Confessions of a Stay-At-Home Mom

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My Facebook status 12/20/2017:

The girls have been on winter break for 48 minutes and we’ve already had a tantrum and tears…

I’ll let you know how the kids are doing later. 

Can you relate? When I taught full-time I was always so excited for the breaks because it meant that, not only would I get time off of my work but, I would also get to spend more time with my children. Once I started working part-time and from home for the most part, I began to look at winter break as just 8 extra hours of the day that I had to fill up with something for the kids to do. I don’t want to say that I dreaded the two week “vacation”, but I wasn’t dancing in the streets either.

My kids are high energy and very social. They will finish one play date and immediately ask for another one. Their desire to go go go never seems to be satiated. If they are “stuck in the house” together they will inevitably fight over something–something that neither one of them wanted until the other one had it. Frankly, they’re a little exhausting and I stressed over having to fill their social calendars for two weeks.

And then I realized that I had become “that mom”. It’s the mom that I used to loathe. It’s the mom that I vowed I would never be–

The mom who takes time with her children for granted.

I tried to remember when was the last time I truly valued spending time with my kids.  When was the last time I wasn’t just trying to “get through the day?” When was the last time I played with them? When was the last time we just hung out and liked one another? I couldn’t remember.

And I hated myself for that.

I knew I needed to make a change. So I vowed this season to try to “Mom” a little harder. I don’t know if my girls will notice a difference. I don’t know if they noticed that I had not been living up to my full mom potential, but that doesn’t matter to me. What matters to me is that they know that being with them is a privilege and I feel so very blessed by the time we get to spend together.

So while I may grumble over this or that, I will still take them to trampoline play areas and to kid’s festivals with long lines. I will still host slumber parties and play board games and let them win. I will still bake cookies and take them to playgrounds in the cold weather. I will still read them bedtime stories and lay with them while they fall asleep because they asked me so sweetly. And, most importantly, I will cherish the days that we have together…even if I still occasionally count down the hours until bedtime.

That Time I Learned That a Successful Book Signing Isn’t About How Many Books You Sell…

BandNWe had been looking forward to our bookstore book signing for well over a month. I was especially excited to be there the weekend before Christmas because we knew the store would be packed. I had publicized it all over social media. I had high expectations.

When we arrived, we were set up with a really small table near the entrance. It would have been an ideal location had the gift wrapping table not been set up right in front of us, but I figured we could make do. They placed the copies of Spaz: The True Story of My Life With ADHD on the table and we put up out sign, our t-shirts, free cups, and special “Spaz” cookies made by our dear friend, Aimee. We snapped a couple of photos and then we were ready for the masses of people coming to get their signed copies of our book.

Only, the masses didn’t come. Or rather, they came, just not over to our table. Person after person walked in, glanced over, and continued walking.

I grew agitated. Then I unleashed a torrent of word vomit. “Should we greet people at the door? Should we hand out our bookmarks? No one can see us because the gift wrappers are standing in front of us. Smile. Are you smiling? Offer someone a cookie. Should we stand up? Are you sure they can see us?…” Leigh was not amused. He told me to relax. Yes, the “Spaz” told me to relax! I couldn’t do it so I grabbed a stack of bookmarks and started to walk around the store.

After a few laps of handing out bookmarks, I returned to our table expecting to see Leigh there alone, killing time on his phone. Only, he wasn’t alone. At the table, “Spaz” book in hand, was a girl of about 11 years old and her mom. They were engrossed in conversation with Leigh. As I approached I heard him talking about being bullied as a child and saw the mom nodding along. “Yes!” The mom said. “She has had so many issues with bullies!” She exclaimed gesturing to her daughter.

“But you can’t let them define you” Leigh stated. “You have to focus on your strengths and not worry when others try to point out your weaknesses. Your unique qualities are what make you great and the bullies can’t take that from you.” The girl lifted her head a little higher and I saw her braces emerge as she smiled adoringly up at Leigh. She nodded shyly.

“Thank you for this,” her mom said, gesturing to the “Spaz” book in her hand. “Thank you for doing this.” They turned toward the check-out and got in line.

