education, faith, God, parenting, Tics, Tourettes, writing

Writing Wednesday: Happily Ticked Off, Chapter 1

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The the next couple of months for writing Wednesdays I am posting a chapter of my book, Happily Ticked Off. If you like it what you see, you can buy one in the link below. If you just want to read it week after week for free, that works, too.

Why Post a Chapter a Week for Folk? (Um, that’s putting it up for free, Dumb Ass.)

My goal is to get people to think about their own writing projects as well as give some love to moms and dads out there who have struggled with this condition in their households. (Though it was dedicated to the mamas.)

This book was not about fixing Tourette Syndrome. It was about helping people have a transition in their thinking: To know that while they might not be able to change a disorder they most certainly can use it as an opportunity to transform themselves.

For those that just want quick fixes, I say go for it. There’s a ton of resources out there to promise you the moon on that. But here’s the real truth: if you don’t come to terms first with your perspective on the diagnosis… on any diagnosis… you might end up like me: frustrated and discontent when the next weed comes along to ruin your perfect garden.

Life doesn’t always happen to us as we expect. But it’s what we do with our challenges growth opportunities that can make us bitter or make us better. While I’m still unsure sometimes of my path (just ask my bff Tuskany or Amelia) I know that when I remember I don’t know the answers, but God does, I stop struggling and just live in… what’s that word? Oh, yeah. Peace.

And so, with no further adieu, here you go! Let me know what you think and let me know about your projects, too!

book cover

Dedication

This is for you, Mamas.

When my son was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome seven years ago, I encountered loads of disheartening information on the internet about tics, ADHD, OCD and disturbed children with behavior problems.

I found blogs full of victimhood stories and medications gone wrong.

I found a few helpful but ultimately dry informational books written from medical and nutritional viewpoints on how to suppress tics through natural or pharmaceutical means.

What I didn’t encounter, however, was a book on humor, support and most importantly, hope.

So I wrote one.

This book is not just for mamas dealing with Tourette Syndrome. It’s a love letter for all you moms dealing with an unexpected diagnosis. It’s the book I wish someone had written for me when I was hopeless, angry, and feeling so very alone.

It’s my sincere hope that this mom-moir will serve as one giant hug for your fears. May it whisper into your heart, “You did not cause this disorder. You are strong enough to handle it. Your child is perfect despite some medical challenges. You are not alone. I am here. YOU CAN DO THIS.”

For all you mamas out there who are hanging by a thread, I’m asking you to tie a knot and hang on. Happily Ticked Off was written for you.

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Prologue

Happily TICked Off

 

“Your son has Tourette Syndrome.”

I looked up at a stern woman in her late 30’s. She had her arms folded tightly against her heart. (If she had a heart. The verdict was still out.) Black and silver hair spilled down her white lab coat, covering up her name tag. “Dr. Badbedside Manners.”

Combined with her pale skin and silver jewelry, she looked like a cross between Stevie Nicks and the Bride of Frankenstein. The diagnosis she just handed me didn’t make me less terrified of her.

Stop being a wussy, I told myself.

I glanced at the diploma on her wall and collected my thoughts. I had to admit, only a delusional freak would be surprised by her words. After all, my four-year-old had been referred to her only after I had already depleted every cent of my family’s HMO deductible on allergy testing, vision tests and more pediatric visits than my son had Scooby Doo band-aids. I was hoping all these visits would provide an answer to why my kid would transition from clearing his throat several times per minute to rolling his eyes side to side in rapid succession.

How I loved the pattern of those eyes on my retro kitty tic-toc clock! The predictable back and forth motion never ceased to instill a profound sense of joy and fun as I sipped my morning coffee and stared at them. Seeing them on my child? Not so much fun. Far from viewing it as kooky and eccentric, those eye rolls inspired nothing less than primal fear.

And anger.

Which… I’m ashamed to say… I took out on the kit-kat clock earlier that morning.

Only a bad mother would take out her irritation on a preschooler.  But that cat? She was fair game.

First she lost her tail. Then she was shattered to bits in a moment of pure frustration when my son morphed from eye rolls into unexpected gulps. Those tics, and that cat, had to go.

I tried to squelch the tears brimming behind my eyes. I wish my husband were here to hold my murderous little hand.

He was not. And that stunk.

Perhaps it was because I was alone on that ill-fated day that the revelation hit me so hard. Perhaps if Rex had been there to steady me . . . to wrap me in those strong, lithe arms of his . . . the blow would have felt less intense.

Lucky for me, I recovered quickly. I was the queen of composure.

