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.

Prioritize Yourself: A Lesson From My 23rd Year

August 1 is always a day of reflection for me. It’s the last day of whatever age I’m at, the day before I start a brand new chapter. With that comes the anticipation of what’s next, as well as the sweet melancholy of looking back at what has passed.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my birthday and I am happier than ever to see this next one come. So far, my twenties have been some of my favorite birthdays, earmarked by celebrations full of bubbles and love and milestones in my career and my life. Honestly, it’s been a wonderful handful of years and I can’t wait for what’s still to come.

That said, I like to look back at the past three hundred and sixty five (366 on a Leap Year) and consider what the world has taught me.

This year, the lesson is quite simple.

It’s okay to prioritize yourself.

This one took me a long time to learn. I’m a born people pleaser. It’s difficult for me to let go of the idea that something I do might let someone else down. In some ways, this has greatly benefited me and strengthened my relationships with my friends and family. I like to think of myself as reliable, as someone that will always be there if needed.

But in other ways, this has resulted in me neglecting my own self care, and as I navigate through adulthood, I’m realizing that self care is not selfish.

If you aren’t okay, how can you help anyone else be? 

In particular, I learned this lesson after my grandfather passed at the end of last year. It’s the first time I’ve experienced that sort of loss in my immediate family, and it was the second loss of someone close to me within the year. It wasn’t easy, to say the least. And while I remain bouyed and grateful that he left the legacy of an impeccable family behind, I’d be lying if I said I bounced back right away.

During that time, I had to say no to a lot of things, just for the sake of taking care of myself. I didn’t reply to texts as quickly as usual, I didn’t go to as many holiday happy hours as I may have liked. I needed time to be alone; I needed time to be with God; I needed time to be with my family. I just needed time, and for the first time, I recognized how important it was to put that time ahead of something, or someone, else.

Learning to be with yourself is an important part of learning about yourself.

When I emerged from my hermitting to rejoin the real world, I had a new perspective on putting yourself first.

Mainly, I finally decided to dub time spent with yourself as equally important to time spent in community.

It goes beyond that, though, of course, because we’re never truly alone these days, are we? That little thing in our pocket is always buzzing and beeping and tweeting and posting. I’m a huge fan of social media and an even bigger fan of messaging apps that let me keep in contact with loved ones who are flung across the world, but it is just fine to shut off sometimes. It is just fine not to reply to a text that is not urgent. It is just fine to laugh at the meme you’re sent, give it a little like, and then be on your way.

That is just fine. And no one should make you feel guilty for disconnecting.

It’s perfectly okay for work to be important. Just remember, your personal life is, too.

Now, I’ve always been a huge proponent of working to live rather than living to work. Admittedly, that’s a hard thing to do in my industry. PR is always on, and the deeper I get in my career, the harder it is to fully “switch off.” In fact, I was talking to my cousin last night and she asked what my schedule is, and as I rambled on about the hours I’m in the office vs. the hours I’m checking email, I realized how ridiculous it sounded to say, “Oh, but I make a rule not to scan too much on Saturdays.”

Alas, that’s the industry I’m in and, for better or worse, I love it.

But I’ve been better at setting ground rules. I only work late when I need to, and that’s usually just within the first couple of days of the month when all the reports are due. I try not to send emails after 6 p.m. or before eight in the morning. I try not to open my inbox on Saturdays at all, and on Sunday evenings it’s only to clear out the junk mail and get a footing for Monday. I turn off my email app on vacation. I try to be as present as possible at work so I can be as present as possible outside of it, too.

And so far, it’s working out pretty well.

Granted, there’s so many more lessons that you learn within the span of a year, but this one stands out to me as the most important. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by all of the stimuli in our lives. It’s so easy, especially in our twenties.

So, as I enter my twenty fourth year (ack! Writing that out makes it feel so real!) I pledge to myself to prioritize myself when I need to. I pledge to switch off when I can, and be present as much as possible. I pledge to do these things in order to make myself the best that I can be, but also to make myself better for those I love.

And with that said…

Bring it on, 24.

ps: happy birthday, J. thanks for always looking out from that giant cloud trampoline in the sky.

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?)

Mother’s Day Gifts for the Daughter on a Budget

In case you needed the reminder, Mother’s Day is this weekend. (Hopefully you already knew that.)

I love Mother’s Day, mainly because I love my mom. I think it’s pretty cool to have a whole day to celebrate her and all of the amazing things she has done for me. Seriously, my mom and I are a weird brand of close that I couldn’t be more grateful for. She’s my rock and my role model, my best adviser and my best friend, all rolled into one. I wouldn’t trade her, or the fact that my friends have a habit of hanging out with her without me (ahem, Shining Twin shout out), for anything.

That said, my mom and I usually celebrate by simply spending time together, and in my family’s typical fashion, we don’t always do it on the day itself. Regardless of how you’re celebrating, I figured I’d write a little round up if you’re scrounging for a good gift for your sweet mama. After all, what do you get the woman who gave you everything? Even if you’re on a budget, there’s still something that can show your token of appreciation for you lady you love most.

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Note: The rest of this post contains affiliate links – if you click through any of the links in the post below & make a purchase, I may receive compensation, at no additional cost to you. Thank you!

Under $5: A Coffee Date
Nothing beats spending time together, so if you’re on a tight budget, ask Mom out for a cup of coffee. It’s simple, it’s inexpensive, and it would be so, so appreciated. After all, Mother’s Day doesn’t need to be fancy. It’s all about showing Mom how much you appreciate her.

And, if you have a coffee-loving Mom like I do and can spend a little extra for her to have her own new mug for that coffee date, get her something cute and quirky, like this “best mom ever” mug.

Under $15: A Framed Photo
I’m a bit partial to this one because I love pictures. Given the option of photos or art, I’ll pick photos every time, and not just any photos, but those of people I love. I just don’t think there’s better decor than memories, and I bet your mother would agree. Snag a cute frame, like this pretty rustic wood one, and print out your favorite photo of you and Mom – better yet, make it a throwback!

Under $25: A Charming Charm
You can’t go wrong with jewelry, and you don’t have to go too crazy with the price. Take a look at this gorgeous wave necklace from PuraVida. It’ll add a touch of seaside sparkle to any outfit Mom wears! (Psst: Use the code SEVENAFTERSEVEN20 for a 20% discount!)

Under $35: A Nice Bottle of Wine 
How often does your mom really indulge in something like some really good wine? Even if she does it fairly often, there’s nothing that says “special” more than something more than her day-to-day Chardonnay.

Bonus points: get her a cute little wine stopper in case she doesn’t finish the bottle (or, better yet, offer to help her with that so you don’t need the stopper!)

Under $45: Take Her To Brunch
Bump the whole “breakfast in bed” thing you used to to when you were younger up a notch, and take her to a nice brunch. If you want to avoid the Sunday morning crowd, there’s nothing wrong with doing it the day before or after (trust me, in my family, we’re pros at not celebrating things on the correct day).

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If you’re in the Phoenix area, I’ve previously rounded up my 5 favorite brunch spots, in case you need some inspiration!

But, let’s be honest. It doesn’t matter what you get your mom: the important thing is showing her, somehow, just how much you love her.

PS: If my mom’s reading this – thanks for being the best. I’m seriously the luckiest daughter on the planet to have a Lorelai like you.

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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?