Why We Need to Say No to Pharmaceutical Birth Control

I’m going to be honest here—I do not, nor have I ever, taken birth control pills.

I just haven’t had a need for them. I chose to abstain from sex during my teenage years. As I got older and realized the impact that pharmaceutical medications have on our bodies, I couldn’t help but wonder—why would people take these pills?

I guess having to take a pill every day isn’t nearly as bad as carrying an unwanted child for nine months. When you put it that way, it seems blissfully simple.

Let’s not forget the fact that many women go on birth control not to avoid pregnancy, but rather to control difficult or heavy periods. Some women even get prescribed birth control simply because they have premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which consists of symptoms women commonly experience before their menstrual cycle starts.

Regardless of why women choose to go on birth control—some at terribly young ages—a need has arisen to question why.

There are safer, more natural methods to birth control. I’m not against birth control. What I am against is the pharmaceutical companies profiting from the harm we women are doing to our bodies by taking these pills every day.

So let’s talk about why we need to say no to pharmaceutical birth control.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or nutritionist. The content contained in this blog post is for educational purposes only. 

A Brief History of Birth Control Pills

The need for birth control goes back centuries. Pulling out (also called the withdrawal method) is one of the oldest methods of birth control.

Pharmaceutical birth control can trace its roots back to Mexico. A chemist by the name of Carl Djerassi in Mexico created birth control by synthesizing compounds from Mexican Wild Yam (which is one of the herbal methods for natural birth control that we’ll discuss later).

The year was 1951 and chemists at pharmaceutical companies were looking for a way to provide birth control to women—but in a synthetic version that they could patent and profit off of. Since people cannot patent nature, no profit was to be made on the natural, Mexican Wild Yam version of birth control. Djerassi could have been credited with the invention of the birth control pill if he’d had the means to test and distribute this product.

In 1952, a pharmaceutical company with the means Djerassi lacked created synthetic progesterone, which hits the market as the pill Enovid in 1960. Despite the fact that women experienced side effects of depression, stroke, cancer, and blood clots, the pill was still deemed safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). By 1970, several more pharmaceutical companies had FDA-approved birth control drugs on the market to get their share of the profit.

It seemed like a miracle—but for whom? The pharmaceutical companies that profited from what’s now a $2.8 billion dollar industry, or the women who no longer had to worry about getting pregnant?

The Risks of Pharmaceutical Birth Control

The side effects of birth control continued to reveal themselves over the years.

Pharmaceutical birth control has been shown to increase the risk of breast, cervical, and liver cancer (it’s been shown to decrease the risk of ovarian cancer, so hey—increase your risk for three or more cancers while decreasing your risk for one, woo hoo!) It has also been linked to an increased risk of stroke and heart attack, which is the leading cause of death among women in America.

Hormonal oral contraception has also been linked to:

  • Migraines
  • Infertility
  • Decreased bone density
  • Yeast infections (candida overgrowth, which has a wide variety of unpleasant symptoms)
  • Blood clotting
  • High blood pressure
  • Weight gain
  • Mood disorders
  • And more!

In addition to this, birth control pills produce waste that affects the environment. What this means is that hormones are ending up in our ecosystems, therefore altering life as we know it.

Covering Up Symptoms Rather Than Addressing the Problem

Women’s bodies change when they’re on the pill. We no longer ovulate because our body is tricked into thinking that we’re already pregnant. When we stop taking the pills, we’re supposed to get our period and menstruate as normal.

Birth control pills often cover up symptoms that women commonly experience before and during their period—for instance, acne, mood swings, and painful menstrual cramps. These medicines do not address the root cause of these problems. Our bodies are trying to tell us something when we experience symptoms such as this. For instance, consider:

  • Acne is usually a result of a food intolerance or a lack of fresh foods and omega-3s in the diet. A poor diet can also lead to bad menstrual cramps!
  • Muscle cramping can be a symptom of magnesium deficiency. Simply by getting more magnesium along with calcium and vitamin D in your diet can help prevent painful periods.
  • Poor pelvic circulation was found to be the cause of my painful cramping, and some intensive periods of ginger tea and the right dose and type of magnesium cleared that right up.

What Can We Do?

Say no to pharmaceutical birth control. Say no to a billion-dollar industry that’s increasing our risk for certain types of cancer, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and hormonal problems. Say no to animal testing. Say yes to alternative methods!

If we’re taking the pill as a contraceptive

We have so many other choices! From the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) to Neem oil, Mexican Wild Yam, Queen Anne’s Lace, Slippery Elm Bark, and more, the herbal methods we can choose from are numerous.

My partner and I use the Fertility Awareness Method, which took some time and training from a professional herbalist to learn. It’s important to learn what method works best for you. Like any method of birth control, nothing is 100% effective at preventing pregnancy, so it’s important to be informed and diligent about what you choose.

If you choose to go with a natural method, working with an experienced herbalist can help ensure the best chances of pregnancy prevention success. I would absolutely not recommend Googling these things and trying them on your own, especially if you are not ready for a child.

If we’re taking the pill to reduce period symptoms

Diet can alleviate many of these symptoms, as can proper nutrient intake. Everyone should have the right to eat healthily and know their body. We have the ability to get tested and know if we’re deficient in any nutrients and take the proper steps to correct it. We have the right to a healthy body and healthy choices.

Regardless of what symptoms you’re experiencing surrounding your menstrual cycle, work with a professional to discover and address the root cause of the problem. Attempting to find a solution on your own can work, but it typically takes a lot more time, effort, and money. Working with an herbalist or other natural doctors can help you stop your period pain, reduce your symptoms, and help you feel better during your cycles!

Do we need another reason to say no to harmful contraceptive pills that are man-made? Why not just use the natural substances and eliminate the harmful side effects? With a little more knowledge about our bodies as well as the plants that can help us, we can better understand our choices for pregnancy prevention. Let’s say no to pharmaceutical birth control and save our bodies and our environment!

Organic Clothing Review—Gaia Conceptions, PACT Organic, and Rawganique

Welcome to my organic clothing review of three companies I’ve found worthy of this post.

A little more than a year ago, I realized many of my clothes were made out of toxic fibers that were actually polluting the earth and potentially exposing me to carcinogens.

What’s a girl to do?

