Life’s a Bitch (And That’s a Good Thing!)

The best accessory EVER

The best accessory EVER

Have you ever had a week that makes you want to scream?

And by scream, I met let loose with a primal roar so intense it might strip the enamel off your teeth and shatter the eardrums of anyone in a 10-mile radius.

I just had one of those weeks recently. It started with lice and went downhill from there.

Every day had a new delight: a traffic ticket, a bounced check, a pinched nerve, a kid with the plague, the sudden-death of a cell phone… all smothered in more loads of laundry than imaginable. First world problems to the Nth degree.

The icing on the cake was a little blowback from the peanut gallery on the name of my blog — apparently the word BITCH’IN no longer holds its adorable ’80s connotation of something being exceptionally awesome.

If you buy the Law of Attraction, then what you put out is what you get back. At that point, my vibration was so low that I had to abandon the limbo pole and get on my belly to see the light.

Literally, laying flat on my back on the floor to sooth that pinched nerve, I got to thinking about the word BITCH and how it could possibly help me shift my attitude around.

It wasn’t going to be through bitching to the choir. After all, almost everyone I know has survived infestations and a whole lot worse.

It couldn’t be about yelling and screaming, even though that was my raw, go-to first impulse.

It wasn’t really about cursing, even though that is a quick release for anything that ever ails ya.

I had nobody to be a bitch to, as that wouldn’t help any of the people in the same boat as me. (If only I had my own red carpet critique show on E! Still mourning the loss of the Queen B of High Comedy, Joan Rivers…)

And so, after a little while, I got a grip, and headed off to continue organizing a room that serves as my office/storage facility/dumping ground for shit that has nowhere else to go. My husband has a vision of a man cave — one that I know will end up being a kid cave but let the man dream! — and so we are clearing and cleaning like crazy.

There, in the wreckage, I kept coming across photos: me with the closest things to abs I have ever had, the aftermath of giving birth, babies at the beach, the view from the bleachers, and loads of happy memories all along that same vein.

But when I really thought about it, I remembered that along with all the wonderful things also came a lot of hard times, too.

Childbirth is a bitch, working out is a bitch, wrangling children on the beach is a bitch, sitting on backless bleachers for hours is a bitch, and so it goes.

The Yin and Yang of it all means that the very things that we bitch about are also what makes life memorable. Delightful. And precious.

BITCH and BITCH’IN — two sides of the same story.

And honestly, I often can’t bear to listen to the news nowadays because BITCH isn’t even the word for life in the Middle East, Africa, and so many other parts around the globe. First world problems to the Nth degree don’t scratch the surface of the horrendous realities of life in disease and warn-torn places. But I do listen because it is a constant reminder for me to live in gratitude every single day.

So if you see me wearing my bitch’in necklace, just take it for what it is: a gentle reminder that life’s a bitch, and that’s a good thing.

Can We Talk…. About Losing Joan Rivers?

Joan & Melissa (image: LA Times)

Joan & Melissa (image: LA Times)

Joan Rivers is dead, and I am absolutely devastated.

This is something that I’m somewhat embarrassed about because it doesn’t make all that much logical sense.

It’s not like I knew her, or was ever in her presence — save the time I saw her throw it down during her “Can We Talk” phase circa 1982, when she gave everyone from Liz Taylor to Heidi Abromowitz (the tramp and “poster girl for herpes”) a kick in the ass with her heavy-duty silver-tipped tongue.

I have to admit she lost me somewhat in her fashionista stage of recent years. With all due respect to her QVC line — which in my opinion was amazing for business savvy of it, not so much the style — to Fashion Police, I rarely tuned in. Then again, when I did, the zingers were just as stunning as always (i.e., on Rihanna: “Why the green lips? It looks like she just [bleep] the Grinch. Talk about Christmas coming early.” And my personal favorite in recent history, on Lea Michele at the Teen Choice Awards: “She looks like a porn star. You know the kind of porn stars who aren’t the prettiest, so they do crazy stuff like amputee gang bangs?”).

But the thing that gets me about Joan (and I’m guess you, too), beyond the fact that she was the High Priestess of Bitch’in Humor, were the things that we knew about her that were the tough, yet so very relatable flip side of the funny coin: how her friend and mentor Johnny Carson repaid her “betrayal” of launching her own late night show by never speaking to her again. The suicide of her husband. The myriad times she was kicked to the curb for being a bawdy, brassy, bitchy babe. The ups and downs of her career, the need for constant reinvention, the all-consuming devotion she had to her work. (Best seen and understood in the 2010 documentary, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. Run, don’t walk, to rent, stream, watch, and enjoy.)

While the fact that she was a trailblazer for all women, and shared her triumphs and her devastating losses in a way that only a strong, X-chromosomal toting person can, it was in those touching, sweet moments that Joan felt not like some distant star, but quite literally like someone who could be, well, ours.

