Betsy’s Bungalow Bazaar: A Micro Story.

I’d like to thank Alex Grey of the UK for her second submission “Betsy’s Bungalow Bazaar”, a charming, nostalgic micro story .

After a lifetime of writing technical non-fiction, Alex Grey is fulfilling her dream of writing poems and stories that engage the reader’s emotions. Her poems and short stories have been published by a number of ezines including Siren’s Call, Raconteur, Toasted Cheese and Little Old Lady Comedy. One of her comic poems is also available via a worldwide network of public fiction dispensers managed by publisher Short Edition. Alex’s ingredients for contentment are narrowboating, greyhounds, singing and chocolate – it’s a sweet life.

You can read more of Alex’s stories on her blog HERE or read her first story submission to MLS “Knitting for Leo”.

This page contains affiliate links which may earn me a small commission (at no extra charge to you) should you click through and make a purchase. Affiliate links are how I keep this blog running, thank you.


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Betsy’s Bungalow Bazaar

The air was thick with dust as Betsy’s neighbours rummaged through the clutter in the fusty bungalow. They ignored the dreary sandwiches and orange squash on the kitchen table.  

Donna sat in her late mother’s armchair.

Betsy had taken in the town’s cast-offs for decades, tutting at the excessive amount of stuff that people wasted. People flocked to leave things with her. Betty diligently sorted it – clothes, china, cutlery, books…some items were donated to charity; others recycled, but far too many stayed.

“It all got a bit much for her.” said Great-auntie Grace.

Donna nodded again; Grace’s mastery of understatement was astounding.

Every surface was covered with piles of bric-a-brac – a thousand thoughtless gifts dumped on Betsy’s doorstep – cross-eyed love bears, silvered plates etched with sentimental clichés, celebrity memoirs, unread and useless. Each item became a treasure in Betsy’s bazaar, acquiring a mythical value as she evaluated which causes might deserve a donation from her hoard.

Betsy had resisted her daughter’s efforts to clear the house; the forced disposal of even the tiniest gewgaw caused her immense distress. Donna gave up, helpless to save her mother from succumbing to the disordered squalor.

Donna found it hard to accept the shambles that her mother had lived in, recalling how hard Betsy had worked to clear her mum’s house. Nana Edith had memorably hoarded bags of sugar, bars of Sunlight soap and ten thousand pounds, the old bank notes curled into chipped teapots on the dresser. Donna was terrified that she would inherit the hoarding gene and ruin her own uncluttered home.

The day after her mum died, Donna decided to break with tradition. Instead of hiring the village hall, she would hold her mother’s wake in the littered bungalow. She posted invitations in the town’s shop windows – “To celebrate Betty’s life, a wake for all the neighbours who sustained her. Please take a trinket to remember her by.”

Hundreds had come, some greedy, offering desultory condolences while eyeing up the goods; others grieved and shared stories about the knick-knacks that they had chosen. Donna spoke of the amber-stoppered hatpin that she had chosen as her solitary memento. She recounted how, every December, she and her mother would sit by a roaring fire, savouring an exotic treat – a pomegranate. They had taken turns to pick out the seeds using the hatpin – the light of the flames making the translucent seeds glow like rubies.

Donna looked up – a scuffle had broken out. Great-auntie Grace emerged triumphant with a dented biscuit tin in her hands.

“Here, this is yours.”

Donna opened the tin to reveal hundreds of buttons; on the top was a gold silk button that she recognised from her own wedding dress.

“Why?”

“This was her memory box.” said Grace, “Your great-grandmother kept a button from every fancy bit of clothing the family ever wore, from christening gowns to army uniforms to funeral suits. Your grandma and your mum did the same. This is your legacy.”

Donna ran her fingers through the buttons; they were warm and comforting. The pearl, nacre, and plastic caught the light like jewels. She imagined the rusty tin in her ultra-modern house – there might be a good spot for it…


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With this ebook you will learn to approach your days in another way, reducing stress and getting results through prioritizing, leveraging and focus!

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The Picture Frame: A Short Story

I’d like to thank Julia Vanstory of the US for her short story submission ‘The Picture Frame’, a thought-provoking tale about ignorance versus insight and the often underestimated emotional maturity of a child.

Julie tell us “I work to capture small town, Southern culture and stories in my writing. When not chained to my computer, I am usually found in the dance studio. I live in Southern Mississippi with my daughter and husband.”

You can read more of Julie’s writing on her website at www. juliavanstory.com and follow her on twitter @juliavanstory.


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Photo credit: Hannah Busing & Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

The Picture Frame

“C’mon, we’re gonna be late.” I rush around my living room, checking my purse for my keys, sunglasses, and lipstick. My six-year-old daughter picks up a picture frame, leaving an outline of dust on the cherry-stained bookshelf.

