General knitting shabbat

Sum up of the Week

So we’re heading into Shabbat, and I haven’t posted all week. So the quick recap:

The gloves I was working on to have done by Monday evening?

Looks pretty good, right? Just need to weave in the ends.
Unfortunately, here’s the left hand:

Fail!  Note the lack of a thumb, and there’s no mitten shell either. (It’s almost done now).

Other projects I’ve been working on this week: trying to learn Drupal. This has involved spending most of three days trying to install web servers on various computers, which led to installing various forms of Linux on two computers, repartitioning various hard drives, and basically wasting at least 15 hours.

Also, spent about 56 hours at CubeSpace and did 2 wedding meetings.

I’m delighted that the week is over, and very much looking forward to a shabbat of rest and “Moonlighting” (the TV show, not adding another job).

General spirituality WorkPlace Spirituality

Stretching My Brain

The last week or so, I’ve taken on some new roles at CubeSpace. I’m doing more of the budgeting and more of the web development. These are fairly similar functions in that they are both detail oriented, and require use of specialized software. They are also similar in the fact that they are bending my brain.

Working on these projects is good for me, it utilizes a part of my brain I’ve been using less recently: the highly analytical, detail oriented part. But thinking in an unaccustomed way stretches the brain, pushes it, and frankly, kind of hurts. The last week I’ve been coming up for air from working on these projects and felt a touch dazed, wrung out, even.

This is work I used to do with some frequency. I started my career as a market research analyst, and would spend days immersed in data or focus group tapes, analyzing and writing. This is fairly similar. More recently, however, most of my work has been more people focused than detailed focused, and the shift is both challenging and rewarding.

The rewards of this kind of work, for me, are that it has a concreteness that so much of what I do, doesn’t. The questions that can be asked are: does the budget balance? If not, keep working on it. Is the website doing what it is supposed to be? If not, keep working on it.

The challenge of this kind of work is also the concreteness of the questions. It’s the “if not” phrases above. When it’s not right, you can tell and need to keep working on it until you’ve got it in a workable state. This can be frustrating, but the reward of finally figuring it out is enhanced by fighting through the sense of frustration.

Satisfaction in work, by which I mean, feeling like you are fulfilled by your work at the level of your spirit, depends, at least for me, on some combination of working with people and helping them, and feeling challenged by what I’m doing. I’m also more engaged when I’m learning new things and pushing myself to step outside of my comfort zone. All in all, it keeps the work fresh, and keeps me moving in new directions.

General spirituality

Lovely Night for a Walk

I walk to work with some frequency. Far less often, I walk home. Tonight, I walked home (albeit with a stop for a networking happy hour about half way through). Walking in the cool evening was lovely. The moon had not yet risen (or had already set…I can never quite remember whether  the moon appears earlier or later as the month progresses). There were stars, and lights from the houses. It was not the bleary quiet of morning: more people were moving about, biking and walking and driving and talking.

The neighborhood felt different from the morning, yet not in the ways one might expect. It doesn’t feel dangerous or isolating. Rather, it feels more alive, if more contained. In the mornings, it often feels like I am walking through a world with few inhabitants, the sole human inhabitant. In the evening, I am the one cut off from the life within the houses and cars. Life is bustling around me, yet I am not quite a part of the life in which people are engaged.

I’m not sure I’d want to walk home every night (especially not if I leave work at 9:15, as I often do), but it is a different view of the neighborhood and life, and it good to see.

General spirituality WorkPlace Spirituality

Say Yes Now, Figure Out How Later

A couple of weeks ago, almost on a lark, I submitted a proposal for a talk to be given at Ignite Portland 4. Ignite Portland is an event wherein 13 speakers are each given 5 minutes to talk about the subject they proposed. The trick is, each speaker has to submit exactly 20 slides which will change exactly every 15 seconds during the course of the talk. Somehow, while writing the proposal, that didn’t seem so daunting to me, especially since I didn’t think I had a chance in hell of being selected. 

I began to have second thoughts the day after submission, when several people commented on twitter about how interesting they found my proposal. I’ll quote the text for you here: 

Spirituality in Community: It’s not just for religion anymore: 

Spirituality is a fundamental part of everything we, as humans, do. Given how much of ourselves we invest in our work lives, it’s no surprise that we derive great spiritual satisfaction and disappointment from our work and the relationships in our workplace. Yet this is an area that we rarely think about consciously when choosing a job or work situation. 

In five minutes, I’ll point out ways of thinking about spiritual satisfaction that will allow us to apply them to our work lives, and how to maximize the spiritual satisfaction we derive in the course of our workdays. This includes such things as finding meaning in our work, finding meaning in the relationships in the workplace, and appreciating the challenges which face us both as part of the job and as barriers to getting our jobs done.

Now, the problem is, that I have just taken two separate topics, each of which I probably have about a book’s worth of content for, and mashed them together for a five minute talk. 

