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Lofty thoughts

One of the very positive benefits of semi-retirement in New Mexico is the ability to relax on the back patio. We have many aviary buddies who visit. Despite their behavior being strictly about survival, they are absolutely fascinating to watch.

They don’t say anything that I find intelligible, but it’s fun to imagine what they would be saying if we could understand. Here’s a sampling of what I think their chirping really means.

Hi Jack. Hi back to you, Jack. Sure are a bunch of sparrows here. It’s too bad we all have the same name. There’s Woody. He’s got a long beak and we haven’t seen him in a while. He’s a big guy – a non-sparrow.

The two non-feathered blobs are watching our eating habits. I think we should call them Blob One and Blob Two. Blog One keeps putting food out for us so I guess it’s okay for them to watch. But every time it comes near, I get nervous and take off.

Then there’s this big character that the Blobs call Pidge or Pig-en. He doesn’t fly much – he’s probably too fat to be aerodynamic. We see him scurrying back and forth on the ground. Guess it’s either because he’s too big to sit on one of the feeder things or because he likes dirt in his food. Yuck.

Then there are the feeders on the other side of the yard. We don’t like the menu over there so we’re just as happy to leave it to the creatures that the Blobs refer to as wrens.

We can also see the tiny bird-like creatures who want absolutely nothing to do with us. They have feeders that we can’t access even if we wanted to because it’s just wet sweet stuff. They are weird little critters. Somehow, they can flutter their wings much faster than we could ever imagine. And they have long necks and tongues to suck up their liquid junk.

All in all, life around here is pretty good. We have a huge buffet, from the good things in these tube contraptions with perches to the solid gizmos that we can sit on to enjoy our meals. Finally, there is something that the Blobs call a quail block. It just sits in the middle of a bald spot in the yard. It’s like dessert that we can visit, eight or ten of us at a time.

Well, I’ve got to take off. Two big black pidges are nearby, surveying the environment and scaring up food under one of the tubes. They rumored to be vegetarians but I saw one with a bug in its mouth and as far as I know, bugs are meat. A bird can never take anything for granted.

Got to get ready for my journey to southern destinations. Remember – above all, fly safe. Shalom.



If I may assist you with any of your writing endeavors, it is my privilege to do so. You may reach me at csbutts19@yahoo.com and I hope that you will use this address only for professional purposes.

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In a class of twenty-two kindergarteners, I always make a sincere attempt to remember their names. In some situations, my acknowledgement of each child is critically important. This was the case with a young man whom I’ll call Rocket.

Rocket (not his real name) was smart, attentive, respectful and all those attributes that are desirable in a student. Early in the day, he made it a priority to ask me if I knew his name. Because he and his name were noteworthy, I offered it to him and received a broad smile in return.

Suddenly, he and I had a connection that will stay with me forever. As they were constructing an art project, he diligently produced two ladybug stickers that I firmly attached to my security badge. To accentuate the significance of his gifts, I assured him that if anyone ever asks about the origin of these stickers, I would reply that they were gifts from Rocket.

Designating children as special makes them exceptional. When children gathered on the carpet for story time, he made certain to be inches away from me, adding that I was the best teacher he had ever had. (Keep in mind that his experience was probably limited, because this is early in the semester and he’s in kindergarten. That fact really doesn’t matter.) With a very small voice, I responded that he was the best student I’ve ever had.

To say that his affection touched me deeply is the same as saying that earth is a significant distance from the sun. While we were in the playground, students devoured their special popcorn treat. Rocket made it a distinct point to hand kernels of popcorn to me on two occasions. And when it was ready for him to leave for his school bus at the end of the day, he dropped all of his possessions to find me for a goodbye hug.

If I am fortunate enough to encounter Rocket again in my teaching, I suspect that we will spontaneously remember each other. If that doesn’t transpire, I believe that he will always recollect the time when he was the best student a teacher ever had. The best possible outcome is that I helped launch him to personal and academic heights. And if none of those materialize, he and I will have shared the delight of being elevated by each other’s company. Shalom.



