Tag Archives: bad mom

Toxic Mom Toolkit: The Final Plan

26 Sep

photoI found the dove feather on the ground in front of my house. For a month or more it was in a cup holder in my car. I looked at it at stop lights and found it utterly calming.

Is it a coincidence that the calming feather was just the thing I needed when I decided today that I would move forward with a Toxic Mom Toolkit companion workbook focusing on going No Contact?

I have a habit of designing a book cover before I embark on a real writing project. I do it to focus. I do it for luck. I do it because other authors I admire say they do it. It is a way of making a writing project real.

I had been struggling with the possibility that I could write about going No Contact and possibly convince a reader that they “should” end their relationship with their mother. What bothered me was the thought that I could influence someone in a very personal decision that could be the best or worst decision of their life. Not to mention, it is a huge decision with lifelong repercussions.

Weighing those thoughts against the years-long pleas from readers of Toxic Mom Toolkit I came to understand that those who are going No Contact anyway could be helped by things I’ve learned and stories I’ve heard over many years. I do know some things you should ask yourself, some things you should brace yourself for, and some things you have to expect in response to ending your toxic mother/daughter/son relationship.

It’s tricky and I know a few tricks.

So, today is the official first day of writing Toxic Mom Toolkit: The Final Plan workbook. If you know me, you know I’m neck-deep in vintage decor. I grabbed some Anagram tiles from the 1920’s and centered the words on my marble coffee table. But it needed something; something else; something soft from nature.

The dove feather!

For me, the pale grey feather is a tangible reminder to be as kind as possible to everyone including toxic mothers. It is in extending kindness (and understanding) to people who hurt us that we rise above our painful histories. With 20 years of No Contact with the mother who raised me, I know how important kindness is, now that she has died. The kindness I’ve extended, the neutral state when we did speak, and the care I took to treat her as I would any other senior adult that I did not want in my life, was the key to my own peace.

I dropped the feather and captured an image that will be my light on the horizon as I continue to help others struggling with toxic mothers.

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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.

 

 

 

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.

Judge, Jury and Toxic Grandparents

23 Jan


94175905bbf65c6a2a303aad37779156
Growing up with a super toxic mother is hard enough. But what many people who manage to disengage from the toxicity struggle with, down the adult road, is the relentless desire of toxic moms to be in their grandkids lives.

Of course, we want our children to know all of their relatives and to be part of a loving and nurturing extended family. But what if you know your own mother is toxic? What if you are sure she will emotionally or physically damage your child? What do you do?

On the Toxic Mom Toolkit Facebook page many posters write about severing contact all together and just enduring the never-ending pleas and threats from toxic moms hell-bent on playing granny. Many people have gone through the courts to acquire restraining orders to protect their children and peaceful family life. In some cases, it can be a terrible and extended emotional battle.

What would you do if your toxic mother decided to use the courts to gain access to your children? What can you do now to protect yourself against that possible future event? I asked my friend, The Lawyer, and here’s what she said:

“This is an issue that has long bothered me as there is an inherent bias in the system. If you are MARRIED, and choose no contact with the grandparents, then the court accepts the parental decision. If you are a SINGLE parent, then grandparents can petition for visitation and/or custodial time. BS, right?”

She went on to explain that the object of the law is to allow the child access to both sides of the family, which makes sense.

“Even if the (other parent)  is a loser, doesn’t mean the child shouldn’t know the whole family. If BOTH single bio/adoptive parents agree that grandparents should NOT have access, the court will listen. If they disagree is when it gets tricky…”

My friend says, even if you are single and not a mother today, it’s never to early to start documenting what your toxic mother does when she thinks nobody can see or hear her.

“As with any court action, documentation is almost EVERYTHING. The other thing that is crucial is PRESENTATION. If a client goes in insisting that their MIL is a crazy *itch who has a crazy kid and the client her(him) self is perfect, then the court will likely ignore the client. Alternatively, if the client goes in with documentation, acts calmly and reasonable, and laments that they wish their children could have two grandmas, realizes what the children miss out on, but can document ways in which that particular grandma is toxic, then the court is likely to listen and follow the client’s wishes.”

