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My Creative Process

18 Feb

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I am part of a Creativity Bootcamp that began on February 1st. Each person is tasked with creating every day. That creating takes many forms; a sketch or painting daily, a set number of words per day, and more. I am in awe of the dedication of some of the creative people in this Bootcamp and their ability to focus. I am amazed at their ability to stick with one thing until they finish it. Consistency and focus on one project at a time is how they succeed. It’s a formula that works really well for so many of them, but I also know, that is a recipe for failure for me and for many who have ADHD as well. Having a single goal for me is boring bordering on torturous. Even worse, if I do find something that will hold my focus, I can do it to the exclusion of everything else, which means my home and my relationships can fall apart and that doesn’t work for anyone, especially me. I’m not saying that their way is wrong by any stretch because it obviously works for them. Unfortunately, that type of focus can either elude me or envelope me so completely that the rest of my life falls apart so I had to find a different way.

Some time ago, I met a man on an airplane and we began talking about our families. Within a few minutes of meeting him, I could tell he had ADHD, and I am sure that Divine intervention was at work that day because when I met this man, I was worried about my son’s future because he wasn’t doing well in school. In fact, I was worried if he would even graduate from high school because he just didn’t care about doing his work, studying for tests or finishing projects on time. My husband and I both did well in school. My husband didn’t like school much, but he had eight older siblings and had developed a competitive nature that drove him to excellence. I loved school and was, at the time, an overachieving people pleaser, so I worked hard and excelled most of the time. Those long term projects were a mystery to me, but we’ll get to that later. When I was telling this man about my children, he asked if my youngest had ADHD. I said yes, and he asked if he was on medication for it. I said no and he told me not to ever medicate him.

I want to put in a disclaimer here. I understand that ADHD meds have been a godsend for many families. I know that many children have benefitted from them, and so have many adults. I’m not against them. I’m sharing this story because it is part of my life. My son cannot be medicated for ADHD because of his medical condition. All of his doctors are in agreement on that fact, so we have to find alternatives. This man was the godsend to me that meds have been for many others, so please bear with me. This man had been recommended for medication when he was a teen, but his parents opted not to medicate him. He struggled through high school, but as soon as he began working in a field he liked after high school, he became very successful; so successful that he owns two homes, one in our home state of Ohio and one on Sanibel Island in Florida, a rather exclusive community with very expensive homes. He also owns and runs five businesses. He said he was convinced that most of the successful owners of multiple businesses had ADHD and needed the variety of multiple businesses to hold their attention. He said that there were two keys to his success; he loved to learn, and he had a personal assistant who was incredibly organized and helped him stay on track. He explained that his businesses were like the fingers on your hand. He would travel up one finger, working and focusing on that business and having a great time, until his assistant reminded him that one of the other fingers needed his attention, so he would back out of that finger and work on another one until his assistant reminded him about one of the other fingers that needed attention. It was an amazing analogy, and I began to understand my son’s obsession with YouTube videos and Ted Talks. This man assured me that my son would be fine as long as my son had a desire to learn. The key was to help him move in directions that held his interest. It was one of the most positive things anyone ever said about my son, and it also helped me to understand myself.

I began to understand why so many coaching styles and systems that were life changing for others never worked for me. I understood that many people could be single minded and fixed on a goal and that is what drove them to success. I also understood that for people like me and my son that is almost torture. Yes, we have to do it sometimes when we get backed up against a deadline, and I understand that sometimes when people say they work better under pressure, it’s because they need the adrenaline rush of meeting the deadline to help them focus. It’s actually very similar to what stimulant medication does for many with ADHD. I also began to understand why the systems I have followed successfully work for me.

Some days, like everyone else, I have decent focus. I can get through my daily routine with minimal effort and the day seems automatic. I focus especially well when I have somewhere to be in the afternoon because it provides me a deadline of sorts to keep me focused. Everything lines up so that I can get out the door for the afternoon commitment. The day without commitments is far more challenging for me. Time seems to slip through my fingers. I wake up with a grand plan and before I know it, it’s after noon and not much is accomplished. TV, social media and texting provide all the distractions I need to let the day completely slip by. It’s maddening sometimes, but knowing that it’s part of my makeup is comforting too because I’ve learned what to do about it. It’s so simple that people dismiss it. It’s using a timer. Isn’t that crazy? My best adaptation tool is a timer, and I’ve learned that even fifteen minutes over the course of several days can make a huge positive impact. I’ve learned to clean my home this way, get rid of clutter and keep my kitchen table clear. I’ve written and published a book, and I intend to write and publish several more including one that will be going to the editor at the end of this month. It’s unconventional and weird to some, but it’s been a life saver for me. I’ve often wondered why this works, but I watched part of a video series by Darren Hardy, who is the former publisher of Success magazine. He is also an author, speaker, mentor and expert on productivity, and this particular video was about focused productivity. He talked about focusing for 90 days on anything can change your life forever. There was a time I would have stopped listening right there, but I’m smarter than I used to be, so I kept with it. It’s all about focus. Yes, he talked about 90 days, and for some people like me, that seems like a huge chunk of my life. It seems like an overwhelming task, but here’s what else I’ve learned. Fifteen minutes is magic.

