Stephanie Sprenger

  • Release Day for Mothering Through the Darkness!

    It’s finally here! For the past year, we have been preparing for the publication of Mothering Through the Darkness: Women Open Up About the Postpartum Experience. We read over 200 powerful submissions, carefully selected and edited essays, ran our first ever writing contest (with help from some fantastic, talented judges), and along with our publisher, She Writes Press, created a powerful anthology that we are incredibly proud of.


    We’re proud of the 35 gifted, brave, honest, and inspiring contributors of this book. We’re proud to have Karen Kleiman as our foreword author. We are grateful for the women who shared their stories with us throughout this experience, and we’re grateful for all the support we’ve received from our HerStories Project community.

    Today we are honored to officially release Mothering Through the Darkness; it’s available for purchase in paperback and e-book, from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other indie retailers. We will be donating 10% of our profits to Postpartum Progress, a fantastic organization that provides valuable resources to mothers struggling with perinatal mood disorders.

    In addition to the publication of our anthology, we are organizing a social media campaign during the first week of November called “Shatter The Myths.

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    The goal of the campaign is to end the widespread misconceptions about maternal mental health disorders that prevent mothers from speaking up about their struggles and getting help. This month, to shatter these myths and to help end the stigma surrounding these treatable disorders, the HerStories Project is asking survivors of PMD, other mothers, clinicians, family members, and mental health advocates to post messages, images, and signs for moms who may be struggling with these conditions, using the hashtags#endPPDMyths and #motheringthrudarkness.

    Maybe you never experienced perinatal mood disorders but you still want to help—please do! You don’t even have to make a sign or share a photo. Simply write a message like “Always trust your instincts. If something feels wrong, ask for help. #endPPDmyths #motheringthrudarkness” and share on social media.


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    We want as many positive messages of hope, whether in photo or written form, to help shatter the myths associated with postpartum depression and to begin to eliminate the shame and stigma it carries.

    Please spread the word. Share your own photos and messages on social media with #endPPDmyths and #motheringthrudarkness, or email them to us at Your voice matters. Whether or not you have experienced a perinatal mood disorder, we can work together to bring awareness and shatter the myths.

    You can order a copy of Mothering Through the Darkness here, and learn more about the “Shatter the Myths” social media movement here.

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  • Parting Words: Reading My Mother’s Eulogy

    This week’s essay — “Reading My Mother’s Eulogy” — really resonated with me. Dana Schwartz has written an achingly beautiful essay.

    Unfortunately, as a veteran of writing eulogies for my own family I understand the complicated mix of emotions and pressure one feels when trying to honor a person you love, without falling to pieces in front of a crowd. This essay is so descriptive and well written that I wish I could read the eulogy Dana wrote for her mom. I am certain she succeeded in honoring her mother’s legacy with love, humor, and respect. I suggest you grab some tissues before you read this lovely piece.

    HerStories Voices

    Parting Words: Reading My Mother’s Eulogy

    By Dana Schwartz

    My mother died before dawn on summer solstice, the longest day of the year. I like to think of it as her parting gift, allowing us extra time to plan her funeral, which according to Jewish tradition, should occur the following day.

    There were calls to make, photographs to select, food to order, and a eulogy to write.

    Plus, I needed to buy a dress.
    That’s the thing about death. It does not stop for anything, especially the mundane.

    It’s surreal going shopping hours after your mom dies, because it’s almost exactly like going shopping any other time – you struggle to squeeze into unflattering silhouettes, you almost flash customers when you fall into the curtain, but all the while there is this track looping in your mind, my mom is dead, my mom is dead.

    After trying on a few dresses the saleswoman picked out for me, including one I’m pretty sure was cocktail attire, I settled on a gauzy black dress with tiny white polka dots, three quarter sleeves, and buttons up the front. The perfect summer funeral dress, if there is such a thing.

    We waited while the tailor took it in since I had shrunk a size. During the week leading up to my mother’s death, my husband downed donuts and grazed on cookie trays, but my stomach closed up like a fist.

    By dusk I had a dress, shoes, and a pair of oversized sunglasses to hide my red-rimmed eyes. While the rest of my family went out to eat (again, the mundane) I stayed behind to write the eulogy.

    It was always a given that it would be me. After all, I am the writer in the family.

    Writing a eulogy is big pressure. There’s an unforgiving deadline and a powerful need to get it “right.” Before my family left for dinner, my cousin Ari came to check on me. I thought that was brave of him, or stupid, since I had just sent my father and husband away with glowering looks.

