bitchin_suburbia_how_not_to_be_invisible
Bitch’in Life

How Not to Be Invisible

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Ever feel like a ghost before your time?

You come home from grocery shopping with three bags on either arm, fumble for your keys, loudly shove them in the lock, stagger through the front door to the kitchen… only to realize that every member of your family is sitting in the family room, in technology-induced trances, and not a single soul even glances your way as you slam the bags on the counter.

Or maybe it’s a girls night out — you head to the local watering hole, saddle up to the bar… and watch, for 20 minutes or more, as the bartender serves everyone else (from cute 20-something girls to bros and even men of a certain age that look like good tippers) BUT you.

Perhaps you catch the eye of someone you know from PTA or somewhere else where being visible gives your kid a boost (so you hope/pray/guess) — and then that person plays the “You see me, but I don’t see you game” and looks right through you.

While you might feel invisible, the reason these things happen is easy to see:

You want something from them.

Whether it’s assistance, acknowledgement or just plain old human connection, in today’s world it’s far too simple to make excuses, glom on to distractions and avoid interactions.

Look, I get it — as a chronic multi-tasker, I have plenty of random things that can easily occupy all of my time and attention. Left to my own devices — and by devices, I primarily mean my senses-numbing smartphone and the vast abyss that is Words with Friends — and I can go hours if not days without making eye contact with another human.

And what a lonely, meaningless pit that whole shebang can be.

It’s the spring from which a short play I wrote called Home is Where the Park Is, uhm, sprung.

My alter ego, a turnt (off) ‘n burnt (out) mom, Jessica, hits a wall when her car breaks down outside a park. Her lunatic rantings summon a sage hobo (his word, not hers =) to her rescue.

How he saves her is simple: he listens to her.

Conversation, debate, sympathy, understanding and empathy ensue. A satisfying connection is made. And preconceived notions of what another person is all about are blown apart because in the end, we are all just one breakdown away… amiright?

But this of course is fiction, so I decided to take my theories on the road… all the way to Venice Beach where I decided that I’d put myself out in the real world to see what it would take to genuinely connect with strangers by asking and giving all at the same time.

And truthfully, this exercise was not for naught — I’m in the throes of helping raise money through Kickstarter to fund the Home is Where the Park Is short film, which is based on a short play I wrote, and I definitely want the campaign to be successful. So before I set out, I re-watched Amanda Palmer’s kick ass TED Talk, “The Art of Asking.”

If you don’t know Amanda Palmer, she’s a freakin’ amazing musician, artist, writer, visionary, and all -around kick ass broad. (That’s my opinion — she can be pretty controversial out there in the wild world of the Internets, too.) Amanda is also legendary for perhaps the most successful music Kickstarter of all time: she had $100,000 as a goal, but ended up raising more than 10x that — $1.2 million.

Amanda’s early career included her busking (being a street performer) in Cambridge’s Harvard Square as “The 8 Foot Bride,” where she acted as a living statue that handed flowers to strangers in meaningful, connect, albeit silent ways.

While I’d be at that sort of thing because I’m not theatrical like Amanda, I decided that I should work with my strength, which is writing — I figured offering up a custom-crafted, perfectly complimentary sentence should do the trick. Doing it in a pink wig, purple sunglasses, a t-shirt that read, “Careful or you’ll end up in my next novel,” and a pair of universe-splattered leggings was my nod to the joie de vivre of street performance. For good measure, I brought along my rescue Chihuahua, Chazz Michael Michaels, who himself had been a man of the streets for four years before he was picked up by the pound. He has an unnerving, cold, dead-eyed stare, but he’s so small it registers as adorable.

In addition to the complimentary sentence, I’d also have available my mom’s amazing brisket recipe and a slew of Grateful Dead teddy bears, just in case potential donors didn’t have time to wait for me to write something special for them. All would be offered for free, without any expectation of raising funds, although I would let it be known that would be greatly appreciated, too.

I figured I’d make about $50 or $100, and be much richer for the experience as well.

Some, but definitely not all, of that prediction came true.

First off, busking is hard work. In an area full of street performers, it took me a while to find a spot in Venice Beach that was both “legal” and also where I would not be harassed by my fellow buskers.

That sounds like an exaggeration, but when I set up my little table and chair in the first designated area I found, a man came over and told me some “vicious acrobats” wouldn’t take to too kindly to me setting up shop in their normal spot and would likely kick my ass.

Moving right along then, I finally found a space next to a relatively peaceful bunch of acid trippers, one of who had a sign up asking for money for his pregnant girlfriend.

At first I felt sorry for him, but after a few minutes of him telling me that I should drop the offer of the brisket recipe and stop promising people that I’d write them a “perfectly complimentary sentence” because “nobody knows what the fuck that is,” and instead to flip over to telling men they could get lucky if they’d get their lady a free teddy bear, I started feeling more sorry for myself.

Another woman, Rain, showed me how to find “beads” (sparkling pieces of broken glass), and for her payment, was very pleased with a fistful of teddy bears and a complimentary sentence about her vivid blue eyes and ability to find diamonds in dirt. She smiled as she read her sentence, and then declared that in her opinion, I’d do much better if I’d push up my boobs, and to prove her point, she juggled her own for a few seconds and then whispered a poignant, parting message in my ear: “Padded bras are how I do it.”

While connecting with members of my busking tribe was not a problem, getting anyone else to stop for even a split second proved impossible. Finally, after about a half-hour, a nice lady with a big smile on her face came right over to me.

I immediately launched into my spiel, but before I could finish explaining about the brisket recipe, she reached into a little wagon she was pulling, grabbed a sandwich and handed it to me.

“Oh no — I don’t need that,” I said. “I’m actually raising funds and awareness for a short film I co-wrote called ‘Home is Where the Park Is.'”

“I’ll just leave it for later. We also have free dog food if you need,” she said, once again not remotely acknowledging what I’d just said.

“OK, but I’m a filmmaker,” I said, more loudly now. The lady just smiled and repeated, “Really, we have plenty of free dog food.”

Either “I’m a filmmaker” is LA code for “I’m poverty stricken and homeless” or the charitable lady just wasn’t listening. And suddenly, for the first time all morning, I felt invisible once again.

A couple hours later, after screaming at people about brisket and bears and Tinder profiles (yes, on the advice of my new friend, the dude with the pregnant girlfriend, I shifted “write you a perfectly complimentary sentence” to “write you a Tinder profile guaranteed to get you laid”), I was exhausted. And feeling virtually nonexistent.

And so, I took a break. I removed my sunglasses, rubbed my eyes, and just looked up quietly. At that exact moment, I accidentally caught the gaze of a woman who was walking by.

“Could I interest you in a perfectly complimentary sentence, an amazing brisket recipe, and/or a free teddy bear?” I asked.

We struck up a conversation, and I explained that my busking was in part about doing some live-action work to raise money and awareness for the Home is Where the Park Is Kickstarter. We finished our chat with me writing all about her gorgeous, glittery sandals and she tossed a buck in my box.

That dollar was all I earned that day — well, that and a deeper understanding of how to stay visible even when you are doing uncomfortable things like asking other people to support you and/or your passion projects.

So if you see me quoting Amanda Palmer, you’ll know that I’ve experienced firsthand the transformative properties of making myself visible. Because as Amanda says:

“There’s a difference between wanting to be looked at and wanting to be seen.

When you are looked at, your eyes can be closed. You suck energy, you steal the spotlight.

When you are seen, your eyes must be open, and you are seeing and recognizing your witness. You accept energy and you generate energy. You create light.

One is exhibitionism, the other is connection.

Not everybody wants to be looked at.

Everybody wants to be seen.”

So here’s to being seen. AND if you’d be so kind as to back the Home is Where the Park Is Kickstarter, then I will craft you a perfectly complimentary sentence OR a Tinder profile guaranteed to get you laid  — just email me and let me know you’re a Home is Where the Park Is backer. (Amazing brisket recipe is below — it’s FREE and all yours regardless of if you back the Kickstarter or not =)

Here’s the link to the Home is Where the Park Is Kickstarter – https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/781458664/home-is-where-the-park-is

We’ve got just one week to hit our goal of $9,125.00 US —  we’ve got approximately $3,000 to go — and with your help, we can do it!

And here is your amazing brisket recipe — enjoy!

HOME IS WHERE THE PARK IS KICKSTARTER PRESENTS:
Amazing Brisket*

5 lbs. of brisket
1 cup ketchup
1 cup ginger ale
1 envelope Lipton’s Onion Soup mix
2-3 cut up onions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
In a medium bowl, mix the ketchup, ginger ale and Lipton’s Onion Soup mix.
Put onions on the bottom of a large roasting pan, then put the brisket on top of the onions.
Pour the mixture over the meat, and cover the pan tightly with tin foil.
Bake, covered, for 3 ½ – 4 hours, until tender.
Note: Brisket is best made ahead of time. Separate the meat from the gravy, and put both in the fridge, preferably overnight. Slice the meat against the grain, skim the fat from the gravy, and put them back together to reheat. ENJOY!*

* Full disclosure: One of the Venice Beach trippers told me his brisket recipe is way more amazing than mine. So this might be the second most amazing brisket recipe there is.

prince tribute
My Bitches, Pop Culture

So This is What It Sounds Like When Doves Cry: Remembering Prince

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Oh my bitches, we’ve gotta broken heart again — don’t we?

