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Be warned: This is my name dropping post.

But I'm also acknowleging a book you won't want to drop 'til it's done, so I feel justified.

Coming out next week is a young adult book by writer Elise Allen called Populazzi.

I worked with Elise on Saved By the Bell: The New Class.

Since then, Elise has gone on to write Barbie movies, produce Dinosaur Train episodes, be nominated for an Emmy, run marathons, write for the Muppets, exercise with Richard Simmons, write a best selling book Elixir with Hilary Duff and now... she has her own book out!


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Set in highschool, this is not just another tween romance. It's sassy, witty and poignant. I could be saying that just because Elise Allen also happens to be sassy, witty and poignant, but I'm not. You'll just have to trust me on this... You know, because you've never met me and know me only from my writing here on the world wide web. There's no reason not to believe me 100%, right? 

(Seriously, it's a great read. More info below!)

Description


What would you do if you had the chance to erase your past and reinvent yourself as the person you’ve always wanted to be?  Would you grab it?  Would you stick with it, no matter what the consequences?the consequences? Cara Leonard always wished she could be one of  those girls: confident, self-possessed, and never at a loss for the perfect thing to say.  One of the Populazzi.

It always seemed impossible… but now could be her chance.

When Cara moves to a new school just before junior year, her best friend urges her to seize the opportunity and change her life… with the help of The Ladder.  Its rungs are relationships, and if Cara transforms herself into the perfect girlfriend for guys higher and higher on the Popularity Tower, she can reach the ultimate goal: Supreme Populazzi, the most popular girl in school.

The Ladder seems like a lighthearted social experiment — a straight climb up — but it quickly becomes gnarled and twisted.  And when everything goes wrong, only the most audacious act Cara can think of has a chance of setting things even a little bit right.

Where to buy Populazzi

Amazon:
 http://www.amazon.com/Populazzi-Elise-Allen/dp/0547481535/   

Barnes and Noble:  
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/populazzi-elise-allen/1023995184?ean=9780547481531

Indie Bound:  http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780547481531 

Another writer friend of mine,
Jen Klein (who also has a young adult book coming out next year which I will gladly review) wrote a great post about Elise's book here. (That's her at the top of this post reading Elise's book!)

I'm essentially killing two birds with one stone:

1. I'm telling all of you to get your butts over to Amazon if you want a great summer read.
2. Get your butts over to Jen Klein's site because she's going to be the next big deal in Young Adult fiction.

And for the record here's my third stone.

3. I'm lazy today! I got kids to pick up! I've got dry cleaning to pick up! And you've got a book to pick up!

You can follow Elise and Jen on Twitter who will leave their Twitter addresses in my comment section. (Ahemmmmm.....).

Talk at you soon!  
 
 
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The title of my blog post is the name of a book I just devoured by author Donald Miller. It's a novel about a writer who was going to have his life turned into a screenplay. But in the process of learning about the true essence of a story, he realized that his life was kind of boring. (Um, no, I don't relate to that last sentence at all. And before you snicker, neither do you.) 

Against his fear and insecurity, Miller set the wheels in motion to live a better life. He soon found himself taking famed screenwriter Robert McKee's screenwriting course. He learned that characters are what they do. If he was a character and his life was a screenplay, what would he do to further his plot? How would he set his story in motion? How would he write something into nothing - the blank page - and how would he find meaning in what used to seem a meaningless world?

I won't give the plot away, but I will tell you one piece that made more sense than anything else to me: That being part of a bigger picture outside himself was far more enriching than the years he spent behind the computer talking about himself.

It's a trite statement that we all hear - help others to help yourself - but it also couldn't be more true. I've found in the past six months that doing for others has given me far more satisfaction than any yoga, self-help course, exercise or job could.

I am far from Mother Teresa. I plan on writing my book and I plan on making a good living from my talent in the near future. But there's a vast difference between doing it to simply make myself feel more comfortable (comfortable because of what? what I am so terribly restless from?) and something I'm doing because something outside of myself is calling me to write it. I no longer want to write simply to make ends meet. I want my work to be a gift. For me, this entails writing for moms who are dealing with the new diagnosis of Tourette Syndrome for their child.

