Tic-Oh Tuesday, Tics, Tourettes, writing

Tic-O Tuesday #2: Comic Ticker Fish Lee!

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Welcome to Tic-O Tuesday #2! Many of you might know Fish Lee from his stint on the A & E television show, “The Employables.” Others might know him from his Facebook Page @TourettesLife which features his amazing Tourette Syndrome art work. Still others might know him thanks to his bestselling Tourette’s comic book, T-Man & Hyperstrike (copies are sold exclusively on his Facebook Page @TourettesLife.)

As for me, I had the pleasure of getting to know him today by chatting his ear off for over an hour. We discussed everything from his childhood with tics, his life as a struggling artist who had to live through some pretty severe Tourette’s, and his current success today as one of the most sought after comic book illustrators around. (Plus he’s barely ticking thanks to the right combo of medication, sleep and weight loss.)

Fish surprised me, because he is more than just a talented artist. He’s a human being who took adversity and kicked it to the curb. If you’re like me – a parent who is worried about your child due to an unexpected diagnosis – you need to take a seat and get a boost of inspiration topping for your taco this Tico Tuesday.

Fish’s Past

“I wasn’t diagnosed until I was thirty,” Fish said. “It was confusing and tough to not know what was wrong with me.”

Fish began with mild tics as a child. He would repeat things he heard on TV, hold his breath and rub his nose. He would obsess over things and have a hard time reading social cues. “I had a pretty bad temper, too,” he said. “It wasn’t easy making friends.”

That said, he was not officially diagnosed as a child – not even when he stayed home for three weeks because of his eyes being crossed. “My single mom must have taken me to the doctor 15 times, and in the end, no one believed me that I couldn’t help it. The doctor said there was no way I could have had Tourette Syndrome since I never cursed.”

After having every imaginable test run on him to rule things out (from diabetes to severe heart issues) Fish just had to live with this “mystery illness.” He went on to say that most of the time it was manageable, but one to two times a year things would get really bad. “It was terrifying,” he said. “Especially because people thought I made it up to get attention. There was a point when I got better where I wondered myself if I had made it up.”

Lucky for him they disappeared in middle school and high school, but it wasn’t just because of genetics and good luck. “I self-medicated big time,” he said. Fish, who has now been sober for a good long while, fully admits what would have been better than not having tics at all would have been to feel that who he was, as he was tics and all, was okay. But at the time, that simply wasn’t the case.

A Rough Time of Tics

The tics came back with a vengeance after college when he was newly married and sober. At 21 it really became a problem, and by 30 he could barely see, walk or talk. His wife had to bathe him. Despite seeing a respected neurologist (who said there was no way he had Tourette Syndrome) it was not until he saw a news show with professor on TV who had the syndrome, along with a weatherman who reported that he had it also, that he realized, “That guy is me!”

When he realized he had true neurological disorder – where his brain misfired and mixed signals like crazy – he was sent to a movement specialist in Houston. The moment he walked into the room the doctor took a look at his severe shaking and asked, “How long have you had T.S.?” to which he responded, “I don’t have Tourette’s! I don’t say bad words!” She said, “Oh, yes, you do have it. The bad news is that it’s the worst case I’ve ever seen. The best news is that it can’t get any worse!”

Fish laughed as he recalled that story. It was the beginning of an understanding for his disorder.

While Fish’s wife, who he is now divorced from, was horrified that her husband would be confined to a wheel chair and potentially be on disability, Fish was thrilled. He finally had an answer. “It wasn’t Huntington Disease. It wasn’t a stroke. It wasn’t MS. It was bad, but I was alive!”

Unfortunately he had to stop working for a while with his condition worsening. He could no longer foster children – which he loved. But he had 3 of his own still at home. And in the process he was able to go on Facebook and meet other adults living with Tourette’s. He no longer felt alone. “My whole world opened up,” he gushed. “I wasn’t the only person needing help bathing and feeding myself!”

The Mouthpiece – A Miracle Cure

A turning point in Fish’s life was a mouthpiece that was made for him in Memphis, Tennessee. Made in conjunction with NFL mouth guards, it was a Godsend for Fish’s constant movement. “It was made of rubber and soft on the inside… no metal,” Fish said. “It truly worked.”

