Words, Words, Words

Classic Books
Classic Books

“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

“There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.” ~ Will Rogers

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” ~ Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

It’s ironic that someone like me, who loves solitude should also love words both spoken and read. Or maybe it’s that I love stories. Stories in all forms, visual, aural, and on the page touch my soul. I just finished reading a fascinating book series by Marissa Meyer using the fairy tales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White and weaving them together in a Sci-Fi/fantasy world where the evil queen is ruler of Luna but wants to conquer Earth. After finishing the first book, Cinder. I was hooked and now that I’ve finished the last book, Winter, I can’t stop thinking about the characters and events of the books. I highly recommend them for all you Sci-Fi/fantasy lovers out there.

The fact that I’m having a hard time letting go of the story of these four strong women characters got me thinking about other novels, or short stories that have had a deep impact on me. So for today’s post, I thought I’d share an abbreviated list of my all-time favorite books.

The first book of quality that grasped me was A Tale of Two Cities. The character of Sydney Carton is my favorite from the book. He’s a flawed character who redeems himself by taking Charles Darnay’s place to face the guillotine during the French Revolution. The speech he gives as he faces his death is one of the classics for all time. I love the theme that people can change, and in the direst of circumstances make a difference, no matter how small. This book ignited my love of British literature, both classic and modern.

Later, my perspective of the world changed when I read first Roots and shortly after Shogun. Both books put me into the heads of characters who lived in very different cultures and circumstances than I did and I still feel their influence to this day. Who could have read, or seen Roots and still think slavery was a tenable practice? When I read it with one of my English classes, my students were just as appalled at what the slaves experienced as I was. It’s a book that helps the reader develop empathy, and that makes it a classic in my mind. Any book that can give the reader new insights speaks a universal language for the ages.

In recent years I have been deeply affected by each of the books in the Harry Potter, Hunger Games and Outlander series, and I loved The Book Thief, Memoirs of a Geisha, and Go Set A Watchman. Each of those books showed the strength and resilience of the women main characters, a trend I love.

In general I don’t read short stories often because I like to take my time and savor the story, but one collection that changed my perception of spirituality was The Way of the Wolf: The Gospel in New Images by Martin Bell. It was first published in 1968. I discovered it in the early 80s when I was still very involved in church. One story in particular continues to influence my thinking. It’s “What the Wind Said to Thajir”. In the very short story, Thajir, a young boy, goes out to play. He loves the wind. On the fall day in the story, the wind speaks to Thajir and shares three great life secrets with him, everything that is is good, at the center of things life belongs to life, and that the meaning and purpose of life is in dying on behalf of the world. Recent events have brought back to mind the importance of these three great secrets. For that reason, I read the story again to refresh my memory of the important message shared in the story.

What I look for when I read a book, is to get inside someone else’s world and experience it with them. A book that allows me to get inside a character’s head to feel their confusion, fear, despair, awakening and finally growth is to me the epitome of a great story. There are so many superb books that I’ve read that I continue to think about long after I’ve read them. Too many to mention here. If I’m still thinking about a book years after I’ve read it, that’s the sign of a great author.

I understand that we all come into this world with different agendas and points of view, so these books I’ve mentioned might not speak to you the way they do me. That’s okay as long as we each remain open to new ideas however they come to us, that’s the point. The people I’m concerned for are those with closed minds who think they already have all the knowledge they need. Hopefully they are few and far between.

I hope you will share some of your favorite books in the comments below. I’m always looking for the next life changing book.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

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Review: Army Brats

Army Brats Cover
Army Brats Cover

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at the typewriter and bleed.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

“What underlies great science is what underlies great art, whether it is visual or written, and that is the ability to distinguish patterns out of chaos.” ~ Diana Gabaldon

“When I am writing best, I really am lost in my world. I lose track of the outside world. I have a difficult time balancing between my real world and the artificial world.” ~ George R. R. Martin

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” ~ Madeleine L’Engle

I love sharing the work of fellow writers, so this post is about my friend, Michael G. Cerepanya’s new book, Army Brats. I got to read it through several drafts and it was exciting to see how he developed the story and grew as a writer. This is not his first book (the other is about his hiking adventures) but this one is more personal. It’s a novelization of his experiences being an Army brat in the late 1950s and early 60s in Germany.

One thing I loved about the book was that it’s funny, poignant, tense, and sad. It’s about difficult family relationships, and can’t we all relate to that? Michael doesn’t shy away from the torment of feeling his father doesn’t love him, or having a sister who is always trying to trip him up. I cheered when he gets in a good hit to his father during a boxing lesson, and it was particularly satisfying when his sister finally gets punished for being a tattle tale. What I particularly liked about the book is that by the end, his main character finds self-confidence.

