One Step Closer to 40

Can't complain about this, though. #meday #treatyoself
Can’t complain about this, though. #meday #treatyoself

It was my birthday yesterday. Meeeeeeeeeeeeeh. I realize in the grand scheme of things, I’m still comparatively young. I’m not here to complain about that. (Okay, I’m a little bit here to complain about that.)

What’s hard to stomach is…I’m one step closer to 40.

I thought 30 was a little daunting, but for the most part I welcomed it with open arms. Everyone says, “Your 30s are great! You’ve figured out who you are, you make strides in your career, maybe you start a family. No more drama and upheaval like in your 20s!” (I beg to differ, but okay. I’m following.)

What they really mean is “the year 30 is great!” Every year after 30 is one step closer to 40. Thirty-one and you’re still basically just 30. Thirty-two and shit starts to get real. By the time you reach 35, you realize middle age is just a thinning eyelash away.

But 36…36 takes you over that threshold. I now round up to 40. Okay, granted, I technically was supposed to do that at 35, but suck it, math. I held onto my early 30s as long as I could.

So here we are, 36. Crow’s feet and all. Greying baby’s bangs and all. Slowing metabolism and bad back and general sense of defeat and all. Are you a glimpse into the “I give up” 40s? Should I just go ahead and give up now?

There was that awesome meme that circulated around Facebook a couple weeks back. About how Harrison Ford was still a carpenter at age 30 and Samuel L. Jackson didn’t land his first movie role until he was 40-something (and then he didn’t stop saying “yes” to any movie he was offered after that). I liked it. At 35, it spoke to me. At 36 I’m like….meeeeeeeeeeh. That’s so much WORK.

Because if you want that kind of success in advanced age, you really have to stay the course. You’ve been told “no” over and over and over and over and over. You’ve tried and failed so much, it’s just the expected outcome now. But you finally wear people down. And that’s when it hits you.

That’s what that meme was saying, right? Don’t give up, even when it’s socially acceptable to give up! But I’m so close to 40, the age when no one expects you to do anything else with your life. The age when you’re supposed to start living vicariously through your kids instead. Can’t I just give up now and call it a day?

Every bone in my slowly aging body says yes.

But as I inch my way closer to 40, another small voice, likely to be squashed by this gaping apathy brought on by another birthday, says, “Hey. Hey you. I’m not done yet.”

Sigh. Okay, little voice. I hear you. It’s why I write this blog. It’s why I still say yes to freelance projects even though I don’t technically need the money. It’s why I needle around writing a book I have no idea how to get published.

One step close to 40, eh? Who cares. I’m gonna keep doing my thing until either nothing happens or something happens. I hope it’s something. But if it’s not, at least I gave it a try.

The Tango Lucas: A Bedtime Routine

IMG_6364The Tango Lucas is a complicated dance. It starts at 7:30pm. It starts that early because, if we’re lucky, it’ll be over by 9. That’s a long time to hold a rose between your teeth.

You want to learn this dance? It’s not easy. But let me teach you.

First it goes, “Time for bed, Lucas!”

Then it goes, “Just one more minute, Mama.”

Next it goes, “No, let’s go buddy.”

And then it goes, “Just one more very very one more minute!”

We sashay into the bathroom where we begin the brushing of the teeth. We wrangle over the toothbrush, the toothpaste, how long to brush, keeping the faucet running, turning the faucet off, spitting in the sink, spitting down the front of his shirt. We finally do a hop-skip into Lucas’ room.

In the second section of this dance, the power struggle amps up a notch. While I try to slow things down into a waltz by reading a book, Lucas keeps me on my toes with a hundred and one questions about the fan, the Bandaid on his leg, how come cups don’t breathe underwater, and why can’t he touch Mama’s boobies? It’s like we’re doing two different dances at this point.

Try and keep up because the third section of this tango is where things get really spicy. Just when you think the dance is going to end, Lucas surprises you with requests for water, having to take the randomest 8:15pm dump, or picking his nose and danglinng the booger above your face. I call this part the “backwards tango.”

Finally, the finale. I lay down and pretend I’m dead. Literally don’t move a muscle because if I do, that’s cause for starting the dance all over again. Better not have an itch on your nose. It’ll result in, “Mama, what’re you doing?” Better dare not check your phone to see what time it is. The glow from the screen will roll you back to the intro, and you were just getting excited about the idea of pulling those thorns out of your mouth.

