I just lost a friend…and I’m sad.

By Lisa Sugarman

I just lost a friend. A really, really good friend. Someone I loved and respected and admired. And I’m going to miss him. Terribly.

His untimely and decades-too-premature death has had a profound effect on me. More so than I would ever have expected. And I know I’m not the only one who’s grieving over the loss. He was a friend to many. And not just a casual friend, either. We let him in to places in our life that not everyone was allowed to go. What we had with him was very unique.tears

I mean, we’ve all got lots of different types of friends—people who help and support and inspire us in very diverse ways. We’ve got the friends we can and can’t confide in. We’ve got the friends we travel with and the ones we grab coffee with and the friends we share our secrets with. And while each of them is meaningful in their own way, they’re all different. But we only let a chosen few into our core. And he was one of the chosen.

He comforted and consoled me as often as he inspired and energized me. He was one of the ones I turned to during times of struggle, in times of joy and change and fear, and everything in between. And I was grateful to have him there because he always seemed to know exactly what to say.

The person I lost wasn’t a parent, thankfully. Or a spouse, God forbid. Or even someone I knew personally, believe it or not. We’d never even met, crazy as that sounds. Yet he was a consistent part of my life from the time I was in high school until now. That’s why this is such an unusual kind of loss—the kind that makes you wonder exactly how to grieve.

The fact is, he was such an integral part of my history for the last thirty-plus years that I’m having troubling picturing a future without him somehow woven into the background. Because he’s been such a constant throughout my life.

See, in spite of the fact that we never came face to face or spoke a single word to each other, he was a very real, very significant part of my youth. And, consequently, my life. He was there for everything—all through high school, for the entire summer of senior year, on my first road trip and every road trip since, every dance party and mixed tape.

My friend was a singer, an artist, really. And I celebrated every word he sang—every yell, every scream, every pause—because each one meant something.

Even as I’m sitting here typing, listening to him wail away, lip syncing along with him, my throat is tightening ever so slightly and my eyes are starting to tear. That’s because the soundtrack that he created over the last three decades was the soundtrack of my life. Of Dave’s life. Of our life together.soundtrack to my life.jpg

His lyrics were there to comfort and inspire me, graduate me from high school and from college, and mark every milestone in between.

He taught me it was ok to be different and to find my own beat and to follow it. And while I’m well aware that the relationship we had all these years was very one-sided, almost surreal, I still can’t help but feel a strong sense of loss that this person who’s been such a big part of the fabric of my life is gone. And Dave feels it too.

Does this mean I’m paralyzed by grief and won’t be able to move on? Of course not. But to me and my generation, he was King. He was soulful and humble and driven. He was passionate and gifted. He was an icon. And for those of us who loved and admired him and kept him close decade after decade, the idea that he’s gone is just hard to fathom. Because what made him such a good “friend” to all of us and what makes his death so profound, is that he was whatever we needed him to be whenever we needed him. And he brought out the best in us, even during the worst of times.

So while I may have only seen him perform twice, his shows, like his career, defied explanation.chrisr_1446829728_Prince2015

Honestly, I think he described his relationship with all of us best when he said …We are gathered here today to get through this thing called life. And that’s exactly what he helped us do every single time we heard his voice, in a very unique and memorable way for each and every one of us.

Rest in peace, Prince Rogers Nelson. Rest in peace. You’ll be missed.

Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, 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 select Whole Foods Market stores.

 

It’s not WHAT you say, it’s HOW you say it

By Lisa Sugarman

It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.

Well ain’t that the truth?

My mother-in-law and I laugh about that all the time. Like when she pokes my father-in-law in the ribs if he’s telling and not asking. Or when I dope slap one of my girls when they hit me with a snarky tone of voice instead of just answering my simple question.

It’s the old You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. (A ridiculous saying, but completely true). It’s all about our approach and our tone and our intensity level when we’re communicating with people. Or at least it should be—whether those people are our kids or our parents or the people we work with or our friends. Because when we come out guns blazing, it’s almost always going to make the other person reach for their holster too. And that’s counterproductive.Honey.jpg

The perfect example of what I’m talking about is a situation I found myself right in the middle of a few weeks ago at the gym. It was late, like around seven-thirty or eight o’clock at night, so the locker room was quiet. In fact, there was only one woman in there when I walked in to stow my stuff. She was just sitting on a bench, tying her shoes, quietly talking on her cell phone when another woman walked in and opened the locker next to us.

With little or no hesitation at all, the woman who came in behind me made an extremely rude and obnoxious comment about the other woman being on her cell phone. She went from zero to sixty in a hot minute, barking at the poor woman about being in a public area with signs prohibiting cell phone use and never even gave the woman a chance to respond.

