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:

creepy-old_lady
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:

house1
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…

hurry.

Finding The One: The House Hunt Continues

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

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

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

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

It was the one that got away.

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

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

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

We were beat by less than $5,000.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

front entrance
Welcome to our home! Just kidding.

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

Riiiiiiight.

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.