Category Archives: Book Reviews

The Siren Song of Time…Passing

Maria Popova did it again.

In her newsletter, Brainpickings, she introduced me to a woman, a memoir and a lyrical litany of life, love and loss, all backgrounded by time.

Dani Shapiro's memoir

Dani Shapiro’s memoir.

The book is Hourglass, Time, Memory, Marriage.

Once again, an author who I did not know rolls off the page written by Popova. Once again, I am moved to tears, moved to buy the book, moved to read the wonderful insights of Dani Shapiro as she puts pen to paper to write her memoir.

This well-known author already has a string of books to her name but this time, she is writing to her heart, her soul, her life as she watches time pick up speed, whirling all of us through constellations and galaxies and hurling us back onto ourselves.

It is time that she writes of and time that fascinates me – passing, spending, making, taking, and losing time. And Shapiro speaks of time through intimate knowledge.

time passing

“Years vanish. Months collapse. Time is like a tall building made of playing cards. It seems orderly until a strong gust of wind comes along and blows the whole thing skyward. Imagine it: an entire deck of cards soaring like a flock of birds.”

In one paragraph, she captures what I learned the very hard way. The little girl I was, the one I couldn’t see or feel in my overworked, over-stuffed, over-done world was still there, patiently waiting for me to whisper, “Patty, where are you?”

“Oh, child! Somewhere inside you, your future has already unfurled…, ” writes Shapiro. “The future you’re capable of imagining is already a thing of the past. Who did you think you would grow up to become? You could never have dreamt yourself up. Sit down. Let me tell you everything that’s happened. You can stop running now. You are alive in the woman who watches you as you vanish.”

Shapiro’s memoir is arresting, engaging, intriguing. It is also a call to all of us who want to write a memoir of our lives but haven’t picked up our pens, yet.

Shapiro reminds me that nothing is too late. It’s time. Pick up a pen and write.

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Filed under arm wresting, Book Reviews, Gifts, Inspiring People, Life & Death, Love and Marriage

Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation

Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation is the title of a book I just read, a book I felt compelled to read in light of the current situation in Washington, D.C.

Radical Hope is about the Crow Indian Tribe

Radical Hope may help.

Like many people, I am dumbfounded that our government could be taken over and co-opted so quickly and so thoroughly by people who do NOT, in any way or shape, represent what I believe in, what I love about this country, what I love about the people who live here.

I am also afraid — for myself in the short-term — but for my child, my grandchildren, my nieces and nephews — and what their lives will be like in a country where you only count if you are white, male and rich.

So, I found and read this small but powerful book. Written by Jonathan Lear, it is an exploration of how the Crow Indian tribe managed to survive in the face of total cultural collapse.

So, what does this slim volume have to say to me, to you, to any of us that could help us out in a country where Donald Trump is President?

Plenty.

Chief Plenty Coups vision saved his tribe

Chief Plenty Coups radical vision saved his tribe

The Crow were the only indigenous people who kept their land. They were the only tribe not defeated by the US Army. Their entire strategy for surviving a total and utter cultural collapse was driven by the vision of a 9-year-old child named Plenty Coups.

In his vision, the child who was to become one of the last great Chiefs of this Indian tribe, witnessed the loss of the buffalo, the end of the warrior as the center of the tribe’s life, and the destruction of hundreds of years of nomadic life.

Plenty Coups saw the Four Winds begin a war against the forest, witnessing the loss of all but one tree, the tree housing the lodge of the Chickadee.

The Man-person in Plenty Coups’ dream tells him that the Chickadee is least in strength but has the strongest mind of its kind. It listens. Nothing escapes its ears. The Chickadee never intrudes, never speaks in strange company but also, never misses a chance to learn from others – to gain success and avoid failure. Plenty Coups is to model himself on the Chickadee, to develop his body but not neglect his mind. “It is the mind that leads a man to power…”

From these two visions, the elders of the tribe recognized that the white man would take and hold the plains, their land, but if the Crow listened, as the Chickadee listened, the tribe might escape the fate of all other tribes, defeat, loss of life, loss of land.

