Mary Landberg’s Poems: Fear Means Go

I just went to a reading (and 50th birthday celebration) of local poet Mary Landberg last night in Ashland, Oregon.

What a delightful surprise…

Mary and I have been part of the same dance community for years. We usually meet on the dance floor on Sunday mornings, smile at each other, watch each other dance very differently (Mary is a great Salsa dancer and I am not), and then go our separate ways.

Only recently did I find out that Mary is a hospice nurse, working with the dying just as I do as a caregiver. Now I found out that she is also a poet, just like I am.

The reading of her poems last night touched me.

They offered a balance between directly expressing authentic feelings and a freshness in her choice of words. I kept feeling surprised by the images that she evoked. Here is an example of her poetry:

He does not know what to do with his hands

I found this book of poems a beautifully crafted encouragement for those whose world is falling apart and needs rebuilding. She actually went through the foreclosure of her home last year and found so much more to live for on the other side of that challenging experience

Mary has found her way through these challenges and I see her standing taller (and more joyfully) through all of it.

Check out her website if you want to purchase her book and read more about it:

There are more samples of her poetry, both in written form and as audio samples. The book is illustrated with beautiful black and white photographs.

And by the way, a portion of the proceeds from the book and the CD (with all of the poems read by Mary) will go be donated to agencies that support women through times of difficult transitions.

What a gem of a book!

~~~ Check out my new website: A Good Dying ~~~


The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Nifenegger – Book Review

HelloBeware: Plot spoiler lurking in this posting!

Having been a science fiction and fantasy book lover since I discovered Ursula K. LeGuin and Doris Lessing in the late 70ies, at a time when ….. it has been fun to watch Scifi and Fantasy concepts make it into main stream books and movies.

A first wave was the Harry Potter series, which ended up being the most successful series of books ever sold in the world. “As of June 2008, the book series has sold more than 400 million copies and has been translated into 67 languages, and the last four books have consecutively set records as the fastest-selling books in history.” as quoted from Wikipedia’s “Harry Potter” entry.

.A second wave were the 11 Oscars the third movie of The Lord of The Rings series The Return of the King was able to win in 2003.”Released on 17 December 2003, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King became one of the most critically acclaimed films and greatest box-office successes of all time. It won all eleven Academy Awards it was nominated for, which ties it with only Titanic and Ben-Hur for most Academy Awards ever won. It also won the Academy Award for Best Picture, the only time in history a fantasy film has done so.” Quoted from Wikipedia’s “Return of the King” entry.

Now there is another interesting example of SciFi concept making it in a mainstream novel: Audrey Nifenegger’s 2003 bestseller “The Time Traveler’s Wife” takes time travel is not a SciFi or fantasy novel, yet its basic premise is that of a man time traveling through 560 pages. So far the subject of time traveling was not a subject for literary …

What moved time traveling into a mainstream worthy subject is very simple. Instead of

treating it as a scientifically implausible but nevertheless interesting subject, Nifenegger turned time traveling into a genetic disease. It is introduced in this novel fully equipped with human genome lingo, specialized doctors, and medical procedures exploring a genetically mutating individual and its cahllenges.

All of a sudden, the subject of time travel is worthy

~~~ Check out my website: A Good Dying ~~~

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Satisfying Solutions to Challenging Problems: Ellis Peter’s Cadfael Novels

HelloIn challenging times like the ones we are currently living in, I like to feed, or better nourish, my mind with stories that help me to remember the goodness in all challenges, to dare to trust in positive outcomes even if it looks impossible, and to relax knowing that all is well, no matter what.

One of my favorite writers twho offers that to me is Mary Pargeter, author of 50plus novels, who lived from 1914 till 1995 in England. She wrote 30 plus mystery novels under her penname Ellis Peters about Brother Cadfael, a Benedictine monk in England in the 12th century. The name or character Brother Cadfael is probably better known through the 13 episodes, that were made for British TV inthe nineties, although I am not talking about the film episodes.

The novels are set during the civil war between two royal cousins, Empress Maud and King Steven, both contenders for the royal throne. Peters wrote these mystery novels in the tradition of a good “whodunit” though situated at a time before carriages, mail service, and before the inquisition.

The author has managed to evoke a microcosm in which life has a deeply satisfying internal order. There are murders, there are laws, there are heroes and villains, there is a world of both good and evil, but they are all balanced out into a deeply coherent and functional world. A “bad” deed, for example a cold blooded murder, gets revenged not by an act of law by the sheriff or the king, but by the murderer’s own behavior. In “One Corpse Too Many” the murderer Adam Corsell dies in a “combat till death” with his opponent Hue Berringard by falling onto his own poignard, and not by his opponent’s hand.

