I got my first job working in a grocery store here in Southern California when I was 16 years old. I turned 17 the month after I started that job and 3 months later I would make a decision to have sex for the first time outside of marriage and find out 8 weeks later that I was pregnant with my first child. She was born three days before I walked with my class and graduated high school and on my 18th birthday. There is no denying that somehow I managed to create such milestones out of obstacles, I guess that is just how I roll.
I worked in the mercantile business until I was 34 years old (yes, for 18 years). I started as a box person and because I was a punk kid with an attitude and not a penis, I remained a box person for 5 long years. To most, that fact absolutely sucked. They didn’t know how in the world I could have chosen to stay working there, not throwing a fit when all the boys who started there after me got promoted and I was still bagging groceries. I’m sure it looked pathetic to so many but to me, a young mother raising a daughter without her father, along with the help of my parents it was a blessing. The mercantile business ( I just love calling it that. Reminds me of “Olsen’s Mercantile” from Little House on the Prairie) no matter what position you had at the time, provided thee best health insurance a person would ever hope to have. Especially a person like me, a young unwed mother raising a child who just so happened to be born with a deletion in her 22nd chromosome better known to the medical world as “Di Georges Syndrome” or 22q11.2 deletion syndrome. Long story short, she would first have open heart surgery at 6 months old to repair the Tetralogy of Fallot we found out she was born with. She would be developmentally delayed, walking at over a year, speaking at a delayed time, learning at a delayed rate. I NEEDED that job no matter what work I was doing because that insurance was so awesome, I paid for NOTHING. I never got on welfare, I never had any kind of public assistance, I bagged those groceries like a boss, took care of my special baby and did it all the best I could.
I learned SO much in the 18 years I grew up in the grocery store. I learned about people and how to deal with them and mostly how NOT to deal with them. Believe it or not my mouth got me into trouble A LOT!! I learned what food stamps were and how the same people over the course of almost a couple decades figured out how to live off of them and never have to work a job a day in their life and they got paid cash for that!! I picked up trash, mopped floors, bailed cardboard, stocked shelves, and eventually made it into the side departments where the bakery and deli were, forever changing the next phase of my life, unbeknownst to me.
I have some of the best memories next to my amazing childhood, from the years I worked in the deli and bakery departments. I had the greatest friends and the most ridiculous drama a girl in her 20’s could ever have. I LOVED my 20’s!! It was the best time a girl could ever have and I am SO thankful the Lord didn’t decide to return during that time because I would have missed the boat big time. I don’t mean to sound like I am PROUD of the things I did or the choices I made because I know NOW how sinful and just shameful they were and I don’t give glory to such stupid things. At the same time, I didn’t have the understanding of Jesus that I have today, so I thought that old cliche “once saved, always saved” was true! I thought that if I went to church on Sunday, no matter how hung over or still tweeking from the night before I was, I was good. I was covered. I could live like a sinner and still be considered a Saint in the eyes of God because I said a prayer once when I was little and asked Jesus into my heart. It is that kind of ignorance that I had for such a long time in the past that brings me to the conclusion today that God knew exactly how this was all going to pan out and He made it possible for me to survive some crazy shit. I am not even going to lie, some of the things I did or experienced I have to wonder how I ever managed to get through it except that I was covered by the prayers of my mother, there is NO denying that fact.
Playing with food and making it pretty kind of came naturally to me. I always made great sandwiches. The party trays always came out nice. The salad cases always looked beautiful. I’m sure at the time I was just “doing my job” but I think about it now and I realize it was just the beginning of something great. I eventually, a very long eventually, managed to slip my way into what I thought was going to be theee best position I could ever want. I waited so many years to get to be a department manager and tried to out perform so many other people to get there and I finally did and I was SO thrilled. It ended up being the worst thing I could have ever gotten myself in to and a the same time, it would end up being the one thing that exposed so much about me in a most horrible chain of events that got so bad I was sure I would lose everything only to find out it was so that I would able to finally break free from so much more.
