I Am A Writer

I bought a new laptop today.

This may seem insignificant. In many, many ways, it probably is. Will I remember, thirty years from now, the process I went to in order to buy this new device? Will I recall the feeling of turning it on, peeling off the protective plastic, and booting it up for the first time? If my digital footprint reminds me – as, it seems, most social networking sites like to do these days – then perhaps, yes. But more than likely… honestly, hopefully… no, I won’t remember this particular part about today.

So why bother bringing it up?

Well, there’s a weird significance to this new purchase, one that is certainly more of a personal milestone than anything else. In fact, I’m not sure that anyone will even care, and yet, I’ve felt compelled to blabber about it on the Internet nonetheless.

That milestone, for those of you still curious, is that, for the first time in a long time, I decided to do something for myself as a writer.

That’s the whole purpose of this purchase, after all.

I mean, sure. Part of it is to ease any issues that might arise if my work laptop fails. Part of it is to provide a lightweight, easy-to-travel-with alternative to hopping on a plane with a piece of company property. Part of it is just straight consumerism, and undeniable impatience with my aging and slow Macbook.

But for the most part, I bought this laptop to provide myself a brand new motivation for writing. Buying this laptop made me feel official, as silly as it sounds. I can now spend hours in a coffee shop, typing away, without feeling like a fraud, or like a fake. Sure, I could have done that with my old computer. I could have – and did – try to do it with my tablet. But it never felt quite right. I needed something that worked, that responded, that signified to everyone exactly why I was there.

Is it a silly, superficial need? Absolutely. Do I feel completely empowered and excited to write regardless? You bet.

You may have noticed that I changed the layout of my blog… again. That was intentional… again.

I’ve spent so long trying to figure out my niche. Trying to become the blogger that I’m not. And, quite frankly, that whole attempt was a little pointless.

I’ll let you in on a little secret:

I’m not a blogger.

Nope. Sorry – both for announcing it to the world and that it took me so long to realize it.

No, I’m not a blogger. I’m not a huge fan of rambling about my purchases, my trips, or my recipes. Sure, I like to share those things. It can be fun, and even useful, and that’s why I haven’t gone to quite such drastic measures as deleting all of my content.

However, I finally decided to just allow what I actually am to shine through. It’s what I’m best at, after all.

You see, I’m not a blogger.

Or an influencer.

I’m a writer.

I write. It’s what I do. Sometimes, it’s stories, which end up sitting on my Google drive half-finished for years. Sometimes, it’s a novel, which is actually finished but has not seen much of the outside world. I write poems, snippets, articles, streams of consciousness. I write whatever feels right at the time. And I was doing myself a disservice for not utilizing my platform to showcase whatever it is I felt like writing at the time. For thinking I needed to fit into a predetermined “blogger box,” if you will.

So, there you have it. I’m not a blogger, and I’m sorry for trying so damn hard to be one. Someone should have stopped me. I’m pretty glad that, eventually, my own awareness did.

I’m not a blogger, but I’m not going to stop blogging. I’ll keep posting here, and I sincerely hope you continue to follow along. Because I’m not a blogger, but I am a writer.

A writer with a brand new laptop and a renewed love of words. I can only hope that it’s enough.

2019

Okay. Time for me to own up to the obvious: towards the end of 2018, this blog slipped a bit in terms of its placement on my priority list. For my faithful readers (my mom, my grandparents, my best friends…) I’m sorry for my silence, but you are also among those who know how absolutely nuts the last couple of months of the year got for me. Work was overwhelming — in the good way! — and between that, travel, and spending precious time over the holidays with the most important people, and babies, in my life, it just all went a little wonky. 

So, sorry about that. I fess up. But honestly, I’m not all that sorry because – you know what? – life happens.

(I also do realize that this is very similar to every rambling apology for a hiatus I’ve ever given before. That, I’m not so sorry about either. There are, after all, only so many ways that one can announce “I’ve been busy.”)

That said, I do want to make this blog more of a priority in the coming year. I’m not the resolution type, but I do like to goal set. Tangible goals, that is. Goals that are measured not by their ability to be completed in an arbitrary 365 trip around the sun, but just in general. Goals like “journal regularly,” “be more present,” and “blog more.”

