Chapter Eight

Chapter Eight: Keylime Cheesecake

(Once upon a time, I didn’t know how to bake. Weird, right? Cooking has always come naturally to me – I rarely follow a recipe, because it’s just not needed. Baking is something completely different. The chemistry and science behind it is so complex that it must be executed perfectly to receive the desired results. 

My biscuits were hockey pucks. My cookies were flat, crumbly and burnt. My pie dough wasn’t made with cold ingredients. I was epic at failing in the baking department. So many desserts just turned to a black dust.

One night while I was in an unusually stubborn and determined mood, I pulled out a cookbook and found the most challenging thing I could think of at the time. Cheesecake. You can mix it too much, or it wont be dense. You have to bake it in a particular way so the filling doesn’t crack. The crust has to be evenly packed so the filling doesn’t bleed through the crust. Needless to say, I had my work cut out for me.

It couldn’t have possibly turned out better. It was that moment that I realized if I paid attention to the little details, amazing things could be made.)

INGREDIENTS:

Crust:

  • 2C (230g) crushed graham cracker crumbs (you’ll need about 15 sheets)
  • 3TBSP (39g) granulated white sugar
  • 1/2C (113g) salted butter – diced into 1TBSP pieces and melted

Filling:

  • 1C + 2TBSP (236g) granulated white sugar
  • 1TBSP (8g) cornstarch
  • 3 (8oz) pkgs cream cheese softened well (but not melted – think, room temp)
  • 4 Large eggs
  • 2/3C (160g) sour cream
  • 1/3C (80ml) heavy cream
  • 1/2C (120ml) fresh lime or keylime juice (you can also just pick up a bottle of keylime juice from your local grocery store.)
  • 1.5tsp vanilla extract

Raspberry Sauce:

  • 3 generous cups of fresh red raspberries
  • 1/2C granulated white sugar
  • 1tsp lime juice
  • 1TBSP lime zest

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lime the outside of a 9-inch springform pan with a sheet of 18×18 heavy-duty aluminum foil (make sure the foil has no holes, you dont want any water to leak in!)
  2. Mix together the crushed graham crackers and sugar in a bowl – stir to combine. Then slowly pour in the butter while mixing until evenly moistened. Pour into prepared springform pan and press evenly into the bottom and up the sides, coming up about 1-inch from the top.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 10min, then remove and cool on a wire rack.
  4. Reduce the heat of your oven to 325F. Have a large roasting pan available and ready – boil about 4-quarts of water (you may need all of it!).
  5. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together granulated sugar and cornstarch until well combined. In a separate bowl add in softened cream cheese, then pour the sugar mixture over and mix using an electric hand mixer – blend until smooth. (Make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl down occasionally so everything gets mixed together.) Mix in eggs one at a time, mixing until just combined after each addition. Add sour cream and heavy cream – mix until combined. Then finally mix in the lime juice and vanilla.
  6. **TIP** Tap the bowl on the counter ~30x to release any large air bubbles.
  7. Pour over cooked graham cracker crust and then place the cheesecake in the roasting pan, THEN place the roasting pan in the oven.
  8. Carefully pour the water into the roasting pan just enough until it comes half way up the sides of the cheesecake (which you hopefully still have in the springform pan…)!
  9. Bake in the preheated oven until the cheesecake is nearly set but still jiggly in the center (about 60-65min). Remove from oven and cook on a wire rack for an hour. Cover and chill in refrigerator for 8 hours or over night.

For the raspberry sauce:

  1. Sort, rinse and dry berries before measuring and using in the recipe.
  2. Using a food processor, puree the berries. Press berry puree through a fine mesh sieve (if you don’t have one – I used my gold cone coffee filter and it worked out pretty well!) into a medium saucepan; discard the seeds. Stir in sugar, lime juice & zest.
  3. Bring fruit pulp and juices to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes while skimming foam from the sizes of the saucepan while using a slotted spoon.
  4. Once the foam has been skimmed, reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook stirring frequently until bright in color, thickened and reduced by half (about 8-10min). When done, there should be 3/4c of sauce.
  5. Set sauce aside to cool completely before using.

There I was, in my towel sitting on the floor of my Mom’s kitchen, crying. I hadn’t even been able to take an entire shower without bursting into tears. I had sabotaged another relationship. Another birthday in the books with me dealing with “rejection” and being “abandoned” – but no one to blame but myself.

We spent a month trying to make it work. He came to Mom and Scott’s wedding. It was great – minus me drinking too much. But what’s new there? It was a beautiful ceremony. They held it in their backyard with about 75 guests and to this day, one of the best parties they’ve ever thrown.

Somewhere between my 6th beer, attempting to roll a joint for my uncles in the bathroom, a speech, and a brief argument with Toby about my uncles drinking the bottle of rum he had stashed in the fridge – it all hit me.

I found myself upstairs in my room with tears streaming down my face. I made a call.

“We will never have what they have. Why are we doing this?”

I just kept repeating it over and over while on the phone with Lan. I knew the relationship I had with Toby was dead, at this point we were just keeping each other company until something better came along – and when it did – we would move on.

I guess I didn’t expect it to hurt as much as it did.

So there I was, on my 22nd birthday – crying because I had disappointed myself. I hadn’t stayed true to what I’d been telling myself all along. Don’t get attached. If you’re not attached, you can’t be hurt. Shame on you, Jacquelin. This is your own damn fault.

By believing you deserve love from others while not being brave enough to give it is just a lie you tell yourself to make yourself feel better about all the horrible things you do to others. Fact of the matter is, regardless of how much he liked to party – you didn’t deserve to be with anyone. Using someone for your own benefit never turns out right, why did you think it would this time?


Weeks go by and I can’t stand the loneliness. I dive back into seeing RP. Someone who firmly believed that he loved me – that I was the one who got away – but couldn’t seem to figure out a healthy way to show that.

I was kind of getting what I wanted. In a roundabout way. A warm body to lie next to at night, someone to spend time with so I wasn’t alone. But it wasn’t REALLY what I wanted, and I knew that. Which is why when I got a call from Lan saying that B (that gorgeous redhead) would be returning from deployment and was at the airport now heading into Seattle – I had to make a change.

So I went for it. I stopped answering RP’s calls and texts and reached out to B to see what he was up to. It’d been a year or two since we last saw each other – middle of a snow storm in December before he decided to join the Marines – but I had to take the risk, chance that there could be something there.

To my surprised, he was happy to hear from me and after dropping off a few things at his parents house – he stopped by the grocery store to grab some beer and made his way toward my parents house. Where he stayed for over a week.

My parents adored him. They thought he still had a lot of growing up to do – but it was refreshing for them to see their daughter happy and enjoying the company of someone who as actually doing SOMETHING with their life.

I was one smitten kitten. We cooked dinner together, watched movies, played games, spent time with my family, went out on an actual date, I thought this to myself, “wow – so this is what it’s like to be with someone who appreciates me.” I never wanted it to end. It was exactly what I’d been needing to get over RP and Toby and move onto the next stage of my life. My self-confidence, my ego, my self-worth. All wrapped into one – growing exponentially because I was finally happy and not stressed out being with someone.

But like all good things in my life, they come to an end.

December 31st, New Years Eve, I was in the kitchen making a keylime cheesecake with raspberry sauce. I was determined to step up my baking game and prove I could do it. Plus, I wanted to make a special treat for B before he left. He swung by to give me a kiss goodbye before starting the long drive from Seattle back to San Diego.

I didn’t want him to go, I had enjoyed our time together so much and I didn’t know when I would be seeing him again.

In an attempt to secure whatever we had, we leaped and decided to try it. Long distance. I’d done it a few years before (when we first met) with someone else, why wouldn’t I be able to do it now? It wasn’t hard to have the talk, we both wanted it – so we jumped, head first.

We talked everyday on the phone, eventually running out of things to say. You can only ask, “how was your day?” so many times before it begins to become repetitive and you’re no longer listening to the answer.

He left a few days after getting back to San Diego for Sniper School in Hawaii. He was so excited and I was excited for him. This meant we’d have to figure out time zones and how to find time to catch up – but we could do it!

It proved to be extremely stressful. He was such a mess of anxiety. The pressure to succeed was overwhelming and he was struggling to find his footing. Soon I was getting calls in the middle of the night while he was drunk from going out with his classmates – or just not returning my calls at all. Something was changing, something was up. I had an uneasy feeling and wasn’t sure how to go about it.

“I bought you a ticket to come visit for Valentine’s Day!”

“WHAAAAAT!?!?!!”

“Yeah! I got us a hotel room, I’ve got the weekend planned out. You’ll get in on the 14th and we’re going to have a blast. I miss you so much! Love you, Jack!”

I was beyond excited! This was the best news I’d heard in months. We finally had a date set of when we’d be seeing each other next – we just had to make it a few more weeks and then we’d be waking up to room service.

He didn’t pass the school. He was a wreck. I had no idea how to make him feel better, cheer him up, tell him everything was going to be okay. He had this fixation on failure that he couldnt’ shake. Soon we were going days without speaking to one another. I tried, but I couldn’t reach him.

I had this great romantic weekend coming up, with a guy who had almost all but disappeared on me.

So I did what I do best – I tried not to dwell on it and started seeking out other ways to get attention.


It’s not hard to find attention when you’re serving coffee in your underwear.

I’d been working at a coffee stand for a few months at this point, slanging beans in a bikini. The money was good, it was really good, and I loved telling anyone who asked if I was seeing anyone, that I was in fact – I was dating a marine who lived in San Diego and would be seeing him in a few weeks!

Something about working in a small country town, telling people you’re dating someone in the military – they just seem to love you that much more.

That all changed two weeks before I was set to leave.

It was 7pm – time to wrap up and go home. As I was descaling the machine and counting my money – a 2006 dodge 2500 rolled up. I didn’t recognize the vehicle, so it wasn’t one of my regular customers.

I’d forgotten to turn the open sign off.

“I’ll take your largest white chocolate mocha.”

