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Archive for the ‘Dazed and Confused; or, Living Well with ADD’ Category

Today I am soaking chick peas, waiting for bread to rise, waiting for laundry loads to wash and dry, waiting for a child to go to sleep and waiting for him to wake up again, waiting for Attic Man to come home and waiting for my mother-in-law’s visit.

So much of domestic work is about patience.  I am experimenting with low-yeasted breads in a cool house and am finding longer rise times–three hours or more!–yield better-tasting loaves.  I am learning that chick peas make snapping sounds as they soak, which one only learns in a quiet house during naptime.

I learned about the chick peas while I was paying bills, and it occured to me as I very happily for the first time in months was able to pay everything in full, on time, that so much patience is required, and that what happens while bread is rising and chick peas are snapping and checks are en route is faith.  It can be worry, too, and anguish, but it can be quiet faith.  That is hard.  I am not there yet.  Being able to pay those bills and pulling a beautiful loaf out of the oven can help future waits fill up with faith rather than anxiety, but each time it is as if the world is starting over again and it can be hard to remember that yeast can be trusted.

so can therapy.  so can friends.  so can water in chick peas.

when will I learn?

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One of the most enjoyable parts of ADHD is the pairing of the unpredictable, whimsicle, serendipidous direction of one’s interests and the ability to hyperfocus.  The result, at least in my life, is that I am what I call a “serial hobbiest.”  (Lest you think we hyperactive sorts have the market share, Attic Man is the world’s most hard-core serial hobbiest).  All it takes is accidentally stumbling upon a website you went to for one reason but started reading for another (like my affair with Size Acceptance after finding Kate Harding), or hearing a great lecture, or in the latest case, having to tighten the budget.

We love having pizza on Friday nights, but there is no good pizza in IC.  There is kinda sorta passable pizza, but nothing that is worth the wait and the price.  We went the frozen route for a few weeks, but after suffering through overcooked crusts, soggy centers, and weird-tasting sauce, we became deeply depressed about the situation.  Around the same time Attic Man’s foot-tapping about the fact that the bread machine had been sitting unused on our kitchen counter taking up lots of precious space since we moved in became deafening.  So I started hunting the internet for a good bread machine recipe.  I tried one, had great results the first time, then six mediocre loaves later, I realized that the only way to get consistently good results was to chuck the machine and do it myself.  I’m home all day at least three days a week (short trips to the park and the library notwithstanding, which one can do between rises) so bread-making fits well into our schedule.  But I was more depressed about the pizza.  I did what my mother taught me to do, except with the internet, and read and read and read and read about how to make a good pizza.  I poured over recipes, discussions of oven temperature, pizza stones, breaking your oven’s safety latch (really!) to get it up to 800 degrees, brick ovens, how not to make sauce (don’t cook it; it will cook nicely on the pizza and taste much better)…on and on for a couple of weeks.  The first attempt was passable, the second reasonable, and tonight’s?  Well, I still have a long way to go–it didn’t get the nice oven spring I was looking for and was too chewy by far–but we gobbled it up in ten minutes flat with no leftovers.  It was a sorry sight, misshapen with uneven thickness.  But the flavor was amazing.  I’d have pictures if it hadn’t gone so fast!

Somewhere in all that reading I drifted over to bread-making blogs and websites and I am now a complete addict.  The sandwich loaf I made earlier this week was so good that Attic Man has decided store-bought bread is no longer necessary for his daily sandwich.  This is a big victory.  It was a pretty loaf and I do wish I had photographed it!  It had a lovely golden crust and a nice open crumb.  Not perfect, but far better than anything I’ve ever made.  I grew up learning to make bread the old wrestle-and-knead way, which does produce a nice bread, but artisan bread-making is just so much more fun and interesting.  It’s amazing what a little technique-tweaking can do for the flavor and texture of your bread.  A simple autolyse–letting your flour and water sit in the bowl for twenty minutes after mixing, but before kneading–develops the gluten without overworking the dough; creating a “mother dough” or sponge the night before yields a much better flavor (this is the best method of pizza-making, except that the mother dough is the whole dough, with nothing added the next day); cranking up the temperature of the oven and adding steam gives you a nice crust.  I am excited to try out some of these techniques working off the basic recipe.  The plan right now is to make the basic sandwich loaf on Saturday for sandwiches, then bake an experimental loaf on Wednesday, working on one new technique per week.  I am really looking forward to what comes out of the oven each week!

