Friday, August 29, 2008

Who Is a Bisexual?

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

Who Isn't?

There was a popular question in association with determining citizenship under the Law of Return: "Who is a Jew?" Lately, I've been thinking about bisexuality.

Who is a bisexual? Am I? Or do I just want to be, like some heterosexual women I've known, who I've always thought wanted to seem "cool" when they talked about how, any number of times, they might have been with a woman, if circumstances had been different. Well, maybe they were sincere. And maybe I am, too, when I say that I feel more queer than lesbian.

By "queer," I mean I feel mostly lesbian, i.e., attracted to women, rather than men, and sometimes I feel gender-ambiguous and rarely, but every so often, I feel attracted to men...but usually, it's because I love them as friends first, not just because they pass me on the street.

When I was 15, I told my middle, older sister that I thought I might be bisexual. Freshman year of college, I told my R.A. that I thought I might be bisexual. In both cases, it was because I thought it sounded better than "lesbian."

Why dredge this up now? I mean, I've been in a monogamous relationship with Pat for 16 years, and dated women exclusively for a few years prior to that, and lived with a woman monogamously for two years and eight months prior to that. And I spent college, high school and junior high tortured most of the time at my self-awareness of my attraction to girls and women, and its implications for complicating my I've been working toward reconciliation around my sexual orientation for more than 30 years. Why question this facet of my identity now?

For several reasons:

A number of years ago, we were on a Shabbat (Sabbath) retreat with fellow congregants of our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) synagogue and one of the female congregants said, "I can imagine sleeping with anyone I ever love." That resonated with me. I related to her point. When I adore friends, often, I can imagine being intimate them as well...with the exception of heterosexual, female friends and gay, male friends, all of whom I figure are so disinterested in women, it feels self-defeating to imagine being with them.

Also, I was looking at a Facebook profile of a friend and saw that the "Interested in..." field read, "Women, Men." I've known him since 2000, but I always assumed he was gay. Suddenly, I felt unsophisticated myself. I mean, if so-and-so identifies as bisexual, all of us ought to have the capacity, I thought.

Another reason: Recently, I was talking with a female, same-sex couple and one said that she asked the other pointe blanc when they first met, "Are you gay?"

The woman responded, "No," but didn't offer that indeed she was attracted to women, and also to men, and identified as bisexual, not as gay....She did not offer the explanation then, anyhow. And so initially, the one, who inquired was disappointed, as she inferred that "No" meant that the woman identified as heterosexual. It's a miracle that people ever get together!

Last weekend, and this might have been the final prompt for making me think about my sexual orientation, my mother said, "[Your one-and-only-ever boyfriend from high school and college] is getting married again....I almost didn't tell you. Are you upset?" His first wife came out as lesbian after three kids and 18 years of marriage, not having been self-aware prior apparently.

Yes, I was upset, and was embarrassed that she would ask such a dyed-in-the-wool lesbian as I whether or not I was upset. It was my fault for having told her while I was in India last year that if, God forbid, Pat died before I did, and [the ex-boyfriend] were still alive and single, I could imagine living with him toward the end of my life. I wrote a not wholly-honest blog entry the other night and I cringe re-reading it, as it is so obviously self-conscious, and I can hear what I was holding back as I was writing. Yes, learning that my one ex-boyfriend was re-marrying was difficult and even somehow painful, though I knew I needed to be happy for him, so I channeled my disappointment into a blog entry on Pat's virtues.

This entry is not meant to be disloyal to Pat. She is the love of my life and I will be monogamous with her forever -- please, God, let us live for many, many more healthy years. It's just that I've been thinking about bisexuality and how it is legitimate and even partly my identity when I'm my least rigid in my thinking.

It's unsettling to me to claim any bit of a bisexual orientation because being a lesbian is easier. I think, to ward off the sadness that was coming my way with the news my mom delivered about the ex-boyfriend's upcoming wedding, I tried to distract both of us by saying to my mom, "You know, when I told you that I could imagine living with [the ex-boyfriend] at the end of our lives, if Pat were no longer here, I didn't mention, too, that I wondered if I'd have found his ex-wife attractive.

"Oh, oh," my mother said, surprised and trying not to sound weirded out.

I've written about this before, and it's time to go to bed, so I'll write fast: I feel most bisexual when I ride the subway. About six or seven years ago, I was on my way to an EAGLE dinner (EAGLE is IBM's GLBT employee resource group), where I was to meet Pat and many of our friends. On the subway-ride down to the Village from 53rd and Madison, there was an attractive man -- a few degrees less macho than the "Marlboro man" and with no cowboy hat, but still, mustachioed and virile-looking. I looked at him several times and vice versa.

