Road trip!


By Lisa Sugarman

When my alarm went off at 4AM last Monday, there was little consolation for my eyes burning and having to get out of bed before the entire rest of the world, except for the fact that it was Road Trip Day. And on Road Trip Day, I’ll do whatever it takes to get myself into that car and onto that asphalt. Because a road trip, for me, is just about the end-all-be-all. Always has been.

I love the gasoleeny smell of the rest stops, the vending machines with travel-sized Bonine (thousands of them!), crappy rest-stop coffee, Satellite Radio, making the eighteen-wheeler dudes honk their horn. All of it. I know, I’m pathetically easy to please.

This time we happened to be driving from Boston to New York. It wasn’t the 500 sexy miles along the pacific coast highway, zigzagging from Baja to the tip of the Olympic peninsula. This was just the Mass Pike to the Merit Parkway. People confuse that for the PCH all the time, though, right?

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved the idea of getting in the car and just going. And it never mattered where or how far, as long as we were going somewhere. I just love that feeling of being transported. And while I’ve always enjoyed the thrill of getting on a plane in one place and getting off somewhere else altogether, I still prefer driving when I can. Because when you’re in a car and you pass a place that somehow calls to you to pull in, you almost always have the ability to hit the brakes, bang a uey, and explore. And since banging a euy in a 747 gets the FAA involved, it’s pretty much off the table.

I can’t tell you how many farm stands and antique shops we’ve pulled into over the years. Places we definitely would’ve missed if we were flying over them at 30,000 feet. My poor patient little family humors me a lot. A real lot. I mean, I can’t tell you how much local knowledge I’ve accumulated over the years just by going off the grid when we’re on the road. We’ve found the best Mom & Pop restaurants and shops and boutiquey type places you’d just never find unless you knew they were there.

I also just love the compactness of having everything you need right there with you in one little space, with only the obvious exception of a toilet. Not to mention having the flexibility to change direction whenever you get the impulse. And I haven’t even mentioned the maps! The crispness of them and the way they can only be folded one way. Pure joy to me. To this day I have a very hard time giving in and using a GPS. They’re just so artificial and intrusive. In 1 mile, you will turn right. In a half mile, you will turn right. In a quarter mile, you will turn right. In 300 feet, you will turn right. In 50 feet, you will turn right. In about a second, you will turn right. You’re turning right. You’ve just turned right. I honestly can’t take it. Makes me want to lop my own head off.

Thinking back, though, I’m sure that having a dad who raced cars as a hobby helped. His influence and passion for everything that had to do with cars infused me at a super early age with a love of driving and being on the road and the excitement of finding my way. I mean, didn’t every second-grade girl know how to unscrew an oil filter and drain the pan? I mean, I learned that the same time I learned how to ride a two-wheeler. I honestly thought it was normal.

I know all of this sounds suspiciously like an ad for Airstream, but the truth is, being able to travel around in a way that allows me to stop and really absorb the flavor and texture of what’s around me is actually one of my dreams. My friend Jim and his wife Alison just did it for like four months and the experience changed their life. I’m giddy thinking about springing that on Dave when it’s time for us to retire. (Don’t tell him, ok. I want it to be a surprise.)

Can’t you just picture it? Driving off into the glow of retirement with my head out the window and my tongue flapping against my cheek. Heaven. Pure heaven. I can’t wait.

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


You’ve just been deputized


By Lisa Sugarman

People often ask me how I come up with something different to write about every week without being redundant. And my answer is almost always the same. Somehow, even when I’m completely void of ideas, something always seems to present itself to me in a way that I know, unmistakably, that it’s what I’m supposed to write about.

Take this week, for example.

I’m in this diner in central Vermont, killing time before I pick up my daughter from cross country running camp (yes, she actually goes to a camp for running), when it dawns on me that my column deadline is creeping up and I’m idealess.

I’m sitting alone at my table, dredging my brain for ideas and on the verge of pulling out my notebook where I keep my super-secret list of possible columns, when I get a clear and obvious sign from the Powers That Be, showing me exactly what I should be writing about. And the sign was pointing and flashing at the woman sitting directly across from me.

She was at a table with six young kids, raising her voice and snapping pretty consistently at each of them. Why, I had no idea. Now I couldn’t tell if these were her kids or if she was maybe just their camp counselor getting them lunch. Either way it didn’t matter because she was clearly responsible for them in one way or another. And it was very obvious to me, and the few other people sitting nearby, that this chick was losing her temper fast and things were about to get ugly.

The bizarre thing was, I had no idea why she was getting annoyed. The kids, who ranged in age from an infant in a bucket carrier to around twelve, were being absolutely model little citizens. There was no horsing around, everyone was quiet and well behaved, and had I not been absentmindedly staring in their direction, I would never have even realized there were a bunch of kids nearby.

But as soon as I heard the woman’s sharp and edgy voice, I immediately started fake typing and fully engaged myself in what was going on at her table. And ok, although I was getting a little concerned about the tone of this woman’s voice, I was also being ever so slightly nosey. It was pretty clear, though, that someone was about to get smacked.

See, historically speaking, I happen to have an extremely low tolerance for idiots, especially idiots who pick on little kids. But as Dave so often reminds me, there are a lot of crazies out there who wouldn’t hesitate to skin me alive and go Charlie Manson on me for butting into their business. So I’ve learned to react to the idiots of the world by keeping a healthy distance and engaging only when absolutely necessary.

In this case, I just deputized myself with a mission of watching her without her knowing she was being watched. Not that I could do all that much, but at the very least I wanted to make sure no one got backhanded in the face. At least not on my watch.

