Thursday, March 29, 2012

Friday Night @ Barnes and Noble

The student dinner at Rey Azteca ended sooner than our desire for conversation. We moved our cars to the parking lot nearest the entrance of Barnes and Noble. Erica wasn't up for walking at 7 1/2 months pregnant. The wind had picked up and it was nice to step in the front doors, hit by that unmistakable mega-bookstore smell of new paper and bindings and coffee.

We wandered slowly around the bargain books and gave our opinions of moleskin journals. I flipped through cook books. We discussed the state of young adult fiction and the plethora of wanna-be Hunger Game books (similar to the surge of vampire romances that flooded shelves post-Twilight). We wondered what the difference was between "Christian Fiction" and "Christian Inspiration" and "Christian Thought" (various titles placed on bookshelves in the religious section).

Erica particularly likes to look at the new fiction releases. I wanted to read almost all of them on the spot just because their dust jackets were so well designed. I picked them up and held them and looked at the paper choices and wished I could say something about the fonts. When we couldn't find Kimi's new book, Erica was the one who asked for directions; it doesn't occur to me to ask for directions most days. "Silver like Dust" was in "American History" and we admired how someone we know has a beautiful book sitting in prominent display at the State College Barnes and Noble.

It's strange to me when I think about the moments I met the people who are closest to me now. I met Erica Young Reitz when she was still Erica Young. I came into a poetry reading in the old auditorium in the library, the one where the casual reading room is now; it was my freshman year, and I hadn't learned to come early to these things. In fact, I had never been to one before. Julia Kasdorf was reading.  Now, I have joined Erica's staff doing campus ministry through Calvary at Penn State. And Julia Kasdorf became an academic mentor and role model as my thesis advisor.

People who come into your life at a distance and stay for longer and with greater impact than you can imagine. I sometimes try to remind myself of this mystery when I meet new people. But I don't remember. I am always surprised as the years pass.

Words come quietly and stay longer than expected. Words surprise me too.

Erica and I paid tribute to the poetry shelves, removing favorite volumes and giving recommendations. Erica told me to read Rumi. I talked about Rilkes being my go to man in recent weeks. A volume by Li Young Li sparked memories of his reading at Penn State a few years ago on an early, summer-like September evening. There were poems by Julia Kasdorf, who had taught us both nearly a decade apart and at different colleges. "Do you remember this one?" Erica asked as she pointed to thick set volume called "500 Best Loved Poems". "You gave it to me!" I smiled and asked, "Did I give that to you as a wedding present?" Yes, I had remembered correctly.

The evening had turned late. Erica noted that at 9:30 it was almost her bedtime and she wanted to see Craig and see how his graphic design project was going. Quieted by holding words in my hand and memories, I drove back to State College and through downtown to Whim Cotty. I played no music and kept the windows down. Quieted, yes. Content.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


A little over a year ago, I went to a celebration of a friend's music album release (Natalie Plumb). While we celebrated, Fraleigh tried to teach me how to go into a dip. How to bend my knees and keep my back straight as a plank. How to hold my own body weight.

I couldn't figure out how to hold my own body weight while I let the entireity of my body fall towards the floor. Which meant I turned into dead weight. Which means I was dropped a few times. I've never been very good at follow those hands and letting myself fall. Natalie was the queen of falling. She trusted her body to gravity and her partner's hands from Day 1; it is an almost terrifying confidence. Fraleigh has to be ready to catch her. She falls with abandon.

I've always been a bit jealous of this abandon.

Dips cause an adrenaline rush. They are this moment of suspension. You take all that energy from your dance and suddenly stop. You're still. You let your lead's hands and gravity shape a movement you have no control over. It's an adrenaline rush. It's a little like flying but with your feet solidly on the ground.

Last night at a salsa social, Fraleigh spun me into an unfamiliar pattern. I didn't realize I was being dipped until I was right on the edge of it, like a roller coaster about to careen down the first hill. I was halfway into it before I realized: there was no backing out.

I'm not even sure where his hands were or what pulled me back up. I wasn't even aware of how far I had gone until I was nearly standing again. I had gone nearly to the floor. Somehow, caught in an unaware moment, I learned that I had learned to trust.

He spun me out of it and returned to a salsa basic. He was grinning. "You weren't expecting that, were you?" he asked.

I was giddy. "Not at all. But I followed!"

He laughed and nodded. I had followed well. I held myself together and fell.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games seriously disappointed me.

They had been very talked up. I found a copy of the first book sitting in 133 White Building (where I dance) and read a few chapters. I was hooked. It was an experience rather similar to when I read the first few chapters of "The Sorcerer's Stone" at age 15.

