28 December 2005

Hangin' with St. Anthony of Padua

No, I'm not Catholic. Neither is my stepfather, The Bear. Having had a brush with death once in my life, I can tell you that if you were ever exposed to the Catholic faith, it will rear up at those critical times. As the car I was in skidded across black ice on Siskiyou Summit towards a really huge dropoff, I found Hail Mary coming out of my face. I didn't even know I knew it, and have not been able to duplicate this feat of knee-jerk recall since then. But there it was. Apparently, Catholicism dribbles into your soul with breastmilk. Got a call from Mom a few minutes ago, that The Bear is back in the hospital, and they're looking at amputating his entire foot. Depending on his circulation. They're gonna poke around, and do what they feel is best, and let everyone know when it's over. Naturally, he's terrified. Mom's beyond terror; she's existing in that oddly calm place where you deal with the facts as they present themselves, and you do not think through the minutes. One at a time. Mindfully. The Bear and I have been somewhat estranged for quite a few years, over several cataclysmic differences in lifestyle choice, and we chose icy distance rather than the sort of fits of temper we're both predisposed to. This is a relief to all within the blast zone. Mom's been sort of hanging between us, keeping us forcibly aware of each other, if not precisely in contact. Which is fine. Things most likely would have continued on that way indefinitely. Funny how crisis makes you deeply reexamine your philosophical position on all kinds of things. So here I sit in front of my laptop, trying to figure out where my emotions are going to land. And sure enough, the Catholic thing comes creeping out. And Blessed Google lets me know that sure enough, the Man of the (Next Few) Hours (before the surgery, where all I can think of to do is pray and light candles and incense and pace holes in the floor) is St. Anthony of Padua. He's a busy guy, also the Patron Saint of against shipwrecks, against starvation, American Indians, animals, asses, barrenness, boatmen, Brazil, domestic animals, elderly people, expectant mothers, faith in the Blessed Sacrament, fishermen, harvests, horses, Lisbon, lost articles, lower animals, mail, mariners, oppressed people, Padua, Italy, paupers, poor people, Portugal, pregnant women, sailors, seekers of lost articles, shipwrecks, swineherds, Tigua Indians, travel hostesses, travellers, watermen. Whew. I'm trying to decide if it's more relevant, to the amputation angle, that he's about lost articles, or that he's about mariners. The Bear asked to speak to me, and I let him know that I thought he was going a bit out of his way, but that Rowan was going to be thrilled to have a peg-legged Pirate of a Grandfather. He liked that. I didn't make any jokes about eyepatches; that seemed somewhat gauche. Read that again: he asked to speak to me. Woah. An olive branch thrown in fear is still an olive branch, and it's just beyond churlish to do anything else but grab it out of the air with grace and compassion. But maybe even beyond that, an olive branch handed out during such a time might even mean more. You can be sure that someone in a hospital bed spends a lot of time thinking of their own mortality (and if they weren't to begin with, the crosses over the doors sure help you along that way). To be thought of as someone worthy of reaching to... I think that might mean something after all. So while I wait to hear word from the surgery theater, I've lit my candle, I've listened to the church bells from St. Basil's, the church around the corner, and had a pleasant chat with St. Anthony. We're gonna be spending a companionable evening together. Amen.

27 December 2005

Not-So-Gross Domestic Product

In the spirit of the season, my family's been working its way through biographies of religious figures. "2000 Years of Christianity", "Muhammad: The Last Prophet", "Dalai Lama: The Soul of Tibet". It's been really enlightening to think about what it must have been like living with these real human extensions of Deity. Somewhat mercifully, man-on-the-street interviews didn't exist in Jesus' time (and I wonder what his neighbors said about him???) Anyway... Something they said in the Dalai Lama biography stopped me in my tracks. "Tibet," they said "is a nation wholly devoted to the production of enlightened beings." Woah. They do not have an agricultural infrastructure. They do not sell anything (even before the brutish Chinese invaded them). They have no military. They don't produce tchotchkes. There is no such thing as a Tibetan automobile, and there never has been. They don't talk about how much money they do or don't have. They produce enlightened beings. And what's more, they export them. I can't help but contrast that with my own nation, which currently is on a campaign of exporting filth, death, destruction, and debt. Oh yeah, and McDonalds, which may qualify as all four. You just have to wonder, what it would be like to live in a place where the entire culture is focused towards creating and reincarnating beings committed to the purpose of the betterment of the human soul. Dizzying, isn't it?

