Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Are Time and I on the Same Side?

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

For my Time & Learning course, as homework, I was asked the following question among a series:

"Do you think slowing down the pace of your life would increase your quality of life?

I responded:

Yes, since today, I left the house and all while driving, put on makeup; stopped for gas; dialed into a conference call; sat on the line for 10 minutes, but no one showed -- my colleagues from another time-zone had re-scheduled it, but didn't tell me in e-mail prior to my checking e-mail before leaving the house at 7:05 am; called in twice more, in case I had mis-dialed while trying to drive; had my vitamins; ate half of my breakfast; read and underlined relevant parts of half of the last page of the “Time and Society" article while going slowly over the Tappan Zee Bridge; stopped reading when the traffic diminished; and called my mom; and then wolfed down the rest of breakfast in the parking lot of work while moving to a favorite tune on the radio; walked into work quickly; set up my computer; went to the ladies room; and got on a second conference call – all by 8:30 am.

It would increase my quality of life to slow down, so that I could catch my breath reliably, more often.

Another series of homework questions and responses:

1) About the experience of speed and slowness
a) What are the things you like to do quickly?

Eat, make decisions, drive....

b) What are the things you like to do slowly?

Take baths, read Sunday’s “New York Times,” talk with my mom on the phone during my commute, monitor Facebook, interpret Torah passages, blog.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Movie Night

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

Sister-love Galore

Before we went out to dinner, I didn't realize that "Rachel Getting Married" had come in the mail. It was set in my hometown, Stamford, Connecticut.

Spoiler alert: The best part of the movie is the relationship between the sisters. The saddest, between the mother and the youngest daughter. Since July, we've lived with two sisters, our cats.

Phoebe and Toonces are just like human sisters in essential ways: They play together and envy each other if either of their adoptive parents offers visibly more affection to one over the other at any given point. They must be more like twins, though, since they're the same age.

The older sister in the film touched me, and I thought of my own, oldest sister, who is nine years older than I. She used to bathe me when I was very young; I might have written here before that the way she got me to let her shampoo my hair was by putting a warm, wet washcloth over my eyes and calling it, "Magic Mask."

The sisters in the film were so great. And mine are, too. Two Sundays ago, my oldest sister and I sat at a food court off of the New Jersey Turnpike on our way home from our cousin Shirley's funeral in Bethesda, Maryland. I felt especially close to my sister then. It was such a treat to have her all to myself for 30 minutes. In the car, it was also just us, but there was traffic to watch and a road to concentrate on.

Both of us have our families always occupying us, and we haven't been alone together since my middle sister had breast cancer, which, thank God, she has survived. A few years ago when that happened, I asked my oldest sister to spend an afternoon with me. We went to the Frick Collection and she talked to a number of strangers.

I felt dissed. She didn't notice. I got upset. She became annoyed. We ended happily, but never since have done anything together -- just the two of us. The cancer-scare disappeared, thank God, and I suppose we went back to taking each other for granted a bit...and then Surarivka (aka Shirley) died...four hours in the car each way. The time went so fast, she agreed.

My sisters and I are so organically sympatico, ultimately, and I'm lucky we are one another's family.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Feeling Like I've Been to Cuba...

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

Via Chicago and the Lower East Side

Turning left a couple of blocks before Katz's Famous Delicatessen, I begged an apparently Indian or Pakistani cabbie to pull up, so that there would be room for me to park in front of a nail salon run, perhaps, by Dominicans, who gave me quarters for dollars, so I could pay the Munimeter before eating at the Turkish Kebab House II prior to my final destination, Bluestockings, a radical, feminist bookstore, where two Cuban writers were reading from their new books. I knew of one of them from my near-decade in Chicago: Achy Obejas.

Had the reading by Achy taken place at Women & Children First in Chicago, and had I still lived there, I would have been heading to the Swedish-Arabic-Lesbian neighborhood...but it hadn't and I hadn't, so I didn't. Rather, I raced to the Lower East Side from Armonk. How different my life was from when I first met Achy!

In the late-80s, she was doing an article, I think, for one of the papers, on the International Mr. Leather contest. Achy listened in to my "10% Show" interview of International Ms. Leather that we were filming before conducting, I imagine, one of her own. ("The 10% Show" was all about showcasing the various facets of gay and lesbian culture, but not bi and trans culture as intentionally back then.)

