Grasshopper Mind


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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JUNE 19, 2022

It all started with a piece of salmon.   There it was carefully placed in a carton.  What do you plan to do with this salmon mother?  It was going to be lunch.  How long ago was lunch planned?  Couple of days ago.  That means it will never see the lunch table. Such a waste. I know how you hate waste.


And thus began the waste not want not stories. T-shirts no longer fit to appear in public, cut into pieces for so-soft dust rags. Aluminum foil rinsed and carefully folded for future use.  Rubber bands rolled into a ball for - well you never know. Coffee cans to hold nails that will never again see the light of day. The list is long for  waste nothing people.


What then in this world of abundance is worth saving?  Certainly, things someone else can actually use. Maybe one or two things we think we’ll need (but rarely do).  Definitely rainy-day cash.  Journals for your memories.  Books with special inscriptions.  Photo albums (real not digital).  And saving time for dreaming.


Does this mean my friends and I are ready to give up our quirky waste not habits?  Heaven forbid.  We never know when we might need an old piece of aluminum foil.


Remember the question:   If your home was on fire, what would you try to save?  The answers through time have been – my dog, my cat, my pictures – never once did I hear ‘that piece of salmon I have in the refrigerator.’


Tempus Fugit. Make memories.


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JUNE 11, 2022


My Brother and niece who live in Lancashire visited recently. Lancashire is a county with its own dialect. Some would say its own language.  It was fun hearing words and phrases from my growing up years.  No matter how long we are away, hearing our hometown dialect brings back all kinds of memories. 


Not everyone, even in the rest of England, can easily translate some Lancashire sayings.  One that amuses friends is the statement.  Oh, they live next door but two from me.  Translation – but for the two houses in-between they would live right next door.


A phrase with more depth:  Our Marie got a scholarship.  Not just ‘Marie’ – OUR Marie.  She is one of our family.  We are responsible for her, and she for us.  Take note - She is ours.


You’ll hear: Arnold was really chuffed.  Lancashire: He was puffed up with pride. North Carolina: He was bursting his buttons.


During a rare heatwave Lancashire natives will say:  I’m sweating cobs, it’s cracking flags out there: Sweating cobs (large globules of sweat).  Flags means pavement.   In the South we’d say. It’s hot as Hades - you could fry an egg on the sidewalk.


Hearing the familiar dialect brought back hilarious and horrible memories of neighbors, juvenile misdeeds, and proud family accomplishments.  It allowed me to wallow momentarily in the good and interesting life I’ve been fortunate to live.  Maybe even recall a few still applicable lessons I can share with grandchildren.


My early days in the South caused a different dialect challenge. Running a little late for lunch (too many streets with the same name, and none on a grid) I hear:  Where you at? J’eat yet?  Notchet? Whyncha join us?  I loved it. It was like learning a new language.


Why share such trivia? Perhaps to emphasize the value in remembering where we came from. Good memories. Bad memories. Blurred memories.  People, places and things that made us who we are.  Refresher courses balance our lives.


Take that trip down memory lane.  Do not take up residence there.


Ta-rah (Lancashire for goodbye)


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JUNE 5, 2022

My nieces and I share frequent emails across the pond. Recently I received one that gave me reasons to think about what and how I communicate.


Here is part of Lorraine’s message:

It isn't often I get thanked just for being me. I think we, most of us, go through life doing the best we can but too often it is our faults that are highlighted.  All too easy for us to forget to mention the good stuff!


She continued: I recently reconnected with several school friends and was amazed by their memories of me.  Rather comforting to hear I existed outside my everyday life if that makes sense.  It makes us realize it is important to share, to keep hold of the fragile threads that connect us with people who have touched our lives.


How true. How steadying. How seemingly difficult to comment on the good stuff.


Maybe, just for today, I will forget to mention the open cabinet doors and thank the ‘culprit’ for putting away the dishes. Perhaps I will not frown when my friend is late picking me up and thank them for such a generous gesture.  Heck, I might even tell the carwash youngster what a great job he did, even though he didn’t clean out the cup holder.  Keep doing these things, and – with luck - it becomes a habit to mention the good stuff. What a refreshing thought.


Think about it: Once we chase out trivial annoyances that consume so much of our brain; it’s miraculous how much that remains is good stuff.  Mention the good stuff.


Thanks Lorraine, I’m working on it.


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YES, but ...

MAY 15, 2022

We all know them.  Sometimes we are them.  The joy killers.  They kill the joy of a compliment.


You’ve seen and heard it.  “Your son did a great job with the laundry.”  Yes, but – I had to refold all the clothes.  “Wasn’t that a grand party at Sue’s?”  Yes, but – there was nothing for vegetarians.  “What a beautiful new home.” Yes, but – it needs a lot of work.  “Your presentation today was excellent.” Yes, but – I forgot the great opening I planned.  And the list goes on.  It’s a conundrum.


When my mother heard the words ‘yes, but’ she stopped the next words being uttered by saying “No but’s about it … you heard the message.”  Usually followed by “I am tired of all the ifs, ands or buts. Get on with it.”  It didn’t cure us.  It did make us think.


Why do we sabotage ourselves and the one giving the compliment? Greater minds have pondered this question.  The answers given are we don’t believe the person being complimented – ourselves or another – is worthy of the praise. We listen for errors instead of information. We believe our ‘but’ adds worth or clarity.


What to do?  Let’s rerun: Your son did a great job … “He sure did. Saved me a lot of time.” Grand party at Sue’s. “Indeed. It was good to see all our friends.”  Beautiful new home.  “Thank you. We feel very fortunate.”  Excellent presentation.  “Thank you. That means a lot.”


