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!

14 Best Baby Products That Didn’t Exist 5 Years Ago

My older two kids are 7 and 9, and I have a one year old. I’m sure that some of these things DID exist 5 or 6 years ago when I was last in the baby haze, but I didn’t have them and they’ve been my game changers this time around.

One of my favorite things about being an “advanced maternal age” mom is that I know what to buy cheap and used and donated from friends and where I’m willing to give someone all my money! What is going to make my life easier? That’s pretty much my motto for parenting these days, and these things all hit the mark!

  1. The Hatch: “The Hatch” is technically a few products now, but the one I’m talking about is the sound machine that’s tied to an app on your phone. My baby is 15 months old and I just realized (out of necessity) that it has a child proof setting so when my kid grabs it, it doesn’t change the sound or light level or turn it off. This is all controlled through their Rest app. You can choose to volume, level of light, set timers, and more. And when your kid is older and you’re trying to teach them when it’s okay to get out of bed, this is now your “Ok to Wake” clock! I also really liked their Hatch Baby app (free) to track feedings, weight and length percentages.

2. Spectra S1 Breastpump: For my first two kids, I was a Medela Freestyle user. I needed something small and portable, and that fit the bill. But my pump sessions were also 30 minutes long. I’d been hearing about this new brand Spectra and ended up getting the S2, which is the pink one and must always be plugged in. If you can swing it with insurance, get the blue S1. It’s battery charged, and I just liked the freedom to move around. Because this is a closed system, you can borrow from a friend and just buy new tubing as well. That’s how I ended up with the S2 to leave at work, and I kept the S1 at home. It was perfect. I only had to remember bottles and accessories and didn’t need to lug the giant thing back and forth each day. Having two pumps was game changing.

**Bonus: what also didn’t exist until this kid is FREE breast pumps and supplies! I went through Aeroflow (shown below) to get my pump and parts for free. They even reach out every few months to see if you’re still nursing and will send you another free set of parts! I never had to buy a thing!

3. Bearsland nursing and maternity clothes: I think this is an Amazon brand, but I am obsessed. They’re cheap and adorable and they work for pregnancy and while nursing, so that’s a double win for me! Even now that I’ve stopped nursing, I still have a few of them that I wear around the house.

Caleb was six days old here! And that’s me in my Bearsland camisole

4. CAKYE Nursing Bras: These are awesome for bedtime or maternity leave when you aren’t leaving the house a ton. I don’t know if they’re great for large boobs, but if you’re a B/small C, then this is probably perfect for you! You can get the 3 pack for around $20.

5. Haakaa: Whatever mama invented this little leaky boob catcher is my hero. You literally suction this cup on to your non-nursing boob and while your little guy is nursing on one side, this cup catches all of your letdown that would otherwise be wasted! You can get anywhere for a half ounce to 4 or 5! I bought this in both available sizes but found I didn’t have enough room to maneuver with the baby. He kept kicking it and breaking the suction, so I recommend the 4 oz size. But spend the extra $10 and get the flower stopper so you don’t cry over spilled milk multiple times like I did before I discovered this tool.

6. Maternity Robe: This Baby Be Mine Maternity Robe may seem like a silly purchase, but it is AMAZING. It’s so soft and it’s a robe, so it’s obviously perfectly fine to use after the baby comes too. I bought this to have something cute and comfy to wear in the hospital, but I bought it a few months earlier and wore it almost daily at the end of my pregnancy and still use it all the time. They have a ton of great patterns. Seriously, it’s so soft and lightweight.

I got a simple blue and white stripe that I wore non-stop at the end of pregnancy and in the hospital

7. My Brest Friend: Ok, so technically I remember Bethenny Frankel singing the praises of this nursing pillow during her TV show Bethenny Ever After and I’m pretty sure her daughter is almost ten, but I wonder if it was just way out of my price point back then or Boppy just had so much market share at the time that it was all I knew. Man, I wish I had this thing for all three kids. It is so far superior to the Boppy that I’m baffled why anyone chooses a Boppy still today. My Brest Friend is firm and designed to actually stay in place (there’s a strap that you put around your waist to hold it up), and it’s much more comfortable holding the baby. Buy this thing.

Sturdy for the siblings to help out too!

