Why You Need A Paper Planner

   Mental load – it’s a catchy new feminist term for all the mental gymnastics moms and women, in general, do to keep their households running smoothly.  A comic from a French cartoonist titled “You Should’ve Asked” has been making the rounds on social media.  While I don’t think women are the only ones’ saddled with an overwhelming mental load, I do think that every woman struggles with it.  But, how does someone, in the words of Taylor Swift, “shake it off?”  Easy, a paper planner.  I’ve used a paper planner from my first semester in college and to this day I find it is one of the most valuable items anyone, especially working moms, can use.  From the tactile satisfaction of using your favorite pen on fancy paper to never forgetting another birthday again, there are so many reasons to invest in a paper planner – I’ve compiled my favorites here.

 

        Satisfaction of finishing a to-do list.  Seriously, is there anything better than checking things off a list?  I’ll wait…exactly, there isn’t.  Whenever I’m able to cross out everything that needs to be done I really feel like I’ve got my life on track (even if it’s patently a false presumption).  I’ve used a habit tracker in my bullet journal since I started using that system and the satisfaction of coloring in that little square has started multiple good habits – flossing, taking my probiotics, reading to Livia and having “no spend” days to name a few.  Clicking on an onscreen box doesn’t even compare.

        There is a planner for you.  Do you want a pretty planner?  Look into a Lilly Pulitzer or Vera Bradley.  Do you want a simple, blank planner?  Can’t go wrong with The Simplified Planner.  Do you want to customize everything?  Check out an Erin Condren.  Want total flexibility?  Try bullet journaling.  Paper quality the most important?  Look at the Rhodias.  These just barely touch the surface of the planner universe.   I can think of, at least, another 10 planner designs off the top of my head.  Seriously, whatever is the most important feature (or features) to you there is a planner system that accommodates it.

        Never forget anything ever again.  This is the number one reason I need a paper planner.  I’ve religiously used a paper planner since I started college seven years (geeze, seven years already?) ago.  In that time I’ve used two Mead Five-Star Planners, a Vera Bradley, a Lilly Pulitzer, The Simplified Planner and the bullet journal system – I don’t forget about things like birthdays, appointments or parties anymore.  I can schedule doctor’s appointments a year in advance because I write it all down.  The freedom that comes from unloading that mental load is surprising.  Moms, especially, carry a large mental load and having a planner gives space to get the clutter on paper.  Keeping upcoming events on paper, lets me know well in advance if I have something coming up and I need to make plans or arrangements.

        Bill tracking is easy.  This in the same vein as “Never forget anything ever again.”  It’s easy to write down “pay the mortgage” on the 20th of every month with a reminder three or four days before or to write a reminder that the car insurance gets auto drafted on the 8th of every month.  If you, like me, constantly forget if you’ve already paid the water bill, I write down the check number, the date it was sent and the amount of each bill I pay.  So when I have a moment of panic, I just flip back until I find the bill I was looking for – problem solved!

        Easily get a quick at a glance look at the day, week or month.  This is my number one complaint with digital planners – getting a good weekly or monthly overview is impossible.  I love being able to flip to the month and know what is going on in seconds, instead of having to click on the little calendar boxes for each item.

        Paper planners can keep everything together.  From grocery lists to bills that need to be paid, to party invitations or reminder cards I have all sorts of stuff in the pockets of my planner.  Even better, I can throw half of those away once I’ve transferred the information into my planner.  It’s a great place to plan meals, keep track of kids growth and milestones, make Christmas and birthday lists among hundreds of other uses.  I am the queen of forgetting good gifts or baby names and since I’ve started keeping a running list of things I don’t have to spend time and effort trying to remember what it was I forgot.

        Paper planning provides “unplugged” time.  We, as a whole, spend far too much time in front of screens.  I enjoy the organic and tactile process of getting away from the computer, cell phone or TV and just planning.  It’s time I can spend to focus on getting everything cluttering up my mind onto paper.  Honestly, even if this were the only benefit of using a paper planner I might do it anyway.  I hate how much screens eat up my time even when I make a conscious effort to put the phone down and walk away from the TV.  Screen time hurts our eyes, our circadian rhythms and makes us much less happy with what we have – having a specific time to put all of that aside is grounding and makes me a more pleasant person.

