Three Steps to Becoming Less Obsessed With Yourself (from a voice of experience)

A Sobering Discovery

My Waldorf teacher training included extensive exercises around developing consciousness. My classmates and I were to spend several minutes a day in meditation on a tree, and during a class entitled Inner Work, we practiced the Noble Eightfold Path of the Buddha: “right view, right aspiration, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration (Wikipedia)”. We were not learning Buddhism as such, but examining aspects of our behavior against our personal moral compasses.

I had always rather prided myself on my ability to understand another’s perspective, and fancied myself compassionate and intuitive. This inner observation, however, revealed that I was sadly mistaken. Yes, I was interested in the thoughts and feelings of others, but my main question was what they thought and felt about me. Other people were my lenses; the subject matter was myself. 

My discovery was humiliating to be sure. I was not the person I wanted to be, nor pretended to be. I was shamefully self-absorbed. But the discovery also contained an element of excitement, because I felt that if I was the problem, I was free to do the work of changing.

A Way Out

Thankfully, I found the work of The Arbinger Institute, an organization dedicated to helping people become genuinely responsive to others. I read three of their books, and fifteen or so years ago, attended a weekend Arbinger training session in Arizona. I learned about the human tendency to deceive ourselves into viewing other people as objects: obstacles in our way, vehicles of use to us, or simply irrelevant. I felt especially enlightened by the knowledge that we as people get caught in cycles of harboring criticisms of others to justify our mistreatment of them. I learned about new ways of thinking and being to awaken myself to the humanity of others and see them as people as real as myself. Of course I often relapsed and fell into my old ways, but having once “been there,” it became a little easier to find my way back. It’s a lifelong endeavor. 

“Your conscience will reveal to you

That other hearts are hurting too.”

-me, self-quoter (you see, the struggle with self obsession is real)

Just this past week, I discovered Arbinger’s newest book: The Outward Mindset.  I was thrilled to dive in again. Here are two quotes that hit home:

“Remember, the principle to apply is, as far as I am concerned, the problem is me. I am the place to start. Others’ responses will depend mostly on what they see in me.

The most important move is for me to make the most important move.”

“To be outward doesn’t mean that people should adopt this or that prescribed behavior. Rather, it means that when people see the needs, challenges, desires, and humanity of others, the most effective ways to adjust their efforts occur to them in the moment. When they see others as people, they respond in human and helpful ways. They naturally adjust what they do in response to the needs they see around them. With an outward mindset, adjusting one’s efforts naturally follows from seeing others in a new way.”

The book’s three basic steps toward an outward mindset are effective for individuals as well as organizations:

1. See the needs, objectives, and challenges of others

(My note: Ask questions such as “What would it be like to be her?” “What need is he seeking to have met?” “What pressures might my boss be under right now?” “If I gave my heart to that difficult student in my class, what would occur to me to do?” and listen for answers.)

2. Adjust efforts to be more helpful to others

(My note: Do the thing that occurs to you to do when you reflect on the unique needs of the other. In organizations, take steps to support the department you’ve been in conflict with. Try to help them meet their objectives.)

3. Measure and hold yourself accountable for the impact of your work on others

(My note: Find out if your efforts are effective. Example: [Charles was a lawyer who began to reflect on the principles of this book and decided to return his fees to two of his clients who had been dissatisfied. He] “returned the money in May of that year, and he began tracking his impact on his clients by checking in with them on a regular basis to make sure that he was meeting or exceeding their expectations. Then something interesting happened. These clients started talking to their friends and acquaintances about their honest and conscientious lawyer. By July, Charles was receiving seven new client matters per week. By November, that number had grown to thirteen per week... ...In March, he left his job to start his own law firm.”

The handy acronym is SAM—“see others, adjust efforts, measure impact.“

Interestingly, being this responsive to others doesn’t always mean a “softer” approach. It means truly considering the needs of others and “soft” is not always what they need.