I stalked the library for weeks and couldn't get a hold of the book. It seems the coming movie adaptation had prompted a frantic reading by everyone in State College. Finally, I found a fellow dancer who loaned me his copies of the books.

"The Hunger Games" was read in less than 24 hours. Alex handed it to me around 2:30pm on a Wednesday. It was done before lunch the next day.

I couldn't stop talking about it. The book was riveting. The characters were unique. The voices were clear. The dystopia was realized. All I wanted to do was find a group of college or high school students and throw that book into the middle of a conversation about "What makes us human? What are ethics? What affect does the media have on us and our perception of truth or personality?" I wanted to say during "The Bachelor" season finale that the whole thing reeked of "The Games" to me. I wanted to write essays on how "The Hunger Games" would be a great introduction to themes that show up in "Lord of the Flies", enabling a compelling reason to read this latter example of literature in later classrooms.

Then I read "On Fire" and "Mockingjay".

Meh. It took me several weeks.

Here are some reasons I was so disappointed.

  • The pacing went down the drain. It took over half of "Catching Fire" to get to the Quarter Quell. Was that really necessary? And "Mockingjay". There was close to zero rise and fall in action as it attempted to have crisis after crisis.
  • Katniss's voice gets lost in with some kind of objective narrator.
  • The Politics. By the end of Mockingjay, you had two dystopias facing off. The complecity of this issue was horribly dealt with. The only clear message she achieved was "Don't have wars.". Yeah. Great help there.
  • Katniss was neither a hero nor an anti-hero. I'm okay with unlikable characters. I'm okay (and applaud) writing that makes us uncomfortable with the ethics of our main character. But she didn't do this clearly enough.
  • Really guys. Assassinating one potentially bad person on your team instead of executing the dictator? And that helps the cause of justice how?
  • No one bothered to actually address the ethics of media and "sight" in the books. It seemed complex in the first book. But it never changed. It was an assumed tool.
  • Okay. I cried in a car on the way to Boston during the end of Mockingjay when **** dies. But it was so pointless and unnecessary. I felt manipulated.
  • It comes down to this: either you choose to subvert the classic "hero" narrative or your don't. Waffling between the two for the last two books of a trilogy looses us. No one wants a story where there is zero point. They wander around, get hurt and scared and killed for three books... and then end in a paragraph where they get married and have babies. The entire point of the series as it was promised and hinted at in book 1 was not even close to realized.

I found this magazine in Wegman's. You'd think the editors and designers of this cover just took it straight out of the book's tabloids. Ironic much?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Ghost and Indian Food: Two Roommate Stories

Tonight, after the drive home from ballroom, I felt my usual Tuesday urge to make something. The time to make dinner just isn't there most days other than Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Tuesdays, I'm happy because of standard. Thursdays, because it's latin day and I'm frustrated.

But today was a good day.

Then my old roommate, Sarah, came by. I knew I wanted Indian food for a reason! She went with me to India two summers ago and then was my roommate the following year. We talked over our curried potatoes about that year we spent as roommates and memories from our three weeks in India.

We both laugh now at this very real truth: we are much better as friends than as roommates.

We weren't really good at taking care of each other. I seriously can't think of two people who are more unlike each other than we were. It was hard. I was the emotional, liberal arts, out of the box, messy person. She was less verbal, task focused, orderly, and overworked. We clashed. A lot. But we were both stubborn enough to keep trying to be friends and now, we are still able to be.

I don't deserve that.


I'm grateful for the people who have put up with me as a roommate, from my sister Hannah growing up to Mel and Kaitlin in Whim Cotty. Living alone is not something I want to happen. I learn too much by having other people running around in my life. Keeps perspective.

Mel and Kaitlin are a unique combination. Their greatest gift to me is their laughter. I can be as silly as I want and they will laugh and join in and let me laugh at them too. This morning, I went on a cleaning up rampage. During this process, I discovered that my bottom sheet had a shredded hole in it. Clearly, the sheet had seen the end of its days. So while Mel and Kaitlin were brushing their teeth and such, I around the house with a sheet over my head making spooky noises. When I burst into the bathroom, Kaitlin laughed and said, "I think you're a little early for Halloween!" I then went around quoting Charlie Brown's "The Great Pumpkin". Kaitlin quoted with me.

Then while searching for a sheet replacement, I found the inside lining of my winter coat. This inside lining has been missing since the move to Whim Cotty last August. I survived this (albeit, mild) winter by layering sweaters under my outer shell. Then I found an entire introduction to the book of Galatians stuck between my box spring and the mattress. How it got there, I don't know. Melanie pointed out that people have been hiding valuables under their mattresses for centuries, and that I was just catching up with the times.

Roommates are just better to have than to not have.

I don't deserve them.

