Friday, November 30, 2012

Memories of "The Troubles"

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

Gone, But Not Forgotten

Called Pat's mom tonight to tell her that Pat was cooking sloppy joe's or what they referred to as slush-burgers, just like Pat's mom used to make. I mentioned the news of Palestine and the UN and said, "Bev, how did it work out for the Irish to stop fighting?"

"I don't know. I had a friend in Northern Michigan who said that when they lived in Northern Ireland, since they were Catholic, the Black & Tan guys would come to their house often in the middle of the night to see if they were harboring any southern Irish refugees."

"When was that?"

"Oh, I don't know. Around 1916 or 1919."

"So it was like pogroms were in Russia for the Jews."


So Pat had her slush-burger and we're watching the end of the Northern Illinois and Kent State football game. Pat's crazed because Kent State is one point behind her many-year, former employer. Oh, great. I think it'll go to over-time!

Prior to this game, we watched "Strangers", a film about a Palestinian woman and an Israeli man who fall in love in Berlin. I posted in Facebook that it was Happy, Sad, Happy, Sad and Happyish. Funny that that film per se arrived from Netflix today, when the UN declared Palestine's status as an observer state.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

250 Words - Day 2

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

Time-traveling from the U.S. to Israel to the U.K. and Back

What a great world that I can have on cross-country skiing, white-on-black, silver reflective gloves, a gray and raspberry wool hat, tortoise-shell sunglasses, a raspberry down ski jacket, and be mounting the foothills of the Watchung Mountains in Montclair, New Jersey while listening to Israeli music from the '70s that I used to play in our living room in Stamford, Connecticut from my older sister Deb's records...and it's coming to me from Cambridge University on a podcast of a show called Kol Cambridge!

"Yo Ya" by Poogy began as I reached Pat's and my garage door. I entered the code, tossed my sunglasses onto the front seat of my car and felt like an eight-year-old dancing around the house again. Never really knew what they were singing, but felt cool just by listening, and dancing to it. No one had coined the term "air guitar" yet, but they were the right group to pretend to play with had I been at all inclined.

The album was "Sipurey Poogy"/"Tales of Poogy" and I've just looked up the group on YouTube. I'm listening to "Hamakolet"/"The Grocery Store" now. When I was a kid, and now, I thought they might be singing "Kita Gimel"/"Third Grade" at one point in that song, and Kita Gimel was the grade I was in then. I loved the rest of how the tune sounded. The lead singer had a deep, sexy voice -- and for much of the song simply told a mesmerizing story. It was rap of a sort.

"Yo Ya", though, really transported me. I have tears in my throat as I listen to it again. I had no idea how life would be nearly 40 years hence when I first heard the song. The only really sad part is that my dad (z"l) is gone. Otherwise, I'm happier altogether than I was then, if a little bit less uninhibited. Then, my dad was unemployed and we nearly moved to Tehran, so that my dad could build a toy factory, but fortunately, that didn't work out. I felt unsettled during that period in any case, other than escaping into great music of the day, including Poogy.

During my hike, today, in 2012, Kol Cambridge played another song by a group that was popular when I lived in Jersualem in 1985 and '86, at 20, Mashina. The song differed from the hit I knew, which was "Rakevet Laila Le-Kahir"/"Night Train to Cairo". When I hear "Rakevet...", I think of the on-campus club, Bar Aton, where we danced on Friday nights; it was all that was open on Shabbat, and I've written here before that Arab townies routinely asked us to let them come in to the club with us, which we did, since anyone without a Hebrew University student ID had to enter as a guest. It was pure fun every Friday.

During the last blocks of my walk this evening, I was thinking that love and power are complicated, that is, my love of Israel is complicated, and power is a potential corrupter in anyone's hands, including in some bored Israeli soldiers' at checkpoints and a number of rich Palestinians who live in Ramallah; an author I met on a plane back from Dallas confirmed so in her book, which I read after meeting her, *Fast Times in Palestine*. I never knew how unconcerned a number of upper-class Palestinians were about their less fortunate comrades, according to the author. Her name is Pamela Olson and she may still be in her '20s. She's a Stanford Physics grad who happened to land in Palestine after a jaunt in Jordan during a post-college trip to see the world. And we agreed that whatever one's politics, that part of the planet is somehow addictive. It just is.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Disciplined Writing for Fun

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

What If I Could Write 250 Words a Day?

Around 20 years ago, a girlfriend who knew I was a frustrated-would-be-aspiring writer gave me a gift of a book called *20 Lines a Day*. It advocated writing just 20 lines a day to exercise my writing muscles.

Today, via Facebook, which I had just dissed as the lazy way out of full-on blogging, Jeff Nishball, a writer who was published in “The New York Times” last week, kindly sent me a message, encouraging me and suggesting that I’m not any lazier than most writers for not having wanted to blog, but that I’d be well-served if I tried writing just 250 words a day. He said that it was essentially just a page’s worth of writing. Of course, now, I’m compelled to check the word-count to see if Jeff meant double-spaced or single. Off I go…. 137 so far, so happily, Jeff must have meant double-spaced!

