My Mother, My Brother and Me: A Memoir

I’d like to thank Pat Tyrer of the USA for her moving memoir ‘My Mother, My Brother and Me’. This is actually the first memoir I’ve published on this site, so I’m thrilled that Pat decided to share it with us.

Pat Tyrer is a writer and lover of literature who hikes Palo Duro Canyon and loves Texas bird watching when the sun is up, and stargazing when it’s not. When not reading or writing, she can be found in the canyon with her dog Emma and any number of her five children and seven grandchildren. Her creative work has appeared in Readers’ DigestQuiet Mountain, Front Porch Review, and Plum Tree Tavern and includes two books of poetry, Creative Hearts and Western Spaces, Western Places.



My Mother, My Brother and Me

My brother and I spent our early years raised by a single mother who was desperate to keep us from harm and did so by telling us mildly horrible stories. We lived blocks from the ravine near the Missouri River and to keep us away, mom told us that the ravine was where the police thought the child killer of Donna Sue Davis (a famous unsolved child murder) hung out and so we were to stay out of the ravine. Of course, this only encouraged us to venture further and more often into the ravine, at times wandering nearly to the river. To keep us away from the train tracks, mom told us that her great uncle was killed by a train and the police brought his body home in a peach basket. He was in fact found alongside the tracks, but the police suspected he’d been murdered and placed there to hide the crime. No peach basket was involved.

My brother and I thus became quite good at telling stories ourselves, often entertaining people with the true stories of our childhood which at times verged on the ridiculous. We were happy as children even though we were aware of our poverty and of our mother’s struggles to maintain a stable home. One time talking to one of my many cousins, I commented that I had a happy childhood to which she immediately expressed strong disagreement. Her denial upset me so much that I called my brother, yelling into the phone, “did we have a happy childhood?” He said, “Yup, as far as I remember,” and that was good enough for me, although I’m still holding a grudge against my cousin and her disparaging remark. I can be small-minded like that.

My mother was born in December 1929 and the ramifications of growing up through the depression years would be with her for her entire life. Her family was divided into two groups with several years intervening between the first five children and the last three. The older group composed of four girls and a boy, and the later arrival of two girls and a boy. At one time, my grandmother was caring for four daughters, aged 2, 4, 5, 6, and a baby son, too quickly followed by another son and two more daughters. I’m pretty sure grandma suffered a nervous breakdown after the birth of my mother, the eighth child, but there’s no proof of that. Four years separated the first group from the second, and according to the eldest daughter the arrival of the final three was the beginning of the family’s financial demise. While they were living in South Sioux City, on the Nebraska side of the Missouri, they were doing well. They even owned the house they were living in. Sometime around the last birth, grandpa sold the house— “the worst mistake he ever made” according to my eldest aunt—and moved the family across the river to Iowa. I’m not sure how long the downhill slide took, but family legend has it that it was a financial rollercoaster from then on, less feast and more famine.


Mum Life Stories: Micro-Fiction, Vol 1

By the time my mother was a toddler, my grandmother had been temporarily institutionalized, my grandfather had become a confirmed alcoholic, the family was barely surviving financially, and my two eldest aunts had already quit school at 14 and 15 to find jobs. Named Juanita in a family of Norwegian and English immigrants, the onslaught of troubles began early. Mother believed that grandpa had named her after a Mexican cook who worked for him and with whom he was quite taken. Few in Sioux City knew how to spell her name, and she was often listed as Wanita, the Native American spelling. Growing up in Siouxland, surrounded by the seven tribes of the Sioux nation, it seemed a logical assumption. Eventually she quit using her first name completely, going by Jean for most of her adult life. Ironically, the name Wanita, often spelled as Waneta or even the Spanish form, Juanita, is an old English name for girls meaning “God is gracious.” 1 According to Social Security Agency records, the name reached its peak during the years 1920-1929 in 1058th position. Whether mother was named after a Mexican cook or whether her own mother named her, choosing an old English name is uncertain.

One of the qualities my mother excelled at was telling stories, so I’m guessing the origin of her name might have been just one more in a long list of captivating tales. At one time mother told me that grandpa owned a large lake as well as the surrounding area which he lost in the crash of 1929. I remember swimming at Crystal Lake once or twice when we were young and supposed that to be the lake that grandpa had owned. The lake had a
metal slide about twenty feet into the water; the sand at the bottom of the slide was worn down into a rather good-sized hole. On my one and only attempt to conquer the slide, I slid into the hole and for a few moments believed my life to be at an end. Eventually, no more than two or three seconds, I got a foothold on a higher ledge thrusting myself out of the water and into a shallower space, albeit acutely aware of the possibility of death for the first time. I told the story of the lake and the land to my aunt who said, “Poppycock! He never owned a thing except the house in South Sioux, and he sold that.” And that, dear reader, was that.

