Stephanie Sprenger

  • You’ve Got a Friend in Me

    We are excited to share a guest post today from My Other Ex contributor Leah Vidal. I got the pleasure of meeting Leah in person at the BlogHer conference in July, and she is just as warm, dynamic, and inspiring in person as she is on the page. I think you’ll love this powerful post from Leah about teaching her twelve-year-old daughter about friendship, social circles, and self-worth. ~Stephanie

    I hope I find friends who like the same things I like. What if no one likes Dr. Who or Sherlock Holmes, the BBC version of course, or art or reading the same books I read? What if no one knows who Loki is or Tom Hiddleston or that Benedict Cumberbatch plays the role of Sherlock better than anyone in Sherlock Holmes history?”

    The questions tumbled from her lips like drops from the sky, raining down on me, covering me in a film of indecision.

    I looked at my twelve-year-old daughter who took her last school by storm in her knee-high rainbow socks and high top Converse, who wore her hair naturally curly no matter how many people offered to straighten it for her and was struck by the fact that all she hoped for was finding people whom she could connect to on a deeper level. She wasn’t worried about what others would be wearing, even though this will be her first time in a public school with no uniforms. She wasn’t worried about her hair or her weight or wearing the “right outfit” the first day of school.

     I allowed myself to just sit and be proud of her for a moment and collected my thoughts before responding to her, knowing she would hang on my every word as she so often does when she’s troubled, as though each piece of wisdom I share is wrapped in gold, shiny and promising, and worth its weight in…well, gold.

    I tried to remember what it was like at her age, when kids grouped together based on athletics, academics, arts, etc. I tried to remember what it felt like to stand amidst one group, while longingly looking at another knowing in my heart of hearts that I would only ever experience them from afar. I tried to remember why we felt it was so important to remain within our separate, little circles instead of letting them merge and overlap, allowing each individual to share their unique personality and interests with others all the while making us each better just by interacting. Why was it imminent that we only allow ourselves to be ourselves within the safety of one group when we had so much to offer each other – not to mention so much to learn from others?

    I’ve always told my children with every one of our moves that they only need one good friend to make it feel like home. And, I still believe that with all my heart. However, I also believe that we become so much more when we put ourselves out there and interact with people whom we can’t imagine having anything in common with and grow tremendously from the simple act of reaching out, or letting someone new into our circle of one.

    So, I shared these exact thoughts with my daughter, but there was still more I wanted to say. I’m not sure she’s old enough to really get this yet, but maybe she’ll find herself remembering some of it at some point this year or next and suddenly she’ll get it, really get it. So, while I had her undivided attention I said:

    “Know that these groups, these circles, these labels that are the end all be all at your age won’t matter at all as you get older. As time passes and you live, truly live, you will be surprised by the friends that surround you. You will understand that you don’t need to share the same interests to be friends because friendship is so much more than watching the same TV show or enjoying the same book. You will have those friends and share a laugh over a movie quote from time to time, but you will also find yourself learning more about you, the real you, from those that you have nothing in common with because they are the ones who will bring new things to light, who will spark your interest in something new, who will help you grow in ways you never thought possible.

    So, as you go about your first weeks in a new school embrace those who reach out to you even if they may not be familiar with your interests and more importantly be that person for others. Do not feel like you have to give up a part of you to be accepted or make friends. You are enough. Your differences may just be what helps someone else grow. More importantly, as you navigate your way through the ups and downs of friendship that will undoubtedly come at your age, know that you have a friend in me.

    Always.

    I also covered her mirror with these motivating stickers so she’s reminded on a daily basis that she’s amazing just the way she is and that she’s enough.

    im-enough2-2

    28dff04a-21c7-4d3d-aed4-6f76a66cfaf9

    Leah Vidal, author of Red Circle Days and writer at Little Miss Wordy explores BIG lessons from life’s little moments —those that plant the thought provoking seed of self discovery. She believes it is these moments that are life’s biggest lessons. Leah is a 2014 BlogHer Voice Of The Year and her writing has been syndicated on BlogHer, featured on the Erma Bombeck site, Freshly Pressed on WordPress and highlighted on Fitness and Parenting sites. She has been featured on PubSlush Women Of Wednesday and is currently working on her second book.

