How We Treat Children

Unbridled Joy

“When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.” ~ Fred Rogers

“Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.” ~ Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

There is a saying that you can tell a lot about a society by the way they treat animals. I contend that you can also tell a lot about a society by the way they treat children. I’ve been thinking a great deal about children lately and the way we’ve been treating them.

Last weekend my husband and I went to see the documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? about Fred Rogers and his PBS children’s show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Fred Rogers’ approach to dealing with children was so loving and kind. It’s the way we should be treating all the children we come into contact with, even if their parents came into this country illegally.

Mr. Rogers was an ordained minister who used television to help children feel like they were heard, seen, and appreciated. He also used the show to help young children deal with things that most adults have trouble dealing with as well. Things like death, divorce, tragic events, being bullied, and even social issues that might impact them. No topic was off limits for Mr. Rogers. During the Civil Rights movement when people were having black children removed from public swimming pools for no other reason than they had a different skin color, Mr. Rogers invited the neighborhood police officer, who happened to be black, to join him in cooling off his feet with him in a little wading pool. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and then Robert Kennedy were assassinated, he did a show about what the word assassination meant. He did shows about divorce, disabilities, and so much more. He always ended his show by telling the children that he liked them just the way they were. He meant it and they knew it.

Even though many parents and children loved him because of who he was and how he treated them, he had his detractors too. Some journalists, or psychologists, or politicians said that because of Mr. Rogers’ show, a whole generation of children were growing up entitled and narcissistic because he told them they were special. Not everyone is special, they reasoned, and we shouldn’t tell them they are.

I don’t understand the human predilection for blaming the wrong people when bad things happen.

The argument that Mr. Rogers was to blame for the failure of parents to love their children, reminds me of the parents who would say to me, “I want you to fix my child.” I had a whole raft of thoughts going on in my head that I was too nice, or unable to say because of school policy; things like, “I teach five classes a day with 25 to 30 students in each class, and you want me to fix your child? And I see your teenager five hours a week. How many hours do you see your child in a week? If you want them ‘fixed’, you’ll have to change your own behavior. I’ll try to help them deal with the bleep you put them through, but you need to take a good look at how you’re interacting with them if you want them ‘fixed’.” I tried to help teens deal with the things they were concerned about, but I wasn’t always successful. I made mistakes, and I couldn’t reach every student.

In the same vein, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood was on for one hour every weekday, that’s five hours a week. Yet people were blaming him if their children didn’t turn out the way they thought they should? Who’s the narcissist blaming others for their own mistakes?

And then, this week, I discovered that my favorite version of Jane Eyre is on Amazon Prime Video. As I watched the first segment, I remember how I felt when I read the book in high school. I was so angry with Jane’s aunt. She treated Jane horribly and encouraged her children to do the same thing. Here was Jane, an orphan being blamed for all sorts of wickedness that, of course, she was not responsible for. Her aunt hated her so much that she sent her to a horrible school for girls, which was more like a prison. The girls were not fed properly, didn’t have proper heat, or warm clothes, and they got punished often for tiny little infractions that really didn’t matter at all. I just didn’t get that? And we’re still doing similar things to children today.

Most people claim they want children, then some treat them abominably when they begin to walk, talk, and think for themselves. You hear parents in the grocery stores, or at the soccer field, or in restaurants yelling at their children for all kinds of trivial things. Heaven forbid a child should have their own feelings. This kind of abuse leads some, when they get to be adults, to have a difficult time relating out in the world and we wonder why.

While I wrote all of that, I was thinking of all the years I worked with young children. I started before I was out of high school, teaching Bible School classes and graduated to being an aide in Montessori Schools, child development and day care centers. In the mid to late 1980s, I was a teacher in one of the four year old classrooms at the child development center sponsored by my congregation. For the most part it was fun creating the projects and choosing the books to read to the children. But sometimes I encountered a child with severe problems. I had one little boy who would get extremely angry, throw chairs and other things around the room, and hurt the other children. The director and I didn’t really know what was going on. We informed the parents of the boy’s behavior and asked the other staff to keep watch. One day one of the teachers found the boy in the bathroom with another boy doing things that little four year old boys should not know anything about. That’s when we got a clue that this little boy had been sexually abused. We called in the parents and told them our suspicions. They had emigrated from one of the war torn African countries to avoid such things and were appalled. They began an investigation and discovered that the abuser was their baby sitter, a woman who had been recommended by their pastor. If I remember correctly, it was discovered this was not the first time the woman had done this. She was arrested and I think convicted of child abuse. And the parents had to send their beautiful little boy for counseling. He got better, but oh my, what a heartbreaking situation that family had already suffered just to get here and then to have that happen. I sometimes think of that little boy, who is now a man, and wonder if he healed from that traumatic time in his life. I hope he did.

That little boy makes me wonder what will happen to the children who were recently ripped from their parents arms and locked away. Will they be able to heal after they are reunited with their parents? I hope so, but I feel terrible what happened to them in my country.

