Thursday, September 3, 2015

Bookroo - a great resource for kids books

I was contacted recently by Jane Tanner, one of the co-owners of Bookroo, to feature her company on the blog. Typically, I don't write sponsored posts, but in this case I was so taken with the company, I wanted to share what they do.

Bookroo is a monthly book subscription club that sends children's books based on age curated by a family of enthusiastic readers. The monthly fee is more affordable than the retail equivalent of the books and each shipment is wrapped in adorable, recycled (and recyclable!) packaging. 

Super cute, right?

The company is so committed to literacy that they also donate books to Reach Out & Read.

If you have young children or are looking for a lovely gift for new parents, please visit the Bookroo website and subscribe. As a special offer to readers of ADDled, you can click this link -- -- and receive a $4.00 discount on whichever service you choose. 

As a parent, writer, educator, and children's bookseller I must tell you I am impressed with what Bookroo has to offer.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tween Room Twansition Twainwreck

I'm not entirely sure how this happened, but I have a middle-schooler living in my house. My little chubby cheeked girl is now a lithe sixth grader attending middle school orientation as I speak. And, as most maturing girls require, my daughter is not having all of that baby stuff in her room anymore. No sir, it's out with the Pillow Pet and in with . . . oh my God, what?!

At the end of the school year, I promised my daughter we would convert her room into a middle school "pad." I borrowed this idea from my highly organized friend First Laura, who transformed her son's room in what seemed like a weekend with some really fun and grown-up touches (hanging clipboards to organize, being my fave). What I didn't realize when I made this promise was: a.) how much my daughter would obsess about this project, and b.) how much I would obsess about this project. My daughter now has 50 pins on her "Cool Rooms" Pinterest board. I have 134 pins on my "Girl's (Not Girly) Room" board. Clearly, we have lost it.

When I say that I'm obsessing over this room project, I think you need to know what that looks like:
  1. I spend all of my free time looking at Pinterest for inspiration.
  2. Or ModCloth, Pottery Barn Kids, PB Teen, Land of Nod, Target, Urban Outfitters,  . . . .
  3. I show or share all of my pins with my daughter when we are supposed to be listening to my husband read The Lightning Thief at bedtime.
  4. I make a decision about, say, a rug; then, I completely change my mind, as in, "The rug should so be a navy and white striped, flat weave 5x7. Wait, no, wrong. The rug should so be an orangey-red braided, 8x10 deal."
  5. I wake in the morning panicked about throw pillows.
My daughter, in the mean time, has been clearing out her room, putting things in boxes, creating give-away piles and throw-away bags. Why? Because, if the first mistake I made was promising to create the new room, the second mistake was saying, "Sure, I'll paint the walls while you're in camp." Guess when she's in camp?

I'm running out of time! 

This is all cause for anxiety for an ADD mom; however, I'm trying to break it down into manageable chunks, like every ADD counselor in history recommends. I bought paint samples and plan to slap on some color this morning before my chauffeur duties commence. We found a new comforter . . . and it's on sale! And we're looking at the calendar to find a good day to go to IKEA. All manageable. 

I actually really enjoy creating living spaces. I think the anxiety comes from wanting my girl to be happy with the results, and making time as well as finding the money to make all of these changes. I'm trying to utelize my creative thinking and urges to recycle and repurpose for the budget (plus, I've found some great deals!) and I'm forcing myself to use my planner to schedule time. 

I'm also practicing a lot of deep breathing.

Once we are done, I will post photos!

Have you ever taken on a project like this, whether it's redecorating or organizing, and felt completely overwhelmed? How did you work through it? What were your challenges and triumphs? Please share!

-- Amy

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

What does Caitlyn Jenner's transformation say about beauty?


Apparently, Caitlyn Jenner (formerly Bruce) broke the internet yesterday, drawing over 17 millions viewers according to The New York Times. Unless you are a luddite mole man (no judgment), you know what I mean, but to help out the less tech savvy of my readers, Caitlyn revealed her new look with a teaser of Vanity Fair’s upcoming July cover and excerpted story. While I’m thrilled for Ms. Jenner on her transition, and a strong supporter of the trans community — shaky ground here, starting with a “while I’m thrilled” statement — as a feminist, I’m less than pleased. I certainly don’t want to create a backlash against this brave woman’s effort to share her story and I don't want to be the asshole who proclaims to have friends who are trans so that I can say something offensive, but the bottom line is I’m struggling to understand why prominent transgender women look like Barbie dolls?

