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.

packing
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.

cousins
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.

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.)