Many many years ago, in a small, reasonably priced apartment in Bellingham, my before-husband told me a story from his childhood about decision making. He played basketball at the church league up the street from his house during his Elementary and Jr. High years. Being a somewhat shy kid, he never had the confidence on the court that could allow him to succeed among other sweaty 10 year olds. The pressure of the ball being tossed at him was sometimes too much and he’d freeze, or just take off running like Forest Gump, forgetting all main facets of the game; namely that you have to bounce the ball whilst running and throw it at a high hoop thingy. I don’t know the details of the rules, really. I wasn’t there.
His dad used to coach the team and would watch incredulously as his eldest son choked every time the ball was passed to him. “Look, son,” he said with a coach tone and fatherly wisdom, “don’t think too much. You just gotta shoot, dribble, or pass.”
This story was relayed to me a month before I moved back to Texas in 1998 which alternated the course of my life forever. The decision had been a laborious one and on that night I repeated, “You gotta shoot, dribble or pass” to myself a hundred times until I stopped thinking and decided to move.
Fifteen years later, while strolling along the Queen’s walk in London this afternoon, I’m listening to Bossypants by Tina Fey (henceforth known as my new BFF “TF” because we’re tight like that) and she relays a similar lesson from her past.
“You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute. (And I’m from a generation where a lot of people died on waterslides, so this was an important lesson for me to learn.) You have to let people see what you wrote. It will never be perfect, but perfect is overrated.”
The point is, I haven’t been letting you see my writing. I’ve been standing here, frozen, holding the ball and sweating. It’s not that I think I need to be perfect, or have the ability to, or even that you need to read it, because I know you don’t. The point is that I need to write it and I need it to be seen. Even if it’s only seen by the one Russian bot who tends to visit religiously looking for, I’m guessing, potatoes. Whatever. I’m just saying it’s time, y’all.
So remind me to tell you the one about how my baby turned six and promptly grew a beard and started shaving. Or the one about my band of brothers in the UK who witnessed me clearing a dance-floor at a club and creating an honest-to-god hoedown (as you do). Or the time I sweated through two entire shirts in one day because being in your late thirties is a bitch. No, actually, that last one isn’t so much of a story as just fact.
Is there something you’re holding too tightly to? A dream you forget to dream? This is it. It’s time. You gotta shoot, dribble, or pass.
I’m sitting in a cafe in Manchester, UK. It’s familiar, this cafe. The music, the people, the coffee. I think this is the key to traveling… everything at one point becomes familiar, even if only because we’re sitting on the same globe under the same sky.
My family rings me daily, the video turning morning in to silly faces and kisses from across the pond. I marvel at the technology compared to my first trip to the UK in 2001 when I punched in a 400 digit number to reach a calling card and the country code and finally the home phone in hopes to reach my husband. Now I wake the children up on video phone, ala Jeston’s like, rousing sleeping heads just before my dinner time.
I’ve been asked “how do you do it? How can you travel and leave your children?” It is only because of this technology and the patience of Mr. Flinger that I have this opportunity. As often as I miss and yearn for them, I also try to encourage them to ask the questions “what is it like there?” It’s a small and simple task to encourage the children’s curiosity. I show them the weather, the money, the photos. I introduce them to my friends and their young daughter, who greets them with a very adorably Northern English, “hallo!” My young son blushes at the little girl in glasses smiling at him over the screen. “They have children in England, Mommy?” “Yes, Buddy, they do. See?”
This curiosity grows like a seedling. As we listen to Ingrid Michaelson’s “You and I,” I hear a small voice in the back seat of the car, “Let’s go to France and Germany, Mommy!”
In an effort to continue this curiosity, we recently tried out the Little Passports. The children received a small suitcase, a map, a “passport”, an intro letter, and a craft from Japan. “You’ve been to Japan, Mommy!” They marveled at the map. We read about children in Japan. We worked on the Origami. They approved.
Every month a new package will arrive with a letter from “children” traveling the globe. They get a note, an activity, and a passcode to find more online. It’s giving them the gift of wanderlust without leaving the country. It helps us talk about new places and things we might like to do one day.
It’s such a simple thing: Getting Something In The Mail. But it’s so fascinating to see this old technology: MAIL! light up the children’s faces. We plan to have a real pen pal with the little girl in Manchester. In a way I have a real pen pal with her mother and father, my friends from a community of ExpressionEngine Geeks. The world now is so much smaller with twitter, facebook, and The Internet. But to see something tangible, to hold a gift from another country, to see a map with your eyes and hold the pin to mark the spot travelled: Tactile Learning is still very much alive.
