Grasshopper Mind


DECEMBER 9, 2023

 A few days ago, I braved the throngs and waded into a few stores.  Moms, Dads, and lots of children.  The youngsters dithering with excitement, the moms, dads, and other adults withering with exhaustion. 

There were carts loaded with boxes large and small.  Everyone seemed happy enough, smiling and civilized.  The carts and the contents did bring back fun memories. 


You could say we reared our sons to be frugal – not stingy or scroogy, but careful with how they spent their meager funds.  I recall them calling loudly across the aisles of Bush Stationers – “Can we afford this, Mom?”   Or, with a concerned face, telling a shopper – with certain do-dads in their cart ... “My Mom says those things are a waste of money.”  Shopkeepers were never sorry to see us leave.


We didn’t think our children were deprived.  They didn’t seem to think they were deprived.  That’s how life worked.  If you can afford it, and it makes you happy – go for it.  If you can’t afford it, better wait until you can, and it will make you even happier.  If you have some to spare, share it with someone who needs it more than you do.  That’s how we’d like life to work.


Gift giving is about the heart, the thought, the message.  Some of my most treasured possessions are handwritten childish notes, a blue bowl from a favorite aunt, our first Christmas ornament, the funny carving from Uncle Jim. Memories.


So, I will happily sally forth with the spirit of Christmas urging me along. I'll try to forget the long ago question  “Mom, can we afford this?” I'll just say – go for it, make someone happy.  There’ll even be some left – you know what to do with it.


Good tidings and great joy,



NOVEMBER 26, 2023

Beginning in a week or so, children in England will be singing outside neighbors doors; hoping for a generous response to their off-key melodies.


With the first song - not really a carol - the group loudly proclaims: Christmas is coming. The goose is getting fat. Will you please put a penny in the old man's hat. If you haven't got a penny, a half-penny will do.  If you haven't got a half-penny, God bless you."   We didn't really mean God bless them.  In fact, we had a rather rude song we sang if they banged on the inside door and told us to go away, or worse - bugger off!  It included our fervant wish that they choke on a black pudding.


Mother seeks the education of her uncouth and greedy offspring.  She asked, "Do you know the meaning of this yuletide message?"  Of course not.  What it is trying to tell us, she explains, is that it is not the size of the gift.  In fact, it doesn't matter if you cannot spare any money.  What matters is that you GIVE.  Give money if you can, no matter the amount.  If you can't afford money, give your time to fix him a meal. If you can't spare time, give your blessings and connect this 'old man' to the help he needs.


Did we respond with warmer hearts of understanding?  No, we did not. Not right then.  Our mission was to get money out of our stony-hearted and poor neighbors; the more money the merrier.  Still, the meaning of the message took root.  Later, with children of our own, the message nudged our memory and conscience.  - it's meaning makes so much sense.


We are a nation of givers. It seems to be in our DNA.  It's hard when our mailboxes bulge with requests for help. We want to help all of them.  Most of us cannot do that.  We select the needs closest to our hearts.  We give what we can.  It is not the amount. A half-penny will do.  Our message is, "I care."


Thank you for caring,



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WORDS from friends

NOVEMBER 19, 2023

The power of words, it seems, remain constant. Some words, because of how they are spoken and received, settle in for the long haul.


A special response to the last Grasshopper came from a friend of 70 years. In 1953 Robert was in the military, I worked for the US Forces in Europe. We were still seen as the occupying force. One evening Robert was in what was left of the city of Nuremberg, trying to buy movie tickets. A young German man, speaking  perfect English, said "Let me help you!"  Those words, from one considered our former enemy, were transformative. Turned out Karl-Heinz and Elizabeth were recently married. They were eager to share and to help. They invited us for blackberry wine, and peeks into home life. They helped us realize uncomfortable situations can be made pleasant with the right words.


A few years later, they emigrated to the USA.  They loved their new country.  They came to Robert's and my wedding in Greensboro in 1956.  They attended Robert's funeral in 2016.  They now live in North Carolina.  We don't see each other much, but we know we will always say to each other 'Let me help you."  The right words at the right time.


Another friend said - "I too love words. Have you read 'The Dictionary of Lost Words' by Pip Williams?"  No, I had not.  I have now.  It is fascinating.  Made my appreciation of words and dictionaries expand. 


