Saturday, June 30, 2007

No Diving

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

Swimming in India for the First Time

If I don't go to sleep soon, it will be tough to go swimming for a second time tomorrow, as I need to get up early for my first day of the assignment.... Actually, I'll need to get up early every day for the assignment, particularly if I want to swim prior to commuting.

Today, we checked out the biggest pool in the area, a public, community pool, and it was huge, except that it had showers like the ones at Dorothy Heroy, in the community where I grew up, i.e., a basic room with no lockers, no privacy and no mirrors. Would be hard to bring my work-clothes to that pool, and to change into them afterwards.

Still, it was fun to see serious swimmers here. After breakfast, I opted to swim in the hotel's pool (see pix from Pat's photo blog).

Around the pool

The heartiest palm trees surrounded me, with the thickest trunks I'd ever seen -- compared with Florida's and Israel's -- and with chipwirrels and crows the color of dark taupe with midnight purple wings.

What's a chipwirrel? It's the name that Pat coined at breakfast for the local chipmunks. The one we saw was giant, with thick stripes all the way down his or her back and a tail almost as fluffy and long as a squirrel's.

Yesterday, I blogged about wanting to be free to relish human variety and today, we marveled at flora and fauna variety.

Live music, delicious company and soothing food

Today, for lunch, we met my director in this assignment, along with his China counterpart. I loved that they included Pat during this first meeting, since it was during the weekend, and in any case. Pat photographed some of the experience and added the pix to her photo blog, though I took the one of the singing trio, as my chair was at a better angle than Pat's...and so if the quality's not as good as the other shots, it's not Pat's doing.

After we said goodbye to David and Lauge, we got 10 passport pictures at a one-hour photo studio that reminded me of the photo studio in The Notorious Betty Page -- in terms of architecture and decor; the photos actually came out nicely.

We had gotten them, as we were told that lots of things we'll want here, including cell phone service, require a passport photo, and then we tried to get cell phones with a post-paid contract from Airtel, and then learned that we couldn't until we had a real address to give them. We are feeling a bit nomadic and yet, if we had to be nomads anywhere, this gorgeous hotel is the place to be so.

Fresh Pleasure

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

Plane-ride Reflections

Sipping a cup of Peppermint Tingle tea by the London Fruit & Herb Co. , it occurs to me how much better my life is today compared to my early days in Chicago exactly 20 years ago. During the summer of '87, I lived down the street from Saree World and Rosenblum's Jewish Books, now Rosenblum's World of Judaica -- with its own web site.

In the West Rogers Park neighborhood, I had my choice of Tel Aviv Kosher Pizza, Fluky's Hot Dogs or an all-you-can-eat buffet for US$4.95 at one of the neighborhood's Indian restaurants.

The buffet was among the dim, bright spots for me then. I've written about this before, but I'll never forget a hand-written sign on a door I passed while walking down Devon Avenue: "FRESH PAIN." Evidently, it had just been painted, and then the sign-writer forgot to add the "T," but the sign as it was felt more aligned with my state of mind.

Right after graduating from college with my highly marketable(!) Comparative Literature degree, I interned at a Chicago magazine startup, where I wrote blurbs on clubs and bars to which I'd never been, for heterosexual singles...which I'd never been either, though I tried to be between 15 and 20.

Michael Feinstein's publicist sent the magazine a tape of his "Live at the Algonquin" show, hoping we'd review it. We didn't do music reviews and no one else was interested in the tape, and so, knowing nothing about the artist or the songs he was covering, I agreed that I'd like to have it.

The next morning, during the six-block commute by foot, I began listening to it with my Walkman. A song came on that made me cry, "Rhode Island is Famous for You." When I got to work, I learned that it was a Bob Hope song and felt silly. Still, every time I hear Michael Feinstein sing it, I tear up.

This was the era before the era of getting a job as a tech. writer, when Pat had to teach me that sick-days were only for when I was sick. The summer of fresh pain was exactly 20 years ago and the fake sick-days era probably was only 15 years ago.

Now, by contrast, one of my sisters cautioned me as we were leaving for India, "Sarah, don't become a workaholic. It's very seductive, but don't jeopardize your health over work...." More proof that doing work that suits me is the key to realizing my potential.

Twenty summers ago, if I had imagined myself living anywhere beyond the United States for six months or longer, I'd have picked Israel, not India. And we would have been there by now, if Israel had been the destination. Instead we're somewhere between Istanbul and Bagdhad and we'll keep going till we reach Bangalore.

Back when I lived in the Indian/Jewish neighborhood in Chicago, if you had said to me, "In 20 years, you'll have a job that engages you, and that you're good at, and you'll get to go on a short-term foreign service assignment, accompanied by your partner of practically 15 years," I would have been excited about the partner part, dubious about the job part and would have fantasized that the assignment would have been in Israel.

It would have seemed only natural: I lived in Jerusalem for a year at 20; I used to be fluent in Hebrew; I'm Jewish....India, as much as I've always loved the food, had no emotional hold over me 20 years ago, or even until less than 10 years ago, when I had a UK-based, Indian employee on a team I managed.

Even today, the dream of an assignment in Israel remains compelling. When I consider what it would be like compared with this upcoming assignment, though, I have less confidence that I could make a success of it; most of my colleagues would be Jewish and I have close Israeli relatives, and so I think I'd walk into it, feeling that I would understand, perfectly, how our Jewish culture and their Israeli culture informed their leadership...and forget to recognize that every leader has an individual personality that trumps his or her cultural background.

