ADHD Inspirations for the New Year

ADHD Inspirations for the New Year

ADHD Inspirations for the New Year

For my fellow parents who are raising kids with ADHD and other special needs, here is a blog to give you some inspiration for the new year. Long ago, I chose a gift of a little stone with “Love” on it as my talisman to keep me going through the difficult times. In my blog, find yours, and the inspiration for a wonderful year ahead!

Ten years ago, I attended a writer’s conference with the seeds of a book idea. Taking all the essays and articles I’d written about raising a child with ADHD, I’d turn them into a memoir. One of the workshops at the conference was led by a talented memoirist, Diana Raab. With her encouragement, I shared several of my essays and gained the confidence to move forward.

When it came time to leave, Diana gave out small stones, each of them etched with a word that embodied what the writer had shared. Mine was mottled green and salmon with the word, “Love,” etched in gold. It sits on my desk to this day, under a photo of my four-year-old daughter, Lee, on my back, her arms hugging my neck, a huge grin splitting her face.

Lee is and was my inspiration to write my memoir, a labor of love I am only finishing now. The little stone is my talisman, the photo over it a reminder during the more challenging times that the love we share is larger than her ADHD, SPD, anxiety, and learning disabilities.

If I could, I’d hand out a stone to every mom of an ADHD child who’s asked me, “How do I keep going when things are so hard?” Just like “Love,” each stone would carry an inspiration, a reminder for the new year:

Believe” You are brave and wise enough to raise this child.

Strength” Turn your fear into courage, and don’t be afraid to reach out for help.

Faith” Have faith in yourself and don’t compare your child to others. She deserves to be herself.

Peace” In times of conflict, move from reaction to reflection. The hot air will evaporate.

Joy” Give yourself me time without guilt. Then you’ll have something to give back to your child.

Wisdom” Knowledge is power. Arm yourself with ADHD resources to help your child.

Comfort” Find the friends who give support and love, the ones who don’t pass judgment.

Hope” Never give up on your child. Your hope keeps their hopes alive.

If one of these reminders resonates with you, may it be your talisman, as love was mine, to help you through the new year. Look around and appreciate everything in your life that’s good and true and hold tight to it.

Wishing all of you a Happy New Year!

 

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Holiday Tips for Children with ADHD

Holiday Tips for Children with ADHD

Holiday Tips for Children with ADHD

Holidays, for an ADHD child, can quickly turn from a celebration of exhilarating joy to an overstimulated meltdown. Here are some tips experience taught me over the last two decades, as I discovered how to help my child cope with the highs and lows of the festive season:

Help your child stick to a routine on vacation. I like to think of routine as the container the ADHD goes into. The same bed schedule, meds on time, keeping the breakfast hour, and monitoring electronics will help your child’s moods stay on a more stable track.

Over the holidays, there are plenty of places to go. From shopping to restaurants to relatives’ houses, your child needs advance notice to know what’s coming next. Give her plenty of time to transition before you load her into the car. Don’t schedule too many things in one day or it can trigger one doozy of a meltdown!

Let others know about your child’s needs and challenges. If you feel that people are judging you as a parent, ask for support. Often, it’s not that people don’t want to help, it’s that they just don’t know what to do. Share tips that will help them help you.

If your child is sensory-challenged, opening presents can lead to overwhelm, causing the ADHD child to become even more hyperactive. Gifts that involve touch or movement will help a sensory-seeking child occupy himself for hours. You can always bring a fidget toy along to help. One of my favorite websites for sensory-seeking children has tons: https://funandfunction.com/

Designate a place, away from all the bustle, for your child to decompress. Whether you’re at home or another person’s house, a quiet spot to retreat and recharge is essential. My child loved to relax with weighted blankets and even now, as a young adult, uses earplugs to soften acute noises. A little peaceful time on a holiday goes a long way with overstimulated children.

A family with an ADHD child needs both parents on board, working together to help their child cope with holiday stressors. But, both parents also deserve some time by themselves. And, finding time to have a meaningful conversation with family or friends can also be difficult if your child demands all of your attention. Make a plan with your spouse ahead of time so no one person shoulders the load.

