education, faith, God, parenting, self improvement

Coronavirus Isn’t Happening to Us

It’s happening for us… to wake us from complacency to joy

David Mao @ Unsplash

So I get it. This virus is a big deal. Italy is on lock down. Vulnerable people can die more easily. The President is taking credit for acting quickly over something he should have been on top of months ago. We might have to start washing our butts with garden hoses and, just when our kids might finally be allowed back at school, they will be out again for summer break. (#insanestyearever)

None of this is easy. I, for one (as a Class A Extrovert) am super bummed about missing my AA meetings, not going to Magic Church for the foreseeable future, not meeting my bestie for a cup of Starbucks that I shouldn’t really be spending money on anyway, and those Disneyland gift cards I got for my big 50th birthday? By the time I cash those in for annual passes I wouldn’t be surprised if the price is doubled to pay for all those weeks the park was closed. (Plus I hear the payments on that Millenium Falcon are a bitch.)

Perhaps most disturbing of all is that, as a substitute teacher, I’m not one of those lucky educators who is getting paid while we’re off school. And while I am not playing the victim card here (I have an English degree, not a teaching degree) I am losing quite a bit of income.

All of the things above is enough to send me into a wave of self-pity — and believe me, despair is dancing on the surface — but when I take a breath I feel something much deeper that is buoying me up: Hope.

Hope in a Quarantine? Are You Kidding Me?

Putting aside my worry for those who are most risk with this ridiculous beast, there is a side of me that is relieved to be home. These feelings are not that different than how I felt when both my babies were born. During their precious stages of early life, there wasn’t much I could do while they napped. So I focused on on staying as present as possible.

I stayed close to the phone.

I read books.

I occasionally watched television.

And I wrote.

Life was smaller back then. I had tremendous worry about what the future could hold, but stronger than the worry of what could be was the absolute joy and excitement for what I had in my little cozy nest: two humans that I loved with all my heart.

Coronavirus Can Suck It

Cristian Escobar @ Unsplash

I refuse to let Coronavirus steal that joy from me now. Granted my two babies are no longer co-sleeping in Scooby Doo sheets and wearing matching Dora the Explorer panties… they are almost six foot and six foot six… but they’re still under my roof. And with their insane high school schedules, and my teaching and freelance schedule, it’s been a loooong time since we’ve had such a long span of uninterrupted time together. With only a year and a half until my son graduates, I am going to take full advantage of this unique, if not unusual, opportunity.

Making the Most of Our Corona-cation

So it’s not exactly a stay-cation or a trip to Hawaii (nope, my daughter’s choir trip was canceled) but we will make the most of it anyway. Here’s a list of just few things we’ll do to keep our souls happy and our brains from flatlining more than getting stuck at a Costco canned food stampede. We will:

  • Come up with a schedule of chores
  • Listen to each other’s playlists on Spotify
  • Swap books (I will finally read my son’s book choice, Fahrenheit 451, my daughter will read The Help and my son will likely be forced by my daughter to cry over any one of her John Green novels.)
  • Netflix binge! I will drink tea with my daughter as she catches me up on Stephen Universe and explains in great detail the difference between gems, humans and how Steven himself is actually a combination of the two and why Pearl never shows signs of aging. (Spoiler alert: It’s a gem thing.) My son and I will trudge our way through a truly terrible, but hilarious, What’s New Scooby Doo series.
  • Paint the bathroom. My son has a collection of 214 rubber ducks, all different faces, from nurses to a quacking navity set. These rubber fowls have been sitting in a trunk at the edge of his bed for five years. Now’s the time to paint the stall walls bright blue and display them on rain gutters. Who doesn’t want to use the facilities while being stared out by an Abraham Lincoln duck? Plus it’ll make the experience more enjoyable when, ultimately, there is no toilet paper to finish the job.)
  • Jog around the block
  • Learn a new language on Duolingo
  • Clean out our bedrooms
  • Get back into a prayer routine
  • Play some video games (with a limit… they go off at 10pm and don’t go on until 10am. If no one is up before 10am then no computers.)
  • Check in on our family and friends that are hurting and do a little bit more cooking than we normally have time for. (That’s assuming there’s anything left on the store shelves to eat.)

