The Ripples We Create

51fkdydenbl-_sx331_bo1204203200_June 27, 2016–The Ripples We Create
by Marcia J. McKinley, JD, PhD, LCPC

My bookshelves and nightstand are stacked with books, mostly non-fiction. With each move I make, I try to purge at least a few books from my library; invariably the ones that go are fiction. But there are some works of fiction that I just can’t bring myself to part with. I return to them over and over, hoping that someday the lessons become internalized. Often these books are not cheerful, happy books, but they are meaningful and fulfilling.  These are the books that sustain me.

Earlier, I wrote about how a passage of Little Bee, by Chris Cleave, embodied hope for me. Recently, I find myself returning to Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent.  Often, I re-read the entire book as the characters and plot so engage me.  At other times, I flip to the last two pages to read Diamant’s explanation of immortality.  Through the narrative voice of the main character, Dinah, the author writes:

“I died but I did not leave them.  Benia sat beside me, and I stayed in his eye and in his heart.  For weeks and months and years, my face lived in the garden, my scent clung to the sheets.  For as long as he lived, I walked with him by day and lay down with him at night.

 When his eyes closed for the last time, I thought perhaps I would finally leave the world.  But even then, I lingered.  Shif-re sang the song I taught her and Kiya moved with my motions.  Joseph thought of me when his daughter was born.  Gera named her baby Dinah.  Re-mose married and told his wife about the mother who had sent him away so that he would not die but live.  Re-mose’s children bore children unto the hundredth generation.  Some of them live in the land of my birth and some in the cold and windy places that Werenro described by the light of my mothers’ fire.

 There is no magic to immortality.

 In Egypt, I loved the perfume of the lotus.  A flower would bloom in the pool at dawn, filling the entire garden with a blue must so powerful it seemed that even the fish and the ducks would swoon.  By night, the flower might wither but the perfume lasted.  Fainter and fainter but never quite gone.  Even many days later, the lotus remained in the garden.  Months would pass and a bee would alight near the spot where the lotus had blossomed, and its essence was released again, momentary but undeniable.

 Egypt loved the lotus because it never dies.  It is the same for people who are loved.  Thus can something as insignificant as a name—two syllables, one high, one sweet—summon up the innumerable smiles and tears, sights and dreams of a human life.

 If you sit on the bank of a river, you see only a small part of its surface.  And yet, the water before your eyes is proof of unknowable depths.  My heart brims with thanks for the kindness you have shown me by sitting on the bank of this river, by visiting the echoes of my name.”

This passage brings me peace, about those who I have lost, to death or breakups or life circumstances.  I think of them with love and know that they have not died; they are still with me.  And, it reminds me that we never know the ripples we create in the universe.

The Lure of Work-And the Guilt of Leisure

Jan. 24, 2015–The Lure of Work-And the Guilt of Leisure
by Marcia J. McKinley, JD, PhD, LCPC

A recent Gallup poll reports that American full-time, salaried workers report working 49 hours per week while full-time, hourly workers report working 44 hours per week. Furthermore, our work weeks typically take over our lives. We work well into the night and on the weekends.

Other wealthy countries don’t have this same mindset.  They limit, often by law, work hours to 35 hours per week and mandating 4 weeks of vacations per year; some of them are even considering a ban on e-mails after 6:00 pm or on weekends, in order to allow employees better work-life balance.

Legal or regulatory solutions to the work-life balance are almost out-of-the-question in the United States given our political climate and history. However, I doubt that even less formal attention to these matters is likely to see widespread growth.

Sure, part of our work is out of necessity, to pay our bills. More importantly, however, here in the States, work provides social opportunities and structure and gives our lives meaning.  “What do you do?” is often the first question we ask others upon meeting them, as if their job is the most important part of who they are.

So, what would we do without work?

For those of us on the East Coast at the moment, the Blizzard of 2016, has given us a chance to figure that out.  Assuming we don’t have work positions that are emergency-related and that we are safely hunkered down, well-stocked with bread, milk, and TP, this Blizzard represents a time off from our regular responsibilities.  For these 2 (or 4) days that we are stuck inside, we could be doing many things:

  • Playing games, assuming we have them
  • Spending time with our significant others
  • Reading
  • Listening to music
  • Catching up on sleep, which most Americans are short on
  • Talking to loved ones, either by phone or in person
  • Exercising (although I am wishing that my upstairs neighbor would switch from training for Olympic weight-lifting championships to yoga)
  • Planning our next trip to our favorite destination—or a new one
  • Taking a bubble bath
  • Engaging in nearly any hobby.

But my guess is that most of us will look at the time “off” afforded by the Blizzard of 2016 not as a chance to relax or engage in self-care or re-balance our lives, but instead as a chance to work more (and without those distracting co-workers).