“Can I bring this?”

Ava strokes her dad’s face in the frame.

“That was our first family photo.” It was our last one, too, but I don’t add that.

Ava looks up at me and tilts her head to one side.

“I know that. That’s why I want to take it.” She looks back at the photo. “You look so happy,” she whispers.

I take the picture from her and study it for the first time in years. It’s from the day we were discharged from the hospital. I was wearing a nursing tank, and my hair was slightly greasy because I didn’t wash it the whole time we were in the hospital. Dakota looked like he’d just walked off the golf course — tucked-in Polo shirt, khakis, and a white visor. We both gazed down at Ava nestled into my arms, wrapped in layers of white lace.

“Did you know you came out all slimy?”

“Ew,” she shouts, but her mouth is opened wide in a grin.

That moment when Ava was born and the doctor lifted up her perfect pink body, I felt a desperate need to feel her next to me. Before the doctor even finished asking if I wanted to do skin-to-skin, I nodded and reached out for her. I feel that way now.

“I love you so much, butter bean.”

She throws her arms wide, and I squat down to her level to wrap her up in a hug. I nuzzle her head and kiss her.

“I miss him.”

I pull her little body into my chest and rub her head. I hate that she misses him. I hate that she hurts. I hate it even more because he doesn’t deserve it.

While I was up with a colicky baby night after night, he locked himself in his home office or snuck down to the bar. The lack of sleep drove me crazy. Thoughts of running away weaved in and out between diaper changes and late night feeds. But then he left first. Ava had only been three months old. For six years, I’ve wished, I’ve hoped, I’ve dreamed of Dakota changing his mind, of redeeming himself. Instead, Ava is stuck with this deadbeat father forever. Dakota will never get to see all her quirks, her little smiles, her spontaneous kisses — but it’s his fault. It’s his fault that he missed all these little moments in the past, and now it’s his fault he’s dead.

I check my phone for the time. Dread clutches my stomach. “We gotta go.”

I grab her plastic pink princess heels and sit cross-legged beside her. She crawls into my lap and props one leg up on mine. I slip her shoe on and suppress the urge to chunk the picture across the room.

He didn’t hide the cocaine from me at first, though I had always opted for greener remedies. Back then it didn’t bother me because everyone uses in college. At least, that’s what I told myself.

The older he got, the better he became at hiding the drugs. No one besides me knew he had a problem until he was found face-down on his desk at work last week. The sun peeking over the horizon behind him, the foam at the mouth, the eyes rolled back.

Ava pulls my hand and leads me to the door. With her other hand, she holds the silver picture frame against her chest. She skips halfway to the car and stops to pick a dandelion. She blows, and the seeds float away in a small breeze.

When I first found out about Dakota, relief washed through me. Then shame when I realized Ava would never know her father. Then, I thought of my in-laws. They lost a child, and the idea of losing Ava ripped through me as if someone sat on my chest while stabbing me over and over in the gut.

*

As we pull up to the cemetery, a small group of aunts and uncles gather around Dakota’s parents. The sun has risen just enough to peek over the trees, but it hadn’t warmed up the chilly morning. Kathy wears a black lace dress with a high collar and long sleeves paired with her set of pearls, pantyhose, and sensible shoes with a chunky heel to keep from sinking into the grass — the quintessential mourner’s outfit. It certainly put my widow’s attire to shame — dark jeggings and a black T-shirt. I had put less than 10 seconds of thought into it.

When Kathy said she’d handle the funeral arrangements, I agreed without any hesitation. Although we were legally still married, I knew I wouldn’t have made the right decisions. There probably wouldn’t have been a funeral at all. If it had been up to me, I would have had him cremated, and his ashes thrown in a dumpster.

“Oh, Claire, thank you for coming.” Kathy envelopes me in a warm hug that smells of cinnamon and lavender. Her paper thin and wrinkled skin presses against my cheek. The nerves wash away. Kathy’s touch is just as comforting as my own mother’s.

“Nana, Nana, Nana,” Ava hops from one foot to the other. The picture frame waves back and forth, and I wait for it to hit Kathy’s leg.

“Good morning, sweet baby.” Kathy sweeps Ava into her arms. “You’re the most beautiful little girl. You remind me so much of your daddy.”

Ava giggles and holds her shoulders up mid-shrug like she does when she’s uncomfortable.

“What’s this?” Kathy touches the frame, but Ava jerks it away and shakes her head. She reaches for me, and I wrap her up and hold her tight as if my arms can protect her from the ugliness, from the attention, from the pressure.

“Now, that everyone’s here,” Kathy opens her arms as if welcoming a special guest to one of her fundraising galas. “I thought we’d open with a prayer.”

