I’m in Costa Rica!

I’m in Costa Rica!   I’m sure I’m busy catching rays, dragging my toes through the sand, and enjoying howler monkeys right about now.  Because I’m busy living out some major Pura Vida, I won’t be around here with you.  No hustling this week allowed.  So I’ll see you after Easter!

To keep up with my trip as it happens, follow me on: Instagram. Twitter. Facebook.

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When In…Valley of Fire


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My stress level has been high the past few weeks.  Too much going on.   I was definitely in need of some disconnecting time.  No homework, no blog, no internet, no researching.  Luckily for me, Sunday was my boyfriend’s birthday.  And really.  What is a boyfriend’s birthday for other than giving his girlfriend an opportunity to take a little day trip?  (Not really, but totally really) We went to the Valley of Fire, 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

I’m a Vegas local and had never been to this state park.  Sacrilegious, I know.  It was beautiful and refreshing.  We drove in the Jeep with the doors removed.  The weather was warm, the sun was shining behind the perfect amount of scattered clouds.  It was the day I had needed.  A little adventure and a lot of fun.  It’s amazing how a little time spent outside can be so inspirational.

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The sand was truly incredible.  It was as fine as flour.  Our socks were orange by the time we got home!  We had such a fun time hiking and exploring.

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Above you can see me falling.  An act that my boyfriend felt compelled to document.  Because he is a true artist.  And one does not sacrifice art to save a girlfriend.  :)

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The above two pictures come from the last stop you can make driving.  We almost didn’t get out of the car, and that would have been a crime.  It ended up being one of our favorite stops.  There was a balance of white/yellow rock with red/orange rock.  Truly beautiful.

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If you look closely enough, my bronzer is everywhere, my lips are chapped from riding in a Jeep with the doors off, and my hair is a fretful rat’s nest.  It’s all just proof of good living.

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A Few of my Favorites Friday, Vol. 2

1. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

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Of course Tina Fey would make a great new show.  Of course Ellie Kemper and Jane Krakowski would be hysterical.  Of course a woman trapped in a cult for 15 years experiencing life for the first time in NYC would make a great plot line.  Of course these things are true.  You guys, I die.  The laughter is more than I can take.  So funny, so worth your time.  It’s like The Office, Parks and Rec, and 30 Rock smushed together with an added touch of quirky.  Binged it and loved it.

“Females are strong as hell”

2. The RobCast

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Everyone who knows me knows I struggle with church and the Bible and Christian things.  It’s a complicated relationship.  Studies show that most Millennials feel the same way (as do many older folk).  But Rob Bell’s podcast allows me to hear relevant and deep and necessary truths about God, life, spirituality, Jesus, and even the Bible.  All without any amount of hate, judgement, guilt, or lack of using one’s brain. He brings spiritual refreshment to the ears of a church-weary Millennial.  I couldn’t recommend it more highly.  It’s funny and smart.

3. First Aid Kit

A friend suggested I listen to First Aid Kit, and she basically introduced me to my spirit sisters.  I have had my headphones plugged in, listening to their music on Spotify nonstop.  They are lyrically interesting and deep.  I think they are a countrified/bluegrassified version of Lana.  This song “My Silver Lining” is currently my fav.

Four Essential Oils for Travel

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Traveling is supposed to be about experiencing life from a different perspective, trying new things, spending time with people you love, and relaxing.  Getting sick or feeling crappy is never part of the itinerary.  But, of course, life happens.  Trips never go as planned, and that’s part of the package (and make for the best stories later on!).  Still, I like to eliminate any potential health problems as much as possible.  So I always bring these four essential oils with me when I travel.

1. Thieves

Thieves is my top ‘must go with me on every trip’ oil.  Nobody wants to get sick on a vacation.  I normally start using Thieves on my feet the week before a trip to support my immune system and ward off any bug.  Then I bring it along to keep doing the same.  Also, Thieves s a quick healer of canker sores.  When I was in New Hampshire over Thanksgiving, I started developing a canker sore after I bit my lip.  I began putting Thieves directly on the sore, and it was completely gone within 48 hours.

2. Peppermint

Peppermint is a must for any and all digestive problems – and let’s be honest, stomachs like to misbehave when traveling. It’s like they know you don’t have your own bathroom!  When we eat foods we aren’t used to (even when traveling within the US) our digestive tracts can do bizarre things.  I will rub peppermint on my stomach for any ailments.  The scent also calms nausea from motion sickness (or, let’s be honest, hangover!).

