Sunday, November 8, 2015

Fall Fever

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

Feeling Extra-alive

Bike rides for the first time in a decade ... treadmilling with Pat this morning ... learning of -- and seeing -- this striking couple of pioneers earlier this week ... reading a magnetic novel ... seeing a post by a Facebook friend, expressing gratitude for her "cute nurses" as she convalesced from donating a kidney ... considering swimming outdoors tomorrow when I'm in Phoenix for work ... the unseasonably warm weather in New Jersey during this mid-November ... all of these experiences and possibilities are giving me Fall Fever.

Typically, Spring Fever is when I notice the same sex more than usual and remember that although Pat[ricia] & I are loyal and monogamous to each other, going on nearly 24 years so far, and with no plans to change our supremely faithful status, there are times -- usually in springtime -- when I feel surrounded by a museum show of women who remind me why I identify first of all as lesbian.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Davke on Yom Kippur

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

Why Are You Leaving So Soon? Because We Want To

We are motherless, and fatherless, children -- both of us -- now, as of March, 2015. From Kol Nidre last night through Yizkor today, I've been moved, and now, am moved to write about what moved me, rather than remaining in synagogue, where I'd be feeling perhaps further moved, but also antsy.

Last year, we left right after Yizkor and I thought it was because it was my first one without my mom (z"l) and this year, we did the same; it's Pat's first without her mom (z"l) ... or is it a trend? Pat says she can't stand for such long stretches anymore. How will I feel when I'm 65, like she is now? Please God, let me live long enough to find out. Meanwhile, I had enough poignant experiences to last me through this High Holiday even though we left by noon on Yom Kippur.

Here's what moved me:

Pat and I ushered. We were among the very first people anyone saw as he or she entered the building. Probably a dozen people walked in alone saying that they didn't have a ticket. And many others walked in alone who did have tickets. A number of them walked in apparently riveted by their phone-screen, making no eye-contact even after we greeted them. What was each one's story? Why were they alone on Yom Kippur?

And then a pretty, ginger-haired woman hobbled in with a cane and was looking everywhere but at other people when I said, "Shanah tovah. Welcome. Would you like to use the elevator?"

Her eyes zoomed in on me and she nodded. As we walked together, she said she was meeting her two sons here and that they had been coming to our synagogue for years, though this was her first visit.

"Oh, you'll like it, I think. My mom [z"l] used to say that she thought our services, at any time of the year, were the nicest she'd ever been to."


"Yeah. She loved them."

"That's nice."

As we got to the sanctuary, I pointed to a box of kippot and tallitot and asked, "Would you like a kippah and a tallit?"

"Oh, no, I'm Orthodox and I'm very nervous."

"Don't be nervous ... I didn't mean to say that. Be nervous if you need to be, but you don't have to be."

"That's a big Machzor," she said.

"I think you'll recognize at least half of the tunes and you'll enjoy the service. I wish I could find you afterwards to see what you thought."

She thanked me for carrying her Machzor and showing her to her seat and we parted. At the end of services, she was gone by the time I reached where she had been sitting. As I passed her empty seat, I hoped she had stayed and hadn't left early due to there being, for example, musical instruments; Orthodox Judaism forbids making music with anything but our voices during Shabbat and holidays, as it's considered labor, and we're not supposed to work at those times.

Trying, unsuccessfully, to distract myself from missing my mom (z"l)

My mom (z"l) got too old to sit or stand for so long and stopped coming to our services several years ago, but on the Yom Kippur prior to her death, she decided she wanted to come for Yizkor, so we made it happen. I blogged about it here, how she met Edie Windsor and thanked her for her leadership and what a great experience it was.

Pat and I saw Edie today and Pat said later, "We won't have Edie around forever."

My mom's (z"l) name also was Edie. And that's for sure.

Including Edie Windsor, I was moved by a number of other gorgeous women. There's a young woman in the choir with eyes that make me miss my cats and long, black, wavy hair, and I am always interested in the stories of women who can pass as heterosexual and how they end up being true to themselves. Whenever I see someone in her 20s at our shul, I time-travel back to that age and how I was finding my way back to Judaism then, and living in Chicago, and so was going to the Chicago LGBT congregation, Or Chadash. It's where I met Pat.

