Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Depression sucks

Hello again!  It has been many weeks since my last post.  Where to begin?

I must acknowledge that I am deeply saddened -- as is the entire world -- by Robin Williams's suicide.  It's heartbreaking.  What more can I add to the conversation that hasn't already been stated, and probably better than I could say it?  If you haven't already read comedian Russell Brand's tribute/analysis.   Allow me to direct you THERE.  Also, Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) has written a POST that she's directing readers to regarding her struggles with anxiety and depression.  And, of course, Allie Brosh has THIS amazing post on her crippling anxiety.

Frankly, I used to think I battled depression (I do still have anxiety issues, but feel that I manage them adequately).  I had some very deep lows, especially as a teenager.  I realize that I just described 3/4 of teenagers around the globe.  My issues included body image and self-esteem just like every girl that ever breathed oxygen, but I also was frustrated with limitations that my parents set on me.  I wasn't unusual.  My problems were ordinary.  I just happened to be sensitive and not rebellious or confident enough to stand up for what was important to me.  It took me a long-ass time to find my voice, my rebellious spirit.  I spent most of my 20s mired in moodiness, feeling trapped.

This is the only image I want to focus on this week
What kicked me out of this era of sadness and helplessness?  No, it wasn't medication.  Nor was it therapy, although that helped me repair my relationship with my parents.  Strangely (or not), what got me through to the other side of feeling like crap all of the time -- and by my late 20s, I had solid reasons to feel like crap, including my mother's death and a newly diagnosed chronic illness -- was parenthood.  I can't say this will work for everyone struggling with depression or anxiety or both.  Jennifer Lawson is a mom and regularly battles her demons.  Robin Williams had kids.  But for me, becoming a mom put my life in perspective.  I could prioritize what mattered, and for the first time in my life it wasn't me, or my dysfuntions.  It was my daughter, then my son.  It was staying home with them when they were sick and rushing to them when they fell down.  It was being available every morning to comb their hair and brush their teeth and at bedtime to give baths and read stories (and not just in a monotone voice, mind you!  I'm talking take on the character's voice and accents.).  My friend Ilan said to me when I married my husband (who is a trained psychologist): Oh, Amy, this will be really good for you.  My friend Jane said to me when I told her I was pregnant with my first child: Oh, Amy, this will be really good for you; you can't be neurotic when you're a parent.  Both of them were right, of course.

I hate hearing about so many people -- famous and not famous -- who struggle with depression.  I only know a fraction of what it feels like and I can tell you it feels like a heavy, itchy, wet wool blanket on the heart.  During one of my darkest moments, right after I graduated from college, a time when I felt alone and unachored, I actually called a hotline.  I don't think it was a suicide hotline, because it hadn't gotten that bad, but it was an emergency hotline.  The woman who answered kept calling me Pumpkin while I sobbed into the reciever.  I was grateful that this unnamed, faceless woman on the other end listened.  I was grateful that she called me a term of endearment that irritated me (I was 22 and had never before been a "Pumpkin").  The fact that she called me Pumpkin made me laugh, at myself and the situation.  And that bumped me out of the sadness enough to take a step forward.

Many folks who have attention problems also struggle with depression.  We know what we want to achieve, but feel overwhelmed or uncertain of the steps towards success.  This disconnect leads to feelings of failure.  I've been there.  I lived through a decade of feeling like a failure.  All I can say is, in the words of Dan Savage on the completely different subject of coming out of the closet, "it gets better."  Well, it got better for me.  I believe it has to get better.  For me, I had my attention drastically shifted from my own worries to my children's health and happiness.  In turn, that made me consider how to be the best role model for my kids that I could possibly be.  And that, my friends, meant consciously choosing happy.  Yes, I get grumpy.  Just ask my husband.  But I try to focus on what I CAN do to make a situation better.  And sometimes, when I feel defeated, I just let go of feeling angry or sad.

Whether you have kids or not ultimately doesn't matter.  Being a parent helped me.  Maybe painting or volunteer work with the elderly or quittting your job and going back to school is what will help those of you who struggle daily with depression and feelings of inadequacy.  I think there is wisdom in focusing on happiness rather than what hurts.  There are so many good books on happiness or positive psychology.  An easily accessible one that has a companion website is The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. 

Please take care of yourself.  Please be kind to others, especially those who need extra hugs.  And find a puppy to nuzzle.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

I've been distracted . . .

I've been distracted lately.  Okay, distraction is a permanent state for me, but lately it has been worse.  You see, next week I leave on a two-and-a-half week trip to three countries.  Oh yeah, and I'm graduating from my MFA program.  And . . . taking a pedagogy workshop that is proving to be quite demanding of my time and brain power.  In preparation for this trip and my graduation I've needed to read 3 books, 32 pages of fairy tales (for a lecture of Germanic tradition and the Grimm Brothers), and the original drafts of 5 peers.  For the peers I have needed to read their work 3 times each, provide marginal notes, and summary comments.  I've prepared a 30 minute graduation lecture and a 20 minutes reading from my thesis.  I've also prepared a 40 minute lesson on a genre that I didn't study and a 40 minute workshop plan to lead discussion on a genre I know even less about!

And my kids are not in camp, so I'm doing all of this while they play with friends or dance in front of me, leaving me feeling sad that I'm not more present in their lives right now.

I did mention the international travel piece, right?  I begin in Prague, graduate in Berlin, then head to Barcelona for R & R.  I'm not complaining about any of this.  It's just a lot to prepare for when my head is spinning like a top.

Add to this my control freakish nature and you have a head exploding in the near future.

To "help" my kids while I'm away, I usually make a calendar and put important information on it: my departure and arrival dates, camp dates, when to water the plants, remember to feed the dogs, those kind of things.  My daughter usually checks off the days.  I do think it helps her cope (although I purposefully schedule both kids super busy so they don't think about me being out of the country), but it also helps me feel like I have some control over things while I'm away.  Look, I made a calendar!  It's almost like I'm there!

All of this is to say, dear readers, I'm sorry that I've been neglectful and . . . get ready for two-and-a-half more weeks of neglect.  I'll post a photo of me with my graduate hood when I get back.  Then expect some changes around here.  I'm hoping to post more often and change the look of the blog with the help of cool designer I will be hiring.

Until then, wish me luck and ciao (because I have no clue how to say see you later in Czech)!


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

So the French don't think their kids have ADHD?

A friend of mine just shared this story on my Facebook timeline:
Why French Kids Don't Have ADHD: French children don't need medication to control their behavior.

Author and psychologist Marilyn Wedge notes that 9% of American children are diagnosed with ADHD and medicated, but that only .05% of French children receive the diagnosis.


