Start the Presses!

2 Aug

recite-31416--1810382206-1qccpnfI have been having so much fun with a new website called http://www.recitethis.com.

It’s a very simple, FREE method for creating, crisp, clean, poster-style images, perfect for getting the word out about Toxic Mom Toolkit.

recite-16792--1807316811-9nn439I also think when things look more professional, people looking for help, take us more seriously.

recite-16792--1806477120-fcgf7wSo, take a look at these and tell me what you think. What should we do next? Do you have a favorite line or sentence from Toxic Mom Toolkit that I should use? Let me know.

recite-23943--1807432334-16re802

Toxic Mom Toolkit: Twelve, Going on Thirteen.

2 Aug

6d9e34b64a486c17f4090868e51d5a90I remember exactly the moment it first happened to me.

I was 12, going on 13. I had left the dinky grammar school and all the friends I’d known since Tiny Tots and I was in a huge San Francisco junior high and I didn’t know anyone. I got lost a lot, shaming myself by walking into the wrong classrooms and slinking out again.

Somehow I made two nice friends who lived within a block of each other in Sea Cliff, one of the oldest, richest and prettiest neighborhoods in the city. I could walk to their houses from the flat my parents rented until they divorced, which had happened as I changed schools.

We three girls were at one of the girl’s homes and we were reading an older sisters stack of 17 magazines. It was a lazy Sunday and the mother had served us a plate homemade donuts with powdered sugar on top. We flipped pages lazily, commenting on eye make-up and skirt lengths. I was also peeking through my own eyelashes at this HOUSE with Oriental carpets and needlepoint pillows and everything clean and lusciously decorated.

I wish I could find this magazine and the article that my friends were so intrigued by to see it with my adult eyes. It was a profile of twin sisters who lived in Marin County. The largest photograph was of one of them doing yoga on an outdoor deck with a rug on the planks providing a colorful backdrop to her pose. Both sisters were tall and slim with long brunette ponytails. Both were into ballet.

“That’s not for me,” I thought instantly slamming closed a million doors in my future life because of the underlying thought that I wasn’t the type of girl who got to do that. No shady decks, no yoga poses, no pink ballet slippers and healthy fruit drinks to make my skin glow.

That life? That perfect, investing in yourself because you deserve it, kind of life? My friends could have that life, but not me. I was a little nobody kid. My parents weren’t much. My mother was sort of nuts. My father had just left us and I wasn’t getting ballet lessons or time at beauty salons or even a tiny bottle of seashell pink nail polish.

It didn’t help that I had been watching a bunch of “back-door romance” movies in which a slatternly girl from a poor family conducts a secret love affair with a young doctor or lawyer, but only in the shadows. She is always dropped for a “good girl” from a “good family.” I was fascinated that there were girls that boys were ashamed to be seen with and I thought I would probably be one of those girls.

These types of thoughts that we think when we are young, with little perspective or life experience, seep into our bones. They are a slow-leak raft that never quite gets us to shore. That image of the pretty girl on the leafy Marin County deck still flashes in my brain unbidden at least once a week. I have fought back against that image and the wrong thinking it inspired that limited my view of my world for so long.

Every time we bought a house, I thought I wouldn’t “get” it. That I wouldn’t find the car I wanted, or if I did it would be quickly dented. I developed a cute mania for “little” things, anything reproduced in a smaller than actual size. Collecting tiny objects fit into my thesis of not deserving wonderful things.

The thought that I was somehow “less than” because of everything that happened to me as a child has been vanquished. But like a monster that arises every full moon, I am never truly free of niggling doubts about what I get to do, have, experience. It is therapeutic to understand it. Too bad understanding it doesn’t end it.

If I’m very lucky, in the writing it down, this will be the last time I think of it.

50 Years Later; An Apology to Mrs. Long.

15 Jul

2d02738ee9a2e4341513fffcd31d8487For such a long time I thought I hated Mrs. Long. Who did she think she was anyway? Mrs. Long was a neighbor of ours. She had two daughters near my age and we used to play dolls at her house if it was cold or rainy. The Longs were very nice, balanced people. So kind and calm, their house always felt a little bit like walking into a church.

There was no yelling at the Longs. No meanness. No tears.

I was about 8 years old when one day, our morning playtime extended into the noon hour and Mrs. Long asked me to stay for lunch. As her daughters washed their hands at the sink (standing on a child’s step stool) I sat at their formica kitchen table picking at a placemat, hungry for lunch.

Mrs. Long took my hand and asked me to please come into the hallway bathroom with her. As she helped me up onto a little step stool in front of the sink and turned on the hot and cold taps, checking the temperature with her hand, she began speaking to me in a low, very kind voice. She was cradling me in her arms and speaking very softly into my ear.

