Why I Choose To Celebrate Christmas Without My Family

Originally posted on Bustle on 12/24/2015

bcd95f70-8be4-0133-9fe4-0e7c926a42afListening to all the Christmas songs that were impossible to escape on the radio this past month, I realized something for the first time in my 26 years: about 95 percent of holiday songs focus on home. “Baby please come home,” “I’ll be home for Christmas,” “There’s no place like home for the holidays,” yada, yada yada. But what happens when there’s no longer a home to return to? How do you deal with that, during a holiday that is supposed to serve as a magnet for families to reunite?

The rented roof over my head is a sanctuary for me and my ginger tabby cat, Annie (who was a Christmas present from a friend two years ago). And about 30 minutes away from my rental, the brick twin-home where I spent my entire childhood still stands. My parents still live in it. But over the past two years, the walls and people inside them have continually become more foreign to me.

Physical and mental illness have turned the mother I grew up with into someone more unpredictable than a roulette wheel. When I return for a visit, acid reflux, rather than a sense of familiarity and peace, tends to be the main feeling I experience. However, it’s more painful to see the ways that the unhappiness and unhealthiness have taken a toll on my father, who never gets an opportunity to jump off my mother’s roller coaster.

For years, I felt that as their only child, it was my responsibility to drag my parents, kicking and screaming, towards happiness. But two years ago, after hitting my own breaking point, I made the conscious decision to stop trying. Doing this required setting new, healthier boundaries that pushed me to figure out new ways to approach many different situations and relationships — including the holiday season.

Screen Shot 2015-12-26 at 6.31.36 PMLast year marked the first holiday season in 25 years that I spent without my parents. Though the logical part of me knew that I was better off spending Christmas away from two people who were completely miserable, the emotional side felt my heart strings tighten with every mention of family during the month of December. Truthfully, the entire ordeal felt as if I was wearing a new sweater that wasn’t yet worn in.

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Playstation Network On The Naughty list

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Video game enthusiasts eager to start using their new Playstation products Christmas morning encountered a glitch that appears to be something The Grinch would orchestrate.

PlayStation Network (PSN) (the online gaming network that is used on systems such as PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable and PlayStation Vita) has been experiencing technically difficulties since early Christmas morning, specifically in the creation and retrieval of log-in information. With widespread issues being reported across the globe, an excited Christmas morning for many turned into a frustrating afternoon and evening.

While several outlets reported the possibility of cyber hackers being behind the outage, users are still waiting for a solution. However, according to Forbes Online, threats of this issue were known before the holiday. With the warning of a potential threat to the network, coupled with the the anticipation of new users to the network on December 25, why weren’t there more proactive measures in place?

I had a first hand experience of the impact the PlayStation Network outage while at a friend’s house. Both parents frantically scoured the internet on their iPhones trying to find some sort of solution to make the very expensive gaming system ‘Santa’ brought a functional present. With both of them being tech-savvy , even they were stumped until word spread that their dilemma was not an isolated issue. For parents who may not be as internet/gaming literate, attempting to salvage a child’s Christmas present must have resembled more of a horror story than a holiday tale. 

When it became evident that all of the troubleshooting in the world wouldn’t make a difference until Sony repaired the network issues, disappointment turned into disgust. The kids were left unable to play while their parents fumed that the high-priced purchased intended to bring joy to their sons’ faces did the complete opposite. A lump of coal would have been more usable.

As a former gamer myself, memories of Christmas’ past cause me to sympathize for the crestfallen users. I can recall the rush of adrenaline the first time plugging in my Super Nintendo in 1996, and the way my eyeballs burned from playing Pokemon Yellow 13 hours a day during Christmas vacation of 1999. While it went unnoticed during my childhood, as an adult I appreciate that my parents spent a good portion of their pay to deliver quintessential childhood joy to their daughter on Christmas Day. 

Screen Shot 2015-12-26 at 11.24.02 AMWhat transpired yesterday to those boys, along with other users, was unfair. Over 36 hours later, gamers are still reporting issues accessing the PSN. Playstation has acknowledged the problem, with their Twitter account preemptively thanking users for their patience while they work on a resolution. Unfortunately, this fix will require more than some Christmas magic. But one thing is certain- if the jilted gamers had any say- Playstation would be placed on the naughty list for next year.

Have you or your kids experienced this issue? Tweet me your experience at @Patrice_Bendig and use the hashtag #PSNruinedChristmas



The Christmas Cat That Worked Better Than Xanax

Originally Published on Huffington Post on 12/24/2014 and xoJane on 12/25/2014

2014 can be labeled as ‘the year of…’ many things. The year I turned 25.The year I spent recovering from a super-shitty depressive episode . The year I successfully ate a clean diet for 40 days, and ran my first 5K. The year I wrote about my online dating failures and had several articles go viral . The year my best friend’s son suddenly died. But most importantly 2014 will be the year I got a kitten. The year of the highly intelligent cat. Technically I was given to her for Christmas 2013, but didn’t bring her home on December 28, which is practically 2014.


That day as I drove through the streets of North Philly with a plastic cat carrier with the tags still on it, anyone who passed by me would think that I was insane. “We’re almost to place Cat, just stop making noises” I screamed trying to match the volume of the ear-piecing wails my new pet was making. Within a span of 72 hours, I had agreed to accept the Christmas present from a friend, a 4-month old marmalade colored kitten that a friend of a friend had found wandering around his apartment building. “This is the thing you need. It will provide such comfort,” my well meaning friend when she introduced me to my very much alive and active gift. As the cat and I eyed each other up for the first time, we were both skeptical of each other.

When we finally got to my apartment, I let her out to get a lay of the new land. She scurried to the drawer underneath my bed, where Cat stayed for several days. (Yes, originally the cat’s name was Cat because she looked identical to the one in Breakfast at Tiffanys. Eventually I named her Annie because she was an orphan , and Cat became to annoying to explain to non Audrey Hepburn fans.)

Great. The cat that is supposed to make me feel less alone wants nothing to do with me. Initially I was certain becoming a cat owner was a mistake, and had begun looking for places to drop her off. I was such a hot mess myself, and this cat doesn’t even like me. Continue reading