Wedge explains that the French don't use the DSM (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) and have developed their own system of classifying psychological conditions:
French child psychiatrists don't use the same system of classification of childhood emotional problems as American psychiatrists. They do not use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM.  According to Sociologist Manuel Vallee, the French Federation ofPsychiatry developed an alternative classification system as a resistance to the influence of the DSM-3.  This alternative was the CFTMEA(Classification Française des Troubles Mentaux de L'Enfant et de L'Adolescent), first released in 1983, and updated in 1988 and 2000.  The focus of CFTMEA is on identifying and addressing the underlying psychosocial causes of children's symptoms, not on finding the best pharmacological bandaids with which to mask symptoms.
Okay, so what she is saying is that Americans are quick to diagnose and prescribe, which could be arguable; however, what she is also saying is that ADHD has "psychosocial causes," dismissing the existence of ADHD.  If Timmy is anxious, it's not because he has ADHD, it's because of something happening at school or home.  That could be true OR Timmy could have ADHD, which in many cases is tied to anxiety.

Another bone I have to pick with Wedge is her assumption that ADHD is an American diagnosis.  According to psychiatrists Stephen Faraone, Joseph Sergeant, Christopher Gillberg, and Joseph Biederman in their comparison of 50 studies of school-aged children and adolescents worldwide, The Worldwide Prevalence of ADHD: is it an American condition?, published in World Psychology : 
The results of studies using DSM criteria suggest that the prevalence of ADHD/ADD-H is at least as high in many non-US children as in US children.  
Based on this paper, several countries simply do not recognize ADHD as a disorder and, therefore either do not treat it or treat the symptoms (or what Wedge calls the underlying social issues that are causing the child distress).

I can't help but wonder if the stats that Wedge cites for France are influenced by a.) the standards French psychologists and psychiatrists have developed as an alternative to the DSM, as well as b.) a failure to recognize ADHD as a real physiological anomaly.

When I asked my husband, a trained counseling psychologist who has been diagnosed with ADD, what he thought about Wedge's article, he suggested that the author also needs to acknowledge cultural norms.  In the US, we expect both children and adults to sit at a desk all day without many breaks and pay attention while sitting still without talking for hour-long intervals.  Perhaps this isn't the norm in France.  This leads me to think that the problem isn't over-diagnosis, but unrealistic and unhealthy expectations for American children and, for that matter, workers.

The last piece about this article that really bugged me is Wedge's unquestioning adoration of French parenting based on Pamela Druckerman's recent book, Bringing up Bébé.  Wedge writes:
As a therapist who works with children, it makes perfect sense to me that French children don't need medications to control their behavior because they learn self-control early in their lives. The children grow up in families in which the rules are well-understood, and a clear family hierarchy is firmly in place. In French families, as Druckerman describes them, parents are firmly in charge of their kids—instead of the American family style, in which the situation is all too often vice versa.
I don't trust generalizations.  While I'll be the first to agree that the French do many things well - brie, the Eiffel Tower, manicured gardens - but let's use some critical thought. Here's what I think about Wedge's assessment of French parenting and ADHD:  

  1. Surely, not ALL French parents raise their kids exactly the same way.
  2. Teaching children "self-control early" is not a simple matter, nor is it fail proof.
  3. Someone needs to send me and my family to France for a year to see if this French parenting method is for realz.
  4. ALL parents struggle with disciplining their children, regardless of whether the children have attention issues.  It's normal.
  5. Quit stereotyping American families as being ruled by their children.
  6. French children have ADHD.
  7. Perhaps if French psychologists addressed ADHD, children wouldn't need so much psychotherapy.  Sounds like a racket to me.
  8. American and French psychologists and psychiatrists are using similar treatments: behavioral therapy.  Sometimes this isn't enough.  Sometimes medication really helps.
  9. Why the heck do the French think that ADHD is not a neurological condition?  How many scans and studies do they need to prove it?
I like France and think that the French have many progressive ideas about medicine and wellbeing, but their refusal to treat or even recognize ADHD as a wiring issue in the frontal cortex of the brain that controls attention - makes me steaming mad!!

But hey, I let my kids run amok without self-control because I'm an American mom.  What do I know?

If you have read Druckerman's book, I'd LOVE to know your thoughts on French parenting and ADHD.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

ADDled's Summer Reading Incentives

Happy summer, dear readers!

Technically, I realize we have a few weeks before summer commences, but here at Casa de Chaos the kids are out of school and running up and down the street with abandon.  They have friends with them, so it's not just random running.

I like to keep things fairly loose in the summer until I leave for my last graduate residency and put their the kids' butts in camp for three weeks.  That is not to say I don't instill some structure into our daily lives because at this juncture in my ADD life I appreciate the benefits of routine and guidelines.

For this purpose, and to help motivate my children to read more during their down time, I created a Summer Reading incentive program.  My kids usually participate in the public library Summer Reading program, but I wanted to step up the game and make the prizes worth the effort.

Here is what I came up with:

With apologies to illustrator extraordinaire, Bret Helquist.
This illustration is copyrighted.  Please do NOT copy this image!!

So far, I'm happy to report, this program is working!  A week ago my son (age 7) pleaded with me to read with him, meaning he'd read a page/I'd read a page.  Now, exactly a week later, he has read 3 books, one of which he independently read with just a little help on multi-syllable words.  My daughter bought the Roald Dahl classic Matilda at a yard sale 4 days ago and has finished it!  I had to ask her to leave it in the car while we enjoyed our ice cream outing in celebration of my son's first two books.

A few friends have asked me to share the Summer Reading Book Log so I have created a blank log for you to download and customize.  For instance, I have listed several field trip options for my kids that are only pertinent in my hometown.  You can create your own incentives.  Your kids like going roller skating more than ice cream?  Write that in as an incentive for reading 2, 4, 6, 8, or 10 books.  You can also add your child's name to the top of the page in whatever font and color you would like and find an image to add to the top.  Perhaps a photo of your child!

To download a blank copy of my Summer Reading Book Log as a Word file, click here.

Please note that when you download the form you'll need to edit the size, style, and color of the fonts.  Also, you may need to delete some of the formatting.  I can't figure out why this version of the document lists "top of the page."  If one of you is better at technology than me, please advise me!!

I'd love to hear if you decide to implement this incentive program with your kids, so please leave me a comment.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Use Your Words: Why What You Say Around a Child Matters

My seven-year-old came inside from a raucous night of playing with his sister and some of their friends who live on either side of us and announced that one of his friends, a six-year-old girl in kindergarten, was called the F-word four times at school.

"The F-word.  I don't even know what it means," he scrunched up his eyes.

"Well, that's something we'll discuss when you're a little older," I said, hoping I had defused the situation and we could move along.