8. 4 moms breeze playard: This one is my must have for travel. This travel crib is 3x the price of a Pack ‘n Play, but after 3 kids, I think it was worth every penny! I would literally avoid traveling with my older two because I hated locking the rails in to place that much. This portable crib has one button in the center that you push to lock in place, and you pull it to release. Boom. Done. It’s also slightly longer, which is helpful for my super tall toddler. But (downside) that also means I’m dependent on their sheets, which ain’t cheap. The pack and play sheets most retailers sell are too small. Still, I think it’s worth it! And now I keep it filled as a ball pit when we’re at home so I have a way to contain him!

We are long passed the days where I can be in eye sight and resting and he’ll play happily in here!

9. OXO Space Saving Bottle Rack: I have the green Boon grass thing and love that, but this is super helpful for saving space, since it sits flat against your backsplash in the kitchen. Plus, I would have so many bottles and pump parts at the end of the day that usually I used this in conjunction with the grass drying mat.

10. Baby Basics Care Kit by FridaBaby: I recommend this full kit because I like and used the majority of the products in it, which makes this a better value. The snot sucker definitely didn’t exist when I had my older kids, and it’s so gross, but so genius too. I loved it and used it all winter long! My friend’s husband refused to do it because he was convinced he was sucking the baby’s brains out. My husband would gag. Men… My son didn’t have gas, so I can’t vouch for the the Windy (hilarious name), but my other favorite product in this kit is the nail clipper. You can see exactly where you’re cutting, so you’re less likely nick your little boo.

11. Ethan & Emma Stroller Organizer: My Britax stroller didn’t have a built in cup holder, and I was out walking that baby on a daily basis, soaking in every second of my maternity leave. This one is particularly cool because it uses velcro to attach to your stroller handles and even has a zippered pocket to keep a spare $10 if the ice cream truck comes by.

12. Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit: Magic. For real, actual Harry Potter wizard magic. I was trying ALL OF THEM to get my baby to sleep, had taken all the sleep courses—one of the perks of knowing my sleep was worth spending money to keep trying to find the right sleep sack for my guy. Merlin’s is the funniest looking suit too, which I consider a perk. Made for great pictures. But the little marshmallow slept so great in this thing. I was sad when he started rolling over and we had to retire it.

Do not eat.

13. Zutano’s baby shoes: Baby shoes are the worst. They’re either impossible to get on or impossible to keep on. Except these. Seriously, spend the extra $10-15 because the Target brand doesn’t compare. I ended up with probably 6 of these because once I knew how much I loved them and how they never came off, I started waiting for sales and I’d buy 3 at a time! I don’t think these are good once your baby is walking though. Even though they have grippers on the bottom, you can’t really wear them outside!

Seriously, these guys came off maybe 3 times in 6 months!

13. Miracle 360 cups: These may be obvious because I’m pretty sure every baby has them now, but they were new to me and baby #3. He didn’t take to this immediately off the bottle, but by 12 months, he was rocking it and it’s my go to cup now.

Rocking his pink!

14. Fisher Price Dome: I found this one by accident and it was one of my biggest life savers of the summer since we spend so much time at the pool! This easy to carry, teeny tiny baby crib is perfect for the pool or beach when you’ve got a little bitty boo who isn’t sitting up yet. I brought this almost every day to the pool while the big kids had swim practice, and he could nap here or play with a few toys. It was awesome! We brought it to the beach too, and it was easy to shake the sand out and keep sun off our little dude. There’s a reason it has 5 stars and over 2700 reviews on Amazon!

Gave mommy some rest too!

And there you have it! I could go on and on, but I think my biggest advice is to find things that make it easier to be a mom, and spend your money there. And if you have a neighborhood Facebook page, join it immediately. I can’t tell you the number of free or suuuuuuper cheap things I’ve bought for my son from that page! Spending money on toys he’s going to use for 2 months is a tough pill to swallow, so getting them for $5 makes that so much easier! My son ended up with TOO many toys, so I started quickly swapping out the things he didn’t like to make space.

Congrats on this awesome time! Babies are so freaking exhausting, but they are so cute too! Please stay in touch, and come visit me on Instagram. Shoot me a DM! I want to hear all about your favorite products too!

