Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Anniversary Eve

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

July 31st Was Our First Date

For our first date, 16 years ago tomorrow, Pat took me to dinner in the Chicago suburb, where she lived, at The Filling Station, and then to a bonfire at the home of one of the Athletics staff of Northern Illinois University, where she worked at the time; Pat was the associate VP of Business and Operations there. I was in awe of her grown-up-ness...and then learned quickly that in all the fun ways, she was less mature than I.

I did not yet own a car and a colleague from work and I spent the day together in the Morton Arboretum and then he dropped me off at the restaurant. He came in to meet Pat. He was lovely, but wanted to see the competition, I think. He needed to see Pat, I suppose, to believe I wasn't kidding about being a lesbian and about not being interested in him beyond friendship. That was the condition of our going to the arboretum together, that he knew it was platonic, and that I would be going on a date with Pat later.

Sure, fine, he said. No problem to drop me off. And then he was sad, saying goodbye, and I felt heelish, but forgot my own insensitivity quickly in the excitement of being on the date I had been waiting for all day.

Pat reminds me that after dinner, I talked about movies she hadn't seen the whole way to her friends' house; "I knew you were nervous," she said.

We were going to "The Short and Tall," an annual field-day event held at people's private homes, where women were paired and did sports activities in teams against each other. Pat said that it would have been the first time she would have had to be a "Short," if we had been there during the day because she's 5'9" and I'm nearly 5'10". I'm practically positive that I've written about this here before, but it feels fun to recall it (again, perhaps) on the night before it happened 16 years ago.

We walked into a house full of Midwestern, collegiate, female athletes, and everyone (it felt like) was checking out Pat's date (me). I was a novelty, not having been to any of the event over the prior two years, and Pat hadn't brought a guest previously, she told me.

Around the bonfire, we were telling a story, and each person needed to keep the story going. When it was my turn, Pat and I saw a woman across the fire, motioning her hand in a forward, circling motion, suggesting with it that I speed up my bit of the narrative. Pat had a fierce expression on her face in response. It felt good.

"I was afraid you wouldn't want to come back," Pat told me just now. It's hard to imagine her, feeling insecure, since later, back at her house, she was bold in her response when I told her that I wasn't yet ready to date her exclusively.

"That's OK," she said, "You'll never find anyone better than me...." She so disarmed me with her apparent confidence, that night, I stopped trying, and Pat was right.

Monday, July 28, 2008


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

And It's Personal!

A few weeks ago, my partner Pat and I saw Debra Winger and her husband Arliss Howard, having a conversation on stage about her memoir. It looked nearly effortless. Afterwards, Pat and I approached Arliss Howard because he's the older brother of one of my friends and colleagues from IBM, Joy.

Tonight, I had an experience that reminded me of the same shyness that Joy's brother seemed to exhibit when we said hello to him, following the program; I might understand that "shyness" a bit now, or maybe he didn't feel at all like what I'm about to describe:

My hands were shaking, my voice was stuck in my throat along with tears that made my Adam's apple feel like it could burst. I careened into a wall in the ladies room. I was spent, totally drained. I looked in the mirror. My hair looked better than it had all day. My face, prettier. Still, I was shaken.

Arts Support Group?

Recently, I joined a support group for artists, where we're all there to encourage one another unconditionally, to be exclusively positive. Tonight, all of us were eligible to bring any of our art -- singing, writing, painting, playing an instrument, a short film... -- for 10-15 minutes of display and discussion each.

I brought the blog-posting I wrote on the 23rd, last week, and a painting I did of my father, which I wrote about here a few weeks ago. It was my first time, displaying my art with human beings physically present.

Afterwards, I felt wildly shy. My voice was strong as I read, though I hardly looked up at anyone for the five-minute duration -- and just before I began, the women I knew the best and who were among the artists I respected most all announced they needed to leave right after I spoke, to relieve their there'd be no feedback from any of them. Oh well, too late. I had to go ahead and do my demo. Maybe somebody else would be kind.

In fact, one guy was amazing because he told me how he related -- that he appreciated my honesty about my first kiss, and how he could identify with what I wrote, and also could identify with the painting I did of my father; it reminded him of unresolved stuff with his dad, about how his dad died in poor health, too. I thought, Phew! Someone else who's gay in the room, and who has a dad whose loss he can't get over, too.

And then he sang an original song with his guitar, a really lusty song, about a woman with whom he wanted to be intimate. And I was thrown. And afterwards, another artist with whom I feel especially akin told me he marveled at how I could chronicle my life. "If you ever forget anything, you can just go back to your blog and look it up."

I smiled like I was about to cry and said, "Yeah, I'll be all set if I ever get amnesia."

He said, seeing I was sad, I think, "Well, I better let you go have dinner before you keel over," as a few minutes prior, I had registered my hunger and that I needed to go home and eat dinner.

Descending the stairs, I was full of self-pity, asking myself, Why does my stuff have to be so very personal? Why does the appeal have to be so limited? Why can't I write a best-seller, something that people would delight in, or be utterly moved by.

What if it it's raining? That'll be the finale! How would I get the painting to the car without damaging it?

When I opened the door to the church, it wasn't raining. It was simply getting dark. It was hot and late-twilight and I walked myself to my car, panting a bit, willing the sobbing to come, but it was stuck.

And then I came home and Pat had made gorgeous scallops and we watched a taped episode of "Mad Men," my favorite TV show, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw the headline about how much money "Bat Man" took in and thought about this show with its genius writing that I was watching, and again, asked myself the stairway questions.

"It's so personal, and honest," said the lusty singer about my art. I want it to be more than honest. I want it to be appealing. What if the art is the honesty, though? What if that's my differentiator? Why can't I just allow myself to give the gifts I have, rather than wishing I had other gifts?

Please, God, let me appreciate what I contribute to the world and not wish to contribute something fundamentally different. It is good enough, and special in its own way.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Praying for the Bombing to Stop

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

On Friday morning, Pat heard a quick news item on the radio while I was getting ready for work. "There has been a bombing in Bangalore."

