Recipes for moms who hate to cook

My first husband was a chef, and I got married when I was 23, so I really never had to spend my time cooking much. I love to eat, but I hate slaving away at something that is going to be gone in 10 minutes, if I’m lucky. 

But now that I have 3 kids and not a lot of time on my hands, I’ve had to really get focused and intentional on our meals so that we don’t end up with mac and cheese or pizza for dinner 5 nights a week. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes they get mac and cheese for lunch 5 days a week, but not dinner. And probably only because I don’t like it. 

So when I was preparing to go back to work after my maternity leave last year, I decided I wanted to try my hand at meal prepping. I found some great recipes on Pinterest for crock pot meals (the only “cooking” I really do), and I headed to Costco to load up on beef and chicken to make a dozen meals. 

Let me tell you now, if you’re just starting out with meal prep, don’t try to do 12 meals at once. I’m pretty sure it took me 4 hours and my entire Sunday of free time. But, you could get away with doing 6 meals—making two recipes and making each one three times! I do that often with taco meat when I have ground beef that needs to be used up. I stick it all in a pan and brown it up and separate it into freezer bags.

TIP: Get brand name freezer bags, preferably ones with a zipper so you don’t end up with leaks. 

I have several go-to meals that are always a hit with my family to help kickstart your meal prep

1. Mexican Chicken Chili

This one is a family favorite, and it’s completely flexible based on the ingredients you have. I almost always forget to add cheese (since it gets added day of), and sometimes I don’t have any peppers or onions. In fact, I usually just throw in some onion flakes. The one trick with this recipe is that you need to allow ONE HOUR at the end of the day to finish this recipe since you cook cornbread on top and set the timer to HIGH for one hour. It’s so good though, and everyone in our family loves it!

2. Honey Sesame Chicken

There are a ton of recipes out there for this one, which is again what I love about crock pot meals—it’s hard to mess up! I throw in a package of chicken breasts (of the 3 pack you get at Costco), about a cup of honey, a cup or two of ketchup, and some soy sauce. I’ve never even had sesame seeds on hand to add them at the end!

3. Cheesy Chicken and Rice

This isn’t one I’ve ever made as a freezer meal, but it’s super simple and one a non-cook could easily wow their family with. This is what I made for my husband the first time I cooked for him when we were first dating! You’ll need chicken, Yellow Rice, corn, a can of cream of chicken, and some shredded cheddar cheese. You could easily freeze the chicken, corn, and cream of chicken and then just cook the rice and add the cheese day of. I also save a few calories by making this with fat free cream of chicken, and I usually cook the rice the night before so it’s one less thing to do for dinner prep on the day of.

And so we don’t forget dessert…

4. Marshmallow peanut butter balls

My cousin introduced me to these heavenly bites years ago, and I make them for parties, holidays, and pretty much any event I can get away with. 

1 package white chocolate chips (or melting chocolate)

1 cup peanut butter

2 cups rice krispies

2 cups mini marshmallows

*wax paper and baking sheets

  1. Melt Chocolate (I’m lazy and just microwave, stirring occasionally)
  2. Add peanut butter, stir until smooth
  3. Mix in rice krispies and marshmallows
  4. Drop by the tablespoon onto wax paper in a baking sheet
  5. Chill in refrigerator (not freezer) until firm

After I drop them on the baking sheet, I add sprinkles based on the holiday or event (red and green for Christmas, for example).

One time I ran out of peanut butter in the middle of making these, and it still turned out great with only a half cup. 

So there you go. Just a few of my favorites that are staples at my house. I usually mix these in with fresh fish (salmon in the oven literally requires NOTHING added to it), spaghetti or gnocchi, tacos, and one night of pizza or other take out. And whenever I can, I take others up on their willingness to invite us over for a meal… and bring the peanut butter marshmallow dessert!

Trusting my gut: Handling the divorce process with an alcoholic

Apparently, I don’t always have the best judgement. When I was eleven, I liked Tonya Harding and thought for sure she was innocent. Now, she does shit like celebrity boxing. When I was in the 5th grade and watched the white Bronco speeding down the highway, I didn’t think OJ was a murderer.

“Why would he do that?” I thought.

I wanted to believe the best in people and did not know how cruel the world was.
As an adult, I still pretty much see the world that way. For years, I hid myself from the truth in front of me because I wanted to believe everything my husband told me—about his anxiety, about giving up liquor, about drinking less than one beer. It hurts that I almost let him break that good spirit in me, and for that alone, I knew I could never be with him again.

Even though I knew I couldn’t be with him again, in the back of my mind, I was always left
wondering, “But Ashley, what if he never takes a drink again? What if you ruin your kids’ chances of having a two-parent household because you’re stubborn?”

