“In order to see truth, we must be able to tolerate it.”
August Sandler

How FEM Happened – Faith & Fear

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FEM is an online application designed to assist women who take an interest in what is often called Fertility Awareness Method. This is a journey of awareness which begins in the physical body and the changes it goes through during a woman’s menstrual cycle. It embodies, like other tools of awareness, a potential to open up new and unlimited paths of exploration.

Over the past two weeks Andreea & I have been testing FEM with a few users from Romania. This past weekend we completed the work and introduced an English version. This is by no means an end, it is merely a stop on the way but it feels like a good place to stop, appreciate, embrace and share. There are numerous energies that led us to this point – they all seem to start about a year after Andreea & I met.

Subject Matter

Andreea initially trained in Aromatherapy. She had amazing luck and got to study in intimate settings with two of the most prominent teachers in Israel. She worked in various circles as a masseuse for some time. Over time she focused on working with women. She then trained as a doula – a strange word I learned to admire – describing a servant role to a woman giving birth. She also trained in some specialized techniques for women and pregnancy. She has also studied and applied in her life the Fertility Awareness Method. This is all fueled and intertwined with her personal ambitions and journey of discovery.

During these years I completed my training as a Yoga therapist. We have over the years developed a common interest, shared perception (and some differences as well) and vocabulary in which we approach our own lives and the lives of people we encounter in therapeutic settings.

Going Online

About 2 years ago Andreea started a  blog in hebrew (Nashiyut) dedicated to femininity, fertility & pregnancy.  Though the blog has some unique content and accumulated a readership – it has not struck a cord with a resounding and motivating resonance. This led her to seek online connections in her birth country – Romania. There she found a resonance that pulled her in.

About 4 months ago we setup Feminitate – the online equivalent of her hebrew blog. This time she encountered a thirsty, supportive and responsive community. She responded in kind and most of her attention and work since then has been invested in Feminitate.

Not long after that (shortly after we moved to Elkosh) she tried to setup a simple tool that she could share online to bring the Fertility Awareness Method to women in Romania. She tried creating something in excel and a PDF document that could be printed out. When she consulted with me on it I (maybe a little brutally?) put down her efforts and my mind quickly starting thinking about an alternative.

Over the new few weeks we talked about what such an application should look like (Andreea had used some existing online tools and we wanted to do something different – and hopefully better). I then did some initial sketches of the basic UI concept and soon after got to work on developing the application.

The objective was to develop a tool in Romanian – a language I neither speak or read.  So from the start we approached FEM as a multilingual tool – initially so (a) I can develop in English and (b) we could easily translate to Romanian. We now have the capability to easily translate FEM into practically any left-to-right language. This has empowered us to reach more women and we definitely inted to put this to use.

Technology

The technology issue is for me an amazing perspective on, of all things, faith. Though I had a long IT/technology career I did very little development (because I never really liked – and still don’t!). I do have good foundations and experience in systems analysis, SQL databases, software architecture and user experience. I had absolutely no experience coding in a web-environment. So how did FEM happen?

WordPress – 3 years ago I encountered wordpress and made my first steps in online hosting (a place to install and run the blog) and basic HTML/CSS/PHP to get some degree of control over the look of the blog. As I built a few more blogs I gained more control and experience using these tools. WordPress has a special place in my heart.

SweetClarity – this project was born from my involvement in creative exploration over the past few years – my heart and soul are in it and is intended to affect the flow in inspiration on a global scale. If you don’t get it, it’s OK, most of the business people we encountered didn’t either. SweetClarity was founded in the summer of 2007. An initial demo system was implemented using an affordable content server and a little paid custom development. The project continued to evolve and we did not manage to secure any funds. So for ~6 months I searched for developers who would be willing to join the project without pay. When this didn’t work I relcutantly decided to brace myself and get to work.

Lynda – I came across Lynda when I reviewed a CV I received from a developer who was looking for paid work. I have always been an independent learner and Lynda was just what I needed. I took courses in HTML, PHP, CSS, Javascript, Flex/AS3 and more. I was learning as I go and going as I learned and in i6 months SweetClarity was reborn. It is made up of 4 systems: HTML editing environment, HTML adminitstrative tools, front-end Flash player and a web wrapper. It turned out to be quite a bit of code (and I still consider it a pilot system).

A few weeks before we moved to Elkosh I decided to set SweetClarity aside. I was transferring personal financial pressures onto SweetClarity and the people who were trying to help. I realized this was wrong and decided to let it breathe. I focused on packing a house and preparing to move. Then not long after we finished unpacking the last crates – FEM emerged and began to consume most of our time.

My technological learning curve is motivated by my passion and tempered by my (lack of) patience for technology. I studied enough to achieve my goals. I do appreciate and recognize good development – so I know that my technological work is mediocre, but I also know where it can approve. This is how I improve from one project to the next and within project iterations.

Project Management

Hahaha  – there was a systemic lack of it. One of the reasons I left my technology career was the hypocrisy of project management. Everyone talked about being on schedule and being in budget, nobody ever was and quality was always left out because of blind adherence to fashionable management ideas.

