Monday, May 28, 2007

Leisure Suits...

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Mulch-enriched Fingers and Forearms

"Hi, Daddy-long-legs," I found myself saying aloud while we were working otherwise silently. The special spider was crawling along the base of our house, behind the wildly-spreading rose bush.

Their usual hangout was under the porch-on-stilts at the back of the house where I grew up and where my mom still lives.

Typically, I like to listen to the radio while doing any work outside. And today's a U.S. holiday, and so there would be better music than usual -- countdowns and all.

I'd like to say that I had some propriety, that I recognized it as Memorial Day, and not as a time for blasting the sort of music I love, which need be only cheerful with a beat.

Instead, I was moved by the sounds of the sprinklers and birds and breeze, and by Pat's and my entranced silence. There were four flower-beds to cover and a little circle around the tree-peony bush.

The sun-bleached-old-cedar mulch was moist from the sprinklers, and the new, dark-cedar variety, which had lain in 10, three-cubic-foot bags in the back of our station wagon in the garage overnight, was moist, too. Every time we reached into our bags for new handfuls, the mulch inside rewarded us with inviting warmth.

A neighbor came out for his newspaper and to survey our efforts. His wife had just returned from a cruise with a group from their church.

"Ah, well, then she couldn't have gotten in too much trouble," Pat ventured.

He laughed generously.

At almost 6:30 am, I had woken up, dreading the near-end of my luscious vacation. Turning to see if Pat might be awake, I was greeted with a disarming, deep-dimpled smile and already-bright eyes; Pat was delighted not to have to be quiet any longer. The smile disarmed some of my near-end-of-leisure regret, but only some of it.

After listening to some poignant NPR coverage about Memorial Day along with financial news and the top stories, we agreed to place the mulch prior to breakfast, before the day got hotter.

Crouching and sweating over the the soil and lovingly surrounding each of the flowers, whether in-/post-bloom yet or not with the dark-brown cedar background was just what I needed to rid me of my nearly-time-to-go-back-to-work-full-time dread.

We ran out of mulch finally, and we'll need to buy a few more for the spot under the variegated holly trees, and for the bed of irises by the deck in the backyard.

A shower hadn't been so welcome since the last time we gardened together, or since I used to play rugby in muddy weather in my early-20s.

Roller-boogie and Google Games

Breakfast served me two especially good newspaper articles. One let me reminisce about the times I would pack my sneaker-skates into my school back-pack and let my mom drop me at the train station, thinking she was sending me into the city for a day of culture....She was, but instead of going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I went to Central Park behind it and found my way to "Boogie Wonderland" and fellow disco-skaters.

The other article made me think about employee attraction. Can Google beat Microsoft in hiring talent? Can either beat compelling start-ups, where the stock options could transform new-hires into rich people? What about Extreme Blue, which is IBM's version of wooing doctoral students to IBM ultimately?

What attracts me to my employer and to stay? It's simple...IBM:

  • Enables me to advance in my career because of, not in spite of or irrespective of, my difference, including my:

  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender
  • Humanities background...especially impressive, since it is a technology company

  • Hires smart, values-driven, capable people all over the world
  • Lets me work with so many of them in a variety of roles
  • Values my contribution to the business
  • Supports my learning opportunities -- both on the job and academically
  • Provides me with engaged, humane management, who give me reasonable autonomy
  • Has a highly-visible, respected global brand; anything I do for IBM is far more visible than it would be somewhere smaller
  • Recognizes employee achievement and good ideas:
  • Twice during my vacation, I was privileged to witness two different managers, delivering a bound book of tribute-letters from 25 years' worth of colleagues to two colleagues who had reached the milestone of being IBMers for a quarter of a century
  • Enables my peers and me to give IBM-logo merchandise awards to one another
  • Says yes to investing in new markets that are aligned with our business strategy in my experience

  • Lets me work from anywhere when I need to, and provides me with a lovely office
  • Compensates me fairly.

Listing all of this, actually, lessens my dread at returning to work tomorrow. The dread is visceral, and practically an automatic response, learned from full-time elementary schooling; none of us wanted summer vacation to end. That's the sensation.

Our neighbor retired years ago and this morning, he asked, "How are you?" looking at me, since he sees me less often than Pat.

"Enjoying the 'calm before the storm.' This is my last day of a two-week vacation."

Holding onto the Calm

Earlier this week, I mentioned visiting my mom and the reminder of Phi Sigma Sigma's motto, but didn't yet mention the marvelous walk we took together:

We finished a dinner of my favorite cuisine and when I suggested we take a walk, my mom thought it might be nice to stroll down a quiet road near her house. It was twilight, like a million that I remembered as a kid, where it was just light enough for me still to be out on my bicycle, but nearly time to go home.

As we walked alongside the stone wall with deep-green leaves spilling over it at the edge of the blacktop, I wondered aloud why, growing up, every friend I had, plus my two older sisters, and even the one boyfriend I had in high school and half of college and I had walked, bike-rode, or built forts along-side this road together, and yet, my mother and I had never before been on foot there at the same time.

We had no answer and just kept walking in wonderment.

We reached nearly the far end of the road -- my mother aided by her walker -- and I felt like I was introducing her to part of my ancient domain. She played along when I showed her the site of the fort that one of my friends and I had built at the edge of a tiny creek.

"I can see where it would have been," she humored me, as I asked for her suspension of disbelief in staring at a completely overgrown part of the woods on the other side of the road.

Family Life

After breakfast earlier, I sat on the rocker-for-two on our sunny deck, finishing a favorite author's memoir, The Mistress's Daughter, while Pat sat in our cooler living room, listening to one of her many favorite podcasts.

A.M. Homes is among my favorite authors for her honesty. My crush on the author has diminished over the years, as I've accomplished things I'm proud of in my own life, but I've still got a bit of one in any case, and a more informed one now.

Homes' characters usually weren't too sympathetic and she wasn't at all, until I read the memoir, about her having been adopted as a baby due to the flaws of her birth parents, particularly her biological father.

During High Holidays about a decade ago, I thought I saw her sitting among the many rows at the Javits Center, where our synagogue necessarily holds those particular services, since it can handle the annual, added capacity. Her eyes and hair were as dramatically beautiful in person as on her book jackets. How ironic that she looked so like her biological father, who I grew to dislike deeply during the book's progression.

From the start, the cover of the book, which featured simply a photo of the author's face at three or four years old, moved me a great deal. And by the end of the memoir I learned that she gave birth to her own young daughter...and I felt bad for a minute because unlike me, who stopped trying to give birth at 38 after 18 months and nine unsuccessful IUI attempts, she had had the fortitude to keep at it at 39, including two, initial miscarriages.

While Pat and I added the mulch this morning, it struck me that both of us are good adoptive parents for all sorts of flowers and trees.

Who/what are you proud of parenting?

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