Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Quinoa with Black Beans and Hominy


1 1/2 cups quinoa
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Zest of 1 large lemon

1/4 cup grapeseed oil
3 tablespoons agave nectar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from about 2 large limes)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Two 15-ounce cans hominy, rinsed and drained
One 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 head butter lettuce, leaves separated

For the quinoa: In a 2-quart saucepan, bring the quinoa, chicken broth, salt and lemon zest to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat, cover the pot and simmer until the liquid has been absorbed and the quinoa is tender, about 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

For the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the grapeseed oil, agave, lime 
juice, vinegar, cumin, salt and pepper until smooth.

In a serving bowl, combine the quinoa, hominy, black beans and cilantro. Add the dressing and toss until coated. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon into the lettuce leaves and serve.

Per serving (based on 6 servings): Calories: 332; Total Fat: 13 grams; Saturated Fat: 1 gram; Protein: 9 grams; Total carbohydrates: 46 grams; Sugar: 12 grams; Fiber: 5 grams; Cholesterol: 0 milligrams; Sodium: 625 milligrams

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/quinoa-with-black-beans-and-hominy-recipe/index.html?oc=linkback

My alterations:

No lemon zest, cilantro, lettuce leaves
Used lemon juice instead of lime 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Spicy Yogurt Sauce

I am loving this new creation:

Spicy Yogurt

1 C Greek/strained yogurt
1/2 C crumbled feta
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp tahini
1 tsp hot sauce (Tapatío is my favorite for this recipe)

Stir ingredients together. Use as topping for falafel, dipping sauce for pita chips, or eat as savory/spicy yogurt (my favorite!).

Makes a really yummy meal as a savory yogurt--I added Ras el Hanout Moroccan spices or pureed beans (canned cannellini or garbanzo beans) a couple times and YUM.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Moroccan Turkey Meatballs: Pretend Falafel

I thought I'd share a delicious recipe with y'all: http://www.theperfectpantry.com/2012/02/recipe-for-moroccan-turkey-meatballs.html

I used coconut flour instead of falafel mix, and served with hot sauce, yogurt-lemon-tahini sauce, and feta on a bed of spinach. It satisfied my craving for a
falafel sandwich!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Salves for the Soul

Sometimes I get a bout of melancholy that sticks with me for a couple days and I need to do something to shift my perspective or just ride it out gently. I like to remind myself of the things that help:

(1) A good cry. Possibly brought on by a sad song, a touching image, a heartbreaking movie. It can be completely unrelated to whatever set of circumstances is spawning my melancholy. The simple act of crying is a catharsis, emotionally and physically. Tears even contain hormones that are capable of easing pain and softening aggression. The act of releasing them helps us to feel better.

(2) Art. Sometimes I need to express with art what my words can't. Or just get into the act of creative release, without focusing on a destination or product. Art therapists use art-making as a way to process and understand feelings while bypassing the language center in the brain that can sometimes hinder our emotional expression. The act of creating and working with different materials (tearing tissue paper, creating collages, working with clay, coloring with markers, painting, etc.) helps me get in touch with parts of myself I sometimes forget. My favorite medium right now is papercloth, a very forgiving mixed media collage/decoupage technique that allows me to remain process, vs. product-focused.

(3) Music. Loud, soft, with or without dancing, just as long as I give myself to it and let it flow through me. If I want to get weepy, I go for Iron & Wine's The Creek Drank the Cradle, Dylan's Blood On The Tracks, or Tom Waits' Blue Valentine. If I want to dance and sing at the top of my lungs, I listen to something energetic and rhythmic--my current favorites are Macklemore and Ke$ha!

(4) Mindful Meditation. What is helping me most right now is finding a moment to focus on an intent for the day and find appreciation for what I have. When I'm in a rut or feeling crappy, it's really easy to notice what I don't have. Dwelling on the negative reinforces the message that I don't already have what I need, when in reality I am so very fortunate that I do have what I need.

What works for you to help you feel better when you get a touch of the blues?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Domestic Overwhelm of the SAHADDer.

SAHADDer: The Stay-At-Home ADDer. Being a stay-at-home parent comes with its own set of challenges, but throw some ADD in the mix and it can be completely overwhelming--especially when systems in place go all hinky. I recently experienced a particularly bad case of Domestic Overwhelm, when a system that was barely functioning became overly stressed with the addition of a brutal cold that sent us in a tailspin. Have you ever treaded water to the point of exhaustion? Hopefully not, but it's the perfect metaphor to describe where I was. Head barely above water. And it was raining. And the swells were huge. And there were sharks!

The dishes were piling up, the trash was overflowing, the guest room had become the dirty laundry room, I was incredibly cranky, exhausted, cognitively fuzzy, emotional, and I couldn't get over that hump to crank up the system again. I was feeling pretty isolated because all my socialization was halted by the state of my house and mind. My kids were suffering, my husband was carrying work and domestic stress around... It just was not a pretty picture. Sleep deprivation is a terrible trigger for ADD, and I have my share of it with a one-year-old who still wakes up frequently in the night to nurse. The chronic deprivation of rest is, as a good friend put it, like a repetitive stress injury. It needs to be treated gingerly, like any other injury, while it heals.

Well, my friends, I'm happy to say I'm emerging from the Domestic Overwhelm, and I've learned a few things about getting systems functioning again when everything is out of whack.

Get help.

Start with some practical, body-double help. If you can swing it, hire a housecleaner and an organizer. Hire a night nanny. If you don't have funds to spare, trade childcare with a friend to get a few hours to yourself. I hired a mother's helper, the teenage daughter of a friend, to spend a few hours at our home a couple days a week while I take care of my needs. My needs? Cleaning up the kitchen uninterrupted, preparing dinner, taking a nap, organizing the garage, watching a movie in my bedroom, taking a bath, looking out the window, playing in the garden, writing letters, paying bills, making phone calls, doing art in my studio, taking a walk alone with the dog... Anything I can do where I can find myself a little.

