Wednesday, January 15, 2014


When I was three years old, I took my first ballet class. One of my mother's favorite stories about me dates back to a recital later that year...

There I was, up on stage with 10 other girls performing our baby plies and pirouettes. As legend has it, my headpiece flew off and ... this is the part where my mom always pauses for dramatic effect ... "You kept right on dancing without missing a beat. AT THREE!" my mom will say. "All the other girls would've stopped to pick theirs up. They would've cried. But you, YOU!, were a total professional." A baby Baryshnikov. I was headed for stardom!

Flash forward 35 years and I, along with millions of others around the globe, have committed this new year to try, like Stella, to get my groove (read: old , smaller, pants size) back. So what do I do? I take that sentiment literally, and throw myself blindly into my first ever Zumba class.

At the strike of 6, the empty Y gymnasium buzzing with fluorescent tube lights exploded into an all-out salsa-cum-twerking rave-fiesta. Suddenly, I was one of a sea of 50 women (and two men) thinking, "How hard could this be??" Except I quickly learned that all 51 of them had done this before and it was hard as hell.

'But I was a classically trained ballerina!' I thought, already lost after two beats. I understood then that I'd probably peaked before I hit puberty and that all those years of lessons afterward would not save me now.

'BUT WAIT,' I thought to myself, struggling to keep up and reaching into the depths of my being for salvation. 'My name is MARIA. I'm a latina* woman, for crying out loud! These moves should flow through me like the blood currently rushing to my head and making me want to pass out.'

There was no doubt about it. I wasn't a dancer anymore. I wasn't even coordinated. I was Baby. Except, dammit, I totally deserved to be in the corner. My only saving grace was the young girl that was one row up, two spots over from me. Every time I looked over at her, she was doing the absolute polar opposite thing everyone else was doing (and I was attempting to do.) 'At least, I'm not HER', I kept thinking. She had absolutely no rhythm. But in her own spastic, nerdy (would totally have been played by Joan Cusack complete with head gear in the 1980s version of this moment) way, she was bursting with soul. I was just busting a gut.

Fifty-nine minutes in, I thought maybe, just maybe, I was finally starting to get it. The kick-ball-changes from my years of Tap came flooding back, as did the few bits of Irish step I'd picked up from Erin, Susie, and Abby in grade school. 'I'M DOING IT!' I thought, 'I'M DOING IT!' But it was too late. The last song abruptly ended, the lights went back up, and everyone scattered like roaches. Son of a bitch.

Still reeling from those last precious 60 seconds of glory, I stumbled out into the -5 degree night in hopes of making it home for my bedtime-story duties. As I approached my car, I slipped on a 2-inch sheet of ice like no one has ever slipped before. Suddenly, I was three again, and it was not onto my ass that I found myself falling, but into the arms of Patrick Swayze, where I nailed the most epic Swan Lift you've ever seen. My mom, like Kelly Bishop circa 1987, would have been so proud. I was a star.

*If you didn't read this with a spanish accent like those crazy news anchors do on TV, please go back and read it again with the accent. The line is WAY better that way.

Thursday, January 2, 2014


My dad always said that bad things happened in odd numbered years. He seemed pretty insightful in 2001, when my gram died and four planes devastated buildings, fields, and families throughout New York and the world, all within three weeks of each other. I honestly never thought I would feel joy again.

Flash forward to the first few days of this new, beloved, even-numbered year, and I can't help but feel hopeful and finally exhale.

2013 was the worst fucking year.

On the other hand, 2012 was pretty epic. Decision after decision, watching the home of our dreams come together beautifully with each passing day. Finding freedom in expressing the absurdity and hilarity of our everyday lives. Good friends and some strangers reached out to let me know how certain tales I told resonated with them. In particular, people told me I was funny. FUNNY! How awesome to be able to make someone smile, let alone laugh?? Even if it is at your own expense.

As the year came to a close, we moved in to our still unfinished home with no heat, in the middle of a blizzard, both of us with strep. Just over 15 hours from start to finish, to get our stuff out of the old house, drive less than 2 miles away, and put our stuff into the new house. And that was with movers. Well into the night, snow still coming down outside, we collapsed at the home of some beloved friends that agreed to take us in, feed us dinner, and give us a warm place to sleep.

It was all downhill from there.

Every once in a while, people made comments about how they missed reading my meanderings. But for all the draft posts that floated through my head, I could never quite get my fingers to the keyboard to put them down on this virtual paper. I wanted to share the insanity that was constantly happening all around us (at home, at work, in life). I just couldn't. I wanted to be able to make it all funny, but the last 12 months were anything but. They were frustrating, sad, challenging, draining, fattening, aging, you name it. All I wanted to do was run away. And, if no one wanted to come with me, so be it.

And yet, 365 restless sleeps later... I'm still here!

We had the luxury of ringing in the new year with some great new friends. After more than 5 years, we even made it to midnight. Nay, PAST midnight. Out in the snowglobey Vermont night, in front of a huge bonfire, sharing our hopes and dreams for the next 12 months. Logan made reference to my odd-numbered-year-blues dream of making 2014 our "Away We Go" year. If you haven't seen the movie of the same name, it's essentially a couple on a journey to find the place they're meant to live and raise their family. (Please see: aforementioned escape plan.)

Earlier that day, we'd watched a truly stunning animated short called "Lost & Found" (based on Oliver Jeffers' equally stunning children's book by the same name), leased our skis for the season and bought hockey skates for the family. Three weeks earlier we'd finally hosted a small housewarming party, with heat (!), totally unpacked boxes (!!), and the most decadent 5-layer cake this side of the Mason Dixon. And now, there we were. Surrounded by people we've grown to love, and some we'd met only hours before. The only chaos, the roaring flames. It felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

And maybe 2014 is exactly that. The year to just be.

It was 2am before we all turned in, the kids all nestled snug in their beds until, just a few hours later, each of them ended up in our beds thrashing, kicking, scratching, twitching, and demanding that we wake up to play and have breakfast.

Little bastards. Don't they know it's an EVEN year?

(c) Oliver Jeffers