Whole30: Days 15-21 So close. Yet so far away.

This week started with lots of good thoughts and positivity. The Whole30 book says that most people who quit do so on day 21 or 22. Yeah. I get that. Not because I can’t do it. Not because I want a Twix so bad I’d sell my own kid for one. Those things aren’t even true. My friendster said it best “I’m bored”. I’m bored with my foods. I would like to mix it up but most of the minute ways I’d mix it up involve something I’m not supposed to have. So, I’m digging my heels in and finishing the darn thing so I can have a little more variety.

Day 15:

-Mocha

Aidell Chicken and Apple Sausage with two boiled eggs

-Chicken salad on super greens

-Strawberries and kiwi

-Cashews

Coconut Cream Pie Larabar

-Zoodles and Tomato sauce (Whole30 recipes)

-Peach Sparkling Water

-Cashews

-Buffalo dip and celery

Thoughts/Feelings: I woke up feeling alert, awake and energized. I had bad sugar cravings today. I just wanted something sweet.

Day 16:

-Mocha

-Two boiled eggs and Aidell’s Chicken and Apple Sausage

-Chicken Avocado salad and roasted potatoes

-Strawberries and Kiwi

-Cashews

Keba sandwich innards with fries and homemade ranch dressing and unsweet tea

Thoughts/Feelings: I was alert and focused. I felt motivated and energetic. Then I ate dinner. After dinner I had stomach cramps and was bloated. I think fries might be the culprit. Noted.

Day 17:

-Mocha

-Two boiled eggs and Aidell Chicken and Apple Sausage

-Avocado chicken salad, roasted potatoes, strawberries

-Chicken thigh, riced cauliflower and broccoli with Coconut Aminos

-Apple with cashew butter and unsweetened coconut flakes

Thoughts/Feelings: My stomach felt gross all day. Thanks fries! However, I felt very focused and motivated again. I also think it’s worth noting that I HATE almond butter. I just really can’t stand it. However, I love cashew butter. Especially this cashew butter (see link above). It’s very creamy. Yum.

Day 18:

-Mocha

-Two boiled eggs and Aidell’s Chicken and Apple Sausage

-Roasted potatoes, roasted carrots and avocado chicken salad

-Leftover cauliflower rice and chicken thigh

-Two detox cookies (I used almond butter instead of peanut butter. I also used Cacao powder instead of cocoa powder. These things could be the reason behind why mine looked like this)

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Detox cookies. My friend said they look like dog turds.

Thoughts/Feelings: Very gassy. Felt awake in the morning and become tired as the day went on. Also I put too much sea salt on these cookies.

Day 19:

-Mocha

-Two boiled eggs

-Banana

-1/2 Apple Pie Larabar

-Buffalo dip with celery

-Strawberries

-Spaghetti Squash and leftover Whole30 tomato sauce

Thoughts/Feelings: So gassy. My stomach felt iffy all day. I’ve never used a spaghetti squash before and it was perfect with the tomato sauce. I really enjoyed it.

Day 20:

-Mocha

-Two boiled eggs

-Banana

-Avocado Chicken Salad

-Strawberries

-Chicken kabobs, greek salad (no feta) and potato salad grilled at Zoes

-Cashews

-Coconut Cream Pie Larabar

Thoughts/Feelings: I had a headache the first part of the day. I felt great the rest of the day because two of my favorite people spent the day with me doing fun things including dressing up in costumes!

Day 21:

-Mocha

-Two eggs scrambled with spinach, bacon and oven red potatoes at Last Resort

-Apple with cashew butter and unsweetened coconut flakes

-Salmon, greek salad without feta and grilled vegetables at Taziki’s

Thoughts/Feelings: Started the day with another headache. I suspect my allergies and sinuses are to blame. Felt pretty great the rest of the day, which was awesome since it was my birthday! Dinner was great and I will definitely be back.

 

Dare I say that I’m in the home stretch?? Single digits now with the countdown. I’m ready.

