Category: dance

Ringing in a quarter century

Well folks, it finally happened.  I am now officially 1/4 of a century old.  Michael planned a dinner at Red Lobster with some Atlanta friends the night before my birthday to celebrate, but other than that the actual day passed by fairly uneventfully.  The next weekend, however, I went to a dance event, and a couple weeks later I went to visit my dear friend Sarah in Houston.  I have decided that those were the rest of my birthday celebrations….your 25th birthday only happens once, might as well make it last the whole month, right? 🙂

The dinner at Red Lobster was nice, albeit quite low-key.  I was originally a little sad because a lot of my house church friends were still out of town, but that just meant that it ended up being a whole new group!  Chris and Julia, Michael’s parents, and my mentor from church and her husband were all there, along with several house church people who were still in town.  I felt very loved and cared for.  We were going to go bowling after, but instead we all went to my house to watch Million Dollar Arm, which had been given to me as a gift earlier that night.  I do so very much love having people into my home :).

The dance event, Sweet Side of Swing, is possibly my favorite event out of all the ones I’ve ever been to.  The leveled classes making learning easier for everyone, and every detail is attended to with such care that it makes it almost impossible to NOT enjoy yourself.  This year was even more special by the “Swing Literacy Development Training” course that I took.  This was an add-on that was offered in addition to the regular workshops and social dances….8 solid hours jam-packed with tips and techniques for teaching swing dance more effectively to beginner and intermediate dancers alike.  It was a really well-done workshop…I’m very much looking forward to implementing the things I learned at the weekly Atlanta swing dances!

But, as fun as Sweet Side of Swing was, the crux of the month was definitely my visit to Houston.  Aside from my brief dinner with her last year while I was in Houston for an interview, it’s been years since I’ve seen my dear friend Sarah.  We saw each other a lot while we were in Korea, and keep up regular phone conversations now that we’re both back stateside…but phone calls can’t hold a candle to seeing beloved friends in person.  I took advantage of the long weekend around MLK day to go see her…only got to spend a couple of days with her, but a couple of days is vastly better than nothing!  Sarah and Donnie are incredible hosts – possibly the best I’ve ever met – and also great friends….the two of those together made for one very happy houseguest!  Sarah picked me up at the airport, and then I was greeted at their home with a welcome sign and guest basket.  Over the course of 2 days, we managed to pack a lot in – game night, puzzles, church, a tour of NASA (Donnie works there), walking around an adorable little boardwalk and mini amusement park, and even a round of restaurant hopping (messy burgers in a sports bar with lots of character for dinner, and then drinks and cake at a gem of an establishment nestled right on the water afterwards).  And yet, somehow, I never felt rushed or overwhelmed.  I guess that’s what happens when people who care for each other a lot just get to spend some time enjoying each other’s company.  I have decided that, even though they’re short, weekend trips are much better than nothing, and I’ll be making every effort to make more of them in the future!  So glad to be blessed with friends all over the world with whom I can pick life back up when I see them, no matter how long we’ve been apart!

 

Depth of life

For those of you who know me, it will surprise you to hear that I have not been dancing much lately.  I still can’t help but tap my toes whenever a catchy song comes on the radio, and I’m often walking with a swing in my step, swaying along to the music inside my head.  But when it comes to social dancing, I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately.  I did go to a big dance event in Atlanta in October – and I placed 2nd in the competition that I entered!! – but other than that, I haven’t really done much dancing at all since May.

Me with Mike, my 2nd-place partner in the Strictly Swing competition

Me with Mike, my 2nd-place partner in the Strictly Swing competition

But I am ok with that.  I know that the funk will pass and I will love it just as much as I used to; but until then, I’ve been busy filling my time with plenty of other exciting things.  Michael has planned a few very exciting dates – a couple of my favorites were seeing Cirque du Soleil while they were in town (which was incredible, even though they didn’t let us take any pictures :[ ), and taking a ride on the giant Ferris Wheel that overlooks much of downtown Atlanta.  I don’t think I believe him when he says that his date ideas are boring :).

The only picture I got at Cirque du Soleil before they made us put our cameras away...