The International Mr. Leather convention remains a huge, annual event in Chicago, and as I've written here before, International Ms. Leather said that she loved being part of the Leather Community because her mother was German and had been in World II -- and she made a parenthetical remark about her mother's "regalia" from the War. Afterwards, Achy came over to me and said she was pleased that toward the end of the interview, I had said to International Ms. Leather, "Can we talk a bit more about your mother?"

Gumming Up the Works of My Routine-Machine

There was no time to go to the reading tonight, but the Time & Learning course I'm taking this semester is making me extra-conscious of how I spend my time, and of my time as something to go (relatively) wild with now and then, so that I'm not just a routine-machine.

Walking into the shop, which turned out to be a volunteer-run collective, I thought: You should have opted to hear Achy at the 92nd Street Y tomorrow night instead; clearly, that's where the grownups will be -- actually, I had a work conflict.

Was I really going to have to sit in a plastic, grocery-store chair in an overheated, little storefront-room, surrounded by bare-plywood shelves of books and magazines and 'zines that might have gripped me 20 years ago, but which now seemed outre/fringe-y and in some cases, offensive? Looking at T-shirts on the wall emblazoned with statements like, "I had an abortion," or featuring a hand-drawn bicycle, with the statement under it, "Put the joy between your legs!" I had to admit to myself that I was not going to feel at home in my business-suit and dress-coat. Why hadn't I come in disguise?

In 1988, hadn't I helped crew for "The 10% Show's" segment on the Queer 'zine Convention, wearing an olive, Chicago Boy Scouts, long-sleeved, button-down shirt that I'd found in a thrift shop? Back then, that wasn't a disguise, though; it was simply me in my early-20s....

One of the last open seats was next to a woman with super-fast fingers who was busy, tapping on her Blackberry. I felt shy to sit down among strangers, but steeled myself. In talking with her, I got what I came for.

First, we marveled at the rack that stood at eye-level across from us. "'zines!" she exclaimed, "with real staples and paper. I'm so sick of blogs."

I smiled.

What had inspired her to attend the reading? I asked.

"I grew up in Chicago and used to read her column in the paper."

"I lived in Chicago for a long while myself, and knew Achy's writing from then, too."

"What took you to Chicago?" she asked.

"I was escaping," I said, "-- couldn't imagine going back home after coming out as a lesbian; my family was understanding, but I didn't want to run into classmates from the Jewish day school I had attended. So I just stayed out there and took an internship at a magazine that folded within a year of its launch, 'Inside Chicago.'"

"I remember it."


She nodded and then said, "I was doing the same thing, only I came from Chicago to [school here], so I could come out where no one knew me, and 20 years later, I'm still here." Her family turned out to be accepting and she was Jewish as well, and simply opted to stay in this part of the country.

We smiled at each other. "I've found a kindred spirit," I said. We learned that both of us had found out about the reading through Facebook. This was a first for me: attending a cultural event that I had learned about in Facebook, and then meeting someone new who I'd want to "friend" on Facebook when I got home.

"You're a writer?" I asked.

"I write," she responded, and then, "How about you? Did you stay with magazine writing?"

"No, but I'm a blogger."

"Who do you blog for?" she asked, smiling sheepishly, I think, due to her earlier reference to blogs, and then the MC came to the mike and began the program.

I responded to her on paper, with tongue in cheek, "~20 people a day love it [the blog]. I work for IBM in Leadership Development. You?"

She wrote back, "I'm a freelance writer, but recently took a full-time job as [an editor at a giant, popular magazine]."

Through their readings, both of the authors took us to Cuba within the past 15 years, and I was happy to be able to ask Achy two questions -- about her hope for social change through her writing, and whether her parents were now proud of her, since she had authored a book years ago called *We Came All the Way from Cuba So You Could Dress Like That?*

Toward the end of the Q&A, I wrote my audience-neighbor a note: "I'm Sarah Siegel. May I 'friend' you on Facebook? (Just friends. I saw your ring, like mine.)"

She smiled and nodded.

After clapping and promising to be in touch with my new friend, I excused myself and re-introduced myself to Achy, reminding her of the International Ms. Leather interview; she chuckled, whether or not with any recollection, and was generous in signing the book I'd purchased.