“Tourette’s? You mean… But how…Wah wah HUH?”

Dr. Badbedside Manners didn’t twitch, and not just because she didn’t have Tourette Syndrome.  Likely she was used to moms like me. Moms who, despite hope against hope … despite seeing the signs themselves for months on end …were banking on a different outcome.

I’d hoped to hear he had a vitamin deficiency. Instead, I was handed a nightmare. With nothing more than a few words about this little known syndrome, I was told to come back in six months.

When I called my husband on the car ride home, I had only one statement: “Nicky has Tourette Syndrome.”

My husband had only one answer. “What happened to the kitchen clock?”

I hung up the phone and sobbed like a baby.

And that, my friends, was the beginning of a hellish six years.

Determined that no mama should go through what I did, I wrote a book.

This is the story I wish someone had written for me. My hopes are that it saves not only people’s sanities, and their marriages, but also perfectly innocent kit-cat clocks. No time-piece, no matter how annoying, deserves that kind of brutality.

This is my journey.

This is my story.

If you’re up upset at your child’s diagnosis, whether it be T.S., Autism or some other spectrum disorder, I want you to know I’ve been there.

I’ll have you Happily Ticked Off in no time. How about we start with a few facts I wish someone had sent to me during the first lonely, dark leg of this journey.

 FACTS and HOPE

 Tics or a T.S. Diagnosis

If you’ve picked up this book there’s a decent chance your child has recently begun to tic or has just been diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome.  You’re pretty ticked off.

My son was diagnosed at 4 years with T.S.. He’s now 12. He’s well-adjusted, funny and loaded with friends. With the right plan and perspective your child can have a similar outcome.

Freak-out time

You want to believe me, but you’re still panicked. Second only to dismay over this new diagnosis is the regret that you didn’t invest stock in the Kleenex Corporation. You can’t stop crying.

Neither could I. I’d sob to myself, my friends, my family – even bewildered gas station cashiers who simply wanted to sell me a Diet Coke – not hear a dissertation on the boring clinical definition of Tourette’s.

Boring Clinical Definition of Tourette’s

Named for Georges Gilles de la Tourette in 1885, Tourette’s consists of both vocal and physical tics that wax and wane in nature and last up to one year.  I’ll get into more detail later, but for now, let’s move on to something you can really relate to… like whining!

 “What happened to my perfect little boy?” was my broken record, twenty four hours a day. No one had an answer, but I have one for you: nothing has happened to your child. Your child is still perfect. Just hang tight. I survived this initial scary period and you will, too. I promise.

It’s Not Fair

You know life isn’t perfect and this condition could be a heck of a lot worse, but you’re still upset. You can’t see the big picture when you’re living the unsettling, fearful present.

In the subconscious recesses of my mind, I knew Tourette’s would one day be viewed as a present, but that didn’t keep me from spending the next seven years looking for the gift receipt. “Thank you, but no thank you. I appreciate the thought, but I’d like to return this for something else. Perhaps a good case of musical genius, a pitcher’s arm, or the ability to burp the Ave Maria.”

The Symptoms

Maybe you have no official label yet, but something is wrong and you’re freaking out. What you used to see as your child’s occasional quirky habits has morphed into unrelenting blinks, eye rolls, jerky head nods and spastic facial grimaces.

It’s hard to watch your child go through this, but stay strong. Tics are like visiting in-laws who invade over Thanksgiving – they’re annoying, can drive you to drink, and just when you get used to them they take off as quickly as they arrived.

The Nature of Tics

Like the departure of your extended family, you feel immense relief that the tics are gone. But Christmas is just around the corner. You have a deep sense of foreboding that those tics – and those in-laws – will be back. What if this time they bring friends?

It’s true that after a quiet period, tics often return. Sometimes kids exhibit the same tic as before and add a different one. Sometimes one tic goes completely away only to be replaced by a new one altogether. Like your Aunt Sally, tics are eccentric and always changing. At least they don’t wear housecoats and smell like old musk.

The Evil of the Internet

You are a normally well-balanced person, but you begin to worry something more serious is at the root.  After searching like a mad woman on the internet, you’re bombarded with hundreds of frightening outcomes for your child.

Seriously, this isn’t helpful. Turn off the computer. (Okay, fine. Don’t listen to me. Keep researching deep into the night like a crazed lunatic. I did the same. But let me reiterate THIS ISN’T HELPFUL.)

Perspective Lost

You begin to slide down the rabbit hole. In that dark pit, you become dizzy and disoriented. You lose perspective. You go to dismal places like brain cancer.

