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

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

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

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

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

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Just kidding.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My Blogging Goals – Like Ping Pong!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Am I Telling You This?

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

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

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

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

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

books

 

faith, reading, self improvement, Uncategorized, writing

Daily Magic

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I recently picked up The Great Gatsby. It was sitting in a pile of free books at my daughter’s summer school location and it was begging me to read it.

“I’ll read it also!” my daughter said.

I jumped at the offer. The past few years I’ve only read books she has recommended to me. Wonder. The Fault In My Stars. Holes. I see dozens of books scattered in her room that I’ve not been privy to. The Book Thief. Night. And so many more.

She’s almost 15 now. I’ll admit to being more than a tad jealous of her secret world that she lives in her books. That world used to be through me.

Some of my favorite memories were reading to her out loud. When she was five I read her the original Secret Garden. I can still remember cuddling on my bed with her – those long languid days before I had to scoot out the door for work and time wasn’t such a rare commodity. Lazy moments seemed to grow like those flowers up the garden wall… slow and relaxed. Why rush? Why not bloom in our own sweet time?

That same theme of quiet, languid living is now coming alive to me as I read The Great Gatsby again. It’s been thirty years and I had forgotten about that beautiful house… the white dresses and fluttering curtains. I had not remembered about the racism and the affairs. The anger and the snobbery. And the dump near the train tracks… oy, vey, the dust!

Despite not remembering the details of this book, the themes and tone of it, and so many others, are buried deep in my subconscious, because there’s a familiarity when I enter a new location that comes from a knowing deep in my gut: “I get this person,” I think. Or, “I’ve been in this old town before… at some point.” This knowledge keeps me feeling connected always.

And that’s when it hit me this weekend, while walking on the beach with my husband, that reading to my kids when they were younger was the same thing as giving them a positive mindset. If we are literally what we think, then filling their brains with as much literature as possible at a young age made so much sense. Their world couldn’t help but be richer and fuller and full of sneaky hidden passages. It’s not the school that made all the difference in the end. It was the adventures in their brains.

As humans, it’s so natural to compare ourselves to where we are at any given moment. But if where we are is building a giant tree house to a new land or forging our ways through wilderness in covered wagons with Pa and Ma, than what some dorky five year old says to us about our thrift store skirt really has very little significance.

Maybe for some of you this idea is obvious. But to me, it really came out of the blue and I am feeling so much gratitude: for books, for adventures, for education and Jane Eyre which, hooray to this last statement, my daughter is allowing me to read to her out loud this summer! In between the summer schools and the dishes, and the commuting and the braces, we will sit side by side and enter Jane’s world. We will talk about spirituality and class conflict, relationships and abuse, mansions and horses.

And mostly I will be grateful for Jane. Because she, like so many other characters, have helped my daughter focus on the things of life that matter most. And it’s not her looks or her money or her job. It’s her very spirit, bursting within her, reminding her that she is, indeed enough.

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Happily Ticked Off Tip #50:  Reading is an adventure into a world that keeps you from worrying too much about the crud in your own world that doesn’t matter. It’s a portal into bliss, confidence and courage.

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

 

 

education, God, Jesus, meditation, parenting, spirituality, Uncategorized

This Too Shall Pass

A few years ago if someone told me bad months would pass, I’d have wanted to punch them in the throat.

Then for the past two months I had the sub job from hell, my father-in-law died, another one of my family members began to lose their marbles, one of our sinks hit the skids, the dog now has a lump on her back, one kid got rejected from a club they had really wanted to join, I dealt with church moving grief and we continue to have dish wars that often end in me feeling like I am either too hard, too soft but most of all… not eating on clean flatware.

But I can honestly say that through it all, I have held on. Because I knew that this, too, shall pass.

And whatever you are going through, if you can hold on to that for tonight, I can promise tomorrow will get better.

Until next time,

Happily Ticked Off Tip #44:  All that stuff you’re worried about? Stop and breathe. This too shall pass.

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

books

faith, parenting, self improvement, spirituality

I Am Not God: A Brilliant Offering on Letting Kids Fail (Of course, not my offering… but what was given to me. Just read.)

not-god

So this week was hard but amazing. I’ve known for a long time with my teens that there’s this fine line between letting go and setting boundaries.

