Wisdom from the Dog Days of Summer

Happiness is a warm puppy

Happiness is a warm puppy

Here we are once again, nose-deep in the thick of lazy summer days. Unfortunately for my mistress, the self-anointed “Bitch’in Suburbia,” it’s a busy week so, I, the real bitch (in Suburbia) have volunteered to teach you a thing or two about better living through canine chemistry:

1) Put your butt in the air like you just don’t care: Did you think that yogis invented downward facing dog? It is my favorite stretch by far; my go-to whenever I need to kick out the jams and get the blood flowing again. Don’t just do this on a sticky mat – get down on all fours and do it several times a day. Oh, and be sure to take pictures and share on the internet. A surefire way to win friends and influence people (said every Kardashian always).

2) When in doubt, nap it out: You humans love to burn everything at all ends, always. Look, I get it – someone’s gotta keep me in kibble. But who says that you can’t close your eyes and meditate for a few? Just a couple minutes can rejuvenate a body and get your tail wagging.

3) A walk is worth getting excited about: The fresh air! The crunch of gravel under your paws! The stopping and smelling of, well, everything, everywhere. And then there’s the actual exercise part, which humans sometimes discount because it doesn’t necessarily work up a major sweat. But did you know that even a 30-minute walk each day can cut your risk of heart disease by 40%? (I know it sounds like I made that up to get you moving so that you can get me moving, but it’s a real stat from the CDC.)

4) Play is an important part of every day: I can make a lousy tennis ball seem like the most amusing toy of all time. Do you think that’s some small-brained distraction? I beg (sometimes, on my hind legs) to differ – finding a simple, non-electronic device to fix your attention on, like a bouncing a tennis ball, and spending a few silly minutes goofing off is just what Dr. Feelgooddog orders!

5) Reward yourself for a job well done: This one you guys came up with – I get a snack for a polite and prompt response to a simple query (sit, paw, etc.). Who’s to say you don’t deserve the same kind treatment when you do a good job? Just a little treat goes a long way.

6) Get high on love: Did you know that gazing in your pet’s eyes in a way that only lovers (ahem) do can make you feel extra fabulous? Studies show that happy hormones including oxytocin, beta-endorphin, prolactin, beta-phenylethylamine, and dopamine are released in both peeps and pups when they play together.

7) Mark your territory: Now, I’m not saying you need to do it how I do BUT setting clear boundaries with the folks around you makes a lot of sense. Loving, clear, and pungent boundaries.

8) Keep track of your pack: Surround yourself with those you love and trust, and you will find you are able to cover a lot more ground. Take a lone wolf stance, and howl as you may, you find yourself complaining to crickets.

9) Trust your sense: Fear, anger, trouble, worry – these things all have an emotional scent. You can sniff them all out too. The trick is to be honest with what you pick up on, and make smart choices for yourself and your pups.

10) Don’t eat shit: This is a little do as I say, not as I do advice BUT female dogs  in particular have a tendency to clean up their dens by chowing down on the mess their pups and even others they don’t know leave behind. It’s not a great habit, but it is often an innate tendency. So check yourself before you wreck yourself (and your breath, too!).

I’d keep going, but it’s taken me ten minutes to write these ten tips, and I’m tired. Until we meet again, just keep in mind that It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog (Twain), happiness is a warm puppy (Schultz), and if I’m fat, you’re not exercising enough (me, not to dog shame you, but seriously)!

XO The Real Bitch’in Suburbia

B in the Moment

Om Shanti

Om Shanti

I’ve done enough searching from the top self-help shelf to the bottom of my yoga mat to know that the key to feeling freakin’ awesome is to drain your brain.

And then, the Secret is to take that space and in its place, plant one pure, positive thought and hold onto it for just 17 seconds. Stick on that note for 68 seconds, and the vibration manifests.

Excellent in theory, so freakin’ hard in reality.

Summer, however, naturally lends itself to putting it all to rest, as some of the usual mind-bending daily logistics (i.e., carpools, lunch-making) melt in the sweet summer sun.

Now that we’re in the last throes of all that, the urge to purge at least once before the gerbil wheel starts spinning 24/7 again is all the more urgent. For me, the warning signal pinged my inbox recently when I got my first “SignUp Genius” invitation of the year. Seeing its noxious orange and green banner made me run for the hills…. well, at least to rummage though my closet to find my yoga mat.

When I sat down in the minimalist studio, I figured I was out of the woods, at least for one blessed moment.

And then, the random thoughts started coming:

Who the hell would ask Blake Lively to “edit” a “lifestyle blog‘?

I’m getting on a plane soon… will the Ebola virus be hiding in the air vents?

Will there ever be peace in the Middle East?

Did I fill in that goddamn Sign Up Genius?

Why are my thoughts so random?

WHY DO I HAVE ANY THOUGHTS? They’re supposed to be drifting by like white fluffy clouds.  That’s what the teacher JUST said.

Meanwhile, my thoughts are like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man — gigantic, terrible, sticky messes that cling to any smooth and calm surface they can find.

So, then, I wonder, who ya gonna call? Maybe being in the moment is something only women borne with ironic silver spoons in their mouths (“cereal killer”) and effortlessly tousled fishbone braids can achieve.

Try as I may, listening to my breath just makes me tired, and rushing home from yoga class is exhausting.

Got places to go, people to see — always. A few days pass, and I’m shacked up for the first and last bittersweet vacation this summer. (No, not a staycation –although that’s helpful, too.) I’m a little anxious about cranking out my Bitch’in Suburbia blog post this week; we’re so busy “relaxing” that I’m not sure when I’m going to squeeze it in.

I ask my BBF what I should write about. My brain is too damn drained to think of one more clever thing.

“Being in the moment,” she says sweetly, and then she shares something she had kicking around her inbox (NOT a SignUp Genius, thank goodness!).

This one minute meditation from Martin Boroson called, “A Mint for Your Mind”:

Everything can get stale, even your mind. Especially if you don’t pay attention to it.
Fortunately, you can refresh your mind with just a moment of meditation. Simply close
your eyes and lose yourself in your breathing. When you open your eyes, you might
just have that tingly feeling … a mind that feels brand new.

Hmmm…. a mind mint. Sounds refreshing, and so I try it.

But then seconds in, someone starts yelling, and another voice chimes in, and I can’t help but yell back, and then, it’s all stale once again.

Fuck the moment, I think, as I head out to the kitchen to get dinner started.

The next day there is morning chaos, followed by frantic packing up for the beach, and the trek in the hot sun down the street to the shore.

I am trailing the kids, and suddenly a thought strikes that almost pushes me to my knees. The same four heads that are bobbing down the street, laughing loudly, pausing occasionally to playfully slug someone in the shoulder or fix a bath suit wedgie were, about five seconds ago, babies in strollers, then toddlers, and last time we were here, goofy 10 year-olds.

This is the kind of thought that strikes me with some frequency, and when those time flies realizations zoom through my mind,  I can’t help but wish there was some magic clock that could freeze it all right here, right now.

And then I realize, there is: just gotta stop thinking that time is a bitch, and instead, practice the things that will make her my bitch.

So I stop wishing things could slow down, and the rest of the afternoon, I listen to the sweet laughter of the children, suck in the salty, pungent, ocean air, feel the hot sun singe my left shoulder just a bit too much, and sink into the sand with gratitude.

So if you see me lingering as the sun sets over the ocean, just know that I’m in the moment,  watching the clouds drift by. After all, yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift — which is why we call it the present (Joan Rivers said that — funny, ha?)

Speaking of presents, here’s a freebie from Blake Lively’s new “lifestyle” site, Preserve.us. Intriguingly, it’s pretty much the same theme as this week’s blog, but (spoiler alert!) it includes a chick painting the words “amaze balls” in glitter and that moment made me laugh harder than anything else in recent history.  And… You’re welcome.

How to Talk About Periods, Period.

Uterus Piñata - find it on Etsy!

Uterus Piñata – find it on Etsy!

I think I finally figured out what I want to do when I grow up:

I want to be a menstrual activist.

I know what you’re thinking — not another menstrual activist — but I’m telling you, there’s definitely room for more. 

Take, for example, the feminine “hygiene” biz. First off, from a marketing perspective, that is a horrible word to use when it comes to periods, which are, by nature, a bloody mess. Secondly, let’s give a big shout out to the Huffington Post for their recent expose, “Even Companies That Sell Tampons Are Run By Men.” Would any card-carrying X-chromosomal being think that BLUE LIQUID was a suitable representation of menstrual blood? Would she EVER show a woman ecstatically bounding around in a white body suit as if that’s somehow freeing ANY time of the month, but especially when it’s THAT time?

(By the way, it’s not just the pads ‘n ‘pons manufacturer Kimberly-Clark, that boasts an predominately male board of directors and senior management staff; pretty much all major companies that market to women — aside from Avon, those beautiful little bell ringers! — have Y-chromosomal thugs pulling the shots at the top levels.)

Making the leap from female to menstrual activist actually isn’t all that difficult. When I look back, I realize that my training started almost four decades ago when my parents sent me to an all-girls camp. It’s nearly impossible to avoid becoming indoctrinated in the wily ways of womanhood when you spend two months each year surrounded by people who have the power to make you bleed with them in concert.

