Hope; The Word for 2019

img_20180819_093441_333Over this past week, Facebook’s “memories” feature has been stabbing me in the heart.  It reminds me of how much has changed in this past year.  How my friends and I came into the new year last year heartbroken after losing a friend in a terrible accident a few days after Christmas.  Those days were a blur.  The beginning of my “floor coffee” sanctuary.

I don’t think it would be fair for me to speak for our whole group of friends, but I think it would be safe to say we felt lost for a while.  Maybe even a little still.  Grief is weird like that.  You try to find your way through this new world that is slightly more empty now.  Each day, you get a little bit stronger.  Finally the bittersweet memories bring more of a smile than tears.  You still miss them, but you feel less lost than before.

I knew this week would be hard.  Last year after hearing the news, I fired up my old desktop computer that I never use, and I transferred all the photos with this friend over the years to my phone and shared them online so the rest of the group could share and enjoy the fond memories.  It was my way of helping to soften the blow, because it killed me to see my friends hurting.  It also helped me.  Remembering all the good times.  I knew those posts were coming up.  I wasn’t sure how I would feel about seeing them.  It was bittersweet.  The memories were good, but knowing the reason behind the posts in the first place was like a knife to the heart all over again.

What I didn’t mention to anyone until now was on the morning of the anniversary of the day of his death, a song came on the radio.  I’ve mentioned the song before.  How every time I thought of him, Summer of ’69 by Bryan Adams would come on the radio.  It was a song that our group listened to quite regularly while camping.  It is a song that reminds me of him.  Sure it is common on the classic rock stations that I listen to, but I found the thought comforting.

Well, that particular morning, things were weighing heavy on my mind and heart.  I dropped my son off at daycare, hopped in my car to head to work, turned it on and heard those first few familiar guitar notes.  Summer of ’69 began at the exact same time I turned on my car.  I cranked it up as I drove.  I smiled as I pictured him on all those nights standing around the campfire with us.  Completely inebriated, getting all the lyrics wrong, yet still belting it out at the top of his lungs without a care.  It brought me comfort.  Call me stupid for finding comfort in such things if you want.  I dont care.  You know what they say about opinions anyway.  I’ve never caught that song before or any other for that matter on the radio at the very beginning like that.  Unless of course I was already listening to the station as one song ends and another begins.  Never while turning on my car or flipping through stations though.  It made me think.  As much as we miss our friend, we will be alright.  Eventually.

What’s messed up, is next week, it will happen again.  Facebook’s memories will slap me in the face some more reminding me that we tragically lost a second friend.  The year 2018 certainly did not begin with a bang and an energetic burst of optimism for myself and friends.  Something odd happened back in the summer that made me think of this friend as well.  I noticed an overwhelming amount of butterflies around us daily.  It wasn’t that I had just started looking for them.  I always look for them, because I like them, but I usually see maybe one or two all summer long.  Not this past summer.  I saw at least one or two every single day no matter where we were.

I finally mentioned it to my husband as we were on our way up to Drummond Island and I was seeing butterflies everywhere the whole way there.  We were stuck in traffic on the Mackinaw bridge.  I noticed a Monarch butterfly flutter without a care across the windshield of our truck and then circle the beams of the bridge high in the air.  I brought up the abundance of butterflies I had been seeing all summer.  I mentioned how I heard somewhere that some people think butterflies can be a message from loved ones who have passed on.  The overwhelming number made me think of this second friend.  He wasn’t subtle and if he was going to do something, he was going to go all in and then some.  I could picture him upon learning he can use butterflies to send messages to his loved ones on earth and deciding to send as many as possible all at once.  The idea made me laugh.  Honestly I’m not sure what I believe with regards to the butterflies.  All I know is I saw more butterflies during the summer of 2018 than I have in all the summers combined throughout my entire life.  Just an observation.

I guess with the way 2018 started out, it is no wonder when I was asked what I wanted for Christmas, I couldn’t come up with an answer.  When the holidays rolled around my anxiety crept in.  I couldn’t ask for what I really wanted, because it wasn’t something anyone could give me.  I didn’t care about gifts.  I simply didn’t want any more loved ones to die.  I’d had enough for the year.

This post wasn’t meant to be a post of melancholy ramblings, but this is how the year started out.  It was a bit crippling to say the least.  If I could think of a word to describe 2018 for me, I think I’d use “heavy.”  There was a lot of heaviness to the year, but there’s always beauty in the ashes.  There was beauty and growth also being carried within the weight if the year.

I had decided on New Years Eve 2017, that 2018 would be a year of “tying up loose ends.”  I had big plans for finally facing some things I had been avoiding.  I was even tying up loose ends literally that very night.  I made a blanket earlier in 2017, but with there being four different colors of yarn, I had a ton of ends to weave before it would be finished.  As I rang in the new year weaving ends of yarn into that baby blanket, I decided I would tie up the figurative loose ends in my life as well in 2018.

Unfortunately, since the year started out with such heavy blows, I was on the floor for a bit.  I got back up though as I always do and I did exactly what I set out to do.  The second half of the year was crunch time, but I managed it.  Some of the loose ends I tied up were ones I didn’t even realize needed tying.  It was nice.  I managed to renew my certification for my job, which was a nightmare to say the least, but I did it and I met the deadline.  I started some new habits that I feel are quite beneficial.  I also finally submitted my manuscript to a publisher.   Sure I did it at 11:00pm on New Years Eve, but I did it in 2018 just like I promised myself I would.  Nothing like literally waiting until the final hour.

I felt quite accomplished looking back and realizing that I truly did what I set out to do.  I tied up the loose ends in my life.  The year involved a lot of growth which I like.  Growth can be painful, but it is necessary to move forward.  It was bittersweet rolling into the holidays and seeing the Facebook memories, but there is beauty in those memories and for that I am thankful.

As 2019 approached, I didn’t have the same determination that I did as I was weaving ends of yarn into a blanket the year before.  It was more of a quiet ambivalence that I was feeling.  There was a fear of what the year might bring.  Who might we lose?  I know we can’t live our lives like that though, so those feelings of fear were mixed in with feelings of hope.  I tend to be one who can look for the one sparkling gem in a crap situation and find a way to turn it around.  Nobody should enter a year fearful because the beginning of their last year was so devistating.  So, as I put off submitting my manuscript for a few more hours to ring in the new year by having a 90’s hip hop dance party in my kitchen with my 4 year old, I chose hope.  I have no idea what this year will bring, but life is what you make it.  You can either fear the unknown or be hopeful.  As Andy Dufresne said in The Shawshank Redemption “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

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Talcum Powder Clowns and Vintage Gowns

The other day, my son and I had the opportunity to spend some time together.  He helped me wrap gifts and we made a gingerbread house.  It was a wonderful day for the two of us making memories.  It reminded me of the days spent with my grandmother when I was his age.  These days, we as parents sometimes get so uptight about things that we forget that our kids are simply that.  They are kids and we need to let them be what they are while they are young.  We get so wrapped up in our work, chores, routines, rushing around, and keeping the house clean.  By the end of it all, we are at the end our rope and get upset when our kids get paint on the table and playdoh on the floor.  We forget that memories are made in these messes and that messes can be cleaned.  My grandmother understood this.  She grew up in a childrens home, so she knew what it was like to not have much.  She understood that the most important things in life are not things and that things can be fixed or cleaned.  She didn’t sweat the small stuff and this mindset made for a great childhood.

My mother worked, so when I was little, I spent my days at my grandma’s house.  Even after I started school, I was still there during sick days, school breaks, and during the summer.  It was a magical time.  Especially when I was my son’s age.  She let me help her bake cookies and pies and we did it from scratch.  I even recall one day when she let me help her make homemade potato chips, because I asked her how potato chips were made.  We dug up some potatoes from the garden and she showed me.  No playdoh?  No problem.  We made some.  She always had food coloring on hand.  She always allowed me to be involved.  I was little.  I was messy.  I likely got in the way, but she never made that known to me.  She was patient and she let me play along.

I was allowed access to her stuff, because after all, it was just stuff and memories and lessons are priceless.  From an early age, she would let me bang on the keys of her piano that now sits in my living room.  I can’t imagine how she dealt with that noise, but she let me do it.  I was allowed to explore every note for as long as I wanted.  When she felt I was old enough, she taught me what an octave was and began teaching me notes.  I suppose she figured if she’s going to be stuck listening to it, she may as well find away to make the sound more pleasant.  Not to mention, it was a great learning opportunity.  She wrote the letters of the notes on the middle 8 keys and then helped me learn a few songs.  One of my favorite things to do was to “race” my grandmother’s musical Christmas bell that she hung in the doorway between the living room and dining room.  If you pulled on the bell, it would come down on a string and begin playing Silent Night slowly.  As it began to move back up the string the music would get faster and faster until it reached the top.  I used to like to pull the bell down, run to the piano and play along with the music faster and faster to see if I could keep up.  I don’t recall her ever putting a time limit on my playing or telling me to quiet down.  She just let me play.

Yes, she set limits.  I did not have free reign over everything in the house.  However, she also realized that I was a child and she embraced that.  If I wanted to play store, we set up a “store” in the kitchen.  She helped me set out some of her items from the pantry, we used medical tape to put “prices” on the items, and she had an old toy cash register that we set up on the counter.  Then I would stand on a kitchen chair behind the counter and she would “shop” with the toy cart in the kitchen and I would ring her up at the register with play money.  She allowed me to play and have fun knowing that we were not only creating lasting memories, but she saw an opportunity to teach me something each time.

