An embarassment of riches.

When we were cleaning out our closets this weekend in preparation for the home sale, I uncovered an old job offer letter. It was for my first full-time gig after college (an associate news producer for a cable news channel). My hourly wage — $7.65 an hour. I don’t know what shocks me more, the fact that a professional position in my field would pay me the same wage I could’ve earned at Burger King, or that we were able to make ends meet.

Life was so uncomfortable back then. There was no soft place to fall. There were only student loans, a stinky window air conditioner and ramen noodles. I remember standing behind food stamp recipients at the grocery store, being all confused because they could get things like steak, Doritos and Swiss Cake Rolls when all I could afford was a loaf of bread, eggs and some packets of Kool-Aid. That infamous crack — we had definitely fallen into it.

Finding this artifact as we’re preparing to build our dream house was bittersweet. God, we’ve come so far in 10 years. I think about all the people who earn this kind of money now, working full-time, raising families. Trying to afford not Nikes, but just plain old shoes. Hoping they can pay for hot lunch tickets. Wondering if Cub Scout dues will be in the budget this year.

I’m so thankful — man am I thankful — that we earn a comfortable living. But I think of how I busted my ass for that $7.65 an hour. It pisses me off that so many work so hard for so fucking little. But what can I do, sitting here in suburbia, drinking my Crystal Light and pecking away at one of our three computers. Voting Democrat and tipping well hardly seems sufficient. But I suppose it’s a start.

A weekend of purging.

What a fucking weekend. I spent the better part of Saturday wretching and heaving from what I suspect was food poisoning. What’s that? You’ve never had food poisoning before? Well let me tell you — when you’re not pissing out your rear end or yakking up your intestines (a sequence that occurs at least every half hour for a 12-hour period), you are lying under blankets, chilled and praying that you don’t shit yourself for a fourth time in one day. Some say that such an ordeal often brings one closer to god. And to that, I couldn’t agree more. At one point, I was fairly certain that I saw a silhouette of the Virgin Mary in my puke bucket. But alas, it was merely lettuce from the offending chicken burrito.

Before all was said and done, I soiled not one, not two, but three pairs of underwear. I can only imagine what sort of nasty bacteria I had ingested for my body to revolt in such a way. untitledhusband thinks my sour cream must’ve gone south. I’m thinking the restaurant cook harvested the guacamole from his asscrack. Aye caramba!

On the upside, I did lose five pounds. Not the easiest way to cut weight, but it’ll do in a pinch. Thank god my Weight Watchers weigh-in is today. There’s got to be some silver lining in this cloud of liquified shit. Now, I’m coping with a puker’s hangover — my entire thoracic region feels like it went through a blender.

In a show of mercy, the demons within allowed me consume some Diet Sprite and crackers on Sunday. And believe me, this was a huge step. The nutrition gave me enough energy to take on what was to be my big project for the weekend — cleaning out our bedroom closet. This is something we do every couple of years, yet I was still able to cull $1300 worth (Goodwill calculations) of clothes. Anything not worn in the past two years went. I said goodbye to several pairs of “mom” jeans (what was I thinking?), some sweaters that prominently display my backfat and three pairs of shoes that looked better in the store than they did on my pudgy feet. untitledhusband ridded himself of his “big” pants and some shirts that make it look like he has man boobs (this is a very sore subject, and he’d be mortified if I knew I was discussing this with you). Yes, this was the weekend where everything went, including an afro wig, a dusty silk ficus tree and my digestive system, for I’m fairly certain I shat out my lower GI in the wee hours of Sunday morning.

Strangely enough, I still love pancakes.

I don’t quite understand it, but untitledmother wants nothing to do with this new house business. She doesn’t want to talk about it, she doesn’t want to hear about it. I’ve gently brought up the subject a few times, and she shuts down right away. It bothers her, us moving into this new house. She was much more comfortable with us ten years ago, when we were poor. She’d come for a visit, and treat us to breadbowl salads at Perkins. “My dad always took me out to eat when I was your age,” she’d say. It felt so good, having untitledmother mother me, even though I was 24 years old. More than the food, I needed to feel protected and cared for.