Let me help you wash your hands, dear. We’ll wait until the water is just right and then we’ll take this bar of soap and we will make it spin in your hands… See how you can make it go over and over? Let’s drop the soap while you put your hands under the water and then let’s do it again,” she said.

My hands must have been very dirty. My fingernails were usually black under the edges.

After we washed and dried our hands, she put a little hand lotion on the tops of my hands and she showed me how to cup my hands and pass them over each other in a way that smoothed the lotion around my skin surface.

Instead of melting into this kindness, my dander was rising the entire time. I distinctly remember thinking, “Who does she think she is, showing me how to wash my hands? My MOTHER has shown me how to wash my hands…”

And my mother had, but she rarely enforced hand washing before meals as a ritual habit. I never took any pleasure from removing dirt and sitting down to the table with clean hands.

After that day I never liked Mrs. Long. When she came over for bridge or parties I avoided and ignored her. I felt she thought she was better than my mother.

Mrs. Long was a soft-spoken, very kind lady, who decided to take a few minutes to show a scruffy neighborhood kid how people live. She included me in her family’s day and exhibited only loving kindness towards me.

Of course, she pissed me off.

Fast forward to my time as a police chaplain. One of the things they teach you when you go out on a death call is to say your goodbyes and then wash your hands at the kitchen sink as a ritual cleansing of the event. As you roll your hands in soapy suds and rinse them under the water you think, I am done here. And you pat your hands dry and you leave. It is a wonderful ritual that is very freeing.

Lately, so often when I wash my hands I am reminded of that day with Mrs. Long and I smile. It is the perfect example of how something seen through child’s eyes is very difficult to re-see as an adult.

I’m so sorry that I didn’t understand Mrs. Long’s kind heart at the time. I certainly do now.

Toxic Mom Toolkit: Learning to Listen

3 Jun

2f47959ee768d9be5c2be2cef5b7664dI was at a lovely Sunday afternoon engagement party in a garden and yes, I had a few beers, when two friends sat down at the shady table, one on each side.

First one and then the other started telling me how great Toxic Mom Toolkit was, how it helped them and will help so many people.

“Not only are you a good writer. Not only have you captured something that nobody else has. But you did it in such a way that it invites the reader who has spent a long time being hurt and confused to focus on what happened to them. Then you give them a path to a better way of living,” one friend said adding. “And that’s pretty amazing.

If you know me, you know I was slumped down in my chair with my hands over my face.

Com-pli-ments. They-kill-me.

If you’ve read my book, you know a fear or inability to accept compliments is a classic sign of someone raised by a drunk. Compliments fly when a drunk is getting his or her drunk on.  The flip side is being torn down in a drunken rage.

And despite all my work and thoughts and experience on growing up with a toxic parent and knowing I should listen with an open heart and take in some compliments for once, it nearly killed me to listen. Had I heard my step-father (who has been dead for eons) laughing his evil  crowing laugh, that wouldn’t have upset me. THAT would have felt normal to me.

3cc525fb05bfa957221cc2f5c4862a06My other friend, whose dog ate my book, but only the cover and first chapter that she had already read, pulled my hands away from my face and said, “I want you to HEAR this. Really HEAR this.”

“You’re a good writer but it takes a really special person who grew up in this sort of situation to go back and relive it and then put it all on a page for others. And what I loved about it was that some writers write up here…” she said holding her hand up high, communicating a level of intensity. “And other writers write down here,” she said holding her hand down low, indicating and sad and slow style of writing. “But you write the way life is, like waves. We go up and down and we want to ride it out with you. After your book, we are brave enough to ride it out ourselves.”

When you grew up with a toxic mother, compliments are really hard to hear. You’re waiting for the negative verbal slap or the other shoe to drop. But at some point you have to decide to sit up and warm up to others who are offering you encouragement for something that is a big, important part of your life.

All of which I heard. I promise, I heard it.

 

 

 

Toxic Mom Toolkit – Spitting Into the Wind

24 Mar

I have a very strange brag. It goes like this:

I am the only person I’ve ever met that has never looked into the eyes of another human being to whom I am related by blood.

And if you’ve read my book, Toxic MomToolkit, you know that because I was adopted and never had children that this is technically true. Although… I may have met one relative on my journey to Iowa. But I’m not sure. I can never be sure.