She did something similar on the day that I wanted to play “yard sale.” I had to have been 3 or 4 years old.  Without a second thought, she gathered up some items from the house and we set them up in her driveway for a pretend yard sale.  It was also the day that I wanted to be a clown.  I remember a few people showing up to our pretend sale.  I was overjoyed to have “real customers.” I can’t even imagine what these people thought when they showed up to browse this yard sale to see some little girl walking up to them with a face covered in talcum powder and lipstick that had been supplied by grandma. Could you imagine stopping by a yard sale, seeing some tiny “clown” walking around and then have some little old lady come up to you and explain that it is a pretend sale?  I’m laughing now as I type this thinking of it.  Hopefully she actually made a little money that day.

She allowed me to play dress up with old clothes.  When I wanted to pretend to be a princess, she granted me access to the wardrobe in the spare bedroom where my late aunt’s prom dresses were stored.  They were gorgeous formal gowns from the late 50’s or early 60’s era.  I remember the colors.  All pale pastels.  Mint green, baby pink, and lavender.  There may have been an ivory and a baby blue one as well.  These lovely,  lacey, ensembles were full of layers of toule under the skirts while the top later would be lace or chiffon. Some came with jackets while others did not.  They were made to be tea length, but of course they were floor length on me as a child.  Perfect for a little girl who wanted to be a princess.  My absolute favorite was the lavender gown.  Mainly because it was softer and less stiff than the others, but it also fit me the best.  It was perfect for dancing and twirling.  The top layer was a soft and flowy chiffon and along the bottom of the skirt, was a lavender ribbon border with bows every few inches.  She let me take that one home.  It got a lot of use and took a beating over the years.  Thinking back now, part of me wishes those gowns were still around, because they were beautiful.  I have such an appreciation for vintage gowns.  It never occurred to me then and only hit me recently how big of a decision that had to have been for my grandmother to let me play in those gowns.  My aunt passed away in the late 60’s.  I never met her.  My grandmother saved her formal gowns all that time.  I can’t even imagine the emotions involved as she made that decision to let me play in her deceased daughter’s gowns.  The decision was all hers.  I never knew those gowns even existed until she showed them to me one day.  I may never know whether or not it was a difficult decision for her, but I do hope that maybe seeing how much joy they brought me as I twirled around her house in them brought her some joy as well.

Part of me wonders if she just wanted to make sure she kept that spark alive.  That the light of my active imagination wouldn’t be dimmed, so she continued to encourage it.  I loved to draw and she loved to display my work.  After a few years, every inch of wall space in her living room and dining room was covered with pictures I drew for her. She let me play in what little makeup she owned, perfume included.  Nowadays makeup is so expensive, I think most mothers cringe at the thought.  We now scold our children for getting into our stash.  She taught me how to sew and if I wanted to make something, she gave me access to her supplies and showed me how to use them.  When I wanted to play “Christmas” in the  middle of summer, she got out her wrapping paper stash and let me use it to wrap up various items in the house as “gifts” as we decorated and prepared for a pretend Christmas dinner.  This also got me thinking.  How many of us would let our 3-4 year old kids have access to our wrapping paper stash in July and use it simply to have a pretend Christmas? We work hard for our money and these days wrapping paper costs more during the after Christmas deep discount than it did full price back then.  Still, what would it hurt if we did?

Would our world really end if we let our kids use up our Christmas wrapping paper, messed up the house while pretending to decorate, or played with our crafting supplies?  Would it kill us to either let them play in our old makeup or set some aside for them from the dollar store?  Would our lives be completely ruined if they made a mess in our house while playing and learning? Is paint on the table or playdoh on the floor really that devastating?  I’m not saying our lives need to completely revolve around our kids and making every moment they are awake “magical.”  I’m not saying we need to kill ourselves trying to be Pinterest moms 24/7. We dont need to sacrifice every inch of our walls in our house to display our children’s art, but would it hurt to designate a space? I’m saying maybe we need to lighten up a bit.  Stop being so uptight.  Pick your battles.  What will matter 5 years from now?  That you always had an immaculate house, or that you spent quality time making memories with your littles and teaching them things.  What will matter will not be the paint that got on the table, but how you handled it after the fact.  So what if your young child isn’t good at wrapping gifts yet.  Let them help anyway.  Thats how they get good.  Thats how they learn. You don’t need to have a ton of money to make these memories.  Use what you have and turn it into something fun.  When I wanted a Mr. Potato Head, lack of funds didn’t stop my grandmother.  She handed me a potato, her coffee can full of buttons, and some pins.  I made my own potato head. Memories and learning opportunities can happen anywhere.  Even on a walk in your own back yard.  Perhaps it is time to step back and go old school and let our kids be kids once in a while. These are the things our kids will remember for a lifetime.

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Snapshots

I was that “jerk” yesterday.   You know.  The one who gets in their car after getting groceries, turns it on, and just hangs out for a while.  Yep, that was me and although it angered someone who decided they wanted to wait for me to pull out of that space, I’m not sorry.  Why?  Well, I’m sure the person who wanted my spot thought I was a huge jerk, but I actually did take some things into consideration first.  It was fairly early in the morning which means there were plenty of open parking spots to be had.  Many of the open spots were good spots near the door.  I did not have one of the coveted spots near the door.  It was just a random spot, sort of close to the store, but certainly not the only one open.  Had that been the case, I would have moved.  What was I doing?  Now that my husband has rejoined the land of the living aka “day shift,” I get some opportunities to leave the house without my 4 year old son.  This was one of those opportunities.  I decided to get groceries, but with it being a weekend so close to Christmas, I hurried out of the house hoping to beat the crazy holiday rush.  As I was finishing up, I realized I had not eaten yet.  I grabbed a breakfast sandwich that had likely been sitting under the heat lights since 6:00am, a soda from the coolers at checkout, and decided to take 5 minutes for myself in the car.  I certainly didn’t want to eat that sandwich cold.  So yes, I was sitting in my car eating a breakfast sandwich in the parking lot of the grocery store and taking 5 minutes of silence for myself to be alone with my thoughts.  I’m sure I’m not the only mom who has done something like this.  I watched as the man who wanted my spot easily found another.  As I said earlier, the parking lot was wide open.  I watched him walk past while shooting the stink eye in the direction of my running car.  I’m sure he thought I was some inconsiderate jerk based on the information he had.  Once he was inside the store though, I doubt he gave the situation a second thought.  This got me thinking though.  All of us at some point in time make quick judgements of people we observe based on the 30 second snapshots of their lives and we are so certain that we are correct in our assumptions.  Are we really though?  Most of the time, we don’t even notice we are doing it, because the thought exits our heads as quickly as it enters and we move on.  However not all snapshots are created equal.  Take parenting snapshots for example.

The other day, I was driving to work while listening to a radio show called Rover’s Morning Glory.  I don’t listen to it much, because I prefer music, but this topic piqued my interest.  They were getting all uppity and judgemental toward parents who put their kids on leashes.  As if these people were perfect parenting experts and in a position to judge how other people parent.  It didn’t offend me personally, because I realize that no matter what you do in this life there will always be someone watching with disapproval and ready to criticize.  What other people think is none of my business.  The people on the show were going on and on about how these parents were obviously horrible parents who were just too lazy to bother with keeping an eye on their kids.  I may have laughed out loud a little listening to ignorance.  Don’t get me wrong, I probably would have made better choices than the woman they described who had her kid on a leash while she was buying beer and not noticing the her child was eating popcorn off the floor, but to basically call all parents who choose to use a leash “lazy” or “trash” revealed how clueless these people were.  Yet they felt qualified to judge.  I was glad when the woman called in who had twin toddlers and a husband with a terminal illness to give these people some perspective.  How do you keep ONE busy toddler still in a doctor’s office let alone multiple kids?  This woman broadened their horizons a bit, but then of course they went back to narrowmindly judging all OTHER parents who use leashes.  It made me laugh and I quickly turned the station.  I will admit, I have used a leash once.  My son was an extremely fast and busy toddler and during his toddler years, my husband was a 3rd shifter.  This meant everywhere I went, my son went and it was just the two of us.  Once when he was not quite 2 yet, I strapped a backpack leash on him while we broused around a firework stand in the grocery store parking lot.  I didn’t want him running around touching the fireworks and I did not want him running loose in the parking lot.  This was my best option.  It worked and I don’t regret it.  I also use devices like a phone or tablet to keep him sitting still at a doctor’s office. I know there are people who judge when they see kids staring at screens too.  I suspect Rover would disapprove. Lucky for my son, I am his parent and not Rover.

Isn’t this always the case though?  We make these quick judgements based on the 30 second snapshot of a person’s life that we observe and never consider the possible back story.  Especially when it comes to parenting choices. Even those with no children suddenly seem to think they are qualified to not only make such judgements, but give advice.  They see you or your child in a moment of struggle or they see you making a choice that THEY wouldn’t make and all of a sudden even though they don’t even know your name, they somehow think they are now the expert on your life and how to care for your child.  I know these judgements happen with all situations, but it seems like with parenting is when people feel the need to verbalize it and add their 2 cents.

