Tag Archives: child neglect

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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My Amazing Invisible Foster Mother

14 Dec

f38c7b29352a2b24fefd6c00cda3da23I woke up from a deep dead sleep, a crazy dream tumbling around my head.

I’m not sure why I never thought about her before. After all, I had preserved the crumbled paperwork from my adopted mothers underwear drawer, with scribbled notes on feeding and weight; likes and dislikes. I knew that from birth until I was three-weeks-old, I was in someone’s care. But it wasn’t until this dream about my foster mother, who I couldn’t possibly have any memory of, that I considered the input of a caring stranger and how that might have contributed to how I am emotionally wired today.

Growing up, I never knew what exactly was wrong with my home life, yet I always felt deeply that something was very wrong. How can that be? How can a child with no perspective or life experience, living a very cloistered life, know that their mother is not quite what a mother should be?

Is it possible that a kind woman, willing to take unwanted children into her home for the few weeks it took for legal paperwork to be drawn up, home visits to be scheduled, cribs to be bought and assembled, could imprint an infant with selfless, pure love?  So much so, that the child would be able to feel it in her bones when someone else was unloving?

My foster mother’s inked notes included instructions on every single like and dislike, gathered by close observations. In those days, in addition to daily baths, a common thought and practice was that infants benefitted from daily sun “baths.” She wrote: “Sally is happiest when her skin is warm. She relaxes completely if you smooth her eyebrows.”

Goxwa paintingsI’ll always wonder if the woman who took me for those three weeks had a spirit that was so kind and loving that she gave me a standard to know – deep in my bones – when my adopted mother was cruel, neglectful. Was it her loving spirit, like a dove cooing in the distance, that kept me calm and centered during most of my childhood?

People are often fascinated that I have three mothers: my birth, adoptive and step-mother and are curious about what I learned from each woman. But maybe those facts need to be edited to include my foster mother.

The dream I had about her reminds me that in my life, I have had many mothers including numerous spiritual mothers. It is an interesting thought that an anonymous woman, willing to take in a baby for a short time, possibly imprinted that child with a gold standard for loving treatment.

I suspect her contribution was indeed great.

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 Road Map

22 Jun

Did you ever manage to avoid doing something so needed, so logical, so obvious for a long, long, looooooooong time and then one day you realize, hey I need to do that?  Well, that just happened to me.

73c2c5c188380db1718b1cf3745cc640In June 2010 I launched my Toxic Mom Toolkit book writing effort and along the way I posted little videos on YouTube, created this blog and started a long learning period in my life, where the Toxic Mom Toolkit community educated me. I’ve been very attentive to visitors telling them where they can find resources individually and then it hit me like a V-8 commercial that I should put up a post that puts everything a newbie should check out all in one place.

I know. I crack myself up too.

Toxic Mom Toolkit was founded by me and I’m a real person: Rayne Wolfe. I’m a journalist who quit my job to write my first book Toxic Mom Toolkit, which is entering the Amazon.com publishing maze. I wrote it at my kitchen table and thats where I’m sitting when I communicate with you. And yes, we should have a book soon.

The Toxic Mom Toolkit Community resides at Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook, where we currently reach over 190,000 each month. (May I brad a little? We started with 30 people!) It is a place to get support and share experiences. It’s where our cumulative wisdom resides. The ground rules are few: Be kind, be positive, be supportive. You can vent, but try not to swear. You can post too, but please make it a positive or illustrative post.

Toxic Mom Toolkit on YouTube includes about half a dozen short videos including the Welcome Message and another popular message on Embracing Change.

579320_388462684522492_1860430887_nToxic Mom Toolkit red jelly bracelets are free to anyone who emails me at newsyrayne@gmail.com and gives me a street mailing address. I’ll send them anywhere in the world, promise. They have two messages imprinted on opposite sides: “It’s not you. It’s her” and  “Toxic Mom Toolkit. Did I mention they are FREE and that I’ve already mailed out over 600 to five continents?

When you have a toxic mother or toxic parent, it can be a lonely road. This community is here to let you know that you are far from alone.

Grand Theft Narrative: Why We Should Question what we’ve been told Our Whole Lives

6 Feb

10be255eb16b79de5274f67dd3f4e1edI was a baby left in a garbage can.  It happens every day, you know.

When I was a little girl, my brother told me that story as we lay under a rusty pick up truck at my dad’s lot. We used to go to the lot every weekend while my dad poured the foundations of his dream house by hand. In the summer, it was scorching hot on the half-acre cleared of shade trees. We were so little that we could lay under the running board with our chins resting on our stacked fists.

“They found you, you know, in a garbage can. And they asked me if we could keep you and I said yes, even though you were dirty,” he calmly told me.

I must have been four and my brother around nine. I remember my heart sinking, and then roaring back up to my throat. I scrambled up out from under the truck and ran to my busy father, elbow deep in quick dry cement.

“Was I borned in a garbage can?” I demanded to know as tears fell and my nose began to run.

My poor father. Can you imagine?

Like Bill Cosby navigating fatherhood he asked the dumbest question possible.

