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Learning to Be Content – 1 Grunt at a Time (Mine, Not My Kid’s)

 

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In my quest to adjust to life as a working mom, there’s a lot I haven’t done, including writing here.

Because I am lazier than the gajillion people who refused to get out and vote this election season hate to reinvent the wheel, I thought I’d share something I sent to a friend today. She was on my  mind because, being a good self-indulgent product of the eighties, I’m on my mind a lot. And since I somehow live more peacefully in my Starbuck’s infested/doing too much/oh crap/I forgot to apply to high schools for my kid and now he’s going to be stuck at our local feeder school brain when I think of others, I thought I’d share it with you in case you can relate. (A few words added and deleted for privacy.)

Hi friend – 

Just writing you a quick letter to let you know something my own sponsor said to me today. I call her every morning at 730. If it’s 731 she gets on my case. “You’re late.” It’s annoying and a bit non-graceful. She’s of a different faith than me, a lawyer and pretty much the opposite of overthinking/soft hearted/no boundaries me. But she’s been amazing. She’s like those rubber walls in a pinball machine for me. My emotions get wound back and released high into the game. The ball then falls against those walls and plink! plink! plinks! all over the place. It wants to go straight to the top (that’s where I think the good life is) but it hits those walls. Those walls scream at me, “No. You’re staying right here. Get still. Stop running.” So I do. 
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Today I told her, all in fifteen minutes, how I had all these fears. Fears that I would never land on that TV show or hit the big time to have money to send my kids to private schools and have all these CRAZY FUN experiences if I keep doing what I’m doing as a special needs aide. I need time at night to write again and figure out a way to finish that pilot that’s going to make me that money. (And my book. Whatever happened to that?)
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But then I told her (and this is the truth) that I have never been happier at a job then I am right now. I make a small bit/hour and barely have cash after I buy food for the family and pay some bills, to do anything. And yet, I have people in a community that adore me. That I love right back. That bring me hard boiled eggs from their chicken coop and walk coffee to me on a break. People that have Thanksgiving and Halloween feasts…
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…that have burrito bars for our Hispanic community… arts and crafts and Willy Wonka productions and ridiculous school dances where I get to walk around with eighth graders trailing behind me like baby ducks while Gen Ed kids scream out at me, “Mrs. Frizzle! Mrs. Frizzle! Nice Marilyn Monroe skirt!” (Intentionally refusing to call me Mrs. Frazer based on my… ahem… style of dress.)
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I push wheel chairs and wipe drool and dance with Down Syndrome kids. I am plugged in to love on a daily basis. 
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With that,my life saving sponsor reminded me to remember where I am today. To “Make space between the notes” to be present. She reminded me that sometimes what we think we want is not worth it if where we are we cannot be content.
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As I write this I am still so unsure of my path. Without sounding like a narcissist, writing is where I find so much joy. My blog and my book are my soul. I refuse to lose it. But I’m also thinking that maybe TV isn’t for me. The pushing and shoving for money to validate my ego somehow doesn’t feel as rich as the team work and caring that validates others. I want to live up to my true potential, but what if what “I” thought was supposed to be is not what “God” intended. Is this spiritual enlightenment or just crack talk for the words ‘LOSER at a bigger life.’
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 I’m not sure. But I do know this: There is a peace in doing what I am doing RIGHT THIS MINUTE. Whether that’s painting a snowman with Ethan, my Asperger buddy who can barely read let alone hold a brush, or cooking dinner or having a beautiful Advent for my kids. There is joy in being of service right where I’m at and not flogging myself for being bigger in the world or my bank account. 
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In thinking of my purpose, I must always revisit God’s purpose. In all I do, I must remember the question, “What is my motive?”
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  To quote Paul, 
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“I have the right to do anything”–but not everything is constructive.
Hang in.
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Love, Andrea
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If any of you are reading and are not a God person, I still believe God has a purpose for you. If you’re of another faith – or perhaps Christian and think your life should have turned out better because you go to church and help the poor and only buy sheep from catalogs as Christmas gifts for people to sponsor underprivileged villages in South America and have foster kids named Jorge and Wanita Azul – let me remind you that the most Christian of them all hung out with the poor, the wackadoos and died a brutal death. We have to let that fantasy of “I deserve it” go. Life sometimes sucks. Period.
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Tonight, with four tween boys stinking up my house, a pot of rice in the cooker, lights twinkling on my staircase and a husband peacefully watching a show I’d rather die than view, I’m content that it doesn’t suck today.
I hope you are, too.
Here’s to more time here connecting. As always, I’ve missed you.

