Grasshopper Mind



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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AUGUST 20, 2023

I'm lucky to have friends who talk about what if's or what do you think, instead of the weather.  We're all moms and grandmoms so our conversation often drifts to children, or young people.  You can imagine the dialogue, besides how amazing our own offsring are. It's  social media, kids not getting to play enough, so many things that concern today's parents.


One of our thoughtful group recently asked, "Do you know the kids I get concerned about, maybe even feel sorry for?"  Group shaking of heads.  She said - it's two completely different groups: Those who get everything they ask for.  Those who get nothing they ask for.


If that sounds like a contradiction, she said, think about it.  You get everything you ask for -- you never learn to handle disappointment. You have a harder time coping solo. Your sense of personal accoplishment suffers. Unless a kind adult says 'let's figure how you can make this happen,'  there's a tough road ahead. Those who get nothing they ask for have a different challenge.  They decide they don't deserve encouragement or reward.  Where's the inspiration?   Whatever I do, it won't make a difference.


None of us had really thought of  'all or nothing' in this context.


Perhaps seeing youngsters thrive begins with our own disccipline. Learning to say 'no,' to every demand or wish is not easy. Saying a sincere 'good job' is easier, and feels good.  Both take caring and discipline.


Talking about the weather, which we can do nothing about, might be easier.  Talking about troublesome issues where we could help make the tiniest improvement is definitely more timeworthy.


Our consensus:  It does not always have to be all or nothing.  Balance between the two  was the best promise we could make.  


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AUGUST 4, 2023


Today, August 4th 2023 woud have been Malcolm Forbes 104th birthday.  His son published a Salute to his life, and shared some of his favorite quotes.  One of the quotes was:  "As you get older, don't slow down. Speed up. There's less time left." 


Surely he did not mean run faster, swim faster or speed up in any of the ways that involve strength and mobiity?  Like it or not those abilities do slow down. It's a rare individual who, as they age, speeds up and wins the race.  I'd like to believe he meant  - speed up in ways that can make a difference while time is on your side. 


Another of Forbes quotes was "If I can't take it with me, I'm not going."  Few of us can afford to indulge in hot air balloon rides, or finding the most spectacular Faberge eggs - but we can all do something to enhance our lives or that of others.


Dreaming of a cross country trip? Why the delay?  Wishing you could speak another language?  What's stopping you?  Want to give a scholarship in someone's memory? If you can afford it, do it now.  Creating a Will? Better today than tomorrow. Today you can give with warm hands.  Yearning to gather around your friends just for fun?  They'd love it.  Tell your children and grandchildren (no matter their age)  how important they are in your life? They know it - you know it - say it.


There are so many ways we can speed up without becoming competitive, anxious. Most of them incude doing something with or for someone else.  Most do not morbidly anticipate the grim reaper getting closer. 'Each according to his or her means'  is not from Malcom Forbes, but it is a great planning barometer.  Whatever your means, whatever your plans - if health allows - do it now  or do it soon.  I keep in mind the untimely death of my father, at the age of 68.  Two months prior to his death he had completed visits to each of his children on far flung continents and in different counties.  We feel fortunate he did not wait to tell each of us how proud he was of how 'we turned out' and how mutual love had eased him through a hard life. 


Ready. Set. Go ahead.


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JULY 23, 2023


Sunday morning chats with my brother in England usually involve a brief trip down memory lane. This is followed by boasting about our kids and grandkids.  We’ll slip in a little of our country’s politics.  And always end by reminding each other how fortunate we are.  He is 87. I am, well – his older sister.


In today's chat I shared this quote:  It is not what you do for your children, but what you taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.  Of course, we proudly agreed our kids and grandkids had turned out to be good human beings.  And, deserved or not, we took some of the credit.


Interesting that our teaching method mirrored that we witnessed as youngsters.  It was education by observation.  No sit-down serious conversations. We saw the results of teamwork. We watched an unparalleled work ethic. We saw kindness. There was no favoritism.  The best you could give was anticipated.  We learned to cook, clean, fix, and survive.  We were given meaningful jobs.  We received praise for jobs well done.  There was no ‘is this OK with you honey?’  Acceptance of foods, rules, chores and honesty was expected – it was not a choice.


As always, at the end of our chat we did not feel deprived.  We felt grateful.  We appreciated having lived in a simpler time when there were more individuals from whom we could learn – just by observation.




