Uncategorized

“Huh.” It’s a Complete Sentence and Will Revolutionize Your Relationship With Your Teen. (I Swear.)

For me, having my children become teenagers was like having a cherished family pet die. I had been so accustomed to the presence of sweet, happy go-lucky kids that the intrusion of unexpected and prolonged silence was unexpected. No more jumping up to see me when I came home from work. No more following me around the house. Granted, there was less whining, but a lot less sprinting for joy at the site of my mediocre cooking.

With teenagers came aloofness and quiet.

The change felt jarring.

And sad.

And for this mama who – despite trying really hard not to be a helicopter mama – still swelled with joy at every little milestone, it felt terribly lonely.

All the prep in the world couldn’t have prepared me for my 13-year-old / size 13 shoe wearing boy turning me down for In and Out Burger this summer. “Sorry, Mom. I’ve got a Minecraft hangout scheduled with the guys.”

All the chats with moms of girls older than mine didn’t ease the blow when my curvy hipped 13-year-old this year started declining watching Mama movies with me. (Apparently Youtube is more exciting than classics like The Breakfast Club or kitshy Brady Bunch re-runs. Who knew?)

While I figured I would make it through the moody “Leave me alone” stage, I wasn’t expecting the “everything you say sucks, Mom” stage. Sure, I’ve read in all those fancy journals about how kids practice on Mom to learn to set boundaries elsewhere, but it still hurt.

And, despite my best efforts to let it roll off my back, I sometimes hurt them right back. Door slam for door slam, verbal insult for verbal insult, the three of us had some pretty exciting car rides. The most fulfilling were always on the way to church. On route to being holy, we held each other hostage within locked doors, each one-upping the other’s statements in a vicious attempt to win an argument over who made who late.

If I had to put it simply, all that “relationship over being right” theory sounded good until they developed body hair. And then it all went to crap, along with my hopes of ever being close to them again.

Until last month, when my daughter locked herself in the bathroom on Halloween, and my world forever changed. While I hadn’t tried to cajole her out the door to trick or treat with her brother and bestie, I did attempt to insert my opinion when the whole ordeal was over.

“What’s your part?” I asked her, after listening to every painstaking detail about why things just didn’t “go her way” and how “unfair it was.”

I didn’t see a thing wrong with my words. After all, I didn’t interrupt her once. I was a good listener. Now was her time to listen so she wouldn’t lose out on future opportunities to have fun. Right?

Wrong.

Pip: “Mom, to be honest, I just wanted you to listen and not say anything.”

For whatever reason, instead of defending my statements (which, come on, were totally amazing points and great advice… saving her thousands of dollars in future therapy) I asked her the simple question, “You mean, not say anything? At all?”

Pip: “Yeah. Nothing.”

Me: “Huh.”

People, did you know “Huh” is a complete sentence? With that very caveman response, I unintentionally broke through the teenage time space contingency and found an oasis of understanding, hearing and safety. Unexpectedly, I heard something that could have blown me over with a feather:

Pip: “Yeah. I would have been open maybe tomorrow, but today I just wanted to be heard.”

And with that last statement, as if by some magical alien implanting a chip, everything flashed before my eyes, including a resolution:

  1. If I just stay silent, she’ll tell me more.
  2. If I ask if I can give an opinion first, she’ll feel more respected
  3. If I don’t ask and just give the opinion, she might not be listening anyway
  4. Unless what she is saying to me is directly affecting me, my schedule or my life in a negative way, there’s no need to say anything at all.

NOTE: Pay most attention to #4 – it helps in the heat of battle to know when to lobby a missle or flee.

As if to hit the nail on the head even more, my son asked his sister the very next day, “Hey, Pip, do you mind telling me what happened? Only if you want to?”

She did. In the same painstaking, blow by blow, OH MY GOD MAKE IT STOP detail.

His response, “Ahhh. That must have been hard.”

Her response: “Yeah.”

His followup: “Want to play Minecraft?”

Her response: “Let’s do it.”

Done.

The End.

The real takeaway: Saying less really does mean more in the life of a teen. 

2 more things

  1. Since Halloween, I’ve used the word “Huh” more times than I can count. And it’s been more peaceful in this house than it’s been in a year.
  2. My son will be 15 next month. He’s 6’3, wears a size 14 shoe, and eats more than large farm animal. (Oh, he hasn’t eaten animals in a year, either. In addition to being psychologically more in tune than me, he’s also a vegetarian.)

Ask me how little Stink is now bigger than my fridge? You’ll only get one response so I don’t cry.

“Huh.”