But deeper than that is the underbelly of motivations. What am I doing from fear? What am I doing from my own selfish need to re-live pieces of my past through them? And, as was the case this week, what do I not know about what drives me?

That last place can be some pretty murky water for a control freak like me. I am lucky enough to have someone I really value. Who literally knows every single thing about me and still loves me (kind of a scary thing) and she pointed a bright flashlight into those dark waters to illuminate something out that I had no idea I was even doing.

What the Hell Are You Talking About, Andrea?

I had bought some lessons for one of my kids, but they weren’t practicing as much as I’d have liked them to. When I was frustrated about this, my sponsor said, “Are those lessons a gift?” I responded that they were, indeed, a gift. To which she said, “Then you need to stop having expectations about it. She can feel your expectations. Yuck.” Before I could get too offended she remarked, “That’s manipulating. And controlling.” (So much better! Thanks!)

Honestly, I was pissed. But I also trust her. She has not steered me wrong yet. When I get irked, it’s usually because she’s right. My ego just wants to down a six pack and eat a case of Oreos. But I didn’t get sober for my ego. I got sober to live in reality. And that means honoring the sad truth that when I’m irked enough, it’s never about the person, place or thing that’s bugging me. It’s always about me and my expectation. Not 80% of the time. not 99.8% of the time. 100% of time.

Like a masochist I dug further.

“But what about teaching my kid how to be responsible?” (Yeah, that seems reasonable. Plus, as Tuskany wisely pointed out, “Are lessons really a gift? Aren’t there some strings?” Yes! Yes there ARE I decided. Now I was really confused!)

To this my sponsor responded, “Life will teach them all the consequences that they need.”

Okay, that sounds nice on paper. But my bank account was vomiting in protest. “But I’m spending $200/month on this,” I balked. “That’s one expensive life lesson.”

My sponsor got silent. (That pretty much means Yoda is about to speak some serious truth. I braced myself. And good thing. Because what came next really shook me to my core in its brilliance.)

“How do you know that this ‘practice’ you want them to do is really going to change the outcome anyway? What if they are supposed to learn something by failing? Or maybe they won’t fail at all? Or maybe this ‘thing’ you are hoping they will be by taking these classes turns out not the be the thing God wants for them in the first place? Why do you think you know better than God? YOU ARE NOT GOD.”

Um, schooled.

NOTE: I use the word “they” to keep the privacy of the “he” and “she” people in my house. I am trying very carefully to honor them by pulling out my nuggets of learning – for what that is worth – and not compromise them with pics and details. Such is this stage of life. I adore them.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #39: You are not God. Stop predicting every outcome like you think you know everything and let your kids fail. In doing so life becomes the enemy, not 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. 

books

parenting, writing

Repeat After Me: It’s Not About You. Good. Just Do That 1000000 More Times

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One of my kids didn’t get something they really wanted. They worked super hard for it but no, they still didn’t get it. It stung. Not just for them, but for me. Of course, since it wasn’t about me, I didn’t have the luxury of acting irritated or devastated or outraged. I just go to shake my head, say “Oh, I’m so sorry” and listen.

(I could have gone Operation Varsity Blues on their butt, but I had already blogged about how I’m so much better than that. I can’t be a hypocrite now, can I?)

The good news in the above paragraph, at least regarding my own experience, is that I’ve grown so much. Even a year ago I’d have been aghast at the results, dramatically trying to pump the kid full of encouragement and wisdom that, in the end, would have done nothing to ease the teen’s pain and instead only serve my own wounded pride at the rejection which, as I type this, makes no sense. My child is not me. It’s natural to feel bummed out for my kid. It’s quite another to personalize it. After all, in doing so, I’m not giving my kid time to grieve for themselves. Maybe they’ll be over it in a day. Maybe not for a month. At the time my kid found out about the results, I had no idea what they would need. But one thing they didn’t need was their hypersensitive mother swooping in on their grief, creating confusion. (A year ago it might have ended with my kid comforting me.)

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(um, sorry, I did.)

