Tag Archives: Six Holiday Survival Tips for Daughters of Toxic Moms

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Happiness Plan for Adult Children of Toxic Parents

19 May

649b484de9e3863bdeb5ed543f6b7120I receive a lot of nice mail. But, I can’t remember a more interesting or thought-provoking message in a long time.

A Friend of Ours wrote:

Hi Rayne,

We spoke about 1.5 yrs. ago by telephone. I was a complete disaster on the phone so angered and teared up barely being able to focus whilst speaking with you. Since that time I had allowed the toxic and abusive relationship to continue until recently when my Mother created another ‘fairy-tale’ to which she fabricated stories to a family court that I absconded my child from her Father in Australia over five years ago.

Of course this story she told was simply nothing more than a story to which I, as with my ex-husband, was able to quickly clarify and provide evidence that no such thing had occurred. So without further ado my heart and mind quickly went into estrangement mode and stronger than ever before.

The only way I can describe to you in a metaphor about how this time it is for sure, is it is kind’a like getting really mad at yourself that you have made a huge mess in the kitchen and all of a sudden you start tearing through your kitchen doing what I call ‘Gorilla Cleaning’ to get through it all quickly and if anyone there is to witness this ‘Gorilla Cleaning’ they sure do know that you mean business and they wouldn’t dare stand in the way of your mission… of your Pinesol!

So now that you know I mean business I need your insight on how I might be able to structure a successful estrangement. Maybe it is my intense need to always have a plan or a map but I feel like I need a game plan of sorts. I can’t find a book or site on the web to help me and this is why I suggested that perhaps you could write a book on it?

For me, I simply cannot see myself sitting in a therapists office reciting my last 39 years of crap delivered by my Mother – I don’t want to talk about it anymore – I would like an actual Toolkit of Complete Estrangement.

I want to learn how to be REALLY happy and create more moments and loving opportunities with the abundance of friends I have because I know I don’t know how to do this all that great because I have never been taught. I do not have any other Family other than my Mother and a few distant cousins, aunts, and uncles so my estrangements make it pretty easy. I really need to find a supportive and humorous way to walk towards the future I see now that sadly I never saw before.

My only fear is that I will not know how to just be happy, Rayne, and that is such a crazy thought to get your head around unless you lived it yourself. 

0df2a3e3c3e819f3b804a305cf75c4a2Anyway, I have posted an ad on Kijiji today seeking a psychotherapist to assist me in creating a network of women that share in Mother estrangement; members will want to define their ‘happiness map’ after estrangement. I have a vision that the psychotherapist could guide and facilitate a positive approach for a group of women to create their own ‘Toxic Mom Toolkit’ so that each and every woman in the group can define boundaries, goals, and finally create what they deem to be their successful happiness destination. This is all I feel I can do until you’ve published your book Rayne 😉 lol Here is the ad link…. maybe you could share it on the FB page?

http://london.kijiji.ca/c-community-activities-groups-Support-Group-for-Daughters-Estranged-willingly-from-Mothers-W0QQAdIdZ485398538

I love following your page but admittedly I have done so in privacy not wanting to broadcast it to my friends and associates… this has started change for me though 🙂

Thanks Rayne!

*     *     *

 Wow! That’s quite a communication! My first reaction is that I’m flattered that Toxic Mom Toolkit has been a part of this person’s personal journey and that since cutting contact with her toxic mom she is glad of it and doing well.

My second reaction? WOW! Does she really need such an elaborate system and network to feel confident in that decision to cut off contact with a truly toxic mother? Well, apparently, Our Friend does, and so I support her 100% in seeking what she needs to stick to her plan. I also applaud her for putting herself out there and welcoming others to create a safe environment for mutual support.

I kind of chalk this up to how sometimes we need a lot of structure to follow our bliss and other times we just GO. It’s sort of like leaving home, embarking on your life journey. Sometimes, you are so done that you buy the ticket, call the taxi and get on the boat and you never look back. Other times, you have to take a bus ride around the block, but come back home. You might have to practice longer and longer trips until you get your emotional feet under you.

My goal in founding Toxic Mom Toolkit and writing my book was to tell my story and gather others and present them with an open heart and let readers sort out what they can use. I tend to be an either/or type of personality. I CAN walk out and never look back. But I understand that every person’s situation is unique and each person must navigate the waters only they truly know.

317181e6155a7322320318d9c334c88cOur Friend wonders if she can be happy and have friends and a normal life?

My feeling is that you get out of life what you put into it. I also know the cringing self-defeating impulses that can limit adult children of toxic moms, who may have suffered abuse or neglect and have a hard time trusting others.

I love her idea of calling this journey a Happiness Map. All I can say is do what makes you happy and while you’re doing it, look up and see who else is happy doing what you like. Smile at them. Offer to help them or ask them for help. Suggest coffee or just a five-minute break and discuss your mutual passions. Friendships are built one smile, one conversation, at a time.

I was always taught by my father that love is reflected in love and took that to mean that kind relations will grow, but you have to be kind first. You have to get the ball rolling. Little by little, your social circle will expand and you will be leading a life that is lighter and happier. And for the people you know who are struggling with Toxic Mom issues, you will be a shining light.