It’s not brain cancer. Your overworked mama brain, however, is spinning like a jacked up tilt-o-whirl on truck stop java. Stop the ride!  Minus some extra dopamine, your child’s brain is perfectly healthy.

Perspective Gained

In most cases – as will be the journey relayed in this book – T.S. and tics remain mild to moderate until adulthood.  Then like your wonky Uncle Donny and Cousin Frankie, they disappear altogether. (Pssst…it’s such a relief no one goes looking for them!)

Focusing on positive outcomes can really keep your negative thinking in check. If you can’t instantly change the tics, change your thinking.

Severe Cases & Seeking Medical Attention

In extreme scenarios (which you’ll get plenty of if you don’t listen to me and scour the internet into all hours of the night) you’ll find cases of children screeching, spitting, jerking and having to be hospitalized.  This is rare. The thought, however, is understandably upsetting.  As with mild tics, it’s always advisable to seek medical attention.

Start with your primary care physician who can then refer you to a neurologist if needed. Don’t be surprised if, after seeing your pediatrician, they seem very unconcerned. Your “emergency tic OH MY GOD IT COULD BE SEIZURES” situation is very commonplace to doctors. It can take months to see a neurologist. I say this not to frustrate you but to assure you that your child isn’t the first one to ever experience this.

Identifying the Triggers (as well as the ever-important legal term known as “Butt Coverage”).

I am not a doctor. I am not a certified nutritionist. I am not a psychologist. I am, however, a mother who has been dealing with Tourette’s for over eight years. This book will share what has eased my son’s symptoms, what has exasperated them, what has eased my symptoms of panic, and what has exasperated them.

Even if your child is dealing with an acute onslaught of tics, the present doesn’t need to indicate the future. Many mothers, with time and patience, have pinpointed triggers for their children’s symptoms. Once these triggers were eliminated, they were able to drastically reduce the tics.

Medication vs. Supplements

You are not a patient person. You want to stop the tics this instant and are bent on getting a prescription for Clonodine or Tenex quicker than you can say Giles De la Tourette. You want a quick fix, and medication is your answer.

That is a very personal choice and I support you on that journey.  I have considered this possibility for my own son, especially now that he’s in those tumultuous ‘tween years. I’ll keep you updated on this at my blog, http://www.HappilyTickedOff.com.

Self-Esteem

Many of you will opt for a more natural route to easing tics, but you worry about your child’s self-esteem while you work out a game plan. You don’t want him teased. Your heart breaks that some nasty kid will poke fun at his arm-thrusting tic.

I understand your concern. I was crushed at the prospect of some bully tormenting my baby. But I set my emotions aside and focused on a more important reality:  Cruel kids are going to tease other children whether or not those children have tics.  My son’s heart, character and personality would define him, not his tics.

“That’s easier said than done,” you might wail.

To that I will respond with a resounding, “Duh.” But with practice, you’ll learn to focus on your child’s strengths, not his tics.

Mild Tics/Mild Annoyance

If your child has mild tics, there’s a good chance he doesn’t notice them or isn’t bothered by them.

This last statement is hard to believe, but it’s true. Your kid might be happily watching Spongebob, coughing like a bronchitis-stricken seal six times a minute, and his only complaint at the end of the show will be, “Mommy, I could really go for a bologna and cheese sandwich.”

Your Child’s Life Is Not Over

To highly tuned-in mamas like yourselves, your children’s inability to be affected by tics is baffling, because every minor gulp, throat clear and tongue click will be magnified into LOUD! RICOCHETING! EXPLOSIONS!  They will boom like a foghorn in your ringing ears, taunting you that your child’s life is O-V-E-R.

Your child’s life is far from over. Tics or T.S. is not a death sentence. The only thing that needs to die is your old vision of what you thought your child’s life would look like. He can experience as much success as a non-ticking child.

It’s Not Your Fault

I’d lie if I said I have 100% embraced T.S., but with some experience under my belt, I have better days than worse days. I might make my kid eat broccoli on purpose, but I didn’t give him T.S. on purpose. I don’t blame myself for his condition.

Whether your child has a unique case of T.S. or he had a genetic pre-disposition to it, stop feeling guilty about it. Focus instead on passing down other incredible gifts to your child, such as the ability to stay curious about life, the ability to love, the ability to experience endless joy and the ability to tell a killer joke. (Never underestimate that last talent. It far surpasses tics any day of the week.)

You Feel Like You Could Die

“I’m devastated,” you might moan. “Acceptance is about as likely to happen for me as winning the Lottery. And frankly, I’d trade in tics for a million dollar jackpot any day of the week.”