As I sat back down I felt ashamed. I had been so caught up in trying to make it a “successful” book signing with tons of people and tons of sales that I had lost sight of what was really important–Making a difference in people’s lives. Even if that was the only book we sold that day, I realized that it didn’t matter because that mom and her daughter were taking something positive away from our book and from meeting Leigh. That little girl would hold her head up a little higher because she would now know that she, too, could be successful and she, too, could face the bullies. She could face them, and win.

Because if “Spaz” can do it, so can you.

How and When Do I Tell Her She Has ADHD?

IMG_0990I had never really planned out how to tell our daughter that she has ADHD. I felt it was important for her to know but I didn’t know how to bring it up, how to explain what is was, or how to explain what it meant. I also did not know when to tell her. Was there a “right” age or grade? How young was too young? How old was too old? I simply did not know what I was going to do.

As it turns out, I should not have worried because she showed me exactly the “right” time and way.

One day when she returned home from another day of third grade she seemed particularly anxious. When I asked what was wrong she said, “Mommy, when I was trying to read today, the words kept feeling like they were jumping all over the page and I couldn’t get them to sit still. They just kept dancing all around. Do you think I have dyslexia?” (She was familiar with dyslexia because she knew someone who had it and identified it for her.) It was as if the clouds opened up and a ray of light shone down on us. I knew this was my window. This was the time. She was inviting me in.

So in I jumped.

I explained to her that she did not have dyslexia.  Next I listed out a few things that she does that are typical ADHD-related things. I said, “You know how sometimes in school something can distract you and then you think about that thing and then you think about something about that thing and then you think about what would happen if something happened related to that last thing, and your brain is moving so fast…and then you realize you’ve missed the entire lesson or instructions?” “You know how you don’t like to wear certain materials or tags because they bother you and if you’re wearing something that makes you uncomfortable, you can’t stop thinking about it bothering you?” “You know how sometimes you get really really really interested in one thing and you devote all of your free time and energy into that one thing?” “You know how you have a lot of energy, even when you should be tired and sometimes you have trouble sleeping or staying asleep?”

“Yes” she answered to all of them.

“Well, that is because your brain is actually kind of like your daddy’s brain. It works a little bit differently than other people’s brains. It’s something called ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder.” Her eyes widened.

“Did I catch it?!” She exclaimed in horror.

“No no.” I assured her. “It’s just how you were born. It means that some things, like attention, focus, and hyperactivity can be a struggle for you, but that you can also use those special things about you to make you successful–like Daddy does.” We talked at length about ADHD. By the time we finished she was not worried about having it. She was intrigued, relieved, and, dare I say, even a bit proud!

It has been less than a year since that conversation and she is now able to thoughtfully articulate what it feels like for her to have ADHD, what works for her to manage it, what does NOT work for her, and exactly how unique and special it makes her. I have to admit that I feel extremely proud when I see our nine-year-old explaining ADHD to someone else. Her unashamed bluntness and enthusiastic description make me feel really hopeful that she will continue to see her “disability” as something that does not have to disable her. She learns this and realizes this a little more every day. I truly believe that it comes, in part, by how we as a family view ADHD. We tell her that it will be hard, but that struggle will make her stronger and she will find her path because of, not in spite of, her ADHD.

My favorite explanation of ADHD came from a conversation that I overheard between Leigh and our daughter. It is the first page of our book and it. Is. Everything…

“Daddy, you have ADHD just like me, right?”

            “That’s right.”

            “Is that bad?”

            “No, honey, it’s not bad.”

            “But what does it mean?”

            “It means that the rest of the world moves too slowly for us.” 

 

Who is Homework Helping Anyway?

homeworkThe other day I had a glimpse at what life would be like with a “neuro-typical” child. My daughter’s friend came home with her after school and she immediately opened her backpack, took out a sheet of homework, sat down at the dining room table, and began working. She completed her eight long-division problems in less than 8 minutes and then began to play with my younger daughter.

When I pointed out to my daughter who was sitting in the living room trying to look at the YouTube video her father was watching that she had the same homework as her friend and that she should do it now too, she shrugged. She said “I don’t want to do it now. I’ll do it later. I don’t know how to do it.” (Do those excuses sound familiar to anyone else???) Eventually I convinced her to sit down with her sheet of homework. The tears started before we read question #1.

