Exercises from a Writing Workshop

October 23, 2012

by Sarabeth

Inspired by the words "Sweet Sixteen" and the colors on paint swatches: "acorn squash," "summer squash," "Beach Ball Yellow," "Optimistic Yellow," "Daffodil," "Decisive Yellow" and "Cheerful"


I've always wanted to write a sort of retrospective memoir, one of those "Back when I was Sweet Sixteen"-kinds of pieces that evoke honeysuckle evenings and vacations by the boardwalk near the sea.

Sometimes I wonder if anyone's life is as romantic to themselves as it seems from the outside. Or if anyone can truly know the indelible romance that another person feels on the inside.

I also wonder if you can re-write memories even in your own brain, simply by convincingly re-telling a story as you wish it had happened.


I keep trying to like acorn squash, to make it in anyway more delightful than butternut, or worth the trouble of hacking off the stem. But it continues to remain, in my opinion, watery and yet more trouble than zucchini; kind of sweet but not nearly dense enough.

At least it's beautiful.


I wonder: how do they crimp the seams on a beach ball? The spots between the patches of color, where the vinyl needs to be stuck together, but not so tightly that it falls apart (the ways Jem's wax-paper-sandwiching-leaves fell apart with too-vigorous ironing).


I wonder who I'd be if I was always optimistic? Maybe still me, but bubbly and prone to gales of laughter no matter what, because…well, because I knew I'd like whatever ended up happening.

What if I actually couldn't possibly dislike anything? Nothing at all. How would I describe my day?

Well, for starters, I'd begin with the super-super-duper events (since none were bad, I'd just have to prioritize from good-->better!).

--I slept better than usual!

--Pumped more milk, too.

--And my nipples aren't nearly so sore!

--My hair is pleasing me more than it did yesterday. A haircut? Or not? Either way is fine.

--Ben was adorable, the way he was so excited to plant trees with Akiva today.

--Jem is really getting a sense of humor!

--I enjoy using candles at night--it is helping me feel more rested.

--Eliza nursed a bit. I wonder if she meant to? She might do it again.

It is true that every family member's health issue gives me a new chance to research. I am SO curious--how can one person begin to collect enough information to formulate a theory that they decide is worth publicizing? It is fascinating and I notice that pretty much everyone's theories overlap with at least someone else's. But nobody ever, completely, agrees. (I found a one guy today who is convinced that white sugar is food for the thyroid. If you have trouble eating enough, well then you can make a simple sugar syrup, the better to easily pour more sugar on your main meals.)

I guess it really is true--they (and WE!!) grow up so fast. It's a little crazy how many possibilities exist: re: what we can do with our kids in their remaining kid-years.

Someday, Ben will be nearly twenty nine, Jem will be twenty five, and Eliza will be twenty. I'll be over half a century old, possibly with a beautiful head of gray hair--at least, if I make it. I might get to sleep through the night then! I wonder if I will think my children are as beautiful as I do now, and I wonder what they will be doing, and seeing, and so much that they do will be Not With Me anymore.

Gosh, I got distracted from my optimistic list. But I'm still on target! Not a thing to complain about, not one has crossed my lips/pen.

Anywho…forgot to add about this day, the way that amazingly little of it was painful, or actively treacherous. Wouldn't it be funny if every time you wanted to get out of bed in the morning, you had to go on one of those knights' quests, to prove your worthiness and show your valor? Maybe that's what we're really doing every day, when we once more open our eyes to the morning.


Daffodils used to be one of my favorite flowers. I might have liked the way they kinda look like a cup and saucer. But maybe I'm just coming up with that analogy (simile??) now, in the busy-creating-past-memories part of my active brain.

I dislike the way they look when the flowers shrivel, though. It's not like with wildflowers that unobtrusively turn into small seed pods. Daffodils kinda swell and turn brown at the same time, going from showy to washed-up with no in-between. At that point you might wish you had planted something else, but by then it's too late--daffodil bulbs will come back next year!


Maybe in the past, humans were both more decisive and more cheerful. Maybe they are more so in the future, as well. For now…well, there must be some decisive and cheerful folks out there! I am fascinated by the possibility of becoming one of them. At the times when I AM decisive and cheerful, Oooooh Baby! More than well-fitting clothes, these emotions put me very far along the way toward feeling like Hot Shit. (Not ACTUALLY, of course. But metaphorically.)

BAM! A decision. Bam BAM!! A cheerful thought. Kinda like optimism, possibilities pervade. All sorts of opinions are generated, laughed at, evaluated, and acted upon. NO, I hate this shade of fuchsia. YES! I adore pinto beans. It is worth everything, in this moment, to be who I am, to snuggle my babies, to make this dinner, to share this life with a man whom I decisively admire. Nope! I am NOT cooking chicken--I'd definitely prefer shrimp. And broccoli…And sleep, oh blessed SLEEP is the best in the world.