The ADHD Homestead

Building a good life with ADHD.

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Ask me anything! Join me for a live Q&A on Kickstarter

Lately, I’ve been thinking about this blog, and what I love about it.

As it turns out, my favorite part is you.

Yes, you. The readers who stop by, stay a while, leave a comment, or send something anonymously through my feedback form. You remind me that I’m helping people, every day.

I’ve never told my story for its own sake, or written posts to go viral or earn tons of money from affiliate programs. I write because my story makes others feel less alone. I write to give people like me a helpful nudge, or a little bit of hope.

That’s why I’m excited about a few new things I’m trying this fall. First and foremost, I’m using my Kickstarter to host a live video Q&A this Thursday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time. I don’t usually offer video content,  so this is a rare opportunity to have some fun and participate in a live event. (Pssst: if I make it to 75% of my funding goal, I’ll share a fun announcement on the live chat, too.)

Subscribers to my email newsletter will enjoy Ask Me Anything on a monthly basis. Each newsletter will include an Ask Me Anything feature, complete with a handy button to submit questions for future Ask Me Anythings.

It’s an exciting season here at The ADHD Homestead. Here’s how you can stay in the loop:

  • Subscribe for notifications so you don’t miss Thursday’s Kickstarter live stream Q&A. If you can’t make it, Kickstarter allows you to submit questions ahead of time.
  • Sign up for my email newsletter to be included in future Ask Me Anythings:

    Don't miss out! Get exclusive content in one convenient monthly email. I'll never share your info and I'll always respect your inbox.

  • Follow The ADHD Homestead on Facebook:
  • Support the Order from Chaos Kickstarter!

However we connect, I can’t wait to hear from you soon.

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RC Cola! (Or, Read Carefully)

My sixth grade math teacher didn’t like me very much. Most of my memories from his class are of surly interactions and (in my assessment) unfair grades. And one other thing I still reference to this day: all over the room, he’d suspended empty 2-liter RC Cola bottles from the ceiling.

RC Cola was his mnemonic for “read carefully.”

Corny jokes aside, few life skills rank higher than the ability to read carefully. It starts with word problems in math class, and continues for the rest of our lives. People with ADHD often don’t read carefully, and when we try, it can feel downright painful. I should know. I filled out my jury duty questionnaire today, and accidentally clicked “yes” when it asked if I was a member of my state’s organized militia.

I’m usually pretty good, though, and it’s not thanks to my long attention span. Here are a few ways I read carefully.

Read out loud

Reading aloud isn’t just for children’s picture books. Some people read at the same speed they talk, while others read faster. I’m in the faster camp, and reading aloud helps me slow down and monopolize more of my brain for reading.

If I find myself struggling with something, I stop and read it aloud. It changes my perspective just enough to make it click. I suspect it’s a lot like explaining a problem to someone else to help me see where I’ve gone wrong. Plus, when I read aloud, I can’t skim — I need to read every word.

Don’t fear the printer

I believe in minimalism and frugality and conserving resources. When I read that “please consider the environment before printing this message” reminder in someone’s email footer, I get it.

Sometimes I have to print it out, anyway. Not always, but sometimes. It might be the class welcome letter from my son’s teacher, a grant application, or a short story I’m submitting for publication. For my favorite reading and editing techniques, I need a hard copy.

I know many people who don’t own printers. It sounds well and good to go green, and do everything electronically. The reality is, sometimes I need to engage my brain’s tactile centers. I can’t get this with an electronic device. Maybe some people can, but at this point, I need to own it: those people aren’t me.

I print double sided, or on scrap paper, but I do print, and I print more than most people I know.

Highlight & underline

Most of the time, I print so I can highlight and underline. Before you tell me about the coolest app that allows me to do this on my Kindle, computer, or tablet, let me cut you off and tell you: I’ve tried. It’s not the same.

Something about the paper in front of me, the feel of the highlighter…who knows what the secret is. A highlighter helps me slow down, mark things I need to remember (like deadlines or supply lists), and catch important details.

I’ve used this strategy to win thousands of dollars in grant funding, file my tax return, complete complex banking documents, and sign my kid up for summer camp.