Kathy nods her head at her husband, and Davis draws a crumpled piece of paper from his inside jacket. Sweat is beading along his hairline despite the cool weather. He clears his throat, and everyone bows their head.

“Jesus, please be with my friends hearing this prayer. You know every wound, every joy, every fear, every dream. Heal old wounds.” Davis had probably found the first prayer he came across on Google. He jostles his weight from one foot to the other, and his free hand jingles the change in his pocket. “Give us eyes to see where new life springs in our hearts. Rejuvenate when we’re weak. We need you, Jesus. Amen.”


Rustic Succulent Planters

After the prayer, everyone looks up and avoids making eye contact.  I was thankful when Kathy decided on a private service, but right now I question that.  It would have been much easier to fade into anonymity with a crowd of people around. Kathy speaks up and takes over the service. I realize quickly everyone has prepared a short story to remember Dakota by. I get nervous as they cycle around, and it edges closer to me. I hear stories of bicycle mishaps and summertime pranks. Stories of an innocent 10, 11, 12-year-old boy. But no one dares to go older.

When Dakota’s aunt begins speaking beside me, I notice Kathy’s shoulders tense and her eyes shift between me and her sister. Is there a way for me to get out of this? When Rebecca finishes, Kathy starts shaking her head slowly. I breathe in and glance down at Ava. I hug her a little closer.

“Uh, yea. Maybe, something, I could- um.” I clear my throat and begin again. “Most of y’all know Dakota and I met in college.”

Kathy’s shoulders relax, and her gentle smile returns.

“What you may not know is how it happened. It was about three weeks into our first semester, and it had rained non-stop for days. I had put off and put off going to the grocery store, so I had quite the haul when I finally gave in.” It was a story I had perfected when we first got engaged. I told it to strangers at the supermarket as I flashed the two-carat princess-cut diamond. I told it to our priest during premarital counseling and at every wedding shower thrown. Any of the women here had heard it half a dozen times, but it is the only thing I can grasp, the only articulate thing I can say. “Because of the torrential downpour, I refused to take more than one trip. I zipped up my raincoat, pulled on the hood and loaded myself down with bags of popcorn, Mint Milanos, a gallon of milk and Slim Fast shakes. I made it to about halfway across the road between the parking lot and the dorm before one of the bags split open and spilled across the pavement.

“I started spewing a string of-” I look at Ava, “adult language. I didn’t even notice Dakota at first. White T-shirt drenched and barefoot, he came barreling toward me and scooping up the snacks from the ground.”

“‘Don’t just stand there,’ he yelled. He yanked the box of Diet Coke from my hand and sloshed through the muddy grass before I’d even found something to say.

“Once we were inside, he asked for my room number. Up the three flights of stairs, he teased me incessantly, but that’s when I knew I’d marry him some day. Obviously, we had our differences, but I know I wouldn’t be who I am today without him.” I kiss Ava’s head and smooth out her hair with my hand.

“Dakota was so sweet,” Rebecca chirps. “You were so perfect together.”

A smile had crept up with the memory of that day, but it drops away now.

“Oh, no.” I shake my head and bat away the suggestion with my hand. “We were not.”

“No, no. Remember when he proposed?” Kathy chimes in. “Red roses all over and my grandmother’s wedding china. It looked so beautiful.”

“He certainly had a way with the grand gestures.” I pinch the tender part of my wrist to try to disperse some of the tension and anxiety. I want to shout what I really think about Dakota at the top of my lungs, but Ava’s here. Ava. So sweet. So innocent. For probably the hundredth time in the course of her short life, I wonder how she got saddled with us for parents.

“We all know how kind Dakota could be when he wanted.” Kathy catches my eyes as if she can hear my thoughts.

The blood pulses in my ears. I try to swallow to say something. A tiny voice creeps up next to me.

“Daddy wasn’t a nice person.”

Everyone’s eyes lock onto Ava, but she’s staring down at the picture in her hand. I want to whisk her away, but I’m too stunned to move. She’s too young to know that you don’t speak ill of the dead.

“What have you been saying to her?” Kathy’s voice crackles through the cold air.

“I never- I wouldn’t.”

I look around the gathering. No one is saying anything. Everyone is staring at Kathy, Ava, or me. Everyone except Davis. He’s looking at his shoes, and his hands are stuffed in his pockets.

“She’s six, Kathy, not stupid,” he whispers. “It’s obvious he hasn’t been around.”

“Don’t you dare.” Her voice shakes and rises. “He was troubled.

“Yes.” He looks up. “But he should have stepped up. Don’t go after Claire for his mistake.”

I hope he understands the wordless relief I’m trying to communicate. He nods at me. I kneel beside Ava. “I’m so sorry, baby girl.”

“Mama, you don’t have to,” she whispers back. “I didn’t even know him.”

