Writing

My Monthly Wrap Up: December 2018

My Monthly Wrap Up: December 2018 | Writing Between Pauses

December was quite the month, wasn’t it? It always is (what with Christmas and everything), but this year felt particularly… full.

Let’s see: Danny and I went to Idaho for Thanksgiving, so we got back home just in time to get ready for Christmas. I had a load of sponsored content in December, all with deadlines. Plus, I had work. Forrest got sick. Then I got sick for what felt like 2 entire weeks. My brother got married (and as his accidental wedding planner, I felt like I was the bride a bit with how much work I ended up doing at the wedding). Then we had my mom’s birthday. Then Christmas. Then the New Year.

Now, Forrest is sick again, I’ve got a sore throat, and I feel like I’m rushing 24/7 to get caught up on how frenzied everything was in December. I didn’t have much time to write blog content, or social content, or actually do any kind of work whatsoever, between sickness, family events, and more.

It’s nice to think of January as a time to just relax, but I feel like I’ve jumped right back into being super, super busy.

And it should be said: I loved every minute of December. I love being busy! I love having lots of things to do and not being able to sit still. When I get bored, I get anxious. So December was a lovely month, but I would like to have time to actually blog this month!

Let’s get into this wrap up, shall we?

December 2018 Empties

My Empties

I feel like I used up a lot of products this month, despite really falling off the bandwagon with my skincare. (That’s probably why addressing my routine is one of my New Year’s Resolutions.) Here’s everything I used up:

  • Lump of Coal Charcoal Face Mask from Bath & Body Works

  • Egg Essence Mask Sheet

  • Sephora Instant Nail Polish Remover Pad

  • Sephora Express Eye Make Up Removed Pad

  • Tarte Shape Tape Deluxe Sample

  • Clean & Clear Deep Action Cream Cleanser

  • Sephora Charcoal Nose Strip

  • Sephora Bath Fizzes

  • Sephora Overnight Mask in Pearl

A lot of these were things from my Sephora Advent Calendar that I was trying to use up! I also received the Bath & Body Works mask from my mother-in-law in my Christmas present. Everything else was just a matter of using up: the Sephora Overnight Mask was leftover from a while ago and I was tired of seeing it on my bathroom counter; the Clean & Clear Cleanser was a sample I needed to get rid of (and I love how it feels even though I know it is garbage); and the Shape Tape was from my October Ipsy bag.

I feel like it was a good month for using things up, clearing out my drawers, and making room for, of course, more stuff.

My December Highlights

Posting More Photos of Myself

It goes without saying that i’m never 100% happy with my appearance. (And if you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know this is a journey that I have been on for a while.) Being a mom is hard, but the hardest part about it is feeling this pressure to not fall into a specific stereotype of a mom. Even though I know it is garbage and I know I shouldn’t do things to suit what others think of me (we can never control anyone’s perception of ourselves, right?), and I know that I am kinder to others than I am to myself, it is still a huge challenge for me. So, my goal has been in the last few months to post more photos of myself and to taking the stupid photo for the content that I’m working on. I tend to want to stick to product shots—do I matter? I ask—but I know it hurts my blog to not have very much of my own face on here.

So, if you noticed more photos of my on my Instagram this past month, it’s true. There are more! And I have even more that I plan to post! So fancy.

Getting Professional Photos of Forrest

I’m a little embarrassed that, despite my status as a mom who is pretty obsessed with my own child, I’ve never gotten professional photos taken of him. I wanted to when he was a newborn, but he was so small, so fragile, I felt like it was a bit of a “playing with fire” thing. By the time he was big enough and sturdy enough, we were paying hospital bills and having enough disposal income for a photo shoot wasn’t a luxury.

So, in November, I paid for actual, real professional photos of him and, gosh, they turned out amazing. I’ve gifted them, made Christmas cards with them, and basically just stare at them constantly. We had our photos done by Angelique (AH Newborns) and she did such an amazing job. I cannot recommend her enough!

Working with Formulate

I’ve had the distinct pleasure of being able to work with Formulate this month. I wouldn’t normally include this in a wrap up, but I’ve had so much fun taking photos, writing content, and testing out my personalized shampoo. Most importantly, I’m so excited to be able to host a giveaway with them. I love being able to provide something to my readers; without you guys, this blog wouldn’t really be anything! And you’re the ones who enable me to be able to work with cool companies like Formulate. If you would like to enter my giveaway, just click here. I’ll have a blog post about my experience in the next few weeks.

Inspiration Sunday: October 28

Inspiration Sunday: October 28 | Writing Between Pauses

Happy Sunday!

October always feels like a very long month, which is good because it’s my favorite month. But as we get closer to Halloween, it starts to click in just how long this month is. Forrest has been asking nonstop to go trick-or-treating; the concept of days is still a bit strange to him, but I made him a little calendar and we cross off each day to Halloween now. He’s so excited to experience Halloween, which makes me so excited because I’ve always wanted him to love Halloween as much as I did and do! He gets to have a Halloween party at school this week, so I may have gone a little wild and made goodie bags for the other kids in his class.

