New Year, new me?

Birthday resolution: Submit at least one blog post monthly

It’s my new year, as in, I recently celebrated a birthday. Truth be told, I’ve been working on this post for weeks now.

But honestly, birthdays aren’t nearly as exciting as they used to be when I was a kid.

In fact, I’d much rather forget time is passing. “Time,” as such, has never been one of my strong points.

I won’t blame ADHD. However, it is a convenient excuse for, say, losing track of time when intensely focused on a task.

That’s not to say I’m always late. In fact, I’m probably late less than half the time – much less. But I do have a tendency to neglect the clock particularly when I’m writing, painting or doing anything using my right brain (ie.: being creative).

Daily newspaper editors hate that about me.

So anyway, I started my birthday writing about what I’d like to accomplish this year.

I share it here in the hopes that you, kind reader, will hold me to it. I suppose just by making it public makes it harder to ignore. Perhaps this is a good exercise for anyone who has trouble finishing projects (another lovely trait of those with this so-called disorder)?

You see, many of us with ADDled brains are also quite creative — constantly coming up with new projects, but rarely completing them. ADDers talk about ideas — a lot. Other people are often charmed by these creative people, but soon grow weary from the incessant jabber leading nowhere.

You see, sometimes we take action. But more often another idea pops into our overburdened brains and attention for the former one wanes.

So, we end up with bolts of fabric intended for quilts; piles of stories, poems, memoirs and unfinished novels; half-decorated or refurbished rooms; lush gardens choked with weeds – you get the idea.

Ahem, I dare say, this blog is case in point.

But attention is a complicated concept, particularly these days when the pace of the so-called “Information Age” is trending us all toward ADD. We are constantly connected to social media, TV, email, texts, video games, news feeds … Does anyone even know how to make a cell phone call anymore?

According to Lucy Jo Palladino, a psychologist who studies the brain and focus in this digital age, we have two types of attention: voluntary and involuntary.

Staying focused on activities such as reading, listening intently to someone speaking or writing requires focus and effort, or voluntary attention.

Conversely, involuntary attention is relatively effortless. It’s what happens when one plays video games or watches TV, for example. It just isn’t difficult and often redirects voluntary attention. Think email notifications or texts popping up while you’re working.

I don’t know about you, but I get overwhelmed by the constant roar of media traffic. It dulls my wit and turns me inward and that’s when my attention gets diverted.

So what do I do? I’m ashamed to say I spend entirely too much time playing brain games on my computer. Or I watch a movie or TV. In other words, I resort to using involuntary attention – it seems to soothe my agitated brain.

Eventually, I find my way back to focusing, but I always feel guilty for wasting time and my brain’s powerful neuropathways.

People’s thoughts and behaviors are not hard-wired, Palladino says. Brains (and, therefore, behaviors) are elastic and can change.

On her blog, Palladino explains: “For voluntary attention to get stronger, you need to exercise it. Much like weight resistance strengthens muscles, distraction resistance strengthens voluntary attention.”

Using voluntary attention builds important circuits that originate in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, Palladino asserts. The prefrontal cortex controls conscious decision-making, mood and time management. Interestingly, it is also an area of the brain affected by ADHD.

“Brain scientists have a saying: ‘As the neuron fires, the brain rewires,” Palladino continues. “Your brain rewires itself, following the blueprint of your choices every day.”

In the case of attention, the more one resists distractions (involuntary attention) and stays focused on more difficult tasks (voluntary attention), the more effectively the brain works.

It follows then that the more one accomplishes, the better one becomes at accomplishing more (um, like finishing blog posts).

So I haven’t yet gotten to my list. But stay tuned. I promise I’ll get back to you. Sometime. Soon. I hope.

Toilet Tawk

“Today you can go to a gas station and find the cash register open and the toilets locked. They must think toilet paper is worth more than money.”       — Joey Bishop

Is it just me and my dyslexic brain?

I just abhor washing my hands in icy cold water. So every time I come across one of these faucets, I get dismayed. You know, the sort of single-lever faucet that you pull up to make the water run. But with no markings to indicate which way is hot or cold, they’ve always confused me.

Befuddling faucet

Befuddling faucet

This is so befuddling to me, I don’t even know how to begin to explain my confusion. Suffice to say I just don’t know which way to turn the lever. So I go with the trial-and-error method (what choice do I have?) and inevitably, I end up with cold water. It’s just irritating.

So to those so-called sophisticated, minimalist industrial designers out there, fashion should NEVER trump function in my mind. And, really, does it need to?

I know, I know, first world problems. But while I’m at it, I might as well gripe about other bathroom-related issues: toilet paper and their holders.

So why is that some people just don’t change the toilet paper roll when the old one runs out? SO notwithstanding (after all, I probably never give him a chance since I use more TP than he does), I guess it’s just easier to prop the fresh roll on top of the empty roll and leave it at that. That is until it gets knocked off into the wastebasket.

I mean, really, is it that difficult?

I think Helen Hunt’s little schtick in an opener of “Mad About You” really says it all.

And speaking of toilet paper holders – again, I ask you, is it just me?

