Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Make Every Day Opposite Day

If you want to make friends in real life, do the opposite of what I do.

If reading that first line above has you skimming through this post for quick and easy tips, then I'm putting money on you wanting to know how to get people to be friends with you.

I wish I could help you with that, but I had to turn to the internet for friends.

But here's an idea that my son suggested the other day, “Hey, mom, you should do a post called “Do the opposite of what I do to make friends since you don't have any in real life.”

Great idea, son, let's let them in on all my secrets of Living a Hermit Life.
And with a snap of a finger, because I can only snap my fingers on my right hand, a post is born. I promise you, if you do the opposite of what I do in my real life, then you stand a good chance of getting to know some human beings.

Follow these pointers below to a social life that consists of more than the people in your computer: (I love the people in my computer) -

1.) I forget breakfast. That means, do the opposite: begin your day with breakfast. Heading out the door after four cups of coffee and nil in the stomach makes for a very shaky school drop off (pun intended.) You don't want to be the mom in the car line laying on the horn to the van full of preschoolers being dropped off in front of you while you shout, "you droppin' off gramma or what?!"

2.) I wear my slippers a lot. Sure, I have my winter coat on over a pajama top, though I do have outside wearing pants on. So, this means you should dress in a manner that invites a good first impression. We all want to keep it real, but if your daily life involves jeans so stiff you can stand them in a corner, then it's time to change it up a little. Also? Use a real pony tail holder in your hair, and not the inked up red rubber band from that morning's newspaper. Trust me, the inked up rubber band could make it or break it with someone.

3.) Shoes. Shoes are nice – as I said, I wear slippers. Wear shoes. Your teen son's size eleven Converses tossed on your size seven feet, sans socks, do not count as shoes. People hand out friend points for shoes, but extra points if the ones on your feet are your own.

4.) Talk kindly about your children. A soft "Oh, heavens, I can't believe Johnny forgot his lunch" falls much better on the ears than "sonuvabeehive that kid of mine would forgot his head if it wasn't screwed on. I've half a mind to just let him go without – I don't care if they call home. We'll see how quickly he forgets his lunch again with the memory of hunger pangs..." or anything like that. I hear.

5.) I do not like to wake up. I have to talk myself through my morning saying, Smile Smile Smile Would it kill you to smile? So, you, friend-maker, Be Cheerful. Do not walk around with the biggest, blackest, most face-esconcing made in Italy sunglasses that money can buy on your face just because you don't feel like eye contact. Especially when it's cloudy out.

6.) Learn to make a great food for church or school potlucks. This is because I do deli pick up and dumps. If you don't take my word for it, and still decide to go and hit the up orange clearance deli sticker priced salads anyway, at least be sure it's not the advertised 99 cents a pound macaroni salad splayed across every flyer in town.

7.) Never begin a sentence with the words, No offense. I don't do this, but people have started sentences to me this way. This is a freebie gem for you, from me -- Don't say, "Gee, I wish I could be more like you and just let my kids screw up on their own, no offense." No offense does the opposite. It offends.

8.) Be alert for opportunities to show sincere praise. Loosen those lips and don't be afraid to give a compliment. My shyness much too often has me keeping my words of  "Oh, I am digging your chunky zebra bangle right now" to myself. Do the opposite, give the praise, give the compliment. It works wonders to melt even the coldest, or shyest hearts, like mine.

9.) Be open and accessible. I kind of walk hunched over, because I'm always cold and really should get my thyroid checked out BUT this doesn't mean you should walk around looking like a comma.

Try out these nine steps of friending. See if you don't get invited to a new book club! Either way, report back and meet me online tomorrow morning. We'll raise a cup of coffee in hopes that you get lucky and the next person you meet, you charm the heck out of them.

My best advice, though, is to keep your eye open for someone with a morning newspaper rubber band in their hair. Now, those people are keepers.
* * *

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Air Conditioning and Private Schools: All in One

I was raised with a long list of conservative Dos and Don’ts of life. I abided by most. The ones that made sense, like “Don’t let your lips touch the spigot when drinking from a public water fountain,” were easy to follow. The questionable ones, “Stay away from that mentally unstable girl/boy that always gets into trouble,” were harder to follow, because those kind of ballstothewall beings are my favorite flavor in people.