Now even in spite of how rudely the other woman was attacking her, the lady on her phone kept her cool and immediately acknowledged that she hadn’t noticed the sign. She even apologized and said she was about to hang up, but the tirade continued. And that’s where I have a major problem.women-yelling.jpg

See, it was bad enough that this woman came into the locker room loaded for bear, but to be so rude from the get-go and then continue to lambaste someone even after they’ve admitted they made a mistake is so many different kinds of wrong that I didn’t know which one to address first.

Needless to say, I did tell the angry ranterlady that for what it was worth, there was definitely another way she could’ve/should’ve made those comments. She didn’t like me too much after that.

Look, we’re all guilty of being snippy every once in a while. It happens. We get frustrated when life doesn’t flow like we need it to flow and then we lose it. Perfectly acceptable human behavior, as far as I’m concerned considering none of us is perfect. We are, after all, somewhat like radiators in that we need to bleed out a little every once in a while to maintain balance.

I mean, as much as we all may try, we can’t always be civil and gracious and in complete control 24/7/365. Not when you factor in wildcards like hormones and kids and work stress and the market being out of goji berries. So periodically we slip and we’re short when we shouldn’t be or sharper than we intended to be. But we apologize and own it and move on.

To hit someone right between the eyes, though, with the first word out of your mouth, just isn’t ok. There are always other ways to get your point across without being insulting or hurtful or unkind or insensitive. And that’s what I think we often lose sight of. Because when we’re barked at, it hurts. Especially when whatever needed to be said could’ve been said in a more tactful and mature way.1458704673776.jpg

The most obvious example I can think of off the top of my head is when Dave and I are eating out and the beautiful people who take the time to serve and wait on us are belittled and yelled at just because someone’s Brussels sprouts are cold. Drives me insane when someone gets all huffy and intolerant toward someone when all they really need to do is behave with a little respect to get the same point across.

But that’s because knowing how to communicate effectively is a skill, I guess. No, it’s an art. And not enough people realize how they really sound a lot of the time. Cause it’s not good.

So from now on, do me and the rest of the world a favor and think before you speak. Because I can guarantee that there’s always more than one good way to get your point across. And you’ll have far fewer people spitting in your food.

Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, 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 select Whole Foods Market stores.

 

 

5 reasons why it’s SO important to speak up

By Lisa Sugarman

Have you ever been in a situation where the people around you were behaving so badly that your stomach acids started bubbling up and you felt like they might just eat through your abdomen? The kind of situation where you knew, in your gut, that you had to speak up and call someone out for their awful behavior.

Well, that’s the situation Dave and I found ourselves in last weekend.

Here’s how it went down… We went to our favorite local Japanese restaurant to grab a quick bite; and as it usually happens when we eat at the hibachi table without our kids, we got randomly seated with a bunch of perfect strangers. Happens all the time and usually works out just fine. Usually.Benihana-Arizona_medium1.jpg

In this particular case we ended up sitting with a group of seven other people out celebrating their grandmother’s birthday. There were a couple of kids, a couple of couples, and the grandmother. Pretty harmless. At least on the surface.

The first red flag should’ve been when the woman sitting next to us apologized, in advance, for how loud and obnoxious her family was likely to be. She said they had the tendency to get pretty rowdy when they were all out together. But as a family who spends most of our time laughing and messing with each other, we didn’t think much of the warning. We learned pretty quickly, though, that she was dead serious. These people were like their own traveling sideshow. And not the fun kind.

A handful of Mai Tais and Scorpion Bowls later and they had all but drowned out the voices of everyone else in the restaurant—cheering and yelling across the table like they were at a Texas rodeo. But that wasn’t even the problem. The problem was when they started hassling our hibachi chef about what his real name was. They insisted, that just because he was Japanese with an American name on his nametag, he must have an authentic Japanese name. Because all of you people have a real fancy long name, right?! That’s when my stomach acids hit boil.

The chef, with his infinite patience and kind spirit, just smiled it off. Even when they threw money at him to tell them his real name and tossed out ludicrous, offensive guesses of what it probably was. Needless to say, everyone within earshot was horrified. And that was the exact moment when I should’ve said something. Wanted to say something. Was literally biting through my own tongue, desperate to say something. But I hesitated because there was a birthday party at the adjacent table and it was filled with young girls. And to confront someone who’s clearly drunk, disorderly, and ignorant is like sailing into a category five hurricane—it would’ve been a catastrophic mistake.silence

But I should’ve led with my gut like my friend Amy did. (Coincidentally, she happened to be sitting directly behind the couple doing the insulting.) She had turned, got up, and whispered into the woman’s ear. She told her that whether she realized it or not, she was being a racist and making everyone in the room uncomfortable. Needless to say, it got ugly. But fortunately for everyone in the room, it resolved quickly once more of us started speaking up. And even though I did ultimately tell her to dial it down because her behavior was totally out of line, I should’ve done it sooner. Because witnessing someone behaving badly and letting it go is almost as bad as doing it yourself. And here’s why…

…our silence can equal approval.