The issue with this reaction would have had the effect of having my kid feel less safe to tell me what is going on in their lives for fear of eliciting a nutty response.

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Maybe you don’t suffer with this kind of attachment to your child’s outcomes.

Maybe you are the kind of parent that can easily let go.

I DO let go. Oon the outside.

But on the inside, it still hurts. It speaks to old wounds in me. It tugs at the child who was never picked for the lead in the play or for the sports team.

But… and this is the big takeaway: It’s NEVER my child’s job to suffer my hurts.

And in the case of my kid, they were over it the next morning. (This mama might take a few more weeks to process it… but I acknowledge that… and am calling the fact that I was able to sit with my kid for a good hour and help THEM process it a big win.)

Now if I can just get through the next week of work, burying a family member, signing up both kids for college courses, get my printer to work and put away two weeks worth of laundry we’ll be golden.

Not that it’s your issue ever, dear reader, to worry about this crazed blogger’s dumb schedule. But a prayer? That wouldn’t hurt. And Tuskany, you can bet your sweet ass I’ll be swinging by your place again this week. You saved me last Wednesday.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #29: It can be hard to let your kid feel disappointment, but let them feel it anyway. Just listen and don’t make it about you. (Oh, that last part. It’s not easy. We all have our hurts, don’t we? Oh, you are perfectly balanced? #LuckyYouIDon’tBelieveYou)

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

education, faith, parenting, Uncategorized

College Admissions: Some Parents’ Guilty Pleasure

Most of you have probably heard about the bribery to college admissions that’s got people like Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin facing prison time. I’m already waiting for the Shameless and Fuller House Memes to surface.

Oh wait, here’s one!

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On one hand, my stomach dropped when I heard the news. It’s so unfair to the kids who really do work their butts off to get into these top schools.

On the other hand, I don’t really care. I’m one of those moms who doesn’t buy into the whole college application freak out thing. The truth: My son is a Sophomore and we have not researched one school (though we said we would). I don’t know how or where he’ll take an SAT and I’m not overly worried about him getting a coach for it. We’ll start researching in a few months, look at JC’s and go from there. I have enough faith in my kid to know he’ll land somewhere! (Mom brag: He went from not amazing grades last year to straight A’s, 1 B+ and he’s taking Japanese this summer. This GPA did not happen with me bugging him. I literally have zero idea what he’s learning in school. The hard work was last year when, after letting him fail, I made him meet with me every day at 4PM to go over his organization. I knew it would be a pain for me, but it would ultimately put him in the driver’s seat. These same tools are what will get him on the road to college one way or another.) So, back to that:

Why Don’t I Care About College – And a Caveat

I want my kids to do the best they can with their lives. But I’ve seen enough A-Personality neurotic kids to know that if a kid doesn’t learn to appreciate the success of who they are, no school is going to make a difference. They will just get there, not be happy, and anxiously climb up to the next thing. And then they’ll graduate and anxiously work toward a job, and then a promotion, and then a mate, and kids, all the while not really knowing why they are striving so hard.

No, that’s not what life is about. Beyond a shadow of a doubt I believe the best thing I can do is guide them toward their path and let them be self-confident people who are content with what is, not what is not.

Don’t You Care At All, Andrea?

Of course I care. Ask Tuskany. I stress about my decision to let go. But in the end, I will always choose to let go. I do so, sometimes with fists clenched onto the last bit of rope, because I’m raising them to be adults that make their own decisions, not little puppets I write checks for to look good for the world. (Look where that landed the culprits in this latest scandal?)

I feel so strongly about this topic because I was that go get ’em kid. I got the straight A’s. The college. The TV job. The house. The marriage. The kids. My outsides were great. But inside I was a wreck. It wasn’t until I broke down the construct of what I thought I needed to be happy that I was able to be, truly, happy.

Tonight I’m going to go downstairs and eat some soup. I’m going to remind my son to get off the video games. I’m going to compliment my daughter for all the auditions she went on. She’ll tell me about the groups she landed, the ones she did not. And then we’ll go to bed. Life these days is busy busy busy… but it’s simple. It comes down to, “Are who you are in your soul enough?” When the answer is yes – and it always is – there isn’t a thing to worry about.

