It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.

I do not need your smallness, your timidity, your fear
I need your anger, your passion, your rage
I need your deep, round belly laugh that rumbles
through aches like epsom

Shed your sins like the skin they made you wear
Discard the armor against the fruit, the seeds
They threw at your feet
threw at your womb

You are a meteorite in a sea of diamonds
No one is made smaller by your shine
You are a goddess woven by time
You were born among the stars.

26, from me to you


I have never needed a birthday less, and I don’t mean that as a bad thing at all. The last year of my life was filled with unprecedented growth and change. I met so many new people and said yes to so many new opportunities. But most importantly as I sift through my stories and my birthday texts and messages, I finally realized the difference between the genuine feeling of being loved and just basking in the glow of any attention at all.

In my life I have made unbelievable mistakes. I have lost so much time to sadness and sickness and pain. I’ve said goodbye to friends I should’ve fought for. I’ve fought for friends I should have let go. I’ve drank too much and stayed out too late and procrastinated on the projects I wanted most. I have hurt people. I have hurt myself. The weight of all of my sins has been around my neck for so long I became accustomed to it in the way your body acclimates to a missing limb.

For so long, I couldn’t accept the genuine love of others because of those sins. I didn’t feel like I deserved even a speck of their affection. But yesterday as I read through the happy birthdays and the affection, I finally felt it deep in my bones. I finally let my friends and family’s words “rumble through my aches like epsom”.

Maybe the person I was a year ago didn’t deserve people’s trust. My actions were riddle with need instead of honesty. But the person I am now, she is good. She is strong and determined and beautiful. I cannot change who I was then; I can love who I am now. Maybe I needed the her of the past to become the me of now.

25 truly was both the best and the worst of times. I look around my life now though, and I see it filled in a way I never thought possible. Forgive yourself for who you were. You can’t change it. Then look in the mirror and give today your best. Who you are now deserves it.

Thoughts: A Quarter of a Century

In some ways 25 feels like this impossible feat that I can’t believe I made it to, but in most ways it feels like I’m aging into my soul. The older I get the more content with life I become, and I seriously think I may have been given a 90 year old soul that I’ll just continue to grow into for the rest of my days.

Totally got caught checking my reflection out in the balloons 😂

When I was young I thought 25 was so old and wise and accomplished. I was pretty sure I’d be a rockstar millionaire by now. That totally didn’t work out…yet. I had all of these grand expectations for myself but I don’t think I learned to wish for happiness until I was way older than the girl making those ten year plans. But now that I’ve reshuffled my life to be about feeding my heart instead of my bank account, the years don’t feel daunting, like there’s some deadline looking over my head that I’ll never catch up to.

So if there’s any advice I can give from my limited time on this planet, I say give up the things that make you unhappy and find the things that do. I’ve been in enough doctor’s offices, stuck on enough couches and consumed by enough darkness to tell you without any hesitation that life is too short to be miserable for no reason. I’ve shed friends and religions and other people’s ambitions for the past few years now, and the creature that has emerged is someone I adore.

I hope today is a happy day for you. I hope you register to vote or donate to your favorite charity or go on a run you’ve been needing for awhile. But if none of those things work today, I just hope you choose a little happiness for yourself.

To the next 25 years,

Madie

Thoughts: Stories Still Matter.

I’m writing a novel. Just throwing that out there. I’ve had the idea for a few years but wasn’t ready to commit to sitting down and putting it onto a page until these past couple of months. It seemed indulgent to sit out and type up a story about people who didn’t exist when I was having a hard time just keeping up with my own existence.

But now I’m sitting here in my favorite coffee shop (Mazama Coffee in Dripping Springs) – halfway into the plot I’ve outlined and I realize I’m really doing this thing. It makes sense really – I’ve always been a writer. Actually, when I was a kid I used to go to my dad’s office in the summers and create miniature books out of printer paper and just make up stories to fill them with. In retrospect, most of them had plotlines that were eerily similar to the Chronicles of Narnia. Probably can’t blame an eight year old brain for a little bit of plagiarism.

In a world where things are chaotic and messy, stories have always helped me make sense of things. As a kid I had taught myself how to read before kindergarten, which led to me being basically the smartest ass kid of them all in the beginning years of reading. I had no sympathy for people still learning and was generally disruptive – so I got sent to the next grade level for reading time. When that didn’t work, I got sent to a gifted and talented teacher who put Harry Potter in my grubby little elementary hands and said “Go nuts!”

