Saturday, January 31, 2009

URL Parade

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

On the Theme of Time

Visual Art & Time

Literature and Film & Time's%20Scar.htm

Music & Time

Why Always...

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

Gay, Gay, Gay?

Reading an essay on Susan Sontag's journals from 1947-1963 earlier today, I'm re-inspired to feel unapologetic about the frequency of my writing about gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (GLBT) -- well, mostly lesbian -- themes.

Now that I'm back in at least Facebook touch with so many of my early-learning and high school classmates, I think sometimes about the eyeful they're getting of my lesbian identity -- an identity I tried so fiercely to keep hidden for most of those years; they can't miss it, even if they avoid this blog and peek only glancingly at my Facebook "news." I'm always joining or creating this or that GLBT group. Ironically, as I write this, a childhood friend might be this very moment tagging me in a photo her dad took of me in a Charlie Chaplin costume and posting it on Facebook. She told me she'd be posting a couple of photos she had of us this weekend, including that tell-tale one.

In the essay, I see two quotes from Sontag's journal from when she was 15 and 17, and feel vindicated about my focus:
I wanted so much to feel a physical attraction for him and prove, at least, that I am bisexual....I marry Philip with full consciousness + fear of my will toward self-destructiveness.

In the same essay, her son and editor, who published the journals, says that his mother was not typically a "self-revealing person."

What touches me is the image of a vulnerable, teenage Susan Sontag, feeling the same sort of panic and internal war that I felt at that age, even though until recently, I've known of her only as the mostly-too-erudite-for-me culture essayist.

In the Wikipedia article on her, she is said to have been quoted by Brendan Lemon of Out magazine as follows:
Maybe I could have given comfort to some people if I had dealt with the subject of my private sexuality more, but it's never been my prime mission to give comfort, unless somebody's in drastic need. I'd rather give pleasure, or shake things up.

I guess that's where we differ -- I'm always looking to gain, if not also give, comfort, as well as pleasure and amusement. And I have little desire to shake things up.

24 Hours a Day

Thinking about Susan Sontag and Reverand Ted Haggard as I've been doing this week, I'm reminded that each of us is doing the best we can. Talking further with my mom about "Prayers for Bobby" and Reverand Haggard, my mom said, "Remember that Jewish couple you helped, whose son was dying of AIDS?"


"In Florida. When you lived in Chicago."

"Oh, yeah, he went to our synagogue."

"They had rejected him. And you called them and masterfully convinced them to speak with him, and they reconciled before he died."

"I had forgotten all about that." I still have the piece of smoky quartz he gave me from his things the last time I saw him alive; I keep it on my desk in my office at work. I remember my friend via the quartz, but I had forgotten about the one long-distance exchange with his parents.

It's for the experiences like the one my mom recalled for me that I'm honored to be "all gay, all the time." I trust it's clear that it's not noble on my part to be this way; instead, I'm on a mission to enable people to see GLBT people's humanity, including my own, until one day we're routinely recognized as human, rather than as Other.

Art in Tough Times

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

These Are Boom-times for Art

On October 19th, I went to Twitter and tweeted, "Thinking that art of all sorts, including comedy, will become more interesting during this tumultuous time." Some of the best music I ever loved emerged when my dad was unemployed during the recession in the '70s. "Saturday Night Live" was at its peak then, too, and rose like a phoenix during this unparalleled election season.

What a huge consolation-prize for having less money in our pockets or 401Ks -- to have artists be inspired by the calamities of this cash-crunch. (A colleague of mine created a Facebook group about his "201K," which I almost joined, but I became a Facebook fan of Suze Orman instead.)

This morning, I read about a "New Yorker" cartoon exhibit on money based on the collection of Melvin R. Seiden. The critic loved it, but wished the collection of cartoons had not ended with those of two years ago. The critic reminded readers of the hilarious/tragic cartoons that have been emerging in the magazine lately, including a recent favorite of mine, where a teacher tells the class that since the school can't afford Halloween pumpkins, the students will be carving raisins this year."

Gorging Won't Be an Option, But Feasting Selectively, Surely

Don't hard times beg for laughter? For escape from self-absorption, whether into transformative or easy entertainment? From an art standpoint -- including works like those of my friends Aimee Hertog or Allan Chapman or Saydi Kaufman or Riva Lehrer or Amanda Mathews -- during this period of economic famine, I think we're in for a treat for which we hunger!

Coincidentally, exactly a month after I first tweeted about art as a topic, I tweeted again: "Wondering who buys art in challenging times like these. Does art give comfort, and so more people buy it, or is it seen as a luxury?"

More of the people who follow me on Twitter responded to that tweet than to any other so far. The consensus was that they buy less volume, but that art, above all in times like these, gives them comfort and pleasure that they need to survive.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Fallen Ill

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

Wish I Hadn't

Vomit has been on the verge in my throat for two days. My forehead has been vice-gripped from last night to this afternoon, even post-aspirin.

