• 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…


    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.


  • And Finally a Book Proof Landed on My Doorstep….

    I waited all afternoon, never straying more than ten feet from the front door and the front windows that look out onto the street. According to the online tracking information, it was somewhere being driven around Buffalo, New York — my hometown.

    Several UPS and Fed Ex trucks drove by my house during that period, never stopping. I waited and waited. To distract myself, I decided to cook, a rare Friday night occurrence in our house, a day when take-out generally is enjoyed by all. I started to prepare the ingredients for my favorite red wine pan sauce for steak. (Really, who was I kidding? My recipe preparation was a great excuse to open a bottle of red wine very early.)

    Then at about 5:30 it arrived. I tore open the small box, and there it was. Our proof. The proof of our book was in my hands.


    To say that I was excited is something of an understatement. That night the book “slept” next to me on the night stand, and I continue to carry it around with me in the house.

    So what about poor Stephanie, my co-editor? How was she handling the excitement of seeing our book for the first time? I’m very sorry to say that she hasn’t seen it in person yet. We did do Facetime right away, but I know that it’s not the same. This unfair situation happened because I was the first to go into our account dashboard once the online version of the proofs was approved and to have a physical proof sent to me. And apparently you only get to mail out one proof to be approved by the author. (After the proof is approved by us, we wait for it to be approved by Amazon.)

    I’m so pleased with our cover design. (We’re really proud of it, and if you hate it, maybe you could keep it to yourself for just a month or so, until the initial giddiness subsides. Then we’ll start taking constructive criticism once again.)


    Our cover is one of the parts of self-publishing this book about which I’m most proud. Yes, we self-published it, and we’re not ashamed to say it. I always imagined that someday I’d be involved in publishing a book, but I never thought I’d be self-publishing. Yet for a multitude of reasons, this was the smartest decision for us.

    So what have we learned so far that might be useful to others and that you as readers might be interested to know?

    1. Cover design is everything. This was stressed to us over and over. You do not want your cover to look self-published. I’m not sure what that means exactly — the “self-published look” — but it’s sort of like pornography, I guess; you know it when you see it. We researched a lot of design options, but never for a second considered doing it ourselves. As many of our online friends know, our cover design went through many iterations, driving our cover designer crazy, and it was hard to listen to critical feedback. Which leads me to our next lesson….

    2. Get tons of outside opinions. When you’re self-publishing a book, even with a partner, it’s really easy to live inside your own little bubble. Getting outside help with editing is a no-brainer; that’s not optional at all. But you need others’ opinions about lots of other facets of your book. In addition to our cover design, we got outside feedback about our introduction, our title, our book’s organization, our marketing strategy…. And we tried hard not to be thin-skinned.

    3. Embrace learning new technology. If you want to try self-publishing, knowing Microsoft Word is probably not enough. It’s incredibly helpful to have an organizational tool for putting together your book and formatting it that’s much more sophisticated and versatile than Microsoft Word, particularly if you’re working with other authors. We used PressBooks, which I strongly recommend, particularly if you’re a blogger, since it uses the WordPress framework. PressBooks is a book publishing tool; you put in your content — in a way similar to adding blog posts — and choose a theme. Then PressBooks can export it automatically into formats suitable for paperback book and e-book creation.  And it’s free! At least until your book is ready to export and then you have to pay to remove the PressBooks watermark off your book. Alternatively, lots of other writers use Scrivener, another software tool for authors, and I tried that out and love it too.

    There are lots of things that we could have done better, but that’s for another day’s post…

    For right now we’re thrilled to be releasing this book in two weeks!

    For a chance to win one of three copies of the book, submit a friendship photo to us and enter our Wall of Friendships contest!

    And check out these posts by our amazing contributors: 

    – Galit Breen’s “Gift Ideas for Her” (thanks for the HerStories Project book mention!)

    – Liz Aguerre’s “I Am a Writer 

    -Samantha Brin Merel’s “30 Years of Friendship” (an incredible collection of photos from a very long friendship)

  • Send Us a Friendship Photo and You Could Win Our Book!

    Send us a picture!

    English: Three young women

    Here’s a chance to win a copy of The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain, and Power of Female Friendship, to be released next month.

    Two friends

    We’d love to include you on a new page on our website called The Wall of Friendship. We’ll be displaying photos of friends: childhood friends, college friends, young women, middle-aged women, older women.

    Nat and Suzie

    Send us a photo of you and your friend(s)….from last week or from three decades ago. Tell us your name (we’ll only display first names), where you live, and a sentence or two about the photo and your friendship.

    Then we’ll pick three of our favorites, and send you a copy of our book!

    E-mail your photos to

    And congratulations to our last week’s giveaway winners — Nicole Hulst and Liz Aguerre — who won a copy of She Matters: A Life in Friendships by Susanna Sonnenberg.

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  • Our Contributors Are Amazing: Part I

    What a week! The HerStories Project has had a busy week with the launch of our newly designed website. We love meeting new readers and hearing others talk about how important friendship has been in their lives. Thank you for your continued support!

    If you haven’t had time yet, make sure to learn more about our contributors and the origins of our project.  And we hope you entered our giveaway to win a copy of She Matters: A Life In Friendships, the book that started it all!

    The early reviews for our  book keep coming in from your favorite bloggers, authors, and friendship experts… Check back regularly to learn what the first readers of the book think about our book!

    Every week we want to spotlight the work of some of our talented contributors and others who write about friendship. This week we’ll introduce three of our writers and a little of their writing.

    1. First, meet Julie Burton of Unscripted Mom. Julie and Jessica (me!) have been online friends since I started blogging. Sometimes we chat on the phone about our latest projects and to share our writing triumphs and challenges.  (Julie and I “met” through our mutual blogging mentor, the always helpful and supportive Nina Badzin, an incredible writer who also might have a little bit of a “matchmaker” in her!)

    Julie is an experienced writer and journalist, as well as a mom to four kids. On her blog, she “offers reflections on the unrehearsed, impromptu, improvised act of motherhood.”

    This week Julie wrote about friendship and motherhood (as well as The HerStories Project!), and I was intrigued to hear about a wise way of categorizing friendships: Reason. Season. Lifetime.

    2. Next, read Sarah Rudell Beach’s piece: “Peace, War, and Friendship.” Sarah blogs about mindful practice and parenting at Left Brain Buddha. Sarah is also one of Stephanie’s and Jessica’s closest blogging friends and one of the writers behind The Brilliant Book Club, a group of bloggers who read and write about thought-provoking parenting books.

    In this piece, Sarah writes about a few projects, including HerStories, celebrating the power of female bonds.

    3. And, finally, definitely check out a piece by one of our favorite bloggers, Alexandra Rosas of Good Day, Regular People called “The One That Got Away.” I love her reflections of an old, crazy friendship, the source of endless tales of adventure and laughter. She sounds like the sort of friend that every young woman should have at least once in her life!

    Again, we want to thank all of you for your support! Don’t forget to enter our giveaway for a copy of She Matters: A Life in Friendships….

    Follow the HerStories Project on Facebook and Twitter.


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  • 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. 


    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:

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

  • 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?