Never Give Up!

Earth from the Moon

Earth from the Moon

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” ~ William A. Ward

“Vitality shows in not only the ability to persist but the ability to start over.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Strength and growth come only from continuous effort and struggle.” ~ Napoleon Hill

There is a great deal that can be said for never giving up on something you want. There have been times when I’ve wanted to quit a project, or give up striving for that degree. But when I didn’t it turned out to be a good thing.

I’ve recently finished another round of revisions on my novel. This time I had to make some major changes. There might be people who would balk at the tedious work of going through their manuscript page by page to catch mistakes and to take big blocks of text and either eliminate them, or put then in a new place. Yet this is my passion so every word closer to publication is a victory.

The best most successful stories and the lives of real people who inspire us are the ones where the protagonist or the real person kept persevering even through all of the pain and heartache. If I could, I’d include a photo of the Sistine Chapel. Talk about being dedicated to your work.

So many people have told me how much they admire my stick-to-itiveness when it comes to working on my book. Many of them say, “I don’t think I would have the patience to stick with writing through all the years and all the meticulous work as you have done. I admire you.” It’s nice to have their admiration. However, when someone compliments me like that, it makes me more determined to keep working because my job isn’t finished yet. On the other hand, I hope that they find the one thing that they would dedicate their life to because it is a joyous feeling to wake up in the morning and know you get to do what you love.

That’s all I had to say today. I’m just coming home from vacation and don’t have lots of time to get this post ready for publication. Besides, I’ve got to go through my manuscript again to make sure the changes I made to it make sense then send it off to my writer friends for more comments.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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On Specialness

California Coast

California Coast

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ ” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

“Literature is the art of discovering something extraordinary about ordinary people, and saying with ordinary words something extraordinary.” ~ Boris Pasternak

“Some of us think that holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go.” ~ Hermann Hess

Does this happen to you? It’s your birthday, or anniversary, or some other special day for you, and you don’t get the present you were hoping for, or your loved ones don’t even notice that’s it’s a special day? Or you’re telling a story and something interrupts and no one notices that you didn’t get to finish your story? Or you’re feeling down and no one notices? Then in each instance you feel irritated, angry and upset because other people didn’t respect or understand you? They were so wrapped up in their own little worlds that they completely forgot about you? That’s happened to me more times than I care to count and for years I didn’t understand why I would get so upset.

As I may have mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been studying A Course In Miracles this year. One of the concepts has baffled me a great deal. It’s the idea of “specialness”. The first time I read about this concept, which the course says “…is a lack of trust in anyone except yourself.” I felt extremely uncomfortable. Aren’t we supposed to feel that we are special? That we have gifts and talents the world needs which only we can share? In a way I was affronted by the idea that none of us are special. However, I have to admit that I have had an internal battle for most of my life between feeling ordinary and feeling special, humble and arrogant. I never understood what that struggle was about until I began studying A Course In Miracles.

Last week the concept came up again in my studies and this time I understood the idea that was being conveyed. As I’ve written many times, each of us lives in our own little world. We think of our ideas and our lives as paramount. Our well being is more important to us than that of others. I didn’t like to accept that fact about myself. The Course says it this way, “He who is ‘worse’ than you must be attacked, so that your specialness can live on his defeat.” It’s sad to say but I’ve done that, and had it done to me. I’ve rejoiced when I got the better of others and I’ve suffered when others have defeated me. Maybe it was just the fact that I was praised for something I did, and others weren’t. Or someone cheated me out of some money, or got the job I wanted and made me feel terrible. As I was reading that section of the course, I realized that it is this concept of specialness that has caused so many problems for us throughout the ages.

Something I’m still working to understand is that we are all part of God which means that every single person, maybe even every single thing that exists is my brother. Someone once said it this way, we’re all drops in the larger ocean. God is the ocean. One drop is not better or worse than any other drop but we’re all needed to complete the ocean. We all have our specific function to perform to keep the ocean healthy.

I am happy that with all that’s been going on over the last few years, I finally understand on a new level why we lash out at each other. Self-preservation is one of the most fundamental reactions we experience whenever something happens to us. If we don’t feel like we’re being understood and appreciated over a long period of time, then the pressure builds up and our hurt and anger blow the lid off the cooker and that’s when bad things happen.

My husband and I were talking about this concept in the car as we were driving on our vacation. I said, so now I understand that when we attack others we think we’re protecting ourselves, but it never works. It makes the situation worse. I loved what my husband said, “Yep. The human race hasn’t learned that one yet.” Jesus asked us to turn the other cheek and to love those who despitefully use us. Do I have enough courage to put away my sword? I very much want to. I want to stand defenseless, which is another concept of the Course, that defenselessness is strength.

