Thursday, January 31, 2013

Everything




There are moments in life when someone says one line -- one line that completely realigns your thinking. So potent and flawless in its simplicity, the line comes to you as if spoken by God.

A few years ago, my babysitter came to watch the kids and brought her nephew along. He was new to California and his ability to communicate in English was surprising after just a few months of 10th grade.

Diego came to America in secrecy, his body stuffed into the hollowed-out space beneath the back seat of an old Toyota. Where he came from, wealth was a daily meal and a pair of shoes. His family worked most of his 15 years of life to gather the $4,000 border crossing fee. On the other side was his aunt, now a citizen. On the other side was a life with possibilities.

Don and I said good-night to the kids and told them to be good for Marcella. As we were leaving, Jack pulled on Don’s arm.

“Can we go to the movies tomorrow, Dad?” he pleaded.

“Maybe next weekend. We have a lot to do tomorrow.”

“Like what? Why can’t we go?”

“Because we have a lot to do around our house.”

“Can we go to the toy store then?”

“No. We need to work on the house.”

“I don’t want to work on the house! Geez! It’s so unfair! Come on, Dad!”

“I’m not going to say it again. The answer is no.”

“I’ll have nothing to do! It will be so boring!”

Jack stomped away, marinating in the injustice. Don shook his head and looked at Diego.

“I don’t know why he acts like that.”

There was a long pause.

Softly, Diego said, “It’s because he has everything.”

There it was. Plain and simple.

But the line spoke to me as a statement well beyond the interaction with Jack.

It’s because we have everything. It’s about our advantage and their adversity. It’s about their destitution and our discontent.

I felt ashamed. Here we are. Americans with our big SUVs and cluttered houses and overflowing refrigerators. Here we are with our addictions and anti-depressants. With our firm grip on our kids’ overscheduled lives. With our heads immersed in technology and our disconnected families.

We live in the land of everything and yet we often feel nothing. It begs the question: How have we lost our way?

The line has stayed with me all these years. “It’s because he has everything.” It’s the voice in my head that warns me not to spoil. It’s the underlying guilt I feel when I whine about traffic or rude people or hot summers – all packaged as really big deals. It’s the line that resets my compass toward gratitude and simplicity.

In the book, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, author Wendy Mogel, Ph.D., writes: “When horticulturists want to prepare hothouse plants for replanting outdoors, they subject them to stress to strengthen them. Gently and progressively deprived of food and water and exposed to greater extremes of heat and cold than they’ve been accustomed to, the plants grow stronger root systems and thicker stems.”

Most of us haven’t been exposed to many extremes. To what degree have our lives been padded? And to what degree do we pad the lives of our children? How will they grow “stronger root systems” if we red carpet their way and break their every fall?

My babysitter shares her home with her husband, three children and extended family. Diego and the grandparents sleep on couches. Their home is full yet immaculate and their children are A students, Diego included. But what I have always marveled over is the way this family radiates pure joy and celebrates its togetherness.

They have so little, yet so much. They tune into one another instead of Ipods or cell phones or computers. Front lawn tag is an almost nightly event in which everyone takes part. They work together to pool their resources, and they see America for all its glory and wonder and opportunity. Their struggle has given them a different lens. The little things in life – that we consider daily hardships -- aren’t even visible on their radar.

There is much to glean from people who have suffered. Maybe we can’t know how they feel or what they've been through, but we can learn from their example. We can pause, take a good look around and really see everything. And maybe in the process, we’ll remember that our land of plenty is a place and a state of mind never to be taken for granted again.




Sunday, July 29, 2012

Crazy Dog People

I love dogs. You’d think I wouldn’t, having been flattened by a German shepherd
when I was 11, but I don’t blame his momentary lapse in judgment on the entire species.

We had a revolving door of strays and rescues in our house growing up. Each dog came with his own dysfunction, some personality defect that, sooner or later, was deemed intolerable by my father, Mr. Clean, and off he went. Poop on the rug? Dad’s not happy. Ate the birthday cake off the table? Really not happy. Scratched a hole right through the door?