I remember the feeling of the world just dropping away for awhile as I turned the pages. I didn’t understand kids, they didn’t understand me. But when I was reading about Hermione and Harry and Ron I wasn’t lonely. In them I saw my own potential to be exceptionally brave, exceptionally smart and accepted above all.

As I got older the books became more plentiful – there was The Bloody Jack novels that taught me being a girl didn’t have to mean any one thing. The Twilight series taught me all the wrong lessons about love that took me a few years to unlearn. Tim O’Brien’s books in high school made me feel normal for my sometimes dismal outlook on life. In them I saw the potential for hope and reality to coexist.

When I got to college the stories fell off of my map. And in that time when my imagination was shut so far into its cage, I felt my dreams and my hopes grow smaller. Sickness got in the way. Misguided religious idealism got in the way. But most of all, I lost my ability to see any day beside the one in front of me. I lost my ability to see the story I could live. On the high seas or in a castle or on the muddy banks in Vietnam.

I found stories again when I was doing outpatient therapy for six hours a day after quitting my job. I was still suicidally depressed most days – incapable of seeing the forest through the trees. I wanted desperately to move forward with my life, but the damage I had done to my own soul felt irrevocable in every way. When I picked up The Awakening by Kate Chopin, I identified so viscerally with the main character’s identity struggle that I pushed past the anxiety that popped up any time I focused on one activity for more than a few minutes.

“I would give up the unessential; I would give up my money, I would give up my life for my children; but I wouldn’t give myself. I can’t make it more clear; it’s only something I am beginning to comprehend, which is revealing itself to me.”

For someone digging themselves out from under years of self-imposed ideals about who I was “supposed to be,” the story of Edna Potelier helped me see that the process of becoming true to self is chaotic and messy and sometimes painful. I found myself in that story, and to me that’s why stories matter.

In life we get lost from our truest selves so easily. We have so many messages telling us who we’re supposed to be, what we’re supposed to do. Stories are a place where we don’t have to be anyone. We just have to sit and intake the truth our characters present. We just have to observe and gleen any truths we can from the actions from which we are removed. Stories give us a space to learn about ourselves and grow.

So as I sit here, elbows deep in pages of text about people who’ll never really be, I remind myself of the stories that have changed me and taught me and shaped and molded me. There have been times when I’m upset with the way my story has gone. But I haven’t given up on stories in general. I think there’s so much for us to learn. I think stories still matter.

Reviews: 3 Award Winning Novels You’ll Actually Enjoy Reading

It’s been a rainy week here in Austin, and I’m not complaining even a little bit. I LOVE the rain. It might be a love born of scarcity, but I still love it. Luckily the schedule has been light this week, so I’ve been tucked away reading. Here are some of the more current novels that I’ve read on weeks like these that I think will feed your soul.

White Tiger by Aravad Adinga

white tiger.jpgThe main character in this novel is the reason you read the book. Balram narrates with a sarcastic, dry humor about a world that rapidly changes as he makes his way from destitution as an orphan to a life in the glamorous, rapdily Americanizing streets of New Delhi. The references to Indian culture are educational, although laced with satire.

I say all of this to set a background but don’t want to set this up as some sort of high brow read. One of my favorite parts of this read is how accessible it is. There are really important themes about class warfare, about developing an identity as a child in horrible circumstances, and about the faith we place in the narrator of the story. BUT this is a story of a man who goes mad, and it will keep you turning the pages.

 

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Interpreter of Maladies

This collection of stories will tug at your heart in a way that’s never false or contrived. There are a few about heartache, and falling in love, but over all these stories touch on the creation of relationships and how we relate to one another in some of the most real portrayals I have ever read.

The characters are people with flaws and hangups and take your breath away with some of the choices they make. There’s a woman who is destitute in squalor, a married  couple slowly falling out of love, a couple being taken care of by their (also foreign neighbors). Be ready to feel things – but the writing in the story will lift you up and teach you as much as you’re willing to learn.