Zero fucks given. It’s a model for livin’.

(Hey, I think I just wrote a country song! Maybe I can make a million dollars and bribe Harvard to take my kids!)

Happily Ticked Off Tip #25: When we teach our kids that who they are is more important than where they go to college, we are giving them the best education they can get: To be learn to be happy with what they have, not what they do not.

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

parenting, writing

The Best Advice I Forget to Take

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I am lucky that I am really close to my teenagers. Part of it is that we are huge people, so we are literally close.  (I’m not kidding. Stink is on his way to being 7 feet. We live in a 1950’s starter with low ceilings. We might have to move in a few years. To a yurt. Or a circus tent.)

The thing is that I’ve learned one powerful tool over the past few years. I mentioned it a while back, but it’s such a bootie saver that I’m repeating it. It goes like this:

#1 Parenting Tool to Save Your Relationship (And head from spinning off its axis like Linda Blair after smelling too much High School Axe)

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“Do you want my opinion or do you just want me to listen?”

Then just follow their lead.

Even if you are dying to say something.

Even if you have to super glue your mouth. And then cover that with tape. And cut off your tongue. (Don’t do that last part. You’d never get to enjoy coffee again. That would suck.)

I am telling you, this parental response is like crack for an addict. It just calms everything down.

Still not sure? Think about it: When you’re upset, do you want someone just spouting off their opinion? No, you don’t. If they did, you’d want to punch them in the throat.

Or wash down a Chipolte plate with a large Diet Coke and silently resent them (and hate yourself for being such a wussy).

No, asking before breaking and entering a teenager’s vulnerable emotions is the best course. Every. Single. Time.

Which is why tonight I am typing this a bit defeated. Because not only do I not like listening to other people’s unwelcomed advice, I don’t even take my own.

Come to think about it, you’re not asking for my opinion either, readers! But you’re reading, so I will, unlike how I ever want a date to end with my teenagers, assume consent is implied. (Thanks to Tuskany’s lightning speed text “Is everything okay?” I will clarify the consent reference. It’s from watching One Day at a Time. Such a remarkable series that covers so many issues our teens face – sexual consent notwithstanding. My kids are fine… they are not into dating yet. Thank God.)

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Oh, man, being a parent is hard sometimes. Why couldn’t I just be a crystal gem, like my kids’ favorite show of late, and fight virtual demons while morphing with other dysfunctional beings to create life?

Actually, I think that last part is how I ended up with my kids in the first place.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #19:  When your teen is upset, try asking “Do you want my opinion or do you just want me to listen?” It’s a game changer and keeps you a safe space for future conversation.

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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Uncategorized

Waving Through a Window (And the Feeling of Connection)

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It’s my second day subbing in North Hollywood for an art teacher who has been gone quite a while. This scenario is a lot like my own ruminating brain: Too much free time = feral behavior. 

With no prepared art lesson, I went into sub ninja mode in a hurry.

Me: “Who here knows the musical Hamilton?”

1/4 of the kids raise their hands.

Me: “Who here knows the musical Dear Evan Hansen?

5 kids out of 40 wave. 3 out of the 5 have dyed hair, more than a few piercings and outfits that look like soldiers who had a knife fight with anime characters.

Me:”Dear Evan Hansen is a story about a kid named Evan Hansen who fakes the friendship of another high school senior, Conner Murphy, who has recently killed himself. He writes letters to Connor, and vice versa back to him, to pretend he had a huge friendship with this troubled boy. The sole purpose for this ruse is to date the dead kid’s sister.”

Student #1: “What’s a ruse?”

Student #2: “It means, ‘You’re a dumbshit,’ Carlos.”

Me: “It means ‘fake game’ and it also means if you call out profanity again without raising your hand I will be sending you to the office. And that’s no ruse.”

Ooohs and ‘That is cold, man'”erupt, along with a few, “Roasted!!!!!!!!”

Me: “Back to Evan Hansen’s lie: It’s not a great scenario, but in the process of dissecting this kid’s past we learn that Connor was bullied and felt alone. Connor felt like he had no other choice but to end his life. Dear Evan Hansen is about what can happen when people feel connected. Like they matter.”

