A New Venture

Woman Listening

“I’m a freelance person, and I’ve always been able to support myself.” ~ Gloria Steinem

“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.” ~ Oscar Wilde

I know, I know, how many new things can I put on my plate? Right now I’m teaching a class at the college, working on the audiobook for The Space Between Time, working on Time’s Echo, writing these blog posts, helping a friend with her audiobook, and, of course, trying to keep up with domestic chores. But, everyone is busy, right? I’m ready for a change I just didn’t know how to make what I wanted to do happen.

For quite some time I have been looking for a way to increase my income by selling more books and perhaps using other of my talents so I can quit teaching. Last week, in my journal, I asked for help in achieving my goals. Though I didn’t expect it, my answer came that very day. I had signed up for an information workshop for a coaching program to help people become freelancers. I’ve wanted to do this for quite sometime, but had no idea where to begin.

As I listened to the presentation, I got very excited. 12 weeks of coaching on how to identify the skills I want to offer, how to find clients, and much more. I’ve only just signed up with The No Pant’s Project. (No pants as in wearing shorts to work instead of business clothes.) I will be sure to keep you informed about how it’s going. The goal is to help freelancers work smarter, not harder, and to help us have time freedom and income to do the things we love doing.

Part of becoming a freelancer is to find your “Super Power”, or the thing you are most passionate about, then offer that skill to people and businesses that need it.

As you know, if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, I love discussing all the layers of meaning in movies and novels. The reason I chose theatre as one of my majors was so I could examine the characters in the plays we studied. What motivated them do the things they did in the story?

It’s my belief that most of the time our actions are a result of things we were taught and believed, or experiences in our past. So, if we can identify with and understand characters in a book or movie, we might have a chance at understanding ourselves just a little bit better, and begin to make new choices.

Some months, or maybe a year ago, I read an article that illustrates what I mean. I think it was in the magazine, Psychology Today. The article described a new technique in couples counseling, where the couple would watch a romantic movie, and then share with each other the characters they identified with and why. Watching the movie also gave them an opportunity to examine how well the movie couple communicated with each other and relate those situations with their own relationships. Whoever came up with the idea to help couples by having them watch and discuss movies was a genius. This technique gives couples a chance to distance themselves from their own troubles, yet, it helps them make a correlation between the couple on the screen and themselves.

If I can use my knowledge to help people learn more empathy, and self-understanding, I’ll be a happy woman.

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, 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. Stay tuned for news on the audiobook version Lucinda is working on. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Louis L’Amour and Omega Men

“I think of myself … as a troubadour, a village storyteller, the guy in the shadows of the campfire.” ~ Louis L’Amour

“If you write a book about a bygone period that lies east of the Mississippi River, then it’s a historical novel. If it’s west of the Mississippi, it’s a western, a different category. There’s no sense to it.” ~ Louis L’Amour

The first quote above sums up most of Louis L’Amour’s characters, which is one of the things I like about his books. They are what psychologists would call omega males. An omega male is most often an introvert. He’s confident in his skills, but doesn’t need to boast about them. He only fights when pushed into it, but not to prove himself. He doesn’t countenance ineptitude, or dishonesty. He’s loyal, honest, and honorable. And he protects people who need it. His emotions run deep, but he shows them only when he thinks it’s appropriate. As I was thinking about what it is I love about L’Amour’s characters, I couldn’t help thinking about my dad. He would have made a great character in one of L’Amour’s books.

What started this train of thought was an episode of my favorite podcast, “What Should I Read Next?” with Anne Bogel. A couple of weeks ago Anne’s guest, Chatti Phal-Brown said that she would like to try reading some westerns. As Anne does when a guest says that, she suggested Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. It’s great that Anne loves that book. It’s on my TBR list because I loved the mini-series. However, when Anne suggested it, I wanted to get in on the conversation and suggest that Chatti try reading some Louis L’Amour too.

My dad loved the western movie genre. I can’t say whether he read any of the novels the movies were based upon, but dad and I would watch the movies together and then discuss them. Our favorites were the ones with characters and stories much like those Louis L’Amour wrote, where the main male character isn’t a carousing gunfighter, but a humble, hard working cowboy or lawman. I think we loved them because our ancestors traveled west and had to carve out a living much as the characters in the movies did.