Having a protective order really helped me keep my resolve through everything, and I know that’s not something that a lot of women have the “luxury” of having as they go through a divorce. If I’d been communicating with him, we may have gotten along or maybe we would have fought. He may have broken sobriety sooner. I have no idea, but I hypothesized that dinner once a week would turn in to spending all day Saturday at the house. And then it would be picking someone up from daycare, and it would feel like we were still us. Still broken. Still sad. Still uneven.

I desperately needed to hold on to the fantasy of a good and thoughtful and hardworking man who could love me and my kids, because if I didn’t, I’d for sure lose it. I’d been surviving on fumes for eighty-one days at that point. It felt like forever, but in reality—it was nothing. I had so much work ahead of me. So much exhaustion, and so much strength to find.

But I knew I could do it, and I knew I could make it on my own. The problem now is that I knew how awful and hard it was to be a single parent, and I just didn’t want to do it. But I had to be strong because it was the right thing for all of us.

At this point, I think he was still sober—or at least, trying to be. I stalked him in countless ways to try and get a sense of where his head was and how sobriety may or may not be going, but without seeing him and talking to him, it was a lot harder.

Next up, it was time for our court hearing to discuss custody and child support. Our guardian ad lidem (GAL) was involved, and I felt good about how things would go. Jeff hadn’t gone to rehab as we’d discussed. He barely had a job. Was living at home with his parents—and we could both agree we’d never let the kids stay there overnight because they smoked. For the short term, I had no concerns about the safety of the kids or the court allowing them to stay in my care one hundred percent of the time.

But I was still so concerned how it would turn out. It felt shameful and sad to turn our kids over to the courts. That’s what I’d done. Yes, Jeff caused it, but I did it.

Court was unbearably awkward, and Jeff was in a simply jubilant mood. It was odd—and off—and made me feel like he’d taken a few shots before getting to court to settle his nerves. He rambled on and on when the judge would ask a question and never really made any sense.

I spoke to the GAL about Jeff’s behavior in court, and he said, “Can I tell you something? I thought the same thing [about him being inebriated], but I didn’t know him enough to know if that was just his personality.”

When I told him, no, that definitely wasn’t normal. He said, “Damn, I wish I’d known. I would have had him breathalyzed right then.”

I was so mad at my lawyer. Why didn’t she tell me this was something that gets done? We could have done it day one when we went back in June. We could have done it in August. What a mess. And now I’ll never know if he was drinking before court those days.

A few days later, I woke up to some urgent texts from my mom because Jeff called her at midnight. He appeared to have been his usual drunk self and was agitated, aggressive, and generally made no sense. She was on the phone for an hour with him complaining about the PSA and how he deserved $125,000 from me, how he is going to get custody of his kids, and on and on. Just a general mess.

Obviously hearing all of this confirmed my gut instinct, and I felt proud of myself for trusting it for once. That day, Jeff went to Peyton’s daycare to have lunch, and the toughest part is that the visit was great. Her teacher said that their visit was adorable. He was engaging with her and she had a blast. Once it was time to come in for nap, she started crying and he rubbed her back—and then he started crying too. One of the older assistants came over and sat with her while Jeff was there. Her teacher rocked her after he left and said it caught her off guard how emotional SHE got. For anyone involved, even on the periphery, it was heartbreaking to watch someone fall apart, and it was so obvious he loved his kids, and he could be a great dad. That was the horrible part. He was just throwing it all away.

All that said, I know this teacher dreaded me coming in to pick up Peyton that day and having to tell me all this. She started so positive with how great the visit was… then she got to the “but.”

“Welllllll, I don’t know for sure since I didn’t experience it, but Miss K said she smelled alcohol on him before he left.”

Great. Bless her heart.

Then she said, “But they were outside and so sweaty. It could have just been in his pores from last night.”

Okay, even so. This was someone who was supposedly ninety days sober.

Next, I picked up Ryan, who at this point was still at another in-home nanny and not at the same daycare. Jeff showed up there after his lunch with Peyton, and my nanny said he was an emotional wreck. He came in and just put his head on her shoulder and cried and cried. Eventually she got him to calm down, but she said that was the worst ever.
“I almost offered him a drink just to calm him down,” she joked.

Great, again. Once he was calm, she said he had a great visit with Ryan too. Great dad, bad alcoholic. The nanny finally admitted that she thought she caught a whiff of alcohol too when he was leaving.

His brother tried to remind me not to focus on speculation and only on fact. But let’s be real—that’s how we got into this mess. I knew in my gut what was going on, but until I caught him at 7AM pouring whiskey into his Diet Coke, I didn’t KNOW. Is that really what I wanted to wait for again?

