Featured

  • HerStories Voices: Perspectives from the Woodpile

    I love this week’s essay (featuring our April theme of “Life Lessons”) because the writer, Julianne Palumbo, beautifully describes a conundrum of parenting and I can’t stop thinking about her situation. What do we do when we want to tell our children to do something different from what’s considered the right thing to do? And who’s to say what the right thing is? She conveys the angst that we can feel when we get a teaching opportunity with our children – one that can be a huge life lesson. Oh, the pressure! Even after reading this essay multiple times, I still don’t know what I would have done in the same situation. I just hope that I would handle it with the same grace as the author did. – Allie

    HerStories Voices

    Perspectives from the Woodpile: Asking My Teen to Honor His Commitments

    I am standing on our porch in front of the exhausted woodpile. The air bites my hands and face as I scavenge through chips and bark for burnable logs that I can throw into the fire to keep it warming. Although winter passed resentfully, if I close my eyes and listen, the birds sing a different story. I absorb the “berto, berto, berto” of the cardinal and pretend that spring is springing the way spring should be.

    Open my eyes and I stare at the devastation that was our woodpile after five cords of wood warmed our house to a livable temperature. I squeeze my lids shut again. There’s a breeze that breathes both winter and spring into the air. It’s a game now, one I want spring to win.

    So, too, tugs the debate I have been having with my teenage son. It’s about commitment, and there are two sides to the story. Mostly, I sympathize with his side, while I try to hold the line on mine. As of yet, neither one of us is winning. Two perspectives, both based in the unfairness of reality.

    When my son was seven he fell in love with his sport. From that moment, it became the most important thing in his life, affecting how he spent his time, what he ate, and how much downtime he allowed himself. It was practice, practice, and more practice. My husband and I supported him, driving him over an hour to practices and traipsing around the East Coast for tournaments, because he was so dedicated and because having a goal gave him focus in everything he did.

    Over the years, he played year-round. He would go to every team practice and every game, like the postman, without regard to weather, illness, or the homework brewing in his backpack. We gave up countless family events, trips, and down time to travel to games all over the East coast and sometimes beyond. Summer, too, was filled with camps and training.

    As he got older, he failed to grow as quickly as other boys his age. He began to sit on the bench because of his small size, and players who never showed up to practice but who had greater physical strength but less skill would play over him. Still, he kept practicing.

    Once he reached the teenage years, things went downhill. It took seasons before we realized that, despite promises and reassurances that he would be given a fair chance to perform because of his skill, his coach had another agenda that didn’t include him. He became frustrated by the unfairness. Players who never came to tryouts were still put on the team. Players who missed practices played over others who went. Rules were bent and broken, and some players, like my son, were given no opportunity to prove themselves.

    After nine years dedicated to a sport that had given the actual beat to his heart, he decided to quit. The deep joy he had always felt when he touched the ball had turned to anger and frustration. He told his club coach that he did not want to play spring season. Unfortunately, my son was last in a list of boys who had expressed their desire to quit the team, and the coach needed him to stay for there to be enough players. This particular coach had been fair to him, and since he asked him respectfully to fulfill his commitment, my husband and I agreed that he should honor it. But, my son didn’t agree.

    Hence my struggle. How do I argue with a seventeen-year-old who had done it all right, who had given his heart and soul to a sport only to have it stomped on and ripped out by coaches who cared nothing for earnestness or for his commitment? His hard work hadn’t paid off. Many of the adults involved had asked for an abundance of dedication on his part but had failed in their own commitments to be fair and to coach in a way that was best for the players. Now, my son was being asked to hold up his side yet another time.

    I have never stood up so half-heartedly for something. He has never stood so strongly against something.

    If ever I was at a loss for words to support my arguments, this was it. I couldn’t argue that commitment paid off. It hadn’t. In fact, it couldn’t have paid off less. I couldn’t argue that something good would come out of it, because there was no longer anything that he wanted from this sport. He just wanted to be free of it. That was his parting wish.

    I could argue only that it was the right thing to do because a man has to live by his word. It was about the type of adult I wanted my son to grow up to be. But, as much as I believe that and have always tried to live and to teach it in all parts of life, it couldn’t have rung more hollow this time. I truly didn’t believe that he owed this sport anything. All I could think was, “commitment to what?”