Leaving the train, I waved at him -- a very girly sort of wave and then panicked, praying that he wouldn't leave the train with me. I kept thinking about it as I passed stores in the Village, including one with gay, pornographic magazines in the window. When I reached the restaurant, Pat wasn't yet there and I told one of my female friends what had happened, and how weird, but fun, it had been. It was around the time I was trying to get pregnant (unsuccessfully, ultimately) by an anonymous donor through IUI and she brushed it off as part of that. Maybe....

Finally, I suppose I wrote all of this tonight per se because of a colleague's posting in our GLBT and GLBT-friendly online community discussion behind our firewall; he simply linked to a terrific article on bisexuality and it inspired me to think more about my own level of bisexuality.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

How I Learn What I Think and Feel

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

It Starts with a "B"

More than a year ago, shortly after I began blogging, I had a great e-mail exchange with Irving Wladawsky-Berger, one of the greatest IBMers I've ever known, who's now retired from IBM and teaching at MIT. We agreed that blogging really helps both of us sort out our positions on all manner of subjects. Just by taking the time to reflect, we figure out what we think.

While I wish I had had time to blog more often this week so far, happily, I'd not been away from reflection; I'd been busy, collaborating with colleagues on three favorite topics of my work: international assignment design, Web 2.0 for community building, and Virtual Worlds for cross-cultural leadership skills-building; we'll be co-facilitating workshops or running a panel on each of them at the upcoming Out & Equal Workplace Summit.

Succeeding at Int'l Assignments While Being L, G, B or T

With Fauzia Zaman-Malik of Accenture, Rochelle Weitzner of International Paper, Suzy Deffeyes and Rob Shook, also both of IBM, I'll be serving on the panel, "How to Succeed at International Assignments While Being L, G, B or T [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender]."

Reflecting/writing deeply this past week on my 2007, six-month assignment in India, and its challenges and surprises, along with tips I'll offer to prospective assignees, I felt like Pat and I were back there. We still can't believe we get to go north for vacation next week, as at this time last year, we were living in a hotel in Bangalore, waiting to get into our rented house.

By doing all of the writing I've done in preparation for serving on the panel, I've plumbed my position and perspective on foreign-service assignments....I won't elaborate here until after the panel's done, except to confirm that I think they're a golden opportunity that anyone, who can, should grab; they're remarkably challenging, and alternately rewarding, in practically innumerable ways.

Radhika's Connecticut Interlude

If I hadn't had my assignment, my friend and colleague Radhika wouldn't necessarily have visited Connecticut this trip. Radhika came to Armonk a couple of weeks ago, as the program manager of Executive Development programs for India, to oversee the Armonk leg of the Bright Blue program. (I wrote the Bright Blue RFP while I was in India, and thought up the name, and so it was gratifying to see it leap from paper to life recently. It's a learning program dedicated to the next generation of top leaders for IBM across Asia Pacific. (When I left India, it was meant to serve India, but Radhika and our Chinese counterpart expanded the scope, so that it's now a pan-Asia program.)

On her Sunday afternoon and evening off, I picked up Radhika from the IBM Learning Center and took her directly to my mom's house, driving down Route 22 past all of the gorgeous homes in Bedford and Pound Ridge. I had meant to drive directly to the Stamford Museum and Nature Center, so we could see the exhibit of Nathan Sawaya's Lego works before the museum closed (which we did manage to do in any case), but reflexively, I turned into my mother's driveway, which was on the way; the plan was to visit my mom *after* the museum and to go to dinner together at Coromandel in Darien.

As long as we were there, I showed Radhika the backyard briefly, so I could help her understand what I meant when I said that the grounds of our Corporate Headquarters reminded me of the woods I used to play in, growing up. She said that our yard reminded her of one of the places, where she grew up in India, in the mountains. Her dad was in the military, and his father before him.

If Radhika was like me, she made herself feel more at home by comparing very foreign places to places, where she spent time; I spent the first several months in India, comparing the palm trees and concrete apartment houses in Bangalore to the ones I'd seen in Israel in the '70s. Same idea.

While we were in the yard of my childhood, I smiled with relish, telling Radhika that my sisters and I used to grab vines and climb up on the stonewalls and swing from them over the skunk-cabbage. As a child, she was busy, meanwhile, reading, swimming or drawing, whenever she wasn't learning classical Indian dance. On the way back to the Learning Center, Radhika told me that currently, she was writing a young-adult novel because there really weren't [m]any by Indian authors -- that took place in India.

The best thing about my Indian assignment was that it enabled an afternoon and evening like this. When would I have been trading childhood memories and current creative dreams with a contemporary from Delhi -- who I first met in India, and not the United States? (Well, she was five years younger than I, but still....)

From intercultural research and also training I've gotten at IBM, I've been taught to assume difference until similarity is proven, rather than to minimize differences among cultures. I've written here before: Hofstede felt that many of us failed to acknowledge just how large the differences between cultures can be.

