Bohemian Rhapsody

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By Lisa Sugarman

The summer changes me; it always has.

For ten months a year I’m full throttle. Working. Mothering. Coaching. Caregiving. Up at 5:00am, skating through the routine of the day on razor-sharp blades until ten o’clock at night, if I’m lucky. And with the exception of a few holidays and school vacations that give me the chance to catch my breath, that’s the pace I keep most of the time. It’s the pace most of us keep.

But in the summer, I’m someone else altogether. In the summer, I transform. Schedules loosen; days lengthen; we relax. That’s when my hair goes up; my flip flops go on; and my sunglasses are either over my eyes or on my head for the entire months of June and July. Except for keeping my toes freshly painted (I am a girl, remember), the rest of my life makes a hard stop and I reach for cut-offs, trucker hats, and board shorts.

In the summer, I’m bohemian.

Now me being me, I’ve of course done extensive research on why this is my perfect summer personality, versus, say, a gypsy or a beach bum, or a hippie. While all of them have a certain degree of appeal, most of them just aren’t me.

Right off I know I can’t consider myself a gypsy, mainly because I have no interest in traveling very far over the summer. And picking up and taking off is kind of a hallmark quality of being a gypsy—that and the fact that I don’t speak Romany and couldn’t tell someone’s fortune to save my life. So I know that’s out.

The peace loving, non-violent hippie lifestyle is definitely intriguing, but I’m neither a flower child nor a drug abuser, so that draws a big black line through that category. Plus, I just never got into Janis Joplin and I know I couldn’t embrace the tie-dye look seven days a week.

Moving on.

Now a beach bum, that had some real potential. I definitely consider myself someone who loves Mother Earth and life more than anything (children and husband not withstanding). And I obviously love the water, considering you can find me on a SUP board every day the sun’s out. I’m also a huge fan of board shorts, not just for their comfort factor, but because they have a ridiculously long and forgiving inseam that’s perfect for someone like me who has issues with her inner thighs. I also believe in the beach bum philosophy of live for today, hurt no one, and love.

Unfortunately, though, as much as I’d love to consider myself a full-on beach bum in the summer, I just can’t. The Urban Dictionary definition just won’t allow it. That’s because a beach bum is also clearly defined as someone who’s unemployed, on welfare, with no real education, who makes extra cash by selling margaritas while naked on the beach. And while that is hugely appealing, it’s just not an accurate definition of my summer self. Even though I’m off for the summer because I work in the school system, I still get a paycheck ten months a year. So I’m employed. I also went to grad school which proves that I’m educated. And I don’t sell booze on the beach to make extra money. (Why, I’m not exactly sure.) Plus, I happen to feel strongly about clothing and I much prefer a good Summer Shandy with lemon to a margarita.

So that leaves bohemian.

And when I really break it down, it’s the bohemian lifestyle that fits me the best.

See, I’ve always had this insatiable urge to suck every second out of my days, which is classic bohemian. I’m an eternal optimist; I have a pretty wide range of tastes in music, fashion, art, and literature. And, according to my kids, I occasionally wear a mixture of weird clothes and mix different fashions together that have no business being on the same body at the same time.

Oh yeah, and while I still feel a compulsion to shave my legs and armpits through the summer months, it’s the bohemian way of life I really embrace most of the time. I often wish I didn’t have to be a slave to daily grooming like doing hair and putting on makeup and exfoliating simply because they take up too much time that could be better spent on a paddle board.

So for two, beautiful months, I enjoy my bohemian rhapsody. I play it loud and on a loop so it just repeats itself every day. And somehow these two exceptional months are just enough to keep me going for the other ten.

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 and at Spirit of ’76 Bookstore.

To all the unsung heroes out there

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By Lisa Sugarman

I think it’s fair to say that one hundred percent of us have been either a parent or a kid. Agreed?

That being the case, I think it’s also reasonable to assume that most of us have had at least one epiphany-type moment, usually as an adult, when we realized with absolute clarity that we underappreciated and emotionally kicked the crap out of our parents when we were kids. Either we came to realize it as a result of raising our own kids and having enough doors slammed in our face, or we learned it just by virtue of growing up and seeing life through a less self-centered lens than we did when we were twelve. Either way, most people usually figure it out.

Now, even though my mom and I were always close, I still managed to find ways to be an insensitive, aggravating little ass when I was a kid. Did I mean to drive the car through the garage door when I was nine? Of course not. Don’t be ridiculous. Did I mean to upset her when I drove off to my friend Andy’s house in the middle of a hurricane when she wanted me home? No. But did I do it anyway without thinking about how upset it made her? Yup.

There were absolutely times when I pushed the same buttons that every young kid pushes just to get a reaction. But I was just being a kid, doing the thoughtless things that kids sometimes do. And although I didn’t realize then that I was hurting her by being oblivious or selfish, I realize it now. Ohhhhhhh, do I realize it now. And ohhhhhhh how I wish I could swallow back every word or rewrite every memory of being a little #!%^. As I’m sure most of us do.