If I may assist you with any of your writing endeavors, it is my pleasure to do so. You may reach me at csbutts19@yahoo.com.

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Looking at seventeen fifth graders, I am immediately aware of their absolute uniqueness. Six boys and nine girls, the gender differences are obvious. It’s the more subtle distinctions that intrigue me. But one fact is always a given. No-one ever asks these students what they want most from an educator.

Maybe many educators don’t care. There is no democracy in a classroom, after all. Or maybe teachers assume it’s such things as fairness, kindness and intelligence. Because my relationships with students are generally fleeting, my guess is that if I ask any of my classes, they’ll either say that they want their regular teacher or for me to tell them to do what they want to do, no matter what it is.

It makes me wonder how much control students have over the course of their learning journeys. In my case, I wanted to emulate a literature teacher who was engaged, knowledgeable and fun. It makes me think about a billboard I saw recently. It showed a young boy with the words, “Be the teacher he won’t forget.”

Perhaps the decision to emulate a particular teacher or discipline is the only decision that really matters. While they must all complete levels in math, science, reading, writing, social studies and physical education, the love for any or all is self-determined.

As educators, we have the powerful responsibility to ask the students what they need from us. If we’re honest, straightforward and sincere, we may be the teacher they won’t forget. In a more perfect outcome, we convey a love for learning, educating and the pursuit of truth.  The most important prerequisite for education is the belief that education is what educators do. All other considerations are superfluous. Shalom.


If I may assist you with any of your writing endeavors, it is my pleasure and privilege to do so. You may reach me at csbutts19@yahoo.com.

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Earning trust

How many people can you say that you truly and completely trust? While family members are generally at the top of this list, recent horror stories of moms and dads doing unspeakable harm to their children make this questionable. What about brothers and sisters? We can also find evidence of this form of trust being violated or unwarranted. The same is true of sons and daughters, cousins, aunts and uncles, etc.

Excluding these aberrations, most of us can say that we have family members or close friends in whom we deposit all or most of our trust. Husbands, wives, confidantes and offspring are usually the people for whom we have the greatest confidence. But beyond that, when was the last time you told someone that you trusted him or her?This subject came up the other day in a conversation I was having with my hair stylist. When I assured her that I had the utmost confidence in what she does, we decided that few of our contemporaries issue the statement, “I trust you.” Why is that?

For one, I’m thinking that we are often reticent about expressing our trust for fear of having that status somehow violated. That seems ridiculous because if we truly had faith in someone, why would that deposit of confidence be susceptible to being overturned?

Most likely, I think that we don’t tell people often enough that we trust them. If you were a physician and heard from your patient that you were trusted, wouldn’t that enhance your feelings of self-confidence? The same question can be asked with regard to dentists, car repair professionals or educators. As I consider the concept, I don’t think that I’ve ever had a client or student indicate that they trusted me.

Because I believe that the consequences of telling someone, “I trust you” are so positive, I think that I’ll assure more of my network of people that I trust them. It appears to be a gift, a statement of faith and an affirmation of value. If the trust is returned, I am certain that it will enhance me to be that person who is trusted. Shalom.

If I may assist you in any of your writing endeavors, it will be my pleasure and privilege to do so. You may reach me at csbutts19@yahoo.com.

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What is it about traveling down a highway or state or county road with no other traffic that’s so memorable? You’re free of tailgaters and dawdlers behind and ahead of you. But there’s something far more meaningful in the journey.

For one, it removes all obstructions between the magnificent vistas and me. Depending on the time of day and cloud quantities, the mountains are purple, beige, pink or brown, along with the deep, delicious leafy trees.

Along with that, you can pay more attention to the sights along the road We have the Busy Bee Cafe, Crazy Beaver Bar and Grill, bowling alley and miles of roadside sunflowers. If you’re fortunate, you can spot live wildlife. We see antelope, raccoons, migrating birds and various flavors of deer. The farm and ranch critters are entertaining as well. Horses appear in many sizes and a wide range of hues. Cattle are also interesting, especially if you can spot calves grazing while warily staying near a grownup.