My stomach has been gurgling off and on, and I've had a total of two breakfasts and a lunch in the past two days. It's all I've been able to stand. I've had two mugs of "Tummy Mint" and two of ginger tea.

For two nights in a row, I've been hot while sleeping, which is amazing, since we keep the house at 65 degrees Fahrenheit when we go to sleep. Typically, I'm huddled under the covers, but for the past two nights, I've slept with my arms outside of the duvet.

Six days later, Pat is nearly over her version of this.

People Mean So Well...

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

...but They Can Be So Mean

The other night, my partner Pat and I watched ""Prayers for Bobby"" and tonight, Alexandra Pelosi's documentary on Reverand Ted Haggard.

Spoiler Alert

While watching the documentary, I thought, it's a wonder that Reverand Haggard hasn't killed himself and it was not surprising that Bobby did. When I was a kid, our rabbi committed adultery with one of the congregants. She was beautiful. The rabbi was much less handsome, I thought, than her husband. The rabbi and the beautiful woman ended up marrying each other.

The congregation split and my parents went with the half that left to form a new congregation. Personally, from my eight-year-old perspective, I didn't understand how the woman could have chosen the rabbi over her handsome husband, how a rabbi could break one of the 10 Commandments. Regardless of my shock and the older congregants' disappointment, this rabbi's life was not ruined like Reverand Haggard's seems to have been.

Bobby's own mother, too, made Bobby's life unbearable by being unable to love Bobby for who he was, and so they lost each other. My mother watched "Larry King Live" last night and so did we. King interviewed the reverend and his wife and oldest son. My mom was angry when we spoke this morning. "He [Reverand Haggard] acted like it was a disease."

I suppose I'm fortunate that my mom understands that my lesbianism is not a choice.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

25 Random Things...

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

...About Me

A high school friend sent me a note on Facebook yesterday:

Hey Sarah!

Just wanted to say hi. I'm still trying to figure out if I'm comfortable with Facebook--I'm new to all of this and it feels odd to be so public with so much information about myself. After all, does anyone really need to know where I went to elementary school? My much younger friend here in...tells me to just get over it....

I responded:
...Don't let your friend bully you. You're already hip by having any sort of profile on Facebook -- doesn't need to blare. (Of course, some of us blare compulsively; I blog and love how open it all is now, but I think it's all about temperament, narcissism level and where we feel least shy. I'm much less shy online than in person)....

All this is my preface to the weirdness I've felt over the past couple of days at having been tagged several times to complete my own list of 25 random things about me. According to my declaration above, I should be less shy, since it's online self-expression, but:

  1. I can be aggressively shy -- more comfortable asking, than being asked, questions
  2. My tongue can fold into a Colonial tri-cornered-hat shape; it's genetic, as my sisters' are similar
  3. As a child, I drew my friend's pet Airedale on the backs of paper-plates
  4. I am always funniest when I least mean to be
  5. My favorite feature on faces is dimples
  6. In the '80s, more than one person thought I looked like Kirstie Alley
  7. I believe that art is all about restoring dignity
  8. Prior to our adopting two cats last summer, I had no special love for them
  9. Nearly all cats are darling to me now
  10. Graphic novels and memoirs appeal to me
  11. At 13, I had a frenectomy to close a big gap between my two front teeth
  12. Water is my favorite medium; I prefer it to land...being in water, not on it
  13. The web is my favorite new medium
  14. Orientation dyslexia has always afflicted me; I have no sense of direction
  15. It is not genetic; my oldest sister has the best sense of direction of anyone I've ever known
  16. Yiddish is a language I wish I knew fluently
  17. Minerals can mesmerize me
  18. Laughing is precious to me and I'm easily amused
  19. My torso is extra-long and it is hard to find bathing suits
  20. In high school, I took typing twice to ensure I could type accurately and relatively quickly
  21. At 14, I played Dungeons & Dragons due to peer pressure
  22. In D&D, I was a Druid
  23. All of the words to the "Pippin" song, "On the Right Track," are known to me
  24. I know all of the words to lots and lots of songs
  25. Life is a gift, I'm convinced.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Wrestling at the Movies

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

Spoiler Alert!

Pat and I took my mother to see "The Wrestler" this afternoon and I was so happy to have gone to that movie, rather than "Frost/Nixon." I hated to admit that I had little interest in the latter movie's plot, even as I knew I should have cared more.

"Sarah," Pat schooled me, "David Frost got Nixon to admit that he did wrong after Nixon had kept saying that he'd done nothing wrong. That *made* his career as a journalist. Frost had a really clever program that my parents used to watch called, 'That Was the Week That Was.'"

