How Do We Feel About Seasonal Decor?

Once upon a time, in a duck-stenciled kitchen in a country house, a woman named Bev decided that she was going to make the holidays extra festive. She hung mistletoe and garland and threaded popcorn on the tree, and her toddler daughter was delighted. So the next year, she decided to add some carolers to the mantle. Oh, and she decided to make a mantle.

Year after year, the carolers multiplied. Soon there was a caroling cat and a flickering old-fashion lantern and an entire Christmas town that featured fake snow and lit up. Christmas became such a magical time of year that the rest of the seasons just didn’t seem to measure up. So Bev decided to spice up Halloween with jack-o-lanterns and witches and glittery black cats. Thanksgiving featured some kind of harvest spilling out of a horn, and Easter was a sea of pastel and bunnies and duckies and springtime dew. Even the 4th of July became a Patriotic puke of red-white-and-blue.

You gotta hand it to my mom: she sure knows how to holiday.

When I moved away to New York City, I shared a 500 square-foot space with three other girls, one of which was Jewish. Needless to say, we didn’t give much thought to decorating for the holidays…mostly because our counter space was entirely occupied by things that we needed to function. Still, Bev couldn’t help herself. She mailed me my first antique Santa on a sled when I was 20 years old. It stayed in the box under my bed.

Post college, I had a little more room to spread out, but I was a broke 22-year-old with no extra cash for decorating. Halloween meant wearing something slutty, getting drunk, and watching the gays parade around Greenwich Village. New York City was so beautifully decorated for Christmas that there was really no need to do anything in my apartment except hang a couple glass balls off a Charlie Brown tree. Easter? I sort of forgot about it.

My best friend Shauna and I used to chuckle at our moms for their total embrace of seasonal decor, and how they always seemed to bring us offerings in an attempt to get us to catch their holiday spirit. They were like cats leaving dead birds at our doorstep, only the birds were heavy porcelain Christmas tree ornaments engraved with our names.

You know you had one of these.
You know you had one of these.

When I became a mom, the holidays took on new meaning. I could see them through the eyes of a child again! How magical! Only Lucas wasn’t even a year old for his first Christmas. We could have decorated for Dia de los Muertos for all he cared.

As my son grew, however, and started to “get” what the holidays were about, I found myself feeling guilty that my house wasn’t the magical seasonal wonderland that the Garofoli casa was during my childhood. Christmas has now grown from a tree and some stockings to outdoor chunky colored lights, a Jesus manger featuring Obi-wan Kanobe, various nutcrackers, wreaths, and poinsettias, and vintage Christmas trees made in pottery class in the 70s.

Still, while Christmas decorating has become an Olympic event in which I turn on the Bing Crosby and yell at my son to stop dropping fragile shit on the floor, I just can’t seem to get it up for the other holidays. I see people with their autumn foliage flags and I’m like…it’s still 80 degrees outside. Why?

Still, in an effort to pretend to give a shit, I put out a sad pumpkin and scarecrow on my mantle this year. It’s almost worse than having nothing. Behold, my Halloween decorations, in their entirety:

Who needs to trick or treat when you've got this?
Who needs to trick or treat when you’ve got this?

I never thought I’d embrace seasonal decor as an adult, but now I’m feeling the PTA pressure to make something happen. Should I put my mantle decorations away and focus on making half-baked Halloween costumes that are bound to be Pinterest fails? Or should I go full Bev and resign myself to a house full of glitter for the next four months?

I’m Going Off My Antidepressants

Yeah, I said it. For reasons unbeknownst to me (but perhaps knownst to you), there’s a huge stigma against psychiatric medication. You’re never supposed to admit that you’re taking pills for a mental illness, an addiction, or an inability to stabilize your moods or focus on the task at hand. (Oh, look at the kitty!)

What was I saying?

You guys know how I feel about stigmas. Instead of tiptoeing around them, I tend to take an exaggerated, Dick Van Dyke-sized step right the fuck over them. There’s nothing wrong with admitting you have a weakness and are taking medication to try and fix it. Do I understand why people don’t go around announcing that they’re taking Lithium to manage their bipolar disorder? Of course. But I wish they could live in a world where people didn’t tsk tsk them if they did decide to share, and instead applauded them for getting the help they needed.

It's been real.
It’s been real.

So on that note, I’m out with it: I’ve been on antidepressants for the better part of a year. I come from a long line of proud Italians who don’t believe in “happy pills,” and for a while, I tried everything I could to avoid anything that could be conceived as giving up (except wine…and giving up). But I was buried under a suffocating blanket of grief. As time went on, and the tragedies kept piling up, the blankets became more and more and heavier and heavier until one day, I was like the pea in Princess and the Pea. I couldn’t continue functioning trying to get out from under it all.

