We Finally Moved Into Our New Home

We did it. We actually did it. After months of floundering, of crunching numbers and coming up depressingly short, of selling nightmares, of offers shot down, of deals gone wrong, of temporary living situations…

We finally moved into our new home.

Yes, we got the dream house. Do you believe it? I don’t. I’m in a state of euphoric disbelief. I woke up yesterday morning and sat on my bench seat and drank a cup of coffee while staring wistfully out at my English tea garden of a backyard…just like I dreamt I would.

The joys of moving. Boxes everywhere. TV on changing table.
The joys of moving. Boxes everywhere. TV on changing table.

The first night in our home, back in our king-sized Tempurpedic bed, I slept like a 12-year-old kitty coming down from a catnip high. I had dreams about winning the lottery and being chosen as a dance lead in a new production at the Joyce. I woke up thinking…wow. I had a goal for this year, and I actually achieved it. That hasn’t happened since…ever?

For the first time in my adult life, I finally feel “settled.” I am in the home I plan to stay in for the long haul. My son is set up to go to the school district we plan to keep him in until he graduates from high school (barring any unforeseen events). I am in a great job where I see a wonderful future ahead. I have no gnawing feeling in my gut telling me I’m better than this. We’re better than this. I feel a gentle warmth moving through me like pee spreading out in a cool pond (not that I know what that feels like).

…So now what?

This is unfamiliar territory for me in so many ways. I’ve spent the better part of my adult years trying to “make it,” whether that was going for a dance career or just trying to pay my bills and get out of the ghetto. Now that I’ve accomplished what I set out to accomplish…well…what do I do?

I think I know the answer to that. Be content.  So many kids in their 8th grade yearbooks write, under what they want to do when they grow up, “Be happy.” I was never one of those kids. I was, “Be a dancer on Broadway. Be an author. Be an [insert important-sounding title here].” Now, as I grow older, I realize those kids who seemed directionless to my 14-year-old self actually had it right.

Just be happy.

Turns out, being happy is a little bit of work. I have to train myself to let go of the deeply-ingrained need to claw and scrape and yearn. I will continue to push myself to become smarter, to be a better parent, to excel in my career, to nurture my family and my friendships. But the titles and the milestones, at least the ones I’ve had my eyes set on for the past decade or so—I need to figure out how to let those blend into the background and just be.

Anyone have any pointers? I’m new at this.

We Just About Nearly Very Soon Pretty Much Got the Dream House

Because this has essentially become a real estate blog as of late, let’s go ahead and wrap this story up in a nice, neat little bow. Kinda. I mean, it’s the makings of a bow. It’s pretty much a bow, but I’m not ready to call it a bow because what if someone messes up and makes a double knot instead? Or what if someone comes along with some scissors and is all “fuck your bow!” and cuts it?

If you’re wondering where this hesitancy comes from, just read the last five months worth of blogs and you’ll be caught up. Real estate is a game, and it ain’t over until the keys are in your hands. Still, I’m feeling confident enough to say that the house that we love…The House…THE ONE HOUSE TO RULE THEM ALL…is just about nearly very soon pretty much ours.

“Which house is this?” you might wonder, seeing as I’ve posted about several homes already and have sent family members at least 16 sets of photos featuring ’90s tiled bathrooms and generic granite countertops on top of Home Depot kitchen cabinets. This one is by far the coolest, prettiest house I’ve seen while on the house hunt. The house we were in contract on before had great potential, but needed work. This house I can move right into and call home. Behold, the house on Blue Parrot Ct:

There’s a front porch, y’all. You know how I love porches.


First thing I said when I walked into this house was: It will be mine. Oh yes. It will be mine.

It’s a freaking dream house. And that’s really what we were looking for. It’s cozy with a touch of modern. Check out this amazing updated kitchen:

Yes, that is a hella deep sink in my center island.
Yes, that is a hella deep sink in my center island.

And can you peep to the back of the room there, by the windows? Do you see it? DO. YOU. SEE. IT? That’s a bench seat. A bench seat in my freaking home.