Now here’s the trick to this whole routine. Just when Lucas has finally stopped whirling around and whispering to himself, just when you’ve had about three minutes of quiet, just when you hear what you think are the slow breathing sounds of sleep, just when you get ready to step forward and take a bow, that’s when he gets ya.

“Mama, I’m hot! I need to change.”

What an exciting tango! The audience is riveted. I, on the other hand, have thrown in the towel. Go ahead and put me in the corner. The only reason this dance ends is because I end up passing out before my son does in his bed.

To My Classic Italian Mom on Mother’s Day

Dear Mom,

Where to begin? I know you’re not one for doling out the sentimental stuff. I also know that you secretly love it when other people do. That’s the dichotomy of you, and that, at the heart, is what makes you a classic Italian mom. You’re not a one-note dish. That’s also what makes you the most phenomenal mother.

How to explain? How do I describe a person who’s been my everything for 35 years? Who has simultaneously frustrated me and been my lifeline through every difficult and joyful experience? How do I thank the person who’s at the core of every good—and maybe sometimes bad—decision I’ve ever made?

Ma

To start: You, more than anyone in my life, have challenged me. You have pushed me to my highest potential and you’ve never accepted less—from me or anyone else for that matter. When I might settle and get comfortable, you rattle my cage. Every call that I’ve made outside of my comfort zone has ultimately paid off. And each time I made that call, I was able to do it because you gave me the courage.

But here’s where you take that wonderful quality and double-down. Because for every time that you’ve challenged me, you’ve also given me unconditional support. Even when you disagreed with every bone in your body. Even when I came to you with a degree from an expensive college and said, “I want to be a professional dancer.” Even when I called you and declared, “I’m going to move across the country for a man I met in Las Vegas.” You questioned. You made sure I thought it through. And then, when you realized I wasn’t budging, you let go. Why?

Because you lift people up, Mom. That’s what you do.

MeandMa

The most beautiful thing about you is that every single thing you do is with love. The way you care for those around you. The way you cook your (most, most delicious) meals. The way you nudge and poke and prod us to death. You drive us crazy. You do it because you love us. And although Alex might call you T1000 and Dad might say you can be cold, all of us know that your heart is pure, molten gold.

Our relationship is complex, yes. But that’s what makes it so fulfilling. And when I take a step back and think about the kind of mother I want to be, the classic Italian mother, I realize I’m setting the bar for success by what you’ve already achieved. You made me a better person. You let go so that I could grow. And you made me feel so very loved.

I love you, Mom.

Who’s on First? Convos with a Five-Year-Old

IMG_6417Ever get caught in a vortex of a conversation with your child that only ends in more confusion? You mention something in passing and it puzzles your kid, so he inquires further, only to find that each of your answers makes less and less sense. In fact, by the end, you, too, are thoroughly lost.

I call these the “Who’s on First?” convos.

Last night while putting Lucas to bed, he asked about the names of the people I work with. So I explained that Eric is my boss, and I work with Ann and Rob and Kirstie who are designers, and David and Nino are programmers, which means they tell the computer what to do and get the designs and words up on the screen.

You’d think he would have gotten tripped up at design and programming, but my child ponders for a second and launches into a series of questions that basically undoes my entire understanding of the English (and Spanish) language.

Lucas: You work with Nino?

In Spanish, Nino means godfather. Lucas’ Nino is Ozzy, and he calls him, simply, Nino.

Me: No, Lucas, there is a person here who’s NAME is Nino.

Lucas: Nino’s name is Nino?

Me: No, no. Nino’s name is Ozzy. THIS Nino is named Nino. Nino means godfather in Spanish.

Lucas: You work with my godfather?

Me: No, Nino is your godfather. I mean, Nino Ozzy. This Nino is not related to us.

Lucas: So what’s this Nino’s name?

Me: Nino.

Lucas: ???

Me, attempting to distract Lucas from the mess I just made: Hey! You know what? I work with TWO Davids!

As you can imagine, that did not help. At all.

On Being Incredibly Out of Shape

There’s a difference between gaining weight and being out of shape. Once upon a time, a year after I had Lucas, I got down to my college weight. But was I as in shape as I was when I was dancing and working out 15 hours a week in college? In the words of the great Kanye West…

HELLLLL NAAAAAW.