Your holiday will be more restful if your child has regular exercise breaks. Hyperactive energy without an outlet can cause anxious behavior with unwelcome consequences. Whether you’re at home or not, arrange a safe place for your child to do activities like running, jumping, or spinning in circles. All of these activities can help ground a hyperactive child.

 

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

 

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The Show Must Go On!

The Show Must Go On!

The Show Must Go On!

Of all the stories my father loved to share from his long career as a screenwriter, it was the early days of live television that were my favorite.  In 1949, he and my mother, Bobbie, pitched a humorous show about a newly-married couple, as they were, to a fledging studio, WOR.  To their surprise and delight, they were given a golden opportunity.  In addition to my father writing the fifteen minute sketches, he and my mother would star in them.  After a few months, their show changed from one of the earliest sit-coms to a detective format, called Mr. and Mrs. Mystery, and expanded to a half-hour.

Live television, in its infancy, was often chaotic where anything and everything could happen, from humorous to deadly.  In his memoir, Any Way I Can, 50 Years in Show Business, Dad shares the ones that were the most memorable:“The usual live TV mishaps occurred, of course, but in our case, budget limitations made us prone to them.  Many a dead body would rise before the camera was off.  It was usually our floor manager who had to get back to his cues.  With three run-throughs now and a dress on the day of the broadcast, the actors were inclined to go up with more frequency than they might in a well-rehearsed play.  It was necessary for Bobbie and me to learn everyone’s lines. I’m proud to say no detected pause lasted longer than five seconds during the show. One night, we were able to persuade Bobbie’s father, Ozzie, to play a telephone linesman.  Just one line which he forgot, I covered, and he refused to appear again. 

“In one rehearsal, an actor struck me on the back of the head, as scripted, but it landed with such force that I almost passed out.  He repeated it on the second rehearsal and I told him to lighten up.  That night during the show, however, I staggered from another heavy blow.  Bobbie ad-libbed and we carried on.  We never used him again.

“One memorable night, I suffered a deep cut on my hand in an opening scene as I picked up a prop diamond made of glass.  The cut was deep, and I thought for a few scary moments that I might have severed a major artery.  I kept my hand in my pocket the entire scene, trying not to look obvious about it while also trying to hide the crimson tide on my white summer suit.  Incidents like that make you grateful for the years you spent onstage prepared to cover any situation.    

“We were now beginning to see people staring at us in the subways.  Could that be?  With the recognition, additional money came to us now from advertisers who wanted us to promote their product live just before and after the show.  A recorded tune, “Miller – High Life! – Miller High Life! The champagne of bottled beer!” would play as I spoke and it still jangles in my ear to this day.  I also had to drink warm Miller beer on camera which would later produce inescapable belching during the action…Another WOR show, Twenty Questions, used us live on their program for commercials extolling the virtues of Ronson cigarette lighters which I always feared would mistakenly come tripping out as “Ronson fiogerette lilters.”

Chaotic, yes, but live television was also thrilling in its spontaneity and the challenge that the show goes on, no matter what happens.  Dad is no longer with us, but if he were, I’d bet my bottom dollar he’d say that those were his favorite years.

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ADHD and Finding Balance with Homework

ADHD and Finding Balance with Homework

ADHD and Finding Balance with Homework

As ADHD Awareness Month comes to a close, I wanted to share with you a blog that tackles one of a parent’s hardest challenges. Homework was the evil demon my child and I struggled with, especially after she spent a long day tolerating a classroom environment. If you feel the same way or know someone who is raising a child with ADHD, join me as I share our story with the homework tips that helped us!

On the hunt for my favorite pens, I turned a corner at Staples and nearly collided with another shopper. She whipped around and yelled after her child who was edging towards the end of the aisle. “Let’s go.  It’s homework time.” The little boy frowned and disappeared out of view.

That would have been my kid, I thought. All it took was the mention of homework and Lee disappeared, stealthy like a cat when you wanted to take it to the vet. Not that I blamed her, homework was the evil demon Lee and I wrestled with together, every day after school. It took a diagnosis of ADHD to help me understand that homework was a mountain for my child to climb, especially after a long day of tolerating a classroom environment.

