Chapter 3

Chapter 3: Fish Eye Salad

(Okay, I know it sounds gross, but just trust me on this one. This is my absolutely FAVORITE treat my mom makes. Seriously. I always know she’s laying on the love for me when I come over and this is in her fridge. She’ll whip this together for potlucks, special occasions (like, my birthday), or basically if I just ask her. I couldn’t tell you the first time she made it, perhaps it was even before I was conceived, but it IS my absolutely favorite dish in the ENTIRE world and I’m obsessed. So here I am, sharing it with you!)


  • 1 c white sugar
  • 2 TBSP all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2tsp salt
  • 1 3/4 c unsweetened pineapple juice
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • 3 quarts water
  • 1 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 1 (16oz) package of acini di pepe pasta
  • 3 (11oz) cans mandarin oranges, drained
  • 1 (20z) cans pineapple tidbits, drained
  • 1 (20oz) can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 c shredded coconut

(I’ve seen people also add in marshmallows or a whipped topping to make it sweeter or “creamier” – my mom never did, so I don’t. You can if you want – but then your deviating from the plan, quite trying to be a rebel and just follow the damn instructions.)


  1. In a sauce pan, combine sugar, flour, 1/2tsp salt, pineapple juice & eggs. Stir and cook over medium heat until thickened. Remove from heat, add lemon juice and cool to room temperature.
  2. Bring water to a boil, add oil, remaining salt, and cook pasta until al dente. Rinse under cold water and drain.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the pasta, egg mixture, mandarin oranges, and pineapple. (This is the part where you COULD add in the whipped topping if you just HAD to.) Mix it all up and then cover, refrigerate overnight (or until chilled). Before serving, add in the shredded coconut (and you could ALSO add marshmallows here too if you WANTED). Toss together and serve!

I always considered myself to be a good student. I never had to work very hard in my classes and always managed to come out with A’s & B’s. This wasn’t always the case though. I recall MANY times sitting in class during recess or after school attempting to persuade my teacher into letting me make up homework assignments. I was a hardcore procrastinator. Seriously. I can’t tell you how many times I was in trouble for not turning in assignments on time, or just flat out not turning them in. I can’t really remember when it changed, but somewhere along the way I managed to get my shit together and didn’t seem to have the same challenge of getting things in on time.

Don’t get me wrong. I still procrastinated until the last minute. Especially with projects or presentations. Somehow I always ended up getting an A on them though – I honestly can’t tell you how. We’ll just say, I’m “gifted,” in that department.

I had always planned on going to college. It was just the thing you’re supposed to do after high school. It never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t have gone. That was always the plan. I also saw it as an opportunity to escape my home and family. When things were especially uncomfortable in my home, I would dream about college in Colorado, going to veterinary school, and never coming home.

Well, guess what – that didn’t happen.

As much as I’d like to blame it on everyone else, I know it’s my own damn fault. I had a boyfriend I was wrapped up in who was going to college 15min from my parents house and he told me it was a waste of money. I couldn’t talk to my Dad about it – because at this point in my life, we simply just not talking. I couldn’t talk to my Mom about it – because we hadn’t yet rekindled our relationship.

So there I was, trying to figure everything out on my own and not even knowing where to start. All I knew was that college applications cost money, money I didn’t have – because my Dad wouldn’t let me have a job – and I couldn’t ask him for money, because the guilt trip he would lay on me was always, “Why should I do anything for you? What have you done for me?” So to avoid any kind of conflict, I just didn’t apply.

It wasn’t that I didn’t think I’d get in. It wasn’t that my grades weren’t good enough. Sure there was a lot of pressure during our advisor meetings to make sure we had all the perfect extracurriculars to make sure we’d be a candidate who would stand out – because having good grades wasn’t enough. And no, I didn’t have any extracurriculars. Why? Please see the above conversation with my Dad. I had so many friends in things like Honor Society and Sports – yet couldn’t even bring myself to ask my Dad to drive me to a DECA conference (which was for my marketing class) – my BROTHER had to (sometimes I’m really grateful we were partners in that class, okay – more often than not I was).

So the guilt and shame began to set in. Once again I found myself in a position where I wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t bring myself to even try. I figured I would be stuck living this mundane life, with no plan and that’s just the way it was going to be. I would watch all of my friends move off to college while I stayed behind and kept taking care of my brothers.

(Now, don’t get me wrong. I understand that you should help our your family whenever possible. But looking back, I did myself a disservice by giving up and not even trying. Would I go back and change things? Absolutely – it’s one of my biggest regrets. I wish my Dad could’ve seen how limiting my potential and growth by keeping me at home to do housework & babysit would become a curse to my progress. But I know all he could see was that he had a teenage daughter who could tend to the house while he was at work. Who could pick up her brothers from school and take them to their activities. There was no room for me to grow and succeed – I had a job to do and that job was to be at home, taking care of things there.)

I know my Dad looks back on me moving out as a slap in the face. Like I was choosing my Mother of him. He could never move passed that. It had nothing to do with choosing one parent over the other, I had simply finally chosen myself. It was December 2005 – during Christmas break my senior year of high school. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I kept looking back at everything that had gone on in my life in the last 12 months, all the pain, embarrassment, and lack of growth. I had to act. I could no longer keep living such a sheltered existence. It was time to grow.

It all happened SO FAST. One minute I was packing up my things, the next I was leaving them behind. Was I running from or towards something? I didn’t know, it didn’t matter. I was on a mission and whether I was going to self destruct or flourish would depend on the next few moves I made afterwards. I didn’t know what to do, but I had to make my moves quickly. It was like playing chess, while blind, and with a highly skilled opponent. I was destined to fail, but at least I tried.

The coming weeks after I moved were some of the most trying I had experienced in my short life. My Dad was hurt and he made sure I knew about it. He attempted to punish me in any way he still had power. He couldn’t ground me anymore, he couldn’t take away my driving privileges, my computer/phone time, so he did what he did best.

He cancelled my health insurance.

