faith, God

Taco Tuesday – Say Hola to Author, Traci Rhodes



Hi friends!

As many of you know from Facebook, I’m taking a very strict social media fast through the Spring to crank out a new book. It seems a bit illogical. Writers need to build up a platform! I know this. But God seemed to whisper to me, “Andrea, get off the merry go round and get rooted. Stop marketing and worrying about strategy. Just write. You need this time. Your family needs this time. You will get back on later when the time is right.”

So I took the very hard plunge and stepped off. (And it’s felt A. May. Zing.)

That said, I had this interview lined up and I couldn’t go off into that gentle good night of silence without posting it. I started following this writer on Twitter (she is a bright spot in a sea of crazy online voices) and I had to find out more about her book coming out this Spring. If you’re like me – someone who enjoys a great read and is interested in things of faith – you won’t want to miss this interview.

Partnered with Church Publishing Inc., her book Not All Who Wander (Spiritually) Are Lost is her church story, along with those of a few of her friends. Together they explore church traditions and discover the pleasure of finding more of Jesus over and over again.. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot of this author in the next few years.

Traci Rhodes

Not All Who Wander (Spiritually) Are Lost, Coming Spring 2020

1) Where are you from and where do you live now?

I grew up on a piece of land outside a rural farming town outside of Kansas City, Missouri. Moved to Michigan when I got married, and we now live on a piece of land outside a rural farming town outside Grand Rapids. In many ways, it feels full circle.

2) What do you do for a living? 

I don’t work outside the home. My days are spent writing and building up my author’s platform. I also hold a number of community volunteer positions; I serve as women’s ministry coordinator at my church, am on the local school board and teach Bible study and Sunday School.

3) What influenced you to write a book?

When I started my blog, tracesoffaith,  in 2014, I worked with a friend on getting the site and social media pages set up. At the time, I shared with her I was comfortable writing blog post-sized articles but couldn’t imagine ever having a topic that would fill a whole book. Over the years of writing blog posts, I discovered I had a real passion for writing about church. More and more, this was the topic I felt led to explore and discuss. Fast forward to 2016, I was attending a conference called Festival of Faith & Writing. That’s where the blog posts I’d already written, the books I was reading and the conversations I was having, came together into a book idea.

4) Have you always wanted to write?

My mom saved the first story I remember writing, from second grade. It’s a whimsical tale about two elves who are unable to have children, but then the wife gets pregnant and they live happily ever after. I’ve learned, if you’re a writer, that’s who you are. Most of my adult life, I thought publishing a book was out of reach for me. I barely pursued it because it seemed like too much of a challenge. Social media has changed the way we can get ourselves noticed. I was able to build an audience organically rather than wait to be discovered. I have always written in one capacity or another, and this gave me the audience I needed to secure an agent and eventually a publisher.

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

I’m not very good at strategy. Like I mentioned above, social media offers us an endless audience. At first I targeted people who knew me. Friends from home, my women’s ministry ladies, other faith writers, etc. Over time, and as I honed in on a the topic of church, I discovered readers interested in that. We all know of a few instant success stories but in my experience, these are rare exceptions. Identify what you could talk/write about for hours and find people who want to discuss that same thing. Accept that it’s going to take time and effort, but consistency and persistence do pay off.

6) What was the most difficult part about writing your book?

My book is narrative nonfiction, and largely my church story, so the writing came pretty easily. The biggest challenge for me was knowing what to do with the book idea. I had a ton to learn about writing a proposal, finding beta readers and finding an agent. The publishing mechanics were the most challenging for me.

7) What was the most fun about writing your book? 

My favorite kind of writing is story-driven. If I’m reading a book and they get to quoting statistics or lots and lots of other people, I get irritated. Tell me stories to get your point across! This was, by the way, Jesus’ preferred method of teaching. My book is one big story (very few stats or quotes) and I loved the process of thinking through my past to retell the details of my church experiences. I often refer to writing as turning on a faucet. At first you get an idea and the water trickles. Then it goes full force and you remember details you’d not thought about in a long time. The writing process is addictive.

8) 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?)

The biggest hurdle I had was my anonymity in the publishing world. I had met a few author friends but no one who was willing to contact their agent about me. I didn’t have a tragic story or an issue with church. I wanted to promote learning from one another in an ecumenical way. That’s a slow work. For a long time I heard God whisper in my spirit, “Trust the process.” So I did.

Another piece of advice that kept me motivated was when a writer shared a bit of advice in a FB group about rejections. She challenged writers to aim for 100 rejections a year. Magazine publications, guest posts, book proposals, you name it. When you receive a rejection letter, it’s getting you closer to your goal of 100 that year. It was a change of perspective that was huge for me. Rejection is going to happen and I had to find a way to become comfortable with it. (PS I’ve never gotten close to 100 rejections in a year.)

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

Lauren Winner will always top my list. Reading her books circa 2000 caused an awakening in me. There were other people out there having a legitimate church experience, worshiping Jesus in an entirely other way than me. Lauren made me want to meet them.