"F-U-C-K.  Fuck.  What does it even mean?"

I winced.  He laughed and so did my ten-year-old daughter.

Oh boy.  Strange that an act of love is expressed by such a mean, angry word.  A word I can't begin to explain to a seven-year-old.  For the record, I discussed the matter with the friend's mother and I wasn't at all angry at either the girl or her parents.  She innocently parroted back something audacious that she heard at school.  I just hate that she heard it in the first place.

Also for the record, I'm not a prim and proper Lady Grantham.  I have cursed like a sailor a few hundred times in my life, but ever since I became a mom I've watched my words more closely.  I realize that profanity isn't the worst thing my children can, or will, encounter.  I'm no Pollyanna, but I do think words are powerful.

I think the words you use say a lot about the person you are.  I think that the words you use inform people's perception and judgment (for better or worse) of you.  I think that some words, spoken in a threatening or vindictive tone, even by a child who is mimicking a brother, sister, aunt, parent, or friend, can be painful.  Thankfully, that wasn't the case with my son and his friend.

Children remember words, both cruel and taunting words and gentle, thoughtful words, and so I choose my words carefully.  I try not to dumb down my vocabulary around my children and have never altered the pitch of my voice when I speak to them.  They are capable of asking me for a definition and they appreciate being taken seriously.

I'm not upset that a child told my son about the f-bomb, but I am bothered that a kindergartener is exposed to language that is flip at best and violent at worst.  I've heard mothers at my children's school swearing up and down the hall at each other on Open House night as if the children around them didn't matter.  I choose to speak kind words, smart words, searching words, funny words, thoughtful and adventurous words around my kids because I want my kids to be kind, smart, searching, funny, thoughtful, adventurous people.  And I want them to speak to others with consideration not hate.

I realize that I cannot protect my children from profanity, or for that matter evil or heartbreak or loss.  I just try to guide them the best I can with the best words I can muster.

Monday, May 12, 2014

To-Do List Download

Hi Y'all!

I hope all of you moms had a lovely Mother's Day.  The kids and I spent time with our adopted Nana, then the husband and I spent too much money at a gardening center, I planted a little on the porch while it rained, then we drove to my in-laws for dinner.  It was relaxing because I let go of trying to accomplish anything.  Oh, and my husband cleaned my car with a steam vacuum!!

It's the little things, my friends.

When I last posted, I gave some advice for creating a To-Do List that actually works.  Then I got to thinking . . . what if I actually create a prototype of the format I was discussing?  What I believe the young people call a "download."

Between my iPad art apps and my creaky old laptop, I managed to create a little something for you to print all on your own.  Please let me know if it does not print properly so that I can make adjustments.

So here you go.  My Belated Mother's Day gift to all of you hard-working moms.  Or my Belated Poetry Month (which was April) gift to all of you hard-working writers.  Or heck, just my free gift to you because you, yes YOU, rock.  (The orange and red circles on the right are to check off each task as you complete them.)


Download PDF here.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Making a To-Do List That Works!

I'm a list maker.  I make countless lists in an attempt to organize.  Do you do this?  Does it work for you?

What I've discovered is that, just as with writing, or gardening, or cleaning my kids' rooms, I need to prep for my list before actually making the working to-do list.


Here's what I mean: with writing, I take notes and write drafts before revising; with gardening, I weed and turn the soil before planting; and with my kids' rooms, I take every toy out of the closet and dump them on the floor before I sort, toss, donate, and organize back into the closet.

I have to do the same thing with my to-do lists.

This sounds a little nutty, because it's just a to-do list, right?

For someone with ADD, this is extremely helpful.

Here's what my pre-list looks like:

A mess, right?

There is just no way to figure out what's most important, which items have deadlines, and they're so jumbled and crowded that I look at them, get overwhelmed, and ignore them.  A fat lot of good those lists did me.

But if I approach these messy lists like I did my lecture notes from college, I can see them as brainstorming, or note gathering.  The pre-lists are basically a brain dump.  You can't let them stay like that!  You have to take them and mold them into something workable, something you can glance at to keep you on track.  What I'm saying is, rewrite those pre-lists - just like I did with my college lectures - into organized to-do lists.

Get a pretty piece of paper if you have one.  A clean sheet, if not.  Divide the week into days (I just list for the week days) and give yourself 3-4 tasks that absolutely must happen each day.  I make boxes for these items because they're easy to check off.  Then go back to your brain dump list and divide those items across the days.

I try to keep my master to-do list down to 3-4 tasks a day because more items will overwhelm me and possibly set me up for failure.  3-4 tasks per day is achievable.  If I finish those tasks, I can add 1-2 more (which you will see I did in the example below).

One way to divide up the tasks is to make sure not to do too much of one thing every day.  For instance, I hate shopping; however, I needed to hit a bunch of stores yesterday so I thought I would just hit every store on my list.  What was I thinking?  I started at 10 and ended at 2:30 with barely time to get things together and leave to get my kids from school.  I should have hit 2 or 3 stores and had enough time to blog or make phone calls or finish Mother's Day plans.  Instead, I felt like Grumpy Cat by the end of the day.

Here's what my revised list looks like now.

Notice I've checked off some items on Friday even though it isn't Friday yet?  That's because this isn't a hard and fast list.  You can remain flexible.  If you feel like knocking out something you put on Friday but it's only Wednesday, I promise it's okay.  My kids go to Montessori school and have weekly work plans.  It doesn't matter when they get the work finished so long as it's all done by Friday.  Consider your list a work plan.

I just ordered this nifty memo set from Zulily.|1399560898925

It already has the days of the week plotted along with an extra pad for notes.  You'll need this extra notepad for individual lists for shopping, packing, whatever you need to do in more detail.  Don't put your grocery list on the master to-do list!  You'll want it on a separate sheet of paper or on a reminder app so you can actually take it, you know, to the grocery.

I hope this to-do list tutorial is useful for you.  It seems obvious, but I'm just now implementing this system and it's working for me.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

How To Out-Stubborn Your Stubborn Child

When my husband and I were first dating, he and my best friend would tease me.

"And does she dig her heels in for no reason and refuse to let it go?" he would ask her.

"Yes, and does she do that cute little foot stomp sometimes?" she would ask back.

All the while, I'd fume with a smile on my face, not letting them know they had hit a nerve.  They knew anyway.

Fast forward to now: I have two stubborn children.