This may be especially true amongst gifted individuals, who often feel like they haven’t done “enough.”  I think, sadly, of the 18-year-old profoundly gifted (PG) client who sat before me recently, telling me that his life was useless because he hadn’t “made anything of it” as if, by his age, he should have solved all the world’s problems.  I think, too, of my adolescent clients who are either anxious or resistant to the idea of “growing up”; only with the right questions will they admit that us adults haven’t exactly made adulthood look fun.

So what do we do about this?

First, we consider whether productivity is our highest value.  There may be many other values (such as having strong relationship, taking the time to be there for others, staying ever-keeled) that may not be in keeping with being the Busy Beaver.

If we decide that being the Busy Beaver lifestyle is not what we want for ourselves nor the value that we most want our children to learn, we consider two things.

  • First, what is it about productivity that we think is so virtuous? Is it the perseverance?  The creativity?  The ability to work as a team?  Perhaps there are ways to hold these virtues without being stuck on mere productivity.  The VIA Institute on Character offers a test to help you determine the virtues that you hold most closely.
  • What do we want our lives, and the lives of our kids, to look like? Former Australian corporate warrior, and the author of Fat, Forty, and Fired, Nigel Marsh presents his version in this TED talk.

And now, with the Blizzard still whirling around me, I’m off…Not to work more but to pick a totally fun book to read, perhaps something like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I’ve never read of a Narnian overworking.

Copyright©2016.  Marcia J. McKinley.

New Year; Newer, SMARTer Goals

02/22/15 New Year; Newer, SMARTer Goals
by Marcia J. McKinley, JD, PhD, LCPC

On New Year’s Eve, the next year looms before us, looking like a blank slate full of promise. Anything is possible in that new year. The new year is when we can lose weight that we have been hanging onto, run the 5k we have always wanted to, get the grades we always wanted, declutter our houses…or, in my case, begin to blog.

Then, the end of February rolls around and I find myself finally sitting down to write my first blog entry. To be honest, I wouldn’t be doing this if I were not stuck inside the house due to Winter Storm Octavia.

So, what happened to all those good intentions?

Was the problem that I didn’t really want to blog? No, I don’t think so. I love to write and have been known to overwhelm friends (and sometimes mere acquaintances) with voluminous correspondence. Blogging seems a much better outlet for my writing energy than burying friends in emails and letters that they then feel bound to keep up with.

Was the problem that I didn’t know what to write about? No, I have a list of blog ideas three pages long. Generating ideas is rarely an issue for me.

Was the problem that I don’t believe my blogging doesn’t have value? No, I trust the reader to move onto other pages if nothing on this screen interests or inspires them.

Was the problem that I didn’t have time to blog? Well, possibly. After all, I do have a fairly busy life. Still, how long does writing one blog entry really take for someone who already has the ideas and types 100 words per minute? Surely, I could find one to two hours per week to put fingers to keyboard.

No, I think the issue started with this: While I had a goal to blog, my goal was not a “good” goal. That is to say, it wasn’t a SMART-P goal. It wasn’t a goal that’s Specific, Measureable, Actionable, Realistic, Time-Sensitive, or Process-Oriented. (Well, maybe it was actionable and process-oriented, but it certainly didn’t meet the other criteria.)

As an ADHD coach, I teach people all the time how to develop SMART-P goals, but I failed to do that for myself, at least about blogging. Moreover, I didn’t identify a reward for myself for meeting my goal.

What New Year’s resolution did you make on December 31, 2014, that you have not yet started? Join with me over the next few weeks to explore how we can make — and achieve — SMARTer goals. After all, we needn’t wait until next December to work on our goals. Although it might not be New Year’s Day on any official calendar, February 22nd is the start of a new year. In fact, every moment of our lives is the start of a new year that is full of promise.

Copyright©2015.  Marcia J. McKinley.

Having Hope

02/23/15 Having Hope
by Marcia J. McKinley, JD, PhD, LCPC

I left yesterday’s post on the note that each moment is the beginning of a new year filled with promise. I believe that. Yet I also know that for many people who struggle with adult ADHD, anxiety issues, or the effects of trauma, it is difficult, if not impossible, to see the future at all, let alone a future that holds promises of safety, contentment, or joy. Setting any goals, SMART or otherwise, may seem pointless in those circumstances.

Whenever I think of how people cope with these dark nights of the soul, I am reminded of a passage from Chris Cleeve’s novel, Little Bee. In it, the narrator and title character, who is a young, traumatized Nigerian woman, addresses the reader:

“On the girl’s brown legs there were many small white scars. I was thinking, Do those scars cover the whole of you, like the stars and the moons on your dress? I thought that would be pretty too, and I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived.

In a few breaths’ time I will speak some sad words to you. But you must hear them the same way we have agreed to see scars now. Sad words are just another beauty. A sad story means, this storyteller is alive. The next thing you know, something fine will happen to her, something marvelous, and then she will turn around and smile.”