One modification I’ve made to my breadmaking is that I am no longer militant about it being 100% whole wheat.  It is very, very difficult to get a great loaf without having some white flour.  I would rather have a delicious bread with the added fiber and nutrition of a 50 or 33 percent whole wheat loaf than a sad, dense one with 100%.  I am going to be sparing about doing 100% white because that is straight sugar to your body, baby.

What are you experimenting with these days?

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Lots of us here on the internet are somewhere on the ADHD/ADD spectrum, most of us swinging back and forth from barely functional to super-functional over the course of a year or even a few hours. I haven’t written about my own ADHD for a while because things have been going so well. It occurs to me that this might be just the right time to talk about WHY it’s going so well and what has helped me get there. So for those of you out there struggling, I’ve been there! It’s going to be OK. If you’re in the middle of a disaster you can get yourself out of it. That project WILL get done, your house will be clean again, you will reconnect with friends you forget to email all the time, and even if you missed that meeting, you will think of creative ways to minimize the risk of missing it again, because that’s part of your ADD: wiggling around all the ideas in your head until something brilliant emerges.

So here is what has helped ME. If it doesn’t apply to you, you will find something that does. Peace!

1. Try conceptualizing your ADD as a personality type rather than a debilitating disorder. The problem lies not in a personal defect but in the incongruity between a schedules-and-deadlines world and your associative, go-where-the-wind-takes you mind. Remember that you are good at making connections other people can’t see or appreciate (which makes you really good at analyzing a poem, coming up with fundraising ideas, or taking your company to the next level), that you are attuned to other people’s mental and emotional states (making you highly empathetic and compassionate), that you have the awesome ability to hyper-focus on something for hours or days, that your enthusiasm for your profession or hobby is infectious, that you have a wicked sense of humor, and that your love for whatever your passion is at the moment is boundless.

2. Realize that you will have to make your environment work for you. You are not the kind of person who keeps schedules, appointments, budgetary figures, etc. in your head because your mind is too busy remembering how you felt and what you were looking at when you were in a meeting with your department head or when your professor said the most amazing thing that changed the direction of your life. Sooooo….

3. If you can afford it, invest in some technology. PDAs are wonderful–unlike paper planners, you can program recurring events into them, and best of all, you can set alarms. I stopped being late for classes I taught as a grad student when I started using the alarm on my PDA. I set it for 10 minutes before class time so if I truly did forget I would be jolted into awareness. Most days when I was late I hadn’t forgotten I had class but often talked myself into thinking I had more time than I did. The PDA is non-human so it won’t scold you or feel resentful that you rely on it too much. It just beeps and keeps your information.

4. Get rid of a lot of stuff. Your clutter can start to own you, especially if you are like me and get frustrated when you don’t know what to do with something but can’t see throwing it away. Have a dedicated Goodwill box (some place you can SEE it, NOT in a closet) and take it there when it gets full. If you are worried about how it looks to have junk out where you can see it, get an attractive Rubbermaid container and label it nicely.

5. Give yourself a routine…and change it up every six weeks. Or really, whenever your personal threshold is. One of the many, many paradoxes of being ADD is that you need structure but you hate structure (for me, it can be stifling and even painful). So make up a routine–not an exact schedule–adding in flexibility and variety, and the MINUTE it gets stale (preferably before), change it up. Let me give you an example from my life: when I used to drive to IC to do schoolwork, I would go to the library all day. That worked for awhile but I got bored, so I started going to a cafe I liked. I would be productive half the day but then I would get distracted because it was a fun place. So I started going to the library in the morning and the cafe in the afternoon, balancing my needs for structure and stimulation. After awhile I changed cafes and went in the morning instead of the afternoon. You get the idea. Your routines can be small (getting ready in the morning) or large (what housework to do on what day) as long as they work for you. It can be fun thinking them up, too.