First Bowie, now Prince. I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that it’s been a devastating few months for humankind.

These artists changed the landscape, the style, the conversation, the sentiment and the funk.

Permanently, and hallefuckingluyah for that.

I could spout a ton of information about Prince Rogers Nelson, aka Prince, aka The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, but of course we can get detailed bios and intimate details of the storied life of the legendary performer elsewhere.

Here on Bitch’in Suburbia, as we gather together to get through this thing called life, I’m going to share a few memories of and thoughts about Prince in hopes that you’ll do the same in the comments.

Those of us GenXers that were in high school or college got turnt on by Price through Purple Rain — the movie and the soundtrack.

For me, the film came out the summer between my senior year of high school and freshman year of college. Of life’s many transitions, that one was a real doozy. Knowing I wasn’t a child anymore, but not necessarily ready to stand on my own two feet, I could TOTALLY relate to Prince’s character, “The Kid,” who was also a crazy jumble of angst and drama as he attempted to break free of his familial bonds, while also trying to be a star and score a hot bae to boot.

OK, maybe our story specifics weren’t the same, and maybe I did overdo it trying to look like Apollonia (lemme just say the “freshman 15” and corsets weren’t the exact best combo platter) BUT Purple Rain was very literally on constantly throughout my freshman year.

The first picture I took with my BBFs from college I made photo copies of and scrawled on it, “The Beautiful Ones.”

Our first road trip together was to Detroit (OK, not Minneapolis but close enough) to see Prince play a tiny theater downtown. We rented a Caddy (I’m not kidding), pulled on our lace gloves, and danced our asses off. The smell of sweaty Aquanet will forever remind me of Prince.

That and the moment I lost whatever innocence I had left watching him embody everything amazing about human sexuality when he played “Darlin’ Nikki.”

As soon as we got home, it was a headfirst dive into Prince’s early works, like Controversy and Dirty Mind. 

Made you (me) wanna be his lover — I mean, c’mon, I can’t even… witness: “Head,” “Sister,” and “Do It All Night.”

SO DAMN GOOD.

But Prince wasn’t just about sex; he was also deeply spiritual, quite an activist, and also fully ahead of his time. In fact, the song, “Controversy” was my fave then and still is — check out how the lyrics, written in 1981, are completely relevant today:

I just can’t believe all the things people say
Controversy
Am I black or white, am I straight or gay?
Controversy
Do I believe in god, do I believe in me?
Controversy
Controversy
Controversy
I can’t understand human curiosity
Controversy
Was it good for you, was I what you wanted me to be?
Controversy
Do you get high, does your daddy cry?
Controversy
Controversy
Controversy

Do I believe in god, do I believe in me?
Some people want to die so they can be free
I said life is just a game, we’re all just the same, do you want to play?
Yeah, oh yeah
Controversy
Controversy
Controversy
Controversy
Controversy
Controversy….

Listen
People call me rude, I wish we all were nude
I wish there was no black and white, I wish there were no rules… (Repeat, baby, repeat!)

Don’t you wish that too? AND FOR GD’s sake, DON’T YOU WANT TO PLAY?

Not to be a starfucker, but I once met Wendy Melvoin (as in, “Wendy? | Yes Lisa | Is the water warm enough? | Yes Lisa | Shall we begin? | Yes Lisa) and almost had a nervous breakdown from beingthisclose to The Revolution (now just Wendy & Lisa).

Sitting in the softball stands watching the Lady Bombers play ball, I became friends with the legendary music manager/producer/music industry honcho, Bob Cavallo, who managed Prince through the mid-80s. I won’t say I bullied him for details about that heyday, but I feel like the word “badger” was about right. Bob confirmed to me all the genius, and perhaps a touch of madness, that fueled the artist when he was actually known as Prince.

As a grown ass woman, whenever I need a fix of happiness I grab some Prince. The last time I saw him play, five years ago at LA’s Forum, he was just as nimble and raunchy and fabulous as ever before.

And just last December, I donned a raspberry beret (or something like that) and witnessed the brilliance that is Princess, Maya Rudolph and Gretchen Lieberum’s Prince tribute band.

Less than a week ago, I sweated my balls off spinning with $hirley @ Blazing Saddles to the entire Purple Rain soundtrack.

In full Apollonia make-up, and my 1985 Purple Rain tour t-shirt.

Singing at the top of my goddamn lungs.

These are all just random thoughts that keep flowing through my brain as I try to process the grief in losing yet another beloved idol.

There is actually a scientific reason that we’re so nostalgic for the tunes of our youth, by the way. Music in general stimulates our cerebrum (or did we learn NOTHING from “Baby Mozart”), so it follows that when our brain is doing the most dynamic growth of our lives, between the ages of 12 and 22, certain jams get stuck in our neural grooves. (Or grooviness, depending on your artists of choice.) (For more on this note, check out this excellent 2014 piece on Neural Nostalgia in Slate.)

What cements the music there are the emotions and the hormones that make indelible connections to those memories.

And for that I’d like to thank Prince for paving the way to my holy alliance with getting down and getting super fucking funky.

Prince didn’t need to die so he could be free.

But he did always say he would die 4 u.

And me.

So if you see me mounting a purple motorcycle, my ruffles and gigantic teased hair flying in the wind, just know that I’m working on being not so damn human… I’d like to be a dove — all conscious, all love. I mean, wouldn’t you?

All we need to do is to believe.

So believe this my bitches — we are all much better off for having grooved in the time of Prince’s Purple Reign.

May he rest in diamonds, pearls, perhaps a little red corvette, maybe a hotel lobby… and yes, in peace.

what you gain from losing it
Bitch’in Life

What You Gain from Losing It

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Ever shopped at Trader Joe’s on a Sunday morning?

I’m sorry — did I say TRADER JOE’S?

I meant RAGER JOE’S, which is what I call it the second I pull into the parking lot and realize that the person who designed their goddamn tiny-ass parking lots probably also devises evil Halloween corn mazes in his or her spare time for shits ‘n giggles.

For the record, I HATE Halloween corn mazes. They’re right up there with puppets, clowns, carnies and Victorian dolls in terms of fear and loathing.

The saddest part about this particular Sunday morning excursion is that it came on the heels of a perfectly delightful group meditation session.

Astute readers of this here blog know that I’ve been working with some pent up aggression of late. Trying hard to stop being so damn scrappy, letting go of grudges and generally doing the work to get centered and be a happier, healthier human being.

I didn’t lose it immediately — in fact, the second I walked in the store and heard the soothing strains of Hall & Oates, I took a deep healing breath and let it out while sniffing a few melons, which always calms me down.

But then, predictably enough, the offenses began to mount. Ear-splitting howls of a shopping cart bound, tantrum-throwing child drowned out the dulcet tones of the TJ’s soundtrack. There was a pile-up between the produce and meat areas that kept me trapped in front of raw chicken for several minutes longer than I would’ve liked. A lady yammering away on her cell phone was parked right in front of the olive oils so I had to uncomfortably shift around her in order to grab my favorite extra virgin. (That sounds dirty but believe me, it wasn’t fun.) Finally, a dust-up in the wine section completed the half-hour horror show, confirming my theory:

Sunday shopping at Trader Joe’s is totally Dante’s 10th Circle of Hell.

I know, I know — first-world problems, right?

But still, I was truly bummed that the post-mediation calm was so quickly replaced with anger and frustration.

And then, a funny thing happened on the way out of the parking lot.

Unlike getting in, which can take an eternity, getting out was relatively quick. A half-dozen cars hauled ass out of the lot ahead of me, and as I turned the corner to the back exit, I saw a woman and her teen daughter standing quietly against the cement wall.

The ladies were dressed in their Sunday best — the mom wore a colorful skirt and a pretty pink sweater; the daughter had on skinny jeans, cute sandals and a magenta and black striped top.

They could’ve been anyone I knew, except I didn’t know them. And when I looked more carefully, I realized why.

In the woman’s hand was a cardboard sign that said, “We’re hungry and need food. God bless you.”

My first-world problems didn’t have shit on theirs.

I pulled over and filled a bag of groceries, which I handed to the mother. I also happened to have in my trunk a bright yellow Forever Tiny One bag stuffed to the gills with outgrown clothes that I’d intended to drop off at Good Will. The daughter took the bag with a shy smile.

Don’t think for a minute I’m writing this to pat myself on the back. Actually, I drove away feeling like a complete dick. All that ridiculous frustration about food shopping. I didn’t have to think twice about any of it — the money for the groceries, the time, the wheels to get me to and fro, the house that has a refrigerator and pantry to stick it all in — none of it.

