Marcella’s Secret Dreams and Stories

Marcella’s Secret Dreams and Stories

~ A Mother’s Legacy ~

by Barbara Brabec

author Barbara Brabec and co-author Marcella Schaumburg

Barbara and her mother at age 74.

THIS BOOK, which documents three generations of a Midwest farming family going back to the 1880s, revolves around the life and times and writings of Marcella, a remarkable woman who had three secret dreams as a teenager that were never realized or even revealed to her daughters until she was nearing the end of her life.

Did you ever look at your parents and wonder what kind of romantic relationship they had when they first met? Ever learn something about your mother or father that was so surprising you couldn't believe the topic had never come up for discussion before?

Ever think that perhaps the dreams and ambitions they had when they were young—long before they were thinking about getting married and having children—were as important and exciting to them as your young dreams and ambitions were to you? And do you know if your parents ever realized their secret dreams and goals?

" . . . perhaps the finest jewel in Barbara’s publishing crown as she blends together and enhances three generations of family history." – from a review on Amazon


6x9 Paperback, $14.95
338 pages, 46 photos

Available from:

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Also available in bookstores in the U.S. by special order.

Marcella's Secret Dreams and Stories
~ A Mother's Legacy ~

Marcella wrote her last words in 1992, but they live on in this book and illustrate the sacrifices mothers everywhere make to help their children bloom and grow and succeed in life. This true-life book is not only for the sons and daughters who love their mother or the memory of her, but for every mother who has a little-known story to tell about her family’s history and her own life journey.


Secret Dreams Revealed at Last

Eight years before she died, Marcella wrote the story of her life in a private memoir for her three daughters and brother. Typed on the manual Smith Corona typewriter Barbara had used in high school, it contained surprising historical facts and delightful never-told-before family tales, revealing Marcella as a gifted writer and storyteller. But what the memoir didn’t mention were Marcella's unrealized secret dreams as a 16-year-old girl. She secretly dreamed of being a teacher and a writer, and that one day she would see her name on a book she had written. Barbara would not learn about them until Marcella was in the last four years of her life.

On that life-changing day, she gave Barbara a bundle of papers and letters that made her jaw drop, put her head in a spin, and showed her a secret side of her mother that no one in the family had ever seen before. Marcella thought she was just an ordinary woman, wife, and mother, but in truth she was quite extraordinary for her times.

Now Barbara has artfully woven together the memoirs of two authors—a book within a book—to tell a true-life story of three generations of a Midwestern farming family going back to the 1880s. The authentic dialogue, stories, and unusual collection of letters in this book offer an artful mixture of history, humor, drama, and pathos. It’s also an entertaining history lesson  on what life was like before computers, the World Wide Web, and the wealth of technology we take for granted today.

In completing the story of Marcella's inspiring life and accomplishments with present-day reflections from her sisters, Barbara illustrates the importance of their mother's legacy to the family and challenges readers to think about the life story only they can tell—one that should be shared with their family and perhaps the world.

This true-life book offers something special for anyone who happens to be a sister, wife, mother, grandmother, or widow; or an entrepreneur or home-business owner; or a mechanic, musician, teacher, writer, nurse, pianist, sewer, needleworker, or crafter; or anyone who loves cats or dogs, books, antiques, nature, or traveling with an interest in American history. There are so many people, places, and topics of discussion in this book that it required a 7-page index.

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(Preview the Preface and two chapters here.)

 "The best thing about writing from life is that you can be sure of using original material. And no research is needed beyond the time you spend looking deep inside your own heart."
     - Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey, author of A Woman of Independent Means

Related Articles

The Writing of Marcella’s Secret Dreams and Stories—Barbara reflects on what she learned from researching and writing this family memoir.

The Historical Importance of Family Letters. Our family histories are being lost because no one is saving written details for posterity. Real letters cannot be replaced by cell phone and Skype calls, email and text messages, or Facebook posts. 

Life Writing. What has life taught you that you might write a book about? How the writing of her first memoir changed and enriched Barbara's life, and how writing your life story could change and enrich your life too. 

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From the Author

Writing this book about the life of my mother and her legacy to our family was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my entire writing life. It was also life changing for me and my two sisters—Mary and Mollie—who were there with me on this journey from start to finish.

Before I could write this book, I spent a year studying all of my mother’s writings, including her youthful writing, her diaries, and a large collection of family letters. It took some time and effort to get both my sisters to share their letters from Mother because they’d always considered them to be private. We had saved every letter she wrote, and when we each counted our collection, we were stunned to learn that she had written more than a thousand letters to the three of us.

And when I pulled together the most interesting content from those letters, what we learned about her and ourselves was simply astonishing. That’s because she always wrote "in the moment," telling each of us things the other two never knew. Eighty-six of her letters are included in this book because they supplement the stories she told in her private memoir, around which this book revolves. For example, several of those letters talk about her entrepreneurial ventures in detail; others present a fascinating story of what it took for her to go back to school at 54 to start a new career and become the family’s primary breadwinner.

One day in studying the memoir she wrote for us in the last decade of her life, I suddenly saw that, without ever being encouraged by her to do anything but pursue our individual dreams and goals, my sisters and I had actually done all the things she had dreamed of doing when she was sixteen. I also saw that the way she had lived her life had dramatically shaped our character, moral values, dreams, goals, and adult lives as a whole. And that was her real legacy to us—a legacy of words and love and a life well lived.

The joy I’ve had in this writing—being the narrator of my mother’s life with stories of my own supplementing hers—is indescribable. Marcella yearned to someday see her name on a book, so I’m thrilled to finally make that dream come true posthumously. I believe this book will touch the heart of every reader while also providing an education in what life was like before computers and the technology we take for granted today. I hope it will also inspire readers to look anew at their own life and family history and think about the life story only they can tell.

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