        Planners are keepsakes.  I’ve kept all of my planners since Doug and I got married and sometimes I like to pull them out just to see how different our lives were four years ago.  Sometimes I’ll flip back through an old planner to get inspiration for meal planning.  My favorite is to look back on the months that I was pregnant with Livia and remember the excitement that came along with expecting our first baby and after she was born, I wrote down her height and weight from doctor’s visits (because I’m terrible at baby books).  One day, maybe, she will come across this stack of planners and get a look at what our day-to-day was like before she was born or when she was a little kid.

 

        Paper planners save my butt.  They keep me on top of everything I need to take care of and they remind me of anything upcoming.  I love being able to take quick notes about something funny Livia said or did to remember in the future.  The freedom that a planner gives me to forget all the clutter in my head keeps me sane.  What is keeping you from using one, if you don’t?  What is your favorite planner design or planner system?  Let me know in the comments below!

10 Hacks for Working Moms


Before Livia was born, I thought that adding another person to our family would be an easy transition – really, how hard can it be?  It turns out a lot harder than I thought.  Seriously, working outside of the home for 40 hours a week, plus the commute time, is hard, way harder than I imagined it would be.  I spend most of the day at work so ready to get home, but my real job is much easier and less stressful than what I have to take care of at home.  It’s almost like I leave my easy job at 5:00 to go to my crazy one at home.  I’ve spent the last 19 months working to create some sort of balance between work, home, family and personal time.  It’s never easy to spread yourself thin – but with a few “hacks” I’ve picked up over the last year and a half, it can be a little bit easier.

I’ve split these into three categories:  Meals, Home and Kids.  Plus a few extras at the end.

Meals

Meal prep as much as possible.  Whether it’s batch cooking on the weekend, chopping veggies for a later meal or plating a week’s worth of lunches at once – eliminating tasks, therefore time, when cooking each meal can add up to extra time at the end of the day or before supper is ready.  Doug and I bring leftovers for lunch pretty much every day, eating out for lunch or grabbing a frozen dinner aren’t viable options for both health and money reasons, so keep the number of leftovers you need in mind when meal planning and cooking.

Utilize kitchen gadgets (aka: slow cookers and Instant Pots).  I know that everyone and their mom has at least one slow cooker in their kitchen, but they are easily one of the biggest time savers for getting supper on the table with minimal work.  Personally, I prefer the Instant Pot.  They are great for preparing staples – rice, hard boiled eggs, and broth.  But, are used for so much more, they are the ultimate one-pot, time-saving solution for supper time woes (man, I should have been an ad copywriter).

Have a list of easy, quick meals and keep the pantry stocked with the necessary ingredients.  For us, that’s Half Baked Harvest’s Caprese Chicken Bolognese, The Kitchn’s Sloppy Joes and rice and beans.  Find something your family loves, takes less than 30 minutes to cook and is easy to keep the ingredients in the house.  I’ve talked about some of my favorite meals before, here.

Home

This is a rough subject for me.  I’m not a particularly neat person (as my husband and parents can attest), so spending time cleaning is not high on my priorities.

Figure out something that works for you.  Do you need to do clothes once a week?  Every day?  How often do you want to fold and put away clothes?  What’s the best time of day to sweep or vacuum the floors?  Who’s doing what chores?  Ask yourself, your spouse, heck, even your kids, questions like these to figure out what cleaning schedule works best for your family.

Trade off with your husband.  Do NOT try to keep the house clean by yourself, all you will end up doing is running yourself ragged and resenting everyone else that lives in your house.  You both work full-time, you both wear clothes, you both eat supper, you both helped make those babies – make sure he’s an equal partner in all aspects of your life.  Example:  I cook supper while Doug plays with Livia.  We eat as a family and after one of us bathes Livia while the other cleans the kitchen.  I shower while he gets her dressed.  Then I get her (and me) ready for bed while Doug has some free time.  Then she and I go to sleep and he does whatever he feels needs to be done for the next day (at this point in my life sleep is more important than free time).  Our evenings are busy, but not hectic since we’ve started splitting the chores, additionally, I appreciate him so much for taking an active role in keeping our lives flowing smoothly.

Have a Top 3 list.  I normally have a running list of the most important things to get done for each day or week on top of our daily tasks.  Sometimes it’s get groceries, wash sheets and mop floors.  Other times it’s go through Livia’s clothes, clean out the fridge and hang up all my work clothes.  I never write these down, but this list is always in my head.  I don’t necessarily get to everything all the time, but I do my best to make progress.

