Stephanie Sprenger

  • We’re Having a Party!

    It’s been quite a week for us and for all of our contributors! We are so thrilled to introduce our book to the world and to get so much support from friends, family, and from women who connect to our book’s theme of showing female friendship in all of its complexity.

    But the release week fun isn’t over yet! We would like to invite you to a party… a Twitter Party! And the honored attendees at this party are our talented and wonderful writers.

    christmasherstories

    Have you read the book and have a question for one of our contributors? Are you interested in learning more about the book? Do you want to share your own experiences of how friendship has shaped your life? Do you just want a break from the holiday madness to think about something other than shopping, toys, baked goods, and decorations? Join us!

    We’ll be giving away a copy of The HerStories Project to one lucky attendee!

    TIME: 9-10 p.m. Eastern Standard Time

    DAY: Tuesday, December 10

    Use the hashtag #herstoriesproject to follow along, and follow us at @herstoriestales. Tell your followers about the party and invite your friends!

    Our contributors have been celebrating this week too. They’ve written creative, inspiring, and emotional posts about the book and their participation in our project. Please check out some of them and get introduced to some fantastic  bloggers! You’ll quickly see why we love their writing so much.

    Galit Breen

    Jessica Vealitzek

    Lindsey Mead

    Jean Heffernan

    Dana Hemelt

    Kathy Radigan

    Samantha Brinn Merel

    Carisa Miller

    Katia Bishops

    Liz Aguerre

    Alexa Bigwarfe

    Sarah Rudell Beach

    Nicole Dash

    Nina Badzin

    Shannon Lell

    Allison Slater Tate

    Julie Burton

    Rose Townsend

    Christine Woodruff

    Shannan Ball Younger

    Anne-Marie Lindsey

    Kate Hall

    Pam Moore

    Allison Carter

    Jamie Krug

    Vicky Willenberg

    Kristi Campbell

    Julie DeNeen

    Rachel Blaufeld

    Debra Cole 

    Jessica Smock

    Stephanie Sprenger

    We hope to chat with you at our Twitter party!

    Have you bought your copy of The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain, and Power of Female Friendship? Let us know what you think here on our blog or with a review on Amazon or on GoodReads.

     

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  • Launch Day Is Here!

    We are thrilled to announce that Launch Day has finally arrived! Our paperback is now available on Amazon, and you can download our Kindle book for free for the next three days.

    To share a bit more of our journey with you– from the beginning of our friendship blog series to our book launch today– Stephanie has written a little song for you all.

    May we present– “The 12 Days of HerStories”– performed by Stephanie:

     

    So check out these powerful essays from some of the blogging world’s most engaging voices and discover new writers. Read about how friendships have shaped their lives, and we hope you connect to their stories.

    We can’t wait to hear what you think of this collection. Leave us a message here on the blog, write a review on Amazon or GoodReads, or contact our contributors.

    Is there a favorite story that spoke most strongly to you? Did you find yourself thinking about your own lifetime of friendships in a new way?

     

  • “The Girls From Ames” Gave Me a Complex

    We have another brand new friendship essay from one of our amazing contributors, Shannan Ball Younger, who writes for Tween Us. Shannan shares her feelings about her own friendship history after reading Jeffrey Zaslow’s book about a group of women who have been friends since childhood. Did you read The Girls from Ames?

    Am I The Only Grown Woman in America Without a Close Friend From Childhood?

    While I found the book The Girls from Ames to be a good read, it gave me a complex, or at least significantly exacerbated one that I already had. It is the non-fiction account of 9 women who have been friends for decades who all grew up together in Ames, Iowa. They have remained close despite different life paths and geographical distance.

    And as I read it, I kept thinking, “What’s wrong with me? Why don’t I have those kinds of life-long friends?”

     

    Red book.I went away to college and graduate school and then moved even farther from where I grew up. I feel very, very fortunate to have a number of amazing girl friends, but I would not say that any of my close friends are the ones with whom I grew up.

    When I think about female friendships, I often feel like I have failed or that something is wrong with me because I am not friends with my best friend from kindergarten.

