Dancing Queen


swing-time-fred-astaire-ginger-rogers-1936

I have a confession to make- I really like to dance.  In my last post I mentioned that I had started to take dance lessons, and I am so glad I made the decision to start!

I have always thought that it would be great to know how to dance- nothing fancy, just the basic steps to be able to hold my own on a dance floor in a social situation.  I enjoyed watching movies where couples would dance, it just always looked like so much fun!  About a month ago, I decided to look into taking some lessons.  I honestly can’t figure out what it was that triggered me to look up classes, something must have made me look into it, but for the life of me I really can’t think of what prompted the thought right then.  However it occurred to me, for some reason the idea wouldn’t let me go.  So, I called my local Arthur Murray studio and signed up for an introductory special.  I had my first lesson just over two weeks ago, and I am now officially hooked.

People keep asking me why I started and what I hope to get out of dancing, and while there are many benefits, I think I just wanted to do something new and fun for myself.  When I told a co-worker that I was going to start the lessons, they asked me if I was going with a friend or a partner.  They seemed both surprised and impressed when I told them, no, it’s just me- something I’ve always wanted to do.  I’m extremely glad I didn’t let the fact that I don’t have someone to dance with stop me from pursuing my goal, because even after two weeks, I can see how much good this can do for me.

fred and ginger

Not only is dancing just plain fun, but it’s quite a good workout (something I could use a lot more of) and a great stress reliever.  When I went in last week I had had a terrible day at work and was feeling very drained.  After an hour and a half of both a private and group lesson, I felt like a million bucks!  It’s amazing what movement, laughter, good music, and fun partners can do to the spirit.  I’ve also met a group of amazing people who come together to share dance every week, and I could not be more inspired by them to improve my own dancing.

I’m excitedly looking toward this summer when one of my best friends will be getting married.  It should be the first social setting to put some of my new moves to the test and see if I am more comfortable and confident.  I’ve always enjoyed dancing, but I never really felt like I knew what I was doing.  Feeling like I must look like and idiot, I never really danced unless I was out exclusively with friends.  Now I’m looking forward to dancing whenever I have the opportunity (though that may be few and far between outside of the studio as I’m really not into the club scene).

When all of this is over, I know that I may never have the grace and ability of Fred and Ginger, but I can only hope I will have gained the confidence and commitment to the moment of Napoleon Dynamite.

Re-Arranging Dreams

I haven’t posted in almost three weeks because work has been a bit intense lately and I’ve been doing some overtime and coming home exhausted.  But in the midst of all the crazy, I had a realization over the weekend.  Even though I’m completely wiped right now, I am extremely happy- maybe happier than I have been in a long time.

Last weekend I traveled home to the Portland area for a few family functions.  While catching up with Aunts, Uncles and Cousins it occurred to me that I actually had new and exciting things to share with them rather than the standard, “Oh- work is going well.  Everything else is pretty much the same.  Hanging out with friends”.  This is because I’ve actually been trying to do new things and check a few items off of my bucket list.  For the last few months I’ve been actively creating the life I want to live rather than complaining about the one I’ve got.

You see- my life is not exactly where I thought it would be at this point. I remember when I was in the second grade and my teacher made us write about what we wanted in twenty years.  While I no longer have the book she complied of all of our papers, I remember how it started- “Twenty years from now in the year 2012, I will be 28 years old and I want to be…”.  While I don’t remember exactly what I wrote, I know I thought that I would be married with a kid or two, and have a red car and a house.  Now, a year later in 2013 and at 29 years old, I have exactly none of those things (well, I have a car- just not red, and I rent a very nice apartment that feels like a home).

For a long time the fact that the dreams of my 8 year old self had not come to fruition did not bother me because I kept telling myself that they would come someday.  Up until recently I was either in school or trying to get my career started.  This was where my focus was- I did not have time to pursue a lot of other interests I held or to pursue romantic relationships.  But recently, I’ve wondered if delaying those aspects of my life has been worth it as I still don’t feel as if I completely know what to do with my life.  My career isn’t really where I want it to be, and I have neglected other aspects of myself.

Yes, I am still young and I know I have a lot of time to accomplish everything I want to, but I hit a point over the New Year where I was just tired of living for someday and waiting for life to happen.  I needed to make it happen.  So now I am working on new creative adventures, one of which is writing this blog, another is the dance classes I have recently started to take (more on that to come in a future post).  And I am having so much FUN.  I feel like I am living instead of waiting for things to happen- and that just feels good.

There is a great song the band Keane sings titled The Lovers Are Loosing.  It’s actually kind of a depressing song if you really listen to all of the lyrics, but I love the picture they paint with the beginning of the chorus.  It goes Like this:

You take the pieces of the dreams that you have

‘Cause you don’t like the way they seem to be going

You cut them up and spread them out on the floor

You’re full of hope as you begin re-arranging

Put it all back together

So here I am re-arranging my dreams.  The dreams that I had at 8 years old are still good dreams, I just need to look at them through a different lens, and put them together in a different order.  But just like the song- I’m hopeful as I do this, and I’m having a great time doing it!

I also want to take a minute to say a big THANK YOU to Monique from A Reel Chick who nominated my blog for a Liebster award. This is an award that bloggers give to other bloggers who are still small and have less than 200 followers.  I am extremely flattered and honored by this!  Thank you to everyone who is reading- I really appreciate it!

When Religion Limits Faith: Why My Generation Needs A New Church

I want to apologize in advance for the length of this post- but it seems that I have a lot to say on this topic, and it cannot be easily summed up.  So, tuck in and let’s get real about the stuff you aren’t supposed to talk about for a bit.

