Giving Thanks for Thanksgiving

By Lisa Sugarman

Here we are again. Back to my favorite week of the year. God, that was fast. Seems like it was only a few weeks ago when we were all sitting around the Thanksgiving table, gorging on pumpkin whoopie pies and mountains of buttery mashed potatoes, passing platters of stuffing and turkey around the overcrowded dining room.

The year speeds so fast that it’s hard to believe a full twelve months have gone by since we were all in each other’s company like this. Hard to believe that all the kids are a year older. That my oldest is coming home from college now to spend the holiday with the family. Hard to believe that we can all still manage to polish off most of the holiday food in about forty-eight hours—always a great exercise in togetherness and family unity.htt_thanksgiving_dinner_im1

It’s been more than ten years now since my mother-in-law officially passed me the Thanksgiving baton, giving me the chance to build my own legacy of holiday traditions. And every year since I’ve understood more and more why it was so hard for her to let go of hosting the holiday when she and my father-in-law retired to Florida. There’s something so unique and beautiful about a holiday that has no religious aspect, no gift-giving expectation, no tree or candle-lighting, no praying, yet still manages to unite everyone.

Instead, it’s all about worshipping the bird and the cowhide and the pecan pie. It’s about who can eat more cream squares in a twenty-four-hour period, Dave or his cousin Matt. (It usually ends in an ugly tie.) It’s about securing prime real estate on the couch after dinner and being willing to throw down with any aunt or uncle or nephew who tries to sneak into your spot when you get up to use the bathroom. It’s about judging which family member is snoring louder after dessert, when the sugar and white-flour coma overtakes them and leaves them paralyzed and drooling. It’s about just being together and being thankful that you are. Nothing more. Nothing less.11_07_002122.jpg

And it’s funny because I remember thinking, when I was the little girl running through our kitchen trying to swirl my finger into one of the pies without getting caught, that I’d never be able to pull off such a big event with so many moving parts. I just couldn’t imagine having the upper body strength to lift that four-thousand-pound turkey in and out of the oven all those times during the day to baste it just right. Let alone make sure that everything came out hot at exactly the same time. Or be able to afford buying all that food.

Somehow, though, I became worthy of inheriting the holiday. I’m not entirely sure how but I did. Maybe it was timing or location or that I was just stupid enough to want to take it on; but every year that I’m fortunate enough to host, I feel more and more blessed that our house has become the epicenter of such an important day.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m thankful for Thanksgiving. Super thankful. Because that’s that one day of the year when I have an almost one hundred percent guarantee that nearly all of the people I love most in the world will be sitting within hugging distance of me, all day.

See, the older I get, the more I realize that having my family around me is the only thing that really matters to me anymore. (Well, that and Zappos.) That even in spite of all the effort and preparation and post-game clean-up that goes into the holiday, I’m just grateful to be the one who gets to celebrate it under my roof.

Kitchen-MessNow I know there’s a lot to be said for baking a pie, climbing in the car, sucking up a little bit of traffic, showing up at someone else’s table, eating, digesting, and climbing back in the car. In a lot of ways that sounds like a delightful way to spend the holiday. And for some people it’s perfect. But for me, personally, the real beauty in Thanksgiving is found in all the preparation that goes into orchestrating the holiday. By that I mean that I actually relish the opportunity to destroy my kitchen while drinking a harmless little glass (or two) of pinot and listening to holiday music. I’ve always just loved the anticipation leading up to special occasions, almost as much as the occasions themselves.

Look, I know I’m odd, but it’s what makes me happy. And it’s what always made my mom and my mother-in-law happy. So while I guess that makes all of us a little bit kooky because we enjoy all the madness that Thanksgiving brings, it’s a good kind of kooky. The kind I wouldn’t trade for anything.

rolling-pin-passing-hands-ready-cooking-closeup-portrait-two-isolated-white-background-49010284And that ultimately means that my girls are going to have to beat me over the head with a turkey leg to get me to pass the tradition of hosting on to them. But even though I’m never going to want to give it up, I’m also not going to want to deprive them of the same warped kind of joy that I’ve gotten from hosting Thanksgiving all these years.

So get ready, girls. You’re on deck. But you’re gonna be in the dugout for awhile, so get comfortable.

Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on and at select Whole Foods Market stores.







Icons of our Youth

By Lisa Sugarman

As I sat in my kitchen last weekend, early in the morning, sipping my tea and watching the last of the leaves from our big red maple float to the ground in the backyard, something profound dawned on me. I realized, as I was staring up at quite possibly the most perfect climbing tree in the history of trees, that what I was looking at was so much more than just an ordinary climbing tree.FullSizeRender

I realized, as I stared at its perfectly juxtaposed branches, that in addition to being a flawless specimen as far as trees go, it was also a pseudo amusement park for my kids and every other neighborhood kid within a three-block radius. And that’s when it occurred to me that the tree symbolized something way bigger than just a place to hang out. It was an icon. More specifically, an icon of their youth—something that had become sacred to all of them. And it always would be.

