A few small victories over ADHD

It’s 2:36 on Tuesday afternoon. I’m sitting calmly in a coffee shop in Ann Arbor, thinking back over the last hour or so. It wasn’t pretty, but I think it might be helpful for some of the folks in my ADHD tribe to read about it, so here goes.

It’s about the emotional reguation piece. It’s about small victories over anger, feelings of overwhelm, frustration, hopelessness, etc. – all of those un-cool side effects that come along with the creative, curious, and constantly surprising ADHD brain.

The week started off badly.

I shattered the screen on my iPad. I’m experimenting with some green screen video editing and I’d set my iPad up on a stool to take some test footage. As I stepped back, it decided to do a belly-flop onto the basement floor. (Notice how I blame the inanimate object for its own destruction? Can any of y’all relate? Yep, I see the heads nodding…)

I handled that fairly well. I do have footage of me picking it up and saying a lot of nasty things – mostly anger and recrimination toward myself about breaking things – but I stopped it as soon as I noticed it. Small Victory #1 – stop the negative self-talk. I did some research online and found some local repair shops to check out on Monday.

But, that started the cascade.

Sunday night is when I make my plans for the week. So I started slogging through the backlog again to see what I wanted to tackle this week.

Mine looks like this:


Mind map 2016 0223

(A mind map is a very cool and helpful way of organizing the things in your head. Mine has sections for everything from “songs I want to learn” to “things to fix around the house” “TED talks I want to listen to” to “guitar lessons” to this week’s To-Do list.)

I started into it, but when I saw that I’d put 20+ items into “This Week”, I realized something was wrong. I stopped, looked for items that “must be done Monday”, then closed down the program. Small Victory #2 – knowing when you need to step back.

I spent about half an hour just playing guitar. It cleared my mind a bit. Small Victory #3 – remembering to take time to play.

There was more but this is getting to be a long post, so no details. But, between Sunday night and an hour ago, I:

  • lost all of the tasks that were in the mindmap
  • found out that my backup program doesn’t backup the /appdata folder – which is where the mindmap data lives
  • learned about the mind map’s internal Trash bin – which also didn’t have my data
  • found that the last 2 digital rips from my VHS tapes didn’t copy the audio tracks
  • had the tasks mysteriously reappear in the software (which I was hoping might happen)

Things were not looking good. The week was not off to a good start.

So, what happened earlier that prompted this post?

I started the day with a firm resolve to recover from the weekend and get the week planned. I mean, it’s only Tuesday, I can still save it, right?! I packed up my things and got myself to the coffee shop. About five minutes after I’d settled in, I got a phone call. A really good friend of mine was in a tight spot and needed some help. (I’m leaving out the specifics so their feelings won’t get hurt.)

Have you noticed ADHD-folk don’t take interruptions well?

I exploded. Inside my head, I mean, but I lost it. As I packed – looking perfectly calm and collected to the outside world – I fantasized about getting in my car and driving to Chicago to hide out for a week. Or Canada. Or heading to a local restaurant and pigging out on fat, greasy burgers loaded with bacon and cheese (my menu of self-destructive behaviors is evidently pretty tame). So, so dramatic!

So, I ran the errand. And it was magical. As I was doing it – seeing the appreciation on my friend’s face, experiencing the feeling that I’d done something helpful – all of my anger just vanished.

I got back in my car and sat there for about six or seven minutes, wondering what was going on. I even tried to recapture the anger, but it was impossible. And it seemed pointless. It was just so much additional negativity that I didn’t need.

I started up the car and headed to a different coffee shop thinking about this: some of the typical ADHD strategies had worked – taking a pause, stepping back, doing something else for a while – but the best one turned out to be this: doing something for someone else.

Not a bad lesson to learn.

Portrait Class

Last week, I sat in on a portrait drawing class with my friend Karen. Portraits have always escaped me, something about capturing all the subtleties of light and contour just doens’t seem to register. And that’s nothing compared the idea of trying to capture the person’s personality or emotional state.
That said, I’m not unhappy with the results.