How to tell if your partner has a drinking problem

What’s the difference between someone who gets hammered and embarrasses you at a party and someone who has a real problem with their drinking?

Is there a difference? Maybe. In this post, I’ll break down the top 3 things that finally got me to face facts that my spouse was a full-fledged alcoholic.

#1 They embarrass you or cause a scene more often than not.

At one of the last weddings that my ex-husband and I attended together, he was so drunk that he grabbed someone else’s jacket off a chair as we were leaving and tried to put it on, even though it was about 5 sizes too small. Earlier in the night, he’d disappeared for a good 30 minutes looking for the bar. I can only guess how many bourbons he had before he found his way back to me.

I’d grown so accustomed to him drinking but functioning normally that I shamelessly didn’t stop him from driving us home most of the time. Thankfully on this particular night, I was newly pregnant and when we started to leave (and decided to drive a friend home!), I knew I needed to take the keys. He snored the entire way back to my friend’s apartment, and I apologized to her for his behavior.

Those are the scenes that are so easy to write off with friends. We’ve all had nights like that, and they don’t need to know that all of his nights out look kind of similar. But I knew. And you probably do too, if this sounds like your life.

#2 Changes in behavior – physical or pyschological

You guys. Whiskey dick is a real thing. If it’s become a thing in your relationship, then drinking could be the cause. In my case, I never really put two and two together until after we had separated, but by the time this became an issue, his drinking had really gone off the deep end.

Psychologically, you may be seeing things like an increase in anxiety or a decrease in general activity level. For several years, I thought my ex was just a really anxious person, and I’m sure he probably was to some extent. However, he used his anxiety as his #1 way to fool me into not recognizing his drinking problem for what it was. Instead, he’d tell me that his medicine made him throw up in the mornings, or it made him overly tired in the evenings when he’d pass out on the couch. Every time I tried to tie something to his drinking, he would shoot back at me with how it was somehow related to his anxiety.

And his overall lack of participation in his life is what really stung. I thought he was just depressed or was having a hard time with symptoms of anxiety, and it was really hard to pinpoint his laziness as a side effect of drinking. He used to take pride in the yard, cutting the grass every weekend, and tinkering with things around the house. At our first house, when we was going through a rough phase, he blamed his lack of “house participation” on just not caring anymore since we knew we’d move soon. But when I was pregnant with our second child, and for weeks I’d been unable to get him to rake the leaves, I was a pretty bitter pregnant wife outside with our 2 year old while I did it myself. He just stayed inside playing video games or watching some marathon on tv.

#3 You just know or worry about it deep in your gut

I really hated snooping. And sometimes, I didn’t even have to. I’d notice how quickly the handle of bourbon was gone, or see the plastic bag that I knew only comes from the ABC Store in the trashcan. Sometimes he’d pass out on the couch and I could pick up his cup and smell it—reeking off booze.

After he’d moved out, I was horrified to find countless (empty) bottles of liquor stored inside of the couch, where he’d cut a slit in the fabric. He spent so much energy making me doubt myself, providing some excuse every time I confronted him. When people ask why it took me so long to leave, I guess that’s a part of it. I loved this man, and I’d committed my life to him. I couldn’t leave on a hunch.

But of course my gut was right. It almost always is. So when I walked in on him pouring whiskey into his coke can at 7am on a weekday morning, there was no excuse he could give. The game was over, and it ended one of two ways—he admitted he was an alcoholic and stopped drinking, or we parted ways.

My particular case was pretty severe, pretty fast. His alcoholism was a slow burn—until it was in the open. He loved me terribly, but his drinking was all-consuming. He drank his first day home after a 28 day in-patient rehab stay, and we separated 5 days later—leaving me at home with an eleven month old and a 3 year old.

He was found dead with a BAC of 0.36 seventeen months later, and he was 36 years old.

My loves, at the end of the day it really is all about trusting your gut. You know—even when they hide it so beautifully. I write all about our relationship, his downfall, and how I got through life as a full-time single parent with two toddlers at home in my book, The Other Side of the Door. It’s available on Amazon and B&N online.

Want the first three chapters of my book “The Other Side of the Door” for free? Click below to have it emailed your way.