I began looking for alternatives, which wasn’t at all easy. Everything I found seemed to be blended with synthetic fibers. I was annoyed and disheartened—where were the pure clothing companies?

I found a few that I love and that I think meet the standards for ultra-pure stuff. If you’re cleaning out your closet and want to find alternatives to synthetic fibers, check out these brands. You won’t be disappointed!

So which ones have the best stuff and which one did I like the most? Here’s my organic clothing review of three organic clothing companies.

FYI: I did not work with any of these companies to construct this post. The information contained in this post is my honest opinion and these companies are largely unaware that I am even writing this. I do not engage in paid advertising or promotion on my site.


Rawganique was one of the first clothing companies I found for this organic clothing review. I wasn’t really feeling their stuff; it looked really raw and outdated for my taste. I did end up ordering some things from them, however. Here’s what I think.

Clothing: The only clothing I got from Rawganique was a pair of fleece sweatpants and some socks.

Now, the fleece sweatpants were attractively priced (you’ll soon find that organic clothing is expensive) and I love them. Warm and comfortable. The socks, I hate. The fabric is soft but extremely raw, contains no elastic, and shed everywhere. They were also expensive and I will not be ordering them again.

A picture of those strange socks from Rawganique. I mostly wear them to bed now or around the house.

Bedding: I ordered a couple pillows and an organic comforter from Rawganique, both of which I really like.

Conclusion: If you’re looking for the purest of the pure, Rawganique is your store. They are virtually the only company I could find online that makes socks and underwear without elastic in the fabric. I also plan on ordering another pair of sweatpants from them!

Their prices are on the high side although their shipping costs are reasonable. Their customer service was extremely prompt, which was great.

PACT Organic

I was also able to find PACT Organic online for this organic clothing review. Their selection is pretty minimalistic, but they have all the basics. Here’s the deal.

Clothing: I bought a couple long-sleeved shirts from PACT that I adore. They are simple, basic, and go with everything. I also bought a pair of sweatpants from them, which aren’t as thick and warm as the ones from Rawganique, but they are still 100% organic cotton and they’re really comfortable and less than half the price.

I usually wear PACT as a base layer, you can see a black t-shirt here under my Gaia shirt.

I’ve gotten some free socks from PACT as well, and although they’re blended with synthetic fibers, they fit way better and are much cuter than the ones from Rawganique. They’re cheaper, too! Bonus for PACT: some things you buy come with a slip so you can go online and get free socks. It’s really easy and their socks rock!

Conclusion: PACT Organic uses synthetic fibers in a lot of their clothing. Their socks, underwear, sports bras, and even some of their shirts and pants use polyester or elastane. I don’t like this about PACT. What I do like is that their stuff is very cheap compared to some organic clothing, and their basics are absolutely worth the price. Their shipping is fast and free, and their returns are super simple and also free.

Update: I recently ordered some more stuff from PACT and felt like their quality had diminished somewhat. I guess the old saying goes–you get what you pay for!

Gaia Conceptions

I stumbled upon Gaia Conceptions through Etsy, and I’m thrilled that I did. They are my favorite part of this organic clothing review 🙂

Their clothing was much more of my style than Rawganique was and their selection was way better than PACT Organic. It’s much more expensive, however.

Gaia Conceptions features handmade, eco-friendly clothing. Their pieces are truly works of art and their fabrics are to die for! The majority of their clothing is synthetic-fiber free, but you can choose to get stretchy fabrics from them if you like.

Clothing: Gaia Conceptions’ clothing is second to none. The eco-friendly dyes, the colors, the cuts, the design, it’s all stunning. From summer essentials to winter warmers, Gaia Conceptions has just about anything you can think of. I’ve gotten so many pieces from here and have a few favorites.

The Gypsy Petal Back Long Dress from Gaia Conceptions in 100% organic cotton knit. Color: squash.

The downside to Gaia Conceptions is that since they offer natural plant dyes in addition to their selection of low-impact dyes, the plant dyes come out all different colors. They show the colors on the models on their site, but that may not be at all the color you end up with. This is true for all of their plant dyes including brazilwood, sage, sunshine, poppy, and indigo. I think Gaia could do a better job of letting its customers know that these plant dyes vary hugely, however, they do disclose on their site that all dyes are subject to variation, even the low-impact ones that aren’t considered pure plant dyes.

The Priestess Sleeve Ballerina Wanderer Short Dress in 100% organic cotton knit. Color: raisin.

The other bad thing about this is that once you have a piece, you’re stuck with it. It doesn’t matter if the piece is damaged, incorrect, etc. It’s yours. Gaia makes you pay for return shipping for them to correct or replace the product, and they will absolutely not take a piece back just because you don’t like it. This is conscious consumerism right here.

Gaia’s customer service is prompt although again, their return policy should absolutely be noted before purchasing anything. These clothes take up to a month to make and ship and they’re expensive, so you want to be absolutely sure that you’re getting what you want and are willing to accept imperfection if you choose to go with a natural plant dye.

Conclusion: Although expensive, Gaia Conceptions’ handmade clothing is well-made, locally based in North Carolina, and truly unique. You will not find free shipping here and while they include free gifts with each order, you will rarely find discounts. Around the holidays and equinoxes they will typically have 10% off your order. I’m surprised to say that this clothing is somehow worth every penny.

Did you guess that Gaia Conceptions was my favorite organic clothing company for this organic clothing review? 😉

What to Know When Buying Organic Clothing

I had no idea what I was getting into when I was searching for organic clothing for this organic clothing review. Here’s what you should know if you’re considering making the switch.

It’s more expensive. You’ll pay much more for organic, natural fibers than you will for non-organic, synthetic ones.

Fabrics that are blended with synthetics are cheaper. Anything you find on an organic clothing website that’s been blended with elastane, spandex, or polyester is cheaper than the pure stuff. Many people like their leggings, underwear, and socks to have a bit of fit to them.

Some pieces are unique. If you get pieces that are handmade—which some organic pieces are—you should expect variations in the color and cut. You can contact the company if you have any questions before purchasing!

It’s a different buying experience. Don’t expect to buy organic clothing and get the same experience as you do at Forever 21. This is not that. These clothes are harder to find while you’re out. They don’t look or feel the same as synthetic fibers. The customer service is different. You will feel different wearing them. They are much more expensive. You will need to take better care of them.