 

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Wolf Hall.jpgHistorical fiction is typically not my genre. There’s lots of details that I could probably live without in a lot of novels – even though I can accept that it’s cool when an author has done a ton of research into the world they’re creating. Hilary Mantel is a MASTER of making the details worth reading. Thomas Cromwell (one of the most interesting men in history) is the main character of the novels that tell the sordid, dramatic story of life in the court of Henry the VIIth.

As a general statement, I read stories for the voice of the main character. Cromwell, with his encyclopedic knowledge of the world around him and constant planning to meet the whims of the one of the most manic monarchs in history. He’s an every day man who made his way into royalty – so read to be inspired and intrigued. You’ll find yourself hanging off of every word.

 

Read, enjoy – give me your recommendations! I wish you many rainy days in a good book.

 

 

ATX Life: My Favorite Dates

Austin is a really awesome place to meet young, fun humans, but can be a really overwhelming place to date. There are so many choices with such a huge range of prices that planning is key. Here are my top three picks for you!

Dinner & Putt-Putt on Barton Springs

Down the road from Zilker there are plenty of restaurants to choose from: Picnic Food Truck Park, Chuy’s, Shady Grove just to nane a few of the staples. I personally think having a bit of a wait is a really awesome way to get to know someone on a date, but be warned you’ll definitely have a wait on a weekend. There are a couple of restaurants tucked into the area like Juliet where you’ll be able to reserve a table ahead of time.

Your two other pre-date necessities for a night at Peter Pan Mini Golf are a quick trip to the bank and packing a cooler. This classic Putt-Putt stop is cash only ($6/person/round) and BYOB. Bring something portable to take around the course with you and enjoy!

This is us at another favorite stop in the Barton Springs area – Lou Neff Point.

Bonus romance: The whole area around Barton Springs is just a step away from the trail at Lady Bird Lake, and one of my favorite spots: Doug Sahm Hill. The peaceful little hillside is one of the coolest views of downtown and there’s a really awesome fountain fixture right behind your path.

Coffee & Art in West Austin

West Austin is my favorite part of the city, especially if I want to get some quality time in with people. There are so many beautiful homes just to drive around and look at, but a couple of destinations that are a must see.

Start your morning off at Mozart’s. The coffee from these roasters is delicious, and none of their baked goods disappoint. They have everything from croissants to gelato to miniature pies. And there patio is nestled right on the edge of Lake Austin, making it a perfect backdrop for chatting and just being for awhile.

Right down the road is Laguna Gloria – one of my favorite spots in all of Austin. This compound by The Contemporary Austin features outdoor art installations along a Laguna on the lake. The sculptures themselves are breathtaking. You can see some of the pictures I’ve taken there, here.

Bonus Romance: If you’re feeling like extending your date, the original Kerbey Lane Cafe is right down the street from the Laguna. Russell’s, another Austin original bistro is close by, too.

Mexican and Beer on Hamilton Pool Road

I feel a little bit like I’m letting you in on a family secret by telling you this, but my favorite date starts with taking the drive to the Southwest corner of Austin. The drive itself is on pretty stretches of road that are perfect for a little catching up.

Start your night at Verde’s Mexican Parilla – a Mexican grill where the margaritas are mostly tequila and the food is always fresh. I recommend getting the queso here always. Anything from their grill won’t disappoint, and their enchiladas are delicious. Even at peak times you usually won’t wait more than 25 minutes.

The next stop is Family Business Brewery. I’ve featured them on my website before – and they’ll fit great into a getting to know you atmosphere. They are a straight shot down Hamilton Pool Road from Verde’s, tucked into a patch of Hill country that is worth the short drive. They have a beer for every taste. Use the IB measurements they have listed to pick based on bitterness.

Bonus Romance: If you’re looking to make a day of your date, I recommend starting off at Reimer’s Ranch Park down Hamilton Pool. It’s an incredible place for hiking and exploring. Show off your adventurous side and get some exercise in at the same time.

Reviews: 25 Songs that Make Me Feel Things

I’m a person with a lot of feelings – so many feelings that I have a hard time just existing sometimes. So as a little bit of a defense mechanism I tend to go into a lock down mode. No feelings. No tears. Nothing gets out of here, nope.