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Birthday Revelations

Tomorrow will be my 38th birthday. In my mind the big 4-0 looms ahead of me making me feel like I need to get myself together. Last year I admit to having what felt like a pure emotional breakdown in regards to my own happiness and what the hell I was going to do about it. As a wife who only worked part-time outside the home and a full-time mother I was always juggling something, in charge of everything, feeling overwhelmed and underappreciated.

If I was honest with myself I had always held that role. From the time I was a child I was a doer. A fixer. I was the responsible one. I started working as soon as I could find a job when I was 15. At times I worked two jobs while in school. I was often parenting the parent. That was where I fit.

The problem with being that person is that often times (as I’ve experienced through finding kindred spirits who had the same role) you are not wanted unless they need you to fix something. Outside of those moments where you are fixing and doing you are a nuisance. Something to manage. That feels kinda shitty.

The weight of carrying this hit me hard and I was left feeling like my life was not my own, hadn’t been for a long time, maybe ever? I got really good and mad about it.

Okay. I’m done being unhappy. I’m done being ‘the one who does’. So what am I going to do about it?

As an adult I’ve done a good job of saying no when most people would say yes but then regret it. I’ve done well setting those boundaries in most (non-family) situations. I’m thankful for that because I know that things would have been much harder for me if I hadn’t been knowing my personal demons.

I’ve made some strides and I’m still working on others but I’m working my way to getting the life I want. Here are some things I’ve figured out.

I’m just going to go ahead and be me. I’m going to stop filtering myself (you can close your mouth now, shocking as it is I do that). I’m going to do what makes me feel like I’m being my most truthful self. I’ve been working hard at that for several months and it feels really, really good. I’m done hiding.

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This is a reminder of a time when I felt pure joy. I love this little unicorn.

I’m going to focus on myself more and on my family just a little less. This makes me a better mother. It makes me a happier person. I want to give my family the best of me, but that means I have to have something to give.

My body is the only one I have. I don’t want to be on medications that I can avoid. I don’t want health problems. I want my kids to see a healthy, active me. I don’t want to be the older person who sits all day and says they can’t do because of their age. I want to be the older person who gives those people the middle finger and says “Watch me”. I’m figuring out how to re-work my mind around food and my relationship with it. I’m working out or exercising at least 5 days a week. I’m working on those fitness goals (I’ve got a few). I’m planning active things with my kids so they know this is a family affair.

I’m figuring out what I want to do with the rest of my life. I’m writing. I’m not writing everyday  (I’m working on it) but I’m writing. I’m pushing myself to go after things in the writing world even though that most likely means lots of rejection. I’m diving in to experience this world of writing headfirst and soak it in. I’m a lover of learning and that’s how you learn. You do.

I’m re-evaluating my relationships. I’m looking at the people who don’t make an effort to spend time with me or make me an important part their life and re-evaluating my expectations of those relationships. I’m making a concentrated effort to allow the love in and the toxic out.

One of the characteristics that make me who I am is how I love those in my life. It takes awhile for me to trust. I’ve had my trust broken and walked on my entire life and I’m suspicious. I’m cautious. Until I’m not. Until I believe that the relationship is true and from a good place. I give a lot of chances. We all screw up. We all hurt the people we love. We’re human. It happens. I forgive those things because I do it too. Sometimes more than the average person because that’s my baggage that I carry with me, not knowing fully how to love. So I take a lot from the people I love. I’m loyal. I will fight to the death for the people I love. Some of those things are good qualities and some aren’t so great.

The problem with being built that way is that when I love someone only to be hurt time and time again, it’s a deep hurt. It’s a hurt that brings me to my knees. So I’m working on that. My expectations. The fact that not everyone is going to do for you what you would do for them. Not everyone is going to want to be close to you in the way that you need or deserve.

Having my needs met is something I’m not good at. I often work for the greater good of the family or group or whatever. It’s draining and painful. And I’m trying to balance that a little better.

So on the eve of this birthday, I’m doing somethings for me with some of my favorite people. I’m looking forward to laughs and love. It’s my birthday weekend bitches.

