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.

faith, God, Jesus, meditation, parenting

She Used to Be Mine: Motivation Monday

Mary Oliver, Wild Geese

Per my post last night, I’m starting this week less frantic. Less crazy. No hiking at the crack of dawn. No over analyzing of why my son does what he does or why my daughter does what she does. It’s time to turn the seething laser beam from what they are not doing well toward what they are doing well. And of course, when I do this, the beam ultimately lands on me and lights me up: What am I doing well and what am I lacking?

When I view myself through the lense of the world, online social media, or my own internal ego of projection and criticism, I see so much of what is missing. This includes projects and home renovations not unlike a pie half baked. I know the ingredients can create something amazing, but half way through I turned the oven off. Or I forget what I started. It’s only when the smoke of the failure or missed opportunity fills the house with a suffocating stench that I’m forced to get into emergency mode, making it difficult for me and all those around me to breathe well.

There can be a million reasons for this which include, but are not limited to:

  • Work
  • Family obligations
  • Death
  • Personal obligations
  • Domestic issues
  • Parenting issues

But when I view myself through the lense of God, I see my life very differently. I see that the choices I made, as well as my mistakes, have created a strong and competent woman who has modeled pretty damn well what transformation looks like. My marriage is so much stronger. My family relations are more healthy. The list above becomes things that have happened for me, not to me, to shape me into the woman God would have me be.

In re-reading Shauna Niequest’s book this morning, Present Over Perfect, I was once again reminded that life at breakneck speed is not healthy to someone’s soul.

I was also reminded of a conversation I had with one of my children last night. It was a slow, quiet conversation. No yelling down the stairs. No me telling this child exactly what they need to do to be accomplished in the world.

Instead, despite being so very tired and just plain strung out, I brought God in. I got in bed with my overgrown kid and just listened.

I’m no saint. I’m just aware of what triggers me these days. I still felt all the feelings of frustration and anger that happens when people just don’t do what I ask them to damnit, but I saw this internal reaction as something completely separate from my child’s journey. I didn’t allow my unhealed wounds to leak onto my kid. I asked more questions than gave criticism. I told my own fear and insecurities to take a hike and I listened to what they were telling me. I listened with my heart and not my head. And what I heard was the equivalent of a spiritual two by four in the head.

My kid told me, under no uncertain terms, “I don’t feel the need to be validated by the world…I trust myself. I need guidance, but not judgment. I need overall help, but not micromanagement.” Translation: Back off and stop putting your shit on me.

My head started spinning like a whirlpool, full of my concerns and fears for who this child will become if I let go. But something in me knew to not fight and swirl in the toxic waters of judgment and reaction. It would just continue to make me sick and not only drown me but my child in its furious wake.

Instead, I just dropped down… way down to the bottom of my worries and insecurities. In hitting the bottom of my emotional ocean, I felt for a moment I might just die. “Acck! The feelings! The unmanagablity! I need to tell this half grown human exactly what they need to do to fix everything!” But if 49% of me (my ego) wanted to tell my teen were they wrong, 51% of me (my soul) knew to shut the hell up and follow their lead. So I did. And that 2% made all the difference.

I surrendered.

And then, in that moment at the bottom of the sea, away from that maddening vortex, that same voice not of my own making pushed me back up to the surface of the water where I could breathe.

It was calm.

It was beautiful.

There was trust and peace.

There was also wisdom. I knew in that moment when it was time to draw battle lines (chores, kindness, follow through) and when to allow them to forge a new path on their own.

We just held each other. There was nothing to study. No book to write. No house to clean. Just the two of us, the dog at our feet, grateful for the sound of the trees in the background and a safe space to dry out.

I knew, and I know even as I type this, that getting my children to be more accomplished and productive is not the answer. (Tried that/did that… it doesn’t work. IT’S A LIE.) The answer is to ask questions so that they themselves want to do it to become the absolute best version of themselves. From that place of radical self-acceptance they will absolutely become accomplished. It’s never the other way around.

As I mentioned before, such a knowledge can be terrifying. Because in letting go, I’m forced yet again to focus on the one person left that I can control. Yup, folks, that’d be me. I’m no where near my children in terms of my comfort level with myself, but I’m a hell of a lot closer than I’ve ever been. 4 years of 12 step can really crack a person open, and what began as a terrifying adventure into the unknown regions of my soul is starting to bear beautiful fruit of self worth and belonging. Sure, I took a little trip back to ugliness last night, but I didn’t camp there for more than a few hours. That’s some pretty major progress.