(Note from Andrea: I can’t offer you parents medical advice, but I have heard so many good things about this device. Google and find a doctor in your area or give me a call and I’ll work with you to help you locate one.)

Advice for Parents

Many parents are scared about their kids’ diagnosis, and that’s understandable, but Fish encourages everyone to be careful about how they talk about tics both to them directly and around them. “They have it tough enough as it is, but it doesn’t have to define them,” he said.

He, in fact, pushes his own son, Bear, to go way beyond what someone might expect of him. “I remember as a kid at 7 that I personally could not focus because of seven trains of thought in my head: a fight I had with someone… a girl… a TV show,” he said, “But at the same time, this wild thinking was also what made me unique.” He went on to gush,”Tourette’s kids are so smart, creative and empathetic. So what if they are a bit ‘weird’ to others. That’s what makes them so amazing.”

He continued, “I encourage all parents to fully accept their kids where they are at. So what if they tic!”

Fish’s Medication and Tic Management

As far as managing the tics, he himself is on a combo of Guanfacine and Primidone. “Everyone reacts differently,” he said, “But for me the combo of these work perfectly. There are some side effects, but it’s been worth it for what I am able to do every day in my life.” And boy what a lot he does.

Fish’s Current Life

Unlike his past where he was confined to his bed and a wheelchair, Fish spends his days illustrating for some of the biggest names in the business, including Eric N Bennett. He shops, drives and spends time with his 3 kids whenever he can (Marcus 20 – who is giving him his first grandbaby in June), Jay (19) and Elisha (“Bear” /16 who, according to Fish, is “killing it” with his tics).

Fish’s Projects These Days

Fish has inked Empyrean Command #0 and illustrated Sentinels #269 and Fivestar #3 (coming after after Covid) (pencils, inks, colors).

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He colored The Power Company #2 (and has #3 in the works which will be done after quarantine is over.)

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Most of his stuff is up for sale at www.indyplanet.com Fivestar.

He is working on Sentinels #270 right now, then the next Fivestar, then the next Power Company which will be all of his art work. “I’m already booked for most of the rest of the year,” he says proudly. And with artwork like this, it’s understandable!

Other Social Links: Find Fish

@TourettesLife on Facebook

WWW.MrFishcomics.com

Instagram

He can also be found on Deviant Art and on Twitter 

Twitter

Your Child Is not His or Her Tics!

As a writer and mother of a beautiful 17 year old with Tourette’s, I can’t tell you what a thrill it was to speak to Fish today. I want to encourage all of you parents to keep coming back every Tuesday where we’ll bring a new success story to you. And if you, yourself, have Tourette’s and are thriving (or know someone who is – young or old) drop me a line at HappilyTickedOff@Gmail.com. I’d love to consider them for a Tico-Tuesday post or at least as happy face or art work on my Success Story wall!

Until next time,

May God grant you the courage to accept the tics you cannot change, the courage to change the tics you can and the wisdom to know the difference.

Andrea

taco tuesday, Tourettes, writing

TIC-O Tuesday! Wait, I Have a Question (Coronavirus, Anxiety, TS and More!)

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When the Coronavirus hit in March, many parents were faced with questions about jobs, healthcare and homeschooling. And they weren’t the only ones. Lots of kids had questions, too. Luckily authors Amber Lappin, M. Ed. and Stephanie Machado-Jenkins, M.S.W., LCSW created a delightful book Wait, I Have a Question! which put a lot of younger minds to ease.

Since anxiety is such a common co-morbid condition of T.S., I reached out to these authors who graciously granted me an interview. And so, to re-boot my Taco Tuesday (which I’m renaming TIC-O Tuesday) here’s what these professionals had to say.

Book Description

Wait! I Have a Question!  is a book written for families with young children who are trying to find out how to explain the mixed-up, wild world of social distancing. Beautiful illustrations and a relatable story help kids make a little sense of this WEIRD crisis.

What Kinds of Kids Would Benefit From this Book?

The authors wrote, “We’re hoping children ages 3-7 will relate to Sebastian, a young boy who has BIG questions about why he has to stay at home, why his brother’s home from college, and how his sister is going to school. We hope that Sebastian’s feelings will be familiar and that the ways he learns to navigate them will open discussions for families.”