To me it is a very good example of a deeply spiritual world that is not pollyannaish, not just full of cheap happy endings. Ellis Peter’s world and stories are full of challenges, depicting the whole range of human behavior from exemplary to despicable. But these challenges are being resolved in a very satisfactory way with all behaviors and acts balancing out at the end. You come away feeling full and rich, ready to trust the inherent goodness in life once again.

The interesting thing is that she manages to portray this balanced world in the midst of a world torn apart by civil war, where morals and laws are slowly but surely eroding into an inherently unstable political situation. She describes the ability to hold fast to integrity, love, and balanced out actions in the midst of a world falling apart. What wonderfully rich and satisfying morality plays, worth reading or listening to in depth to help us remember that kind of moral capacity at its best during our own challenging times.

I highly recommend reading these stories out loud to lovers, friends and family, or to listen to the books on tape.  I especially recommend the narrator Patrick Tull on the Recorded Books series, as his voice has a deeply satisfying timbre, plus his reading has a wonderfully slow pace that lets you literally sink into the less hectic pace of these 12th century tales, and complements Peters’ beautifully crafted stories very well.

Here is a website providing a list to all of Ellis Peter’s books in the Brother Cadfael series.

~~~ Check out my website: A Good Dying ~~~

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Nation by Terry Pratchett: A Bookreview

Cover of "Nation"
Cover of Nation

If there is one book, that deeply soothes and relaxes my mind in these challenging times, it is Terry Pratchett‘s novel Nation. Written for young adults, and the first non Diskworld book in 20 years, it spoke to me on a very deep level about how to deal with changes bigger than we would normally like to deal with.

The central theme of the book is one of coming to terms with radical changes, as the subtitle says:

When much is taken, something is returned.

Nation is set in an alternate history of our world in the 1870s and tells the story a young man, Mau, and a young woman, Daphne, whose lives are changed forever by a tsunami. Coming from two completely different cultures and upbringings, one tropical island, one British upper class, the tsunami throws them together as the only survivors, which requires the protagonists to blend and mix their two worlds with surprising results. For more details on the plot, click on wikipedia.

What makes this novel so rich, is a deep river of coming to terms with catastrophic changes. How do you make your peace with a situation that takes so much from you? Daphne ends up asking Mau towards the end of the book, if he would have preferred living a life without the tsunami and they both agree that the new opportunities were well worth the loss, pain and suffering brought on by the huge wave.

Pratchett’s gift for story telling is at its best and invites us masterfully to accompany his young protagonists on their journey into acceptance of lives dramatically disrupted and even celebration of lives forever changed. Here is a quote:

“They didn’t know why these things were funny. Sometimes you laugh because you’ve got no more room for crying. Sometimes you laugh because table manners on a beach are funny. And sometimes you laugh because you’re alive, when you really shouldn’t be.”

I felt deeply touched on several occasions during the reading of the book, and some had less to do with the details of the story and more with its author: last year Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with early signs of Alzheimer’s, and I could not help but wonder how much this book is reflecting Pratchett’s attempt of coming to terms with the prospect of such radical changes as that particular disease can bring.

The gift of a good storyteller is that he or she can invite us to dare the ride on the wide and fast river of change even when it feels like there is no other option. We can actually imagine making it through the possibly treacherous rapids not only unscathed, but stronger for it.

~~~ Check out my website: A Good Dying ~~~

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The Cure For Money Madness

How do we manage to feel good about our finances in these challenging times?

Here are 10 tips on how to survive today’s economy, quoted from Spencer Sherman on his website (I especially love his point 8):

    1) Remember to take a Money Breath whenever you’re feeling stressed or fearful about your money situation or about the world. Just make the exhale twice as long as the inhale and say at the end of the exhale “May my money wisdom increase.”

    2) I urge you to put your credit cards in a drawer until Thanksgiving like my wife and I are doing. Use cash for all purchases, or, if you have to, use checks or debit cards. Using cash reorders your priorities and reduces your spending. It’s much more difficult to put down five 20’s for a fancy dinner than just fling down the plastic. Try going cardless until January 1st.

    3) Review your spending intentions and really think about which spending adds the most value and which you could easily live without.

    4) Put some cash into a shoebox for savings, even if it’s only $1 per day.

    5) Put some cash into a shoebox for charity, even if it’s only $1 per day. Saving for yourself and for charity cultivates and increases your sense of sufficiency and generosity; it’s impossible to be fearful when you’re in these two states.

    6) Keep repeating your Curative Money Message (the message that is the opposite of one of the unproductive money messages you received as a child) in the morning and evening to yourself and take one action each week that will support your message.

    7) Ask yourself whether you’d prefer to be a billionaire in terrible health or homeless with your current health?

