Tag Archives: awful mom

Toxic Mom Toolkit: A House Full of Love

13 Aug

7fd54531baa5ee8ab3ab0eda39cb8df1Driving through San Francisco on my way to the 2015 Catamaran writers conference in Pebble Beach, I had a sudden impulse to drive by the two-story house I grew up in. It was only a few blocks over and I had plenty of time. As I parked, I looked up to see new paint samples on the facade and there were other signs of home care.

In 2010, I visited the flat and was flabbergasted to learn that a wonderful lady had bought the building. She lived upstairs and in the lower flat, the apartment I grew up in, she ran a Tibetan Healing Center. Literally, my parent’s old bedroom, was set up with comfortable chairs for group therapy sessions! There was another private therapeutic office set up in my little bedroom, which once had yellow gingham and daisy wallpaper and light wooden shutters on the only window — the window I used to crawl out of. I was amazed that a venue of such intense sadness for me, had morphed into a healing resource for others.

Anyway, I cut the engine and looked up and thought, I’m going to leave my book at the house. So I wrote an inscription to 864-XXth Avenue and tucked my card in the book and drove off.

The universe is a wonderful place – full of unexpected blessings – including the note I just received from the current tenant of lower flat of 864. She even included an amazing photo of her gorgeous little boy. I’ve altered her note a bit to protect her privacy. What a generous and loving soul.

She wrote:

Dear Rayne,

Thank you for the thoughtful gift of your book.  I came home late last night from a trip to Bali and found it on the doorstep.  I was so tired from the long journey that I brought it inside and didn’t look at it until today.  I honestly thought it was something that a religious group had dropped-off at my door as they sometimes do.  

First off – congratulations on your book!  What an accomplishment.  

I haven’t had time to read a lot of it as I have a 10-month old little boy and spare time is not always easily found.  I read enough today to understand that your childhood in this house wasn’t always a happy one and that made me quite sad.  I’m sorry that you had to go through what you did here.  And I’m sad that energy was once here in this space.  

I hope that it provides some comfort and healing to know that my beautiful son is being raised here with a lot of love.  The house has been completely remodeled so I suspect you wouldn’t recognize it.  For instance, the hall closet that still gives you bad memories is now the laundry room.  When I bought this house as a single woman when I was 34, it was my favorite room because I had never had my own place with a washer and dryer.  I went out and bought the nicest washer and dryer that I could find and I painted the room a light, ballet slipper pink.  It’s also a favorite room of (the baby) as he likes to crawl in there and watch the clothes spin in the washer and dryer.  If he’s a bit fussy from teething or something else, I sometimes sit on the floor in front of the machines and he sits in my lap and watches them.  The baby’s nursery is in the sun room and it’s quite cheerful.  I was sad to add blackout shades as I loved all of the sunlight but I quickly learned that if day napping was going to be successful, I needed to forgo the light in that room.  (The baby) is so happy here.

Before I bought the house it was owned by Gary and Jane Bell.  Jane ran a healing center out of this unit for many years and they lived in the upstairs unit.  The house and my unit had been blessed and cleansed many times and I have had a shaman do a cleansing here myself.

If you ever want to come by and visit the house, please let me know.  I can even take a walk with the baby to give you some personal time here.  

Thank you again for your thoughtful gift.  I promise to continue to fill the house with light and love!

Thanks,
S

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Don’t forget to Pack Your Paddle: 2015 Catamaran Writers Conference at Pebble Beach

11 Aug

stevensonschool9I have long adored Frances Lefkowitz, author of To Have Not, her memoir of growing up poor in 1970’s San Francisco. It’s a wonderful memoir and it rang particularly true for me, as I had walked the same foggy streets. In her book, Frances treats her mother sympathetically. It’s a book full of life lessons for everyone.

Recently, I noted that Frances would be one of the instructors at a writer’s gathering in Petaluma, where we both live. I went and was finally able to blather to her personally about how much I admire her as a writer. We spent some time in a circle of chairs with our knees bumping as the tiny group soaked up her wonderful (and generous) ideas on writing. In the days that followed I was emboldened to “like” her on Facebook.

So it’s all my fault that I’m now packing my paddle for the Catamaran Writer’s Conference at Pebble Beach, which kicks off this Wednesday.

Because when Frances posted on her Facebook page that there were still a few spots left at the gathering and that she’s be teaching, I decided to plunge in.