Also, I think I might get a less warm reception than I hope to in India, where I'm automatically more open to the experience because it's almost totally remote from mine. In Israel on the other hand, I would worry about two possible road-blocks: my own potentially inaccurate assumptions based on what I know personally about the local culture, and a fear that I might be "hazed" a bit, i.e., need to pass some initiation rite -- that Jews might be harder on one of their own...or vice versa. Oy, who wants to admit *that*?


A number of paragraphs ago, I suppose, would have been a good time to add a disclaimer that everything I'm writing reflects the lucidity of someone who has had up to eight hours of sleep over the past two nights, total. And there's a teething baby crying almost directly behind me.

OK, I'm sure I should be sleeping, rather than writing, but my hand won't stop. (How refreshing to be writing in an actual journal -- thanks, Ria, Lynn & Mary Alice for the journal-gifts), even as my left hand makes a complete shadow over my words. It's fun to be using this bright red, metal Caran D'Ache ball-point pen, rather than simply clacking keys. Later, I'll transfer all of it to the blog, when I'm plugged in and online. [You're seeing the fruits of that labor now.]

I want to continue my reflections on an Indian short-term foreign assignment compared to an Israeli one. Perhaps I'm in for a rude awakening, but I feel good that every Indian at whom I've smiled on the plane has smiled back readily and instantly. It's vital to guard against my objectifying, human nature.

I don't want to exoticize Indians because I need for us to recognize each other's basic humanity asap, yet I also don't want to shut off my capacity for wonderment and delight at human variety, nor deny them their sometimes curiosity at my blue eyes or height, or however I seem different to any of them visually.

By now, I've had a second cup of Peppermint Tingle. I'd like to tell the girl who was just barely a woman 20 years ago, who ate by herself most often in a brand new city, and who had no idea how well everything would turn out, thank you for the fresh pain you endured, which helped make all of this adventure possible.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Blogging Before We Go

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

Once More While on American Soil

I just splashed on Forest Essentials Aloe Vera & Mint Natural Astringent from the Himalayas, which I still had from my hotel stay during my last (and first) trip to Bangalore in July, 2005.

Now, I'm exhausted and olfactorily stimulated in parallel -- an odd combination...but no more odd than the other combinations I'm feeling during this last, pre-flight hour in our home; I am queasy and bold and anxious and psyched and jangled and calm and my throat hurts and I feel like singing and laughing and sleeping for hours.

My carry-on has my bathingsuit and goggles, to ensure I can swim when we get there, if my throat calms down.

Happily, we've already got plans to have lunch on Saturday with an Irish friend, who's also in Bangalore on assignment, and then we hope to meet with an Indian friend and colleague and her daughters on Sunday.

Please, God, let our flight leave on time, let our luggage not be delayed, let our ride show up at the airport (which did not happen last time), keep our families' health stable and let my sinus' health be restored. Amen.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Frenzied Serenity

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

Enjoying Our Home for About 50 More Hours

"Come here. I want to show you something special." I follow Pat out our front door.

It is the robins' nest. When I left to swim this morning, I thought I saw it lying on the driveway next to the blue, plastic-covered "New York Times," but I kept going, praying that the swim would pep me up, as I under-slept again; it did.

"She made all of that with her beak," says Pat, "How did she get all that mud up there into the tree?"

"And did she just abandon the empty nest --" I ask.

"Or did a squirrel knock it out of the tree?" Pat wonders.

Are we abandoning our home for six months? Or are we being propelled by external forces, along with our choice, to live somewhere new for half a year?

Today, it's purely hot outside and I'm wearing whatever's not packed -- a gray IBM sweatshirt and a pair of dark-raspberry golf shorts.

"Let's see what's blooming in the garden on the side of the house," Pat invites. There's a burgundy dahlia, a stalk of orange-, and a stalk of yellow lillies and an early delicate variety of gladiola -- red and cream.

Ah, how nice to walk back into the air conditioning. And to sit at this quiet desk in a room I use exclusively as my home-office when I'm not in Armonk.

Friendship Refreshment

This morning, I speak with two friends. The first is heterosexual and works in a Jewish day school. When we discuss the woman I met briefly at the Pride Parade, my friend says, "That's why I love [Rabbi] Gordon Tucker's thinking because he understands that religion is supposed to be redemptive and if it's not, then...?"

The second friend, Marni, who I ask permission to name, and I talk about the miracle of our having met and become friends as freshmen in college, during a period of suffering and struggle for each of us.

"I was *such* a diamond in the rough then, Marni."

"Our friendship is an object lesson in the soul," she says, "Our beings recognized each other and that we were going through different versions of the same kinds of things....Besides, our tsores (sorrow/trouble) was and is part of our path."

How lucky am I -- to have such thinking-feeling friends?

Everything is swirling around in the last-minute mania of getting ready for the journey, and then I enjoy these pockets of calm. Thank God.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

NYC Pride Parade

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

Near 14th Street in the Village, I saw a woman sobbing as she looked at our synagogue's parade banner and the huge contingent of us, marching along with the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC). She was shaking and tears streamed down her face. Her mascara was getting wrecked.

She was in her early-20s and pretty, with long, wavy, sandy-blond hair. There was a taller, attractive woman, standing behind her, holding her. If I had passed her in, say, the Short Hills Mall, I wouldn't have picked her as a member of the LGBT community, though probably wouldn't have been surprised that she was Jewish. She reminded me of a late-adolescent version of my niece's female classmates.

Excusing myself from my fellow-marchers, including Pat, I walked back over to her. Not yet knowing what I would say to comfort her, I just held out my hand to shake hers.

My sunglasses shaded my eyes and I wished I had removed them, so that we would have made full eye-contact. Still, I found something to say: "I went to a [Modern Orthodox Jewish] day school [and I imagine you must have done so, too]."

"I *teach* at a day school," she said.

