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  • A Friend Who Only Communicates Via Text

    How do you handle friends who only text?

    This month’s column may resonate with many, whether you have been offended by a texting-only friend, or you prefer texting to calling or connecting in person.  Readers, we would love to hear your perspective in the comments below!

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

     

    Dear Nina,

    My friend, Sloane, just texts—no calls, no visits. Only texts. And even though we have ongoing texts every 2-3 days, she’s not up for talking on the phone. I’m starting to feel what a numbing situation that is. To me it’s very impersonal to communicate solely through a screen. I’ve asked to call on the phone, but I can tell she’s not crazy about the idea, and when we do talk, I end up leading the conversation because otherwise there’d be silence.

    Here’s a bit more about our situation. Sloane and I live two hours apart. I’m in chronic pain, and I’m dealing with very intense things, but Sloane sometimes uses the excuse she’s “busy” as if her life has so much more going on. I mean, we ALL have our stuff right? I have been up to see her 2-3 times in the past four years we’ve known each other. (I’ve been quite ill as well.) But she’s never made any effort to come see me, and she even got offended when I asked her a couple years ago if she would consider a visit.

    So I have a friend who makes no effort to visit, no effort to call, and wants a virtual screen-to-screen relationship, yet wants to call it a friendship? To me acquaintances text, but friends text/call/visit. I’ve thought about reframing the friendship as perhaps (oddly enough and heaven forbid) it’s too much to expect/want a call every now and then or once a week, just to have actual voice-to-voice connection. Oh and when I have said, “Do you fancy a quick call?” she mysteriously never sees the text and quite frankly I don’t believe her because she’s always active on messenger and she’s one of those people that updates her Facebook page with every thought, picture, and bowel movement.

    When I have expressed my frustration at limiting our friendship to texts, she did say she’s not comfortable on the phone. She also threw out very trivial things at me, which was her basically clutching at straws in order to defend herself. But I did say to her maybe I need to see the friendship differently (as in reframe it and/or see what I’m expecting) and now she’s had a hissy fit and says she doesn’t need this and her other friends are fine with just texting. But hey guess what, I’m not (anymore). So maybe my expectations have changed?

    Can you help?

    Kind Regards,

    Texting Isn’t Enough

    Dear Texting Isn’t Enough,

    You have the right to change your expectations in any relationship and Sloane, in this case, has the right not to meet those expectations. This means the ball is now in your court to decide if going back to the previous expectations sits well with you. From your letter it’s clear to me that you’re not happy with those terms of “texting only” and no visits.

    I have to say that from where I sit, this friendship is not a solid one. I can’t imagine that Sloane sees it as a crucial one in her life. A real friend shows up when her friend is sick, if not with a visit, then at least with a call. In fairness to Sloane, she has been completely honest with you that she is not up for that type of friendship. She has not tried to convince you otherwise. The fact that you continue to demand something of her that she cannot or will not give is on you at this point.

    To say it more directly: Sloane is not really your friend.

    My advice is to fade out of the relationship, which means no big confrontation is necessary. You can stop putting any energy into texting Sloane and she will quickly get the idea and maybe even feel a bit relieved. Then you can put your energy into people who are looking for the same kind of off-screen friendship that you understandably want and deserve. It’s not easy to get out of any cycle, even dysfunctional ones, but it’s time.

    Not surprisingly my mom, Kathy, has similar advice but here she is in her own words: “This may be a generational thing, but I don’t text unless it is about making an arrangement, changing a previously agreed upon time for getting together, or saying I am stuck in traffic. Having said that, what is more disturbing to me is that Sloane has made no attempt to visit her sick friend, since she is “uncomfortable” on the phone. It sounds to me like Sloane is not interested in the friendship. I would suggest that the letter writer put her energy into someone who is more interested in a reciprocal relationship. It is clear that if Sloane is having problems of her own, she is not interested in sharing her issues. If it were me, I would let this relationship go.”

    I’m so sorry you’re going through a tough time with your health. You definitely need understanding and giving friends right now.