In case you were wondering – yes, those are my 3 goals for 2019.

Now, you might be asking (I am) how the second and third goals work together. How can I be more present if I’m also trying to blog more? The long and short of it is that I want to bring this blog back to what it was intended to be – a place for my own self expression; a place to ramble about things I just might think some other people could care about, things like friendship and love and family. Yes, that means you’ll see less product reviews. Let’s be honest – I don’t spend a lot of money and am subsequently bad at those. No, that doesn’t mean I won’t post recipes or restaurant reviews when I think there’s one in particular of note. And no, it definitely doesn’t mean the travel diaries are going away. I’ve got some good trips coming up this year, one in particular that I am tingling with excitement for, and Lord knows I love those travel diaries, if only for my own self-reflections. And speaking of the Lord (was that a passe way to transition?) you’ll still see me talking to Him, about Him, on here. I can’t promise the regularity with which Testimony Tuesdays once appeared, but I can promise that it’ll happen enough. 

Okay, expectations aside, I’m now here to say what I really initially hopping on to say:

Happy New Year, friends. May the coming 12 months be filled with positivity, grace, love, and accomplishment – especially for those of you who, unlike me, actually are resolution-setters (I admire you).

As for me, I plan to spend the next 12 months working on, as I said, being evermore present, evermore thoughtful, and evermore diligent about documenting all of the good – and some of the bad – that is inevitably to come.

Cheers, 2019.

Life Lately: What I’m Thankful For

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Hey, guys. It’s been a while. If you think I didn’t notice, believe me: I did. But sometimes, you can have grand plans for things — like this blog — and life will just get in the way. That’s certainly what happened on my end. I have a plethora of saved blog posts, series I planned to launch, and a schedule I had hoped to keep to.

And then, well, life just got too busy.

But you know what? That’s okay. 

It’s something I’ve had to preach to myself often during this blogging journey. I find myself frustrated that I, quite frankly, haven’t made the time to get this little platform of mine to where I’d love for it to be. But then I remember that the reason I haven’t been as diligent about setting aside time for the blog is because I’ve been so busy doing other things, things that I’ve deemed as a bigger priority. All year, I’ve been trying to focus on balancing what’s work and what’s fun, what’s necessary and what’s a bonus, what’s rewarding and what’s stressful. I never wanted to look at this blog as a job, something I had to do. So, yes, sometimes, that will mean I disappear for a month. It means I’m not quite so good at that blogging planner my best friend bought for me. It means I won’t post as much on Instagram.

That’s perfectly, 100% okay.

So anyways. Long rambling reasoning for my temporary absence aside, here I am.

It’s Sunday morning, and it’s a little chilly outside, at least for Arizona. I haven’t opened the windows yet, at least. The tree outside our apartment is finally shedding some leaves and turning a proper orange; I’m loving it. Currently, I have a pumpkin candle lit and some pumpkin creamer in my coffee. It’s finally feeling like fall.

So, naturally, I decorated for Christmas last night.

Before you all jump on me with “it’s too early!” or “Thanksgiving first!” — I just gave you all examples of how the pumpkins have decidedly not left yet. I just added some Santas and a Christmas tree to the bunch.

Needless to say, the holidays are my favorite time of year. Christmas is my number-one favorite, but Thanksgiving is a close second. Partly because I always go home. Partly because there’s stuffing and mashed potatoes. Mostly because it gives me a chance to look back and reflect on what I’m most thankful for this year.

This year, I’m thankful for the little lessons.

I’m thankful for the growing pains. It’s been a year of transition in some ways. The boy is hard at work studying for the CPA exam, and at some times, that’s been a little taxing on both of us. On top of it, there’s definitely been moments when I’ve unfairly taken my own stress out on him, whether that’s with snippy words or general disinterest. But we’ve continued to learn and grow through the more challenging seasons, and in the end, we’re learning to love each other better. I know this is a natural progression of a relationship, and I know that we are stronger for it. For that, I’m ever so thankful.