Back then, untitledhusband and I had just graduated from college, and we had moved to the big city, where we lived off of approximately $25,000 a year, if that. We had these mammoth student loans and stoopid college credit card debts to pay off. Whatever possessed me to buy a $350 mountain bike with a credit card? Here I was, still paying for it at 11 percent interest, and I didn’t even have it anymore. I ended up selling it to my roommate, so I could pay rent.

During those years, I learned that yes, it is possible to feed yourself on $15 a week (egg salad, pancake mix, ramen noodles and Kool Aid). We weren’t poor. We were po’. But we never asked for money from our parents. Every time we came back home, we were thinner than the last visit. I remember wondering “Is this what four years of college gets you? Will it always be this hard?”

Back then, we dreamed of one day buying a brand new Dodge Neon. That was as far as we would let our imaginations run. We had no health insurance, which was pretty scary when untitledhusband came down with mono. I thought he was dying — seriously — so I took him to the free clinic. I remember being amazed that the free clinic was actually free. No one had ever helped us out like that before.

For Christmas one year, we gave everyone a plate of homemade holiday cookies. We also signed up for a book club, so we could give all these free books as presents. My tactless sister-in-law still makes fun of us for that. We had one TV – a 13-inch jobby. There was a drug dealer down the hall, and an old lady above us that insisted we turn our TV volume down after 10 p.m. and use the close captioning. Somehow, she had convinced our landlord that we were rowdy kids. Fuck, we were too poor to be rowdy. That would’ve required a 12-pack of Red Dog and some shred of hope for the future – and we had neither.

Knowing this was not how we wanted to live, we made some life changes. I went back to grad school. We made strategic career decisions. I clearly remember talking with untitledhusband about refocusing his career to something web-related. He was in the bathtub, I was on the toilet. That moment, that decision, changed our lives.

Ten years later, here we sit, with jobs we kinda sorta like and paychecks we most definitely don’t deserve. So when I talk about this new house, please know where I’m coming from. In my wildest dreams, I never thought I’d set foot in, let alone live in, a house like we’re building. I just about shit myself when I think about it. Growing up, I remember eating government cheese. I remember my parents sitting me down and telling me “Christmas is going to be tight this year, kids.” I remember getting a pair of Lee jeans and a $25 Wal-Mart suitcase for my high school graduation. Building this house means that untitledson will never have to ask himself if we are poor. He’ll never have to spend his own money on clothes. And he will never, ever feel guilty for going farther and doing better than Mom and Dad.

Last dance.

From today until about, oh, Wednesday, I need everyone out there to think fertile thoughts and cosmically send them my way. These next few days are our last chance at conceiving a baby. No pressure, though.

Now, if you’re not feeling particularly sexy, may I suggest locking yourself in the handicap bathroom stall at work (come on, you know you use it when no one else is looking) with a pocket rocket or the latest issue of Juggs or something. This is no time for modesty, people. Like I said, it’s my last chance, and I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to break out the crazy voodoo shit to make this happen.

untitledhusband has had to overcome his crippling fear of needles and blood to inject my backside with a fertility drug called Repronex (hormones that stimulate ovulation) every month. Sounds painful, but it’s hurt our pocketbook more than my rear end. Much of what I have read online says that if the injectibles haven’t worked after three months, they probably are not going to work. Month one I had a good-sized follicle, but for some reason, it did not fertilize. Second month, same thing. Some infertility bulletin boards suggest shooting room temperature egg whites up your cooch before intercourse — somehow, that makes the little swimmers survive longer. The first two months, I refrained from such stitch witchery. But at this point, I’d shove the entire chicken up there if it would result in a pregnancy.