My friendship with Phoebe Mikhail, (beingincommunity.com) is one of the greatest blogging gifts I have received thus far. We met online, I don’t even remember how, and she has been a wonderful resource in my exploration of the Orthodox tradition. She grew up Coptic Orthodox and is married to a Priest. We have a mutual love for the Church and had the opportunity to meet in person this summer. Our main topic of conversation, writing about our faith, of course! Phoebe just released her first book, Putting Joy Into Practice, this spring.

The blogging world has introduced me to so many other writers. Seth Haines, Shawn Smucker, Ed Cyzewski, Jerusalem Greer, Scott Cairns, Sarah Bessey. They’re all doing exciting things in faith writing and have yet to hit any NYT bestseller lists, but they’re on my bestseller list.

Not All Who Wander (Spiritually) Are Lost is my heart. When Jesus prayed that we would be one as he and the father are one (John 17) I believe he meant it. The more I consider the things we focus on, the fighting we do, I wonder if some Christians even care about unity. As I look back on my church experience, and those of twelve other individuals I invited to write excerpts in the book, I see a well-represented Church. Many traditions had a profound influence on my faith journey, not just the one I happened to call “mine.”

Further, I’m doing some reading on church history and past ecumenical efforts. It should come as no surprise (but it did surprise me a little) that Christians have been having major discussions (often more organized councils) about the finer details of Christian theology since the day Jesus ascended into the heavens. God knew this would be the case, yet he asked us to be the church, the bride of Christ. How can we do that? Toward the end of the book, I refer to an ancient document called The Apostle’s Creed. Maybe, maybe this can help us take a step forward. At the heart of ecumenism though, what I have found to be essential is a listening ear and an open mind. What if the ways we’re worshiping Jesus aren’t by and large wrong but merely different? Where must we agree and where can we agree to disagree?

Oh, how I long for my book to be a conversation starter. I want long-time Christians, especially those who have only been in one or two traditions, to consider how other traditions do things. I want groups to share stories about their own church experiences, learn from one another, visit churches and bring new practices into their own local body. I want to awaken a holy curiosity. I want men and women to fall in love with Jesus more and more through the Church.

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

It’s in every tap of the keyboard for me. My audience is first and always God, but also the church, my teacher is Jesus Christ, my guide is the Holy Spirit. I know some faith writers can write about other things and you can see a faith influence. I write more as a Bible teacher, a voice to the church.

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

Salsa because I can my own and it’s amazing. Also guacamole because it’s a favorite.

For more information on Traci, visit her website Traces of Faith. In it you can find blogs, a chance to pre-order her book and some truly great conversations on faith and practice.

See ya’ll in the Spring!

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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Uncategorized

Motivation Monday – On Tuesday

Me fishing. Except I’m not fishing. I”m reading my second book of six I brought with me. Yeah, I’m a total camper! Just look at my excitement!

In my private group today I uploaded a 3 minute video to kick the week off. I said how I’m all thrilled about starting a new writing project. I talked about how I have notes to implement for a second draft of a TV pilot that I’m planning to wrap up by October. And then I asked everyone to share their goals for Motivational Monday.

Except it’s Tuesday.

I would blame it on camping for five days. The sun… the heat… the peeing in dirt. Except I’ve been a bit in my own head lately. School is starting back up again which means, before I know it, I’ll be getting up at the crack of dawn to answer sub gigs.

I don’t want to do it. I just don’t. But I also don’t want to get my Masters and teach. And honestly, I don’t have another option at this time that gives me the flexibility I have with the subbing.

This kind of scenario leaves me with 3 choices only:

  1. Keep complaining
  2. Quit
  3. Stop being a victim when I chose to do this work!

There’s also the 4th option: Get into acceptance about the work situation so I’m allowing only good things to come in while I implement the next phase of your life. Because honestly, I’m the only one who can implement this beautiful new phase.

That last option is such a Pollyanna overachiever choice.

But I’ll take it. Dread and complaining are just not sexy.

To end the Motivation Monday post, on a Tuesday, I do have a plan for myself and I’d love to hear yours!

My plan

  • Finish the pilot
  • Start a completely new series of books that have nothing to do with self-help or Tourettes.
  • Market said book way more than I marketed Happily Ticked Off
  • If book does better (and pilot at this point hasn’t sold) then wash rinse and repeat with second book

Most important with the above plan? Stay in the moment. Stop feeling guilty about dumb marketing mistakes I made in the past. Avoid living in the end result of website, re-branding, social media and simply write. Yes, Andrea, write! The stuff you love to do more than anything else in the world!

Hey, people, it’s okay to make mistakes and start over, whether that be with a career, a conversation or your own perspective!

The theme I’m looking to write is Romance books. And before you roll your eyes, let me say that this is a highly sought after product which I could really enjoy writing. I’m great with character and story, and it’s a sound business move. While I’m not interested at all in writing anything to do with lurid sex and body parts (words like “moist” and “tip” and “hot with desire” just make me want to vomit) I do love a well written scene with chemistry and romantic suspense.

