Monthly Wrap Up: February 2019

Monthly Wrap Up: February 2019 | Writing Between Pauses

If you’ve read my blog for any stretch of time, you know two things about me: I love Fall the most and February is always the worst month. I’m not going to say that how much February sucks is because of astrology… except I am. Mercury Retrograde almost always hits at some point in February, plus it is Pisces season.

This February was no exception to the rule: I got a lot done, but a lot of stuff went absolutely bonkers. Totally haywire. It’s so hard for me to even summarize February because… where do I begin?! I guess I should start with the Snow.

1. The Big Snow

Oregon Snow
Snow in Oregon

It started snowing on February 24 at about noon. It did not stop for over 24 hours. By the end, we had about 14-16 inches at our house; at my parents’ house just a mile down the road from me (but slightly higher elevation), they had closer to 18-20 inches. In some drifts, there were nearly 2 feet of snow! The roads were a mess. And what was worse: the weight of the snow itself caused trees to fall, branches to snap, and power lines to be severed.

Our power went out around midnight between Sunday and Monday. Monday morning, I woke up with Forrest (he’d gotten into our bed because he couldn’t sleep alone in the dark) and went downstairs, got a fire going in our wood stove, and then opened the door to listen. It was only then that I realized how bad things were; it was still snowing and everything was extremely quiet… but I could hear breaking and crashing sounds in the woods all around us. And worse, the power line that goes over our yard kept shaking violently, including the power pole. I was suddenly not just annoyed that I didn’t have power, but pretty scared.

Once it got light out, I walked down our driveway to see what it looked like. We had about 4-5 trees down across our driveway and the snow was deep. There was no way we could get out. Throughout the rest of the morning, branches fell off the huge cedar tree right next to our house, crashing into our backyard, fence, and porch. Thankfully, nothing big hit our house—but it was scary.

Trees down in Oregon

My parents managed to clear their driveway, but it was nearly dark by then. They finally came over Tuesday to clear our driveway and we went to their house for a little while, as they have a generator. The next few days were basically the same pattern: we’d go to their house every day. The roads were bad. Here’s what they looked like in my area. That’s just one section; there were so many places where the road was reduced to nothing because trees had fallen inward on both sides, taking down power lines.

After 4 days, my parents got their power restored, but we didn’t. The line from our power pole to our neighbors house was still disconnected, which meant there was something wrong with the transformer on our pole. We waited and waited. It felt like an eternity! We went to my parents’ house every day to get some work done, shower, and charge our devices.

On the plus side, I got way more sleep that week than any other time in my life! I read a lot, did a lot of embroidery, and learned that I definitely need to be better prepared for emergencies. I have a blog post about emergency preparedness that I’m working on, so stay tuned for that.

Thankfully, our power was restored on March 3, but our internet satellite dish had been damaged. Having power was so nice though; I did so much laundry, cleaned everything, ran the dishwasher 3 times, and vacuumed up all the debris around our wood stove. It’s been a wild ride, but I am very done with snow and February.

2. Books I Read

Gosh, having no power makes you really get into reading. Here is every book I read during the outage:

  • I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp, by Richard Hell

  • Find Her, by Lisa Gardner

  • Cutting Season, by Attica Locke

  • Verity, by Colleen Hoover

  • Carnegie’s Maid, by Marie Benedict

  • The Hazel Wood, by Melissa Albert


3. What Else?

For the sake of space, here’s a few little things that happened in February:

  • My work is moving offices. However, unfortunately, our new office was not ready before the end of our lease… so we are all working from home for the entire month of March and last week in February. As you can tell, that meant my work week was an absolutely wash because of the snow—and I wasn’t alone. Going back to work was honestly the most exciting thing in the world, but I didn’t didn’t have internet until last Friday!

  • We got our taxes done and despite paying in extra this past year… we still owed to Oregon and got a very small return from Federal. We’re trying to crack the code here and figure out how much we need to overpay to make even!

  • We planned our coast trip for this summer and fantasized multiple times about running away to Disneyland. (Once I could get my car out of my driveway, it was definitely hard to not just start driving to somewhere, anywhere else.)

  • I started learning embroidery. It’s been really fun and I’ve been loving the process! You can follow me on Instagram to see some of my projects.

Well, that’s about it for February. I’m excited for March; I’m really ready to be in Spring (even though it’s not my favorite time of the year), but I want to be far from the possibility of snow right now!

What's in My Cup This Fall?