21 December 2005

Darkness, Death, and the Mother of Winter

It is cold. This time of year, as everything curls in upon itself, except of course Death, who has begun his visits. I can smell his breath. I've smelled it before. I know enough to salute as He passes by, and not to hate him for the work he does, both untimely and unnecessary, beneficent and bringing relief. He'd be an interesting guest at parties, I think. And every time notice of his visits reaches me, I both cry and acknowledge. It's a cycle, and I know that. Charles deLint says that the problem with us is that we keep thinking of life as a ladder, when actually, it's a wheel. It's the Solstice. Darkest day of the year. And, according to Eastern thought, the most yin time of the year as well. And yin is female. So I guess it's natural there'd be a lot of tension. Our culture doesn't acknowledge yin energy as being good and necessary. We fight against it. On this darkest day, we are to keep the light burning, so as to not lose it. It's startling how much effort it takes to continually brandish false light against natural dark. But once you've closed your eyes once or twice, you start seeing the glow behind your eyelids, and it's glaring and offputting. I welcome a day of dark. I rest my eyes, leaning my forehead on cool glass windows, and relish the rest. I allow the feeling of cold dark to rest upon me, the way it slides over you when you slip beneath ocean waves. I feel the insides of my eyes relax, my breathing slow, my muscles unclench. And instead of constantly saluting and invoking the Father of Winter in his Santa incarnation, I find myself seeking a quieter, more graceful, more female figure. I seek the Mother of Winter. She's a natural counterpart to Death, I think, and personification of the Yin energy the time is suffused naturally with. I seek the Mother of Winter within me. For truly, a mother needs the quiet, sometimes.

17 December 2005

The Most Famous Homebirth of All Time

(click to enlarge) Everyone who knows me is probably sick to death of my crowing about my ecstatic triumphant homebirth VBAC last May. My personal support posse has listened to my evolution, from typical medicarchy-controlled hospital birth, to organic, natural, mostly unassisted homebirth. I have, admittedly, become somewhat of a zealot. So it is with almost manic glee this holiday season, that I examine nativity scenes. They're everywhere. My neighbors across the street, devout Catholics, have one in their yard. They're the same folks who very concernedly came over to see how the baby and I were after my "dangerous" homebirth. Yet there it is in their yard; a depiction in 3-D of the most famous unassisted homebirth of all time. Yup. Mary was on her own in that manger. No medical assistance anywhere. In fact, apparently, no other women anywhere either. Just a bunch of animals, and her husband. And then of course, men called wise but who hadn't the sense to bring the baby a few receiving blankets or a cloth diaper (wouldn't that make for fun holiday pageants and passion plays down through the centuries? Would baby Jesus use birdseye flats or DSQ chinese prefolds?) Yet somehow, Mary managed to get it together, and raise him up just fine. The Tibetans are no doubt amused at our obsession with this single birth; their religious figures are reborn every generation. The current Dalai Lama was also born at home, with only his oldest sister assisting his mother through her labor with him. Considering hospital birth is a phenomenon of recent times, and most religious or prophetic figures births date from well before the prior turn of the century, the likelihood that pretty much every one of them had a homebirth is very, very high. It would be faulty logic to draw an association between homebirth and the potential for divinity, but I just can't help but wonder...would any divine (in the Christian version) or reincarnate (in the Buddhist) entity, really choose a hospital birth setting, specifically, if it had any choice in the matter? The implications are staggering, from whichever angle your brain attacks this one. I just can't help be intrigued at the irony that both homebirth and nativity scenes are under fire by the mainstream. Most years, someone somewhere is being badgered to take their creche down from wherever it is. And most years, midwives are being subjected to a nearly identical witch hunt. So this year, I think I'll find a way to put up a nativity in my yard, even though I'm not a Christian. Maybe it'll bother the neighbors as much as having to hear my vocalizing while pushing my baby out earlier this year did. But I doubt it. Homebirth separated from them by thousands of years and the sparkle of the hand of the Divine is, to their way of thinking, somehow different from what I did here in my humble little suburban manger. Or maybe it's just that now they have to wonder about my child, and those strange guys in sandals that showed up a few months back...

16 December 2005

Paperback Writer

Due to the encouragement of my friends and the beneficence and patience of my hubby, I'm going to be spending my Saturday writing queries. A query is a tool by which you grovel attractively in order to get your words seen. In print, that is; I'm already being seen, albeit by a smallish audience of already-confirmed fans, here.

Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book? It took me years to write, will you take a look?
Well, yes. I mean, I don't have a whole book on tap; just ideas for essays and articles, some of which I'm using this blog to bring up out of my backbrain and into the light of day.
It's based on a novel by a man named Lear, And I need a job, So I want to be a paperback writer, Paperback writer.
I think that fear of being overly replicative has got to be right up there with spellcheck failure as a writer's primary terror. And hubris, too, of course. No one wants to be caught cribbing directly from the pens of the giants. But of course, since the truly great are just there floating around in the collective unconscious, it's a big risk that you'll jump in and end up right next to them...
It's a dirty story of a dirty man, And his clinging wife doesn't understand. His son is working for the Daily Mail. It's a steady job, But he wants to be a paperback writer, Paperback writer.
Someone said that we write best when we write what we know. I know I've filled these blogs with what I know, or what I'm learning. Personal reflection is of late becoming a pop star instant ticket to credibility. Pink, and Christina Aguilera both have "family-airing-of-the-dirty-laundry" songs in their repertoires.
It's a thousand pages, give or take a few. I'll be writing more in a week or two. I could make it longer if you like the style. I can change it 'round, And I want to be a paperback writer, Paperback writer.
The art of the query is to take the same idea you have, and twist it around in as many different ways as you have places to submit it, so you're not double-dipping, yet you're still getting to talk about whatever your soapbox is. I guess the trick for me is not getting attached (how Buddhist!). I tend to write from the gut, and then think of what I set down as set in stone. The idea of jiggering it endlessly to attempt to appeal to the Keepers of the Gate is a little offputting.
If you really like it you can have the rights. It could make a million for you overnight.
When you start talking about getting published, ironicaly, most people immediately start talking about the moneymaking aspect. Several times, I've wanted to hop up and down and scream "These are my *babies* I'm putting out there! It has *nothing* to do with the money! It's all in the thought!" And of course there's the cold reality that the ranks of those who make bank with their writing are slim indeed. J.K. Rowling notwithstanding.
If you must return it you can send it here, But I need a break, And I want to be a paperback writer, Paperback writer.
Well, yes, a break is indeed what I'm hoping for. I've got a muse hammering the back of my brain so hard I'm beginning to develop permanent dents. She's been trying to get out for a really long time; so long, that I suspect she probably resorted to sneaking out and pounding on my friends on my behalf. Not to worry; I've got a Muse Care Package all put together.

15 December 2005

Row, Row, Row Your Boat....

I sent the following email out to some of my nearest and dearest yesterday...

So after much agonizing over what to do next, the decision was made to do a full bypass on (my stepfather's) leg. He'll be on the table, they estimate, 3-5 hours, and has a fairly terrifyingly high probability of dying on the table. If he makes it through, he's got a fairly terrifyingly high probability of having strokes and diminished functioning. Mom's coping darned well. I'm doing what I can to offer practical help from a distance. In one of his lucid moments, (the stepfather) forbade me from coming out to help in person, because he doesn't want to risk either of "his beautiful grandsons" catching some hideous hospital-borne plague bacterium. So that's that. Can't say but that I'm relieved; the thought of driving on frozen roads over Donner Summit with a six month old in a carseat behind me wasn't precisely thrilling. So anyway, I'm stressed. Mostly because the possibilities keep scuttling around in my head like irate tidepool crabs. Someone hand me a mallet. Quick.
And bless her heart, E found the mallet. In amongst a host of other wholly practical advice, she tells me,
Not that I'm terribly good with it myself, but since you've expressed an interest in the concept in the past, this is an excellent exercise time for practising living in the moment. When the panic and anxiety spins around hard and fast, one coping strategy I've used is to fill my head w/ a simple song, usually Row, Row, Row Your Boat. Instead of, oh my god, panic.... I go for Row, row, row your, boat, gently down the stream.... over and over. Visualize it. Almost like a mantra. It sounds hokey, but it does help drown out the bad stuff. There's only so much you can do. I hope I don't sound like the New Age fluff and bluff I fear I sound like--you know what a stress case I can be. But I also have lived many years w/ very deep anxiety at various levels, so I understand. I guess that's what I'm trying to say. I understand what the panic feels like, and I know how it can eat your stomach lining out.
So this morning, while I'm showering and working on creating my day, I find myself humming. Row, row, row..... ahhh. She's right. There's something about a simple round, an image of calm water and boats. But as I'm surfing to find the lyrics for anyone (perish forfend!) who isn't familiar, I discover that there is a Buddhist Mantra aspect to the song...which is what E was saying, in a different way. Todd Barton tells us:
The Mantra
Row, row, row1 your boat,2
Gently,3 down the stream,4
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,5
Life is but a dream.6

