids’ lives. But it came down, yet again, to the very real and true fact that if I’m not doing what I’ve been put on this earth to do, then what am I really teaching young kids? “Suck it up, buttercup, and give up your dreams of gender studies. Stick to business and working for the man, get a great house and raise your kids to be unhappy robots just like yourself.”

FOR MY STABLE JOB PEOPLE – YOU DO YOU!

Note to the business degree people with the nice houses: This is not an affront to you if that is what you want to do! And it’s not an affront to those of you who “have” to do this to put food on the table and feed the kids. I get it! But it is a note to me to trust that I, too, can put food on the table. But I have to do it as myself, not a version of myself that makes not just me miserable but everyone around me.

I finally listened to my Higher Power, who came to me loud and clear during this Covid crisis (oy, it’s been crazy at my house.) Our conversation went like this:

Higher Power: “Andrea, do you have to be a teacher to put food on the table?”

Me: “Um…maybe.”

HIgher Power: “Really?”

Me: “Okay, no.”

Higher Power, “Then why are you doing it?”

Me: “Because I feel like I have to. To be, you know, responsible and shit.”

Enter self-flogging and shame.

Higher Power: “A little deeper, please.”

Me: “Because I want to be consistent for my family.”

Higher Power: “Deeper.”

Me: “Because I don’t trust you and I’m too scared to do what I really have always wanted to do my whole life which is to once and for all finish my musical and start my own writing and coaching business to help other women face their own fears and trust you so they, too, can write their books and heal and create e-books for their businesses and finally step into their own power to be who they were meant to be all along!”

Higher Power: “Now you got it.”

Come back on Tuesdays where we’ll discuss stuff like this! Joy! Tacos! Following our gut! What’s not to love?

CALLING TOURETTES MAMAS!

Here’s your reminder for you mamas with kids with tics. Their spirit is more valuable than their disorder. And the best way to encourage their spirit is to become free yourself.

I swear. That’s it.

Until next Tuesday, enjoy a taco tonight. And if all fails, stick a banana hat on your head, go back to work, and trust God to move forward, one bit at a time, with your authentic purpose. You might find it very… a-peeeeling.

I’m done!

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California Dreaming… On Such a Quarantine….

sss

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

How are all of you doing???

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

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

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

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

Love you all.

Andrea

taco tuesday, Tourettes, writing

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

ddd

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

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

Book Description

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

What Kinds of Kids Would Benefit From this Book?

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

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

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

THE BEGINNING.jpg

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

Stephanie and Amber’s Professional Backgrounds

ephanie

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

amber

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

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

Personal Background

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

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

Kids, Anxiety and This Book

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

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

Talking About Feelings

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

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

Parents and Self-Care

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

Routine vs. Play in Times of Quarantine

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

Structure

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

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

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

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

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

Would They Do It Again?

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

The Illustrations

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

Tacos

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

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

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

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

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Until next time,

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

Andrea

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!

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.

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