  • Lifting the Heart

    We have a beautiful and heartbreaking guest post today from Kerry of Winding Road. Kerry shares her story of friendship and the power of forgiveness.

    The first friend I met in college has taught me the true meaning of forgiveness. She taught me this from a time and space far away though she lives in my heart and mind. She died eight years ago this coming May.

    Forgiveness is one of the most liberating acts of love. I learn this regularly from small indiscretions made upon me or someone I love. However, it is the deep-rooted anger that can weigh us down in ways that we don’t always realize. Letting go of that anger and learning to forgive frees the soul to love in a greater capacity including a more encompassing love for ourselves.

    I walked into yoga class and a woman walked in behind me. I know of her but am not friends with her. In fact, she conjures up strong feelings of anger, remorse, regret and sadness yet I don’t think we have ever held a conversation.

    During my first week in college, I met a girl who lived across the hallway from me in my dormitory. She had an infectious laugh and smile that immediately drew me to her. We met and chatted while standing outside on the stairway of our dorm smoking cigarettes. We instantly became friends sharing similar music tastes and ideas about the world that we knew as of eighteen years old. Shortly after our freshman year began, we formed a small but tight group of friends and we all spent most of our waking moments together. She and I took psychology and philosophy classes together, ate lunch together, smoked cigarettes and studied together. She quickly became my best friend. She had the most beautiful singing voice that could bring tears to your eyes and a laugh that would make you smile from ear to ear not even knowing the joke.

    The summer of our junior year of college, we rented an apartment together. We were different in many ways…she was extremely social and an exceedingly successful procrastinator while I was more reserved and one to study far in advance and then party later. Either way, we complimented each other nicely living together and our friendship remained strong. We had our ups and downs over the years but remained close. After college, I moved to South Carolina just “to get away” after a college boyfriend breakup. I then met my husband, moved to Washington, D.C., then to Atlanta, Chicago and finally back to Florida. She and I remained friends through phone calls, emails and visits when I came home for holidays because she had remained in our college town. It was shortly after college that the Patchouli wore off for me but intensified for her. I loved who she was even though we were growing apart and no matter what, each time we spoke we picked up where we left off.

    One week before moving from Chicago back home to Florida where my husband and I would be living a five-minute drive from my friend, I received a phone call from another friend, J. She said, “Kerry, has anyone told you? K is dead.” My mind reeled; I heard the words yet they sounded foreign, I couldn’t comprehend what she was saying. In fact, I think I laughed because I thought she must be joking, it simply wasn’t possible. After silence for what felt an eternity, I said, “No, what are you talking about, I just spoke to her, I am about to move back near her again, you must be mistaken” She slowly told me the story of how K had driven a couple of hours away to take her dog to get surgery and on the way was going to a concert before picking the dog back up and driving home. While tailgating before the concert, she and another friend were partying when K said, “my head feels scrambly” then she fell and was gone…. in an instant.

    The next day I continued trying to process the information I had heard. I cried non-stop and lived in a haze. I felt her presence with me during this time as if she were comforting me. I believe the spirits of loved ones visit us and I know she visited me. I walked my dogs around the block in a delirium. It was May and spring leaves were in bloom. There was a cool breeze that rushed past me and I looked up to see some of the new blossoms fall gently in slow motion. I felt her presence then and on the walk home. I remember smiling walking back because I felt her arm around me, letting me know everything would be okay.

    Three days before my scheduled move, I flew to her home town for the funeral. I met a dear friend at the airport and we drove to the viewing before the funeral the following day. I felt nothing from that point until two weeks later. I did not cry at the funeral, I felt completely emotionally constipated. I felt anger at her hippie friends that I did not know at all. They were “new” friends, not part of our solid group from college. I resented them. I overheard one or two say shameful words about her family who I doubt they ever spent time with. One started an argument over K’s items left behind; it was a ridiculous battle during a penetratingly painful time. Her family had been hospitable and loving to me during our college years when we would visit them. They became family to me over the years and I felt connected to them. I felt a small bit of the oceans of pain they held for their daughter and sister. Weeks later back home, a memorial was held for K. It was at this time that I allowed the grief to flow again from my heart and tears to spill since the first moments I heard the news.

