God, humor, Jesus, reading, spirituality, taco tuesday, Tics, writing

If I Squeeze Your Taco… I Mean Head… I’m Sorry: Taco Tuesday with Writer, Gwen Vogelzang

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Tonight I had 12 people around my table for tacos: My mother-in-law, my sister-in-law,  her two kids, my two kids, Amelia, her daughter Avi, her baby in-utero, her friend and, of course, our pitbull mix always ready for a handout. (It’s her – and Rex’s – favorite night of the week because it’s the one night there’s meat on the table thanks to Amelia.)

It was my mother-in-law’s birthday so we pulled out all the stops including two dayglo orange and green plastic taco shell holders in the form of trucks. Combined with the mariachi ducks and the sombreros we were a truly a classy joint.

After 2 tacos with 14 fixings, two sets of brownies, a gluten free cake with sprinkle stars and coffee, I was so happy I could have squeezed someone’s head. But I didn’t. Instead I decided to put up tonight’s post, an interview with writer Gwen Vogelzang for her upcoming book, If I Squeeze Your Head, I’m Sorry.

I was honored to be introduced to Gwen through her agent, Stephanie Alton, who asked me to write an endorsement. (Her book deals with a boy who has Tourettes. Turns out that not only do our kids have that in common, but we both have similar journeys of faith, are straight shooters when it comes to transparency with our lives and not afraid to try new adventures. Plus she’s a fan of tacos, so she’s in automatically.)

I love meeting new people like Gwen, but rather than talk about, why don’t I let you read about it!

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Where are you from and where do you live now?

My husband and I recently moved from 18 years in Denver to Grand Rapids, Michigan.

What do you do for a living? 

I own and operate Four Birds {Airstream Gathering Spaces}, where we rent out a vintage Airstream trailer for events and meetings.  We had it gutted and restored and it’s an open space with a mini kitchenette.  Unlike most Airstreams, it’s not used for camping but rather as a boutique venue space where small groups can gather.  We deliver the trailer to locations of our clients’ choice and host creative workshops on our 5 acre property in the Michigan woods.

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I’m also publishing a book with our son, Rylan.  He’s 12 and lives with Autism and Tourette Syndrome.  The book is drawings he created, paired with his descriptions about what it feels like to live in his brain.  It hits shelves this Fall and we couldn’t be more pumped to put his unique, inspiring work into the world and see what God does with it.
taco tuesday2 gwen vogelzang

What influenced you to write a book?

 During a semester of homeschooling, Rylan and I were studying what it takes to be an entrepreneur.  We interviewed a local cafe owner we frequented in Denver and she offered Rylan the opportunity to host an art show at her cafe.  We decided, after negating the idea of focusing the show on Pokemon, to use the them of what it feels like to live in his brain.  The work we did together was more valuable in understanding my son and the way he walk this earth than the tens of thousands we spent on therapy over the years.  And the feedback on the show from the public was inspiring and humbling.  After the 10th person told us we should consider turning the art show into a book, we put together a proposal and 8 months later, we had a publishing contract.  We knew how much value a vast array of audiences would benefit from his work and felt obligated to share it.

Have you always wanted to write?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember.  My basement holds boxes full of old journals documenting very dramatic middle school feelings up through journals written during our first years of marriage.  I’ve been blogging for 10 years, which continues to evolve into audiences resonating with stages or our family life.  It’s therapy.  Writing is how I tick and process and form connections.  

What is your marketing strategy and how important is this for writers who are publishing their first books?

This being my first book, it’s a huge learning process, but my 15 year career was in non-profit marketing and public relations which helps tremendously.  I find so much life in searching for creative and bold ways to spread important messages.  We’ve formed a list of influencers who are conencted to autism and tourettes to help us launch the book and will host various events supporting pre and post sales.  We also did a fundraiser to fund a book trailer video to utilize during our launch and developed a fun, engaging website specifically for the book.  Our social media through Instagram and facebook will keep audiences engaged and cause them to love our kiddo as we prepare to launch the book.  Without effective marketing, books are incredibly hard to sell just given how saturated the market it.  It’s a tough gig putting a book into the world. 

What was the most difficult part about writing your book?

The toughest part was definitely making the design and look of the book to match our vision.  It doesn’t always match what the publisher views as the vision, so navigating those waters has been tricky. 

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What was the most fun about writing your book? 