Even though she had older sisters who might have cared for her, on the day she was born, mother was farmed out to her mother’s brother and his wife, her aunt and uncle. She remained with them for her first two years. I’m not sure she ever forgave her sisters for not keeping her at home, but by Black Tuesday, the family was already suffering financial hardship and keeping her at home in the care of her teenaged sisters would have undoubtedly been the wrong decision. Sending her to live with relatives was in all likelihood a harsh but necessary one. Mother claimed to have been told that grandma suffered from tuberculosis and had to be institutionalized for her and everyone else’s health. I’m not sure that’s the whole truth of it. Knowing the high instances of overwhelming anxiety that runs through my mother’s family, I suspect she was hospitalized for mental health issues, perhaps even postpartum depression after the birth of her eighth child. This would never have been revealed in 1929. In the years since, I’ve come to understand the wide swatch of anxiety disorders that affects my family.

Relatives have all handled their anxiety in different ways; several are alcoholics; many take prescribed medications; there are a few
addicts in the group, and some just suffer. During an annual physical recently, my doctor asked about family history, questioning whether there were any issues of alcoholism or drug use. I told her that listing family members without issues would be a shorter list. At that time, we lived in a little yellow house at the top of a very steep hill. The yard backed up against a huge unclimbable cliff that not even my brother, who could scamper up the tallest hill, would attempt. One night just after getting into bed, me in my own room, and my brother with mother, there was a pounding on the outside walls going all around the house. I was terrified. Whoever was racing around the house, pounding on the walls continued for only a few
minutes before he or she disappeared—not nearly long enough to be caught or even sighted by the police. At first mother believed it to be a prank, but after several nights over several months, we all took it more seriously, even the police, who at one point stationed an officer in the coat
closet in an attempt to catch the person in the act. I imagine this would be a case of stalking today and a much more detailed investigation would be undertaken, but at the time, it seemed an annoying, if terrifying prank, and the perp was never caught. Shortly after this episode we moved
once again.

The little yellow house was also the place where we got our first dog—long before the wall-knocking prankster appeared. The dog was a large yellow lab who just seemed to show up in the backyard one day and since we had a backyard, mother agreed we could keep him. He wasn’t much more than a puppy at the time he arrived, and since he slept under the house, he required little more than food, water, and occasional petting. All was well until the day we went to play with him and he couldn’t get out from under the house. We coaxed and coaxed, but he simply had gotten too big too to escape the small opening of the den he’d created. Never one to leave solutions to others, mother got her shovel and began the arduous work of digging a tunnel out of the hard-packed earth to allow the dog escape. I don’t recall him being around much after that. I don’t even remember his name, but it would be a long time before we got another dog.

Around 1962 my mother remarried. Her new husband was a Fuller Brush man or an insurance agent, or a magic-potion seller—frankly, I have no idea what he did. He wore a suit and tie, carried a briefcase, drove a company car, and moved us two-hundred miles south to Ankeny, Iowa, a town of fewer than 25,000 souls which had no movie theaters, no swimming pool, and no one we knew. We’d moved in the summer, leaving everything familiar behind including dozens of aunts and uncles and cousins with whom we’d grown up. We were miserable, but thankfully, our misery didn’t last long. Within days of our arrival, our new neighbors who were the same ages of my brother and I introduced us to others in the neighborhood.

Mother’s wedded bliss, however, was not to last. The new husband, who had no children of his own, turned out to be uncomfortably petty and childish himself, staking out food in the refrigerator as “his,” and having a fit if my brother or I touched it. He had no patience with children and we had no love for him. Not realizing that her children were her heart and soul, he made no effort to abide us and so within the year, he was a forgotten piece of our history. And he was truly forgotten. Mother never referred to him nor acknowledged she was once married to him. Years later I mentioned to my husband that mother had been married three times. He was astounded that this information had never surfaced. There were several interesting bits of information my mother never spoke about and that second husband was one of many of them.

Once settled in Ankeny, mom went to work for a general practitioner who was a Doctor of Osteopathy. In his employ mother became known as competent and proficient. For the first time in her life she was an acknowledged professional. She was active in nursing and at one time
served as president of her organization. Although we went to Sioux City as often as we could, our relationships with family became less intimate and more formalized with weddings, funerals, and yearly family reunions.