Did you ever stop to think that the mom leaving the pharmacy with the screaming toddler is sick with a horrible case of bronchitis? That perhaps she had no choice, but to bring her toddler to urgent care with her so she could finally get treated.  That maybe this kid sat so well during the hour and a half long trip to urgent care, only to be stuck waiting another hour at the store while getting a prescription filled. What you didn’t see was how this barely 3 year old, was so well behaved for those couple hours and his patience was wearing thin.  That his sick mother was too weak to lift him into the cart to strap him in and instead had him climb into the larger part so he could still be semi contained in the store and she wouldn’t have to chase him.  You have no idea that waiting in line at the pharmacy was the part of the day where his patience wore thin, he became antsy, and it was close to nap time.  You didn’t see the woman in line behind her who noticed her struggling to keep this toddler in the cart and helped her buckle him in so she could pay for her medication.  You did not know that buckling him in was the one thing that set this child over the edge and what made him begin to scream.  You simply witnessed this sick mother desperately trying to exit the store with her screaming child so she can get him home and you felt the need to hollar at this child “PLEASE STOP SCREAMING!” As they pass you by.  Was this really necessary? No, but all you saw was a mother who couldn’t control her bratty child and you felt compelled to say something.  You caught a 30 second snapshot and thought you knew the story, but you didn’t.

I can recall a time I was sitting in a doctor’s office and I had given my son my phone so he could watch that baby shark music video, because I knew that would keep him sitting still while I was being examined.  The doctor who walked in clearly had an opinion on kids and screens and he made a comment about how my son was glued to my phone.  I said to him,”That phone is keeping him out of your hand sanitizer right now.” What this doctor didn’t know was that I also work in a medical office and sometimes I have to bring my son with me if I need to stop by the office on my day off.  He knows how the automatic hand sanitizers work and he thinks they are a fun toy.  He didn’t see me trying to wrestle my kid away from the sanitizer pump at check in.  He didn’t see my son get a hand full of sanitizer and slap himself in the face with it and get that handful directly into his eye.  Being examined by a doctor, I wasn’t exactly going to be in a position to physically prevent my kid from doing that again, so I handed him my phone to keep him busy during the exam.  The doctor didn’t see that.  He just saw another young child glued to a device in his exam room and felt the need to be self righteous and make a comment about my choice.

Here are some more examples.  What about the mom who chose to put her 2 year old on a leash and tie it to a picnic table while camping? I’m sure many would have a field day with that.  However what most inexperienced people don’t know is that depending on a child’s personality, many toddlers between 15 months and 2 and a half are EXTREMELY busy and don’t yet understand why they should not do something.  I’ve been camping before with a child in that age range. I was not able to sit down for even 30 seconds at a time.  I constantly had to chase my child.  I’m not even exaggerating.  I literally did NOT sit longer than 30 seconds at any given time while he was awake.  Actually 30 seconds might be a generous estimate.  It might have been more like 15. It was a miserable week.  Upon returning home, a friend told me one year she had to tie her daughter to the picnic table, because she kept running off.  Sounds harsh at first glance, but this is a mother who loves her children and doing so not only kept the child safe, but she was then able to sit and breathe for 5 minutes.  You may think that is selfish, but our children need us to be sane.  Not worn out and crazy.  The vast majority of parents who choose to use leashes don’t do it because they are lazy or trashy.  They do it, because they care about their children and want to keep them safe.  They took their child’s personality into consideration while making this choice and decided this was the option that worked for them.  Some use strollers.  Sometimes a stroller isn’t ideal.  Some use heavy duty child carriers.  Sometimes a child is too big for is carrier.  The point is different people make different parenting choice they know their own child better than you do. You are only observing a brief snapshot of their life.  You don’t know the story.

Think about how many times we judge strangers for their parenting choices based on that brief snapshot.  You see a mother bottle feeding and assume she is lazy or doesn’t love her child, because you believe breast is best and that ALL mothers should breastfeed.  Yet you don’t know that maybe this mother tried and wasn’t able to produce enough to sustain her child and was heartbroken over making this choice.  Or this mother gave it a try, couldn’t produce enough, noticed her child was losing weight, her nipples were cracked and bleeding, her child was starving, she developed mastitis, and decided the pain was interfering with her ability to bond with her child and he was getting more nourishment with formula.  Her choice didn’t break her heart, because she felt it made her a better mother, but still you judge.  Maybe her child had jaundice and her milk was making the baby more sick and the pediatrician recommended she switch to formula.  She chose what she felt was best for her child based on expert advice, yet still you judge.  Perhaps this mother adopted her child.  She would love to have been able to breastfeed, but due to infertility issues, she was not able to experience pregnancy and childbirth.  She was blessed with a baby through adoption, so obviously is not going to be able to produce her own milk due to the circumstances in which she became a mother.  She’s simply happy to have a child and the opportunity it to be their mother.  Yet you not only judge, but feel the need to lecture her on how “breast is best” and how she is “poisoning” her child with formula.  For all you know, that may even be breast milk that she pumped into that bottle either because her child has latching issues or because she is uncomfortable breast feeding in public.  Yet all you see is a mom feeding her baby with a bottle.  You assume, you judge, and you feel the need to hop on your self righteous soap box and make a comment.

I could go on and on with a million more examples.  I realize we do this in other situations as well,but I wanted to highlight parenting.  My point is that although there are some real dirtbags out there, most of us are actually very good parents.  We are trying our best, but sometimes we have an off day or an off moment.  Go easy the next time you see a parent having an off moment.  Maybe offer some help.  At the very least don’t add to the situation by making a rude comment.  Especially if it isn’t an off day, but simply a parent making a different choice than you.  Keep your mouth shut.  You don’t know the whole story.  You are only witnessing a snapshot and not all of our snapshots are glamorous.  I’m sure you have some ugly ones too.  We are all in this together.  Let’s show a little compassion.

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There Is No Box: Life Through The Eyes Of ADHD

Friday, my co-workers and I went out to lunch.  I wasn’t able to finish all of mine, so I brought it back to the office.  As I placed it in the fridge, I joked that I was going to put my lunch in the fridge and forget about it for a week.  Later that evening, as we were contemplating dinner, I remembered that I left my lunch in the fridge at work.  This is a common occurrence for me which was why I joked about it.  I was disappointed that I had done it once again.  A week night is one thing, but over the weekend, forget about it.  I’m notorious for this.  I am also notorious for going out to eat, getting a to-go box, and leaving the food behind when we leave.  Why am I bringing this up?  Allow me to explain what it is like inside my brain.

There’s this interesting thing called ADD or ADHD.  Now, I debated as to whether or not I should write this post, because it is a bit controversial.  I chose to do it anyway.  It is a bit contraversial, because there are people out there who believe this condition doesn’t exist.  Then again, there are also people out there who believe the earth is flat and the evidence showing that it is a sphere is a big conspiracy, so there you go.  What do I have to say to those who believe ADHD doesn’t exist?  Well, we are all entitled to our opinions.  However, unless you have extensive personal experience or you’ve studied the subject matter in question and been handed an actual degree from a university stating you are proficient in your knowledge in said subject, you are NOT an “expert” in that subject no matter how much “research” you’ve done online.  Remember, the flat earthers also did their “research” online therefore, it is safe to say that the internet cannot fully be trusted.  With that being said, I do possess a degree in psychology and I still wouldn’t consider myself an “expert,” so I certainly wouldn’t be so bold and reckless as to assume my Google research trumps anyone’s professional knowledge in any subject matter.  Considering I have a degree followed by real life experience, I feel I can speak accurately on the topic even if I don’t consider myself to be an expert.  So here it is.  What it is like inside my brain.

The Daily Struggle

It takes me longer to do things than it does other people.  For example the other night, I had thrown a load in the wash, bathed my son, and set him up on the couch to watch a movie that was 1 hour 14 minutes long. I figured that was plenty of time to finish up.  There were a few dishes in the sink I wanted to get to.  When I say a few, I really mean only a few.  Something that would take maybe 20 minutes at most.  Yet, as I was washing the last pan, my son came into the kitchen asking me for a ton of different things.  That’s when I heard the music coming from the living room.  I walked over and looked at the TV to see the credits rolling.  The movie was over.  It took me 1 hour and 14 minutes to wash maybe eight dishes.  Why is that?  I couldn’t for the life of me think of what else took up my time so much that I was still washing dishes over an hour after I first intended to do so.  Surely I did not spend that entire hour at the sink washing dishes.  I thought back.  I had decided to put on a movie and wash dishes.  Then I ran downstairs and threw the load from the washer into the dryer, because I heard the spin cycle end.  Then I decided to toss another load in the wash.  I ran upstairs to take pictures of some things I wanted to list on the marketplace and I hopped on Facebook a couple times, and texted a couple people as well.  Then I remembered I planned on washing dishes.  That’s how that all went and this happens all the time.

Here’s another example.  Yesterday, I intended to clean the house before we left that evening.  Nothing major.  Just routine weekly maintenence.  Clean kitchen table off, clean counters, sweep and mop the kitchen and bathroom floors, clean bathroom sink and toilet.  Since this is done weekly, it doesn’t take long.  Well, it shouldn’t take long.  When I know I’m pressed for time, but determined to get it done, I can finish all that in an hour or less.  It took me at least four hours yesterday and I didn’t get all of it done.  I was horribly distracted.  I had decided around 10:30 that I would do it and had plenty of time.  Then I threw another load in the wash.  I created a Facebook ad for my t-shirt shop and then boosted that ad. That took some time.  I listed a few more items on the Facebook marketplace.  I spent some time upstairs organizing more baby clothes and items I planned on listing.  I ate two pieces of the pizza my husband made us for lunch.  I took my son to the potty a few times.  I peeked in on the Michigan vs Nebraska game a couple times.  Then I checked Facebook multiple times before realizing that I was stalling to avoid doing what I intended to do and I got moving.  While I was in my groove, my husband mentioned that our son needed a bath.  Oh good.  More for the to-do list. So, something that could have easily been done in an hour took more than four and it still wasn’t finished.  This is my life.  Speaking of which,  I have clothes to put in the dryer.