My throat closes, and my heart breaks for her. I reach for Ava’s hand.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper to Kathy. I graze my hand on Davis’ forearm as I pass in gratitude, in solidarity.

“Take care of her,” he says. “She’s all we have left.”

I buckle Ava into her booster seat, and she lets me, even though she can do it herself. I look at her, really look at her, at her green eyes, her blonde hair. She does look just like Dakota.

“You know,” I say, “he wasn’t all bad. He gave me you.”

Ava drops the picture on the seat and reaches her arms out to give me a hug. Her tiny lips bunch tightly into my cheek.

“I love you, Mama.”

“I love you, too, butter bean.”


The Almost Mothers by Laura Besley

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Thank you for reading this blog, if you’d like to submit a story for consideration to be published, please visit our submissions page.

If you’d like to keep up to date with all the latest stories, news, promos (including writing competitions and giveaways) plus receive a FREE Ebook, sign up to our mailing list here or fill in the form below.


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Accomplish more IN a fraction of the time

The pace and intensity of our lives, both at work and at home, leave many of us feeling like a person riding a frantically galloping horse. Our day-to-day incessant busyness — too much to do and not enough time.

With this ebook you will learn to approach your days in another way, reducing stress and getting results through prioritizing, leveraging and focus!

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Knitting for Leo – A Short Story

We’d like to thank Alex Grey of the UK for her touching short story “Knitting for Leo”.

After a lifetime of writing technical non-fiction, Alex Grey is fulfilling her dream of writing poems and stories that engage the reader’s emotions. Her ingredients for contentment are narrowboating, greyhounds, singing and chocolate – it’s a sweet life. Her poems and short stories have been published by a number of ezines including Siren’s Call, Raconteur and Toasted Cheese. One of her comic poems is also available via a worldwide network of public fiction dispensers managed by publisher Short Edition. Alex is not a mum, but she works in healthcare and this story comes from her compassion for the women who have shared their lives with her over the years.

You can read Alex’s blog HERE

Note: this story mentions still birth and is a work of fiction and not based on any identifiable individual.

This page contains affiliate links which may earn me a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you click through and make a purchase. Affiliate links are how I keep this blog running, thank you. 

Shop Darn Good Yarn
knitting for leo

Photo by Annisa Ica on Unsplash

Knitting For Leo

My mother taught me to knit. 

Back then, knitting was a necessity, not some artisan craft like it is today. She would get patterns from Women’s magazines and cheap wool from the market. She knitted my clothes – sweaters, cardigans, even skirts. I was the eldest. As soon as I could hold a pair of needles, I was knitting booties for my baby brother and sister. 

I got married in 1969, when you could buy wool in every colour that you could imagine. I was eighteen, but I already knew how to keep a house. Calum worked long hours, keen to get on in his career and be a good provider. I had a part-time job in our local greengrocers. In the evenings, we’d sit by the fire in our terraced house. It was before we had a television, so we’d talk about the future, about the children that we’d have. I’d knit and he’d do the crossword in the newspaper. I knitted tank tops for him to wear to work – he had a different one for every day of the month.  Years later he admitted that he got teased by the other juniors. But my Calum was a hard worker, and the teasing stopped when he kept getting promoted. 

Calum was already a manager by the time I fell pregnant. Lucky that he had enough tank tops, because as soon as I started to show I stopped knitting for him. I bought some new wool, all soft pastel yellow and lilac, and started knitting for the baby. My friends said it was bad luck to knit for the baby too soon, but I wanted to be ready. 

I thought I must be carrying a boy, a footballer judging by the kicking. Calum was very modern, he liked to lie by my side with his hand on my bump, feeling every movement. The basket I kept in the new nursery soon filled with clothes – judging by the size of the bump he was going to be a whopper. I started getting nervous about giving birth, but the midwife said I was young and had nothing to worry about.

The kicking stopped when I was 37 weeks. 

I remember that night – I slept for 8 hours, my longest sleep since I fell pregnant. I woke up all rested and, for a minute, everything seemed fine, but my bump did not wake up with me. I begged for my baby to start kicking again, but he was still. The hospital induced the birth, I had to go through it, but they knew it was all for nothing. I caught a glimpse of him before they wrapped him in a towel and swept him away. He looked so perfect, like he was sleeping. I wanted to hold him, but they said it was better for me not to see him, to move on quickly, a strong young girl like me could try again soon enough, these things happened.




There was no death certificate because he had never lived. Yet in our hearts, he was always Leo, due in August, our fierce little lion who almost made it.

We carried our grief out of the hospital door and swaddled it with our hopes in the little basket of baby clothes I’d knitted. I burned them all.

Of course, we tried again and within the year we had a beautiful baby girl; two years later, our son was born. I stopped knitting. Honestly, who has time to knit with two young children and a husband working all hours? 