    Not that I don’t think of my kindergarten best friend on occasion. I remember the day we met and thinking that I should become friends with her because she was very fair taking turns on the slide at recess. We stayed friends through elementary school and even through middle school, which included a New Kids on the Block lip syncing contest that was broadcast on cable access.

    I feel like this is the beginning to all the great friendship stories, but mine comes to an end in high school. She became a goth as I became a band geek. I realize that it sounds like an episode of Glee; it pretty much was. I remember being in high school English class with her and trying to strike up a conversation as we neared graduation, but there just wasn’t a connection. We haven’t spoken since.

    Even those who were close friends in high school are ones from whom I’ve grown apart. While I certainly enjoy being Facebook friends and the occasional dinner when visiting my home state, they are among those with whom I confide, overshare or ask advice.

    I do have those friends, and I am crazy grateful for them, its just that I met them later in life.

    Why does that make me feel so odd? I wondered if my perception that I’m on of the few without a childhood friend to whom I’ve remained close for decades.

    This is not the first time that my perception is not, in fact, accurate.

    Jeffrey Zaslow, author of The Girls from Ames, wrote in a Wall Street Journal article that “a Harris Interactive Inc. survey in 2004 found that 39% of women between ages 25 and 55 said they met their current best friends in childhood or high school.”

    That means 61% of us do not have that life-long bond with a friend. That’s a pretty solid majority. I am not the friendship leper I feared I was. It’s more that a book about friends of a few years is apparently not quite as exciting to publishers as a friendship story spanning many decades like that of the Ames girls.

    I probably should have realized that I needed to get over my complex before reading that statistic, but honestly, it helped knowing that it’s not just me. I’m certain there are numerous reasons that I do not have those sustained childhood friendships, and those will take more than a blog to explore.

    Instead of wondering what was/is wrong with me, and there is a fair amount wrong with me, I’m going to focus on the close friends I have who remain in my life despite my flaws.

    That’s not to say that there isn’t great benefit and comfort in old friends, but I think I can say that I know that first hand. I find that one aspect of birthdays that I love now that I’m old not young is that it makes my college friends feel like “old” friends. We’re coming up on two decades of friendship and that’s pretty solid, in my opinion. The friendships with those girls are well aged, if you will.

    All this has called to mind the Girl Scout song “Make New Friends and Keep the Old.” (You hear it in your head now, don’t you?)

    A friend from college sent out an invitation not long ago to a cocktail party with the explanation that she knew a lot of “awesome women” (her word choice) and that she thought it was high time that we meet each other. There was no specific pressure to become friends, but we did. I loved the idea of friendships begetting more friendships.

    In the past year I’ve made new girlfriends with whom I’ve instantly clicked. They feel like old friends. I’m as comfortable with them as I am with my favorite, broken in sweatshirt. And for that I am grateful.

    Friendship cannot always be measured by a calendar. I’m wondering if it should be measured at all, or only in the quality and not quantity of smiles shared, ears bended, tissues passed, shoulders offered, hands lended and hugs given.

     

    As we prepare for the release of our book, The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain, and Power of Female Friendship, we have a special offer for e-mail subscribers only! We will send a newsletter on Friday to all subscribers with an exciting offer- if you aren’t a subscriber yet, it’s not too late! You can subscribe to our weekly email newsletter by entering your email address in the sidebar.

     

  • I’m Going Rogue: Punching Culture in the Face With a Phone Call

    We are so happy to bring you a brand new friendship essay from one of our HerStories Project contributors, Vicky Willenberg. Vicky blogs at The Pursuit of Normal, and her essay, Big Girl Friendships, is featured in our upcoming book, which will be available in just two weeks! We bet you will be able to relate to the post she is sharing with us today: 

    I’m going rogue.  I’m going to take a cultural norm and smack it upside the head.  Am I going to challenge gender roles and the unreasonable expectations thrust upon women? Um, not really.  Am I going to admit that I often forget to turn off the water while brushing my teeth and I don’t even feel badly about the wasted water? Nope.

    I… am going to call you. Well, not all of you. But I am definitely calling some of you.

