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Variety

Almost daily, I find myself at the mercy of things that I have been doing the same way for as many years as I can remember. Most of these are minor and include the order of actions that I take in the morning after getting out of bed, the way in which I set a table for dinner or the number of minutes I spend on my stationary bicycle.

Recently, I have wondered if it is a good or bad habit to do exactly the same things exactly the same number of times on exactly the same days. Can it be that human beings require this type of ongoing repetitive behavior in order to achieve some secondary consequence?

It may be that we succeed in accomplishing more in any given day if we adhere to a schedule. If I try very hard, I can convince myself that my morning routine is efficient and especially on those days when I am in the process of getting somewhere, it is the most direct method of getting out the door. But I also believe that it’s something else.

Most of us spend our days thinking about concepts that are substantially more important than the methods by which we brush our teeth. If we adhere to routines that eliminate thought processes, we can reserve our brain time for more significant issues. That’s one way of looking at it.

In spite of this efficiency, I find it liberating and occasionally fun to change it up in small ways. If I adjust the way I set the table for dinner, adding something and subtracting something else, it results in variety and a change of pace. The process of changing it up also makes me feel more creative, if only in very minor ways.

My recommendation is that it’s a good thing to stretch your creativity and do things a little differently. Use muenster cheese on your burger instead of American. Add some dilled garlic to your baked chicken and see what happens. Your particular circumstances will determine the size and complexity of your variation from mediocrity. And you may be pleasantly surprised at the results that evolve from your new accomplishments. 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.

 

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Versatility

Have you ever opened your eyes in the morning and wondered how it would feel to be versatile? Probably not. It’s likely that the chances of that are equal to wondering how it would feel to be a camel.

It appears that we are teaching our children about many traditional subjects, but not versatility. Why is that important, you ask? Quite simply, it’s to reinforce your value to humanity.

Among all the horrible news stories of kidnapping, rape and murder, we occasionally see stories of extraordinary courage. I read one today about a rabbi and father of six who gave his life to rescue an 11-year old student who was drowning. Was life saving part of his rabbinic studies? Certainly not. But he was selfless and versatile enough to save a young life, sacrificing his own in the process.

While I haven’t hired anyone in quite a few years, I always paid special attention to a candidate who was self-describing as versatile. No employer wants a staff member who is too important to make coffee or go to get lunch. Chances are, that person can’t be relied on to write a critical report or attend a last-minute conference.

When we flex, we improve ourselves and those we touch. It’s true in many of our life adventures. If you’re stuck on eating at nine, noon and six, be sure not to travel with me. And if you would rather do a guided bus tour than a walking journey through Florence, your versatility may need to be tweaked.

This is not to say that my way is the same as versatility. My point is that when you begin and end at no particular time, set out to see what you can see, the options are limitless as are the opportunities to do good deeds and change lives. Shalom.

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

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Fair

What’s fair? Sometimes, it’s one level below average and two below good. In another context, it’s not fair that student Bob gets to carry the lunchboxes two days in a row and I never get my turn. And during the summer, some of us are able to attend the state fair.

This is one of those interesting and provocative words that has multiple meanings and interpretations. We all learn the word “fair” at a young age. But what’s missing in many cases is the reality that sometimes, life just isn’t fair.

For instance, it isn’t fair that a small child falls a great distance from a cruise ship. We can call it negligence on the part of the cruise line for not having windows to prevent falls. Or we can call it irresponsibility on the part of the grandfather who wasn’t paying sufficient attention to the toddler’s ramblings. In either instance, it isn’t fair.

Regrettably, we use the designation of fair as an excuse or superficial interpretation. Is it reasonable to expect that life is fair, regardless of the situation? When we hear from our children that this or that isn’t fair, I’m thinking that we haven’t done a sufficient job of educating on the realities of life.

It isn’t fair that we lose our parents when they (and we) are young. It isn’t right that children are struck with leukemia. Likewise, it’s not appropriate that there’s an accident on our path to an airport for a flight that we could miss.