Get some freaking plant-based detergent. I use Dr. Bronner’s for everything, but if you don’t, you should really invest in some plant-based detergent for your new organic clothing. Plus don’t you know all the big-name brands test on animals?

You can utilize thrift stores. If you can’t afford to pay for new organic clothing, why not check out some used stuff? Even if it’s not organic, 100% natural fibers such as hemp and cotton are the next best thing. Your local thrift store may have some options!


Have you ever tried to shop for organic clothing? Making the switch is an investment. It can feel painful to pay $90 for a t-shirt when you could buy one on clearance at a department store for $5.

When you think about your impact on the world, it doesn’t feel like that much money, though. Plus, you’re much thriftier with your cash when you buy natural fibers because they’re so much more expensive.

I now have a semi-minimalistic closet with just a few essentials and all my favorite organic fabrics in there. It was difficult finding the right companies for this organic clothing review, but it felt so worth it to get rid of all my toxic clothing and invest in a few pieces that truly inspire me!

Do you know of any organic pure clothing companies that rock? I’d love to hear from you if so! Happy shopping 🙂 

How to Stop Panic Attacks: This One Thing Stopped Mine for Good

I’ve been having panic attacks since I was a child.

They got worse during my early teenage years and finally peaked while I was in high school. At the height of my panic attacks, I was having about two per week my senior year, which is a lot.

Panic attacks are scary, draining, and life-changing. I learned how to cope with the episodes—and sometimes I could bring myself back from one—but I couldn’t quite figure out how to stop panic attacks.

This one thing I was doing made me realize how to stop panic attacks.

How to Stop Panic Attacks: Stop Drinking Coffee

Yes, you read that right.

I love coffee. I come from a line of coffee lovers. I started drinking coffee when I was about 12 and continued to drink it throughout high school. I’d go to school with a big travel mug full of coffee and pretty much finish it by the time I got to school.

After experiencing a debilitating illness two weeks after I graduated at the age of 16, I was forced to stop drinking coffee for a while. Even after I recovered, I found that my body was too sensitive to the caffeine to tolerate much of it.

My illness cultivated an awareness in me of my body as well as the way certain foods and drinks made me feel. Thus, I became aware of coffee’s impact on my anxiety and learned how to stop panic attacks simply by not drinking coffee.

I haven’t had a panic attack since.

How I Coped Without Coffee

I had headaches in the beginning when I stopped drinking coffee, and I didn’t immediately replace it with an alternative.

However, I started drinking tea at some point after that, which not only replaced coffee as a warm snuggly beverage in the morning but also helped keep me full and eventually helped me lose the 50 pounds my illness made me gain.

Once the headaches subsided, I was free from coffee’s grasp.

I don’t crave coffee ever, but I do love the smell of coffee and will take tiny sips of my fiancé’s coffee when he has it. However, I never have any more than that and I certainly have never had my own cup of coffee since I was 16. I’ve learned that coffee is a powerful drug that can make crazy things happen.

And so I gave up coffee and learned how to stop panic attacks.

My Life Without Panic Attacks

If you’ve never had a panic attack, there’s no way for me to fully describe it. Every person will likely experience panic attacks differently, therefore everyone will have different coping mechanisms. This is just what worked for me.

Before I stopped drinking coffee, the only way for me to bring myself back from a panic attack was to stop whatever I was doing and get out. One morning at school I felt the onset of a panic attack. My arms and face started tingling. I lost vision for a few moments. I started sweating and hyperventilating.

I got up and walked out of class, across the parking lot, and walked two hours and twenty-one minutes home to my house. Panic attack avoided.

Other than that, there wasn’t much I could do when it came to how to stop panic attacks. I had someone suggest deep breathing to me, but that seemed to only make it worse (I’m sure I didn’t know how to breathe correctly). I know different people have different techniques that work for them. Mine is limiting my caffeine intake.

So What Else Has Caffeine in It?

Caffeine is sneaky and is present in different things besides coffee. It is also in:

  • Black, green, oolong, and white tea (herbal teas are fine, though)
  • Chocolate, cocoa, baker’s chocolate, hot chocolate, anything chocolate
  • Decaf coffee (has about half the caffeine of regular coffee)
  • Certain sodas such as Pepsi, Coke, and Diet Coke
  • Conventional energy drinks (make your own natural version here)
  • Certain medications such as headache medication (Excedrin) and even menstrual medication (Midol)

Limiting my caffeine intake has helped keep me panic-free for the last decade and I feel very fortunate to not have had another panic attack since my teenage years.

Caffeine’s Effect on the Body

After learning about caffeine’s effect on the body, it’s no surprise that it was triggering my panic attacks. Caffeine such as that contained in coffee has been shown to trigger a “fight or flight” response, increasing heart rate and blood pressure.

Coffee can also cause many other negative effects, including dizziness, trouble breathing, muscle tremors, anxiety, and irritability. Although people drinking “moderate” amounts might be ok, we know that everyone reacts differently to certain substances. It all depends on how you feel.

I’m not against coffee by any means. In fact, research has shown that coffee is beneficial for many people for a variety of reasons. The fact is that I just know it’s not beneficial for me.

As someone who had panic attacks for nearly a decade, learning how to stop panic attacks from happening was important to me. By adjusting my caffeine intake and listening to my body, I was able to isolate a pattern of drinking coffee and having panic attacks.

How to stop panic attacks, for me, was eliminating coffee from my diet. I miss coffee sometimes, but I definitely don’t miss panic attacks.

3 Reasons Why I Gave Up Hating My Body After 25

For years, I was self-conscious of my body.

It started with my breasts. Then my weight. Then it was my stomach. Next thing you know, I was cripplingly self-conscious.

After ditching wearing a bra after 15 years, I’m done feeling self-conscious of my body.

The last three years since graduating college, I have grown immensely. No, I haven’t necessarily advanced in my career but personally, I have triumphed. I was tired of feeling like I wasn’t good enough or that people were judging me.

The truth is that people are judging me. But I also realized another truth around the time I turned 25—I just didn’t fucking care.

Here are the three reasons why I gave up hating my body after I turned 25.