I drove to work and looked for Bangalore-based colleagues and friends on our instant messaging system and found some. All of their families and friends were OK. Then I went on an e-mail writing campaign, sending notes with my prayers for their safety to everyone with whom I worked closely while on assignment there for six months last year.

All of them were safe, thank God.

This morning, I woke up to learn that more bombs went off over the weekend, this time in Ahmedabad, where I have a colleague with whom I worked fairly closely for some months. I've written to him. He's due to come to Armonk in a couple of weeks.

During my assignment, Pat and I were so frustrated by how elaborate a process it was to get a cell-phone number. A representative from the cell phone service provider came to our house to ensure that we really lived there. This rendezvous took weeks and weeks to make happen. We were so annoyed...but it was all about Security, to ensure that we were who we claimed we were. Standard practice.

Just about every day that my driver -- same driver, same vehicle -- pulled into the IBM parking lot on Bannerghatta Road, a Security guard checked the trunk and under the car. I can only imagine the Security precautions now.

It's unnerving to be so far away from there now. And I have assignee's guilt, I think, that I'm not living there permanently -- especially when I think of a couple of colleagues, who are still in India, still on assignment.

It's amazing to have so many people about whom I care if they live or die, who live nine and a half hours ahead of me. When I lived in Jerusalem from July, 1985 to July, 1986, there was a bomb at a Hebrew University campus bus stop and I walked by it after it had happened, on my way to a final exam. What if I had walked by it earlier?

And I was in New York City on September 11th, but uptown, at Madison and 57th. What if I had been at the World Financial Center instead? Early that morning, we had met by phone to discuss a potential project for a client based there, and then I drove into Manhattan, just as the first plane crashed into the first tower; I had a shocking view of the building right after it happened, from across the river, before entering the Lincoln Tunnel....Times like this remind me of times like that.

And we keep going and living our lives until our time is up. I'm reminded to be grateful for whatever time I have left.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Making History in Chicago

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

GLBT History

This item caught my eye in the e-mail I receive routinely from "The Windy City Times:"

Out & Proud in Chicago Book Now Available
A new book edited by Windy City Times Publisher Tracy Baim is now available at Women & Children First Bookstore in Chicago, 5233 N. Clark Street, (773) 769-9299; Unabridged Bookstore, 3251 N. Broadway; and will soon be available at other locations.

Out and Proud in Chicago: An Overview of the City’s Gay Community (Agate Surrey, 224 pages, hard cover, $30) features dozens of writers, including Baim, Marie J. Kuda, Jorjet Harper, John D'Emilio, Jonathan Ned Katz, Chad Heap, John Poling, Owen Keehnen, and more.

Lavishly illustrated with almost 400 historical color and black-and-white photographs, and drawing on the scholarly, historical, and journalistic contributions of a breadth of authorities on Chicago's LGBT culture and scene, this is a first-ever, one-of-a-kind overview of Chicago’s LGBT community and its history.

Published as a companion to the WTTW public television documentary of the same name, and to the Web site, the book is organized into a few main chronological sections, from the 1800s through the 2000s.

I ordered the book and wrote to Tracy Baim to thank her for publishing it. Tracy wrote back, "...the book includes a piece on 10% show ... with pic of you and others (unfortunately you with eyes closed!)"

"The 10% Show" was the cable access TV show that I co-anchored while it ran, from 1987-90. She also asked me to complete as many questions of a survey as I wished, to be included on the web site later this summer. The preface to the survey read, in part:


I am working on a GLBT Chicago history project. I am sending this document to you in hopes you will agree to be a part of it. I will do some followup interviews, but will primarily rely on your answers to the following questions. Please do not be modest. I have selected you because I feel you have had an impact on our Chicago GLBT community and I want to document that legacy, including through your own eyes. Write as much as you want! These will be edited, but I would rather you err on the side of more text. There is also no guarantee on who will make a final cut....

Here were a number of my responses so far:

15) Who did you first “come out” to and what year? Please write a short narrative about your experience in coming out, whether one time or over many years. For example, did you ever use a pseudonym.

I came out first to one of my two older sisters, Kathy, when I was 15, in 1980. Then again, by leaving a love-letter on the kitchen table for my mother to find, when I was 17, just a month or so after my dad of blessed memory died. Then officially to my mother and two sisters by U.S. Mail at 21. I remember hiding some lesbian literature I had bought at Walden Books in the bottom of a full Hefty trash-bag on trash-day when I was living with my newly widowed mother, not long after my dad died; my sisters,who were five and a half and nine years older than I were out of the house by then.

16) What troubles did you face as a GLBT person? Describe any incidents in school, at home, at work, or in the community?

Once, when I was 11 and going to Deena Gans' birthday party, I refused to wear an undershirt under a Danskin striped shirt that I liked. Most of the girls in my class already wore bras and I was ashamed that I was still wearing undershirts -- that I didn't need a bra.

As I walked out the front door, my mother yelled, "Butch!" at me in response to not wearing an undershirt. I ran to the end of the driveway, wondering what she meant until another mother arrived to drive my friend and me to Deena's.

18) Did you have mentors in the Chicago GLBT community; if so, who are/were they?

My mentors were Jack Ryan, producer of "The 10% Show" and Liz Heusmann(sp?), assistant director (if I remember her title correctly) of Horizons Community Services . Jack helped me see GLBT culture in all its marvelous variety and Liz helped me help youth feel better about their sexual orientation by training me to be a youth group advisor.

20) When you were coming out, what were your favorite GLBT bars in Chicago, and what years?

The Closet on Broadway, Summer of 1987; Paris on Montrose, Fall, 1987-Spring, 1995 (or whenever it closed); Augie's & CK's on Broadway, Fall, 1987-1992, and there was one in the suburbs we went to twice, where the lesbians with '80s "big-hair" went, but it wasn't as much fun, and was run by heterosexual men, I think.

