Friday, June 21, 2013

ADDled Gone Wild!

Welcome to a special vacation post of ADDled.

The family and I are in Florida and spent yesterday at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  It was a less than normal day.

If you’ve been to any of the Disney theme parks – or for that matter, any theme park – you know that the evil overlords who run said parks take photos of you at your most vulnerable moment on the scariest rides in the park.  This is what we found after exiting the ride DINOSAUR: my husband and 6-year-old son staring wide-eyed ahead at the impending asteroid collision; my 9-year-old daughter and me, not in the picture.  Oh, wait, there’s the curve of my blue t-shirt, hunched into a ball below the seat.  Yes, the ride that the obviously lying and incredibly bored college student cast member who told me only went 10-15 miles per hour (“like the trams that took you to the front gate”), actually jerked us left and right and left and right so many times that my daughter and I missed the entire ride with closed eyes, clenched jaws and hunched over.  But my son kinda liked it.  My poor daughter might have liked it if I had not screamed, “I don’t like this!” in her ear for the entire ride.

And this leads me to an observation about myself: I am more of a head person than a body person.

Allow me to elaborate.  I’ve never been a theme park or amusement park kind of person.  I go because my kids enjoy them and I enjoy my kids having a good time.   A good time for me is more like reading a good book or going to a museum or eating good ice cream or looking at a sunset.  Anything that challenges me below the neck is not on my to-do list.  And frankly, I thought Disney’s Animal Kingdom was a safe bet.  Lots of interesting animals in realistic habitats, replications of Asian and African villages with shopping kiosks, live bird shows (actually more entertaining than that sounds), right?  Lots for the head to enjoy.  But my wimpy body was ridiculously challenged at every turn. 

First, the heat was intense.  Okay, it’s June in Florida, I expected this.  I am, however, not a sweat-loving hippie (apologies to all sweat-loving hippies). After about five hours of unrelenting heat and humidity, my Tom’s deodorant surrendered and I was embarrassed to lift my arms to point.  On the way back to the African village, on the Wildlife Express Train, the heat was so intense that I couldn’t get a good gulp of air.  Note here that my family was completely fine while I had to lay my oxygen-challenged head on my husband’s shoulder.  Once off the train, we wandered to Asia to get on the Kali River Rapids ride to cool off.  The line was pretty empty until we got to the shelter.  At this point, clouds blew in and drizzle started.  Fine, I thought, that will cool things off even more.  Then an announcement came over the speaker: lightening was spotted and the ride was suspended until further notice.  My family settled in and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  We sat on the floor with all of the other families and couples.  Then I started gasping for air again until I made my way to an open window.  Again, everyone else was fine – bored and cranky, but physically fine.  After 40 minutes we backtracked and left the ride.  Here’s where the rain got heavier.  And heavier.  We headed to the DinoLand area to see if anything was open and indoors, which lead us to the DINOSAUR ride and we all know how that ended.  We had a respite while the rain trickled out and the clouds started to clear, so we headed back to the raft ride.  On the way, however, the clouds came back and the rain went from drop-drop-drop to deluge before we could take shelter.  Imagine us, dripping wet and stinky sweaty, now shivering and squished into a gift shop with 100 other stinky, wet tourists.  And all of the rides were closed.

Fortunately, the kids weren’t completely disappointed.  They happily collected sticker badges on their Wilderness Explorer books at every station we could find (and most of them were under umbrellas and shelters, so bonus!).  They found a stuffed animal each that surprisingly wasn’t crazy expensive (a cheetah named Libby and a wooly mammoth Webkinz named, you guessed it, Wooly).  And we all discovered a new animal, the Akopi.  The park is beautiful and well-designed and overpriced, like all Disney ventures.  I enjoyed the aesthetics and most of the cast members (DINOSAUR lady, aside) were really sweet and informative.  We left the park wet and exhausted and considerably stinkier and poorer than we arrived, but since the kids were satisfied (I think), I will say I’m glad we went. 

Today, I plan to enjoy a long shower and a quiet day in the air conditioning reading a book.  A day for my head.  Ahhhh.

Do you see the ominous clouds?  We didn't.


From smiling to bored



Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The things we do for love

Summertiiiiiiiiiime.

And the blogging ain't eeeeeeeasy.

I could go on, but you get the picture.