Tics and twitches is a small market. It might not get picked up by a publisher, but I don't care. I'm writing it. Worse case, I'll self-publish. Freaking out women need to know that their children's lives are not over. T.S. is not a curse. If viewed right, it can be the biggest gift they have ever been given, because it forces them, in the words of Donald Miller, to live a better story. 

Graham Cooke - a Christian speaker and writer - speaks about how we don't have to already be something in order to fulfill God's work. That God was the same before, now and in the future. God's timeline is eternal and He knows what your gift is. It's already been achieved on his timeline - just not on ours. We can't see it, but it doesn't mean it hasn't happened.

If for you, your life's work is to raise those children or chickens or sell pots on Ebay to raise money for single moms, then in God's timeline, it's already been fulfilled! You are now just doing what it takes to catch up to something that has already been accomplished. Put into that perspective, the dishes and the diapers... the smell of the chicken coop... the cranky grandma punching out the automatic stamp machine at the post office... none of it seems like such a boring routine anymore, does it? You have passion and a higher purpose - a reason to tell that story. 

In closing, my mind is still swirling with what it means to be a character in my own life. I know, for sure, that I wouldn't swap out the supporting players in my 3 bedroom L.A. set for anyone else. 

 
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This motley crew give heart, ebb and flow to the days God has already had planned out from the beginning. I need my family's stability like our geraniums need rain. It's how I'm planted. It's how I can grow.

But when I double think that extra cup of coffee with a stranger I just met at a local java joint... When I wonder if I'm somehow being a bit excessive when I yank the kids out of bed at 9PM on a school night to say last minute prayers under our backyard tree under a beautiful canopy of stars... I can put those fears to rest. God didn't put me on this earth to live a boring story. A little magic never hurt anyone. I am beyond grateful that I can live out this plot with the people I love most - and meet new folk in the process. 

Happy Fathers Day, also, to all the amazing men out there who make our stories so rich. That means you, Rex. And you, Dad. I wish you were here today to celebrate this occasion. From what I keep you of you in my heart, you definitely were. And hey, just for you, I'm about to eat a big bowl of icecream at 9:15PM. I know - it's so crazy. But hey, no one knew, or lived, a better story than you.

Until next time... 
 
 
If anyone has ever been to San Franciso, you're likely aware of the breathtaking views from Nob Hill.You've got buildings, you've got ocean, you've got really interesting (and darn expensive) architecture.
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I've informed my dear Rex that we need to save about $100 grand toward a year of living there when the kids go to college. I don't want to skimp on the experience. I want the views, I want the walks to the fresh fruit markets. I want the theatre, the cafe's, the wooden floors, the cozy walk ups and the roof top dining for my Yuban relief moments!
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I don't mind saving for this myself by working at the art I love most. Looking back at one of the first blog posts I ever wrote, my dreams weren't too different. That's the beauty of blogging: One can see how they have grown. They can also see where they've stagnated. In the case of my big city dreams, I have neither grown (yup, still live in a retro charm suburb) nor have I stagnated in my desires to hear a busy city while my busy brain drifts off to sleep.
I don't regret not living my San Fran dream like Gala Darling- a funky single gal living in New York who I love to live vicariously through. My babies - and my own restless soul - need the stability and routine that only a sleepier town can provide. The relationships I have formed here are a true testament to community life - one I might not have if I were floating from art show to musical review seven nights a week. (Though please check out Neil Patrick Harris opening up the Tony's. Oh, man, I could enjoy more of that!)
Now that my soul, like the heart of my favorite cities, is feeling alive again, it has dawned on me that the reason I like cities is because, like fun people, they are always awake.
They are up.
They are alive.
When you're in the dumps, it's easy to think that the big trek uphill... perhaps Nob Hill... is too steep.
But that's when you need a cable car! Or, in my case, a support system.
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It's so much easier to coast with friends! I am thankful to all my friends and family who helped me over that yukky hump. I'm now walking a lot more on my own and have the strong calves to prove it!
Someone else who is getting strong from pursuing her dreams is my friend Jennifer. As I mentioned in the last post, she's using her background as a Warner Bros. animator to launch her own design company.
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Like anything worthwhile, it's not always easy work. The sanding... the cutting... the PAINT. But wait until you see everything all shiny and white with vintage style depression era green knobs. That's the kind of depression everyone needs. Come to think of it, thanks to Jennifer, I'll have my own little Knob Hill right in my fifties kitchen. Can you "handle" it?
And now I'm done with the kitchen chat.
Tell me... what are your dreams? I want to know. How can we all support each other?
 
