Year in Review: 5769

As Rosh Hashanah approaches, I try to review my year. The Jewish Year coming up is 5770, and the year just ending, is 5769. Last year I started a tradition of doing that, in part, by doing a review of the year in the blog. I’m continuing that tradition this year. It looks to me like there have been 62 posts since last Rosh Hashanah. So let’s review the year.

It seems like the year was dominated by deaths and endings. These started right at Rosh Hashanah with the death of my dear friend Pam Webb. Then there was Cat Saga, starting when we adopted Shadow. It seemed an auspicious start, but by the time I took her to the vet a few weeks later, there’s already a tone of frustration (though also some pictures). After this, about 3 weeks later we decided to bring her back to the humane society, but they couldn’t take her for about 2 weeks.  Then Artemis, my most beloved cat, died. I tried to write an appropriate remembrance of her, but failed. Eva wrote her memorial to Artemis for me. I still intend to write about her one of these days, but I’m not quite ready yet. The loss of Artemis was a big blow to me this year.  Shortly thereafter, Shadow, still not coming out to visit us, was again captured and returned to the humane society.

The downside of this year really was capped off by CubeSpace folding. My first post as we were figuring out what was going on, linking to the CubeSpace blog, and other places to catch people up. The next post on the subject, was our farewell, which I posted on the CubeSpace blog and linked to. Then there was the post about my plans after-CubeSpace. My post on last day of CubeSpace was definitely sad, as was the day. And then my post, most of a month later, about moving forward. And then about my first disastrous interview for a job.

There was also some joy and celebration. Politics was definitely a significant part of this year. Election night, a super quick post. The next day, I spent some time looking at Obama and Hope and optimism. A list of things I’m thankful for in honor of Thanksgiving. Then came innauguration, which I live-blogged.

There were definitely reflections on ways I was stretching: new types of projects I was working on. And how many types of projects I was working on towards the end of this post. And how many things seems to hit all at once. And just how busy life is, and how to do lists seem to be growing, not shrinking.  How frustrating computers can be when I’m trying to stretch. Again with the whirlwind of life. And being tired after barcamp. And then trying to figure out how to organize time after CubeSpace, and mindfulness as a tool to do so. A few days later I was writing about how we use words to organize our understanding of the world.

As always, rabbinic work spurred some writing. A post about my first weekend with a congregation in Bend. Or my recurring Rabbinic nightmare of being unprepared. I talk a little about the spriritual experience of performing a wedding. A rant on the subject of the lack of marriage equality, in response to false news that Prop 8 had been overturned. A post about how I, as a rabbi, have something to say. A post about how I write, and how I write sermons. More reflections on God and spirituality were spurred by burying a teenager.

There were reflections on Judaism and Jewish Spirituality, starting with some thoughts about Yom Kippur. Also some thoughts about Shabbat, as noticed by my not observing it. Some reflections on Humility, followed immediately by a humorous view of humility. Then came Passover, and a post about Passover and the Tough Economy. Immediately following Passover, begins the counting of the Omer, and I talk about my Omer practice for the year, reading spriritual text. I then share some thoughts on theology, coming out of Tomer Devorah. I finished up the year with some thoughts on Rosh Hashanah prayer.

Reflections on Portland and nature, and seasons, and the like. Walking home from work, and how it’s different from walking to work in the morning. Also a post on walking to work in the rain. And also Portland and the Portland technical community, and the nature of electronic community. Then there was Sam Adams, and his indiscretions, and my plea for people to let the dust settle. Wonderings about how the community could pull together in the face of the economic disaster area. Followed immediately by the flowers of Portland. And then, more photos of flowers. Also a post about the CubeSpace Community as a Spiritual Community. And then a post about gratitude, and expressions of gratitude.

There was a little bit of knit-blogging, but not much. Working on mittens on a deadline. I also revisited those mittens in this post. I started a lace scarf, but really never got very far with it.

There was some deliberate humor. Thanksgiving, and how not to do it. An already mentioned post about humility. Some attempted humor about how busy I was. A Psalm for Purim amused me.

Some stuff defies classification: Preparing for my Ignite Portland presentation and the a wrap up of Ignite Portland; A survey on what you want me to blog about. A post about how Eva and I do anniversaries, not necessarily in the most normal ways. A post for the Portland Interview Project in which I interview Grant Kruger. A short film I embedded because I thought it made such a good point about religion. Some thoughts about memory. I wrote about reading introductions. A list of workshops I’d like to teach.