I like the idea of writing it in the third person, also. I can get a lot more creative and not worry about offending my family any more than I already have.

In the back of my mind I’m a bit annoyed at myself. I have four other projects in the hopper. Why couldn’t I have landed on this romance idea five years ago?

Oh, that’s right. I wasn’t there yet. But I am now. And I’m excited about the fresh start.

What are you excited about these days? And do you read romance? I’d love to know!

Leave a Comment

You can also like my page, Happily Ticked Off, or join my female only closed Facebook Group, Happily Ticked Off, where we trudge toward happiness one step at a time (focusing on solution, humor and God.)

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.

education, faith, God, self improvement, spirituality, Uncategorized, writing

Where Are You, God? It’s Me, Andrea

I love our church hospitality, in particular the coffee urinals!

I sat down to write a post about Magic Church today, only to find that there was an active shooter at a garlic festival not terribly far from me in Gilroy.

Really? Is this what we have come to? Slaying people at forums whose sole purpose is to eat stinky veggies and forget worries for at least one day?

I know that violence has been going on forever in so many communities. I know that guns and crime and poverty isn’t new. But what IS newer and newer is lack of community. We spend more time on phones than with real people. It’s easy to be up on the latest trends but not notice that people are slipping away from us slowly from lack of contact with others.

I suppose this lack of connection that I sometimes feel in my own life makes me enjoy Magic Church even more than someone who has a big extended family in and out of their life on a daily basis. I can’t get enough of the rag tag worship team, the bell choir in their white gloves ringing in a new holiday or a modern hymn, or today’s post-church luau.

I don’t understand the world lately, but I do know one thing: When we lose our connection to people – even the ones that bother us down to our core – we lose humanity. And when that happens, we get the idea that maybe taking a machine gun and killing innocent people is a better idea than facing our own wounds and healing.

I beg of all of you, this Sunday night, to consider talking to someone in the grocery store. Offer a kind word to your neighbor – even the one that chats too much or uses you for too much flour. Call your mother tomorrow (Yes, Mom, I’ll call you) and stop worrying about shit that doesn’t matter. It’s the shit in our lives that DO matter. Find a community you can heal in.

And if nothing else, you heard it from me: You are loved. You are valuable. You are going to be okay. You are worth a banquet of nurturing. Yup, even the good glasses!

Leave a Comment

You can also like my page, Happily Ticked Off, or join my female only closed Facebook Group, Happily Ticked Off, where we trudge toward happiness one step at a time (focusing on solution, humor and God.)

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.

faith, God, Jesus, parenting, Uncategorized

You Can Manage and Control Something, but You Can’t Enjoy It at the Same Time. (Yeah, Let That Sink In.)

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My daughter got up early today to join me at Magic Church. I call it Magic Church because for the past six months I’ve been attending this 125 person community that all believes different things about the Gospel. Some are married, some are divorced, some are gay and married, some are gay and single. Not everyone believes in the same path to God but all believe in one thing: Letting each other figure it out the best way we can.

I’ve struggled with certain elements of right wing religion for a while, so the freedom to breathe for this A-personality control freak has been nothing other than MAGIC. Even with my doubts on some of progressive Christianity’s approach, I feel in my gut such a joy and peace. From the moment I step under the oak trees my soul whispers, “I am home. I am safe.”

The inner Evangelical in me is not too happy with this concept. With big hair and long nails (with her purse matching her shoes) she finger wags, “This is blasphemy! You need JAYSUS! That’s where the healing is!”

The only problem with Evangelical Annie’s proclamation is that such advice has not turned out to be the case. The healing has not come in the form of dogma and a one-way scripture reading ticket. Transformation, like a flower emerging from a bud, has come with colorful questions and the fragrant ability to share my story with honesty and transparency. I have found the only requirement to a beautiful garden of peace is to ask the master gardener, God himself, to show me who he is in a way I can understand. No control games. No strings attached. (Ding ding ding! He’s shown up every single time. Like a true gentleman, he never barges in without me asking, but once invited, boy does he wine and dine me! That Holy Spirit is such a cheeky one.)

Control + My Kids = Bad Move

This same concept of control has been very true with my kids. In the past I attempted to manage and control them to fit my exact specifications of how they should behave (from healthcare to grooming and study choices) but I could not enjoy easy relationship. To quote Sam, Rex and my mentor, “Control is never loving.” How true that statement was for me and my kids. Our relationship was fraught with tension, hurts and inevitable rebellion. It was only in relinquishing my need to be in charge that freedom came in. And in that freedom, a beautiful connection and bond formed.

Side note: I am not talking about letting go of stuff that matters. Serious bodily injury or outright defiance? Not happening. But if they don’t want to change their pillows every other day, despite my concern that their face could be clearer if they did so, I let it go. I’d rather have a kid with a few pimples who is happy with themselves than a brow beaten acne free teenager who begrudgingly complies. And if it means that much to me, I can just change the damn sheets myself. Some days I do just that. But most days I look at it, sigh, and refill my coffee cup. That seems more reasonable. (Oh, and do I change my own pillow every other day despite my acne? Oooh, snap! Not so much. Moving on.)