    Best of luck,

    Nina

     

    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.

  • HerTake: Friend Connectors vs. Friend Hoarders

    In this month’s HerTake question, Nina answers a letter from a woman who is tired of sharing her friends with a close friend who hoards her own friends and acquaintances. Are you a friend connector or a friend hoarder? Help our letter writer decide what to do!

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

    Dear Nina,

    I often introduce my friends or acquaintances to each other because it me makes me happy to do so. I like helping my friends, and adding the joy of new friends or good work connections to their lives is easy to do so why wouldn’t I? People often say I’m a great connector and generous with my relationships, and I take both comments as big compliments.

    I’m sure you know there’s a “however” coming next. I have a close friend, “Joanna,” who I’ve introduced to numerous friends over the past two decades, whether casually at a bigger event or more purposely such as inviting her family over for dinner at the same time as another family if I think they will all get along. Joanna, however, never introduces me to her friends and acquaintances. I know some by now after two decades of friendship, but that’s because of the big events of Joanna’s we’ve all attended (birthdays, etc.) as opposed to her doing anything to bring us together on purpose.

    I can literally be at a fundraiser or some other event with Joanna and a person will come up to us that is new to me and Joanna will start talking to the person without taking the minute to even do a basic, “Oh, this is so and so who I know from my old job. And so and so, this is Connie an old friend of mine.” You get the idea. I’m not suggesting Joanna should arrange an intimate dinner every time she makes a new friend so that I can meet her, but she could include me every so often, or at the very least introduce me when I’m standing around while she and her friend/colleague/acquaintance are talking in my presence.

    It would be impossible to count the social connections Joanna has made through me. What makes me feel worse (mostly I feel bad about my feelings about it all) is that Joanna is generally a good friend to me. I can trust her and she goes out of her way for me like offering to pick me up at the airport (and actually doing it) or lending me a dress for a vacation—stuff like that. I appreciate all that and more, but the friend hoarding really bothers me. I don’t know why she has to keep everyone so separate.

    I’m not saying I want to end the friendship at all. I’m just wondering if I should stop inviting Joanna to do things with other friends of mine as I make new ones in the future. Why should I open my social world to her every time I meet someone new and yet she never feels compelled to do the same for me? I see my own words here and at almost 50 years old, I know I sound so petty. But I’m feeling stuck. I can’t stop dwelling on it, and I’m not sure what to do.

    Thanks for any advice,

    Connie (not my real name)

    Dear Connie,

    I relate to this question more than any other in the past two years. I’m not a perfect friend. I make mistakes as everyone does. But one aspect of friendship I excel at is making connections. Like you, I do not hoard my friends and it brings me pleasure to see people from otherwise random parts of my life forge a friendship of some kind.

    I also related to the situation you described of standing around awkwardly in a conversation while I wait for a friend to introduce me. What is wrong with people? I often end up introducing myself. I am probably an extreme over-introducer because of how much I hate that moment of standing there twiddling my thumbs. I’ve introduced people who unbeknownst to me have been friendly for years or are even related. I simply don’t like the idea of two people standing near each other who have not been introduced. And that is true on a deeper level, too. If I know two people (even just online) who could hit it off socially or help each other in their professions, then I am uneasy until I’ve connected them whether it’s through a dinner at my house, a meal out, a simple email, or even a Tweet to both of them together in the case of my writer buddies.

    But now I have to take a step back from my self-congratulation and ask you to do the same. The fact that you and I take the “connector” label as a compliment means we value the idea of connecting people to each other and we also value being connected to others. The thing is that not everyone prioritizes values the same way when it comes to relationships. Beyond the basics of kindness, decency, and trust, there really is not a right and wrong for how to be a good friend.

    Let’s take the airport example. I’m not sure I have ever offered anyone a ride to or from the airport, and frankly if someone asked me for one I might even be a little annoyed. Why? I would never expect a ride at this point in our lives. Everyone is so busy and nobody else’s travel plans are my problem nor should my plans be my friends’ concern. I can barely get myself to and from the places I need to go let alone take on someone else’s transportation needs.