In my opinion, children are our most precious gifts. Fred Rogers knew that and tried to make the lives of children easier. He tried to help them process their feelings and understand the world a little better. We need more people like Mr. Rogers in the world.

I encourage you to go see Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Mr. Rogers was the perfect example of the meek, gentle person, who is dismissed and sometimes ridiculed by more outgoing types, but nevertheless changes the world. If you’re sensitive like me, you might want to take plenty of tissues when you go see the movie.

Thanks for reading, commenting, and liking. I appreciate it.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Dune – Evil Kills Itself

Dune SONY DSC

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will let it pass over me and through me. And when it has passed I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where it has gone, there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” ~ Paul Atredies in Dune

The other morning as I was in that nether world between sleep and waking I heard a voice say, “Evil always kills itself.” I opened my eyes and thought back to all my favorite novels, movies, and events in history and confirmed the truth of what I’d heard. It may take a long time, but people who lust for power are eventually crushed under the weight of all they try to control.

Later that week several things happened, too numerous to relate here, in which various people expressed fear over current events. These two ideas converged in my head and I thought that I’d write about the book and movie/mini-series, Dune, which is one of the great examples of what I heard in my head that morning.

One of the things I love about the fantasy/sci-fi genres is that they can take the things we struggle with everyday and show them in a new way. The authors and movie makers put their stories of human experience on a distant planet, in space, in a parallel universe, or in the struggles of superheroes so we can examine ourselves at a safe distance.

Frank Herbert’s Dune, is such a story. The power struggles in his story are not confined to one planet, but to an entire universe. Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV is trying, desperately, to hold on to his power, but there are many forces against him, The Baron Harkkonnen, the Spacing Guild, and the Bene Gesserits, an all female order, all want to control the spice melange on the planet of Arrakis. This spice extends life and enhances certain psychic powers. Whoever controls the spice, controls the universe.

In the middle of this struggle is Duke Leto Atreides and his family. The Duke has no taste for power other than to rule his own home planet of Caladan. He’s a benevolent ruler and his people love him. His humility and humanity makes him popular with the lesser nobles in the universe as well and a threat to the balance of power. This makes him a target. The Emperor and the Baron, commanded by the Spacing Guild, join forces to destroy not only the Duke but his entire family.

Meanwhile, extended use of the spice has caused the Spicing Guild leader to become something other than human. He can see the future and knows that the precarious balance that exists will be upset by the unexpected coming of a super being created by ninety years of genetic manipulation of the Bene Gesserits. This being is called the Kwisatz Haderach. The Spicing Guild wants to kill this being to maintain their power, the Bene Gesserits want to control him to gain theirs. Their plans are upset, however, when Duke Leto’s concubine, the Lady Jessica, a Bene Gesserit who was to have had only daughters, disobeys because the Duke wanted a son. This makes her son, Paul, a dark horse, and a target for all those struggling for ultimate power.

The Fremen, the native inhabitants of Arrakis, are another dark horse element in the struggle. Everyone assumes that the Harkkonnens, who have governed spice production on the planet for centuries, have killed off most of them. When the Emperor orders Duke Leto to become the new governor of Arrakis, the Duke sends out a trusted ambassador and discovers that the Fremen have been living in hiding in the deep desert. Their numbers are vast, and they want their planet back. Duke Leto vows to help them do that, but before he can put his plan into motion, he’s betrayed and killed. Jessica and Paul escape, unbeknownst to the four groups struggling to gain the upper hand.

In the end, Paul, Jessica and his young sister Alia, become Fremen. It is revealed that Paul is the Kwisatz Haderach. When he announces himself after the Fremen win the final battle on Arrakis, all power shifts to them. All the maneuvering, to gain power by the four main combatants falls apart and balance is restored to their universe.

I love all versions of this story because it shows that the lust for power destroys those who attempt to control everything. It also shows that “the powerful” really aren’t. They live in fear for their safety far more than those they dominate. They think that what they have accumulated will protect them. It won’t. It’s like mist and can dissolve in a moment. What the power hungry don’t understand is that there are larger forces that work to maintain true balance.

Frank Herbert and the movie/mini-series makers did a fantastic job of weaving an intricate story to show that real power is embodied by the humble, intelligent, loving and fair rather than the arrogant and cruel. It may take a very long time to restore the balance of power, but it always happens.

And I believe what our good friend John Berger used to say, “There are no victims, only volunteers.” So, going back to our current political situation in this world, though it appears that people’s lives are ruined, or they die as a result of cruel leaders, those “victims” have volunteered on some cosmic level, to help us choose which master we’re going to serve. The stories I love the most all have characters who choose to stand up to cruel tyrants and claim their personal power. I want to do the same.