Why is it that we continually pursue fairness? Maybe it’s because we want to see the world as inherently good and just. It may be that we want to think that good things happen to good people and when that doesn’t happen, it’s an aberration or unfair.

As an educator and a writer, it’s my responsibility to educate that life and fair shouldn’t be used in the same sentence. If life is always fair, why should we do good works? But as I always point out, we’re not in the contingency contracting world. Doing something commendable and generous doesn’t always result in positive consequences.

Doing good deeds is right for both parties involved. In those cases where a corresponding outcome is only going to be fair, we’re simply on the wrong track. Shalom.

 

It is my privilege and pleasure to assist with any forms of writing. If I may help you with any of your writing needs, please contact me at csbutts19@yahoo.com.

 

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Observations

Is there a difference between making an observation and complaining? Take the following statement as an example: It seldom rains in New Mexico. Is that an observation or a complaint? Seems to me, some of it depends on the person receiving the remark and the tone with which it’s delivered.

For the most part,  the subject is the primary determination. If I mention daily (weekly, hourly) that it seldom rains in New Mexico, you can construe that as a complaint. If I emphasize the word seldom, that may also render it as an objection rather than a statement of fact.

The reason I mention this is that most of us neither want to listen to complaints nor be the subject of those complaints. When you are talking about something that I do or believe, the likelihood is that the word “always” will render something as a complaint rather than an understanding.

You are always buying something. You always take her side. You always leave the dishes in the sink.

Again, a great deal depends on the subject being discussed. You always think of other people ahead of yourself. You always buy me presents.

Those who know me well know that I don’t do well with complaints nor do I like being accused of complaining. When someone wants to complain about something I’ve said or done, I immediately remind them that the complaint department is on the sixth floor. (Does anyone remember when the customer service area was referred to as the complaint department?) At the same time, I don’t like to be told that I’m complaining, especially when I do everything in my power not to complain about anything.

If you’re asking about the point of all this, it’s simply to be thoughtful about accusing someone of complaining. We can’t change the weather so it’s pointless to whine about it – whether you are the whiner or the whinee. And if I observe something that typifies or characterizes you, don’t assume that I object to whatever it is.

Without input from others, we all live in a bubble. While I admit that it’s difficult to be dispassionate about negative commentary on my writing, I am getting better at using the information to my advantage and the client’s. But if you are seeking change from me or anyone else, phrase it as a suggestion instead of a complaint and you’re likely to see a much more favorable response.  Shalom.

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Memories

One of the worst realities of aging is what that process does to your memory. Somewhere I remember reading that there’s a part of the brain that is affected by age, resulting in memory loss. My experience suggests that this condition is irregular, unpredictable and beyond frustrating.

It’s not a lightning bolt realization that I am getting older.  As I point out to people who incessantly complain about aging, it’s much preferable to the alternative of not aging. Here’s the problem. While it’s difficult wanting to recall something, important or otherwise, what makes it worse is when those around us exacerbate the problem by prefacing the process with, “Don’t you remember?”.

If I could remember something, I definitely would. Part of what consoles and replenishes us is the ability to recall and celebrate the bright spots in our pasts. Usually, the births, graduations, weddings, anniversaries and other festivities are more easily recovered than the less significant events. Many of the rest of our recollections require a struggle. Sometimes we recall after a while but occasionally, it’s fruitless.

Of course, memory loss is not specific to the process of getting older. Some diseases result in multiple compromised processes, including memory. Having a loved one in advanced stages of dementia, I am certain that she will never know me again, a reality that is beyond tragic for me.

My recommendation is that you spend time with an older member of our society, it’s much more useful to say, “Do you remember?” than “Don’t you remember?”. It sounds minor but it’s much kinder. In addition to having trouble with memories, that person may also have the reminders of aching joints, a variety of ouches and discomforts and a general sense of inability to complete many tasks.

Love and kindness always work, with young or not so young. Baby Boomers are no longer the majority population, but we have many of them to thank for the many achievements for which they were and are responsible. Shalom.