No sooner had mother divorced than she began dating. My brother and I reveled in the irony of these events as mother had been single throughout our entire childhood, never dating, never introducing us to a man she might be interested in, never having any close male friends. In fact, because of her divorce from our father who she claimed was oversexed with various unacknowledged offspring spread across the country, we assumed she hated men. None of these so-called progenies ever showed up on our doorstep, so this may have been another of mother’s small exaggerations, further exaggerated. The move to Ankeny seemed to erase that assumption as mother prepared to go out on Saturday evenings with the “girls.”

What seemed like the passage of only a few months since the divorce, mom introduced us to a local man whose family had been in Ankeny since the founding of the town. Nearly everyone in town who had lived there for more than twenty years was related in some way. It was also the only place I’ve ever lived where I didn’t have to spell my new last name or explain how to pronounce it. Within the year, they were married and shortly thereafter, my brother and I were adopted. In their wedding photo, they look happy; my brother looks delighted (he was young) and I look condemned. I became a member of a large clan of people I didn’t know, with a family legacy I didn’t understand. Everyone was kind, including new grandparents who I don’t think ever took to any of us, but concealed it well.

By the time I began high school I was pretty much disgruntled with everything. I’d lost my birth father and my grandma through death, my school, my extended family, and my name. I didn’t think life could ever be worse, but of course, I was wrong as growing older has shown. Unfortunately, only in hindsight do I realize that this was probably the easiest time of my life. For once we had enough money, a secure home, a stable environment, and two parents who were both concerned about our welfare. We weren’t the Brady Bunch or the Huxtables, but we got along okay. It turned out that my adopted dad, who quickly became “dad,” was honest, ethical, and responsible. He rarely interfered with mother’s disciplinary methods, but he stood up for us when it counted.

Physically I take after my birth father’s family who leaned to the chubby side,
and as a child, I was always directed to the “plus” side of the department store. To counteract my physique, mother chose clothes in muted colors. I was the complete physical opposite of my mother who was thin, small-boned, olive-skinned, and brunette. I was chubby, blonde, and blue-
eyed and in love with pastel clothing of which I owned none. For that first Christmas that we were officially a family, my new dad bought me a fluffy, pink bathrobe with silk edging. It was the most beautifully pastel garment I’d ever owned and right there I decided he could probably stay. He’s gotten better ever since or perhaps I’ve gotten more accepting—nah, he’s gotten better. Finally, mother had made the perfect choice. She was happy and secure and so were we.

1 http://www.thinkbabynames.com/meaning/0/Wanita


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Creative Easter Activities For Kids

Easter is one of those holidays where one’s creativity has a chance to really shine. Along with Christmas, it’s a holiday time that provides a great opportunity for kids to really stretch the boundaries of their imaginations and strengthen their creative skills.

But as busy parents we don’t always have the time to sit down and brainstorm new and exciting ideas to keep our little one’s on a constant journey of new experiences. So I’ve saved you a little bit of time and done the research for you. I came up with a few creative ideas, and found some great posts from some awesome bloggers who have written about all kinds of creative easter activities for kids.




Printables

There are some great resources on Etsy to help you get creative and keep the kids entertained, and one of them is printables. From colouring pictures to drawing activities to printable decorations, your sure to find something the kids will love. All you have to do is download the pictures, print them out and let the kids enjoy them. Here are just a few stores that sell printables.

COLOURING PAGES

ACTIVITY PAGES

DECORATIONS

Crafts

Crafts have been a popular pastime for kids throughout every generation. Here’s just a few ideas of some fun crafts you can do with your kids this easter.



Easter Egg Hunt

You can’t go wrong with the classic easter egg hunt. What kid wouldn’t want to go on a delicious chocolaty treasure hunt? Here are some great ideas to add a new twist to the traditional hunt.

Baking

There’s no denying, that baking with the kids can be a challenge at the best of times, but the memories you will make, will be priceless. Here are a few baking ideas to do with your kids over easter.

DIY Decorations

A budget friendly idea that will keep the kids busy, is to make your own easter decorations. It’s fun and economical!

Games

There’s nothing more fun to kids than games, am I right? Here are some ideas for easter-themed games, to keep your kids having fun these easter holidays!



Thanks

Thanks for reading this blog! I hope this post has been helpful to you.

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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!

