Archive | December, 2013

The Power of a Stranger’s Prayers

23 Dec

fc9362b98632056c567d6f85b5348d5dIn the weeks that followed my leaving my newspaper reporter job in 2009, I spent a lot of time at the movies.

Having practically grown up in neighborhood single screens in San Francisco, I always gravitated to red velvet chairs and dark theaters when life was a little overwhelming. I had left my job of a decade and I was toying with the idea of writing a book. As I often do, I tucked a notebook in my purse.

As a few other daytime movie fans chatted while waiting for the previews to commence, I grabbed my pen and pad and started to map out a book about surviving toxic moms. I had an idea of what stories from my life could serve as a foundation and I made a list of women I knew that I could interview on the topic.

At the other end of my row two grandmotherly women were chatting and laughing. One turned to me and asked if I was trying to get homework done before the show.

“Oh, no, I’m a writer and I’m thinking about a book I could write. I’m outlining it.”

“What would you write about?” a lady named Doris asked me.

“I know a lot about surviving toxic, terrible mothers. I think I’ll write a half memoir, half interviews with other resources, self-help kind of book,” I said.

Then they BOTH leaned towards me, and burst out laughing. One said she had the meanest mother ever – that SHE should write that book. The other said she would buy my book and would buy copies for some friends. I could see that they totally “got it.” They were the very first Toxic Mom Toolkit fans – before I even had a title, a blog or a Facebook page.

The lights dimmed and I tucked my notepad into my purse and enjoyed the movie. The theater filled up and I lost a line of sight to the encouraging senior ladies.

But as I was walking out after the movie, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Doris handing me a card with her name, address and phone number scribbled on the back.

“When you publish your book, please let me know so I can buy it. Good Luck!”

*  *  *

Two days ago, I received a huge box containing 50 copies of Toxic Mom Toolkit meant for family and friends. All of a sudden, I wanted to find Doris’ card from years ago. I kept it tucked into my computer case and often thought of her early encouragement. It was like her immediate buy-in opened a floodgate of encouragement at every step of the book writing effort.

I checked the address and realized that her home is about 10 minutes from my home, so I grabbed a warm scarf and my car keys and drove over.

Encouraging one encourages all.

Encouraging one encourages all.

When I rang the bell, the house erupted in small dog barkiness and I heard Doris shushing a pack of tiny terriers. I held the card up to the locked screen door with one hand and held my book and business card in the other hand.

“You gave me this card four years ago — in the movies. Do you remember?”

Did she remember?

“Oh, HONEY, you did it. Do you know that I’ve told that story about our meeting in the movies so many times and I’ve always prayed that you would get your book done. Look at that! Isn’t that amazing?” she said as she hugged me.

As I often do when overwhelmed by emotions, I fled at the first opportunity.

I drove away and no sooner had I turned the corner, she called me on my cell and asked me to come back and sign her book. While I was re-parking she went back in her house to get something for me.

“I volunteer at the school, so they include us in school pictures,” she explained as she handed me one of her photos as  a momento.

I thanked her again for encouraging me and told her that her prayer must be powerful. I suggested she keep praying for as many people as she can. We both got a little choked up.

* * *

“Wow, that felt good,” I said to myself as I drove back home.

Wow. That felt good.

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From Zero to Book Published: 8 Women Dream Style

13 Dec
How many times...

How many times…

In 2009, I was a reporter working for a New York Times regional newspaper in Northern California’s Wine Country. With ten years of daily newsgathering under my belt, I had survived multiple rounds of brutal lay-offs and the stress was getting to me.  

I thought it might be time to take a break before I broke.

With my husband’s support, I left my job to write my memoir about growing up with three mothers: two very toxic, and one wonderful stepmother. I had a notion that I knew a lot about resilience and I could help others. I had also been collecting women’s stories for years, focusing on how they survived their own very toxic mothers.

I was aware that I should build a platform to support my book writing and research led me to 8 Women Dream and Lord-have-mercy they were coincidentally looking for a new blogger to join their slate of online dreamers. I slaved over my presentation; agonized over my story and plans — and dreams!

And after a considered vetting process I was turned down with apologies and encouragement to try again.

The Universe Gives You What You Need When You Need It

It was the most important turn down of my life. I believed what they said: That they loved my project. That they wished me well. That they wanted me to apply again.

That “rejection” fueled my early work. Not in an I’ll-show-them sort of way, but more in a Wait-till-they-see-this! way. I created a Toxic Mom Toolkit Facebook page, which I grew from 35 friends to currently over 250,000 visitors per month.

By the time it was possible to apply to be on 8 Women Dream again, I had much more to talk about and was deep into the creative process. Finally accepted as a member of 8 Women Dream, I wrote about my dream of publishing my first book.

From the platform of 8 Women Dream I found and interviewed hundreds of women from all over the world. I curated extensive Toxic Mom Toolkit questionnaires developing them into a wide range of mini-memoirs. Every person I spoke to increased and informed my work and made it richer. I realized that writing my own memoir was nice, but what would be epic would be to marry my story with a rainbow of stories, each illustrating a different type of toxic mom. And, after my year at 8 Women Dream was up, I was fueled to tackle the hard work of editing, polishing and publishing my manuscript.

Women had trusted me with their stories and told me amazing things; things they had never told another living soul. They laughed and cried with me. They also encouraged me.  I remember one lady in particular saying that each morning while she was driving she prayed for my book. For three years of writing, which included many challenges, the idea of a lady on the freeway praying for my book, kept me focused.

Starting from a broken place, with lots of help, I am now healed and an author. Along the way I’ve learned that it is in sharing our stories that we heal others.

001a4bc0827030842a71f9f2c6ec3568In a few weeks, Toxic Mom Toolkit will be published on Amazon.com, thanks in large part to the energy and encouragement I received from everyone at 8 Women Dream and all the people I met during my online tenure.

What I find very poignant is that my book owes so much to 8 Women Dream – literally. It seemed that as each obstacle arose – one of my friends from 8 Women Dream popped up with offers of help and encouragement. I have blogging colleagues Iman Woods to thank for creating a killer book cover and Remi Gervais to thank for taking my “sane and approachable” head shot.

It would have been great to write my memoir. But I’m so glad I opened myself up to the energy and creativity of the 8 Women Dream community. When readers hold a copy of Toxic Mom Toolkit in their hands, they may not know the story behind it. But we will. We will.