Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Crafting for Critters

Ok, so I haven't updated in a LONG time.  I'm SO sorry.  Lately I've found myself making things with my hands, and that's been my creative outlet more than writing.  I'm not going to turn this into a craft blog, but I thought a few of my new designs might be interesting so I'm going to share them anyway.

The first distraction I ran into a few months back was a cat peeing outside the litterbox, we're talking multiple times a day.  It was horrible.  I have two 11 year old cats, both rescues, and it didn't take long for us to figure out that one of them (the female oddly enough) stands up to pee, which means that any standard litterbox she's gonna pee over the side.  I don't know why she stands up to pee.  She ruined a couple of automatic litterboxes by peeing on the motor before we figured out what was going on and switched to a top entry litterbox.  That worked pretty well with only a few accidents for several years, but then she developed an affinity for peeing on bath mats.  After a few years in a mat free house she branched out to rugs, the floor under the rocking chair, piles of clean laundry, and most of all the laundry room floor  There were times when I was mopping the laundry room floor three times a day!

I tried a variety of different cat litters, keeping everything off the floor, even removing the mat under their food, and nothing worked!  Then I read an article that said that as cats age the top entry litterboxes can get harder for them to use.  Jumping out of the litter causes wear on their hips.  So I started looking for another litterbox.

I needed something with high sides for my cat who pees standing up, but it couldn't have gaps or open seams where the hood and litterbox joined.  I searched EVERYWHERE without finding anything that would work for a high peeing cat, and then a friend pointed me to www.catinfo.org, a website run by a veterinarian that covers a variety of cat related topics.  She had posted a litterbox design for a box that you could make yourself.  It wasn't specifically for a cat that pees standing up, but I found that with a couple of adjustments and a higher cut door it would work pretty well.  And best of all, I made it from a storage bin that I got from Target for $8.99, a far cry from the $40 that I'd spent on my previous litterbox.

So, if you're in the market for a litterbox, here's what you need to know!

Litterbox design
I got the idea for this litterbox from www.catinfo.org which has a lot of fabulous information on cats, but I modified Dr. Pierson’s design a bit to fit my high peeing cat’s needs.
What you need 


  • 30 gallon or similar size storage bin, you don’t need the lid – The one I got was this Sterilite tote for $8.99 at Target : http://www.target.com/p/sterilite-grey-stackable-plastic-tote-with-lid-30-gal/-/A-13796226#prodSlot=medium_1_60&term=Sterilite 
  • Yard stick or tape measure
  • Something to cut with – The website (www.catinfo.org) suggests a utility knife, but I didn’t have one, so I used a saw for the main cuts, and some heavy duty kitchen shears to clean up the edges.
  • Sandpaper – to smooth out the edges, you don’t want your cat getting scratched or caught on the sides

Measure several times (and hopefully you’ll only cut once)

1.   On the long side of the box measure up from the bottom 8-10 inches and make a mark. Dr. Pierson suggests 8 inches, but I found my cat peed right over that, so I’m going with 10 inches. The door can be adjusted up/down a little with this litterbox design.
2.   Measure the width of your widest cat, that’s the width I used for the bottom of my door (about 6 inches for my cats). Again, Dr. Pierson suggests 8 inches, but I’m trying to make the bottom of the door as narrow as possible so that my cat won’t pee out the door, but I still want it to be comfortable for my cats.
3.   At you’re 8-10 inch height mark, make a horizontal line the width you want for the bottom of the door (the width of your cat). You want this line centered on the long side of the storage bin.
4.   Centered on the top of the box measure out the width for the top of the door. This needs to be at least two inches wider than the bottom of the door to make the door height adjustable. You want to allow plenty of whisker room for your cats going in and out of the box. I went with an eight inch top to go with my 6 inch bottom, but if you have bigger cats you could go with 10-12 inches easily.
5.   Draw a straight line down from the ends of the top of the door to the ends of the bottom of the door. These should be angled in an open V shape.

