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Healthcare, tears, and TSA

There is no proper reaction to finding out your loved one needs care.

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.

A Tweet for my dad.

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.

Me and one of my cousins visiting my dad.

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.

The glass ceiling in the hospital cafeteria.

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.

Scored the window seat.

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.

What?

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.

The Cowboy Blues burger at Gate A21.

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.

A text exchange between me and my dads partner.

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).

A wish for my dad.

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.

Thank you to the ones who cared for my dad!

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.

Truth Tweet.

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.

Love you.

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Christmas traditions, new & old.

I've always left cookies out for Santa!

I’ve always left cookies out for Santa!

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!

Friends With Setups.

Take thaaaat!

Take thaaaat!

This is going to come out wrong, but I’ve been really lucky to have friends that don’t pressure me to be in a relationship.

Of course, my friends are rooting for me – they hope that one day I’ll find Mr. Right, but until then, they’re cool with the solo me.

There have been times when my friends have tried to set me up with someone, but there are two ways to go about this: the right way and the wrong way.

The right way is when a friend is truly looking to find your match, he/she asks you if the setup is okay, and/or if you’re interested in going along with it.

I had one friend give a guy my email address, and let me take care of it from there. It was sweet, and we actually dated for a few months.

I’ve had great experiences with this type of setup. The other type of setup is when the friend just wants you to date anyone.

Picture it: you’re out at a bar, there’s a person sitting alone with a beer. All of the sudden, THAT is your soulmate, according to your friend.

Let’s get this right, just because a person is single, doesn’t make him or her a match. And one more thing, it’s really difficult to know if someone is truly single. Right?

I was once out to dinner with a girlfriend; she was happily engaged, and she had a habit of asking every waiter we ever had if he was single. If so, she’d say, “You should date him.”

I knew her intentions were good; she wanted to get me out there and eventually be happy like she was. But, I also was starting to take offense at the people she wanted me to date. Did she think the waiter at Plucker’s was the best I could do?

Don’t get me wrong, I love hot wings and beer, but she was trying to set me up with people before even getting to know them. When I tried to brush it off, she told me I was too picky, and that I needed to give people a chance.

That was absolute bullshit. My problem has always been that I’m not picky enough, and that I give too many chances.

The tough thing is, there’s not a great way to deal with this. Of course, you don’t want to hurt your friend(s), but you also don’t want to deal with dating someone you’re not interested in.

If there’s a way to brush it off and forget it, I say go with that option first.

If not, consider what you can say to your friend to kindly get your point across. Whether you’re not ready to date, didn’t feel a spark with the potential setup, or you just don’t feel comfortable with it, a true friend should understand.

Sometimes, our coupled friends forget what being single is like – it’s not as easy as just dating the waiter at the next pizza place.

Unfortunately, even setups under the right circumstances can go wrong. And then there’s your friend, stuck in the middle.

In all cases, try to keep remembering that your friend has those good intentions. And try your best to leave your friend out of the middle, as difficult as it may be.

If a setup is how you’re destined to meet your match, then it’ll happen no matter what. And then, you can thank your friend at your wedding.

Giving back during the holidays.

I heart giving back.

I heart giving back.

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!

 

Budget beer tasting.

Yum is on the way!

Yum is on the way!

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).

Food ideas:

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!

Dating through mutual friends.

Is it possible to meet your match through mutual friends?

Is it possible to meet your match through mutual friends?

Last weekend, my fantastic and beautiful hair stylist (and friend) Lydia (she’s at the Garrett Neal Studio, you should call her!), reminded me that the BEST way to meet someone special is through mutual friends.

I do think it’s a smart move, but there are even studies behind it, saying that it’s statistically how most married people have met their partner.

According to a 2,373-person survey conducted by Mic in March using Google Consumer Surveys, more 18- to 34-year-olds met their current significant others through mutual friends than through any other means, including dating apps — close to 39% of respondents said they met “through friends in common,” closely followed by 22% who said they met “out in a social setting.”

In the article, it also mentions that 40% of those people in relationships started off as friends first (meh, I’m not really a huge fan of this idea, but… science).

Okay, I get it, meet through mutual friends, but WHY is this such a great idea? Turns out, there’s a few reasons:

  • You trust your friends. Your friends aren’t going to lead you astray, right? Plus, your friends know you and they probably know the type of person you should date.
  • It’s more casual. Meeting in a group setting, when you already have at least one thing in common (the friend) is a little easier.
  • It’s long-lasting. Of course, this may not be entirely true, as things can always go south. But, the study showed that dating apps like Tinder still have their place in the world for quick hookups, while dating a mutual friend has more potential for something long-term.

So, there you have it! And now, I’m ready for y’all to introduce me to all of your amazing guy friends… 😉

Pic of the Week.

Surprise! Party's here!

Surprise! Party’s here!