At first, when I told my husband about this fifteen minute idea, he was incredibly skeptical. He supported me in the effort, but I don’t think he held out much hope. He’s convinced now because he has seen a transformation in our home and in me in ways neither of us could have dreamed. I’m happier and calmer because I don’t feel obligated to spend hours doing anything. I can transition from task to task so that I never seem to get bogged down in anything that bores me to the core, and even the things I would rather ignore seem easier to address if I only have to spend fifteen minutes at a time instead of diving in until it is finished. I know it wouldn’t work for everyone, but it works for me. Currently, I’m painting my kitchen that way and writing two books. I had taken a few days off because of the side effects of some medication, but I’m back on track and the ceiling is finished. There’s no rush at this point, and as long as the job is finished by Easter, I’ll be a happy girl.
I read once that people often procrastinate and resist starting something because of perfectionism. I laughed at the time because I thought if people saw my home, they would know for sure that I wasn’t a perfectionist. That person was right, though, because I had this idea that if I didn’t have a minimum of two hours to clean my home “properly” (or perhaps perfectly) I didn’t have time to clean. When I would spend hours cleaning, I would be exasperated the minute someone messed up all my efforts because it was such monumental effort. What I found was when I spent fifteen minutes at a time, I understood more clearly that most messes could be cleaned up in a fifteen minutes or less. I no longer needed things to be perfect because whatever might happen, I could handle it. Good enough became the norm and perfection got chucked out the door. The same thing works for my writing. The first few blog posts were excruciating because I wanted them to be perfect. I was so worried about being judged and criticized. These days, I’m more aware that even if I write what I think is the perfect post, someone won’t like it or won’t agree with it, and while I never set out to upset or offend anyone, it still happens now and then, and I can only hope that when people know my heart, they know everything I write comes from a place of love and wanting the best for everyone.

This week because of that magical timer, I’ve moved forward on two books, kept my house tidy, learned more about technology and social media which included overcoming a bit of fear of technology in general for me, and I am in the process of decluttering my email list. Many days I’m using the timer to move forward. Some days I use it to tell me when to stop and move on to something else. I have my timer to move me forward when I’m unfocused. I have my Creativity Bootcamp to move me forward when I’m uninspired, and I have my Better Living Daily Facebook Page, my blog and this radio show to help me connect and share it all with you. It may not be perfect, but right now it is perfect for me. By the way, the Bootcamp ends on February 29th, and I am hosting Easter on March 27th. I am thinking of doing a March Madness challenge on my Facebook page with updates in the blog and radio show to help me and whoever wants to join in get ourselves moving in March toward our best lives. Stay tuned for details, but until then, thanks for being you and have

The Morning That Almost Wasn’t

22 Jan

Yesterday was what I would call a plot twisty day. One of my favorite quotes is that when something goes wrong in your day, you yell “Plot twist!” and move on. Yesterday was full of those moments. While I was running the Swiffer like I do every day to keep up with the dog hair, I found a packet my son was supposed to turn in. He is struggling in that particular class and I had to go to school at some point to pick up some volunteer work, so I left my home much earlier than planned. This rarely bodes well for me on the productivity front. On the way to school, I remembered I only had four eggs. My son has become interested in cooking lately, and the weather predicted here over the weekend is not conducive to leisurely grocery shopping. Eggs, bread and milk supplies are all in jeopardy with the approaching winter storm, although I guess it could be worse. We could be in the Washington, DC area that is predicting up to 30 inches of snow; those of you in the DC area have my sympathy. So, I decided to run to Costco to buy some eggs.

On the way to Costco, I saw a sale. It was one of those pop up sales we have in the US that you find in empty retail locations. Some have Halloween goodies. Some have clothing. Some have home furnishings, and since we need a new floor lamp, I decided to check it out. An hour later, I had purchased $100 worth of clothing for $35. This is a big deal in my world for two reasons. The first is because I rarely shop for clothes for myself, and the second is that I rarely shop for that long. I usually throw my hands in the air and just give up because the clothes don’t look right on my currently larger than I would like shape or they’re too expensive. These fit well and were from those more expensive stores I refuse to shop in, but all of the items I purchased had been marked down to a price range that made me deliriously happy. Now it was time to get the eggs.

If you’ve ever shopped in the US before a big snowstorm, you know that the store will be crowded. If you’re like me and you don’t bring a list, you know things can get out of hand. I only went into the store for one item: eggs. I came out with two packages of eggs, a huge bag of baking soda (because mine could run out in the next week or two), minced onions (because despite the smaller container I purchased just the other day, I might need the giant one soon), dried pasta (because my husband mentioned that he liked the kind we bought from Costco) and a 6 box carton of organic chicken stock (because I was in the process of making chicken soup for my sick nieces and I ran out of homemade broth) . Not the quick trip I expected and another hour burned, but I was finally on my way home. As I was driving, I was thinking about our weekend plans. My husband and I were planning a dinner out because I will be out of town for a few days next week. With the weather, I wondered if it would be better to alter the plans, so we did. We decided to move up our dinner so we wouldn’t have to fight the weather and panicked drivers later. I love to cook, but I love a night off so this was a welcomed plot twist, especially since I had a volunteer commitment that evening. The rest of the afternoon was spent doing my best to write, interspersed with volunteer work, cleaning up the house and trying to get the chicken soup I was working on to taste better. I love making soup and find it bothersome when the flavor falls short, and the flavor was definitely falling short on this batch.

Sometimes when making soup, the best thing you can do is to add a few ingredients, turn off the heat, let the flavor build and heat it up later to see how things are progressing. As we left for dinner, I did that with the soup. I added some spices and salt and pepper and turned off the heat. We had a lovely dinner out, and my husband dropped me off to my volunteer work so I didn’t have to find a parking spot in a very overcrowded parking lot. My job was to sign up new members to one of our marching band fundraisers. It is a way for students to build up funds for our marching band’s trip to Disney World this year. Traditionally, incoming freshmen have not been able to sign up until they have started at the high school which only gives them a couple of months to build up funds. Our goal was to give them more time which, for some, could make the difference between being able to make the trip and having to stay home. Unfortunately, we had no idea the website would be blocked (plot twist yet again)so; I could answer questions but couldn’t sign anyone up. It was not the way I would have chosen to spend the evening, but I got some valuable information and ideas to help new people become more familiar with the program.