Something else that moved me: Dr. Nathan Goldstein, our president, mentioned that this year, the shul was celebrating four b'nai mitzvah and that all of the parents of the b'nai mitzvah had met at our synagogue.

Rabbi Kleinbaum's and a Cooperberg-Rittmaster Rabbinical Intern's drashot (sermons) touched me, too because Rabbi Kleinbaum read the whole Emma Goldman poem from the Statue of Liberty in the context of the refugee crisis -- Pat had posted the poem on her Facebook wall days ago, asking whether we can be, once again, a country that stands behind that poem. And I was moved by the intern's drash because she asked, Do we avoid coming to shul because we feel we cannot be authentically whoever we are, however we feel?

She spoke of her sister's mental illness episode in 2007 and how we don't typically speak of such things because we cannot dare to be vulnerable. It made me want to come to shul more often, even when I'm not in a great mood. And it made me feel some relief, hearing a future rabbi speak of the need to talk about things we don't typically talk about, to remove the stigma and historical shame of them. I have relatives with mental health problems and I practically never talk about that.

There are a few more things that have moved me during this Yom Kippur so far:

During Yizkor, too, the Executive Director of Jerusalem Open House Sarah Kala made remarks in Hebrew about Shira Banki, the 15 year-old Jerusalem LGBT Pride Parade marcher who was stabbed by an Ultra-Orthodox Israeli and who died of her wounds. One of our Israeli congregants simultaneously translated into English and then our cantorial intern Steve Zeidenberg and the chorus sang "Shir L'Shira", a pop song that was re-dedicated to this particular Shira after her death, and which has been sung at demonstrations around Israel ever since.

Last year, when Broadway singer Sally Wilfert sang Broadway composer and congregant William Finn's "Anytime", I wept. This year, I couldn't let go, or maybe the wound is less fresh, but still, I became choked up because the words and her voice do remind me of my mom (z"l), especially when she sings that anytime I wash my hands, she'll be there. Until she died, my mom (z"l) never failed to ask me when I returned from the bathroom, "Did you wash your hands?"

Now that I'm back home and our kitties are slumbering near me as I blog, I'm moved by the little one, Toonces', capacity for snoring. She's so little, but so audible when she sleeps. And it's cute, and I'm hopeful about caring for such beautiful feline daughters.  

Yom Kippur is all about repenting and praying to be sealed into the Book of Life for the coming year. Please, God, if it be Your will, let Pat & Phoebe, the cat, and Toonces, the cat, and my sisters and their families and all of my relatives and friends and me stay alive and healthy for another year. Amen.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

My Israel Autobiography in Photos

A Retrospective

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

1950-'52: Pre-history - My Parents' Experiences of Israel, Before They Met 

  1960s-'70s - Shohar Posters Designed and Manufactured by Moshav Beit Herut:

 1973: Coca-cola with Lemon and Soldiers on Rooftops; 2002; 2012


1976: Mom (z"l) and Dad (z"l) and Me; 2015: Bina and D'vori's Baby Noam

1980: Coming of Age; 2015: Middle Age

1985-'86: Ambivalently Flirting with My Future; 2014 Reunion

2002: Mom (z"l) and Me and Hebrew University

2012: Introducing My Wife to This History-laden Place

2015: Closure and New Beginnings

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Mother's Season

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

Not Just Mother's Day

The Peonies are in bloom again. Nearly a year later.

One of the only blog-posts I ever read aloud to my mom (z"l), who didn't have her own computer, was one with pictures of peonies from May 18, 2014. It was about loss.

Just over a year later, I'm bursting from loss, or wish I were. Nearly a year ago, while trying to comfort me over my mother's (z"l) death, a rabbinical student asked me, "What do you want to ask God?" I posted this here already:

"When do I get to fall apart?"

"And how would God respond?"

"Never," I said because what would my falling apart serve?