Seeing Achy, I knew I'd have a nostalgic pang of, "Those were the days," i.e., the days of "The 10% Show," but it also paid to live in the present, I was reminded; twenty years ago, my new Facebook friend was a freshman in college and I had recently graduated, and probably, neither of us were sure of ourselves in the ways we are now, plus, it would have taken me longer to get home after the reading back then, relying as I was then on public transportation, or on my real-life version of the bicycle in that bold T-shirt.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Children's, and Others', Resilience

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

"The Changeling" and "The Secret Life of Bees"

This afternoon, I was reading the scholarly version of realities I've known all my life: Women, historically, have been expected to spend their time, caring for others, whereas men have not. The journal articles were on gender and time for the Time & Learning class I'm taking this semester and they brought to mind *The Feminine Mystique*, which I read in a day at my widowed aunt's home in Israel when I was 20.

The articles alienated me mostly, and made me feel different than many women. When I was 20, I didn't yet know that I'd have no children, though I knew that if I did the right thing, I'd have no husband.

The articles spoke exclusively of heterosexual women and their power struggles with their husbands and families for time to themselves, and how even when they got it, they couldn't enjoy it for feeling guilty.

Last night, Pat and I watched "The Changeling," and tonight, "The Secret Life of Bees." Slight spoiler alert: Both were about children who got insufficient attention from their mothers; that the fathers were absent and abusive respectively was not the focus, but rather, the characters of the women for needing to take the most survival-oriented next step in each case.

Pat watched tonight's film and turned to me at one point, saying, "Watching this movie, I'm reminded that it's a miracle that black people will even talk to white people." Watching the behavior of many of the adults in the two films, I wondered how kids could even stand to talk to adults, and seeing many of the men in the two films, and reading the academic articles this afternoon, similarly, I wondered how women could even talk to men....Now, if I spend just a moment re-reading those sentiments, I see how destructive they are; instead, I need to focus on the good people among every gender, race and age. Children, people of color, women and other historically-underrepresented groups have been resilient, and tribulation -- like the violent cold of Chicago winters -- has tended to galvanize our energy ultimately.

This afternoon, I spoke with a schoolmate, who's in the doctoral version of my program, and who's planning on writing her dissertation to feature sexual orientation. She had contacted me to talk about my experience of being openly lesbian at IBM; I told her that it has been a great experience so far and that since there are ~400,000 IBMers in 170 countries worldwide, when we do good things in the countries where we work and live, including being inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender clients and colleagues, I believe it's possible for IBM even to have a positive societal impact.

"What inspired you to focus your dissertation on sexual orientation?" I asked her as we were hanging up.

"First, of course, I have a personal interest in the topic, but second, there's really not a lot of research out there and I figure that like what you said about IBM, if I can make an impact even on someone out there, that would be terrific."

This schoolmate and I are prime examples of women whose voices were not included in the gender and learning articles I read this afternoon....

Spring Fever

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

How I Spent My Spring Break

This week, I had off from class for "Spring Break." When I was an undergrad, I didn't have money to take trips with friends over Spring Break, and now that I have money, I have no time to do so, as I'm working full-time while getting this graduate degree.

Nonetheless, it was great to have a week off from having to be ready for class with the next reading and writing assignment. Probably, the greatest indulgence of my Spring Break this time was my lunch-time swim with Pat yesterday, since I worked from home.

Here comes the part of this blog-entry that I've been stalling about/avoiding writing, as I feel afraid to include it, but if this blog doesn't let me write honestly, then what's it worth? Here goes:

During our swim, Pat and I started off in two different lanes due to the human-congestion. As I swam to the end of the lane closest to the jacuzzi, I saw a long-legged woman walking toward the ladies' locker-room. She moved me.

A number of the people who swim in our pool are not necessarily attractive, and yet here was this lovely woman. There's always that double-burden as a lesbian -- at least in my case:

  1. Wow, she's gorgeous!
  2. Oy! Is she more fit than I?

That is, for me, it's always first the lesbian response followed by a competitive-woman response. The desire and envy are a weird, and common, combo for me.

