Grasshopper Mind


NOVEMBER 27, 2022

Our family spent Thanksgiving at a favorite place in West Virginia.  We were thankful for the beautiful surroundings, wonderful food, extreme activities, and leisure time.  Especially the leisure time.


Most of all we were thankful we could be together.  Ours is a lively group, no lack of conversation. We rarely talk about the weather.  We talk about each other’s lives


One asked those gathered around the table ‘what do you like most about your job?’  Not a single answer included making big money, although some are well rewarded.  The answers centered on ‘helping’ – helping young children learn; helping clients balance the emotional and financial aspects of a significant purchase; helping artists find their marketing voice; helping clients back to health.  The obvious joy came from helping others.  As Matriarch of the clan, I admit to being a wee bit proud.


Next came a question both difficult and profound “If you thought this might be the last time you’d see someone, what would you say to them?”  The question was just to think about.  We couldn’t resist answering.  Answers ranged from share a good memory, thank them for something they’d done, ask their advice.  I recalled my Irish father’s parting words as I left England in 1951.  Back then when moving to a new country, you didn’t know if you’d ever again see those you were leaving behind.  My father said “Noli Temere” which in Gaelic means, “don’t be afraid.”  Thinking back ‘don’t be afraid’ was more encouraging than “be careful.” 


Thanksgiving is a time for taking stock. Where we’ve been, what we’re doing, what gives us joy, where we’re going. What and who we’re thankful for.   It’s a perfect time to answer the question ‘what would I say?’ and share it now with those you are remembering.


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NOVEMBER 14, 2022



Sunday morning, I had the luxury of reading the Wall Street Journal cover to cover, including the magazine.  It had the usual mix of good, bad, and really bad news, along with some well written and thought-provoking editorials.


The magazine portion was devoted to fashion.  I wondered why the models look so glum.  Blank stares. Superior looks. Bored expressions. No smiles. No joy.  No delight in showing off the outrageously priced clothes they are wearing.  Benefit of the doubt -- Those skimpy and complicated outfits don’t appear too comfy.


Later in the day I visited the mall and observed the people shopping and roaming.  Most wore comfortable looking clothes.  And yet, smiles and eye contact were sparse.  Even in line for ice-cream, no smiles of anticipation.  I did get a hopeful happy smile from an infant being pushed along in her stroller by an iPhone-engrossed adult.


We usually smile when we see friends.  It’s instinctive. Why not when we see the harried store assistant? The musician providing sidewalk entertainment?  The server who messed up our order.  Are our smiles reserved just for friends?  Thoreau said, ‘It’s not what you look at, it’s what you see.’  Perhaps if we could see more people as potential friends we’d smile more.


We don’t need the wide ear to ear smile. We can’t always be jovial.  Just turning up our lips when we see people is enough, it says ‘I’m glad to see you.’  It makes us both feel better. 


As for the models? A nice fat hamburger, along with the smile might help. The rest of us – as the old saying goes … remember, your face after 40 is your own fault. 


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NOVEMBER 7, 2022


This has been a busy and inspiring month.  Celebrations, loss of friends, being with and hearing from longtime friends, meeting new friends.   At every turn the spotlight, both sad and spectacular, has been on the importance of friends.


At one celebration a young friend asked, ‘what keeps you well and happy?’  Without hesitation my answer was staying connected to friends. My family are my best friends.  Other friends are the family I chose, or who chose me.


Another gathering was to thank special individuals for giving their time and skills, expecting nothing in return.  When thanked, their response was that’s what friends are for.


Yet another heart-warming event was to honor those with unique challenges; and those who make their lives better.  The life givers said … they walked into our hearts and are part of us.


Milestone birthdays with no presents needed.  Just showing up or sending a friendly hello saying, "I’m here for you.” 


It’s interesting how friends pass our friendship test.  Eleanor Roosevelt said, there are many people who walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints on your heart.  What she didn’t say is that these footprints will not make your heart heavy.  These footprints create a footpath to real friends. The faux friends -- what’s in it for me, when it’s convenient friends -- never make it onto the path.