Definitely working with Rylan as he drew and described his experiences.  He would verbalize why he drew what he drew and I typed as he talked.  It was such a collaborative experience and one that was incredibly unique to anything I had experienced as a parent.  It proved to me just how powerful art is in a therapeudic realm for kids of any cognitive or developmental ability. 

How did you go from “ticked off” to “happily” ticked off? (Basically, how did you use any of your challenges to motivate you to move ahead?)

This book has directed me away from the mentality that I need to “change” my kiddo to one of contentment and awe in who he was created to be.  His “challenges” are in fact gifts that I was stifling by trying to alter the way he behaves and reacts to the world around him.  Allowing him to express just how he sees and feels and hears and touches the world brought peace and inspiration in my relationship with him and in my understanding of how to advocate for him.  That doesn’t mean we don’t struggle day to day and have challenges to face, but I see them at face value and don’t assume that they can be fixed.  They just “are.”  And that’s okay.

Give a shout out to a few bloggers or writers who have influenced you the most.

Watching Heather Avis with The Lucky Few advocate and shout the worth of her kiddos is inspiring on so many levels.  Her feeds warm my soul on days when I want to give up.  Her spirit is infectious and vital to our kids with different abilities.  I also admire Sevy Marie and her Mama bear, Lisa Eicher.  Their dedication to finding joy in their daughter’s trauma is incredible.  Another example of the power of art and advocacy through a kiddo’s strengths.  Last, Shelley Moore is a storyteller, inclusive educator, researcher and author who I saw headline an inclusive education conference.  She captivated me at her assumption that ALL children can be included in regular education and the brilliant strategies and coaching she offers educators who need guidance.  

What do you want people to know most about your book? 

12-year-old Rylan thrives and struggles with Autism and Tourette Syndrome. He and his Mama Bird, Gwen, are publishing their first book, set to hit shelves in September, 2019. This one-of-a-kind picture book, “If I Squeeze Your Head I’m Sorry” will uplift, educate, create dialogue, entertain, and allow readers to enter the brain of a child who sees, feels, and understands the world from a remarkably and refreshingly unique perspective. Their work reminds us how important it is to listen to each other in an effort to truly understand and to assume immense value in one another

Send Links and Brag or Forever Hold Your Guacamole

Tell your neighbor, your hairstylist, your teachers, your great Aunt Gerty, Tell ALL your people. This book is an inclusive experience, so get on board Broskis! Pre-orders available soon!  Visit http://www.ifisqueezeyourheadimsorry.com for all the crazy fun details.  Follow us on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/ifisqueezeyourheadimsorry/.  

Does faith play a role in your writing? If so, how?

We believe in an inclusive God.  And that God is the reason this book is about to become a real thing.  Rylan and Jesus are pretty tight – always have been.  Rylan has a lot of questions about God, but in his heart he feels connected to a love not available anywhere else.  Jesus and Rylan knew how important it was to use his words to help create more understanding and conversation around living with special needs and by golly that’s what they’re doing.  I’m the tool making it all happen in the literal sense, but the opportunity came through grace and Jesus.  I’ve tried explaining it other ways, but I fall short every time.  

When we meet in person for tacos, what food item would you bring and why? 

Always guacamole.  Every day guacamole.  Avocado, one lime per avocado and pink sea salt.  

 

Have You Written a Book and Want to Be Featured on Taco Tuesday? Leave a Comment or Just Say Hola to Gwen! Comment and Share

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

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

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Special Needs, Shame and Growing Up

By the title, I’d love to tell you that this post is all about my son. That I’m this awesome mom of a kid who tics and, despite his twitches and occasional shakes, I’m helping him work past his shame. You see, he’s growing up. In Stink’s case, literally. (He’s 6 foot 1. I’m in heels. He’s estimated to be SIX FOOT NINE. Um… I’m so okay with this no big deal sheesh dying on the inside a little bit each day.)

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You see, a well balanced mother… one with a full time job and freelance side job and a walk with Jesus and recently turned 37 47-year-old mother should be happy that her son is healthy.

Oh yes, he still tics. He does this head jerking up down/up down/arm thrust/arm thrust shaky shake every minute or so. He warbles a bit when he talks. But most people don’t notice it. And, more importantly, he doesn’t care.

I am quite certain many of you moms of tickers want to slap me. I know that many of your kids suffer from worry about their symptoms. I can say two things about the Tourette Syndrome diagnosis over the past 10 years:

  1. I can’t take credit for his confidence. I’ve sometimes been a real jerk.
  2. Sometimes I wish he were bugged a bit. It means I could offer him some supplements… some CBD oil… some new diet or medication or meditation or unicorn sperm to just calm. it. down.