The biggest reason dieting doesn’t work

I have been acutely aware of the size of my body, the number on the scale, and the way people focus on weight in general for as long as I can remember. Anyone else?

When I was 14, paranoia about my weight led to me quitting competitive swimming—even though I was full of potential and could have probably made a college team if I wanted. I was 135 pounds when I quit and my body was so strong. And I was so mean to her.

I gained a bit of weight in college, mostly from the drinking and quick service food I ate, but I still worked out all the time. My body was still strong and my heart was healthy. It was just the food I couldn’t get under control.

In comes the wave of South Beach Diet. The “new and improved” Atkins. I decided to give it a try, and I eventually lost 20 pounds just in those first few weeks. This is awesome, I thought.

It was also really freaking hard, and calorie counting was tough. Paying such strict attention to my intake and having to say no to places and events was no fun. And so, after a few months, I was off the South Beach train, and back to just trying to maintain a healthier eating pattern.

I gained back about 10 pounds, but managed to keep off about 20 from my highest. Because here’s the secret that I know now, looking back at my 22 year old body—it has its happy, healthy weight, and restricting my body forever isn’t sustainable.

Today (when I’m on track), I still weigh within 5-10 pounds of what I believe to be my happy, healthy weight. Over the last 15 years, I’ve continued trying different methods of weight loss. Fitness is always a part of my routine, but as the experts tell us—our weight is 80% what we eat, and only 20% exercise. That 20 minute HIIT workout I did this morning is not going to balance out snacking my way through a bag of Doritos or an extra large bowl of frozen yogurt. It’s just not. And that sucks.

When I got pregnant with my third baby, I was terrified to gain weight again. I was 35 this time, not 29, and I had gained 60 pounds with my first two babies. How would I get it to come off this time around? And how could I stop obsessing over my weight and just enjoy this pregnancy? (I finally had a supportive partner who was giving me nightly foot rubs! This should be a happy time!)

I worked out almost every day, strength training twice a week, up until a few days before delivery. I still managed to gain 50 pounds by the end, which just affirms the idea that your body is meant to gain a certain amount during pregnancy and you don’t have a ton of control over it.

This time though, a friend introduced me to intermittent fasting (IF). The idea has been around for years, but it’s only picked up mainstream steam over the last couple of years. If you’re new to the idea, it’s basically putting yourself in a fasting state and an eating state. You eat during a certain period of time, and then cut yourself off. The most basic form of this is “no eating after 7pm” —an idea that always reminds me of Oprah. If you don’t eat after 7pm, and then you don’t have breakfast until 7am, then you’ve just fasted for 12 hours. It’s easy to fast when you’re sleeping.

When I went back to work this time—20 weeks after the birth of my son, I’d lost 50 pounds! The fastest of any of my kids! And all through fasting for 14 to 16 hours per day, and tracking my macronutrients (carbs, proteins, and fats). I got the paid version of MyFitnessPal to help with the macro tracking, but I could have done it on the free version too. What I love most about IF, and why I’ve become a huge advocate for it, is that it’s not about restricting what you can or can’t eat. It’s just the when. And it’s not the end of the world to take a day of two off if you want to go have breakfast with friends or have bacon and eggs on Sunday mornings. I also find that I have just as much success when I don’t track calories; the weight just comes off a bit slower. 

Here’s a sample of what I eat on a normal day right now:

7am – Almond Milk Cappuccino (about 35 calories) – This means I “dirty fast” because I have more than just plain black coffee or tea, but I have less than 50 calories and less than 5 grams of sugar. If you’re being strict, then only black coffee is allowed.

1:30pm – Either a Kirkland’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Protein bar, pre-made salad mix, or leftovers (I aim to have a real lunch, but the protein bar has 20g of protein and is perfect if I can’t get in a lunch but want something with good macros to break my fast)

2:30pm – Dannon Light ‘n Fit Greek Yogurt (12g protein) or a protein bar if I didn’t have one earlier

3:30pm – Fruit; usually a banana; and probably something ‘snacky’ at this point too – some chips or some Nilla Wafers

6:00pm – Dinner; Aim for something with good protein (chicken, beef, or fish), plus some steamable rice, veggies, etc.