When I think of the concept of defenselessnes as strength I think of the story of Immaculee Ilibagiza, whose entire family was killed during the Rowandan genocide in the early 1990s. She wrote about her extraordinary experience of survival with seven other women confined to a bathroom for 91 days in her book, Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rowandan Holocaust, written with Steve Erwin. I saw her speak during one of Wayne Dyer’s talks on PBS. She told about how she and the other women were found by the men perpetuating the terror. Some of them were men she knew. She stood her ground ready to give up her life and she told them she forgave them. When she told that story, I thought that I would not have been able to stand among the murderers as they held their machetes ready to kill me, nor would I have been able to forgive them for killing my loved ones. Yet she was able to do that and they bowed to her strength. She lived to tell the tale of what she learned from those horrific events.

I began these posts over two years ago as a forum for myself to write out and make sense of my experiences and the things I’m learning as I live my life. I write today’s post because I feel I’m at a turning point. I can’t see the world in the ways I used to. And I’m inspired to continue on this journey to become a better, stronger, more loving person. I hope you will continue to come along with me. And if you don’t understand what I’m writing about, I hope you’ll ask questions, or challenge my attempts to express what I’m learning.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Ego Games

Journal and candle

Journal and candle

“The creative process is not like a situation where you get struck by a single lighting bolt. You have ongoing discoveries, and there’s ongoing creative revelations. Yes, it’s really helpful to be marching toward a specific destination, but, along the way, you must allow yourself room for your ideas to blossom, take root, and grow.” – Carlton Cuse

“The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.” – Julia Cameron

“ ‘Romance’ is based on my entire creative process. I fall in love with an idea, obsess over it, isolate myself with it, and when I eventually introduce it to my friends, they all tell me that it’s stupid.” – Chuck Palahniuk

“Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair falls out and the teeth decay. I’m always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it’s very shocking to the system.” – Flannery O’Connor

“Dance above the surface of the world. Let your thoughts lift you into creativity that is not hampered by opinion.” – Red Haircrow

Does this happen to you? You’re working on a project. You love doing it and you’re inspired every day by what you’re working on. Even when you’re having a frustrating day, it’s great to be part of the creative process. Then others, knowing that you are doing something creative, send you tips on how to do the work. And that makes you feel irritated. That happened to me the other day. A friend of mine posted something on my wall about writing a novel, which made me feel really irritated. It’s one thing to post it for the general public to read, but I didn’t like that he posted it on my personal wall like I needed help with the project I’m working on. Okay, admittedly, I do need help from time to time but I’m going to seek the help of people who are writers and who understand the personal nature of the writing process.

I find that often the people who are sending me tips, aren’t engaged in the same work I’m doing. That irritates me even more. Who do they think they are telling me how to do my work, when they aren’t working in my field? I begin to engage in mental ego games. I want to tell them to shove their advice in a … well, we won’t go there. Then I begin to get my ego in check and I realize they’re just trying to be supportive. They want to encourage me and be my cheerleaders. Sometimes I find myself getting irritated even when fellow writers send me tips on writing. They believe that everyone should approach writing the same way they do, and they are very didactic about it. Maybe that’s why I dropped out of both writing groups I used to belong to.

It’s a rule in the theatre that an actor never tells another actor how to portray their character. That’s the job of the actor playing the role in collaboration with the director. I feel it should be the same with other forms of artwork. My way of writing isn’t going to be the same as your way. Your way of painting that picture isn’t going to be the same as someone else’s way. The creative process is deeply personal and unique to the artist.

While I was mulling this “helpful” post by my friend, I read a post on Facebook by Diana Gabaldon, author of the hugely popular Outlander series. The other day she wrote about her experiences at writer’s conferences both as a new writer and now as a successful author. She enumerated the ways new writers sabotage themselves by listening to all the advice from the successful writers who present their method for writing at the conferences as THE way to do it. They, the new writers, think they have to write just like she does, or like Dan Brown, or James Patterson, or J. K. Rowling. She was telling how it was for her when she began to write the first in what is now nearly a nine book series. Though she attended writer’s conferences, she didn’t pay attention to anyone’s formula for writing. She took what was helpful, then just started to write and followed where her characters led her. She followed her own instincts. That’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve gone to only a few writer’s conferences because I didn’t want someone telling me I’m doing it wrong. As far as I’m concerned, there is no right or wrong when it comes to creativity. The few conferences I have attended didn’t really offer much help for me and my process. I’m the only one who can find my inner path to the truth I’m trying to convey.

Having written all of that, I have had fantastically helpful comments from reader and writer friends. But I chose their advice very carefully. The ones I trust don’t try to speak to my process, they only make comments on their reaction to the work I’m creating. They know that writing is a painstakingly slow process and sometimes we can get mired down in all the details of our story and loose track of where we were going with it. We throw unnecessary events and characters into the story and we need one or two helpful people to point out where we’ve gone off track. The people who are the most helpful, are those who point out where the story bogs down, tell me what’s working and encourage me to continue writing.

