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.

debbiedowner1

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.

debbiedowner3

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.

Dammit.

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.

I’m in a Glass Case of Emotion

glass case of emotion
He’s a sympathetic cryer.

There’s a reason why you all haven’t heard from me in a while. I’ve been trapped in a glass case of emotion. It’s called real estate hell. While the experience has been nothing short of dramatic for me and Alex, blogging about it would be a terrible combination of super completely boring and mad whiny. I can sum it up thusly:

Clean the house, sign some paperwork, email documents, get hopes up, get hopes dashed, clean the house again, sign some more paperwork, email additional documents, chew out dickhead appraiser who makes snide remarks about your house before he even sees it, clean the house, sign 50 more documents, keep your four-year-old from wrecking the house, do some financial gymnastics, and STILL we are only about halfway through this.*

I still have that dream house in Gilroy in my sights. We are only about 1,000 documents (and way more thousands of dollars) away from that dream becoming a reality. But that’s a hell of a lot closer than the last time you heard from me, when it was sort of a laughable distant fantasy.

The problem is, I’ve already Property Brothersed the shit of of this house in my mind. I’m imagining walking through the door to a set of unfathomably tall Canadian twins lighting candles on my brand-new quartz countertop kitchen island, and fluffing 30 more pillows than are necessary for one couch. Tears come to my eyes and I’m speechless, even though I’ve been a demanding bitch for the entire reno project. The whole thing takes 30 minutes, and then I’m HOME.

HGTV has romanticized the home-buying (and selling) process so much, that when you’re in the nightmarish reality, you end up in, well, this state of mind:

If this whole thing works out, we will finally move into our new house (unrenovated) on May 5. That’s so so far away. That’s another month of losing my damn mind. I will have to find SOMETHING else to think about, or I’m going to lose the three people who read my blog.

What are all your feelings about cats? I could easily turn this into a cat blog.

*Disclaimer: My realtor is nothing short of a rock star. She’s amazing, she’s a bulldog, and she will get you the deal no matter what it takes. None of the dramatic stuff is any of her fault, and if anyone in the Bay Area or Monterey Peninsula is looking for a realtor, I cannot recommend her enough!

Buying and Selling: An Emotional Roller Coaster

I’ve always hated roller coasters. The slow grinding of the gears as they inch their way up a steep incline. The rust-scented steel bar across your lap that either cuts off your circulation or feels loose enough that you might fall out. The sick drop in your gut as you come over the crest and plummet to your death. (Okay, not your death, but my heart still doesn’t believe I’ll actually live while I’m going through it.)

So a series of emotional highs and lows—an emotional roller coaster, if you will—while for some people might be exhilarating, for me feels like a torture device. And that’s what selling your home and buying a new one in California feels like.

“I just feel like I’m on some kind of emotional…ride of some sort.”

Our house went on the market on Friday morning. We had an open house on Saturday and Sunday. By Monday we had three offers, all of them over asking price. Monday evening we accepted an offer on our house. It was that fast. The plan was to turn around and make an offer on the house we really, really wanted in Gilroy today (Tuesday). The pace is frightening, and though we feel in our hearts we’re doing the right thing, we can’t help but feel mixed emotions, and, naturally, a whole lot of stress.

Check out our purdy house. This baby sells itself!
Check out our purdy house. This baby sells itself!

Stress does amazing things to people. My back is suddenly enflamed. I’ve been up since 2:30am. I’ve been so nervous all day that I can’t stop farting. And then I can’t stop talking about the need to fart. And now I’m fucking blogging about my farting, so it’s all out in the open. I fart when I’m nervous. If I’m in a big board meeting someday and need to answer to some shareholders, I better put a plug in my ass.

Stress also makes you write incredibly long metaphors about tired clichés.

The day starts on a really sweet note. We sign paperwork on a simple counter offer on the sale of our house to a fireman (!) who is really excited to get the property. That makes us feel pretty amazing—to not only get the dollar amount we are looking for, but also know that we’re turning our home over to good hands. We also know that we’re in good position to negotiate for the new house that we desire, as there had been no offers on the property as of Monday evening. I turn to Alex and say, “I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. Nothing is ever easy for us.” He admonishes me for “jinxing it.” Now I’m worried I jinxed it, but I brush it off. All the good feelings! We’re moving!

