Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

I lost my pencil

Something that makes sense to me is to carry around a bag of mechanical pencils when I am teaching. They’re in my magic substitute bag with pom-poms, stickers, candy and other craft supplies.

What’s funny is the clever methods by which my kids secure these treasured pencils. Can I please have a pencil? I lost my pencil. Can I have one of yours?

It’s a matter of good sense that I don’t announce, “Does anyone need a pencil?” because the entire class would swarm my desk. You could easily make the case that I bought them to distribute but I tell myself that I do so only for emergency purposes. In reality, emergencies rarely involve pencils.

A class of twenty-some students competently does math until I have a sanity lapse and give one away. Then I’m amazed at how many have suddenly lost their only means of doing math. You would never consider using a pen because it deletes your options to correct a mistake.

Don’t ever underestimate the creativity of elementary school students. They help each other log into their laptops. They quickly rush to the aid of a fallen comrade, patting shoulders and assuring the wounded that he or she will be fine. They hurry to remind me exactly what they are required to do at this hour of the day. And they will commiserate about euthanized dogs, a friend who moved elsewhere or stained clothing.

Of course, the pencils require no justification, by the class or by me. It’s simply fun to observe the processes and procedures by which they are secured.

Just for fun, the next day my students were directed to create mazes from a collection of materials. The classroom teacher furnished the idea and boxes while I added ribbon, bows, stickers and felt. One student who had distinguished himself as a troublemaker quickly determined that others had more than he did and he just didn’t have enough supplies. This was a method by which he could make inquiry as to the contents of my magic bag.

Kids never exhaust their energies or creativity. It’s my privilege to watch them create solutions. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle


Give me a break. Cut me some slack. Give it up. Give it a rest. Our language is filled with the word “give” and if we didn’t hear it enough in our everyday conversations, we are inundated with those who want us to give to something.

If that isn’t obvious from the comfort of our homes, spend an afternoon in downtown Las Vegas. We watched a man wearing only a G-string campaigning for nakedness and accepting money from those who were sympathetic to his need for nudity. Another man had a cardboard sign that read, “I need a beer.” And on the journey from one location to another, I was stopped by a cosmetics guru who needed a few minutes of my time to convert me into a fashion model, one facial molecule at a time.

Every now and then I wonder how it would feel to have enough money to donate to each cause to which I am exposed. My alma mater solicits funds every week, whether it be to support our famous basketball team or to enable a worthy young person to attend the university. The Red Cross, an extremely important and worthwhile organization, sends me mail each week that solicits a donation.

What’s the point of all of this, you may be asking.  My observation is simply that we may find ourselves feeling guilty for not donating to each and every cause that approaches us. Because I have pockets that have bottoms to them, I simply cannot donate to everyone and refuse to feel bad about it. While I continue to appreciate those who have the resources to make huge contributions for the hungry, homeless and undereducated, I choose to select my recipients without feeling regretful that I can’t support them all.

My guess is that some of those who approach us simply don’t have the ingenuity or initiative to earn a legitimate living. While I suppose that wearing a G-string in a public space constitutes expending energy, I simply can’t see the justification in funding nudity. I guess that I just continue to support cancer research, the Salvation Army and leukemia, in addition to other causes that seem worthwhile. As for the rest, maybe your actions need to be directed elsewhere. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Do something important

Many of us began hearing the expression, “Do something important (significant, worthwhile, respectable) with your life” from the time that we were very young. In those days, it meant that you had to go to college and become a teacher, a doctor or a lawyer because those roles were considered to be worthwhile.

The rules changed minutely if you were a female because at that time, it was sufficiently valuable to be a mother and perpetuate our society. If you were very fortunate (and unusual) you could have both a career and motherhood. Thankfully, today’s women have opportunities to dedicate their lives to careers, opting out of marriage and/or childbearing.

Thankfully, norms have changed but we are still lagging with respect to considering many roles and titles as less noble than others. Now that we are seeing a noteworthy movement toward respecting trade schools and other non-traditional occupations, I believe that we are moving in the most appropriate direction.

First, I give profound thanks and admiration to the caregivers, educated, licensed or not, compensated or not, who dedicate themselves and their time to the care and comfort of others. These are true heroes to me as they make life exceedingly better for those who are unable to fend for themselves.

And thank you to the public servants of all types – fire fighters, law enforcement officers, teachers, administrators and jobs at all levels within our schools. You save us from disasters, criminal activity and ignorance with your individual and collective contributions.

Finally, thank you to our armed forces personnel. Without you, our freedom and security would be at risk and we are all grateful for your sacrifices and daily acts of bravery that preserve this country’s freedom and greatness.

The fact that these people may or may have the degrees that we formerly thought to be mandatory is a profound tribute to our country’s diversity. We are made up of millions of citizens of all sizes and configurations, educated and under or uneducated. Without your doing thousands of important tasks, our lives would be devoid of past, present and a prosperous future. 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 and I hope that you will not use this address for less than honorable purposes.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Guilt and absolution

One of my recent sojourns of solitude produced the word absolution for my reflection. While this word is one that is significantly Roman Catholic or Protestant in its origins, I find it free of religious connotations for me but worthy of my consideration nonetheless.