But that’s not all! What else has she won? Well, Bob, besides the dream kitchen and the adorable bench seat, there’s a magical English tea garden for a backyard where gnomes surely roam. I mean, wouldja just look at it?

So much tea will be sipped back here in my bathrobe and slippers.
So much tea will be sipped back here in my bathrobe and slippers.

The woman who is selling this house has fabulous taste. It’s very nice. We change it all, though. (No, Frahnk, leave the English tea garden alone.)

One thing I’m surprised I will not be be changing is this wonderful bright red accent wall that I never in a million years would have chosen myself but totally WORKS in the space. I love the energy it brings to the room without taking away from its warmth and style.

dining room
I could do without the plaid curtains, though.

So this is the winner. This is the miracle I’ve been dreaming of. This is love.

Now please, St. Joseph (wherever you are): grant us a smooth ride through the rest of this journey. The offer on this home has already been accepted, and the house has appraised at our offer price. Those are the two biggest hurdles to purchasing a home, but that doesn’t mean more obstacles can’t stand in our way. There’s still the home inspection. There’s still a bunch of loan stuff that needs to get underwritten or whatever. And there’s still 30 painful days that we have to wait while banks do their bank stuff.

Until then (and unless there’s any more house drama to blog about, which I’m seriously hoping I never have to do again), we can get back to your regularly scheduled programming of longing for meatballs, attempting and failing at re-entering the gym and diet scene, being an overbearing Italian mother (and daughter of an overbearing Italian mother), and reminiscing about the good ole days when I was a dancing queen.

And once we move into the house and get our stuff straightened out, get ready for things to suddenly get very Pinterest-y up in here. I’m gonna need your help putting our dream home together!


Adventures in Tiny Living

Once upon a time, I lived in a 3,000 square-foot house on an acre of land.

No, I was not rich. That’s just the size of houses and land in Massachusetts.

Because the acre of yard just wasn’t big enough, I would wander across the street to what me and my neighbors affectionately called The Field. The Field was a sprawling, 99-acre playground for five rambunctious kids who lived on Old Princeton Road. There were trees to climb, a pond to ice skate on and catch tadpoles in, and secret trails that we believed led to a mysterious Indian burial ground. (They didn’t.)

But mostly, it was just acres and acres of wide-open field. Field as far as the eye could see. Field that you could twirl through like Julie Andrews singing, “The hills are alive!”

running in a field

I was always drawn to The Field much more than The Woods. The woods were dark and musty. Trees bearing down upon you, raining sharp needles and startling you with thick clusters of caterpillar nests. In The Field, I could breathe. I could just be.

When I moved to California, one of my favorite things was just how vast the land felt. You look one way, and you stare across the dark waters of the Pacific Ocean all the way to the horizon. You look the other way, and your eyes are met with perfect rows of vegetables stretching on and on to the base of the Coast Ranges.

So it came as a great surprise to me when I saw how Californians build their houses: Right the fuck on top of each other.

One of the reasons I agreed to buy our house in Salinas was that there wasn’t a house directly behind us. (Whereas most of the other homes we saw were flanked on three sides by neighbors and had windows that gazed directly into other people’s windows and roofs so close that you could hop from one to the next like Spider-Man running down criminals.) Still, my house in Salinas was not perfect: I had no windows on one whole side of my home and the other side stared directly at a two-story wall.

But! I had 1,764 square feet of living space that was all my own. Now, me and Alex are crammed into a single bedroom like sweaty New Yorkers on a rush-hour 6 train.

All things considered, our tiny living situation is not terrible. We get along really well with my brother- and sister-in-law, and sharing the household chores and child-rearing duties has actually been a huge relief. I cannot stress this enough: I am SO GRATEFUL for their help.

But that doesn’t mean I enjoy stuffing my entire world into one room.

Some nights, I’m laying at the edge of the bed with my iPad on my lap while my husband games and my son plays with the fan in our room. In one moment, I feel content, surrounded by my sweet little family. The next, I feel so claustrophobic that I end up throwing off the covers and tearing down the hallway. I’m so uncomfortable that I haven’t had more than five hours of sleep.