"Sarah," Pat called to me as I was staring at the woman. I felt embarrassed, caught. I looked over at Pat and she was simply motioning me to join her. Her lane had opened up. If she noticed where my attention had been, she did not let on...but I don't think she even did. I think she was purely excited that we could now share a lane.

Jarred out of my revery, I managed to smile enthusiastically and swam over. Doing laps side-by-side, I thought about the woman some more -- wondered why I'd never before seen her -- and felt ashamed of my finely-tuned radar compared to that of Pat, who didn't even seem to notice the woman...or at least that was my impression, but perhaps, she had just had her fill of her, since the woman must have been swimming in Pat's lane.

Finally, after a guilty lap or so, I smiled to myself, allowing some enjoyment of my beauty-radar. And then just before I had completed my 30-minute swim, a young guy in a faraway lane hoisted himself half-way out of the pool and startled me. What was wrong with me? His broad shoulders and sculpted arms moved me momentarily, too, before I remembered that I wasn't supposed to be interested in men's physiques.

It's just springtime, I guess.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"Chocolate Legs" or Why...

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

It's Delightful to Be Alive Now

The tough times we're in remind me of how it used to be to live in Chicago from 1987-1996; Pat and I fantasize about living there again someday:

It was so, so cold during the winter, and then when spring came, everyone blossomed, not just the flowers. Always, the lakefront was packed with rollerbladers, bikers, runners and volleyball players. There was nothing better than skating from the Belmont Rocks down to the Planetarium and back, slaloming to the beat of my Walkman -- what we used BiE (Before the iPod Era).

During my early years in Chicago especially, life was simple and beautiful and in parallel -- to put it mildly, so as not to be heartbreaking for you, the reader -- romantically and professionally...less-than-rewarding. And no matter how satisfying it ultimately did become for me in work and love, and thank God, it did so in both, still, always, there was the violent cold...and then the brilliant warmth and humanity, and simple beauty.

My sister Deb said she couldn't get over the photo on the front page of "The New York Times" last week; the featured child looked like an animal due to severe malnourishment, she said. Times are tough worldwide. It's violently cold out.

By blessed contrast, which I do not take for granted, earlier, I was privileged to meet a friend and colleague for dinner; we eat together quarterly. Talking with him always renews me, even if I didn't know I needed refreshing. As I drove to meet him, I didn't feel particularly sad about world-events, but inevitably, we talked about various global trials over dinner, and how in any case, we feel a sense of excitement and opportunity in all of the stress we're experiencing now, e.g., the prophecy of my tweet being fulfilled, including hearing some amazing, new music.

On my way home, "Chocolate Legs" was playing as I stopped at a red light, in front of a small, red house, wedged between two others and right against the busy street. I was savoring the song as candlelight in the dining room window caught my eye. Jammed around the table were six, smiling, middle-aged friends, enjoying one another after 8 pm on what from my perspective, was a work-night.

It struck me that like them, tonight, I had chosen to steal time to have pure fun, pure love and pure friendship, and was on my way home to more of the same, with some marvelous, bonus dimensions. It didn't matter that Pat was out with her friend for dinner, too, and that she would not necessarily be home upon my return; the promise of Pat and the present of two, loyal cats filled me with the sort of joy that 'blading along the Lakefront always did for me during springtime in Chicago.

Monday, March 16, 2009

His Aunt's Lokshen Kugel...

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

Won't Bring Back My Father or His Cousin Shirley

My cousin Shirley (aka Surah-Rivkeh/Sarah-Rebecca in English), newly of blessed memory -- since Friday -- had a housekeeper in her family's home in Bethesda, Maryland for 25 years, Melede; never before, or since, had I heard of the name. Melede appeared to be Latina; yesterday, she spoke Spanish with her assistant while slicing lokshen kugel during Shirley's shivah.

At the funeral prior, one of Shirley's (z"l) granddaughters was among the eulogists and said that Melede knew how to cook her great-grandmother's [my dad's aunt's] best recipes; Melede was the best cook of Jewish cuisine still left in the family, said the granddaughter, looking at Melede in the pew, sitting devastatedly with her husband among Shirley's kids, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Back at Shirley's house, I entered the kitchen with my sister Deb and felt my mouth watering, and my eyes welling, as I watched Melede slice generous squares of the sweet, cinnamony side-dish onto a platter.