1. I’m Stuck With It

It seems really stupid to spend money on plastic surgery when I’ve been gifted this gorgeous, amazing body. Why would I shell out thousands of dollars for something that’s already perfect?

The truth is that I was born this way. It was time to embrace my body, not hate it.

Hiking near The Dish in Stanford, California. Look at all that armpit hair!

I furthered cultivated this practice by getting rid of all my toxic clothing and buying pieces that I felt inspired by. Getting rid of clothes that were full of toxins and promoted a negative body image felt so freeing to me.

I was also able to sell some clothes I didn’t use and get some of that money back.

I’m stuck with my body, and I’m starting to have trouble seeing why that’s a bad thing.

2. It Was Hurting My Relationships

Turns out, crippling self-confidence issues are not sexy.

I was not only hurting myself, but I was hurting the people close to me. I have an amazing fiancé who couldn’t understand why I was so self-conscious.

It was just my body. It was only this perfect thing that grounded me to this world. I was a goddess and I couldn’t see it.

jenn ryan

Being a mermaid in Nantahala National Park, North Carolina. Yes, those are my breasts and yes, I lack the ability to care what you think about them.

I was ready to stop hurting my relationship with my fiancé and with myself. I was ready to embrace every single part of myself—from the hair on my body to my scars to my stretch marks, they’re all part of my stunning self.

My relationship also improved once I let go of the notion that I was my body. The truth is that I’m not my body. I’m not the things I identify with. I am only life.

Letting go of my hatred towards my body image only helped me become more of my best self.

3. I’m Ready to Be My Best Self

Once I was freed from all the perceived imperfections and struggles that kept me chained, I was free to fly.

I became more confident in just about everything. I stopped caring what people thought. I realized that there are very few things that actually matter in life.

Taking some pics at my house in Maryland with one of my rabbits, Fiver.

What I was not prepared to do was spend the rest of my life hating my body, letting that hatred hinder my relationships, and most of all, hold me back from being my best self.

I’m proud to say that I love my body despite what other people might perceive as its flaws.

Thank you to everyone who teaches me patience. Thank you to everyone who thinks not wearing a bra is a public nuisance. Thank you to everyone who tells me body hair is disgusting. I love my body and giving up hating it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

6 Things I Learned from Living in a Cabin in the Woods for Two Years (And Why I’ll Never Do It Again)

Yes, a picture of the actual cabin.

I got my associate’s degree from a local community college, which meant that I only had to do two and a half years at university to complete my bachelor’s degree. It didn’t sound so bad, and I got into my dream school, so I was pretty excited to go.

Fortunately, my grandparent’s second residence—a log cabin in the woods—was located just shy of an hour south of my dream campus in University Park, Pennsylvania. Being the recluse that I am, I figured I could live there and completely avoid the student population while I did my schoolwork.

It was a great idea in theory. Here’s how it played out and why I’ll never do it again.

1. You Do Actually Need People

I will never forget that feeling when my parents drove away and left me at the cabin for the first time. Yes, I was older than the typically-aged college student. But my love for my parents was no less, and as I watched them drive away, I cried.

I was prepared to not have friends. I’d never been social, didn’t feel the need to be, and I wasn’t counting on making any friends. My boyfriend was going to university in Virginia, about two and a half hours away. My best friend at the time, Stephanie, was going to university in Maryland. I was fully prepared and equipped with my smartphone to stay in touch with them during my time there.

My brother pulling me on a sled in the snow in PA. I am having the time of my life, as you can see.

Turns out, it wasn’t enough. I went days on end without seeing anybody. It’s a feeling I wasn’t used to and one I learned not to like. I felt very isolated despite being on a campus with 40,000 people and missed simple face-to-face interactions with people. I made two friends during my time at Penn State (hey, Dom and Chris!) and their kindness and friendship made me realize just how much people matter in life.

2. You Don’t Actually Want to Build a Log Cabin

I can’t tell you how much I hear people nostalgically talk about cabins. They vacation in cabins. They honeymoon in cabins. They party in cabins. They talk about building cabins because they’re cheap.

I stop these people every time. I’m like, “NO! You do not want to do that!”

Vacationing in a cabin? Fine. Honeymooning in a cabin? Fine. Partying in a cabin? Whatever floats your boat. But for real and serious, you DO NOT want to build a log cabin.

Although this is a gorgeous picture of the Juniata River, which happens to be right in the backyard at the cabin.

The log you see on the inside is the same log that you see on the outside. They do not hold heat well. The animals destroy them. They are a bitch to maintain. You will regret this decision and in a relatively short amount of time, the cabin will not be worth the money that you put in to maintain it.

Trust me, I’ve seen all this firsthand. Go visit a cabin. Do not invest in one. It is not an investment and it’s definitely not comfortable to live in year round. You can thank me later.

3. The Winters Are Cold in Pennsylvania

I’ve been going to that cabin since I was three years old. I KNOW the winters are cold in Pennsylvania. But here’s what I learned from living in that cabin for two winters: the winters are cold in Pennsylvania.

Now, before everyone freaks out and tells me what I wimp I am, yes, I have been to Canada, and no, I do not handle the cold well. I have low blood pressure and am borderline anemic, so I freeze in anything that’s below 70 degrees basically.

I froze my ass off there for two years. My social anxiety kept me from taking any sort of public transportation while on campus, and since I was a commuter, I needed to walk from the school parking lot to my classes every day. So I walked my ass right past the bus station where all the normal commuters got picked up and hoofed it in my Timberland boots 40 minutes to and from class every day.

A heart I drew in the snow for my boyfriend because I was bored.

I’ll never forget the day it was 5 degrees outside and I stole a pair of mittens out of the women’s bathroom and grabbed a sweater out of the lost and found because I was so cold (ok, I’m lying, I didn’t do those things because I was cold, I did those things because I was weird and I wanted to; they also didn’t happen on the same day, which somehow makes it even weirder).

Did I mention Penn State is notorious for not canceling classes because of snow? Classes were not canceled once during my two years there. We had two 2-hour delays and it seemed I was lucky to get even that. I missed a week of classes one winter because I couldn’t get out of my driveway, let alone up the mountain I drove every day to get to campus.

The freezing cold was not fun and I was miserable and I hated it. I’d get home at night when it was cold and dark and soak in the hot tub for a long time while I shuddered at the thought of going outside again.