6:30pm – time to pack in something sweet before my window closes! Usually some Hershey kisses, vanilla wafers, or an ice cream sandwich.

On the weekends, I do include alcohol in my day, and I try to just limit it to one more after 7pm.

So what’s the takeaway in all this? For me, I can’t sustainably restrict what I eat, cutting out entire categories of food, or stay glued to my phone all day plugging in every morsel entering my body. I just can’t. It makes me obsessed, and it’s not a healthy way for me to live my life. I suspect many of you feel the same way. Intermittent fasting does make me obsess about the clock, but it also gives me the flexibility to have a off day, enjoy a family breakfast on the weekends, and still eat whatever I make for the family that night for dinner.

Here are some resources to get you started

First, figure out your calorie needs and your macros so you can try and stay on track. This post from Happy Body Wellness is a great one, and her tagline is “Eat the Damn Cookie” which I totally love.

If you want to use apps to let you know when it’s time to eat or get more details on IF, here’s a guide from Women’s Health Magazine that can get you started.

Finally, here’s a 101 guide on intermittent fasting, complete with all the health benefits that come along with the weight loss.

Let me know how it’s going over on my Instagram page.

The quiet miscarriage

“Don’t tell anyone until 12 weeks.”

So common, right? It’s what many people do. Sometimes “not telling” just means not making the big social media splash or telling your boss. But sometimes it means keeping the big surprise from friends and family too.

There’s something magical about keeping such an exciting secret for a while, just you and your partner. There’s also something that feels kind in it—not wanting to let people down if something goes wrong. Keeping the hurt to yourself if the pregnancy doesn’t stick. Not wanting to burden your friends with your sadness. 

The first time I got pregnant, we’d been trying for more than six months. I was only 25 or 26, so I (like so many) just thought it was going to be easy. You spend so much effort not getting pregnant—hearing about all these people getting pregnant from a one night stand. I’d love to know how those people are. 

The time trying to get pregnant is the slowest ever. Nothing compares to it. Living your life in two weeks increments. Waiting to try. Waiting to test. Waiting to try. Waiting to test. And the reality is, I’ve had friends who have waited years. Actual YEARS of their life trying for a baby or praying for a baby to adopt. 

And yet, at 25, I didn’t know this was a thing. I knew about miscarriage, but I had no idea it was so common. When I got the positive stick, I was already picturing my Christmas baby. December 26th due date. 

I bought the grandparents some baby bibs and brought out some baby peas to show them the size of the baby. But I hadn’t been to my 8 week appointment yet. 

In the ultrasound room for the first time, Jeff and I stared at that little blob on the screen, mesmerized. I reminded the tech to take some photos for me.

“Are you sure about the date of your last period?” she asked. “The baby is only measuring five and half weeks. There’s no heartbeat yet.”

I didn’t give that conversation a second thought. We were just a bit early for the appointment, I guess. After the ‘fun’ part of our appointment was done and we’d seen the baby on the screen, I sent Jeff on his way so he could get to work, and I said I’d be fine waiting for the doctor on my own since the rest was going to be pretty standard stuff. 

Well, obviously it wasn’t. In all of our excitement and naivety, I didn’t connect the dots that something was wrong. I was devastated when the nurse practitioner explained it to me. There was no heartbeat because there’d been no fetal growth. The baby should have been measuring closer to seven or eight weeks, and the doctor told me that if I didn’t miscarry on my own in the next few days, I would need to schedule surgery to remove everything.

I felt like I’d been hit by a truck. I was so shocked and didn’t know what to do. I called Jeff and told him, and he met me back at home. I called my mom and she left work and came over. I felt so numb.

Honestly, I don’t think I was really “okay” until I got pregnant again nine months later. After the miscarriage, I was able to get back to my normal life, got on some anti-depressants for the first time, and for the most part, the pain just sat with me. That waiting all over again was the worst. And then not feeling like I could even breathe when I got the positive stick. 

I’ve had two people recently go through pregnancy challenges. For one, it was her first pregnancy that ended in miscarriage. Similar to my situation. Now, she waits again.