The grandparent rights movement is gaining strength and is popping up in several countries. Think about the energy your toxic mom has and think what she’d do with it if there was an actual court process that might help her WIN access to your child. That’s why today is a good day to start documenting her behavior.

Toxic Mom Toolkit: The Top Five Things You Should Track

1. Keep a small notebook in your purse or car and document each unwanted contact from your TM. Keep records like a scientist. A typical notation could be:   Sun. May 5, 4: 15 p.m. telephone call. Insists we come for dinner. Declined. Swearing. Threatens to call CPS.

2. If your mother is ranting on the phone have your spouse, or friend, or someone you trust listen in on speaker mode. They can testify for you in court later. Record her rants if you can and save them.

3. If your mother comes to your home uninvited, ask her to leave. Document the visit in your notebook. If she won’t leave, call the cops. That will generate a police report, which you could present in court at a later date.

4. Maintain an electronic folder for your mother and keep all of her emails, IM’s, texts in one place.

5. If your mother goes to court to gain access to your children, hire a lawyer. Also immediately request a Domestic Violence worker to help you navigate the court process. Once your toxic mother starts using the courts, you will need to prepare a strong defense and hire people to push back.

Of course, you need to conduct yourself in a kind and calm manner. No matter what she says or does you cannot respond in kind. Don’t call back, don’t yell back, don’t talk back.

My final thought on this topic is that if you have a toxic mother or mother-in-law it is crucial for you and your spouse or former spouse to be on the same page on this topic. If you’ve struggled with maintaining a cordial relationship with your ex, consider building a bridge on the basis of protecting your child/children from a toxic grandparent. It could be the one thing you still agree on and it could be a beginning point for a happier co-parenting arrangement.

Toxic Mom Toolkit: New and Improved Healing Affirmations

3 Jun

287526757430934790_tSMRwp6b_bMy friend Jen says affirmations are kind of dorky.  I know what she means, but I’ve compiled a long list of my most often repeated thoughts that protect me from toxic mom fall-out. They could you last a month, although I really hope nobody ever actually needs one for every single day. A rougher version of this list was posted previously, but this is the new, improved, reorganized and edited list that will go in my book, Toxic Mom Toolkit, which is nearing completion.

I do hope this version of healing affirmations, sane thoughts, and defense tactics for daughters – and sons – of toxic mothers is helpful to you.

The 5 “NO” Mantras

  • No, I won’t be doing that. No, don’t count on my being there. No, I’m done subjecting myself to your drama. No, I choose not to accept the stress. No, I have more positive things to do.

The 5 “I Cans”:

  • I can take everything negative about my mother’s life and flip it in my life. I can create a welcoming and warm home life. I can express love and encourage others daily. I can extend myself to those in need without expecting anything in return. I can prove that a life well lived is the best revenge.

34480753366585731_PbtGR1Ps_b-1When Every Day is a Toxic Day: Thoughts to Get You Through

  • My toxic mother can’t kill me. If she could, she would have already.
  • Any guilt I feel regarding my toxic mother was planted, watered and tended by my mother.
  • If my toxic mother was a co-worker or neighbor and I moved away, I’d never visit or call her again.
  • Family secrets instill guilt and shame. Am I being paid to keep family secrets? Then it’s not my job to keep them.
  • Next time I hear my mother’s voice in my head belittling me I’ll tell her out loud she’s wrong. (It’s okay. Other drivers will think you’ve got hands-free.)
  • Any mother who could be cruel to a child is not going to apologize to that child when they’ve grown up. Stop waiting for an apology that will never come.
  • As I’ve matured I’ve developed a better understanding of the choices my toxic mother made as a woman and mother.
  • My toxic mother can only intimidate me if I let her. While she’s busy trying to bully the child me, the adult me can reject her, ignore her, correct her, or report her to authorities.
  • I can’t fight crazy with crazy. Crazy is my toxic mother’s ‘hood.
  • Repeat: My toxic mother does not live in my head. She lives in her head.
  • When my relatives and friends say they can’t understand how I can treat my toxic mother the way I do, I’ll tell them the truth.
  • My toxic mother is an unnatural disaster.
  • I can laugh or I can cry. I choose to laugh.
  • I will never again hand my toxic “mom bomb” the match again.
  • On Mother’s Day, and other family holidays, I’ll focus on the positive women (and men) in my life. I’ll thank them for their caring, kindness and encouragement.
  • The cruel rule of RSVP is that the one person I hope will decline always comes. I won’t extend an invitation to my toxic mother to any event where I’d hate to actually see her.
  • Mother-daughter time is precious only if it’s positive.
  • My toxic mother deserves the one gift she never gave me: the truth.
  • My toxic mother won’t rob me of rich friendships with women who on the surface remind me of her. What are the odds my mother had an even more evil twin?
  • I will calmly stare down my toxic mom until she fears me more.
  • That which is most personal is most universal. People will understand if you simply say, “My mother is not a nice person, but I sure try to be.”
  • Whose little girl am I? I can be my own little girl. I can care for and nurture myself.

