Monday, June 12, 2017

San Francisco Redux: Day One

San Francisco was an absolute dream. 

Kyle and I traveled to the Golden State for a few days back in March, and I wanted to share a bit about the experience. We stayed at a lovely Airbnb in the Inner Sunset neighborhood, within walking distance of gorgeous Golden Gate Park. 

We took an early flight out of GR, picked up our rental car, and headed to Inner Sunset. With a few  hours to kill before we could check into our Airbnb, we explored the neighborhood a bit. Our first stop was Arizmendi Bakery, a small, worker-owned co-op with some of the most wonderful pastries and best (vegan) foccacia. 

After lunch we stumbled on The Great Overland Book Co., a used bookstore with creaky floors and shelves overflowing with old books.

Then, we walked to Golden Gate Park. I'd read about the bison paddock online and I wanted to see if I could catch a glimpse of my favorite animal. The bison did not disappoint. I could have stood there for hours. 

After wandering the park for a bit, we decided to head to the Golden Gate Bridge. I have a thing for bridges and this is one of my favorites. The views were absolutely gorgeous looking out over the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. I loved watching the surfers down below and catching a glimpse of Alcatraz in the distance. 

By this time we were exhausted, so we headed to our Airbnb. We ate burritos at a local bar for dinner and then called it a day. Not even 24 hours in, and I was already in love. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

What I'm Reading: Winter Favorites

It's no secret that I love to read. I keep a book in my purse, always have an audiobook playing in my car, and I stream audiobooks on my Kindle while I do chores. Basically, if I have a free (or not so free) second, it's spent with my nose (or ear) in a book. 

For the past five (!) years, I've shared what I'd read throughout the year in one large post in December. This year, I'd like to try sharing a few of my current favorites throughout the year as well and use it as an opportunity to get recommendations from you. I love having a constantly growing To Read list!

So, without further ado, here are a few of my favorite reads from 2017 thus far: 

The Mothers by Brit Bennett 

This debut novel is beautifully written and very engaging. The author expertly weaves the stories of three high school friends and how their lives become forever intertwined. I found myself deeply invested in the lives of these characters and wasn't ready to let them go when the story ended. 

The Whole Town's Talking by Fannie Flagg

I've never read anything by Fannie Flagg (author of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe) and had dismissed her writing in the past as being too folksy and predictable. I was wrong. I really enjoyed this whimsical story about a small Midwestern town and its residents, both the living and the not-so-living. I appreciated the mixture of magical realism with down-to-earth (so to speak) characters and an ending I did not see coming. 

Year of Yes by Shonda Rimes

I picked this book up for #beyourownbookclub and was honestly a bit skeptical. I've been feeling frazzled lately and was all, "Shonda, I get it, but I could really use a Year of NO." Then I started reading and fell in love. Shonda Rhimes writes to you like she's your best friend, sitting you down for a nice long chat with a glass of wine. Her insights are wonderful because they're real and flawed and encouraging. I especially love her assertion that sometimes, you have to say "yes" to saying "no."

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

I've waxed poetic many times about my love for Bruce Springsteen and his music. I was a bit hesitant read his autobiography--if I didn't like the book, I didn't want that to ruin his music for me as well. I decided to take a chance on the audiobook (read by the author, of course) and loved it immediately. Springsteen's mastery of storytelling is not limited to song lyrics. 

Ms. Marvel (Vols. 1-6) by G. Willow Wilson

In recent years, I've become obsessed with graphic novels. It's one of my favorite formats to read and I absolutely love when young library patrons specifically ask me for recommendations. This new Ms. Marvel series has captured my heart and imagination. Kamala Khan is Muslim, a child of immigrants, and a true super hero (in more ways than one).


What are you currently reading? What must-reads do I need to add to my list? 

If you're interested in learning more about what I'm reading, 
check out #whatmollyreads on Instagram 
or follow me on Goodreads.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

My Perfect Day

Inspired by Kaylah over at The Dainty Squid, I decided to write a bit about what "a perfect day" looks like to me. I've long been a daydreamer, so when I'm having a difficult day, I like to let my mind transport me to times and places that I enjoy the most. It's like a mini brain vacation and it almost always makes me feel better. 