I just occurred to me that, though it doesn’t look like it, this is an appropriate post for The Fourth of July.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I appreciate it very much. For those in the United States, happy Fourth of July. I hope you remember why we celebrate this day.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

The Razor’s Edge

Gene Tierney and Tyrone Power in The Razor’s Edge

“The sharp edge of the razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to salvation is hard.” ~ Katha-Upanishad

“The enjoyment of art is the only remaining ecstasy that’s neither immoral nor illegal.” ~ Elliot Templeton in The Razor’s Edge

“As long as man sets his ideals on the wrong objects there can be no real happiness. Until men learn it comes from within themselves.” ~ Holy Man in The Razor’s Edge

“If I ever acquire wisdom, I suppose I’ll be wise enough to know what to do with it.” ~ Larry Darrell in The Razor’s Edge

What I first saw the movie The Razor’s Edge, I felt as if the author had written the story just for me. I’m so much like Larry Darrell. Seeking wisdom is so much more important to me than earning money. I know money is important too, but after a while using it to accumulate things gets boring. I mean if I had lots of money, I would like to use it for things I want or need to enhance my search, like books and edifying travel. But mostly I’d like to use it to help people. To me self-improvement, and helping improve the lives of others is the best way I can use this life I have.

I think W. Somerset Maugham poses interesting questions in The Razor’s Edge and the movie follows the outline of Maugham’s story almost to the letter. Is there value in searching for self-knowledge over seeking wealth, and who is happier, the wealthy person or the seeker? Who contributes more to society the artist, philosopher, or mystic, or the consumer? Maugham offers the reader an interesting mix of characters to help us make up our own minds about these questions.

Elliot Templeton is a vain American who has denounced his country in favor of living in Paris and ingratiating himself with the wealthy and titled. He helps them sell their precious artwork to survive economic hard times after WW I. Since he is cultured and quite knowledgeable about art and antiques, he becomes indispensable, and thus builds up vast wealth of his own. He becomes the man everyone invites to their parties. However, though he appears completely self-absorbed, he can be extremely generous and kind at the most surprising times.

His Niece, Isabel on the other hand is rather cold, or maybe practical is a better word for her. She claims to love Larry Darrell, her childhood friend, with a deep and profound love. We discover later, however, that part of why she “loved” him was because she thought she could manipulate him to do what she wanted. When he asks her to share his three thousand dollars a year and travel the world to discover the meaning of life, she refuses to marry him. She wants to have fun and in her mind you can’t do that without lots of money.

So, Isabel marries another childhood friend, Gray Maturin who’s father owns a stock brokerage firm. Contrary to the picture painted of stock brokers today, these two are honorable men. Their goal is to help their clients build a secure future by investing conservatively. Unfortunately they are seduced by the craze that leads to the Great Depression and not only lose everything for their clients, but they lose their personal fortunes as well. Isabel and Gray end up living on about three thousand dollars a year. I love the irony of that little twist. Isabel turns out to be loyal, however, when Gray is so wracked with guilt about losing his client’s fortunes that he suffers from debilitating headaches and is unable to work.

Somerset Maugham uses himself as a connecting character in the story. He’s the outsider and thus observer who ruminates on the various characters, their actions and motivations and whether they learn anything or remain as they were when he first met them.

The main character of Maugham’s story is Larry Darrell. He, Isabel, Gray, and another character who plays a big role in the turning point of the story, Sophie, all grew up together in Chicago part of a rather smart set. But when Larry lies about his age and enlists in the Canadian Air Force to fight in WWI, he’s changed by the experience. Gray tells Somerset at one point that Larry was always a different kind of person. He didn’t care about money, always seemed a little bit detached and would disappear from parties without a word. When he returns from the war, he’s even more of a loner than he was before he enlisted. Even Maugham, who is a keen observer of human nature, can’t quite make him out. But he suspects that Larry is looking for something most people don’t even know exists and that thing can only be found inside himself.

Larry tries to tell Isabel what it is he’s chasing when he proposes she join him on his quest. “The only thing that makes me unhappy is making you unhappy. I don’t think I’ll ever find peace until I make up my mind about things. It’s difficult to put into words. The minute you try, you feel embarrassed. You say to yourself, who am I to bother my head about this, that or the other. Wouldn’t it be better just to follow the beaten path and let what’s coming to you, come? And then I think of the guy I knew, a minute before he was full of life and fun, and then … he was dead. I’ve seen many men die; but, this one was different. It was the last day of the war, almost the last moment. He could have saved himself, but, he didn’t. He saved me, and died. So, he’s gone and I’m here, alive. Why? It’s all so meaningless! You can’t help but ask what life is all about. Whether there’s any sense to it or whether it’s just a stupid blunder!”

Because of that one segment, I loved Larry. I understood his inability to put into words not only his deep need for his quest, but for his hope of finding the answers he was seeking.

And so Larry goes in search of the meaning of it all. And in the end, he finds it. But it’s not something he can tell other people. He has to live the truth of what he’s discovered. He knows every person who asks these same questions must find the great truth for themselves.

