How to Spot Wild Buffalo in Five Easy Steps

It’s my last post in June and the end of my buffalo series.

Is it just me, or did June morph into warp speed. Hold on, Scottie, we’re going through a worm tunnel! Never seen Star Trek? Sorry.
The final lesson: How to Spot Wild Buffalo.

About five years ago I had one of the HUGEST aha moments of my life. I’m talking light bulb, epiphany, angel’s singing, paradigm shift, vision opened – you name the metaphor, I experienced it.

I wish I could re-create the experience for you instantaneously here on this post. Such experiences loose some of their Sha-Zam in the retelling.

In that moment, I discovered that my brain was lying to me. How rude! I assumed (took for granted, really), that my brain would always tell me the truth.

Not so.

It turns out that the human brain is a massive recording device that captures every message the five senses receive and deliver even from the time we are embryos growing in utero. Imagine. Every conversation, sound, and TV commercial we’ve ever been exposed to is swirling around in our brain’s data base. When we are not consciously in control of our thoughts, the brain flips through its myriad files and chooses its own “scripts” or programs to run. This is the brain on autopilot, and its a dangerous thing because those automatic programs are not always accurate. And they run amuck like stampeding buffalo.

How to Spot & Tame Wild Buffalo in Five (not so) Easy Steps

First. Pay attention. Identify your ANTs.

Big concept here. What are the ANTs (the Automatic Negative Thoughts) your brain defaults to when you are not consciously running your brain?

Second. Write Down your ANTs.

Write down your ANTs. Get a notebook and draw a line down the middle of the page. On the left, write down your ANTs. What does your brain tell you over and over, like a broken record? For years, one of my ANTs was that because I was a full-time mother without a salary check with my name in print on the payee line, I was a sub-par version of a successful person. My brain would tell me this concept over and over with different wording or presentation, but the message was always the same. This really made my life miserable, because I was a full-time mom spending every waking hour (and lots of midnight hours) doing “mom work” for no pay. And I wasn’t even aware that my own brain was making me miserable.

Third. Write Down the TRUTH.

On the right side of your paper, next to your ANT, write down the truth. This is how you train your wild buffalo. For example, on my paper I wrote:
ANT: By choosing to be a mother without a paying career, I am not as important, successful, or valid as a person with a paying job.
TRUTH: Being a Mother is the most important, critical, valuable job in the world. Even if I earned a paycheck, my work at a “job” would not be more important than my work as a mother.

Fourth. Replace your ANTs with Truth.

Be conscious of when your brain hits the “continual repeat” button and plays your ANTs like a broken record. When you catch your brain “playing” an ANT script, consciously replace that ANT with your truth.

Fifth. Feel the Power.

There is power in writing down the fallicies that your brain automatically tells you. Putting those falsehoods into words drains them of their power. Writing them on paper makes you realize how absurd they can be and diminishes the hold they have on you.

Writing down your truth is powerful. Verbalizing how you really think and feel (or want to think and feel) gives you power over your brain’s auto-programming. It’s amazing how much power we give away. We let the messages that have come into our brain for years dictate how we feel about our lives. No one can drive your life wagon better than you can. No one can decide better than you can where you want to go.

Once you start to become aware of the wild buffalo (those untamed ANTs) that steer your wagon off course, it’s amazing how you can whip them into shape and start driving off into the sunset. If that’s where you want to go.


What Should I Do With My Life?

Aaaaah. Passion.

I’m not talking perfect smile Fabios, sun-glittering vampires, or bare-chested werewolves. If I had an “Edward” spying on my every move and constantly telling me where I could or could not go, I would die of suffocation.

I’m talking about Zing, Pizazz, Passion, Calling, Finding your life’s work – what makes you excited to wake up and get out of bed (most) mornings.

Identifying our gifts, knowing our passions, finding our “calling” is the real work of our life.

Po Bronson talked about this in his book, What Should I Do With My Life?

In an insightful lesson, Prof. Jeffrey Thompson discussed five common myths about finding our life’s calling. The five myths are:

Myth #1: You might have a calling, if you are lucky, or you might not.

Myth #2: You have to find your one true calling in order to be fulfilled.

Myth #3: When you find your calling, work will be bliss.

Myth #4: Finding a calling means that the world will take notice.

Myth #5: Work gives life meaning.

I want to emphasize Myth #3: The False Promise of Bliss.

Joseph Campbell coined the phrase “follow your bliss” to imply following your heart to find your passion rather than chasing money or fame. After several years of seeing how people were misunderstanding the phrase, Campbell said, “What I meant was, ‘Follow your blisters.'”

It’s great to enjoy your work, but it is a fallacy that finding your calling will mean that work will always be fun.