Kids

I’m still really new at this whole parenting thing, I only have one kid, and she’s only 19-months-old, but I have learned a few things that seem to help keep our evenings less cranky.

Snacks, snacks, snacks.  I know I’m not the only parent whose kid turns into a monster when she’s hungry.  Livia could be the star of Snickers commercial – she is a perfect picture of hangry.  Keeping easy, healthy snacks for her on hand has made a world of difference in our evenings.  She currently loves pickles so I’ll give her five pickles to snack on while I cook supper or she will share a sandwich with Douglas (because adults need snacks, too).  I really like Plum Organics snack bars, and their snack sticks, both are really easy for her to self-feed and I don’t feel terrible about giving them to her.

Quality time over quantity time.  This is such a sticking point for me, I want to be with Livia all the time, but I can’t quit my job (for both personal and financial reasons – but that’s another story), so I end up constantly feeling guilty I’m not the one putting her down for her naps or eating lunch with her.  It took a long time to realize that just because someone spends all day long with their kids, that doesn’t mean their entire day is true quality time.  In the evenings when we are relaxing after supper, she is my main focus, I’m not worried about anything else and I do my best to keep distractions to a minimum.  I appreciate every minute I have with her because I have so few of them.  It took a long time and dealing with a lot of guilt to get to being okay with only seeing her for an hour in the morning and a few hours in the evening, but we are all happier this way.

A few odds and ends that don’t really belong well anywhere else or belong everywhere:

  1.  Grace, not perfection.  Perfection is unattainable, so give yourself a heaping helping of grace each day.  Sometimes, Livia eats a Gerber meal for supper or I just don’t want to wash clothes, so I don’t.  Instead of letting silly things ruin my mood, I give myself (and everyone around me) a dose of grace.  It will really change how you view yourself, your spouse and your kids.
  2.  Use the weekend to prepare for the week, but also use them to rest and recharge.  Like I said before, working 40 hours a week is hard, and you need those two days to recharge before gearing up to do it all over again – but spending a few hours getting everything ready for the week ahead will make all the difference on Thursday when you are just done with everything.  Balance – it’s important – find what works for you.

Working mama, I know it’s hard, I’m right there with you.  Sometimes all I need is a jug of coffee, a margarita and a massage (maybe all at the same time), but know that you are doing a great job no matter how swamped or inadequate you feel.

 

Working moms, what tricks get you through the long work-week?

Once A Month Meals Review


Around Christmas time last year I was listening to a favorite podcast of mine, Hungry Squared  and they did an interview with the founder and creator of Once A Month Meals (OAMM from here on out), Tricia Callahan.  I was intrigued, “I only cook once a month and my family gets to enjoy home cooked meals all month long?  Where do I sign up?”  I listened to the podcast, used their coupon code, read all the literature online and set my cooking date:  January 2, 2017 (the day I was off since New Year’s Day fell on a weekend).  Let’s start the new year out with a bang, right?

What is Once A Month Meals, Anyway?

If you are unfamiliar with OAMM, it’s a paid service that helps you plan, prep and cook a month’s worth of freezer meals in one cooking day.  You choose and modify a full menu or mini-menu to suit your family’s tastes, diet preferences and method of cooking, as well as, how many servings you need from each meal.  There are thousands of recipes in their collection, and they have all been tested by OAMM to freeze and thaw well.  OAMM then prepares a master grocery list, master prep list, cooking steps, freezer labels and thaw/reheating instructions.  It’s a lot – my monthly instructions were nearly 20 pages long.  

My Experience:

In the podcast, Callahan said again and again, first-timers shouldn’t start out with a full menu because they get overwhelmed and then never try it again, but who’s one to listen to warnings?  Not me.  I chose to go with a heavily modified full easy-prep menu, most of my recipes were dump slow cooker meals.  I did, however, listen to her warnings to shop and cook on separate days, in fact, I shopped on two different days and prepped on a third.  She was right, starting with a full menu was intense.  I chopped something like 5 pounds of onions, my eyes hurt so bad I ended up using swimming goggles to protect my eyes.  I lost one of the sets of directions, and so my whole prep/cook process was thrown off.  We lost power midway through and I had to stop prepping and cooking for a few hours until we regained power.  It was basically a disaster, I’m sure most of it could have been avoided if I would have heeded Callahan’s warning and made sure I had all the literature I needed to accomplish what I set out to complete.  Honestly, though, closing our freezer full of meals that evening was one of the best feelings of accomplishment I’ve had in awhile.

