Almost two weeks ago, I got a call from my uncle letting me know my dad had been admitted to the hospital.
As I’ve mentioned here before, the relationship I have with my dad came to a halt about three and a half years ago. I haven’t heard from him since then, or really heard anything about him during that time.
This also means I haven’t really talked to anyone on my dad’s side of the family, and to be honest, I was just getting to used to the feeling of the silence. I know how that sounds, but there’s just a lot to deal with and a lot of pain there. The best thing for me to do was to cut it out.
But the other side of truth to this is that I have lived in fear of getting this call. I’m getting to that age where things happen to the people we once thought were bulletproof.
Upon first glance, my dad’s situation (which I’m going to try and keep as private as possible) seemed semi-serious. But within just 24 hours, things for him sounded much darker. I was told my dad wanted to hear from me, so I called him, and did everything I could not to just burst into tears. I didn’t know if this would be the last conversation we would have.
And then I jumped on a plane to get to his hospital room. During my flights, I thought a lot about my dad’s life. He’s overcome many obstacles, and I’ve always thought of him as someone who doesn’t take the traditional route. He’s a hustler; a doer.
I get that from my dad. My dad has the rare gift of being an intellectual, while simultaneously storing lines from “Napoleon Dynamite” and “Office Space”, among many other movies and sketches. He loves to play chess competitively, and he’s good. I learned from the best.
But most of all, my dad is a beautiful writer. It’s the ultimate gift of the Phillips’ family. We have a way with words. I guess you could say this is also our downfall. I won’t speak for all of the family, but I know my dad and I are willing to say what others won’t, and we are not afraid of controversy.
You can thank my dad for this blog, and for the 1,000+ times my name has been published. But I wondered about his dreams, his goals… Did he live the life he dreamt of?
I landed in Chattanooga on Friday morning, and caught a Lyft to get to the Erlanger Health System that was about 20 minutes away. I was trying to see my dad before he was wheeled into surgery.
Upon arrival, I saw my dad in his hospital bed. He was awake and talking, although there were so many people in his small hospital room: two of my uncles, my aunt, my grandma and grandpa, two of my cousins, my great aunt and uncle, and my dad’s partner.
I haven’t seen my dad in at least five years, and if I had to guess, it’s been 20 years since I’ve seen many of the people in that room – if not longer. The mood in the room was optimistic, which isn’t quite the message that was conveyed to me 24 hours before. But, I wanted to be upbeat for my dad.
Although the information was at least 3rd-hand, I was told there was a chance my dad may not survive the surgery. If he did, he may not remember any of us, or perhaps he wouldn’t be able to talk or walk.
Over the two hours I had in the room, we met my dad’s Doctor, who told my dad he was going to be fine, and that his main concern was a little bit of weakness on the left side of his body. However, that could be treated with physical therapy, he said. I also met the surgeon, who marked an “X” on my dad’s body where he would make the incision. He told us the surgery was expected to take around 2 hours – which was much less time than I was originally told.
As a family, we joined hands and prayed over my dad, and I kissed him goodbye before he was wheeled away.
I was terrified. I just wanted my dad to make it through the surgery. I’d packed a backpack with books, magazines, snacks, and my iPad to keep me busy while I waited at the hospital. But all I wanted to do was stare.
As I tried to eat lunch, my grandma filled me in on what I’d already heard: that my dad and his partner were living in total secrecy, they won’t give anyone their address or allow any visitors, that my dad has been very sick for at least a month, and that my dad’s partner was refusing medical care that could have saved my father sooner.
I know that there are three sides to every story, and frankly, I didn’t really want to hear any of them. I told my grandma to stop, and let’s just hope that my dad would be ok.
It wasn’t long before my dad’s partner tried to explain her side of the story, and again, I told her I could see both sides, but there’s nothing we could do about it now except just hope my dad would be ok.
I know these times are tough for everyone. And I know everyone has their own way of coping. I have no intention of playing the blame-game here, as I truly do feel for all of us who care for my dad.
About an hour into surgery, we got a call saying things were going great. Everyone had left but me and my dad’s partner, so we went in search of a plug to recharge all of our devices. I haven’t ever gotten along with her, but this was seemingly going okay. I honestly felt bad for her – I know she truly cares for my dad and I can’t imagine what this has been like for her.
Around 8:30 pm, we got a call saying the surgery was over, and my dad was doing well. We just had to wait for a call to visit him in ICU (this is protocol after the type of surgery my dad had).
When we got the call, we followed the hospital maze to reach our destination. I’ve never been in the ICU. I am not a fan of hospitals, or anything medical really, and I was nervous. I’d only visited one person in the hospital before and it was not for anything too serious.
But this particular ICU looked really nice. My dad was in the first room, right by the door. We met his night nurse, Dianne, who had this amazing southern accent that carried. “Come talk to ’em!” She said to us.
I approached slowly.
My dad opened his eyes and waved. He gave us a thumbs up when we told him they did a great job. I found myself staring – staring at his chest just to watch it rise and fall – noticing my own breaths going deeper.
The nurse showed us some of his scans – before and after surgery – so we could better understand what was happening. I felt like I’d learned more in those 48 hours about hospitals, MRIs, and surgery than I ever thought I’d learn.
Finally, Dianne told us to go home and sleep. She assured us that my dad was stable and that he would be in great care. I knew she was right. My dad’s partner gave me a ride to my hotel, which was just a few minutes away from the hospital, and I was thankful to climb into bed after being awake for nearly 24 hours.
The next day, I just planned to see my dad. His partner called me in the morning and said she got an update from the nurse that we didn’t need to rush to see him since he would still be sleeping. She offered to pick me up around lunch, and I agreed.
When she got to my hotel, she quickly told me that she would serve as the main point of contact for the hospital and she took the single allotted PIN number that would allow anyone else to get phone updates directly from the nurses about my dad.
Of course, I thought, I mean she’s his partner.
When we got to the hospital, my dad woke up quickly, and held our hands. He talked to us, and was making jokes, and of course, spouting off movie lines. His day nurse was proud to report that he was still doing well, and he was following all commands, and said to have no problems with his vision.