What's in My Cup This Fall? | Writing Between Pauses

I didn’t really drink coffee until I was 26. I had drank Starbucks drinks, of course—but I think we can all agree that those are mostly milk and flavors and much less about the coffee. (No shade, though; I love a latte!)

For a long time, I drank coffee very, very weak with a scoop of hot cocoa powder, milk, and Truvia. That sounds so gross to me now because my love for coffee has only grown. People really aren’t kidding when they say that the taste of coffee will grow on you; I absolutely used to hate the smell and taste of coffee, but now it’s one of my favorite things in the world!

These days I have two favorite types of coffee: the 1850 Black Gold dark roast from Folgers and Starbucks French Roast. Both are dark roasts. I use almond milk, salted caramel non-dairy creamer, and Truvia in my coffee every single day. It’s the best part of my morning some days, to be honest.

I feel like coffee is one of those extremely personal drinks that everyone has. And everyone has their preference. Some people live by creamer. Or half-and-half. Or black coffee. Some people only use sugar. My grandma still only uses Sweet’n’Low, which tastes so awful to me I can barely stand it. Usually around mid-Spring, I go through a phase of not really drinking coffee—and then by Fall, I’m ready for hot beverages again!

How do you take your coffee? Does it change seasonally?

My May 2018 Review: Hello Summer!

may 2018 review.png

Remember how I mentioned that April was kind of a doozy? I feel like I've been saying this every month since January and it just keeps... going. How do I stop the dooziness? How can I make each month just, like, 25% more boring? 

May was a good month, though. Not as stressful as March, which truly took the care in terms of "how can all these bad things happen in one month", and at least we had better weather than April. Just like last month, I'm going to do something a bit different and just talk about how my life has been--something I don't do a lot here on my blog in between all the "business", you know! 

1. Enjoying (All My) Work Again

I think like most people, I tend to wax and wane in terms of enthusiasm for basically everything. Or maybe that's just a me thing, but it seems a little universal sometimes. For example, some days, I love this blog. I think about how much I enjoy it, how I've enjoyed improving my photography these last few months, and how good it feels to really be seeing growth in my blog. I've been feeling that way about everything in my life lately. Recently, I've been feeling a major slump with just about everything: at my day job, I felt uninspired and like I wasn't doing a good job (a byproduct of imposter syndrome, probably); at home, I couldn't find the motivation to clean or cook. It was just a bit of a slump. But in May, I felt like everything clicked back into place. Was it the nice weather? All I know is I've been loving working out lately, loving going to work, loving researching blog post topics. 

2. Confronting Our Fears

I am by nature a scaredy-cat. I'm scared of pretty much everything. Heights, flying, bugs of all kinds (yes, even ladybugs), the dark, heavily wooded areas. I went through the car wash recently and nearly had a panic attack. 

After Forrest's almost-broke-his-arm incident last month, I found myself afraid to take him to the park again. I was afraid he would fall. Or that he'd get pushed again and really break his arm this time (and, in the spiral of fear there, I'd take him to the pediatrician and they'd side eye my story of him being pushed again). He loves going to the park. He loves playing outside and exploring. But I found myself very nervous about taking him. What if something happened? 

But one thing I want for Forrest is for him to not have my anxiety. I've been trying hard not to express my anxiety around him, so that he doesn't see it and internalize having those kind of fears. I realized that if I don't want him to be afraid of the park for the rest of his life, we need to replace that memory of being pushed and getting hurt with memories of playing. 

So, we went to the park. He has developed a minor fear of going down slides, but he had fun running around and playing with two other kids his age we met there. He was brave. I was brave. 

3. Embracing Summer

I say this a lot, but I've always really disliked summer. Growing up with body image issues, summer always made me feel like I couldn't enjoy myself; I don't like wearing shorts and I definitely didn't like wearing bikinis. I also grew up 40 miles away from all my friends, so summers were often quite lonely for me. As I got older, I spent most of my summers working and saving money. And then, obviously, once I graduated college, summer meant just about the same thing as the rest of the year--just with hotter weather! 

This year, however, I'm trying to keep myself from being a grump about summer. I have a lot of negative energy surrounding summer (obviously)... but the best part about having a 2-year-old is that everything becomes super fun. I've bought Forrest some new outdoor toys. I have plans to build him a sandbox. And I find myself excitedly waiting for the weather to really stay nice so we can get out our outdoor furniture. 

What was your favorite part of May? 

My April 2018 Wrap Up

April 2018 Wrap Up | Writing Between Pauses

April is... over!? 