Yes, I actually did stop writing for a moment so I could put clothes in the dryer.  Sometimes it is a time management issue and I’ll explain later why those with my brain struggle with it.  Part of the reason why time management is an issue is all the distractions and that’s why it takes longer to get things done.  I once tried a crochet pattern for “the easy 30 minute beanie.” It took me four and a half hours to complete.  I figured it was the combination of my still sort of being a beginner and being a mother of a young child.  Yet my husband pointed out it was more than that.  He has watched me work.  I’ll sit on the couch crocheting and get a few stitches in, look up at the TV for a bit, go back to it, watch some more TV, go back to crocheting, get up, do something else, sit back down, get up again, and so on.  Distractions.  Always with distractions. For instance, while I am writing this, I’m distracted by the beautiful sunlight pouring through our picture window in the living room.  I opened the curtains, because I love sunlight, but now I have a view of the beauty outside and I keep wanting to look.  I’m distracted by the sounds of the cars going by.  I eliminated the distraction of a messy house, but replaced it with the amazing aroma of the “Long Island Linen” scented carpet odor eliminate powder I used on our area rug before vaccuming.  I just want to sit here and breathe it in while staring out the window and watching the cars go by.  The fact that I need a shower is distracting me.  The sound of the clothes tumbling in the dryer and the ticking clock in the kitchen.  I also am hungry and now I am thinking about lunch.  You may think it is easy to be less distracted by little things, but for people like me, it isn’t.

I sometimes do this thing where I get “stuck.”  I’ve read that it is a common ADHD  thing that most people don’t realize.  I’ll be in my “zone” getting stuff done and walk past the TV and stop in my tracks and just start watching it.  It weirds my husband out, because I’ll be standing behind the couch where he is sitting.  I’ll stand there for 20 minutes or more.  Then he will ask if I want to sit down.  This tends to hit my “reset” button and I will then remember it I had originally set out to do in the first place and go do that.  Or I will have forgotten what I set out to do and stand there longer staring at the TV if something good is on.  It isn’t always the TV.  Sometimes it is the window.  I’ve been known to get stuck staring out the window sometimes too if it is beautiful outside or something interesting is going on.  I used to sit in the kitchen in my apartment and watch the cars go by.  It used to drive my ex crazy, because he would catch me looking over his shoulder out the window and get mad that I wasn’t paying attention to him.  Truth be told, the cars going by were more interesting than whatever it was that he was saying, but he was a psycho and assumed I had some sort of “secret boyfriend” outside that I must have been watching.  The truth is, distractions get me “stuck” sometimes.  Sometimes it will be the TV or a window.  Other times it is my own thoughts and I will stop and appear to just be staring into space, but in reality, im lost in my thoughts.  I’ve been doing this since childhood.  It is one of the many quirks of ADHD that people don’t always know about.

The Misconceptions

When people think of ADD or ADHD, they commonly associate it with a lack of attention when in reality, it is the complete opposite.  Our attention to everything is heightened to a fault.  While someone with a neurtypical brain can unconsciously filter out irrelevant details around them so they can focus on what needs their attention at the moment, it is not so for us. EVERYTHING around us is competing equally for our attention.  So while you may not even be aware of all of the things you are tuning out, because your brain is doing it for you, I have to consciously make that decision every second of every day.  At any given moment, while I have an important task that needs my attention, I notice that my sock is falling down inside my shoe, my head may be itching, and my bra strap is falling off my shoulder. There’s a conversation going on nearby that has nothing to do with me, the blinking light on my phone alerting me that I have a missed call or text, the hangnail on my thumb, and the pain from my ingrown toenail are all equally competing for my attention and as I try to stay focused on the task at hand, I’m noticing ALL of these things and have to either deal with them or find a way to tune them out.  Usually that means ignoring what I know isn’t relevant at the moment, but that doesn’t mean each of those things doesn’t still have my attention.  I’m simply just trying to ignore them and it is a struggle.  Some things drive me so crazy that I can’t ignore them.  I actually don’t use our instant messenger system at work.  Mainly because people try to use it to get quick answers to questions that should be documented in people’s charts, but it is also because I can’t ignore that blinking box.  I have more pressing matters to attend to, so not logging in eliminates the distraction of the blinking box altogether.

Back before I knew what was going on, I didn’t know how to effectively prioritize all that was coming at me and I would get overwhelmed easily.  When I’m overwhelmed, nothing gets done.  Now, that I understand it more, I make a conscious effort to prioritize all that is coming at me or being asked of me.  Sometimes I need to make a list in order of priority.  Other times I may say out loud to someone at work “That is not a priority right now.” It isn’t me being defiant.  It is me trying to be efficient.  If supplies show up and I’m the only clinical staff member present, patient care comes first and supplies can wait until I have 10 minutes to spare. If I can’t find time to spare, I’ll ask for help.  Those with ADHD have a hard time recognizing when they are in over their heads.  I used to.  We tend to think we are great multitaskers and can handle everything coming at us.  Sometimes that is true, but only if it is done in such a way where we consciously prioritize.  Otherwise we have a full to-do list with a ton of half done things.  I have tons of artwork that I have started and never finished, because I tried to juggle too much at once.  Then I stopped and never started back up. That is why we struggle with asking for help.  We don’t accurately estimate the amount of time it may take to do all the tasks that need to get done and don’t prioritize.  We think “I can get to that after I do this other thing.” Then we finish the other thing and the phone rings or something else comes up and we do that instead.

ADHD comes in many different varieties.  The stereotype most people are used to is the disruptive boy in class who can’t sit still, yet most of the time that isn’t what you see at all.  I often hear people tell me that if I hadn’t said anything, they wouldn’t know I had it.  I don’t fit the stereotype.  I’m not the disruptive kid swinging from the ceiling.  My type is predominantly inattentive type.  This means that although I may be able to sit quietly, my mind is elsewhere.  If someone is giving a lecture, I can stare forward and I might hear the first five minutes of what was said, but at some point, my mind begins to wander to my to-do list, what’s for dinner tonight, what bills need to be paid this week, I haven’t heard from one of my friends for a while and hope she’s okay.  At some point, I’ll tune back in and realize I’ve missed the last 10 minutes of what someone was saying.  All the while, I’m sitting quietly staring forward.  Sure, we all do this sometimes, but for people like me, it is all the time.  I try to make it a point to catch myself when my mind wanders like that.  I also have little quirks when I’m trying to sit still.  I fidget, because I’m never, ever comfortable for very long.  When every single sensory stimulus is competing for my attention as much as the important details are, it is hard to remain comfortable.  I’m likely cold.  The tag on my shirt is bothering me.  I’m crossing my legs one way only to be uncomfortable in that position and cross them the other way and soon find I’m uncomfortable that way after a while too. My chair may be hard, the back might be pressing against my bra clasp, my foot itches, I have to pee, I have a hangnail that I absolutely have to pick.  If you were to observe me closely during a meeting or presentation, you would see that I don’t exactly sit still.  If there’s a pen and paper handy, I’m likely to start doodling just to give my hands something to do, take my mind off the uncomfotrable things bothering me, and stay awake and pay attention.  Yes, if I sit still for too long, I fall asleep.  Doodling actually helps me focus my attention where it needs to be.  I walk around clicking my pen so much at work that it probably drives my co-workers batty, but my hands need to be doing something at all times and it helps me concentrate.  Just like singing the Meow Mix song helps me concentrate, because it keeps all the irrelevant thoughts from racing through my head.

My ADHD package also includes this lovely accessory called hyperfocus.  What this means is that I actually CAN focus very intently on activities that I find interesting.  Someone with this addition to their ADHD cocktail can easily get lost in a book for an entire day or even weekend.  The problem is everything else gets tuned out.  I’ve become so involved in art projects during school, that I would forget to eat all day.  Someone with these traits can focus very intently on something they are interested in for a very long time and this is one of the reasons that ADHD is misunderstood.  Many with this type are simply labeled as lazy and irresponsible, because they are able to concentrate and work well on things they are interested in, but nearly impossible to focus on something they don’t enjoy.  This is actually one of the reasons I thought I didn’t have it for a long time.  I could easily focus for hours on my art projects in high school or a paper I was writing.  I completely overlooked the fact that these projects took me three times longer to complete than they should and I had to finish them at home where I could more easily tune out distractions by shutting myself alone in my room with music.

My Personal Journey

Prior to figuring this out, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what was “wrong” with me.  Once I started going to school and spending time with other kids my age, it wasn’t long before I noticed I was “different.” Early on, my impulse control was nearly non-existent.  I would actively do things and have no idea why I was doing them.  They would typically be defiant things.  Writing on my desk, jumping rope with my scarf in the back of the classroom at the end of recess after we’ve been told to sit down, the list could go on.  As I grew older, I was able to control my body more, because my awareness grew and I didn’t want to embarrass myself.  This is still a struggle on occasion though as my husband points out that sometimes my body does things that my mind doesnt realize I’m doing, because my brain is elsewhere. I just happen to have a lot more control over it now than I did as a child.