54ba2299-95f1-4eaa-9873-5de79cd75930
I was so proud of how full our freezer was, both of meals for Doug and I and liquid gold for Livia.

 

 

Why It Wasn’t For Me:

In case you couldn’t tell from the above, January was the only month I’ve done OAMM for our family.  Aside from the easily and uneasily avoided mishaps, there were other reasons I chose to forego additional months.  First, I learned really quickly that prepping a ton of a meal neither I nor my family, have ever tried isn’t necessarily a good thing.  There was more than one recipe that turned out bad, either the texture was off, the flavor was bland or it just wasn’t something we enjoyed.  It’s a real problem when there’s no backup plan because all the meals for the month have been prepared and frozen.  Another issue is that OAMM doesn’t eliminate the need to cook during the month, all of their recipes had a protein, most had a grain but few included vegetables.  My family likes vegetables and I really like to have at least one green food on our plates at night.  This process left me scrambling to find a box of mac and cheese or a can of green beans in our house because, once again, I’ve already cooked our meals for the month.  Additionally, it’s a lot of work.  From choosing the menu to grocery shopping, to chopping five pounds of onions, to the freezing everything correctly – it’s an entire weekend gone.  Sure, I probably saved time, but I lost sleep and sanity over it and it wasn’t worth it for me to complete again, and who wants to spend an entire weekend slaving over meals?  Finally, I relearned how much I actually enjoy cooking during the week.  There are days I would love nothing more than coming home to a prepared meal cooking away in the crockpot, but as an everyday part of my life I really missed the satisfaction and relaxation cooking brings me.  I love spending time cooking in the kitchen while visiting with Livia or watching her stack cans of tomatoes.  And, honestly, the time I was saving I was just sitting on the couch and watching Netflix, so it wasn’t really a huge win.

One caveat to my whole experience, I am toying around with the idea of completing a few mini menus before this baby comes in December.  I’ve started working on my list of freezer meals to stock our freezer and it seems easier to just let someone else figure out how many chicken thighs I need to triple this recipe or the best way to freeze this casserole.  I’m still early in my second trimester and I don’t plan on doing any freezer stocking until after 30 weeks so I have plenty of time to make up my mind, and I’ll probably let you know how that all works out.

My Takeaway:

Once A Month Meals is a fantastically developed program – the interface, instructions, and community are all top notch.  However, it’s a ton of work at one time.  Try grocery shopping for all of your food for an entire month in one go, it’s a lot of food and I was really stressed out about getting enough of everything, and accidentally skipping an item on my list, thus throwing everything into disarray.  You may not mind chopping a potato or two, but when you need to dice five pounds of potatoes you get really bored, and, then imagine you have to dice another five pounds of onions on top of that.  For my family, the effort wasn’t worth the return.  I have the time to cook in the evenings right now and I enjoy cooking, it helps me decompress from a day at work and it helps Livia develop an interest in cooking.  I’ve streamlined my meal planning and grocery shopping process, and I discussed it here, and it really works well for us at this moment in our lives.  But, if we were a busy family, with multiple kids doing multiple extracurricular activities or sports, I would probably be much more inclined to try again.

Have you ever tried freezer cooking?  What system works best for you?

Podcast Favorites

Probably listening to Sawbones and Snapchatting during break time at work.


I don’t listen to the radio – I’ll risk sounding a little old, but music these days could be the worst.  But, I have to spend about an hour and a half to two hours each day commuting back and forth to work, what’s a girl to do?   Listen to the same songs I’ve loved for the last few years or try something new; I tried something new.  I discovered podcasts about two and half years ago when my commute was much shorter and I’ve been a podcast enthusiast since then.  Currently I have 70+ unplayed episodes downloaded on my phone, and I’ve probably listened to over 800 hours of podcasts in the last two years.  Any time someone asks for podcast recommendations, I jump at the opportunity to share these gems with everyone I know.

My favorites are always changing, whether it’s due to my interests changing or growing tired of one podcast.  So here’s a snapshot of my favorites this month. (All of the descriptions are lifted from their description in iTunes.)