I don’t want to go over the painful torture that ensued for the next thirty minutes as my daughter and I tried to work through long-division, (which, incidentally is impossible to do if you haven’t learned your multiplication tables yet.) By the end of the half-hour, we had only completed six out of the eight problems, she had cried several more times, and we were ready to call it quits.

When I released her to go off and find her friend who was happily playing already, all I could think about was “it would be so much easier if my child was more like her friend…” And then, of course, I felt enormously guilty for feeling that way and tried to re-structure my thinking. You know what I realized? Whether it took 8 minutes or 28 minutes to complete, that homework wasn’t helping anyone.

Did it help her friend who finished and told me “I just do my homework right when I get home, show my parents, and I’m always right, so then it’s all done”? Surely the speed with which she breezed through those questions did not help her grasp any concepts or reinforce anything she was learning.

Did it help my daughter? Did that half-hour of painfully attempting the homework sheet help her learn long-division? No way. She did not walk away from that lesson with a greater understanding of anything, except maybe her own incompetence compared to her friend.

I taught high school English for thirteen years. I assigned homework every night. I thought I fully understood why I did so and what the importance of that homework was. Now that I’m on the other side, I don’t think I do. I think back over all my past students who may have cried or struggled nightly with my homework and I wish I could take it all back. I wish I could tell them that they aren’t incompetent and to apologize if I ever ever made them feel like they were compared to another student. I wish I could tell them that it’s ok to struggle. And that there was someone out there who understood their struggle. And that homework isn’t worth crying over. And that I would help them even when they are afraid they are beyond helping. I’m just sorry I only understood it all after I stopped teaching.

But then again, have I ever really stopped teaching?

 

 

Homework vs. No homework: Share your thoughts in the comments.

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When School is Insane, it’s Time For Change.

ReneeIf a child tries a sport and finds that he is not good at it, we allow him to move on and try something else. If a child tries a lesson at school and finds that he is not good at it, we demand that he keep trying the same thing over and over and over again.

Albert Einstein is generally credited with stating this, now famous, definition: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”. As a society, we tend to concur with this quote. We use it as a colloquialism. We accept it as one of the true definitions of insanity.  Why then don’t we apply it to one of the most important building blocks of our society —

Our schools.

In our children, we are quick to accept excuses like “Baseball just isn’t his thing,” “She’s not any good at gymnastics,” “He doesn’t have the hand-eye coordination for tennis,” “She doesn’t have the patience for golf,” etc…but could you imagine if we used the same justifications for why a child struggles in school? “Math just isn’t her thing,” “He’s just not any good at social studies,” “She doesn’t have the hand-eye coordination for cursive,” “He doesn’t have the patience for school.”

It’s different, right? It’s “not allowed.” It’s “not a good excuse”. It’s just plain “unacceptable.” But, why? When will we learn that an inside-the-box, one-size-fits-all education is what’s “unacceptable”?

So, do you want to know my secret shame? My nine-year-old did not pass the math section of her third grade standardized test. Because of this and, because of her ADHD, she has remediation and inventions to try to help bridge the gap from what she knows and can do to what she is supposed to know and supposed to be able to do. But guess what?

“Math just isn’t her thing.”

As a mom I constantly struggle with wanting to help her, while at the same time wanting desperately to tell her that she will never have to use a number line to solve anything in the real world so it’s OK that she doesn’t understand how they work. I, like any mom, want her to come home with good grades and a heart full of pride when she makes honor roll or earns a $5 for every A in high school. However, I have also come to the realization that, until we stop treating education as insanity, this may not be our reality.

I would like to think that we are evolving. We have moved from the rote memorization of facts from yesteryear into a world of alternative seating options and iPads in the classroom. This is a great first step, but it is only a first step. I don’t know the third or even the second step, but I do know that I will not expect a different result if we keep doing the same thing over and over again.