Then there was the no negotiating if you want to remain recognized by this family don't-ism, ”DO NOT LIVE WITH SOMEONE IF YOU’RE NOT MARRIED!"  Loud enough for me to hear, even if it was whispered to me by my mother.

I never did live with anybody, not that I wasn’t asked *brushes imaginary lint off shoulders.*
The fear of being dead to my family kept me from co-signing any co-lease for cohabitating in a co-op. However, as there always is a however with most insights, I am now of a different mindset due to the emotional and psychological duress that could have been avoided, *nice non-cohabitating girl or not*, had I lived with my husband first.

It was our first married night at home together. As I dumped out the laundry basket full of our first shared comingled his and hers clothing, there was a sudden shock of a view, fleeting, but enough of a sight that I prayed I'd been mistaken.

“Did you forget to empty out tissues from your pants pocket before throwing them in the laundry?” I asked my husband of ten days. "Because I just dumped this out and saw what looked like shreds of tissue that had gone through the dryer."

“Nope,” his answer came back quickly. He didn't even look up from ESPN.

And just like that, what could have been an arms entwined google eyed experience of what a metaphor of our coupling this laundry was; turned out, instead, to be a whispered shameful conversation at lunch with my girlfriend the next day.

“Oh my God,” I checked over both shoulders to make sure no one else was listening. “I need to tell you something. His underwear…” I stuttered. “It looked like a lace doily. Like the first ones ever made. I swear, the Smithsonian called asking for it.”

“Get.out.,” my friend mouthed back, disgusted, “like, how old do you think it was? ‘Cuz that’s just gross.”

“I know, I know,” my confession continued. “I just couldn’t get the holey Swiss cheese memory of the backside of his boxers out of my mind, not even, you know, later…”

“You gotta tell him it’s just not right, and that it turns you off. He’ll listen to that.”

“But what can I do? When I brought it up… he…he… he was almost proud of how old his boxers were. He bragged, ‘yup, had those babies since my fraternity days. No one milks a buck like me.’ ”

My single friend echoed my thought, “Ewwwwwwwwww…”

With her reaction, I decided to keep what happened next, to myself.

My husband lovingly double folded the threadbare overused tissue he called underwear, and as though delivering the golden tablets to Joseph Smith himself, placed them in our shared dresser drawer, right next to my honeymoon trousseau of days old satin underthings.


20 years later of lace doily as underwear, and my spouse hasn't changed (forgive the pun). His backside still looks as if I'm watching Doris Day through those gauzy filters she began asking for in the 1970s. His reasoning, God love him, is clear. "You call it air conditioning, I call it private school for the kids."

Frugal or saintly, I can't decide. Either way, my children, Cohabitation. No matter what I tell you in my parenting feverishness, consider the option.

* * *

Friday, March 27, 2015

When My Mind Wanders, It Wanders to World Domination

My mind often wanders. I know there are medications for that, but then I'd no longer have ideas for my blog, so I'll take the sing-song skip along while trailing a stick across a white picket fence meanderings that make up my inner dialogue.

While folding laundry today who am I kidding I was just throwing another load on top of the last load on the sofa I thought, What happens to dictators when they get old?

Do their sunglasses interfere with their advancing macular degeneration? Does their stance on facial hair change? Will they always need to feel in charge of something? Will their way of complete authority grow even more insistent?

Where do all the old dictators go? Who listens to them as they feebly fight off the forced spoon fed stewed prunes with cries of "No negotiating!"