It’s hard to catch a manipulative alcoholic like him. He put all his energy in to hiding it. After that incident, he went radio silent for a few days, and I was worried.

Would I always feel this way?

Would I always wonder if he was drinking?

Did I hope that he was drinking?

That night I rocked Ryan to bed and just cried and loved on him and didn’t want to let him go. All I could do was focus on those kids who needed me to keep a clear head and keep trusting my gut each and every day.

Excerpt taken and modified from my book, The Other Side of the Door

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5 ways to connect with your co-workers right now

It’s a weird time we’re living in right now. Most people still at home. Others who have been in at their place of employment this entire time. I often wonder which side of the coin is preferable, but I guess it varies by person. I’d hate to be working in a restaurant or grocery store right now dealing with entitled customers who refuse to put on their mask. They don’t get paid enough to be treated that way! And no matter how you feel about wearing a mask, the least you can do is be respectful of the people who are just trying to stay out of trouble and do as they are told. 

But since I’ve been at home since March and most likely not returning to an office until at least next summer (which honestly, I can’t even think about), this article will focus on those in my situation—at home, living on Zoom, and trying to manage this whole work-life blend that has come to be the norm.

As an introvert who thrives on intimate connection to others, I continue to find ways to interact with my former seat-mates and now build relationships with my peers who worked in our sister office a few hours away. It’s been an unexpected perk that our two main offices have grown closer since we no longer have a singular divide. The playing field was leveled for sure. 

Here are five simple steps you can take today to check in on your co-workers and start feeling the warm and fuzzies from work again.

1. Coffee chats. Informally, I set up a 30 minute meeting with a friend or two just to get in our chit chat a few times a month. Since I can’t just roll back my chair anymore and ask my friend behind me if she’d seen The Bachelor yet this week, we’re doing it via Zoom. Usually first thing in the morning, hair in a messy bun and in our workout clothes. Formally, there’s a woman on my broader team of about 20 who is coordinating “Coffee Connections” with random people on the team so we can all get to know each other a bit more—which has become increasingly important as new people have joined, roles have shifted, and reorgs have occurred. 

2. Snail mail. Always. A card in the mail to know someone’s thinking about you or praising you for your work. Even better if you throw in a $5 gift card.

3. Slack hellos and memes. The biggest tip for connection is to find a way to NOT focus on work all the time. If your company uses Slack, here are my favorite fun tools: 

Type in “/giphy” followed by whatever you want to say, like: 

      /giphy Happy Birthday

and that will pull up memes related to birthdays. If you want to level up your meme game, the newest I heard last month was adding a caption to your meme! 

     /giphy #caption “Is it Friday yet?” Golden Girls

The “Is it Friday yet?” is your white text, and Slack will look for a meme with The Golden Girls.

4. Regular team meetings and lunches. I know, everyone is sick of happy hours and forced team get-togethers, but if you can do them in small groups of five or less, you’re more likely to be successful. My team has had a lot of luck with Codenames, Scattergories, and Drawful.

5. Be on video. Less fun, but most important. There are people I’ve literally not seen in 5 months. They get on video for 12 seconds before turning it off, and I WANT TO KNOW IF YOU ARE OKAY. Are you in the same sweatshirt every single day? Is there trash piling up behind you? Do you constantly have kids hanging on you? Knowing these things helps me know if you are okay. Do you need something that I can offer? No one is wearing make up anymore, and there’s probably only one out of 10 people on your big team call that got dressed up for the event. Even my VP is in a tank top and a hat every time I see her, and that gives everyone else a little bit more grace to relax and be themselves. 

Nothing about what we are going through is easy. It’s unchartered for even the most seasoned leader, so we each have a responsibility to step up and support each other. 

Drop a note and let me know if you have other ways you’re supporting your co-workers through this temporary-normal. 

The Biggest Struggle I Face with Food

Really and truly, I try not to let food run my life. But 37 years young, and here I am. 

I’ve done it all—low carb, low fat, counted calories, worked out religiously. And still, my weight is within 10 pounds of what it was in high school, which was almost 20 years ago. It makes me wonder why I waste any effort at all thinking about the foods I eat.

Of course, eating healthy is more than just the number of the scale. I care about my heart health, and when I’m unhappy with a number on the scale, I look at the numbers from my most recent blood work and know I’m doing a good job. 

So what’s the struggle? For me, it’s the constant worry and energy I devote to thinking about food. It’s hard to just enjoy the food. If I indulge a bunch of chips and guac or warm, fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies, I stress over what that means for my calories that day. What do I need to skip tomorrow to make up for today?

And while my greatest successes come from tracking calories because it stops the mindless eating, it’s not how I want to live. I don’t want food—or the stress over food—to be front and center in my life.