21) What were the key issues faced in the GLBT community when you first came out?


22) What issues do you see as key in the GLBT community today?

Having our humanity acknowledged routinely; same-sex marriage; AIDS; transgender human rights

23) How has AIDS impacted your life personally? Please write a narrative about how AIDS or other health issues such as breast cancer may have impacted you personally, or your role in the GLBT community. Please also list any leaders or friends whose death impacted your activism.

I lost my friends and fellow Or Chadash (New Light) synagogue congregants, Robert Kingoff (age 28), and Rob Elterman, also in his late-20s or early-30s if I remember correctly. May their memories be blessed. I loved Robert so much that once, I asked him to be physically intimate with me. He knew he had AIDS at that point, but hadn't yet told me. He simply responded, "Sarah, I don't want to risk ruining our friendship."

Several months prior to his death, I flew down to North Carolina to spend time with him and his family. I brought an AIDS benefit audiotape with me and played Nenah Cherry's version of Cole Porter's "I've Got You Under My Skin." His parents let us stay in their condo on the ocean.

We stayed in separate rooms and I recall feeling a bit afraid of his coming into my room forcibly and infecting me. How crazy! Nothing like that happened. We were like a couple of childhood friends with grownup privileges, e.g., getting to stay in the condo unsupervised.

We went out to local gay and lesbian bars both nights and he still seemed robust; he kept saying that if I met a Southern woman, I'd never go back to Northern ones. Meanwhile, gorgeous as some of them were, and even as I watched them shyly from across the bar, Robert was way more fun, and we stuck together both nights.

Re: breast cancer, I used to think of it as a remote worry, until my aunt died of it, and then a couple of years ago, my sister Kathy was diagnosed with breast cancer and has so far survived it, and then my 82-year-old mother was diagnosed last fall and had it removed via a lumpectomy, thank God.

24) How would you describe the “diversity” within the GLBT community of Chicago? Specifically, how do you feel racial, gender, class, age and other issues divide or bring the community together, both in your personal experience and as part of the larger community?

With the youth group and by playing three seasons of rugby recreationally, with the Windy City Women's Rugby Football Club, I had a more diverse experience than I might have had if I had not been involved in both. There were a number of people of color among both groups. I did, also, once meet a woman from the South Side, who was 22, and who told me that she had never before met a Jew till meeting me.

Also, I remember going to a lesbian chavurah (prayer group) that was run mostly by Jewish lesbians in their 40s, 50s and 60s, and I found it comforting, though I also wondered why more women my age weren't drawn to it. (Hard to believe, now that I'm 43, that women in their 40s seemed old to me then!)

25) If you consider yourself a “political” activist, how do you define this? For example, were you involved in any political or legislative campaigns?

I just remember that seeing the Carol Mosely Braun bumper-sticker on my partner Pat's black Saab during our first date made her car into a double-chick magnet.

26) Describe in as many words as you would like, what you feel your personal legacy is to the Chicago GLBT community, whether political, social, business, volunteerism, archival, etc.

Just as Jack Ryan, producer of "The 10% Show," expanded my cultural horizons with all the shoots I got to crew for, I hope that in my role as co-anchor of "The 10% Show," I helped a number of GLBT Chicagoans to feel that there was a rich world out there, full of culture and frivolity and deep matters alike, e.g., the Lesbian Kiss-in at Water Tower Place; interviews of the founders of the 'zine, "Thing" and of author David Levitt, and of International Ms. Leather; and of the heterosexual, female documentarian whose subject was a self-professed Kentucky drag-queen....Also, particularly with the Saturday afternoon we spent, reading about flirting in literature, I hope I helped some of Chicago's GLBT youth feel hopeful about their futures.

27) This project is also about “defining moments.” Can you discuss some of those in your own life, whether as a youth, a teen, an adult, etc. (Examples: Growing up in poverty; coming out to your family; losing a job because of your sexuality; having children or grandchildren; a health diagnosis; your parents’ impact on your life choices; etc.)

Defining moments from my life included becoming self-aware of my attraction to girls upon seeing my unusually, physically-mature friend in a white bikini when we were 11; feeling romantic about, but comparatively not excited by, my high school boyfriend; losing my father to bile-duct cancer when I was 17; living and studying in Jerusalem for a year at 20; coming out to my family at 21; getting together with Pat at 27; helping start up IBM's GLBT Sales team in 2001, which is thriving more than ever; being unable to conceive a child via IUI, nine times, between age 36-38 before abandoning my pursuit of motherhood; living in India with Pat for six months for my work last year.

28) Please write anything additional you would like about the Chicago community, yourself, or others you admire and want to remember.

Chicago made me the activist I was then and still am today. I learned everything I needed to know while I lived in Chicago -- how to make a living; how to be a volunteer in the community for mutual benefit; how to help advance GLBT people and how to ensure our inclusion; how to find romance with a series of similarly young, searching women; how to play rugby; how to interview people on TV; how to come back to my Judaism via the lesbian chavurah and Congregation Or Chadash, the gay synagogue, where Pat and I met; how to find the love of my life...

Like Tom Tunney, Tracy Baim was Chicago's premier GLBT community leader throughout my nine years in Chicago, and for the past 12, since we moved to New Jersey, at the time, for Pat's work. I want to wish Tracy, "Chazak, chazak v'nitchazek!" ("Be strong, be strong, and may we be strengthened!" -- this is recited after the designated leader completes the chanting aloud of the final book of the Torah each year. Since Tracy is a premier leader of the community, I wish the same for Tracy and for all of us.)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Radio Triggered It...

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

Last Summer's Jubilee Memory

Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl" came on the radio as I was rounding the reservoir on my way home from Armonk tonight. At a red light, I looked over at the male driver of a white Infinity and cranked up the song as the light changed to green.

