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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faith, God, Jesus, parenting, Tourettes, writing

When Life Happens For You, Everything Changes

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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. 

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Dormant Not Dead

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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. 

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Coaching and Wellness

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

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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.

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(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!)

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  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.

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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.”

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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.

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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!)

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.)

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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

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

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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.

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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!)

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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!

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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!)

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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.

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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.

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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!)

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Being in the Present On Purpose

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I’m subbing today at the Middle School I worked as a special needs aid for two years. I feel lucky that, out of 8 days subbing so far this year, 7 have been here at this school. These teachers know me and support me. I can make mistakes with people that already are aware of my successes. No more reinventing the wheel. It feels, in a nutshell, glorious. It feels safe. And from that place of safety, I can grow to be who God most wants me to be.

I have not always felt safe. I have the kind of mind that lives in the past or in the future. The present? It’s too frustrating. Here in the present is where the reality lives. The messy house. The lack of funds. The fears over my son’s Tourette’s. It’s also where my greatest joy lives when I remember to lean into it.

  • A delicious cup of coffee at 530am with my morning prayers

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  • A beautiful new office to dream in

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  • A husband who works very hard to be on the same team with me these days.

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  • Trader Joes pumpkin spice samples and old ladies at Costco who hand out burrito squares and tell me about immigrating from Cuba. (Sidenote: Has anyone seen One Day at a TimOne Day at a Time on Netflix? Rita Morena plays a Cuban grandma in this remake and she is amazing! So funny!)aaa

 

As I edge closer and closer to 50, I’m becoming more and more aware that my present only need be frustrating when I make it so. When I choose to accept reality exactly as it is… when I commit to being someone whose goal is to give to others, not take for myself,  things feel perfect.

Last week, in a special day class, I had the kids begin home room by talking about what they were most grateful for. Most kids couldn’t think of anything (minus the few who were thankful for Fortnight and Sephora) so I created gratitude for them. “How about, you are happy for your sweatshirt, because you’re not cold?” or “How about you’re grateful for the free breakfast you are eating because now you can concentrate.” From there we went on to study the solar system and discuss why Pluto is more than just a Disney character and no longer considered a planet.

“I wonder if he feels rejected?” I quipped, following it up with, “And your phone will soon be rejected by YOU who will give it to ME if I see it again.”

With the phones safely stored away in oversized sweatshirts we finished the class. At the end, a short boy with floppy brown hair ambled up to me. He looked into my face with amber eyes and mumbled, “Ms. Frizzle, I’m graaaful fa mefily.”

“What?” I asked, having no idea what he said.

He repeated in a soft whisper, “Ms. Frizzle, I’m graaaful fa mefily.”

I still couldn’t decipher it. “One more time, sweetie,” I asked, leaning in even closer.

“I’M GRATEFUL FOR MY FAMILY.”

He walked away then, big smile on his face.

And if I chose to look back, he’d see one on mine.

And maybe a little tear. (But don’t tell anyone. I work with Middle Schoolers. I don’t want them thinking I’m going soft.)

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!)

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Uncertainty: Do or Don’t Do (But Don’t Complain!)

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I’m subbing these days for the LA Unified School System. It’s terrifying and thrilling all at once. I love the kids. I love the bell schedule. It’s comforting to know that no matter how awful a hormonal middle schooler can be that in fifty five minutes he will, indeed, get off his desk and turn his cell phone on in someone else’s classroom.

What I don’t love about subbing is how inconsistent it can be. Some weeks I am on top of the world – everyone’s favorite sub and putting out flames like Miss Frizzle on a firetruck. Other days it’s slow. It’s me at 530am, barely awake with my phone on my chest, hoping above hope that the phone will ring – I can stumble through a quick shower – and I’ll be able to put 200 bucks in my bank account.

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Add in the fact that I need to book at least 100 days this year to qualify for insurance for next year and the pressure, like Donkey Kong, is on.

When I start to question my sanity on doing this job, rather than get a 9-6 office job or stay at the steady eddy school aid job that paid very little but gave me insurance, I have to remember a few things:

Reasons for Taking Chances

  1. Not working on certain days this entire week damnit would give me a chance to write my tv pilot! My dream! I am doing just that.
  2. Working as a sub would give me a better understanding of what it takes to teach. (I’m getting that. What used to terrify me now makes me a bit giddy. Who knew I could handle 46 stinky general ed 7th graders, or a class of 9 non-verbal/diaper wearing 8th graders, and not lose my cookies? It’s been an incredibly exciting challenge and full of personality and joy.)

The Uncertainty of Life

The issues I am facing with both the writing as well as the work is that they are both incredibly uncertain. Maybe I’ll get called for the day, maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll sell a script, maybe I won’t. (Oh, and tics? Those are kind of uncertain also. Fun times, this uncertainty!) Bottom line: I can’t have it both ways. There is ZERO point in taking these leaps of faith if I’m going to complain, protest and be a general crazy person for my family. (This week taught me that. As of this moment, I am putting it down. Dear Courage, Dear Jesus, I’m ready… Bring it on! And please bring coffee, too. Panic attacks are so much better with Starbucks.)

Fantasy vs. Reality

Let’s get real: The chances of selling like a show, at my age, are slim. It’s not that I am not talented, but it’s so much more than that. This business, as I am experiencing yet again through a class I’m taking, is incredibly, incredibly laced with competition, fear and desperation. I was told by more than a few students in my class that I came on “too strong” and like I had “something to prove.” The truth? I did have something to prove. I wanted people to know I could write! But guess what? They didn’t care! And that’s, sadly, the reality of this business. EVERYONE wants EVERYONE to know how good they are. It’s not just about writing well, it’s about navigating complicated personalities. Knowing when to open your mouth and when to just shut up. The truth? I failed and it cost me a potential workshop win.