All eyes are now on me. (Except for this one female couple who have their hands intertwined and are drawing happy hearts up and down each other’s forearms. You can’t win them all with your . Moving on.)

Me: “In the beginning of the show, Evan sings a song about what it’s like to wave through a window at a scene he can’t be a part of. We are going to listen to this song and then create a drawing based on the emotion it draws out of you.”

Grumbles and mumbling.

Me: “Oh, you don’t want to that?”

Epic shouts of protest.

Me: “Why don’t you ask me if you really have to participate?”

Them: “Do we really have to participate, Ms. Frizzle?”

Me: (Stonefaced) Yup. Now listen.

And they did.

And while some of them created something akin to stick figures on crack, some of them did masterpieces this.

this one

And that made it all worth it.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #8: Push through and teach a lesson in the classroom of your choice, even if at first it seems like no one is listening. They just might be and you’ll be glad for the connection. 

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Who did you make a connection with today?

  • Note: Artwork granted with permission from amazing student.
  • 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
Coaching and Wellness

10 Ways to Jump Start your Dark Mood, Essential Oils and Tic Coaches. It’s a Thing!

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Okay, so my last post wasn’t all that encouraging. I was down and out over the sounds of these tics over and over (and over and over… and over and over) and I was ashamed that I was so angry. Shame comes in many levels, and here’s what my inner voice yelled at me:

  • “Again? The same complaint again?”
  • “How can you have published a book about being Happily Ticked Off and still feel so mad?
  • “Why can’t you concentrate on the great things that are going right?”

Here’s the answer I got back

  • “Because you’re human. Duh.”

This voice of reason (which I call the Holy Spirit… he’s a cheeky fellow) was quickly followed by another revelation… one that used to take me months, years, therapists, wine and meds to figure out: I can start over.

So… 8 hours later (and one trip to Wood Ranch BBQ thanks to a very patient husband who listened to me fret over my life, career, tics, worries about holidays, money and wrinkles while stuffing myself silly with overpriced but delicious chopped salad and more bread than the Pillsbury doughboy) I did.

I started over.

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(Oh, wait, that’s not my husband. That’s my spoiled pit bull who is not allowed on the bed no way needed some love just like me.)

Solution

Thanks to years of getting better tools in my tool belt, I did indeed begin anew the next day. Why? It’s the only way. I refuse to play the victim. As someone in my Sunday group likes to say, “Blame, Shame, Explain… it’s a nasty cycle.”

And so with that in mind, I reminded myself once again of a few things that maybe you need reminders of today.

A) No one is in charge of my feelings.

B) I can grieve, but self-pity has to go. It’s not productive.

Inability to Move Forward 

“But I’m sad! I can’t move on!” you might moan. I was like that, too – for more time than I’d like to admit. I remember the feelings of frustration and the well of despair that the sounds of tics brought on. (Heck, I lived in that space for eight hours the other night!) But I have done enough mental and spiritual work to know that tics aren’t truly my problem. Tics are simply a trigger for deep rooted beliefs that who I am is not enough.

And that, my friends, is a big fat, hairy lie.

Would I like less tics? Of course. But that’s not what I really need. What I really need is to get out of self, let my son be who he wants to be, so I can become the woman God intended me to be.

Who Am I?

These days I am substitute teaching, writing a pilot for a producer I truly adore, and considering getting a Masters/teaching full time next year if said pilot is not sold. (I am not trying to be negative… just realistic. I love teaching. I need income. And I’m almost 50. I need to go where God – and a paycheck – would have me be. That destination is not one of confusion but of peace.) And so there’s no point spinning in a bad mood now. Instead, I have options! And here’s what a few of them were that I took the day after my emotional 8 hour self-pity fest.

10 Ways I Jumpstarted My Attitude (Perhaps these will help you, too!)

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  1. Acceptance: I once again reminded myself that my son has Tourette Syndrome. There’s not a damn thing I can do about it in the moment the sounds are happening.

