All posts by The Olive Gal

About The Olive Gal

green of skin, black of heart

On Being Incredibly Out of Shape

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would You Keep Reading My Book?

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What world is this?

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

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

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

“High silver!”

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

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

The Irrefutable Top 10 Songs of the 80’s List

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

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


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

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

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

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

10. In the Air Tonight, Phil Collins

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

9. Sweet Child O’ Mine, Guns ‘N Roses

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

8. Maneater, Daryl Hall & John Oates

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

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

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

6. Africa, Toto

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

5. Total Eclipse of the Heart, Bonnie Tyler

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

4. I Want To Know What Love Is, Foreigner


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

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

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

2. Beat It, Michael Jackson

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

1. Oh Sherrie, Steve Perry

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


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

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

Called my husband in for backup.

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

Alex: Yeah….so….

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would You Read My Book?

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

It’s time to get to work.

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

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


Working Title: Below the Cut

Prelude: Dancing Nancy

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

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

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

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


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

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

Dance became the only thing I saw.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Need Me Some Creative Viagra

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

So yeah, about that…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The end.

Beautiful Boy

It’s your 5th birthday today. A pretty big deal. Five years ago, you came into this world and you changed everything.

So much can happen in five years. Five years before you came, I hadn’t met your dad. I was living in New York, and the last thing I was thinking about was being a mom.

Now I can tell you that the best thing I’ve done in the last five years is you.

In fact, the best thing I’ve done in my whole life is you. And I assure you, there’s nothing else I can do that will be better.


But I can’t take credit anymore, Lucas. Because in five short years, you’ve done so much on your own. You’ve smiled, discovered your hands and feet, crawled, walked, ran, talked, questioned, yelled, drawn, written, hugged, held hands, made friends, played, created, learned, loved.

When my back was in pain and I laid on the ground, you crawled over to me and put your hand on my face.

When your friend Stephen got hurt at school, you sat with him all day and made sure he was alright.

When I picked you up at daycare, you ran at me full force and nearly knocked me over. Every day.


When you were two years old, you discovered you loved lights and things that spin. Now you’re building circuits and amassing a strange and wonderful collection of fans.

You laugh easily, and your laugh makes everyone else laugh. Your smile brightens the room. You power our family like the sun, and you warm all those around you.

That’s the kind of beautiful boy you are, Lucas.


These past five years with you have been nothing short of magical. I look at you and can’t believe there was ever a time before you.

This precious, precious time with you. It’s going by quickly. I never wanted to live forever until the day you were born. Then I looked at you and thought: I can never leave you. I know someday, someday before I even know it, you’ll strike out on your own. Thirteen more years in our home is not enough. Fifty more years on this Earth together (God willing) is not enough.

Eternity wouldn’t be enough.

But for now, let me just say, I’m so thankful for these five years, Lucas. Happy birthday.

The Epic Argument That Almost Ended in Divorce

IMG_6072Every once in a while in a marriage, you come to a crossroads. Should we keep slugging away and work through this thing? Or should we just split up?

During a recent, ridiculous argument, I came thisclose to calling the whole thing off. But to understand how I got to that point, I have to take you on a little trip through memory lane.

Once upon a time in a living room in King City, two brothers decided to torture their younger brother, whose only crime was asking to go see the movie 28 Weeks Later with them. The oldest brother, Alex, told his youngest, pre-teen brother, Zamir:

“You’re a giant pussy, and there’s no way you can sit through this movie.”

Zamir, of course, insisted he was junior-manly enough to handle it. So Alex and Ozzy (middle brother) put him to the test. They said that if he could grit his way through 28 Days Later, then they’d bring him to see the sequel. So they popped in the movie, and a pseudo-confident Zamir sat next to them.

Ten minutes later, Zamir said, “Oh snap! I left something in my room!” and disappeared for the rest of the film. Needless to say, the older brothers have never let him live it down. It’s a story that gets told over, and over, and over, and over at Zamora family gatherings.

But you guys, here’s the thing: I SWEAR I was there. And Alex insists I was not.

28 Weeks Later came out on May 11, 2007. That was a mere four months after I had moved to California, and I knew no one else except Alex and his family and friends. If Alex was in King City, so was I.

