Eleven Things I Want to Say

My writing coach, Jena Schwartz, has this awesome exercise where you stop, drop and write eleven things that are on your mind in the moment you are in. I don't know what it is about this exercise, but more often than not I find some sort of flow. Today, I thought I'd share with you my Eleven Things as they occurred to me on a mild Monday afternoon.


  1. I went to Iowa to visit my parents. Over the years, my mom has created her garden the way a painter might, equal parts intention and surprise. She places eye-popping color in unlikely places to break up all the green corn and hay and grass. I miss it’s prime time most summers. I made it a point not to miss it this year. As I looked around at what her hands made happen, a woman of 72, I am amazed and humbled. What will I be doing at 72?
  2. In the span of a month, two teenagers died in separate automobile accidents. Neither was wearing a seat belt. I don’t need to know the teenagers or the parents or friends to know the anguish and the pain and the horror of getting that call. It’s the same way I don’t need to live on the border to understand the grief of watching a child being lead away from you. Pain is pain is pain. And though I don’t know, I know. My heart has been beating an irregular rhythm for months now and I can’t seem to find a way to regulate it. So I do what I always do and I pull out a pan and bowl and scan my pantry’s contents and figure out something I make while I scroll through a list of people in my life who might need something made with my hands. It solves nothing but gives my brain a way of focusing and that is something. My heart, though? It’s still wonky.
  3. There are so many flies in our kitchen. Is it the ripening fruit or the chickens or the compost or all of the above? We have the swatting hour. It’s after dinner when Big Man and Thing 2 have a contest to see how many they can get in little increments of time. I have started calling it Fly:30 in my head- the way my dad calls Beer:30 between 4 and 5 in the afternoon.
  4. We have turned off the air conditioner because we’ve had some pleasant weather. I have the stove on (see number 2) and it’s not comfortable here and in a way, I like it because I am reminded that so much of life is about discomfort and our way through it. This is minor, but I am going with it. The air is staying off for a few more days.
  5. I haven’t been writing except in my head. I wrote a gorgeous piece on the way home from Iowa. My son was in the car and I was floating in a dream of an essay when he piped up about something he was listening to on the radio- a program about a culinary arts school in Cedar Rapids. I don’t recall a thing I wrote.
  6. My husband is a hard worker. His hobbies require physical effort and his work mental. He does not have enough time to do everything he wants. I have time and accomplish very little. It’s a weird life we live.
  7. As soon as I wrote number 6, I could hear friends saying, “Oh but you do this and that and…” That wasn’t the point of my writing, just so you know. It’s a simple observation about him and me. He is a doer and I am a thinker and it’s ok.
  8. The best part of me thinking is that I do grow. I have had a few breakthroughs in my life recently and all I want to really say is when I do give things my attention, they can get better and my heart does lift and my spirit lightens and for me this validates my heavy thinking.
  9. I have spent this list trying to write away from sadness. I’ve poured myself a cup of afternoon coffee in my favorite mug and I am thinking of Zeke, the farm Corgi who gets walks each day from mom and from dad. He is chunky and long and his eyes are so bright and ears attentive most times. I recall hearing somewhere that every couple needs a third thing- something outside kids if they have them and themselves to flourish and grow. Zeke is clearly my parent’s third thing. Big Man and I have cats and drinks by the river or on the point and travel and books and politics and as our teens grow, I hope we find more third things.
  10. You may be wanting to know if I escaped sadness. Is there an escape? I’ve always believed if you are human and paying attention your heart will break every day. I have learned, at an older age than I’d like to admit that using this pain can be useful. The trick is achieving that balance of feeling to motion. Feeling to motion. Not easy
  11. A breeze just flew in off the deck and brushed a pesky fly off my typing fingers. My daughter is home (the first time in 5 weeks) and has pulled out the mixer and is staring at a recipe she got from her grandmother. I don’t think she’s sad, but she is doing. My daughter has a hard time adjusting to schedules. From all to nothing is a great challenge and she is like her dad. She is creating something and so I am I, just in different ways.