I’m thankful for distance. I won’t lie — it’s hard to have your best friend live several states away. It’s hard to not be near the majority of your family. There are times I wish I could just show up at my Grammie’s house, or call up the Shining Twin and demand a chips and salsa-fueled Friends marathon. But as I get older, I realize that there’s a level of effort that goes into maintaining relationships over distance. This is something I used to take for granted, especially when it comes to my family. Yes, family will always be there, but you’ve got to work at it like any other relationship. I like to think I’m getting better at managing the distance. Who knows if that’s true? But I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn from it.

(And, of course, this isn’t to discount my friends & family that are here. I’m of course so thankful for the immediate family that is nearby; not everyone’s so lucky to have their parents, siblings and brand-new niece less than 30 minutes away.)

I’m thankful for stress. This sounds weird, I know. But I mean it more of this way: I’m thankful to have a job I care so much about to be so stressed about sometimes. Granted, it’s not always stressful. It’s less often stressful than it is not, really. But there are certainly times, as with anything we care about, where pressure mounts — whether that’s to hit a deadline, to prove you can do it, or just to get the job done. However, I do think that a lot of my own pressure is self-inflicted, and I know for a fact that I do it because I want to excel in this position I love so much. Ultimately, that’s a wonderful thing.

Three simple things, and three big lessons I’ve learned this year.

So while I do apologize for not being as consistent with this blog as I might ideally like to be, I don’t apologize for the reason behind it. I don’t apologize for learning to be more present when I need to be, I don’t apologize for spending more time Facetiming than doing Instagram photoshoots, I don’t apologize for setting aside my side hustle for my main one. Life is about prioritizing sometimes, and in different seasons, different things will be important.

This blog is still my outlet, and I hope to have more time to devote to it once life calms down a little. For those who are hanging in there: thank you. I’m endlessly thankful for you, too.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

The Happiest Hours Around Phoenix

I’m a happy hour girl. I owe a lot to whoever invented the concept. Half priced appetizers and five dollar wine? What’s not to love?

Besides, I think there is a lot to be said for getting all of your socializing in and then being able to be home with a book (and a cat and a boyfriend) by eight.

In honor of my love of happy hours, and partially because it’s just fun, I’ve rounded up my favorite happy hour spots in metro Phoenix:

North

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This one’s a given, and will top the list every time. Ask me anywhere I ever want to go for happy hour, I will pick North without fail. In fact, my friend Makenzie and I are such regular visitors to this establishment that we have our own table. Granted, we deemed it as such, but it is nice that there’s enough regularity to my appearances here to have something like that.

North has a board and bottle offering that rivals Postino’s. Actually (and I mean no offense to Postino’s here, because they also have a large part of my wine-loving heart), I think North’s is better. You get to pick between a pizza, bruschetta, or a chef’s board, and I almost always pick the latter. I’d recommend getting some extra bread, though. Mainly because the bread is delicious.

The Montauk

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For a spot smack-dab in the middle of Scottsdale, the Montauk has the greatest New England island vibes. With clapboard walls adorned with fishing nets, the nautical vibe can transport anyone to the world of Blair Waldorf and Hampton lifeguards on… well, Montauk.

I had the opportunity to check out some of the Montauk’s new menu items earlier this summer, which is when I first experienced their happy hour items. Before that, I’ve only ever brunched here.

In addition to a great range of appetizers, the Montauk offers full meal options that are delicious and unique, like their new bowls! Plus, they’ve got a full bar and some delicious cocktails to keep you… wait for it… happy all hour.

(Okay, sorry. I know. That was bad.)

Gwin Wine and Beer

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This is another recent discovery. I’ve been saying ever since moving to Scottsdale that I want to become a regular somewhere, and not in the way I’m regularly at North. I want to be a regular here in the sense that Ted, Robin, Marshall, Lily, and Barney were regulars at MacLaren’s. Now, I’ve only been to Gwin once, but this seems like exactly the sort of place that could make that oddly specific dream of mine a reality.

Gwin’s bar takes up most of its dining area, but that’s what’s great about it. You feel like you’re really there to get to know the staff, to learn from them, and to look up at the really impressive chalk map of their wineries and specials. There is live music every weekend (and occasionally on Monday, which is when I saw Jaty Edwards perform). The food offered ranges from the best baked Brie I’ve had in a long time to Cornish Pasty Co.’s pasties, with a charcuterie board in the middle. While this might not be the sort of spot I’d go if I was ravenously hungry, I do plan on returning for plenty more Chardonnay and finger foods… and then walking across the parking lot for dessert at The Baked Bear.

