Monday, December 25, 2017

My Favorite Reads of 2017



I love being home for the holidays for the obvious reasons, but also because my family and I never have any plans. We stay home and in our pajamas, watching movies, eating food, and taking naps. It's a few days of much needed rest, and it gives me a little time to read as well.

I'm sadly not going to finish my Goodreads reading challenge, but I did better this year than last and I read a lot of great books. I'm still trying to finish a couple more before the new year, but I wanted to go ahead and share a few of my favorites from 2017 (in no particular order).

Shrill by Lindy West
This memoir made me laugh and cry, which is the best kind of memoir, in my opinion. Lindy West writes about growing to accept herself and her body and fighting to be heard and respected both as a woman and a fat person, and she does it so well.

Us by David Nicholls
I read One Day a few years ago and it quickly became one of my all-time favorite books, so I was a little nervous to read another of David Nicholls's novels, but Us did not disappoint. It has the same heart and wit as One Day, but it's a totally different book with strong and endearing characters that stand on their own.

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life. by Samantha Irby
You know the phrase "bust a gut"? Pretty sure it was coined in reference to this book. I had to stop, like, every other page to read sections (or entire chapters) to Melany because it was just too good to keep to myself.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
I'm so proud of John Green, guys. This is his first novel in six years, and it's far and away his best. It's a bestseller and has made all of the end-of-year lists and, dammit, it really does deserve it. Please read it so we can talk about it.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Technically, I didn't read this book as I borrowed the audiobook from Melany, but I maintain that that's the only way to take in Yes Please. Amy Poehler (as well her friends and family who "guest star" on the audiobook) is hilarious and a really wonderful writer. This one is really fun, guys.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
This gorgeous novel starts with two half-sisters in 18th century Ghana and follows, not two storylines, but two bloodlines throughout the years. Even though you really only get to know each character for one chapter, Gyasi manages to flesh them out and bring each of them to life.

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson*
Aside from the few authors I already know I love (like John Green), I don't really read a lot of YA anymore, but I'd heard a ton (a literal ton) of great things about this book—and everyone was right. It follows a set of twins at different times in their lives, each with half of the story, and it's passionate and beautiful and so filling.

Have you read any of these? If you have, hit me up so we can talk about them, please. Otherwise, let me know what your favorite reads of the year are!

-Maggie

* Not pictured because I borrowed it from the library. (Support your local library and your local independent bookstore!)

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Me Too.

When I lived in Lubbock, I worked at a grocery store and part of my job was running the service desk. This mostly consisted of cashing payroll checks, selling money orders, processing bill payments, and answering the phone, which rang at least once every fifteen minutes or so.

When I picked up the phone, my greeting was always the same, slightly harried and all in one breath. ThankyouforcallingUnitedthisisMaggiehowcanIhelpyou? Most of the time, people called to check that we had a certain brand of beer or to order a birthday cake or something forgettable like that, and I would quickly transfer them to the appropriate department and move on to another task.

One slow night, I was sweeping when the phone rang and I answered, same as usual. He asked a question—I don't remember what. Maybe what time we closed or something routine like that, so I gave him a routine answer. He thanked me. I was about to hang up the phone when he started to say something else.

"Oh, and Maggie," he paused, "do you have a tight pussy?"

I slammed the phone down and stared open-mouthed at the receiver, my brain working to process what had just happened. I was in disbelief—for about ten seconds, and then I was livid. I was visibly shaking. The question played over and over in my head and I could hear the smirk in his voice. He thought he was funny.

When I told a few of my supervisors what had happened, they only stifled their laughter once they saw how angry I was.

---

A couple of years before I moved to Austin, I was visiting Melany for the weekend and we decided to go dancing. It was a good night. I was so happy to be in my city and away from the stress of school, drinking and dancing to all of my favorite songs. This was pre-ridesharing, so when we felt too tipsy to drive home, we decided to walk a few blocks to a restaurant to get something to eat.

The restaurant was much farther away than we thought, but it was a nice night and we didn't mind walking. We made friends with drunk strangers and walked and laughed alongside them for a few blocks until they reached their apartment and we waved our goodbyes. Soon after that, a pedicab drove up and asked if we wanted a ride, but we brushed him off. We were nearly there by that point.

One block after the pedicab and about two blocks from the restaurant, I collapsed dramatically on a bench and complained about how long it was taking. Melany sat down next to me and was in the middle of apologizing for the miscalculation when a man walked around the far corner of the building we were sitting in front of.

Without saying anything to each other, we both immediately stood up and started walking again. He was short, probably shorter than Melany, but he was lean and muscular and wasn't wearing a shirt and was walking purposefully towards us. He was mad—mad at women because they wouldn't have sex with him and mad at us because we were women.

"Why can't I get any pussy?" he said, over and over as he followed us. We tried to shake him off and asked him to leave us alone, please just leave us alone, please.