The Commentary

  1. Row, row, row. In form and structure this triple repetition of the imperative, row parallels the daily Buddhist invocation of the Three Jewels: "Homage to the Buddha, Homage to the Dharma, and Homage to the Sangha." One could, for example, say, "Row for the Buddha, Row for the Dharma, and Row for the Sangha."
  2. Texturally, however, the word row is more closely linked to the Sanskrit word gate, which means "to go", and which begins the famous Heart Sutra Mantra:

    gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha

    which translates as "Go, go, go perfectly and completely to build the path for enlightenment." Thus, the word row in our text is a shorthand for the Heart Sutra Mantra and may be construed as "I row towards enlightenment."
  1. your boat. It is your boat. You built this boat with your karma. It is nobody else's boat. It is nobody else's karma. You are rowing this boat toward enlightenment. It is your karmic stream.
  2. Gently. This is a call to go toward enlightenment gently, without force. It is like the gentle observation of your breath in meditation. Furthermore, it beckons us to undertake all actions, thoughts and deeds in gentleness and pure awareness. It should also be mentioned that some Buddhist scholars believe this word to refer to the Taoist/Buddhist concept of wu-wei, "nondoing."
  3. Down the stream. The "stream of Life." The daily dharma. The seemingly endless stream of death and rebirth. Your karmic stream.
  4. Merrily, merrily… This is a reference to the "merry" or "happy" state experienced in meditation. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, "This happiness arises when we become free of incessant worrying and preoccupation, and from the fact that the body and mind are at ease".1 Thus, a direct result of meditation is the ability to row down the Stream of Life gently and merrily.
  5. Life is but a dream. Of course, poetically, "dream" rhymes with "stream". But we might also say that spiritually "dream" and "stream" rhyme. Stream, as we have seen, refers to this life, which is Maya – impermanent and illusory – which is ultimately a Dream. Meditate on the impermanence of all Dharmas.

The Paraphrase

(Homage to the Buddha, Homage to the Dharma, Homage to the Sangha.)

Aware of your karmic stream, Go along easily, completely and perfectly Toward enlightenment in you daily life.

Happily, happily, happily, Meditate on the impermanence Of all Dharmas.

When chanted, this mantra is cyclical, its beginning and end are One. In form, it is like the Wheel of Samsara. In practice, it can be chanted endlessly until you boat reaches the Other Shore, the Shore of Enlightenment.

Row, row, row.....

11 December 2005

FtG -- Fighting the Guilt of Going the Right Direction

One of my New Year's Resolutions (which I do at Celtic New Year rather than Gregorian New Year) was to get my financial house in order. I was finally going to face all the ugliness head on, and do the research to get the right answers. The fruits of that research are going to be forthcoming in future FtG blogs. But anyway.... One of the commandments of pretty much every financial self-helper out there is to pay yourself first. OK, fine. Set that up so that a reasonable amount out of each check was going into the old 401(k). Waited. Waited. Waited some more... and then suddenly, got a paycheck where double my requested donation was taken out! Oi! So I call. I yell. They promise to put that money back into my next paycheck. Next paycheck rolls around, money isn't there. I call. I yell. Turns out what they'd decided to do, based on the legal penalties to them for doing anything else, was double-dip outta the one check, to cover their butts for taking so long to set my account up. Now, we live in the Bay Area of CA, where housing prices are steep. I have one paycheck to pay our bills, then the next covers the housepayment, with basically spit leftover. So what the gyrations of the payroll folks has done, is leave me paying the housepayment out of a short check, two checks in a row. I had to do all kinds of finance gymnastics to make this work. And I am fighting nearly overwhelming guilt and shame, like I'm some kind of financial deadbeat. I am having to fight every instinct I have to keep from going in and changing my 401(k) allocation. But paying yourself first is what matters, right? I think it's also more depressing than it'd be otherwise, because everyone around me is indulging in the pre-Christmas mercantilist orgy, and I do feel a tad left out. So I'm having to be creative about Christmas gifts. That's a good thing, right? So I'm paying myself first. And that's a good thing too. And I'm rearranging my bills more comfortably, and that's also a good thing. So whence this cringe?