That was a year ago. A year ago when I stood in my kitchen, my eyesight blurred from another onslaught of hot tears, my son asleep in his bed and my husband in his man room playing video games. I don’t remember why I went to the kitchen. But I stood there. And all of a sudden, the medicine cabinet was like: “I’ve got what you need, you know.” No. No, no, no. You’re not going to think about that. So then the knives were like: “We’d work too, if you don’t mind the blood.” Just stop it. Oven pipes in: “You could go Slyvia Plath styles.” Well, that’s just too morbid. 

So I called up to my husband. Through a typhoon of tears and snot, I told him I needed help. I told him I had tried to deal with it on my own, but failed. And he held me and told me I didn’t fail. That I was doing the right thing for me and for my family, who needed me. That he was here for me and he supported me in whatever I needed to do to feel better. And a small crack of light peeped through the blankets.

I called my doctor, who swiftly prescribed me what I needed. She warned that it would take up to a month to really kick in, and she checked in with me frequently. Within two weeks, the heaviness began to lift and for the first time in what felt like years, I felt like myself again. And that’s when I realized: these aren’t happy pills designed to mask the pain. They’re a helping hand, reaching down into the pit and getting you up onto safe land again.

And that’s where I am today.

So it’s time to say thank you for the help. Thank you for giving me my life back. Thank you for delivering me to my family safe and whole. I’m going off my antidepressants now. I know it’s not going to be easy, going it alone. But I’m ready now. Because of you.

Reliving My Youth One Dave Matthews Band Concert at a Time

A couple weeks ago, Caryn, one of my very good friends from college, hit me up with a message that made my day: “I’ve got two tickets to Dave Matthews in Mountain View…wanna come?”

It had been a year since I saw her and 14 years since I’d last seen DMB in concert. So yes. Yes, I did.

The last time I saw Dave, I was with Caryn at Giants’ Stadium in New Jersey. Right in the middle of the encore, it started torrential down pouring and the crowd went wild. Instead of running for cover or leaving the show, 60,000 stoned college kids danced and sang in the rain, while Dave Matthews just kept right on playing “Two Step”—even through a few scary-close lightning strikes. It was the single coolest concert experience of my life. In fact, even Dave remembers it:

I knew this concert couldn’t top that. But I also felt something bubbling up inside as I revved up for the show: my youth. My Abercrombie-and-Fitch, tie-dyed T-shirt, music-loving, concert-going youth. Sure, I’ve been to a few shows over the last few years, but they’ve been big commercial to-dos. Kanye. Madonna. Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake. Very pop. Very much a big light and dance show. A little less about the music and more about the spectacle.

But Dave…Dave and his band love music and they just play the shit out of their songs. They’re the adult-contemporary version of a jam band, like Phish or the Grateful Dead if you gave them a shower and dressed them up in plaid button-downs.

a sea of white people
a sea of white people

There were a lot of mom jeans at the Dave Matthews Band concert. But I couldn’t judge because I wore my stretchy pants and my orthopedic flats. Watch me reach into this big barrel of fucks and give them out to no one. Because I was there to sing and dance (“la, la, la HEY, la la la HEY, la la la!”). And as the earthy smell of weed and patchouli wafted over the crowd, I suddenly  forget about the minutiae of my day. The responsibilities on my shoulders, the to-do lists, the soccer games and team snacks, the deadlines, the dishes and grocery shopping…they were all gone.

Dave Matthews Band played quite a few songs I didn’t know. It didn’t really matter. Caryn and I were right back in 2001, making up stories about the older couple on an eHarmony date in front of us (we had a bet going to see how long they’d stay at the show before they took off to go make gross old-folk whoopie). And then, midway through the show, ignoring the girls next to us doing their best 1980s howls (“Owwwww! Yeah, Dave! Owwww, owwwwwww!”), I felt the same joy from Giants’ Stadium all those years back, . I turned to Caryn and grinned. We didn’t have to say a thing.

I danced like I hadn’t danced in a long time. I sweat and didn’t care. I walked a long way out of the concert so that we could catch an Uber back to our hotel. I expected to wake up and be in ridiculous pain. I didn’t. I just woke up in a shitty Motel 6 in Sunnyvale happy and just the slightest bit sore.  It felt like a night at dance camp, minus the Tiger Balm.

To Caryn, I want to say: thank you so much! Something in me jiggered loose that night. I was happy on a level I hadn’t felt in a while. Purely happy without side thoughts creeping in bringing it down. And the beautiful thing is…the happy has continued on. It’s amazing what the power of music, dance, and long-time friendship can do for you. Just sprinkle on a little Dave Matthews, and all will be well.