Whole30 Week 2: Feeling less stabby

The end of week one was really tough. The hunger made me nuts and I basically hated everyone. Week 2 started off with me feeling much better. I took a break from the exercise program that I have been doing (BBG). I let myself take all last week off because I felt terrible and was so hungry all the time. I started back up with Week 9 of BBG on Day 8 of the Whole30.

Day 8:

-“Mocha”

-2 boiled eggs

-Strawberries and kiwi

-Okra and Squash

-Chicken with Primal Kitchen Mayo

-Cashews

-Bolthouse Green Goddess (Remember when I said to look for more info? Yeah I can’t have this. Sigh. So frustrating because I thought since it was mostly veggies it was okay.)

Cauliflower Mash and Creamed Spinach (Really good. My big kid ate both)

Thoughts/Feelings: Felt amazing. Energetic. Awake. Just overall felt great.

Day 9:

-Black coffee (thought I’d try it since the Mocha is so disappointing. More gross. Grosser?)

-2 boiled eggs

-Banana

-Leftover Cauliflower Mash, Creamed Spinach and last of the Chicken and mayo

-Cashews

Chili (Really, really good)

Thoughts/Feelings: Felt great, energetic, motivated. More energetic than previous days but bloated. Oh.so.bloated. Also, pretty sure I may have left off a snack or something.

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Whole30 Cookbook and Outline of Program

Day 10:

-“Mocha”

-2 boiled eggs

-Cauliflower Mash, Creamed Spinach, Tuna and Mayo

-Strawberries and Kiwi

Jerk Chicken with Mango Avocado Salsa and Cauliflower Rice (very, very good!)

Thoughts/Feelings: Again, felt pretty good. Was somewhat bummed because someone (It was me. I’ll admit it.) forgot to put the leftover chili up before bed and we woke up to a night’s worth of dinner ruined. Very devastating. I’m becoming more excited about food because most of the recipes I’ve done have been really good. I’ll also admit that I’m pretty sure I left out some of the things I was eating because there’s no way that’s all I ate on Day 10. I try to update when I go to the bathroom and walk by my desk but I’ve obviously forgotten a few things here and there. Oops.

Day 11:

-“Mocha”

-2 boiled eggs

-Taco salad with guacamole, meat, lettuce and pico de gallo

-Cashews

-Chicken salad

-Cauliflower rice

Pineapple whip with a splash of mango/orange smoothie as sweetener (YUM)

-Handful of cashews

Thoughts/Feelings: I woke up feeling tired. Then felt a little better. Then I got a bad headache. Not sure what the headache is from but it was bad.

Day 12:

-“Mocha”

-2 boiled eggs

-Apple

-Chicken salad, leftover cauliflower mash, leftover creamed spinach

-Banana

-Hot dog (kosher with no bun) with grilled onions and fries

Thoughts/Feelings: Felt good overall. After dinner didn’t feel so great. Starting to get really, really over this whole drinking nothing but water. Tried drinking La Croix and it’s just way too fizzy for me. I can’t take it.

Day 13:

-“Mocha”

-2 boiled eggs

-Pineapple whip

-Chicken salad

-Coconut cream pie Larabar

-Cashews

-Fajita Taco salad (no cheese, no sour cream)

-More pineapple whip

-Pickles (2)

Thoughts/Feelings: Felt very tired and sluggish almost like I was coming down with something. Really wondered if that hot dog and fries was the culprit. Had a little bit of a sore throat starting around lunchtime but I think my sinuses were draining.

Day 14:

-“Mocha” (Somehow it wasn’t horrible)

-3 boiled eggs

-Pineapple whip

-Chicken salad on top of Organic Girl Super Greens

-Banana

Chicken Meatballs and Root Vegetables with Curry Sauce (meh)

Buffalo Chicken dip with celery

Thoughts/Feelings: My clothes are noticeably looser. I have definitely not felt this energetic in years. I’m able to complete my workouts without feeling dizzy or faint. For some reason I was convinced I wouldn’t be able to work out. I’m sleeping much better. I always have issues falling asleep but not in the past week. And tomorrow is halfway. HALFWAY. I’m making a list of all the permanent changes I’ll be making to the way I eat after this. I am missing properly celebrating my birthday with some cookie cake so on November 9th if you need me I’ll be at the Great American Cookie Company treating myself.