It was double the fun to relate to each other, knowing how very different our backgrounds were; she was Sikh, heterosexual, and had come from a military family. I was Jewish, lesbian and my dad was a toy and game designer, who had been in the Navy, but only because he had been drafted during WWII. And then both of us were women; liked to read, write, swim, design and facilitate leadership development programs; made each other laugh; played with Lego as kids; liked nature; and were mannerly.

How much did people need to have in common? The less culturally, the more interesting, in my experience...and yet, if I had not worked for IBM, I might have been 1,000 times more ethnocentric. Working for a global company like ours, being provincial is not an option.

At the Stamford Museum and Nature Center, I said, "This was where I spent the bulk of my childhood, taking nature and art courses." As we walked through the main building and around the grounds, I felt proud to show Radhika this lovely place, with all that it did for me, and she was a generous tourist.

Beyond Thinking, to Feeling

We passed a nature-trail, which reminded me of my only unsettling memory from my time at the museum, of two boys and three girls from my 6th-grade class, including me, veering off the trail to play a kissing game (boys, strictly kissing girls, and vice versa). "Did you do any of that back then?" I ventured to ask, and it was a foreign concept to Radhika to be at all romantically-alert at such a young age.

I felt embarrassed at having told her -- worried that Americans, and I specifically, seemed precocious in the wrong ways. "I felt so ill at ease then because I didn't want to kiss the boys, so separate from everyone that day, but --"

"Did you feel that way then, or do you just see it that way now?" she asked me.

"Definitely, I felt it then. Maybe you didn't feel like an outsider because you were used to moving around a lot as a kid," I suggested, or maybe, Radhika was simply more comfortable with herself as a kid than I. In any case, both of us survived our childhoods -- and loved parts of them...and in Radhika's case, she enjoyed hers so much so, she's willing to adapt it for a young adult novel.

See, blogging does help me figure out not only what I'm thinking, but what I'm feeling. I didn't even expect to write about the above exchange with Radhika, but then, while re-living the afternoon at the museum, I was walking by the nature-trail again in my memory, and then recounting the conversation, I realized that I worried about Radhika's impression of my classmates and me as 6th graders...and now, I'm feeling like I need to employ my friend's advice about "pattern interrupt" (see "Lunch with a Side of Cancer") and not worry about anyone's impression of me...and simply acknowledge another feeling -- that I'm hungry for lunch!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Feeling Sweet About Pat

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

Absence Makes the Heart...

The only boyfriend I ever had is marrying a woman named Elijah....Well, who could compete with that?

My partner Pat could! She's my own personal messiah (with apologies to the group that wrote the song, "Your Own Personal Jesus").

This morning, we swam necessarily two lanes apart. Usually, we smile at each other if both of us are doing the breast stroke while swimming toward each other in the same lane. Today, though, Pat managed to catch my eye with her smile from two lanes away.

It shouldn't be surprising that I missed Pat when she went to DeKalb, Illinois for a few days. She was at the R.O.T. ("Reunion of the Twisties") Weekend. Her friends and she, all former Hall Directors at Northern Illinois University, met on this particular weekend, since the students were moving in and Pat and her friends didn't need to do anything as opposed to what they had to do in their former roles 30 years ago.

What was Pat like 30 years ago? Probably, fundamentally the same, other than recognizing her lesbian identity, which she didn't really then: just as funny as she is today, mature when it mattered, and kind and sensitive, again, when it mattered.

Pat's singing to our cats, Phoebe and Toonces, as I write this.

Blog Power

Some more, unrelated thoughts prior to bed: I'm feeling good about the reaction to the partial blog entry I read aloud at tonight's local artist support group session. They liked my honesty and thought each scene was like a Woody Allen vignette(?) I read from 0-20 of my "Swimming Autobiography." Soon, I'd like to be able to come up with another original way to write about my life.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

"Someday, Sarah"

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

"...You Will Be My Baby"

This song by Dave Barnes popped up on iTunes when I searched for all songs that included "Sarah" some months back. I downloaded it and today, could not get it out of my mind.

Am I really that special? I pretend he's singing about me as I listen to the song.

My mom has been visiting for the past few days and today, we drove to Lambertville, New Jersey and New Hope, Pennsylvania just because we were told they were pretty and charming towns by my friend Sharon. On the outskirts of New Hope, we stopped at a state park and I walked into the wooded hill above the Delaware River and began drawing "Someday, Sarah" from my perspective.

For my drawing, "Someday" referred to my vision of an even happier/more satisfied life, which depicted three scenes of me in the water. I can start to fulfill my vision by swimming during most days of my vacation.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lunch with a Side of Cancer

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

We sat down in the cafeteria at our world marketing headquarters, the closest IBM location to both of us. "Have you been growing your hair, too?" I asked, noticing that the hairstyle of my colleague/mentor/friend was a bit longer than I recalled.

"It's a wig," she answered, looking right into my eyes.