I dialed 911 on my phone, my finger hovering over the call button, but I didn't press it because what if? What if he heard me calling and freaked out? We could have run, but what if he chased us? What if we couldn't make it to the restaurant? What if he did something to Melany?

If he does anything to Melany, I'll kill him, I thought.

It was less than five minutes, but felt like hours before we crossed the last street and reached the restaurant. An employee was sweeping the sidewalk outside and I ran up to him.

"This guy won't leave us alone," I said. Without a word he ushered me inside and Melany followed. Then the employee stood in front of the door and refused to let him in. The employee repeatedly told him to leave, but he stood there, glaring at us through the window. It was a few minutes before he finally walked off.

Melany and I sat down and held hands across the small table while we silently cried into our milkshakes.

---

I was out dancing with my best friends one night when we met a couple of guys at the bar. I started talking with the tall, cute brunette and we had a few drinks before moving to the dance floor where, eventually, we started kissing.

It was crowded that night, a Friday at the end of SXSW, so bodies were pressed against me at all times. I was sweaty and drunk and I'm not going to lie—it was fun. I was having so much fun dancing and singing along to '80s music and kissing a cute boy.

At one point, through the haze, I realized there was one too many hands touching my body. It happened so fast. The extra hand was on my ass and moving down, then up and under my dress and inside my underwear. It registered enough to slap the hand away, but not enough to stop dancing. Not enough to turn around and see who the hell had touched me.

It wasn't until the next day talking with Melany that I remembered. I told her, but laughed it off. I was drunk, I thought. I was drunk and making out with someone in the middle of the dance floor. I shouldn't have done that.

I felt stupid and embarrassed, like I did the night that man followed Melany and me. We shouldn't have been walking downtown alone at night and I shouldn't have been kissing a guy and I shouldn't have gotten so worked up about that guy that called the store and on and on.

But here's something I've learned in the last few years: he shouldn't have done that. He shouldn't have followed us, and he shouldn't have harassed us, and he shouldn't have said that to me, and he shouldn't have touched me.

I didn't do anything wrong.

-Maggie

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Three Years


Three years ago today, my mom, our friend Keren, and I towed a trailer weighted down with all of my furniture (and books) to Austin. After years of waiting, months of planning, and about fifteen nerve-racking minutes maneuvering the trailer in the too-small apartment parking lot, Austin was finally, officially my home.

So much has happened in the last three years. I moved from that first apartment to another apartment to a house. I started two jobs (that I still have). I fell in love for the first time and went through my first real, gut-wrenching heartbreak. I met new people and made new friends. I lost both of my grandparents. I went to about twenty concerts. I traveled so many places, new and familiar—but I always came back home to Austin.

I feel so fortunate to call Austin home, to live in a city that feels like it's mine. There have been ups and downs in my life, but my city and the way it makes me feel has remained constant. I'm so thankful for the life that I've built here, all that I've experienced, and all the people I've met. I can't wait to see what else this beautiful city has for me.

Here's to you, Austin. You're constantly changing, but somehow always stay the same.

I love you so much.

-Maggie

Monday, August 28, 2017

My Sweet Denny


My grandmother, my Denny, passed away at the beginning of August. It was not a shock–we spent the few weeks prior waiting, stuck in that terrible limbo until she finally, thankfully fell asleep–but it was still so hard. Losing both of my grandparents in less than a year and watching my mother, aunts, and uncle lose both of their parents was so hard. It's been a tough couple of years for us.

She was so loved (and so loving), and I wanted to share here the short piece I wrote for her service a few weeks ago.
My last day with Denny was at the end of June. I had been visiting for the weekend and stopped by one last time before heading out of town–but when I walked into her room at Wedgewood (the assisted living facility she spent her last few months in), she wasn't there. I was in the middle of asking the caretakers where exactly my grandmother had gotten to when I heard the faint shuffling of a walker and turned to see Denny's head poking around the corner.

When she saw me, she let out a quiet "oh!" and mumbled something I thought I understood.

"You thought I'd already left?" I asked. She nodded. "Denny, I wouldn't leave without coming to see you! I told you I'd be back today!"

"Oh, I'm so glad," she said, hugging my neck tightly. "I'm so glad."

After Denny's stroke, she had trouble speaking and it was often difficult to understand what she was saying, but there were some things that came out very clearly–like, "I was so mad!" or "I know that!" or "I wish you could stay."

After I found her on that last day, I took her for frozen yogurt. She waited in the car while I was inside trying to determine the perfect Denny-sized amount and knowing that whatever I got would probably be too much. Sure enough–when I handed it to her she said, very clearly, "Oh, this is way too much."

Then she ate all of it.

Denny always made sure that you were okay, that you were never wanting for anything, which is why you could never leave her house empty-handed. You're trying to walk out the door and she's shoving things into your arms–12-packs of soda, boxes of spaghetti mix, rolls of toilet paper, bags of powdered sugar, half a loaf of pound cake. (Of course, you always had to double-check the expiration dates since Denny was a firm believer of "if it's not open, it's still good." Remind me to tell you about the three-year-old grape juice Denny had fermenting in her fridge.)