Portrait 2016 02 19 Hamburg Drawing Class_smPortrait 2016 02 19 Hamburg Drawing Class 2_s,

How to rip CDs (and a new picture)

A couple of people who saw my post about digitizing my CDs were interested in doing the same with their CDs. Great idea! I’ll tell you how I did it and you can decide if you want to go ahead and try doing the same.

But before I do that, I want to post a picture of the CDs I’m actually getting rid of. The graphic I put up was just one I found on the internet, but people were asking questions about the CDs in the stacks! This is a real picture:


Not only is it more true (“more true”? really?), but the stacks are neater.

LEGAL NOTICE (just cuz): make sure you are ripping only your own CDs so you don’t get in trouble for pirating and I don’t get in trouble for telling you how to do it.

OK, so. Some notes on how I did it:

First off, think about this as a background task. I didn’t sit at my machine for dozens of hours ripping CDs. I’d start the process, go do something else, then come back in 10-15 mintues when it was finished. Do it while reading email or doing the dishes or exercising or practicing the guitar. This is one of the few times when multi-tasking actually works.

Second, you need a CD reader. Some of the new machines don’t have a CD drive, so you might have to buy an external reader that plugs into USB. If you do buy an external drive, consider whether you want it to also read DVDs and whether you want to write CDs and DVDs. The price difference isn’t that huge.

Finally, pick your software. I use iTunes. I’ve used Audacity, but iTunes has the advantage of downloading the cover graphic, song names, and (if you pick the right settings) organizing your music library automatically (by genre, artist, album).

That’s really it.

One option you should think about is whether you want to save the files as MP3. Assuming you’re using iTunes, the default file format is not MP3. I’m not going to get into a debate about which file format to use. If you are tekkie enough to know that there’s more than one, you probably already have your favorite. I chose MP3 for 2 reasons:

  1. By going to digital instead of analog, I’ve already conceded that portability has won out over Sound Quality.
  2. It seems to me like the most portable format.

If you want iTunes to save your files in MP3 format, you’ll have to change that setting. Here’s how:

STEP 1: launch iTunes.

STEP 2: click Edit->Preferences


STEP 3: 1) Make sure you are in the “General tab”, 2) set “When you insert a CD”, select “Ask to Import CD” (this lets you verify the CD title with the tracks listing database), 3) click Import Settings.


STEP 4: Choose the MP3 encoder.


Now, you’re ready to go.

To rip a CD:

STEP 1: launch i Tunes.

STEP 2: put a CD in the drive. In a few seconds (assuming you’re connected to the Internet), you should see something like this:


NOTE: The album title and artist will probably be different but I suggest everyone go out and buy this CD. It’s my favorite of a whole lot of excellent music by Bruce Cockburn.

I will admit I’m not quite sure why there are often multiple entries in this dialog. I’ve always just taken the first one (unless it was obviously wrong). It’s a hassle trying to pick a different one if the one you picked is wrong for some reason. Sorry, I don’t have a good answer for “what to do then?”

STEP 3: click OK. You’ll get something like this:


Here, you can verify it the track listings look right. If the genre is wrong (e.g., not what you prefer), you can change it later by selecting all the tracks and using “Get Info.”

STEP 4: If you’ve already imported the CD, you’ll be notified:


You can decide what to do. I generally “Don’t Replace” then go back and manually clean up duplicates.  Not the most efficient. Your choice, really.

STEP 5: let ‘er rip. (Yeah, I know…)

As iTune is copying the files to your machine, you can watch for 3 indicators:

1 – the green checkmark means “track has been copied”

2 – the spinning wheel means “copying”

3 – the status will show which track is being copied and an estimate of how long it will take to copy that track.


STEP 6: when all tracks are finished, iTunes will “ding.” Remove the CD and move on to the next one.

The beauty of using iTunes is you don’t have to worry about setting the volume level or normalizing the track after it’s copied or really much of anything else. It’s just “there.”

There are all kinds of other things you can do (assign genre, rate it, make playlists, etc) but that’s not what this post is about. There’s a million resources out there for that and it’s all very personal anyway, so I’m going to leave that to you.

I hope this was useful.





