    To complicate matters, he recently started playing tennis on his high school tennis team. He loves it and is showing the same drive and dedication I had seen from him for so many years. Fulfilling his commitment would affect his tennis as often games overlapped.

    After days of debate, we agreed to agree that he would fulfill his commitment to the extent he could without adversely affecting his grades and his position on the tennis team. This is where we have left it—someplace in the middle of—shouldn’t have to but will anyway.

    While I think we are holding true to a lesson here, I’m truly not certain what that lesson might be. I keep reminding him when he reminds me how much he doesn’t want to waste the time to go to games, that something good always comes of giving of yourself. Maybe he will call on this experience some day when he’s an adult and he’s faced with something he doesn’t want to do. Maybe his being there will be a positive in someone else’s life.

    But I can’t help wondering—will filling this commitment now make him more or less likely to want to fill commitments in the future? Would it even matter to his character if we let him walk away? With three almost-grown children, I feel I should know the answer to this by now.

    The cool days plod on. I bang clumps of grass from his cleats. I pick tennis balls up off the lawn. The sun peeks a little.

    Spring is winning.

     

    authorphoto1 (2)Julianne Palumbo’s poems, short stories, and essays have been published in Literary Mama, Coffee+Crumbs, Kindred Magazine, Poetry East, Mamalode, Manifest Station, and others. She is the author of Into Your Light (Flutter Press, 2013) and Announcing the Thaw (Finishing Line Press, 2014), poetry chapbooks about raising teenagers. Her essay will be published in the upcoming HerStories Anthology, So Glad They Told Me. She is the Founder/Editor-in-Chief of Mothers Always Write, an online literary magazine for mothers by mother writers. You can find her here: http://www.juliannepalumbo.com https://www.facebook.com/JuliannePalumboAuthor  https://twitter.com/JuliannePalumbo and http://www.mothersalwayswrite.com .

     

    **We are currently accepting submissions for our May Voices column: the theme is “motherhood.”

    **Our spring sale is still happening! Sign up for two of our most popular online courses— The Balanced Writer and Publish Your Personal Essay– as self-paced classes offered at big discounts! Details here. Join a fantastic group of women working through the classes as well as our Facebook community!

    ** Have you seen the cover of So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real About Motherhood yet? Our publication date is August 23rd! More information here.motherhood-web1

     

  • When a Group of Friends Falls Apart

    UPDATE (2019): FIND NINA AND HER COLUMN AT HER NEW FRIENDSHIP ADVICE SITE

    In this month’s HerTake question, Nina is tackling the sticky issue of maintaining individual friendships when a group of friends falls apart. Have you been in this situation as an adult or even in younger years, perhaps? We love that our community helps each other in the comments section. Don’t be afraid to add your two cents.

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

    when-agroup-offriendsfalls-apart-768x768

    Dear Nina:

    I’ve shared a close friendship with a group of women for several years. However, the dynamic of the group is evolving and the group of friends is falling apart because of external and internal reasons. I’ve maintained individual relationships with each woman; however, now I feel like I am in the middle, because although I get along with each person individually that isn’t the case across the board.

    Should I address this with the group or let it go? And if I choose to let go of the group, how do I continue to maintain individual friendships without stepping on anyone’s toes?

    Any advice is appreciated.

    Signed,

    Confused

     

    Dear Confused,

    Without knowing the details of why your group is falling apart or any of the other micro issues, I know others will relate to the problem of being connected to a group of friends that is long past its expiration date.

    Before I go on, I want to address the people reading this question (and answer) who are silently asking themselves, “Why is an adult part of a group of friends anyway?”

    Reasons Why Adults End Up in a Group of Friends

    • The group is a carryover from high school or college with some new configurations, but it started “way back when.”
    • The members of the group all met in a common setting like a class or in a work environment that no longer meets regularly so the group formed to keep the individuals together.
    • There can be a bit of mystery to how and why a group forms. Frankly, sometimes the group can feel manufactured, which is usually the first kind to fall apart.