Tuesday, mid-morning. Phone rings. It’s my realtor, and she sounds like she’s delivering crappy news. You know, like how Drew from Property Brothers heaves this phony, sad-faced sigh and says, “So…I have some news for you guys,” and the couple pretends they don’t already know that he landed them the deal? She has that tone, except she legit has bad news. An offer came in this morning on the house we wanted in Gilroy. So now it’s a multiple bid situation, and all bets are off.

Guess who’s plummeting down the first steep drop of one of those 85-degree inclines at Six Flags?

So realtor knows we at least have to come in at asking price, which is also a figuratively steep figure. I’m about to lose my breakfast (coffee), but it’s going to be okay. We can make a strong offer and still get this.

Then the lender emails and contradicts earlier conversations, saying we’re going to need to make a bigger downpayment than we had planned. “Do you have a family member who can loan you $35,000?” she asks. Oh, sure. My family has 35k just sitting around, waiting to be borrowed. And I can totally pay that back in five years on top of a big ole mortgage. No problem.

I haven’t even climbed up another incline, and I’m plunging again.

But after about 18 frantic calls to my realtor, who talks me down from the ledge, and, frankly, after a couple glasses of champagne at a birthday celebration for my company’s CEO, I am feeling less upset and more like, “Hey, at least I get hipster cred if I become homeless!” Things are slowing down a bit, I’m catching my breath, but I brace for the next jolt.

It comes just as I get home from work. Although my realtor calls with the good news that we are officially in contract on the sale of our home, and that we even have two back-up offers, my lender beeps in and delivers a shock: no matter which way she crunches the numbers, we just won’t qualify for a loan as large as the one we’re looking to offer on this new home. This is another direct contradiction from an earlier pre-approval, so I’ve moved into full-blown panic attack. HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE? The coaster whips me around in a double loop-dee-loop and my face has taken on a red splotchy color.

Thankfully, the lender pulls a Drew by turning the whole situation around. A simple mistake of double charging one of our car payments each month had basically screwed up all the numbers (and it’s an understandable mistake—we just started a new lease). She was able to get us the qualification, work some magic with the numbers, and help us to lower the monthly mortgage payment. All miscommunications forgiven! Oh happy day! We can still get this place AND afford to live!

The day ends in much the same way as it began, but perhaps in a healthier frame of mind. We know we have done all we can to get the house that we really want without wringing ourselves out like a washcloth. We know there’s a good chance we don’t get this house. But now we also know that’s it’s going to be okay, no matter what happens. With very few exceptions, we all get off the ride safely. We might be a little shaken up (and we may need to run to the nearest trash can to puke out our cotton candy), but we’re going to be okay.

We’re Moving

It’s official. As of this Thursday afternoon, my first home will be on the market. A photographer is coming in to take snapshots for the listing, fliers are going out, and the open house is happening this weekend.

If I think about it too hard, I feel like throwing up. But I know this is the right move for our family.

baby play area
bringing up baby on travertine tile

Alex and I didn’t start our lives together in this house, but we did create our family here. When Lucas came home from the hospital, we brought him back to our place in Salinas. This is where he learned to crawl, where he took his first steps, where we spent countless sleepless nights. Where we celebrated a Red Sox World Series win and an Obama re-election. Where we’ve hosted Christmas parties and birthday parties and LAN parties. Where we’ve invested money and time and heart into changing this little house into a home.

We always knew we weren’t going to stay long. This was a lovely starter home in a lovely neighborhood. But it’s in a terrible school district, and all the private schools in Salinas are Catholic, which would make school events pretty awkward for Lucas’ atheist mom. Plus there are far too many nights where I’m falling asleep to the sounds of sirens instead of silence.

At the start of our marriage, Alex and I moved to Gilroy so I could be closer to the Bay Area in order to commute to Stanford. The added bonus was being closer to Alex’s brother Ozzy and his then-girlfriend, now-wife Crystal. We loved living in the garlic capital of the world, and when we were ready to buy our first house, we fully intended on staying there (even though I had finished with my program at Stanford and was working in Monterey).

We searched and searched for months and made offers on at least seven different houses. Each time we were outbid by investors with cash offers or families with bigger budgets. We finally just gave up at one point (which is why we ended up in Salinas). But now, with kindergarten around the corner for Lucas, we’ve got our eye on a couple great school districts in the South Bay.

