Adventures in ADHD: Learning about cars

One thing about having ADHD (OK, there are dozens of things but I’m trying to focus on one here. Don’t distract me) is that for me, I have this tendency to become hyperinterested in something and for the next few weeks or months I spend all my energy on that interest (and unfortunately, my money as well sometimes).

Until I become burned out and lose interest or a brand new shiny interest shows up.

Past interests have been swords. I wanted to collect them. I read about them. Became an expert on them. Before I knew anything about them I had purchased three wallhangers (swords only good as decoration) and before my interest waned I had acquired two genuine swords and three antique fencing foils.

Silver Age comicbooks. Having grown up in the Silver Age, I still regard this period, into the early Bronze Age, as the greatest period for comic books, specifically Marvel. So I go through periods where I purchase collectable copies of S.A. comics. Usually reader’s, which are the lower grade of comics and the most affordable. 

At one time I was interested in collecting beer steins, and also beer memorabilia, but since I stopped drinking over two years ago, these things are just taking up space and collecting dust. Anyone want a German beer stein that has a naked woman in the bottom that you can only see once you’ve drained the beer and hold it up to a light? 

My latest interest is cars. I’ve never been a car guy. I mean, I grew up during the muscle car era of the ’60s and I still oogle a well-maintained car from that era, but I’ve never had any interest in their mechanics.

Outside of changing the oil on my 1986 Dodge Daytona Turbo Z, the rest of a car’s mechanicals are a mystery to me. As far as I’m concerned when you turn the ignition key, the car starts because of magic.

But now my ADHD has taken a turn toward an interest in cars. Beyond just wanting to change the oil, and wash and wax my vehicles, I want to know what makes them tick, and click, and squeal, and knock and ping.

I want to learn how to work on them and keep them running well. (I’ll simply mention that part of this is because I’m cheap and tired of paying mechanics to do things I should be able to do just as well.)

I’ve been to the library several times and have checked out four books so far on maintenance for beginners. Three out of four of those books were geared toward women and/or written by women. 

I guess the sexist assumption there is women don’t know jack about cars, but men do. Nevertheless, I’m finding them very educational because I probably fit into that level of inexperience. My dad never worked on cars (or my mom). They relied on the corner gas station to keep things running and, I might add, were at the mechanic’s mercy when it came to problems and cost.

I don’t want to be like that any more. Did you know that a car’s internal combustion engine is also called a four-stroke engine because it takes four strokes of the piston  (up and down and up and down) to make the car go? I didn’t. As I said, I thought it was magic. Who knew it involved valves, fuel injectors, combustion chambers, spark plugs, cam shafts and so on? Seriously? Who knew?

I’ll admit, I had a few friends in high school who worked on their cars and I often got roped in to do all the grunt work, but I never understood what they were doing. It was like watching a magician summoning a demon. If you told me it didn’t involve a pact with the devil and blood sacrifices to get that car to run, I wouldn’t have believed you.

How long will this new interest of mine last? Hard to say with ADHD. Could be anywhere from three months to the rest of my life.

All I know is I’m chomping at the bit (shoukd i have used a car analogy?) to change the oil on one of my cars, but they were all recently in for that and I don’t want to just waste oil time and money on something unnecessary. 

In the meantime, I’m actually going to clean the garage, put up shelving, and get everything organized for when I finally do get a chance to work on one of the cars.

The books I’ve read so far (in order of how I read then and coincidently, in order of how I liked them):

  • Clueless About Cars: An easy guide to car maintenance and repair by Lisa Christensen, with Dan Laxer
  • Auto Upkeep: basic car care, maintenance and repair by Michael E. Gray & Linda E. Gray
  • Dare to Repair Your Car! A do-it-herself guide to maintenance, safety, minor fix-its, and talking shop by Julie Sussman & Stephanie Glakas-Tenet
  • The Car Book: Everything you need to know about owning, enjoying and maintaining your car by Steve Rendle

I enjoyed Clueless About Cars and found it to be easy to read and understand. Lisa Christensen is a female auto mechanic. Her experiences made for factual and interesting reading, whereas the women who wrote Dare to Repair are not mechanics and admitted they knew nothing about cars until they started eriting the book. Dare to Repair is a much thicker book, but it’s geared primarily to women who, like me, are complete novices and think cars run by magic. The book is informative but I still think Christensen’s book is much more useful.

