Thursday, June 30, 2011

Dancing Fatigue

Last night may have marked 1year from my first trip to the Lion's Den on a Wednesday night for salsa night. That first night was one of the most memorable of college. I had gone on the assumption that a friend would be there to teach me the ropes. They were not. I had however, dragged three of my friends into coming with me and certain hilarity ensued involving a long island iced tea exploding like a fountain into an unsuspecting bystanders face. It was amazing. I began going consistently at the end of January this last semester, a much needed outlet for added stress of winter months and thesis work.

Last night, there was no stress to be had but it became the longest I had stayed at the Den (yes, we stayed till closing!). And as has happened many times, the night ended with me wilting in the front seat while Fraleigh graciously gave a ride home and we extolled, in small, exhausted voices, the beauty of dancing fatigue.

What is dancing fatigue? It is a sweet exhaustion that comes after hours of dancing. I've experienced it primarily after ballroom socials and a few salsa nights: times when the fun of the thing is the primary goal, when dancing past your typical energy levels is easy and even unnoticeable. While dancing, there is no fatigue. None. Perhaps stamina decreases over the hours but not enthusiasm. No, the fatigue hits when the music and body stops.

It comes in a wave. I call it The Wave.

It is important to ride this wave into sleep. If one tries to push through it, the gentle exhaustion will turn into a monster that keeps you too tired to sleep. No, it must be prepared for. I usually go through certain steps when I get home to make it the most effective Wave because I know that once it hits, I will be completely incapacitated. I start with taking my contacts out because there is nothing harder than trying to get my contacts out once The Wave hits and I'm mostly asleep rather than awake. If the night is hot, I take a cold shower, but (alright, confession time) I usually just change into my comfiest and baggiest pjs, let my stiff-with-salt hair stand on end, and defer cleanliness to another time. Then (and this the best part), I eat. I'm always hungry when I finish with a social dance. Ravenous. The kind of hunger that happens after swimming in a pool for hours as a kid and only wanting salty things.  I eat 1 of 3 things 1) toast with tea 2) cereal with lots of honey or 3) a heavily peanut buttered sandwich with honey. All of these foods remind me of 1am and waiting for the Wave.

It usually hits halfway into whatever I'm eating. I finish as quickly as possible and get to bed and get comfortable with my mounds of blankets and pillows (it's a Ray thing). In a few minutes, I am not awake and I am likely dreaming dreams that I will never remember when I awake.

Pillow marks will line my face and arms in the morning-my body won't turn or thrash in the night. And it will be the best sleep I can remember because I won't remember any of it at all.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Local Church

I asked my friend Melanie what have been the most significant positive growth factors she has experienced while in undergrad. Her thinking aloud prompted me to consider what I would have answered for that question. After this morning, I would offer at least part of my answer to be this: the local church.

Of course, "the" implies singular. With the naked eye, there are many local churches in a given area of the United States. Even the smallest town seems to be imbued with at least two white planked structures for different denominations. Theologically however, "the" is an accurate article. The idea is that there is one church that encompasses all Christians in the world. The word "local" is what designates it as one smaller gathering that is part of this larger, invisible, catholic/universal church. Words and phrases used to describe the invisible reality are "Body of Believers" and "Bride of Christ." The experience of being part of this divinely ordained and established family comes through the local, smaller communities.

I've grown up in the church. It is wired into me that Sundays mean church, especially Sunday mornings. I loose track of the days of the week if I miss a Sunday morning. But it was not until college that I began to appreciate the beauty and grace that comes in being a consistent part of a local community of other Christians. The reasons for this are varied from small, seemingly insignificant delights to more serious theological considerations and the health of one's own spirit.

Today, I was struck by some of the many smaller and wonderful gifts I have found in a member of a church. I could perhaps blog at length on each of the things I have listed below, and perhaps I will someday. For now however, I will just share a few, and observe that I am grateful for them.

  • Someone making zuccini bread for a C. S. Lewis book reading at 7:45 in the morning. I don't know if I would have made it without that sustenance.
  • Food in general. Churches are often places where people know how to eat.
  • Being adopted by a family. The Reeds are the best!
  • Getting to hang out with highschool students between Sunday school and service.
  • Having "Sunday school", even if it just exists so I can play hooky from it occassionaly.
  • Babies everywhere. Babies and newborn infants. Amazing.
  • Adults who know my name and care about me.
  • Rides everywhere.
  • Lunches at Waffle Shop with people I hardly know but will enjoy anyways.
  • Standing in the sanctuary before anyone else arrives. I love empty church sanctuaries, something that started for me in high school when I worked as a janitor at my church. Today, I started singing "Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul" and then found out we were singing it in church. Perfect.
  • Often knowing at least one family when I go grocery shopping.
  • Kate Sauder teaching me how to grocery shop. And Becky Watlington telling me how to get rid of ants with corn meal. They are so smart.
  • Getting to be part of family histories. I wrote a prayer last year on behalf of a woman I had never met but was part of our church family and had just lost a baby mid-pregnancy. Today, she is due any day with her third child
  • Being around people who are married and single, parents or not, in academia and in service jobs, students and professionals. The greater the variety, the better!
It's a beautiful thing. Messy often, as I find when I listen closely enough to hear histories and stories of where this community has been. But beautiful because at the end of the day, these are the people that take communion together, make food when someone is sick, throw innumerable baby showers, and keep becoming something better than what we would be alone.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Solstice

In two weeks it'll be the longest day in the year... Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day in the year and then miss it.