    I was struggling, having written and deleted hundreds of words. It wasn’t writer’s block, more like writer’s tsunami. I had too much to say. How could I possibly pin down my vibrant and loving mother in a few pages? How could I explain that while she may have died from multiple sclerosis, her illness did not define her?

    Undeterred by my stormy mood, my cousin sat down on the couch and told me stories about my mom, his aunt. He reminded me about her spark.

    Her spark. That was it. We had seen it just that week, looking through old photographs, the same twinkle in her eye when she was five and fifty-five. The impish look that came over her when she was about to say something inappropriate.

    The spark that lit up her smile and bubbled out in her laughter. A laugh so robust it could, on occasion, take her breath away. I used to call it her wheeze – she’d laugh so hard she’d gasp and that would make her laugh harder. Sitting in her reclining chair, propped up with pillows, covered with a blanket, unable to move. She moved us all.

    It was exactly what I needed, the centerpiece of my eulogy. Light to balance the dark. I finished it by nightfall.

    The next day was the funeral. I cried in the shower early that morning, wondering how I would read it without breaking down.

    If you cry, you cry, my husband said, practical as ever, but I didn’t want to cry. I wanted people to pay attention to my words, not my tears.

    The rest of the morning went by in a blur and before I knew it, I was up there smoothing down the front of my dress with shaking fingers. The room was filled with family and friends all waiting for me. I took off my glasses, glad for once to be near-sighted, and began to read.

    My voice creaked through the first few sentences, my throat thick, but the words came out unhindered. Though their faces were blurry, I knew every single person in the room was staring at me.

    I froze, struck by the weight of this moment. My mother was dead and I was reading her eulogy, words pulled straight from my heart, never to be spoken aloud again.

    Taking a deep breath, I continued. I’m not a born performer, but something came over me. Instinctively I knew not to rush. I paused to find familiar faces in the crowd. I wanted each person to feel the weight of every, single, word.

    My fear melted away as I read her eulogy with equal parts ferocity and love. I gave a shout out to the hospice nurses in the back row, as if I were on a much bigger stage accepting an award or giving one. I felt like I owned the room in a way I never felt before, or since, until I birthed my children.

    Then all of a sudden, maybe two thirds of the way through, I realized it was going to end – and I didn’t want it to.

    But I couldn’t stop the momentum. When it was over there was no applause. It wasn’t that kind of performance. I slipped on my glasses, grabbed my papers, and found my seat.

    People approached me afterward, complimenting my eulogy, hugging me, and crying. We talked logistics about who would be going to the mausoleum and what time everyone should arrive at my father’s house for lunch.

    My eyes were dry. The tears were there, waves of them, and soon they would come for me, but in that moment I let myself coast on the fumes of my recent triumph.

    Then it was time to go. The words I had practiced and almost memorized were beginning to fade as I stepped out into the glaring sunlight, into a world without my mother.


    Dana Schwartz head shot glasses (2)Dana Schwartz lives in New Hope, Pennsylvania with her husband and two children. Her short stories have been published in literary journals and she was a member of the Lehigh Valley 2015 Listen To Your Mother show. Her essays have appeared in The HerStories Project on female friendship and Mothering Through the Darkness (November 2015). She is a regular contributor to The Gift of Writing and blogs about the creative process and motherhood on Writing at the Table. She is currently working on a novel.

    Follow Dana on Facebook and Twitter




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  • HerStories Voices: Gifts From Grandma

    Today, I’m excited to share a beautiful essay from Justine Uhlenbrock. I’d like to thank everyone for their patience as I’ve gotten my “sea legs” here at The HerStories Project. I’ve read so many beautiful essays in the last few weeks, and I’m in awe of the talents of my fellow writers. The good news is that I’m almost (although not quite) caught up. We have some wonderful essays to share with you over the next couple months. Today’s essay is about Justine’s grandmother, and the many gifts she’s received from her. It’s a story that will resonate with many, as it’s about the difficulty of letting go of those we love.  —Allie

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    Gifts From Grandma

    When I was a little girl, my grandmother frequently gave me gifts. These trinkets usually had at least one previous owner, but I didn’t care. On Sundays after Mass, my cousins and I would squeeze in the backseat of her hot Oldsmobile as she drove slowly around the neighborhood, hunting for garage sale bargains. Sometimes the gift was brand new, a souvenir from one of the many trips she and my grandfather took abroad: nesting dolls from the Ukraine, perhaps, or an oversized beaded t-shirt scrawled in cursive script reading, “Welcome to Bali!”