  • Let’s Not Panic: “Have you ever dreamed about quitting your job, horrifying your family and road tripping for an indeterminate amount of time? Well, that’s exactly what we’re doing.  Follow Maggie and Adam as we drive from San Francisco to Tierra del Fuego, and all our panic attacks along the way.”
    • It’s a newer favorite of mine, the chemistry between Adam and Maggie is endearing (they are obviously married) and their crazy move is gutsy and interesting.
    • I suggest this for anyone who likes travel, personal diaries or comedies.
    • http://www.letsnotpanic.com/
  • Freakonomics: “Have fun discovering the hidden side of everything with host Stephen J. Dubner co-author of the best-selling “Freakonomics” books.  Each week, hear surprising conversations that explore the riddles of everyday life and the weird wrinkles of human nature – from cheating and crime to parenting and sports.”
    • I watched the Freaknomics documentary a few years ago and was fascinated.  Once I became interested in podcasts, Freakonomics was one of the first ones I downloaded.  It’s a fun, informative listen that covers everything from Aziz Ansari to whether or not there is a mattress store bubble.  It can be jargon-y at times, but it’s great for the days when I want something a little more substantive to sink my proverbial teeth into.
    • I suggest this podcast to anyone who questions why things are the way they are.
    • http://freakonomics.com/
  • GymCastic:  “GymCastic Podcast is a weekly gymnastics talk show.  The hosts interview people who love gymnastics almost as much as we do, discuss the latest news, events and offensive leotard fashion.”
    • Do you like gymnastics?  This podcast is for you.  Do you hate the way NBC covered the Rio Olympics? This podcast is for you.  This is one of my top three favorite podcasts, I’m a huge gymnastics fan and I feel like I’ve finally found my people.  Funny and incredibly professional when needed, its the gymnastics show NBC wishes it could produce.
    • I suggest this for anyone who likes gymnastics at all.  It’s the best part about Wednesdays.
    • http://gymcastic.com/
  • Thinking Sideways:  “Investigating things we simply don’t have the answers to.  Sometimes you have to think a little sideways to come up with a plausible solution to the mystery.”
    • From the Tsavo man-eaters, to the Voynich Manuscript, to whether or not Queen Elizabeth I had a child – Devin, Steve and Joe summarize an unexplained event and then debate and discuss theories explaining that event.
    •  I suggest this podcast for anyone who loves the offbeat, or good conspiracy theory.
    • http://thinkingsidewayspodcast.com/
  • The Birth Hour: “Blogger and Podcaster Bryn Huntpalmer interviews a different mother each week sharing their pregnancy and birth stories of all shapes and size including natural birth, homebirth, waterbirth, VBAC, cesarean, twin birth and more!”
    •  After Livia was born I was obsessed with sharing her birth story, and I loved hearing others’ birth stories.  I happened upon this podcast very organically after becoming more interested in the online birth community.
    • I suggest this podcast for expecting moms, people interested in the birth community or anyone looking to have a happy cry on the way home from work.
    • http://thebirthhour.com/
  • Homesteady: “Homesteady is a show that focuses on living a more sustainable life. We talk about all the ways a modern Homesteader can put food on the table, from the fields, streams, gardens and woodlands. Our roads may be rocky, but with the rights skills and knowledge we can make Homesteady.”
    • I found this podcast after it was advertised on another podcast and I was immediately interested.  One of these days, Doug and I will get some chickens and I’ll have Austin Martin to thank for half of my knowledge. Austin hosts this podcast showcasing topics like “Goats – Should you bring these animals onto your farm or homestead?” or “Chickens 101 – Eggs, Coops, Breeds, Meat, Feeders and Fencing and Much More!”  With excellent production values and legitimate advice, Homesteady is a must listen for anyone who wants to attempt more sustainable living.
    • I suggest this podcast to anyone interested in sustainable living or livestock.
    • https://www.thisishomesteady.com/
  • The Way I Heard It:  “All good stories have a twist, and all great storytellers are just a little twisted.  Join Mike Rowe for a different take on the people and events that you thought you knew — from pop culture to politics from Hollywood to History…The Way I Heard It with Mike Rowe — short mysteries for the curious mind with a short attention span.”
    • Mike Rowe is an amazing storyteller in this podcast.  Half of the reason I listen is so I can hear his voice.  Reminiscent of the late Paul Harvey and “the rest of the story,” it’s a quick, entertaining, feel-good listen.
    • I suggest this podcast for fans of Mike Rowe, Paul Harvey and happy endings.
    • http://mikerowe.com/podcast/
  • The History Chicks: “Two women. Half the population. Several thousand years of history. About an hour. Go.”
    • Beckett and Susan are serious about their women’s history.  I’ve listened to a good many history podcasts, but this is the most well-researched podcast I have on rotation.  I love history and I love strong, amazing women and this covers both.  This one is definitely on the long side, and is best enjoyed in small doses.
    • I suggest this podcast for literally everyone.  Everyone could use a little more knowledge on exceptional women in history.
    • http://thehistorychicks.com/
  • Lore: “Lore is a bi-weekly podcast (and upcoming TV show) about the dark historical tales that fuel our modern superstitions.  Each episode explores the world of mysterious creatures, tragic events and unusual places.  Because sometimes truth is more frightening than fiction.”
    • Aaron Mahnke hosts Lore, the best-produced podcast on the Internet.  Chilling, true tales from history that are just scary enough to make you want to check under the bed.  For me it’s the perfect blend of legend, storytelling and fact.  It’s the first podcast I listen to every other Monday.
    • I suggest this podcast for those who love to be a little scared (but not terrified) and those who frequent Atlas Obscura.
    • http://www.lorepodcast.com/
  • Spilled Milk: “Each week on Spilled Milk, writers/comedians Molly Wizenberg and Matthew Amster-Burton start with a food-related topic, from apples to winter squash to Korean junk food, and run with it as far as they can go — and, regrettably, sometimes farther.”
    • Matthew and Molly are the funniest food duo alive.  They keep me chuckling while listening and I’ve learned a fair bit about food along the way.  Don’t miss their episodes on milk shakes and energy drinks.
    • I suggest this podcast for food lovers and food snobs everywhere.
    • http://www.spilledmilkpodcast.com/
  • Gravy:  “Stories about the changing American South through the food we eat.”
    • The Southern Foodways Alliance backed podcast has some of the best stories about regional Southern food and how it tells the story of that place.  I love hearing about how Cracker Barrel is creating an idealized version of the American South or the chicken radically changed Springdale, Arkansas.  Insightful and thought-provoking, it is in my top three list.
    • I suggest this podcast to foodies, Southerners and those who believe the we are truly shaped by the food we eat.
    • https://www.southernfoodways.org/gravy-format/gravy-podcast/
  • Sawbones: “Join Dr. Sydnee McElroy and her husband Justin McElroy for a tour of the the dumb, bad, gross weird and wrong ways we’ve tried to fix people.”
    • Part of the massive Maximum Fun network, Sawbones is the perfect intersection of funny and informative.  Medical history has always fascinated (and slightly terrified) me, so this has been one of my favorites from the very beginning.
    • I suggest this podcast to those who love medical television, medical history or human anatomy.
    • http://www.maximumfun.org/shows/sawbone

