We just heard from the Independent Publisher organization, and… –
“A Chicken in the Wind and How He Grew: Stories from an ADHD Dad” won GOLD in the LIVING NOW BOOK AWARDS for Inspirational Memoir – Male.
Awards Press release from Independent Publisher and further information will be available later this week. But hey, our Chicken is out there kicking up some dust and we’re dang proud of that bird. Thanks to everyone who has read and championed the book, and also to those who haven’t yet as well, because we hope you will and that you enjoy it and that it enriches your life in some small way.
Also, if you haven’t read it you best grab a copy soon before the Chicken gets all puffed up and proud and I have to put out a fancy hard-bound Awards Edition with celebrity endorsements, an attached red ribbon bookmark and Forwards and Appendices.
A few years ago I wrote a letter to a friend concerning my feelings about handling his drinking after his ADHD diagnoses. A month or so later, with his permission, I posted the letter on my blog at ADDitudemag.com. Recently due to a link in a post of mine “Dr. Lost and Mr. Hide” a month ago, I discovered that there had been a flurry of recent comments on the letter that I found moving. It’s a subject that I take for granted in my life now, but now I think the emotional toll brought on by the difficulties of wrestling with both of these conditions simultaneously deserves another look.
I’ll be jumping into the tangle of Alcohol and ADHD again and in more depth here at read, write, rattle, but first, above is the original post with all the back and forth comments that sort of re-inspired me as well.
A Chicken in The Wind is doing very well this summer in the book awards, winning five times, and with great reviews from the judges.
We sure could use more reader reviews at our primary retailer, amazon, though. If you’ve read “A Chicken in the Wind and How He Grew,” thank you. We hope you enjoyed it, and that maybe after you finished you found it maybe made a small difference in how you look at ADHD, parenting, or being a member of a funny, emotional, unruly family. So if any of that holds for you, we’d sincerely appreciate it if you would rate the book at Amazon or Goodreads and write just a few words about what you thought of it.
If you haven’t read it, go check it out on our Rattlesnake Books page, where you can read a bunch of pages and browse the other two books we’ve published and if you like it, hit the link and you can buy it.
Thanks from Rattlesnake Publishing, and rattle on,
This is a chapter from my book, “A Chicken in the Wind and How He Grew – Stories from an ADHD Dad” about fireworks, which are going off all over the place here in our neighborhood in Georgia tonight, 4th of July Eve. Though this was 15 years ago in Hawaii, nothing’s changed as far as I’m concerned.
It’s New Year’s Eve, 2003 and I’m curled up in our bed in a fetal position, eyes closed, hands over my ears. I’m working on calm, deep breathing – trying hard to not hyperventilate. I’ve been in this position before when I had some panic attacks, and completely cracked up and had to put in some serious time with the doctors.
Cracking up feels exactly like this – the world around me is pounding and exploding, getting louder and more insistent, like a rising climax of insane fireworks. Our dog, zonked out on veterinary Valium, has joined me on the bed, both of us trembling.
In Hawaii, especially in the local kind of neighborhood we lived in at the time, New Year’s Eve is all about fireworks. Big fireworks at home, in the driveway, lanai, backyard, front yard, and roof – all going off at once and building to a smoke-clogged midnight crescendo. The explosions shake the walls of our little house. It’s LOUD – howitzer, carpet-bombing, end of civilization as we know it LOUD.
Then again, maybe I’m a little over-sensitive to the gunpowder blasting away all around us. I’ve never liked fireworks. It’s not lost on me that cowering in the bedroom spooned with my petrified dog, while the rest of my family oohs and aahs at star bursts and pinwheels on the lanai isn’t a very manly way to act.
Pa doesn’t hide from danger in “The Little House on the Prairie.” He protected his family. But, how do you protect your family from something that only freaks you out? How to you convince them that the prudent move during any noisy community celebration is to huddle under the covers with your drugged-up dog, who now has begun a panting, drooling action that’s making things messy? Not a good example to set when you go around preaching to your kids to face their fears.
I stand up on wobbly knees, and step out to the lanai. I casually lean against the porch rail, a picture of easy confident calm. “So, howzit goin’ guys?” All that manly effort and nobody even notices me. They’re all watching the neighbors’ rocket-spouting Freedom Fountain explode terrifying burning embers all over dry leaves and roofs, while it lets out an ear-piercing whistle that sounds like a screaming Kamikaze plummeting out of the sky to kill us all.