    Even though I am grown, she is still giving me things. Today’s gift is a real treasure, she says. I am to choose my favorite teapot from her collection in the china cabinet, a massive ornate antique that is as ill suited to her sunny Florida bungalow as the large Persian rug under my bare feet. In a way, the mismatch suits my grandparents. They’ve never been the type to value fitting in over going their own way. A prime example of her bucking the system was her decision, after attending Mass for more than half a century, to leave the Catholic Church in favor of my grandfather’s synagogue.

    I open the hutch door and a pleasant odor wafts out, a faint mix of cedar and silk napkins. I recall that she used to keep apricots—my favorite childhood snack—in its drawers for me, and I am struck with the sudden urge to climb inside the cabinet and breathe in its sturdy scent. Instead, I look over the variety of teapots, picking them up to feel their heft and imagine the stories they contain.

    I select a delicate white porcelain pot with an intricate blue pattern and five matching teacups, which seem more like small bowls, as they have no handles. I have a hunch the set is from China. Turning the small lid over, I notice the telltale calligraphic lettering. I return to my seat at the dining table with my prize. The sliding glass patio doors are wide open in front of us, letting in a warm ocean breeze. A large grandfather clock chimes away the quarter-hours. Its familiar sound carries yin, the tranquil nostalgia of youth; and yang, the persistent march of time forward. But just for a moment, time slows to a stop while we talk.

    Grandma smiles in approval of my selection and tells me its story. As I suspected, a former Chinese student gave her the set. She pauses as she tries to remember whether the sixth cup went missing or was broken, then she turns to me with a question.

    Did I know she was born in the Chinese Year of the Rabbit?

    “Did I ever tell you” is how she starts most of her stories lately. Memories that gripped her like a comfortable scarf are coming unraveled. Each bears some familiarity of feel and weight, but without the instructions on how they knitted together, her thoughts are a pool of colorful yarn, attractive but unconstructed.

    “I learned from the Chinese calendar that I’m a Rabbit, born in 1927,” she begins. “And what is the Rabbit? It’s the happy, lucky sign, and I couldn’t agree more. It might sound corny, but that’s how I feel about my life.”

    I know this story, but my smile beckons her to continue. Grandma’s stories are like nursery rhymes I can recite by heart, yet they are full of meaning to process with my adult mind. She knows about the Chinese calendar from her years in Beijing in the early 1990’s, the great adventure of her life. The student who gave her the teapot—in gratitude for teaching her English and as a token of respect—was one of many hotel employees to whom Grandma taught on her volunteer assignment.

    A diminutive four-feet-eleven, what my grandmother lacks in stature she makes up for in a vibrant personality. She’s her own yin and yang blend of pride and self-deprecation, grace and humor. By the time she departed China after two years, no fewer than twenty students knew her as “Mom,” and she referred to them as her Chinese sons and daughters, the most cherished of whom she gave the meaningful Christian name of “Grace.” Over two decades later, she still speaks with Grace on the phone almost daily.

    “I’m giving you this teapot because I’m not getting any younger,” she tells me, “and I want to experience the joy of seeing my treasures find new homes!”

    It’s a bittersweet gift, and I struggle to put words to my sorrow. As she advances into her last years, osteoporosis causes Grandma’s fragile bones to snap all too easily. I hear of her pain and am mired in suffering on her behalf. The danger of our close relationship is it leads me to suspect I know her troubles without asking. Blinded by grief, I grope for solutions, clinging to advice that lets me decide what she needs to do to keep safe—that she must sell the home she loves and submit to my fearful rule.

    I try starting the conversation again about her moving closer to her family so we can care for her. She leans over to retrieve a book, The Prophet by Khalil Gibran, from her shelf. Because of her glaucoma, she can no longer read, so she asks me to turn to the chapter about joy and sorrow, and I read:

    When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

    “You can keep the book too,” she says with a smile.


    We go for a stroll on the beach. I offer her my arm to steady her gait. Since her diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, she walks in a disorderly zigzag. To have Parkinson’s is to be trapped inside a body that no long follows the brain’s orders. But in the midst of challenging symptoms, she manages to find the comedy. In her Parkinson’s exercise class, she says everyone sways in their chairs as if to the beat of music no one else can hear. She describes it as a self-directed Hokey Pokey, chuckling, “You put your right arm up, and you shake it all about…”

    From a distance, I watch pelicans swarm a fisherman as he guts the day’s catch. One of the birds has a wounded wing. Probably from a speedboat, I frown. Marco Island is full of many permanent residents—at the post office a sign in the parking lot reads, “Look Before Backing”—but younger snowbirds land here on vacation now too. They zip by on skidoos and bring with them stores overflowing with mawkish souvenirs and flavored rums. I might be the only person on this beach—apart from my grandparents—who longs for the time before you could buy a hermit crab for a buck or a coconut that’s been carved in the shape of a monkey. I’ve never been fond of change.