    About six months later, I became pregnant with my daughter. We had tried to get pregnant for a couple of months and while it was exciting and joyful, I fell into a depression during the first trimester. I cried a lot and slept. I decided to see a therapist because I knew there was more to my depression than pregnancy hormones. The theme of my time in therapy was how to properly handle my grief and anger; anger at the girl who had been with K when she died, anger that she allowed such a tragedy to occur, anger at her for not protecting K, and anger for disparaging K’s family during a traumatic time. My anger burned at this girl that I did not know. But it also burned at K for dying.

    ForgivenessYears have passed and I no longer am angry at K. As selfish as I was for that feeling, I learned to accept that tragedy happens. I miss her daily. I regret that I hadn’t moved back one week earlier so that I could have seen her living one last time. I wish she had met my children. Yet, through these years, I had not let go of the anger I felt for the girl who was with her, until last week.

    I was angry when I saw her and the emotions of seven years ago came rushing back. I decided at the beginning of class to declare forgiveness as my intention. Declaring an intention at the beginning of class is new to me but a powerful tool to make the most of the experience. During class, I took deep healing breaths and at first ignored her being there with me until I began taking deeper breaths and embraced that we were sharing a space. I lifted and opened my heart. I closed my eyes visualizing forgiveness. I acknowledged that it was not her fault that K was dead, that she made mistakes, had said hurtful words, and had also suffered. Standing on a block in tree pose, I slowly raised my arms, opening my branches and with eyes closed visualized my heart literally opening and anger pouring out as if it were a pressure cooker that had burst. Tears filled my eyes and a vast amount of love filled its space.

    heart lifitng

    I miss my friend and always will. I see her often in people’s facial expressions, smells, songs, voices and laughter. I see her in my friends now; in the beautiful friendships I have. She lives in the days of my youth; a time of freedom and exploration. She resides in my memory, my dreams and in my heart and she reminds me to forgive, to be open, and to be free. True friendships really do last forever.

     

    Enhanced by Zemanta
  • Hands-Free Friendship

    In the HerStories community, one of the most popular topics of conversation has been online vs real life friendships. Both of us, and many of our contributors, have written about the value of online friendships, how they differ from “real life” ones, and discussed the importance of face-to-face quality time vs. the convenience of connecting via technology.

    • We shared our slightly tongue-in-cheek tips for how to make online friendships with other moms at Scary Mommy.
    • Our contributor Kate Hall shared why she considers her online friendships to be real.
    • Contributor Vicky Willenberg reminded us how important the real-life interactions are, and why we should stop texting and really connect with our friends.
    • I argued that online friendships are just as deep and important at Irene Levine’s friendship blog.
    • And contributor Jennifer Swartvagher shared her story of how her online friendships became real life ones.

    Jessica and I both recently read Rachel Macy Stafford’s new book Hands Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters!, and it inspired us to consider how we might become more hands-free, not just with our families, but with our friendships.

    hfmbook

    As much as I adore the convenient and effective pick-me-ups of a quick text to connect with a busy fellow mom friend, or a snarky Facebook message exchange with my blog pal, I must admit there is something unique and inimitable about quality time spent face-to-face with close friends. I recently enjoyed a rare impromptu afternoon getaway with two close girlfriends to the Hot Springs. We spent several hours together in the geothermal caves, soaking in the incredible, restorative hot pools. Even the drive up and back was exhilarating; we passed dark chocolate pomegranate bites back and forth and gabbed about parenting, marriage, and our careers. When I returned home to my husband and two daughters, I felt renewed.

    This type of spontaneous getaway (really, how often can moms be spontaneous?) is definitely hard to come by, but when the chance for a girlfriend escape arises, one should seize it! These same two ladies and I celebrated a milestone birthday in a mountain condo last winter—for two days, it was just the three of us talking, eating, and drinking. We really did very little- we stayed up late talking after a fantastic dinner out the first night, and the next day we didn’t get dressed or leave the condo until 5:00 pm. For three moms of young children, it was heavenly.

    During these early childhood parenting years, getaways are few and far between- even a regular Happy Hour may not seem feasible. Whenever possible, try to establish some rituals that are meaningful to you and your friend(s).