Yep, school is out and I've returned to my role as pack mule/chauffeur/personal assistant/personal chef/home health care nurse/police officer.  And it hasn't even been a full week since the last day.  Strap in, readers, it's going to be a wacky summer with fewer posts than I would like.  But, you know, those children of mine demand to be fed, so what can I do?

My other children, the four-legged variety, are also a bit needy these days.  Charleston the Terror looked like she swung one too many barbed "Yo Mamas" and ended up in a bar brawl.  She had a deep gash under her eye the source of which still confounds us.  Off to the vet we went, she and I.  No stitches, thankfully, but the vet ordered a regimen of antibiotics (twice daily) and topical antibiotic cream (thrice daily).  Turns out, she doesn't care for ointment being smeared on her face all day.  Who knew?

Over the weekend, I decided that both dogs needed baths and I wasn't willing to spend money on a groomer (plus, I read a report recently about animal abuse at groomers, so I used that to rationalize my spendthrift ways).  Rick usually bathes the dogs, but he was busy doing yard work and I didn't want to wait for a time when he was free.  Plus, I like being responsible and pulling my weight with the hard jobs.

Here is what I learned from bathing the dogs in the backyard:

  1. Charlie prefers to have water slowly poured over her rather than being sprayed full-on with a hose.
  2. Lucy prefers to be sprayed full-on with a hose.
  3. It takes a hell of a lot of shampoo to wash a St. Bernard/Golden Retriever (I think there's still some under her ears).
  4. My dogs didn't like the baths, but were more cooperative than I believed was possible.  I also kept them on a very short leash.
  5. Charlie will let me hold her in my wet lap while I cut her nails.
  6. Both dogs smell almost as bad after a bath as they did before the bath.
  7. Lucy is now shedding profusely.  See if you can find me through the tumbleweeds of fur.
Because Lucy's nails are tougher to cut, I take her to the vet for her manicure.  This happened last night, and pretty much par for the course when I take Lucy to the vet:  Lucy is 112 pounds of obstinate flesh and fur.  I've tried putting her in the back of my Subaru wagon -- in fact I got the car expressly to put our dogs in the back -- but she won't go in without help.  Maybe I should keep a step ladder handy.  Well, instead of breaking my back trying to get her into the cargo area, I've taken to making her my shotgun. (Dog is my co-pilot.)  This takes equally as much coercion as getting her in the back of the car.  Each look equally ridiculous.  Picture me - all 5 feet of me - pushing on the backside of a dog that is almost as big as me and I could ride like a circus pony.  I have to pick up her anxious front paws and put each one on the seat.  Still, she doesn't budge.  I push again from the back.  Her paws slide off the seat.  I put the paws back on the seat and get my hands under her haunches, lifting them with all of my body weight until she awkwardly plops in the seat, facing the driver's side, tail lolling out the door.  I push the tail under her, jump in the driver's seat, and very slowly drive to the vet (about 8 blocks from my house).  I roll down the window and she sort of likes it, but she's facing the wrong way and can't figure out how to turn around. At one point of the short drive, her feet hit the foot well and she sits like this for the rest of the ride -- backside in the seat, front paws in the footwell, head slightly out the window in an awkward slant.  Oh, and I'm completely covered in white fur.  And, I'm supposed to be at a nice restaurant to meet friends in an hour.

My life is an episode of "I Love Lucy".  In this case, Lucy is my dog, and I love her despite what an utter pain in the ass she can be.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Sing through this

Yesterday I was listening to NPR on my way to pick up the kids from school.  Talk of the Nation was on at that time.  Usually, I grow frustrated during the call-in part of the show, impatient with the stories that may or may not pertain to the subject.  Sometimes I know within a few seconds of listening whether the topic will be engaging for me or not and decide whether to stay tuned.  The guests yesterday were discussing the power of music to heal and it was the first time ever I wanted to call in and participate.  My head flooded with examples of when this had happened for me - so many choir experiences in college, playing the piano after school, singing with a friend a cappella, listening to a song over and over because it hit an emotional chord, for better or worse.  The year I played Patti Griffin's Living with Ghosts non-stop was not a happy year.  The guests on the show talked about the neurological reasons that music can calm and soothe.  One guest, Stacy Horn, has written a book called Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness In Singing With Others.  The other guest, Daniel Levitin, is a psychology professor at McGill University and he, too, has written a book, This Is Your Brain on Music. Both guests reminded me of interviews I've heard in the past with Oliver Sacks, recalling stories from his book Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain.