By the time I got home, I was pretty worked up. It got worse as I looked around and noticed that the chores I’d asked my kids to do before I left (put away their laundry, clean up their rooms) still weren’t done. They were out to lunch — literally — so I sent them a relatively calm text saying as soon as they were done, they should come right home and do what I’d asked them to do.

Then my oldest sent a sarcastic text back (which is not totally out of character for our family text chains), and I lost it.

“I’m SO DAMN SICK of asking you guys multiple times to do what you should know is your responsibility. It’s not funny.”

The hasty sorry I got in response did nothing to stop my spinning.

“I just gave groceries and clothes to a girl and her mom and a bag of hand me downs, too. We have so much – gotta realize how HOW LUCKY YOU ARE TO HAVE A ROOM, NEVER MIND STUFF IN IT.”

Full words + all caps in a text – heart-blowing happy face emoji = SCREAMING MOMMY LOSING HER SHIT.

Minutes later, my contrite kids rushed through the door and went straight to their rooms to do what I’d asked. Still, I couldn’t help thinking that all my raging, not to mention elaborate playing of the mom-guilt card, didn’t really shift anything.

I thought about earlier in the day at my group meditation when the leader talked about how we all have stresses and grief in our lives. Someone who’s lost a loved one, even a pet, can feel as traumatized as someone who’s in an abusive relationship. Comparing our lives from afar to others’ in order to force empathy is not necessarily a fruitful act — especially when it’s not even something you’ve experienced firsthand.

Recognizing that we are not alone in our suffering is where things really begin.

Take away qualifiers around words (for example, first-world) and problems are problems.

I thought back to the women I gave the clothes and the groceries to. We didn’t utter a single word to one and other, but I got her. I have a daughter around the same age, and while feeding her is a big chunk of what I do every day, I know she’d much rather have a bag of cute new outfits to wear.

I could relate 100% on that level.

I know I would do whatever it takes to provide for my kids.

Again, relating 100% on that level, too.

So while I didn’t know the other mom’s particular story, as soon as I dropped my assumptions about what I didn’t know about her, and moved to a place of relating and understanding from a place I did know, all that anger and frustration faded away.

Also, once I stopped judging myself and gave myself a little love, some genuine happiness and yes, gratitude rolled in.

Because after all, being grateful isn’t about making yourself feel bad that you have more or a better situation than someone else; it’s all about finding the good in whatever comes your way, and focusing your attention and appreciation on that. And paying it forward is a sure way to bring some positive connection into your day to day.

This is also the point of the short play, which is now being turned into a short film, that I wrote called Home is Where the Park Is.

The tagline for the movie is, “We’re all just one breakdown away…”

It’s the human condition, y’all. Strip away the preconceived notions of one and other, and you’ll always be surprised at how much we have in common.

Speaking of Home is Where the Park Is, the Kickstarter campaign to fund the film is going on for the next three weeks. It’s all about what you gain when you lose things — like a vehicle that works, your cell phone, your dignity, your sanity (even temporarily) and how you find the more important stuff along the way.

Your support at any level is greatly appreciated! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/781458664/home-is-where-the-park-is

Speaking of breakdowns, I recently had an amazing opportunity on the React Channel’s “Lyric Breakdown” to analyze the words of Kendrick Lamar’s, “How Much a Dollar Cost” from his Grammy award-winning, critically acclaimed album To Pimp a Butterfly. President Obama called the song his favorite of the year — check out the lyrics and you’ll understand why:

So if you see pimpin’ for the Home Is Where the Park Is Kickstarter, just remember the cost to make a difference is as low as a little spare change, but what you get from supporting an arts project that is all about starting the conversation to make the shift from apathetic to empathetic is priceless.

Namaste my bitches!

 

how to use yes as your ultimate kickstarter
Bitch’in Life

6 Ways to Use YES as Your Ultimate Kickstarter

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It’s got just three little letters, but infinite potential when it comes to opening doors and inviting in opportunities for growth and change.

While it may not be easy to lead with, once you spit it out, you are on the path.

It works best on its own, no buts about it.

It is, by definition, a positive response that can only lead to great results. Even if the outcome is not what you wanted or expected, you are better for just taking that first step from resistance to acceptance.

Behold, the awesome power of YES.

via GIPHY

Here’s the thing about yes, though. NO is a much safer bet much of the time. (And definitely when it’s used as a 4-letter word. I’ll totally say YES to saying NO when someone else is forcing his/her will upon you in an uncomfortable or dangerous way.)

But in the day-to-day, no is usually about grabbing the easy way out. Cuts off the risk, saves you from spinning wheels, protects you from possible rejection.

Be honest — and feel free to say NO to this — is that REALLY how you want to live your life?

That’s the question I asked myself six years ago when I got a call from a friend of a BBF, Elizabeth “Buffy” Wright-Drier, about writing a short play. Buffy was then married to a guy that was directing a series of 10-minute plays called “Quickies” at a local Los Angeles theater, and she wanted to submit her concept for consideration.

Problem was that Buffy was an actress, not a writer.

And so she called to ask me if I would be willing to do the deed and pen the play.

This leads me to the first rule of using YES to get your mojo risen’ —

1. Listen to your Universe when opportunity knocks. 

I had a very robust double secret life as a writer at that point; in fact, the timing was prescient, as I had just finished a terrific online class about crafting compelling stories. Problem was, nothing I was noodling with had ever seen the light of day. I needed a reason to venture out of my comfort zone and into the unknown. I figured the worst thing that could happen is I would write something crappy that didn’t get chosen to be included in the show. No big whoop, and so YES it was.

Which led me to the next problem: while I love theater, and from my initial conversation with Buffy had a pretty good idea of where I could take the story, I had no idea where to start when it came to structuring a short play.

2. Fake it till you make it is a reasonable corollary to accepting a challenge.

As soon as I hung up the phone, I immediately Googled “How do I write a short play?” Not only were there a ton of blogs on the subject, I also swiftly found a free Word template that rivaled Final Draft in terms of easy formatting for a theatrical piece.

3. The first yes is only the beginning, so pace yourself as you find your footing.

Once you’re at the starting line and committed to the race, there’s no problem with taking baby steps out the gates. In the case of the play, I had the basics: the setting of the play was a park. (That was the one thing that all the short plays in that particular Quickies series had in common.)  The character that Buffy wanted to include was a homeless man who’d chosen to live a life in the streets (or so he’d professed) — this person was loosely based on someone she’d known of. I figured it would work best if I could write what I know, and so the character I dreamt up was a version of myself in a state of high anxiety and conflict; a stressed-out working mom whose car had broken down near a park even as she herself was on the verge of a personal breakdown. The idea that the homeless man was the one that had it all, and the middle-class mama was the one losing it all was very compelling to me. So once I made that connection, the pistons started firing and things started to move forward.

4. Yes is, by definition, an affirmation; I can then becomes your mantra.

I must’ve written a dozen drafts before I had anything remotely worth sharing with Buffy. We then honed it to a point where we were ready to submit the piece we now called Home is Where the Park Is — and wonder of wonders, we got the YES we had worked for! But it came with a caveat: the twisted ending (in which the lovable sage of the streets turns out to be a complete dick) was rejected. In order to keep the spot in the show, I was told I’d have to rework the ending so it had a more positive spin, but I should feel free to keep the sassy snap as well. Yes had gotten me this far, so a blind faith and a big, phat I CAN did the trick.

5. The true power of yes is that it amplifies, multiplies and expands exponentially.

Saying yes to working with people I didn’t know (first Buffy and then the whole Quickies team), taking on a project doing something I’d never done before, and interacting in a new setting (the theater — although do camp plays count?) yielded so many amazing things: new friendships, new collaborations and new opportunities. I’ll always be grateful to Ashley Taylor, the creative genius behind Quickies, Moosie Drier, the fabulous director who brought Home is Where the Park Is to life, and to Richard Horvitz, the amazing actor who portrayed the sage homeless man. Gianna Burke, who so gorgeously played the stressed out mom (and admittedly, my alter-ego) in Home is Where the Park Is brought a friend of hers to see the show — a UK-based screenwriter/author named Lynwood Shiva Sawyer… and he liked it so much that he asked me if I’d give him permission to turn the play into a short film.

By now you know what I said — YES!

6. Yes is always a game changer, and sometimes it’s a life changer. 

It took six years and incredible persistence, but Shiva has gotten several amazing people to say YES to Home is Where the Park Is — first, a terrific producer/director, Marianna Deanjoined the team. Then the film’s two stars, Gemma Paget and Justin Aves, were cast. In a review of the original short play, LA Splash reviewer Wayne Bethanis noted that it “…[wasn’t] Shakespearian farce (in the park)…” but now that I hear these proper British actors delivering their lines, I have to wonder about that.

Did I just compare my work to Shakespeare? Why, YES, I think I did…

Kidding!

But truthfully I am so blown away by the myriad opportunities and shift in my own life that happened when I dared to utter that powerful little word.