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2. Let Go: While there are solutions to some of the sounds that my son could employ (Acupuncture, Brain Balance classes, meditation, supplements, testing for leaky gut, CBD oil and more) he’s not willing to do embark on this journey at this time. I once again chose relationship over pushing my point. As my mentor likes to remind me, at this stage of my particular dance with tics, it’s like dealing with a chronic alcoholic where you think there’s maybe “Just one more thing” you could have done to keep them from going on a bender. Instead, I reminded myself,”There is no ‘One more thing to try. There is only acceptance. Let go.”

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3. Powerlessness: This is such a tough thing, but #1 and #2 drive me to my knees every time. I am powerless over the tics right now. I just am. There is no “one more fix.” I reminded myself, for this moment in time, “I am powerless.” That might sound like defeat, but it’s actually victory, because when I realize I have no control, I don’t have the burden of fixing it. It’s such a relief.

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4. Service: Thanksgiving was coming up. I could either ruin the holiday with my frustration or I could pour myself into making it a beautiful night. I chose the second and I am forever grateful. (High lite: Getting Western Bagels with my daughter and playing Christmas music in the kitchen while she baked and I cleaned the dishes. It’s a combo that works for us every time!)

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5. God: I remembered, once again, that I am not God. If I could fix the tics, and my frustration with them, I would. As of today, I don’t need a human fix. I need a supernatural fix – one that reminds me that there is something far bigger at play than what I see on the surface. When I can surrender to the fact that God has a plan for my life, and my sweet son’s, my entire mindset switches and I can get into #6…

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6. Gratitude: Gratitude is not something that comes naturally to me. Naturally I am a whiny, self-centered, give me comfort/instant gratification kind of gal. But when I remember all my blessings, and then thank God and everyone around me for them, I am immediately catapulted into a new dimension: one of peace and contentment. There is always, always, did I mention ALWAYS something to be grateful for. The lie: I think I can only be grateful when the tics go away or the house is clean. The truth: Happiness is an inside job. I get happy first and the tics bug me far less, never the other way around. Never.

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7. Friendship: I called a good friend and had an ugly cry. Instead of trying to find instant solution, I grieved what I had hoped would be a relaxing vacation without noises. She promptly reminded me of #8. (Personal shout out to Tuskany, Barbs, my sister, Susan, my 12-step homies, Ria, Linda, Rose, Karen, Lavender, PrairieMom, Jodee and so many other women in my tribe who I just couldn’t imagine life without. You ground me. You let me be me. And I am so grateful.

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8. Self care: I’m often the last person my list, and then I blame and shame other people for not meeting my needs. Um, not such a great dynamic. Instead, I took my friends advice and employed radical self care. I took 2 baths/day for a few days and didn’t obsess over people who had no water in Africa while I relaxed in an amazing tub

(Note: my tub does not look like this photo. I did use a candle, but it had half its wax missing. Brown stuff lined the shower grout… if the grout that was not missing… and my legs are so long they practically smash me in the face when I soak, but this picture is so much more alluring. And she has amazing legs!) I had that extra cup of coffee. I bought myself some amazing MAC Ruby Woo lipstick. I did some glorious window shopping at the mall and whenever negative thoughts came into my head, I told them, “Thank you, you are no longer welcome here. Now go piss off.”

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9. Exercise: I walked every day this vacation. Just 20 minutes. I did not lose 20 pounds, but I did get into gratitude for how lucky I am to live on a beautiful street, to walk as a woman without feeling fear for my life, and enjoy a wave hello or goodbye with a neighbor. (When negative thoughts about world politics entered my mind, I refused to feel guilty. I voted. I did what I could. But negative news does not negate my obligation to have joy regardless. It’s a must.)

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10. Organization/Decoration: I cleaned my house and decorated for Christmas. (See that tree? My daughter and hubby surprised me with it on Saturday. And by “surprise” I mean I put it on my Christmas list. I didn’t wait to get nothing while I shopped for everyone and then felt angry that I had nothing for me. Nope! I have always wanted a white tree and this is what they found. Perfect! It looks like candy on taffy. I truly could eat it. If I had a design company, I’d call it “Lickable Designs: Products So Amazing You Could Lick Them!” (Don’t judge.)

I hope this list helped you! I know that it helped me writing it out. Until next time,

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

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

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