And so, with that in mind, I’m going to post this blog and head back to my other writing. I’ve got a script to rewrite. I’ve got some plays to get into a production company. Here in the blessed quiet of my office, I will let go of who I think I’m supposed to be and once again begin the journey of who God would have me be. I’m not 100% sure of who this woman is, but I used to know her a long time ago. She used to be mine. And I’m grateful for the opportunity today, and everyday, to welcome her back home.

Leave a Comment

Anyone else relate to this journey I’m on? Would love to hear from you.

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

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

faith, God, Jesus, writing

Breakneck Speed.

I missed a few posts this week. My self imposed manic schedule kept me hopping… jumping to the point of not enjoying the up, the down or the in between. It culminated with two hours of sleep Friday night. Is it really a surprise that by Saturday I was jonesing for a nap more than a Democrat jumping for the Oval Office?

Why do I do that? Why must I be like Hamilton, always writing like I’m running out of time?

Part of it is passion, but much of it finds its roots in people pleasing, striving and some good old fashioned God complex. If I don’t do it, who will? Note to self: You’re not that important, so how about you cut back on the rat race, pick up a book and just read.

Tonight I did just that. I sat on the couch and let Rex serve me pizza while the words swirled through my exhausted brain and I fought sleep. (It’s not a book I’d normally look at it, but a friend wrote it. I was grateful for stillness and calm. And carbs.)

I’m giving up my Monday hike to attend this friend’s online book club and dish about character and plot. I will sip my coffee, jump start the essential oils and remember that all I can be is in one place at one time.

I am not God.

There is no race.

And tonight the world will spin (and shake – I live near the epicenter) and if I can manage to not yell at my kids, the dog or my husband before 930PM maybe next week I can start fresh. There will still be running the kids to school, there will still be grocery shopping and a small side job… the dog will need feeding and I’ll need time to finish up a sermon for Magic Church (plus one million other things in between) but my perspective will be fresher.

Here’s to being less busy, more present and remembering always – always – that who I am is more important than what I do. I don’t have all the answers but God does. And to this day, that concept brings me so much joy. Even my tantruming little ego can’t compete with that kind of goodness.

Until next time,

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.

Coaching and Wellness, faith, Jesus, self improvement, writing

Motivation Monday – A Business Plan!

sss

Swinging on a Star

Yesterday at church Pastor Craig talked about Elijah and Elisha. I can’t lie – I still don’t remember what the story was about other than the focus was on overwhelm, panic and what oh what to do hand ringing/sigh/oy vey when one is at an impasse.

My little ears perked up when he mentioned this particular theme so I wrote down his main 3 points. As it turns out, he put the same 3 points up on the screen moments later. He doesn’t normally map out his messages visually, so I took this as yet another sign that I’m a total narcissist everything is about me of synchronicity that God was showing up where I needed him most by making Himself more than clear… several times in a row.

I’m not sure how to say this in Hebrew, but I believe the translation is: “Wake up, Dumbass! I’m trying to tell you something!” (And for anyone who knows me you KNOW I’m ready for some direction.)

I am certain you’re all dying to know what Pastor Craig’s 3 take-aways are, so I’ll put them up for you right here:

  1. Ask for help
  2. Be persistent
  3. Just move forward even if you don’t know what the results will be  
    sss              (image source: Google)

Let it Unfold!

This last part hit me hardest because I like to say I’m a risk taker, but in reality, my risks are small. Not unlike boys at a high school dance waiting to move into the center of the floor and ask someone to sway to a slow song, they are often calculated, sometimes over-analyzed and often swirled in a good dose of fear. Oh, yeah, I can say I have faith to walk into a new public school every day as a sub, but it doesn’t take all that much faith to sign up for a job where you know you are going to get milk cartons thrown at your noggin by entitled pre-teens a paycheck if you just show up, shut your mouth and don’t manhandle the middle schoolers. (Quiet, Tuskany.) Nope, real faith for me is trusting in the talents I know God has designed me with: My words, my love of people, my belief in transformation and my faith. 

Along the lines of putting a stake in the ground and just moving forward (Dear, God, Andrea, just move the Beexxxp!!!! forward) I made a decision last week to pursue my Masters in Education at the end of next school year if, and only if, the writing showed no signs of making consistent higher income.