    I am breaking the cultural chains that have tried to convince me that I cannot and should not call my friends.  The same chains that have bound me to my computer, iPad and smartphone and have brainwashed me into believing that I don’t have time to make phone calls. Even more tragic is the fact I’ve convinced myself that I don’t need to call, that my current means of communication are enough.

    But the truth is, they aren’t enough.  So I will be making some changes.  I won’t be texting, Facebooking or emailing you. There will be no tweeting, Instagramming or Google Circling. Well, there might still be some of that, but that’s not all there will be.

    The truth is, friends, I miss you. I miss the sound of your voice. I miss the way you roll your eyes when you’re telling me something your mother or mother-in-law did.  It’s been too long since I’ve seen you flail your arms as you share another story about your kid and how he just won’t pick up his clothes! And I miss nodding in solidarity when you heave a sigh and tell me how you and your husband feel more like roommates than lovers these days.

    I want to Laugh Out Loud with you and even Roll On The Floor Laughing. And when you tell me something utterly ridiculous, I want to Shake My Head. I mean physically shake my head with you… in the same room!

    I know it won’t be easy. We’ve become accustomed to this detached form communicating. It will be a tough habit to break largely because we did not arrive here intentionally.  Someone once told me that the best way to cook a frog is not to drop him in a pot of boiling water, but to put him in a pot of tepid water and set the heat to low.  Little by little the temperature will rise until the poor little sucker is cooking to death.  Unbeknownst to me, over the last few years I think I’ve slowly boiled my friendships to death.

    When I had my first child, I regularly chatted with girlfriends on the phone because my son was confined.  I could strap him into the swing or the bouncy seat and he happily stared at his feet or gnawed on his fist. But those days passed much more quickly than I expected.  Soon, he was on the move and all bets were off.  The minute I got on the phone he decided it was time to attempt climbing the stairs for the first time or riding the dog.  Talking on the phone was a bit like this…

    Vicky

    Next came the parenting phenomenon known as The Magnetic Phone began. The second I picked up the phone, my children were drawn to me like magnets with life or death questions such as, “Can you read this for me?” or “Do you know where my Lego guy is?” and my personal favorite, “Can I have a snack?”

    The next phase of parenting brought on the harsh reality that the “little ears” that rode around in my car were now big ears attached to an even bigger mouth; and unless I wanted my business discussed with the entire third grade or announced loudly in the aisles of Target, I needed to conduct all “adult conversations” after hours, in private.

    And so, it became virtually impossible to have meaningful conversations with my friends.  Slowly and surely I adapted and the Age of Texting dawned.

    I’ve come to realize, though, that this really isn’t communicating because “communication” by definition is the “exchanging of information.”  There was no “exchanging” going on. I was more or less dumping information as quickly as I could in a tiny window of time.

    I equate texting to Grammatical Photo Bombing. While stopped at a red light I am furiously texting the latest events of my life as fast as my fat thumbs and autocorrect will allow. I breathe a sigh of relief that I finished before the light turned green, hit send and I’m on my way.  You, on the other hand, are not sitting at a red light.  You are driving your child to soccer, while mentally planning dinner, reminding yourself to sign that permission slip and trying to figure out when you’re going to fold that clean load of laundry that has been sitting in the basket for 4 days.  Suddenly BOOM! You’ve got a text- smack in the middle of your life.  Like the goofy guy who waves and flashes a giant smile in the background of your photo, interrupting the romantic atomosphere, I’ve just interrupted your groove with a 2 paragraph synopsis of a recent altercation I had with a friend.  So you read it, plan your reply because you are a law abiding citizen and don’t text at red lights (unlike me) and get around to texting me when you have time- anywhere from 2 hours to 3 days later.

    This, friends, is not communicating. Whatever it is, it’s not enough for me. My friendships are worth more than 140 characters, the length of a red light, or the 11 minutes I sit in the carpool pick up line at school. YOU, my friends, are worth more.

    I wholeheartedly believe we were designed for community.  Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, the need to connect and share is ingrained in us. Our technology based lives trick us into believe that Text Bombing is connecting.

    I don’t feel like it’s been ages since I’ve seen you because I saw a picture of you and your sweet family at the pumpkin patch just yesterday.  Although sweet, that 3 second glimpse of you doesn’t strengthen our friendship nor does it tell me anything other than where you are.  But I want to know how you are. And I need to tell you how I am.