14b2b972a7e6e40806650e3d2e4ba11bAccording to my adoption records my birth mother and her parents are Norwegian. When I grew up and found my birth mother, the one thing that she was very cagey about was saying anything about my birth father. One time she said he was Finnish. Which, when you grow up in an agricultural area peopled by Scandinavians is plausible. But really, who is HALF Norwegian and HALF Finnish? People are all sorts of things that their grandparents and great-grandparents contributed to the gene pool.

For most of my life I’ve thought of myself as Scandinavian. My adopted mother was mostly Swedish and my adopted dad was German and English and they loved going to health spas in the Scandinavian mode with steam rooms and cold plunges and alder sapplings to beat your own back with to encourage blood flow. With straight teeth and good skin, I joke that my Viking genes have been good to me. So, am I Scandinavian? I think so.

But what if I’m not? What if I’m Irish, too? What if I’m Persian, too? Or Russian, too? Of course, the specifics, the national origin doesn’t matter so much. I already know I am a combination of things, like everyone else. What matters is knowing what everyone else takes for granted.

One of the most toxic things my birth mother ever did was to withhold half of the basic information on my nationality. I have to think that the reason she holds this information so close is because she knows I really desire to know. Is it a way for her to hurt me? Perhaps in her mind, I hurt her by being born, so this evens it out?

When I was a reporter and stories would come across the wires about DNA and proving if one person was related to another through genetic testing, I read every word. And as the cost of DNA testing fell, I always hoped that one day, I could swab my cheek and finally find out what I was.

My birthday was this February and my darling husband gave me a $99 Ancestry.com ancestry test kit. Others have warned me that you end only get a colorful pie chart that may include countries of origin, but it may also just say that you’re 85% Northern European with a few percent Hawaiian thrown in. Nevertheless, I was stoked.

And because life is not always fair, a few days after my birthday my husband and I had a BIG fight. The kind you may only have two or three times during an entire marriage. By the time I cracked the test kit case open I was feeling very low and unloved. Plus, I didn’t know who I was, I thought to myself for the millionth time, as I endeavored to create sufficient spit to fill a (seemingly bottomless) vial.

photoI had no idea how long it takes to fill a tube full of spit. I bet it took me twenty minutes.

I mailed the small box off and promptly made up with my husband, therefore regaining some sense of love and belonging. And it occurred to me that what I felt when I briefly felt unloved by my husband and then loved again might be akin to my desire to know my nationality. I have been born into a perpetual state of loss on this basic level of my identity. As everyone deserves to be appreciated and loved, everybody also should know where their people come from.

The turnaround takes 6 to 8 weeks, the pamphlet said.

Ten Weeks to Healing: Book Group Syllabus for “Toxic Mom Toolkit”

26 Feb

25051ff279428c49eea5b304698ea461If you would like to organize a book group to read and discuss Toxic Mom Toolkit have I got the syllabus for you!

In addition to a week-by-week reading plan, I am making myself available for one hour SKYPE conversations, booked in advance, at the half way point and/or conclusion, or both.

Using  Toxic Mom Toolkit to explore past trauma or continuing toxic family relations will be enhanced by a supportive circle of like-minded readers gathering in a warm and safe environment. The weekly reading schedule amount to about an hour per week and your group decides how often you meet.

This method slows down the intake of a lot of information that can trigger memories or feelings and gives each person time to work these feelings through. A group discussion also proves that – as much as it might feel like it – you are not the only one who experienced and survived these things.

Native Cover.4417111.inddYou can also request free red jelly bracelets for your reading group by emailing me at newsyrayne@gmail.com. Of course, how ever you run your group, I want to hear from you! Please encourage your readers to join Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook and to check out past blog posts at ToxicMomToolkit.com and short videos on YouTube.

This year’s Mother’s Day might be a lot easier to navigate with the support of a group of people who have experienced similar things. If you start a group soon, you might be able to finish before Mother’s Day on May 11!

Toxic Mom Toolkit is available on Amazon.com as a paperback and a Kindle edition. Check out the Reader Reviews — all are 5-stars so far.

Toxic Mom Toolkit 10-week Book Group Syllabus

Week One: Chapters 1, 2, 3 and 4.

These chapters introduce you to the author and her unique perspective. She explains what happened to her and why she decided to write Toxic Mom Toolkit. This group also introduces the first “VOICE,” women who decided to share their stories to help other readers.

Week Two: Chapters 5, 6, 7 and 8.

These chapters introduce the topic of childhood neglect and emotional and physical abuse. A self-test, “Your mother might be toxic IF…” helps the reader gain perspective about her own mother and childhood experiences.

Week Three: Chapters 9, 10, 11 and 12.

This group of chapters explores the value in family history and digging into the past. Do you know very much about your mother’s relationship with her mother? Understanding the pathology of a maternal line can unlock the mystery of why your mother treats you the way she does.