I teased him about coming to see me when we were closing and how he caught me at a bad time cause I had thrown on my sweatpants and was getting ready to head out the door. But I stayed, made him his $9.00 coffee and proceeded to chat with him for another 30 minutes.

There was something about this guy. Everything I’d learned from him during our quick chat just made me want to know more. He was in town looking at a car to buy his sister, he owned his own company, and he’d just gone through a messy breakup with his fiance a few months before that.

So of course, I slipped him my number – told him I’d like to get to know him more, and that was that.

He didn’t call or text, and I didn’t dwell on it. I had a boyfriend anyway who I was seeing in just 2 weeks and I kept telling myself how excited I was for that.

Around a week later, as I’m working on a puzzle with my grandma and great grandma, I get a text.

“Hey – It’s Mark, from the coffee stand.”

I called him immediately and asked, “what the heck!? You waited a whole week to get in touch with me!?”

“Well – to be honest, I thought you gave me a fake number.”

“Why the hell would I do that?”

“I don’t know. Want to grab dinner tonight?”

“Yes – 7?”

“Sounds great, How about purple cafe in Kirkland?”

“See you there!”


I spent $250 on an orange dress from my favorite boutique in downtown Kirkland, paired it with gorgeous brown booties, a brown leather belt, and an extra long topaz colored crystal beaded necklace. I hugged my parents goodbye who quickly questioned where I was off to and I responded with, “Just meeting up with Autumn, I’ll be back later!”

I parked the truck, patiently waiting to see if I saw his. I did. My anxiety was turned all the way up. Here I was again, about to get myself into trouble when I had a great guy 2000mi away.

We walked in together, grabbed a table in the restaurant and proceeded to order. We shared too many glasses of wine and delicious antipasta. I was in heaven. Who was this man? He was so charming, confident, and seemed to only have eyes for me – how did I prevent this from ending?

We were there until they closed. I had a few beers in the back seat of my truck that I had planned on shipping to B to give him a little taste of home while he was so far away, but I grabbed them anyway and off Mark and I drove on an adventure.

We found ourselves parked next to a coffee stand about 15 miles away from the restaurant, drinking our beers, singing along to the radio, and laughing until we cried.

In typical Jacquelin fashion, I had one thing on my mind – the best way to let him know I’m interested is to attempt to seduce him. I was quickly rejected and did not take kindly to that.

“Are you gay?”

“No!”

“Well what’s the matter? Are you impotent!?”

“Uhh – no.”

And then I quickly, drunkenly, passed out naked in the seat beside him.

Yes, you read that correctly. I attacked him for not taking advantage me while I was intoxicated, and then passed out. Classy, right?

I woke up around 6am freezing. His truck’s battery had died in an attempt to keep it running so the heater would stay on and I wouldn’t get cold. I grabbed my clothes and started dressing myself when he woke up.

It was raining, we were in the middle of nowhere, and now we were stuck.

Patiently waiting for the grocery store down the street to open so we could ask them if someone there could jump our car, we bashfully laughed at last nights adventure.

We finally got the truck jumped and he looked over and asked me, “Do you want to drive?”

I’m never one to turn down an opportunity to drive, being the control freak that I am, so I promptly said yes and we were on our way back to my truck.

I kissed him goodbye, hopped out of his truck and that was that. I didn’t know if I’d ever see him again and frankly, I didn’t really care. I just knew I had to get home and shower before heading to my friend’s house to watch the Superbowl.


I arrived at my friend’s house just in time for kick-off. Cozied myself up on the couch with a giant sheet pan of nachos on my lap, and once again – passed out. Waking up only to 2 minutes left in the 4th quarter and a missed text from, you guessed it, Mark.

The guilt was debilitating, but the excitement overpowered that guilt and provided me with drive to see where it would go.

I called B the day before I was set to leave to San Diego, told him some bullshit lie about my Grandma getting sick and I had to stay home and take care of her. He didn’t believe me, why would he?

Valentine’s Day came, and because I wasn’t going to San Diego anymore, I volunteered to babysit my friends 5 month old baby for the night. Mark called me that night, we chatted for a bit, just getting to know one another. While we were on the phone, B called me, I kept it short and sweet, wanting to get back on the other line to keep talking to this new mystery man. Once B and I ended our conversation, Mark’s first response was, “So who was that? Your boyfriend?”

Feeling like I had been caught, and put off by his immediate jealous and insecure remark, I told him, “No. But I have to get back to taking care of the baby, I’ll talk to you later.”

A few weeks went by and I was ignoring B at this point. I received a call from Lan telling me that B had been with someone else while he was in Sniper School in Hawaii. I suddenly didn’t feel quite so bad. I wasn’t angry, I wasn’t hurt, but I felt my actions were somehow excusable at that point.

It was only then that I decided B and I were never going to make this work and I started to see if Mark and I were really going to go anywhere.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I was excited to find out. I’d never been with someone who just seemed to be such… an adult. To be fair, he was nine years older than me, so there’s that.

But how could someone so appeared to be so put together, be interested in me? What did I have to offer?

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Chapter Seven

Chapter Seven: French Toast

(Growing up there were 2 things we would get for breakfast on Sunday mornings before church. Mickey Mouse shaped blueberry pancakes or french toast. I personally don’t have children right now, and the Disney nostalgia is lost on me. Maybe it was because my last trip there was absolutely the worst. It also could be because I was never one of those die-hard Disney fans to begin with.

That leaves us with french toast. Everyone has their special little tips and tricks to jazz it up, but this one is my favorite. I made it on mornings where I would feed the horde of men asleep on my couch after a night of drinking & watching stand-up comedy on HBO. I knew I could feed an army with a loaf of bread and a dozen eggs. 

This became my go-to and has been an unaltered recipe since the first time I made it. The only changes I’ve made on the last year have been to grease the pan with ghee instead of butter or cooking spray. But regardless of what you cook it in – make sure to use something non-stick, otherwise this can get gross real quick and make your pan a pain in the ass to clean later.)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4tsp ground nutmeg (My preference is to use a microblade and grate it straight from the source – that way you avoid a potentially stale taste.)
  • 1TBSP sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk (I suggest avoiding non-fat or fat-free milk here. I usually have coconut or almond milk on hand and use those, but I haven’t ever always been so “granola” – so back in the day I just used 2% milk)
  • Challah, Brioche, or White bread (Honestly, it is SO good with homemade fresh bread, you seriously CANNOT beat it.)

TOPPINGS:

  • Unsalted butter
  • Maple syrup
  • Whipped cream
  • Berries (Strawberries & blueberries are my fav.)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a shallow bowl whisk together: eggs, milk, cinnamon, sugar, vanilla, & milk.
  2. Heat up your non-stick over medium-high heat & add in a tablespoon of ghee/butter/spray it down with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. Take your slices of bread and saturate in the liquid mixture, making sure to coat the entire surface. Allow the mixture to run off of the bread when you pick it up before placing it in the pan. Remember, this is french toast – not just fried egg on toast.
  4. You’ll want to cook each side until golden brown and crispy – roughly 2-5min per side.
  5. Plate & top with your chosen goodies. Get ready to dig in, this will be a new family favorite!

Role Models & Bryers peach ice cream in a bowl topped with milk. That was all it took. I drove home blissful and ready for a fresh start with someone new. A man everyone seemed to respect, like, and he had his shit together. He had a great job for a roofing company, drove a 2006 BMW M3 (which I am a sucker for), and from first impressions he seemed to be more “grown up” than the previous men I had dated.

We instantly clicked and became inseparable. Like two peas in a pod we did everything. By everything, I really mean we just ate a lot of teriyaki, gyros, played a lot of video games, saw a lot of movies, and drank a LOT of whisky. Cheap, nasty, whisky that came in plastic bottles that we chased with either Pepsi or Rockstar.

Between the two of us we would each pick up a fifth of whisky, a 16-20oz chaser & head to a party. Every damn weekend. I hadn’t even realized I had traded one problem for another. But you better believe that everyone else did.

After ending things with RP, “N” and Lan came back into the picture for a moment to try to reconnect our broken friendship. However, that was short-lived as soon as they saw the rabbit hole I was falling down into once again.

“Do you ever stop partying?”

“I’m changing my number, just wanted to let you know. I’ll call you or text you once it changes, promise.”

“All you care about is drinking. Why don’t you do something with your life.”

“I’m sorry. I thought you were over this. I can’t watch you do this anymore.”

“I love you, but you’ve got to get your shit together, Jackie. This is embarrassing.”

It was a blur. It was absolutely 100% a blur. Bonfires at the river with an ex-girlfriend screaming at me, crying, telling me I replaced her. Others deciding I wasn’t allowed to certain homes or parties anymore because I went from dating RP to Toby. Fights breaking out between groups of men over absolutely nothing. Running from a party as cops rolled up because someone thought it would be a good idea to pull a gun at the party.

It didn’t get better. I became absorbed in this new lifestyle. Working sporadic temp jobs, getting arrested for driving on a suspended license, I had basically moved into my boyfriend’s Dad’s house. It was a mess. I was a mess. Eventually I needed to wake up and figure out what was next.

“Josh and I broke up, for good this time. I think. I don’t want to be alone, will you move in with me?”

“I don’t have a job, at least not one where I made enough money to pay any rent. I’m sorry.”

“I don’t care. I just don’t want to live alone.”

“Well, if that’s how you feel, okay then.”

Charlotte had called me after breaking up with her boyfriend. She had a room-mate, Frances, who was absolutely toxic. One night of drinking too much wine, I woke up the next morning at Charlotte’s house (before Frances had moved out) and all the new clothes I had just gotten were missing. After searching her place high and low, I decided to look a little further and investigate Frances’ room. Wouldn’t you know it – every single item of clothing I had JUST gotten the day before, was hidden into suitcases.

I was so angry. So unbelievably angry. I drank more wine, fueled by my rage against this crazy woman, that I thought it would be a good idea to take her toothbrush and scrub my asshole with it. Yes, you read that right. No typos. You cannot make this shit up.

Needless to say, she never found out, but moved out a few days later.