After I got home, I flipped on the soup and tasted it when it was warm. It was still bland. Ok, now it was a challenge to see what I needed to add to make this soup come alive. I decided to start with some chicken base that I buy in the natural section of the store. Maybe that would help things, and after it got incorporated, I could shut things down for the night and work on it again in the morning. It had been such an unusual day, I hadn’t given the soup as much thought and care as I normally would. Perhaps I could coax it along tomorrow. We set about our evening routine, rested a bit and got ready for bed. It had been a long day, and we all were tired. It felt good to get to bed fairly early, and I fell asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow.

At 2:36am I woke up and smelled something. It was a horrible smell, and I knew immediately what it was; the soup. I grabbed my robe and ran downstairs to see the glow of the flame under the pot and the smell was even worse because there was also smoke to go with it. I turned off the stove. My husband had gotten up and joined me and suggested that we just put the pot on the back porch and wait until morning to open it. I agreed, thinking only of what could have happened if I hadn’t smelled that burning soup. In all my years of cooking, I’ve never done anything like this, and I wondered what was different this time. When I said to my husband that I couldn’t believe I had done that, he reminded me that he had shut down the kitchen and didn’t see the flame when he turned off the light. We both realized how close we had been to not waking up the next morning, and amazingly, all either one of us felt was gratitude. Neither one of us blamed the other one or ourselves. My family often makes fun of my extremely sensitive sense of smell and says I have a bionic nose because I can smell milk and tell you days before it will go bad; we’ve kept it to see if I was right and I was. I am offended by the smell of the trash can long before anyone else, and I can almost always smell something right before it begins to burn. I guess there is a delay when I’m sleeping because the veggies in the soup are burnt to a deep black. I’m not sure if the pan will survive, but I am so grateful that my husband, my son and I did. Last night, after we aired out the house a bit, we were lying in bed wide awake, and I burst into tears. Normally they would have been tears of regret and shame that I had “let” this happen. Last night, the tears were tears of gratitude for waking up. They were tears of joy that I would see my husband and children’s faces again. They were tears of humility and yet, the whole incident feels like a grace filled message. It feels like it’s time to put away false fears and drama. It’s time to step fully into my life, and today, that means telling the ladies in the school office how much appreciate what they do for our kids, which I did. It means thanking my son’s counselor for the incredible advocate she has been for my son and for seeing the potential in him, which I’ve done. It means telling someone I’ve worked with for years who has been told she is difficult to work with because she made people follow the rules how much I love working with her, which I have. It also meant holding my son’s and my husband’s faces in my hands before they left this morning and telling them how much I loved them and then texting my other two boys to tell them the same. Last night reminded me that life can change or end in the blink of an eye, and that I have much to do. I pray that I always remember and never need such a reminder again, so for those who love me, know I love you fiercely and sometimes too much but I’d rather love too much than too little. For those who are angry with me or are ignoring me right now, I love you and forgive you and wish you nothing but peace and happiness because we all deserve that and more. For those who are suffering, I am a fixer, and I love being that person. I am the person who will help you find the solutions if you want me to and sometimes when you don’t. If I overstep, you can say so. I’ll back off and appreciate your honesty and still love you besides. Today, I love life more than I ever have and though some might think that’s a bit dramatic after some burnt veggies in the bottom of a pan, the lingering smell that reminds me of what could have been and the memory of the look in my husband’s eyes last night tell me it’s not overly dramatic at all. It was a message and a gift, and it has been heeded. Thank you as always for taking time to read my posts. It means more to me than you know. Thank you for being you and have a great day.
Jamuary 22

Declarations and Manifestos

19 Nov

If you would like to listen along, click here:

As some of you know, I did a creativity bootcamp in October which has now become a creativity salon. In bootcamp, we were challenged to create every day of the month. In the salon, we are more focused on a longer term outlook on our creativity. One of the things we have been encouraged to do is to create a manifesto or declaration for ourselves, and I have enjoyed reading every single one of them. Some are bold and incredibly ambitious. Some are more pensive as the creative is searching for the path that feels best. Some are there to soak up what they can to help them understand their own creativity better. Each one is a treasure, a small piece of the creative soul shared with those who understand. I, however, really struggled with mine. I have wanted creativity to be my career since I can remember. I worked in advertising and media production because it was a way to build creativity into my career. The creative life calls to me and fortunately for me I have a husband who supports me in that and believes in me more than I believe in myself at times. I know I could immerse myself in creativity and forget everything else, but I also know I’ve worked too hard to get where I am to do that because as I age, I seek a life that is untethered rather than un-managed. I know I need some structure to my day or nothing will happen at all. That doesn’t mean that if I have a rush of creativity, I can’t indulge it. It means that by creating structure and doing the things that bring peace to my home, I am free to indulge those creative rushes when they happen. As I said in part of my declaration, I made a promise over 20 years ago to be the best wife and mother as I could be. Two of my children attend college, so my daily parenting for them is done. I have one more child at home with two and a half years left before he graduates from high school and heads off for his college adventure. Until that happens, my family comes first.

The peace I felt when I wrote that was extraordinary because for many years I felt like I had to apologize for being home with my children. I am college educated. I have been writing for years, but it wasn’t until recently that I found true peace with my life. You see, eight years ago, my youngest child was diagnosed with ADHD. Because of a medical condition, his doctors all agree that medication for his ADHD is a bad idea. I understand that medication is a miracle for some, but in my heart, I knew it wasn’t the best answer for my child. Instead, we have spent years working with behavior modification, dietary changes and other lifestyle choices to create the best environment for him. In the process, I began reading about the condition and several things clicked. It wasn’t long before I realized that apple didn’t fall far from the tree, and the more I learned, the better things got for both of us. I began to understand that I did well in school because I loved it, and he struggled with it because he didn’t. I also understood that even though I loved school, long term projects were a mystery to me because I didn’t know how to break up the work. I didn’t know how to make little bits of progress so most projects were completed in a flurry of adrenaline the night before they were due, and I failed several of them. Somehow I made it through not only high school but also college, and I think the only reason I did make it was because I majored in subjects that I loved. Otherwise I would have been doomed because doing things I didn’t like was like torture for me. It was the reason my room was a mess. It was the reason I could cook a meal fit for a king and leave the dishes sit for two days after. It was the reason I could work for 14 hours on a video shoot but couldn’t seem to clear my desk. It was the reason I had the idea for dozens of creative projects but few of them ever got finished. Until my son’s diagnosis, I truly thought there might be something wrong with me. After my son’s diagnosis, I was sure of it until I began to read articles that explained ADHD in a different way. I began to realize that often the greatest discoveries came from people who exhibited the same thought patterns my son and I had. The difference was that they found a way to elevate their creative gifts and deal with their organizational challenges. Now how in the world was I going to do that?