While a group led by a therapist may be helpful I think that should only be a small part of your efforts to live life to the fullest.

1efd518489872782aa82ced329ce0a99So, what do I think is the perfect formula for No Contact? I think the formula’s solution is simply personal peace and how you get there is your job to figure out.

I hope that people find strength in knowing that they are not alone and that there is respect and mutual support available 24/7 at Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook and that our YouTube videos and the blog might also be helpful.

And always know – It’s not you. It’s her.

Paris Calling Toxic Mom Toolkit

20 Dec

135319163774557788_UXJANyPs_bOne night I was curled up on my couch with a book and my little old dog in my lap when my cell phone erupted.The caller I.D. simply gave what looked like 20 odd numbers in neon digits. Feeling brave I clicked through and man with a charming French accent explained that he was calling Rayne, the founder of Tox-eek Mom Tool-keet — from Paris.

“Really?” I gushed. (Really – does any other word inspire such awe as Paris?)

He was quite concerned about a younger sibling living in the United States. It seemed that their toxic mother created such severe drama that there was concern for the well being of his brother.

Of course, I was concerned too. Concerned he had my private cell phone number. I had to ask him where he got it.

“It’s there on your website, really. I didn’t do anything bad to find it, but if you go back into how you set up your page, it’s there,” he explained earnestly. He went on to say that he was so relieved to find something on the Internet that seemed to address the exact problem he was worried about. He calculated the difference between time zones and he crossed his fingers that I’d be home in the evening after dinner time.

“I watched the hours. I really hoped I could speak to you.”

Which got me thinking of how many thousands of newspaper articles I’ve written that included my desk number and, who knows, might have linked to my cell phone. Does it really matter?

We had a long chat. He was so grateful to just have a sounding board. I offered some suggestions and we collaboratively created a short list of helpful things that could be done immediately. Before I hung up I complimented him on the obvious love and concern he had for his brother. It was really sweet. I made him blush.

Regular followers of Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook know that I tend to post first thing in the morning before I head out for my day’s activities. Quite often, “friends” who can “see” I’m online send instant messages in the lower right hand corner of my computer screen. Usually, they are messages of thanks or updates on particular toxic mom situations. Sometimes they make me laugh. Sometimes they require that we chit-chat electronically back and forth for a few minutes. I’m always happy to make myself available that way.

People have asked me to Skype and that’s where I draw the line. Only because women of a certain age who look like me should never Skype unless they own a Judy Jetson mask.

89720217546707539_HEJuPPmo_bAs Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook recently topped 100,000 people reached per month I noticed a few more urgent requests for phone conversations. My attitude is if I have time and someone feels they are in crisis, I’m available as long as its on the caller’s bill. (The entire Toxic Mom Toolkit operating budget is skimmed off of my grocery budget and my husband expects beer.)

It seems more and more often the stars align for these long distance conversations and my phone rings in Northern California and I put down laundry I’m folding.

It doesn’t hurt that my journalism career taught me to shut up and listen. Or that I’ve collected hundreds of life stories and conducted years of interviews on the topic of surviving toxic moms. Five years as a law enforcement chaplain trained me to accept everyone without that impulse to fix anything. Like you even can. Listening. Hearing. Repeating. Agreeing. Suggesting. Offering similar tales from others. Encouraging. That, I can do.

One sunny morning there was a call from a young woman, very upset at the sudden realization that for her entire life her mother had made it her business to be cold and unkind – but only to her and only in private. She offered many examples and stressed that the worst venom was always delivered in private. How could a mother single out a child to abuse, she asked over and over. Could it possibly be true that her mother would never accept her in a loving manner no matter how many kind gestures the adult daughter offered? The telephone line hissed and crackled as we spoke and I stretched out on our guest bed, looking at the ceiling imagining the cell phone waves rising up out of my 1970’s ranch home to a space satellite and blinking back down into an ancient city built on the pearl trade and sustained in modern times by oil. Was I really helping someone in the Middle East? Yes, I was.

279152876872500112_HLBA4gWB_bThese calls boggle my mind.

How can one person at their kitchen table be able to calm and encourage someone half-way across the globe? I guess it helps if you are earnest and honest and can identify with all the confusion and hurt and sadness. That I am upbeat and encouraging makes others brave.

I know after we hang up, the callers go back to the Toxic Mom Toolkit Facebook page and they read, read, read. I see them lurking in the stats. A few from the island of Mauritius. That nice lady in northern England. My friends in southern Italy. The writer in Iceland. Every story of crisis and the lines of support from other people create a platform for examining their own mother/son/daughter relationships. Is the passive aggressive mother in the deep south so different from the angry alcoholic mother in Central America? Are personal boundaries as necessary in Peru as in Poland? Visitors from different continents and countries, speaking different languages, all wade in like gold miners swishing the stories around in a shallow pan looking for that nugget that will help them find peace, or at least a visit home without a screaming match.

Callers may not always find exactly what they want in that moment but they do discover that they are not alone. They see that it took many, many people to create such a wealth of helpful information and resources and that they, too, can contribute. They gain perspective and start viewing their family story as a story. And then, if they are lucky, they decide to be the hero of that story.