Coronavirus has been the frosting on the bitch cake of 2020,but I refuse to let it ruin my appetite for what nurtures me most: my family.

When I remember that this damn virus didn’t happen to me, but it happened for me, to slow down and appreciate the blessings I have right here in my home, quarantine has never looked so good.

Here’s to flattening the curb with social distancing and also raising the line with our connection to the people that matter most.

As for my personal goals? I’m gonna finally get cracking again on that musical I’ve been putting off. Plus I’ll be writing here daily as a personal commitment to what makes me happiest: words, thoughts and hopefully a little engagement with you beautiful people.

We are in this together. See you tomorrow.

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. )

education, faith, God, writing

Starting a Freelance Writing Business (picking a niche and trusting my gifts)

Danielle MacInnes@dsmacinnes
www.unsplash.com

I ended up subbing in a high school today. It was a bright start to the day with the Dean of Students barging in on me first period.

Him: (stone faced) “Here’s a new student. Don’t let her pee. Don’t let her leave the classroom. Dial 99-4923 if you need security ASAP.”

Me: (smiling) “I can’t wait!”

I was surprised to hear this frozen faced statue of a man giggle hysterically at my response. Hopefully he was still laughing a half hour later when said student decided she didn’t want to do math and would rather ditch my class to roam the hallway with her bestie and do who knows what in the bathroom of her choice.

A year ago I’d have freaked out. “OMG! I lost a student!” These days? I don’t care. It’s not my fault the kid doesn’t want to learn. I can only do what I can do.

I say this with zero judgment, for that student is a giant mirror for my own yearnings. How often do I not want to sit in the stuff of my life that is difficult? I, like her, would rather ditch than do the hard work of figuring it out.

But it’s becoming crystal clear to me that the more I run, the less I will have something to show for myself – at least financially. And one thing I know for sure is that if I’m going to have to make a living it’s not going to be teaching. So then what?

I have lots of reasons I haven’t landed on something yet.

Kids.

Getting sober.

Working on my marriage.

Just not being sure of myself.

And, for lack of sounding like an egotistical ass, there’s about ten million things I could do writing wise (and I have) but it’s time to choose something consistent.

On tonight’s walk with Rex my mind started spinning like a top again. “Oh my God, I was here four years ago! Why am I still here!” But a quieter voice came in that reminded me, “No, you were not this centered as a person four years ago. At least you have awareness now that you don’t have consistency. That is HUGE.”

My prayer then became, “God, show me in a way I can understand what you would have me do with my writing.”

With a bit of calm, it became even more clear that I don’t think it’s corporate writing, as fun as a job at Netflix would be. And the money would be lovely.

But at 50, where is a job like this going to lead me? What I really want, in my heart, is to write another pilot (or take meetings for the one I have already written) and finally finish that musical, but…. I need bread and butter while I do this.

With that mental masturbation satisfied, I started thinking again about starting up a freelance writing business while I write my dream stuff on the side. I’m already memoir writing for folk for pay. The ticket to sustainability then becomes about choosing a niche – something I have never buckled down to do before.

If that is the case, I’m considering focusing on being a story teller/content writer. I could be the go-to gal for memoirs, articles about people, blogs on corporate websites that deal with people, newsletters, etc. No products. No blow up hot tubs or direct sales marketing. No click through SEO bait donkey dung key words to lure people into buying organic horse crap.

Basically I’d be paid as a story teller and showcase this in whatever way a company or individual wants to promote themselves or their business. This kind of niche also lends itself to writing at Medium.com and getting another book out there.

In closing, I realize I’ve been a bit all over the board lately, but I choose not to judge myself. I’ve been so consistent with my marriage and my kids. This is an area that I have not truly given myself time to consider, so I am open to failing and fumbling as I find my way.

What do you think? Would love your take. I would love to know.

As always, when I go into fear, I will remember:

God is everything or he is nothing.

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. )

faith, God, writing

I Turned In My Pilot! I Trusted God. Shit Happened.

Connor Betts@connorbetts
from Unsplash

I tossed and turned all night long last night – old behavior. I couldn’t face work today based on yesterday’s event. I had to cancel a pre-booked assignment at 2am. I barely slept.