This all leads me to the point of this post: what do we do when we get to a big event we have been beyond excited for?

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For me, I always feel a bit ho-hum and let down after big events. A prime example is my wedding; I planned, I excitedly looked forward to, I had fun on the day and then, the next day… there were no big to do lists, no things to check, no plans. I’m somehow to works best by always having something to look forward to, a deadline to hit, and when I don’t, I find it hard to focus my energy. That’s why I liked being pregnant so much; I knew my body was working towards something very specific. That’s a little bit why I struggle with eating regularly and working out the way I know would help my body; I don’t have anything that I’m specifically working towards.

I always stress a bit how to not pass on this trait to Forrest, because, in general, it’s kind of a difficult one. Having to always set deadlines for myself to tasks so I don’t just languish on something is really challenging. So we often take to Forrest about how exciting things can be every single day, instead of just on days of big events. I try to make him excited for our regular days, by doing crafts and activities and lessons, having him help make dinner, playing games, or learning about chores—but still, I can tell he is just plain more excited for Halloween and he wants the days to hurry up so we can get to Halloween already!

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The most challenging part of being a parent, for me, is looking at the big picture. It can be a pretty dismal way of looking at things, to be always focused on what positive traits I’m passing on: I want him to be tidy, like I am, and not prone to being messy, like Danny is, but I don’t want him to be obsessive about it, like I can be. When I reduce my parenting to purely “passing on positive traits,” it can get really overwhelming. And ultimately, Forrest is going to pick up what Forrest picks up!

It is more important for me, as a parent, to work on the things I can change; this shows Forrest, more than anything, that nothing is set. It’s ok to change and it’s ok to adjust your behavior and work on the things you need to improve. A lot of people are so set in their ways because they think their negative personality traits are set in stone; but that’s just not true! My indecisiveness isn’t set in stone; I can choose to work on it, to not get decision fatigue, and to have the confidence to take charge.

So whether Forrest feels let down after Halloween or not, I know I need to let him have that feeling. It's ok to feel that way. But I know it is more important for me to allow him to feel that way, but then also show him ways to keep moving forward, even after a big, exciting day.

This is a bit different of an Inspiration Sunday post. It’s been something I’ve been mulling over for the past few months. And moving forward in my 30th year (!!!) on this planet, I know it’s time to start really working through all these things. What’s inspiring you this week?

Things I Love: October 20

Things I Love: October 20 | Writing Between Pauses

Well, it’s here. It’s arrived.

Today, I’m 30 years old.

When I was a teenager, 30 felt ancient. You always watch movies and it seems like by 30, most people have their shit together—and the people who don’t really, really, really do not have it together, but are actively working to get it together. Prime example? All the FRIENDS characters were in their mid-20s in the pilot episode (25-27, roughly).

Your 20s are supposed to be for finding yourself, getting it together, and setting yourself up for success in your 30s.

But what if you are staring down at being 30 and feel like you don’t have any of the pieces of your life just right?

I realize it sounds a little crazy for a parent to write that. Shouldn’t I, as the keeper of a small child, who depends on me, have it all figured out? Shouldn’t I have a plan?

The other day, I had a moment where I really, truly had a panic attack about turning 30. I can’t really put my finger on why I suddenly felt desperately, horribly afraid of turning 30. Most days, I spend my time on autopilot: I get my work done, I take care of Forrest, I make dinner, I clean the house top to bottom nearly every week. It feels like I’m stuck on a clock.

Writing this blog has been a huge way for me to keep “a bit of myself” as I descended into motherhood. Writing about beauty products and how I use them is freeing. And I want other mothers to feel free as well, to remember that it’s ok to take care of yourself alongside everyone else.

But on Sunday, I looked in the mirror and I thought, “I don’t know this person.”

I started reading blog posts and articles about turning 30, about being a mother, about self-care after 30 and realizing that my crisis isn’t specifically unique. But it is my own.

When I had Forrest, it felt like I was swallowed. Like “motherhood”—the big behemoth of motherhood—swallowed me up whole. For a long time, I didn’t really know who I was outside of being a mother. My days are dominated by Forrest and Forrest’s needs. I’m not resentful about it anymore; I’ve managed to regain a little bit of my foothold and feel like me.

But the woman I see in the mirror isn’t… me anymore. We all change as we age, but there is something about this change that feels particularly unwelcome. I don’t look older necessarily (I can thank my round face for that one), but i just don’t look like myself. I think this said it best, from an article called “What I Learned About Self-Care After 30”:

I was so consumed with being selfless that I never stopped to take care of myself, and it pretty much came to a head all at once.
I was nearing the end of my 20s when I looked in the mirror and barely recognized myself one day as I got out of the shower. I used to love doing face masks, getting my nails done, making sure my hair was cut, but most importantly, feeling good about myself and the way I presented myself to the world. That all had kinda stopped. Instead, I was staring back at a tired, overworked mom who hadn’t gotten a haircut in a whole year and couldn’t remember the last time she had a pedicure or even plucked her eyebrows. I felt horrible, and it pretty much got worse from there.

Remember how I mentioned that I hadn’t gotten a haircut in three whole years?