But as the day continued on, I grew very annoyed at the situation I was seeing. There was lots of hovering, with a near-obsessive watch over my dad (not by medical professionals). There was also a lot of questioning happening – why were the nurses doing this? Why did the doctor suggest that?
I know there are parts of healthcare that can be subjective. But I also know that I really don’t know anything about how to care for someone after surgery. I trust that these doctors know what they’re doing, and the nurses will care for my dad the best they know how.
I felt like my dad needed rest and he wasn’t going to rest if there were people standing around his bed, talking to him, and asking him questions all day. One of my uncles was on one side of the bed while my dad’s partner was on the other side of the bed and they got into a decently loud conversation regarding my dad’s symptoms before he was admitted to the hospital.
While my uncle was trying to point out that he told my dad to get help right away nearly two months prior, the partner was trying to defend herself, saying, “Well I didn’t have control of his phone and HE didn’t tell me!”
I felt it was inappropriate and unnecessary to be having this discussion, especially in front of my dad. In the four hours that I sat there, I learned a lot about myself:
- I don’t want to be in ICU and have people arguing over my symptoms right in front of me.
- I don’t want anyone hovering over me or touching my face (now or if I’m in the hospital)
- I don’t want anyone doing things that don’t follow the rules (I.e. Feed me food if it has not been approved by my doctor)
- I continue to be amazed at medical care. Period.
My dad’s partner noticed my silence and probably my clear aggravation. “Are you ok?” She asked. I told her no, I was annoyed. “Are you just wanting to be quiet?” No, I said. And then I left.
I left the ICU, I left the hospital, and I caught a Lyft back to my hotel. I didn’t think it was right for us to be keeping my dad awake all day – we’d been in the ICU for 4 hours at that point and my dad’s partner had also promised me a little time alone with my dad. But I had been warned by others: she never leaves his side.
About an hour later, she texted me asking if I was ok. Again, I told her no, I was annoyed.
Later that night, she said I could call her if I wanted to get an update on my dad. This is when I started to mentally make a list of all the ways she was going to control this situation:
1. Be the main contact/have the PIN number for the nurse
2. Only receive updates thru her
So, I called, and she was still at the hospital, right by my dad’s face, going on hour 10 of being there. I wondered if she pulled a Wendy Davis and got a catheter, going for that filibuster all night. Her update was that what the doctors/nurses were doing wasn’t enough to help my dad so she had to spend her day researching remedies.
She wanted to know my schedule for the following day (red flag for control/manipulation), and I told her I didn’t know. She said to text her (control/manipulation), so I said I would but knew I wouldn’t. I wanted to see my dad alone.
She let me talk to my dad on the phone, and I apologized to him for leaving. “That’s okay…” He said, in a weak voice. “Are you going to come back tomorrow?” He asked. I told him yes, I’d be there first thing. “Okay,” he said. “Love you.”
Even writing this brings tears to my eyes. My dad has never been one to be openly affectionate. He’d told me loved me more times in the last 48 hours than he had in possibly 10 years. That’s just how our relationship worked. I just had to know that he loved me, but hearing it was an entirely different feeling.
As I went to bed that night, my mind was spinning. Over the years, I’ve learned that I have a bit of an obsessive personality. I get excited about an idea, and then it’s all I think about and do, and for one reason or another, it’ll get dropped because I’m juggling a million things at once.
I wanted to help my dad, and although I don’t know anything medical, I thought maybe I could offer to help him and his partner with their business. With my dad being out, and her helping, things were likely at a standstill. I thought about helping them there, or could I talk to my boss and help take care of my dad in Tennessee? The wheels kept turning.
But the other part of this story is the reality that my dad and his partner have built walls around themselves. None of us know where they live, and they work out of their home. I don’t know why or exactly when they moved to Tennessee.
How much can you help someone who doesn’t want help, let alone outside contact from others? I wondered if this experience would show my dad just how much we all care for him and love him. I wondered if it would allow him to let us inside the walls. But I was about to find out just how much my presence wasn’t desired.
The next morning, I woke up around 6:30 to pack my things, eat, check out of the hotel, and catch a Lyft to the hospital. There was an Ironman competition that morning, so it took nearly 20 minutes to get a ride. But I caught sight of the bike portion of the race, making a mental note of it so I could tell my dad.
I got to the ICU a little before 9am, and spoke to my dad’s day nurse. She said he was still doing well, but she knew of some things that happened on previous shifts that weren’t approved by the doctor, and she wouldn’t allow those to happen again. I thanked her.
I told her I wanted to let my dad sleep, so I sat in a chair and flipped through a magazine. Around 9:30, she said she was going to wake my dad up for a test. But when she tried to wake him up, not much happened. He was so tired, so sleepy, he wasn’t going to be able to take his test. He would also have to get a feeding tube.
The doctor arrived shortly and said my dad needed to rest, so any visitors needed to be quiet and not wake him. He told me my dad would probably be asleep for 12 hours. This meant I wouldn’t get to talk to him – wouldn’t get to say goodbye.
So, I sat. I read a book. I greeted my grandparents and my uncle. I was upset, and I was frustrated. There was nothing I could do for my dad, but simply hope that things would turn out well for him.
His partner arrived that afternoon and immediately wanted to know how I got to the hospital. I don’t think she liked that I worked independently. Later, she asked me if I was mad at her. I told her no, but that the situation the day before made me upset. I didn’t think we should be speculating things about my dad’s symptoms or questioning the doctor. She basically took that time to tell me that my opinion was nice, but it wasn’t welcomed.
We were there, in the ICU room with my dad, still asleep, and she had the audacity to shut me out. I sobbed. I had dropped everything to be by my dad’s side; to show him I love and support him, and I had hoped that with every fiber in my body, that my presence did even an ounce of good.
If I’m being honest, I don’t know if I did anything good that weekend. Still, almost two weeks later, I am completely torn inside and I’d be lying if I said a day has passed that I haven’t cried.
After his partner made me feel like shit, I grabbed my bags and left the hospital. There was nothing left to say, and seeing my dad in that hospital bed not hearing me, is a moment I can never erase.
It’s worth mentioning that my dad’s partner doesn’t have a relationship with her family. No one. At all. And I would venture to guess that she doesn’t know what it’s like to see one of her parents in this situation. It ain’t easy.