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 FB

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The Big Stuff… Don’t Miss It.

Hello blog world! It’s been about a month since we last connected. I’m not sure what you’ve been up to (would love to hear) but I’ve been up to a whole lot of everything. I’d get into the specifics for kicks and giggles, but really, they’re not that important. Let’s just say that the amount of things on my to-do list is equivalent to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

I’m a Master at Being Super Human

I try to get as much done as I can, and some days I succeed in checking off every single item, but most days, I’m more like the tourist in front of that rickety structure, just marveling at the wonky design and hoping I don’t get flattened like a pancake.

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Maybe if I put lights on my to-do list, the way that Italian masterpiece is illuminated at night, the hum drum of my daily life would feel more exotic.

“Hey, check out the dog getting washed in the strobe light in the 1950’s crap tub. Now that’s sexy.”

When my dog gets a bath on a Saturday, but I don’t, I know I’m doing too much. I want to stop, but like a tube of Trader Joe gluten free Joe Joe’s, sometimes I just can’t help myself. Busyness, and cream filled cookies, are addictive. In the moment it feels amazing, but the next day, you have nothing to show for it but a bunch of guilt and a massive hangover.

Shauna Niequest has a new book about this. It’s called Present over Perfect

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I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve read some of her other stuff. She’s kind of a genius at reminding us that, as women, we simply can’t be amazing at everything. Not unlike Brene Brown’s manifestos on shame research, Shauna is one of those writers that make you feel better for being human. She, like many of us, are in transition from being a human doer to a human being.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t keep up with the doing anymore. I want to work and market my book and love on my family and cook gluten free tacos from scratch while my kids hand paint pumpkins while listening to opera. But in reality, I have no idea what’s for dinner, I’m not sure if my son is preparing for a huge test or frying his brain on video games,  and my daughter is reading Wonder for the fourth time because her mom still hasn’t gotten off her tush to take her to the library for a new series.

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And guess what? That’s okay. Why? Because while I can’t do it all, I’m learning to be happy with what I can do. And it’s a lot.

Our house is decorated for Halloween. (Granted, the laundry is scary, but everything looks better with 99 Cent Story skulls and 1970’s painted pheasants.)

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My kids like school this year and, so far, they still like each other. (Though they spend less time in the same space now that my son is a giant and has to lean down to talk to his tiny sibling only 18 months apart.)

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The cake you see my daughter holding – she made it this weekend. It’s a double decker angel food cake with handmade orange frosting. I gained ten pounds thanks to her, but it was worth it. My point – she had joy despite a kitchen that would make Martha Stewart vomit. Like Niequest’s book, the kid was present over perfect. sss

I love my job at the Middle School. Yesterday, in fact, I ran into one of my students at Trader Joes. He’s a big, sweet dude with Down Syndrome, and when we saw each other in between the pumpkin spice coffee and the Chia Bars, we ran to each other as if in slow motion. It was hard not to smile. He looks like Fred Flintstone when he runs – feet splayed forward and arms shaking as if waving a giant drum stick.

“Mrs. Frazer!” he yelled.

“Sebastian!” I shrieked with delight.

We hugged and laughed and repeated it again at 8:30 this morning when he saw me after home room.

“Mrs. Fraaaazer!” he barked. “I SAW YOU AT TRADER JOES!

“I knowwww!” I responded, equally tickled.

A few months ago I couldn’t have predicted this kind of magic, but there it was – flickering as brightly as a candle in my Halloween lanterns.

What if right now… with my over crowded house and the renter and the pitbull and the small paycheck and the non-sexy but so wonderful job… what if this very unperfect moment is the BIG THING! What if the laundry and the house cleaning and the bill paying are the  BIG THING. What if tomorrow’s trash day is the BIG THING!

