The Art of Extreme Self-Care

Transform your life one month at a time

Cheryl Richardson’s books are often quite alike. Her advice is usually similar in every book that I’ve read of hers, from Take Time for Your Life to Life Makeovers (which was probably my favorite). They all can be helpful if you’ve never read any of her books before or if you are brand new to coaching and self-help, but generally there’s not a whole lot of new concepts. Still, they are enjoyable reads so I bought myself a used copy the other day.

This book will help me achieve one of my goals while 30—to complete a program and pass it on. I have a bunch of programs already, from Julia Cameron books I haven’t opened yet to boxes of breathing techniques and other self-empowerment courses. I am at the point where I don’t think I need any self-help anymore; I’m quite alright as I am. That said, I actually enjoy doing these programs in my journal and learning more about myself, sometimes even becoming a better parent or wife in the process, and that’s why I keep doing them.

The Art of Extreme Self-Care really just reminds me of a lot of Richardson’s other works, and I have to keep the demographic in mind to avoid getting irritated. Much of what she suggests, for example, is for privileged people without full-time jobs and young children. I know many single working moms who could not interview and pick and choose health care providers, for example—not just because they cost lots of time (that many health care providers don’t have, either, by the way) but also because many of these people don’t have health insurance, either. That money’s going to be spent elsewhere, like clothes and shoes for children. The same goes with anything from using a coach or even nurturing a hidden passion when all some of these moms want is a damn nap when they can fit it in.

All of this said, I think some of her ideas, such as the absolute no list that you make of things that you will not say yes to, are good ones that can benefit lots of people. The book is filled with good questions to think about, too, which I really like. It’s things like guided questions that make me see the most changes in my life—and help me to recognize what problems I might be ignoring. I do think a lot of people could benefit from this book, and I plan on passing it along to someone I love once I finish it.

Lead a less hectic lifestyle

It could make you happier…

When I say we’re busy, it usually means we spent the day at the Science Center, then a birthday party, then a park day the next day, etc. Our business is usually fun stuff, family stuff. But when many people say they’re busy, it often means that they’re running around crazy, doing errands (many of them pointless), cleaning their house spick-and-span, and generally getting themselves so worked up that they need a Tums. Or worse.

I wish I could plead for everyone to lead a less hectic lifestyle in America. When I was younger, I lived a pretty hectic lifestyle, too. I cooked and cleaned for my family, I took care of two siblings, I took all advanced placement courses, led several student organizations, and worked full-time as at a “part-time” job. (You’ll find that fast food places often work teens full-time hours.) I also played two sports. I rarely slept and continued this habit into college, where I worked two jobs, and into adulthood, when I worked full-time, went to school full-time, and cared for a newborn premature baby with special needs. In short, I burned out bad—both emotionally and physically, landing myself in the hospital with plenty of actual physical ailments.

Yet we Americans claim we love to be busy, productive people, and we brag about not sleeping and getting things done. It’s practically our country motto—“Be busy or die!” What do you want on your tombstone, though—“She was happy” or “She was busy and had a clean house?” I’d much rather have the former.

Living in Spain showed me how much a more slowly-paced life can be enjoyed; indeed, other than right now, it was my favorite period in life. All I did was my internship, 15 credit hours of school work abroad, and language classes. The rest of the time I enjoyed the country and the friendships and the food, as most citizens in Spain do.

For our part in ceasing the busy-ness, we stopped working more than 40 hours a week. I started using my vacation time, setting limits, and refusing to work on certain days. My husband has since built his job around family time, opting for a morning position so half the day is with us. I continue working around our family time as well, for the most part. We spend much more time playing than we used to, and we love to spend this time with our daughter. Isn’t this what our ancestors worked so hard for—for us to have a better life?

They sure didn’t stop churning butter and washing clothes by hand so we could just fill up those hours with pointless busy-ness.

Take the Shine Challenge

Learn to love who you are with Rosie Molinary.