The only picture I got at Cirque du Soleil before they made us put our cameras away…

My friend Jess has made a yardsaling convert out of me.  If you know how much I hate to shop, you will understand that this is a very big statement.  But there’s something exciting about hunting down deals, about finding a treasure in the middle of a bunch of trash.  Perhaps I should take up dumpster diving as a hobby… 😉  But, despite my newfound affinity for yardsaling (I don’t think I’m converted quite enough to be able to say that I have an affinity for dumpster diving yet ;]), I haven’t been able to go very often.  My weekends have been taken up by other things – things like traveling, writing, seeing friends, or sometimes just baking yummy goods.

One of my recent personal culinary victories was making homemade challah bread.  Challah bread is a sweet ceremonial Jewish bread that takes hours and hours to make.  It’s not particularly difficult (except braiding the dough so that it bakes into a nice pretty pattern is somewhat challenging), but it has to rise 3 separate times, each time for several hours.  So, all in all, it takes close to half a day to make.  ANYWAY, I have this memory of making challah bread in our old house with my mom.  I don’t remember the occasion – it must have been over 10 years ago at this point.  All I remember is the sweet time that I got to spend with my mother.  Ever since then, I have wanted to make it again, but never had a sufficient reason to invest all of that time into it.

So when an older couple from my church invited me over to their house to celebrate Sukkot, the Jewish festival of the tabernacle, and specifically asked me to bring challah bread, I jumped at the opportunity.  It took me 2 days to make it, but seeing her face when I arrived was totally worth it.  She had been expecting me to just pick up french bread, since no supermarket sells challah bread.  Her genuine joy and excitement when I walked in with a homemade loaf was more than enough payment for any extra effort required on my part.

My challah bread - it came out beautifully!

My challah bread – it came out beautifully!

A curious thing has been happening to me in Atlanta.  I still yearn for adventures in other countries and cities.  But I am also learning that depth of life matters just as much as breadth, if not more.   I am beginning to experience relational profundity that I could never dream to have by spending a few weeks or even months in a foreign country.  I am learning so much about myself and God and people in general.  Some of it is hard, tough, ugly, painful stuff.  Life gets messy when you get that close to someone.  But I would much rather experience these things and grow from them, than to stay in my own blissful bubble of relational ignorance and bankruptcy.  I do still yearn for adventures.  But I am learning, as my roots are growing  (at least for now) here in Atlanta, that adventures are even more exciting when you have dear people that you love and care for to share them with.  And that is a truly thrilling thought.

Whirlwind

Things quickly turned into a whirlwind after I returned from Peru (and by quickly, I mean within hours of stepping off of the plane).  That is largely why it has taken me such a long time to finish all of my stories from Peru – I was just going non-stop for months straight.  Since I knew I was going to be gone for 5 weeks straight right after graduation, and I didn’t have a job lined up and thus didn’t know where I would be living, I just let my apartment lease end.  But that meant that when I returned from Peru, I had all of my stuff in storage, was bouncing around with friends because I didn’t have my own place (and doing lots of driving too, since most of them live outside of Atlanta), and also still trying to find a job.  The lack of my own place made everything more stressful, and the increased drive time was wreaking havoc on my back.  Needless to say, it was a stressful time.

But things weren’t all bad.  I did a lot of dancing during this time – in fact, the day I returned from Peru was the anniversary party for Wicked Westie, and you can bet your boots that I was there, even though I was nearly sleeping on my feet from the long trip back.  As tired as I was, I was really glad that I got to be there – I’ve missed every other anniversary party for Wicked because I’ve been in one country or another.

I did skip dancing a couple of times, but it was for worthy causes.  My favorite was going to see the Lego movie at an outdoor showing at Emory University.  It was something put on for alums and friends of alums, so Elizabeth invited a group of people to go join her.  I did miss dancing, but I had a great evening with some awesome people – including Federico, a friend of Elizabeth’s who is actually Peruvian!  Totally worth it :).  It was great being able to reminisce a little bit with someone who understood what I missed so much about Peru.

