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!



The One Thing That Really Bothers Me about Being a Writer

I’ll give you a hint: it’s not having my name out there. It’s not even having my photo out there. It’s not even about writing about bras and body hair and tampons and menstrual blood and my misdiagnosis and whatever other personal things I write about.

Mean comments. That’s the one thing that really bothers me about being a writer.

Or, should I say insensitive comments?

Badly written comments.

I mean, comments that clearly were not thought about before they were written.

Whatever you want to call them, I just really hate it when people write negative comments. Yes, they are voicing an opinion. No, I do not think it was done in the best way.

This post is compiled from a few comments I’ve gotten over my career of being a writer that either:

a) really hurt my feelings

b) made me really mad

c) made think how stupid people can be

We have all done immature and thoughtless things. If you’re posting a comment on an article that someone took the time to write, why not make it a good one?

Disagreeing with the author’s opinion is perfectly fine. But can we do it in a way that’s at least, you know, nice?

Here are some people who responded a little less kindly to my articles as well as my responses.

The Person Who Did Not Understand the Article

Oh, this lady. This was written in response to my article about my shaved head on Elephant Journal. This woman clearly did not understand that I have chosen to cut my hair because I like it, not because I was rebelling against society’s standards for me.

My response (and some fun responses from others):

I handled that well, right? She did hurt my feelings, though. All those CAPS. Like I don’t understand NON-CAPITALIZED WORDS.

The Person Who Wants to Feel Superior to You

I don’t know what they’re teaching Gracie at Hudson Valley Community College, but I suppose she hasn’t yet learned that everyone’s experience is unique to them.

Gracie wrote this comment in response to my landlord article, which is published on this site as well as on Thought Catalog.

Was my experience the worst one on the planet? Of course not. So I responded as such:

My initial reaction to this post was anger that someone was discounting my experience. Once I got over that and actually thought about it, I was able to respond much more rationally.

Apparently, the readers of Thought Catalog really like feeling superior to the author. Another beloved reader wrote this in response to an article I have published there about bras:

I’m not sure if the word dumbassssss is the correct word to describe me or to discredit the research I cited in that article, but I couldn’t think of a polite response and so I simply thanked Lesley for her comment and tried really hard not to wish that she never gets a job after her internship ends.

The Angry Women Who Just Really Like Their Bras

It’s no secret that I’ve been pretty vocal about the fact that bras aren’t good for our breasts. My article on Wellness has gotten a lot of attention and a lot of comments. Some of them are from angry women who really disagree with me.

I don’t know what she means by “actually have breasts”, but assuming she’s referring to the size of breasts, this comment is just plain rude.

Her opinion could have been better expressed rather than simply saying all women who don’t wear bras are ugly. Oops, sorry, I meant U G L Y.

And then there’s this woman, who likes to equate breasts with pancakes.

Sigh. I really wish she had cited research… but she didn’t, so I have to assume she had no basis for saying my article (which was backed by numerous studies) was full of lies. So I couldn’t think of anything else to say, except for:

The following person clearly feels that there’s research that proves otherwise, but she neglects to cite it.

Studies, please? And I would really argue that you have some degree of control over whether or not you develop cancer. Otherwise, why would the National Cancer Institue list diet, alcohol, obesity, and tobacco among its risk factors for cancer?

So yeah. Angry women. Love their bras.

The Person Who Just Wants to Be Mean

And then there’s this mess of comments on that bra article on Wellness of a woman asking for resources and this dude who shoots her down and offends all women with large breasts. Such an ignorant comment!

I tried to be helpful and just ignored that other bastard. I hope that made you feel better dude because you clearly have no idea what it’s like to have breasts.

And finally, we have this lady from Elephant Journal commenting on my menstrual cup article there.

Wow? Wow what?

It seems that she’s saying that cotton tampons are better than silicone. Shouldn’t she have just said that?

Cotton is one of the top producers of pesticides in the world so firstly I would argue for organic tampons here, and secondly, silicone is at least reusable which helps our landfills out. Thirdly, most tampons are made from synthetic fibers and treated with carcinogenic chemicals.

But I didn’t respond to this one because I couldn’t think of anything to say to “wow”. Just ran out of energy after responding to the other comments.

How to Comment Nicely

There are other ways to comment even if you disagree with what the author is saying in the article.

For example, the woman above could have said, “I really think that cotton tampons are better than silicone for these specific reasons.” Sounds much more put together, right?

Back up your claims with facts and research to help others see your opinion. This helps you appear more credible and gives justification to your comment. Be mindful of what you say to others. These are actual people writing these articles, not machines. We have feelings!

Above all, be kind. Recognize that someone has a different opinion that you. Be aware of your feelings. Reading these comments was really hard for a sensitive cancer like me because I took them personally. Apparently, they took my articles personally as well.

Take yourself out of it. Respond kindly. Be nice to one another. This should not be so hard.

I also have to say I really hate that Facebook comments plugin.

I love being a writer. I love having people read my work. And yes, I love having people comment on my articles because it generates discussion, shares a wide variety of views, and gets me better search rankings in Google. What I really dislike is people being insensitive in their comments.

Share kindness, not hate!


Celebrities Supporting Animal Torture (Bash Fest Part III)

It’s been so long since I’ve done one of these! Don’t worry, I’ve been collecting more celebs for you guys.

Didn’t see Part I and Part II? Do hop over there and check out those celebrities that support animal testing.

Here’s my Part III list of celebrities who endorse products that test on animals.

1. Selena Gomez   Company—Pantene


She’s so pretty and while I am a little upset that her relationship with Justin Beiber fizzled, I’m more upset at the fact that I saw her in an ad for Pantene shampoo! Did you guys know that Pantene is owned by Proctor and Gamble? They conduct huge amounts of animal testing in the U.S and their products include Charmin, Crest, Dawn, Herbal Essences… and many, many more.

2. Miranda Kerr   Company—Clear Scalp and Hair


This former Victoria’s Secret model has been featured in ads for hair care products Clear Scalp and Hair (weird name, right?) Unilever owns this company. Unilever is another big animal testing player that owns brands such as  Dermalogica, Dove, Lipton, Axe, Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Vaseline, Ben & Jerry’s, and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. Yes, some of those were food products. Since when did buying food mean supporting animal testing?

3. Barbara Palvin   Company—L’Oreal


Do you know this woman? I’ve been seeing her everywhere, it feels like. She’s a L’Oreal makeup model and is also a model and actress from Hungary. Another celeb who’s taking part in convincing people to buy products that test on animals!