But one of my favorite things about getting older is being okay with feelings. They all have a purpose. They all teach us things. For me, music is a way to get at the heart of those things. I’ve been playing piano and singing and dancing since scrunchies were cool the first time. So here’s a playlist that makes me feel all the things – because life can be great and you can still need to cry and reminisce and let the feels come. (Links included for those with music videos).

You can listen to this playlist on Spotify here.

25. Meant – Zach Winters

24. Black Beauty – Lana Del Ray (let’s be real pretty much all of her music can get at my feelings)

23. All I Want – Kodaline (I’ll be honest – its feature in the Fault in our Stars is a big part of this song’s feels for me)

22. Holocene – Bon Iver

21. In My Life – The Beatles

20. Wild Horses – The Rolling Stones

19. Stay – Rihanna, Mikky Ekko

18. No One’s Gonna Love You – Band of Horses

17. Colour Me In – Damien Rice

16. I Will Follow You Into the Dark – Death Cab for Cutie

15. All Again – Ella Henderson

14. Don’t Forget – Good Old War (This particular song got me through a amicable, but absolutely gut wrenching breakup that lasted months)

13. Down in the Valley – The Head and the Heart (This song has been played so much but I still get all of the feels from it. I REALLY do wish I was a slave to an age old trade).

12. Each Coming Night – Iron & Wine

11. Babe I’m Gonna Leave You – Led Zeppelin

10. Liability – Lorde

9. Cleopatra – The Lumineers

Bulletproof Weeks – Matt Nathanson

8. I Need My Girl – The National

7. Whispers – Passenger

6. As We Are Now – Saint Raymond

5. Gone Away – Lucy Schwartz

4. This Time – Jonathan Rhys Meyers

3. Stars – Grace Potter & The Nocturnals

2. Simple Man – Lynyrd Skynyrd (Save it – I love this song and I will NOT be dissuaded)

1. Every Time I Hear that Song – Brandi Carlile

 

And don’t worry – I’ll follow up tomorrow with something to help you smile, I pinky promise!

Thoughts: All the Little Joyful Things

I wouldn’t categorize myself as a happy person. I have a pretty dark outlook on the whole fate of the world and British humor slides into home for me most of the time. There’s been a lot of pain in my life for me to just bluntly accept that life is sunshine.

But I would say I am an incredibly joyful person. I think it’s a symptom of feeling every emotion very deeply within me. When I’m sad, I’m devastatingly so. When I’m anxious, there’s usually a panic attack headed to a theatre near you. When something makes me laugh, I laugh hard with no abandon.

Joy for me is taking a delight in the moment and savoring it. I find joy in making my pour-over coffee, in a stranger smiling genuinely at me in the store, at a really well done joke or one liner. It’s a spark of pure appreciation for the world around me.

There are so many things that are wrong with this world. There are political and cultural battles to be fought. There are wrongs to right and injustices to be brought to light. I hope that we are all the kinds of people that are aware of those things and fight for people.

But I also know that we can’t make it on the mission alone. There’s too much life that falls out of the purview of our latest cause. So in the moments when you can, I hope you’ll choose joy. It doesn’t make you a hypocrite to both know of suffering and celebrate little victories. It makes you a whole person. Whole people are the ones that change the world.

ATX Life: My Favorite Enchanted Forest

Violet Crown Trail

A little slice of enchanted forest running through the heart of the Greenbelt. 


There are a few separate swimming holes in the greenbelt – click the link above to check the water levels.

Steep Gradients

With sections of the trail reaching around 10% incline, this trail will get your heartrate up and is great for training.

Great Maintenance 

Some of the rockier trails around ATX can get you turned around – one of my favorite bonuses is the excellent planning on VCT.

ATX Life: Five Breakfast Diners for your weekend

As I continue posting about things that make me happy, I can’t forget breakfast. Growing up on breakfast for dinner and Mickey waffles has created a woman nostalgic for my breakfast foods – especially diners. My favorite diners in Austin are great for local fare and nostalgia to go around:

The Omelettry

This local spot is especially great at waffles and coffee. During peak breakfast times you might encounter a bit of a wait, but this Austin staple is worth staying around for a bit. They’ve recently made the move to Airport, and the service has improved because of the space.