    I have to give Joanna kudos. I consider myself a really good friend to a large handful of women in town, and yet it would honestly never occur to me to make that offer and even after reading about Joanna’s generosity of time I still wouldn’t. This may seem like a small gesture to examine, but it demonstrates a larger point about relationships. We all show our love for our friends in different ways, and ideally we all give each other the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps Joanna has been disappointed that when she mentions a trip coming up you don’t offer a ride. Wouldn’t it be nice if Joanna said to herself, “Connie has gone out of her way to introduce me to so many people and obviously loves me. I’m not going to hold the lack of airport pickups against her.” Hey, maybe she has said that to herself!

    As for why Joanna keeps all of her friends separate, that is impossible to know. I’ve seen that pattern in some friends of mine, too. Perhaps Joanna has been burned before by bringing friends together who have better chemistry with each other than either has with her and then she gets left out. It happens! It has certainly happened to me, and I imagine it has to you as well if you’ve been a connector for your entire adult life. That fact hasn’t stopped me (or you), but I will say it takes significant internal confidence to rise above our natural tendencies to hoard relationships. Go us!

    So now what? Should you keep sharing your friends? I say yes. I don’t believe in using someone else’s limits to dictate your own behavior. You do YOU. If making those connections is how you demonstrate your appreciation of your friends, then I wouldn’t stop for Joanna or anyone. I assume Joanna keeps offering you rides and her clothes even if neither gesture is something you would do for her. And I also assume that after two decades of friendship she has shown you other generous sides of herself. Focus on those good things and force yourself not expect to meet her other friends. That’s simply not something Joanna is good at or wants to share, but it doesn’t seem like it’s directed at you personally.

    As a side note, Connie, your confidence about making new friends as an adult is so refreshing. You probably don’t realize how rare it is (at least in my inbox filled with anonymous questions) to have such a calm assuredness that you will continue to make new friends as life goes on. Good for you! And thanks for the question. You made me realize I have to let go of expecting the same amount of connection-making from others as well.

    Nina

     

    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.

     

     

     

    **Have you read our latest book, So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real About Motherhood yet? Grab a copy here!

    **Check out our self-paced  online writing courses here.

  • How to Work With Your Child on Writing Without Power Struggles

     

    How to work with your child

    • Make it fun: NO busy work or worksheets/workbooks your child will resent over the summer. (unless they love that stuff or want to “play school.”) Get creative: Play math games (we love Yahtzee), try some of the creative writing prompts below, do something different.
    • Show your own investment: participate with your child when appropriate; show your willingness to jump in on the writing. Try a writing activity together.
    • When you become frustrated, STOP, take a break, take a deep breath, and try to identify what triggered you.
    • Separate yourself from your child; are any of these YOUR issues or hot buttons? Are you identifying too much with your child?
    • Figure out if you are more frustrated by your similarities to your child or your differences.
    • Communicate with your child: what is frustrating to THEM about working together? Do they have any feedback or suggestions for you? (Try writing it down instead of having a hard conversation!)
    • Let it be your CHILD’S work, not yours, even if you are participating in the activity. This is not YOUR piano lesson, YOUR grade, or YOUR ideas.
    • Use a positive feedback method: 1) Identify the words/phrases that jump out to you (with positive spin) 2) Share how you felt while reading (confused, excited, wanted more information, etc) 3) List questions you had about the writing as you went along.
    • Frame your critique positively; don’t be a “fake cheerleader” but also don’t come across as overly critical; young writers have fragile egos, too, and ALL children seek their parents’ approval!
    • Familiarize yourself with your child’s curricular expectations: what is the writing protocol at school? Can you follow a similar process of brainstorming, drafting, revising, and editing? Are you well-versed in how to revise/improve writing? Do you know what particular writing crafts your child is familiar with?