 

Whole30: Week One. My body is eating itself.

I’m going to be super honest about how this is all going down. I always appreciate when I’m going to try something new and I can find info out on the interwebs from people who have gone through it. I’m going to preface my weekly posts by saying that there are a few things I’m not following religiously. The first is that if something is cooked in peanut oil (a no-no) at a restaurant, I’m just going to pretend I didn’t know. I’m also not going to start over if that happens. I’m a grown person. This is hard. I feel like I’m starving to death. Whatevs. I’ve also been weighing myself everyday due to the fact that I’m certain I’m slowly starving to death. You’re not supposed to do that. There goes my gold star. Okay here it goes. My daily eating habits and then also how I felt each day.

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This is from the Whole30 instagram page. I recommend following them since they often post recipes. 

Day 1:

-Coffee with unsweetened almond milk (It’s so gross you guys. I swear I’m drinking watery vomit.)

-Scrambled eggs

-Strawberries and kiwi

-Bag of mixed nuts and raisins for snack

-Grilled Chick-fil-a nuggets (they put SUGAR in the freaking nuggets. SUGAR!? Why?)

-Roasted chicken thigh, roasted okra and roasted squash.

Thoughts/Feelings: I felt okay. I was tired by the end of the day but we had climbed Stone Mountain with the kids.

Day 2:

-Coffee with unsweetened almond milk (Still gross)

-2 mini egg frittatas  (Not bad. Not bad)

-Banana

-Salad with balsamic vinegarette dressing (Maple Grove brand)

Dole whip (Not bad. I was struggling and it helped.)

-Pistachios

-Winter Potato, Kale and Sausage Frittata (SkinnyTaste recipe. It was REALLY good. I omitted the cheese to make it Whole30 compliant. Big kid even ate it)

-Pistachios

Thoughts/Feelings: I felt TERRIBLE. I did nothing all day. I thought I might be getting the flu. I felt like I had been hit by a bus. I was so tired I actually took a nap. I never do that.

Day 3:

-Coffee with unsweetened almond milk (You know my thoughts. Still gross)

-Banana

-2 1/2 muffin fritattas (Over these. The texture of reheated eggs is not something I’m liking)

-Shredded chicken with avocado oil mayo (This saved me. So light but tasted good. You can’t have regular mayo and I read about this stuff on another blog so I ordered some from Amazon. The Publix stores here carry it so it’s worth a look if you don’t want to wait.)

-Mason jar salad

-Strawberries and kiwi

-Apple

-Roasted Chicken thighs and roasted squash (leftovers)

Buffalo chicken dip with celery (Another time that a recipe discovery saved me. I love this recipe. I used the avocado mayo and it was great.

Thoughts/Feelings: Down 3 lbs by Day 3. Very hungry. Very cranky. Hate everyone and everything.

Day 4:

Mocha (Less nasty than the plain coffee. Still not great.)

-2 boiled eggs

-Mild Italian sausage

-Buffalo chicken dip with celery

-Strawberries and kiwi

-2 servings of Winter Potato, Kale and Sausage fritatta leftovers (Told you I was starving)

-Green grapes

-Pistachios

Thoughts/Feelings: Sluggish. Later in the day I felt slightly more alert. I know people are thinking if you feel like you are starving eat more. Tried that. I got super full and felt like I might have gone too far and then 30 minutes later I was starving again. It’s like I’m breastfeeding again but without the nipple irritation.

Day 5:

-Mocha (Less milk this time. Still not loving it but it was better. Going to add some cinnamon tomorrow to see what that does)

-2 Sweet Potato Banana muffins (These are okay. They would be good with a little sugar. I used a lot of cinnamon but they are still somewhat bland.)

-Chicken mixed with Primal Kitchen mayo

-Strawberries

-Carrot sticks and Paleo Ranch (The ranch isn’t bad.)

-Mixed nuts

-3 boiled eggs

-Buffalo Chicken dip with celery

-Green Goddess Bolthouse smoothie **I’ll tell you more about this on Day 8.