I have a many ideas of what constitutes a "perfect day"--days spent up north on Lake Michigan, days spent wrapped up in blankets reading in my loft, vacations to far away places, hiking and tacos with friends, the list goes on and on. But for this post, I want to focus on what a perfect "normal" day would look like: a day all to myself where I can do exactly what I want. 


My Perfect Day would begin with me sleeping in just a bit and waking up slowly. The day would be sunny and breezy. I'd eventually make my way out of bed and put on a comfy outfit, topped off with my Cubs hat. I'd take Henson on a long walk through the neighborhood, breathing deeply and letting him stop and sniff every single tree on our route. Then I'd drop him off at home, grab my book, and walk to a coffee shop in my neighborhood. After getting a large iced coffee, I'd find an outdoor table and settle in to read or write for the remainder of the morning. 

When I'd inevitably start getting hungry for lunch, I would pack up my books, get a coffee refill, and start walking. I'd most likely stop to browse at my favorite neighborhood shops, Rebel.Reclaimed and Books & Mortar. Despite being starving for lunch at this point, more than likely I would find myself stopping for macarons at Le Bon Macaron on the way home to save for dessert. 

Lunch would be a cheese and tomato sandwich on my porch with an iced tea, a book, and my dog to keep me company. (Noticing a bit of a pattern here?) After lunch, I'd go take a yoga class. Then, I'd come home and do some sort of home improvement project--most likely either painting a shelf or hanging pictures or going through my closet. At some point during this project, Kyle would come home. We'd make plans to go out to our favorite Mexican restaurant for dinner and poke around a used bookstore or I'd let Kyle talk me into seeing a movie. 

After our date, we'd come home and stay up late watching The X-Files reruns on Netflix, playing cards, and munching on homemade popcorn. We would talk and dream and make hypothetical travel plans and laugh at dumb jokes. I would fall asleep feeling content and happy. 

...and that's my perfect day. It's quiet and simple, but exactly what refreshes my spirit. 

What's your perfect day? 

Friday, March 24, 2017

#mittenhiking: Rogue River Park

Our latest Mitten Hiking adventure was at Rogue River Park in Belmont, Michigan, less than 10 miles north of downtown Grand Rapids. We were greeted with a gray and misty morning (as most of our hikes tend to be) that has me really looking forward to the sunshiney days that hopefully lie ahead. 

We were able to get about 3 miles out of this hike by doing multiple loops and taking a few side trails. It's quite flat and takes you along the banks of the Rogue River, through a fish hatchery, and gives you the option to link up with the White Pine Trail. With its close proximity to the city and easy trails, Rogue River Park would make a wonderful family-friendly hike!

Monday, March 20, 2017

#mittenhiking: Pickerel Lake

I've shared before a bit about #mittenhiking, a weekly hiking group my friends and I created where we explore trails in and around Grand Rapids. I post about it frequently on Instagram, but I want to get in the habit of sharing regularly here as well. 

I'm going to start with my favorite trail in the GR area, Pickerel Lake in Cannonsburg, Michigan. Pickerel Lake is part of the Frederic Meijer Nature Preserve, located just northeast of downtown Grand Rapids. Trails weave along the shoreline and throughout forests of pines. A recently renovated boardwalk allows you to walk along the lake and is the gateway to roughly five miles of trails. Be prepared for conquering quite a few hills, but know that you'll be rewarded with gorgeous lake views at the top!

As I mentioned, this trail is a favorite haunt of the Mitten Hikers. We've hiked it in both the spring and fall months, and I've done a few solo winter hikes. (Pro Tip: If you're hiking in the winter, be prepared for extremely icy trail conditions.)

Pickerel Lake is beautiful at any time of year, but I'm certainly looking forward to the days of more sunshine. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A Woman's Place


I'm truly grateful beyond words for all of the amazing women in my life (and there are many). I come from a family of independent, intelligent, and deeply caring women who always encouraged me to take my own path, stand up for myself, and march to the beat of my own drummer. The women that surround me in my daily life offer me words of advice, make me roar with laughter, and remind me to breathe. 

I am uplifted by these women daily. I carry their passions and love and hopes and dreams in my heart. I strive to make them proud. Their confidence and bravery make me strong.