But apparently…I wasn’t. We argued and argued and argued, and finally Alex called Ozzy for backup. “Nope,” Ozzy said. “She wasn’t there.” I still insisted. I can distinctly remember where Zamir was sitting and his voice as he said, “Oh snap!”

Alex checked with Zamir. “Was Wendy there when that happened?” Nope. Alex explained that they’ve told the story so many times, I must have come to believe I was there in person. I got served. But I remained frustrated, and continued to argue my point. Because if I wasn’t there, then…

Where the hell was I?

And here’s where the epic argument went south. Alex damned himself by saying that I DIDN’T EVEN LIVE IN CALIFORNIA at that time. Apparently, I’m the one with the shitty memory, but he’s the one who has purged entire months of our relationship from his brain.

Just as I stubbornly insisted that I was there when Zamir tucked tail and booked it back into his bedroom, Alex contended that no, I did not live in California at the beginning of 2007. His side of the story was that I spent the summer of 2007 in Massachusetts looking for jobs and THEN moved out west.


Left Dance Spirit magazine in January 2006. Moved to California in February 2007 (lived with Alex’s friends). MOVED IN WITH ALEX in April 2007. Went to Massachusetts for the summer to look for jobs. Failed. Came back in September 2007 for good.

I guess I was such a good roommate that he had no idea I was there!

The argument intensified. I keep pulling up facts and figures and dates and specifics, and Alex dug in his heels. Since I had lost so spectacularly in the Zamir argument, there was no way I could be trusted. My blood was beginning to boil. A miasma of red anger was clouding my eyes. I could feel my skin turning to green when I said, “Don’t you remember? You proposed to me that summer! Why would you propose to someone who had not yet lived in the same state as you?”

Guys…deep breath…He goes:

“Oh, I didn’t remember proposing to you then.”





What the will-you-marry-me fuck?!?!

The natural, level-headed reaction to that from me was, “Fine! I never lived in California in 2007! You never loved me! And we should just get a divorce!”

Thankfully, this was so absurd that Alex just started cracking up, and so did I. But in seven years of marriage, that’s the first time the D-word has escaped my lips.

Problem is, I have opened a can of worms. Because now, in true Zamora fashion, he will lord this over me for the rest of our lives. For example, a recent Twitter conversation:

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 8.14.32 PMScreen Shot 2016-01-07 at 8.16.28 PM

And I can’t take it. Divorce may be the only way to escape.

Word of the Year: Balance

Every New Year, us humans have an innate tendency to reflect on the 365 days we survived and look ahead to the 365 to come. We can’t help it, it’s a thing we do. (And me especially. This annual tradition falls right into the lap of my navel-gazing wheelhouse.) After reflecting and checking boxes for accomplishments and contemplating tasks left incomplete, we resolve to forge ahead. Some of us wish for change. Some of us want to keep momentum going. Some of us plainly don’t give a shit.

But I do. And as I think ahead to my 36th year, I search for a path that can bring me and my family happiness and prosperity. In some years, I’ve dug my heels in with renewed tenacity, looking to pursue missed goals or creating new ones to reach. Sometimes that’s worked. Other times, it’s been a miserable failure.

This year, I’m trying a different approach.

2015 was a year of transitions: selling the house, getting laid off, moving, getting a new job, buying a new house, starting a new school for Lucas…ticking that off right now, I’m surprised I actually came out of that year alive. Whenever you reach a bend in the road, or in my case, six bends in the road, you’ve got to put on the brakes a little. But, as far as I can tell, it’s a straight shot ahead. Time to accelerate, right?

With every bone of my body, I want to say yes, let’s punch it! But something holds me back this time. I’m ready take things out of second gear (I swear I’m almost done with this car/road metaphor…bear with me), but as I do, I’m mindful of patterns in my past. I go from zero to 60, make some progress, but then run out of gas.