As for my friends who try to help me, I’m grateful that they are interested in what I’m working on. It’s nice to have cheerleaders encouraging you to keep up the good work. Maybe some of them want me to succeed because if I do, then it’s a sign that they can succeed at making their dreams come true too. When they send me advice, that I don’t really want, I’ll just remember that my ego is the one who is offended. The real me will accept the good wishes of my friends and keep writing.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Tipping Point

Supreme Court building

Supreme Court building

“People say, ‘I want to change the world!’ Wonderful! I’ve got a great place to start – look in the mirror and get to work!” – David Roppo

“We become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.” – Jimmy Carter

“What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other’s folly – that is the first law of nature.” – Voltaire

“In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.” – Dalai Lama

Last week I was away at a family wedding and all kinds of great things happened during that time which make me think we’ve reached a tipping point in the direction of choosing love instead of hate.

The wedding was beautiful, as was the scenery along the way and at our destination. I don’t know the couple well, but everyone who spoke of them said they are two exceptional people. That in itself is hopeful. Weddings are a celebration of love. That’s what made the Supreme Court decision about making sure marriage equality is accepted in all 50 states an extra bonus to the weekend.

The Supreme Court also upheld The Affordable Care Act, and they upheld the use of an independent commission made of up citizens to draw Arizona’s congressional districts. In other words, they stood for the citizens of this country in three different ways. Hurray! It’s another few steps in the right direction.

Though I was very happy about all the decisions, the one that surprised and delighted me the most, because I didn’t think it would happen, was the one that upheld the rights of THE PEOPLE of my state of Arizona to decide how to to organize the voting districts. The politicians have to stay out of such decisions. If they upheld the vote of the people on this issue in my state, it can be the beginning of the end for gerrymandering in other states as well. This decision was big, and went mostly unnoticed with the news of the other two decisions. However, all three, in my opinion, point to the beginning of the end of lots of injustices that have been in place in this country.

As I’ve emphasized many times in the two years I’ve been writing this blog, there are positive things happening. The tide is turning toward more tolerance, and more fair treatment for all our citizens. I think what happened last week is definite proof that what I’ve been saying is true.

Other positive things are happening as well. Look at what’s been happening since the shooting in Charleston. I have to say that I was moved by the statements of the families of the victims. They shared love and forgiveness for the poor young man who allegedly did the shooting. Because of their forgiveness, lots of people are engaging in actual, serious conversations about not only the symbol of the confederate flag, but how blacks, and other ethnic groups, have been treated. We’re examining our unacknowledged and unexamined attitudes about each other. (Thank you Donald Trump!)

If you watch Fox news you probably still think the world is going to hell in a hand basket, (Sorry for the over used metaphor.) that liberals are taking over the world and persecuting conservative Christians and wealthy white people. It’s not, and we’re not. We’re just standing up for the rights of ALL people.

Here are some more positive signs that the tide is changing and that we’ve reached the tipping point toward the positive. Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have had huge turnouts at their rallies, and raised enormous amounts of money donated mostly by ordinary citizens. The Republicans who are running for office sound more and more like people high on drugs or people who are mentally ill living in world of their own creation. The Girl Scouts refused a $100,000 anti-transgender donation, the attacks on the president by the Koch brother’s and the Tea Party are failing, and many people around the world continue to speak out on issues from guns to women’s rights, education for all, and how damaging it is to use religion to attack others. Wow! The good news is everywhere.

Now I understand that most of us automatically go to the negative when events happen. My friend Jean, who had brain surgery almost two years ago, has been studying books about brain research. One thing she told me was that scientists have discovered that we’re hard wired to embrace the negative first and that turning our thinking around to the positive can be difficult. But it can be done. It just takes practice.

I have to admit that I grew up in a positive environment, so it’s easier for me to change those initial negative thoughts to positive ones, however, I too feel despair at times about all the bad news. That’s why I seek out positive news items, TV shows, movies and supportive messages on social media. If we feed our minds negative images and messages, that’s what we’ll think about. Conversely, if we feed our mind positive messages, it becomes easier to think in the positive. Maybe recent events show us that people ARE beginning to embrace positive thoughts which produce positive change. I hope so.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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About Women and Our Changing Culture

Business Women in Indonesia

Business Women in Indonesia

“I feel there is something unexplored about woman that only a woman can explore.” – Georgia O’Keefe

“If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done ask a woman.” – Margaret Thatcher

“Clearly older women and especially older women who have led an active life or elder women who successfully maneuver through their own family life have so much to teach us about sharing, patience, and wisdom.” – Alice Walker

“You see a lot of smart guys with dumb women, but you hardly ever see a smart woman with a dumb guy.” – Erica Jong

“I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.” – Rebecca West

Somehow what I wrote in the last post just didn’t seem like it covered all the ideas that have been rattling around in my head for the last few months. So many things are happening to lots of different groups of people and they all look like different issues, but in my opinion, they are the same issue. We need to learn to value others so much that it won’t matter what color, sexual orientation, gender, or level of prosperity they might have or be. However, it’s hard to value others if we don’t value ourselves.