The first story I read by Louis L’Amour was “The Gift of Cochise” which he later turned into the novel, Hondo which at the same time became the movie of the same name with John Wayne in the lead. I was teaching alternative school and that was one of the stories my students were required to read. I was captivated by the story partly because it takes place in the region of Arizona where I live. I could see the countryside, L’Amour described. But mostly I was impressed with the characters and the mostly gentle way the story unfolds. I liked the story so much that I sought out other of L’Amour’s books. In every one I’ve read, the women are strong and capable, the men are the “strong, silent,” omega male types.

One of my favorite Louis L’Amour book/movie connections, and there have been a lot of them, is Conagher. It’s a story about a family who have moved west to become ranchers. When the husband dies on his way to buy the herd, the widow, Evie, and her children must try to make their own way. They have an extremely difficult time of it. Along comes Conagher, a local cowboy who, until he meets this family, has drifted from job to job. He’s a bit of a legend since he’s loyal to the brand he rides for, and doesn’t make any bones about disliking men who are out for what they can get. This makes him a bit of a target for the insecure cowboys he meets.

Of course Conagher, like all Louis L’Amour’s books, is a romantic story too, in more than one way. The countryside is gorgeous, there are cattle rustlers, and, fist fights. And, of course, Conagher falls in love with Evie and her children and they with him. It’s a story that makes you feel good about human nature. That’s probably the thing I like best about Louis L’Amour’s books, they make you feel good.

So, if you’re into trying something new, you might want to check out Louis L’Amour’s books and the movies based on them.

Have a fabulous weekend. Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. 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. Stay tuned for news on the audiobook version Lucinda is working on. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Eye of the Storm

“May you live in interesting times.” ~ Chinese curse

“The power of creating a better future is contained in the present moment: You create a good future by creating a good present.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

“Life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by so quickly you hardly catch it going.” ~ Tennessee Williams

Sometimes I feel like I live in a constant storm. I’ve been thinking a great deal lately of how that stresses me out and I don’t like that feeling. It’s been a goal of mine for several years to stop living in the future and just appreciate the present moment. But those lessons I learned early on about making goals for each day and plans for years to come are extremely difficult to break. I mean, I still wake up every morning with a list in my head of things I want to accomplish that day so I can feel good about myself. I do this even though I know, intellectually, that my worth has nothing to do with my accomplishments.

Yesterday I watched the movie The Intern with Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway. It’s this great story about a seventy year old widower, played by De Niro, who feels like being retired is just not fulfilling. Since he’s alone, and he’s not interested in any of the women of his acquaintance, he decides to apply for an intern position at a new internet company. He’s not well versed on how internet commerce works, but he was an executive at DEX and knows how business works and the principles are pretty much the same. He is paired up with Anne Hathaway, the owner of the company, against her wishes. But she does it to please her investors.

The company has been such a huge success that they met their five year goals in eighteen months. Which means, Jules, Hathaway’s character, is extremely busy. She’s still in the mode of doing everything herself. At first she ignores Ben, De Niro, but he makes himself useful and soon all the young employees love him, so Jules reluctantly begins giving him more and more work and, true to Hollywood form, they become friends. Ben helps Jules over some really tough decisions about her business and her personal life.

What I took away from watching the movie was that Jules and I are a lot alike. Okay, I’m not a high powered executive with a husband and a young child, but I do pay attention to the little details of my work. And often I’m thinking about the next task I need to do while supposedly paying attention to the one I’m currently working on. I think that’s kind of a common human practice. But it’s not good. Multi-tasking doesn’t work.

This morning as I was thinking about what I was going to write for this post, I felt harried. A lot has been going on in Arizona and the country over the last few days. On top of that today is the primary elections and I’ve been stressed about all of that. But I’ve had this strong feeling that I want to be less stressed, and then I remembered Jules in the movie. She learns that she is the only one who can decided what is important in her life and her business. And that helped me remember that I’m in control of my thoughts and actions. If I turn my attention to the present moment, I can avoid feeling beleaguered by events going on around me.

