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The Windy City, Silver Screens, and Plush Pals: Nancy Goodman’s Story of Vulnerabilities and Triumphs

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Nancy Goodman’s journey seems as eclectic as the skyline of Chicago, the city she dearly cherishes. As a mother of three, a published author, and a writer/director of the award-winning romantic comedy Surprise Me! currently streaming on Amazon Prime, Nancy’s accomplishments span across a spectrum of creative ventures. However, her most recent project, Stuff’n’Tuddles – the plush companions of her upcoming children’s book, A Most Unusual Wish, carries a unique significance inspired by the crests and troughs of her own life.

At first glance, one may wonder what ties a romantic comedy about emotional eating to a children’s book and its stuffed sidekicks. However, delve deeper, and a consistent thread emerges: the interplay of vulnerabilities, aspirations, and the therapeutic nature of self-expression.

Born on the South Side of Chicago, Nancy’s relationship with her hometown has been enduring and transformational. From moving to Evanston, raising children in the city, transitioning to Highland Park, and later returning as an empty nester post-divorce, Nancy’s roots run deep. “I simply love Chicago and would never consider leaving,” she asserts. 

The city, in its vibrant diversity and warmth, played a pivotal role, especially when choosing it as the backdrop for Surprise Me!. While the romantic comedy centers on emotional eating and binging, the backdrop of the city is non-negotiable. There was a stark difference between portraying a girl with eating issues from LA and someone from the Midwest. For Nancy, Chicago signifies diversity, grounding, and warmth.

But why stuffed animals? Aren’t they just for kids? Nancy’s pivot from the bustling world of filmmaking to the tactile comfort of stuffed animals was not as abrupt as it may seem. 

The Windy City, Silver Screens, and Plush Pals: Nancy Goodman’s Story of Vulnerabilities and Triumphs

Photo Credited to: Julie Kaplan Photography

On an impulsive, emotion-driven night of loneliness, she found herself at the doorstep of a local Walgreens. Donning her pajamas, a determined Nancy rummaged through the aisles, “test-driving” stuffed animals. Inspired by the thought of her college-aged daughter who still cuddled a stuffed dog from her crib, it was a quest not just for a mere toy – but for a piece of her past, a fragment of her innocence, and a symbol of hope and comfort.

Once back home, clutching her chosen stuffed animal, she did something profound. She took to her computer and began pouring out her heart and soul. Titled “Dear My Answered Prayer,” this letter wasn’t just a spontaneous outburst of emotions but a deeply personal letter to the future. To a man she envisioned being a part of her life, a partner with whom she could share dreams, laughter, love, and life’s journey.

Her words flowed seamlessly, detailing her aspirations, wishes, and the very essence of the man she hoped to meet. She didn’t hold back, painting a vivid picture of their imagined shared life, their dynamics as a couple, their shared joys, challenges, and moments of love. This wasn’t merely wishful thinking; it was a manifestation of hope and a testament to the healing power of expressing one’s deepest desires.

For many, this might appear as a tale of seeking external comfort. But at its core, it is a story of self-awareness, introspection, and the sheer audacity to dream amidst despair. Nancy’s Walgreens escapade and her heartfelt letter are potent reminders that, sometimes, we find our most profound strengths in our weakest moments. It emphasizes that healing can come from the most unexpected quarters, be it a stuffed animal from a local store or the act of penning down one’s hopes for the future.

This seemingly ordinary act became the genesis of an idea, eventually leading to Stuff’n’Tuddles. These aren’t mere stuffed toys; they’re conduits of hope, bearing the unique call to action to pen down wishes and lay down a roadmap to achieve them.

Goodman says, “I wanted to craft something that serves as both a comfort and an inspiration. These plush sidekicks remind us of our dreams, urging us to chase them actively.”

Such tangible acts of writing down dreams and hopes are far from new to Nancy. Amid personal upheavals, she began writing her memoir, It Was Food vs. Me… and I Won, detailing her struggle with emotional eating. The physical act of writing became not only cathartic but also illuminative, guiding her through a maze of suppressed emotions.

Nancy’s vision for Stuff’n’Tuddles extends beyond mere play. She sees them as conversation starters, bridging the communication chasm between parents and children. These stuffed animals are about dreams that have depth, not just fleeting, materialistic wishes. And this is more important than ever. 

In the wake of the Covid pandemic, a fascinating trend emerged. When confronted with the challenges of isolation and uncertainty, teens and adults turned to comforting, tangible sources of solace. Recent studies have shown a remarkable surge in the demand for stuffed animals amongst these age groups. These plush companions seem to offer a kind of comfort and nostalgia that’s especially needed in challenging times.

These findings strongly resonate with Goodman’s vision behind Stuff’n’Tuddles. “Stuffed animals have always been seen as children’s companions,” Nancy remarked. “But, the beauty of them is that they transcend age. They remind adults of a simpler time, evoke memories, and offer tactile comfort. With Stuff’n’Tuddles, I wanted to take that a step further – making them a beacon of hope and ambition.”

The children’s book accompanying the stuffed animals, A Most Unusual Wish, narrates the tale of a bear with a big wish. Faced with obstacles and seeming impossibilities, the bear sets out on a journey, devising a plan and enlisting help from friends. The Stuff’n’Tuddles plush toys mirror this journey and serve as real-life cuddly companions. The combination of the book and plush toy reinforce the message of having a wish, but also having a plan to make that wish happen.

Expressing the therapeutic benefits of journaling, Nancy emphasized the significance of physically writing down thoughts. To her, the act of writing by hand is a medium through which deeper feelings and revelations surface. This concept is echoed in the design of her website, which features animated notebook papers and pens, encouraging visitors to engage in this therapeutic exercise.

Stepping back to view Nancy’s trajectory, there’s a remarkable synthesis of her experiences. Whether her memoir serves as a heart-to-heart conversation with readers or her movie, which portrays vulnerabilities with a backdrop of a city she loves, her work is consistently rooted in authenticity. As she articulates her passion for connecting with those grappling with issues, it’s clear that Nancy’s endeavors always stem from a place of genuine understanding and empathy.

As our conversation meanders to a close, Nancy shares her excitement about becoming a grandmother. The joys of family, she says, have been her most significant accomplishments. The heart remains in the landscape of her diverse achievements: stories of vulnerabilities, dreams, and the sheer joy of genuine human connections.

In Nancy’s narrative, there’s a lesson for all: Never underestimate the power of childhood memories, the warmth of a plush toy, or the therapeutic effect of expressing one’s emotions. Life has a peculiar way of reminding us of our innate strength, often through the most unexpected channels. And as her story beautifully illustrates, all it might take is a trip to Walgreens, a stuffed animal, and the courage to dream.

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