So the point here is that being out of shape is defined by not your weight but your strength, endurance, mobility, and flexibility. All things that have slipped away from me like a trout sliding out of the hands of a sloth.

Once upon a time, I was strong in body and mind. Now I’m incredibly out of shape. I’d consider it a workout if I did the mom stroke, which is essentially hopping on one foot in an above-ground pool while wearing a skirted one-piece and getting only the bottom of my hair wet. The only way I could be in less shape is if I just threw in the towel on walking altogether, getting wheeled around in the half-Segway, half-mall massage chair I was rolled down the hospital hallway in after giving birth to Lucas.

Lucas is also not thrilled about working on his fitness.
Lucas is also not thrilled about working on his fitness.

Recently (last week), I decided it was time to get back in the game. In the words of the immortal Julia Roberts: Big mistake. Big. Huge. I started with taking a real Vinyasa flow class, as opposed to the restorative yoga I’ve been dabbling in, which is basically paying $20 to take a nap. At one point in the class, my body seized up six ways to Sunday and I thought, “Nope. You can’t do this.” I stood there and did nothing, pretending to be enthralled with a spot on my mat. That spot, it turns out, was from a tear that I cried during downward-facing dog.

Two days later, I joined three of my coworkers in a light Crossfit training (oxymoron, I know). There’s nothing like huffing and puffing your way through a jog around the perimeter of a room next to a couple of able-bodied 20-somethings to give you perspective into how truly, absurdly out of shape you are. A couple sets of lunges later and everything inside of me was screaming. In fact, five days later, and my quads were still like “YOU STUPID BITCH” every time I tried to sit down.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to take either advanced yoga or gentle yoga. Those in their mid-to-late thirties can relate to my dilemma. At a certain point, you reach a precipice. Your mind remembers being able to do great things with your body. But your body has given up. Alex and I were at the park playing with Lucas on the monkey bars this weekend. I, in my newfound fitness euphoria, attempted to do a pull-up. You can only imagine how that went.

So yeah, I checked into the geriatric-friendly gentle yoga.

The sad thing about being incredibly out of shape is that only once you start trying to get back into shape do you realize how bad things really are. When you haven’t tried, you still believe you can do those things. Nope. Jig is up. You can’t. You won’t get back to able-bodied 20s fit either. Your muscles are thin and ragged and they really hate you right now. But at least you can try.

Would You Keep Reading My Book?

Last month, I asked you all a really important question: would you read my book? Like, if you bought Misty Copeland’s biography on Amazon and saw my book in the “You might also like…” section, would you click on it?

The overwhelming majority of you said yes, which is encouraging. The rest of you kept your mouths shut, which I also appreciated, because only jerks would write in and be like “No, your book sucks. And you suck. And your book sucks.”

So since I got the encouragement I was looking for, I pressed forward. Now I need to know: would you keep reading my book? Here’s a little taste of the second chapter, which is an introduction to the competition dance scene. Enjoy!

dancingwendy

I’m standing backstage in a huddle of blue and sequins. Sixteen anxious girls smooth their buns and try to keep their twitchy feet still. Two more numbers until we’re up. I squeeze my eyes shut and go over the routine in my head. Shuffle ball change, shuffle ball change. Our teacher, Ann-Marie, gathers us together for one more pep talk before we take our positions behind the curtain.

“You guys will be great. Just keep doing everything you’ve been practicing. Stay sharp, lots of energy, and don’t forget to have fun and smile! I’ll be down in the audience cheering you on.”

We nod, we smile, some of us clap tiny silent claps, and then we break off into two groups. Eight of us stay stage right while the other eight make their way behind the backdrop to the other side of the stage. We stand, single file, waiting for our cue. As the MC begins to announce our number, “From the Charlotte Klein Dance Centers, competing in junior large group tap, this is…”

I peek out from the curtain to survey the crowd. The stage lights temporarily daze my eyes and the audience, a dark blur, politely cheer in the long pause between the end of the MC’s introduction and the start of our music.

Waiting, waiting, waiting. My chest thumping, my stomach tightening and releasing. Adrenaline rushing to my fingertips, to my toes, straight into my heart. Then the music. And out into the blazing light.