A new learning began with SweetClarity but really escalated during the development of FEM. When I was working on SweetClarity everything was open ended. FEM is more specific and condensed and also taking place under even more financial pressures – with a more impressionable limit.

I learned that all the pressures I was experiencing have very little to do with the work at hand – and should not affect it. I would often notice how a pressure to “finish” awakens in me and how that pressure creeps into my heart and my fingertips – and suddenly I am under pressure, not enjoying my work and messing things up.

I made it a point to take my time. I made it a point to do physical work in the land around the house or take walks. I rested when I felt like resting. I took days off when I either felt I needed them or reminded by Andreea that I needed to. I always answered “I don’t know” when people asked when we would be finished. I made it a point to take my time and not to push myself.

In under 2 months we thought up a product, planned, designed, developed, tested and deployed it – and we didn’t let any management ideas get in the way of enjoying life while doing it.

Business

It was Andreea that took the first step in changing the “business” aspect of her life. She was the first to become an independent worker – not on anybody’s payroll, I passionately supported her – I didn’t want her to make unnecesssary compromises and sacrifices I felt I had made in pursuing a “steady” career. I always feared that this was an impossible and painful bureaucratic process. When she took the first step we both learned it wasn’t that painful. Her experience paved the way for my first steps of independence.

When I left my career I had grown tired of the experience I had come to know of “doing business”. I was amused that artistic exploration brought me full circle and made me face it again with SweetClarity.

I love that change is coming. I love that wide-spread ideas of business, thought up by really smart people are crumbling. I am beginning to develop a new sense of what business may be, but I don’t yet know what it is.

I love that we have been able to create something useful. I love that I have been able to put into it all of my skills – from Yoga to HTML. I love that is was born in the country-side. I love that Andreea & I can be together at home and work passionately on a project together. I love feeling and believing that all this work can also translate into a relationship with the world and an exchange of energy that will support us and provide us with the freedom to continue pursuing our lives.  This can tell you something about what I think business can be and will become.

FEM

The name FEM was born when I needed a temporary place holder. We didn’t talk about a name but I needed something to act as a design as placeholder. FEM is the first 3 letters of the word Feminitate and also a prefix of the same word in english (and I am guessing other languages). When I placed it on the screen, I called out to Andreea and told her the application is called “FEM” and so it came to be.

When I worked with Andreea on translating some texts from Romanian to english I noticed the close relationship between FEM and FAM (Fertility Awareness Method). This is a welcome side-effect 🙂

Personal

So much to say – I am not sure where to start, what to leave in and what to leave out. I will try to let this flow as it may.

All this has happened in a difficult and challenging period for Andreea, myself and our shared life. When we first met Andreea was a foreign national. Our growing relationship encountered an menacing obstacle – her visa expired. The only way for us to continue to pursue our relationship was for us to get married. But, in Israel this is not possible – there are only religious marriages. So we found ourselves in battling the state of Israel – both it’s unclear essence (a Jewish state?) and political bureaucracy. After a year of fighting the ministry of internal affairs – we lost. Andreea left to Romania (she left as an illegal alien and her passport was stamped by a smiling government official telling her she would never be able to return) to arrange her papers, we met in Cyprus to get officially married, she went back to Romania and I returned to Israel (leaving her stands out as a very difficult moment in my life). We both prayed that a recently instated civil process would allow me to have her brought back to Israel – luckily it did. She was back in a month. Since then we were required to visit the ministry of internal affairs once a year to validate the authenticity of our marriage. Last summer this process came to an end – and Andreea received her citizenship.

In the sumer of 2006 I left behind my career and the salary that came with it. I realized that I was not making any substantial financial progress and I was not enjoying myself. I decided to give my a self an enjoying life. Within a week I met Shahar and have been since immersed in magic – a substantial part of it is expressed through StillCreation. SweetClarity was also born in this process.

Since then both Andreea & I have been pursuing our passions.  Though we both had some income during this period we have been largely living off savings – which are running out (as all savings do). I know this has been difficult for Andreea – but don’t want to speak on her behalf. I can say that this has brought me face to face with two amazing forces: fear and faith. As I write these words both are dancing within me. Right now faith has the upper hand.

Pregnancy

I have often, in teaching, talking and writing about Yoga, bring up a core idea that Yoga is a system dedicated to a study of mind and not as it usualy mistakenly associated with body. An inspiring idea that Yoga has to offer about pregnancy is that it occurs in the minds of two people before it manifests in the body of one.

I think that it is safe to say that the greatest dividing issue in our relationship continues to be a child.  When Andreea & I set out on our shared path I was fearful and against even talking about children. Today I am still afraid but also curious and open to the idea. On a good day you can even catch me admiting I want it. A few years ago two people on two separate occasions indicated to us they perceive an aura of our future child nearby. It made me angry but now I am happy and embrace it. When people ask me if we have children I say that we do in soul but not yet in body.

Pregnancy is indeed in in mind before in body. We have been pregnant for a long time. I have faith that the birth of FEM will soon create a space for it to occur in body as well.

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