See a doctor.

It's important to rule out physical conditions that might be contributing to your exhaustion. Anemia, hypothyroidism, vitamin D deficiency... Any number of conditions that are easily treatable could be causing you to slump. If you're being treated for AD/HD with medication, check in with your doctor about your dosage. Additionally, a psychiatrist can be immensely helpful in determining if you're suffering from depression and would benefit from medication to help get you back on track. Consult with a psychiatrist/psychologist/therapist for talk therapy options, which can often be just as effective as or boost the effectiveness of an antidepressant.

Let others see your mess.

Another thing that really helped me over the past couple weeks was finally deciding that even if I can't keep a clean house in the way I wish I could right now while my internal resources are so limited and what little resources remain are prioritized for my children, I don't have to isolate myself from my friends. I tell my friends "please take it as a compliment that I'm letting you see how my house is. It means I trust you not to judge me!". If they really love you (as they should, because DUH! that's what true friends do!), they will be understanding of your struggles, and you will benefit from the support.

What I learned:

I was depleted. My spirit was starving. Without having time to take a spiritual breath, I wasn't much use to anyone. I was spending so much of my day in a state of half-there. I was half-there for my kids while I tried to clean or cook or organize, and there was no time for those self-care tasks that require privacy, like bathing, movie-watching, writing... This meant my batteries were never recharging, and I was sacrificing my already precious sleep to have some alone time after everyone else was asleep. I was spending my day feeling like a shitty person for not giving my kids the attention, clean house (within reason), nutritious food, or present parent they needed.

The addition of a mother's helper is new, but I already feel in my gut that this is a turning point. After a few hours with our helper, I noticed the difference in the happiness of both of my boys. I noticed the happiness of myself. As for my visit with my doctor, my blood panel came back from the lab showing my T3 was low, despite my already-being-treated-with-medication TSH levels being normal--a long way of saying that my body was still hypothyroid. The double whammy of being hypothyroid (which causes lethargy, lack of motivation, dull skin, sleep disturbance, and depression) along with a lack of adequate time to care for my self hit me hard. But we're back on track now, with a stronger system in place!

Helpful Links

The following are some very helpful snippets of information compiled by About.com ADHD Blogger Keath Low, a psychotherapist specializing in ADHD:

Moms with ADD
Parenting with ADD
Self Care Tips for ADD Parents

Friday, May 3, 2013

Art, hyperfocus-style

Going through some artwork from the art therapy group I participated in earlier this year, I came across these sketches. This is possibly my biggest ADD challenge -- task switching when my attention has a hold of me. I thought I'd share!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Stumbling down the stairs with our feet in our mouths: ADD & AUUS*

L'esprit d'escalier (literally, staircase wit) is a French term used in English that describes the predicament of thinking of the perfect comeback too late.

Is there a term for saying something you realize later was the wrong thing to say? Maybe "l'horreur d'escalier'? Or just plain "stumbling down the escalier"? Most people say the wrong thing every once in a while, but if you have ADD, chances are this is a more regular occurrence. Like this morning, for instance, when an older gentleman complimented my toddler son's hat, and I quickly responded "thanks! I love dressing him like an old man!" Not horrible, but after I said it, I wanted to crawl in a hole for a second. (ZOMG I said "old" to an old person!)

He makes a durn cute old man, though.

Allow me to introduce you to my little affliction, AUUS* or Awkward Unfiltered Utterance Syndrome (a made-up illness I have acronymed to lend credibility, obv). You may be familiar with it as "Foot-In-Mouth Disease".

I get anxious in social situations. I have social skills and I hide my anxiety, but I also sometimes trip up, like when I'm tired, which lately is always. My anxiety is intrinsically linked to my fear of saying the wrong thing. I have anticipatory horreur d'escalier!

What's happening in my brain?

Normal people have filters that stop them from saying the wrong thing. ADDers have neurological differences in the prefrontal cortex of the brain--the area that, among other functions, controls impulses and filters our thoughts before we utter them--so we stop ourselves from doing or saying those faux pas (faux pases? faux pahzez? foe pauses?) that might rub others the wrong way. Imagine how much more difficult social situations are for ADDers when we can't rely on our filters to keep us from putting our feet in our mouths. Our prefrontal cortices actually function at a slower pace. The addition of stimulants allows the filter which monitors behavior to speed up and begin to function correctly, which is why stimulants seem to slow ADDers down. But don't take my fuzzy sciencey word for it, listen to a real scientist.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Forcing Adagio

I'm laying in bed as I write this, pinned under twenty-seven pounds of sleeping, nursing baby. I'm reminded that at times, our rhythms don't naturally match the rhythms of those who depend on us. As much as I'd love to be up and doing weekend tasks that prepare us for the week, my tired and cold-fighting child needs me right now. He is sleeping the staccato sleep of someone whose periodic cough keeps rousing him from a deeper place of rest, but my presence allows him to keep trying to get there. In turn, I'm feeling myself slow down, face my impatience, and breathe. We're a symbiotic little mother-child dyad!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Fruity Crab Salad

Menu planning. I'm trying to get more organized about it. Here's an attempt! A new tag called "recipes" where I shall list my very favorite recipe creations so I can easily access them when I need a menu planning fix.

