Redemption in Richmond: A Memoir of Resilience in the Face of Extreme Adversity, is a thought-provoking, inspirational, and entertaining memoir - part of which was featured as a cover story for Froedtert Healthy Living Magazine in Wisconsin, in March, 2013. It's a story that will make readers stop to think: If he went through all that and lived to talk about it, then maybe, just maybe, I can too! A fascinating combination of similar works by Pat Conroy, Garrard Conley, Augusten Burroughs, Tennessee Williams, E. L. James and Danielle Steel's memoir about her late son, Nick Traina, all rolled into one.
It's a memoir about a husky, small town boy with crooked teeth and numerous health afflictions who grows up, evolves into the "swan of lore," dabbles briefly in modeling, and ultimately ends up enjoying a coveted, almost 30-year career in the world of high-end diamonds and jewelry. A career packed with innumerable encounters, interactions and friendships with rich, powerful, famous, infamous and several truly historic individuals.
As the subtitle states, however, I've also experienced extreme adversity. I was born with a rare birth; I've weathered five heart surgeries; two bouts of MRSA; I've been involved in three car accidents; I have PTSD; I've endured more than ten assaults - both sexual and physical, by men and women alike; I've managed to endure and overcome the dangerous evangelical brainwashing technique of "Conversion Therapy" aimed at those of us who are gay, but also identify ourselves as Christians. Though we may struggle with the inner conflict of "can I be gay and Christian simultaneously? Will God love me unconditionally even though I cannot change who I am?" Thankfully, several big 'Pray the gay away' organizations who tried their best to convert our sexual orientations have gone out of business, most notably, Exodus International!
I’ve also survived the depravity of racial discrimination, sexual-orientation discrimination, sexual harassment, bullying and reverse discrimination in the workplace (yes, men can and are being discriminated against daily in the workplace at the hands of women in power - a little known but dirty little secret where men are emasculated by women in power, then threatened with the loss of employment if their stories ever come to light.)
Many people have written memoirs of shattered dreams, suffering, and grief. But this book offers a new twist by introducing an unvarnished, raw, almost unbelievable collection of hardships, tempered throughout with amusing and entertaining anecdotes. The type of book that delivers authentic encouragement and hope - potentially leaving many readers feeling contented with their own lives without ever trying to minimize the trials they personally are going through.
My mission - this book - is designed to offer help by empowering and encouraging every reader everywhere to never consider throwing in the towel - in particular, those in desperate search of answers to questions I most likely asked myself throughout my life, the most obvious being “Why are these things happening?”
No matter what you've been through or what you're going through presently, please know that it’s never too late for redemption. The human spirit wasn't intended to be abused, bent, or broken, but it has an incredible ability to overcome. All things are possible.
This website is my gift to you. May you discover something (or several things) within its pages that move and inspire you enough to share the very description of your inspiration or epiphany with anyone you feel may benefit from it.
This book, Redemption in Richmond: A Memoir of Resilience in the Face of Extreme Adversity, is the remarkable, true story of Todd Carl, a warrior in the truest sense of the word.
Todd has successfully cheated death on numerous occasions, all while simultaneously navigating the dark, turbulent waters of bipolar disorder, mental illness discrimination, life-threatening heart issues, senseless hate crimes, physical violence, PTSD and much more. Beginning with the unfolding drama during Todd's fathers’ internment ceremony in Arlington National Cemetery, the story immediately flashes back to the very beginning of Todd's life. His story has all the makings of a big screen drama. In Todd’s early twenties, he leaves his provincial mid-western town of West Bend, Wisconsin to venture off to school in Los Angeles where he experiences true independence for the first time in his life. This is also the period of time that would signal the beginning of a lifetime of numerous health issues (some potentially fatal) which nobody - not even Todd himself - could have ever predicted.
Redemption in Richmond is an overwhelmingly complex, sophisticated, lurid, tragic but ultimately inspirational story that follows Todd's nomadic existence from coast to coast while shining a spotlight on current, newsworthy issues such as suicide awareness and prevention, sexual orientation discrimination and harassment in the workplace today that is almost never discussed but is very real.
Despite Todd's many social, medical and psychological challenges, he manages to find true love but not before experiencing the sadness of its polar opposite… unrequited love. Todd also meets, conducts business with and befriends the rich, the famous and the infamous. From innumerable, past experiences, he also identifies with the poor, the downcast, the forgotten and the disabled. And as an openly proud, gay man, he is equally proud of his relationship with God and vehemently opposes hypocrisy within the ranks of the Christian faith when addressing the never-ending controversy of whether or not gay individuals can still be Christians.