4. Leslie Mann   Company—Jergens


Took me a little bit to find out who this lady is. For some reason, the only movie I can remember her being is in Orange County (LOVE that movie!) Anyway, I saw her in an ad for Jergens lotion. The ad pictured is another ad she’s in. Jergens might be its own company, but they still participate in animal testing for their products.

Oh, and I love how their website says their products are for “healthier-looking skin”. The key word in that sentence is “looking”!

5. Naomi Watts   Company—L’Oreal


Yeah, she’s modeling for them. Sucks. I see L’Oreal advertisements everywhere. They test on animals, people! Do you WANT to support the torture of bunnies, kittens, puppies, and monkeys? I certainly don’t.

6. Kate Moss   Company—Rimmel


Rimmel London is a makeup company brand owned by Coty, Inc. Coty is well-known for animal testing (we’ll see them again later in this post). No, Kate Moss! I guess this isn’t her first round of helping people advertise their animal-tested products, though.

7. Janelle Monae   Company—Covergirl


To be honest, I wasn’t really sure who this was. I had to look her up. Saw her in a Covergirl ad. Did you guys know that Covergirl is also owned by Proctor and Gamble? Ah!!! Stay AWAY.

8. Jennifer Lawrence   Company—Dior


When I first heard about Jennifer Lawrence, I read an interview with her in Rolling Stone magazine that absolutely appalled me. But then I saw her with Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook. So I like her a little more now. But then I saw her in an ad for Dior. They test!

Needless to say, I have a lot of conflicting feelings about Jennifer Lawrence. And no, I’m not a Hunger Games fan.

9. Larry the Cable Guy   Company—Proctor and Gamble (Prilosec OTC)


You have to have seen this dude in advertisements for Prilosec OTC. Yet ANOTHER product that’s owned by Proctor and Gamble. Not sure why anyone would want to buy a product that he was on, but in case you were thinking about it, no. Just no.

10. Karlie Kloss   Company—L’Oreal


This former Victoria’s Secret model has a thing for torturing bunnies. You can tell by the look in eyes. Seen her in a ton of L’Oreal advertisements recently. They test on animals and are selling you chemical-filled products all so you can look fake (or real, I guess).

11. Giselle Bündchen   Company—Chanel


Yeah, they test on animals. Do I need to say anymore? And what is up with these former Victoria’s Secret models just making a killing in the cosmetics industry? They’re not helping out anyone but themselves.

12. Marion Cotillard   Company—Dior


Dior again? Ick. This famous actress from Inception is modeling for them. Stay away from their fragrances. Did you know that fragrances contain carcinogenic chemicals? It’s true. And the manufacturer doesn’t even have to disclose to you what the heck is in there. Thanks, Marion for making animals and people alike suffer.

13. Zoe Salanda   Company—L’Oreal

Zoe Saldaña at the "Entertainment Weekly: Wonder Women: Female Power Icons in Pop Culture" panel. Comic-Con 2009

Zoe Saldaña at the “Entertainment Weekly: Wonder Women: Female Power Icons in Pop Culture” panel. Comic-Con 2009

This movie star from Avatar and Drumline has recently popped up in L’Oreal advertisements. Why do these gorgeous women feel the need to not only wear make-up, but appear in an ad that convinces others to wear it? Oh, and in case you forgot, L’Oreal tests on animals.

14. Lea Seydoux   Company—Louis Vuitton


This girl is not only gorgeous but had an amazing role in the popular movie, Blue Is the Warmest Color. I was really saddened to see her gorgeous self in an advertisement for Louis Vuitton fragrances, which test on animals.

15. Gigi Hadid   Company—Maybelline


Not surprising to see a model in an advertisement for makeup, but come on. Guess who Maybelline is owned by? L’Oreal. You can tell this girl is wearing a ton of makeup, jeez.

16. Susan Somers   Company—L’Oreal


This all-around business lady has a lot of things going for her. Didn’t know she could be a model for a company that participates in animal torture as well.

17. Zendaya   Company—Covergirl


Looks like this T.V star has finally made her way to big stardom—advocating for bunny torture and shitty cosmetics! I can’t help it, I’m a mom to four rabbits. I get pissed.

18. Stella Maxwell   Company—Guess


Another Victoria’s Secret model! Wha what? This beauty was seen by me in an advertisement for Guess fragrances. Guess fragrances are made by Coty Inc., a company that participates in animal testing. Boo!

19. Lily Aldridge   Company—Michael Kors


Not real excited to see yet another Victoria’s Secret model in an advertisement for Michael Kors fragrance. They test on animals!

20. Margot Robbie   Company—Calvin Klein


This Austrailian actress was spotted by me in an ad for Calvin Klein fragrances. Noo!

21. Johnny Depp   Company—Dior


Ok yeah, have to say I was so surprised to see this sexy devil in an ad for Dior cologne. Don’t get me wrong, he looks great. It’s just… animal testing?

That’s it for the bash fest part III! I highly encourage you to educate yourself about the products that you’re buying. You have the opportunity to change the world with your purchases. Choose companies that actually care about the planet and don’t sell you toxic chemicals and products that needed to be tested on animals before you use them. Real, healthy products never need to be tested on animals before a human uses them.

Animal testing is inaccurate and unethical. Spend a couple more dollars and feel good about what you buy. It’s not that hard. Doing a Google search will tell you if the makers of the product test on animals.

Together, we can all make a difference! THESE celebrities, however, are only making the world a poorer place by advocating for these products. Don’t buy into the advertisements. Choose for yourself.

6 Lessons I’ve Learned from Dealing with a Crazy Landlord Lady


Being an adult is hard. Don’t get me wrong, I for sure like being an adult better than being a kid. Just because I’m an adult doesn’t mean I can’t still dress up for Halloween and wear mad glitter, right? Right.

When my fiance and I moved in together officially for the first time in North Carolina, I thought it would be more of a dream than a nightmare. My fiance and I are amazing together–that’s not the nightmare.

Having a crazy landlord lady is.

Here are six lessons I learned from dealing with that crazy landlord lady!


1. You Cannot Reason with Crazy People

There is no logic in the mind of a crazy person!

They will not see your point!

You cannot “get through” to them!

Sending an email asking why all the things outlined in your lease haven’t been taken care of does not make them understand that they are responsible for these items.

This crazy landlord lady honestly did not think she had to uphold her end of the lease. It frustrated me to no end—but it seemed that she truly did not see reason. “Oh, the grass is two feet tall? I’ve neglected to empty your trash for two months? Well, obviously you are an awful person. How dare you remind me of my duties. There is no reason for this!”