So if you hear yourself saying yes, just know that I support you wholeheartedly. The best things in this world are happy results of decisions made when no was not an option. To hell with the double negatives, let’s make a spit-pact to always say YES…

And speaking of saying yes, I’m hoping that you’ll start your positive journey right here, right now.

In the title of this post I’ve invoked another powerful word that has the ability to make great things happen: Kickstarter.

Marianna has just launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise a very modest amount of money (approx. $10,000 U.S.) to shoot the film.

Please check it out and give what you can — every little bit helps so much!

Home is Where the Park Is Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/781458664/home-is-where-the-park-is

Here’s a sneak peek of the Kickstarter trailer:

Thanks, and remember, always say YES to, uhm, YES!

the 4-letter word you must teach your kids
BIS Sez, Parenting

The 4-Letter Word You Must Teach Your Kids

11 comments

As y’all know, I’m not afraid of chucking a few 4-letter words out there in my blog.

But today I’m going some place different — it’s dark, it’s scary, and it’s not often the subject of an otherwise (relatively) lighthearted “mom” blog like Bitch’in Suburbia.

And that is exactly why I am going there:

Because I am a mother.

Because I am a woman.

Because I stand with Kesha, whose case against Dr. Luke will go well into 2017 if not beyond.
kesha on rape facebook

Because I am still outraged about UVA rape case, which thanks to horrendous reporting and a gross, potential “catfishing” scenario at its core, now makes it much harder for women to come forward AND be believed when they claim that they have been sexually assaulted or raped.

And while there is an endless amount of more becauses, I’ll go right to the one that makes it personal: Because I am a victim.

Which I was reminded of when I made a video recently for a contest aimed at igniting the conversation about feminism called #TheFWord, sponsored by SheKnows Media and the Ms. Foundation.

First, a quick overview of the video (which you can watch below): While I’ve always been a feminist, I know that if we’re ever going to level the playing field, we MUST ignite the passion in our daughters to fight for equality. And so I dropped some “F Bombs” — statistics that illustrate gender-based inequities in all aspects of our society — on my daughter’s softball team.

The visual of the girls hitting those balls with all their might makes the case, I feel, in a very powerful, moving way.

F Bombs included things like the fact that only 20% of our congress is female (which means 80% of the laws here in the good ol’ USA are made by men); more than 280 pieces of legislation have been passed at the state level since 2011 that limits or even effectively blocks a woman’s right to choose; women make 78 cents to every dollar a man makes, etc.

But the one F Bomb that incited me most was this: 1 in 6 women will be the victim of rape or sexual assault in her lifetime. (Source: RAINN | Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network).

In the context of the video, that means that at least 2 girls on my daughter’s team, statistically speaking, will be raped or assaulted. For college girls, that statistic is actually 1 in 4. This happens most when the woman is incapacitated in some way or another.

And actually, that’s my story. I was working as a camp counselor the summer before I was a senior in college, enjoying a night out at a local watering hole towards the end of an otherwise great season. During the course of the evening, a guy I had known for years struck up a flirty conversation with me, and I flirted back.

While I wasn’t obliterated, I certainly had had a few drinks. Eventually I excused myself to go to the bathroom. As I turned to shut the door, I realized the dude had followed me in. I gave him a playful shove and told him to get out. He shoved me back.

Not so playfully.

I stumbled backwards, and landed on the ground. A second later he was kneeling over me, fumbling with his belt buckle. At that point I yelled, “What the hell are you doing?” and kicked him where it counted, hard. He seemed as stunned as I was and quickly ran out of the bathroom. I locked the door behind him, my heart pounding.

As I left the bar, I told a friend what had happened. She must’ve told another friend, who told another… and so on… because the next morning I was called into the camp office.

I figured I was in trouble, so once again, my heartbeat kicked up into high gear.

Instead, I was met with kindness and compassion as the camp director gently asked me what had happened. After protesting that nothing really went down — that I maybe had a little too much to drink and that it was no biggie because I handled it — she quieted me down and said to me the words that every woman who has gone through something like that should hear. “It wasn’t okay, and it wasn’t your fault. We’re going to take care of this.”

After that, the enormity of the situation hit me, and a barrage of emotions overcame me. The shame and guilt was replaced by tears and anger. Still, knowing my bosses were on my side gave me great comfort and hope that justice would be served. The directors of my camp did talk to the directors of the boy’s camp where guy worked.

And while my people asked that they do the right thing and fire him, the directors of the boy’s camp decided otherwise. Because there were only a few days left at camp, and perhaps because in the end, no physical harm had befallen me, the dude was disciplined (no more nights out, poor baby!) but not let go. I was told he was very well liked by the campers, and if he left abruptly, it would be upsetting for the children.

I’m guessing the boy’s camp directors also didn’t want the word to get out that they had a potential rapist on their staff.

And this is exactly why rape — attempted, completed, etc. — is a 4-letter word. It’s just too loaded for so many people, particularly those in power, and so it’s suppressed, minimized, bastardized and often, worst of all, ignored.

(Footnote: I had a vigilante BBF [Best Bastard Forever] that took matters into his own hands and keyed my attacker’s car. So some kind of justice was served.)

And that was that — a story from decades ago. But then a funny thing happened on the way to creating the video I called “#TheFBombs.”

When I described what I was doing to some friends, I couldn’t help but pause when I mentioned the 1 in 6 and 1 in 4. I felt compelled to say I was part of those statistics.

And in every single instance — at least a half dozen times — the woman I was talking to said, “Oh yeah, me too.” And then she’d tell her story.

2 out of 2.

2 out of 2.

2 out of 2.

2 out of 2.

2 out of 2.

2 out of 2.

Which in my itty, bitty poll made it 100%. We’d all experienced some unwanted sexual something — from inappropriate touching all the way to rape.

I knew I had to write about this in my blog, but there was another precipitating event that made it that much more urgent. And no, it wasn’t just noticing how both of my teens — a girl (15) and a boy (16) — are coming into their own. I see their posts on Instagram — cute, sexy, strong, posing, posturing, etc. — and know they’re starting to experience their sexuality and experiment with things as teens are wont to do.

It took opening this week’s Lenny letter and reading the story of author Jessica Knoll’s gang rape at AGE 15(!) — THE SAME AGE AS MY DAUGHTER — which informed her novel Luckiest Girl Alive, to make me realize that NOW is the time to talk to my children about sexual assault and rape.

To teach them what that 4-letter word means to girls and guys alike.

To watch films like The Hunting Ground together and discuss.

And to make the story personal, because unfortunately pretty much everyone has their own story about times when NO didn’t seem to mean NO. This applies to all parties — from innocent bystanders to perpetrators and victims.

Thing is, NO always means NO. If not to someone else, then to yourself — and so if you have that knowledge, you might just say NO I don’t wanna be here and get the hell out of a bad situation before it turns horrendous.

Might.

There are no guarantees and no givens — thanks to shame, fear, peer pressure, guilt and a whole host of other complicating scenarios — and that’s why the statistics are so grim.

So if you see me dropping atomic F bombs (R bombs?) just know that I don’t think anyone is a statistic, and that everyone has a story. TELL is also a 4-letter word, as is STOP and NOOO. (That last one is just for effect but you get my drift).

Now — here’s my #TheFBombs video. It didn’t make it to the final 6 BUT there are some amazing videos that did and that deserve your time and attention. Voting goes through April 3rd, so go VOTE NOW!

#TheFBombs from Trudi Roth on Vimeo.

Blog image: David M.

bitch'in suburbia f words
Bitch’in Life, Humor, My Bitches

50 of My Favorite F Words

8 comments

I love the F word.

In fact, I love all words that start with F.

Well, mostly all of them. I am very honestly working on the word “fifty,” which has been a hard one to allow to roll off the tip of my tongue and embrace with my whole heart. But after today, I feel like I can drop that load and move on to more important things, like cracking the code for world peace or meditating on the meaning of life.

For now, though, an exercise in F words feels like a positive distraction and a fun little listicle that I’d love you to join in on (so comment below). For the record, here are my fifty favorite F words, in no real order:

50) Fascination: I find that fascination is an excellent distraction. Once you hook onto something interesting that captures your attention and piques your curiosity, it’s much more likely you’ll finish the task at hand. Or at least have a chance at grabbing a little passion for what you’re doing.

49) Father: While I’m not so happy with the frequency my dad kicks my butt in Words with Friends, I am happy to know that his genetics allow me to pay that butt kicking forward. Also, I will always be my dad’s little girl, and that is the ultimate safety net and blessing.

48) Fangirl: Back in the day, us fangirls were called nerds — a mantle I have always proudly worn. My fangirling started with the Chronicles of Narnia, the V.C. Andrews “Dollanger Series” (hullo, Flowers in the Attic!) and Star Wars, and now has extended to The Walking Dead (I’m just saying I shipped Richonne a year before it became canon — red, hot, sexy canon), Game of Thrones, Orphan Black, Breaking Bad, Orange is the New Black and Justin Bieber. I know, one of these things is not like the others, but a fangirl’s gotta love what a fangirl loves.