More time with this guy
More time with this guy

So in 2016, I need to find balance. I want to balance my dreams and the dreams of my family. Balance my work life, home life, and hobby life. Balance my health and my pleasure. In order to do that, though, something’s gotta give. Because if I keep trucking along as I have been, I’m going to go all Bilbo Baggins—butter scraped over too much bread—and I’ll come to the end of 2016 either completely wiped or obsessed with a magical ring that I stole from a scrawny goblin underneath a moun…wait a minute, no.

So how do I achieve balance? I divide my time and effort wisely. I can’t keep trying to give 100% of myself to every endeavor. Don’t get it twisted: that doesn’t mean I won’t be working hard. If I want to accomplish something, I’m going to throw my (currently considerable) weight behind it. For example, my annual “Oh God, I ate my body weight in pasta” holiday regret always turns into the cliche “Now I will make myself miserable on a New Year’s diet”—and I almost always pull it off.

But what I can’t continue to do is attempt to both laser focus in on a goal and have multiple goals. I need to reserve energy—both creative and physical—in order to play with my son, write this here blog, do something worthwhile and enjoyable (instead of just the literal definition of Netflix and chill all day ery day), kick ass at work, be a good wife and partner, and maybe do something about managing this 10-year-long crick in my back.

For once, I’m not trying to conquer the world. I’m truly lucky enough to have checked off many of the big goals of my 30s. I can thank 2015 for that. So in 2016, I’m going to focus on learning how to enjoy them and how to find happiness within myself, instead of within getting stuff done. This is the year of peace. This is the year of self-worth. This is the year I’ll find balance.

So what’s your word of the year? Or…let’s not be coy about it…New Year’s resolution?

Why Do We Even Have Those Seven Fishes?

The Feast of the Seven Fishes. It wouldn’t be Italian Christmas Eve without them.

As far back as I can remember, Christmas Eve was my absolute favorite night of the year. The day was spent in feverish anticipation of the food, songs, presents, and other shenanigans to come. And one smell punctuates all those shenanigans: fishy fish fish.

When we walked up the brick stairs to my Nonna’s house, we were greeted by a giant plastic light-up Santa and, as we opened the front door, the wafting smell of seafood. Entering the kitchen, we were met by an already watery-eyed Nonna getting emotional whilst stirring a pot full of tentacles.

Over the years our table was graced with scallops, calamari, octopus, haddock, cod, shrimp, salmon, and sometimes, when times were good, crab legs. Of course, I didn’t touch any of it for 25 years, but once I finally decided to eat fish, it was damn good.

Nothing says class like mudslide shots and a middle finger. Just another X-mas with the Garofolis.
Nothing says class like mudslide shots and a middle finger. Just another X-mas with the Garofolis.

Recently, someone asked me why we have seven fishes on Christmas Eve and I realized that I actually had no idea. So in honor of the approaching holiday–one I’ll be spending with my Italian side of the family this year–I did a little digging.

The Feast of the Seven Fishes is a distinctly Italian-American tradition, although its origins are rumored to be from Southern Italy. According to all-knowing Wikipedia (which is a totally trusted source), Southern Italians, in their obsession with the Virgin Mary, would fast during a period they called The Vigil, which is basically the time spent waiting for Mary to huff and puff and blow that holy child out in a dirty manger.

What does all this have to do with fish? I’m getting there. Apparently all that omega-3 and cholesterol helped the Virgin Mary have a smooth delivery.

Okay, that’s a boldfaced lie. But here’s the likely answer. Catholics are the worst kinds of vegetarians. In order to fast during high holy days, we refrain from eating meat. But yeah, we totally go to town on that fish. It reminds me of this scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding:

So Southern Italians would maybe eat fish on Christmas Eve to honor the time the Virgin Mary spent destroying her vagina giving birth. Take a minute to let that sink in. If you’re anything like me, you are making all kinds of gross fish puns in your head right now.

Anywho, us Italian-Americans…we completely bastardized the tradition. Because just one fish isn’t enough for us gluttons, we decided to go with seven. No one knows why that number, but it seems appropriately too large for one meal. Which is apropos, since I keep seeing this being shared around the Internets:


So there you have it. That’s as close to an “answer” as I could find doing a couple lazy Google searches. If you want more serious journalisming, you’ll have to pay me. A lovely seafood meal would go a long way…