Essays

  • Big Girl Friendships

    Vicky

    We love today’s essay from Vicky Willenberg of The Pursuit of Normal. Vicky’s writing style is so unique and relatable, and  her thoughts on how friendships change through the years really resonated with us. How have your friendships evolved since childhood? Did you have a “grown-up” friend who helped you navigate new motherhood?

    I was 8 years old the first time I made the walk from the bus stop to my house in tears because I was being made fun of by my “best friend” and the crew that picked her side in our latest argument.  It was less than 2 weeks later when it was my turn to be on the “winning side” as she made the same walk of shame.

    I was 15 when my high school friend returned from studying abroad for the summer and didn’t call me as soon as she unpacked.  She didn’t call for over a week, as a matter of fact.

    I was 20 when my college friend hooked up with a guy I met earlier in the night and then proceeded to tell me she did it knowing I’d forgive her because that’s just how I am.

    I was 22 when a misunderstanding led to 15 years of no communication with someone who was one of my closest friends and had a starring role in my best memories of college.

    In between all these painful memories are years and years of laughter and fun times. I had wonderful friends and great experiences. But these friendships all felt so fragile- like they would break under the slightest weight of judgment or mistakes. I couldn’t help but wonder if it would always be like this.

    I was 23 when I met my first grown up best friend.  It changed the way I defined friendship forever. What’s the difference between little girl friendships and big girl friendships?  The difference is everything.  When I reflect on the little girl relationships of my past, they hang on hooks of laughter, sleepovers, silly arguments, crushes and broken hearts, and ever-changing cliques.  They are no less valuable than the friendships of a big girl and they served their purpose in defining who I am. However, we were children, so our friendships were founded on childish things and in turn, they lacked depth.

    At 23, the friendship I developed was built upon the things of grown ups: faith, marriage, relationships and career. I was no longer working through how to define myself nor experimenting with philosophies.  It was time to take who I was and turn it loose on the world. This was a scary time for me.  I was picking a career, not a job.  I was getting married, not deciding whether or not to give someone my phone number. The risks were bigger and the cost of failure was greater. This was the time in my life that I needed the best people on my side. Those who would cheer for me when I succeeded, encourage me when I was losing faith and catch me when I fell.

    Just a year or two ahead of me in most things, my grown up best friend had the wisdom of someone with experience and the understanding of someone who had only recently been through it.  She helped me through newlywed fights and decorating first homes, “we hired someone else” and “why doesn’t he just know what I need”. And we had loads of fun- yoga, Spin, kickboxing, pedicures, weekend BBQ’s and introducing the husbands. The two of us became the 4 of us which quickly became a lot of us as we shared friends and brought in new people. All grown ups with grown up lives and grown up friendships.

    I was 29 when I had my first child.  I was not the first of my grown up friends to have a baby, nor was I the last.  But it was MY first child and I was overwhelmed.  Nothing prepared me for all the parts of my life that would change.  I knew sleep would become a distant memory as would my waistline. I expected the strain on my marriage as roles and expectations were defined, redefined and then redefined again.  I was prepared to mourn the loss of my career while embracing the choice to stay home.  What I did not expect, what I was not prepared for, was feeling the heavy burden of responsibility that came along with becoming a mother.  For me, it was crushing.  Every decision, no matter how trivial, felt monumental and I felt like I had to “get it right.”  Whether it was sleep training or nursing, playgroups or discipline- it all felt so incredibly big, so incredibly impossible.

    However, I was not alone in this.  The burden wasn’t solely mine.  I had a wonderful husband who, although often confused about why I was so upset, encouraged and comforted me.  I had a mother who supported and educated me. But most important, I had a grown up best friend- my person. And my best friend knew me- truly knew me.  This was the friend with whom my fears and frustrations could be laid bare.  This was the friendship that kept my head above water with encouraging words and a frustrated “calm down” when necessary.  This friendship was the safe place within which I could release frustrated tears and whisper my greatest fears- I didn’t love being a mom and I think there might be something wrong with me.  This was the voice on the other end of the phone that told me I was normal, everyone felt like me, I wasn’t a bad mom and it was ok if I needed help. This friendship was authentic and reliable. It was my safe harbor in the storms of life.

    The little girl friendships of my youth were not built on unfiltered honesty, unwavering loyalty and fierce protection. In fact, many of those friendships never survived the challenges of the grown up world.  It was the big girl friendship developed in the grown up world of marriage and solidified through the universal battles of motherhood that was my strength when life felt too big and too much to handle.