Ever find yourself really disliking, even hating, who you are? Maybe you think your life could be so much easier, so much better, if you were just. Just thinner. Just smarter. Just richer. Just anyone besides who you are right now. But what if that’s just ridiculous? What if you could be happy as you are right now, warts and all?

The fact of the matter is that you can. We were built to be this way; in fact, I have a strong belief that before the invention of media, our ancestors were probably pretty happy with themselves and each other, but that’s for another post! The point of this one is that Rosie Molinary has set out to help us all embrace our own authentic selves just as we are, right now, and she is offering a month-long FREE course just to do that!

During Rosie’s Shine challenge, she encourages us to embrace the Body Warrior Pledge, which is a tall order to fill for many of us who are used to pleasing others, denying ourselves, living with low (or no!) self-esteem, or who simply don’t like ourselves the way we are today. Shine began on July 31, and I have to tell you that I’ve felt a dramatic increase in my confidence already. We are taking steps today to drastically change our lives—something we’ve meant to do for years—and while I would normally drag my feet and mutter that I just can’t, today I am putting me (and my little family of three) first and jumping in with both feet. Who knows? Something miraculous might happen!

Even though today is already day eight, you can still get in on all of these helpful prompts by beginning on day one and finishing late—or by combining prompts for a couple of days. I have been using my journal for mine, but feel free to participate in the actual blog posts with your replies as is encouraged by Rosie herself. I have found it helpful to decorate the edges of my journal with her cool hot air balloons, something I’ve always wanted to experience; this gives me a visual reminder of why I’m doing this program, as well as something fun to doodle while I’m on the phone.

Having a wonderful time during Shine? Or do you have another amazing course or program to share? Be sure to post it here, either in the comments or in your own blog!


Eat, Pray Love | Is Chick Lit Spiritual?

A friend updated her FaceBook status with a comment that she was tired of arguing with her teens, worrying about money and stressing over work. She wondered aloud what she should do. Her responses were all supportive. A few people suggested chicken noodle soup, but more recommended chocolate, the universal female cure-all. Some swore by an afternoon curled up on the sofa watching Lifetime TV. A few annoyingly healthy people even suggested going for a walk (what do they know).

What did she do? She re-read “Eat, Pray, Love”.

You can really categorize the book as both spiritual and as chick lit. I mean, it was written by a female author at a crossroads in her life and heralded by the Great Oprah herself as a must-read.

If you are not a particularly spiritual person, perhaps the chapters in Italy (Eat) or Bali (Love) meant the most to you. Or, as my mom likes to say, spoke to you. Perhaps you understood the whole devastation of divorce and pain of moving on. And, that’s fine. Whatever works for you. Maybe you saw the movie because you are a die-hard Julia Roberts fan. And, that’s fine, too.

For me, and apparently for my friend, it is a deeply spiritual book. The Pray section was my favorite. I’ve never had any desire to travel to India or live in an ashram, but it moved me. It spoke to me on a much deeper level. It somehow focused me and made me realize that I cannot spend my adulthood renouncing “organized religion”. That chapter of my life is over. It’s time to move on and practice what I do believe.

How about you? Have you read “Eat, Pray, Love”? Which was your favorite part?


Book Review: I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids

Since this site is for spiritual and/or self-help books and I already see a lot of spiritual stuff on here, I wanted to take a moment to talk about one of the best self-help books I've ever read.  The book is called "I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids", and I'll admit that I only bought it because I thought the cupcake on the cover was cute.  I figured it would be a light, fun read - assuming my kids were ever quiet enough for me to read.  

Is that not the cutest pink cupcake you've ever seen?  I wish I could bake cupcakes like that.  Wait, I can - but if I can't, I'm not a bad mom. I learned that, amongst other things, from this awesome book.