3 years! I went 3 years without a haircut! Without doing basic maintenance on myself.

I’m not quite as freaked out about turning 30 today as I was a few days ago. I’m still the same person I was then.

It is hard to compartmentalize my life: to be a blogger, a writer, a professional, and a mother. I am all of those things at once, but sometimes… well, most of the time, being a mother trumps them all. I will abandon blog posts, I will leave work early, all for my child. Because that’s my job. But is leaving myself last on the list—running myself ragged, not taking time to see my friends or do things I enjoy—part of that too?

It’s not. My goal for turning 30 is this: to start taking time to really focus on myself, to let myself become a person I recognize again, and to dedicate time to being the best mother, professional, and blogger I can be. Not just one.

Things I Want to Stop Doing

This is a bit of a different Things I Love isn’t it? I started out writing it fully intending to transition to my usual TiLT posts… but I’d rather leave it at this. I hope you all have a wonderful Saturday!

4 Things To Do To Prepare for NaNoWriMo

4 Things to Do To Prepare for NaNoWriMo | Writing Between Pauses

It’s NaNoWriMo prep season. If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, I have a blog post for that. But long story short, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, an event where everyone tries to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo since 2010; I’ve won 5 times so far, which means I have 5 50,000 word novels floating around. For some, NaNoWriMo is a chance to binge write a novel they’ve been working on for years. For others, NaNoWriMo is just a fun month to write a novel.

For me, NaNoWriMo is all about having fun, writing a novel that I want to read, and feeling the joy of success afterwards. Usually, by November, I’m feeling a little “burnt out”—I spend most of my waking hours grappling with words in some form of another. I work as a digital marketing content strategist and copywriter; I maintain a blog; and my main hobby is creative writing.

However, oddly enough, November is often the thing that refreshes me for the next 12 months. It is sandwiched between my two big blogging challenges, Blogtober and Blogmas, so by January 1, I’m feeling decidedly ready for anything.

I’ve written a lot of posts about NaNoWriMo previously, especially about how I handle the task while also caring for a child. I’ve shared my planning strategy for NaNoWriMo, my typical prep, my tips for succeeding, and preparing for NaNoWriMo in 3 steps.

Every year, I feel like I tweak my NaNoWriMo process just a little bit in a way that makes a huge difference in my ability to succeed. This year, I want to share not just how I am preparing for NaNoWriMo, but also my schedule for doing so. So these 4 steps are all about setting deadlines for myself.

Ready to prep for NaNoWriMo? If you’re planning to go for your first NaNo this year, or you’re an old timer like me, I hope you find some value in this timeline. Let’s jump in!

1. By October 10: Pick a Topic & Sketch Your Plot

By October 10, you should know the basic form of your novel: the genre, what happens, and a few climactic points you want to hit in your writing. This is always my first step when beginning to prepare for NaNoWriMo (and I’ve outlined it in detail before in my posts). But my basic process is to have a notebook or Google doc dedicated to notes for my novel where I include all the basic information. This includes:

  • All my characters names, basic descriptions, and basic information that may come up (like birthdays, important events, and character traits)

  • A synopsis of the novel

  • and at least 3 important plot points, twists, or scenes I need to include for the plot

From here, I can begin working on the outline of my novel.

2. By mid-October: Write an Outline

Speaking of outlines, I always write from an outline for NaNoWriMo. That is: I’m a planner, not a pantser (aka flying by the seat of my pants). I divide the 50,000 word minimum into 10 chapters of 5,000 words and then divide each chapter into 5 1,000 word scenes. I then plan out each scene in basic detail: my point for a scene might be anything from “introduce [character]” to “[character 1] fights with [character 2]” to already fleshed out dialogue and scene details. They can be vague or descriptive. But the important thing is: I get the outline on paper so that I never find myself stuck on day 10 of November.

I try to have my outline completed and in a Google doc by October 15, or October 20 at the absolute latest. This makes the run up to November way less stressful.

3. By October 20: Sign Up on NaNoWriMo

This is a basic step, but every year, I find myself scrambling to remember my NaNoWriMo password. It was only last year that I reminded myself (by putting it on my calendar) to log in to NaNoWriMo.org before November 1 to set up my novel. Tracking my word count is a lot easier when I use the NaNoWriMo website because it gives me a daily word average, an average words per day I have to write to get to 50,000 words, and much more, as well as a graph of how I’m doing comparatively to everyone else. Plus, to officially win, you have to validate through the NaNoWriMo website. So, sign up at nanowrimo.org by October 20!

4. By October 30: Plan Your Writing Schedule

I’ve mentioned before that in November, I keep my schedule really strict when it comes to writing. I set aside two hours every night (or on the weekend, every morning) to really get writing done. And in that time, I have to meet my daily goal or exceed it. If I don’t, I’ll probably fall behind—and once I fall behind, it’s really difficult to catch up again! So, by the end of October (but before Halloween, because obviously, you need that night to celebrate!), have an idea of what your writing schedule will be. Maybe you’ll take your laptop to Starbucks every day during lunch to write. Or maybe, you’ll wake up an hour earlier to get writing done that way. No matter what, pick a schedule that works for you—you can even test it out a few days in October to see if it’s good for you—and stick to it.