My mother's idea of Jewish cooking, I've written here before, was to take cooked Tater Tots, flatten them with a fork, and serve them as latkes on Chanukah. I mean no disrespect of my mother, who instilled most of my Jewish values in me, but cooking was not her favorite thing.

Stories Did Bring Him Least for an Afternoon

"Your dad was a talent," said one of his prom-dates, and another sitting next to her said, "He was clever in everything: Once, he wrote me a card, 'Congraduations!' as a graduation-wish."

"He [made up a fictional product] and wrote a slogan, 'Hotsy-totsy Toilet Paper -- Comes in three colors: Pink, Blue and Bourdeux.'"

I added, "He called his alma mater, the 'Rhode Island School of Desire' --"

"That was your father...."

"Were you the girl whose mother wondered if my father were Hermann Göring?" I asked. My dad had told me about that. (I just saw the photo in Wikipedia, and he did look like a bit like him when young.)

"It was my grandmother, and I don't even know how she knew, since we didn't have TV back then, but your father showed up for the prom in his ROTC uniform with a saber on his side and he was so tall, with such a broad chest...." The woman actually looked off in the distance as she spoke of my dad, Her husband of 60+ years was sitting right across from her(!), and he was a great sport.

We spoke more about their youth, and how they were part of an especially culturally-aware and engaged Jewish milieu. One of the women said, "We spoke what was known as 'literarischen(sp?) Yiddish'."

"My mom always said that my dad spoke 'the king's Yiddish.'"

"And I'll tell you something else: Your grandfather and my father both owned grocery stores. My father loved his business; he would tickle the carrots....As a kid, I would be in your grandfather's store and I saw that for him, it was just a way to feed his family; he sat there on boxes, writing poetry."

"I have a leather-bound book of his poems," I said.

"I knew it," she said, satisfied at her precocious powers of perception.

Not having my own kids, I am not conscious of the role of genes in a daily way, and so this was extra-special, to be reminded of my father's and grandfather's literary gifts; typically, I think that I love to write because my mom was a journalist. I guess I can thank both sides of my family for my writing-desire, if not for great cooking-sense....

Saturday, March 14, 2009

What a Cat is Good for

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

More Uses than I Knew

One day a couple of weeks ago, I woke up, feeling exhausted and a bit down. I worked from home that day and discovered the extraordinary comfort of a kitty to pet.

Tonight, I'm going to bed early, so I can wake up and drive for 4.5 hours with one of my sisters and my mom to my cousin Shirley's funeral. I barely remember her, or her husband and kids...just that one of her sons sat at our Passover Seder table one year, reading "Mad" magazine.

It's not Shirley I'm mourning so much as the loss of my dad all over again.

Shirley was the last of his contemporaries in the family to go.

For no special reason, or maybe Phoebe is far more psychic than I've given her credit for, she's on my lap, doing her most endearing routine, which happens rarely, but which is extra-sweet: Phoebe's butting her body and head against my chest and looking straight up at me, exposing the white fur of her neck, which contains her whirring purr-box.

What a lovely comfort, which I didn't have back when I lost my dad of blessed memory (z"l) at 17. It's such a simple pleasure to pet a cat -- to feel her tail tap my leg, to see her yawn; all of these relax me so.

This afternoon, my mom and I visited a friend of my mother, who is in rehab, as he was rear-ended eight months ago by a 16-year-old, barreling around in a BMW SUV. My mom and her friend were swimming buddies; he was on his way to the JCC pool when it happened.

Today, he can move only his facial features and his left arm; he's right-handed. His left hand is in a permanent, loose fist.

Our conversation took us to Oliver Sacks, and Temple Grandin and animals, and the drooling, unwieldy dog he had, and to Pat's and my cats. I let him talk mostly about the dog, but I was missing Phoebe and Toonces as he told his stories.

If there is a simpler pleasure in response to paralysis and to death than kitty-petting, I cannot imagine what it is.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Shalom Bayit...

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

Means "Peace in the Home"

Tonight, after our practically weekly meal out, Pat and I watched a movie that held little appeal for me, "Bank Job." I did it for the sake of what observant Jews refer to as "shalom bayit" or "Peace in the Home."