-Daisy, "The Great Gatsby"

I don't want to miss it this year.

Monday, June 20, 2011

For the Love of Music

This past weekend, I had the privilege and great good fortune to travel to Lancaster, PA for my friends' wedding. Matt and Sarah are now Mr. and Mrs. Matthew Martin. They were married on his family's beautiful farm in Millersville, a fact that encouraged the vast majority of the guests to remove our shoes very early into the service. My heels (which had mired me unhappily in several spots ranging from damp grass to mud to gravel) remained off and were replaced by my chacos only when necessary. Though the day was warm, the light was gold, the fields and the willow tree were green, and we celebrated.

But a moment I will remember from this weekend came as I raced my car to keep up with Jeremy's on the back roads the night before. We were going from Panera back to his house and I was far from any territory I knew even though I grew up not too far to the north in Hershey. He had loaned me a cd before we left and said, "You have to listen to this." I turned it up loudly. It was an album by Mumford and Sons. It was green music. I don't know how else to say it: it seemed right to be played as I drove as fast I could through fields in a sunset. Green.

And it made me want to write. I've experienced this a few times before but had forgotten the connection: certain music will trigger an immediate need to make something. When we stopped briefly at redlights or while waiting to reach a stop sign, I scribbled words in my journal. It wasn't that they were very good words or will last very long, but it was the memory that art from one person can beget art in another, even diverse forms.

"But my heart told my hand/ this time no."

Thank God for farm country, for sunsets, for open windows, for music.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Plex: In Memoriam

I did the math today and I didn't like it.

The five Plex residents are moved out. Seidle left right after graduation. Evan left last week. Steve left Wednesday. Scott is in DC for the summer. Sean has been off galavanting who knows where.

From five to zero.

There are signs of life there. A loaf of bread on the table. An unlocked back door. Couches still in place. But the computer/tv is gone. Many pots and pans are missing. The coffee table moved out. Posters taken down and moved. It changed. The residents I know are gone. The time of the Plex has ended. Part of me wants to claim that it won't ever end, at least not as long as there are Navs guys living in it.

My time at the Plex, at least as it has been for me the last two years, has ended: I no longer feel like I can stop by anytime for no reason at all.

I regret never filling the living room with newspapers. It would have been a great prank. I never pulled it off because the house always had people in it. Morning noon and night.

What is The Plex? This was the right side of a duplex on I Alley in State College. Two years ago, several of my friends from Navigators moved in and began an exciting two years as residents of the somehow chosen "central location" for any and all social activity. Whenever we wanted to have an event, the answer was, "Oh, well we could go to the Plex." Theo Thursday to post Nav Night hang outs to movies to dinners. Everything. It was a place that I began to stop by randomly just to see what was happening, sure that if I just stuck my head in the door I would find friends who were also hanging out in the living room, introduce me to "Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog" and feed me whatever was being messily made in the tiny kitchen.
It was a place of home. I went there to hide from my residence hall when it became too stressful. Last summer, I went there everyday after work even if no one else was home. I was found many times asleep in a nap on the couch. My mail even went there since I spent more time there than at my apartment. I went there for theological discussions and debates. I went there to offer hospitality (strange because I didn't actually live there) and to receive it. I went because... well, that's just where everyone went.

I know it wasn't so easy being a full time resident of the Plex. Having an "open door" culture be sprung on you over time had to have driven the guys crazy. The place was always messy, ranging from slightly disheveled to unmentionable. There were several people (not residents) who developed an hardwired feeling that they had to clean it when they came in the door: dishes, floors, vacuuming, bathroom. It was somehow all of our spaces.

And when dynamite was found in the neighborhood and houses evacuated, where did we all go? The Plex front porch to watch the action as the bomb squads came.

All of this is basically to say: thank you. Thank you to the guys who have lived there and made it a place to be a home to far too many people too many times. And also thank you to the people who made it their homes and offered its shelter and food to others, who were part of a strange community.

I am holding the memories dear.

Some favorite memories:
  •  Theo Thursday nights. The early ones where I would consistently eat half of a Cheese It bag. I still owe Steve Sylvia many Cheese It bags.
  • Last summer and the many dinners there.
  • Sleeping on the couch after it rained on us when we slept in the backyard after the bear chase.
  • The dinner the guys made before the Navs formal Junior year.
  • Brown 'drank.
  • Walking in at 1pm to find Seidle sitting on the couch with the blanket. He had spent the night on the couch, sans pants, and had yet to go get dressed.
  • Stopping by on the way back to Patty's Place after evening classes. Just for the heck of it. One night being introduced to "Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog" when I should have been writing a paper.
  • Going upstairs only once when I broke my toe nail in half and it was bleeding.
  • Loosing many items and finding them again in the couches.
  • Watching the majority of the movies in college in that living room.
  • Hiding there after a Christmas party, tired and emotional, and sleeping on the couch until someone took me home.
  • The walk from Simmons Hall to the Plex. I could have done it blindfolded at one point, all several miles of it.
  • Navigator hang outs and fires in the fire pit.
  • Backrubs given and received.
  • It being, in general, my favorite place in all of State College to be on any given day.

(Please add your own to the comment section if you are one of the many who have been loved through the Plex open door)

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Blogging about Reading about Reading (and writing)

Just wanted to share some fabulous links with you about reading. If there is anything I enjoy more than writing, it is writing about writing. If there is anything I enjoy more than reading, it is reading about reading.

And if there is something summer was made for, it is reading.

 Does reading make you a better person?

Byron Borger (of the ineffably superior Hearts and Minds bookstore) reviews a book about reading (writing about writing about reading) and gives some of his thoughts on the matter:

J. Mark Bertrand (of WVA faculty fame. Or at least, that is how he is famous to me) was republished in Comment with his thoughts on summer reading. The paragraphs about "beach readers" was particularly brilliant and was read aloud to my coworker, Dave.

On the pleasures of bookstores (writing about selling the art of a way):

And because this is delightful in its absurdity (and the world needs delight):
[see her original post as well once you are at the blog]

And if these did not satiate your curiosity and pleasure in reading about reading/writing, then check out Francine Prose's "Reading Like A Writer," undoubtedly my favorite text from this genre.

On Hugs

There is no word that fully communicates the fabulousness of a hug.

Hug. Embrace. Clasp. Enfold. 

Yeah, the word itself is kind of awkward. And perhaps this is because hugs can be awkward. Very often are.

I am opinionated about hugs. I like hugs a little bit.

Okay, maybe a lot a bit.

Hugs are places where one doesn't need to be or do anything. It is a physical gesture of complete acceptance and approval. It is a gesture of mutual safety and comfort. It says that the day is good because that person is there. It

I approve of hugs across genders, amongst genders, between the generations, between friends, between family, between enemies, etc.

One of the things I miss about India is the constant hugging from the little girls and the kisses they gave so freely.

There are some who are blessed with the most wonderful hugging abilities.

I disapprove of lackluster huggers. These fall into several categories:
1) The draper. This is the one who just places the arms around the other person as if their arms were laundry to drape over a laundry line in the back yard. It says, "I acknowledge your existence but only because you were awkward enough to initiate your enthusiasm for life in hugging me first." Ouch.

2) The wet sheet. This is oddly likened to the draper. Close cousins. Maybe even fraternal twins. But still not the same beast. This is the one who hugs but just uses the forearm to lightly touch the other person. Don't want to make things awkward so we'll go with hardly touching. But it says: "You are a gross human being and I don't want to touch you because I'll get germs." Then all I can think about is whether I am getting germs from the other person and then I feel dirty because that person didn't want to touch me. Oh no... did I not shower well enough? I brushed my teeth, right? Ew. Not welcoming at all.

3) The side huger. Completely baffling because if you want to hug a person you might as well do the thing right. Someone goes in for a real hug and then gets half of the person's body? Totally confusing. Then the pressure application gets thrown off, no equilibrium, and everyone wishes they had just gone for a hand shake with that person they've known for years (so it would have been inappropriate and awkward anyway). Handshakes are another rant for another time. This is sometimes (inexplicably to me) encouraged as a way to avoid awkardness and not miscommunicate. How is that even achieved when everyone is left with lackluster hellos?

Some notes on quality hugs:
1) They will come consistently and spontaneously, expected and unexpected. Often as possible. Hugs are humanity glue. So maybe this is just for those of us who have touch as our #1 love language. But even you who hate hugs: please accept us for who we are. We'll not hug you if you don't like it. Everyone else, deal with it.

2) Will involve both arms of both people (surprise hugs are exceptions). If there is a great height difference, I recommend shorter person hugging waist, and tall person hugging shoulders. All others can alternate which arm goes up and which arm goes down.

3) Use some laws of physics: all force has an equal and opposite reaction. Or something like that. Matching the hug in pressure will make it work. If the person is a bear-hugger... well, I have nothing. Just hold your breath so your ribs aren't pushed in and crack.

And hugs can be varied. One of my favorite hug variations: being picked up and spun while being hugged.  Other favorites include the "tackle hug" which was perfected by Chrissy Nettekoven and Jen Davidson during their highschool years. I have since perfected it on Jamie Zachavitch. 

Now go hug someone!