Late at night, though, I’d hear Calum sobbing quietly beside me and knew he’d never got over losing Leo, just as I’d never got over the feeling that my knitting had cursed our firstborn. There was no emery board that could remove the festering hangnail of our hidden grief. 

Calum lived long enough to walk his daughter down the aisle and to stand shoulder to shoulder with his son when he was wed. When our first grandchild was born, I realised that I had not seen Calum smile like that since the day that I first fell pregnant and our future had sparkled with undimmed hope.  

I brooded on it after Calum’s funeral, how his poor heart had flexed with grief and joy, like the metal fatigue in those planes that crashed, destroyed by a hidden stress.

It was then I decided to tell my children about Leo. They didn’t know, you see, because we didn’t talk about these things back then. They were…surprising. They cried, but with relief, they said they had always felt that there was something, someone, missing. We had Leo’s name carved onto Calum’s headstone and I started to knit again.

I live with my daughter now. I have a lovely apartment with plenty of space for my comfy recliner chair. I have everything I need, a TV, my knitting needles and a pile of wool given to me by kind donors. It’s all colours and textures, but that doesn’t matter. Once I picked up the needles again, my fingers remembered the old patterns, so I can sit here watching my favourite shows while I make babygro’s, bootees and cute berets to keep the babies’ heads warm. 

My daughter knocks on my door.

“Mum, the driver’s here.”

“That’s fine love, I’ve got a load ready for him.”

I hand her a neatly wrapped box, the label says “Knitting for Leo” along with a charity registration number. This batch is going to our local hospital, but I send parcels to maternity units all over the country. You see, Leo’s charity got quite big once my daughter mentioned it on the internet. We must have over a hundred volunteer knitters now, each with their own sad tale to tell. 

I knit tiny clothes that would fit a doll, or a baby born too soon and too still. I finish each little outfit with a ribbon and put it in the basket by my side. I imagine how parents will take these tiny clothes and dress their stillborn babies. They will hold their precious bodies, take photographs. In that moment, the quiet infants will become part of their families forever.

I raise a cup of tea to the dead who never lived.

You never lived, but you were loved. Rest easy my son.




Thanks

Thanks for reading this blog. You can read more stories HERE and if you’d like to submit a story for consideration to be published, please visit our submissions page.

If you’d like to keep up to date with all the latest stories, news, promos (including writing competitions and giveaways) plus receive a FREE Ebook, sign up to our mailing list here or fill in the form below.


Get your FREE Ebook

Accomplish more IN a fraction of the time

The pace and intensity of our lives, both at work and at home, leave many of us feeling like a person riding a frantically galloping horse. Our day-to-day incessant busyness — too much to do and not enough time.

With this ebook you will learn to approach your days in another way, reducing stress and getting results through prioritizing, leveraging and focus!

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A Place: A Micro-Story

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Thanks to Fiona M. Jones for her latest submission “A Place’. A charming micro-story about the adventures children find in ordinary places.

Fiona M. Jones is a regular contributor to Mum Life Stories, some of her titles include ‘Mud‘ & ‘Tiny Green Apples‘. She is a part-time teacher, a parent, and a spare-time writer, with work recently published by Folded Word, Buckshot Magazine and Silver Pen.

She is also one of the judges for our Micro-Fiction Competition.

She lives with her husband and 2 sons (aged 15 & 17) in Fife, Scotland, where she works, writes & ministers. You can read more about Fiona here, in her Mum Life Success Story.

You can also follow Fiona on Twitter or Linkedin
Photo Credit: Raghu Nayyar on Unsplash

This page contains affiliate links which may earn me a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. Affiliate links are how I keep this blog running, thank you.

Going Short book coverGoing Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction by Nancy Stohlman


A PLACE

“Mummy, we’ve seen a place and we have to go there,” they tell me in that tone of unanswerable firmness which I know they’ve copied from me but still I can’t resist.
A “place” is never an amusement park or a restaurant or any crowded area. It is over hills or under trees, in among rocks through mud beside water. We’re going on a bear hunt, we’re setting out on an Expotition, we’re traversing Middle Earth; and, come what may, we’re not coming back with clean clothes or dry socks.
This particular place is a narrow deep-forested valley below the A92 to Kirkcaldy. Embanked dual carriageway turns briefly to bridge and back again in the blink of an eye, but children’s eyes don’t blink much, and they’ve made their decision.
I parked, awkwardly, in a layby, and we went there.
We followed overgrowing paths among damp greenery and welly-sucking puddles. We found a wooden bridge across the stream, and we walked under the massive concrete struts of the traffic-roaring road. We scrambled up dust and small scree to a half-hidden ledge of ground that made a perfect lookout point, and we defended with imaginary fire-power. And we discovered a fallen tree clutching odd pieces of brickwork, in its newly-bared roots as though it had accidentally swallowed a wall half a century ago.
And I laundered once more the clothes and cleaned the mud off boots, hoping that nothing in life will ever wash away the patterns of early habit—that trees and sky and running water will always remain the backdrop in my children’s minds, giving them peace when life gets turbulent.


