Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

That’s just the way it is

Most of us who have been subject to the recent quarantine have spent considerable time watching the news, both local and national. One reality that keeps appearing to me is the whining of so many Americans who are agonizing over the quarantine. While none of us like to be restricted to our homes except for grocery shopping, it’s really not necessary to complain about it.

On the upside, I am convinced that a huge team of people are working on vaccines and effective virus treatments. If we were in a variety of other countries, that conviction would not be nearly as strong. We are all struggling with a plethora of unknowns, but that is simply the way that the world looks right now.

Is it really so important that you get your regular haircut or manicure? One of my neighbors recently asked if someone in this community does manicures from home. Groan. Is it life and death to get a haircut before your hair covers your ears? Probably not. It has become quite clear that social distancing is making a difference.

And as far as restaurants, we are making it a point to support a number of our local food joints with carryout meals. Not only does it exempt me from cooking every meal; but also, I’m hoping that it will help keep them in business.

We need to pull together as a country. If you feel that your health is in danger because your employer isn’t providing sufficient PPE, I get that. But be grateful that you have employment when many millions of us have been deprived of that opportunity. And be very grateful for the many thousands of public servants and healthcare workers who face danger every minute of every hour to perform their jobs.

The situation we face as a country and a world will eventually be resolved. In the interim, I will continue to check with people nearby (at six feet distance, of course) to see if they need groceries and I will continue to deliver a cinnamon bread to a kind neighbor. It doesn’t take much to change the world. Shalom.

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The skills that I observe on a daily basis from the dedicated and compassionate professionals around me are always exceptional. What’s most magical is that no-one sees what they do unless they spend time in the classroom.

My most recent encounter was in a special education kindergarten class. One child is visibly autistic but amiable and sweet. Teachers and education assistants are quiet, soft-spoken and thoroughly kind. They enforce those rules that are basic and survival driven. Otherwise, this child plays and operates in the room without interference.

What’s more compelling is the behavior toward a very difficult girl who is missing part of her brain. She is oblivious to rules and what constitutes doing the right thing. In spite of this condition, she is clever at devising methods to be disruptive and boisterous. While I didn’t hear any of her undesirable language, I am told that she has enough obscenities in her vocabulary to make most folks blush.

Teachers must think totally outside the parameters of traditional learning in order to manage her. She is told to do the curriculum that other children do, with emphasis that she can’t proceed to other tasks until the mandatory ones are completed. But it’s done with such patience that I am completely in awe.

As parents, we have all experienced our frustrations and anxieties about helping our children evolve into responsible, intelligent adults. The best of us can’t possibly aspire to the talents of many special education and general education educators.

With all my heart and soul, I am grateful for the heroism displayed by our armed forces, police officers and firefighters. They prioritize the welfare of the general public with all of their actions and sacrifices. But we must add these educators to that list, because of their ability to deliver education to those who won’t be educated, discipline to those who can’t comply and love to all they touch. Shalom.

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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.

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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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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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Veterans Day

There are basically two types of people. People who accomplish things, and people who claim to have accomplished things. The first group is less crowded. Mark Twain

Each year at Veterans Day, I begin to think about the gratitude that many people and I share for those who have served and continue to serve our country in the context of military service. This quote from Mark Twain reminds me of those in that esteemed category.

From the beginning of our country through the present, our safety and security have been preserved and ensured by those who have committed to the branches of our military. No matter what the role, wartime or peacetime, armed forces personnel have often made the ultimate sacrifice of their lives to make certain that their families and ours will enjoy all of the freedoms that our country has established and perpetuated.

Does that mean that those who do not or did not serve in the armed forces accomplished nothing worthwhile? Certainly not. Both inside and outside of our government, many thousands of people have contributed to the preservation of this country and its citizens. Whether you have delivered mail. contributed to the aerospace program, taught our children, served in our courtrooms or countless other roles, you have completed work that has built and nurtured our society.

Those who claim to have accomplished things are probably those who have accomplished least. My experience suggests that the true heroes and distinguished citizens rarely need to or want to publicize their achievements.

Thank you to the veterans who have dedicated their lives and careers to making this country strong, safe and secure. Thank you to all the rest of our great nation’s citizens who daily complete countless actions of wisdom, bravery and selflessness, all of which combine to make our country the epitome of virtue that it is. Shalom.

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Just write a note

When I began this form of communication, I never anticipated having either the need or motivation to endorse anyone or anything. The web is full of such advertising and promotional material that it’s all that most of us can do to displace or disregard it.

Fortunately, I recently had an opportunity to see a news story about a young man and his father who had begun an online socks venue, out of Melville, New York. It’s called John’s Crazy Socks and John (the son) has Down Syndrome. He and his father decided to begin the company both as a way to engage John and as a means to return profits to Special Olympics, an endeavor in which John long participated.

The story moved me greatly and I immediately ordered two pairs of socks, one for me and one for the two-year-old young man whom I love with every molecule of my heart. Today the socks arrived, six days after I ordered them. Mine looked like a library card (shouldn’t surprise my readers that I am a devout library lover) and the other pair had dancing dolphins.