4. Animals Like Log Cabins

Log cabins are the epitome of nature. The wood that’s there, the fact that no one lives there year round, its location in the middle of the woods: all these features made it irresistible to animals.

Deer, foxes, squirrels, turkeys, mice, flying squirrels, and rabbits were some of the animals I saw there. The flying squirrels and mice had taken up residence with me in the cabin. I rescued one from the coat closet one evening when I was doing my homework at the dining room table and heard it rummaging around in there. I was scared to death.

A picture of that poor flying squirrel. Don’t worry, I got it off the glue trap safely and released it. I HATE glue traps; my grandparents put them out and I throw them away every time I go up there.

The mice liked to try and eat my food and somehow found their way into my panty drawer (yes, you read that right: panty not pantry) and the silverware drawer. Two of the worst places to find evidence of mice, let me tell you. I washed all that stuff more times than I care to count.

I learned that there’s essentially no separation of nature. You are one with the animals, the forest, and the life that you exhibit there. A good thing? Yes. Sometimes. When you don’t own that building.

5. I Will Never Live in a Log Cabin

Two years and I was DONE with that shit. Don’t get me wrong—I am so, so grateful to my grandparents for letting me stay there. The cabin was beautiful and they maintained it well and I was alone, mostly secure, and able to have my bunnies with me. I could canoe whenever I wanted and got to bike and run in beautiful spots.

A picture of the cabin from the backyard.

But I will never live in a log cabin again.

Summers are gorgeous. Winters are brutal. I’m fine to visit but I will not live there. Thanks, but no thanks. I want a real house next time.

6. I am Actually Scared as Shit

Like I said, I thought I was prepared for the loneliness and isolation I would experience. Turns out, talking to Ian and my parents and my best friend Stephanie every day wasn’t enough. My four adorable, amazing rabbits weren’t even enough.

I still slept with a shotgun next to me.

I still slept with a six-inch knife under my pillow.

I still slept with my cell phone beside my ear just in case someone broke in.

Did I mention the can of wasp spray on my nightstand? Shit sprays 20 feet and your attacker is blinded until they get to a hospital.

Or the cabinet underneath the laundry room sink that I cleared out? Yeah, I fit perfectly in there. I figured if someone broke in I would hide in there while calling the police. No one would look for me in a cabinet!

I spent nights before I fell asleep going over escape routes in my head. What would I do if someone broke in the basement, what would I do if someone broke in the main level, what would I do if a car came in the driveway, what would I do if they were going to hurt my bunnies?

Me and the bunnies at the cabin.

I was scared as shit basically every single night while I was there except for the nights that Ian or my parents or Stephanie were visiting, which wasn’t often. I realized that I’m actually terrified and was completely unprepared for being alone after growing up in a house with four other people and numerous guns. Terrified.


For all of these reasons, although I am grateful for my time in the cabin, I will not live in a cabin again, definitely not alone, and definitely not in central Pennsylvania in the dead of winter. Was my English degree worth it? You tell me.

8 Mostly Nonsensical Benefits of Taking Cold Showers

I first experienced the benefits of taking cold showers after I went for a run. I was sweaty and it felt liberating. It helped me cool down, refresh, and get out of there quickly.

Then, as I read more about the supposed benefits of taking cold showers, I began taking them more and more often. This likely had something to do with the fact that it’s, you know, mostly summer now.

Also, my fiancé and I went to elope in Costa Rica and there was no hot water there, so we got used to the cold showers (but man, that Costa Rica thing is another story).

So here are 8 mostly nonsensical benefits of taking cold showers. You won’t find any research here—just facts based on my personal experience. Boom!

1. Save on Your Energy Bill

First, let me be clear that when I say “cold” showers, I mean lukewarm water. It can be mostly cold with just a touch of warmth. I’m not talking about walking into an ice bucket because that would just be brutal.

One time years ago, my brother dared me that I couldn’t take a cold shower without screaming. Of course, I took him up on the dare. He then proceeded to wait outside the door while I stepped into the shower. I let out a little yelp which he unfortunately heard and I think I owed him $5.

Anyway, regardless, reducing your use of hot water and saving on your energy bill is one of the best benefits of taking cold showers. You could save over $150 a year just by turning that knob a little more to the colder side. You can also wash your laundry in cold water to save even more!

2. Don’t Fog Up the Mirror

I hate it when the mirror fogs up. I like seeing myself after I’ve just taken a shower. I look fresh and new and when I have a fresh buzz, it feels amazing.

So I’m pretty dismayed when the mirror is fogged up after a really hot shower.

When you take cold showers, this problem does not exist. You can get out of the shower and be like, “Hey, cutie.” Because you totally do that. Like Jack Black in Orange County.

3. Have Great Skin

I have always struggled with my skin. It’s always been dry and scarred easily. I’ve finally started taking some essential fatty acids, so it’s getting better. Turns out, the heat was not helping it and greatly contributed to my already dry skin.

When you stop taking hot showers, your skin remains much more supple and less flaky and dry. Which is what it’s all about. The benefits of taking cold showers include having some Beyonce-like skin. It helps protect your skin and keep it healthy!

4. Reduce Dandruff (Because Hell Yeah!)

Dandruff is a real problem and it sucks. I’ve found that the best thing for this is a straight apple cider vinegar rinse for an hour or so followed by a cold shower and rinsing it out. The benefits of taking cold showers absolutely extend to your hair. The cold water helps reduce dandruff and keeps you flake free for an extended period of time. The best!

5. Feel Like a Badass

Whenever I go for a run and come home, have a glass of cold water, and take a cold shower, I feel totally boss afterward. I feel like I could do anything and it would be fine. Plus, the benefits of taking cold showers may even include boosting your mood, according to research (ok, I lied just a little when I said there wouldn’t be any research here).

Cold showers make you feel like a total badass. You’re doing something many people wouldn’t do and fuck yeah, you just exercised. So you feel awesome and get out of the shower feeling like a million bucks.

Write this down: benefits of taking cold showers=feeling boss.

6. Adjust to Room Temperature Easier

Since I hate being cold, whenever I would get out of the nice warm shower, I’d instantly be freezing and start shivering. Ian hates it when I shiver. I know he feels bad and I look pathetic—I really can’t help it.