    When we arrive home from our walk, my mind is still on her dwindling physical ability. I ask how her latest doctor’s appointment went. “Great!” she says. “I told a joke he wants to use. What’s the difference between a doctor and God?” She pauses, a grin creeping onto her face. “God doesn’t think he’s a doctor.”

    “Yeah, but what’d he say?” I ask, probing for more useful information.

    She shrugs, “That I have Parkinson’s.” Then she smiles. “Did you hear what George Burns’ doctor told him? He said, ‘George, you’ve got to stop it with the booze and the women. It could lead to all kinds of problems, even death.’ And you know what George said?”

    This time I get to tell the punch line. “‘If she dies, she dies!’”

    Her smile fades as she confides, “My doctor knew I had Parkinson’s because I didn’t swing my arms when I walked.” She perks up, shoulders proud. “But I do swing them now. I want to look normal.” I am grateful for this glimpse at her basic human desire to belong.

    The next morning, I finish The Prophet by the pool, peering over the text to watch my grandfather tend his tomatoes in the sandy soil, the unyielding sun and the burrowing tortoise undermining his hard work. He pauses to tell me of a conversation Grandma had with me in her living room a few months ago. Only I wasn’t actually there. Even her glaucoma can’t explain away this mistake.

    Picturing her in animated discussion with an empty armchair, I laugh at his anecdote. Is inappropriate laughter one of the Kübler-Ross stages of grief? I laugh not just because I’m amused, but because I accept that humor is how they frame their life narrative. I laugh because if I ever start talking to imaginary people, I hope the ones I love will pretend it is funny. “Well, I certainly hope I said something interesting” is all I can think to say.

    Grandma calls to me from inside the house. “Jeanne?” I hope calling me by my aunt’s name is slurred speech and not dementia talking, but I recognize it could be a generous distinction. I find her in her bedroom searching her jewelry box for another trinket to give me—something to be remembered by, she says. I place my hand on hers, squeezing it to steady the tremble as she fumbles with a silver clasp. “I got this necklace in Mexico the year you were born. A beauty for a beauty,” she squeezes back.

    She motions for me to sit with her. “My doctor says I’m dying,” she says, “but I have lived a good life. I can’t say I’m not afraid of what’s going to happen, though even if I don’t have much time left, I know I am right where I want to be.” Her candor is, I realize, a final gift to me, and her words bring me back to the truth: I suffer because I lack control.

    But control was an illusion. To confront the illusion, I begin the difficult task of letting her face the end of life in her own exquisite manner. I choose to see a glimmer of beauty in their delicate balance, the joy within their sorrow. I decide I will offer Grandma love and dignity—and maybe a little soup—but not control, not fear. Sitting with her on her bed, I begin to acknowledge and express my anticipatory grief to her without shame and judgment, as she teaches me is the Chinese way. She says I must let go not of her but of my emotions.

    Like after a dream, the subtle outline of meaning diminishes as I return to the rush of everyday life. My grandmother’s wisdom eludes me, easier praised than done. I am tortured by the thought of losing her. I am even more tortured by the thought that Parkinson’s might steal her dignity before the end comes. But I am determined to let her go. As a mother, I am well acquainted with the task of letting go. I surrender authority of my kids on a daily basis to let them make their own decisions. I quiet my fear so they—and I—can learn from their life experiences.

    I am transcribing my recordings of Grandma’s memories into an anthology, a gift for future generations. In retelling stories of the past to my daughters, I hope we will understand better the path we travel now. Perhaps someday my girls will recount these stories to their children in admiration of the mothers who came before them.


    Profile pic 2013Justine Uhlenbrock is a writer, doula, and self-care evangelist. Her essays about motherhood and heritage have appeared on Mamalode and Literary Mama, where she is an editorial assistant. She lives with her family in Decatur, Georgia and can be found on Twitter (@lonehomeranger) and her website,



    **We will be sharing two more fantastic essays in the next month, and then we will take a break for the holidays. Voices will resume in January 2016 after this break. We are currently accepting submissions for original essays, but do know that if your piece is accepted, it will not run until January or later. Submissions guidelines can be found here, and emailed to our assistant editor Allie at

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  • When to Unfriend on Facebook

    When do you unfriend someone on Facebook? If you’ve done it, did you have any regrets? We’re still in new territory when it comes to friendship boundaries online and all opinions are welcome here. Let us know what you would do in the same situation.


    when to unfriend on Facebook

    Do you have a question for Nina? Use our anonymous form. You can read Nina’s answers to past questions here.