I know for myself, as much as the video and technology helps, there is nothing like going home to hold, physically, the people I adore. As often as I crave the new places and old friends from everywhere, the coming home is what keeps me going.
And now, excuse me, but it’s time for me to wake up my children again. Possibly using questionable song choice.
I was counting the railroad tiles out the window when my facilitator read, “Is often prone to daydreaming…” Yes, I thought, my daughter does that! I take a note to remember that frequent daydreaming is a sign of ADHD.
I fidget and look at the clock. How LONG is this meeting? It’s been 45 minutes already. My foot bounces at the end of my leg, a habit that irritates nearly every office mate I’ve ever had. I swirl my foot in circles and take more notes. “Fidgeting, constant moving, even in adults…” Impulsivity, forgetfulness, distractibility. If I hadn’t been diagnosed a year and a half ago, this might come as a shock. Today, though, I sit, fidgeting, for nearly TWO HOURS (mygod two hours!) in my first Adult ADHD Women’s Support Group with many others who are only learning this isn’t “normal.”
In my world, I am normal. In my world, I’ve always been this way. I’ve always had to work out daily or I can’t sit still. I don’t like going to the movies because they’re too long. I thrive as being a “big idea person” and the one who “drives projects”, the one who “loves change”, the person who will show up in Amsterdam having not thought about what I was supposed to do once the plane landed. In my world there was NOW and NOT NOW. I write notes to remind myself of important events and forget where I put the note. I make plans and forget I already made plans. People who love me cherish this about me and those who don’t? They don’t stick around for long.
Nearly two years ago my world crashed down on me for those “cherished” attributes. After 35 years of coping mechanisms, the tiny rock-chip of balance broke in to a full crack, splitting my life in two. Projects, Marriage, Children, Friends, Family… everything fell to the ground from their balance on the high wire, the very high wire I carefully walked my entire life.
It’s nearly a cliche now to hear people say how “ADD” they are. I remember hearing someone say that in front of my good friend Lotus, to which she replied, “You know, there are people that struggle to have a good life because of that.” At the time I didn’t know I was one of them. Today, I appreciate that response more than I can express.
After the urging of several key people in my life, after my daughter’s teacher suggested getting her tested, after my world exploded, I decided to finally take an assessment for adult ADHD. **
I, along with 4% of the U.S. adult population, or 8 million adults, have Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. I was lucky enough as a child to learn coping mechanisms which helped me succeed in school. I have a graduate degree in technology. I’ve enjoyed, for the large part, a “successful career” and life. I don’t look like the disaster that ADHD can create in a person (unless you know me very well). But here’s the secret: many “successful” people have, and struggle, with ADHD.
After my original diagnoses, I’ve followed up with a year of books, groups, therapy, podcasts, medications.
From Ari Tuckman’s Podcast: “What Causes ADHD And What Doesn’t” (recommended listening) he states the following:
- Research found ADHD is primarily passed via genetics.
- If someone has ADHD, there’s a very good chance that at lease one other person in the family has it as well.
- 6 or more genes are involved and impact ADHD in its own way
- Some environmental influence can exacerbate the genetic component to ADHD but does not CAUSE ADHD.
DOES NOT CAUSE ADHD
- Diet and food additives. *Note - Diet can exacerbate an existing ADHD imbalance or can create similar symptoms (and thus mis-diagnosed cases) but does NOT cause ADHD as a chemical imbalance in the brain. (Before doing a research for false information, please try these peer-reviewed articles.) **please listen to the podcast for the reasons behind this correlation. “ADHD causes the eating of junkfood, not that junkfood causes ADHD”
- Poor parenting. *Usually at least one parent will also have ADHD so research shows that parents perform better when kids are under control, not reversed.
- Modern Society (Twitter, Facebook, etc). *Even with the overload in available distractions, it does not cause ADHD. Yes, twitter can distract even the most focused mind, but it does not cause ADHD. If this were true, societies with less technology or slower pace of life would have fewer cases but they don’t. At most we can say ADHD symptoms are more debilitating and obvious in our face-pased and distracting world, like saying a white shirt is more obvious against a black background than it is a white one but we would never say the white background caused the white shirt.
The reason I share this with you now is twofold. 1. I survived, almost thrived, for 35 years with a brain chemistry deficit that could easily have derailed my life much earlier than it did but I had the structure and coping skills to handle this (until those failed from environmental factors). And 2. I am thriving again now that I have that knowledge.
