Lately I have been trying to keep my boys talking,

you know, to keep the conversations going. With Kevin, who is eight, it’s absolutely no problem, but the older one, the 13-year-old, well, his word count has decreased in the past year. Sometimes he will excitedly chat about wrestling or football, or a teacher who he thinks is funny, but all too often his answers are just a few words.

“My day was fine.”

“I learned about prepositions.”

“Yes, I ate the lunch you sent. Yes, the carrots too.”

Fair enough, but sometimes I just really want a conversation, so I ask the question, “Do either of you have anything you want to talk about?” Most of the time a topic is not given, but comments are.

“We need to get Chinese food.”

“Can we get Little Caesars tonight?”

“Did you get a video of me pinning that guy at my wrestling match?”

Sometimes conversations begin about 5-7 minutes after the boys are supposed to be in bed for the night. Ironically, this is the time frame when suddenly more meaningful topics emerge.

“Mom, do you know what I’ve been thinking about? God. Is he real or not?”

“Mom, you know. I have been wondering. How did I get here? Like, really?”

“Mom, there is a kid at school who is mean to me.”

Yes, of course there will also be the occasional urgent, “Mom, I forgot to tell you that you need to sign this permission slip before tomorrow. Yes, I know I have had it in my book bag for two weeks, but I just remembered. At least I remembered before tomorrow!”

“Mom, I forgot to tell you about the solar system project due tomorrow. I have everything I need except I need help painting Neptune. We didn’t have the shade of green I need for the rings. Can we run to Wal-mart real quick?

Sometimes though, mornings are when I like to talk. After all, we have a 15-minute drive to school and yesterday morning I asked a question, and here is what unfolded.

“Does anyone want to talk about anything while are driving to school?”

David: “NO.”

Kevin: “Oh! I do!”

David: “No, Kevin, I can’t handle it.”

Kevin: “But I need to tell you something!”

Me: “Go ahead, Kevin.”

David: “UGH!”

Kevin: “David, stop with your attitude!”

David: “Be quiet.”

Me: “What do you need to tell us, Kevin?”

David: (makes disapproving grunts, sighs, and other 13-year-old noises)

Kevin: “I really want to talk about why quesadillas are better than tacos.”

 

I mean, as you can see, what else is there to say? Best topic ever.

 

 

 

I felt her again today, right where she likes to be, attached to me like a barnacle.

She feeds off me, I’m pretty sure.
Sometimes she presses so hard that I gasp, and she may ease up a little, but only for a few seconds.
Sometimes I feel her in the back of my throat, my chest, my head.
Today, while I drove to work, there she was, clasped so tightly.
She stayed that way during class, although she backed off a little, but afterwards, she tightened her grasp and sat with me in my office.
I tried to ignore her, but she didn’t like that and squeezed fiercely.
Finally, when I could take no more, I looked at her, straight at her, and said, “What do you need from me? What do you want me to know?”
She said nothing. Just sat looking at me and I at her. Seconds into minutes. Tick Tick. Tick.
I felt the ache. We sat together.
Funny, after another minute, she loosened herself and slipped out the door.
I guess she just needed to be felt.

She wakes up from sleep that is not really sleep.



The ache of not quite being herself pulsates through her stomach, her chest, and travels to her temples, and that oh-so-familiar hollow dread presents itself, yet again. Still, this ache isn’t like it used to be. She used to wake up, drenched with sweat, heart pounding, head throbbing, from sleep that was never really sleep. Her first thought was always, where are you? I need you right now. Help make this stop!

The day and night before she always promised herself, this will be the last time. We are so done. You and I are so very done. She wanted to believe it, and she actually did believe it until the next morning when her sheets were damp and her head ached so much, and she reached for it, yet again.

So today she wakes up from sleep that is not really sleep, and she aches, but then she thinks, I don’t need you anymore. I haven’t needed you for years. I can’t believe I don’t need you anymore.

“Flip that water bottle one more time and see what happens!”