You know how I said that March was a doozy of a month? Well, April arrived bigger and badder. I had a lot of ups this month and a lot of downs. I'm going to write this post a bit differently than I usually do for these wrap ups, because I have a lot to talk about!

A few years ago (after I had Fo really), I decided that I shared too much online about everything that happened in my life. It wasn't fair to Forrest to put so much of his life out there. And really, it wasn't fair to myself either. But as I've blogger more the past 6 months, I realized it is hard to draw the line between "hobby blogger professionally" and "being cold"! Does that make sense? 

I'm hoping to use these wrap ups as a chance to share a bit more about me and my life as a mother and professional. 

1. Big Blogging News

I've been blogging for ages, really, but it's only been in the past 2-3 months that I started getting fun "blog emails." I don't want to talk about this too much as it starts to feel a bit like an echo chamber (and to a non-blogger reading this, it is so boring to hear bloggers write about this so I apologize in advance). It's nice to feel like I'm finally achieving something because I do work on this blog a lot. 

There was also a Twitter thread recently that I added my thoughts onto (you can read it all here) and it really underscored for me the importance of blogging for a purpose. I love my blog, but my purpose here is to educate and inspire. I don't just want free stuff. I want to write content that others want to read and for me, that means taking myself (and my personal life) out of it. I'm here to review products, to provide advice, and to help people figure out what works as a mother or young professional, lover of makeup, or whatever! I'm not changing the world.

One sponsorship I'm really proud of this month is my collab with Smile Brilliant. I'm still hosting a giveaway from them, so if you haven't entered yet, click here

2. Motherhood Never Stops Being a Challenge

Without going into too much detail, the Friday before last, we had our first big medical scare with Forrest. He has had croup before, where we rushed him to the ER at about midnight. And he's been quite sick before. But on that Friday, he'd gotten pushed at the park (still not happy about it) and fallen forward with his arms outstretched. He seemed fine initially; we went home, he napped, and I tried to get work done. When he woke up though, he was inconsolable. Finally, I got out of him that he was hurt and he needed a doctor. I called our pediatrician and just as Danny got home from work, my pediatrician called me back personally and said, "Put him in the car and get him to me now please." (In case you're wondering, I love our pediatrician; she's absolutely wonderful and made time to check his arm.) She immediately saw he wasn't using his arm properly and wanted us to get x-rays. 

Cut to us running around the entire city of Eugene to find an x-ray tech that was open. We kept getting to places immediately after they had closed or being told that they don't do outpatient x-rays. We ended up driving across town and getting into an office after a nurse from the hospital called and begged a fellow x-ray tech to stay late. (Bless that nurse!) Forrest got his x-rays. He had to wear a tiny sling for a few days (which was a horrible challenge). On Monday, our pediatrician called to tell us his elbow wasn't broken (thank goodness), but severely sprained. Rest and time helped and his little "broken wing" is better now. But it was scary!

I always think I can handle, or anticipate, the challenges that happen. But that Friday, I was not expecting to spend several hours with a sweaty, sobbing toddler trying to get someone to x-ray his arm! 

3. Learning to Live Slow

I impulse bought this book at Target three weeks ago. Let me say: I feel like I've learned so much from it already. I've stopped to use one of the mini-journals it comes with, but I'm so excited to read more. This book is all about taking the time to really wind down and think, to live a little slower, and to stop stuffing our lives with activities and jobs in order to feel like we are always "busy." It's about really letting yourself feel your emotions. Even writing about it, I feel myself calming down!

I get chronic migraines and tension headaches; I've gotten tension headaches since I was 20, but the migraines are new, within the last two years, really. They aren't fun and at this point, I know they are caused by my stress and anxiety. I'm hoping this book can help me start alleviating some of the anxiety that I feel (that often leaves me either unable to stop working or paralyzed at the thought of starting a task). 

4. Other Bits

A lot of highs. A lot of lows. I feel like that's been the past few months. However, my hope for May is that I can go a month without a serious medical or home expense (I bought new tires and a new dishwasher in March; I had to also buy another new piece of car equipment in April; my savings account is crying). 

However, this past weekend, Danny and I went on a solo trip to Portland. It was really nice to be able to just spend time with him and not worry about anything else for a change! 

I have a lot of exciting blog posts coming up this month, as well as some really fun personal stuff. 

How was your April? Did you have a good month? 

My Favorite Christmas Traditions

My Favorite Christmas Traditions | Writing Between Pauses

Christmas is my favorite time of year. 

Actually, scratch that: from October 1 to December 31 is my favorite time of year. Once January hits, I tend to fall into a bit of a... rut? Sadness rut? January and February are very difficult months for me, so it seems kind that I get my absolute favorite time of year right before that. 

I grew up with a lot of Christmas traditions that have fallen to the wayside. I think that is true of everyone's life: there are things you do as a kid that just aren't realistic for incorporating into your life as you get older. There are no more big family dinners on Christmas Eve; no more bright-and-early Christmas mornings (at least not until Forrest is able to get up on his own); and no more school programs or anything like that. 

No, there are other things that I associate with Christmas now. Things that I've done with Danny in the last 7 years (have we been together nearly 7 years now!?) that are special to us, that are our traditions, and things we are starting with Forrest to make into traditions of our own. 

I wanted to share some of my childhood traditions that I still keep up, some of our new traditions as a family, and a few things that we hope to incorporate into Christmas as the years go by. 

1. Baking Sugar Cookies

This is one of those traditions that everyone has. Almost everyone spends one day in December baking a ridiculous amount of sugar cookies--or maybe they're oatmeal cookies, or ginger cookies, or whatever cookie your family favors.

We make sugar cookies in my family; the recipe was my great-grandmother's, adapted from a recipe for Scottish shortbread (I think it's actually an Americanization, as my great-grandmother's side was Scottish). It's basically shortbread, plus eggs and baking powder and vanilla. That's it! They're delicious, easy to make, and so much fun.

I've been making these sugar cookies the exact same way with the exact same icing since I was little and whenever I make them for my office, everyone loves them. It's not Christmastime until I've made my sugar cookies!

2. Opening presents early

Danny and I have always been very bad at keeping secrets from each other. Mostly because I am incredibly intuitive and I know when Danny isn't telling me something. Presents are hard because, throughout the year, we save so much money that we rarely treat ourselves or each other to big purchases, so we tend to give each other gifts the moment we buy them. The last few years, we got into a bad habit of having most of our presents opened by Christmas day (oops). This year, we set a limit for ourselves: one present when Danny finished school for break and one before we left for Christmas. It worked marvelously. We got to enjoy our tradition of being absolutely cheeky about when we open presents, but we still have some to open with Forrest on Christmas morning. (And of course, like true parents, we're making Forrest wait until Christmas! Not that he knows the difference.) 

3. Watching Lord of the Rings

One of my favorite movies to watch around Christmas is the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Don't ask me why, but they are Christmas movies. I will argue about it. Danny and I started doing this the year where he wasn't working and I had quit my job to switch to another (digression: that job switch was absolutely a mistake, but that's another blog post!). We had a lot of spare time around Christmas as a result, so we watched the extended edition of the Trilogy... and loved it. We started doing it every year! 

Recently, we added the Hobbit trilogy to it. Those movies are also Christmas movies, I will argue, and fit right in. With Forrest, we don't have the attention spans (or time) we used to, so we tend to stick to the Hobbit and the Fellowship of the Ring, our two favorites. 

4. Advent Calendars

Advent calendars are a relatively new phenomena in the United States. Well, not "new." When I was little, I had an Advent calendar once or twice, but they weren't very popular and I firmly believe that the traditional ones sold in the US were all made in the same year. (Really, they all have the same waxy chocolates and exact same look. Since at least 1992.) 

I know Advent calendars are super popular outside the U.S. though, of all varieties... much better varieties than mass produced, waxy milk chocolates and a vaguely religious poem behind each door! This year, I started noticing Advent calendars popping up everywhere: Ulta had one, Sephora had one. Europe is gradually forcing a trend on the U.S. and I am into it! I got myself an Advent calendar this year and Forrest one as well, and we both enjoyed it. This is definitely something I want to keep up because they are so fun! 

5. Making Family Ornaments

This year, I bought a few ornament picture frames to put on our tree: they have the year on them, so I put two photos from our family vacation in them. It got me thinking... how nice, when Forrest is 18, to be able to decorate the tree with these photos of us and him. It's not something I can see myself doing every single year (some years we probably won't vacation or get a good photo), but something I do want to keep up for a while! 

What are your Christmas traditions? Tell me about them in the comments!

My Acne Journey

My Acne Journey | Writing Between Pauses

In October, I turned 29--and it marked the first month in 18 years (that's right, 18) that I had not had a new pimple or cyst every single day. Can you believe it? 18 years. 

I've written before about my struggle with acne: it's been a constant on my face for as long as I can remember. I've become a pro at covering it, concealing it, angling my face in photos to hide it, editing it out of photos entirely, using my hand to cleverly cover it, and more. But that only works in photos; in real life, I've gotten good enough at doing my make up to cover up the worst... but modern make up can only do so much. 

I wanted to write a longer post about my acne, how it evolved as I got older, what I did to try to fix it, and what never worked. Let's jump right in. 

I first started getting bad acne when I was 11. I distinctly remember being in the 6th grade, just after my 12th birthday, and my mom dabbing powdered foundation over my chin in the car. "No picking," she said. I rolled my eyes because, duh, mom. But I fidget when I'm nervous: I twirled my hair, pick at my nails, tap my feet, and, as time went on, pick at my face. It was a cycle that started then. 

The first kind of acne I got was typical of newly pubescent girls: whiteheads, basically, and a few clogged pores. Occasionally, I would get a cyst that would knock me on my butt for a few days. Early on, I wasn't bothered by my acne; I did wonder why I was the only girl in my class who seemed to have so much of it, but I was always a little older than the other girls in my class (thanks to my October birthday), so I chalked it up to age. I went to a very close knit Catholic school; by 6th grade, I'd known everyone in my class since we were 6 years old. 

My acne got worse, of course. By the time I was 13, it was a constant on my face and true to form, no one else I knew was struggling quite as bad as me. On weekends, I would spend a lot of time in the face wash aisles of stores, trying to find something I hadn't tried and would magically start working. At the time, I was using those prepackaged Neutrogena acne face wash wipes; they came in a box and you lathered them up under water. They did absolutely nothing. Shortly after, I started using Clean & Clear Deep Action Cream Cleanser, something that is still made today, but was new at the time; it felt minty when I put it on and I was convinced it did something. (It didn't.) 

Once I was out of middle school, I was allowed to wear make up to school and, baby, I did. I wore foundation and powder every single day to cover my acne. It was embarrassing and I knew it was the first thing people noticed about me. Even in my close knit Catholic school, I felt ostracized because of how I looked; I'd heard kids whispering about me and making jokes about my skin. 

I kept on using average drug store products, mostly Clean & Clear, but for a while I was dedicated to the classic Neutrogena Acne Wash, you know, the brown kind that comes in the square bottle. However, nothing really worked and my acne had spread from being generally on my chin and forehead to my nose, my cheeks, my scalp, and under my ears. I started having to use shampoo with salicylic acid in it to help my scalp and ears. A day never passed, however, without at least 2-3 new pimples. I altered my diet in my first year of high school; I started trying to eat fruit with every meal and reduce the amount of fat I ate (which is really hard when you're a teenager and the only thing you want to eat is french fries). 

By Junior year, my skin was still bad, but I had accepted it. However, something happened my Junior year that I still think about a lot; on AIM one night, my best friend was having a crisis. She was saying that she felt like she said mean things when she was angry, as a way to make other people hurt or to make it so she wasn't alone. "Like right now," she wrote, "I want to tell you to get proactive, your skin is so bad." (Proactive being that acne wash system that is advertised on TV; which, note, I had tried and it didn't work.) The conversation ended shortly after, but I still think about that all the time. I had accepted my skin; I knew I ate healthy, I drank water, I worked really hard to keep my skin clean and to look decent. To know that my friends still looked at me and thought I wasn't trying...

My acne wasn't something I talked about. I didn't talk about it or complain about it to anyone. I was so embarrassed by it that I thought if I mentioned it, it would just bring more attention to it. I was mortified by that conversation. You know when you lie in bed and think about all the stupid things you've ever done or moments where you didn't protect yourself? That's one for me. 

(And to clarify, I am still friends with this girl and she may very well read my blog. If she's reading, I've forgiven you; I know you've grown since then; and I know you didn't mean to hurt me the way you did.) 

In March of my Junior year, my sister got married. She, of course, picked a backless halter dress for me as her maid of honor. I was terrified to wear it. My acne had spread from my face to my back; I would say that my back was actually the most severe acne I had and I still have extreme scarring from the large, painful cysts I would get. I began obsessively using Neutrogena Acne Body wash, which didn't do much; I also started smearing large amounts of both salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide on after every shower I took. All of my sheets and t-shirts got stained, but it did help a lot--even if I frequently gave myself chemical burns on my back. 

I also got my first facial during this time, at the behest of my mom; she actually bought me the entire line they used on me during it in the hope that it would help my skin. I remember her telling me that we needed to get my skin cleared up for the wedding and, again, I just wanted to scream; what had I been doing for 6 years!? Trying to clear up my skin! 