Before I know it, the dance is over. I hit all my positions, the audience claps in all the right places, and everything felt as though it clicked into place. We take our bow and flap ball change off the stage into the wings, where we cluster together into an ameba of giggles and high-pitched whispers. We nailed it.

And now the long wait. Hours go by as other studios and groups perform in different age groups and categories. I see soloists pirouetting over and over, and large groups of teenagers performing in production numbers with props. I see girls much younger than me in full makeup, dancing across the stage with the poise of a professional. I hear whispers in the audience. Dance moms with their own scorecards, ranking the numbers and gossiping openly about which studio owner is sucking up to which judge.

What world is this?

Finally, it’s time to announce the awards. All of the competition dancers cram onto the stage in tight circles amongst their own studio members. Each dancer holds some kind of good luck charm—some dancers, I can see, are already decorated with ribbons and medals from routines completed earlier in the day. Others clutch teddy bears in tutus, anxiously awaiting the results. The MC strolls onto the stage, mic in hand, and congratulates the participants on a job well done.

What I quickly learn about dance competitions is that there is no single winner. Each routine is judged independently of the others. Judges award points on a scale for choreography, technique and execution, performance quality, and even costuming. When you add the points up, you can receive anywhere from a bronze (for this, kids would cry, and not the good kind of tears) to a gold, with awards such as high bronze and high silver in between.

As the MC announces results, groups of dancers stand and cheer, and they send a representative from the team to wade through the tangles of competitors to receive their awards. Our little huddle of blue-sequined dancers grows quiet as the MC begins to bark out the results of our category. As he calls the name of our studio, we grab onto each other (a leg, an arm, whatever we can find) and squeeze our bodies into a tight wad. Our toes are curled, our fists clenched, our eyebrows are burrowing down into our noses. Finally, anxiety reaches a fever pitch until we hear:

“High silver!”

I open my eyes wide and release the tension in my body. High silver! I think I’m thrilled, but I look around to the other girls to confirm. Many are openly cheering and hugging. But a couple, the more seasoned competitors, only smile politely and clap. They’re happy, but a twinge of disappointment seeps out of the corners of their mouths. Once you’ve earned a gold, only another gold is good enough.  

After a fellow dancer returns to our circle with the medals, she passes them out to the group. A heavy silver pendant is etched with the name of the competition, Terpsichore, and the shape of a dancer goddess arched in a graceful back bend. I turn the medal over and over in my hand, studying the engravings, the shape, the weight. I vow that next time I compete, I will win a gold.

The Irrefutable Top 10 Songs of the 80’s List

Listen up because this is important. I’ve spent a lifetime cultivating the ultimate collection of 80’s music, curating everything from big hair power ballads to the synthesiziest synth pop you ever did hear. I’ve built the foundation of an entire best friendship on this collection of 80’s music.

Over the years, my BFF Shauna Autenrieth and I have bonded over obscure 80’s finds, communicating almost entirely in song titles. I won’t hear from her for weeks until suddenly this shows up in a text:

IMG_3231

Giggling over Michael Bolton’s “Soul Provider” aside, I’m telling you this because you need to understand how stone-faced solemn I am about my 80’s catalog. I take this shit seriously. And that’s why I’m presenting to you this single, indisputable, definitive, irrefutable top 10 best songs of the 80’s list. These are not necessarily my favorites—they are genre-defining masterpieces.

Are the 80’s a genre of music, you ask? Yes, I argue, and here’s why: There’s a sound that you can pinpoint and go, “Soooooooo 80’s,” whether it’s pop, rock, soul, or R&B. My criteria for determining which songs made the top 10 were whether or not they helped shape that sound. Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl” is fantastic, but I don’t hear it and think shoulder pads and bike shorts. Too timeless. Not on the list.

I’m looking for melodrama, overpowering snare drums, schmaltzy lyrics, saxophones, sound effects, yearning, and, oh yes, SYNTHESIZERS.

So without further ado, I present to you: The Irrefutable Top 10 Songs of the 80’s List.

10. In the Air Tonight, Phil Collins

It’s all about the slow burn. Eerie and mysterious, “In the Air Tonight” creeps up on you in grainy black-and-white until, a full three minutes into the song, a resounding breakdown beat has every white person in the room air drumming like Pavlov’s dog. You can’t not do it. You can’t.