October 14, 2002 changed my life. That was the day that I signed up on the FlyLady website. I’ve discussed about this before so I won’t go into great detail about all of it. I will tell you, though, that if you want to improve the condition of your home, she has a great way of going about it. I would caution you also that it can get overwhelming, so I want to share the greatest lesson I learned; the magic of fifteen minutes and baby steps. It has been said we over estimate what we can do in an hour or a day, but we under estimate what we can do in 30 days, 6 months or a year. We tend to have short sightedness when we approach tasks, and if you have ADHD, that is especially true, but here’s something I think is amazing. I have been journaling for decades. I pitched some of my earliest writing because at one point in my life I couldn’t face the angry teenager I was, but I still have about 25 years of journals. Lately I’ve been reading some of the first ones, and it was been incredibly enlightening. I’ve always wanted to create a wonderful home for my family. I’ve always wanted to be a writer who helps people live their best life. I’ve always wanted to be a spiritually connected person. Those are the constants. When I began this journey, I was searching and almost pleading with the Divine to show me the way. It felt like there was a secret I didn’t know. It felt like so many had it together when I felt like a hot mess. I wanted and longed for better. FlyLady gave me that hope for my home. Little by little, my home came together, and I wish I could tell you I cleaned like Cinderella or Snow White, whistling and singing and being filled with joy. I didn’t. In the beginning, I was resentful and angry, but I kept moving and on August 1, 2004, nearly two years after signing up to learn how to clean my home, I finished my to do list for the first time. It was a joy to read about that day again, not because of the progress made in my home but because of the other things I wrote in my journal. I wrote about feeling like I was on the right path for the first time in my life and feeling joy about my life and its direction. My finances were improving. My health was improving, and I was in awe of how I had arrived at that moment; through a messy home and needing to clean it up for a child with extraordinary needs.

The journey has not been a straight line. I have had curves, hills and valleys with the occasional mountain and chasm to cross. A decade later, my home is not perfect, and that’s perfectly fine. At times life feels overwhelming, especially when I forget the magic of 15 minutes, but somehow I eventually remember and I address that overwhelm 15 minutes at a time and with baby steps. It’s how I got and keep my home in shape. It’s how I improved and continue to improve my finances, and it’s how I will continue to write books, blog posts and who knows what else in the future. When I wrote that in my declaration, at first I wondered if other people would understand. I wondered if I was turning away from the creative life I have always longed for, but two things became very clear. First, it didn’t matter what anyone else thought. If I was at peace with the plan and knew it would create a better life for me and for my family that was what mattered. Second, not only was I using a system that has created enormous success for me in the past, I might even help someone find their way to success as well. It’s an unusual way to approach life, but it works for me, and it brought me to the next challenge in the creative salon.

Someone asked if we had anything that we used for inspiration while we created and I do. I haven’t looked at them as much lately as I have in the past but it reminded me to do just that, and those things still make me smile and inspire me greatly. I have a picture of myself at 2 years old. I’m smiling the impish smile of a two year old with a secret, and it’s my favorite picture ever taken of me. That picture reminds me that I have an inner child who lived life fully before life got in the way. She is the best and worst of me and I want only the best for her. It reminds me to be gentle with myself and with others because we all have an inner child who needs love and nurturing and an occasional miracle, and that’s one of my other inspirations. An online friend sent me an amazing card when I was writing my first book that said Miracles Can Happen. That card helped me to crank out my first book, and I will be using it to help with every creative endeavor from here on, as will the other card that sits on my desk. This one was sent by a friend for my 50th birthday. Unlike some, I celebrated my entry into my fifties, and this card is something I aspire to be. The card reads:
Born to be wild,
Born to be outrageous,
Born to live your life out loud,
Born to be courageous…

Born to make some mischief,
Born to rock ‘n roll,
Born to spread your wings and fly,
Born to bare your soul…

Born to be a dreamer,
Born to dare and do,
Born to make the world a better place
Because you’re you.

Although I wrote my declaration for the creativity salon, this is the manifesto of my life and who I aspire to be whether I do that through my writing, my radio show or taking care of my family. It isn’t a traditional path, and I’m ok with it. It’s also why I thank you for being you every week because I think we all have unique and amazing gifts to share with the world, and I hope you have your own declaration, manifesto or incredible life plan as well. If not, start thinking about it and let me know what you come up with. Thanks for being you and have a great day.

The Hour and a Half Life Change

15 Oct

To listen along, click here:
This has been one crazy week. As I posted on my personal Facebook page, it has been a week of perspective. A young woman I know lost a child, and a young couple I know have a child who is struggling to recover after her second open heart surgery. I’ve had a few challenges of my own in the parenting realm, but knowing the situations of these parents certainly keeps things in perspective. The other thing that gave me a jolt of perspective was attending a lecture about transitioning your ADHD teenager to adulthood. A friend invited me and since my ADHD teen is 15, I thought it was a great opportunity to learn something new and I did. The best way to describe the evening was eye opening. In the first place, the lecture was conducted by a doctor which had me concerned about how well I could pay attention; the apple did not fall too far from the tree mind you, but the doctor was so entertaining, I only looked at my cell phone once to see what time it was and that was when the moderator said that time was up. He talked for an hour and a half about ADHD, and I didn’t get bored once, even during the neurobiological explanation of how the brain works. That, in my humble opinion, is one heck of a speaker, and I learned more than I ever thought I wanted to know about ADHD. Bear with me because some of the highlights of this talk were incredibly eye opening to me, and I think they explain so much.