I surveilled as she stood up and started ranting about how she’d never take any of them into a public place like this EVER again. I saw her grab, one by one, all the little kiddie-size milkshakes out of everyone’s hands and jam them into the trash can. I listened as she muttered to all of them how terrible they were being. And maybe they were being ornery without me seeing, but they’re kids.

And then she saw me.

She caught me watching her. And that’s when she froze. Yeah, that’s right, biatch, I see what you’re doing, so back off! Our eyes locked and I stared her down like someone does when they’re training a dog and they need to make the dog look away first to prove who’s in charge. Needless to say, she looked away first. Then she shooed all the kids straight out the door, telling me to mind my business under her breath as she passed my table.

I never took my eyes off her, though, until she drove out of the parking lot and out of sight.

The moral here is two-fold. First, having or caring for kids is a privilege, not a right. But unfortunately, not everyone realizes that. And second, there are a-holes out there who think nothing of intimidating and bullying little kids, at least until someone calls them out on it or stares them down.

And while we all can’t be guardians of the world twenty-four hours a day, we can do our best to keep our eyes and ears open and help where we can. Because sometimes a little Dog Whisperer stare is all it takes. So consider yourself deputized.

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 and at Spirit of ’76 Bookstore.


Confessions of a Psychotic Housewife gives LIFE: It Is What It Is the thumbs up!

Gothic Martha Stewart/blogger/Internet reviewer, The Psychotic Housewife, just reviewed LIFE: It Is What It Is. Click her link below to read the full review…














Time heals most wounds


By Lisa Sugarman

The beginning of August is always a funky time for me. But probably not for the reasons you’d suspect.

I’ll bet you’re thinking it’s because August marks the official second half of summer and that maybe I’m just a little glum that we’ve only got a few weeks to go before Labor Day. And while that would be a solid, legitimate guess, you’d be wrong. Sorry.

Actually, the beginning of August signifies something altogether different for me.

It was the first of August, in the summer of 1978, that I lost my dad. And even though it’s been thirty-six years, whenever that time rolls around, a part of me goes back to that day when I was ten, back to when everything changed and I lost one of the two most important people in my life. And some of the sadness bubbles up again. Not the same, debilitating kind of sadness that I felt all those decades ago, but a different, more palatable kind that allows my mind to wander back and enjoy my memories.

Now I’m talking about this not just because it’s August again and I’m hyper-aware of that date on the calendar. That’s only part of it. I’m also putting it out there because I’ve realized that, coincidentally, there a few people in my life right now who’ve just lost someone close to them and they’re hurting. A lot. Like a deep cut hurts when it won’t clot. You know, that sharp, acidic kind of pain. And I know they’re not the only ones. And I feel bad. Because I know how that pain feels when it’s fresh.

Look, grief is a bizarre and unpredictable animal. Just when you think you’ve got it tamed and under control, it rears up and bites your arm off. So that’s why you have to proceed with caution and never underestimate its potential. Most importantly, though, you can’t be afraid to look it directly in the eye.  Because it’s an animal we all have to face one way or another. But how we face it directly impacts whether or not we’ll be able to co-exist.

The truth is, grief is such a subjective emotion that it really doesn’t matter if you’re talking about a parent or a spouse or a partner or a friend. Grief is relative. It’s raw, unfiltered hurt that feels like it’ll never end. And the stages of grief, while slightly different for everyone, are also more or less the same. The bottom line is, though, that it’s a process. And the point does usually come when we’ve siphoned out most of the acute pain and sadness and we can take comfort and find peace in the beauty of our memories.

Most of us understand that death and dying are necessary and inevitable parts of life. But when we’re in the thick of these periods of deep sadness, it’s almost impossible, regardless of how rational we are, to control the feelings. That’s because grief, just by its very nature, is uncontrollable. But it’s not permanent. At least not the intense kind of grief that we feel in the beginning. And that’s what I think people tend to forget. See, loss is permanent, but sadness and grief are not. They’re stages. And it’s only when we realize it, that we begin to live our lives again.

Not to minimize it, but we have to understand that grief is like an injury, almost no different from a broken bone or a gash. In most cases, time itself will do the healing, but there’s always still a hint of weakness or a scar that marks the wound. But that’s ok. Because, eventually, we’re able run our finger over that scar without feeling pain. Eventually, the severe hurt fades. And that’s because we’ve absorbed the very pain that debilitated us and repurposed it as the memories and love that sustains us.

What I’ve learned is that, with time, even the deepest wounds heal. Because life just has a way of clotting even the worst cuts—even the ones that keep splitting back open and oozing all over us. And the ironic thing is that sometimes it’s gradual and other times you just wake up one morning and the bleeding has stopped and the scab has formed and the healing has begun. Again, it’s different for everyone.

So to anyone who’s lost someone and thinks I’ll never be the same, I say, you’re right. You’ll never be the same. You’ll be different. Better, actually, in some ways, believe it or not. And that’s because, eventually, you’ll start seeing colors again, only now the colors will be a little sharper and deeper and you’ll see clearer. Remember better. Appreciate more. Because don’t forget, different doesn’t necessarily mean better or worse. It just means different. How different, is really up to you.

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 and at Spirit of ’76 Bookstore.

The LIFE: It Is What It Is radio book tour continues on the Thank God for Mondays Radio Show on WSOU 89.5 FM

Radio Book Tour

The LIFE: It Is What It Is book tour continues with a stop in New Jersey and a spot on the Thank God for Mondays Radio Show on WSOU 89.5 FM. Hosted by Seton Hall alumnus Brother Greg Cellini, WSOU is the pirate radio station of Seton Hall University. And if you think David Allan Boucher was silky smooth, then you need to hear Brother Greg.


Just click on the iTunes Radio image below to go directly to the audio podcast.

Once you’re in iTunes, scroll down to podcast #130 Lisa Sugarman and click on View in iTunes. Then click the play button at the top of the window.