ADHD can be a gift or it can cause pain and frustration. I enjoy the company of others just like me and I appreciate the company of the countless friends of mine who aren’t. My closest friends can sit still, stay in routine, plan a trip and they gracefully (at least to my face) understand when I need reminding or a push to follow up. I am in a roll at work now where my “gifts” are appreciated and used to push products forward, lead, and see things from a higher-view and help those stuck in the mire of detail to keep an eye on the final outcome. People closest to me understand that my need to travel it is not a desire but a NEED. My children benefit from a mother who understands them and can offer solutions to their disorganization. We, as a house, have structured our lives for success and keep dates, events, and deadlines on a white board for everyone to see. Managing ADHD can be complex and take a lot of work but in the end, if it is preventing life from being as amazing as it can be, it’s worth it. For me, I am learning to balance both: Allowing the impulsivity and spontaneous me to work within an 8 hour day of projects and deadlines and bills. Now I finish projects on time, pay bills on time, remember and arrive early to meetings.
Learning the hard truth about why I am the way I am has helped improve, not diminish, my life. ADHD is not an excuse to be distracted, it’s a reason to get help.
- The fifth edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is being released in May, 2013 which will contain and updated diagnosis criteria for ADHD in both adults and children based on recent research.
- ADDitude Mag which offers a handout for debunking 7 myths of ADHD.
Books I’ve read (and recommend)
** Notes about assessments: If you are considering taking an assessment for ADHD, you will need to have a clinician who specializes in Adult ADHD help. There are several “inconclusive” tests that can lead to a false positive (Such as the Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS-V1.1 from WHO Composite INternational Diagnostic Interview which is only 6 questions long). The longer the test, the more inclusive and more accurate. All good clinicians will want to talk to a spouse or family member to confirm the replies as most ADHD people can be unrealistic with their personal perceptions.
Two good assessments (I’ve taken both):
Brown Attention-Deficit Disorder Scales for Adolescents and Adults: Definition.
I first started blogging way way back in 2003, when I was pregnant and finishing my graduate degree, when I was a new mom and completely postpartum, when people used to say, “How on earth do you do it all AND keep up a blog?” People don’t say that to me anymore. It’s become obvious: I don’t.
I’ve been staring at my blog lately wondering if it’s going to speak to me. I sort of kick it around, poke at it, see if it’s still breathing. I’m a curious bystander in my own life these days. It’s not that I don’t write anymore, because I do. A lot. I have pages and pages of blog posts and love notes and ideas written in my notebook on my laptop.
These ideas are now mostly shared with a very tiny select group of people: Namely those who live in my head. Every so often I venture to hand one or two to a loved one but most often the half written prose sit idly waiting for me to return from That Thing I Do Eight To Nine Hours A Day In The Office.
I think it’s called work.
The ironic thing? I like that Work. I could write pages and articles about that thing that I do. I could delve in to discussions about app development, front end standards, managing motherhood and sanity and travel and mid-life crises and bosses. But I can’t. Those parts of my day that I’m legally able to share get pulled in the rip-tide of life and those accomplishments and stories that I crave to write are sealed under “NON DISCLOSURE AGREEMENTS” and privacy laws and google’s ever-watching (and caching) eyes.
In other news: I’ll keep sitting next to this blog in the ICU while it waits in its comma. One day she’ll wake up again. I promise to be here when she does. Will you?
In tradition with all Mommy Bloggers (Capital “M” and “B”) I’d like to present to you a montage of TEH CUTEZ.
I know I know, I hear it. Sorry.
One of my favorite traditions is the annual Girls & Kids Christmas (Same of moms and kids camping gang). We gather the children to play until they sweat, feed them, trade presents (picked by lottery, one kid buys for one other kid) and make an ornament. I’m a fan of tradition. It’s predictable and comfortable. It’s so predictable, in fact, that as the years have progressed we have added children but still, every year, predictably, someone will sprint out of the “HOLD STILL FOR THE BLOODY PHOTO” part of the evening.
In fact, kids are SO predictable, we even have this photo taken at another friend’s house for the New Annual Gingerbread Mansion Making. (Dude, SERIOUSLY)
And, because my sister lives close enough now for us to do Christmas Eve together, we did.
More toddler escaping pictures. (Know when to hold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run….)
From 1985 to 2013, Happy New Year and Merry Christmas.
**2008 song by LB herself **
The past 18 months have been particularly hard for me. I have not been writing here much as I can’t exactly say what it is that unfolds in reality. I’ve stayed quiet, I’ve stayed away, I’ve stayed pre-occupied.
Some people came to rescue me at various times in the past year and a half. Others have quietly waited for me to get myself back together. And still others have turned away and left my life without a second glance.