I know I’ll never have 3,000 square feet of home and an acre of land here in California. (Though there’s seriously so much land here…I just DON’T UNDERSTAND why builders insist on huddling homes together like emperor penguins in an Antarctic winter.) But I’m asking the housing gods right now: please send us a home that has at least a wee bit of breathing room between it and the neighbors. That I can look out the window and see leaves and grass and sky instead of walls and windows. And please, if you could…


Finding The One: The House Hunt Continues

You know those well-intended, helpful people who tell you, after your fifth relationship in a row crumbles, “when you find The One, you’ll just know”? Turns out they are the same people who say things like, “I’m sorry this house didn’t work out, but that just means you haven’t found the right one yet.”

Thanks, Watson. I guess when I find The One House, I’ll “just know” and miraculously, no other investors with all-cash offers will swoop in and set down a purchasing price $50,000 over asking.

In case you’re wondering, this bitter tone comes to you compliments of the seven billionth house we’ve put an offer on in the Gilroy/Morgan Hill area over our house-hunting careers that did not work out due to other idiots way overbidding.

Most of the houses we’ve bid on through the years I’ve been able to shake off. Some were merely decent homes in decent areas that could have been fixed up to our liking. Many were extremely generic track houses that were clean, fairly new, and workable. But there was one that stayed on my mind for the entire time we lived in Salinas.

It was the one that got away.

Back in our early, heady days of house hunting, we had not a lot of money, but the promise of an $8,000 Obama tax credit for buying a home by the end of the year, so we took our paltry savings out for a joy ride. The housing market had crashed, so for the first time in our adult lives, it looked like we could actually afford a home.

Sadly, many of the homes we looked at in Gilroy were absolute crap. There was the foreclosed house where the owners had removed every light fixture, appliance, closet door, and even the toilet seats. There was the house with the beige carpet that looked as though someone had changed their car oil in the living room. There was even a house with a giant “FUCK YOU!” tagged on the driveway. Yeah, we’ll pass on that one.

But then we saw a beaut. It was blue with white trim and black shutters. It had an updated kitchen with white, distressed cabinets and stainless steel appliances. A wall of built-in cabinets framed the TV in the living room. Closet doors had a Japanese flair, with dark wood and frosted glass panes. We put in what we thought was the highest could possibly bid for an offer.

We were beat by less than $5,000.

I still think back on that house longingly. It was already in the Luigi Aprea district of Gilroy, so we wouldn’t have had to sell our house like we did this year. If we DID decide to sell, we would have walked away with at least $200,000 profit in our pockets.

Let’s just say that again for emphasis. Two hundred THOUSAND dollars.

It makes me a little sick to my stomach to think about now. Even with an increased budget and a profit from the sale of our home, we’re looking at being priced out of homes in our target areas again. It’s inspired me to be smart about my offers, to keep my eye firmly on the right locations, and to put in top dollar for a home we really want.

And then we found it. The One House. The house to rule them all. A pretty little updated one-story in the best school district in Morgan Hill. And, to our delight, it was in our price range! We fell in love, and I did the thing you’re not supposed to do until you sign the closing papers and get the keys in your hand: I mentally moved in. It went a little something like this:

1930 Criollo Way, Morgan Hill. I like the sound of that. Mrs. Criollo Way. Mrs. Wendy Criollo. Mr. and Mrs. Criollo. The Criollos welcome you to their home.

Won’t you come in? Oh, thank you. We love it too. Come have a martini in our spacious dining room. Want to sit on the luxurious outdoor couches on the patio? Perhaps a swim in the neighborhood pool? We could hit a few balls at the tennis courts.

I wonder who I should add to the guest list for our house-warming party. Family, obviously. Should I invite people from my old job? My new job? My old job AND my new job? Will that be awkward? Nah, my old work peeps are my friends. My new work peeps probably won’t come. I should make a playlist.

Oooh, that’s a beautiful, rustic media cabinet. I should buy that for the living room. It’ll go to the left of the fireplace, and we can hide the wires in the walls. The dark brown leather chair will go to the right of the fireplace as a contrast. We’ll need a new couch, though. Otherwise it’ll be too much beige and brown.