2. Be the Bigger Person

Because, well… they have the upper hand. You’re living in their house. They are giving you a place to live in exchange for money. If things go wrong and there’s bad blood between you and the crazy landlord lady, she can and will attempt to evict you, for no other reason than she can.

So just because a cow shows up right outside your door at 8 a.m. (yeah, it’s legit)p1100337

you have to be the bigger person. Just do what you’re supposed to do and don’t stoop to their level and act like a five-year-old. Which leads me to my next point.


3. Being Mature Is REALLY Hard When You’re Dealing with a Grandma That Acts Like a Five-Year-Old

Sometimes, being a mature adult is really hard. It just is. I don’t WANNA go to the bank today. I don’t FEEL like working. How am I doing today? YOUR FACE!

Being mature is way harder when you’re dealing with an adult who’s more than 30 years older than you and yet she still acts like a five-year-old. This crazy landlord lady was a grandma, for God’s sake! And she still acted like:

  • Everyone was out to get her
  • She was entitled to everything
  • She said things without thinking or reasoning
  • She could talk to other people like they were dirt and get away with it
  • Repeatedly said, “There is no reason for this” when there obviously was a reason
  • Oh, and she didn’t have any responsibilities except to smoke weed

(If you ever want a reason to not smoke marijuana, talk to this crazy landlord lady for five minutes. It’s not so cool when you’re 60, your brain is fried, and you’re on parole for growing pot, people!)

I learned that being mature is more about you than it is about the face you present to the world. At the end of the day, I was doing what made me a better person. I certainly didn’t want to be mature or professional in the moment (felt more like screaming, YOU’RE INSANE, BITCH!), but later, I was always happy that I had acted my age.

This crazy landlord lady made it extremely difficult for me to be the nice, mature person that I am. She tested me within an inch of every one of my limits. But because of her, I’m able to say that I’m a wiser and more mature person today.


4. Being Mean Never Got Anybody Anywhere

Ok, so maybe it did, but my point is that being nice is always better than being mean.

This crazy landlord lady was downright mean. She cursed at me. She sent me nasty emails. She gossiped about me to the other tenants. She threatened to evict me and my fiance. She threatened to sue us. She even stopped paying the electric bill and the only reason it didn’t get turned off is because the other tenants (bless their souls) told us that she had stopped paying it and didn’t even tell us. She was going to let the power go out on us and didn’t even notify us.

(For the record, my fiance and I were able to pay the bill literally hours before it was to get shut off. Which is entirely ridiculous because our utilities were included in the rent, which we were currently up on.)

This crazy landlord lady has some serious karma coming her way. We never got her to reimburse us the money for the electric bill. The other tenants were nice enough to help us pay the bill. It amazed me that people our age that we didn’t even know would be nicer and more responsible than this crazy ass landlord lady. Thier kindness touched me and I’m so thankful that they were there for us. I have hope that there are more people like that in the world.

I learned that being mean would not get me what I wanted. It would not make me a better person. It wouldn’t even give me the satisfaction of telling that crazy landlord lady off. It would only lower me and make me a poor human being.


5. You Really Can Kill People with Kindness

Listen, this bat-shit crazy landlord lady would send me these ridiculous emails. Most of the time, I was able to reply professionally and not respond to her meanness. One time, however, she got on my last nerve and I composed an equally nasty email back to her. I had had ENOUGH.

Luckily, my fiance saw the email before I sent it, and stopped me. “Jenn, this will not do us any good. Where will we be if you send this email?”


He helped me compose a much nicer and professional email, even thanking the crazy landlord lady for letting us stay and figure our stuff out despite the fact that she was basically kicking us out.

And you know what? That crazy landlord lady responded very nicely. This happened every time she sent a ridiculous email that was mean—I responded nicely and professionally and she would come back and appear all normal.

(NOTHING in the world will convince me that that woman did not have a drug problem and a mental illness and serious, serious problems.)

But, I learned that being nice really does change people’s attitudes. Not every time, but most of the time. It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give people—your kindness. No matter how awful the situation is.


6. Let It Go

What happened to me and my fiance at that rental was awful. I know I make it sound like it was just the trash and the lawn—but the truth is that these were some of the most harrowing months of my life. From the way we were treated to almost having no power to nearly being homeless, it was all around a terrible experience.

But, this is just my side of the story.

Here’s a brief list of awful things that happened while we were there:

  • We found 4 snakes in the house (different snakes at different times)
  • A centipede fell on me from the ceiling (while I was sitting on the toilet)
  • All our food had to be kept in the fridge because of mice and ants that were there when we got there
  • Some man came to change the locks (we found out the house was in the process of being foreclosed not long after we moved in)
  • My fiance cut his knuckle off with a slicer (it’s since healed into a bad-ass scar, thank God)
  • Our trash piled up for two whole months
  • Our lawn wasn’t cut for two months
  • There was mold growing just about everywhere
  • We both got poison ivy
  • My fiance’s job SUCKED
  • I couldn’t go to the bathroom in the bathroom at numerous points because there were centipedes in there (I HATE centipedes)
  • I got the flu
  • My rabbits were not doing well
  • I gained 10 pounds
  • And at the end of it, we basically got kicked out, were not given our security deposit back, and lost a shitload of money

But you know what? Holding on to all these things just poisons me. We’ve since tried to forget about all the horrible things that happened to us there. Because holding on to these things will only make us into nasty, mean, crazy people. Just like the crazy landlord lady.

On the bright side, there were a few positive things about being there. Remember, there is always good in every situation. Count your blessings!


1. The Dog Seemed Pretty Happy


I don’t think she cares where she is as long as she’s with Ian. A foreclosed horse farm? Hells yeah!


2. We had a pretty cool garden that crazy landlord lady started for us


Look at all that swiss chard and lemon balm!


3. The view was nice


Not awesome, but nice, ya know?


4. We had fun in Asheville before we left


We didn’t do too much fun stuff while we were down there because everything was so awful. But, after we decided to come back to Maryland, we ate at our favorite restaurants, went to Carowinds in Charlotte, and here we are having Turkish coffee in Asheville.

I grew up a lot during this time. We all are always learning, no matter how old we are. Do I hate crazy landlord lady? Yeah, a little. But I hope she’s still learning too. And if she wants a reference—hells yeah 😉 !


10 Natural Cures for Dysmenorrhea (Painful Menstrual Cramps)


Ok seriously, how many of you suffer from dysmenorrhea?

I’m going to warn you that before you read further, things are gonna get a little personal in this post. So if you don’t like reading about periods or women’s bodies make you uncomfortable, you can leave.

All good? Good.

Dysmenorrhea is the condition of experiencing insanely painful menstrual cramps. My periods have always been relatively bad, but lately, they’ve been really awful. Two periods ago I had the worst period of my life and honestly would have rather died than dealt with that. It was that bad.

