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Episode # 314   Tom North

About The Episode:

Today on The Inspiration Show, Natalie Ledwell speaks with award-winning author and child abuse survivor, Tom North. Tom joins Natalie on the show to discuss his new book 'True North', which is inspired by Tom's real life experiences as a survivor from an abusive stepfather that drove him to depression and drugs, and a mother who protected the image of the 'perfect' family at all costs. During the show, Tom shares that the Golden Globe award-winning movie "Yours Mine and Ours" was inspired by his own family as it was considered to be the perfect American family back in the 60's. Tom reveals why the image portrayed in the movie couldn't be farther from the truth. Today, he is a leading advocate for promoting meditation for trauma survivors and anyone who feels alone and depressed.

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Episode # 314 Tom North

Natalie: Hi, Everyone! My name is Natalie Ledwell and this is the Inspiration Show. Today, we

have a live version of the show. I have a very special guest joining me tonight, who has an

extremely interesting story. One that I actually have a parallel with when it comes to, you

know, families merge together when we were young. And then the interesting lessons that we’ve

learned going through our childhood troubles and tribulation and how we can actually expand and

grow as a human being as a result of those things. So, I would like to welcome to the show, Mr.

Tom North. How are you Tom?

Tom: I’m well, Natalie. Thank you for inviting me on your show.

N: It’s an absolute pleasure to have you here. Now, why don’t we start with this really

interesting story because your family is quite famous here in the US.

T: Yes, just a little background for people who are in the chat here is that, in 1960, a woman

named Helen North who had 8 children and was a widow, married a man named Frank Birdsley, who

was a widower with 10 children. Now, when we add 8 and 10 that equals ridiculous, but that’s

exactly what they did. And the story was carried to the media of the day, Lucille Ball, saw the

story in the newspapers and called my mother and stepfather and said, I’d like to make a movie

about bringing together the merger of this two large families. And so she did. And it was a

very funny, because we’re talking about Lucille Ball here, and so it was funny and it was

heartwarming and it was very entertaining. It was also the 4th highest grossing film of 1968.

It was critically and financially successful but it was the farthest thing from the truth.

N: Right. We were talking before about how, especially, I don’t know how it was back in the day

but it was all about keeping up appearances, we’re like this even now, which is important that

they act outside the roles that it’s a perfect family or that they’re a perfect couple but

really underneath things aren’t going so well. So, what was the real story behind what was

happening in your family?

T: Well, the real story was that Frank Birdsley was psychotic and he was dangerous to be

around. When my mother met his children, and this is something she shared with me later in

life, when she met his children, she said she saw 10 children living in terror for their lives.

She was afraid he was going to kill them. So, she figured that the best way to save the

children and to save Frank from himself was to marry him. And then she could control the

situation. Well, that was a bit of (3:08) on her part and what she did was she took her 8

children to a dangerous environment and she lost control of it. And that was the reality. So

what happened was the contrast in the real dangerous environment and the fantasy of yours, mine

and ours, which we children had to promote to the public was crazy-making for the children.

N: Yeah. I can only just imagine. And the thing is what you bring up is a really good point is

that your mother thought she was doing the right thing, but unfortunately that didn’t work out.

So what was it like, I just couldn’t imagine being in a household with 18 children. Tell me a

little bit about what daily life was like and how that shaped you as a human being growing up.

T: So, actually one of the things the movie yours, mine and ours did get correctly is the

logistics of raising such a big family. So there’s a tremendous amount of attention put on food

and clothing and school. Well, all of those daily activities that we all experience that are so

important. However, what the film did not capture is the human interaction on a real level.

There are not, and I write about this in my book, which is true north, the shocking truth about

yours, mine and ours, is that there are not eyes enough to see or ears enough to hear all of

the needs and requirements to what became 20 children.

N: Right. So, how did that affect you growing up? What was some of the things that you see that

play out with some of your siblings?

T: I escaped what would be a very uncomfortable situation into nature. And so, I went to the

beach, I went to the river that was near our home, I went to the woods and the mountains to

escape and to be in a more natural environment and help me to ground in something that was a

little bit more sane than the domestic environment.

N: Right. And I know that, so how long did you stay? Okay, out of that 18 where in the 18 did

you fall? Were you part of the elder group or the younger group?

T: Of my mother’s 8 children, I was number 4. And of the 20, I was number 11. So, I was in the

middle on both circumstances.

N: Right. Sometimes, being in the middle means you could be a little invisible as well.

T: I’d like to say I got to see them coming and going.

N: Yeah, yes and like you were saying, it actually gives you a unique perspective as well. So,

how old were you when you left home?

T: Well, I met Frank when I was 7 years old. My father was killed in a navy jet crash when I

was 6, and within 15 months my mother was married to Frank Birdsley. The moment I met him I

knew that we were in trouble.

N: Right. So how long were you there before you got to leave the household?

T: And I was there for 11 years. So I left the house just before my 18th birthday, as soon as I

graduated from high school.

N: Okay. So, I know that you’ve alluded before that you’ve written a book, tell us a little bit

about the book and the motivation behind writing it?