But that’s not the real rub (not the unicorn sperm). The real rub is that when I can’t focus on changing tics, my husband, my daughter, my mother, my neighbors or my entitled pit bull, I can only focus on myself.

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This takes on a lot of different forms.

  • Manic busyness
  • Too much concentration on work (work I have, work I want, work I’m behind on)
  • Picking fights over stupid things (“The way you chew that food. Is it necessary?”)
  • Obsessive thinking (Most people have 4000 thoughts 4 times/day. When I’m anxious, I get 4 thoughts 4000 times/day. I’m lucky that way.)
  • Mood swings (8am – My job is awesome! 8:03 – Oh everyone can suck it and die!)
  • High highs and low lows

Lest you think I’m possibly bi-polar, one of my other amazing qualities is being neurotic. I’ve been down this road before, and anyone who knows me, or read my book, knows that I saw a shrink for anxiety. I’m definitely not bi-polar. I’m just a fairly intelligent writer who thinks to much, feels too much and is a bit on the shock controlling side. (I have lots of great qualities, too, but rather than see the prior list as “bad” and my generosity, humor and love of people as “good,” I’m attempting to see both sides as simply part of me. It’s the way I’m wired. God made me this way, so it must be good enough.)

Sorry, Mom

I write all this not to have my mother sit in her home office and shake her head with sighs of “Dear, Jesus, how did a calm Bostonion like me give birth to such a transparent wacka-do?” I say this because I’m pretty sure the only difference between someone like me, and others who don’t say it like it is, is that I’m attempting to be brave enough to admit I don’t always have it all together.

  • I worry about money.
  • I worry about not spending enough time with extended family.
  • I worry about my kids growing up too fast.
  • I worry about what other people think about me.
  • I worry about my husband’s job.
  • I worry that I shouldn’t worry about any of the things above this bullet point and I still do which means all these years of therapy and AA must mean I’m really more screwed up than I realize OH MY FRIGGIN A THIS SUCKS.

Oh, Wait, There’s Good News!

Yes, there is Good News on a biblical level. (My faith walk is so helpful. But this is not a Jesus post. Especially with a half naked woman in a cone bra right below the good Lord’s name. Though I’m sure Jesus would find her cute. He was a man after all! And don’t give me the “He’s gay he hung out with 12 men” speech because I call about 20 women/day and that doesn’t make me a dyke on a bike but, thanks to my obsessive mind, now I have something new to concentrate on. Hooray!)

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The good news is, like a random blue sock in a pile of white laundered gold toed stallions, I see the source of what ails me and drives my need to focus on others instead of myself.

The bad news? That sock is nothing but good old fashioned shame. Shame that reminds me that there’s this wee wee piece left of “you’re not good enough” left from some random experiences I had who knows when back in my childhood.

The good news is that, knowing I have old tapes in my head, there is healing. The good news is that I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I’m not the only one. My friends admit their shame. My close family members share it with me. Heck, random people in Costco tell me about it while we’re in line for five dollar rotisserie chicken. “I’m sorry I got so cranky just there,” one woman told me. “I have terrible anxiety about being late for dinner as a kid on the farm and it manifests itself in hormone injected poultry.” (I can’t make this crap up.)

Not Admitting It Doesn’t Make It Not Real

I don’t want to admit I have shame anymore than that blue sock feels comfortable in a pile of crisp white matching show off socks. (I hate them! Their perfect pairs! Their no hole perfection! Damn them all!) But knowledge is the first step toward freedom.

Tourettes – My Ticket to Freedom

Maybe like me you have a child with Tourettes and you’re scared. Maybe your child has a different disability. Maybe you have no children with disabilities but you think that maybe you might relate to my big “I have issues” proclamation.

If so, you’re welcome here. April is Shame Month on Happily Ticked Off! And that’s no April Fools joke! Lets talk about it. Lets support each other. And let’s have a few laughs.

If my ticking, estimated to be 6’9, goof ball son can deal with a disability shame free, then we can, too!

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(I hope Luna, the dog my son pets over the fence every day on the way to school, doesn’t have a “No Media” policy.)

Lets use our “special needs” as a ticket to stop focusing on what isn’t the issue (the disability) and get to the root of what is.

Until then,

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 FB

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The Mommy Show – It’s Back in Production!

