Chapter 1 “Hi, my name is Sandee and I’m an eclectomaniac”

So much stuff is in my head.  Wonder if it would be read, if I put it in a book?  Wonder if they’d take a look?

Eclectomaniac  (iˈklekt’oˈmā-nē-ək): one who has a myriad of interests and aptitudes, moods and personas, who fluctuates between relative extroversion  accompanied by bursts of creativity,  and  periods of  withdrawn solitude and contemplation, and  who seldom hones any specific ability to its maximum potential, by virtue of an over-abundance of options.

I totally made that up!  But it is true, so it should be coming soon to a dictionary near you!

And besides, it describes me.

Favorite song: “What A Wonderful World”-Louis Armstrong

Favorite poem: “Daffodils” -William Wordsworth

Favorite movie: “It’s a Wonderful Life”-Frank Capra

Favorite book: “Gone With The Wind”-Margaret Mitchell

Favorite fictional character: “Junie B. Jones”

Favorite food: All forms of potato, especially where cheese is also involved. I would say M&M’s but I’m told that doesn’t really count.

Favorite Colors: Purple and Aqua, then Yellow, Orange, and Peridot

Favorite music: Reggae, Big Band Swing, Jazz, acapella hymns and negro spirituals, Celtic,

Favorite Holiday: Thanksgiving because it’s like Christmas but without all the stress

Favorite Season: Fall, then Spring

Favorite Vacation: Ocean, or mountains.

Favorite Flower: Daffodil

Favorite Weather: Colors of Fall, Snow of Winter (only before Dec.26th), Wind of Summer and Fragrance of Spring.

Favorite Fragrance: Gardenia

Favorite  Leisure: Reading, writing, painting (acrylics), crafting

Favorite Activity: Walking

Longest running friendship besides family: 42 years

Most embarrassing moment: In nursing school physical assessment lab, during live practice of breast exam, I jealously blurted out: “Aw man,  you must work out, you have way better muscle tone than I do!” (My practice patient turned pink, and behind curtains all over the lab,  came a moment of silence and then everyone cracked up).  Well, at least it took the edge off of a very nerve-wracking part of the practicum.

Funny True Story: Once I was gardening in my yard and a gnat flew up my nose. I gasped and of course it became lodge near the back.  I was coughing, sputtering, hacking, flailing and laughing so hard I had to cross my legs so I wouldn’t, you know, leak.  Alone.  In my yard.  With cars driving by.  I finally had to swallow it.

Best Feature: My eyes (I felt that way even when I still had my girlish figure)

Worst Feature: Impulse control, maybe?

Zany things I did just because I wanted to:

Once I stopped my car on the narrow left shoulder of the Downtown Expressway because the whole medium was filled with daffodils.  It was Friday mid-day rush hour and I climbed the embankment and sat among the flowers as the hectic traffic whizzed by.  Then I picked an armload of the daffodils so I could prolong the moment and take some of the beauty with me.

A friend and I kidnapped a pink plastic flamingo from a trailer park late one night during a snowstorm, snapped several pictures of us with it, then brought it back 2 weeks later, also after dark.

Minutes of fame: I have been on the radio 3 times, had articles published in newspapers 4 times, been interviewed on TV once, and appeared in a newspaper photo twice; once as a Junior Volunteer (Candy Striper) when I was 14, and again with my youngest son when a reporter saw me pulling him around town in his little red wagon on a balmy day.  If you add it all up it only comes to about 4.5 minutes of fame.

Most valuable thing I ever lost: Read my book (in progress) and you’ll know.

Most thrilling experience: Parachute drop simulator.  LOVED IT!

Best thing I ever did “just for myself”: My “Happy Party” I threw for myself in February of 2002.  People came from as far away as West Virginia and North Carolina just to show me they loved me, and bring me cheer and laughter.  For entry, all attending were required to bring one thing that would make me laugh.  (By that time, it was rarely happening spontaneously anymore).

Best surprise: Hubby pulled off a surprise party for my 42nd Birthday with the help of my friend Tam.

Best gifts I ever got: Salvation through Jesus, My husband Garrett, my sons Benjamin and Isaac

Jobs I’ve had: Clown, Cashier, Medical Assistant, Fine Jewelry sales, Waitress, Concierge, Muralist, Art Class Teacher’s Aide, Call-center,  R.N. Hospice-Oncology, Home Health-Hospice, Home-Health Supervisor, Outpatient Surgery, G.I. Specialist office, Private Contract Nurse performing in-home assessments for extended-care policies, School Nurse.