Thoughts/Feelings: I didn’t write anything down so I must have just been surviving.

Day 6:

-Mocha (added cinnamon, slightly better)

-2 sweet potato banana muffins

-Larabar

-smoked half chicken with crinkle fries.

-Mixed nut pack

-Taco Stand taco salad with only lettuce, beef and guacamole (very filling and actually had taste)

Thoughts/Feelings: Cranky. Hungry.

Day 7:

-Mocha

-Scrambled eggs with spinach, breakfast potatoes and bacon (at Last Resort Grill so I’m sure the bacon had stuff I wasn’t supposed to have because it was amazing).

-Cashews

-Banana

-Shrimp and homemade oven fries

-Buffalo chicken dip

-Cashews

-Raisins

Thoughts/Feelings: I made it a week. Only 23 more days.

There were a few days when I stuffed as many raisins down my throat as I could and obviously I’ve failed to record those. There is sugar in everything. That’s one of the big things I’ve noticed. I haven’t gone to bed nauseated or with stomach pain since the day before I started. That, for me, is enough reason to stick with this until the end and figure out what the heck is making me feel so crappy. I’m optimistic that I’ll be back on a healthy eating track after this but that I’ll let myself have the things that keep me from feeling ragey. Like sugar in my coffee.

I thought you were all crazy.

Let me clarify since given the current state of the country that statement might have been confusing. You guys, friends, family, you guys who choose to live without dairy or wheat or sugar. I’ve thought for awhile that you must be nuts. Have you tried cheese? I don’t mean smells-like-dirty-feet cheese (I hate bleu cheese) but creamy-party-in-your-mouth cheese? Have you? Some of you have kids with food issues, or medical reasons for cutting it out. I get that. Totally on board. But cutting out all of that stuff just for shits and giggles? Sorry but I totally thought you guys had lost your minds.

I’m here to tell you that apparently I’ve finally lost what was left of mine too. Starting tomorrow (or Tuesday, let’s just see how this plays out) I’m starting the Whole30. I have several reasons for doing it. The first and most obvious being I’ve lost my mind. After that it would have to be my stomach issues (gallbladder removed about 14 years ago and intermittent gastric issues every since), my eating habits have gone from a healthy balance to complete and utter shit and I need to get myself together. I’ve been working out, I want to work on being stronger, healthier and yes taking weight off would be nice too if it meant I didn’t feel completely uncomfortable in anything outside of pj pants. Nothing is moving. I’ve noticed small changes in my body but I’m on week 9 and I’m just having the hardest time getting my self together with my eating. I need a kick in the ass.

I plan to blog about it because I have had a life-long love affair with cheese and sweets. This is going to be hard and I’ll probably screw up. Or want to screw up. This is my accountability. Plus, maybe my suffering can help someone else.

What do you need to know about the Whole30? Well, there’s a bunch of things you can’t have. The whole point is to completely detox your body and get back to a natural baseline. Then you reintroduce (using their schedule) and make note of which kinds of things are making you sick/tired, etc. It sounds great to me. I’ve been having nightly nausea (no I’m not preggers), stomach pain and bloating for a few weeks. I’m really over that.

I’ll be steering clear of anything with added sugar. Honey? Can’t have it. Agave? Nope. No sweeteners. At. All. No dairy. The hits just keep coming. No wheat/gluten/grain. No legumes. You can have a few exceptions to that rule. You can have coffee. It’s going to be rough.

It’s tough too. They give a whole spiel about “Don’t tell me this is hard. Cancer is hard.” Harsh, right? No shit cancer is hard. I’m not going to compare cancer to breaking up with cheese. But I’m going to whine about it a little bit. Maybe not. But probably. If you screw up one day, have a slip, you’re supposed to start over on day 1.

I told you they weren’t kidding.

I’ve got a buddy who is going to do it too. My goals are to prep on Sunday. Dinners should be fine, breakfast and lunches will kill me. I have let so many salad greens go bad because by the time I go to eat I don’t feel like putting together a salad. Today I spent some time chopping and assembling some mason jar salads for the week.

img_2814I’m also going to make some breakfast muffin frittatas to have each morning. I have a plan. I honestly think having options that are okay to have and being vigilant about my prep so my lazy butt doesn’t have to put much work into lunches for myself is going to be my saving grace.