    I’m not going to say all groups disintegrate because I couldn’t possibly know that, but every group I’ve been a part of has gone through significant permutations over time. Some of those permutations have led to an ultimate disintegration, but in each case, the new reality has been more of a relief than a problem.

    In other words, I’ve never been part of a group that was worth keeping together under all circumstances. The group’s history should never become more important that its current health. (By “health” I mean, the members of the group are kind to each other and as free from drama as possible.)

    Ultimately, the individual relationships are what matter most, especially when the group dynamics feel forced at best and unpleasant at worst. Sounds like you’re in at least one of those positions right now so let’s get practical.

    How to keep your relationships strong with the individuals you like:

    #1. Based on your question, this needs to be said: It is not your problem whether other members of the group continue to stay friends or whether they form a new group. At this point, you need to focus on who brings out the best in you and vice versa. I wouldn’t make any formal announcements about your desire to step away from the group. This will be a case of actions speaking louder than words, or you simply slipping under the radar, which is probably for the best.

    #2. Make consistent plans with the women you enjoy. Lunch, walks, coffee, tickets to a show—anything that means time spent with one other person. Personally, I find walks the best way to catch up with one friend at a time. Also, there’s a natural end time, which is a nice plus (in my opinion).

    #3. Be careful to avoid allowing the growing bonds with certain individuals to revolve around a common frustration with the former group. It’s tempting to get others to feel the way you do about the group or to commiserate with individuals who already share your aggravation, but too much of this chitchat will create a false sense of closeness. Don’t fall for it!

    By the way, these group permutations happen in families, too. Sometimes different groupings of siblings and siblings-in-law are closer and sometimes they’re in a moment (or years) of drifting apart. Same goes for cousins and other relatives. David Sedaris had a great essay recently in the New Yorker that is seemingly about shopping in Tokyo, but is really about these shifting group dynamics. Other than enjoying the standard cleverness of Sedaris, I also liked the matter-of-fact attitude in which he talks about how relationships morph again and again.

    Thanks so much for your question, Confused. I hoped at the very least I helped you see how normal the shifting dynamics are.

    Good luck!

    Nina

     

    FULL RES - Badzin-03 copy-1

    You can follow Nina on her blog, on Facebook and on Twitter.

    We’re always looking for new reader questions for Nina! If you have a difficult friendship situation that you’d like advice on, fill out our anonymous contact form.

     

     

  • So Glad They Told Me: Cover Reveal and Release Date Announcement!

    It’s been over a year since we announced the call for submissions for our 4th anthology: So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real About Motherhood. After Stephanie’s viral post I’m Glad Someone Told Me, we were blown away by the response to our social media campaign, #sogladtheytoldme, in which mothers shared the supportive, real advice they heard from other women about motherhood . . . or wish they’d been told, but weren’t. We realized how important this topic was, and how many mothers were eager to share their own experiences.

    After reading over 220 powerful submissions, we spent a weekend together choosing the contributors for this anthology. We selected 60 (!) incredible writers whose stories moved us, entertained us, and made us think, and we’ve been busy working behind the scenes to get ready for publication. Today we are proud to reveal the cover for our book as well as announce our release date: August 23rd, 2016! 

    You’ll be hearing a lot more from us soon as we introduce you to the talented contributors to our book and unveil our new So Glad They Told Me website!

    We are so proud to share with you the cover for our 4th anthology, and we can’t wait for our summer release date!

    motherhood-web1

    Stay tuned for more information about the book, and in the meantime, don’t miss our spring sale on two of our most popular online writing courses– Publish Your Personal Essay and The Balanced Writer– now on sale for a huge discount as self-paced online courses. Details here! It’s a great opportunity for writers looking for a little inspiration, community, or a chance to polish your skills. Sign up now!

  • HerStories Voices: Girl With Headache

    This week’s essay, written by Stephanie Harper, riveted me from the start. After reading about her harrowing experience of living with a headache disorder, which is often debilitating, I’ll never again complain about having to take Advil for my tension headaches. As her essay reveals, our writer never loses her sense of humor. Her story is courageous and inspiring. I hope you enjoy. – Allie.