I have been thinking about faith and religion a lot lately based on several events, both positive and negative over the past month.  It all started about 4 weeks ago when in the run up to the Oscars I went to see the movie Life of Pi.  I was absolutely blown away by this movie.  For days I could not stop thinking about it- but what struck me was more than it’s stunning visuals.  What continued to seep into my thoughts was the message of faith in the movie and the way it presented religion.

Pi cover

Pi was what he called a Hindu Christian Muslim.  All three religions were a part of his faith life as they all helped him to know God in different ways.  Pi first came to know God as a Hindu, the religion of his mother.  He connected with the many Gods and their stories, and saw them as heros. Then, Pi came across a Catholic Church and began to learn about Jesus.  He couldn’t understand the sacrifice, but he was fascinated.  Pi said that he had to come to faith through Hinduism, and found God’s love through Christ.  Finally, Pi met God once agin as Allah when observing prayer at a Muslim house of worship in his hometown.  He found that performing the daily prayers, he felt connection to God and serenity.  Pi took pieces of all three traditions and found a peace while discovering God.

A quote from the book (which is equally wonderful, and I now want to re-read as it’s been almost eight years since my first reading) explains how Pi saw all of the religions working together, reflections of one another as they all sought to  discover God.  “Hindus, in their capacity for love, are indeed hairless Christians, just as Muslims, in the way they see God in everything, are bearded Hindus, and Christians, in their devotion to God, are hat wearing Muslims.”  Pi also explains that faith is a house with many rooms.  I loved this vision of faith and how religion was a part of it.  It was a broad and encompassing picture that posed no limits to how God could be known and understood.  I found it to be beautiful, and it rang true to feelings about religion and faith that I had always held deep within me.

A week later, as I was still feeling the glow from the movie, religion was suddenly presented to me as something that limited the ways in which God could be known.  At the University of Portland, a Catholic University that I worked for a few years ago, the president- Father Beauchamp made remarks about the LGBT community on campus that essentially equated there being a don’t ask don’t tell policy on campus.  The sentiment was as follows- “We know that there are faculty and staff in same-sex relationships on campus. They are not open about it and we don’t ask them. But if someone were to go very public about it and make an issue, then we would have trouble.”

Oh, boy.  What this says to me is that as a Catholic institution, they are not welcoming or accepting of the Gay community.  As I was still reeling from this incident, the issue of Christianity and faith not being accepting of LGBT people was brought to my attention once again.  Two weeks ago I read an article from Time online about the friend of the court brief that President Obama and his administration sent to the Supreme Court urging them to overturn the ban on same sex marriage in the case they are about to hear on California’s Proposition 8.  I read the article in delight; then I came to the comments.  Some of them were just plain hateful in the way that they talked about homosexuality- and everyone with a negative word said it in the name of Christianity.  I felt disgusted that people would use their religion as a weapon against others, and I felt like it limited the love of God.

Holding these disparate experiences of religion in my mind, I went to church over the weekend with two of my friends.  I grew up in the Lutheran Church and while I have struggled in recent years on some theological issues; it is, and will always be, a cultural home.  Sitting in the pew and singing the traditional liturgy was immensely comforting and brought me a feeling of contentment.  Yet, I could not help but feel a bit hypocritical sitting there, because I don’t believe Christianity to be uniquely right, or the only correct religion.

More and more often, as I talk to my peers and friends within my generation- we don’t feel that there is any one right religion.  All religions are simply a different way that we can understand and connect with God.  God’s love is powerful and prevalent in the world and around us, and can bee seen in the people we encounter every day.  Most of us don’t think that God gives a hoot if you are Gay or straight, and we don’t appreciate the church telling us that our friends are abominations.  Many churches do not go that far, they say that they love Gay individuals, some can even accept that that is how God made them, they just hate the sin.  Call me crazy- but telling someone that they cannot live as they want to and must deny who they are, cannot find love, and that fulfilling their desires would be a sin- does not feel like love.  It seems like the church in remaining dogmatically faithful places limits on God, and hinders the faith that many hold.

For years, the church has been loosing members as more and more people have started to affiliate themselves with no specific religion at all.  If the church wants to retain or even bring back the younger generation, they are going to have to become more open and accepting- and fast.  We are not a generation without faith.  We believe in God and in love, we just cant find a church community that is a comfortable fit.  For me, I miss being a part of a church community- I want to return and be a part of the love and support that a church can provide.  But I just don’t feel like I would be fully accepted if my open religious views were known.

I found it ironic on Sunday that the lesson of the day was the story of the prodigal son.  This is the parable where the son asks his father for his inheritance early, leaves home and squanders it by living the partying life, and then returns home when downtrodden.  His father welcomes him back with open arms and throws a huge party.  The brother is upset by all of this- he has worked hard and followed the rules and no one has ever thrown him a party.  The father responds with the famous line- my son was lost but now is found.  I and others like me are the prodigal sons and daughters.  We have left the church in search of the world, and we want to come home.  But would the church welcome us back as we are?  They would certainly throw a party to see the young in their pews once again, but would we be loved unconditionally as the son was, or would there be problems for bringing our worldly views back in through the door with us?

I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I know we want to find a new home.  The church needs to change and it knows it.  I have watched with interest this past week as the Catholic church selected a new Pope.  They know change is needed, and selected the first Pope from South America and the first Jesuit.  But is it enough?  I suppose we will just have to wait and see.  Meanwhile, I am going to keep seeing God through the wondering eyes of Pi, and praying for my church to accept all my brothers and sisters, just as God does.  I have faith.

Further Reading:

Why the First Latin American Pope Inspires Less Hope Than We Hoped

New Shepherd, Same Wandering Flock

Sign the Petition:

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