My cat Phoebe just hopped onto my lap and then onto my work-notebook next to my laptop. Her tail is doing something unusual: Just the tip is in motion; it’s like a periscope and she’s using it to decide her next move.

That girlfriend was among the most creative people I ever knew, and she still is, though we’re married to other women. I thought of her when I finally watched the viral “Gangnam Style” video on YouTube yesterday. When I was in India on assignment in 2007, I posted a link to a YouTube video I had discovered, featuring Silky Kumar. She said she loved it. I wasn’t surprised. It’s better than the Gangnam one, or at least as good, @

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Emotional Leadership

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

The Delegate Couldn't Know How Deeply His Comment Resonated with Me

Just prior to our saying goodbye, one of the IBM Global LGBT Leadership Workshop delegates, remarked to me one on one, "American culture has a different way of public speaking... and the way you facilitated -- I would call it -- 'emotional leadership'."

Is it part of American culture to facilitate warmly, or is it just my style, and I happen to be American?

It's true that I touch participants on the shoulder and back occasionally and also laugh easily as well as hope to move people -- to activate them -- but it's not even fully conscious on my part...until now, as I'm reflecting on what the delegate said.

In terms of emotions themselves, I always feel so many when facilitating learning, and perhaps, more than ever with this series: a summit for openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) IBM executives, and a global leadership development workshop for LGBT not-yet-exec. leaders.

For the workshop I co-designed and facilitated last Friday, I felt sad, desirous, anxious, competitive, thrilled, super-invested, touched and loving. And then afterward, while sitting in the hotel bar with a number of delegates, I felt the same emotions, plus exhausted.

Sad: My father of blessed memory died at ~11:20 pm, November 1st, 1982 and had grown up in D.C., 40 minutes from where I was facilitating in Baltimore. Could I do all I did on November 1st and 2nd to honor his memory? Would he be proud of me, or would we be estranged if he did not approve of my lesbian identity?

Desirous: All of the female delegates and even a few of the male ones are attractive to me. It's exciting to know that none of them is heterosexual -- never happens in any other learning arena. Please God, let me remain appropriate and not cause anyone to feel harassed verbally. Please don't let me embarrass myself by leaking any of these feelings, even as I have a pact with Pat never to act on any such feelings, and haven't in the 20 years we've been together. Don't want to express 'em either.

Anxious: Will I be able to be a great agent for their learning and activation? Am I reaching all of them, or am I leaving some behind? Will the timing of the agenda work out? Can I adjust it effectively if need be? Are they finding the exercises meaningful? Are they willingly opting in to one of the teams being formed around the 2013 Vital Few? Is this learning experience one of the best they've ever had or not? And if not, why not?

Competitive: What is it about the execs. that enabled them to lead such huge missions? What would it take for me to be recognized as worthy of leading one? Which one could it be? Will I ever be recognized as meriting the exec. stripe? Do I look as fit as the other women? Why am I one of the only women in the entire room with short hair? Who am I better-/worse-looking than? How can I stay quiet instead of revealing competitiveness by what I say? How can I remain poised and just listen and be happy for others' success?

Thrilled: What a rush to see them enter the ballroom and pick up their name-badges and tent-cards and to know that it's really happening: nearly 50 LGBT IBMers from around the world, together -- just us -- for a whole day. And thrilled by the international panel -- charming, lovely delegates from Bangalore, Moscow, Vienna and Tel Aviv. How lucky am I to get to ask questions that make me curious and to invite questions from participants! What a privilege to be the moderator!

Super-invested: I want these learners to succeed, especially because they are my people. Also, am concerned that being one of them, I will be judged even more strictly by them than I might be if I weren't one of them.

-- Disclaimer -- : I'm sitting in front of a football game on TV because Pat and I want to be together this evening after my having been away for half a week, and so it's harder to focus on my feelings for this blog-entry. By the way, her Green Bay Packers won, so the mood around here is buoyant.

Touched: When one of the executive panelists -- who's responsible this year for 3/4 of a billion dollars of IBM revenue -- responded to my moderator-question about when he first became aware of his gender identity, I was moved because he spoke of how abused he'd been as a kid by peers, since they saw him as effeminate. Most of all, I was touched that the delegates apparently bought in to my upfront premise of the workshop -- that self-awareness leads to authenticity, which leads to premier leadership -- as demonstrated by their willingness to reflect with one another so openly, especially since a good number of them had never met one another prior to the workshop.

Loving: Just before kicking off the workshop, I sat down next to a delegate with whom I wasn't previously acquainted, introduced myself and asked, "How's it going?"

"It's all sort of a whirlwind," she said, "I'm just taking it all in." She looked like I remember feeling in the early days of my coming out: bombarded. I felt flooded with compassion, listening to her. At the end of the day, when she said goodbye, I saw that she had dimples. They were visible, now that she no longer seemed overwhelmed.

And after the international panel was done, I stood and looked at each of the panelists from Austria, India, Israel and Russia, and felt tearful with a rush of affection; it seemed that they were similarly moved when I looked in their eyes.