My husband finds no end of joy in explaining that genetic (or is it behavioral?) trait.  Yes, they get it from me.
 How To Out-Stubborn Your Stubborn Child

Case in point, my 7-year-old son has been regressing in the mornings.  I'm guessing it's normal, but nonetheless, irritating.  He demands help for the smallest of tasks: picking clothes, getting dressed, walking up or down the steps.  Mind you, if he's motivated he can do all of those things and more as independent as my 10-year-old.  This usually happens on weekend mornings at 7:00 when I wish he was independent enough to make his own breakfast and, while he's at it, a cup of coffee for his bleary-eyed mother.

This morning was not one of those independent mornings.

This morning, in fact, was the complete opposite of those independent mornings.

This morning he was helpless and stubborn.

My first trick for dealing with stubborn behavior is to be playful:  "Come on, let's go upstairs together to get dressed.  Hop on board!  Next stop: Platform Nine and Three Quarters!"

He just stared and smiled.

I coaxed again, a little more firmly, but he didn't budge.  I was holding two cups of coffee, one for me and one for my husband -- because I'm sweet and bring him coffee every morning.  I needed to get upstairs before my wrists gave out.  He needed to get upstairs before his dad and sister headed to school.  No one was budging.

"Okay, well, I need to get upstairs.  I'm done waiting."

And with that, I headed up the first few steps.

"Noooooooooooo!!!!!!!!"  he protested.

I explained that I had waited and was done waiting and he needed to man-up.

He collapsed at the bottom of the stairs, crying that I said I'd help him and I didn't.  That I was being mean.  I turned around and saw him standing now, with his arms crossed.  He had stubbornly dug in.

My husband and my daughter both tried to persuade him to move.

No luck.

My husband started acting like he was going to cave and go get him.

"You're enabling him!!!"  I yelled from my daughter's room where I was turning out lights.

He backed off.

Then I had to switch to ultimatums:  "If you don't make your way up these stairs in the next minute, you're on your own.  I'll pick out your clothes, but you get dressed, brush your hair and teeth, and come back downstairs without me."

He didn't like that.

"Okay, so I'm going to get my coffee and come back downstairs now."

He started to crawl up the stairs, stubbornly complaining that I'm mean and that I lied to him.

"And if you don't straighten up and walk instead of dangerously crawling up the stairs, you'll be in time out."


Guess who won this match?  Queen of the Stubborns, thank you!  And I didn't even need to stomp my foot.

Of course I had to carry him to his room, and hold him onto my lap, but I did it!  I out-stubborned his stubbornness.

Lucky for me, I know what usually happens after willful outbursts like this; my son is filled with remorse and apologizes.  He cries and cries and hugs me and apologizes.

I know this is just growing pains.  He's learning to assert his independence, respect authority, and maneuver the shaky ground between the two.  I'm learning, too.  I'm learning to stay firm and love him through the rough patches.  No foot stomping necessary.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Organizing a boy's closet with felt baskets

For some parents, organizing their kids' rooms is a joy to match no other.  Or, at least, that's what their Pinterest profiles suggest.  Have you ever seen so many matchy-match rooms full of sweetness and whimsy?
I admit I'm a Pinterest fan and have a board or 20 devoted to home decor and organizing, but I do try to keep the boards realistic.  I am never going to build a castle in my daughter's room and put her bed and stuffed animals inside.  Not going to happen, so why bother pinning it?

I can buy matching baskets to make the clutter look less . . . cluttery, though.  And I did!

A few months ago a friend sacrificed her Sunday morning to help me declutter my son's room.  We were ruthless and threw out a ton of stuff, repurposed containers and shoved LEGOs and action figures into them, put them on his closet shelf and claimed victory.  I guess I have a weird touch of perfectionism mixed into my attention deficit personality because the mismatched containers nagged at me.
Target to the rescue.  As usual.  I may love Target as much as Pinterest.  I may also need an intervention for both of these attractions.

I had been eyeing these cute felted baskets for months.


Every time I wandered past them, I'd pick them up, look at the price, have a serious conversation with myself about them not being on the list and how I need to stick to the list, smile at passers-by when they stared at the crazy lady arguing with herself about baskets, then place them back on the display shelf and move on to the paper craft aisle where I would argue with myself about decorative craft scissors.

The last couple of visits to Target, I noticed that the felt baskets had that lovely red sale sticker on the tag.  I fondled them longer, but still decided to wait and see if they would be marked down any more.  I shopped the dollar aisles, but really didn't want to buy cheap plastic or cardboard baskets.  Besides, none of them looked right for a boy's room.

My last visit to Target I picked up the felted baskets and they had been marked down to less than $2 each.  Boo-yah!  I plopped 3 of those babies in my basket.  No arguments necessary.


So, here is what my son's closet looks like now.

I think a touch of aesthetics can make organizing less tedious, don't you?

Or am I rationalizing my bad Target habit?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Parenting: One of Those Days

Crisis - noun, plural crises
  1. a stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, especially for better or for worse, is determined; turning point.
  2. a condition of instability or danger, as in social, economic, political, or international affairs, leading to a decisive change.
  3. a dramatic emotional or circumstantial upheaval in a person's life.
  4. my house, last night.
Let me first say that everything is okay.  No worries.  No one died.  I'm exaggerating.  Go back to your coffee (but skip the danish because bathing suit season is around the corner.  Or don't.  No judgments.).

I should have known, as a parent, that the live wasp in the basement was a portentous sign.  When my 10-year-old daughter bent her face close to the insect on the carpet and said, "Nope, it's alive," I should have known it was going to be one of those days.  Parents, you know the kind of day to which I refer.  One of those days when it's gorgeous outside, but nothing goes the way it should.

I should have waited for the other shoe to drop because that wasp, that trickster wasp, did not sting my daughter or me or my son.  And I should have known that just throwing a plastic cup over it and weighing it down with a block of wood until my husband arrived was not really a solution.

This isn't about the wasp.  That's just a symbol.

This is about my daughter's ear.  And parenting through one of those days.
Two weeks ago, I made good on the birthday promise - made in February - that my daughter could get her ears pierced.  Finally!  This was no minor accomplishment.  We had talked my husband down from age 18 to 14 to 12 and finally to 10.  Then we waited two months until performances and camping trips were over, for the end of soccer season, for the perfect time to do the deed.

Two weeks ago, I made good on the birthday 
promise - made in February - that my 
daughter could get her ears pierced.  Finally!  

After much discussion with other parents about the best place to take her, I made an appointment at a tattoo parlor.  Before you pass judgment, tattoo parlors are incredibly sterile and they use needles rather than guns, which make a very accurate and straight hole.  I should know.  I have three piercings on one ear and one on the other (it was the 90s, people; this was called rebellion) all of which were done with guns.  Two of the four holes are fine but the first ones, the ones I had done at the mall when I turned 12, the ones pierced by a teenager with an earring gun, those are slanted.  Consequently, I had no small amount of trouble with those piercings in the early days.