Ironic that we never really paid much attention to the tree when we moved into the house ten-plus years ago. At that point, our girls were still little and the tree was just the big, beautiful centerpiece of our yard. In fact, it took a friend—the father of three boys—to see its potential and sneak away from a family barbecue to christen the tree with its first bonafide climber.

As soon as he pulled himself up onto the first set of low-hanging branches, that was it. Life in my backyard was never the same. And it was amazing to witness that moment of inception, when all the kids simultaneously turned and looked for Al, only to find him three stories above our house, straddling one of the thick anchor branches and grinning down over all of us.

Needless to say, it took about six seconds for every kid and all of us parents to shimmy up the tree and hosie our own branches. And we’ve all “owned” the same branches ever since. Almost like chairs around a kitchen table that each belong to someone specific in your family. And believe me when I tell you, you did not sit on Korey’s branch if you were Libby, or on Jesse’s branch if you were Riley. You just didn’t. Just like you don’t sit in Dave’s chair if you’re me. That’s because people are territorial.

Well Dave eventually built ladder rungs going up the side of the tree, and once he did that it was like an open invitation for every kid on the block to spend their free time supervising all neighborhood activities and solving all the middle school problems of the world.

What would’ve been interesting, in hindsight, is if I had somehow kept track of how many hours the kids spent up in the tree over the years. Or, better still, if I could’ve somehow wire-tapped the branches to hear the conversations that took place on those Indian summer mornings in March when the kids would throw on snow boots and shorts and drink their hot chocolate hovering above the grass.rsz_shutterstock_185056517-566x401

The point I’m making is that we all have very specific icons of our youth that symbolize different times in our lives. Whether it’s a pond you used to skate on or a tree you used to climb or a shed you used as a fort, we all have some icon from our past that symbolizes a particular time and place and point in our lives that we remember fondly. Or at least the kind that I’m talking about are the kind we remember warm-heartedly.

For me, ironically enough, the icon of my youth was a tree just like the one my kids have grown up with in our yard. It lived across the street in my neighbor Paul’s yard and was populated daily by almost as many kids as our tree is now.

And the memories I have of that tree are truly beautiful ones. They’re of laughter and silliness and bonding and adventure. And although the only specific memory I have about my time in Paul’s tree was the day I sliced my middle finger open with a Swiss army knife carving my initials in my branch, the vibe I have in my heart from all the time I spent perched in those branches is priceless.Ice-Skating-Duck-Pond-19671

The neat thing is, we all have some kind of an icon from our past—something that conjures up fond memories from another time—that has the amazing power to shoot us back to a time when silly little things like a tree or a pond seemed even more exciting than Disneyland.

I wonder, do you remember yours?

Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on and at select Whole Foods Market stores.


We Really Shouldn’t Judge a Book

By Lisa Sugarman

I love people. Really, I do. The majority of them, anyway. And one of the things I love most is how often people tend to surprise me in unexpectedly beautiful ways. Like when I meet someone for the first time and I’m convinced, just by the look on their face or their body language that they’re going to be unfriendly or sassy, and then they’re not. That’s my favorite.armsfolded

Shame on me, too, for ever thinking that way about someone just because of the look on their face or the way they hunch their shoulders, but I think it’s just human nature to draw impulsive conclusions sometimes based on nothing more than visual perception. And I wish we didn’t react that way, but the reality is that most of us do, at least initially.

That’s why I’m always so thrilled when I’m wrong about someone. Because it’s such a refreshing feeling, kind of like a good blast of Febreze in the face, when someone we expect will be a puss, ends up being a pussycat.

Just like the middle-aged guy I pulled up next to last weekend at the Pump N Pantry, who looked me up and down the second I got out of my car with what I interpreted as a legitimate scowl on his face. It seemed like he was sizing me up to be just another soccer mom who didn’t know the difference between a cylinder head and an intake manifold. (I mean, duh.) He just seemed sour, if that makes any sense. Even though it was a just a vibe I got by the way he looked at me, it made it very easy for me to immediately form my opinion about him. And needless to say, I didn’t like him.

But then, just as we were topping off our tanks, when I least expected it, he smiled the biggest, broadest, warmest smile and out of nowhere said, You have yourself a nice day, ma’am. And just like that, he became a good guy. Go figure.3df28c9

That’s the thing about vibes, they can be so misleading and unreliable because they’re usually based on nothing more than instinct. And even though instinct can sometimes be spot on, it can also just as easily miss the mark by miles. Which is too bad, because once we make an initial determination about a person and our feelings about them start heading in one direction, it’s tough to backtrack and change course.