No mustache stubble, and such a small mouth, she had, compared to any boys I had ever kissed. I was 17 and she was 18. She turned out not to be lesbian, but when we kissed for the first time, we weren't classifying ourselves; we were too busy being wonder-filled. Our versions of wonder differed, though, I think. Her eyes shone with fear and by contrast, I think mine reflected redemption.

By then, I had spent six years, since age 11, knowing that I was more attracted to girls than boys, and dreading my knowledge, even as I acted on it a bit at 15; for her, perhaps the whole experience came as an unwelcome surprise....

Unearthing Ancient History

Probably, I should explain what I mean by, "...acted on it a bit at 15:" I was semi-intimate with another girl my age then, when I was living in Israel for the summer, but we did not kiss, which made it not real. I think if we had kissed, we would have had to acknowledge what we were feeling, or what *I* was feeling anyhow. Again, the girl was experimenting, whereas I was confirming my hypothesis.

And then at the end of the summer, upon my return, I did try to kiss my best friend. We were sunbathing on her family's deck and while her eyes were closed against the sun, I grazed her mouth with mine, so briefly.

She opened her eyes and looked at me, trying to decide what to say. I jumped up and went to the freezer to get some ice. We never discussed it and our friendship waned after that. Two years later, she accompanied her mother at my father's shiva. I cried so hard after she left -- at the loss of our friendship (though just three years later, by age 20, when both of us were living in Israel, we re-united as friends; she's ultra-Orthodox, with lots of children now, and perfectly lovely to Pat). It was also the first time I had really cried about my father; till then, I was in a sort of frozen shock, even as my family and I had anticipated and expected his death for six months.

The friend I kissed two years later, in earnest, and who kissed me back, and I still are friendly, too, and she has visited my blog, and has met Pat, but I do not talk with her anymore about that time directly because both of us are partnered -- she married a kid I knew, though she didn't know I knew him when they met -- and because it's ancient history.

Aural History

Tonight, I was reminded of how aural, rather than visual, I am. It was a complete betrayal to watch the video of Katy Perry, performing the song; it was grossly at odds with the images her voice conjured for me, listening to the song on the radio.

I won't even link to the video here, since it was so disappointing. It was cheap beyond belief, and maybe it was supposed to be a visual parody, but still, it upset me. Whenever I hear the song again, I'll do my best just to think of my own first kiss....We were in her room in her family's apartment, late at night, with the lights out, but with street lights shining in just enough to see each other's face -- or that's my memory of how we saw each other in the dark anyway.

It was the same room, where once, I motioned her mother to come in, to listen to the Sugar Hill Gang's hit that was playing on the radio that summer. Wasn't it great? She smiled and humored me. At the time, my father was living, and dying of common bile-duct cancer, uptown at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital. By the time my thwarted-kiss friend came for my father's shiva, I had already had this real kiss, but by then, the girl who had returned my kiss was in college...though she stayed with us over the weekend of her Thanksgiving break, which was just a few weeks after my father's death.

My mom knew nothing of our romantic relationship...yet...and felt it would be a good diversion for me to have a friend stay with us. That Shabbat/Sabbath, I drove us home from shul (synagogue). My mother offered to sit in the back-seat; the girl put her hand on mine for part of the trip home; the station wagon had bench-seats back then and so my mom didn't see any of the affection.

Furious Vulnerability

A few weeks ago, some new friends from Montclair -- another lesbian couple -- and Pat and I went past a building that reminded me of the whole teen-age experience and I told them of the definitive girl I met the summer my dad was dying. I told them how the girl had given me a copy of *Annie on My Mind,* which was published that year, and which she had found at the bookstore where she worked after school. And how I read it in one sitting, sitting with her on the grass in a park while she read another book. And how that night, encouraged by the novel, I initiated the kiss.

"How romantic," said one of them.

And then I felt suddenly shy and dismissed the reminiscence and immediately, the same friend said, "It must have been terrible to lose your father so young."

What a buzz-kill! "Yeah, it was awful," I said, recalling it, but then also feeling resentful at having been pulled away from a partly exhilarating memory to one that was purely painful. I didn't say anything further and switched the subject to some architectural feature of the building across the street from where we were walking.

Monday, July 21, 2008

My Dad Would Have Been 82

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


In 1982, my father of blessed memory died. If he had lived until yesterday, he would have been 82. Yesterday, I spent the day, writing a paper for school, on Mediation.

In the afternoon, I took a break to look at e-mail and saw a notification that I had received a comment on my beehive profile (IBM's answer to Facebook, and internal for IBMers) from the father of a summer intern.

The intern's father works for IBM as well. I did not know him prior to this summer; he works in Sales in New York City.

The other day, I had written on the profile of the intern's father, and then when he responded, I replied, "Today would have been my dad's birthday -- may his memory be blessed. I'm glad to hear from another father on this day. You must be proud of [your daughter]; we're happy to have her on our team for the summer and I hope she chooses IBM upon her graduation."

Her father wrote, "...I am sure that your father if alive would be very proud of you. I am, too, very proud of [my daughter] and she can't say enough how much she has enjoyed IBM and the people she is associated with, thanks for making it special for her!"

I'm so envious of the intern. My dad never even got to see me graduate from high school. It was kind of him to write about my dad's likely pride in me in any case.

"Mad Men" Again

The show is nearly back, but I had missed the first four episodes, and so we're watching them now, pre-season. We just watched Episode #3. Tonight, I told Pat that 1960, the year when the show takes place, seems so familiar to me, even though I wasn't born till 1965. "Maybe I was just experiencing it as part of my parents, inside my father."

The show conjures my earliest memories. I remember my father, using the same sort of movie camera that the main character uses. Our kitchen curtains were the same concept as the main characters' kitchen's. My father dressed smartly, like the men dressed, and my mother went to Girardo's in Pound Ridge every week, where he made her hair flip at the bottom.