To those I thought were nuts, I’m sorry. Maybe you got tired of feeling like crap every night. Who am I to judge? Maybe you don’t like cheese. I’m not sure we can be friends if that’s the case but I’ll try to overlook it. At any rate, wish me luck.

Lockdown

I remember when I learned about Sandy Hook. My son was in preschool at the time and I wasn’t sure whether or not to say something to him. When he started kindergarten the following year he came home and told me they had practiced a lockdown drill. He told me they had to hide and be very quiet. I asked him if he knew why and he said no, he just had to make sure he didn’t make a sound.

I felt comforted but at the same time sick to my stomach. We lived in close proximity to the school and anytime I heard a siren go by I wondered if my phone was about to go off informing me of something happening at the school. I thought of the parents of those children who had attended a school where a school shooting took place. I often wondered how they made it through the day. I can’t imagine what that must be like.

This year, we are in a new school and our littlest is in kindergarten. She loves school and has been eager to go to “big kid school” for a couple of years. Finally, it’s her turn. Last week she started saying she never wanted to go back to school. I thought it had something to do with the “hikes” they went on during PE since she had complained about those a few times, not a lover of physical activity.

Then she came out of her room and said she had to sleep with us. We assured her she was okay (we were still up watching television since it wasn’t too much past her normal bedtime). The hubs laid down with her and then after he took the dog on a walk she came out of her room again. She started again saying that she couldn’t sleep alone. She wasn’t going to school. Not that she didn’t want do but that this time she’d like to see us try to make her. I went upstairs with her frustrated. I put her in bed and laid next to her. I asked her what was going on.

She started sobbing so hard that I couldn’t understand what she was saying. I heard the word bathroom in between sobs and was afraid someone had done something, had hurt her. I told her to take a deep breath. Everything was okay, we were in her room. Then she said she didn’t want to go to school because she was afraid a bad man was going to come and shoot all the kids. They had to hide. They had to turn off the lights. She didn’t want to go to school anymore. She said it was all she could think about.

This is my roll-off-her-back kid. She shrugs most things off unless she feels as though you have somehow crossed someone she loves. My more sensitive big kid heard us and came into the hallway from his room. I told him everything was fine and to go back to bed. He said to her, “It’s only a drill. They lock the doors when we are there. They have cameras everywhere. Don’t forget the cameras.”

That seemed to ease her mind a little. She said she had forgotten about the cameras. I asked her if they practiced for fires. She said yes. I asked her if she remembered us having a family meeting and talking about our family plan for a fire and where we meet up in case we aren’t all together when we get out. She said yes. I told her those are ways we practice for scary things so that if it ever does happen we can stay calm because we have a plan. This is no different. This is how we learn to be safe. She was still afraid and I stayed with her a few more minutes until she was almost asleep.

I went downstairs with a pit in my stomach that has remained everyday that she’s gone to school since then. I still tense up when I hear a siren during school hours. Columbine happened when I was in college. This wasn’t commonplace back then. My college roommates and I sat around the television for hours watching the news footage, horrified.

I went to the internet, because that’s when you go when you don’t know what to do and there’s no book on how to ease your child’s fears about school shooters. There were tons of blogs and forums with parents saying they didn’t know how to make it easier for their kids. I can’t believe that my little one is the only child who is having issues, nightmares about this. How is there not some protocol for helping kids to process this?

We have to do better. I can talk to my kids honestly and say that this is their practice, I had to do it when I worked at the hospital. We practice for the scary things so we know how to make them not so scary, so we know how to keep ourselves safe. I can tell them that those things scare me too but having a plan makes me feel better. I can encourage them to talk with me about the things that scare them and ways we can take some of the power out of the fear. But we have to do better for our kids.

Of all the things I thought I’d have to deal with as a parent, this was not one of them. How the hell did we get here?

