Flip flops forever!

Flip flopsBy Lisa Sugarman

There are certain eventualities that I can handle easier than others. Stuff that happens to us sooner or later that maybe isn’t so easily digestible at first, but that I can always manage to choke down after I chew on it for a while.

Like, eventually, Daylight Savings comes, and we suck it up for a day or two, acclimate, and then move on. We might not be thrilled about it, but we deal with it. Or, eventually, when it’s time for the season finale of Sons of Anarchy, and I have to say adios to my super-sexy biker boys. I accept that I’m going to feel a little empty inside until the next season; but I can be patient.

What I cannot ever seem to get my mind around, though, no matter how hard I try (and I do try every single year), is that, eventually, I have to stop wearing my flip flops once the cold weather really hits. And that… that I can’t handle.

Look, I understand that the world follows a natural cycle—the seasons come, day turns to night; we switch from ice coffee to hot coffee. I get all that. But the giving up of the ability to let my toesies be free to walk about the world is just too damn painful, I’m sorry.

I know, I’m well aware that I’m being a baby. And that this is a very low-level problem in the grand scheme of problems. But I just can’t help myself. The way I see it, every once in a while, we’re allowed to be consumed by something stupid. And this, I believe, could be about as stupid as it gets. But to me, it’s a legitimate source of angst and sadness. It sounds ridiculous, yes. But this is a tough one for me.

And I happen to know, for a fact, that there are others out there just like me who take it directly on the chin when their favorite shoes have to be packed up and stored for the winter. (Yes, Tracy, I’m talking about you.)

Now I get that because I’ve chosen to live in a climate that supports all four seasons, I’ve automatically forfeited my ability to wear flip flops twelve months a year. And while I have given it some serious consideration, I’ve decided that I can’t, in good conscience, uproot my entire family and move to a consistently arid region where I can live, work, and possibly even sleep in flip flops. Because at the end of the day, it just wouldn’t be fair. Plus, both my daughters have a real penchant for boots, and to deprive them of the ability to wear and enjoy the full range of boot options available in the world would, in my opinion, be considered cruel and unusual punishment.

I guess at the end of the day you could probably file this “issue” I have somewhere under the Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) classification. Which, by the way, is a very real condition. But please don’t laugh at the acronym for the sake of the afflicted. Because, as ironic as the acronym is, the condition is very, very real.

For the record, SAD is an actual type of depression that usually comes on during the same season each year. In fact, if you’ve felt depressed during the last two or three winters consecutively but felt much better in spring and summer, then it’s entirely possible that you’ve got SAD. Uh, I mean, that you are sad. Ummm, maybe it’s the first one. Either way, you can probably relate to it on some level.

For me, though, my sadness is really pretty relegated to footwear. Flip flips in particular. And what I think it all boils down to, at least for me, is versatility, comfort, and freedom. And the loss of it during the winter.

Look, feet were meant to roam. Everybody knows that. We were all born shoeless and I honestly believe that the less encumbered we are in life, by things like laces and toe caps and vamps, the better. See, we walk through every inch of our life, so I believe that the best way to feel connected to the world around us is to be as close to the earth we’re walking on as possible. Plus, flip flips are just The Perfect Shoe. End of story. They go with everything, they’re super compact, relatively cheap, and the perfect accessory to any killer pedicure. And I just can’t let them go.

So when the time comes, as it always does every season when I cycle through the mourning period of parting ways with my little friends, I have a tough time rebounding.

Thanks for letting me vent. It helped ease the pain. Flip flops forever!

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItIsWhatItIsColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com.

California Bookwatch thinks you should read LIFE: It Is What It Is

Just click on the MBR logo to read the review.

Just click here, on the MBR logo, to read the review of LIFE: It Is What It Is.

The Midwest Book Review (MBR) has been around since 1976, so these guys know their books. The MBR publishes nine monthly book review magazines, of which California Bookwatch is one, specifically designed for community and academic librarians, booksellers, and the general reading public.