Fortunately, there's not much I feel the need to do for shalom bayit because our home already has a lot of shalom, and there's plenty that both of us enjoy doing together.

Previously, I've written here that a few years ago, an Indian colleague (from India) spent a weekend with Pat and me prior to a conference that my colleague and I were attending together.

When she visited her college friends afterwards -- they had moved from India to Virginia -- they asked, "How was it, staying with lesbians?"

"Like staying with any family, only more peaceful," she said she told them.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Why Anyone's Attracted...

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

To the Same Gender

"Sex Addiction" was the topic of the Michael Baisden radio show this afternoon on my way to class at Teachers College. The guest was Dr. Gwendolyn Goldsby Grant. She disappointed me. A caller said that if "her man" didn't meet her needs, the caller would turn to a woman.

If I remember correctly, Dr. Grant agreed with the caller, reinforcing that, yes, women turn to bisexuality in reaction to unavailable or hurtful men. Oy! Sure, that might be the case sometimes, e.g., the female stars of the film, "Fire," I think, but that is not the core reason for bisexuality in women as I understand it; it's an orientation, like heterosexuality or homosexuality.

I reached 120th and Broadway before getting to hear the next part of the program, which was going to focus on women "on the down-low," i.e., women who were seeking each other, rather than men, but in secret. I just went to to see if I could tell how the discussion went from any of the comments, but the first two pages-full did not even refer to this part of the program....I'm curious as to how this topic fit into a show about sex addiction, though perhaps it was a separate segment. I want to give Michael Baisden the benefit of the doubt, as I have heard him be an ally on a previous show.

A heterosexual friend from another culture, where speaking of *any* sexual orientation is taboo, once asked me how I could be so open about my sexual orientation.

"Because it's an *orientation*," I said, "Like being left-handed....I could write with my right hand, but it wouldn't be natural."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Full Moon Reflection

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

Soon, I Will Be Walking Under It

It's beyond time to leave my office for the night and return to my hotel-room on our Learning Center's campus, where I'm staying for part of the week while I co-facilitate a program for our emerging senior technical leaders. When I do, I'll have a moonlight-walk that should be brisk and refreshing, and should inspire at least a 60-minute second wind when I arrive in my room:

I really must make more progress on reading the two academic articles that are due for school this week, so that I can respond to our professor's guided inquiry by Thursday...but I'm lonesome for my blog, and so here's at least a quick acknowledgement:

On any given day, my Sitemeter delights me for the diversity of viewers' locations it displays; locales from yesterday and today were no exception:

I love reading the city-names in this excerpt. Tonight, I'm feeling hopeful that I can be an agent for a more globally-harmonious company and even world; it's the fault of the program participants: Their cultures include American; Belgian; Canadian; Danish; German; Indian; Israeli; Japanese; Romanian; Spanish; and Swiss.

And then in addition, if my blog is at all useful to people from Camachile to Yonkers, then I'm blessed.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Appearances Can Be Deceiving

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

Twice in the Past Week, I've Been Reminded of That

This morning, I was previewing "The New York Times" on Twitter and saw an item that intrigued me. I looked at the kid's picture -- he looked Semitic -- and his name sounded Jewish; I assumed he was an MOT ("Member of the Tribe").

And then the article mentioned that he was learning Arabic, originally with the intention of going to the Middle East as a Christian missionary. Huh?

It turns out that his mom was Jewish, but had converted many years ago to being Baptist and so he's Baptist.

The First Time

Earlier in the week, I scanned the roster of the section I was facilitating for our leadership development program dedicated to new executives. Reading through the names and locations, I was a bit disappointed that the section did not include even more geographic diversity than it seemed to do (only six countries apparently) while execs. were coming to the IBM Learning Center for the program from 23 countries.

Within the first several minutes of the first afternoon together, I was reminded not to make assumptions. It turned out that the exec. from Fishkill, NY actually was from Costa Rica until he came here for grad school and stayed, and the one from Somers, NY was on assignment from Korea. And another American exec. previously had been on assignment in the Netherlands for a number of years. And the exec. from Waltham, MA hailed from South Africa.

Most people, I think, make split-second assumptions about others based on what they think they see at a quick glance, and it takes an article or a conversation to undo the assumption. My friend Sarah Holland says, "The individual is the enemy of the stereotype."