Bad Mood Rising

There was a full moon on August 29. Usually I give no weight to astrological bullshit, but there’s something in the air, and the after effects are lingering. I’m feeling sour and snappy, and I know it’s not only me. All around, everywhere I look, shoulders are slumped, sighs are heaved, and resting bitch face is the default expression.

There’s some kind of collective bad mood happening, and it’s seemingly inexplicable. Sure, people are busy, but that’s nothing new. Sure, traffic is heavy, but that’s to be expected. Sure, most drivers are douche yachts, or…as my new coworkers like to say…douche frigates, but how is that different from any other week?

Even my adorable son, who was like this a few short days ago:

happy boy
happy boy

Turned into this over the weekend:

emo cat stretch on the bed
emo cat stretch on the bed

The weird thing is, the bad mood is palpable enough that I’ve overheard several people ask other people, “Hey, are you okay?” I hear myself attempting cheerful pep talks to people who seem down, but I don’t even believe my own load of crap and give up a quarter of the way through. Lately, I have nothing to add to the conversation except, “Yeah, that sucks, dude.” I just can’t muster up the umph. And why?

I see a bad mood rising.
I see trouble on the way.
I see stank eye and frownin’.
I see bad times today.

Don’t go around tonight,
Well I’m bound to take your life,
There’s a bad mood on the rise.

So what’s causing this? Because at first I thought I had just reached my quota of nice for the month. But then why is everyone else all “meh,” too? Can someone explain? Did we just all decide to simmer in our issues and pout at the same time? Is there some kind of virus going around that makes people droopy and sad?

Until someone can talk this out in plain science, I’m blaming it on the moon. Or Mercury, which is in retrograde September 17. Or you all, who are too busy moping around to…to…to help me finish this damn sentence. Dammit.

I Feel Old

Before you even have a chance to form a judgmental thought, I want to cut you off at the pass. This is not a fairly youngish person complaining about how OLD she is. Oh GAWD, 23! I’m so OLD! Shutup. When one alcoholic beverage results in a full-day hangover, then you can complain about how old you are.

Which brings me to my point: I know I’m not old in number. But I’m really starting to feel old. In my bones. In my muscles. In my inability to work up to a baseline level of energy that can sustain me through the day.

I’m craving midday naps. I’m refilling the coffee and resorting to Red Bull (and then dealing with the sharp, shameful Red Bull come-down about an hour after consumption). I’m heavy-lidded and red-eyed on a regular basis (and not for the fun reason). Just constantly dragging ass.

A couple nights ago, I was in a playful mood so I started chasing Lucas around the bed. Then I switched it up and had him chase me. Little dude is fast. In order to stay ahead of him, I really had to haul, throwing myself on the bed in a dive roll, kicking off the side of the bed and peeling around the corner. Three times around the bed and I had to stop because I was getting dizzy.

Mama had to catch her breath. And as I lay there wheezing, my son tugging on the arm to get back up, this conversation played out:

Leg muscles: What the fuck are you doing?

Brain: Well, I just wanted to play with my son. He’s got so much energy and I thought…

Leg muscles: Oh you thought? You really weren’t thinking. We don’t DO stuff like that.

Brain, registering hot, searing pain: Hey! What are you doing?

Leg muscles: Oh, you like that? Huh? Huh? See how it feels!

Brain: Dudes, seriously, it was just three times around the bed.

Leg muscles: Well, three times around the bed is three times too much. Suck it.

I think the old feeling has a lot to do with the fact that I’m in terrible physical shape. I’m not saying I’m fat. I’m just saying I’m out of shape. There’s a difference.

…though I have put on 10 lbs since I started working at Malwarebytes.

So here we go ahead. It’s round 50,000 of the “Let’s go on a diet and work out/aka let’s be miserable and starving all day” dance. It’s always shitty at the start. But I know the end result could shave a few years off how old I really feel. Because while I may look like this:

sleepy face at work
sleepy face at work

I feel like this:

This bitch is actually more alert than me.


Why I’m Not Having a Second Child

I’m ready. I’m putting it in writing. Lucas is 4-and-a-half years old. We have just the right amount of bedrooms. He’s one year away from kindergarten and long out of diapers. It’s time to make the announcement to friends and family:

We’re all done having kids.