My favorite scenes in the movie are after Larry has had his profound experience in the Himalayas. The light in his face is extraordinary. You know he’s been touched by something deeply profound and personal. Tyrone Power plays the part of Larry and his performance riveted me to the film.

Now that I’ve read the book, I find that the screen play follows the text of the book most carefully except that it is Larry who does a few things at the end, like confronting Isabel with what she did to break up his upcoming marriage to Sophie, that are done by Maugham in the book. I think Larry making these discoveries himself strengthens his character, which I like very much. But perhaps in the end it doesn’t matter. This book is about people like Larry who hunger to find something meaningful beyond themselves and that is accomplished in both versions. That’s why this is one of my favorite stories of all time. I’m on a similar journey. It’s comforting to know that an author the caliber of W. Somerset Maugham has noticed and written about people like Larry and me.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I appreciate it very much. I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Quick Post

Columbia River Gorge

“How beautiful it is to do nothing and then to rest afterward.” ~ Spanish proverb

“A cheerful frame of mind, reinforced by relaxation … is the medicine that puts all ghosts of fear on the run.” ~ George Matthew Adams

“It is good idea always to do something relaxing prior to making an important decision in your life.” ~ Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage

I’m finishing reading The Razor’s Edge, a novel by W. Somerset Maugham. I won’t write much about the book and movie at this time. I want to finish reading first. However, I will write this. Every once in a while there are books, movies, songs, or other artistic expression where when you come across them, you feel like the artist had you in mind when they created their piece. The Razor’s Edge is that kind of book/movie for me, even though this book was published in 1944 nine years before I was born.

Larry, one of the main characters, has survived WW I. He has a driving need to explore the meaning of life, particularly his own. He does this going against popular conventions of getting a job, marrying and having children. Some of his acquaintances think he’s crazy. To me everything that happens to Larry is poignant, and full of meaning. He is seeking something not many other people even know exists. Because this is true, I’m going to need to think about what his story means for me before I can write anything meaningful about the themes Maugham was trying to get across.

In the mean time, I’m getting some selections from my book, The Space Between Time ready for an open mic night in my home town this coming Friday. I am the featured author at this event. Choosing just the right selections, then cutting them down to fit the allotted time given me is a new experience. The part I love best is practicing reading the selections. It kind of takes me back to my acting days and I’m finding it a fun exercise. It’s good practice since I am planning on doing the reading for the audio version of my book.

In other personal news, I’ve gone back to work on my second novel, Time’s Echo and getting ideas for a couple of other projects. I’m doing this leisurely. I don’t want to be in a yank to get all the projects in my head finished. That always stresses me out. I’m in the mood to take it easy and allow the creative muses to whisper to me when they feel like it. Summer is a time for being lazy and recharging one’s internal batteries. That’s where I am today. I feel like enjoying having time to read, and relax after a very busy spring semester.

I hope you are having a relaxing summer and are catching up on some things you were putting off during the winter months.

Have a lovely hump day. Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I appreciate it very much.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

The Shack

The Shack

“Pain robs you of joy, and the capacity to love.” ~ Papa in The Shack

“I can have peace of mind only when I forgive rather than judge.” ~ Gerald Jampolsky

“Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.” ~ Marianne Williamson

I’ve had some pretty fantastic, unexplainable spiritual experiences happen to me, things many people would think are crazy. Because that’s true, I see the world just a little bit differently than most people. For most of my life I’ve hidden this fact because what I believe about life and the divine isn’t the norm. And when I state my point of view, people look at me as if I had two heads.

The Shack, by William Paul Young almost perfectly expresses my belief system so, of course, I loved every page of it. If you haven’t read this one, you have to know that it begins with heart wrenching tragedy and as Mac, the main character, goes through his personal darkness toward forgiveness and healing, we get to go along for the ride. All I can say is, don’t give up on the story. It gets more joyful as it goes along.

In general, I like to watch a movie first then read the book, but in the case of The Shack, I did it the other way around because the movie was yet to be made. But perhaps that doesn’t matter much because for the most part, the movie is just like the book.

The basic story is this. Mackenzie Allen Phillips had a traumatic beginning in life but he finds happiness with a wonderful woman named Nan, and their three children, Josh, Kate, and Missy. It seems as if his past is forgotten, but though his wife Nan talks to Papa (God) every day, Mac can’t bring himself to forgive Papa for what his father did to him. Mac asks that pervasive question, “Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?”

His life gets worse when on a camping trip alone with his children, Missy is kidnapped. Her blood stained dress is found in a broken down shack not far away. The entire family is plunged into the deepest despair. They are barely able to function, but Mac is in the darkest hole of all.