Hosted by the Catamaran literary journal, it is a gathering of amazing teachers, publishers, poets and writers all focused on a 4-day sleep-away camp focused on THE WORK. Held at the (very fancy private) Stevenson School, attendees will live in dorm rooms, (no fridges for beer; I asked) take classes, listen to lectures, and share their works in progress. I’m signed up to follow Frances around like a loyal little terrier, as a member of the non-fiction cohort. Each participant submitted up to 10 pages of work in progress.

The group leader then posts all the submissions within each group, you know, so you can read everyone else’s stuff and they can read YOUR STUFF. That’s where it got scary for me, because it looks like a couple of my fellow writer’s are college professors and others have fabulous books I could never write and as I wonder how to sneak beer on campus, I also imagine them busy organizing Power Point presentations about their next opus to share during breaks.

So what am I working on?

I’m finally going to tackle a companion book to Toxic Mom Toolkit that lays out how to go No Contact. My submission to the Catamaran Conference was a Frankenstein-ing-ly-rough cut of a minor chapter entitled, Dead Toxic Mothers: Why Breaking Up Is So Hard To Do.

I feel like a buck-toothed 5th grader, deciding what dress to wear on the first day of 6th grade. I keep wondering what the other writers made of that chapter.  I also wonder if I’ve been terribly spoiled by the toxic mom community, who laugh at all my jokes and totally get the entire Toxic Mom vocabulary and viewpoint. Wish me luck!

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Toxic Mom Toolkit Book Review: Amy Eden’s “The Kind Self-Healing Book: Raise Yourself Up with Curiosity and Compassion”

21 Jun

photoHave you ever thought, “I need therapy.”

But, then your next thought, “I don’t have insurance right now…” stops you in your tracks?  Or, you wonder, “Can I really deal with this now?” And, my favorite, “It’s too overwhelming, the thought of finding a therapist and taking months and months to get that person up to speed on all that has happened in my life.”

Well, my friend, author, Amy Eden has an answer for everything that is keeping you stuck when it comes to addressing your deep, dark and highly personal issues. Her new book, The Kind Self-Healing Book, is an amazing work-book for anybody ready to tackle lifelong emotional issues that are hurtful or limiting.

Page by page; chapter by chapter, she gently leads you through very do-able exercises that are highly meaningful. (By meaningful, I mean that by page 18, I was crying. Not that I didn’t need to cry along with my inner child!)

Here’s how Amy describes her book: If you grew up within a chaotic family environment caused by chronic inconsistency, stress, and emotional or physical abandonment or abuse-whether due to addictions, political unrest, war, or a parent’s mental health issues — The Kind Self-Healing Book is for you. If you are prone to anxiety, depression, self-doubt, people-pleasing, or decision-making influenced by fear, or if you want to free yourself of the coping behaviors that worked in a disordered childhood but don’t serve you in adulthood, The Kind Self-Healing Book is for you. 

I am really loving this book, and taking my time with it. While I’ve been reading and doing the exercises, and getting in touch with my Inner Child, I’ve been remembering so many things. Like how much I loved making things with paper. My grandfather, dad and uncle owned a print shop, so I was always elbow deep in wonderful card stock and velum and ink. My father and I used to make doll houses and furniture with doors that opened and drawers that pulled in and out. (Not that I loved dolls, just building with paper!)

So it wasn’t a complete surprise that while reading The Kind Self-Healing Book I wondered if I could make a little paper boat like the little drawing Amy uses at the bottom of each page. So, I Xeroxed two copies of the cover and placed them back to back and folded them, like I make a paper boat every day. And then it needed a flag, so I used a vintage dictionary page and pasted it on a toothpick mast. And rope is always good, so I rolled some twine. And a paper boat really needs a big anchor, in this case, a rusty old hammer-head.

The strange part was, for the hour it took me to make this little construction, so I would have a fun image to go along with this blog post, I was completely at peace and content. Sort of like a child without worries.

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Toxic Mom Toolkit: Coming to Terms

18 Mar

ILLWITNESS – noun

  1. A person who has personally been made ill by a toxic person and so can give a first-hand description of it.

I think about words more than most people. I used to work in a newsroom with a columnist who coined the term “bad hair day.” She told me that she couldn’t possibly have been the first person to use the term, but she was the first to put it in print. Whoever has the first byline using a new word gets bragging rights for the rest of their life. The first byline is cited in the dictionary and I think that’s pretty cool.