 Unlike tics that often appear out of nowhere, transformation doesn’t happen overnight. You’ll need time to both accept this crazy syndrome as well as come up with a protocol that will lessen your child’s symptoms. You need to be patient.

Patience-Schmatience

“How can I be patient?” You’ll snap. “As if I didn’t already have the stress of bills, housecleaning, work and a husband who, for the record, seems eerily unshaken by these tics and has no idea why I’m freaking out, I now have to listen to lip smacking five times a minute for three hours straight?!?!”

To this I’ll respond, “Patience comes when you stop paying such close attention.”

And to that you will respond with something that sounds like “I hate you, you self-righteous –know-it- all- bad-bad-lying-liar-who-lies writer lady.”

Go ahead. I can take it. I can also handle your protests about how you’ve tried not to pay attention to your kid’s noises, but you can’t help yourself.

It Gets Better

“There he goes again!” you’ll complain, as you read this introduction and scan for tics with the obsession of a hound dog sniffing out convicts. (Congrats on the multi-tasking, btw.)

To all this I will heartily add that I have been there. I get it. It will get better.

No one Understands!

You very likely will roll your eyes, wondering for a brief moment if you yourself have tics but then realize you’re simply being catty to me which, again, I forgive you. You will then convince yourself that no one else could possibly understand your frustration and hopelessness.

But I do understand it.  I have been locked in car rides through the desert where no amount of country music could drown out my son’s post swimming throat clears. For days afterwards, similar to Old Faithful, I couldn’t help watching and waiting for his well-timed and unremitting eruptions.

Other People Don’t Notice Tics Like You Do

“Old Faithful is an excellent analogy,” you agree, “because everyone is going to stare at him in public – clapping and jeering at this unique and boisterous spectacle.”

Unlike visiting a national monument, most people are not interested in the incredible national treasure that is your child. They simply will not notice the minor sounds and vocal movements. (Note: As a narcissist in transition, I am constantly working on that last piece of advice myself.)

No Room for Fear

But I’m terrified he will be ostracized by his peers!  What if he barks after busses and curses the F-Word in circle time!”

Get that fear a muzzle, because like your bad high school boyfriend, it lies like a rug. (For the record, less than 10% of T.S. kids uncontrollably curse. So let’s keep this worry in check and take it one step at a time, okay?)

Moms’ Survival Tactics

You consider getting earplugs but figure good mothers would never avoid the sounds of their children. You berate yourself for finding excuses to fold laundry to avoid watching your daughter blink and jaw thrust over her chapter book.

One of the best mothers I know rearranged her houseplants so she wouldn’t have to see her daughter nod her head over and over at the breakfast table.

Many people would call foliage adjustment poor parenting.

I call it brilliant. It’s a perfectly acceptable survival mechanism.

Perseverance

By now you’re not sure if I’ve completely lost my mind, but a small part of your brain is telling you I might be making sense. You agree to try out a little patience, but aren’t sure how to start.

How about right now?

Take a deep breath.

Tell yourself that for just this moment everything is going to be fine.

All you have to do is be your child’s mother – in whatever state he or she is in.

Tell yourself that you don’t have all the answers, but you’re going to try your best to take it one step at a time.

Take another deep breath.

And now allow me to share a little story with you as you take your first jaunt down that long and windy road of patience. This inspirational tale is one I heard long before my Nicky was diagnosed with Tourette’s. On rough days for me – which at the beginning were every day – its encouraging message would soothe my brain like a good cabernet.

Side Note: Drinking

During the early days, a bad cabernet worked just as well. If you, too, find yourself drinking a bit more to calm down at the end of the day, you wouldn’t be the first frazzled mama to do so. But I encourage you to keep it in check. T.S. isn’t going away anytime soon. Does your ticking son really need to be flanked by a slurring mother hopped up on Two Buck Chuck? And really, it’s going to be hard enough to find time to cook healthier meals, schedule in more exercise, shop for supplements and fit in a meditation schedule.  Combined with AA meetings, you’ll soon find yourself ticking, too. Careful, okay?  

Now, back to our regular scheduled programming of inspirational story-telling.

Story Time

One of my favorite all time stories about special needs is called “Welcome to Holland.” I took the liberty of adapting it for my experience with Tourette’s.

One day a family of five boarded a plane headed for London. It was winter, which meant their luggage was filled with sweaters, thick wooly socks, mittens and scarves. The mother, who had dreamed of this vacation ever since she had children ten years prior, had planned out the entire trip in painstaking detail. They would have tea near Buckingham Palace after shopping at Harrods. They would tour the Tate and take a family Christmas photo in front of Big Ben.  They would catch a show in the West End and go to mass at St. Paul’s.