    Dear Nina,

    Five years ago my best friend of thirteen years and I had a falling out. It took me five years to get over the tragic loss of this relationship and especially the lack of civility in our parting. I sent her a sappy email several times over the years. I even left a note at her house once, but she never acknowledged receiving it. That was the turning point when I forced myself to stop trying. I realized that she didn’t care, which helped me move on even though I missed the friendship.

    Then out of nowhere, she called. She left me a voicemail and all at once I felt validated. “She does care,” I thought. “She doesn’t hate me. She misses me!”

    Quickly though, I felt fear. After all, I had just gotten to a point where I really didn’t care if we ever talked again and it felt freeing and healthy. That said, I didn’t want to give up the opportunity to have a conversation that could lead to some closure. If calling her back meant that I would have resolution and that maybe we could be the kind of friends who send a Christmas card or just say “Hi,” every few years or so, then that would feel like a better way to honor the good years we had together. I didn’t want things to be so black and white.

    I got up the nerve to call her back. I was so nervous, but I threw caution to the wind and left my shaky, awkward voicemail and then waited. She didn’t call me back. I felt as raw as when it had first happened five years earlier. How could she come back into my life and then disappear again?

    Three months later I was coming off a huge project, I was on my way out of the country for a big trip, and I was on a great high from life. She texted me: “I think about you a lot and I hope that you and your family are doing great.” I almost texted right back in all my happy elation from the events and the text.

    But then I stopped myself. How would I feel if she didn’t text back? I was back in economics 101, opportunity cost, weighing and measuring my reward to investment in a human relationship. So I didn’t text. I decided to see how I felt after my trip.

    When I got back in town, I saw that she sent me a friend request on Facebook. I thought, “This is it! She’s serious about being in communication.” However, something didn’t feel right about a person who wasn’t there for me having full access to the history of my past five years and day-to-day life. On the other hand, I didn’t want to make a decision out of fear so I accepted the request and I wrote her back.

    It was more of the same, “I hope you’re well.” I asked how she was and tried to start more of a conversation and her answers were one-word responses. I asked her more and she didn’t respond at all.

    Communication to me is not a one liner. I am really happy to know that she thinks about me and that the freeze has melted, but her not returning my voicemail really hurt as did the way our friendship ended five years ago.

    However, trying to come to a resolution with her sounds daunting, and I can see that she will never want to talk about what happened five years ago. I feel uncomfortable with her as a Facebook friend, but I fear that if I unfriend her, I will be sending a juvenile, “I’m still mad at you” message.

    What do you think I should do?


    Hovering Over the Unfriend Option


    Dear Hovering Over the Unfriend Option,

    Before we delve into your Facebook options, it’s worth mentioning that while your hurt feelings about the end of a thirteen-year friendship are completely understandable, you might have a false sense of how at peace you’d be if you only knew why your friend severed ties.

    Having been dumped by a friend many years ago in much the same way you described, I know that it takes years to get over the loss. One of the main issues to contend with is the lack of control you had over the fate of the friendship as well as a total absence of closure.

    I remember pouring my heart out to my former friend years later when we reconnected for a short time (in pre-Facebook years) and she generally said, “Oh that? I can’t remember.” It was wholly unsatisfying and her nonchalant attitude created a new sense of confusion over the good parts of the friendship, too.

    The end of a friendship is tricky no matter how the details play out. If your friend had provided a list of reasons five years ago, I doubt you would have felt better about her unilateral decision. You might have felt more hurt and rejected.

    Now let’s discuss the part of your predicament that affects many relationships on Facebook.

    In “real life,” we don’t let every person we know into the inner circle, so how does the same decision-making function online? Who should get to see the status updates and pictures we share?

    What does Facebook mean for you?

    The answer to that question depends on how you view the role of Facebook. The discussion that follows pertains to Facebook friendships in general, not just your situation with this one particular friend. I also want to be clear that there is not one right answer for how one shares and receives information on Facebook.

    My local (and Facebook!) friend, Dana, said, “I try to be selective on my social network and ask myself if I ran into this person would I be really excited to see them and maybe get a coffee. If not then they shouldn’t have so much access to my life on the Internet.”

    For someone like me, a blogger for almost five years and a personal essay writer with work online, I have a looser set of boundaries for my virtual connections. I organize my Facebook friends in a way that lets me share photos of my kids with my “friends” category whereas my links to online essays I’ve written or enjoyed fall in the “public” or “friends” plus “acquaintances” categories. You have to keep your Facebook connections organized for the privacy functions to work this way. More on that later.

    Nina’s policy: when to unfriend someone on Facebook

    As for my personal policy on unfriending: I have never unfriended anybody because there are other options that are less extreme. Yes, I think unfriending can be an extreme choice, especially in the realm of close friends and family members. (Note that the friend at the center of your letter does not fit into either of those categories.)