That’s when I moved in.

It started out great. It was like “old times” except without the abusive boyfriends around to knock us around. We drank too much wine, watch a LOT of music videos, has several dance parties, and cooked, a lot. Okay, mostly I did the cooking.


Christmas Day, I woke up absolutely sick as a dog. Not hung over (for once), but actually sick. I couldn’t keep anything down and all I wanted to do was go home. I had spent the night at Toby’s house and we had visited his aunt earlier in the day for an early Christmas dinner. His plan was to go out to a party afterwards but I was in no shape to go anywhere or do anything.

We argued back and forth about me wanting to go home, him being upset he had to drive me there. I wanted him to stay, he wanted to go to the party. He ended up dropping me off in the parking lot of my apartment and speeding away, not wanting to keep his friends waiting.

I called my mom crying.

“I’m sick, Mom. Toby left me. I’m so sick and all I want is a hug.”

“I’m coming sweetie, but I can’t stay for very long.”

An hour or so later my Mom showed up with saltine crackers and 7Up. Everything was closed except for the 7-11 down the street where she stopped to pick me up something to help settle my stomach. I was so grateful for the act of kindness that I cried some more. My desire to receive love was so incredibly strong that I would take anything I could get.

After a few months of inconsistent work provided by the temp agency, I decided to go back to Red Robin. There I met a very charming young man by the name of Chris. We flirted relentlessly at work, but never thought anything more of it. Until I ended up calling him on Christmas Day after my Mom had left me at home sick, alone.

Two hours later and a half-gallon of cheap vodka we were drunk and he was playing his guitar and singing to me in my bedroom. My boyfriend was the last thing on my mind. I was so upset with him for once again abandoning me to go to a party. But this time was different, this time I was sick and I needed him and he still chose to leave. Who was I kidding, he would never choose me over getting wasted with his friends and that was clearly evident.

The next thing I knew I was waking up in the morning to him sneaking out of my apartment, knowing full well we’d have to see each other at work in a few hours. What the hell had I just gotten myself into?

“JACK!!!!! GET YOUR ASS IN HERE RIGHT NOW!”

*oh shit*

“Did I seriously just see Chris leave our apartment at 6:30 in the morning!? What was he doing here!? Did you cheat on Toby!? What the hell, Jack? But also, tell me everything.”

Char was never a fan of Toby. Never was, never will be. It wasn’t that she supported the fact that I had cheated on my boyfriend, it was more or less that she didn’t care and didn’t judge me for it.

I over analyzed the situation over and over in my head and for some reason I didn’t care. The guilt never hit me like I was expecting. What did this mean? Was this relationship with Toby a mistake? Did I not love him as much as I thought I did?

It spiraled from there. Chris and I quickly decided it was a bad idea to continue whatever we had started. This didn’t stop me from continuing to seek “love” from other people. It also didn’t push me to break up with Toby.

SMH was my first love. He was my first kiss. He was the first man to tell me he loved me. It was over the phone while he was in Georgia in basic training. We never dated, but there was always that “what if” that was in the back of my head. Somehow he always found a way into my heart and I couldn’t shake the desire that maybe one day we would come together and it would all work out.

SMH had just ended a serious relationship and knew I was easy prey. The level of chemistry between us was off the charts but we couldn’t ever seem to get passed the physical relationship and into something emotional. My self-esteem was at an all time low and I took advantage of what he had to offer.

He began showing up at my apartment to spend the night on multiple occasions and even drove me to work a few times. Balancing a boyfriend and a side piece is no easy task. But I loved the attention I was getting from SMH and was starting to wonder if it would turn into something more.

When I brought it up to him, he was quick to dismiss me and then just disappeared. Once again, I was left to sit by myself without anyone to call while my boyfriend was at some party.

Ever the attention seeker, I sought out ways to fulfill my need by scrolling through my phone searching for the next man who would entertain me. I struck up a conversation, reconnecting with B (the gorgeous redhead), even ventured out and chatted with RP and his friend Shea. I was never fully satisfied being Toby’s partner in crime as we spent Friday-Sunday drunk or hung over, but I still couldn’t leave him.


Char and I eventually moved out of our apartment and down a few miles into another two bedroom, two bathroom. She started seeing Josh again and with that, the abuse came right along with it.

By this time I was spending almost every night intoxicated to a point where I just wanted to numb everything and everyone. Everyone irritated me, they annoyed me, I just wanted to be left alone. I wasn’t receiving the validation I wanted so I kept searching.

When you’re a “lost little girl,” you’ll find anyway to receive validation.

Call it “Daddy Issues” or whatever you want, but I was on a mission. I didn’t care who I left behind or hurt, as long as my end goal was accomplished. That’s how I found myself on stage in my underwear in front of hundreds of people.

Yes, you read that right. Now, I wasn’t alone in this. There were roughly 50 other women beside me strutting their overly tanned skin, overly teased hair, and 6″ platform heels across the stage to the jeers of drunk, horny men and women. I had found myself in a competition to be a “Rock Girl.”

What’s a “Rock Girl” you ask? The easiest way to put it is that they are sexy “cheerleaders” for a local rock radio station. You participate in photo shoots, a calendar, concerts, in-studio radio projects, and other commercial events. The idea is to have a group of sexy women who attract a certain audience and entertain a crowd.

I wasn’t selected to be a Rock Girl, but just by participating in the event, it opened a door to a new adventure I would embark on that summer. As a burlesque/go-go/cabaret dancer for a classic rock band.

Yes, you read that right. I went on tour with a band as a dancer. I’ve got the photos to prove it, but please don’t ask me to show you. The daughter of the lead singer knew Toby from high school and had seen through Facebook that I had participated in the Rock Girl Gala a few months prior. The other girl they had originally been touring with had dropped out, so they reached out to see if I would be interested in joining them.

The costumes fit.

The next thing you knew I was in Las Vegas in a pair of booty shorts with a feather boa coming out of my ass as I shook it across a stage. Costume change and I was in a velvet thong leotard with fish net stockings and knee-high patent leather boots dancing in a cage. Costume change to a silver sequin bra and booty shorts dancing to the next number. Lastly I was in a garter belt holding up fishnet stockings, a camo-sequin bra and a tutu bouncing around as the last song played out.

It was the best and worst summer. Their stage manager, Jasin and I spent too much time together. Wouldn’t you know it, we ended up sharing a hotel room and as you can tell from my history, I don’t need to go into anymore details. Nothing would ever come of that relationship, he lived in Kentucky and I was in Washington. It was fun while it lasted and I would eventually come home to my boyfriend.

Summer was ending and so was my part in the tour. Once again I found myself searching for more attention and validation. I bet you can’t guess where I found it.


*BANG BANG BANG*

“JACKIE, I KNOW YOU’RE IN THERE. OPEN THE FUCKING DOOR, NOW!”

Uh oh.

You see, Char and I proceeded to get drunk, call our ex-boyfriends, Josh & RP, and get drunk with them and then take them to bed last night. And now at 5am banging on our front door, was my boyfriend, Toby.

Uh oh.

Char came running out of her room, barely dressed while I opened my door standing their in my bathrobe (I love bathrobes).

“WTF do we do!?”

“I don’t know! But we’re going to have to open the door before he breaks it down!”

Before I knew it RP was rushing into Char’s bedroom and sliding under her bed. She was pushing blankets and pillows around him so if, God forbid, Toby looked, he wouldn’t see him. Hiding his 6’4″ frame was no easy task, but I’ve got to give Char credit for managing to do a pretty damn good job.

I opened the door and in raged Toby, still drunk from his party the night before wanting to know why I hadn’t been answering his phone calls.

It was pretty damn obvious to me why I wasn’t, but I wasn’t about to send myself out to slaughter, that’s for damn sure.

Once he was satisfied searching my room and Char’s room as well as interrogating all of us, he left. I could finally breathe. The last thing I needed to happen was to have to explain why there was a half-naked man hiding under my room mates bed. It was too early for that.

A few weeks later I received a text from Fishy.

“Sorry, not sorry. Good luck getting out of this one.”

My heart dropped. She knew everything that had been going on the last year and I hadn’t considered she would say anything. Yet here I was at home, and she was at the Gorge for a weekend concert, camping and sharing a tent with my boyfriend.

“The subscriber you’re trying to reach is unavailable, please check the number you’re trying to reach and try again later.”

Well, shit. It was bound to catch up with me at some point, right?

I suddenly found myself spitting venomous texts to Fishy while crying to Char about how I was going to salvage this relationship that I wasn’t even sure I wanted.

But where to even start? Why should I start? What’s the purpose of trying to hang on to something that I had taken for granted and destroyed at every possible inkling of receiving attention from someone else?

What was the point?

 

Chapter Six

Chapter Six: Should’ve been Scott’s Beef Curry

(When my mom first met my step dad, Scott, there were 2 things he would make in the kitchen. Hamburgers & Beef Curry. I’ve never been a huge hamburger fan, so bring on all the beef curry. I recently asked him for the recipe because I told him I wanted to include it in this chapter. You’ll never believe what he said.

“I have absolutely no idea. I lost the cookbook when your mom and I were packing up to move to Georgia. I’m sorry, Jack.”

Well, as you can imagine, that did NOT fly with me. Not saying I threw a fit or anything, but I did proceed to open every kitchen cupboard, stood on the counters looking above the cabinets. And wouldn’t you know it – It’s not there. So that’s extremely disappointing if I may say so myself.

But there is still hope! I spent some time in the vortex that is pinterest and found an Indian inspired beef curry that I just HAVE to share with y’all. Please remember the only way for us to incorporate Scott into this recipe is if you have a glass of a craft IPA beer in your hand while you’re in the kitchen. Embrace the man. Love the man. Be inspired by the man.