I heard myself shout, rather rudely. On that particular day, I was so totally done with all the nonsense. I had let it go on for far too long. After all, objects flying across the room and through the halls are not an uncommon occurrences in our house. On any given day, there may be Nerf gun bullets, footballs, socks, juggling balls, or even a variety of produce whizzing by. Whatevs. I’m to the point where I ignore a lot of it. Choose your battles, my mom says. Nerf gun wars and oranges used as juggling balls in the kitchen are not battles I want to tackle, unless of course, David drops and bruises all my oranges, which he has done, and yes, then I will fight.
So when they continuously flipped the half full bottles of water so they rotated in the air and then landed on the table and then rolled to the floor, I frowned. The sloshes and then the thuds messed with my sanity. Over the next few days though, they kept flipping, and not just half full water bottles. They flipped bottles of Sunkist, and I even caught Kevin trying to flip a half full milk jug! The lid was not on properly, and milk poured from the jug, all over the kitchen floor.
“Enough with the flipping!” I declared.
“But mom, it’s fun!” he said.
“It’s stupid, and it makes no sense.”
“Stupid isn’t a nice word to say, mom.”
I sighed. “Can’t you play with something else?”
The next day in my own classroom, before class started, a student sat at his desk with a half full water bottle in front of him. With no warning whatsoever, he picked up the bottle and would you believe this, he flipped it. The bottle rotated once, tumbled to the side, and rolled to the edge of the desk. He grabbed the bottle before it fell to the ground and then started over.
The girl next to him looked annoyed. Three minutes until class started.
“Um, could you please stop?” I finally asked, after 4 flips.
“Sorry,” he said as he steadied his water bottle on his desk.
“Wait, why do you do that? First tell me why you do that, flip the water bottles, I mean.”
His eyes brightened and he pulled his phone from his pocket and quickly looked up a video and handed me the device. The video showed him flipping a water bottle with one quick wrist flick. The bottle rotated once and then landed straight up on a table.
“Oh cool.” I muttered. And it was cool.
Then he showed me another video of a kid from Charlotte, North Carolina who flipped a water bottle for a talent show and it landed upright. The crowd roared their fascination and approval. He explained to me that kids all over the world are now flipping water bottles, the goal to land them upright. It’s a skill that takes so much practice, but sometimes, just sometimes, with the perfect amount of luck and skill, the bottle rotates once and lands straight.
Later that day, both of my boys and their neighbor friend were all sitting around the kitchen table, taking turns flipping their bottles. I watched for a few minutes before I too, emptied out some of the water from my water bottle and tried (The water bottle should be ½ to ¼ full, so I’ve heard). I tried several times, but no perfect landing.
I guess at this point, I have changed my attitude about the excessive flippage of the water bottles. The noise is obnoxious, but my boys can entertain themselves for hours and they aren’t fighting with each other or zoned out watching TV or playing video games.
Every now and then, I will even practice my own flip (to this day, I have not succeeded in the perfect landing, but I am still working on it).
Flip. Slosh. Thud. Roll. Repeat.

Practice

If you’re like me and weren’t born with any type of natural joy,
if you lean towards melancholy, fight tears, and sometimes
just surrender to them all, if restlessness is your closest companion, 
and you don’t know how to make it stop—well, you can practice. 
I’m not sure what this will look like for you, but for me, 
it’s sitting very still, closing my eyes, and looking ahead. 
Yes, I meant to say closing my eyes and looking ahead; that was no mistake.
If I look ahead, not to the left or right, and definitely not behind me, 
I see the familiar  darkness traveling on down the road, 
with a few spots of joy speckled in there too.
They are sparse and sporadic, but they are there; I promise they are. 
You may say, whatever, it’s not that simple, and I would say, 
no, some days it’s not that simple, you are right.
Some days no matter how much and hard you look, all you see is black.
But more often than not, when all else is stripped, and you’re only looking ahead, 
it really is that simple. 
So go ahead, practice, and let me know. 

Five things you may not (but probably do) know about Alison

I spent some extra time with my dear, lovely, beautiful friend Alison the past few days and by “extra time,” I mean four nights. So, I thought it would be appropriate to write a list of observations I have about my friend. (I knew all these points prior to the extra time, but they were just confirmed over and over)
1. Alison likes her stuff in order, HER order.
I knew that already, of course, but what I didn’t realize is that dishes need to be washed, um, before they are washed in the dishwasher. The silverware needs to be inserted in a certain order: knives, spoons, forks. Or is it forks, spoons, knives? I am not positive, but I do know that the forks should not touch the knives! The cupboards of mugs and glasses and plates are in a certain order, and she will not appreciate any creative rearranging.
2. Alison doesn’t love mornings.
I say she “doesn’t love” mornings because she didn’t exactly “rise and shine” and jam to Justin Bieber  while we got ready for work. I mean, she did it, but I don’t think she really enjoyed it. “Is it too late now to say sorry??”
3. Alison works so hard.
I watched her grade paper after paper, give enormous amounts of feedback to each student, all while I zoomed through a few of my own and then spent the majority of my time working on my characters for my book. Alison hardly ever takes a break! I have to remind her that it is time to chill for a while…and maybe jam to Justin Bieber…”My mama don’t like you…and she likes everyone…”
4. Alison is a good cook.
She made this ham and mac n cheese dish that screamed “comfort food.” We ate it for dinner one night and kept devouring leftovers for the next few days. She also made some pretty bangin fried eggplant and tacos! If your mouth is watering,  well, you’re welcome.
5. Alison is just so caring.
She is all about others, truly. Whether it’s her grandparents, parents, husband, friends, students, she truly cares about the people in her life. I am so lucky to be her friend!
Love you, Alison!

 

"Your back will hurt less when you strengthen your core,"

he said, that day in his office.
“Are you doing the core exercises and stretches every day?” 
“Uh, sometimes, but not enough I guess.” 
The rest of that day, days after, and today, I can’t stop thinking about the core
—how when I did the stretches and the exercises, more often than not, 
the pain did subside, even a little. 
Then I thought, who I am I, at my core? Really? 
Not who am I pretending to be, but who am I, truly
Glimmers of truth escape, but when they do, I quickly look around, 
grab them up, stuff them back in, all the way through, 
completely, totally. 
I need to stop that though. 
When the core is strong, the pain subsides.