As I’ve written many times in this blog, valuing myself has been a big theme in my life and one of my main cheerleaders was my father. I couldn’t articulate until I was much older that he had lots of great feminine qualities that I wanted to emulate. Because he was a man, I got the idea that all men would be like my dad. But as I grew older and bumped up against barriers that were constructed to keep out anyone who wasn’t a white male, I started to rethink who I was and what it was that made me valuable. And the answer is: Because I’m here! This has been a lifelong process, you understand, to know that I’m valuable just because I exist. This and all the ideas I’m expressing today have taken me a long time to be able to articulate.

This is what I now know. We are each a piece of God. As I’ve studied the religions of the world, I’ve come to think that there is something within women that understands that fact. Way back in human history, men knew it too, because they worshiped the Goddess. But then things changed and men took charge. Women adapted. They kept their strength to themselves and learned to make a place for themselves within the male dominated societies. On the outside it looked like men were in charge, but there were often great women behind the great men. And almost every woman who became ruler of a country, did not have a husband, which allowed them to rule the way they thought best.

But I don’t want to go into the entire history of moving from female based cultures to male based cultures and back again. There are lots of fantastic books about that subject. No, what I want to do is express what I think is happening now. I think we’re moving from a completely male dominated world, to one of cooperation between the sexes. And one where every single person is value and honored. The evidence I provide for this is just what’s happening in the news almost every day.

In this country, the male dominated congress is in deadlock. There are white men who are going ballistic because they see their domination crumbling. They’ve been in control for so long. They liked it and they don’t want to lose the upper hand. Each time there is a new shooting, or new restrictive legislation introduced, or progressive legislation that’s voted down, there are people who wake up and say, “Wait a minute. That’s not right.” And the more people who say that and band together with other’s who are awakening, the pendulum swings ever so slightly in the direction of more equality all around.

One of the things I was going to mention in this post was the fact that women need to stand with and for other women. I’ve always thought that was important but this morning as I was thinking about that I was challenged to back that up with action. I’ve received a number of invitations from my new Representative Martha McSally to follow her Facebook page. I’ve refused to follow her because she’s from a much more conservative party than I am. I was angry that she won the election, and that she won it by a minuscule amount of votes. But if I’m going to stand up for having more women in leadership roles in this country, then I need to support Martha McSally. I’ve just taken the time to like her page. Now I’ll be able to tell her how I feel about the important issues that we face in this country. I don’t know if she’ll pay attention to anything I write to her, but she’ll never even consider them if she doesn’t know what I think. As Malala Yousafzai says, “Sometimes we wait for others and think that Martin Luther should raise among us, Nelson Mandela should raise up among us and speak up for us, but we never realize they are normal humans like us – and if we step forward we can also bring change just like them.” So, I’m taking one step forward and telling my Representatives what I want this country to look like.

I’m given hope that maybe Ms. McSally will pay attention, because I saw a news segment not long ago about the gatherings the women in Congress hold regularly to create a bridge between the parties to get things done. They may not always agree on an issue, but they look for ways to work together. I like that!

There is so much more to say about how to help this country grow into one where every single person, no matter who they are, can be honored and valued but I’ll leave that for future posts.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment.

Working Mom

Working Mom

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Cancer of Our Society

Hands of different races

Hands of different races

“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.” – Mahatma Gandhi

“Islam teaches tolerance, not hatred; universal brotherhood, not enmity; peace, and not violence.” – Pervez Musharraf

“Prejudice of any kind implies that you are identified with the thinking mind. It means you don’t see the other human being anymore, but only your own concept of that human being. To reduce the aliveness of another human being to a concept is already a form of violence.” – Eckhart Tolle

“Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” – Isaac Asimov

“Dignity does not come from avenging insults, especially from violence that can never be justified. It comes from taking responsibility and advancing our common humanity.” – Hillary Clinton

Something important I’ve learned in my sixty-two years is that we repeat a lesson over and over again until we learn it. That goes for individuals as well as groups, businesses, societies, and nations. As I write this, there has been another mass shooting this time in a church. I guess we haven’t learned that violence only begets more violence which means, we’ll keep repeating this insane scenario until we get it. Humans are stubborn and we often have to be pushed to the brink before we are willing to change.