Lee’s struggles with homework started as far back as preschool.  Even though it was optional, I tried to encourage her to keep up with the rest of the class who was turning the homework in. One night, I pushed Lee too far on a worksheet, and she ran out of steam. Screaming, she flew from the kitchen table to the couch. Bang! I cringed as she hit her head on the pillows. “I’m dumb!” Bang! She hit her head again. I threw the optional preschool homework out the window.  

By third grade, homework was a well-established landmine. Lee’s teacher was giving problems in division, but Lee still couldn’t multiply. The IEP stipulated only thirty minutes of homework, but she could barely do math, let alone reading. One night, Lee banged her head on the couch pillows for fifteen minutes. Nothing I said could make her stop.

“I’m stupid.  Stay away!”

After I coaxed her into my arms, I knew I had to take action.  If Lee felt like a failure at nine years old, how would she ever gain the courage to cope with her challenges?  The next day, I strode into her teacher’s classroom, trying to keep my temper in check and said, “As you know, Lee is on an IEP for her ADHD. She has an accommodation for fewer items on a page. But she still can’t keep up with the homework load you’re assigning.”

The teacher said, “A child who refuses to do homework needs to be disciplined. If I didn’t do my chores, there were consequences.” 

I left the classroom, hot fury traveling in waves up and down my body. As if discipline was going to help my child remember math facts. Maybe the resource teacher would understand the problem.

She studied me for a minute. “Have you ever considered that Lee might be manipulating you to get out of homework? She’s doing all of her work in my classroom without any trouble.”

And she took off, leaving me behind, feeling as if a bomb had just gone off in my head.    What kind of child would willingly bang their head as hard as they could to manipulate their parent?

Now, some thirteen years later, I know that kids with ADHD have short attention spans, distractibility, and problems with executive functions, like time management and organization. The decks are often stacked against them. But there are solutions.

Soon after my failed attempts to get help from Lee’s teachers, I requested an IEP meeting and got an accommodation for extra homework time in the resource room.  Then, I found a tutor, a special education teaching assistant who helped me put a homework structure and routines in place. Here is what worked for us in elementary school:

    • Homework time: Lee always needed a break after school to decompress. Other children might learn better by tackling homework immediately. In either case, it’s best to establish a time that works for your child and stick with it.
    • Homework corner: Lee preferred the kitchen table, big enough for me to join her with snacks and keep her on task. Two separate folders, one for homework she brought home, and one for homework when she completed it, were left at the table to take to school. And, a file box for completed assignments the teacher returned on a nearby bench, in case we needed to refer back to them.
    • Scheduled breaks: Lee needed a five-minute break every 20 minutes due to her hyperactivity. Setting a timer helped bring her back to the kitchen table.
    • Respecting Limits: When Lee grew too frustrated to finish her homework, we stopped and wrote a note to the teacher, explaining the situation. Most teachers worked with us to limit the workload, but if they didn’t, we stopped anyway. Homework, to me, wasn’t worth Lee losing her self-confidence, the most precious gift for a child with ADHD.

 

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My Cup of Tea- ADHD Ways to Cope

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My Cup of Tea- ADHD Ways to Cope

When a child is diagnosed with a mental disability, there are solid strategies to help them cope.  And some of these coping mechanisms can also become a way for a young adult to move forward, functioning in a challenging world.

My new blog looks at some of the ways my 22-year-old is coping, although one of them is definitely not my cup of tea.

Finishing a cup of chamomile tea, I gazed out the window at the rosy sunset, trying to take the edge off a stressful day.  The sun dipped below the horizon, and I glanced at my watch. Time to get dinner started.  Moving to the sink, I rinsed my grandmother’s delicate cup.

 “Honk! Honk! Honk!”   

I jumped, catching the cup at the last second before bone china shattered on porcelain.  My eyes shot daggers at my 22-year-old, relaxing in front of me on a couch.  “Lee!  Can’t you find another sound?”  

“Nope.”  Lee crawled out from under a new, soft-weighted blanket, holding up the offending phone with its equally offending reminder: “Take your pill, fool!”

“Well,” I muttered, still shaken, “…that’s one hell of a way to remember your medication.  Good coping mechanism.”

