Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Lose it

During the past several days I had occasion to see something that I have had around for some time, for no apparent reason. It may have been a tee shirt that I wore once after getting it at my high school reunion many years ago. There is no need to keep it because I will never wear it again, and I have decided to begin a major purge of all such things.

Pondering this, I suspect that we all keep numerous items that have no monetary value, are not used and simply take up space. When I die, the chances are good that the majority of these will be given to Goodwill or trashed. Why not do it now?

The benefits of this type of house cleaning are many. To begin, someone can use a shirt that I don’t want, particularly if they have no other shirts, it’s free or inexpensive. Next, it creates space that I may be able to use for something useful or important. And last of all, it’s really good for the brain. For my part, I am shedding baggage while contributing to the greater good.

From here, I’ll turn this into a project. Maybe I’ll seek out five or ten of these dead weights per week until I fill a big bag for Goodwill. Before I do so, I’ll set up strict criteria such as, “don’t wear,” “haven’t worn in a year or more” or “I have no idea why this is still in my possession.”

On that subject, I have tried and succeeded at losing those expressions that are cliché or otherwise objectionable. When I use the word “tons,” you can be confident that I am only referring to things measured in 2,000-pound quantities. And if I have ever “reached out” to someone, it was only to save them in a swimming pool or quagmire. If I want to talk with someone, I will call.

Losing bad habits, I suggest, is just as fulfilling as donating unused objects. I’m thinking that most of my bad practices are not word related. But whenever I am guilty of making assumptions, losing my patience or failing to meet a deadline, I continue to hold myself entirely responsible. I’m not trying to achieve perfection as I am certain that it is impossible to reach. But I will always work on being a better person, wife, mother, grandmother, business associate and friend. It’s just what I do. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Simplify

In previous blogs, I’ve mentioned the value of a small investment in stickers or construction paper that has paid huge dividends. Because I will never buy a child a tablet or cell phone or laptop, the educational rewards for items that don’t need a charge are boundless.

The most recent example of this was the purchase of an inflatable beach ball and sprinkler device. Whether it was a good idea or not, I notified the grandkids that I had purchased said items for their fun.

After at least twenty reminders that they were ready to play with them, we rolled out the treasures. Had they been multi-story ferris wheels or high tech video games, they could not have been more enthusiastically received. Getting wet has always and will always be entertaining for little people. It allows them to run back and forth, scream and simply enjoy the outdoors.

No, I’m no hero. It just makes so much sense to invest a small amount of money in a low-tech, inflatable rubber and plastic toy than trendy or techy toys. If I had been able to predict that they would burn out in twenty minutes and have new fun with the bicycle pump I would still have purchased what I did. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Give kids simple toys and they will be just as satisfied as with complicated, cutting edge gadgets.

We grownups have volumes to learn from this exercise. While I’ve done my share of cruises and long, exotic journeys, a recent trip to a local cabin in the mountains was equally fulfilling. The occasional hamburger and fries can be just as satisfying as an umpteen course gourmet meal. And the present of a simple, funny cactus can be just as joyously received as a Rolex.

It appears that we may be approaching another quarantine/lockdown, a reality that I don’t fear. With enough food and drink, books to read and write and a vast world with which to remain in contact, we have nothing to cause us to be afraid. Shalom.

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Social media

Regardless of what millennials or others under the age of thirty might think, most of us had full and happy lives prior to the introduction of social media. Please do not interpret this as a categorical criticism or dismissal of all social media platforms. But I do frequently find myself wondering people are thinking when they post what they do.

The majority of what we see if pretty innocuous. It includes pictures of single people, couples, groups, babies, kids and landscapes. Unfortunately, some of what is put out on social media is volatile. We have Trump haters, Trump lovers (very few in number), those espousing violence or pacifism; and a huge number who aren’t saying anything that is at all worth reading.

Some of it is for the sake of sharing sad news or happy events with those we can’t or don’t reach otherwise. In fact, I have recently established contact with several relatives whom I haven’t seen in many years. But the junk is plentiful.

For example, 98% of adults can’t find a number three in a field of 144 number sixes. So what? Pick the method by which you make X’s and it says what kind of person you are. For real? Are we so lacking in formidable entertainment that we must resort to this?