Today in church, when my daughter rolled into my pew in the back right hand corner, one kid after another smashed their way into her row like little spiritual sardines. “Pip!” they shouted. “I want a piggy back ride after service!”

Later, when Pastor Craig announced that the kids approach the front of the sanctuary for Children’s Hour (Ages 13 and under) Pip went right up there with the kids. She’s almost 15, but it didn’t matter. Flanked by kids on both side of her, she joined the Jesus mosh pit, participated in the message, and marched right out the door with them to Sunday School.

I bring this up because none of it was planned, but it was perfectly acceptable. No need to argue over technicalities. It just was. Magic.

The fact that my son was at my previous church and my husband was home washing the car? No big deal. Lack of worry about this less than ideal set up? Magic!

The old Andrea would have been in despair over such a fractured family. The new Andrea knows that every one of us gets to be spiritually fed the way we need it.

I won’t lie. I sometimes see the families with matching tee shirts and Bible verses from my old church and think, “Man, where did I go wrong?” But these days I’m mostly seeing where I went right:

  • Not sweating the small stuff to allow space for God’s miracles to manifest
  • Allowing humor to replace critical comments and sarcasm
  • Opening up our home to friends and family regardless of perfectly cleaned floors
  • Choosing to live with older cars and furniture so that newer belief structures could replace antiquated fears (fears that served only to root me in shame and second guessing)

Some of you might feel very differently than I do about this subject, and that’s okay. All I know is that the world sometimes feels very very unsafe. But in my little neck of the world, at least at this very moment with my daughter still swimming at her new church friend’s house and a belly full of pizza just hand delivered by Rex, my universe feels so full of joy and gratitude that I can only refer to it like I refer to my church: Magic.

Like the Jesus I follow who I believe died not just for me but for all of us, it only took dying to my old ideas of management and control to find it.

Might have taken 49 years to figure it out, but that’s better than nothing.

Friends, I wish you joy, peace, love and the ability to let go of managing every little thing that doesn’t matter so you can truly enjoy what does this week.

Until next time,

Andrea

PS: I picked up quite a few new readers this week. Glad to have you on board! You are so welcome here! Leave a comment so we can get to know ya.

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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education, faith, God, parenting, teenagers, writing

Grades, Schmades, and the Art of Privacy with Teenagers

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Okay, so I didn’t post my chapter for Writing Wednesday so stay tuned this Wednesday instead! Sigh.

My sweet friend, Amelia, always reminds me, “Andrea, you don’t have to be so hard on yourself.” And I agree. But I always get disappointed when I don’t keep my word here. I figure If I can’t keep my word to myself, life will keep it’s word to me in the form of doing what I don’t want to do for the rest of my life which, currently, is taking the recurrent theme of not knowing what I want to do for the rest of my life. It’s a fun internal loop that has been going on for the past 5 years. And as joyous as circling the “What Now?” drain is, I also think sticking to a schedule is not such a bad idea.

And no coffee after 3PM.

And not eating an entire bag of Skinny Pop every day and wondering why I gained ten pounds.

Lucky for me, summer is here and I have gotten back into my daily hikes. While I am not a fan of getting off my butt and doing something that does not involved writing, reading or drinking copious amounts of caffeine, there is such a joy and beauty in meeting up with my two teacher friends and smelling the hills. Plus, along with calorie counting, I’ve lost about five pounds, so that’s something to celebrate!

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Walking in these hills reminds me a lot of my parenting journey as of late. I need to prepare and stretch because there’s plenty of uphill climbs. But if I spend all my time complaining, fretting about the tough stuff and just sticking to the trails I know (such as “I’m Always Right Mountain” and “This Way or You Are a Failure Pass”) I’ll miss the beauty that is all around me… the quiet times in the car on the way to each of their summer classes where I hear about everything from Mean Girl Animatics (Pip’s choice) to Stink’s Youtube fan base (a gaggle of 10 year olds) who are writing him for an update to his Scratch based video game, “Dawn’s Journey.” Plus there’s been so many more words between us that have dramatically altered my way of interacting with them.

I originally wrote a post detailing specifically what such a conversation recently looked like, but I deleted it. It’s not that I wrote something so terrible, but I felt compelled to erase it based on previous requests from my kids that I don’t share their personal details on my site. That’s so hard for this mama – especially as an ex Babycenter blogger who made my living for years exploiting and making fun of my kids sharing the joys of parenting. But in the end, I must honor their decision to keep their private lives private. More to the point, I respect it. No people pleasers in this house! (Well, except for ME, but I’m working on that. Better stated, God is working on that for me. I just need to surrender every single day. And on days when that’s too difficult, I surrender by the hour, by the minute and by the second. Because as long as I think I’m in charge, life is going to suck. It just is.)

And so, please accept this alternate ending in the form of a quote that I sent to one of my teens after they made a decision to back out of a commitment that was not right for them.