Week Four: Chapters, 13, 14, 15 and 16.

Two VOICES chapters allow us to explore mixed messages we receive from toxic mothers and the isolation one can feel around holidays. The closing chapter on Adverse Childhood Experiences is a concrete way to objectively measure your childhood trauma.

Week Five: Chapters, 17, 18, 19 and 20.

These chapters cover early childhood trauma related to family “group think,” substance abuse, as well as sexual abuse. These are hard chapters, but they lead to the next group, which include amazing tales of rising above terrible childhoods.

Week Six: Chapters, 21, 22, 23 and 24.

I could use a laugh – how about you? Chapter 21 delivers a list of things we’ve been afraid to say out loud most of our lives. Go ahead, say a few out loud! We also cover why dreams of reconciliation, while tempting, rarely materialize. Closing with perhaps my favorite VOICE of the book, “The Path to Helping Others.” How can one mini-memoir hold so much pain yet offer so much hope?

Week Seven: Chapters 25, 26, 27, 28 and 29.

This group is a sort of meditation on why facing the darkest incidents n our past can light the way towards our peaceful future. How far would you be willing to travel to unravel the mystery of your family of origin?

Week Eight: Chapters 30, 31, 32 and 33.

The “disaster sequence” of toxic mom story-telling, these chapters show us that we can tell our stories without fear. We can still love and be loved after telling our truth.

Week Nine: Chapters, 34, 35, 36 and 37.

Finally “seeing’ the story of your life is part of healing. These chapters focus on endings and grief including grieving over a mother that never really existed. You can choose how to view the stories in your life.

Week Ten: Chapters 38, 39, 40 and 41.

            What a difference one loving adult can make in the life of a neglected or abused child! These chapters tell us more about two people we’ve been curious about: Rayne Wolfe’s father and stepmother. This group of chapters also covers the feelings that having our own children can trigger.

Additional Reading: Chapter 42, the author’s full questionnaire – All of the VOICES chapters filled out a questionnaire and this is the authors. As a closing exercise you might try to fill out your own questionnaire using all the questions in this final chapter.

When Mr. Right Comes With A Toxic Mom

19 Feb

Today’s post is from a Friend of ours, who just learned a hard lesson. Do you have a story you’d like to share on Toxic Mom Toolkit? We accept short essays (500 words max.) and will help you edit. Do you have a story about a toxic mom issue? Let’s hear it!

0785ca7c51fcb7585ee6e3e503d06043WHEN MR. RIGHT COMES WITH A TOXIC MOM

I can’t believe I didn’t see it sooner! I have a Toxic Mom so I’m usually on the lookout.

There were moments where I wondered, “Is she for real?” But I swept the concerns away so it wouldn’t threaten my relationship. Looking back, I think his mom fell in love with me long before he developed feelings for me. But it seemed the closer she and I got the further away he went.

At first her keen interest in me was flattering. She wanted to know everything about how we met. Peppered in between were questions about how her son felt and acted. I took it to mean she felt I was a worthy partner for her son. Then the interest turned into seeking information and violating his privacy. And though it felt wrong, I played right into it.

I desperately wanted his family to like me. Nothing was private. Thoughts, feelings, phone calls, messages. She had to know everything that was going on.

She started making important decisions for me.

If I agreed with her we were happy and close. If I pushed back at all or disagreed she would withdraw from my life. Never an explanation. I was constantly told that I was a part of their pack yet I often felt left out. Direct questions about her hurtful behavior were met with rebuttals criticizing my sensitivity. I was told that I was imagining things. Since I’d grown up with a toxic mom I often thought, “Well. You ARE sensitive.” and I’d back down.

I started to catch on. I was in so much pain about it that I knew I had to change how much I shared with her. I’m pretty awful at doing boundaries or shutting my mouth. So it took some serious willpower! But the more I censored myself around her the less she interacted with me. The less she approved. I was less valuable to her when I didn’t divulge everything or do her bidding.

I suppose it was fitting that she was as involved in the breakup as she was in the relationship. I suppose I could thank her now.

After things were over, I realized that he wasn’t capable of loving me. That I had imagined so much based on how she described the many ways I changed his life for the better. HE never actually said those things to me.

I often addressed concerns with her. She would rationalize his behavior and what would have been red flags were pushed away.

Once it was over I could see if for what it was. And not only was my own toxic mom easier to handle, but I realized how much of my “love” was in my head. He’s got enough to deal with, he doesn’t need a relationship on top of the relationship with his mom. And I don’t need ANOTHER TM to disapprove of my life!

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