 

s.jpg

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

book front and back

Advertisements
Uncategorized

Fun Friday #3 – Gratitude Over Attitude

Life Ain’t a TV Show – But Sometimes A Commercial Gets Shot on My Street

ssssss

(Photo of a neighbor’s house 3 doors down. They shot a Walmart commercial there last night. It was fun to see the fake snow, talk to the actors, and let my kids steal granola bars and chips off the craft service truck in front of our house.)

As a kid, I always thought life would be like the sitcoms I loved to watch. Fade in funny family.

Action and fighting.

The makeup scene.

Fade out – Happily Ever After.

(Oh, and don’t forget the applause along the way. Even during the pie fight… hair would always look amazing!)

I was one of the lucky ones. I actually got to write for TV. It was during that time of life I met my husband – the slow and steady Ricky to my discombobulated Lucy. Family would visit me on the set and I’d introduce them to Roger Daltry who was playing an alcoholic in recovery. Or I’d have them chat up Lynn Redgrave who, in a glorious British accent, would run up to them and say, “Oooh, Frazer is lovely! How do you like California???”

Lest I sound like I’m reliving my glory days (which, well, I am) I have found that it’s nothing short of ironic to be where I’m at now in life… dealing with moody teenagers, moving toward the next phase of my writing career and working a steady day job – the only TV life being the commercials they shoot down the street from my house. If I’m not careful, I can get overwhelmed in regret fast.

“It’s a weird place to be,” I often tell Tuskany during our Thursday afternoon chats. While I sit in her beautiful wooden floor home with her seven perfectly groomed cats (yes… SEVEN cats) we talk about who we used to be at 27 vs. 47. We chat about public school vs. private school, politics and exactly what is the magic sauce that makes kids self-assured. God? Exercise? Education?

I asked my kids this very question on the way home from her house and my son’s answer was pretty simple: “We keep it simple. We like being weird. Mostly, we’re just wired like this.”

My kids might be wired for zen, but their mother certainly isn’t. I worry about everything. A lot. (And believe me when I say “a lot” is a drastic improvement over “all the time.” ) With my neurotic brain, I can’t change my genetics, or  some circumstances, but I can change my attitude. Which, when you’re dealing with teens, is everything.

Traffic… No Parking… Rocky Beach… OH MY!

The above statement couldn’t be more true than it was today, and that leads me to Fun Friday Tip #3 – Gratitude over Attitude. (Ten years ago, if I read that, I would have punched the writer in the face. Today, though? I cling to it.) I can’t change my kids’ attitude all the time, but I can change mine.

I can decide to be angry at the L.A. traffic, (it took 2 hours to get to the Santa Monica Pier) the closed parking lot (which took us a half hour to navitate to) and my one child who decided that the alternate “rocky” beach with the free parking ten miles away was a dull alternative to a roller coaster and bumper cars over the ocean.

fun-friday-number-3.jpg

To her credit, she did not throw a hissy by any means, but she was wistful and disappointed to say the least.

To MY credit – and even more exciting – I didn’t throw a hissy either. I was not wistful, nor disappointed, because I’m learning to separate my kids’ experiences from my own. It is not their job to fulfill any lonely crevices in my soul, and it’s not my job to fill theirs. The only thing I am committed to these days is to do my best to walk next to them as they journey the complicated road of life’s ups and downs.

I chose to be grateful for the water. To be grateful for the sand. To be grateful for some extra cash in my pocket from a generous location manager who more than compensated me for use of our dirt filled backyard to set up tables and chairs.

Later that afternoon I texted their father.

Me: “Would you like to meet us at the Reel Inn?”

Him: “But we have all that food left over from the catering trucks in our fridge. Why eat out?”

Me: “Because it’s joyful. And spontaneous. And I want to.”

Him: “I guess.”

The Old Me: (worried about his opinion) “Oh, well, it’s okay if you don’t want to…” Or worse…”You’re right. I’ll come home.” (Cut to resentment, temporary depression, ultimate angry explosion. Helpful, huh?)

The New Me: “We’d love to see you! If you can’t make it, we’ll be home at 7!”

He came.

We ate.

It was lovely.

Takeaway: My attitude toward not owning my family’s feelings led to a fun day for me, even if was not an amazing day for them. I am not in charge of their emotions, nor are they in charge of mine. What a lovely place to live! (Well, not as lovely as the beach. My second time in a week… and I’m going tomorrow! It’s my happy spot for sure. If any of you readers live in So Cal, we should totally do a beach day one weekend!)

Andrea

Leave a Comment

How are you at separating your emotions from your kids and family’s so you can have fun no matter what?

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

book front and back

 

Uncategorized

On The Couch: Mystery Monday #3

1500946713060931254725.jpg

Today was a day from hell.