A weighted blanket and pill alarm are just two of the many coping mechanisms my neurodiverse young adult relies on to function throughout the day.  They are much-needed, as well as other strategies, to relieve the stress of functioning in a neurotypical world.  When Lee was diagnosed with ADHD, SPD, and anxiety, I barely knew about medications, let alone physical ways for her to cope.  But I would learn, through occupational therapy, there were strategies we could use. 

A rubber sensory pillow with spikes grounded Lee in first grade, so she could focus.  She also made friends as everyone begged to try it.  When her therapist encouraged Lee to crash her shoulders and hips from one hallway wall at home into the other, it was painful to watch.  But, it always calmed Lee down.  Using the swings at recess increased the blood flow to her head and created a soothing rhythm which helped when she returned to the classroom. 

Then the teenage years came along, and Lee’s anxiety became more internalized and intense.  Taking a longer walk to school eased her hyperactivity and lowered her heart rate.  In the classroom, she had to sit still for longer periods, and paying attention was the path to success.  Desperately seeking a way to cope, Lee pulled out her pencil during lectures and doodled, finding a way to focus.  If a teacher was amenable, she could also use headphones during independent study to drown out distractions. 

As I dried the teacup, Lee ran into the kitchen and took her ADHD medication.  She moved back to the couch and slid under the weighted blanket, holding up a corner for me.  “Want to give it a try, Mom?”

I stepped over, slipped in, and felt the deep compression of the weights pushing me down.  No wonder this eased Lee’s anxiety, I thought, as my bones relaxed.  She had found a coping mechanism that was exactly my cup of tea.

 

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The Boothbay Playhouse

The Boothbay Playhouse

The Boothbay Playhouse

As August’s dry heat envelops me and I long for some relief, I wander into my garden.  A sudden breeze kicks up, soft whispers of summers gone by.  I’m back on an old wooden bench in front of a grey, weathered cottage where foghorns call me out to sea, and lobstermen pull up their nets as seagulls gather for scraps.  My mind drifts, like it does every summer, to how my parents met. 

“When I was nineteen, I went to a place as familiar as my own skin, a place I had visited in memories so many times around the dinner table that I knew it by heart.  The director at the Boothbay Playhouse, the same theater where my mom and dad had met twenty-five years ago, called and offered me a summer internship and I grabbed it without hesitation.  I flew to Maine and took a taxi far from the city, deep into the Boothbay Harbor woods.  As we turned into the driveway of the Playhouse, my heart skipped a beat and, in that instant, I knew how my mother felt. 

In my mind’s eye, I could see my father, in the old yellow robe, on a ladder painting the weathered garage door.  My mother’s mind in mine, her excitement raised in goosebumps on my skin.  A featured actress… a summer rehearsing one show in the day, performing a second at night.  Anticipation pounded in our nineteen-year-old hearts in unison and just why was that handyman on the ladder staring so hard at her as she swung her Barbizon perfect legs out of her parents’ car and into the beginning of the rest of her life?

That day was my beginning, too, not as a featured actress, not even close to finding my husband, but my first day in Boothbay Harbor, the town I would call my summer home in years to come.  I suppose I needed to relive their romance, to find the true magic that spun around the three of us kids at the dinner table as Dad recounted the playhouse days he and Mom had courted, when he had acted as leading man to her leading lady, really kissing his lovely ingénue with all the passion an actor could give.  Years sweetly remembered as the best years of their lives before television and film gave them their fate.”

When my parents came to see me on stage that summer in my first leading role, they fell in love with Boothbay Harbor all over again.  Renting at first, then purchasing a cottage on Southport Island, they gave their children and grandchildren many happy summers.  Twenty-two years have gone by and both my parents have passed on, as has the Boothbay Playhouse, leaving its rich legacy. 

-Excerpt from the Foreword to Any Way I Can; 50 Years in Show Business by John Gay and Jennifer Gay Summers, BearManor Media, 2009

 

 

 

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Summer Camp, Hands-On!

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Summer Camp, Hands-On!

Camp seemed like a given for my child with ADHD.  What could be better than the freedom to chase lizards on a nature trail, splash in a pool, or do arts and crafts with other campers?  At least, that’s what I thought until Lee’s first day. Join me in a blog where Lee and I discover what it takes for a camp to engage a child with ADHD

Dust rose as I nosed my car into a tight space in a small dirt parking lot. Day one of nature camp in the Santa Monica Mountains, advertised as a place “where children could interact and learn about nature” had come to an end.  Rolling up my windows, I sat in the quiet, thinking of a year ago.

