23 Words from ChatGPT

Warning: I’m going to go way over my limit today.

I was going to cheat by asking ChatGPT to give me a profound quote of 23 words. What it gave me was 13 words and they weren’t terribly profound. I shouldn’t have been surprised — I mean, it’s not a person. What does artificial intelligence know about profundity? I thought that it would at least be able to count.

My oldest daughter had introduced me to ChatGPT on our road trip. For her work, it can be invaluable. It can summarize sections of Medicare policy that would take her hours to review. I played around with it and asked it about some local historical research I had been working on and it was less than helpful.

Over and over this evening I asked for 23 words. Not a single 23 word anything.

When I asked for funny, they were funny. Here are some of the best ones (word count in parentheses):

  • Yesterday I saw a guy spill all his Scrabble letters on the road. I asked him, ‘What’s the word on the street? (22)
  • I used to play piano by ear, but now I use my hands. (13)
  • Why don’t scientists trust atoms? Because they make up everything. (10)
  • Did you hear about the kidnapping at the playground? They woke up. (12)
  • “Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.” – Groucho Marx. (12)
  • Whenever I try to eat healthy, a chocolate bar looks at me and Snickers. (14)
  • Parallel lines have so much in common. It’s a shame they’ll never meet. (13)

Finally, I asked it to count the words in a sentence. It couldn’t.

Here are two screen shots to illustrate my point

So I asked to show me how it arrived at 23 words in one of the sentences it had given me:

Does this make sense to you?



On the morning of September 11, 2001, Francesca decided, “Today will be the day that I start taking care of myself.”

She slept in a little that morning. She had put in a 12 hour day the day before at her job on the 99th floor of the World Trade Center’s North Tower and was just leaving the house around 8:45 when her sister called.

Now she plays her cello every 9-11 at the time of impact. She remembers and she weeps.


Leaning Into Me


Fifteen months ago, I started seeing a therapist.

I remember at Hutchmoot, in one of those first years, a musician/artist talked about his therapist and then said, “Everyone needs a therapist.” There was a smattering of laughter, so he said, “I really mean it. It’s one of the best things I ever did.”

Once, when someone told me they had started therapy, I asked, “What’s it like?”

“It’s like having a paid friend. One that you can say anything to,” was the response.

That’s a pretty apt description.

My therapist’s name is Rachel.

I apologize a lot to her. “I’m sorry that I blather so much,” I say.

“It’s okay,” she replies.

“I forgot where I was going with this,” I say. “I ramble too much, don’t I?”

“Tell me more,” she replies.

One day, she said, “What would you say to young Sally?”

I stopped blathering and rambling and tried to think. Later that evening, I wrote a poem — and promptly forgot about it. That’s how I am these days — scattered and forgetful.

But each morning, I get up and try again. I begin the day with reading. It’s funny how the themes circle around. The same thoughts emerge from vastly different places.

I began the year pondering a quote by Howard Thurman:

I see you where you are, striving and struggling,
and in the light of the highest possibility of personality,
I deal with you there.

This morning, I read this in J. Phillip Newell’s Christ of the Celts:

“Alexander Scott, the nineteenth century Celtic teacher, uses the analogy of a plant suffering from blight. If such a plant were shown to botanists, even if the botanists had never seen that type of plant before, they would define it in terms of its essential life features. They would identify the plant with reference to its healthy properties of height and color and scent. They would not define it in terms of its blight. Rather they would say that the blight is foreign to the plant, that it is attacking the plant.”

I am so blighted. So very blighted.

Who am I in the light of the highest possibility of my personality? Who am I in my healthiest sense of my existence?

I went back and re-read that poem I wrote.

What would I say to young Sally? I would tell her that she is seen — and that even the blights can shape us.

Here’s my poem. Sorry for my blathering. I forgot where I was going with this.

I see you.
I see the dreams you’ve set aside
Over and over
For better dreams
No — for better realities

Because who could have imagined
You would be happy spending
So many years of

And singing silly songs
Not just With Larry
But with Philipowensamhelenjacobkarlmary
(I don’t think Laurel liked to sing
Or read, for that matter)

Of listening
And probing
For children’s dreams
So they might become the realities
That I missed

Once upon a time
I wanted to be a veterinarian
Because dogs and horses
Were so much safer
Than people

Then I wanted to make music
-al instruments
Because everyone knows
You can’t make a living making music

And linguistics –
To study languages
And understand their structures
“Anatomy of Language”
Sounds fascinating to me

But is that even a class?
Human anatomy is a much easier
Class to find
And I would have taken it
In my last dream of being
A physical therapist

But I married
And became a mom

I see that young woman
Who couldn’t stand on her own
And didn’t have someone to say,

Instead I had someone who said, “Come.”