Pat's father was British and wry himself apparently. The show pre-dated me by a couple of years and so I needed to check Wikipedia. Hearing Pat talk about Frost was a reminder that although I'm the vastly more mature one of the two of us, Pat is 15 years older than I.

"The Wrestler," I *did* want to see, as I recalled Mickey Rourke in "Diner," which was the last movie I ever saw with my dad of blessed memory prior to my dad's death, and all of us had loved it.

"The Wrestler" was deeply sad and made me supremely grateful for the life I have led so far compared to the wrestler's, his almost-girlfriend's and his daughter's, and altogether in any case. What if I had had a self-destructive talent, which fed my need for love?

What if I had a nine-year-old son to support as a single mother, and stripping seemed to be my only career option? What if I were getting too old to be a champion wrestler or to be considered an appealing stripper by the typical patrons of the strip-joint?

What if I had been abandoned by my father? (Well, it did feel a bit like abandonment when he died of cancer when I was just 17...but I mean, really abandoned, as a young child?) What if my father had been totally unreliable? What if my loved ones ultimately had broken my heart?

Seeing "The Wrestler" was a gift that I'll try to hold onto -- of especially poignant acting by Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei, and of gratitude.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Historical Perspective

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

People with Birth-years of 1913, 1925 and 1965, Dining Together

I pulled up to my mother's house at 5:35 pm, ready to ferry her to her belated birthday dinner with her friend; she had been too ill on the day, but now, was well.

Driveway: empty. House: dark. Oh, God, was my mother being competitive with her nearly 96-year-old friend? The friend had insisted on driving herself to the restaurant and so did my mother drive there on her own, too?

Sitting in the dark, in the car on the snowy driveway, I wondered if my mom were safe and what could have motivated her to make the trip on her own. I dialed the home-number. No answer. I dialed her cell. Voicemail.

By 5:40, I figured, I better just head over to the restaurant, all the way at the other end of town, on the Greenwich border. By 6:10 pm, I'm in the ladies room and my cell-phone rings: "Where *are* you?"

"Mom! I was there at 5:35. Where were *you*?"

"I got home by 5:45."

"I'll come get you."

"No, no, I'll be there as soon as I can."

Being Baby-sat by a 95-year-old

Five minutes later, her friend arrives right on time.

The friend is a retired physician, having retired 30 years ago, and having graduated from med. school in the '30s. Her hair is shiny-white and her eyes, bright-blue. She must be surprised by my towering size, as my mother is now so small compared to me and she and I've never before met.

"It's a comedy of errors," I said, holding out my right hand and taking her left hand. I kept holding on for a minute more than I meant to while explaining, "I drove to my mom's to pick her up, but she wasn't there, and so I thought she had decided to drive here on her own. She'll be here as fast as she can."

"Oh, OK," she said sportingly and sat down with me at the table.

"Would you like to order or wait?"

"Oh, no, we'll wait, of course."

We talked about losing loved ones to cancer, which I had brought up, until she moved us to more present-future-oriented topics. "What an exciting day," she said; it had been the U.S. presidential inauguration earlier.

"Did you believe it would happen?" I asked my mom's friend.

"I think it's wonderful, especially since the last lynching we know about was as recent as 1981."

Was my mom's friend like my mom, I wondered? Could I free-associate with her? "Do you remember that play about the Jewish man, who was lynched in the south mistakenly? I saw a play at Lincoln Center with my partner, 'Parade,' I think it was called."

"Wasn't that...Frank? Leo?"

"Right, Leo Frank! I couldn't remember his name, but you did!"

Thus began a string of boorish, ageist remarks that I seemed to have no control over spewing at intervals throughout the evening. For example, she mentioned she would be 96 in March and I don't know why, but I had thought she was just 92.

"Ninety-six?! I thought you were 92."

"Well, there's not that much difference --"

"There's a *world* of difference!"

Oh, boy. How could I be so ignorant? I kept looking at her face because her brain was working much more actively and livelily than mine.

Finding My Mother at the Entrance

"Would you excuse me," I asked, "I just want to make sure my mother isn't waiting anywhere." Psychically, my mother walked through the front-door as I arrived at it. She was wearing her usual coat, but then a lavender, mohair hat, lavender sweater and long, darker-lavender, cashmere gloves.

"I'm so sorry," my mother began, "Will you have an Hors d'oeuvres?"

"No, I ate lunch very late because of the inauguration," said my mom's friend.

I looked at both of them and suddenly my mom looked much younger to me than usual, as she's just 83, and I made another ageist gaffe: "How are both of you feeling about today, since both of you have such a long historical perspective? I mean, which other presidencies were unusual to you?"

My mother turned to her friend and said, "Was there a Mrs. Hoover? Did he have a wife?"

My memory goes back only as far as President Nixon.

