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Greetings of the season

Amid all of the acts of kindness, charity and goodwill that we observe during this and all holiday seasons, I find myself having more cautious reactions than normally to the holiday hype. The best example I can muster at this point is Black Friday, a holiday that was endlessly publicized for weeks before and after it took place. While I understand that people love bargains and want to buy something special for someone special, I find myself impatient with the endless advertising.

After Black Friday, we had Cyber Monday and Green Monday. While I’ve never measured the amount of advertising per television program as it compares to actual program content, I would wager that it is close to equal. Before and after programming, we have every organization in our world advertising for the holidays, including insurance companies, car dealers, loan sharks and wig stores.

Please be assured that my frustration has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that this is not my holiday. By no means do I want the celebrations to end nor do I feel that people ought to treat those who don’t celebrate Christmas any differently than the rest of the population. But don’t you think that I have the right to wish someone (anyone?) a Seasons’ Greetings or Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas if I so choose?

Some people feel very strongly that those two expressions must be replaced with Merry Christmas or the entire spirit of Christmas is violated. Before I object, I admit that my perspective is impacted by the fact that I don’t celebrate the religious aspect of Christmas. But I do have the right to choose my words of greeting or seasonal best wishes.

In any case, for fear of sounding like the ultimate bah humbug curmudgeon, I have just finished wrapping what seem like mounds of packages and completing a stack of holiday cards to friends and family. What I suppose that I am requesting is good taste, both in advertising and everyday courtesy. If you choose the holiday season as a political or religious discrimination venue, it doesn’t matter what religion you follow – you’re tasteless. And on the other side of the equation, I am just fine with any kind greeting that you may send my way. Shalom.

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Gathering rosebuds

If gathering rosebuds doesn’t sound familiar, I invoked the first line in a poem by 17th century poet Robert Herrick. He suggests, “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,” in addition to other important wisdom.

Several times per week, I spend some time wondering how much time I spend doing things that are entirely frugal or sensible. These activities are the result of many years of needing to save money, simply because there was no choice.

It now occurs to me that I do many of these out of habit rather than necessity. This process takes many forms. When I get close to the end of any of the cosmetic or cleaning items that I use, I always transfer the last few inches or ounces to another bottle of the same product, rather than lose a few days of use. In the kitchen, I will perform the same type of miserliness, using the last stalk of celery or last mushroom when those items may have been more properly discarded.

This is a lesson in the fragility of life and the imperative to live each day as it is made available. There is no secret to the reality that I have already spent more years on earth than I likely have in my future. And so, it seems to be time to enjoy my life with greater freedom rather than by maintaining unnecessary habits.

Translated into everyday life, if I want to buy a pair of shoes that are not within my normal guidelines for work or weekends, I buy them. If I want to add a few blue streaks into my hair, I do so. and if I feel like buying a brand new flavor of coffee to try, I buy it.

Make no mistake. By no means am I suggesting that you abandon everything that resembles care and conscience, spending money recklessly. My bills are paid and my responsibilities are all satisfied. But I firmly believe that without sounding morbid, I must do what makes me happy while I still have a clear mind and the resources to do so. Tomorrows are guaranteed to no-one and I am living life as if today is the last one, just in case that may be true.

Or in the words of Mr. Herrick,  And this same flower that smiles today, Tomorrow will be dying. Shalom.

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Suck it up

One of the realities that I’ve been embracing recently concerns blame. It’s much easier and more convenient to blame others for those events that occur in our lives, making us victims rather than participants. While I am not suggesting that we take responsibility for everything that takes place in our worlds, it’s much wiser to take some instead of none.

Obviously, we’re not creators of national disasters, weather, crimes or political bluster. But when we look at our individual worlds, it’s easy to understand how uncomplicated it is to assign blame to those around us rather than being analytical or realistic to accept that we are in fact the cause.

Here’s an example. You’re beginning to feel that your partner is dumping on you about issues large and small. It’s quite easy to issue statements such as, “You’re grumpy,” or “You’re resistant to reason” or a variety of other accusations. In addition to alleviating any chance of feeling guilty, you also get the opportunity to feel victimized. The reality is that being a victim is toxic, to you and those who love you.