     

     

    Writing Prompts and Styles to Try:

    • Describe someone in your family—sibling, parent, grandparent, even your pet
    • Describe your favorite summer place—a vacation spot, your grandparents’ house, a swimming pool, camp, whatever. LOTS of details!
    • Write a memoir about one of your adventures this summer—use lots of details and all five senses.
    • Describe a character from a book you’re reading, or book you’ve read in the past. Paint a picture for us.
    • Pretend you are a reporter for a kids’ magazine. Write an article about summer safety for kids.
    • Write a letter to anyone: a friend, a family member, even a Congressman!
    • What are you most looking forward to about the next school year? What are you concerned about?
    • Write a how-to article (cooking, drawing a certain picture, how to play a game)
    • Write a report about an endangered species
    • Write a commercial for a product you REALLY want to try.
    • Write about a vacation where EVERYTHING went wrong.
    • Keep a daily diary
    • Write a poem about the seasons
    • Write a haiku or two

     

    You can download a PDF version of this right here! How to Work On Writing With Your Child Without Power Struggles

    Create, Connect, Reflect (1)

    Get more information about our online parent/child writing course where we will go WAY more in depth with these concepts, including writing resources, lessons, and prompts! Details here.

     

  • HerTake Advice Column: Too Close, Too Quickly

    Today’s question comes from a woman who regrets letting a friendship get too close too quickly and now must find a way to establish better boundaries. Do you have a question for Nina? Use our anonymous form . You can read Nina’s answers to past questions here.

    HerTakenoavatar

    Dear Nina,

    Last June a woman named “Vivian” moved into my building. She’s a teacher with lots of credentials (her statement), my age, and we have some similar interests. I nose-dived right into a friendship with her assuming we had a lot in common. I invited her to events, introduced her to my friends and no doubt gave the impression that I wanted to be friends.

    Several months passed  before I realized that we weren’t at all a good match and I started to dislike being around her. She had quite a few difficult situations (not getting the job she wanted, having her car die), but persevered despite these setbacks. The problem is that she blames everyone else for her difficulties and never takes responsibility. Since she has no one else to talk to, she uses me to vent. I mostly feel awful after these talks. Yet I realize she is alone in a new city and has no other support.

    For those and other reasons, I do not want to be friends, but also don’t want to hurt her feelings. She knocks on my door or phones almost every day. I feel harrassed and have spoken to her about my need for better boundaries, but she does not get it. I find myself turning off all my lights so she will not know I am home and I don’t answer my phone or go to the door. This feels cowardly.

    What can I do to find peace and not make her life any more difficult in the process?

    Thanks,

    Suffering From Friendship Regret

     

    Dear Suffering From Friendship Regret,

    First, I want you to know that clicking with Vivian in those early weeks makes perfect sense. In fact, research explains why diving into a friendship with her felt natural. I think it’s helpful to know about that research so that in the future you can be aware of the factors that can make us feel an instant connection with others while still staying aware of the need to take things slowly. I have definitely taken friendships too quickly, and it is much easier to let a friendship grow over time than to reset it once certain expectations are in place.

    According to Ori and Rom Brafman, authors of the book Click: The Forces Behind How We Fully Engage with People, Work, and Everything We Do, there are five accelerators that make us feel connected to someone, at least at the outset.

    The first way we click is through some similarity, or at least a perceived similarity. Even the most surface commonalities like the same name can make us like the next person more. The second accelerator is vulnerability. While Vivian’s ability to open up to you eventually became a burden, it probably made you feel closer to her at first.

    The third accelerator came to mind immediately when I read your question, and that is proximity. You can’t get more convenient than the same building. The Brafmans found in their research that just living in the same city was not enough of an accelerator. When they measured proximity, they reported in feet–as in cubicles, dorm rooms, and neighborhoods. When a friend is right there, we tend to excuse other less than stellar qualities, and I believe that happened in this case.

    The fourth accelerator is resonance, which the Brafmans describe as being in tune with others and demonstrating empathy. I could see why Vivian felt this from you since you were sensitive to her status as a newcomer. And the fifth one is called safe place. That one refers to experiencing an adversity at the same time or a positive shared experience like a group vacation. Even living in the same building and dealing with the winter together when it’s easier to stay inside would create a certain closeness in a new friendship.

