My Have-to and My Get-to

I admire people who make to-do lists. I’m not typically one of them.

It’s a rare occasion that I actually take the time to write down the errands I need to run, the groceries I need to buy, the books I want to read, the movies I want to rent, or the top ten places I need to visit before I fall off my perch. Instead, all these things stay stored in my mind, whirling around, clogging it up, and causing traffic jams up there.

But in a recent online writing group with eleven other women hosted by Jena Schwartz, one of the tasks was to set a timer for ten minutes and free-write two lists:
LIST ONE: “I have to . . . “
LIST TWO: “I get to . . . “

I Get To

I gotta tell ya, it was a challenge for me to get going. But when I did, I almost heard the whooooosh as these things seeped out of my brain and onto paper.

Although, as is typical for me, I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of guilt, knowing some of the items on my “have-to” list would be considered more of a “get-to” for another and realizing just how much the items on my “get-to” list I take for granted.

But once the guilt settled a bit, I thought, wow, what a different kind of day it would be if I let go more of the “have-to” and zoomed in more on the “get-to.”

For those of you who, for some reason, might be at all interested, here are my two ten-minute lists, although I’ve switched some things out since that free write, because, well, it’s a new day. And, because that was a private space and this is a public one.


1.) I have to figure out what to feed everybody in my family tonight and tomorrow night and the next night and the next night and . . .

2.) After dinner, which typically lasts for five minutes, I have to somehow, because my husband is working the evening shift again, get my three kids to three different games in three different suburbs that begin at the same time.

3.) I have to protect my children from the boogie man, monsters under their beds, bullies, gossip, online predators, molesters, drug dealers, lightening, kidnappers, terrorists, the West  Nile Virus, swine flu, bee stings, sunburns, tornadoes, salmonella, toxic people, drunk drivers, and trees falling down on them.

4.) While I’m at it, I have to teach them how not to live in fear.

5.) And I have to do it while not hovering, so they don’t push me away.

6.) I have to schedule two physical therapist appointments (son’s elbow, daughter’s knee), three dentist appointments, one orthodontist appointment, one asthma-maintenance check-up, two well-checks, one blood draw, one oil change, a vet visit, one missing immunization shot, two haircuts, and a mammogram.

7.) I have to learn to declutter the kitchen counter and closets with more authority.

8.) I have to take better care of myself: make more time to exercise, meet a friend for lunch, call a sibling to catch up, eat a healthier lunch than a handful of wheat thins on my way out the door, have an occasional date with my hubby, listen to the chickadees from the backyard swing.

9.) I have to color my hair again.

10.) I have GOT to buy some new socks and better bras!


1.) I get to press my lips deep into my children’s soft cheeks as they snuggle under their comforters at night and when I wake them up for school each morning, their times of least resistance.

2.) I get to, at this moment, know my kids are safe and healthy.

3.) I get to eat bran flakes, cheese, and cookies-and-cream ice cream whenever I want.

4.) I get to live in a town that’s not under siege and even has “Ice Skate With the Mayor Nights.”

5.) I get to live one mile east of The Original Pancake House, one mile south of Caribou, and one mile West of a Whole Foods that gives out free guacamole samples all day.

6.) I get to share a life with a guy who thinks to pick me up a bag of peanut M&Ms when he fills up his tank after work and plays Uno on the floor with the kids while wearing a hat with ear flaps.

7.) I get to tell my kids that I met their Dad in an ice cream shop. Way more wholesome than the stories before that.

8.) I get to look out my front window and see neighbors and look out my back window and see trees.

9.) I get to watch my parent’s grow old together. It’s not the life they always dreamed about, but they’re together, almost 57 years now. She greets him with the biggest smile you’ve ever seen. He brings her home Eucharist and peels her orange each morning because her hands and feet don’t work so well anymore. It’s hard to live up to sometimes.

10.) I get to be grateful for so much. It’s overwhelming. It’s not fair. And on days like today, when I stop to take it all in, it sends me to my knees.

What’s your get to and have to?

Julie Jo Severson is mom to a teen, tween, and pretween and emerging freelance writer with two desks.  Click here to learn more about what’s inside this desk. Click here to view her other recent posts or see some of them below:

The August Dental Appointment
Debuting On Mamalode and Ten To Twenty
Up North And A Minnesota Goodbye
Sittin’ At The Dock Of The Bay
Which Moments Will They Remember?
Right-Brain Girl Makes A Time Machine
Beauty In Humble Places
I’m Not Sure If I Wrote These Poems

About Julie Jo Severson

Julie Jo Severson, former PR girl, is now a freelance writer, journalist, editor, and lost-and-found attendant for two teens and a tween. This is where she doodles about past, present, future clinking glasses and making peace.

6 comments on “My Have-to and My Get-to

  1. I love that you kept the tree-falling-on-them from our writing group. Like I said, ME TOO! ME TOO! The tree! Lice, on toilet paper! I wrote about that once, when traveling alone… love that you’ve started here and am so honored to be a part of your tribe!

  2. I am also not a writing ‘To Do List’ kind of person. Its actually hard to have one when our lives are on the roll, from the time we wake up in the morning. I love this post. Yes we are often busy with our everyday lives that we forget to see how blessed we are. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Now see? Even your lists make me literally give that long exhale sigh of “yes…. yes…” while I nod and close my eyes to soak it all in. I could read you for hours… this was familiarly stunning, hilarious at times, and inspiring- as always. <3

  4. Christine, you are what I call a lifter-upper! You have a way of lifting my spirits way up with your encouraging words. Truly, you are one of, if not THE, kindness person I’ve come across in this enormous blogosphere. Enjoy your Sunday!

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