But this isn't about getting my daughter's ears pierced.  We did it and the two women who stood in tandem on either side of her with crazy sharp needles did an amazing job.  They were exact, sterile, and thorough in their explanation of how to keep the puncture wounds clean.  (They were also heavily tatted and pierced, but they were also super nice.)  No, this is about parenting during one of those days.

Fifi (my daughter's nickname) has been very diligent about ear care.  We clean them every night before bed with sterile saline and I check for redness.  They look great and she hasn't had any problems.

Enter my son.

He's seven and impish.  He doesn't mean to cause trouble, but he's a walking basket of chaos.  The kids were outside playing on my next door neighbor's lawn with some friends.  Two of the girls were jumping on each other's backs and wrestling.  One girl got her nose bonked and was in tears for a few minutes.  Another mom was standing nearby while I pulled weeds from my front flower bed.  Then I heard a panicked, rhythmic screaming and my name.  It was Fifi.  She was clutching her left ear and crying with a wild look in her eyes.  Her brother had jumped on her back and grabbed her ears to hold on.  She thought he had ripped the earring through her lobe.  Where the hell was my husband?

Fun fact:  I faint when I see blood.  

I took Fi inside and sat her down.  I washed my hands and grabbed a paper towel.  Neither of us wanted to look at her ear.  Mr. T (my son) came inside looking sheepish.  I knew he didn't mean to hurt her and I really couldn't deal with punishing him while she hyperventilated and clutched at me.  I had to calm her down and then see what we could do.

Since Fi didn't want me to leave her, I put Mr. T to work.  

"Get me an ice pack!"

He returned with a freezer pack that you put in ice chests.

"Maybe something smaller?"

This time, he found a smaller pack and swiftly left the room, scared.

"T, can you get me some tissues for your sister?"

I saw a hand reach around the corner with a wad of tissues.

"You're going to need to bring them to me.  Enter the room, buddy.  She's okay, but I can't leave her."

I could tell he felt miserable.  

"I think I'll just give myself a time-out," he suggested.

"That's fine.  Are you going to your room?"

"No, I think I'll just sit on the couch."

Meanwhile, Fifi was taking deeper breaths.  She couldn't tell me if her ear hurt.  I called my husband.  He was 10 minutes away, stuck in traffic (did I mention a water main burst near our house and we're on a boil water alert?  So, traffic was backed up all over the neighborhood because the streets were closed. Yeah, I told you, one of those days).


I peeked at the back of Fi's ear.  No blood.  I looked closely at the paper towel.  No blood.  We decided to hold the ice pack against her ear a little longer because if there was blood, a passed-out mommy was not going to be of any use.

And this is how my husband found us: on the floor, holding ice and paper towels to my daughter's completely intact, not-even-a-little-bit-bloody ear while her brother sat quietly on the couch in self-imposed time-out.  

The bad news is: we lost her earring.

The other bad news is: the tattoo place had already closed for the night.

So, I sterilized a silver post earring in alcohol, cleaned her ear with sterile saline, sprayed on Neosporin, plonked the earring in and twisted on the back.

It looked good as of this morning and I'm still awaiting a call back from the tattoo place.  I left two very panicky messages last night.  

At bedtime, I talked to my son.  

"You know you can't jump on your sister anymore."

"Yeah, but you may need to remind me.  I have some paper right over there.  You should write it down."

"I think you'll remember, bud."

And then we found a tick on my puppy.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Yes, No, I don't know: ADD and Indecision

Friends who have known me a long time have had to put up with my chronic indecision.  There was a time in my twenties when I thought there was something terribly wrong with me: I couldn't make big decisions and anguished over them for days with an on-going, obsessive pros-vs-con internal dialogue.  I had never met anyone else who did this and so I felt like an anomaly at best and a basket case at worse.  I don't want to rehash the past for my friends, but briefly I considered moving to at least 10 different cities within the first year after college graduation.  Okay, many people mull over life choices, especially after college, but my friends were en route, in their cars, renting apartments, packing boxes while I hemmed and hawed over whether or not to join them.  I did the same thing with job opportunities, big purchases like cars, and dating.  In short, I was a mess.

Does this sound familiar to you?  Have you had days, weeks, years like this?

I think I started experiencing chronic indecision in my teens, probably brought on by the stress of high school - I was determined to get as close to a 4.0 as possible so that I could get college scholarships so I could flee from home.  Not all of the stress was academic, however.  I was stressed by social situations.  All of my friends were dating; I wasn't.  Why?  Not because I was shy and not because no one was interested in me.  I didn't date because a.) I was a perfectionist and only wanted to date a handful of people, most of whom were unavailable and b.) because I couldn't decide what to do.  I actually went back and forth, will I/ won't I fashion with two different guys - one in 8th grade and one my junior year of high school - until they both said screw it, and pursued someone else.  I even did this to some degree with my husband while we dated, but thankfully he's a persistent bastard!

Here's what it feels like in my brain when the indecision hits: crushing.  It feels like crushing.  Like I'm trying to breathe under a boulder.

As I've gotten older, the decisions have gotten bigger and have had financial repercussions, and most of the time my response to decision making is the same: go to bed and eat a bag of Hershey Kisses.  This, my friends, does not help (just in case you were wondering).  Another not-so-great coping mechanism: thinking of alternative realities and putting all hopes in that fantasy basket.

But, as I've grown older I have also been able to let go of panic more easily.  Maybe this comes with age and experience.  Maybe having two children has made me less neurotic, as my friend Jane once suggested.  And maybe I've just gotten better at this whole decision thang.

Lately, I have found myself in another big decision situation - nothing earth-shattering, but something that involves spending money I may or may not have - and it is throwing me back under the boulder.  I found my copy of You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!, by Kate Kelly and Peggy Ramundo (really kids, this is the ADD bible!) to help guide me through the crushing.  Some of the advice in the section "First Aid for Decision Making" depends upon hiring an ADD coach.  That's great if you can find one and can afford to, what do you call it?, pay said coach.  But a few pieces of wisdom rung through for me, advice I've read and even followed once or twice.

Allow me to summarize:

  • To avoid being overwhelmed by too many choices, keep your options minimal unlike the open tabs on your desktop.  Prioritize let's say three tasks.  Check them off when completed and choose the next three.  The point is to MOVE, not stay stuck in bed with a bag of Hershey Kisses.
  • You don't have to make the perfect decision, you just have to make a decision.  If you're paralyzed then find your favorite Derby hat, write down your choices on scrap paper, throw them in the hat and do whatever you draw out first.  
  • Stick with your decision.  No backsies.

I'm not a big fan of Nike, but I must say their slogan, in all it's simplicity, nails it: Just do it!