Sometimes I would blurt out weird things.  Maybe we were supposed to be quietly listening to the teacher and my mind would wander and I might laugh out loud about a funny thought popped into my head.  Or I would want to say one thing, but would blurt out something completely different and sometimes unrelated to what I actually intended to say, because my mind had already moved onto something else. This also happened less as I got older, but it followed me into my 20’s.  Sometimes in early elementary, I would simply just not participate.  I got behind in first grade, because I simply stopped doing the work.  Thankfully the teacher gave me the opportunity to make it up.  It wasn’t because I didn’t understand it.  I was a smart kid.  I just didn’t feel like doing any of it.  The assignments were boring and unstimulating, so I just shoved them inside my desk and forgot about them.  It didn’t take me long to quickly finish them and turn them in by the end of the year and that was all it took for me to not do that again.

These things were embarrassing to me, because I could tell the other kids didn’t seem to have these issues.  Other kids were organized and neat.  Other kids had clean rooms.  The other girls didn’t have messy hair.  Other kids clearly understood instructions.  Other kids easily finished their work in the classroom and didn’t have to take it home.  Other kids finished their homework quickly if they had it. I was not one of these kids.  For the life of me, I could not stay on task.  Especially if the work was boring and tedious.  I would sit quietly in class, but my mind would be elsewhere.  Next thing I knew, the bell would ring and and while everyone else was turning in their work, I was bringing mine home.  I always got good grades.  It just took me twice as long to get the work done.  One teacher noticed this.  She made fun of me for it in front of the whole class regularly.  She caught me daydreaming a few times and started calling me out on it loudly in front of the other students in class.  She likely did it hoping it would help and get me back on task.  Unfortunately, it got to the point where I couldn’t look up from my work at all.  If I even so much as looked up to read the board or look at the clock, she would say to the class “Oh look everyone! Melissa is daydreaming again!” I specifically recall an incident where we had a two part standardized test.  Everyone else finished theirs in a timely manner while I took my time, because I knew it was important and I wanted to do a good job.  I stopped for a minute to look up at the clock and she loudly announced “Everyone else is done with their test, while Melissa is still on the first part and she’s just sitting there looking around at what everyone else is doing.”  As it turns out, I got EVERY question right on that test.  Every single one and I was the only one in the class who did.  Some of us take longer than others.  She barely acknowledged that I had the highest score.  My only relief that year came when a boy transferred into our class who was insanely disruptive.  He took the attention off of me for once and I was no longer the star of the public ridicule show in our fourth grade class.  We later became friends.

Although that was a tough year, it helped me become more mindful of these odd things and either catch myself and redirect or become better at hiding it.  I mainly wanted to hide it, but my hopes were if I could just buckle down and work harder, I would somehow magically change and be like the other kids.  That was the key.  I just needed to work harder.  So I thought.  It seemed impossible though.  I couldn’t get my work done in class, because I would hear the sound of everyone’s pencils feverishly working and my anxiety would set in about how I wasn’t as far as everyone else and my mind would draw a blank.  Then my mind would wander, however by this point I would daydream while looking down at my work.  Heaven forbid I look up and risk public embarrassment again.  Then I would bring my unfinished work home and have a whole new list of problems.  Kids around me were playing.  Normal kids, who didn’t have homework, because they finished their work in class were now outside playing or watching TV after school.  I wanted to do these things too.  I could never decide which was better.  Finishing homework right after school or participating for a bit after school before working on homework.  I would try to buckle down, but if the tv was on, I would start watching it no matter what show was on.  There would be a million other things competing for my attention and I would lose the battle.  Then of course my mom would be frustrated with the fact that it was now 10:00pm and my homework still wasn’t done.  I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just be normal.  Nobody else could either and clearly the problem had to be me.  What other explanation was there?  I was somehow defective.   Broken.  But I was smart. How could this be?  How could I start writing a story, wait until the morning it is due to finish it before the bus comes, and still be selected to go to the Young Authors conference in fifth grade? I was gifted and smart, so the problem had to be me simply not trying hard enough.  Right?

I did not understand.  I didn’t really fit in and sometimes felt like a fake.  I felt like I had to constantly prove myself, because even though I was smart, I would do and say some of the most incredibly stupid things.  My report card and grades sometimes would be the only accurate reflection of what I was capable of, because from the outside looking in, I was a walking, talking, mess.  An airhead.  A ditz.   I was clumsy, because I would be in such a hurry all the time, I didn’t take the time to slow down and pay attention to my surroundings.  By high school I became better at either managing a lot of it or hiding it, but people could still tell something was off.  I was labeled as “ditzy or airheaded,” because of some of the stupid things I would say or answers I would give.  People didn’t realize that part of the reason this was going on was because I tuned out halfway through a conversation or teacher’s presentation and by the time I tuned back in, I had no idea what was going on.  I used to ask for the question to be repeated, but stopped doing that after my seventh grade math teacher caught me zoning out and called on me and I asked what the question was.  Instead of repeating the question, he repeated what I said and laughed at me.  As did the rest of the class.  So from then on, if I zoned out while someone was talking, I would simply reply as if I had been paying attention the whole time.  I was too embarrassed to admit I stopped paying attention.  Sometimes I didn’t even realize it.  Unfortunately this would lead to some weird responses and ultimately, I was labeled as an “airhead” or a “ditz.” Back then, I found this to be hurtful, but I eventually stopped giving  crap.

I began learning ways to manage my shortcomings, partly because I knew what I was capable of when I put my mind to it and partly to avoid embarrassment.  I felt like I needed to prove all those wrong who were labeling me. It isn’t like I could blame them though.  ADHD isn’t something you can easily see when you look at someone and if you don’t know someone has it, you aren’t going to all of a sudden figure it out by watching them.  Well, I can, but for most people on the outside looking in, the view is completely different.  What people see on the outside, may be a person who is a hot mess.  Irresponsible and unreliable, because they are always late and always in a hurry.  Disorganized, messy, lazy, forgetful, absent minded, inconsiderate, rude, obnoxious, annoying, and scatterbrained. The list could go on.  I’ve been called all these things throughout my life prior to finding out what was going on and when I wasn’t directly called these things, it was implied.  I began to be able to tell how people viewed me simply by their body language and behavior toward me.  I wasn’t any of these things at all, but it appeared that way, because the harder I tried to have my ducks in a row, the more likely those damn ducks were to run off in all directions due to my stress and anxiety over tying to control it.

People can’t see what’s below the surface.  They don’t see that the reason someone like me can’t get it together is because time management is an issue.  We have a hard time accurately estimating how long it will take to do something and think we have more time than we have.  I always would have a massive to-do list and think it was totally realistic.  I would also assume it would take me much less time to get ready to leave than it actually would.  People with ADHD have a hard time prioritizing, because as I’ve said earlier, our brains see ALL the information coming at us as equal in importance.  So, while I was getting multiple tasks thrown at me at work,  I was unable to determine what was most important and should be completed first.  It would be painfully obvious to others in similar situstions, but for me, the impatient person constantly hitting the bell on the drive thru, the ATM deposits, and my emails, seemed as important as the customer walking in the door.  As a result, I always appeared as though I was drowning in my work at my old job.  I was horrible at managing my time and prioritizing.  I would either cram my to-do list with way too many activities or procrastinate.  I’ve been known to dawdle sometimes until the last minute, because I absolutely do not want to do whatever it is I need to do at that time.  Sometimes there’s so much to do, that it is overwhelming.  If I’m overwhelmed by the amount of things I need to do, I sometimes shut down and nothing gets done.  I understand the reasons behind this now as well as the reasons why it leads to misunderstandings, but until I was 31, I didn’t.  I hated being misunderstood, so in an effort to avoid embarrassment and being seen as a complete scatterbrain, I developed coping mechanisms.

I began suspecting I might have ADHD shortly before I lost my former job.  I used my work benefits to call for an assessment and possibly therapy.  I felt like my brain and life were spinning out of control and the more I tried to control it, the worse things got.  As it turns out, stress can trigger the symptoms and make it worse and I was under a ton of it at the time.  I explained what was going on and I still remember what this idiot said to me.  “We all have ADD once in a while.  It’s normal.” My mind was blown.  I said to him “Oh, do you have a psych degree too? I actually do and I’m telling something is wrong with my brain and you are blowing me off and refusing to help me.”  I remember hanging up the phone and deciding not to bother reaching out for help again.  It couldn’t be ADHD.  I was apparently just incompetent at every aspect of life and I needed to do better.  Nevermind the fact that by this time, I had two college degrees, had managed to live alone and support myself for five years and never once late paying a bill in those five years.  Nevermind the fact that I was holding down two jobs and volunteering.  My brain being wired differently couldn’t possibly be the reason for my struggles.  The problem had to be me.  I didn’t fit the stereotype.  If I managed to get good grades in school, graduate college, hold down work, and functionally live on my own, I couldn’t possibly have ADHD.  The problem had to be me.  I must be incompetent.