The answer to this question, I discovered, lies in the Vanity Fair article. Jenner underwent 10 hours of “feminizing facial surgery.” When I read that phrase for the first time, my double chin dropped two inches. What exactly does a plastic surgeon interpret as “feminizing facial surgery?” I checked out the article "9 Fascinating Facts About Transitioning From Male to Female," to better understand this procedure. Then I took a quick look at Jenner and Laverne Cox’s professional photos and noticed that, according to surgeons who perform this surgery, women have the following features: high cheekbones, plump lips, almond-shaped eyes, arched brows, and a narrow, straight nose. I understand why someone transitioning from male to female would want her face to look more feminine. I understand wanting to eliminate male traits such as the Adam’s apple, squared jaw, and receding hairline, as well as facial hair, and feel I have no place what-so-ever in offering my straight, white, female opinion or support in these matters. Where I do take umbrage is with plastic surgeons’ interpretation of what is feminine.

For thousands of years, women have tried to beautify themselves both to be accepted by others and be attractive to potential mates. I grew up during the Third Wave Feminist movement in the 1980s and 90s, a time when we didn’t burn our bras; we just didn’t wear them. Or shave our legs or pits. We didn’t wear makeup, or if we did, we left off the foundation and blush and just went out the door with a smear of lipstick. I belong to the age of Gen Xers who have tried for twenty years to convince older and younger generations that “fat is a feminist issue,” know yourself/love yourself, and “be who you is.” Who I is means I have crazy, naturally curly hair that defies any and all styles. Who I is means I have a muffin top, big thighs, a round butt, and wiggly upper arms because I’m middle-aged, have delivered two kids, and don’t exercise enough. Who I is means I have a long, Semitic nose, stained teeth from a life-long coffee habit, and bushy eyebrows that were “in” when Brooke Shields was a teenager.

I applaud the wealthy trans women who can sculpt their appearances with the conveniences of modern plastic surgery, but I can’t help but wonder what their appearances are saying to young women (trans or not) who aren’t happy with their noses, hair, teeth, and bodies. Are we buying into the beauty industry by giving Caitlyn Jenner a standing ovation? What kind of double standard are we enabling when BUST Magazine — one of my favorite feminist publications — congratulates Jenner’s outer and inner beauty, but in another article (referenced on the sidebar) also congratulates Lena Dunham for her bravery in showing what less-than-perfect women look like in their undies?

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Family Organization: Bruce Feiler's Agile Theory

I've been inspired lately. Okay, let's be honest, I'm on a slow prednisone taper for Crohn's and I'm a bit manic. My mania is expressing itself in organization, baking, and eating. The first two are pluses for my family and friends. The latter is proving more challenging, but I'm trying to use my energy to exercise more and offset the massive amounts of protein I'm consuming.

Needless-to-say, my level of focus and get-it-done-ness is surprising. I don't sit at my computer and fall down the social media rabbit hole. Instead, I make a plan for my free time and get to work. I hope I can maintain this once the taper ends!

While I have been baking and cleaning and crafting (yes, that has been happening, too), I've been listening to and getting caught up on podcasts. One I enjoy is NPR's TED Radio Hour, which takes a topic, interviews 3 experts on the topic, and highlights portions of their TED Talks. Not familiar with TED? It stands for Technology/Entertainment/Design and the talks feature world renown scientists, writers, entertainers who simply talk about their subject to a crowded audience of life-long learners, like me. I tuned to the TED Radio Hour today to listen to the podcast on Organization, since that is a constant struggle for me, hoping to learn some new tricks or insights. What I discovered is that I'm doing some things right, and already know the best guidelines for success. Sweet!

The speaker that I was most interested in was an interview/talk with Bruce Feiler, an author of nine books, including The Secrets of Happy Families. In this book, and in his talk, Feiler discusses a new organizational tactic for families based on "agile" computer programming, programming that evolves with the needs of the user and relies on collaboration and self-organizing, leading to quick responses and positive change. What struck me about Feiler's concept is how close it is to Montessori philosophy, an educational philosophy to which I'm devoted, which focuses on self-guidance, personal responsibility, and self-motivation based on mutual respect.