After two hours on the plane, she looked over at her three children who had magically fallen asleep in the seats between herself and her handsome husband. She grabbed her mate’s strong hand, smiling at how perfectly everything had fallen into place.

At one point the captain’s voice streamed over the P.A. system.  “Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for flying with us today. Due to some unexpected orders from the ground crew, this plane will no longer be flying to England. We will be changing directions entirely and landing in Africa. I can’t give you much information other than we cannot alter our course. You will have no choice but to make the best of the new arrangement. We’re not sure when we’ll be able to get you back home but you all seem like capable people who can wing it just fine. So, with that in mind, enjoy your new destination!”

Understandably, the mother was horrified at this news. Her husband remained cool and collected. She was both grateful, and horrified, that he wasn’t as freaked out as she was. How could he be so calm??! How could this enormous error happen? She wasn’t prepared for this abrupt switch of plans! This was not the way her dream vacation was supposed to go. The remainder of the flight was spent in abject misery as she ruminated, sulked, cried, moaned, hollered and generally cursed her fate.

By the time the plane landed, she was in quite a quandary. While this was one of the most unsettling experiences of her life, she also knew that falling apart would not help anyone. She’d have to be strong for the kids. She’d have to lean on her husband when she could. But mostly, she’d have to lean on herself. She’d attempt to make the best of it. What choice did she have?

Once on the ground, the luggage never arrived. Everyone was sweltering in their woolen sweaters and itchy pants. She borrowed a pair of scissors from a ticket agent and cut off the sleeves, which they used as headbands. She took the scissors to their pants, made makeshift shorts and hailed a taxi.

As this disheveled family of five crowded into a cab, the driver had a good laugh at their outfits. It turns out he spoke English and asked what happened. Against her normally private nature, she told him. He invited her family to his home and she said yes. Clearly she needed help and couldn’t rely on herself anymore.

For the next two weeks, her family did not shop. They did not tour museums. They did not eat at restaurants.

They ate home-cooked meals around a plain wooden table with the taxi driver’s wife, her sisters, their kids and 20 other people with names she could barely pronounce on Day 1  but by Day 20, she knew them as well as her own family’s names.

The kids ran around barefoot with  children who didn’t speak their language but sure knew how to laugh.

Her husband helped re-upholster the taxi driver’s car, which earned the family some extra money, which they turned around and used for a goodbye feast when the time came to finally fly back home.

With bellies full of food and hearts full of gratitude, they said their tearful goodbyes and boarded the plane.  As they flew back, the mother couldn’t help but think that Africa was a far cry from England. It wasn’t as civilized. It wasn’t as comfortable. But it was exotic. It was different. And her family bonded more in that two-week unplanned adventure in an African village than they ever would have in a pristine London hotel.

That mama, despite feeling like she would drown in despair, faked a good attitude until a true, authentic joy bubbled up from the pit of her soul. Despite not signing up for it, she made the best of the situation and had an adventure of a lifetime.

You will, too. Grab your T.S. passport. T.S. is an adventure. It might seem scary, but let this book be your road map.

Let me be your tour guide. Let my story serve to remind you that you’re not the first to take this scary trip. It’s going to be a bumpy ride, but I promise you’ll land safely with your child intact.

Buckle your seatbelt. It’s time to Happily Tick Off.

Until next time,

Leave a comment or write me at HappilyTickedOff@Gmail.com

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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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.

sss

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. )

books

 

faith, God, Jesus, parenting, Tourettes, writing

When Life Happens For You, Everything Changes

Yes ss.jpg

Today at church Pastor Craig spoke about shame and pain. I honestly don’t remember the passage he read from in Romans, but in a nutshell, he spoke about how hard times don’t have to define us. Instead, these hard times can be used for good when we are transformed and then reach down to help someone else.

I found him in the cake and coffee line and I told him I had an edit to his sermon. At this point an elderly lady in the congregation took her leave (“Oh, Lord, it’s going to get sassy now!”) but Pastor Craig just stood there smiling. It’s what I love about him most. He’s comfortable enough with God, and himself, that he can listen… truly listen…. to other’s viewpoints without being offended. At our progressive church, it’s actually welcomed. (Both the listening and the questioning. It’s like my 12 step minus the drunk-a-logs!)

Me: “I like what you said about shame transforming, but I feel what could have been added is a piece on acceptance.”

Craig: “Go on,” he said.