I say this as I rationalize why I'm still not making positive changes like getting back to yoga.  It's a process, people.  I'll be gentle with myself if you promise to do the same.

Let me know if you relate, share your stories of indecision, and even better share some of your success! 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

What do you get when you cross an RPG with ADD?

This is not a sponsored post.

The answer to the title question is not, in fact, every 12-year-old boy in every American middle school, ever.

My husband - a supergeek manchild with ADD . . . whom I love - was demonstrating the prowess of a new organizational app to my friend First Laura for her tween son.  I realized this app is genius, must be shared, and could perhaps save the world.

The app of which I speak is Epic Win and it is basically a to-do list for the Dungeon and Dragons set or, for those in the know, an RPG for the ADD.  That last sentence was a whole buncha alphabet for a whole buncha awesome.

Epic Win allows you set up your to-do list as a quest itinerary, one for which you will be handsomely rewarded with all of the lovelies you'd come to expect from role-playing games: gold, health, hearts.  

First, create your avatar.

Next, start listing those chores or tasks and assign them a reward of your choice.

Once you have achieved your task, you can chart your progress on the map of Mordor.

Never has dishwashing seemed so appealing!

The app is available for $2.99 for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.

Go forth and conquer (that load of laundry)!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Don't Interrupt! ADD and Impulsivity

A lot of fascinating conversations arise from my dinner table.  If you have kids, you can probably relate.  Anything from what they didn't do in science today to the meaning of life.  I'm in favor of these conversations . . . so long as they don't occur while I, too, am talking.

Perhaps this is part of my ADD brain asserting control, or maybe I'm just a control freak, but I will NOT tolerate being interrupted or spoken over.  It is distracting at the least and rude and inconsiderate at the most!  I realize that kids will be kids and this is a hard lesson to learn.  My ten-year-old interrupts her brother all of the time with something urgent to say and she scowls when I shush her.  I also get where she's coming from:  she doesn't want to lose her train of thought.  Trust me, I get that!  I've done that a squajillion times in pleasant, polite conversations.  I don't so much interrupt as I jump into a conversation opening with something I've been focusing hard on not forgetting for the past 10 minutes. Usually, it's an awkward moment of me blurting out my information because it is obvious I haven't been following the conversation.  Duh, people!  I've been working my brain for 10 whole minutes not to forget what I need to say!

My own foibles aside, I realize it's hard for a little person to understand polite conversations, let alone social nuances.  I'm in my 40s still working through that mess.  And I remember all too well when I was somewhere between my son and daughter's age, let's say 8 or 9, when I physically interjected myself between my mom and my teenage sister, trying to tell them something important (probably about Barbies or world peace) and they both scolded me for interrupting and being rude.  You don't remember that kind of thing unless it stings.

Yet, here I am, at the dinner table last night trying to tell my husband something when my 7-year-old son blurts out something (probably about Pokemon or world peace) and I shush him.  Oh, it get's better.  I continue talking and my son looks at me with a devilish smile and continues talking OVER me.   Like louder than me.  Purposefully.  And here's where I lose my cool:  "I don't like that at all!" I shout at him, "It's completely rude and unacceptable!" and then I dramatically push back my chair and stomp out of the room with my plate.  Dear Lord!  I am terribly embarrassed that I subjected my son to that display.  My husband gave me a very guilt-inducing, "HON-ey!" while he hugged my whimpering son.

I did return to the table and apologized to my son and hugged him.  Then I became a grown-up and said, "Please don't do that again.  It's very rude and makes me feel like you're not listening to me, like what I'm saying isn't important because you have something to say, granted about world peace, but neverthless, I was talking first."

Everything was peachy after that.

Until this morning.

This wasn't so much an interrupting incident so much as an I'm-going-to-ignore-you-and-do-what-I-want situation.  To make matters worse, my son ignored me by independently reading a chapter book, something I HAVE to praise!  I needed him to finish getting ready and brush his teeth and said he could return to his book - Ms. Krup Cracks Me Up - AFTER, as sort of a dessert.  (Have I mentioned that my son most likely has the ADD, too?  We haven't had him tested because it doesn't seem to be interfering with any arenas of his life . . . yet.  Why medicate a 7-year-old when it isn't crucial?)  But either he was hyper-focused (I doubt it) or stubborn (most likely) and he kept reading until he finished the page because that's what he wanted to do.  In the grand scheme of things, no big deal, right?  However, I had to explain to him that I need to know that he is capable of listening to me.  What if I said, "Step back on the curb!  A car is coming!" and he said, "Just a minute.  I want to finish this page?"  I know.  Probably not a real-life scenario, but I had to explain to him that listening to me is important.  That I wasn't just being bossy; our neighbor who carpools with us was due any minute and I couldn't open the door for her if I was busy brushing his teeth!  There is a method to my insanity.  Really.  I promise.

How do you deal with interruptions, whether from your kids or friend or peers at work?  Are you the interrupter?  Do you consciously try to curb your interruptions?  How?

For more discussions of adult ADD, I just want to let my local readers know about a new outlet.  I will be co-administering a discussion group for parents with ADD through the most awesome Mama's Hip. Find the group on Facebook.  This is a closed group so my co-administrator Kate B. or I will need to approve your participation.

Here's the link:

Monday, March 24, 2014

"To future writers: Don't be a dick!"

If you are a book lover like I am, chances are you have a few books on the shelves inscribed with a message on the title page by the author, perhaps with a simple message or just an autograph.  Maybe a relative or friend has given you a collection of poems as a birthday gift and personalized it an inscription.  I was contemplating inscriptions as I finished my MFA thesis - a collection of essays that I hope to publish one day - thinking about how instead of standing in line for an autograph, I might be signing books in the future.  Maybe.

Serendipitously, I discovered that one of my graduate school mentors, Roy Hoffman, had written a lovely blog post about inscriptions for the Spalding University MFA in Writing blog.  In his post, Roy waxes nostalgic (but in a good way) about books he has signed for family members who have since passed and how he now keeps them safe on his own shelf.

As I pondered the many inscriptions I have accumulated, both first-hand while waiting in line after a reading or as gifts, I settled on an important truism for all writers.  Listen up, friends, I'm about to drop some wisdom.  If you find yourself in the honored position of signing books for fans of you work: DON'T BE A DICK!

It's a simple rule, really.  Easy to understand and follow.  I intend to put it to use should I ever find myself in that hallowed position.

I've had a good many books signed; I worked in a bookstore for 6 years and had access to countless acclaimed authors.  And most of them were incredibly gracious.  It was always the non-authors, the famous move star/model/politician/musicians who were the worst, who had the most ridiculous requirements and requests.  Country singer Naomi Judd made us move the signing area away from the front windows and Charlton Heston sat on - I kid you not - a throne.