It’s not difficult for me to imagine your responses to my almost tirade. If you don’t like it, don’t read it. It amuses some people. No harm is done. While I get all that, I will continue to hope for more worthwhile content.

We see posts itemizing acts of charity and kindness, but not often enough. And we see members of communities who go to remarkable extremes to help each other or those far away and in need. Yet we have to plow through advertising and the deep/profound meaning of a letter of the alphabet to get to the material I consider worthwhile.

Yes, opinions are like noses – almost everybody has one, and you have heard mine. As I admit to posting blogs and family events on social media, I’m quite confident that I don’t distribute stupidity. I’ll just continue to tiptoe through the trivial trash and enjoy humanitarian messages where and when I can find them. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

If I didn’t write

What would I do if I didn’t write? The art or practice of writing assumes two things – one is that the writer has the skills and vocabulary to write. The second assumption is that someone or multiples of people want to read what is written.

And what if, for some or any reason, the writer can or will no longer write. One might reasonably ask about what happens to the thoughts, feelings, ideas and observations that were previously expressed by keyboard. In my case, I’ve been writing this or that for so long, I can’t imagine not doing it.

Maybe painters, potters, sculptors, composers, musicians, landscape artists and architects express all of those commodities within their proprietary art forms. As a non-participant in any of them, I can’t have a reliable opinion. And so, I continue to wonder.

Because I can’t draw, sculpt, landscape or create architecture, none of those are viable for me. There are many more people out there who don’t write than those who do, many of whom appear to lead normal or acceptable lives but that doesn’t provide me with an attractive alternative. At this point, I’m thinking that it’s a bit late in my life to pursue formal training in any of the arts (other than music, in which I am going to perform as long as my vocal cords will allow). That leaves me to find other forms of self-expression if I elect to discontinue writing.

What if I created a combination Lego/Scrabble game where I could attach words to puzzle pieces and create three-dimensional poetry? It sounds good but I would need to create hundreds of pieces or restrict myself to very few words. And I am still writing.

Then there is the option of a pseudonym. In this case, I write the work, create an author name and see how people respond to that person’s name and work. But there is a problem here as well. Whether the literature is loved, hated or ignored, I still retain ownership. And I am still writing.

And so, it seems likely that I’ll stick with what I know. That should include fans, non-fans and those who are absolutely indifferent. But I will have satisfied my muse and use the best outlet available to express what is in my mind and my soul. Shalom.

 

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Not her fault

It’s no secret that the Coronavirus has been difficult for all people who are capable of understanding its power and presence. That includes most of us, if we are old enough and smart enough to realize how insidious it is.

We all have different methods by which we can respond. Denial is one and is probably the most dangerous. Obsessiveness is another, if you are fond of living in a sanitary bubble for the foreseeable future.

From my standpoint, anger is not an acceptable response. Barking at retail employees doesn’t improve the lives of anyone. In fact, it does no good whatsoever. The only byproduct is embarrassing onlookers and hurting the employee’s feelings.

What led me to this observation was sitting in my backyard and having the misfortune of hearing one of my neighbors who was at least 500 feet away. It seemed that her child, probably four or five, had injured herself in some way.

The “mother,” instead of offering love or support, yelled at the child. This was not the first time I had the misfortune of hearing her. On this occasion, at least ten times, I heard her bellow, “Why are you crying?” Not surprisingly, the child continued to cry.

As a mother, grandmother, educator and someone with basic good sense, I couldn’t stand to hear it. The child probably doesn’t know Covid-19 from WD-40 or 98 degrees Fahrenheit.

It’s reasonable to believe that the mother was stressed because most of us are. And of course, I don’t know the nature of her interactions before I heard the child crying out for help. But the child doesn’t understand the stress and she didn’t cause it. By doing what the mother did, the child was compromised and most likely, didn’t feel any less anxious.

We can be kind to each other. Many of us are accustomed to thinking only of our worlds, priorities and pressures. This truly is the time to be part of the earth community and refrain from punishing others for what we are enduring. Shalom.