Other Licenses: Insurance Sales Agent, Cosmetologist and Cosmetology Instructor

Other: I love rocks, prisms, and stained glass and color and light.  I’d design a house using all these elements  if I could design my dream home.

Where to begin?

From the time the Lord put in my mind the idea of writing down my story and sharing it with others, I have always known that it would happen sort of “all at once”.  That I’d just have to start writing and let it flow, because I have to trust the Holy Spirit within me, to make anything good out of all that is in my head about my life.  The last thing that I want to do is bum people out.  I want to encourage!  I have my own brand of that.  Not the kind that just says positive things that amount to wishful thinking and that have no basis in experience, but encouragement offered from the perspective of someone who has been through some things and is willing to share for the sake of easing the way for someone else.

I will begin my story in 1973.  I was 9 when I went forward in a “revival meeting” at my church.  The preacher’s name was McMillan, and he wore white patent leather shoes.  It was the next-to-last night and he’d spoken about heaven, describing the golden streets and pearly gates. I don’t really remember feeling particularly convicted as a dirty rotten sinner at the age of 9 (that would come later), but I did understand there was something I needed to do if I wanted to be saved and go to heaven when I die, so I went up there to find it out and do it.  The pastor’s wife was the one who “counseled” me and showed me verses in the Bible to help me understand.  She told me that we all are sinners, and when she asked me if I ever did things I knew were wrong, I confessed that I did.  She explained that sinners go to hell, but we don’t have to if we will believe in what Jesus did when He died on the cross and paid for our sin.  She then led me in a prayer to ask Jesus to save me and come live in my heart.

I was very happy about this new relationship and I knew that it was a relationship. I felt the happiness of being on good terms with God, and I felt Him with me, as a friend and companion that I talked to all the time, about everything.  Through my teens, I was very serious about keeping my prayer time, having my devotions, learning scripture, and being involved with my youth groups, church, choir, Vacation Bible School, etc.

By the time I was 14 I pretty much knew I wanted to go to a Christian College and eventually the mission field.  At 15  an unknown benefactor paid a full scholarship on my behalf to attend the Christian school in town, and I loved everything about being in that school that year.  During that time, I also made plans to go on a summer missions trip to Glasgow, Scotland with Teen Missions International.  The Lord provided the money and with the fearlessness that comes with being young and living in a time when pedophilia and serial killers and child-abductions were yet rare occurrences,  off I went for our boot camp in Florida and then over the pond.  Even though my mom had always been very protective, she and Dad apparently believed the Lord wanted me to go and would take care of me.  It was an awesome summer!  I met lots of kids from all over the U. S., flew for the first time, loved Scotland, (it was the year Charles and Dianna married, so their faces where everywhere) and we got to witness and sing and do puppet shows, and even some sight-seeing, (although the day of the “Loch Lomond outing”,  I opted to stay back and write letters, which would have been fine, except the group made a last minute decision to go a little further and see Loch Ness).

Here is Loch Lomond:

Loch Lomond image via travel.nationalgeographic.com

Cameron House commons.wikimedia.com

This would have been the lovely views at Loch Lomond which my team-mates saw, but I did not.

I did enjoy touring the Robert Burns Cottage in Ayrshire.

commons.wikimedia.org

I also enjoyed seeing Edinburgh and the Edinburgh castle.

Well, enough of the sight-seeing.

After I got home from Scotland, I went back to public school for my senior year.  As far as I recall,  my parents didn’t even check to see if the scholarship could be extended to my senior year.  I think they felt like that would have been like asking for charity.  I wanted to stay at the Christian School.  As such, I started  my senior year already feeling some disappointment.  It wasn’t like it was all that hard to re-adjust, after all I’d been to school with that group all those prior years, but the closeness I’d had with others in the smaller setting, the teachers I’d gotten attached to, well, I really missed that.

I applied to 3 Christian Colleges and was accepted at all three.  I had decided I really wanted to go to Covenant in Lookout Mountain, TN.   I had no idea how to go about making it happen, though.  There wasn’t anyone among my immediate friends or family who had been to college that could offer me guidance, and our school wasn’t particularly helpful or pro-active in preparing or helping kids with the process back then.  Most of the kids who went to college, had parents before them who went, and they were already in the advanced classes, so the counselors knew them. I think they had a bit of an advantage.  I was only in advanced English, and in fact was lagging in math.