I cried for my entire Lyft ride to the airport, through security, and once I got to my gate, I found a corner and cried. I cried so hard that someone from TSA came to talk to me to see if I could calm down.
The truth is, how could I be any semblance of okay after what had just happened? In just four days, I’d received the news about my dad AND all of this drama that comes along with my dad’s side of the family had come crashing into my face.
I felt alone; I feel like I don’t have anyone rooting for me; and I was scared shitless that I’d never hear from my dad again. I knew one thing for a fact: I wouldn’t be getting updates from his partner anymore.
Two things stopped me from crying for my six hours of travel home: my trusty Khalid album, and the Dallas Cowboys’ burger kiosk at gate A21 in the DFW airport. It’s the second time I’ve eaten there, both times I was upset, and both times I’ve abandoned my vegan lifestyle to get the Cowboy Blues burger and it is so worth it.
When my assumption came true in the coming days and I’d received no update, I called the hospital myself and talked to a nurse. She told me she would tell my dad I called. Once my dad was moved into a regular room, though, they wouldn’t provide updates without the PIN number.
His partner had the PIN – and I get that. But if you take the PIN, especially since she has been by his side 24/7, then you need to share that information. I didn’t travel across the south for fun – I am my dad’s daughter, and that’s going to be how it is forever. I am in this.
“So I’ll be coasting, roller-coasting through my emotion…” -Khalid, Coaster
I texted my dad on Friday, just wanting to let him know that I hoped he would text me once he was able to use his phone. He wrote back, and then I got another message from his phone that was from his partner, saying he wasn’t using his phone. .
It was confusing and hurtful – I felt like she was trying to let me know that she would be reading all of his texts (or possibly deleting some). I also got really excited when I saw a message from my dad, only to see it wasn’t really from him.
So I texted her cell phone asking her to please not text me from my dad’s number, and she told me, “Stop causing chaos. It isn’t helping.”
I’ve learned a lot these last few weeks about holding your tongue. I’m not even going to say here what I wanted to reply to this message with.
In case you’re wondering, chaos is defined as “complete disorder and confusion”, which makes no sense. I was actually very clear in saying that I did not want to receive text messages from her on my dad’s phone.
I asked her how I was causing chaos.
I have yet to get a response, possibly for two reasons: 1. I was not causing chaos, and 2. Because she blocked my number (that’s what she did to my grandma).
So, I haven’t heard from anyone in almost a week. And I’m the one that’s left confused. Because I went for two reasons: 1. To support my dad, and 2. To do what was right for me. I could not live with myself if something happened to my dad and I didn’t do everything I could to help him, even if it just means being there.
And that’s why my heart continues to hurt. I’m scared. His diagnosis was given to me via text, which I thought was inappropriate, but it also wasn’t an accurate medical description of his situation.
My cousin is nearing the end of his studies in neuromedical school, and he offered up his brain to help me understand. But I didn’t have much information to go off of, and I obviously will not have any say in the future of my dad’s care.
I want to stop for a second here and say that I’ve spent the last week questioning if I should even write this blog post, or if I should put a password on it. Because the truth is, my family is just going to hate me more once this goes live. I’m going to be called a piece of trash and they’re going to threaten to sue me, and perhaps I’m risking my dad ever talking to me again.
But I’m hoping I’m not the only one that’s been through a tough family + medical situation. I’m hoping there’s someone out there that can relate; someone to help me keep my chin up. Because this has been the most difficult time of my life.
I’ve never understood the saying “Between a rock and a hard place” until now. Because I know this isn’t just tough on me. I know my dad has been so brave and strong, and I know my entire family has really pulled together to support him.
I’ve tried to go through the motions of my life – tried to go to work, go to dance, work on my jewelry… And I know that’s a luxury that I have. I know my dad just can’t ignore this situation. But the truth is, none of my usual remedies for dealing with stress or depression have helped.
I just cry at in-opportune times and wear my LSU hat everywhere trying to hide it (which wasn’t easy after they lost their damn HOMECOMING game).
I am writing this mainly hoping to gain some semblance of inner-peace, and also to let my dad know that I care for him, and I hope to hear from him soon.
The situation is tricky; just because someone is sick doesn’t make our problems go away, but no matter what, I’m going to be there for my dad in whatever way I can be. I would do that for anyone I care about.
I’m not entirely sure what the road ahead will look like for my dad. But I know he is going to need love and support. And if I can offer that; if I can make him laugh after a doctor’s appointment, or send him some nurse-approved treats, or take him on the vacation of a lifetime, he can count on me being there.
Since I haven’t been able to talk to my dad, I’ve been taking to Twitter many nights before bed, putting my thoughts into the universe. I know he won’t see them, but it makes me feel a tad better knowing my love is floating among some radio wave and perhaps it would reach my dad.
Some of this probably sounds insane, and I know it’s a long, long way of explaining the thoughts and feelings that have been inside of me for weeks. But the ugly truth is that there is NO correct way to act or feel when you find out someone you love needs serious medical care.
Members of my dance studio have come to my side in a way I have never, ever expected – they’ve offered wine nights, coffee talks, movies, cocktails, information, phone calls, and when I’m on the brink of tears they’ve simply said, “I support you.” And that is not something I have ever experienced. These women are phenomenal, and to be honest, I’d probably still be in bed from weeks ago if it weren’t for their encouragement. If you’re reading this: thank you.
I have also gotten so many caring messages and phone calls from my mom’s side of the family – they have prayed for my dad and for me, and perhaps that’s how I’m still standing. Their support has been amazing.
So, the journey continues. I know that when my dad is ready, we’ll talk, and I can figure out the best way to help him. But until then, I’m just sort of floating in this sea of unknown and all I can do is hope that he continues to heal each day. I know he is tough as hell, and he knows I love him.
During one of the conversations I had with my dad in the hospital, he admitted he keeps up with this blog as a way to see what I’m doing. While I hope this post doesn’t cause any grief, I do hope that in the coming posts, my message is clear: I’m here. Hoping to hear from you.
One of my goals for 2017 was to clean out my apartment. Not clean up, no, actually go through every little nook and box and get rid of things, and also do a better job of the things that I brought into the apartment.