Oy, no wonder she was in pain. She was at the parade with her girlfriend, but likely was not able to be herself in all her humanity at the day school because perhaps she feared losing her job if she were.

I held her hand for long enough to feel that mine was warmer from the heat of marching, and that she was glad to have the contact from someone who was openly lesbian and openly Jewish at once.

It's my hope that my face had a compassionate expression when I shook her hand further and said, "Be well. Zay gezunt (Be healthy)."

It would be wonderful if she were moved to say the Shehecheyanu prayer in honor of today, and ultimately could feel peace.

One of the terrific songs that both of our choruses sang together as we marched down Fifth Avenue was, "Od yavo shalom aleinu...v'al kulam (Peace will yet come to us...and to everyone)."

This year, we marched together with MCC, as our rabbi and MCC's reverend both were chosen to be grand marshalls of the parade. The crowd loved our unity. My ears still hear their cheering.

How have you reconciled, or how are you reconciling, elements of your complex identity?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Savoring Two Senses: Part II

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


Especially prior to entering the sanctuary last night, I noticed that message on the marquis of our synagogue, which shares space with Holy Apostles Church. During most of the service last night, I kept marveling at the gorgeous, spirited people, the moving violin, piano and timbrel, along with the chorus, and particularly our soprano friend who contributed to it with her clear, perfect voice.

It was the special, GLBT Pride Shabbat service and as I wrote in Part I, it was packed. Randi Weingarten was a guest drash (sermon) deliverer and accordingly, Rabbi Kleinbaum invited all current and retired New York City teachers, among others, to come to the bimah (altar) to help kindle the Shabbat candles.

The biggest crowd of qualified kindlers I'd ever seen approached the bimah.

One of my favorite high school teachers, I'm confident, was gay, though not openly. How many of these candle kindlers were their students' favorite teachers?

Randi Weingarten's mission in her role, she said, was to help ensure dignity for New York City's students and the people who educate them. She talked about Moses' leadership and how in this week's Torah parsha (Bible portion), his hitting the rock revealed an authoritarian leadership style that had outlived its usefulness.

"Four C's"

And then she spoke of leadership in general, saying that it requires "four C's: Conviction; Compassion; Commitment; and Courage."

She gave an example of courage, saying, if I remember correctly, that when a bill was introduced to include domestic partnership benefits for teachers, one of her close colleagues said, "Please punt on this one. Don't turn it into a floor-fight."

"A floor-fight is what there will be," she said, as she was unwilling to be a "second-class citizen" in the fight for the rights of her teacher-constituency. The bill passed healthily.

Randi Weingarten made me reflect on how to apply the four C's to my own leadership, especially as I prepare to fulfill my upcoming, six-month, short-term foreign service assignment in India:

Conviction: IBM leaders in India will be well-served by further leadership development initiatives and I, in all of my humanity, can be of service to that end. There are new, mutual discoveries to be made by all of us, along with some classic best practices to promote.

Compassion: During my commute to work on Friday, I thought about how I am going to India to be of service to an already-highly-privileged group of people: managers at all levels of our company. I am not going as an NGO delegate, or with the Peace Corps. And yet, every human being needs some form of assistance. Everyone deserves compassion, no matter how privileged. Compassion is a universal, human need.

Commitment: For me, education's main purpose, ultimately, is to produce positive social change, and I suppose that in a corporate environment, I feel that it is to produce positive climate, and then cultural, change. What does that mean to me in a corporate context? Helping realize the most positive-results-producing environment through encouraging inclusive, innovative people worldwide.

Courage: While in India, and anywhere, I need to remember that no one's cultures and norms -- including my own -- are the best. I need the courage to be welcoming of learning others' frames of reference, and to share my own in a way that helps others feel comfortable whenever possible. I need the courage to do my part to ensure that all of us feel like first-class citizens.

I was inspired by Randi Weingarten's example last night. I'm interested in how adults learn to lead in a corporate environment and I loved how she urged the teachers in the congregation to, "...not just educate, but lead."

That Lump in My Throat

In Part I, I wrote about a continuous lump in my throat throughout the service. It was there because I was sad about the warm community from which I was choosing to be physically absent for half a year. What could possibly take its place? What could fill the gap? Why venture away from such a safe, lovely haven?

And in parallel, I remained perpetually on the verge of crying, wondering how anyone who would witness this loving, spiritual, kind, imbued congregation would ever wish to discriminate against, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and our loved ones. It was a miraculous scene, really, as well as a festival of sound; I wish I could let you hear the tune of the most moving piece of liturgy from last night: "Pitchu li sha'arei tzedek ("Open up Your righteous gates")...."

The song includes an amazing statement, which our synagogue uses as a sort of tagline, "Even ma'asu ha'bonim hayitah l'rosh pinah" ("The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.") -- Psalm 118:22.

This morning, I woke up early, again. I cannot seem to sleep a full night's sleep, the closer the departure for India becomes. One of the first things I did was check the online exhibition of our synagogue's history.

It was founded in 1973 and it was so important for me to imagine the early congregants, a number of whom still belong to the shul, just as I tried to imagine my mother's 1950 Hebrew University classmate, Esther from Karachi, no matter her sexual orientation. All of them were pioneers.

What could I do to be pioneering and effective in parallel in the assignment? What *will* I do?

When have you been a pioneer and based on that experience, what are your tips for success?

Savoring Two Senses: Part I

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

Sight and Sound

Shabbat services last night put a lump in my throat that made it hard to sing, but in a welcome way. Pat got there at 5:30 pm to ensure good seats for us. The sanctuary became packed, the way our new friends told us India would feel; it was practically impossible not to bump against the people next to us during prayer.