Monthly Wrap Up & Empties: August 2018

Monthly Wrap Up & Empties: August 2018

After lots of hemming and hawing, yes, I'm combining my monthly wrap ups and my monthly empties posts! I feel like it just makes sense, as often I end up talking about very similar things.

August felt like an absolute blur. We've been busy the entire summer (with way more social obligations and other things than usual), but August felt like a lot. A good a lot. Usually by the time September arrives and Danny goes back to work, I'm excited for him to get back into a routine so that I can get back into a routine. But for the first time ever, I got very sad about him going back to work. Because, at the same time, Forrest will be starting preschool 2 days a week and honestly, I just can't handle it! What am I going to do with all my time? 

Probably stuff it full of more hobbies and obligations, let's be real. 

August 1
August 2
August 3

3 Good Things from August:

1. I finally got my hair cut. I try to keep this quiet, but I didn't get my hair cut for nearly 3 years. Forrest had just been born and my mom took me to get my pixie cut trimmed. And that was it, the last hair cut I got was December 2015. 2015! 3 years! My ends were wrecked, at least to me, but my hairstylist was extremely proud to see they were not bad at all. In fact, she said I could have gone another 3 years and not lost much more length. Don't tempt me. 

2. The leaves started to change. Fall seems to start a little earlier every single year. I started noticing some yellow-tinged leaves around the end of the month. The tree outside my house is maybe 10% yellow today. I get so excited for the beautiful Fall colors... I have to remind myself to be patient! We'll be raking leaves soon enough. 

3. I started collecting Fall candles. Uh, sorry to rush the end of summer (except I am not sorry!!), but in August, I started nabbing up cheap Fall candles wherever I could. My local Wal-mart had one of my favorite Yankee Candle scents, Sage & Citrus, on clearance, which of course meant I bought 3 of them! My local TJ Maxx has also had some amazing Yankee Candles and off brands with amazing scents. I need my house to smell like cinnamon and caramel for about 4 months straight, so I'm happy. 

Empties 2
Empties 1

My Empties

1. Everyday Aromatherapy Calming, Lavender Chamomile: I got this body wash/bubble bath at TJ Maxx for around $6. It's one of my favorites; I really love the smell of lavender, I know it's "old lady-ish" or can be, but gosh, it's relaxing! Danny and I finally used this one up so we could start a eucalyptus and mint scented one we got at the same time. 

2. Bath & Body Works Fresh Sea Salt Mango Body Spray: I rarely ever use up body sprays, because I tend to accrue them faster than I can ever use them. However, I've made it my mission to start using up the things I have lying around. This was the first to go and I wanted it done by the end of summer. I am starting on last year's winter scents now, so wish me luck! 

3. Pores Be Pure Mud Mask: This is one of my favorite masks, but by the end of the tube, I was tired of it. I used it exclusively the last two weeks. Can you tell I'm clearing out clutter!? This mask smells amazing though--like strawberries--and really does give a good pore cleaning. Highly recommend.

4. Hey Honey Copper Peel Off Mask: The next 3 bits are from my August Ipsy bag. I managed 3 uses out of this little tube, which is perfectly acceptable. I just didn't feel like this mask did anything. It is very pretty though! 

5. VenEffect Pore Minimizing Face Wash: My bonus item from my Ipsy bag, I got maybe 6 face washes out of this tube. I liked the smell of it, but didn't notice it doing much as I didn't receive a large enough amount to really get to use it much. 

6. Caudalie Vinoperfect Concentrated Brightening Essence: Listen, here's the thing: I talked some shit on this essence in my Ipsy bag review and I take it back. I only got maybe 4 uses out of this little tube, but 4 uses was enough to know that this improved my skin texture and redness by leaps and bounds. Leaps! And! Bounds! I hate that it's $80 for a full ounce.  

7. Wet'n'Wild Cushion Foundation: My favorite foundation of all time and I've used my 3rd compact of it. Sorry, not sorry. It's so good! 

August 4
August 5
August 6

3 Things I Read, Watched, or Listened To:

1. Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater: I read this book a while ago, but I've been catching Danny up on the Raven Cycle via audiobooks. So this is something I listened to this month. I forgot how lovely this book is (and yet, how annoying I find all the car stuff) and I'm glad Danny is finally experiencing it!

2. Overdue Podcast: Overdue is a book podcast that I started listening to. I listened to one episode about a book I like, then started listening to all of them. I've been bouncing between episodes; I listened to the Twilight episode, then all their 50 Shades episodes, now I'm only some more serious ones. If you like listening to podcasts about books, this is a good one. 

3. Enchanted Falls Trilogy: One of my favorite authors (Emma Prince) who writes exclusively Scottish romances released the first in a trilogy at the end of July; then 2 other authors released the 2nd and 3rd books through August. The 3rd book is written by my least favorite author ever (I won't go into it, but trust me: it's bad). However, the first 2 in this series were amazing. I'm still working on the 3rd because it's a slog. 