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As I continue to walk the paths of my own journey, may I remember the same. And may you remember also!

Here’s to all of us remembering that we are not what we do, but who we are, that matters most.

Here’s to more questions, less criticizing.

Here’s to more faith and less fear.

And here’s to enjoying the beauty that exists all around us, uphill climbs and all.

Talk to you Sunday!

Leave a Comment! I Love to Hear From You All! (Even you, Mom. And Tuskany. Ahem. And thank you, Irish Mama, for your kindness always! I love you!)

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. )

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

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education, faith, God, Jesus, spirituality, Uncategorized, writing

We’re All Seeds in God’s Hands

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It’s Sunday. A beautiful Sunday after a long 3 day conference in Fullerton teaching “How to Write the TV Pilot” to a huge group of students who flew in from all over the country.

Okay, I had 3 people attend my class, and I’m pretty sure one of them was another instructor.

That’s okay. After teaching on Thursday I spent the other 3 days attending more than 6 screenwriting and book marketing classes, as well as had the opportunity to sit face to face with a few interesting people in the Hollywood and publishing business.

A lot has changed since I went to this conference two years ago. For one, I know that I can’t just publish a book and expect it to sell. (Durrrr) There’s a real business to it. I completely encourage anyone who wants to publish books to attend a conference and immerse yourself in the knowledge. It’s a bit like drinking from a fire hose, but it’s well worth it.

Another thing I learned is that no one, and I mean no one, makes me nervous anymore. I felt completely comfortable chatting it up with people like Pam Farell who has sold thousands of books. (I believe she’s written 44 in total – don’t quote me.) I laughed my butt off with someone whose sole job is writing both her own romance series as well as ghost writing for Harlequin. (I believe she has written 114 books since 1999. That’s a lot of books.) I roomed with respected agent Stephanie Alton, ate salad next to a Hallmark Christmas movie writer and even landed a potential freelance job writing some church shorts for a woman who is head writer for a company in Oklahoma.

I tell you all this because the older I get, the more I realize that we’re all just people. And, at conferences like this, the connections you make over a meal and hanging out in the dorm rooms are often more fruitful than those you’ll ever make pushing your way into a meeting through manic emails and forced networking.

What Matters Most

I loved being there, but I also felt torn. Over a phone conversation with my mom, I told her that I miss sometimes just “being.” There’s been a lot of production in my life lately, but there’s also been a lot of striving. It can be hard to tell when my ego is at work and when I just need to push through to use the gifts God gave me. At the end of the day, I only know this: if me “making it” in any career means losing the ability remain present with those that matter most, it’s not worth it. As a production exec at Marvel asked us, “What is success to you? When you can answer that question, you’ll know what your path is.”

As for me… sitting in church surrounded by friends and a hearing a member of our congregation strum to his guitar and sing, I was once again reminded that “We are all seeds in God’s hands.” Whether I grow to be a beautiful rose or a tiny petal is not really the point. All are valuable. And when I remember to stop and smell the beautiful flowers in my life – my precious children, mom, friends and every one in between – being a prized bloom in someone else’s eyes doesn’t really matter much. What matters is if I’m using my colors to serve others. If I do, that’s a hell of a good garden.

I’m not sure if it’s a good or a bad sign that the geraniums on my front porch are currently almost dead, but I sat in front of them with my husband and daughter tonight. We ate homemade pizza and felt the breeze on our faces. (My son played computer games. I think I deserve an award for just letting go and not micromanaging this! Or I’m a crap mom who allows indulgence. I like the first so let’s go with that.) For the first time this week I didn’t think about my career path or my bank account. I enjoyed the moment and was grateful that, for the time being anyway, I knew I was in God’s hands.

Until we talk tomorrow, I hope you remember how loved you are also.

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

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

books

education, parenting, reading, spirituality, taco tuesday, teenagers, Uncategorized

Taco Tuesday #1: The Book: Middle School Matters (Author Phyllis L. Fagell, LCPC Talks Writing, Middle School and… Sigh… “Balancing It All”)

Taco Tuesday 1 Phyllis Fagell

Every morning at 5:45 I meditate and pray for 15 minutes with  my husband. We levitate above our bodies and let the world’s sorrows and money woes slip into the ethers all before our Venti triple shot Starbucks hold the sugar Americano . We do a quick spiritual reading and then share about our day. It is an anchoring process that helps us each put what matters most at the beginning of our busy schedules. Being intentional with our priorities is grounding, illuminating, sometimes challenging (when I am hit with revelations about myself I would rather avoid) but always connective.

A theme I find myself circling round a lot is this idea of being present for my teenagers and family while making daily time for my writing pursuits. (Oh yeah, and the work thing! I gotta make a living – enter substitute teaching and freelance articles.) It’s not Rex’s job to fulfill me. It’s mine – not 99% of the time. 100% of the time. This ownership of personal responsibility has led me into a personal strength I didn’t know I had, but at the end of the day, sometimes my purpose still eludes me.