Violence in all its forms in our country is a cancer that is eating away at our society from the inside out. It’s exactly what our enemies are hoping for, that our society will collapse in on itself. And we are teetering on the brink of doing just that because the people haters are declaring their right to freedom. But what of the rights and freedoms of those who become victims of violent acts? They get blamed for not carrying a gun.

This is what I think about the gun debate. This country was founded on the fight for freedom against tyranny. Each member of the army had to own a gun, and that was even written into our constitution that individuals have the right to own a fire arm. The reasoning behind that was obvious. This was a wild country at the time, not to mention many people needed to hunt to provide food for their families. Do we really need to own so many guns now? I guess we do if we see every other person as a threat. That’s sad. We’re so busy being proud of our heritage of standing up to the bullies that we continue to look for them everywhere and have become the thing we fight against.

In my opinion, our country was founded on the masculine ideal. We think of a man as being tough, stoic, invulnerable, and he rules his domain with an iron hand. And if a man isn’t like that we look down on him, or at least we used to.

Basing our culture on those principles may have helped us grow and develop at one time, but that time has passed. We’ve evolved as a nation as evidenced by the way we treat our returning soldiers now as opposed to the way we treated them after WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam. During WWI men who suffered from PSD, or shell shock as it was called back then, were treated with distain, disrespect and if they were in the field and were unable to perform their duties, they were shot for cowardice. With each successive war the attitude about PSD changed ever so slowly. Now we understanding that being a part of all the violence that is a part of war, is highly corrosive to a person’s psyche. In other words, again in my opinion, our society is moving toward a more feminine perspective.

Those with feminine qualities are loving, vulnerable, understanding, supportive, inclusive, peacemakers, and healers. All the people most of us profess to admire and aspire to emulate throughout the ages have had more feminine qualities than masculine, Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King, Jr. to name just a few.

So I ask, do we want to heal the cancer, or kill ourselves because we don’t want to acknowledge the diagnosis?

I hope you will consider this quote from the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. My copy was translated and annotated, and with an afterward by Victor H. Mair, thus the two different numbers.

41 (76)
Human beings are
soft and supple when alive,
stiff and straight when dead.

The myriad creatures, the grasses and trees are
soft and fragile when alive,
dry and withered when dead.

Therefore, it is said:
The rigid person is a disciple of death;
The soft, supple, and delicate are lovers of life.

An army that is inflexible will not conquer;
A tree that is inflexible will snap.

The unyielding and mighty shall be brought low;
The soft, supple, and delicate will be set above.

In other words, the meek shall inherit the earth. I believe that if our society is to survive, we need to become soft and supple with each other.

I’ll write one last thing. I saw Malala Yousafzai on Jon Stewart’s show last night and I’ll paraphrase something she said that I’m trying to get across with this post. She said that one person can do one thing to make the world a better place. And I say, if each of us does one thing, then it won’t be long before the world we live in becomes a very different place than the one we’re living in now.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Minding Your Passion

Tarantula Nebula

Tarantula Nebula

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” – Maya Angelou

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” – Harriet Tubman

“We can each define ambition and progress for ourselves. The goal is to work toward a world where expectations are not set by the stereotypes that hold us back, but by our personal passion, talents and interests.” – Sheryl Sandberg

“You can do anything as long as you have the passion, the drive, the focus, and the support.” – Sabrina Bryan

For a little over two years I’ve been writing this blog and today is the first day I wish I could skip writing for a week. It’s not that I don’t like writing it, it’s that I’m deep in the process of revising my novel, The Space Between Time and I almost resent any time spent away from that task. So I hope you’ll excuse me if this post is short because I’m in full creative mode.

Having written that, I want to emphasize that anything we do that fills us with passion and gives us pleasure, in a creative way, of course, should be our top priority. I have lots of theories about why we deny ourselves the pleasure of losing ourselves in work that grasps us. We’re sure we don’t deserve to be happy, or we’re addicted to misery. Getting pity from others can be a powerful draw. In a way our DNA is imprinted with the idea that we can’t have the things we desire most. Most people throughout history accepted their lot, did all they could to survive and didn’t allow themselves to dream beyond creating a better life for their families. We have few examples of people living the life of their dreams and being successful at it. In a way, that’s good because every single person must discover their own way to their deepest passions. The thing is, though, you need to believe that it’s possible to put aside the miseries of our existence and cross over into a happy, fulfilling life. Seek out the stories of people who’ve realized their deepest desires. Discover how they did it, and believe you can do the same.

Once you discover your purpose, I encourage you to go for it. I can testify that you might not realize your dream right away, but if you keep your commitment alive, eventually, you’ll be living the life of your dreams. When that happens, you’ll look back and be thankful for every time you chose to take one step closer to fulfilling your dreams.