    • Retreating somewhere beautiful—like the mountains or Hot Springs—to enjoy some solitude and outdoor time together can be rejuvenating. One of my best friends and I have a special lake that we like to walk together as often as we can.

    • Exercise together. It’s so much more motivating to hit the gym or snag a lunchtime yoga class if you get to combine friend-bonding time with your fitness goals.

    • Indulge in a favorite treat. My girlfriend and I celebrate fall together with the first caramel apple cider of the year at Starbucks. We have done it annually for over a decade. Another mom and I look forward to our favorite food and wine pairings at a local bistro—without our toddlers.

    • Carve out a regular, purposeful meeting time Five years ago I formed a support group of sorts with other new moms. We are still meeting monthly to ask questions, brainstorm, vent, and sometimes just laugh about our lives. Our monthly “meeting” is important to all of us, and we make it a priority.

    • Take what you can get. In our busy lives juggling work and family, time spend with friends can seem scarce or even impossible. A dinner together, weekend away, or even hour-long coffee with your best friend may not be manageable. So take less-than-ideal circumstances and make it work. My friend and I combine family time with friend time by having regular evening dinner-playdates—affectionately known as “Crappy Hour”—in which we take turns cooking dinner and surviving the Witching Hour with our toddlers. The kids play, the moms drink some wine, our husbands relax with a beer, and it seems to make chaotic family dinners more tolerable. And even though we don’t get to enjoy our standard soul-baring conversation with our families around, it’s better than nothing.

     

    Scan 10

    Sometimes all it takes to feel connected is a quick text, phone call, or Facebook message. But every so often,  see if you can find time–whether it’s a half-hour coffee, a night out, or an entire weekend– to recharge your friendship batteries with a kindred spirit, with your heart open and your hands free.

  • Online Friends

    We are happy to share a guest post today from one of our contributors, Jennifer Swartzvagher, who blogs at Beyond the Crib. Have your online friendships ever become real life friendships?

     

    Before the dawn of Facebook, Twitter, and texting, I longed for adult conversation during the afternoon. After wrangling a toddler and infant all morning, naptime became “me time.” Alone in the house, I looked to the computer to keep me company.

    Luckily enough, there were countless other moms just like me wandering around cyberspace. We were bleary eyed after countless episodes of “The Big Comfy Couch” and “Blues Clues.”

    We connected on bulletin boards tied together by a common thread. After typing in my interests, a bunch of matches were thrust at me. The options were endless. All I needed to do was find a board of like minded women and jump in. I could share as much or as little as I wanted. A lot of times, I started out slowly lurking and getting a feel for the atmosphere. Baring your soul to complete strangers can be intimidating.

    Some people we meet online fabricate stories and are looking for someone to prey on. Both in life and online, we have to be careful with whom we interact. I learned the hard way how to figure out who the trolls were.

    As the months went by, I found a safe place to ask questions, vent, and form friendships. Granted, I didn’t know these women “in real life,” but that didn’t make our relationships any less valid. Looking back, now that face to face interaction seems to be few and far between, these online relationships parallel the ones I maintain through Facebook.

    Still, I yearned for face to face interactions. We all need friends in real life, even if our online relationships are filling that need. I had come to find that chatting online could not replace time spent with friends. Mommies need playdates too.

    Online friends can’t fill all the needs that real life friends can. Online friends can’t bring you a meal during a time of need, carpool to dance class, or spend the day with you at a moments notice. I would have looked pretty silly dragging my desktop to the mall for a day of girl talk and shopping.

    I searched the internet and started to hook up with a few local mommy groups. Some groups which required more face to face over virtual didn’t work into my busy life as I juggled 4, 5, or 6 kids. Finally, I found a local mommy bulletin board. We may live 45 minutes or even an hour away from each other, but we were local enough to share a common bond. The relationships could stay strictly online or develop in the real world.

    A little guarded at first, I dipped my toes in gradually. While being local was a plus, I wanted to make sure that I protected my privacy and my emotions to ensure I wouldn’t get hurt.

    It didn’t take long for me to jump in, feet first. Girls Night Out and breakfast dates followed. With our busy schedules, most of us rarely get to see each other, yet when we get together, we a chat as if we just saw each other yesterday. It is like no time has gone by.