Serving others is the antidote to self-pity, yet I want to wallow a little.

Pat's on her annual golf trip in Tennessee with her friends from her days at NIU and I must do all of the daily chores she'd be doing if she were here, since she's retired: filling and re-filling the pitcher from the rain-barrel, watering the plants, feeding the birds and local wildlife along with the kitties (I do feed the kitties daily already -- that's my job), making dinner, taking out the garbage and the recycling, dealing with the guy who needed to waterproof the front steps and walkway....These chores, it turns out, are a pretty nice way to connect with the world right around me.

And I've been doing more connecting than usual this past week, in part to distract myself from imminent, first yahrzeit of my mom's (z"l) death along with our impending trip to Green Bay to unveil my mother-in-law Bev's (z"l) headstone; she died unexpectedly of complications from a fall last month, exactly 10 months after my mom. I loved Bev (z"l), too, and also miss her. When we come back, we'll have my mom's (z"l) unveiling on the 31st of May.

My mom (z"l) is so present in her absence:

On Wednesday last week, she (z"l) was there among the caravan of Stamford [Connecticut -- my hometown, where my mom (z"l) lived for 50 years --] Tents trucks at Duggal Greenhouse in Brooklyn last Wednesday as I was departing from World of Watson, but she was not there to call when I wanted to debrief on the coolness of the experience of seeing a positive future for the world, augmented and aided by artificial intelligence.

My mom (z"l) was there at the Art of the 1990s show at the Montclair Art Museum on Thursday evening as I was telling a new friend how she and my dad (z"l) practically chose to move from the Village to Montclair because it had an art museum, but then chose Stamford, which had one, too, but was not there when I wanted to talk about the couple of interesting installations I saw as part of the exhibit.

My ever-present and shatteringly-absent mom (z"l) was there at the Agudath Shalom Cemetery when we visited her not-yet engraved joint-plot prior to the mezuzah posting ceremony in her memory, held at the Stamford Jewish Community Center Library, and was there at the Senior Lunch afterwards as Mr. Soifer, our Bi-Cultural Day School music teacher, smiled at me as he saw me moving my lips accurately while he sang the extended Kiddush over the Shabbat wine and gone when I wanted to tell her that one of her friends there had said, "Your mother was so valuable to me."

Rabbi Cohen, reciting blessings

Rabbi Cohen, my sisters Kayla and Deb, and me outside of the Stamford JCC Library, where our mom (z"l) volunteered.
The mezuzah was created by Chaya Magal and the roses remind us of our mom (z"l); her middle name was Rose.

She (z"l) was there at the Brookdale Park Conservancy-sponsored *Heaven is a Garden* book talk and signing at Watchung Booksellers on Friday evening, even though I should have been at Shabbat services instead, but gone after our dinner out with two new friends at a restaurant in Montclair that she liked, too.

Author Jan Johnsen, discussing her marvelous book,*Heaven is a Garden*
My mom (z"l) was there when Noga and Hilla, a gorgeous couple of Israeli friends with four kids, two of whom were with them, visited us in our newly renovated home, and there when I brought my giant case of Lego over to their four-year-old Shaked, and there when Uri, the baby, smiled winningly and there when we talked about *Fun Home* as a masterpiece. But she was gone when I wanted to call her the next day to wish her a Happy Mother's Day.

My still-here mother (z"l) was ultra-present when I picked up the tray she gave us some years ago that read, "Smart women crave good company" and which featured only a '50s-era, stylized illustration of women drinking coffee on it and tried to determine how to display it visibly in our newly renovated kitchen/dining room and living room.
My mom (z"l) said she thought of Pat & me when she saw this platter and got it for us; she had a good sense of humor.
And she was proud of the rest of how we re-assembled our home and of its major freshening. But she (z"l) was gone when it came time to eat dinner and then take a rest in the living room.

Our new kitchen/dining room/library

Our refreshed living room

Saturday, April 18, 2015

What a Beauty...and the Dog's Cute, too!

