The Slow-Cooked Sentence

Squeezing time from my turnip days

Rachael Conlin Levy

I write at stoplights. Two minutes.

I turn over the vacuum to my 5-year-old, who lays it flat on the floor and sits atop it as if it were an airplane. The motor’s drone is loud and soothing. I get 15 minutes out of this.

Another five as he puts the vacuum away.


I set the alarm for four in the morning. I crawl out of bed at four-thirty. The sky is white. There is no noise. Minus the time it takes to make coffee, pee, pour a cup, find my slippers, refill a cup, I get in about an hour’s worth of sleepy, shitty writing. I count it anyway.

I write at the grocery store after checking my kid into its free daycare and before buying food. Forty minutes.

A math problem to be solved with pennies by a child who wants to use half of his day’s screen time to play computer games yields fifteen minutes and the correct answer.

Flying Fairy School, 30 minutes because he decides to use the entire time after all.

I lock the bathroom door and write. Ten minutes without subtracting the time it takes to flush, wash hands and tuck the notebook under my shirt so no one will suspect I’m using the room for alternative purposes.

I bring my notebook into the kitchen and write as I cook. The page is flecked with bits of food, splashes of grease. I write around the outline of a ladle, placed there by accident, and silently thank God for whomever invented ink that doesn’t bleed. Twenty minutes with distractions.

Total time: 197 or about 3 hours, 15 minutes.

I’m surprised. I have more stolen moments than I realized, and I’m under-utilizing them. Tell me, how do you make time for yourself, and what do you do inside those turnip days?

5 responses to “Squeezing time from my turnip days”

  1. Bill says:

    So often some excellent work gets done during the busiest of times. That’s what I see happening here…it also reminds me of childbirth, planting a garden and even working on a car.
    Thanks Rachael

  2. Thank you for sharing these stolen moments. I admire your dedication, and your creativity.

    I think most of us feel we are under-utilizing our time. I know I feel this way, often. But you shouldn’t. You have a lot to juggle and you continue to make it work.

  3. Andrea says:

    Wow, that’s impressive. I steal moments while my kids are in the bathtub, when they’re supposed to be getting ready for bed, after I’ve told them to go to bed, whether they actually do it or not, before (but not long enough) anyone gets up on Saturday and Sunday mornings, an evening at the library here and there, sneak in writing when I’m supposed to be working. It’s never enough, is it?

  4. rebecca says:

    this. is. exactly. what. i. needed. xo

  5. chrissy says:

    This is wonderful…all of the words that get caught between stuck gum and runny noses. I was just looking at all of my tiny little notes, torn pieces of paper, receipts, journals started and misplaced, then new ones to replace the misplaced ones, all of it. Nothing wasted. Beautiful. XO

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