Prof. Thompson studied zookeepers because they are some of the most passionate people when it comes to their work. They care for animals, educate the public about conservation, and develop a deep love for nature. They find their work deeply satisfying despite the low income and limited opportunities for career advancement. But, their life is not always “a day at the zoo.” Talk to a zookeeper and he will tell you about sacrifice, about caring for sick animals in the middle of the night, doing unsavory work, and going without luxuries. For zookeepers, the pain and burdens and sacrifice are not threats to their sense of calling – they are an integral part of it. Their work is meaningful because of the trials and burdens. We can’t expect deep meaning from our life’s work unless we are willing to assume its burdens as well.

There is always good with the bad. The good is defined, refined, pruned and produced through the bad. This is a great lesson to me. If, no, when I find myself in a quagmire of muck, or at the bottom of a very steep peak to climb, or exhausted, discouraged, or even bored, these situations do not necessarily indicate that I have not found a life calling. They might actually indicate that I am on the cusp of finding a real treasure.


*Note: You can read Jeffrey Thompson’s full text at

The War Against Cliches

According to British novelist, Martin Amis, the effort to create good literature involves engaging in a war against cliches.

Phrases like “the heat was stifling” or “she rummaged through her handbag” kill literature.

Think of cliches that have become novelties in pop culture like:

“Been there, done that.”
“He went ballistic.”
“I don’t think so.”

Amis, who teaches Creative Writing at the University of Manchester, says that these are “heard phrases.” Cliches are “heard writing,” “heard thinking,” “heard feeling.”

Writing isn’t about taking a cliche and rewording it with new synonyms, although many writers do that. Writing is about perspective – being true to what you observe and putting your perceptions into clear, truthful, descriptive words. There are no original ideas, but there are a million new ways of looking at the same old ideas. Good writing is a search for freshness – fresh perspective, having something unique to say.

Writing is not about decorating paragraphs with rumble and glitter. Rather, writing is giving your story song – choosing the words which become the music on which your story will sing.


The Value of Reading Biographies

This year I am planning to read more biographies/autobiographies. Reading about other people gives me a chance to see that a person doesn’t have to be perfect to do something good in the world. We are human and naturally flawed. We come from a wide variety of backgrounds, education, cultures, and economic situations; and yet, none of these determine our life’s experience as much as how we apply our attitude to play the hand we are dealt.

I love Mark Twain’s perspective on money from his autobiography.

Five years before our “Mark Twain” was born (1835), his father, John Marshall Clemens, purchased 100,000 acres of rich, undeveloped backwoods land in eastern Tennessee. He laid down $400 for the purchase and fervently believed that, although he would never profit from the land’s iron ore, minerals, timber, and coal, he had secured wealth for his children. Twain says about the purchase, “Thus with the very kindest intentions in the world toward us he laid the heavy curse of prospective wealth upon our shoulders.”

Within four years of the purchase came the great financial crash of 1834 and John Clemens’ fortunes were lost. So Samuel Clemens was born into humble circumstances and grew up knowing no different, except for this “promise” of future wealth from the Tennessee land.
Once John Clemens passed away, the children began slicing off segments of the land to trade for other property, pay off debts, or purchase run-down newspapers and other unpromising business opportunities. By 1887 all but 10,000 acres was gone, with nothing to show for the sales.

Twain makes this observation, “[The land] put our energies to sleep and made visionaries of us – dreamers and indolent. We were always going to be rich next year – [so took] no occasion to work. It is good to begin life poor; it is good to begin life rich – these are wholesome; but to begin it poor and prospectively rich! The man who has not experienced it cannot imagine the curse of it.”

Of all the Clemens children, Twain was the only one to make any profit from the land, for he used the land as the setting for The Gilded Age from which he made around $20,000 for the book and $80,000 for the play – about a dollar an acre.


Ungrateful Buffalo

“Everyday I try to keep those ungrateful buffalo out of my kitchen.”

Maleah Warner

Last post I discussed wild buffalo careening my life wagon over the edge of a 200 foot cliff. “Who Invited These Buffalo Drive My Wagon?)

Don’t have time to re-read the post? Let me sum up.

* The human brain, left unchecked, runs on autopilot – which is basically as effective as letting wild buffalo drive your life wagon.
* Hooking your wagon to a team of well-broken horses is much safer, more effective, and more likely to get you to your desired destination in one piece.