    I brought up the Brafmans’ work to help explain why you and Vivian had many good reasons to be instant friends. Hopefully knowing about these accelerators also serves as a warning to take things slowly the next time. We don’t need all five accelerators in place to feel that chemistry, and chemistry is a tricky element in a relationship that can cloud our better judgement. Same goes for romantic partners!

    You said that Vivian has no other support, but if she’s new to town that will change in time. You’ve been very generous by including her in events and introducing her to your friends, but there’s no reason that you have to be the sole confidant for her. Isn’t it also possible that Vivian has started making other friends during these months that you’ve been avoiding her? Either way, since you want her to stop knocking on your door every day, it’s time to take some action. You can’t be hiding out in your apartment!

    Taking action will have to strike a balance between getting the job done (resetting the relationship to one that is more neighbor/acquaintance than close friend) and not hurting Vivian’s feelings. In past answers for this column I have discussed fading back from a friendship, which is usually less painful to the next person. But in cases like this where your attempts to fade back have not worked, I’m afraid that you’ll have to extract yourself from the relationship. However, I would liken this “extraction” to the use of smoke grenades, not live fire.

    Look for an opportunity to take a true time commitment from your life and make it slightly bigger than it is. Perhaps you’re swamped with work? Perhaps you’re spending extra time with an older relative in need?

    I’m not suggesting that you create some kind of elaborate lie, rather, I use something “true enough” as your excuse to spare Vivian’s feelings. Do not turn off your lights. Do not sneak around. You can still be friendly and enjoy having a neighbor you appreciate for more than a passing hello, but be consistent in your new boundaries.

    The reason I do not suggest being extremely direct in this case is because you’re trying to reset the relationship, not teach Vivian how to have more reasonable expectations from her friends. Maybe Vivian will meet some friends who like her just as she is, and just because the instant chemistry with you did not pan out as the friendship progressed, that does not mean that her style will not work for the next person. In most cases it’s not appropriate to “teach” another adult how to act. And the truth is, you do bear some of the responsibility for giving Vivian the signal that you were as interested in this new friendship as she was.

    Please know I say all of this without judgment as I have succumbed to that seductive chemistry several times in my life only to regret the “instant closeness” I helped foster with my over-enthusiasm. The sooner you get comfortable answering your door and having a quick, friendly conversation before explaining that you have to get back to whatever project you’re working on (or whatever excuse you decide to use), the sooner you will feel a sense of calm again.

    Good luck!

    Nina

    Readers: Do you have other ideas for “Suffering From Friendship Regret?” Please let her know in the comments.

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

  • HerStories Voices: The Mommy Inside the Rocks

     We’re so happy to present to you the second HerStories Voices column. This week’s essay is from Kathryn Wallingford. In Kathryn’s own words, her essay is about “rocks, remembering why I love Toni Morrison, and teaching my son to put apples in his pocket. How do we allow the continued growth of an imagination when we send our children to a system of order, structure, and real time? This is a mother clinging onto her son.”
    For May, in recognition of Mother’s Day, we’re looking for essays about a moment or an experience during early motherhood that changed you. Our upcoming anthologies Mothering Through the Darkness: Women on the Postpartum Experience and So Glad They Told Me: Women on Getting Real About Motherhood both are about these early days, months, and years of new motherhood. Tell us your stories of about a “moment of change” as a new (or new-ish) mother! For more information about submitting to HerStories Voices, read here. Submit your motherhood-themed essays to us by May 1st!
    HerStories Voices--The Mommy Inside the

    In the beginning, my beginning, I marked time with a rock in my pocket. The smooth glass of the eastern shores. The Bright Angel shale reminded me of the hot Arizona sun. I stole the granite of Wyoming and lined my freshman dorm with pieces of Appalachian quartz.

    Eventually the rocks were thrown into one box. Sand, dirt, silt, and clays sifted together. They were the hot desert air, those cool Montana nights, and the Himalayan sunset, bounded and carried from home to home.

    Until finally my four-year old found them.  One cold, winter day they made their way into his hands.