When I take a cold shower, I get out of the shower and I’m like, “Man, it feels warm out here.” I adjust much easier to the outside temperature and am able to better regulate my body temperature. It feels kinda like jumping in a pool, but without the chlorine!

7. Appreciate Warmth with the Benefits of Taking Cold Showers

If I thought I appreciated the heat before, I was sadly mistaken. I appreciate the warmth now. Everything feels amazing after a cold shower—Ian’s warm hands, a soft blanket, my organic cotton socks and boxers. YES. This is why I exist. To enjoy these small things that bring me so much comfort with the benefits of taking cold showers.

8. Less Shower Time

When the shower is colder, you get the fuck out of there in minutes. You are not in there for ten minutes, fifteen minutes, twenty minutes, a goddamn half hour. You get out of there as soon as you are done whatever it is you need to do. Less water used, less energy used, more boss time.

The benefits of taking cold showers have both irrevocably refreshed me and also cut down on the time I’ve spent in the shower. From more supple skin to an easier time adjusting to the outside world, I plan to continue taking cold showers as often as I’m able. I will NOT give up my hot baths though. Sorry!

Watching the Eclipse Topless with Kimchi in Nantahala National Forest, North Carolina

Once I heard about the eclipse, it didn’t take me long to figure out that I was going to go see it.

So I switched shifts with a co-worker at my weekend job, booked a hotel in Black Mountain, North Carolina, and tried to convince Ian to go with me.

Ian had to work so he didn’t want to go, but when I mentioned Rosetta’s, he gave in and we packed the cooler, the pooch, and headed south.

Turns out, everyone else had the same idea we did. We spent a total of 30 hours on the road there and back to see the total solar eclipse (for reference, Asheville, North Carolina is only an 8-hour drive from my place).

It was absolutely and completely worth it to be present for this spellbinding moment.

Nantahala National Forest

We planned on going to Lake Santeelah, North Carolina, but due to traffic and the beauty of the Nantahala National Forest in Topton, North Carolina, we didn’t make it there. We found this beautiful picnic area by a river—the perfect place to watch the eclipse!

The river was private beneath a bridge right along a road. I have no idea where we were since the GPS didn’t work. It was amazing!

We were so excited to find this perfect, private spot.

In order to ensure no one else would try to watch the eclipse with us, we went topless. We figured it was the best way to create awkwardness and prevent anyone from invading our privacy.

Plus, it’s not illegal to be topless in North Carolina, which is pretty cool.


While we waited for the total eclipse (the partial eclipse had already started while we set up our picnic), we took pictures, played with Lisbeth, and enjoyed the beautiful scenery, occasionally glancing up at the sun with our glasses.

Gosh, we look like dorks. Fortunately, our glasses weren’t too expensive. $15 with shipping.

Here are some of the pictures we took while we waited for totality.

Loving the fresh buzz on me! It’s really interesting how the light changed as the moon passed over the sun. It was an incredible experience.

The Kimchi

If you don’t know what kimchi is, don’t let the following photo throw you off. It’s fermented vegetables and really good for you. It contains probiotics and is extremely tasty; Ian and I eat it all the time.

So we had some during our picnic before the total eclipse and got some really funny—and weird—photos, including this one here.

Ian said I looked like a zombie either throwing up or consuming some type of bloodied meat. This is actually a piece of fermented napa cabbage. This particular type of kimchi is spicy!

In case anyone is wondering what exactly I’m eating, it’s this delicious stuff here.


Ian and I buy this all the time; it’s extremely spicy and I would absolutely not recommend eating it by itself, but there you go.


It’s best when it’s eaten with other foods. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a dish to eat it in and I forgot to bring forks, so here we are in the national forest eating it like zombies with bloodied fingers and a huge appetite.




We meditated for a few minutes before totality happened. The darkness happened really fast and then all the sudden it was there. The sky seemed to be shimmering while we stared up at the moon blocking the sun’s light. It was dazzling. I have no other way of describing it.

I did start crying a little because it’s a weird feeling when you do something and you know that you’re never going to do it again. I know that I probably won’t travel to see another eclipse, so seeing this gorgeous, amazing total solar eclipse in my life was the epitome of beauty and sacredness.

Ian and I stood there together in what felt like a dream for the two minutes and thirty seconds of totality, then we watched the sun emerge again together by the river.

eclipse 2017

This is the best photo I have of totality. It does not capture it at all.

And some photos after the sun joined us again.

jenn ryan

jenn ryan

We waited for the eclipse to almost totally end before leaving. It was an experience that I was so grateful to have. A huge thank you to my fiance Ian for taking these photos.

Shirt: Butterfly Cropped Shirt by Gaia Conceptions

Necklace: Handmade vintage piece by local jewelry vendor Minxes Trinkets

Then, of course, we got a bunch of Rosetta’s on the way home. So although we were on the road for 12 hours for what should have been an 8-hour drive, we had vegan chili cheese fries, a buddha bowl, and some kick ass pad thai to make it through.

I love you, North Carolina!

What I Wish I Knew about Oral Piercings Before I Got Them

I have some experience with oral piercings.

I got my tongue pierced ten days before my nineteenth birthday with a tall, biracial man I was deeply in love with. I just didn’t know it at the time.

Of course, it hurt. To my surprise, it didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. I held his hand as the needle went through, and when the barbell was securely fastened inside, the sharp pains that came whenever I moved my tongue were unexpected.

We went back to his house late that night and ate peanut butter on bread. I couldn’t believe the pain! Then again why would anyone in their right mind try to eat peanut butter hours after they got their tongue pierced?

Did I mention he was a whimsical, childish, ADHD-afflicted unicorn? Or something like that.

I had my tongue pierced for about five years before taking it out due to a dental problem. You’ll hear about that in a minute.

About a month before my twenty-third birthday, I went to Ocean City with a friend of mine. She wanted to get her tongue pierced but was really scared. Long story short, we had a little bit too much to drink with her sister. Then we went on the boardwalk to get piercings.

I’d always wanted my lip pierced but never gotten it done. That fall would be my senior year of college at Penn State and I knew I’d have to get a “real job” after that (we see how that turned out, right?) and probably wouldn’t be able to get my lip pierced. It was now or never!

