Tic-Oh Tuesday, Tics, Tourettes, writing

Tic-O Tuesday #2: Comic Ticker Fish Lee!

4

Welcome to Tic-O Tuesday #2! Many of you might know Fish Lee from his stint on the A & E television show, “The Employables.” Others might know him from his Facebook Page @TourettesLife which features his amazing Tourette Syndrome art work. Still others might know him thanks to his bestselling Tourette’s comic book, T-Man & Hyperstrike (copies are sold exclusively on his Facebook Page @TourettesLife.)

As for me, I had the pleasure of getting to know him today by chatting his ear off for over an hour. We discussed everything from his childhood with tics, his life as a struggling artist who had to live through some pretty severe Tourette’s, and his current success today as one of the most sought after comic book illustrators around. (Plus he’s barely ticking thanks to the right combo of medication, sleep and weight loss.)

Fish surprised me, because he is more than just a talented artist. He’s a human being who took adversity and kicked it to the curb. If you’re like me – a parent who is worried about your child due to an unexpected diagnosis – you need to take a seat and get a boost of inspiration topping for your taco this Tico Tuesday.

Fish’s Past

“I wasn’t diagnosed until I was thirty,” Fish said. “It was confusing and tough to not know what was wrong with me.”

Fish began with mild tics as a child. He would repeat things he heard on TV, hold his breath and rub his nose. He would obsess over things and have a hard time reading social cues. “I had a pretty bad temper, too,” he said. “It wasn’t easy making friends.”

That said, he was not officially diagnosed as a child – not even when he stayed home for three weeks because of his eyes being crossed. “My single mom must have taken me to the doctor 15 times, and in the end, no one believed me that I couldn’t help it. The doctor said there was no way I could have had Tourette Syndrome since I never cursed.”

After having every imaginable test run on him to rule things out (from diabetes to severe heart issues) Fish just had to live with this “mystery illness.” He went on to say that most of the time it was manageable, but one to two times a year things would get really bad. “It was terrifying,” he said. “Especially because people thought I made it up to get attention. There was a point when I got better where I wondered myself if I had made it up.”

Lucky for him they disappeared in middle school and high school, but it wasn’t just because of genetics and good luck. “I self-medicated big time,” he said. Fish, who has now been sober for a good long while, fully admits what would have been better than not having tics at all would have been to feel that who he was, as he was tics and all, was okay. But at the time, that simply wasn’t the case.

A Rough Time of Tics

The tics came back with a vengeance after college when he was newly married and sober. At 21 it really became a problem, and by 30 he could barely see, walk or talk. His wife had to bathe him. Despite seeing a respected neurologist (who said there was no way he had Tourette Syndrome) it was not until he saw a news show with professor on TV who had the syndrome, along with a weatherman who reported that he had it also, that he realized, “That guy is me!”

When he realized he had true neurological disorder – where his brain misfired and mixed signals like crazy – he was sent to a movement specialist in Houston. The moment he walked into the room the doctor took a look at his severe shaking and asked, “How long have you had T.S.?” to which he responded, “I don’t have Tourette’s! I don’t say bad words!” She said, “Oh, yes, you do have it. The bad news is that it’s the worst case I’ve ever seen. The best news is that it can’t get any worse!”

Fish laughed as he recalled that story. It was the beginning of an understanding for his disorder.

While Fish’s wife, who he is now divorced from, was horrified that her husband would be confined to a wheel chair and potentially be on disability, Fish was thrilled. He finally had an answer. “It wasn’t Huntington Disease. It wasn’t a stroke. It wasn’t MS. It was bad, but I was alive!”

Unfortunately he had to stop working for a while with his condition worsening. He could no longer foster children – which he loved. But he had 3 of his own still at home. And in the process he was able to go on Facebook and meet other adults living with Tourette’s. He no longer felt alone. “My whole world opened up,” he gushed. “I wasn’t the only person needing help bathing and feeding myself!”

The Mouthpiece – A Miracle Cure

A turning point in Fish’s life was a mouthpiece that was made for him in Memphis, Tennessee. Made in conjunction with NFL mouth guards, it was a Godsend for Fish’s constant movement. “It was made of rubber and soft on the inside… no metal,” Fish said. “It truly worked.”