Here you can see from my rough cuts what you’re trying to do.
6.   Cut down the sides, be sure you’re cutting at an angle along your line, and then across the bottom. I used a saw for the down cuts, and kitchen shears across the bottom.
7.   Use kitchen shears to snip off any big jagged edges, and sandpaper to smooth them out even more.

Adding the adjustable height door
You could just leave it like this, but I like to use the insert I’ve cut out to give the bottom of the door a rolled edge. It makes things smoother for my kitty’s belly if it drags on the edge. Using the insert also allows you some adjustment of the door height in case you don’t get the perfect height.

1.   Position the piece you cut out from the door so that you’re looking at it top down, and the edge that rolls out from the top of the box is toward you. On the side away from you at the very top (this will be at the corner where the side meets the top, make slits 1-1.5 inches in on each side.
(see picture)

2. Slide your insert over your door so that the wall of the insert is inside the litterbox (this will insure that if the cat pees and hits the insert it is channeled into the litterbox) and the rolled edge covers the cut edge at the bottom of the door. The inside of the insert should lie flush with the inside of the litterbox.

The drawback of using the storage container that I used is that it has a ridge running around the side several inches down. I have to keep the insert below that ridge in order for it to lie flush with the side of the litterbox, but I can use the insert to adjust my door height up to the ridge and down as far as I cut.

Here you can see my old litterbox (approx $40) and my new litterbox (approx $9) side by side.
Since I've started using my new litterbox accidents have been ALMOST eliminated.  I keep the door insert raised as high as I can keep it, just below the ridge that runs around the inside of my storage container, and at that height even my high peeing cat doesn't pee over the side, but occasionally it gets knocked down a little lower and she manages to pee out a corner of the door.  But that's a rare occurrence, and moping the laundry room floor once a month is WORLDS better than three times a day!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Self-medicating

Although I was diagnosed as having ADD more than ten years ago, I never tried Ritalin or any other ADD medication until recently.  However as a read and learn more about the treatment of ADD I wonder if I've self-medicated for years, or if some unusual reactions to other medications had a lot to do with my ADD.

I have terrible allergies, though they're much better after nearly ten years of allergy shots.  I spent much of my first 10 years sick with some sinus issue or another, and as a result I've taken a LOT of Sudafed over the years.  Over that time I've heard lots of stories about Sudafed making kids hyper or buzzed, but I never experienced that.  Instead I would take Sudafed and almost always fall asleep.  I remember taking it before church and falling asleep in my mom's lap in the pew.  It's a good thing I don't snore!

It's only recently occurred to me that if ADD is treated with stimulants then it's possible that other substances that have a stimulating effect could also be used to calm or focus a person with ADD.  All the books mention self-medication with controlled substances, marijuana and heroin being the most common, but I look back at my history and see another type of self medication.

When I was very young I ate huge quantities of sugar.  This was a most common occurrence on road trips with my family.  We'd head south to visit family and at the first gas station I'd get out and spend every penny I had on various types of candy and consume them in the car.  Halloween candy rarely lasted more than a few days.  We'd go to restaurants and I'd sit quietly and eat sugar packets.  I ate ice cream topped with Nes-Quick (almost pure sugar on top of more sugar).  Seriously, it's a wonder my teeth survived!

With all this sugar consumption you'd think I'd be bouncing off the walls, but when I asked my mom about it she said she never noticed me to be particularly hyper.  I never seemed to have trouble sitting still in restaurants or in the car.  And she said it didn't worry her so long as I ate a variety of healthy REAL food as well.  So what was I doing with all that raw energy?

By the time I was in college I'd replaced sugar with coffee.  I'd go to Waffle House at 1:00 in the morning, drink six cups of coffee, then go back to my dorm and fall right asleep.  At the time I thought I just had THAT much tolerance for caffeine, but looking back now I wonder.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

She was the best of friends, she was the worst of friends...