10 December 2005

Damn the Primary Cesarean

Today was the funeral for Amanda's Noah. I lit my yahrzeit candle this morning. And I damn, damn, damn the primary cesarean. So many doctors, motivated only by greed and by hurry, and not at all by any oath to first do no harm, play the dead baby card, and make that first cut. It's so much easier than educating women to not fear birth, to be strong, to see birth as their initiation into the bigger mystery that is motherhood. Nah. Let's drug em and slice em, let's increase our profit margin, let's free up beds in the hospital for the catastrophes we've created. It's a really slick system. First, fail to adequately prepare women for their first pregnancy. Then, cut them open without true informed consent. Then, once they're cut, inform them that they can never have a vaginal birth, due to the policies imposed by ACOG, which is nothing but a trade union. Women are required to sign up to have each subsequent child cut out of them, with the trite and hideous phrase, "once a cesarean, always a cesarean." You know, we arrest drug pushers for using the same tactics; the first hit's free. And the OB and hospital's profits just keep going up, should that woman manage to have more children (because of course, miscarriage and secondary infertility are also effects of a cesarean). Many of us, who have the scar, wonder what we could have said to the women we were before, to prevent this from happening, to protect them from the experiences we had. And despite hampstering this question, in all the dark hours of the night and day for three and a half years, I have no answer. I don't know how to impart the information I've gained in a way that makes sense to the woman I was then. I dwell on this personal variation of Susan Griffin's question,

"I have been asked if I had the choice again, would I have a child? This is an absurd question. I am not the same person I was before I had a child. That young woman would not understand me."
I must make that young woman understand me. How to start the conversation, though? If she was a woman with a head for finance, I could tell her that past performance is no guarantee of future results. Just because your mother popped you out like a champagne cork doesn't mean your birth won't take days and days. Just because you have "birthing hips" doesn't mean that the baby's going to slide out without you so much as breaking a sweat. Just maybe, it's going to be more work and more pain and more effort than you've ever put into anything in your entire life. If she was a woman who believed in better living through chemistry, I might tell her that the endorphins released by a nonmedicated vaginal birth are nothing like the ones generated by the fear put into you at a hospital, and the baby birthed gently with love at home is nothing like the baby whose trust is broken from the moment he is touched first by someone who is not his family. If she was a woman who valued unhindered living, I might try to get her to listen to me about some of the incredible benefits of gestating in peace, unharassed by a medical system whose goals are not the same as yours, despite their marketing spin. An entire nine months to fall in love with your baby, without anyone pushing the agenda that you should be tentative about the pregnancy, babbling their constant dire warnings about "but what if? But what if? But what if?" and charging perfectly healthy women and babies thousands of dollars per pregnancy for nothing more than to make them uncomfortable and needlessly concerned. If she was the sort of girl who rebelled against authority, I might start out with my crusade against pregnancy tests. Who needs em? You're either pregnant, in which case your body will tell you, or you aren't, in which case, your body will tell you. The idea that you have to pee on a stick to confirm your pregnancy, is just the first in a series of little pseudocultural rituals designed to distance a woman from her body, when it's sending the strongest signals it ever will. But really, I'm just one voice. And if she's an independent girl like me, she's not going to listen until she gets there herself. And by then, it's too late.