So let’s all give a round of applause for Bon Appetit’s November 2000 edition of this incredible punch to your mouth.)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 pounds well-trimmed boneless beef stew meat cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 2 large yellow onions, diced (The recipe jut calls for “onions” but i always prefer yellow over white. Personal preference here.)
  • 6 whole cloves (This is not a common house hold spice – you may need to hit the store for this one.)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped (You could also use a garlic press if you’re lazy, like me.)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (Starting to understand it’s all about those aromatics yet?)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4+ tsp dried crushed red pepper (Another personal preference here. But I’m sure you can tell by the last chapter on my Habanero spaghetti – the spicier the better.)
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk (Just go ahead and grab a few cans of coconut milk from the store. I always have at least 6 on hand. LOVE me some coconut based curries!)
  • 3 large tomatoes, quartered (you could also use a can or two of diced tomatoes. I just always believe in using whole ingredients where you can.)
  • 3 TBSP Major Grey chutney (The likelihood you will need to travel to an asian market or basically anywhere other than your standard neighborhood grocery store is pretty high when it comes to finding this gem.)
  • 3 TBSP fresh lemon juice
  • 3 TBSP minced, peeled, fresh ginger (DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT substitute powdered ginger – you will be SUPREMELY disappointed!)
  • 1 1/2 TBSP curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Basmati or Jasmine rice. (No, I do not care if you prefer one over the other or brown vs white. I always have several options in the pantry and so should you!)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Sprinkle trimmed & cut beef with salt & pepper. ALWAYS start with seasoned meat. No matter what you’re making. Seriously. ALWAYS SEASON YOUR MEAT.
  2. Heat 2 TBSP of oil in a heavy, large pot over high heat. This recipe calls for vegetable oil due to his high smoke point, but I suppose if you have another oil on hand that has a high smoke point, that’ll work too. [Examples: avocado oil, refined safflower oil, ghee, semi-refined sunflower oil, semi-refined peanut oil]
  3. You’re going to want to work in batches, add beef to pot and brown on all sides (about 7 minutes per batch), using a slotted spoon transfer to a plate. Remember to never crowd your pan, otherwise your meat will NOT brown properly.
  4. Heat remaining 1 TBSP of oil in the same pot over medium-high heat (see that? we turned the heat down. So don’t forget!). Add in your onions; saute until tender and brown (about 7 minutes). Return the cooked beef to your pot. Add in cloves, garlic, cinnamon sticks, bay leaf, and dried red pepper – stir for about 1 minute.
  5. Your kitchen smells pretty amazing right now, doesn’t it? I hope you remembered to close the doors to your laundry room, bedroom, and bathroom – because ALL your stuff is about to smell like this dish.
  6. Stir in coconut milk, tomatoes, chutney, lemon juice, ginger, curry powder & 1/2 tsp of salt – bring all of this to a boil.
  7. Reduce heat, cover & simmer until beef is tender, stirring occasionally about 2 hours.
  8. Uncover; increase heat to medium & boil the stew until juices are slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Serve over rice.
  9. Hopefully once your stew has been simmering and only has about 10-20min to go you remember to start cooking your rice. If not – whatever, you can return the heat down to low while your rice cooks.

You’d think I would’ve learned, right?

Moving back home wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. By now my mom had a list of “rules” she wanted me to adhere to if I was going to be living under her roof again. Especially considering what happened the last time.

Here’s what they looked like. Actually, no – here’s exactly what they were:

Jackie’s Contract (dated August 6, 2008)

  1. Ryan is NEVER to come to the house (not even the driveway). If I even think he has, you will have to move out that day.
  2. No, No, No, NO Smoking!!!!!!
  3. No parties
  4. Stay away from MY ETOH
  5. Must be going to school & get a B or better. I will not help pay for subsequent quarters without a B or better.
  6. Car payment – $250/mo due on the 15th of each month. Total amount due: $11, 092.81.
  7. Rent – $350/mo due the first of each month
  8. Clean up after yourself
  9. If my door is shut, there is a reason
  10. You may come and go as you please, but if you’re not coming home you need to text me
  11. Don’t take/use my things without asking

I supposed I should do some explaining as to WHY these rules were put into place. Some of them need more explaining than others, obviously.

My mom was doing her best to eliminate the toxic relationship I had developed with Ryan. It makes sense that her “mama-bear” instincts would play a role here. While dating Ryan, I had also picked up a nasty smoking habit, which she absolutely detested. I still can’t figure out why she thought I would have a party at her house, since I never had and never would, but whatever. Staying away from her ETOH. Alright, my mom is a nurse and loves acronyms. ETOH = alcohol in medical jargon. Okay, that’s doable. Returning to school proved to be more challenging and it didn’t happen.

When my mom refinanced her house to pay her girlfriend at the time to move out, her debt to income ratio didn’t pan out. She had co-signed on my 2002 Ford Ranger the year prior, so this showed up as a debt she owed. Not seeing another way out, she paid off my truck so she could refinance. She wanted me to continue making the same payments I had been making to the bank; except now to her instead.

Rent. Well, that seems obvious. I’m a grown ass adult, if I’m moving back home the least I can do is help pay rent. Makes sense, I’d been paying rent at my own apartment for the last several months, paying it to her shouldn’t have been an issue.

The rest of the rules are just common courtesies. She may as well have written, “Don’t be a dick.” and that would have worked as well. If only I wasn’t such a dick. Sorry, Mom.

Prior to the even leading up to me moving back in with my Mom, I had once again lost my job.

That incredible job I had taken working reception at a mortgage brokerage, gone. Within 2 months of starting their, they had decided to close up shop. The market was collapsing and if they hadn’t shut down, they would just keep hemorrhaging money. It made sense, I understood why they had to let me go. I was so grateful that I had even been hired for the brief period of time. I even ended up becoming great friends with one of the brokers.

After losing my job, I was in a panic to find something, anything, to bring in income. Char had been working as server at Red Robin and suggested I apply there so I would at least have a job. So, I did. I was offered a hosting position with the opportunity to become a server if a position opened up. Red Robin was never the goal, I knew I wouldn’t be able to survive or pay my bills on that pay. I kept searching for employment at other places while maintaining my 20hrs/wk at the restaurant.

The simple truth was that I couldn’t afford to live with my Mom based off of the contract she drew up.

Even putting gas in my truck to make it to work was a struggle. I may have been employed, but it cost more to commute than I would end up making. Four months after starting at Red Robin I was hired as a Patient Registrar in the Emergency Department at a local hospital, making significantly more. Only downside? My shift would be seven on/seven off – night shift.

Never in my life had I worked over nights, but surely it couldn’t be THAT hard, right?

Well try working nights while maintaining any sort of social life. That was the struggle. I cared more about partying with my friends than I did about maintaining my job. Surely I wouldn’t get fired as long as I could stay awake. I had high expectations for myself, obviously.

During this period of time of working nights, I had starting spending more time with a girl I had met a few years ago. You may remember a certain girl by the nickname “Fishy” who I met at her 19th birthday party, the same night I met RP. I needed to put some space between Char and I, which left me with no friends who actually wanted to spend any time with me. So Fishy and I became very fast friends. Our relationship revolved around drinking too much wine in her aunts hot tub and wild parties at my friend Chris’s house.

I was a homie-hopping ho during this period. I would drink so much, black out, wake up and do it again. I wanted to numb the pain. Forget everything that had happened in the last year plus and just drown my feelings. It was better to be numb than accept I had just left an extremely abusive relationship. It spiraled out of control so fast.

One minute I was going to a Halloween party with Fishy in matching naughty school girl outfits we bought at an adult novelty store. The next I was waking up in a soaking wet bed because the man I had slept next to had drunk so much he had pissed himself. I had lowered my self-esteem to the point where I would hook-up with any man at the party who would pay attention to me. Fishy always had my back, but I became hated by the majority of other women. They made it perfectly clear that I was a disgusting, drunk mess who didn’t know how to handle herself.

They were right.

After a month of wild parties and random hook-ups I ended up meeting a guy at one of these parties who I surprisingly kept seeing. He was an unemployed former drug addict who lived with his mother. I always had such high standards. I can’t even bring myself to provide a name for this person who was only apart of my life for a split second. I can tell you that he spent more of my money than I did. What was he spending it on you ask? Drugs.

How did I find out? It started out seemingly so innocent. We would have friends over, maybe head to a party and he would ask a friend to pick up some cocaine for us as a pre-game. I never had an issue handling my drugs, thankfully the only thing I ever got addicted to was nicotine and attention. Not everyone has the same personality as me though.

Once I started dating this guy, I opened myself up and reached back out to Char. Fishy had started a relationship with someone who she had met at Chris’ house and had fallen off the planet. So once again I was alone, seeking the comfort of a girlfriend and ran back to Char.

I would get off of work at 7:30am, drive to the apartment she was sharing with her boyfriend at the time (yes, she stayed with her abusive boyfriend who we had previously shared an apartment together), drink wine and watch the box set she purchased of Sex In The City. It was my chance to spend time with someone who I didn’t even have to talk to. I just wanted to be anywhere but home where I would have to face the disappointment of letting my Mom down, once again.

During this time, Char was introduced to the guy I was dating at the time. The one who begged me to be his girlfriend. Always refusing to label our relationship. The least he could do was get off his ass and get a job before I defined anything with him.

They hit it off right away.

Maybe it’s her never-ending “rescue” complex where she just wants to take care of everyone. Regardless, they became friends rather quickly, exchanging numbers and talking frequently. She figured it out before I did. We were in her bedroom getting ready to go out to a bar when he started blowing up my phone. I didn’t want to talk to him, so I just kept rejecting his calls. After all, why would I want to deal with that when I was about to do something I should’ve been feeling guilty about.

RP. Yep, you read that right. RP had managed to wiggle his way back into my life.

The thing about abusive relationships is that they are so manipulative. You honestly believe you will never find anyone who will ever love you as much as they loved you. When it’s good, it’s so good. When it’s bad, it’s so bad you could literally lose your life. All because you have reduced yourself to only accepting yourself as this weak person who cannot do anything or be anything without them.

The door swung open.

Apparently I’m not the only one who doesn’t handle rejection or being ignored well. The man I was seeing stormed through the house and started yelling at me. Char took one look at him, looked at me, and then said, “He’s high.” So propelled the screaming and yelling.