One day four years later, his family goes away for the weekend to seek help for Kate who blames herself for Missy’s abduction and death. As Mac is clearing the driveway of snow, he notices the mailbox door is open. Inside is an envelop with his name on it. The note invites him to come to the shack and is signed, “Papa.” At first Mac thinks his neighbor friend Will, who also attends the same congregation as the Phillips family, has sent the note. He checks with the Post Office, but no one knows where the note came from. Finally, he asks Will if he can borrow his Jeep to take the trip back to the shack where Missy’s dress was found. Will worries the note is from the killer and doesn’t want him to go. Finally unable to change Mac’s mind, he says he’ll go with him. As they are getting ready to leave, Mac tricks Will into going back to his house for fishing poles, then drives off alone.

When Mac gets to the shack, amazing and sometimes disturbing things begin to happen. He meets Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu, or Holy Spirit. Over his visit, he begins to see all the tragic things that have happened not only to him, but others in a new light. For some reason, humans prefer pain to love and joy. We torture ourselves and others because of this pain. The only way to solve this problem is to let go of blame and to forgive. When he does that he’s able to begin the long road to healing.

The movie is almost exactly like the book as I remember it, except that at the end of the book, Mac helps the authorities find the serial killer. We must all face the consequences of our actions after all, but I can see why they didn’t include that in the movie. It’s not the main theme of the story.

The main theme, in my opinion, has to do with all the things we hold onto that cause us so much pain. Our human view of the divine is distorted because we assume the role of God. We hold grudges because we think that’s what God would do. As a result we don’t forgive ourselves or others. Even though I ascribe to all that Mac learns, I fall into those same traps. It takes lots of time and attention to unlearn old conditioning.

I know that esoteric, philosophical movies are sometimes not appreciated. It all depends on how they are packaged. The Matrix, for example, has some of the same themes as The Shack, reality is not what we think it is, but it’s packaged as well done fantasy so it was wildly popular.

The Shack on the other hand, is a story about characters who might live right down the street from us. For some people that brings it a little too close to home for comfort. What if extraordinary, mind bending experiences could really happen to us? That could be a little too weird for some viewers.

One thing for sure about this story is that it shows that spiritual experiences are deeply personal and difficult to convey to others. The only way Nan, Josh, Kate and Will can believe that something significant really did happen to Mac, is by watching him forgive himself and become a completely loving and joyful person. That’s the true evidence of his changed perspective.

If you’re into philosophy, or spirituality, you might be interested in the ideas posited by William Paul Young. I highly recommend both the book and the movie. Neither one is fast paced and I think that’s a good thing. The reader or viewer is given a chance to digest one new concept before moving on to the next.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I hope you have a fantastic weekend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

The Valley of Decision

Greer Garson, Gregory Peck in The Valley of Decision

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” ~ Dr. Seuss

“The only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive.” ~ John Green, Looking for Alaska

“Lighten up, just enjoy life, smile more, laugh more, and don’t get so worked up about things.” ~ Kenneth Branagh

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I can get so set on certain ways of thinking that I block the good things that could be coming my way. The movie The Valley of Decision (1945), book by Marcia Davenport, is a story about people who get caught up in that kind of thinking and every time I see the movie, I want the main character, Mary, to make different decisions so she and Paul can live happily ever after. But if she did that, I might not be reminded to recheck my own thinking.

I know, I’m bit of a harpy writing all the time about stories that teach me something, or stories from which I learn important lessons. I do enjoy stories that are just fun for fun sake, like Mama Mia!. I’ll try to write about those kinds of stories more often, but today, The Valley of Decision is on my mind because I was confronted with some of my own intractable thinking recently.

If you haven’t seen the movie, I highly recommend it for a number of reasons. First, Gregory Peck and Greer Garson play the lead characters. It’s sad they didn’t do more movies together, because they have fantastic chemistry. Second, the story is a little bit of a history lesson about the steel industry in the late 1800s Pittsburg. In a way it’s a story about ingenuity and the love of creating the best product possible to help America grow. That’s the kind of story many Americans like. That kind of story comes in lots of different packages, from the people who invented computers, or cars, or a new movement in art, and we never get tired of them. This story happens to be about steel and for that reason, it’s a little bit nostalgic. Third, all of the secondary and supporting actors are fantastic which helps the audience become emotionally involved in their on screen lives.

At the beginning, Mary Rafferty has just graduated from Catholic School. She and her family live “on the flats” in Pittsburg where most of the steel workers live. Her father, Patrick, once worked in the Scott mills, but was seriously injured and is now in a wheelchair. Mary needs a job, because her widowed sister has just come home with her baby.

One interesting thing about this story is, though this is before the formation of unions, William Scott pays Patrick a monthly salary because he was injured on the job. We get the feeling this is an unusual situation and that William Scott is an honorable man. In spite of this, Patrick has turned his mind to hating the Scott family, so when Mary announces that she has just secured a job as housemaid in the their household, he’s furious with the nuns for sending her there, and with her for taking the job. She defies him, however, because they need the money.

It turns out that Mary falls in love with the entire Scott family and they with her, but most especially Paul. He is the only one of the three boys and one daughter who is interested in working in the mill. The others just want the money they get as shareholders.