    If I felt that family members were criticizing my posts, I’d restrict their access. I’ve never felt the need to hide anyone else’s posts, but if a friend’s updates really bothered me, I would choose the hide or unfollow route before I unfriended. The unfriend and especially the block option seems more appropriate for when someone is harassing you with obnoxious comments or in any other capacity.

    More reasons for hesitation about unfriending

    When you choose to unfriend on Facebook, you’re saying, “I want to cut off all online access to that person as well as cut off that person’s access to me.” Let’s say you vehemently disagree with a friend’s politics, yet you still want to push “like” on a picture of her kids once in a while to stay connected. That is still possible with the hide, unfollow, and restrict options, but once you hit “unfriend,” any relationship on Facebook is over.

    And I’d argue it damages the relationship off Facebook, too. It can be surprisingly hurtful to be on the receiving end of that kind of instant “I don’t want anything to do with you” message in a situation that really called for a more gentle approach.

    All that said, in the case of your non-communicating former friend, I think that “unfriend” might still be the best choice. But for readers with different Facebook issues, let’s explore the other options in more detail.


    When you go to a friend’s Facebook page, you will see a box under “friends” that says “following,” which is the default setting. “Following” means that this person’s posts can appear in the newsfeed. (The “newsfeed” are the posts you scroll through when you’re “reading” Facebook.) A friend will not know if you’ve chosen to unfollow her. If you open the drop down menu in the “following” box, you will see an option to “unfollow.”

    By clicking unfollow, you’re telling Facebook to keep this person’s posts out of your feed. You will have the option to visit this person’s page any time you want because you’re still “friends,” but you won’t be confronted with her information in the feed. You can choose to follow this friend again at any time, such as after the election season, a year after her book release, or whenever you’re ready to see her posts in the newsfeed again.


    Next to each Facebook post there’s an arrow with a drop down menu. The first option in the menu is “hide post.” If you want to only see a friend’s posts occasionally, then Facebook will get the idea and stop showing you her posts so often if you hide her posts now and then. Again, nobody gets notified when you hide a post.


    The restrict option requires knowing how to make friend lists and how to choose the audience for each post. Facebook has good tutorials for both. (This one is for lists. This is one for audience selection.) People do not know when they’ve been added or removed from your lists.

    Here is what Facebook says about the “restricted” list: “Putting someone on the Restricted list means that you’re still friends, but that you only share your posts with them when you choose Public as the audience, or when you tag them in the post. For example, if you’re friends with your boss and you put them on your Restricted list, then post a photo and choose Friends as the audience, you aren’t sharing that photo with your boss, or anyone else on your Restricted list. However, if you tag your boss in the photo, or chose Public as the audience, they’ll be able to see the photo.”

     Sometimes unfriending is best 

     The restrict and unfollow combo might do the trick in this situation, and it’s certainly the easier path to take, but another wise friend of mine in town had this to say about your question. I think her view is worth considering.

    “From what I’ve read, it sounds like the friend who disappeared five years ago hasn’t reconnected on Facebook at all except for making the friend request. She hasn’t replied to the Facebook message, she hasn’t commented on pictures. Does she ever push like on a post or a picture? If not, there are not really any virtual ties except for the fact they are ‘friends on Facebook.’

    Maybe the friend accidentally requested her to be a friend. Maybe the friend has hidden the letter writer from her newsfeed and doesn’t ever attempt to have access to her life. It sounds like having the former friend as a ‘friend’ on Facebook is causing too much distress and better to unfriend and move on. If the letter writer just unfollows or restricts the former close friend, the temptation to revisit the past is harder to ignore.

    I agree that unfriending is harsh, but in this case, unfriending seems appropriate as the letter writer initially accepted the request hoping that they could reconnect, which didn’t happen. There may be reasons that have nothing to do with the letter writer specifically, but since she’s not getting any response, it seems it’s time to end the virtual (non) relationship.”

    When someone gets unfriended, she does not receive a notification, but she will see that you’re not friends if she were ever to visit your page. You will also no longer have access to her page unless she posts some updates as “public.” To my wise friend’s point, restricting your access to her information might be an important step in moving on from this past relationship.

     The main problem, the bigger problem than the Facebook one, is that you are still mad at your old friend.

    You have a right to feel rejected, however, you already know that your intense focus on that hurt has not helped you. The old friendship, the way it ended, and the small ways that this friend has weakly reached out then scurried back into oblivion have already required too much emotional energy. So yes, I agree that some Facebook boundaries are in order with this friend. I just can’t say definitively which route to take.