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Gifts

Sometimes I ponder which habits are cultural or demographic and which are specific to a family or other small community. One of these habits that I’ve considered is that of giving gifts. Some of the families I’ve observed give gifts for reasons and no reasons. Others rarely do.

In many instances, the process of giving gifts is directly associated with financial status. My guess is that my childhood was populated with very few gifts due to a rather modest lifestyle. As I look back on those items that I wanted in elementary and high school, I didn’t receive most of them with the response, “You don’t need that.” Now I believe that my mom’s extraordinary medical bills made some of those items unattainable.

In many homes, presents are secured regardless of social status or income. Especially at Christmas time, we see stories of young people who have saved all year from paper routes (do people still deliver papers?), lemonade stands, babysitting or saving items for redemption. They proudly take their collections to a local vendor in order to secure a gift for Mom or Dad.

We also see stories of various charitable people who provide for others so that the recipients are able to enjoy holiday festivities with some sort of treasure. Happily, we have places where we can donate shoes, toys, clothing or other items for the sake of those who are disadvantaged.

Speaking as one who received few presents as a child and many as an adult, I have become a strong proponent of gift-giving. It makes me happier than anything else I can do to send things to my children and grandchildren – so much so that I feel guilty that I may enjoy the process more than they will. So far, that hasn’t happened – my recipients are clearly very grateful.

And so if there is ever a doubt in your mind as to whether or not to buy something for someone else – do it. We don’t know if they can afford to buy what you do and if they would if they could. There are so few opportunities in any one life to present good feelings and kindness through a parcel that it defies the imagination why that parcel would remain unpurchased. It doesn’t need to be expensive. Sometimes, a poem or sentimental item can make a huge difference.

You can make a life happy through a small effort. The gift you select can change the moment, day or overall life of someone else and it only requires a small speck of time. Shalom.

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America has lost a hero

Those of you who know me and have followed my writing path know that I have published two books. The first was my memoir and the second was the biography of a World War II and Korean War veteran. It became my honor and privilege to meet, get to know and write the story of this distinguished man.

A phone call I received yesterday disclosed the news of his recent passing. David would have been 94 in September and according to his son, the length and severity of his discomfort for the last several months suggest that his death may have been a sad but timely relief from his misery.

David’s career spanned almost four decades. He entered the Army at age 16 when the US entered the war in Europe. His service was consistent, brave, intentional and characterized by his patriotism and irreverent personality. When he finally retired, he was a Major with numerous awards for service.

We met accidentally, while eating breakfast at adjoining booths. His son said, “Dad, you need to write a book about your life story.” This was said rather loudly, due to David’s hearing loss as a result of combat. Hearing that recommendation, I jumped up and handed him my business card, adding that if he would like to write his memoirs, it would be my pleasure to do so.

Our meetings were frequent, lively and filled with anecdotes and glimpses of his old-fashioned charm. We succeeded in publishing the book within two years and as I reflect on the time that we both spent in achieving that goal, I am more grateful than ever that we did so prior to his death.

Our world is now depleted of a man who gave his career and his heart to his country. He called me friend, confidante and the lady who made his history available for the world to see. From my perspective, having had the opportunity to be a participant in his life’s journey enriched my life beyond my ability to articulate it. May you rest in eternal peace and may your memory be for a blessing. Shalom

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Come on in

It was about 6:30 am and we heard a persistent tap, tap, tap, tap on the bedroom window. No electronic devices could have issued that type of noise. The coffee wasn’t yet made, and the sun had just risen and was shining through one of our cabin windows.

We finally spotted a rather small bird with dark yellow feathers who was relentlessly trying to enter the cabin, discover food or simply make his presence known. What a remarkable and refreshing wake-up! If we hadn’t yet appreciated the joys of waking in a forest full of critters and birds of brilliant plumage, this alert was the best punctuation of all. Bird continued his concert, eventually leaving for another landing spot.

As I thought about what was truly important about our natural surroundings, I pondered how much time we spend in pursuit of less gratifying pursuits. Our social sophistication with its high speeds and gigabytes is ultimately less real, genuine and magnificent than the world that doesn’t include electricity.