One Mother's Day, I went over to her house to give her a rose and ended up leaving with five roses she'd cut from her own rosebush. Even on that last day, she handed me a box of animal crackers and a little cup of peanut butter for a snack on my drive back to Austin. She just couldn't help herself. She had so much love to give–and I'm so thankful I was one of the lucky ones that got to be on the receiving end.
I find comfort in the thought that my Denny and D-Dad are together again, that they were only "separated for a season" as the pastor put it. They were married for nearly 63 years and were the cutest. They constantly picked on each other–you know, the way you do when you've been in love with someone for over six decades. They played cards together every single day and Denny would tease D-Dad every time she won (which, despite what either of them might have said, was roughly half the time). Any time Denny got home from being out somewhere (usually TJ Maxx), D-Dad, feigning annoyance, would say, "What took you so long?!"

"Don't you know that's the first thing Art said when she got to Heaven?" Denny's sister Janita (known to us as "Jeter") said before the service. "What took you so long?"

-Maggie

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Oh, Canada!

Way back in March, Dillon, Natalie, and I ditched Seattle for a couple of days of exploring in Vancouver, B.C. Vancouver is a beautiful city and similar to Seattle in a lot of ways (except it's a lot cheaper and Trump's not president there), and I almost immediately added it to my list of Cities I Would Happily Move To.



Dillon made us pancakes when we woke up, and then we packed his little blue car and hit the road–only to immediately turn around to retrieve Dillon's passport. The drive up there was uneventful as far as car rides go until we realized we were at the Canadian border and completely panicked. Dillon drove straight through the curving lanes leading up to the crossing and we all started yelling and laughing. Quick–turn your phones to airplane mode! Turn off your data! Wait, do we need a customs form?! Get your passports ready!!!

When the border agent asked how we met, Dillon said, "we actually met on Instagram," which isn't actually true, so the irrational part of me that slows down every time I see a cop even though I'm never speeding was for sure we were about to be detained. Luckily, the border agent didn't catch onto the lie or the three undeclared clementines sitting in the backseat and allowed us entry into Canada.

We didn't have very much planned for our trip beyond just getting to Vancouver, figuring we would just wing it, which we never do and our first hour in Canada was a good reminder as to why. Aside from our panic at the border, we also didn't fully consider things like how much we rely on our phones to get around or that we didn't have any change for street parking.

Luckily and inexplicably, Dillon had six dollars worth of Canadian coins in his console so we were able to park on a side street in Gastown and wander into the cozy Six Acres Cafe where we were plied with mulled wine and poutine. Shortly after, we made our way to our AirBnb where we rested, recharged, and reconnected to wifi. We all laid in the same bed while Natalie read Canada's Wikipedia page aloud and I googled the various questions we'd had since losing Internet connection, like "Why do the green traffic lights blink in Canada?" and "Where does Justin Trudeau live?"



After getting our bearings, the next day went much smoother. We started with breakfast at Medina Cafe, which I would definitely recommend if you're ever in Vancouver. I had a great raspberry caramel latte and the Harissa "Burger," and both were delicious. Since we were already in the Library District, we decided to explore the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library before heading over to the Vancouver Art Gallery. Libraries, galleries, and museums are my favorite places to visit in new cities, and Vancouver didn't disappoint.

We headed back to Gastown for lunch at MeeT and wandered the neighborhood, browsing all the shops. Highlights of the afternoon (for me, at least) was meeting a French bulldog in Old Faithful Shop and another dog named Stella walking down the street who was so tiny that I literally stopped speaking mid-sentence and nearly fell to the ground. Her owner saw my reaction and said, "Hold on, Stella, somebody saw you," and led her over to me so I could pet her. (Canadians are so great, guys.)

We ventured out to see the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver, which was gorgeous (and free, unlike the Capilano Suspension Bridge). We couldn't walk any of the trails (because I'm from Texas and don't have proper boots and slipped almost immediately), but it was worth the short drive from where we stayed in Davie Village anyway. Afterwards we witnessed an absolutely spectacular sunset before driving back to Gastown for dinner at Tacofino, which was surprisingly (to me, a Texan who is pretentious about tacos) my favorite meal of the trip. I had a refreshing hibiscus margarita and a fish taco that was so delicious I actually said, "I wish I was still hungry so I could order another fish taco."



We headed back to Seattle the next morning, but not before stopping at 49th Parallel Roasters on West 4th. The colors and light in the cafe were gorgeous, and our coffee and pastries (two each–we were on vacation, dammit!) were delicious.

Fat snowflakes were falling outside as we talked and ate (and Instagrammed). It was pretty magical as mornings go, which made it that much harder to leave. I had such a fun time with Natalie and Dillon (as always) and really loved Vancouver. I can't wait to go back. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

-Maggie

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