Me: “I feel that people suffer a lot because they don’t admit that what is going on in the first place is not working… or that they are out of options… or have just hit bottom. If they could just accept it, then they could grieve it, give it to God, and then the beautiful work of healing could begin.”

He just smiled and nodded his head. “I couldn’t agree more,” he said.

A few years ago the idea of questioning a passage of scripture would have made me feel like a heathen. Now it feels the more I question the more welcome I am. It’s kind of like my 12 step group. If someone says, “I drank a few glasses of wine and now I’m here” people smile and offer them a cup of coffee. But if someone says, “I drank two six packs a night, had four DUIs and danced naked at my daughter’s quinceanera” raucous laughter peals out. The worse the story the better the welcome.

The deeper the death of ego the higher the resurrection of the better self.

Such radical honesty is a refreshing way to heal… to just be oneself and know one is welcome anyway. No right or wrong. Just honest truth about where one finds oneself.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like feeling transparent and raw. I don’t like admitting that I don’t know everything. That sometimes my husband and I still fight about the stupidest stuff. That my son’s tics sometimes hit my ear drums and I just want silence. Blessed quiet. That I worry about my kids going to college or that I’m almost 50 and see yet another wrinkle creeping in. Oh my God! I can’t stop time! I can’t stop inherited conditions! Why am I not over it  yet?! Suffering suffering angst and grrrr!!!!

And yet, when I just surrender that I don’t have to have it all figured out…. That I’m not perfect, nor is my husband… that my son is doing just fine with his little noises and my kids are perfectly content with their lot in life…. that it’s just me with my ego and my hopes and my not yet fulfilled dreams not trusting God… I can then do what I should have done from the very beginning. I can tell God I am scared and sad. And when I do, the funny thing is, I feel relief. And then, like Pastor Craig talked about, I can let God in to fill the places that no one ever could in the first place. Not my husband or a non-ticking kid or script being sold or a full scholarship for my kids to Harvard.

Happiness is not when things are better.

Happiness is right now in the mess and the chaos and the unanswered questions and just knowing that I don’t need to have all the answers because God does.

When I remember that hard things life doesn’t happen to me but they happen for me to let go and let God transform my pea sized mind from negativity to absolute acceptance, life is so incredibly beautiful I could just die.

Or, at least at this very moment, go to bed. Fathers Day kicked my ass this year.

What Do You Need to Surrender to Be Happy? I’d Love to Know Leave a Comment

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, faith, God, Jesus, meditation, self improvement, Uncategorized

What Other People Think of My Boundaries is None of My Business (And other truths I’m learning)

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Having been someone who used to gossip in the past, I’m really uncomfortable with that kind of behavior today. I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, I did it to make myself feel better about my own insecurities. Sadly, the behavior was so ingrained in me, and these insecurities so subconscious, I didn’t even know I was doing it.

But when you know better, you do better.

Sadly, when I became aware of the insidious Gossip Weed… when I truly began plucking it… big weeds of People Pleasing started sprouting up to take their place. Walmart bucket sized gallons of Emotional Roundup later, I began making big headway.

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I can handle one greenery or the other, but when both nasty flowers pop up at once, often thanks to someone else for planting an unwanted seed in my soil, it’s like pouring Miracle Growth on both defects. My spiritual garden goes from nicely pruned geraniums to large blossoms of “Screw You” and “You’re a Crappy Person” blossoms.

“Stay quiet, Andrea,” People Pleasing whispers in desperation. “It’s not worth it!”

But these days my conscience is more important than my comfort. When said resistance comes, I water my fears with a line I learned from my sponsor. “I’m not comfortable with what is being said and will not continue the conversation.” If I am still being bombarded with unwanted gossip, I take out the big watering hose: “You don’t have my permission to keep speaking like this.”

A few beats of awkward silence later, the person who has thrown the seeds then has 3 choices:

  1. Respect my boundaries.
  2. Use the opportunity to reflect and see if I have a point.
  3. Ask questions.

Almost all the time Sometimes none of the above points happen. Instead I might get anger, frustration, finger pointing and more defensive walls being built than on Trump’s architect’s plans. It’s then that I can choose to feel hurt, or instead feel compassion for the person who is reacting so poorly. I can’t lie, I feel a little sad (Not people pleasing is new muscle flexing for me!) but mostly I feel empathy.

Because that is what pain looks like.

And that’s not something I can fix.

But God can.

And for now, at this point of my life, I’m gonna have go with, “Amen.” (And start a new garden. I can’t make anyone else grow, but I can grow myself.)