Activism Circa 1932 v. 2007

We talked about their activism when they were younger -- how my mom's friend lobbied Mayor LaGuardia for medical interns to be paid, as they did not earn any salary in her day in New York City, until she convinced the mayor to pay them. "You'll earn $12 a week and you'll be happy with that," she said he told her, if I remember correctly. And then she also lobbied, so that nurses wouldn't need to work 12-hour days six days a week.

And my own mom had gone to several marches on Washington. I told my mother's friend that I did my own sort of activism, too. I said that when we were in India for my work, I found people who were willing to start up the India chapter of our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employee network.

"Tell her how you lived in India," said my mother, and I was pleased at how she helped me ensure that the story was optimally poignant.

"Pat and I lived in separate rooms during the week, and then gave the maid the weekends off, to avoid her finding out about us and potentially telling the police, since homosexual activity is jailable there."

My mother's friend's face screwed itself up into full incredulity -- about the jailability part. So many people just don't know how harsh it still is for some GLBT people around the world, whether or not it is prosecuted anymore -- just having it on the books still is an indignity. I wondered if I were the first openly-lesbian person she had met in her nearly 96 years.

She was definitely the oldest person I had ever met. I couldn't stop thinking about that as we talked because she didn't seem at all old.

The next morning, I told my mom, "The two of you wore me out. Seriously."

"I never feel my age when I'm talking with younger people, though I know they notice it," said my mom.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

First Life Interfered

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

...with My Second Life

"Uh, I'm sorry, but I've gotta go. There's a big, menacing guy right behind me in Second Life -- a virtual world -- and I've gotta get away from him."

"Um, OK."

"Do you know what an avatar is?"

"Uh, no."

"Well, I'm supposed to meet my friend in Second Life, a virtual world, right now, but she's also got a New Jersey number and I thought it was her, calling, so I hope you'll understand...."

"Uh, sure, I can tell you're unable to talk right now, so I was just calling about [the artists' support group that meets in Montclair on Monday nights]...."

"Yes, let's talk tomorrow 'cause we might not be meeting tomorrow night due to the holiday [Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday] and I'll know by then."


"Thanks. I know I didn't make much sense, but I appreciate your understanding. Bye."

So the picture here proves that I got away from the scary person and did find my friend at one of what she tells me are the many, relaxing, beautiful sims (places) available to visit in the Second Life virtual world. We were starting slowly to try to re-kindle a friendship that had lasted from ages eight-14, and which had ended with hurt feelings. We had found each other through Facebook, met once face-to-face, and then agreed, the next time, we'd meet in Second Life, since she was super-experienced, and I was a newish fan.

Hair Was the Chief Motivation

The mission was for us to fix my hair. Already, I had selected a style from the default female choices; it was mullet-y and wholly unattractive. In fact, a colleague had threatened earlier this year not to present with me about virtual worlds at an industry conference unless I improved my appearance. Perhaps I wrote about it here prior, as it took me aback, coming from someone who, in real-life, wears jeans to work -- she's a 3D Internet expert and they get to wear whatever they want to work, and sometimes seem to have a relatively casual aesthetic sense about how they appear in real-life.

Fortunately, she relented, as I opted, instead, to present about the IBM Metaverse, where I have a super-appealing avatar, if I do say so:

But back in Second Life with my friend, I still looked worse than I do in real-life. We were going to change all that this afternoon...until Second Life crashed.

Old Feelings Triggered by a New Social Medium

"When is a less busy time to go in?" I picked up the phone and called my friend to ask her, "I mean, 30 minutes ago, there were somewhere around 70,000 people online, and now, 67,000."

"In the past month or so, I've seen it be pretty steady at around 70,000 people, so I don't know of a less busy time; usually, I'm in on week-nights between 9 and 11 pm and you can try me then."

I was crestfallen; aside from that time-period, typically being my Pat/TV/dinner/reading time before I pass out for the night, I was feeling anxieties like I had had toward the end of our childhood friendship -- whether irrationally or not did not matter. For example:

"Well, I don't want to interrupt you from whomever you're with at that point, so --"

"I'll let you know if I'm busy."

"OK," I tried to sound brave, and we hung up.

Ugh, this was what happened to us as kids. Ultimately, often, there was a friend even more fun than I that she opted to play with.

I did not want to re-live *that* experience.

Ninety minutes later, I tried coming in again and got lucky, until my friend's camera stopped working and so she left and was going to return, and then meantime, I vaporized my own avatar like so:

I logged out and sent a direct message via Twitter to my 3D Internet expert colleague-friend, asking her to remind me how to restore my avatar, since the same thing had happened some months back, and she had helped me then.

Meanwhile, in real-life, I'm hungry for dinner, but I have to include how I love that in minutes, I got a response: "Open Inventory (btnlower rt),at bottom of inventory list, under Library, Find an avatar outfit, and drag/drop on yourself."