“You’re such a worthless piece of shit.”

“You’re about to go fuck some other dude, what did you expect?  This is your fault for not being with me.”

“This is not my fault. You’re a fucking loser. You disgust me.”

I proceeded to learn that he had never gotten clean. He had been stealing from me to buy oxycotin. Char had experience with being around people who smoked oxy, I hadn’t. She knew it immediately. She could smell it on him. I was so repulsed by the idea that this person had been stealing from me to buy pills to smoke that I grabbed my things, ran to my truck and immediately called RP.

I was an addict, too. I was addicted to the volatile relationship RP and I had. One time was all it took for me to fall back into old habits. Thankfully I wasn’t there for long.


Caught sleeping on the job, I was fired from the hospital and once again found myself unemployed. Not only did this absolutely suck, but I was horribly embarrassed. My mom worked at the same hospital I did. In the same department. She even worked the same shift for several years before transitioning to day shift. I hadn’t just left myself down, I had once again let her down.

Not wanting to go back to Red Robin, I found myself at a temp agency hoping to pick up admin jobs here and there. Thankfully I was hired and they had started sending me out on regular jobs, so once again, I was employed and bringing in a paycheck.

So here I was, avoiding phone calls from the district attorney wanting to subpoena me for the domestic violence case they were building against RP. While meeting up with him before he started work, at friends houses, and parties as we attempted to rekindle what once was. The stress of hiding this toxic person from my Mom eventually got to be too much.

There we were. Dancing, singing, drinking, surrounded by “friends” and enjoying our night.

While I was in the basement of a place we nicknamed “The Bellevue House,” rocking out to Metallica, I noticed an adorable man standing next to me who was admiring me in all the glory that was drunk Jackie head banging to “Enter Sandman.” We started up a conversation and hit it off. He seemed nice enough, I didn’t think much of it though. I was here with RP, I wasn’t looking for trouble.

I said goodbye and walked back upstairs to return to RP, Char, and her boyfriend.

Not more than ten minutes later did I feel a hand reach down into my back pocket to lift my phone out. I turn around, it was the same man I had been innocently flirting with downstairs.

“My name is Toby, here’s my number, call me.”

I was dumb founded. What a bold move. Here I am, standing in front of someone EVERYONE knew I had dated/was dating. Who does he think he is? Did he have a death wish? Everyone was fearful of RP. Except him.

From one alpha to the next. Always drawn to men who exude some kind of power. They never have to earn respect, it’s just a given.

“Happy Easter, what’re your plans for the day?”

“You too. Not much, want to watch a movie?”

“Okay, I’ll meet you at Safeway and follow you back to your house?”

“Sounds good, see you soon!”

In that moment I had moved on from RP and was moving onto the next chapter of my life.

Chapter Five

Chapter 5: Chocolate Chip Cookies

(She kept this recipe on an old 3×5 index card. It’s where all her recipes were. I think maybe they were passed down to her from her mother, or grandmother. I’m honestly not entirely sure. I remember being in the kitchen, we would have a glass of wine and have flour hand prints all over our pants. They were the best damn cookies I’d ever had, and I’m not a big sweets kind of person.

I’ve since attempted to recreate the recipe on my own, I think I’ve done a pretty damn good job, but I know I’m probably missing something. Man, she really did make the best cookies.)

INGREDIENTS:
  • 3/4c white sugar
  • 1c brown sugar
  • 1/2c butter – softened (think, room temperature)
  • 1/2c shortening (if you’ve got some beautiful snow white, scentless lard that your mother happens to be incredible at rendering — use that. If not, Crisco works just fine, too.)
  • 1TBSP vanilla extract (I like to use the Madagascar bourbon vanilla, cause I’m #extra.)
  • 2 large eggs, slightly beaten
  • 3c all-purpose flour
  • 3/4tsp baking soda
  • 3/4tsp salt
  • 3c semi-sweet chocolate chips (okay, I gave you a measurement, but if you’re anything like me, you’re probably just going to pick up a bag from the grocery store and dump the whole bag in. No judgment here folks.)
DIRECTIONS:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit
  2. Cream sugars & butter/shortening (A kitchenaid mixer comes in REAL handy right about now.)
  3. Add vanilla & eggs to sugar/butter mixture and mix well!
  4. Combine all your dry ingredients together and gradually add to your creamed mixture. (The key is GRADUALLY. If you dump it all in right away, you’re in for a rude awakening. This is how you end up with ever surface of your kitchen covered in specs of flour – no thank you.)
  5. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  6. Roll into balls – I don’t care what size cookies you make, and unless you’re absolutely crazy anal – the only way to get completely uniform cookies is with one of those amazing scoopers. I should probably buy one. On second thought, I’ll just borrow one from my Mom.)
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Seriously — set a timer.
  8. Allow them to cook on a cooling rack while you bake the next batch. This recipe SHOULD ideally make around 6 dozen cookies. If not, you haven’t done anything wrong. It just means your cookies aren’t in 1-1/4″ balls when you rolled them out on your cookie sheet.
  9. Best way to devour these deliciously chewy treats? Add a scoop of your favorite ice cream and make ice cream sandwiches. Seriously – you’ll thank me later.

It was never going to be a permanent home. I knew that when I moved in. Two adults sharing 250sq ft bedroom with a cat. Nothing like waking up, rolling out of bed, and getting cat litter all over your feet. It wasn’t the best, but it would work for the time being.

I had moved out of my Mom’s house on Mother’s Day. Who does that? A big argument over a boy and here I was, folding my t-shirts into the drawer RP had cleaned out for me while dancing to Stevie Ray Vaughn. I didn’t want to be here, but I made the best out of another wise horrible situation. We had only been dating for a few weeks and now we were living together. What could possibly go wrong?

It wasn’t really an eviction notice. But the landlords let us know they were done with having 5 boys rent their home, throwing parties 3-4 nights a week, and accidentally lighting the yard on fire (oops). They had always planned on demolishing the house and building multiple family homes on the lot, we just never knew when. Well, the time had come. Immediately after our Fourth of July party, we were once again looking for a place to stay.

At this point, my relationship with my mother had deteriorated, once again. N and Lan were not the least bit supportive of me getting in a fight with her and moving in with someone they considered to be such a bad influence. I mean, really – you try working full-time, going to school full-time, maintaining a new relationship, basically being homeless, and barely making ends meet. I ate WAY too much Jack-in-the-Box value menu cheeseburgers that summer, it’s amazing I didn’t balloon up.

While some relationships were strained and challenging, others started to bloom.

“Hi. I’m Char – I just had an abortion.”

I almost spit out my green Tilt. Who the hell was this girl who just walks in here and so blatantly tells me she had just lost a child?

“Um. I’m sorry to hear that. My name’s Jackie, you can call me Jack.”

I came to find out shortly after that she was the on-again off-again girlfriend of one of my co-workers from Starbucks. I didn’t know it at the time, but she would be my best friend for the next 2 years and together we would go through hell and back. I’m certain the only thing that got us through that time was each other.

Char’s boyfriend and RP were best friends. They did everything together. So the four of us became inseparable. Shea was there, too. Shea was always there. Together we went to the lake, went fishing, took the trucks out four wheeling, smoked too much pot and drank too much beer. Life was one giant party. I got wrapped up in it. My grades started slipping, I started ditching class, I could barely wake up on time for work.

Right before we were set to move, RP found my planner. I never tried to be sneaky, but I always try to be organized. I didn’t think much of it at the time, I was seeing multiple people when RP and I first started dating. I’d always write it in my planner.

“6/20 – Date with Trevor”

“6/25 – Date with Sam”

“7/1 – Date with Rob”

Needless to say, when I came home that night, he confronted me about it. I didn’t know what to do or what to say. I know we had been living together for the last month, but I never really took our relationship seriously before then. It was just something “fun.” I had already told myself I wouldn’t get close to someone again, especially after what happened earlier that year with the last guy I dated. I certainly couldn’t explain it. All I could do was apologize and hope that was good enough.

Lucky for me, it was.

When it came time for RP and I to move out, we had to decide if we were going together, or if I would move onto something else. I had nothing else. I certainly would not entertain the idea of moving back in with my Dad, as long as I kept seeing RP, my Mom didn’t want much to do with me (I’m sure she did, but it didn’t feel that way at the time). So RP and I moved into his Mom’s apartment. Yep, you read that right – the two us shared a little tiny bedroom in his Mom’s 3 bedroom apartment, which happened to be about 5 minutes from my work. We weren’t there long before his mom closed on a split level homes about 35min north. A few weeks later, we packed up again and followed her there.

A week after moving into the new house, I slipped at work. I was working in our drive-thru at Starbucks when several gallons of half-n-half fell off the counter and down I went. I landed on my wrist and was in immediate pain. I told my manager I was headed to the hospital to get checked out.

“You are not going to Evergreen. I know your Mom works there and she’ll probably just write you some excuse or note. No. You cannot go there.”

“You can’t tell me where I can or cannot go. I’m going to Evergreen BECAUSE my mom works there and I’m scared and I don’t know what to do. So no. You are not going to tell me I can’t go there.”

I hadn’t seen much of my Mom since I’d moved out, but anytime you’re in pain or hurting there’s nothing else and no one else that you want other than your “mommy.”

A few x-rays, pokes and prods later I was wrapped up and ready to go. Complete with a “get out of jail” free card. I was out of work for the next few weeks. Woohoo! This couldn’t have come at a better time. As it was, I had slowly become an unreliable employee and I knew my time with the company was coming to an end. The goal is always to find a job BEFORE you leave your current one.

I took the next couple of weeks to find a new place of employment. Where did I end up you ask? A Toyota dealership down the street from the hospital no less. It was full-time, paid more than I was making at Starbucks, and there were REALLY cute boys who worked there. What could possibly go wrong?