    HerStories Voices

     

    Girl with Headache

    By Stephanie Harper

    It’s 7:30 in the morning and I’m warming up with the rest of my choir, as I do on so many Sundays. It’s not a particularly notable morning. I am wearing a purple dress, Simply Vera by Vera Wang, which I bought because it sounds very impressive to say—even though I got it for $20 at Kohl’s. I like it because the fabric is naturally crinkled in a way that looks like I just rolled around in the grass, so I don’t feel the need to iron it. It’s also long enough that it reaches my knees, a major accomplishment for any garment because I am 5’11. That means I can wear it without the awkward bike shorts or leggings underneath. I’d say I feel great in my new purple crinkle dress, except that I don’t.

    I woke up feeling off. Decidedly off. This in of itself isn’t totally unusual. I’ve gotten up every morning for the past 20 months with a headache, one that never goes away. One that sits behind my right eye, the way that pesky squirrel sits on the fence and stares at me, twitches in a creepy way. I hate that squirrel. I used to have recurring nightmares about that squirrel stalking me across my college campus and attacking me while I slept. That’s what this headache is like—a possibly rabid, rodent stalker. That being said, this morning’s feeling is different, something hard to put into words. It’s as though my brain is under water. Not in a gasping for air sort of way, but more like when you open your eyes to try and peer through the blue of a swimming pool. Fuzzy and distorted. Not quite right.

    We start rehearsing our first song and I am looking at my music and I am seeing and reading it but I’m struggling to get the words out. It’s like my brain has been given a delayed start, a mental snow day. It’s infuriating because I like to sing and do it well but I’m flubbing all over the place. The words are so slow. My brain and my body feel so slow. My arms and legs feel as though the muscle has been replaced by jelly and I am sloshing around like one of those inflatable people that dances wildly at the entrance of a used car sale.

    This is not working.

    I tap my mom’s shoulder—she also sings—and then I sit down on a chair, leaving my stand and microphone erect before me. The choir sings on. My mother turns around. She lowers my stand and looks at me.

    “What’s wrong?” she says, though this question is perfunctory, like “how are you?” She knows.

    “We have to go,” I manage to sputter, though I can hear the words rolling off my tongue slowly, the way the smoke of a good cigar might curl.

    She cocks her head. She hears it too, that slight delay. “Home?” she asks.

    I think for a moment. “Hospital.”

    What follows is a blur of concerned citizens rallying to get me from the worship center to the car. My mother escorts me out of the choir loft and plops me down in a leather chair in the church narthex. A friend of ours, a fellow choir lady, kneels beside me. I can tell she’s scared. Her blue eyes are alight with worry, the way a mother looks when her child has climbed just a little too high on the playset and disaster seems imminent. She talks to me, asks me a few questions, but I don’t really hear what she says. Or what I say.

    I try to crack a joke with my delayed words. “Guess I haven’t had my coffee this morning.”

    She smiles. “At least you never lose your sense of humor.”

    My mother comes through the door. She’s pulled the car around to the front of the church for easy access. I’m ushered down the ramp by two tenors, one on either side, as though I am the Queen Mum or someone equally old and important.

    As we approach my Yaris, I say, “my clown car. The guy on my right laughs. He says, “There’s already 12 people in there.” In a few minutes, my mother and I are off to the ER.

    This is not the first time I’ve been to the ER since my headache started. I try not to go often, but it happens—when a flare up is particularly bad or when new symptoms emerge and something seems out of the ordinary. Like today. Sometimes I go because I have convinced myself that I’m having a stroke or an aneurysm. That there’s no way whatever is happening to me is a “normal” part of my headache discourse. Sometimes I go because I want it documented. Sometimes I go because I just don’t know what else to do.

    This morning, I’m going because I’ve never had this speech problem before and it’s genuinely freaking me out. I can tell by the way my mom watches me that it’s genuinely freaked her out as well.

    I have been to several ERs and met a whole slew of ER doctors and nurses. And, it’s almost always the same. I walk in the door. Sometimes I’m wearing sunglasses because my eyes are so light sensitive I can’t take them off. Sometimes, I’m leaning on my mother’s arm for support. The front desk person looks concerned. Sometimes they ask if I need a wheelchair. I always wave them off because I am stubborn and maybe a little foolish.