Give it a try … no ifs, ands or buts.  Sometimes all we need as a response is a simple ‘Thank you.”


Thanks Mom.




MAY 8, 2022

I read somewhere that millions of people go to bed hungry every night.  Not hungry for food.  Hungry for appreciation, a smile, a kind word, to be noticed, a sincere ‘well done.’


We all need that proverbial pat on the back once in a while.  No matter where it comes from.  If you are a Wordle fan like me and a million others – I’ll bet you nod and smile when the words Excellent, Splendid, or Awesome pop up.   What would be the point if no one acknowledged your genius for getting the right word in two or three attempts? Would you quit? Probably.


Why then are we so stingy with our appreciation and praise? A generous monetary tip is appreciated. It's soon spent.  Generous words go right to the heart amd stay there.  They make our day. We sleep well.


We lavish praise on children and pets for their efforts.  Eating with a spoon –- Big smile. Clap for Susie.  Fetching the ball – clever dog.  We do it without thinking.  It’s second nature.  Why and when does it stop? Why don’t we widen the circle?


The word 'thank you' is a good word.  It's even better when words are added that are special to the person being thanked.  The parking attendant who unjams your credit card. Thank you. I’m glad you were here to rescue me.  The checkout person.  You are really quick.  How do you do that? Thank you.  Acknowledging their skills means you noticed.


Some years ago, I took my grandsons to Chipotle.  The person bussing tables was doing a great job. What do you notice, I asked my grandsons? He’s working hard was the response. Why don’t you thank him, so he knows you noticed?  They did. And they pooled their enormous resources so they could leave ‘a bit extra.’


It’s that little bit extra that is often missing.  And it’s that little bit extra we miss.  The extra bit that tells us you really noticed.  It’s not just a courtesy ‘thank you’ – it’s ‘I noticed what you did, and it was good’ kind of thank you.


I got the wordle word my third attempt today. And wordle popped up and said IMPRESSIVE!  Wow.  I'll be back tomorrow.


That little bit extra makes a difference.


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MAY 2, 2022

May 1st was Youth Sunday at our Church.  Young people greeting us as we arrived.  Thanking us as we left.  Dozens of young people –handling in their own style every facet of the service.  They changed the format, changed the timbre of the voices, changed the fashion, changed the music - and most likely changed a lot of less than youthful minds.


Their theme for this Youth Sunday was PEACE.  The prayers, music, reflections, and mini sermons all performed and created by these young people certainly made us think about youth and peace.  In a different way.


One of the speakers said she had never known a time of peace.  It made her sad. She asked, “How can we change that?”  A graduating senior said because of his coach he developed peace of mind by learning patience.  He learned you can’t always be the star, sharing wins the game. Another young man talked about what peace could look like.  It starts, he said, by just being kind to people. By admitting that perhaps you and your team are not always right.


 The operative words from each speaker were: Listen. Learn. Share. Act. Faith. Kindness. Loyalty. Knowledge. Justice…and probably a few more I missed. 


Our congregation listened to these youthful speakers with awe.  Even clapped in a Presbyterian church.  Big smiles helped us recognize the parents, grandparents, and family members.  You have every reason to be proud. Keep smiling.


The sincerity of these young people is a gift.  A gift of hope.  They help us recall Nelson Mandela’s words: It always seems impossible until it’s done.  Or Madame Curie’s challenge: Don’t look at what has been done. Look at what still needs to be done.


I believe our young people are up to the challenges. Keep the faith.




APRIL 26, 2022

Today, April 26, 2022, is Frederick Law Olmstead’s 200th birthday.This remarkable man was responsible for designing 100 public parks, in addition to scores of livable neighborhoods and private gardens. He left an amazing legacy of natural beauty. What would he think if could see what we  are doing with our remaining precious land?


Olmsted’s first glimpse at what a park can be was in 1850 in Birkenhead, Lancashire.  My home county.  My sister lived in Birkenhead. Visits to the Park were frequent – especially during and following WWII.  The Park offered respite, moments of quiet, fresh air, a chance to run, play.  It was the Magic Kingdom of our youth.


Throughout the boroughs of London there are 3,000 public parks of different sizes. When rebuilding after the war, people wanted places of calm, close to their restored homes and shops. Parks were their answer.


In the 1960’s I revisited Birkenhead Park with our two young sons.  Just as  I had - they threw pebbles across the pond, marveled at the swans, ran like the wind, and picnicked in the grass. A Park will always be magic.  The perfect prescription for what ails us. Our place to breathe.


Parks need not cover vast acres.  A small oasis with trees, water, neighborly benches, lighting, and a cover to shield us from the rain is all we need.  Would developers be willing to create such neighborhood spaces, instead of filling every inch with concrete and structures? And with structures reaching ever skyward – blocking the sun from neighbors.  I believe many would.  They too are friends, neighbors, moms, dads.


We’re doing better with trails.  Trails are excellent, but they are not parks.  On a trail you keep moving.  In a park you stop, relax, breathe.


The New York Times created a special anniversary section devoted to Olmsted. They referred to him as a landscape architect, social reformer, and believer in public parks as a democratic idea.  They also noted that the young nation Olmsted served might be unrecognizable to him today, except for the rituals preserved and encouraged by his own creations. The rituals of slowing down, wondering at nature, sharing a picnic, reading a book, breathing,


What magical birthday gift could we offer a man whose legacy and gifts to us transcend centuries?  Maybe more small parks?  More green spaces where future generations can learn to breathe?  What a gift that would be.


Happy Birthday and thank you Frederick Law Olmsted.


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