I'm reminded of one of my Indian friend's reactions when she came to services with us during a U.S. business trip more than a year ago: "It seemed like the Shakers, the way I saw people swaying during prayer," and, "There was nothing in the liturgy that I didn't agree with." She's among the two percent of India's Christians -- she's Catholic.

It's so automatic to shuckel (sway slightly forward and back) while davening (praying) that I don't even notice I'm doing it until it's pointed out. It is how I was taught to pray, by example, during my eight-year, Modern Orthodox, Jewish day-school education.

And explicitly, whether boys or girls, we were taught always to stand with our feet together, to show modesty and ultimate respect to God while in prayer...and always to look at the Hebrew text while praying, rather than singing from memory; our rabbis/teachers did not want us to give the appearance of showing off our knowledge of the lengthy liturgy, or to become detached from it by singing with the prayerbook shut and cavalierly held in one hand.

These practices are tacit knowledge for me at this point. It takes a visitor to the congregation to remind me that they are not native to everyone.

Circa 1950

Driving home from shul (synagogue) last night -- obviously, I have come to pick and choose what matters to me ritually, since driving on Shabbat is strictly forbidden by Orthodox Judaism, and my family and I, growing up, never were Orthodox, but that's another story -- I phoned my mother (also asur/forbidden).

During the conversation, my mom told me that when she studied in Israel in 1950, there was a Jewish Theological Seminary student from Karachi; "Esther was 10 or 15 years older than the rest of us."

"And she wasn't married?"



"I don't know."

"No, I was just asking Pat if I needed to go straight, to pick up her car on Park Street [since she took the bus into NYC to meet me at services, where I had come to from Armonk with another car]...but from what I've read, that *is* pretty unusual, for an Indian woman in her 30s or early 40s not to be married."

"Maybe she was a lesbian. I'm not sure. After classes were done, she took us all over Israel, and we stayed with her students. It was wonderful."

The idea of Esther captured my imagination as we drove up Alexander to Park Street in Montclair.

What would it mean, in 1950, to be a fervently Jewish, Pakistani lesbian, studying in the United States and Israel under the auspices of the world's preeminent Jewish seminary?

If her family were wealthy enough to sponsor her studies abroad, they must have been wealthy enough to provide a dowry for her....Or was she randomly ascetic?

Or was she a lesbian, sublimating her desires and channeling her passion into her other key identity? Or am I projecting, and she used her education simply to avoid an arranged marriage? After all, "Pru u'rivu" ("Be fruitful and multiply") is commanded only of Jewish men, since historically, only men had the power to marry women, and since women could not choose their spouses similarly, there could not be such an obligation required of us.

How did the rest of Esther's life go? Did she return to Karachi?

Pat and I determined that in terms of our lesbian identity, by going to India, we could feel sometimes as though we are living in the United States in 1950, since lesbianism here was mostly underground and deeply taboo then. Several friends have told me that while of course homsexuality is part of the human condition universally, India at large doesn't yet have the words for it.

Self-respect, Not Disrespect for Others

Even as I write all of this, I am so conscious of not wanting to offend any member of Indian society, who might chance on this blog. I am also conscious of the personal sacrifice that Pat and I are making, willingly, to learn about another culture. In order to be respectful of our host culture's norms, we have chosen to identify ourselves as just friends beyond the walls of IBM, where we are welcome by IBM's global policies of inclusion.

At services last night, a friend mentioned that she had been at a political fundraiser earlier in the week, where Ann Bannon was among the guests. Our friend enjoyed imagining an Ann Bannon novel set in India!

Fortunately, I met some extraordinary lesbian women and transmen during my prior business trip to India in 2005. A greater IBM colleague introduced us electronically, and we met twice for dinner. Meeting them made me feel even more at home among people with whom I already felt an affinity.

After Pat and I return from visiting my mother and getting our hair cut -- also asur on Shabbat -- I will write Part II, and writing is also asurtoday....Whether getting our hair cut, or writing or being a couple, we mean no disrespect to others, but rather, feel privileged to be able to respect and act on our own choices. It is a precious freedom that we do not take for granted....

For which freedoms are you grateful today?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Well-wishers' Predictions, Reflections

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

Great Quotes From the Week

"I know you will learn as much as you will inspire." -- a colleague I mentor

"You will learn more about yourself than about India. You will learn humility. Nothing happens in a linear way." -- a friend of a friend who lived there for a year while his partner was teaching at one of the universities

"Indian leadership is intellectual, very cognizant, cognitive...contemplative." -- Dr. Julia Sloan (author of Learning to Think Strategically); I was lucky to be introduced to her by my professor from last semester, Dr. Janet Youngblood, author of Learning Democratic Practices....; the three of us met at Teachers College on Monday for a great conversation!

I hope that you have a wonderful experience in India. I hope that you stay well, and that the work is productive and fulfilling for you. I hope that you are able to explore and savor the deep religious traditions in India. I hope that you gather a lifetime's worth of adventures and stories, all with happy endings.

I look forward to reading about your adventures on your blog(s)!
-- an EAGLE friend

"I loved India because of the people. They are polite, kind, intelligent, interested, not jaded, hospitable, non-judgmental." -- a friend of a friend who lived there for a year while teaching at one of the universities

His partner added: "...honest, open, warm, genuine, down-to-earth...." And: "The big cities make New York look like Nixon died and all of our flags are at half-mast -- like we're asleep compared...."

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Pretending to Be a Ninja...

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

Yesterday, Facebook sent me the following invitation from my niece:

"[Your niece] invited you to join the Facebook group 'you may not be able to tell ...but im a pro at pretending to be a ninja'."