It started with one of my kids’ continued refusal of chores which shall hereto be known as “The 24-hour/Sit on the Couch/ My Mother is a Horrible Human Being/Laundry Boycott/Summer 2017 Manifesto.”

Other than informing said child they had until 5 p.m. to either get necessary work done or I would be throwing out their clothes myself… and if they still did not do them by tomorrow I would be disassembling their bed so I could have a room to myself (oh and I might also be giving the dog away in a week since I can’t handle undone dog poo on top of undone laundry) I  remained very very VERY calm.

Minus the screaming match with my spouse in the kitchen.

Which turned into me driving to Hollywood to meet a friend… alone.

Note: Child’s sibling didn’t want to go with me to Hollywood because they needed “More than a day’s notice” which was just as fine with me. (Rabbit trail: Finding out I was pregnant with them unexpectedly thanks to a leftover 99 Cent Store pee stick didn’t exactly give me very much notice one surprising summer…. but I digress.)

Guilt about leaving my children with nothing to do on a Monday faded into the Malibu sunset when I reasoned they could find lunch within the couch cushions that my one child remain prostate on. (Lord knows there was plenty of carbs, half eaten granola bars and crackers left with the chores not done.)

After a long ride to Hollywood where I ruminated on everything from my ineffective parenting, 17 years of marriage and the fact that L.A. drivers maneuver the roads like drunks on doobage, my friend never ended up being able to meet me because the parking was so bad.

Which resulted in me driving through traffic back towards home.

Except I didn’t want to go home what with the boycotting and the overall hating of me.

So I drove to my old stomping grounds for tacos instead.

ss

(It’s pretty impossible to be in a bad mood with surfers, homeless people, Hollywood writers and happy lights.)

A full and very happy belly later I walked across the street to the beach.

This move worked out smashingly if I do so myself, for when I sat in the sand, I looked up to my left and there I saw an incredible rainbow in the sky. (Look closely at photo on top of page!)

Odd or God?

I’m sure it was just that time of day….the way the sun hit the clouds at just the right moment… but the closest I’d seen to a rainbow in these here parts was the West Hollywood Halloween Parade. I’m just going to assume that my higher power put it there to remind me that there is hope.

That I am never alone.

That end even in times of darkness where I don’t know what to do there’s color, beauty, joy and radiance that transcends my understanding. For that, I’m so grateful.

The Takeaway (Besides leftover fish tacos?)

Sometimes the only thing to do is nothing. It is there, with that beautiful empty space, that I can move out of the way and let God make His magic.

PS: Big thanks to Tuscany who afforded a generous ear to the play-by-play drama which is my life with teenagers.

Thanks also to Valerie Coulman, a generous writer and friend who I met at the Southern California Christian Women’s Conference. While I stuffed my face with extra fries we laughed and prayed together and realize just how strong we are – especially when we don’t take ourselves so seriously.

Leave a Comment

Let me know about anything cool that happened to you this Monday. Let’s connect!

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

book front and back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uncategorized

I’m Andrea and I’m an Alcoholic

1

Hi –

I’m Andrea and I’m an alcoholic.

Actually, it’s true. It’s kind of a new thing, so I didn’t know how to break it to you all. Honestly, I’m not even sure who reads here anymore. My biggest stats as to date are 95 on October 3. I used to get close to 1000.

I’m not sure if my dip in readers is because sound bytes on Facebook are far more exciting than reading narrative. It’s of course possible that my narrative totally sucks. I mean, the first 4 years of me complaining about tics were amazing, but year 5? Meh. I’ve got no cures for this disorder. I’ve got no answers. I could just drown my sorrows in a bottle of Two Buck Chuck and feel better about it all. But I can’t do that because, like I said, I’m an alcoholic.

My mom might be mortified that I’m publically blabbing about my personal defects to all 3 of you who are reading on a Friday night. (The rest of you? Likely out drinking. In fact, Stink has a friend sleeping over tonight because his mom is going out with girlfriends to party it up. Me and tics, the dog, the Ebay, the coffee, Pip reading, the spouse in his polar bear pajamas… that’s my Friday these days.)

I wasn’t always an alcoholic. I didn’t drink through high school, college or even my wedding.

Then, five years ago, I went to a blogging conference in San Francisco. It was 7am in the morning and I saw some ladies sitting at the airport bar. It seemed like a reasonable enough time to buy a rum and Diet Coke. It cost me ten dollars, but it was the biggest buzz I ever had in my life. Totally worth it.

My descent into loving alcohol was a slow one. It started innocuously enough. A rum and Diet Coke at home every other night. A glass or two of champagne at a wedding. Drinks on holidays with the inlaws.