(Note from Andrea: I can’t offer you parents medical advice, but I have heard so many good things about this device. Google and find a doctor in your area or give me a call and I’ll work with you to help you locate one.)

Advice for Parents

Many parents are scared about their kids’ diagnosis, and that’s understandable, but Fish encourages everyone to be careful about how they talk about tics both to them directly and around them. “They have it tough enough as it is, but it doesn’t have to define them,” he said.

He, in fact, pushes his own son, Bear, to go way beyond what someone might expect of him. “I remember as a kid at 7 that I personally could not focus because of seven trains of thought in my head: a fight I had with someone… a girl… a TV show,” he said, “But at the same time, this wild thinking was also what made me unique.” He went on to gush,”Tourette’s kids are so smart, creative and empathetic. So what if they are a bit ‘weird’ to others. That’s what makes them so amazing.”

He continued, “I encourage all parents to fully accept their kids where they are at. So what if they tic!”

Fish’s Medication and Tic Management

As far as managing the tics, he himself is on a combo of Guanfacine and Primidone. “Everyone reacts differently,” he said, “But for me the combo of these work perfectly. There are some side effects, but it’s been worth it for what I am able to do every day in my life.” And boy what a lot he does.

Fish’s Current Life

Unlike his past where he was confined to his bed and a wheelchair, Fish spends his days illustrating for some of the biggest names in the business, including Eric N Bennett. He shops, drives and spends time with his 3 kids whenever he can (Marcus 20 – who is giving him his first grandbaby in June), Jay (19) and Elisha (“Bear” /16 who, according to Fish, is “killing it” with his tics).

Fish’s Projects These Days

Fish has inked Empyrean Command #0 and illustrated Sentinels #269 and Fivestar #3 (coming after after Covid) (pencils, inks, colors).

em 0sen

He colored The Power Company #2 (and has #3 in the works which will be done after quarantine is over.)

CoverA.

Most of his stuff is up for sale at www.indyplanet.com Fivestar.

He is working on Sentinels #270 right now, then the next Fivestar, then the next Power Company which will be all of his art work. “I’m already booked for most of the rest of the year,” he says proudly. And with artwork like this, it’s understandable!

Other Social Links: Find Fish

@TourettesLife on Facebook

WWW.MrFishcomics.com

Instagram

He can also be found on Deviant Art and on Twitter 

Twitter

Your Child Is not His or Her Tics!

As a writer and mother of a beautiful 17 year old with Tourette’s, I can’t tell you what a thrill it was to speak to Fish today. I want to encourage all of you parents to keep coming back every Tuesday where we’ll bring a new success story to you. And if you, yourself, have Tourette’s and are thriving (or know someone who is – young or old) drop me a line at HappilyTickedOff@Gmail.com. I’d love to consider them for a Tico-Tuesday post or at least as happy face or art work on my Success Story wall!

Until next time,

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

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!

Facebook

Instagram

Amazon Paperback

Amazon Kindle

FREE companion printables

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

Tics, Tourettes, writing

A Little Laughter Goes a Long Way (How to Keep from being a Beach on Wheels)

Mom + Daughter @Beach = Contentment

I don’t know if you can relate to this, but I’m reacting to this Covid 19 crisis in one of two ways:

  1. Everything is Fine! I will not freak out. All I can do is wash my hands, cut back on trips to the market, have faith that my job will still be there in a few months and enjoy every second I can with my kids before they graduate and try to block the memory of their mother shaking her bootie to Maroon 5’s “Sugar” every Taco Tuesday like a menopausal groupie.
  2. I am Freaking the BEEP Out.

Since #2 isn’t all that attractive, I’ve given myself some serious boundaries to make life more enjoyable in the Casa de Tic. And honestly, folk, after navigating Tourettes for over 10 years, I can promise you this: I might not have the “cure” for tics in the form of a pill or a magic diet, but my attitude goes a long way in keeping the symptoms down.

Yup, when I’m relaxed and not creating undue stress (yes, yelling and being generally a crazy person about where to place the potentially Corona infested Cheetos is not particularly helpful) my son is calm. And when he’s calm, there’s less tics!