JUNE 11, 2023

This past week I had some fun mountain days with friends. We enjoyed good food, great laughter, story telling, soaking in magnificent views, and - shopping unique studios and galleries.  Nothing I haven't done before - possibly 100 times.

So what made this time different?  Apart from the fact that these women were interested in everything, could change course on a flexible dime, and there wasn't a critic among them.  What was different was me.  I now look at life through a different lens than the one I used years ago.

Years ago, my thoughts would have been; Do you really need it?  Where in the  world will you wear that?  That's a weird sculpture. A charcuterie for dinner? Not exactly a meal is it? My mind was always on budget, need, sensible outcomes, and usefulness. Not to mention self adopted  guilt for spending on what seemed frivolous .

Over the years my budget  and my mind have expanded a bit.  Keeping budget in mind is still important, although now I ask: Do you love it? Make it yours. Will it add joy to your life?  Does it make you smile?  Does the craftsmanship amaze you?  Can you afford it?   Go for it.  And my still must have a reason mind adds - after all, you are helping the maker, plus you get to enjoy and share.

Tiny clay bird, or exquisite glass vessel, we will never regret making time and space for what helps our hearts sing.

And, perhaps more than anything else, that includes space and time for friends.


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MAY 27, 2023

This is Memorial Day weekend.  It's not really a Celebration. It is a day to REMEMBER. We remember those who have given their lives in sevice to our country.

I try not to be a killjoy, but I find it difficult to wish anyone a "Happy Memorial Day.  I cringe at the words Memorial Day SALE. My lips purse when I see..."It's Memorial Day. The beginning of Summer."

In my seemingly old-fashioned world, picnics are good.  Family gatherings  outstanding.  Patriotic music uplifting.  Flying or planting the flag respectful.  Whatever says  we are gathered here today to remember is appreciated..

Memorial Day asks us to remember those who served this country in all wars.  Some went by choice.  Some were conscripted. They all went. The numbers who did not return are far too many.  The names we must never forget.

So, thank you Stan, Leslie, Thomas, and your thousands of brothers and sisters.  We owe you a debt we can never repay.

God Bless America.

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Memorial Day follow up

MAY 27, 2023

Upon receiving my Memorial Day Grasshopper post, I received this from a retired Marine.  I thought it worth sharing:


Memorial Day is nearly on us. . . .  Let us not forget the reason it is memorialized.


About six miles from Maastricht, in the Netherlands, lie buried 8,301 American soldiers who died in "Operation Market Garden" the battle to liberate Holland in the fall and winter of 1944.

Every one of the men buried in the cemetery, as well as those in the Canadian and British military cemeteries, has been adopted by a Dutch family who mind the grave, decorate it, and keep alive the memory of the soldier they have adopted. It is even the custom to keep a portrait of "their" American soldier in a place of honor in their home. Annually, on "Liberation Day," memorial services are held for, "The men who died to liberate Holland." The day concludes with a concert. The final piece to be played is always "Il Silenzio," a memorial piece commissioned by the Dutch and first played in 1965 on the 20th anniversary of Holland's liberation. It has been the concluding piece of the memorial concert ever since.


This year is 2014 and  the soloist is a 13-year-old Dutch girl, Melissa Venema, backed by André Rieu and his orchestra (The Royal Orchestra of the Netherlands). This beautiful concert piece is based upon the original version of the melody "Taps," and the piece was composed by Italian composer Nino Rossi...


Where are some those  we remember - from WWII:

 1. The American Cemetery at Aisne-Marne, France... total of 2289

2. The American Cemetery at Ardennes, Belgium...  total of 5329

3. The American Cemetery at Brittany, France...  total of 4410

4. Brookwood, England - American Cemetery...  total of 468 

5. Cambridge, England...  total of 3812 

6. Epinal, France - American Cemetery...  total of 5525 

7. Flanders Field, Belgium...  total of 368 

8. Florence, Italy...  total of 4402 

9. Henri-Chapelle, Belgium... total of 7992 

10. Lorraine , France... A total of 10,489 

11. Luxembourg, Luxembourg... total of 5076 

12. Meuse-Argonne... total of 14246 

13. Netherlands, Netherlands...  total of 8301 

14. Normandy, France...  total of 9387 

15. Oise-Aisne, France... total of 6012 

16. Rhone, France.. total of 861 

17. Sicily, Italy... total of 7861 

18. Somme, France... total of 1844 

19. St. Mihiel, France... total of 4153 

20. Suresnes, France... total of 1541 


A total of 104,366 dead, brave Americans.


