How Herbie Saves The Day from Narcissism

I humbly reflected on my morning and questioned my manners. Had I spoken too much in that morning discussion at the adult class at church? Had I over posted live blogs on Face Book? Was I practicing what I had written in my last blog? My spirit convicted me. So I promised my daughter we would watch that DVD that we borrowed from the library later that evening (after I took a long winter’s nap).

As the time came to watch the DVD, the week ahead began to overwhelm me and tempted me to break my promise.  Movies take up so much time and we really need to keep working on organizing the attic.  Thankfully,  my daughter resisted the negotiated offer and insisted on the first deal.  So into our DVD player went Walt Disney Productions’ 1974 family comedy Herbie Rides Again.

What a delight the next 88 minutes became.  This story written by Gordon Buford and screen play by Bill Walsh offers more than foolish cheap laughs to distract you from your reality.  The “good guys” model four different inspirational ways to work together to fight the narcissist bully, Alonzo Hawk, acted by Keenan Wynon all in hilarious manner.  Each character, including Herbie, have a mind of their own and have something to inspire in each of us.

Ken Berry plays the part of Willoughby Whitfield.  He has recently finished law school and his overprotective mother sends him to visit his ever powerful uncle.  His timing fits perfectly into the greedy Mr. Hawk’s latest plot to get what he wants with no regard for the little old lady, Mrs. Steinmetz (acted by Helen Hayes). Willoughby, the naive young man, trusts his mother and the lies of family ties.  He quickly accepts the mission to convince Mrs. Steinmetz to persuade her to sign the papers and accept the payoff to abandon the historic firehouse where her belated husband led heroically during the San Francisco Fire.

Nicole, played by Stephanie Powers, a beautiful young single airline attendant wastes no time in defending Mrs. Steinmetz, who she calls Grandma,  from Mr. Hawk’s relentless attempts to knock down the historic firehouse by delivering a blow to Willoughby’s jaw.  But her violence accomplishes little except to instill fear into the recipient of her blow.

It wasn’t until Willoughby experienced a ride with Herbie that he came through to see the truth about his uncle.  He quickly resolved that even though it was his first professional assignment gained through beloved family ties that these were no excuse to follow through with such wickedness.  He wrote his first resignation letter and rehearsed how he would deliver it.   Willoughby, however  quickly surmised that confronting a narcissist will only hurt one further.  He also learned that not only did he need to cut ties with his uncle, but his mother as well in order to develop the hero inside and to live the adventurous life before him.

What endears me most about the film is Mrs. Steinmetz’s impeccable manners and unwavering courage to continue to fight for what is right.   As a elderly widow, she is the epitome of society’s label of insignificant, weak, and vulnerable.  Never once does she rely on Nicole or Willoughby to save her.  She has unwavering confidence in Herbie.  She models a faith that truly saves.

To add to this she has fun.  She never gives into self-pity or anxiety.  Instead she acts.

Mrs. Steinmetz earned the title of Grandma from Nicole because she treated her as the ideal one.  She took her in to live with her in the historic fire house when Nicole’s apartment was knocked down by Hawk.  She also ever so graciously corrects Nicole on her default method to defend her and self with violent force.

Grandma lives her belief that manners matter no matter what.   Her reply to the guards who were about to arrest them was that she wouldn’t put her hands up until they asked politely.  She always kept her composure and never gave way to panic, even in the end when Mr. Judson delivered the bad news that there was nothing else that could be done.

What I love about the film is there is a role model for each of us to emulate. There’s a young professional single woman, single man, a elderly widow, and widower.  The overcome the obstacles and never give into the bully.  They even devise a way to win the bully over.  But the sad reality  is they cannot reform the narcissist,  Hawk.

It would do us all well to maintain suspicion, guard, and doubt in regard to a narcissist’s positive change in behavior.  Unfortunately, the definition of such selfish abuser implies that they are only laying a trap again to catch their naive prey in repetitive cycle.  But that’s no excuse for us to stoop to their low level tactics and forget our manners.  Let’s inspire our children to be mindful of others and follow Mrs. Steinmetz’s lead.

Resources on dealing with narcissists and abusers:





School Shootings, Safety Concerns, and What to Do About Them

by Hope Mucklow, blogger and author of Rojo, The Baby Panda at the Zoo

February 15, 2018, Jugal Patel complied some very disturbing numbers that more than 400 individuals have been shot in over 200 school shootings in an article published in The New York Times after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy this week in Parkland, Florida.

This is so tragic. Anyone who teaches public school understands more than the general public.  But the problem is even worse. Each and every day can be a war zone in our schools. The hostility, anger, disrespect, lack of motivation and pain of which these students attempt to learn in is rampant. Movies, video games, and certain music stars who glorify violence and killing have too powerful of an influence on many of the students. Guns are neutral. They are just the tool and scapegoat for a very deep societal problem. Yes, gun safety and responsibility should be a high priority, but let’s also focus on the underlying problems that lead to their misuse.

Too often reactions focus on blame, political issues, and trying to undo the horrid history.  May I suggest channeling energies on something else?  Instead of using a recent tragedy as fodder to support  political beliefs by arguing and fussing over a new law or cause, commit to focus on your local sphere of influence to make a difference.  This means healing your own personal issues so that you can respond better in each and every personal encounter you make.