And I went

I see you, and the dreams you’ve set aside
I see the rich reality you’ve lived
I see it all and, yes, I feel some pride —
For what is Christ but to give and give

Up dreams for something better, something good


Partial Transcript: Thistle Do Nicely

Or: 13 Minutes of Absolute Nonsense

Or: Do they ever actually talk about Songs of Scotland?!

Rory:  Welcome to the Scottish podcast by Scottish people about Scottish things. We’re three lifelong friends and displaced Scotsmen who like to get together to talk about our homeland, the weird stuff that happens there, and to remind us why we are the way we are. Welcome to “Thistle Do Nicely.”

Hello, everybody, and welcome to today’s Story with Rory, or is it going to be a song with Rory? I am joined by my backing vocalists, Jonathan and Christopher.

Jonny:  Hello

Chris: Hi

Rory: I was really hoping you were going to sing in harmony there.

Jonny (laughing, then singing): Helloooooooo

Chris (singing harmony): Hellooooooo

Rory (singing bass): Hellooooo …. Ah, yes

Jonny: We’ll fix it and post. Don’t worry

Chris (singing the tune of “The Wellerman”): Rory is Heather’s man’s son. He wanted a pod so we played along.

Rory: Ah, yeah, well. We’re a bit punchy because it has been a busy week, but also we’re going to be talking about songs of Scotland today. So, we’ve been listening to some incredibly patriotic traditional Scottish songs for the past 24 hours and we’re excited to talk to you about them. I think before we do that —

Jonny: We’re, like, the past 24 minutes, I think, in some instances.

Chris: If that

Rory: I am trying to create a theater of the mind, Jonathan

Jonny: Sorry, I’d like the listeners to know how close it was to this episode not happening.

Rory: I —

Jonny: We made it.

Rory: I would like the listeners to believe that we spend weeks and weeks researching each episode ahead of time, but —

Chris: It was remarked by my other half that Rory successfully guilted me into doing the episode after a particularly frantic coming-home period.

Rory: Yeah, but — you’re going to come out of it feeling better. I know that. This is going to be — I think that’s what men in their thirties do now instead of going to therapy. We just get a podcast. So…

Chris: I think you might be on to something.

Rory: I think this is going to make you feel better. Yeah. Before we start talking about songs of Scotland, let’s take a wee rumble in the sporran. Wee rummage.

Chris: Yeah, if you like. Absolutely.

Rory: Absolutely. So I discovered the other day that we get reviews on other websites outside of Apple podcasts, and, you know, if you have a moment right now, go and review us. It’s very helpful. 

But… uh, yeah… I discovered that we get reviews on things like Amazon and Audible and stuff like that and I found this amazing one from Mary Elizabeth — I’ll leave your last name out just in case child services get involved. 

So her title: Here’s a F—ing Five Star Review!

Chris: Not our words, mums.

Rory: No, no — I’m quoting here — “Loving this podcast boys and enjoy the banter and swearing. Even my 12 year old enjoys it.” So, uh, Mary, you’re obviously raising a well-rounded child there. Congratulations. And shout out to Mary’s child.

Chris: I’ve got an aggressive one as well. Real aggressive tones in these. This is from Danny Boy and Lovely Laura, which starts, “Alright, ballbags —

Rory: Nice. Love it.

Jonny: Great

Chris: (reading) “How are youse doing? It’s Danny Boy and the birds here. That’s Laura.” Of course. As if we would know who that is. “And the birds.“ Obviously Laura.

Rory: Do you think she’s writing it over his shoulder?

Chris: (imitating Laura’s voice) “Tell them who I am! Tell them my name! I’m not a bird! I’m Laura!” Hang on. I’ll get there. That’s the wrong accent for her. “We’ve been listening from near enough the start and loving it. We’re from EK—“ for our readers, that’s East Kilbride which is famous for its roundabouts and cinema —

Rory: Yeah

Chris: And that’s it. Nothing else. “Laura is from Tyrone in Ireland and we’ve been living in Aus for 3.5 years.” I’m assuming Australia, not Austria.

Rory: Quite the cosmopolitan couple.

Chris: Could be Austria. That’s the spy capital of the world. A Scottish and an Irish spy in Vienna.