Coming in 2016: Mommy + Daddy + Lucas + no one else
Coming in 2016: Mommy + Daddy + Lucas + no one else

Can we start a Facebook movement, like the ALS challenge, but for people who have stepped off the baby-making automatic sidewalk, and for some reason the world doesn’t seem to understand why? It’ll be called “Stop asking me when I’m having another,” or “I’d rather not talk about my multiple miscarriages whilst having small talk” or “I don’t have to explain why I’m not having a second child, but if you need a damn narrative, here goes…”

The thought of retiring the old uterus has been brewing in my mind over the last year, but I stubbornly hung on to baby clothes, swings, breast pumps, bouncy chairs, and bottles on the off chance I might change my mind. Alex asked me if I wanted a more permanent birth control solution, and I initially balked at the idea. We’re only 30-murmur-murmur-something! Isn’t it a little early to be thinking about that?

Then I realized…hey. We’re 30-murmur-murmur-something years old. If we have another kid now, we’ll be 50-murmur-murmur-something years old before he goes off to college, and considering we’re Italian and Mexican, he probably won’t move out until we’re 70.

As I unpack my house and go through the old baby stuff,  I’m not so much struck with nostalgia for the baby years, but with great relief that all this gear is gathering dust and I don’t have to think about it anymore. I’ve slowly started pawning it off on my sister-in-laws, whose kids are still babies. Here! Take this crib mattress! How about all these half-chewed cloth baby books? Take em! You need the swing? I’m not using it!

I send the stuff on its merry way, dust off my hands, and breathe a great, happy sigh. It’s as satisfying as kissing those size 2 jeans that you’ve been hanging onto on the long odds that you return to your high school weight goodbye. Goodbye, size 2 jeans! Goodbye, infant carseat! Mama’s having a reality check.

This is not to say I don’t have moments where I think about having a second child. Sometimes, I’ll spend an hour browsing through baby photos and videos of Lucas and my heart starts to hurt and my uterus starts to glow and I think, well maybe…

Sometimes I take a big whiff of my brand-new nephew’s baby head, and my ovaries start to doing a little “you know you wanna” dance. But then everything else in my body and heart and head kicks in to remind me that I can’t succumb to the baby crack. That’s all smoke and mirrors. The reality is, our family is complete.

What works for my family doesn’t have to work for other families. If you have two kids and you can’t imagine life without a sibling for your child, then I get that. I applaud that.

That doesn’t have to be my life, though.

I have one child because it works for us. We’re happy with the way our family turned out. Nothing is missing.

Is this what we planned? No. No, it’s not. But if life has taught me anything, it’s that hardly anything ever turns out according to plan.

Which is why I’ll probably get pregnant immediately after posting this.

Let’s Everything Break Now

Murphy’s Law: As soon as you buy a new place, no matter how perfect things seemed on the home inspection and final walk-through, some shit is going to break. Or in our case, everything breaks.

Case in point: On day number one, Alex took a shower in our master bedroom. By day two, it was totally busted. That means we’re 0 and 2 on master bathroom showers. (Yes, we had a problem with our shower in our last home as well.)

Before the end of the week, my washing machine—the one that never gave me a single problem in five years—was smoking. The warranty is, of course, expired. And then just before my cousins arrived from Massachusetts to stay for the week, the AC decided to poop out, too.

Thankfully for Lucas, the fans still work.

The thing about stuff breaking is that it’s never just one thing. Once a major appliance goes on the fritz, the busting of the things tends to spread like whipped butter on toast.

We very nearly broke this cabinet (and the floor) while assembling it.
We very nearly broke this cabinet (and the floor) while assembling it.

Last weekend, Lucas rolled up and down the car window so many times that it got stuck…of course in the down mode. It took three of us physically pushing it up to get it to close. Last week, when I got to work my computer passwords failed. Then, later in the day when my underwear started to sag, I yanked at the band and basically separated the enter “under” from the underwear.

Just to make that clear: I broke my underwear.

We expected to have to deal with a couple things when we moved in, but broken underwear was not one of them. Naturally, the warranty didn’t kick in for the shower, and it doesn’t cover the washer, so there goes the cash we planned to use on fun stuff like paint and booze (to get us through the painting).

This is the kind of shit that would drive me crazy in any other situation, but I’m still on a new-house high, so I’m not that worried. AC’s busted? Open a window! Washing machine doesn’t work? We’ve got a handy little sink where we can hand-wash stuff! Car window messed up? Just use the AC! There’s just one thing that could disrupt this delicate zen-like state: the breaking of the Internets.

So this is a warning, Zamora house wifi:

I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for entities like you. If you let my wifi go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t…I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.

You can take my AC, but you will never take my Internet.
You can take my AC, but you will never take my Internet.

We Finally Moved Into Our New Home

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

We finally moved into our new home.

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

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

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

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

…So now what?

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

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

Just be happy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Adventures in Tiny Living

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

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

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

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

running in a field

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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