Do you ever compare yourself to other moms?  I totally do it and I'm not afraid to admit it - but I used to be.  There was a time when, despite the fact that I was a good mom, I felt very insecure about my parenting abilities.  I always worried I was doing too much of this and not enough of that, or doing the right thing at the wrong place, or the wrong thing at the right place...and on and on.  Being a mom is definitely one of the hardest jobs I've ever had, and that's mainly because I was putting so much pressure on myself. 

"I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids" tells it like it is.  I was expecting fluff and giggles.  I got the laughs I wanted, but it was a different type of humor than I was expecting.  I also loved the testimonials and confessions from real moms across the nation.  This is the kind of book that will make you laugh, cry, and learn to like yourself a bit more than you already do.  If you haven't already read it, I definitely recommend checking it out ASAP.  Come back here and tell me what you think of it, please.       

The Dalai Lama: Live in a Better Way

His Holiness the Dalai Lama Advocates for Greater Social Responsibility

Despite his association with the likes of Richard Gere and other Hollywood elites, His Holiness, the Dalai Lama is still recognized as a pretty good guy with a great deal of wisdom to share. Based on his reputation, I recently picked up a copy of “Live in a Better Way,” which is a compilation of different reflections of the Dalai Lama himself.

I’m not a Buddhist, so the earlier chapters in “Live in a Better Way” didn’t apply to me as much as they would to those following the Buddhist faith. However, I’m glad that I kept reading because His Holiness has plenty of other little nuggets of wisdom to share that apply to everyone, regardless of their personal faith.

I especially appreciated the Dalai Lama’s statements regarding personal responsibility and the importance of affectation; according to the Dalai Lama, an infant can’t survive without affection. Children and adults need affection to thrive as well.

The Dalai Lama also suggests that the most intelligent amongst us have a greater responsibility both to themselves and to others because of their extraordinary abilities. He believes (perhaps naiively) that those who use their great intelligence to manipulate others for power and personal gain come to regret their actions eventually.

He believes that love and compassion are not moral issues or related to any particular religion, but are imperative for our growth as human beings. His Holiness the Dalai Lama further believes that true happiness must come from within and that it does not rely on external factors; again, I believe that his view is perhaps a bit naiive. If someone is hungry, lacks water, or basic shelter or is suffering from an addiction, it’s hard to argue the case that those external factors don’t significantly impact that person’s ability to be happy.

While I don’t agree with everyone that His Holiness the Dalai Lama has to say in “Live in a Better Way”, His constant plea for compassion from others is something that resonates strongly with me. I feel that a call for compassion should be a rallying cry within our society as I see people struggling while others seem almost oblivious to their pain.

His stress for a greater sense of social responsibility, especially for those who have the means or the intelligence to do so, transcends all faiths and political beliefs. I have a feeling that the Dalai Lama could be the best volunteer coordinator ever since President Barack Obama.

The Golden Compass Controversy

Sure, you’ve heard that the tales of Narnia (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) hint at Christianity. But, the Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman also has a hidden message. The first book in the series, The Golden Compass, was made into a movie starring Nicole Kidman and that’s when the fireworks and false accusations started to fly.

You see, Mr. Pullman happens to be an aethiest. He didn’t set out to write a book encouraging young children to leave the church and hate God, as it was insinuated. Instead, like any writer, he sat down to write a story.

 It formed in bits and pieces in his mind as he slept, as he ate and as he went about his day to day activities. And, really, that’s’ how it happens for most of us. We jot words, phrases and ideas down on scraps of paper all the time. So … while many Christian groups hollered, the premise of the book was supposed to be a look at organized religion and how it can become corrupt. In fact, Mr. Pullman has no problem with Christians or any other religious group. He does, however oppose corruption entering an organized religion. I am sure we can all think of examples of that.

Anyway, it makes for an interesting read and an nice change of pace from other spiritual books. Side Note: anyone think that Nicole Kidman chose this role as a little private message of her opinion on a certain religion that she is no longer part of?