What I can do, though, is apologize now. Because as I so often tell my own kids, an apology will never make the dumb things you do worse. Any apology will always be a move in the right direction.

So sorry, mom. You know, for like, everything. All the stupid, asinine things I ever said or did when I was a kid. All the things that made you want to rip out sections of your hair or escape into the car and drive around the block to calm yourself down. My bad. All of it.

Why am I saying all of this? Well, it’s because I was inspired by my own seventeen-year-old daughter’s epiphany last week and I just had to share.

See my daughter, who works as a camp counselor, came home last week mentally and physically incapacitated after the first day of camp. She works with the little kids, the four and five year olds. And apparently, after four hours with them, she’d had an epiphany.

I found her on the couch the afternoon of that first day, barely conscious, splayed out upside down, head hanging off the armrest. After a morning of chasing her group of five year olds around, she was debilitated and barely able to speak. (I’m making fun of you now, honey. Sorry. I saw an opportunity and I took it.) But the one thing she did manage to say when I walked into the room was, “How the hell do you do the mom thing every single day?! Day after day.

BOOM! There it was! Validation. Acknowledgment. Admiration. It felt exactly like what I imagine getting a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Oscars would feel like. It felt almost tingly.

Because to be honest, it’s nothing I ever expected I’d hear from her until I was a grandmother watching her kids bring her to tears. And that’s simply because kids usually aren’t self-aware enough to notice that stuff. I certainly wasn’t.

Look, I don’t think it’s much of a secret to anyone anymore that parenting is a labor of love. I mean, people say it all the time. It’s a thankless job with long hours, crappy pay, and no time off. But at the end of the day, when we finally get a ‘thank you’ or an ‘I love you’ or, better still, an ‘I appreciate you,’ that’s the prize that makes playing the game worthwhile. And that’s why we all play.

So I guess the reason I’m sharing all this is to validate to all the other parents out there that awareness and gratitude from your kids will come. I think it may’ve been a fluke that I got it a little earlier in the game than most, but I got it. And while the recognition we get may not be in the form of a solid-gold naked bald-guy statue, it will come. Probably not until you’re wearing progressive lenses, but hang in there. Your time will come too.

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 and at Spirit of ’76 Bookstore.

 

I run like a girl

By Lisa Sugarman

I’ve always loved anything empowering. I mean, who doesn’t? Empowering things are just naturally infectious. Anything that boosts the spirit or raises awareness or inspires just lights me up. And I’ll be honest, the inspiring things I love the most are the ones that send a positive message to kids, especially young girls.

Now maybe I’m biased, A) because I’m a girl, B) because I have two girls, and C) because I think it’s fair to say that girls have historically been stigmatized to be, well, too girly. (Ok, I’m biased. Whatever.)

So when one of my best friends, Annie, sent me a profoundly impactful viral video she found on social media about the power of being a girl, I knew, without hesitation, what this week’s column had to be about. It struck me within the first 30 seconds of watching this public service ad created by Procter & Gamble, that this was something that everyone needed to see. Or at least know about.

And by the way, I think it’s relevant to mention that I’m also a running coach. Along with Annie, and four other amazing women, we coach a running club for girls in grades four through six (also known as the age when girls get bashed in the face by puberty). So we’re always on the hunt for unique and powerful ways to remind our girls that they’re all powerful and beautiful, every single one of them. And Annie scored big when she found this one.

Now the way I understand it, some genius in the marketing department at P&G realized that millions of girls today are right smack in the middle of a major self-confidence crisis and they could use all the positive reinforcement they can get. It dawned on P&G that girls today are under increasing pressure to perform and excel and measure up, not only against their boy counterparts but against each other (which, in my opinion, is the tougher of the two). And when you combine all that with a cocktail of puberty and body image issues, dating and general girl drama, young girls carry a heavy load. Oh yeah, and most girls’ confidence also nose-dives during puberty.

Apparently the P&G folks decided it was about time that someone shed some light on the self-confidence crisis facing girls today and ensure that girls everywhere keep their confidence throughout puberty and beyond. And they decided to do it by shattering the old stereotype that doing something like a girl is a bad thing. So they filmed a short video that asked people a simple question: What does it mean to do something like a girl? And what they discovered was mind blowing.

But before I tell you what it revealed, I want you to take a minute and think about how you, yourself, would answer the question. And while you’re thinking, remember that, historically, telling someone that they run or throw or hit like a girl was usually meant as an insult.

See, I think it’s fair to assume that the chances are good that we might answer the question by flailing our arms or acting clumsy or silly or inept. But just imagine how all the young girls out there in the world might feel if we did that? Imagine what a hit that would be to their self-confidence?

So instead of creating a negative notion around doing anything like a girl, P&G created an ad that flips the concept of like a girl completely on its head and transforms it into something that’s nothing short of amazing.

And that’s all I’m going to tell you. Yup, we’re done here.