Here’s a list of ridiculous things that have happened during my dysmenorrhea-infused periods:

  1. Age 13: Walking down the hall in middle school to the nurse’s office, nearly passing out from the pain.
  2. Age 15: Got picked up from high school by one of my aunts. Walked inside and made four parallel cuts on my left arm with a knife. It didn’t hurt as bad as the cramps.
  3. Age 21: In the bathtub throwing up oatmeal. My brother had to come over to give me some medication. I couldn’t move.
  4. Age 22: On the floor of the women’s bathroom at Penn State with my face pressed in that small space behind the toilet, moaning. Girl asks, “Are you ok?”
  5.  Age 25: In the bathroom throwing up chili, ended up in the bathtub with a knife.
  6. Age 26: Throwing up in the car while my fiance drives us home, scratching myself with a big knife, almost passing out from the pain. Screaming.

These are just the bad ones I remember. There have been countless other times over the last 14 years since I’ve had my period. My dysmenorrhea usually involves a bathtub, a knife, and vomit.

Sounds fun, right? God, I love being a woman. I really do.

With that in mind, I was inspired to create this list of things I’ve tried when it comes to cures for dysmenorrhea. So here’s what works and here’s what doesn’t.


10 Natural Cures for Dysmenorrhea

1. Cramp Bark

I’ve recently been trying cramp bark. You can find it in capsules or just buy a big bag of it from Mountain Rose Herbs. It tastes disgusting, but you drink it as a tea (or can take the capsules or use a tincture) to help with painful cramping.

Cramp bark can be taken in the days leading up to your period and can be taken the day of. Last time I got my period, I drank cramp bark tea in the morning and at noon and didn’t get bad cramps. It felt like a miracle. I have also taken the capsules but have not tried the tincture.

The tea is extremely bitter. Whatever you do, don’t make it too strong!


2. White Willow Bark and Boswellia

This combination actually works pretty damn well. These are two herbs that are taken together to produce a “Motrin-like effect” on the body. The problem is, you need to take them the morning you get your period. By the time your period starts, it’s too late. At least this has been my experience.

I drink white willow bark tea and take boswellia capsules. I used to take white willow capsules, but then I couldn’t find any that didn’t contain gelatin. So I switched to the tea. Just like cramp bark, this tea is bitter, but it’s not as bad as cramp bark in my opinion.

Get the capsules or the tea and take a few hours before you get your period. This combination can work for other forms of pain as well–I’ve used for headaches and migraines with excellent results!


3. Hot Things: Bath and Heating Pad

In order to stimulate circulation, some people suggest applying a hot compress and then a cold one to your stomach area during your period. I have had mixed results with this method.

What I have had success with is taking a hot bath and then crawling in bed with a heating pad. The heat seems to help the cramps and just helps me to feel better

Problem is, I don’t always have direct access to a bathtub. Which is why I now work from home and can take as many bloody baths as I want (pun intended). Told you this was going to get graphic. Or wait, I said personal. Same difference.


4. Coconut Oil and Lavender Massage

This one is interesting: research shows that this actually can help and is one of the best cures for dysmenorrhea!

I tried this during my last period with successful results. Just get some lavender essential oil and coconut oil (or your carrier oil of choice) and massage your lower stomach. After 20 minutes, it’s supposed to help you feel better.

You can also just straight up huff lavender essential oil while experiencing painful cramping and it’ll help you feel better!


5. Evening Primrose Oil (EPO)

My doc suggested I take this stuff throughout the month to lessen the severity of my periods. I believe it has helped (that really painful period I had not too long ago? Didn’t take EPO that month. I ran out). You should take it pretty regularly to experience results.

The dose is between 500-1,500 milligrams a daily. I take 1,000 milligrams. Easy with capsules. They provide essential fatty acids that are also great for skin and hormone regulation. Find some organic vegan ones like Deva Vegan Evening Primrose Oil.


6. Magnesium and Calcium

You’re probably deficient in magnesium and calcium.

Taking these supplements a few days before your period (some people may need to take them throughout the month to see results) and the day of your period can help reduce cramping greatly.

I take about 1,000 milligrams of calcium and 400 milligrams of magnesium. Everyone is different and everyone’s body will tolerate these supplements differently. Talk to your doc!


7. Masturbation and Sex

Oh dear, this is the part where I said it would get personal, right?

Masturbation works, but I’ve had short-term results with this method. Not enough to actually stop the cramping for good. Sex can work.  The problem with this method is that you don’t really feel that turned on when you’re in extreme pain. But if you’re desperate…

It works!


8. Deep Breathing

Tried this during my last one too with positive results. I’ve been really into Eckhart Tolle and presence lately. Staying present has helped my dysmenorrhea greatly. Practice deep breathing, stay present in the moment, and understand that you are not your mind or body. It helps!


9. Exercising

This is a big one and regular exercise is definitely one of the best cures for dysmenorrhea. I promise. Get out there and do some cardio: this is what has worked the best for me, specifically running. You don’t need to overdo it, just go for a run a couple times a week.

Did you notice when I talked about my horrible experiences with dysmenorrhea up there that there was a gap between the ages of 15-21? Not saying I didn’t have a bad period during this time (I’m sure I did, I just don’t remember that well), but two things happened during this time period:

  • I got extremely sick and was misdiagnosed with an illness that had me on a bunch of drugs. My body wasn’t able to function properly. I actually missed a couple periods during this time.
  • I was running 12 miles a week between the ages of 18-20. I swear that exercise kept me from having a bad period once during that time!

So yeah.


10. The Menstrual Cup

If you’re still using tampons, you need to stop now. Those death sticks contain a known carcinogen called dioxin. And you’re sticking it up your vag! Seriously???

I used tampons for years (it still makes me cringe to think about that) before finally switching to the menstrual cup and cloth cotton reusable pads. I will never go back.

The menstrual cup can help alleviate your period cramps and relax your vagina a little. Don’t believe me? Give it a try, punk.

If you’re already using the menstrual cup and it leaks, check out my guide to stop that thing from leaking!


4 Natural Cures for Dysmenorrhea I Have Tried Without Success

1. Licorice Root

Licorice is supposedly great for many things, especially helping to regulate hormones and helping during your period. I did not have success with this herb (I love licorice root tea though!)


2. White Peony Root

Tried white peony root (which is anti-spasmodic) without success. I have heard that using licorice root in combination with white peony root can help greatly with painful uterine spasms that sufferers of dysmenorrhea commonly experience. Unfortunately it didn’t work for me. I’ll likely give it another try though.