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Brevity: A Flash Fiction Handbook by David Galef


If you’d like to submit a story of your own, please visit our submissions page, or enjoy reading more of our Flash Fiction HERE.

If you’re a writer, why not enter our Micro-Fiction Writing Competition?

Micro Fiction writing competition

Thanks

Thank you for reading this blog. If you would like to keep up to date with all our latest news, stories and promos (including giveaways and writing competitions), please sign up to our mailing list HERE, or fill in the form below. You’ll also receive a FREE Ebook exclusive to our email subscribers.


Get your FREE Ebook

Accomplish more IN a fraction of the time

The pace and intensity of our lives, both at work and at home, leave many of us feeling like a person riding a frantically galloping horse. Our day-to-day incessant busyness — too much to do and not enough time.

With this ebook you will learn to approach your days in another way, reducing stress and getting results through prioritizing, leveraging and focus!

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‘Domesticating Mom’ with guest blogger Almondie Shampine

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Some of you may remember a Mum Life Story I posted back in October about a mum named Almondie Shampine. Almondie told us of her experience of being a working mum and how her perceptions and goals changed after her health took a turn for the worst. Now a stay at home mum, author, blogger and a book publisher she has graciously decided to share with us once again.

This touching, thought-provoking article describes the evolution of a Mother from a teen mum to a mum of teens and how her desperate cry for freedom was extinguished by the love of her children.

This page contains affiliate links which may earn me a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you click through and make a purchase. Affiliate links are how I keep this blog running, thank you.

Photo by Katie Emslie on Unsplash


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‘The Institute’ by Stephen King (Buy it now)


Domesticating Mom

11/5/19

I’m 37 today.

(Funny, aside of me visualizing a little dance, swaying my arms in front of me and behind me, while singing ‘It’s my birthday. It’s my birthday.’)

I hated my birthday for a good three or more decades. I’m sure many can relate. The birthday goes downhill the moment one’s mind gets caught up on it being ‘a special day’, and the expectations are quick to follow. One minor disappointment thus leads to frenzied overcompensation to make it ‘the best birthday ever’. It becomes an emotional roller coaster, as what goes up must inevitably come down, and special occasions are full of those ups and downs.

I became a teen parent, pregnant in my 18th year of life. Instead of sending out my wedding invitations, which had been the original plan, I was making phone calls to share the news of my pregnancy with the shamed side note that there wouldn’t be a wedding, as my then-fiance had walked, taking all my dreams of my desired and aspired-for future with him and changing the entire course of my life.

A whole life ahead of me, a life I’d barely just begun, and I was to be a Mom, first and foremost, for the rest of my life, and a single Mom, at that. Three years away from being able to have a legal cocktail, yet responsible for raising and supporting a tiny human all on my own. I could no longer fit in with people my age due to being a Mom. When they were partying downstairs or next door to me, I would outwardly complain that their music was too loud, their swearing too much, or that the stench of their pot-smoking was making its way into my apartment, while feelings of loneliness and betrayal ate away at me on the inside, because they’d been my friends, and not a single one of them made that 13-step trek up the stairs or took the three steps next door to my apartment to see how I was doing – not throughout my pregnancy or thereafter. They’d stopped inviting me, stopped asking me to drive them places, stopped even asking if we could talk or if I could give them advice on something they were going through. It was as though I just stopped existing.

I began frequenting places where I could find other Moms, such as parks, and tried making friends with coworkers that had kids, but they looked at me like I was too young and would treat me like the ‘typical teenager’ that I couldn’t be, wasn’t allowed to be, and would never be able to be. Many times I made the mistake of thinking that interested males were making the choice of wanting to be with me, while accepting I had a child. I assumed that meant they knew that I was looking for commitment, so it would devastate me when, after the fact, they’d tell me they weren’t ready for a family, or didn’t want to be a family guy. It confounded me to no end. Until I watched movies like American Pie and all-the-rage young adult movies at that time that talked about MILFS, single moms being perceived as ‘being more experienced’, and the idea that single moms or older or more mature women were great for casual affairs, but nothing more than that. This led to many years of false hopes.