Our sister.

Our grandmother.

Our friend.

Our mother.

For me, it was her relationship with her daughter Melissa that got me. Having played it out so much in the public eye, you could see that the two had their moments but regardless, their devotion to each other was palpable. Touching and sweet, fiercely loyal, and underneath it all, sealed with genuine respect and deep, unconditional and unabiding love.

So true, so personal, and so much how I feel about my own mother.

We can be each other’s best friend and sometimes toughest critic, but we make each other laugh and remind one and other that no matter what, nothing is more valuable and more worth fighting for than family. If only we had our own show on E!…

So maybe that’s why when the horrible news first broke of the tragic outcome of Joan going in for a simple, outpatient endoscopy (indeed, she was scheduled to perform the following night), and ending up in a medically induced coma, I quickly fell into an obsessive habit of  Google searching every few hours for a glimmer of hope. 

And then came the PR-friendly statements from Melissa on her mom’s website, www.JoanRivers.com and social media, the last of which said:

“It is with great sadness that I announce the death of my mother, Joan Rivers. She passed peacefully at 1:17pm surrounded by family and close friends. My son and I would like to thank the doctors, nurses, and staff of Mount Sinai Hospital for the amazing care they provided for my mother.

Cooper and I have found ourselves humbled by the outpouring of love, support, and prayers we have received from around the world. They have been heard and appreciated.

My mother’s greatest joy in life was to make people laugh. Although that is difficult to do right now, I know her final wish would be that we return to laughing soon.”

We will return, but we will never be the same. And when she is buried on Sunday, I will pause and send a loving prayer of support and comfort to her daughter, grandson, and all who loved her. And for Joan I fervently pray that Meryl Streep is there, crying in five different accents.

For you, my Bitch’in friends, here’s one from the vaults — the aforementioned “Can We Talk” era, before Joan had more plastic in her than the Mattel factory:

Would You Hire Yourself?

Maybe the best girl for your job is NOT yourself ....

Maybe the best girl for your job is NOT yourself ….

As fall prepares to bust through the lazy, hazy days of summer and kick our collective butts into high gear, I am, for a change, being proactive about what the next ten months will look like.

I’ve always been a working mom. (Hell, aren’t we all? Nowadays, even if we don’t leave the house or technically are dads, we’re working moms), but lately the job has become more demanding, and the children are officially “latchkey kids.”

Side note about latchkey kids: If the guilt of not being home the minute your children return from school doesn’t slay you, then hearing them described as pathetic orphans or extras from the musical Oliver! will put a dagger in your heart. Even if they are teenagers.

While I’m more than happy to serve my family gruel, I draw the line at latchkey-ness. And so, the hunt for a couple hours of consistent afternoon care is on.

An SOS on Facebook got a few funny responses and a couple of real options that were close, but no cigar yet.

Of course one of the unwritten mommy laws is that good help is so impossibly hard to find that when you do get your paws on someone awesome, you hide them in your family dungeon just in case you ever need them.

(Full disclosure: I am currently knee deep in a Game of Thrones binge, so that’s where all this medieval imagery is coming from. Then again, our societal view of motherhood, and the idea that we can all toil alone and fester in shit of our own making without a modern solution that provides accessible, affordable childcare for kids of all ages is positively archaic.  Plus being a mom isn’t much different than being a dragon wrangler, which I believe therefore makes me the Khaleesi of the House of Bitch’in.)

A friend recommended that I check out an online caregiver option, care.com, as he found an awesome woman there to help take the afternoon load off. In order to do some in-depth poking around, I first had to create a profile, which included articulating my childcare needs.

Three hours later, I was still staring at a blank screen.

How do you sum up what you do in a way that isn’t, well, fully terrifying?

It’s not that I haven’t written many times about how if moms were paid for what they did, they’d have a fancy pants, high-paying position with titles including:

• Housekeeper
• Teacher
• Computer Operator
• Cook
• CEO (yes, on salary.com, this is where CEO is listed on the “What’s a Mom’s Job Worth” post. I love that housekeeper and cook come first.)
• Laundry machine operator
• Facilities manager
• Psychologist
• Janitor
• Van driver or chauffeur

But I figured it I put all that in an ad, it would either get no response at all, or alternatively it might attract a maniac.

Plus after a while, I started to understand that my resistance was much more existential than something as simple as writing down a few things that I need help with.

The control freak/mama bear was having a hard time letting go. For me, it’s a constant struggle to come to terms with the reality that having it all and doing it all are two different things 

And so, after a few hours of futzing with my new care.com profile, I finally quit and went to bed. To unlock the full bounty of willing caregivers, I would need an upgraded account and I wasn’t quite ready to pay to play.