I hope you all had a lovely August. What were your 3 favorite things about the month?

Want to Write More? My 5 Tips to Get More Time

Want to Write More? My 5 Tips to Get More Time | Writing Between Pauses

There are lots of reasons we get too busy to write. Housework. Real jobs. Kids. Stress. The book that's calling your name that you need to finish. Social plans. If you love to write, writing is easy to push to the side.

Why? Because it's hard. Writing is hard! Let's just admit it!

Society tends to think of writing (in the broadest sense) to be absolutely easy. We all write every single day. Text messages, emails, tweets, Facebook updates, Instagram captions. We all write, so how hard is it, really, for someone to string enough sentences together for a book or a poem or a blog post? 

The truth is, writing is hard. Mentally, it's an exercise in patience to try to squeeze what you see in your brain out onto the page. And physically, it can be challenging; you're in one place for a very long time, with 100 distractions, having to concentrate very hard and type. 

Honestly, why do any of us do this? 

So, you've come to the conclusion: you want, no, you need, to write more. It's paramount. But you've got a toddler, or you've got a full time job, or you've got a million other things on your plate and that great idea you had for a short story or a poem has been languishing for so long that the spark of inspiration isn't just a dying ember, but a little piece of charcoal. 

Here are my five tips to sneak in writing. 

1. Say it out loud

Oh yeah, you heard me. Writing: it's about sitting with a notebook or a computer and getting it out on the page. Or is it? What's to stop you from recording voice memos on your phone of lines you think of while you're in the grocery store, or waiting in the pick up line at school? Record it, save it, and return to it later when you have more than 30 seconds. 

2. Carry the notebook

This is, truly, every writer's least favorite tip, but it's true: carry the notebook with you. Honestly, just carry it. It feels pretentious, to have that little notebook in your purse or in your back pocket, but when you're waiting for coffee and get an idea--you'll think me. You'll have somewhere to put it. 

(If you don't love tiny notebooks, you can also use the Notes app on your iPhone or equivalent smartphone.) 

3. Get up earlier

The birds are singing, the sun is starting to rise earlier than before. You have more daylight hours. So why sleep through them? Waking up at 5 or 5:30 isn't everyone's cup of tea, but if you don't leave for work until 8:30, then why not spend an hour in the morning writing? Isn't that an extra hour in your day to achieve something you really, really want? 

4. Maximize the time you do have

You set aside an hour or two in the evening to write. But some nights, you spend it watching TV, browsing Twitter, or doing something else. You know you need to write, but the couch is so comfy. 

Listen, routine is everything when it comes to developing habits. If you actually want to spend the time your kids are in bed, or you don't have work responsibilities rearing their heads, then you actually have to make the habit. So, even though the couch is comfy, fix your favorite drink and head to the computer. (Just make sure your drink is on a coaster far away from your keyboard!) 

5. Ask for Time

You have a roommate who watches TV while you do the dishes, or a husband that starts working again right when he gets home. You want time to write, but you find yourself picking up the slack of others. Let me tell you: that's not going to work. Ask for the time. It's easy. "Honey, I would like an hour to go get some writing done. Can you watch the kids?" or "Hey, can you finish these dishes so I can go finish up something I'm working on?" takes 5 seconds. If asking doesn't work, demand it. "I need an hour!" you will say, going into your office and closing the door. 

If the toddler destroys the living room, you'll deal with it later. 

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10 Habits I've Started to Reduce Anxiety

10 Habits I've Started to Reduce Anxiety | Writing Between Pauses

I've struggled with anxiety since I was quite young. 

When I was 2, I was well known for twirling my hair. This habit didn't go away when my pediatrician said it would; in fact, it got worse. If you know me today, you know that I still twirled my hair near constantly. Not as obviously as I did when I was 2, but still noticeably. I like braiding my hair or rubbing it between my fingers, or twisting it around my finger over and over again. 

I never associated my hair twirling with anxiety, but I've learned, as I've gotten older, that I use it as a way to comfort myself when I feel anxious. 

The last few years of my life have been defined by anxiety--to the point where my anxiety started to have effects on my health. 

Lots of people have lots of different ways of dealing with their anxiety--and what works for some people definitely doesn't work for other people. For me, my anxiety often calms down when I'm able to spend a whole day cleaning my house and getting bits of my life in order (something I've been desperately wanting to do for ages now). For others, they feel better when they get a chance to relax or treat themselves in a way they normally do. It just depends!

When I sat down to write this post, I thought of every different way I could indicate that these are just the things that work for me and I'm sharing them only in the hope that perhaps they can help you deal with your anxiety. I'm not a doctor and I'm not being prescriptive with this list. If you're really struggling with your anxiety, the best place to turn is a doctor--not the internet, unfortunately. (It's also important to remember that acts of self-care aren't just bubblebaths and eating your favorite foods, but also include self forgiveness, acts of self-kindness, and much more--and ultimately, self-care can't replace other forms of treatment for anxiety and depression! Get the help you need!) 

So, if you want to learn a few ways I've been helping my anxiety lately, keep reading!