I responded to my niece that I was delighted to join the group, and that I enjoyed much of the narrative that described the purpose of the group, but suggested that my niece consider removing the multiple references to fecal matter.

Later, I saw that of course she hadn't written such vulgar prose, but rather it was done by the person who started the group.

While swimming earlier today, I thought about how I could be her "Aunt Tovah." Aunt Tovah, may her memory be blessed, was my father's (may his memory be blessed, too) sister and I used to send aerogrammes full of pre-teen and then teenaged writing to her in Israel; I loved her for taking me seriously in her responses.

What a treat to receive an aerogramme from Israel just for me. I can still picture my aunt's elongated, script handwriting. I felt so close to her just because of that not-even-terribly-frequent exchange.

Since her death from breast cancer in 1989, I hadn't thought about the letters much until today's swim. Our reflective writing acquainted us with each other in ways that the rest of our family didn't know us, I'm convinced.

The 2007 version of an aunt-niece exchange, apparently, is enabled by Internet social networks. Alas, I don't think either of us even knows what the other's current handwriting looks like.

My aunt, Tovah, was relatively tall, large, with wavy, dark-black hair, olive skin, Multiple Sclerosis, a penchant for romance novels, and spoke Hebrew and English with a southern accent -- she had grown up in D.C.

Her father, my grandfather, may his memory be blessed, died in the '60s, and so did my Swiss-born uncle, Lulu (Ludwig), her husband, may his memory be blessed, when he slipped and fell in their bathtub. She never re-married. Instead, the two widows -- my sabta(grandmother), may her memory be blessed, and my aunt -- lived together till my sabta died when I was 16.

My father flew to Israel for both men's funerals and came back with gray hair. Six months after he came back from his mother's funeral in Israel nearly 20 years later, he died of common bile duct cancer.

Aunt Tovah had a Ph.D. in Food Technology from the University of Maryland and worked for the Tel Aviv Department of Health for her entire career. That translated into her being able to assure us that we were eating the best Israeli ice cream whenever she served it to us in her home. Once, she made me chicken schnitzel and I ordered it a lot when I lived in Chicago because it reminded me of her.

During my junior year in Israel, after I broke my left ankle, my aunt let me spend a convalescent couple of days at her home; mostly I sat in her backyard, by the lemon tree, reading her copy of The Feminine Mystique. To me, my aunt always seemed heroic and stoic, and also sometimes funny.

She recalled, for example, learning Hebrew and calling after some new friends enthusiastically, "L'itriot!"

Later, they corrected her. Tovah thought she was saying, "See you later!" (L'hitra'ot!), but she was actually saying, "To noodles!"

Tomorrow, my niece will graduate from the Jewish day school, where she has been studying for eight years and we'll go to the ceremony. Today, for the first time, I started thinking of how we might be friends as she becomes an adult.

I wonder how she'd describe me to her social network.

How would your niece(s) or nephew(s) describe you?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

What the World is Searching for

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

As this blog approaches welcoming its 1,000th visit (it's at 982 as of Sunday night (EST), and fewer than ~100 of the visits are by me, gratifyingly), I have no wish to cause blog visitors any self-consciousness; by the same token, I've been wanting to remark for some time on the interesting series of searches that appear on my Sitemeter stats, of what people are searching for when they land here, whether from Dubai, Massapequa, Kawasaki or....

What Sitemeter Says

true lesbian women locker room hair shampooing stories...stories on citizenship...homophobic gesture...ayelet cohen...sharon kleinbaum..."ibm quarter century" booth bullterrier...boy gay hot .com...h t m l aldente bags...reflections on going to graduate school...sarah siegel...swimteam bathing suits in lexington ma..."shaped by war and trade"...inspiration of discipline in life...lamb ghosh..."something borrowed something blue something old" examples...sarah suits...ibmers database...sarah t stories...

For what are you searching?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Packing for India

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

Constitutionally-incapable of Packing Light!

As an adult, I've been proud that my wardrobe does not include exclusively U.S. brands, but doing this inventory shows me that it's nearly all western fashion. Also, I've always declared Pat to be the materialistic one of the two of us, but in reality, I see how my clothing fetish disqualifies me from claiming any sort of asceticism.

Additionally, I plan to buy a number of salwar kameezes, to be respectful of the way women dress locally. So why am I packing the extensive clothing collection that follows? Because I'm nervous, and need to have an illusion of control, which packing these clothes gives me, along with a feeling that I'm not leaving my entire home behind for six months.

Here's what I want to take to India:

Green Bell brand -- made in India -- brown and sparkly-multi-colored-sequin salwar kameez
Paul Green tan, leather shoes

Escada blue, tweed, wool blazer
Escada blue, ribbed, wool turtleneck
Armani navy, wool pants
Dansko black, leather Mary Jane shoes

Escada light-gray, light-wool suit
lavender, sleeveless wool turtleneck
red, sleeveless cashmere top
light-blue, short-sleeved cashmere sweater
Paul Green black, gray, leather and suede shoes

BIBA red and orange, silk, Indian blouse
Escada light-gray, light wool pants from suit above
Dansko Mary Janes

Ralph Lauren light-blue, wool blazer
Ralph Lauren silver-thread, cable-knit sweater
Armani navy with cream pin-stripe pants
Same shoes

Red and tan and navy, striped, cotton Indian blouse
Armani navy with cream pin-stripe pants from above
Same shoes

Putty, teal and navy, burlap Indian blouse
Armani navy with cream pin-stripe pants from above
Same shoes

Calvin Klein dusky-purple, satin jacket
Armani navy, wool pants from above
soldier-blue, ribbed, silk, short-sleeved top
Same shoes