Don’t get me wrong.  The man on the phone wasn’t completely wrong.  Everyone does exhibit some ADHD like traits at certain points in their lives or maybe they possess a couple of the traits all the time and it doesn’t mean they have it.  Oftentimes, these traits tend to come out during times of high stress.  The difference however, is that once the event that causes these traits to occur is over, a person with a neurtypical (aka “normal”) brain, goes back to normal.  For people like me, that doesn’t happen.  What your brain was doing to you during that highly stressful time in your life, is an everyday thing for us.  That is our state of “normal.”  That’s the difference.  That is also why those with “normal” brains have a difficult time understanding our daily struggle.  It isn’t daily for them.  Since we all experience traits of it at points in our lives, it is easy to believe the misconception that it is either much more rare, does’t exist, or if you have it, you cant function in life, or that it is something that you can just snap out of.

The Epiphany

After that horribly unproductive phone call, I decided I simply needed to work harder, make a plan, get super organized, and change my life.  Three years went by before I once again revisited the possibility that I have been gifted/cursed with the ADHD superpower.  It was during an argument with my husband that it occurred to me.  It was one of our arguments that happened routinely.  I was struggling to keep up and get it together and he wouldn’t understand why.  He would see me running myself ragged and signing up for activities that took all my spare time and leaving no time for anything else.  Then I would be tired, stressed, overwhelmed and having an emotional breakdown.  Why couldn’t I just stop doing that? It was while he was going on and on about my poor time management skills that it dawned on me.  Honestly I have no idea what he said during this time, because while he was speaking, I zoned out and began picturing the next painting I wanted to do.  A bright pink flamingo against a brilliant blue background.  As usual, I tuned back in minutes later and realized I missed everything he just said.  I decided to revisit the possibility of ADHD.  The verdict was I do in fact have this and my flavor is the inattentive type with hyperfocus.  I began doing as much research as I possibly could to gain a better understanding.  I learned there were many different types.  This must not be widely known.  I have a freaking degree in psychology and I did not know how many types there were.  I printed off some of the articles and highlighted what felt as if someone had reached directly into my brain and printed on paper.  I brought the article to my husband and told him to read the highlighted areas.  “Who does that sound like?”  I asked.  He looked up at me in shock and said “Holy crap.” This right here was the root of my issues.

Acceptance

Now that I was aware that my brain being wired differently was causing my issues, I accepted it.  I accepted the odd things I did and my flaws.  Accepting these things helped me understand them and want to learn more about why I do what I do.  I read up on it as much as I could and still do.  I feel as though the more I learn and understand it, the better I can manage it, because I know the reasons why.  I used to try to hide these things about myself, or make excuses, or blame someone else or my environment for my struggles, because it was embarrassing.  I stopped being embarrassed and stopped doing this long before discovering the root of my issues, but having a reason and accepting it was very freeing.  It was nice to know that it wasn’t me afterall.  I wasn’t broken, defective, or incompetent.  Not stupid.  Not scatterbrained for no apparent reason.  I just have ADHD.  Now that I had identified it, I chose to learn about it and learn about options.  I learned not only how to manage it day to day, but how to actually embrace it and use it to my advantage.  That’s right.  There are advantages.

The Advantages

There are actually advantages to brains wired with ADHD.  Many of us are highly creative individuals.  When this creativity is nurtured and structured in a way where it is productive, amazing things can happen.  It may take a bit longer, but at the end of the day it is totally worth it.  One reason we are seen as creative is because we think outside the box.  We come up with ideas and solutions to problems that most people don’t even notice, because they are looking at things within the framework of the box.  We think outside the box, because to us, there is no box.  We can’t even see that there is a box, because it is buried under our scattered array of thoughts.  It sometimes poses a problem, because the most obvious and simple solution to the problem sometimes completely escapes us.  We simply can’t see it.  On the other hand, the outside the box thinking can lead to creative solutions never tried before, incredible wit, and beautiful pieces of art or literature.

Another advantage is we notice everything.  Don’t get me wrong, that is also a downfall.  Sure, while I’m trying to concentrate on work, I’m seeing squirrels bouncing around in the tree outside the window and hearing the toilet flush in the bathroom next door.  I’m not trying to notice these things.  I just do.  However it is also an advantage.  When we go somewhere I’m noticing everything around me.  I notice the strange man watching me exit my car at the corner store.  I notice his distinguishing features on the off chance he happens to be some sort of weirdo serial killer sizing me up.  Then of course I don’t notice the curb and trip over it, but dang it I notice things a lot of people miss.  I notice the vibrant display of colors in the sky during a sunrise or sunset.  As I walk into the kitchen at night for a drink of water, I notice the full moon shining through the trees and illuminating the edges of the surrounding clouds with a soft, silver glow.  Noticing everything can be a massive pain in the butt, but it can also keep me safe, makes me witty and funny, and makes life beautiful. This is what happens when you have a brain that isn’t wired to automatically filter out information that it seems irrelevant to your current situation.

We can be a heck of a lot of fun.  Some of the people I know with the greatest sense of humor, myself included, have ADHD.  Many of us may seem fearless or adventurous.  Our brains require extra stimuli to keep our interest.  This is actually why I prefer college football over NFL.  Although sometimes this can lead to some dangerous or every well thought out decisions, if kept unchecked, it can lead to some great stories and memories.  The only time I’ve ever been on a plane was when I jumped out of one.  It can make some of us life of the party.  Not all of us enjoy the attention, but we are still quite fun.  My son loves the fact that I’ll turn anything into a song or dance at home.

We CAN be incredible multitaskers if we train our brains to do it right.  In a way, multitasking is all we know.  Since our brains are constantly telling us that every request and task is of equal importance and it ALL needs to be done right NOW, life can be quite the juggling act.  Since the concept of prioritizing is foreign to us, because our brains don’t do it automatically when necessary, many of us have not yet mastered this.  When that’s the case, you see people with ADHD taking on multiple tasks, duties, and signing up for activities, but hardly anything gets done or is done very well, because they are spread way too thin.  They don’t do it on purpose.  They truly think they can handle ALL of it when in reality it isn’t possible.  We also then need to learn thst there is a diffence between “handling it” and doing a job well.  Sure, you can juggle all those balls at once, but how many fall? How many mistakes get made while we are “handling” this heavy workload we brought on ourselves? However it is possible to learn how to prioritize and narrow things down in order to tackle the to-do list and multitask effectively and when we do, we can be unstoppable.  It just takes some practice.  We need to learn to recognize when we are struggling and ask for help when needed.  Asking for help isn’t weakness and doesn’t mean we can’t “handle it.” It sometimes simply means the difference between handling something and a job well done.  When done right, we can be awesome mutitaskers.

Management

It is possible to manage.  Now that doesn’t mean meds are not necessary.  It depends on the person and the type.  Sometimes medication is completely necessary.  For some, it isn’t necessary at all to medicate.  Either way, I believe it is extremely vital to teach/learn coping skills to manage it whether meds are included in treatment or not.  Contrary to what some believe, it is completely possible for someone with ADHD to not only lead a normal life, bit even be wildly successful in their endeavors.  ADHD is not an excuse to be used to brush off inappropriate behavior.  It should be discussed in order to help others understand the behaviors, but certainly not as an excuse.  It doesn’t do anyone any favors when it is used as an excuse.  I certainly don’t expect people to just be okay with me if I’m late all the time.  “Sorry, you just have to accept the fact that I’ll always be late and say inappropriate things without thinking first.  It is my ADHD.  I can’t help it.”  No.  Although we can’t help how our brains are wired which can lead to behaviors we also can’t help, it isn’t an excuse for us to just act how we want.  With medication, coping skills, or both we can manage it.

When I first learned I was dealing with this, I was surprised to discover that I had already developed coping skills that helped me along the way in life.  I tuned out distractions at home in high school by shutting myself alone in my room and cranking loud music while doing math homework or art projects.  I had a calender next to my computer when I lived alone and I had all my bills written on it so I never missed a bill.  I color coded noted for homework.  I doodled in my margins of my notebooks in class, because I was able to listen better when my hands were doing something.  I wrote down important dates in a planner when I was in college.  I woukd set out my clothes for work or school the night before.  When I started attending medical assisting school, I would color code the calender and immediately go home and do the reading and homework for the week so that it was done.  I had developed routines.  When I lived alone, Wednesday was cleaning day, because Thursday was garbage day.

These were things I started doing long ago when I didn’t know what s wrong, but I knew something was and I just wanted to be normal.  I discovered a pattern that I was usually extremely organized in one area of life, but a hot mess in others.  The area where I was extremely organized was the area I was most successful in.  When I lived along, I was very organized at home, but not so much at work.  It is a miracle I didn’t lose that job sooner.  I became extremely organized at my current job.  I color code my work schedule.  I color code the doctor’s schedule, because it helps me quickly see what each patient may need.  I go through the schedule ahead of time, because the less I have to think about when the time comes, the less I will forget something and the more efficient I can be.  I have a system of folders that I keep things in at work and know where something is if I need to find it.  If I’m in a position to do so, I will do something the minute I’m thinking of it so I don’t forget later.  I write everything down.

When I need to multitask, I carefully plan it out.  If I’m trying to do laundry as well as mop the floor, I know the mop is in the basement near the washer and dryer.  That means I can take a load with me downstairs, put it in, and grab the mop on the way up.  When I bring it back down, I can throw the load in the dryer.  Maybe this is how most people do it without thinking, but for me, it takes a conscious effort.  I do the same at work.  If I need to do something, I think of what else I also need to do that I can accomplish when I walk in that direction.  I recognize when I need to ask for help and do so in order to be efficient.