    8) Have a conversation with your spouse or an objective friend about how to double your income in the next 12 months. The opportunities are the most abundant in times like this. It’s this kind of thinking that will keep you in your heart and less gripped to your reactive thinking.

    9) Stop listening to all newspaper, radio and TV news for a week. My wife and I are doing this now. Give your mind a break from hearing that the financial world is melting down completely and you have to do something radical today. Also, take a break from negative conversations with others.

    10) If you have investments or cash, this is an opportunity to buy things like U.S. and international equities at low prices and to sell bonds, for example, at relatively high prices. Also, make sure you are really diversified in your 401k plan.

Spencer Sherman, very timely, just published his book “The Cure for Money Madness” and is on book tour these weeks. For tour details click here.

~~~ Check out my website: A Good Dying ~~~

Satisfying Solutions to Challenging Problems:Terry Pratchett’s Disc World Novels


In a time where we are very much interested in positive solutions to some of the more pressing problems of this modern day world, creativity and imagination are important tools to access these solutions. Here is a master of creativity and ingenuity at work:

Imagine a world that is shaped like a planet size disk. This disk rests on four huge elephants, which again rest on an even huger turtle. This contraption is called Diskworld and hurtles through space. It is a great playing field to let Terry Prachett’s wildly creative imagination combined with a Renaissance man’s breadth of knowledge loose to comment on anything and everything.

He makes fun of about everything in witty oneliners. He slaughters any holy cow possible and turns the carcass into creative and delicious entrees. And he quotes anything and everything from Shakespeare to Churchill to popular songs to James Bond: you name it – he quotes it (and you can read about every quote and its origin on a website created by dedicated fans – see L-Space references at the end).

Nothing is safe, nothing is sacred and everything is game in a sea of creativity, wit, and a deep understanding of the human psyche and way beyond. In his close to 40 novels the native British author just won’t quit coming up with unique perspectives on our modern day society, even though his Diskworld technologically has only reached the use of horse drawn coaches.

That does not hold Pratchett back from transposing modern day technologies into pre-electricity gadgets. The Hex (the one and only computer based on an ant farm kit), the klacks (a fax-like transmitting system using line of sight towers and paddles), and a movie camera (a box with 3 miniature demons inside painting pictures and turning the handle whips all three of them into continuous action) are just a few examples of his ingenuity.

On the Diskworld it’s the Century of the Fruitbat and the complex multi-ethnic society in the city of Ankh-Morpork includes the following species: silica based trolls (whose brains work faster in colder climates), dwarves (who escaped from the gold mines in Uberwald), werewolves (as a uniquely gifted police officer), zombies (very important man in the undead community), vampires (who hold AA meetings for vampires sobering up on tomato juice and serve the city as lawyers), and many more characters. Any idea or mythological concept is taken all the way to its logical conclusion and way beyond like Jewish Golems in “Feet of Clay” or aging heroes called the silver horde in “Interesting Times”.

This “modern” city of Ankh-Morpork is based on a self regulating system of guilds. Among them the Guild of Thieves (you pay a yearly fee for a plaque on your house which exempts you from robberies), the Guild of Seamstresses (in the process of renaming themselves the Guild of Negotiable Affection), the Guild of Fools (always so serious in their pratfalls, red noses, and water spraying flowers), and the Guild of Assassins (everyone’s head has a price).

Every book has a major theme like opera (Masquerade), the music industry (Soul Music), Hollywood movies (Moving Pictures), Australia (The Last Continent), China (Interesting Times), fairies (Lord and Ladies), diplomacy (The Fifth Elephant), religions (Small Gods), time (Thief of Time), death (Mort and Reaper Man), and Christmas (Hogswatch), to name just a few. Remember, there are close to fourty novels, and therefore close to fourty themes, and he is not done writing yet (luckily), even though last year he was diagnosed with early stages of Alzheimer’s.

Pratchett’s books have sold over 55 million copies worldwide, but strangely enough, I found only one person in my circle of friends who knows of his novels. I myself had stumbled across them by chance when looking for a new book on tapes, and could not believe my ears when I started listening. I kept laughing so hard that I was hooked. That was 5 years ago and since then I managed to listen to all his books either on tape or as mp3. His humor, his insights and his both simple and complex concepts have kept me sane in a dark winter a few years back, when his outlandish Diskworld held a place for me to reassemble my personal world.

Thank you, Terry Pratchett, for the gift of your writing in my life.

Many of his books can be found in public libraries, both as books or in various audio formats.

The L-Space (Library Space where all libraries on the Diskworld are interconnected) A very informative website concerning anything you would like to know about Terry Pratchett and the Diskworld. Also, check out Terry Pratchett on Wikipedia.

Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett