On a Personal Note: Magan in High School

Magan and Her High School Best Friends

My high school best friends and me before my senior prom. I’m in the maroon dress on the right.

There have been a few books that have really hit home for me or elements of them that I’ve related to so, so well. Just last week, I couldn’t stop thinking about Eleanor and Park because so many of Eleanor’s thoughts felt like I lived them. They felt real to me. This made me start thinking about what kind of character I would be if I pieced together all those different aspects of me.

So, hello from high school Magan. (With more pictures included, I promise.)

If you’ve been a Rather Be Reading follower for a while, you might remember the post I wrote about meeting my husband in honor of our 8th wedding anniversary. I met Dustyn when I was 16 years old. Before dating him, I had this touch and go relationship with my best guy friend. I would like him. He would think we should just be friends. I would move on. He’d want to date me. Things were complicated. (HA! If Facebook were around then, I wonder what my status would have said?)

why i related to the summer i turned pretty by jenny han

I think maybe because of that boy (who shall remain nameless), I related to Belly so well in The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han. I met this boy when I was in fourth grade. I went to a tiny, tiny school where my high school graduating class was all of 23 people. We saw each other all the time. I loved his mom. I knew he had kind of a wild side, but I liked him in spite of it. I would go so far as to say that sometimes he knew more about me than anyone else did.

There was this strong push and pull of — how is this ever going to work? There’s so much chemistry, but is it right?

I remember these aching moments of seeing him with other girls and feeling so helpless. (Conrad kind of made Belly feel the same way, yeah?) For us, the stars never did align, but all of those emotions are so relevant when I read YA. So many nerves and so much anxiety can be wrapped up in relationships, and it felt all-consuming.

relating to catching jordan on a personal levelSometime during my fall semester of my junior year of high school, I decided I would quit fretting about making that relationship work. If it was meant to be, it would work out. I spent more time focusing on my girlfriends, school, and sports. I was pretty actively involved in sports. I mean, when you’re in such a small school, you can’t help but participate in everything — even if you’re not the best at it. All tightly wrapped up in one book, Miranda Kenneally captured the tension and unease of loving your best friend in Catching Jordan as well as what it’s like to be a sporty girl. Now I wasn’t, by ANY means, as kick ass or awesome as Jordan. What I did relate to was the sense of belonging and community. My sports teams were always filled with much more drama and cattiness over playing time, but the bus rides home singing music at the top of our lungs always pulled us back together.

magan's high school sports banquet

Leslie (one of my BFFs, even today) and me at a Sports Banquet

book cover of My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Given that our school was so small and we all played on every team, it was only natural that my best friends also played with me. And even better than that…

Two of my best friends were sisters.

They came from a family of five kids. Going over to their house was always so much fun — an older brother that teased them, older sibling drama, having a sister super close in age, etc. I didn’t really know how that felt because I was the oldest and my younger brother and sister were 4 and 6 years younger than me. I soaked up every bit of time I could with them because I love, loved the dynamics of their family. While My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick was definitely more dramatic than Leslie and Anne’s house, it did make me reminisce about those days together at their house.

Fast forward to Christmas of my junior year and that’s where Dustyn comes in.

You can read all about how we met in my anniversary post, but I’ll just simply state that young love can be lasting love. I was super young when I met him (16) and super young when we got married (almost 19 – the summer after my freshman year of college). People were super worried I was making a big ol’ regrettable mistake, but I can honestly say, I’ve never made a better decision before. I don’t know how I had the backbone to stand up and do what I wanted at that age, but I did. And here we are.

Dustyn and Me: On a Trolley in San Francisco

Dustyn told me very early in our relationship (um, second date) that he loved me.

He was very aware of how he felt about me, but my mom was telling me, “You’re too young to say I love you!” For a long while, I told Dustyn I loved him in Spanish (“Te amo.”). He knew how I felt, but I needed some time to develop more than just a physical “hey, he’s cute” response to him. The lady who I think writes about this so, so well is the one and only Stephanie Perkins.

In Anna and the French Kiss, Anna and St. Clair obviously have an attraction. The conversation is great and their interests are so similar. He’s better for her than that d-bag she left back in the States. (See where I’m going here?) I related to the slow build of Anna and St. Clair’s relationship. I always said I wanted to marry my best friend. It took time to learn all those details about Dustyn, but just like St. Clair and Anna — we stayed up later than we ever should have talking, went to movies together, toured cities together, etc. (Above: We were on a vacation with Dustyn’s family that took us road trippin’ all over California that summer.)

Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door

And guys, much like Lola (in Lola and the Boy Next Door), I was pretty experimental with my hair. (Maybe you guys have picked up on that? I still am. For the majority of my life I was a blonde. Now I’ve played with my hair so much I have zero idea what color it naturally is anymore.) I remember dying my hair in my parent’s bathroom (when they weren’t home, mind you) and having no idea how it was going to look. Also: Lola is much more fashionable than I was, but um, I really tried to rock the bohemian look a lot back in high school. (Was that a “thing” back in the early 2000s or was I just really unfashionable?) I cringed a lot at some of the photographs I just looked at of myself, guys.


The Glass Castle and Eleanor and ParkFor much of high school, I wasn’t allowed to have a lot of friends over. We grew up in not the nicest house and we didn’t have a lot of room or money to feed tons of extra people. That’s definitely not a highlight of this period of my life, but it has made me very appreciative for everything I’ve got now. And even more appreciative for Dustyn. He came into our home and would help me cook and clean. I’m pretty sure every Friday started with him helping me tidy something up even though there were other more fun things we would have wanted to do. He never judged. He never said a word. It just was.

Looking through my entire list of read books, I don’t feel like many stick out as having gone deep into these nitty gritty details of a low-income family in a way that really hit me hard. But The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell certainly stand out from the crowd. I cried big, fat tears through some parts of these because of how well I understood. (Oh, and yes — The Glass Castle IS a grown up book! Also! It’s a memoir … and really, really good if you haven’t read it.)

For the most part, I was a really big nerd. I knew I had to study hard to get into college. (Meeting Dustyn who is … SUPERSMART … was a challenge because I always had to prove that I didn’t need his help with my calculus even though inside I was going “PLEASE DO THIS FOR ME.”) I was that girl who didn’t need much punishment other than being told someone was disappointed in me. That phrase right there, “I’m disappointed in you” did. me. in. It killed me. I walked a straight line and hated getting in trouble. I tried to be in every club and participate in every sport and make perfect grades. To be honest, I’m not sure how I survived putting all that pressure on myself. All of these girls had mountains of pressure on them, too, so I was very much like, “Yeeeeaaaah, girl. I understand!” (Pictured below: Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill, Just One Day by Gayle Forman, and Golden by Jessi Kirby)

Meant to Be, Just One Day, and Golden

So, that kind of wraps up who I was back then. I was a girl who had a close group of friends that didn’t have the nicest house or the coolest gadgets, who fawned over a boy who she never dated (probably because she was just too nerdy and studied too much), but fell in love at 16 with the boy she’d marry.

Oh, but I promised you more pictures. Fine. Here you go:

High School Magan

Left: Dustyn and I on vacation with D’s family (again), Right: Dustyn and I dancing at my senior prom.

Hope you enjoyed this little trip down memory lane and seeing me in high school.

Tell me a few books that reminded you of pieces of your high school self!

weekly feature to share the books magan and estelle are adding to their bookshelves each week

Our Joint Shelve It and DC Trip Re-Cap

weekly feature to share the books magan and estelle are adding to their bookshelves each week

As you guys are probably aware, Estelle + I were together this past weekend in Washington, DC. We had such a great time hanging out and discussing books, life, and seeing as much of the city as we could together. Never before have we been able to do a Shelve It (or any other vlog for that matter) together. We each brought along a few books to swap in person so we sat down for a while together and recorded the vlog below. Warning: we laugh a lot and are pretty giddy to just be hanging out. Some of you may have already watched the vlog because we tweeted it and shared it on Facebook, but our hang out isn’t official until it was shared on the blog, right?

Books Mentioned: 

+ The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler from Simon & Schuster — Jude’s father is sick. She spends the summer with him repairing his old 1961 motorcycle that causes his eyes to light up and for Jude to hope this will fix him. The only catch is they need a Vargas brother’s help repairing the bike — and Jude’s older sisters made her take a blood oath she’d stay away from all Vargas boys.

+ Golden by Jessi Kirby from Simon & Schuster — Parker has always done what she’s been told and never taken a risk. When the journal of a girl who died ten years ago lands in her lap, Parker uncharacteristically takes it and begins to read Julianna’s entries. P becomes fascinated with what happened to her and tries to solve the puzzle of what really happened to Julianna and Shane.

+ Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith — Estelle skipped everything on her reading list to begin this one last week. Before she even finished the book, she pre-ordered a finished copy for herself. It’s going down as one of her 2013 favorites so far, and I am so looking forward to reading it. I’ve heard nothing but good things so far, and E compares it to books written by Australian authors.

