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.


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?"


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.


Monday, June 26, 2017

Good ol' J.K.

Like any other self-respecting eight-year-old, I went through a pretty intense Nancy Drew phase in elementary school. Nancy was smart and nosy–and she never got in trouble for it. She always solved the mystery, oftentimes helping her father in the process who was somehow still an attorney despite the fact that he was 1) an idiot and 2) breached attorney-client privilege, like, every other day. Sure, her boyfriend Ned was super boring and they never even made out or anything, but otherwise Nancy was pretty cool. I rarely ever left my school library without one of those bright yellow books tucked under my arm.

So when I happened upon a couple of books with a dark-haired, bespectacled boy on the cover while browsing T.J.Maxx with my grandmother one summer afternoon in 2000, I assumed they were like Nancy Drew–a series, but not one with an overarching storyline. Certain that I could sweet-talk my grandmother into buying me one, I chose the one I thought looked the most interesting (with the boy holding onto the tail-feathers of a large, red bird) and ran to find her.

I was, of course, successful (how can you say no to a kid asking for a book?) and excitedly showed my grandfather my new book as soon as we got home. He recognized the author's name from an article he'd read in the local newspaper that morning and retrieved it from the kitchen table.

"J.K. Rowling, creator of the magical world of Harry Potter, received an honorary doctorate Thursday for helping millions of children discover 'the pure joy of reading,'" he read. "Well, Mags, this lady seems like a pretty big deal."

He cut out the article and taped it to the inside cover of my new book, which, you might have guessed, was Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I realized that same night that it was the second of a series that, unlike Nancy Drew, needed to be read in order. I don't remember when I managed to get my hands on a copy of the first book, but I know I didn't start reading Chamber of Secrets until I did. Life has quite literally never been the same.

I would be a fundamentally different person had I not read Harry Potter. It has been a huge part of my life, a defining trait of my personality, and a constant source of comfort since I found it seventeen years ago. I cannot even imagine the person I would be had I not fallen into J.K. Rowling's world and, honestly, I don't want to know. The story she created and the community it inspired literally changed the world. It certainly changed mine.

Here's to twenty years of magic, Jo. Thank you for everything.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Seattle, Again

The first time I visited Seattle was nearly five years ago. I spent the first half of the trip with my best cousin and the second half with the Blogger Family. It was the first time I met Natalie and Dillon (or any of the bloggers on the trip, for that matter), and five years later we're fortunate enough to still be traveling together. The three of us decided to take advantage of Natalie's spring break from med school and spend the week together in Seattle at the beginning of March (with a quick jaunt to Vancouver, but more on that later).

Natalie arrived later in the day (much later), so Dillon and I had some time to kill while we waited for her flight to land. We wandered the Henry Art Gallery on the University of Washington campus and went for an early happy hour at Saint Helens Cafe, which is very cute and serves great Old Fashioneds and literal mounds of fries. Dillon and I were so tired by the time we went for a late dinner at Ba Bar that we spent much of the meal in silence, mesmerized by the bartender mixing drinks. I couldn't even tell you what I ordered, but I do remember it was all excellent.

The next day, we started with brunch at Tallulah's, a restaurant in Capitol Hill with an aesthetic that can only be described as "on point." (With its mid-century modern furniture, brass accents, and tattooed waiters with deep, reassuring voices, it was like walking into Dillon's brain.) I got the breakfast bowl with carnitas, which was also on point. Afterwards, we explored the Volunteer Park Conservatory, ate vegan donuts at Mighty-O (where I got to hold a tiny, red poodle puppy for fifteen seconds and nearly cried), browsed the Elliott Bay Book Company, and walked all the way to the central branch of the Seattle Public Library (which is #careergoals for me, personally).

We also stopped for ice cream at Frankie & Jo's, and we're just going to talk about that for a second because it was honest-to-God that best ice cream I've ever had in my life. I'm just going to say it–it's better than Salt & Straw. (You can try to fight me on this, but I'm standing my ground.) I got a scoop of Brown Sugar Vanilla and the seasonal special New Roots with their Moon Goo sauce on top, and it was all amazing and all vegan! I still think about it a lot.

Later that night, the three of us went dancing (which I think has become a bit of a tradition now and I love it). We started at Chop Suey for their Dance Yourself Clean night, which was so fun. At one point they played "All These Things That I've Done," and I swear I came out of my body and floated above the dance floor. From there we walked to Neighbours where we danced even more, and I was reminded once again how much better "Dancing On My Own" is when you're with your best friends.

The rest of our time in Seattle was less packed than that first day, but still just as fun. We got back from our short trip to Canada early in the afternoon, so we spent a couple of hours wandering Ballard in the rain. We stopped in at the Secret Garden Bookshop, which I was so enchanted by and had a difficult time leaving (Dillon nearly had to physically drag me from the building), and Ballyhoo Curiosity Shop where Natalie and I failed to convince Dillon to buy a small taxidermic duckling.

We made dinner for ourselves that evening–and by "we," I mean Natalie and Dillon made dinner and I took pictures and was generally useless–before heading to Percy's & Co. to meet my friend Eric. Eric and I found each other on Tumblr six or seven years ago, and I was so excited we could finally meet! We all talked, had a couple of drinks, and then walked down to Hot Cakes for some very good (albeit slightly overpriced) molten chocolate cakes.

We started our last day in Seattle with brunch at The Fat Hen (where I ate an amazing smoked salmon Benedict with avocado and roasted potatoes and Natalie had a whole baguette to herself) before we headed out to Gas Works Park (very cold) and did some general wandering in downtown Seattle, including Pike Place Market, of course. (I also made Dillon and Natalie climb the playground at the Seattle Center, which I know they loved despite the looks on their faces.)

Later that night we dressed up and went out for our traditional "fancy dinner" at Manolin and spent way too much money, but it was totally worth it. We had the plantain chips for starters, and Dillon and I split the rockfish ceviche, mussels (my personal favorite), and the black rice with squid. I also tried scotch for the first time, which was interesting. I love that you can feel it in your face as soon as you take a sip, all warm and tingly. Our bartender was super nice and explained the differences between each scotch on the menu and even gave us small sips of their more expensive scotches. We sat there for a couple of hours, talking and drinking and pretending like we didn't have to leave early the next morning.

It was so fun to visit Seattle again, and I'm so happy I got to spend the week with two of my favorite people. I know I say this a lot, but it will never stop being crazy to me that this silly little blog brought so many wonderful people into my life. See you next time, guys.


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