Did I miss any of your favorites?  If none of these pique your interest, what would you be interested to listen?  If you listen to any of these, what do you think of them?  Let me know in the comments!

My Career Path

Since this blog is titled “Memos and Motherhood,” perhaps I should share exactly how I got to where I am today.  From my first job as sandwich artist, to my internship at a local television station my journey to the law office life hasn’t been a straightforward path to say the least.

I was a bit of a perfectionist in high school. Valedictorian, member of every club under the sun (and officer in many of those), active youth group member and leader – I was busy in high school. I wanted to be a part of it all, mostly to ensure I went to college on scholarship and could get into the university of my choosing. At the time, I wanted to be a television meteorologist – McNeese State University (where I would be attending college) didn’t offer meteorology, so I opted to pursue television reporting.  I’ve always enjoyed public speaking and the rush of presenting something to large group of people.  I’ll never forget writing Mass Communications in the blank beside “college major” before submitting my application, it seemed so final and absolute.  While in high school I worked as a sandwich artist at Subway near my house.  It was a great first job, I learned how to deal with the public and make killer sandwiches at the same time.

My first semester of college I left my job at Subway to focus on school, which, looking back was completely unnecessary.  College was just as easy for me as high school had been, sure I would have to spend time studying but my 4.0 was never in any danger until the last few semesters (more on that later).  I remember enjoying my journalism and mass communication classes, I was content with my career field and hopeful that I could find a job doing exactly what I planned to do in high school.  It was between my second and third years of college I started to question what I wanted to spend my life doing.  I began to toy with the idea of law school.  That fall I signed up for two online paralegal classes, dipping my toes into the proverbial pool, if you will.  They were a disaster.  All of our assignments were busy work, our teacher was impossible to communicate with and to make matters worse, she lost all of my work in one class and gave me a B, destroying my 4.0.  I was not a happy camper, and since she was the only paralegal studies instructor I refused to sign up for anymore my last semester.  I didn’t push the idea of law school out of my head, though.  I always kept that door open, I borrowed LSAT books from the library and took a few practice tests to see how viable law school was as an option.