And so on and so on, until we got the depressing news that the sellers were countering our offer at their other top offer, which was nearly $40,000 more than what we offered. So yeah. No house.

front entrance
Welcome to our home! Just kidding.

So we’re back on the market, searching for true love, or at least a spacious three -bedroom, two-bath house with potential. We don’t want to lower our standards, and we do want to stay in our budget. So we may be looking for a long time. There will likely be many more disappointments along the way, but we’ll keep on the house hunt (in a non-desperate way). After all, isn’t it when you stop searching that love actually finds you?


I’m Back!

Cue the James Brown:

In The Emperor’s New Groove, Emperor Kuzco makes everyone feel like scum because they can’t get down to their own theme song like he can. Well, suck it, Kuzco. James Brown wrote this song for me. And if I can’t have it, then I call “Saturday Night Fever” by the BeeGees.

Why am I gettin’ down to the funk? Because I’m back, baby! I had some seriously bad mojo going for a few months (okay, a few years) there, and while I refuse to be one of those “everything happens for a reason” spiritual gurus, I will say I’m glad that all the shit that did happen…happened. Why? Because it got me here to my happy place, where I could have a funky, funky long weekend, instead of just sit here in a funk.

You see, tomorrow I start my new job in a new city, and to quote my dad, I’m happier than a pig in shit. I was seriously bummed to be laid off from my last job, but the way things fell into place…well, that just never happens (especially to me). I don’t know what to do except thank my lucky stars and go in and try to be the best damn content writer you ever did see.

This reminds me of the time I got into NYU and didn’t really believe I belonged there, so I busted my ass so hard my first year because I worried the university would realize they screwed up and shouldn’t have let me in. It took a while for me to feel like I actually deserved to go to that school, and I think it might take a while for me to feel the same way about working for such a fantastic company with such a great group of people.

You’re only happy because you didn’t have to help pack.

So you’ve got to be asking yourself right now (because this is my blog, after all, and you know how I roll): What’s the catch? I’m asking myself the same thing. I suppose the catch is that we had to pack up our whole entire house in less than a week and scramble the heck out of Salinas, moving into a room at my sister-in-law’s house in Gilroy. But you know what? That’s kind of working out too! Now we get to take our time looking for a house—or move as quickly as we want. The time table is wide open, which is ideal for house hunting. We don’t have to rush into buying a house that’s not right for us, nor do we have to let a great one pass us by.

So can you pinch me right now? Because this weekend, we enjoyed beautiful summer weather (Salinas is typically shrouded in fog for the entire summer), strolled around with our family at the mushroom festival in Morgan Hill (which only took us 15 minutes to drive to, instead of the 45 it would have taken from our old house), and barbecued in the backyard while our son ran around with his little cousin.

Sweet cousins!

I’m not trying to humble brag, truly. I just want you guys to understand the giant sigh of relief that is escaping from me and Alex after we were put through hell and back. Call it karma, call it fate, call it pure chance—I don’t even care at this point. I’m just grateful. And I’m going to hang onto this feeling for as long as I can. Because Lord knows the happy times don’t always last. So when they come around, embrace them. Cherish them. Sit back and take them in. And for God’s sake, turn up the James Brown.

Now I Can Open My Meatball Buffet

Let’s cut to the chase: I was laid off on Monday.

Well, hello! And how are you? I’ve been better, I’ve got to say. Being laid off kinda sucks pond scum (shout out to my dad and Auntie Jean who have made that saying legendary). I’ve quit places peaceably, I’ve had contract work expire, I’ve even been fired from a waitressing job once (for daring to date the DJ!). But this is the first time being laid off.

I suppose there’s a first for everything.

Still, it’s not like I didn’t see this coming. I just didn’t think it was coming for me. But when I walked in on Monday morning and my boss did the old “we need to talk,” my stomach dropped into my feet and then flew back up to my throat and somehow landed in my ass and I knew.