Ultimately, the cars and trucks and RVs and motorcycles are intrusions. The mountains and fields preside, altering their shades, shapes and sizes. Happily, most of them are immune to human contamination.

Driving through America is always part education, part awe for this country’s diversity and timeless splendor. While the occasional wildfire may clear an area of tall trees, bushes and saplings erupt, reminding us that nature always prevails.

The same lesson applies to changes in season – while the spring and summer growth is plush and golden with exploding lushness, fall and winter emphasize the evergreens that are tall, stately and resistant to all of nature’s whims.

Whatever you see is better than Dodge tailpipes or political bumper stickers. Our human contraptions and contrivances never compare to our surroundings – a fact never clearer than when you have the road’s glory to yourself. Shalom.


If I may assist you with your writing endeavors, it is my pleasure and privilege to do so. You may reach me at csbutts19@yahoo.com.

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A baseball message

It was a baseball day like any other. The crowds filed into the stadium, in spite of the 90+ degree heat and the fact that this was the last week of the AAA baseball season.

Having first row seats on the end provided a great view of third base and left field but also included endless people occupying the seats to our right, legitimately or not. There was no-one around to check tickets and my guess is that a number of the new first rowers weren’t entitled to that proximity.

What I gained, however, was a profound realization of the everyday life that surrounded me in an unextraordinary setting. For example, a single file of senior citizens plus one made a noisy and somewhat clumsy entrance just prior to the singing of the national anthem. But what I noticed thereafter was far more important.

One of the ladies in the group was clearly afflicted with some form of arthritis that had made her movement difficult. As I glanced at her hands, her joints were mostly the size of ping pong balls. While I shuddered at the possibility that this may be my reality of the future, I carefully considered how painful her life must be.

The younger man to her left appeared to have just left Marine boot camp, complete with his camo hat and short haircut. But his behavior suggested that perhaps he had completed several tours of duty, resulting in some emotional issues that left him impulsive, fidgety and very loud. Whether or not he was suffering from PTSD makes absolutely no difference. Like his arthritis-plagued neighbor, he was clearly facing some significant obstacles.

And to our immediate right was a family consisting of grandparents and two boys. The elder of the two was wearing a high school jersey but had some sort of nervous system condition that resulted in his endless leg jerks. To his left was a much younger boy who was extremely thin but had some sort of developmental condition that left him with foot braces.

Maybe this is just another day in America. But while I reflected on my own general good health, I considered the fact that we all have some form of life hurdle to overcome. The endless entrances and exits of the two boys were slight inconveniences but I am grateful for the obvious lesson that my existence could have much greater hardships. Shalom.


If I may assist you with any of your writing endeavors, it is my pleasure and privilege to do so.

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Women and cars

What is it about cars and things automotive that rattle so many women? It always amuses me to watch females in an automobile environment, to see how they flail and plead ignorance.

Could it be that we ladies choose to perpetuate the old image that cars are not feminine? Professionals such as Danika Patrick who is very attractive as well as successful should have had some effect on that concept.

But as I wait for my car’s oil change to be completed (Yes, I initiated this on my own), I watched a lady who shook her head and looked mystified that her car has transmission issues. The only thing she didn’t do was ask what a transmission was. Having just been told that I need a new air filter and given the nod to replace it, I wonder who some women are so distressed when informed of car difficulties.

By no means am I suggesting that all women are auto-phobic. One of the ladies in this waiting area appears to be at ease and engaged in her car’s progress. But it’s no surprise that out of eight in the lobby, only she and I are female.

Somewhere along the way we ladies decided that axle or other grease was incompatible with nail polish. Or we decided that it was good male/female interaction to hand off our automotive things to our manly men.

And if being savvy about my car turns me into a female version of the camo-covered, long-bearded, gun packing man on these premises, I’ll stick to jewelry-making and writing. We are not the same as some of the actions that we take. But I continue to be amused by the couple that walks in to report that the lady’s back tires need to be replaced. The man decisively takes the lead and she merely nods and sits placidly with the rest of us. Shalom.


If I may assist with any of your writing endeavors, it is my pleasure and privilege to do so. You may reach me at csbutts19@yahoo.com.