9. Sweet Child O’ Mine, Guns ‘N Roses

Sweet, sweet opening riff. So much hair. So many bandanas. So much swaying. Axel Rose and Slash are the definition of quintessential 80’s rock. Whitesnake and Def Leopard and Bon Jovi would not have enjoyed the success they did if it weren’t for this song. Also, all hail the guitar solo, which died out in the 90’s when rock and roll guitarists stopped having to be really fucking ridiculous at playing the guitar to sell records.

8. Maneater, Daryl Hall & John Oates

You can’t have a conversation about the 80’s without talking about Hall & Oates, and “Maneater” checks off all the 80’s boxes. Saxophone? Check. Super Velveeta cheesy lyrics? (“The woman is wild, a she-cat tamed by the purr of a Jaguar…”) Check. Prime for a mean step-dig dance? Check. Bonus points for permed mullets in the music video.

7. Jump (For My Love), The Pointer Sisters

Who here saw the Pointer Sisters perform this number on “Solid Gold”? If you answered yes, you’re allowed to comment on this list. Otherwise fuck off. Yes, this song has made its way into many pop culture references, including a most memorable Hugh Grant dance scene in Love Actually. Still, there is nothing that’s not 80’s about it. Major synthesizer action. Key change for added drama. One-note high octane energy from start to finish. Tell me you don’t want to bust out in a Jane Fonda Jazzercise routine right now.

6. Africa, Toto

“Gonna take some time to do the things we never HAAAAA-AAAAA-AAAAAA! Ooooh….oooh.” Do you know what the hell Toto is saying here? Do you care? I don’t bother looking up this lyric because I know it won’t make grammatical sense either way. This song wins for most ridiculous lyrics in a song ever. “Sure as Kilimanjaro rises like a leopress (or is it Olympus? Again…doesn’t matter.) above the Serengeti.” For lyrics alone, this song makes the list. But then you add in some synthesized xylophone and pan flute and well…it’s 80’s magic.

5. Total Eclipse of the Heart, Bonnie Tyler

This one had me tossing and turning because I went back and forth on whether it should be “Total Eclipse of the Heart” or “Holding Out for a Hero.” Both are blonde, shag-cut Bonnie Tyler masterpieces. But ultimately, the clench-fisted drama of “Total Eclipse,” paired with the fact that there’s actual thunder, push it over the top.

4. I Want To Know What Love Is, Foreigner

foreigner

Are you looking at the longing in this man’s eyes? JUST LOOK AT IT. Look at the hands reaching out. Look at the hair. Feel the ache deep in your gut as Lou Gramm power belts his way through the chorus and tell me you don’t shed a single tear that slowly trickles down your cheek each and every time you hear this song.

3. Everybody Wants to Rule the World, Tears for Fears

Usually, when it comes to 80’s music, the cornier the better. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” is the exception that proves the rule. This song is just COOL and Curt Smith is also COOL and Tears for Fears were COOL and I love them and there’s nothing that you can say to change it. Fast forward to 1:15 of this “Psych” episode and watch James Roday’s expression when he realizes it’s Curt Smith playing an acoustic set in this dude’s backyard. That’s how everyone should feel about Tears for Fears, and this song is what made them feel that way.

2. Beat It, Michael Jackson

Black Michael Jackson WAS the 80’s. Show me a child of this decade who didn’t skip her Thriller album trying to do the moonwalk, and I’ll give you a white sparkly glove. There are four or five memorable hits on Thriller alone, but “Beat It” wins for sheer badassery. The music video features a bunch of gangbangers doing what gangs in the 80’s did best: dance battles. You just kind of HAVE to pop your collar to this song. Did you want a red jacket with rhinestone shoulders? You did, and it’s because you watched this music video a few too many times.

1. Oh Sherrie, Steve Perry

Ladies and gentlemen…the best song of the 80’s. Steve Perry, aka “The Voice,” shows us what happens when you mix the purest vocal timbre with the organ button on the keyboard and a gospel choir. You don’t even need them. Just let Steve Perry sing to you on a staircase and you will openly weep. This song wins for so many reasons, not the least of which is you can’t listen to it once. You only stop hitting repeat when your voice has gone hoarse from attempting to karaoke your way through the greatest song by the greatest singer of the greatest decade.