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About two weeks ago I made what I'd call a final return to Andrea of yore. Call it the Zoloft kicking in. Call it my continual walk of faith. Call it my continual walks to school.
Call it a miracle, but my mojo - like a crazed thrifter at a 99cent designer sale with dreams of 80% Ebay profit swimming in her Yuban buzzed mama brain - returned! (And along with it my penchant for run-on sentences more winding than the point I'm about to make. So let me just say it now.)
I vowed to stop complaining.
I mean, really, I decided to just put the same old same old whiny rants to bed.
For accountability sake, I called up my 80 year old mother and told her that I was officially 41 and she didn't have to baby my pity parties anymore.
I called up Topanga T and informed her that I'd only be venting if blood was squirting. (My period does not count.)
This was not an easy task for a self-proclaimed neurotic writer like myself, but I did it.
I figured it would take weeks for real positive to catch up with my false optimism. (Deep inside, like my old TV writing career, I didn't think it would work.)
But lo and behold - one day later - I felt a relief so incredible it can only be described as miraculous.
"I can't complain right now," I thought as I dialed my dear friend, "I made a promise. So that means I will have to talk about something else! Like..."
Um....
Wait for it...
My book!
Or my cooking plans!
Or Ebay goals to gain some cash while I write my book. Or...
My kitchen remodel thanks to the talented Jennifer over at
Castleberry Designs.
This $2000 upgrade is being gifted to me in exchange for time spent at
my cabin as well as a soon-to-be website revamp for her. It's a win-win for both of us where we can use our gifts to help a tired mama out!
Honestly, I'm getting a waaaaay better end of the deal. She's giving my pitiful kitchen a facelift far superior than any L.A. cosmetic surgeon could give to my tired noggin.
Here's what it used to look like.
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Quiz: Notice the caked-on greasy cream paint and chipped knobs on the cabinets?  See the missing doors? Can Jennifer really fix those monstrosities without doing a complete demolition?
Answer: Could I revamp my complaining self without Eat, Pray And Loving myself across the world?
Can you, too, revamp your exhausting old habits (and kitchen) with a little kick butt determination, prayer and powerful designer buddy like Jennifer to pull you through?
I think you know the answer. Stay tuned as more upgrades are happening daily - in physical, mental and spiritual places! Here's hoping the same is true for you!


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Pipsqueak and I are starting our fourth week of reading Frances Hodgson Burnett's 99 year old The Secret Garden. I had picked it up on a whim, thinking if I were ever going to write my own childrens' book I'd better brush up on some real classics.

Four pages in, I knew my six year old would love the slow, languid writing. I knew she'd giggle at the silly Yorkshire speak which we've taken to imitating ourselves, a la Dickon or Margaret: "Ehhhh, Pipsqueak! Thou look mighty graedly in that there night cap!", I've been known to say as my dripping wet bean pole pads her way down stairs with a towel over her head sans bath.

I was correct in assuming Pip would wait with baited breath over where the robin hid the key, who that crying belonged to down the dark hallway, and exactly what would that blessed garden look like when Mary finally entered the door under the ivy.

What I did not expect is just how much this book would touch me.