Last night's dinner was a refreshing & fruity paleo salad creation:

2 oranges
2 kiwis
1/2 pint strawberries
1 can lump crab meat
1 head butter lettuce
1/2 C sliced almonds
1/2 C coconut
1 Tbsp grapeseed oil

Chop lettuce. Cut kiwis, strawberries, and one orange into bite-sized pieces. Toss with crab, almonds, and coconut. Dress with the juice of remaining orange and a drizzle of grapeseed oil.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The honeymoon is ovah!

Been a while, eh? I lost my steam.

I began this blog as an exploratory project so I could learn more about ADD as I got used to the idea that this may be an accurate diagnosis for me. I was so very excited at the prospect of having an explanation for why some things are so hard -- and others so easy for me. During the last few months, reality has set in and I've begun to see the limitations of what it means to have ADD and how much harder everything is and always will be for me than for other people.

That last sentence brought up some feelings for me.

Part of me still holds on to the belief that this is all just an excuse for bad behavior. I just need to try harder. Other people try hard and accomplish a clean house, bills paid on time, non-anxious interactions with other humans, regular meals consisting of healthy food, avoidance of sugar, emotional self control. How can I assume it's so much easier for them? Welcome to my pity party! Life is so hard for poor me!

This is what I'm struggling with right now.

The honeymoon is over, but additionally, I'm chronically sleep-deprived and exhausted with a preschooler who just turned five and a baby who just turned one. Baby still sleeps with us and I wake up several times a night to nurse him. I'm formulating a plan to get him over the night-nursing, but I'm kind of dreading it because *duh, transition* and I also don't want anyone to suffer during the weaning.

But my lack of sleep has so severely exacerbated these ADD symptoms that I don't believe it's even possible to accurately attribute them to ADD.

And that, my friends, is what I've been up to lately.

Plus also these adorable munchkins:

Friday, February 1, 2013

Guest post from my mom: Me, Meds, and ADHD

I was so excited with my response to Focaline (ritalin). I was thrilled to be freed from impulsive eating and food cravings.  Also, my body felt noticably peaceful & my husband noticed I was calmer.  This began last Thursday. The following Tuesday I noticed some unusual breathlessness as I was climbing a tiny incline to an evening meeting.  Later that night my heart seemed to be pounding.  The next morning I knew my heart was both racing and beating irregularly.  A cardiologist confirmed I could no longer take this or any related medication.

So, bummer.  I'll be meeting with the ADHD doc within a few weeks to see if there are any alternative ADHD meds I might try.  It's not the end of the world if I can't. I've made it 67 years without.  It was just a nice experience to know what it's like to eat like a "normal" person.  I'll simply continue working through the Weight Watchers Program.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Binder Round-Up

Part of my monumental family organization binder project is finding something inspiring to put all my hard work into. Here are a few options.
  1. Aurora GB Kraft Essentials 1" Binder $9.99 on Amazon.com
  2. Naked Binder Pouch $1.50 each at Naked Binder
  3. Greenroom Recycled 1.5" Binder $7.69 at Target
  4. Round 1" Project Binder $7.50 from Naked Binder
  5. Guided Products ReTab 8-Tab Divider $5.35 on Amazon.com
  6. Martha Stewart Home Office 1" Binder $5.99 at Staples 
I especially am in love with the Naked Binder products. Do you have a favorite binder?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Rewards and chore charts

I am loving our new chore reward chart! It's only been three days that we've been using this new system, so talk to me in a month about longer-term effectiveness. I have to say, though, that last night's "Mommy, can I help with dinner?!" and "I have to find some clean socks so I can lay out tomorrow's clothes" were music to my ears. Did I say music? I meant the complete works of Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach. This bodes very, very well.

Chore Chart.

The chore chart (even in my head when I say that, it's a tongue twister) has eight categories:
  1. Using the bathroom alone (Bubs is capable of this, but loves mommy or daddy to help out. Mommy and daddy don't love this, however. We do still check him, but he takes care of the business.) 
  2. Bubs gets a ten-minute warning when it's time to put toys away. 
  3. Each day has a different cleaning chore assigned. (Sunday is a free day, what with being the Sabbath and all. I'm a big believer in a Sabbath day, no matter what your religious beliefs. A day that forces you to slow down and be mindful? We all need that.) The chores in this section are watering plants, helping with laundry, scrub cleaning, washing dishes, tidying up the bedroom, and vacuuming.
  4. Feeding the dog
  5. Having a helpful attitude. This especially applies to self-initiated helpful tasks, like unloading the milk delivery unprompted, or being particularly cheerful, polite, appreciative, charming, etc.
  6. Helping with dinner
  7. Doing the morning routine (see note)
  8. Doing the bedtime routine (see note)
Note: One of my all-time favorite home organization bloggers, Jen Jones of iheartorganizing.blogspot.com, has made her morning and bedtime routine charts available for free download here. She also has an array of beautifully designed home organization printables for purchase in her etsy shop. Check her out!

Treasure Chest.

I've given Bubs a glimpse of the toy prizes I have in the treasure chest, in fact, he helped me pick them out in the store, so he's sure to like them. (All items were under $3--a ball, an eraser, silly putty, stickers, a wall clingy/crawler, pencil sharpener, etc.) I tried to collect items that weren't flimsy junk and that would encourage creative play and activities.

Reward Activity Cards. 

He also helped me come up with reward cards. Man, is he jonesing for the card that lets him be the boss for a half hour! I printed these cards, laminated them, cut them out, and keep them in an envelope attached to the bottom of the chart. The way I've arranged it, it's possible for Bubs to get a prize twice a week if he meets all the goals on the chart. He can choose a card or a toy.

The chart and the cards are available in .pdf format (you'll need Adobe Reader) for download under "Free Printables" in the side bar.

Just a word about reward systems in general.