     

    Vicky Willenberg is a wife, mother and wannabe writer who lives in Southern California. You can find her chronicling her adventures in raising two kids while still growing up herself on her blog The Pursuit of Normal and on Facebook.

     

  • Friendship, Immigration, and New Motherhood

     

    November 2012 044LR

    We are thrilled to be featuring a  HerStories friendship essay today from Katia of IAMTHEMILK. Both of us are big fans of Katia’s writing; Stephanie considers her to be a true “kindred spirit” in the blog world, and is grateful to have made a real connection with her. Katia writes beautifully and honestly about motherhood. Enjoy her essay about finding friendship after immigrating to a new country. 

     

    My mom recently read an article about good and bad money karma. She called me from overseas, all excited because life was making so much more sense all of a sudden. There’s one thing I know for sure, without relying on any articles. I’ve got a kickass friendship karma. Yes, my friendship karma can kick another friendship karma’s ass. Is that where I say that the irony’s not lost on me? Because I’ve been waiting to use that.

    Six years ago I’ve moved from Israel to Canada. Despite growing up in a family of immigrants there were still certain aspects of my own immigration that I wasn’t completely prepared for when I relocated. Granted, I knew it was going to be lonely at first, but I didn’t know what shape exactly this loneliness was going to assume. My husband and I had each other and two couples of friends who had moved here prior to us, but during those first days it felt, more than anything else, very much like being stranded on a deserted island. Realizations started pouring in: the phone wasn’t going to ring nearly as often. I wasn’t going to run into anyone I knew on the street or on the subway. In fact, being amongst the masses on public transit was when I felt my loneliest, looking at hundreds of faces, knowing without any doubt that I wasn’t going to recognize any of them. And that’s when friendship Karma stepped in.

    My friends and family back home took on the role of a support group, some of them serving as my long distance cheerleaders, others as life coaches, therapists, stylists, and occasionally even as my book club.

    And then something truly remarkable happened. I’ve met not one but five instant friends. I don’t want to talk about birds, stones and killing in a post about friendship, but you catch the drift. Friendship Karma really outdid herself on that one. An invitation extended to me and five other women through an online meetup group by a stranger to her house outside the city (with a two hour commute), did not end up on Unsolved Mysteries, ending instead in one of the most rewarding experiences I could have wished for. Knowing that I came to a new country and built such strong relationships from scratch was one of my proudest achievements. Stepping way outside of my comfort zone and joining a meetup group in the first place was empowering. Realizing I have Friendship Karma on my side was gratifying.

    My newborn friendships created a home for me in a strange country. The sea of unfamiliar faces became a harmless background, a non issue, a screensaver.

    And two years later there was a newborn who brought about unimaginable joy and fulfillment, and a maternity leave that brought about a newborn loneliness. My parent friends were scattered in the far ends of the city, my non-parent ones were incredibly supportive but often busy with work and school and all of a sudden I was that new comer girl missing her mommy again.

    You can get a dog and read as many parenting books as you’ll find and you still won’t be prepared for the totality of this experience, the overnight not life change but change of a life, your new 24/7 job that comes with no training. But once again Karma had my back. Through Gymboree, where I was taking my baby son for Mommy and Me classes, and through another online meetup group, New and Expecting Moms – Toronto, I had instant advisors: amateur lactation consultants, self taught early childhood educators, non certified nutritionists, behavioural psychologists all of them right there, within an arm’s reach, available for an email exchange regarding what to do when your 8-month-old freaks himself out not being able to sit back down, or for a coffee and vent session about sleep deprivation, not to mention the same support group back home providing long distance help because babies sleep deprive everywhere.

    Being a new mother can be a lonely experience. Being a new mother without your family in a new country or city can be even lonelier. Maybe your friendship karma isn’t great, but it doesn’t mean you can’t call on the friendship fairy or pray to the friendship Goddess. Either way they won’t help those who won’t help themselves. If you are lonely, step outside of your comfort zone; take it from me, sign up for an online meetup group and as many forums as you can. You may not meet your soul mate, but you’ll find support. Moms are good like that. And if that doesn’t help, email me, I’ve been there.

     

    Katia is a mother of two boys, 4 Year Old and 9 Month Old. She writes about them and occasionally about her husband, 36 Year Old. Currently on mat leave, she’s fulfilling a lifelong dream to write and make people laugh. And sometimes cry, which was not her dream nor intention. She was published on: Scary Mommy, AOL Parentdish UK, Mamapedia and Life Well Blogged. The serious stuff Katia writes about includes immigration, fertility, miscarriage. Visit her blog at IAMTHEMILK.

