Shower the people you love with love

untitledBy Lisa Sugarman

I’m going to get straight to the point because, as usual, I have a lot to say.

I dislike funerals.

Sorry, no disrespect, really, but they’re usually awkward and depressing, albeit for obvious and unavoidable reasons.

I mean, we’ve got all these rites and ceremonies that always have to be fulfilled as staples of traditional funeral services. And these formalities, especially when there are a lot of them, can make it pretty challenging to showcase the true essence of a person in whatever time is left over. So what I feel like we often see are stilted versions of what could and should be more authentic celebrations of a person’s life and legacy and impact on the world.

I think, though, for most people (myself included), funerals are just an all-too-vivid reminder that we’re all simply employees at will and can be terminated, for lack of a better word, whenever The Big Guy decides it’s time to let us go. So that’s why I think the majority of funerals have the same feel. There’s this somberness because (A) no one wants their mortality held up and dangled in their face; (B) we’re forced to recognize that we just lost someone we care about; and (C) we have traditions that have to be satisfied. And that’s a whole lot of heavy stuff, no matter who you are.

See, I’ve noticed, as a general rule, that there are a handful of emotions that are felt by the moral majority. Most people are usually pretty subdued, partly out of respect for honoring the funeral ritual and, I think, partly out of a fear of saying or doing the wrong thing under such delicate circumstances. And naturally, there’s this shroud of sadness that settles over people whenever mortality is concerned, and that’s because losing someone we love is just plain sad. But I just can’t help but feel like a person’s life should be truly celebrated after they die. In a way that captures the true spirit of who they were.

Now to my real point.

Last week, I went to a funeral that did exactly that. And I’d be lying if I said it didn’t alter my thinking on the ultimate potential of the funeral experience. That’s because it was way more of a celebration of someone’s life than a somber sendoff that marks The End. And that I liked. In fact, I loved it. So much so that I found myself crying and belly-laughing in celebration of this woman’s beautiful spirit—a woman, ironically, that I’ve never even met.

There’s this saying, “We have a plan but God decides.” And in the case of my friend’s stepmom Pam, that couldn’t have been truer. She was in her fifties, out for a bike ride, and was struck and killed by a truck. Tragic is the only word that really comes to mind—the only word that really seems appropriate.

But as tragic and unimaginable as her death was, the way her life was celebrated at her funeral was truly epic. There was more laughter and joy than I think I’ve ever seen at a traditional funeral. And that’s because, from what I gathered about Pam, she was a woman who insisted that feelings be expressed and never assumed. And so as a result, her funeral was part roast, part celebration, and part straight-up laughter and applause. The likes of which I’ve never seen. So right there, even though I had never known Pam, I felt we would’ve been friends if I had.

I suppose I was so taken by how spirited and joyous her funeral was because even considering peoples’ overwhelming grief, her friends and family still found a way to truly celebrate the essence of who she was in exactly the way she would’ve wanted. They clapped. They cheered. They laughed. And they happy-cried.

The whole experience has really given me a lot to think about in terms of how I’d like my own funeral to be. I know, it’s a little bizarre to think in these terms, but I just want it out there so when the time comes there’s no confusion.

First of all, I think I want everyone in fluorescent colors. Something snappy to really perk people up. Next, only happy crying will be allowed. And there will be absolutely no mourning of a loss; only the celebration of a life that was truly and wholly lived. (That’s because when I do go, I plan to be friggin’ exhausted because of how busy I’ve been living.) I’m also thinking about having a chocolate fountain for dipping because chocolate, as you know, has magical properties. Beyond those few details, I think I’ll let the rest ride. I’ve always been a big fan of improv.

In the meantime, though, I’m planning on showering the people around me with some extra drippy emotions, so keep a towel handy. It’s gonna get messy.

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

“Lisa Sugarman made me laugh and even managed to make me think a few times.” –Simple Wyrdings

This is the kind of review you cross your fingers and toes for when you send a book to be reviewed. So, so, so excited that Simple Wyrdings liked LIFE: It Is What It Is. I would’ve settled for making someone think once… but I got a hat trick.

To read the full review, click the link below.


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 She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on

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 She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on