My husband and I’d enrolled Lee in a day camp that emphasized hiking, arts and crafts, and swimming in the community pool.  It had seemed the perfect fit for our hands-on 11-year-old daughter with ADHD who loved nature.  Then she returned from her first day, and our bubble burst.

“Mom, I tried, I really did.  But they wouldn’t let me leave the trail, even to catch a lizard.  They said it’s against the rules!”

“Maybe if you give it time…”

“I won’t go back!”

Another casualty from Lee’s sensory processing disorder, commonly associated with ADHD.  Her hyper-tactile sense, that desperate need to hold lizards, skim her fingers over rosemary bushes, or inspect a toad, had ruined camp.  She spent the summer in our back yard, on her hands and knees, free to explore.  Still, I wanted her to experience camp and the greater outdoors, as I had done in the Sequoias so many years before.  

I left my car and walked over to rickety stairs that led into an old historic house, the camp’s headquarters.  Lee caught sight of me and ran over, her hands full.  “Mom, mom!  Look what I found.”  She opened her hands to reveal a tiny skull.  “It’s a vole.” 

Connie, the camp counselor and conservationist in charge of the kids. walked over, her boots clomping on the old wood floor.  “Your daughter is something else,” she said. 

I tensed.  Had Lee lost control of her impulses?  Had she wandered off the trail away from the group, found the skull, and stuck it in her pocket?

“She showed all of us things on the trail we never would have seen otherwise.  A hawk’s nest, a praying mantis case high in a tree, snake tracks…you name it, Scout found it.”

My shoulders relaxed.  “Scout?”

“Come on, you never thought of it before?  She’s Scout, from To Kill a Mockingbird, sure as I’m standing here.”

“Mom, we dissected owl pellets,” Lee exclaimed.  “And there were pieces of mice in the pellets the owls had eaten!”

By the end of camp, Scout was assisting the group, shoulder to shoulder with Connie.  She’d made emergency shelters from wood branches for survival and helped clean up a Malibu beach.  Her backpack held a jumble of bones, rocks, feathers, and turtle shells or treasures, as she called them.  With a summer full of hiking in the mountains and swimming in the ocean, Lee was in her element.  In the years that followed, she became a camp counselor there.

If your ADHD child is also hypertactile and you’re struggling with finding the right camp, consider looking for one which allows her hands-on learning and discovery.  Here’s a link for The Complete ADHD Camp Guide from ADDitude magazine:

https://www.additudemag.com/adhd-camp-and-school-guide/?src=embed_link

 

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From Denial to Acceptance

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From Denial to Acceptance

…A letter her birthmother had sent me came into my mind.  The words, “ADHD runs in the family” jumped out at me, like a snake, coiled and ready to strike.  No, I told myself.  I wouldn’t accept any labels besides curious and energetic. ​…”

The day I set foot in my daughter’s first grade class, I saw my world shift on its axis.  All of the children were quiet, noses in their books.  I scanned the room, but couldn’t find Lee.  The teacher turned from the whiteboard to me and pointed under one of the tables.  There was my child, crouched like an animal, rocking back and forth.  Kneeling down, I held out my arms, and she moved into them.

“I want to go home, Mommy.”  Her voice dropped to a whisper.  “I’m the dumbest person in the class.”

My heart splintered, and I hugged her close.  “You can do this,” I whispered, helping her into a chair.  But the truth was she couldn’t, and it was time for me to seek help.

I’d done my best for years to deny that my child had ADHD and kept myself in blissful ignorance.  I was a pro at making excuses for her atypical behavior, until something awful happened.  The differences between my child and other children were noticeable when Lee was only eighteen months old.  At a Mommy and Me class with a ball pit and slide, she had no intention of joining circle time.  When Lee rode down the slide right into the circle, we were scolded and sent outside to sit in a chair for time-out.

As Lee struggled to get out of my lap, a letter her birthmother had sent me came into my mind.  The words, “ADHD runs in the family” jumped out at me, like a snake, coiled and ready to strike.  No, I told myself.  I wouldn’t accept any labels besides curious and energetic. 