Bubb-bye.

Benji, the springer spaniel, spent more time in the air than paws on the ground. It was like living with a giant rubber ball that hit you in the head and licked your earlobes. Joey the cocker spaniel, preferred the taste of shoes and purses over hambones. Sash, the standard poodle, spent his days making booger art on our bay window. Tanya, the German shepherd, loved the cool freshness of toilet water and a tasty afternoon bite of the legs of the paper boy and mailman.

And then there was Beagie, the foster beagle, who showed us who was in the HOUSE. He had it out for upholstery: chewing it here, puking on it there and lifting his leg to it everywhere. He’d wait until
you’d found your sweet spot of sleep and then bark like a buzz saw. Just when you’d drift back, he’d reignite. I’m pretty sure he was laughing through it all. And during the day, we’d find him under the covers of my brother’s bed, head on the pillow.

Oliver the airedale, restored my faith in canines. He was BFF material – at your side, head on your leg, patient eyes -- but he was stubborn like wet denim. When he decided he had walked enough in the snow, he cemented his hind legs in the bank.

At home, he kept one eye on the door, never missing an opportunity for a prison break. We spent half his life scouring neighborhoods and corralling him back into the car.

The one thing Oliver taught me was to never back down. The kids and I have been holding our ground all these years in a campaign to adopt a dog. Hubs wasn’t having it.

Then one day we saw him on Petfinder. His name was Charger -- 15 pounds of marshmallow curly, face like a polar bear cub.
It was as if there were no other dogs to be had.

We showed Don the photo, fully knowing he’d say no. And he did. But what we didn’t expect was the faint smile that made its way across his face. There was the crack in the door.

I presented my case: kids are 15 and 13. They have waited long enough. He doesn’t shed. We’re getting a dog.

Before he could take back the, “Do what you want,” I had an appointment with Bichon FurKids Rescue. Charger was available.

For years, we told our friends that we wanted a dog that didn’t bark, bite, beg, jump, growl, whine, drool, lick, shed, eat your shoes, scratch the door, pee in the car, chase the repairman, drink from the toilet, poop in the house, sniff your crotch or hump your leg.

They laughed and suggested a stuffed dog.

Apparently the order we placed was well received by the doggy adoption gods, because Charger is all that. One hundred percent sweetness. Better behaved than anyone in this house.

Every day, my kids fight over who had the dog first, as if there aren’t enough hours in a day to share him.

My husband says I have crossed over from dog admirer to crazy dog lady. I don’t think that’s fair at all. He says I talk about Charger to family, friends and anyone who has ears. Hey, people seem very interested in seeing the Charger photo album. And then there’s the video collection.

What my husband won’t admit is how his heart has doubled in size. I caught him saying to Charger, “Do you know how much I love you?”

It’s been 7 months since Charger became a part of our family. And we realize now, that we needed him even more than he needed us.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bad Boss, Bad Boss, Whatcha Gonna Do?


Ask anyone you know about the worst boss they’ve ever had and guaranteed, you’ll be there for three hours wishing you hadn’t asked that question. Just thinking about your worst boss is kerosine to the blaze that already exists in your belly.

Why are bad bosses so ubiquitous and good bosses as rare as a well-dressed shopper in Wal-Mart?

Those of us who have been the doers, the producers of actual *work,* know all-too-well what it feels like to be under the stiff palm of a little Napoleon.

And it makes you wonder: how/why do people like this rise to such ranks? They have no business interfacing with the public in general, let alone directing their co-workers.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had a few good bosses. But the bad bosses, the Michael Scotts of the corporate world, are plentiful, and they did more to contribute to the holes in my stomach than annual revenue.

And you don’t have to be a fan of the TV show, “The Office,” to have heard about the lead character, Michael Scott. He is a composite of all of our bad bosses, checking off every personality defect in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

He's known for his humility: “Would I rather be feared or loved? Easy, both. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.”