Some approaches to parenting don't support the use of reward systems, in part because it creates the expectation of a reward for doing what should be done anyway. I believe in using rewards to set up good habits. When a kiddo can do these tasks independently and has internalized the rhythm, so-to-speak, rewards aren't needed anymore. Of course, as an ADDer, I know sometimes an "external brain" is needed to replace wonky executive functioning, so this type of approach might be a lifelong assist.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The external brain

When the brain is wonky at regulating executive functions (attention, task-switching, initiation/activation, etc.), you gotta find an alternative brain, right? When kidneys don't function, you get dialysis. When a heart is dysregulated, sometimes a pacemaker helps. When a leg is amputated, a prosthetic makes walking possible. And when a brain can't keep track of time or prioritize tasks, we use timers and charts.

I've begun an extensive re-org of how I live my life and organize my household, based on this info about my newly-diagnosed ADD brain. I've been floundering for so long, convinced if I just tried harder I would finally get "organizized". I'm giving up on relying on my brain. It's time to invest in something that works! An external brain.

The (hyper)focus of my (in)attention lately has been the creation of a family organization binder. I will dedicate an entire post to this project soon, but here's a brief overview. The binder contains:

  • contact info for family, schoolmates, neighbors, & utilities,
  • emergency info,
  • a neighborhood map,
  • financial accounts and budget information,
  • cleaning lists & schedule,
  • cleaning supplies list,
  • meal planning,
  • calendars,
  • chores lists,
  • household inventory,
  • to do list,
  • vacation planning,
  • Christmas card list and gift planning,
  • home & auto maintenance,
  • auto maintenance,
  • insurance info,
  • tax info,
  • important dates,
  • birthdays and anniversaries,
  • pet info,
  • some other stuff I can't recall off the top of my head!

The binder is set up to play a crucial role in our weekly family meeting. The thing is 70 pages long-- I've really put a lot of work into it! My hope is that it's going to provide us with the organization my family has been needing.

The most important piece of this project, I think, has been the creation of a daily routine written into a checklist and laminated, to be checked off with a dry-erase marker throughout the day.

The checklist I'm using is really a fantastic document. It was created by Camie Shill of willandcam.blogspot.com. (She offers it as a free printable. Thank you, Camie, my organizational inspiration!) It has the day broken down into four manageable time sections. It reminds me to eat, drink water, take my vitamins, exercise, make school lunches, unload the dishwasher, do laundry, make dinner, and each day of the week has a task or two (such as cleaning out the car or washing floors) assigned to it. It's a brilliant set of reminders to keep me on track throughout the day.

I'll report back on my progress. For now, I'm feeling a bit like the Scarecrow in the Emerald City--A BRAIN!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Guest post from my mom: ADHD and Impulsivity and Food

I have been officially diagnosed with ADHD. I have been on "Focaline" (Ritalin) for 3 days now and I am amazed! For years, ever since I quit smoking in 1989, I have had problems with food. I see it. I want it. I eat it. I was slender before. Now I am not. Diets result in the same, old story: lose, maintain for a while, gain it back. I never lost my desire to snack in the evening, my most difficult time. Only sheer will power, or going to bed very, very early prevented me from indulging. For 3 nights, I have had NO desire to snack. No cravings, either. That's right: none at all. Also, I don't want to have second helpings of delicious foods. In fact, I don't want to eat much at all! For the first time in my post-smoking life, I don't feel that "pull". WONDERFUL!!! Perhaps I will even reach my 68th birthday (September) as a slender person again.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Living in the Bermuda Triangle

This is the first time my house has become extremely messy since I was diagnosed with ADD a few months ago. This time around, at least I have new perspective & mindfulness about the chaos in my environment. It's no easier, though.

What am I feeling?

I'm anxious, feeling hopeless and powerless, overwhelmed, feeling like a failure, craving sugar, wanting to escape,  and unable to have anyone over because I'm ashamed of what my house looks like.

How does this happen?

The system falls apart when some external factor disrupts my homeostasis. It's like I'm smooth sailing and BAM, a massive air bubble rises under my ship and takes it down, Bermuda Triangle style. I can keep my house in order for weeks, just doing quick pick-up and wipe-downs every day, but I skip a few days and suddenly it's overwhelming. Suddenly none of us puts anything away or in the garbage. A produce delivery stays on the counter for six days, papers pile up, wrappers surround odds and ends, the dining room table has laundry on it, the laundry piles, once sorted, are in heaps all around the house... BAM. I'm powerless, unmotivated, ashamed, embarrassed, overwhelmed, stressed, failed, lazy, paralyzed. I have no idea where to start.

So I take a bath.

I read a fellow ADDer's description about this difficulty with maintenance, discipline, and motivation, likening it to being a shark that will die if it stops swimming. When I stop swimming, my house sinks!

(Awesome image by Fuchsia Macaree.)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Attention Surplus Disorder

One of the things I'm learning about ADD is that it's really a problem with the regulation of executive functions in the brain. It's not accurate to call it simply an attention deficit problem. A lack of attention is only one of the ways ADD manifests. I struggle with maintaining attention during non-stimulating tasks, but one of my main difficulties is actually having too much attention and not being able to task switch. This is a problem with hyperfocus. I can focus on something so well that I lose track of time, forget to eat, put off sleep, and ignore other responsibilities. In those moments (that may last hours), I have an attention surplus problem!

What are executive functions? "Executive functions is an umbrella term for cognitive processes that regulate, control, and manage other cognitive processes, such as planning, working memory, attention, problem solving, verbal reasoning, inhibition, mental flexibility, task switching, and initiation and monitoring of actions." (Read more here.)