Chip is part of a SWAT team. The Arbinger approach worked for them:

“These changes have increased the cooperation Chip and his team receive from suspects and from the community, and the results have been astounding. In addition to shrinking community complaints against them to zero, in the first three years after adopting this approach, [Chip’s] SWAT Squad recovered more illegal drugs and guns than it had in the previous decade.”

I most heartily recommend that you read The Outward Mindset and/or Arbinger’s other books: Leadership and Self-Deception and The Anatomy of Peace. If these resonate with you, I also recommend The Bonds That Make Us Free, by C. Terry Warner, who founded The Arbinger Institute. I consider these among the most important books I’ve ever read.

Let’s talk about this! Your comments are welcome. 

“How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it.”

-G.K. Chesterton


You’ll Get There (In Six Simple Steps) Inspired by the Wisdom of Napoleon Hill

By the end of this post, you can be on a proven path to your next-level self. I promise.

I’m a Self-Help and Success Book junkie- always dredging the literary mine beds for nuggets of wisdom. And I’m struck by how often the concept of faith is invoked in the various directives, regardless of any religious affinities. “Faith” is couched as “belief,” “intention,” “trust,” “confidence,” etc. Whatever it’s called, it comes up continually in the literature as part of a prescription for improvement in this basic form:

  1. Imagine a desired outcome.

  2. Begin taking actions to bring it about.

  3. Act in the assurance (faith) that the outcome will take place.

In my current picture book, which has been metamorphosing (even the title is in flux at this time), Arlow is an uncommonly wise lizard who speaks in rhyme. (Arlow is my son Nephi’s middle name. I have a formidable goal of getting each of my kids’ names into a book.) His rhyme is the aspect I will not change, because I adore how the lessons tend to stick in one’s mind and offer encouragement when needed, like a little internal hug. He says in the book:

A rhyme’s like a backpack. You take it along.

And then when you need it, it’s there like a song.

The rhymes have given me comfort in the frequent overwhelm attendant in my responsibility for so. many. little. souls. In particular, Arlow’s version (featured in my book) of the basic three part formula for change I mentioned earlier, often brings me hope. He says:

Imagine yourself where you’re hoping to be.

Keep painting the picture. You’ll get there. You’ll see.

I am of the faith-steeped opinion that you will get there. We can all make it over the next hill if we follow the formula and believe. My next hill is making it through the summer without my kids’ brains and muscles atrophying. And getting my book published. Yours might be to increase your income, achieve better physical health, or to speak more kindly and lovingly to your family (other hills I wish to climb myself). Let’s chart our “hills” with classic success guru Napoleon Hill himself. You see what I did there. When opportunity knocks you have to open the door!

The following six steps are from Napoleon Hill’s seminal 1937 book Think and Grow Rich, and are my favorite and most comprehensive version of the earlier prescription for change. I love these because you can substitute other goals for the amount of money i.e., “90 percent of my communication to my family will be positive and supportive,” or “I will achieve a body weight of 150 pounds,” or “I will have representation from a literary agent”. I also love step six, which keeps the goals firmly in mind, and saturates it all with the vital element of faith.


First. Fix in your mind the exact amount of money you desire. It is not sufficient merely to say “I want plenty of money.” Be definite as to the amount.

Second. Determine exactly what you intend to give in return for the money you desire. (There is no such reality as “something for nothing.”)

Third. Establish a definite date when you intend to possess the money you desire.

Fourth. Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire, and begin at once, whether you are ready or not, to put this plan into action.

Fifth. Write out a clear, concise statement of the amount of money you intend to acquire, name the time limit for its acquisition, state what you intend to give in return for the money, and describe clearly the plan through which you intend to accumulate it.

Sixth. Read your written statement aloud, twice daily, once just before retiring at night, and once after arising in the morning. AS YOU READ, SEE AND FEEL AND BELIEVE YOURSELF ALREADY IN POSSESSION OF THE MONEY.