There was the envelope, neatly placed in the middle of the desk, all other desk paraphernalia pushed off to the side. Advise to my readers: if your boss ever gives you the “we need to talk” face and starts fiddling with a nondescript 8 1/2 x 11″ paper/envelope on her desk, run. Just run. Run fast and don’t look back.

We're like two cats who got caught pooping in the house plants.
We’re like two cats who got caught pooping in the house plants.

Naturally, because I’m Italian and us Italians feel things, I’m dealing with a whole mess of emotions right now. To start, I’m terrified. We’re less than a week away from closing on the sale of our house, and our plans were to buy a new one. Now all plans are out the window, and we’re going to condense our entire home down to a bedroom in my sister-in-law’s house until we’re back on our feet.

Guys…I hate when all plans are out the window. I like to plan things, and I really like it when things work out according to plan. But, judging from my life over the last couple of years, I think I’m going to need to toss that whole philosophy out the window with my plans so that they land in an angry broken plans pile, like a disgruntled wife hurling her husband’s laundry out when she discovers he’s been cheating on her.

To clarify, I’m actually not angry. On the contrary, I’m a bit heartbroken. For nearly six years, I’ve been extraordinary lucky to do something I love with people I might love even more. I’ve made some best friends at this place. People who will leave a mark on me forever. I don’t care how much your tech Silicon Valley job pays you, that’s priceless. (Though to also clarify: I wouldn’t mind having that salary in addition to the awesome work peeps.)

Lucas' school puts on an art show with all the students' work. Incredible.
Lucas’ school puts on an art show with all the students’ work. Incredible.

I’m heartbroken as well for my son because I have to take him out of his expensive and incredible preschool, where he’s been going since he was a wee nugget. He’s crawled, pooped, learned to walk, potty trained, sung, played, danced, created, made best friends, grown to love reading, just grown up period…all while in their care. I had hoped he could graduate preschool there before moving on to kindergarten, but alas. It’s going to be Mommy Summer School until we can find him some more affordable care and/or I find a new job.

But! Despite all the difficult changes, one of the strongest emotions I’m feeling right now is hopeful. This is a new adventure for our family, one we’ve contemplated taking in itty bitty incremental steps over the years. Now we’re taking one big giant leap, and in a way it’s a relief. We’ve got each other, and when everything else falls away, we gain strength from one another in unconditional love and support.

OMG, I love my family. My family is my life.
OMG, I love my family. My family is my life.

To all the well-intentioned people who have told me that everything happens for a reason: I respectfully disagree. The only reason why this happened is because my company couldn’t pay me anymore. But just because something bad happens doesn’t mean some good won’t come out of it. In the end, I think that’s what they were trying to say.

So it’s onward for this Olive Gal! My last day of work and Lucas’ last day of school is Friday. We pack up and leave our house and Salinas at the end of the month. And then…who knows. If I don’t find a new job soon, I’ll finally be free to open up my meatball buffet!

I’m Your Private Dancer

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my dancing days. Maybe it’s because I’ve been binge-watching dance team competitions and wigging out over the new Starz ballet drama Flesh and Bone. (Okay, that’s EXACTLY why.) It doesn’t take much to whisk me back to pushing the coffee table to the corner of my NYC apartment so I could give myself a “dance class” because I couldn’t afford to take many real classes on my cocktail waitress and aerobics instructor salary.

After 15 years of training at a prestigious studio and a prestigious university, I had graduated to scraping the bottom of the barrel. My very first gigs were not paying and I was joining the ranks of gals who couldn’t pull a double pirouette if I stood behind them and actually whirled them around myself. I remember rehearsing in this run-down studio in Times Square called Fazel’s that was quite literally falling apart. I couldn’t hear the music for our routine over the sounds of 50-year-old has-beens shuffling off to buffalo in the studios above us.

I had never been happier in my life.

Every day was a risk. Every day was a chance to challenge my fortitude and resolve. Every day was a grind. And every day was a day for Tina Turner.

I packed this very orange head shot in my smelly dance bag for each audition.
I packed this very orange head shot in my smelly dance bag for each audition.