My heart seemed to have lifted right along the bulbs bursting from the ground. Like that gray moor and the windy, confusing cold, I felt a bit directionless with my writing and my purpose. But then, as the sun shined through those England clouds I, too, felt momentum turning in me. Mary and Colin went from sourpuss to exhuberant children. I, too, am experiencing that transformation. Similar to a garden, it's been slow and taken quite a bit of tending. I have my off days of screaming at weeds, but other moments, I look over my shoulder and marvel at the canopy of life that is bursting beneath my feet. Occcasionally, like Colin on his first walk, I'll feel so joyful I forget winter had ever been here at all.

Perhaps you, too, can relate to once lame Colin. I can only promise that you'll again experience the magic.

Magic is always pushing and drawing and making things out of nothing. Everything is made out of Magic, leaves and trees, flowers and birds, badgers and foxes and squirrels and people...I am going to make the scientific experiment of trying to get some and put it in myself and make it push and draw me and make me strong.  I don't know how to do it, but I think that if you keep thinking about it and calling it perhaps it will come. Perhaps that is the first baby way to get it.

Colin calls this magic, others call it positive thinking. I call it faith. Faith leads to hope and hope leads to joy. And honestly, that's something I'll take in my garden rain or shine.

Here's hoping today you till a little bit of magic for yourself. Keep on digging til you find it. Ehhhh! You'll be glad you did, lassies!


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My children - the same ones who refuse to move into their own bedrooms because they love each other so much... the same ones that go for days on end during the summer and not bicker, cajole or tease each other... have finally morphed into real brothers and sisters this week.

I knew the psychotic love juice I'd been poisoning them with in their oatmeal was bound to hit the immunity stage at some point.

Just a few things I've heard  are:

Pip: "Stink, stop talking! You're erupting my reading!"

Stink: "MOOOOOOOOMY... Pipsqueak accidentally touched my elbow!"

Pip: "MoooooOOOOOMY... the sound of Stink doing that is really bothering me!" 

Me: "What's he doing?"

Pip: "He's breathing!"

To steal my status from Facebook, because my demon children have worn me down like a cheatin' Schwarzeneggar (his poor wife... how do you solve a problem for Maria? anyone catch that very bad reference) it can be best said that my kids have decided to take permanent residency up my "donkey" this week. I have served them eviction papers but they are determined to remain squatters."

What is one to do with six and eight year old attitude? Lucky for me, divine inspiration hit the Frazer household this eve.

On his own, Stink suggested that instead of reading Harry Potter tonight he'd rather read his First Communion Bible.

I'm quite certain that Moses seemed less shocked when the Red Sea parted, but I picked my jaw off the floor and agreed.

Because we're Catholic, it is not surprising that before Genesis was pages upon pages of prayers to memorize. What do we start with? As Stink would say, "The Bee A Tudes!"

He was of course referring to The Beatitudes, but for a kid who has stung me with more back talk and attitude, this couldn't have been more fitting.

I certainly am not going to suggest to my non-Christian readers that the Bible is the answer to all of our backtalk, but for me tonight, it was indeed a miracle.

If only that Bible had a prayer for ejecting insane siblings out of my arse. Who has more occupancy for whiners than I do?


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I live outside Los Angeles in an average little suburb, but the celebrity sightings and stories I often hear are less than average.

Like walking my kids down the street and seeing Ty Pennington shooting a Sears commercial on the neighbor's porch.

Or hearing stories from a dear friend about her Saturday night Pirates of the Carribean premiere experience at Disneyland. Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruise, the Disney cast... just another day in a mom's life, right?

I can't say that I've had the chance to visit the latest Spiderman set (like some mamas I know... ahem) but I did have something cool happen to me a few weeks back.

"Andrea! Andrea! I have something for you!" I turned around to see the husband of a school mom hand me a grapefruit the size of Pipsqueak's pink soccer ball. "Jan said you like Huell Howswer. Huell brought a whole bunch of these suckers onto the set today from his home in Palm Springs. I thought you might appreciate one."

Did I ever. To me, that single pink puffy fruit signified more than one degree of seperation from my favorite television chatterbox. It showed thoughtfulness on the part of a person at school who took the time to make me smile.