I think I found the place of their golden sunsets.
Right now, there are secret plans being drawn up for retiree dictator homes in South America. These facilities will be deep under cover in remote jungle locations, catering to the four basic types of despots:
1.) the Middle Eastern religious radical
2.) the European socialist revolutionary
3.) the South American strongman
4.) the Central African tin-pot dictator
These world leaders will have a place to be cared for in the Dictator Home, as well as duty-free storage and housing for their gold, jewels, and shoe collections, but can these power-hungry wanna-be rulers of the world all get along when under one roof?
Perhaps age has mellowed them and they are happily able to relive the glory days of their wild and crazy plotting against the free world. Can you imagine the meal time grazing at the all you can eat tropical high-fiber fruit buffet? I imagine that what we'd overhear would be something like this:

Dic. #1.) Did I ever tell you the story of how I single-handedly defeated a thousand-man rebel force in a climactic battle outside the gates of my Earthly palace?

Dic. #2.) Thousand-man rebel force? Is that what you call it? More like 300 old shepherds.

Dic. #3.) Shuttup and eat your prunes.

Dic. #4.) The prunes have been stewed for you, you with the one remainder of your teeth.

Dic. #1.) I have the medals to prove to you my worth in battle!

Dic. #2.) Would those be the medals that you awarded to yourself?

Dic. #1.) These medals are true and righteously awarded! This one here I gave to myself for bravery in battle against a deathly illness, and this one is for being an honored son of our country … and this one I gave to myself for …

Dic. #3.) Medals that are self-awarded are medals that hold nothing to what I have done! I once conquered an entire country in one week!

Dic. #4.) Conquering a country that you knew not what to do with after toppling the government! I once installed the most brutal, oppressive regime this world has seen!

Dic. #1.) Overthrowing a country of desert and sheep and is not the same as abolishing elections! Elections are for sissies!

Dic. #2.) Nurse! My rifles!

Dic. #3.) If he is given his rifles, then I demand my machetes!

Dic. 4.) My personal guards! Where are my guards?!

Dic. #1.) Gentlemen! We were known and feared in our time. And now we fight amongst ourselves? We must stop this useless feuding and focus on annihilating what threatens us now. Together, we can rise victorious once again as we take on the battle that must be fought - We must work together and overthrow that which is imposed on us! The Mike and Judy Present Piano Party Saturday Night.

Dic. #2.) Murder! Mayhem! We must make Mike and Judy beg for mercy. Nay, make them CRY. CRY! Let us waste no more time with speeches.
Dic. #3.) Agreed. We have vanquished governments before. We will be a force to be reckoned with when we turn our energies to rid ourselves of Piano Party Saturday Night.

Dic. #4.) They will beg at our feet and we shall demand our country's music!

Dic. #2.) As we have done before, we will do simply what needs to be done. I will begin with a ban on the Grand Ol' Flag sing-a-long sheets that they force upon us!

Dic. #1.) World domination, comrades! Why are we the only ones who see how it is always so easy?

Dic. #3.) Silencio! I hear the unmistakable rustling of music pamphlets being assembled! My generals, the time has never been better! The others are being fed their applesauce, leaving Mike and Judy alone and unaware! We strike now! Plastic forks, sporks if need be, but our weapons at the ready, to our seats in the atrium!

Dic. #4.) Yes, this is all good my friends, but perhaps another night. I hear my granddaughter calling my name. I cannot accompany you on our coup tonight...

"Grandpa? Grandpa! Here you are. What are you and your friends planning today? You must let things go, grandfather, and enjoy the twilight of your days. You had quite a brutal, oppressive regime, yes, but now it is time for bed and you must eat your prunes. No negotiating. Remember, I learned from the best."

* * *

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Making the Ordinary Extraordinary

*My nephew's birthday is today. He is not here, in this place, to celebrate, and no one ever adapts to that loss in life. Being able to reflect on him through sharing of memories is a balm to me. I thank you all for the love you've sent me today as I remember him and feel the void of his absence. It is community that carries us through, the kind compassion of those who listen to stories about loss. Thank you.

I was going through my family photos, looking for pictures of my nephew to give to my sister. My eyes were blurry with tears, but I still was able to see through to picture after picture of him, always in one setting – a party in our house.

This is what I had of Tommy. Photos with balloons! party hats! table streamers! The funny thing is, I don't remember having all of these parties growing up. My family was not a celebrating bunch. My childhood home would best be described as quiet, heavy, tense.