The Car Book is last on the list primarily because it was written for a British audience and the differing nomenclature was confusing and I don’t just mean boot and bonnet. Aside from that, by the time I read it, most of its information was just repeating what I had already learned in the previous books. Which is a good thing for me because it means I’m actually learning,  and possibly retaining, this new knowledge.

If you have any suggestions on what car book I should tackle next, I’d be happy to hear it.

Learn something new every day to keep your mind young. Learn a hobby to keep it active.
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Adventures in ADHD – the lost phone

First thing: I seldom misplace things (my wife might disagree) despite my ADHD, like my car keys. Generally, I remember where I put things, but that’s a function of deliberately putting things in the same place so I don’t forget where they are. That’s a tactic I’ve learned because of my ADHD.

And I might add, misplacing something is different from losing it. Losing something means its gone for good or until I stumble across it in a box in the basement where I stuffed said item when we were blitzkrieg cleaning before company arrived.

That said, today at work I misplaced my phone. This, of course, sent me into a blind panic. OMG! Where’s my phone? It wasn’t in my holster. It wasn’t on my desk. It wasn’t on a cabinet. It wasn’t on the floor.

So I retraced all my steps since arriving at work. The restroom? No. The breakroom? No. OK, what if someone found it? Luckily, we’re on a floor inaccessible to the public or I’d really be in a panic that someone found it and kept it (which still briefly entered my mind, but knowing most of the people on my floor, I dismissed it).

Maybe someone turned it in to the Lost and Found, which we don’t actually have. They would have emailed the facilities manager, who in turn would send out a building-wide email.

Email! So I went and checked to see if someone had indeed found it.

No such luck.

So I’m standing in my cube, my mind racing a mile a minute (which, by the way, is only 60 mph. Not very fast, so why do people use that expression?), and well, that brings up the second thing I should mention.

Second thing: I’ve had my phone holster for as long as I’ve had my phone, but I only use it when I’m wearing a shirt with no front pocket. The last week, however, I’ve been wearing the holster because the fitness step tracker app registers my steps better while on my hip.

So, yes, you’re probably ahead of me at this point, nodding your head and thinking, “What an idiot.” OK, I deserve that.

Where was I? Oh, right, standing in my cube after having searched every inch of it for my phone, as well as the rest of the 5th floor, wondering what the hell do I do next and did I take out insurance for it from Verizon, when I happened to glance down and there it was…

In my shirt pocket…

Where I had absentmindedly placed it instead of the holster.

Am I red-faced or what?

Which brings me to the final thing.

Third, and last, thing: my smartphone is one of the larger ones and sticks out of my pocket by a good half inch.

I’m very glad I didn’t go up to anyone and asked, “Have you seen my phone?” And all the whole its there, visible, in my shirt pocket. They’d have probably thought it was an April Fool’s prank.

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Adventures in ADHD

In our previous episode of “Adventures in ADHD,” I mentioned how important routine is to a sufferer of Attention Deficit.

Today, I bring another good example from personal experience.

Routinely, when I get home, I put my phone by my computer to charge overnight.

Routinely, when I get out of my work clothes and into that evening’s comfy clothes, I put my wallet on my dresser.

Routinely, in the morning when I dress, I put my wallet in my pocket, go downstairs and put the phone in my pocket.

Yesterday, for some reason, When I changes out of my work clothes, my phone was still in my pocket and I set it on my dresser, as well as my wallet.

This morning I got dressed, saw my phone and put it in my pocket. Do you see the problem? The action of taking the phone and putting it on my pocket was an unanticipated step in my routine that took the place of a normal step.

I continued to get ready, and left for work. I parked my car, got out, and felt something wasn’t quite right.

I reached into my pocket and…

…no wallet!

This meant, not only could I not buy anything, my morning coffee because our Keurig is down, but I also can’t get into work or use the elevator because my keypass is in my wallet!

Its going to be a great day. Thank god its Friday.

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Adventure in ADHD

To some people, routine means stuck in a rut, but to someone with ADHD, routine is one of the few orderly things in a chaotic world.

For instance, every morning I would make myself a mug of coffee with breakfast. I’d hardly drink it and as I got ready to leave for work, part of my routine for the last several years was to pour that mug into my travel cup then take my Adderall before screwing on the lid and leaving for work.

The last two mornings, however, I changed things up. I thought, why do I dirty a mug when I could just brew the coffee into my travel mug, cutting out all those extra steps?

So that’s what I did yesterday and today. And guess what I forgot to do as a consequence?