Blanco Tacos & Tequila

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Yes, I do drink things that aren’t wine. I also like margaritas, and Blanco has some of the best. They also have a delectable queso dip that I could eat as an entire meal… and I have before, because it’s what tops their nachos. Blanco also has probably some of the best options for sharing plates out there, between their aforementioned dips and their gigantic cheese crisps. If you’re looking for a place to take a group, I’d definitely give Blanco a top-notch recommendation.

Phoenix Public Market

img_1639Oh, how I greatly miss living within walking distance of this gem. (Let’s start a petition to convince the boy to move back downtown so I can relive those happy hour glory days? Just kidding. Kind of.)

Phoenix Public Market is certainly one of the most recognizable spots downtown, partly because food trucks fill up its parking lot every Friday during lunch. But it’s quickly becoming one of the most recognizable happy hour haunts, too, and to that I say — of course it is! Their happy hour menu includes two of their best food offerings: Downtown Devil fries and a soft pretzel. Plus, they’ve got 5 dollar wine and beer and sangria, and a 5 dollar signature cocktail — the Lee Trevino, which is both gloriously refreshing and surprisingly spicy in the same sip.

Combine that with the fact that PPM is within walking distance of all the major sports and concert venues, just so long as it’s not five million degrees out, then you’ve got the perfect spot to get a quick bite and a drink before heading out to a game.

So, there you have it, my own little opinionated round up. And, granted, I part with the disclaimer that this is no way a comprehensive list, but rather the five spots that I frequent most often.

What are your favorite happy hours around the Valley? And for those of you checking in on this blog from out of town, I would love to hear your favorite local spots too… we can add it to the list of Things To Do for whenever I come visit. 😉 Until then… cheers! After all, it is 5 o’clock somewhere.

Blogging with Purpose

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To be honest, I almost didn’t post today. I almost broke my fairly regular cadence of Tuesday/Thursday blog posts out of mere busyness and lack of true inspiration. This week has just gotten the better of me — social commitments have had me slacking on my workouts, work has me exhausted (in the good way! but still…), and I didn’t plan well for blog content. I didn’t want to post just for the sake of posting, so I wasn’t going to do it at all.

And then it struck me: there’s my post.

Diving into the blogger world, I’ve realized that it can be so easy to be insincere, not genuine. With all of the sponsored posts that keep blogs going, a battle for visibility within the algorithms, and so much more, it can be tempting to post just to post. I’ll admit — I’ve done it, and I’m fooling myself if I think I won’t do it again.

But I try, so hard, to avoid it. Why? Because that’s not at all what I started on this blogging journey for.

The other day, someone asked me a question.

“What is your blog about?”

I had to pause, for a moment, before offering a rambling response of: “It’s a lifestyle blog. Well, a faith-based lifestyle blog. Well, no. Kind of a faith-mixed-with-lifestyle blog. I’m still trying to figure it out.”

And while that’s true, it still got me thinking. What is this blog about?

I always said that I didn’t ever want to blog just to blog. I wanted to write things that have meaning to me – whether that meaning stems from pure interest or curiosity, or whether it’s something a bit deeper like faith. I never wanted to write just to spew some words out there. I live by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s motto:

You don’t write because you want to say something,
you write because you have something to say.

So as I pondered the question, I started perusing my own feeds. I started looking for the people and bloggers whose content I admire the most, who I look up to and admire in this crazy, saturated blogging sphere.

I noticed that my favorites were the ones with stories to tell. Not only stories, but their own truths. I am the biggest fan of real-life rawness, and I am so in awe of people who are vulnerable enough to share those moments with the world.

So that, I’ve decided, is what I want to tell people my blog is about:

Real life.

That’s not to say I won’t work with sponsors or affiliates. That’s not to say that I won’t occasionally post just to post — but I’m going to try to avoid it.