Paul arrives home, the day Mary is hired to work in the house. He’s been to Europe studying different types of steel made there and is particularly interested in the open hearth method used in Germany. Over the next year or so, he and Jim Brennan, a friend of the Rafferty family, experiment with this new method. As Mary watches Paul work late hours and eventually become discouraged, the two fall in love. But when Paul asks her to marry him, two things stand in the way of her saying yes. She knows her father would not approve, and she’s a servant of the household. In her mind, she’s not of the same class, even though Paul and his mother, Clarissa, tell her that doesn’t matter in the least. They live in America after all.

In the end, after many years, Mary saves Paul and the mill when his mother bequeaths her shares to her. He finally finds the courage to get rid of his shrewish wife and he and Mary are able to be together.

The book continues on from that ending of the movie. Mary and Paul never marry, because she’s convinced the curse her father put on their union is real. But she becomes his housekeeper taking charge of his household affairs and raising his children when his wife dies. Every night they discuss plans for the mill, and his sons. Their relationship lasts until Paul’s death. Mary continues to live in the house which Paul left her until her death many years later.

Even though Mary and Paul find a measure of happiness in the end, their lives could have been so much richer if she had been able to see that it was her beliefs that kept them from having the full relationship they might have had.

Every time I watch the movie, and as I read the book, I compare Mary to myself. How have I blocked the happiness I might have had because I don’t think I deserved it. Watching it makes me want to stop being like Mary Rafferty and embrace all the wonderful things waiting for me to experience.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I appreciate it. Have a fun weekend and maybe take time to watch The Valley of Decision.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

More Books I’d Like to See as Movies

“It took a tremendous amount of courage to write this book … Its portrayal of biblical characters is hauntingly, disturbingly real. I will be forever grateful to Kathleen McGowan for giving me a huge push forward on my spiritual journey by opening me up to a deeper vision of the Divine.” ~ Reverend Jeffrey J. Bütz, Author of The Brother of Jesus and The Lost Teachings of Christianity, writing about The Expected One

Let me say that I loved The Da Vinci Code. However I think enough time has passed since the movie, based on the book, was made that we could stand to see another film using a similar story line. I’d like to suggest that someone translate The Expected One and it’s sequels into films.

As a religious studies graduate, I find reading any novelization of religious history fun. I read The Da Vinci Code first and thought the film was as good as the book. I mean how can you go wrong with Tom Hanks in the lead.

The Da Vinci Code is told from a man’s point of view. It is, for the most part, a murder mystery, action story with two of the three main characters being men. The details of the biblical Jesus are what Alfred Hitchcock would call, “the MacGuffin,” the thing the characters are focused upon but the audience doesn’t necessarily care about. The real center of Brown’s story has to do with the murder of The Louvre curator and why Robert Langdon, a college professor specializing in symbology has been framed for it. Sophie Neveu, a cryptologist for the Paris police, enters to help Robert escape and to solve the mysterious death. She tells Robert that the dead curator was her grandfather and soon they discover that he was a member of a secret society whose mission it is to protect the living descents of Jesus. It’s a compact story taking place within a mere 48 hours.

The Expected One, on the other hand, is told from a woman’s point of view. The story begins when Maureen, vacationing in Jerusalem, has the first of many extraordinary experiences. During these experiences, she glimpses Mary, Jesus, John the Baptist and their relationships to each other that set in motion the events in Maureen’s present day. The book gives more detail about what may have really happened during Jesus lifetime. It asks the question, what if everything we thought we knew about Jesus and his disciples is wrong? Kathleen McGowan takes us not only on a historical adventure, but on a spiritual journey as well. Through her main character, Maureen Pascal, we get a glimpse into the world Jesus and his disciples lived in. Maureen, it turns out, is the The Expected One, foretold in prophecy to find and reveal the long lost gospel of Mary Magdalene. In this book, what is contained in Mary’s gospel drives the action. That is not to say there aren’t deaths and action sequences. But the bulk of the story has to do with Mary Magdalene, and Maureen’s deeply personal spiritual journeys as Maureen follows the clues to find Mary’s gospel. Maureen discovers there are opposing secret societies trying to protect or destroy Mary’s legacy. And included in the story is some interesting history of the Cathars, a mostly forgotten Christian religious sect in France that had a great deal to do with Mary and her children.

Both books challenge what we think we know about the formation of, and teachings of Christianity, and the roles the various historical characters played. In my opinion it’s a good thing to continue to examine our belief systems and try to learn as new information is discovered.

The Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient documents that have been uncovered in recent decades have added to and even challenged what we thought we knew about the times in which Jesus lived. Maybe wrapping up some of that new information into a fictional package makes it more palatable to consider.