Eventually it turned into Friday nights with some girls from school. It didn’t seem bad at first. If anything, it was liberating. We all brought food, a bottle of red and let the kids run wild. It was called “Wine and Whine.” It was a place to be a bad ass adult. It was community! And venting! And only the cool moms were invited!

Maybe for the other girls, that was their one night a week of debauchery, but for me, the party continued during the week, too. I was hardly drinking a bottle of wine a day. A few glasses here, a few glasses there. Then it progressed to three and four. I’d stop for a day or two, but I’d always start up again. I would begin to obsess about it more than I wanted to. “It’s not a drinking problem, it’s a thinking problem,” a sober friend told me.

“Of course it’s a thinking problem!” I bitched to a different girlfriend. “I’m a writer! I think!” She made me feel better than that healthy bitch who exercised, never drank and had an amazing career and boyfriend. My drinking companion tsk tsked my fears away. “You know what Italians call wine at lunch, a nap, two glasses of wine at dinner, a walk and then a final glass at the pub? Monday.”

“Yeah! I didn’t have a problem,” I told myself after that conversation. “I was making too much of this.” I did the whole self-congratulations check-list: My nightly drinking didn’t make me miss appointments. I wasn’t stumbling to the PTA meetings. I only drank after 5PM. And really, I drank waaay less than many of my peers.

But inside, I knew it didn’t matter what other people were ingesting. It was too much for me. I knew, because I started darting to the market when my daughter was in ballet… just so I could have a glass three glasses when the kids were in bed that evening.

I also started hiding the evidence because I didn’t want to catch grief from my spouse.

A few times I’d hide the bottle in the closet. A friend at AA asked if I hid it in my boot. Apparently that’s a really great trick that all the cool lushes do. I’m not a cool lush. I don’t have stories like my friend, Bobbi, who tried to choke her girlfriend one night after lines of coke and a bottle of vodka. I didn’t end up in jail like Frida. And unlike Rita, I didn’t realize I had hit bottom when I woke up to my drug dealer raping me only to forgive him because I wanted to kiss the coke off his lips.

I had what they call a “high bottom.” That meant I stopped before it became a real problem.

Word to the non-alcoholic crowd: They call alcohol a “progressive” disease. And frankly, I didn’t want that. After a few occasions where I put a bottle away over the course of a few hours – by myself – I got scared. I didn’t want to become “that” person. You know… the one who had such a bad stomach the next morning from the acid that I had to pull over in bumper to bumper traffic to use a museum’s rest room.

Except I didn’t make it out of the parking garage. It kind of (turn away Mom) slipped out before I got to the restroom. I had to finish my business behind a pole. Thank God the plants were tropical. It’s Los Angeles! I covered up my business with a fancy succulent and did the walk of shame back to the car.

I had hoped that maybe the mess wasn’t too bad. I took a selfie of the back of my pants – careful not to “Post” to Facebook. Um, it was bad. I had to go all the way home to change. That got me mad.

I was angry at God. It had been a terribly stressful year. I was still adjusting to full-time work and my husband’s freelance business. Add in tics and my daughter’s needs, it was too much to bear. I had thought drinking would solve it… take the edge off… but the more I drank, the more I had to drink to feel less. And then the next morning I’d be depressed. You know, because alcohol is a depressant. And then I’d wonder why the Zoloft wasn’t working.

And here’s the thing – feeling less pain also meant feeling less joy. Which, in the car home that day, I was faaaar from feeling.

I shouted out to God, “Why didn’t you give me a sign that maybe I was doing too much?” From the pit of my soul, this was the response I heard from Him. “You SHIT behind a pillar at the Skirball Museum. What bigger sign did you need?”

Two things dawned on me that morning.

1. When you are driving home, with the sun beating into your SUV that smells of human feces, you are no better than anyone else.

2. I needed to stop drinking. It wasn’t worth it.

So really, my bottom hit because of my bottom. And I’m glad.

I’m telling you this story not because I have no shame (sorry, Mom, I really am an over-sharer) but because no matter how much we want something to change, no addiction is going to make it better. In fact, it’s only going to make it worse.

I got lucky. I realized that wine was not my friend before I killed my kids in the car, ended up in jail, ruined my marriage or destroyed my family.

It took 3 months of attending AA to finally get comfortable with my label. But now? I love it. These women I chat with every week are some of the most enlightened, happy, together people I have ever met in my life. They cry sometimes, and they get angry. But they have hope. This hope comes from having a place to share life. A place to do relationship. A place to vent. But unlike Wine and Whine where all I did was vent and stay stuck, I now have a place to be honest and get real. I have safety.

Feeling safe and loved and warm is far better than being packed in cotton from alcohol and anti-anxiety pills. I’m now sober and completely off my Zoloft for the first time in years. It feels exhilarating. I feel like myself. It’s not always pretty – but it’s me. (Well, I look pretty. Sheesh.)