Over the years, I’ve really loosened up my relationship with food to make it more enjoyable and less of a focus. That doesn’t mean I don’t still think about food constantly. Since my weight has stayed the same plus/minus 10 pounds for 20 years, I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be. And I know when I need to reel it back in. 

COVID has been a prime example of that. Back in March, I was soaking in the time with my kids—making cookies, brownies, pancakes. It was like we were living in that glorious week between Christmas and New Year’s, where you have no idea how much time has passed, and baking fills your days. 

But six months and piles of pounds later, and that behavior can no longer fly. At first, I matched the cookies with long lunchtime walks pushing the baby in his stroller, brownies with HIIT workouts from my phone, and pancakes with lacrosse and soccer in the front yard. But then summer hit. And work became insane. And the novelty of everything kind of wore off. 

So I have been dusting off my bag of tricks lately, something that I realize has become my go-to over the years. For better or for worse, my 10 pound yo-yo is what keeps me in check and from spiraling out of control.

I’ve gotten back on track and strict about counting my macros (Fats, Proteins, and Carbs) along with calories. I know this can’t and won’t be a long term thing, but for the next month, I’m hoping to retrain my brain and get my habits back in a healthier place. And I signed up for a Diet Bet challenge for $35, and if I hit my goal of losing 4% of my weight in that time, then I get to split a pot of over $10,000 with whoever else hits their goal. 

At the end of the day, you’ve got to give yourself some grace. But I also think there’s real value in discovering your happy, healthy weight and knowing when to relax and when you need to get strict and keep yourself in check. 

While there’s no one program I use on an ongoing basis, these are a few of my tried and true:

  1. MyFitnessPal – The free version is plenty. The paid version lets you track your macros by meal and also mark the times that you ate, but that was the main value of the paid over free for me. 
  2. DietBet – This is a fun app that I’d forgotten all about, but it’s really low maintenance and an easy way to motivate yourself through money! You only lose up to the amount you bet (usually $25-50), but if you hit your goal, you at least get that back, and anyone who doesn’t hit their goal, that money goes into the pot for you to split with the others who hit their goal. It’s fun to do this with friends and family, but the large pools are where you can really make money.
  3. Intermittent Fasting – I can still eat and drink what I want, but I just start later in the day, and I can’t mindlessly snack after putting the kids to bed because my eating window has closed. 
  4. Exercise – Whatever you do, just move your body. I’d love to say I do this every day, but I don’t. I do aim for a minimum of three times a week though, and I feel really good when I hit four or five. 

You can follow along with my daily adventures over on Instagram

This isn’t the end for the working mom

I can’t tell you the number of amazing articles I’ve read this summer that chronicle exactly how I feel—overworked, stressed, failing at everything. Working in the corporate world and trying to be an amazing mom right now feels nearly impossible, and when I read the articles about this being the end of the working mom, I find myself nodding along, completely sure that something has to give, and it has to be the mom and wife that gives up her space in the land of W-2s.

But then I pause. I’m angry. This does NOT need to be the end of the working mom. In fact, I would argue it has merely shined a light on the impossible task we have and how we constantly rise up to the challenge.

Is it hard? Of course.

Do I get resentful that my husband gets to go into an office every day? Umm, yes. I remind him regularly how lucky he is.

But do I secretly love that I have to literally hide in my office whenever I have my babysitter here so that my one-year-old doesn’t scream and cry when he sees me because he has become that attached to me over the last six months? Goodness, yes.

My three kids light up when they see me. They always have in a sense, but now it is beyond amplified. I am their everything, and it has felt so good. And even though I feel like I’m failing them when I tell them to get out when I’m on a call (where is your shirt?!) or I need them to watch the baby for a little longer until I can wrap up my work, I know I’m not.

For the last few weeks, my daughter, who is almost 10, has been asking me endless questions about my work. She wants to know all of the jobs available to her at my company. She wants us to offer a training to kids so she can see what the moms and dads are doing all day long since she’s been seeing glimpses of it for months now.

And my heart swells. I’m not failing her. None of us are. These kids are watching how hard we’re working and all that we do as adults on a regular basis. They understand that “corona” has messed up so much, but they also love being home to bake cookies, even if it’s with their babysitter. Then they get to slide open the office door and bring them to me—piping hot and full of pride. They get extra playdates with friends and neighbors, and it feels like an endless summer of old school fun.

Fresh hot cookies show up at my door multiple times a week!

And my one-year-old has been home from daycare for over five months. I remember when my maternity leave ended last year thinking that I’d never have this much time with him again—to study him, to play with him, to be his favorite person in the world. And COVID-19 changed that. Even though I’ve had a babysitter for 3 months, I’m still his #1 gal. It’s just the two of us from the time he wakes up in the morning until he goes down for his first nap, so we have hours to be together. Seeing him grow and learn has been the biggest blessing. And then he and I still end up with at least another hour on our own before dad gets home at the end of the day—where I happily pass him off and try to escape for a while.

