I’ve decided to share my latest book (The All-Important, Well-Fed, Giant White Man) with my followers here, free of charge, one chapter at a time. So… Where were we on this read-along… Oh, yes…
Chapter 36: Noah’s Shit-Word Spree
The year or so that spanned between thinking I was so famous I could quit my job, and actually learning how to make an income as a blogger can be summed up in three words. Belly-up broke.
It was fate, really. Karma had finally come to get me from my teen years when my friends and I would do things like spread fresh dog excrement on the bottom side of a dollar bill, plaster it to the hot sidewalk, and hoot from a distance as people attempted to snatch it up off the ground. One fifty-something woman, caught in the crosshairs of that prank, began dry heaving and fell flat back on her ass after she discovered the poop. I don’t know why we thought that was so funny, but I do know that eventually I deserved to struggle with money the way we made her and so many others “struggle” with it on those hot summer afternoons.
During my belly-up broke year, I worked hard. I probably averaged about 70 hours every week trying to get my blog making money and still, I lost almost $20,000 that year. That means I was working myself to death for exactly -$5.49 per hour.
Just before I foreclosed on the home I had purchased for nearly $600,000 some seven years earlier, a buyer came in and bought it for $325,000. The short-sale destroyed my nearly perfect credit. My maxed-out credit cards that I was months behind on didn’t do much to help, either. To survive that time, I had to sell furniture, my pickup truck, computer and camera equipment, and all sorts of my favorite doodads and gadgets. This is what I remember about that time of my life.
I would wake up in the morning and use less toothpaste than I wanted because a full squirt of it made me stress about the money I would be saving if I could just learn to be happy with less.
I took lukewarm showers and was always sure to keep them to two minutes or less. I’m not sure I ever felt completely clean during that entire year.
I always had a headache and the only thing I could pin it on was the stress of being poor. Of course, that wasn’t an official diagnosis because I had no health insurance and I would have rolled around in hot coals if it would have saved me a trip to the doctor’s office.
I used to lay face down with my cheek to the cold tile in my kitchen because I couldn’t afford to run the air conditioner during the summer. One time I fell asleep there, and only woke up when a mouse trap snapped eight feet from my face. I watched as a tiny puff of gray fur flopped wildly back and forth, it’s nervous system firing off one last burst of excitement. The mouse died, and I went back to sleep.
For Noah’s birthday, I made him a simple cake from a mix that had been sitting in the pantry for God knows how long. Luckily there was some old frosting to go with it. We had no party for him that year. I spent $20 to buy him a birthday present, and felt like I shouldn’t eat for the next two weeks to make up for the splurge.
We skipped out on almost everything we were invited to do from camping to eating-out to bowling to picnics. I couldn’t admit it was because of money trouble, so I would lie and tell people that I had radio interviews or meetings with book publishers. I don’t feel bad about that. If I could go back in time, I would still lie. I would just tell more glorious lies like, “we can’t make it because Noah has been invited to be the first child to pet the new baby unicorn in the magical zoo none of you common folk know about.”
Belly-up broke. I learned a lot from that year spent digging in couch cushions for loose change. More than anything, I learned that having and making no money really just sucks in general. Waking up every morning is not something one looks forward to when you know you’re probably going to bed that night with less money and more stress than when your feet first hit the floor. Sure, there is fun to be had here and there, but it was always shadowed by the fear of what that fun was costing me both in money and in time.
Deep into that year and not having any idea when we’d finally find our feet again or if I could even keep doing it much longer at all, Noah and I were sitting at the kitchen bar coloring pictures of monsters together.
“I don’t need this shit!” he suddenly exclaimed, as he colored wings onto his bright blue and green scaly creation.
“What’d you say?” My eyes immediately went from overly-tired to projecting from their sockets.
His emotions didn’t change. He just kept looking at his paper, scribbling something amazing with his ever-dulling crayon. “I saaaiiiid, I don’t need this shit!”
I will confess that I’d never really thought through how I would handle such a moment when it happened, and I somewhat panicked. Where had he heard that phrase? I had never turned on anything more than a PG movie for him, and as far as I knew, he’d never heard me cuss. Okay, I lied. One time I accidentally stabbed myself in the wrist with a screwdriver and yelled “hotdammamamma,” but other than that, I knew I had been pretty careful about what I let slip around him. I knew that he certainly didn’t learn that phrase at Dad’s house…