How Can I Say Thanks for the Things You Have Done For Me?

Things so undeserved
Yet you lived to prove your love for me
The voices of a million angels
Could not express my gratitude
All that I am, and ever hope to be
I owe it all to thee

Now Playing: “My Tribute by Andrae Crouch

MANIBAD SEVENTH DAY ADVENTIST CHURCH: Manibad, Mambusao, Capiz, Western Visayas, Philippines

My grandmother is responsible for the existence of at least six churches, and we visited one of them the day after we buried her. That morning, little children were passing out cupcakes to women in the church, greeting them for Mothers Day. Seeing us walk in, the girl leading the service grabbed the microphone and said, “We’d like to welcome the Fortin family and invite Miss Jillian (read: Jeel-yahn) to the pulpit to give a message to her mother. And also, will you sing” (both of which were statements, not questions, and also the first I had heard of it).

I had no idea what they wanted me to say, and based on the way the congregation was looking back at me, they didn’t either. But then my eyes fell on my mom, sitting in the back row, wearing the last two weeks on her face and shoulders (and also maybe a look of fear, equally unsure of what I was about to say) and the words started flowing on their own, beginning with gratitude to the members of the church who had attended my grandmother’s service the day prior as well as the ones who came every night since her passing to lead worship services for the tens and twenties who visited around the clock, each day.

I went on to continue that it was strangely appropriate, celebrating Mothers Day after two weeks of celebrating my Lola Nanay, and despite how bittersweet it was as well, my mother had proved time and time again through arguably one of the most difficult times of her life that she is Nanay’s daughter – strong, steadfast, forged by fire and led by God’s hand.

Mom, I said, you are the strongest, bravest, most courageous woman I have ever met. You have the biggest heart that no one knows about because you choose to show your affection through your actions rather than your words, just like Nanay did. You have devoted yourself to a life of service – to your family, to your friends, and to countless others whose hands I shook but names I do not know who were able to send their children to school, build their churches, and care for loved ones who fell ill. You are this amazing woman because of the amazing woman who raised you, and every day is an education in how my sister and I may one day live up to the examples set for us… that we may be worthy testaments of your life like you are for Nanay’s exemplary and fulfilling one.

My sister joined me on stage after handing the A/V guy her phone, the track queued up and ready to go. Joanna only had one song stored locally on her phone, and since there was no internet connection available, it would have to do. Like the occasion, the song title and its lyrics were also oddly appropriate, something I made sure to point out before the two of us began to sing “My Tribute.”

We sat down once we were done singing, only after telling our mom how much we loved her. She smiled. She also let us finish her cupcake.

Jillian's mother, pointing at a cupcake with a flag on top that says, "World's Best Mother"

Roxas City, Western Visayas, Philippines

Robinsons Mall / Roxas City / Panay / Western Visayas / Philippines

I had just left the pharmacy, where I had to ask a pharmacist whether or not they had any Vitamin D3 and turmeric capsules to sell. Readily available to purchase off a shelf in the United States, these are considered controlled substances in the Philippines and can only be handed over to your possession by a licensed pharmacist.

Because I guess kids be gettin’ wild, poppin’ dat turmeric.

Now Playing: “Mask Off” by Future

“Sorry, ma’am, we are completely sold out of turmeric capsules and the only thing with Vitamin D is this,“ he said, holding up a foil strip of capsule sachets labeled Calcium + Vitamin D3 + Minerals. “8 pesos each.”

+ Minerals. Not sketchy or flippant at all, I thought to myself. Like, for 16 cents a pop, here’s some of this stuff, then here’s the stuff that you actually wanted, plus some etc. etc. stuff that you may or may not want.

Cool, whatevs. “Twenty please, Kuya. Salamat.”

I found Mom at the supermarket portion of the mall. The malls here are their own, large-scale ecosystems where people go to bask in the air conditioned spaces – a luxury many don’t have in their own homes. You can do anything in a Filipino mall. You can buy every-day outfits, you can buy fancy outfits. You can buy home appliances and homes in general. You can do anything electronic, ever (the regular markets are adjacent to the flea markets – think Houston’s Galleria Mall with an extra floor on top that housed Harwin).

“Ma, they don’t have turmeric.”
“What do you mean, they don’t have turmeric?”
“I mean, they don’t have turmeric.”
“You should have asked the pharmacist.”
“I did ask the pharmacist.”
“And what did he say?”
“He said they’re completely out of turmeric.” And wasn’t dramatic about it at all, either.

Mom shook her head incredulously, almost as if she was more upset than I was over that silly little thing, then responded decidedly, saying, “Buko juice is a better anti-inflammatory, anyway. And since we are here, we can get it fresh.”