    When I make it back to the exam room, a nurse asks me about my symptoms, my medications, all the standard questions. Then, the doctor enters. He says some version of “What brought you in today?” I explain what’s going on and try to hold off on the whole headache thing for as long as I can. But it always comes up. I’ve had a headache for three months, six months, eighteen months. I have these flares. They get bad. But this time it’s different. I’m scared. Trying to be vigilant. Just in case.

    Then, the same thing happens every time. The doctor writes a few things down and pumps me full of painkillers like morphine or Dilaudid. He might put me on oxygen for a few hours. Or give me a headache cocktail of Benadryl, Haldol, and something for nausea. Every hospital has its own unique protocol. Someone always sends me home. I’m there for maybe four hours at the most. This is because I am just a girl with a headache. I don’t want to be, but I am. There is nothing anyone can do for me, no magic test or antidote. The best they can do is drug me up and hope that I sleep it off, that my headache resets to its usual nagging but bearable level by the time the drugs wear off. That’s what you do for a girl with a headache.

    This trip to the ER is only slightly different. I have a CT scan, or so they tell me. I don’t remember because the Dilaudid has kicked in and I’m not present. I’m somewhere else. But everything is as normal as it always is. I’m not having a stroke or a brain aneurysm. Nobody seems to know why, on this particular day, during this particular flare up, my speech has been delayed and my motor function stunted, but they don’t seem too worried. Not out of the realm of what can be expected with headache like mine. So I go home and sleep for another four hours. Then, I go to dinner. Business as usual.

    At dinner it hits me again, that weird feeling from the morning. I get up to go to the bathroom and my mom can see it too. She follows me, which is a good thing, because I open the door to the ladies’ room and then I collapse a little, fall in on myself, everything jelly again. But she’s right behind me. She helps me collect myself and I use the restroom, splash some water on my face, and then we go out to the car so I can lay down while they pay the bill. I sit down in the backseat and look at her. I ask her a question, something like “What’s going on?”

    She just stares at me.

    I ask her again.

    “I can’t understand you” she says.

    “What do you mean?” I ask her, even though her face says it all. Jibberish.

    “Stephanie,” she says, putting her hand on my arm. “I swear to God, if you are doing this on purpose or because you’re just too tired to try, I’m going to kill you.”

    The rest of the night continues in a similar fashion. We get home and my grandpa helps me inside, a death grip on my arm that is almost worse than the pain in my head. He lays me down on the couch in the living room. As he gets up to head home, I hear him whisper, “This is the damndest thing I’ve ever seen.”

    My mom tells me I need to go to bed. We make it half way down the stairs before I black out and collapse. My dad comes and helps wrestle me to my feet. They get me to my bedroom, pulling me along like a drunk who’s lost control of her body. I wish I’d had a few drinks. It’d be a hell of a lot more fun.

    My mom gets me ready for bed and tucks me in, like I’m five. “I think you just need to sleep it off,” she says. Then, she turns out the light.

    About fifteen minutes later I realize I have to pee. I get up and go to the bathroom. I black out again, this time while I’m washing my hands. Mom comes to help me. She gets me on my feet and through my doorframe and I black out for a third time. Now, I’m sitting on the floor of my bedroom, staring up at her.

    “Why are you doing that?” I ask her. My speech has come back a little, slurred but understandable.

    “Doing what?”

    “Why is your face like that?” I move my hands up and down, trying to make a dripping sort of action. Her face drips like a scoop of ice cream betrayed by heat and gravity. Neon flashes of light fly around her head. It’s freaking me out.

    “What are you talking about?” She sounds concerned but also a little annoyed.

    “Your face is melting.”

    “We need to get you back in bed.”

    This starts an argument. I want to go back to the hospital. My mental state is, in a word, goofy. Like a small child. I’m frightened and I want someone to fix it. This can’t possibly be normal. I’m going to die in my sleep. I know it. This time, it really is the end. But my mother thinks I need to sleep it off and see how I feel in the morning. She doesn’t think there’s anything to be done in the ER. We’ve already been there once today. At this point, there’s nothing left to do.

    “If I die in my sleep, it will be all your fault,” I tell her, as she helps me into bed one more time.

    “Then, I’ll feel bad,” she says, and moves for the door. “You have to sleep now, okay?”