The other, which feels like the ultimate cruelty, had a stillbirth. At some point after her water broke, the baby fell into distress and did not survive delivery. I could picture a nursery and a baby in my arms, but she had the nursery, had the carseat installed, the baby shower, etc. That was several years ago, and she’s gone on to have three more children, all healthy and perfect. 

I was talking to her recently before she delivered her last baby this year, and we’d been home for several COVID months at this point. She told me how nice this pregnancy has been for her since she could hide it more. Even though she had 2 healthy babies, she was never able to enjoy her pregnancies because she knew the risks. She knew that until that baby was breathing in her arms, she couldn’t get excited. So not being with co-workers asking her pregnancy questions was a gift for her. She doesn’t get to enjoy pregnancy or get too excited because she’s been through hell. That changes every experience you have going forward.

Becoming a mother is such a personal choice, and for many women, it’s the ultimate dream. Even for career women. It doesn’t have to be one or the other, and dreaming of being a mother and CEO is still a very real thing. The patience and trust and faith in your journey to become a mom is a ruthless one. 

Today, I say an extra prayer for every woman.

To the woman working late nights and wondering if her long hours are keeping her body from cycling properly and if her career aspirations are keeping her from her family aspirations.

To the woman who desperately wants a baby but doesn’t want to do it on her own, to the one who is still looking for the right man to earn that privilege. 

To the woman who has no problem getting pregnant but lots of problems staying pregnant.

To the woman buying the 100 pack of test strips on Amazon, wondering when she’ll ever see two pink lines.

To the woman who doesn’t want to be a mom and faces criticism from her family every holiday.

To the woman who had an abortion a long time ago and now can’t get pregnant.

To the woman who is angry at women having abortions when she wants one so badly.

To the woman who is putting on a brave smile and watching her sister, best friend, or co-worker go through pregnancy.

And to every other situation that emphasizes just how complex it can feel to be a woman, to be a mom, to want to be a mom. Keep chasing your dreams.

4 Ways to Encourage Each Other Year Round

I have to admit, I really love surprising people with acts of kindness. I’m not the best at grand gestures, but the notion of ‘surprise and delight’ is one of my core values and when the mood strikes, I love to surprise my friends and neighbors and loved ones with something special. I love to make people feel good when they may otherwise be feeling blah, sad, or lonely. And because I want to spread kindness even more these days, I wanted to share my top four ways that we can effortlessly offer kindness to others at a distance.

Snail Mail

I don’t know about you, but I think there’s something so fun about getting actual mail! It seriously makes my day. I did a market research study at work a few years ago where we literally had people record themselves walking to their mailbox and opening their mail. When someone got something fun like a greeting card or delivery or magazine, we called it “happy mail.” 

I love happy mail. I could spend hours reading every greeting card at Target, looking for quirky, fun, or thoughtful cards. I try and stay stocked up so that whenever the mood strikes, I have just the right one in my arsenal. I’m a particular fan of “BLANK INSIDE” cards that are hilarious on the outside.

I try to never miss a birthday, but I also just like to stick random notes of encouragement in the mail too. This one is geared mostly towards my mom friends. Life is so freaking hard sometimes. I know how much I value someone telling me that I’m doing a kick ass job, so I try to do the same.

My latest stash from Aldi’s and Target – all $2.99 or less!

Venmo Surprise

Who doesn’t want to be out and about living life and suddenly look down on their phone to see that someone sent them a gift? That someone was thinking of them? A couple of months ago, I knew my friend was out of town for work, so I sent her $5 on Venmo. I told her to buy herself a coffee to help her wake up refreshed after her long night out entertaining clients! She was so surprised, and I was just as giddy waiting for her to text me after she got it. I couldn’t wait to hear how it impacted her night. The giving felt just as warm and fuzzy as the receiving, I’m sure!

Notes of Encouragement

I attended Rachel Hollis’s first virtual Rise conference recently, and as part of our “swag” I got a PDF of cute words of encouragement and quotes that I could print out. We’d been in quarantine for about 6 weeks by that time, and I just loved the notes. I decided to cut them out and put one in a ziplock bag for each of my neighbors, along with a variety of tea bags. It would have been just as nice to send them wine, but that would have gotten pricey, and I knew we were all drinking more than normal given our crazy circumstances. I thought the tea was a nice relaxing touch. 