Another thing I loved was the glimpse it gives into what life was like growing up with a dad who was career military. My dad hated his stint in the Air Force and was openly anti-military, so it was nice to see what life was like for Lucas Baryskivka and his family as they moved from posting to posting. Luke, the oldest boy in a family of five children, is sensitive and Michael relates with equal sensitivity how he learns to cope with his domineering father while at the same time managing to enjoy many funny and even dangerous adventures. Some of the adventures of Luke and his friends made me gasp with anxiety, or laugh out loud, a sign of a well written adventure. The relating of those childhood antics alone are worth your time.

Some writer once said, and I’m paraphrasing, the best writers mine their own lives for material for their books. Michael has done this with Army Brats. He has shown courage in examining his life and in the end we get a sense that he’s come to terms with the ups and downs of his childhood in a particularly satisfying ending.

Army Brats is available as an ebook or in paperback at his website. I hope you’ll consider adding it to your late summer reading list.

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

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

What If We Could Change the World?

My Favorite Books
My Favorite Books

“Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.” ~ Malala Yousafzai

“Creativity can solve almost any problem. The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything.” ~ George Lois

“It takes a different value system if you wish to change the world.” ~ Jacque Fresco

“We will leave a legacy, whether by choice or unconsciously. So why not intentionally create the legacy?” ~ Dr. Maria Church

Wow! What a tumultuous few days we’ve just lived through. For me it has been doubly so because of my gall bladder attack and trip to the hospital. All of which has caused me to do a great deal of soul searching.

I do not believe our physical ailments are hereditary. I think what Caroline Myss says is true, “our biography becomes our biology,” which means that my gall bladder was kindly telling me that I still have things to work out. Thank heaven it was only a gall bladder attack and nothing really serious. In meditation I’ve been asking to be shown what unhealed issues I have been hiding from myself. And little by little I’ve been getting answers. The first of which is, I’ve let all the societal turmoil get to me so that I’ve become angry while at the same time feeling helpless to effect any kind of real change. That’s not helpful so I’m working on that. Instead of worrying, I’m going with the flow right now to see what God has in mind rather than to try to make things come out the way I want them to. It’s a little bit of a balancing act.

I think similar wake up calls happen in society. Events slap us in the face with increasing rapidity to wake us up, to get us out of our complacency. And they keep happening until the day we pay attention and do something about them. So when bad things happen, like the shootings last week, I always try to figure out what I can do to help facilitate the change? How can I bring peace instead of violence and hatred? What keeps coming to me is to keep writing.

At first I thought that being a writer was kind of wimpy talent to offer to the problems of the world until the day after I got home from the hospital. Barry and I watched the movie Network. I had never seen it so when TCM had it on their schedule, I thought I’d watch it because it was made in 1976, another tumultuous time in our history. WOW! What a prophetic movie! If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you do. Screenwriter, Paddy Chayefsky, tells the story of how one network turns real news reporting into entertainment. “Sound familiar?” Host Ben Mankiewicz asked when introducing the film. Yeah!

Watching the movie got me to thinking that the 60s and 70s are kind of like one book end to the continuing progressive movement, with now as the other end. We had a lull there for a while, but you can’t cover up a festering wound and expect it to heal. We’re in the middle of ripping off the the overgrown skin and letting the putrid junk we tried to cover up seep out so the wound can truly heal.

So, my thinking was influenced by watching Network, but throughout the years I’ve read many thought provoking books and seen movies that make a statement about situations in our society that we can do something about. We just have to speak up and I’m excited to see that there are lots of people speaking up right now about all kinds of human rights issues. That gives me hope.

To do my part I’ll state right now that I support the rights of ordinary human beings to have a decent place to live, food on the table, a job they can be proud of with access to health care and proper education. In other words, I think we should take care of each other and not let corporations dictate what we can and can’t have. Ned Beaty gives a very chilling speech in Network that might just sound like a familiar mantra of some big business owners and conservative politicians. However, nothing stays the same and their days of control are numbered.

Because of who I am, I’m never going to be the writer who examines the dark side of life. Yes, dark things happen to people, but I want my characters to face the bad things that happen and allow themselves to heal and move on to a better life. That’s what my book, The Space Between Time is about. I want to be like Gene Roddenberry and write a version of society that some people call unrealistic because if I write a vision of the way we CAN live, and other authors do too, that’s one way to influence change. As Dumbledore says in Harry Potter And the Deathly Hallows, “Words, in my not so humble opinion, are our most inexhaustible source of magic.” I think so too because that’s how ideas are disseminated. So, read, watch, talk, and think.

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

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Circle of Ideas

April Morning Rose
April Morning Rose

“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it.” ~ M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled

“We cannot control what emotions or circumstances we will experience next, but we can choose how we will respond to them.” ~ Gary Zukav

“There is a divine purpose behind everything – and therefore a divine presence in everything.” ~ Neale Donald Walsch

“Non-attachment is about not being attached to anything – including non-attachment itself.” ~ Peter Merry

I must apologize if there are mistakes in this post. Shortly after I wrote this rough draft I had to go to the ER with severe abdominal pain which turned out to be gall stones. Needless to say, my preparation for this week’s post was delayed. Thanks for reading anyway.