    “Can I paint on them? Can I give them to my friends at school?” he asked.

    With no hesitation, I replied, “Of course.”

    What else was I saving my memories for? To be thrown on another window sill?

    So he pulled the rocks out one by one.

    It was his Mommy Before.

    Mommy in-love on Roan Mountain.

    Mommy scared, almost ready to jump into Crater Lake.

    I tried to tell him the life behind each rock so he could be there too. In the 5 years that he has been on this earth I have had two additional children. As a result, I have been pregnant for approximately 550 days, a nursing mother for almost 720. He deserves to know this Mommy.

    The Mommy inside the rocks.

    As he paints I also remember how much I love these places. But it is hard to describe what he can not see. His Mommy before. I do not have many pictures to correspond to the collection.

    He picks up the rocks one by one and his questions multiply.

    “How cold was the lake? What did the lake look like? Were you scared? Did you want to jump? What did it feel like? How big was the mountain? You climbed into a canyon? Where was Daddy?”

    The questions seem to exhaust him too. Moving away from my stories and the rocks and my geology 101 lesson, he begins to create a picture of his own. He goes into his own world and I migrate to the laundry pile that needs to be folded. But he soon comes to me with his creation.  His work is red paper smothered in glue and white dots.  I make out my name. I make out his name.

    “It is beautiful. What is it?” I ask.

    “It is a rocket ship taking us to the moon and people are throwing snowballs at us,” he answers.

    “I love it.” And I do.

    I am not sure how my rock collection gave away to the artistic expression or how to explain if snow could or could not land on a spaceship.

    This was his understanding of our conversation. A new world has came alive.

    He has started kindergarten and real time replaces the abstract. School supply list- a plastic, red folder. 24 twistable Crayola crayons. Room- # 223. Rules- three warnings and then time out. “Zero-voice” in halls. 10:45 am- lunch. Curriculum- Science and Math in Spanish. Reading and Writing in English. Estoy contento. There is a correct way to say contento. He will be corrected.

    Before his first day he asks me how to open a 3-ring binder. There is a correct way to do this too. By the end of the day he is tired. There seems to be less time to chat and rummage through a box of rocks.

    In her poetry collection, Life on Mars, Tracy K. Smith writes, “We move in an out of our rooms, leaving our dust, our voices pooled on sills. We hurry from door to door in a downpour.”

    I read this and think about how badly I am getting drenched. My forgotten voice, my racing legs. Where am I going? In and out. Drop off kids at school. Change dirty diaper. Nurse the baby. Time to cook, for who else is going to cook?  Cook dinner. Stop, snap a picture.

    And now he has homework. He knows the bad kids and the good kids. He joins the race. The downpour continues. We both get drenched.

    We race for explanations and for the finite moments, to explain and to store memories. When are we left to imagine, believing in what you can not see?

    As a teenager I read Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon when I heard about Heaven’s Gate cult mass suicide.  Thirty-nine individuals from Heaven’s Gate took their lives with the belief they could reach an alien spacecraft following the comet Hale-Bopp.  I watched the news coverage from a condo in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. It was my spring break. I obsessed over the news reports when I was supposed to be snow skiing. I tried to imagine the world was really going to end.  It seemed crazy. It seemed unimaginable.

    But as I dismissed the cult members as lunatics I read Song of Solomon engrossed with the character of Pilate, the woman born without a navel. “She was a like a large black tree,” Morrison writes.

    I tried to imagine such a woman. I remember feeling small and that the world was large. I did not know how 39 people could kill themselves. I did not know if a woman could really be born with a smooth stomach.

    I was 18 and and my world was being deconstructed.

    And now here I am again. I have a five year-old to remind me to raise my eyes a bit. To look a little farther. He needs to see outside the present moment. He wants to see a dinosaur. He wants to know how you get to heaven. On an airplane? I need to get him there. Life past our five senses.

    I pick him up for school and he tells me about the fire drill and sings, “Down by the banks where the watermelon grows…” It is his favorite from preschool. He tells me about the school rules and what he had for lunch. I watch him fasten his seatbelt and we drive in silence.