Monday, March 19, 2012

MIT Dance Competition 2012

It was a semi-spontaneous decision. "Semi" because I had wanted to go since I left the MIT dance competition last year. "Spontaneous" because I had accepted the fact that I wasn't going, that there wasn't a lead, etc. So when a week ago today Kyle suddenly didn't have a partner and wanted to go, I jumped at the opportunity.

The spontenaity made me a bit anxious. It wasn't going to work like any other competition I had been to in that the team wasn't all going together and staying in the same place. We weren't taking PSU vans. It wasn't even an official team event.

But we were going.

So Friday, I was the fifth person in a five person car and drove through the afternoon and early night to Boston!

It was quite the weekend. And I loved it.

Some highlights:

-Car conversations. The "group therapy" chat in the car just about the time we hit Wilkes-Barre on the way up. A long talk about religion as the night wore one. Sam Lorey's jokes. Stories from traveling abroad. The role of dance in our lives. Good stuff. Good people.

-My own cookies. No, I'm not very modest about how good they are. But I love sharing them! Bringing and sharing food is something I've really come to appreciate about dance competitions. If anyone has requests for the future, let me know.

-Cheering. I really enjoyed cheering a lot this competition. I got to watch and it was amazing to see how far some of the younger Adv1 and 2 students have come. It was also amazing to see so many PSU couples dancing pre-champ and getting called back! I was especially proud of Yining Cherry Wang dancing prechamp with Ryan Bisbey. And Jim and Steph coming first overall standard. And Dan and Mel. And and and...

-The weather and sunshine.

-Singing "Thy Mercy" as I walked to the competition Saturday morning.

-"Chic Music" with Katy Babbs after we kicked Pat out of the drivers seat.

-"Tall Kyle" putting up with me as a dance partner. Naturals through the entire vwaltz. His fumble in samba because a girl smiled at him.

-The Laura Keister Pizza Adventure. This is just a fancy name for the length of time it took to get a group of dancers from MIT to Laura's apartment to deciding where we were going to eat, to undeciding, to picking up pizza, to eating it ravenously. "So if each guy eats half of a large pizza..." Fun laughter and conversation. Estimated time: 2 hours.

-Zack Al Balushi giving me a real hug. It's taken years for this to happen. But it happened. He didn't give me the arm drape hug!

-General dances! No words for the joy and delight that a good general dance can bring. I'm still crushed that I missed the hustle and 3 person salsa fun dances. However, I did make it for a solid twenty minutes of general dancing between champ latin rounds. The silliness and joy that goes down during social dancing is a gift. Highlights from this highlight: leading Zack in a paso and Seth yelling at me for backleading; Salsa!; the promised foxtrot from Alex Wilson which involved making things up; leading Mel in a chaotic polka.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Repetition Fatigue

When I was little, I would grow frustrated with how much repetition filled my days. I would grow extremely frustrated with laundry happening over and over. With my bed needing made every day. With having to eat every few hours. With bathing everyday.

And now, as a semi-attempting-to-be-adult...

I am still tired of the same things. In months like January especially, when I want to run as far as I can from where I happen to be at the moment. When the restlessness sets in. When being still seems impossible.

Today, it seems all I can do to fold the laundry I started. And I know that these repetitions won't go away but will only increase in number the more years I go.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Spring Fever

Gretchen (sister) and I pulled a table into the sunshine and finger painted with florescent paints left over from her days in charter school. Perfect.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Leap Day

The odds that I will be posting or that you will be reading this blog in four years is slim to none. How could I pass up the opportunity to have a "February 29th" date stamp on a blog post?

Today, I celebrated Leap Day by proposing to my friend Megan. I said, "I have a question for you to which you MUST SAY NO." So I proposed and she graciously refused.

I also celebrated by plowing ahead through the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy. No, I was no skimping on work. I read while cooking dinner. Strange that I managed such double tasking, but you cannot argue with the excellence of the soup nor the 50 pages I read while waiting for it to finish cooking.

I also celebrated by having a dinner with my Life Group girls and watching Phantom of the Opera and eating the previously mentioned soup.

And then I celebrated by making a list of all the things I've lost in the last two weeks. So far the tally runs thus: driver's license, library book, pay check. It's that time of year, really. When my brain gets tired or stressed or anxious, it tells me that I need to deal with some deep seated psychological frustration by loosing things. I thought this was weird. Then Lauren Winner writes in "Still" that she looses her car keys when life starts to unravel. Without fail.

Okay then. I guess it's not the end of the world. But I really need that paycheck.

Update! Update! In the last five minutes, I found a missing scarf, my missing mitten [which had been missing all winter], the lost library book, and a leg warmer. It's a start!

March 1 Update! License was found wedged under the driver's seat in my car. What was it doing out of my wallet anyway?