Book Thoughts – Order from Chaos: The Everyday Grind of Staying Organized with Adult ADHD by Jaclyn Paul

Wow. I finished reading an actual book. I meant for “Book Thoughts” to be a series, but so far I’ve only had one entry in it, and it was back in September of last year. Yeah… you know, I used to read all the time when I was younger. I don’t know what has happened since I became an adult.

Well, no matter, now I’m going to get back into the reading groove. So today I’m going to talk about this book I just finished. It’s not even fiction, more of self-help book when I need a kick in my derrière to get my productivity up. And I think it has done its job pretty well considering. It’s a fast and easy read organization guide mainly for folks with ADHD. The author has a blog focused on dealing with ADHD, as she and her family all suffer from it. In Order from Chaos she doesn’t really go into too much detail about the ‘why’s’ behind ADHD, but instead jumps right to the ‘what to do when’s’, which is exactly what I was looking for.

Of course, ADHD comes in all shapes and sizes, and the author specifically talked about how different her own ADHD manifests versus her husband’s. (I can’t imagine keeping a household functional when multiple people have ADHD. Major kudos for her.) So the tricks and organization advices in this book might not work for all people. For example, I don’t have the same issues as the author when it comes to retaining information. She has to write every single thing down; I can keep some in my brain without forgetting. I mean, of course I do write things down, but it’s more of a “if I don’t write it, it won’t get done” kind of thing instead of forgetfulness. The author also talks about how sometimes she’d tunnel vision on one thing and forget time existed. I do not have experience with that. What I have instead is that I have trouble prioritizing tasks. Imagine cleaning, cooking, laundry, vacuuming all weigh the same in your head as writing your book, and everything has to be done in an order that your brain just arbitrarily assigns. You will never get to writing because you will never run out of cleaning jobs in your house! That’s what I have. My brain has to go through all the “little” things before it can tackle the “big” thing, but by the time it got to the “big” thing it’s so tired that it just doesn’t do it at all.

So what did I learn from the author to fix my issue? Well, I wouldn’t say “fix” completely because that’s not possible, but there are still a lot of things I can do to minimize the problem. I think the biggest takeaway is that I have to learn to work with reality and not wishful thinking. The reality is that I have to have nothing on my plate when I start working, so I need to pare down significantly what I need to do each day in order to function. It means only do one major chore a day and STOP. It means block ALL websites while working except for a useful handful (, for example). It means turn on DO NOT DISTURB on my phone and only write ONE blog entry per day (this one for today!) and work in absolute silence instead of with background music (learned that I’m a visual learner and any noise detracts from my concentration, not help it like with some others). My brain is not equipped to do what normal people can do without effort, so in order to get my main goals done (finish my novel), I have to significantly aim for less everywhere else.

I didn’t mean for this book thought to be mostly about me. But I think with a self-help book, this is probably the result you’d want, right? After reading there should be some kind of epiphany that makes your life better. If you have ADHD and you just want some practical advice on how to organize your life instead of diving deep into the psychology of manifestation of ADHD, this book is very helpful. Not every exercise she suggest would work for you, but I thinks the fundamental lessons she listed out is good, and you can always tailor what she does to what you need. Essentially she gives you the tools to help yourself. I probably used less than half of her techniques but still found ways fundamentally to make things work better for me. Even if you don’t have ADHD she’s got some solid organization skills in general, so I wholeheartedly recommend checking this book out.


Book Thoughts – Yellow Bird: Oil, Murder, and a Woman’s Search for Justice in Indian Country by Sierra Crane Murdoch

Yes folks, I’m 1) reading books again and actually finishing them and 2) going to blog down my thoughts post-read. There’s just something nice about putting reactions into words, and I’ve been following a couple of book review blogs and was inspired. Anyway, this is named “Book Thoughts” because these entries are not reviews, per se, because I’m not going to give them a score or anything, although I’d wholeheartedly recommend ones I really love. It’s kind of exciting, both me picking up reading again and talking about them. Also makes me work on my critical reading skills after I’ve been out of school for such a long time. It feels good.

So, the book I’m going to talk about today is Yellow Bird by Sierra Crane Murdoch. (I’d type out the whole title but man it’s long! Plus it’s in the blog title anyway.) It’s journalistic nonfiction mostly revolving around Lissa Yellow Bird, a Native American woman from Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota. I first heard about Lissa from a This American Life episode called “A Mess to be Reckoned With.” It was absolutely fascinating and I picked up the book as soon as I finished listening. The episode doesn’t go into what the book entails – the disappearance of an oil rig worker – but on another case a few years later involving Lissa’s niece, who’d also disappeared. Because Indian reservations have odd jurisdiction rules when it comes to law enforcement, a lot of crimes go un-investigated by either the US police or the reservation police. So Lissa, in this case, is basically the person to go to if you’re looking for someone, dead or alive, when official law enforcement can’t, or won’t, help you.

The book’s main story is about the disappearance of Kristopher Clarke, or KC. What happened, who was involved, how did the case and trial go, etc. But it was also about Lissa. Who she is, what she does, how did she come to be. Murdoch, the writer and a journalist, has been following Lissa (and subsequently KC’s case) extensively for years. She went into extraordinary details about not just the case itself, but everything surrounding it – from the extensive family history of the Yellow Birds to the history of the reservation (and how the United States government, along with a whole long line of unscrupulous white business owners, have completely screwed over the reservation in terms of land, money, oil rights, and all that in between.) It is about so much more than just what happened to KC, and the narrative is richly interwoven with many stories about the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara nation (MHA) as a whole. I have learned so much and feels like I’ve only read a sliver of the injustices and trial and tribulations that faced Native American tribes. It really puts in perspective just how badly everything was, is, from such a microcosm of what from the surface to be a confined case of missing persons.

However, because of the all-encompassing nature and the sheer number of people involved in the story, the narrative can get a bit confusing. The author tries to mitigate it by always adding descriptions along with names. “Lissa talks to so-and-so, the sheriff in charge of the case.” Or “So-and-so, the tribal leader of MHA, goes to Washington DC.” Stuff like that. It helps some, but I still find myself constantly trying to remember what else she had said about so-and-so before, and it can get very distracting. I think the book could benefit with a giant “who’s who” tree, like an index of every single person mentioned with what they do, how they’re related to Lissa or KC or whoever, so that if I don’t remember exactly I can flip to it and quickly find out. But alas, it doesn’t have one, which I think is a miss.

Overall I think the book is very interesting and informative. Lissa is such a strong and imperfect human being and absolutely fascinating to listen to. (Another reason I highly recommend the TAL episode, because you literally do hear her talk and it helps with the narrative voice so much). I was unfamiliar with all the background – never knew the MHA nation existed, didn’t know North Dakota had an oil boom, you know, the most basic stuff, and the book does a great job of both entertain and inform a clueless reader like me. I’ve read some reviews that the book seems a bit meandering and disjointed, which I can see why considering what I said in the previous paragraph. But I personally didn’t mind too much, and find that the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. I was taken through this great journey and came out with newly gained insights. And just like real life, the journey doesn’t wrap up neatly or even ends, for that matter. It continues on and I’m just glad to parse a slice of it as it goes.