    “Okay,” I say and roll over onto my side. She turns the light out.

    “Hey, mom?”

    “Yeah?”

    “Will you check on me sometime, just make sure I’m still breathing?”

    “Yeah.”

    I relax a little knowing she’ll check in. I settle into the covers. “I hate this.”

    “I know,” she says. “Me too.”

    In the morning, I feel like a new person. Or maybe not new. More like I’ve been reset. I am tired but back to my usual state of ache, my baseline just behind my right eye, where it always is. This is as close to a rebirth as I can get. And, on a morning like this, after a day like the one I’ve just had, this is good enough.

    I am constantly exploring new territory with this headache disorder. Even as I write now, it’s been two-and-a-half years since the pain started. Two-and-a-half years of waking up every morning feeling a little tired and (hopefully) a little renewed. It’s not ideal, but I have found a way to make every day a new day. Each day, I have a chance to have a good day, one where I don’t get sick, I don’t need to nap, one where I can enjoy my friends, my family, my life, without too many painful consequences. And, on the days where none of this is true, where I can’t get out of bed, or my speech goes awry and I think people’s faces are melting, I can count on the newness that tomorrow will bring. And, that’s that. In this new life of mine, I’ll continue about this day and the next day to the best of my ability, with the hope that love and joy will continue to come my way in the midst of pain. That is really all I can do.

    I am just a girl with a headache.

     

    Stephanie Harper image1 (3)Stephanie Harper received her Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Fairfield University with an emphasis in fiction in July 2012. Her work can be found in The Huffington Post, HelloGiggles, The Montreal Review, Poetry Quarterly, Midwest Literary Magazine, Haiku Journal, and Spry Literary Journal. She served as Fiction Co-Editor for Mason’s Road Literary Journal and is currently an editorial reader for Spry Literary Journal. She lives in Denver, CO.

    Stephanie’s Twitter is @StephanieAHar

    Stephanie’s Instagram is @StephanieAH27

    Stephanie’s website is http://www.stephanie-harper.com

    **Submissions for May are now open! Our theme for the month will be May, and then submissions will be closed until August as our Voices column will be on a summer hiatus. We will announce our September theme this summer, so stay tuned! For submission guidelines, read more here, and email your submission to our assistant editor, Allie, at herstoriesvoices @ gmail.com.

    **Two of our most popular online writing courses, The Balanced Writer (our newest class, offered this past winter!) and Publish Your Personal Essay, are being offered as significantly discounted self-paced courses for a limited time! Just $40 each or $60 for both! Don’t miss this great deal; sign up now to treat yourself to some inspiration, polish your skills, and connect with a writing community! Details here.

  • HerStories Voices: Finding Yourself Again After Kids

    The early years of parenthood are grueling for many of us and the more children you have, the harder it can be. Today’s author, Megan Woolsey, is the mother of four, and triplets are part of the equation. It’s no surprise that she lost herself. As a fellow mother of multiples, I could relate to Megan’s struggle and cheered her on as she rediscovered the light within. This essay will resonate with moms who miss the woman they were before they had children. Enjoy! – Allie

    HerStories Voices

     

    Finding Yourself Again After Kids

    By Megan Woolsey

    When I was in sixth grade I wrote a mystery series at recess while my friends were playing dodge ball on the playground. The heroine of my stories was named Penny Powers and she was a smart, confident, feminist girl just like my mother was raising me to be. Each story was only a few handwritten pages, but captured all of the imagination my eleven-year-old mind could muster. At the end of each story, Penny Powers proved herself to be a successful heroine by facing her challenges head on and solving problems.

    Little did I know back then that I would face big life challenges and have to solve my own problems one day, just like Penny Powers.

    From a very young age all I wanted to do was write. When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always said I wanted to be an author of books. I still have an image in my head of being  seven years old, an age where you would draw a picture of what you were writing. So I said in big bold uppercase writing “I AM GOING TO BE A AUTHOR” and underneath I colored a picture of a woman writing a book in what appears to be a library filled with books of all different shapes and colors.

    I kept the passion for writing alive, for a while. My writing was strong through college and by twenty-five years old I was working as a freelance writer making very little money, but I had an impressive looking byline in some local print magazines.