My employment in college was varied, to say the least: first, I went back to Subway for a year; then, I spent a semester working at after school care at a local parochial school and finally, I spent nearly a year as a sales associate at Express. Each job was so completely different from the others.  I learned with certainty that I was not destined to be a middle school teacher and that if I spent the rest of my life as a sales associate I would be perfectly fine with it.  I interned as a paralegal for one semester at our local non-profit civil law firm, and truly loved my experience there.  It was because of that internship that I am in the legal field today, after the nightmare that was paralegal studies. I also interned for a semester at our local Fox affiliate as a junior reporter and production intern.  It was here I made my first appearance on television.  Here’s the video for good measure (it’s cringeworthy to watch now…):

And another, for good measure.

I really enjoyed my Fox internship.  It was fun, I learned a ton about what happens behind the scenes before, during and after news casts.

I graduated college in three years as Summa Cum Laude.  I didn’t really know what I was planning on doing with life I just knew that I needed a job, because after graduation, my husband and I married and we moved to Northwest Arkansas.  After six weeks of job hunting, I was hired as a page designer at the Northwest Arkansas News (now the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette).  It was my first full-time job and quite an experience. It was difficult in the beginning: the page design rules, the AP style, the crippling fear of making an error (especially on the front page), condemning someone in a headline and most of all, being so far from home.  I muddled through the first month before I really started to

enjoy what I was doing.  My coworkers were great and I really liked designing pages.  What I didn’t like: the hours.  Three in the afternoon to midnight five days a week is tough to get used to working. I discovered that once we started a family that working in the media was not something I was going to be able to do, as much as I may have wanted to.  I stayed at that job for the duration of our time in Northwest Arkansas and was genuinely sad to leave.

Once we moved back home I started looking for another job, this time, preferably, one with regular hours that I knew would be in demand for years.  I back to my college days and that internship I enjoyed so much at the Law Center and started to search for law jobs.  Surprisingly, I found a position within a few weeks and it’s where I am to this day, nearly two years later. I work for the largest law firm in the area, under an attorney who does a mishmash of everything that doesn’t require litigation.  It’s been a journey to get here, but I am thankful for all the stops, twists and turns along the way because now I do what I really enjoy.

Surviving Pregnancy in an Office

Or…What in the world is that thing in your office.

Processed with VSCO with c2 preset
My exercise ball chair…best purchase of my entire pregnancy.

Pregnancy is such an odd time in a woman’s life.   She’s stuck in an “in-between” stage, she’s a mother, but there is nothing she can really mother yet.  There is another human inside of her (seriously, think about that for a minute, if the wonder of it doesn’t elicit a pause maybe the sheer engineering of it might) and the physical changes that come along with that.  People feel the necessity to make remarks that would otherwise be considered so incredibly rude and ask intensely personal, pointed questions.  It’s no wonder women of yesteryear hid their status under hoop skirts, smocks and tent-like dresses or they spent the last months of their pregnancies in confinement.

Surviving pregnancy in an office environment takes a delicate balance of tact, ignorance, humor and grace.  It’s not necessarily an easy experience, but I’ve rounded up a few things to make it much more enjoyable.

Please, for the love of all that is beautiful in the world, don’t announce your pregnancy on social media before letting your superiors know.  Even if you don’t have anyone you work with on social media, word travels fast, especially in small towns and within certain career fields.  Personally, I let our HR guy know the week I found out I was pregnant in case I had another miscarriage.  I needed him to know ahead of time in the event that I needed to miss work for a few days.  I told a few friends I trusted to keep it secret a few weeks later and told my boss when I was 10 weeks and the rest of the firm within a few days of that.  The big Facebook announcement happened the same day I made my announcement at the firm.  It worked out very well for me and I will probably go the same route with any future pregnancies.