6. Use that timer on your stove or microwave. Consider getting one to take with you (or use the alarm clock on your cell phone or PDA). One of your problems is probably that you have a hard time getting started on some tasks and an even harder time stopping other tasks, and the day on your mood will determine what tasks those are. Use the timer to regulate your attention span. It works both ways. If you are facing a task you just don’t feel like doing, tell yourself you will work on it for at least ten minutes, or however long is the maximum you think you can focus (even if it’s just three minutes!). If you get on a roll, don’t stop. If the roll doesn’t come, you will have at least done ten minutes more than if you had gotten broody and depressed and sat on the couch eating Ben and Jerry’s and watching the Golden Girls. Hey–I’ve been there. The timer works for hyper-focusing as well. If you know you have to be somewhere but you are sooooo into transcribing the Grateful Dead’s “Sugar Magnolia” into the key of F minor, set every alarm you have for five minutes before you think you have to start getting ready. The two variations on this technique can work nicely together, too: alternate doing the Hated Task and the Awesome Task to keep your energy up but keep you from plunging over the edge of your passion to the abandonment of all else.

7. Consider re-evaluating your sleep hygiene. I am really bad at staying up too late and being tired the next day, only to nap away some of my most precious productive hours. My sleep hygiene rules are: go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning (this will gradually help the racing mind at bedtime); NO CAFFEINE, ever, because even caffeine in the morning can keep you up at night (this is a TRUE FACT that I learned while participating in a sleep study); and come up with a nightly ritual that will signal to your mind and body that it’s time to shut down.

8. Re-vamp your diet. I have a hard time regulating my own energy (which makes me seek it and unload it from/on others), especially when I’m riding sugar highs and lows. Adopting a no-sugar, all-whole grains diet has helped enormously. I am guessing it is responsible for at least half of my current success. I am not exaggerating. It is hard at first to detox (and I’ve done it many, many times) but the results are worth it. Having even moods helps your mind stay calm and focused. Not using caffeine is helpful for the same reason. Have lots of fruit (and sweet corn…YUM) on hand for the transition.  Your food issues may be different, so experiment with what helps you.

9. Put everything where you can see it. If you can’t see it it doesn’t exist. Save backs of closets for out-of-season clothing and Christmas decorations. Go to Tuesday Morning and get attractive baskets and whatnot that you can label tastefully.

10. Come up with a system for your money that works for you*. Tie your daily record-keeping to something that you already do without thinking–brushing your teeth, eating lunch, starting the dishwasher at night–because this is one you can’t mess with.

11. If you hit a snag and everything comes undone, don’t panic! Go into triage for your routine: make a new one post-haste to fit your new situation. It will be OK.

12. LOVE ON YOURSELF. ADD is an opportunity to make the world a better place through creativity, hyper-focusing (hello, Proust scholars!), and wackiness. Reign it in just a little–not so much that you lose yourself–and you can make it work for you. ADD is HARD. It is so, so hard, and I have been in bad places. But it can be really good, too. Hang in there. You are doing better than you think!

*This is what I came up for me: I have a binder with a pocket folder for each month with notebook paper in between. As each bill comes I put it in the front of that month’s folder. When I pay it I move the stub to the back pocket. At the end of the year all of the stubs go into a file. I keep monthly/weekly budgets on the notebook paper. I have a harder time with daily finances and it frequently gets me into trouble. Right now I am keeping a regular checkbook register. We’ll see if I can keep it up! I did try Quicken and it was great…until I hit technical difficulties. And then all of the sudden I was out of money because I was so frustrated that Quicken wasn’t working I didn’t deal with it, so I’m back to paper and it is working well for me so far.

P.S. I just re-read this post and MY GOD is it class-biased.  In my limited experience working in professions that weren’t conducive to ADD (all my temp jobs), I didn’t do so well managing my personality type.  If there’s anyone in a manufacturing/call center/ meat processing/construction/truck driving-type profession with tips on how to deal with ADD at your job, PLEASE leave them below!

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Sster wrote on March 12, 2008:

Can I please just rip the contents of my house out like a tablecloth after a feast?  I do not have time to clean it and there is no one else to do it.  Most days I can either be a good parent (outings!  attention!  games!  singing!  art!) or have a clean kitchen.