1. Bullet Journaling

I've written about bullet journaling before and I know that for those with anxiety, bullet journals (especially as they appear on the internet) can feel really demanding and, honestly, a little anxiety-inducing. But once I gave bujo a chance (and let myself do it my way, instead of feeling like I had to have The Perfect Journal) it was really fun! I spend every evening working on my bullet journal, writing about my day, and filling out any pages that need filled. 

2. Exercising

I know this feels a little bit lame, but it's been a year since I started working out again and honestly, it's one of the best choices I ever made. For me, exercise walks a fine line between "reduces anxiety" and "causes anxiety". I have to be really mindful of how exercise is making me feel and if it starts to feel bad, I take a break. But overwhelmingly, getting myself in a routine feels really good; I love having my exercise time three days a week where I get out of the house. 

3. Creating a cleaning routine

The way my surroundings look is really important for me. I have to be in a clean, organized house. This has been a sore spot for me for a while because my husband is the exact opposite. I genuinely think he could live inside an active, operating barn and be totally fine, probably not notice a thing wrong. I've started doing what I call my "5 tasks" in the evening before bed and it makes a huge difference: emptying the dish strainer, loading the dishwasher, wiping the counters, cleaning the coffee pot, and sweeping the kitchen floor have made a huge difference in my anxiety level each morning. 

4. Reading

I've always been a reader and I read quite a lot, but for the past probably 6 months, I just haven't made time for it. But taking 10-20 minutes every day to read, instead of look at a screen, has really helped me not get my usual afternoon tension headaches. 

5. Washing my face

As much as I love skincare, sometimes I'm the worst at washing my face. But I have found that washing my face and doing the skincare routine that I really, really love helps relax me in the evenings and lets me unwind much easier. Who knew!? 

6. Listening to podcasts in the bathtub

I love podcasts (I've written at least three blog posts about it!) and I love taking baths. I used to primarily read in the bathtub, but I found that actually didn't help me relax as much as I wanted it to. I've started turning on my podcasts as I soak though and it's exactly what I need: something to occupy my brain, but not too much. 

7. Going to bed early

I have this weird thing about "using the time I have before bed", whatever that means. After Forrest goes to sleep, I feel like I have to accomplish everything: clean the house, food prep, whatever. So I usually don't get into bed until 10pm, then I'm up at 5--and frankly, that's just not enough sleep sometimes! And some nights, I just don't feel like tackling my rapidly expanding to do list and... you know what? Sometimes I don't have to. The email can wait until the morning. The blog post can get written some other time. Crawling into bed at 7pm simply because I feel like it is the best treat I can give myself. 

8. Eating breakfast

I've always really struggled with breakfast, as I'm usually not hungry right when I wake up and then I don't have time once I leave for work. But skipping breakfast also gives me a lot of anxiety: I worry about getting hungry later in the day, not having anything to eat, having to find something and spend money... you know, anxiety thoughts. I've been packing simple breakfasts for myself lately--cheese and crackers, yogurt and granola, smoothies, that kind of thing--and it's made a huge difference in allowing me to focus on my work and not feel anxious about getting hungry. 

9. Reducing how much coffee I drink

I love coffee. When Forrest was a newborn, I drank probably 3-4 cups a day, which is substantial for me, someone who never liked coffee before. I've gotten it down to less than 3 in recent months, but even that is quite a lot. Especially since I have pre-existing anxiety issues! I've started limiting myself to one cup in the morning and one cup in the afternoon. Hopefully soon I can cut out that afternoon cup! 

10. Quitting if I need to

I pride myself on not being a quitter. I try not to give up on tasks I set for myself, especially if they impact other people. But lately I've realized that sometimes my insistence on "finishing things" ends up biting me in the butt, for two reasons: firstly, I tend to not do that great of a job if I end up forcing it; and secondly, it just gives me horrible anxiety. Allowing myself to quit something, or at least set it aside for a few weeks and return to it when I feel motivated and able to complete it, has been really freeing. 

The Benefits of Formula Feeding (That No One Tells You)

The Benefits of Formula Feeding | Writing Between Pauses

Formula feeding has a somewhat bad reputation. And it doesn't help matters that there is so much bad or just plain false information out there regarding formula. I know when I was pregnant, I felt adamant and absolutely sure I would never need the samples of formula I received from my doctor. The thought of having to use them left me feeling cold and confused, as if I was plunged into a world I had never stepped for into before. 

Friends, as we well know, I used those samples of formula and more. (You can read my blog post about my postpartum depression, partially caused by my difficulties breastfeeding, here.) 

When I wrote this post idea down on my editorial calendar, I found myself getting very, well, nervous about actually writing it. Writing about formula on the internet is dangerous business indeed; lots of women like to pop in to give their unsolicited opinion about formula, about women who use formula, and the horrible things formula "does" to infants (we'll get to this last point in a bit). I don't like confrontation and I don't like arguments; it takes a lot for me to stick me neck out and argue with somebody. But when it comes to formula feeding, it's one of the few things that really, really gets me going... probably because I believed so many lies about formula feeding before I even gave birth. 

Let's start from the beginning, shall we? 