Too many of us have scars on our hearts, minds, bodies; but, we are alive and so, there is hope.  Not only is there hope that something marvelous will happen, but there is also the hope that we can make something marvelous happen. So, while we wait and pray for the Universe to deliver something marvelous, we can also work toward that end.  In my case, I will set a SMART goal, in this case working toward a blog that touches at least a few people.  That will be marvelous and will make me smile.

Copyright©2015.  Marcia J. McKinley.

Are We Ignoring Gifted Children and Teens?

by Marcia J. McKinley, JD, PhD, MS, NCC, LCPC

In The Boy Who Played with Fusion: Extreme Science, Extreme Parenting, and How to Make a Star, author Tom Clynes describes how meeting Taylor (the 14-year old title kid) made him rethink his relationship with his children; why we are ignoring gifted children in favor of under-achievers; and why it is crucial to give our brightest and best the support they need.  This National Geographic article about Clynes and Taylor is a must-read for those who support gifted individuals. I’ll post a book review soon!Why This 14-Year-Old Kid Built a Nuclear Reactor

“Undefinable Me”

8/2/15: “Undefinable Me”
by Marcia J. McKinley, JD, PhD, MS, NCC, LCPC

"Intrinsic Motivation"

During her keynote speech, “Undefinable Me,” at the recent OSCAN developer’s conference, Keila Banks said that she refused to be defined by any of the labels that some might attach to a 13-year-old black girl from inner city Los Angeles.  She said that the fact that she is a coder, hacker/modder, blogger, video editor, former cheerleader, athlete and international speaker combine to make her “undefinable.”  Banks’ story exemplifies the power of intrinsic motivation, the value of supporting others (no matter their age) in their quests to learn and grow, and the importance of shedding the labels that limit us.  Read more (and hear Banks’ speech) here.

Copyright©2015.  Marcia J. McKinley.

Holiday Gifts for Children–and Adults–with ADHD

by Marcia J. McKinley

#1:  Time-Timers to Help with Time Management
Many kids–and adults!–with ADHD don’t have a good sense of how long any given amount of time is. They plan to take a 10-minute shower but end up daydreaming about their trip to the moon for an hour.

Timers in general, and time-timers in particular, can help kids learn a better sense of time. They won’t be able to miss the bright red dial counting time down, and they can choose to have an alarm go off after the time you have selected. Time-timers are available in wristwatch sizes up to a 12” square size, which is big enough to see even from inside a shower!

time timerAfter getting her first time-timer, one of my adult clients said, “I was leaving myself 10 minutes to get out the door; I didn’t realize it was taking 20!”All of the different sizes and versions of time-timers can be found on the official Time-Timer website.  One of the advantages of buying the Time-Timer as a gift?  The person with ADHD won’t get overwhelmed by all their choices.

#2  Sticky notes help with organization, time-management, and fleeting thoughts!
Sticky notes in various colors and shapes (with nearby pens/pencils) have all kinds of purposes. They can remind your children–and you!–to do something, to take something somewhere, of the thoughts that they are taking care not to blurt out, of some other topic that comes to mind at an inopportune time, and much more. Try keeping a set of sticky notes and pens in every room in the house.

One client keeps a set of sticky notes in her kitchen and has labelled each cabinet with a day of the week. When she is assigned a task, she writes it on a sticky and puts it on the appropriate cabinet. If she doesn’t finish the task on the day she has set it on, she can move it to the next one.  When she is done with that sticky, she simply crumples up the note.

#3  Alarm Clocks Help Reduce Morning Frustrations
As an ADHD coach, the majority of child-parent conflicts that I hear about happen in the morning, when parents can’t proceed with their morning routines because they are constantly stopping to wake up the children (over and over).

An alarm clock that can waken anyone, hopefully on its first beep, can take the stress off the parents to be the alarm clocks. There are all kinds of interesting alarm clocks now on the market, from the Sonic Boom with Super Shaker, which will emit a LOUD alarm and shake the bed (and walls!) at the same time, to Clocky: The Runaway Alarm Clock, the alarm clock that jumps off the night stand and runs all over until caught. If noisy alarm clocks will threaten your sanity, you may want to consider the Silent Alarm Clock, which causes a vibration in a bracelet that your child can wear about his wrist, or an online alarm clock such as Maths Alarm Clock, which requires him to solve a simple math equation before it stops. Lists of unusual alarm clocks can be found here .

#4  Fidgeting Toys to Improve Focus

Research has shown that fidget toys can actually boost concentration and focus. If your kiddo has a tough time balancing note-taking or reading with a fidget boy, a fidget chair may provide an alternative solution. Try a bunjo chair (,store:18224322571263294837&prds=oid:12887143944149006225&q=bunjo+chair&hl=en&lsft=gclid:CjwKEAiAhaqzBRDNltaS0pW5mWgSJADd7cYD_YqIbbzxbWRbo6J98Hw4zpsp76625SAScoDmHaawbBoC6ePw_wcB), stability ball chair (, or core wobble chair ( .

Copyright@ 2015 Marcia J. McKinley