Guest Blog by Alicia Huwyler: “From Mary Poppins to The Hulk: Life with a Newly Diagnosed Five-Year-Old” Part TWO

23415447_10104775991312145_5748196829979969190_oThe day the Neuro-Psychologist presented me with the results of Ashlyn’s neurologic and behavioral disorder tests it was like 5 years of weighted questioning was lifted from me.  I was fully prepared for the moment she proclaimed without a doubt that Ashlyn has ADHD.  I was actually more surprised that she wasn’t diagnosed with autism at even the mildest case, or a mild case of Tourette’s with all the ticks and tendencies she frequently displays.  Those, however, we learned were attributed to the Primary Motor Stereotymies she was also diagnosed with, a condition I had never heard of before, but currently educating myself on. 

I myself of course have spent many a night diagnosing her through my self-proclaimed webmd.com degree, and have lost many hours of sleep because of this, but we won’t go into that now, HA!  Our knowledgeable neurologist was thankfully onboard with continuing the process of exploring and unveiling our suspicions.  She confessed she had wanted to discuss behavioral testing with us previously, but as often as 7 times out of 10 her patients’ guardians were either in denial or completely oblivious to the fact their children may have symptoms of these disabilities.  It is bewildering to me that so many parents would resist the opportunity to take any necessary steps in learning about and hopefully improving on the ways to guide their child(ren) through these life obstacles. 

As a parent I want my child to have access to all the opportunities that will give her the knowledge and experience to set her goals and reach them.  That being said I also just want her to be a kid.  I want Ashlyn to play, to imagine, create, explore, and even fail, because through failing she will learn.  I know that her ADHD and epilepsy will create obstacles in life that many of her peers won’t have to deal with, but I hope that myself, her current teachers, future educators, and friends can be accepting and knowledgeable enough to guide her through the successes and fails despite any disabilities she may have. 

I am thankful for the current and past teachers Ashlyn has had, as they have been incredibly open minded and accommodating regarding her needs.  We have spent a good chunk of time discussing Ashlyn and my concerns have always been met with acceptance and helpful feedback. In fact, last week happened to be my parent teacher conference with Ashlyn’s PreK teachers.  I had asked them at the beginning of the year to take note and let me know if Ashlyn portrayed symptoms related to her ADHD and Stereotymies. First, they went on and on about how sweet, well mannered, and friendly Ashlyn was at school to both them and her classmates, and then came the portion of the meeting I had most anticipated. Her biggest challenge, which is also a main reason we felt the need to place her in Pre-k5 instead of sending her off to Kindergarten was her attention and focus.  Every box listed in the column for Attention and Focus was marked with a “N” (Needs improvement).   

  • Staying on task during activities: “N”  
  • Finishing a task before starting a new one: “N”  
  • Listening to full directions stated by teacher: “N” 
  • Allowing other to finish talking without interrupting: “N” 
  • Neatness (taking her time and being organized during tasks): “N”  

ETC…. 

I laughed, and I think her teachers were relieved in my reaction.  At this point in our process of learning how to deal with Ashlyn’s quirks sometimes it’s just best to laugh it off.  There are times to engage and fix, and there are times to just let her be her.  Pre-k is a time to let her be, as I know in the years to come once she enters into full-time public grade school we will have plenty of instances where “fixing” and “focus” will be necessary.  The days of 504 accommodations and special education interferences are in sight, but for now we will let her be her own Spaz, and instead educate ourselves on how to best live with a child with ADHD. Hopefully there will be more Mary Poppins moments and fewer visits from The Hulk.  God, I accept your challenge, and appreciate your faith in my ability to love and raise a child with disabilities!   

Guest Blog by Alicia Huwyler: “From Mary Poppins to The Hulk: Life with a Newly Diagnosed Five-Year-Old” Part One

23415447_10104775991312145_5748196829979969190_o“Okay, children it’s time to go!” she said ever so calmly in her best Mary Poppins voice. 15 minutes later… “I SAID IT’S TIME TO GO!!!” As the raging Hulk inside burst out of her. #reallifeeveryday