Pre-dinner Reflections

A real turkey burger is waiting for me in the oven; Pat's watching football and so I'm on my own with the rest of the meal construction, and:

Just a few more thoughts -- for now -- about Second Life vs. Real-life: My avatar is me, and my friend elicited the exact same insecurities in my avatar as existed in real-life when we stopped being friends at that's the thing: Second Life is real-life. My avatar has my brain behind it, so no matter what outfit or hair-style I assign my avatar, she'll still be me.

The other thought is a prediction: Just as I spend far too much leisure-time in Facebook today, within a year or two, I'll likely switch to Second Life, and I bet many others will, too, particularly if the servers can handle mashups of Facebook capabilities within SL. So if Facebook could buy Second Life and enrich it with all of the fun things I look for in Facebook -- easy ways to connect with people around the world and to hunt for old friends, along with ample self-expression opportunities, e.g., fascinating and/or funny groups to join and create (and it already has groups), it'll be like what movies are to slideshows; both have their charms, but movies, typically, have become far more popular...and in the movie that is Second Life, we get to be among the movie stars ourselves. We *are* the stars.

Almost a year ago, I was at a conference, where a bunch of social networking execs. vomited on Virtual Worlds, saying, they were all for online gaming, but they felt that today's Virtual Worlds were like "B movies." I think their scorn will continue at their peril.

Second Life, and virtual worlds altogether, are far more intense, with my greater personal investment in the experience than any social networking site I've yet discovered...and I am adventurous with social networking exploration. Certainly, I'm not meaning to be an ingrate about all that Facebook offers -- and I might be trying to earn back fidelity points with my own blog by seeming to denigrate Facebook -- but I really do look forward to a mashed-up version of Facebook and Second Life. I'm sure I'm not the first to say it, and my 3D Internet colleague and friend would likely tell us that convergence is already happening. I can't wait till it's apparent to 3D Internet average citizens like me.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Motherhood and Mango Chutney

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

At a Midtown Manhattan Indian Restaurant on a Weeknight

"My mother said, 'Aren't we going to look at the children?' And then I realized what she had hoped, had assumed."

My friend was talking about having brought a suitcase full of children's goods to an orphanage when she and her mother went to a foreign country recently, and how her mother had hoped that during the same trip, my friend would select a child to adopt.

Another friend: "Yeah, my dad said to me recently, 'It doesn't look like [her siblings] are going to make me a grandfather anytime soon, so you should go ahead.'"

"But Dad, I'm single."

"'That's what sperm-banks are for,' he said, 'and besides, look how many single mothers there are.'"

When Pat and I were living in India, during a long-distance phone conversation -- I've written here before -- my mother said, "Sarah, don't be mad when I say this, but did you know that India is one of the capitals of where you could have a woman carry your eggs [-- to term, so you could still have a baby]?" I was 42 when she suggested this, and she already had four grandchildren from my sisters.

In my culture, it was inculcated in me that having children was moovan m'aylav (Hebrew for "a given"/"understood from the outset"/"clear as day"). Little girls were referred to, I've also shared here before, as "Mameleh" (Yiddish for little mama) and little boys as "Tateleh" (Yiddish for little papa). And besides, I needed to do my part, since we had lost 6,000,000 in the Holocaust.

When nine IUI attempts between ages 36 and 38 with an anonymous sperm-donor didn't do the trick, I abandoned the organic motherhood pursuit and then never considered adoption.

The only hook I was let off of was the Biblical one, "Pru u'rivu" (Be fruitful and multiply), which I've also written about previously; in Biblical times, women had to wait for men to choose them as mates, and so only men were held to that standard. These same friends and I discussed whether or not we had gone to our high school proms and two out of three of them said that they invited their male dates, and were incredulous that I hadn't seen that as an maybe I'm in a Biblical time-warp.

Whose Lives Can We Nurture Other than Our Own?

One of these friends turned to me while the other two were talking and said, "It's selfish, my wanting a child; there's just something about another being needing my care that I know will add a dimension to my life."

"I know what you mean, ever since we adopted our two cats," I said, hoping she'd understand, since she was a self-avowed, life-long animal lover. She did.

Phoebe is kneading away on my lap as I write this. And I definitely understood what my friend was talking about while cracking open a can of "Country Supper" for the girls at 7:15 am.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Missing You

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

An Open Letter to My Blog

Dear Blog,

You remain my first love, but I have to admit that Facebook has stolen my attention lately. You would be right to accuse me of being unfaithful.

My juggling act is getting less entertaining for me and never was amusing to you, I'm sure. You are where profound self-reflection happens, I know, and until recently, I always considered Facebook to be merely a toy to play with.

And still, you are where I learn the most -- learn what I'm feeling and thinking and caring about by writing all over you. Facebook, till recently, has offered me cotton-candy, whereas you've always offered the promise of a feast.