I knew enough about college to understand I had to fill out financial aid forms, but my Dad pretty much felt all that financial info was nobody’s business but his own, and he refused to fill them out or sign them, or let my mom do it.  My parents did not encourage me, in fact, they discouraged me because they said there was no way they could pay and they didn’t see the point.  They were not aware of all the possible scholarships, etc, that might have been available, had I applied for aid. (I remember sitting in an assembly near the end of Sr. Year and hearing the names of all the top-of-the-class being called up and awarded scholarships.  I recall feeling bewildered, wondering how they got them).  So, there went my plans!  It wasn’t my parents fault.  They just didn’t know.  They were clear that they weren’t going to go in debt for it, though, and I don’t blame them for that.  My grades and activities were good enough I could have probably gotten a full scholarship (I did later, for Nursing School) but not having any guidance or support, I just sort of figured (like I did about a lot of things) that there are those who could and those who couldn’t.  I thought those other kids were just smarter than I was.

The kids who went to college were the same kids who did most of the other things that I (and my bunch) didn’t, like have their own car as soon as they got their license, go on senior trips, spend ridiculous amounts of money on their class rings, etc.  A lot of people looked at it as the “haves” vs the “have-nots” but we were a fairly small factory-town, and most of the kids were in the same financial echelon that my family was.  I never felt cheated or envious of those things, I just accepted what was, and didn’t give much thought to how anyone else lived.  I was a happy kid, pretty much content with what we had.

But when graduation rolled around, and I had outgrown the youth groups I attended, and my school friends all scattered, some to college, some who had already secured jobs and gone to work, I had no plan to look forward to.  I had 3 friends that I hung out with mostly.  One of them started working before graduation, leaving school early to work part of the day each day.  Right after graduation she went to work full-time, and soon she had moved into an apartment and was in a pretty serious relationship.  One of the other two left for the Air Force as her only option to escape a bad home life, and the other got engaged and enrolled in community college classes and we fell out of touch.

Since I wasn’t going to Bible College, I had no idea what else I might want to study, so I got a job as a cashier at a local store of a family-owned chain.   It was a great company and the pay was better than most “starter jobs” around.  It started above minimum wage.

I was really floundering at this point.  It seemed like everything had changed and I really felt lost without my usual peer group, routines and activities to count on. People were always asking me what my plans were.  It did not take long for me to feel really down on myself.  There were a good number of other kids near my age, and slightly older who were taking classes locally and working at the store, and they were fairly fun to work with.  After-work  and weekend gatherings would often take place (store was closed on Sundays), and invariably a few here and there would pair off in couples.  I didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, curse, didn’t attend movies with profanity and scantily-clad women, so I didn’t have much in common with most of the young adults I met there.  They did sometimes just throw together an impromptu volleyball game, or pizza outing, but still, I never was very comfortable just plunging in with a group that I was not familiar with, and had no experience in social realms outside of church and youth group.  I had always been somewhat shy, and though I was comfortable, outgoing and “popular enough” among my Christian friends, I had no idea how to fit myself in among this other crowd and found myself always winging it, just striving not to stick out like a sore thumb among these worldly and “sophisticated” young adults.  To counter my social timidity, I learned to project a confidence I didn’t have.  I got so good at it, I sometimes fooled myself, but it was a skill that later would prove valuable on job interviews, scholarship essays, in dealing with intimidating or difficult people, life in general.

There was one guy I had met while in Pennsylvania after my senior year, when I went to visit one of my friends from the mission trip.  We sort of had a long-distance “courtship” briefly, until one day he said to me that God had told him that he was supposed to marry me.  That both scared me, and made me mad, since I had never been the girl who grew up daydreaming about her wedding day, and had not given marriage one moment’s thought yet at that point in my life, and also because if God meant for him to marry me, I’d have thought God might have let me in on it.  That was the end of that.  I told him I didn’t want to see him anymore.

But as the second summer after high school wound down, I felt more lost and aimless than ever.  I had my own car by then, and was visiting some other churches.  But I couldn’t seem to find anywhere that had much “life” to it, and besides that, I was starting to be upset with God.  I couldn’t understand why He hadn’t worked things out for me to go to college.  I kept asking “what now?”.  I mean, there I was, wanting to serve Him, and it really started to feel like He had rejected me.  Without the old moorings, I hung out with the work crowd more and more.  It was fun to just joke around, to be friends with both guys and girls.  I guess I was on the receiving end of some flirtation, but my standards were still pretty high as far as the type of guy I might consider dating, and I frankly did not know a single guy who fit the bill.  Nor did I have a clue where or how I might ever meet someone like that.   As the weeks passed, going into fall, that became something else I was upset with God about.  All my other friends seemed to be in serious relationships, getting engaged, etc.  I hadn’t really even dated anyone seriously yet.  (Have you picked up on my deficiency in the patience department?)