We headed to a Buko Loco stand (cause coconut juice can be sooo craaaazy #amirite?) and surveyed our options.

“So this is fresh buko juice?” Mom said to the poor boy manning the stand.

“Ma’am, yes ma’am, po.”
“With only fresh fruits blended in?”
“Y-yes ma’am.”
“Nothing else? Are you sure?”

His eyes darted to the poster behind him. “Yes ma’am, sure na ma’am.”

Mom pursed her lips as she handed over 180 PP – a little over $3.00, hands outstretched to receive the bag of buko juices.

“Okay, sigurado ka,” she said with skepticism in her voice.

Since you’re so sure…

Year 30

Now Playing: “Moving On” by Marshmello

Flew to a few cool places.
Saw some amazing artists, musicians and Broadway shows.
Yelled at a lot of sporting events.
Ate a lot of really great food.
But was still able to lose a little bit of weight.
Attended my first music festivals.
Watched my sister marry her mister.
Took a lot of selfies with Inang.
Got out of credit card debt.
Missed Kanye and Day for Night.
Was completely jaded this holiday season.
Rang in the New Year beautifully, at home on the couch with my pups.
Burned out on a job at a company I still love dearly.
Visited the Motherland, said goodbye to my grandmother.
Started to rediscover what my passions are.
Gave my heart away twice, broke a few in the process, and never got any of those pieces back.
Lost my first little furbaby; won’t ever get that piece of my heart back, either.

didn’t write, play, or sing enough, but

Had some crazy adventures full of stories I never thought I’d be telling
With a cast of characters who certainly made things interesting
Some of whom I’ll never see again
And that’s probably for the better
Others who quickly became the type of friends who were able to see me through some insanely dark times
The type of friends who become family
And the rest who have been there since day 1 – my blood, my bests
Who know they’re in for a ride with whatever is in store
None of us knowing what that could be
And being excited and fearful of that notion, both at the same time

I see you, 31.
What you got?

Mission Peak, Fremont, CA

What was it that Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell said about there not being a mountain high enough, valley low enough…?

Was that with or without Converse shoes?

Now Playing: “Do You Know The Way To San Jose” by Dionne Warwick

I missed the chance to visit my childhood best friend, Mandi, in San Jose during my last extended visit to California in October, so there was no way hell or highwater was going to “keep me from getting to [her] babe” during this stint in NorCal.

Well, maybe. Mandi was very excited to suggest that we go on a hike outside of San Jose, in a city called Fremont, and initially I said I was game because of how awry my diet has gone while being here in California (awry meaning, I’m eating everything again and am probably gaining beaucoup pounds per second… sorry, Dad). I didn’t anticipate what a beast Mission Peak was going to be for a pansy like me who decided to wear every bit of inappropriate clothing I owned for this trek:

  • Converse shoes
  • Socks without padding that kept slipping every which way
  • Sports bra without padding (and things got quite nippy as we ventured onwards and upwards!)
  • Beanie (which only served me well for ~20 mins out of the 3 hour hike)

It’s a good thing I have literally been best friends with Mandi and Don since we were babies. Seriously, we have the pictures. There’s even one with Don sitting on a gigantic diaper that had to have been soiled because WHY THE F is that diaper so big.

Pausing for a moment there.

At one point, Mandi looked down at her Apple watch and as she reported we were about 20% of the way up, I asked if it was wine-o-clock yet. 20% more and I had identified a nice little grassy knoll that didn’t have any traces of cow diarrhea on it (well, maybe), upon where I announced I would wait for them the remainder of the time and possibly do some reflective crap like write poems about hills while they completed the hike.

They wouldn’t let me budge. And thank God they didn’t.

Hitting the summit with these two life-long friends was incredible. The gusts of wind at the top were congratulatory chants blowing sweet everythings into my ear, regaling me with “Awesome job” and “You did it!” and “You believed in yourself!” and “Atta girl, chub, you’ve earned this grub!”

And we awarded ourselves with the snacks we had brought along as we waited in the obscenely long line to take a picture atop the Mission Peak totem pole, Mandi with her KIND bar and me with a Jack in the Box taco I forgot I had slipped into my purse.

It went extremely well with the Shiner Don had packed in a Hydroflask for us, because at the end of the day and no matter where we are, these three are always going to be Texans tried and true.


Welcome Back to Petaluma, CA

The hills are alive… in Petaluma.

Now Playing: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwoʻole

I didn’t know about this place until about 2013 or 2014 or so. I know. Shameful, Jillian. It’s called geography, freaking learn about it. I was introduced to this charming little town of ~6,000 people or so by my (then soon-to-be) godsister Amy, and quickly learned in 2015 that this magic place truly must be where love grows.