Before each audition (or round of auditions), I would pack my giant dance bag full of snacks, water, magazines (for the wait time between calls), dance shoes, sheet music, warm-ups, and changes of clothes and accessories, especially if I was auditioning for a Broadway show at 11am and running off to a second audition for a hip-hop artist at 3pm. Then I’d put on my prettiest leotard and tights, pull on street clothes over them, and turn up the Tina.

As I loaded on three times the amount of makeup I’d wear on an everyday basis and calmed my shaking hands to apply false lashes, I’d hear Tina’s raspy voice tell me:

“I’m your private dancer! Dancer for money! Do what you want me to do!”

Yes, I knew this was a song about stripping. It was my own private joke. When I was in high school and college and told people I was a dancer, they always assumed I was classically trained, probably in ballet and jazz. (And they were correct.) As soon as I graduated, the new assumption was that I was a stripper. I’d always have to add the qualifier: “No, not that kind of dancer.” It pissed me off so much that I did the only thing I know how to do when faced with adversity: laugh.

I listened to Tina’s cheesiest (and most awesomest) song, channeling my inner Flashdance and psyching myself up for another round of rejections. “Private Dancer” got me through a lot of hard times. Those first few months of auditioning were just a series of NO NO NO THANKS BUT NO THANKS NO NO NO over and over until my self-worth was in the toilet. But you get better at auditioning. People start to recognize you. You make audition friends, who soon become your dance gig friends. And, if you’re really lucky, you become a dancer for money, doing what you want to do.

Truth Telling, Italian Mama Styles

Pickin’s out there are slim for home buyers. True story. If, by the time we sell our house, we’re able to find a halfway decent abode that isn’t falling apart and that we can afford in the school district we want, I will consider it a goddamned miracle.

In the month since we put our house on the market, we’ve seen exactly two houses that are in our price range in the neighborhood we want. And it’s not because we’re being picky. It’s because they are literally (actual definition of the word literally, not figuratively literally) the only two homes that have come on the market in our price range in the neighborhood we want.

So when we saw a beautiful house pop up as “Active” on mlslistings (and was firmly affordable), we were absolutely overjoyed. In fact, I believe I heard some bells ringing and angels singing.

The first thing I did was email my mom a link and then immediately call her to gush about it.

Me (ecstatic): Mom! Did you see the house I just sent you? Isn’t it nice?

Mom (judgmental tone): It’s only 1,400 square feet—that’s way too small. Plus it’s only three bedrooms. Where are Dad and I going to stay? And those bedrooms look tiny, Wendy. I don’t know.


Me (staying positive): Well…as long as it’s laid out efficiently, I bet it could work! Plus I see places where we could expand one day. And it’s right down the street from Monica! [my dear sister-in-law]

Mom (even more judgmental tone): One day? That’s going to take a lot of money and a long time. Where do you expect Dad and I to sleep?

debbie downer2

Me (losing faith): ….well, I don’t know. In Lucas’ room for now? And later on down the line, maybe we can build out over the cathedral ceiling and make you guys a nice big room of your own?

Mom (not budging): No. No. I don’t like it.


Me (despondent): Well, I was just…I was just hoping you’d like it. I think maybe it might have potential or something. But whatever…

Mom (catching on that she’s punctured my joy bubble): Oh, but it is pretty, Wendy! I bet it’s really nice. It can’t hurt to go look at it.

All it takes is for your Italian mama to lay a little truth on you to realize how desperate the situation is. After all, you’re never going to please her. Now try telling her she’s going to come spend two months of the year in California with you, your husband, and your 4-year-old in a 1,397 square foot house.

That’s my mom, in a nutshell. She can’t help but be honest, and when she realizes she’s being the kind of honest that hurts feelings (the brutal kind), she backtracks and attempts to point out the positive. She does the ole bait and switch.

Over the course of four days leading up to the open house, my mom called me a total of 43,275 times, each time pointing out something else that could be wrong with the house. Where is the laundry…in the garage?! It may look spacious, but pictures can be deceiving. That kitchen table looks really small. There’s no built-in microwave. The appliances look old, and they’re all white. You’ll have to buy new appliances. But she’d always end the conversation with, “Well, I guess you won’t know for sure until you go see it.”