I began studying my behavior to see where my trouble spots were.  I misplace things.  I forget things.  All the time.  Not just when I’m stressed or in a hurry, but every day.  There’s just too much going on in my brain to remember everything all the time or pay attention to what my body is doing regularly.  The reason for misplacing things was explained to me that by the time my body is doing one thing such as putting something away, my brain is already 10 steps ahead on to something else.  That’s how a wooden spoon could end up in the trash, milk on the cereal shelf of the pantry or leftover chili in the Tupperware cupboard.  My body is doing one thing, but my brain is on to something else already.  Knowing and accepting that I have this tendency has made it easier to control it.  I have a certain place where I keep important things.  I always put my keys and work badge in the same place every single day.  This way, I’m not late for work, because I spent 20 minutes tearing the house apart looking for my keys that somehow ended up in the dog food container. My husband has finally hopped on board with this as well.  It took him a while to realize that if my important items aren’t kept in the same place, I get crazy while I’m frantically looking for them.  It isn’t that I’m bad at looking for things.  It is that with my brain, if something isn’t where it is supposed to be, it could be anywhere because I wasn’t paying attention when I put it away, so it is best to just keep things where they belong.  Now when he uses my car, he doesn’t just leave the keys anywhere anymore.  Seriously, I once found them inside the pocket of his jacket that was draped on the back of a chair in the garage.  He now leaves them in the same place.  It isn’t “my” spot, but it doesn’t matter, because it is a spot that I know about, and he is consistent.  If I look in my spot and my keys aren’t there, I look where he leaves them.

I’ve  also taken the setting out the clothes one step further.  Now I set out all my clothes and my son’s clothes for the week.  One less thing cluttering up my brain and one less thing slowing us down in the morning.  Just grab and go.  This eliminates being overwhelmed with too many choices or trying to put an outfit together only to find one necessary piece of that outfit is dirty.  Or everything is dirty.  I get it all washed over the weekend and put together before the week starts.  Hassle eliminated.  This may seem a bit “anal” to some and if it were someone with a neurtypical brain, I might agree.  However for people like me, this extreme organization, planning, and creation of routines is absolutely necessary in order to function well.  By using these tactic, it doesn’t eliminate the brain clutter.  That is always there.  It just keeps the important things from getting buried underneath the brain clutter.

I still misplace or forget things, but by using these tactics, it happens less frequently.  Of course times of stress or urgency can bring it out more.  At work, when things get crazy and I have multiple people or things demanding my attention at once, it is more likely to happen.  I’m also more likely to get agitated, because I’m trying to keep priorities in line still and remember everything and I’m overwhelmed.  Usually I just need a minute to pause, regroup, and remember what is top priority at that moment in time and go from there.  I may also need to write a few things down so I won’t forget.  Sometimes I’ll even ask someone to remind me.

If I’m feeling rushed, I will likely forget something.  Especially at home if we are getting ready to go somewhere.  I begin early and set up a routine and steps to ensure we don’t forget anything.  I make lists. It is important for me to follow that routine and steps.  So when I’m going along in the routine and my husband stops me and asks me to do something else or reminds me to do something that I’ve either already done or is a few steps down the list, it throws me off.  I’m likely to forget something else.  I appreciate reminders if they are something I’ve truly forgotten, but if I’m rushing around and I get stopped, it could likely lead to something else being forgotten.  Same with if I’m being rushed out the door.  If I’m being rushed, I will forget something.  So, if he rushes me and something gets forgotten and then he gets frustrated with me for forgetting, there’s a good chance I’ll turn into the Hulk.  Men, you have a brain too.  Use it instead of expecting your wife to remember or think of everything.

This is still a work in progress for myself and my husband.  This is very important for those living with someone who has ADHD to remember.  You are dealing with someone who has at any given moment a million thoughts circulating in their head.  If you can help eliminate some of that or not add to it by rushing them or by not interrupting their flow, you can be a tremendous help.  Things will get forgotten if you add to the stress level by rushing, so be their backup if that’s the case.  If something was forgotten, well, you forgot it too, so don’t be too hard on them.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t be held responsible, I’m simply saying that it is important to take into account that our brains operate differently than yours, so help if it is needed.  Of course that also means we with ADHD need to be mindful of our areas where we struggle, so we can ask for help or develop and use the coping skills that work best for us.  It is a team effort.

This isn’t something we can just “snap out of.” We can just all of a sudden decide to “be normal.” That doesn’t mean we can’t function normally though.  There are different varieties which means treating it to ensure normal functioning means something different for each of us.  However I feel you can’t just throw meds at it and call it good. Some people do require medication, but adding coping skills to manage it on a regular basis on top of that can lead to a not just a normal life, but a successful one.  It is important for those of us who have it to not only accept the fact that we struggle, but to identify our problem areas.  Nobody is perfect so we don’t have to pretend to be.  Once you accept this, it is easy to identify problem areas.  Once those problem areas are identified, problems can be predicted.  You can also learn ways to deal with them.  I’ve listed what works for me.  This things may work for others, or they may not.  It is important to find what works best for you and use it.  I’m still learning and developing new strategies daily.  If you are a parent of a child with ADHD, start helping your child find ways to manage their problem areas while teaching them to accept this as part of who they are and it doesn’t mean there’s something “wrong” with them.  As adults, we need to accept these thing about ourselves if we want to learn how to manage it well.  It is better than trying to hide it, deny our problem areas exist, or make excuses.  It is also important to remember not to use it as an excuse while not doing anything about it and just expecting others to accept it.  You can always to something to manage it, but as an adult, it is up to you and nobody else.  You can ask others to help you, but ultimately managing it as an adult is your choice and only you will know what the best way to manage it is.  It may be a process of trial and error, but it can be done.  I hope people find this to be helpful.  My journey is still a work in progress and likely always will be, but my hope is to offer help along the way to those with it and those looking to understand those with it.

By the way.  When I say it takes us longer to do things, I’m not kidding.  I started writing this a week ago.  It may take us longer to do things, but we still get them done.

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5 Things Parents of Young Children Are All Too Familiar With

FB_IMG_1537180483453All stages of parenting come with their own unique challenges.  Just when you breathe a sigh of relief that one challenging stage is over, a new one quickly takes its place.  I can’t speak on all stages considering my experience only ranges from birth through age four, but for those in the trenches with the babies, toddlers, and littles, I can definitely relate and feel your pain.  For those who are there now or those who have been there and done that, I’ve come up with a list you will likely enjoy.  Here’s how to tell without a doubt that you are a parent of young children.

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1You sort their dirty clothes near the trash can so that you can easily dump all the sand out of their pockets before putting the load in the wash.

Seriously! What is up with all the sand?  How does that much sand fit inside their pockets, their shoes, and their buttcracks?  WHY do they always seem to come home with sand in their buttcracks?  When I bathe my son in the evening, there’s usually a pile of sand in the tub the size of a pancake.  There’s usually sand in his hair, sand in his ears, sand everywhere! Sand!  So much sand!

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2.  You wake up in the morning with the Baby Shark song stuck in your head.  

It isn’t surprising.  You’ve been hearing it all day.  “Baby shark doo doo da doo doo doo doo. ”  If I had a dollar for every time the Finger Family song popped into my head while I’m at work, I could probably retire right now.  If you are anything like me, my guess is you also know all the words to the songs from all the kids shows.  Sometimes I’ll even sing along just to annoy my husband.  Your life becomes consumed by it.  You may not know who is on Dancing with the Stars, but you can name all the PJ Masks characters.  Sometimes just to make life a bit interesting, I’ll change the words to the songs to something a bit more adult when my son isn’t around.  Please tell me I’m not the only one.

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3. While hanging with your friends, you crack jokes referencing children’s shows.  

Depending on the crowd, your friends may or may not get it.  A couple years ago, we were at an off road gathering with some of our jeep friends and someone broke down.  Without missing a beat, my husband asked “Do you need a mouseketool?” Unfortunately most people in the group at that moment either had grown children or were not parents yet, so he got a few chuckles, but that was about it.  If you are the only parent of young children in the crowd, you likely won’t get a laugh, because nobody will have any clue what you are talking about.  However, if you are hanging with your mom friends and ask if the mystery mouseketool is wine or coffee, you will certainly get a laugh.

4. You discovered that you no longer have “a show.”

We all have movies we like or that tv series we are addicted to.  Sometimes as a parent of young kids, you lose that.  It happens so gradually that you don’t even notice until one day, you actually have the opportunity to watch what you want on tv and have absolutely no idea what you want to watch.  You don’t even know what you like anymore.  Then you ask yourself  “How did this happen?”  Simple.  When your kids are awake, you want kid friendly shows and movies on tv.  If they are watching tv, obviously, the shows and movies will be something of their choosing.  If you attempt to watch something together with them, you still will likely choose something kid friendly.  The last thing you want is your kids repeating lines from Breaking Bad.  “Magnets b*tch!” Of course at some point, you give up on watching anything new together with the family or anything for yourself while the kids are awake.  When they are young, it is non stop “Mom! Mom! Mommy! Mom!” They may be playing amongst themselves, but there’s likely yelling, loud toys, crashing, or they are pulling a chair across the kitchen to get into something they shouldn’t.  After pausing and rewinding for the 50th time, you realize it is impossible to watch anything while they are awake and give up.  Sure, if you are one of those who can stay up late, you can maybe get a show or movie in after they go to bed.  Not all of us can though.  Even if you don’t have to get up at 5am for a job outside the home, young kids usually tend to be early risers.  Parents are already sleep deprived as it is and although some people can function on very little sleep, others would rather get rested up during that kid free time.  That leads us to this.  You have the house to yourself.  You are going to watch “your show.” Then it hits you.  What is that? You don’t have one.  Then you search through movies and it hits you again.  You don’t even know what you like anymore.  You’ve spend so long watching Moana and Big Hero 6 that your preferences have changed and now the choices don’t seem appealing.   Next thing you know, you are watching Karate Kid, because you got tired of scrolling.