I've been thinking a lot lately about how blessed I am to have friends who have stuck with me.  There are times when ADD makes me a GREAT friend, but there are lots of times when ADD makes me... Wait, what were you saying?

I was comparing notes with one of my work friends the other day who also has ADD, and we were surprised at how our relationships have been so similarly impacted by ADD.  You see, ADD thrives on drama.  We make great friends with anyone who's life is falling apart.  We NEED to be needed, and so we find ourselves giving and giving and giving to needy friends.  Unfortunately there are only two ways for that to end.  Either we give and give at an unsustainable rate until WE'RE the ones falling apart, or our friends get their stuff together and don't need us anymore (so we don't see them for months on end).

That's not to say that I don't have good friends who DO have their lives together, but without the drama I fall out of touch with them very easily.  And it's a real shame, because I really do enjoy spending time with my friends.  For example, I recieved some VERY cute baby pictures from a friend recently, I hadn't even realized she was pregnant.  That's how long it had been since we'd been in touch, and I feel really bad because when I had my baby she and her husband were there for me, brought us dinner, and just wonderful to be around.  It's not uncommon for me to go months without talking to a friend, then when we do get together we see each other several times, spend a lot of time together, and then fall apart for more months at a time.

The ADD brain thrives on stimulation, unfortunately arguments are often more stimulating than when everyone gets along.  I look back and see friendships that I have lost simply because I couldn't stop myself from arguing with my friends.  It's never something I recognized at the time, but in retrospect I can see how I've acted like a real know-it-all, and sometimes I've down-right attacked my friends on what really should have been small differing opinions.  Heck, I think I've actually built some friendships on a basis of argumentativeness, a shaky foundation for a friendship if I ever saw one.

I fall in and out of friendships very easily.  I'll meet someone for two days on vacation, and know more about them than someone I've known for years, but I'll just as easily never see them again after we go our separate ways.  Oh, we'll trade addresses, and I'll have every intention of keeping in touch, but somehow it never happens.  It's not that I don't want to, or even that I don't think of them, I do, and often, but to actually reach out and correspond never seems to happen.

It's something I feel bad about as I look back over the years.  All these wonderful people that I have met and formed what could have been wonderful friendships with, all the lost opportunities.  As I read about ADD, what makes us tick and what we should do to make the best of our crazy brains, I read over and over that maintaining close personal relationships are so important.  I try to maintain healthy relationships, but the ones that receive the most attention are the needy codependent ones.  The very thing that I'm supposed to be doing, is so hard to do.

It leaves me very lonely sometimes, but I'm so thankful for the friends that have stuck with me through the years, through the "debates" and the long silences.  So to all my friends out there, thanks for sticking with me.  I'm sorry I don't keep in touch.  I'll try to do better.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Give me something to believe in!

I've written on this blog before about how ADD can actually make me BETTER at my job, but I've been thinking a lot lately on what makes a job better for me.  I've realized that whatever the task, if I don't see it's intrinsic worth or really believe in the people I'm working for then it won't be able to hold my attention.  At all.  This doesn't just apply to work, but to all aspects of my life.

I first noticed this when I was a music major at Shorter, though I'm sure that's not the first time it actually applied.  At the time I was trying to learn to sing various Italian arias selected by my voice teacher, and I just couldn't do it.  I didn't see the point in singing about some sun god.  The song had no meaning for me, it didn't apply to my life, and the idea of singing about a sun god went against everything I believed in.  I didn't understand it.  I love music, I thought in all forms.  I'd worked hard on music in various forms from piano to church choir from the time I was very little, so to be assigned a piece of such drivel seemed completely foreign to me.  It wasn't the language that troubled me, after all I'd sung in Italian, Latin, German, even Swahili.  And even though I've never been good at spoken languages, singing in them has never been a problem.  But the content, I was used to church music, music I could believe in.  This content didn't resonate with me, at all, it was against everything I believed in, and I was awful at it.