While the socks are very well constructed and unique, it wasn’t the socks that colored my day, my state of being and my entire outlook on the world. John had included a handwritten note with my order that read, “I hope you love your socks” and as soon as I saw his note, I began to cry.

The frequent communications, timely response and unique socks had powerfully distinguished John’s Crazy Socks from every other sock source I know. But the fact that John was so engaged and enthusiastic about his company and his product that he sent a note powerfully elevated him and his company. He also promised a discount on my next order.

At this point, I plan to order some of John’s socks for everyone I know who wears socks. He is sincere, uncomplicated and understands the power of personalized messages. His cause is noble, and I can only hope that my small contributions will assist in making him successful. If we follow his example to appreciate those who accept and promote us, we can truly and legitimately anticipate spiritual fulfillment. Shalom.

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Happier new year

On this last day of the year 2017, I am cognizant of my annual resolution – I resolve not to make any resolutions. One commitment that I make often, however, is to increase the positive contributions I can make to my world.

For reasons that I don’t understand entirely, I decided long ago to identify or create new methods for generating small acts of consideration. It’s quite gratifying although it includes taking some risks.

Here’s how it works. Yesterday morning, I was eating breakfast and overheard the people at the next table wondering about weather. It was my last day in California and I had checked the forecast for my trip home.

Taking the chance that I would be advised to mind my own business, I volunteered the forecast, making certain that I converted the temperature to Celsius when asked. Of course, I refrained from asking why they were operating in Celsius. Clearly, I had nothing to gain other than being helpful.

Later I was asked to watch a fellow passenger’s suitcase in the airport and eagerly agreed to do so. Did I need to wait for most passengers to board before I entered the plane? Probably not, but I’m sure that it made boarding a bit easier for some.

A passenger next to me asked the flight attendant for a pen. As before, overhearing conversations entitles me to a variety of negative reactions. But I quickly produced the pen and told the recipient to keep it. He thanked me but said absolutely nothing else to me during the flight and that was just fine.

My point is that most of us have ongoing occasions to add some comfort to the lives of others. Every time that I can, I (safely) pause at driveways for the sake of enabling someone to leave a parking lot and enter the street.  We can all observe simple courtesies on the road as well as encouraging fellow shoppers to get ahead of us when they have few items or helping others with grocery bags.

Most of us can do several small acts of good-neighborliness every day. Just imagine the net effect if many of us ordinary folks exert ourselves just a little bit, by intention. Happy new year. Shalom.

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Lessons learned

It’s a given that we learn from our children, whether we are educators or not. They teach us color-blindness while interacting with other kids. They teach us loyalty – to family, teachers and fellow students. And they teach us curiosity about every entity that surrounds them.

This inquisitive nature never fails to motivate and inspire me. It permeates every aspect of the day.

What are we doing next?

When are you coming back?

Why can’t you be here every day?

How long until lunch?

What can I do to help you?

How old are you?

How old are your kids and what are their names?

Before now, I hadn’t spent much time pondering the source of this curiosity. Saying, “It’s just the way kids are” is tantamount to saying, “Crime happens – it’s simply reality.”

Part of the explanation can be traced to the idea that knowledge is power. Kids are told when to go to bed, when to get up, when and what to eat and an endless number of other directions that are leveled at them each day. Having discretion over information is its own type of privilege.

While many students indulge in mimicking the behavior of others, many urgently seek uniqueness. When I teach the human skeleton, I earnestly hope that one child remembers the patella or mandible. Maybe he or she will be curious enough to take the word home and use it to do more investigation or try it on someone else.

Using the native curiosity of children is a challenge as well as an advantage. If I can direct enthusiasm, a desire to impact the world and respect toward self-improvement, I am fulfilled. Shalom.


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Our holiday of thanks

For all my years in the United States of America, I have absolutely no recollection of anyone ever bad-mouthing or diminishing our Thanksgiving holiday. For this realization and many others, I join many millions of Americans in giving thanks for this day.

We disagree on many subjects and we (regrettably) find it necessary to take the lives of others, with no understandable provocation. But in spite of the acts of anger or lunacy, we unite on most of those subjects that are important to us as Americans.

On this day, I give thanks for many, many gifts. At the top, I am grateful for a family that is loving, caring, thoughtful and kind. In addition, I have many devoted friends who have demonstrated their loyalties in a wide variety of ways. And as I often remark, any day that I can get out of bed and put both feet on the floor without assistance is a good day.

To live in the magnificent United States of America is a gift and a privilege. I am grateful for the freedoms that we enjoy, the mind-stopping terrain and scenery that we enjoy and the indescribable spirit of belonging to a country that is diverse, evolving and always wonderful.

If I have brought you smiles, tears, love or a sense of understanding through my writing, I am truly grateful for that as well. Enjoy our country’s extraordinary celebration and take a moment to give thanks for your countless blessings. Shalom.