+ The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spading — Estelle reviewed this awesome book on the blog yesterday, singing its praises! Tara of Fiction Folio sent E a finished copy for her birthday and E is graciously lending it to me. Yippie! I love a book that dives into family issues and I’m excited E felt this book was so authentic.

<<< DC Re-cap >>>

magan and estelle together in washington, dc

Estelle woke up super duper early to fly to DC from NYC (4:30AM — I’m not sure my clock knows those numbers exist). I was already in DC with my husband, Dustyn, his parents, and my mom. We were there just to visit and tour the city. My mom and I had never been and while I’m not the biggest history buff, I really wanted to see some of our country’s most fascinating historical landmarks. It worked out perfectly that I got to see E this past weekend because for the first time I was able to give her the birthday present I brought along in person! 

Even though JetBlue tried to keep us apart with delays and hydraulics problems, E made it to the city! We jumped right into the site-seeing and went to the Newseum, a really awesome new museum that takes you through some important milestones in our history. Our favorite parts were the Pulitzer Prize photography area where the walls were covered in photos and they were playing a film with some of the photographers discussing why they took the photographs. (I cried. Some of these photos were so gut-wrenching.) They also have a 9/11 area with the twisted antenna on display from one of the towers and a short film of interviews with the news teams who bravely covered the news that day. It still doesn’t seem real — that this happened, ya know?

After the Newseum, we hung out at the house we were renting and made plans to have dinner with the adorable Sasha of Sash & Em. Guys, we love this girl. LOVE HER. She’s adorable and sweet and we love discussing books with her. Two and a half hours just flew by and we were so, so sad to part ways.

rather be reading meet up with sasha of sash and em

When we got home, we made the silly Shelve It vlog you saw above + had an awesome time with Ginger at GReads! in a Google+ hangout. So fun to relax and laugh and talk books with one of our favorite ladies. We were having some silly technical difficulties and G+ wouldn’t let us talk to our friend Elena at Novel Sounds. That was a major bummer, but we’re determined it will happen in the near future.

The next morning was really bittersweet as we had breakfast together at the cutest little restaurant/book store there ever was: Busboys and Poets. We really just couldn’t get over how ideal this place was — delicious food, amazing atmosphere, and a great book section where we found a very eclectic YA section. It was made for us!

photographs from busboys and poets in washington dc

We had to (very, very sadly) go our separate ways after breakfast. E took the train back to NYC and I continued to tour the city with the family. We sent countless pouty texts to one another about how sad we were. Guys, it feels like a break-up when we have to leave each other. Ugh.

There are lots more photos of us together, but since I just got home, I haven’t taken them off my camera yet (all of the above were shot with our phones). Those are coming soon, I promise.

Our little weekend hangout is over, but ahhh, it was the best weekend. Very much looking forward to our next reunion, which is hopefully much sooner than our last one in NYC (see our dinner with Alexa video here and read the NYC re-cap here).

october 2012 ya book release

Dear Teen Me: A Letter by Magan

magan and estelle write letters to their teen selvesDear Teen Me: Authors Write Letters to Their Teen Selves
Publication Date: October 31, 2012
Publisher: Zest Books
Pages: 192
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: weight battles, suicide, LGBT, parental problems, rape, relationships
Format read: ARC from Zest Books at ALA (Thank you!)

Summary: More than 70 authors write therapeutic letters to their teen selves, providing advice or guidance revolving around a variety of topics.


*Estelle and I each wrote letters to our teen selves in the format of Dear Teen Me. Stay tuned for E’s letter later today! Add DTM on Goodreads and Amazon.

Dear Magan:

It’s been almost ten years since you escaped the halls of high school, the ones that made you feel self-conscious and ugly. There was so much about high school that confused and overwhelmed you. You didn’t know how to stand up to be your own person. You wanted to impress everyone and strife or disagreements made you incredibly uncomfortable. Somehow you always felt that someone’s anger or sadness was a reflection of something you did wrong. You took everything too personally.

You participated in lots of sports – volleyball, basketball, and track – but you never felt good enough. You could never run fast enough, jump high enough, or shoot consistently enough. Despite trying your hardest, always, you felt the pressure to be greater. The summer before your senior year, you started taking diet pills. You thought that if you could just shed some weight and run faster, you’d be a better athlete and so many things would improve as a result of that: more playing time, camaraderie with your teammates, feeling like you were a useful part of the team.