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Back to school

As I prepare for my first day back in the classroom for the school year, I am pensive and hopeful. It seems somehow appropriate that my return will include some special education students, those who require an additional level of care and teacher participation.

These are students who need teachers most and are absolutely nonspecific about displaying their love and appreciation for their caregiver/teacher. While I have no special education training from college, my many years of teaching have prepared me for this challenge which I thoroughly embrace.

My hope is that I can provide this class and all those that follow the highest level of compassion, professionalism and individual attention that my students deserve and require. While I have no permanent class for which I have ongoing responsibilities, my role as a substitute teacher is just as serious and committed as that of a permanent, full-time educator.

The school year will be my joy and gratification, as always. Somehow, my students always know that I care about them and that I am very serious about delivering the knowledge, guidance and encouragement that are my blessing to convey. It always works out that way for my students and me. They are quick to ask me to return.

May I have the wisdom to do what is in their best interests. May I also have the patience that is sometimes tested, the clarity to provide best and most concise answers and the good sense to identify the needs of each child. It’s always clear to me that if I enter the classroom with positive expectations, they always become realities. Shalom.


If I may assist you with any of your writing endeavors, it is my pleasure and privilege to do so. You may reach me at csbutts19@yahoo.com.

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What is it about cornfields that inspires and invigorates me? While every plant is unique, every one of them stands tall, welcoming the sun and contributing its presence to the corn community in which it stands.

It seems to me that the acres of corn are symbols of the land of America on which they are planted. It also enriches me to find beauty in the familiar or fundamental realities.

While I don’t think that I’ve ever walked through a cornfield, I would love to do so. Being vertically challenged, I suspect that it would be easy to get lost in the stalks and surround myself with their green, leafy majesty. My guess is that they smell earthy and corny, as they work hard to produce their cobs of delicious kernels.

Corn’s little neighbors, soybeans, are equally prolific and energetic. As soy products have become more popular, these crops have proliferated. They are short but mighty, lending their dark green color and density to vast acres of this country. As is the case with corn, the soybeans work diligently to produce their offspring and feed the occupants of this world.

What’s the point of this, you ask? For one, it’s the process of finding the extraordinary in the mundane. But beyond that, the richness of these fields is as powerful a sight as a crowd of Americans who gather for a cause in which they believe.

There aren’t too many parts of this wonderful, vibrant country that I don’t find majestic. Having grown up in a very large city, I am as comfortable in Chicago as I am in small mountain or country villages. You could conclude that I’m simply proud of being an American, cherishing its peaks, valleys, landmarks and cornfields with the same zeal. Shalom.


If I may assist you with any of your writing endeavors, it is my pleasure and privilege to do so. You may reach me at csbutts19@yahoo.com.

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A broken fork

The lunch alternatives were few, once you deleted fast food and travel centers. Our choice was about a mile off the highway and the number of cars in the parking lot suggested that this was a popular local eatery.

Entering the restaurant, no tables were either cleaned or unpopulated, so we stood briefly, and the owner came by and cleaned a table. Our server eventually arrived to take our orders, after we waited for menus, drinks and silverware.

While I spend no time as a restaurant critic, it soon became obvious that this would not evolve into a cherished eating place. Floors were seriously dirty; food was absolutely mediocre and our orders took at least thirty minutes to arrive. Admittedly, the prices were reasonable, and our lunches totaled less than $18.

Amazingly, the patrons kept coming through the doors. Their standards were apparently quite low, or their options were few. As we were finishing our meal, I noticed a large wooden spoon and fork hanging from one of the walls. One of the tines of the fork was missing.

No-one thought to remove or replace it and it occurred to me that it was a symbol of this diner’s eating attempts that were missing a vital component – a tine or a commitment to quality. We’ll do better next time and as we drove out of town, we noticed at least two alternatives that probably had neither broken forks nor a nonchalant approach to cuisine. Shalom.


If I may assist with any of your writing endeavors, it will be my pleasure and privilege to do so. You may reach me at csbutts19@yahoo.com.