 

I Saved You All From Reading Something You Shouldn’t Have

Lucas_faceLast night I typed up a thousand words on something I was very angry about. It’s been eating me up for weeks, and last night I let it all out. I ranted, blustered, shook, cried, and as my finger hovered over “publish,” a small voice went…”might not wanna do that.”

Called my husband in for backup.

Me: Read this. One a scale of one to bitch went and lost her damn mind…

Alex: Yeah….so….

I didn’t have to finish my question. He hesitated, trying to find the right words but I knew before they came out of his mouth. Nope. This one stays in the vault.

I pride myself on being open and raw and honest on this blog. On not shying away from ugly truths. On exposing those truths and then having us all laugh in the dark together.

Welp…I got a nice chuckle out of it anyway.

Some things just don’t need to be out in the world. I needed to write it. Oh God, I needed to write it. But you all don’t need to hear it. Trust me when I say: a ranty post about how the system is fucked is almost quaintly 90s, and frankly, an outdated point of view. I’ve been listening to a little too much Rent and feeling a little too jaded. Jade is best worn as a bracelet, not as a blog post.

You see, I always feel the need to feed the blog monster. And when something is consuming my mindspace, my instinct is to write about it. And then serve it up to you. But then I realize I’m doing you all a disservice. You’re here to read about meatballs and overbearing mothers and the occasional nostalgic trip down dancer lane. You’re not here to nod and ask, “And how does that make you feel?”

So I’ll spare you. And instead, just so it’s clear I haven’t forgotten why I started this project in the first place, I’ll serve you up a video of my favorite Italian Mama (besides my own mom, LOVE YOU, MA!)

Would You Read My Book?

I’ve been “working on a book” for what feels like forever now. What that really means is that I’ve written an outline, a couple chapters, and then have sat wringing my hands and doubting myself for the last couple years.

It’s time to get to work.

I’m going to make myself culpable here, starting now. I’ve got a bit of an intro started and would love your feedback. Would you read this book? Would you walk by my book in a Barnes & Noble (what’s that?) and go, “Huh, looks interesting,” before seeing that it’s by your annoying friend The Olive Gal and buying it out of guilt? (I’m cool with that too, but still…looking for honesty here.)

Anyway, I’m not going to give you any kind of idea what it’s about. I’m just going to leave this here and let you figure it out. And if you like it, I might leave a few more bits of it, here and there. Now I can’t not write this thing. So here goes:

dancingwendy

Working Title: Below the Cut

Prelude: Dancing Nancy

…”could I have been Dancing Nancy? Could I have been anyone other than me?”

Other dancers got the jump on me, having been in a pair of ballet shoes before their memories were fully formed. Age three is the starting point for a serious dancer. At age three, you’re wearing tutus and tight curls and being ushered onto the stage into the lights and the awwwwws of the crowd.

There’s always at least one pee-pee accident during the show. One girl staring down at her shiny costume forgetting the steps she’s rehearsed all year long. One diva who’s gone completely off-book, freestyling for the audience whose attention she’s now taken away from the tyke who decided to sit down and examine the marley floor. By the time these girls are seven years old, they’re old pros.

Seven. That’s the ripe old age that I started dancing. 

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The summer before I enrolled in dance, I went with my family to see my cousin’s aunt perform in her dance recital. She had just won the prestigious title of Miss Dance of New England, and would soon go on to win Miss Dance of America. The family was extremely proud.

My mom had asked me for several years if I wanted to dance, and I had always shrugged my shoulders in ambivalence. I was too busy digging up rocks in my yard and pretending they were dinosaur bones. Too busy mixing shampoos and shaving creams and baby powder into funky concoctions and make-believing that I was a mad scientist transforming stones into rare jewels. Too caught up in reading and riding bikes and making forts and collecting dues for the neighborhood club, and burying them in the woods and later forgetting where we buried them. But then I saw Nancy, and all my childhood pursuits fell away.

Dance became the only thing I saw.

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The lights dim and a spotlight shifts across the stage to find its target. A muscular yet petite redhead stands with her head bowed and her hands to her sides. As the music begins to play, Nancy springs to life, moving with purpose and power. The verse crescendos, and she launches herself into a leap so high she nearly grazes the curtains.