3. Lavender

Lavender is the wonder oil – it can do just about everything.  This is why I always have it with me.  I use it to help me sleep (sometimes a difficult thing to do in a new bed), but it’s also a great way to soothe bug bites (as is Thieves!!).  I mix Peppermint with Lavender whenever I’m having allergy problems.  I put the combo on my feet and my chest to combat allergy symptoms.  I have HEARD that Lavender is great for soothing sunburns, but haven’t tried it myself.  However, I’m expecting I might get the chance next week in Costa Rica!

4. Panaway

Being in pain is a sucky way to travel.  But if you’re doing a lot of new fun things, sometimes your body gets sore.   Whether it’s muscle cramps, headache, joint pain, bruises, or stiffness, Panaway can help take edge off.  I was so skeptical of this oil when I first read about it.  But it works for me. Every. Single. Time.  I know if I walk around all day in a new city and have sore feet or cramped calves, Panaway will save the day.

Four seems to be a great number for my travel bag.  These four oils have multiple uses, so I don’t feel the need to take up more space with any extra.  I keep them in a tiny, padded cosmetic pouch and typically pack them within my clothes for extra cushion.

Do you like to bring any other essential oils with you when you travel?  Let me know in the comments below!

Happy, healthy travels!

The Bright Side of Birth Control

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The internet has been flooded with negativity surrounding birth control.  There are viral freak horror stories of bad experiences. The natural health community is leery of it. And many religious groups think it’s evil.  Women are getting bombarded with “The Dark Side” of birth control.  Ladies, it’s not all dark.  Not by a long shot.

I started taking The Pill before my 18th birthday. I had struggled with acne for years despite being a devoted caretaker of my skin. I also had extreme PMS symptoms: pain, mood swings, more pain, headaches, more pain. My periods would come two at a time, then disappear for six months. I had the night sweats of a menopausal woman and the mood swings of a thirteen year old girl. I could never lose those last five pounds. Then the doctor prescribed me this magic pill. All these problems vanished.

I’ve used hormonal contraception for its intended purpose too. I love that 99% effective rate. I’m creative enough to come up with other various ways to cover that 1% danger zone. But that 99% is peace to me.

Feeling like a million bucks and no unwanted pregnancies = happy woman.

Birth control for any woman, married or not, has only been legal in America since 1972.  In 1965, I would only have had access to contraception if I were married. Before then, I wouldn’t have been able to gain birth control no matter my marital status, even though the first oral contraception was approved by the FDA in 1960.  And that’s just America.  Globally, 222 million women with a need for contraception aren’t getting it.

I’m not a doctor.  I’m just an ordinary woman.  My expertise on the subject is not from a medical degree; it is experiential.  Not only my experience, but the those of the women I’ve spoken to and the books/studies I’ve read. While I understand that birth control can bring side effects, I also understand that any medication can bring side effects.  It’s a choice I make, and the benefits have been numerous. I know I’m not alone.

Still, birth control gets a bad rap.  I’m here to say that hormonal contraception can not only be a great option for women, it can actually be a necessary option for many.  Here are four reasons why:

1. Birth Control PREVENTS unwanted pregnancies/abortions.

News flash: Not every woman wants to get pregnant.  Women can and should have sex without becoming an incubator.   And it should seem obvious that access to birth control lessens the number of abortions, but in case its not, studies show it to be true.

2. Birth Control EMPOWERS women to have control over their lives.

When you gain control over your uterus, you can gain control over the trajectory of your life.  There is lessened risk of a pregnancy interfering with education, hobbies, or career paths.  This allows women to decide when they want to become pregnant, a choice that leads to freedom and economic independence.

3. Birth Control IMPROVES health problems for many women.

For most women, including women who want to have children, contraception is not an option; it is a basic health care necessity.

- Louise Slaughter

I did a quick shout out on Facebook for anonymous testimonies on hormonal birth control. These are regular women of various backgrounds whose lives have been greatly improved.  I would say I was surprised by the positive responses, but I’m not.  Because I get it.

  • “I’ve been on the pill since I was 14 because I have crippling pain every month if I’m not. It was to the point where I was curled up in the fetal position, in bed for two whole days when I was in middle school. My uterus is retroverted and retroflexed (upside down and backwards) so it is really painful if not managed with pills.”
  • “When I was 16, I bled for three weeks straight and had such severe cramps that it caused me to lose sleep and my appetite. When I was put on the pill, my hormones leveled out significantly. My cramps are much more bearable and I bleed less. I’ve been on the pill for the better part of 4 years, and I couldn’t be happier.”
  • “I’m on the pill because my cramps used to be unbearable and would cause me to stay up at night. It’s also great for reasons of intimacy. The pill is my go to contraceptive.”
  • “The pill changed my life because I have endometriosis and it stops me from bleeding non stop”
  • “The pill was a great starter birth control for me. I was young and not ready for a family. And let’s not forget the little bit of responsibility that comes with remembering to take it every day!”
  • “I have to say that it did ease some of my endometriosis symptoms. I had Niagara Falls flow that was reduced, and my cramps were eased a tiny bit.”
  • “The Mirena IUD helped my infertility. By having it inserted for 3 years it healed a lot of my endometriosis scar tissue and because of that I was able to get pregnant.”