So that little encounter made me stop and think about how often we all misjudge people—in both big and small ways—sometimes for little or no reason at all. And, how foolish we are for judging in the first place.

The thing is, oftentimes it’s not even a case of someone we meet being unfriendly or being an outright ass, sometimes it’s just as simple as them not being extroverted enough for us. Yet we still develop an opinion about them based on that first impression.

Maybe the person is shy. Maybe they’re introverted. Maybe they’ve got anxiety. Maybe they just got laid off and they’re in a silent panic about how to tell their family. Who knows? Maybe she has her period and her head is splitting (in which case you should just turn and back silently out of the room.) The point is, the more people I meet, the more I recognize that being nice or being friendly or being chatty or being social just isn’t always possible on demand.l309437821

But with a lot of people, I think it’s just as simple as penetrating the outer layers of their exterior in order to reach the soft gooey center before we pass judgment. Kind of like those hard raspberry candies they give out at the nail salon.

I guess it all goes back to the old You-Can’t-Judge-a-Book-by-its-Cover idea, which is one hundred percent true. The only problem is, we often can’t suppress our urge to make a snap judgment about people and that’s often our downfall because then we’ve typecast someone without even knowing them. And that’s unfortunate, because a lot of the time we end up being dead wrong.

That, of course, led me to the conclusion that absolutely everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt right out of the gate. Even if their first impression is a sucky one.

Why am I telling you this? Because if I tell you and it makes you think twice, then you can tell someone and they can tell someone and then, all of a sudden, the world will be a little less judgy and we’ll all be a little more tolerant with each other. In theory, of course.

Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on and at select Whole Foods Market stores.

No Talking in Elevators? Seriously?

By Lisa Sugarman

I have to be honest, it drives me absolutely insane when my kids are right about a something we’re debating—especially when they’re both unified against me. And especially when I’m convinced they’re both completely mistaken. Not because I have a problem being proven wrong, but simply because they never let me live it down and that’s just annoying. (Kids can be brutal.)

But, unfortunately for me, it seems that my girls were one hundred percent spot on last weekend when they scolded me for carrying on a conversation with them in the elevator at my daughter’s dorm. Because, unbeknownst to me, there’s an entire world of elevator etiquette out there that states, very clearly, that there’s no talking allowed in elevators. And the rules of engagement are very clearly defined. Who knew?woman in elevator

So the three of us were chatting as we walked into the elevator in the lobby of her building, me probably yammering away about how cute the college boys are these days, and them expressing their disgust over their embarrassing mother. But the second we crossed the threshold into the elevator and meshed in with the other people in the car, both girls went radio silent. Like total shutdown.

Now normally their sudden silence wouldn’tve stuck out to me, but it was only after I kept talking and both of them shot me the evil eye that I knew something was up. Me being me, though, I just ignored them and kept talking, assuming, of course, that it was just my girls asserting they know everything. Again.

Come to find out that I got the nasty look because, evidently, you’re really not supposed to talk in elevators. Like it’s actually a thing.

I mean, really? Since when? And says who? Needless to say, I was horrified and immediately lodged a protest. (In the elevator, of course.) I couldn’t believe that what they were suggesting was actually true. That there’s a whole population out there who subscribe to the “unwritten rules of elevator behavior.”cell-phone-in-elevator

It just seems insane to me that we’re expected to cease all communication and stare at the floor just because we’re riding in a little metal box with a bunch of strangers. I just don’t get it. I can’t understand the thinking behind not interacting with people simply because there are some people we don’t know standing next to us. But that’s just me.

See, the fact is, nine times out of ten my girls dispute the stuff I say just for the sake of disputing me. So I honestly figured this argument was like most of our others and based exclusively on what I like to call generational perception. In other words, my girls think what they think because they just assume that their entire generation believes it, whether it’s true or not.

So what, then, did I feel compelled to do? Prove them wrong, of course. And to do that, I knew I had to research whether or not this elevator silence thing was just an urban legend or if it was legit. What I didn’t count on, was finding out that the myth was not a myth at all, but rather a very sophisticated set of rules designed to discourage all communication in elevators. I never saw that coming.

All it took was a simple Google search to lead me to roughly 1,060,000 results on elevator behavior; the first of which was an interesting article that listed the finer points of elevator etiquette in great detail. Gee, thanks, Internet, for blowing my whole argument that no such rules exist.

And according to The Unwritten Rules of Elevator Etiquette, there really is a specific code of conduct that we’re all supposed to follow when riding elevators. Needless to say, I was absolutely shocked. Although what I found even more stunning was that I had absolutely no knowledge that such a thing even existed.No_-20-Don’t-Talk-on-the-Elevator

Apparently, after entering an elevator, we’re supposed to stand as close to a wall or one of the corners as possible in order to reduce any spacial invasion to our co-riders. And, most importantly, we’re expected to decrease eye contact and lower the tone and pitch of our voice to barely a whisper.