It also reminded me that my own gift of gab, though not as money making as Huell's, is not one to be wasted. Perhaps that piece of fruit was more than a surprise for me. Perhaps it was a sign that I was not to waste my own talents feeling sorry for myself.

Later that day at Costco, with twenty mintues to spare before picking up the kids, I splurged on a $1.72 hotdog and Diet Coke. (I know...I live large.)

As I scanned the crowded snack area, I saw one space open at a table occupied by a man not much older than Huell. He had on a baseball cap and was slowly slurping a smoothie.

"Care if I join you?" I smiled.

"Not a problem at all!" he beamed back.
 
Before long, I heard about his small stint as a medic in World War Two, his move to Chicago, his first wife, his second wife and why Kirkland products are really the only way to go in buying non-name brand toiletries.

I'm not going to get a television show from chatting up an ex-military grandpa over a kosher sausage at a super mall, but it sure did my heart some good.

As I went to leave, I reached into my purse and handed him my grapefruit. After all, doesn't one good turn deserve another?

Hope you had a day where your gifts were used also.


PS: Oh, plllleeeease, people, I did not give away that grapefruit! I kept that sucker until, like my past blogging career, it withered and died into a tiny ball of nothingness. I'm not that saintly.

 
 
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A friend of mine is going through a hard time right now. Turns out after a few decades of marriage her husband decided he'd rather move in with his girlfriend. Oh, well. He gave it the marriage a good twenty year shot. That was something, right?

It's only been a month, and her emotions are still raw. No amount of pills, rational, friends, therapy or booze is making this easier. She's panicked, angry, lonely, hysterical and just plain freaking out - often all at once. If you have a few seconds, go on over and
give her a little love. Tell her Andrea says hello and that she's going to be okay, even if she doesn't believe it herself.

I'm not going through a divorce in the traditional sense of the word, but lately I find myself separated from who I thought I once was. It's as if my youth has slapped me across the face with divorce papers. "Here, sign this you old bitch. I'm through with you."

It's true. Any stranger in the street could look into my face and attest to the fact that I am not in my twenties anymore. A smart, intuitive stranger would see past the smile and feel the tired sigh emanating from within. "She's not the same young whipper snapper she once was, is she?" The stranger might say. "A few kids, a few too many budgets, a few too many illnesses... life isn't the Ikea catalogue of her youth, is it?"

They'd be right. I'm now in my forties (I'm only 41, but I'm neurotic, which means I've totally taken up long term real estate in this decade.) I'm not as optimistic as I once was. The past month, despite going back on Zoloft, I often wake up in sheer terror.

Why? What do I do that is so frightening?

I wake up the kids.
I cook them a healthy breakfast.
I pack their lunches.
I walk them to school.
I come home and clean the house.
Some days I grocery shop.
Some days I pick up dry cleaning.
NO WONDER I AM SO TERRIFIED.

Is this all there is? Is this what I have become? It can't be. There must be some mistake. I'm the one with the book or the television show. I'm the one whose column got her a gig podcasting for radio. I'm the girl who inspires people to be both mothers and career women. I'd never have messy hair or wonder if it's too decadent to spend money on a Starbuck's cappucinno.

No, not me! I'm way better than all that.

Which is why, as God is my witness, I'm asking for a divorce. I'm tired of my old cranky self. I've had enough of her budgeting, self-pitying ways. I'm ready to move in with my new girlfriend.

Her name is Andrea.

She has a job.

She gets her hair cut.

She has a maid.

And she loves the hell out of her two kids and proves it by getting the Beeep! out of the house and living the life she was intended to live.

(As soon as I figure out exactly how that's going to happen, you'll be the first to know.)
Who else is going through this? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

* Photo taken in the snow last month. When I have my next job you'll find us in matching ski suits. (Okay, who am I kidding. I'll be thrifting until I'm dead. If you find a 1970's rainbow puffy snuggler in XL, email me pronto.)
 
 
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...when you're feeling sad... you simply need to remember your favorite things, and then you won't feeeeeeeel soooooo bad."