4. Birth Control SAVES the lives of women in underdeveloped countries.

To fully tackle any issue of female empowerment/equality, one must look outside of the United States.  Global reform is vital.  It prevents pregnancy in women who are too young or too old as well as maternal mortality.  It can lessen the number of children to help combat poverty.  It can give women the chance to even begin their own businesses and gain economic freedom.

I know hormonal contraception is not for every woman.  There is no one-size-fits-all.  I know it can have side effects, but so can any blood pressure or allergy medication.  And that’s why you should consult with your doctor.  But with each naysayer of birth control, there should come a proponent. The bright side of birth control is a bunch of regular, ordinary women whose daily lives have been greatly improved.

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Yoga & Stillness

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I take a yoga class every Monday and Wednesday morning.  I love it.  Yoga has become more of a spiritual practice for me throughout the years.  Not in the creepy “Voodoo” “New Age” way a lot of people think it can be.  I just believe more things are sacred than not sacred.  Sharing meals, taking walks, children’s laughter, music, yoga class – it’s all sacred.  Yoga class is place I can go to relax, quiet my mind, and remind myself of important truths like: acceptance, worthiness, rest…and…gasp…stillness.  Stillness: the thorn in my side.

I’m really not into the whole stillness thing. I’m constantly going.  If I’m not literally on the move, my mind is moving a mile a minute. Wait in a line?  Ha!  I don’t wait.  I grab my phone to check the news, reply to texts and look at Facebook for the 100th time.  To me, total stillness in the body and mind feels similar to pain.  And I avoid it.

I went to yoga this past Wednesday morning, and the instructor informed us that we would be working on deeper relaxation.  Coming up on mid-semester, I was thrilled to have some extra time to enter my Zen-Beast mode.  We did some basic movements for the first 30 minutes, then made our way to our backs for a recorded 20-minute guided relaxation session.  We were supposed to stay still.  Perfectly still.

At first, I found it to be extremely soothing.  The voice coming over the speakers was encouraging us to focus on each body part, noticing the way it felt, allowing it to melt, to ground.  Then I realized I wasn’t doing a damn thing.  I wasn’t producing, I wasn’t tweeting, I wasn’t creating.  I was simply on the floor.  Still.  Perfectly still.

I had a panic attack.  All at once, every part of my body felt like it needed to be moved.  I wanted to bend my knees, shake my hands, lick my lips, blink my eyes.  I didn’t want to be grounded; I wanted to run.  Just to DO something. But I stayed.  Not because I wanted to learn some deep truth about withstanding lack of comfort.  No, I mostly stayed because I didn’t want anybody to think I chickened out.  Purely  egotistical reasons.

After it was all done (Thank heaven above) the instructor asked how we liked it.  I told her it gave me anxiety.  I wasn’t doing anything.  She said kindly: “You were doing something.  You were relaxing.”

I realized – Why is relaxing not a thing?  Why do we live in a “crazy busy” world?  We call our friends, ask how they are, and how do they respond? “I’m crazy busy.”  Doing all these things.  Why is relaxing not a thing?  Why is rest not a thing?

Yoga, then, is a spiritual and sacred practice for me, because it’s sanding off the rough edges of the bigger part of myself.  I am flesh and bone and muscle, yes.  But I am more than flesh and bone and muscle.  I work out my body in the gym.  I work out my mind in a classroom.  I need to work out this bigger part of me somewhere, this spiritual part of me.

And this spiritual part of me freaks out in stillness.  In the Christian faith, God says: “Be still and know that I am God.”  Buddha said: “Still and calm is he who has awakened.” There is a reason the world’s religions talk about being still.  It is important to this bigger side of us.  Stillness allows us to be grounded.  In my daily productive, intentional, disciplined life – I cannot forget that relaxation, rest, and stillness are all “things” too.  And they don’t make me less productive, intentional, disciplined – quite the opposite I’m sure.