"Oh, God, I wasn't being coy. I had no idea. It's a really good wig. I couldn't tell. I'm sorry." All this exited my mouth because my friend is not the type to wear a wig for fashion. It could only mean that she had none of her own hair left, due to cancer. My heart raced.

"It's OK. I had cancer."

"What kind?"

"Lymphoma, but I'm cancer-free now."

"And I'll pray that you remain so."

"Me, too."

It was probably the best conversation we ever had, and it hit the spot, since I've been grinding like a bot for, at a minimum, all week so far, including last weekend: We talked about why we work and how we live, and how to kick self-destructive habits.

She asked, "How did your presentation go?"

I had explained that I'd be meeting her right after a web conference I was hosting about my work. "I really enjoyed doing it and I think they did, too, based on the lively text-chat and Q&A."

"So you're enjoying your work."

"You know, on a bad day, when I'm full of my ego, I am disappointed that my assignment [in India] didn't result instantly in a higher status position...but on a good day, like today, I think, I love to do the work I get to do -- I haven't been able to be this experimental, since I helped start up and build the GLBT Sales team."

"Well, good, because all the status doesn't mean anything unless you love what you do."

"I do...."

After 80 minutes together -- I didn't want to have merely a conventional hour together, not after learning that she had beaten cancer, but still -- I said, "I have to tell you what's going through my mind."


"I was supposed to show up to a meeting at 2 o'clock with a draft tip-sheet that we're creating for the Virtual Worlds workshop we're giving [at the upcoming Out & Equal Workplace Summit], which I meant to write last night, but I let myself not work on it because I had terrible menstrual cramps. I just felt too sick to work. But now, I feel bad, showing up empty-handed."

My friend suggested that I was being too hard on myself.

People always tell me that," I whined.

"You can change," she said.

"Ugh. How come, when I was 10 or 11 years old, I was able to, but not now? I can remember making a few awkward moves when I was that age, and saying aloud once or twice, 'Oh, I'm such a klutz.' Well, the third time or so, I said to myself, 'Don't ever say that aloud again, or you will be a klutz forever.' And I never did again, and I've been pretty graceful my whole life."


"Yeah, but I can't imagine doing it for this character defect."

"It's not a defect --"

"I'm reminded of [one of my young relatives], who handed me a drawing that the relative worked on, saying, 'It's really bad, and I know I can do so much better than this!' It made me so sad to hear my young relative sound just like me."

"Maybe you could model the behavior for [your relative]."

"That's a great idea."

"Have we talked about a concept called 'pattern interrupt?'"

"No, never."

"Well, there are some cities, where the police have an agreement with pizza places, where they can pick up a pizza on the way to a domestic dispute. The police officer shows up to the house, holding a pizza. Whoever answers the door is so surprised to see a police officer, holding a pizza, he or she is distracted from the dispute."

"That's really interesting. I love that idea.

"So maybe you could have a code-word to stop yourself, whenever you're being too hard on yourself, like, 'pizza,' or 'klutz.'"

I smiled hard.

Why does a colleague/mentor/friend need to have a brush with her mortality for me to pause and recall my own and her humanity -- KLUTZ!

Rather: Wasn't it great that the two of us gave ourselves the gift of a friendship reunion today, and that we had an I-Thou, Buber-esque time?

"Love," I think, needs to be my code-word.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My 300th Blog Entry

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


This adventure in self-expression began in April, 2007, right around Passover. On the occasion of this 300th posting, I'm thinking of:

  • Resting and studying on vacation next week, for two weeks
  • Our cats and how they're coming out of their shells
  • My partner Pat's acceptance in a year-long program at Rutgers, to become a Master Gardener; she got the good news today
  • The young guy, who filled my gas-tank this evening
  • The man, who disconcerted me this morning.

The man at the gas station saw my business card in my wallet as I pulled out my gas-card; he asked, "You work for IBM?"

"Yes. Do you have family who work there?"

"A friend, in Kolkata."

"Oh, I spent six months, working for IBM in India last year -- in Bangalore."

He's unimpressed, doesn't acknowledge what I've said and responds, "My brother is an Oracle database administrator and he needs a job."

"He's in Kolkata, too?"

"No, Louisiana."

"Well, he just needs to look at to see what we have."

A car at the next island of gas-pumps beeps for help.

The gas-guy looks over at the car quickly and turns back to my car, handing me the receipt I've just signed. "Please, write that on the back of this."

"Sure." I write the URL and hesitate, wondering if I ought to add my own e-mail address, and if I should offer that the brother send me his resume along with the job numbers of any jobs he found and applied for at the site. I opt not to.

Driving away, I think of the other driver, waiting for service, and ridiculously, worry that the driver might have thought that I was giving the guy my phone number...and that I might have seemed like a mark, for someone looking to marry a citizen, to gain citizenship....Actually, the full ridiculousness just occurred to me now; earlier, I didn't think about the green-card-sucker impression I might have been making -- just didn't want to leave the impression that we were flirting.