Driving through the rural world that we encountered, we were amused and exhilarated by local venues dubbed Snappy Mart and Uncle Woody’s Flea Market. Ahead of us was the Dragonfly Trailhead, towns called Socorro and Deming and a world of history.

Thankfully, we are close to this non-technical, slow-paced civilization that has much to teach us about what matters. Every restaurant we visited had patrons greeted by, “How’re y’all doing?” and we were immediately persuaded that the locals regularly visited this diner or saloon. That didn’t matter to those of us who were visiting. We were greeted and warmly received by every server we encountered.

We can’t reverse the metropolitan clocks to the days of Monday night bingo and rummage sales. Visiting will have to suffice and at least one of me will be grateful for a life that is full of pecking birds instead of horn-honking rush hour commuters. Shalom.

 

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle · Writing, editing, editorial, philosophy

Red, green or Christmas?

Moving to a new city and state provides numerous challenges and lessons to learn. Because I hadn’t completed that type of relocation for many years, I forgot how many pieces were involved in assembling the moving jigsaw puzzle.

The New Mexico culture in which I find myself is a combination of Hispanic, Native American and southwestern US history. Sometimes, and appropriately, all of those entities are inextricably intertwined.

While Colorado is defined and bordered by the Rocky Mountains, we have the southern end of the Rockies here. But it appears that mountains are less important here unless you live in one of the ski areas such as Taos or Santa Fe. Our geography typically features adobe, pueblos, cacti and succulents, casinos, breweries and New Mexican restaurants.

Every one of these restaurants I’ve visited takes great steps to distinguish itself from Mexican restaurants. What’s different? The local iconic food is the green chili cheeseburger, something you can find at traditional sit-down places as well as some fast food stops. To make things more fun, you always have a choice of chilis – red, green or Christmas (both red and green).

Weather is also a source of amusement and gratification. Albuquerque brags about 330 days of sunshine per year. As of this moment, I have no reason to dispute that number. This past winter, we experienced three snowfalls, the worst of which consisted of four inches. That blizzard closed the schools and many businesses.

For the most part, neighbors take great pride in their properties. It’s unusual to see grass unless you’re on a golf course. Instead, we have gravel and rock, with patches of astro-turf and in the worst cases, just dirt. Many homes can be accessed only from gravel roads.

Most surprisingly, this is a place that is decidedly southern in character. Locals love country music, anything Texan (including the Dallas Cowboys) and ranches for everything from llamas to donkeys to horses.

New Mexicans love our home, proudly displaying the Zia symbol on our flag and everywhere else. That’s a good thing for all concerned, making for a strong community and many true neighbors. Shalom.

 

 

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Footprints

Having recently watched the movie that was Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s biography, I find myself thinking about the footprints that all of us leave behind. The messages conveyed in the film were memorable and inspirational, causing me to imagine the exhilaration of leaving footprints nearly as large as hers.

If we take a moment to itemize all of our accomplishments, most of us have far fewer than RBG. And so it seems that we must be satisfied that we will never match her profound legacy. But does that mean we should stop trying to create the best and finest? Absolutely not.

While I will never represent a defendant or preside in the Supreme Court, I will settle classroom disputes. Likewise, just as I will never create the likes of Hamlet or A Farewell to Arms, I do create work requested by my clients and contribute my blogs for the entertainment and illumination of my readers.

Add to that a daughter and son who honor me with their character and integrity, as well as their own boundless affection. As an educator, I continue to hope that my students live up to the expectations to which they are entitled and that I diligently identify.

We all have the capacity to leave behind a footprint as formidable as we choose. Just as I aspire to teach more, write more and love more, we can all avoid those boundaries that are created for us by others and ourselves. The only limits we have are those we establish.

Few of us will have the opportunities to match RBG’S accomplishments. But we all have the means to learn and to give back to our world. Call someone and tell them that you love them. Write a letter to your grandkids, nieces, nephews or other special people – there’s a good possibility that your letters will be the only handwritten letters they will ever receive. Doing so and more, we can change the size of our imprints while improving the universe, one footstep at a time. Shalom.