That’s right. I was a senior in high school, and I was fighting for the one thing I thought I could count on. He told me if I wanted to be an adult, then I could take care of myself like an adult. Needless to say, because I was still in high school, and my Dad paid $0 through his employer for me to be covered, I managed to wrestle my way back onto his health insurance, not without a lot of finagling though.

Then came graduation. Each senior received 2 free tickets, the remaining had to be purchased by family/friends who wanted to attend. I saved my two tickets for my grandma and grandpa. I couldn’t think of anyone else I would’ve wanted there more. My mother, her girlfriend, her half-brother (my uncle Scotty), his girlfriend at the time, and 2 of my brothers all purchased tickets to attend – while I let my two free ones at will-call for my grandparents to pick up.

Let me start by saying I couldn’t have been luckier to have better friends in my life at this time. The relationship I had with “N” and her parents is one I will never forget. I walked into her home to get ready for our graduation, her family knew what had been going on in my life and the issues I had between me and my Dad. They knew he wasn’t coming. Her Dad took one look at me, scooped me up in his arms, and in a sentence I’ll never forget, had tears streaming down my face.

“I know it’s not the same, but I’ll be here for you today, I’ll be your Dad for graduation.”

There are no words I can put together to accurately explain the series of emotions I experienced from that small act of kindness. Never before did I have an adult male figure in my life (as an adolescent) who accepted me with all my flaws, invited me into their family, and took care of me like their own. I’ll be forever grateful.

*ring ring ring*


“Hi Grandpa! I’m so excited to see you and Grandma tonight! I’ve left the tickets for you at will call, I’m so glad you two are coming, it means so much to me! I love you both so much!”

“We will not be attending tonight. You should’ve given the tickets to your Father.”

“Excuse me?”

“We’re not coming.”

“What do you mean you’re not coming? You’re the only people I actually want there…”

“We have to support your Father in this. You should’ve given them to him. We’re not coming.”

And just like that, I thought I was all cried out earlier from N’s Dad – but nope. Here came the flood gates, the explicits, and the pain. The following weeks were nothing but hateful words that were spit out of my mouth between gasps of air and ugly cries. He had done it. He had actually done it. He had extended his control of my life and had started controlling his own parents. My heart was shattered, I wasn’t sure who I could trust or turn to anymore. The people who I spent every weekend with and every summer with. The people I had never shied away from, the ones I had been 100% truthfully honest with, every step of the way, had abandoned me.

(Are you starting to see where my abandonment issues come from? Time and time again, the people closest to me let me down. But is it really my fault? I am the one causing this? I am some sick masochist person who feels that she should be punished? … more on that later…)

A new graduate, dehydrated from crying for the last 6 months, who was heavily relying on her best friend. I had no plans after high school. I didn’t think I had a chance at getting into a college, so what did I do? I picked up a second job. Yep, that’s right. I had been working retail at a hair salon (which is where I met Lan…) since November 2005, and didn’t think I had anything better to do, so I got a FT job as a barista at Starbucks. Words cannot express how excited I was about this. I had no idea it was going to be a lot of 3:00am wake ups (I became a designated opener), restocking a pastry case & then ringing up people. The only people “worthy” of working the bar were senior partners (yeah, Starbucks likes to call their employees “partners”). I was working 4:00am-12:00pm and then leaving there and heading to my retail job, all summer. Words cannot express how exhausted I was. Here I thought I was hustling and making money hand over fist. When, let’s be honest – I was making minimum wage at BOTH jobs, and taking home about $20-40 in tips PER WEEK at Starbucks.

I purchased my first car after graduation, a 2002 Ford Ranger. Black on black, stock lift. It was gorgeous. I was so excited to have something that was ALL MINE. The sense of pride I took in it was incredible. My mom helped put a down payment on it, her girlfriend at the time didn’t want me driving any of their vehicles, she wanted me to be able to get to work and have a sense of independence. I still can’t believe she did it for me.

She bent over backwards to try to get me to like her. Like the more she gave, the more I would. Like it would take away the last 4 years of not communicating with one another. That somehow everything she showered me with would somehow erase all the pain we’d put each other through prior to that. I’ll never forget that right after I moved in with her, the first thing she bought me was shaving cream. That small act of kindness was all that it took for me to accept that I had screwed up, that all the pain and resentment I had harbored for so long just melted away. That’s all I wanted. I just wanted to stop being the adult and wanted someone else to take care of me. I didn’t need all the other things. I didn’t need her to take me shopping or buy me gifts. I just wanted to stop taking care of my brothers and be a freaking teenager. I wanted the opportunity to act my age and not worry about taking care of everyone else.

But, being a teenager, I was full of angst, pain from my father, had abandonment issues, and had no future plan for myself. So what happened next?

I enrolled in a local community college, with – guess who – N. Because why would I do anything without her?

(Even when we don’t tell each other what we’re doing, we’re doing the same thing. It’s so strange. I’ve never had that kind of relationship with someone. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that her birthday was the day after mine, but that’s just me getting all astrological and “woo woo” on you. Seriously though – we bought our cars the same week as one another, we each adopted a cat, and cut 12+ inches off of our hair all in the same week – without talking to each other. It’s a trend that’s continued into adulthood — but now she’s married and has an adorable child, and I’m still here just living along, drinking too much wine and face masking my live away.)

We had a few classes together, but that girl was always WAY better at math than me – so she was placed in actual college level math, while I was struggling in Math 097. She started dating some cute boy from one of our classes and I was busy flirting with customers coming through my drive thru at Starbucks. I was struggling with my classes but didn’t let anyone know. Math was always the hardest subject for me – but I had an incredible teacher and I thank God everyday for her.

No matter how hard I studied, or how hard I tried to get it – nothing clicked. I just didn’t get it. I was “going through the motions” of working my job at Starbucks and going to school. The furthest in the future I could think to was next weeks assignments. I didn’t know what I wanted to be, I didn’t enjoy my classes, I felt like I was wasting my time. I didn’t see the point. If I could work hard and make money, maybe that would be a better option for me. My grandparents seemed to figure it out and neither of them went to college. (However, both of my parents have masters degrees and understand how much power education has when it comes to employment – something I didn’t know much about at the time.)