Before I quit Starbucks and started at Toyota I had zero responsibilities. I didn’t return to school in the fall, I wasn’t working, so I gave into certain temptations I otherwise would have avoided. RP had a way of making trouble look so good. I was always the stick-in-the-mud who wanted to be responsible, especially since he wasn’t. But without a care in the world, I succumbed to the temptations and peer pressures I otherwise wouldn’t have.

There are certain things that I remember crystal clear, and there are others that are still a little fuzzy. I remember the fear and euphoria of taking mushrooms at one of RP’s friends houses that fall while we sat in a hot tub watching the stars above. I remember riding on the back of his motorcycle to the gas station to pick up a pack of Parliament full flavors to get the taste of cocaine out of our mouths. I had finally caved in and embraced the recklessness of it all. Nothing like a bad boy to turn an otherwise good girl. After that, I made excuses of how maybe these things weren’t really all that bad – as long as they were used safely and in moderation. If you can still keep your job, pay your bills, who cares what you do during the weekends?

RP’s mom thought I was such a good influence. I helped around the house, I cooked dinner, we’d have wine nights where I’d help dye her hair and we would giggle over something silly that had happened earlier in the week, and we’d bake cookies – a lot of cookies, so many cookies. She was such a diamond in my otherwise empty life. The more time I spent with RP, the less time I spent with my friends – they lost respect for me and eventually stopped answering my phone calls. I blamed them and thought they just didn’t understand.

It certainly wasn’t all glamorous. Living with your boyfriend mom, partying on the weekends, it catches up to you. His youngest sister, Kenz lived with us too – she wasn’t my biggest fan. We got in a LOT of fights, bad fights, RP would always come to my defense but it never ended well. His other sister, Kass, lived with their Dad and would come by every once in a while. She would always tell me about some cute boy she was interested in, filling me in on school and how her classes were going. I would swing by the coffee stand she worked at for italian sodas. I know she thought it was weird that RP and I were living with her mom, but she never really said much about it.

“Jackie, could you come up here please?”

I had just wrapped up an 8hr shift at Toyota when the service manager asked me to come up to his office.

“I know it’s bad timing, but we’re going to have to let you go.”

Bad timing is right – Christmas was 3 days away, are you kidding me?

“What!? Why?! I’ve only been here for 2 months? Are you serious?”

“Sorry, but we just can’t have you here anymore.”

“Wow. Um… okay.”

So there I was, unemployed, no longer in school, living with my boyfriend and his family and Christmas was 3 days away. My self-worth was, for lack of a classier term, in the shitter. I’d never been fired from a job before. I didn’t even know what to do. I had just gotten a phone plan with Lan while she was home for winter break, I still had my car payment & car insurance and my student loans. So what did I do? Obviously got into credit card debt.

I had every intention of paying it back, I really did. I just wanted to be able to do something special for Christmas to show RP and his family how grateful I was for them.

Christmas WAS special, but it wasn’t special because of the gifts I purchased for them. Christmas was special because I was surrounded by people I cared deeply about, and of course – the cookies. There were ALWAYS cookies. Damn, his mom made the best cookies.

It wasn’t long after that though that RP and I got into a big fight and I packed a bag. I knew my mom’s girlfriend as the time was in Texas so I could stay there while she was out-of-town. Maybe it would give us a chance to fix things? I wasn’t entirely sure what was going to happen, but I knew I needed to get away from RP’s influence and clear my head. The problem was – I ran out of his arms and into someone else’s.

Remember how I told you to remember the handsome red-headed man I met a year earlier at a NYE party? Well look who shows up.

While staying at my Mom’s I had reconnected with B. His parents will always remember me as the “Girl who lost her keys in the snow.” It snowed and snowed and snowed that winter. I drove out to B’s house, he took me out to dinner – we had an amazing night. I remember telling myself, “This is the type of guy you should be with. What are you thinking messing around with someone like RP? He’s a bad influence on you girl – you’ve got to figure out a way to get out of there.” I left his house the next day, I had dropped my keys in the snow and for the life of me I could not find them. Thankfully I had a spare in a hide-a-key magnetic box under the driver’s door of my truck. I came back once the snow melted a few days later, his parents had found my keys outside and called to let me know they had found them. Hence – “Girl who lost her keys in the snow,” has always stuck.

Reconnecting with B wasn’t the only surprise while I was at my Mom’s house for those two weeks.

“Jackie, this is Scott.”

My mom had met this man while working at the hospital. His Dad had come in as a patient – the rest is history as they say. I don’t know if Scott knew that my Mom was living with her girlfriend who was just out-of-town, but he certainly found out later.

When the time came for me to leave because her girlfriend was returning home from spending Christmas with her family in Texas – I didn’t know what to do. Once again, I was cornered and in a bad spot. Unemployed, no real friends to lean on, and so I did what I had to do. I ghosted B, apologized to RP and went “home.”

I got a job as a receptionist at a call center in January and told RP that if we were going to do this – we should do it the right way. He had just gotten a job at a cabinet company with his best friend so at least we were both gainfully employed. But neither of us made enough money to get a place together. We convinced Char and her boyfriend to share a 2 bedroom/2 bathroom with us – and there we found ourselves, moving again – for the fourth time in 6 months.

I was so scared but so excited to have our own little home. It wasn’t much, we didn’t have much – but it was ours. I was so excited to make dinners, have movie nights, and “play house.” I just wish it had actually turned out that way. The cold hard truth is that nothing is as it seems. It was a period of my life I’ll never forget – no matter how hard I may try, but I guess I’m grateful for it regardless because DAMN did I learn a lot.

I wasn’t at that job for very long. I couldn’t figure out how to use the copy machine properly, my dress code was less than professional, and I spent my days browsing Craigslist for my next job. When I got fired, I wasn’t exactly surprised or sad, because the day prior to that I had accepted a job at a mortgage brokerage making substantially more than I was making at the call center. I’d be doing the same thing, working fewer hours, making more money. I was beyond excited for the opportunity – so when I walked out of the call center, I held my head high, gave them the peace sign and strutted my mini skirt wearing self out.

The one thing I could count on was that my life was consistently changing and surprising me. I was always in a new job, there was always something going on at my house, and I was always a spiral of inconsistent emotions.

You take irresponsible, stressed out 20yr olds who party too much, are insecure and jealous – and you have a recipe for disaster. Coming home after work to girls sitting on your boyfriend’s lap while they laugh at you certainly doesn’t foster feelings of love. Depression started to take hold and it was ugly.

“Time to go to sleep” was something RP loved to say when his arm was around my neck as he applied enough pressure to my throat so I would pass out. He couldn’t “deal” with my jealous outburst, he was drunk/high and all he wanted to do was have a good time. Who was I to interfere?

I would lock myself in the bathroom crying with a broken glass as I haphazardly attempted to slit my wrists. I never had the balls to actually go through it, I just wanted his attention and didn’t know how else to get it. How did I get here? This is not love, I know it’s not supposed to be this way, but what else am I supposed to do?

Push came to shove when I’d found crystal meth hidden in my glasses case. I confronted RP about it – told him I wanted nothing to do with this and it needed to go or he needed to go.

“If you put that in the toilet, I’m going to break your glasses.”

“Are you serious? You can’t be serious.”

“Try me.”

So there I found myself, sitting at the edge of my bed crying. I was so lost. How did this all happen? I needed to get away. I needed a vacation from my life.

“What’re you doing for memorial weekend!?”

It was N texting me, here was my opportunity to reconnect with my friend and get out of my personal hell. A weekend away was just what I needed to reset. After all – those two weeks at my Mom’s were amazing, I was able to recharge and find my self-worth again. This wasn’t two weeks away, but I was going to take it anyway.

As I packed a bag I can still hear RP screaming at me telling me if I go to not bother coming back. There was no reasoning with him at this point. So I left, knowing full well I could come back home and I would deal with the consequences later.

N, myself, and several of her friends headed out to a house on Bank’s Lake in eastern washington. It was a weekend full of laughing, dancing, karaoke, and too much food and booze. It felt so good to be with my friend again. I didn’t want it to end. I didn’t want to go home. She knew I was struggling, she hated to see me in such pain and sadness – I didn’t realize how hard it was on her until one day she changed her number and quit talking to me.

I returned home, recharged and a little hung over. It was strange, everything was so quiet. I came to find out later that one of my good friends had spent the entire weekend with RP in my room. Char told me after the fact, not wanting to cause problems. She had her own set of issues with her boyfriend at the time. It’s amazing how once you’re exposed to abuse, it seems so normal.

I wanted to punish him but didn’t know how and wanted to avoid a physical altercation. So I did what I do best – sneak attack. I had gone outside to our parking lot, lifted the hood of his truck and pulled his spark plugs. Enjoy that, asshole. Good luck getting to work tomorrow when your truck doesn’t start. I’m sure he was impressed with my creativity and the fact that I had done something that wasn’t necessarily permanent, but definitely delayed his morning.

After that I didn’t care anymore. He couldn’t hurt me anymore, not emotionally anyway. I was checked out of the relationship, our lease was expiring in a week and I was ready for the next chapter.

Shea returned home after a few months away in Fiji – we were up all night catching up and sharing stories about all the drama that happened while he was away while he told me stories of fishing in the clear blue ocean. Everyone else went to bed and we just kept talking. Shea lived up the hill about a mile or two away from our apartment, so I didn’t think anything of it when at 3am he asked me for a ride home. Sure, what’s the harm?

During the ride up the hill, my alternator went out. I managed to coast into his condo parking lot and he was able to get home and go to bed. Except now here I was, stuck with a vehicle that wouldn’t start and began to panic. RP wasn’t answering his phone, because, of course he was asleep. So I walked home (thank God it was all downhill!). Managed to make it home around 5am, just as the sun was coming up.

Thinking nothing of it, I woke up RP to tell him I gave Shea a ride home and my truck died. Needless to say, he threw a fit and once again, we were in a fight. Regardless, he still helped me replace my alternator so I was able to get my truck back home the next day.

At this point, he already had it in his head that I was cheating on him – or trying to – with his best friend.

Something changes in your heart and your head when you wake up and realize this domestic violence situation is out of control. The manipulation, toxicity of it all just erodes you like battery acid. You think I’m doing something? Fine – I may as well then. Screw you, asshole.

