If I Wrote My Own “Girl, Wash Your Face”

There’s a lady named Rachel Hollis that I’ve been following for a few years now. She’s famous for her motivational speaking, trendy blogging and her very transparent books about her life. “Girl, Wash Your Face” was a huge break out for her and it’s one I read many times during college and have listened to it again during this post-undergrad limbo. Each chapter of the book looks at a different topic from her life, talking about how she learned from it, and tips to help others going through the same things. This got me thinking: if I were to write my own “Girl, Wash Your Face,” what would my chapters be? So, I made a list. 

There would be a chapter about developing a love of Star Wars in middle school, right around the time your elementary school friends have made their defining cliques that don’t include you. This would probably include a little shout-out of the time I was peer-pressured by my friends to say yes to a boy who was asking me to be his girlfriend. 

There would be a chapter about when I decided to join my brother at home to homeschool with my Mom and the doors that were opened up through that experience.

There would be a chapter about my experience doing community theater nonstop for seven years and the dozens of shows that shaped me into the person I am today.

There would be a chapter about starting college as a fifteen year old. It would depict the first semester of being the “cool homeschooler” all the way through graduating at age eighteen with my first degree. 

There would be a buffer chapter about my experiences with learning how to drive. That was a riot. (I had to take the permit test five times.)

There would be a separate chapter about the last year I spent in community college post-graduation, where I worked in the art lab, took some studio classes, and agonized over where to transfer to for the second part of my studies. This would include the story of how I wanted to go to one specific school for four years, had a mental breakdown in McDonald’s with my parents, and that afternoon went and applied for Missouri Western. 

There would be a chapter about my hesitancy of having female friends and being a “guy’s girl.” This would also include the idea of “friend crushes,” which I totally believe are a thing.

There would be a chapter about my first bizarre year of undergrad: the roommate drama, the ice storm during tech week, and the British comedy that made me and my buddy very stressed at breakfast. 

There would be a chapter about my obsession with personality types, how the obsession helped me understand myself and slowly but surely except why I am the way I am. 

There would be a chapter about break-ups and how I wish I had seen myself more worthy of value. It would talk about letting go, but also that it’s okay that you share wonderful memories with someone who hurt you. 

There would be a chapter about having to set my pride aside and drop doing from a double major in Theatre/Cinema and Animation down to just an animation minor because of a conversation after a Directing Showcase. 

There would be a chapter about starting antidepressant medication about four weeks after a rough breakup and the roller coaster of emotions I still battle when it comes to taking a little white pill every day to help my brain. 

There would be a chapter about how my best friend accepted Jesus and the radical transformation I got to witness. 

There would be a chapter about the semester I first started dealing with suicidal thoughts. 

There would be a chapter about how I proved to myself that I can play a leading lady in a musical and how it was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had as a performer. 

There would be a chapter about being a virgin all throughout college and the massive struggle it is to remain one until marriage. (I would need to wait on fully writing this chapter until after this August because alas, I am still on that struggle bus.)

There would be a chapter about saying goodbye to my department at MWSU and finding myself working at Walmart during a pandemic that turned my final year of college upside down. 

There would be a chapter about how you don’t need to change who you are to be loved by people. The people who are most important will be the ones who stick with you no matter what. 

 

Maybe someday I’ll write this book, who knows. Right now though, I’m working on a novel! You can follow my progress through vlogs here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qe7MNPmgaHo&list=PL-7Cp86raoS6SQtP7nRt5l6zi1Uw5Kf1D 

Feel free to join me in this creative endeavor! I’m always looking for creative accountability partners!

 

Until Next Time, 

Abby

 

62

What do you say when sixty-two teachers lose their jobs? How do you process the idea that sixty-two families must reevaluate their livelihoods? What do you do when you get emails to give course evaluations when all but one of the five teachers you had this semester has been let go? How can you celebrate the milestone of finishing a degree when the school that gave you your diploma has decided to get rid of the degree you just earned? When are you able to walk through the halls of your alma mater without experiencing a tremendous amount of pain for what has been lost? There’s no easy answer to any of these questions. For some of them, there never may be one. 

The photo above represents sixty-two faculty members at my school who were recently let go due to drastic budget cuts. Whole departments have been wiped out, one of them being the theatre department, and still more people will continue to lose their jobs on top of these sixty-two. It’s easy to see human beings as a tally mark; just another number. But oh, there is so much that goes into that tally mark. 