I write this all to say that I know I’m not alone. And while I know that who I am is what is most valuable, I often feel this pull to get more done. Regardless of my insecurities growth challenges, would I want to pass this striving onto my teens who are already in enough angst about surviving school? No. My goal has always been to help them focus on being kind, good and engaged people who are so very worthy. So far so good, minus a few 2 day couch protests over the horror of doing dishes and the Lock-Thyself-in-Thy-Bathroom-for-Holiday-Plans-Not-Working out Incident of 2016.  (Okay, I’m talking about me, not them.)

Yup, it’s often a struggle for me to stay present. Perhaps if a book like Middle School Matters, by Phyliss L. Fagell, LCPC, was around when I was growing up, more educators would have focused on teens being human beings, not human doers. I might have found my artistic passion earlier instead of my penchant toward people pleasing/perfection and having to take every single stray planting pot found on the side of the room home. And while I can’t place blame on anyone else for my own personal wiring, I can every day strive to lay down perfection and encourage both my kids, and myself, to be who they are meant to be, not who they think they are supposed to be.

In this first Taco Tuesday interview of many to come I’m thrilled to give you an interview with someone who wrote a book explaining just how focusing on what matters is possible.

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Taco Tuesday with Phyliss L Fagell, LPCP

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Where are you from and where do you live now?

I’m originally from Newton, Massachusetts and now live in Bethesda, Maryland. 

What do you do for a living?

I’m the counselor at a K-8 school in Washington, DC; a psychotherapist who sees tweens and teens in private practice; and a journalist. I frequently contribute to publications including The Washington Post and Your Teen magazine. I’m also a regular columnist for Kappan and The Association for Middle Level Education magazines.

How has that influenced your decision to write a book?

I started my career as a health and science writer and magazine editor. I went back to school for school counseling after the birth of my second child (I have three kids–two teens and a tween). I took a fourteen-year break from writing, then found myself writing for The Washington Post about counseling issues. My kids were a little older at that point, I had the bandwidth to take on writing assignments, and stuff was getting me fired up–things such as gender stereotypes, myths about middle schoolers, breakdowns in parent-teen communication, unhealthy perfectionism and achievement pressure, and stigma around mental health issues. The book is a natural extension of my freelance work and a way of compiling all my thoughts on middle school in one place.

Have you always wanted to write?

I wrote my first article for The Boston Globe when I was 14, about the Doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction (!), but I wrote my first creative “book” in second grade. I stumbled upon it the last time I was in my childhood bedroom, and it’s a very clear rip-off of The Velveteen Rabbit.Plagiarism notwithstanding, I remember how much I loved writing, illustrating and binding that book. I was seven at the time, and it’s probably when I first realized I wanted to be a writer. I was an English literature and creative writing major in college, then got my master’s in journalism, so if anything, it’s surprising to me that I switched to counseling and stopped writing for so long. It’s all come together nicely in a way I never anticipated.

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

I’m learning as I go, especially as a first-time author. Many writers, myself included, are more comfortable with the writing part than the publicity part. I’ve had to remind myself repeatedly that this is about sharing ideas, not about having a big ego. I think women in particular are uncomfortable with self-promotion and have a tough time taking ownership of their work. I’ve been lucky in that a lot of other writers– both men and women– have been incredibly supportive and have given me great advice. But mostly I leave the strategizing to the publicists. I know my strengths, and that isn’t one of them!

What was the most difficult part about writing your book?

I struggled the most with work-life balance. I work full time and then some, and as I mentioned, I have three kids. I had to let a lot of stuff go in order to meet my book deadline. After I finished the first draft, I realized I hadn’t opened any mail in months. I also picked up a LOT of Chipotle along the way. My kids probably never want to see another burrito. Fortunately, my husband appreciated what I was trying to accomplish and really kept all the balls in the air. I’m glad I didn’t know what I was getting into before I started, as I might have had second thoughts!

What was the most fun about writing your book?

I loved, loved, loved talking to experts across the world in industries ranging from technology to maker learning to education to psychology and medicine. There’s nothing like talking to people who are most enthusiastic and knowledgeable about whatever subject you’re covering, whether it’s learning or resiliency or teaching tweens about sexuality. I enjoyed nerding out and learning from the best, most passionate people. Writing can be lonely, but pulling this book together was not a solitary pursuit. I made real connections with individuals who share my obsession with everything middle school-related.

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

That’s a great question — one that no one has asked me before! I definitely was agitated prior to writing this book. I wanted to write something preventative, something that would get all of us — kids and adults alike — back on track and focused on the right priorities. College isn’t the end goal, and achievement shouldn’t trump kindness. I also wanted to provide both educators and parents with some concrete, evidence-based strategies. Basically, I saw a giant unmet need and felt we were missing out on this prime opportunity to raise good people. Middle school is probably the most neglected and most critical developmental phase. I’m hopeful that the tide is shifting. As for the “happily ticked off” part of your question, writing this book has been an empowering experience. There’s nothing like amassing and sharing a book’s worth of tips with readers.