What if not screaming at my son for forgetting to take those cans to the curb for the gazillionth time is the big thing!

What if foregoing a night of writing that pilot script that’s going to take me away from my low paying gig (you know, the one I love and can’t stop raving about) and instead watching an episode of Once Upon a Time with my daughter instead is THE BIG THING!

I don’t want to miss it, folks. Not one second of it. Why? Because it’s BIG! And it’s chaotic at times. And it’s painful and beautiful and comical and depressing and absolutely hilarious in all of its bigness.

If you’re out there, wondering if “only I could get the tics to stop”or “if only I had some extra money” or “if only my husband could change”things would get better, may I make the suggestion that maybe, just maybe, you might miss out on the incredible growth that comes with your life exactly as it is right now? Your journey, people, it’s important.

It’s your story.

It’s your legacy.

It’s a BIG THING.

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 FB

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Hippe…Hippie…Hooray!

Hippe…Hippie…Hooray!

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A few friends of mine are getting together in a couple weeks to get some goals accomplished. It’ll be kind of a mini salon, except without the French people and berets. Think moms and dads with pony tails and uni-brows shoving Trader Joe’s taquitos into their pie holes, sipping Diet Coke and downing Two Buck Chuck. (Um, with the crowd I’m known to link arms with, the uni-brows and pony tails describe either the men or the women. No judgement.)

It’s that last part that really gets me scratching my head at times. I truly never expected to be that person who, at 46, was sending out invites to fellow writers and painters to meet on my cull de sac on a Friday evening. I thought I’d be a hip studio climber, hob nobbing with script writers and discussing pilot premieres. And I did.

For a time.

But these days, I find myself less excited over television releases and more thrilled over musical theater releases.

It’s less about show launches and more about the premiere of book launches.

When it comes right down to it, I’m less interested in image. I’m more interested in soul. I’m not a hip person – I’m a hippie!

Many of my friends have gawked at me with my whale backpack, turquoise earrings and enough library books to kill a poodle in a single drop and utter, “Duh! HIPPIE!” But me? This comes as a surprise. Hippie-ness kind of snuck up on me while I was still fast clinging to my ego. And, well, as much as I hate to admit it, my ego was pretty massive. It had me twenty pounds lighter and twenty times richer.

It had me raising kids with hip names like Vida and Jax. These weren’t kids that snuck Hump Day videos on my computer every Wednesday or chastised me for not giving them money to get a fancy dog trainer for our dog. Heck, my ego would not have chosen THIS crazy mutt from the pound in the first place!

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I was supposed to have a yoga body not just because I worked out, but because I could afford yoga classes.

I was supposed to drink Starbucks every day because that’s where I had my writing meetings, not because that was where I worked. Maybe. (Not saying I will or will not be working there, but let’s just say that health benefits at this time do not suck.)

Lest you think I want to live as a modest hippie for the rest of my life, getting hopped up on free Venti White Mochas, I do not. I will not say no to a bigger career if that is what God has for me. I will live in abundance and always work my craft. But for now… when I get really still… when I drown out all those other voices that tell me what I should want, a quiet whisper defiantly rises up reminding me of what I really want.

And I want this.

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The big, messy, chaotic, impractical, not always perfect but amazing life that I have.

Because on the rare occasion after a hike we take that fabulous family photo…

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… most days we’re just getting through the day by day with as much joy as possible.

This means turning Costco into an icy adventure.

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And enjoying family walks to school because both my hubby and I are not working such nutty hours that we can’t enjoy the turning of leaves or a quick wave to Wing, the neighbor, who is so proud of his daughter for getting into UC Irvine. Go Ant Eaters!

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I want conversations with my son in the front seat of our stinky SUV on the difference between “taking a joke” and “not standing up for oneself” and, when the ticking – which is on a very high upswing these days gets a bit frustrating – I want to put my hand on on his and be grateful for his ticking heart.

 

Embracing what is, not what I wish was, makes my now living wow living. It’s not one I take for granted – even on my super tired, nothing is working, OH FOR DUCK SAKE days.