    Pictures and fun updates have their value of course. But I don’t necessarily need my friends to share in the fun happy times nearly as much as I need you when my life is in the crapper and I’m drowning in my over-scheduled, over-carpooled, over-guilted life. And no one’s posting that stuff on Facebook and if they are, they’re certainly not getting any “likes” for it.

    Simply put, the current trend of drive-by communicating does not satisfy my soul.

    The women I have chosen to call “friends” are amazing, complex people. They are women who enrich my life and help me be my best self.  Our friendships are beautiful and deep and fulfilling. And in order to glean all that they have to offer, I must invest the time to connect- truly connect, in a way that is meaningful.

    So I’m taking back my friendships. I’m restructuring my priorities and rediscovering what made you all my favorite people.  I’m going to call you. I’m going to stutter and mumble and giggle and drone on and on and on, on your answering machine. And if you have 5 minutes to call me back- awesome.  And if you don’t- well, that’s OK too because I know how busy you are and how hectic your schedule is.  But I want you to know in a way that’s meaningful to me, that YOU are important to me and I’d love to hear your voice when you’ve got some time.

    Being a rebel feels pretty good. You should join me.

    That’s just my normal.

     

  • A Big Announcement and a Giveaway

    Welcome to our newly redesigned website!

    For the past few months, we have been hard at work, and today we have a big announcement!

    Next month we will be presenting an anthology of friendship essays, The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain, and Power of Female Friendship. 

    herstories-v4small

    From the back of the book:

    Female friendship is an extremely rich and complex topic. The bonds of women’s friendship can be more intimate than marriage, and just as essential to emotional health. From the childhood friend who broke your heart to the college roommate who witnessed you at your highest and lowest, from the lost friendship that ended bitterly to the devoted companion who is still in your life, from the bond that was forged due to shared grief to the shaky connection born with new motherhood, all women have stories to tell about their friendships. The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain, and Power of Female Friendship is a collection of essays from 50 women writers, encompassing tales from the sandbox to the inbox.

    Our website has been redesigned to showcase the new project and introduce our fantastic contributors: 50 women writers and bloggers share their stories of friendship in a collection that will be available in early December.

    You can meet our contributors here.

    Our book also features a foreword from Jill Smokler of Scary Mommy, as well as chapters on understanding female friendship from experts Shasta Nelson and Carlin Flora. They’re the authors of two of our favorite (and what we think are most useful) books on friendship.


    If you are new visitors to The HerStories Project, welcome! You can read more about the origins of this project, beginning with our blog series on women’s friendship, here.

    You can read what reviewers are saying about The HerStories Project here.

    We would love to have you join our mailing list. Please sign up in the sidebar to subscribe to receive email updates on the book.

    We are also excited to give away two copies of the book that inspired the entire HerStories Project:  She Matters: A Life in Friendships by Susanna Sonnenberg. She Matters is a critically acclaimed examination of the complexities of friendship from one of our country’s best memoirists.

    From the New York Times reviewShe Matters lingers with you, inviting you to construct a patchwork quilt of your own life and salute the many women who helped you along the way.”

    Entering the giveaway is simple. You can do any or all of these options: sign up for our mailing list, follow us on FB and Twitter, Tweet about the giveaway, or leave a comment. Remember, you can do as many or as few of these options as you’d like! Joining our email list will enter you in the giveaway 5 times! We were both so inspired by this book, and we think you will love it.

    Enter the giveaway below:

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  • Finding The Right Style of Mom Friendships

    My toddler and I recently had a playdate with one of my friends and her daughter. Our girls are several months apart, but they are still at an age where parallel play rules, and their own enjoyment of one another is somewhat moot. We are in that perfect stage where we can control and direct their friendships with children whose parents we enjoy. As we entered our friends’ home that morning, it was clear that neither of us had showered or dressed to impress, and within minutes both girls were running around pants-less. There were no mumbled apologies about a mess, or disclaimers about our children’s teething-related temperaments. We were comfortable.