Another reminder of Peru was the World Cup, which started while I was still there but continued for a while after I returned.  I happen to have several stateside friends who also like soccer, so for the Netherlands-Mexico game we decided to go to a pub that’s popular for watching World Cup matches.  They were rooting for the Netherlands, so in the spirit of unity I dressed up in my best orange outfit and started cheering on the Netherlands.  But I couldn’t make it through the whole game like that – pretty soon my Spanish roots took over, and I took off the orange topshirt I had on and went over to the other side of the pub to cheer on Mexico.  Hey, I may have never been to Mexico, but it’s a whole lot closer to Costa Rica and Peru than Holland is! 🙂

Dogwood festival and Easter weekend

My last two weekends have been vastly different, but equally wonderful.  Two weeks ago I went to the Atlanta Dogwood festival.  A huge collection of artists and performers, this event only comes around to Atlanta one weekend a year.  Last year it was miserable and rainy, and so I decided not to go, but this year the weather was absolutely incredible.  And add to that the fact that I was surrounded by people I love, and it made for a perfect first time visit to the dogwood festival.  There were music and dance performances from people and styles all over the world, vendors selling yummy food, exquisite art on display, and even some dog racing and performances.  My only regret is not wearing enough sunscreen :).

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The next weekend, Easter weekend, I went home to Albany to celebrate Passover with my family.  Passover is one of my favorite days of the entire year.  It’s a lot of work to prepare for, and it’s always over in only a couple of hours; but taking the time to remember and celebrate what God did for His people so many years ago is just really special to me.  It was even more special this year, because I got to bring home Amy and Michael with me.  And Chris and Julia and Julia’s parents were also able to come down – we had a full house, but full hearts, as well.  I found the days leading up to Passover quite amusing – I kept getting messages from Amy, Michael, and mom telling me how excited they all were.  I must admit, I shared their excitement.  And once we got there, I found myself just randomly bursting into smiles on multiple occasions.  I was just so happy to be surrounded by so many people that I loved so much.  Despite the stress of school, the job hunt, and everything else, I have been very blessed, indeed.

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Fried tomatoes and hidden corn

It’s incredible how quickly time flies by.  It seems like updated this only a few days ago, but lo and behold, the time stamps tell me that it was nearly 2 months ago.  Yikes.  Well, if the craziness of my life can be reflected by the number of tabs I have open on my computer (actually a pretty accurate measure), it’s no wonder it’s taken me so long to sit down and write for pleasure.  Last week I hit an all-time record of 62 tabs open simultaneously.  Don’t judge, haha :).

What an eventful few weeks I’ve had!  I was surprised twice, by both my mother AND my father, with unexpected visits in Atlanta.  Dad was just in the area for work that day, so we had dinner together before he headed back down south.  And Mom actually stayed the night with me!  We went to a play, and made fried green tomatoes together, and just talked and laughed.  It was incredible.  I rarely get to spend one-on-one time with mom without other people or activities distracting us, and I treasure that weekend very much.

My first time trying fried green tomatoes.  They were super yummy!  We made them because we were going to watch the movie that night…

…but we ended up going into town to see a play instead! 🙂

Last weekend I went to a big dance event, the Atlanta Swing Classic.  It was such a blast!  I entered the competition and made alternate for finals.  It was a little disappointing since I was hoping to make finals outright, but also rather encouraging since I had mostly terrible partners, but still managed to do pretty well.  I went to lots of workshops, met lots of new people, yada yada yada….the usual excitement that can be found at one of these events :).  This time I also picked up a few of the pro dancers from the airport, so I was able to get some one-on-one time with them, which was awesome.  I so wish that I could afford to go to more dance events!  If you’re stymied for Christmas or birthday ideas, donations to my travel and dance fund are always appreciated!! 😉

I’ve also spent some time getting to know my dance community outside of actual dance events.  I went to a birthday dinner a few weeks ago, and just last weekend a handful of dancers went to a corn maze, about an hour north of the city.  They were both so much fun!  It’s incredible to feel not just like I know these people through dance, and we’re very friendly to each other when we see each other once a week, but rather that I’m actually a part of a community.  It’s also a novel experience, for sure, but wonderful.  I wouldn’t trade it for the world – or even, shockingly enough, for the chance to see the whole world :).

Not a dance friend, but still a friend…Sunny came over one night and we made a Korean meal 🙂

This was the map of the corn maze!!  It took us forever to figure it out, but once we did we rocked it!!