My tiny place is 650 square feet, including my patio, and I hate feeling like it’s cluttered. I’ve already gotten rid of lots of clothes (H&M gives you 15% off coupons when you donate clothing/fabric), tossed old papers, and sold books and DVDs to Half Price.
I even started a little pile of things to sell on eBay.
I wasn’t entirely certain people still used eBay, but I had a few items that were too nice to simply give away. Over the past few months, the pile has grown, under the assumption I’d eventually take pictures of all of these items, resurrect my eBay account (which I got in high school), and actually list these things for sale.
I wasn’t sure that day would actually come, until I stopped talking to a guy I liked, and got the boot from one of my best friends. All of the sudden, I had LOADS of time. How do you think I read all of these books for Blanche’s Book Club?
Over the years, I’ve become a bit of a master at compartmentalizing my problems with men. Sure, it still hurts (I am not a robot), but I know I’m still a catch, and my life is good. I’m good.
But, losing a friend? That is something that cuts even deeper. That flat out hurts – and I realized it’s not something that’s easy to talk about.
In July, the Lenny Newsletter published an article from author Janelle Brown called “Why I’m Saying Goodbye to Toxic Friendships“. She captured perfectly how I’ve been feeling:
It’s shocking when a friendship dies that way: It feels impossible that you can experience total platonic love and devotion for another woman — BFFL all but tattooed on your heart — and then, abruptly, realize that you didn’t know that person at all. That your friendship was not what you thought it was; that it was just a way-stop for the other person on their path to bigger, better things.
I’m an only child and I come from a small family. I have always dreamed of being a part of a big family someday, and even being in a sorority in college gave me some of that comfort I craved. I used to hope I could marry into a big family, but those dreams have since faded. When the relationships with my own family have also nearly dissolved, I have come to rely on my friends more than ever.
But as much as we’ve romanticized forever friendships and sisterhood – not every friendship is going to be that way. Of course, I’m always thankful for the time we had.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself over the past two years, it’s that not only do I hang on to the past, but I also don’t let shit go. And that’s not good, admittedly.
It’s time for me to start letting things go.
So, I turned to my eBay pile and started listing the items (after recovering my password and realizing that yes, people DO still very much use eBay).
Quickly, bids started coming in.
Today, I’ve sold and shipped four items from my pile and am $200 richer. Money aside, I realized that I shipped off my baggage – some of it is in California and Vegas now.
And it feels good. Clothes, jewelry, mementoes of my past are no longer within my reach.
When I did the Dating Detox a few weeks ago, one of the steps was to get rid of any items like these. But, I didn’t have any. You see, this isn’t the first time I’ve taken to eBay to sell my baggage (someone now has a Mignon Faget knot ring from my college boyfriend).
But none of what I’m getting rid of today has any romantic connection. I’m clearing out the finished friendships and the family ties. No more boxes of hurt feelings.
Of course, I can’t get rid of memories – the good or the bad. But at least I’ve cleared out what I could, and I know I’m making room for the happy stuff.
I still have several more items to list on eBay. And I look forward to shipping them off to new homes – and let myself feel a little bit lighter inside and out.
Tell me I can keep the door cracked open, to let light through
For all my running, I can understand
I’m one text away from being back again
But I’m moving on and I’m getting over
-John Mayer, Moving On and Getting Over
Last week, I took a trip home to Indiana to visit some old friends and family. It had been 18 months since I’ve been back, and I was really looking forward to it.
I had three big things on my to-do list during my six-day trip: 1. Honor my friend Cheryl by participating in a Crohn’s Walk with my mom, 2. Get answers for a romantic relationship in-question, and 3. Visit my friend and her son.
Item #1 happened basically as planned, although there seems to always be secrecy and planning that happens behind my back and then – SURPRISE! – I arrive and it’s not what I thought it would be. Whatever.
Item #2 is a toughie. You see, I have had a little bit of a crush on this person for, well, half of my life. I am really lucky to call him my friend, first, but I know things were starting to inch toward the gray area and I needed to know where we were headed.
Long-distance relationships are difficult, and I have no intentions of getting involved in one unless there was a clear means to an end. One thing I wanted to know was if he planned on staying in Indiana forever.
If so, that would be something I’d have to seriously consider: would I move back to give this thing a chance? I’m happy to report we talked about this right away. I’m not-so-happy to report that his answer was yes, he’ll be staying in Indiana foreevvverrrrrr. Ouch.
Now let me say this, I’m definitely not married to the idea of staying in Austin, Texas forever. In fact, I’m already considering my next move. But I know I’m not equipped to move back to Indiana. I haven’t done all I need to do!
There were other wrenches thrown into the mix as the week progressed – things that showed me, clearly, a romantic future is just not in the cards for me and this guy. I don’t want to say much more than that; I do hope he’ll still be my friend for years to come.
It’s sad, in fact I’m still pretty bummed out about it, but I’m glad I saw things for myself and got the answers I needed before we traveled too far down the rabbit hole.
If you’ve been reading around these parts for awhile, you know that I’m kinda (ok, really) bad at dating. I have a history of ignoring red flags and getting myself stuck in some sticky situations. So, even though this didn’t end in love this time, I have to say I’m really proud of myself for standing up and not just “going with it” when I know something doesn’t align with my values. I know what I want for myself, and I’d much rather be single than try and force something that isn’t right.
So, it’s a bittersweet win.
Now, item #3 just plain didn’t happen for reasons I’m not really sure of.
I’ll say that as much as it pains me to admit it, sometimes people just grow apart, no matter how long or deep a history they have. And maybe that has happened here.
Regardless, my heart is still hurt, and I have been on the mend (read: sleeping way too much) since my return. Loss, of any sort, isn’t easy.
Aside from those things, I spent some quality time with another friend – we got some good laughs, drank delicious wine, and we endured some interesting challenges along the way.
We joined up with some old friends from high school and I laughed until my cheeks hurt over inside jokes that possibly only we think are funny. We went to see Guster and Dispatch in concert, and there were literally fireflies dancing above us, and it was the Indiana I’ve romanticized since my departure 14 summers ago.