Mum Life Stories: Micro-Fiction, Volume One. BUY NOW!

Today is the day! The day time itself stood still with bated breath, anticipating the greatest moment in history. The day every mother and child has yearned for throughout the centuries. The day we are marvelously blessed with the accumulation of all our hopes and dreams wrapped up in a stunning (and superbly designed) ode to Mothers everywhere. The day that will go down in Wikipedia as the greatest moment of all time – greater than the construction of the pyramids, the writing of the constitution, the end of world hunger (yet to happen), and the liberation of chickens (free-range all the way!) – the day that the greatest book on earth was launched for sale. The book entitled ‘Mum Life Stories: Micro-Fiction, Volume One.’

Too much? You’re probably right, but within the exclusive world of the Mum Life Stories Community, this release deserves as grand an entrance as any writer can conjure up. It truly is the culmination of 2 and a half years of consistent passion and dedication to an online presence that lays tribute to all the amazing mothers out there, who have influenced us and made an impact on our lives. There is nothing ordinary about the life of a Mother (and yes I use a capital letter where there shouldn’t be one, because it deserves one) or the stories that shine through from a life lived in complete devotement to one’s progeny. And these stories, real or imagined, make for a fantastic read!

So it is with great excitement and without further ado (yes ado is the correct word as Adieu means goodbye) that I present to you the very first volume of the Mum Life Stories: Micro-Fiction Anthology.

Please note, the featured image is just a mock-up, the book will be a paperback, not a hardcover. It looks pretty good as a hardcover though, I must say!

A massive thank you goes to all the writers who contributed to this anthology by being shortlisted through the 6 rounds of our Micro-Fiction Writing Competitions. You are a truly talented bunch of people who deserve to be immortalized in print. May your future endeavours be even more rewarded and acknowledged for the brilliance they are!

Where to buy!

The book is available on Amazon in paperback and Ebook version by clicking the book cover below (select your own country below or in the header of the amazon site). Prices will vary depending on your country and the current exchange rates. If you’d like to know how we will be allocating profits from sales, click HERE.

If you have any issues ordering a paperback copy, please email me at mumlifestories@gmail.com and I will make sure you get a copy.

Don’t forget $1 AUD from every book sold will go to our friends in Uganda, to help support the important work they do in their orphanage.

Photo Credit: Marcelo Silva on Unsplash

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 going, thank you.

Who’s our charity?

Some of you may remember one particular ‘Mum Life Success Story’ back in October 2019 entitled ‘From Poverty to Provider‘ about an amazing woman and her husband in Uganda, who devote their entire lives to housing, feeding and educating, many, many, orphaned and abandoned children. This couple have been a true inspiration to me about what real love and sacrifice is. They live in one of the poorest nations of the world and fight everyday for their safety and survival, yet they put the needs of others ahead of their own, every single day. You can read more about their story HERE and visit the website of their not-for-profit ministry HERE, or follow them on Facebook HERE.

$1 AUD from every sale of the anthology (paperback or eBook) will go towards changing the life of these children that deserve to live a safe and healthy life, free from poverty and oppression. Future anthologies will also include this promise, so every single sale counts.

Why it’s important to help spread the word

There are a few reasons why I need your help to get the word out there about our awesome anthology.

  1. The more people who hear about it, the more people will buy it (this is the most obvious point)
  2. The more people who buy it, the more our friends in Uganda receive to help support their orphanage (see details below).
  3. The more copies we sell, the more money we have to give to the winners in the next round of competitions.
  4. Last but not least the more copies we sell, the more people get to read your amazing stories and follow your journey as writers.

How to help!

There are a few ways to help spread the word, some are obvious and some not so much.

  1. Tell people about it and direct them to this post or to the menu tab (coming soon) entitled ‘Book Shop’.
  2. Share this post on social media (see social media buttons in the footer of this post). If you’re on wordpress, you can also reblog if you like.
  3. Go to our social media pages, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, and like, comment and tag your friends! You can also retweet or share those posts.
  4. If you’re a blogger, and you’re interested in a free digital copy in exchange for a review on your blog, please contact me at mumlifestories@gmail.com
  5. If your on our email list, you will receive an email today as well, with a graphic you can use on instagram, please tag us @mumlifestories and use #MLSmicrofictionvol1
  6. Buy copies for your friends and family as gifts, etc

Thanks

Thank you for reading this blog. If you’d like to submit a story for consideration of publication, please visit our submissions page. 