A post shared by Jillian Fortin (@jillianfortin) on

My first visit in 2015 for Jace and Amy’s wedding restored my belief that people can fall in love and display affection publicly and not have it be gross or nauseating but instead actually really heartwarming and awe-inspiring. Yo, Petaluma – you did that. Y’all did that. Thank you. From the bottom of the heart that I’m told that I have *tear

And I’m serious about the “where love grows” thing. Five minutes later (and in the spring of 2016, specifically), Jace and Amy brought my adorable little nephew, Malachi, into this world. In fact, we’re celebrating his birthday next week.

Sweet baby Chi

Being back in Petaluma is exactly what the doctor ordered. The first order of business was a visit to the rolling-on-a-river-err-creek hills of Ricafrente Ranch, adjacent to the hill on which Jace and Amy were married just a short little while ago.

Auntie Jing & Malachi
View of the Ricafrente Ranch hills

No son ever loved his papa so
Hold on tight, Malachi! Safe in his mama’s arms
Crazy Tita Jing. What a (veggie) HAM

And OMG OLD CHICAGO PIZZA. Y’ALL. I had been dreaming about a slice of this heaven ever since I knew I was coming back to Petaluma.

all the childhood memories I have that include trouble also include these two

A shared pie and a few brews over bikes with my lifelong bros was the perfect welcome back to this charming little town I’m calling home from now until… well… who knows? *slanty-wink-emoji

A Father, Husband, Colleague Taken Too Soon

A tough thing you learn at the beginning of your career is that sometimes, you need to move on from a job you may still love, may still be good at, may still have a lot to learn from. For whatever they are, the reasons why you need to leave may outweigh the reasons you should stay. And that is okay. Tough, but okay.

A second tough thing you learn at the beginning of your career is that when you leave these jobs, you leave behind the people who may have been instrumental in staying in the first place. The people who made being away from your family or own personal pursuits for 40 hours a week enjoyable, the people who pushed you to question norms and evolve your thinking, the people who genuinely took pride and joy in your successes and urged you to continue striving for excellence.

And while that is still okay, it’s even tougher. Even though those people know it’s okay, too.

some of the most creative yet most ratchet MOFOs on the digital marketing scene circa 2008

A third tough thing is learning that years after leaving and probably doing a less-than-stellar job keeping it touch like you should have because “life happened” and pride got in the way, one of these people were stolen away much too soon in the most senseless of ways.

I learned this last lesson this past Sunday, and I still cannot believe how much dimmer this world is without Craig Tippit.

Now Playing: “Pour Out A Little Liquor” by 2Pac

I remember first meeting Craig, and it wasn’t this momentous, epic thing necessarily. But that was Craig, whose M.O. was to quietly observe his environment and slowly but surely win you over with topics of conversation he knew you’d find valuable, such as music ministry – which we quickly learned we both shared in common. Both Craig and I were vocalists – he was an amazing tenor – and I sang with/ directed various groups at my home church as well. And when we weren’t talking about music ministry, we were talking about poop.

Man, how both Craig and I loved a good poop joke.

Over the weekend, the Houston Chronicle reported that a 25-year-old driver deliberately drove into Craig’s training group in Waller County during a training ride:

When Craig Randall Tippit, 37, left his home Saturday to train in Waller County for an upcoming triathlon, his wife Stephanie said it felt like any other weekend when he’d leave for what’s usually an uneventful bike ride.

Craig, a father of two young boys and native Houstonian, was preparing for an Ironman triathlon this April.

“He loved to ride,” Stephanie said.

On Saturday, he and dozens of other bicyclists were in Waller County training for the BP MS150 and other competitions. The ride quickly turned tragic when Victor Kevin Tome, 25, allegedly plowed through the cyclists head on in a blue Dodge Stratus.

Tippit died at the scene along with 48-year-old Keri Blanchard Guillory, who was also training.

Since Craig was a much better person than I was, he’d want people to send positive thoughts to help this young man with whatever demons he’s fighting that would make him want to do something so terrible, so senseless.

Something that leaves a good, sweet woman a widow.
Something that leaves two beautiful, little boys without a father.
Something that will leave this young family with a ton of questions of how the future is going to be, what stability will look like with the main provider gone (because every 37-year-old could have always had more, and what Iron Man worries about death?).

In celebration of a man who simply finished the race a little bit ahead of us. RIP Craig. You will be missed.

He probably would have made some sort of sarcastic little comment with a sly little side smile, but that is what he ultimately would have wanted everyone to do.