That begins with reinstating basic manners like taking turns and listening respectfully to one another.

I wrote this poem for both my daughter and myself.  Birthing her surfaced all those life long hurts that still gaped open wide and therefore crippled my ability to truly love and teach her well.

I understood that my behavior communicated more to her than any of my didactic lecturing ever would.  Singing this poem (yes, I wrote a tune to accompany it) helped to calm both of us down in addition to reminding us  that which we needed to do.

Guns, social media, games, alcohol, drugs, smart phones etc. are all neutral.  It is how they are used that can be problematic.  Seriously, one can dredge up data on use of each mentioned on how much good they have accomplished.  Likewise history can be revisited on how fruitless instituted laws have been to curb harmful usage of each.

So before you jump on whatever side of the gun control debate that you believe it, spend time reflecting on how you handle your emotions, channel your energies, and spend your time.  Because you, yes you, a single individual make more of a difference than you may think.  Antoinette Tuff sure made a difference by talking a gun man into turning himself in to get help rather than to fire at the learning center that she works at.

Jordan Shapiro wrote an article The Truth About Parenting and Smartphones that exemplifies my point with cell phones.  I highly recommend reading it and considering all he has to say and how it pertains to this week’s news.

We all must chose what values we will subscribe to AND  live them accordingly.  There’s nothing worse than a preacher who doesn’t practice what he or she preaches.

If you are obsessed with your problems and needs, I’m sorry,  but you are contributing to the underlying problems behind the tragedies.  If you are willing to engage and care about others then you might make a positive difference.  There’s a classic world known book and popular man of history that has a lot to say about this.

Consider joining me in facing your life’s pain, healing, learning from it, and choosing to be content instead.  Find your favorite art form to convert those experiences into beauty that uplifts, encourages, and edifies rather than fussing and fuming.  There’s a time and place to address problems, but most are handling this week’s news poorly and could stand to consider my point.

Valentine’s Day Headaches and Solutions for Parents and Teachers


In less than a week many parents and teachers will be scurrying about to ensure their child has a valentine for each student in their class.  Teachers lose another day of quality instruction as parties usually dictate the order of the day.  If they don’t the pupils squirm about in excitement and too often sugar load.

Some instructors and administrators have banned the tradition in order to facilitate test scores meet their competitive needs to secure funding and keep jobs.  Others know that Scrooge doesn’t accomplish that anyway, so you may as well allow the children to have fun.

Then the creative teacher finds a way to slip in that education through the fun.  I don’t have solutions that fit all grades, but here is one phonetic reading coloring sheet, RojoValentinesDay,  for 1st through 3rd.  And those of you that fall below or above these levels you can certainly modify my solution to meet your particular classroom needs.

Then comes the trouble of the valentines cards.  Some teachers send a list of names home ahead.  Others instruct the children to leave them nameless.  Here’s another idea that ensures no one is left out by common human error.  “To You”  My daughter concluded this as she prepared her valentines early this year.  She said, “Mommy,  being new I can’t remember everyone’s names much less spell them.”  Throw in a couple of extra “To You”s in case one gets lost or a new student shows up.  You can always keep the extras for next year if you need.

Teachers, consider restricting the valentines to just paper cards.  No candy or gifts permitted.  Why?  It becomes a who gave what competition and then children go home with more candy than any human body (much less child) should process.  It also makes children who give a plain valentine remember that maybe their in a different economic class than the others and possibly  artificially puffs up the ones who’s parents paid for the over the top valentines.

Offer one reasonable snack that has some nutritional value to it like a cookie, brownie, cupcake, or cake instead of candy.  Candy is just pure sugar.  If one has a parent who will offer an attractive strawberry or fruit/vegetable snack, that’s even better.

Another thought I’d like to propose is to consider fostering a love for reading over eating.  I realize I’m an author and learning nerd to start out with, but my daughter truly values a good book over any food treat.  I quantify “good” book because I believe there’s a lot of trash to be read out there.  Children need to be feed good ideas just like they need to be feed food.   Life experience will dish out enough dark over time, so take time to see what they are reading and make sure it’s full of inspiration to grow well.

There are a plethora of wonderful children’s books that writers of the past and present have written.   Of course I’m promoting my own, Rojo, The Baby Red Panda at the Zoo, but I really hoping to influence for much more.  I’m promoting my fellow colleagues that I’ve met along the way like books by Anita Sax,  Kat MagnoliBrad Meltzer, and Karen Kilpatrick.  None of who paid for me to mention their names and only one of can count on his book writing to make a living.  (btw: did you know most of the book promotions you hear about are paid ones? It’s very tough business.)

Then there are just loads of favorites that I’ve encountered and read to my daughter like The Adam Racoon series by Glen Keane, You are Special series by Max Lucado,  Bernard Waber‘s  Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile,  and Dr. Seuss’s deeper picture books like Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories.  

As I wrap up may I emphasize that this holiday of “love” out to be an opportunity to display it?  And the kind of love I’m talking about is respect.  Respect yourself to set reasonable mannerly limits with others and respect others by listening with empathy and a willingness to learn why they may feel and behave the way they do.  Then the world might become a better place for all.  Happy Valentine’s Day.