Here’s 5 more things I’ve implemented on a daily basis that have gone a long way in setting a happy tone for the home.

  1. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: If my son wants to have the last word on why he’s not comfortable going to the beach, despite quarantine restrictions being lifted in Ventura County – and despite my daughter and I being clear that we are going to stay 20 feet from people and just walk on the shoreline – that’s his right. I don’t have to cajole him. I don’t have to guilt him into leaving the house. I can worry all I want about him having been in the same two rooms of this house for the past six weeks, and conjure up all sorts of worst-case scenarios that involve a 35 year old man eating gluten free pizza in my basement in two decades, but I don’t have to share those projections with my son. (Also, we don’t own a basement, so that works out, doesn’t it?)
  2. Be Intentional with My Tone: Not all days are going to be winners for me, but for the most part, if I set out to have a good day, I have a good day. That often means being intentional about my attitude, even when things aren’t going particularly amazing for me. (Ex: Disagreements with my hubby about money, or my website having issues, or fear about this virus.) Despite perfection I can still play Michael Buble in the kitchen while I make toast. I can still read books every morning and take my mind into a new world rather than my own. I can still blast musicals on my way to Costco and call other people and ask how they are doing. When I go about making myself happy, I don’t take it out on my kids – especially my sensitive ticker.
  3. Stay Current: By “current” I mean that I have stopped living in the past or the future. I get to live in the “now” where the magic happens. The past, for me, includes how things used to be before he was diagnosed with Tourettes. (Back when he was three, and I thought his entire life was going to unfold as perfectly as an origami crane. But with no wrinkles. Nope, unlike you suckers, my baby bird would be perfect!) By “future” I mean I stopped judging his current situation by some ideal far ahead of where he is at this moment. I wasted a lot of years drowning in the fear of what was, or what could be, instead of grasping onto the gift of this very beautiful present. Staying current has made all the difference. I can only do this by sticking to #4:
  4. Gratitude: I am in so much gratitude these days. Yes, Dom’s tics are almost gone now – and I’m so grateful! (Parents of new tickers, did you hear that? There is HOPE!) But I’m in gratitude of far more things than tics. I’m grateful for a home. For a husband who I love and can count on. For a daughter who wants to sing show tunes with me. For a mom who still lives 15 minutes from me. For more friends than I can shake a very big stick at. By focusing on what is working in my life, as opposed to what is not, life is so much sweeter.
  5. Relaxation: With this imposed quarantine, I know how lucky I am to have a 4 bedroom house to hunker down in. I don’t want to waste this precious gift of time freaking out. Granted, I have had a few days of misery. And I give myself slack for those. This is a new normal and I’m an extrovert! It’s haaaard! But for the most part, I’ve had a ton of joy. Much of this is because I have given myself permission to keep a lighter pace. My kids also have had a lighter pace, and this helps in keeping tics to a minimum. Throw in a lot of dancing and really bad karaoke and you have one happy Andrea which, always, goes back to #1: A happier tone in the home.

Positive Outcome Stories

I want to share a snippet of a letter I got from a dad who says he read my book two times. He wrote me to let me know how happy he was that this blog, and my next book, would be focusing on positive outcomes. To summarize, he wrote, “The internet is full of worse case scenarios…we need more writing out there that reminds us worried parents that our kids will be okay.”

So that, my friends, is what you will continue to get. You will get a ton of posts that remind you that a positive attitude can go a very very long way in raising a child that is successful despite a few tics. And, of course, I will continue to bring you interviews with top experts, parents of kids who are older and doing well (right, Carrie?), videos, books and… wait for it… a chance for you parents of younger kids to sign up to play Minecraft with Dom.

In closing, as I always say, thank you for reading. If you’re scared, feeling alone, worried about your child or generally confused about what to do next, I have a suggestion for you. Sign up for this blog (bottom of this page), join me on Facebook and let this sink into your bones: Your child is perfect, Tourettes or not. You are not alone. We’re in this together.

So happy almost Monday! And remember, if you can’t fix the tics, fix yourself! Do something fun for yourself, okay? I promise you – it will make all the difference.

Until next time,

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

Andrea

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

Writing Wednesday: Happily Ticked Off, Chapter 1

4

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.