That’s right. I forgot to take my Adderall.

You may call it living in a rut, or doing things by rote, or even being unimaginative and boring, but the fact remains, for many of us suffering with ADHD, routine is our lifeline keeping us from being swept away in a river of chaos.

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Happy Writer’s New Year

While incapacitated after my shoulder surgery, I’ve had a lot of time to think and reflect upon my writing career, specifically, the lack of progression toward success within my writing career. I’ve been writing off and on for most of my adult life, submitting stories since I was at least 15 years old, and collecting mostly rejections. At best, I’ve had one story published each decade. Not what I’d call an impressive showing.

I haven’t improved as a writer. I haven’t made any sort of inroads to a successful writing career. So I’ve had time to ponder about why that is. Sure I have ADHD and it was undiagnosed for most of my adult life and that has played a role in it, however, I’m not here to assign blame or look for a scapegoat. I’m trying to discover what I can do now to correct the situation.

In high school, I was anything but studious. Again, we can blame many things on that, but so what? It won’t change anything and wallowing in self-pity is less than useless. It’s actually counterproductive, in fact. The point is, I’ve had an incomplete education. Instead of paying attention in class, instead of learning grammar and studying literature, instead of breaking down short stories and novels into their component elements and learning what makes a good story, instead of concentrating on technique, I was doing my own thing. I’d read pulp fiction, The Shadow, Doc Savage, the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, E. E. “Doc” Smith, along with many of the then current science fiction and fantasy stories. Or I’d daydream, scribbling little pictures in the margins of my notebooks and textbooks ala Sergio Aragonés of Mad Magazine. Or I’d write my own stories. Stories that I submitted in my English teacher when we were in the composition phase of the English class and I’d get good grades on.

So, arrogantly, I thought I knew what it took to be a writer. A writer writes, right? I was already doing that. Therefore, I had even more reason not to pay attention in class. Learning that stuff was for the mere mortals in class.

As a writer, I was able to create my own voice fairly early on and wrote in my own style rather than create imitations of other writer’s works. My natural abilities as a writer were able to carry me through high school and into college, where I was still able to get good grades and comments from my instructors. They’d see something in my style and suggest certain authors I should read and analyze.

Analyze? Me? Why? I already was a genius, wasn’t I? A prodigy? So I failed to follow their advice. The only how-tos on writing I read were from “Writer’s Digest” on how to submit to fiction markets.

And submit I did. And rejections were received for everything I submitted. But all that meant was those editors were idiots. They just couldn’t recognize my genius. It was their fault I wasn’t selling, right? Not mine.

Fast-forward to today. After decades of writing, Ive sold a story in 1987. Another in 1997. Three twitter-length fictions in 2009. And finally, a story in 2011 and another in 2012. Not much of a record, is it?

A glance at that career makes it appear as though I’m just a hobbyist instead of someone who takes their career seriously. And the last couple of weeks have made me take a long, hard honest look at that career and it’s come up sorely lacking.

ImageLast week I picked up “Robert Silverberg’s Science Fiction 101” (formerly titled: Worlds of Wonder). While reading his very first essay, “The Making of a Science Fiction Writer,” he explains his own educational journey to becoming a successful writer, and during that journey, he read a book by Thomas Uzzell called “Narrative Technique,” and I read Silverberg’s account of what he learned from that book, which was that writing was much more complicated than he first thought. It just wasn’t taking an idea and expanding it to short story length. It was that a story is constructed from many elements, including plot, characterization, situations, conflict, style, and more.

And then it struck me like a cold slap in the face: I had no idea what any of that meant. I know what the words mean dictionary-wise, but not in a writing context. My arrogance had led to form a shaky, unstable writing foundation. In other words, my writing houses were being built upon a bog of ignorance.

Today is the beginning of a new year. I plan on making 2014 a year of education. I am going to relearn everything I should have learned in high school. I’m going to tear down this house of cards and create a sound foundation upon which to build my writing chops.

I’ve already asked for help on the writer’s forum I attend, Absolute Write, and they’ve given me many great suggestions, such as the Longman Anthology of Short Fiction and the Norton Anthology of Short Fiction, for example. Now Norton’s sounded familiar. I thought maybe I had a copy, so I tore my library apart looking for it but came up empty, but I know I’ve seen it somewhere, possibly at my mom’s.