For what additional achievements and kindnesses would I have been proud of my dad, if he had made it to yesterday? Maybe he would have invented several more games and toys (he was a professional toy-maker/game designer); maybe he would have done hagbah on High Holidays for the synagogue we went to in my childhood; maybe we could have gone rollerskating together a few more times; maybe he would have liked Pat and welcomed her into our family; maybe he would have been pleasantly surprised by my career and by the way I grew into an adult....

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Linda Sharar's "Everyday" Album

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

Full of Treats

I've told Linda that I'm a Janet Jackson or Teena Marie or even Annie Lenox type, but her latest album, "Everyday" is extraordinary. Usually, when I listen to a CD, three of the songs might fully grab me. With this collection of 13 songs, not being grabbed was the exception.

"Round the Corner;" "A Little Will Do;" "Harmony With You;" "Give It Your Best;" "Safe House;" "Great Expectations;" "Windows on the World;" "One Another;" and "Missing Helen" all moved me hugely and were my favorites. I loved that "Round the Corner" encouraged me to believe that what I was hoping for was just around the bend; "A Little Will Do" was about how, of course, she wants it all, but a little will do.

"Harmony With You" had great lyrics, e.g., "[Harmony is] dancing, sometimes like making love -- one voice below, the other up above...." "Give It Your Best" was all about not being unhealthily competitive; "Safe House" might have been about trying to re-program a lesbian kid by sending her off to an ex-gay conclave; "Great Expectations" was a sad one about a girl, who became anorexic and how grateful the singer was that her parents did not have unreasonably high expectations of the singer the way the anorexic friend's parents did of the anorexic friend. And then "Missing Helen" made me miss my dad of blessed memory.

At the end of the album, Linda includes an "Easter egg,' where her young daughter, at two years old, sings, "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and "Itsy Bitsy Spider." How marvelous! Listening to Linda, and in some of the songs her sisters, singing artfully about subjects I related to made me calm, and then thinking about her as an IBM colleague, who's also a popular musician, made me proud.

Today, I Drew

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

Here Are the Drawings

Pat kindly photographed them for me.

The women's hair is composed of, respectively, leaves and flowers from my imagination, and I drew the picture with Caran D'ache crayons. I bought myself the collection of 84; it's a treasure-chest. Their hair was inspired by my partner Pat; this morning, at the farmer's market in Montclair, she picked up an application to become a Master Gardener. Rutgers University will train her for free if she does 100 hours of service for Essex County, the county where we live, upon completion of the program. She is excited to apply.

The women took me nearly two hours to draw. I sketched a couple on a plain journal page, but then went directly to the good, watercolor paper. Coming up with their hair was especially fun and then I enjoyed inventing the flowers. I did not lose self-consiousness till I was drawing the flower-hair and then I did lose myself a bit in the activity finally.

It's pretty personal, I know, to post a drawing of people, kissing, but it was just exactly what I wanted to draw today, and I let myself. It's not too often that I see images of women, being romantic with each other, and so I felt entitled to create my own imagery. Also, perhaps I was influenced by "Head in the Clouds," a movie Pat and I saw last night, where Charlize Theron and Penelope Cruz played lovers, for a time.

The man featured here is a variation on the same man I've been drawing since childhood, and is done in charcoal. I don't know why I have always loved drawing men, all of whom are always square-jawed and thick-necked; it's like I was walking through the Castro in the '70s (even though I had not been in San Francisco till my adulthood) and was drawing the cartoon version of the guys I could have seen there.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

How Much Unity?

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

How Much Diversity?

On my birthday morning, my partner Pat told me what she learned about John McCain's and Barak Obama's particular sort of left-handedness. She heard that the way they write, with their hands in a hooked fashion, indicates that they're not concerned with belonging. "That's how you write, too, [as a lefty]," Pat said.

"I'm very concerned with belonging," I protested.

"Then why are you always telling everyone you're a lesbian? That sets you apart from a lot of people" she countered.

Just now, I listened to the report myself and the message was that they were unconcerned with "...blending in," not that they were unconcerned with "...belonging." Either way, Pat had a point. I thought about it all morning at my Conflict Resolution practicum at Teachers College.


How much did I want to stand out? Did individualism trump my need to blend in or belong? Why did I set myself apart from people by so often asserting my Jewish and/or lesbian identity?

At lunch, while waiting for the microwave to finish heating my meal, I told a classmate about my exchange with Pat. The classmate was from another country and said that she related to my dilemma; often she didn't know how X -- where "X" = the adjective for her country -- to be. She wanted to fit in, but felt that one of her most interesting features was missed when she kept her national origin low-key.

On the way home from class, I spoke with my sister Kathy about it and she said, "It's a classic dilemma: unity vs. diversity. It was just in this week's parsha (Torah portion) -- the struggle to be different, yet still to participate in the world."

"That's like 'Al tifrosh meen hatsibur ['Don't isolate yourself from the community,'],'" I said.

"No, that's from Pirkei Avot, and different," Kathy said. Kathy's right. It is different, i.e., it's about not avoiding the larger community, rather than about asserting one's difference from others in the community.

Cultural Intelligence Training

Today at work, our whole team participated in Day 1 of a cultural intelligence training program. The instructor asked what each of us hoped to get out of the course. I said, "I don't think this can happen in the scope of our time together, but I wish I could become totally sophisticated around when to name my difference and when not to do so."

So far, I gleaned one saying from the course that is somehow especially helpful: "Assume difference unless similarity is proven."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


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

"...I Am Still Thirsty"

I heard this '90s hit over the weekend and can't get it out of my head. The lyrics are haunting.

Asking to be taken to another place might resonate with me right now because I'm working a bit harder than I'd like: all weekend at a seminar for school, including on my birthday; hosting a national delegation of school principals at the IBM Learning Center, where I work, nearly all day yesterday, but not until after delivering a 45-minute presentation to the IBM Academy of Technology in Bangalore, via web cam in a web conference. It was 6:55 am for me, though late-afternoon for them.