Todd's humility is openly displayed when discussing the several lives he has saved and the 4 years he served as a caregiver to his elderly parents, both of whom suffered from dementia… all while recovering from his 5th heart operation. Todd proudly demonstrates the many ways in which a person with mental illness is fully capable of living a normal, exciting existence while simultaneously fulfilling many childhood dreams and fantasies along the way. This memoir is chock full of joy, sadness, humor, tragedy, heroism and humility, not to mention all the many interesting anecdotes dispersed throughout the entire book. Todd’s story finally concludes with an unexpected, emotional and inspiring ending, one that is sure to ignite the flames of self-evaluation among readers everywhere and prompt them to consider reading the entire book or at minimum, certain chapters, in order to fully capture this book’s true message: Redemption is not a gift, it’s fulfillment!
Todd Nordquist is an expert on, and advocate for, mental health, diversity, and tolerance. Previously, Todd spent nearly thirty years working off and on in the jewelry industry; his primary areas of expertise being sales, networking and designing bespoke jewelry for many of his wealthy clientele. Despite Todd’s numerous health issues throughout his adult life, he also managed to graduate from the Gemological Institute of America’s Diamonds in Residence program while the school and world headquarters was still located on Stewart Street in Santa Monica, California. His attendance at the GIA also became the first time Todd experienced independence in his life. Several years later, Todd enrolled himself in DePaul University’s adult education program called The School for New Learning while living and working in the city of his childhood dreams... Chicago. Todd grew up in the heartland of America, specifically, the upper mid-west town of West Bend, Wisconsin. Todd’s love for jewelry was always his primary passion although he easily excelled in several other creative activities during his middle and high school years. One particular intramural class during his middle school years involved him and several of his classmates constructing a beautiful, wooden, full-size canoe, with the inaugural launch taking place in the indoor swimming pool located in Badger Middle School….Success! The canoe passed it’s seaworthiness test with flying colors!
Another of Todd's creative interests was photography (and still is to this day). Nevertheless, the one talent he continued to remain silent about was his creative writing abilities, which would later prove to be quite valuable during his attendance at DePaul School for New Learning. One notable essay paper he wrote found him researching and ultimately producing a unique narrative (for it’s time) that would garner him a well-deserved “A” which he admits, is still one of his finest short, written works. The topic? The impact computers would have on the future of professional tennis, in particular, lines judging. Little did he realize his writing prowess, OCD and unusual attention to the smallest of details at that time would ultimately lead him on a nearly 30-year odyssey through the diamond and high-end jewelry industries and by a sheer twist of irony, bring him right back to where it all began… his love of creative writing.
As Todd continued to work and build a solid reputation for himself within the jewelry industry in cities from coast to coast, his expert, personalized customer service and bespoke, high-end jewelry designs for his wealthy and well-known clientele easily allowed him to find unique employment opportunities at famous establishments along the way…places like the world renowned Laykin et Cie Precious Jewels at I. Magnin. During its heyday, the famous I. Magnin department store chain was without equal and considered one of the most luxurious, high-end, specialty stores in the entire United States during the mid to latter part of the 20th century. Though both firms are now defunct, the ingenious pairing of Laykin et Cie and I. Magnin could only be found at three locations throughout Chicago, one location in Phoenix and several locations throughout the state of California. On reflection, both stores will forever be remembered as the favorite gathering place for many of the world’s richest and most famous individuals, among them, the Saudi Royal Family.
Having started with the Michigan Avenue location of Laykin et Cie initially, and in a surprise move by founder Sol Laykin himself, Todd was presented (in late Spring of 1990) with “the promotional opportunity of a lifetime.” At the age of 28, Todd accepted the offer from Mr. Laykin, moved to Phoenix, Arizona and assumed the role of Director of the Biltmore Fashion Square location of Laykin et Cie. But in 1991, knowing Mr. Laykin’s health was in decline, Todd found himself being scouted one day by the vice president of Neiman Marcus Precious Jewels (the new Neiman Marcus of Scottsdale was in its final stages of construction). Todd would eventually accept Neiman’s offer and join the staff in the Fall of 1991 while the finishing touches of that store were taking place all around him and the rest of the entire store staff. Coupled with his nearly 4-year tenure at Laykin et Cie, his honesty, integrity, friendly persona and effortless social skills allowed him to easily carve out a distinctive niche for himself within the industry he candidly refers to as “the greatest love affair of my life.”
These days, when Todd is not at his laptop writing, he can be found gardening – another passion – in the peaceful forest and meandering creek grounds of the residence he shares with two members of his “family of choice”, John and Sarah, as well as their two dogs Conner and Camille.
Please feel free to contact Todd in the space below and be sure to include all information such as name, email, and telephone (if applicable) and the nature of your correspondence. Also, be sure to let Mr. Carl know if your correspondence is time sensitive and if so, give additional information to that extent.