    Our local board doesn’t exist anymore, mostly due to the dawn of social media. We picked up and relocated to Facebook. Come to think of it, my original national mommy board is there too. Thanks to social media, we are all connected to each other on so many levels.

    Over the years, these women have become my family. It just goes to prove that real life happens online too.

    HVMommies

  • Why It’s So Hard to Write About Friendship Breakups

    myotherexjan2014After we announced our call for submissions for our next book, My Other Ex, we started hearing feedback almost instantly. Women wrote us, “I have a breakup story I’d love to tell, but I’m not sure I’m brave enough,” or “I haven’t thought about this woman in years, and I can’t believe how many emotions are coming up.” Some of our past contributors have told us that they’ve begun writing a breakup essay, and it’s just so much harder than they expected. Here’s what we’ve heard from some of these writers:

    • Attempting to write a break up story feels sort of ugly and dirty. It’s like sorting through a mess that you aren’t sure who really made or how it got to that point where neither one really feels like cleaning it up, or it is too overwhelming to do so.
    • Writing about my big friend break up has been only slightly easier than having root canal without drugs. But just like it is with a root canal, dealing with the issue is the only way to heal.
    •  I was more certain than I have ever been that the friendship was well and truly over.
    • Writing this and attempting to capture and express the initial affection and then the pain and anger has made me feel like I’ve been dumped by my best friend all over again.
    • Just the thought of her reading about it and knowing she affected me makes me want to punch her.

    Honestly, we’ve been experiencing the same thing writing our own essays; in fact, I (Stephanie) have written three different versions about three different friendships in the process of finding the right story to tell. I’ve emailed old friends, asking if they can remember specific details that happened nearly 20 years ago. I’ve cringed as old memories have drifted to the surface, and the accompanying emotions that I thought I’d buried long ago. One weekend, I firmly believe I made myself physically ill as I spent hours absorbed in my laptop and the caverns of my adolescent brain, astonished to realize how many long-forgotten moments made their way back into my memory.

    To say the least, it is draining, uncomfortable, and yet somehow exhilarating to tell our old stories about friendship breakups. Why is it so painful?

    Is it because of those painful emotional flashbacks? Is it because we feel a sense of shame because female friendships are supposed to last? Is it because there are no emotional “scripts” for how to cope with friendship loss, unlike the loss of a romantic partner?

    For every woman there may be a different reason for why it’s so hard to talk about or write about the end of a friendship, or maybe a combination of many different ones.

    Is it worth it to dredge up these feelings? Again, we turn to our contributors’ thoughts:

    • It allowed me to say what I have not been able to say to an important person in my life who has not only done me wrong, but herself wrong. It has given me a voice that I could not find for over a year. I hope something positive comes from it as I see this as the first step in a longer journey about a breaking up and trying to re-engage.
    • I thought that writing about it would make it easier, clearer somehow. That it would push away the fog of uncertainty and the dull ache that had been hovering just below the surface for more then four years. But it didn’t, really. For me, writing about it was messy and confusing and it asked more questions then it answered. It made me mad and sad all over again, but, strangely, when I was finished, I was more certain than I have ever been that the friendship was well and truly over. I realized that I had been holding on to the mistaken belief that we would someday come back to each other and heal whatever it was that went wrong, but the writing made me understand that that was never going to happen. And for that, if nothing else, I felt relief.

    Both of us — Stephanie and Jessica — felt that sense of relief after writing our own stories.

    We hope that this collection will allow women to realize that they are not alone in their feelings of confusion, heartbreak, guilt, and sadness. Most of all, through sharing our stories, we want to acknowledge the complexity of friendship.

    We would love to hear your story. If telling the story is much more difficult than you expected, know that you are not alone. We encourage you to keep trying to write your story. We want this collection to help women realize that they are not alone in their intense and sometimes confusing feelings. It’s not a topic that is frequently talked about, and we’d like to change that.

    Please submit your story here: https://herstoriesproject.submittable.com/submit

    We’ll be accepting submissions through early March. We’d also be grateful if you took our short, anonymous survey to help us understand more women’s experiences.