I don't really want to go to another place, but just to have some leisure moments; I'm stealing this one from a project that's due today (before midnight still qualifies as today). In late-August, happily, I'll take a two-week vacation with Pat, and so after all, there's no reason to kvetch. I suppose I'm half-kvetching and half-bragging. It's a good problem to have -- interesting assignments and projects, but it's just the nuisance of needing sleep!...I went swimming this morning for 20 minutes. Better 20 than none. Had to rush to a teleconference. Still, I'm glad I did it....I know, how ironic to be relating to a song about triumphing over lynchings by comparing the lyrics to how I feel about my stimulating, if temporarily oppressive-feeling, work-load.

Thank you, God, for all of the challenges. Lately, I feel hyper-creative and then hyper-extended, depending on the moment....I've never been to Tennessee, and whether or not I'm entitled to be, I am also still thirsty.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Nature at its Best

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

Flowers, Foliage and Food

Pat is cooking scallops that were caught in the Atlantic Ocean off of New Jersey this morning and that a fisherman brought to the farmers' market in Montclair today. They're huge and beautiful. She took me for a quick walk around our property while the butter began to do its work.

I saw flowers that we missed while we were in India last year: red and purple dahlias, yellow and white lillies, gladioli in a variety of colors and the willow tree we added to the backyard this past spring.

In the fridge is a strawberry festival in a box, that is, at my request, Pat bought boxes and boxes of the cute, sweet fruit, so I could bring in a bunch of it for my 25 classmates and professors in celebration of my birthday tomorrow. I've opted to adopt the Indian custom of giving out sweets on one's birthday -- just not the candy variety.

Discovering a New Talent

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


We did two mediation roleplays in my Conflict Resolution practicum today. When I played the mediator, in the first roleplay, I was driven to push the complainants toward a solution...which was not at all what we were supposed to do. It was impossible to let go. However, when it came time for me to play a complainant in the second roleplay, I was utterly realistic.

I *embodied* the 15-year-old daughter, who was skipping school, which was my role. She was playing my mother. During the summer I turned 12, I think I've written here before, I tried an acting class at the New Canaan Y. The night of the performance, I could not remember my lines. It was a scene from "How to Succeed at Business without Really Trying" and it was a disaster.

That summer, I promised myself I'd never act again. As a leadership development facilitator and as a learner in my Masters program, there are a fair number of role plays that are required and I find that I love them most of the time. I love them because usually, when I'm in a role that doesn't make me feel pressured, I really disappear into the character.

At the same time, I'm pulling my emotions out of my own memories that I'm reminded of by the role. This must be what it's like for actors. It's really draining and energizing at once...draining because it requires an ultimate intensity and present-ness, and energizing because new ideas spring out of our mouths in the moment.

The daughter role-play experience inspired me to think about what it would be like to write my own scripts to act, or to write plays for others to act. I want to remain receptive to creativity in any format.

Friday, July 11, 2008

My Birthday Season

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

No Cake on My Face This Year...

When we were living in India last year, my colleague Sushma smeared birthday cake all over my face on my birthday, at the office. I will miss that Indian custom on Sunday, when I turn 43.

There's another Indian birthday custom I can follow, though: I'll bring in a big bowl of strawberries or cherries to class on Sunday. In India, it's customary to provide a bowl of candy on one's birthday, but I prefer serving friends fruit, and so I'll adopt and adapt the custom in parallel.

How I Want to Celebrate My Birthday

I hope we can go to the Lego exhibit at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center with my mom, sisters, brothers-in-law, nephews (other than Zach, who's in Canada with his other grandmother) and niece. And then I hope that all of us can sit by the lake there and draw from our imagination, or something/someone we see. I'm jones-ing for some fresh art supplies. Maybe I can get them after class tomorrow night.

When I was a kid, I took painting, sculpting, drawing and cartooning classes at the Stamford Museum and loved all of them.

Here's what appeals to me as I look now online:

Maybe I'll need to find the Caran D'Ache pastels at:
Caran D'Ache North America:
Caran d'Ache | 19 West 24th St. | New York, NY 10011
Bruno B. Loehrer
Customer Service:
US Telephone: 718.482.7500
World: 41.22.869.01.01

Not to kill my own buzz, but this is starting to remind me of the many times I've wanted to write and then spent money on books on writing, or just on good fiction. Maybe not, though, as I'm less convinced about my talent as a visual artist than I am invested in wishing I were a more talented, silkier writer. We'll see what I let myself do naturally....

Switching Gears

In ~15 minutes, I'll begin the classroom Part II portion of my Conflict Resolution practicum and I'm hoping that between now and the end of the weekend, when the classroom portion ends, I'll have a good idea for writing a 12-page paper to apply what I've learned. So far, nothing's gelling around a concept for it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Via Con Dios

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

That Doesn't Sound Like Yiddish

My mom said, "Via con Dios," the other night. She never speaks any foreign language other than Yiddish and a splash of high school Latin.

I kept hearing her saying it as I swam today. She was trying to get off the phone because I had worn her out with stories. Finally, she said it.

Monday, July 7, 2008

American Flag

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

Haiku Triptych

Big, stripes, stars, cotton
Draped over my dad's coffin
Jewish war vets' gift.

Mom gave you to me
When sitting shivah began
I inhaled my loss.

The pine scent left you
Sitting primly, tri-cornered
Behind glass and wood.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Film Analysis of “Fire,” by Sarah Siegel

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

ORLJ 5340, Section 002: Basic Practicum in Conflict Resolution, Summer B, Collaborative Negotiation and Mediation Skills,
Teachers College, Columbia University

[Since I've written two papers this weekend, I've not had time to blog as much as I'd like, and so I wanted at least to post this one in lieu of blogging live....The assignment was: "See a film with a cross-cultural conflict [this film was on the list of films my professors suggested]. Analyze one conflict in the film from a cross-cultural negotiation perspective, applying the collaborative negotiation model(s) you have learned (about 4-5 pages)." Spoiler alert: I give away much of the plot of the movie....]