I have begun this process, and have been working step 6, morning and night, for a few weeks now. My focus is publication of my book. I’ve made a plan and even specified the amount of advance I expect to receive. As you do this, if your goal is the right goal for you, the “powers that be,” will help to move things along. I know because I set today as a deadline in my plan to begin making monthly blog posts to my author site, and even though I often lament that I can “never get anything done,” it’s getting done. The bulk of this post kindly distilled on my mind as I showered the other day, and it’s coming along as easily as anything. I can’t wait to see how the rest of the plan unfolds and to report further successes to you kind friends. As you set your intention, and believe it will happen, I know that you will get little nudges. Getting out the door to jog will be easier than you thought, and easier than it was before. A solution will present itself to the problem you were stuck on. You will wonder how you handled that difficulty with your children with such uncommon patience and love in your heart. The particular hill you’re climbing will still require immense effort and willpower, but you WILL find yourself held aloft in patches as you...

Imagine yourself where you’re hoping to be.

Keep painting the picture. You’ll get there. You’ll see.

I would love to hear about the hills you’re climbing and your experiences with this process. I will answer your comments with gleeful delight. Much love.


Image of Napoleon Hill from Wikipedia

Image of Napoleon Hill from Wikipedia

What It's All About


“Many people die with their music still in them. Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it time runs out.”
-Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Do you know the feeling you get when you hear from a dad at back to school night that your child had invited his child to join him at lunch when he was sitting alone? Or when your 10 month old smiles up at you as you rub her down with a lavender oil lotion after her bath? What about when your nine year old bashfully presents you with a hand drawn Mother's Day card, promising to help you make dinner? Or when your six year old pleads with you to help the sad man holding the cardboard sign? How about when your best friend calls you in crisis and then ends the call saying that what you told her was exactly what she needed to hear? How about what happened to me yesterday: the blessed, tear-springing experience of dropping my oldest girl off at her dorm for the first time and knowing (though I can take no credit), with absolute certainty that she will be a benefit to EVERYONE who comes within her radar? 
These moments let you and me know that the little violin obligato of our life is melding with the symphony that is humanity; that our presence just might be an improvement over our absence; that our brief turn on this earth, in fact means something. As a poster child for introverts, horrible at small talk, a perpetual failure at "thinking on my feet", but with a heart drawn out in a virtual hug big enough for the world, these are the kinds of moments I exist for.  And these are the moments I long to create for you.
I want the book I wrote to be the one you reach for when you snuggle up with your kiddo at bedtime, and together you feast your senses on each rustling page of the exquisite illustrations, and the rhythmic verses and imagery roll off your tongue, and the healing truths interwoven in the magical story begin to warm your heart and moisten your eyes, and you feel that thrumming inner witness that you are not only nurturing your child, but feeding her very soul, and by extension yours, and that all the striving and straining and bum-wiping has been worth it. That is my dearest dream.
If you're one of the intrepid few who have subscribed here at the site, thank you so much. If you haven't yet, you also deserve warm thanks that you're still reading this. If you will signup and join with me in this exciting journey, I'll do everything in my power to ensure that those kind enough to come aboard when my books were only a twinkle in my eye, will get the earliest updates, and the sweetest deals and giveaways-  and no spam. Thank you, friends.



Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better. – Albert Einstein

Logic will get you from A to B, imagination will take you everywhere. – Albert Einstein



Friends, Have you ever had a fire in you that died out? How do you lose that which once seemed inseparable from who you are?

Just as I did not know, going into this, that publishing a book would require me to become some kind of social media maharishi, I did not plan for this site to become quite so personal. Yet invariably, a person in the position of "selling oneself," is forced to take inventory of one's wares.  

In another life, I was a granola mom; a Waldorf mom; a homemade mayonnaise mom; a "my kids will never be mindless screen addicts..." well, you get the idea. That's also when I began writing my children's books.

Then, following some events which shall not be here delineated, as a mom of 2, I entered the desolate world of single parenting.

Along came Daviekins (I love to make my teens gag!). Tall. GORGEOUS. Sings like Mandy Patinkin. Sings SHOWTUNES. TO ME. Fiercely intelligent. Self-evident honesty and LOYALTY more attractive to me than any pretense at lofty ideals.  I swooned. He'd lost his incredible, angelic wife to cancer a year prior. SIX KIDS.