I've been sitting on this blog-entry for weeks, wondering why I couldn't write something more perfectly expressive of my feelings post-Baltimore and as self-revealing and honest as I've been above, I didn't post the above prior to now because it was missing the full expression of my most embarrassing feelings of all (though I did leak a bit of it above in the "Competitive" section....) In the spirit of my friend Richard's belief that it's the things about which we're most embarrassed that are most interesting about us, I'll express it finally, 23 days later:

Am I a hypocrite? Am I practicing what I preached, about pursuing our potential? I invested imagination-time x 2, design-time x 2, sponsor-review-time x 2, room-setup-time x 2, facilitation-time x 2 and all-of-the-above-emotions-time x 2 in dedicating sessions to the advancement of IBM, the LGBT community at large, and very specifically to a selected group of LGBT IBMers, but when will I know when I've fully advanced and reached my own potential? What *is* my own potential? What is healthy ambition vs. unhealthy ego? How much ego do I get to have before it's unhealthy?

I am qualified and repeatedly invited to help develop premier leaders, but am I recognized as a leader myself? And if so, why am I not literally leading people again, with a title to match? And is it enough to me if I myself recognize myself as a leader? And when did I gain this craving for outward status? When I joined the company, I did not even aspire to be a first-line people manager, and then did, but for pastoral reasons -- really -- and the people-manager role did satisfy my pastoral bent. And I left management to help start up the LGBT business development mission, and didn't return. Why am I thinking so literally now?

Would it wreck the amazing experience a number of delegates told me they had if they knew that their facilitator had these questions? Or might it paradoxically reinforce my credibility?

And what will I do with these questions? How can I answer them in a way that benefits my work and me altogether? All I can do is make a personal pledge that co-designing and delivering the sessions is rededicating me to further pursue my own potential in addition to having promoted that the delegates pursue theirs. Time for more prayer, too, I think: God, please help me follow your direction. Amen.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Grief and Gratitude

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

Another Reflection on "Joy and Pain, Like Sunshine and Rain"

"Honey, everything's OK, don't you think? Fundamentally?" This is what I'm telling our cat Phoebe as she whimpers/kvetches while zig-zagging around the room.

And it is, thank God. It's also a sad time. Thirty years ago this month, my dad (z"l) died of common bile duct cancer. I keep thinking of him. And then this morning, I open up "The New York Times" to see that my friend Susannah Sheffer's dad (z"l) died on Friday of complications from a stroke. Reading about Mr. Sheffer, I'm 17 again. I went to the designated URL to post a memory:

Zichrono l’vrachah (z”l)/may his memory be for a blessing. The Sheffers were kind to me during the Summer of ’82 by hosting me in their home for three days a week, so that I could serve as an intern at the Museum of Philosophy at Hunter College with their daughter Susannah and other teens.

My father (z”l) who was a toy and game designer, was dying at Columbia-Presbyterian that summer and I needed a distraction. We lived in Stamford and drove in to see him daily. My mom told the museum’s director that I could serve as an intern if he found me a place to stay 3 nights a week. The Sheffers kindly took me in.

Once while at the Sheffers’, I turned Susannah’s radio to WBLS-FM and bobbed my head to “Rapper’s Delight” — R&B, Rap and Funk were also distractions from my dad’s imminent death (Groups like The Clash were more Susannah’s speed). Mrs. Sheffer walked past Susannah’s room and stood there listening, apparently amused and bemused in parallel.

I remain grateful for the Sheffer family’s kindness when I was 17, and am sorry for the loss of Mr. Sheffer; my mom and I know what it’s like to lose a dear, funny, creative husband and father.

This morning, I spent three hours, cleaning up our front-, side- and backyards, raking away dead leaves and mowing grass. I cleared away the dead stuff and enabled what was underneath to breathe more easily. My tidying up the yard was a classic example of humankind, trying to control nature and make it neat.

Nature is not neat. It is super-symmetrical and then wildly jagged, and in any case, not ultimately tameable, but I sure was trying! We wanted to control my dad's (z"l) wellness, too, and couldn't. And we wanted to keep our power during the Sandy storm, but couldn't.

Even as I mourn the loss of my dad (z"l), Mr. Sheffer (z"l) and a number of tree-limbs, I am so grateful for the life I have today, which I like to inventory every so often:

  • Pat Hewitt & I have been together for 20 years and married officially for 16 months
  • We love our mothers, who are still alive, and our siblings, and niece and nephews
  • We have two feline daughters, who delight us, Phoebe and Toonces
  • We have close friends
  • We live in a well-maintained house in a great town, just 14 miles west of NYC
  • Our synagogue is led by gifted rabbis and has lovely congregants
  • I love the work I do and mission I have, and the management and company with whom and which I'm affiliated
  • I've met some of my closest friends at work
  • I'm free to be a corporate activist for LGBT equality for our clients and colleagues
  • Social media enable me to express my creativity among new channels
  • My employer sent me to India on a 6-month assignment (and Pat was able to accompany me), and it sponsored my Master's, which I earned last May
  • My physical and mental health are good
  • I feel free to experiment at work
  • Art abounds, whether on TV, in films, museums and books, and I relish all of it
  • I know how to swim and can find a pool to use nearly everywhere I travel.

I lost my dad too early, but life has continued, and vividly, even so.