As you can see, I really understood very little really about God’s nature.  I tell my husband now that the Presbyterian church I grew up in was pretty much only a couple of shades “out” from Catholic.  Now that I’ve learned some church history, I understand that. It was all rules and doctrines and even some Catechism and not much emphasis on grace, relationship and love and mercy.  Lots of Calvin.

Though I was often told I was mature for my age, I think in terms of some things, particularly interactions with guys, I was less mature.  There had been one guy I really liked in my church, but he was a little younger and neither of us were driving yet.  By the time he was, we had both “outgrown” youth group and we had fallen out of touch.  He lived in the county, so we weren’t in the same school, and I graduated the year before he did.

As far as the group at work, there was one particular person who did seem to be considered a “stand-out” among this group, at least by everyone else in the store.  I wasn’t interested in him, but several people were trying to bring us together, playing match-maker.  He was friendly enough, and definitely more mature than the other guys who worked there.  He was a pre-med honor student and a hard worker.  Rather than ask me out, he did what a lot of guys do, and just started saying things like “we should get together sometime”, or “we should hang out”.  It got to the point that he was pretty persistent in asking for a date, and wasn’t taking “no, thank you” for an answer.  I still wasn’t interested, but one day he was talking about playing tennis  and he asked me if I played.  I was a runner, and liked to exercise, but had never tried tennis.  He acted like he couldn’t believe I had never played, so he said, “how about if we go play tennis after work one day next week and I’ll teach you”.  A daytime outing seemed harmless enough, and didn’t sound like a date so I figured that maybe if I went along with that, he would stop bugging me.  I guess you could say, too, that being a reader I really had that expectation of fireworks and shooting stars (chemistry) and all that too.

Little did I know that according to some unwritten “guy code” I was branded off-limits to anyone else at that point, and only found out later that when other folks heard I’d finally agreed to the tennis game, he had led them to believe we were an item.  I think the other guys deferred to him in particular because they were all a little in awe of him themselves.  It may have perhaps been my indifference to that aura of “awe” he was accustomed to inspiring in everyone, that sealed his determination to change my mind.

He continued to pursue me, and even as I was growing less self-confident and less sure about my own future, he came on as this confident person who knew exactly where he was going and how to get there.  He was not all that much older than me, but he did seem to navigate through the world with obvious ease.  So he seemed a lot older to me.  He had a lot of freedom,  comfortably conversed with anyone from the owner of the company or store manager, to elderly customers and all stripes of people.  Because he had scholarships, lived at home, and worked every hour he could get and was thrifty  he had money.  He drove an old car that was in good condition, and had no use for labels and brand names.  He was charismatic but definitely not a crowd-following-people-pleaser.  What most people would describe as a guy who was very much “his own man”.

For some background here: my dad was not demonstrative, and didn’t really interact with us kids directly all that much when we were growing up.  He worked hard and faithfully at a crappy job like a lot of men did and still do, for the sake of the family.  He loved his family but he was not really raised up to know the Biblical role of fathers as head of household, so he didn’t take a strong headship role in the home.  Like a lot of couples of that time, he was the breadwinner, the house and kids were Mom’s domain.    He worked shift-work, and whenever he was home (and not sleeping off the night shift), he was always busy maintaining the car some appliance or other repair job around the house.  He never had a lot of tolerance for noise and chaos, and 4 kids can bring on plenty of both.  He was a deacon at church and maybe a trustee, I know he cut the grass and did other stuff out there too. But relationally,  I really had no example to go by, as for how to interact with the opposite sex and had no one looking out for me in that matter.   I didn’t have any males who were my friends, per se.  I was extremely nervous and shy around guys, let alone in a dating situation.

To sum up, at this point in my life when that young man began pursuing me, I was having a crisis of disillusionment about my faith, felt like I had thus far lived my life to the best of my ability in a way that was pleasing to the Lord, and I was feeling a little abandoned.  I was growing more panicked all the time about not having a plan, but  was very much wanting to find my direction and have my independence.  And then there was also that impatience thing!

Don’t think the devil didn’t take notice!

There seems to be an inherent danger of “falling through the cracks” that comes with that stage of life for kids who grew up in church.  I guess it’s not that surprising what transpired next in my life.

I was full of potential,  had a lot going for me, but poor sense of “ownership” over my self or my life, no idea where or how to channel the gifts and abilities I did have.  I was feeling utterly lost and so I guess it was almost inevitable, especially as I stepped out from under the umbrella of walking closely with the Lord, that I was a prime candidate for becoming putty in someone’s hands.

Go to Chapter 2