A little playtime after work until dad comes home

And then there’s work. While failing as a parent hurts and I feel bad for neglecting them sometimes, I know my kids will always be there loving me and knowing deep down that we love them no matter what. Our jobs don’t exactly reciprocate that.

I know everyone’s work situation is different, and maybe you have a terrible boss or a career that doesn’t have the ability to let you pivot during this incredibly strange season. But I’m thankful to say that hasn’t been my experience.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve never worked harder or put in more hours. But I’ve also never felt as respected as I do right now. My childless co-workers, and even those with older kids, are literally in awe of how I am able to be productive, and those co-workers have gone from cooing at the sweetness of me giving a bottle to my baby back in March to laughing at my kids who come and sit in my chair and try to talk to them in Zoom like they know everyone.

They see the chaos of a working parent, and it’s almost like quarantine has taken the blinders off to what life is like for working parents. Sure, my kids wouldn’t be interrupting me during the work day in an office setting, but at least once a week, some co-worker would see me cringe as I look down at my phone and see the school or daycare number on the screen.

But before this, no one knew those faces or personalities. No one saw the hours we put it at home before coming into the office.

This is the bookcase in my home office and my one-year-old entertaining himself while I answer some early morning emails

But now, the conversation lends itself to a more human-centric approach. With cats and dogs and tiny humans making their way across the screen, the dynamic of work has changed. There’s more grace for what we’re facing, and as it relates to parenting, there’s been an awakening of others to our “first shift” of the day before we even log on to work, and the shift we have as soon as we log off too. They see the reason for our emails at 11pm and 5am. Parents get it done.

Do I have work life balance? No. I don’t think that’s really a thing. I heard someone say recently they aim for harmony in their work and life, and that feels like something to strive for.

How do I feel about the effort I’m putting into each area of my life? Is it right for right now? Dedication to areas of our life ebb and flow over time. Just look at your bathroom scale. All things can’t be top priority all the time. You have to make the choice. And if quarantine life and working from home has shown me anything these last few months, it’s that others are waking up to the prioritization calls that working mothers have to make. And I think that’s a start.

You can follow my daily attempts at finding harmony to this work and parenting thing @theothersideofmotherhood

Goal setting for the new school year

School starts tomorrow for my 2nd and 5th graders. It’s all virtual, and I’m fully prepared for it to be challenging, exciting, and more about adapting and growing as people than actually learning what they’re supposed to.

To prepare them for this new season, my husband and I took them out to dinner last week for a real grownup meal and some goal setting. My daughter and I wore dresses, and I let her have mascara. My son wore a tie and khaki pants, and they both looked so adorable. And since none of us have been remotely dressy since at least March, it was fun to do!

The first learning opportunity of the evening was actually getting dressed, putting on deodorant and taking pride in our appearance. I chose restaurant with cloth napkins and the kids learned how to unroll their silverware and place the napkin in their laps. The looked over the menu and decided what they wanted and what appetizers we should start with.

Napkins in laps and getting ready to order!

All day leading up to dinner, we were all supposed to be thinking about some of our goals, and throughout dinner, we discussed them. When Ryan said his goal was “to read better,” we explained SMART goals and encouraged him to think about how he could become a better reader and what could he accomplish if he was a better reader. In the end, his reading goal was a daily reading time and he wanted to be able to read a specific book by the end of the school year (one that dad and I currently read to him).

They each set 2 school goals and 3 personal goals, and Josh and I each set 4-5 goals too. We focused on things we wanted to accomplish by the end of the calendar year.

A few tips for doing your own goal setting:

  1. Plan in advance: I let the kids know about a week in advance that we were going out to a fancy dinner to discuss our goals for the school year and everything they wanted to accomplish. Then each day I reminded them and asked them to be thinking about their goals. (They still came to dinner with basically nothing, but at least it was on their radar all week.)
  2. Come prepared: I brought each person their own notepad and pen. My second grader has terrible penmanship and can’t spell, so I wrote his out myself, but he still got his own pad at the dinner table.
  3. Provide guidance: What makes something a good goal? What is going to make them really proud at the end of the year? If the goal is to “read better” or “memorize math facts” then what does it take to do that? Be specific and measurable with their goals.
  4. Set goals with them: My husband set a goal of spending 2 hours individually every week with each kid, and they could plan how to use that time. They were thrilled, and they’ll be sure to hold him to that one, which gives him the freedom to do the same with their goals. My daughter is always interested in going for morning runs with me, so we set a goal that she could come twice a week with me. That holds both of us accountable and gives us time together.
  5. Keep them visible: As with any goal, if you don’t keep it top of mind, it won’t get met. Print them out, put them on posterboard, discuss them at dinner every weekend. Anything to keep it front and center for your kids and yourself.
  6. And finally, have fun and add in some rewards. One of my daughter’s goals is around baking every week. She really wants a stand mixer like she’s seen on Nailed It. I told her that if she met her goal and showed me she really did love baking (by actually doing it for the next 9 months!) and she made Honor Roll this year, then we could get one.