47) Fellowship: This is both a nod to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which I loved — especially The Fellowship of the Rings — but wasn’t totally obsessed with AND the idea of fellowship. I always say that common interests and values are the foundation of a solid relationship. It’s the real precious…

46) Freak: Both an excellent dance move AND the perfect way to describe an outlier, I know I’ll always be a freak. (The Bowie kind, y’all — clearly.)

45) Fuzzy: Always connected to warm, I like feeling fuzzy on my feet (socks, people, socks! Take your mind out of the gutter!) and in my head sometimes — it’s an excellent way to relax and unwind.

44) Flip: From Flip Wilson (now you know I’m a child of the 70s!) to flipping someone the bird (ditto!), I love to flip out. Don’t you?

43) Feelings: I love feeling my feelings, because that is the creative juice that fuels the highest of high, the lowest of lows and everything in between. Nothing like a good case of the feels to kick out the jams and reset your system.

42) Futz: This is a Yiddish word that basically means to waste time doing something. But futzing is a great way to take a break and for me, often leaves me with a spotless house or a solution to an otherwise mundane and annoying problem.

41) Fact: I love to spin, which can be a very disorienting practice. And I’ve learned, thanks to a BBF of mine with both life and learning experience, that when you stick to the facts, you pull out of emotional and other tailspins much faster.

40) Fame: We all deserve our 15 minutes — some more than others:

39) Fonzie: Is it fair that I made the Fonz follow Bowie? Of course — because when it comes to cool, the Fonz is right up there. Until he jumped the shark, of course.

38) Fat: Some people make this a dirty word, but for me, it’s a teaching moment when I explain to my daughter that she’s fat like me.

37) Fear: Such an awesome motivator, fear is! And it’s also often False Evidence Appearing Real. I like to make a practice of facing my fears, with a hall pass for dealing with puppets, clowns, carnies and Victorian dolls.

36) Fuchsia: Both a lovely smelling flower AND the most badass shade of pink. Divine.

35) Festival: Is there anything better than a music festival? The tunes, the scene, the mishmash of styles and people — listening to music in the open air is one of my absolutely favorite activities. I was a huge Lollapalooza fangirl back in the ’90s (or, as we called it back in Boston, Lawnfullaloozahs) and still enjoy Bottle Rocket, Outside Lands and the occasional Coachella — with this year’s headliner, Guns ‘n Roses, I’d say the adage that everything old is new again is terrifyingly real.

34) French Fries: I’m hungry just writing that! There quite literally might not be anything better than a bucket of thin, crisp shoestring fries. In my humble opinion, anyway.

33) Fancy: While I’d describe my regular look as sassy ‘n stained, I do enjoy getting fancy every once in a while.

32) Fever: I’m not talking about the fever you get when you’re sick-sick — I’m talking about this fever:

31) Fight: Ohhhh baby, I love a good fight. Not necessarily with fists or worse, but with an air-clearing words between friends and loved ones that may suck in the moment, but brings you closer in the aftermath. In my opinion, being able to fight and then forgive is one of the most intimate things you can do.

30) Film: There is NOTHING better than getting fully absorbed in a great movie. Also the idea that we can so easily, with our tiny little handheld devices from the future (aka smart phones) capture precious moments on film is one of the greatest gifts of our times. I really believe that =)

29) Field: I spend half my life sitting on the sidelines of some field or another, watching my kids play ball. The smell of sod reminds me that these are the good old daysdespite the ups and downs of youth sports.

28) Flow: I love a good, creative flow. Life is so often a series of fits and starts, but on these days when the groove takes you from dawn till dusk with ease and grace — well now, that’s the perfect day, isn’t it?

27) Frida: Frida Kahlo is my favorite artist. From her tortured yet passionate life, to her brilliant, original selfies, political activism and no nevermind monobrow, to me she is the symbol of glorious, feminist creative expression.

26) Flexible: You know how you remember certain random things? I was once standing in line behind a woman who proudly told her friend, “I’m no pretzel, but I can contort.” (This was in Boston so that last word was pronounced, CAN-TAHT.) To me, that’s the definition of flexibility. You don’t have to stretch all the way, but being a bit flexible allows you to fit into places and spaces that will work out to your benefit.

25) French Roast: I like my coffee only slightly lighter than motor oil. Give me a cup of Peets French Roast or give me death! (That’s what most mornings feel like, anyway.)

24) Frank: I’m not a big hot dog fan, so this is not that kind of frank. But I do appreciate when people are honest with me, especially in a constructive way, and I am happy to do the same. Frankness is a deal breaker for some folks that would rather live in another F word – facade – but those aren’t my kinda peeps. (Is that too frank for you?)

23) Facebook: While well I know the downside of social media — there is a problem with a picture perfect life and also often unintended consequences of Facebook — but the Zen of it can be poetic, particularly in times of tragedy. Reconnecting with long-lost friends is a beautiful thing, too.

22) Fun: My feeling is this; if it’s not fun, why bother? As a little kid this is pretty much the litmus test of all activities, so why would we ever let go of such a simple and true gauge?

21) Fashion: Despite my supermodel past, I really give zero fucks about fashion. This is the kind of fashion I like:


20) Fire: There are SO many fiery things I love – a campfire, A Song of Fire and Ice (Game of Thrones, people, Game of Thrones!), and that fire in the belly that is also known as passion. Burn baby burn is all I’m sayin’.

19) Friendly: While I am a self-proclaimed Bitch (‘in Suburbia), it doesn’t mean I’m not friendly as hell. Being friendly has a most excellent outcome — you make friends. Or at the very least people like you, and if we’ve learned nothing from Sally Field, it feels good to be liked.

18) Fantasy: Get your dirty minds out of the gutter — just kidding! I do enjoy a good fantasy, although if you refer back to #48 and #20, you’ll know that I’m as much about fangirl fantasies as I am about the grown-ass woman kind. (Which include someone else doing the laundry and making dinner. Sad I know but then again — so damn easy to make a reality!)

17) Fart: Both an endless source of humor and an important test of how close you are with another human (as in if you can fart in front of him/her, you are CLOSE), who doesn’t love a good fart? EXCEPT when modified by the word “old” — then it’s rotten.

16) Flesh: There are dirty F words, but I’d argue that “flesh” has the most down ‘n dirty ring. And flesh-to-flesh is the best yet!

15) Float: As a young adult, I was a swim counselor. But the truth was I’ve never been much about the actual swimming part. A nice leisurely float, however, is absolutely divine. I’m particularly inspired by Better Call Saul’s Jimmy McGill’s take on floating, which includes having a tropical fruity drink on one side of you and snacks on a mini-float and your cell phone in a plastic baggie on the other.

via GIPHY

14) Fresh: Old ‘n stale, or fresh and fantastic I ask you?! No contest. ALSO it’s nice to get fresh with someone every once in a while, too.

13) Flower: Speaking of fresh, the best damn way to perk up your day is to stock a vase with some fresh posies. Flower as a verb is good, too, as we do so much planting of ideas and plots, it’s very gratifying to see them flower.

12) Fair: Life is not goddamn fair — that’s something I learned at my momma’s knee. And that’s exactly why it’s so interesting, challenging and ever-evolving — our collective mission to get our fair share — now isn’t it?

11) Fix: I’m terrible at fixing actual things, but I do enjoy a fix. Chocolate, old man drinks (martinis, Manhattans), binges on my favorite TV shows (see #48) and of course, if you add an x, it’s the Fixx, the legendary 80s band that was totally right — one thing always leads to another.

10) Failure: Everyone screws up at least once or twice or a thousand times, and we’re told this is the way growth happens. The biggest successes have also endured the most crushing failures. Although I do wish there were an easier way, I’ve got a long ass list of rejections and other unsuccessful attempts at many things… that were either protection or stepping-stones, or both.

9) Fine Bros. Entertainment: From the annals of shameless self-promotion and #40, I’m plugging Fine Bros. Entertainment and its head dudes, Benny & Rafi Fine — YouTube pioneers, writers, directors, producers and all-around good guys. I’m a grateful and proud cast member of their Adults React show where I do stuff like this:

Now you know about the condom challenge and… you’re welcome.

8) Funny: If it aint’ funny, I ain’t interested. I mean, are you?

7) Feminism: I am a proud lady American who has been a feminist since the very beginning. I’d like to say that we’ve achieved wage equality and closed the gender gap, smashed the patriarchy, elected women to hold at least half the political seats in this country, eliminated the threat of sexual assault and rape, shattered the glass ceiling, passed the long-festering Equal Rights Amendment, and done everything necessary to level the playing field for girls and women…. but we DEFINITELY haven’t. And so Feminism is a badge of honor I wear and am passing down to my daughter.