I spent last week in Austin, and made the trek back to Baton Rouge late Friday night. I wanted to visit my kitty, get some packing done, and I had one final shift to work at my retail job. My friend Derek had been telling me for weeks he was going to come over Saturday night for a “packing party.”

So, Saturday night around 7, he knocks on my door with a few bottles of wine (standard practice in my household). We’re chatting and I’m well-aware that he looks dapper and I was in my pajamas having not showered for two days.

And then, there’s another knock on the door. No one ever knocks on my door, so that was weird. Upon opening said door, there were two of my friends — Liz and Ashley — SURPRISE! They had balloons and alcohol and smiles on their faces! It was amazing!

I was so freaking surprised, I can’t even put it into words really. Part of my wished I looked cuter and that my apartment wasn’t a wreck with boxes, but here were my friends, who really don’t care what I look like or the condition of my home. They understood, and it was really one of the nicest things anyone has done for me.

Instead of packing, we ordered takeout and sat and drank and shot the shit. It was a fantastic Saturday night.

I don’t mean this to sound the wrong way, but I was feeling a little weird about my departure from Louisiana. I definitely have mixed feelings about it — I’ve lived in Baton Rouge for 12 years! There are certainly things I will always love about Baton Rouge: the oaks, the drive down Stanford Avenue (bonus points if you can catch the sunset), and the culture. There really is no place like it.

But, I’m excited for what’s to come. Sunday morning, Liz pretty much summed it up: “Are you excited about Austin? Not that many people get to start a life somewhere new…”

And she’s right. Not a lot of people do. And even already, I’ve questioned how I got so lucky for this opportunity that seems to be so perfect, that at times it feels like this moment was formed exactly for me.

Sunday night, I joined my friends for dinner — my “farewell dinner” — and as we were seated, I realized I was face-to-face with the woman who told me my services were “no longer needed” exactly 10 months ago. Things have really come full circle.

My official moving day is Saturday, and I still have so many ties in Baton Rouge that it won’t be my last time in town, of course. But being surrounded by so much love over the weekend made me feel happy and sad all at once.

It made me realize that I’ve been through a TON during my years in Louisiana, and I’m really lucky to have met some amazing people along the way.

Pic of the Week.

His and hers.

His and hers.

I’ve had a houseguest since Saturday. He’s a coworker, and needed a place to stay for a month while he works to save money for his apartment rent come July. He’s 19.

Welcome to Hotel Holly. Well, Hotel Holly & Blanche.

When my friend said he needed a place to stay, I wanted to help him. But I told him we’d have to set some rules. After all, my place is small, I’m used to living alone, and I didn’t want us to hate each other at the end of June.

So, he agreed, and here he is. So far, he’s insisted on being my “housewife” and has put away my clean dishes from the dishwasher, folded my clean clothes from the dryer, and shared his homemade pasta sauce. As I type this, he’s pulling a tray of homemade cheese bread out of the oven for us.

We’ll see how long this lasts, right?

I’ve never had a houseguest for an extended period of time, and although it’s a new experience for me, I think it’ll be a good one. When I was prepping my place for his arrival — dusting, mopping, sweeping, putting things away — there’s things I really started to appreciate about my apartment.

Sure, it’s small, but at least it has 10ft ceilings so we don’t feel cramped sitting in the living room. I also have plenty of tupperware for my houseguest’s leftover food needs. And I have a stock of candles, toothbrushes, and other toiletries for his use. And above all, my place is safe and quiet. At the end of a day’s work, those are the most important things, at least to me.

So far, it’s been kind of nice having someone around when I come home from the gym or from work. But I also have to pull myself away from impromptu cheesey bread and conversation when I should be doing freelance. Like anything, it’s a balance.

Maybe this experience will teach me something about living with someone. It’s not a romantic relationship by any means, but it’s already made me realize some things about myself — like I should do a better job at cleaning my dishes.

Introducing the friends.

Couples' night!

Couples’ night!

Alright, I’m going to admit that I’m really bad about this whole “Introducing the significant other to your friends” thing.

In the past, I get really excited when I meet a new guy and we start hanging out (who doesn’t?), and I want him to meet my friends, whom I love so much. I don’t mean for it to be a serious thing, although it is a good idea to see if he fits in with the crowd.

What ends up happening is that it doesn’t work out with the guy, we stop talking, and my friends (or I) never see him again. And I’m left feeling like a big jackass because I just introduced a guy to my friends who ultimately was a blip on my life’s radar.

My friends have assured me that I shouldn’t feel like a jackass — they’ve been single, too, and they know how it goes. I still feel stupid.

In my recent dating adventures, I told myself that I wasn’t going to introduce a guy I’m seeing/talking to anyone, until things are serious — as in, we’re exclusive, and in order for THAT to happen, we have to have been talking for at least three months.