I read that list of cognitive processes and it hits me like a ton of bricks--those are my little demons! I crave external order and routine, because without them, the demons get hopping and man, I have a crappy day. My own inner boss, like what Freud called the super-ego in his model of the psyche, is kind of out to lunch. What helps? How do I find that order and routine when I'm a stay-at-home-mom and make my own schedule (within reason, taking into account my kids' needs)?

I'll get back to you.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Guest Post: My Mom

Hi, this is Miriam's not-yet-formally-diagnosed-with-ADHD mother.  I am a child mental health specialist, and I never picked up on my own children's ADHD diagnoses. (I wasn't a child mental health specialist then, but I don't know if that would have made any difference.)  For many years, including when the kids were little, I have been a practicing psychotherapist; yet, I didn't pick up on my own ADHD issues.  (Of course, it didn't take me long to see that my husband, the other genetic contributor to my children, clearly demonstrated ADHD characteristics. How did he EVER get through seminary and 4 years post-graduate psychotherapy training without hardly cracking open a book?  He still doesn't like to read, except for brief blurbs, and gets books on audio by the dozens.)

I was surprised when Miriam's sister was given the diagnosis about 3-6 years ago and even more so when Miriam reported that she, too, had ADHD. After all, both kids did well in school, met developmental milestones on time or early, showed no significant behavioral problems, had friends, etc. Miriam's sister was particularly organized as a kid and even could complete homework assignments early. At times, her behavior was almost compulsive. Her organizational skills suffered as her life became more complicated with marriage, children, and dogs; I was still surprised by her diagnosis, even doubted it. Miriam was not that organized, but usually completed needed tasks. She did, however, have an ongoing habit of waiting until the very last second to finish those tasks. Neither were fidgety and almost-hyperactive like their dad tends to be. Both could focus very well when interested. Recently, two of four grandchildren have been diagnosed with ADHD.

After Mim told me of her diagnosis, I began to wonder about my family of origin. My father, a tool and die engineer, showed no tendencies whatsoever (unless you count not finishing the downstairs molding in their home of 20+ years -- until just before they sold it.) My mother, a pianist, choral director, teacher, and homemaker who ran a smooth household didn't either, or did she? She WAS usually running around at the last minute before any scheduled departure to insure she didn't forget something. She often bumped into objects, bruising herself, breaking toes more than once. Details often eluded her (like forgetting to remove bobbypins before leaving the house). She could lose focus with interruptions, except when she was hyperfocused. (She could play piano for hours, for example.) Neither of my sisters, I think, show any symptoms.

OK, so ADHD rarely just "shows up".   Almost always, someone in your family has it. Four of our six progeny have been diagnosed. Mmmmmmm..... One of my parents, I now think, at least one of my mother's siblings displayed ADHD type symptoms. Without going into boring detail (I also use more words than I need to get my thoughts across.), I can say with almost total certainty that I have been one of the contributors to this gift that we have passed on to our children and grandchildren. I expect be formally diagnosed next week, but I have so many symptoms that I'd be shocked if I don't meet the criteria.

So what difference will having an ADHD diagnosis make in my life? Since viewing myself through the ADHD lens, I notice that I have more self-acceptance. It explains why, even though I always had one or two best friends and other friends, I felt different from the other kids and often "not as good as". I never understood why anyone ever voted for me for class positions. It helps me understand why I've done some pretty impulsive things, why I often show a poor sense of my body in space (bumping, knocking over, etc.), why I am always losing certain things, why I am so easily distracted, why I'm almost compulsive about keeping my environment orderly (but this is inconsistent), why I did some of my best college studying as I sat at my receptionist desk in a very loud factory, why I'm so sensitive to sounds, fabrics, and smells that don't seem to bother many others, why transitions can be so tough, why I can hyperfocus for long, long periods on tasks that interest me or that I'm determined to complete. (I notice I laugh more when either my husband or I demonstrate some kind of ADD behavior -- ditto my kids and grandkids. I think of Flip Wilson -- older people remember him -- and his "The devil made me do it" skits.

This diagnosis doesn't give me any less responsibility for my words or other behaviors, it just helps me with acceptance.

Of course, I know that most people can probably find some reasons to wonder if they have ADHD. I realize, that despite my many years of age (67), training (4 years of grad/post), and experience (around 30+ years), I can still fall prey to the sophomoric view that I have every neurosis or problem I study.

So this is my, albeit wordy, introduction. I'm delighted that Miriam came up with the idea for this blog. I enjoy reading whatever she posts; she is a clever writer. I look forward to reading comments from all of you.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Midnight Mullets: ADD and Impulsivity

Here's a little tidbit for you. At 3AM a couple months back, in a fit of insomniac and post-partum delirium I decided it was the perfect time for those bangs I'd wanted for so long. I'd been watching a lot of Torchwood and was really digging on the way Gwen's thick, lustrous hair framed her face. I'd been in a hair rut--experiencing "ponytail death" as I called it--for a while, too chicken to take the plunge and get bangs. Plus, my hair stylist is a grumpy old curmudgeonly genius who refused to entertain my suggestions for bangs.

Why not do it myself? I mean YouTube is full of tutorials that can teach me how to give myself the glamorous do my stylist refuses to do, right?


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Meal planning: Ant in grasshopper's clothing?

I've never planned meals more than a day or two out. Most of what we eat is created in a moment of inspiration, the result of 5pm Internet recipe searches for a 6pm dinner, limited to whatever hodgepodge is in the pantry. That approach to food ends in a lot of waste, as I don't always have a plan for my perishables and they end up, well, perishing. It also results in lots of last-minute delivery food at the end of a long day on the brink of exhaustion. This means that not only are we wasting food, but we're spending too much and eating more calories than we need (pizza two nights in a week? Yessss! Wait--I mean Nooooo!).

