Finding My Direction

Classic Books
Classic Books

“Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.” ~ Mary Tyler Moore

“As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

“One way or another, we all have to find what best fosters the flowering of our humanity in this contemporary life, and dedicate ourselves to that.” ~ Joseph Campbell

“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’ve mentioned in previous posts my plans to offer a video series called “Loving Literature.” Today I want to tell you why I’m so jazzed about creating this series.

A few weeks ago I had an opportunity to tutor a young person who is having great difficulty with reading. I wasn’t hired, but the cosmic tumblers in my head all fell into place, and the idea for this video series was born. I’m not giving up writing. On the contrary, creating this video series has renewed my fervor and desire to improve my story telling techniques.

My love of story all began with my parents. I’m sure that is where lots of people learn to love reading. My mother shared books with me, which helped me learn to love reading, but it was my father who helped me learn to analyze a story.

As I was growing up, we didn’t have lots of money, so six people going to the theater to see a movie was a rare treat. However, showing recently released, or classic movies on television was a big event back before cable and satellite, and my family took advantage of them. In fact, I didn’t see The Wizard of Oz on the big screen until I was in college. Yet, every year we watched it as it was broadcast on television.

My father turned these movie events into educational sessions as well. He’d ask question after question about what we liked about the movie and the characters. As I recall, he and I would still be discussing the movie long after the others had gone to bed.

One weekend my dad came home unexpectedly with a new color TV after a trip to Sears for something else. That began a new ritual of Dad and I staying up late on the weekends watching and discussing movies together. By extension, and because of a great English teacher, I became deeply interested in the books and stories we studied in class. That’s why I became a theatre artist.

Fast forward to teaching high school drama and English. I realized that I had a unique skill in story analysis when my students became engaged in deep discussions about a story, play or book. It was that realization more than any other that convinced me to quit teaching and become a writer. I’ve been supremely happy these eight years, but teaching at the college sometimes gets in the way of what I really want to be doing. This series will be the perfect blend of teaching and being creative.

Over the last several weeks, I’ve been putting the first three videos together and I get more excited every day as ideas for more videos come to me. To begin with, the videos will be about how to read a textbook, play or novel. Then I will have a series on the elements of literature: plot, character, conflict, setting, language, and how to use these to determine the author’s purpose for writing the story. Then I’ll move on to the different genres. Who knows where I’ll go from there. Eventually, I hope I’ll be discussing books, movies and plays I like.

Creating these videos will not take the place of my writing. I see it as an extension of it.

I’ll keep you posted about how it goes, and even invite you to take a look.

Thanks for reading. I hope you are recovering after election day.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Opportunities

My Favorite Books
My Favorite Books

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” ~ Milton Berle

“Your big opportunity may be right where you are now.” ~ Napoleon Hill

“Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” ~ Betty Friedan

Recently I’ve been helping my sister brainstorm ideas for a series of YouTube videos to help promote her life coaching business. While we were talking, I got the urge to create my own videos. I have my own YouTube channel created some years back so I could post videos of my students performing their acting scenes. It helps if they can see themselves and the mistakes they make, but also seeing how well they do gives them confidence. For the most part, the videos are not public, only the people with the links can view them.

So, I already have a channel set up and I’ve been thinking how I can monetize it. There are people who make a great living posting videos. Maybe I can earn a little money too. But what would my videography theme be? Finally the idea crystallized through a series of events, to complicated to enumerate here, of creating videos tentatively titled “Loving Literature.”

It’s funny how lots of experiences and elements in my life collate and synthesize into a new, better understanding. When that happened last week, I got energized and I can’t wait to begin making videos.

What will the videos be about? The importance of reading and understanding literature, of course. In fact, to me it’s the most important basic skill we need because without being able to read, our learning is handicapped. It’s not that we can’t learn, it’s just a great deal more difficult.