Rory: It could be that early 90s prison with just incredible violence.

Chris: No, it’s spelled A-U-S so —

Rory: So it’s not the HBO mini-series

Chris: Or the fantastic emerald wonder

Rory: Oh yes that

Chris: With munchkins as well. Um… “It’s class to listening to boys from home talking shite.” I think that’s offensive.

Rory: It’s a different podcast.

Chris: “No nonsense, of course.” He acknowledges that we are no-nonsense podcast. “Seeing as we are so similar — the Scottish and the Irish — we’d love to hear a podcast of Scottish v. Irish. Obviously, Scotland would be the better side.” So that’s one option, chaps. I mean, we’re going to have to do Scotland v Ireland at some point.

Rory: Yeah. We’ve talked about this a couple of times… erm….

Chris: We just have to get around to it.

Rory: But it was more we’ve talked about doing Scotland v Ireland — which was better or explaining to people the difference between Scotland and Ireland

Chris: I don’t think we need to do a debate episode of which is better, just one explaining why Scotland is better.

Rory: Right. Yes.

Jonny: But we’re sort of, in a way, kindred spirits with the Irish, are we not? You know it’s a bit different relationship than between us and the British

Rory: Oh, god, yes, of course.

Chris: They’re the other side of the same coin, but that other side is really scratched up, like a cat has got to it.

Rory: And just slightly more drunk than us.

Chris: Hah 

Chris: Other thing he wants to mention is — and this might be up your street, Jonny — Baker Street, if you will — “one of the things we don’t debate on is Gerry Rafferty being a weapon of an underrated Scottish musician. I would love to hear a podcast on the legend. If you haven’t listened to him much, we highly recommend the album ‘City to City’ and ‘Night Owl’

Rory: Agreed

Chris: Must love that. “Love, hugs, and kisses, Danny Boy and Lovely Laura, you bunch of posh pricks.”

Rory: Accurate. Great. Also, excellent use of the word weapon there. Haven’t heard that in a wee while. That was brilliant.

Chris: Yeah. Yeah. And we’ll do a — Rory alluded to Gerry Rafferty in our Billy Connolly episode.

Rory: Yes.

Chris: It remains one of our best downloaded episodes every week. It’s always in the top three for some reason.

Rory: yeah

Chris: I noticed that

Rory: Well, he’s just a legend and I think people are downloading it mistakenly because they think Billy Connolly is actually on it so

Chris: We probably shouldn’t have headlined it “Exclusive Interview”

Rory: I’m kind of tempted just to label every one of them

Jonny: You could put his name in brackets at the end of every title. 

Rory: Yeah

Jonny: “Scottish Music [Billy Connolly]”

Chris: I mean, yeah, if we cornered the SEO market on Billy Connolly, that might be it.

Rory: Well, Billy, thanks for writing in. Laura, more effort next time. Be less Irish, I guess.

Chris: It wasn’t Billy. It was Danny.

Rory: Oh, god. Uh … I’m dyslexic. They’re basically the same thing. Sorry, Danny.

Chris: Sorry, Danny, you ballbag.

Rory: Uh, Jonny. You got anything in the sporran?

Jonny: Uh, do I? No, I don’t think so. Do I? Am I supposed to? I thought it was just that!

Rory: This is YOUR sporran!

Chris: I’ll read another one, if you want. I’ve got the sporran in front of me.

Rory: Go for it.

Chris: This one is from Susannah. She said, Hi —

Rory: Oh, I read this one! This one is chaos.

Chris: It is chaos. Yes. “From what I’ve heard, you long for new listeners to give a shout-out ”  – this is true – “and tell the world about this new inspiring pod you’ve been listening to” – this is also true – “so here I am although nobody but the three of you can hear me” – well, not any more — “I haven’t been through all your material yet, but getting there” — lazy — “Some brilliant stuff. Always at least four laughs every episode.” Just four.

Rory: Only four. Yeah.

Jonny: I think that’s okay going, to be honest. Four really long extended laughs.

Rory: It sounds, it sounds bad. Like an hour long episode.

Chris: Yeah, considering it’s an hour long episode, that’s a laugh every fifteen minutes, but she does say “at least” so I’d like to know which episode she just was like, “no.”  Although I do have an inkling of what that episode is from a Facebook message I’m about to read out. So she says, “I’m not so much into tennis but still almost all of Andy Murray has passed my ears. Perhaps your humorous tone helps get it done. Like a ‘spoonful of sugar’.” Then she sent a cartoon as well but I’m not going to click on that because it’s probably going to make my phone crash to be honest.