****

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. )

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

 

Uncategorized

Dormant Not Dead

pic.jpg

It’s been almost a month since the teachers’ strike, and I’m excited to say I’ve subbed every day but one since then. If things continue along this line, I’ll make my 100 days without a problem.

Insurance! Yay! This sounds great until you hear the other part of that scenario. You see, I had to give up insurance this year to put in my time to get my benefits next year. (That’s how LAUSD traps you. It’s so scary to do this, and one is so grateful once they get the insurance, they fear leaving the machine lest zombies of “I Told You This Was Dumb Butt Wipe” stalk you for life and you never recover.)

Given this toxic insanity, my husband and I went back and forth for a few months on whether this new gig would be such a good idea. Sure, it would mean more money per day, but only if I worked every day. And it wouldn’t matter this year as the extra cash would have to pay for our insurance. But next year it would work. If I banked the hours.

Lots of buts and ifs. This kind of someday/maybe thinking is not for the faint of heart. But we made a decision on faith and haven’t looked back. (Well, I looked back. I didn’t suffer the fate of Lot’s wife, but my normal low blood pressure rose from the faux salt stress increase anyway.)  Rex? He’s been surprisingly optimistic about my subbing. In the end, thanks to a lot of prayer, meditation, 12 step meetings, family, friends and the occasional pit bull lick of support, I can now say I am thrilled made the choice to try something new. Here’s what I’ve learned which I’ve applied to my life in general.

5 Ways I Got Happily Ticked Off About Substitute Teaching

1) Fearlessness: I learned that to do new things I had to be fearless. Jobs weren’t always a guarantee, and setting the alarm each morning at 5am so I could be ready for the 530am sub call took some adjustment. But instead of going into meltdown mode (okay, once or twice I went there) I incorporated some morning meditation into my routine for the wait. I set the intention of being where God would have me for the day. Turns out, it wasn’t to dwell in Complainville. My spirit daily whispered that I could cry or have a good attitude. The good attitude made all the difference.

2) Laughter: Things didn’t always going to go smoothly. (Like the time I marched 61 middle schoolers into a darkened gym without knowing where the light key was. This meant 61 hairy, stinky 13 year olds yelling, shrieking, making hump sounds and playing BTS on recurrent loop from phones way more expensive than mine. Yeah, that was about as fun as a colonoscopy.) Despite the discomfort of living in the dark sometimes (literally as it turns out), not taking screwups so seriously gave me courage to try it again. (With light keys in tow.)

3) Confidence: Big shocker coming: I can overthink things and get insecure when I don’t know what’s happening. Whether it’s taking roll on an antiquated system, working with a school wide computer system that’s slower than I am during my 5am wakeup call, or getting 12 kids with special needs and wheelchairs onto a bus, I worry that I won’t get it right. Guess what? I often don’t. But I came up with a motto that keeps me from being paralyzed with perfectionism: “If don’t kill anyone, that’s good enough.” So far so good. And in just doing stuff over and over I gain more confidence.

4) Honesty: I don’t pretend to know what I don’t know – especially in front of the middle schoolers. They see through b.s. quicker than Windex.  Being honest about the fact that sometimes “I just don’t get Geometry but I can talk a great game about John Green Books” gets me a lot of respect. (Plus wearing a Nine and Three Quarter necklace along with some floral Doc Martin’s doesn’t hurt either. “Who is this 6 foot muggle?” They are thinking. I’m funky enough, and scary huge enough, to keep their attention.)

5) Joy: Going back to my Ms. Frizzle meets Hogwarts fashion statements, I remember each day to have joy. I don’t just remember. I radically insist on it. Without it, my soul suffers and so do the people around me. And how is that helpful? It isn’t.  I no longer allow myself to be a victim of my circumstances or my often fluctuating moods. I am here to be of service to the kids, my family and to myself. That means focusing on what is working, not what isn’t. And to do that, I must have joy. That comes from practicing #1 – 4 .

My Committment

I have made this commitment before, but it’s become even more apparent the past few months that I need to make it again: I am going to blog every day. EVERY DAY. Even if it’s just a line about my kid’s new mouth gear. (Note: Stink got braces! But… he was supposed to get Invisalign. That means I was pretty surprised yesterday to walk into the dental exam room and find his mouth full of shining metal. So I asked the orthodontist “Hey, what happened?” At which she showed me the contract I signed which, at the very top in bold letters read: “FULL BRACES.”