Can you believe there is  a National Friendship Day? How silly. Friendships are not built in a day. Strong friendships need time and nourishment to grow. Let's hear it for hot biscuits and coffee, afternoon tea and scones, a glass of wine on the porch -- doesn't take much, it's the company that counts. The telling of tales, the catching up, the being there.


My wise mother who, the older I get, the more I seem to quote her told us that to have a friend you must be a friend.  Wiser words were never spoken. That’s all we need to know and remember. 



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OCTOBER 18, 2022

I’ve just returned from a beautiful gathering.  Women and men of all ages and backgrounds.  We were together to honor and congratulate a special woman, a special friend.


No one crept out early. No one wanted to leave.  Everyone wanted this brief period of joy, pride, and togetherness to continue.  And when we did leave most of us were smiling, filled with gratitude for friends old and new, young, and older.


We shared memories, happy and sad occasions since we’d last talked.  Promised to stay more closely in touch.  Laughed at the old ‘do you remember?’ stories.  Commiserated about how quickly people seem to take umbrage.  Gasped at how old our children are.  No politics.  No Covid. No mean words.  No pity parties.  Just friends enjoying friends.


It made me wonder why we don’t create more opportunities to be together.  We’ve all figured out by now (surely) it is not the food on the table, it’s not whether we’ve dusted, or remembered flowers – it’s the friends around the table that matter. It’s the memories we make and share.


And so – I emailed four friends before the glow receded; and said … I’m having a get-together for colleagues on the 25th; there will be lots of leftovers – why don’t we get together on the 26th and polish them off?  Just like that.  If there are no leftovers, we’ll bring in pizza.  It’s about friends.


My mother was the friend of all friends.  The milkman, the mailman, the dustbin men, the breadman, even the rag and bone man – come on in, have a cup of tea, rest a while. How’s your family?  Nine kids, surrounded by laundry – but always time for a friend.  As the saying goes -- A friend in need is a friend indeed – and that she was.


Thanks Linda, my friend, for bringing all of us together today. That’s what friends are for.


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OCTOBER 3, 2022

My friends and I enjoy discussing things we have little chance of changing. Sounds like such a waste, but not really.  We always seem to learn something. The latest chat was about finger pointing, losing sight of the problem.  In other words, attacking the person and not the problem.


And yes, the discussion was prompted by political advertising.  However, politics is not for the Grasshopper, so we’ll not dwell on that scene.


We each had examples of how the words we use affect us. One woman recalled an error she made on her first job.  Her report person said this would never have happened if YOU had paid more attention.  Probably true, but the mistake was made.  How much better, how much more productive, if the supervisor had said Let’s take another look and see what went wrong.


Another recalled a proposal she had written.  Her manager read it and harshly remanded This is WRONG, can’t you ever get anything right?  Would the results have improved had the supervisor said Does this look right to you?  Allowing the writer to relook and relearn.


We had the attack by gossip example.  We’re getting a new neighbor.  Another neighbor says – “I was surprised to hear that she…”  Anything starting with those words is rarely flattering.  Gloria Vanderbilt might have said “if you have nothing good to say come sit by me,” but gossip usually makes us wary of the gossiper. It never solves anything.


Why do people do this to each other?  Turf protection? You need to remember I’m smarter, better informed, and superior to you. Lack of confidence on the part of the attacker? I don’t know the solution either, but you’ll be talking the fall.


Whatever the reason, we five agreed that focusing on the problem, sharing the good or bad outcome, and avoiding personal attacks along the way is an ideal route to the best results.


If you see errors in this musing, just kindly ask - Did you mean to say this, Joan?


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SEPTEMBER 19, 2022


This morning I watched the funeral celebration for Queen Elizabeth II.  The pageantry, the history, the dignity was magnificent.  And yet, with all of that  - what created the emotional outpouring from British and world citizens alike was how she is remembered.  She was the people's Queen.  She is remembered with love and gratitude.