Rewrite

When I got my kiddo’s welcome letter for school this summer, I recopied the key info into my notebook: what I’d need to bring on orientation day, and what I’d need to send with him in his bag every morning. This kind of redundancy can feel tedious, but it helps me feel more in control. Just like with the calendar in my bullet journal, the act of slowing down and reading carefully enough to take notes helps me process it more deeply in my brain.

Do what works

Of course, like with my jury duty questionnaire, I still make mistakes. Whenever someone in our house fails to read carefully — and we have ADHD, so it happens somewhat often — I say, “RC Cola!” and try to laugh about it.

But really, I’ve gotten to the point where I can laugh about it (sometimes) because I’ve worked hard on these RC Cola strategies. I’ve realized it’s not about being cool, or going green. It’s about my brain, and how I can get information to stick in there. And sometimes the way to do that sounds old-fashioned, not befitting a self-employed 30-something. I used to resist using highlighters and taking notes by hand because it made me feel like I was still in middle school, highlighting the thesis statement on my English paper. But for all the ways technology helps me every day, my reading comprehension strategies are a little old-fashioned.

And that’s okay. Because they work.

What about you? How do you make sure you’re catching the important stuff when you read?

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5 random, mundane things ADHD messes up for me

ADHD and everyday life: it’s almost all I write about here. I try to touch on the important issues, the ones that can cripple our relationships, productivity, and self-actualization. On the ground, though, the little stuff adds up. It makes us laugh. It grinds us down. It affects how others judge us.

Here are five random ways ADHD affects my day-to-day.

  1. Maintaining curb appeal. I live in a sweet little neighborhood where most people take pretty good care of their yards. I love taking care of my yard. It’s rewarding, and it gives me quality outdoor time. The problem is, taking care of the yard(s) requires consistent effort. I’m really great at burst effort. I mow the lawn on the regular, but I’ve also been guilty of the following: dismantling a children’s play structure and letting the pieces blow around the front yard for months. Leaving a length of baseboard from a demolition project leaning on my back fence for five years (and counting). Doing a great job mulching in April, then letting weeds take over the flower garden in July. Repairing the structure of our decorative porch column, then leaving it a bare wooden post all winter (and counting). The list goes on. I can’t imagine what would happen if I didn’t even enjoy this stuff.
  2. Keeping gas in the car. I think I put gas in my car every month or so. I used to drive more, and fueling up at a quarter tank was part of my routine. Now, it’s so long between fill-ups that I forget the gas station, and even the gas gauge, exist. I often don’t look at the gas gauge until the orange light comes on. Then, the ADHD dissociation of actions from consequences kicks in. Intellectually, I know my car will eventually run out of gas. On a deeper level, I can’t feel it. It doesn’t seem real. The feeling most people get when the fuel light comes on doesn’t always happen for me. This is why people with ADHD do such dumb stuff sometimes. Yes, part of our brain knows what will happen, but the part that directs our actions misses the memo. It’s almost unbelievable, even to someone who experiences it.
  3. Using wart remover. You know the stuff I’m talking about, right? The directions say to apply it every day for a couple weeks. For four years, I’ve failed to remember this for enough days in a row to permanently remove a wart.
  4. Parenting with consistency. I often say, “well, next time…” and “okay, but from now on…” The problem is, unless I write that down, I probably won’t remember. My highest priority is to  provide a consistent, predictable system of consequences in my child’s life. I feel awful every time ADHD sabotages this, either because my heat-of-the-moment “next time” was impulsive and unreasonable, or because I forgot the promised consequence.
  5. Helping the homeless. I feel distinctly not-okay every time I shake my head “no” or ignore a homeless person. At the same time, I would rather give them a bus pass, a snack, or something similarly useful than straight-up cash. My goal in life is to keep a stock of granola bars within arm’s reach in my car. That way, I can hand a healthy snack out the window when someone is holding a sign at a red light. However, achieving this is a legit project. I need to select a temperature-tolerant, individually packaged snack, remember to buy it at the store, remember to put it in my car, and remember it’s there when I want it. I feel guilty about the fact that I haven’t succeeded yet.