Tics don’t always feel safe.

My marriage sometimes doesn’t feel safe.

My income and not selling this book as fast as I’d hope doesn’t make me feel safe.

But guess what. It’s life on life’s terms. And that has to be enough.

In closing, for those of you who have a glass of wine or two sometimes, that’s totally fine. My ladies at Wine and Whine can do it and that’s their choice. It just doesn’t work for me anymore. I’m lucky that they have never once given me a hard time about it. Now, on occasional Fridays, they drink and I suck down coffee. I don’t make apologies. I’m too bad-ass for that and they are too accepting to need it.

If you’re like me, thinking that wine (or something else) is the only way to get rid of some frustration over what you can’t change, I am here to say that you can do it.

You are strong enough.

You don’t need to numb your soul to soar.

You need to let it out.

Ask my spouse, my mom and some of my closest friends who have seen my emotions zig zag the past few months. That freedom can be ugly, and pissy and uncomfortable while you find new ways of dealing with a new life. But holding onto habits is false freedom. A bear in a cage gets free food and warm blankets, but it’s fake domesticity. A bear is meant to live in the wild. He needs to be free to fight, to socialize, to hunt and to bathe in river streams. So do I. And so do you.

Don’t get sucked into a false life.

What you are holding onto might seem okay, but it could be so much more than okay. It could be AWESOME. You just need to walk into that room and say what you know in your soul is true. That you are not living in a manner that is worthy of your true potential.

That you can do so much more.

That there is joy and peace and so much more laughter than you can ever imagine.

But you just have to be brave enough to take that first step.

I’m Andrea, and I’m an alcoholic.

(And I’m so grateful.)

Tourettes, Uncategorized

What Makes Us Tic

I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching lately. It’s dawned on me that since my kids were born almost ten years ago (Stink will be 10 in January and Pip will be 8 in two weeks) I have done nothing but run. I run to ballet practice. I run to the market. I run to Ebay ten dollars worth of used ballet shoes. I run to cook up that $4.00 batch of chicken I just got at the market.

There’s nothing wrong with running – it’s part of the mothering experience. And truthfully, I just love the energy of it. (It’s this joy that has me running here to blog!)

But in running, I also am hiding. In particular, I have tried hiding from Tourettes.

Maybe you have done this also?

Maybe you have told yourself, “If I just find the solution to these damn tics all will be okay.”

For me, the miracle finally came.

Stink got some medication. And his tics are at an all time low. (Though they are up 30% the past few days due to computers, yukky food, excitement, etc.) And now, with things okay in Stink’s world – with that magic pill and the answers to all I wanted to make everything okay – I’m starting to unravel.

Why is that?

Am I someone who is wired toward anxiety or fear? Do I need chaos to feel okay?

The truth is, it’s neither of the above.

It’s starting to dawn on me that life itself is nuts. This isn’t good or bad. It just is. People are weird. We’re weird. Nothing goes as we want it to. There is no fix. There might be a magic pill to calm down tics, but there isn’t a magic pill for life. All the booze, pills, exercise, money and running isn’t going to save us from things we can’t control.

And this is why I’m a bit unnerved. Now that I know Stink is going to be okay (he always was) it’s ME who needs to grow up and take life on life’s terms.

* My mom is getting older

* Some day my childhood home will be sold

* Family dynamics aren’t as Little House on the Prairie close as I’d like them to be

* My career isn’t what I had hoped it would be

* My husband is only able to relate to me in the way he can relate to me – he isn’t Prince Charming who can magically read my mind

* My kids won’t be babies forever

Instead of hiding behind the tics, or running, or blaming others or blaming myself, or holding on to my own childhood that is no longer there to comfort me and keep me safe, it’s time to let go. It’s time to just feel whatever I feel. Happiness at the dog across the street who rushes over to my doorstep every day for a treat.

Joy at watching my children sell beads in the kitchen for magical money and a kiss.

Gratitude that my husband makes a good enough living that I can sit at home on a Tuesday and type this post.

And absolute abject fear and terror of how much things are going to change in the next ten years.

Perhaps, like me, you don’t like fear. It’s, um, scary! You consider Zoloft. You drink too much wine at night. You work yourself to death to, there’s that word again, runnnnnnn from it.