Pale-green, linen, white-collared, button-down blouse
Armani navy, wool pants from above
Coach black, leather, silver-buckled belt
Same shoes

Loro Piana coral, linen blouse
Armani navy with cream pin-stripe pants from above
Belt from above
Same shoes

Calvin Klein, light-olive-tan, silk jacket
soldier-blue, ribbed, silk, short-sleeved top
Armani navy with cream pin-stripe pants from above
Same shoes

Calvin Klein black, rayon suit -- need lots of Static Guard, but it looks good
Purple, sleeveless cashmere turtleneck
Same soldier-blue, ribbed, silk, short-sleeved top from above
Paul Green black, gray, leather and suede shoes

Karen Kane cotton, Indian-patterned, tan, gray, orange-maroon blazer
Escada light-gray, light wool pants from suit above
Orange-maroon, silk, long-sleeved sweater
Same shoes

Lilly Pulitzer raspberry, cable-knit, wool sweater
Lilly Pulitzer raspberry, white, pin-striped, cotton blouse
Escada light-gray, light wool pants from suit above
Dark-periwinkle, cashmere cowl-neck sweater
Navy, velvet pants
Same shoes

Lacoste dark-periwinkle, silk, cotton, spandex suit
Lacoste light-periwinkle, cotton, spandex blouse
Calvin Klein light-blue, cotton blouse
Same shoes

Armani olive, pin-striped, wool suit
Armani olive, no-sleeved, ribbed, wool turtleneck
Olive rayon shell
Tommy Hilfiger, olive, yellow, magenta, striped, cotton turtleneck
Same shoes

Red, cotton, silk, spandex cowl-neck sweater
Escada black, cotton, tweed pants
Armani black, crepe, wool pants
Dansko, shiny, black, leather clogs

Jones New York, pink-black-tan-white-striped, cotton, long-sleeved blouse
Armani black, wool, cuffed, bell-bottom pants
Same shoes as above

Denim, zippered blouse
Green-with-yellow-flecks, cashmere, zippered sweater
IBM pale-blue, cotton golf shirt
Lacoste, tomato-red, cotton, polo shirt
Lacoste, pale-purple, cotton, polo shirt
Periwinkle, cotton golf pants
Ralph Lauren, cotton, blue jeans
Columbia, navy-blue, cotton sweatpants
Columbia, gray and teal, cotton sweatshirt
Michigan, navy-blue, cotton sweatpants
(3) cotton T-shirts
(2) sleeveless T-shirts for around the apartment
(2) pairs of black, nylon Adidas track pants
(5) Speedo, one-piece bathing suits
Two Mexican sarongs
New Balance white and navy, leather sneakers
Birkenstock tan, suede clogs
Mephisto olive, brown walking shoes
Dansko soldier-blue, gray leather shoes
Coach black leather, gold-buckled belt
Coach navy-blue leather, silver-buckled belt
Birkenstock, taupe sandals
Speedo rubber flip-flops
Giant, cotton beach towel
My feather pillow
A six-month supply of my favorite toothpaste; shampoo; conditioner; dental-floss...
Ziploc baggies
Off! to repel mosquitos
Medicine and vitamins
Books for my independent study
Golf clubs
Golf shoes...

What would you pack for a six-month business assignment?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Blog Buddy

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

"I love reading --"

"I love reading, but I love writing even more--"

"What do you write? Fiction? Non-fiction...?"

"I have a blog." (This is such a fun way to respond now that it's true. Before, I would have answered, "I like to write personal essays.")

"Is it an IBM [internal] blog?"

"It's not internal."

"I've got an IBM one."

"Really? Neat!" (I had been thinking that if our dinner conversation went as well as I anticipated it would, I'd tell my relatively new colleague about my blog, if we talked at all about our lives. I didn't bargain for her saying, "Me, too," and was unnerved for a moment, but then thought, even better.)

I just received e-mail from her, letting me know that she had come to see it...this, and giving me the URL for hers.

How modern that I know more about her thoughts and what matters to her from her blog than I knew previously from our couple of dinner conversations and business meetings.

That she had a blog of her own made me like her even better, and her writing made me like her still further.

How much does it count, one's knowing of another via a blog?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

In Honor of EAGLE's 10th Anniversary

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

I just woke up from a dream I need to record before I forget it. Pat's still fast asleep.

The Dream

We are invited to a party at the home of two wealthy EAGLE members. One of the hosts meets us in the lobby; he is a gorgeous, winning colleague from real-life. If I were a single, gay man, I'd wish he were gay and single....In my dream, he is gay at least.

He leads us to the front door of a loft space. We will be meeting his partner, who is among our top sellers (sales execs.), for the first time. This is their debut; neither of them has chosen to be openly gay at work, or in association with work, prior to tonight.

The door opens and a tall, nearly-black-haired guy slides past me and out, averting his eyes. Is this the other host? Or is this one of their friends, who doesn't bargain for being part of an EAGLE celebration and just wants to leave before it gets going?

I've never before seen our other host, and so I wouldn't know if it were him. The mystery is not solved. I do not ask who he is because I'm swept away by the delicious sight before me.

The loft is as big as the Barnes & Noble Bookstore on Route 46, if not bigger, and against the right wall and forming an aisle are two floor-to-very-high-ceiling stacks mostly of paperbacks, so that even more books fit on the shelves.

The next aisle over is the same idea, only it's filled with every kind of men's fashion, which interests me less, even as it's reminiscent of the Great Gatsby'a collection, or the "American Gigolo"'s.

As I walk in, I'm ready to say the standard line, "What a lovely home," but I'm so amazed by, and attracted to, the books, I just start walking toward them, saying, "I've never seen a home set up like this -- in just the way I'd wish it to be."