    The two of us sat chatting over iced coffees from Starbucks and split a few pastries in half to share while our children happily ignored one another in pursuit of their own activities. We talked about marriage, our discomfort with the extra pounds we were toting, our embarrassment about our children’s newest public behaviors, and our worries about the future. No time was spent idly remarking on the weather, or the sale at Gymboree, or trading cloaked brags about our children’s burgeoning vocabularies. This playdate was for us. We were here to get real.

    One of the girls shouted angrily, “That’s MINE!” and we found ourselves navigating that tricky territory of playdate intervention. I had recently asked my childcare guru how best to handle my daughter’s new trait of hollering “No! That’s mine!” and other negative-sounding demands. She reminded me that when possible, it is best to ignore these statements; any attention given to a less than desirable outburst is rewarding the behavior. It reminded me of my good friend Carisa Miller’s article on Hoverparenting, in which she shared her own experience trying to back off when her children were butting heads with friends. She mentioned that it is often a concern that other parents will judge you for not jumping in quickly enough. My friend and I agreed that this made us uncomfortable; we both liked the idea of backing off when our girls were working through possessiveness and interaction struggles, but we worried that we might look like jerks if we didn’t intervene with some sort of reprimand like, “Sophie, those aren’t nice words. We share.”

    Socializing with turbulent toddlers can be downright humiliating.
    Socializing with turbulent toddlers can be downright humiliating.

    While it is true that I often worry about being publicly judged, at a park or play area, for not verbally intervening and expressing my awareness that my child is being impolite, I think the best friends are ones with whom you can ditch this hang-up. As we listened to our girls bicker for a moment, we agreed that from here on out, we would ignore the “That’s my toy!” whines and let them fend for themselves. Short of overtly harmful behavior, we would step back and make a pact not to think less of one another for our lack of hovering. It felt good. Making that agreement with a friend–we are not here to judge and we are in this together– can deepen a friendship and multiply the benefits of spending time together.

    I realized that for me, the mom friendships that I find the most rewarding are the ones in which I can be myself. The understanding is, “Come as you are. You are safe here.” Because of my own personality and needs, I find that it is important for me to disclose what I am going through–even the hard, ugly stuff– and get support from my friends. I am not a big fan of sugarcoating motherhood; if I am having a hard time with something, I prefer to admit it, and I feel even better when my friends can confirm that they have been through it, and they understand.

    I think there are two different types of moms: the moms who like to talk about the challenges that lie in the parenting trenches, and the moms that don’t feel comfortable discussing that stuff. Of the latter category, I think there is one more distinction. Some moms may be truly at ease with this parenthood gig, and they may have little need to complain or vent about rough moments. Or perhaps they are genuinely positive thinkers who do not gain anything by sharing their hardships. However, I think many moms experience dark moments and feel guilty about their negative feelings. I believe there are a lot of women that feel ashamed to admit the struggles they are having personally or as a mother; some may prefer to keep these feelings to themselves, and some may battle against them, trying to hide all their unpleasantness and appear to be the perfect moms.

    For me, I clearly fall into the first category- let’s talk about this sh*t. I am almost magnetically drawn to other women who share this trait, and I have developed some enriching friendships with women who embrace the full disclosure policy. This works for us, and it’s one of the reasons why my recent playdate was so invigorating to me. I didn’t have to pretend, and I knew that during our two hours together, we would vent, brainstorm, and emerge with renewed confidence and maybe even some ideas to try. But I accept that not all mothers are comfortable with that dynamic; perhaps they value their privacy too much or perceive this sharing as unproductive complaining.

    No subject is off-limits for us.
    No subject is off-limits for us.

    Which is why I think it is important to identify what exactly you are looking for in a mom friend. Is it a confidante who will listen to you when you are struggling? Is it someone with whom you can share the beautiful, enriching moments of parenting? Is it another mom who may quietly struggle but doesn’t expect you to emote or analyze with her?

    When you discover what your comfort level is and what you are looking for, you may increase your odds of making meaningful connections with other moms, and you may be more likely to find the style of mom friendships that works best for you.

    What do you look for in a mom friend? Do you value closeness and honesty, or would you rather keep your distance?