So there I was, hustling – trying to make that dollar – living with my mom – and attending my freshman year at a local community college. That’s when I met Him. I had picked up a side hustle of working a booth at Hot Import Nights in downtown Seattle.

“Hey, do you know where I can get one of the vendor wrist bands?”

*looks up and down*

“No, but you can hang out here with me.”

“Uhh… okay, no. Nevermind, I’ll figure it out on my own.”

I walked up to the will-call booth, collected my vendor bracelet and went off to the bathroom to change into my skirt, nylons, heels & top.

Oh great, look who it is.

The same creep who I asked to help with earlier, who’s booth is RIGHT next to mine.

Little did I know that would become one of my fondest memories of a relationship that pushed me to grow up and learn how to love, actually love.

I don’t know what I was thinking as I drove downtown a week later to meet some random guy. We had our first date at Il Bistro in Pike Place Market. We shared foie gras and other decadent plates I’d never had before. I was immediately infatuated with this new man. He wasn’t from here, he lived 3 hours away from me, and he smelled SO good. Like scotch and cigars. I think the cigar smell came from his cologne though. The next few months I would rack up $700+ in ferry tickets travelling back and forth to see him. I’d invite him to my grandpa’s 70th birthday party, I would get sick (really sick, like ugly sick, like asking your S.O. for toilet paper sick…), eat too much Thai food, rent too many movies, and spend the night at his house (my first “sleep over” with a man).

Then came the call I wasn’t expecting.

“Before I met you, I applied to move to Japan. It was accepted. I’m sorry.”


“I’ll be leaving for Japan next month.”

“Okay, we can make this work. Let’s see how things go for a few months & if it goes well, I’ll move there and be there with you.”

I was so blindly in love that I couldn’t see what was actually happening. A week later I got a call from him, but it was a girl on the line with him shouting at her to hang up the phone. It was Valentine’s Day. It’s something you never forget. Finding out someone you love is seeing someone else, had already given up on any possible relationship with you, all because he received orders to leave the U.S.

I self destructed after that. I vowed to never let anyone else hurt me or break my heart,  make me feel that pain again.

Chapter Two

Chapter Two: Dad’s Chili

(Almost every Dad I know has a few trick recipes up his sleeve that he can seem to bust out at a moments notice. Something that he knows everyone in the family will eat, maybe ask for seconds, but regardless – there will be zero complaints. Because God forbid, Dad’s ego is hurt by his lack of culinary talent. One of my Dad’s cult recipes is his chili. He never failed to deliver & always served it with sweet, pippin’ hot cornbread.)


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound tri tip steak
  • 2 -15 ounce can red kidney beans, drained (you can do 2 kidney or 2 black, it’s really all about preference here)
  • 15 ounce can black beans, drained
  • 15 ounce diced tomatoes (I get the unseasoned ones)
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • One medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 TBSP minced garlic
  • 1 tsp worcestershire sauce

(seasonings vary, just remember to season as you go, this will help you from over-seasoning your meal, trust me – DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT, season at the very end!)

  • chili powder
  • cumin
  • salt
  • pepper
  • cayenne pepper
  • oregano



Get your stock pot out kids, this makes plenty of food to feed your family! I prefer using my 8qt. dutch oven when making any kind of chili, stew, or soup – but obviously use whatever large pot you have on hand.

Saute your diced yellow onion & garlic with a generous pour of oil (Recently I’ve been using safflower oil, it doesn’t seem to have the same “taste” that olive oil leaves – careful though, it DOES NOT have a high smoke point!) over medium heat – cook until soft and fragrant (about 3-5min)

Dice up the trig-top and season with salt & pepper. Toss in with the onions and garlic. Cook until nice and brown on the outside

Remove from pan and then add in your ground beef (I personally will start seasoning here). Repeat the same step – aka: cook until brown. (I like to drain the grease after, but I suppose you don’t HAVE to if you don’t want to.)

Return the steak/garlic/onions to the pot, add in your kidney beans, black beans, diced tomatoes, worcestershire sauce.

(**season again – seriously.**)

Cook the beans/meat mixture for roughly 2 minutes and then add in your beef stock.

(**season again – seriously.**)

This is a pot you can either serve after stewing for 15 minutes or an hour. Just make sure to turn the heat down low as not to over cook your beans to a mush or turn your meat into jerky.


  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1⁄4 cup sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1⁄4 cup butter
  • 1tsp baking soda
  • 2⁄3 cup plain yogurt
  • 1⁄4 cup creamed corn
  • 1⁄4 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1⁄2 tsp salt
  • 1(4 ounce) can mild green chilies (optional)



Mix all dry ingredients together.

Mix wet ingredients in a separate bowl, add dry ingredients.

Lightly grease a 10- or 12-inch cast iron skillet. Pour in batter. (I preheat the skillet while I’m making the batter.).

Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes, rotating pan halfway through.


We always had bowls full of toppings to “dress up” our chili. My favorite was sharp cheddar cheese, sour cream (now-a-days I substitute with a plain, non-fat greek yogurt), and chives (or scallions, whatever you have on hand is fine).

Serve your family, and store remaining left overs in the fridge for a midnight treat OR you can freeze it for dinner another night when you just don’t have the time or energy to devote to cooking for yourself (or your family).

What is a memory? How skewed is it from the actual reality of the situation. There’s a quote that sticks with me that goes kinda like this (actually, this is exactly how it goes.)

“There are three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the truth. And no one is lying. Memories shared serve each differently.”
―Robert Evans

The story you share may be a different version of someone else who shares the same experience – but that’s what makes it YOURS.

There I was, 9 years old, sitting in the office, in our new house, in front of the computer. Doing what I do best (and still do, honestly). Snooping. Don’t ask me why I have this desire to know everyone’s business. Maybe it’s an attempt to make myself feel better about myself, but regardless of WHY I do it, once I start – it’s like a trip down a rabbit hole and I have no idea when I’ll reach the bottom.