     

    Enhanced by Zemanta
  • Book Club With The HerStories Project

    Earlier this week, our contributor Nina Badzin shared her experiences with finding the perfect book club. As her post states, friendships and book clubs don’t always mix. Just because you enjoy the company of certain friends, neighbors, and co-workers doesn’t mean you’d necessarily click as a book club. The dynamics of a perfect book club have always reminded me of finding the right partner: sure, you may enjoy the same movies or share important values, but do you want the same things out of your relationship?

    The first book club I ever joined at the ripe old age of 22  made me feel terribly grown-up- I mean, I was in a book club! Wasn’t that what real adults did? Getting together with other intelligent adults to passionately and astutely dissect literature sounded right up my alley. After I forced myself to endure the torture of Kafka’s The Trial, I decided to spice things up with a new, out-of-the-box (heh heh) book about feminism. I chose a somewhat controversially titled book by Inga Muscio. To my great surprise and outrage, both the men and the women in the group tore my selection to shreds. The verbal evisceration continued outside the monthly meeting, extending into strongly-worded email exchanges. That was it. I was out.

    My most recent book club fell into the all-too-common trap that Nina alluded to: a bunch of women sitting around talking about their jobs and families and spending perhaps three total minutes talking about the book. Half of the group never read the book, and we too did that awkward dance where we tried to discuss the ending without ruining it for the slackers. “You know… when Martha has her transformation?” we would ask pointedly, raising our eyebrows at fellow book-finishers. “Ohhh, right. I agree- that part was very…pivotal.” Not much of a discussion.

    Even when I’m reading a book by myself, I frequently read through the Discussion Questions at the end. For one, if the book was engaging, I’m often in withdrawal already and am anxious to soak up just a few more pages before saying goodbye and moving on my next selection, which I’m already convinced could never measure up to its predecessor. I also enjoy taking a few minutes to process some of the nuances of the characters or plot, and maybe even apply the storyline to my own life.

    Not surprisingly, we think The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain, and Power of Female Friendship would make the perfect book club book! We love how the book has inspired women to reflect on their own life experiences and friendships, and what better environment to dig deeper into the power of friendship than a (harmonious, dysfunction-free) book club?

    So to help you avoid falling into the traps I mentioned:
    a) The unfocused rant conversation
    b) The vague, unpleasantly brief, lacks direction discussion

    We’ve come up with some book club discussion questions that we invite you to use when discussing The HerStories Project with your book club! We will give them a permanent home in the menu of our website, but here they are!

    1. Which stories resonated with you the most? Why? Did they remind you of yourself, or of a particular friendship or time in your life?

    2. How long have you known your closest friends? Do you have any of the same friends you’ve had since childhood, high school, or college? When did you meet your current friends?

    3. When you think of your current friendships, how did you meet? Why did you decide to become close friends?

    4. Which qualities are most important to you in a friend? What important qualities do you bring to your friendships?

    5. If you are a mother, did you make any new friendships during your transition to motherhood? What did these relationships do for you? If you are not a mother, were there important transitions in your life– graduation, move to a new city, a new job, marriage– that brought new friends into your life? Why do you think we tend to form new friendships during these stages of extreme change and flux?

    6. Have you ever had a friendship breakup? Did you initiate it, or did your friend “break up” with you? How did you feel about it? Were you sad or relieved? Do you still miss your friend?

    7. Are there friends who are no longer in your life that you wish you could reconnect with? What would happen if you did, and what reasons would compel you to try again or keep your distance?

    8. Have you ever mourned the loss of a friend? What helped get you through it?

    9. How are your friendships similar to romantic relationships? How are they different? Are you more or less emotionally intimate with your girlfriends than you are with your partner?

    10. How often do you need to spend time with your friends to feel happy and balanced? What obstacles do you face that prevent you from staying in touch with your friends? How can you stay more connected and still make time for yourself, your family, and your job?

    BookClub2If you haven’t bought your copy of the book yet, you can order one right here, and send your fellow book club members over, too! In the spirit of friendship, consider buying The HerStories Project for a friend for February 14th: International Book Giving Day. We think it is a great tribute to the importance of female friendship in a woman’s life.

    Happy Reading!

    Enhanced by Zemanta