But guess what? At some point, you’re going to come to the same realization I have that you can run but you can’t hide. And that horrifically tragic moment wonderfully life altering experience when you slam right into that wall and slide down and you’re exhausted and tired and hurt and angry you have the chance to do something wonderful, you can either:

1. Grab onto your ego and put on your make-up and fake it that all is okay and buy that fancy home in the hills and live a fake life with dotted “i’s” and crossed “t’s” where nothing is unorderly and all is accounted for in your bank account and living room or…

2. You can just go out into the world and show it your scars. You could be shocked at the response you get. Sure, there might be a few, “Oh, God, you really look like crap. Just get it together and grow up and buy retail and suck it up like the rest of us… with good hair please…” But more than likely, your battle wounds will be a beacon to others fighting the same battle. “Hey! I have been there also! Check out my knee scrapes! Got them from too much praying and digging in the garden with my kids and this one? Dropping to the ground at Good Will to score that train table before that other bitch grabbed it.”

I’m tired of “shoulds.” (I’m shoulding all over myself.) In allowing myself just to accept the ever-changing tides of life, I can float on the waves rather than drown in the longing that it were something else. It’s the wanting – this unrealistic wishing of what can’t be – that’s been the key to my discontent. Life won’t be better when my husband changes or my childhood home isn’t sold or I get an amazing job or this book is done. Life is okay now – just as it is.

I’m ready now to face this. It’s a scary journey, but one that is going to open up a whole new life of peace and joy. But for a while, there just might be some tears. And really, I’m okay with that. Discomfort sucks, but I’m brave enough to try if you are. Pema Chodron is someone I have recently discovered. My Christian friends might tell me to pick up a Bible for comfort – and I do. But I’m also picking up her book. It’ll arrive in the mail soon and I’m excited to read it.

You can check a bit of her out here if you’d like!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4slnjvGjP4

Until then, I’m off to be at peace with life on life’s terms. Wish me luck!

Uncategorized

David Finch’s The Journal of Best Practices – An Asperger Marriage Review

As I sit down to type this post, five children are running wild in my back yard. Two are throwing dozens of colorful plastic balls over the net enclosure, while the other three bat them right back out. A few balls will likely land over the cement brick wall, resulting in tears, anger, and ultimately laughter as stories are made about Crazy Ed pulling “magic circles” out of his pool filter.

As the coffee hums, the cell phone rings, the house phone follows in suit, and dinner sits uncooked on top of my kitchen counter, I think of my husband: My very organized, methodical, practical husband.

For starters, there would be no children over on school night (my son still has a bit of homework to do.)

For seconds, how much longer am I going to trade services – taking Miss L home a few days a week in exchange for acupuncture? Wouldn’t less chaos be equally as effective in calming down Stink’s tics?

For thirds, why are two of the neighborhood boys here and why are two more kids playing basketball in our driveway? “Don’t they have a home?” he might wonder aloud, to which I’d respond, “Yes, but it’s nice having life in our home. We have to be flexible.”

Depending on my mood, I might be furious with my logical mate. While he means no harm by his comment, I might view it as insensitive. When he married me, I was a vintage wearing/cat eyed sporting/card-carrying WGA TV comedy writer. He wasn’t saying, “I Do” to Ms. Homemaker U.S.A.. These days, the only thing funny is my sense of domesticity – and believe me – we’re not always laughing.

On some days, I might blow his comments off. “That’s just Rex,” I might chide, too happy with my writing gigs or $12.75 Ebay windfall to really ruminate on his remark.

On other days, perhaps after nights of 5 hours sleep and dealing with Stink’s tic upswing, I might feel sad. “Why can’t he just get that life isn’t as easy to compartmentalize as the file folders on his work computer?”

But these days, I often think something else. What if he’s not being a selfish male? What if he just can’t help it?

David Finch’s wife knows a bit about this question. She was fed up with her rigid husband who threw baby tantrums over anything from dishes not being done correctly to having to deal with any change in their schedule that came with children. After five years of marriage, they were no longer friends and teetering on divorce.

Kristen, who Finch describes with endearing affection and admiration throughout his novel, sat him down one night and had him answer questions via an online diagnostic test. “Do people think you are aloof and distant?” (check) “Do you have certain routines you must follow… Do you tend to shut down or have a meltdown when stressed or overwhelmed?” (check and check again, and later, check check check….)

Finch scored 155 out of 200, and then responded with what can only be seen as outrageous aplomb. “I have Aspbergers? I have autism?! I mean… holy shit, right?”

Unlike a lot of folk who might ignore these results, Finch got an official diagnosis from a doctor. Instead of freaking out, he felt relief. He finally realized that his need for control was not entirely his fault: he was wired that way. But perhaps even more astounding than his acceptance of this irreversible condition was his determination to transform his marriage in spite of it.

The result? A New York Times bestselling book. He titled it, The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man’s Quest to Be a Better Husband.

Published by Simon and Schuster, Finch spares no details in walking us through his transformation. Using a detailed list of observations he’d written to himself, Finch came up with a set of best practices to elevate him from the dog house to beloved man of the house.