It was, all in all, a really tough year. I got through it with love and help from friends and family. I’m really hoping we don’t need as much help in the coming year.

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Reading Introductions–or Not

When I was younger, I never read the Introductions to books. I’d skip right to the beginning of the text itself, whether it was a story or non-fiction. Somewhere along the way, however, I decided that the Introduction was part of the book, and needed to be read before reading the book in order to understand the book as the author intended. I suspect this transition was somewhere around when I started college, and I needed all the help I could get in understanding many of the books I was reading.

It only just occurred to me, some 20 years later, that maybe I don’t need to read the introductions to books. Maybe I can just start in on the book itself. After all, if I find myself needing greater clarity, there’s always the option to go back and read the introduction (read the book out of order? That’s heresy). Often, I find, introductions are the least interesting part of the book. Often, they are an expanded in table of contents (“in chapters 1 & 2 we will discuss the evolution of the idea of left-handed knitting; chapter 3 will explore the early innovators of left-handed knitting, with particular attention to the social pressures they felt to knit right handed; chapter 4 chronicles the acceptance of left handed knitting, while chapter 5 gives examples of patterns especially developed for left handed knitters; finally, chapter 6 lays out a plan for world domination by left handed knitters”). At other times, the introductions explains why the author felt the need to write the book (“as  I was learning to knit, I sought out resources on left handed knitting–as I have been a leftie all the days of my life–and was shocked and dismayed to find that all the books seem to regard left handed knitting as an inferior cousin to right handed knitting. In this book, I set out to show that all true knitters are left handed, and all who knit with their right hands are to be executed–or at least locked away.”). Frankly, at this point, by the time I’ve picked up a book to read it, I probably don’t care why the author felt the need to write it, and it’s rare that knowing the structure of the book will improve my appreciation of it.

Therefore, I am giving myself permission to skip introductions. From now on, I can go right to the text itself. I might even skip the dedication page .

Knitting Lace

Recently, I realized that my knitting was becoming somewhat routinized. I’ve been knitting the same patterns (mainly socks) over and over. Don’t get me wrong. I love knitting socks, I love having socks I knit. But I’m getting a touch stale. There is a lack of challenge in socks. It’s not like…lace.

Lace is a challenge. Lace is an adventure. Lace is something, that when you screw it up, you have to rip it all the way back to the beginning (or, if you are very clever and put in a lifeline, to your last lifeline). Lace is intricate and complex and detailed work. To do lace, you need to concentrate. So I said to myself, “let’s do some lace.”

I cast on my 56 stitches for 3 repeats of the pattern (18 stitch repeat with 2 stitches at the end). It’s not a particularly complext pattern, just 12 pattern rows (which you then repeat until the scarf is the desired length). I got through my first set of 12 rows, and realized that instead of the predicted 6 inches wide scarf, mine was closer to 12. Now, this isn’t a terrible problem, but it is wider than I wanted the scarf to be. So I ripped the whole thing out, and cast on 38 stitches (2 repeats of the 18 stitch pattern plus 2 stitches at the end).

That’s when the trouble began. I got six rows in, and realized I had the wrong number of stitches. Out came the needle and I rip out the six rows.I cast on again. Four rows in, one of my repeats of 18 stitches is 20 stitches long. Pull out the needle, rip out the knitting. Cast on again. Two rows in, and my stitch count is wrong. Rip it out again.

Tonight, after letting it lie fallow for about a week, I cast on again (after discovering I had to rip out, again). I’ve gotten through the first 12 rows, and so far so good. I’ve made an adjustment: I’ve added stitch markers every 9 stitches to keep track of my place in the pattern. It makes it easier to catch mistakes before I get too far. As I say, so far so good.

This would be the point when I would normally insert a photo, but my camera batteries are currently charging, so while I could insert a photo from my walk to work this morning (of flowers, not of lace), I don’t think the picture would illustrate any of my points particularly. While a picture may be worth a thousand words, a thousand off topic words in a 600 word post seems like a bad idea.