A few years I read Change Your Brain Change Your Life by Dr. Daniel Amen. It was the first time I’d become conscious of the power of my untamed thoughts. About this same time a media phenomenon called “The Secret” entered the scene. The Secret is a documentary and book project coordinated by Rhonda Byrne which basically put into modern packaging age-old teachings about the power of thought. For example:

“All that we are is a result of what we have thought.”
“Wherever you are in life is the residual outcome of your past thoughts and actions.”
James Ray
“Whenever you want to change your circumstance, you must first change your thinking.”
Lisa Nichols

A run-away brain needs to be broken and trained just like a wild horse. This requires time, patience, and PRACTICE. (Some thick padding in your backseat is also helpful.)

One of the most useful tools I’ve found to reign in my run-away thoughts is the practice of gratitude. Gratitude is powerful.

“Whatever you think about and thank about you bring about.”
Dr. John Demartini

When I feel grateful for the time I have, I find that I have more time.
When I feel grateful for a stroke of good luck that has come my way, I inevitably run into more good luck.
When I feel grateful that I am who I am, that I am enough, that I have enough and I can be enough, I find miraculously that I receive more, I’m able to do more, and I can be more. Whenever I practice gratitude, it’s like the universe reveals an untapped reservoir of goodness that it’s been saving especially for me.

Now, when I say, “practice gratitude,” I mean really PRACTICE.

I hated the piano lesson when my teacher passed off my favorite song and moved me on to a new, foreign piece of music to learn. I would put off opening the music for days and continue to play my old favorite over and over again. The “practicing” stage felt awkward and uncomfortable. I plunked through choppy notes that felt like a foreign language and sounded nothing like music. Little by little, with practice, the notes would begin to fit more comfortably under my fingers until they became a part of me. Over time, I could play the music from my soul like it was a natural part of me and not foreign chords plunked from a page of sheet music.

Practicing gratitude doesn’t feel natural at first. It can feel forced, insincere, even fake. Any mastered skill feels awkward at first. No NBA star was able to make a flawless, smooth, and beautifully executed slam dunk when they started. They looked like a tangled flurry of teenage legs and arms flopping uncoordinated in multiple directions, until, with practice, they found their rhythm.

“What can you do right now to begin to turn your life around? The very first thing is to start making a list of things to be grateful for. This shifts your energy and starts to shift your thinking…As soon as you start to feel different about what you already have, you will start to attract more of the good things. More of the things you can be grateful for.” Dr Joe Vitale

So every day I try to wake up, hitch my wagon, and practice training my horses to walk in step with gratitude.

And in the meantime, I try to keep those ungrateful buffalo out of my kitchen.


PTA and Papers



I always thought that PTA stood for Parent Teacher Association…

until I went to the State PTA Convention.


I learned that PTA is really a Paper Trail Acronym

that stands for

Papers TAlphabetize


Here’s the proof.



A few months back I got asked to volunteer to serve on next year’s elementary PTA board.

(Which must be similar to being asked to volunteer to stand in front of a firing squad.)

I figured I should take a turn, since I’ve had four of my own urchins at the elementary school this year profiting from everyone else’s volunteer PTA service.

When asked which position I wanted, I quickly spoke for Treasurer, because, frankly, it sounded easy.  I own a calculator, I can sign my name, and I figured being Treasurer wouldn’t involve any decorating.

I didn’t think I’d getting a Doctorate degree in


*Misappropriations of Funds

*Night Banking

*Tax Accounting


Not to mention

Trust Lands


Title 1


Grant Writing and Insurance


Why does my PTA need insurance?

If you are a person who would sue the PTA and its individual board members because your child fell off the new play ground equipment they donated to the school last year, will you please step forward to volunteer yourself to stand in front of the firing squad. Seriously.

It took me four days to put away the papers from a two-day convention.

I climbed Mt. Timpanogos in less time.

Wish me luck.

PTA – the Everest of paperwork – Here I come.



* * * * *

p.s. The laundry eventually got put away as well.

Prozac & Prayer Chapter Two Part Three

As quickly as all the nurses and doctors had spun into the room to get ready for the delivery, they gathered their tools and trays and disappeared, like pushing “rewind” on a VCR and watching the movie backwards. The last one out of the room turned off the lights and shut the door, leaving my husband and I cold and deserted, sitting in the dark.

“Do you want to hold him?” He held up a cocoon-wrapped-blue-striped blanket with a knit-hat-covered-cone head. I blinked at the cocoon bundle trying to process the events of the last hour:


* I had been at home in my own bed, trying to fall asleep. (Maybe this was one of those absurd, hormone-induced pregnancy dreams.)

* Now    I was shaking in a hospital bed, the drafty hospital air molesting me through the gaping openings a starched hospital gown.


Something told me that I should know what was inside the blue-striped blanket, but my head was strangely detached from my body, as if I were Ann Bolynn and Henry VIII had been my doctor.