If we could just start over maybe I’d have a chance…

So maybe I didn’t envision quite this kind of a do-over, but I have to admit (don’t tell!) that I am enjoying starting over in terms of organization.  Our old house was sooooo so messy and all over the place.  Part of the problem was that it was weirdly designed–the storage for the things you needed in one room was almost always in another, and usually too high or too deep to get easily.  We ended up with stuff in storage (in places like over the shower–who does that??) that we never used, and stuff lying around that we did use until it got lost under a pile.

THIS apartment will be, IS already, different.  For one thing it’s laid out sensibly, with wider rather than deeper closets.  Even the crawl space designated for storage is easy to get to, and if smartly organized, easy to get things out of (key: pile things on either side so you have a path in the middle).  The kitchen is actually big enough to keep everything you need to cook and clean.

For another, I am determined that it will STAY clean and organized.  I have a pretty sweet gig right now.  I work on my dissertation two days a week and on the weekends and evenings when I can get it, and I stay home with the Snapper the other three weekdays.  When he goes to bed I have the evening to myself.  Starting from scratch, that is more than enough time to keep things tidy.  For the past two weeks they have been, even taking the extra dog care into consideration.

This time around everything goes into a labeled bin or attractive basket.  On the laundry room shelves there are bins for tools, hardware, misc. utility, bath toys, emergency supplies (flashlight, etc.), and cleaning supplies.  In the linen closet (first real linen closet of our eight-year marriage), I have three baskets: hair stuff, bottled stuff (lotion, sunscreen), and medication.  In the bathroom medicine cabinet there is a shelf for me, one for Attic Man, and the top one is reserved for cleaning supplies (no more trying to babyproof lower cabinets.  Putting cleaning stuff higher than he can reach even if he were to scale the counters is easier and safer, in my opinion).  On the inside of the coat closet door (a coat closet by the door!  what a revelation!) are a set of over-the-door hooks I got for a bargain for dog leashes, keys, and slings (we saved my favorite one from the flood :))

So if you had to (or got to) start over again, what would you do differently?  What would your new rules or systems be?  This stuff does NOT come naturally to me so I would love your ideas.

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I’ve had a good couple of months.  After a pretty rough fall in which almost no writing occurred and I began to think of my dissertation as a gaping wound from which I would never recover, and that would actually eventually take over my whole body (yes, I used “which” twice, and yes, I’m being just a tad melodramatic) I began 2008 with a lovely writing streak due in large part to finally securing good childcare.  I have also for the past five weeks been embarking on a get-fit-and-stop-eating-junk quest that has pumped such energy and general evenness into my life that I am wondering why I ever ate anything unhealthy ever and why it took me so long to just get moving.  My body is getting stronger.  I got a paper accepted to my first non-home-institution conference and I won a competitive fellowship for next year.  My son is thriving and my husband is kicking ass at school.  And I didn’t even get PMS this month.  Really.
And here I am, suddenly out of energy, suddenly feeling overwhelmed by conference paper assemblage and dissertation whittling/expansion.  And definitely totally overwhelmed by housework.  Your suggestion is a good one, Molly, and I am already thinking of ways to implement it.  But I’m starting to think that there is something else going on that has nothing to do with having or not having time to clean.

I gave up my therapist at the beginning of the year because I can’t fit it into my schedule (she’s in CR and I work in IC the only days I have child care and she doesn’t have evening hours), and I think it was a mistake.  I’m getting hit again with this thing I can’t name and it sucks.  I would like it to go away.  I have no interest in working through it and figuring out what my childhood has to do with it.  I really just want to write and not have a perfect home but one that has clean dishes to cook and eat in and is occasionally clean.  I have managed to be a good parent–the one constant, and the only thing I feel good about right now.

The blinking cursor.  The impulse to rent a new apartment and burn the old one.  The urge to sue Quicken because for someone already so bad at finances frequent server outages can mean the difference between a bill paid on time and a bill going into collection.  The thought of a whole day of lovely unencumbered study and writing that will amount to nothing but a depressing blog post.  Ugh.