3. Cayenne Pepper Tea

Straight up. Didn’t work. I’ve heard hot peppers are great for pain. Didn’t work for me. Plus it was disgusting!


4. Yoga

I love yoga, but unfortunately, it hasn’t so far helped me when it comes to cures for dysmenorrhea.


4 Natural Cures for Dysmenorrhea I Have Not Yet Tried

These are things I haven’t tried, some of them I don’t plan on trying but others I do!

1. Birth Control

I have never been on birth control or tried birth control. Nor do I want to be. That stuff is unnatural and messes your body up. I’d rather suffer from painful cramping than use this shit when it comes to cures for dysmenorrhea.


2. Calendula Flowers

These are anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory. I use calendula flowers regularly but have not yet applied them to cures for dysmenorrhea. Have you tried them? I should try them next time to see if they work. The tea is much more mild than cramp bark or white willow bark!


3. Valerian

I haven’t tried valerian, but I’ve heard it works. Unfortunately, valerian is also known for making you very sleepy. It’s an excellent anti-anxiety remedy as well as excellent for insomnia. Problem is, some people (ahem, me) get super sleepy on this herb and can’t really function during the day. Not that I can function on the day I get my period anyway.

Valerian tea also smells like stinky feet. It’s rather awful. But it could work as a cure for your dysmenorrhea!


4. Healthy Diet

My diet is already healthy, thank you very much. Before I get my period I love potato chips and sugar. Really hard to not indulge. Maybe one of these days I’ll make veggie smoothies for a week before I get my period and see if that helps as a natural cure for dysmenorrhea.


I really hope this post helps some of you looking for cures for dysmenorrhea. It’s an awful condition that makes life particularly difficult. Getting your period is bad enough as it is, suffering from dysmenorrhea certainly doesn’t make it any easier.

What do you think of these natural cures for dysmenorrhea? Have you tried any? Are there some I didn’t list that work for you? I wanna know!


Harnessing Nature’s Power to Heal

This is a guest post by Martyn Williams, who is a record-holding extreme explorer, author, and successful entrepreneur. He is a yoga teacher and practices natural and Ayurveda healing. To learn more, check out his site here.


The natural world has an incredible ability to help us heal. Letting yourself open up to the beauty, wonder, and life of nature is a way to encourage your own healing processes and to experience something profound.

The ancient Indian healing tradition known as Ayurveda is deeply appreciative of the value of time spent in nature. Getting out into the natural world and letting yourself become a part of it, even momentarily, will do wonders for you. When we make it a habit to get in touch with nature, we make it easier to find our own proper place in the world.

Ayurvedic Healing Through Nature

In order to get the full benefit of the bountiful healing energies that flow through the natural world, we need to engage all of the Ayurvedic elements (fire, water, air, earth, and space) with all five of our classic senses – sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste. The Ayurvedic elements are called mahabhutas in Sanskrit, and we need to set aside some portion of every day to appreciate them.

In many ways, the most potent form of healing we can do when we are in the presence of the natural world is simply to open up our senses and pay attention. Simply striving to become more aware of the world around us and the vibrant play between the different mahabhuta elements going on, encourages both our bodies and our spirits to seek balance and peace.

Meditation and Nature

Meditation is a vital part of the attention that the natural world requires. When you meditate, you turn your gaze inward, paying attention not to the active, rational mind but to the spiritual soul. This, too, is a potent part of the healing process.

Make use of this healing exercise that you can practice almost anywhere. Step outside into a natural environment. Make yourself comfortable and still and then concentrate exclusively on the sensations that you’re experiencing. Reach out with all five senses and do your best to grasp every aspect of the living environment.

Using Nature to Protect and Heal

Once you become accustomed to taking advantage of nature’s restorative effects, it can serve as a powerful shield against undue stress or disruptive life events. Taking the time to return to nature—either literally or by reviewing your favorite memories—can give you a much-needed shelter against the most challenging parts of life.

Retreating to nature temporarily is an excellent way to adjust your perspective on your problems and to cultivate new insights which might lead you to solutions.

Three Bodies, One Healing

Healing in the Ayurvedic tradition is about more than simply purging a body of illness.

According to Ayurvedic beliefs, each of us is blessed with three bodies. The first is the physical body, the crude shell of matter that occupies physical space in the world. The second is the subtle body, made up of your thoughts and ego. The third is the causal or spiritual body, that distinct essence which is inextricably linked to the rest of the world.

Connection is important to all three of these forms, and our bodies both influence and are influenced by their surroundings. This means that personal healing is also a step towards making the world a better place. Improving your physical and mental health will send positive ripples out into your environment.

Life Always Finds a Way

Take the indomitable spirit of the natural world to heart as a useful object lesson when you are feeling most overwhelmed. Life is a nearly unstoppable force that pushes through every obstacle, recovers from every setback, and heals every type of damage. The next time you see news of a natural disaster, pay attention to how quickly new signs of natural growth appear in the aftermath. Life always finds a way and by doing so it teaches us to do the same.

Generally speaking, approaching the natural world as an instructive teacher is a useful attitude. Our world is so rich that it would be virtually impossible to absorb all of the potential lessons that happen around us every day. Pay a little more attention to what the natural world is trying to teach you. What you learn won’t disappoint you!

Why to Avoid Social Media–Like the Plague


Those of you who know me know that I have many answers for the question of why to avoid social media like the plague.

I detest social media. I detest everything about it. I have never had a Facebook page, I’ve never had a Twitter. I had a college class at Penn State that required Tweeting or whatever you call it once a week. I told the professor I wasn’t doing that and did a special assignment instead. I did have a LinkedIn profile my senior year at Penn State but I deleted it after it didn’t help me find a job. Why to avoid social media begins here.

It’s not that I’m deathly afraid of other people. It’s that I really don’t like them or the things they have to say and I refuse to have my life revolve around crap like that. Why to avoid social media starts with the fact that It does nothing to benefit me personally. For those of you considering why to avoid social media, I bet it would make your life a lot better.

Reasons why:


I Value Privacy

Why to avoid social media? I don’t want everyone, even my close family and friends, to know what I’m doing, where I’ve been, what piece of content I’ve recently written, etc. I really value my privacy and just want to keep to myself.

I also don’t really care to see what others are doing. Their definition of privacy and my definition of privacy is not the same thing. I’d like to keep my definition of privacy over here, thank you very much.


I Hate Seeing My Ex and His Stupid New Haircut

Sometimes when I’m with friends, we decide to creep on our old high school classmates to see what they’re up to (lame, I know. But who doesn’t do that?) because my friends have Facebook and I don’t.