I’m going to keep practicing my stillness even if I hate it.  Maybe I will freak out again, but maybe I will freak out a little less.  I won’t hate on myself for disliking it.  I won’t chastise myself for wiggling my toes.  Who knows?  Maybe some day I will really be a Zen-Beast.  Maybe not.  Probably not.  But I just might be a stiller, more grounded version of myself in this “crazy busy” life.  I can have the wings and fly and move and dream big; but I have to have the roots too.

Spring Break, Costa Rica: Two Weeks Away!

I have been looking forward to going to Costa Rica for months.  It’s amazing just how long you can anticipate something … it feels like it takes centuries to finally arrive … and then all of a sudden it’s almost time.  This is one of the things I love most about travel.  This is also what enables my expert procrastinating.

10 day trip to Costa Rica in two weeks?  Yup, booked the place to stay two days ago.  We’ve known that we were going for months.  Procrastinating like bosses.

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Poor us, staying at such a drab place for Spring Break

My boyfriend and I will be spending Spring Break in Tamarindo, Costa Rica.  We booked a lovely little ocean view apartment through VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner).  It’s only a few minute walk away from the beach.  We haven’t used VRBO before, but we have heard great things about it.  They offer homes/townhomes/condos for short-term rent instead of staying at a hotel. Have any of you used this company or a similar one?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  We typically believe in skimping on hotel accommodations.  We are rarely in any hotel/motel for much time anyway.  We’d rather use the extra money for more travel.  But this apartment rental was cheaper than any hotel in the area.

While in Costa Rica, we plan on venturing out a bit to check out other cities and beaches.  Other than that, we have zero activities planned.  And I love it that way.  We will definitely let the Costa Rican breeze take us where we should go.  I do, however, envision plenty of swimming and laying out on the sand.

What else am I looking forward to?  Don’t ask silly questions.  Monkeys, of course!  Fun fact: As a child, I wasn’t scared of monsters under the bed.  I was scared of monkeys under the bed. Because that’s a rational fear growing up in Las Vegas, NV.

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I mean, come on, that face.

I’m also looking forward to trying Costa Rican cuisine.  Since their staples are rice and beans (similar to Puerto Rico), I’m not too concerned about finding Gluten Free food to eat.  I’ve been informed that most people speak English, but I’ve prepared some Spanish just in case.  And I can’t wait to try all sorts of new fruit.

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Other tidbits:  I probably won’t pack until the day of.  That leaves me plenty of rushing time to overpack.  Because it wouldn’t be a vacation without me bringing too many dresses and bras. Also, I’m more concerned about hitting the gym than figuring out how we are getting from the airport in San Jose to our place in Tamarindo.  But a girl has to look good in her bikini. All shall work itself out.

I can’t wait until I say goodbye to textbooks and hello to Central American sunshine!  The two week countdown begins now!  Puravida!

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Abortion: ‘God Forbid You Ever Had to Walk a Mile In Her Shoes’

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“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”

Good girls don’t get abortions. Good girls don’t have sex with anyone other than their husbands, so there is never any need to abort. Right? Abortions are murder. Abortions are selfish and ungodly.

These thoughts flooded my mind since I could understand pregnancy and politics as a child. I was a good church girl. I remember standing in my friend’s kitchen baking cookies when I still hadn’t kissed any boy yet. I told her I didn’t understand how women couldn’t have more self-control. “I will have no trouble waiting until marriage to have sex,” I spouted confidently. In my mind, this would prevent any possibility of wanting an abortion.

Of course, I didn’t wait until I was married.  But I never got pregnant. Then I got married and never got pregnant. Then I got divorced and still didn’t get pregnant. But in the midst of all these difficult life shifts, I started learning more about the complexity of pregnancy.

I had a clearer picture that not all pregnant women were choosing to have sex. Sex wasn’t just something happy married lovey-dovey people did. Rape and incest were not only real; they were common. Terrifyingly common. Pregnancy doesn’t just stem from lovemaking, it sometimes stems from violence.

Then my naive mind began expanding to see how pregnancy could impact women’s lives in negative ways. Health problems for mother or fetus. Then finances. What if a woman couldn’t even afford to feed herself? What if she had no way of providing a life for a baby? It was all quite complicated. Pro-life? Whose life? The mom’s life? The unborn fetus’s future life or current life?

I still held on to my pro-life stance, but I had respect for the fact that nothing about getting pregnant was black and white.

Then my boobs got sore. I was peeing every hour. I was on The Pill, but at one point throughout the month my second method of birth control failed. I knew pregnancy was possible. This was a Sunday; my period would not arrive until Wednesday morning. As it did every single month. Until it didn’t. I woke up that Wednesday morning to clean panties and a panic attack.

