Tag Archives: toxic mom support

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.

 

 

 

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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.

Misery Defined: Toxic Mom Toolkit’s Top Five Tips for Surviving Seeing Your Mother after 20 Years of No Contact

19 Sep

If you are planning an oft-delayed trip to see your mother after a long no contact period, remember – it’s never what you worry about.

If you have had little or no contact with your Toxic Mother for five, ten, fifteen or twenty years, keep it simple. Just expect to be surprised.

Are you the same person you were last time you saw your mother? Probably not. So, expect your mom to be changed in some ways too. She may still be an irrational hater, an under-miner, a conspirator focused on annoying or hurting you, but her skills will have become rusty without you around to practice on.  In fact, she may no longer be able to upset you as she has in the past.

What would happen if you arrived at this dreaded meeting a whole, calm, optimistic and ready-to-laugh adult? What if this time she didn’t see the child-based fear in your eyes? What if at the first hint of old hurtful patterns you said to her, “You know what? I’ve got other things I’d rather do than go over ancient history” and you left her there with her mouth open to enjoy a matinée movie instead? So what if you flew two thousand miles to see your mother one last time and when she turned impossible you switched gears and turned the vacation into an antiquing trip instead?

Would anyone really blame you?

Here are my Top Five Tips for surviving a long-delayed Toxic Mom visit:

  1. Bring or enlist an old friend to be at your side. Toxic Mother’s hate outsiders, also known as “witnesses.”
  2. Plan to do something your mother loves even if you loathe it. Then pat yourself on the back and reward yourself with a massage, or some other treat, when you get home.
  3. Have a short list of other people or places nearby to visit.
  4. Have a short list of pleasant activities to transition to should you need to cut your visit short.
  5. Plan all mother/daughter meetings and activities in public spaces. Cops swear by it.

I hope this is helpful to you. If you have a specific challenge feel free to post questions at Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook. But please post carefully on this “open” forum. If you don’t want everyone knowing your TM business feel free to create an alter persona or e-mail me directly at newsyrayne@gmail.com. I answer every email.

Ten Reasons Adult Daughters Stay Connected to Toxic Mothers

4 Sep

Some adult daughters…

  • Feel that limiting contact or cutting off contact with their Toxic Mothers will somehow reflect badly on them. They worry that others will wonder what’s wrong with them if they can’t even maintain a relationship with their own mothers.
  • Hold onto the hope that their Toxic Mothers could “get better” or suddenly become more loving towards them.
  • Fear retaliation from their mothers for limiting or cutting off contact that could include being barred from family activities and holidays.
  • Figure that even a negative relationship is better than no relationship at all.
  • Maintain contact in order to monitor younger siblings and intervene when necessary.
  • See their bad relationship with their Toxic Mothers as the only conduit to a father they still love dearly.
  • Can’t let go of a shared history, even if it’s mostly negative.
  • Hope that their Toxic Mothers might miraculously make wonderful grandmothers.
  • Wonder deep down if their Toxic Mother’s aren’t right about them.
  • Can’t see their Toxic Mothers simply as other adults. They can’t see their Toxic Mothers as people. And because they can’t judge their Toxic Mothers as they would any other adult they stay connected.

Toxic Mom Toolkit – Media Page

30 Mar

TOXIC MOM TOOLKIT

Addressing the last taboo: talking about unbearable mothers

 NOT EVERYONE IS EXCITED ABOUT MOTHER’S DAY

 Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 13, 2012

Is it possible that not everyone is excited about Mother’s Day? For some,  Mother’s Day is the most emotional and difficult day of the year.

TOXIC MOM TOOLKIT is an online support community established by journalist Rayne Wolfe for adult daughters of toxic mothers. Reaching 45,000 visitors per month and growing, it is a daily resource for anyone endeavoring  to rise above toxic parenting.

Purpose: Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook offers support through humor, positive images and quotations, video messages and links to news stories, books and other resources. A companion blog, ToxicMomToolkit.com, provides topics for independent therapeutic journals. A Toxic Mom Toolkit YouTube channel encourages frank discussion and mutual support.

Community: With over 45,000 visitors per month Toxic Mom Toolkit connects women from all over the world who face stressful issues concerning their mothers. For many, it is the first time they have ever spoken up about dealing with a toxic mother.