I’d already gone through as many documents as I possible could upstairs in my parents room. Flipping through old photos, trying to piece stories together that had never been told. Rummaging through drawers looking for some secrets my parents may have been keeping from me. (Looking back now, I will never have anything personal – that I wish to KEEP personal, left so casually in a nightstand drawer. Especially if my children are ANYTHING like how I was.) I came across my mothers journal – where I discovered prior to her and my father getting married, she had gotten pregnant. They chose to have an abortion to avoid a scandal in the family. Not wanting everyone to assume they were getting married due to the circumstances, but because of their genuine love and desire to marry one another.

This was when I first started to realize there was some dirt to dig up in my family, so I started in the only place I’d think to hide something myself, the computer.

This was where I found e-mails between my mother and another man, regarding my youngest brother. (Yes, the one who was just born, the reason we moved into the big fancy new house.) As I would later come to find out – the picture perfect marriage my parents put on display was anything but. This was just the beginning of my small insight into their broken relationship.

I was still young, naive, and trusting. I took the information I had found and confronted my mother on it. I was told to not worry about it – that it was nothing, just spam e-mail of someone attempting to extort my family.

I began to find strange things around our house. Audio records of conversations I had had between me and my friends, others of my parents speaking to theirs. The whole situation was just… off. The lack of trust in my home was growing day by day,

My brothers lived in oblivion. They didn’t care to hear the things I had learned, and truly believed that ignorance was bliss. That everything was perfect in their little castle and as long as they kept their head in the sand, everything would continue to remain that way.

My father began locking himself in the office during the day and the evening. I understand the desire for privacy with 4 children running amok – but the puzzle pieces were not fitting together and my brain was on over drive.

My mother started to lose weight, a lot of weight. She bleached her hair, was getting her nails done on a regular basis. Had plastic surgery – which at the time, she told us was because the four of us had “sucked her dry.” Her appearance had changed, and with that – her mentality.

As time crept on “mini-explosions” would happen. They had always been there, but this time I was older and able to see a little more about what was actually happening behind the scenes.

When I say they had always been there, I’m referring to a memory of when my brother slipped in oil and cut his food on a broken plate in our old home. A plate that was broken because my parents were in the kitchen throwing things at one another. I couldn’t tell you what they were arguing about at the time, but I’m sure it had something to do with my fathers indiscretions and my mother finding out.

All of these “mini-explosions” were then followed by some kind of exotic vacation. Rome, Paris, Italy, the Caribbean — my parents LOVED their vacations and would always come back glowing, happy, and appeared to love one another again. Us children thought nothing of it at the time. All we knew was we’d be either heading to grandma and grandpa’s for a few weeks to play outside on the tire swing, watch beavis and butthead, eat “baby pancakes” and make sure that when we slept on the floor/couch we left a path for grandpa to be able to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night. The sound of their gas furnace starting up always brings back warm memories.

We were sitting in the living room playing 007 Golden Eye on our new Nintendo 64 when it happened. We had just finished eating a home cooked dinner that my mom had made for us and had dropped everything from the table when our Dad asked us if we wanted to play a game with him.

Dishes smashed onto the floor, my mother screaming at us while tears ran down her face.

“You’re all so ungrateful! Not one of you can help me clean up! Maybe I should just kill myself and then you’d actually appreciate me.”

I turned around to see my mother sinking into the floor by the oven, surrounded by broken dishes, weeping into her hands. We had no idea what to do or what had happened. The memory following that is blank. I couldn’t tell you if we stopped playing our game. I couldn’t tell you if we had gotten up, cleaned up the broken dishes, had cleaned the remaining dishes and put away the left overs. I just couldn’t tell you.

What I do remember is that after that night things changed. We had a family meeting to discuss how things were going to change, how we could work together as a team to support our family so things like that wouldn’t happen anymore. We rotated the dishes every night between one of us kids and volunteered to help pick up when necessary.

(Many fights occurred though when one of us failed to clean the dishes the night before. Ugh – I remember yelling at my parents, refusing to clean the dishes that were already in the sink because it wasn’t “my job,” because one of my brothers had failed to do theirs the night before.)

My mother graduated nursing school and started work at a hospital in their oncology unit. She had a purpose other than motherhood now, a sense of pride and accomplishment. But you could see the rising insecurities in my father, knowing my mother was striking out on her own – finding herself, other than the wife/mother role she had been playing for the last 10 years.

I’d like to say it all happened so fast, but the truth is – it didn’t. There were so many things leading up to my parents divorce that anyone could see it from a mile away if they knew what to look for.

As I’ve previously stated, I grew up in a LDS household. Yes, we had that stereotypical print of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane hanging on the wall next to a cuckoo clock my parents had picked up on one of their ‘make-it-or-break-it’ vacations. While we weren’t what I would call… the typical mormon family, we still attended church on a regular basis and attempted to hold Family Home Evenings and participate in church activities.

Which is why when my mother finally decided she had had enough, packed her things and left (taking my youngest brother with her) – I kind of lost my shit.

It was an ugly night. Full of emotions ranging from fear, hate, or extreme sadness, pain, and love. I was 14 years old. I didn’t know what to do, how to respond, how to behave. It all came so suddenly – they had fixed it so many times before, why couldn’t it be repaired now? Was it our fault? Had we been such ungrateful and self-absorbed children that we had caused this rift between our parents? Was it my mother’s fault for taking a job and being away from the family at night? Was it my father’s fault for his controlling and manipulating behavior?

The truth is – it definitely was not our fault. By “our” I mean my brothers and I. Our parents made that crystal clear to us from the beginning when they decided to take my brother (13 at the time) and I into their room and explain why they were dissolving their marriage.

(Word to the wise – somethings are better left unsaid. You do NOT need to tell your children about your indiscretions or WHY you’re getting divorced. Just tell us it’s not working and you don’t love each other anymore. It would save everyone from lots of expensive therapy later on.)

The night she left, my father immediately created a account. This is where/when he met the woman who would eventually become my step-mom. It progressed rapidly – with a telephone conversation that happened within hours of my mom walking out of our home.