Others remembered the words of friends that helped them through challenges and traumas. Traumas like a disjointed childhood. Losing a loved one. Challenges like first jobs and 'do you think this is right?'


Thank you all - for confirming the power of words. Thank you Karl and Elizabeth for the right words in 1953 and yesterday in 2023.


Your words also reminded me that of all the words, 'the greatest of these is LOVE.'  


Here's to an abundance of love and words of friendship around your Thanksgiving table.


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NOVEMBER 16, 2023

The power of words is enormous.  We can't think or dream in words we don't know.  Words can make us mad.  Make us smile.  Make us remember.  Make us sad.  Words, in whatever language, are what bind us together, or shake us apart. I love words.


During a recent glorious day, cozied on the balcony - notepad in hand; I decided to create a list of my 100 favorite words. It was interesting to see the changes from younger years.  When I knew everything. When I was invincible. Then the most used words were probably: Organize. Work. Read. Exercise. Collaborate. Curiosity. Hopefully they included Thank you. The list was all about doing things right, working hard, loving your family.


Decades later, favorite words still include many of the earlier ones, but the ones that surface more are: Friend. Together. Share. Creative. Dignity. Thankful.  Gratitude. Welcome.  Smile. Enjoy. Listen. Recently I even added 'relax.'


Thankfully we do change.  Such a great awakening when we realize we don't know everything. That we are neither invincible or irreplaceable. Takes a while . Another my mother said quote: "You can't put an old head on young shoulders."


The word that comes most alive as we approach Thanksgiving is FRIEND.  The power of friendship might even surpass the power of words.  Friends are our lifeline. Family is the icing on the cake.


So thank you friends.  I hope this Thanksgiving and beyond you will have many friends for whom to be thankful.


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OCTOBER 31, 2023

We've all heard it, seen it, and are probably guilty of the saving it for a special occasion syndrome.  We have shelves and drawers filled with lovely china and gifts we've received. They give us  a certain joy when we use them. We buy a new wardrobe item that excites us. We say -- Can't wait for a special occasion to wear this.


Perhaps it's time to remind ourselves -- Every day is a special occasion. I should enjoy my happy china every day.  Use my silver or favorite cutlery every day.  Wear that new sweater.  Invite my neighbor for pizza. Days when it's difficult to find that something special will always exist.  Tomorrow's another day.  


If you're old enough, you remember you had to save your Sunday best for church, and special occasions.  As a child, you probably thought "well, this is ridiculoius, I like it, why can't I wear it whenever  I want to?"  Guess what?  You were right.  Children often are.


Thanksgiving is almost here.  Many of us will be 'pulling out' our special occasion, familiar, and much loved things we continue to be thankful for.  A suggestion :  Lerave them out.  Use them. Enjoy them. Relish the memories they hold.  Don't be among those whose family and friends say ... "how lovely. I don't remember this, she must have kept it for special occasions."


Today is special.  Fill it up with things and people you enjoy.


And give thanks.


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OCTOBER 8, 2023

Seek first to understand, then to be understood. This was one of Stephen Covey's much exalted 7 Habits of effective people, His theory might work in some areas, but not all.


I have been trying to understand computers since the first PC hit our desks.  Even took early computer classes, when storage and all the other 'stuff'' filled a space the size of my living room. I appreciate what computers can do.  Understand how they do it,? No.  Able to communicatea  current problem to the Chat Robot? Impossible.


The more the world becomes high tech, the more I long for high touch.  I dream of a full service gas station.  A computer genius who sits at MY computer and fixes all the problems I created.  No more crawling around the floor, pull this connection, wait 60 seconds, crawl back . That didn't work.  Maybe you pulled the wrong plug. Of course I did, my hands and knees vision is not good.


Have you tried getting out of a parking garage, where live attendants do not exist?  Apart  from needing arm extensions, getting the robotic machine to accept your credit card is baffling. People behind you curse their luck getting behind such a Luddite.  You consider ramming through the barrier.


Checked in lately at a mobile phone store?  The sign says - use your QR scan to sign in.  My 'phone is dead, that's why I'm here. Is there a human in the house?  What's wrong with your 'phone asks the Robot?That's what I'm here to find out.  Did you go on line first? says the Robot.  Finally, says ChatRobot - Did that answer your question? Unsummoned, I approach what resembles a real person.