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

A Catcall I Didn't Utter During My 'blade-Ride

It was an adorable dog -- maybe a not-yet-grown, ginger, Portuguese water dog, if they come in ginger, and I was rollerblading past him or her, across the street. The dog, I noticed first, and then the dog's comely parent -- a woman perhaps not younger than I with longish brown hair and a gleaming smile.

As I sailed past, I nearly did yell out, "What a beauty...and the dog's cute, too!" But didn't, and smiled to myself, and wondered, What would have been so bad if I *had* yelled it? It's such a gorgeous day today and both of us were in an apparently good mood, and why not flirt as I rushed past? If she had heard me and registered what I'd said, wouldn't she have been not unpleasantly surprised? But then, it's not like I was rollerblading in some faraway land, where I'd never, ever see the woman again, except perhaps at the airport, if she were a tourist, too. 

What if I ran into her at King's supermarket up the street? I'm sure I'd not be able to look her in the eye. That's the thing about being aggressively shy. And that's also the thing about reality vs. fantasy. It's easy to be socially bold when I feel safe. You can't catch me. I'm on Rollerblades. Hah! But she could let go of the leash on that gorgeous dog and have it chase and bite me if she weren't amused by my declaration and were sick of being objectified and this was the final offense and she wasn't going to remain passive anymore.

And besides, Pat's the most beautiful woman in the world to whom I've been exclusively devoted for all of our nearly 24 years together. Why am I even noticing anyone else? Because I'm also noticing the buds on the trees and every marvel of nature. There's actually a prayer we're supposed to say as Jews (to ourselves) whenever we see a beautiful person. There are also a couple for when we see extra-unusual people, and this site goes into them. This site tells us the prayer for spotting beautiful creatures, including human ones (see below).

How lucky I am to have a sunny Spring day and the able-bodiedness to 'blade around my town with confidence, and with the awareness of beauty around me. And how lucky to have this free platform to reflect on it, and good music -- the latest of which I heard was Louie Vega's faster, remixed version of "Dance"several minutes ago -- and two sweet cats, and a wife who loves me and who is the most beautiful, funniest and most menschlich person I know!

And how lucky that I showed some judgment and did not catcall at the woman and dog, even as it might have been playfully all right. It turns out that it has been more fun, perhaps, to write about it than it would have been to have done it. 

On seeing the small-scale wonders of nature, such as beautiful trees, animals, and people:
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech haolam, shekacha lo beolamo. 
We praise You, Eternal God, Sovereign of the universe, that such as these are in Your world.

Friday, February 13, 2015

When Did I Become a Sage?

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

Feeling Self-possessed and of Service Accordingly

At 25, I was just starting what would become a real career, was romantically insecure and much less solvent, as well as a bit lost. I was also searching, earning, dating, and pursuing a career.

Twice this week, younger lesbians wanted to talk with me about my experience -- one along with her non-lesbian classmate, so that I could be the subject of their MBA project on women in business who advance change, and one who wanted tips on how to come out at work.

When did I become qualified to talk about this stuff? Perhaps by 26 if we consider the core definition of a mentor simply as someone who has been there before you. When did I become recognized for being qualified to talk about this stuff? Now, at nearly 50, when I'm so much more self-possessed.

I was touched by both discussions. The first of the lesbian women made it clear that she liked my response during our conversation: "Think bigger." And the non-lesbian classmate posted positively about our discussion on Instagram.

It was gratifying to be quotable/referenceable. The context for the quote was her asking what I'd have done differently in helping start up the LGBT Business Development team at work, which is still going strong nearly a decade and a half since its founding; I moved on to our Learning organization 11 years ago and remain proud to have made a lasting change at work.

The second discussion included the other lesbian, young woman telling me that when we first met and I talked so openly at work about my family-life, she asked herself subconsciously, "Could that be me one day?" 

When I was their age, I wasn't pursuing an MBA, nor was I super-successful at work. Instead, I was hunting for purpose, a partner and prosperity. Back then, I don't think I'd have foreseen that I could be me one day. And yet I have managed to become me. Thank God.