Reading literature, watching plays, movies, and television are ways we can walk a mile in another person’s shoes. That’s what makes storytelling in all its forms so compelling. We’re fascinated by other human beings and their experiences. Stories help us widen our world view and understand people who have a very different outlook on life than we do. We can learn from their experiences. To me understanding what it means to be human is the basis for building societies, cultures, even governments.

In my opinion, if you don’t understand other human beings and why they feel and act the way they do, you can’t be a completely successful person. I’m not talking about gaining wealth, I’m talking about gaining friendships, nurturing families, and being part of a team at work, all of which make having the money worthwhile.

When I’ve got the first few videos posted, I’ll include the link here.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

The Power of Play

“Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream.” – John Lennon

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”  — Mark Twain

Recently, a debate arose on Facebook among my college friends about the possible elimination of winter term from Graceland University’s educational year. (A note to Elvis fans, Graceland University was in existence long before Elvis’ Graceland.)

It started off by one of my friends saying he thought it was a good thing to eliminate winter term so that students could focus on real learning. He set off a firestorm of discussion. I found out later he’d never attended Graceland, even though it is sponsored by the Church he belongs to, so he’d never experienced the benefits of such a program. In his defense I’ll say, it’s like him to post comments that promote discussion.

Let me explain what winter term was when I attended Graceland. During the month of January, students had a chance to sign up for one seminar type class. These were outside the normal college curriculum. Students could try out a discipline they were interested in, but didn’t have time to fit into their regular schedule, or they could take a trip to exotic places. Others opted to take art or music classes, or classes in their subject area that weren’t offered at any other time. Students were encouraged to play, and explore. The schedule was relaxed and we had lots of one-on-one time with the instructors.

Two good things about winter term: It was a way to ease back into the intensity of the spring semester. And it was a great chance to get to know a new set of people while exploring a new subject area. Yes, some students did a lot of goofing off, however, there were required assignments to do as part of these classes, though the requirements were more lenient. I have to say, I got a lot out of playing and learning at the same time.

Now maybe it’s because I’ve studied theatre, but I think play is a very important component to learning. Our minds and bodies get tired when we work too hard. It’s good to give them both some rest through play. When I taught High School English classes, I’d build in creative projects, or activities that encouraged discussion and an element of fun. It was a necessity since the classes were one hundred minutes long. I did this based on my feeling that play enhances learning. However, I was supported in that notion when I took a series of workshops meant to help ELL students (English Language Learners) succeed in not only learning the language, but learning the information being presented in class. Many of the activities presented in those workshops encouraged us to help the students talk with each other so peer learning could take place. The activities got the students out of their seats moving around and thinking in new ways.

While I was doing my guided meditation this morning, I had a new insight about hard work VS play. I’m one of those people who believed the axiom that to be prosperous, you need to work hard and sacrifice you free time. This morning that was shattered by the knowledge that the opposite is actually true. If I hadn’t been involved in theatre all these years, where it’s fun to do the “work”, I might never have seen the error in my thinking.

What I realized is that, “hard work” is something you do when you’re not aligned with you’re task. It’s a struggle to do the job, because it’s not your highest purpose. Nearly six years ago, I found that I was a good teacher, but it wasn’t my highest purpose and I was exhausted at the end of each day, unless I was directing a play. Then the day ended on a high note and I felt energized.

So, the word play can mean different things. It can mean goofing off and neglecting the task at hand. But, I think the best interpretation of play is, engaging in something you truly love to do, something that energizes and enriches your life. When we play to enrich our lives, we become more relaxed and the creative ideas flow.

The day I knew that I was meant to be a writer was one of the best days of my life, though I didn’t know it at the time. I’ve learned the joy of “playing” every day doing what I love. My life is rich and full and I’ve let go of the need to control events so that I can become prosperous. My little voice tells me to concentrate on perfecting my skills and let serendipity guide me when it’s time to promote and market my work.

I’m wondering, do you play to enhance your life? Are you doing what you love? If not, how could your life be better by doing so?