I’m sure many of you have seen the Motherhood Meme going around social media featuring Mary Poppins and The Hulk (also Batman as I’ve seen). I like to think I start every day with the optimism and patience of a modern-day Mary Poppins, however, despite my best efforts of keeping order and focus I often feel a bit more like Rosita from Sing, just with a few less piglets in tow. I’ll admit I am not proud of it, but the Hulk inside me makes an appearance a few times a week regardless of how many times I attempt to keep myself calm and collected, there are days I just can’t hold it together. This is something I struggle with, and as much as I wish I could contain the outbursts prompted by tantrums and unruly children, I find myself praying for God to give me strength. Strength not just to get me through the day, but really the first 2 hours of morning until I successfully walk my child up to her teacher and sign her away for the next four hours. Then, I take can a moment to breath and regroup. I seem to need A LOT of moments to breath and regroup. I mean the fact I am actually able to get my kids to preschool on time EVERY SINGLE MORNING is honestly beyond belief because I have no idea how we get out the door fully dressed, hair and teeth brushed, fed, with shoes (not always on, but at least in hand), backpacks (not always fully packed, but everything at least in the car), and a coffee in my hand.

It’s not just the mornings that are a whirlwind, as soon as we exit school chaos resumes and continues well into the evening when I am about to check out and my girls are still going like the energizer bunny at a speed I wish I could bottle and sell for millions. Of course, a big portion of my hectic life is based on the fact I have three energetic daughters ages 5, 3 and 1, and I am often single handedly trying to keep us afloat from the time they wake until late evening when my hardworking husband graces us with his presence. If that wasn’t enough for a mom to handle, God seems to think my heart and mind can take on a bit more pressure.

You see, my oldest daughter was recently diagnosed with ADHD and Primary Motor Stereotymies. A diagnosis we were not at all surprised with knowing my husband was diagnosed with ADHD as well as a young child. When we finally decided to have her tested six months ago for ADHD, autism, and Tourette’s, we were told that all of these, especially ADHD tend to go hand in hand with epilepsy, which she was diagnosed with 3 years ago at the age of 2. My husband and I had suspected some underlying issues present in Ashlyn since she was a baby, some including attention and focus, short temper, intense irritability, fidgeting, chewing, ticks and unconscious tendencies, highly activeness, impulsiveness, and oppositional defiance. Some of these tendencies and behaviors have intensified since her seizures began at the age of 2, and some tendencies are newer, and more noticeable just in the last year. But, not until recently did we feel the need to commit her to undergoing the behavioral and neurological testing that is required.

A big part of me was hesitant to even bring up the idea to our pediatric neurologist because of the reactions I had gotten from her teachers last year and our friends. They all would tell me “Oh, but she is so wonderful. There is no way such a kind sweet girl could have any of those issues”. As though children with these “disabilities” aren’t also capable of being kind, sweet, and companionate. It’s true, Ashlyn is a kindhearted, full of life, imaginative, social, sweet girl who happens to also be incredibly active and short tempered. She is the child that wants to know and be friends with every single person that she comes in contact with. She portrays such empathy and sympathy for others, especially her peers that at first her neurologist felt confident without even testing her that autism couldn’t possibly be present, and even more so when we discussed her extreme social abilities. Yet, that being said Ashlyn displays several symptoms associated with all three of the categories we felt she could possibly be living with.

Those few who are in close contact with us are more familiar with the real Ashlyn as a whole. The Ashlyn who is laughing one moment and then spirals into a full meltdown in a matter of seconds. Maybe because she didn’t get the bath towel she wanted, because I told her she couldn’t wear shorts and tank top to school on a day that wasn’t supposed to get above 45degrees, because our afternoon routine was off by 30 minutes, because if she doesn’t finish her dinner she doesn’t get a bedtime book or song. For Ashlyn, it’s the small things in life that she holds on to, and if there is a change, or even the slightest glitch in how we react to her in a situation she is a part of there is nothing and no one that can stop the meltdown from happening. It can happen in the grocery store, playground, doctor’s office, in the car, and most often at home. My poor neighbors I’m sure have thought we were being held captive and tormented from the intense screaming that rings from our house during these episodes. Surprisingly the cops have never come to our house to check on us…honestly this really does surprise me!

It breaks my heart when meltdowns occur, because she does a 180 and becomes a whole other person. She kicks, she screams, and throw things, hits us, and hyperventilates to the point we become afraid a seizure will begin. Often after 30 minutes if not more Jason or I are able to calm her down enough to communicate with her, which may or may not restart the fit. It’s a long exhausting process that we are still learning to deal with. What works one time to ease her fits doesn’t always work other times. We will be working with a behavior specialist in the near future to address and experiment with ways to ease and resolve her problematic times, as well as addressing other major symptoms.