From my early days as a camper, where I clearly remember older girls giving my bunkmates and I graphic demos of how tampons work, to my turn as a counselor when I took great pleasure slapping girls who got their periods for the first time squarely across the face (a fun, allowable abuse as dictated by ancient practice), it was a magical, liberating time when you could actually yell from the bathroom, “I’m not going swimming today — I got my period!” (And then of course only the male counselors would ever buy that lame-ass excuse.)

And so, the embarrassment that normally came with the monthly visits from Aunt Flo were washed away by a sea of women who always had Motrin on hand for cramps, a hidden square of chocolate for the hardest days, and no issue with emptying the overflowing tampon box at the end of the most synchronistic weeks.

Now that I’m the mother of a young teen, the roots of my activism are finally coming to full-flower. Just minutes before leaving for her own sleep away camp, my daughter was in a full-on panic, worrying about what she’d do if she had to deal with her period when she was signed up for (sniff, sigh, wail) WATERFRONT all week long.

At first I was loving and kind, reassuring her that there would be some nice counselor that would take her under her wing. Then I gently reminded her that if it came to that, there surely would be other girls in the same boat as her. Finally, I tucked into her backpack a little stash of supplies, disguised as any other toiletries in a dark black bag.

None of this calmed the savage beast. She looked at me with angry tears in her eyes and said, “WHY DOES THIS HAVE TO HAPPEN? It is SO unfair! Boys have it so much easier!”

At this point, maybe I should’ve logged into YouTube and showed her any one of the new crop of menstrual activists talking about how empowering it is to embrace your creative force. Perhaps I could’ve sympathized and coddled her with old-timey, shameful ways of describing menstruation, like “The Curse.” 

Or I suppose I could have shared with her the creeping sadness I’m feeling nowadays as my own periods become irregular, and the potent monthly promise of fertility begins to fade.

But her anguish, combined with the shame and embarrassment I clearly heard in her voice, instead set something off in me, from a deep, primal, maternal place.

A nobody puts baby in a corner well of anger made particularly turbulent by the fact that baby was doing her own personal cornering.

“YOU WILL PUT IN A TAMPON,” I lectured. “And you will handle yourself. This is what women do all the time: when we feel the lowest, and the crappiest, we just freakin’ deal. Because we are lucky to have this thing happen to us every month. It means our bodies are working as they are intended to, which is healthy, good, and most importantly, NORMAL.”

And then I took out a mirror, grabbed a handful of tampons, and showed her how it all works.

As I watched her face light up with curiosity and understanding, I knew that I had hit on the magic bullet of how to talk to girls about their periods. 

Straight-up, clear, and all about the incredible workings of the female body. No muss, no fuss.

And most important of all, no shame.

In five minutes, I went from being a normal mom, to being an activist. And it felt damn good.

Still, if you see me yelling at a gaggle of young teen girls, “Just wait until childbirth!”, remind me that being an activist isn’t necessarily about wielding scare tactics. Then again, vagina dialogs are always best when served up with a little humor.

Now, if you’re still wondering how to get this convo started with your own daughter, take a page from the funny, activist/capitalist folks at Hello Flo, the folks that first brought you “Camp Gyno” and now present, “First Moon Party” — and btw, all activists should have a uterus piñata and they’re not so hard to find… (https://www.etsy.com/listing/55726889/super-period-fun-time-uterus-pinata)

Staycation, All I Ever Wanted…

View from the staycationer's couch

View from the staycationer’s couch

You know how when a song gets stuck in your head, and you realize it’s there because it’s somehow expressing some deep, hidden emotions?

What about when every time you turn on the radio, the same tune is magically, and perhaps a bit ominously, playing?

In the past two days, I’ve heard “Vacation,” by the Go-Gos no less than 10 times. By the time it came blaring over the system in my dermatologist’s office, I was ready to fall on the ground and scream, “FINE! You’ve got the damn beat, now leave me alone!”

Summertime is clearly all about vacation time. Our internal clock is set to “School’s Out for Summer,” and doesn’t recalibrate until, “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” or maybe even, “Another Brick in the Wall.”

But it’s a cruel, cruel summer… now that youth is gone. (That’s the lyric, right?) The gerbil wheel of duty, obligation, and responsibility never stops spinning, and little things like doing laundry, cooking meals, getting dressed for work, and even waking up (before you go-go — sorry, couldn’t resist!) is hard as hell.

And you can fetishize vacation all you want, but now that I’m 15 years into this parenting gig, I’m way more real about what vacations are all about. I mean, did we learn nothing about the predictable stress and angst involved with family road trips from movies like Vacation and European Vacation, and TV shows like The Brady Bunch’s Season Four two-part classic, “Hawaii-bound”/”Pass the Tabu”? From Wally World to tarantula bites and Tiki curses, to the reality that vacation is kinda like being at home, except that it’s even more infuriating and complicated as you have to get used to someone else’s kitchen/bedroom/laundry room, vacation isn’t always all that.