As far as my daughters are concerned, I’m to think of an elevator like a mini library and observe the same rules. But as far as I’m concerned, they, and the rest of the elevator etiquette crowd have lost their ever-lovin’ minds. I mean, strangers shouldn’t expect to be involved in another stranger’s conversation. It’s that simple.

So until there’s an actual law passed that bans elevator talk altogether, I’m going to continue to be the maverick who talks when the doors close. And I’m not apologizing for it. Because I don’t think it’s fair to have to wait until National Talk in the Elevator Day on the last Friday in June to be able to talk freely. (Oh yeah, that’s a real thing too.)

Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on and at select Whole Foods Market stores.

For God’s Sake, Stop Saying You’re Sorry!

By Lisa Sugarman

Something’s been nagging at me for a while, so I thought this is as good a place as any to bring it up.

I feel like I owe you an apology. (Not that I’m exactly sure what I did that would necessitate apologizing, but I feel like people are always saying I’m sorry to each other for something, so I’m sure I owe you one for some reason or another.)

So I’m sorry. Really. I am. I mean that sincerely. And I hope you’ll forgive me.images

Wait. No. This is ridiculous. We both know I didn’t do anything wrong. I take back everything I said. I rescind my apology. It was just a knee-jerk reaction to my overdeveloped need to always make people around me feel better. Since forever, it’s been my tendency to make sure the people around me are ok—kids, family, friends, co-workers, strangers—it’s just how I’m wired. I’m a Cancer, what can I say?

And we all do it.

The problem is, most of us apologize way too much. For everything. Constantly. But the funny thing is, we’re usually doing it unconsciously, totally unaware that we’re saying we’re sorry for every little thing. And of the two genders, women are the biggest offenders. Surprise, surprise.

Look, when we make mistakes, especially screw-ups that hurt someone, it’s our responsibility to apologize. No debate about that. But what I’ve been noticing a lot lately, for no particular reason other than I tend to notice stuff, is that people are constantly apologizing for things when they don’t need to. And, consequently, I’m realizing that I’m as guilty as anyone of doing the exact same thing.

I catch myself apologizing for stuff multiple times a day. I apologize for asking someone to speak up because I can’t hear them; I apologize to the guy in the crosswalk for not being able to stop in time to let him cross; I apologize to the waiter when I want him to refill my water glass. It never ends.rsz_shutterstock_273641723-566x401

I mean, I was just in the supermarket this morning whizzing around grabbing groceries, minding my own business, when I almost collided with another woman coming around a corner. Neither of us was pushing recklessly or in a rush; we just didn’t see each other coming. And what automatically pops out of my mouth as I swerve to avoid bashing into her? Oh, God! Sorry, my bad! Now I had nothing to apologize for and neither did she, yet both of us blurted out these heartfelt I’m sorrys like we just ran over each other’s cat.

And what I realized is that apologies breed worry and worry produces discontent. Because when we think we’ve offended or insulted or hurt or upset someone, that feeling morphs very quickly into angst. And we all know that once we get to the angst stage, paranoia inevitably follows and then all sense and sensibility is usually lost. And that’s precisely why we need to reign ourselves in a little.

So this new self-awareness that I have about my apology compulsion (and yours) is what compelled me to send out a global reminder that we do not, actually, have to apologize for every teeny tiny little thing.

So I offer you this… it’s a list of things we should never apologize for, according to So file these nuggets away in your frontal lobe and maybe, just maybe, you’ll start seeing a difference in how much time you spend worrying:

  1. You should never apologize for loving someone
  2. You should never apologize for saying no
  3. You should never apologize for following a dream
  4. You should never apologize for taking “Me” time
  5. You should never apologize for your priorities
  6. You should never apologize for ending a toxic relationship
  7. You should never apologize for your imperfections
  8. You should never apologize for standing your ground
  9. You should never apologize for not knowing the answer
  10. You should never apologize for high expectations
  11. You should never apologize for spending money on yourself
  12. You should never apologize for someone else
  13. You should never apologize for bad dancing or singing
  14. You should never apologize for a delay in your response
  15. You should never apologize for telling the truth

imagesKY3ZZ6B0The truth is, apologies are, at times, just veiled expletives because just the simple act of adding a sorry to whatever you’re saying is nothing more than a passive aggressive way of saying f-you. And we all know it. NY Times writer Sloane Crosley said it best in an article from earlier this year when she called The Apology a Trojan horse for genuine annoyance. She went on to say that we often use the words I’m sorry when a situation is so clearly not our fault that we think an apology will prompt the other person to realize that they’ve said or done something stupid and own it. And sorry, but I think she might be right.

Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on and at select Whole Foods Market stores.