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

This could be a long list! Jess Lahey, Michelle Borba, Rachel Simmons, Andrew Reiner, Ken Ginsburg, Katie Hurley, Amy Morin, Adam Grant, Susan Cain, Brene Brown, Claire Shipman, Josh Starr, Richard Weissbourd, Amy Joyce, Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Mary Alvord, and Amy Cuddy, to name a few!

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

I’m proud that Middle School Matters just got a starred review from Booklist! To be honest, I’m not sure if I’m more thrilled or relieved. It’s the first official review, and being a first-time author is nerve-wracking. The book is really a guide to everything that could happen during the phase, and also a road map for raising a decent, self-aware, accepting, confident, inclusive, capable, resourceful, and ethical human being. It’s a mix of stories, articles from the news, conversation starters, concrete tips, my own perspective, advice from experts and current research. It’s available for pre-order here: https://www.amazon.com/Middle-School-Matters-Beyond-Parents/dp/0738235083. I also have a professional website where you can find my articles:www.phyllisfagell.com. I tweet frequently about related issues at @pfagell as well.

Questions for Phyllis?

Leave a comment if you any questions and consider purchasing her book if you’ve got kids or grandkids entering this period. I know I could have used all the help I could get.

Until next time, let’s all try to remember that relationship is so much more important than being right.

And always eat tacos.

They really do make ya feel better.

Andrea

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

books

 

faith, God, Jesus, Uncategorized

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

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

Odd or God? I say the second.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

books

 

 

faith, God, parenting, self improvement, spirituality, Uncategorized, writing

Ping Pong Blogging: Trying A New Schedule (Again.)

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One night a few weeks back my son came pounding on my office door. “Mom, we MUST go on a walk NOW!”

He’s 16. He spends most of his time in his bedroom on the computer coding games or playing video games. He’s a good 4 inches taller than me and the days of sitting around the table every night eating off Scooby plastic plates and toasting apple juice are long behind me. When he offers a jaunt through our ‘hood, I drop everything with a resounding, “Okay!”

The purpose of the walk was an amazing treasure. A gorgeous ping pong table that just happened to be left on the curb.

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Just kidding.

It was a lopsided/rain corroded/missing a net/spider webbed/OH MY GOD IT WOULD KILL A SMALL CHILD OR CHIHUAHUA ping pong table.

So I put my foot down. “Absolutely not!”

Just kidding. I said, “Sure! Let’s take it!”

But then we got it home. And it sat on our lawn for a few days. Our front lawn. We already live next to a house with a missing chimney. Our grass is less than green. #redneckwriter. And so we had a few choices:

  1. Ask Rex to fix it on top of his demanding job schedule, our weekly communication class, painting in the bathroom (which will, for the record, be robins egg blue with rain gutters to hold Stink’s 200 rubber duck collection #classy) new roof paint for my SUV and helping move the rest Grandma Stella’s loot from her mobile home.
  2. Fix it ourselves. You know, get all crafty with all my wonderful Pinterest talent. We could bond at Home Depot over green paint! We could use the time in the car to listen to his techno music and my penchant for Billy Joel.
  3. Reality. (Door #3 is so boring. Living with magical thinking is so much more delightful.)

Guess what Door we chose! Yup, it’s now on our curb for the next bleeding heart who wants to give it a good home.

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My Blogging Goals – Like Ping Pong!

My writing goals for this site aren’t that different than ping pong. Just a few days ago I proclaimed that I’m only going to write here on Sundays and Wednesdays. Earlier in the year it was every day.

Here’s what I know about my back and forth and what I’d tell my own kids when they are learning something new: Sometimes it takes a bit of throwing the ball of your goal back and forth across your net of learning. Sometimes you have a groove, sometimes the ball gets lost. But just keep staying in the game. If it’s a game just for fun, just play for fun! But if you want to learn and get good, have a goal and stick to it.

For me, it’s both. I just can’t not write. But, as said earlier, I want to get back into making money with my talent again. That’s the goal. And so, a bit of enjoyment and discipline required. With that in mind, here’s the new game of blogging pong I aim to stick with for a month. And if it doesn’t work, I’ll readjust my strategy again. (You know what? We women can change our minds. It’s perfectly fine.)

Motivation Monday. I’ll talk goals and plans for my life and hopefully I can learn from you also!

Taco Tuesday: Taco Tuesday Guest Posts. Yup, I aim to have a new guest each Tuesday either at my real table for tacos or here on this blog.

Writing Wednesday: I will be showing a portion of my published book or my upcoming books in the making and would love to see yours.

Free Friday: Like this post, I will talk about what I want!

Shameless Saturday: This is where I brag about something that turned out pretty good for me. (I got something to tell you! Come back tomorrow) Plus I want to hear about your bragging, too. It’s so important to celebrate the wins!

Sunday: Posts about faith. I love my faith. I can’t not talk about it. One of my next books deals with this from the perspective of an 8 year old little girl who lives with her mom and grandma in a mobile home that smells like lavender and mothballs. Her name is Ray McRubble but everyone calls her Ray McTrouble because, well, she just can’t seem to keep her mouth shut.