I wrote a short note on the back, cheering them on for doing such a great job at home!

Thoughtful Deliveries

Most of what I’ve recommended so far has been really cheap and easy to do. This final suggestion can range in price points, so these are for when you’re really getting your heartstrings tugged and want to make an impact in the heart of someone else. 

What does your friend need who is suddenly on her own with 2 kids? (She needs dinner delivered… or a house cleaner)  What about your friend who just lost her mom or found out her sister is sick? (Maybe it’s flowers or something to make her laugh). These are really tied to the situation you’re in. 

I have some favorite bath bombs from Amazon that I love to order and send to friends when I want them to find time to unwind. My go-to books are usually something from Glennon Doyle or another author who impacted me personally. And when in doubt, I use bouqs.com for floral deliveries! They make it super easy and I’m a big fan of the flat fee, no surprises. You can get 30% off your first purchase by using that link too!

So there you have it. Simple and thoughtful ways we can start spreading a little more kindness out into a world that is on its head right now. Things are so unpredictable and everyone is stressing in their own way. We all have challenges and good days and bad. What if your simple card and 50 cent stamp is what brings a smile to your friend next week? Totally worth the hours wandering the card aisle of Target! 

Controlling it all and the mental load

Jeff always said we lived in “Ashley’s World” and that I controlled everything.

He was right—I did. I understood why he felt that way and why it triggered so much anger. He continually let me down any time I gave him any wiggle room, and I never felt like I could relax. I had to be in control. It was seven really long years of always being on my toes—always ready to clean up his mess or try to keep his “good drunk” personality around. 

Trying to set rules around drinking is a recipe for disaster for someone who is an alcoholic. Back then I still hadn’t admitted that’s what he was. He was just the guy who embarrassed me at parties.

Living in that world for so long has definitely left some scars on how I live my life today though and how I interact with my husband now. I’m still very Type A and driven and stubborn in a way that makes me want to be in-the-know of everything happening. But I look to Josh to just own things. I don’t want to find the tax guy. I don’t want to worry about paying our mortgage or the water bill. I don’t want to have to take my car to get new tires. 

A lot of those things still I do. But it’s the idea that I can trust him to take them on for me. I trust him and want him to take things off my plate. With Jeff, I could never let something come off my plate because I couldn’t trust that he would follow through as I needed him to. He’d likely never do it or do it 3 weeks too late. It just never worked.

When I think about the mental load that women naturally take on in families, it makes my head hurt. I still take on way too much. I was telling Josh about it the other day. His license expired during COVID and when the DMV opened up for appointments, I had to ask him for 2 weeks to make the appointment. Why? If it wasn’t a priority for him, why can’t I get it off my mind? But it was just one example of something that filled my mind unnecessarily. Same with a doctor’s appointment he was overdue for… it took over 3 months to get him to finally make the appointment. It was causing my all of this extra stress because I worry about his health more than I probably should. This is just a leftover scar from losing Jeff at 36. Even though we were no longer together when it happened, I still felt responsible for his health.

Mental load is something that I don’t think most men understand in a way that women can. And with COVID, motherhood and mental load has amplified greatly. I can’t speak for other households where both parents are working from home, but I suspect the bulk of school work is still falling on the moms. For me, I’m the only one working from home. I have a babysitter here 20 hours a week for the summer, but school is still largely on me. Can they log in? Which programs are they supposed to be using? Why are there so many programs? WHY can’t they just use paper and pen?! As we wrapped up the end of the school year, they had to use my laptop to do the Google Hangouts with their teachers since our desktop we got them is super basic and didn’t have a webcam, and it was stressful always switching over the gmail account to theirs or making sure they were on time for meetings—especially because at that time, I had no child care AND was trying to work and watch the baby all day too. 

It was simply too much. Our school offered paper copies for a lot of the content being offered online. You could go pick it up at school once a week, and I always did. It was just one thing I could take off my plate and visually see how the assignment went. I could put out 2 worksheets in the morning and tell them to complete them before they went out to play. No supervising by me. And when they had questions, I had something tangible to look out. Much easier for my mental load. 