I've found this applies to other areas of my life as well.  My first job out of college was working for a software company co-founded by my best friend.  I didn't understand the software we were working on, or really even understand the need for it, at all.  But I believed in him, and so I learned to believe in the product.  I was able to QA and later support that product because I saw it's applications.  Oh, I knew it wasn't going to solve world hunger or anything, but I also saw that for what it did, it was a very good solution.  It didn't matter that I didn't know the product, I believed in the people behind it and so was able to learn to believe in the product.

Fast forward a few years and I worked on a product that was really quite simple and easy to use.  It did what it was supposed to, and with a little guidance most customers just got it, which was a good thing, because I had to force myself to support it.  You see, I've found that when I don't believe in the people behind a product then it's really hard for me to trust the product as well.  I trusted the people behind that first product.  I knew that when I found a bug, it would be fixed.  I knew that when a customer had a need, it would be met if at all possible.  But when I didn't trust my backup, every little hiccup became an insurmountable obstacle.

That's how it is with ADD.  It's not a lack of attention, it's a lack of regulation of attention.  If you feel something is unworthy of your time (and time is a big deal in ADD, more on that later) then it's incredibly difficult to get it to hold your attention, and if you can force yourself to do it, then it's even harder to do it well.  On the other hand, if you have a personal interest in it, then it's much easier to believe in what you're doing.

That personal interest is key for folks with ADD.  For years I kept hearing folks tell me how to go about weight loss.  They'd repeatedly tell me, "You have to do this for yourself, you can't let anyone else be your motivation."  That's exactly the WRONG way for the person with ADD to go about things.

You see, after years of difficulties and failures, almost all ADD adults have trouble with self worth.  We don't think we're worthy of being taken care of.  So to tell us to do something for our selves is pointless.  Instead you have to point out how taking care of ourselves benefits those we love.  I spent years struggling with my weight, and it wasn't until I realized the impact my being overweight would have on my daughter that I was able to lose 50 lbs in a year (now if I can just do that next year).  I can try all I want on my own, but it really doesn't do me any good.  I have to do things to help the ones I love, and only then am I motivated to help myself.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I'd love to have a career, now if only I could pick one

When you talk about ADD, the first thing I ever hear about is how it affects school, and I know it affected my school career, probably from day one.  Prior to school I didn't know I had a problem.  I wasn't hyper, and I didn't have discipline issues at home or in church, and there wasn't really that much expected of me.  So I think it caught my parents by surprise when I had trouble in school right off the bat.  And since I'd had no trouble prior to school, when I found out that I had ADD almost at the end of my scholastic career, I mistakenly thought, "Well, if I can just make it through this last semester or two it won't really matter anymore, and I've coped this far so I'm sure I can cope a bit longer."

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  My post-school career was affected by my ADD LONG before I was out of school.  You see, for some reason there's this silly practice of picking a major in college, and by picking a major you set your post-school career in motion.  It took me eight years from start to finish to make it through college, not because I couldn't do the work (though I'm sure ADD slowed me some) but because I kept switching majors.  I couldn't decide what I wanted to do with my life.  Did I want to teach biology or music?  Or would music performance be a better option, and if so voice or piano or some combination of the two?  Opera? Pop? Christain? Popera?  Or maybe I'd be a better painter?  Would I work better with oils or watercolors?  These are the questions I asked myself over and over.  I couldn't maintain an interest in one thing for a full week, much less long enough to achieve a degree.

So finally I dropped out of school.  Over the course of one year I worked 4 jobs, and then the next year I combined a fifth job with music performance on the side.  Even once I went back to school my goal was less about finding a major that suited me, than finding one that I could just get THROUGH!  It was during this time that my brothers testing for ADD led my mother to recognize that I had it, and while I didn't disagree with her assessment, I also figured I was so close to being DONE that didn't really bother to learn more or do anything about it.  After all, I figured once I was done with school it couldn't cause me any more problems.