5. When you finally get a kid free day, you decide to go grocery shopping, run errands, and take a nap.

My son has been accompanying me to the grocery store since he was a baby.  He is pretty well behaved, but it is still an exhausting trip with him.  Running errands with small children is basically a circus.  Your best option is to contain them.  Otherwise, you have to constantly hold on to them.  Then of course, they are into everything.  If they are tired, they are cranky.  I used to have to plan my trips around nap time.  I always knew when we were close, because Jekyl would turn into Hyde and start knocking thing off shelves on purpose.  If you have to stop in somewhere for just one quick thing, forget it.  I usually won’t even make the trip.  After packing up, getting the kid dressed, hauling him into his seat, buckling him in, unbundling him, loading a 40 lb kid into a cart, I’m exhausted.  Naturally, if the opportunity arises where I have a kid free day, I’m going to get my grocery shopping and errands out of the way.  I’m sure I’m not the only one.  Usually by the time that is all done, there’s no time for much else.

You tend to lose a lot of yourself while raising children.  Especially in those early years.  Yet, you also find a lot of yourself in other ways.  When you are smack in the middle of it, things seem exhausting and overwhelming and there are some days when you may feel as if you’ve lost yourself completely.  You may long for this stage to end.  For them to be just a bit older and more self reliant.  Although it seems like this lasts forever, in the grand scheme of things these days are so short.  It feels like I just blinked and my baby turned 4 today.  As exhausting as these days are, I know one day, I’ll be staring at his empty room after he is grown up and out in this world and I will miss these days.  I will miss the cuddles, the clinging to my leg as I’m trying to leave the room, his attempts to negotiate one more bed time story out of me, the crazy questions, and our silly conversations.  They are only children for a very short time.  It is tiring, but man is it fun, and ultimately, we will miss it when that time has passed.

Late Third Trimester Blues: Parody of “You Were Meant for Me” by Jewel

This popped up in my Facebook memories today.  I wrote this parody four years ago when I was five days away from having my son.  I could no longer reach my feet to put on shoes and I was ready to be done.  I woke up at 4:00am for a potty break and was unable to sleep.  This popped into my head so I decided to get up and write it down since sleep wasn’t happening anyway.  The melody is “You Were meant for Me” by Jewel.

I see the clock.  It’s 4am

I have to get up and pee again
My belly is big and my bladder is small
The house is pitch dark, so I’m gripping the wall
Now I’m up and I’m wide awake
I wish I didn’t need this potty break
I grab a popsicle from the freezer
and head for the bedroom door
I never fall asleep after 4 anymore ’cause

Been pregnant for so long, I just want to be done
I know this is just beginning
And soon there will be, a screaming baby
for me to wake up to

I remind myself to expect more of this
I laid back down but again I have to piss
So I turn my alarm off, because it’s no use
My body’s being tortured, my insides are abused.
Now my uterus is a boxing ring
I hear stories of the labor pain this will bring
Cause he’s full term, he can’t stay in there
At this point, I don’t really care ’cause

Been pregnant for so long, I just want to be done
I know this is just beginning
And soon there will be, a screaming baby
for me to wake up to

If I sleep with 7 pillows, I’m doing fine
Oh how I wish I could make it to the bathroom on time
Same old story as yesterday
Women have babies every day

Sometimes I forget to cross my legs when I cough
And now I did it, this outfit has to come off
I just peed my pants and need some more clean clothes
Wish I could take a deep breath, or even see my toes

Put on some clean clothes and start my day
I’m half asleep, but need to function anyway
I try and tell myself to get used to this
The urge to vomit is so hard to resist ’cause

Been pregnant for so long, I just want to be done
I know this is just beginning
And soon there will be, a screaming baby
for me to wake up to.

 

We Parents Just Don’t Understand

IMG_20180907_151958_703While talking with a friend the other day, it occurred to both of us just how different we are from younger generations.  It is no secret that our children aren’t living the same childhood that we experienced.  There is so much technology out there now.  Goofing off in the back yard and drinking from the hose has been replaced by video games and snapchat.  I began to realize there are many things about these younger generations that I simply do not understand.

Kids are so mesmerized by screens that they don’t play with toys anymore.  What is up with that.  My friend mentioned that it made her sad when she realized her kids don’t actually have toys, because they have electronic devices and gadgets that they would rather play with.  Even my son who is almost four, is getting into screens.  I do limit his screen time, but I have yet to understand his obsession with watching other kids play with toys on YouTube.  He has plenty of his own toys that he plays with regularly, but for some reason, he loves watching kids open and play with toys on YouTube.  WHY!?!?!?!  That is literally all the video is.  Some kid opening packages of toys and playing with them.  I’ve discovered I’m not the only one either.  The doctor I work with also noticed this with his kids and other kids.  That they have this obsession with watching kids play with toys or play video games on YouTube.  One of my son’s favorite things to watch is a play through of a Mickey Mouse video game.  I honestly don’t get the appeal.   Wouldn’t they rather play with the toys?  My son doesn’t even ask me for the toys in the video.  He just wants to watch some other kid play with them.  I don’t get it.

I wonder if part of the reason kids have no desire to play with actual toys themselves is because kid’s toys these days are crap.  I never realized this before I had a child or when that child was a baby.  Now that I’m shopping for a child who plays with toys, I’m disappointed with the choices they have.  There are all sorts of cool, electronic toys and gadgets, and then there is crap.  Perhaps this is the reason children are so glued to their devices and don’t mind watching other kids play with toys they don’t want.  Don’t believe me? Watch a kid’s channel on tv for a bit.  We don’t have cable so I didn’t notice this until were on vacation and watching tv in the cabin.  We introduced our son to Nickelodeon.  Naturally, there were tons of commercials for toys.  I was blown away by how crappy these toys were!  It was one advertisement after another of toys that you could easily find in the .25 cent machine while exiting the grocery store.  A shovel would be more entertaining.  I suppose looking at it from that perspective, if I were a kid, I too would rather watch a video of a kid playing with a crappy .25 cent machine looking toy as opposed to actually attempting to entertain myself with it.

Another thing I don’t understand is their taste in music and what is now considered cool or talented.  Take Post Malone for example.  Who the Heck is Post Malone? I had never heard of the dude until there was some article about him recently.  First off, rappers these days are walking around with teeth looking like Skittles, hair looking like Rainbow Brite, and a face that looks like my desk from elementary school that we all doodled on.  Not exactly someone I would think of as “hard core.” Secondly, what’s with the name?  Post Malone.  Did his mother actually name him that? Was she out of ideas? Well, my brother hit me in the face with a fence post once, so I guess I’ll name him Post.”  Was this a stage name that he chose?  I would have loved to hear him deliberating on that.  “Hmm…Viper?  No?  Dragon? No.  Neurotoxin? No, I don’t know what that is.  Oh I know! I’ll name myself after the thing that holds up a fence! Yeah badass!”  Why do kids like this crap? Don’t even get me started on his unintelligible mumbling.  My 4 year old can enunciate better than that.  How in the heck is this guy even famous?  I weep for our future generations.

Another thing that worries me about these younger generations are the “challenges” on the internet.  Do any of these kids even know the definition of the word “challenge?”  A challenge is either a dispute or a competetion.  So tell me kids, does this “Huhh challenge” fall into this category? Is it a competition? Are you countering someone’s argument?  It requires absolutely NO skill or talent whatsoever to point your camera at someone and film them and make fun of them while saying “huuuuuuh!” like an idiot.  Actually when you do the “huhh challenge” that’s what you look like.  An idiot.  You can’t call something a “challenge” when it requires no skill or level of difficulty.  At least the hot foods challenge has some level of difficulty.  Then if you throw in the Tide Pods “challenge.” Are these all just competitions to prove how stupid you can be? If so, then you can call them a “challenge.” However, given they require no skill or talent, these are not “challenges.” Otherwise there would be a pooping in the toilet challenge where you film yourself doing something that comes naturally and call it a challenge, because that’s what you do.  Right? I get it.  It is all for likes and comments.  Kids these days place higher value on likes, comments, and video game kill shots than prestigious honors given in real life.  All I can hope is that we are still teaching our kids real life management skills in this digital age.

When they leave our homes, they still need to know how to change a tire and pay bills.  They still need to know how to be professional and hold down a job.  I feel that in this digital age that glorifies doing stupid things online for likes, comments, and retweets, makes teaching our kids basic life skills more challenging to us as parents.  There’s that word again.  Challenge.  Perhaps we parents should start a challenge online filming ourselves trying to teach our kids how to navigate everyday life.  That truly would be a challenge and an interesting one to watch.  I imagine our parents likely said the same things about us as kids.  They didn’t have the internet though.  Could you imagine the following us around and filming us while trying to teach us something? Scary to think about.  Well, we have that capability.  Who is with me?