     

    Enhanced by Zemanta
  • The Goats: A “Herd” Story of Friendship

    Our essay today comes from Kelly of My Soulful Home.  Have you ever belonged to a group of friends who encouraged you to try new things and take on new adventures that you would never do on your own?

    Freedom is the word I keep coming back to when thinking of my very special group of friends, the Goats.  The freedom to be adventurous; freedom to be exactly who we are; and freedom to laugh until it hurts.  We give each other those freedoms and so much more.

    DSC02430
    Mount Whitney

    The Goats are a group of moms, some of whom did not even know each other when we got together four years ago to climb Mount Whitney.  The climb was incidental to the experience, but by way of background Mt. Whitney is the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States.  None, except one, had ever climbed a mountain before September 17th 2009, but that is not the story.

    The story is the deep bond that was formed.  We started out as seven women and came down that steep mountain 17 hours later as a “herd”.  We have never looked back.

    The invitation to climb a mountain from a woman I knew only casually came out of nowhere.  As did the name “the Goats”.  It is not as if we were looking for a name.  While it all seemed random, the group, the climb, the name now I know it was destiny at work.

    DSC02454There is simply no way that this group just came together by happenstance.  This sounds kooky, but I believe we were destined to be brought together.  Nothing else in my mind can explain the indefinable, yet discernable dynamic that is evident even to other people.  Many have asked to join the group (ie herd), but you just can’t join.  It is not like that.

    In between mothering, marriage, car pools, volunteering and all the other domestic duties, the Goats have managed to not only climb Mt. Whitney, but also scale Half Dome, traverse the Grand Canyon (in one day because we had to be back for soccer), complete a triathlon and many lesser adventures in between.

    The in between is often the best part, as there is always a birthday to celebrate, white elephant gift exchange to laugh through, a show case house to tour and really any excuse to get together.

    With families, responsibilities, bills, laundry and all that, having the opportunity to leave our comfort zone by ourselves is rare.  As a ‘herd’ we do things we would never even think of doing.  The group energy is powerful, and we really feel we can do anything together.

    IMG_0507At a stage when life becomes predictable, friendships take a backseat and laughing so hard it hurts doesn’t happen all that often, I have found adventure, acceptance and side splitting silliness. The Goats have enhanced my life in so many ways.  I know they each have my back on the trail and off, and I have theirs.

     

     

    me-150x150Donning rose colored glasses while sipping from a glass 1/2 full of lemonade, Kelly navigates marriage, motherhood and the world at large.   Formerly an attorney, she is presently an Esty entrepreneur and new blogger always noodling on creative pursuits.  Kelly is a hunter & gatherer of all things vintage, rusty, charming & imperfectly divine.  Her home is her ‘castle’, and she relishes the time spent in it and working on it.  Never without a project in  mind, she seeks to create a home reflective of her heart, mind & soul & that of her family. Her website is My Soulful Home.

  • The Case For A Friendship Break

    We are so excited to have writer and blogger Nina Badzin with us on HerStories today.  I first became acquainted with Nina’s writing when I was desperately trying as a new blogger to make sense of Twitter.  Within 15 minutes of reading about how to use Twitter with Nina’s guidance, social media etiquette started to make more sense.  Then I started reading some of her parenting articles and essays, such as her Huffington Post piece  that was part of the This Is Childhood series.  Soon I was in awe of her literary skills and reached out to her on Twitter, and I quickly learned that Nina is as generous in spirit and time to her writing peers, as she is in her essays.

    -Jessica

     

    We’re delighted to learn more about the potential value of “friendship breaks” from Nina:

     

    The Case For A Friendship Break
    by Nina Badzin

    Some former friends (okay, most former ones) are best left in the past. But sometimes an old friend can haunt you.  She’s the friend that got away. She’s the one that’s worth getting back.

    I met Becky in August 1995 on the day we moved a few rooms apart in the same freshman dorm. I can still envision her standing at my door introducing herself. “I was born in Highland Park!” she said, referring to the cutesy door signs our resident advisors made about our hometowns.

    Speaking more quickly than I did, which I had never thought possible, Becky explained that her parents moved her family from Highland Park (in Chicago) to Maryland. We marveled at the idea that we could have grown up together. That plus our instant chemistry lent a certain inevitability to our bond.