This is my pledge to you, my readers, that I will continue to blog with the utmost purpose. I will not hide details for the sake of making my life look more “shiny.” I will not shy away from the tough stuff. I urge you, whether you’re a blogger or a reader or just a random passerby, to live your life with that same mantra.

Can we do that, together? Can we promise to be real, and purposeful, and intentional?

I pray that we can. I pray that I can. And I pray that you continue to offer me the grace of your listening ears (or… I guess… your reading eyes?)

Meet Me: About-The-Blogger Survey

As I’ve been putting more time, effort, and general thought into this blog, I realized that some of my readers are new here — and those that aren’t, may not know some very basic things about me. So, in honor of my 2 year bloggersary having just passed (is that a thing? Now it’s a thing, though I should note that a solid 6 months of that time was on a different platform), I decided to do a little “meet the blogger” survey. I love getting to know tidbits about you & figured it was high time I returned the favor!

Info

Name: Taylor

Age: 23… fun fact: someone asked me this the other day, and I genuinely had to think about it for a second. Whoops.

Gender: Female

A Selfie

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The only selfies I ever take/post typically include other people… so here’s a shot of me laughing like a happy idiot on my last trip to LA.

Favorites

Food: I have to pick just one!?!?! That’s such a tough question, but I probably will always lean towards delicious, Italian carbs. I’m a big pasta person, and I had the best gnocchi of my entire life in Florence. So, probably that. Or Thanksgiving dinner (and by that I mean the stuffing, potatoes, and roasted veg.)

Drink: Coffee. Or Diet Coke. Or wine. Sort of depends on the time of day, I suppose.

Book: The Great Gatsby and To Kill A Mockingbird. I love the classics. I feel like writing has lost its uniqueness — my own included — and the classic novels we were once forced to read each summer remind me of what truly terrific writing is all about. (That said, I have encountered many delicious novels of the modern era, too. I don’t want anyone to think I’m writing off modern authors, so to speak. I just think there’s a special magic to the old ones.)

Oh, and Harry Potter. Of course. I am a proud Potterhead. Prisoner of Azkaban is my #1 choice, and I have the very tattered, well-worn paperback to prove it.

Song: Yikes, another tough one. Again, this depends on the time of day, and the mood, and the general atmosphere. Am I writing? Running? Driving around with my windows down? It’s probably impossible for me to pick just one.

Movie: I get fairly category specific here, mainly due to the many levels of Disney and my affinity for all of it, so forgive me.

  • Favorite overall movie: Remember the Titans or Dirty Dancing
  • Favorite “classic” Disney movie: Peter Pan
  • Favorite Princess Disney movie: Aladdin 
  • Favorite Pixar movie: Finding Nemo
  • Favorite “modern” Disney movie: Lilo & Stitch

Band: Arctic Monkeys. Oddly enough, this wasn’t that tough.

Solo Artist: Kelsea Ballerini. Nate Reuss. Taylor Swift (#sorrynotsorry).

Place: Lake Tahoe, California. It will always, always, always have my whole entire heart.

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Subject: In school, I was your typical history and English lover. However, as I went through my university years, I also began to love politics and ethics — particularly those classes that enabled Socratic-style seminars to discuss both.

Sport: I played volleyball growing up, and I miss it something dreadful. These days, I run, hike, or ski, and I watch a lot of basketball. That last part wasn’t entirely by choice, but I can’t say I’m complaining too much.

Male actor: Tom Hanks.

Female actor: Meryl Streep. (I was a big fan of The Post, if you couldn’t guess.)

Life

Schooling: I started school in Northern California; spent a few years at an incredible elementary school in Plano, Texas, that definitely shaped my ideas of what education should be like; moved to Phoenix in the 4th grade, and headed to a small suburb for high school. I went to the renowned Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University, where I simultaneously earned my bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s in mass communication; and I would be absolutely remiss to not mention the life changing semester I spent at the University of Birmingham in England.

BF: Does this mean best friend or boyfriend??? Regardless: my boyfriend is one of my best friends, as any companion should be, but I’m also incredibly blessed with the greatest set of girl friends. Shout out to my Shining Twin, my partner in crime, and the one who ensures my music library is constantly stocked while never minding when I get bad at texting back.