© Lucinda Sage-Midgorden
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Reading is Dangerous

My husband suggested that I might want to write a humorous story to break up the tone of my posts. I wish I could do that, because I gain insight from humorous stories too. But, unfortunately, I’m not Erma Bombeck, or Mark Twain. I wish I were. I may at some point be able to craft a humorous story, but not today. Today I’m writing about how something I’ve been reading helped me understand something that happened that has been a puzzle until now.

Have you ever read a book or a story that affected you so deeply that you continued to think about it long after you finished the last page? I have several on my list. Many of them have made me laugh or cry. They certainly made me think. That’s why reading is dangerous.

When I get emotional while reading, I’m usually alone. Which is the way I prefer it. When you cry in public it makes everyone uncomfortable. This story is about what happened one day, when I was teaching English. I hadn’t thought about that incident for years until this morning.

I was reading the book, The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene’ Brown for my up coming book club meeting. In today’s section, Brene’ was relating an incident when she felt deep shame over a response to one of her blog posts, and how she dealt with it. (In case you don’t know about her, she researches the effects of shame on us and how vulnerability can lead us to wholehearted living.) While I was reading, I was reminded of this incident in my English class and thought I’d relate it to you.

The class was American Lit. We were reading the account of Olaudah Equiano, a slave who later bought his freedom to become an abolitionist in England. The section titled, “The Middle Passage”, describes his capture and trip across the Atlantic to one of the Caribbean islands. It’s a harrowing story, so much like the account in Roots, which made me stop reading the book for several days until I could recover enough to pick it up again. The slaves are whipped and crammed into tight quarters. The description of the callousness of the captors, the beatings, filth and stench were so real for me, that I was deeply affected. When I was reading it at home, I thought, I hope I can get through reading this in class without crying. Of course, I couldn’t.

My students were understandably concerned. I think it’s sad that crying in public is not okay.

The classroom became deadly silent. They didn’t know what to do with a teacher who was crying over a passage in the story.

One of the braver students asked me, “Miss, why are you crying?”

I had no idea what to say, but honesty seemed the best policy. “I’m crying because I feel bad about what happened to the slaves.”

“You mean, like you had something to do with it?”

“Yes, I guess. I feel bad that the whites treated the slaves so badly.”

“But, Miss, you weren’t there. You didn’t do it?”

“You’re right,” I said. “I still feel bad.” Then I wiped my eyes and blew my nose and we continued discussing the selection.

It’s important for you to know, that I was teaching in a school that has an over 90 percent population of Mexican/American students. The school is on a border town in Southern Arizona. Those students understand persecution. I don’t know if the fact that I’m white and I was crying about what happened to the slaves so long ago affected my students or not. I think it did. I hope it did.

I write about this incident because, I think it’s important to write about the good and the bad things about being human. Some of the biggest insights have come to me when I’m reading about a person or character’s greatest struggles. As a writer, though, it’s hard to dig down deep and write about those most painful feelings. At least it is for me. I can write about them all day in my journal, but if I know someone’s going to read them, well that’s a different matter. The thing is, that’s why I should dig down and write about the pain, because someone’s going to read it and gain insight. That’s what Olaudah Equiano did, that’s what Brene’ Brown does.

I’ve been doing a lot of personal work lately. Reading Brene’ Brown’s book is just one aspect of the work. It’s helping me see that if we keep secret our wounded places, it can destroy us. On the other hand if we share them, we can help someone we don’t even know. Olaudah Equiano helped people understand what it was like to be captured, tortured, and transported to a far off place and be sold into slavery. His was one of the first slave stories. Many more came after. Who knows maybe his story touched enough people who saw how wrong slavery was and they started the Abolitionist movement.

I guess that’s why I read. Because I’m looking for insight into myself and into what it means to be human.That’s also why I write. It’s part of my process of healing and understanding.

What books or stories prompted you to think long after the reading was finished?