As I always say, Indiana will always (!) hold a special place in my heart – I went through a lot of things growing up there. But when I boarded my plan to Texas last Thursday morning, every ounce of me knew that things just weren’t quite the same. Even if Texas isn’t my forever home, I know Indiana isn’t.
I spent 12 years in Louisiana, and although it didn’t necessarily feel like “home”, I accomplished so much there, and it really shaped who I’ve become. Texas, well, hard work got me here, and it gave me a fresh start. It’s an opportunity that I still sort of can’t believe I have.
So, cheers to old friends, but also, to looking ahead, wherever that may be.
A few months ago, my boss requested the entire office figure out their holiday schedule so we could make sure all of our clients had coverage (#AgencyLife). I was sitting at a table in our office lounge with a few of my coworkers, when one of them asked me if I was traveling home (to Indiana) for the holidays.
Umm, no, I told her.
She gave me a semi-disgusted look, followed by a sharp tone: “So, do you just never see your family?”
My coworker is from Chicago, and recently moved to Austin with her husband. For every single holiday, they use precious PTO days (and weeks) to travel home to see both sets of parents.
While I respect the closeness of their family, it made me wonder why her and her husband didn’t have a desire to start their own traditions. Especially when we live in such a cool city!
I haven’t lived in Indiana for 13 years. For the first few years, I traveled home for Thanksgiving and for Christmas, and it was always fun, but it was also expensive and very tiring. Once I started staying in Louisiana, and now Texas, I found I can start my own traditions with my friends here – or even hosting my friends and family here.
Sure, as a kid, my family celebrated the holidays with traditions we’d formed over the years – some things as small as making sure each stocking had an orange and nuts in it – and some as big as traveling to certain states. And while old traditions are really fun, I think it’s pretty cool to start new ones.
All of this got me thinking a lot about traditions – everyone has their own and they all help them celebrate the holidays in different ways. So, I reached out to my friends on Facebook to see how they celebrated the holidays. Here’s what they said:
- We watch “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” every Thanksgiving
- Every New Year’s, we watch the complete Star Wars series and eat junk food. We have done it since I was born, but we have to start at 10 am
- Every New Year’s Eve, we take our Christmas tree to the center of the backyard, load it with fireworks and light it on fire! We’ve been doing this for at least 20 years.
- As you know, my dad is a hunter. Since we own land, our Thanksgiving dinner would often consist of what my dad killed that morning.
- On Christmas morning, we always have homemade cinnamon rolls and mimosas. My mom makes the cinnamon rolls from scratch and I make the mimosas!
- Growing up, we would always eat fondue on New Year’s Eve.
- My sister and I always open our gifts to each other on Christmas Eve, and open all other family gifts on Christmas day.
- When i was younger all of the women used to have a cookie exchange. Everybody would make a different kind of cookie, put them in individual bags for everyone to take home leaving enough to eat at the little party, and we would all spend the evening eating cookies and drinking coffee and milk it was an amazing tradition!
- We have a Swedish Tea Ring for breakfast, made the day before from the recipe in the circa 1950 edition of the Betty Crocker cookbook. We’ve made this thing for like 40 years or something, collectively. I’ve been making it since I was a kid. Still, no one has memorized or rewritten the recipe and we have to pull out that old crumbly book every year.
- My mom still has boxes from gifts me and my sisters got upwards of 20 years ago, and she reuses them for gifts every single year. She still has the box my 8th grade 5-cd-changer stereo came in. It’s kind of a running joke when we open a classic box, such as the box for the “digital” alarm clock I got in 5th grade. That box is so janky, but it keeps coming back.
On Thanksgiving we open our house up for the military members that didn’t get to go home for the holiday. On Christmas Eve I round up my minions to bake cookies to put in their stockings.…How cool, right? I’d love to hear what some of your traditions are, whether they’re ones that have always been with your family, or ones you’re hoping to start!
My Pic of the Week is of me, and if you couldn’t guess from how similar we look, my beautiful mom! She flew to Austin from Indiana to visit me for the entire week of Christmas, and we really did a lot of fun things while she was here.
I had to work on that Monday, but she was able to do some shopping while I was at the office. Monday night, we hit up some TexMex at Lupe Tortillia (the shrimp tacos are on point!).
On Tuesday, I really wanted to make it a festive day, so we kicked things off with Christmas shakes at Shake Shack before hitting the ice rink on the roof of Whole Foods in downtown Austin. We used to ice skate together all the time when I was younger, but it’s been at least 10 (if not 20) years since I’ve been on ice skates. I was actually REALLY worried about us falling and breaking something or losing teeth.
But, shockingly, after skating around the rink once holding on to the rail, we both ventured off the wall and were skating like pros! Okay, not like pros, but we were doing great, and we didn’t even fall once! I’m still basking in the glory of that. And, it was really, really cool to be skating right in the heart of Downtown – during a sunset! Beautiful!
After ice skating, I surprised my mom with tickets to Zilker Park’s famous Trail of Lights – nearly 3 walking miles of Christmas light displays. While there were a TON of people there, it was really cool. They had Christmas-themed light displays, but they also had a Beauty and the Beast display (my mom’s favorite) and a Where the Wild Things Are display, among many others. It was neat!
On Wednesday, my mom treated us to an afternoon at Viva Day Spa. We had manicures and pedicures (complete with chocolates and wine), and organic facials. It was so, so relaxing, and I’m serious when I say that it was the BEST facial I’ve had. My mom even bought me some of the organic products they used on my face, including a Licorice Root serum that I’ve been slathering on daily, ever since! Good skin, here I come!
After our pampering, we drove to Lake Austin, where Mozart’s Coffee & Desserts hosts an annual Christmas light show! I’d heard wonders about this light show, but it was PACKED. I mean shoulder-to-shoulder people, all waiting for a light show that was synced to holiday music (if you’re following me on SnapChat @OrangeJulius7 you got to see most of it). Even though it was chilly, and we had to wait an hour to see it, the coffee and cheesecake was good, and the show was pretty dang cool.
On Christmas Eve, we stayed home (I’d had my fill of being around people) and watched Christmas movies, and enjoyed lots of wine. Of course, Christmas Day, we opened presents and ate way too much food – and my mom got me season 3 of House of Cards on DVD, so we binged on it and watched the first half of the season. Oops!