On the flipside, when Ashlyn isn’t mid meltdown we attempt to manage her attention issues. Circle back to my Mary Poppins to Hulk moments because no matter how many times I tell Ashlyn to “get dressed”, “get your shoes on”, “where is your water bottle?”, “where is your school folder?”, “Ashlyn, we need to go!” “ASHLYN! We need to go!” “ASHLYN!!!! WE. NEED. TO. GO!!!!” inevitably Ashlyn’s attention and focus are sidetracked. If I ever had to compare Ashlyn to one Disney character I wish I could say she was most like Anna from Frozen, but though they share a lot of characteristics like compassion, kindness, adventure, and determination, she also is exactly like Dog in the movie UP. SQUIREL!!! Ashlyn’s capability of staying attentive and focused has become increasingly more of an issue as she is getting older, and again we can attribute some of her ADHD to her seizures as we have discussed with her doctors.

 

Stay tuned for Part Two to read about how we handled her initial diagnosis and what we’ve done to improve our lives since then…

A Diagnosis and the Five Stages of Grief

FullSizeRender-1While I was putting together my first Parent Workshop for my ADHD Coach For Life company, I came across an article about the five stages of grief. These are generally pretty familiar to most people, but in case you need a refresher, they are:

1. Denial

2. Anger

3. Bargaining

4. Depression

5. Acceptance

These stages really hit home for me because many people who get a diagnosis of some kind, whether it be for themselves or a loved one, have gone through these stages. It doesn’t matter if the diagnosis is for ADHD or for some other issue, the process of “grief” is still the same.

How does this look in action? Here’s a mock example of the stages of grief that a parent whose child is diagnosed with ADHD might go through…

Denial: Nope. My child does not have ADHD. There is no way he has ADHD. He is just spoiled/excitable/struggling in school/rude, etc. He needs more discipline and then he will act “right”.

Anger: How dare someone think that my child has ADHD! My child is NOT “disabled” or “different”. We are all “normal” in my family. Ok, if we are actually dealing with ADHD, then it must have come from my spouse! How could I have married someone who has these genes in their family?! It’s all his/her fault and I am going to let him/her know it.

Bargaining: Dear God (or whomever you pray to), if you take this ADHD away, I will be forever indebted to you. I will serve you the rest of my life. I understand you want me to change the way I live and this is why you gave this to us, but we don’t want it. Take it away and I’ll do anything you ask.

Depression: This. Is. Awful. We can’t go anywhere anymore because I am afraid of how my child might act. Everything about our life is ruined. When I dreamt of having children, this is not how I saw my future. I am so sad for my child, my family, myself.

Acceptance: Ok. I see this is what we are dealing with and I am ready to tackle the challenges. I have armed myself with all the necessary knowledge that I need to make my child successful. I have purchased Spaz: The True Story of My Life With ADHD and have learned valuable information and gained hope that my child can and will be a success because of, not in spite of, his ADHD. His unique gifts are what make him great. I am going to be my child’s biggest advocate and his biggest cheerleader. With my in his corner, he can conquer the world … or, at least the second grade.

Obviously this is a simplified version of these stages. People go through them at different speeds, but I do believe that parents of children with a diagnosis have hit each one of these at some time or another. The question is, where are you and what do you plan to do to help you move to the next step?

 

One of “Spaz’s” Left-Out Chapters…

notebook-2694903_640At one point we realized that not everything we had written really served a purpose in our book, Spaz: The True Story of My Life With ADHD. It was hard to essentially throw these pieces out, but we do believe the story as it was published is the strongest and best version we could present. Below is a short story that we decided to leave out. We’d love to hear your thoughts…

At the Money’s Mercy

I had conned my way into college but I really had no way to pay for any of it and I had no where to live.  I was denied financial aid, possibly due to the fact that it was the middle of the year, but I was given a loan.  This student loan was for $2,500.  Even in 1992, that amount was insufficient to live off especially since I had to use some of it to pay for tuition.  I knew would need to get a job and find inexpensive housing.  I set about my plan to find a place to live, then I figured I could find a job and figure out how to pay for everything.