Why They Wrote It? (Psst: Steph and Amber became friends in high school- Class of ‘90!)

Steph began to first see the need in her client care. Parents were struggling with navigating the challenges of little separation between work and home life, and littles were responding to the physical presence of their parents and the lack of their availability during “work” hours.  Here’s the actual text:

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(Note from Andrea – any writers out there – this is how things get started sometimes. Check out my site over here or follow me on Facebook for more encouragement!)

Stephanie and Amber’s Professional Backgrounds

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Stephanie Machado-Jenkins is a clinical Social Worker.  She graduated from UCLA with a BA in Social Psychology and USC with a Master in Social Work. She owns a private practice and specializes in treating adults with a trauma history.  “I combine old fashioned ‘talk’ with expressive therapies,” she reports. She also teaches at a local university in their School of Social Work Department and serves as a field instructor for Master level Social Work students who are learning the art of clinical work.

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Amber began as a preschool teacher at ABC Child Care Centers in Temecula, CA, where she still works today. “This gave me an excellent foundation for learning to love and care for children-and the people who care for them,” she says. In the years that followed, she wore many hats: in the preschools as a curriculum and literacy specialist, in a large children’s ministry as a part of the admin team, as a trainer and as a curriculum writer and consultant.

“I soon found that my biggest passion was in caring for the adults who care for children, so I went back to school to earn a BS in Human Development at Hope International University, and a M.Ed. with a specialty in Early Education at Grand Canyon University. Now, I am part of the faculty team at Mt. San Jacinto’s Teacher Education and Developmental Studies Department (TEDS), a foster parent educator for Riverside City College and I still get to work with ABC and as a freelance a conference speaker, trainer, and writer.”

Personal Background

Stephanie is a first generation Mexican American and the daughter of an immigrant Mother.  “I grew up in the Los Angeles area and moved with my family to Riverside County in my Junior year in high school. I moved to West Los Angeles in 1990. I continue to reside in Southern California with her husband David and son, Xavier.”

Amber lives in Riverside County with her husband Jason and 20 year old twin daughters. “We also have a three-legged cat and a perfect dog.” She goes on to say, “My son works as a firefighter in New Mexico- which is way too far away for my liking.” She and her husband will celebrate their 29th wedding anniversary this year. “In our pre-pandemic lives, our hobbies were travel and eating at restaurants. Now, our hobbies are staying thankful and trying not to walk in on each other’s Zoom calls.”

Kids, Anxiety and This Book

In Wait! I Have a Question! Sebastian has GREAT ideas for addressing all sorts of feelings, including anxiety.  His “I CAN” list is a nice start. Instead of focusing on what he wasn’t allowed to do while social distancing, he made a list of things he could do.  Caregivers who are working with children struggling with anxiety can help kids make a list of things they can do, and then use it to help them focus on the now instead of what has happened or what might happen.

The authors stated, “Depending on your faith tradition, you may also find prayer helpful. It’s important that we don’t teach our kids that praying is a magic shield that keeps us safe from germs. Instead, we can use the time in prayer and meditation to take our worries and cares to God, and allow God to calm our hearts and minds. Incorporating deep breaths and undistracted times can settle our spirit as well as benefit our bodies.” They go on to add, “You may find apps like Calm and Headspace helpful.  Each app has a number of soothing meditation recordings that are great for kids.”

Talking About Feelings

Stephanie says, “I also strongly recommend that parents encourage their children to talk about how they feel.  Sometimes adults overlook that their children are also hearing newscasts that talk about people who are sick and the numbers of people across the world that have died.  This can have huge impacts on our children.  We have developed a conversation talking guide for this reason.  We encourage you to use the guides and get your children processing.”

In addition to talking about feelings she adds, “Movement is also a huge help.  In the last few weeks, we have enjoyed urban walking paths and outside water play (it’s been hot here) and this is also a good source of recreation and fun!”

Parents and Self-Care

(Note from Andrea – Ya’ll know I love this topic!) The writers encourage parents to engage in their own self-care. Stephanie says, “I am mindful of the fact that many of us no longer have work-life separation that could create an incredible imbalance in how we feel.  It’s important to set aside time to engage in activities that you enjoy.  Also, keep in mind that doing ‘nothing’ is in fact doing ‘something.’”