Some such rules included taking over kid chores without complaining, taking everyone’s clothes out of the dryer (not just the socks he needed) and not ruining he and his wife’s vacation because of a forgotten dental syringe. (He did eventually find one, but only because his wife was kind enough to stop at a supply store with him. He won brownie points for making due until then.)

Aspergers can take on many functions, but the hallmark of this disorder is monumental self-focus. Another way of saying this is that the person does not, inherently, possess empathy.

As a creative person who feels everything from a wacky gleam in my mom’s eye to the way a dissected frog might feel before being diced in two by a seventh grader, I used to think lack of empathy meant lack of feelings. But when I look at some of my own husband’s responses to life situations (sobbing in the driveway when my daughter was being whisked off to emergency for a chest cough, or breaking down over the birth Stink) I realize now how wrong I was. It’s not that folk with Aspergers don’t feel – they just can’t always put themselves in someone else’s shoes and sense how they feel.

On a logical level (and Aspies are nothing but logical) how can one get mad at someone if they aren’t being anal retentive on purpose? What if they are just wired that way, like our kids, who can’t help but tic? They are genetically built to do so. (Not to brag, but a long time friend once commented that I did, indeed, get that stick half pulled out my husband’s ass. I’m a rock star, I know.)

Understanding on a cerebral level is a far cry from acceptance on a soulful one. Marriage to someone like this can be taxing to say the least. One wouldn’t be human if they didn’t find it maddening. A spouse can feel cheated. “Isn’t a relationship about give and take?” many neurotypical mates might balk. Finch’s response is yes, and so is mine.

What Finch succeeded out so brilliantly, both in real life as well as on the written page, is realizing while he might not be able to understand his wife’s needs on an intuitive level, he can respond in a practiced way that honors her because he loves her.

It’s the same with my marriage, and perhaps yours. Aspbergers or not, all relationships have issues that can’t be wrapped up in a shiny happy bow.  Like a tic, you never know what’s going to pop up out of the blue. We simply need to respond well – and sometimes that takes practice.

“Rex does not have Aspergers!” some friends or family might say. “He’s just being an extreme male!” That is quite possible. But like my son’s Tourettes, I can’t change what is. Either my mate is just very very very set (we’re talking “footprints that have dried for ten years in cement” set) in doing things a certain way or he has Aspergers. Unless he’s diagnosed, I’ll never know. I can only change how I respond to it. Like Finch’s wife, I hope I’m doing so with love, honor, humor, gentle pushings toward change and a whole lot of grace. I can only hope my husband continues to work toward understanding me the way Finch did his wife. I might not get a best selling book out of Rex, but it would be a lovely new chapter for us.

Until then, for those of you who are also dealing with Aspergers with your spouses or perhaps your sons or daughters (it’s often a co-morbid condition with T.S.) please take hope from Finch’s book. It is not the end of the world. It’s simply a different way of thinking. Life isn’t always easy, but it can be challenging, interesting and, as Finch’s writing attests to, hilarious.

As I wait for my husband to return from a 12 hour work day, my son is complaining about leaky liquid coming from his arse. I have seven children waiting to eat tacos. I have 2 articles due and I’m PMSing like a crazy person. If my hubby can come home to all that, I can accept some of his quirks. He loves me. I love him. Like Kristen, I’m in this marriage for the long haul. With Finch’s book, I’m joyful to know that it’s possible to have less survival and more thriving. I wish the same for all of you, both in T.S., marriage and all of life’s challenges.

More on Finch’s book can be found at his websitehttp://www.davidfinchwriter.com/

Also, special thanks to Simon and Schuster for sending me this book and allowing me to sing its praises. Here’s a fun promo of what turned out to be one of the most insightful books I’ve read this year.

Uncategorized

5 Ways To Face TS and Tics In 2012

I’m excited to bring you my very first post at my new website domain! Like my son’s favorite present from Santa, I hope my site can be a treasured gift to you so that you can find joy despite a diagnosis you may not be thrilled with. If there’s something you disagree with, let me know.

For those of you new to my blog, you can catch up on my TS journey at my old site here. But like Tourettes, despite good and bad days getting used to my new platform, this is my new home. Welcome!

For my first entry, I thought I’d cut and paste an entry I wrote in response to a friend of mine who was worried about her son’s new facial tics. She, like many new moms at the beginning, has moments of complete devastation. Sure, there are times when she feels like she’s okay with her son’s diagnosis (like the time when her son’s tics are the most minimal – shocking, I know.) But just when she feels like maybe she’s accepted his condition, a new twitch starts. With it comes fear, riding on a raging horse.

She wrote that she felt bad about, well, feeling bad! Like somehow she should be more accepting! Other moms in our group, it seems, are “over T.S.” and she isn’t.