In more recent years, I have stood in line to have a book signed after a store reading and have had very pleasant experiences overall.  There are 2 standout instances when, however, this was simply not the case.

My book club had read and rather enjoyed Julia Glass's first novel Three Junes.  So when she came to town to promote her second novel, The Whole World Over, I left the kids with my husband and trotted off to Carmichael's Bookstore.  After her reading, I bought the new book and presented it and Three Junes to Ms. Glass.  Okay, I admit it, I had bought Three Junes at a secondhand store where I trade books.   You know, "renew, reuse, recycle?"  Apparently, Ms. Glass is not an environmentalist.  She looked at the $3.99 price sticker on the front cover and scowled at me.

Proper response, Ms. Glass: "Thank you for purchasing my new book, Amy.  I am also glad to see my last book is being read and passed on to other readers, rather than thrown into the fireplace and used for kindling.  You are a remarkable woman, Amy.  Allow me to introduce you to my editor."

Case two, also occurred at Carmichael's, as they are the sole remaining indie bookstore in town.  I believe it was their first annual David Sedaris block party.  (Warning Sedaris fans:  I love the man, but that doesn't mean he's incapable of a dick move.)

It was a sweltering, August day.  The street had been closed because Sedaris draws a big enough crowd to cause a major fire hazard in a tiny store.  Those of us who didn't squeeze in between the shelves, sat on the curb and listened to Sedaris read via two portable speakers.  After the reading, I purchased his anthology Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules, and waited in line holding my stack of his other books (he must have limited the number of books he would sign, because I only have sigs on Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, Me Talk Pretty One Day, and Holidays on Ice.)  Strange, my two favorites of his - Naked and Barrel Fever - I left at home.

I was pretty close to last in line and, counting my time sitting on the curb outside, had spent a good 3 hours waiting to have my books signed.  Once I got to the table where Sedaris sat, I recall asking him for advice for a budding writer as he signed and stamped my books.  He seemed a little flustered and beleaguered, red eyes and empty water bottle, and didn't have much to offer me.  Just something about perseverance.  I had hoped for something a big more profound from one of my greatest influences, but I didn't take it personally.  When I got to the car, I opened my books to read the inscriptions.  One just had "To Amy" - fine.  I can live with that.  But in another, he wrote" "To Amy: Thank you for making me rich."

My husband thinks that's funny.  I'm sure that was the intention.  But after waiting in line and hanging outside in the heat, I didn't want smug or snark.  What was I expecting?  It was David Sedaris.

On happier note, I had wonderful interactions with the following writers at book signings: Gloria Steinem, Noah Adams, Margaret Atwood (who was amazed that I had such an old, out of print copy of Bluebeard's Egg -- love that book!).  And the following writers left me with the following memories and inscriptions:

The late great Molly Ivins (I was 22 and completely shy when my boyfriend pushed me up to get my book signed) wrote, "For Amy Miller, Keep fightin' for freedom and keep laughin' too."

Marion Winik chatted with me about my two-year-old daughter (who was with me) and helped me pick out a children's Hannukka book.

Mary Karr (or Goddess, as I like to call her), wrote in my dog-earred copy of The Liar's Club, "To Amy: Kick butt and take names!"

And last fall, I was bringing up the rear to have my copy of This Is The Story of a Happy Marriage signed when Ann Patchett - sick as a dog with the flu - came to town.  I expected the worst.  She's such a gifted writer and during her interview on stage she appeared unruffled, down to earth, normal.  What would she really be like in person?  When I gave her the book, I mentioned that I'm doing exactly what she preached not to do in her essay, "The Getaway Car," which if you're a budding writer, you should read.  In it she says to never, ever borrow money for a graduate writing program.  "Too late!" I told her.  She leaned over the table after signing my book, and with a wry smile confided, "You know what you should do?  Porn.  It pays really well."

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Overcommitting or Committing Oneself: Organization Dilemmas for the Chronically ADD

Having ADD is kind of like being an out-of-control magician: you never know what you're going to pull out of the brain.  Most days, I can wake and know immediately if I am going to accomplish items on my to-do list or not, but every morning is a surprise.  I can definitely count on days closest to my period being a catastrophic mess - there is definitely a link between hormonal shifts and focus.  I talk more about that here.

But what do you do if you have a massive number of projects to finish and you're in the midst of a full-on ADD brain fog?  Seriously, that's a question.  What do you do?

I've been trying to keep my calendar in front of me at all times, along with two pens, a notebook, a scratch pad, my phone, a glass of water (because organization is dehydrating) and any notes that are necessary to keep me in task.  Right now, I am helping organize an annual fundraiser for my children's school that requires a lot of coordinating with my co-chair and various teachers.  It involves a lot of dates, paperwork, and announcements.  I am also writing a bio for my father-in-law for an awards banquet, arranging to teach a community writing workshop, defending my graduate thesis and reading a friend's thesis for her defense, planning a major trip for the summer, writing articles for the freelance gig, submitting essays to contests, revising work for my last graduate packet, dealing with a medical issue, and just about losing what is left of my crumbling mind.

I've had multiple requests to meet for coffee, meet for tea, scheme a business plan, give blogging advice, help with a community project, and volunteer at school and ballet.  Some of those meetings I even instigated!  With March a week away, I also have to start planning for spring break and summer camps.

Last week I told my husband I needed a raise . . . from his paycheck.

This week, I think I just need to hire a personal assistant and give him or her my raise . . . from my husband's paycheck.

With March right around the corner, at least I have spring on the horizon.  Here's how I know for certain: I heard birds singing yesterday, all of the snow and ice outside my front windows has melted, I saw young athletes convening in the park last night, it's just a teensy bit light at 6 PM, and my spring headaches are beginning to ring behind my eyes.

I think my first step at clearing the brain cobwebs will be to take a short walk down the street, breath in the clean air, and look for bulbs beginning to sprout.

We're all so busy and over-committed, even those of us lucky enough to "work" from home.  How do you juggle it all?

Friday, February 7, 2014

The January Sickbed Blues

I know, I know, I haven't been writing.  Guess what?  Chicken butt.  Sorry, too much time with my 7-year-old.  Guess again.  Seriously this time.  I've been siiiiiiiiiiiiiick.  For those who don't understand the multiple "i"s I loaded that word down with it means a month-long, ever-mutating kind of sick.

Over the holidays in December, I felt tired and suspected I was drawing near my annual sinus infection so I got some antibiotics and cruised along.

It didn't go away.

Don't get me wrong, I was in no way miserable.