I know, rules. But if I don’t crack the whip, I’m just going to stay single forever, right? I still might 😉

Anyway, I did a little Google searching to see what the interwebs had to say about the matter, and I found a few things.

For starters, YourTango.com suggests that meeting the friends too early can actually put pressure on your FRIENDS, because they feel like they’re pressured to make relationship decisions for you. I’m not sure if this is true, but… they do suggest waiting to introduce a guy until you’ve been on at least three dates (duh) and to keep it casual for the first meeting.

I found some decent advice on April Beyer’s website, which suggested asking yourself WHY you’re introducing your girl/guy to your friends — approval? Locking in the idea that you’re a couple? April suggests waiting until it feels natural, which sounds like a solid idea.

It’s safe to say it’ll be awhile before I introduce a guy to my friends, if I’m ever that lucky. But when I do, I’ll make sure I’m doing it for the right reasons.

Not About Termites.

Late last year, I entered a blogging contest for Cosmopolitan.com. The prompt was about the most important relationship you had in college, and what you learned from it. I hated to give a guy that title, yet I probably would have won the contest if I had, because, you know…Cosmo. Either way, now it’s here for the world to see. 

I found this by Googling, "Happy Roommates."

I found this by Googling, “Happy Roommates.”

She answered the dorm door wearing plaid boxers, a men’s t-shirt, and an Obagi facial mask.

“Hey,” I said. “I’m your new roommate!”

My entire life was packed in bags and piled behind me in the hall. She opened the door a little wider.

It was the start of my second semester, freshman year. I’d moved 15 hours south of my hometown to a place I knew no one. My first roommate and I were too different, so I moved out. Now, I was moving in with a girl who was used to living solo.

It was awkward and quiet as I unpacked my things, until she caught a glimpse of my extensive DVD collection.

“You like Sex and The City?” she asked.

“Oh yeah, I’ve got all the seasons,” I said.

Her eyes widened, and in attempts to offer an olive branch, I told her she could watch them whenever she wanted.

I came to know my new roomie, Michelle, over the next week, and things were going as well as they could. That is, until I came home late after a night of studying to find a hand-written note from Michelle taped to our door:

“I took a nap this afternoon and woke up covered in termites. I am staying with a friend. They sprayed the room, but you should probably stay somewhere, too.”

As I opened the door, I could smell the stale bug spray. Dead termites covered the coral rug I’d placed a week before. The bug-eaten wall beside Michelle’s bed looked as if it’d been hit with a sledgehammer.

I crashed with a friend in another dorm that night, and met Michelle and residential life the next day. I asked Michelle what happened.

“I was asleep, but I kept feeling something on me,” she said. “I woke up and just saw them on me and flying around.”

I shuddered. Ew.

Residential life had trouble finding an open room for us; even sending us into a few rooms that were already occupied. It was getting late and Michelle and I had nowhere to stay. So I did what most college students do in a time of need—I called my dad.

He, of course, was mad that Michelle and I had paid for dorms and were essentially homeless. He told us to go to the nearest hotel and he would take care of it.

Michelle didn’t have a car, so both of our belongings were stuffed into the backseat of my tiny Daewoo. We hopped in the front and I drove off-campus to a Hampton Inn. When we walked in the lobby, it was obvious we’d made a name for ourselves.

“You didn’t bring any termites with you, right?” asked the guy at the front desk.

We shook our heads, got our room keys, and headed upstairs. Compared to our dorm room, the hotel felt luxurious.

As we got ready for bed, we just had to laugh at the situation. After just knowing each other for a week, we’d had something crazy happen to us, and we were now living in a hotel together.

By the weekend, the university had found us a dorm room in an entirely different building. Just as new roommates do, we claimed our sides of the room and unpacked our things, hoping the past wasn’t a sign of our future.

Part of me felt guilty. While I didn’t trigger the termites, I felt like I barged in on Michelle’s peaceful life, settled in her dorm room alone, relaxing in her clay facial mask.

But Michelle didn’t see it that way at all.

Michelle became more than my roommate, she was my friend. During the remainder of the semester, we watched plenty of Sex and The City, went out for sushi dinners, and even made martinis in our dorm (which resulted in Michelle puking in the communal bathroom sink).

Late one night, Michelle told me about her family. She said they weren’t fully supportive of her studying English and theatre. They wanted her to study something more “serious.”

In that moment, we grew even closer. Without realizing it, Michelle made me appreciate my situation, my parents, and their support.

When the semester came to a close, I was sad to say goodbye to Michelle. Although we got new roommates, we still met up for movies or sushi on occasion.

I have only seen Michelle a few times since I graduated six years ago, but we still keep in touch. Looking back, Michelle was one of the best roommates I had, but she was also a great friend.

It’s a friendship that proves first impressions aren’t everything, and that bad situations can evolve into something really, really good.