One speaker said, “We can honor her memory by following her example.” The examples included kindness, hope, civility, service, loyalty, and duty.  Another speaker said she followed the age-old challenge; ‘render to no one evil for evil.’  It occurred to me if more of our leaders practiced just one of these attributes, many of today’s grim problems would be softened or solved.


I grew up in England and was 13 when WWII ended.  At that age not a lot got my attention, except sports and staying alive.  My sister Eileen, however, was old enough to join the Women’s Land Army (WLA) and served during the same period as then Princess Elizabeth served in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS). Her description of Queen Elizabeth was decency and dignity.


My sister Kathleen was presented two Churchill Medals by Queen Elizabeth, in Buckingham Palace; the first in 1974, the second 50 years later in 2014.  Her words for the Queen were kindness, graciousness and gratitude.


I was living in Chicago when Elizabeth became Queen in 1952; and stood on the sidewalk in Chicago in June 1953 watching her Coronation through a shop window.  Not many televisions in those days.


It’s been quite a journey for Her Majesty.  Yet never once has she veered from her promise to the British people which was ‘throughout all my life and with all my heart I shall strive to be worthy of your trust.’


What a life. What a woman. What a legacy. What an example.


How will you be remembered?


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AUGUST 26, 2022

Have you noticed family story telling times - around the dinner table, the fire, even in the automobile are disappearing?  Such a shame.  How will we learn, remember and pass down the family legends? How can we really know our ancestors?  Their biographies don't tell us who they were. Their stories make them come alive.


For a fee there is an online company to which family members can send their questions for grandmother, granddad,  mom and dad, or whoever is the giftee.  The company forwards the question to the indivdual .  The individual writes a response to the questions.  The company saves all the questions and answers, unedited; and compiles them into a booklet at year's end.   An easy solution to recording our history?  Yes. What's missing is our ability to capture the emotions, the face and feelings that belong with the words.


There IS another solution.  How about having  a memories meal or two, or three, or more?   Questions not yet answered get asked:  What was it like growing up in a family of nine kids? What are they doing now? How did you and granddad meet? Do you remember your grandparents? What were they like? What did they do for a living? You will never run out of questions. And the one answering the questions? Well, who doesn't like talking about themselves - and reaching back to include the people and places that made them who they are?


Forget those little cards people pass around at dinner parties to 'start' a conversation.  Each family has stories we tell over and over. No matter how many times they are told they make us laugh or cry. One of our family favorites, retold for more than seven decades is of our brother. Jim dramatically enters the small room; wearing a scruffy jacket, three cornered hat, and chest covered with as many medals and braids as he could find.  Standing with a military air, his hand thrust proudly inside his jacket he announced: I AM NAP-A-LON.  Just saying the word nap-a-lon in our family brings the memory into full focus.  We watch and see stories of Napolean, and we think of Jim.


There are so many questions I wish I had asked.  So many gaps in the little book of memories.  I have a lot of facts.  Facts are not  stories.  My father passed away  more than 60 years ago - and yet, when I repeat certain stories, there he is - Irish eyes smiling - and relishing the retelling of special times we shared.  Such a gift.


Take time to ask questions.  If the questions and answers are written and in person, even better. Whether the answers are sad, happy, unexpected, or quite amazing - I promise; you will be glad you asked the questions.  


Question: What's holding us back? 


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AUGUST 6, 2022



We were taught to try to solve a problem ourselves before asking for help. Remember the bosses (and parents) of bygone years? Don’t come to me with a problem unless you have a solution.  Perhaps that’s why the current tendency to immediately ask “who is going to take care of this?” concerns me.


Some suggest I have become a curmudgeon. Others suggest I have it all wrong.  Asking for help first is easier and faster, they say.  Our sons recall the stock answer when they had a problem was, “And what do you plan to do about it?”  “What would you do if we weren’t here?”  Maybe I was a curmudgeon in training.