Alright, your turn. What’s an unexpected roadblock ADHD throws up in your life? Share it in the comments, we won’t judge 😉

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A moment of silence

I had a post all planned for today, but it feels inappropriate to carry on with business as usual while there’s so much negative energy still in the air over this election.

I’m seeing many friends and family take to the social media airwaves today, and the message is dire. Many people I love are experiencing real fears, real frustrations, real hurt and anger. That’s been true for months.

At the same time, those of us with ADHD, especially, should remember how easy it is to hyperfocus on negative emotions — to get stuck. How easily our emotions can spiral out of control.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve heard some very troubling things today. Fears and anxieties I never imagined we’d experience here in the United States. But we won’t heal our nation if we remain mired in negativity. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, it’s important to remember everyone’s views and actions come from somewhere. It may not be a place you understand, but we can’t silence large swaths of our population with brute force, insults, or accusations. It will just bubble up again.

People with ADHD struggle with empathy and civility. Our emotions can feel extreme and out of control. That makes times like this especially difficult.

My advice: make time for silence this week. Take breaks from the news and social media. Be present with yourself. Most of all, don’t feed the trolls. We’ll be back next week to talk about one of my favorite topics: marriage and ADHD.

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2015’s Top Five

I feel good about 2015. It’s been a year of learning to pace myself, of actually finishing a few projects, of falling off the wagon and getting back on again. For this ADHD household, I call it a success.

What do you hope to accomplish in 2016?

As we turn the page, I’m hoping for more teamwork, less clutter, and a fresh coat of paint in every room. I’m hoping to help my husband troubleshoot a few habits and goals, not just focusing inward on my own work and well-being.

I’m also hoping for more great connections like the ones I made in 2015. This blog has helped me reach thousands of people. I have a lot of ideas for 2016, and I owe you all a few book reviews (they’re going to be good ones!).

If you have a question or conundrum weighing on your mind, please share in the comments or via the suggestion box. Chances are you’re not alone and I’ll put it in my queue of future post topics!

In the meantime, here are your favorite posts from 2015:

The only early childhood activity worth my money

music together graphic

Fired for my ADHD: have you been wrongfully terminated?

fired for ADHD Falling through the cracks: one ADHD girl’s story

The Time Timer can help combat ADHD's "time blindness"

Use a signal for bad ADHD behavior…and don’t forget to laugh.

natalie portman ear pull gif

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12 pieces of ADHD gratitude

I don’t believe in that “gifts of ADHD” stuff, but I still try to live a grateful life. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m starting a list of things I’m thankful for — simple things, funny things, and, by that token, maybe the most important things.

Please share yours in the comments. The world needs our positive energy!

I’m thankful for…

  1. A husband who understands I’m trying my best, even if it doesn’t always look that way.
  2. That kind bookstore employee who stood politely while I spaced out for what may have been minutes. I eventually realized I’d never handed her my credit card.
  3. All the minimalist bloggers out there who remind me that simplicity can breed calm — even for me.
  4. Tuesday night community yoga.
  5. Email reminders from the library. I feel like a much better person when I actually return my books.
  6. GTD.
  7. Books that teach me about my brain.
  8. My FitBit. It doesn’t just count my steps, it vibrates twice daily to remind me to take my meds.
  9. A home and lifestyle just a little smaller and simpler than we can afford. It’s like buying ADHD insurance.
  10. Mini Habits, which taught me to set the bar so low, even I can clear it — and I’d better not be too proud to do this.
  11. Sticky notes (much more grown up than writing all over my arms).
  12. A lovely online community of ADHD friends and advocates. You all are the best!

What are you thankful for today?

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When you’re not yourself

During an emotional meltdown, part of us really does disappear. My two-year-old gave me a powerful reminder of this while we were staying with friends for the weekend.

R — exhausted from days of fun and social interaction — totally lost it getting ready for nap. We were in full meltdown mode. I just sat in the middle of the room and tried to remain calm as he sobbed, crawled in circles, and screamed incoherent sentences.

The crying eventually subsided. R opened his eyes, looked at me like he was seeing me for the first time, smiled, and said…

“Hi.”