I’d been sucked through a worm hole. I’d experienced a cosmic explosion caused by being jerked so quickly out of my home, out of my reality, and the shrapnel of my exploded reality tumbled around in the dark space of my skull like wet tennis shoes in a dryer. In the meantime, my mind floated lightly in a dimension separate from my body, bouncing like a balloon across the sterile hospital ceiling. For a few very brief seconds everything was sweet silence and I felt nothing except pleasant lightness, being unconnected to the events happening in the room, floating whispily above the shivering girl in the bed.


“Do you want to hold him?” my husband asked again. How much time had passed since he asked the first question, and why hadn’t I answered?

My voice. I felt disconnected from my voice. I concentrated on forming words.



Hearing my own voice triggered something and in an instant my body sucked me back in, like a vacuum capturing a delicate spider web. I found myself in the middle of a deafening war zone, a battle waging under the hospital bed sheets, and I regretted ending my out-of-body experience so soon. As my nerves reconnected with my mind (like Peter Pan sewing on his shadow) I became aware of tremors, like mini-earthquakes, occurring simultaneously in various regions of my anatomy. I experienced an urgent need to move, to get out of the war zone, but I couldn’t feel my legs.

The tremors escalated, building and growing, eventually erupting like fireworks, only, the firework showed had been flipped upside down. I was the night sky and the bed was the earth. The fireworks were erupting from the sky and shooting towards the earth until I could no longer discern if I was shaking the bed or if the bed was shaking me.

“Aaaren’t…yyyooou…cccooold?” I asked my husband.

“It’s June in Arizona. It’s over a hundred degrees outside,” he said. “Do you want to hold him?” he asked again extending the blue-striped cocoon towards me.

I still didn’t answer.

Then, if possible, the temperature between the bed sheets dropped even more, plummeting to sub-zero temperatures and the fireworks froze mid-explosion. The trembling changed to tremors of freezing and the fireworks changed to ice, broke, and fell from the sky back to the earth. They landed in icy piles of firework debris, melted, and ran like rivers forming icy pools anywhere my back formed deep canyons in the bed sheets – my shoulder blades, hips, and the calves of my legs. Admist the freezing artic temperatures, a mass of fireworks exploded in rapid succession, like that grand finale of a Fourth of July display. The double-forced shaking became so violent I feared I would bounce right off the bed and shatter upon landing on the hard floor.

“Honey. Do you want to try to feed him?” my husband said.

I don’t know how my body had room for it, but at that question, floods of boiling guilt poured into the icy pools – boiling guilt that somehow made me even colder.

“I cccaaan’t…hhhooold…hhhiiim. I’ll…dddrooop…hhhiiim.”

My baby needed to nurse. Studies show that newborn infants need to lay skin to skin on the warmth of their mothers nest as soon as possible after delivery. If I waited too long to nurse, he would have a harder time learning how to eat.

But my body was so loud, so needy, so demanding, that I couldn’t care for my own baby. I lay helpless, shaking, overflowing with guilt and worthlessness.

This became the title track for the next chapter of my life’s album.

            Carrying the cocoon, my husband opened the door to the hallway, “ Can we get another blanket? She’s freezing and she can’t stop shaking.”

“The adrenaline. That’s normal. The shaking will go away gradually,” some nurse said.

I knew my husband was exhausted and I felt bad keeping him here. He placed our son in the crib and tried to get comfortable in the guest chair and we both drifted into restless sleep. About five a.m. he said he’d better go home to relieve the sitter. The sun came up, warming me a bit. I slept off the adrenaline and woke up at seven o’clock an entirely different woman. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I felt peppy and ready to go. I showered and put on makeup. If I was feeling good enough, maybe I could run over to my son’s kindergarten graduation while the baby was sleeping.

“You can’t leave the hospital without being released,” the nurse said when I asked.

At the moment that seemed extremely illogical to me.

“But he only graduates from kindergarten once in his whole life.”

    I wouldn’t be gone more than an hour and the baby would probably sleep the whole time. I had built-in babysitters (the nurses) and the school was virtually across the street. Heck, I could probably take the baby with me, then come back to finish the tests, oh, and get my free steak and lobster dinner.

What seemed perfectly logical to me was a preposterous suggestion to the hospital staff and even my husband. This would also become a theme of my life over the next several months.

           So I sat in the guest chair, fully dressed, shoes on, waiting for the cafeteria lady to deliver breakfast. I had time to think. But a woman’s head after giving birth is a dangerous place to be. I had made it without an epidural, that would save us five hundred dollars off the cost of delivery. I planned to stay twenty-four hours instead of forty-eight to save even more, and I wouldn’t get a prescription for pain meds.