All summer you dieted and the weight dropped off. You were barely eating anything. Your heart hammered inside of your chest. As a requirement for basketball season you had to go out and run 3 miles eighteen different times in the excessive Texas heat after volleyball practice was over. There were times you ran alone along those windy back roads and I can remember your heart seemed to stop beating sometimes. You would push through it, mentally telling yourself that if you could do this, nothing was impossible.

I wish I could tell you that losing weight made everything perfect. It didn’t. Your coaches did see improvement in your abilities, but you gained a sense of entitlement that left you even more hurt than before if you were benched. Being skinnier didn’t mean you had more friends. Your friends, the ones you had before you lost the weight, were still there and they were still the same amazing people. You realized that you didn’t want new friends. (Thank goodness because some of them, all these years later, are still good friends of yours. One of them is now your sister-in-law!) You didn’t become an all-star athlete. You didn’t gain scholarships based on your athletic abilities and you certainly didn’t get a modeling contract by losing weight.

There was a really awkward moment when your future mother-in-law (yep, you married your high school boyfriend!) discovered your diet pill problem. She begged you to quit taking them and listed all the problems they could cause. It was enough to scare you and make you stop. That wasn’t easy for you to do. You feared putting all the weight back on. You thought Dustyn wouldn’t find you beautiful. You were scared of what people (even strangers you’d never see again – people who probably didn’t even notice you) would think when they saw you.

I’ll be honest and say that your weight continues to be a struggle and battle for you. You’ve gone through ups and downs. My biggest piece of advice: learn how to eat correctly. Don’t be afraid of eating. You’ve lost a friend to anorexia. Eat fruits and vegetables. Figure out how to make healthy meals. Oh, and another thing: don’t fixate on the number on the scale. Dustyn will love you no matter what. He will be the best, most supportive husband a girl could ask for. He will always tell you that you’re beautiful, even when you’re not feeling like it.

Love is not measured by your weight or how skinny you are.

You have a big heart. You listen to people. You’re compassionate and empathize. These are things that matter. Don’t focus on trying to make people love you. Love other people. Be kind and considerate. Smile at strangers.

Never ever think that you’re not good enough and that your weight will change that.


the story of how magan met her husband

Eight Years Ago, I Said “I Do”

the story of how magan met her husband

Dustyn + Me.

I was a junior in high school when I met my future husband. I went to an itty bitty school in a town of 350 people (yep, you read that right). We didn’t have a football team because there was certainly no way we could fill the stands, have enough players on the field, and have cheerleaders to cheer on the team without recruiting people from nearby towns. Football is a big deal in Texas, especially high school football. If you’ve seen Friday Night Lights  you’re familiar with this.

Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose.

To fill the gaping football hole, I went with my best friend, Leslie, to her boyfriend’s games. This particular year, 2001, they were in the state playoffs. We had a basketball game the same night as their semi-finals game. We dribbled and took shots, knowing we had other places to be. In fact, I can’t remember if we even won that game or who we played. The details are vague – except I can remember what I was wearing that day. A blue turtleneck sweater and jeans. Nothing fancy, but the blue made my eyes pop.

We quickly packed into Leslie’s mom’s suburban and booked it to Houston for the game. Leslie had a couple of seats saved by her boyfriend’s brother, Dustyn. We scooted into our seats just in time to see the end of warm-ups and the game begin.

Here’s where I have to tell you a slight side-story.

A few games prior to this semi-finals game, I met a guy named John. He was sarcastic and I was feisty back. But not in that flirty-cute kind of way. In the my-guard-is-up kind of way. Though I talked to him quite a bit, there just weren’t romantical feelings there. I knew the night of the semi-finals game that his intention was to ask me out on an official date. Intuition told me it would happen when everyone cleared away at halftime for bathroom breaks and snacks. (Just to make things completely clear, I should mention that John was Dustyn’s best friend. Womp womp womp.)

It turns out, his seat ended up being right behind mine. Awkward.

I hadn’t turned down many boys in my day. I was only 16 and let’s be honest, I didn’t have suitors knocking down my door left and right. I was just a normal girl who studied and played sports. My plan of attack for getting through the evening: avoidance. I spent the whole first half talking to Dustyn and Leslie. We laughed and talked so much that I missed a good part of the game. Dustyn joked that he was going to hip bump me off over the railing I sat beside. (In hindsight, this seems so silly and juvenile, especially since he was 20. However, his friends say the hip bump was his tell for when he liked a girl. Flirting at its finest, folks.)