So, in the back of my mind, I’m always trying to think of a new term, description, or bit of slang that would earn me a place in the Oxford English dictionary. You’d think after all these years writing about toxic mothers that I’d have a ton of new words, terms, slang, but nope — my new word well has been dry.

Until today, when suddenly I understood what an illwitness was. (Spellcheck just underlined it in red, because it’s not a word – YET.

45f759c1df9fe20d19052f4aa59e062eWhen you are the adult child of a toxic mother you are the eyewitness to all the destruction, pain, and chaos that your mother created. As the adult child of a toxic mother you may have experienced migraine headaches, aches, pains, nausea, and several forms of chronic pain. The stress of abuse and neglect by a toxic mom could cause long-term post-traumatic stress or other problems that mean you will spend years in doctor and therapist offices. You may have been an eyewitness to your toxic mother’s behavior over the years. If you only see your toxic mother a few times a year and experience post-visit depression or a sort of body ache similar in length to the flu or a really bad hangover, not only are you an eyewitness, you may also be an illwitness.

TOXIC MOM TOOLKIT: WHEN FOUR ACES IS A LOSING HAND

1 Jun

If you follow my Toxic Mom Toolkit Facebook page you know that I have finished the first draft of my book and that I’m editing chapters. I was thinking how valuable this chapter is and thought I’d put it up here. I hope this is helpful to you.

 TOXIC MOM TOOLKIT:

        ACES – Adverse Childhood Experiences

 

I’m not a scientist, nor will I ever play one on T.V.

In fact, I am SO not a scientist for many reasons including extreme medical squeamishness and an empty folder in my brain where my multiplication tables should reside. But I’ve long thought I should have some scientific perspective to help illuminate the fallout from toxic mothering or some really smart analysis of how children are negatively affected.

How do people sort out how much their toxic mothers negatively affect their adult lives?

Ask the universe and it will come to you.

I met a new friend for coffee. This man happens to be a saintly sort, the director of a very interesting and progressive homeless shelter in the town where I live. A former attorney, he comes across as part professor, part priest, all compassionate caring. Which, couldn’t be more different than my first impression of “looks good on the outside” but “emotionally limping” on the inside.

I decided not to hold his brains and confidence against him. Maybe I could learn something.

He’s the one that introduced me to the exact information I sought in the form of a Kaiser Hospital study in which patients were asked a series of questions for a project that focused on Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACES.

In a nutshell, the study focuses on how the number of ACES one experiences in youth can be a point of calibration to predict emotional problems that could be serious in adulthood. My friend values the study as a way to look at the causes of homelessness, which is often the result of emotional turmoil or hopelessness. Sessions for homeless clients that utilize this measuring tool are taking place at my local shelter and the feedback has been positive.

I, on the other hand, immediately valued the scientific study of taking a person’s life story and pulling out the ACES as a way of exploring what daughters of toxic mother’s experience. I like that by clicking off a page of questions a person could really see objectively that damage was indeed inflicted.

I ran straight home and found the study online and the questionnaire and found that I scored 5 on this test. I knew from my coffee chat that anything over a four ACES was considered the tipping point for bad things including a high risk for becoming homeless.

You can find even more information about this study at: http://www.seclinicatcots.org/page12/page12.html

ACES QUESTIONAIRE

Prior to your 18th birthday:

1. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often

Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you?

                                    or

Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?

Yes   No

If yes enter 1     ________

2. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often

Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you?

                                    or

Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?

Yes   No

If yes enter 1     ________

3. Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever

Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way?

                                    or

Attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you?

Yes   No

If yes enter 1     ________

4. Did you often or very often feel that …

No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special?

                                    or

Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?

Yes   No

If yes enter 1     ________

5. Did you often or very often feel that …

You didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you?

                                    or

Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it?

Yes   No

If yes enter 1     ________

6. Was a biological parent ever lost to you through divorced, abandonment, or other reason ?

Yes   No

If yes enter 1     ________

 

7. Was your mother or stepmother:
            Often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her?

or

Sometimes, often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard?

                                    or

Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?

Yes   No

If yes enter 1     ________

8. Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic or who used street drugs?

Yes   No

If yes enter 1     ________

9. Was a household member depressed or mentally ill or did a household member attempt suicide?

Yes   No

If yes enter 1     ________

10. Did a household member go to prison?

Yes   No

If yes enter 1     ________

             Now add up your “Yes” answers:   _______   This is your ACE Score

Someone who scored an 8 on this quiz filled out one of my questionnaires. Her story is included in my book Toxic Mom Toolkit.