Truth vs. Lies

Losing the contest was a bigger blow than I had anticipated. I originally told myself, “It’s just one class… get used to it…” but I’m realizing now the wound went much deeper. It triggered a core belief I had about myself… a belief that turned out to be a lie. And that’s this: Somewhere along the way I told myself this big story that unless I sell a TV show I’m a loser.

Typing it out loud, it sounds so silly, but deep in my gut, my motivation for this genre was flawed. And flawed never works. Even if I sold something, I’d be happy for a bit, but then that roaring lion would come out soon again, taunting me with its “You’re not good enough” barbs and roaring at my inadequacies.

My dear friend, Barbs, said it best, “Andrea, it’s not about writing. It’s about your idol. As soon as you make something bigger than God you are going to lose out on your true purpose for doing what you do. Set it down. See what happens.”

Purpose

And so, on that note, I leave you with the idea of purpose. What is your purpose? What do you do when you think it’s one thing and it turns out, maybe, that God has other plans? Ex: I thought for a long time my purpose was to STOP THOSE TICS. And guess what? That was not the case. In terms of T.S., the purpose there was to teach me to not be so controlling – to accept my son for who he was. (Note: I fail with this a lot.)

With the writing, I know my purpose, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is to do this. But in what form? I don’t know. But God does. And until I am willing to surrender outcome 100% to him, everything else will be just a false idol of ego and proving that in the end will leave me flat.

A teacher I really respect, Graham Cooke, talked about this today.

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I don’t know where I’m going these days, but I know that God knows. So for today, just for today, I will finish up that pilot for a workshop I didn’t win, and once again remember that when my sweet ticker comes home from school, it’s not about me wishing he would make different choices with his Tourettes. My son knows he is a child of the King whose voice deserves to be heard. And, whether in Hollywood, books, magazines or just here in my beautiful new office, mine does, too.

And so does yours.

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 Facebookbookcover profile pic

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Acceptance Begins with Sleep! And Coffee Never Hurts

Summer is officially over. I went from hiking each dawn with some fellow teachers and mornings of glorious reading and meditation, to the grind “Mom, have you seen the cheese?” and “We need 1 million and 1 school supplies RIGHT NOW LET’S GO RIGHT AFTER SCHOOL!”

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Yesterday I was up at 445 AM for a meeting and didn’t go to bed until 1030 PM. Add in a visit to my mom, getting my kids to and from their first day of high school, picking my daughter back up and taking her for a Starbucks treat and taking care of a dog who insists on jumping through our living room windows, it was nuts.
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I write this not to earn a badge of courage. I write it to say that some days are just unmanageable. Fears come in. For those of you who read my book, you know it’s Rhonda, the voice of an old school yard bully. “How are you ever going to finish that writing pilot? What if you don’t win that contest? Your life is over! What about that messy office? No wonder you aren’t a successful writer! And by the way, those five pounds from not hiking are starting to creep back in. Watch it, Tubby!” (She’s a real bitch, that one.)
 
This morning, instead of freaking out, a nicer voice entered my head. Her name is Glinda, named after the Good Witch of the West, and she gently whispered, “Andrea, you need to rest on days you can. There’s no shame in celebrating some silence. And your curves – muy magnificente! And by the way, class or no class, you just sold an idea to a producer for another TV pilot. No pay now, but it’s great on your resume, so let’s just concentrate on what is real joy, not future fear, okay? Toodles!”)
 
I took her advice. And while Glinda would never take off her tiara and her bra, I did. Today the hanging twins and I took advantage of my husband driving the kids to school and no substitute teaching calls and slept in until 9. We sipped coffee, nibbled on toast, and watched three episodes of Call the Midwife.
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I was reminded once again through the lives of these nuns and young nurses that love comes in many forms. That in birthing babies we birth new ideas. That in burying ill friends or toxic relationships, we can let go of thoughts and patterns that don’t work for us.
For me, it’s realizing I’m doing a lot better than I sometimes think. That perhaps I never found a cure to tics, but am trusting that in allowing my son – my very ticky and twitchy son – to be exactly who he is, that this just might be a cure to what the world needs most: acceptance for who we are just as we are designed, not how others want us to be.
 
Last night I walked into Stink’s room to say good night and I heard a sound out of his chest that I had never heard before. These muffled honks came out while he was happily pounding his keyboard, writing to a good friend from 10th grade. My gut clenched. (I can’t lie. Each time it gets me. More to come on a diagnosis that explains a lot!) 
“You’re never going to get used to this. Give up now,” Rhonda snapped at me. But then Glinda came in. “Give yourself a break. Go upstairs, put on the loud fan, and go to bed. You’re worth it. And so is your son. He just needs you to love him as he is.”
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So with the power of a mom who loves this kid more than I can say. I kissed him good night and headed upstairs. I fell asleep fast – not out of sadness or despair, but from knowing that I spent a day doing what God asked of me: being of service, letting go of my old ideas, and loving my child just as he needs at this moment of his life.
What Can I Change? What Can You Change?
 
I can’t change my son’s decision to not medicate his tics, but I can change the grease on my kitchen cabinets.
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I can tape off the walls of my office so my husband can spray a neat white line on the ceiling.aa.jpg
And I can remind you that, if you’re hurting or lonely, you are not alone. Change what you can, and give the rest back to God. Because take it from me – the answer is not in fixing things or getting what we want. It’s would be nice! (Believe me, I’m ready for tics to end and get a TV writing gig to make some cash again!) But true serenity comes in loving what we have, not what we don’t.
And we can do this every day, one day at a time, with good friends, a little faith and, if you’re like me, a little coffee and hiking never hurts.

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!)

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