Recently, though, I persuaded my partner Pat to join Facebook finally, and so I'm relating to her in new and playful ways, e.g., becoming part of her World Domination posse...and then it is now even -- just occasionally -- satisfying my profundity craving, for example, having so far met two childhood friends face to face, since we found one another in Facebook.

There was an article headline I saw online somewhere recently, but I did not want to disrespect you by reading it, where the author was talking about how blogs were diminishing in popularity as social networks like Facebook rose in adoption; increasingly, people were using their Facebook profiles as their space to blog effectively...OK, so maybe I read the first several lines of it, but really, I did not read the whole thing.

You should know that I disagreed with the premise, though; Facebook is a circus performance, whereas you feel more like an ultimately soothing bath. You are where the real writing happens. Facebook has tried to suggest to me -- subliminally -- that it is less self-absorbed a pursuit than blogging, but it's wrong and I know it. Anyone can see how self-absorption-enabling Facebook is by looking at my "Info" tab there.

And besides, you're more beautiful than Facebook -- oh, please don't cry. I really do want to keep posting on you...if you'll still have me.

Your Only Blogger, Sarah

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Revisiting the Artist

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

...I Was As a Kid

A few years ago, I drew a picture of an open Caran D'Ache crayon box, containing 16 crayons. Instead of color-names for labels, they included the physical, educational, spiritual and cultural experiences of my childhood that I most valued, from toddlerhood to age 13. I consider them features of myself as an artist because all of them led to self-expression without self-consciousness, to joyful freedom.

The crayons were labeled as follows:

  • G'yupapah
  • Shlof mein kind
  • Drawing
  • Frog's eggs
  • The stone wall
  • Rocks
  • Bike riding
  • Swimming pool games
  • Sashi moments
  • Singing at seders
  • Deb's paintbrush
  • Rollerskating
  • Skiing
  • Disco
  • Nature classes
  • Mrs. Honan.

If I were able to create a columnar table here, I would, but since I'm not, I'll do my best to add, side by side, a translation where necessary; with whom I had the experience; and why it made the list:

  • G'yupapah; a ride and the name I made up for it as a toddler; my oldest sister Deb invented it and provided it; felt in-flight
  • Shlof mein kind; a lullaby; my father sang it to me pre-sleep; cherished 1:1 attention from him and how he would tell me stories then, too, always falling asleep himself mid-plot while sitting on the perpendicular bunk-bed below, which was empty, since my older sister didn't have to go to bed as early as I
  • Drawing; by myself; with friends, Alicia, Amy and at Art classes; enjoyed portraying what I saw, pressing hard on the white sketch-paper and using vivid colors
  • Frog's eggs; found them in a pond at the Stamford Museum and Nature Center and a Nature teacher agreed to keep them and let them hatch in the Nature Center; felt like a discoverer and marveled that my net actually yielded something special
  • The stone wall; on either side of our driveway were woods, which included a Colonial-times stone-wall that my sisters, friends and I used to run back and forth across the top of and use as our jumping off point for swinging when we found vines, hanging from nearby trees; felt like the wall's rocks were part of our family and welcomed our playing on them
  • Rocks; my nana gave me my first piece, clear, though rutilated, quartz and I began collecting in earnest with my friend Amy; felt like I could search for treasure everywhere
  • Bike riding; with my sister Kathy, neighborhood friends; friends, Adrienne, Amy; made me feel free and that I was the master of my own fate and day
  • Swimming pool games; with my sisters, friend J.J. and her little sister Erica; more freedom, and the fun of mixing non-verbal and verbal communication just by being under-water and then above the surface
  • Sashi moments; when my 3rd grade teacher Rabbi Kosowsky encouraged all of us to be like the Biblical commentator Rashi and offer our own interpretations of paradoxical sentences from the Bible -- since my name is Sarah, whenever I provided an original interpretation, he referred to me as Sashi; felt creative, smart, proud, engaged in the learning, a sense of magic, coming from my own brain
  • Singing at seders; with my sisters, mother and father; enjoyed the sound of all of us together; and also was proud to know all the tunes and words for what we sang
  • Deb's paintbrush; my oldest sister never knew I was borrowing it, as she was away at college, but I felt like it was extra-special, since it was hers
  • Rollerskating; by myself, once with my father and once alone, without my mother knowing, in Central Park, when there was an area in the late-seventies, where people skated to disco in a big circle; she thought I was going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art -- don't know how she failed to notice the bulky knapsack I wore (with my sneaker-skates inside); felt like I was flying with musical accompaniment
  • Skiing; with kids from the Stamford Jewish Community Center; again, felt like I was flying, and felt stylish in my ski-clothes
  • Disco; listened by myself, but once, entered and won a middle-school, line-dance contest with my friend Amy; felt transported from wherever I was into the rhythm and cheerful beat
  • Nature classes; by myself and whoever else took the classes; loved walking the trails and learning how to identify the local trees
  • Mrs. Honan; Mrs. Honan was probably my first crush, but perhaps more important, she encouraged and welcomed my creativity, e.g., when my friend Adrienne and I wanted to paint the grooves of a series of worm-hole scored twigs that we had found outside our school in order to sell them for profit, and she was also the Science teacher I had when I won Honorable Mention in the Connecticut State Science Fair, for "Problem: Energy Crisis. A Solution: Wind Power."