Jonny: Uh… thanks, Susannah.

Rory: I liked that email. It was kind of a chaotic, all-over-the-place email. I really enjoyed it.

Chris: Uh, yeah. So that was from Danny Boy.

Rory: Or was that Billy?

Chris: Yeah, Billy as well. And then where would be without a rummage in the sporran without a message from Sally

Jonny: Sally! She’s back!

Rory: Yeah

Chris: I mean, you’re going to have to do a song for Sally at this rate.

Jonny: Could we do a mega-mix of all the Sally-songs in one episode?

Chris: Do you remember last week we briefly alluded to the fact that the Scottish football episode, we said that that was probably our most self-indulgent episode so far? Well, we were wrong apparently. Sally tells us that the most self-indulgent episode was neither football nor rugby. Hands down winner for that would be the Drew McIntyre episode.

Rory. Yep. Accurate.

Chris: It was very early on in our running. I think episode 4 about the WWE wrestler. Sally, I’m actually wearing my Drew McIntyre t-shirt as we’re talking about this right now, so

Chris: Also — she’s very honest, Sally

Rory: Yeah, she called you out and she is correct.

Chris: I mean, I’m not going to take it too personally considering one email called out Andy Murray for being boring and this one called out Drew McIntyre for being self-indulgent, and they were both episodes that I led. But, you know that’s —

Rory and Chris: Neither here nor there.

Chris: I’m not a leader of this podcast. I’m here for reactions, okay? So anyway, she says, “I listened to it a few weeks ago because I was going back to listen to episodes I hadn’t heard yet.  Let’s just say that, if that had been the first episode I had listened to, you would have one less fan.”

Rory: I love it. That’s amazing honesty. I love that so much.

Chris: Then, I think she realizes that she’s maybe gone too far here — you know, I sent her lots of pictures of me crying — then she says, “It wasn’t that bad. Just not my cup of tea.” Then she says, “I think I’ve sent links to episodes to all of my children now and made one daughter listen to hours of Thistle Do Nicely while we were on a college-hunting trip. So there’s that.” Whoever your daughter is, Sally, I’m so sorry that you had to listen to hours of this nonsense.

Rory: Yes!

Chris: Um — it’s not fair on you and if it’s put you off any colleges going forward in life, you know there’s other things to do. You don’t have to go to college. You know, you can make a lot of money as a plumber.

Rory: Sally’s daughter – if you are in danger, email us. We will try and help because it sounds like you’re being trapped and forced to listen to absolute nonsense.

Jonny: driving around the country listening to only this

Rory: Yeah, clawing at the door, trying to get out.

Chris: Later on, she says, “One last question – am I allowed to say butterscotch or do I have to call it toffee?” I explained to her that they are two different things.

Rory: No! Oh — you know what she’s calling out? The fact that we were complaining about the word ‘scotch’ and scotch whisky — was that last week or a couple of weeks ago? That’s what she’s saying. Oh — that’s very sweet of you, but no, it’s okay.

Chris: I explained to her that they’re not the same thing so it doesn’t matter.

Rory: Yeah, but she doesn’t want to say the word ‘scotch’ because we find it offensive.

Chris: Well, what would you call butterscotch otherwise?

Rory: Nothing. That’s why we’re saying it’s alright to say it.

Chris: Butter-pieces. Butter-whisky.

Rory: Butter-Scottish person, or Butter-scottish candy.

Jonny: Butterjock.

Chris: Then she wrote, “I just saw your sporran request and none of this is sporran worthy.” Then I told her that we were going to read out everything. (Pause) Then she said, “I was just kidding about the—“

Rory: Oh my god! It’s still going!

Jonny: She’s just driven off the road.

Chris: Yeah, her daughter has actually taken her phone right now. Anyway, Sally, I know you’re probably embarrassed by all this but we love you, love all your messages, love the fact that you keep coming back for more. And, uh, yeah, there’s no other Scottish wrestlers as far as I’m aware so we’re not going to do any other episodes on that.

Rory: Sally — the fourth member of this podcast. Love it. Absolutely love it.

Chris: Ringo. Ringo of the podcast

Jonny: She’s like our George Martin — to us, the Beatles

Rory: I mean, thank you everybody for getting in contact…



When I was a little girl, I sometimes had to wait in my father’s office for a ride home at the end of the day. His office was in a trailer attached to the hospital. It was “temporary” — which meant he was there for at least ten years before he got a “real” office. My father was never a complainer.