Unfortunately, my ex and I began dating in middle school (and then proceeded to date again after that, and then one more time in adulthood before I finally realized what a dodo he was) so he falls into this category.

He has this hideous new haircut and a wife with my name, so it’s weird. I hate seeing him. I don’t want to see him. Why to avoid social media offers me the benefit of avoiding seeing him.


I Value My Time

I have things to do. These including writing, taking care of animals, drinking tea, etc. I value my time and I like to use my time to do things that I deem worthy, like taking out the trash or gardening, you know?

I’d much rather be composting than seeing what you’re doing or having you try to contact me in some meaningless way. I get more stuff done because I spend less time on dumb stuff like people who aren’t really in my life.


If You Can’t Call Me, I Don’t Want to Talk to You

I like my old-fashioned flip phone, and I like that it can make and receive phone calls. If you can’t call, I’m not really interested in talking to you. It’s as simple as that.

If you want to try and get in touch with me through social media, this means that you’re more interested in snooping on my life and comparing it to your own rather than speaking to me and asking me how I’m doing. Why to avoid social media? To avoid people who don’t really care and need you to make themselves feel better.


I Don’t Care if You “Like” Me

As a writer, I recognize the potential value in having social media for sharing my work and getting traffic to my site as well as to the sites of my clients.

This is indeed a huge thing that many clients are looking for—a large social media following. I don’t have one. I’m honest about it. I don’t care if you like me or follow me or re-tweet me or whatever.

You’ll have to find another writer if this is something you’re interested in because I’m not interested. Why to avoid social media? Avoid people who want to like you and want you to like them.


Why to avoid social media is a healthy question that many people should be considering. Just because I hate social media doesn’t mean that you have to hate it. It does, however, mean that I’ll be avoiding it. You can save time, not see your exes, stop comparing your life to other peoples’, and gain privacy.

Get off that social media site and start living!

How to Heal Leaky Gut with Tea and Herbs

I was diagnosed with leaky gut a few months ago at the end of January. I learned how to heal leaky gut with the help of a natural doctor and some intuition.

I had a bizarre rash on my face for four months that wouldn’t go away regardless of what I did.

I  tried everything—essential oils, cutting out a bunch of different foods (I’m already gluten and dairy-free), trying to neutralize the pH of my body, and overdosing on vitamins, including B vitamins.

Nothing worked when it came to how to heal leaky gut.

Eventually, I went to the doctor and got tested for food intolerances, which was something I’d been wanting to do for a long time but just didn’t do it.

Turned out I was intolerant to a bunch of different things, all having slight reactions to them. The doctor diagnosed me with leaky gut and put me on a powder supplement composed of herbs to help me heal.

In addition to the rash that spread along my chin on both sides of my face, I also had hives around my eyes after having an allergic reaction when eating nutritional yeast.

I later determined that I had accidentally been consuming dairy through my probiotics. This likely caused the leaky gut. I then developed a yeast allergy, which was causing the hives around my eyes. All of this was the result of my leaky gut.

After I was diagnosed with leaky gut and tried to determine what had caused it and how I could heal it, today after just a few short weeks I can eat yeast again and found some amazing herbs that helped me heal.

Here’s how to heal leaky gut!

Healing Leaky Gut First Begins with Eliminating the Things That Caused It

You’ll be able to calm your gut with tea and herbs, but how to heal your leaky gut begins with removing anything and everything that’s irritating it, otherwise you won’t be able to convince your body that it doesn’t need to react to stuff.

When leaky gut happens, your body gets confused and starts attacking things that it previously labeled as ok, like gluten or dairy proteins, yeast, etc.

It could be reacting to anything, including pesticides or GMOs, and it could cause just about any type of health symptom. My bloodwork showed that I was reacting to sesame seeds, eggs, garlic, peanuts, corn, oats, etc. My symptoms just included the rash and the hives.

I would highly recommend that you get tested in order to determine what’s irritating your gut when it comes to how to heal leaky gut.

However, if you can’t afford this (many natural doctors don’t accept insurance), begin by cutting out the big gut irritants.

These are mainly gluten and dairy. However, you may also choose to cut out legumes, all grains, and maybe even molds (natural molds are present in foods such as cheese, alcohol, and dried fruits). Listen to your body!

Once you figure out what’s causing your leaky gut, you can begin supplementing your diet with the following herbs to help when considering how to heal leaky gut.

After a few weeks off of the offending foods (I know it’s hard. I had to print a list of everything that contained yeast and give it to my fiance and hang it on the fridge!), but it’ll be worth it to eat these foods again in a few weeks and drink some delicious tea in the meantime.

How to Heal Leaky Gut with These Herbs

Go to your local herb shop and grab these essentials:

Stinging Nettle
Slippery Elm Bark
Licorice Root
Marshmallow Root

You’ll ideally want the marshmallow and licorice in a cut-and-sifted form rather than the powder; it’s so much easier to make tea that way.

The stinging nettle is a great anti-histamine and all of these herbs mixed together make a great tea when it comes to how to heal leaky gut! I drank 2-3 cups of plain stinging nettle tea every day with a bit of local raw honey to improve the taste (after a while I didn’t mind the taste, though).

If you choose to do a powder supplement made of these herbs for your leaky gut, choose one with quality ingredients. My doctor gave me Designs for Health GI Revive, which was so easy and tasty to put into smoothies when it came to how to heal leaky gut.

The herbs may be cheaper and even more effective, depending on how much of them you buy and how long you plan to use them for.

You could also get the herbs in supplement form, but I find that those are harder to regulate the ingredients and you’re not really sure how much of it your body is absorbing.

Making a Healing Tea

How to heal leaky gut with tea is easy.

Just get a quality metal tea strainer or cloth tea bag (they’ll have these at your local herb shop) and add a pinch of each of these herbs to your tea for a mixed tea with licorice, marshmallow root, and slippery elm bark.

Use a small pinch of the licorice root—that stuff is powerful and will make your tea really sweet! How to heal leaky gut begins here.

For plain stinging nettle, brew a strong tea by filling up your tea strainer and allow it to steep until dark. The stinging nettle is really important if you’re having histamine reactions because it’s a natural anti-histamine.

Stinging nettle looks like this in its fresh form. If you have the plant handy (and you know with absolute certainty it’s stinging nettle), you can make a tea this way too.

For me, my body was producing histamine whenever I ate yeast, so I broke out in hives. The stinging nettle helped calm my body’s reactions and helped my gut to heal.

The dairy was causing a different reaction (the actual eczema-looking rash) and once I stopped taking those horrible probiotics, was able to get my rash to go away relatively quickly. This also helped calm my leaky gut in addition to the herbs.