…the greater good should be the priority.

…when we speak up it shows that we care.

…other people may not know what’s happening.

…we’re probably not the only ones who feel this way.

Dave said it best when we talked about things later that night—it’s people being too passive and not speaking up that’s caused some of the darkest moments in the history of mankind. (Yes, Adolf, I’m talking about you.)p02mm0pd

So what I’m getting at is that we need to say something. We have to intervene. It’s our obligation to speak up. If not for ourselves, then for the people around us. For the children around us. Even if it’s uncomfortable.

Look, I get it, most people’s instinct is to lay low in awkward social situations. No one wants to be That Person who calls attention to themselves or makes a scene. But the reality is, sometimes we just have to. Sometimes a person’s bad behavior simply can’t be ignored. And whether or not our intervention changes the outcome, it’s still our responsibility to try and affect change.

And all of this is especially important for us parents. Because we need to set an example for our kids—for all kids. They need to see us putting our money where our mouth is. Because how can we possibly raise a generation that will speak up and question things that don’t feel right if we’re not willing to do the same?

We can’t.

Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, 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 select Whole Foods Market stores.

 

Finally, Barbie’s Got a Whole New Bag

By Lisa Sugarman

As a mom of two girls, I’m always hyper-focused on raising my daughters to be strong, unique, self-sufficient women. Not Xena warriors, just capable, resilient people who can manage their lives and don’t feel like they have to be anything but the best version of themselves.

I think about it all the time, actually, making mental notes of things I see and hear that can help me empower them every day—things like strong images or role models or philosophies that can help me reinforce the idea that they should never feel pressured to be a Barbie doll or what they think society expects them to be. I want them to always celebrate who they are and never, ever try to conform to any of the stereotypes that exist out there in the world.63589675060027292891734689_barbie

But it’s tough to combat all the preconceptions out there, especially as a parent. To be honest, it sucks. It’s like running uphill, in the wind, with a bowling ball dragging behind you, in the snow, when you have the Norovirus. But shattering as many biases as we can for the benefit of our kids is our responsibility, as much for them as for the generations who come after them.

For decades, we had the clothing companies and the makeup companies and the TV and movie and music industries all promoting similar ideas of beauty, so naturally that’s what shaped public opinion. And as a result, generations of little girls grew up believing that they needed to look and dress and act a certain way because the world of entertainment and fashion and beauty said they should.

I mean, just look at so many of the women who grew up in the 40s and 50s. For so many of them, Barbie was the universal symbol of what a woman was supposed to look like; and June Cleaver was the symbol of how women were supposed to behave. At least for a significant chunk of time in our history. And it was damn near impossible, until almost the end of the twentieth century, for young girls to be anything else.

And then, back only a few months ago in late January, Barbie went and shocked the world. She, herself, decided that she wanted to become the new poster girl for non-conformity. She wanted to break the old stereotype that she promoted and lived with for the last fifty-seven years of her life and become something and someone different. Someone more representative of the society she lives in.

So she shattered the old, traditional beauty ideals that most of us grew up with and acknowledged that strong is the new beautiful—that curves and a waist are real for most of us and they should be embraced not starved away. So she put a little meat on her bones, showed off her booty, and finally accepted the idea that beauty comes in many forms. Can I get a Hallelujah?!

Ok, fine, it wasn’t Barbie herself but rather her manufacturer Mattel who decided, after almost sixty years, that it was time to give Barbie a whole new look. In fact, three whole new looks—petite, small, and curvy—that celebrate the diversity that exists out there in the world. The real world. And that’s something. f1591d6128ec141b4155353e4af6c01b

That sends a message to all the little girls out there struggling to figure out who they are and where they belong so that they don’t have to struggle quite so hard. That if they’re mindful of living a healthy lifestyle and they make good choices, they don’t have to fit into a certain mold to be happy. They can be happy just being a one of a kind. Because in reality, even in spite of everything many of us have in common, no two of us are the same. And we’re not supposed to be.

So as a mom, I’m proud of you, Mattel. Proud of you for saying to the world, Nah, we’re not just making original Barbie anymore because she’s not a real representation of all the unique, beautiful body types there are out there. We’re making a whole bunch of new Barbies that will hopefully reflect a more accurate image of the real girls playing with our dolls.