But here in my hand, I had over 20, 30, more pictures showing him with his arms raised, a beaming smile, and there he is, at the center of it all. I mean, how many childhood birthday parties can you have when you only have one birthday a year??

The one common denominator in every picture is that Tommy is there. HE was the party. HE would turn any occasion into a slice of life. You see him, in the moment, the joy, arms up because he couldn't keep them down, over the occasion of being with people he loved.

My nephews would spend weekends with us. I was 12 and the main baby sitter, the one who would take care of them. One day as I made lunch, 3 year old Tommy stood on his tip toes and watched me slice up an apple. He looked up with wide eyes; waving his arms up and down and began shouting, "Are we having an apple party?! It's an apple party, isn't it?!" This, over getting apple wedges rather than a whole apple on a plate. He worked the same magic on bananas, oranges, pears. Any fruit could be a fruit party.

Nothing was ordinary to Tommy. I would come home with tangerines, the ones called "cuties" that come in those miniature wooden crates. He loved these because he could build a Hot Wheels parking garage with them. “You bought the baby oranges that come in the Hot Wheel house!" he would meet me at the door, tugging at my coat.

This is who he was, and not just to me. My entire family beamed when Tommy was there. Mention his name to anyone now, and before a word is spoken about him, a smile first appears. Laughter, joy, pura vida, with him making it so.

Growing up, I see we didn't have a lot of parties after all – what we had was a lot of HIM.

For a family that lived in a reserved and walls up manner, he gave us permission to forget why for awhile. We felt life, we were among the living, when Tommy was there.

Tommy, you brought raucousness, the energy of the moment, into a house where the air felt as heavy as bricks. You were light and presence and when we were around you, there was a reason to blow up balloons, put on the party hats, and crank the noise makers.

You were with us, and you made everything a celebration.

You made our world shine so bright.

We will miss you in a way it will take a lifetime to understand.

* * *

Monday, March 23, 2015

100 Word Blog Post Challenge (can she do it??)

Can I do it (I just lost four words right there)

Casey of Life with Roozle issued a 100 word blog post challenge. I'm going to try. Like I said, a challenge.

I remember when I was in college, wishing I had my own pictures of myself. It made me sad that I had to count on others to have a record of the things and people in my life then. BINGO. It hit me, Well you know what you can do? Buy your own damn camera, woman.

And so I did. A ten dollar Kodak instamatic at Kmart. And ever since then I have pictures of myself that are mine.

I've heard, “Don't wait for someone to give you flowers, buy your own.”

My flowers are my armloads of photo albums.

If there's something you wish you had in your life, don't just wish - give it to yourself. 

**118 words. So what, my own blog - just like my own photos.

Visit Casey and leave a comment. Then take your own 100 word blog challenge.
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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Spring, My Precious

Even back to when I was a little, I felt something about spring. When I would ask other kids in school about it, "Don't you feel it? Like ... like something is going to happen!?" I'd get the same response that I'd get to my other questions of Why do they call them mock chicken legs, do they think we'll think they're chicken legs?

Rolled eyes. Their feet that would walk away, from me. Leaning into each other and whispering, she is so weird. Why??

I can't ignore spring. Once dead branches that you'd swear would never come back are now green and fuzzy with buds. The tulips in our yard are about two inches out of the still cement cold ground. How do they push out from that? Tender, and they work their way through to what they know they need, sun and air.

Spring becomes a louder metaphor to me with each year of my life. We bore the weight of winter. The birds in the now wakening branches sing of the promises of the season to come.

The alchemist was dazed and dumbfounded, as the true meaning of the magic was revealed:
*The dead will rise from glade to glen and ancient will be young again*.
 The dead had, after all, risen.
 From dead and dry things there was growth, and new life everywhere.
The endlessly long winter had at last turned to spring.
From life to death and back again to life.