Let me know if you try it with your family! I’d love to hear what kind of goals you’ve set. And you can follow along this year with my family to see if we’re achieving what we’ve set out to do!

5 books to inspire and get you through the tough times

Getting lost in a book, highlighter in hand, is one of the true joys in my life! For someone who didn’t like to read until college, I have absolutely made up for it since then. And when I need to escape from life or find my way through a problem, a book is a good place to start. Below are 5 of my favorites—some new and some old—that are perfect for getting through a tough time or just looking to grow or laugh.

  1. Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle. This is the first of three books that Glennon has written over the years, and this one still holds the most special place in my heart. It came into my life at the exact moment I needed it, as my marriage ended and I struggled to understand the complexities of alcoholism. And her incredibly perfect and real way she describes the moments of motherhood made me feel like maybe I was doing things exactly as I should.

It is my favorite moment in life. When you realize, Wow, this is bad. Really, really bad. But we’re still here. We’re gonna make it through. Not over or under or around, but through. And look, we’re even going to smile again.

– Glennon Doyle

2. YOU Are a Badass by Jen Sincero. You have to get over a bit of the way she writes like she’s talking to a 24 year old. Let me say that off the bat. But the girl has some GOOD stuff in this book, and as I’ve gotten older and been through more stuff, the more I believe in what Sincero writes. Putting a good, positive attitude into the world can really change what you can accomplish. And I’ve seen it happen. It’s true. If you believe it, you can do it.

3. Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. Sheryl Sandberg lost her husband in an instant, and she had to deal with unthinkable tragedy, learning to parent her small kids without their loving dad. Her story was always a painful one to me because I felt so much similarity to her situation, but hers felt a million times worse—their love, his parenting… it was filled with joy and in an instant it was gone. This book reminds us all that when the world around is is falling apart, there’s still Option B. There’s something we can focus on to keep above water.

4. Open Book by Jessica Simpson. Okay I have to admit, I LOVED Jessica Simpson back in the day. I’m talking her pre-Nick Lachey days. When she had a song on Dawson’s Creek and didn’t even have an album out. And reading about that moment in her book was so nostalgic. But even if you hadn’t been a Jessica Simpson fan, you will love getting lost in this book. As bougie as Jessica is, she’s also so relatable as you read about her struggles in relationships (John Mayer is everyone’s bad news bear that you just can’t shake!), and reading about her drinking days reminded me once again how secret everyone’s problems are.

5. The Other Side of the Door by Ashley Adams. Yup, my own book. I had to include it in my list because it’s why I wrote the book. By sharing our stories, we make it a little easier for someone else to be brave, to feel less alone. When I walked in on my husband pouring whiskey in a Coke can at 7am, my world turned upside down. And I wrote and wrote and wrote for the next two years hoping one day my story would help someone else. And like Glennon said, it’s not moving above or around the pain, it’s through it. And I have more than smiled again.

10 best gal pal gifts from Amazon

There’s something pretty awesome about being able to order just the right gift with the click of a button from your phone, have it arrive in 2 days, and pay no shipping for it—and know you’re about to make someone’s day!

I, Ashley Adams, am an Amazon-holic. It’s a problem, especially late at night when I can’t sleep or when I’m at work and avoiding a particularly challenging or frustrating project. Lucky for you, that means I’ve stumbled on some pretty awesome gifts over the years!

  1. I am Bachelor-obsessed. All of it. Bachelor, Bachelorette, and of course, the real gem of the franchise, Bachelor in Paradise. And that’s why any fan of the show will love this coloring book!

2. I have 3 kids and rarely get time alone, so when I get a chance to relax, I am likely to grab a book and a bath bomb and fill up my tub with scalding hot water. These are some of my favorites and come at a good price. Trust me, your mom friends will thank you.

3. Not sure about you, but all I’m wearing in my current work-from-home world is a comfy pair of yoga pants, and I haven’t actually practiced yoga in 10 years. Which is why any of my friends or I can appreciate this amazing wine glass after a long day of work.