We were so exhausted from the evenings events that me and my two remaining brothers decided to share a bed together. Call it a need to feel safe and connected. To know that the three of us couldn’t be separated and we had to do what we could to get my youngest brother back. My father had to help. We had to do this together. My mother was the one who had left, why should she get anything.

So began the downwards spiral of my relationship with my mother.

I didn’t understand, how could I understand? I was 14 years old. There was no way I could fathom having a romantic relationship with someone, let alone one that lasted 13 years, 4 children, and then walking away from it. I had no empathy or sympathy. I simply, shut down my heart to that.

My mother does deserve a lot of credit though. While my brothers travelled back and forth between homes, I refused to see her. I felt as though I would be betraying my father (who, at the time, I thought had had enough of that. I would not bring anymore pain to this family by participating in that.) She sent me cards, books, a basket of decorated cookies for my birthday. She tried, for years – and was openly humiliated for trying by my father and step-mother.

She sent me a card and a book one year for my birthday. When I returned home from school my father and step-mother had already opened it up and were heckling her for attempting a relationship with me. Further fueling my loyalty. As though if I ever wanted a relationship with her – I would be disappointing them and creating a hostile environment. I had no idea what they were going to do with the gift she had sent me, but you bet I found out.

They took it to the divorce attorney. Used it as a ploy against my mother to revoke any child custody she may have had a shot at. The book was innocent, it was her attempt at helping educate me on things that adolescent girls may deal with while attending high school. Sure there were chapters on getting your period, acne, relationships, cliques – but the one they chose to highlight (literally – my father took a highlighters to this book and blamed it on my mother), were the chapters on sex, what to expect, and how to have it safely.

They made her out to be a villain. As though she was influencing her daughter to commit immoral things. They used the church and our upbringing against her. They hired a therapist who then lied while supposedly being an unbiased advocate for us. Stating that I was in no emotional state to have a relationship with my mother of any kind. How the thought of it made me want to kill myself.

Little by little, the pain of losing my mother and then being manipulated by my father began to wear me down.

He was no longer the man who made french toast or mickey mouse blueberry pancakes on Sunday before church, or my team-mate in the kitchen whipping up his famous chili, or stew. He was no longer the father who would spend hours playing board games or video game with us. He had become the number one driving force creating a deeper wedge between my mother and I.

I segregated myself. I became introverted. Never leaving my bedroom. Never wanting to socialize. I was embarrassed to have friends over, I was too scared to ask to go anywhere. I was always met with the response, “Why should I do anything for you? What have you done for me?” I felt as though I was a burden, but had no way to reach out or ask for help.

I began spending more and more time with my aunt and my grandma. An attempt to get away from my toxic home environment. I knew the only people who would come rescue me, the people I was allowed to see – were them.

When I started high school, it got worse. It was as though they had too many things on their plate that I was the last thing on their mind. My curfew was 4pm. I wasn’t allowed to have a job (because my place was at home, watching my siblings). Trying to have any kind of social life was wasted effort. Why would anyone make an attempt to hang out with me when I had these “crazy” rules in my house and was never allowed to go anywhere, and friends were not allowed in the house.

I grew up differently than the rest of my siblings though. They were able to participate in after school activities, sports, hang out with their friends, and they didn’t have a curfew. Perhaps it was because I was the girl, at least – that’s what I’m going to assume. Regardless, I developed resentment for my father as well as my brothers who seemed to be able to do whatever they wanted and get away with it.

When I was a senior in high school I had had enough. I couldn’t do it anymore. I had been dating my boyfriend for about a year. God bless him, maintaining a relationship with once a week family dinners, 2 hours per weekend – I don’t know how we did it (it’s no wonder he cheated on me, seriously). He encouraged me to get out.

My aunt reached out to me asking if I would go with her to my youngest brother’s (who was still living fulltime with my mother) birthday party. My cousin is around the same age as him, so my mother had reached out and invited her. I said yes. My boyfriend would drive me all the way out to the party and I would get over the fear and shame and start repairing what had been so badly broken.

Everything changed after that.

“I’m so sorry, It’s running later than expected. I’ll be home a little later than planned.”

“That’s unacceptable. You’re grounded. We’ll discuss this when you get home.”

“Why am I grounded? I’m at my brothers birthday party? I don’t understand. I’m just trying to tell you I won’t be home as soon as I thought.”

“Don’t talk back to me. You’re grounded, indefinitely.”

“Fine then, this is unreasonable. I’m not coming home.”

And then shit hit the fan. My father called my grandma screaming at her, telling her Ginger was to blame for this. My grandma then called me crying, begging me to return to my father’s house before I broke up our family. My aunt crying because she couldn’t understand why this was all happening. None of it made sense, to anyone.

Then we had my mother. Who I had been estranged from for 4 years. Finally starting to see a little of what I’d had to go through to get here and the risk I had taken just to see her and support my brother. She was angry for the way I was being treated, but also felt as though she were to blame. She was never to blame.

This small conversation between my father and I was all it took for me to start planning my departure. I returned home the following Monday to a silent house. No one would speak to me. It was excruciatingly uncomfortable. I couldn’t fathom the idea that I was being punished for spending time with my mother. The exact thing I feared, had come to fruition.

I began seeing my mother on a regular basis after that. Heading to her house every other weekend with my brothers. Slowly starting to get to know my mother once again. Then I made my move.

It was immediately after Christmas, 2005. I had packed up my things, called my boyfriend and mother (who was still working night shift), and made my escape. Not without being caught first though. My father and step-mother caught me planning my departure and proceeded to humiliate me once again. Going through everything I had packed up and was planning to take with me. Most of which, I was told belonged to them, or things they had purchased for me that I would not be allowed to take with.

I was over it. I didn’t care anymore. The control and manipulation. The lies. It was more than my 18yr old self could handle. So I took what I could and left.