After all, we only have the present moment. We can’t manipulate the past or the future. But we can influence the future by the choices we make today. So, today I’m heading for the eye of the storm and staying there in the present moment where it is for the most part calm. If I get caught up in the storm, I’ll remember to take a breath and make the appropriate decisions one at a time that will help me get back to that calm place that is always inside me. I’ll probably have to remind myself of this many times before it becomes habit but it’s worth the work.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. 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. Stay tuned for news on the audiobook version Lucinda is working on. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

A Simpler Time – Historical Novels

Cadfael’s herb garden

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always trumps over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.” ~ Robert Fulghum

“I never feel lonely if I’ve got a book – they’re like old friends. Even if you’re not reading them over and over again, you know they are there. And they’re part of your history. They sort of tell a story about your journey through life.” ~ Emilia Fox

I’ve always been a fan of historical novels, movies and TV shows. My particular favorite time period for some unknown reason, is the Middle Ages. In fact, I’ve recently read six or seven series that take place from the late 800s to the 12th century. The Cadfael Chronicle series is my latest binge reading pleasure.

I’ve been pondering my fascination with what most of us would consider simpler times. There are so many stresses in our modern culture and as an introvert and empath, sometimes being out and about can be torture. So, losing myself in a story is very soothing. It’s my attempt to escape being bombarded with people’s stressed emotions, all the noise of technology, and fast pace of modern life.

And yet, if you’re a student of history or read historical novels, you know the times may have been slower, but they were anything but simple. There was just as much conflict between people and countries, travel was always perilous, and health care was much more primitive. There was just as much political infighting and intrigue as there is now. But what makes us think those times were simpler is the fact that there were fewer distractions. Nevertheless, suffering was the same, as was love, and all the other things that make us human. And maybe all of the above is what attracts me to historical novels. The characters have time to listen to and observe each other. They have time to develop relationships over long periods of time. I’m envious of that slower pace of life. As I read or watch, I get to see how the characters deal with their challenges and that helps me deal with my own.

Since we’re going through a particularly stressful time at present, I was happy when I got an offer for several Cadfael ebooks at a fantastic price. One thing I loved about the Cadfael series when I was introduced to it on Masterpiece Mystery twenty-five plus years ago, is the title character. Plus, I’m a pushover the a story told in an unusual way. The series is a wonderful mashup of the 12th century and someone we wouldn’t normally think of as a crime fighter, a monk!

Cadfael is a Welshman who is a Benedictine monk at the monastery in Shrewsbury, England. He came to that calling late in life. Before becoming a monk, Cadfael was a soldier in The Crusades, and later a sailor. In the series, he’s the monastery herbalist making healing tinctures, salves, syrups, and ointments for his fellow brothers and the wider community. Because of his past experiences, he’s learned a great deal about wounds, and to be highly observant of human behavior, which makes him good at solving murders.

Another thing I love about Cadfael is that he is no starry-eyed religious zealot. He’s seen life, and though he believes in God, he has a much more open minded view of theology than many of his brothers. His more humanistic take on God appeals to me because of my religious studies degree. Cadfael has no illusions that the church is completely holy. It is after all run by men, who he well knows, are fallible. And yet, he longs for a quieter life where he can do some good, and that’s what he has found by becoming a monk.

One thing I love about not only the Cadfael series, but all of the book series that are historical, the authors have done meticulous research about trade, travel, politics, war and battle techniques, medical practices, the different professions, and just day-to-day life. The influence of the Catholic Church was very strong during most of Europe from the early middle ages, though remnants of the pagan religions remained. Because of my background, I find that fascinating.

I’ve learned so much about historical events and figures, and of the various time periods from reading these books. They were definitely more fun to read than a dry history book describing events, dates, and names of historical figures. And yet, I often do a little extra research to find out more about these historical figures and the times in which they lived.

Perhaps, the thing I love most is how these novels have helped me get a glimpse into the lives of normal, everyday people who lived centuries ago. And in a strange way, it’s comforting to know that the experiences of those people were not so very different than my own.

I’m looking forward to reading the next book in The Cadfael Chronicles series.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I appreciate it. Here’s to a fantastic weekend for you all.

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. Stay tuned for news on the audiobook version Lucinda is working on. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

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.