Michael is pompous, inappropriate, bigoted and incompetent, with a complete lack of self-awareness. He’s an attention-feeding juvenile who lives to ridicule others, usurp credit, self-promote and make up new rules that only benefit him.

We have worked for people like this.

I’ve had supervisors who’ve taken ownership of my ideas and insisted on correcting my writing – incorrectly. Bosses who've yapped the day away about their frenzied social lives, adventure vacations and shopping expeditions. These same ones often strolled in around 10, left after lunch and would ask you to come in on
the weekend of your best friend’s wedding. I’ve taken the blame for my bosses’ mistakes and been reamed for failing to do jobs I was never assigned.

When I was in high school, I worked afternoons in an office for a man my father’s age who badgered me regularly to join him for lunch and dinner. One lunch and I knew we weren’t there to discuss my next project for the company.

Another boss sat me down and told me I needed Jesus to deliver me from my lifestyle: living in sin with my boyfriend. Jesus must have been on my side, since she was demoted shortly thereafter and I was then truly “delivered.”

And I’ll never forget my first day as a writer for a computer magazine. No introductions. No tour of the building. I was assigned to an office with glass walls and a desk. No computer.

I felt like the new goldfish. The staff peered in at me, as if waiting for me to do a number from A Chorus Line or a mime or something. My new boss, a rotund man with a megaphone voice, tossed a stack of past issues on my desk along with paper and pencils and barked at me to write a piece about the company.

I nodded.

“Can you give me some idea of the scope of the piece?” I asked
as he turned away.

“You’ll figure it out.”

An hour later, after scanning the magazines and staring blankly at the white-lined paper, I edged into his office for some clarification. He shot out his arm, pointing to the door and roared, “JUST START WRITING!”

My first day, my first hour, my first dictator.

I slid back into my seat and looked out the glass door. An assistant met my eyes, gave me a sad smile and a tipped head.

Just before noon, he lumbered in to examine the draft. He practically gave it an MRI while shaking his head.

“This is NOT what I’m looking for! You need to START OVER!”

A few minutes later, he left for lunch. I approached his assistant.

“I just want to know one thing,” I whispered.

“Sure.” she said.

“Has there been a revolving door of people in my position?”

She nodded slowly.

I went back to my desk and wrote on a piece of paper: “It’s no wonder you can’t keep a writer in this position. No one with a brain could tolerate you.”

I placed it on his desk and walked out.

The Golden Rule is all but lost in corporate America. Instead, the culture dictates, “Treat others the way you feel like treating them at any given moment. As long as you’re the boss.”

And as long as there are jobs for people, not robots, there will be bad bosses. They are a thorny part of life we wish we could avoid, much like fungus, the Kardashians and shoes that give off a fart noise when you walk.

Remember, a bad boss can alter the way you see yourself. Over time, it feels like an abusive relationship. That’s because it is.

Michael Scott once said to his team, “You should never settle for who you are.”

And I’m telling you, you should never settle for another Michael Scott.
______________________________________________________________________

Who's the worst boss you've ever had? (No names, please.) Please one up me with your own Michael Scott saga.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sidelines

The sun made its first appearance in months, weaving its way through the pines of the Berkshires. There we were, baby-oiled college sophomores, lined up like matchsticks on our towels. I glanced down at my blue-flowered bikini and cringed. It was too small. I was too curvy, too white, too exposed.

I was a size 3.

The mind has a way of duping us women and girls. The way airplanes stream banners over beaches, mine said, “Not Good Enough.” It was the inner subtitle of my life.

Three guys and a frisbee invaded our turf. I knew them by name but their presence turned me to stone.

My friend, Amy, darted over to join the game, with no concern over her parts that spilled a little here and jiggled too much there. She leaped and intercepted the disk. She wrestled for it. She exploded with laughter.

I wanted to be Amy in that moment. She was body electric. In the game. And I was on the sidelines.

I took myself hostage that day, as I have throughout my life, anchoring myself to a safe place, drawing a curtain over my imperfections, building a fortress against potential failure.