Mom’s brutal truth was so annoyingly grating, I was ready to put an offer on the house just to piss her off. But guess what?

She was right.

living room
Infinite cosmic powers…itty bitty living space.

The house was clean and bright, but as soon as I walked in the first thing I noticed was the tiny couch that was all the furniture that could fit in the living room and the tiny table that was all that could fit in the dining room. There was no built-in microwave. The laundry was in the garage. The bedrooms (and closets) were pretty small. The downstairs bathroom was microscopic. And when I walked outside, I could hear a good deal of traffic from the main road that ran behind the house.


The thing is, I will never accept my mom’s hole-punching at face value. I will always find holes to punch in her holes. I will always dig my heels in and fight back. Because you know what? I’m an Italian mama too. And I know deep down, she can’t really help it. She does it because she cares, and she doesn’t want me to be disappointed when things don’t go my way.

How do I know this? Because I find myself doing the exact same thing with my own kid. Just know, Lucas, it comes from a good place. We’ll always speak our minds, and we’ll always want to protect our babies—even when they’re all grown up.

Italian Superstitions Gone Wrong

It’s finally happened.

I’ve cracked and gone full religious fanatic. Which is pretty funny, coming from an atheist.

After much turmoil surrounding the sale of our house and purchase of a new one, I’ve come to a place where I need to rely on much more than my own “positive thinking.” (I put that in quotes because as much as I try, I always end up over on the dark side going, “Fuck this shit, I give up.”)

St. Joseph statue
St. Joseph, the patron saint of real estate.

Last night I received a package from my Auntie Dee, who owns a religious store. She had sent us a statue of St. Joseph, the patron saint of selling homes. Her instructions were to bury him in the yard and say a prayer every morning. When my mom told me she had mailed the package, my initial reaction was, “ummmm, I’m not doing that.” By the time it came in the mail, I raced outside to bury that statue faster than you can say, “Madonna Mia!”

I looked for a spot where I thought he could watch over the whole house, and where it would also not be too much of a pain in the ass to dig up. I found the perfect location, amongst the wood chips in our “flower bed” in the backyard (that has no flowers, only dying grasses and a rosebush with no roses). I dug and dug, and the ground was tough and unyielding, but the statue was small, so I felt I had reached the appropriate depth after only a minute or two. As instructed, I shoved St. Joseph head-first into the hole. I was about 2 inches shy, so I pulled him out and dug down further, this time grunting and sweating because, by God, I couldn’t get him in there fast enough. When I reached over to pick up the statue and bury him again, I picked him up and to my horror discovered…

I had decapitated him.

St. Joseph the Protector was now St. John the Baptist.

Quickly, quickly, I dropped the head into the hole with the body and buried it as fast as I could, so as to pretend it really didn’t happen. I felt like a murderer burying one of my victims. I knelt down in the grass, squeezed my eyes shut, and said a prayer, shutting out the image of the severed statue head and hoping to God that I didn’t just screw us over even more.

To make doubly sure I didn’t just curse my house, I ran inside and immediately lit a stick of sage, walking through each room and releasing it of its negative energy, praying for positivity, prosperity, and happiness (all while St. Joseph’s vacant eyes on his body-less head kept floating into my thoughts). When I finished smudging the house, I opened all the windows to let out the lingering smoke and release the negativity. Then I sat down and laughed to myself for a good 30 minutes.

cornicello charm
My family calls this cornicello the “maloork” or “malook” but I have no idea how to spell that or if it’s even a real word.

You see, as much as I thought I was losing my Italian heritage, I can never escape the one thing that binds all us olive-skinned folk together (besides Italian Mother Guilt): superstition. We wear our cornicello (“little horn”) necklace to ward off the evil eye. We do the sign of the cross anytime anyone mentions a family member who is sick or who recently passed. And us Italians who settled in the northeast combine our Catholic-based superstitions with New England traditions, never putting away our winter coats until it’s well into May (otherwise we’ll invite the snow back with our optimism), and never in-the-bagging a Red Sox game until the final out of the final inning.