I couldn't have been more wrong.  The longer I observe myself in daily life, and the more I learn about ADD, the more I am recognizing how it affects every aspect of my life.  Even now, almost exactly eight years after I left school, I wonder almost every day what I should REALLY be doing with my life.  What do I want to be when I grow up?  Oh, I have a job, one I've written about on this blog before, that is pretty well suited to my ADD.  I do it pretty well, or at least people keep paying me to do it, but none of my diverse interests have died down.  I still have bursts of interest in fashion design, music, various branches of science, oh, or maybe I should be a writer, but what genre to write?  SciFi?  Fantasy?  Romance?  or maybe not even fiction at all?

The longer I'm in the workplace the more I know that no matter what I do, I need diversity.  I can't do the same thing day in and day out.  I've found that I don't get that at larger companies.  The larger the company, the more specialized the position, and as a company grows and my niche becomes more well defined the more it chafes.  That happened at my last job.  I started out trying to write doc, help with QA, and support customers, but as the customer base grew so did the support related tasks, and eventually all other work was squeezed out.  So I'm switching to a smaller company again, one where I get to have a finger in every pie.

With fewer people comes more responsibility as well, and there's a part of me that wonders whether this is the real reason I'm changing.  You see, it's very stimulating to know that the buck stops with me.  And with ADD it's the stimulation that counts.  I know that in a small company I can't just pass all my problems up the chain of command.  If it's going to be done, I'm the one who will have to do it.  It's a frightening prospect to know that I can truly make a difference in the direction the company will take, but it's also empowering, and in a way that risk is also thrilling.

Another great thing about working for a small company is that we can be responsive to changes in the marketplace.  A behemoth can't be turned on a dime, which can be terribly frustrating for someone who recognizes the synergy that goes into making a successful product.  But when you can anticipate the direction a product needs to go and make those changes quickly, well, every little success can have huge effects.  I think that's part of what makes people with ADD such great inventors and entrepreneurs.  We can switch modes easily, or in computer speak (after all that's my industry) we have very low cost context switches.  

... This post hasn't really gone the direction I intended when I started, but the more I read and learn about ADD the more I see that it does come with some strengths.  After years of failures in school, to finally find that there is a place where I can use this to my advantage is a great lightening.  I've recently been reading Delivered From Distraction by Dr. Edward M. Hallowell.  He makes the point over and over that the most important part of treatment is not in minimizing the negatives, but in finding the positives.  He maintains that every person has strengths, and as I think this through I'm starting to find mine.  I haven't ARRIVED yet, but maybe I'm finally STARTING to treat my ADD.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

How can you sleep when you can never be still?

Ok, so I never had the hyperactivity that's so common with ADD, hence my continued use of the term "ADD" instead of the newer, technically correct, "ADHD."  But think about the most active, hyperactive, bouncing off the wall child you can think of, and that's what the inside of my head is like.

A couple years ago I saw a video where Mark Gungor is explaining the differences between the male and female brain.  To me that could be the same thing as the difference between the ADD and the "normal" brain.  My first thought was "that's totally true!" but as I watched my husbands calm thinking, and saw him go into his "nothing box" each night before sleep I found myself wondering "what would it be like to have a nothing box."  I'm jealous of his ability to think about... nothing!

Mental calm comes so rarely to me.  It's rare for me to have less than 2-3 things swimming around in my head.  Right now, I'm writing, watching Chopped, and there's ALWAYS a song running around the back of my head (right now the theme from the original Nintendo's Super Mario Brothers).  When I was a child I was the outwardly calm one.  My sister was athletic and always on the go, while my dad was totally surprised to find that I could sit still and play on my own for 10 minutes at a time.