Honorable Mention Short Story

**Disclaimer. I wasn’t sure if I should share this or not. However, if I want to write, I must write. These things are part of my story. I choose not to hide in shame. This is my short story which received an Honorable Mention in the Writers Digest Competition this year. It is titled “My father’s choice”

We stood side by side, silent. The rain drenching us, we looked on, surprised when he pulled up alongside where we stood. He was in the driver’s seat, beside him there was a woman. It was the occupant of the backseat that felt like a kick to the gut, a girl, probably no older than seven or eight years old. My eyes darted to his face upon seeing her there, our eyes met and he drove away soaking us even more with the water thrown up from the car. The entire exchange was but a mere moment but it mirrored a childhood of hope and disappointment. My body surged with adrenaline as I grabbed her hand and ran.

Our father had seen us, my sister and I, standing in the parking lot, waiting for him. He saw us, and drove away. Ran away. The rain was coming down in sheets and it was hard to see anything but as quickly as he drove, I was right behind him. Words were spoken between us but I couldn’t begin to guess what the actual words were. She was in disbelief. He had seen that it was us, maybe not at first as we were wearing jackets with hoods. But as we stepped closer and looked at him, he looking from her to me, he knew. Yet he had left, he had chosen.

After 26 years of marriage our parents had filed for divorce. The big joke was maybe they would win the lottery and could afford a divorce. We had heard it too many times to count. The lottery showed up the spring of 1998 in the form of an online romance between my father and a woman who lived in Michigan. On Valentine’s Day that year my father, the anti-outdoorsman, left on the ruse that he was going on a guys’ fishing trip that would last several days. An examination of the mileage driven, coupled with my mother’s insatiable drive to figure out what was happening in our computer, led her to the truth. He had met someone, he had lied to all of us, and he had driven hundreds of miles to meet this woman in person.

Upon his return, everything changed. Suddenly the man who never had an ounce of get-up-and-go, got up and went to live with my uncle. He wanted out. I was away at college when he left. Things had been strained, different, for quite a while. He was like an old piece of furniture that took up space in the home I visited on weekends and holidays. He wasn’t the loving father who had told me that I mattered when in my heart of hearts I believed anything but. The internet, still new and exciting even with dial up, must have served as some sort of sanctuary for him. I imagine he was lonely. Now knowing the way he behaved on the internet, I would also say off balanced.

He had left only once before, when my sister was just a baby and I was only 4 or 5 years old. That time he had gone to live with my grandmother. My sister and I were left alone with our mother. I vividly remember trying to tell her about something a neighborhood girl had done that I found offensive, to which she responded by breaking down into sobs and screaming “I hate her!” Her anger was always misplaced, although as a child I didn’t realize it. He would come to visit us but in between visits, we would go on stake outs.

I don’t recall where I learned the word stake out but somehow I just knew that’s what we were doing. My mother suspected he had been having an affair with someone she described as a “monkey”. Until many years later, I imagined that the person’s home we were sitting outside for hours was an avid tree climber. It was only as I grew into an adult that I realized my mother was a closet racist and her description of this woman had more to do with the color of her skin than her tree climbing skills.

We’d sit outside this apartment building, not far from where my father worked, in our car for long periods of time. Watching. Waiting. Once a neighbor came with us and my mother must have gone into spy mode, maybe climbing her own tree, or to confront this woman. The neighbor sat with my sister and I in the car. My sister began to cry and I began to worry. I pleaded with the neighbor to get my mother so we could take my sister home but she dutifully told me to sit quietly and wait. So I did. After one stakeout, day had turned to night and we were late getting home. I had been excited because my father was supposed to come and visit me. As we turned onto our street my mother turned to me, her voice cold and distant and told me I had better not mention to my father where we had been or what we had been doing. She assured me that if he had any idea what we had been up to, he would certainly leave us for good, and he would no longer love me.

He returned and in reality had only been gone for a few months. As a teenager, who was privy to way too many personal facts about her parents’ relationship, I learned that she threatened him with losing us until he returned. So he came home. I think that beneath the lies, manipulations, and hurtful words there was at one time love. I often imagine the relationship that my parents had as one that probably should have fizzled out. A mismatch from the start.