It was two decades later before I realized that playing it safe was a barrier to really living. While joining the circus or playing the bagpipe are not on my bucket list, I have added a few less than daunting challenges.

I know this: Each time I gin up a little Amy in me, I emerge emboldened, like one post up on a rock climb. Perhaps it’s human nature to avoid that which causes us fear. But I believe it’s also human nature to kick fear’s ass.

I’m no longer a size 3, and I wouldn’t attempt a bikini. But the difference is -- now I’d grab that frisbee and run.





Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The New Road


My daughter is being bullied at school. Today it’s her freckles and the shape of her face. Tomorrow it will be something else.

She gazes out the window on the ride home. I see her eyes fill up.

We live in a time when anything remotely different about you is like bloody water to sharks. They swarm and attack and leave you there to doubt your significance.

Ally’s toothy grin has always filled up the room. She owns an aura of spring in radiant bloom. Her spirit is highly carbonated.

She was a baby who woke up happy, and has stayed that way for 11 years. Until now. Until middle school, the bootcamp of K through 12. If you can make it here, you’ll make it anywhere, I think to myself.

A mother's instinct is to shield. Protect. Fight. I struggle with my inner Rocky Balboa. I feel compelled to act. It will only make it worse, my daughter pleads.

Bullies are pervasive. Not exclusive to middle school. There is no demographic profile, no limit to age or education or occupation. They’re on every playground and in every corporation, in our government and in our churches. They exist on Facebook and Myspace and Club Penguin. And they reside in our families.

It begs the question: Haven’t we evolved beyond this? Why do we teach our young how to get ahead, but not how to get along?

What have we learned from Columbine and the countless acts of violence perpetrated by children and teens who have been bullied? How many kids can we afford to lose to suicide because we didn’t want to be called a rat?

Taking down the bullies is going to require a paradigm shift. A movement of individual acts. An achievement in courage and fortitude.

America is at a crossroads. We can either continue looking the other way or take a stand and carve a new road to a place where differences are respected and our children can feel good inside.

And stay that way.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

More


Although Halloween has not yet been crossed off the calendar, the Christmas marketing campaigns are now entrenched. They arrive in camouflage mode in summer. By early fall they are in full-scale bombardment.

Choked by the country’s economic nosedive, most parents are scrambling to deliver the array of presents their children have come to expect living in the material world. While visions of video games and new wardrobes dance in their kids’ heads, parents are holding onto theirs wondering where it’s all going to come from.

After all, we need more. We are a country of more. Most of us were raised on little. Yet the notion of attainment was a seed that was planted and fertilized well. We gave and continue to give television our full attention. And the advertisers have their way with us.

I'm just as guilty. I worked in advertising for years, writing copy for nondescript products, propping them up as exceptional when the company and I both knew they were mediocre at best.

As a kid, I was captivated by television. I can still sing the jingles from McDonald’s, Burger King, Coke, Pepsi, Roto-Rooter and Oscar Mayer (both weeners and bologna, mind you). Somehow, somewhere along the line, the thought that “happiness is derived from having more” became a part of my psyche.

The older I get, the more overwhelmed I feel by my stuff. Why are we Americans in a constant state of lack? Are we so empty inside that we need to grasp at something, anything, to fill the void?

Perhaps we just don't know how to be happy.

Apparently, the Danes do. They are considered the happiest people on Earth. Oprah set out to find out why.

“Less things, more life,” the smiling, statuesque woman explained as she Skyped into the show from Copenhagen.

The city apartment she shares with her husband and three children is shockingly small, yet behind every sleek white surface is an entire town of organization.

On Oprah’s recent visit to Denmark, she met with a group of women to discuss Danish culture. It’s one that focuses on values over money, they explained. Values like education and family and creativity. They choose careers that fulfill them, not based on how much money they will earn.

They are heavily and happily taxed. Yes, happily.

“We feel we get a lot for our taxes,” explained Stine. She described how taxes allow everyone to access health care and get a university education, and how that makes for a healthier society – physically and mentally.