Once you get through the maze of options and instructions on your doctor's office telephone, you are told:  If you wish to make an appointment you can do so on line at ...  and they give you the website for smart people.


Airlines charge a fee if a real person has to assist with your reservations.  I mean, what's wrong with you - taking a staffer's time to help you through the muddle they have created? You need to be penalized.


My world, where service is provided by humans, is shrinking daily.  Back to computer and new technology classes for me.  I believe they are called the new survival skills classes.




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OCTOBER 8, 2023

a quick PS received from a friend:


"In times of drastic change it is the learners who survive. 

The learned find themselves fully equipped to live in a world that no longer exists."




OCTOBER 2, 2023

A Grasshopper friend sent this response to 'Attention Please,' I love it.  I'm sharing because I thought other grandmother friends will enjoy it equally.  My male friends - if you agree - just insert Granddad and boys in the right places.


Her response:


“Now here we are, you and I, ready to take on one more slice of life. 

 But we are still girls. Deep inside us, warm and cherished, is the same person 

 who has done the best she could through whatever came into her life. 

 The face is changed. But the Girl is here—the Girl with the Grandmother Face, 

 and the whole world is gonna be glad we’re still around.”


~ From “The Girls with the Grandmother Faces” 

by Frances Weaver


Glad we are still around.  Enjoy.


OCTOBER 1, 2023

No matter how we deny it, I am convinced we all need the gift of human attention.
It could be a smile. It might be an invitation. Possibly someone asking your opinion.
A friend's note, remembering you fondly. We suddenly matter.  It's a nice feeling.

One of my gloomy day boosts comes from a tiny pink booklet.  The words inside are beautifully written by a special niece.  She begins with  "across the pond and throughout the years your presence in my life has hummed quietly along.  As I sit here now wanting to express something of what it has meant to have you as an aunt."  She proceeds tooutline her thoughts. 

Deserved or not, imagine how those words affected my spirit.  I had made a difference.  In a way, large or small, I had mattered.  I might never have known without the little pink memory book my niece created,

My niece's closing words were, "right here, right now, I am holding you in my thoughts," In other words, you have my attention, even though we are miles apart.

Perhaps creating a little pink booklet isn't your thing. It's not the book.  It's the thoughts. It's the words.  Words and thoughts, used kindly, are powerful.


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Labor Day, for whatever reason, drifted me back to my arrival in Chicago, alone, at the ripe old age of 19.  $47. No friends. No job.


Day two in the Windy City the job hunt was on. Recognizing the name Hertz,  I entered the building and presented myself at reception.  I had walked there in a rain and wind storm, and looked like a drowned rat.   "Can I help you?"  asks the receptionist.  Yes, I'd like a job with Hertz.  What kind of Job?  Well, I am a VERY  good secretary. We don't need any secretaries.  Well, what do you need.  Truth is, if she'd said cleaning lady I'd have said ... Oh, I am a very good cleaner. 


In the meantime a gentleman was standing quietly in the foyer space.  He said, 'young lady, come back to my office."  The man was Mr. Ferguson, general manager for this office.  (Note to younger people: Bosses did not have first names in the 1950's)   He listened, asked if I had a resume.  No, but I had graduation certificates from Leigh Junior Commercial College at age 15, showing high grades, head Prefect honor, and a recommendation letter  from the Headmaster.  Imagine where that would get today's young people.


Finally, Mr. Ferguson said: Well, we do have one opening in accounting.  Wonderful, says an enthusiastic me - I have two years in accountng - including double entry bookkeeping.  Never mind the fact I was trained in pounds, shillings and pence.  Let's give it a shot, when can you start?  exclaims Mr. Ferguson.  My excited response:  Today? Tomorrow? 


I left there thinking, goodness - that was easy; how smart am I? Patting myself on the back at my brillint accomlishment.  Turns out I was a bit premature with my self-praise.  Mr. Ferguson had a big heart, he also had a daughter my age who, instead of looking for a job, was headed to Loyola.  He was afraid what might happen to me.  He gave me a chance.


Without someone being willing to take a chance on me - or you - who knows?  When I hear someone say he or she is self-made, I suggest "look back, discover people who helped you along the way."   I have never met a self-made person.


As a wise and successful friend advised - do not judge by the outward appearance; listen to the story.  Whenever possible, offer a chance.  It could become a lifeline.


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