Image

So I’ll check her house, then I’ll check Half Price Books and the library for copies. Until then however, I’ll finish Silverberg’s book, which also has many great short story examples in it. I’ll break them down and try to analyze them to see what makes them tick.

Thus, my goal, or resolution, for 2014 is to spend it learning, relearning, and growing my knowledge of the basics of writing fiction in the hopes that a more solid foundation will help me to become a more publishable writer.

As Robert Silverberg said at the end of his essay, “only you can make a writer of yourself, by reading, by studying what you have read, and above all by writing.” Great advice that I will finally, after all these years, take to heart.

So instead of drinking a cup of kindness for times gone by, I’ll be looking to the future, to times as a better learned writer.

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Routine Adventures with ADHD

As a sufferer of Attention Deficit Disorder, I find that routine is often my savior, but it can be a curse as well.

Without a specific routine in the morning, I’d forget my head if it wasn’t bolted on.

Many people tend to look at routine as boring, or as being in a rut. For me, with my flighty distractibility, routine helps me manage my day.

I do things in a particular order at a specific time and if something throws that routine off, it can mess up my whole day.

One example of how adding just a single extra step to a normal procedure can throw things off is — and I don’t know if this will be considered TMI, but I’ll italicize the rest so if you want to skip it you can return when the font straightens out — if my pants have that extra inside button, for example. My normal pants procedure is pull them up, snap the snap (or button, or hook), buckle my belt, zip my fly. But if my pants have one of those extra inside buttons, that adds an additional step, and since I’m habitually used to 3 steps, not 4, guess which procedure is forgotten? I have one pair of pants that has TWO extra buttons. I’m surprised those days they don’t fall down around my ankles. “Pants on the ground, pants on the ground, lookin’ like a fool with his pants on the ground.”

So since I received my promotion, I was moved up a few floors. The previous break room had a community coffee pot that we all paid to use. This one however, has a Kurig single cup coffee maker. Now I’m not about to buy my own K-Cups just for work, so I’m making coffee at home and bringing it in a travel mug. Fine. But one cup only lasts so long.

On Tuesday, I found and cleaned out my coffee thermos (I was actually looking for something else and was pleasantly surprised to find the thermos. I’d forgotten I even had it). With this metal insulated canister, I get to bring more of my own coffee to work.

But guess what? Pouring coffee into the thermos added an extra step to my morning routine. Before, I’d get my lunch set. Pour my cup of coffee. Then take my ADHD medicine and I’m out the door.

Now the last few steps became, lunch set, coffee cup poured, thermos poured, sealed, and put in my messenger bag, and with a “Goodbye Honey!” I was out the door.

Two days in a row. Wednesday and Thursday. I had forgotten an important step (and lucky for me it wasn’t the “Goodbye Honey!” part).

I’d forgotten to take my ADHD meds before work.

Guess who was anything but productive those two days?

Yeah. Routine is a two-edged sword.

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First day, first night

As I mentioned in a previous post, to get a better handle on my ADHD my doctor and I agreed that I should try to take the Adderall twice a day. Since the medication starts to wear off in the afternoon while I’m still at work, I’d take a second dosage around 1 or 2 pm.

Yesterday was my first time. I took the second dosage a little after 2pm. It did help. Instead of having my afternoon plummet into distractability, I was able to remain focused and on task.

There is nothing worse than the feeling you get as the Meds wear off and you know they’re wearing off, but you can’t help yourself as you mutter through the rest of the day, knowing hat you have to do, but not doing it to the best of your ability and worrying that you are forgetting important steps.

“Did I include the receipt and acknowledgement in that package I mailed?” “Did I encrypt that email?” “Did I log off before leaving my computer?” It just makes for an uncomfortable and worrisome afternoon.

But yesterday, I had none of that. I worked right through the day without feeling like I’d forgotten something, missed a step, or rushed through a project.

In fact, the Meds didn’t start wearing off until the evening when we were at a baseball meeting and I started rambling about something and my wife told me to focus on the new rules the little league commissioner was laying down.

Oh. Right.

So all in all it was a successful day. The night however, was restless. I tossed and turned all night and every little thing kept disturbing me. Usually I sleep like a log.

Insomnia and I are strangers. But last night he kept nudging me. “Are you awake?” Yes. “Are you awake?” Yes. “Are you awake?” YES!

So today I took my Meds a half hour earlier to see how I sleep tonight. I guess I’ll keep doing that until I hit a point where the Meds are most effective at work and still let me fall asleep at night.

Because, I love sleep.

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