  • Topic 1: A new definitoin of spirituality which implies that spirituality is inherent in everything we, as human beings do.
  • Topic 2: Spirituality in the workplace is good, important and very different from religion in the workplace. 
All of which means I’m going to have to speak very quickly. The real question is, what will I put on the slides?
Not to put too fine a point on it, but the other presenters are  bit intimidating to be put into a group with. These are people with big personalities, sharp wits and something to say. And, well, most of them dress better than me, too. 
Nonetheless, somehow, I will come up with a short enough version of what I have to say, with visual accompaniement, by November 3 or thereabouts (which I’m beginning to suspect is sooner than I think). I am excited about doing this, and challenged by doing this. I’m hoping I have something adequate to say that I’m not wasting 600 semi-sober people’s time for 5 minutes (which, in case you are wondering, is 60 hours, cummmulatively). So whatever I have to say, it has to be worth about a full work week of time (but no pressure). 
I might go find a bed to hide under now. Thanks. 
knitting spirituality

Knitting to a Deadline

I’m knitting to a deadline at the moment, something I haven’t done in a few years. It makes for an interesting change of pace. It makes the knitting somehow different, a bit more of a competition against time. I wouldn’t want to do this all the time, but as an occasional thing, I’m kind of enjoying the challenge (check in again next Monday as the deadline comes due to see whether I’m still enjoying the challenge).

The project is a pair of Broad Street Mittens, which is a pattern I’ve knit several times before (though the only time I blogged about it was apparently here). In this case, I’m knitting them up for my MIL, and hoping to send them with Eva next week. It’s a pattern I like, and have finished a mitten in about a week, so it’s not completely unreasonable. 

Here’s where I am now:  

As you can see, the first mitten is not quite done yet. Which is a bit of problem. But I’m gettting there, and I do believe I have a chance at making this work. 

Recently, a lot of my knitting has been fairly long-term. The kind of project (like an afgan) where you will finish at some point, but that point may be months away. This project is a concentrated sprint, which is making for a change…a sense of a push. It’s bringing a challenge to my knitting I haven’t felt in a while.  It’s not the challenge of a new technique, nor of stretching my brain, but a challenge of time: can I complete this work in a fixed time. 

For now, it’s fun, and I’m delighted to be racing against the clock. We’ll check in about that again next week.

High Holidays Jewish Spirituality spirituality

Yom Kippur: A Time for Prayer

Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) comes up starting tomorrow (Wednesday) evening. It is a 24 – 25 hour period of fasting and prayer, punctuated by some sleep in between. Yet in some ways it is my favorite of the Jewish holidays.

On Yom Kippur we pray, over and over again, asking forgiveness for all of our sins of the previous year. We name these sins, most often in acrostic (alphabetical) prayers. And we continually remind ourselves (and God) that we are less than nothing, but if there happened to be a little chance to take note of us, that would be great.

We don’t eat, which you might think would interfere with prayer, but I tend to find enahnces prayer. One of the basic problems with prayer is that we get in our own way. Our beliefs, and intellectual understanding of ourselves, makes it difficult to pray to God as though God were listening and cares. Yet it is this ability to pray as though God cares which makes prayer truly effective for the person praying. On Yom Kippur, long about the 23rd hour of the fast, our  blood sugar plummeting, we cease to edit our beliefs quite so hard. We begin to be able to pray like we really mean it, because we feel it.

There are many religious traditions that use hallucinigens to stimulate spiritual experiences. Judaism uses fasting in much the same way. For me, some years, the prayers I pray in those last hours of Yom Kippur are the truest prays I utter all year. Other years, I’m just aware of how much my feet hurt and how hungry I am.

As Yom Kippur comes upon us, may it be a meaningful experience, and a useful fast.

Gmar Hatimah Tova (May you be sealed for a good year).


A Departed Friend

For someone who spends so much time at funerals, I’ve attended relatively few at which I wasn’t officiating. Today, I’m attending my first funeral for a friend. 

I first met Pam Webb 13 years ago, almost to the day that she died. We first met at Rosh Hashanah services at Havurah Shalom in 1995. I was just finding my way back to Judaism and was slowly exploring options. Pam informed me that I “should” take the adult education class being offered. In fact, I suspect she informed me that I “would” be taking the class. Pam was a force of nature, and tended to give very concrete and directive advice. 

During a bone marrow replacement, Pam wanted a project to keep her mind off of the chemo. It was at about this time that Eva and I were remodeling the house. Pam was an architect, and decided to take on our remodel as something to keep her occupied in the hospital. Pam spoke for the house. Eva and I would talk about what we wanted out of the remodel, and Pam would speak of what “the house wanted.” Mainly, this consisted of making sure we weren’t doing terrible damage to the feel of the house. She always brought a certainty to the discussion, however, giving me a feeling that the house had some sort of spirit with which she was communing. Needless to say, the final design was both functional and beautiful, incorporating elements that a less creative architect would have said were not possible within the space limitations.

When Eva and I went off to Philadelphia, Pam was there with words of wisdom about couples moving for one partner’s career. When we started CubeSpace, Pam was available with advice, referrals and reality checks. After we opened, she took part in a multi-artist exhibition, displaying her fused glass. 

Pam was always full of ideas and projects. She was always heading off in some new direction. She was never daunted by barriers, and always sought ways around them. She kept more balls in the air than I could imagine. 

I will miss Pam’s energy and her wisdom. I will miss her presence. Her memory will be a blessing to all of us who knew her.