Saturday, we ventured back out, and I took my mom to The Oasis on Lake Travis. We enjoyed a wine tasting at Lakeview Winery, had beers at the brewery, and ate Mexican food at The Oasis Restaurant. It was a great day, and it even started to get chilly outside!
Unfortunately, my mom’s travel back to Indiana was less than stellar. As I write this, my mom is STILL sitting in the DFW airport, waiting to get on a flight home. Because of all the bad weather in Dallas over the holiday, more than 700 flights had to be rescheduled.
While sleeping in an airport definitely stinks, I’m glad she is okay. For more information on the storms in Dallas, or for ways to help the Dallas victims, visit the Dallas News.
I hope everyone had a great Christmas and is gearing up for New Year’s this week! It’s going to be a good one – I can feel it!
Whether you’re spending the holidays with family, friends, or both, the chances are likely you’ll need a cocktail to get through one more round of dominos with the grandparents or flip through that dusty photo album with your mother-in-law, for the 11th time.
Or, maybe you’re like me, and looking for any excuse to get a sip! As a kid, my dad used to make special drinks for the holidays — drinks we could all enjoy — that simply consisted of cranberry juice and 7Up. We called it a “Cran-Up,” and I always felt so special drinking it out of a festive glass.
The holidays are always so hard on any healthy diet, but they don’t have to be. Earlier this month, Shape Magazine released a list of “Low-Calorie Holiday Cocktails” and they are absolutely fantastic! Below are some of my favorite twists on this year’s list:
The Pomegranate Mojito
1/3 cup light pomegranate juice
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 ounce rum
1/4 teaspoon Stevia or sugar
1/2 cup champagne
In a glass, add pomegranate juice, lime juice, rum, and sugar. Mix well. Fill the glass with ice cubes and top it off with champagne and pomegranate seeds.
Note: I’m not sure how they can call this a “Mojito” given that there’s no mint in the recipe. Add a fresh kick to it by muddling a few fresh mint leaves and stirring them in.
Rosemary Gin Fizz
3 sprigs rosemary
1 small lemon, juiced
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 1/2 ounces gin
3 ounces club soda
In a small drinking glass, muddle the fresh rosemary, lemon juice, and honey. Fill the glass with ice, then pour with gin and top with club soda.
Not a gin fan? Replace it with vodka (lemon vodka would be delicious, too).
Apple Cider Moscow Mule
2 ounces ginger flavored vodka (but plain will work too)
2 ounces apple cider (we love homemade!)
1 small lime wedge, juiced
Ginger beer to top off, to taste
Cinnamon to sprinkle
In a copper mug, add the vodka, apple cider, and lime juice. Fill the glass with ice, sprinkle cinnamon over the ice, and top off with ginger beer. Stir well and garnish with an apple slice and cinnamon stick.
…And there you have it! What are your favorite things to sip on this holiday season? Follow me on SnapChat @OrangeJulius7 to see what’s in my cup at any given moment.
Is it just me, or is this holiday season just FLYING by? I feel like everything is coming up so fast and I’ve got so much to do before it’s over!
Nonetheless, it all starts with putting up the Christmas tree, right? Yes. I think every year, that maybe THIS year, I won’t put up a tree. Because… it’s annoying. You’ve got to dig it out, put it together, untangle the lights, and slap on the ornaments in some sort of organized fashion.
It takes forever, and it never really looks the way you’d hoped, yet we do it year after year without question. Well, my mom acted like I was crazy for not wanting to put up the tree — and given that she’s coming to visit me for the holiday, I supposed I should probably not act like the Grinch.
So, I got the tree out, but was scared shitless that the mouse in my apartment (who is either gone or still chillin’ in the lap of luxury), would be waiting for me in its branches. So, I basically dumped the tree parts onto the apartment floor and left it sitting for two days in a pile.
The weird thing was, I only saw 2/3 of the tree. So where the fuck was the 3rd part? I called my mom, asked her if she recalled seeing a rogue Christmas tree during my move. Nope. I was convinced I got so drunk when I took the tree down last year that I’d thrown the 3rd part — the tree top — down the chute. That’s when you know you party; you just assume you got drunk and did something WAY stupid.
But after hours of searching my 600-ft apartment for the remainder of a 9ft tree, I threw the other parts of the tree across said apartment in a rage. And out flew part number 3. Ta-da! Time to get this party started!
Per tradition, I turned on the Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting special, and let Al Roker kick off my cheer (did anyone else catch it when he accidentally said “breast”?). I put the tree together, got the lights on, and basically threw the ornaments on in no order whatsoever. I wanted it done and done.
In two hours, my tree was done, I’d hung the stockings, and put a wreath on my tree… and I even put out a festive centerpiece on my island. It’s Christmas, y’all… now, if I could only get my shopping done…
We are just a few days away from Thanksgiving and I’m so, so excited! Thanksgiving means the official start of the holiday season, and of course lots of food and drink, but I’m also looking forward to donating my time Thanksgiving morning.
On Thursday morning, my best friend Sheena is joining me to help Operation Turkey, which is an organization that will be delivering turkey diners to approximately 8,000 homeless people on Thursday. You can see if Operation Turkey is in your city; if not, you can still make a donation that will help those in need!
Sheena and I will be helping to pack the hot meals that will be delivered — we are on cranberry sauce duty. I cannot tell you how much it means to me to have my friend by my side while we do even a small part to help those who need it most.
Our upcoming volunteer opportunity got me thinking about other, simple ways to give back during the holiday season. I know you probably have charities you already give to — which is awesome — but there’s so many opportunities to give out there, and some of them are easier than you think!
One thing that’s been on my mind is the military. I feel for the families who have loved ones still overseas, and I also think of soldiers who possibly don’t have family back home to show their support. The AARP website has created a great list of ways to help the troops and veterans all year long.
One really easy way to give? Shop! Many companies have the one-to-one model, where if you purchase an item, a second item is donated to someone who needs it. How easy, and AWESOME! A company I stumbled across last week is donating beanies to the homeless. All you have to do is buy a beanie, then you get a new hat and so does a homeless person — visit the website to check out their selection of beanies.