Rayne Wolfe is available as a media resource or radio and television contributor on the subject of surviving toxic parenting.  Her background includes ten years as a daily news reporter for a New York Times regional newspaper in Northern California. From 2010 to 2011 she was a lead blogger at 8WomenDream.com, which focused on encouraging women to pursue their passions. In the late 1990’s her business column, “What Works,” ran in the San Francisco Chronicle and Seattle Times and other papers. She has published in numerous magazines including Glamour Magazine, has taught creative writing at Book Passage, and has read her own short stories on NPR affiliates. She is also a contributor to the Chicken Soup series – Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul.

A former Sonoma County law enforcement chaplain, she has helped families deal with the trauma of sudden loss.

She has written and is preparing her first book Toxic Mom Toolkit for publication. It includes her own memoir of growing up in 1960’s San Francisco, the daughter of three mothers: a toxic birth mother, a toxic adoptive mother and a loving step-mother. Her book includes stories of other women who grew into loving, happy and optimistic adults despite toxic mothering.

You can reach Rayne Wolfe at 707.481.7180, newsyrayne@gmail.com or message her at Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook. She is based in Northern California.

Toxic Mom Toolkit Journal Project: Who Called the Police?

10 Mar

Most kids fantasize about the day someone finally punishes their parents for all the hurts, slights and times they had to eat their vegetables. But daughters of toxic moms can experience a life long struggle with the idea that perhaps someone should have called the authorities about a terrible home life, neglect or abuse.

So take a deep breath and transport yourself back to that time when your mom was at her worst. She is grabbing the wooden spoon and you are bracing yourself when – WAIT! There’s a sharp series of knocks at the door.

Imagine opening that door and seeing a special police force created solely to bust Toxic Moms. What would the police  say to your mom and what would she say back?

With your child’s eyes survey your childhood home. What would the police notice and question?  Would your mother confess or be defiant?  Would she try to escape? If she were arrested and led off in handcuffs what would be the last thing she would say to you as she was led away? What would you say back, knowing that the police would protect you?

This journal assignment is sort of like writing a small play. The great thing about creating a play is you can choose your characters, move them around and make them say or do anything you want. So what do you want to cover? What do you need to explore? What history needs to be rewritten by the adult you?

Don’t be afraid. It’s just pencil on paper you can erase or toss. But you just might discover that in reenacting and controlling the scene and dialog you are freeing yourself from old ghosts.  Or at least I hope so.

Toxic Mom Toolkit Journal Project

2 Mar

In honor of what would have been Dr. Seuss’s 108th birthday, today’s Toxic Mom Toolkit Journal Question is:

Q: At the very hardest time dealing with your toxic mom, what book saved you?

I think I became a writer simply because I loved to read. I developed a love of reading because I was alone much of the time, unsupervised. When I was small I used to carry very grown up leather bound books around to impress adults. I probably only impressed them as far too precocious. I spent many evenings on my tummy on the floor with my chin in my hands devouring the Wizard of Oz books, Heidi books and Betty & Veronica comic books.

Reading taught me that people’s lives are stories.

When I understood that, I started listening more closely, paying attention and taking mental notes.

I was the child who lived for eavesdropping. I became an adult apartment dweller who kept an empty water glass handy – just in case I heard neighbors fighting. I wanted to know why people did the things they did. I suspected that the way I was raised was not right and I relished observing others acting out their daily lives.

I wrote stories about the widow and the tomcat, my dashing motorcycle mechanic, the way people behaved under pressure or in the throes of love. I took writing classes and read like a convict on death row. I became a self taught writer and journalist.

I read adult books too early. I discovered children’s’ books too late. I have repeatedly been saved by the right book at the right time including, Gifts from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh and 52 McGs, a collection of the best obituaries from legendary New York Times writer Robert McG. Thomas, Jr.

Hands down the book that saved me more than once is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. It showed me that the first job of a parent is to want what is best for their children. This is my favorite scene from the movie:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7CX_5D6y6E&feature=relmfu

Growing up with a toxic mom sometimes it’s hard to know what is normal, what is better, or what is worse. Biographies, memoirs and fiction focused on survivors have not only inspired me but also saved me from feeling too sorry for myself. They taught me that I could write my own life story.

What book saved you?