Chapter One


(Not long ago, my grandma and aunt had their own specialty cake business, which they ran out of her home on the farm. They created a piña colada cake that they would pack with either a strawberry, pineapple, or bavarian cream filling. It was absolutely decadent and EASILY my favorite. I personally, loved it right out of the fridge, i loved the chewy-brownie texture the cake would get when it was still cold.)


  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (227g.) coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup (70g) vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (6g) coconut extract
  • 1 teaspoon (4g) rum extract
  • 3 cups (342g) cake flour
  • 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon (15g) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3g) salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 T) ( 170g) unsalted butter, softened slightly, still cool to the touch (do not soften in microwave) you can cut into 1/2 inch slices onto waxed paper to soften more quickly


  • 2 sticks (1 cup) (226g) unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 2 (8oz.) (452g) cream cheese (use full fat cream cheese) straight from the refrigerator
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon (6g) coconut extract
  • 1 teaspoon (4g) rum extract
  • 6 to 6 1/2 cups ( 747g) powdered sugar



  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 8 inch cake pans
  • In a small bowl, combine eggs, coconut milk, oil, coconut extract and rum extract. Blend with a fork and set aside.
  • Put the dry ingredients, cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into the bowl of your mixer and whisk for at least 30 seconds to blend the ingredients.
  • With the mixer on low speed gradually increasing to medium speed gradually add the slices of butter to the dry ingredients a few pieces of butter at a time. Beat until the dry ingredients are crumbly and moistened. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, there should be no spots of dry flour in the bowl.
  • SLOWLY add approximately 1/2 of the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and beat for 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl then add the remaining egg mixture in 2 pourings, scraping the bowl and beating for 20 seconds after each addition.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 25 – 30 minutes



  • Add the butter to the mixing bowl and beat until smooth.
  • Add the cream cheese that has been cut into small to medium size pieces, beating with the butter until well blended and smooth.
  • Add the rum and coconut extracts.
  • Slowly add the powdered sugar, beating until smooth.
  • Use the frosting while it is still chilled. If it becomes too soft, refrigerate until it firms up a bit or put in the freezer for 5 minutes or so to return to a good piping consistency.

Remember when you were younger, and how you just wanted to grow up so fast? You thought things would get better when you could drive, graduate, drink, get a job, your own place, have your “own life,” that wasn’t controlled by the adults who clothed, fed, and provided shelter for you?

Remember how real and intense the pain of rejection was back then? It never gets easier, our hearts get either harder or we continue to give freely in spite of the possible consequences. Public humiliation never stops hurting either.

All of the experiences and feelings we endure throughout our childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, shape who we become. They are the driving force behind our reactions, responses, and decision-making. But without getting into the nature-vs-nurture argument; let’s just agree that our history shapes our future.

It never mattered “why” it happened, just that it happened.

It was my 8th birthday. For the first time (and the last) ever, my mother and father had caved into my wishes for a “friend birthday party,” instead of our traditional family birthday parties.

I was beyond excited. I invited girls from school and the neighborhood, I couldn’t wait to play all day and be surrounded by all my friends.

One by one, their parents called to cancel, saying they were not able to make it and to wish me a happy birthday. One friend even stopped by to drop off the birthday gift she had gotten for me, but that she had to go and hoped that I had a good birthday.

You never forget that moment. Ever. When every, single person, rejects you. At the same time. Why did my brother have so many friends, but I struggled to find even one person who was nice to me? What was wrong with me? Was I broken? Was it my glasses? Was it my hair? Why was it so hard?

We moved the following year, to a new town and a new house. We moved on my 9th birthday. I guess to save me from further embarrassment. We had a small family birthday dinner where I received a jewelry box my father had brought home from a business trip to Japan (full of bubblicious gum), a purple silk kimono, and an autographed picture of Tom Cruise from his role in Top Gun. I’m sure my grandma brought over a pina colada cake (my favorite at the time) and we barbequed hamburgers and hot dogs.

You see, my birthday falls right around Labor Day. First week of September. First week of school. No one remembers. Everyone is out of town. It’s almost always overlooked. There is just too much happening that week for someone other than my parents, to remember this day that I wanted so badly, to be special.

We had a big family party for my 10th birthday. Lots of family, extended family even, dropped in. Most likely to see the new home my parents purchased, the neighborhood, and get in on any juicy family gossip. This was another birthday that I would come to hate. I spent it crying under a trampoline refusing to see anyone. (yes, I recognize that I’m really starting to sound like a brat at this point, but please… just bear with me.) I had picked up a wonderful virus known as “Fifth Disease,” that most commonly affects children between the ages of 5-15. It shows up as a rash and can take 1-3 weeks to resolve. While completely harmless to adults and most children, it can cause complications in pregnant women.

My aunt, was still in her first trimester, with her first child. I couldn’t even hug her, I was devastated. 

I gave up after that. There would be nothing special about my day, I would hang out with my brothers, mother, and father. Perhaps my aunt or grandparents would stop by. But after what felt like years of being disappointed, upset, rejected, I just gave up. I quit asking. Why put myself through the torture. It just didn’t seem fair.

This “friends-invited-to-birthday-parties” aversion spilled out to the rest of the year. I never invited friends over, I never asked my parents if I could go see them either. If it involved inconveniencing them, I would not even bother. The things I wanted to do, just seemed so insignificant in the larger scheme of things. My brothers had activities to go to, my parents had enough juggling all of that, why would I be selfish enough to ask for more from them?

This seclusion continued throughout junior high and parts of high school. It never appeared that way to my peers and my parents didn’t seem to ask why I never invited friends over. I was outgoing at school, performed well in my classes, seemed to be on track for college, but something was just off.

Being the butt of jokes throughout most of your life gets old, and it’s painful. You spin different stories (lies) to make yourself feel better about who you are, and hopefully if you believe them, others will too. Or, in some cases, you just get caught. Then you’re back to exactly where you started.

Great job there, girlie. Way to “make friends and influence people,” maybe next time you’ll read more than just the inside sleeve.

This desire for friendships, relationships, a significant other. It propelled self-loathing, lack of self-respect, and each decision that was made was to acquire more “people.” Because, the more people you had, the less likely everyone would abandon you, at least – not all at the same time.