Also, shop using Etsy. Many Etsy store owners give a percentage of their sales to charities, so look for certain shops that donate to charities you love. You’ll be able to check Christmas gifts off your lists while giving back at the same time.
Keep your eyes out for “UberSleigh” this holiday season. In Christmas’ past, Uber has held events asking participants to bring todays to donate. Uber and its drivers then donate the toys to children all over various cities. Very cool!
At the very least, perhaps donate to your local food bank, or adopt-a-family. A little bit can go a long way, and it feels so good to help someone, even if it’s something small. I’d love to know how you’re helping this holiday season — leave a comment and spread the word!
Fall is slowly starting to creep in, and no matter what the season, I’m always looking for fun ways to try new things, without hurting my wallet.
While I love wine, I think it’d be really fun to host a beer tasting at your home this season (or during any season, really)! It’s super easy, and your guests will love it.
Depending on how you want to host it, you can provide as much, or as little for your guests. Love to cook? Great! Or, host a potluck and everyone is in charge of a dish or an appetizer.
Want to provide all the drinks? Cool. But this can absolutely be a BYOB event, as long as people bring beer, and contribute it to the tasting.
When you go to Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, or any specialty grocery store, they’ll often let you build a six-pack, so you could get a ton of different beer without having to buy several cases (not that it wouldn’t get consumed, I’m sure).
Provide enough glasses or cups for your guests to taste the beers, and you can even download and print beer tasting scorecards for each guest (get them right here).
- Giant, soft pretzels
- Cocktail meatballs
- Smoky Parsnip Crisps
- Bacon-Blue Cheese Sandwiches
- Roasted Buffalo Shrimp
As for the actual beer tasting portion of the evening, it can be as formal or informal as you wish. A proper beer taste is 4 ounces, and is poured into a flat cup (no tilting to avoid foam). Swirl the glass before smelling and sipping, and a bucket for your guests to dump unwanted beer would be appreciated (even though I’m sure ALL the beer will be delicious).
This, of course, could be a wine-tasting, or any type of tasting, depending on your guests and your taste. The thing I love about tastings, is that it gives you something to talk about with people you may not know, and there’s no wrong answer — if you taste the beer and it’s chocolately, then it’s chocolatey!
While the beer and food will probably be plenty of fun, feel free to add to your night with games or trivia. And of course, don’t let your guests drink and drive. Feel free to use my Uber code for a free ride: hollyp1093ue
It’s fall, y’all — cheers!
* * *
“I need to talk to someone about financing a building.”
The clerk looked Charlie up and down; from his miniature blond mohawk to his worn Chuck Taylors. It was the look Charlie always got; because he was just a kid in South Dakota.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
“Hoffe?” she asked, eyebrows raised. “Any relation to the painter?”
“Yeah,” Charlie sighed. “He’s my father.”
“Must be proud,” she said. “He’s nearly painted this whole town.”
She pointed to the waiting area outside the glass offices.
“Wait there,” she said.
Charlie sat down and hoped there was no one at the shop who wanted a tattoo. When his name was called, he walked into the office and sat next to the candy dish. He told the woman what he was hoping to do and she scowled at his left arm; the one covered in psychedelic designs.
She gave him a few building options, but listed even more problems. All of the buildings had to be brand new or completely renovated to agree with local tattooing laws. “New” meant money and “makeovers” meant even more money. She suggested he stay put for a few more months to save money. Charlie asked if she wanted a tattoo.
Three months later, Charlie walked briskly into Tucker’s with a grin on his face. Sara was there; she didn’t look up from filing her nails.
“Today’s my last day,” he said.
“I got my own place. No more Tucker’s; no more sharing a sign.”
“Why leave now — you’ve done pretty well here,” she asked.
“I know, but I’ve always wanted my shop, my address, my sign.”
Sara shrugged and got back to her nails. Charlie waited in his corner and spent free time packing his things. He tattooed a semi driver who wanted a nude Elvira figure on his shoulder.
“Good work, kid,” the man told him.
Charlie loaded the Corolla with boxes and supplies and drove home. He opened the door to the other half of his house and setup his tools. It wasn’t a shop on The Strip or near South Beach, but it was his. He opened a box of neon tubing and hung the square in his front window. He plugged in its cord and rolled the switch. “TATTOO” lit up the entire room; a blue and orange glow.
He hadn’t talked to his dad in a good week. His heart was beginning to cool from even trying. But he couldn’t think about that now, his work was cut out for him. The new location brought a new batch of tattoo virgins. He hoped they’d get addicted like he was and return over and over again. He’d done a wolf for the lady next door and a cross for her boyfriend. He’d started a “Starry Night” rendition on the arm of the garage band singer on the corner. He was still eating noodles, but he thought less about it.
He called his dad mid-week.
“Dad, you know I don’t work at Tucker’s anymore.”
“Oh, so you called for money?”
“Nope. Actually, I was calling to tell you to stop by my shop soon.”
“Your shop? Since When?”
“Since…well, since awhile. I’ve been building clients and doin’ okay.”
“That isn’t really what I meant when I said you should look beyond Tucker’s.”
“But this is what I wanted… you should think about stopping by.”
Charlie knew his dad was disgruntled, but he tried not to think much about it. Only Charlie knew what was best for him and he was just glad he really didn’t need the money from his dad. He knew his shop wasn’t up to his father’s standards; it probably never would be.
Later, Charlie was in the middle of a sketch — a thorny rose for the woman bartender in the city — when a truck pulled up. Charlie kept working. It was Charlie’s father. He approached the screen door and stood.
“You okay?” Charlie asked.
“Sure, son. Why wouldn’t I be?”
Charlie opened the door to the shop. His father stepped inside with caution as if the floor would fall in. He slowly gazed at the posters on the walls and looked the bartender up and down.
“Well, this is it,” Charlie said, gesturing around the room.
“Okay, well do you have time to give me a tattoo?”
Charlie’s eyes grew wide.
“Sure,” he said. “You got somethin’ in mind?”
I’m always trying to figure out different things that make people compatible — horoscope signs, personality tests, age, family situation — but what about birth order?