My daughter stayed home sick again so we ended up sleeping side by side with the pitbull in between us. The ladies of leisure. I gulped back guilt that my husband drove carpool and hauled his butt to work while my heart beat a million miles an hour. I was supposed to be more successful than this, people!

I honestly had an emotional hangover.

Part of it is – surprise surprise – I do too much. I said I wouldn’t, but I did.

Rather than fall too far into self-pity, I got on my knees, as they tell us to do in AA (because apparently it works for people far more down the ladder than I landed) and I read in my devotional. The topic happened to be the very thing I had been dealing with.

Then my sponsor sent me something to read – the same page.

Then I called someone from the communication group I am in who happens to write for Sesame Street. This would not be a big deal normally except last night I specifically wrote to Sesame Street, after applying for a few jobs, not having any idea I knew someone who wrote music for them. Odd or God?

And then, at the end of our conversation, he goes on to tell me that yesterday – at the same time I was having financial insecurity and fear – he was, too. And though he has never written tv (and I’ve never written music… see the irony?) he wants to write a pilot. So, like that old Christmas tale of the couple where a woman cuts off her hair to give her husband a watch, and he sells his watch to give her a comb for her hair, we found ourselves laughing at the serendipity of this event. (Let’s just hope I don’t end up with shaved hair and a digital 99cent Store watch in the process.)

Am I still freaked out about subbing? Yes.

Am I going to quit my day job tomorrow? No. I need the insurance.

But I am actively looking for new gigs.

I also have another idea in mind that I might embark on also that is super dooper scary and out of my comfort zone. But, as my sponsor asked me yesterday, “How free do I want to be?”

Free enough to type in my final paragraph of my pilot and hit “send” to those producers just now.

It was indeed a better day than yesterday.

Hope yours went well 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. )

Uncategorized

Why Surrendering Power to Teens Is Okay (Hint: It’s Not About Control… It’s Actually Strength)

Image Courtesy of Unsplash
alex bracken
@alexbracken

I had a conversation in the car today with my 15-year-old daughter that made me want to throw up. It was not unlike one of those carnival rides at the fair that go up, down and then shake you back and forth like James Bond’s famous martini.

This mama was shaken, stirred and ultimately hung over afterwards. But, since I have been physically sober for almost 4 years now, I am strong enough to handle a little emotional hangover also – especially when instead of running from my feelings I allow myself to sit in them instead.

I could go on and on about what my emotions were on the subject, how we sorted it out afterwards, and where we ultimately landed, but I’ll keep it short and simple:

  1. My daughter set a healthy boundary with me.
  2. Because I initially perceived it as a threat, not a boundary (because I couldn’t possibly be wrong, right?) my back went up.
  3. I felt the conversation getting more heated than a hot flash and told her I wanted to shelve the discussion. (Bonus points for me for doing what I should be doing! #notescalatingthecrazy)
  4. When she left the car, I called a friend. And by friend, I mean sponsor, who doesn’t beat around the bush. Lilly: “So you’re upset with your daughter for telling you the truth about something you are uncomfortable with dealing with?” Me: “Um…” What else could I say? She was right.
  5. When Pip got back in the car she immediately apologized. “Mom, I’m sorry. That was a lot of tension. I shouldn’t have said anything.”
  6. To this I said, “No, you should have. Just because I’m not good at telling people directly how I feel all the time doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be. It’s okay. I’m glad you’re safe enough to let me know.”

The End.

Lest I come off like a saint, let me tell you that this was a 15 year process of screwing up, wronging my kids, manipulating the conversation to make me look like the victim or, equally attractive, just plain old co-dependently saying what I thought my kids wanted me to hear so I could come off like a “good mom” only to explode moments before a big event because I was resentful, exhausted and very likely half a bottle into Two Buck Chuck at their highly anticipated Halloween excursion. (Going as Hottest Drunk Mom on the Block? It wasn’t as exciting as it sounds.)

Getting sober taught me to be rigorously honest with myself. Drinking, turns out, wasn’t my problem. It was the thinking that got to me. It was my brain telling me things like, “You just need a fxxxin break” or “You deserve so much more than this drudgery mom nonsense” and, worse of all, “You are RIGHT Andrea.”