Secretly I think I was hoping Wonder Woman would swoop down while I slept, tag me with her magic lasso, and grant me with the power to be a superhero like her (including the amazing Amazonian perky ta-tas).

Or maybe I’d wake up and the morning headlines would scream that cloning is now possible, without the chance of an Orphan Black epic fail. I’d be the first to sign up.

(Note: Speaking of Orphan Black, that show is definitely my next binge — what’s yours?)

Unfortunately, I woke up in the same normal, mortal body with my real life unchanged, and the need to get rolling on hiring myself a few hours worth of relief all that more pressing.

I logged into my email, and much to my surprise, found this response to my half-assed caregiver guide:

“Hi, my name is X. I’m from Europe — more precisely from France. I speak different languages including French Dutch German and Hebrew. I’m a college graduate, and I can assist with homework tutoring. I have my own transportation. I’m a responsible driver. I am happy to assist with some light housekeeping and take care of the meal preparation. I also have bodyguard training, which allows me to provide protection services. I’m friendly and very patient. I am a hard worker and will take this mission seriously. I will perform the best service possible, and I’ll be very careful with your children and treat them as if they were members of my own family.”

DUDE! It was a dude! And he speaks a bunch of languages! This is a MISSION! He gets it!

And, he’s a freakin’ BODYGUARD! Not even anything I put in the job description, but of course what probably kept me from posting a childcare wanted listing in the first place was how do you ask someone else to guard your children with his/her life? Oh, and do a little meal prep, too.

I haven’t made up my mind yet, but I did pay for the upgrade on care.com, and my inbox is full of responses from some very capable people that come with a built-in background check and a long list of references.

So if you see my kids walking down the street, chatting with a hulking dude in a language you don’t understand, just know that the key to finding the Holy Grail of Excellent Childcare is to let go of the idea you’re hiring yourself. Because you’ll never find someone as qualified, but that’s not the quest anyways — your mission is peace of mind, and sometimes you have to let go to get help.

 Full disclosure: Care.com doesn’t know who the hell I am, and I wasn’t paid a dime for the plug. Just sharing the wealth with anyone who’s looking, because once I hire someone there’s not a shot in hell you’ll get his/her phone number from me! And my parents, who are also very helpful and get me out of child care binds all the time, have an unlisted number so don’t even try to contact them, or I’ll send my personal bodyguard out to get ya!

Ask Bitch’in Suburbia: Back to School Edition

Monday Envelope keeps me sane(ish)...

Monday Envelope keeps me sane(ish)…

It’s that time of year again, but fear not: Your friendly neighborhood Bitch’in Suburbia has a freshly baked batch of advice on how to survive these first few weeks of drama and trauma as you (oh, and your kids, too) go BACK TO SCHOOL.

Dear Bitch’in Suburbia,

I have a terrible confession to make: I was never one of those parents who pushed her kids more than what was appropriate to their grade level. For example, I didn’t teach my oldest son to read before he started Kindergarten, I never had him tutored, enrolled him in after school enrichment, or signed him up for summer school. I thought this was fine and would help him lead a more balanced life. But now I look at his schedule and he’s in all “regular” classes, and I can’t help but worry that all these years I’ve been giving the boy a hall pass. What do you think?

Signed, Epstein’s Mother

Dear Epstein’s Mother:

Do you really have to ask what I think? If you didn’t have your son working on his dissertation from your womb, then you’ve already lost the battle, the war, and any chance at his intellectual salvation. You didn’t mention what grade he’s in, so for the sake of argument I’ll assume it’s not too late — maybe he’s going into second grade? Because second grade is the line of delineation. That’s when children are assessed and deemed gifted or not. That fancy colored folder determines their fate though the age of 42 or so, when from then on in they can slip into mid-life crisis and forget their tortured, failed youth. If he’s beyond second grade, consider cutting bait — literally, cut some bait and teach the kid to fish. Then at least he’d stand a chance at getting his own reality show because did we learn nothing from Deadliest Catch? There’s a money-making niche out their for your child if you just start looking NOW.

Dear Bitch’in Suburbia:

I just had a meeting that lasted over an hour with the other two parents in my carpool. One mom over communicates and the other doesn’t communicate at all. Am I going to end up driving twice as much? Was this carpool even a good idea? It seemed like it at the time.

Yours truly, Road Rage

Dear Road Rage:

Ahhh, carpools. Live by them, die by them. Usually in an ugly way, like of starvation and dehydration while sitting in rush hour traffic to get junior to practice, or a massive coronary due to the inordinate amount of stress involved with negotiating your carpool and (gasp) the Axis of Evil, aka other parents. The good news is that your school year carpool automatically makes you eligible for the Parents’ Martyr Association (PMA) — and membership has its benefits, including up to 50 or so years reminding your children of the sacrifices you made getting them to school and activities.