David’s rules for knitting lace:

  • Never knit lace after any alcohol.Trust me, when you pick up again the next day, the stitch count won’t be right.
  • Lace knitting is not for meetings; you have to concentrate too much (or at least I do) to be able to fully pay attention to the meeting.
  • Don’t knit lace while tired. See above under “alcohol.”
  • Put in lifelines frequently (a piece of yarn threaded through the stitches of a row which lets you safetly rip back to that point). OK…so far I’m failing this one.
  • Be committed to the process not the finished product (be prepared to rip out a lot, and be okay with that).

I’ll point out that these rules for knitting lace are all lovely, but I do much of my knitting during meetings. Often I knit when I’m too tired to do other work. Occasionally I like to knit while sipping a glass of wine. And I’ve never quite gotten good about putting in lifelines. Nut I’m quite skilled at ripping out my knitting.

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).

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.

My Socks–and Mourning (?)–are Done

So I’ve finished my socks that I started in the wake of Diana’s death. I am quite pleased with them. They are colorful and fun. THey are comfortable, and wonderful. And to some degree, they will always remind me of Diana. 

Being done with them, I am filled with conflicting emotions. There is always the excitement of completion, and the sense that I am very  much going to enjoy these socks. In this case, there is an added level. I had said that finishing these socks would, in some sense, mark the end of my mourning period for Diana. Now the question becomes, how ready am I to be done mourning?

In most senses, I think I’m pretty ready. I’m not aware of her absence all the time, anymore, but there are moments when it sneaks up on me, unaware. Times when I think I catch a flash of movement out of the corner of my eye, and catch myself thinking I’ve seen her. Moments when I’m making sure there are no plastic bags lying around, and realize it doesn’t matter so much, because she isn’t here to chew on them. But for the most part, it’s getting easier. 

I’m very excited by these socks. They are warm and colorful and represent the kind of clothing I wish I could wear all the time. And therfore, I’m looking forward to wearing them often, enjoying the yarn and the colors, and thinking of Diana.

Diana Memorial Noro Socks

It’s been way too long since I blogged. First, I wasn’t blogging because I had nothing to say besides, “I’m still missing Diana,” and I didn’t think that merited anyone else reading it. Then, I couldn’t quite figure out how to start again. Then I got pretty busy. So I haven’t been blogging. 

But now, I return. With a new knitting project: socks of Noro yarn, which I deliberately started while mourning Diana. It not’s that I didn’t have other knitting projects, but they were all for other people. And for the first week after Diana died, I didn’t feel like knitting at all (hard as that is to believe). After that, I wanted to begin to explore knitting again, but didn’t want my sadness and mourning being poured into a baby blanket I was working on, or a gift for anyone, in fact. I wanted to have those emotions become part of something I was knitting for me.

These socks are made of Noro Kureyon sock yarn which I bought with a gift certificate which was given to me as a thank you for doing a bat mitzvah. Noro is significantly more expensive than the sock yarns I’ll usually buy, but I’ve always admired the colors. It was a splurge, and it was for me. So when I was deciding to make something for myself, that I could put whatever emotions I was feeling into, this felt like the right thing to work on. 

At the beginning (and I’ve been working on these for 2 weeks or so, now), there was a huge amount of sadness involved. I would not have wanted to been working on a baby blanket at the time. Now, I’m still sad sometimes, but for the most part, I’m ok. In between I turned the heel, realized I’d made the foot too short, ripped back, and turned the heel again. I’ve been watching the colors slowly unfold from the skein, and enjoying the progress as they do. 

I’ve knit my sadness into them, and I’ve knit some happiness into them. Now, it feels like i want to finish them before moving on, as though finishing the socks will officially mark the end of a period of mourning for Diana. Obviously, the process of mourning doesn’t end that suddenly, but having a demarkation, whether it be one of time or accomplishment, can be useful to let one know when it’s time to regard life as “back to normal.”

In Judaism, there are three stages of mourning. First, there is shiva, which lasts about a week. Then comes shloshim, which is 30 days. Finally, for the first year after the death, it is customary for the mourner to go to the synagogue daily to recite the kaddish, a prayer in memory of the deceased. Obviously, I wouldn’t observe these stages for a cat, even one I love as dearly as Diana, but I want some way to mark the end of the period of active mourning, and I think finishing the socks will be that way. 

So I’m knitting along on my socks, and looking forward to finishing them, and moving onto the next stage of life.