Who told you that?”

In short order he assembled my brother and I side by side and went over the story my brother had hatched. Keep in mind, my brother was in the car with my parents when they drove to Social Services to pick up their adoptive baby – me. Because they had promised my brother a dog, they made a big deal about asking if getting a baby instead of a dog – just for now – was okay with him. They convinced him it was his decision.  My brother knew I was adopted. He saw my parents sign the paperwork.

“Why would you tell your sister something so mean?” My father yelled. “You dumbbell, don’t you know you’re adopted too? Maybe you’re the one who was in a garbage can?”

That’s when my brother started bawling at the shock. Apparently he had never given a moment’s thought to his own origins. Our high-pitched wails and sniffles intermingled as we wiped our faces on our shirt hems. It must have been a long day for a dad in charge of two kids under ten.

Even though my dad nixed the garbage can story it stuck with me.

There have been years when it was part of my narrative. After I found my birth mother I realized it wasn’t factually true, but morally true. My birth mother literally cast me off and if she hadn’t had other options I could have very well been one of those babies left on a bus.

6a28470ea2baaec4e9ae3f1c2df6a767The thing about family narratives, the stories we hear, the stories we repeat, the stories we whisper, is that they can tie us up, control us, lower our standards or goals and keep us from exploring the world around us. As daughters of Toxic Moms at some point we need to use our adult brains and look back at stories we’ve accepted at face value our entire lives.

We have to ask ourselves:

Is this true?

If it wasn’t true, why would someone say it?

Why was this particular thing promoted?

In the questionnaires I receive from Toxic Mom Toolkit visitors, there are usually stories about being told we aren’t smart, or pretty, or capable. We won’t amount to anything. Nobody will ever love us. Our only job is to prop up or take care of our toxic moms.

When we don’t go back and review the things we were told about ourselves as children with our adult brains we are risking accepting false information that can limit our whole lives.

A challenging exercise is to make lists of what your mother, father, grandparents, siblings, aunts/uncles, cousins and close family friends told us about our skills, talents and potential. Cross out the things that are not true or that you don’t want to be true. Then go out there and prove them wrong.

These stories are not life sentences. You can rewrite your narrative.

I have a dear friend who was told by his mother from the time he was a little boy that he was lousy at sports. So lousy, that he risked hurting himself or others if he even attempted any sort of organized sport. If he pushed to participate in things like a class ski trip, he got less than no support. He was the kid in wet jeans with chattering teeth because his mother wouldn’t buy him equipment “for just one trip.”

His father also told him that he couldn’t do anything that required using mechanics tools.

Turns out as an adult he realized that his mother’s storyline about his inability to even catch a ball started around the time that the child asked if he could join Little League. He remembers one practice where all the other kids parents came to cheer their children on. At the end of the game, families drove off together for pizza. He was the last kid there waiting for hours until his mother finally arrived. The truth of the matter was that she didn’t want to be on the hook for ball games and snacks and schedules and driving and dropping off and picking up. And so my friend was told he was bad at sports. To this day she still claims he didn’t want to play sports.

Why was he bad at anything requiring tools? I think it’s because his dad was a luxury car mechanic and wanted to be the only one capable of repairing cars. He wasn’t willing to teach, so he ridiculed.

Luckily for my friend, as an adult he started trying things he thought he might enjoy. At his gym he’s a great racquetball player and enjoys being part of a league. He loved Bruce Lee and started studying martial arts. He’s so accomplished now that he teaches kids on Saturday mornings. His students love him.

What do his parents think of all his successes at work, sports, with friends and clubs, and his endless creativity? They’re sort of amazed. They didn’t know he had it in him.

But he does. And that’s what matters.

TOXIC MOM TOOLKIT SYNONYM FOR LOVE: BACON

22 Jul

I was sitting on a café patio with a good friend. We were enjoying iced teas on a hot day. This friend has been super supportive of my Toxic Mom Toolkit work and has had periods in her life when she felt her own mom was toxic.

The good news for my friend is that lately she has been able to enjoy time with her mother. That has happened because my friend set up some boundaries and has learned to say “No” to her mother. She’s been amazed at how quickly her mother has adjusted to her wishes. She’s very grateful that there are nice telephone conversations and pleasant outings now with her mom.

As I was listening to my friend the best analogy for this lack of true love feeling so many daughters of toxic moms experience, which can include feelings of confusion, yearning, and pain – suddenly, hit me.

It’s like this:

You are invited to a famous fancy country club. They have all these signature dishes and drinks. Let’s say, this club invented the Bloody Mary cocktail. So, you’re thinking everything I order here is going to be fantastic: over the top.  Sort of like mother’s love, which is unconditional and all encompassing.

You take your seat at a table overlooking a sweeping bright green lawn. The birds are chirping softly. Silverware being used at other tables creates a soft sonata of happy clinks. You decide to order the famous club sandwich and the Bloody Mary. You envision perfectly toasted thin sliced bread with lettuce, turkey, bacon and just the right slather of freshly made lemon mayonnaise. Your order arrives on a gleaming gold-rimmed plate and a chilled glass placed beside it. As you adjust your napkin under your chin you notice there’s not really a lot of bacon.