My Hair is Confusing Me

For the first time in 20 years, I'm opting to let my hair grow into a bit of a long style. My niece Zoe tells me I ought to grow it either chin-length or to my shoulders, with bangs. As it grows longer, it's getting a bit wavy, with some curls in the back, and makes me feel more feminine than I suppose I'm routinely comfortable with.

This morning, I was leaving the YMHA, where I swim and passed a man in his 50s, I think. As I was walking past, he said, "That's what *I* want to look like!" referring to me.

I was caught off guard, as he had a long beard and appeared to be ultra-Orthodox. Orthodox-Jewish men are not supposed to look at women other than their wives, and certainly are forbidden to make remarks about women's bodies directly to the women.

"But then you'd need to lose your beard," I said, wondering how I ended up responding so weirdly, yet slightly flirtatiously.

I kept walking and he stopped, and said, "You know who you look like? You know who you look like?"


"You look like that Olympian, Dara Torres!"

I smiled.

"Have a good day," he said, and then added, "I *bet* it will be good now."

I smiled and kept going. From the car, during my commute, I called Pat and asked, "Do I look like Dara Torres?"


I told Pat the context, but she was more interested in the eating habits of our new pet-cats, Phoebe and Toonces.

This is why I kept my hair short all these years, I think; depending on the interchange, I feel vulnerable more than flattered whenever a stranger notices me and speaks to me. Would I have been so bothered if a woman had said all that to me? No, probably, I'd have loved it.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

My Imaginary Friend

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

...That's What this Blog Is

I woke up, thinking, since it's a little earlier than the alarm's set for, I can blog a bit. And it made me so happy to think that I could spend a few minutes here.

It's such a cool confidante because just as people in prior generations used their journal as their confessor, I try to use my blog as often as I can to admit how I'm really feeling...only it's accessible by untold people.

Rather than feeling like an exhibitionist, or that I lack judgment in sharing feelings so openly, I want to believe that someone, somewhere can relate to the spirit of what I'm writing, if not to the specifics, and feels less alone as a result.

My Birthday Season is Extended this Year

This morning, I'm getting my hair cut and then spending the day with my Pat, my mom and one of my sisters and her family -- my brother-in-law, 15-year-old niece and 10-year-old, twin nephews. My other sister, brother-in-law and 15-year-old nephew are at a dance camp they go to every summer, but this was the weekend that I had free, finally, to celebrate my birthday (which was in mid-July) with whoever among my family was available.

We'll go to a museum exhibit I wanted to see and I'm also bringing drawing materials, so that we can draw outside if it's not too hot. I haven't seen my sister and her family since March, though we talk on the phone pretty often (I'm feeling better than I did during our last conversation, referred to in my prior blog entry). It should be a pleasant day, and maybe even a great day, if I can let myself be present for it.

Please, God, let me be present to my surroundings instead of wishing I could be home, working on three presentations for a panel and two workshops I'm co-delivering at an upcoming conference. And instead of missing our cats.

One more thing I have time to mention before I need to go feed Toonces and Phoebe:

I am happy to be getting my hair cut, but I hope she can cut it, so that it remains a longer style. I let it grow this summer because, at first, I didn't make time to get it cut, and then I thought, why not have a change? I have had short hair for the past 20 years. As it has been growing out, all sorts of curly cowlicks have emerged, and it's kind of fun to have some waves and curls. It makes me feel freer, more creative and more casual all at once.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

On the Eve...

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

...of India's Independence Day

I was craving more of my own independence tonight and burst into tears while on the phone with my sister Deb. Typically, I'm a day-person, not a night-person, and I try to wind down around 10 pm, and prefer not to get phone-calls after 8:30. Now, I remember why; the conversation began with her telling me that she was returning my call, having just cleaned up a flood in her basement.

Feeling survivor's guilt that our house no longer floods, since we installed a sump-pump, I wasn't about to berate her for calling too late. Still, I was frustrated to tears because I had just begged Pat's forgiveness for leaving her in the middle of a "Closer" TV episode, since I was craving some blogging. I had just come upstairs and begun to log on when the phone rang.

Through my tears: "All I ever do is work and study. I *never* have time to myself, it seems, and I know you can't imagine this, since we don't have kids, but it's true..."

As I'm trying to write this, Pat comes in just now and interrupts: "I don't think the cleaning service is using the stone-care products in your bathroom for the counter or floor, so I left a note, since there must be new people, but if I'm not here while you're working at home tomorrow, you need to tell them."

I am not trapped. I make choices. I am not trapped. I make choices. I choose to live with another human being, and to have our house cleaned by people other than us. I choose to work hard and study a lot.