I put more time into choosing a preschool and found one with optional circle time and lots of play.  One day, I was helping in the art corner when a mom, who’d been volunteering outside, came over to me.  She looked down, clearing her throat. 

“Your daughter reminds me of mine.  The two of them were wildcats on their tricycles today and wouldn’t listen to the dad trying to get them to stop.”

“Sounds like Lee,” I said, shaking it off with a hollow laugh. 

 “Oh hell, I don’t know how to say this, but maybe you should consider that she has ADHD.  Our daughter’s been diagnosed with it, and she’s seeing a child psychologist.  I can get you a name if you want.” 

I stood still, feeling like I’d been slapped.  When I recovered, I added strong-willed to curious and energetic and did my best to let it go at that. 

Even though the preschool director recommended another year, I enrolled Lee in Kindergarten at the age of five.  She’d catch up, I told myself.  After a couple of weeks, I signed up to volunteer and went to the classroom.  I heard the teacher tell the kids there was a hidden “B”, and if they saw it, not to point it out until she was done talking.  She said, “Here are some words that start with B: boy, boat…”

“I see it…the B!” Lee shouted.  Her body trembled with excitement as she pointed at a card on a high shelf behind the tables. 

The teacher gave her a stern reminder that she was not to be interrupted.  Lee’s trembling turned to cowering. 

What was wrong with this teacher, I thought.  How could a kid help themselves from calling out when they found the buried treasure?  But somewhere inside myself, I knew I could have when I was that age.  And the other kids in her class seemed to know how to wait, also.     

There were other moments when the truth fell into place like a stack of dominoes.  If you have a child with ADHD, you’ve probably felt them, too.  Accepting your child’s ADHD and finding help is a gift of love for her that you’ll never regret.  There is a world of organizations that can help.  Here are just a few of them:

CHADD is a national nonprofit organization that improves the lives of people affected by ADHD through education, advocacy, and support.  I highly recommend their annual conference!

The nation’s leading source of important news, expert advice, and judgment-free understanding for families and adults living with attention deficit disorder.  And, the home for most of my blogs. 

ADHD Aware empowers people with ADHD while raising awareness and changing public opinion about this serious disease.

The Attention Deficit Disorder Association provides information, resources and networking opportunities to help adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder lead better lives.

Totally ADD liberates people from fear, shame, and stigma.  Through education, humor, and social interaction, Totally ADD provides the tools and support people need to create a life they love.

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Written in the Stars

Written in the Stars

Written in the Stars

Today marks what would have been my mother and father’s 72nd anniversary.  Talk about a love story!  They met acting in summer stock at the Boothbay Playhouse in Maine.  As Dad put it in his memoir, Any Way I Can; 50 Years in Show Business:

“My third summer at the Playhouse required the usual mundane chores before the season began.  One morning, while painting a garage door on a ladder in my ragged old yellow terry cloth robe, a car appeared in the driveway.  Out of it stepped a knockout blonde ingénue, Barbara Meyer.  Her parents had driven her up from New Jersey to be certain it was a safe environment for their daughter.  Having already seen her black and white publicity photo hung on a wagon wheel in the lobby, I eagerly awaited her arrival.  She glanced briefly at me and assumed I was a maintenance worker.”

Together they starred in many plays that summer and the next, and married on May 7, 1949.  But Ozzie, my mother’s father, and his friends had some reservations: 

“In the men’s room at the reception, one of Ozzie’s friends actually came up alongside me at the urinal and asked, ‘How do you intend to support Barbara?’  It really floored me.  Together, Bobbie and I had saved a few hundred dollars.  I don’t remember what I muttered in response, but I thought the question on this night, on this occasion, at this place, was insensitive.  The truth is all of her family’s friends were concerned that Bobbie was marrying an actor.  The poor girl.  God, what a terrible thing to have happened.”

After cutting their honeymoon short for my mother’s appearance on a television show, John and Bobbie continued to audition and cross their fingers.  It wasn’t long before their dreams came true: 

“Harvey Marlowe, the man who saw our audition in New York, called to say WOR, Channel 9, had signed us to do a domestic comedy in the fall.  They wanted a fifteen minute show, five nights a week.  ‘Who will write them?’ I asked.