 It was indeed the greatest magic in the world.” 
Lauren Oliver

Spring makes me smile like an old fool.
* * *

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

6 Quick and Spritely Ways to Lose 6 Ounces!

Food is fun. And if you and your family have a heart for itty bitty Lilliputian things like we do, then you can have yourselves a blast preparing these cute little snack could-be-dinner items. In the process, you have the fringe benefit of incidentally losing up to half a pound over six months from mini snacking where you barely have to open your mouth. How cute a time of munching is that?! [rhetorical question, please don't answer]

Pixie Meal #1 - Take one thin slice of apple, slice it even thinner. Arrange in artful pinwheel and dot with one raisin. YUM. And on an appetizer plate? So adorable.
Pixie Meal #2 - One itsy beef cold cut, rolled up so cute and tight, then cut into 1/4 and set next to just an oh so outer edge of tomato. Hors d'oeuvres for one! FUN!

Snack Time? Meal Time? #3 - Three crunchy and satisfying baby carrots, premium brand only, atop a generous tomato slice. My mouth is watering!

Yay! Time for MiniMeal #4 - See? You can eat all dingdangday long because it's mini meals! A coleslaw cup o'lettuce hits the spot around 3 PM., right about the time your vision gets dotty. 

Ho ho! No time to say "I'm full!" because you still have Meal #5 - Look what awaits you, the world's bittiest quesadilla. How can you say no? You don't!

What? Time to eat again? Yes, my friend, it is. Mini Meal #6 - And for you, it's slice of pizza time! All you need are 10 Cheerios strategically aligned in a pie shape with one stable counting finger (check that blood sugar).

Got all your travels in, Gulliver? Awesome! Now's the time you reward yourself with aaaaall the bread. Baked bread, pressed bread, crunchy bread, raisin bread. All the full-sized gluten, all of it for full sized you. 

If at the end of the day, your stomach still sounds like a steamroller over fresh granite, you can always lose your mind and have all you want of gazing at this ceramic burger that my son made in art class. I can't fall asleep on an empty stomach, so I keep this on the kitchen counter. Just looking at it makes me sigh with full-belly contentment.

At zero calories, not even taking in the sun is a better deal.

Ceramic burger most satisfying when ogled while munching marmalade toast.


Sunday, March 15, 2015

How Do You Lose an Entire Putin?

My household has been taken down by Where's Putin fever. Buzzing all over the internet this week, theories abound, clever memes are posted, and we've taken to twitter andFB hashtagging. #WhereIsPutin ???

The last time Russia's president was seen in public was March 5. For a man who competes neck to neck with Matthew David McConaughey for chest-baring photo ops, this step away from the public eye is a first.

Gawker cites CIA sources as Putin having the flu. (can you imagine the CIA giving a shinola about me having the flu?)

The Atlantic ponders, what if, a Russia without Putin.

NBCNews pulled together for a Meet the Press, with a catchy segment called "Mystery in Moscow."

You know this Putin Gone Missing is serious business, because The New York Times published an all you need to know with "Putin has vanished, but rumors haven't."

Mashable has an outrageous compilation of #whereisputin tweets. Dear lord, the world has funny people in it.

YouTube and the unconvinced public at large have proposed Putin's face on milk cartons, or that he's having a lovechild, maybe botched botox, and possibly.... riding on the back of a bird.

You can read all the above links, or put your faith in Putin's presidential spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, who tells us tersely that, "He is fine. His health, is perfect."

I'm sorry, Dmitry, but for me to get on the *He's Fine* bandwagon, I need a video clip so I can study your pupils, time your voice for hesitancy, check your speech pattern for inflections. Without that, this household will continue to parlez-vous Putin. There are a crapton of important international events up ahead and a chair for Putin that cannot sit empty, starting with Monday's meeting at the Kremlin with the president of Kyrgyzstan. Will he be there?? (and I can't help but ask, will he arrive on a flying weasel?)

My personal opinion? It's not the flu, the reported bad back, nor cosmetic enhancement. Putin's smitten in love and can't tear himself away from his cottage/military getaway/summer home/that all presidents of countries have. And in this case, being mysteriously Putin-y.
photo credit: Putin Powers via photopin (license)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

I'm Just Like Madonna

Madonna and I almost have the same birthday.