Out of the 2,000+ books they receive every month, they only review about 600. So it’s especially exciting for me, not only that they chose to review LIFE: It Is What It Is, but that they rated it as their Reviewer’s Choice in their October issue of California Bookwatch.

What does that mean? Well, it means that I’m pretty damn excited since The MBR is considered one of the best and longest-running sources for unbiased book reviews out there. Yeah, that just happened.

Where eeeeverybody knows your name

untitledBy Lisa Sugarman

Around here, in my immediate world, most people I know have a place they go to get away, even for a few minutes every day, just to take a break and reset themselves.

Here, where I am, some of us have Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts. Others call Java Sun their go-to place. Some do the Muffin Shop and some do Panera. But the funny thing is, it really doesn’t matter where you live or what kind of place you have. What matters is that it’s your place.

I mean, making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got; taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot. Wouldn’t you like to get away? Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.

I’m not being cheeky. I do have a point.

Look, at the end of the day, we all need someplace we can go to get away, even for a few minutes, from the bedlam of our daily lives. I don’t care who you are or how together your life is, we all need some version of a pit stop to pull into and take a break—a break from our kids or our husbands or our wives or our jobs. Somewhere we can reground our wires, maybe have some mindless, maybe even meaningless conversation, and regain the stamina to forge on.

For some people that place is a gym, where you sweat it out with your homies, maybe compare protein powders and check out each other’s calf muscles. For others, it’s a place where the barista knows exactly how many espresso shots you take and that you like your soy milk extra hot. That’s because having this type of place in your life is sort of, I think, like an adult version of a security blanket. It’s like something we can swathe ourselves in that has that calming effect. And I think it’s fair to say that most of us need at least a small daily infusion of calm in our lives.

Think of it in these terms. Sing the Cheers lyrics with me and then think of them in terms of your own life. I’m going to sing them in my head because I have no pitch whatsoever and have no business singing. You, on the other hand, can feel free to belt away.

Making your way in the world today Takes everything you’ve got; Taking a break from all your worries Sure would help a lot. Wouldn’t you liiiiiiiike to get away?

Blah, blah, blah, blah…

Sometimes you want to go Where everybody knows your name, And they’re always glad you came; You want to be where you can see, Our troubles are all the same; You want to be where everybody knows your name.

Having a place—whatever kind of place you have—gives you a sense of belonging and familiarity and security. When you think about it, that need to have a place to go to get away stretches back to the days of needing treehouses or blanket forts. For me, my little spot was the bottom half of our linen closet in the front hall. Too small for company, which was a shame, but I loved it. I was significantly smaller then and a bit of a loner. Don’t judge. I was six.

When you’re older, though, the kind of place you need changes. Obviously. People swap treehouses and forts for coffee shops and yoga studios. Or at least they should. Because if you’re a grown up still hanging out in a treehouse, that, I’m afraid, would be extremely creepy. In fact, that would be a problem—a problem that would necessitate an immediate call to the authorities.

Look, maybe they know your name at the place you go, or maybe they don’t. That part of it really doesn’t matter that much. The point is that you have a place where you can go and take a small pause from your busy, exhausting life. Where you can get even slightly refreshed and re-energized. And, if you’re lucky like me, and you’ve found a place like I’ve got, where everybody actually does legitimately know your name, then you’ve hit the mother lode.

See, the nature of watering holes hasn’t changed all that much since the very first watering holes came to be. Sure, what you choose to water your hole with has evolved, but the essence of why we go to them hasn’t changed at all.

We go to these places to exchange gossip, to share news, to do business, and to feel even somewhat a part of the local fabric of the community around us.

My hole is called Shubie’s. And when George or Carol or Dougy say hi to me by name, it never gets old. Au contraire. It makes me feel, even just while I’m eating my panini, like I’m swaddled and cozy and that they’re always glad I came.

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItIsWhatItIsColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com.