6) Foo Fighters: Hands down one of my all-time favorite rock ‘n roll bands — if Dave Grohl isn’t the ultimate music fan boy, I don’t know who is. They might be taking a break now, but my love for the Foos is everlong, and that’s true and also a really bad pun. Hope you’ve seen this — all I’m saying is Nick Goddamn Lachey!

5) Forgiveness: I know it sounds clichéd but without forgiveness, there can’t be love. And without love, there’s no forgiveness. Seems like a solid formula to me!

4) Faith: Don’t worry that I’m going to get all religious on you here — in fact, it’s the opposite. While I am spiritual, my faith is as much about believing in others around you as it is about believing in a higher power. In fact, my favorite quote on faith is from a famous atheist — Greg Graffin of the punk band Bad Religion, who said, “In the family, in interpersonal relationships, even in friendship, faith is tremendously important. If you have a partner who you believe is a good person, then it is your duty to have faith in them until the end, despite the fact that they might have done some bad things. And you have to support and believe in your children.” Amen brutha is all I’m sayin’.

3) Friends: I’m all about making new friends but keeping the old — they’re both solid gold if you ask me. Now cue up some James Taylor, because I’m definitely gonna start weeping.

2) Family: Whether you’re born into one or you form your own, family (along with friends) is the best part of every day and what shapes the direction of your life. This is for better or for worse kind of stuff, but I hope you have a family like mine that’s all for the good.

1) Love: Is always the #1 four-letter word — and I know it doesn’t start with F, but I figured my mom would be much happier if my #1 word on my favorite F words lists wasn’t, well, the F word.

(Although FUCK is ground zero for me — a perfect word because it’s every part of speech — noun, verb, adjective, adverb, determiner, pronoun, preposition, conjunction and an interjection OF COURSE).

So if you see me rattling off F words, just know that when you reach a milestone like (GULP) fifty, you might just feel like there aren’t enough F bombs in the world to get you through. And while you’re probably right, just remember that being a fatalist is fucked, and there’s always more you can do to fly, be free… and fucking fabulous!

secrets of sisterhood
Bitch’in Life, My Bitches

7 Stunning, Sacred Secrets of Sisterhood

2 comments

There is a ’hood where we women all live.

When things are going well, it’s normally an easy destination; a comfortable place to plop down, pour a cup of tea or glass of wine or a couple of fingers of whiskey, and let it all hang out. The perfect place to pitch a tent and stay for a while. (Which is exactly why I — and maybe you, too — will always be a camper =)

Other times it’s a safe space; a haven for us to flee to when times are rough.

And there are also those times when we discover that not everyone is such a good neighbor in the sister ’hood. But I’m not so interested in heading down that dark alley — at least not in today’s post.

Last week I had an amazing experience of joining a brand, spankin’ new BBF (Best Bitch Forever) to celebrate her birthday with a weekend away. Not only did I NOT know her so well, but she also brought along another half dozen women whom I’d never met, either.

The differences in our ages spanned as much as a couple of decades; we hailed from divergent places, had diverse life situations, interests, values, spiritual beliefs and orientations.

And yet, as the weekend unfolded, I was astonished to see that the differences had nothing on the stunning places of genuine commonality.

Of sisterhood.

The willingness to be vulnerable, to share deep thoughts and considerations, to laugh at each other and ourselves — it was all pretty fantastic. And it reminded me of the sacred nature of the top 7 secrets of sisterhood:

1) Sisterhood is like yoga pants; for maximum comfort, you’ve gotta have a little give: So part of the criteria for the actual birthday party part of the weekend on Saturday evening was that we were to all to wear PJ’s or equally comfortable clothes. Inherent in the dress code was a metaphor for sisterhood — the ties that bind are not found in the constriction but instead in the give. As mentioned, we were a bunch of very different ladies, but we jumped in headfirst, giving one and other the benefit of the doubt… which left plenty of room for exploration and questioning that ultimately led to enlightenment and understanding. Watching my extremely hetero BBF, for example, ask the homosexual ladies in da house some burning questions was initially somewhat uncomfortable and comical, but eventually led to conversation that was loose and flowing. In all the right ways.

2) Where there are women, there will be cheese. And chocolate. And laughter. And tears: Amiright? At our gathering, much to my delight, there was a prodigious amount of excellent Brie and cheddar, bowls of dark chocolate sweetness, veggie platters to theoretically offset all the artery-clogging delights, and a lot of deep, delicious belly laughs. And then instead of sorbet, many of us cleared it all out with a sentimental teardrop or two… all the way to at least one full-on torrent, as is to be expected when the booze and the hormones kick in.

3) We use our words. One of the cooler parts of the experience was that one of the bunch — a psychologist — led a council, which is “a structured conversation” that encourages participants to speak reflectively, tell their own stories and listen intently to what others have to say. After a ritualistic lighting of candles, we passed a beanie-baby heart and took turns putting words to the sentiments we each held for the birthday girl. In lightening rounds, it was just a word or two, and there was never a moment that any one of us was at a loss for what to say. In fact, we scrambled over each other to be heard and to weigh in with the most profound, hilarious, personal, articulate ways to describe our emotions around our relationship with and perception of the woman we were celebrating. NOBODY had to tell us to use our words.

4) We crave connection, and so we poke and prod and work to make it, uhh, fit. I call this Jewish geography, although women especially don’t have to subscribe to a particular faith in order to play the game. It’s like six degrees of Kevin Bacon or a live action social media survey, where the friends both new AND old circled each other until we found points of connection, be it friends in common, love of the same movie or TV show, familiar touchpoints and so on. One of my BBFs made a beautiful point about the bittersweet nature of being an ex-pat. That she and the birthday girl came from different continents was beside the point; the fact that they had both landed in the same unexpected place — a suburb of Los Angeles — was the most poignant, meaningful connection. For me, just being able to crack jokes about sex toys and know that my new compadres knew exactly from whence I came (NO PUN INTENDED!) was pretty magical.

5) When in doubt, sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll ALWAYS breaks the ice. As mentioned, the sexual orientations and experiences of the group varied, but perhaps thanks to having a sex therapist in the bunch, very quickly we all realized that female sexual response is pretty much the same regardless of partner preferences. And not that anyone was doing any drug stronger than Pinot Grigio, but early on there was a pretty hilarious convo about “dols” — those pills sold over the counter in certain corners of the world and prescribed elsewhere to help you sleep always seem to end in “dol.” As in Valley of the Dolls. The party ended listening to music by two of the ladies in da house, which fed our collective creative spirits and gave us a chance to rock out together — always a good way to feel close.

6) We reveal our deepest wishes and dreams very easily. It started with council, where any shy feelings were offset by a more powerful urge to make meaningful connections (see above), but the party ended with a particularly inspiring ritual — releasing sky lanterns to carry our wishes for the birthday girl and ourselves up into the stratosphere. While billions of people worldwide know about this beautiful practice, I had never seen such a thing. You take a paper lantern, ignite a little candle-like block under it, and once it fills with hot air, it rises gracefully into the sky. I wasn’t the only one in the bunch to have a virgin Chinese lantern experience, but I will say that the feeling of solidarity in wish-making and sharing, already ignited by the earlier events of the evening, was given an enchanted blessing by those angelic, dreamy lanterns that dotted the night sky. <<Sigh>>

7) Love is always the answer, and we never, ever question that: That’s rule #1 of sisterhood. (Not to be confused with the first rule of Fight Club, btw.)

So if you see me looking for traveling pants or other divine ways to get my ya-yas out, just know that it’s just a sign that the search for sisterhood springs eternal. And the secret is that when we make those sacred connections, we understand that we are not alone in our suffering. And our joy. And all of those things where X (chromosomes) mark the spot.

adolescence
Bitch’in Life, Humor

10 Sure Signs You’re in Your Second Adolescence

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Adolescence, as we all know, is a transitional stage from childhood to adulthood that’s marked by disruption, disorientation and discovery.

And as I recall it from the first time around, it also was exhilarating and soul crushing all at once. I mean, c’mon — did we learn nothing from The Breakfast Club?

Lately I’ve been having a bunch of feelings that I know I’ve felt before, and until I started poking around the Internets, I didn’t realize that a “second adolescence” is not only normal, but to be expected from people of a certain age.

Apparently it pops up in your 30s, 40s, 50s and whenever you retire.

This makes me feel better because I’d hate to be going through something without the camaraderie of my peers. (AHA! Another sure sign of adolescent behavior!)

Speaking of peers, I will say that astute readers of this here blog have noticed a trend of late, a certain inner wrassling that is spilling out into the world like a live-action diary cuz you know — the struggle is real. Literally, as in I’m getting in street brawls, screaming about reemergencies, refusing to age gracefully (unlike Cindy Crawford), scrawling To Don’t lists a mile long, and cursing out people for being mean to my fellow GenXers and me.

Put this all in context as the hormonal jungle swallows our brains whole, and the idea of a second adolescence being a real thing that happens to otherwise grown ass people makes a whole lotta sense.