My Experience with Formula

To briefly summarize, my son, Forrest, was born premature due to my severe preeclampsia. He is what is called a "late term preemie"; he was 36 weeks, which is "technically full-term," but not actually full-term. See, infants develop, and practice, suckling inside the womb at 37 weeks. Since Forrest was not in the womb at 37 weeks, he never learned to latch correctly. (It should be noted: some babies develop this earlier, which means they can be born at 36 weeks and latch successfully. But this is relatively rare; 36-weekers are notorious for being poor feeders, even with bottles.)

So, not only was he not developmentally able to breastfeed, he also developed severe jaundice (he had 2 forms of jaundice at once) and extremely low blood sugar; these two things made it very difficult for him to stay awake and effectively feed. We had to feed him in his sleep and he stayed in a bilibed for 6 days. We weren't allowed to dress him for the first 10 days of his life, because moving him around too much caused him to use too many calories. 

I, rather heroically, pumped for exclusively for the first 2 months of his life. But as we got home and got settled, my needs for sleep outweighed my ability to pump. Finally, my doctor, at my 8 week appointment, sat me down and told me that if I didn't sleep more than 2 hours a day, something bad would happen. She told me to stop pumping at night and sleep. So I did. After that, my supply plummeted; I was more rested, but I was still a wreck, constantly anxious about how much milk I was producing. 

So, I started supplementing with formula. I knew it was the only way. And it was very successful. I became less stressed about how much Forrest was eating and how much I was producing and I was able to more enjoy motherhood. I was still very depressed, wishing that Forrest could breastfeed like other babies (and trust me, packing a bag with formula, breastmilk, my pump, and everything else was an absolute pain when we left the house), but my anxiety was reduced. 

At 6 months, I developed mastitis after a dramatic shift in my production. I went from producing about 10-12 ounces a day (my supply had always been very, very low) to about 2-4 ounces. I had a 104 degree fever and felt absolutely awful all day. Finally, it was time: I had to go all formula.

It was hard at first, because I felt like I had failed... but when I tell you that life became so much easier with formula, it's the absolute truth. No more monitoring my pumping schedule! No more constant washing and sanitizing of pump parts! No more worrying about taking my pump to work, or pumping while I drove, or trying to figure out which bottle of breastmilk I put in the fridge first. It was like a weight lifted off my shoulders. 

And honestly, Forrest thrived on formula. He thrived on any milk after the first 6 weeks, really, but once I became less of a mess, he truly became a different baby. I started reading about formula and trying to better understand the myths I had heard--I still worried that I wasn't giving him "the best," that I was going to be absolutely destroying his absolutely perfect insides. And you know what I found out? 

Nearly everything I'd been told about formula was a lie. All the myths about the correlation between diabetes and obesity? Lies. All the myths about tooth rot? Lies. All the myths about formula and breastmilk being shockingly different? Lies. I want to talk about them, because it's important. 

The Worst Formula Feeding Myths

This blog post isn't intended to talk anyone out of breastfeeding. However you choose to feed your baby, the most important thing is that 1) you feed your baby and 2) you are as happy and healthy and thriving as your baby. If I've learned anything from motherhood, it's that we matter as mothers and people as much as our children matter. We can hurt ourselves just for the sake of our child; it's not worth it. 

There are just so many articles out there about breastfeeding. When I was struggling, I felt like there were no resources out there for me! Everything was about breastfeeding! I want there to be one voice for formula feeding, so that if you're struggling, you have another voice to here. 

Alright, let's jump into those myths, shall we? 

1. Formula feeding is pushed by hospitals. 

Formula feeding was incredibly popular from the 1960s through the 1980s. If you were born in a hospital in the United States between 1960 and 1990, you were probably formula fed. It was just what everyone did. Why? Formula feeding was associated with wealth; it was expensive, but it was incredibly reliable. Prior to the invention of mass-produced formula, infant mortality was much, much higher; those who had the resources to afford formula were much more wealthy. 

To say that formula feeding was pushed by hospitals during those years isn't wrong. Formula feeding was considered the norm and it was very popular. However, most hospitals now receive grants through the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI). What does that mean? If they have higher rates of breastfeeding, they receive more grant money and maintain their status as "baby friendly." Overwhelmingly, it's much more difficult to receive formula in hospitals these days. I had to sign a waiver to receive formula for Forrest and they pressured me to choose breastmilk from the Portland Milk Bank instead. 

2. Formula feeding is correlated to higher rates of diabetes, obesity, etc., and can lead to lower intelligence in children. 

These myths are all combined into one, but basically all have to do with the same thing: formula fed babies are stupid and unhealthy. This myth is so boring and so clearly aimed at guilting mothers, I debated even including it. Formula feeding is associated, now, with lower income women and families. Why? Because these families are more likely to receive formula via programs like WIC. They are also more likely to have to return to work within 4-6 weeks of giving birth (sometimes even less), they are more likely to not have health insurance that covers things like breast pumps or lactation consultants, and they are more likely to have employers who don't provide them with the necessary breaks. (In the United States, technically all employers must accommodate breastfeeding mothers; however, most workplaces only have to provide 1 30-minute lunch period for every 8 hours worked, as well as 2 10-minute breaks. If you're still pumping every 2 hours or so, that's just now enough.) 

