Linda Lambdin marches to the beat of her own drum and wouldn’t have it any other way.
In her own words, Lamdin’s a dreamer and a visionary: “I’m very intuitive. My way of seeing and acting in the world has a deep and positive affect on many people.”
Lambdin believes these strengths are a direct result of ADHD. “Although my ADD does hamper me when it comes to paper work, etc., I don’t see it as a deficit, but as a gift.”
Lambdin was not diagnosed with ADHD until age 50, just eight years ago. “It’s been fascinating to have a better understanding of what makes my brain tick,” the K-8 charter school principal says enthusiastically.
“As a small child I was always really well liked, but a dreamy little thing,” Lambdin explains. “I did well in school and the other kids loved me, but all the teachers would write on my report card, ‘Linda is not living up to her potential.”
As time went on, however, Lambdin was given leadership roles. She was head of the safety squad in elementary school, Girl Scout troop president, captain of the field hockey, gymnastics and lacrosse teams, and a cheerleader. “I always succeeded,” Lambdin says, but she admits that her two best friends helped her every inch of the way.
“They were my support team. Suzy and Missy. One later became a doctor, and the other a lawyer. I was an A student, but it was my friends who kept me on track,” Lambdin points out. “They would remind me when writing assignments were due, or when I had to study for an upcoming test. Sometimes even acting out what I needed to know since I had a difficult time studying.”
Lambdin says that in college, still not aware of her ADHD, she made a good intuitive choice and designed her own major and studied at how education and society influenced each other. “Looking back, I can see what a good decision that was because I couldn’t focus on anything I wasn’t interested in.”
After college, Lambdin set out to broaden her education with real life experiences. “Joel, (a boyfriend who later became Lambdin’s husband) taught me how to hop freight trains,” Lambdin proudly professed. “We camped all over, and in between we would work odd jobs to earn just enough money to return to hitchhiking.” Lambdin’s resume includes stints as a beekeeper, cocktail waitress, and shrimp and crab factory worker. She can also boast of being a deck hand on a crab fishing boat, a cook on a whale-watching ship, and even worked for a time laying parquet floors. “My resume should also say that I was terrible at each of these jobs,” Lambdin proclaims. “The dreaminess of the ADD brain was NOT an asset to me in these capacities.”
Lambdin admits her mother was very worried about her, though she wasn’t too concerned:“… for me these unusual experiences were magical. They fit with my dream world. I always wanted something bigger than this life, broader than the narrow corridor that most people walk through. I always had a bigger vision.”
Lambdin’s true inspiration was a book called “Joy in the Classroom” by Stephanie Herzog, then head of Evergreen, a K-8 school with under 100 students. Lambdin applied to the school and was hired on the spot. She worked there until the school folded two years later. At Evergreen, students were taught meditation, telepathy, energy awareness, and conflict resolution.
When Evergreen shut its doors, Lambdin was hired by Santa Cruz City Schools, where she worked for the next 14 years trying to figure out how to manage a classroom of 30 students. “I was always aware of a little voice inside of me, telling me that I was here to try to change the face of public education, to make my contribution.”
Today, Lambdin is doing just that. She is principal of a small charter school she has agreed to run,“…as long as I can be the visionary. When they need someone to be more of a traditional administrator, then it will be time for me to leave. As a principal, I don’t administrate in the same way that any other administrator does,” she confesses. “I’m gifted by being attuned to other forms of communication and energy levels.”
Lambdin notes she still has difficulty with details and paperwork. Having the right support around her is essential. “I have other people do all the pieces I can’t do, so I can do the pieces I do well,” she says. For example, “everyone at my school knows not to give me any important documents. They show them to me and then file them in their own files. When I am working on a project, I always have others hold onto the work and all of the supporting materials in between sessions. I can lose a paper faster than you can blink.”
Since being diagnosed with ADHD, Lambdin has learned how to keep it simple. As a result of her challenges with organization, she has very little clutter in her home and as a principal has trained teachers to check up on their students’ backpacks. “Kids who have what I have cannot keep track of everything,” Lambdin insists. “So all they need is one spiral notebook with self-contained pages so they can’t fall out.”
“Organizational skills are important and the key is finding a method that works for you,” Lambdin says. “I have one hard-bound notebook I write everything in, a fanny pack that holds my calendar, keys, and my iPhone. And should I stray from my system, invariably something gets lost.”
Lambdin also keeps a huge white board next to her bedroom mirror where she writes everything down she needs to remember to bring with her for the day. She pays bills online and stays in touch with friends by ensuring she never leaves a date without scheduling the next one. “Otherwise it’s shocking how easy it is to forget.”
Lambdin admits that parenting was also difficult as a result of her ADHD. “I thought being a teacher would prepare me for being a mom, but that wasn’t the case, and at the time, I didn’t understand why. “In retrospect, my ADHD diagnosis explained a lot. It was so much easier for me to focus on 30 children in a classroom than to keep my focus on just one. I was always berating myself for losing attention and it was challenging for me to keep up with the housework, laundry, grocery shopping, etc. This wasn’t the vision I had for myself as a parent.”
Lambdin now realizes she should have been content with all she could give her son as a parent and be glad there were people close by to fill in the gaps.
Helping Lambdin reach this point of acceptance in her life is Joel Slattengren, her husband of 10 years. “He’s the one I hopped freight trains with years ago,” Lambdin says. “He always kept in touch and I finally realized that I shouldn’t marry someone trying to please my parents, but find someone who is right for me.”
Lambdin glows when talking about her current husband’s love and support. “Joel, who also has ADHD, reminds me how much he loves me and how lovable I am every day. He has so much faith in me and knowing that really helps with my self-esteem.”
Another big step Lambdin took since her diagnosis was throwing out 30 journals filled with self-improvement lists and “whining about myself.” Today she writes only positive thoughts in her journal. “Even if I have had a horrible day, I write whatever good things did happen and then draw something at the top of the page to make it look beautiful,” Lambdin says. “So the day looks beautiful on paper and it shifts my thinking. I selectively choose affirmations instead of confirmations. I love my journals, and I love my life.”
Judy Brenis is an ADHD coach based in Santa Cruz, California. ADHD has touched her life in the form of her daughter who was diagnosed with ADHD at age five, and Judy is passionate about helping those with ADHD create successful, happy, and healthy lives. Reach her at www.judyadhdcoaching.com.