FOOTNOTE 1: …and by “couple of” I don’t mean “exactly two.” I love reading about this and origins of “couple of” to mean “few.” I can’t find the original article, but basically, it said that informal usage like (maybe “couple-a”) allows “few.” Even the Cambridge Dictionary says “two or a few things that are similar or the same, or two or a few people who are in some way connected.”
FOOTNOTE 2: I say “something like” because Apple (as all software vendors) will no doubt change the interface in future releases. It’s something we software types just feel the need to do. I guess.

Progress Report on Digitizing my Media

I may be more excited about this than I need to be, but here goes…



As of last night, I’ve completed the second phase of my “thin out the recording gear” project. I’ve digitized almost all of my CDs. I am getting rid of 224 that are going to go to my mom’s for next summer’s garage sale season. If I get $2 each, that’s a nice return – even at 50c I’ll be happy.

I am keeping 57, which is a 4-to-1 ration. I’m quite proud of that. OK, to be completely honest, there are more, but I didn’t count CDs by friends (Hali Hammer, Katie Geddes, Mark Brokaw, Dave Elder, or any CD on which I played).

Most of what I kept will be pretty obvious to people who know me:

  • Beatles, all
  • Bruce Cockburn, all
  • George Harrison, all
  • Neil Young, all
  • Leon Russell, all (!)
  • favorites by Dylan, Chet Atkins, Dire Straits, Sly and the Family Stone, Paul Simon, etc.

This probably explains why I had no idea who Dave Grohl was. (Background: I took a Facebook Quiz “Which Rock Star Are You?”. I expected to come up with Paul Simon or some such, and I got Dave Grohl. I now know who he is and I am very happy with the result.)

Last week, I finished digitizing ALL of my open reel tapes. They date back to the early 70s – tapes of me, Tom, Paul, Elise, Henry, Frank, and others playing our little hearts out – to a 3 hour jam at our “Leaving Detroit” party (March, 1981) – with some really good but unknown musicians – to the Cy Udall’s United Way Benefit with Frank Udall, Joe Ortega, John Groh, Paul Overgaard(?) and possibly others I’ve forgotten (my apologies). I’m going to post some of those songs online just because I think this kind of thing is important.

I’ll be saying goodbye to my old TEAC stereo reel-to-reel once I go through the basement and make SURE there are no tapes down there I missed. Another era passes.

Next on my list is to go through the VHS library. Some will be copied to CD, some will be digitized, and some (hopefully, quite a few) will be thrown out. I have hours and hours of Cheers and M*A*S*H, plus about 30 Bogart movies I captured from TV. (Background: I’d embarked on a project once to collect all of his movies, but have since decided to settle for Treasure of the Sierra Madrea, Casablanca, and a few more, including a little-known favorite Conflict.)

I feel somewhat confident I will be able to get rid of quite a lot of them. It’s still not easy but it’s getting easier. Little by little…

Peer Support Group for Couples is Near!

For the last few years, I’ve been involved with the Ambassador’s group inside ADDA (the Attention Deficit Disorder Association). Our mission is to foster communication among members of ADDA. We phone new members to welcome them to the group, host informal get-togethers at conferences, and have recently set up some weekly peer-support phone calls.

One of the areas in which I’m particularly interested is relationships: how does ADHD impact what’s going on between us and our partners?


Over the last few years, I’ve gathered together information from dozens of sources, including those who specialize in relationships (like Melissa Orlov), those who write more generally about ADHD (Ned Hallowell and Russell Barkley), and even writers who look more at the social context and the way neurodiverse people are viewed and treated. I’ve interviewed several couples and had the great fortune to be part of a long-range couples group in Ann Arbor.

At this point, I’ve got an opportunity to share what I’ve learned (both from research and first hand) with the ADDA community. Starting this week (Thursday, Feb 4), I’ll be hosting a 3-session mini-workshop on ADHD and Relationships. The sessions will be done over the telephone with no visual (this time!) and will run from 8p.m.-9 p.m. EST.

Most everyone connected with ADDA should have received an email in the last few days inviting you to the sessions. If you haven’t, please contact us by emailing to ambassadors@add.org. Please send the names of both partners in the couple, your email address, and a telephone number.

Here’s a link to my webpage, I’ve got more to upload there, but it will give you the basics: Feb 2016 couples group

I’m really looking forward to this. I’m sure I’ll learn as much as I share!