We walk down the aisle, looking at the titles and the setup actually reminds me of the Montclair Book Center, only at a more fashionable address -- probably in Soho -- and the lighting is more stylish. I like recognizing a number of the books, and this would be the most comfortable way to spend the entire party.

The guy walking with me down the aisle looks up at the shelves near the ceiling and says, "I don't like the way this is set up."

"That's why there are sliding ladders," I say, marvelling that no book is inaccessible, and, "This is how to design a home if money is no object."

I make my way to the back, left-hand corner of the space, past a whole group of lovely women, some of whom I recognize from EAGLE, and a number of whom look like the most beautiful extras from scenes at The Planet on "The L Word." There must be 50 or more women and I'm struck shy and keep walking, even as I smile sheepishly at one of my friends, who notices me while she's talking with an especially glamorous group of them.

I'm at a cappucchino bar or some other food/drink part of the space next, where one of my Canadian colleagues comes over to talk with me.

"How was your idea received in the end?" he asks.

"The idea, apparently, is ahead of its time, as it has gone nowhere so far."

Real life intermission:

This is the part, where I don't tell any IBM secrets and so will not elaborate on the idea.

Back to the dream:

I am happy to be asked about the idea, but feel guilty not to still be championing it tirelessly. I switch the subject, telling my Canadian friend, "You know that Xxxxxxx [one of our hosts] is from Toronto."

He makes a cheering sound. I knew he'd be proud that such a successful IBMer is Canadian.

I'm heading to the bathroom and I pass the gorgeous women's section again, feeling cowardly, but also that at least I've got an excuse to keep going, rather than stopping to be with them; I need to go to the bathroom.

On the way, I see two EAGLE friends, one male and one female, talking, and I stop for the joy of hugging them. The three of us chat for a minute and then I need to go to the bathroom...and then I wake up...and go to the bathroom.

Today is EAGLE's 10th Anniversary

Ten years ago, just several months after Pat and I moved to New Jersey from Illinois, we hosted an EAGLE - Tri-State Chapter party at our home and four people showed up.

There were nearly 100 IBMers on the Tri-State Chapter distribution list and I was disappointed, but nearly all of them lived in New York and Connecticut. I'm thinking of our barely-furnished house 10 years ago, and our barely-formed Tri-State Chapter of EAGLE, and my barely-launched IBM career, and I'm so grateful at what a decade can bring:

Our house is homey -- inside and out; compared with the initial, fewer-than-10, U.S. chapters, EAGLE now has more than 40 chapters worldwide, and with still more coming soon; and 10 years ago, I could not have imagined that my career would take me to India on assignment.

Thank you, God.

What has changed for you over the past 10 years?

Saturday, June 9, 2007

More Life, Going On

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


Broken robin's egg
Tiny splash on our blacktop
Spotted while walking

Crown of golden fluff
Small mouth unhinged and skyward
No survivor's guilt

My friend's mother died
Please, God, don't let mine die, too
She was fairly young

Crown of tawny fringe
Named, like my friend, for granddad
Too young to get it

Death or Sports Car Pride

At work, we've got an online community for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) IBMers and every other IBMer who's interested in maintaining an exchange. Last fall, not long after the following experience happened, I wrote about it on that forum:

My mom was recovering from a hospitalization for colitis. One of the days when I went to visit her was especially warm and bright.

For what felt like miles and miles, I was on a two-laned road, following a guy driving a vivid blue Corvette convertible. A small, clear, blue glass dolphin was swinging from the rear-view mirror and the driver wore a white baseball cap.

This guy knows how to live, I decided. How much fun to have a convertible on a day like today! I looked to see his license plate, which had a vanity message: "Mahvet."

God, how weird! Mahvet, mahvet. Oy! "Mahvet" is the word in Hebrew for death. The angel of death has quite a sense of humor. Is this what he really looks like? A guy in a baseball cap, driving a convertible sports car?

I feared that mahvet was, God forbid, a sign of impending doom for my mother, or even me. I was so plagued that I had to post about it.

One of my colleagues and friends responded to the posting, "Are you sure he wasn't just showing off, telling everyone that it was his 'vette? Ugh! "Mah vet[te]! P.S., knock on wood, my mother has recovered and is fine now.

That's the comedy of errors I want to recall as I worry about my two friends' recent losses of their mothers. I don't want to look for signs and worry about my own mother's health, or Pat's mother's, but I do worry about both, as Pat and I get ready to be out of the country for the next six months, in India on business.

It's the biggest anxiety I have -- the potential for either of our mothers, God forbid, to become ill while we're away. In considering whether or not to accept the assignment, that figured in hugely, along with fearing that Pat and I will perhaps inadvertently disrespect Indian culture and get in trouble for it.

Our mothers, both, were enthusiastic when we told them about the opportunity to go to India. God bless them. There was no guilt pored on and I just pray that both of them will be healthily here when we return.

The mother-robin is feeding her babies again. Sitting at the window, they're just above eye-level, in the broad-leaved maple tree in our front yard.

How will she feel when they leave the nest? How will they feel without her corporeal nurturing?

Friday, June 8, 2007

Shabbat Shalom

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

Golden Usefulness

Someone I know who survived a grave illness called me for advice today. The person was interviewing for a job, better than any the person had ever before had, and wanted to know if the title of the position sounded appropriate.

"I don't know anyone else in the corporate world," the person said.

"It sounds great," I reassured the person.

"I'm feeling tearful right now....I'm feeling very emotional. Grateful. Remembering that I survived what I survived, and now, having this opportunity, it's --"

I laughed.

"I know you've got to go, and I don't want to keep you, but --"

"No, I'm laughing because recently, I said to you, 'Someday, we'll laugh about all this [i.e., your search for super-meaningful work],' when I should have said --"

"Someday, we'll cry about it!"