So I'm feeling pretty good about this, like I've got this.

Today I sat down and attempted to plan two weeks of meals. I'm almost finished! Tomorrow I'll go to market to buy two weeks' worth of food, armed with my list (almost complete!) and my greatest money-saving discovery (that most people already know about), coupons.

If I plan my meals in advance, I can plan around the coupons and store specials (accessible online so I don't have to physically clip anything). I can also stock up on sale items, placing them in my menu for the weeks ahead. This is perfect for my new place-for-everything-and-everything-in-its-place attitude I'm trying to cultivate. (A great big ADD challenge!)

Most grocery retailers are hip to making coupon shopping more convenient for those of us who spend a lot of time on line. At sites like albertsons.com, fredmeyer.com, or safeway.com, in addition to store specials, you can even select the coupons you will use, save them to your "customer loyalty card" and print out a list for you to take with you. The discounts are taken at the register when you scan your club card.

So, my summation is that meal planning will save me:
  • time (less trips to the market!),
  • money,
  • calories,
  • from wasting food.

I love it when these things "together" people do start to make sense to me!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

My Tribe?

This morning I had my first group session with other women with ADD, the first of ten sessions over the next few months.  I sat in a comfy club chair, one of six in a circle, listening to each woman tell her story. I realized how familiar I already was with those stories, the struggles, the humor. It was like when the Gelfling in the Dark Crystal finds out there are others like him! We were all creative and bright people,  all overwhelmed with some aspect of daily living. I wasn't the only one in the room with three unrelated degrees and a bijillion hobbies and interests. I wasn't the only one who struggles with piles of stuff in my home. I wasn't the only one in the room who was told from early on that I wasn't living up to my potential. I wasn't the only one looking for some way to make sense of things.

This is going to be so worth the commitment!

It just struck me it might be funny to include a screenshot of my computer in this post, just to demonstrate what my mind looks like at any given moment: Watching a movie, working on a budget, reading about ADD, writing this post...

This is how it goes for me: Open movie in Chrome. Can't focus just on movie. Open Firefox. Open Facebook. Check FB while watching movie. Movie reminds me of having a safety plan which reminds me of my family binder project. Open binder project. Play a song by Shabba. Dance with baby. Watch movie. Oh yah--my budget! Open Excel and work on budget, return to binder. Blog about stuff. Return to FB, get distracted by actual squirrel.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Tips for Paying Bills

How do you deal with bills? Do you have a bill-paying system? I've found a few things that work for me.

Catch the paper at the door. 

First, how do the bills come in your house? Are they ever buried under mountains and mountains of junk? Your first step is to conquer the paper golem (that paper monster that wants to take over your house). I find that if I quickly sort my mail before I even walk in the front door that cuts down on the bulk of junk mail. I remove the junk and put it in the recycling container on the side of my house before coming inside. I then put magazines in the magazine place, bills and action items in the action place, and everything else in the "everything else" place. If possible, I try to take action right away (see the "manual" section below) on those action items. Making this part of my coming home, autopilot routine is super helpful for me.

Bills can be separated into two categories: auto-pay and manual-pay.


  1. Make a list of all your regular bills and the due dates. It might be helpful to look at at list of transactions with your bank from the past few months to get a good idea of all the bills.
  2. If you haven't set up every bill possible to be on auto-pay, do it right now! This will save so much grief for anyone who struggles to regularly pay bills manually. Sign up for online accounts with each company when possible or set up bill-paying through your bank.
  3. Choose for your auto-pay bills to be drafted from your account right after your paycheck is deposited into your account. 
  4. Go back to your list of bills on auto-pay and record the dates each bill is drafted. List all your auto-pay bills together, organized by draft-date. This will be a very handy list. 

Your list should look something like this:
If you want to take it one step further, you can add 12 more columns to your list, either recording the amounts or whether they've been drafted/paid each month. This can be a helpful tool for budgeting (and figuring out how much money you will have in your bank account).


For those bills not on auto-pay, the pesky ones that are easy to forget, I find it easiest to follow this method. First, the moment a bill arrives, write a check, address the envelope, put a stamp on it, *WRITE THE AMOUNT OF THE CHECK ON THE FRONT*,  and seal it. (Look at the first picture for an example.) Keep this stack of bills somewhere where you will not forget them--taped to the front door, on the fridge, next to your bathroom mirror, in your purse, or anywhere you possibly can't miss them. Deposit them in the mail the minute you know you have funds in your account.

What helps you keep track of bills and pay them on time when you're juggling paychecks? Please leave a comment with your pointers!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Budget Gruel!

What a grueling, grueling task it is to create a budget. I understand better now why I have resisted doing so in the past. For the past three days I've sat down and stared at spreadsheet after spreadsheet, website after website, bill after bill, researching saving plans and debt reduction strategies, combing through our finances with a level of detail that tested the edges of my concentration and my emotional strength. Does that sound dramatic? After all, it's just a list of numbers, right? But those pesky little numbers represent our quality of life, my self-control, my ability to take care of my family, our old age, and the education of our children.

A place for everything, and everything in its place.
I want to give a purpose to every dollar that comes into our lives. The budget I've tailored is a "zero-based budget", where the goal is to have nothing left over. Household Budget Geek writes more about how to set up this kind of budget.

How does my budget compare?
Household Budget Geek has another very helpful post about the recommended budget percentages for the average American family. One of the experts he quotes, Gail Vaz-Oxlade, recommends the following budget break-down:

Housing 35%
Life 25%
Transportation 15%
Debt Repayment 15%
Savings 10%

This is how my budget looks:

Housing 31%
Life 15%
Transportation 5%
Debt Repayment 45%
Savings 4%

This is really helpful and hope-inspiring information for me to have, when I think about my new debt repayment strategy and six-year-plan for repayment. I'm looking forward to a day when those numbers are in a different order!