I couldn’t stop thinking about this segment. Happy with less? Truly a foreign concept.

In Peter Walsh’s book, It’s All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living A Richer Life With Less Stuff, he writes, “We are at the center of an orgy of consumption, and many are now seeing that this need to own so much comes with a heavy price: Kids so overstimulated by the sheer volume of stuff in their home that they lose their ability to concentrate and focus. Financial strain caused by misplaced bills or overpurchasing. Constant fighting because neither partner is prepared to let go of their possessions. The embarrassment of living in a house that long ago became more of a storage facility than a home.”

In the end, more stuff makes us feel smothered. It’s more to manage. More to care for. More to look at. More to distract. It closes in on us. It clutters not just our environment, but our minds. It blocks us from being the best we can be – as individuals and as families.

We intrinsically know that real happiness comes from the level of our connectedness. Yet we go against our true nature when we put our money in things that separate us.

Last Christmas/Hanukkah, my husband and I told the kids they would get a few presents, but what we really wanted to do was spend more time together. I was expecting to hear groans. Instead, their eyes lit up.

My daughter hugged me and whispered, “There’s nothing I like better than to be with you.”

This year, we will add to that by giving things away and carefully selecting each gift by its level of interaction required. Board games with four or more players are high on the list.

I am clear on my New Year’s resolution for 2010: Less things, more life.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Good List

I’ve decided to be the assistant coach of my daughter’s soccer team this fall. My knowledge of the game is limited to which team has possession of the ball and when someone scores. What I bring to the table is four years on the sidelines reliving my cheerleading days, shouting, “Go, Ally!”

Let’s just say, these 11-year-olds will be teaching me a thing or two.

Tonight is the draft. I will attend fully prepared having studied the players like a gambling man examines his hand. My clipboard has the names categorized by ability and position. I am pumped up, my head spinning with plan A, plan B – whatever it takes to amass the best players. We are going to dominate that field, I’m thinking.

I asked Ally to review my picks.

She nodded.

“Mom,” she said, scanning the names, “Don’t pick all the good players.”

“Why?”

“Leave some for the other teams.”

I stared at her blankly.

“Some of the players I want on my team aren’t the best at soccer, but they’re really nice girls.”

The record scratches. In the midst of my plan of attack, my young girl reminds me that greed isn’t good. That sharing the bounty with others is the right thing to do. And more importantly, that judging people on their inner goodness, not necessarily their outer successes, is perhaps the higher road -- the road I’ve been talking a lot about, but not always walking on.

I rearrange my list and Ally gives me the names of the nice girls. And off I go.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Recycle This




My son, Jack, is the serious one in the family. Don’t know how I spawned a stone face from this pack of clowns, but I am forever on a mission to convert him to the cult of the ridiculous and sarcastic from which I was born.

Today he and his friend, Christian, barreled into the kitchen overflowing with giggles.

Jack: MOM! THERE IS A TOILET ON OUR FRONT LAWN!

Christian: Lisa, there IS!

Me: I know. Dad and I thought we could put it in the corner of the yard to make it convenient for you when you’re playing football with your friends.

Jack: MOM! You can’t do that! That is against the law!

Me: No. People do it all the time. We all have to use the toilet. This will save you time and keep all the kids out of our house.

Jack: I am NOT using that.

Christian: Me either.

Me: Okay then, I’ll make it into a seat. You guys can sit on it when you’re tired.

Jack: Mom, I won’t sit there. That would be so embarrassing.

Christian: Totally.

Me: Guys, we are a recycling family. You know that. So it’s either going to be a toilet, a nice seat for you to sit on or we’re going to put dirt in it and make it into a flower pot. I found a nice spot for it right under your bedroom window.

Jack: No WAY!

Me: Pick one.

Jack: I don’t WANT a toilet under my window! Put it under YOUR window.

Me: My room faces the back of the house. Then no one will see it.

Jack: No one WANTS to see a toilet in our yard.

Me: Pick one.

Jack: All rrrrright I’ll pick the flower pot.