Dear Funk,

You are not welcome.  Go away and let me write and enjoy my life.

Sincerely, but with no love,

sster.

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Two days working at the group home.  Two days dissertating.  Two days of homemaking and childcare.

One day called “Family Day” for me to be exhausted and for Attic Man, who has been caring for the Snapper all weekend, to race to school to catch up on work.

I can’t tell whether it’s ‘balanced’ or crazy, this radical, constant role-switching.  The group home is two very long days in a row, but the other days are mixed up–one buried in books and writing with kisses at the door, one in pajamas until midmorning frantically trying to catch up on laundry and dishes, one back to the books, one morning at home followed by an afternoon at work.  There are no transitions.  I put on a hat and set off running.

Two times I am really, really tired: Thursday night, after we’ve all been away from home for 11 hours, and Sunday, after my two long shifts.  Sunday is the bad one–I just can’t be needed any more, but there is a child and two dogs who have missed me, so that isn’t an option.  I feel grateful for my life on dissertation days and to a certain extent on homemaking days, and for moments at the group home.  I do not feel grateful when the exhaustion that has nipped at my heels all week finally catches up with me.  I cry, pick fights, get despondent.

***

We tried something new yesterday that confirms to me that we have now entered the “chopped liver” phase of parenting which I believe is supposed to last until the child turns 35 or even 40.  I have noticed that on daycare days our midday nurse is getting shorter and shorter, and that while morning drop-off goes quite well, pre-nap midday drop off does not.  The Snapper is also taking soy milk well now.  So I thought that although it has been a nice interlude for me and a chance to reconnect, it might no longer be worth it for the boy.  So yesterday I dropped him off at 8 and didn’t return until 5.  His teachers reported that he drank two whole sippy cups full of soy milk, and didn’t cry before or after his nap for the first time since starting daycare.  He was happy to see me but didn’t act like I’d been gone for decades.  I am happy for him but sad for me.  We’re almost certainly entering a time of increased weaning, as we’ve never gone this long in the daytime without nursing (as for pumping, if I’m going to put up with the time loss and inconvenience I might as well nurse him–and no way can I pump enough to equal two sippy cups at this stage).  I don’t think he’s ready to fully wean, thank goodness.  I hope he continues to nurse for a good long time.

At any rate I think this all means that he is nicely attached and emotionally doing quite well.  This makes me pleased and proud as a parent, of course, but also a little sad that he doesn’t need me as much.  I will probably be getting over this soon.  I am already moving in that direction, especially since my productivity increased noticeably yesterday.

***

Snow.

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The new digs, as it were, are a cosmetic way of saying that it’s time to shove aside the pile of crap that I’ve been living under for about two months and start living again.  It was inevitable–a new job, a new hectic schedule, planning for next year–but it’s enough already.  I have a therapist, an incredibly gentle and understanding husband, my favorite weather of all (cool, moody), and a table-top dishwasher procured by aforementioned husband.*  There no reason in the world I shouldn’t be able to start writing again, both here and on the diss.  One hopes, anyway.  The goal is to make this semi-permanent, with room for the ebb and flow of energy, instead of merely cyclical.

At any rate, pursuant to YOU, I want my readers back.  I don’t know what I’ll be writing about exactly–maybe more on adoption (and how much I’m looking forward to expanding our family, though we’ll have to wait a few more years), maybe a little about the group home (or maybe not, as I’m trying to respect their privacy)–but I want you guys back.  I like the writing but I like the community the best.

Meanwhile, please go over and support Kohana for her brave and intelligent posts of late.

See you soon.

*I’m undergoing a bit of a personal feminist revolution and I’m wondering if I should abandon the term “wife” and go with “partner” or something of the like.  Problems: “partner” is the preferred term of gays and lesbians, and why should I use that when I can LEGALLY be actually and truly and in the sight of the law married to the person of my choice?;  and really, I AM a wife–why should I pretend that there aren’t real structural issues with the fact that I am saddled (quite happily) to a man?  On the other hand, might it help me to start seeing myself as a partner so that I can let go of all of my latent, and let’s face it, manifest sexism (against women, yes!)?  So.

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