Routine vs. Play in Times of Quarantine

“Structure is important,” Stephanie says, “And it’s essential to lean into play and creativity.  Dr. Dan Siegel says, ‘Play produces possibility and potential.’ I have and will continue to stand by this. These times require an outlet so that we can move anxious and worried energy ‘up and out,’” she insists, going to on to emphasize, “All sorts of play allows us to rid ourselves of the feelings that weigh on us.  I’ll add that play is not just for kids.  Adults need to play too!  I regularly engage in play so that I feel connected to myself and that I am connected to a creative outlet that restores my soul.  I absolutely enjoy my ‘go to’ play activities such as painting, collaging, photography and baking.  I also reach out to my circle of friends and loud laugh regularly!  We clinicians have an awesome sense of humor!”

Structure

While Amber admits play is critical, she points out that structure is an equally wonderful grounding opportunity for both kids and parents. “During crises, when chaos seems to be an overarching theme, it helps when children can lean into the stability of at least a few familiar routines,” she says. “Keeping developing brains regulated with the structure of expected patterns in the day can also help minimize tantrums, anxiety, and squabbles.” I am recommending to parents of young children to draw up a loose version of the basic times of their day- a ‘flexible schedule’ if you will. As tempting as it is to let set times slide, this can be the root of some really wild behavior.”

She goes on to say, “Because it’s a totally mixed up, wild time, it’s okay to make bedtimes later and allow some ‘sleeping in.’ This may afford the parents some time to get up early and get work done before their littles wake up. But don’t forget that children under the age of 5 need about 11-13 hours of sleep a day (this can include naps.) That didn’t change just because of the pandemic! When you have a set bedtime (even if it’s later!) and a set wake up time (even though waking up small children seems plain wrong), you help your children get the sleep patterns they need to be able to rest well and function better throughout the day. (Hint: same for parents! They need healthy sleep cycles too!)

Collaboration During Times of Quarantine (For my Writers Out There!)

Amber and Steph had daily Zoom meetings including many a Sunday to get it done! They were aware of the many responsibilities they also had and were mindful of ensuring that their time spent was efficient and productive.

“We also shared Google pages so that we could jot down ideas and exchange thoughts as the book was being created,” Stephanie reports. “We were also good about the occasional late night texting so that we did not forget a critical piece of information as a thought struck us,”

Would They Do It Again?

“Absolutely!” both writers say. They have a few ideas in the hopper and would love to keep Sebastian’s adventures alive.  They are considering how they might collaborate on bringing social/emotional developmental workshops to different organizations and agencies.

The Illustrations

They had an incredible collaborator in Rock Barcellos, an illustrator in Brazil. He was able to perfectly catch the writers’ vision to bring Sebastian and his family to life!  He was also super patient with them as they were trying to work as quickly as possible to get this book out while it could still be useful for families (“We must’ve checked in with his progress several times a day!” Amber admits. “We could not be more pleased with the work that he did. He’s AMAZING.”

Tacos

Taco Tuesday is all about sharing joy with friends and family. If you were at my table, what kind of taco would you eat?

Amber says, “I’m a street tacos girl. Just give me some carne asada with some grilled veggies and some guac on a nice, soft, handmade tortilla, and you’ll not hear a single complaint out of me.”

Stephanie reports,”It has to be a chorizo potato taco!”

With that order out of the way, you can find more about these authors, the illustrator and the book here!

Facebook

Instagram

Amazon Paperback

Amazon Kindle

FREE companion printables

Until next time,

May God grant you the serenity to accept the tics you can not change, the courage to change the tics you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Andrea

God, self improvement, teenagers, Uncategorized, writing

To Realize One’s Destiny Is a Person’s Only Obligation (God, tacos and The Alchemist)

Lilly Rum@rumandraisin
www.unsplash.com

Last week I was hating my job, I was overwhelmed with my personal schedule and I almost canceled a 50th birthday celebration because I was feeling too tired to even think about it.

This week I feel like things could not get any better with my career, I am on top of the world with my family life and I am very much looking forward to my little party. What’s changed?

I trusted God.

I know… I know… it’s annoying to hear that over and over, but it’s true. When I remember that it’s not up to me to manage and control every aspect of my life, and especially of those around me (my teenagers are quite excited about this) things just feel better.