All I know is that when I read the quote above by Reverend Jeffrey J. Bütz on the back cover of The Expected One, I was intrigued enough to buy the book and read it. And as I finished the last page, I too felt a shift in my spiritual beliefs. That’s the reason I’d like to see The Expected One and it’s sequels, The Book of Love, and The Poet Prince turned into movies.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I appreciate it very much.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Books I’d Make into Movies

Naomi Novik at Phoenix Comicon, 2014

“I have often thought it was very arrogant to suppose you could make a film for anybody but yourself.” ~ Peter Greenway

“Books and movies are like apples and oranges. They are both fruit, but taste completely different.” ~ Stephen King

“The book is a film that takes place in the mind of the reader. That’s why we go to the movies and say, ‘Oh, the book is better.’” ~ Paulo Coelho

Maybe it’s because I’m a visual learner, but, in general, I like to see the movie first, then read the book after. Once I’ve seen the movie, I can use images from the film and translate them to the book. I know, most people will think I’m crazy.

Most of the time, descriptions of characters and environments in books are things that don’t create clear pictures in my head. I don’t dream in clear pictures, or color either. What I connect with are the emotions of the characters. If I’m not connected to the characters emotionally, I don’t continue to read the book, or watch the movie, or TV show.

Having written that, there are books I’ve read that I would love to see made into movies, or a series, because I want to SEE the countryside, or what someone else thinks the characters look like. It’s probably my many years doing theatre that makes me want to turn my favorite books into a visual representation.

Some years ago, I read a wonderful book titled, His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik. Novik is a historian, and the book, which is the first in a series, takes place during the Napoleonic Wars. Most of the events are historical with a little twist. The combatants each have an aerial corps made up of dragons, and the captains they choose to bond with.

In fact, that is what happens in the first pages of the first book. An unusual dragon egg has been confiscated from a French frigate by the British ship, Reliant. When it begins to hatch, the Captain, William Laurence, asks for a volunteer from among his officers to bond with the dragon. But, in inscrutable dragon fashion, the hatchling Temeraire, chooses Laurence as his companion and captain. This thrusts Laurence into a completely unfamiliar world. The aerial corps is not a particularly prestigious posting, nor do the airmen and women, like interlopers. Most of them have been part of the air corps most of their lives and some are part of long generational lines in the service. The dragons live very long lives and not only bond with a single person, but their captain’s children as well. Having been chosen, though, Laurence can not refuse and dragon and man begin a fascinating journey together.

His Majesty’s Dragon is the beginning of a nine book series. There are book series that I’ve started and after three or four books, I get bored, but I was hooked on these books. They are extremely well written, Laurence and Temeraire travel the world, betray Britain in order to save French Dragons from a plague, win their country’s trust back, begrudgingly, when it is discovered that Temeraire is a rare Imperial dragon from China. This later requires the Chinese Royal family to adopt Laurence as a Chinese prince since Temeraire will have no other companion. This does gain the Britain a valuable ally to help fight against Napoleon. In the end, Temeraire and Laurence play a major part in winning the war.

Another thing I love about the series is that Novik has elevated certain women to be part of the aerial corps. They are intelligent, strong, capable, and do not adhere to the standard roles other women were supposed to fill during the time period. In fact, the Admiral over all of Britain’s aerial corps is a strong woman who’s daughter is part of Laurence’s crew, and who has an intimate relationship with Laurence when they can manage to be on the same continent, or hemisphere.

Mostly, I’d love to see this series made for TV or movies because of the enduring relationship that develops between Temeraire and Laurence. Novik has created dragons who are intelligent, for the most part have extensive educations, and who have very distinct personalities. They help strategize for battles, and maneuver through difficult political situations. And, the British dragons at least, must also overcome fear and prejudice. I think these books would add to the interesting array of series like Game of Thrones, Outlander, Vikings, and the like.

I’d like to know what books you’d like to see turned into movies. I’m always interested in authors and books I’ve never heard of. My TBR list is very long, but I’m willing to add to it.

Thanks for reading, liking, and commenting. I appreciate it. Have a fun filled weekend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Roots: An Essential Story

An image of the Kunta Kinte Alex Haley Memorial in Annapolis.

“It is impossible to kill an enemy. You may end a man’s life, but his son become your new enemy. A warrior respects another warrior, even he is his enemy. A warrior kills only to protect his family, or to keep from becoming a slave. We believe not in death, but in life, and there is no object more valuable than a man’s life. The way of the Mandinka is not easy but it is best.” ~ Kintango to Kunte Kinte in Roots

“My fondest hope is that ‘Roots’ may start black, white, brown, red, yellow people digging back for their own roots. Man, that would make me feel 90 feet tall.” ~ Alex Haley

I vowed when I went to college that I was not going to watch any television because I was a TV addict. So there are lots of TV series that started during those years that I never watched, but I broke my vow when Roots was broadcast in 1977. It was a television event. Almost all the households in the nation were tuned into the series which was based on the book of the same name by Alex Haley. I vaguely remember lots of young women huddled around the TV in the dorm lounge. The series was the topic of lots of discussions in classrooms, the student union, and the commons at meal times. We needed that discussion then, and we need it now.