Christian: Seriously, what are going to do with that toilet?

Me: Well, the other thought I had was to wait til the middle of the night and put it in someone else’s yard. Sort of like the Neighborhood of the Traveling Toilet. Whoever gets it will know it means that someone likes them. And then they can put it in someone else’s yard the next night. And so on.

Christian: I don’t think my parents will think it’s a good thing.

Me: No they will. They’ll like it. Trust me.

Jack: Mom, you could get arrested.

Me: Arrested for giving my neighbor a gift? I doubt the police officer is going to see it that way.

Jack: Mom, please don’t.

Me: All right. We can keep it.

Jack: Ya, but I don’t like any of the choices.

Me: Honey, this is the country. A toilet on our front lawn is cool. This will help us bond with people.

Jack: Mom, now I think you’re just kidding with me.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Feeling of Home


We’ve all heard the cliché, “Home is where the heart is.” But what if your heart doesn’t feel at home? For almost 23 years, I’ve lived in California. And if you ask me where home is, I would still tell you: Boston.

Anyone who knows Beantown like I know Beantown understands my love for the city. For me, it has little to do with the Red Sox or Patriots or Celtics. It has everything to do with Bostonians and who we are. It’s about the culture I left behind -- a culture of real people who talk funny. People who tell it like it is. People who practice sarcasm as much as their religion. People who say things like, “Put yeh shots on and get in the cah. We’re goin up noth to ride the hoss."

It’s about people who are as salty as the air they breathe. It’s about generations of families who put up with the winters and each other because they can’t imagine being away from one another. Their lives overlap and intertwine.

It’s about neighbors who define “neighborly.” Growing up, I witnessed almost daily acts of kindness. It was natural for people to help each other shovel out their cars. On rainy days, someone in the neighborhood would collect the soggy kids trudging home. When our gardens overflowed with vegetables, we divided them up and left bags on our neighbors’ steps. When someone got sick, parents rallied to babysit and make extra meals and clean house.

What I miss is the sense of responsibility we had to each other. A commitment to our community.

So what’s not to love about California? There’s so much to brag about: almost year-round sunshine. Dry, warm days. Miles of untainted seashore flanked by sandy cliffs. Valleys polka-dotted with orange trees. Green and rocky mountains in the distance. Natural beauty in every direction.

It’s the transplants like me who have a measure of comparison. We realize after so many years that one cannot live on sunshine alone. Something is missing.

Marti Emerald, a local TV news reporter in San Diego, was quoted once about her take on Southern California culture. She called it a “social disconnect.” Aha! I thought. That describes it.

Too often, I have witnessed a lack of connection amongst people. Neighbors will drive straight into their garages, only to be seen when taking out the trash or retrieving the mail. Perhaps it is the absence of real connection that leads to a lack of accountability. No-shows and cancellations are a way of life. I’ve been to several kids’ birthday parties where we were the only ones singing happy birthday to a tearful child at the end of an almost empty table. I’ve seen teachers and community leaders with a skeleton staff of volunteers who take on more than they can handle.

For years I have lived my life looking back at the city I left behind. But everyone knows that when you spend your life in the rear view mirror, you never really see what’s right in front of you. I realized that if I wanted a sense of community here in San Diego, I would have to either find it or create it. So I started a playgroup when my kids were little. I created an online network for parents in Southern California. I give of my time to the local schools. I extend my hand at my kids’ games. I’ve become politically active. And I’ve gotten to know my neighbors.

Little by little, I am doing what I can to cultivate a community for my family. Because in the end, if you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Spring Cleaning



What defines a good friendship? Like all relationships, some are healthier than others. So how do you know if a friendship is good for you?

I read once that the way to assess a friendship is to evaluate how you feel – physically and emotionally – right after you’ve spent time with someone. If you’re drained, resentful, defeated, hurt, or anything on the negative end of the spectrum, it might be time to look at the merits of the relationship.