And then there’s this: everyone always needs a vacation from the family vacation.

Lucky for all of us, since 2009, even Merriam-Webster recognizes that there is a better word and way: staycation. The key thing for your to know is that you can have your staycation moment wherever you want, whenever you want, for how ever long you can muster taking a break from the grind.

Here are a few ways to take a break and go to Carolina in your mind:

1) Want to be waited on, hand and foot? There’s an app for that: If you are jonesin’ for room service, keep in mind that Grubhub delivers, if not on a tray, and the damn Amazon Fresh trucks are ubiquitous on my street corner. Sick and tired of doing laundry? Download Washio. Wanna go out for a leisurely night of dinner and drinks, but don’t want to wrassle with driving home? Grab an Uber. And just when you thought housekeeping was only just a dream, download the Merry Maids app and stick a “Maid, Clean my Room(s)” tag on your virtual door.

2) Light a candle: My summer obsession is Jonathan Adler’s “Jet Set” Collection. From New Havana (“tobacco, smoke, leather, oak wood, amber, and hints of patchouli and moss”) to Big Sur (“crisp bergamot, rich vetiver, warm cedar wood, and nutmeg”) and Capri (“crisp citrus, herbs, notes of woods, moss, and musk”), you can sit on your ass and enjoy the gorgeous scents of summertime travel.

3) Take in the sights: For weeks now, my Facebook feed has been full of friends enjoying glorious sunsets, ocean breezes, street food in far flung places, cool dips in the pool, historic sightseeing, and sumptuous seafood meals — all a sensual assault that could make lesser staycationers jealous. Me, I look at the pics, close my eyes, and transport myself into those worlds through the Zen of it all. And my credit card bill is no less worse for the wear — take that, vacationers!

4) When in doubt, rub it out: I don’t know about you, but in my town there are cheap-o “foot” massages on every corner, excellent mani/pedi peeps with exceptionally magic hands, and gift cards to spas given to me for birthdays or other what do I get mom days that just tend to gather dust because who has time for a day devoted to being massaged like veal? The answer is, my staycationing friend, YOU DO. Go, get rubbed, and if anyone offers you a happy ending… take it.

5) Do Not Disturb: Tell the kids, draw the blackout curtains, lock your bitch (or cat or partner) out and sleep in with abandon. All it takes is giving yourself permission, and forcing everyone else to comply.

6) Have a piña colada for breakfast. And if anyone asks what’s in your travel mug, you can legitimately say, “iced coconut water”… and maybe even start a new health-nut trend. (On a side note, I so don’t get coconut water. To me, it tastes like watered down suntan oil. So if you want the taste of vacation without all the calories, I suppose that will do the trick, too.)

7) Dine (or drink) out: Is there a Mexican joint you’ve been meaning to try? A new sushi place on the corner? Where’s the nearest bar with a pretty outdoor patio strung with little lights and fragrant with summer flowering plants? Stop postponing joy and pony up for a nice dinner. And make it on a Tuesday so it feels really decadent.

8) Escape from it all in movies and books: From Summer Lovin’ (Grease) to Dirty Dancing and Meatballs there’s a place where you can have the (summer)time of your life without leaving your couch. And if reading’s more your bailiwick, search on GoodReads or do a Google scan for the best books of summer. Some of my faves this year (not only from my summer reading) include Where’d You Go Bernadette (Maria Semple), The Interestings (Meg Wolitzer), The Goldfinch (Donna Tartt), Love Life (Rob Lowe, my ex-boyfriend from 1982, where he was featured prominently in my high school locker — turns out he’s a talented raconteur!) and The Husband’s Secret (Liane Moriarty).

9) Take a class: Speaking of Dirty Dancing, isn’t it time you learned how to mambo? Took that Spanish Cooking class over at the Mall in your favorite kitchenware store (i.e., Williams-Sonoma, Sur La Table)?

10) Go Outside: I know it sounds basic, but sometimes we forget. This was a REAL exchange I had with my husband the other day when we took a walk together and the thick, warm air smelled like jasmine, a faint ocean breeze, and hamburgers on the barbecue:

ME: WOW. It smells like summer.

HUSBAND: That’s because it IS summer.

So if you’re pulling out of town for your summer vacation and catch a glimpse of me stopping to smell the roses with a coconut-scented travel mug in hand, don’t feel bad. Because now that you’re away, I honestly don’t wish you’d stayed.. in my book, staycations are meant to be spent alone. 

Safe travels (even if it’s to your own couch!)


Copyright © 2012 - Trudi Roth. All Rights Reserved.