What does it mean?

So I’m kind of flummoxed here. Is it weird that I dreamt last night that I had a surplus of cauliflower in my refrigerator that was about to go bad (which, by the way, isn’t the case) and then this comes in my New York Times daily briefing?

Cauliflower soup photo


So many jobs, so little time

So truthfully, my track record with jobs has been, well, somewhat scattered. It’s almost embarrassing. I’ve often wondered why I’ve had so much trouble staying in one job and in one place for very long. I can’t even count the number of places I’ve lived in the last 20 years — four since moving to Montana about six years ago (for example).

In a recent conversation, the reality of my checkered past became too abundantly clear to me.

Sure, I can blame it on having ADHD in a world of supervisors (and you know who you are) who often don’t appreciate a wildly creative mind or know how to usefully focus that energy. But a recent article in ADDitude magazine caught my attention.

In the article, “8 Most ADHD-Friendly Jobs,” adult ADHD experts “suggest good jobs for your unique skill set — creativity, enthusiasm, energy and problem-solving skills,” to name a few. I was curious so I started going through the list.

1) Education

Teacher: My undergraduate degree is in elementary education. I truly love kids as long as they are someone else’s.

So I initially thought teaching would satisfy the joy I felt when I saw a student finally get a concept she’d been struggling with. I loved the creative aspect of teaching, but lacked neither the motivation to deal with the politics of the education system nor the patience to contend with unruly kids.

Nixed that idea.

Day Care Worker: Tried that in Maine for about three months. What was I thinking? Worked in the 2-year-old room. Was sick a lot. Didn’t get paid much. Need I say more?

Practicing high-angle rescue techniques with my former Wilderness Rescue Team members in Maine.

Practicing high-angle rescue techniques with my former Wilderness Rescue Team members in Maine.

2) Medical field

Emergency Medical Responder: Yup, did that too. Before moving to Montana, I was a licensed EMT and certified Wilderness EMT. I volunteered with a local fire department and two different search and rescue teams in Maine. I also taught wilderness medicine to adults (teaching adults was much more my speed).

And I used my enthusiasm for outdoor pursuits to also teach skiing and other basic outdoor skills. But of course, making a full-time living out of that was challenging.

3) The Arts

Where to begin? I was a dancer, singer and actress first. But when people began recognizing me on the streets of Baltimore, I retreated backstage.

I designed and created costumes, sets and exhibits; painted and sculpted scenery; hung and ran lights; constructed sets, costumes, props, furniture and parade floats; set up large and small musical and theatrical productions; and toured with several shows in a variety of roles. In other words, just about anything one could do in the entertainment field, I did. And I did it in Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Maine, across Canada and all up and down the east coast. And I won’t brag here, but let’s just say, you’re likely familiar with many of the places I worked and people I worked with.

The entertainment industry is fickle though and after many years in the field, I could no longer bear freelancing and living in New York. So I all but gave up that career upon moving to Maine.

4) Food

Food Service Worker or Chef: Never had either of these jobs, but as I’ve written about in a previous blog entry, the kitchen is one of my go-to Zen places where time disappears and my focus becomes nearly indestructible.

I’ve considered a culinary career, but I enjoy food too much to make it my job. I’ll settle for superhero home cook, thank you very much.

5) Journalism

Journalist: This is where I had the most success.

Journalism presents something new almost every day so ADDer’s like myself rarely get bored. That’s not to say I didn’t occasionally want to jump out of my seat and run around the room during an overly long government meeting or an attorney’s entirely too verbose opening statement. But of course, that would not have sat well with presiding officials.

Like many ADDers, I’m inherently curious, social and love to learn. So the tasks of interviewing people, doing research or experiencing new things were, and still are, my favorite aspects of the job. I was able to use my creative energy when writing or shooting photos or video.

But it was often a challenge to write some of the longer stories.

Sitting still too long at a computer makes me antsy. I don’t always get up to move to refocus, though I’m sure that would help. Instead I often find myself distractedly surfing the web or reading other articles that aren’t pertinent to the task at hand. Notice the present tense — this is still a challenge.

But working for daily newspapers provided me with hard-and-fast deadlines — something I typically adhered to. In fact, I need deadlines in order to be productive.

And reporting was truly the first job I truly felt I was having an impact and that was very gratifying. I still like to consider myself a voice for the voiceless, which is why I suppose I’m keeping this blog …

Copy Editor: Though I have never officially been a copy editor, I really enjoy the tasks involved in playing with words, making copy more clear, concise and grammatically correct and mentoring other writers as my editors mentored me throughout the years. It is something I am seeking to do more of, as a matter of fact.

6) Small Business Owner/Entrepreneur

Like many with this so-called disorder, I always have more ideas than time or focus to do anything with most of them. I have stacks of notebooks filled with random thoughts and project ideas and an undated to-do list that gets longer even though I occasionally get to cross off an item. However, things have improved in that realm for me and I am finding ways to keep track of and act on more of them. Though I don’t have any interest in being a business owner, as freelancer, that’s exactly what I am.

And though I am never happier than when I am free to schedule my own days, it does take a certain amount of dedication, discipline and commitment. I  keep track of my projects, hours, fees, etc. on self-designed spreadsheets and my calendar and task list are critical to keeping me on track.

Working in journalism was a good compromise despite being at the mercy of scheduled meetings, etc. Much of my schedule was set by me.

Now working from home (or wherever I decide to take my laptop), I have even more freedom and mobility and I am much happier because the only person I have to answer to is myself. I still have deadlines, but they aren’t daily and I can schedule my work around bike rides, lunches with friends or errands. I feel incredibly fortunate to make a living this way.