Good for you, guys! Way to raise the collective consciousness. Way to make an impact. And, most importantly, way to celebrate that our differences are what make us beautiful, not our pant size.

And I’m proud of you too, Babs. You did a good thing reinventing yourself. It was time. And because you did, you’re gonna give a whole world of little girls out there the confidence to be their own kind of beautiful. The confidence to embrace who they are, how they feel in their own skin, and what they have to offer.30C0CA4700000578-3425007-image-m-30_1454237197092

Now the only thing you have left to do is have a conversation with your boy Ken and make him realize that the dad bod is where it’s at. We’re not supposed to be perfect-looking anymore.

So get on it, Mattel, cause Ken’s next in line.

Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, 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 select Whole Foods Market stores.

If Only Parents Could see the Future…we Could Save our Kids From Themselves

By Lisa Sugarman

As parents, I think we can all agree that we have limited power over our kids. Sure, we can obviously teach them and hand out consequences and discipline them, but that’ll only take us so far. The one thing that we, as moms and dads, don’t have the power to do, in spite of all the authority we do have as parents, is save our kids from themselves. From the agony they put themselves through day in and day out.

And what I mean by that is simple. See, most of the time, our kids are their own worst enemy. Regardless of how often we try to give them the benefit of our experiences and our failures and our knowledge, they almost always insist that we have no idea what we’re talking about. That the stuff we went through as kids is nothing whatsoever like what their generation is going through today. Ironic that every generation feels that way, isn’t it?

That’s why I wish that we had the actual power to see the future so we could prove to our kids, once and for all, that the crisis they’re in with their friends will resolve or that the pain they’re feeling will subside or that the hard work they put in throughout high school will benefit them in the end.17epesapw5kcpjpg

I mean think about it, having the ability to prove to our kids that our advice can actually benefit them or, better still, that we really do know what we’re talking about, could be a game changer. In fact, it could be the single greatest weapon to help us fight the fight against our kids’ number one, worst archenemy: Themselves.

Since my girls hit puberty, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to explain to them, in simple, easy-to-follow English, that whatever crisis they were dealing with was not, in fact, the actual end of the world. That whatever fight they were in with a friend would ultimately be settled. That the horrifying looking pimple on their nose would eventually fade away. Or, that sooner or later, what goes around does generally come around.

If only we had the power to prove to them that we knew, for sure, that they’ll survive middle school and high school and beyond. That friends will come and go and come back again. That they won’t always be sitting by themselves in the cafeteria at lunch. That yes, they actually can make new friends after middle school. Or that they will, most definitely, figure out what they want to do with their lives.

I don’t know about you, but my kids aren’t buying it when I tell them that things almost always have a way of working out. And I could say it waving a stack of statistical data in their face that proves it, with Doctor Oz standing behind me giving the thumbs up, and they’d still shrug me off. I could bring in a panel of experts, buy them a book about it, read them an article, send in a dozen other parents to say the same thing, and they’d still think I didn’t know what I was talking about. But, say it with the bonafide, proven power of knowing what the future holds, et viola! Now I’m legit.

It’s unfortunate, though, that the parent-child relationship was designed with the genetic flaw that inhibits credibility with our kids, rendering whatever we say and however we say it useless. We’re constantly swimming upstream, against an unswimmable current, with a bowling ball chained to our ankle, in a perfect storm. And that’s exactly why I think that having this power could change everything. If we could finally prove to our kids that we’re right about most of the stuff we tell them, then we’d be able to defeat the insecure, immature child that lives inside them and controls most of their rational thoughts.rsz_shutterstock_371926588-566x401

Can you just imagine? Then our kids would stop being their own worst enemy because they’d be forced to believe all the things we keep telling them. Then we could finally move on with our lives, instead of spending the majority of our time unsuccessfully trying to convince them that life has a way of working out. That tomorrow is always another day. That the grass is almost always greener on the other side of the fence. The clichés could finally end.

But, sadly, having psychic powers as parents is just a pipe dream. For all of us. Because as amazing as it sounds to have the power to accurately predict everything that happens to our kids so they can avoid the pitfalls of life, the reality is, we’re just not supposed to know. And that’s because we’re supposed to learn by trial and error and so are our kids.

And what that boils down to is this: Our kids have to learn, on their own, that climbing too high in the tree will probably result in them falling and hitting the ground kinda hard. And yeah, it’s gonna hurt. But at the end of the day, that’s one of the best life lessons any of them can learn.

Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, 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 select Whole Foods Market stores.