How did I make that mistake? Because my mind had been all over the place this month: Working, kid pickup, cleaning, shopping, worry over finding time to write this script I’m on deadline for, a new pop up camper and why oh why is the dog using my wooden spoon as a bone? When will I ever get those Christmas thank you notes out and what ever happened to my book of poems? The point: I just signed that contract without really looking at the fine print. (The upside: My poor son will be shiny example to me to SLOW DOWN in the future. Two years of an example, in fact!)

I can’t give you answers to all the neurotic questions that often bombard my brain, but I can say this: When I blog life flows better. It makes the orthodontic mistakes funny instead of shameful. It connects me to those of you who also wonder sometimes if you’re doing enough for your teenagers in this world of instant gratification and social media confusion. It validates the simple truth that shared happiness, and pain, through honest postings means far more than memes on Facebook that talk about personal growth without actually growing.

When I’m blogging, I’m growing. Like the plant in the photo above from a classroom I subbed at last week, I’m not dead. Just dormant. I’m thrilled to be back in the place that waters my soul and brings me a little light.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #7: Commit to doing something you love every day. 

Leave a Comment

What about you? What hobby makes you Happily Ticked Off?

Until next time,

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

Coaching and Wellness

10 Ways to Jump Start your Dark Mood, Essential Oils and Tic Coaches. It’s a Thing!

blog

Okay, so my last post wasn’t all that encouraging. I was down and out over the sounds of these tics over and over (and over and over… and over and over) and I was ashamed that I was so angry. Shame comes in many levels, and here’s what my inner voice yelled at me:

  • “Again? The same complaint again?”
  • “How can you have published a book about being Happily Ticked Off and still feel so mad?
  • “Why can’t you concentrate on the great things that are going right?”

Here’s the answer I got back

  • “Because you’re human. Duh.”

This voice of reason (which I call the Holy Spirit… he’s a cheeky fellow) was quickly followed by another revelation… one that used to take me months, years, therapists, wine and meds to figure out: I can start over.

So… 8 hours later (and one trip to Wood Ranch BBQ thanks to a very patient husband who listened to me fret over my life, career, tics, worries about holidays, money and wrinkles while stuffing myself silly with overpriced but delicious chopped salad and more bread than the Pillsbury doughboy) I did.

I started over.

dpg.jpg

(Oh, wait, that’s not my husband. That’s my spoiled pit bull who is not allowed on the bed no way needed some love just like me.)

Solution

Thanks to years of getting better tools in my tool belt, I did indeed begin anew the next day. Why? It’s the only way. I refuse to play the victim. As someone in my Sunday group likes to say, “Blame, Shame, Explain… it’s a nasty cycle.”

And so with that in mind, I reminded myself once again of a few things that maybe you need reminders of today.

A) No one is in charge of my feelings.

B) I can grieve, but self-pity has to go. It’s not productive.

Inability to Move Forward 

“But I’m sad! I can’t move on!” you might moan. I was like that, too – for more time than I’d like to admit. I remember the feelings of frustration and the well of despair that the sounds of tics brought on. (Heck, I lived in that space for eight hours the other night!) But I have done enough mental and spiritual work to know that tics aren’t truly my problem. Tics are simply a trigger for deep rooted beliefs that who I am is not enough.

And that, my friends, is a big fat, hairy lie.

Would I like less tics? Of course. But that’s not what I really need. What I really need is to get out of self, let my son be who he wants to be, so I can become the woman God intended me to be.

Who Am I?

These days I am substitute teaching, writing a pilot for a producer I truly adore, and considering getting a Masters/teaching full time next year if said pilot is not sold. (I am not trying to be negative… just realistic. I love teaching. I need income. And I’m almost 50. I need to go where God – and a paycheck – would have me be. That destination is not one of confusion but of peace.) And so there’s no point spinning in a bad mood now. Instead, I have options! And here’s what a few of them were that I took the day after my emotional 8 hour self-pity fest.