4. And when cooking is more your thing, this is perfect for the nerd-at-heart Star Wars lover.

5. If you’ve never played Exploding Kittens, you really are missing out. It’s fun for adults, for kids, small groups and larger ones! We’ve been playing as a family since my kids were about 5. Minimal reading is required, and when a smaller member needs some help, they can always pair up or just ask mom to read it to them.

6. And while this next one could be a family affair, I think it seems like a cute at-home date night idea! You might even get lucky and find a Star Wars themed recipe that calls for hot sauce.

7. I have this blanket on our couch downstairs, and it’s just the right mix of stylish and cozy, and at less than $20, it’s the perfect gift for a friend who needs a pick-me-up or a housewarming gift! There are multiple color options to match any decor, but I have this one in “French Blue” and love it.

8. I have the opposite of a green thumb, but love the idea of pretty flowers and greenery in my house, so these succulents are the perfect option for me. And what a fun little treat to get in the mail!

9. I’ve been working from home for quite a while now, and I’m always looking for ways to make my new home office a positive and happy place to be. The succulents above helped, but I always really love this candle with it’s light and refreshing scent to keep me focused and relaxed during the busy day.

10. And finally, I have to give a plug for my own book, The Other Side of the Door. If you have a friend who is going through a tough time in her marriage, getting divorced, or struggling with a family member’s alcoholism, then they probably will really resonate with my story. I’m such a believer is sharing your story and connecting to others. It makes everyone feel less alone and brings out bravery you never knew you had.

As always, thanks for checking out the blog. You can find me on Instagram daily @TheOtherSideofMotherhood

7 things I don’t want to hear you say about my divorce… and 5 things I do

Getting divorced sucks. There’s no way around it. Even if it’s amicable (which most are not), it’s painful—a mourning of a lost life that will never be and a complete venture into the unknown. Except this time, you’re probably doing it with a little more age, wisdom, and probably a kid or two who are forcing you to keep your head above water.

I couldn’t believe the things people thought they could say to me or ask me when I was going through my divorce, even though I knew most of it was just meant to be empathetic or conversational. A lot of it was just out of place or tactless. So, to keep you from making those same mistakes, or to prepare you for what’s coming your way, here’s my list of 7 things you’re guaranteed to hear at some point during your divorce experience. 

#1 “Are you sure you can’t work it out?”

This has several variations and can take a few different tones, but it usually stems from the idea of “divorce is bad and should be avoided at all costs.” And believe me, I get it. Prior to my own divorce, I had this idea in my head that people just didn’t try hard enough. Divorce was the easy way out, and we were meant to keep those vows we said in front of all of our friends and family.

But then it happened to me. And it was so excruciating to go through with that divorce, even though I did it with complete confidence and clarity. And then I led DivorceCare—a support group for those going through divorce, and I quickly learned that divorce isn’t taken lightly and when people go through it, they don’t want to be. There’s often no better alternative. 

So my advice to someone who wants to encourage them to work it out: Withhold judgment. Just listen. However much they want to trust you with is for them to decide. Let t

#2 “He’s so great though!”

Oh this one stung so much. My ex was such a fun and kind person, so I know people meant well when they said this. In my case, my husband was an alcoholic, so leaving was necessary for the well-being of our entire family, but that didn’t change the fact that people thought he was a great guy. And I can think of a handful of people who always reminded me of that.

#3 “I never liked him anyway.” 

Or the alternative, “You deserve better.” There are two ways this conversation goes. In one scenario, it’s simply people trying to make you feel better, like you truly are better off without him. But then there’s this other version of that conversation, where people really decide to tell you how they felt all along. Like, from the time we got engaged you knew it was a mistake and never told me?! That was the time. Now, you don’t get to tell me that. 

That’s not to say I didn’t appreciate when people told me stories about his behavior from time to time. Sometimes it really helped fill in gaps that made my head spin—like hearing he would go out to his car during the work day and drink. I was mortified to know this, when I had no clue at home, but I was glad to know it because it helped me understand the real reason he’d been fired from that job. 

But when in doubt, oooph, just keep the dirty details of his life to yourself. A lot of what I heard just hurt and made me feel stupid, and it didn’t do anything to change my situation.

#4 “Why? What happened?”

Inquiring minds want to know, people! Obviously. And more than likely, your friend will tell you. If not, it’s probably too raw or too personal. Other than my boss and two co-workers, I didn’t mention to a soul at work how my life had fallen apart. It was my escape from life and I did everything I could not to think about him or my single mother future while I was there. And being forced to wait a full year to get divorced made keeping that quiet much easier. And when my name changed on my email a year later, I was better prepared emotionally to handle the questioning. 