For those of you who might feel like you are alone – that other folk can handle T.S. (or any disorder) and you’re in a fetal position in the corner drowning your sorrows with Two Buck Chuck from a sippy cup (hey, I resemble that remark!) rest assured – we all have our off days. Or weeks. Or months. Just hang in there – you will feel better in time.

Here’s my two cents on the subject. I edited my response a bit for the purposes of this blog.

I have been better lately for a variety of reasons.

1. Time: I have been down this road for FIVE years. I get the waxing and waning. I’ve done it all, from food and diet to supplements and possible medication options. I’ve done the holistic docs. I’m starting acupuncture. I have gotten to a point where I accept that Stink has TS and I”m doing my best. I don’t feel like ‘why can’t I fix it’ because I know I can’t 100%. But that leads me to #2.

2. A Plan.I have one. I’m going to do Brain Balance. I need to make some money to do that. This means selling some articles, teaching some online writing classes, Ebay, etc. Doing what I’m passionate about not only makes me joyful, but it has the added benefit of making me think less about the tics so I can actually change something I have control over: my attitude.

3. My Faith – Hope: Christianity has been a tremendous source of support for my up and down emotions.

* Note: Where I ramble like a Bible Thumper –  Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” This passage is a source of great hope for me. It means that my “suffering” is not in vain.

That tics are just like a puzzle piece. For a while, like when Stink was first diagnosed, the puzzle pieces seemed jarring. It felt like they would never fit together. Slowly, with my plan, I got the border put together. That was my emotional balance.

Now I have some of the middle put together. I can see a beautiful picture despite some missing holes. With faith, the holes can be filled in with a picture I create. That picture is a life where Stink is happy, healthy, funny and over T.S.. And if he’s not over T.S., it’s not in vain, because his character, and mine, was shaped from it.

* More thumping: And a sidenote!  I encourage all of you to find your own personal road to faith! Romans 5: 3-5 promises “And we rejoice in the HOPE of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our suffering, because we know that suffering produces perseverance: perseverance, character: and character, HOPE. And HOPE does not disappoint us.” (Hooray for hope! I love hope!)

4. Finding my Passion: My writing has been tremendously helpful to me. It’s my love. I can’t form sentences and write blog posts while, at the same time, obsessing about tics. It’s simply impossible. In writing this blog, I am serving others as well. I have bad days like we all do, but in lifting others up, I am selfishly lifting myself up also. The key for me in helping others was realizing that I can’t just serve when I’m feeling okay. God can use me when I’m feeling like a piece of spit out gum stuck to the sidewalk. Before long, I’m blowing good bubbles of encouragement. And I even forgive myself for stupid analogies like the one I just wrote.

* Last thing on serving others: This is not meant as some do-good Christian tip. I don’t care what your religion is or how you feel. Taking your eyes off yourself, and putting them on someone else, is the cure-all for anthing. Don’t believe me? Try it. You’ll get hooked.

5. Acceptance: I accept that some days I’m just down. I don’t like the verbal tics any more than you all do. I have moments where I can’t be in the same room with Stink. I need a break. I have to fight for my “me” time and my “down time” and work on my marriage to do this. It’s created a wedge between my husband and me, at times, as I’m no longer the “yes” person where he gets all the breaks after his hard day at work and I continue to slave. Yes, I have down time while the kids are at school, but I also do a hell of a lot of work while I’m at home alone. I know… I KNOW… I’m worth some relaxation. Rex is starting to understand that. It’s not been a fun road, but he’s getting there, and that is all I need. Love is not a feeling – it’s an action. It’s a verb.

To help with all five points above, I am not ashamed to say I take 75mg of Zoloft every day. It’s evened me out enough to take my head out of my ass and face life the way life is. I hope to not be on it forever, but if I need to take it, I will. My good friend, Chrissy, sent me a link that talks about depression better than I could.

In closing, please know I’m here for all of you. I hope you’ll consider making a plan for yourselves to then get a plan for your child. If it’s meds, go for it. If it’s back to work, go for it. If it’s exercise, go for it. But know this: if it weren’t TS, you’d face something else at some point in your life. Perhaps your mom would die, throwing you into a tailspin. Or a husband who cheats on you. Or your child could have some other illness or you could be diagnosed with something.

I truly truly believe, now, that TS is the invitation we all need to accept life on life’s terms and do the best we can. I pray that you all find peace and are not so hard on yourselves. I’ll take the same hope for me, too.

Until tomorrow, remember my motto: A kid who tics with confidence outweighs an insecure  ass wipe any day of the week. (I should probably consider revising this tagline, but for now, the sentiment remains! Hug that ticker today!)