Sign up HERE, or fill in the form below to be added to our email list and you will receive a notification when future competitions begin.  You will also receive all the latest news, stories and promos (including giveaways and writing competitions) as well as a FREE Ebook exclusive to our email subscribers.

Alternatively, go to our COMPETITIONS page for info on the latest competitions!


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!

ebook button

Featured Mockup Image by Vectorium – www.freepik.comMockup

Anthology Release Date

I’m very excited to announce that after weeks and weeks of editing, formatting and creating, the very first Mum Life Stories Anthology is done and ready to be released. My fingers are still tingling from a copious amount of typing and I am feeling that adrenalin rush that comes from accomplishing an end goal, mixed with a little anxiety at all the thoughts rushing through my brain. Did I do it right? I hope I didn’t miss anything. Will people like it? What if no one does? Will people buy it? Will anyone do a bad review? Is the release date too soon? Do I know enough about marketing to get eyes on it? etc etc. Not sure if any of you know this (or if it isn’t half obvious), but this is the very first book I have published and I am more than a little nervous about it.

Please note, the featured image is just a mock-up, the book will be a paperback, not a hardcover. It looks pretty good as a hardcover though, I must say!

When, when, when?

That said…my excitement outways my nerves, so much that I decided instead of waiting a week or two to launch the book, I would do it in just 4 days. That’s right, the official release will be this Monday the 8th of February.

I will post the link to ‘buy the book’ on Monday with some instructions on how you can help spread the word. Email subscribers will get a special email with images they can download and use on social media. If your not already on our mailing list, be sure to sign up HERE if you’d like to be a part of the campaign.

Here’s a sneak peak at the book jacket (P.S. I designed it myself):

Photo Credit: Marcelo Silva on Unsplash

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 going, thank you

Why it’s important to help spread the word

There are a few reasons why I need your help to get the word out there about our awesome anthology.

  1. The more people who hear about it, the more people will buy it (this is the most obvious point)
  2. The more people who buy it, the more our friends in Uganda receive to help support their orphanage (see details below).
  3. The more copies we sell, the more money we have to give to the winners in the next round of competitions.
  4. Last but not least the more copies we sell, the more people get to read your amazing stories and follow your journey as writers.

What are the profits used for?

In case you’re wondering where the money from the sale of these books goes too, there are actually a lot of places. So in the duty of full-disclosure I’ve included some points from our competition terms and conditions (and then some), to help explain.

  1. Cost of ‘printing’ for paperback and ‘delivery’ for eBook (About 20% of the book price).
  2. Amazon commission (Can be up to 60% of profits) – they take a percentage of the sale price which can differ greatly between countries.
  3. $1AUD of each sale (paperback and eBook) goes to our chosen charity in Uganda (see below).
  4. Admin costs, including advertising, printed copies for winners, as well as postage fees, etc.
  5. The next competitions prize pool (How much we make will determine whether it can be increased or not).
  6. Reimbursement to founder of the previous competitions prize monies (This will be last on the list).

So as you can see, there are a lot of costs involved in producing an anthology (most of which will not be covered through sales), and that does not include payment for the huge amount of work that goes into making it happen. At this point in time, all that work is done for the pure joy of it, and it’s so worth it to see the end product and hear the happiness it brings to all those involved.

Who’s our charity?

Some of you may remember one particular ‘Mum Life Success Story’ back in October 2019 entitled ‘From Poverty to Provider‘ about an amazing woman and her husband in Uganda, who devote their entire lives to housing, feeding and educating, many, many, orphaned and abandoned children. This couple have been a true inspiration to me about what real love and sacrifice is. They live in one of the poorest nations of the world and fight everyday for their safety and survival, yet they put the needs of others ahead of their own, every single day. You can read more about their story HERE and visit the website of their not-for-profit ministry HERE, or follow them on Facebook HERE.

$1 AUD from every sale of the anthology (paperback or eBook) will go towards changing the life of these children that deserve to live a safe and healthy life, free from poverty and oppression. Future anthologies will also include this promise, so every single sale counts.

Thanks

Thank you for reading this blog. If you’d like to submit a story for consideration of publication, please visit our submissions page. 

Sign up HERE, or fill in the form below to be added to our email list and you will receive a notification when future competitions begin.  You will also receive all the latest news, stories and promos (including giveaways and competitions) as well as a FREE Ebook exclusive to our email subscribers.

Alternatively, go to our COMPETITIONS page for info on the latest competitions!


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!

ebook button

Featured Image: Mockup psd created by yeven_popov – www.freepik.com