While I may have dismissed this word as insignificant or irrelevant in the past, my patio time causes me to reflect on words that persist in my consciousness. As writer and educator, it is my intent to spend time on it, rather than dismiss it as simply another vocabulary word.

For those unfamiliar with absolution in the secular context, it is the freedom from blame or guilt. We who do wrong things are often quick to blame or assign guilt to ourselves when we consider some acts or thoughts for which we are responsible. Ultimately, God is solely capable of creating our guilt and absolution.

Aside from that, we often burden ourselves with the recollection of actions in our pasts for which we feel guilty. This is familiar to me, having committed at least two or three major mistakes in judgment for which I have felt guilty. But my question becomes, for how long must we remain responsible for those deeds that we did in years past?

So much of that has to do with inexperience or lack of counsel that would have prohibited us from making bad decisions. Clearly, we can’t change what we committed in the past – we can only learn from it in the hopes of not repeating our secular (or perhaps, religious) transgressions.

For fear of appearing sanctimonious, I simply recommend that we free ourselves from the guilt that hinders our present tense clarity or positive outlook. Learn from what you did wrong in the past and it will inevitably result in better decisions. Just as with so many other negative messages that we send ourselves, remorse is non-productive and can be filed away with the other mistakes of our youth or lack of wisdom.


Forgive yourself. If you can understand a mistake, you are halfway to not repeating it. Shalom.


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



Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Take your time

Occasionally, I encounter a client who appears to have trouble putting words together in cogent sentences. On the other side of the continuum, I have clients who create work in breakneck time, sending it to me “to make sure that it’s right.” In both cases, these situations result in work for me. But I wonder about the ways that we each interpret pace and speed.

It’s been some time since I was graded on my writing or had it evaluated for a contest. Somehow, I can’t forget a client years ago who said that my work was so bad that he could have had better from his third grader. But as hard as I try to remember writing under pressure, I simply don’t recollect writing faster or slower, depending on the context. It appears that we all define speed in the same individual fashion as we do many other dynamics.

Driving on a 55 mph highway, 59 is speeding. As I travel. I often see drivers who are doing 75, 85 or 90, clear examples to me of extreme speeding. But do these drivers think of themselves as speeders? My guess is no – they are simply getting to where they need to be in as little time as possible.

Observing them and race drivers, I wonder if some of us have a need for speed? While I admit to improve my time for each 5k that I complete, time is vastly secondary to the victory associated with finishing.

Somehow, we all feel about pace or velocity as we do happiness, success or serenity. As in the case of those desirables, we have no need or right to create legislation or normalcy. It’s true that I would feel safer without drivers doing 90 behind and beside me. Identifying or citing them is ultimately the responsibility of local law enforcement but I admit to feeling happy when I see one of them pulled over by a police officer.

As for my slow, methodical writers, do what you need to feel right about what you write. My job remains the same, a responsibility that I eagerly and happily assume. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle


Once again, I am amazed and enthralled by the cornucopia of inspiration that I receive from sitting in the patio. Following the brutal wind we experienced yesterday, I am grateful for the light breeze and the flourishing of blooms on geraniums, marigolds and pansies.

Sitting quietly and receiving energy from my surroundings, I notice a solitary grasshopper who shares the nearby rocks. He stays still for a very long time and if it weren’t for the movement of his tiny legs, I would wonder if he is still alive.

Under no circumstances would I put an end to him or chase him to another spot. He is as much a member of the community as I am. Without knowing exactly what he eats, I respect the fact that he occupies a specific place in the great chain of nature. As much as I have the right to do my part in this nature community, so does he.

Many years ago, I had a wonderful, irreplaceable friend who welcomed me to a new city and extended the most hospitality I have ever known. She was a dedicated wife and mother as well as being a prolific gardener and cook. We observed many insects in our gardening and canning endeavors, and I will never forget that every time she had to kill a bug, she would implore, “Go to God.”

This is not to say that I don’t kill critters who are uninvited house guests or those who attack my thriving plants. But for the most part, I welcome Mr. Grasshopper, Mr. Bumblebee and the numerous species of birds who partake of our food or nectar.

Whenever we lose sight of the rights and privileges of those around us, we disrupt the rules of life and survival. Each time I hear of murders, rapes or other atrocities in this community we call civilization, I shudder at the thought of what that person could have represented or given. While Mr. Grasshopper will never win a Nobel Prize or invent a cure for cancer, I am grateful for his presence and that of his fellow residents on our earth. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Music in my soul

Too many years ago, due to the crowd with which I was associated and a deep love for music, I decided to learn how to play the guitar. As I remember, by virtue of a tax refund or by purchasing it a few dollars per week, I was finally the proud owner of a classical guitar.

Because folk music was so popular, I took several lessons at the Old Town (Chicago) School of Folk Music. Ten years later, I was living in San Diego and pursued two courses in classical guitar. While Segovia had nothing to fear from my accomplishments, I was very proud to do what I did.