    We claimed each other in that unspoken way that girls (and women) do when they become close quickly. We went to every party together. Ate every meal together. Obsessed about boyfriends together. We were each other’s home base in those first months, then years, away from home.

    Our rift didn’t happen with a fight over a guy or something easy to name. An “incident” to reference would have been a comfort. No, instead our growing apart felt like a deep judgement on the people we were each trying to become.

    It began slowly while Becky was abroad for a semester in Jerusalem and I was in Santiago. We came back for our senior year in different mindsets. I decided not to take the LSAT. I dropped my senior thesis (that I had spent eight months researching in Santiago). Within the first few months of our senior year, I met Bryan, whom I would end up marrying exactly two years later so you can imagine that he had become a big focus of my time.

    Becky had a serious boyfriend too, but she was going through her own strange year. We bickered a lot, doing a poor job of letting the other one grow and change. Becky would admit that she was harder on me than necessary that year. I can admit that I was a party-pooper to put it mildly.

    After college our long distance friendship felt forced, but since I didn’t know how to let things drift to a natural end, I did something a bit dramatic. Essentially, I told Becky that I didn’t think we should stay friends. My “wish” came true. We were not in each other’s lives during my engagement or when I got married. I’ve been married for twelve years and I still can’t believe Becky wasn’t there. It doesn’t seem possible considering how close we are now.

    Author Julie Klam writes in her memoir Friendkeeping, “There is something to be said for having ‘breaks’ in friendships. Sometimes you find there are things you need to do in your life and a certain friend may not support that change, at that moment anyway. It is very fair to allow people to grow and change, but it’s nice to be able to come back home again, too.”

    After about two years, I missed Becky terribly. As Julie Klam put so well, I wanted to “come back home.” I took a chance that she felt the same way and sent her a handwritten letter explaining how much our friendship had meant to me. I asked her to forgive me for not seeing a different way to handle my need for time apart years earlier.

    Becky never wrote me back. I had set the terms for our break and now she had the right to determine if and when we would reconcile.

    I think a year passed with no word from Becky, but when two of our mutual close friends had weddings planned for the same summer, there was no avoiding each other. During the first of those weekends we hugged (awkwardly) and decided to go for walk. By the end of that walk, our break was over. Becky addressed some of what I had written in the letter, but we honestly didn’t harp on the past too much. We agreed, (with ridiculous amounts of maturity!) that however difficult and hurtful our “break” had been, it had served its purpose. We had ended up with time to grow into ourselves in ways that were hard for the other one to understand and therefore support.

    B & N option 1Our original chemistry was back in full force and we found that we led similar lives with similar values. Bryan and I attended her wedding the next year. Our firstborn children (eight years old now) were born only months apart. We’re now both moms of four and we’ve been there for each other (emotionally though not physically) after the births of each child in those first ugly months when everything makes you cry. We can go two months without talking then speak every day for a week as we try to get to the end of one simple story.

    I feel Becky’s college influence on my life even now. I had always admired how analytical Becky was, how bright, how proud of her Judaism. That I send my kids to a Jewish parochial school is directly connected to Becky. I wanted my children, like Becky, to move confidently and intelligently around all the details of our religion and culture from the ins and outs of the Hebrew language to a deep knowledge and understanding of why we do what we do.

    If that was all Becky had given me it would have been enough. But she gave me so much more. She gave our friendship a second chance. For that and so much more she has my deepest respect, gratitude and love.

     

     

    Badzin125

    Nina Badzin is a writer living in Minneapolis with her husband and four children. Her essays on parenting, marriage, friendship, healthy habits, social media etiquette, Jewish life and more appear in the Huffington Post, Kveller.com, The Jewish Daily forward and numerous other sites. You can find Nina posting weekly on her blog, or chatting away on Twitter, and on Facebook.

    Enhanced by Zemanta
  • How My “Grief Twin” Helped Me Mourn My Dad

    Originally published on March 12, 2013 by Jessica Smock.

    When someone you love becomes terminally ill, a lot of people respond by talking about it all the time.  They can’t stop sharing details about their loved one, their illness, the experience of death, and grief.  Others turn inward and process their emotions by thinking about and talking about anything else.  They share small moments here and there of their private grief, but for the most part, they keep their experience walled off from their relationships with other people.

    Read more of Jessica’s HerStories essay about a friend who helped her through a time of grief here.