Anyone else working on not gossiping or people pleasing? Leave a Comment!

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

poems, Uncategorized, writing, writing wednesday

Writing Wednesday and Pink Umbrellas

 

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It’s Writing Wednesday so I’m going to share a poem I’ve written. I aim to include it in my poem book, along with 100 more that I wrote while subbing 100 days for LA Unified School District. (Hey, if I’m dealing with crazy middle schoolers I’m going to make it work for me! As I heard someone say, “I aspire to inspire before I expire.”

With that in mind, my goal is to get an agent that needs Shel Silverstein meets Dr. Seuss meets a bit of Judy Blume and all Andrea Frazer.

So, without further adieu, here’s one of my older ones. Next week will be one from this year.

Pink Umbrella

Mom said kids might laugh at me

And even cause a scuffle

If I took this umbrella to school with me

It’s pink (and it has a ruffle)

“Honey,” she said, “You know I don’t care

But since you’re a boy… some kids might stare

So here’s a tip that is tried and true:

Be prepared for an answer that works for you.”

My mom’s pretty sharp so I thought of an answer

‘Bout why boys could wear pink and could sing and be dancers

So when Markus asked, “Dude, why are you carrying THAT?”

I said, “Friend, can’t you see that some girls don’t have hats?

I don’t want their hair-do’s to get wet in the rain

So I’ll walk them to class and they’ll never complain.”

And then while he stood there, kind of biting his lips

I decided to get one more thing in real quick

“My papa says girls like boys who can groove

So if I save their hair then one day you’ll see, Dude,

That I’ll have a date to any dance that I please”

And then something happened that you wouldn’t believe

At school the next day… under those rainy day showers

Marcus brought an umbrella – it was purple… with flowers

Leave a link to one of your writings and comment below. I’d love to learn about you!

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, self improvement, Uncategorized

Motivation Monday

Okay, guys, it’s the first of my many Motivation Mondays to come! I’m going to keep these simple and list 5 do-able tasks I can do this week to keep me on track towards my writing goals.

  1. Finish a second pitch to the producer who took my first pitch. (Bug her for notes if I don’t hear by Friday.)
  2. Put all my poems that I’ve written this year (50 in total) into one document.
  3. Re-read your Ray McRubble Chapter book and get it ready for your writing conference you’re teaching at next weekend. (So Cal Christian Writers Conference)

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4. Stick to your marketing/tweeting plan. Just ten minutes 3x day to learn about other people and how strategy works so that you are moving toward a place to sell your next book.

5. Write up another query (to a major magazine this time) so I can be closer to selling on that level.

To conclude, I will continue to pray and meditate each day. A positive mindset is key. Why shouldn’t I make my dreams happen? And why shouldn’t you?

So, what is your plan to motivate you? Let’s check back next week! Leave a comment. (Note: Nothing is too small! “I plan on cleaning the cat crap and not complaining so my house smells better.” That works! Get your ‘claws’ on that goal! (Oh don’t judge.)

Happily Ticked Off Tip #58: Make a list of goals and stick to them, no matter how small. You wouldn’t flake on a friend, so why flake on yourself? Ask God for help if you need it but whatever you do, don’t stop.

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, Uncategorized

Take the Actions and Leave the Results to God. (And Other Things I’ve Learned On My Faith Journey.)

vv

The sign in the foyer at my church. I had just added a faux brick wall to my office.

Odd or God? I say the second.

It’s Pride month, and being part of an open and progressive church, it didn’t surprise me that Pastor Craig swapped out his traditional stole for a beautifully stitched patchwork design with a cornucopia of rainbow colors.

That said, I was completely taken off guard by the hand bell choir who strutted on stage with feather boas and primary colored hats, accompanied by the hand bell director replete with a top hat and skinny tea shirt. (The star studded crucifix gave it some added bling.)

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The hand bell choir is comprised mostly of traditional matrons who deflected from more conservative houses of worship, plus one male who is married to the hand bell director.

Side note:  At the end of coffee hour, the lone hand bell male rushed into the parking lot with the words, “Gotta run! I’m not gay, but my husband is!”

Going back to the performance, what struck me about this scene was something I might not have anticipated when I was still knee deep in the quagmire of “Should I leave my conservative church or not?” I admit that I had lots of feelings of worry and guilt. But mostly (and I hate to admit this) I had some prejudice.

By “prejudice,” to be fair, I never had a problem with gay people – hence my guilt for ‘hiding’ in an 3000 person evangelical congregation. I was guilty big time, however, of an expression I often use with my teenagers that hails from my 12-step group. That guilt? Contempt prior to investigation.