10 Ways I Jumpstarted My Attitude (Perhaps these will help you, too!)

1

  1. Acceptance: I once again reminded myself that my son has Tourette Syndrome. There’s not a damn thing I can do about it in the moment the sounds are happening.

2

2. Let Go: While there are solutions to some of the sounds that my son could employ (Acupuncture, Brain Balance classes, meditation, supplements, testing for leaky gut, CBD oil and more) he’s not willing to do embark on this journey at this time. I once again chose relationship over pushing my point. As my mentor likes to remind me, at this stage of my particular dance with tics, it’s like dealing with a chronic alcoholic where you think there’s maybe “Just one more thing” you could have done to keep them from going on a bender. Instead, I reminded myself,”There is no ‘One more thing to try. There is only acceptance. Let go.”

3

3. Powerlessness: This is such a tough thing, but #1 and #2 drive me to my knees every time. I am powerless over the tics right now. I just am. There is no “one more fix.” I reminded myself, for this moment in time, “I am powerless.” That might sound like defeat, but it’s actually victory, because when I realize I have no control, I don’t have the burden of fixing it. It’s such a relief.

5

4. Service: Thanksgiving was coming up. I could either ruin the holiday with my frustration or I could pour myself into making it a beautiful night. I chose the second and I am forever grateful. (High lite: Getting Western Bagels with my daughter and playing Christmas music in the kitchen while she baked and I cleaned the dishes. It’s a combo that works for us every time!)

4

5. God: I remembered, once again, that I am not God. If I could fix the tics, and my frustration with them, I would. As of today, I don’t need a human fix. I need a supernatural fix – one that reminds me that there is something far bigger at play than what I see on the surface. When I can surrender to the fact that God has a plan for my life, and my sweet son’s, my entire mindset switches and I can get into #6…

6

6. Gratitude: Gratitude is not something that comes naturally to me. Naturally I am a whiny, self-centered, give me comfort/instant gratification kind of gal. But when I remember all my blessings, and then thank God and everyone around me for them, I am immediately catapulted into a new dimension: one of peace and contentment. There is always, always, did I mention ALWAYS something to be grateful for. The lie: I think I can only be grateful when the tics go away or the house is clean. The truth: Happiness is an inside job. I get happy first and the tics bug me far less, never the other way around. Never.

6

7. Friendship: I called a good friend and had an ugly cry. Instead of trying to find instant solution, I grieved what I had hoped would be a relaxing vacation without noises. She promptly reminded me of #8. (Personal shout out to Tuskany, Barbs, my sister, Susan, my 12-step homies, Ria, Linda, Rose, Karen, Lavender, PrairieMom, Jodee and so many other women in my tribe who I just couldn’t imagine life without. You ground me. You let me be me. And I am so grateful.

8

8. Self care: I’m often the last person my list, and then I blame and shame other people for not meeting my needs. Um, not such a great dynamic. Instead, I took my friends advice and employed radical self care. I took 2 baths/day for a few days and didn’t obsess over people who had no water in Africa while I relaxed in an amazing tub

(Note: my tub does not look like this photo. I did use a candle, but it had half its wax missing. Brown stuff lined the shower grout… if the grout that was not missing… and my legs are so long they practically smash me in the face when I soak, but this picture is so much more alluring. And she has amazing legs!) I had that extra cup of coffee. I bought myself some amazing MAC Ruby Woo lipstick. I did some glorious window shopping at the mall and whenever negative thoughts came into my head, I told them, “Thank you, you are no longer welcome here. Now go piss off.”

9

9. Exercise: I walked every day this vacation. Just 20 minutes. I did not lose 20 pounds, but I did get into gratitude for how lucky I am to live on a beautiful street, to walk as a woman without feeling fear for my life, and enjoy a wave hello or goodbye with a neighbor. (When negative thoughts about world politics entered my mind, I refused to feel guilty. I voted. I did what I could. But negative news does not negate my obligation to have joy regardless. It’s a must.)