Oh, we wanted to help.  We would have relished it.   Why didn’t we?  Because we believed solving someone’s problems before they try their own solution robs them of a learning opportunity.  It diminishes their self -confidence.  It teaches them to rely on someone else.  They become dependent, instead of independent.  They must be able to take care of themselves.


Our startup year in business, we had no money, no equity, no real experience.  Yet, we believed the bank should or would lend us money.  It didn’t happen. And that was a good thing.  We learned a lot from that banker who turned us down.   He made us face business reality.


Preventing someone from trying to solve their own problems is like not allowing them to learn.  Failing is learning. Success is learning.  Both spur us to help others help themselves.


Give a person a fish … you know the rest of the story.


Gone fishing …


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JULY 22, 2022

This past week I attended a celebration of the life of a wonderful man.  In their eulogies friends and family praised his accomplishments.  Well-deserved accolades from speakers and guests filled the air.  It was a heart-warming celebration for a man who meant so much to so many.


Eulogy is described by Webster as A speech or words in praise of a person, or what that person has done, a term of endearment.


Guests, family, friends took time to share hugs. They remembered good times. It was a celebration of many lives.  It included everyday eulogies among and about friends. The outpouring of affection was genuine and contagious. Smiles of appreciation were all around.  And, this same scenario plays out at most celebrations where we honor deceased loved ones. Why does this euphoric feeling of fellowship fade so quickly?



Why do we hesitate to tell friends and family why we appreciate them? Why do we seldom acknowledge their gifts of time and talent?  Why are we so stingy or shy with encouragement? Why do we wait until we are just part of a chorus?


Many of us in the ‘mature’ stiff upper lip and don’t be a softy generation still have difficulty being gushy. People must earn praise.  They don’t get it for doing what they’re supposed to do. We wouldn’t want any big heads is or was our philosophy.


Many of our younger generations consider praising others unnecessary.  They maintain the friend or family member KNOWS how they feel. Theirs is the age-old actions speak louder than words philosophy.  Each generation is different, thank goodness.


I asked a friend to consider these big WHY's.  She responded -- it’s not the praise, not the award, not the congratulations – it is the VALIDATION. Acknowledgement that what we are doing or have done is the right thing, that it matters.  It encourages us to do more, try harder.


All the more reason to practice everyday eulogies. To inspire others to keep doing what deserves our gratitude and admiration.


I have a lot of catching up to do.


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JUNE 30, 2022

There’s a Forbes magazine women’s group named ‘Self Made.’   Complete with caps, t-shirts, and other outwardly visible products proclaiming its members as self-made.  If asked to join, which is unlikely, I’d have to refuse.  I have never met, and probably will never meet, anyone who acquired health, happiness, or success without help from someone else.


Forbes proudly lists America’s richest self-made women.  I’m also proud of these women.  However, chances are if you asked any one of them who helped them along the way their lists would be long.  The old saying ‘everybody needs somebody’ is true – unless you are a hermit dedicated to isolation.


Webster’s definition of self-made: People who have become successful and rich through their own efforts, especially if they started life without money, education, or high social status


Debating the dictionary is one of my favorite pastimes.  In this case I disagree one must be rich to be successful.  Success is not measured by your financial assets.  Real success is measured by the effect of the personal treasures you share – among them time, help, hope.


Who helped you along the way; and what did they do?  I could fill pages with those who helped me. The parents who said NO without apology.  The teacher who encouraged your potential.  The friend who listened.  The spouse or partner who cheered you on.  The wise ones who made mistakes become lessons.  The banker who took a chance on you.  (Yes, they do exist.)  The help we receive, sometimes without recognizing it as help, is what motivates us to both succeed - and pay it forward.


Education, hard work, resilience, skills, attitude are all important attributes.  The most important ingredients for success appear to be the combination of people who have entered our lives at just the right time.


Without apology to Forbes. Self-Made is a myth.


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