It’s hard to talk about how deeply I was affected by that series. My heart was wrenched and broken during many of the episodes. I didn’t understand how whites could think it was okay to enslave blacks and treat them with such cruelty. And yet, through the seven generations of Kunte Kinte’s descendant’s story, there was hope, perseverance, and dignity in the face of the most horrific situations. One of the things I got out of both the book and the series was that freedom is a state of mind. Many of the characters in Haley’s story discover this. They pass this down through the generations of their family and in the end they are able to prosper.

I loved the series so much that I bought and read the 729 page paperback version of the book. Reading it was at times harder than watching the series because of the descriptions, especially the sections on the ship. How anyone could survive the lack of food, clean water, the filth and laying packed so tightly one prisoner to another in the hold with very little fresh air and exercise, comes down to the human will to survive. But the book is about human tragedy. It shows not only how slavery affected the slaves, but their masters too. The masters were not exempt from the tragedy of slavery because the book shows how their humanity was eroded as they ignored the worth of those they were torturing and enslaving.

Slavery and the way we continue to treat blacks, and people of ethnic groups other than white, is something we need to acknowledge and examine not once, but over and over again until we learn that every human being is worth being treated with dignity and respect. The 1977 version of the Roots series was one point in history when we faced a wound in our county’s history that needed to be healed. But after the hubbub died down, we forgot and went back to our comfortable corners. I was happy that another version of the series was produced in 2016 for a new generation and the self-examination started all over again.

Even though both series were great and generated lots of viewers and discussion, I think reading the book is a must. The way Alex Haley wrote it put me into the minds of the characters, particularly the black characters, and made me feel what they were experiencing. A book that can do that, changes the perspective of the reader. It certainly did mine. Years later I was teaching special ed. English, and I decided to read Roots to the students near the end of the school year. I wept again as I read the chapters that took place on the passage to America. The students were just as affected as I, and some even wept with me. That confirmed my conviction that anything that can help us see the world from someone else’s point of view is good.

If you haven’t read Roots, or seen either of the series, I suggest you do, because we’re at another one of those seminal moments in our country’s history, when we need to take a step back to do more self-examination and healing.

Thanks for reading. I appreciate your likes and comments.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. I you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Will It Matter in a Hundred Years?

Dad’s Birthday

“Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” ~ Charles R. Swindoll

“Lighten up, just enjoy life, smile more, laugh more, and don’t get so worked up about things.” ~ Kenneth Branagh

I had no ideas about what to write today so I asked for help from the writing muses and what kept coming to mind was something my father used to say when I would get upset about something trivial. “Will it matter in a hundred years?”

It invariably happened when I was younger, I’d get caught up in some silly drama and I’d chew on it and make it my mantra. Now I’m not so prone to getting upset. If I do it takes me a much shorter time to get a better perspective. From what I read on social media, there are plenty of people who have not learned that lesson yet.

Yesterday I was looking at Facebook and there was a discussion on the TCM (Turner Classic Movies) group about whether or not The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which was shown on the station, was a classic movie. It’s amazing how heated these discussions can get over something I consider to be trivial.

Sometimes arguments happen and insults are traded over things that are not so trivial. But here’s what I think my father was trying to get me to see. Our emotions have vibrations. When we get upset and lash out in anger, those feelings don’t stop with the person we’re attacking. Oh, no. They are like ripples in the water. They keep spreading out bashing into other people and affecting them. Have you ever walked into a room where two people have been fighting? Most likely, even if you’re not highly sensitive, you can feel the tension.

Another point my father was trying to make was that I needed to pick my battles. Some situations need to be challenged because in a hundred years we want that situation to have changed for the better.

When something happens that gets us all riled up, we have to take a good look and decide if getting angry, or standing up for ourselves will make a lasting difference or is of no consequence at all.

I just read Earthsea: A Wizard of Earthsea the first in a series by Ursula Le Guin. (I’m giving you fair warning of a big spoiler here in case you haven’t read it yet.) In the book a young wizard, trying to impress a rival at his wizard school, unleashes a deadly dark shadow. He must find a way to vanquish it to save all of Earthsea. To do this he must name it so he can bind it and send it back where it belongs. In the end, after first running from the shadow, then chasing it, he confronts it and calls it by his own name which reunites him with his shadow. He emerges a much wiser young man.

We all have shadows. If we try to deny them, or get rid of them by spewing them all over other people, we help neither ourselves nor others.

This is what I’ve learned from all the lessons my father taught me, it may be difficult to do, but in the end it’s worth it to take a step back to examine whether or not some ripple in the current of our lives is important enough to swim against. Clearly there are situations where going against the stream will eventually change the flow of the water. But often an argument is not worth the effort and in a hundred years, or even next week, no on will remember what the fight was about, nor will it have made the world a better place.

Now I’ve got to go see Earthsea the mini-series so I can write about it in more detail. I will, of course be reading the rest of the series so more to come.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. I you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.