When I’m right, it leaves very little room for my kids to have an opinion with their defensive, cranky, I must have it my way mom.

Tonight my daughter set a boundary with me. And it didn’t feel good, because in this case, she was right. I had to change my thought process on something. Ouch. Puke. Why can’t you be 5 and just think I’m amazing… even when I’ve eaten half your Halloween candy and wrapped used stuffed animals for Christmas to save an extra 5 bucks?

But in the end, I’d rather lose my butt than save my face. And seeing my daughter’s face flooded with relief that I was not going to shut her down was worth every second of my ego deflation.

I’m now off to take my son to a group activity he doesn’t want to go to but… Rex and I set a boundary with him and so off he goes.

Subbing, surrender to the God of my understanding and more driving than a New York taxi driver – such is this season of motherhood for me. But it beats drinking and crashing into all my relationships because I’m just not present with my honest, hairy and often uncomfortable truth.

Cheers to you this Friday. Mamas, you are not alone! We’re in this together.

My Strong, Fierce 15 year old Daughter Who Is Teaching Me That Surrender Is Actually Power

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.

Uncategorized

I Aspire to Inspire Before I Expire (But Enjoy My Family First)

Photo Credit: Unsplash Toa Heftiba@heftiba

I got the call at 6am this morning. “P.E. Van Nuys. Voice instructions are none.”

I’m just getting over a cold, so to be honest, getting my butt out of bed to be on my feet all day with horny stinky middle schoolers did not seem like an attractive option. But getting a small paycheck next month didn’t sound that amazing either, so off I went. (Lucky for me I remembered not to shout, “Get your hands off the balls!” You know, cause that’s always a great way to keep them quiet.)

I have two thoughts about my day. On one hand, it can be disheartening to be doing this job still. I had sort of hoped I’d be working full time as a writer by now. Perhaps in an office or on a set. Or even freelancing from home.

On the other hand, have I finished that website that shows off all my articles that I’ve written? No. Am I almost 50 and going to be competing against a lot of people much younger than me? Yes. And have I applied yet for anything? No.

Hmmmm. There might be a reason I’m still doing this job!

On the other side of the coin, I have hardly been sitting on my bootie. I am almost done with that pilot script. I put a huge stake in the “Am I going to get a Masters and Teach Full Time” dragon. (That would be a negative.) I’m almost done with step 12 in my don’t drink booze program which I’m not allowed to say per one of their traditions. And my marriage is running smoothly which, one only has to read my book to know, was not always the case. (You also could read in between the lines at my GoodHousekeeping.com blog. I was a mess.)

I say all this because there’s a fine line between making excuses and doing one’s best. For me, I needed to make money for my family. I needed to heal. I needed direction from a good sponsor and time with God to break down the constructs of the person I thought I was supposed to be to become the person I was meant to be. Or, better stated, to become the person GOD would have me be.

I’d love to have a sexy title right now, but I’ve learned that my ego is not my amigo. No, the soul always trumps my lust for fain and fortune. I refuse to give up precious holiday and weekend time to plug away for “success” when James and my two favorite “little” people on the planet are growing up right before my very eyes. Stink is 6’6 people. He has whiskers! Pip is my height when she wears her heels.

I’m pretty sure that when they graduate and leave my house for good continue to live with me I’m not going to say, “Oh, Gee, I wish I had not gone to the thriftstores with them over Martin Luther King weekend and eaten overpriced veggie burgers at the hippy dippy market in the barrio.

Follow Your Heart, Canoga Park (Veggie Tacos) Photo From Their Website

No, my life continues to be full of hopes and dreams, disappointments and regrets, but if 49% of me wishes I could have done things differently 51% of me knows that my family will always be the best piece of art I could have created.

Thanks for continuing to be part of the journey.

And, for accountability, I will continue to blog daily here until I start up again at Medium. I will finish my one paragraph – one paragraph people – on my pilot on Thursday. And this weekend I will fire up my old resume website and start building it again so I can apply for full time writing work in April. Next week, with the pilot out of the way, I will get back to my musical. I gotta stay on it but not lose site of the beauty right before my eyes. Anyone else relate?

How About You? What Are Your Plans?