But the most important thing, the thing that sealed the deal for me, was the thought of being closer to family.

Ozzy and Crystal are beckoning us back—and Alex’s sister Monica, her husband Braulio, and their amazing daughter Alessandra are moving to Gilroy as well. We had been waffling on selling for a while, always finding a reason not to budge. But then we saw this great house in Gilroy and everything fell into place. We fell in love (which is dangerous, because we can’t even make an offer until we sell our own house). I mean…just look at it:

dream house

With family nearby, and a great property as a prospect, moving up to Gilroy or Morgan Hill (15 minutes from Gilroy) just makes sense. Sense that is scaring the bejesus out of me.

Things that petrify me about this move:

1. I hate moving.
2. Trying to keep a house “show ready” with a 4-year-old is going to be the most difficult thing I’ve done since giving birth.
3. Change is scary.
4. What if no one wants to pay what we think this house is worth?
5. What if it takes forever to sell it?
6. What if it takes NO TIME to sell it and then someone else sweeps up the property we want?
7. What if we can’t find another house in time?
8. I’ll have to possible double my commute WITH LUCAS if we move to Morgan Hill. (Temporary…we’ll find him a new school…but still crappy.)
9. What if I totally regret leaving this house?
10. I can’t think of another good one, but 10 is a nice round number.

One of my big goals for 2015 was to move. Once upon a time, I said that New Years Resolutions don’t work unless you actually resolve to do them. (Which is probably one of the dumbest things I’ve ever said on record, by the way, and I will continue to make fun of myself for saying it for years to come.) I’m going to take this one step farther (and possibly make fun of myself in the future for having said this, too): A resolution means nothing until you actually go through with it.

So here we go…

My Toddler Is Now a Kid and My Whole World Has Changed

Do you know how many times I’ve said, “No one told me this was going to happen” in my child’s short life? When breastfeeding didn’t happen naturally, I said, “No one said it was going to be this hard!” (They did.)

When I brought my kid home from the hospital and he made noises like a congested, dying bulldog, I freaked out believing he was surely choking on his own tongue. Why didn’t anyone warn me that newborns DO THAT? (I’m sure I read it somewhere on Baby Center.)

When Lucas projectile pooped onto my husband’s mouth I thought, “Dear God, I knew we were going to have to deal with poop, but no one said it’d be THIS BAD! (They most certainly did.)

And when my primal, biological love turned into being IN love, I noted that people said you loved your new baby more than anyone in your life, but before I had Lucas, I thought that was just bullshit. How could you love someone you didn’t really know? (You can, and you do, and you would gladly give up your life for him within the first few seconds of meeting him.)

All of those doubts and questions came within the first few weeks of my child’s life, but they’ve continued at every transition. Each new behavior, I find myself saying, “No one told me!”even though I’m almost positive they did in some way, but I probably dismissed it. So with that being said…

No one told me there’d be such a difference between the ages of three and four! But my toddler—my sweet, frustrating, funny, precocious toddler—is now a kid. And that small change is just the first domino in a snaking line of transitions that are now piling up before my very eyes.

birthday party inviteOver the last month, we will have attended four birthday parties that are not just a baby cousin’s family party where we hang out, eat some pizza, and let the child dunk his head in some frosting. These were EVENTS, with activities and party favors and food spreads and special cakes and gifts that you open after everyone goes home. This was the first year that we had a friend party for Lucas, and it was beyond stressful. When I saw what a great time he was having, though, I was happy to go through it. But sheesh! This is a whole new ballgame.

Speaking of ballgame, we’ve signed the little tyke up for T-ball. They’ve got practice twice a week (and this is before they even start having games), and we had to buy uniforms, and there are fundraisers to participate in, and team BBQs, and weekly emails with SO MUCH INFORMATION and I’m like, wow…it’s T-ball. I didn’t think it’d be this intense.

Even Lucas looked back at us during his first practice a little bewildered like…what is happening right now? Of course, I don’t blame him. He is on a team with some kids who have to be 12 years old and they’re already launching the ball clear across the field. To go fetch it, they run past wandering, drugged-out homeless people. (Gotta love Salinas.) This makes me kind of glad Lucas can’t toss the ball more than a few feet.

T-ball practice
That’s my little man on the right all…no way you guys are my age.