I would not recommend mixing the stinging nettle with the other herbs. I have not tried this but I would imagine that it would not taste very good! The slippery elm, marshmallow, and licorice all have sweet tastes that pair well together. The stinging nettle is more bitter and plant-tasting.

Consider Evening Primrose Oil

Evening primrose oil helped my body to stop reacting to yeast by producing an anti-histamine effect for my dilemma of how to heal leaky gut.

Yes, just like stinging nettle, it’s a natural anti-histamine. This is for food allergies, though, not for food intolerances (my body was allergic to yeast but intolerant to dairy). There is a difference—the allergy symptoms are more severe faster.

Intolerance symptoms can be just as—if not even more—severe, but they usually develop over a longer period of time. Read more about the difference between allergies and intolerances if you’re interested!

Evening primrose oil contains excellent fatty acids that can help with many things, including dysmenorrhea (another word for wicked terrible menstrual cramps).

I found that it was an essential skin healer and anti-histamine for my body while healing leaky gut. Consider a vegan, organic option such as Deva Vegan Evening Primrose Oil.

Other Essential Practices for How to Heal Leaky Gut

Leaky gut sucks, I know. But do you know how it happens?

A bad diet, antibiotics, stress. Nearly everybody has come into contact with these things. So while you’re considering how to heal leaky gut, it’s a good idea to do the following things.

Sleep a lot

Just make sure you get at least eight hours. I prefer nine or ten myself but again, listen to your body. Sleep is so important and helps you manage stress and weight and can help your body to heal itself.

Avoid stress like the plague

Dude, just relax. It’s not easy, I know. But you can do it. Stay present (read some freaking Eckhart Tolle! Love that dude) and take one thing at a time. Stress is your body’s worst enemy, so relax and take care of yourself.


Wait, didn’t I just say to relax? Of course, I did. But, you still need to take care of your body when you’re practicing how to heal leaky gut. Exercising will help promote healing in your body also. Do something you enjoy—dancing, jogging, kayaking, who cares!

Stay away from conventional medications

Prescription medications such as antibiotics can damage your delicate gut flora and even trigger leaky gut. Stick to natural stuff whenever possible. They are your gut’s enemy!

Eat well

When considering how to heal leaky gut, it’s hard to know what to eat. Just do your best. Plenty of fresh fruits and veggies and healthy fats and fiber can help you look and feel great and encourage your body to heal.

Take vitamin C

I make homemade vitamin C out of dried lemon and orange peels and take a teaspoon every day. This will encourage your body to heal when it comes to how to heal leaky gut.

Stay organic

Buy organic produce and buy organic herbs. Leaky gut syndrome can cause your body to react to pesticides as well, and you don’t need your body reacting to more stuff than it already is when you’re considering how to heal leaky gut.

Avoid sugar

Yes, sugar is so bad for your gut bacteria and can aggravate leaky gut. Try to avoid it while you’re healing, it does so much more damage than good! Actually, can’t think of anything good sugar does…

A Word of Caution

I am not a herbalist or a nutritionist. I would not recommend just going out and gathering plants when you’re thinking about how to heal leaky gut.

Plants are easily misidentified. I would recommend getting fresh or dried herbs from your local herb shop or online. Mountain Rose Herbs is a fantastic resource.

I would also recommend not self-diagnosing your leaky gut and getting tested. Yes, this step may be pricey, but if you don’t heal your leaky gut the first time, you’ll waste lots of time and money trying to figure out what’s going on.

When you get tested and can clearly see what you’re reacting to, you can eliminate these foods and you’ll know how to heal leaky gut. You can also work with a certified herbalist to help you.

Having leaky gut and trying to figure out how to heal leaky gut isn’t fun.  However, working with a natural doctor or herbalist makes it so much easier than working alone (I was sick for almost five years before finally seeing a herbalist and curing my autoimmune disease with a simple diet change—read the story here).

I healed my leaky gut and you can too. Don’t give up!

What Do You Do When You Bomb Your First Post-College Interview?

You pick up a hitchhiker!


Yeah, that’s what I did. Fresh out of Penn State. Bombed that first interview. Picked up a hitchhiker.

It was May 2014, and I had literally left Penn State two days ago to drive down to my parents’ house in Maryland, spend the night, then drive to Black Mountain, North Carolina the next day. My interview was in Winston-Salem the day after that.

I totally bombed that interview. Granted, it could have been worse, but I walked out of that marketing agency thinking “Frick! That did not go well.” I remembered my friend’s advice: she said I would know whether or not it went well. It did not go well. This I knew.

It was swelteringly hot. I was sweating in my business clothes even with my shaved head. I began driving back to Black Mountain—not quite a hop, skip, and a jump at two hours away. On my way back, I felt so confused. I wanted to be a writer, that was a writer’s job. I felt I could do well at that agency. What went so wrong?

I felt pretty disoriented and was pondering my meaning in life after knowing I had truly blown what could have been a great job for me. I had just spent two years in the freezing mountains of central Pennsylvania, worked my butt off to get this degree, all for what? To sit there looking stupid in front of a guy older than my dad while he looked half-heartedly through my portfolio?

Anyway. So I’m driving and I pass a car broken down on the side of the road. It doesn’t really register until a few miles later, I see a dude walking with a tire. I’m going way too fast to stop. Like I’d even consider stopping. Picking up hitchhikers was dangerous, and he wasn’t hitchhiking, anyway; he was carrying a tire.

Then again, I’d always been the type of person that likes to do things the opposite way.

I need gas. A few more miles after that, actually it may have been even ten or fifteen minutes after that, I stop at some gas station in the middle of nowhere near some lake in North Carolina. As I pump my diesel, I notice the guy with the tire filling it up at the air station. Wait, what? No way this guy got here before me. He was walking, for God’s sake.

I finish pumping my diesel and get in my dad’s Jetta (jeez, I didn’t even have my own car) and begin to exit the gas station. As I do, I see the guy with the tire walking back out of the gas station and he’s about to cross the street towards the exit to the highway. I guess whoever brought him here wasn’t taking him back.

Then again, I wasn’t headed back that way either.

I hit my brakes and roll down the window as I come up alongside him. “Hey, you want a ride?”

“What?” He says.

“You want a ride? Back to your car?”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah,” I say. “Hop in.”

We throw the tire in the trunk and he climbs in shotgun. He introduces himself. Justin? Jake? Josh? I think it’s Jake. I don’t remember. He has a thick accent, says he’s from Marion, North Carolina. Works nights as a security guard. Has a three-year-old daughter. He’s only a couple years older than me.