    When we get home I put away the book bag and the homework and we walk outside.We dig at ants, we suck on popsicles. We smell cut grass. The sound of rockets in sky become catalyst for the microcosm of the unknown. He asks if the rocket ship can see us. He asks if I would rather be a bird or a rocket.

    What a damn good question! I tell him a bird.

    He begins to climb our crab- apple tree.

    In two years, he will probably not want me to watch him climb the tree.

    In five years, he will have soccer or band or art practice after school.

    In ten years, he will have his driving license. He will not want to climb the tree.

    In fifteen years, he will will likely be living elsewhere.

    He sticks an apple in his pocket. I do not tell him that the apple will not fare well in this pocket. He finds another apple to store away and climbs closer to the sky.

    FullSizeRender (17)Kathryn lives in Lexington, Kentucky with her three sons and husband. On good days she writes about religion, mothering, and the natural world. You can find more of her work in Brain, Child and Literary Mama. Visit her blog at http://thisisenough.weebly.com/

  • Announcing the HerStories Project Writing Contest Winners… and a Book Cover Reveal!

    MOTHERINGTHRUDARK
    Presenting our book cover!

     

     

    More than six months ago, we put out a call for submissions for our next book, Mothering Through the Darkness: Women Open Up About the Postpartum Experience, to be published by She Writes Press in November 2015. We also announced that we would be sponsoring a writing contest, associated with the book, to be judged by a panel of several of our favorite writers, women who also experienced postpartum struggles of their own: novelist Julia Fierro (author of one of the most anticipated novels of last year, Cutting Teeth), journalist and author Lisa Belkin, author Kate Hopper, author Katrina Alcorn (author of Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink), writer and clinical psychologist Dr. Jessica Zucker, and blogger and writer Lindsey Mead.

    We knew we would receive powerful stories of women’s experiences with postpartum depression and other mental health struggles. But we were completely unprepared for how many beautiful essays we would receive (more than 200) and by the inspiration and pain in these stories. We were, in a word, overwhelmed.

    And we knew our judges had their work cut out for them. We assembled a selection of finalist essays. We heard right away from the judges about how difficult it was to choose just a few essays because they were all so brave, so important, and so powerful.

    We are so thrilled to announce our first-prize winner, Maggie Smith, for her essay “Here Comes the Sun.” Here’s what our judge Julia Fierro had to say about Maggie’s essay:

    I love the simplicity of the language here, which, along with the matter-of-fact tone and episodic structure, inspires trust in the reader. I believed the honesty here. But the details are anything but simple–they are unique to the narrator and her experience (the figurative language- the apples!) and that made me feel as if I was allowed access into the intimate world of her love and pain and loss and joy.

    Here is an excerpt from Maggie’s beautiful essay:

    I can’t find the notebook.

    My husband threw it away, or I threw it away, or it threw itself away.

    With my son I wrote everything down: every feeding, what time he started, what time he finished, when he burped, when he spit up, what the spit up looked like, when he peed, when he pooped, what the poop looked like, when he cried, what his cry sounded like, when he slept, what position he slept in, when he woke.

    If I wrote everything down, I would see The Pattern. The Pattern That Would Make Him Happy. The Pattern That Would Make Him Sleep.

    The Pattern That Would Fix Him.

    The Pattern That Would Fix Me.

    Maggie is an accomplished poet, but, amazingly, this is her first personal essay. Maggie Smith’s second book of poems, The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison (Tupelo Press, April 2015) was selected by Kimiko Hahn as the winner of the Dorset Prize. She is also the author of Lamp of the Body (Red Hen Press, 2005), winner of the Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award, and three prizewinning chapbooks, the latest of which is Disasterology (Dream Horse Press, forthcoming 2015). A 2011 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow in poetry, Maggie has also received four Individual Excellence Awards from the Ohio Arts Council and fellowships from the Sustainable Arts Foundation and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She lives with her husband and two children in Bexley, Ohio, where she works as a freelance writer and editor. You can find her at her website, on Twitter @maggiesmithpoet, and on Facebook.