For the record, I don’t believe just leaving everything up to God and sitting on my bum inhaling Trader Joe’s chocolate covered bananas – while binge watching Grace and Frankie – is going to rocket blast me into a new career. But I truly, 100%, without a doubt believe that in trusting my higher power I can tap into my true nature, relax and be more open to the signs and omens that will lead me to something better.

Why is it something better? Because it’s God’s will, not mine.

Then I can do the footwork, which looked like this:

The past few days I polished off a resume.

I put said resume up on ZipRecruiter.

I started poking around LinkedIn and realized I need to put it up there also.

When my husband told me that my resume looked more like a laundry list than an actual resume hiring managers would be interested in, I throttled him with a taco I accepted his advice. I was only able to do that because I trusted God, more than my own ego, to move forward with the job hunt process.

Other Successes

In addition to applying for work, I landed another memoir writing client. It’s a great boost in pay and more than makes up for the day off per week I took. I am convinced… let me say again CONVINCED… this would not have happened if the channel between me and God was clogged up with fear and worry. It would be impossible.

Instead, my friends, I am learning that lack of surrender is like asking for the tv to play beautiful movies but the antenna is snapped. It’s only when I invest in a good piece of hardware first – faith – that new pictures can be dialed into the TV screen of my life.

I’m happy to report that some of this new found spirituality is being channeled into my my marriage. Instead of staying up late every night surfing Facebook and getting jealous of other people’s Paris photos while I’m worried about an extra stomach roll seeping over my granny panties, I am doing some serious self care.

That looks like getting off the computer shortly, taking a bath, and continuing to read The Alchemist with Rex.

Odd or God?

The Alchemist just happens to be about a shepherd who must learn to have some faith by leaving his tiny sheep herding job and go off to Egypt in search of treasure. There are no guarantees. There is no fancy map. He must finally trust in himself, and the signs around him, to endure his quest. He refers to it as an adventure, instead of a challenge, and it makes all the difference.

I pray today that all of us can trust our higher powers as well. That we can think of our lives as beautiful adventures. Because when we do, there is certain to be some treasure along the way.

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. )

education, faith, God, self improvement

Papa Bear, Children Development Institute and Lithium

Today was a much better day than the past few days. It began with a mad dash trip across town to get my son to his Japanese class, only to rush back to give a conference talk at the Childrens Development Institute with the amazing Ellen Stohl. It ended with Taco Tuesdays on our front lawn with Amelia and her daughter, Ally. (How I’d love to show photos but, alas, privacy calls. You’ll just have to trust me. The guac pretty much made the meal.)

I was a bit alarmed prior to the fiesta when a family member suggested that perhaps I ingest lithium to calm down.

But then I just let it go.

There was a time in my life when an anti-depressant was needed – and I have no problems or judgement with those that take it. For me, though, it’s a matter of looking at my life. Why take meds if I’m not going to change my behavior? In my case, this means packing in too much in a day. It makes no sense.

I also took into consideration that it’s kind of a nutty time of life. Pain isn’t always bad. Pain can motivate one to look at their circumstances and rearrange their life. For me it simply means not cooking ten things on the stove at once, mixing it in a pan, and wondering why it tastes disgusting. Newsflash: Cook one thing at a time. JUST ONE.

And so, after talking to a friend and writing out a business plan, I came up with a relatively good solution that will accomplish more peace of mind.

Plus my son bought his sister an amazing plushie for her upcoming 15th birthday. I wouldn’t want to be too calm and miss her reaction.

Yeah, life isn’t always a cake walk. But it’s amazing what a little food, a little friendship, and a little reliance on God can do to refocus one’s perspective.

Here’s to an even better day tomorrow! Same for you all!

Leave a Comment

What do you do when life gets too busy? It can be hard to stop, but I know when I need to.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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.

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

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

Taco Tuesday 1 Phyllis Fagell

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

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

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

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

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

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Taco Tuesday with Phyliss L Fagell, LPCP

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Where are you from and where do you live now?

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

What do you do for a living?

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

How has that influenced your decision to write a book?

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

Have you always wanted to write?

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

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

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

What was the most difficult part about writing your book?

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

What was the most fun about writing your book?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions for Phyllis?

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

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

And always eat tacos.

They really do make ya feel better.

Andrea

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

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