Ideas fascinate me. I’m kind of an idea collector. I pay attention to the ideas in books, movies, TV shows, what my acquaintances, family and friends say. When a new idea comes my way, I love to pick it apart and examine the many layers that it expresses. Throughout the years, I’ve made connections from one idea to the next and sometimes the pattern blesses me with a deeper understanding of one or more of those ideas.

Last week I posted a quote, “There are no victims only volunteers” that our friend John Berger stated years ago in a small group meeting. One of my readers didn’t agree with the quote. I completely understand why she didn’t. We’re taught that the world happens TO us and all we can do is react or respond. On one level that is true on another level I believe that we have a hand in what happens to us, kind of like the sacred contract that Caroline Myss writes about in her book of the same title. Our soul knows that what is written in the contract is there to help us grow, if we choose to do so. However, our ego selves sometimes balks at this.

See what I mean about ideas? Since that last paragraph may be baffling to you, let me make it more personal.

In the ‘90s my husband and I were restless and felt constrained by the church we’d grown up in. The story is rather long and involved, but it ended with our seeking a deeper spiritual connection elsewhere. There were several of us in our home congregation on the same journey. John Berger was one of them. We were all reading the same authors, M. Scott Peck, Deepak Chopra, Gary Zukav, Marianne Williamson, Gregg Braden, and many more. We even attended a new thought church together for a time. That’s where I came across the notion that what we call reality isn’t reality at all. It’s more like the quote from Shakespeare about all the world being a stage and all the men and women merely players. The idea was that if we can understand that there is a much larger plan for humanity throughout the ages than just being born, living and dying, then we might be able to see that we volunteer to participate in events so our soul can help us gain wisdom.

I have to admit this idea that I volunteered for all the things that happen to me was disconcerting. That meant I would have to take responsibility for my life on all levels. On the one hand it was nice to believe that I had volunteered for the good thing that happened, but not so much the bad. I mean, who deserves for bad things to happen to them right?
Yet I contemplated that idea, and one related to it, “nothing matters.” How could nothing matter? What was the purpose of being then? What was the purpose of going through the motions of living?

As I approached my fortieth birthday I got the answer in an unusual way. Every month I went to my naturopathic doctor for chiropractic treatments. During the one right before my birthday he and I were talking about what it was like to turn forty. He was only three months older than I. He told me about the skiing trip his friend had gifted him. They had gone up to Mt. Hood where they used to ski when they were both younger and had fewer responsibilities. The experience could have been a disaster. Their equipment was old and kept breaking making skiing impossible. When he told me how they had laughed in spite of the fact that their ski trip had been ruined, I got it. In fact that’s exactly what I said. “Oh, I get it now!” He asked me what I was referring to and I told him that his story helped me see that no matter what happens to us, it is neither good nor bad. It’s just what happened and we are the ones who put a value on the event. He got it too when I said, “You and your friend could have been bummed about the broken equipment but you weren’t you both decided to have a great time being together not matter what.”

From that moment on it was as if I could see the dividing line between our ego reality and our soul reality. Not long after my epiphany, there was a terrible earthquake in India. Many hundreds of people died and I could see that all those people had volunteered to be a part of that event. Something about their suffering and deaths affected all of humanity in some way. I couldn’t say exactly what we could learn from it, except perhaps to have empathy and care more for each other, but I was sure there was a much larger purpose to the event than I could see with my ego eyes.

Of course, there were some people who thought I was the complete opposite of empathetic because I wasn’t wallowing in tears and sorrow. It wasn’t that I wasn’t sad about what had happened, it was that I saw an eternal plan at work.

From that moment on when disturbing things happen, I see them from that dual vision. When I lost my beloved job teaching drama, I knew I was meant to go down different path than one I had been on. Was I hurt, angry and vengeful? Oh you bet. I was encouraged to sue the school district for age discrimination because I had just turned fifty years old. But what I’d learned on my fortieth birthday stuck. To bring a lawsuit would be trying to stay stuck instead of moving forward to the future my soul was trying to get me to see. Deep down I didn’t want that. I have never wanted that. I’ve always wanted to evolve, so I gritted my teeth and found a new teaching job to put food on the table until I could heal enough to be able to be open to the messages about what I was supposed to learn. Losing that job led me to a job teaching English, which led me to realize that my true purpose was to be a writer. And here I am today writing about important life lessons.

I know some of you won’t understand the concept of what the Buddhists call non-attachment, which is what “nothing matters” and “there are no victims only volunteers” has to do with. To me non-attachment to events leaves me open to hear the voice of God leading me ever closer to my purpose.

Trying to practice non-attachment isn’t easy and doesn’t take the pain out of the bad things that happen to me. It just gives me hope that there is a larger purpose to it all.

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

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016