Thursday, March 5, 2009


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

Feeling Alive When Learning

There's little that's more delicious than being an agent of others' learning all day and then getting to go to a class at night, where it's someone's job to be an agent of *my* learning.

My head was pounding by the end of class tonight, but it was a sweet headache. It's pounding further now, but it's worth it.

In my Time & Learning class tonight, we spoke of discretionary time and rhythmanalysis compared with psychoanalysis, and "Deaf Time" and time duration vs. experience in connection with resumes, and the different sense of rhythm of people with ADD and more.

At the end of class our professor handed us an article he wrote, "Moment and a Theory of Moments." So far, after a quick read, I'm most intrigued by the distinction made in the article between an instant and a moment. Alhadeff-Jones (2009) wrote on how instants really are shorter than moments, and quoted Hess (2004), who wrote that moments can have a ritual resonance preceding and following them.

Even as I'm beat from a day that began at 7 am and went till 7 pm, not including the car-ride back to Armonk from NYC, I felt so alive, driving back.

I blasted the radio and while channel-surfing, happened on Rod Stewart's "Young Turks." The chorus made me feel even more alive:
Young hearts be free tonight, time is on your side.
Young hearts be free tonight, time is on your side.
Young hearts be free tonight, time is on your side.

Young hearts gotta run free, be free, live free
Time is on, time is on your side
Time, time, time, time is on your side
is on your side
is on your side
is on your side
Young heart be free tonight
tonight, tonight, tonight, tonight, tonight, yeah[!]

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Each of Us is on Our Own Path

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

Humility is the Key

Today, I received the roster of the section I'll be facilitating for the leadership development program we offer for brand new executives at our company. Uh-oh, I recognized a name. Uh-oh, we started working for our company around the same time. Uh-oh, can my ego take it that he's an executive and I'm not? Uh-oh, will my being his facilitator make him self-conscious with his learning?

That last worry, I'm pretty confident, was my projection. Will I be self-conscious in my facilitation with him, being among the learners?

Should I go ask to have him switched, I wondered. I sat at my desk, pondering what to do until I was distracted by the memory of a great trip to Milan that he and I were lucky to take. It was for an training class back in the day.

There's a photo of him with two female colleagues and me, all of us looking unusually European -- well, one of us was from Vienna, so she was entitled to look European. It's on my wall in my office.

Whoever's class he's in, should I invite him up to my office during a break to see a picture of us from a decade ago? Would he find it sweet? Would he remember?

Why did he become an executive and I, not yet? Usually, I console myself, considering, there are nearly 400,000 IBMers worldwide and only ~5,000 executives worldwide, and so it would be a huge deal to become one...especially in a technology company when my expertise and education are not in a technical field.

When IBM came to campus my senior year, I didn't bother to interview with the company, figuring, What would IBM want with a Comparative Literature major? How I got here is another story, to tell another day, but for tonight, I need to come back to the present and pray.

My Prayer

God, please let me be useful and of service to the 16 participants, who will be learning in the section I'm facilitating, beginning at 8 am on Wednesday, and going through midday on Friday. Let me be rid of my ego.

Let me help the learners have a wonderfully-rich, memorable experience during this milestone in their careers.

Let me treat my particular colleague well and be humble and confident in my facilitation. Let him and me be comfortable in our respective roles. Let me be pleasantly surprised by how we learn together this week, and by any other experiences that I can't anticipate or know ahead of time. Amen.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Rolling Through Short Hills

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

And Whole Foods in West Orange

"What a nice smile," an older woman said to me in a surprised tone as she walked by me in the card shop this afternoon.

"Thanks," I said softly.

No stranger had ever before commented aloud on my smile. My wheelchair made her feel free, perhaps.

How novel to be at eye-level with the women's shoes on display at Nordstrom, and not to be able to reach a high shelf at the grocery store. Pat and I went shopping, but since my foot still hurt too much to walk long distances, Pat rolled me around in a wheelchair all afternoon.

It felt like an assignment for a Sociology class: See what it feels like to be perceived as wheelchair-bound for an afternoon. I felt out of control, short, weak, frightening -- the woman in line ahead of us at the grocery store moved away, saying unnecessarily, "Oh, sorry," when she noticed me sitting behind her on line.