Every morning when I wake up, I’m grateful I stuck with my quest and I’m grateful for the full support of my husband who has been my cheerleader our entire married life. Find your cheerleader, and be a cheerleader to someone else.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go back to working on my manuscript. Good luck on making your dreams come true.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Do We Want to Live in a Society Like Nazi Germany?

Barbed Wire Fence

Barbed Wire Fence

“If we desire a society of peace, then we cannot achieve such a society through violence. If we desire a society without discrimination, then we must not discriminate against anyone in the process of building this society. If we desire a society that is democratic, then democracy must become a means as well as an end.” – Bayard Rustin

“Sexual, racial, gender violence and other forms of discrimination and violence in a culture cannot be eliminated without changing culture.” – Charlotte Bunch

“People respond in accordance to how you relate to them. If you approach them on the basis of violence, that’s how they’ll react. But if you say, ‘We want peace, we want stability,’ we can then do a lot of things that will contribute towards the progress of our society.” – Nelson Mandela

“Social justice cannot be attained by violence. Violence kills what it intends to create.” – Pope John Paul II

“Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refused to hate him.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Most of the time, I’m a positive person. I believe that humanity is making progress toward more peace, love and fulfillment for all people. I work to see the positive aspects of people and societies. However, there are times I’m brought down to despair by events. Today is one of those days.

This afternoon when I was eating lunch I found articles in both The New Yorker and The Atlantic which were posted on Facebook about Kalief Browder who, when he was 16 years old, was picked up for a theft he didn’t commit. He subsequently spent more than a thousand days (three years) on Rikers Island without a trial and nearly two years of it in solitary confinement. However, he was never brought to trial and eventually he was released, but by that time his life was shattered. While he was being held, he was abused and tortured. Much of this torture and abuse was recorded on tape, so no one can deny it happened.

Last Saturday, June 6th, Kalief Browder committed suicide. He’d finally succeeded after many attempts to kill himself, which were interspersed with attempts to put his life back together. His story came to the attention of celebrities who tried to help him, and who aided in bringing his story to the public, but none of it helped in the end.

When I read the articles about what happened to Kalief, I wept for his pain and for the pain of his family. And I had to ask myself are we’re living in a similar situation to Nazi Germany? We have more people in prison in this country than in any other industrialized country in the world. Most of those in prison are people of color, many convicted of crimes that, in other countries get light sentences. Are these people our Jews? Do we white people think we’re so superior that we have a right to mistreat those who aren’t like us? Are we so afraid of losing our way of life that we attack people who aren’t white? I just want to know how we think that perpetuating violence against anyone is going to make this country better. And I really don’t see how these kinds of acts uphold our Constitution.

Have we become so terrified that we attack black youths who go to a swimming pool, where they have passes, because someone there having a party wants to keep them out? Do we always assume that the person of color is the one who committed the crime? Do we assume that people of color don’t have the same feelings we do? Do we assume that poor people are lazy, that men have the right to abuse women physically and dictate the amount of money they can make and what health procedures they can and can’t choose for themselves, that the rich have some kind of superior wisdom, or that Christians should be the dominant religion in this country?

Today I’ve just had it with people who don’t stop and think rationally. I’m angry with people who aren’t willing to try to understand a situation from the other person’s point of view. I’m tired of people thinking they know what’s best for everyone else, and not stopping to examine their own lives. On the one hand I’m tired, angry and fed up, on the other I know that without the vast contrast between the society we have and the one we want, we’d never do anything to change.

I know there are rays of hope. I’m thankful that there are journalists who have been willing to write about tragedies like the one that happened to Kalief Brower and too many others. People who are willing to stand up and defend women and the poor. I’m grateful for people like Jackson Katz, who is an Anti-sexism educator, and who gave a TED talk titled “Violence against women – it’s a men’s issue.” If you can go watch his talk because he talks about how the dominant culture, sexes and religions can become invisible within the discourse of a society by assuming that the discourse should concentrate on those being abused rather than the abusers. It’s one way those who are in the dominant position become invisible and retain their power positions. When we don’t talk about them, they are invisible and are safe from scrutiny. The way we talk and use language is so very important.

There are indications that we humans are waking up and some are rocking the boat. And indications that we’re shaking up the status quo. There are those who are pointing out the thinking that has gone unexamined for perhaps centuries. I want to be one of those people. I’m going to pay closer attention to how I talk about these issues, but I’m also going to pay attention to how my friends, family, students, and colleagues talk about them as well. I’m not going to keep my mouth shut any longer. We need to be more tolerant of others who we think aren’t like us, and one way to do that is to take a good look at our thought patterns and own them.