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A few days ago I was standing outside my kids’ school, chatting with a grandma about the logistics of she and I getting our respective teenage boys to youth group. My Hermione of daughter walked up to our conversation, her arms holding a Trojan Wall constructed entirely of sugar cubes (which she got 100% on…of course) and said, “Mom, can we go now?”

To that I responded, a bit irked, “No, I’m talking.”

Apparently she misunderstood me the first time, because she went on to say, “But I’m tired. I don’t want to stand here anymore.”

To this I responded, “Are you kidding? I’ve been up since 6am working and ran home to go over the floors because I can’t handle ADHD and tics and begging for after school snacks on top of a house that has more paw prints than a kennel I understand you’re tired, sweetie, so go wait in the car.”

Before she could start in again I turned on my heel and barked under my breath, “NOW.”

With that she set sulked off to the car while I finished my conversation.

After channeling my inner project manager to coordinate the simple task of getting sweet boys from Point A to Point B post dinner – but before the oh so important start of ga-ga ball (because who doesn’t think of Jesus when they see 30 boys thrown together in wooden circle?) I walked toward the car.

It was a cool fall day but I was boiling inside.My daughter… my sweet, Anne of Green Gables meets Laura Ingalls Wilder of a daughter… was truly morphing into a sullen tween.

 

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She was acting entitled.

She was acting pouty.

And it was all my fault.

Who, but me, jumps through hoops to make sure kids get places on time and eat well?

Who, but me, is always considering “how they feeeeeeeeeel” over how I feel?

Lest you think I’m sounding like a martyr, I do things for my kids because I love them. But at the same time, letting them think that they are the center of the universe isn’t love. It’s enabling them. And more important than that too often thrown around buzz word, it’s hard as hell to live with under the same roof.

And that’s when I remembered a little mantra I used to live by when they were little. It was time to resurrect it. To use some of my sitcom writing skills from yore, let me paint you a little picture.

Fade in:

Int. Rolling Landfill of an SUV that smells like a cross between El Pollo Loco chicken legs and essential oil.

Cue Theme Music:

Mommy loves you Stink and Pip

But here’s for you a little tip

Your attitude, kids, need to go

Let’s tune in The Mommy Show

The Mommy Show! (ba ba bum ba bum) The Mommy Show! (ba bum bum bum) It’s exciting please stop fighting here we go (Here we go!)

No more talking no more squawking shut your pie hole no more balking

Let me say it one more time, The Mommy Show!

(ba da dum dum dum)

A tired mom sits in the front seat of the car. Her two hormone raging children sit in back. She turns to them, takes a deep breath, and slowly talks.

Mom: “Kids, I love you. I think you’re awesome. But it’s time for you to remember that, as much as your individual stories are important, this is, indeed, The Mommy Show.”

(The kids give blank stares. Eye rolls and sighs are optional.)

Mom: “I’m the main player. You are the supporting cast members. While your role in The Mommy Show script is very important, it wouldn’t exist without the main player. With that in mind, you will need to start taking a back seat to the main star so this production can run smoothly again.”

Man child: “Um, Mom, that sounds nuts. Besides, you are not the director.”

Mom: “Oooooooh, yes, my son. I am. You see, I am not only the main character in this show, I direct the shots AND I am the producer.”

Woman child: “The producer? What does that mean?”

Mom: “I produced you by having sex with your father. Producer Credits ARE MINE!”

Them: “EEEWWWWWW… too much! We’re going to walk off the set!”

Mom: “Go for it. Find some other set to live in. But you might be back to sharing a bedroom again and I can guarantee you that NO ONE makes a finer taco than me.”

Man child: “You’re the cook, too?”

Mom: “The technical term is Craft Service. And you, my friend, have just been hired onto the Clean Up Crew.”

Woman child: “I think we better stop talking about this now.”

And so they did.

And instead of feeling guilty or tyrannical, the tired mom just laughed to herself. And, well, it felt amazing.

Fade Out.

Roll Credits….

And the kids did NOT live Happily Ever After because life isn’t about happiness all the time so they can suck it and be more well rounded adults in the future.

The End.

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 FB

bookcover profile pic

 

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Happily Ticked Off – The Book Preview

Hello friends!

Between my new very fancy all important writing job new barista gig at Starbucks, as well as a few writing gigs on the side/Ebay/kid wrangling, I’ve been neglecting the one place that always brings me contentment no matter what. So I’m back – and this time – I bring a video.

 

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 FB

bookcover profile pic