No, I am not suggesting that you withhold any information about your feelings or reactions. As an educator, I am fully aware of the value of asking questions in the classroom. “Are you having a bad day?” “Is something going on that you would like to discuss?” “Did someone say something to hurt your feelings?”

In the adult world, that type of behavior is much more productive than holding others liable for misunderstanding. My goal is to ask, “Did I sound angry or unhappy?” “Did we get off to a bad start today?” or “I’m sorry if I was impatient.”

To be sure, asking those questions and making thoughtful statements is sometimes very difficult. But if the liability or joy of any specific situation is shared rather than dramatically characterized, life becomes much more enjoyable. This is a work in progress for many of us but as is the case with so many of our growth events, the consequences are well worth the effort. Shalom.

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Give

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.

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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.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

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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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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A little fun

As a writer and student of the English language and its quirks, I thought I would have a little fun and point out the following.

Your greatest advantage is that you’re going to receive a raise in pay, as in days of yore.

Who’s going to determine whose shoes are on the floor?

When we live a life we choose, we see things that are live all around us.

You can re-create your past when you designate some time to recreate and have fun.

One way to resume your work life is to create a new résumé.

If you accept some facts about life, you can understand that people are necessary, except for those who detract from your happiness.

Some of us are specially talented in one field or another, especially those who have developed those talents.

It’s a good idea to make certain that you know the personal details in your personnel file.

He sat down at the television to watch a serial drama and eat his cereal.

If you were designing a horror set, you would need to identify which witch you want to portray.

If you’re wise, it’s a good idea to identify the whys and wherefores of your job.

Please don’t continue to whine about the quality of your wine.

Preventive is the preferred form of that adjective, unless you’re discussing drugs or viruses, in which case, preventative is acceptable.

Using “toward” is preferred in the US; if you’re in the UK, you are most likely to see “towards.” There are going to be exceptions in both countries.

New Mexico is one of the 50 United States of America. It was admitted to the union in 1912, as the 47th state. You do not need a passport to enter, leave or communicate with New Mexico. The capital of New Mexico is Santa Fe, the oldest capital city in the US.

There is no X in etcetera (etc.). If you pronounce it as excetera, you’re incorrect.

Finally (and most importantly), irregardless is not a word. Never has been, never will be. Regardless is correct.

Shalom (Peace).

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In your eyes

It was a beautiful, sun-filled New Mexico day that began as many others. Our travels took us to Santa Fe, to find something for the backyard that we had previously seen and admired. After securing the item, we were excited to see that it was an artisan craft fair weekend in the plaza, and elected to see what there was to see.

This was an extraordinary gathering, full of crafts that were unique and tempting. Eventually, we discovered a kiosk of southwestern jewelry, tended by a tall, gray-haired gentlemen who looked as if he could have been a high school physics teacher or a minister.

We stopped for a moment and I was intrigued by this vendor’s clever decision to display his rings according to size rather than in one large cluster. Mentioning this to him, he responded, “If God is smart enough to give each of us a different ring size, if makes sense to display them that way.” Hearing that, I was struck by his deference to God for such an issue.

He wasn’t preaching or prodding – he merely referenced God in two or more additional statements. My search was for a ring for my daughter, but I inquired about one that I discovered and slipped on my finger, due to its unusual design. When I laughed at my apparent lack of resistance to something extraordinary, he indicated that God must have led me to put it on or I would never have done so. He went on to explain how the ring’s stone acquired its unusual pattern.

At the end of our interaction, I purchased the ring and thanked him for his kindness and unusual reverence, explaining that I planned to include him in my next blog. He handed me his business card, shyly adding that he would be in the same place tomorrow and thanked me profusely for the purchase.

Never having expected to run into a man whose faith was consistent and sincere without proselytizing or prodding, I am touched by one who is true to his beliefs and finds God in all he does. While each of us finds inspiration in our own way, I will remember him each time I look at my ring and recollect the man whose faith enabled me to add it to my life. Shalom.

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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.