Madonna and I had our first babies at the same time.

Madonna's baby grew up and left for college.

Mine did too!

Did she tell her baby the same things I told my baby when he left?

It turns out that we did!

Of course, there are slight variations and we may differ in style, because we're all special snowflakes, but mostly, Madonna and I sent our firstborn children off  to school with the same words. Except she says her child is at "university" and I call it "college" sounding like Ice Cube in 22 Jump Street at :50.

Madonna swears she's just like any other mom who has to explain the lyrics to songs like "S.E.X." As she says, her kids know it's just "mom being mom."

Me too! I was in our local paper, bottom inside page, 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch space right above the table of contents. It was about me blogging. People came up to my children telling them they saw me in the paper again and my kids said the same thing as Rocco and Lourdes, "Just mom being mom!"

She calls Carson Daly, "my man." Boom. The same words I use when our recycling guy comes on Monday mornings and lets me sneak in an extra bag without the mandatory lid closing stipulation! "My man!'" *high five*

Does Madonna worry about Lourdes killing too many brain cells while at "university"? She does. That's why she advises her daughter to "try and go to class, try and study, try to not kill all your brain cells at once."

Here is where Madonna and I differ. I tell my kids straight out the truth about alcohol. That it causes permanent brain damage from just one beer. (who knew, right?)

The list of similarities between us is confounding. I'm not allowed to attend "university" games, neither is she. Madonna dresses like a matador, so did my mother for a costume party in 1959.

If you overlook the "try not to drink" advice and the "university" versus college, along with having capes pulled off your back while you're dressed like Maleficent, then Madonna and I are sooo *likethis.*

Remove the tequila shots for breakfast on morning shows, and the resemblance blows my mind.

But get ready for this: did you know we both use BenGay in the morning? 



Monday, March 9, 2015

The Power of Listening

It's been six years that I've known of Listen To Your Mother Shows. I have been involved in this live story telling event either as cast member, audience member, or production team since 2010. What I've witnessed is nothing short of a transformation in the people who both hear our stories, and tell our stories.

Writing is different from talking.

Community is fostered when we hear and learn of the lives of our neighbors. Strength can be found in shared laughter when we support the experience of another. Healing can begin from being present for another's words.

We've leaned across cups of coffee and confided moments from our lives to friends. Our words then are spoken, they trip, sometimes glide, off our tongues. But when we write, we soul search. Our words are carefully chosen, our lines read again and yet again. And with each time that we go back and strike through, or illustrate once more, highlight and reinforce yet again, we grow stronger.

Writing is an experience.

When Milwaukee Listen To Your Mother has held its auditions over the past three years, we never knew the stories we would hear. Auditionees enter our reserved room for their reading slot, and we as producers listen. We put our pens and pencils down, and focus. We hear the words, we become aware of the voice when it changes, we hear the rush to get through some parts, and we sense the electricity in passages that sum up everything they hope to convey.

Writing is participation in your life.

Our lives, when we take to penning them, have us stepping out and then back in, to reflect and explain, who we are and why we've chosen to write about the experience that we have. Hearing these stories from the people that come read to us, confirms, there is no one else like us. Our words celebrate that. Our pen-written and key-stroked stories are our experiences, our reflexes, our reactions. Our Us.

We go back in our minds and hearts, and we live through it once more, to bring that moment full and shining, to a communal experience. We write, and in that act, we experience the moment again. But this time, when we share our words, we are not alone.

Our Listen To Your Mother auditionees come to us, they bring an offering of themselves. That always overwhelms me. We gather, we share, we listen, we hear. There is a stillness in the process that doesn't come from quiet. After someone reads, we are silent. We have heard what they have given to us. And we honor that with a moment intent on them.

It's how we say thank you.

I wish everyone in the world had the opportunity of five minutes to be heard, uninterrupted and without questions. Just them, their story, their life. And our silence.

Writing validates an existence.

Telling our stories transforms us. We stand taller and see ourselves as someone worth sitting down and writing about. Our readers walk in the door, shaking and cautious, exuberant and eager, bursting and ready. No matter the way, they share the same motive at their core, the chance to be heard.