Along a similar bend,  a new blog I found, Grief Happens, has been talking about meditation these days. It’s been fun to watch her journey. I don’t know if I’ll start a sitting and breathing practice myself, but I’m all for becoming more intentional with who I’m sitting with.

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And as long as I’m breathing in more peace – even if that means talking art with my friends on a Friday night instead of being at a club or a show premiere this hippie will take it.

Anyone out there find life different than what they expected? I want to hear!

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 FB

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“This is Bruce.”

It’s been one of those past two years months where it feels like slogging through molasses in lead boots carrying a bowling ball while nursing would be easier than securing a job I’m truly gifted at…

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Marketing a book…

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Caring for children….

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And helping a spouse start a business… 

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Then again, after writing that last bit, the first part seems easier.

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Which leads me to the real point: how about I just stop?

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I don’t mean stop taking steps toward my goals. But how about I stop trying to manage and control everything? In the end, it’s truly not the result that matters, but the path to the process. I mean, what’s the point of getting that awesome gig or landing a T.E.D. talk if, at the end of the day, I’ve been a joyless, nagging, cranky, petulant and often worry filled hot mess? (Not that I’m ever one of those adjectives. Sheesh!)

It seems to me, crazy as this might sound, that taking life on life’s terms is the way to go.

Less judgement, not just of others, but of me.

Less working.

More playing.

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Less fretting.

More laughing.

Less me.

More God.

I once heard that “expectations” can be translated as “unborn resentments.” I was thinking about that while in line at Trader Joe’s. I had not expected to be, at 46, thinking about whether it’s truly a good plan to spend $24 instead of $20 on a bag full of mini tacos, cole slaw, gluten free bread and some cereal. I was supposed to be a working TV writer, don’t you know! (Or at least have a career writing jingles or Shel Silverstein poem books!)

But there I was with my re-usable shopping bag. On a budget, but determined to have joy anyway. Because, well, joy does not conform to budget. Joy looks at budget and says, “Ha, ha ha! I fart on you, silly money constraints! I will enjoy my day, go back for a second cup of sample coffee, and enjoy a gluten-filled gnocci taster since my sweet ticker is not here to watch me delight in the twitch inducing pasta morsels!”

I will chat with the cashier.

I will ask about her day.

And then I will explain to her that my shark backpack is not a shark after all but an Orca.

Named Bruce.

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And when she laughs and says, “That’s awesome!” I will laugh, too. Because, in the end, if I really had to choose between a crud load of cash and a true connection with another human being in the grocery store line, I’d choose the second option every time.

Even if my purse threatens to swallow her whole. (Bruce… he’s a cheeky accessory to say the least.)

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 have the wisdom to know the difference.

Love,

Andrea

PS: I highly recommend getting a mammal shaped pocketbook. It can transform your day. Add in some Victoria floral designed fayx Doc Martins and a “I Love My Crazy Friends” tee shirt and your whole week will improve just by getting dressed!

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

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From “That Sucked” to “Miracle”

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Tonight at my kid’s tennis lesson I had a long conversation with a dad who happens to have an auto-immune disorder. This dad has a kid at my kid’s school who inherited his disease. As fate would have it, another friend of mine’s kid, from the same school, just had her kid diagnosed with the same auto-immune disorder as this dad from tennis. (It was kind of a six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon and wonky diagnoses moment. So fun! Grab the insulin shot and a slice of gluten free bread pronto!)

This just brought up a whole slew of conversation back and forth like, “Would we, if we had known about our wonky genetics, have gone into parenting so readily?”

For both of us, it was an astounding “Yes, of course!” Neither of us could imagine not having the children that we do. It’s not about auto immune disorders but the soul that matters. (Even if that soul happens to be my son who was getting me so darn mad moments before the tennis lesson that I’m surprised I didn’t lose my mind or at least my keys. Oh, wait! I did! But that comes later on in the story.)

Instead, let me tell you the next thing that happened. In between talking about medication and personality and genetic pre-disposition with cute dad, another mom sat down. I looked at her face. If Ellen Degeneres were Indian, this short-haired, brown-skinned soul would be her. I just loved her spirit. And, turns out, I knew her!