I think it was during my senior year that I finally went to a dermatologist; I was prescribed a high-powered acne cream that had to be kept in the fridge. It worked by burning off the top layer of your skin, basically, to clear acne. It worked for the first 2-3 weeks, giving me decent skin, but then stopped working. The dermatologist offered to put me on 2 months worth of antibiotics to see if that helped, but the idea of taking antibiotics for that long felt odd and like not a great idea. 

After my senior year of high school, I asked to go on birth control because I heard it could help with acne. My mom agreed. Friends, I need to tell you something: birth control was the worst thing I did for my skin. Ever. 

About three weeks after starting hormonal birth control pills, my face felt like it was covered in acne; I had whiteheads across my forehead, my chin, my cheeks, and my jawline; my pores seemed to get larger and darker across my nose, cheeks, and chin; worse, the acne around and under my ears got worse too, as did the acne on my back. I was miserable, but my mom assured me that it would get worse before it got better, she was very sure. 

I waited for it to happen. It never did. Hormonal birth control consistently made my acne worse, but I stayed on it for 7 solid years, hoping that one day it would magically work like it did for other women! Why did this have to be the one thing was incredibly unique about me? Why did my acne have to be absolutely ironclad and resistant to all forms of treatment!? 

During the summer between my sophomore year of college and my junior year, I was 20 years old and I decided to go on a new form of birth control: Seasonale. If you remember it, there were commercials for it; you only got your period 4 times a year on it and I thought, that will be very handy for my acne, since it tended to be cyclical. I really thought if I could at least reduce my break outs, I would be happier. 

I went on a generic form of Seasonale and, friends, guess what happened? My acne didn't get worse, exactly, but it changed forms. I'd always just had bad whiteheads and clogged pores, but when I started Seasonale, I started getting cystic acne. I got less whiteheads, that was true, but I was getting 3-4 new cysts every single day

Friends, I stayed on Seasonale for nearly 4 years. Why? I ask myself. Why!? 

It's because I thought acne was just the thing I had to deal with, the cross I had to bear. 

I spent a lot of time researching things to help my skin, but I was convinced that if I just stuck it out with birth control pills, things would change. Not only did I now have some of the most severe cystic acne of anyone I knew, but I was also getting severe scarring on my chin from it. Thankfully, my skin calmed down elsewhere; I stopped getting zits on my forehead and cheeks, except for the occasional one, and my pores stopped getting clogged and inflamed... but my chin, jawline, and ear areas were messes

At this time, I was religiously using Neutrogena Acne Wash, tried and true (except it never worked at all) and keeping my skincare very neutral; I used Olay sensitive skin moisturizer. I still wore foundation every single day, but I had to do something to hide what was happening on my face. 

It was at this time that I started my first blog (shout out to Locked Out!) and posting pictures of myself really frequently. I don't need to tell you that getting attention for my outfits--and not my face--was a huge confident booster. I had never been confident in person because of my skin; I avoided speaking in front of people. I even avoided meeting my professors face-to-face in their offices because I was so embarrassed by my skin. I had trouble making friends in dorms because I didn't want to be seen without my make up. Once I started my blog though and started getting readers, started making friends who couldn't see my skin and didn't know that, in reality, I had the worst acne of anyone they'd ever met... I started getting more confident. 

My senior year of college was one of my best. I was busy all the time: with my blog, with projects, with everything. I was much more confident, despite the horrible cystic acne I was still experiencing, but I was very happy. I started dating Danny near the end of my senior year and, obviously, that changed my life for the better. But I still had acne; it was still something I thought about near constantly; and I still really struggled with how to fix it. 

After I graduated and entered the real world, I knew I had to do something about my skin. It had gotten slightly better, but I was still getting cystic acne all the time--more than the average person. I started going to the dermatologist again and was, again, prescribed antibiotics and the cream that burns your skin off; I used it, of course, and it worked for 2-3 weeks only to stop working after a while. Dermatologists tended to not take my concerns about my skin seriously; acne is mostly cosmetic and tends to be hormonal, so they always told me to try birth control. I was already on birth control and it made my skin worse, so what was the next option? They refused to prescribe me Accutane because of my history of depression. 

It was depressing to feel like nothing I tried work. I bought cheap skincare; I bought experience skincare. Mostly, I bought expensive make up to cover my acne and I got very good at it; concealer, foundation, green color correcting concealer, and powder were my best friends. I never went anywhere without spares. 