I have to remember all of that because right now, it feels overwhelming. Deb said, "I can imagine and can relate. I bought the September issue of 'Oprah.' Let me read you an article by Norman Fischer, a Jewish Zen Buddhist.

"That other window-fan didn't work, so I threw it out," Pat just called to me as she turned on her electric tooth-brush. Earlier tonight, Pat said very quietly, "I know you got me the cats, since you haven't spent as much time with me, since you've been in school."

"Oh, God, Pat, my heart's going to break. It's true that I have felt guilty about not spending enough time together, and yes, I did get the cats, so that you'd have company in the house whether or not I was here, but I thought it would be nice for you."

"It is...."

"Oy, Pat, I want to keep doing the work I do because it's exciting, and I like studying, but I wish I didn't have to work and we could just play all the time. I do." And then I recalled the e-mail she had sent during the day, asking if I wanted to opt in to a series of four plays in the coming year, and I felt too guilty to say no...but wanted to. Each play represents basically an entire study-day lost. "So I was thinking about the plays I liked from the list, and definitely the one with Mary Louise Parker, and the one with Cynthia Nixon, and probably "A Man for All Seasons," and...I'm trying to remember the fourth one...."

"Fosse's 'Dancin?'"


Now, it all sounds great right now, but I know I'll feel angry that I'm unable to study during one of my weekend days when it's actually time to go to the play. I know this because that's how I felt a few times this spring regardless of how good the play was.

Norman Fischer reminded me to breathe deeply, three times consecutively, and to focus on being more present to my surroundings. The windows are open and I hear crickets in the dark, two bright lamps surround me inside, my eyes burn with exhaustion and I'm missing Pat, who has gone to bed. These are my surroundings. I'm going to go to bed, too.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Everyone Has a Story

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

And Sometimes, They Tell It to You

This morning, I reach the pool later than I want to. One of the swimmers I usually see in the shower already is dressed and on her way out of the locker-room.

We greet each other and I ask, as usual, "How's it going?" I'm expecting her usual, breezy response.

This time though, she answers, "It's all right...except for something odd...."

I stop undressing and simply listen.

"It's just that I thought I heard water running in the kitchen this morning, and so I yelled to my son [-- she's a divorced mother with a 17-year-old boy --], 'Why did you stay out all night?'"

"Wow, all night," I marvel silently. Maybe boys are given more freedom, I figure.

"'Huh?' he says, walking out of his bedroom. It turns out that he did stay out for most of the night, but not all of it. I get the stick that I keep by the staircase and we walk downstairs. We reach the kitchen and a man is standing at my sink, washing his hands."


"Yes, and I say, 'What are you doing here?!'"

"'Who, me?' he says several times, 'Who, me?' He's so drugged out that we let him go. My son had left the back door open."

"My God! Your adrenalin's just going so hard at that point, I'm sure. Once, a man was trying to steal my sister Deb's car from in front of her house in Queens. She saw him and went running outside, yelling, 'How dare you? Get out of my car!' And he did, and ran away."

The swimmer's story touches me. This is a very compact -- tiny, really -- woman, who's a powerful athlete. That's the slice of her life I see whenever I'm swimming. I don't see the slice that lives alone with a wildly adolescent son and who's vulnerable.

I wish her well, and now, am even later, and feeling grateful that I'm not a single mother, and that Pat wouldn't leave a door open.

At the Pool, On Deck, and then in a Lane

The pool is packed. An older man in a Speedo, nylon swimsuit -- like was most popular in the '70s -- is waiting for a lane to open up. Remarkably generously, he offers, "You go ahead and take the next lane; I don't have to go to work."

Circle-swimming's a must...only neither of the other two swimmers are cooperating, even though the life-guard announces that they need to allow me to join them and circle-swim. They keep swimming down their same lanes, and so I swim through them. The guy is big and is trying to be menacing intentionally. He's swimming straight at me, and so I stop in front of him, so that he has to raise his head and regard me, and say, "Hi, we're circle-swimming," and make a circle sign with my left index finger.

A couple of laps later, he does a furious butterfly lap, which I pretend not to notice, and then exits the pool in a huff. I cannot help needing to share. In the summertime, the pool closes first thing in the morning for the day-camp. A bunch of us end up coming earlier as a result, to catch however many minutes during the three-hour window.

Afterwards, one of the daily swimmers, who's in her eighties, says likes my work-outfit and tells me to be sure to dry my hair thoroughly, as it's getting colder outside now. She was an Auschwitz survivor if I remember correctly...might not have been Auschwitz, but one of the other top two, or three most famous concentration camps. How can people go on?

How can they not?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Paralympic Spirit

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

Last fall, in Trivandrum, India, I met Mark Woods, gold-medal Paralympian. He was generous and let me hold his heavy, bright gold medal in my hand. Right now, I'm reminded of Mark because he spoke of the mornings he did not wish to get out of bed to swim, but made himself do so.