     Perhaps some of the HerStories readers have a stronger opinion. Comment away, readers!

    Editor’s note: The topic of unfriending on Facebook has become even more complicated because of last year’s election. We did a survey of the effects of the election on friendships. You might be surprised to learn how many of our readers have been unfriended (or have unfriended themselves) because of politics! (Here’s the post.)


    FULL RES - Badzin-03 copy-1

    You can follow Nina on Facebook and Twitter.





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  • Only When Her Real Friends Are Busy

    Today’s question comes from a woman who feels that a friend only seeks her out when her “real” friends are busy. But Nina wonders if our letter writer’s assumptions are getting in the way of her enjoying the friendship as it is now.

    Do you have a question for Nina? Use our anonymous form. You can read Nina’s answers to past questions here.

    Ask (1)


    Dear Nina,

    I had a friend who I used to consider one of my closer friends in town. A few years ago for her birthday she invited a group of friends for a girls’ weekend away, and when I was not included, I realized that I viewed our relationship differently than she did. Though it hurt, I made my peace with it and we continued to be friends.

    However, I feel like she only seeks me out when her “real” friends are unavailable. In some ways I’m fine with that. I realize not everyone needs to be a best friend, and I certainly have other friends with whom I’m much closer and socialize with more often. But in other ways, it still feels a bit insulting and hurtful.

    Is it ridiculous to keep up this charade where I know she only seeks me out as a last choice, but we both pretend that’s not the case? Do I call her out on it and let her know that I realize what she’s doing (even if perhaps she’s doing it unconsciously)? Or do I continue as is, knowing our “deal” and taking whatever friendship we have at face value?


    Thank you,

    Tired of Being Picked Last


    Dear Tired of Being Picked Last,

    First, we need to discuss how gracefully you handled that group trip. I think one of the hardest aspects of friendship at any age is knowing that our friends are spending time together without us.

    However, as I discussed back in January in “The More The Merrier Vs. Quality Time,” if we want to connect with a few friends without inviting eight more along every time, we have to accept that we will also not get invited to every outing. It sounds like you don’t need to read my answer to that dilemma, but I wanted to mention it here because others could likely use the advice.

    You also gracefully handled a second issue that comes up in this column often: changing the status of a friendship. Once a friendship has gone from close to casual (a “how-to” question all on its own), how do you deal with the fact that you’re no longer in the inner circle? Do you keep the friendship to enjoy the connection in its new form, or does the comparison to the past relationship make a less intense friendship impossible?

    It sounds like you and Trip Planner found a way to recalibrate the friendship for a while (instigated by Trip Planner’s birthday getaway), but now you’re plagued by the nagging feeling that she does not appreciate what you bring to the table even in this new version of the friendship.

    I think it’s important to note that you don’t know whether Trip Planner is only seeking you out when everyone else is unavailable. You may sense it, but you cannot possibly be privy to all of her communications with other friends. It’s your assumption that she’s generally picking you last.

    I also wonder how often you reach out to Trip Planner. Is she doing all the plan making because you still feel slighted a bit from the trip? Perhaps if you’re not ever the one reaching out, she’s getting the signal from you that you’re not very interested in staying friends.

    Now, here’s my two cents on your direct questions.

    “Do I call her out on it and let her know that I realize what she’s doing (even if perhaps she’s doing it unconsciously)?” No, do not call her out on this. I think this is a case of “actions speak louder than words,” and what your actions should be depends on what you want.

    If your goal is to be closer friends again or to at least maintain the new version of the friendship, then you can reach out more (if you’re not already). You have to do your part to drive the relationship. However, if your goal is simply to “stick it” to Trip Planner somehow, then that tells me you really don’t want to be friends, even casual friends. In that case, not only should you not reach out to her, but you should not feel the pressure to say yes every time she asks if you’re available.

    “Or do I continue as is, knowing our “deal” and taking whatever friendship we have at face value?” That depends on a formula that is central to every relationship. Do the pluses outweigh the minuses? If the answer is yes, then keep her in your life. If you enjoy the time you spend together, if she’s insightful, fun, a great exercise partner, kind in ways not represented in this question, or in some way brings more to your life than she takes away from it, then I say enjoy the relationship for what it is. If you feel bad around her more than you feel good, then that’s another story. But before you decide that’s the case, make sure it’s not your assumptions about who she called first that are making you pick the “minuses” over the “pluses.”

    Good luck, Tired of Being Picked Last!

    Readers: Any advice you would add?