However, in 2013, I finally went off birth control. I'd been on it since I was 18 in 2007 and that was honestly too long. At the time, I hoped it would help me lose weight (my weight struggles are intertwined with my acne struggles, but that's too long of a story to tell here), but mostly, I noticed it helped my acne. My cystic acne got knocked back to, instead of 1 new cyst a day, I would get 5-6 cysts around my period and then whiteheads whenever I ovulated. I started tracking my cycle and noticing the patterns; I knew when I was going to break out and I prepared for it. I also stopped getting body acne, thank goodness, and could focus on fading my scarring from it. 

Having at least 2 weeks of decent skin a month was enough for me; I really felt like that was "good" in comparison to what I'd been through. And decent skin was, to me, that I had only 3-4 pimples at any given time. Totally doable! (If you are reading this and you've never had more than 1 pimple at a time, you're probably shrieking internally.) 

It was this year that I started really trying to revamp my skincare routine. I tossed my Clean & Clear cleansers that I had been using religiously, as well as my good ol' Neutrogena Acne Wash. I replaced it with gentle cleansers and toners, chemical exfoliants and masks that contained tea tree oil. These things "helped" in the sense that my skin seemed to perk up a little bit otherwise; my texture definitely got better and my pores shrank. But I was still getting acne. 

For years on the acne forums I frequented, I had read about using jojoba oil in skincare to help prevent acne. However, I had read all the teen magazines and I knew that oil was bad, right. Everyone said that acne-prone skin was too oily and adding oil was bad news. 

Friends, I was wrong. That's wrong. If you read anything that says that, they are wrong. 

Yes, acne-prone skin tends to be oily; but people with oily skin do need to moisturize. They need to moisturize a lot because our skin is oily because our skin is producing more oil to moisturize it. So if we moisturize well, our skin will stop producing so much oil. Success. 

It was in August that I finally decided to try it. I'd been struggling for almost 18 years with acne; I have horrible scarring on my chin and jawline and back; I was nearly 30 years old and still afraid to talk to people for fear they would notice my skin. Something had to change. And I had tried everything else. It was time to try the thing I had been avoiding because I didn't think there was any possible way it would work. 

I ordered a bottle of jojoba oil off Amazon and waited anxiously for it to arrive. I started using it to wash off my make up, followed by Soap & Glory's Peaches & Clean Cleanser; I also added a few drops to my tried-and-true SPF moisturizer during the day. I really worried that it would make my make up slide off and I needed my make up to stay put to hide my skin. 

Within 2 weeks, I noticed a difference. One day I woke up and... my skin was clear. I had a few healing pimples, but nothing new. I remember putting on make up and thinking, "I'm only covering scars, nothing new, wow." Within a month, I noticed the biggest difference: during my cycle, I only got one cyst. One cyst. That's a record--and it went away within 2 days, instead of the usual 7-10 days. 

By the second month, my skin was clear most of the month with only one new pimple when I ovulated and one when I started a new cycle. It was like a miracle. I felt like I had been wasting my entire life when I had read the answer years ago and just refused to believe it. I was so excited. So beyond excited. 

For the first time in my life, my skin is clear. I still really struggle with my confidence regarding my skin; it is a major issue for me still because I lived with it for so long. And I have so much sympathy and love for people who experience and struggle with acne; if you've never had severe acne, you truly have no idea what it's like to live with it. And the things people say about it to you are the worst. 

The one thing I notice most is that, if someone has good skin (usually, it's just genetic) they offer their skincare routine up as an example for others to use--as if, "well it works for me, it will work for you." And the reality is, if you've never had severe acne, you are pretty privileged and your individual experience with skincare isn't going to help anyone! (Is that too harsh?)

The other thing I noticed most throughout my journey was that people just assumed I didn't wash my face or that I didn't know how bad my skin was; if anything, I spent more time and money on skincare than anyone else I knew. I had a nightly skincare routine from the age of 11 onward. I washed my face twice a day, religiously, for 18 years. I never didn't wash my face. Even in college when I would be out until 2am, I would wash my face when I got back. This is the most hurtful assumption that people make about those with acne: they assume they have the answers and that we are just being stupid and not looking for them. 

I hope this post strikes a chord with you. If you are suffering from acne and aren't sure what to do, just know that it is possible to find something that works. Don't be afraid to try the thing that seems most impossible (jojoba oil). My number one wish is that I can prevent someone from waiting until they are 29 years old to have good skin. 

Why I Got Rid of All My Notebooks

decluttering as a writer

I've been receiving notebooks as gifts for as long as I can remember. Well, as long as I was telling people I wanted to be a writer. Notebooks are easy gifts: they can be beautiful, they can be practical, and it's an easy writing accessory that everyone understands. 