Working 6 days a week, 8 hours a day takes a huge toll on your life, especially when you have a husband and children at home. I guess I skipped over that part so to catch you up, I ended up being a single parent for 12 years before I got married to an amazing man that I seriously met on the internet. He brought into the marriage a terribly spoiled and delusional daughter, an ex wife from the pits of hell itself and together we had a son who is the absolute joy in all of our lives, but I have stories upon stories about all that for another time, lets keep going shall we?
When I started as a department manager I was in a little store that wasn’t very busy, it didn’t even compare to the other stores in our area and that was just fine with me. I guess I can admit to the fact that I have always just been content with what I was doing when I was doing it and didn’t much feel motivated to get bigger and better and move farther and higher up. Well, except for the times that my mind would go bonkers and race and these invencible thoughts would come to the surface and I was positive I could become at different times, a teacher, a theologian who would go to bible college and follow the teachings of Martin Luther, and of course, a comedian that did stand up at like, youth conferences and events making fun of the nerdy boys in the church that you swore you would die if you ended up having to marry because all the hot guys were unsaved. All these ideas I had all the while being completely content in an underlying misery searching for some kind of identity or meaning.
I got the news that I was going to be transferred to another store, in another city, further from my house and it was bigger and a thousand times more busy than the one I was managing at the time, oh, and by the way, you start tomorrow at 2am and we’re sorry, we KNOW it’s inventory and they have a huge island case with a million different items you have NO idea what they even are but, we’re going to go ahead and do this anyway. It was pretty much at that moment that I knew the upper management of that company hated me. The day before I started at that store, the day my supervisor decided to drop the hugest bomb on me, OVER THE PHONE like the chicken shit that she was, I wore this beautiful shade of purple MAC eye shadow that made my boring brown eyes look absolutely fabulous. It later made them completely infected and blood red with what looked like the worst case of pink eye from an allergic reaction from whatever pigments that were in that purple eye shadow, in addition to the sobbing I would later be doing I started my first morning at the new store with the whites of my eyes completely bloody and red and swollen. It was a HELL of a first impression that day and it would be the first day of the breaking down to rock bottom The Lord was about to begin in me.
It took less than a year for me to have been completely twisted and changed into someone I don’t even know. I had an inappropriate relationship with someone I have NO idea why I would even give a second thought to. I befriended the biggest backstabbing horrible women I have ever met in my entire life. I worked for the worst manager and human being in my entire little world. I never went to church, I was completely disconnected from my family, from my children, from my husband and from my God. I was addicted to pain killers, muscle relaxers and preferred to have them with a tall can of whatever beer or alcohol sounded good at the time. I smoked marijuana every chance I got and when I couldn’t smoke it, I knew a girl who made some amazing brownies with it, and all of this happening and no one knew what was going on with the exception of God of course. This chaos ended with me having a total nervous breakdown, running away from home for the night, ending up in a psychiatrists office that smelled like piss and him telling me I was basically just a horrible person, and what did I need him to tell me that for? I went off work for a short amount of time and decided I was not willing to return to any of that, put in my resignation from the position, was jerked around and transferred all over the place for the next few years until I was offered a job OUTSIDE of that industry into one that I knew NOTHING about for the same benefits and pay that I had been making for the past 15 years that I could not possibly be stupid enough to turn down. I left the lies I believed for 18 years that were pounded into my head and the minds of every other employee there, that there was NOTHING I could do outside that job, I left my friends who had become family, I left the horrible memories and the good ones and I never looked back with a single regret except that it took that long for me to wander in the desert and be completely broken, remorseful, repentant and ready to totally be at the mercy feet of Jesus and let him open my eyes to show me things about myself I needed to see, to heal me and mold me HIS way and in HIS timing. To free me from the bondage I was under for so may years and bring me out of a darkness I never even realized I was stuck in. I was being given a second chance at a life that would be only to glorify him, and it was going to be awesome.