We talk. I tell him I live in Maryland, but just came down from Pennsylvania, where I just graduated college and wanted to be a writer. He says he’s never heard of anyone who wants to be a writer. I tell him I bombed the interview so it doesn’t matter. He says he’s into drawing. We compare cities near our hometowns—Baltimore for me, Asheville for him. He says they sound similar. I tell him I want to move here.

His car is much farther back than I thought. Or does it feel farther because I’m driving a complete stranger to his car in the middle of nowhere?

He’s a nice guy. He’s calm. He’s sweating from the heat. Not worried that his tire was flat. When we pass his car, we get off on an exit and then head the opposite way on the highway. I feel uncomfortable in my business clothes. Just what did I think I was doing, dressing up and kissing ass for that interview?

When we get to his car, I see that his daughter is in the backseat. There’s at least one other person waiting there by the car. He climbs out and retrieves the tire. He thanks me. I don’t remember if we shake hands. We tell each other good luck. I drive away, a little baffled. At the interview. At Jake/Josh. At my life. What was I doing here?

I get back to Black Mountain and my boyfriend comes home. He asks how my day went. What he’s really asking is how the interview went. I say, “I picked up a hitchhiker.” And somehow, that went way better (and was more meaningful) than my interview.

Life is never what you think it is or what you want it to be. It always just is. I learned that if I wanted to be a writer, I had to be a writer. And so here I am. Jake, wherever you are, I hope you’re still drawing! And thank you.

5 Reasons Victoria’s Secret Is Actually Hurting Women

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve been a long-time fan of Victoria’s Secret. At one point, I knew all the models’ names and even their weight.

Pretty embarrassing.

Then, after realizing bras really aren’t great for our health, I went totally bra-free nearly two years ago and have never looked back. Since then, I’ve sold my Victoria’s Secret bras to try and gain back what I lost giving my meager earnings to this billion-dollar company.

But all this doesn’t quite define the issue I have with Victoria’s Secret. I’ve realized that this company is hurting women more than they’re helping them.

Here’s why more and more women are considering what’s wrong with Victoria’s Secret and why I myself have questioned my purchases there and eventually stopped shopping there altogether.

1. Teaches Women That Perfection Is the Norm

My problem with Victoria’s Secret is that they allow girls to feel like being that thin is not only desirable but is also somehow the norm.

It’s not. The majority of women do not look like this. Yes, some women do have naturally thin body types that can be enhanced through diet, exercise, and PhotoShop.

But making girls feel like this is what’s expected of them is unrealistic. The average American woman weighs 166.2 pounds, while the average Victoria’s Secret model weighs about 120 pounds.

That’s over 45 pounds of weight difference.

I’m not saying the 166-pound average American woman is healthy. I’m not saying Victoria’s Secret 120-pound models are unhealthy. What I am saying is that there’s a huge gap here and that Victoria’s Secret does not represent the majority of women.


2. Helps Women Feel Confident Only When Covered

Why was I so obsessed with Victoria’s Secret for all those years?

Victoria’s Secret, to me, represented a world where women could feel sexy and not ashamed of their bodies.

Although I loved buying lingerie, I only did so because I couldn’t stand the sight of my actual body.

I was taught to hide and be embarrassed about my large breasts from an early age. Victoria’s Secret provided me with a way to deal with these feelings and feel better about myself.

However, I was only confident when I was covered. You almost never see Victoria’s Secret models naked. It teaches women that they need sexy lingerie to be desirable or attractive.

Their message is: when you have this product you’re hot. When you don’t have it, you’re not. Victoria’s Secret made me feel great for years until I realized that without the lingerie, I just felt like crap about myself and that wasn’t ok.

3. Bras Just Aren’t Really That Healthy

So why did I turn away from bras when I felt like I essentially needed them to feel good?

I read a fantastic article on Elephant Journal about why bras aren’t healthy for us and it changed my life.

Since reading about research that points to an increased risk for breast cancer due to heat and lymph node drainage, increased back and shoulder pain, and even toxic synthetic fabrics, I couldn’t wear a bra anymore.

So I stopped.

Bras just aren’t healthy for us. Underwire bras put pressure on our lymph nodes, which prevents our lymphatic system from draining properly. For us girls who have large breasts and require more material and padding, the accumulated heat from wearing a bra can increase our risk for breast cancer.

Combine all this with the fact that bras can actually cause sagging, reduce your nipple height, and increase back pain, and bras aren’t looking that sexy anymore.

4. There’s No Such Thing as a Real Woman


I mean, seriously?

Just look at the picture above. Does that woman look like a skeleton or what? Guys, would you want to date her? That woman looks like she can barely hold herself up with those arms.

Victoria’s Secret’s notorious PhotoShop fails and digital enhancement of their models creates a world of advertising where there are no real women.

Victoria’s Secret models are thin, muscular, and totally PhotoShopped.

While I don’t doubt their models look fantastic in real life, I also don’t doubt that those photos have been altered to make the women look completely unrealistic.

This is exactly what happens with magazines. Everyone knows this—those women may be real people, but their photos have been altered in such a way that they don’t portray real women anymore.

Real beauty is strength. Strength is sexy. Being in shape is sexy. But being stick-thin and corpsey? Surely that can wait until death.

5. They Use Synthetic Fabrics and Unethical Labor

Any fabric that’s synthetic or even partially synthetic is typically treated with formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde is a possible human carcinogen.

In fact, some women have even experienced allergic reactions to the bras as a result of this. Most of Victoria’s Secret’s bras are made out of synthetic materials.

Even their cotton bras are blended with some type of synthetic fabric such as spandex.

These fabrics are essentially made from plastics, which are made from oils, which are flammable.

This means they require flame retardants in order for them to be safe for you to wear.

All this and not to mention their unethical labor standards, which show that Victoria’s Secret is getting labor and materials for extremely cheap and then selling the bras for ridiculously high prices.

So not only are their bras not healthy or eco-friendly, they are also supporting child labor in various countries.

Your Alternatives to Victoria’s Secret

Don’t worry, avoiding this company and breaking your habit is easier than you think.

I dare you to not wear a bra for a day. You’ll be amazed at how different you feel. You can also get a cotton bralette or scarves to cover yourself when you’re feeling modest.

As for me, I still wear sports bras when I go running, but I’m completely bra-free outside of that. I’ve been loving every second of embracing my body without the toxic Victoria’s Secret brand.

Consider how your purchases make an impact. Be conscious of your choices. Support organic cotton, handmade clothing, and natural fabrics. Stop buying stuff that’s not only impacting your health but the health of the planet.

You are so sexy all on your own.