Anyway, his secretary had a spot out there, too. Sometimes, she would be busy transcribing his dictated notes, and she would let me listen to his voice by putting her headphones on my head and pushing the pedal at her feet. (All you HIPAA people probably have the hair standing up on the back of your neck while reading this.)

One of my father’s secretaries

I found myself thinking about her the other day when I was trying to transcribe something. Okay — I was thinking more about that foot pedal and how handy it was. I actually looked to see if they still sell something like that. Of course they do.

The days of cassette tapes are long gone. Now it’s a software bundle, headphones, and a foot pedal — and lots of practice — and poof! — you’re a transcriptionist.

Actually, I’m sure there’s a lot more to it. I’ve tried my hand at transcribing in the past — just short little things, a minute or two in length. It has always surprised me how long and arduous the task is, but, you know, the things we do for love and all that.

I have a friend who can’t listen to podcasts. Before I even posted about Thistle Do Nicely, I thought of her and started transcribing an episode. I didn’t get very far. Transcribing a conversation is a lot harder than transcribing a dictated note or a lecture.

After I posting about the show last week, I dug out my start of a transcript and worked on it a little more.

Like several hours more.

I only got 13 minutes 35 seconds in and had over 2300 words. I left the other 57 minutes for another time.

To quote the Thistle Do guys, a lot of it is “absolute nonsense.”

It’s my kind of nonsense though.

Hats off to all transcriptionists! I appreciate all your work!


Thistle Do Nicely

Do you remember March 2020? The world turned upside down.

My father had passed away near the end of 2019 — an event that had deeply affected me. The pandemic was a different upheaval, one that involved isolation, masks, shortages at the grocery store, and a lot of fear of the unknown.

As COVID settled in, I decided to make the best of it. I took a few online art classes. I zoomed with friends and family. I started learning Scottish Gaelic via DuoLingo.

Learning Gaelic led to trying to learn Scottish history and more about Scottish culture. I binge-watched Shetland. I searched for Scottish podcasts. I read a few books about Scotland. I traced my own family tree to Edinburgh.

The pandemic dragged on.

Cooperstown that summer was delightfully boring. No baseball swarms. Just restaurants trying to entice the locals to get takeout.

The pandemic dragged on some more.

I began driving to Syracuse to help with my grandchildren and found myself needing to fill the two hours of drive-time. I think it was late-August when I first listened to Thistle Do Nicely.

Can I just say here — publicly, out loud — that I cannot imagine getting through the pandemic without Rory, Chris, and Jonny?


These guys make me laugh out loud every single time I listen.

Then I would feel guilty about the whole thing.

I mean, their humor — especially early on — is roughly 5th grade boy. Episode #3 Fartin’ In Tartan, for example. Yes, I listened to it. It wasn’t all about flatulence. It was about The Highland Games.

F-bombs are sort of a fixture in the podcast. They’ve gotten more restrained, but in the early days, I remember thinking, If my kids knew how much I was loved this, they would be shocked. I’ve been known to turn off movies because I hate listening to bad language. I’d say, “Nobody talks like,” but it turns out that people do — and they come from Glasgow.

And f–ing doesn’t necessarily mean f–ing.

Listening to the show is like sitting in a pub and eavesdropping on three guys in the next booth. They laugh at themselves and laugh at the world — but never in a mean-spirited or condescending way. They have running jokes, like calling their listeners “readers.” They love puns and wordplay. They love a good story.

Some of the best stories were told by Rory. In their Macbeth episode, he found a fascinating bit of New York history about the Astor Place riots. As much as I love Scottish history, I love New York history even more. In their current episode, Rory tells a story about a failed hanging. When I was researching Cooperstown history, I found the story of a hanging-that-wasn’t, and this reminded me of that.

Rory is the main storyteller. I think he roped his friends into doing this podcast. He feels, to me, like the the steadying force behind the whole thing. He is earnest and sincere, occasionally befuddled, but always a good sport about his friends’ antics.

Jonny is both a musician and artist. He wrote a song to the tune of The Wellerman and sang it for the podcast. You can listen to it in the episode about Charles Rennie Mackintosh. I’m pretty sure Jonny also designed their logo.

Chris is the wit. He comes out with the pithy zingers. He teases. He creates the running joke and carries it through. James McElvoy. Belgium. Charles Darwin. Patents. Readers. You may have to listen to know what I’m talking about.