If you’ve never been to a corn maze before, though….take heed.  Don’t wear heels.  I had never been, so I didn’t really know what to expect.  In my mind, I was thinking, “It’s going to be cold…you need to wear something that will keep your feet warm.”  Unfortunately, the only high-topped shoes I own are 3.5 inch heeled boots.  So I traipsed around the entire maze in those things.  Hahaha.  I felt somewhat foolish…but also a bit fierce.  Mostly I just felt pain, though…especially the next day :).  Consider yourself warned!!

I had 2 other big trips within the past few weeks, but I think that those merit their own entry, so keep an eye out for more to come soon!

Kayaks and killer bees

I’m not very good at relaxing and not having packed schedules.  But I’m realizing that it’s a skill well worth developing.  Every now and then, a few days of nothing could be just what the doctor ordered. 

That’s what I did this past weekend.  I came up to Atlanta Thursday afternoon, my only objective being that I wanted to go dancing.  It was the 4th anniversary party of Wicked Westie, and I really wanted to be there for this one.  In years past, I had always been out of the country and never able to make it; since I was so close, I figured this was the best chance I may get!  So I went, and it was fun; albeit swelteringly hot and suffocatingly packed.  But I’m still really happy that I went. 

The rest of the weekend, though, was what I truly needed – no structure.  I slept in Friday morning, visited a few friends over the course of the next two days, and generally was just able to recharge a bit.  On Friday night, I went on a moonlight kayak ride with some friends from Wicked Westie – so much fun!  We started while it was still light, so we got to see the whole spectrum – from full daylight, to a vibrant sunset, and culminating in a beautiful moonlit night.  I’d never done anything like that, and I really enjoyed it.  We were on the water for just over 2 hours; my body was definitely feeling it the next day!
Aside from the random attack of the killer bee, it was a lovely weekend.  That bee, though…I swear it was something straight out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.  I was sitting in a little park reading, minding my own business, when all of a sudden a bee flew in my face.  I absentmindedly swatted it away and didn’t think anything of it.  And then I suddenly realized that my ear felt a bit weird.  That little monster had lodged himself in my ear!!  And man, by that point he was mad.  If you had been there, you would have been laughing at me.  I’m sure I looked completely insane.  I was running around, violently shaking my head to get him out of my hair, swatting madly at the air, trying to fend off his persistent attacks.  Judging from the throbbing ear that I’m still suffering from where he stung me, I would say that the bee definitely won that round.  But I eventually killed him, so I won the war, hehehe. 

Random story, I know, but I thought it was worth sharing.  Thank goodness I’m not allergic to bee stings!!  I wish I had some pictures to show you, but this weekend my camera was on vacation, too :).

People who dance

People who dance have an aura about them that is found among few other people.  They have the ability to walk into a crowded room and be instant friends with everyone there.  In fact, people who dance don’t even need to share the same language – they can have whole conversations with each other without ever uttering a word. 

People who dance stay up all night, not to welcome the sun, but rather because they simply can’t go to bed when there’s good music playing.  People who dance simply can’t let a good song go without moving their feet.  And so they stay in hotels, even when they live in the same city, just so that they can get a few more songs in without having to drive home. 
People who dance are often called obsessed by people who don’t.  But people who dance prefer the term passionate.  People who dance are passionate about life, passionate about their friends and family, and passionate about dance.  People who dance spend inordinate amounts of money and time pursuing their passion.  They take private lessons, go to workshops, and travel to distant cities, all for the sake of exercising their twinkling toes.
People who dance refuse to let their lives pass them by while they sit on the sidelines and watch.  They have chosen to be active participants in this thing that we call life.  This I know…because I am one of those people.
So anyway, I went to a dance weekend (Grand Nationals Dance Competition) in Atlanta a few weeks ago…check out some pictures below!  I probably averaged about 13 hours of dancing every day – it was great!!  Highlights would definitely be meeting awesome people from around the world (and getting to spend more time with my friends from Atlanta!), and entering the Jack and Jill competition.  I was the first alternate for making finals – missed it by one point.  Dang.  Buttttt….Kellese Key, one of the pro instructors, complimented me the next day, saying that she remembered me from the competition and that I had done really well.  That was enough for me!  I can place in finals next time… 😉

