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.)
- 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.
- Bring water to a boil, add oil, remaining salt, and cook pasta until al dente. Rinse under cold water and drain.
- 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.”
“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.