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Her majesty

A phenomenon that I have recently noticed is that of the relaxation of standards as they apply to language used on television. I remember that when I was young, the word “damn” wasn’t allowed. These days, on network television, the word “ass” is frequently present.

If that’s not enough, listen to cable programs and made for television movies. While I am not a purist or a prude, the use of the f-bomb is ubiquitous and, in some cases, in every or every other sentence.

No, I’m not suggesting that we revert to the Queen’s English. It’s fun to imagine what would happen if I introduced “thee, thy and thou” to my speech. My best guess is that numerous people would look at me as if I have lost my mind. While that may or may not be a subject for discussion, I have no need to include such words in my discourse or writing.

At the same time, it continues to jar me if I hear obscenity used prolifically, primarily because there are so many wonderful words in the English language. One of my favorite endeavors is to find one that is not heard often and add it to my conversation or writing. This is not done for the purpose of showing off; it’s my educator self and if I can teach someone (anyone) something, where’s the harm.

It doesn’t seem to me that the trend in language won’t be changing any time soon. Happily my students are still aware that there are good and bad words. The tattle tales will quickly report that someone used the “d” word or the “a” word in class, expecting that I will deliver the proper rebuke. Whether I do on not depends on the situation. If I’ve heard the word spoken, I will say something. If not, it’s hearsay.

And so, I shall grit my teeth and endure words that I don’t use in everyday speech. Either I will become accustomed to it or the effect desired by using such language will lose its punch. As I often say, never apologize for doing the right thing. Shalom.

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Words we use

Sometimes we get to be a bit sloppy about the words we use to express ourselves. As a writer, I believe that I have a more pressing imperative to be precise about my language. But I don’t think that I am exempt from using language that could easily be improved.

What got me thinking about this was a television series in which a man referred to his mother as “Ma.” While it’s been many years since I was able to speak with my own mother, I’m sure that I never called her “Ma.” It conjures an old country, perhaps eastern European image that simply doesn’t fit into my world. But the other piece is that I don’t think that I have been called by that name, primarily because I’ve been Mom, Mommy, Mama or Mother Figure, depending on the decade.

The other concern I’ve had recently about the words we use is the decision to call the Coronavirus the “Chinese” virus. This has resulted in a rash of serious hateful acts toward Chinese citizens whom others have held responsible for this pandemic. To say that this is gratuitous and self-serving is an understatement. If you really want to blame someone or something for the virus, the newest data suggests that 5g is responsible. For real?

This is a time like no other that our world has ever experienced. Blaming it on a culture or a technology is seriously ridiculous (why can’t something be serious and ridiculous at the same time?) and serves no purpose whatsoever. Does yelling insults at a Chinese citizen make you any less quarantined? While the Coronavirus might have originated in China (and I’m not absolutely certain of that), a man trying to run over a Chinese Albuquerque lady in retaliation should concern all of us.

We have enough stress going on right now. Let’s be thoughtful about our words and actions. If your dear mother likes to be called “Ma,” so be it. My preference will always be “Mommy” or “Mama” or actually, anything that my offspring would like to use. It’s really about loving one another, isn’t it? Shalom.

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As good as your word

The appointment was for 3:00 pm. We had diligently cleared an area to work and prepared our electric bills for the past year. This was the preface to a scheduled 3:00 appointment with a solar panel salesman who had energetically petitioned for an appointment to discuss the feasibility of solar panels for our home.

We observed 3:00, 3:30, 4:00 and 4:30 come and go, with the salesman failing to appear. From my standpoint, it was an opportunity to save some time. So far, I have yet to see the practicality of solar panels, especially because of the cost and the fact that our electric bills were the lowest I’ve seen in many years.

Ultimately, that’s not the point. Having spent the majority of my career in sales (with the hiatus in the classroom as the only exception – and aren’t I selling knowledge and learning?), I can safely say that I never no-showed an appointment. That’s not to say that I felt confident of the legitimacy in all my appointments, but I would never think of not appearing.

This is a sad commentary, on the integrity of the representative and maybe that of the company and/or its products. If you believe strongly enough in a product to make it available through door-to-door canvassing, you must have some conviction of its value. And there’s the fact that he neglected to secure a phone number when he set the appointment a week ago.