Turns out (after Googling), there’s actually a TON of information out there on this! An article in Women’s Day lays out the characteristics of each birth order “type”:
- Firstborns: Organized, ambitious, and dominant when it comes to relationships
- Middleborns: Good at compromise, however some can be secretive
- Lastborns: Less responsible; less likely to take charge
- Only Children: A lot like firstborns; responsible and mature
Yes, I made this handy chart for your reference. The best matches are Oldest/Oldest, Oldest/Youngest, Middle/Middle, and Only/Middle.
Only children are an interesting breed — I am an only child — and according to the aforementioned article, how only children act in relationships is directly related to what “type” of only child they are. Are they independent and responsible like Older children or are they spoiled and needy?
Depending on the type of Only child you are, that determines your match.
An article from e-Harmony has a little more information about what birth order can offer to your relationship:
- Firstborn: reliable, no guesswork when it comes to relationship; however, they may need help when it comes to spontaneity.
- Middle: makes a good romantic partner; willing to work hard for a happy relationship; however, will typically try to avoid conflict.
- Youngest: Less likely to conform; comes up with creative solutions to problems; may expect others to take care of them.
- Only Children: dependable; sensitive; seeks perfection.
What do you think? Have you had any experience with birth order matches – do they work?
A few weeks ago, I got a Facebook message from my uncle, my dad’s brother, saying he read my post about my nonexistent relationship with my father.
He told me it was obvious that I was leading an unfulfilling life and the only way I would ever be satisfied, is if I consulted Jesus.
This is the same Uncle who called me a bitch years ago, because I’m a liberal.
What would Jesus do?
Nonetheless, his message got me thinking about religion. I’ve never really been religious, as I feel I don’t know enough about different religions to pick one that suits me — although Buddhism sounds appealing.
According to Google (the highest power there is), a religion is an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence.
So really, that could be anything.
A few weeks ago, a coworker was telling me that she got married just three months after dating her now-husband because there were no “questions.”
They are Mormons, so they don’t smoke or drink. To her, she said that made it easy.
“I didn’t have to wonder how he would be if he got drunk, because we don’t drink,” she said.
Having dated an alcoholic, this did sound rather appealing.
But it’s impossible to say that any religion is just going to make a relationship perfect.
After all, I’ve had an affair with a man who had very large religious tattoos. Supposedly, he was a strict Catholic. Still a cheater, though.
I recently joined “Coffee Meets Bagel,” a dating app that looks through your Facebook friends and tries to set you up through mutual people.
On my profile, it asked about religion. I put the usual: Not religious, but spiritual.
What does that even mean?
I do believe in an afterlife, a higher power, reincarnation, and karma.
Most of the men I’ve dated have been Catholic, but I’ve never been with someone really serious about it.
In college, I dated a guy who would say he felt guilty after we had sex. He would say, “Ugh, I regret that,” right after we finished.
It did wonders on my self-esteem.
I suppose that since I’m questioning where I stand on the religious front, it’s directly related to the types of men I date.
I don’t think I could date someone who was really strict into any religion, since I wouldn’t understand it.
I like brunch on Sundays; not church.
But if a person is really devout in their faith, I’d hope they’d be with someone who was just as devout.
After all, religion affects lots of factors in life, in marriage, and it often dictates where and how you can get married.
I’m not against religion at all. But I’ve never met someone that was really true in their faith.
Any religious person I’ve met is filled with just as much hate as the next person.
Call me a hippie, but I’m a firm believer in love and kindness.
I may skip out on Sunday service, but I’m a volunteer and a donor. I smile at strangers, and when I can, I pay it forward, Starbucks’ style.
I want to date someone who’s equally kind, and won’t lie to me.
I appreciate my uncle looking out for me on the religious front, but I’m pretty sure he cheated on his wife, so there’s that.
He can keep Jesus, and I’ll just go with love.
It’s been 10 months since I’ve talked to my father. I haven’t seen him in two years, and it’s been about 10 years since I’ve spent a holiday with him.
I don’t have his address (it’s somewhere in Kentucky), and the last e-gift card I sent him for his birthday went unopened (and I kept getting automated emails reminding me about it).
Shortly after my 16th birthday, my dad bought me a car, took me to lunch, and told me he was moving out. He left that night.
I can’t and won’t say that I had a bad childhood. I didn’t, and I know my parents worked really hard, and sacrificed a lot to make sure I had the things I needed.
In fact, my dad and I have mostly had a friendly relationship over the years. We have a lot in common; we are both writers, techie-nerds, and we love to laugh.
But I wish he would have been there when it really counted — to scare the shit out of every guy I dated, to teach me how a man should respect a woman, and to give me confidence in my achievements.
My dad is a subject I told myself I’d never touch in this column or on my blog. I know he’d hate me for it.
But it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that a woman with dating issues is usually suffering from daddy issues, too.
Multiple studies over the years reveal that women without a solid father figure are more likely to be desperate for male attention, sexually promiscuous, have an unplanned pregnancy, and perhaps go through a divorce.
For years, I never thought I had these problems. I actually thought I’d beaten the statistics — I didn’t have daddy issues!
But the dots started to connect.
I’ve dated men who abused or manipulated me; I had an unplanned pregnancy, which resulted in an abortion, and I have terrible self-esteem.
I don’t recall my dad ever being happy for me or proud of me. Graduating from college, getting a job, buying my own car… none of those things ever earned his approval.
Many times, they seemed to piss him off.
He started setting rules that made it so we couldn’t see each other; bringing up past court battles with my mom, or saying he doesn’t drive on holidays.
I spent years working around his rules; I just wanted him to support me and love me.
But last summer, I’d reached my breaking point and I finally stood up for myself. I told him the words I’d let build up inside me for years.
And in return, I got silence.
I’ve been through therapy, and am still trying to resolve the question that haunts me daily: if my own father won’t talk to me, love me, or be proud of me, why would anyone else?
Even though we are both adults, I hope that he can understand my feelings, tell me he loves me, and we can move on as a family.
No one can fulfill the relationship a daughter has with her father, and I’m still wishing that ours can be resurrected.
If you’re able to see your dad this Father’s Day, or even talk to him, thank him for being there when it really mattered.
Not all of us are lucky enough to have that option.