So, despite my blunder, I will say that prayer to St. Joseph every morning—even though it makes me feel like a giant hypocrite. I will not consider the beheading a warning, but an amusing anecdote, even though this is not the first time a religious relic has been mailed to me and lost its head. (Seriously…my cousin sent me a guardian angel after my miscarriage, and it arrived in the mail with its head broken off.) I will embrace my Italian superstitions, however silly they might seem, because at least they give me hope.

And if all else fails, I can tell my son the really funny story about how we couldn’t sell our house because Mom decapitated a Catholic saint and buried him in the backyard, like a good Italian does.

The Universe is Having a Good Laugh at My Expense

This morning, I asked my mom a question. I said, “I know people always tell you to stay positive. But how do you do that when every signal points to things not working out? How do you protect yourself from disappointment but also stay optimistic?”

For the first time in my life, she didn’t quite have an answer.

Bloody Mary
It helps to have a Bloody Mary in your hand when you’re on the receiving end of bad news.

In the time since I blogged last, plenty of crappy things have happened, turning the emotional roller coaster into a virtual landslide. We fell out of contract on our house, lost a second offer, lost the house in Gilroy that we were buying, and a project I’ve been working on for two years at work was postponed due to budget constraints.

Through all this, I have made every attempt to be as positive as humanly possible, which you guys know is a stretch for me. I tend to be the pessimist. The person to poke holes in ideas in order to test their strength. The Debbie Downer. But I told myself—and my family—that this time was going to be different. That after the crazy year we’ve had, perhaps we were owed a little good luck. And despite bumps in the road, things seemed to be moving in the right direction.

But the Garofoli luck had to have its way. What is Garofoli luck? It’s a black cloud that seems to hover over 2/3 of the Garofoli family (that’s my dad’s side) and it’s something that I’ve unfortunately seemed to have inherited. We all say that my Uncle John, who was born first, took all the luck with him.

Two nights ago, in the midst of all this drama, my mom sent me a text saying that my uncle had won a buttload of money on a scratch ticket. Like…an obscene amount of money for a scratch ticket. Guys, I’m psyched if I win $40 on a scratch ticket. That’s happened to me one time in my life.

When I got the text, I started cackling like a mad witch brewing an evil potion. Of-fucking-COURSE he did, I thought, and though my first initial feeling was one of despair (because why can’t we win money on a scratch ticket??), a second, more powerful feeling took over. I let go, because my uncle deserves all the good luck that comes his way. Then I began to truly laugh—like really, really laugh. My luck is now so bad it’s comical. If the Universe wants to have a good laugh at my expense, I may as well laugh with it.

I imagine it goes a little something like this:

Universe: Hey, hey. Watch this. I just made her second buyer back out of the deal. Remember how she flipped out on the couch and threw that huge hissy fit last time?

Universe’s buddy, Parallel Universe: Oh, man. You’re bad. I let her have this one. She’s now happily moving into her new place. Though you might be right, she’s acting a little smug now. Like she thinks things are never going to go wrong again.

Universe: Oh, we can’t have that. I’m gonna fix that scratch ticket for her uncle.

Parallel Universe: Dude! You and that uncle! Hahahaha, okay this is going to be pretty funny. I’m watching.

Universe and Parallel Universe peer down to see Wendy doubled over in a fit of laughter. She doesn’t appear to be distressed…unless she’s crossed over into full crazy. They’re not quite sure.

Universe: I dunno, do you think I went too far this time?

Parallel Universe: Nah, I think she can handle it. Look, she’s laughing! I think you should give another one of her friends a book deal (and not her).

Universe: Ooooooh-ho-HO! Good one, my brother.

But even if that happens, you know what? I’ll be happy for that friend. And I’ll buy her book. And I’ll read it. And I’ll love it. Maybe I’ll laugh (if it’s meant to be funny). Maybe I’ll laugh even if it’s not meant to be funny. All I know is I have to stop fighting the current. I’m going to let go of the branch and float on down the river.

And I’ll be laughing the whole way down.