All my other Twittering and reading of others work Monday – Friday will remain the same.

Why Am I Telling You This?

Because perhaps you, like me, want to do something other than what you are doing. And how do you do it? You get smarter and a bit more disciplined. And you write.

Oh, I also applied for a job at Goop recently as a content writer. I think I’d be pretty amazing and Gwyneth Paltrow would make a great guest at my table on Taco Tuesdays. (But second only to you, Irish Mama! So glad you stopped by with your beautiful family!) Re: getting an interview, fingers crossed, prayers lifted and if not, I’ll sub in the Fall as planned and write from my beautiful new office. I gave it my best shot. It’s a win-win!

Happily Ticked Off Tip #55:  Having a goal isn’t that different than a game of ping pong. Sometimes you have to go back and forth a bit before you find your groove. Just don’t lose the ball and give up. Because then you can’t play. #bummer

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

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

books

 

Coaching and Wellness, education, faith, God, Jesus, reading, self improvement, spirituality, Uncategorized

What Is Your Brand?

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LA at Waking Up on the Wrong Side of 50 wrote a post the other day that caught my attention. It was called “What’s Your Brand?” Like a lot of LA’s posts, she got me thinking about this. And, because I had already been thinking about it which makes me quite the narcissist I took it as a nudge from God that it’s something I need to pay attention to.

And, so, I did.

I had a good conversation with myself. Some might call this being psychotic. I call it having a rational conversation with my brain and my soul.

Brain: Andrea, why are you writing this blog?

Soul: It makes me happy. It helps me figure stuff out.

Brain: No one wants to hear your whining. Use a journal for that. (My brain can be a real bitch. If you’ve read my book, I once referred to her as Rhonda – named for a blacktop bully from my Catholic grade school days.)

Soul: People can connect with my dysfunction wisdom.

Brain: But what is your brand? Are you a book writer? A script writer? A poem collection writer? An influencer? A faith writer? A “whatever you feel like writing/how many cups of coffee did you drink to influence your manic thought process” type of writer?

Soul: I am all of those things. How can I pick?

The conversation in my noggin took a different turn when I realized that LA was not really talking about her brand for writing so much as her life. (Or at least that’s the idea I took away.)

Brain: Pay attention more!

Soul: Shut the beeexxxp up. Nice observation! I will! But right now, I don’t want to talk about fitting into perfect molds.

LesleyKluchin, a blogger I found through LA, wrote a pretty decent response to LA’s branding question. She basically said it’s IMPOSSIBLE to choose just a few things about  oneself. We are all many things at once. This made sense to me on a personal level so I decided to play along.

Who Am I?

I am:

  • A lover of books
  • An avid thrift store shopper
  • A lover of coffee1.jpg (I took myself to lunch at a beautiful restaurant Friday called LadyFace. sssThis coffee, along with the veggie burger, fries and beautiful breeze with a view of the canyon almost made working as a substitute teacher worth it. Okay, it did. I’m grateful to this small act of self care which started me off on a great weekend.sss                             It also leads me to my next branding point. I am…)
  • Someone who demands to live in gratitude
  • A lover of faith (Oh my God, my new church. I just love it. Today someone gave me an outfit just because she thought I’d look nice in it. sss-5.jpgI am getting involved in a Mom’s Against Gun Violence group there. There are all sorts of people from all walks of life who are open, kind and willing to share their stories. It’s like AA for Jesus. I’m beyond grateful for the ability to lean into God like a pair of comfy shoes – in my own way, with ease and gentleness.)
  • Someone who digs a good conversation about, well, pretty much anything (“Oh, you’re a lesbian wood cutter in Germany? I love women, I love trees and I’m learning German on DuoLingo. Hooray for the fraus!”)
  • A fan of snacks at Costco and samples of coffee at Trader Joes
  • Obsessed with musicals (Yes, I did take my kids to see Les Miserables on Saturday. And no, it was not life changing for them. But I don’t care. Yes, I did “Hear the People Sing” and I was overjoyed, even though 80% of the cast was dead by the end of Act 2.)
  • A giddy Christmas caroler/tree trimmer/cookie making have everyone over and celebrate kind of person
  • A lover of Taco Tuesday
  • Someone who writes every day because it makes my heart happy
  • An overthinker avid thinker
  • A good friend
  • A lover of animals with very good boundaries. Ahem.4
  • A huge believer in education
  • A fan of creativity, poems and the obscure
  • Someone who is writing a musical about camels
  • Passionate about transforming from one way of living to another by staying humble, open to change and willing to lay down my guns – such as my marriage to this guy
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  • Earnest
  • Hard working
  • Honest
  • Someone who loves progress over perfection – like this office! Look how pretty it looks!6.jpg
  • …and someone who can rap off the top of my head to pretty much any subject

My Blog

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

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

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

Summer Plans

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

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

This Time Next Year

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

So that’s my plan.

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

Let me know in a comment! 

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

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

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

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

books