Over the past two years, I’ve thought about where I am invested. Like any busy mom, carving out time away from my kids is difficult enough. Wasting time with the wrong people is futile.

With great thought and care, I conducted a spring cleaning. I took a look at each friend the way some people look at a shirt to determine whether it still fits, and plucked a few from my friendship wardrobe. I don’t mean to imply that this was a simple, overnight endeavor. It was anything but.

I’m one of those married types who loves and needs my girlfriends. As much as I adore my husband, I cannot survive on his level of relating. We are two very different trains; me, the turbo tram and him, the early model steam engine that takes a long time reaching its destination.

What my husband wants from me is less talk. Bullet points. Background info, not necessary.

What I want from him are details. And that's not going to happen

So this is why I need my girlfriends. We have no problem filling time and space. We make those chicks on The View look afraid to speak up.

The process of ending my friendship with Christa (not her real name) took years. I couldn’t seem to let go yet I had no reason to hold on. I got to a place where I lost respect for myself. I became pathetic.

We had all the things that, from 30,000 feet, seem to make for a good friendship. We made each other laugh. We were always game for fun. Had similar issues with our kids. Same age, socio-economic background, political affiliation, and a love of travel and music and food. It took me a long time to see the cracks in the foundation.

I’ve often thought there are some friends that we shouldn’t get to know better. If we stayed on the surface, it would still be fun. Once you venture into anyone’s “basement,” you will undoubtedly find something you don’t like. And they will find something rusting in yours as well.

My problem is an inability to stay on the surface. I think it’s common for women; we yearn to connect. We want to know more about each other. But the knowing more has the potential to strengthen or weaken the bond.

There was something about Christa that always made me feel less than good when I drove away from her house. She had a broad circle of friends, neighbors that communed with each other almost daily and a social life that brimmed with concerts and parties and weekends away. But it wasn’t envy that got the best of me. It was the subtle nose-rubbing on her part. She knew many of my friends lived out of the area. She knew my neighbors recognize my car more than my face. She knew my weekends revolved around my kids’ sports and an occasional date with my husband. She knew.

Her phone rang incessantly. Taking that call was always important. I spent most of our gatherings waiting for her to hang up. When the phone wasn’t ringing, we were bumping into someone she knew. Someone she had to chat with while I waited.

Why she continued to seek my companionship is still a question mark in my head. But the bigger question is: why did I go along for the ride? For more than four years, we took our kids to the playground, the beach and amusement parks. We shared birthdays and spent weekends in San Francisco and Las Vegas.

One day, we made plans to meet at her community pool. The kids and I arrived at 12:30, the agreed-upon time. They splashed in the pool, asking every few minutes where they were. I reassured them they’d be there soon. At 1:00, she called to say she’d be there in a matter of minutes. At 2:15, my kids were chlorinated prunes and wanted to go home. They were wrapped in towels as she breezed through the gate.

I’m embarrassed to say that I ran to get her a chaise lounge.

She said, “Oh, don’t bother, I have work to do.”

“Work?”

“Ya, I have wine charms to put on these glasses that I bought for a party I’m going to.”

She sat behind me at a table making the charms while chatting to a man who lived a few doors down from her. I sat there seething with anger. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I get up and go home? Why couldn’t I confront her?

I never said a word about it. She didn’t either.

I didn’t see her for almost a year after that. She didn’t seem to notice that I had pulled away.

There we were, one summer later sitting side-by-side at the beach. Our kids played merrily in the surf. We made small talk. Suddenly, an acquaintance of hers yelled to say hello from across the sand. Christa invited her to join us. The two of them chatted the afternoon away while I stared blankly at my magazine.

That was the last time I saw her. She called two months later. I didn’t return the call. Her Christmas card said, “Let’s get together soon!” No indication that she knew anything was wrong.

The silent, unresolved ending of our friendship revealed the truth about our connection. She didn’t care either way.

So what’s the take-away? I have learned to pay attention to how I feel in a friendship – especially in the beginning when the getting out is easier. My inner voice has always been my compass. The difference is, now I’m taking direction.