I weep that almost everyday we hear another story about acts of violence because they deteriorate our ability to be sympathetic. Violence begets more violence and fear. The only way to stop it, is to stop it. To allow ourselves to get in touch with our emotions and realize that all human beings share similar feelings. We all want to be seen, heard, and loved just because we exist. I hope you will allow yourself to hear the stories of others and grieve, or rejoice with them.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment, or share this with others.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Why I Left Organized Religion

Grace Cathedral Window

Grace Cathedral Window

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

“There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness.” – Dalai Lama

“True religion is real living; living with all one’s goodness and righteousness.” – Albert Einstein

Rarely do I talk or write about my break, twenty-five years ago, with organized religion but recently two things happened that made me feel the need to tell my story.

Recently, former President Jimmy Carter announced he is leaving the Baptist Church behind because it has lost its message of love and the Pew Research Center released a report about the decline of all organized religions in the U.S. You can follow the links to read the articles for yourself. When I read those stories, I wasn’t surprised.

My quest for a deeper connection to God began the day I was confirmed into the church. Several generations of my family had been members and that is the reason I joined. I was eight years old. My father, a lay minister in the church, had baptized me the week before and on that Sunday, my father and Al Gardner, another minister in our congregation, placed their hands on my head to bless and confirm me as a member of the church. The moment they touched me, I felt a loving presence surround and permeate my body and I knew it was God. I felt such peace. There was no question in my mind that God and I were friends and would have or perhaps already had had a long relationship with each other.

As I grew up, I forget my connection with God often getting caught up in the events happening around me. I grew up in the 60s and 70s, a very turbulent time. My ego sometimes convinced me that its message was better or stronger than God’s. However, God was always there with open loving arms whenever I remembered S/He was there. Every valuable thing I’ve learned throughout my life is because of my conversations with God.

Over the years I grew to understand that I’m connected to everything that exists, but that each individual must make their own discoveries about who they are and what their purpose is in the grand scheme of this thing we call life.

When I began college, I decided to study religion. I wanted to know all I could about the relationship between humans and the divine. My studies were both joyous and deeply distressing. Each religion began from a pure message that we must love ourselves and one another, but then power hungry men developed doctrines to control the members of their particular brand of religion. Each religion claimed to be THE ONE TRUE FAITH and the original message got distorted causing great conflicts. Many terrible acts of violence throughout the centuries have been committed in God’s name. I didn’t understand the purpose of it all. All I knew was I had to keep my connection to God open and I had to keep searching.

After my husband finished his degree and we moved to Portland, Oregon we were happy with our church duties for a time. We’d chosen Portland because it was one of the more progressive areas of the country and within the church as well. But things changed within the church and our local congregation and my husband and I began to feel like round pegs trying to fit into square holes. The only way we could describe how we were feeling at the time was that we wanted “more” out of our spiritual life. More than the church encouraged and more than any religion that we knew of seemed to offer.

A member of our congregation suggested we read The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. Reading that book was the beginning of the end of our commitment to the church. After that we read in rapid succession, Out on a Limb by Shirley MacLaine, Quantum Healing by Deepak Chopra, Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav and Awakening to Zero Point by Gregg Braden, which he later rewrote and I think is now titled Fractal Time.

In our deliberations about leaving the church we waffled a great deal. First of all, there was the tradition of our family connection to the church. Then there was the uncertainty of where to go from there? Attending church every Sunday morning, going to church camps and retreats and having a spiritual community were compelling reasons to stay. But two things happened to help us break the ties that held us once and for all. First, we attended two or three spiritual growth retreats developed and offered, ironically, by a minister in our church. He had been a dear friend of our parents and we were so hungry for spiritual connection and answers to our dilemma, that we gladly signed up.

The spiritual growth retreats were designed to be silent for the most part. There were short sessions where we were taught various journaling techniques designed to enhance our skills in listening to God’s voice. We learned meditation and were encouraged to be silent out in nature and wherever we went as often as possible. In fact, each participant had a cabin all to themselves so we could have a quiet place to meditate and contemplate at the end and beginning of each day. Silence during those retreats healed some deeply wounded places in my soul and I will be forever grateful for the various practices I learned during those weekends which I still use today.

The other thing that happened was we had an amazing session with Neale Donald Walsch, author of the Conversation With God books, who was working as a psychic in Portland at the time. The actual sequence of events leading up to my disassociation with the church is now a blur in my mind because one aha led to the next in such rapid succession, but I can say without question seeing Neale was the most profound experience of all.