Do you know the first time the symptoms of ADHD show up in medical journals? I didn’t. I thought it might be the 1970s when my mother took sugary cereals out of my brother’s diet because he was fidgety at school. Nope. The first mention of childhood inattention in a Medical Textbook is in 1775 when Melchior Adam Weikard wrote about distractibility, poor persistence and impulsive actions in children. In 1778, Alexander Chrichton provided more detail and even mentioned the inability to focus, so the next time someone talks about ADHD as being a fad, you can share that with them. The observation of these types of behavior became more apparent and relevant when mandatory school began in the early 20th century and children were now forced to sit in one place all day and concentrate for the first time. Although my son is not medicated, I did find it very interesting to find out that stimulant medication for children has the second most studies of any drug on the market other than aspirin.

One of the other things I found very interesting is how those with attention issues handle time and punishment. We all know that small children struggle with long term thinking and detest being yelled at. Because of an under developed prefrontal cortex in the brain, those with attention issues have difficulty seeing life in the long term and they continue to struggle with being yelled at, although there is some research that suggests that children with ADHD can actually become addicted to being yelled at because it stimulates their adrenaline which then makes it easier for them to focus. For parents of those children, that idea explains so much, but then the question becomes what to do about it. The normal prefrontal cortex of the brain is fully developed by age 25. Guess how old you have to be to rent a car? In case you don’t know, it’s 25. Interesting, huh? For most people, their sense of understanding the correlation between behavior and the consequences develop as follows:
Children under 5 need immediate feedback to understand the connection between behavior and consequences. Reading a book, watching a video or playing a game must come immediately after a desired behavior is accomplished. If the reward is delayed, the lesson is lost. Children in 1st through 3rd grades have about a 1-2 hour time frame. Children in 4th – 7th grades have about a day, and as children grow through their teens, they develop to having a 5-7 day time frame. In children with attention issues, those associations are delayed, so your 15 year old, who “should” be able to understand a reward a week in the future may only be able to think about this day and just a few hours from now. I wish I had known that when my son was in 3rd grade because that was when it became so frustrating for me to try to incentivize him. It never seemed to work and now I know why. My “treats” were too far into the future. The other thing is that all children and adults need rewards, but I think kids and adults with ADHD need even more rewards. A few years ago, I stopped watching The Biggest Loser on TV because I knew that show wouldn’t help me. I didn’t need a trainer that yelled at me and pushed me to my breaking point. I had been doing that all my life, and I was still fat. No one had to remind me of why I wanted to lose weight, and I didn’t need a trainer to push me. What I needed was a kinder way of being. For me, losing weight isn’t about working out and starving myself. I have to focus on taking excellent care of myself rather than pushing myself with threats and negative self-talk. I had been punishing myself for decades. It has become time to pamper and take care of myself. The term the doctor used was forward thinking. Take this example:
If you don’t do your homework, you won’t get to play video games or as soon as you finish your homework, you can play video games.
To most people, that is basically the same statement; completing the homework means that you get to play video games. To a child with ADHD, the only statement they hear in the first sentence is that they won’t get to play video games. I heard someone say something similar to this years ago while talking about trying to get children to slow down while taking a walk. What do most people say to a child who keeps running ahead? They say, “Don’t run.” A child then has to think about the undesired behavior before they can think of the desired behavior and the adult never really stated the desired behavior at all. Instead of telling the child not to run, tell them what you want. Tell them to slow down. Tell them to walk, and if you really want to be extraordinary, figure out why you want them to do that behavior in the first place. Are you afraid they might run out into the street? Tell them that. If you want a child the thinks for themselves and doesn’t just follow the crowd, never tell them to do anything because you said so. Give them reasons, and it will make you think about your own motivations as well. This is a life skill that will serve you well and although it is simple, it is not always easy. This morning, I caught my 15 year old with electronics in his bed for the third time this week. I am so tired of this behavior, and I really wanted to lambaste the child. I wanted him to feel bad about what he did, but I found a better way. My son does not like to ride the bus and has been driven to school for the past few years. He truly loves being taken to school. I do it because I love my son and have done it for my other sons as well. The only thing I ask of them is to keep the morning moving well and be ready on time. When my son sneaks electronics into his room, he doesn’t sleep well and it makes for a very stressful morning. When I add the half hour it takes to drop my son off at school and the extra tank of gas each week, I get especially irritated when we have that added drama in the mornings. To make the point, this morning I called our transportation department and asked what I needed to do to have him ride the bus in the morning, and I called when my son was home and could hear the conversation. He hasn’t been punished and I explained to him that from now on, the choice was his. If he chose to have electronics in his bed, he chose to ride the bus. If he chose to go to bed on time and get himself up in the morning, I would take him. It wasn’t a perfect conversation, and I did get more aggravated than I would have liked to, but it has been a stressful and under slept week for me too and I have never even hinted that I am perfect in any way. I only say that each day I do my best to do better than the one before. The thing is that life will treat us this way as adults. If we make good decisions, life is generally better. If we make bad decisions, life is generally more of a challenge. Unfortunately, we’ve been more conditioned to beat ourselves up when we make a mistake than to lift ourselves up when we make good decisions. What if we decided to change that? What if we decided to turn life around?