Dear Bitch’in Suburbia:

School hasn’t even started yet, and I’m already feeling totally overwhelmed. My inbox is full of messages from the school, the PTA, the new room parent, and the team mom. Worse, I’m swamped in a sea of “reply-alls,” and there are at least 50 crucial dates that I know I’m going to miss because it’s impossible to stay on top of all of the information, all of the time. Is it OK if I just get into a fetal position now until say June of next year?

Signed, Overwhelmed in Omaha

Dear Overwhelmed:

Did you just say IMPOSSIBLE? This is NOT a word in today’s parent vocabulary! Every thing is possible because we have the technology… no, not bionic limbs, although that would be nice and help you make lunch that much faster in the morning… but unbelievable organization tools to put everything you need at your fingertips. Take for example, Monday Envelope. It’s the all-in-one digital solution that I use to elevate my efficiency; it’s how I earned the title of Supreme Mistress of Time and Space. I just create a group, invite my people, and voila! No more reply all emails, no more crumpled papers in backpacks, no more angst. I’ve even created a group for my family because someone’s got to keep us on track and the family dog was busy napping. It’s how I manage to be President of the PTA, Team Mom, Room Parent, and Teacher — volunteer requests, events, activities and even fundraising is all in one place on any device I happen to be using. Now you know the secret, and guess what? You can check your Monday Envelope even from a fetal position, so NO EXCUSES!

Dear Bitch’in Suburbia:

I feel obligated to help my kids with everything that they need. My wife and I are working our butts off, losing sleep, stressing them out and spending inordinate sums of money all under the guise of expressing our “love.” When in reality we are not only smothering them and preventing their own experiences from unfolding, and our efforts actually handicap them and render them unprepared to handle any of this on their own when the time comes (which it will). I want to let go and give them the chance to screw it up on their own without my doting/controlling influence. Thoughts?

Doing my damnedest — Doting Dad

Dear Doting:

Don’t let the theme from Frozen fool you — there is no relief in letting go! You’ll end up in an icy castle all by yourself in your old age. The seeds of guilt and dependence are a potent hybrid, and if you stop planting them now, then there will be a horrible blossoming of independent, strong, mentally healthy adult children someday, and who wants that? My advice is to rid yourself of pesky thoughts of fostering self-reliance, and instead double down on infantilizing your growing children. Diapers now come in neon colors for “cool” teens, and most college age kids don’t even have teeth anymore because we cut everything into bite size pieces. I mean that figuratively and literally; if we’ve learned nothing from Mary Poppins, it’s that life is best served up coated with sugar. And if you do your job right now, there’s a debt counselor, a cadre of therapists, and a permanently warm bed in your house just waiting for your babies to “grow up.” Now isn’t that a comforting thought?

Dear Bitch’in Suburbia:

I have one word for you: HOMEWORK! A book list a mile long robbed our family of summer vacation, and now I know that I can look forward to hours each night and no weekend because projects will swallow us whole. Worse, my kids are in elementary school and I can’t even help the oldest anymore — he’s in fifth grade and I couldn’t understand his summer math sheets, never mind what’s to come this year. What should I do?

Signed, Dumber Than a Fifth Grader

Dear Dumber:

Don’t put yourself down! Surely you’re smart enough to mortgage your house to pay for tutors and test prep. And why do you find that homework is encroaching on family time? Homework IS family time! Even if you can’t handle little Johnny’s fifth grade pre-Calculus, you can rub his little feet and sing a soothing lullaby under your breath. Just sit next to him and stare at him blankly, but with love, and soon you’ll find that there’s no better way to spend your free time. Don’t forget to open the back door for that fresh air feeling next weekend!

Dear Bitch’in Suburbia:

I am so worried about the Common Core — and I don’t even know why! I’ve tried to study their website, but everything is vague and doesn’t give me a true understanding about what it is and how it will affect my children. Can you explain it to me in a way I can understand?

Sincerely, Confused from the Core

Dear Confused:

No. But comedian Louis C.K. can ‘splain:

 Please note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are satirical, just in case you couldn’t tell, and also just in case my kids’ teachers are reading this. (Just kidding! Not really… )

Disclosure: Monday Envelope floated me some back to school dough that will go right from my wallet to our neighborhood office supply store for back to school schtuff. I almost never plug anything, and when I do, it has to be something I really, really like. And I think the Monday Envelope interface is da bomb, baby! 

For more “Ask Bitch’in Suburbia,” check out the Youth Sports Edition. And for back to school from Bitch’in Suburbia, check out Back to School Daze (where I do talk more Common Core), The Shocking Truth About PTA Moms, and the original, Back to School.

FlyHC

Copyright © 2012 - Trudi Roth. All Rights Reserved.