But to have a higher income, I need to choose a path. So… ladies and gentlemen… I finally chose a path. Roll out out the red carpets this has only been four years in the making!!!!

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I will write a book a year for three years and do all the necessary marketing to make it happen. I can do this while subbing! This is reasonable!!!!!

But to make that happen, I must have a business plan.

So today, for two hours, I began creating one.

And here’s something pretty shocking: I didn’t poop out a first draft and call it done. I gave it time. I’ll give it more time this whole week. And then on Monday of next week I will execute. (This will include items like a sweeter looking blog, as well as a home to house all my scripts, articles and current book which, um, never was properly marketed.)

Sidenote: Do you know to have a book sell you have to actually have a game plan and move on that game plan? Who knew???

In addition to a beginning business plan, I also gave my most recent project an hour and defended it with my life. No phones, no emails, no texts, no Facebooking, no “Oh, wow, that is the cutest puppy across the street I MUST GO SAY HELLO and then resent my kids and friends for wanting to spend time with me when I pissed all my work time away on asking the dog’s owner about the pros and cons of her Birkenstalk footgear and if she thought Sherlock was worth all the hype.”

OH MY GOD I GOT SO MUCH DONE!

Like that last point in Pastor Craig’s message, I don’t know where today’s project will land. But I do know that in taking the next indicated step a path will be made clear.

Plus I was in such a good mood all day, despite still having to work a small side job, making dinner and driving teenagers clear across town TWICE (plus falling on my butt in front of someone’s driveway like a drunk penguin) that I just didn’t have time to get into fear.

The Takeaway

My life will inform my writing (faith and joy) not the other way around (ego). And man, that feels amazing.  It makes me so happy I could spit.

Ptuyyyy! Okay, I just did spit. For good luck. Not because I totally just had a cherry seed stuck in my mouth.

Leave a Comment:

What is motivating you? If nothing, and you’re upset about it, are you willing to take a less calculated risk and put something down on paper or here in a comment? What do you have to lose other than your misery and frustration?

Until next time,

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

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

books

 

faith, God, Jesus, parenting, Uncategorized

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

ddd

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.

books

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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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.
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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. 

taco tuesday 2 gwen volgelzang

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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God, humor, Jesus, meditation, Uncategorized

Motivation Monday: Let’s Dish!

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Please tell me that some of you experience life like these dishes? That no matter how diligent you are, events, illnesses, random neighbors and challenges pile up. Some days are easier than others, but one thing is certain: the rack is hardly clean.

That’s the way it’s been for me the past… forever… but today just felt so good it didn’t really matter. I have money in the bank, Amelia went to Costco with me, Tuskany chatted with me on the phone while I watched Pip rock climb and the weather made it so pleasant to run back and forth to my car for my daily four (yes FOUR) trips to my kids’ college campuses where they are taking language.

I supposed the drive could be drudgery, but I cherish the moments with these half baked adults. I say half baked with affection, because they are old enough to have some really decent banter but young enough to still have ideals and joy toward their future. Stink  wants to work for Nintendo and create video games. Pip wants to sing on Broadway and maybe get into nursing. Will those things happen for them? As my father would say, “I don’t have the foggiest notion.” But the passion they have toward learning those skills will serve them in whatever they choose to do. Who am I to dash their dreams?

When I forget to pray in the morning, my perspective on the above paragraph isn’t always so great. I can easily get plagued with uncertainty: “Am I not encouraging their academics enough? Should I be pushing them more toward work? Should I be better about asking them to clean their rooms?”

But on days like today when I meditate and start the morning with prayer, despite only 5 hours of sleep, I can relax into the beauty that is God’s grace when I just let conversations be. When I don’t have to be the smartest one in the car, or the funniest person at the dinner table. I can ask more questions and give space for hurts to be shared and laughter to flow. From that place of intention, how can things go badly? Even a stack of dishes is just a giant reminder of gratitude that we have food in the house, people to sit at our table, and water to wash them with.

So that leaves me with my goals for the week – to hold onto this feeling of contentment that joy doesn’t come with one more writing assignment completed. It comes with knowing that I have a God, and so do my kids, so I don’t have to worry about any fears that I have. I can just rest and remember that, as Amelia always reminds me, “Everything is working out perfectly.”

And it is for you, too.

What are your goals this week? 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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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. 

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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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