One of the attendees asked the speaker what you say to parents who say that life isn’t forward thinking; that life has negative consequences if you don’t do what you’re supposed to, and his response was amazing. He disagreed. He said the reason he goes to work is to get paid. He loves his job, but if they decided not to pay him, he wouldn’t show up. There may be a small percentage who don’t, but the vast majority of people who work and are paid, so it for the money. I work then I get money then I buy stuff I want. You could see people understood this on a level they had never even thought about before, and I have to say I got it as well. I also began to see that I needed to do that more with myself. I needed to create more incentives and live with more joy. I decided to live forward and it has made a difference. For those who are friends with me on Facebook, you know that I have been asking for prayers for the people I mentioned at the beginning of the broadcast. In the past, what was happening to those people would have shut me down emotionally. It would have been my excuse for not doing anything, but I realize none of them would want to be responsible for that. Would you? Would you want your suffering to make others suffer? Instead, I decided to do as much as I could muster in the most kindly way I could. It’s why I kept my temper with my son when I would have lost it in the past. It’s why, when the doctor talked about raising children with ADHD being like working with butterflies, I nearly cried. He said when you work with butterflies you cannot grab them by the wings so that they cannot fly or you’ll kill them. You cannot pounce on them or run after them or you will scare them away. The best thing you can do with butterflies is to sit and observe and be very peaceful and when they feel comfortable, they will fly and land near you and eventually they will open its wings and show just how beautiful they are. I think that is one of the most beautiful descriptions of not only teens with ADHD but human beings in general. For that piece of wisdom alone, it was worth my time to attend. So my little butterflies, I set you free to fly. My two greatest joys are to see you fly and to see you land near me to spread your wings so I can see how beautiful each one of you really are. Thanks for being you and have a great day.

Tell a Different Story

3 Sep

To listen along, click here:

We all get stuck now and then and when we do, we tend to use those moments of stress to reinforce the stories we tell ourselves, usually in a negative way. We can eat healthy food and exercise for several days in a row and then blow it out on a weekend and convince ourselves we have no self-discipline. We can take care of our homes and clear some clutter then get distracted for a few days by life and beat ourselves up about the condition of our living space and tell ourselves what losers we are. Have you ever said any of these things to yourself?

I just can’t get organized.
I don’t have any willpower.
I’m just lazy
I’ve always been messy.
I’m such a loser.
I’m so stupid.
What’s wrong with me?
I suck.
I’m worthless.
I’m not a morning person.
I hate laundry, washing dishes, etc
My spouse won’t let me.
If my kids weren’t so messy…
If my kids would just behave…

The list could go on and on, and I’m sure everyone could add more than a few to this list, but why do we say or think these things? I’m sure we would all say because it’s true, but I would be willing to bet that at some point someone else put that idea in your head and you decided to believe them. Maybe you were just a little tyke when someone said something to you, but you’ve based your view of yourself on someone else’s opinion of you. In truth, nearly everything you think about yourself is based on what others think of you. Isn’t that an amazing concept to think about? The sad part is that most of us were raised and surrounded by damaged people who were raised and surrounded by damaged people. We have become the product of those fractured pieces of humanity and their opinions.

In addition, all through our lives we encounter other damaged human products in the form of teachers, friends, enemies and bullies. I was halfway through 2nd grade when we moved to a new school district. One boy in my new class decided to make me the target of his unhappiness in life. He made fun of me for being smart, for wearing glasses and for how I looked in general. He decided to nickname me bird because he said my nose looked like a beak. My heart breaks for my seven year old self when I think about not only what he said, but the reaction of the adults in my life regarding the incident. Back in my day, we were told to ignore the bully (impossible), to say sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me (big fat lie) or worst of all, he probably likes you and just doesn’t’ know how to show it. Ack!!! And we wonder how women end up in abusive relationships. That boy’s actions did more to destroy my self-esteem that anything else up to that point. So much of what I thought about myself was created by that boy; because I believed what he said must be true. Not once did anyone tell me that what he said was a lie. It wasn’t until many years later that I began to tell a different story about what happened to me in 2nd grade.

I had forgotten about Brian, my second grade bully, until I was doing some spiritual work that asked you to find the origin of some of your negative beliefs about yourself. It was then, through some journaling, that I remembered Brian and the impact he had on my life. I was stunned at first that something so long ago and seemingly forgotten was such a big part of how I thought about myself. Then I got angry, at Brian for how he treated me and at the adults in my life for shrugging it off. I let go of a bunch of rage, and it was cathartic, but that was just the beginning. Over the years I’ve learned many things from my encounter with Brian.

It took a while, but I figured out how badly this young boy must have felt about himself; this boy who spent nearly all of 2nd grade behind the giant flip charts in our classroom. I can clearly see how a new girl in class who was eager to learn, who loved school, who wanted to be smart and please the teacher would be the perfect target for a boy who didn’t like school, who had no problem and maybe even enjoyed displeasing the teacher. I believe, now, that Brian craved connection and for him, even negative attention was connection of some kind. Many of my teacher friends have shared the quote that children who need the most love often show it in the most unloving ways. I believe Brian was one of those children, and I now grieve for what he needed and didn’t get, from me or from anyone else I would guess. I have forgiven Brian over and over again as I realize how many of my negative thoughts and emotions are tied to my time with him. I’ve forgiven myself too for hating him, for returning his anger with some cruel thoughts and words of my own and even for feeling relief rather than sadness when Brian was killed in a single driver accident when we were in high school.

These days, I tell a different story about Brian. Instead of being angry and bitter about a boy who was unkind to me, I use Brian to help me forgive those who are unkind to others, especially those I care about. Just this week, someone was unkind to one of my children and my first thought was revenge. I thought about the many ways I could make life miserable for that person, but after thinking it over, I realized my son had learned some valuable life lessons, not the least of which is how much he can count on me to be there for him. It is the story we are choosing to focus on, and it is helping us to move passed the situation very quickly.

Remember the list of negative things I mentioned before? What if we changed them to begin to help everyone live better and look at themselves with a kinder eye?