I had subconsciously decided, long before I stepped foot into this amazing faith community, that anything other than what I had learned in my tight knit Bible study groups was wrong. I could question… I could doubt… but there was always one answer and one answer alone… one that I never felt in alignment with. That feeling of… what’s the word… freedom that I longed for… that desire that tickled my soul? It was something to be pushed away. Why? It was outside the mold of “true” Christianity.

And yet with enough quiet with God… enough prayer… enough peacocks and enough spiritual experiences, I was driven to put aside my preconceived notions. I was driven to take actions and leave the results up to God. It was in just moving forward that I found, little by little, the treasure I had searched for along. It was there the whole time – in the church of my youth.

In the same church that gave me my love of musical theater.

In the same church that allowed me to dance in the sanctuary and use my voice as a young girl.

In the same church that was quick to allow my school friends to also join the choir.

In the same church that was kind to my father when he was struggling with personal illness.

Bottom line: Some of the best experiences are counter intuitive in that more thinking does not change our minds, but action does.

Today, watching this hand bell choir create music and dance, I was struck that this kind of joy simply cannot be wrong. There was such laughter and applause and happiness… such God given/Holy Spirit approved holy abandon… I could have stayed there forever.

But doughnuts and coffee were being served. So, well, that ended that.

For those of you who are struggling with your belief structure, I urge you to take time and pray to the God of your understanding. Read your holy books, but ask God to show you in a way that you can understand where he would have you be. And, if you’re lucky enough, you’ll land at a joint where there’s a rainbow feathered hand bell choir ready to rock your world.

  • Acclaimed faith writer, Sarah Bessey, has a lovely article on her journey from a conservative to a liberal Christian belief structure. Like me, she was surprised that such a transformation did not unhinge her. Instead, she was pinned with the reckless love of Jesus more strongly than she had ever been before.

Any of you out there loving your house of worship? Why? Leave a Comment!

Happily Ticked Off Tip #57: Consider trying the motto “No contempt prior to investigation.” You might be shocked that what you thought was the dark side is actually the light of a new way of thinking that God just might approve of more than you know.

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

 

 

self improvement, shameless saturday, Uncategorized, writing

Shameless Saturday

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As promised, I bring you… Shameless Saturday! It’s our chance to celebrate something, from the smallest (I have kept my office clean, ya’ll!) to the biggest (I sold a feature to LA Parent Magazine on Friday! (Proud of this because I sent the editors the pitch while on my conference period for a particularly tough school on Tuesday. Hey, if I’m going to teach P.E., I’m thrilled to make a little cash writing about the real life of a substitute teacher.)

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Here are 3 of my past features. I might offer an online how to pitch magazines writing class this summer again. I’ve done over 10 of these and sold over 2000 articles so think about it if you want to jump on board!

https://www.laparent.com/your-child-has-what-navigating-the-challenges-of-a-rare-medical-diagnosis/

https://www.laparent.com/budget-beach-getaways-near-l-a/

https://www.laparent.com/the-battle-against-bullying/

I suppose what makes me happiest about these two things – the writing and the office – is that it would have been easy for me to feel blue about being a sub. STILL. But I am learning that by making things a habit… sitting down and writing when I don’t feel like it… putting items in my office away… I have a clean space for myself both mentally and physically.

I am always happiest when chirping on all cylinders. That meant today getting up a bit early and dragging my kids to a Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense event this morning. It was a small turn out, but our local assemblyman showed up. Tuskany came as well. This particular park had meaning for me since it’s right down the way from where I teach many days during the year. With 100 people dying every day from gun violence, I can’t turn a blind eye anymore to where our world is headed.

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For tonight, I can turn out the light in my clean office, and dream of more writing gigs, knowing that maybe… just by doing my part… we can have a better place for our children to grow up in. (Like our bloggy friend, Michy, who advocates for our LGBTQ Community in her post today. Happy Pride Month to you all! I stand with you!)

So… what about you? What do you want to shamelessly plug. I really want to hear! And let me know if you would be interested in a class down the road. I will bring it up again in July.

Comment below!

Happily Ticked Off Tip #56:  Celebrate the little to the big wins. You earned them!

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, 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
  • 1
  • Earnest
  • Hard working
  • Honest
  • Someone who loves progress over perfection – like this office! Look how pretty it looks!6.jpg
  • …and someone who can rap off the top of my head to pretty much any subject

My Blog

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

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

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

Summer Plans

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

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

This Time Next Year

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

So that’s my plan.

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

Let me know in a comment! 

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

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

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

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

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