Just read Terry Ryan's account
of life with her contesting mother, and I've come away feeling about as renewed and inspired as I would've if I had read a spiritual book. Evelyn Ryan encompasses everything I would want to be as a wife and mother: determination, spunk, a constant positive outlook, innovation, self-sacrifice, joy amidst poverty, resourcefulness, intelligence, and forgiveness. I personally think every woman should read this and thank God for such women.
Ryan writes about her mother through her own eyes as a child surrounded by 9 brothers and sisters, fathered by an alcoholic, and sometimes violent, man who drank away most of his earnings, leaving his family to suffer an impoverished existence. However, her mother was the rock of their family, and found an incredibly creative way of not only supplementing the family income, but of also releasing her creativity and giving herself an outlet that enabled her to cope with such stressful circumstances. Evelyn Ryan became what was known as a "contester", one who perpetually entered the writing contests once provided by different product companies (now replaced with sweepstakes that center on luck and chance versus talent or skill). Be it finishing the last line of a jingle or writing a product description in 25 words or less, Ryan poured her words onto entry blank after entry blank, winning cash, prizes, and notariety. Three contests proved to be landmark events in the Ryan household bailing them out of situations one thought only a miracle could remedy.
This book not only inspired me to keep some aspects of my attitude in check in regards to dealing with hardship with cynicism, but it also taught me to actively seek out my interests in the capacity I am able to, rather than disregard them because I can't indulge in them to an excess.
This book also is a good kick in the butt to our indulgent, credit-card addicted society. Reading about Ryan's bills piling up, having to pay them on time with cash, relying on the good faith of her townsfolk when she was unable to pay, made me ponder my own spending and bill-paying habits. By the way, the foreward to this book was written by one of my faves, Suze Orman.
This book would also be an excellent tool for high school grammar classes. Evelyn Ryan had an amazing knack for writing, using grammatical devices such as alliteration, inner-rhyme, puns, and plays-on-words that would inspire and astonish many modern day English professors, who probably haven't seen such language skills out of students in a while. In fact, Ryan was not the only one with such excellent writing skills; it seemed most people were proficient in this area, considering these lines were used for ads that everyone would be reading. The book is a wake-up call to modern day writers and speakers.
The final inspiration derived from this book is Evelyn's ability to rise above the disappointments in her life and to discard any notion of victimhood from her reality. She truly believed everything in her life was as it should have been and she not only made the best of it, but she thrived. Truly an example for many women who are looking to remedy their life situations in a society where blaming others for one's problems and professing oneself a victim is all too common.