If things don’t take this month, I won’t say that I won’t be frustrated and a little bit angry. Because I’m sure I will be. But I’m fully aware that there are many women out there who cannot have any children. For me to be all pissy because I can’t have a second, well, that’s not right. So all I ask for now is strength — strength to get me through whatever this month’s outcome will be. Strength to deal with the fact that life is rarely fair, and that undeserving assholes win the lottery, get promoted and more often than not, walk away with the free salad spinner at the Tupperware party.

All this makes me question who exactly is at the helm up there. untitledhusband believes it is no one. My scientific mind agrees with him, but my desperate heart so wants to believe that someone, somewhere is looking after me, making sure that I get a little somethin somethin for letting people into traffic and saying hi to the Wal-Mart door greeter. If no one is driving this car, well then, life is just a bunch of coincidences and consequences. Now is that a downer or what?

So in lieu of remaining confused and let down, I choose to give my doubts a rest and find some hope and faith. At least for a few more weeks. I desperately need to believe that god or whomever is not going to pass me by this time. So I am officially taking my sadness and my shrivelled old eggs and passing them off to god. But by doing so, I damn well hope that she’s going to book it to the end zone and do the funky chicken when she gets there, cause sista girl needs the Hail Mary right now.

An Easter hatchling.

We went home this weekend — kind of a pre-Easter visit, since I’ve signed untitledson up for a fancy, reservation-only Easter egg hunt next weekend. Last year, we took him to the free citywide Easter egg hunt, and he got railroaded by rabid four and five-year olds who knew their Easter shizzle and had come with their game faces on. If I remember correctly, the morning ended with untitledson pacing around a nearby compost pile, where he saw some broken egg shells. Poor thing kept thinking he’d finally found an egg. This year will be different, even if momma has to lay down a fee to make it so. But I digress.

untitledmother said my hometown (where she and untitledmother-in-law both still live) was sponsoring an Easter egg hunt uptown in the Youth Center. It’s a town of about 2,000 people, and I spent many an aimless night at this same Youth Center, whiling away Fridays and Saturdays, sucking on Blow Pops until I was old enough to drive. At that point, I had commenced to sucking down Purple Passion and Strawberry Hill, but again, I digress.

And so we hustled down to the Youth Center bright and early Saturday morning, only to find the place in the exact same condition as I left it almost 20 years ago. As I walked through the door, I felt small and self-conscious, like my underwear might be billowing over the waistband in my jeans and my zits were crowning through my make-up. This place that I once thought was so cool was now so pathetic — beat-down naugahyde furniture, a few tables and chairs, cement-block walls. The faint smell of old hot dogs and must hung in the air.

I saw some familiar faces. People I had gone to high school with. I’m always gun shy of running into these people, cause as soon as I leave the room, I imagine they’re saying, “Oh my god. Has SHE let herself go or what?” “I bet she weighs 100 pounds more than she did in high school. Maybe more.” I’ve changed so much since high school — in ways they’ll never see. And them seeing me fat — they’re going to think they know me. And that I will not tolerate.

And so more often that not, I simply choose to avoid these situations. But on Saturday, I willingly went to the Youth Center, because my desire to see untitledson in the thick of the hunt, tracking down stale jelly beans and temporary tattoos like the sugar bloodhound that he is outweighed my issues.

Not surprisingly, I ran into an old classmate. Someone who hadn’t gained 100-plus pounds since high school. Back in the day, she was quite the bitch. But man, she certainly had mellowed. I said hi to her and her new husband (second husband), and I met her kids. As we exchanged small talk, I could feel that she didn’t care about what I looked like. It seemed she was more interested in just seeing a familiar face.

For the longest time, I thought no one would be able to get past the fat. It was the reason I never attended my high school reunions. But here was someone who didn’t seem to care, who perhaps was more self-conscious about the fact that she was under age 35 and already on husband number two (which, in my book, is nothing to feel bad about). But I guess we all have our demons. Some of us wear them under our plus-size jeans, others on their ring finger, and still others in the darkest corners of their tattered hearts. The exchange lasted all of two minutes, but it was long enough for me to see that it’s not always about me. It made me feel like perhaps it’s time to get past my shit.