Somehow these changes in my son’s life seem to be rolling over into changes in my and Alex’s lives as well. We are thinking about kindergarten and school districts, and this means we’re going to sell our house soon and buy a new home in a new area, which is going to be a HUGE transition for everyone. New house, new commute, possibly a new pre-school (which breaks my heart a little). Alex is looking into certifications to up the ante in his career, and I’m doing the same by taking on a ton of consulting and contract work.

All of a sudden, we’re in the circus.

Kia crossverI never saw myself as participating in the suburban parenting hysteria. The schlepping, the over-scheduling, the soccer (T-ball) mom, the mini-van. But I’m getting to work earlier so I can leave earlier so I can get Lucas to practice and then after he goes to bed, I’m hopping on my computer and doing more work. And I’m thinking about signing him up for soccer in the summer, because he loves playing in the park and he’s a natural. And the lease was up on my Kia, and if I’m not mistaken, my new car looks more like a minivan than a crossover, and I was thrilled with the extra space. Old me is giving new me the crazy eyes, but new me gets it now.

These changes, they’re going to come whether I’m ready for them or not. Whether people warned me about them or not. Whether I swore I wouldn’t be like that or not. If my son, my no-longer-toddler, wants to participate, then I’ll do everything in my power to get him to that party and bring him to those practices and get him into the good school district.

What that means is more intensity in every aspect of our lives. We need to step up in our careers to afford these opportunities. We need to sacrifice more time to be there for our son for his games or recitals or art shows or whatever it is he chooses to participate in. (We also need to draw the line when it becomes too much. We are, after all, only human.) But it’s a lot of adjusting in a relatively short period of time.

And no one told me it was going to get harder instead of easier….

(Okay, they totally did, but I just didn’t believe it.)

Dancing With My Son

Ever since my four-year-old son laid eyes on the Chandelier video, he’s been improv dancing in our living room trying to recreate the steps. He stands up on the couch, throws his hands out wide, and launches backwards. He runs over to the curtains and gathers them in his arms. He’s imitating the choreography performed by the talented Maddie Ziegler, plus adding a few extra kicks and rolls on the ground for good measure.

Watching him move around the room with total abandon, looking at the joy in his eyes, I know exactly how he feels. Maybe he’s just being a kid dancing around, as kids do. Or maybe he’s got the fire and just HAS to move—which is how I feel 24 hours a day, 7 days a week STILL, even though my body won’t let me.

Sometimes I can’t help myself and I get up off the couch to join him. We hold hands and twirl around in a circle. I reach my arms up to the ceiling and out to him, and he instinctually follows, running into my arms or circling around my legs making movements of his own. We take each others cues, leading and following, gently guiding one another through the song. Sometimes we collapse into fits of laughter. Sometimes we end the dance emotionally, clinging to one another as if we’ll never experience this moment again.

And that’s my big fear. Because it’s been years since I’ve experienced the joy of dance at my peak, when my body would listen to my mind’s commands, when it gave way to the downbeat, when I felt comfortable enough to not only follow steps with precise accuracy but also add my own style, to flow through the movements, extend them out to the last drop of the last note.

Now I hear a powerful song and I’m practically crawling out of my skin to dance to it the way I imagine, the way I once could. Sometimes I try, but I inevitably end up laying down on the ground, stretching, stretching, breathing through the pain. I want to scream, “It’s not fair!” but how can I when I was blessed with the ability to dance in the first place? When so many people never experience that joy at all? Aren’t I lucky to have even had those moments?

When I was 16 years old, I was preparing to dance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., for the Jazz Dance World Congress. I was more nervous than I’d ever been at any dance competition—and this was just a performance. But the ornate ceiling and the rows and rows of red velour seats stretched out before me, and I felt my heart beating in my eardrums. As the music started and the lights came up, I rose up out of my body and moved. There were nine other dancers on stage, but we danced as one, and as we flew across the stage, we floated with a power that made everything easy. The effort was gone and only the dancing remained. That was the purest joy I’ve ever felt in my life.

Until my son came into this world.lucas

Now I watch him dance and part of me wants to warn him: “It’ll break your heart, Lucas.” But as I see him spin and throw his head back and giggle, I think to myself, “I can’t take that away from him, if that’s what he wants.” (Who knows what he wants, he’s only four. But I can’t discount the possibility.) So for now, I dance with him. I dance until the pain becomes too much and he yanks at my arm and asks me to dance some more. I lay down on the ground to stretch, smile up at him, and say:

“I’m sorry, Lucas. Mama can’t dance anymore. It’s your turn.”