Why do people insist on putting toilet paper rolls on holders that, well, just don’t hold them? You know, the kind that are open on one end?

annoying roll

Admittedly, this makes changing the toilet paper roll IMMENSELY simpler. And, lord knows, we can’t afford to miss two seconds of that TV show or video game or whatever people are wasting their time on these days (including maybe reading this diatribe).

But is this so-called convenience really all it’s hyped up to be? Have you ever torn a section of TP off one of these things and sent the entire roll flying across the bathroom? And so there you are, pantaloons down around your ankles and you’re clumsily chasing a roll of TP around a tiny room before it completely unwinds all over the place?

I mean, really. Can’t we all just slow down for a second and change the toilet paper roll?

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.

Productive Procrastinator

“The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

– Chinese Proverb

I’ve always wondered how people got stuff done. I mean, really.

If you have a full-time job, how is one supposed to get to the bank, pick up groceries, pay bills, go to the dentist, tend the garden, clean the house, cook meals and return that overdue library book — not to mention having time left over to get some exercise and have a social life?

This is NOT my office ... just sayin'.

This is NOT my office … just sayin’.

And for me, that’s WITHOUT kids. Single parents who work AND attend school simultaneously, well, I just can’t fathom it.

Since learning I have this “disorder” called ADD, I realize that most people are more efficient than me, don’t lose track of time and have the ability to stay organized and focused. These are all things I’ve lacked my entire life.

Now I’m in sort of brain-training mode and consider myself a productive procrastinator.

There are myriad ways to overcome ADD without drugs. Tools like alarms, reminders, calendars, task lists are all available apps that can be synced between computer and mobile devices (see more about learning to live with Adult ADD in a previous post: Where is … uh, what was I looking for again?).

It’s true, I’m becoming more productive, less distracted, more organized and overall I’m happier.

I’m even watching football as I write this. I must admit, however, if someone asked me what just happened in the game — unless it was something spectacular — I wouldn’t be able to tell them. I guess I’m just half-watching.

Anyway, here’s a list of some of what I’ve accomplished in the last few days:

  • Finished a 700-word magazine story.
  • Applied for a job.
  • Paid some bills.
  • Researched wetsuits (have I mentioned that I’m addicted to triathlons?).
  • Went grocery shopping (several times — I know, not exactly efficient).
  • Cooked several dinners.
  • Tended the gardens — multiple, yes.
  • Went on a 25+ mile bike ride (woo hoo).
  • Went to the farmers market and ordered iris rhizomes.
  • Cycled into town from the farmers market, attended a local arts festival, drank beer with friends (way fun day).
  • Picked about a pound of sour cherries.
  • Wrote a couple of blog posts.
  • Invoiced a consulting client.
  • Sent a birthday gift to my sister-in-law.
  • Baked a cheesecake.
  • Cleaned the bathroom.
  • Made a mess of the kitchen several times and cleaned it up again.

All of this in just three days. Maybe this isn’t a lot, I don’t know.

So I’m curious what you think?

Exercising the Distraction Devil

I’m just back from a lovely 25+ mile bike ride and it’s clear how exercise helps with ADD. I feel energized and happy and ready to get to work.

Experts say (and I know from experience) that ADDers required to sit in one place for long periods of time can get quite fidgety and distracted. Any sort of exercise, even getting up and taking a short walk, can help redirect an unfocused mind.

“Think of exercise as medication,” Dr. John Ratey told ADDitude magazine.

Associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and co-author of “Driven to Distraction” (which I highly recommend, by the way), Ratey continued:

“For a very small handful of people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD ADD), it may actually be a replacement for stimulants, but, for most, it’s complementary — something they should absolutely do, along with taking meds, to help increase attention and improve mood.”

I know for me, the task of sitting still to write anything longer than a tweet can be excruciating.

This week, I was working on a short magazine story. After conducting four interviews, I was ready to sit down at my computer and punch out about 700 words.

Unfortunately, I just couldn’t stay focused on the story for more than an hour or so at a time. I washed dishes then wrote a little. Poured more coffee, wrote some more. Ate lunch, read the newspaper and played a computer game before typing up a few more paragraphs. Then I watered the garden.

At least the gardens weren’t dry, the kitchen was clean and my stomach was full.

People with ADD, myself included, are not only apt to daydream or lose concentration, but they can also become hyperfocused. When I’m in hyperfocus mode, it’s generally a good thing because it means I’m being productive. There are downsides, however.

When I’m in the zone, I tend to lose track of time.

Yesterday, for example, I had about an hour to pay a few bills online before taking the orange monster cat to the vet at 10 a.m. Before I knew it, it was 10 minutes to 10 and the feline was still out roaming! Fortunately we were able to wrangle him up, get him packed in his crate and I was only a few minutes late for his appointment.

When hyperfocused I also tend to shut out the world. Someone can speak to me and I hear his voice, but the meaning of his words don’t register. This infuriates my significant other. And I can’t say I blame him. But I’m working on it … really I am.

For now, I guess I can be content that the story has been submitted and I can get back to blogging since I started this post around noon. And now it’s past time for bed.

Um, what was I writing about again?