I’m embarrassed to say that I am a running joke on the show. I unsuspectingly wrote to them after about a month of listening just to tell them that I like the show. They read the email out loud. On the show.

When they ask for questions (and even when they don’t), I send them questions. I can’t help it. I have a thousand questions.

They’re taking a break starting August — and I’m already dreading it.

At the same time, I am so very thankful. In the dark world of a global pandemic and in the wake of the grief of my father’s passing, they brought me joy and laughter.

Well done, lads.



Several weeks ago Laurel walked in the kitchen and I was writing a message to a podcast that I listen to. “What are you doing?” she asked.

I told her.

She looked at my phone and said, “They write back?! You write back and forth?! That’s kind of creepy, Mom.”

I didn’t send the message that night. I wanted to tell them that they mispronounced Evelyn Waugh’s name. And that she’s a he. A bunch of other listeners did it for me, though.

But Laurel was right. I do have a running conversation with these guys. Sort of.

I asked Mary if that was creepy. She knows how much I enjoy this particular podcast.

“Do you like it or do you find it creepy when people contact you about your blog?” she asked.

Hmmm…. Mostly, it’s very encouraging.

Of course there was that one person who was downright nasty.

Early on I also had a heated exchange with another blogger when I referred to my mother’s Alzheimer’s as a gift. I still stand by that one — because in the humble obscurity of taking care of the most basic bodily needs of a person, love can wash away old conflicts. That is a gift.

I’ve also had a lot of encouraging words — some on the blog itself, some in cards sent to my home, some sent directly to my email. If someone really wanted to track me down, it’s not hard, I’ve learned. People have sent me gifts: poems, CDs, books, bookmarks. I’ve met some people face to face. I’ve corresponded with others via email and snail mail. I count many as friends. I hope that’s not creepy.

The thing with this particular podcast is that I have become one of their running “jokes.” Every time they read off comments, there I am. “And where would we be without a comment from Sally,” they’ll say — and I cringe just a little while at the same time feeling happy. It’s weird.

In Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen), Mr. Bennet said, ” For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”

There’s also a scene in Jayber Crow (Wendell Berry) where he arrives at a get-together of some sort in Port WIlliam and the other men tease him about something. Jayber realized that the ribbing was a sign of acceptance.

At this point, some of you may be wondering what podcast I’m referring to.

And I’ll tell you.

In my next post.

Life · Uncategorized


The first duty of love is to listen.

Paul Tillich
Gradačac castle

(Warning: a late-ish post after a long day. My sole New Year’s resolution was to write every day, and, doggone it, I’m not giving up in the first ten days of January!)

My son came downstairs this morning while I was working on Duolingo. I’ve been using the app to learn Scottish Gaelic. “I find that really inspirational, Mom, that you work so diligently on that,” he said.

Mind you, Laurel, found it less inspirational when she was talking to me yesterday and I opened Duolingo. She was talking away and I interrupted with something profound like, “OH MY GOODNESS! LOOK! LOOK! LOOK!” They had just added a whole bunch more levels of Gaelic and I thought I was finishing the only remaining lesson available to me.

“See? You never listen to me,” Laurel said.

I repeated back to her verbatim whatever it was she had just said to me — but honestly, I was pretty excited that I now could continue learning Gaelic. Unfortunately today, I have no idea what it was she said to me.

I was planning to write a post about learning new languages and tell a sweet little story of an experience I had while in Gradačac, Bosnia. I said something in Croatian (which is close cousin to Bosnian) to a girl in a souvenir shop. She whispered something to her friend and then answered me in English. The friend told me that was the first time she has been brave enough to speak English to an American.

But the Laurel interaction niggles at me.

On the one hand, I connected with a teenager in Bosnia several years ago and remember it, despite the fact that that was the extent of our relationship. On the other hand, I was not giving my own daughter full attention yesterday morning and she felt the sting of it. Which of these people is more important to me?

Laurel. Hands-down, without-a-doubt Laurel.

Yet a connection over a cultural divide is also important. My poor Croatian betrayed my non-fluency and gave a girl a little boldness. I’m glad I was brave enough to risk sounding foolish.

So, if, as Paul Tillich says, the first duty of love is to listen, I need to do better. I need to close my computer, put down my device, and pay attention to the people who are most important to me and right in the room with me.

But somewhere down the line in duties of love, there has to be something about remembering those little moments, those little interactions, when you connect with someone else, maybe even someone from a totally different culture, and you’re both the better for it.