Associating formula feeding with increased health problems and lower intelligence, you are linking and stereotyping these issues to lower income families, while ignoring the reasons that many lower income families have to rely on formula for the sake of their children. This myth is a whole mess of problems and false correlations, but more than anything else, it's just plain wrong. 

As I said, almost the entirety of the United States was formula fed for 25 solid years. That means almost everyone we know was formula fed. Most of my friends were formula fed and I'd say they are as smart or much smarter than me. Repeat it with me: formula feeding has no impact on health or intelligence. It's just food. 

3. Formula causes tooth decay. 

Tooth decay in children is called "bottle rot," because in the 1970s and 80s, it was associated with babies and toddlers being put to sleep with bottles of formula. Many mothers in this time just didn't know this wasn't wrong; their babies slept and everyone was happy! Until their teeth started to rot. Pediatricians learned quickly to warn mothers of formula fed babies to always brush their teeth after bottles and to never let them sleep with a bottle. The issue is that when a baby or toddler falls asleep drinking a bottle, the milk often pools in their mouth, staying on their teeth and causing rapid decay. 

So, bottle rot is associated with formula feeding. But you'll be surprised to know that cases of bottle rot have rapidly increased in breastfed babies. 

Why? Because mothers of infants who are breastfed are not warned to brush their children's teeth and, in cases where mothers are following attachment parenting, are encouraged to let their children breastfeed all through the night. But a child that lies all night with milk on their teeth that isn't brushed or rinsed away is going to get cavities. That's just how dental hygiene works! If I drank a glass of milk before bed every night and didn't brush my teeth, I will get cavities too!

Breastmilk and formula are both just fat and sugar; at the end of the day, that's what they are. If that is left on the teeth, it will cause cavities. All parents should practice good dental hygiene with their children, regardless of what they are fed. 

4. Formula feeding is lazy. 

This is, to me, the most hurtful myth. It presumes that if you choose formula feeding, you are lazy and therefore, don't love your children. It dribbles out of people's mouth and probably is followed by, "I bet you let them watch TV" and more. It's judgmental, it's stupid, and it's wrong. 

Formula feeding, especially from the newborn days, is difficult and time consuming. You boil water; you prepare bottles; you have to sanitize everything. There is powder everywhere. It's awful! And worse, in the middle of the night, you have to mix up bottles, warm them if your baby takes them warm, and then wash it so you don't have a disgusting surprise in the morning. 

That also doesn't take into account that many, many formula feeding mothers start as wanting to breastfeed. They may have tried very, very hard to breastfeed. They pumped, or they went to lactation consultants. They tried and tried and tried. Is that lazy? No, absolutely not. 

And even if a mother choose formula as the best choice for her family, it is often because of a lifestyle choice--not because she doesn't want to put in any effort. This myth is so offensive; it allows those who repeat it put themselves on pedestals while disparaging other mothers. And, frankly, I'm tired of it always being a competition. 

All the Benefits of Formula Feeding

You know the myths. You know they're wrong. So what are the benefits of formula feeding? 

1. Travel is much easier. 

Forrest was an Enfamil baby and when he was about 7 months, I found out that Enfamil makes these on-the-go packets of formula. They are pre-measured for a 4 ounce bottle, so all you need is 4 ounces of water. It was genius. No messy dispensers. For us, travel became so much easier when I wasn't pumping; plus, Danny could feed Forrest in his car seat while I drove, so our trips didn't get disrupted. It was also so much easier to be out and about, because Forrest could have a bottle as I walked around the mall or store. 

2. Transitioning to whole milk is easier. 

Formula and whole milk are very easy to mix. For us, making the switch at a year was so effortless and easy, Forrest didn't even notice! It was much harder to transition to sippy cups, but at least we knew he would take whole milk, and therefore get all the fat he needed! 

3. Being able to accurately measure intake is amazing. 

Having a preemie meant that we were always a little paranoid about measuring his intake. I counted diapers until Forrest was 8 or 9 months old, and I still have spreadsheets of his intake for months. His pediatrician always wanted to know and so being able to tell him that he averaged 25 ounces of formula a day and 10 wet diapers felt so easy. We always knew how much he was getting, so if his growth stalled, we didn't have to wonder if my supply was low or what. We just had to increase his bottles! 

4. Mothers don't have to do all the feeds. 

This is the best part. With most breastfeeding mothers, the onus is on the one who breastfeeds to do every feed. And for the first 3 months, that's every 2 or 3 hours, around the clock. It's easy to get touched out in that scenario. With formula feeding, anyone can feed the baby. Dad? Yep. Big brother or sister? Sure! Grandma? Yes. Grandpa? Absolutely! It gives mothers some free time to relax, or do some basic chores, and can be a huge help in reducing anxiety and depression. 


I hope this blog post has been illuminating! If you're considering formula feeding, don't be afraid to send me a note, either on social media or via email. I want to hear about you and answer any questions you may have.