Grasshopper Mind
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YOU CAN'T THROW IT AWAY

FEBRUARY 18, 2024

What to do on dark and dreary days? The kind of days  when the outdoors do not look inviting.  Some of us read, write, play mind games, call friends.    And then there are the neat freaks.  We play a game called What can I get rid of?  I played that game again recently.

 

A lof of the decisions were easy.  Old CD's - out.  Pointy-toed shoes- away you go.  Pillows without purpose?  Gone.  And then we come to the drawer (it used to be a box) titled cards, letters, friend photos, kids drawings.   Each gets a new review.  Everything jolts a memory. Brings a smile.  Begs the question - whatever happened to?  Before you know it, hours have gone by.  Not a single item or memory has been added to the 'done with you' pile.

 

Strange, or maybe not so strange, what we value.  What gives us forever joy.  It's never the once loved 'stuff.'  It's the threads of our lives.  The message that says 'it's a  lonesome old town when you're not around...'  Aaaw.  Letters from your exuberant college aged kids. You really said that?   Baby photos.  Oh my gosh, look at them now.  It is the mosaic of people and places that have shaped who and what we are.

 

How could we throw any of our life away?  How dare anyone think of it as clutter.  Back into the magical drawer you go.  In the meantime, when the next decluttering urge hits; there will likely be two drawers titled 'this is life, do not throw away.'

 

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DON'T SAY YOU'RE BORED

FEBRUARY 3, 2024

On rare occasions during my growing up years, I'd moan that I was bored.  The annoying and unsympathetic response was always: Life is boring only to boring people. Well, I certainly did not want to be one of those.   If I persisted about the lack of anything interesting to do 'around here,' a variety of opportunities would immediately be presented.

 

The opportunities usually involved domestic chores, helping an elderly neighbor, or worst of all going to the grocery store.  You can see why audible  'boring' moans were rare.  The results were never in my favor.  The cure for boredom in our home was to keep moving, stay busy, make yourself useful.

 

Our parents believed if we spent too much time thinking about ourselves it would lead to afflications worse than boredom. They were convinced self absoprtion would hamper our brains from expanding, and even worse - it would lead to laziness. Laziness being high up on their list of mortal sins. 

 

If I close my eyes, I can still hear 'don't tell me there is nothing to do, there is always something to do. Just look around.'

 

Once again - they were right.  Look around.  There's always something to do .  Some of the things to do are actaully fun and refreshing.

 

Make yourself useful ... 

 

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THE SOUND OF SILENCE

JANUARY 19, 2024

Remember when your mother would raise her arm, and sometimes her voice,  and say 'STOP all that noise. I can't hear myself think.'   As a youngster I'd wonder - how silly is that? Who can hear themselves think? Now, as restorative quiet becomes more scarce, I understand.

 

I used to relish my quiet solo walks.  It was a time to clear my head.  Let new thoughts find a place to lodge. I'd return home rejuvenated.  Those renewing walks seem  a long noisy time ago

 

 

Today my walk was filled with the noise of leaf blowers, lawn mowers, barking dogs, other walkers on their phones, automobiles with music blaring.  I returned home with a furrowed brow, and a headache.

 

Why is  quietness so difficult to find ?  AI can create artistic masterpieces, we can put humans on the moon, produce driverless cars.  Is there a reason we can't make silent lawn mowers, 'phones that don't beep, elevators that don't give inane instructions - floor 7, step back, the door is closing.  Why must every waiting room, restaurant, and even restrooms have  background music?   Are robots trying to further reduce all human conversation? Have we become allergic to silence?

 

There are many enjoyable sounds that break the stillness.  The sound of the wind, rain, even thunder and lightning. Hearing small children prattling together.  The sounds of life.  The sounds we should  listen to.

 

The rest?  As an almost-Luddite, I raise my arms in a silent plea - 'stop all that noise ... I can't hear myself think.'

 

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PROOF IS IN THE OUTCOME

JANUARY 4, 2024

This week I attended  a 92nd birthday celebration for a good friend.  Nothing unusual about that, you say?  This gathering was not just unusual, it was fun, thought provoking, and rare. The honoree was a man, the party was planned and hosted by his wife of 60+ years.  All the guests were women, fondly referrred to and accepted with joyful smiles, as 'the chics."

 

Our birthday fellow got to speak to his chic friends.  No notes.  Memories and magic.  His focus was not on pride in his many accomplishments and awards. It was on gratitude. He was grateful for his family, and named each one.  He was grateful for friends.  For the opportunity to serve - his country, his community, and those in need of support.  Gratitude oozed out of every pore of his being.

 

The chics beamed.  Their admiration and inspiration had been well placed. This was their friend who helped shatter the glass ceiling because it was the right thing to do.  Because it was just.  Because he was grateful for the opportunity to create needed change.

 

Once again - that magic word - gratitude - speaks calmy over the years.  The proof it works was on display as we listened to our friend. 

 

Here's to age 93 and and beyond.

One of the grateful chics.

 

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YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS

DECEMBER 31, 2023

 It's NEW Year's Eve. The messages are clear :Out with the old. In with the new.  Hold on, not so fast. Years cannot be erased or forgotten by the flip of a calendar. The click of a button.

 

The year ending is full of memories.  So is the year before that.  And the one before that. I don't make New Year's 'resolutions'.  Each year around this time I find myself remembering the fun expressions of family and friends no longer with us. These  are the memories that stick, no matter how many  new years roll around.

 

Memories are messages we carry forever.

 

Do make room for the new.  The old will still be there.  So drink a cup of kindness yet to those who made so many years memorable.   You are their legacy.

 

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WHICH WOLF WILL WIN

DECEMBER 20, 2023

This week a good friend gifted me a small and beautiful book titled 'Rules for a Knight.'  It is definitely one to share.  Assuming you have received a bounty of traditional Christmas wishes to relish, I thought I'd share a small portion of my gift.

 

This page is written as Grandfather and Grandson are camping by the ocean during troubling times in Cornwall, England.

 

Grandfather says "While I teach you about the ways of war, I want you to know the real struggle is between the two wolves that live inside each of us."

 

"One wolf is evil -  it is anger, envy, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, deceit, false pride."  "The other," he continued, as he poked the embers of the fire --

 

"The other wolf is good.  It is joy, love, hope, serenity, humility, loving-kindness, forgiveness, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, faith."

 

"Which wolf will win, Grandfather?" asked the boy.

 

The old man stared into the glare of the flames, and replied -

 

Whichever one you feed.

 

Peace on earth. Good will to mankind.

 

Joan

CAN WE AFFORD THIS

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,


 

A HALF-PENNY WILL DO

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,

Joan

 

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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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WORDS ARE POWERFUL

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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