Sounds good in theory, huh? In reality, it's about as easy as getting kicked out of an abbey, sent to live with a handsome man who has seven kids, turn them all onto music, steal the hot hubby away from his blond shew of a girlfriend, get married and flee nazis.

But it's what needs to happen.

I have been having a good ole pity party for myself ever since Good Housekeeping ended. The dishes have piled up, the trash has overflowed (both my literal and internal garbage) and I've lost sight of the things that used to make me sing for joy and forget the bee stings. One of those things is this here blog.

I've missed you guys! I miss writing! The devil on my shoulder says, "Why bother. You're not going to cure TS by writing. You're not going to make money by blogging for yourself. You're not going to get any closer to writing that book which, if you really think about, who cares about that thing anyway!" But the good angel on the other side of my shoulder screams right back, "Andrea needs her passion back! Andrea needs to use her voice for more than whining. Andrea needs to get off her sorry butt, pull the stinger out, and move on with life."

And so, here I am. A bit broken and shell shocked. A bit unsure of my direction. But I am putting it down on paper, even if it's virtual paper, that I need to write every day again. I need to stop isolating. I need to connect. I need to laugh. And maybe, just maybe, I'll help some of you along the way. Why else are we on this planet? From the past few months, I can promise you that it isn't to wash floors, obsess over old kitchens or freak out over tics, old people or the nasty cockroaches that have invaded my house like the bad case of the blues I've been experiencing.

Look out, world, it's time to be brilliant. Who's with me?

* Photo taken after Stink's First Communion yesterday. With all those people around, he made a bee line for his sister. And that ain't no buzz. I might suck at times... my mood might be more up and down than the stock market these days, but those two are thick as thieves, and it makes a mama proud.
 
 
I should be blogging for Joe Beam.
I should be reviewing some books on my marriage section.
I should be finishing up a class I'm teaching.
I should be finding time to finish my kids' book.
I should be making a little more money than $12.00/week on Ebay.
I should be house cleaning.
I should be cooking.
One could say that, this past month, I've been shoulding all over myself.
It seems that with a personality like mine (I'm Type A... no... reallly, it's true!) that I'm happiest when I'm working toward a goal. Better said, I'm happiest when I'm working toward many goals.
But in working toward so many things, it seems nothing really gets done well.
There's two ways to handle this dilemna:
1. Take more off the to-do list
2. Change it from a to-do list into a want-to list and then bury the shame and regret.
So what if I was late to an appointment today. I didn't do it on purpose.
So what if I have $12.00 in my bank account. I have a husband. He can suck it up for me for a few months while I figure out what the fxx I am doing with my life. I'm worth it.
So what if I have a little OCD. If I can accept that my brain goes to weird places sometimes, then maybe it'll go to some less weird places and in the long run I can relax and work on that book.
So what if I am not winning any home maker awards. Truth be told, my home is nicer than many and I'm pretty darn blessed.
So what if I'm not always put together - I put my soul out there. I am not afraid to be vulnerable. I am not afraid to say that, honestly, I was a lot more carefree before kids because my future - the future without the messy house, lost jobs, doctor appointments and budget concerns - was perfect!
Did you know that I used to be a funnier person?
Did you know that I used to write a hell of a lot more than I do now?
Did you know that I'm desperately trying to hold onto Christ's message that in order to gain a life, I have to lose mine?
That sounds all well and good, but it sure would be nice to lose my life and drink Diet Coke again.
As it stands, I drink no Diet Coke.
I am down two a few cups of coffee a day.
I am not eating gluten or dairy.
I've been off of wine for a week and counting.
Why? Because as Brene Brown says better than I do, I'm tired of being afraid of my emotions. It's okay to be vulnerable and scared and admit "I have no idea what the hell I'm doing NOTHING HAS TURNED OUT THE WAY I EXPECTED" and maybe, just maybe, if I don't run like an addict to obliterate fear, anxiety and shame then I don't have to obliterate pure joy, love and passion either.