People in Strange Clothing

It’s so strange some of the clothing that we have deemed culturally appropriate for certain occasions.  Who decided that graduates should wear a shapeless robe with a square hat on their head?  Or that brides should almost universally wear a white dress on their wedding day?  Or that performers should wear skin-tight and brightly colored outfits?  Whatever the reason, my second weekend in Albany gave me run-ins with all three.
I went up to Atlanta on Thursday night so that I could go dancing at Wicked Westie.  But then Friday morning I was off to Birmingham, to see Micah, a dear family friend, graduate from high school.  Our moms have been friends for years, and most of my memories of Micah are from when he was younger than Matt, so it was super weird for me to see him in a graduation cap and gown.  But I was also very proud of him, and it was great to see his whole family again – I’m always traveling, so it had been years since I had seen them. 

Nathan and his wife, Emily – I haven’t seen them since their wedding!

The whole Roberts clan

Saturday morning, I headed back to Atlanta to attend the wedding of my good friend, Philip.  Philip is the one who introduced me to west coast swing dancing – we used to practice together for hours when I was a student at Berry.  He also loves to travel and learn languages, so we always had a lot to talk about.  He’s such an inspiring, motivated, encouraging individual, and I was so happy to be able to be there for his wedding.  The reception was a blast, too.  He and his new wife are both dancers, so of course there was a lot of dancing.  But there were also fun little things that I had never seen before, like a trivia contest in which they asked questions about themselves, and the guests competed to see which table collectively knew the most answers.  It really was a ton of fun.  I’m going to have to ask them for tips when I’m planning my own wedding, lol.  It was even better because my wonderful, good-natured fried Elizabeth came along with me – even though she knew absolutely no one there.  She’s such a good sport.  But I think she really had fun, and I know that I certainly did – it’s amazing how much more enjoyable something is when you experience it with someone you love.

I loved the groom’s cake!!

The next day I met up with Elizabeth again, along with two other dear friends, Amy and Jen, to go to the Renaissance Festival!  When I was a student at Berry, I always enjoyed going down to this annual event in the Spring, but between traveling, graduating, and starting grad school, I haven’t been able to go for a couple years. 

But I finally made it back, and it was such a blast!!  Spending time with dear friends totally made up for the fact that it was pouring cats and dogs for much of the time that we were there.  We took advantage of the shops while it was raining – dodging from one vendor to the next during lulls in the rain, and then cutting up inside while the floods raged outside.  But it was also clear for enough of the day that we were able to see some cool performances and demonstrations, too.  We listened to a ‘gypsy’ storyteller, watched a guy throwing clay for a while, and then sat in on a glass-blowing demonstration that was absolutely mesmerizing.  Of course there was also the prerequisite joust reenactment and acrobatics, as well. 

Jousting competition

Fire juggler / comedian.  His performance got cut short because of the rain 🙁

Being silly while we waited out the storm….

That’s a real person.  So….terrifying….

Watching a potter do his thing 
…and the glass blowing demonstration!  Incredible!!

My favorite performers of the day.  Acrobatic fire-juggling virtuosos 



This year’s Renaissance Festival just goes to show that you can enjoy whatever you’re doing, as long as you decide to focus on the good.  Despite the chilly weather and torrential rain, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a Renaissance Festival so much as I did this year.  I’m so grateful for the lovely ladies that I got to share the experience with!  God had truly blessed me with some incredible people in my life.