Hi. As though he had just returned from Somewhere Else. In a way, he had.

When your rational brain checks out

It happens to grownups, too. I especially like how Dr. Mark Goulston describes this phenomenon in his book Just Listen.  He refers to our “three-part brain” as:

  • The lower reptilian brain (fight-or-flight),
  • The middle mammal brain (emotions), and
  • The higher primate brain (logic and rational thought)

These parts were added on sequentially as we evolved. For a real-life illustration, spend some time with babies and toddlers. In his classic Happiest Toddler on the BlockDr. Harvey Karp compares toddlers to “primitive little cavemen” living a “superfast rerun of ancient human development.”

As adults, Goulston says, these three parts of our brain can work as a team. However, add a little stress and our old reptile brain takes over.

“If you’re talking to [someone] whose lower brain or midbrain is in control,” explains Goulston, “you’re talking to a cornered snake or, at best, a hysterical rabbit.”

The biggest mistake we make in our ADHD household? Assuming someone is thinking rationally — with our primate brain — when we’re not.

not yourself pull quote

Your reptile brain deserves some space

When I’m feeling like that cornered snake or hysterical rabbit — not sure which is worse — the critical next step is telling myself, you’re not yourself right now. Or, more accurately, I’m the last person I want handling an important decision or conversation.

I’ve learned it’s best to honor where I am at the moment and give myself space to cool down. Naming feelings helps a lot. Try it next time you’re in emotional or fight-or-flight mode: say — aloud or to yourself — I’m feeling really out of control. That comment was really hurtful. Wow, I’m so angry. Listening to my child cry is sending my stress hormones through the roof.

It’s a hard skill to learn, and it requires practice. My brain loves to trick me into justifying extreme emotions or, even worse, sticking it out in an argument despite feeling hysterical.

This is almost always a terrible idea, especially given ADHD’s effects on emotional regulation. Emotional control is often lacking in ADHD adults. “Without well-developed verbal and nonverbal working memory,” explains Dr. Russell Barkley in Taking Charge of Adult ADHD, “you have less capacity for the visual imagery and self-speech that can help you calm your emotions.”

If you’re in a relationship with an ADHD adult, this emotional reactivity may be all too familiar. In Is It You, Me, or Adult ADD?Gina Pera describes “a tendency to become easily frustrated and growl or blow up, but react 10 minutes later with over-the-top excitement to something else.”

This describes me to a T. My rational brain can be a real diva. It’s ready to walk off the stage at any moment, leaving me to yell the exact wrong thing at my husband, boss, or kid. Once I’m entrenched in a conflict, I forget how I even got there.

It’s tough to counter this. The first step is noticing it’s happening. Intense emotions are, most of the time, an indication that I need to back off. It’s not the time to work through an important issue with my husband, make decisions, or provide my opinion on someone else’s behavior. A poor grasp of time makes it tough to defer these things. Right Now can be the only time that feels real.

But defer we must, if we want to maintain healthy relationships. It’s okay to be upset, and it never hurts to ask, “can we talk about this a little later?” It’s not okay to explode at someone, say a lot of really upsetting things to them, and later claim you have no memory of what happened. My life has been a lot of the former and not enough of the latter, but I’m working on it.

How about you? How do you minimize the damage when your rational brain shuts down?

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I can’t stand coins (things I never knew were ADHD)

coins

As someone over 30 who writes about what it’s like to have ADHD, I sometimes assume I’ve run out of surprises. It’s easy to think I’ve learned all the little ways ADHD affects my behavior.

That’s simply not true. It probably isn’t true for any of us.

The other day, I had a revelation — an, “I can’t believe it’s ADHD” moment — while paying for food at a local cafe.

For some reason, I paid with cash — something I rarely do — and noticed I could give the cashier a few coins to round out my change.

Coins.

I’ve never been able to abide coins. In my retail days, I’d suppress the urge to yell, throw a stapler, or punch the cash register while watching customers pluck coins one by one from overstuffed purses.