Time was my enemy. It was torture. Being so young, it seemed to pass intolerably slow. It was only thoughts of the future that kept me dragging myself out of bed most days on so little sleep. At first, it was just waiting for me to be old enough for people to start respecting me and taking me seriously. I creeped through my 19th year; my 20th year passed even more slowly. My 21st birthday was celebrated with my Mom, because I’d lost all my friends. For a short time, between my 21st and 22nd year, I believed I’d found the person I’d spend my life with, and the years prior faded away as having all been worth it during that time. …Until he disclosed that he didn’t want to be a family guy after it was disclosed to him that I was carrying his child. 0 for 2. 2 children conceived from 2 different guys that weren’t ready to be a father by the time I was 22. I could kiss any future, healthy prospective relationship goodbye; nor could I ever hope to be respected for anything other than being that single Mom with two kids from two different fathers.

My 22nd birthday was spent pregnant and alone, just like my 19th. My 23rd spent trying to get back on my feet after having lost everything due to childcare being more than I could make with a full-time job. My 24th was spent battling for my life. Single Mom, poor, living in the worst (cheapest) side of the city, not having any friends or any family that would even notice my absence for quite some time, made me a really easy target for predators. That was the year I began counting down the days. Every exhausted night before bed, I would put an x on the calendar marking the end of another day. I began celebrating the end of every week, the end of every month, the end of every year. It showed me forward movement. The passage of time.

Every birthday, I hated, because all it meant to me was just the beginning of a new year, where I’d have to fight through another 364 days to get to the end of it. I’d count down the years of my children being grown. 15 more years. 12 more years. 10 more years. All I could feel was time just looming ahead. So much time. Too much time. Every year I was crushed with the overwhelming anxiety that I would not be able to make it through another year. I’d barely made it through the last, how would I possibly make it through another? I felt terribly alone. Terribly lonely.

My heart had been made to love. I was a lover. A nurturer. A helper. I wanted a family. A full family. A true family. I wanted a partner to share my life with. I wanted the forever. I wanted marriage. I wanted the growing-old with someone. I needed deep connections. Needed someone I could call my best friend. I felt like a neglected flower – once so full of bloom and vibrancy, wilting and withering away to decay.

I waited for people my age to catch up to me. I watched them form partnerships, get married, and begin families of their own. I looked forward to cookouts, our kids getting together, family-oriented celebrations and parties, but still, I didn’t belong. My kids didn’t belong. I was never invited, nor would anyone else show when I threw cookouts of my own. My kids were much older than their kids. Those parents were married living married life. The last thing they wanted was a young single mother, a bachelorette, walking around to remind their men of the single life. I would try to make friends with my children’s friend’s parents, but my youth and my being unmarried maintained me as being the oddball out.


Cover Art

‘Mangoes & Monkey bread’ by Emily Joop (Buy it now)


Every future hope that would keep me waking to the present and keep me tackling each and every day would never come to pass, where I’d grasp on to another future hope, all relative to the passage of time, to my children getting older with me inevitably getting older alongside them. Me holding onto the optimistic view of it being a good thing I started my family young because I’d still be fairly young when they were grown, was crucial towards my continued hopes that one day … One day things would be different.

One day I’d be able to go on those road trips. One day I’d be able to experience that youth I missed out on. One day I’d be able to go bar-hopping, or go dancing, or be able to have a fancy date. One day I’d know what it’s like to go to a spa, or to a hairdresser, and I’d know what it’s like to spoil myself, pamper my body, get all dressed up and go out on the town. One day I’d be able to attract a decent man without him being turned off by me having children, and I’d be able to have friends and go out to eat and be a human being, a person, a woman, and not just a Mom. I’d be able to cherish romance and walk around naked again and spend an entire day luxuriating in physical pleasantries and allowing myself to feel love, both the giving and the receiving of it, uninhibited. I’d finally be able to live my dreams fully, and commit myself to them 100 percent, instead of so frequently having to put them on the backburner. I’d finally be able to have the life I was supposed to have, the life I was meant to have.

All these years I thought I was raising and grooming my children to get them to the point of being adults. I thought I was getting them through all the developmental milestones of being full grown. I thought I was training them to survive independently, self-sufficiently from me. As a mom, it was my number one job to support them, provide them safety and security, guide them through their growing years, teach them how to overcome those obstacles in life – first, to carry them, second, to be their step-ladder, and third, to be their spotter as they made their way over those hurdles all on their own. It was my sacrifice to them. 18 years of putting their needs, wants, dreams, desires, over my own while my life remained dormant. On pause. Waiting. Waiting for the time when I could start living again.

37 years old. I’m celebrating the passage of those 18 birthdays that I waited for for so long. I’m looking back. Shaking my head in wonder. Realizing that I’d gotten it all wrong all along. Like a wild feral cat that only lives for their own survival, their own comfort, their own needs and desires, I was captured in a crate just by the beating of my kids’ hearts, imprisoned within a home that always had to have heat, and food, and a place to sleep. No matter how much I mewled and scratched at the door to escape, they would distract my attention away by wanting to play with me or forcing me to curl up with them. They never left me unsupervised, and would always call me back if I strayed too far.