The Crow joined forces with the white man, waged war against its own mortal enemies, the Sioux, the Blackfeet and the Cheyenne. This was a radical strategy but it was true to the vision. To survive when you are living your life at the very horizon of your understanding, when you can see no future, nothing of your way of life surviving, nothing of your culture as it has been known to you and your ancestors since the beginning of time, this was the only way.

Crow Indian Chief Plenty Coups

Chief Plenty Coups

What Plenty Coups did in the face of cultural destruction was to look to, “…future goodness that transcends the current ability to understand what it is.” Some might call it blind faith but it was anything but that. It was radical; it was hopeful. It was informed. It was courageous.

Our country, our culture, founded on inclusion, freedom of religion, free speech, is under attack. What can we hope, legitimately, when the very sense of purpose and meaning given to us by our culture is collapsing?

I turn to what I learned when I read Radical Hope.

Working together at Women's March in DC

Crescent Dragonwagon marching in DC

We must join together. We must work together even if, in the past, we were on opposite sides of the political spectrum.

We must convert our anger and angst into action as millions of people did in January of 2017 – marching in Washington, DC, across the United States and around the world to protest the Republican President’s campaign of hatred, bigotry and bullying.

We must have hope, like Plenty Coups, like the Crow, but it must be informed hope – not hope that permits self-deception, not hope that waits for someone else to step in and fix the devastation.

It must be hope that looks the monster square in the eye and does not back down or equivocate. It sees precisely what it is looking at but holds on to the hope that we can find a new path that works for all of us.

We must have courage. We cannot avert our gaze from the reality standing right in front of us – the wholesale destruction of our Constitution, our laws and our country.

We cannot balk at the risk of speaking out or of acting. We must collaborate. We must fight back. But we must start by listening to the enemy, observing how he works, what he does, learning his methods, not to employ them but to turn them to our uses.

Adapting his tactics, countering his moves. we take the high road. Make phone calls to your Senators and Congressmen. Demand that they be accountable for both actions taken and failure to take action. Standing by while our country is torn apart is just as unacceptable as supporting policies that ban a particular religious group or attack people because of their ethnicity, beliefs or gender.

Become an activist. Join a local group that is fighting for our freedom. Wage a battle against the divisive, misogynistic and hate-filled world that the current crop of politicians — people who are supposed to represent us but surely and certainly do not — is creating.

We must have radical hope. We must work together, ethically, raise up a new culture from the bones of the one being destroyed by the Republican party and its monied interests.

NOTE:

The photos of Chief Plenty Coups reproduced with permission from Little Big Horn College, a 1994 Land Grant Institution, is the Crow higher education and cultural center.

The photo of writer and author Crescent Dragonwagon in DC is courtesy of Dida Gazoli and is reproduced with the permission of both women.

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Edward Abbey – The Voice Crying in the Wilderness

The Voice Crying in the Wilderness is one of those books that I have long wanted to read but never quite got to until this week.  I wish I had read it when I was younger.  I’m glad I didn’t start reading it until now.

Abbey was a writer of some repute authoring books like The Monkey Wrench Gang and The Brave Cowboy.

A naturalist, well-educated and well-read, Abbey was also a truth teller, a writer who pulled no punches, a man frequently described with a single word – iconoclast.

He was, also, a man who kept a journal for 21 years, jotting down thoughts, observations and ideas and eventually coalescing all into the small but powerful book of which I am writing, today.

This small volume looks like an easy read and it is.  It’s also a deep, insightful, belly-laughing, terrifying and sad read.

Abbey saw, really saw his world, the world around him and the world we live in.  Divided into categories like Government and Politics, Life and Death and Money, etc, Abbey’s book doesn’t just report what he sees, it shares what he thought, his philosophy, if you will.

But The Voice Crying in the Wilderness went a bit further because Abbey’s insights are, in some cases, more than 30 years old and yet, spot on for today.  For example, the current and terrible economic situation – 1% of the United States population owning 42% of the financial wealth of this country, might resolved or at least ameliorated if we followed this insight of the author’s:

“If America could be, once again, a nation of self-reliant farmers, craftsmen, hunters, ranchers and artists, then the rich would have little power to dominate others.  Neither to serve nor to rule. That was the American Dream.”