Victoria is one of those people who, while being utterly frustrated by my lack of being available, never gave up on me as a friend. In fact, when I needed someone so desperately, as I was so remotely unavailable even to myself, she pushed her way in and stood ground while I gathered up my last bits of sanity. This isn’t an exaggeration.
She’s stood by watching me dog paddle the English Channel, knowing I was making progress even if scarcely noticeable.
We were emailing each other about some plans this weekend. We’ve been trying to get together for a while now, as is always my case it seems. We had definitive plans for Saturday with another good friend of ours. All of our children know each other from years at the same Montessori. These are people I’ve shared multiple holidays with and school plays and gathering, so the idea of getting together was exciting and welcomed. The children couldn’t wait. Hell, *I* couldn’t wait. Until I got the message from Victoria about the shootings.
Life suddenly was more precious and more tenable. I sat wringing my hands for hours, waiting, as the family did. I got her text, before anything public was said, and fell apart in the office. I didn’t need any pictures to remind me what Noah looked like. I’ve met him. My son spent an afternoon with him playing together with their cousins. I drank wine with his mom, V’s sister in law, thinking to myself how much I could *totally* hang out with her because she is great people.
I can only imagine her face today. Actually, I try not to imagine her face today.
It’s that image, the image of another mom who lost her six year old son, that has kicked the ass out of my selfish quests. I can no longer fathom the world without these children in it. I can not imagine my world without
reminding my own son to brush his teeth, to listen the first time I tell him something and to please please please stop playing the DS and put on his shoes.
I can not imagine life without those easy struggles.
I’ve been able to help out some, not enough, the family that is hurt and wounded beyond anything I think anyone should endure. The truth of the story is that they’ve helped me even more than they know. Spending hours with her children, making stupid stories up to keep her mind off the real world, doing dishes because they need to be done; these are the easy parts of a larger whole. This whole is teaching the entire world, unfortunately at my very good friend’s own heart ache, how precious life is.
Grief is horrendous. Life is precious. Friendship through darkness is salvation. To my own friend who held my hand back to safety, please send every ounce of love to her family as you can. And please, for all of us, go home and hug your children. Even if they refuse to put on their shoes.
“Everything changes in third grade, Bud.” My wise eight year old is schooling her five year old brother. “You don’t get a Big Buddy anymore at school. YOU ARE the Big Buddy.”
These words hit something in my memory. I flash to a month after my Grandmother’s death (something I’ve talked about before) and I remember my mom saying to me, “It’s so weird to not have a mom. Now I *am* the mom.”
Today is my grandmother’s birthday. She passed away this month, too, but I try not to think of that date. Instead, when I think of my grandmother, I do so on this day, her LIFE day.
It wasn’t until my early twenties, after my Grandfather passed that I came to know her better and it wasn’t until after her death I realized how alike we are. My Grandmother was a traveler, a writer, a hard worker. She enjoyed the company of girlfriends and her family. She struggled with depression and a need to please everyone. She wore class and kindness the way some women wear pearls.
That last bit, I’m still working toward.
My Grandmother is the kind of person who is always alive. She lives in my goals and life’s lessons. She lives in my wishes. She lives in my daughter and my son when I look at them and picture her next to them at Christmas or birthdays.
It’s been a decade since her death. A decade. Someone might wonder, then, why this day would mean anything more than The Day We Were Brought In To The War (for the American citizens) or Just Another Bloody Working Day (for the rest). But the truth is, in ten years so much has append. My Grandmother was the kind of lady who would IM me during the work day and even still I miss this. My Grandmother was the lady who would stay out until 11pm talking at Starbucks with my Mom and I. My Grandmother was the person to bestow some of the best advice of marriage and life and living. Even in her death, my Grandmother has shaped so much of who I am, where I went, what I became.
They say you have to skip a generation to truly understand who you are. I dunno, maybe they don’t say that but I just did. Moms and Daughters might clash but the Grandmother / Grandaughter relationship is beyond judgement or strife or told-you-so’s. Especially with my Grandma who guided her grandchildren quietly behind their mothers, quietly behind their fathers, and quietly leaving the biggest impact of all.
I miss and love you G’ma. I still have you on my Yahoo IM. You know.. just in case there’s Internet in Heaven. (Do they have that yet? Because seriously, even the rural areas do here.)
I always heard moms talk about their school aged kids. School aged! My god they seemed so old.
Until today when I watched my 6 month old and his 3 year old sister get on a bus for school.