They forced me to take care of myself. Made me get up when all I wanted to do was sleep. Made me eat when all I wanted to do was starve. Made me fight to live for everyday I felt like dying, and even saved my life when I actually was dying. They urged me to swim when I was drowning and made me weather every storm. First, they taught me to climb mountains, and then they made me move them. They showed me that no obstacle is too high and that dead-end roads are only an illusion -there’s no end of the road, only a road not yet built. They showed me that the only thing truly impossible in my life was the ability to give up. They were scrupulous and rigid. Demanding and inflexible. They’d conditioned me by rewarding me with happiness when I was on my best behaviors, and simply ignoring me when I was not. Not once did they give up hope. Not once did they lose faith. No matter how much I resisted.

With patience and unrelenting vigor, they kept at it, day after day, week after week, year after year, for 18 years. And then on this birthday, they gave me my most-desired gift. They opened the door and they offered me my freedom. “You deserve it, Mom. Go have fun. It’s your special day. Do whatever you want.” I stood at the door, looking out, listening for that call of the wild that had been so strong and enticing for so many years; it sounded so differently than it did before. Cold. Dark. Mournful. Lonely. Miserable.

That’s when I knew. All along, my children had been grooming me for 18 years. Taming me. Domesticating me. I never would have survived out there in the wild. My heart too big. I was never cut out to be a hunter or to prey on other things. Nor was I ever capable of running with a pack. I wasn’t a follower, but neither did I have what it took to lead. I would have been the hunted of the hunter, the preyed upon of the predator, the hider of the seeker. Instead, my children provided me safety and security, warmth and belonging, nurture and affection, and a forever family, giving me my best chance to become my best self. All while letting me believe that I was raising them and providing them the tools they needed to survive without me, it was they all along providing me the skills I needed to survive without them.

Almondie

You can visit Almondie’s website at www.freebirdexpresspublishing.com or follow her blog at www.freebirdexpresspublishing.blogspot.com

If your on Quora, you’ll find her profile here https://www.quora.com/profile/Almondie-Shampine

And you’ll find her books for sale on Amazon HERE (Available in both paperback and e-book).

Thanks

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Batting Mice Around: A Micro Story

We’d like to thank Madlynn Haber of the USA for her Flash Fiction Story ‘Battling Mice Around’. A fictional story based on true events, ‘Battling Mice Around’ is a humorous story about single mum life and the oddity of memory association.

Madlynn Haber is a mother, retired social worker and a writer living in Northampton, Massachusetts. Her work has been published in the anthology Letters to Fathers from Daughters, in Anchor Magazine, Exit 13 Magazine and on websites including: A Gathering of the Tribes, The Voices Project, The Jewish Writing Project, BoomSpeak, Quail Bell Magazine, Mused Literary Review, Hevria, Right Hand Pointing, and Mothers Always Write.

You can view her work at www.madlynnwrites.com


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Mouse Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash, Broom Photo by HS Spender on Unsplash, Cot Photo by Monika Rams on Unsplash

Battling Mice Around

There was water rising in the basement. Cold, dark, murky, slimy, water. Being a woman alone, a single mother, without a man, she had no idea what to do about it. Calling the landlord hadn’t helped. She left message after message with no response.

Then there were the mice who must have been displaced by the rising water. She saw them running around the edges of the house late that night. She didn’t know what else to do but whack them with a broom. She didn’t want to hurt them or kill them she just wanted to make them go away. She stayed up all night, sitting by the baby’s crib holding on to that broom, smoking cigarettes and batting away mice. By morning there was a grey cloud of smoke hanging in the air and all signs of the mice were gone.

Eventually, the landlord called back. Someone came and pumped the water out of the basement and the mice went back to their hiding places. Years later she stopped smoking cigarettes.

The baby grew up and got a job working at a zoo. There, she had to kill mice and put them in an aviary for the birds of prey. Everyone wondered how someone, who loved animals as much as that young woman did, could so easily smash a mallet down on their little heads and turn them into bird food. For some reason it felt natural to her. One time she asked her mom about it. Her old mother just laughed and said “When I think of you batting those mice around, it makes me want to smoke a cigarette.”

More Stories

Read more stories from our contributing writers HERE

Don’t forget to sign up to our mailing list to get more the latest stories, news and promos (including giveaways and writing competitions), plus receive a FREE Ebook exclusive to our email subscribers.


Get your FREE Ebook

Accomplish more IN a fraction of the time

The pace and intensity of our lives, both at work and at home, leave many of us feeling like a person riding a frantically galloping horse. Our day-to-day incessant busyness — too much to do and not enough time.

With this ebook you will learn to approach your days in another way, reducing stress and getting results through prioritizing, leveraging and focus!

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