PJ!” I said, shaking her hand in greeting.

“Andrea!” she said, shaking it back in unabashed delight.

The one-word greeting spoke volumes about our reunited connection. It seemed to triumphantly whisper, “Yay! We can talk for thirty minutes and have an adult conversation while our kids try not to bash each other’s brains in with tennis balls!”

Except this unspoken thought didn’t stay in our brains. It bled right out of our mouths all over the gum encrusted park bench. Within moments we both blurted out how happy we were to see each other again. Which, well, was a bit odd, given we had only met once before… two months ago… but we remembered each other for whatever reason. (Well, okay, the reason was that in a few minutes I completely analyzed her personality, her wife’s role in parenting, the disposition of her kids and why she likes her job. She thought I was a bleepin’ psychic. I was sad to report that I was just a wacky writer. But somehow I didn’t scare her off.)

Um…can you see men doing that on the football field? “Oh, Jerry, it’s so awesome to see you again. You know, the moment I heard you turn over that motor in your rotary engine, I knew we’d be fast friends. Let me read your palm and afterwards let’s make bmf bracelets!”

Well, silly or not, there it was…this bond between PJ and I that I can’t explain. And there was this bond between this dad and I that I am grateful for, too… two parents of two kids that require a bit more attention than “Suck down these Pop Tarts for dinner, we’re just done with cooking tonight.”

Let me now go on record that, as a Christian woman who has been married for 15 years, it might seem odd that a straight wife like me finds connection between an Indian lesbian and a happily married Italian father, but it is what it is.

Note to my Christian readers, Mom and Farmer Stacey: Do not be alarmed. I’m not starting an emotional affair with my Bollywood princess or blue-eyed auto immune cute dad friend. But I cannot lie. I find them both fabulous spirits and I’d be kidding you, and my very own self, if I didn’t admit that signing my kid up for tennis was the greatest lift to my spirits this month since Costco’s sale on dark Starbuck’s coffee ($15.95/bag – a deal!). When I start shaving my head or wearing a mini-skirt with a tight John Mackenro tee over my Double D’s, you can call out the Jesus squad.)

To add more cherries to the topping of this fun park bench banter (think of me as the peanut butter in between two slices of wonderful, talkative bread) we found out that PJ knows my sister through their kids’ middle school. Fun!

And then I lost my keys.

Boo.

But I didn’t freak out.

Yay!

Because what would be the point? The day up until that moment had been so crazy. (Wonky news from a writing client. No Ebay sales. Wondering if perhaps I should just throw in the towel and get a real job after all or run away with the circus and sell GMO infested popcorn to parents who have more money to entertain their kids than I do these days.)

But Stink made me sit on a parking slab and pray. Which I did. Which was no small feat for this six foot 1 mama.

“Jesus isn’t a magic genie,” I told him, adjusting my 2-foot wide butt to the diameter of the six inch cement chair.

“I know,” he said. “But He’s a miracle maker.”

Which, well, turns out He was. I did not find the keys right away. But I did stay calm which helped me retain my sanity. Each step I took I just remembered that I’m not in charge. I’d figure it out.

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Since my own phone was dead, I used the tennis instructor’s phone. (Old old phone… crack in the glass… thank God… a fellow tribe member of the ‘We’re Doing the Best We Can Club’.)

I called every person on his roster. “Did you take my keys by accident?”

“No… good luck…” was all I got.

So I called my husband.

And he showed up….

…At the exact same time as cute dad who pulled up in his car, keys dangling from his finger. “I took them with mine by accident!” he said.

So then I came home and ate a beet salad that my sweet husband (and even cuter) had made. And we talked about my work options and his business. And how sometimes, even if things don’t go the way we want them to, they go where they need to go. And that’s the kind of peace that makes all the nuttiness worth it.

If that’s not a miracle, I don’t know what is.

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Until next time, remember to accept the tics you can’t change, change the tics you can, and have the wisdom to know the difference.

More of my writing can be found at AndreaFrazerWrites, on Facebook at Happily Ticked Off or on Twitter @AndreaFrazerWrites.