It was excruciating. I wondered how they could inflict this kind of torture on another human being. From then on, I resolved to use coins as seldom as possible. I apologized every time I found myself breaking this rule. When I sensed people looking at me as I counted my change, I withered inside and berated myself for causing such a holdup.

On this day at the cafe, it hit me just as I muttered my reflexive, “sorry!”: the coins have never been the problem.

It’s me.

I feel this way — I’ve always felt this way — because I have ADHD. When I count out a few coins to simplify the change a cashier will give me, I’m not forcing an awful feeling upon her. She’s probably not about to start tugging her collar and frantically glancing around the room, as though her skin might leap off her body if she’s made to wait any longer.

Well, unless she’s a 17-year-old with undiagnosed ADHD. But I can’t assume that of everyone I meet. I should probably just stop feeling guilty about giving cashiers exact change.

How about you? What surprising manifestations of ADHD have you discovered lately?

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Stop waiting for a good time to fix it

I’ve been looking forward to preschool.

First and foremost, I feel compelled to point out, because R. will love it. He’s smart and extroverted and he recently asked me to read Maisy Goes to Preschool four times in a row.

I’ve also been counting the days for my own sake. I feel totally scattered, behind on everything, and exhausted by the needs of an ADHD household. Surviving until preschool became my primary goal.

stop waiting

I put all my eggs in that basket: soon, I’d gain four hours per week in a cafe with my laptop. Alone.

Of course, ADHD never gives me a good basket to put my eggs in. The bottom fell out last week, when I received a welcome letter from R.’s preschool listing his first day a full two and a half weeks later than I’d anticipated.

This wasn’t my first time at the “I just have to keep my head above water until _________” rodeo. Still, my reaction wasn’t great.

It stings, when you’ve switched into a time-bound survival mode, to watch the rescue boat disappear back over the horizon.

This experience reminded me why survival mode is a bad idea.

My approach: if you’re struggling and something isn’t working for you, change it.

Now.

If you don't like your fate AIDA

Sure, extenuating circumstances happen. But more often than not, we ADHD’ers create a perpetual state of extenuating circumstances. We erect barriers to productivity like it’s our job. The challenge is to figure out what we can do right now.

If you’ve been wallowing in a pit of chaos and discouragement, ask yourself: how can I make my current situation work for me? What small thing can I do right now? How can I take matters into my own hands instead of waiting for external factors to change?

In other words, if you don’t like your life, change it. Even if you can only manage tiny, tiny stepsDon’t wait for change to come to you, and don’t leave your own happiness and productivity in the hands of fate.

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19 ways I waste time on the internet

19 ways

  1. Replying to email threads when I’m not the expert, have nothing to add, and/or should’ve let someone else reply instead
  2. Reading LiveJournal posts I wrote as a college freshman
  3. Crafting a detailed rebuttal to someone’s post on Facebook, then deleting it because I “shouldn’t be wasting my time on this”
  4. Scrolling through my sister’s Instagram friends for no reason
  5. Reading celebrity news, even though I don’t care about celebrity news
  6. Looking at real estate listings in my city, even though we have no plans to move anytime soon
  7. Looking at real estate listings for other cities, even though we really have no plans to move out of the area anytime soon
  8. Stirring the pot on a Facebook conversation that doesn’t pertain to me
  9. Writing a one-star Goodreads review that gets my point across while still being polite and civil
  10. Adding to Pinterest boards for defunct renovation projects
  11. Aimlessly scrolling through my Pinterest main feed, pinning anything that strikes my fancy
  12. Trying to remember why I even went to Pinterest in the first place (oh, right, to grab a recipe, because 40 minutes ago I was working on a shopping list)
  13. Looking at photos of tattoos inspired by classic literature
  14. Writing what I’m sure will be widely recognized as the world’s most helpful Amazon review
  15. Stalking my high school classmates on Facebook
  16. Reformatting someone else’s Google Document because I assume they want it to look [my version of] presentable
  17. Wordsmithing an email when a quick phone call would suffice
  18. Drafting a blog post I’ll later forget to finish/publish
  19. Disappearing down a rabbit hole of Twitter hashtags that, you guessed it, don’t really pertain to me

Alright, I know you have a few. What would you add to the list?

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