Other jobs on ADDitude’s list were beautician/hairstylist and high-tech/software developer. Out of the eight job categories, I have worked in more than half of them and have at least an affinity to most of the others.

Does it count that I cut SO’s (significant other’s) hair?

Next up: Change and fear …

What us wheel-running gerbils can learn from chefs

“It’s like a very … Zen-like thing. All my knives are clean. Clean cutting board. Clear space to work. Clear mind.”

– Greg Barr, sous-chef at New York City’s Esca

One of the tenets of living successfully with ADHD is staying organized.

I use various tools and practices which I previously wrote about (see “Where is … uh, what was I looking for again?“). But this morning as I was on my way to join some friends for an open-water swim (in an effort to exe(o)cise the distraction devil), I heard a story on National Public Radio that was quite interesting.

Though the story didn’t mention a thing about attention deficit, apparently, we all, not just us distractible types, could learn something from highly trained chefs who use a system known as mise-en-place (French for put-in-place). It’s a technique taught and practiced in just about every culinary arts school and high-end kitchen. It is a way to marshal the culinary troops, so to speak.

The practice, as described by several chefs for the NPR story, involves gathering all the tools and ingredients necessary (and ONLY those things) for a certain job and place them at your work station in such a fashion to enable a chef to conserve movement, energy and time.

Culinary Institute of America instructor Dwayne Lipuma told NPR that a chef’s every minute and every motion is accounted for:

“Every component of one single dish is in one single corner so [a student’s] hand literally moves inches,” he explains. “Once [students] set up their station I should be able to blindfold them and tell them … and they should know that their tongs are always here, their oil is always right here, their salt and pepper is always right here. “

Same should apply for wily writers who should be working on other things rather than writing a blog post (ahem). When I prepare to sit down to work, whether I choose my couch, the kitchen counter or my deck as office of the day, I usually spend about 10 to 20 minutes setting it up — pen, paper, documents and phone on my right, computer on my lap, coffee and/or a glass of water nearby … you get the idea.

One could surely argue that I’d be more productive if my workspace wasn’t so mobile. But I have a good excuse besides the lack of a desk or comfy chair in my home office.

Writing is hard and the right environment is critical to my getting anything accomplished. Some days outside with the birds chirping and a view of the mountains is what my creative soul needs. Others it’s the austerity and coolness (it is summer after all) of the living room. But wherever I end up, my office rarely moves until I pack it in for the day.

Getting back to the chefs, they also say it is important to clean as you go. It keeps your workspace organized and makes clean up at the end of the day, so much easier.

Same goes for us average ADD folk who have a tendency to lose and/or forget things. Clean-as-you-go is a parallel notion to OHIO (which I also previously wrote about). OHIO is an acronym for “only handle it once.” If you take something out, use it, clean it and put it away. Mail: toss all the junk into the recycling bin on the way into the house, pay bills immediately or place them in the same spot every time so they aren’t lost when it is time to pay them.

You can, of course, reduce your paper inflow by receiving and paying most, if not all, your bills online. But that takes a certain amount of disciplined order on your computer (which is another discussion).

But in essence, the OHIO principle simply suggests you take that extra step or two to put things away immediately rather than placing them at the top of the stairs so you’ll take them next time you go down — that typically leads to a pile of stuff at the top of the stairs which gets forgotten, ignored and grows! Not terribly efficient or attractive.

According to the NPR story, other principles of mise-en-place include becoming “one with your list,” being punctual and time-aware and, somewhat ironically, slowing down enough to get things right the first time.

Now if I could only figure out how to stop procrastinating …



The sour smell of success (or not)

“And if the food is truly vile, as my ersatz eggs Florentine surely were, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile — and learn from her mistakes.”                                     

                                                                                                                                           –Julia Child 

OK, I admit it … I adore spending time in the kitchen.

Preparing food, whether it’s baking or cooking, is one of those activities during which I become seriously hyperfocused. Time just stands still, which when baking, can be a catastrophe — thank goodness for timers!

Baking in particular is one of my favorite past times. I love the feathery feel of flour, the smell and color of fruits and chocolate and the aromas wafting from a warm oven.

And then there’s the sweet taste of success … well, most of the time anyway.

Take, for example, the cheesecake I baked after picking something like a pound of raspberries recently (see previous post “Berry, berry focused”).

It came out looking OK — better before we cut into it and put it into the fridge for a couple of days.

Raspberry Cheesecake

It may not be picture-perfect, but it tastes even more sour.

The taste though, um, well …

The crust and topping were tasty, the cheesecake texture quite creamy. (Personally, I prefer a denser cheesecake).

But the main issue I have with this so-called dessert is, it just isn’t as sweet as I expected it to be. Let’s just say the cheesecake filling was kinda sour. And seriously, I’m not into sickeningly sweet desserts.

Now some people (my friend and neighbor, for example) like their cheesecake creamy and a little tart. Me not so much.

In any case, I wondered as my friend raved over the cake giving her pooch last lick at her plate. Maybe she was just being kind.

But what might have gone wrong? Or was it just a bum recipe?

Today I looked at the recipe again. There were three parts: the graham cracker crust, the cheesecake filling and the raspberry topping. It was blueberry in the recipe, but what the heck.

Anyway, I studied the sugar measurements in the recipe and, though I can’t say for certain, I think perhaps I used only two tablespoons of sugar as directed for the topping rather than the full cup the recipe called for in the filling.

Chalk it up to dyslexia? Perhaps. Who knows?

At least it isn’t inedible, just not my favorite.

So, if you happen to live in the Bozeman area and prefer your cheesecake sour and creamy — I’ve got your slice right here. Just let me know, I might even deliver.