I do think I’m funny (so you don’t have to)

_ _ _ _    _ _ _     _ _ _ _ _


To hydrolyze an acid chloride

To convert acetal back to carbonyl and alcohol

To grow a flower

To rinse shampoo out of your eyes

To clean chalk from your sleeves

To clear bird poop from your windshield

To brew coffee

To soothe a fish

To quench a thirst

To make 100 students grin

(and not care whether they’re laughing at you)

(or with you)

(because laughing is the point)

If you lie

or err

and lie louder

to hide the last one

those lies will hang


in bags

around your neck

and ankles

as you back down the cliff

 no hands


no net

and we’ll watch

and wait

for your fall.


But like trust

a rope

can catch you

and help you

before it snaps.

Though frayed and weak

it can be mended

with truth



The repair threads

for the rope


I’m sorry

I was wrong

I’ll be more careful

It won’t happen again

I promise

My word is good.


And we’ll try

to believe you




and want

to trust

so we can sleep

and hope

and laugh again.

So we can


and rest

and live



Think before you speak.

Ask for and follow advice.

Consider others before yourself.

Do your job.

Inspired by a poem by my teenage daughter called “Trust is a Rope” ~2000

And then came smartphones

and we all got dumber.

When your great-grandmother was young, the telephone was invented. There were switchboards and operators, and when the phone rang, it was always answered, even though they never knew who it would be. That was part of the thrill.

When your grandmother was a young mom, all of her friends had a telephone in their kitchens. The telephone was screwed high on the wall so the kids couldn’t get to it, and had a long cord. Grandma (called Mommy back then) would chat away the morning, drinking coffee, maybe smoking a cigarette, with the kids playing at her feet while she washed the dishes. She loved this connection to her friends, mother, sisters and other housewives, and she knew all of their phone numbers by heart.

When your mother was young she might have had a princess phone in her bedroom, and maybe even a second line that only rang in her room. But more likely the phone in her room was connected to the one in the kitchen, so when she was talking to her boyfriend, she’d have to scream at her little brother when he picked up the kitchen phone to listen in.

By the time you came along, some people had car phones. Julia Roberts carried a cellular phone as big as a brick in movies. And when your older cousin learned to drive, your aunt bought a cell phone for her to carry, just for emergencies, so she could call her mom (who sat by the house phone waiting) when she arrived safe.

Recently, it seems every adult in the world got a cell phone. Some carry them in their pocket; most require one hand to hold it wherever they go. Most started texting within the last decade. The phones got smaller and smarter, and we learned to play games on them, and check our email, and avoid answering when it rings because we always know who is calling.

You do not remember the world without today’s phones, and likely can’t imagine a flip-phone, or figure out how to dial an old rotary phone. You used to dig your mom’s phone out of her purse and looked cute swiping the pictures, accidentally calling your grandmother, and once you called Jamaica. You had your own phone when you were eight because you begged, and did the thing all kids do: convinced your parents you were the only third-grader without one. They love you, and wanted you to be quiet so they could bend their neck to their own phones, so they got you one. You became peaceful and enjoyable in the car. You no longer poked your little sister and made her cry. You no longer spoke to your family.

Now you are in college. You walk across the gorgeous campus and don’t see it because you are looking down. You don’t make eye contact or acknowledge others. You are safe in your bubble. You never feel like you are alone because you can always take out your phone and look busy and important. You pick it up and check messages, tweets, instagram, facebook, snapchat, and even email a thousand times a day. You reach for it as soon as you wake up. You even keep it on your lap in class.

It’s ok. You’re an adult and you get to  decide how to use your time. But what will you tell your parents when your grades aren’t great? You’ll say you always go to class, but can you say you listen in class? Can you promise them their hard-earned tuition money, that they scraped together for fifteen years instead of buying shoes or taking a vacation, is appreciated so much that you leave your phone on silent, zipped up in your bag, for every second of lecture? Can you promise your grandfather who gave you the “family scholarship” and his old car, and pays your car insurance, that you are not wasting his generosity?

They used to say a mind is a terrible thing to waste. Today young people squander their entire lives, neck bent, fingers tap-tap-tapping away on an electronic gadget provided by a generous adult who loves them.


still a penny a pound

Three boxes of tissues for my sore, sick nose rode the conveyor belt. Gross nasal spray and a lone potato followed.

I waited.

The nice cashier announced the total of my purchases and I sighed and said, very sweetly, “It didn’t ring up the potato right.” I shuffled in my purse while she investigated.

“What’s wrong?” she asked while she bagged the soon-to-be-my-stuff.

“Your potatoes are still on super sale. That potato should NOT be 69 cents.”

Still, she was stumped so I helped some more: “The sale says they’re a penny a pound. It’s great. I’m coming back after work with a dime to get ten pounds.”

She looked at me like I was batty. I had no defense, so I smiled at her. “Hold on,” she said, and picked up her microphone. “I need a price check on seven.”

A couple started unloading their groceries on the conveyor. I felt a little sorry for them. This might take a while.

In a short-sleeve collar shirt that used to be white, and choked by a brown tie, the bespectacled manager approached with authority. JoAnne gave him room to check things out. He looked down at me and asked, “What’s the problem?” That’s when I remembered I could clear things up with a picture so I whipped out my phone.

“Look. The potatoes are point nine eight cents a pound.” He looked at the picture I’d taken last week and back at the toilet paperlike receipt waiting to be ripped across steel zigzagged teeth.

“It’s right,” he assured me. “98 cents a pound.”

“No, look. It says point nine eight.”

“Right,” he nodded helpfully, “that’s ninety-eight cents.”

“Nooooo. It would be 98 cents if it said ‘point nine eight dollars,’ but it says ‘point nine eight cents.’ See?”

And somewhere deep inside he remembered his deathly fear of decimals and succumbed to my will (I mean, my logic). He tap tap tapped on the keys. The 69 cents came off my tab.

He tap tap tapped some more. He shook his head and clasped his molars together in concentration. Finally he turned to JoAnne and said, “There. All fixed.” And he turned on his heel and walked away.

JoAnne took a peek before she said, “I don’t know what you two just did.”

I smiled at her. “That’s ok. He fixed it.” And I walked out with a free potato, because he couldn’t figure out how to charge me a fraction of a penny.


I just boiled my free potato and ate her all buttered and salted. Delicious.