Abbey’s predictive powers appear to be like those of the best science fiction writers, writers like Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov and Theodore Sturgeon,  Sturgeon once told me that sci fi was predictive because it was based in science. Sturgeon called it “scientia fiction.”

In coming weeks, I will be sharing other Abbey insights that I find compelling, telling or just plain funny. Do you have a favorite Abbbey quote? Please feel free to share it, here!

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Defy Gravity with Caroline Myss

I just finished reading Defy Gravity: Healing Beyond the Bounds of Reason  by Caroline Myss but I don’t think I will ever be finished with this book.

Myss is a long-time practitioner of intuitive healing who is, also, well-respected within the traditional medical community.

Myss is also an amazing writer with an extraordinary talent for taking sometimes difficult and obscure teachings on self-healing and translating them into concepts that are clear and concise.

That doesn’t sound like much lot but it is.  In fact, it’s a huge accomplishment because it makes these otherwise arcane approaches and methods readily available to anyone who has 20 minutes a day to read Defy Gravity!

Teresa of Avila, Muhammad, Buddha, and Saint John of the Cross are all woven into this tapestry of intuitive understanding and healing.  Myss doesn’t espouse one spiritual approach over another; she moves through them, finds common ground within them and expands their sometimes parochial meanings into universal truths

Myss may well have found the path that Joseph Campbell spoke of when he said religions in the 20th century would NOT be able to help anyone until all religions found a way to bring their myths into the modern world — the world in which you and I live, work and try to get along.

There was so much to learn and think about and play with while I was reading this book that it’s hard for me to choose what to share but here are some of my favorites:

Forgiveness is NOT releasing the aggressor nor is it telling them that what they did was okay and all is forgiven.  Forgiveness takes place inside where my disappointed, abused, angry ego confronts my soul and releases its hold.  The goal of forgiveness is shattering the myth that maintains that suffering is deserving of recognition, reward and/or righteous vengeance.  Understanding the essence of forgiveness is one of the most deeply healing and liberating gifts you can give yourself.

Working in harmony with the universe influences all life; dominating just one life destroys you.

See clearly. Recognize illusion. You can visit your wounds now and again (like we all do), but you can no longer, mentally or emotionally reside in that place, continually processing wounds that are decades old.

Keep your soul intact at all times.  Look for God or the Universe in the smallest details of your life.

Stay where you belong, in the present moment.

This one is mine – born in the crucible of my own search for joy and peace:

All of the stories of my life – the ones I tell myself, my friends, my loved ones – are ingrained but….when I drop them I can see the beautiful world all around me – right in front of me – in the present moment.  And I can, literally, breathe in joy and peace.

Buy the book; borrow it, read it and just feel yourself opening up to the universe and all the potential for wonder, love and joy that are already inside you!

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Filed under arm wresting, Book Reviews, Gifts, Healthcare, Inspiring People, Life & Death, Medical Writing, Religion, World Changing Ideas

Geoffrey Canada Knows How To Save Education

And Geoffrey Canada knows how to save children and parents and communities.

I’ve written about Mr. Canada before – one of my Project 365 heroes.  But I think this man, his Harlem Project and the incredible success he has had with rescuing children, educating them and sending them off to college deserves to be revisited.

Perhaps it’s because I just finished Canada’s book – Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence.

If you want to know how to save our children, how to make our schools better, how to change, grow and heal our communities, read Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence. Then get out of your chair, get in your car or on your bike or even on your skates, go to the nearest school, step inside and volunteer to help change the children’s worlds.

Geoffrey Canada is the man behind the Harlem Project. His mind, his drive, his desire to help children, parents and the community made the Harlem project a reality. And Geoffrey Canada knows his audience; he lived in abject poverty, the son of a single mom in a neighborhood where value was assigned based on how well you fought.