So I forgot about my internship in Baltimore for all of twenty minutes while I got a needle shoved through my lip. I was surprised how much that one hurt.

I still have my lip pierced.

So what do I wish I knew about oral piercings before I got them? What I know now about oral piercings may surprise you.

Oral Piercings Will Cause Problems with Your Teeth

Okay, yeah, I definitely heard this one but didn’t believe it. These were the notions about oral piercings of adults who didn’t want me to be the badass that I really was.

I took my tongue ring out because, after years of having it, my tooth sensitivity was getting worse. I later realized that the barbell had been rubbing along the inner edge of my bottom teeth, slowly wearing the enamel away and creating some not-so-fun tooth sensitivity.

Although things were pretty safe with my tongue ring in, I also occasionally knocked it against my teeth (this happened maybe about five times in all the years I had it in). I’m honestly not sure if I chipped any of my teeth but it’s definitely possible.

In regards to my lip piercing, it slowly rubbed on my lower right canine. I now have gum recession on that tooth. You can’t see it from the outside but there’s a significant amount of gum tissue missing compared to the other side.

When I noticed this, I freaked out a little and took my lip ring out after having it for over four years. So yeah—oral piercings can and will cause gum recession and tooth sensitivity, both signs of gum disease!

The Hole Will Not Go Away

When I took my lip ring out, the hole didn’t heal up. I had that sucker out for about eight months and the hole was still there, very visible from the outside of my face.

I assumed that the hole would heal up given time. But then I started Googling.

Turns out, when they pierce your lip, they core away a tiny piece of your skin that—you guessed it—won’t grow back. So while there’s not an actual “hole” there per se, it looks just like a hole and it’s definitely noticeable.

Hmm… did not think about that one before I got my lip pierced.

So then I found myself months before my wedding with a hole in my lip that I found out could only be corrected with plastic surgery, which would ultimately leave scars. Either way, I was stuck with this oral piercing whether or not the stud was in.

The only logical thing to do was to buy a pack of piercing needles on Amazon and re-pierce that thing. (Side note: I do not recommend doing this although my experience went fine.)

So now my lip stud is back in and I’ll probably be stuck with it forever unless I want a hole in my face. Fortunately, the hole from your tongue ring will heal up rather quickly, but there will always be a scar there too. Oral piercings cause scars and sometimes permanent holes!

Professional People Cared Far Less about Oral Piercings Than I Thought

Unless you’re going into the military, it’s unlikely that what kind of job you get will determine whether or not you can have an oral piercing.

My super cool neighbor saw my tongue ring not long after I got it and said, “You’ll want to take that out when you go for a job interview.”

I got hired at my internship in Baltimore, my amazing job at a homeless shelter in DC, and yes, I made my own freelance writing job all with piercings in my face.

Of course, if you’re going for a high-level job, you might want to think about that before getting oral piercings. For me, I love piercings and couldn’t imagine being at a job that wouldn’t let me have them. Back when I was in college I didn’t know that. I thought I’d have to sacrifice my soul to be anything worthwhile to the world.

So the bottom line is: if you want that oral piercing, get it. No one who actually cares about you will judge you. 

I adored my oral piercings. Although I’m unlikely to get my tongue pierced again, I’ll probably have this lip stud in for a long time. I loved my oral piercings much more than I thought I would. I’m sad that they caused problems with my teeth and wish that I took that consideration a little more seriously before I went under the needle. I also wish I knew that when I committed to the lip piercing, that I’d be committing to it for life. Like a tattoo!

But don’t get me started on those 🙂

Here’s How I Don’t Know How I Ever Lived without F.lux

About 9 months ago, I was looking up something about the thyroid and adrenal fatigue.

I don’t remember what it was, but it lead me to stumble across a page on Wellness Mama’s site about the thyroid. I can’t find the page now (damn that woman has a lot of blog posts), but it was similar to this page about getting enough sleep.

Anyway, she recommended installing F.lux on your computer. F.lux is a software that helps to block blue light and allows you to interact with technology without hurting your eyes too much.

So, of course, I had to install this magical thing to see what it was all about. My life hasn’t been the same since.

Adjusting to F.lux

Before F.lux, I had no idea how bright the screen of my MacBook really was. It just seemed… well, normal.

It definitely was not normal. I’m up super late most nights, so staring at that bright screen was overwhelming when everything else was mostly dark. Of course, I could dim it, but that blue light was still there.

When I installed F.lux, it took some getting used to. Everything appeared orangey. I would stay up late working, squinting at my computer screen, thinking, what the heck is up with this software?

Well, F.lux does this ingenious thing where you set your time zone as well as what time you wake up every morning. This means that my computer knew what time it was and adjusted its light accordingly.

This explained why at 1 a.m. I could hardly see my screen. The software adjusted for the time and I was left thinking, “You know, it is 1 a.m.… maybe I should go to bed.”

F.lux also reminds me when I’m getting up. It knows that I need 9 hours of sleep every night, so once that 9-hour mark hits, F.lux gives me a visual reminder to tell me, “You’re getting up in 9 hours.” Every half hour after that, it reminds me that I should start thinking about getting some sleep.

How F.lux Has Changed My Life

F.lux has done a few things to help me clean up my act, both as a professional writer and as a human being. They include:

  • Having an easier time seeing my computer screen
  • Rarely having to adjust the brightness
  • Knowing when it’s time for me to go to bed
  • Reducing my exposure to blue light
  • Helping me to annoyingly point out how bright other people’s screens are
  • Sleep better because I’m not being kept awake by that crazy bright light that my mind thinks is a sun

I have really enjoyed having F.lux installed on my MacBook and wouldn’t take it off for any reason!

Some Features of F.lux

F.lux doesn’t just get all orangey on you and then let you on your merry way. If you have a routine and you let F.lux know about that routine by setting your waking hours, it will adjust for you in a way that mimics natural sunlight.

However, I don’t always feel like watching a movie in natural sunlight. For this feature, F.lux has a “Movie Mode”. If I’m feeling kinda dangerous, I’ll turn F.lux off. This is best for movies that feature a lot of darkness. F.lux’s disable mode is set for an hour. Of course, you can keep disabling it, but it’ll come back on after an hour of you watching something.