Like I said, Craig was a much better person than I was, and I personally want to see this young man answer for this ugliness he brought into this world. But I shall bite my tongue and trust the will of the same God that Craig believed in, and instead implore everyone who ever had a dream, a passion for a hobby other people could never do, a gusto for life, and an amazing family that supported you through it all – please help how you can. This could’ve been anyone. Craig was doing what he loved and had done a million times before. And it all happened in the blink of an eye.

Lots of love, light, and prayers to the Tippit family. On behalf of the interactive marketing community and anyone who had the pleasure of working with Craig, we are here… and always will be. Much love.

Union Station, Los Angeles, CA


“Can I just say something?” the veteran at Union Station says to me, taking the seat directly in front of me and pushing his suitcase aside and out of our line of sight.

“Um, sure,” I reply, keeping my eyes loosely fixed to the screen of my laptop.

“You just have the most gorgeous feet.”

Now Playing: “Morning Train (Nine to Five)” by Sheena Easton

What the fuck, and what a liar, I say with my head. I’ve been complimented about my hair, my smile, and my brain, but never ever my feet (which, if discussed, are done with spurn and scorn, never praise).

“Thank you,” I say this time with my mouth, looking around me. Our seat mates don’t appear to be phased. Perhaps this is a common occurrence here.

“Yeah, real gorgeous,” he mutters to himself, giving them one last look-see. He quickly averts his gaze, smiling. “You can tell a lot about a woman by her feet. Some women have feet that make you want to cut things off of them, like things a whole foot long.”

He is the only one that thinks his pun is punny and laughs to himself, by himself.

“I can tell you’re a smart cookie. Do you know them computers, the Apple ones? If I were to go buy one at a pawn shop, you know, for $100, would it be harder for me to learn an Apple than a normal computer?”

I struggle with the millions of ways I can answer this question, avoiding what I’m sure would have been a lengthy discourse about operating systems, software updates, and how any computer you’d pay $100 for will be “hard” to learn on regardless.

“Yes, it might.”

He chuckles to himself, almost in congratulations. “Thass what I thought, just what I thought.” He opens up a clear water bottle, and after taking a long sip, offers it to me and says, “swig of Scotch?”

Our seat mates still don’t appear to be phased. Perhaps this is a common occurrence as well.

“No, thank you,” I politely decline.

He asks me to reconsider. “I ain’t sellin’ – I’m offerin’. Just for the record. You can always use a little whisky, no matter where you’re going. And where was that again? And what was your name again?”

I haven’t told you either.

“You know what, though? The great thing about the West Coast is that people aren’t just always ‘going,’ they’re ‘fro-ing’ – and you’re always headed to places you’ve already been to.”

The 9:55 AM Pacific Surfliner to San Diego can’t come soon enough.

“Listen, if you ever pass this way— you know, back into Los Angeles— would you like to have a drink sometime with me? I’ll buy it this time. Not bring it with me.”

My silent protestations become vocal as I gather my belongings and start to head towards my gate.

“Well, you be safe, pretty lady with the pretty feet. God bless, and I’ll see you again.” He takes another swig of Scotch from his water bottle and smiles, winking just a tad.

“That is, if I’m meant to.”

Miniver Cheevy

Now Playing: “What A Fair Thing is a Woman” by Cole Porter

Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn,
Grew lean while he assailed the seasons;
He wept that he was ever born,
And he had reasons.

Miniver loved the days of old
When swords were bright and steeds were prancing;
The vision of a warrior bold
Would set him dancing.

Miniver sighed for what was not,
And dreamed, and rested from his labors;
He dreamed of Thebes and Camelot,
And Priam’s neighbors.

Miniver mourned the ripe renown
That made so many a name so fragrant;
He mourned Romance, now on the town,
And Art, a vagrant.

Miniver loved the Medici,
Albeit he had never seen one;
He would have sinned incessantly
Could he have been one.

Miniver cursed the commonplace
And eyed a khaki suit with loathing;
He missed the medieval grace
Of iron clothing.

Miniver scorned the gold he sought,
But sore annoyed was he without it;
Miniver thought, and thought, and thought,
And thought about it.

Miniver Cheevy, born too late,
Scratched his head and kept on thinking;
Miniver coughed, and called it fate,
And kept on drinking.


Passive Aggressive Subliminals AKA “Currently Listening To:”

To every girl who ever felt like they weren’t worth the fight,
or gave more than they ever took,
or lost so much only to want to love more and let the light out despite what it did to you:

The man worth all those things is the one whose efforts match or exceed your own,
who recognizes the prize and what’s at stake
and won’t let you slip through his fingers like sand

Now Playing: “Easily” by Bruno Major

Continue reading “Passive Aggressive Subliminals AKA “Currently Listening To:””