10

10. Organization/Decoration: I cleaned my house and decorated for Christmas. (See that tree? My daughter and hubby surprised me with it on Saturday. And by “surprise” I mean I put it on my Christmas list. I didn’t wait to get nothing while I shopped for everyone and then felt angry that I had nothing for me. Nope! I have always wanted a white tree and this is what they found. Perfect! It looks like candy on taffy. I truly could eat it. If I had a design company, I’d call it “Lickable Designs: Products So Amazing You Could Lick Them!” (Don’t judge.)

I hope this list helped you! I know that it helped me writing it out. Until next time,

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

My book is available on Amazon. Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook

bookcover profile pic

 

Uncategorized

If Your Dream Doesn’t Scare You It’s Too Small

sss

It’s been insane….Showing up at different schools… Sometimes I’m a P.E. coach, sometimes a choir teacher. Sometimes I’m a math teacher. Other times a science or robotics instructor. Translation for all this: I take roll and make sure the kids don’t kill each other.

In addition I’m doing my writing class on Saturdays. Am I doing too much? Of course. But when is it ever a good time to go after my dream? It turns out that being put on as “head writer” on another person’s script didn’t go at all how I planned on Saturday. (Big shock.) I mostly just sat at the table while the big producer who is teaching the class did all the talking. I contributed one big idea that was accepted. The rest? Not so much. (I could swear that he looked in pain when I spoke most of the time. Note to self: Keep it brief.)

Now I’m assigned to work with the show creator as well as an Improv person to take this script from the first draft to the show runner’s direction. Can I do this? I don’t know. Do I care? Yes. Will I freak out if it doesn’t go? Not really. It’s a crap shoot in the end. All I can do is my best.

“It’s going to go to Big Actress A,” the producer says.

That would be nice. But in the meantime, I have to show up at public school and keep kids from riding the shopping carts full of old P.E. equipment while I take attendance.

I have to cook dinner and do shopping and hope my son’s size 15 (yes, you heard that right) SIZE 15 black rainboots arrive in time for Halloween for me to paint bright red with sparkles.

No he is not going as Captain Underpants. He is going as Papyrus from a videogame, Undertale. He will have two sidekicks – Miss L the ever present neighbor girl and Amber, a girl he’s known since he was 2.

Have I cured Tourettes? No. Is he trick or treating with two beautiful girls as well as making additional plans to hang out with his “friend” from school – a 17 year old Junior girl? Yes.

It’s like this script I’m writing… and figuring out my career… I don’t know where it’s all going, but God does, and that’s enough.

Oh, I did get a residual check today for my book. I think after royalties I’ll make $14.00. Woo hoo! I’m on fire! If any of you readers ever visit L.A. I can buy you a Starbucks. If 14 of you come by I’ll take you McDonalds for a dollar coffee. I know. I’m generous.

sss

Well, I’m off to call my mom. And crash. Tomorrow starts early and I have middle schoolers to wrangle, a house to clean for 3 writers who are going to revise a script in my office upstairs, and a pit bull to be sure has peed before she jumps out of our living room window screen to urinate on a squirrel. (Yes, that’s a thing.)

Okay, Wait… One More Thing

How’s your dreams happening, people! As Mark Batterson writes in a book I’m reading now, “If your dream doesn’t scare you, it’s too small.”

Last month, I was ready to vomit. Now, I’m just kind of doing it. I’m tired, but doing it. And that feels so much better than thinking and projecting. God is in the action. I take the steps and leave the results to Him. It’s less pressure.

What are the dreams that scare you? I want to hear! Leave a comment!

Until next time,

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

My book is available on Amazon. Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. (Yes, I’m back on Facebook for work mainly!)

bookcover profile pic

Uncategorized

Oh Brother…Warner Bros & Wonder Kids

My favorite school secretary called me last minute at 7am for a sub gig.

“Frazer, we need you.” With LuLu, it’s less of a request and more of a demand. And for this co-dependent in transition, I’m not against being bossed around… especially when it comes with a nice paycheck.

Me: “Nooooo! I was hoping to sleep! I’m exhausted from being a P.E. teacher, a choir teacher and a special ed teacher this week. I can’t handle being an English teacher now! Absolutely! I’ll be there in an hour!”

Don’t get me wrong – I’m always grateful for work. But today, man, it wasn’t easy. It mattered little what I said to some kids. Paper balls were thrown, my words were spoken over time and time again, and no one cared about me reading Wonder out loud or how valuable a well constructed paragraph is in life.