What if “I can’t get organized” becomes I am learning every day how to live a better life for myself and my family?
“I have no willpower” and “I’m just lazy” can become I am learning to live my highest calling every day.
“I’ve always been messy” becomes I love my home and am taking better care of it daily.
“I’m such a loser” transforms into every day above ground is a successful one.
“What’s wrong with me?” turns into how can I become a better version of myself?
“I’m so stupid” changes to I learn something new every day.
“I suck” and “I’m worthless” are replaced by I do my best daily and that is good enough.
“I’m not a morning person” can slowly transform into I am learning to appreciate every part of every day.
“My spouse won’t let me” evolves into I choose every day how I live my life. If you believe this isn’t true for you, I suggest you get counseling or you get out. From previous life experience, I would suggest you get counseling if you have given that control over to someone else and don’t know how to take it back. If you feel afraid to even think about taking control of your life back, I suggest you get out as quickly as possible. This one is near and dear to my heart because I have seen so many women waste away in unhealthy relationships that become only about what the man wants. Please get help if that’s where you are.
“If my kids weren’t so messy” or “If my kids would just behave” turns into I am becoming my children’s best role model.

You get what I’m saying. You can turn your life around and just because you say these things, your life will not magically change into everything you ever wanted it to be, but it’s a start. The irony is that the story doesn’t change at all because you don’t deny anything that happens or happened. Instead, you change because you take the lessons from the story and use it to empower yourself rather than imprison yourself. In essence, you set yourself free.

I’m doing that right now with my ADD. I’ve never been formally diagnosed but as I learned about ADD and ADHD after my son was diagnosed 8 years ago, I realized that apple didn’t fall far from the tree. The difference between us was that I loved school and he doesn’t, and since only hyper boys with emotional issues were diagnosed when I was a child, I was relegated to the ranks of being scatter brained and flighty. I learned and coped and eventually found systems that helped immensely. Then, I went through menopause and things got nutty. I still keep a clean and mostly tidy house, but it seems to take more energy. I started to berate myself for backsliding and trying to figure out what the heck was wrong with me. Through my own research, I found out that some women with ADD see changes after menopause. Apparently, the hormonal changes can affect some of the symptoms. I’ve never been medicated for ADD because pharmaceuticals and I have a bad history but I was almost ready to dive into the pharmaceutical world to see if they could help me. I was feeling overwhelmed and cynical and defeated when I found a more holistic approach to helping those with ADD. I am just beginning to look through the extensive program and I’m excited to give their approach a try. I’ll let you know how it goes, but it is already taught me to look at that story a little differently. In fact, it’s helping me tell a completely different story about myself because I’m seeing how my weight and my clutter are attached to my ADD. I’m realizing I’m not as lazy as I think I am. I am also realizing that I do fairly well at life, but as I get older, keeping it all together is getting to be more of a challenge, which shows me that can happen for my son too. The most exciting part, though, is that we now have some tools which can help us create and then tell a better story for our lives, and that is what I would challenge everyone to do. Search out the tools that will help you tell a different and better story. Get counseling if you need it. Find resources online, through your library or through retail sources if you need to. Everyone loves free resources, but trust me, if you pay what I did for this program about ADD, you will look it over thoroughly, just to get your money’s worth. That’s kind of what I’m hoping to get out of it as well. I’m hoping to get my money’s worth and to improve my life and the life of my son. I’m hoping he can tell a different story about how well he does in school. I’m hoping I can tell a different story about how I take care of my family. If not, I’ll keep looking because I know the story I want to tell and just knowing that keeps me moving forward.

I hope you know the story you want to tell about your life. I hope that story is deeply intertwined with your highest purpose. If not, get to it so we can all live better daily. Thanks for being you and have a great day.

When the Stress Piles Up

5 Aug

When the Stress Piles Up.

When the Stress Piles Up

5 Aug

It’s August. School looms ahead. College looms ahead. I thought I was prepared and had it all under control this year. I suppose I gave the Divine a good chuckle. This week was supposed to be about me. This was the week that my youngest is at band camp, my middle is not quite ready to start packing for college, my oldest is moved into his new apartment and finishing up his summer internship and my husband is traveling for business. This was supposed to be the week to get the house and my life in order to be ready for the last bits of family time we’ll have this weekend and be ready to dive into the school year calm, cool and collected. Instead, the chaos is taking over.

On Monday, the marching band director asked me if I was still doing prizes for our band camp awards program. I didn’t think we were doing the awards this year so I’ve done nothing. I also recycled the paperwork because I thought the program was ending. This was something that took six weeks last year and now I have two. I’ve asked for help, but I’m not getting much response, and as much as I would like to be able to be the one to say that I just can’t do it, I know how much the kids enjoyed it, so I’ll do what I can, especially since I may have recycled the paperwork, but I didn’t purge the files, so at least I have a list to go by. Stress is not solved, but it is coming to a manageable level.

I have a wedding video to finish. The wedding was at the end of March. This isn’t something I volunteered for initially, but when the videographer backed out on my husband’s nephew, we were asked to video the wedding. We’ve done it for other weddings and said yes. Several things have slowed this down. I had volunteered to do the senior video for my middle son’s class, which took hours upon hours of time to create. Most people loved it, but one person didn’t and made their feelings known on social media. The amount of support from other parents was overwhelmingly beautiful and took the sting out of the negative, but it made it difficult to get enthusiastic about diving back in. Also, the program we use was upgraded and although they tell me that it’s better, I find it frustrating trying to do things that were easier to do before the upgrade. Have you ever heard of the expression “complicating a one car funeral”? It’s the expression that comes to mind when working on this video. It doesn’t help that my tech guru aka my husband had been out of town most of the summer for work and can’t help most of the time.