Geoffrey Canada’s approach points the way to saving all the children who live in neighborhoods owned and operated by drug dealers, drug users, robbers, muggers, burglars and rapists — killers of every description. My take on his core thesis is you cannot change children who live in these communities just by working inside the 4 walls of a school; you MUST change the community, reach out to the parents, help them where they are so they can reach out and change their own worlds, one step at a time, one day at a time.

Working in one of these schools in one of these neighborhoods, I see  “throw away” children every day.  On a good day, these kids are raising themselves; on a bad day, they are being turned into mules, snitches and sometimes, enforcers.

I could stay home.  I could turn a blind eye.  I could be one of millions of people who sit at their table every morning and bemoan the ignorance, the violence the destruction being wrought in our communities and schools.

I won’t.  I get up and go to work in one of these schools every day.  I reach out to touch these wonderful middle school and high school children, talk to them. offer them   If I can make a difference in the life of just one child, I have done a good job.

So to everyone who thinks this is someone else’s problem, here’s my advice. This holiday season, give a gift that cannot be bought in any store.  Get up. Go to a troubled school.  See how you can help!

These children did nothing wrong but to have the misfortune of being born poor.  They don’t deserve to die – physically, emotionally or mentally.

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Filed under arm wresting, Book Reviews, Death & Dying, Education, Gifts, Inspiring People, Life & Death, Politics, Project 365

Blunderkins© Is Coming To Town

Her name is Shirley Epstein, aka Blunderkins©.

She has a nose for bad news and an uncanny knack for diving into the middle of murder, mayhem and mystery.  Fair, fat, fertile and a bit over 40, Shirley is also pretty good at dragging her long time, ever patient, inventor husband, Bert, into the fray with her.

In Blunderkins© Saves The Baby, Shirley finds death and destruction right in her own back yard when her new and very rich neighbor starts dumping a liquid fertilizer into the pond he shares with the Espteins, something that turns the water red and his lawn an emerald green.

At the heart of this mystery is a stolen baby and a human trafficking ring. Shirley gets the facts but she also gets caught and is headed for the same fate as the other murder victims.

Bert saves the day (and his wife) with his techno-talon, a hidden, high-tech surveillance system and a GPS chip embedded in Shirley’s wedding band the day they got married.

The manuscript is in the final round of editing; the book will be on Amazon Kindle before you know it and Shirley and Bert have already embarked on their next murder mystery entitled Blunderkins© & The Bad Husband.

NOTE:  The word and character, Blunderkins©  are copyrighted and the exclusive property of Patricia and Pasquale Muccigrosso.  Copyright © 2013. All rights are reserved. This character and books named for this title character may not be reproduced or used in any manner, whatsoever.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Copywriting, Freelance Writing, Love and Marriage, Mysteries, Publishing

How Creativity Can Be Fostered

If Larry Smith’s TED Talk on why many people fail to get the job they want depressed you, this guy should make you smile.

Smith and Jonah Lehrer, author of a new book on how creativity can be fostered, are looking at two different sides of the same coin.  Smith talks about how fear holds most of us back, makes us settle for “good” jobs instead of great ones.

Lehrer’s view is that all of us have the ability to be entrepreneurs, to have great jobs through our innate creativity.  All of us have voices that whisper answers to thorny work problems or offer up ideas for new products but most of us have forgotten how to listen.

An easy read, Imagine: How Creativity Works is like a door opening inside your mind and inviting ideas to sweep out into the world, ready for the hard work of refining, editing, shifting a bit to one side and polishing them for the marketplace.

Lehrer is also easy to listen to, offers solid information without any buttons or bows and reassures listeners that most of us really do have more than one great idea banging around in our heads; we just have to learn to stop and listen.

He suggests breaking away from the desk, playing ping pong or getting a shower. I have found that mowing the lawn and vacuuming do the same thing – disengage the rational mind that says, “No, that won’t work.” and give our imaginations a chance to come out and play.

Well worth a listen and well worth the $16.00 to buy the book!

Smith says to follow your passion. Lehrer says to listen to yourself, find your idea and start polishing. Both of these men offer insight into our lives that make it possible for us to step out, into this world and make a difference.

Thanks to Colton Perry for the Facebook post, for sharing this lovely approach to letting your creativity come out to play!

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