“I’m not even going to graduate highschool,” one girl told me.

That made me sad, but the more I do this job, the more I realize I can only teach those who want to be taught.

Today, at the end of sixth period, a sweet boy named Joe stayed after class.

“Miss Frizzle,” he told me, “I just had to say that I’m sorry no one listened to you. I really felt bad… and I wanted to say that I had someone in my family, like that kid in Wonder, die of a disability.” He started to tear up. “Geez, I’m sorry. I just…I miss my grandma a lot.”

There wasn’t much more spoken. I’d hug him if I could, but empathy and public school means lawsuit, so I just stood there. “You’re a good kid. Thank you,” I said.

Despite the hard kids, it’s kids like Joe that keep me coming back.

Plus, I wrote a great poem about a cockroach during my conference period. I figure if I can write one poem/day I’ll have 365 in a year. Maybe then Warner Bros. will realize what a genius they missed out on!

sss

The takeaway: I’m getting better at this not taking rejection personally…. 8th graders who scoff at great literature… executives who don’t want to hire 48 year old screenwriters… the teenagers who decide to give me the silent treatment because I had the audacity to remind them to do the dishes and, since they forgot conveniently AGAIN FOR THE MILLIONTH TIME to also clean up the dog doo… it’s all part of getting into the game of life.

I’m going to bed now. I can hear my sweet son ticking all the way up the stairs through the floorboards. But you know what? He’s happy. He’s not giving his teacher lip at school. And he laughed at my cockroach poem. I’d call that a good day.

Until next time,

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

My book is available on Amazon. Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. (Yes, I’m back on Facebook for work mainly!)

bookcover profile pic

Uncategorized

Freedom to Suck

I’ve been up since 430 am. I’ve had 5 hours of sleep. In addition to driving my daughter to Simi Valley to board a bus to Disneyland for a music field trip, I shot across the Valley to work as a P.E. teacher at a new school. It was a long day on the blacktop, pushing a cart of balls in the hot sun and reminding Middle Schoolers to “Sit Down!” “Be Quiet!” “Get your hands off your phone and pay attention!” I go back to my  homeschool for two days tomorrow and Wednesday, this time as a music and math teacher.

I am starting to get the hang of this sub job – mostly the part about not taking everything so seriously. Some days the kids are amazing. Other days they tell me I look old and wonder why I’m wearing my Del Taco on my shirt.

It’s not what I’m doing, however, that matters as much as my attitude. When I stay in gratitude, I’m excited about the possibility of making my quota for health insurance… grateful I can do this while still being there for my kids after school. Not every day is going to be a winner, but the overall prize is waiting for me.

sss

The same goes with my writing. When I obsess over every single bad joke in my spec script, it’s easy for me to think, “Oh, man, you suck. Stop now. Why bother.” But when I remember it’s okay to fail… that just getting something on paper is a win… it’s quite exciting.

Last night, Stink told me, “Mom, I’m shutting down the Pokemon Club.”

Me: “Why? Not enough people interested?”

Him: “No. Just not interested anymore.”

I just looked at him, all 6’5 of him leaning against the door frame like a teenage giraffe. He wasn’t wanting to fight me. I could tell he needed to be convinced. So, in a non-Andrea move (I’m usually pretty hands – off) I said, “Dude, you owe it to the club to stay. It’s hard, but I can help you. You aren’t in this alone. And no matter what, you’re not quitting.”

And he said, much to my delight, “Okay.”

Later that night, when I had a good cry over what the heck I’m doing with my life, my husband just looked at me and said the same thing about my writing, “Andrea, you owe it to yourself to stay. It’s hard, but I can help you. You aren’t in this alone. And no matter what, you’re not quitting.”

It’s times like this I know that all the fighting and praying and therapy to keep this family together has been so worth it. We just had to give ourselves permission to not be afraid to fail, to make mistakes, and never give up.

sss

For you writers out there, here is a great article I found on Pixar’s writing process. I have a movie script a la Pixar style I’m going to write in March and this is going on my desktop.

Until next time…

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

My book is available on Amazon. Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. (Yes, I’m back on Facebook for work mainly!)

bookcover profile pic