Now we’re in summer school, a chance for the kids to not slide too far behind and also practice for the fall if virtual learning is going to be a thing. This time, I’ve set each of them up with a tablet and downloaded the apps they need for class. My first grader can’t totally do it on his own, but he’s close. And they both need reminders to log in for their small group time. But we’re getting there. It’s taken a lot of work, and it’s not over (ever), but I think I’ve hit my stride. 

But I know there are twice as many moms out there who haven’t hit their stride. Whether they’re single or not, this is all just A LOT. And my heart aches for the families who can’t afford to give their kids a tablet to do virtual schooling and can’t sit and make sure the kids are completing their assignments. The ones who are back at work without care for their kids. The ones so desperately relying on the county to keep providing lunches for their children. I don’t have the answers. This is new for everyone. I’m just scared what it means for our kids, our families, and women in the workplace.

Mental load. It never rests.

Why I Write

It’s funny how you can look back on a past event in your life and realize its impact years later. When I was pregnant with my 3rd child and married to my current husband, I had a random day at work where it all hit me. I finally understood what led me to marry a man I knew wasn’t right for me when I was only 23 years old.

When I was in college, I did my last semester abroad on a ship that sailed us around the world while we took classes in between visiting other countries. But two weeks into our trip, we had what is affectionately known to our shipboard community as Wave Day, where we were left (temporarily) stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. This near-death experience left me both fearless for my future (I never get nervous on a plane because I figure you probably only have one major brush with disaster, and mine has already happened) but also totally afraid of being alone.

The shipboard library post-storm

I always thought my life was supposed to follow “the plan” and I needed to get a job, get married, and have kids. Wave Day created a fear in me that made me need to achieve all of those goals NOW. I was so afraid I’d end up alone if I didn’t end up with Jeff, my boyfriend at the time.

I started that trip in love with a man I never saw a future with, just a college boyfriend that I’d say goodbye to when the time came. And then, my brain did a complete one-eighty after Wave Day. I found a way to focus on all the good in this man, even though there were plenty of red flags that should have told a very smart twenty-two-year-old to slow down and take a more objective look at the situation. Was this really the man for me? 

And at the end of the day, I decided that two things mattered to me above all else—he made me laugh, and I knew he’d be a great dad one day. The rest, we’d work our way through.

Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out that way, and a happy ending wasn’t in the cards for us. With two little kids at home, ages one and three, I was all alone and couldn’t find any books on the market for how to be a single mom to toddlers or how to explain to someone so small that dad wasn’t coming home. 

By Ryan’s 1st birthday, it was just the three of us.

I was incredibly judgmental about divorce prior to going through my own experience, and even now. It’s hard when our lives are so private, and people only see what we want to show on social media. It’s hard not to judge. I’ve led a divorce support group twice, and I still find myself wondering why things ended. But I also learned that (almost) every story is really painful and justified. The simple reminder to be kind to others floats through my mind. You never know what someone else is going through—despite was social media says.

And so, I started writing. What started out as a helpful tool for single moms evolved to a memoir of the crazy things I went through, the lessons learned along the way, and how I got to the place I am today—very happily remarried to an angel of a man and one more baby.

Life isn’t perfect, but that tiny human is. And I’m so grateful for every experience I had over the last ten years.

I learned that there’s no such thing as a happy ending. But it’s important to remain optimistic and hold on to hope when things look bleak and scary. That, somehow down the line, you’re going to come out of this blackhole, and life is going to feel good again. 

One day, you’ll wake up and realize you haven’t cried for a whole week. Then, a whole month. You’ll realize that you have the energy to devote to more than just your emotions. That you can be a good parent, a good friend, and a good daughter again. And life will feel good. It won’t be perfect, and there’s no promise that heartbreak won’t come again. But when the moment is good, live in it. 

4th of July watching fireworks in the back of Josh’s truck, our first summer dating

I like to think I’m healed from the trauma of my first marriage, but then a song will come on when I’m alone in my car, and I’ll find myself in tears. It feels like a way to keep healing and learning from my past. It reminds me how strong I am and what an incredibly blessed life I’ve been given.

I hope that if you can see yourself within my journey that it helps you realize you aren’t alone. So many go through what I went through, and while our situations may not be the same—the story, the feeling, the pain—I find that we all generally go through the same stuff. And it helps to know you aren’t alone.

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