Let me just say this: I haven't read any of these books yet and cannot vouch for how interesting they are.  Let me just add:  I want to read all of these books!

What occurred to me, as I autopiloted down the road, fascinated by the conversation, was that yes, music has been balm to me so many times, but it has also helped me focus.  I'm not sure I realized it at the time, but when I studied as a high school student and undergrad, I usually had my earphones strapped on to my head.  I didn't strictly listen to instrumental pieces, like you'd think, although I had a George Winston/Windham Hill syrupy sad music period in the late 80s.  In college, I turned to the repetitive rhythm of Philip Glass and swear that I owe him the "A" I received on my Modern British Lit final paper.  Often I found the more boisterous the music, the better I could focus, especially on math.

©2012 Daniele Barraco



Speed up time to the present and I realize that I still use music to help me concentrate.  If I have a tedious task ahead of me, say folding laundry or cleaning the fridge, there is nothing like slamming in the Iggy Pop and playing that shit loud.  I find that I get the job done quickly and efficiently.  Sometimes I even enjoy it a little.  And sometimes the neighbors might see me violently shaking my head to the beat through the windows.

So basically, I've been self-medicating for years . . . on music.

Do you have a particular song or album that helps you focus or cope?  What it is?

Monday, June 3, 2013

It's A Fact: ADD and Depression

Do you remember these short Kids In The Hall sketches?  The ones with the adorable red headed girl who runs up to the camera and tells us "It's a fact!" then goes on to reveal something silly.

This is my favorite one:



Kids In The Hall _ Fact 3 by hulu


So, I thought I'd try it myself:




Okay, it's not quite as funny as KITH, I admit, but you do get to see me without make-up, with a wet head, bare feet and jiggling through my living room.

I found that statistic on my go-to site for all things ADD, ADDitude.  The reason I went to ADDitude to look up ADD and depression is because, friends, I have sunk in a hole.  I'm resurfacing, so don't worry.  But this happens a lot to folks like me when one stressful thing piles on top of another worrisome thing piles on top of another bit of bad news.  But that's not the worst of it.  That is simply the external workings.  The situations we can't avoid, which in my case included my dad's diverticulitis, my family's out-of-control schedule, and the possible demise of my Shiny Object School project (more on that soon).  What then happened occurred only inside the dark chambers of my brain.  I began doubting my decision to write and not work, to earn an MFA in writing, to succeed at this writing life.  I began looking for work and applying for a few positions, which in and of itself is not a bad thing, but it does shoot this whole "I'm going to try to write for a career" thing in the big toe.

Soon, my head was swarming with nasty furies, all yelling at me to get a job and get off of their lawn.  I could actually feel them buzzing in between my ears.  It felt like my brain was inflamed.  Perhaps it was.

It's a fact!  Folks with ADD tend to get overwhelmed with decisions (should we just knock down the damn garage?) then paralyzed by the details, which quickly spin out of control (how on earth can we afford to knock it down and rebuild?  I need to get a job so we can afford to knock it down and rebuild!  I don't think I want to teach adjunct right now, because it's so time-intensive and exhausting!  Maybe I could really delve into querying editors and pitching?  Oh my god, I need to make money now!  I have almost two master's degrees and am unhireable!).  Thud.  That's me hitting a wall.

Fortunately, my husband with ADD doesn't struggle with anxiety and depression.  He doesn't spin downward like I do -- and frankly, this hasn't happened in a year -- ONE WHOLE YEAR! -- so I'm doing considerably better!  He has other issues, but that's for him to write about in his own blog.  Fortunately, he gets my feelings of inadequacy, doubt, and being overwhelmed without dwelling in them himself.  So he talked me through it and hugged me.  My friend Cari suggested I create a mental garbage can to toss the negative thoughts.  I remembered I had a bottle of Wellbutrin and took one this morning.  Take that stupid depression.  I'm tossing you in a garbage can and erasing you with medication!

I do take solace knowing that this is something with which a lot of adults with ADD struggle.  I take comfort knowing that I am surrounded by friends and family who care.  I am humbled by success and motivated by rejection.  And I turn to resources, like my friend Julie's post on She Writes - a post that I'm going to bookmark to remind myself that choosing a writer's life is not easy, it doesn't make sense to most people who are bankers and lawyers and doctors (unless they write on the side!), and that I'm not doing it to make big bucks.