As a young child, I was a Daddy’s girl. I loved my Dad. I was loud (still am), and curious and independent. I loved to read and write stories. I wasn’t interested in anything girly, not a tomboy per se but happy in solitude. If my mother put in a request for her perfect child, she was given the opposite, me. It wasn’t just comparisons to children she felt were “good” or asking why I did something one way when Susie down the street did it another way that tipped me off that something about me was undesirable. It seeped out of her. There was always this, negative energy, this tension. She despised me, yet tolerated me. I was close with my father in a way that she was not, and she hated me for it. This realization came much later in life, back then I just wanted to change, to be whatever and whoever would make her love me in the way I needed to be loved.

I was angry for a very long time. Looking back, I was deeply depressed. I’d stand in the bathroom with the water running at 8 years old and pray out loud for God to just take me. Please, God, I just want my Mom to be happy. If I’m not here, she will be happy, so just take me. I’m not strong enough to do it myself. But day after day, my prayers went unanswered. It became my proof that there was no God.

My father was a creative person. He was the type of man who, had it not been for his family and my mother, would have gladly wandered from job to job an occupational nomad for life. My mother put a stop to that and with the help of my grandfather got him a stable steady job.

Reading was my safe space. Books offered an escape that I allowed to consume me as often as possible. To immerse myself in the words of another and be in that person’s world was one of my only joys. I started writing, poetry, short stories, anything really. My father encouraged this, a reader and writer of poetry himself. He entertained my crazy ideas and spoke to me like a person. Truth be told, as much as I wanted to die for my mother, I lived for my father. When he left the first time, he wept uncontrollably, and many times after that. As much as I was haunted by the possibility of the stake outs robbing me of his love, I worried that if I were to go it would be too much for him. He was sensitive and fragile.

In high school things with my mother escalated to a dangerous level. She was emotionally abusive, to the point that I feel confident saying caused me to have a psychotic break. She knew which buttons to push and she did so relentlessly. One day standing in our kitchen I confessed to her that I was suicidal. I couldn’t take it anymore. I wanted our family fixed and would she please consider going to therapy with me. Snorting and smirking she said I was just like my father and living in a fantasy world where something like therapy can make everything better. Then she walked off. I moved out into a boyfriend’s house after that. If I had stayed I would have taken my own life, I am sure of that. I didn’t leave until my father told me I had his blessing and that he knew I couldn’t exist in that house.

The summer before college I returned home. I missed my little sister and my grandparents. The impending move further away was a ticking bomb and I didn’t want to regret not going home. My mother was still angry, but quietly so. She was different and withdrawn. Instead of making it a point to make me aware of how much of a disappointment I was, she just treated me as nothing. It was after I left that I noticed the changes in him. I’d call home and no one would pick up. Then he’d call back and angrily ask what I had wanted. I assume perhaps I somehow disconnected the dial up connection. Then came his faux fishing trip, and his relocation out of our home into my uncle’s home.

Things weren’t easy for my sister, and I wasn’t there to protect her from my mother. She was a pawn to her. My sister wanted to go with my father. In response to that request, my mother began injuring herself telling my sister she’d kill herself if she left. She stayed. My sister was as close, if not closer, to my father as I was. Him leaving, was hard on her, not just because of my mother’s antics but because she was alone. The breaking point of everything was when I came home for a visit and found her crying in her room. She had just seen my father and told him that because he and my mother were still married she felt it was wrong for him to be living with someone. He told her if he had to choose between us and this woman, he wasn’t sure what his choice would be.

A car ride and rainy encounter later, here we were. He pulled down a driveway with no street lights and we found ourselves in an office park. Both of us were driving way too fast for conditions and he wouldn’t just stop and talk to us. We just wanted him to say it to our faces. I made a split decision to block the end of parking lot aisle he was driving down. We sat, nowhere for him to go, watching, sure he’d stop. He sped up. He didn’t waiver. At the last moment I pulled out of the way, letting him go. A volt of electricity couldn’t have made me shake more. The reality that he was going to slam into our car, likely killing us, broke me. We drove back to his hotel to write him a letter saying good bye. He had chosen.