Do not underestimate the common cold

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By Lisa Sugarman

Let me be the first to say that The Common Cold is grossly underestimated as far as illnesses go. I’d go as far as to say that it’s considered almost embarrassing to say that you stayed home or called in sick or cancelled plans just because you had a cold. There’s this almost woosie-like quality about succumbing to one, mainly because public perception has always been that a cold is just a nuisance and life should pretty much go on even if you have one.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong!

By definition, a cold is supposed to be relatively innocuous. Annoying, draining, and totally inconvenient, but harmless. Well I’m here to rewrite public opinion. To officially elevate The Cold from the bantamweight category into the welterweight division. To confirm, once and for all, that the common cold may just be the Manny Pacquiao of winter illnesses.

Who’s Manny Pacquiao? Oh, I don’t know, probably just the best pound-for-pound welterweight boxer in the free world. And he’s adorable. And he’s also got a thing for politics. But I’m getting off topic.

What’s unfortunate is that even though the common cold has this wrecking-ball-type capacity to flatten anything it touches, there’s still this general opinion that it doesn’t deserve any special dispensation. For most of us, the idea of calling in sick to work because we’ve got a cold just instinctively feels kind of pathetic. Like who does that? But the truth is, I think public perception needs to change.

Make no mistake, a cold is anything but harmless. It’s evil. It’s calculating. It’s unrelenting. It shows no mercy or compassion. And it has the power to make even the Special Forces guys curl up and cry for their mommies.

Now I consider myself to be pretty hearty and I feel like my threshold for aches and pains is pretty high. But let me tell you, the cold I got last week all but sucked the life right out of me. I had to keep reminding myself that no deaths have ever been linked to a cold, but I’m pretty sure I understand now where the expression death warmed over comes from.

That’s because a cold is like that sucker punch that you never see coming. You know, the one that catches you right on the jawbone, knocks you off your feet, through the turnbuckle, and lands you on the laps of the five guys sitting in the front row. And the irony is, it doesn’t usually require hospitalization and there isn’t even a known antibiotic to cure it. So by most standards, it’s considered a minor inconvenience-type illness. Yet, it has this cataclysmic capacity about it that’s almost tsunami-like. It usually comes out of nowhere, without warning, washes over you with a flood of gunk, upends you, and then leaves you incapacitated and drooling onto your pillow.

So while anyone who catches one will endure most of the same kind of suffering brought on by most other illnesses, they won’t have the luxury of crawling under their goose down comforter and being sucked into their memory foam mattress. With a cold, you’re expected to push on. You’re expected to suck it up, tough it out, and get it done. And that, in my opinion, is probably the most irritating quality of the common cold.

With the flu or strep or a virus or pneumonia people insist that you go home, sequester yourself, eat gallons of soup, and take all the time you need to recover. Now granted, I know those illnesses all usually have the fever component, and that is a bit of a game changer, but a cold has basically the same symptoms, just minus the temp. They’re airborne, highly contagious, and come with just about all the same junk, yet they offer no special exemptions. Colds produce the same degree of misery, yet we’re all still expected to go to work, coach Little League, stay on top of the marketing and the laundry, walk the dog, and present to the board of directors without so much as twitching. And that, I think, is just plain unrealistic.

So I think it’s time we all agree to advance The Cold to a more appropriate rank in the hierarchy of modern illnesses. I think the CDC ought to do an official reclassification and grant colds a suitable amount of helplessness and recuperation time, just like all of its viral cousins. The field must be levelled, or at the very least re-graded to allow The Cold to take its rightful place on the list. That way, when one takes us down, we won’t feel like such a sissy for letting it get the better of us.

Then, and only then, will it finally become acceptable to give in. And, consequently, to call in. We owe it to ourselves, don’t you think?

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItIsWhatItIsColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is, available on Amazon.com.

First World Problems

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By Lisa Sugarman

Gut Yontif.