No, I swear. Isn’t he still 6 months old? Isn’t she still the feisty three year old that coined the term, “You think two was terrible, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
The thing is: You all think the same thing, don’t you. I know I do when I see your children climbing on to busses. “Wasn’t he just a preemie? Wasn’t her mom just pregnant with her? OHMYGOD where has the time gone?’
This is an occupational hazard of blogging for 7, no, NINE years? What the hell, people. Did we even have blogs in 2003? Oh, yes we did mothercrackers. We did.
Anyway, my needless reminiscing aside, you’ve been here through the pregnancy of my first, the postpartum depression, the miscarriages, the early birth of the second, the NICU, and the pleasantly dull but life-altering years after. And now? Now they are, what did you call it? School aged. Yes. That.
*She thought he was just another one of her dolls *
*I think just after this picture she pinched his nose to make sure he was still breathing. Or some other reason that I can’t remember that probably had to do with nothing about noses at all. *
*Of course I did.*
*The Bigger One starting pre-school. Just the first in a long line of “holycrap my baby is going to [fill in year here]” *
*Another shot of the two of them shortly before one of them began screaming for something or other. I forget. *
*This is what I saw looking out of the bus window at me. THIS KID. Gah. *
*Gravity is so last year. Incidentally, we do this a lot to our children. Apparently. *
*LB goes to Kindergarten. Gah. Gah. *
*LB goes to first and O goes to preschool. Tripple Gah.*
*Watching his sister get on the bus he asks, “do they have seatbelts?” He’s quite concerned about this.*
*portrait of a second-grader *
*WHO THE HELL ARE THESE CHILDREN?! See also: holycrap. See also: GAH GAH GAHHHH. See also: Kindergarten and Third. THIRD PEOPLE.*
I didn’t cry once, not a single tear, until the bus driver turned to me after my baby got on the bus and turns to be through the window with a thumbs up, “We got him.”
And then I bawled. Choking-type cries. The type that comes from the toes of your heart. The kind that you’d mock if it was anyone else but you.
So they went to school together. In the careful care of his older sister, my children took their first real step away from home today in a most literal and figurative sense. I saw my baby get on the bus with his sister, and the memories of photos and time and snapshots of life flashed before me. Didn’t we just bring them home a few days ago? I’m so cliche it hurts.
*Go forth, little dude. Go forth **
*Thanks to Greg for the analogy*
“Oh, you’re from Seattle? You’re so lucky!”
This is coming from the Delta ticketing agent in Detroit. It’s been raining for weeks and it’s the end of June.
“Yes, I suppose, why?”
“Have you ever read fifty shades of Gray? Christian is from Seattle!”
I roll my eyes and try to be patient when I explain, in very slow words, “He. Is. Not. Real.”
Someone asked me once if I’d ever been to Forks. You know, where the Vampires live?
I usually reply with something not-at-all snarky like, “no, generally I hang with werewolves.”
Friday was our last day at the pre-school we’ve been attending for five years. No, our child hasn’t failed pre-school four years running. This school provide pre-K from 3-5 and Kindergarten for 6 yr olds. Both of our children have been at this school.
There are other families in the same boat and I see them at the little concerts and plays. They watch their children with a camera and compare the same production to the previous four. There are four of us families, no, five, and our children have grown up together. And Friday was the very last day we will go to this school.
I picked this school one day, which I remember vividly, when my daughter was two. We were looking at options because I was going to drive her to Canada and drop her off to live with a flock of geese and she was going to write terrible poetry about me to her therapist in a few years if we didn’t find a solution to our “situation.”
That “situation” was that I thought I could do the whole “stay at home” good mom thing and turns out, at six months pregnant with my second, I was deep in to “no way in hellfire.” It turns out I probably could have stuck it out and managed somewhat (as this video proved) but I had already reached out to this preschool on that dreadful day of desperation.
I won’t tell you the details of the tens of schools we visited, but I will tell you that this one school we went, set in a small farm house, was “the one.” They always say you’ll just know and we both knew. The teacher was my savior that day. The school was a perfect fit. The acre of outdoor play would possibly fulfill my daughter’s energy requirements after living in our tiny condo.
It fit us all. And it fit other families a lot like us. So we’ve made friends at this school, invited other friends to join the school, visited at every mother-living-hour-long concert/production (with video!). My children have best friends from this school and I do as well. In a small, but significant way, this school really did save us. It gave me hope on that one hopeless day in the trenches of a two year old with a pregnant belly. It continued to nurture our family as the children grew in to actual people. And then, Friday, we said good-bye.
I think I’m more choked up about this then the fact my youngest is about to start Kindergarten at public school next week.
No, wait. That kills me, too.
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