How do you know, then, if you’re in the throes of re-teening? I submit there are 10 sure signs that you’re in your second adolescence:

1) You’re a rebel — against your causes: The first time around, it was our moms and dads that laid down the law with curfews, house rules, chores, mandatory activities, and so on. As grown-ups, our dance cards have been filled for years, trying to do the right thing, volunteer, be good role models, and even lay down the same gauntlets as our folks before us. All of a sudden, though, there is something divine about skipping out on that mandatory meeting, deciding to go out for a drink on a Monday night and passing up on jotting down our names on that eternal sign-up sheet. These are some of the more innocuous rebellions — maybe you’re thinking bigger. Me, I’m trolling through tattoo design options and thinking about getting some fresh piercings. And I did just buy my first faux leather biker jacket and spend my days looking for a hog to jump on and roar out of town. Currently this is just a fun fantasy… but you never know.

2) Your skin looks like hell: You have zits AND mottled skin. Dry patches and oily swatches. You’re investing in wrinkle cream and also slathering on the Clearasil. If you’re someone who gets cold sores, they are reaching a feverish pitch this winter. Your cosmetic bag is overflowing as you try to figure out just the right combo, which is less time consuming than say, plucking chin hairs. Which you also do nowadays, too.

3) You’re taking crazy risks: Is there any coincidence that you and everyone you know are trying new and perhaps nutty things? Running your first marathon, taking up skydiving, getting in fights (like I said, that’s me =), climbing mountains, and generally pushing your physical limits like crazy. All to get a little wind in your hair, some sass in your ass. Feels good though, don’t it?

4) You’re getting yourself a fake ID: I am so damn sick of getting carded, only to see the look in the bouncer’s eye like he’s going to bust out laughing and call me mom (or worse, grandma) that I’ve decided it’s time to get myself a fake ID. Unlike the old days, when it was all about trying to pull of a plausible older look, nowadays it’s all about lowering those digits. Thanks to all that new makeup I’m buying to conceal the aforementioned skin problems, I think I can paint my way into early 40s, possibly a haggard late 30s if I really cake it on. Oh, and pass the push-up bra, too.

5) You have at least one involuntary eye roll each day: Once upon a time, I was so patient. But now maybe because I’m so conscious of how precious time is, I don’t want to waste it repeating myself asking the people in my life to do the things that they should actually be doing without being asked. Know what I’m saying? (This is coming from that same place that makes bumper stickers and magnets that say, “I’m turning into my mother.”)

6) You’re self-conscious about your body: Nora Ephron famously felt bad about her neck, but truthfully we all have some part of our body that we feel crappy about. My teen gripes about her thighs, and even as I buck up her confidence and tell her to have a positive body image, I have to admit I’m thinking about my “bye-bye arms.” (A personal trainer once told me that the flab under my arms waves ‘bye-bye’ all by itself — I was in my late 20s then and so I did, for the record, allow them to wave bye-bye to him! But I’ve never forgotten that unfortunate expression.) And my perma-pooch belly. And various sagging bits. I’m even thinking about getting braces because I hate how crooked my teeth suddenly are (again).  Oh, and yes I am bummed about my neck, too.

7) You’re searching for your identity: Once upon a time, you — I — knew exactly who we were. Well, at least we had the time and space to get clear on our likes and dislikes, and it was all about getting in touch with the stuff that makes us tick. But then came the melding with a spouse or partner, kids, animals, work and others that sucked us in (and occasionally chewed us up and spit us out). As the people around us age and start doing their own separating (which means we are doing our job right when we’re talking about kids, maybe less so about partners ‘n pets), there suddenly is room to go back to wondering who you are and what you want. And that begs the question: what do you want to do OR, more importantly perhaps, who do you want to be when you grow up? (For reals this time!)

8) You’re sex-obsessed: OK, once you stop laughing, riddle me this: who are the people that couldn’t put down Fifty Shades of Grey? It wasn’t the young’uns — it was older people (yup, even 55+!) and not just female… male, too. Going back to the idea that there is more time and space available to think about your own needs and desires, it’s only natural that we all go a little bit crazy. This, my bitches, is a good thing.

9) You’re acting out… of character: When I was a teenager, my mom used to ride me about my stomp. I’d tromp around my house in a snit, admittedly for no better reason than it feels goddamn good to smack your feet against the ground when things aren’t going exactly how you want. Well, I’ve noticed that the stomp is back. It slams doors, storms into bedrooms or bathrooms, kicks the refrigerator when it’s time to make dinner, and gets especially, well, stompy when people leave their damn socks on the table. Tantrums aren’t just for toddlers and teens, you know.

10) All of this is happening… and yet you give exactly zero fucks: Amiright?

So if you see me poppin’ zits, rollin’ eyes and back-talking like a mo’fo’, just know that angst is ageless, the struggle is real and in the end, it really is only a teenage wasteland, if you think about it…!

real first rule of fight club
Bitch’in Life

The Real First Rule of Fight Club

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Everyone knows the first rule of Fight Club – you do not talk about Fight Club.

This is easy to keep to if you’re not much of a scrapper. Sure you might have the wayward fantasy of blasting someone with your lungs or your fists, but for the most part, at this stage, in this game, we keep it to ourselves.

After all, we have reputations to uphold, examples to make.

That is until you find yourself in a place where you can’t help but let it rip. And in recent weeks I have had not one but two Fight Club challenges that I couldn’t resist.

The first took place in the early morning at a Jamba Juice. I was rushing (as usual), and my daughter wanted to pick up a smoothie for a friend’s birthday. I jammed into a parking spot in front of the store, and my daughter and I hopped out with the intention of getting in and out quickly.

“You’re parked awfully close to me,” the guy in the spot next to me said. He was sitting in his truck, window opened as it waiting for someone… or maybe something.

“Sorry, I’ll be quick,” I said, and immediately noticed that he lowered his eyes. Gotcha. 

“OK, did you want me to move it?” I added half-heartedly. I mean, I’d literally be in and out in five minutes — couldn’t he wait?

“You don’t have to,” he said in a dark, low tone that I should’ve paid attention to, but… you got it… I was rushing.

As I put my drink order in, the man came into the Jamba Juice, and glaring at my daughter and me said, “Your girl dinged my car when she opened her door. I told you were too close.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, in a not very apologetic tone.

And while I could’ve left it there, and maybe even hightailed it out of the store to move my car, I shot him a nasty look. I then managed to keep my mouth shut for about two minutes and finally couldn’t help but blurt out, “That’s a shitty way to talk to someone first thing in the morning, especially in front of a child. I offered to move my car, but you said I didn’t have to.”

The man stepped in closer toward me, like he might hit me or something.

My daughter, watching the situation unfold, piped up in a loud, nervous voice — “We’re sorry.” And then she leaned in to me and said quietly, “MOM.”

For her sake, I bit my lip and said nothing more, even though the man continued to glower at me until finally he walked out of the store. I watched him pull out of his parking spot and move perpendicular to the back of my car to block me in. Lucky for all of us, the smoothie making took longer than I’d originally thought, and maybe the man had something better to do than spend all morning intimidating people. Finally he gunned his engine and roared off.

And while the girls in the store and my daughter nervously chatted about what a freak, and what kind of man threatens a woman and her daughter, all I could think was I wished I had played that so different.

I could’ve killed the guy… with kindness. Could’ve easily diffused things by moving my car and making the situation right BEFORE it escalated.

But instead I let my anger get the best of me to a point where for weeks after the incident, my daughter wondered out loud if the man in the truck was following us.

In a way he was — I couldn’t take back putting her and myself into a potentially disastrous situation by allowing no distance between the match and the fuse. A pause, some patience, maybe a little humility… all could’ve lit the way out of the Fight Club.

Instead, I kept my proverbial shirt and shoes off, taking a stance that nobody messes with me. Fight Club has a bunch of other rules, including once you’re in it, you’re bound to find yourself back in the ring – battered, bloodied, and facing down demons.

I didn’t have to wait that long for my next bout. Another early morning (what IS it with early mornings? Maybe people need Xanax instead of sugar in their damn coffee!), and I’m walking my dogs. The mutts are especially prolific that day, and I have several bags of poop in my hand when I spy a black trash container on the street. I’m glad for this, as I hate to have to walk onto other people’s property to dispose of my dogs’ waste – which I do, and I often wonder if that’s an invasion of privacy or not. Dog poop etiquette is something I am certainly conscious of, if not anal about it. (Pun intended!)

As I open the can I hear a voice from across the street screaming, “NOOOOOOOOO!!! YOU DO NOT DO THAT!”

For a split second I look around – could this maniac possibly be yelling at me for picking up dog shit and dispensing of it? There are signs all over my neighborhood begging people to clean up after their mutts, and I’m one of those good citizens that does just that.

Meanwhile, I’ve found man-sized shits on my own lawn, and I never once have complained.

But the lady across the street is absolutely incensed. Let’s call her Tyler Dooden for the sake of the story now.