This behavior was not without its consequences. 

How did this happen. Why am I this way. What is wrong with me. How come nobody likes me. How come nobody loves me.

Creating a false identity was just step-one. Step-two was attempting to acquire that false identity as something real. Fake it til you make it, so to speak. Which was my mantra for many, many, many, MANY years. I would spin tall tales or exaggerate truths just for attention. I wanted friends, I wanted attention, I wanted my friends to pay attention to me. But refused to be vulnerable enough to spend time with them outside of work, for fear they may get to know the “real” me, and leave – just like everyone else previously had.

The abandonment, rejection, and attention-seeking runs deep. My friends choosing to blow-off my 8th birthday party was just the beginning of my problems, I had no idea what was to come or what was in store for me down the road.

I moved to a new city, new neighborhood, new school – when I was 9 years old. Our family was expanding to include a 4th child, my dad had accepted a new job at Microsoft,  and my mom was in school for nursing. We went from living in this middle class suburbia, to a “street of dreams” home in a neighborhood where only one other girl was the same age as me.

I became the neighborhood babysitter as a way to earn some extra money and get out of the house. Looking back on it now, who leaves children with a 10-yr old? Most of those kids I was babysitting were my younger brothers ages, so it was always “their friends” that I was taking care of. It kept me busy on some weekends and even weeknights. I was able to put the kids to bed and then either watch a movie or work on my homework until their parents came home and mine came to pick me up.

Knowing only one girl my age in the neighborhood made it easy for us to connect. We came from completely different worlds though. Her mom could always be found in a Nike track suit, big black sunglasses, driving her white Toyota SUV with 90’s rap music blaring. (Compared to my mom, in her red jeep wrangler and country music.) She always had the trendiest clothes, she was great in school, sports, she had lots of friends (in the “popular group”), and boys seemed to love her.

I was the opposite of that. I was the awkward, sheepish, strange new girl who was in girl scouts, went to church, and had no idea how to ride a skateboard or play basketball. I wanted to be like her so bad. But it wasn’t this way at first. I remember her coming up to me in the 3rd grade during recess and saying, “want to be friends?” … I said, “no.” and proceeded to walk away but she just wouldn’t give it up.

There were times where I was just so unbelievably jealous of her for “having it all” and I had no idea how to handle my insane jealously. There was a time I chucked a basketball at her face during recess, or when I hit her in the middle of the hallway and got seriously reprimanded by our 5th grade teacher. I don’t know why she kept continuing to try and stay friends with me, or why I kept apologizing and just wanting her to like me and feel included in her group.

We had crushes on the same guys in grade school, but they always preferred her over me. I never had a chance. 

When junior high rolled around she became even more popular and we never had any classes together or spent any time at school together. I was off to find my own friends who I could connect with while she pranced around campus with the rest of the popular crowd. But during the weekends, you could find us meeting in the middle and either headed to her house to watch movies, play on their sports court, or head to my house to swim in the pool or jump on the trampoline.

No matter what happened between us at school, I was fiercely loyal to her. She called me one day after a fight with her mom and step dad and came running over to my house. My parents weren’t home, so I told her she could stay as long as she needed. Her mom showed up looking for her, and I told her she hadn’t come here and to check with her other friends. Looking back now, I may have been trying to protect my friend, but what a scary thing for a parent to go through.

She was always one step ahead of me when it came to everything. But I could always rely on her to have my back – at least, on the weekends. We went joy-riding in my Dad’s 4runner, she told me about her experiences with boys, and she was the first to get drunk off the booze in my parents liquor cabinet. She was so hung over the next day (throwing up in my parents back yard), that when her mom came to pick her up we lied and just said she must have gotten sick.

The friends I made during junior high were from all different groups but they had a connection with one another that I would never have. I could never permeate the friendship-barrier that is “growing up together.” I was always an outsider, no matter how hard I tried.

Even at church, the group of girls I met thought I was strange. No matter how hard I tried to fit in, how desperately I just wanted to be accepted – it felt like it was never going to happen.

The summer going into our sophomore year of high school was the worst. I thought I had finally been accepted into a group of friends. Not just any group, but the POPULAR kids. Only to find out it was purely entertainment. I had been caught in a lie and was publicly humiliated in front of everyone during a movie night at someone’s house. I didn’t think I would ever recover. I had to do something and I had to do it fast before high school started.

I reinvted myself that summer. I went shopping with money in my savings account and decided to rebrand myself. I would no longer be the “goody-goody-mormon-girl” and I was not going to be the “shock-value” speaker who said anything for attention, I wanted to be something new. I needed new friends to do it and saw entering high school as an opportunity to make that happen.

You will see this name come up throughout my life. I met my best friend my sophomore year of high school. To keep her privacy, we’ll just stick to calling her “N.” (This has nothing to do with the fact that I read all of the Gossip Girl books & loved the series they created for television… but it also, might.)

We met during 3rd period english class. Her birthday is the day after mine. She had all these stories about fun things she had done over summer, all these friends she had, and she had a car. Not only did she have a car, but she was the only person who was willing to drive 25-30min to come see me. We celebrated when my curfew was extended from 4pm to 6pm. We did absolutely nothing and had a blast. She taught me how to drive, helped me study for school (she was always so good at math!), and most of all, she accepted me in a way I had never been before. She included me. I finally had found a friend who I didn’t feel I needed to impress, lie to, or “be” a certain way just for her to want to spend time with me.

The best memory I have of any friend, the most support I’ve ever received, was during 2nd period our senior year of high school when I had decided to move out of my Dad’s house. I left class, sat outside the door and felt the tears fall. She came outside, sat with me, her arm around me, and cried with me. From that point forward, I knew we would be friends forever – turns out, I was right (not without a lot of pain, apologies, judgement, and love – lots of love).