That's how I'm feeling about blogging tonight. I'd like to go to bed, rather than stay up, blogging...but I want to be my most alive self, and my most alive self is self-expressive.

Writing that reminded me to read the essay that a childhood friend sent me recently and to respond to it; I wrote back to my friend:

It was great. Thanks for the gift in sending it to me. I really loved this question especially:
I wonder whether on some basic level the capacity to transmit aspects of our essential selves to our students, as Rabbi Gillman succeeds in doing so superbly, is what our ancient rabbis intended to convey when they made so much of the concept of dor l’dor [generation to generation]. Did they too experience the transformative power this kind of giving and receiving generated in their own teaching and learning?

The more open I am, the more people gain out of knowing me...and yet, it can be so wrenching to give so openly of myself. This whole essay encourages me to do so. I talked with you recently about your playfulness and originality behind the top-notch academician, and I relate to that from a physical-presence standpoint....Did I tell you this when we spoke last? My mom used to say that even as a toddler, I seemed "sturdy," and Mrs. Rodwin, my 5th grade teacher told my mother that I was " dignified," and yet was actually funny, as though she had been surprised to discover a personality in someone whose physical presence seemed so dignified.

Heart vs. mind. It's rare to find, or be, someone, who can share both deeply.


Saturday, August 9, 2008

Olympic-proportion Blues

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

Wish I Were Less Self-Absorbed

Pat taped the opening ceremonies, which we were watching just now and the artfulness and discipline was breathtaking and a bit disheartening. And then I really got depressed, watching the hopeful athletes stream into the bird's-nest stadium. Why not just be excited? Because seeing the performances and visual art upfront made me feel un-original and seeing the athletes made me feel physically unfit, and lazy. I am not unfit, lazy or unoriginal...but compared to what I witnessed tonight, I feel that way.

Watching them made me want to eat too much and so I had to walk away after I fed the cats. Seafood Surprise, or whatever it was called, smelled less disgusting, and so perhaps I'm becoming more accustomed to it, and the peppermint lip balm continues to help.

Why not be more self-accepting and less self-preoccupied?

A Day of Culture

We spent the morning and afternoon in New York City and I was stimulated by a ton of art, but instead of delighting in human capability, I felt jealous of the artists. The Olympics coverage was no different for me. I wrote about this months ago; wish I had made progress....

Tara Donovan wasn't even an artist I knew to look for at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but we passed through her installation on the way to the design exhibit; it was so original and I wished to be so original myself. And then the design show and the superheroes fashion exhibit did not help because I wished I could have thought of the objects and outfits I saw.

Where's the hope? The hope is that Pat and I had a beautiful walk across Central Park in the morning and we made some art together with our friends David and Gerard in the afternoon at E Y E B E A M, where we moved artfully in front of a green-screen, which recorded our every move and made it look like a human kaleidoscope sort of. And the digital puppetry exhibit enabled us to try on various, on-screen props and disguises.

Almost Did Not Admit My Envy

This sadness around not being Olympic-caliber has hit me for as long as I can remember, but it's the first Olympics, where I'm a blogger, and so I need to write about it. How can I stop comparing myself to impossible competition? How can I just accept that I am as God wants me to be and I'm good enough?


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

How Can I Make It Up to My Blog?

Hope it's not like that "Cat's in the Cradle..." song, where the kid, once grown up, doesn't care about his father, since the father wasn't around for him when he was a kid. Well, maybe my blog's still a kid and I can redeem myself. When would a blog be deemed to have made it past adolescence into adulthood anyway?

What would a blog's rites of passage be? A number of weeks ago, I discovered happily that my blog has been visited more than 10,000 times, and that I'm edging toward 300 posts. Even if several thousand of the visits were from me, that's at least 5,000 others -- most of whom, according to the search phrases on my site meter seemed to be trying to determine "Sex and the City," Kristin Davis', religion.

All of those searches were due to an entry I posted months and months ago, about seeing an "Ahavah" skincare products ad, which featured Kristin Davis in a "Haddassah" magazine. I've never again seen the ad. My guess is that she was the model for the brand because she has creamy, gorgeous skin and plays a convert on TV...I think, anyhow. Pat and I watched only two episodes in its history. We couldn't relate to it.

If I Had Forgone Some More Sleep Last Monday... are the topics I wanted to write about, which I scribbled on a notepad prior to dinner and never got back to:

Mediation fairness vs. sunny side....teaching vs. doing....What *is* leadership?...Kitties for creativity....Didn't want the cathair or the smell of their food, but I apply strong, peppermint chapstick to my lips...

...when I'm opening cans of their food and then I mind less because I try to smell the peppermint, rather than the cooped up, and then released, "fish" or "turkey."