F.lux does have another cool feature where you can “Disable for Current App” so anytime you watch a movie, it’ll automatically turn off. It also has a feature where you can disable it for all full-screen applications, but I don’t like doing that. The point is that you have options to customize your F.lux experience.

F.lux is really easy to use and set. I’ve not given it much thought since I downloaded it, except the other day when it requested to update the software.

Anyway, F.lux has helped me manage my time better, go to bed earlier, have healthier eyes, and to be aware of the time. When you have a bright screen, that screen is timeless. When you have F.lux, there is a time, and you live according to it, more in line with your circadian rhythm.

You can download F.lux for either Windows or Mac here. Give it a try for a few days and see if you notice a difference—you might never go back to blue!

Ethical Investing—Save Like a Millennial Boss

A couple years ago, I was given ownership of an investment account my wise and wonderful grandfather had set up for me. There wasn’t a ghastly sum of money in there, but it was enough for a down payment on a home, the beginning of retirement savings, or whatever I wanted it to be.

I was stumped on what to do. Should I buy a home? I mean, the money’s just sitting there, right? Should I continue to invest in it? As someone with so little clue about investing, I had no idea what to do.

So what does a Millennial like myself do? I find the first financial advisor in my area that Google picks and contact him.

He was a really cool guy. We met in his office and talked about investing and he complimented me on my mermaid skeleton necklace.

All was going well until I realized that the mutual funds my grandfather invested in were tied to companies like tobacco, pharmaceutical, and animal testing companies that I didn’t agree with.

I was pretty surprised. Was this how the market worked? How could I ethically invest this sum of money while still making money? What was I going to do?

This is how I found out how to ethically invest.

Buying Individual Shares of Companies: Risky Yet Personable

After having a traumatic experience with trying to buy a home in North Carolina, I decided to just invest the funds.

My first financial advisor had apparently never encountered a client like me who was so against being a part of these companies. He spoke about his aversion to the tobacco companies—but he still invested in mutual funds associated with them.  What?

I wasn’t that kind of person. I insisted that there had to be another way. He told me that I could just buy individual stocks in companies, but, seeing as no one could predict how well those companies would do, this was a risky move.

It sounded complicated and like it would take a lot of effort and I would have to constantly adjust my funds in order to ensure that I would profit. It didn’t sound appealing, but it did seem like the only way to invest my money in something I believe in and companies I agreed with.

My financial advisor did not advise this course of action and was disappointed when I told him I was going to pursue it. We parted ways.

Finding the Right Mutual Funds: Your Best Bet

I never did set up my portfolio the way I intended to after seeing my local financial advisor. It just seemed like a lot of work and well… I still wasn’t sure how to do it.

I did transfer the money out of the financial institution that it was in (and away from those mutual funds I disliked so) and into another account, where it sat for several months—uninvested—while I decided what to do with it.

Then, I came across a different financial advisor, one who lives a couple states away, who was about socially responsible investing (SRI). SRI is about investing in funds and companies that cultivate sustainable, ethical practices for our people and our planet. I was interested, so I got in touch.

This guy was super nice, knowledgeable, and helpful about SRI, despite the fact that he couldn’t work with me. He explained that his clients have a minimum amount to invest. My funds didn’t even come close to that amount.

However, he still gave me resources for finding the right mutual funds for me. He explained that if I was going to be investing over a long period of time, mutual funds made the most sense and required the least amount of maintenance.

The resources he gave me were excellent and included a SRI website that has been invaluable to me (you can find that site here) as well as the names of two ethical investing companies that I might be interested in getting in touch with.

The site mentioned above—The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investing—has detailed charts about all types of SRI mutual funds and their performance, but more importantly (at least to me), is the tab on the chart where you can click “Screening and Advocacy”. This will tell you about what types of practices these mutual funds limit or avoid.

These categories include:

  • Climate and Clean Technology
  • Pollution and Toxics
  • Environment
  • Community Development
  • Diversity
  • Human Right
  • Labor Relations
  • Executive Pay
  • Alcohol
  • Animal Welfare
  • Defense/Weapons
  • Gambling
  • Tobacco
  • And more!

What’s great about this is that you can evaluate these mutual funds based on what’s important to you. For me, animal welfare is among the most important ones. It was important to me that I invested in mutual funds that didn’t work with companies that tested on animals.

So with that resource combined with the two companies he suggested to me—Pax World and Domini—I was able to find mutual funds that restricted animal testing.

I chose to go with Domini because unfortunately, Pax didn’t have any funds that actively sought to avoid animal testing. I even contacted them to ask about it. Domini was a natural fit for me. It was super easy to set everything up and invest my funds. I’m proud to have my retirement and saving funds invested with them.

When Investing Is a Good Idea: Your Future Boss Funds

It’s a known fact that many Millennials don’t have any savings. In fact, 31% of us have $0 in savings. How shocking is that?

It’s shocking when you consider that disaster could be right around the corner at any time. You lose your job. You don’t have health insurance. You get in an accident. You can’t work. You’re at risk to lose your housing.

Things can happen so fast.

So here’s the deal: investing may or may not be the right choice for you depending on what you plan on using your money for. Have $1,000 that you want to invest for retirement? Absolutely, invest that shit! Have $2,000 that you plan on using to buy a house in a couple years? Probably easier to leave that money in your traditional savings account with the bank.

You can max out your retirement fund at $5,500 every year. I would highly suggest you do that if you’re financially able to. If you’re not able to reach that amount, don’t stress about it—even investing a little bit helps, whether it’s $100 or $2,000. Your future self will thank you.

How much should you actually be saving? 20% is the general rule. 20% of your income should go into savings. These savings could be for anything—emergencies, retirement, etc.

Saving feels like complete nonsense if you’re a living-in-the-moment type of gal. I get it. Why would you ever invest $1,000 into your retirement account when you could go on a vacation to Mexico with friends?

Hm. Let’s think about that one: starve when I’m 75, or party now. Which would you choose?

Just save some money. It doesn’t have to be the 20%. Heck, it doesn’t even have to be close to the 20%. Just save something, and save it now. If you want to ethically invest like a Millennial boss, you can do so. Choose what’s important to you and build your financial portfolio around that. You’ll feel good and—you won’t starve when you’re 75. Toodles!