“Fire” represented a slice of Delhi-based, Hindu culture in the mid-'90s. Sita, the new bride of the joint family’s younger brother, Jatin, challenged the culture by asserting her free will, which was at odds with the typical behavior of women in the society, and which led to a giant conflict ultimately. Biji, the mother of Jatin and of Ashok, Jatin’s older brother, who was married to Radha, represented traditional, Indian society. For most of the film, Ashok sought renouncement of all desire; Sita sought fulfillment of her desire; and Sita’s husband, Jatin, and sister-in-law, Radha, were caught in-between tradition and fulfilling their desires.

Kimmel (1994, p. 189) wrote that ethnocentric people were, “…convinced of the superiority of their ways of doing and thinking about things.” And “cultural chauvinists” had, “…little knowledge of or interest in people with different subjective cultures.” Arguably, Radha’s deeply Hindu husband, Ashok, demonstrated ethnocentricity while their servant, Mundu, who was not well-educated, and Biji, who also might not have been as well-educated as the succeeding generation, most likely were cultural chauvinists. In either case, they did not accept anyone’s deviation from the traditional Hindu, Indian path (though in Mundu’s case, his intolerance was hypocritical due to his pornography habit).

If there had been any collaborative negotiation between, say, Ashok and Radha, or Jatin and Sita, it would have been intracultural (from the same culture), according to Lewicki, Barry, & Saunders (2007, p. 243), and might, according to research, they wrote, have had a better outcome than a cross-cultural negotiation. For example, Jatin’s on-the-side, Chinese girlfriend, Julie’s, father was impossible to reason with about the goodness of India or Indians due to the discrimination that his family and he had faced throughout their lives in India.

Jatin did not even try to help the father see it differently. He agreed, “Yes, the Indians are a complex people.”

By contrast, when Sita slapped Jatin back after he hit her, he told her she was lucky that he didn’t believe in violence, which was a departure from how a number of the men operated in the culture; the outcome of the particular intracultural conflict between Jatin and Sita, in that case, was more positive than it might have been.

What if any of the filmmaker’s characters had been skilled in negotiation – had had some tools? What if they had taken Hammer’s (2008, p. 8) survey to determine their intercultural conflict styles? For example, what if Radha had known explicitly that according to Hammer, being from an indirect culture, it was common to show disagreement through using metaphors and stories? She could have shared with her husband the childhood memory that had morphed into a metaphor, of being in the field of flowers with her parents as a little girl and struggling to imagine that she could see the ocean. She could have used it to help him see that their life as it was kept her from “seeing the ocean.”

How much less heart-ache would the film have included if only its characters had had some theoretical understanding, first, of culture, and then of how to resolve their conflicts constructively through cooperative, integrative negotiation? They would have recognized themselves as part of what Hofstede, in Lewicki, Barry, & Saunders (2007, p. 236) referred to as a collectivist culture, being a joint family of two brothers and their wives, living in one home with their older mother, which was not uncommon in India, where there was no Social Security. They would have also acknowledged that historically, they conformed to the dimension of “Power Distance” by Hofstede, in Lewicki, Barry, & Saunders (2007, p. 236), where the husband, in this case, was the ultimate decision maker and it was the wife’s duty to obey no matter the cost to her self-actualization.

If they had read more of Lewicki, Barry, & Saunders (2007), Ashok, Radha, Sita and Jatin would have learned about “cultural attribution error:”
…even though culture describes group-level characteristics, it doesn’t mean that every member of a culture will share those characteristics equally. In fact, there is likely to be as wide a variety of behavioral differences within cultures as there is between cultures. Although knowledge of the other party’s culture may provide an initial clue about what to expect at the bargaining table, negotiators need to be open to adjusting their view very quickly…(pp. 234-235).

Jatin could have avoided making a cultural attribution error by recognizing that although Sita dressed traditionally, and practiced the rituals of their Hindu religion, she did not necessarily think traditionally about her gender role.

Lewicki, Barry, & Saunders (2007) also would have taught the “Fire” characters about the “culture-as-dialectic approach,” which the authors wrote was praised by Janosik for its acknowledgement that just because people were in the same culture, did not necessarily signify that they shared the same values equally (p. 238). If Ashok had understood his culture in dialectic terms, he might have recognized that not everyone in his family valued the spiritual guidance of Swamiji to the extent that he did.

What if the characters had demonstrated any of Lewicki’s, Barry’s, and Saunders’ seven preconditions for better integrative negotiations (2007):
The presence of a common goal, faith in one’s own problem-solving ability, a belief in the validity of the other party’s position, the motivation and commitment to work together, trust, clear and accurate communication, and an understanding of the dynamics of integrative negotiation (pp. 77-82).

What if they had followed cooperative behavior norms that Deutsch (2006) laid out? The first, around “…identifying common ground and common interests” (p. 35) would have required Sita, Jatin, Ashok, Radha and Mundu to agree that all of them shared a struggle with desire.

In Deutsch’s (2006) second norm, when they described their struggles, for example, in Ashok’s case, the renunciation of his desire compared to the new recognition and embrace of hers by his wife, Radha, they would, “…need to refrain from making personal attacks” (p. 35). If only Radha could have safely spoken with Ashok, telling him what she told Sita, “It scares me….This isn’t familiar for me – this awareness of needs, of desires.” If only when Jatin told Sita about his need to be with Julie, he could have done so respectfully and if only in response, Sita could have refrained from calling him a “…pompous fool,” Sita’s and Jatin’s argument might not have escalated into violence.