    FULL RES - Badzin-03 copy-1Nina is a contributing writer for,, and Great New Books. Her essays have appeared regularly at Brain, Child Magazine, The Huffington Post, The Jewish Daily Forward, and have been syndicated in The Times of Israel as well as Jewish newspapers across the country. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and four children. Contact her on Twitter @ninabadzin and on her blog.

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  • Our Summer Writing Class: Write Your Way to a Better Blog

    For bloggers, summertime means conference season, with two of the most popular blogging conferences taking place during June and July. We are excited to be attending BlogHer in New York City this July—in fact, we’ll be presenting a personal essay writing lab! As bloggers work themselves into a frenzy on social media, making plans for rooming together, attending parties, and meeting up for drinks, many of their peers experience a serious condition known as “conference envy.” It is totally no fun at all knowing that all your favorite bloggers are hanging out without you, and maybe even learning amazing new skills that will advance their craft. (I personally plan to go completely offline during Blog U this year, as I can’t bear to see cute photos of all my friends having fun without me.)

    Summer is a great time to focus attention on your blogging and writing skills, but attending a blog conference isn’t always realistic. Those of us who are parents have to consider childcare needs before we hop a flight across the country, not to mention scheduling around summer vacations, camps, and reunions. For others, it can be hard to take time off work to travel to a conference. It can be a significant financial commitment to pay for conference registration, travel, hotels, and food. And when it doesn’t work out, it is a huge bummer to miss out on the perks of conference attendance: learning, networking, and socializing with other bloggers.

    So we have a great solution for those of you who aren’t able to make it to a blogging conference this year. (And for those of you who are attending a conference? You should join us, too!) We’re offering one of our most popular online writing courses from last year, Write Your Way to a Better Blog, as a summer-long event.

    Write Your Way

    This time, since the class packs in so much valuable information, practice opportunity, guest instructor expertise, and feedback, we’re slowing it down and breaking it up a bit to cover the entire summer. And for the first time, you’ll be able to choose if you want to take the entire course, or pick and choose from four mini-courses. The sessions start June 21st and span the entire summer, on and off until August 22nd.

    Here’s a breakdown of the sessions:

    Session 1: Purpose and Authenticity

    Why are you blogging? What do you want to say to the world that is unique?

    With help from bloggers including Sarah Rudell Beach of Left Brain Buddha, we’ll focus on:

    • How to define the purpose of your blog.
    • How to develop and refine a clear, authentic voice in your writing.
    • How to incorporate your blog’s purpose into each blog post.
    • How to write about diverse subjects and to write in diverse styles while still remaining true to your overall voice and purpose.
    • How to draft a compelling, concise About Me page or bio for other publications.
    • Find out how many popular bloggers write about their personal lives with integrity, and explore our own limits

    Session 2: Telling Stories on Your Blog

    We’ll learn about the power of storytelling to enhance your writing with tips and techniques from Danielle Herzog of Martinis and Minivans, as well as:

    • Learn the importance of narrative structure, character, dialogue, and sensory details.
    • Learn how to capture your audience’s attention with a strong beginning and finish your story with a powerful conclusion.
    • Brainstorm and explore ideas for blog posts that would captivate readers.

    Session 3: Humor Writing

    With practical tips from guest instructor Kate Hall of Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine and other humor bloggers, we’ll learn how to incorporate humor into your blog posts in a way that is authentic to your voice.

    We’ll explore different humor techniques, as well as:

    • How to write different types of humorous posts.
    • How to use humor in your social media platforms to engage with readers and increase your fan base.
    • Discuss when/why it is useful to use humor in a serious post, and how to do it tastefully.

    Session 4: Editing and Pitching

    We’ll discuss the importance of knowing the difference between revising, editing, and proofreading. We’ll also:

    • Discuss common grammatical errors and other mistakes to avoid in your writing.
    • Practice revising, editing, and proofreading your writing.
    • Discuss the differences in levels of editing needed for posts on own blog vs. submitting to other sites.
    • Learn how to impress an editor with a powerful pitch
    • Learn how to form productive relationships with editor

    The course will include:

    • the full class platform, including several weekly lessons and discussions about each lesson and assignment
    • instructor feedback on assignments in the class platform
    • a private Facebook group for class members, instructors, and guest instructors
    • a PDF of course lessons at the end of the class
    You can find out full details about our mini-courses, session dates, guest instructors, and other bloggers who offered their expertise for our lessons on our class information page. We hope you’ll join us this summer for a great opportunity to take your blog to the next level, practice your writing skills, learn from some fantastic bloggers, and find a new community of bloggers. Sign up today!
    **Do you have a personal essay you’d like help with? Did you know we offer editing and essay consulting services? We would love to help you polish your essay for publication: find out more information here.

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