Political ideology: This is a loaded question, especially lately. I hate the two-party system, to be frank, because I think all too often it closes off our minds to seeing other sides of the story. That said: I believe love is love, I believe in basic human rights, I believe in a woman’s right to choose, and I believe that God would never persecute anyone based on where they come from. That said, I try not to get overly political on social media, but if you want to have an informed conversation with me elsewhere, I’m happy to engage. I will never try to change your mind, but please, provide me with a solid foundation for your argument. Remember, I liked those Socratic seminars in school. 🙂

Religion: Christian, and my relationship with the Lord is growing every day. I will never claim to be perfect, but I don’t have to be. He loves us despite of this, because of this. We are His imperfect children.

I also believe that our Lord reveals himself to everyone in some way, and that way may be whichever way they need Him to be. Whether that is through the Church, the mosque, or the spirit of nature. I believe in one God, but I believe that He knows best how to get through to His children, and that He wants us to accept our own diversity, because He created it for a purpose.

Tattoos: None. I have 2 that I’ve toyed with, but have never committed to. Time shall tell.

Piercings: Just my ears. I had double piercings that were done badly and closed quickly, and a cartilage piercing that I didn’t take well enough care of in college.

Languages: Just English, sadly, and some very bad, broken Spanish.

Reason behind your blog’s name: I was born at seven minutes after seven. I was seven pounds, seven ounces. I am the seventh grandchild. This is everything that’s happened since.

Why you blog: The simple answer is that I like to write. I like to spill my thoughts out to whoever will listen: my journal, the Internet, Google Docs. The more complicated answer is that I feel I have something to say, and I believe in the power of words. Maybe mine will have an impact on someone. Maybe that impact is life changing. Maybe that impact is priceless. You never know, and I believe that you should always try.

Why I Started a Blog Instagram… Again

Okay, pals. So, by now, most (or at least some) of you know that I restarted a blog-specific Instagram: @sevenafterseven. Even though I intentionally discontinued my last one with the effort to be more present, I also found that an unforeseen consequence of that decision was that I ended up sharing my writing less and less.

Why?

Well, simply put: I didn’t want to bother anyone.

This was a pretty subconscious concern of mine, but once I took some time to reflect on why I hadn’t shared any posts on my social media in a while, I realized that it really did burrow down to that one, self-conscious fact. I didn’t want to litter my friend’s feeds with this blog content that they hadn’t asked for when they started following me way back when. Maybe it was a silly concern, but it was a worry of mine nonetheless, and the more I thought about it, the more it bugged me.

I realize that I could have just gotten over myself and said “who cares, I’m posting blog stuff anyway,” but I didn’t. I know myself too well, and while that attitude may have lasted for a week or maybe two, it wouldn’t be long before I crawled back into my self-conscious hole and stopped sharing my blog posts with the social media world again.

And so, @sevenafterseven was born (or, re-born, if you will).

That said, I have set a few goals for myself with this new Instagram, goals that I hope will differentiate this experience from the one I had as @twentysomethingtaylor.

I want to be authentic. Much as is my goal for this blog, I want the Instagram to reflect my daily journeys through life and faith, and I want to use the platform to show that authentic side of myself with a greater audience.

I want to write more, and share more. This kind of goes back to that 2018 goal I set for myself, and this really is the main purpose of me restarting the Instagram. I figure, if I know that all of the followers to this new handle are there for the purpose of the blog, then I should have no qualms about sharing my writing with those people. Right? Right.

I want to be intentional. Too many times, social media sucks us into ourselves. We post pictures of things we like, we strive for followers just for the sake of having them, and the “social” side of it really gets lost. So as I grow my @sevenafterseven community, I’m truly hoping that I’ll be able to “meet” and interact with all sorts of wonderful, inspirational people, even if it’s just so much as me saying they have a cute dog. I want this to be a very intentional thing for me, and for others, and I want to truly grasp the “social” side of social media.

Well, there you go: the reasons you didn’t ask for as to why I decided to restart the blog’s Instagram.

And, because I’m curious, I throw this question out to my fellow bloggers: what stops you from sharing your work, and how do you overcome that? Leave your answer in the comments, and maybe we can all encourage one another to share ourselves, and our work, more boldly. After all, that is why we’re all here, right?