I began making trips to school and searching bulletin boards, the school newspaper, and any word of mouth leads I could get.  Eventually I was lead to a group of five guys who happened to be looking for one more roommate mid-year.  They lived in half of a large house that was rented out by a family, who came to be known as the slum lords of the area.  The owner wasn’t really a bad guy but he wasn’t really a good guy either.  When I didn’t have anything to show for myself, I was able to show him my application for financial aid to convince him that I would be receiving aid and would therefore be able to pay.  What I did not tell him was that my application had been denied.

I found a job washing dishes and felt like I had won the lottery.  I would be able to pay rent (barely) off my earnings and use the student loan money for tuition, books, and food.  But within a month, I was let go because the restaurant owner could no longer pay me.  I was now unable to pay rent.  At first, I managed to tell our landlord that my financial aid check was late, hadn’t arrived yet, would be there soon, etc.  But soon I was unable to continue this charade.  He began looking for me and I began dodging him but it was only a matter of time before he told me that I would need to pay or get out.

This situation was troubling for me on many levels.  You see, I wanted to pay my rent.  I was there of my own accord, of my own doing, and I had every intention of making myself into the golden college boy that I thought I had to be to feel good about myself.  It pained me that I could not pay him and the thought of not paying my tuition instead was simply not an option.  I had to stay at the school that I worked so hard to get into.  I actually wanted to be a student for the first time in my life and no one was going to take that away from me.  I would be a “good” kid even if it meant bending the law a little.

Around this time, one of my roommates mentioned that he had a relative that was a housing inspector and wouldn’t it be funny if he came and saw all the things wrong with our over-crowded apartment.  The six of us were quick to get this inspector in and put him to work.  What he found exceeded our imaginations.

He discovered asbestos in the basement.  This, along with a hefty list of violations, was my golden ticket of my first semester of college.  When the wealthy slum lord of the town took me to court for a mere $1,000 of unpaid rent, I handed the judge the list of complaints and the evidence of a carcinogen in the basement, and my case was thrown out.  The judge told the landlord that he was unable to throw me out of the apartment while there were these violations at work in the home.  And so, I stayed.  I stayed for that first semester and that was it.  When I returned to school the second semester, I opted to live on campus in student housing.

The thing is, I was not trying to be unlawful or get out of paying what I owed. In fact, the need to compensate for my time there was so strong that, two years later, I paid that landlord back in full exactly what I owed him for those first few months.  I paid and I took away a big lesson from the experience as a whole.

It is easy to underestimate the good in someone else, but it is hard to accept the good in yourself.

Introducing Our First Guest Blogger, Mandy Hasslen-Gartner!

Becoming a Guest Blogger…..

MandyHey fellow Spaz blog follower, my name is Mandy Hasslen-Gartner and I am your guest blogger for today and will be guest blogging my ADHD story periodically.  I am a mom of two boys 17 & 14 and an ADHD Life Coach from Minneapolis, MN. My company is ADHD Kid Coach, LLC. I met Renee through ADDCA (ADD Coaching Academy). Funny I say “met” because after hours in class together, texting and on the phone we have still yet to be in the same room but I consider her a friend as much as a she is a colleague.  I don’t think I had even finished the email that their book Spaz was done and I was ordering my copy. I was so excited their dream was finally out in the world.  Like many of you, I cried and cheered and wanted to know the ending of the story, even though I knew it was a happy ending!  In the last few weeks I have texted with Renee and she asked me if I would share my son’s story, (which I will in the future). Renee thought it might be helpful for me to share my own story too as a female diagnosed later in life, at age 43.

Next thing I knew, I was sitting at the computer and I was supposed to be working on my final project for school but I found total ADHD kicking in because, instead, I was thinking of this blog. When something way more interesting than what I should be doing came up, I found myself suddenly sending Renee a whole list of ideas that would be fun to blog on for the Spaz site.  Therefore, in the future I will share about my own diagnosis, and my son’s story of ADHD and co-existing depression/anxiety, as well as topics such as overwhelm, importance of routine, scaffolding, and reading the room just to name a few.  If there is a topic you are interested in, just let me know. I look forward to helping to spread the #iamspaz message with you all!