We’d found Neale’s card on the bulletin board in the dressing room at Common Ground Communal Hot Tubs. A church friend of ours cleaned the place and got free tickets, which she shared with us. Our friend and her husband, my husband and I would go soak and talk every two or three weeks or so. I remember on one visit I saw Neale’s business card, pointed at it and Barry nodded. We took down the number and made the appointment. This was really going out on a limb for us. We felt like we were entering woo woo land. But, Neale’s voice and manner of speaking was so kind and gentle. He was open and accepting and the things he said to us rang true in our hearts. The main thing he said was that we were wasting our talents and that we were embarking on an exciting spiritual journey. That was the confirmation we needed to hear. It wasn’t long after that that we relinquished all our responsibilities within our congregation and stopped attending church.

For awhile we searched for a new spiritual home. We attended Silent Friends meetings, the local Unity Church, and a mega New Thought church. None of them felt like home for long. One of the ministers at the New Thought church once said in a sermon, “Religion should be in the business of putting itself out of business. It should give each individual the foundation to establish their own personal spiritual practice.” That’s what my husband and I came to understand was what we had longed for all those years. We wanted a deep personal relationship with God in which we could shed all the things that don’t serve us or the world. We wanted to allow ourselves to be instruments in God’s hands.

I’m deeply grateful for the foundation I received from my spiritual upbringing in the church of my family. It was within the church that I understood that I could have a personal relationship with God. My daily spiritual practice is deeply enriching to my life, however, I know now I don’t need all the trappings of religion to be the conduit between me and God. It seems to me that the Pew research might indicate that there are others who feel the same way I do.

Thank you for reading this long post. Feel free to leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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What’s in a Word?

December Sunrise

December Sunrise

“The mind that opens up to a new idea never returns to its original size.” – Albert Einstein

“We don’t have to agree on anything to be kind to one another.” – Janis Ian

“If man understood that ‘what I create has nothing to do with what anybody else is creating’ then he wouldn’t be so afraid of what others are doing.” – Abraham

“People who are given whatever they want soon develop a sense of entitlement and rapidly lose their sense of proportion.” – Sarah Churchwell

I have a double major BA, Religious Studies and Theatre and Speech, and I have a MA in Theater Arts. I don’t write that to brag. I write it to let you know that I have lots of experience with the use of words and how they can be used to bend a group of people to a certain point of view.

Words are symbols for ideas. Duh, you might say, but there are two different meanings ascribed to the words we use. There is the denotative, or dictionary meaning and there is the connotative meaning, or the meaning we attach to a word. Some words set off deep emotions within us. And sometimes those emotions are used to bend us to a certain point of view. The people who are doing the bending, don’t always have our best interests at heart. In fact, most of the time they don’t.

Let me give you some examples of words that have been given a new connotative meaning through propaganda. Patriot, liberal, conservative, and entitlement. Those are words we twist in propaganda messages to attack those we don’t like or want to keep in a weakened position. I guess, in that case, we should include in the list, propaganda and persuasion. They are both very powerful ways to sway people to your way of thinking, but they use very different tactics. Look up the words patriot, liberal, conservative, and entitlement for yourself. What does the dictionary say they mean? And do they mean what you think they mean?

I would like to comment on the difference between persuasion and propaganda. When I taught English, we studied the difference between propaganda and persuasion. I wanted my students to begin to think critically about the messages they get through the media.

Persuade: 2. to induce to believe by appealing to reason or understanding; convince.

Propaganda: 1. information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc. 2. the deliberate spreading of such information, rumors, etc.

The difference between persuasion and propaganda is clear in the dictionary meanings. But it seems to me that most people don’t do the critical thinking necessary to determine whether what is said in the media, by politicians, the clergy, the business person, banker, or clerk at the grocery store is in fact using persuasion or propaganda.

And that brings me to the current unrest in the world. Accusations are hurled like swarms of bees, but is the buzz the words make true or is it manufactured? Have you bothered to investigate what’s being said? We’re at a critical time in human history where we can destroy ourselves or we can change the world for the better. Which do you hope for? If you want the world to be a peaceful, loving place in which to live, then you need to start to examine the ideas expressed in the books and articles you read, the news you listen to, and even the things your friends say. Our country was founded on debate, but it doesn’t help if you only listen to the words that make you feel comfortable, or that support the way you’ve been indoctrinated to think.

One of my favorite movies is The American President, written by Aaron Sorkin. In that movie two characters, the president, and one of his aides are arguing about whether or not the president should make counter comments to the attacks by the man who is his primary challenger for president in the next election. President Shepard says, “Lewis, we’ve had presidents who were beloved, who couldn’t find a coherent sentence with two hands and a flashlight. People don’t drink the sand because they’re thirsty. The drink the sand because they don’t know the difference.”

I urge you not to be one of the ones who doesn’t know the difference between the sand and the water. I hope you’re someone who questions everything you read and hear that have to do with the myriad of important issues we face. Examine not only the meaning behind the words people use, but their intent in using them. We can’t afford to be lazy and let things happen to us. We need to be challenging the way we think so we can create a new way of being in the world with our new thoughts.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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