T: Well the book is of course called, True North: the shocking truth about yours, mine and

ours, and it was simply a response to conversational influences where I was talking with people

about the story and it seem to help them. And so, I wrote the book with that in mind and the

amazing thing is so many people have come back to me having read the book and said, you know,

I’ve read your book and this is what it meant to me. Because what do people think about, they

think about what’s important in their own lives. And they reflect upon certain aspects of the

story that are important to them and that’s the beauty of the story, is its flexibility, I

guess you’d say and it’s an application to so many different life circumstances.

N: Yeah. It’s like most books that we read, it depends on the time of life and the

environmental circumstances that we’re in at that time. We can read the same book 50 times and

get something out of it every single time. So, what are some of the lessons that you felt that

you wanted to impart when you wrote the book?

T: Well, the most important message of the book is that, life isn’t fair for most of us.

Inspite of that, we can take the broken pieces of the life and put them back together again and

become happy well-adjusted human being again. And that’s really the message of the book, it

doesn’t matter how difficult your life circumstances were when you were children. There are

resources available to people. There is a resource guide at the back of the book, which is

fairly inclusive, where people can go and find resources to help them help themselves.

N: Absolutely. And the thing is we all have the story, we all have a childhood and we’ve all

experienced different things but it’s just how we choose to move forward in life and how long

do we allow these things to hold us back and sabotage us from success or whatever that is. I’m

sure that you’ve heard several stories or many stories about the people who read the book, can

you share something with us that someone, a story that someone shared with you that’s really,

from reading your book you really got to help them?

T: The most touching story that I’ve been shared was that, a woman came to me and she had read

the book and she said, you know, I struggled with my emotions around my childhood my entire

adult life, and finally, you’ve given me a voice I never had.

N: Fantastic. Yeah, that’s wonderful. So how is your relationship with your siblings and with

your parents and everything now? What does your family look right now?

T: Well, both my mother and my stepfather have passed away, but all of the children, all of my

siblings are still alive. There are 4 of them who are very grateful that I wrote the book and

very happy that I wrote the book. There are 15 of them who are unhappy that I wrote the book

and are not pleased with their brother Tom at all.

N: Right (laughs). Well, that’s not great. So, I know that you’re talking before that you’ve

got family who actually got a group counselling session which is where a lot of this is able to

unfold. So, was all the family involved in that? What were the kind of insight that came out of

these counselling sessions?

T: So, what happened really was very interesting, and that’s chapters 26 and 27 in the book,

and what happened is my brother approached me and said, would you help me put together our

family therapy session because I’m a mess and three therapists have told me that my issues

arose at the family context and must be dealt with in a family context. So, please help me put

together this family therapy session. And I said, can you imagine the scale of what you are

attempting to suggest here and he said, are you going to help me or not? And I said, I wouldn’t

miss this for the world. And so, we put it together and on the first Saturday there were 8 of

us who showed up and we went 10 hours Saturday and 10 hours on Sunday and it was so wonderful,

very productive and we decided to do it again and we set another date for the following month.

This time 14 came and we went for 10 hours Saturday and 10 hours Sunday and it was so

productive that we decided to do it again. And so on the third month, all of the 14 still

showed up, then my mother came for that one, to that Saturday and it was so productive for her

that she said, tomorrow, I’m bringing Frank. He needs to participate in this. And he came, and

it was nothing short of epic in its proportions.

N: That’s amazing and fantastic. You actually got to have a voice and work through that while

your parents could also share in that experience.

T: Yes, yes.

N: (overlapping with Tom) one piece of information or sort of like a message that you’d really

like to impart to people that may be feel like their circumstances of their childhood have

sabotaged or holding them in some way, you know, what piece of information or what piece of

wisdom can you share with them?

T: One of the things that I talk about in public speaking engagements when I present is that

the issues around domestic violence and child abuse are so pervasive in our society and they

live a very large portion of our population feeling isolated, feeling shameful and guilty like

they did something wrong in their childhood and it’s just not true. There are things that we

can do to recognize that we are not alone and there are things that we can do to put the broken

pieces of our lives back together again and become happy, healthy, productive human beings.

N: Right. (overlapped with Tom) Sorry. And you have these things in the book?

T: There is a resource guide at the end of the book, which will help them find in that what is

appropriate for them.

N: Wonderful. So, if we want to send people to find out more about you Tom and to get their

hands on the book, where can we send them?

T: So the book is available at amazon. It’s available basically wherever books are sold. But

it’s also available on my website which is And if you buy the book on

the website, we will send you a signed copy and in addition to that 10% of the proceeds of the

sale will go to an organization called CASA (15:01) which is (15:02) Advocates for Children.

It’s a wonderful nationwide organization that helps children who find themselves in the foster

care environment and advocates for these children who need help as a result of domestic

violence of child abuse.

N: Wonderful. That’s so awesome. Tom thank you so much for joining me today. It’s been an

absolute pleasure having you here (coughs).

T: Natalie, thank you so much for having me in your show.

N: Thank you so much. Now, guys, I encourage you to share this video. Now you can do that by

clicking on the Facebook and Twitter share buttons on this page. Also, download the app if you

haven’t done so already, so you can watch the shows on the go. And make sure that you leave

your on the box on this page, so I can send you the manifesting with the master’s e-course

video. It was actually valued at $87 and I’d love to send it to you for free. So until next

time, remember live large, choose courageously and love without limits. We’ll see you soon.
Tom North



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