Then, around the first week of January, after being stuck in the house for two weeks with both kids and my husband, my husband came to bed one night complaining of a sore throat.  He offered to sleep in the basement so I wouldn't catch it, but I didn't accept the offer, figuring I could take it.

Guess another time: I couldn't take it.

Within two days, my husband was laid out flat and had to miss a dinner party.  I attended, but felt pretty weak and tired.  I didn't finish my dessert.  Something was wrong.

Then my throat started throbbing and throbbing and throbbing.

I went to the Kroger Little Clinic where they told me to gargle with salt water and take Zyrtec.

I went to my general practitioner who said she was not giving me another antibiotic, but did test me for strep and mono.  I didn't have either.

A week later, I was unable to eat solid food and the pain was getting worse, so back to my doctor I went.  She gave me a steroid injection.  In my ass.  It worked for 6 hours.

Two days after that my doctor sent me to an ENT, a strapping man in a tight pink sweater.  He gave me a powerful antibiotic that he assured me was safe to take even though I have Crohn's Disease.

Here's what happened: my throat starting improving and . . . the antibiotic sent me into an epic Crohn's flare-up!  Oh, and I had chills and fevers for three weeks.  At random.

Here's a few illustrations to help illustrate how my gut felt about being on the antibiotic.

I actually stayed in bed or wrapped in a blanket on the couch looking like a lonely old biddy for almost a month.

With growing concern, I contacted my ENT, my gastroenterologist, and my primary care physician.  I was told to finish the antibiotic if I could (I did), start on a new antibiotic for my bad gut (I did), and oh-my-god-you're-very-dehydrated.  At least that helped explain the all-day sleeping marathons.

After 10 days of drowning in Gatorade, I started to improve a little, but not enough.  So, I got off ALL antibiotics (because they are the devil), started a new medication as recommended by my Facebook Crohn's homies, and then remembered, hey, doesn't over-the-counter Pepto Bismal work for these kind of gut problems?  Turns out, it does.

Now, why I didn't think of this a month ago, when I opened my medicine cabinet every night and saw the magic pink chalky medicine winking at me, I can't say.  But, I am gloriously happy to feel better, have an appetite again, have energy again, and all for less than $10 a bottle.

Thank you for bearing with my absence, dear readers.  This winter has been a doozy - and I'm not even going to mention the ice, snow, and mounting snow days my kids have had - but we're halfway to spring and I'm ready to get back to writing on a regular schedule.

Hope you are staying warm and healthy on your end of the blogosphere.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

New Look

I'm going to keep this one brief because I'm sick as a sad-eyed dog.  Just curious what you think of the new look?  In correspondence with my attempts to simplify and streamline and focus, I've deleted and refined the look.  I also learned a few design apps and created the new banner.

What do you think?

What does it need?  What do you like?

I'll keep tweaking it.

And once I conquer this virus, I'll write something waaaaay more interesting.  Promise.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

New Year

Happy New Year!!!!

Okay, Happy January 9th, Party Poopers.

How is your 2014 looking thus far, dear readers?  If my 2014 follows in the tiny footsteps of the first 9 days of the month, I am in deep doo doo.

I'm hitting the Dove hard today, people.
Let me just preface matters by saying, my family is healthy (relatively), I'm healthy (again with the relatively), we have a house, the heater is working even though it makes fingers-on-the-chalkboard screeches when it flicks on, nothing is terribly wrong.

There, now may I continue?

So far, all 9 days of January have been marred by technical glitches.  So far to date (since New Year's Day) I've had:

2 bodily malfunctions
2 prescription drug malfunctions
1 insurance malfunction, which continued back and forth over the phone for 5 hours (beginning with
   a wake-up call at 8:00 a.m.)
1 car malfunction (due to the extreme frigid temps)
1 grad school malfunction (just settled, thank you baby Moses!)
1 series of tubes (Internet) malfunction - code word: GOOGLESUCKS
6 app malfunctions
20 dietary malfunctions (you saw the photo above, right?)

Truth is, I've been tied to every one of my computer screens for two days straight because I couldn't make things work.  At one point I had my laptop and my iPad open and was scrolling, simultaneously, through my smart phone.  This is not healthy behavior for the ADD.  This is not healthy behavior period.

Writing I have been able to do.  Word processing is pretty straightforward.  Designing pretty pictures on the cheap with apps I've never used before on an iPad, not so easy.  Also not easy, Google's warning that I needed to update my administrative settings or lose my blog in 2 weeks.  Receiving an email warning that my blog may be shut down is fine, but for the love of Yoko Ono walk me through the process, nerds!  I spent the better part of yesterday and today chasing my virtual tail trying to fix this problem and claim my domain.  And I claimed it, baby.  Domain, consider yourself claimed.  By me.

To this latter problem my wholehearted thanks go to Ms. Ashley Rose who provided me the human service help that Google apparently refuses for its free services.  If you are a paying business customer, you will receive the equivalent of First Class travel concierge services.  Would you like a mint while we set up your new password?  Well, this bloggy freeloader had to research the data, piece together the clues, and call for help on Facebook to get my administrative rights back.  Consider this a warning if you own a custom domain via Blogger.  Your time will come.  And you will have to pay.  (Actually, I'm pretty sure the service is still free, but lord did take some time and a lot of screaming to get results.)  If any of you would like me to post a tutorial on how to conquer your Google Apps, let me know in the comments.  I'll do it, just for you.

Apart from the multiple malfunctions, I really did have a lovely holiday break.  My family must have watched over 1,000 hours of movies (side note: Holy cheese grits, my son just discovered the Ice Age franchise and we have had to suffer through each and every one of those movies, each sequel a good 15-point drop on the Rotten Tomatometer.  The good news is, I'm holding Ice Age 4: Electric Boogaloo hostage.  My son has to follow through on being cooperative every day or I push back the day he gets to see it.  Cruel?  Maybe.  But effective!).  I've clocked in an entire season of Dr. Who, with which I am completely obsessed.  I've read 1 1/2 books (and started a few more that I'm not far enough into to mention).  I saw several lovely friends and ate good food and napped a few times, too.

But I'm ready to get back to work.  Back to writing.  Back to blogging (which, technically, is writing).  Back to making heathen crafts.  Back to my studies.  Back to running the kids all over town.  Back.

And while I don't typically make resolutions anymore because after I tried to write an entire blog about keeping a resolution a month, I just don't need that kind of pressure, I do have a few goals to share:

Create more
Save more money
Spend less money
Be in the moment
Yoga (isn't that everyone's perennial New Year's requirement?)

I hope you had a festive holiday and New Year.  What good things happened?  What's coming down the pike?  Any malfunctions you need to share?  Any goals for the year?  Let's support each other before I dive back into that bag of chocolate.