There was nothing for it but to jump in with both feet.  Being big fans of kids, and even bigger fans of each other, along came 3 more in 3 years. I declare, here and now that I love and adore this tribe down to my bones, and would never change places with anyone. Yet...

I was out of my depth. The sheer volume of laundry was mind-altering. Keeping the house clean was an impracticable absurdity. I was a "hot mess". And my dear ones had a burden of grief. I tried to be present when each crisis erupted. Children continued to take refuge in the hand-held devices which had also held their world back from crumbling.  Complete restriction was unthinkable, and systemic limitation was spotty and difficult to manage.

Our bunch of kids was incredibly smart, amazingly talented, and unquestioningly attached to screens. It was imbued in our family culture. TBH, it still is. 

My two year old was bright-eyed, verbal and precocious. As I drove one morning, listening to Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point on audiobook, with its examination of the superior developmental appropriateness of Blue's Clues, I thought perhaps that my two year old could get something out of it, and I could have a moment of peace to get something done. He was smitten, along with his one year old brother. They stood stock still in fascination.

"Well... he's learning words like 'scurry' and 'ferocious'! He can tell us about the habitat of the giant anteater." 

Then it was Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood- "Look, it's based on Mister Rogers. They're teaching my kids to be nice!"

Tumble Leaf- "Look how artistic and imaginative it is. It looks like a Waldorf show!"

Word World- "They're totally teaching my child to read! And look how well he's retaining it!"

My two adorable toddler boys were spellbound, and conveniently out of everyone else's hair. 

"Oh look. Ammon's just fallen in love with Thomas and Friends. He's learning how to be trustworthy and really useful!"

I went from a mom who pretty much squelched all TV other than movies like "Heidi" prior to age 8, to a mom who, on a rare, strong, focused day, limits her two and three year olds to two shows in the morning and two more before bed. On not so strong days? The sucker's going live all day long. 

A few days ago, with the big kids in school again, I  took my little ones outside to play. We have a play structure with 3 swings, and I count any outside time as good for them. We recently moved to 15 acres of property, with fantasies of the kids bonding with nature, but ironically, as the wilds of the terrain require closer supervision, and there's a great deal of work to be done on the inside, outdoor time is still in short supply.

This time, instead of dutifully pushing them on the swings, I sat down at the picnic table to catch up on a project and told them I'd push them when the timer beeped. I then waited for their kid powers to kick in and spur them on to exploring the great outdoors. And waited... 


Gideon, my three year old halfheartedly went down the slide. Once. Then sat down next to me and whined. Ammon continued to stand in front of the swing and whine.  For a full forty-five minutes. It seemed that my poor little ones had forgotten how to play outside. And it was my own darn fault. I despaired and declared a moratorium on shows until their imaginations come back.  Until they could manage to exist for an hour outside without someone pushing them on the swings.  What have I done? How can I undo this damage? Can I find a local Forest Preschool? 

(Images of other moms tossing their rosemary and bergamot scented hair and smiling at me condescendingly as my child whines about going home and playing on someone's Kindle ensue- crushing my resolve.)

I love this quote by Albert Einstein:

Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.

"Imagination" has been tossed about so much, it seems to amount to nothing but a bit of fluff.  What is imagination anyway? defines it as the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses. 

It kind of cracks me up when TV stations spout off about building kids' imaginations.  If the most engaging content hitting their brains is fully formatted external objects present to their senses, courtesy of Nick Jr., what practice of actually holding and manipulating pictures and ideas in the mind by their own power is taking place? None. What patience are they building for the process? Even less.

Did you know that part of Einstein's journey toward his formulation of the theory of relativity was imagining himself chasing a beam of light?

That is some intricate imagining. Can you conceive of the elegant trajectory of his thoughts? No, Summer, I'm not Einstein. The silent, elegant mental puzzlings? The persistence through countless unwieldy layers of intrepid, unprecedented logic? I can't either.

And the sad truth is, my kids would consider it too boring to be worth the effort.