Smoke from all the exploding gunpowder hangs thick in the air as our other neighbor sets off the longest string of firecrackers in all of Polynesia. In the beach picnic grounds across the way, cheers fill the air as dozens of M-80s boom, blowing apart Parks and Recreation trash cans. People call this fun? This is horrible. The family notices me now. I must have said that last bit out loud.
“What are you doing out here? You hate this stuff.” “Whoa Dad, really, you should go back inside. You don’t look so good.”
I guess my macho act needs a little work. I stumble back to join the dog in the bedroom. Later, as the noise finally begins to die down, Margaret curls up next to me and the dog. “I never knew that junk got to you so much.”
I shrug. “I never let on I guess. Maybe I didn’t know.” And that’s the truth of it, in a way. I’d been working with a new therapist and new meds. I was in my second year of sobriety and feeling out who the hell I was. I was discovering that the more I stopped covering up who I really was to myself, the more that real-self was exposed to others. Apparently my real-self doesn’t like things exploding around him. Sounds reasonable to me.
Besides, if I remember correctly, Pa in “Little House on the Prairie” didn’t protect his family by shooting and blowing up the prairie. He just worked hard for them, stayed honest and picked up and moved the whole family whenever he thought he should. So, call me Pa.
The whole day, I’ve been working on getting a few posts up with attached link to thank Gena Pera for including my book, “A Chicken in The Wind and How He Grew” in her post on Hyperfocus and ADHD. Took me three tries with Twitter, which is nuts I do it all the time but today I’m copying the wrong thing or pasting something I thought I’d deleted. Confusion escalating, on my WordPress blog, every thing I clicked either posted it with a dead link or the link worked, but sent it out with my big fat face all over it instead of her article illustration. Kept at it cursing my ineptness and general all around lack of comprehension that sometimes glues to my head like a dunce cap – then finally after deletions everywhere I think the wrong thing went, I finally figured it out. Okay, next to Linked In where I’d done two deletions. but it wouldn’t let me embed her link unless I wrote something in another box that kept disappearing until I figured out that I was in Article instead of Post. So I did it in Post, but then couldn’t delete the article, and I swear to god I knew completely how to do this last week – but not now, not today. So instead of leaving a blank article page with a link that doesn’t work, I’m writing this.
And really I should instead be putting the last night’s soup on, freshened up with some chopped celery, garlic and extra chicken broth, feed the dog (Casey in the above pic – who knows how to relax but can’t teach me, because I won’t listen) and take him out, and do my nightly call with my mother in Delaware before Margaret, my wife, gets home from visiting her mother at the assisted living facility here in Georgia, but I’m so on edge over the lack of control in my brain pan, I’m petrified of leaving my office chair to go into the kitchen. And I’m more comfortable in the kitchen than anywhere else in the house except in our bedroom with my head in a book or on Margaret’s shoulder.
But Casey naps, now in my office, waiting for dinner. Relaxed – trusting that I’ll get to his dinner and the rest of it in time. I hope he’s right. I guess we’ll see.
I wrote this for Memorial Day last year. I don’t think I can do any better, so here it is again. We miss you, Dad.
It’s last summer and I’m at the bottom of our back yard forested hill in Georgia raking up piles of dead leaves, pulled weeds, tree-killer vines, and trimmed branches and piling them into the wheel barrow. Full load, so now back up the hill to add to the mountain of dead vegetation at the front curb. Hope to god I pulled the gate closed after the last load or Danny Boy, our standard poodle will have escaped and the rest of the day will be spent running him down through our neighbors’ yards. According to Danny boy, obedience training doesn’t apply if you break out into the front yard – it’s all Easy Rider and wind flying through your floppy ears.
Halfway up the hill, I pause beside the only large tree that I have to cut down this week. It lost a major branch in a storm a couple of years ago and is down doing the slow old tree lean – looking for support from its younger brothers, who want nothing to do with him and his old greedy sun-grabbing leaves. I’ll grab the chain saw on the way back down and get it over with. When I grab the handles of the wheel barrow and start back up the hill, my heart starts racing and I’m short of breath. I set the wheelbarrow down again. There’s no cardiac issue here – it’s just another panic attack. This isn’t scary – it’s just damn irritating.