07 December 2005

Strength is a Mother

I haven't posted recently. Two events have rocked my world. Two tragedies, to people I only know online, but somehow, it really matters. First, Debra's baby Quinn went back to heaven. At just over a year of age, he went to sleep and just never woke up. I've known Debra online for just over three years. She has pushed everyone who knows her to ask the hard questions and embrace the difficult truths. She's been my inspiration, and ultimately, it was Debra's strength that allowed me to decide on homebirth VBAC for Kestrel. Because of the trials she went through over Quinn, who was born disabled, I realized that a mother's love can overcome pretty much anything. Debra walked the walk, she was handed the incredibly unfair card of a child with overwhelming disability, and she fought for him like a lion. Every single day, she fought. Fought the system that wasn't giving him everything he needed, fought the fatigue that comes with having to fight all the freaking time. Debra is strength, to me. And now, she's having to fight all over again, against loss and pain and grief and getting her legs knocked out from under her again and again and now some more. And since Quinn passed a little over a week ago, I cannot put either of my sleeping boys down without pausing to check their breathing, and being absolutely present in the moment with them, and grateful, so incredibly grateful, that I have them, that they are healthy, that we are a family. I find myself sitting by Kestrel's cosleeper or Rowan's big boy bed, and just weeping for any mother who sits by an empty bed. Then, there's Amanda. Amanda, who during a perfect homebirth, felt herself rupture, and despite making it to the hospital in under five minutes, was treated stupidly by the staff, such that her uterus ruptured in three places, she coded on the table but was resucitated, and her baby, Noah, was lost. There are no adequate words for the rage, and the grief, and the rage again, cycling around each other as my thoughts spin from detail to detail, from question to question. Mostly, I damn the doctor who did her first unnecessary cesearean. I damn the people who dare call themselves medical "professionals" who then patronize and minimize a woman's pain, and knowledge of what's going on in her own body, because she's just another hysterical birthing woman. My thoughts are only able to touch briefly on Amanda's road ahead; I sit at the keyboard with all the other women who know her and have been part of her story, and the tears roll ... Birth is as safe as life gets, and sometimes, it's just not very safe. It almost makes the heart break to think about the generations of women before us, who knew that truth and faced it and jumped back into the pool that is creation of a family, over and over. How could they bear it? How can we? And yet, as I write this, Kestrel is lying on the bed cooing and plbthing to his toy cow, and in a few moments, Rowan will wake up, and I'll hear the pitter patter of his feet come running down the hall to see me, and get his morning "hugs and kisses and hugs" as he calls them. We keep on, because we are strong.

02 December 2005

FtG -- Getting Started with Finance How-To Books

Since starting out on my own journey of finance education, I've skated through a number of the entry-level, self-help finance books. They're all a little different, and they seem to target a different mindset, or level of personal damage. Ideally, you'll recognize yourself in here, and pick up a book yourself... or, let us know your opinion on one of these.... Money Drunk, Money Sober by Julia Cameron and Mark Bryan really targets the 12-step, totally out of control financial disaster crowd. People whose behavior with money resembles their behavior with any other illicit chemical. =) The approach didn't really work for me since that's not my relationship with cash, but I can see how it might benefit someone who was in that space. And it's also a really good read, just in terms of highlighting how one can creatively approach their finances, and start exploring whatever mental damage they do have surrounding cash flow. The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom by Suze Orman is just delightful. She's gentle in her handholding, but gives you the straight scoop. Once you've worked through this book, you get a feeling that even if you aren't a finance whiz, you've at least got your financial house in order, and that alone can be a relief. The glossary alone is worth the purchase price. She's not as 12-steppy as Money Drunk, but there's still a lot of exploration about the emotional component of finance, and the idea that it may well be your heart, and not your head, that's landed you in straits. Personal Finance for Dummies by Eric Tyson rocks. It just rocks. No emotional, self-help tone here; his whole goal is to get the financial information out there to you. It's more technical and more in-depth than the other two, and you have to do some quickstepping to keep up, if you're starting from ground zero. He's cynical and acerbic, and his writing style makes me giggle every few pages. Honestly, I don't think you should read 9 Steps without reading this one immediately afterwards. The two books cover identical ground (nice to have the backup that this is The Core of What Really Matters), but Suze does it assuming you're mentally tender, and Tyson does it with the implicit threat of a boot up the butt if you don't do what he tells you. Maybe it's just my background that makes me respond well to this style. But I definitely dig Tyson. I've got two other books of his sitting on my "to read" pile, and I'll review those when I get there.... Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. Um..... OK, I'll be honest. The editor in me thinks these books stink. They are written in a conversational tone, which is OK, but they're done badly, with a total disregard for the rules of English. OK, so that's a nitpick. But it also contradicts itself in places, and offers soundbites instead of real information or discussion. Having said that, Kiyosaki has some nice quotes, and some good inspirational material. He also scapegoats, in that his books make it totally OK to blame everything that's wrong with your financial life your underachieving parents' fault. For a really scathing critique, check out John T. Reed's page. So there's my start. I've heard great stuff about "The Energy of Money", "The Yoga of Money", and a few others, but those all seem to be related to different ways to think about finance, not a primer on the rules that cover it. So I'll read n review them later.