Then there is the school situation for my youngest. He’s bright and funny and kind. His teachers love him, initially. They are impressed with how engaging he can be and how well he expresses himself when they speak to him. Unfortunately, they are not so impressed by his output. There is not a name for it, but what my son thinks and what he can get to the page are vastly different. I have always said if my son could go through school orally, he would get straight A’s. That is not how school works, however, and by the end of the third quarter, most of the teachers throw up their hands in frustration because they think he is just being stubborn and noncompliant when he’s being the same way he’s been since he started school. My favorite time is when they tell me how he is as if I don’t already know. That’s when I know we just have to ride it out, yet again. This year, we have the option of requesting that he be put in a class where he learns at his own pace rather than having to sit in classroom lectures. He will have more individual attention and will not have to adapt to the organizational systems of several teachers, an attempted task that proved disastrous last year since he has a 504 with executive skills listed as his disability. Originally, we were told we would know whether he was in the program by the beginning of June. That got pushed back because of changes in the district and can you guess when it’s all happening instead? Yep, it’s this week. I would move Heaven and Earth to help my children find their path to success, so stress or not, we deal with it.

This is all in addition to just keeping up with life as a mostly single parent right now, and for those that single parent 365 days per year, I salute you. I want to whine and complain. I want to talk about how crappy my circumstances so I can be a victim and have everyone feel sorry for me, but I know that’s a waste of my time and everyone else’s. I tried that at our family’s 4th of July picnic. I was feeling the same way and was sharing with some family members about how our air conditioning went out, our dog needed surgery and all four of our cars needed repair within a month. We spent over $6,000 to fix it all, and I was feeling very unsure about being able to pay our portion of our sons’ college expenses. I was looking for compassion. I was looking for sympathy. It’s not what I got. Instead, I got stories about how bad other people had it, and it made me think of something I heard years ago about sharing your problems. The premise is that half the people you know don’t care about your problems and the other half are glad you have them. I realized that on a deep level that day, and I will be sure to remember it.

So, what to do about all of this? First, I am making sure to take care of myself. Just typing that shows me how far I’ve come in my life. There was a time I would drop everything important to me to do everything that was important to everyone else. I would fret about deadlines and being accommodating because that’s what I thought a “good” person would do. I would skip meals or eat meals that are bad for me so that I could make everyone happy, and I could be the hero of the day. I like being the hero or heroine if you prefer, but in the past it has often come at a great cost. I get mean and angry because I’m living by someone else’s standards rather than my own. I do what is most important to them without regard for my or my family’s wellbeing. It makes for a cranky mom and lots of shouting and meltdowns, mostly on my part. Yes, my friends, I am a recovering people pleaser, and the more time I spend in recovery, the more I realize I didn’t please anyone. I was passive aggressive. I deflected my anger with myself or a situation and took it out on my family. I was not the nice person I intended and desperately wanted to be. I have been in recovery for a while now, and I’ve learned so very much. I’ve learned that when my anger and stress levels begin to ramp up, it’s time for me to slow down. I used to clean when I got angry. I could clean an entire two story house if I was provoked enough, but in the process, I was usually finding fault with every family member as I cleaned up mess after mess that wasn’t mine, and I wasn’t nice about it. My family would scatter, which would make me even angrier because I would feel abandoned and alone, but who could blame them for wanting to escape the screaming banshee I’d become? I did at the time, but I see life so differently now.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned in life is that we may not be in control of what happens, but we have choices about how we respond. Yesterday, when the stress was getting to me, I went to the rec center and walked on a treadmill for 30 minutes. While I was walking, I listened to something inspirational and spiritual. When I was finished, I could focus again in peace and the day moved more smoothly. I could deal with the bumps in the day without anger. Instead, I was almost amused by them, and that feels so much better than cleaning rage. I also make sure that I meditate during times of stress. Some days it feels like I just don’t have the time, and on those days, I know it’s most important, so even if I only have ten minutes, I sit in silence and just breathe. I focus on connecting with my highest purpose and the best outcome for the day. It has changed my life. Now when problems pop up, I look for ways to incorporate that into my highest purpose. I look for ways to have a better outcome. I am focused on the solution rather than the problem. It’s amazing to me how much time we spend on the problem rather than on a solution that works for everyone. When you focus on solutions and positive outcomes, the whole world shifts, you no longer look at situations as adversarial. It isn’t about us or them. It is no longer a war on anything. It’s about helping and honoring people. It’s about serving the Divine in the most sacred way. It doesn’t always work out the way you intended, but with intentions and actions filled with hope, grace and focus on your highest calling, it almost always works out enough for you to walk away knowing you did your very best.

Finally, putting my feelings into words helps me to find my center. Nearly every day I write, usually after meditating. While meditating clears my head and lifts my spirit, writing after meditating allows me to permanently record the incredible messages and feelings I have afterward. It has been said that prayer is when you talk to God. Meditation is when God talks to you. I have done both for a very long time and have found that to be true most of the time, and writing, for me, has become an extension of that. Sometimes I keep the lessons to myself because I know they are just for me. Some days, like today, I am compelled to share them. It’s difficult sometimes to admit how I used to be and is an exercise in humility at times. For those who are angry and scared and wish they could be different, though, I hope it gives hope that change is possible. Peace is possible, even when the world seems to be falling in around your ears. Peace comes from doing the things that calm you. For me that is walking and meditating and writing and spending time with family and friends. Especially when it seems like you don’t have time for any of it, it is most important to make time for soothing things in your life. So, I will continue this week to walk, meditate and write, and luckily for me, some of my favorite women are available to have a girl’s night in this week. Additionally, I’ll have all of my family under one roof for the first time since July 4th and possibly the last time until Thanksgiving, so we will be sitting down to family dinner this weekend to connect and enjoy each other’s company. Each of these helps keep me sane. It keeps me whole, and it keeps me focused on the best outcomes. It is part of my higher calling to share the shenanigans of my life. I hope in some way, it helps you cope with life better, connect with your higher calling and move toward your best outcome. If it does, I have truly succeeded. Thanks for being you and have a great day!

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