Halftime came ’round and Leslie scampered off to talk to friends sitting in another section for a bit. She whispered, “Good luck” to me as she walked away. John did indeed try to talk to me during halftime, but I think we both knew that the spark just wasn’t there. Dustyn didn’t leave the stands so I continued my conversation with him. I was stunned when Leslie returned and halftime was over. Time had passed by so quickly. The conversation had flowed so effortlessly.

Leslie leaned over and asked, “How did it go?” I told her it didn’t and that things weren’t going to move forward with John. “But,” I said, “I think Dustyn is really interesting.”

Photo of us courtesy of Shannon Cunningham Photography

Leslie has this way of getting really excited and clapping her hands together incredibly fast. She had this mischievous look on her face, and I could tell she was anxious to talk to Dustyn to see what he thought of me. I just knew there was no way. I mean, I was 16. What would a 20 year old guy find interesting about me? Sure I was smart and had matured much more quickly than a lot (ha, not that there were a lot) of other kids in my class, but still – ME?

Unfortunately, the Buffalos lost their game that night. The refereeing was terrible and things didn’t seem fair. While I should have walked away with a broken heart, I clung onto each second I could spend with Dustyn and Leslie in those stands. I don’t remember the final score. I can’t recall the final play. I do remember getting in trouble after the game because I didn’t meet my parents where I said I would. (They had driven up separately to the game.) I was grounded for two weeks – couldn’t make any plans and had no phone privileges.

My fantasies of Dustyn calling were dashed. How in the world would I ever get in touch with him now?

This is where the best friend comes into play. She knew that every Friday night my parents went to my aunt and uncle’s house. As I got older, I opted to stay home or go out with friends. This particular Friday night turned out to be a stay-at-home night. How could they restrict me from using the phone if they weren’t home? The phone rang. I answered. It was Leslie calling to “chat” from Dustyn’s parents house. This had never happened. I should have suspected something was up, but things never clicked for me until somehow, miraculously, I was on the phone with him.


I had to have an awkward conversation with my parents after that, ya know, about the whole “he’s four years older than me” thing. I was so nervous. Again, another hurdle to cross.

Insert another side story: Months before I met Dustyn, I had talked to a guy who was 19. My parents absolutely refused to let me date him. There was no way. They didn’t trust him. Said he was way too mature for me. Thought his intentions were bad. How in the heck was I going to convince them that Dustyn — even older — was a good guy? They hadn’t met him.

I remember being in my mom’s bathroom, helping sort laundry, when I decided to approach the subject of a date with Dustyn. It went so much easier than I could have hoped. I asked. She gave her permission. (I think she was also thrilled it was a double date with Leslie and Dustyn’s brother, Derryk). Here’s the twisted part. Dustyn’s uncle introduced my parents. Despite my assumptions she wasn’t familiar with who he was, I was dead wrong. She knew the family, knew they were good people.

magan and her husband dustyn

The day of Dustyn’s undergraduate graduation from UT, two months before our wedding. Oh, how we’ve changed!

I’ll keep the rest short because I could ramble on and on about this boy and how much I adore him. Our first date included going to my favorite Mexican food place, Casa Ole, a trip to the mall where I scurried around looking for a Christmas gift to buy Dustyn because I didn’t know he bought me one, and to a showing of the first Lord of the Rings movie. To this day, we still argue about when we first held hands. I didn’t remember a single thing about the movie other than how much I liked him. (Re-watching it later felt like seeing it for the very first time.)

The day after our first date, I saw him again. He told me he loved me. You guys, I know I dislike insta-love in books, but I have to constantly remind myself that I am a living example of this. Though it took me a few months to say it back to him, I knew I had fierce feelings for him. I was Dustyn’s first for everything: first girl he held hands with, kissed, told that he loved. God willing, I’ll be the only.

Today, July 31st, we celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary. We finished our college degrees together, bought our first house, moved to California for my job, moved back to Texas where he supported me starting my own business, lived in an apartment for a couple of years, and then bought our second house. We’ve currently have two amazing dogs, Jules and Camy. This man, he’s a good one. He makes me laugh when I least expect it, he’s our diligent dishwasher when I make dinner, and can turn my most moody days into the happiest. I’m so looking forward to spending the rest of my life with him.

To celebrate our anniversary, I want to share a few books that really stand out to me — couples that made me reminisce falling in love with Dustyn, young love that if were real, I hope would last.

anna and the french kiss, love and other perishable items, catching jordan

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo
Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

Here’s to insta-love, hip bumping, and believing in young love.