Finals Week Highlights

I’m done!  I have officially finished my first year of graduate school!  Let me tell you what, it was quite a ride!  But the last week or so or classes I didn’t really actually have much schoolwork to do – I’m happy to report that the mind-numbing amount of work I did before finals week finally paid off, and my finals week was quite relaxing.  So I made up for some lost time, doing all of the things that I had neglected to do throughout the course of the semester.  Here are some of the highlights:
I went camping with my dad the weekend before finals.  I think the two of us had two very different experiences.  For me, I had a blast – I really enjoy camping, but hadn’t been in years, so it was a nice change, and great spending some quality time with my dad.  But my dad’s perspective, however, was that there was a hole in the tent over his head.  Poor man.  It poured most of the night, and add to that the fact that he didn’t have a water-repellant sleeping bag, but rather one that absorbed all of that excess moisture in the air, and he had quite a rough night that evening.  We ended up waking up really early in the morning and just heading back – at least then he was dry, even if he wasn’t well-rested!
I also got to see a musical performance of The Mask of Zorro with my friend Amy.  To psych myself up for it, I watched the movie the night before, which was excellent.  But the musical just blew me away.  It had beautiful singing, and energetic dancing, and pithy humor, and sonorous Spanish, incredible costumes…it really had everything.  I was left breathless on more than one occasion.  I’m definitely getting the Georgia Tech student art pass next year!
My friends Jonathan and Jessica invited me to see a double feature at one of the last remaining drive-in movie theaters in the country.  We brought food and chairs and got there early to just talk and hang out – Jess and I did our nails, lol.  I had never been to a drive-in theater before, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, even despite the threat of rain that drove us into our cars for a while.  But even then, they play the sound through a radio station, so we could still enjoy the movie just fine :).
Of course I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t do some dancing, too.  I caught the last bit of the Thursday night dance after Zorro ended, and that was a lot of fun.  I almost didn’t go, but in the end I’m very glad that I did.  But even better than the dance on Thursday, was the workshop on Saturday.  Now, I had been to dance workshops before – they’re always good and I learn a lot, but there’s nothing really that unique about them.  This one, however, was different.  It was called “The Art of the Steal,” and was specifically tailored to teach people how to steal someone else’s partner in the middle of a dance without disrupting the flow of the music or the dancers.  So there was a lot of group partnering instead of pairs, and weird rotations, and all in all everyone just had a grand time.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and learned a heck of a lot.  
My last night in Atlanta, I went out to dinner with Jonathan and Jessica and some friends of theirs to celebrate his graduation from Tech.  The place we went to was called Buca di Beppo, and their trademark thing is that they take all of their guests through the kitchen before seating them – way cool!! Anyway, I got back to Albany just in time on Sunday to celebrate my grandmother’s 80th birthday celebration with the family.  I was glad I made it back for that.  And now I’m in Albany for the summer!  For now, at least.  Who knows where I’ll be in a couple of weeks! 🙂

A weekend of culture

Last weekend was one filled with culture for me.  It started off on Saturday night.  I had just ensconced myself into an evening of fascinating reading on the global business environment, when my sister-in-law Julia called me and randomly invited me to student night at the High Museum.  As difficult as the decision was between a date night with a business textbook, and girls’ night out with my beautiful sister-in-law, the sister-in-law won.  I had 10 minutes to get all dressed up – jeans and a t-shirt are simply not acceptable for a girls’ night out! – and then she picked me up and we headed out.  

We admired the regular artwork, saw the special exhibition of famous Mexican spouses Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, and also watched an interpretive dance that was intended to mirror the tragic live and death of the couple.  Perhaps if I had known about their troubled marriage, and multiple affairs, and miscarriage, and the tragic early death of Frida, the dance would have made more sense….to me, it was simply one of the most bizarre interpretive dances I’ve ever seen.  

Student night at the High also seemed to be random reunion night for me.  I saw sooo many people that I knew there!  But the funny thing was, none of them were from Georgia Tech.  There were a few people from Berry – one of them the old president of the Swing dance club before she graduated and I took over – some old dance friends, some people I knew from Albany and before college….it’s amazing who you meet when you leave the house! 😀
The next day, Sunday, was gorgeous – a nice relief from the incessant days of cold and rain that has been gracing Atlanta for weeks now.  I spent the afternoon reading and writing in Piedmont Park, and taking advantage of the numerous opportunities that I had for people-watching.  In the evening, I went to a get-together with some friends to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Purim.  I could help but be amused that none of the people there were actually Jewish, but it was a fun evening, nonetheless.  We finished with watching the first half of Fiddler on the Roof – which, by the way, is far less depressing than the second half, which I ended up watching about a week later.  
That’s all for now, folks!  Spring break in 2 weeks!!! 🙂  
Our non-Jew Jewish ceremony 🙂