Let me explain. I have thousands of dollars of student loan debt, and I am close to finally graduating. Years of hard work and financial sacrifice brought me to this moment: embarking on a wild career as a traveling freelancer and blogger. My life was my own, and I was on the brink of grasping  every wild thing I had ever dreamed of.  But all my plans included being baby-free.

The first thing I asked myself was: “What are you going to do, Taylor?” I completely surprised myself. I let my mind go through the whole scenario both ways. What would my life look like if I had a baby right now? What would my life look like if I had an abortion right now?

You know what each conclusion was?  Complicated.  It was messy and ugly and confusing and complex.

Then, late into that Wednesday, I went to the bathroom and was greeted by blessed assurance. I wasn’t pregnant. Instantaneous relief.

I am not doctor, theologian, philosopher, scientist or politician. They’ve all been arguing over abortion for years, ceaselessly and without agreement. What counts as life and when does it actually begin? Nobody can agree. Can we be a society that doesn’t abort but still uses the death penalty? Nobody can agree.  Is quality of life a factor?  Nobody can agree.

If people much smarter than me can’t agree, I really don’t have a voice in the matter. A 24-year-old English major cannot tell anybody to be pro-life or pro-choice with any real authority. So I’m not going to. If you made peace with your viewpoint, hold on it.

But I can suggest that more understanding and grace can be given to women no matter where they land on the spectrum of pro-life/pro-choice. Why? Because it is so painfully complicated. It is not black and white. There are shades of right and wrong in each decision, as well as worry and fear.

So if you find a woman who had an abortion, give her grace, accept her, love her, treat her the same as everybody else. If you find a woman who didn’t have an abortion, give her grace, accept her, love her, treat her the same as everybody else.

And don’t be so high and mighty. You might hold convictions with pride and believe you’d never waver. But I’ve known pro-choice women who couldn’t manage to get an abortion. And I know pro-life women who have had abortions. And I intimately know a woman who didn’t know what the hell to do one Wednesday morning.

It is so very easy to point fingers at ‘people.’  But it is so very hard to be an actual, individual person with issues and circumstances that nobody else can ever deeply know.  As the band Everlast famously sings: “God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in her shoes. ‘Cause then you really might know what it’s like to have to choose. Then you really might know what it’s like.”  I may not have had to ‘walk a mile in her shoes.’ But on that Wednesday, I gained a whole bunch of compassion for those who do.

Let’s be kind and gentle. Life is complex.  And it’s a hard battle.

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24 Lessons I Learned by 24

I turned 24 this weekend.  24 years of journeying through this peculiar thing called life.  I’ve learned a few things so far and had a hard time only choosing 24 lessons. Though I may be young, life is always a painfully and graciously generous teacher if we are willing to notice.

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1. If you get the chance, jump into the ocean and ruin your hair.  You can always put on a hat.

2. Be brave. Be vulnerable.  These virtues are sisters, not enemies.

3. Eggs and toast are acceptable for any meal of the day.  Give yourself a break.

4. Feel the fear; do it anyway

5. You do not need to defend your choices to every single dissenter.  Some people will just never approve.  You can beautifully survive lack of approval.

6. Traveling can be so much more than just going on a vacation.  It’s about self-discovery and widening your mind.  Also, about dealing with 24,918 things going wrong and the same going right.

7. God is love.

8. Self-care is not selfish.

9. Siblings can be your best friends

10. Faith is a choice, not a feeling.  So is true love.

11. If you leave smoothies in your car for a few days, your car will stink.  If you leave the wrong people in your life too long, your life will stink.

12. It’s way more fulfilling to be a Gatherer of Friendships and Experiences, than it is to be a Gatherer of Things.

13. Getting enough sleep makes you more productive and less bitchy.

14. Women still aren’t equal.  Women are changing this.  But, honestly, so are all these really great men.

15. It’s okay to change your mind.

16. Food can either heal or kill your body.  By all means, let it be a healer.

17. Creativity is vitally important to your humanness.  Everyone is creative and should explore their artistry frequently.

18. Divorce is sometimes the best and only answer.  Don’t judge.

19. Chasing your dream is hard and you will get very tired.  Take a nap and then keep chasing.

20. Your brain is not controlled by you the day before your period.  It is controlled by an evil alien.  Watch what you say.

21. Being the “good girl” is way overrated.  Be you, and be you awesomely.

22. Anxiety and Depression are real medical problems.  “Having more faith” won’t fix them anymore than “having more faith” will cure high blood pressure.

23. You don’t have to fit into any particular mold.  Uniqueness is a gift, not a curse.

24. Making friends is hard, keeping friends is hard, people are hard.  But the giving and receiving of love is important.  Love people.  Above all, love people.