Oh, wait. Sorry. You most likely don’t speak Yiddish, so you’ve got no idea what that means. It means Happy Holiday. Or, if you’re Jewish, like me, and you’re celebrating Rosh Hashanah right now, it means Happy New Year.

See, this week marks the start of Jewish High Holy Days, when Jews everywhere take a minute to reflect on how well we lived our lives over the last year. It’s actually a pretty healthy exercise in self-evaluation, if you ask me. I think everybody should do it. And not just because of the food, which, by the way, happens to be an added perk of the holiday. But because it’s a nice opportunity to take a step outside yourself, take a good, long look, and make sure you still like what you see. And if there’s stuff you don’t like (and there almost always is), then you get to metaphorically throw it away.

So here’s what I learned about myself this year. I learned that, like a lot of people, I’ve got my fair share of problems. But what I found is that when I took the time to look closely at the things I classify as “problems,” it became obvious that most of them weren’t legitimate problems after all.

Let me explain.

Because we’re all human, and humans tend to get complacent after a while, we tend to forget to use our peripheral vision and absorb the bigger picture of what’s around us. So we get caught up in the stupid minutia of life and it’s that silly stuff that begins to look and feel like bonafide problems.

Look, I’ve got a loving and supportive family, good health, a roof over my head, fairly decent teeth (aside from a little genetic tooth discoloration), and exceptional friends. Yet I realized, after closer inspection, that most of the things I consider to be problems are nothing more than simple frustrations, also known as First World Problems. You know them, they’re the insignificant inconveniences that most of us deal with every day. Only the thing is, they’re really nothing more than trivial, mostly ridiculous things that we often mistake as real, legitimate problems.

In our heads, they feel incredibly real. In our heads, they’re aggravating and annoying and overwhelming. In our heads they’re big. But what they really are is nothing more than just figments of our imagination. They’re the product of over-Westernized and completely desensitized brains.

Let me put it another way. First World Problems are gnats of the mind. They’re actually completely harmless, but when you put enough of them together, they form a swarm, and any swarm seems dangerous to the naked eye. Funny thing is, they’re pretty benign.

Answer me this, have you ever said or heard anything that sounded even remotely like this?

“So annoying, my $7 Starbucks latte came with only ONE espresso shot instead of the TWO I asked for!”

“I’m never gonna make it through the day. I only got seven hours of sleep instead of my usual ten.”

“It’s so irritating, I have no place to put my leftovers from dinner because I have too much food in my fridge.”

“The free coffee at work sucks!”

“I changed my email password and now I have to re-enter it manually into my desktop mail app, iPad, and iPhone!”

“My car has heated seats but it doesn’t have a heated steering wheel and it was really, really cold yesterday.”

“One of my kids is watching the 50-inch TV; another one is playing Xbox on the 45-inch TV; and my daughter is watching a Blu-ray on the 40-inch TV; so I have to watch my TV show on the 10-inch iPad.”

Let’s be honest, the chances are good that if you live in the Western world you hear or say this kind of thing pretty regularly. But the ironic thing is, most of us tend to forget that these problems we complain about don’t deserve to be classified as problems at all.

Sure, minor inconveniences can be a pain, but when put into perspective, having cold leather seats when you get into your car during the winter isn’t really a hardship. Sleeping on a dirt floor crammed against eighteen other people, with no clean drinking water, not knowing where your next meal is coming from, is an entirely different story. I’m sure the stark contrast is sure to make the extra-long line at Starbucks seem like much less of a big deal.

I’m bringing this up for the simple reason that I refuse to keep getting conned into complaining about the problems of living in a Westernized world. The bottom line is, we’re all lucky. Period.

So this year for the holiday, the thing I’m going to stay focused on is how lucky I am that most problems I’m likely to have aren’t really problems after all. I mean cummon, we live in a country that has free refills. What could we possibly have to complain about?

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Check her out on Facebook at facebook.com/ItIsWhatItIsColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is, available on Amazon.com.