Monday, January 7, 2013

It's Snowing Money!

I am giddy. Just absolutely GIDDY.

I've discovered (in the way Columbus "discovered" America--it's been around for a while!) a tool that has helped me immensely with my perspective on my finances. Over the years, we've accumulated a bit of debt, mostly student loans and some medical debt, that have us feeling just weighted down. It's hard to believe we'll ever be saving for a rainy day when every month our checking account is emptied just in time for the next paycheck. We don't spend frivolously, either. We cover our basics (household, medical, car, personal care, 401K) and put most of the rest towards debt, though we could stand to tighten the belt in a few areas. Our debt is a source of anxiety and discouragement for both of us. In fact, we can't even talk finances before bedtime because it gets my mind whirring and anxious!

There are a couple approaches to debt reduction that I've been reading up on and, appropriate to the season, they are based on snow.

The first method is the snowball strategy, where you pay off accounts in order of the size of the balance, beginning with the low balance accounts. Say you have five accounts, and can afford a $600 payment a month. You begin by paying $200 towards Account #1 and $100 towards the other four. When Account #1 is paid off, you now have $200 more to apply to Account #2, bringing that payment to $300. Your total monthly payment remains $600, but now you have less accounts to pay off. Your snowballing payment takes out your debt and gives a psychological boost every time you bring another account balance to zero.

The second method is the avalanche strategy. With this approach, accounts are prioritized not by balance alone but by interest rate first, and then by balance. This approach may take longer to bring accounts to a zero balance, but over the long run you pay less towards your debt because of the reduced amount of interest.

I'm not quite sure why anyone would choose the snowball as opposed to the avalanche strategy, but maybe for some that psychological boost is a needed part of debt relief? In any case, the strategy of applying a set amount of money each month towards debt until the debt is paid is one that is simple to include in a household budget. To make it more satisfying, using a debt reduction spreadsheet will show the projected progress and amount of time it will take to pay off. I think it's easier to follow a plan when you can see the progress you're making.

This is why I'm so giddy: I've put all our debts, including a hefty student loan portion, in the debt reduction worksheet offered by Vertex 42. (Find it at http://www.vertex42.com/Calculators/debt-reduction-calculator.html.) Most of our debts will be paid off in four years, and our student loans will be entirely paid off in six years. And all that money? In six years we can start really building our savings.

For this plan to work, we need to
  1. stick to a budget, 
  2. have all payments set up on autopay, and 
  3. periodically consult the worksheet when it's time for us to adjust our payments. The beauty of this approach is that we can schedule reminders for when that will happen because we already have it planned out! 
A really big thank you to folks who dream these tools up and put them out there for folks like me.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

One of these days I'm gonna get organizized

"You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? Well, who the hell else are you talkin' to? You talkin' to me? Well, I'm the only one here. Who the f--k do you think you're talkin' to?"

What sticks with me from the 1976 film Taxi Driver besides that iconic quote above is that classic, cheesy poster on Robert DeNiro's character's wall: One of these days, I'm gonna get organizized.

Today I made some organizational progress. Following a Pinterest project that popped up in my feed, I made four filing boxes for my sons and my sister's kids. Each has 25 folders in five different colors, and each folder is labeled with medical records, achievements, preschool, kindergarten, each grade level, etc. It's a box for all that important paperwork that accumulates over the years. I have to credit and thank Kylee Shaw of Destination of Domestication for this project. I can tell it's going to be very helpful, and it already inspired me to start going through my files to look for better ways to organize.

Proud of myself and feeling confident, I went through two drawers and threw out paperwork from a year ago that was no longer relevant.

And I started to dream about the organized life. I imagine myself waking up before everyone else, going downstairs in my night gown to brew a cup of tea, and sitting down with my family planner binder to get ready for the day. My planner will be filled with designy lists and calendars for the whole year, a lot like the printables in the Clean Mama Printables etsy shop. I'll figure out what errands are needed, what bills or birthday cards need to mailed, and what the day's meals will be. I'll grab the ingredients for the day's crock pot dinner, which I already have prepared and frozen in measured quantities in our deep freezer, and toss them in the slow cooker. Then I'll put breakfast out for the family, run upstairs and jump on the elliptical for 30 minutes while catching up on This American Life podcasts...or even better, an audio version of Pride & Prejudice or some other classic. Then I'll wake up the kids and they'll dress themselves in the clothes we laid out the night before as part of our bedtime routine. I'll jump in the shower and get ready as they're dressing and heading down to breakfast. They know the routine because it's what we do every morning. And every Thursday night we'll have a family meeting where we go over any pressing matters and record them in our binder's "minutes" section. Everyone will know what the plans are for the week and the kids will be able to participate in meal planning.

Brilliant, right?! This binder is going to change my world! Except I already have that binder, and it's been sitting on my top shelf in the kitchen, unopened for six months.

I'll get there somehow, but "there" is going to be a modified, realistic expectation of my organizational porn fantasy.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Does this ADD make me look fat?

I have to begin with an important disclaimer here. I'm not a fat hater. I don't think morality can be assigned to eating habits or quantity of adipose tissue or body mass. (You are not "good" if you eat your vegetables and "bad" if you have that slice of cake.) I don't think how our culture characterizes obesity is fair or accurate, and health is often secondary to our focus on appearance. Even the word "obesity" makes me cringe a little because of how it labels people. I've read up on the fat positive movement, and I think it has a lot to teach us about the damaging role of shame in health. But I also don't want to be fat.