In the Montessori classroom, students receive a work-plan for the week, which serves a guideline for students, breaking down their tasks into smaller, manageable tasks. The children can choose the order of their tasks so long as they finish by Friday at 3:45. Add to this morning and afternoon meetings where teachers check in with students to help set the goals for the week and gauge how well they've done. Similarly, with agile programming (not as a software solution, but as a workforce organizational tool), Feiler explains, managers ask their workers to break down tasks and accomplish them then come back, check in, and do the next task. Sounds linear, but sensible.

Feiler takes agile a step further by mapping it onto a normal family morning routine. What does this mean? CHECKLISTS! Seriously, that's the secret. Have a morning checklist. Your kids will feel empowered to do their jobs without you shouting at them and have the satisfaction of checking things off. You will feel less stressed and everybody wins.

Take a listen to what Feiler has to say and tell me what you think? I'm not sure if I'm going to implement this, but my kids independently have organized their own chore list, which seems to follow a similar principle. I'm all for self-direction.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Finding flow with ADD


As a writer with ADD, I already have an uphill battle: quieting my mind long enough to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) is rather like running an obstacle course while spectators throw things at me. I sit down, shut down my Facebook feed, think about how to phrase a thought and BAM! a (figurative) tomato smacks me in the head. Two minutes later, I'm settling into my sentences and KAPOW! Silly String lands on my fingers. Writing with ADD is a series of beginnings, like driving down a busy street and following a bus with stops on every corner. If you know me, you know I don't like stopping on every corner. In fact, I go out of my way NOT to stop at every corner. I know every back road in town so that I can avoid frequent stops. You can imagine my frustration when trying to write.

Folks with ADD are sometimes blessed with hyper (or deep) attention. My husband can do this. He can tune out everything so much that I can stand in front of him and say his name five times before he looks up from an article on his iPad. I rarely reach this state, this bliss of what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls "flow." That isn't to say I've never experienced flow (or what athletes call The Zone). I just don't experience it often. My brain never shuts up!

Add to this equation, if you will, children. My daughter will draw or read or make jewelry while I putter around. My son - on the other hand - is an external processor. Everything he thinks, he verbalizes. And if my husband or I don't respond immediately, he isn't deterred or frustrated. He just keeps saying our names or repeats his observation/question/anecdote/joke/song until he receives acknowledgement.

Writer friends of mine have shared writing strategies with me in the past, highlighting how they have been able to write every day, or twice a week, or every Sunday. These include: shutting the door, asking your spouse/partner to be in charge for the day, wearing a string around your neck as a sign that means you cannot be disturbed, going to a park/coffee shop/library for the day, writing after the kids have gone to bed. I have tried some of these strategies with moderate success. But people with ADD struggle to make any routine stick. We get bored easily, so saying I'm going to write from 5:30-7:30 a.m. every morning is much easier to say than to do.

In a surprise turn of events last night, I decided to a.) write a poem, b.) write on the couch in the family room while my family was home and milling about, and c.) worked on it while my son curled up beside me with a book and shared my afghan. I'm pleased to say . . . it worked! So maybe the lesson here for writers of the ADD persuasion is this:

Write when and where you can.

Can it really be as simple as that?

If you'd like to learn more about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and the idea of "flow," check out his TED talk.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Why I Love The Snow


In Louisville we call it "snowcapolypse." In Colorado and Maine they call it Tuesday.

My hometown was hit with the first major snow storm of 2015 on Sunday night. The snow began late that night and continued throughout the day yesterday. Roads, homes, and trees were draped in white. It's lovely, really. Because I love the snow and the winter. Everything quiets down and becomes sleepy. The only colors are the black of buildings buried under the white of snow. Occasionally, a red cardinal pops into view, the miracle of its feathers spark a moment of life and energy into the scenery until it flies away.

Most of my friends complain about the snow every winter, even though we are never hit as hard as the East Coast or mountain states. They complain about the cold, the wet drifts, the slow traffic, the dirty remains of the melted snow. They celebrate snow days with the kids until they have to return to work and the kids are still off and they scramble for child care or until they get cabin fever and need a break from the kids.

Not me. I love it.