    Maggie Smith_photo by Studio127 Photography

     

    Our second place essay is “Life With No Room” by Celeste McLean.

    Celeste Noelani McLean is the woman behind RunningNekkid, where she explores the intersection of grief, mental health, and her Pacific Islander ancestry. Her writing has been featured on Blog Her and has appeared in SisterWives Speak and Stigma Fighters. She left her island paradise home over twenty years ago and has been trying to figure out how to get back ever since. She currently lives in Seattle with her husband Ian, where they raise two children, grieve one, and make each other very, very happy. You can find her at her blog http://www.RunningNekkid.com or on Twitter @runningnekkid.

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    Dr. Jessica Zucker said this about Celeste’s essay:

    This essay left me speechless from the very beginning. Poignant, poetic, earnest, soft. She does an exemplary job of taking us through her journey wrapping around and all the while gleaning cogent and complicated insights. Truly remarkable.

    Here is a passage from “Life with No Room”:

    I nurse the baby in front of my therapist and we talk about my second son, the one who died. About how much my new baby looks like him, and how much I want him back. I want both of my babies. But I also want none of my babies. I am tired of babies. Bone tired. I want to be dead.I want to be dead, and I admit to this in a way, and it is so embarrassing to admit this. But also, it is a relief. I have spoken these words and I have not died. I do not want to die any more than I wanted to die in that moment before I said it. And, miraculously, nobody came to take away my children. I want to be dead, but I also do not want to be dead. I want all of my babies and I want none of them.

    I am afraid of the baby waking. I am afraid of the baby not waking.

    Our third-place winner is Jen Simon, for her essay, “It Got Better, But It Took a Long Time To Get Good.” Julia Fierro describes her piece:

    I think the “arc” of the story shows the infinite varieties in even just a few years of a mother’s life. How things can go from “terrible” to “okay” to good” to “bad” to “great.” And how a mother can feel both love and regret simultaneously. I love that the essay allows the narrator to have some perspective, which gives the reader a hint of the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak.

    Jen Simon is a Huffington Post blogger and a Babble contributor. A freelance writer, her work has appeared on Scary Mommy, Elephant Journal, Your Tango, The Frisky, Kveller, Nerve, Women’s Health Online, and more. Mothering Through The Darkness is her fourth anthology, her second with the HerStories Project. Jen stays home with her sons – a toddler and a sleep-challenged 5 year old.

    You can see more of her work at JenSimonWriter.com. Follow her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/jensimonwriter and on Twitter @NoSleepInBklyn.

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    Here is an excerpt from Jen’s powerful essay:

    I’m not sure what to do with him, so I do all the things I think I’m supposed to do. I dress him as a miniature version of my friends in jeans and hoodies and socks that look like Vans. We go to playgrounds where I push him on swings. We go to baby music classes and sing silly songs. We go to baby gym classes where I grab him, kiss him all over until his laugh, his unmistakable all-consuming belly laugh, fills the room and the other moms and nannies give us approving smiles. Do you see me? I think, Am I doing this right? I tell myself I’ll just fake it until it feels right, but it never does.

    I recently stopped nursing, my broken body no  longer producing milk, so I buy organic formula and feed it to my son in BPA, Phalate-free bottles. All of his food and my cleaning supplies boast that they are “organic” or “natural”or “green.” Maybe if I can do all the “right” things for him, I can start feeling the right way about him. But the truth is I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel about him because I don’t have feelings for anything. And no belly laughs or Plum Organic pouch or tambourine sing-a-long can fix that.

    Every day, I kiss his smiling face while actively regretting having him. It is horrifying. I am simultaneously empty and brimming over with hate and anger. Every day is filled with these disparities.

    Thank you so much to every woman who submitted her story and to the judges who offered up their valuable time and insights. Stay tuned for the announcement of the rest of the contributors to the book later in the month….

     Did you hear the news that My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends has been chosen as a Finalist for INDIEFAB Book of the Year?

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