"That walk you're taking right now to clear your head prior to the interview, let it be a glorious walk. You're in such a wonderful position with your life right now."

"It is glorious."

When is the last time you've been so grateful, it made you cry?

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Jerusalem Redux?

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

India Afresh

Bangalore was home to me for a week two years ago, and in less than a month, it will be home to Pat and me for six months!

Getting ready reminds me of preparing to study in Jerusalem 20+ years ago, for junior year of college. Only this time, I've got a corporate sponsor, and an independent study professor who are looking for particular outcomes.

At 20, I was lucky to excel in the Ulpan firehose course and to have decent, native-born roommates in my Idelson dorm-apartment at Mt. Scopus. Having passed the Hebrew entrance exam for the university was a bonus and beyond what I thought I might achieve.

And managing to use the campus' library to discover Flannery O'Connor's "Good Country People" and "Nomad and Viper" by Amos Oz as two of the four short stories I'd compare the following year in my undergrad thesis truly was a find!

India and I need much more from each other, in half the time.

This morning, the director of Learning for IBM India asked me to send a writeup about myself that he could share in the announcement. Here's what I wrote:

I'm so excited to come to Bangalore for six months, to participate in the local IBM vibrancy and to learn more about Indian culture. I like to learn from people and to lead and inspire them. In July, I will celebrate my 17th year of IBM service, though I have been with IBM for 11 years and was with a joint venture prior.

In this Blue Pages [employee directory] photo, I am wearing a blouse that I bought at Shoppers Stop in Bangalore when I came to facilitate and my suitcase didn't come with me.

Like the Song Says...

"Always something there to remind me...."

People, or at least I, need to be reminded of places I've been and experiences I've had whenever I am somewhere, or with someone, very new and different from the default of what I'm accustomed to. When I first visited in 2005, Bangalore's weather reminded me of San Francisco's. And its terrain and foliage reminded me of Israel's.

The people I met reminded me of warmth, the feeling itself. The food was comforting to me and the hotel's atmosphere, and several of the accents, seemed British.

This time, I'll be with Pat, and we'll live in an apartment in the city. "Bangalore" means "Bean-town," but it did not remind me of Boston at all, except sometimes traffic-wise.

While in India, I plan to blog about my adventures, and am encouraging Pat to launch a photo blog.

If you went on assignment, where would you go and what would you do there?

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Advancement Retreat

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


For the first time in nearly 15 years together, Pat and I took dance lessons this weekend. Free Merengue and Salsa instruction was being offered during our weekend retreat in the mountains.

Pat wanted to be able to dance " Carmen," our amazingly agile, fluid friend, and now, our hips are killing us, but it was worth it.

Every winter and spring for the past 10 years, we've been meeting ~150 women and in some cases their young children, and who are mostly couples, for a weekend of, in our case, playing in the snow, golf, swimming, dancing and trading life-stories...It's not strictly a retreat, but it feels like one to me in its delivery of refreshment.

Till this weekend, our dancing has been strictly free-style, since the only lessons offered previously were for line dancing.

I told myself to stay relaxed no matter what and told Pat aloud that she was welcome to be the leader. We weren't naturals, but we did manage to be teachable throughout the merengue lessons, including a neat, tricky spin that made us dizzy after many times practicing it.

We had some loving, eye-locked moments, where we saw each other's open faces the way we did when we first began dancing together, back in Chicago, in the early-90s -- only it was richer even, since there was zero mental distraction from the romance by any of my worry that accompanied our courtship initially....

Will this last? Is she too good to be true? The answers, I've learned over the years, are yes and no respectively.

There were other enchanted couples on the floor, too, who were at least as teachable as we were, including our long-time friends, who discovered each other more than three years ago; they were friends of ours prior to becoming partners of each other.

And there was another couple I kept watching happily....

Meal, Enhanced...Full Pants?

Friday night, upon our arrival, a boy of no more than four or five pulled his mother over to our dinner table, where two of our friends and their two- and three-year-old boys were making abstract art with their meals. "When we're done here, do you want to see my bike?" he asked the boys. Of course they did.

Feeling competitive for a moment, I almost asked, "Does it have training wheels?" then was internally horrified at having been invested in the answer. If it did not have training wheels, then that meant that the boy was ahead of where I had been in my athleticism at his age; my sister Kathy taught me to ride a bike without training wheels when I was six.

Instead, I looked at the handsome boy, and then up at the attractive mother, and back down at the boy and up at the mother again: "He looks so much like you," I said.

"That's what people say," she smiled sweetly.

I recognized the woman she was with, though I had never before seen this woman or the son during these weekend getaways. There was an age difference between the couple; the one who looked like the boy was visibly younger than the other woman.

The next afternoon, the boy must have been with a baby-sitter, as they were with us, among the entranced, new merengue dancers. Every time that Pat and I go away for this special weekend, I get a visual gift; sometimes, I tell the subject of it directly how much I appreciated the gift, and sometimes I'm too shy and tell only my close friends what I've seen.

This morning, I did tell my friends who have the two young sons, but did not tell the couple, who was the subject in this case.

Now that I have a blog, I can tell you and pure strangers of this weekend's gift:

I kept seeing Pat and myself, 15 years ago, when I was much younger and she was the age I am now, and there was a disarming quality to our new love -- such an element of extra surprise due to our age difference; there's an Elvis Costello song, "Such Unlikely Lovers," which makes me cry with delighted recognition when I hear it, and this couple reminded me of us back then.

I hope it will last and that neither one is too good to be true.

If you are in a long-term relationship, what has made it last?