We hope we left you feeling that way, Milwaukee auditionees: heard. And affirmed.

Writing is bearing witness to life.

Come witness this power at Milwaukee'sListen To Your Mother Show, April 26. Details regarding tickets here.

Thank you, Milwaukee, for your Listen To Your Mother stories. Your stories touched us, moved us, made us laugh, made us smile, and made us part of your world. Your aching honesty, brave vulnerability, and courageous sharing will always leave us amazed.
* * *

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Unraveling of Mercy Louis

“Your life would be easier if I were dead,” she says, folding her hands in front of her and staring at them.

“My life would be easier if I had a mother.”

“You haven't got a shred of love left for me,” Mama says, her breathing uneven from holding back tears.


“You've saved it all up for a girl who doesn't even know your name.”

Illa looks at her sharply. “What are you talking about?”

“I saw the photo in your backpack, Illa. And you never shut up about her during the season.”

“How dare you look through--”

It is dialogue like this, found throughout Keija Parssinen's latest novel, The Unraveling of Mercy Louis, that seizes you from the first page and holds you tight up until the last sentence Keija writes. Then, and only then, are you finally able to breathe again. 

Keija is the author of The Ruins of Us, a debut novel that I fell in love with and reviewed here. The Ruins of Us was rich in storytelling and captivating with characters that felt as if they shared my same air. This same capacity for living breathing characters again holds true for Keija's latest work, The Unraveling of Mercy Louis.

The Ruins of Us had me keening over family and sacrifice, but here, with her latest work, Keija had me looking over my shoulder, shuddering in fear as I read deep into the night. Stephen King instantly came to mind as Keija deftly conjures to life the unsettling backdrop of the small Texas town of Port Sabine where The Unraveling of Mercy Louis takes place.

Repression, suppression, societal shame, and jealousy, are mixed in with the cauldron of the bible belt and religious fervor. A young woman burgeoning on adolescence in Port Sabine stands no chance of surviving what has taken hold of this town over one sweltering Texas summer.     

The Unraveling of Mercy Louis is chilling, dark and surprising. It's everything you hope to find in an enthralling novel. As you slowly watch the young women in the town of Port Sabine succumb one by one, you'll want to turn up all the lights in your house.

Keija Parssinen's latest work grips you from the start, and its contemporary theme, that of a town's star held up to the standard of perfection and what happens when they fall, is perfectly timed to our world today. In giving the reader a heart-pounding psychological thriller where young women are castigated for being human, Keija as author, expertly shows us no mercy.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

The Unraveling of Mercy Louis is available here, where you can also purchase Keija’s first novel, The Ruins of Us.

Leave a comment below for a chance at winning The Unraveling of Mercy Louis.

Click over to read more reviews and enter more giveaways for Parssinen's The Unraveling of Mercy Louis at the blogs gfunkified and SurrenderDorothy .

Keija directs the Quarry Heights Writers’ Workshop and works with students in Cedar Crest College’s low-residency Pan-European MFA program. She lives in Columbia, Missouri with her husband and son. She earned her MFA at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was a Truman Capote fellow. Find out more about Keija here.

You want this book.

*Also: how does someone who looks like they go to the farmer's market every Friday morning for sunflowers and cockscomb, write a book like this?? Mysteries of the universe.
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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

When The Twilight Zone Calls

Double Takes.
My formative years were filled, hours of them, in unsupervised marathons in front of the television set. I had a thirst for my favorite series, The Twilight Zone, that was unquenchable.

As soon as an episode ended, I needed another. The big reveal, that moment when we got to see just what took a typical day and transported it into The Twilight Zone, left me without air. The Twilight Zone -- that break in space and time, where we either fall into something or something falls into ours, and whoooosh, we are knocked into another state of being.

I felt it every time right along with the actor on screen. The closest words to describe that split in being is this, whatever you just heard, or saw, or felt, makes you do a double take. You see it once, your head swings away in disbelief because you have to thinkthinkthink, and then you can't help it you need to look again, because: no sense no sense no sense. Your brain can't catch up to the reality of the situation. I'm not a physically demonstrative person, but if I were, then in the moment of Twilight Zone-ism you'd see me flapping my arms like my oven mitts were on fire.