I've been focusing on fitness and healthy eating habits lately, after frustrating post-pregnancy weight gain that seems unsurmountable with my breastfeeding appetite. I've started to make some changes. I have five goals: body appearance, food, fitness, sleep, and meal organization.
  • My body goal is to go down three sizes and firm up my core.
  • My eating goal is to transition into Dr. Gundry's Diet Evolution way of eating: no grains, lots of veggies, weekly meat. I've chosen this plan because his science makes sense to me, his plan is a long-term lifestyle change, and I've watched my husband lose 60 pounds and keep it off for the past year while on this plan.
  • My fitness goal is to develop a daily walking habit. Even better if it's with the family! (Or maybe not?)
  • My sleep goal is at least eight hours, but while my babe is still night-nursing, it won't be uninterrupted! That's okay. I'm thinking long term.
  • My organizational goal, maybe the most important, is to cultivate a habit of meal planning.

I've never had eating habits that maintain steady blood sugar levels--a fact which became very clear to me when I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes during both of my pregnancies and I had to closely monitor what was going in my body, how often I was eating, and how my blood glucose levels were responding. (I'm the kind of eater who realizes at 3 PM that she hasn't had anything but coffee all day, then scarfs down whatever is quick and easy. Pizza? Pasta? Cheese and crackers? Big quantities of whatever is on hand, because the body is so ravenous that the brain hasn't yet registered that enough has been consumed?) I need to plan my meals for health.

I was curious to see what the scientific literature had to say about mine and related struggles. It turns out (surprise, surprise) that ADD plays a big role in what I'm trying to sort out. Here are some studies from the last year.

(1) We suffer more binge-eating and bulimia. In one study featuring women who engaged in binge eating and bulimic behaviors, 28% of participants also had ADHD. There was a correlation between more severe binging/bulimic behaviors, depressive symptomatology and ADHD.

(2) We have more disordered eating habits. This study describes a correlation between abnormal eating habits, obesity, and ADHD.

(3) As women, we experience weight loss when using Ritalin as medication for ADD. Surprisingly, obese men don't. New research on men and women with BMIs <25 and >30 suggests everyone except obese men experiences the appetite-suppressive effects of Ritalin.

(4) There may be a possible causal relationship between ADHD and obesity. From this study: "If further studies confirm a causal relationship between ADHD and obesity, appropriate treatment of ADHD may improve eating patterns and, as a consequence, weight status of individuals with both obesity and ADHD."

And now a special thank you gift for those of you who made it to the end, an Adipose from Dr. Who. Get it? It's FAT!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

I'm a new ADDer with old ADD

Welcome to my eleventy-billionth blog!

I'm a starter. I have big ideas. I get excited. I act on those big ideas before they get cold. I pour my heart into them. Then I get bored and leave them for something shinier. I'm a crafter, a knitter, a sewist, a felter, a linguist, a Spanish teacher, a social worker, a clinical therapist, a decorator, a web designer, a singer, a potter, a Facebooker, an activist, and probably a hundred other things I can't recall at the moment but which at one point I have called myself.

I've pretty much gone with the flow ever since I can remember. I do things intuitively. Rules are flexible. I'm messy. My bills are always late unless they're on auto-pay. I rarely send cards for birthdays. I'm horrible at keeping in touch. I love deeply. I feel things intensely. I need alone time. I get overwhelmed. I watch five hours of one-hour-TV shows at a time. I have a hard time exercising or keeping a clean house. I can accomplish a lot more than most people in a short period of time--if I love what I'm doing. I can put nine hours in on a ten-hour project, then never come back to it again. I can also put on a party that will send guests home wondering "how in the hell did she sew thirty children's costumes, plan a scavenger hunt, fill 100 chicken eggs with confetti, and bake a huge dragon cake while nine months pregnant?" I'm capable of crazy feats. I buy things that are part of my plan, then forget about my plan and end up with expensive items like a floor buffer, a lawn irrigation system, a plastic bag sealer, and other equipment taking up space in my garage. Last month I convinced myself that I was capable of giving myself bangs. I gave myself a terrible mullet that made my hair stylist go apoplectic.

A couple of weeks ago, I was diagnosed with ADD, Attention Deficit Disorder, and I'm in the process of reframing my whole sense of who I am based on this new context. I've been experiencing relief, while questioning whether my personality is actually my own or some result of being wiggy in my prefrontal cortex. I've been wondering how it took me until age 38 to ask a doctor if she thought I might have ADD. It turns out I might not be the lazy, apathetic, disrespectful, impulsive slob I believed in my core I probably was.

You mean I might not be deeply flawed? How did I think this was just who I was for so long? I thought I was a person with irreparable character flaws. In school, I wrote essays on books I only pretended to read cover-to-cover, and usually wrote them at the last possible moment.  I procrastinate! I lost one friend after we shared an apartment and I was too messy for her--she took it as a personal offense. My first husband (a man from Spain and a mindset where attention to housekeeping equated love) was convinced I didn't love him because I couldn't (wouldn't) clean. I have carried so much guilt for being a slob and so much shame for being lazy, unable to force myself to do things others could. I crave a neat and orderly environment but it always seems to morph into messy chaos a few days after cleaning.

I have a husband, two little boys, a dog, cat, and home that I love. My job as a SAHM is not easy at all, and I beat myself up about it too much, but with this new info about myself I have a new context. I'm actually really excited to start group sessions in a couple weeks and learn more about myself and how to finally come up with better strategies for dealing with those things that don't keep my attention.

I'm looking forward to dancing with distraction in 2013. I'm gonna waltz with this motherf*cker until we cut a rug!

(Right after a good night's sleep.)