She lunges, she spins, she executes each step with flawless precision. But it is her performance, the pure joy behind her movement that has me mesmerized. She hits her final pose and the crowd thunders its approval, whistling and standing from their seats. Time slows to nearly a standstill—flecks of dust flutter through the deep blue backlight, and Nancy takes her bow. I turn to my mom, eyes sparkling, and breathe, “I want to dance like Nancy.”

Or so that’s the narrative I’ve come to believe over the years.

I like to tell it that way. That I saw Nancy, and that was that. That I took my first tap class, and that was that. But I think, more than anything, it was inertia. I took dance classes because I liked how it made other people think about me. I liked to think that it could make people stand and clap for me, the way they stood and clapped for Nancy. And when it did make me feel special, I kept going. I took more classes. I strived and strived and strived for the director of the studio’s approval. I yearned for the attention and the praise of the teachers. And somewhere in there, I fell in love.

What I didn’t realize, and what I’ve only recently come to know deep in my heart, is that it wasn’t dance that made Nancy special. She was just special—and she brought that to her dancing. And I, despite loving dance with all my heart, despite being singularly obsessed with it, despite knowing that dance was what I wanted to do with my life by the time I was 10 years old, I was not special. I was better than many. But that doesn’t cut it in the dance world.

Of course, I didn’t know that way back then. If I did, maybe I wouldn’t have turned to my mom that day and asked her to sign me up for dance class. But I did, and she obliged, as any parent would when they see their child taking an interest in something healthy and creative.

What my mom didn’t know was that by signing me up, she was signing away her summer vacations. Signing away thousands of dollars in tuition and dance shoes and costumes and competition fees. Signing away my participation in any other extra curricular activity.

What she didn’t know was that she’d be starting me on a career path at age seven. That almost all my friends would be my dance friends. That I’d move to New York because of dance and continue to pursue it professionally. And that, finally, dance would leave me crippled at age 25. What she didn’t know was that on the day she signed me up to dance at Charlotte Klein Dance Centers, she changed my life.

I Need Me Some Creative Viagra

It’s been a little quiet here at The Olive Gal lately. And for no good reason. I told myself when I started this blog more than two years ago that I wouldn’t just crank out blogs to have blogs. I’d write when I had something to write about.

So yeah, about that…

It’s not that there hasn’t been stuff happening in my life. Quite the contrary. Maybe it’s not groundbreaking, earth-shattering stuff, but I can usually find something to reflect on. Oh hey, I got a hang nail! What’s the symbology??

It’s not that there haven’t been juicy socio-political-cultural things to satirize. In fact, on Thursday I got all mad and frothy at a USA Today article that explained how the CDC believes all women of child-bearing age should avoid alcohol. (You have a uterus? Does it work yet? NO DRINKING FOR YOU!)

But man. I just can’t get it up lately.

Help, I'm in a nutshell.
Help, I’m in a nutshell.

I spend my days writing and researching and strategizing and worrying about SEO. I ain’t complaining about that. I spend a good part of my time as a virtual car recluse, confined to the four walls of my crossover while I crumple-faced cry-sing my way through Sara Bareilles’ “Gravity” for the 15th time in a row.

I spend my evenings as the Qasimodo-esque servant to a five-year-old tyrant, who’s practically telling me to “mush” as we piggyback down the hallway to the bathroom (because he refuses to walk there on his own), and whose nightly wake-up calls have gotten me daydreaming about dying just so I can have seven straight hours of rest.

So when I do find myself alone on the couch these days, I heave a sigh and reach for my laptop. Upon seeing the login screen, I decide I don’t have the energy to type in my password and give up. If that’s not a parallel for middle-aged flaccidity, I don’t know what is.

So here we are. Me in desperate need of inspiration, and you going “Why the hell am I still reading this bullshit?”

If there were a pill called Creative Viagra, I’d be loading up on it like a rich, privileged pharma-junkie just treading water between scores. Since there isn’t, I’ll have to settle for that Elvis-lite lyfe: hyper-caffeinating during the day and knocking myself out with ZzzQuil at night.

I’m not sure how to end this blog. How did Larry David end Seinfeld, a show about nothing? Terribly. They went to jail, like a bunch of assholes. Is there a blog jail? Maybe I need to go there. For inspiration.

The end.