Wait a minute. There’s NO bacon.

You look up and check other diner’s dishes and you see other people with the club sandwich have so much perfectly crispy bacon on their sandwiches that they are breaking off long pieces and using the stiff slices to stir their Bloody Mary’s! What is in your Bloody Mary glass? A used popsicle stick.

You politely call the waiter over and point out that the kitchen forgot your bacon. And you need a proper Bloody Mary, please. He smiles and informs you that there was no mistake. YOU don’t get bacon on your sandwich.YOU don’t get a bacon swizzle stick for your Bloody Mary.

“Get it? A Toxic Mom that withholds love or is cruel or whatever is like a club sandwich without bacon. It’s a total gyp,” I said to my friend. “And it doesn’t happen to everyone once in his or her life. But it happens to you every time you order it. Especially if you’re dying for it. Every time you seek love, approval, support, understanding, kindness from your Toxic Mom…”

“You get a club sandwich with no bacon!” my friend chimed in as we both slapped our hands down on the table top.

We laughed about bacon as a synonym for love and throughout the rest of our conversation when talking about hurtful things that her mother had done, we would pause and both say, “No bacon” and we understood each other exactly.

If you want and deserve yummy, savory, bacon/love and know you’ll never get bacon/love from your Toxic Mom why do you keep ordering it? Why do you keep paying for it? Why do you keep walking away feeling totally gypped?

How many times would you go back to that country club and order the club sandwich with the hope  you’ll get bacon before you try another restaurant and actually get bacon?

Yes, it won’t be the FANCY restaurant bacon, but there is wonderful, lovely, bacon elsewhere. There is bacon everywhere else. You can go out into the world and get all the bacon you deserve.

E-Publishing Loves Daughter Memoirs

25 Mar

I just finished reading Cris Beam’s short memoir Mother/Stranger about growing up with a mother so mentally ill that she told her family that her daughter was dead, when, in fact, she had just moved away for her own safety.

Beam is a creative writing professor at Columbia University who also wrote Transparent, a nonfiction book that covers seven years in the lives of four transgender teenagers, which won the Lambda Literary Award in 2008.

Mother/Stranger is one of several very short memoirs I’ve recently downloaded as Kindle reader editions. These books can run from free to 99-cents and are often less than $10. There are a ton of new biographies and memoirs written by first effort authors who have struggled with toxic mothers.

One of my other favorites is by June Cross entitled Secret Daughter: A Mixed Race Daughter and the Mother who gave her away.  When her white aspiring actress mother has a love affair with a black comedian, she first intends to keep her baby – – if it can pass for white.

But this was the 1950’s and soon, June Cross is placed with a loving black couple living in Atlantic City. Her story of bouncing back and forth between the east coast where education and hard work are valued to summers in Hollywood where all that matters is the next fun party is fascinating particularly because she loves her mother and the “Aunt” who raised her, but struggles with literally being a secret.

Cross graduates from an Ivy League school and eventually becomes a producer for the television news show Frontline. It is in telling her own story of creating a documentary about her unique experiences that she shines.

I always say that you shouldn’t be afraid of your own story and that if you have to go out and interview relatives – do it! Cross shows us how to conduct an interview, when she finally asks her own mother all of the questions that have tortured her for her entire life. I was on the edge of my seat.

I asked for a Kindle reader this Christmas and received a Kindle Fire. Having had a library card since I was six-years-old and being the type of person who visits my local branch twice a week at least, I thought I’d mainly use it to download big, long, challenging reads. But what I’ve discovered is that e-publishing is making available so many little books written by real people and at such a low-cost, instantly via Amazon.com and other providers, that I’m reading like a maniac.

These earnest little books that can be read in one setting are often less than 100 pages and feel like meeting someone on a plane or a bus. We have a tendency to tell strangers so much more than we would ever tell our own social circle, don’t we?  These books feel like a whispered conversation. Almost like we’ve found an abandoned diary and are turning pages quickly for fear its owner will return and snatch it from our hands.

The other great thing about Kindle reading is that you can highlight lines and create a treasure trove of nuggets. I was highlighting a lot of Beam’s book Mother/Stranger. For example:

“I remembered the way my mother had told her family that I was dead and wondered if they ever believed it. I thought how strange it was to be a ghost: solid enough for everyone’s projections to land and stick but too ephemeral to fight back.”

Beam has great insights into what a child must suffer through having a mother with mental illness. She also reserves great sympathy for her mother.

“After therapy or years of a safe and protected life, a person can suddenly give language to what was once only a sensory terror. That’s what happened with my mom.”

She also has a great way of looking at the big picture, at one point writing that “estrangement runs in our family.”

Whether you use a library card, a laptop, or a Kindle reader be sure to explore these new memoirs that might help you to better understand your own experience. Check out the online book descriptions and be sure to skip down to the reader reviews that often refer to additional books.

Have you read a good memoir lately? Please tell us about it in the comments section below

Happy Reading!