“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.

They trudged through the foot or so of snow, slid every few steps.

“Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though…”  Anna recited, emphasizing “know” and “though.” 
“What is that?”
“Uh. Are you serious? Robert Frost. Duh.”
“Where did you learn that?”
“English, you were there too.”
“Really? Which class?”  
“Are you being serious right now? Mr. Hanson, 11thgrade. Geez. He made us memorize it, stand up in front of the class and say every word. If we messed up, we started over. You were there.”
“Oh.”
“You really don’t remember?”
“Maybe a little.”
“You were probably too busy up Bryce’s butt.”
“Probably.”
“What’s wrong?”
“What makes you think something’s wrong? I can’t remember a stupid poem, so something’s gotta be wrong?”
“What is it?”
“I don’t know.”
“Yes you do. Tell me.”
“I said I don’t know! God Anna!”
Her words pierced through the air, the downy flakes swirled and fell, lost in the echo.

Library

Long vibrating chimes filled the silence as he shuffled through his book bag to find the source. After seven rings and a few annoyed glances his way, he said “hello?” The phone was accidentally (or maybe not accidentally) on speaker, and the automated message about his doctor’s appointment at 2 filled the air. A few minutes later he pecked out some numbers, closed his (flip) phone, then opened it, pecked some more. “Hello?” A man’s voice said.
“Hi dad, is your power back on?”
“Yes it is! Thank the Lord!”
“Hallelujah! Praise him!” he declared.
Around five minutes later, the chimes began again. The phone was deep into the bag, so he began dumping its contents out onto the table. Papers. Pens. A spiral notebook. A worn Bible. Newports. Trident. Seven chimes later he said, “hello?”
“Sir, your toilet’s fixed. I had to order a part, but it’s good to go now.”
“Oh thank the Lord! It’s been three days.”
I stayed awhile longer, motivation for work long gone, hoping I might catch some more exciting news. Finally, I packed up my work, walked over to him, tapped him on the shoulder and said, “I’m glad your toilet’s fixed.”
And would you know, he looked at me, alarmed, like who are you and how would you know that?
I unzipped my work bag this morning and reached for a textbook I needed for class and noticed a single blue with a yellow tip Nerf gun bullet wedged between the book and some papers. I thought, how did that get in there? Oh wait, that was probably from last Saturday’s Nerf gun war when you and your brother and dad, armed with your masks and guns, hid under blanket forts draped over dining room chairs and fired at each other, while darting from room to room. Screams and chicken-like cackles erupted through the air every few seconds and the house felt like it was shaking as I tried to read and drink strong coffee, and I said, can’t you all go outside? And you said, mom why can’t you play with us? I said, I can’t, I’m busy, please go outside, and then all three of you did.