Special shout out to Carol from Brisbane, Australia, who googled me the other day to see how I was. I love it! I have people in my life I didn’t even know I had. That is just about the coolest thing in the world.

Next to my TV show selling.

Until next time,

Andrea

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

(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, education, faith

Trying New Things

Picture from Quote Catolog, found on Unsplash

Hey, it’s your long lost friend, Andrea. I know I said I wouldn’t be checking in until April, but after the Super Bowl half time show, I have come to the conclusion that women can either be mild and not rock the boat or they can razzle, dazzle and be the best version of themselves regardless of following directions. In my case, I’m not following my own directions, and I’m certainly not going to put on a sparkle g-string, but I can get back into my writing again. So here I go.

What I’ve Been Up To

I am one paragraph away from finishing my pilot. I’ve done 3 rewrites. I love it. My attitude around it is going to be “This is going to sell.” Period. No if’s, and’s or butt’s. I’m turning 50 in two weeks. I don’t have time to waffle anymore.

I’ve also started tinkering with Medium.com. It’s a platform where you pay $5/month as a writer or reader. Depending on how many clicks one gets depends on how much they will get paid. It has over 90 million subscribers, so chances to engage a wider audience is super enticing. So far I’ve made this much.

don’t be jelly

Bad news: I only have to write one trillion more articles to make an additional $100/month.

Good news: A friend of mine who has started making money off this site, plus has written a ton of articles for Huffpo, graciously told me that it’s not my writing but my formatting that needs to be changed to grab the attention of the curators. Once that’s set, the editing team there will more likely pick up my story, promote it, and then I’ll see a higher residual.

Trying New Things! Yay!

I write you this because maybe you’re not a writer. (Though most of you here are!) Maybe you want to get a degree but aren’t sure where to start. I give you my new method.

Just start.

Then doors open.

Action, not thinking, is what gets the job done. Plus staying grounded in God ain’t such a bad idea, either.

And so, very contrary to this thinker/A-personality/don’t make a mistake mama, I’m glad I started writing there. Now that I know what I need to do to fix it, I’ll do that! I will take Jennifer’s advice and just research other articles that have already done well before I post again.

Until then, I’d like to get in the habit of writing daily again on my own site – so here I am!

That leaves me with this – and be honest: Do you think focusing on self-help/transformation is a good idea, or do you see me as someone who is more “all over the place but I read her for her style” kind of writing?

Basically, what compels you to read my writing? Would love to know. I look forward to checking on all of you also. While I’m on break from subbing. And trying not to poke my eyes out with attendance forms.

Leave a comment!

Until next time,

Andrea

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

(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

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.

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

sss

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!

taco tuesday 2 gwen vogelzang

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.

taco tuesday 4 gwen vogelzang

taco tuesday 3 gwen vogelzang
I’m also publishing a book with our son, Rylan.  He’s 12 and lives with Autism and Tourette Syndrome.  The book is drawings he created, paired with his descriptions about what it feels like to live in his brain.  It hits shelves this Fall and we couldn’t be more pumped to put his unique, inspiring work into the world and see what God does with it.
taco tuesday2 gwen vogelzang

What influenced you to write a book?

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

Have you always wanted to write?

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

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

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

What was the most difficult part about writing your book?

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

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.

books

faith, God, Jesus, meditation, parenting, self improvement, spirituality, Uncategorized

10 Things I Do Every Day That Make My Life Not Suck

Just when I thought I might have every last bit of energy sucked out of me subbing for Middle Schoolers, the dawning of a new and glorious day is rising for this tired writer. In three words, it is SUBBING. IN. HIGHSCHOOL.

These kids sit still. They don’t talk over me. They don’t take selfies of their butts (at least not in front of me) and they actually leave the floor looking like a floor instead of a paper airplane meets Tajin powder factory.

In having a quieter classroom, I’ve had time to feel something that I haven’t felt in over a few months. What is that strange feeling you might ask? Oh, it’s serenity! Quiet, calm dear Jesus I can breathe serenity.

In breathing in the glorious flow of the past few days, I had to admit that while things have been dicey the past few months, I have not been in the bowels of self-pity and despair that non-sober thinking Andrea might have been. Instead, I’ve dealt with what has happened. I’ve cried, I’ve had a few pissed off moments, but in general, I’ve not only handled my business but been of service to my fellow workers, friends and family in the process.