Figure out your company’s sick leave/maternity leave policy early.  I learned I needed to have a week of sick time or vacation time saved if I wanted to be paid before my FMLA kicked in, so I was stingy with taking time off for appointments.  It’s important to find out as much as you can, as early as you can so that you have eight months to plan instead of eight weeks or worse, eight days.  Get all the paperwork you can completed at the beginning of your third trimester or as early as your HR department allows.  In case of an early delivery, you don’t want to be filling out more paperwork than you have to.  I actually forgot to have my doctor sign off on it so I was making multiple trips into town with a newborn in tow – not an ideal situation.

Since we are talking about being out of the office: find a day and time that works well with your schedule and make an appointment at the same time for each, if you can.  I learned that morning were not a good time for the OB I was seeing in the first half of my pregnancy, she was super busy and there was always a pretty significant wait.  After tweaking the time over an appointment or two, I learned that late Wednesday afternoons were the best time to schedule an appointment.  The office was quiet, I got in to see her quickly and often I was the last appointment of the day – so I got more face time with the doctor.  Find what works for you, as well.  I liked to schedule appointments where I either went in before work or left work early to see the doctor.  Be mindful of how many hours of leave you take.  It’s so easy to call in during the first trimester, I was so tired, I was nauseous and I just didn’t want to be at work – but I knew that I had many doctor’s appointments (14 to be exact) and the week of unpaid leave at the beginning of my FMLA time.

Staying comfortable while at work is the key to having an enjoyable pregnancy.  Find clothes that fit properly, are comfortable to wear all day and (hopefully) cute.  I purchased a striped maternity dress from Motherhood (see above) around week 20 and wore it at least once a week for the remainder of my pregnancy – it was super comfortable and it made the oppressive late-summer heat of Louisiana a little more bearable.  Some people say buy a few expensive pieces that will last from one pregnancy to next, but I bought things that were less expensive because there is no telling which season I’ll be pregnant in (or how much weight I’ll gain) next time so that really cute pair of expensive maternity pants may or may not fit, might be out of style or might not be warm enough next time.  Investing in a exercise ball chair was the best decision I made the whole time I was pregnant.  My hips started hurting early in the second trimester and sitting at work was nearly unbearable at the end of the day.  Enter Amazon deal of the day for a exercise ball chair…my hips, core and butt never felt better.  Additionally, get up and take a stroll a few times an hour, it helps prevent stiffness and keep the blood flowing to your feet (this is a good time for all the time, not just pregnancy).

Most importantly, have a sense of humor about your body and pregnancy.  The last few weeks my belly was the topic of many break room conversations.  My co-workers would ask questions that normally one would consider obscene, but in all honesty, they were just excited for me and to meet my baby.  I knew going into those last weeks questions about my body’s “progression” would start cropping up and I was fully prepared to deal with it.  You will hear horror stories of epidurals go awry, nightmare c-sections and tears that required surgeries and physical therapy to fix – tune it out.  Smile and say “that’s interesting,” and let it go out the other ear.  You don’t need that negativity rolling around in your head leading up to the birth of your child.  And if all else fails, create a countdown calendar.  Crossing off each day felt like a victory in itself.

Pregnancy in an office can be an awkward, annoying and uncomfortable experience, but it doesn’t have to suck.

How I Meal Plan and Favorite Recipes


Meal planning saves my sanity.  I’m already pressed for time in the evenings after work, and having a plan set in stone (or ink) makes my day go by that much more smooth.  I can’t recall the first time I started to meal plan but it was within the first three months of being married.  Having a clear idea makes grocery shopping on the weekends a breeze.  I know exactly what I need and how much of it I need.  Having a plan is one of the best ways to save my sanity during the work week.

First a few setup steps for the process.  These came to be part of my weekly routine organically, but if you are starting from scratch there are decisions to be made. Continue reading “How I Meal Plan and Favorite Recipes”

What’s In My Pump Bag


Before Livia was born, heck even before I knew I was pregnant, I knew that I wanted to breastfeed.  My initial goal was until six months, exclusive or not, but as her arrival came closer I knew that I wanted to exclusively breastfeed until six months and continue until she was a year old.  Now that she is eight-months-old, I’m definitely considering to nurse her until she self-weans or another baby comes into the picture (tandem breastfeeding, to me, is like the gold medal of the breastfeeding Olympics).  When she was eight-weeks-old, however, I had to go back to work, so on that January morning I packed my Medela Pump In Style Advance, tubing and parts and headed off to the next leg of our breastfeeding journey.  Five months later, I’m still pumping three times a day and getting enough milk that I’m won’t have to supplement with formula anytime in the near future. Continue reading “What’s In My Pump Bag”