‘You will.’

Fifteen minutes?  Five nights a week?  All we had was the ten minute audition sketch.  Impossible.  And I’m not really a writer.  I called Harvey Marlowe immediately.

‘We’re thrilled with the offer.’”

After a few years on television with many scripts under his belt, Dad started getting writing jobs, which replaced acting as a means of support.  Eventually, a lucrative Hollywood offer brought my parents out to California.  Dad wrote the film, “Run Silent, Run Deep,” and his career turned into solid gold.  Mom left acting to have me, then my brother, Larry, and then my sister, Liz.  But as soon as we were all off to college, she went back to the stage, performing at the Nine O’Clock Players children’s theater in Hollywood. 

Through it all, Mom and Dad held on to each other as soulmates.  They believed their stars were meant to collide.  On their anniversary, I step out into the clear, dark night and feel their love for each other illuminate the sky.

 

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Market Fiasco

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…After Lee was diagnosed with ADHD, I found out that SPD often accompanied it.  We went to an occupational therapist who taught us that a trip to the market wasn’t to be taken lightly.  It was a transition for Lee’s brain and body, from one place to the other, and time to process the change was necessary.  As Lee put it at a later age, “Cars are like time machines.  You watch the world go by, but your brain’s still at home even if you’re at the store…”

“Lee, I’m going to the market.  Want anything?”

            “No.  But I’ll drive you.  Need a change of scenery.”

            We drove down to the market and found a parking place.

            I said, “Coming in?”

            “Nah.  Didn’t plan on going.”

            After 21 years of living with a child who had ADHD and sensory processing disorder (SPD), this made perfect sense.  Before Lee’s diagnosis at the age of six, we went to the market according to my schedule, which was usually rushed.  Little did I know that I was setting into place a sequence of events that would turn into a fiasco.

It started when we got into the market, and I plopped her in the basket.  Marketing was like navigating a crowded freeway, as I tried to steer down the middle of the aisle.  The minute my cart veered to the right or left, her little fingers set to work grabbing the coupons from the machines sticking out from the shelf.  Before we got very far, the coupons were dropped in favor of a bright, shiny package of cookies, fun to put in her mouth.  By the time the cookies were back on the shelf, my toddler was leaning over the basket, trying to pick the topmost can off a display case.

            When Lee was old enough to walk beside the basket, she ran.  I followed at top speed, dodging those display cases, hoping she wouldn’t crash into one.  But too often, a tower of cans flew onto the floor with a huge bang, leaving my face burning with embarrassment.  When we got into the checkout lane, I reminded Lee to stand back and give the customer in front of us room to check out.  My words floated in one ear and out the other, as she sidled up close to the stranger like she was her mother.  Pulling Lee back to my side, I unloaded my groceries, only to have it happen again.

After Lee was diagnosed with ADHD, I found out that SPD often accompanied it.  We went to an occupational therapist who taught us that a trip to the market wasn’t to be taken lightly.  It was a transition for Lee’s brain and body, from one place to the other, and time to process the change was necessary.  As Lee put it at a later age, “Cars are like time machines.  You watch the world go by, but your brain’s still at home even if you’re at the store.”

The occupational therapist explained that if my child didn’t have a chance to transition, then the market could trigger reactions.  First, Lee’s hypo-tactile sense was on high alert, her need to touch everything in sight, or put it in her mouth, too urgent to resist.  Then, the vestibular jumped right in, the body’s sense of gravity, so out of whack from the new environment that it was likely to crash into nearby objects.  The proprioceptive sense, her body’s awareness of where she was in space, joined in at the checkout line, and a considerate distance vanished into thin air.   

Advance notice that we were going to the market proved necessary, as were exercises before we went, like spinning, for grounding the vestibular sense.  She wore a weighted backpack to help the proprioceptive sense, and always held a fidget toy in her busy hands.  If I could, I made the trips to the market with her as short as possible.

Bringing my thoughts back to the present, I looked over at Lee in the car, who was putting in earbuds, eyes fluttering closed. 

I said, “Be back soon.”

“I’m safe here, Mom.  Take your time.”   

 

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