The Magnolia Cafe

Our favorite location is the Lake Austin diner because of pure proximity, but you can’t go wrong with a Magnolia Cafe breakfast at either location. They have a diverse menu, high quality ingredients, and a wait that never lasts too long. My absolute favorite staple here are the Elvis Pancakes (served only from 11 pm to 11 am). As an added bonus – this is the place where Zach and I had our first date.

Kerbey Lane

Kerbey has locations all throughout Austin, a sprawling menu and several tweny-four hour options. The cinnamon roll pancakes were only a weekly special when I was in college but graduated there way into the main menu these last couple of years. I recommend getting them as a side no matter what you decide on as the main course.

Austin Diner

The diner coffee here is undoubtedly my favorite on the Austin circuit (you know, plain unpretentious unsuspecting coffee). The early bird specials are definitely nothing to sneeze at, either. The pancakes here are similar to the Mexican sweeter, chewier staples you can find at some of your favorite brunch spots.

Counter Cafe

Head to the downtown location for your favorite nostalgic diner vibes. All of the food at this Austin spot is local, fresh and tasty. Find all of your favorite diner favorites sans the copious amounts of grease. You can find more info on this diner (featured on the site before): here.

Thoughts: Annie

All About Annie

For the entire month of September I will be posting pics and causes that make me super happy to be headed in to my 25th year. Today I celebrate Annie, who came into my life as a suggestion from a therapist to help with depression after leaving my full time job. She’s a cuddle bug with a sweet soul that we adopted from Operation Kindness in Dallas (a no-kill shelter where we were living at the time). 

 

Annie was four when we adopted her, and had just had puppies at the beginning of the year. Her fur was matted, she was shrunk back in her kennel. I actually cried when I saw her because I could just tell that what she needed most in the world was to be loved. And we’ve gotten so much in return. She’s six years old now, and she’s been a little bit of hope for me on some of my worst days in my worst year. 

 

If it weren’t for amazing no-kill shelters like Operation Kindness and Austin Pets Alive!, sweet puppies like Annie (and our other furball, Dusty) wouldn’t have a chance. There are thousands of animals in need, and without no-kill shelters, they die waiting to be taken home in overcrowded shelters that lack funding to support the constant influx of animals. If you wnat to help solve the problem, you can make sure to spay and neuter your pets and choose adoption over going through breeders.

 

Adopting animals from shelters in your area is the most responsible way to expand your furry family – and a cause I hope you can support by donating at the link below:

Birthday Month! Coupons, More Posts in 25 days and more.

Fotor_15358314004667.jpg
This fortune says: Happy days are ahead of you. Suffering is over now. Things are looking up.

Since I was about 18, I’ve suffered from a relapse/remission immune disorder, major depression, and an anxiety disorder that’s probably sprouted up from the fact that everything can be going fine and then I get sick. And I stay sick. For months. So all of the carefully crafted things I’ve surrounded myself with go up in smoke just like that. When one day you’re up on your feet and the next week you can’t get out of bed, it’s hard to think of anything as permanent. Half of you at this point are thinking, “That’s a lot to deal with.” The other half are thinking, “She’s a lot to deal with.”

That’s fine, I’m not here to tell you about what it’s like to suffer from a chronic illness. I’ve lost friends. I’ve lost jobs. I’ve lost myself more than once. But life didn’t stop because I couldn’t do the things. I met the love of my life. I got married. I moved back to my favorite city. I became who I am. And I hate a lot of the things I’ve been through, but I love who I’ve become.

So this month, I turn 25 and I’m flippin’ ecstatic about it. I’m celebrating the whole month because there are times when I didn’t have the mental capacity to see 25 in front of me. I started this website at the beginning of my latest remission in April, and I’ve spent the last few months happier and healthier than I can remember being since I was a preteen.

The posts you see are really me learning how to not be afraid of getting out into the world, knowing that I carry a lot of scars. You’ll find hiking and restaurants and a few just random experiences that I’m grateful for every day. You’ll find photography to purchase that reflects the beauty of the world I’ve felt out of reach really often from the confines of my couch or bed.

To share in my celebration, I’ll be posting 25 posts in 25 days called The Birthday Series; you can find the 25 things I’m celebrating here. And as an added bonus, all the merch in My Invalid Life’s shop will be 25% off with the coupon BIRTHDAYGAL.

Thanks for being a part of this life with me and helping me learn to live again. 25 is going to be an incredible year.

-Madie