I was outwardly calm.  I remember laying on the couch with my head hanging off the edge for ages, lost in my imagination of what it would be like to walk on the ceiling, a world where everything was upside down.  In school I rarely had trouble sitting still, but in my mind I was likely to be zooming from planet to planet.  Thinking back, I think at least one teacher actually sat me with other kids who had hyperactivity, possibly hoping I would be a calming influence.  Looking back I think their energy actually fed my imagination, all the undiagnosed ADHD kids in one corner.

But at night I had a horrible time falling asleep.  I was tired and I WANTED to sleep, but to get my brain to stop was nearly impossible.  I remember spending hours laying awake in the dark, trying to imagine myself to a place of calm so that I would fall asleep.

With my mind always on the go like that, it's even more important that I get plenty of sleep.  After all, it's the only time my brain gets to rest!  I would say it's the only time my brain is still, but not even then.  I have extremely vivid and detailed dreams.  If I ever got them written down I swear I'd have plots for hundreds of books or movies.  Sometimes I dream something wonderful only to wake up and promptly forget it, but often I remember my dreams for years.  Where most folks can get by with 7 hours or so of sleep a night, I'm really better when I have something like nine.

Of course now as an adult and mother, I rarely get that.  I'm also generally tired enough so these days I don't have trouble falling asleep, but it's not uncommon for me to wake up around 3:30 in the morning (or whenever the baby wakes me up in the middle of the night) with to much going on in my head to get BACK to sleep.  Often I can't get back to sleep until I work through those thoughts, get them processed and out somewhere.  A good half of my blog postings have been written during these bouts of insomnia, so thanks for giving me a forum for working through my thoughts.

Oh, and just because it's SO true...

Monday, July 22, 2013

I would argue with a sign post

I love a good argument, er, discussion.  There's a thrill to picking a viewpoint and defending it with every fact, every feeling, every bit of logic in your arsenal.  I remember growing up I would have regular discussions, usually with folks much older than me, and usually about fine points in Christianity.  Oh occasionally politics were brought into it, or what toothpaste was the best.  But I was raised in the church, went to Sunday school every Sunday, listened to Moody radio and Focus on the Family, so church was really what I knew enough about to have an opinion.  I would debate the merits of baptizing adults rather than infants, and immersion over sprinkling; a woman's place in the church; and I remember one mission trip in high school where I took on two pastors and the majority of the youth group over the topic of predestination.

It wasn't even really about being right.  Oh there have been some folks who took a hard line attitude and tried to back me into a corner, you just can't back down from something like that.  Mostly it's about the stimulation that allows me to focus all of my mental power around a point of view.  That kind of focus doesn't come easily for the person who has ADD, so these arguments gave me the opportunity to construct my own belief system and to really understand why I believe what I believe.  I get a thrill from listening to someone build a case point by point for an opposing view, and then taking each point and either knocking it down, or twisting it to show why it really fits my point of view better.

That kind of structure for organizing your thoughts doesn't come around every day.  When I was in high school I joined the debate team thinking I would really enjoy it.  I dropped out after one meeting.  I couldn't wrap my mind about researching one topic to death, and then being arbitrarily assigned which side of the topic I could take.  Oh, in most arguments I can see and understand both sides of the topic, but I can't really argue for something I don't believe.  That need to believe in the thing I'm doing has caused me trouble throughout my career, from needing to believe in the music I was singing, to needing to believe in the people I'm working for and the product I'm supporting.  Sometimes we end up having to do something we don't believe in, and I find I just never can do that as well.

The more I learn about ADD the more I realize that this desire to discuss... everything, isn't normal.  It's part of the un-regulation of focus.  I also need that thrill of proving my intellectual prowess.  Not that I have to beat you down, but after years of feeling slow and stupid I need that acknowledgement that I am your intellectual equal, that I am worthy of the debate.  One of the hardest things for me is to back down from a discussion, or to have someone unwilling to talk or listen to me.  It's akin to yet another person saying, "you're not worthy of my attention."

Keep that in mind when you deal with the ADD people in your life.