Looking at this list and why the items made the list offers clues to the artist I want to be as an adult; when I cull key words from the list above, I see that for my art, I value:

  • Feeling like I'm flying (without a plane)
  • Attention
  • Physically needing to press with my hands to produce art
  • Vivid colors
  • Discovery
  • Being close with nature (e.g., "Felt like the wall's rocks were part of my family....")
  • Treasure-hunting, with treasure being relative
  • Freedom
  • Control over my days
  • Verbal and non-verbal communication opportunities
  • Magic
  • Originality
  • Learning engagement
  • Musical transportation, i.e., feeling transported by the beat
  • Liturgy
  • Singing in community
  • Symbols of artfulness (e.g., my oldest sister's paintbrush, which had various colors caked onto the wooden part)
  • Feeling stylish
  • Being encouraged in my creativity.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Snow Reminds Me...

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

...of Being a Kid

When I was a little kid, we'd bundle up and then spend all day outside, crunching the white parts of the ice in puddles on my gravel driveway; feeling the wind burn our cheeks; breaking off icicles and eating them plain....

About 10 years ago, through, I found the next-door neighbor with whom I used to play most often, and with whom I always had reliable fun; I called her Manhattan number. She agreed to meet me for lunch in my employer's cafeteria, in the IBM building on 57th and Madison at the time.

She arrived, looking like a gorgeous, grown-up, big-city version of the beautiful little, suburban girl I played with nearly every day when we were very young. She was practically breathtaking and I was not prepared to face an adult woman. I don't know why I was expecting someone more the size she was before she moved away at seven. I was thinking of both of us as kids, even as I myself had tried to look extra-successful when I got dressed for work that morning.

She had a Burberry bag and was also wearing work-clothing, and looked prosperous, if not super-happy. It was anti-climactic.

For some moments, we returned to that time more than 25 years prior by talking about her little sister, who was a couple of years younger than us, and how she always hung out with us, but then my friend broke the spell, telling me how her sister had grown up.

I reminded her how she taught me that women had babies by going to the bathroom and producing them that way, which she didn't recall; and how I relished eating my mother's salami and scrambled eggs with her and her sister in our sukkah; and how I loved coming over on Christmas mornings, since I didn't need to be with my family then, as we didn't celebrate the holiday; and of the 1972 Olympics poster of Mark Spitz that she had on her bedroom wall; and how her mother, who was British, had introduced me to the concept of tea with milk, whereas I had only known of it as being served with lemon prior.

My childhood friend told me that her father was still alive, though her mother had died. My heart sank; her mom reminded me of Agent 99 in "Get Smart" looks-wise, and was always warm to me. We also talked about their white sheep-dog, Fluffy, who comforted any of us whenever we cried.

After all, we did not have as much to say to each other as I had hoped, nor did we feel connected by what mattered to us as adults, and I could feel her disappointment at having decided to see me again.

On a day like today, I'm reminded of how I wish that she and I could still just bundle up and go play in the snow, without trying to dress to impress, without having to talk almost at all.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

My Middle Finger...

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

"It's swollen."

"Is it infected?"

"No, your finger has been through a trauma."

A trauma named Toonces!

Inexperienced cat parents that we are, we did not wear gloves to put Toonces in the cat-carrier for her trip to the vet to have her nails clipped and teeth cleaned.

My left hand is the one I use routinely and its middle-finger is sheathed in a thick, white, cotton tube through tomorrow. When it first happened, I looked at the inside of the finger, from finger-tip to palm, and had to sit down, so I wouldn't faint.

And she punctured my right hand on the meaty part, outside with a tooth, leaving a big, brown, bruise around the bite.

"No typing for two days. Do you need a note for work?"

"That's not going to happen," I answered.

The doctor shook her head and walked away. Turns out, the pain forced me to type minimally the first day and still, not as much as usual yesterday either...what a great disclaimer for not having blogged more frequently lately.

After my first visit to the doctor, in the CVS parking lot, where I went to pick up my Augmentin antibiotic prescription, I burst into tears. An animal had never before attacked me, let alone a pet. First, I cried from shock and then from shame. You baby! So many women your age have been through the pain of child-birth. What's with you? Enough!

Scolding myself didn't curtail the tears. I wanted to call my mom for comfort because Pat was at her Master Gardener training and I didn't want to bug her, but I couldn't call my mother because I didn't want to scare her. So I sat behind the wheel, feeling like an infantile adult/grown-up baby and cried really hard for a few minutes, till I felt some relief.