I’m Not Impressed By Your Giant Snowstorm

You got 34 inches of snow, you say? You can’t get out of your slider door? You spent two days holed up with family watching movies and drinking hot cocoa and sliding down the hills in your backyard? That’s pretty magical.

not impressed

Not impressed.

You know what’s not magical? Getting up and shoveling three feet of snow out of your driveway so you can inch your way down treacherous, mushy roads to arrive at work with mud-soaked pants and a beaten-down spirit. Having your car stolen out of your driveway while you leave it warming up because it’s so cold outside that your fingers might freeze to the steering wheel. Watching snow swiftly morph from pure white powder to dirty, muck-caked ice.

Sitting through, like, 15 more storms before you can even begin to think about spring.

winter in new england
nope nope nope

I know this is pretty dickish, because I can just imagine all my friends and family in Massachusetts and New York giving me a collective middle finger right now. (A couple of them might even smack me upside the head…and do you blame them?) I suppose I shouldn’t try and suck what little joy you might find in a historic snow storm that’s dumped a toddler-sized load in your backyard. But dude…winter sucks. Fun to visit. Fun to play in. Not fun to live in.

So I give you your school days off and your toboggans and your tunnels out of your back door. I commend you for shoveling and continuing to shovel and then when you thought you couldn’t shovel anymore, shoveling once again. I tip my hat to your ice scrapers stored in your cars and your thermal layers. I smile at your kids bundled up like Stay Puffed Marshmallows, their cheeks pink and their eyes glassy.

But I’m just not impressed by your “weather” or your “Blizzard-gate” or whatever the hell your meteorologists were shouting about while Juno’s snowflakes became imbedded in their microphones. I’ll be over here chuckling when my fellow Californians warn each other about getting home safe when it sprinkles rain. And I’ll be very, very grateful I missed out on that magical mess.

I’m 34 Years Old and Went Shopping at Hot Topic

Go ahead, judge me. I certainly did. I walked by the store in our local lame-ass mall this Saturday evening, and I saw me a Dr. Who Tardis dress hanging in the store window. The very same Tardis dress I saw on my 15-year-old cousin this summer and coveted, asking all my relatives, “Would it be weird if I bought that same dress? It’d be weird, right?” The smell of patchuli and the sounds of pseudo metal wafted out of Hot Topic. I walked on by because, well, I’m 34, and I shouldn’t be shopping at Hot Topic.

I was in the mall with my nearly 4-year-old son who was holding a Mickey Mouse balloon, and I was wearing a sensible mom sweater and three-season-old boots. I walked through JCPenney and Macy’s and I glanced over my shoulder at Forever 21 (because that’s MUCH more age-appropriate than Hot Topic), but I didn’t feel like buying anything…except that Tardis dress. Finally, when the family was getting ready to leave, I broke down and ran all the way back through the mall to Hot Topic. Then, timidly, I stepped a toe inside, dragging Lucas and his balloon with me.

Euphoria ensued. There was an entire wall full of Dr. Who paraphernalia, and I wanted it all. I picked out a few items, stared wistfully at glass cases full of body piercings and patches, and stood in line for the dressing room next to some dude with huge holes in his droopy, stretched-out ear lobes. I was grinning ear-to-ear.

At checkout, two salespeople had lanyards around their necks, which were covered in small attitude-infused buttons. Because I couldn’t help myself, I smirked and remarked to the kids, “Did you get to pick out all your own buttons? Or did you have put on a required amount of flair?” The boy laughed, but I wasn’t sure he was old enough to get my Office Space reference. My debit card was declined because karma.

Tardis dressAfter an annoyingly and unnecessarily long conversation with Bank of America, I walked out of the store with three items of Dr. Who swag, including that glorious Tardis dress. And you know what? I felt great. I wore my Tardis dress today and my Dr. Who knee socks, and I got thumbs up from all the undercover Whovians at Lucas’ school and at work.

Am I dressed like a 15-year-old? Yup. Do I feel inappropriate? A little. Do I, regardless of the inappropriateness, love love love what I’m wearing? You better believe it! Do I have any more fucks to give about being 34 and shopping at Hot Topic? Nope!