I fantasize about a writing retreat in the mountains blanketed in snow. When I tell my husband this, he cringes. Our ADD presents very different. He needs constant stimuli: noise, movement, dialogue, internet. When we first started dating and I was over at his condo a lot, I would follow him from room to room turning off all of his electronics: radio, television, lights, computer. I crave the silence to unrattle my brain, to unpack the ideas and let them stretch, to move in slower motion than my everyday busy self.

And so I love the snow. It forces me to stop.

Slow down. Think.

I hope it doesn't melt too quickly. Maybe I'll get an hour or two of writing in while the kids sled if I'm lucky.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Overwhelm: ADD and emotions

Surely, you have experienced the sensation of being overwhelmed before. Whether it is caused by sensory overload - which happened to one of my son's sweet friends at his laser tag party, yesterday - or emotional stress, real or imagined, at some time or another you're going to feel like running away or hiding in a cave by the sea. Preferably, one of those caves with Egyptian cotton linens and fluffy towels for drying off after a swim. And hot cocoa served round-the-clock by helpful sea lions. But I digress. Folks with ADD tend to feel overwhelmed a pinch more than the rest of everybody. Hence my long absence.

I won't bore you with the details of why I've been away from you lovelies, but I do want to focus on the overwhelm. Yes, I know it's a transitive verb, not a noun; however, I think there needs to be a noun form of this feeling, because this baby has legs.

Here's what Merriam Webster has to say about the word:

  • To upset or overthrow
  • To cover over completely; to submerge
    • To overcome by superior force or numbers
    • To overpower in thought and feeling

I think it's fair to say that we can all relate to the final definition - to overpower in thought and feeling, but I also think the idea of submersion is on point. When I feel overwhelmed it's a tidal sensation, a feeling of swimming against a large wave of judgement or fury or disappointment or inadequacy or grief. You swim against those powerful negative states of mind, but they're bigger than you so you submerge. In the ADD bible,


You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!: The Classic Self-Help Book for Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder

 By Kate Kelly, Peggy Ramundo

the authors Kelly and Ramundo call this feeling "the state of overwhelm," "emotional boggle," and "stuckness." While I have experienced all of this sensations, I'm not sure I correlate them. When I am feeling overwhelmed, I am not stuck, per se. I am flushed with powerful emotion. Sometimes I just need to acknowledge the feelings and let things around me slide: the dishes, mail, email, laundry, etc. Of course, this doesn't explain why I let these things slide on a daily basis, but you get my meaning. I don't feel stuck; I feel emotional.

Other times, the overwhelm hits when I'm in a socially awkward moment. I experience this when I go to parties or conferences and either don't know what to say or say something that isn't particularly appropriate for the occasion. For instance, "Hello, what's new?" is a question I might be asked in one of these situations. Answering, "Pretty good, but I've had to go to the gynecologist three times this month and I'm a bit tired of spreading my legs," is not necessarily the appropriate response for this setting.

Sometimes I feel the overwhelm when I must make a decision. Shopping is unpleasant for me, especially in a warehouse or outlet mall. I love the idea of IKEA, but the shopping experience in an IKEA triggers my overwhelm. Okay, I'll take the unpronounceable Swedish sectional that looks so pretty in the showroom, but so help me God, do not make me find the four boxes of parts in the warehouse before I pop a Xanax!

In my recent past, the overwhelm took shape as 1.) too much work/not enough pay (I was adjuncting again) and 2.) personal grief. The class I taught was great, I just wasn't prepared to teach it - I was called in to take another professor's place - so I played catch-up all semester, staying one tentative step ahead of my students every day. I felt off-balance. As someone with ADD, I like to have my syllabus prepared and feel confident about my assignments before the first day of class. That just never happened with this class.

As for the personal grief, I don't think I'm unusual. Whether you have ADD or not, grief can submerge you. I lost a dear friend. My high school friends and I were with her for each step of her path. I was with her when she passed. It was horrible. ADD had nothing to do with the overwhelm; the overwhelm  was inevitable. I'm thankful to my husband for cleaning the dishes and putting the kids to bed, for holding me and understanding. 

I'm coming out the other end of the overwhelm and I'm happy to be back with you, my bloggy friends. 

Whether or not you have been diagnosed with ADD, I wonder how you deal with the overwhelm. What are your coping strategies? I tend to give in to it and then put the pieces back together once I'm washed back ashore. 

Please share your experiences or thoughts in the comments section.