“I AM SICK AND TIRED OF YOU PEOPLE THINKING YOU OWN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. YOU TAKE YOUR OWN WASTE BACK TO YOUR OWN HOUSE AND DO NOT PUT YOUR SHIT IN OUR CANS!” yells Tyler Dooden.

“IS THIS YOUR CAN? BECAUSE I DON’T THINK IT IS,” I scream back. “AND BY THE WAY, I’M CLEANING UP AFTER MY DOGS, SO WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?”

This Fight Club bout is insanely random. I’m just waiting for Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter) to jump out of the bushes and tell me I’m being punked.

“WELL I THINK THIS IS A SHITTY WAY TO START A DAY,” I add to nobody in particular.

Tyler Dooden must’ve agreed, or she has a moment of clarity, or something, because she brings her tone down a notch and loudly states, “OK, I guess you were doing a good thing to pick up after your dogs.”

For a minute I soften. We might be reaching conciliation… I can calm down now.

Instead, I turn around and shoot her a nasty look and scream, “FUCK YOU!”

I don’t know what possessed me! Maybe too many blows to the head in Fight Club?

By the time I get home, I am feeling really bad. I didn’t have to get into it with Tyler Dooden — didn’t have to take off my virtual shirt and shoes to be a bad ass. I could’ve kept it all together and just said, “OK, I hear you,” and moved along.

I think more about Tyler Dooden realize she looked familiar to me. She lives a couple doors down from a BBF, and so I shoot my friend a text inquiring more about the Dood.

Of course she’s a good person gone a little crazed from having one too many people leaving stinky shit in her garbage cans that sit right below her kitchen window. And while I wasn’t using her waste receptacles, I was the symbol. Or something.

But honestly, Fight Club isn’t about other people’s struggles — it’s all about your own.

And so I decide that to write a little note to Tyler Dooden on a pretty card with flowers on it.

“Dear _______,

I’m ______’s good friend and the person you yelled at this morning for throwing my dogs’ poop in someone else’s waste bin. I heard you and I can imagine this is very frustrating to you. I don’t know your deal, but I know mine — I like to come from a place of kindness and respect, and I don’t like how I reacted earlier. Going forward, I’ll toss my dogs’ waste in my own cans. Also, sorry for saying ‘fuck you.’ I hope you have a better day.”

I sign my name and tape the note to her fence. I put happy faces on the envelope so she knows I come in peace.

Hours later, my phone rang and it’s Tyler Dooden on the other end of the line, calling to accept my apology and offer hers.

And so, instead of burning it all to the ground, we both rise like phoenixes from the ashes of a truly shitty morning.

So if you see me (re)claiming my humanity, just know that I — we — are not statistics. We don’t start fights necessarily, but we can end them. Because the real first rule of Fight Club is if you don’t like what life hands to you, you can always take a shot at redemption.

You have been warned.

Or reminded.

Or both.

reemergency
Bitch’in Life, My Bitches

What to Do When You’re in a Reemergency

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Reemergency: noun re·emer·gen·cy \re-i-ˈmər-jənt-sē\
1: an unforeseen combination of circumstances that transpire when trying to reinvent oneself and/or the resulting state that calls for immediate action.
2: an urgent need to revitalize and/or remake a situation, circumstance or general way of being.

I don’t often coin terms, but when I do… you know it’s something major.

For the last several months, I have been in a state of severe unrest. Restlessness. Like the ground is shifting, and I’m holding on for dear life, just trying to find my footing.

Problem is, I have no idea where to get even a toehold.

Maybe you’re feeling the same way? (As us people of a certain age are wont to do…)

Assuming you can relate, I’ll tell you a story or three about how reemergencies happen — so you know you’re not alone.

Let’s take a minute in the way back machine, all the way to the late 1990s, right about when my career at the time was peaking — I was on a corporate track that was about to lead to a dream job opportunity. Things were CLICKING.

But things were also TICKING, and suddenly two kids in rapid succession (20 months apart), that insane urge to ditch the City for a life that was “child-friendly,” and a bunch of other factors, and BAM! The Bitch’in Suburbia was born out of that face-first dive from being chief ass kisser to chief ass wiper.

Since then, it has been a series of situations and jobs that have been centered around the fam first. And while there was “work work” in addition to the “home work” going on — a mom and pop shop, a company called “Wow Creative” (cuz, you know, WOW is MOM upside down =) — the eternal struggle for “balance” was on.

Ahhh balance. That wily unicorn that when caught pauses for about 3 seconds before ramming its sharp horn into your ass to prod you back to the perilous, unpredictable edge from whence you came.

Then again, for me that struggle, which was so damn real for so damn long, kinda dropped off recently.  It coincided with the oldest kid being able to drive the younger one, and both of them wanting their own places, their own spaces.

What was set free along with the children was also those potent nesting hormones that made it all possible.

And so, time for reinvention. There was the inevitable scrambling for relevance by taking online classes (Copyblogger certification program, LinkedIn Riches — da works), a poking around at past lives and old opportunities (quite an exercise in humility, I’ll tell you that much!), and a lot of soul searching.

This is all still in progress, but I had one of those breakthrough moments earlier this week when I accompanied an old camp BBF, Nancy Lublin, to hear her speak at Toms headquarters.

The Nancy I knew as a kid was enthusiastic — wildly so — into everything and also was that girl that always wanted to help out, earning her the “service” award on the Honor Roll. A good kid prepared to take on every single activity with equal aplomb, running the bunk line in her Speedo bathing suit, tennis racket in hand, always prepared for the next thing.

This grown-up person is the same way — which proves Kurt Cobain* and my theory that people come as they are. (*This analogy is purposeful — you’ll see in a sec…)

When she was in her 20s, Nancy founded her first non-profit, Dress for Success, which supports women in the move from welfare to working by providing them with professional attire to wear to job interviews and beyond. She then left that company to run Do Something, which is one of the largest organizations worldwide dedicated to young people and social change. And now Nancy is at it again as CEO of Crisis Text Line, which is just what it sounds like — a place you can text for help when you need it. (And now you get the Cobain inference — had he been able to text someone in that crisis moment, would things be different? If not for Kurt, how about for all of the people who followed his lead? After Robin Williams killed himself, for example, there was a spike in suicide prevention hotlines nationwide, with waits as long as three hours.)

While Nancy’s story is amazing and fantastic, the parts that resonated most with me were those moments of reemergency that drove her onward to the next thing. During her speech she talked about what happens when people DON’T ever leave what they once started. The illustration was this: In Scooby-Doo, the decrepit villains who, when discovered, shake their fists and scream, “I’d would’ve gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t have been for you meddling kids!” are ALWAYS the former owner/operator/star of the mall/ghost town/space mission.

It doesn’t take one of the gang from Mystery, Inc. to get what she means.

And while I’d like to think that reemerging is something that happens lickety-split, it’s also inspiring to know it took two solid years of pitching for Nancy to get seed money for Crisis Text Line — despite her impressive, proven track record.

That I was hearing all of this at Toms, which honestly is probably the happiest place on Earth (sorry Disney! You’re not even close!), was particularly relevant. And that’s because its founder, Blake Mycoskie, has had a few of his own reemergencies, which in turn have thrown his company into multiple, violent bouts of reinvention.

(This, by the way, is a good thing =)

If you think Toms is a one-to-one shoe company, you’d only be partially right. It’s a company that’s dedicated to using business to improve lives as a one-to-one company, period. Buy one product, help one person in need. Getting down to that core definition, and revisiting it over the years when things got stale or out of touch even is the practice. And that is why Toms now is also about eyewear (sales of glasses provides eye care), bags (sales of bags fund safe births for mothers and sales of their backpacks support bullying prevention AND specifically, the Crisis Text Line — so double up and buy yours TODAY!) and coffee (sales from their roasting co. supports safe and clean water).

According to Mycoskie, focusing in on the WHY is the fuel that ignites the reemergency. (For all the details, you’ve got to check out his recent Harvard Business Review article — it’s a fascinating and inspiring read.)

Toms as a company is changing and growing, and that evolution was literally born of a sabbatical that its founder took. (Actually, the founding of the company in the first place was the result of a sabbatical of sorts, so it’s not the first time.)

In other words, sometimes you have to go away for a bit before you can come back.

And when you do, well, might as well make it a bona fide reemergency. Because that’s the kind of urgent energy that thoughtful reinvention actually takes.

ALSO, if you feel like you are in crisis and you’re not just experiencing a garden-variety reemergency, then please, text the Crisis Text Line — just text GO to 741-741 for free and confidential help. (Interesting fact: According to Nancy, the people suffering most from depression and suicidal thoughts? Not teens – middle aged men. Just sayin’.)

So if you see me looking wild-eyed and crazed for a minute — don’t worry, I’m just all amped up in a state of reemergency. Because reinvention is a mutha, and so might as well let it burn, baby, burn!

And now, just because I’m so damn proud of this amazing all-around camper, please check out Nancy’s TED Talk on Crisis Text Line.

Photo: Slide, Toms Headquarters (yup, people re-emerge from that thar slide DAILY!)