And I had these handled. Hardly had any during the terrifying months leading up to and after my sister-in law’s death last fall. Maybe it was because people needed me and I was distracted from my favorite subject – me. But now this spring, they come in unpredictable flurries. There’s no rhyme or reason to the onset; you could be peacefully reading a fulfilling book, or watching a classic movie on TV with growing irritation as it’s chopped into non-sensical scenes by erectile dysfunction and reverse-mortgage commercials. The solution is the same – deep breathing, conscious calm. Or last resort – Xanax; not a good choice if you’ve got pressing lumberjacking plans. Which are plans I know I could just not do. I could reschedule, take a break – but I really can’t – I have to accomplish this today. I have to push through my own bullshit and accomplish something worthwhile and visible. And Danny Boy might be out the front gate I left open, he could be hit by a car all because I’m wasting time with my self-obsession.
So I dash up the hill pushing the wheelbarrow, ready to face whatever disaster I’ve caused. But the gate is safely closed and latched. Danny Boy raises his head from the warm sunlit bricks on the other side of the patio – checking if it’s anything important. It’s just crazy Frank panting and wild-eyed, so he sighs and lays his head back down. I unlatch, go out with the wheelbarrow, push the gate closed with my foot, and roll toward the curb with the branches, leaves, and weeds.
My wife, Margaret and my therapist, Dr. Ellis say the panic attack flurry is part of the grief I’m feeling since the death of my father a couple of months ago. I guess that makes sense, but though I love him still and spent my life with his overpowering intellect, courage, and strength as a frame to model and build what I could out of my life, I’d recently seen a whole other side of him. And I felt myself pulling away even as I helped care for him. His constant drinking clashed with my sobriety. His increasing dementia scared me witless. My ADHD leaves me scattered and memory-challenged continually and trying to help my mother and my dad navigate his own mental and emotional wilderness made me feel like I was stumbling into a dark passage of confusion, blame, and regret that was destined be mine as well, dragging my own wife and children down with me.
Doesn’t sound like grief to me. At both of his funerals – the one at the local church and the military service at Arlington National Cemetery, I felt my grief was for my mother and brother’s loss, not mine.
I realize I’m standing, staring vacantly at the street, like Boo Radley. I shake my head clear. All this obsessing about my dad isn’t helping me get the wheel barrow unloaded. Focus on getting the load on top of the pile, so you have room for the next. Pull up, and good. “Nice job son,” my dad says. I can feel that big hand pat my shoulder when I was twelve after stacking two cords of firewood behind the garage.
As I roll the empty wheelbarrow back toward the gate I think that ADHD isn’t like dementia. It’s not like my dad where your focus arbitrarily shifts and you completely lose track of time and place. He’d have to constantly regroup popping from the present to an ocean liner docked in France after World War II to a train taking an eight-year-old him home to Nebraska to see his grandmother.
Pushing the wheelbarrow onto the driveway I stop to look back across the front lawn at the mountain of yard debris at the curb to check it hasn’t fallen over into the street, and I think that the problem with ADHD isn’t necessarily being distracted away from your focus.
The ADHD problem is keeping everything that’s happening with whatever your focused on, in the moment in front of you – while all the insights sparked by this whatever about what has happened before, and then might happen in the future and what all that might mean to others or you (usually my primary concern.) Keeping that focus while all of these possibilities and emotional traps are going on in multiple intersecting layers – focus on top of focus concentrating on connecting threads so intently that you forget everything that in this process became trivial like rent or flight times or that last year, Memorial Day, I was with my Dad in Delaware, and we took a picture for his few surviving WWII Ranger war buddies.
Oh, great. Now I’m Boo Radley in the front yard staring at the street crying.
Wait, what’s that five-foot long thick branch doing in the middle of the lawn? I didn’t drop anything. I’m crazy as a bed bug but I keep my landscaping neat, damn it. Besides, well, branches don’t move. That’s when I notice the birds screeching and swooping down, and the black head of the big snake rears up, flicking its tongue in my direction.
I stand still, not sure what to do. My first thought is to ask Dad.