This was my junior year. I had to start thinking about college. I was taking advanced placement courses to get some extra credits. Working the 30 plus hours a week made it hard. It forced me to cheat my way through a lot of classes just to keep my grades up. There just wasn’t the extra time that I needed and when I did have time, I was normally so exhausted that I’d fall asleep. Any off days from school that I had were spent either putting in a full-time shift at work, mowing lawns or a little of both. I had several friends and was trying to maintain a social life amongst the rest of the things that I had going on. My mother loved my social life as long as it made her look good but she would get upset with me often if things didn’t always go her way. I wasn’t popular but she would make snide remarks like, “aren’t you just Miss Popular” and “while you were out gallivanting with your friends I had to________” fill in the blank with whatever housework I didn’t do. She pretty much spent her nights watching Star Trek and drinking sugary iced tea. She was pretty lazy until the money got excruciatingly tight. Dave had been out of work for such a long time and my paychecks just weren’t helping out enough. I also would like to mention that neither my brother nor I were ever in sports or extra curricular activities because A) they cost money and B) it was too much work to drive us back and forth and me to work after an 8 hour workday. I didn’t have time anyway because of my work schedule. I wanted to be in theater but Dave and my mother absolutely didn’t want me doing it. I took the classes for two years but as far as me being involved or getting their support to audition for plays, it just wasn’t going to happen. They did, however, encourage me to be in choir. I’m tone-deaf. I can’t hold a tune in a bucket with ergonomic handles even if I tried. They thought that I had the voice of an angel so I was really being set up for humiliation.
Dave had begun to do lawns part-time in the fall. He couldn’t lift anything so his guys had to do most of the work. He was still on a colostomy bag. On the weekend I had to help him and then go to work. My mother had to pick up a second job to make ends meet so she took a position as a cook at a nice Italian restaurant. This had two benefits: 1) she was gone and not around to bitch and complain and 2) she brought home really amazing polenta. (The one thing that I really loved about my mother was her cooking. She is an amazing cook.) Somewhere between the fall and winter, a storm came through with really high winds that buckled the garage door. The jobs between the three of us was basically paying the bills and putting food on the table so when this happened there just wasn’t any extra money to pay the deductible on the home insurance or pay for it out-of-pocket. My mother panicked. She couldn’t get her car out of the garage. Dave was already gone working (his van was always outside). She had to take the day off of work and spent the morning making phone calls to the insurance company and garage door companies trying to see what her options were. Her option was to come up with at least $500 and quick. She finally decided to swallow her pride and call around to some local churches. We weren’t a religious family. In fact, I didn’t even know that Easter had anything to do with Jesus but celebrated because I loved Cadbury eggs. 🙂 She had called several churches and was turned down because they either didn’t have funds for people like us or only donated to members (and they are tax exempt whyyyyy???) Finally, the little church up the street said that they would be happy to help and pray for us. We didn’t need to be members or even step foot in church. They sent the money along with care packages full of food. Out of gratitude, she decided it would be a good idea if we started going.
The church was an independent pentecostal, evangelical denomination (aka. borderline crazy). We started going in February. I had only been to vacation bible school to some pretty low-key Baptist churches as a kid and I went to a few youth groups with friends as a teen. I had never seen or heard anyone speak in tongues. This was an entirely new thing for me. People sang loudly with their hands in the air. Some ran around the room, speaking in tongues. Some people jumped and yelled “hallelujah!” It was exciting. I didn’t grow up religious but growing up in Oklahoma, it’s hard not to notice that there are churches “on every street corner.” I thought I was hungry for something spiritual. Sharing ghost stories was about as spiritual as I had ever been. I was definitely intrigued. I believed in Jesus but didn’t know enough about Christianity for it ever to have an effect on my life. The church had a revival coming up and invited us. It was to take place during the evening service. The speaker was Shelley Baker. She is a Christian artist who claims to be “slain in the spirit” while she paints. She basically has no idea what she is painting because she is blacked out and in a Jesus coma and the holy spirit paints through her. She also is a Benny Hin wannabe. The service was crazy and quite frankly, scared the shit out of me. All of the stuff being preached felt like I was being controlled and told what to do. I was freaked out. I had to work the next night and I knew that Erik was off. I was so shaken up from the church service and something inside of me just wanted to act out horribly bad. I wanted to smoke a bowl and fuck… finally. I was still a virgin but no stranger to pot. I called Erik and asked him if he wanted to fuck. He was happy to oblige. I lost my virginity on the football bleachers at my school. I don’t want to say that I’m proud of that decision but it was definitely memorable. At least I didn’t lose it to my pervert step-father. I think that I took pride in it because it was MY decision and I got to choose who I gave it to. That following Sunday, I was so full of emotion and confusion. On top of everything else that had happened in my life I was now being presented with the fact that I was going to Hell and a lot of ideas that were utterly foreign to me. I was vulnerable and gullible and totally gave my life to Jesus that night.