a2c4eeb15a56d43030ddd050cc04d9865 Soothing Thoughts:

  • Remember what my dad said, “Nobody can resist a joyous woman.”  Then allow yourself to feel and express joy.
  • Consider that your toxic mother may have been treated even more badly as a child than you were. (It could keep you from throwing something.)
  • There is no dishonor in retreat. Refusing to enjoin battle is a small victory when it comes to toxic mothers.
  • Amuse yourself to avoid getting sucked in. Keep an egg timer, a paper pad and pencil near the phone. Tally the lies, the guilt trips and the demands she can make in three minutes. Then hang up.
  • Keeping your children away from your toxic mother is a no-brainer. Introduce them to kind, responsible elders instead. Don’t know any? Consider visiting or volunteering with your child at a senior center or veterans home for an hour a week.
  • Honor thy mother and father? You can honor them by respecting yourself first.

Attack of the Toxic Mom Clones

6 May

1624a25b88cc825db4f642e6456b0562     I don’t know about you, but more often than I care to admit, I react to women of a certain age, who look a certain way, as if they were, in fact, my deceased mother.

I was in church today and half-way through the sermon I became focused on the sweater clad back of a lady I’d never seen before. From behind, from the shoulders up, she was a physical ringer for my mother. This woman was very thin with curly short red hair (gray at the temples) and she sat straight-backed throughout the hour. I couldn’t see anything else about her appearance, yet my brain dressed her in my mother’s polyester slacks and suntan L’Egg’s knee-highs with ballroom dance style open toe shoes. My mind raced. Certainly, she wore an elaborate jade and gold ring on one hand and a white gold and diamond Elgin watch on the other, even though that piece of heirloom jewelry my father had engraved “All my love on our 10th anniversary” in 1955, was actually on my own wrist.

If looks could kill that poor lady would have been found under a pew. This, while the sermon focused on not judging others, droned on.

I smiled.

Try as I might, I still have such fear in my bones that comes out irrationally.  These episodes remind me there is still work to do.

In my past, I’ve avoided friendships with older women who reminded me of my mother. I’ve avoided women who had red hair, or who played tennis, or who loved opera, because the associations with my own toxic mother just wore me down. I found it extremely difficult to trust older women most of my life. As I’ve matured, I’ve taught myself to tamp down those thoughts of imagined connectivity. I have to tell myself, no mad scientist cloned my toxic mother. Nobody dug her up and pulled out the stake. Nobody saved her DNA in order to replicate her particular case of Mad at the World. The truth is, the only person capable of cloning my mother is me. She may have been bad, but if she continues to bring the bad out in me, aren’t I sort of doing her job for her?

There are days when my brain clones my toxic mother to ride in the car with me and criticize my driving, parallel parking, clothes, weight and massive failures in life. A tiny version of her often hides in my purse, the wrong purse for my outfit – that makes me look cheap – to strike me with pangs of inadequacy as I walk into a nice restaurant.

Although my mother has been dead for five years, she planted and tended and watered so many fears and faith in my own shortcomings that her voice still hisses in my ear; her finger still pokes me in the back with the admonition to “show whatcha’ got.”  Those are the bad days.

The good days, like today, are when I see how her early negative imprinting still loops through my mind. I smile. I recognize that my mother only lives in my head and nowhere else and I choose not to listen. I turn the channel and pat myself on the back for rising above yet another attack of the Toxic Mom Clones.