Please remind people of our nation's sacrifice and tell them not to confuse arrogance with leadership.


             SEMPER FIDELIS


MAY 15, 2023

We just celebrated Mother's day. Mine was wonderful.  Like most, I think every day is Mother's day.

Whether your mother is still keeping you on your toes, or is no longer physically here, we all remember mom-isms.

You know - the comments we thought so annoying and absurd.  Now we look back and think how clever, how wise, how memorable.  Some examples from my youth still bring a smile.

Hearing one of us complain: And she just talked and talked on and on. Mother's quiet response: And, of course YOU just listened.

Asking mother to bring something to us: What did your last maid die from? 

Or sometimes: What? You have a broken leg? Get it yourself.

Worrying about a pain we perceived as a potentially dreadful disease: Only the good die young, you have nothing to worry about, Joan.

Imitating someone with a physical challenge:  Stop. God bless the mark.  In other words, you are wishing this affliction on yourself if you do not stop. We stopped.

We say I'm bored. She says: Life is boring only to boring people.  Make yourself useful.

And on went the home grown from the heart responses.


Never preaching, never raising her voice, never threatening.  Always a lesson to ponder - even if the pondering came years later.

Now I pass these on to my children and grandchildren.  Funny thing.  They look at me the same way I looked at my mother.  You know behind the rolling eyes they are thinking ' this woman is weird.'

And I'm thinking - just wait.

So, thanks Mom; you live on.  


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MAY 7, 2023

The coronation of 74-year old King Charles III on May 6 brought back memories for me.  I watched in the comfort of my home, tea and crumpets

deliciously at hand.  My television is not very large, but I did get to enjoy the pomp and circumstance in living color.  I could hear the

mixture of accents, see close-ups of the new King and Queen, as well as relive the rituals as they unfolded.   I felt extra special with my perfect viewing seat.

No one does pageantry as well as the British.  I loved it.


Rewind 70 years to June 2, 1953; and the coronation of 25 year old Queen Elizabeth II.  I watched the ceremony from the sidewalk in Chicago.

I'd moved to that city from England the previous year at the age of 19.  Along with a small crowd, I was looking through the window of a store on Michigan Avenue.  

The store had a small black and white television, screen toward the street.  We couldn't hear, but not many of us had televisions - so just seeing was exciting.


Queen Elizabeth's coronation was very different.  Much more simple.  Great Britain was still recovering from WWII, which ended in May 1945. 

 It was a warm and beautiful ceremony; and given the times most British 'commoners' still thought it quite lavish.


Elizabeth had been Queen since her father died in February 1951 and the people loved her.  Despite rain and rubble they came out by the thousands.

She pledged her life and loyalty to her people, and never let them down.


Charles has been tutored well.  As one journalist noted, he has had the longest apprenticeship in history.  Let's hope we will see a 'like mother, like son'

leader.  One who will make necessary changes - and, as he finally comes into his own - make his MOM and his country proud.


God Save The King.


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MAGNIFYING the little things

APRIL 28, 2023

During a friends get-togther one of our group announced, 'I just received the best advice for reducing wrinkles.'  Rapt attenton for this magic formula.  She smiled and said 'throw away the magnifying glass.'  Heads nodded in agreement. We are all at an age where, without help, wrinkles are part of our lives.  But, hey, why make them bigger, deeper and more important than they are?  


The same advice applies to so many things we worry about.  Going on a trip, we worry - the boat will sink, we'll get detained at the airport, we'll get food poisoning, our luggage will get lost.  We dig into these worries. We can't let them go.  And so they expand. They exhaust our happy anticipation. Murphy's Law keeps jangling in our ears.  


It seems most humans are hard-wired to worry.  We're really good at it.  It takes its toll.  How do we stop or slow down the worry-wart syndrome? How do we stop magnifying the blips and blemishes in our lives?  Two things I learned that have stuck. One is a rhyme: Never worry worry 'til worry worries you - it only doubles worry and worries others too."  In other words, don't go looking for problems. The other is trust - trust that short of a rare catastrophy, we can handle most adversities that come our way. And trust the law of averages - most of the things we worry about never come to pass.


Mark Twain, an admitted worrier,  told us in his later years : "I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.  Worrying is like payng a debt you didn't owe.  I spent most of my life worrying about things that never happened."


Magnifying glass or eraser? Both work, depending on how they are used.


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