If only Radha had followed Deutsch’s (2006) third norm when she caught Mundu, watching pornography while caring for her mother-in-law, rather than the religious movies that they were supposed to be watching, he might not have felt the need to retaliate and expose Radha’s extra-marital sexual activity. If only she had sought “…to understand [Mundu’s] views from [his] perspective” (p. 35) in the moment, rather than later, the entire story might have been less dramatic in its tragedy. She did acknowledge that Mundu’s wish for some sexual pleasure was similar to hers, but only to Sita, and only after it was too late for peaceful resolution.

If only Ashok could have followed Deutsch’s (2006) fourth norm, building on Radha’s comment, “Sita says the concept of duty is overrated,” by listening and acknowledging the value of the idea (p. 35), rather than responding brusquely, “She’s young, but you know better,” Radha might have felt less driven to run from her relationship with Ashok.

Fortunately, unconsciously, Radha followed Deutsch’s (2006) fifth norm and did limit her, “…expression of…negative feelings…” (p. 35) when Sita suggested they run away together and start a take-away restaurant. Ultimately, they did run away together, and they might not have allowed themselves to do so, if either had broken the fifth norm.

Everyone needed to follow Deutsch’s (2006) sixth norm, and “Take responsibility for the harmful consequences…of what you do and say; seek to undo the harm as well as openly accept responsibility and make sincere apology for it” (p. 35). Even Ashok, in his aspiration toward purity, was sadistic in his denial of his wife’s pleasure and in teasing her for 13 years, making her lie next to him to prove how he was beyond temptation.

Deutsch’s (2006) seventh norm would have spoiled the high drama of the film, but would have been the right next action – if only everyone had sought reconciliation after everyone had apologized sincerely for their harm and had pledged to try to undo the harm (p. 35).

Deutsch’s (2006) eighth norm would have required being responsive “…to the other’s legitimate needs,” (p. 35) and so Biji would have been treated as a human being, rather than as a feeding and bathing schedule that needed to be kept…perhaps, Biji would not have been so frustrated and might have been more flexible with and loyal to her family, if they had shown love and loyalty to her; Mundu would have been given some private time off, rather than having to work continuously, so that he had time and his own space for recreation of his choice; Ashok would have been allowed to leave the secular world and join Swamiji full-time; Jatin would have been able to divorce Sita and go to Hong Kong with his girlfriend (just as Ashok had a picture of Swamiji on Radha’s and his bedroom wall, Jatin had posters of Bruce Lee on his and Sita’s); and Radha and Sita would have been allowed to stay together and run the video store and take-away....

Deutsch’s (2006) ninth norm of cooperation would have meant that the people in the film were dedicated to a “cooperative problem-solving process,” (p. 35). They would have had to be because they would have needed to negotiate how to care for Biji ongoingly, since both of her sons wished to move away.

Deutsch’s (2006) tenth norm, of being “…appropriately honest,” (p. 35), i.e., not cruelly so and not doubt-engenderingly so, served Radha and Sita well. “Radha, did we do anything wrong?” Sita asked, following the first time they were intimate.

“No,” responded Radha. Had she responded, “Yes,” then on top of the suffering they felt due to their absent husbands, they would have felt shame, perhaps even the suicidal sort ultimately.

Finally, Deutsch’s (2006) eleventh norm needed everyone’s thoughtful adherence, but it was heeded by none of them; it required that throughout the conflict, they remain “…caring and just – and consider the other as a member of one’s moral community – therefore, as a person who is entitled to care and justice” (p. 36). If they had, everyone would have acknowledged and respected Biji's humanity; Biji would not have spit in Radha's face; Ashok would not have threatened to turn over Mundu to the police; Sita would have been able to challenge some gender stereotypes without provoking domestic abuse; Jatin would have not have had to marry Sita; and Radha might have found a way to "see the ocean" without jumping ship...but considering all that could have been different, yet was not, culture and desire trumped cooperative behavior norms in "Fire."


Bedi, B., & Mehta, D. (Producers), & Mehta. D. (Writer/Director). (1996). Fire [Motion picture]. India: Zeitgeist Films.

Deutsch, M. (2000). Cooperation and competition. In The Handbook of Conflict Resolution: Theory and Practice. (Deutsch, M. & Coleman, P. Editors). Chapter 1, pp. 21-40. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Hammer, M.R. (2008). Intercultural Conflict Style Inventory and Interpretive Guide. Ocean Pines, MD: Hammer Consulting LLC.

Kimmel, Paul R. (1994). Cultural perspectives on international negotiations. Journal of Social Issues, Volume 50, No.1, 1994, pp. 179-196. USA.

Lewicki, R.J., Barry, B., & Saunders, D.M. (2007). Essentials of Negotiation (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Irwin-McGraw Hill.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

What My Creativity Needs Right Now

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


My dad's mohair-wool, knit, square-bottomed tie is around my neck right now. Will I wear it outside?

"It's kind of formal, and hot," Pat suggested tactfully when I said I might wear it in public today.

I did some closet re-organizing yesterday morning and now, I can see my collection of ties more readily. In the '80s, I wore them when I went to dance-clubs fairly often and I always felt extra-suave when I did. A number of them came from my dad, may his memory be blessed -- my mom let me have the ones I wanted -- and I also bought three of them for myself back then.

This one from my dad is a shade brighter than '70s refrigerator-green. Along with the tie, I'm wearing a pair of olive cargo pants that I bought in India and a light-blue denim shirt. Why does wearing this outfit make me feel that there are more creative possibilities for me? It says: I am different. Not conventional. Will I wear it outside today, though?

I told Pat, I think I want to wear one or another tie all weekend, at least in the house. She was encouraging of that. I'm also thinking that if I wear my dad's ties, maybe they'll loan me the spirit of his brilliance; this tie encircled my dad's neck and lay on his chest every so often as he worked to invent the next big toy or game throughout the '70s.

Lately, I'm inventing learning events for work and papers for school, and for my birthday, which is on July 13th, Pat agreed to go to an art supply store with me, so I could buy some drawing paper and a new set of Caran D'Ache crayons. We're going to Maine later this summer and I want to invent some new drawings while we're there.