I met the second person who would become a best friend during my senior year of high school, we’ll call her “Lan”. We met at my second (I’ll say second, because my first job was at a sushi restraunt and it only lasted 2 days… but still!) job, working at a hair salon. I thought she was the strangest, most interesting person I had ever met – and for someone reason, she thought I was the coolest girl she had ever met. Here was a petite, firely little redhead who had more drive and ambition (and anxiety) packed in her 5’3″ frame than I had ever hoped for (well, minus the anxiety).

She was hyper-focused on college (she had just been accepted to LMU in Los Angeles, CA), she loved singing, dancing, fashion, makeup, hair products, and most of all – she’d always split blue cheese stuffed olives & grapes we’d pick up from the Trader Joe’s next door to the hair salon with me. I was interested in her world. It was so different from mine and N’s. She invited me out to my first rave after graduating high school. We went to Sephora and applied more pink, blue, and green eyeshadow than I ever had in my entire life. She dressed me up in fishnets, mini skirts, crop tops, teased my hair and applied more glitter to me than a stripper.

I fell in love with everything. From the late nights dancing until my feet went numb in 7″ platform, patent leather, knee-high boots – to our girl-talk lunches flirting with cute boys at our favorite little restaurant on the water. I teased her about all the medication she was on, the food that would get stuck in her braces, how I couldn’t understand her kosher kitchen, and she still seemed to love me. We had these wild dreams of her becoming a famous pop-star and I would be her assistant. I was the only person who could figure out how to pack her suitcases for college to where everything would actually fit. No matter how hard she tried, but she always had me – and I was always there to help.

N & Lan were never introduced. I tried to keep them as far away from each other as possible. They knew about each other, but I didn’t want them to actually KNOW each other. I had this cripling fear that if they did, they would talk behind my back, gossip, say mean things – maybe they would become best friends – and leave me all alone. This compartmentalization of my friendships would be a common theme during my 20’s. Where I would have relationships with these women, but I never wanted them to meet one another. I even told them that the only time they would ever meet each other would be if I were to ever get married. I was so protective over each and every relationships – the idea of it being shared or dissolved because I introduced one another was anxiety-inducing and caused me more stress than I care to explain.

These two people are important. Remember them. Keep them in mind during the story.


August 28th, 2010.

The Wedding.

This picture will forever immortalize something I don’t remember.

I was told the toast was touching, emotional, full of sentiment and original.

I’m not surprised. Not to sound *too* full of myself, but let’s be honest – public speaking, being the center of attention, it’s just something I’m good at. I’ve always been able to jump in, completely unprepared, and capture an audience’s attention.

When I was younger, it had more to do with my wit and charm, as I got older it was a mix of the two + I blossomed from ugly ducking into … well, to fall in line with the cliché, a swan.

I had to rely on my personality when I was younger to command attention. That and perhaps I said/did things just to make others pay attention to me.

You see, I am the oldest of 4 siblings (technically 6 now, but we’ll get to that later) and the only girl (kind of, but like I said, we’ll get to that later). You had to fight to get noticed, and it wasn’t always positive attention that you received, but honestly – even if it was negative, it was still attention.


From a young age I was standing up in church, in front of a congregation of 150-250 people, commanding a room with my testimony of what I believed. Inspiring and touching others with the spirit. I was given a topic (what faith means to me, the meaning of easter/christmas, agency and accountability, emergency preparedness, plan of salvation, or my favorite dating, relationships, and virtue), a time limit of 5 minutes, and a 1-2 weeks to prepare.

I made it my personal mission to provide entertainment to these people who were busy bouncing babies on their knees, dozing off during ward announcements, the teenagers playing games on their phones or the children shoveling goldfish crackers into their mouths. I saw it as an opportunity. I was refining a skill, a talent if you will, for public speaking. It didn’t necessarily matter WHAT I said, but HOW I said it. How could I inspire such a wide audience? What needed to be said/done to capture their attention.

In junior high I took two years of drama class. Some took it, thinking it would be an “easy A”, but I took it excited to have the spotlight on me once again. Thinking this would be a safe place to provide a creative outlet for my quirky personality. Let’s be honest – this is junior high – it’s traumatic. There is no “safe place.” And if you think there is, you’re sorely mistaken or maybe you made better friends than I did. Regardless of this, I learned my lines, performed monologues and short plays for our class as well as our school. I LIVED for my drama class. Ms. Sandberg – she was the epitome of what I thought a New York theater geek was like and I LOVED it. She embraced my strange sense of humor and awkward personality. I thrived as her pupil and found myself even more hungry for the spotlight.


In high school I found my spotlight in my Marketing class. I was able to create fun, engaging, and entertaining presentations on make-believe products. I was able to do research and apply my natural desire to capture the attention of my audience. There were several independent projects, but the majority of our presentations were done in pairs. I happened to be oh so lucky enough (insert an eye roll so hard you can see your brain) to get paired with my younger brother. This helped fuel my competitive nature and desire to be number 1 with received recognition and attention. I had to share the spotlight at home, it was even more challenging sharing it in school. While I didn’t have many friends, and I was lucky enough my brother agreed to pair up with me – it was still challenging.

Once I graduated I sought out other attention seeking behaviors – not all of them healthy. Which is how we get to here.

August 28th, 2010.

I’m 21 years old, about to turn 22, I am black-out drunk, at my mom’s wedding. My guest is a boyfriend I’d been on/off for the last 1.5 years, really nice guy (my parents loved him), but not my “forever” guy. I was so intoxicated with beer, rum, and love that I became what was soon to be known as “Drunk Jackie”… aka: an emotional hot mess. I’m full of *feelings* and a desire to make my parents proud of me and to be loved, loved so hard and be in love so hard – think Disney princess kind of love – that I become the girl sitting in her car, usually on the phone with her mom or best friend, tears streaming down her face, worried I’ll never find my great love.


Here I am, waterproof mascara holding up to its name, my heart racing, blood alcohol content at roughly 0.25%, commanding a room of 100 adults – telling them how my dream for my future is to find a love as great as what my Mom and her husband had found (but honestly, hopefully – and i still hope! – sooner than either of them found it).

This is The Mimosa Memoirs.