This year, today is also A Day Without a Woman

It's upsetting that we need this. It's upsetting that we need to go on strike in 2017 to communicate our value as human beings. It's infuriating to be constantly bombarded with messages and articles and commentary and unsolicited advice about how we should act. How we should look. How we should dress. We're told we're too fat, too skinny, we wear too much make-up, wear not enough. We're not confident, we're narcissistic, we're too feminine, we're too butch. We're sluts, we're prudes, we're not assertive, we're too bossy. 

"Cover up."
"Show a little skin."
"Asking for it."
"Give us a smile."
"Honey, you're evading my question."

We're told to hate our bodies, hate other women, hate ourselves. Be ashamed.

So today (and every day) we fight back. We recognize our contributions and our value. We strike from all labor (paid and unpaid). We don't make purchases (except to support local, woman-powered business). We wear red in solidarity. We educate. 

Today, my library is open. I am at work. I am here to serve, to be a resource to the community, to offer a safe place. I am dressed like Rosie the Riveter, proudly wearing a red bandanna. Yes we can. 

I am striving daily to be bold. To take up space. To speak up. To not back down. I am channeling the power and gathering strength from the women who have come before me. Who spoke out and stood their ground so that I could have a future of opportunities. Be bold for change.

"And where the words of women are crying to be heard, we must each of us recognize our responsibility to seek those words out, to read them and share them and examine them in their pertinence to our lives. That we not hide behind the mockeries of separations that have been imposed upon us and which so often we accept as our own...For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us...for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken." 
 ::From "The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action," Audre Lorde

I'm proud of you. I stand by you. I support you. Always. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

From the Shadow to the Sun

I have multiple posts sitting in my drafts folder that I just can't seem to finish. They're all things that I really want to write about and I know that the words are there somewhere deepdeepdown, but I just can't seem to find them. Nothing I write seems right and all of the words colliding in my brain cannot find meaningful order. 

I've found that I'm really struggling post-Inauguration Day. In the days after the election, I was ready to mobilize, ready to resist, ready to fight. I didn't feel the deep sense of despair that seemed to be permeating my social media feeds. In retrospect, I think this was a classic case of denial. I wasn't ready to believe that the worst case scenario had actually happened. (Which I realize is extreme privilege in and of itself.) And the more the policies of hate and extremism and xenophobia that are enacted, the more hopeless and lost I feel. 

I am finding refuge in the pages of books. Reading is all I want to do (even more so than usual). Graphic novels, biographies, literary fiction, memoirs, YA lit, audiobooks, poetry--the list goes on and on. I'm falling head-first into worlds that offer a respite from the chaos of my current one, but also provide stunning and insightful context that cannot be ignored. 

The poetry of Maya Angelou and Audre Lorde and Langston Hughes give me words to repeat when I am struggling. Still I rise, still I rise, still I rise. It gives a heartbreaking perspective to the fight for equality that has been ongoing for years and years and years with little resolution and makes me want to scream, "Why weren't we listening?!"

The infallible story of John Lewis's stand for nonviolence and civil rights told through the series of graphic novels, March is a powerful reminder to stand on the right side of history. Kamala Khan: Muslim, the child of immigrants, and a true super hero (in more ways than one) tells her story through the comic series Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson and truly shows the importance of representation in all mediums and genres. 

The stories of powerful, kind, and intelligent women told in the books Brown Girl Dreaming, Hidden Figures, The Notorious RBG, Year of Yes, and Shrill remind me to be brave, to speak up, to take up space. These stories make me proud to be a woman. 

The fictional worlds created by Nicola Yoon in Everything, Everything and Zadie Smith in Swing Time weave stories of women trying to navigate life and love and heartache and happiness. The Earth End trilogy by Gillian Anderson and the classic tales of the Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery provide different kinds of escapism--in an ancient land that never existed and in the simplicity of yesterdays that (almost) did--give me moments to smile at the improbability of it all. 

And so I continue to read. To give myself the grace of solitude for now. To resist through words and writing and listening and understanding and learning from the voices of those who have been silenced for so long because of their sex or their race or their religion or their desire to go against the status quo. For them, I am eternally grateful. For them, I will strive to do better, to be better. 

One day I will march. One day I will yell. One day I will fight. Today, I will learn. Today, I will listen. Today, I will try to understand.

Today, I will read. Tomorrow, I will rise. 

Reading is the highway from the shadow to the sun. 
Maya Angelou