The guitar is still with me, lonely and unappreciated in the corner of my office. Rheumatoid arthritis makes it impossible to play chords and my musical endeavors are limited to vocal ones. As recently as last night, I began to wonder what lesson is to be derived from being unable to do something I loved.

There are no obvious answers. But because of my guitar background, I have a profound reverence for guitarists who craft magical musical melodies. While I’ve thought about other instruments, very few don’t include some level of manual dexterity.

Beyond observation and camaraderie, I remain an educator. Now and then I accept music teacher assignments and enjoy helping young people create and immerse themselves in music. And as in the case of so many abilities lost and saved, I remain grateful for what I can still accomplish.

For now, I am capable of an occasional 5k, singing as part of a professional choral ensemble and cooking a festive meal.  A number of people around the globe call on me for editing. So many who are around me have fewer capabilities and depend on others for essential activities of daily living.

And so, my lesson is that of gratitude instead of the sorrow of loss. One day, my guitar will find a new home with someone who can retrieve the memories and secrets it preserves. Shalom.

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Life is but a river

One of the books that I have recently completed includes a passage from Talmud (Jewish civil and ceremonial law and legend) that is delivered by a father to his son at the beginning of their Nazi experiences in Germany during World War II. Although I’ve seen the quote attributed elsewhere, the gist of it from Talmud is as follows: Life is but a river, with no beginning, middle or end. Our value is what we do while we float upon it and how we treat our fellow man.

Taken within the context of the Holocaust, the advice is clear and valuable. No matter what we may do, our actions and reactions will be within the course of the human experience. We can direct some of it but are incapable of controlling all of it. The best we can hope is to float peacefully along our individual and community rivers of life.

Beyond that, how we treat each other is crucial. My guess is that our treatment of the other residents of this world becomes more important because it is one of those few things that we can manage. Our fellow men, likewise, can only control how they treat us and everyone else.

While initially this quotation seems dismal and sad, I believe that it is helpful and constructive to see ourselves as part of an entity much more formidable than any one of us. As residents of that which we call life, we were not present at the beginning of life and will not be able to see the end of it (we hope).

Whether or not that reality is good or bad is not for me to determine. But I do like the idea that the way I treat others is the means to improve and enhance life in general, both for me and for all those whom I touch, either personally or through my writing. That’s a considerable responsibility and one that I consider a gift and privilege. Shalom.


Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Mr. Twain revisited

Mr. Twain – it’s wonderful to see you again and resume our fascinating conversation. I’m hopeful that you’ve had some time for further reflection and life observations that I can share with my readers.

The secret of getting ahead is getting started.

That’s a great idea except when writing or any other act of creativity is blocked or uninspired. What do you think?

You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.

Don’t you ever experience frustration over the need for self-expression and the limited areas in which to do so?

Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.

If you’re anything like me, you find that our emotions surface in our writing, regardless of our attempts to be analytical or dispassionate. Maybe, the truth for those of us who are authors is that emotion is the triggering mechanism and the prerequisite for words that follow.

When we remember that we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained. When angry, count four; when very angry, swear.

As always, you find the right words to express what many of us are feeling. Before we adjourn, do you have any final thoughts that you seek to express?

It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.

Put all your eggs in one basket – and watch that basket!

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.

Grief can take care of itself; but to get the full value of a joy you must have someone to divide it with.

Thank you for your wisdom, Mr. Twain. My hope is that my readers are inspired to read more of your work and learn a great deal about your powerful philosophies. You’re obviously passionate about life and its intricacies and I am so moved to have spent some [imaginary] time in your presence. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

If only

Every now and then, I think about the possibility of life after this one. Because we have no evidence of which I am aware to confirm our next lives, it makes the greatest amount of sense to live each of the days we have to the best of our strengths and wisdom.

That reality doesn’t prevent me from pondering what I would do differently if I had my life to live again. With the understanding that I can’t do so, I offer some observations about what changes I would make.

For one, my career as a writer/author/editor tells me to write everything down. In the past few days, I was surprised to find that I did so, writing poetry and observations many years before I began publishing them. Our thoughts and adventures are worth recording, for ourselves and those who follow.

Talk less, listen more. As I remind my students, there is a very good reason why we have two ears and one mouth. Maybe I spent too much time demonstrating what I knew, with the consequence of not hearing those facts and thoughts that I didn’t know. And as I reflect on the assertion that I take things personally, perhaps it’s true. But if we don’t take bullying, anti-Semitism and racism personally, nothing changes.

Demonstrate patience whenever possible. Many days I wonder if I had as many career positions as I did because I embraced change, I wanted bigger chances to contribute or I simply needed personal growth. In retrospect, I believe that more patience would have been desirable, both for seeing situations work out to my advantage and that of my employer. Advancement may have been imminent if I had waited.

Seek advice and wisdom, not agreement or validation. In my role as advocate, educator or leader, I am careful to provide opinions rather than imperatives and feel strongly that we should lead by education, not mandate.

Finally, while those who overlook or ignore the past are inevitably going to repeat it, dwelling in it is toxic. We must learn from the mistakes and good decisions, being careful not to commemorate them through endless reiteration. Be selective about your memories, lest they serve to hinder you from treasuring the present and future. Shalom.