As someone who has kept a journal my entire life, these notebook gifts have been a blessing, honestly. I've rarely had to buy my own journals, especially if someone goes above-and-beyond and gives me a Moleskine for Christmas. However, it also has meant that I've always had a surplus of notebooks. 

In fact, this surplus started to get really embarrassing when I was pregnant. I unearthed a box of blank notebooks while getting organized and cleaning out Forrest's room. I had a stack of empty notebooks on my desk, on the bookshelf in my office, in a drawer under my desk... I had notebooks. I had notebooks upon notebooks. I had more notebooks than I would ever use in my life. Why? Because I cannot hand write fiction, or poetry, or anything. The only thing I use notebooks for is journaling. And a girl can only journal so much. 

It was time to bite the bullet. I always wanted to be the kind of person who could quietly sit with a notebook and write a story. At least get out the bare bones of it. I like journaling by hand and I like taking notes; I like writing out my grocery lists and to do lists. But trying to describe something, to actually write, by hand is a huge challenge for me. I know myself well enough now to know that it's just never going to happen. That's fine! 

So I had to get rid of all those notebooks. 

Some of them were beautiful, and expensive. Some of them I had bought myself, sure that the "right notebook" would spur my creativity. Some were cheap ones I'd bought in the last days of School Supply sales. Some were gifts. Some were party favors, or I received free from work. 

They all went. Into a box, that went to Goodwill, that hopefully sold them to someone who needed them, who can actually write in a notebook. It felt weird to let go of them, to let go of the idea of the kind of person I thought I could try to be. 

How I Became a Schlub -- and Learned to Love It

I should own stock in dry shampoo. 

I should own stock in dry shampoo. 

Three years ago, I couldn't imagine going out in less than my best. I dressed up all the time: blazers and jeans, bodycon skirts and sweaters, tights and boots and dresses. As time has passed, my dedication to dressing my best 24/7 has gone away. I find myself wondering how I can get away with wearing the same leggings-and-sweater combo everyday. I debate whether or not I can get away with hitting snooze one more time, not showering, and potentially wearing my pajamas out-and-about. I own an uncomfortable number of leggings and a truly ridiculous number of socks. 

As a teenager and college student, I was definitely not a fashionista. I always had ideas about what I wanted to dress like, but I felt very constricted by my body and comfort level. In general, I didn't feel confident enough to wear what I wanted to wear -- including all those punk-inspired outfits that were very popular when I was in high school. By the time I was a junior in college though, I'd gained a lot of self-confidence and that translated into dressing in a way that showed I cared about myself. 

That isn't to say not caring is a sign that you're not confident. That's just for me. I felt confident, so I wore what I'd always wanted to wear -- which is no jeans, only dresses, cute skirts, and cute shoes. 

That went on for a long time. At the height of my fashion blog, I felt very, very cute and well-dressed all the time.

However, after college, I worked a series of dissatisfying jobs that left me feeling depressed and bored. The longer I worked those dissatisfying jobs, the less I cared about what I wore. I lost a lot of self-discipline and mostly, I lost a lot of self-confidence. I found myself wanting to change my habits -- eating better, working out more, being active, finding a new job, dressing better -- but feeling unable to. I was very stuck; I was very bored; and I was turning into a schlub after a few good years of being, you know, one of those girls who always seemed put together. 

It was a hard transition for me, adjusting to the real world. It wasn't something I was prepared for. I went from the happiest time of my life and crash landed into the worst time of my life -- and my self confidence took a hit. 

I knew changing jobs wouldn't necessarily change things instantly -- but I was still disappointed when I didn't transform into my old self overnight. It's taken a lot of work, but I'm in a better place now than I have been in probably two and a half years. I still, however, find myself wishing that when I started a job I absolutely love, I would just transform instantly, lose 20 pounds, be able to fit into my old clothes, and restart up my old fashion blog. 

You might be wondering, Michelle, why do you now proudly talk about your schlubyness? 

Ultimately, people change. The person I was three years ago is not who I am now and no matter how much I want to revert back to that state, I can't do that because I'e been through too much. So while some days, I want to restart my habit of writing lists of outfits for the week, organizing my closet by color, and photographing everything I wear, I know I'm not in a place where I can do that right now. 

As my confidence slowly returns, I find myself caring less and less about what I wear -- just because that's who I am right now. There are definitely days where I want to dress up for no reason and I allow myself to have those days. But I no longer beat myself up when I wear the same chevron sweater and leggings two days in a row -- because if that's what I need, then that's what I need.