#5 Anything about how they feel like a single parents sometimes

Oh, your husband travels for work all week? Works long hours? You have to get the kids to all of their sports and handle homework every night? Man, that’s rough. I’m in the same boat. Except I’m not—I don’t have a spouse who comes home to me on the weekends. My kids no longer have both of their parents’ things in one house. You are still a nuclear family unit, and I’m not. Please, please, please do not compare your situation to mine. 

#6 “How will you afford it? Will you have to move?”

And if you were a stay-at-home parent, add in, “Will you go back to work?”

I was in an incredibly fortunate situation as the breadwinner of my family, but even then, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to keep our house. It was really tight for the first year with two kids in daycare. But I was staying afloat and so proud of myself for keeping my kids’ lives as normal as I could. So when someone asked me this, while so well-intentioned, it was just a reminder that I may not be enough. My kids were going to suffer and pay the price, and it was my fault. I doubt that’s how any of my friends wanted to make me feel, so just don’t ask this question.

#7 “Your poor kids!”

No shit, my poor kids. I know. I know. I know. 

This is a terrible and confusing time, so when in doubt, here are a few supportive things you could say instead:

  1. I love you. You’re amazing. 
  2. Your kids are so lucky to have you.
  3. Do you have someone to talk to? (friend, therapist, pastor)
  4. Can I bring you dinner?
  5. Do you want to talk about it?

You’re going to get through this and your kids are going to be just fine. Know that now. The rest will come.

You can download a free 3 chapter preview of my book, The Other Side of the Door, by clicking here.

Your Intermittent Fasting Cheat Sheet

8 tips to help you succeed at IF

  1. Dirty Fast. If your primary goal in doing IF is to lose weight, then a dirty fast is a great way to make it a bit of an easier lifestyle shift. Dirty fast refers to having a small number of calories, under 50 or 100 depending on where you look, and minimal sugar content. For most, this means something small like putting cream in your coffee. Just remember, a dirty fast likely negates the other health benefits that go along with IF. To stay clean, you should only have water, black coffee, or herbal tea. 
  2. Aim for a 7pm cutoff. For some, eating in the morning is really important and they’re fine to cut off after lunch for the day. But for me, I go the 7pm route for two main reasons. First, it’s important to me that my kids see me eat normally with them, and dinner is our main meal together. Second, I really love consuming my calories at night, so if I tried cutting myself off after lunch, I would really struggle. So pick an eating window that works best for you habits.
  3. Flavored drinks at night. Ok, this is another example of dirty fasting probably, but I have found recently that filling a 32oz. water bottle with a packet of Crystal Light helps me get in a ton of water in the evening, but it’s also sweet and helps curb any evening craving or temptation I may have. It also means I usually have to wake up and pee in the middle of the night! 
  4. Set your calories and track your macros. I know the dream state of IF is that you don’t have to do this, but I find it incredibly beneficial when you’re early in your journey or really aiming for weight loss. It’s important to understand what you’re consuming and make sure that you’re getting enough protein—because you probably aren’t. I’m supposed to have nearly 130 grams per day and I almost never hit that! But, when I was tracking regularly last year, I could drop weight so much faster than I do now. Here’s a very simple calculator to get you started. 
  5. Cheating today makes it harder tomorrow. I hate to break it to you, but the days that I eat late are followed by the toughest mornings! I’m always hungry when I wake up and have a harder time making it to noon, my preferred start time. To try and combat that…
  6. Switch it up. 16:8 is the most popular method, meaning you fast for 16 hours and eat for 8. But on days when I’m feeling good and not hungry, I try and hold out as long as I can. Can I make it to a 20:4? What about a full 24 hour fast? There are a lot of people who do two 24 hour fasts each week but then eat normally the rest of the week (5:2 method). The variety is great for keeping your body on its toes and not getting too comfortable. Then, when you do have a “day off” you don’t wake up the next day having gained 4 pounds.
  7. Protein bars are your friend. Well, the under 200 calorie and over 15g of protein ones are your friends. My go-to is from Costco. It’s the Kirkland’s Signature Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, which is sold in a mixed pack with Brownie flavor. Personally, I hated the Brownie, but my husband likes it so that works well for us. Once you’ve tried a few flavors and know which ones you like, you can order packs of one flavor only from Costco.com, but it’s a $40 40 pack, so it’s risky to try a new flavor that way.
  8. Exercise while fasting. Yes, it feels like the opposite of what you’ve always been told. Eat a banana. Have some peanut butter or yogurt. Nope. Are you training for the Olympics or a marathon? Then you’re probably good to go. In fact, there’s loads of evidence that suggests you get a double benefit of exercising before you eat! It aids in weight loss and in insulin sensitivity. Bonus! This article does a great job breaking it down.

So there you have it! Leave me a comment or let me know over on Instagram how it’s going. Good luck! You’ve got this!