What's that?

How come?

I don't get it.


That is The Twilight Zone.

My children are the biggest cause of me finding myself in a double take, snapping my head back and forth like a cat following a laser pen. My children say something, do something, move their face or the light catches them in a moment where I can only open and close my mouth and stammer wha wha wha.

Of course, my three boys – some days more than others, look like me. But it's not the physical make up of who they are, nor the way they stand with one foot out like I do, not even the mannerism of how they have to smile before they begin talking in the same way I do. Those things are amazing, but they don't knock the wind out of me. It's the things they haven't seen me do, or heard me say, the ones I didn't teach them, that suspend me.

This week, when I went in to wake up my youngest, he opened his eyes and groaned, DANG. And he closed his eyes and rolled to his left side. I heard this, and stopped breathing. Because it's hard to breathe and freak out at the same time. My hairs stood on end because the word Dang is the first thing that leaves my lips every morning, but I say it to myself, alone, far away from everyone. He's never been with me at that point when night's rest ends and the day's bugles begin. And yet he just said it.

The Twilight Zone.

My middle boy will only eat one food at a time. I watch him and I know I've never talked about this, nor instructed him to do this, and there he sits: meat first, then the starch, finally, the vegetables, fruit comes last. Always in that order. We don't eat breakfast together, he has lunch at school without me, and dinner happens while I'm already at work some nights. But... the order of preference for food consumption. Identical.

Doodoodoodo doodoodoodoo

Most people can motivate themselves to do something because it needs to be get gotten done do it already. Me? I need the fire of a deadline singeing my hairs. The day I read a text from my oldest in college saying “Hey. Just found something out about myself. I need to have things due for me to get things done. That's when my work is really good.” Gulp. And yes, oh yes.

AAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!! Where how why do they know this???

This all brings us to the close of today's post. How many of us really know what's happening here? Do we watch and learn from our parents? Do our children imitate us, sense our actions, or are things already in our DNA? Are we all just one step away from merging into a sole being??

I don't know! I don't know! What I do know is this - my children are the most mystical, mind-blowing, arresting beings on this planet.

They are the only ones that have taken me to The Twilight Zone. But it doesn't terrify me as the show did -- although that was delicious. It's a different dimension they take me to, one where I feel a world without me at the same time as I feel the brush of my children's lives against mine.

I am reassured, through the goose bumps on my skin, about my legacy. Of course it involves food that can't touch, surly first words in the morning, and a last minute due date as the only sure way to complete a task.
What else embodies me more?

The Twilight Zone, an area of indefinite boundaries. Unable to delineate where one existence ends, and another begins. 

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Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Post of Good Things

 MetroParent Milwaukee has been nationally recognized and awarded two silver media awards at the Parenting Media Association's annual awards ceremony in Baltimore this weekend.

They were given a silver for General Excellence and a silver for Best Blog/Best Blogger. Philadelphia's online parenting magazine placed gold, and Chicago placed bronze. My weekly MetroParent Milwaukee column, Mom Logic, was recognized as a silver, in between those two big dogs.

Thank you to Liz Paulsen, my editor at MetroParent for the opportunities she has always passed on to me. I thank her for her encouragement and faith in what I do, and the space to do it in. Thank you to the readers, that click on to Mom Logic every week. I appreciate you.

In my mind, I see this right now:


because I remember the morning I logged on to MetroParent Milwaukee, and knew that I wanted to write for them and to serve the parents of our community. MetroParent gave me that chance, and my column there allows me to write in an arena that gives me purpose. Guiding, sharing, and building a community with parents that is based on honesty and experience is a satisfying relationship for me, and the readers that click on MetroParent as Milwaukee's #1 resource for parenting.

I'm proud, and grateful, to represent MetroParent.

Thank you for saying yes, Liz.

And Philly and Chitown, proud to be alongside you! You make me look good!

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