    Then my life changed dramatically after I had my first child. My daughter was smart, funny, and spirited, and I enjoyed her every day. But I did what a lot of moms do in our current culture; I gave everything to my child and left nothing for myself. I lost my career, my writing, myself.

    Three years later, I gave birth to triplets. Those first months of raising triplets were an incredible feat. My husband and I were waking up at 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. to feed our infant triplets each night. It would take us an hour and a half to feed, diaper and put them back to sleep each shift. Our middle of the night escapades were met with such exhaustion that I would feed my babies with the wrong end of the bottle, or fall asleep in the middle of my duties. My husband and I would fight and yell profanities at each other in the wee hours of the morning, only because we were too tired to be civil.

    I didn’t exercise or have any hobbies for myself. I spent all of my time around the clock caring for four small children. I began writing a blog about having triplets, but my writing back then was more like unedited journal entries composed after sleepless nights.

    I loved my children with every ounce of my being, yet I was completely disconnected from myself as an individual. I woke up one day and felt that my only value on this beautiful planet was juggling the schedules of my four children, household chores, and managing bills. My life had become a series of mundane tasks; such is life as a stay-at-home mother. Depression set in. There was no value in being me other than routine childcare duties. I didn’t feel attractive, smart, or creative. I could not feel any joy in my life.

    On a beautiful spring day, I received an interesting invitation to attend a yoga retreat in Monterey, California. My cousin was running a three-night yoga retreat and an inner calling messaged me to go. I was tired of saying no to everything. No, I can’t have people over to dinner at my house. No, I can’t go with my friends to a weekend away wine tasting. No, I can’t go exercise. No I can’t, because I have kids. So this time, I said yes. Yes, I will do something for myself. Yes, I will go to this yoga retreat. I will pitch a tent in the woods in a secluded space and have time to reflect by myself. To get ready for this yoga retreat, I began taking yoga classes every spare moment during my week. I realized I was becoming good at something that was just for me. Pitching that tent and attending the yoga retreat by myself gave me a new energy and desire to better myself in other ways.

    I made an effort to style my hair some days, and wear clothes that were a step up from sweats. I set out to make new friends, and found a soul mate. I changed the name, design, and focus of my blog to be more professional. I ate healthy food and took more walks. All of this made me feel good about myself. This made me feel like, while my kids were my world, I mattered also.

    This past year I turned forty-one years old. My children aren’t infants anymore so I’ve found a little more time for myself. I spent my thirties struggling with infertility and raising children. Many days I wondered why I chose this life and if I would ever have enough energy and inspiration to create my own passions again.

    Then I realized that if I look around with an open mind, inspiration is all around me. I began to find that the delights and challenges I found in being a woman, a mother, and a wife created a connection I could write about.

    There is so much pressure on parents today to do everything and be everything for their children. We give everything to our kids because we love them and want them to be successful. We also do it because there is a competition embroiled in our social fabric that is unhealthy and leaves mothers lost and lonely, thinking they aren’t doing enough.

    Most of us are more than good enough. We are too good at being a mom and not as good at being respectful to our own dreams and passions.

    Maybe after all of these years and four kids later, there is still that little girl inside me, the one who was always writing books at recess.

    I have a large family that includes higher order multiples, and it does suck the life out of me. Other days my family fills me with crazy passion and inspiration. Having kids doesn’t have to mean the death of myself as my own creative woman.

    After feeling depressed for years under the pressure of motherhood, I experienced a rebirth to become a new version of the old me who loved to write and followed those dreams of being an author.

    After eleven years being a mom, it is finally clear that I can still have my own life and my own dreams . . . not despite being a mom, but because I am a mom.

    I am Penny Powers.

     

    unnamed[1]Megan Woolsey is a writer, editor and publisher living in Northern California with a very supportive husband and a wild bunch of red-headed children – a set of triplets and their big sister. Megan has been published in Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, BLUNTmoms, Bonbon Break, Mamalode, In The Powder Room and is an essayist in two anthologies. She began writing professionally for her blog, The Hip Mothership, which she began while in the hospital eating copious amounts of Jell-O on bed rest pregnant with triplets. When Megan isn’t busy writing or blogging, she loves hot yoga, long walks, and dinner with friends that includes good bottles of wine.