Any of the usual situations could have been in effect. He may have been ill. He may have had a sick family member or two. He may have gotten delayed on a previous appointment. He may have been run over by a road runner. But my best guess is that many have lost the professionalism that I feel is crucial to a viable sales career.

We’ll ultimately see if he shows up again or not. And if you want to make the case that his brand of salesmanship suggests large numbers for negligible chances of success, I understand that as well. No matter your conclusion, I maintain that we are only as good as our words. Telling someone, anyone that I will be somewhere at a certain time is tantamount to a promise. And breaking promises is a habit that I simply can’t support, for myself or those whom I am fortunate enough to educate. Shalom.

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Caring

Consider for a moment how many times per day or week you issue the comment, “I don’t care.” If you are like most folks, you liberally suggest to individuals and the world that you have no interest in a subject, cause or event. Something recently motivated me to think about the messages implicit to “I don’t care.”

One obvious reality is that I would never make such a statement in the classroom. My kids tell me the name of their dad’s favorite football team, where their cousins were born and the birthday parties that they attended last month. A day ago, the subject of birthdays came up and I was advised of the birthdays of twenty-plus second graders.

Take it out of the classroom setting and the same rule applies. You’re on the phone with a long-distance relative who begins a description of the activities within the family, the neighborhood and the town in which they live. The first reaction is that you really don’t care about the Rotary pancake breakfast or the quilting program. But it’s just good sense and propriety not to suggest that the information is irrelevant – something implicit to not caring.

If that doesn’t hit home, think about what you’re saying when you indicate that you don’t care about the horrible fires in California. Or maybe you state that you don’t care about mass shootings in Las Vegas, Pittsburgh or El Paso. Is our society dominated by a population that simply doesn’t have interest in tragedies happening in their towns or somewhere else?

Because I value my kindergartener, I want to hear about her birthday. And because I treasure my cousin and sister-in-law, I am interested in the events large and small that surround them. Many of us have become cavalier about those statements or events that we deem to be unworthy of our consideration. The more important fact is that when we protest with, “I don’t care,” we are essentially indicating that we don’t cherish that person or have interest in his/her concerns.

For my part, I’m going to do whatever is necessary to delete the expression from my language. My goal is never to diminish another by my disinterest or lack of empathy. While I don’t care for everyone at all times, I do want those whom I impact to know that they are important. Shalom.

 

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

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Talk

Sometimes I wonder about the expression, “You talk too much.” To begin, I would never say this to a student or anyone else. But if anyone ever said it to me, I would be likely to take the statement very seriously, depending on the source.

What constitutes too little, enough or too much? Ultimately, we must all be the monitors of our loquaciousness. We’ve encountered the chatty people who talk on and on, often without sense or awareness of others. Saying, “Stop talking! You’re not saying anything worthwhile” doesn’t work very well. But there are always ways to encourage the end of a long and tedious discourse.

Providing the information that we need to make an appointment or get somewhere (anywhere) else is useful. Another option is to attempt the interjection of something that will redirect or disconnect the conversation. At the very least, asking a question such as, “Do you really think so?” can often terminate an endless diatribe.

As a writer, brevity is usually the best path. This is also true for the length of sentences. One of the books I read recently had a sentence that droned on and on for about 100 words. Functionally, this is annoying as well as generally incorrect. While it’s unlikely that any of us will speak a 100-word sentence, there’s a lesson for all with regard to overstatement.

My recommendation to those accused of talking too much is to ponder why we are doing so in the attempt to abbreviate our language. While I’m not suggesting that you speak in two or three-word sentences, consider your conversation partner, time and location when forming your responses.

 

The best example I can muster is when a student asks why we should use “whom” instead of “who.” It’s fair to conjure the concept of object versus subject – we give something to whom rather than who is responsible. But going into painful detail about prepositions, case and forty-five examples is a profound waste of time.

And so, if you are accused of talking too much, think about who is making the comment and determine whether or not the source is reliable. From there, either shorten your language or determine that the person making the statement is communicating something totally different from time. 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.