And then an ultimately comforting series of thoughts entered my head: Pull yourself together. The sooner you get the prescription, the sooner you can go home. Probably, Toonces' sister Phoebe is crying by herself at home, wondering where everyone -- especially Toonces -- went, and you can comfort each other.

Phoebe was waiting by the door when I arrived. I got cat-hair all over my bandages.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Let's Go Crazy

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

Always Something There to Remind Me

On the way to the restaurant to see a high school friend I hadn't seen in nearly three decades, Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" burst from my car-radio; it came out less than a year after my high school graduation. On the way home from our dinner, Naked Eyes' "Always Something There to Remind Me" came on; it first aired during my senior year, around the time my dad (z"l) died.

If only I had had the comfort of a cat back then. One sits on my lap now, kneading a thigh with her pin-prick claws and drooling a little on my keyboard. Maybe I'd have felt less alone back then if I had had such a friend.

"I'm sorry you struggled on your own," my friend said with tears, pooling in her darker-than-I-remembered eyes; she wore big, rounded-square '80s glasses back then.

Her tears made my eyes well.

My friend said this after telling me that she had wondered how she would have reacted had I told her of my lesbianism when we were in high school. "I'm glad you didn't. It would have been more complicated. It might have seemed too intimate for me to know then. I'm not sure I'd have known what to say or do."

Earlier in the day, my oldest friend, who I've known since I was three, and I took a walk. "[My son's] drama teacher is gay....You know how we know? This is such a great story about how far we've come. There was a parent-teacher conference, where the teacher was talking about going to church and about having two kids. I figured he was trying to make people feel comfortable."

"Maybe," I nodded.

"Well, I came home and asked [my son], 'Is Mr. Xxxxx gay?"

"Yes," he said.

"How do you know?"

"Because before their most recent play, he mentioned that his husband would be coming to the show."

My friend turned to me and said enthusiastically, "Isn't that great, how he was normalizing it?"

"Wonderful," I answered and heard her exclaim a couple more times about how the drama teacher was "normalizing" being gay.

It's normal, just not the norm, I want to correct her now...and then I say to myself, Why do you have to have such a big chip on your shoulder? Your friend is trying, and she does not live in your world. To her, "normalize" doesn't seem like a word that would sting. I wonder how often I've said something inadvertantly racist to her; her kids are biracial.

Still earlier in the day, I stopped by a another childhood friend's family's retail store, but my friend was not there, but her mother, and her older sister, who I had not seen in 33 years, and who looked just the same, but adult, both were there and caught up with me.

"I see your mom all the time, at the JCC, swimming," my friend's older sister said. "How was India?"

"It was great, and challenging, since my partner's female and homosexual activity is jailable --"

"Yeah, but probably not enforced," she said smoothly.

"True, they haven't enforced it in some years, we were told, but still, it made for some tension. Have you been to India?"

"No," but it turned out that she had been to Indonesia on vacation and I wondered how we had gotten from what seemed to be -- more often than not -- our God-forsaken, Modern Orthodox Jewish elementary school classrooms to these comparatively exotic locales.

The "God-forsaken" reference related to how I felt at the cruelty of some of my classmates.

"Well, you look the same," I said as I was leaving.

"Little Sarah Siegel!" she responded.

"I was never little, remember?"

"How tall are you?"

"Five foot nine and a half," I said.

"The perfect height for a gown," she said looking around the store and smiling.

"I had to wear one once," I said.

She laughed.

"Hopefully, you understand that I love how women look in gowns, but they're not for me."

Friday, January 2, 2009

First Swim of 2009

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

"It's a Mob-scene"

That's what a white-haired man says to me, smiling, as he and his buddy grab the last free lane. I smile at the kiddy-pool in response, not making eye-contact.

Shaking off the 34-degree weather outside, I'm relieved that the only open water left is the kiddy-pool's; it offers about half a lap in length and is kept twice as warm as the regular, no kiddies in it yet, and so no need to wonder at any extra warmth supplied by them.

I'm thigh-high (which is as high as it goes) when I hear Pat call to me urgently, "Sarah;" the far-lane has just opened up. Ugh. Freezing, but a better workout's in store by jumping in at the shallow end and swimming in the big pool.

Everyone must have made swimming their New Year's Resolution. I've never seen it so packed. My head is cold. I'm up against the side of the pool, sometimes grazing it with an arm when I do back-stroke. Still, it feels so, so good. I feel strong today.

What is it about a pool full of swimmers that makes me move faster and wear myself out more fully by the end of the 30 minutes?

Am I feeling competitive? Yes.

Am I inspired by better swimmers? Yes.

Am I trying to avoid shame I would feel if I thought I seemed slow? Yes.

Am I trying to prove that I'm in good shape for my age? Yes.

Am I vain? Yes.