    Co-Editor, Multiples Illuminated. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.

    **Our April theme is Life Lessons. Email our assistant editor Allie your submissions at herstoriesvoices @ gmail.com. Find out more about submission guidelines here.

     

  • Ex-Friends Reconnecting After a Loss in The Family

    HerTakenoavatar

     

    In this month’s HerTake question, the question asker wants to reconnect with an ex-friend after a loss in the ex-friend’s family. Is it a good idea to make one last effort at reconciliation all these years later, or should our question asker leave well enough alone?

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

    Dear Nina,

    About fifteen years ago, my friend since kindergarten, Sarah, cut me out of her life. It was during our mid-twenties when a toxic person came between us. I knew Sarah’s close friend was toxic, but it took Sarah several more years to come to the same conclusion. The word on the street is that the two of them no longer speak.

    Sarah recently lost her father quite suddenly. I attended the funeral, and she indicated to me how much it meant to her. For years now since learning that the toxic person was out of Sarah’s life, I’ve wanted to reconnect with her. I know that an apology will not come, and at this point, it no longer matters to me what happened in the past. What does matter is that I try in some way to rejuvenate the friendship that was lost. I feel as if Sarah’s father’s death could in some way be the catalyst for us getting together. Perhaps it could be a positive outcome of an extreme negative.

    What do you advise on the best way to go about reconnecting with Sarah? Do you agree with me that all is not lost and perhaps we can find a way back on the path of friendship we shared for so many years?

    Thank you for taking the time to consider these questions.

    Signed,

    Hoping to Get Back in Touch

     

    Dear Hoping to Get Back in Touch,

    Those childhood friendships never leaves us, even the ones that end badly. If anything, the ones that end badly can take on an inflated importance as we repeatedly analyze what went wrong. I say “we” because I think many people reading this have been there, including me.

    Before delving into your specific questions, I want to commend you for attending Sarah’s father’s funeral. Perhaps that seemed like an obvious move for you, but I bet that many others in your situation would have either ignored the loss, made a donation to the family’s favorite charity in the father’s honor, or written a lovely note expressing condolences. There’s no shame in going with the donation or personal note options. My point is that making the effort to attend the funeral was the hardest choice as it required the greatest amount of vulnerability.

    So, should you get back in touch with Sarah?

    More than ever, I’m coming from a “life is short” philosophy, which can cut both ways. Life is short, so if you’re missing Sarah’s friendship, I think you should go for it. But since life is really too short to waste on people who not appreciate us, I have to caution that if Sarah seems at all reluctant (takes a long time responding, cancels more than once, does not ask you about your life, etc.), then I say you can feel satisfied about trying and leave Sarah in the past.

    Is it possible to find a way back to a friendship?

    The fact that you’re not expecting an apology is what makes me believe there is a chance for the two of you. It would be impossible for Sarah to know at this point exactly why she got so close to that toxic friend and why she felt she couldn’t have both of you in her life. Your willingness to release Sarah from an explanation from 15 years ago is your best chance.

    As for how to go about a reconciliation, I once again consulted my wise mom, Kathy, who readers enjoyed last month.

    Here’s what my mom said: “Back in Touch might consider emailing or calling to ask if Sarah wants to get together. If Sarah says yes, then Back in Touch might suggest they get out their calendars (or whatever young women do these days). If Sarah is unwilling to make a date right then—short of getting ready for a trip or a really good excuse—I would consider the friendship not worth pursuing at this point. Back in Touch can take satisfaction in having taken the high road, i.e. attended the funeral, and she then has to let the friendship go and be glad she has closure.”

    Essentially, my mom and I are saying the same thing, which makes sense since she taught me everything I know. Bottom line: Yes, you should try, but do not be the only one making an obvious effort.

    Good luck and please report back!

    Warmly,

    Nina

     

    FULL RES - Badzin-03 copy-1

    You can follow Nina on her blog, on Facebook and on Twitter.

    We’re always looking for new reader questions for Nina! If you have a difficult friendship situation that you’d like advice on, fill out our anonymous contact form.