Call this my first cliffhanger, but I’m not going to tell you how the video ends. What I will say is that it features a random sampling of men and women, boys and girls, and reveals a dramatic truth about how people perceive what like a girl means. But if you want to see it for yourself, you’re gonna have to work for it.

Look, I’m well aware that almost half of the world’s population has Internet access, so I feel confident that most of you will be able to Google the phrase: like a girl. Or you have a friend who can do it for you. And when you do, you’ll find that the first thing that pops up is a three-minute video called #Like a Girl. And you’ll watch it. And you know why I know you’ll watch it? Because you’re human and you won’t be able to sleep tonight unless you find out how this story ends.

But the one thing I’ll promise you is that it’ll be worth it.

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 and at Spirit of ’76 Bookstore.

So here’s the video. Please give me three more minutes and click on it. You’ll be glad you did.

 

 

Don’t forget … it’s Art’s Festival Weekend in Marblehead!!

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It’s going to be a SPECTACULAR Art’s Festival weekend in Marblehead!! Don’t forget to swing by the Artisan’s Marketplace at Abbot Hall on Sat from 10-5pm AND Sun 10-4pm. Some of the finest local artists, as well as artists from all over New England, will be exhibiting. Plus, I’ll be there signing copies of LIFE: It Is What It Is. Come grab a copy for yourself and maybe a friend. Gotta have something to read at the beach once the weather breaks! See you this weekend!
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A new kind of Independence Day

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By Lisa Sugarman

The red. The white. And the blue. Those magical, iconic colors that, when put together, usually signify one thing. Independence Day. And around here, July Fourth is as close to a religious holiday as you can get without involving a priest or a rabbi.

It means fireworks and festivals, sparklers and parades. And let’s not forget Harbor Illumination, assuming you’re as lucky as we are here on the peninsula to actually have a harbor to illuminate.

July Fourth is one of the few ecumenical holidays that are completely universal. No matter who you are, what you believe, or where you’re from. It celebrates one, simple concept: independence. It celebrates freedom. It embraces life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The only things, frankly, and as far as I’m concerned, that really matter. Things that if we all could just unite around, we’d probably be faced with far fewer conflicts and drama in the world.

See, Independence Day, in my opinion, is really the end-all-be-all in terms of holidays. I mean, if you consider yourself a patriot on any level and you have access to any form of fireworks, that’s all you need to take part. All you have to have is a decent knowledge of the lyrics of the Star-Spangled Banner and you’re good to go at any neighborhood block party, beach bonfire, or July Fourth pool party. It’s really that simple.

Now I know that the way we celebrate the holiday has evolved over the last two hundred-plus years to include more Leinenkugel Summer Shandy with lemon, stuffed hamburgers, and chia seed tortilla chips than it did immediately post-Revolutionary War, but the essence of the holiday remains the same. We commemorate our freedom from tyranny. We just do it slightly different now than we did in 1776.

Today we relax, we celebrate a day off, we drink a little too much beer, and we give thanks to those brave souls who fought and died for our right to overindulge with our families on the back porch and shoot off fireworks.

Not to get too technical, because I’m really trying to dial it down for the summer, but the Fourth of July is, historically, that fun-filled day when we get to commemorate our independence from Great Britain and celebrate the day that Democracy was born. But you already know that, so there’s really no need for me to go into much more detail. Suffice it to say, it’s our day to revel in the fact that we’re free.

And this year’s July Fourth symbolizes all of that for Dave and me, but it also represents something else altogether. This year, for us, it signifies a different kind of event. This summer’s Independence Day will truly be a celebration of a new kind of freedom as we watch our two daughters, now both in high school, break free from the traditions they’ve known with us and really start exploring their own independence.

Not that they haven’t been independent up to now, but add a car, a license, and a debit card to the mix and now you have a game-changer. Now our girls have the unique ability to come and go as they please. To make their own plans (within reason) and make plans independent of us. Which, if you connect all the dots properly, means it allows us to make plans independent of them. You tell me that’s not an Independence Day worth celebrating?!

For those of us with kids reaching an age of independence this summer, this year’s Independence Day is also a commemoration of the battles we’ve fought as parents up to this point. It’s a salute to all of the shrapnel we’ve taken along the way on the front lines of parenthood.

And while the war may be far from over, our children’s independence represents a new plateau from which to fight the next round of battles. It’s a place where our kids learn to fight a more civilized war. It’s higher ground from which to wage a smarter attack going forward. Because now if they don’t toe the line, they lose the car. See, wars are a game of strategy. And while they might be getting smarter, they’ll never be able to outsmart us.

So while historically July Fourth has been a celebration of the battles, both won and lost, that enabled us to assert our freedom as a nation, it’s also something different for many of us this summer. For many of us with kids reaching an age of independence, it’s also our Independence Day. It’s that time when we, as parents, get to reclaim some of our own independence.

That being said, it also means we have ourselves a new designated driver. And that alone is worth shooting off some fireworks. Happy July Fourth.

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 and at Spirit of ’76 Bookstore.