The following day I made sure his accusations were real. I just did not care anymore. I knew it was wrong, but I didn’t and don’t regret it. RP woke me up by shoving me, screaming at me, and asking me to explain the bruises on my neck. I told him they must’ve been from him when he was choking me the night before. He sped off to work – which is when he pieced it all together. Why would Shea have the same marks on his neck unless something had happened between us. I received a call from Shea telling me I needed to get the hell out of my house and fast. I didn’t make it in time.

I was sitting in my truck about to take off when his motorcycle pulled up in front of me. My driver’s door swung open and once again the accusations and threats began. RP made good on his threat this time as his fist smashed into my face and blood splattered all over my steering wheel and dash-board.

By the time I finally came to, he was gone. I ran into my apartment screaming, “CHAR. CHAR. CHAR.” She hadn’t left for work yet, took one look at me and said, “OH MY GOD. JACKIE! WHAT THE HELL?” Then proceeded to tell me how if I called 911, I would be ruining RP’s life. So what did I do? I called my mom. No answer. So I called the hospital, told her what happened – she told me to meet her in the next town over. She left work and drove to see me. Shea had also left work and met my mom and I as we filled her in on the events of that morning.

She convinced me to call 911. My hands were shaking, I was sweating profusely. All I could think about was how there was no way this could end well. Sure enough – the police met me back at my apartment where they asked if they could enter and make sure he wasn’t there while I packed up my things.

There was no time to hide the paraphernalia. Pipes and bongs everywhere. A weed plant growing on our porch. They searched everywhere. Opening cupboard, closet doors, searching my truck. I just kept saying, “I don’t think he’s hiding in my nightstand.” But once they found the weed plant and began flushing it down the toilet, there was no stopping them.

After packing up my truck, the next stop was to the police station where they would take pictures of my face and a more detailed report of what happened. My mom by my side holding my hand as the detectives scrolled through my phone reading text messages RP had been sending me that day. It was all happening so fast. I was so scared. I didn’t know what was next, but at least by this time my Mom’s girlfriend had moved out and I was finally able to come home.

So I went home.

Chapter Four

Chapter Four: Spaghetti

(You may think you know how to make spaghetti. You don’t. I’ll tell you right now. You just don’t. Especially if you’re following some damn recipe. A good meat sauce should be made while listening to music, dancing, sprinkling herbs into a simmering pot and enjoying a glass of wine and some company – or maybe just by yourself. Personally, I never make this dish for myself, it’s always for someone else. 

The original recipe I had for this italian dinner was written for me on a blue post-it note by my dad while we were vacationing in Grand Cayman. I kept that post-it note in my journal for YEARS until I felt confident enough in the kitchen to make it my own. EVERYONE has their own spaghetti recipe and from what I’ve found – no ones is quite the same, and honestly – I could never make the same batch of sauce twice. But I suppose that’s the fun part!)

INGREDIENTS:
FOR THE SAUCE:
  • 1lb ground beef (organic grass-fed if you’re fancy and conscious about that kinda shit; but come on, I was raised on GMO’s so I’m not going to judge you if you pick up the managers special at your grocery store.)
  • 1lb HOT (or spicy) italian sausage (this is IMPORTANT. Get the “hot” one, you’ll thank me later.)
  • 1 diced large yellow onion (get the yellow, not white.)
  • 1 bulb of garlic (I can’t REALLY tell you how many cloves you’ll need – somewhere between 5-6 depending on how large they are, you’ll need to mince these or put them in a garlic press.)
  • 1-3 minced habaneros (yes, you read that correctly, habaneros)
  • 2 small cans of tomato paste (keep one of these cans, you’ll be using it to measure some water later on.)
  • 2 small cans of tomato sauce
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (I always pick up the one that has the “italian herb blend” in it – with basil & oregano.)
SPICES:

(I’m giving you some wiggle room here. I don’t know how much I use of these spices, all I know is my cupboard is ALWAYS stocked with them because I use them for everything. But especially when making any kind of italian sauce. So – hopefully you have them on hand, if not… who even are you?)

  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Italian Seasoning
YOU WILL ALSO NEED:
  • 1 rind of fresh parmesan (not the pre-shredded stuff, it doesn’t melt properly… and also, gross. ALWAYS buy the real stuff, don’t be lazy and get a cheese grater — or do what I do and use your food processor if you have one.)
  • 1 bottle of red wine (I always have either a red blend or a cab sauv lying around the house for either drinking or cooking. If you’re not a drinking, I still recommend having a bottle around the house of red and white – there are so many recipes that call for a “splash of wine” or in some cases more – like if you’re making french onion soup!)
  • 1 package of THIN spaghetti (This is important. It must be the THIN spaghetti – DO NOT DEVIATE FROM THIS.)
DIRECTIONS:

(Sometimes I’m prepared, sometimes I’m not. Choose wisely whatever you do. Because once you start, it’s challenging to leave the pot until everything is put together and simmering appropriately. Maybe open all your cans, grab your spices, and make sure your onion is diced, garlic minced, and the habanero is minced prior to starting – it just makes it SO much more pleasurable to cook.)

  1. Place a LARGE frying pan on the stove and add in a drizzle of oil (safflower, olive, vegetable, canola – whatever, I’m not picky about this.), turn the heat up to medium-high. Once the oil starts to sizzle (I always check by getting my hand wet and flicking the oil – if it spatters, it’s hot and ready.) add in your ground beef & hot italian sausage. Season with some salt and pepper (no measuring here, good luck! Don’t over salt!)
  2. Once the meat is all pretty and brown, drain and set aside. Add in another drizzle in the oil of your choice, the pan should be hot, so this should heat up rather quickly. Add in the onions & habanero. (don’t forget to use gloves when mincing the habanero – I’ve found this one out the hard way… ) Once the onions have softened, THEN and ONLY THEN add in your garlic & turn the heat down to medium. You DONT want to burn your garlic – it gets bitter and gross once it’s burned.
  3. Return your now cooked ground beef & hot italian sauce to the pan and mix with the onions, garlic, and habanero. Season with your basil/oregano/italian seasonings and give it a good stir for about 30 seconds.
  4. Add your two cans of tomato paste, 2 cans of tomato sauce & the can of diced tomatoes. Your sauce should be pretty thick. Take the empty tomato paste can and fill with water – add to pan. This will help thin it out a little.
  5. Season again, but really, do it.
  6. Usually by this point I’m onto glass number 2 of my wine and i’m feeling pretty good, so i splash a bit of my wine into the pan – maybe 1/4c? I don’t know. I never pay attention.
  7. Do yourself a favor now – Put a lid on that pan, reduce heat to low – you want this sauce to simmer and suck out all the flavors of the herbs.
  8. Now you’re going to want to cook your pasta. Don’t know how to cook pasta? Get a pot – put some water in it, a generous pinch of salt – put the pot on the stove and turn the heat up to high. Recently I’ve been adding in my pasta BEFORE the water starts to boil, I found this helps conserve energy and it cooks just the same, except maybe a little bit faster. You can either wait for it to boil or not – but just cook it until your THIN spaghetti is al dente.
  9. While your sauce is simmer and your pasta is cooking – grab your parmesan and get to shredding baby.
  10. Once your pasta is done, you can dish up, make sure to sprinkle all that delicious parm on top of your pasta/sauce and get ready for some seriously deliciously HOT spaghetti.

Best part about this recipe? Left overs can be placed in your fridge/freezer for future meals. It seriously makes THE best left overs. But be careful! The longer it sits, the spicier it gets!


Let’s set the scene, shall we?

December 31, 2006. A house party in a lower-middle-class neighborhood where the majority of the people in attendance were under the age of 21, me included. Here you’ll find me sitting on a kitchen counter, drinking whisky and eating chicken wings (honestly, not much of that has changed – i love sitting on my kitchen counter, i drink better whisky now & I still love a good chicken wing.) while wearing the hat of my best friend, Lan – laughing it up her and her boyfriend. I unapologetically devoured the entire plate of wings that Lan’s boyfriend had brought to the party. This is something I was always great at – eating all the food at a party.

Then he just had to walk in. I didn’t know who he was, other than he had completely stolen the attention of my audience. He had a beautiful young woman on his arm and 1000-watt smile. I reminded myself that I was in a relationship, with someone I cared very much about (who was currently underway on a submarine somewhere in the pacific), but what was the harm in introducing myself – none, so I thought.

B – that’s what we’ll call him because that’s what I call him. He was a charming, red-headed boy who was upset with me for eating all the chicken wings. The young woman on his arm I would come to know later as his girlfriend, D. I didn’t get to talk to him much, I assumed it was because he was busy socializing with everyone else and being shuttled around by his girlfriend while she made sure he didn’t spend too much time talking to other girls.

The remainder of the night is a little fuzzy. I recall a phone being dropped in a toilet, vomiting from too many chicken wings (okay, it was probably the whisky), and kissing a boy at midnight – who I would later find out the hard way was involved in some VERY shady business.

I drove the 45min back to my Mom’s house but couldn’t seem to get this red-headed boy off my mind. I’m sure I just needed to sleep it off and I’d forget all about him in the morning. Because as I’ve previously mentioned – I was involved with a man who I was very much in love with (even if I did kiss a stranger at midnight). Once I got home, I wrote my boyfriend an e-mail, wishing him a happy New Year and telling him how much I missed him and couldn’t wait for him to come home. Then quickly fell asleep, as I had to be at work at 4am the next morning.

I woke up the next morning to a text from Lan which can be broken down into two parts:

  1. Ask for her hat back, which I had conveniently gone home in.
  2. Letting me from that the red-headed boy I met wanted to know who I was, where I came from, and if he was going to see me again.
Trouble. Trouble. Trouble.

Lan never got her hat back. But little did I know that B would become such a concrete and important person in my life for years to come. Remember the names I’ve told you to remember so far? N, Lan, and now B.