Childrens Books: Christmas and New Year's With a Twist

Light The Candles, My First Kwanza, Bringing In the New Year, and The Give Away

Christmas books abound. The story of the nativity is everywhere. Heck, you could probably even buy one a book on the birth of Christ at the corner gas station. But, there are many other stories to be told this time of year than just Christ and Santa. Once again, Amazon saves the day. Here are four alternatives for you to share with your kids.

  1. Light The Candles: There’s more than one miracle talked about in December. Teach your kids about the miracle of Hanukkah with this delightful lift-the-flap book. It’s a perfect way to introduce children a world view and, while you are at it, sing the dreidel song.

2.    My First Kwanza: This book tells the story of Kwanza, which is during the last week of December. Much like Christmas, everyone dresses in special clothes, eats special foods and celebrates with family.

3.    Bringing In the New Year: Tell the centuries old story of the Chinese New Year. From “sweeping” the old year out of the house to waking the dragon, you can learn about this holiday right alongside your children.

4.    The Give Away: This charming book tells the story of the birth of Christ but from the Native American perspective. It put a great spin on the concept of God’s love, giving and self-sacrifice.


Adding a few more viewpoints to your holiday story-telling, whether another culture, another religion or just another country, and help your children create a more well-rounded, world-view of Christmas and New Year’s. Plus, it is always fun to learn what other people do.  

Mitch Albom | Tuesdays With Morrie

One of the Best Spirituality Bestsellers Ever!


Growing up in Michigan in the seventies and eighties, I remember Mitch. Not that it makes me cool or anything. I don’t actually know him; I just remember him. He wrote a sports column for the local paper and then a human interest column. I distinctly remember his face each Sunday morning. I read every word he wrote, even then. I never aspired to be a writer, heck, I still don’t. But, if I had to name an early influence I would have to include the name Mitch Albom on that list.

Wikipedia and I don’t agree on the exact facts (big surprise there) but my hazy adolescent memory remembers a nasty, drawn-out strike (as in a year or two) and then a joint operating agreement between the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News. Albom didn’t cross the picket lines. Instead he tried his hand at local newscasting and he wrote a little book. You may have heard of it? Tuesdays With Morrie.

In a round about way, that newspaper strike helped so many thousands of people deal with death and mourning and, for that matter, living. You see, had Mitch Albom not been forced out of a job he loved, writing about Michigan sports, he may never have taken the time to sit down and write his NY Times bestseller. Sure, the whole meeting Oprah and getting on her must-read list helped but the book is so spiritually moving in its simplicity. It would have been on that list without her help.

I loved every word on every page and so will you. If you haven’t had the pleasure, go get a copy today. If you have, read it again. In fact, that is the ultimate compliment from me. I do not keep books, nor do I read them a second time. I make an exception for Mitch.    

Teaching Children to Overcome Anger

Bible stories, Sunday school, vacation Bible school, even church camp, it’s all available for Christian kids. That's great but what do you do when you are not raising your children Christian? There aren’t many options. It’s not like there is Sunday school for little Buddhists. Sure, if you are lucky enough to live near a Buddhist center, they may have classes for young people or even a family meditation or service, but not everyone does. Basically, it is up to you to teach your children your personal beliefs. There are some great books available on Amazon to help you, though. You have to hunt them down, but they are out there. 

One of the great choices is Anh’s Anger. When young Anh becomes angry and says unkind comments to his grandfather, he is instructed to go to his room and sit with his anger. Eventually, his anger dissipates and he feels better. The lessons are based on the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh about mindfulness and Buddhism.     

From the perspective of a parent, the book was enjoyable to read with lovely illustrations. The topic, although serious, keeps children’s attention. Anger is portrayed as a red creature/devil, which did briefly frighten my 4 year old. If you have kids that are worried about those ubiquitous monsters under the bed or in the closet, wait a few months before reading this. If you, like me, have tried to teach your children to breathe through their anger and take time to calm down, this book is a great reinforcement to that lesson. 


Published by Plum Blossom Books, this story and many others are available for your family’s reading pleasure. You may be missing the VBS, but you get way better books.