I'm not likely to flesh out these thoughts because I've moved on, but wanted to include even the telegraph version of them for some reason...I guess, as evidence to my blog that I've been wishing to spend time with it, whether or not I fulfilled my wish this week....This is the longest I've ever gone between blog-posts. I didn't want to write that previous sentence because acknowledging it might start a trend, God forbid.

Stream of Consciousness

Blogging is so safe. I don't know who's reading my postings -- just their location typically, and any search words they used to get to it. It really babies the shy side of me. I can be bold and honest and personal in the blog (I try to be when I'm face-to-face as well, but it's certainly a more vulnerable feeling than blogging typically). This week, an Indian colleague referred to me in an instant message as "...a sassy gumptious lady." I don't even know to what she was referring specifically, but I believe she meant it positively....

It hit me that IBM gives time off for new parents, and yet, I didn't take any time off when we got the cats on the last day of July. And it is as close to parenting as I'm likely to come, God willing....We are the godparents of our twin nephews, but God forbid anything would happen to their parents that would turn us into the twins' parents....My brother-in-law's reaction to our getting cats -- I heard via my mother: "Great, now the boys are going to want cats."

"Tell them that they can choose to have them when they're adults, like I did," I told my mom he should say. They'll be 10 later this month -- the twins, not the cats. The cats are five years old.

Pat gave them -- the cats -- each a cottton catnip pouch last night and it was like I've seen in the movies, when someone snorts cocaine. I had heard about catnip, but never had seen its effect in real life, and never knew that it comes from the mint family.

I was happy to learn that it's a sort of mint; it made me feel somehow more kindred with the cats. I like the Burt's Bees peppermint lifeguard chapstick, which makes my lips white, so I can't wear it much in public, and they like catnip.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Toonces and Phoebe

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

Every Fear and Many Unexpected Joys Have Come True

Their food makes me gag, Phoebe's fur is all over my navy-blue sweat-pants and they found a mouse last night in the basement while we watched a horrific movie on Lifetime TV about a gang of evil cheerleaders.

My blood-pressure is on the low, rather than high, side, but I know they are relaxing me far beyond what I could have imagined. Printing out my final paper of the semester, while waiting, I petted Phoebe, the more gregarious of the two sisters so far. Typically, I'm impatient, waiting for the printout, and this time, I didn't even notice how long it took -- except when it was done, and then it seemed quick compared to pre-cat printings.

I'm enjoying taking cat-petting breaks. Time seems to become immaterial (easy to say on a weekend; I wonder if the effect will be the same during the week) when I'm petting Phoebe. Toonces hasn't yet allowed me to pet her. She's skittish and scared of Pat and me still.

Mothering Phoebe

Yesterday morning, Pat was still asleep and I went down to check on the cats. Phoebe's green, elastic collar seemed to have come off...until I looked more closely. It had gone down to her waist. Not having grown up with pets, I was afraid to help her, but still, I tried. No scratching or biting. Acquiescence while I pulled one limb and paw out of the collar.

This was too easy. I expected to be wounded for my efforts. I looked at her questioningly. She looked at me expectantly. I went ahead with the other limb and paw, with her full cooperation. At that moment, I was a mother and loved being one.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Kitty Glitter

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

What's New...?

Their names are Phoebe and Toonces. That's what we named them. Cat tears and anguish, purrs and stretches...fur-licks and kneading the carpet, and 25-year-old, cloth Lazy-boy...tarp for a bed on the laundry-room floor, or rafters above, where no one can touch her....How did this happen? I, who have never had a more demanding pet than a Siamese Fighting Fish, am the co-mother of two brown-haired, green-eyed, five-year-old domestic tabbies.

I offered Pat a cat as a 16-year anniversary present; we went that afternoon. The animal-shelter worker said, "How do you feel about taking a pair? They're sisters." The sister feature was irresistible, and we said yes right away.

So far, they're cute and sheddy, and their food smells bad, but they don't, and Phoebe rubbed against my legs finally after letting me pet her for a long time. She likes being brushed, too.

Earlier this semester, a classmate said I seemed like a dog-person more than a cat-person and when I asked why, she told me, "You seem very orderly. Cats are complex." I don't think that's primarily why we got 'em -- to prove my classmate wrong.

I think it's mostly because Pat has been asking for a cat for years. She had a series of them, growing up, and it's also because I saw a man carrying his dog in his arms the other day, apparently to protect the dog's paws from the burning sidewalk, and because I saw my childhood friend Sarah, posing with her dog in her Facebook picture, and I thought, Why not?

Pat has always said, "They relax you."

I've always replied, "They smell and they'll ignore me and will love only you."

So far, Toonces, who Pat named, isn't loving either of us while Phoebe, who I named, is the adventurous one. They will be indoor cats. If anyone has tips on how to make Toonces feel more at home, or any general cats-as-pets tips, please let me know....They did seem to like being in our car and going for rides....