The man I was dating returned from being underway but things just weren’t the same. Even though I was head over heels for him before he left, something just didn’t feel right. Perhaps it was the boy I kissed at midnight on New Years. Maybe I was struggling with the guilt of that, or maybe it was that I couldn’t seem to stop wondering if the mysterious red-haired man was still thinking of me. It didn’t matter, because a few months later he broke my heart when I found out he was seeing another girl. Let the self-destruction begin.

There were 5, FIVE, men I pawed at for attention after that before meeting RP. Once I met RP – the downwards spiral began and my life would forever be changed in the brief 2 years we dated.

Working at Starbucks I made a lot of friends. We had our little clique we called the “BBBs” which stood for a multitude of things, one of them being the “Ballin’ Barista Bitches.” Together (4 girls and 1 boy) we were sassy, smart-assy, and not the least bit classy, more just trashy. We went shopping, wore miniskirts, got our nails done, we all attended the same local community college, and we specifically had one thing in common – we liked to party. Like any group we had the pretty one, the smart one, the stoner(s) (who ended up dating!), and then there was me – I’ve never really known how to classify myself, so I just don’t.

One spring night, a fellow BBB asked me if I wanted to go to a party after work at his friend RP’s house, they were celebrating their mutual friend (let’s call her Fishy, because that’s what I called her — also, another name to remember.) Fishy’s birthday. I had no idea who this girl was, all of these people seemed to have gone to the same high school, but I was down for whatever.

I changed in the bathroom after work and we drove the 15min to the party. Immediately engulfed in a cloud of smoke, the smell of marijuana and I see a “beeramid” of Miller Genuine Draft as soon as the door opens. Okay, this is going to be interesting. I looked at the rest of the girls who had come with me and we all nodded in agreement that we would drink the beer here, have a good time, and then go home.

He was tall, so tall. He had dark hair, wore skater shoes, jeans with car grease stains and some classic rock band t-shirt from a concert his Dad went to 20yrs ago. There he was, outside smoking a cigarette and for some reason I just knew. He was everything I wasn’t looking for. He was the leader of the pack. Surrounded by girls wearing Burberry Brit and Abercrombie jean mini skirts. We spent the night laughing, talking, and joking around. Who was this guy that seemed to be so charming and captivated so many people in the room?

Before I could think too much on it, I was asked if I wanted to go run an errand with someone.

“Where are we going?”

“We’re just swinging by a friend’s house about 10min from here, wanna go?”

“Hmm.. ok.”

So 3 of us piled into a friends 1970’s Datsun Z and off we went onto another adventure. I had no idea where we were going, I knew that my friend probably shouldn’t have been driving, and the other boy in the car – well, I didn’t even know his name.

That was the first time I’d ever seen cocaine.

To be honest, something fascinated me, but also scared out of my mind. I wanted nothing to do with it, I wanted to go back to the party with my other friends, The “friend’s house” we were at was some sketchy, dirty, rundown bungalow next to a Herfy’s. Why had I agreed to come here? What was I thinking. They asked if I wanted to try some, the obvious answer was no – and surprisingly I actually said, “no thanks!”

The car ride back I finally introduced myself to the boy I didn’t know who came with us on this adventure.

“Hey, so – I don’t know you, what’s your name?”

“Shea.”

“Like Shea butter?”

“Maybe? What’s that?”

(Shea is another name you’ll need to remember.)

We returned to the party which was starting to dwindle down. I went back inside to continue my flirting with the alpha-male, RP. Between his goofy smile or maybe the contact high I had going on from all the weed, I don’t know – but I was hooked. I wanted him – I didn’t know if it was purely a physical attraction or if I wanted to marry him, all I knew was I didn’t want to share him with other women. We exchanged numbers and after that – well… things got interesting.

I became absolutely infatuated. I told all my girlfriends about this guy I had met and how amazing he was. Red flags went up everywhere for them, but I didn’t care. My “I can change him” instincts kicked in. I’ve always had the personality where I’ve wanted to rescue someone, and here was my opportunity to do just that. I saw so much potential and just wanted him see what I saw.

We began seeing each other on a regular basis. I would show up to his place after school before work and we would sit and watch the Stanley cup on TV, I got to know his room mates and Fishy more (who was the girlfriend of one of his room mates). Our official anniversary was April 20th, 2007. I don’t know how it happened, I don’t know if one of us asked the other of if someone else asked us if we were dating – but it happened and that’s our date.

I was so excited about this new guy, I came home and told my mom about it – only to find out that would be to my demise.

“Mom, I met this guy, I think you’ll absolutely love him. He’s amazing.”

“Who is he?”

(At the time my mom was in a relationship with a woman whose daughter had actually gone to school with RP.)

“RP”

“Wait, RP? Why is that name so familiar?”

“I don’t know mom, but he’s amazing. You’ll love him.”

(fast forward a few days later….)

“You’re never allowed to see that boy again.”

“What?! WHY!?”

“He did xyz to Brittni (my mom’s girlfriend’s daughter) when they were in junior high. He’s a horrible person. No Jackie. No.”

“UGH!” (goes up to room, shuts door, listen to music and cries.)

To every parent out there, never tell your highly independent/free thinking daughter not to see a boy she is infatuated with – it will only end poorly. I like to look back and think if my mom was supportive of that relationship it may have been different, but she wasn’t – and it wasn’t.


My mother worked night shift in the emergency department of the hospital. In high school I would sneak away to see my boyfriend. As I got older I would use it as a hide out from where I would steal bottles of Captain Morgan’s out of a cute boy (let’s call him Sar – and yes, he’s been around since I was 16yr old – so I knew him when I lived at my Dad’s house too… more on that maybe later?), or to invite cute boys over to the house for “accidental” sleep overs – only to hopefully be out of the house prior to her coming home.

RP and I were in my bedroom on a night my mom was at work – I couldn’t tell you what we were doing, probably watching YouTube videos on my laptop, but honestly, seriously – it was innocent. We fell asleep curled up with one another in my bed. I woke up feeling a few things:

  1. This must be what love actually feels like.
  2. He’s so cute when he sleeps.
  3. Oh shit.
  4. My mom should be home any minute now.
  5. OH SHIT.

Sure enough my mother and her girlfriend arrived, right on time. RP and I were still in bed together, his truck parked outside in the driveway – there was no way of avoiding the reign of terror that was about to come down on my head. Sure enough, just as I had predicted – it came.

The horrible part of this story, was that it happened on Mother’s Day. I will always feel bad about this – nothing can take that away.

The front door swung open.

“JACQUELIN. WHAT THE HELL.”

(“oh shit, RP – oh shit. oh shit. oh shit. You gotta go. Now. Like yesterday. Last night. oh shit!”)

“IM SO SORRY MOM!”

The remainder of the argument was me telling me mom that I was sorry, I screwed up, but he wasn’t that bad. That’s when shit hit the fan. Her girlfriend let the terror reign. How could you possibly prepare for something like this?

A handful of my hair in her hands, being dragged out of bed and thrown down the stairs.

“GET THE FUCK UP.”

“LET GO OF ME.”

“YOU’VE CROSS THE LINE. ITS OVER. GET OUT.”

I packed a bag, albeit a small one. Text RP and said, “Turn around.”

I walked outside, grabbed my bag, hopping in his truck, and off we went.

That was the start of EVERYTHING. My best friends deciding we were no longer friends, the BBB’s disbanding. My mother not knowing what to do with me – so she just ignored me. I returned home the following weekend, packed up my things, my cat and moved into a room RP was renting. That was it. That was what ended everything.

This relationship destroyed everything I had worked so hard to build. I had put so much effort into N, Lan, my Mom. Then watched it all fade away as I become excuse ridden and obsessed with my new boyfriend.

Chapter Three

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!)

INGREDIENTS:
  • 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.)

DIRECTIONS:
  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. There is no memory of 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, procrastinating until the last minute is a specialty of mine, even still. Especially with projects or presentations. Somehow always ending up getting the A 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 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 were not talking. Certainly 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. Figuring I would be stuck living this mundane life, with no plan and that’s just the way it was going to be. Sitting back and watching all of my friends move off to college while staying behind to continue 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. 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. No longer was it acceptable, 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. On a mission and whether that was to self destruct or flourish would depend on the next few moves. I didn’t know what to do, but moving quickly was the only speed available at that time. 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. No longer the ability to ground me, unable to 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*

“Hello?”

“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 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. Not thinking there was even a small chance at getting into a college, 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. Just to stop being the adult, let someone else take care of me. No need for 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. Being granted the opportunity to act my age and not worry about taking care of everyone else, that’s it.

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.”

“What?”

“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.)

FOR THE CHILI:
  • 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

 

DIRECTIONS:

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.

FOR THE CORNBREAD:
  • 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)

 

DIRECTIONS:

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.

FINAL TOUCHES:

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. Taking the information I had found and confronted my mother on it.

“Don’t Worry about it, It’s nothing. Just spam e-mail of someone attempting to extort our 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. Or 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 Match.com 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. Feeling as though I would be betraying my father (who, at the time, I thought had had enough of that. Refusing to bring anymore pain to this family by participating in that.) I received 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.

One year for my birthday, she had sent me a card & a book. 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. 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. Then my grandma then called me crying, begging me to return to my father’s house before I broke up our family. All while my aunt was 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. Unable to 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. Packing up my things, calling 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. The control and manipulation. The lies. It was more than my 18yr old self could handle. So taking what I could, I left and never looked back.

Chapter One

CHAPTER ONE: PIÑA COLADA CAKE  

(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.)

FOR THE CAKE:

  • 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

FOR THE PIÑA COLADA CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

  • 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

DIRECTIONS

INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE CAKE:

  • 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

FILL WITH ANY DELICIOUS FRUITY OR CREAMY FILLING THAT YOU DESIRE! YOU CAN’T REALLY GO WRONG – I PROMISE!

INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE PINA COLADA CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:

  • 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.

Prologue

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.

PAY ATTENTION TO ME.

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.

PAY ATTENTION TO ME.

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.

PAY ATTENTION TO ME.

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.