Here are the 10 items that have saved my booty. I hope they resonate with you, too! (So many quotes are by my favorite writer, Anne Lamott. Anne, if you’re reading this, feel free to come for tacos on Tuesday. We start promptly at 630)

  1. Prayer: Every morning for 5 minutes I pray. (On the days I forgot, my life wasn’t as calm.)

anne lamott prayer

2) Meditation: Every morning for 5 minute I sit still and listen. (They say prayer is talking to God and Meditation is listening. I add in coffee because in Andrea language it is also helpful to be awake!)

anne med

3) Reading for a Spiritual Boost: I read something spiritual every day. Sometimes it’s my Bible, sometimes a devotional, or sometimes something from a favorite writer like Anne Lamott. (Just reading these quotes from her reminds me that someone out there feels just like I do. That to me is God in action.)

fff

4) Reading for Fun 

Even if it’s only for 10 minutes, I try and read a book that is just for entertainment. I’m currently reading Fablehaven. It’s my son’s recommendation. I don’t love it. But I love that he’s 16 and wants me part of his world. It also keeps me out of the fables I tend to create in my own head if my brain is too unoccupied.

reding anne

5) Gratitude Lists: My husband and I send five things we are grateful for each day to a set of friends. I also do this with a friend from my If You Don’t Drink You Don’t Get Drunk Program Great Spiritual Practice. What started out feeling so awkward and cheesy has 100% changed my life. My brain automatically now goes to what is working instead of what isn’t. (Note: If I waited for life to get better to get grateful, I’d still be waiting. The great miracle of gratitude lists is that in doing so your life does get better, because your thinking improves. And perspective is, indeed, everything!)

quotes-gratitude-enough

6) Showing Up Early/Staying Late: I am almost always on time now for work. I don’t do it just to look good. I do it because I’m it keeps me from rushing. In not rushing, there’s more time for error. There’s more time for casual conversation with the school secretary or the student who wants to know, for the fourteen thousanth time, when his vocab quiz is going to be. Extra time means less stress which means there’s more room for God to operate in the magical space between the chaos.

7) Asking People About THEM: As much as I enjoy my favorite three subjects, Me Myself and I, I can’t tell you what joy I get from hearing other people’s stories. Not only is it fun to see people light up (or vent) but I’m selfish: It keeps me from thinking about me me me. It keeps me humble and, to say it again, in gratitude.

8) Journaling: This is something I just began again. It’s absolutely so calming. Just the act of printing on the page slows down my ADHD fast racing brain. I used to do it for the first 20 minutes in the morning per Julia Cameron’s Artist Way directive, but that time is now left to God. Instead, I plug it in during a slow class or on a break.

9) Laughter: When I remember that I’m not so important, but God is, I can let go and just laugh. This often means reminding myself before I pick up my kids to not have to win every single argument. It means turning on Grace and Frankie instead of cleaning the bathroom. And when people don’t behave, which they often do not, I just pretend I’m living in a Neil Simon play and watch the wacky stories of my life unfold around me.

10) Writing: Every day I try to write. It gives me a sense of purpose and connection. My blog isn’t as fancy as I’d like it. I don’t podcast or market as much as I’d like. But instead of focusing on what isn’t working, I focus on what is. I cut myself a break.

There’s so much more I could add, but doing these 10 things allows me to build the framework for these other items. Without them, I couldn’t battle my perfectionism. I couldn’t exercise or have the stamina to clean the house or set expectations for my kids. These 10 things were not natural things for me. I incorporated them slowly.

And don’t get me wrong – they were incredibly inconvenient. But so are newborns and puppies.  You don’t get the cuteness and lifelong companions if you’re not willing to be selfless and clean up the poo – even at 2am. My serenity is always in direct proportion to how willing I am to be inconvenienced.

Leave a Comment!

What about you? What are some things you do every day that keep you sane? (Or what are you willing to start doing?)

Until next time,

Happily Ticked Off Tip #45:  Your serenity level will always be in direct proportion to how willing you are to be inconvenienced.

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

books