As I type this post with my right hand, I'm pushing my kids on the swing with my left. But we've gone for a couple of days with no shows now.  I don't know how long I'll hold out, but I do know that writing is beginning to spark an inner fire again, and I have no foolish notions that watching Little Einsteins will nurture an Einstein style inner space.


What are your thoughts? Talk to me!


Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau

Friends, I'm a certified hot mess. The genuine article- and not only because I have roughly the amount of children as Baskin-Robbins has flavors. There are other, general reasons. Reasons that you and I could well have in common.  Let's share.

BUT FIRST, would you believe that 19th century philosopher Henry David Thoreau saw it coming? He knew that I'd be a hot mess before General Custer knew he was surrounded.

And how did he know? Observe. As soon as plans were made to run a telegraph from Maine to Texas, his vigilant mind predicted the following: that maybe Maine and Texas have nothing important to communicate.


"We are eager to tunnel under the Atlantic and bring the old world some weeks nearer to the new; but perchance the first news that will leak through into the broad flapping American ear will be that Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough."

-Henry David Thoreau

I'm sure Princess Adelaide had her good points, and we wish her well, but Thoreau's meaning was that this news was not likely pertinent to the lives and work of its recipients. That perhaps life's most important truths would one day be "drowned in a sea of irrelevance (Neil Postman)".




That brings us to the first vital step to becoming a hot mess...




All of them! Let the buttons, badges, alerts, chimes, beacons and whistles resound in a frightful, untempered, unremitting torrent through your harried and agitated existence. This way, when you’re having a walk in the cool morning air, learning about your spouse’s day, or contemplating the next frontier of your career path…


PLONK! Steve commented “What a hottie!” on your photo


BUZZ! Lorraine reacted to your post ❤️



WOOT! Muggle35 started following you.


And that, friends, was when my sanity began to plot its daring escape.


Did you know Thoreau also said "Men have become the tools of their tools"? How eerily prophetic was that? Was his cabin on Walden Pond actually a TARDIS?


So how can we approach social media on the offense rather than the defense, and grab it by the horns instead of getting sucked into its gripping vortex?


Check this tip from

"Set a timer.

It’s fine to go on Facebook every once in a while. The problem comes when you get sucked into the rabbit hole and suddenly realize you’ve spent 2 hours stalking friends of friends of friends. Avoid this by setting a timer to remind you when it’s time to log off – 15 minutes is a good start. If you can’t follow the timer, get an app that will force you off like SelfControl."


Keeping these things in mind will assist us in our quest for focus. Get wise with me, dear readers. Please comment with your experiences around this issue.


Thoreau had yet more knowledge to dispense, which we are at liberty to disregard:


"...if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."


The enemy to "advancing confidently" is our own discouraging thoughts. Thus we find the next maneuver in our aspirations to hot mess...ness:




This does not refer to your Aunt Becky, although in some cases that advice may still hold. "ANT" is an acronym for Automatic Negative Thoughts attributed to the eminent Dr. Daniel Amen.


Thoughts that pop up such as "I'll never make that happen," or  "I just don't have the talent," or "life sucks", are even more pestilential than an insect infestation. Listen and accept them, and you're on your way to hot mess...hood(?) just like me.


Will you join me in stepping on these ANTs?  If we can hone the aforementioned focus, we can get better at catching them instead of letting them crawl past, wreaking their havoc unobserved.


When you are lucky enough to catch one in the light, talk back to it:


"I'm capable! I got this!"


"I'm getting better at this all the time".


"I'm grateful for every chance to learn. I am blessed."


"I choose happiness and confidence."


Dear readers, I would love to hear about how you put down your personal ANT invasion.  Let's work on staying encouraged together.  


A final thought from Thoreau:

"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."




In other words, keep floating passively downstream, procrastinating and failing to take action on what matters.

Gerda Audagnotti was inspired to arrange permanent homes for African orphans.

Willy the Plumber started a scholarship for the children of inmates.

Yesterday I almost gave my little ones a bath.

What are you up to?

I sincerely hope you'll join the conversation! As wisdom seekers, let's find focus, encouragement and action together!