You sometimes think your teachers aren’t real people; they just live at the school, right? However, teachers have hopes, dreams, fears, families and responsibilities that don’t involve their classroom. As I drew out each tally for this blog banner picture, I wept. The weight of seeing how many lives have to be restarted makes every little issue I’ve had in the past month seem petty. In the end though, these lives boiled down to numbers. When you simply don’t have the means to make ends meet, something has to be let go.  

I understand that my school isn’t the only school dealing with this. Many schools across the country are having to make impossible decisions about funding that isn’t there. It doesn’t lessen the tragedy though. There have been times where I’ve scrolled through Facebook and saw posts about schools that were trying desperately to save certain programs. I just never thought it would be my school dealing with it. 

There’s nothing I can write that could help this situation. For the past two weeks, I’ve tried to come up with something, anything…but there are no words that haven’t already been said. It’s sad. It’s infuriating. It’s unfair. It’s Teacher Appreciation week and all I want is to be able to help fix this mess…but there is nothing I can do but tell them thank you. 

There aren’t enough words to express how much my teachers have done for me. It takes a special kind of soul to be willing to dedicate their life to teaching the next generation. To the educators at my university and every other teacher who is in this same crappy boat: thank you. Thank you for showing up for your students. Thank you for pouring your lives out for us. Thank you for the lessons in and outside the classroom. Thank you for being there. And to every student whose favorite teacher has lost their job: reach out. Remind them of the good they did in your life. Your teachers deserve the encouragement. 

I am ready for this next chapter of life because of every teacher I have ever had, but especially those that I had in undergrad. Thank you all: without you, I wouldn’t be standing where I am today. As you begin your new chapters, I pray that your former students pour out as much love to you as you did for us.

Until Next Time, 

Abby 

 

How “Toy Story 4” Helped Me Grieve

Before starting this post, I want to give some shout-outs:

To Ben, Nick, Lexie, Nathan, Angel, Noah, Ryan, Mycah: Thank you for being amazing fellow TCD student leaders. I am honored to have worked with you all. 

To Alyx, Lexie (again), Trinity and Devin: Thank you for your willingness to lead. I am so proud of you four. 

To Manon: Thanks for making us journal digitally for Acting 2. 

To Ryan (again): Thanks for letting me emotionally vomit on you about this movie. 

 

I’ve been avoiding watching “Toy Story 4” for a really long time. I thought that the third movie was perfect and the fact that they made a fourth one was just a cash grab. I love Pixar, but I did not go out of my way to watch this movie. In fact, I low-key boycotted it. I was irritated when the trailer dropped and refused to spend money on a ticket to see it in theaters. 

It’s a Thursday night, one of my only nights at home with my family since I work evening shifts in the midst of Covid-19. We decided that we would watch something in Disney+, but we were slightly indecisive. I had suggested “Lady and the Tramp” or “Toy Story 4,” and Dad was in a Pixar mood, so the toys won out. I don’t know what I threw out the movie I had been avoiding for so long, but we all sat down to see what it was all about. 

For some context, I’ve been working 32-38ish hour weeks at the grocery store the past three weeks instead of doing school and theatre full time like I used to before the pandemic hit. On top of this, I also teach five students music lessons and online art classes on occasion. Oh, I’m also planning my wedding that will hopefully still take place in August. There’s a lot happening, so I haven’t fully processed the grief I’ve had festering for a while. Now, I thought I had gone through my grieving process and that it was done and over. I wouldn’t deal with it again, right? I had sobbed when I left the dorm I had lived in for two years. I held onto Sweet Ben when we heard the news of our final show at Missouri Western being canceled. I took long, tear-filled walks on the days I got emails telling me every internship/job I had applied for post-graduation had been suspended until late 2020 or 2021. I had gotten it all out with several cries. The grieving process was something I could check off my list.  

 

Ha. Ha ha ha. Silly me for thinking the grief had passed. 

 

On the day I’m writing this, I slept through a Zoom meeting with my theatre honor society where we announced the new E-Board for next year, which set me off on a very long, emotional evening. I had taught for three hours that morning and spent another two hours on homework, so my brain was fried. A 20 minute nap turned into an hour and a half, which led to me missing the meeting and crying on the kitchen floor for about fifteen minutes before eating dinner. I was angry with myself for sleeping through something that I was in leadership for and had a terribly hard time getting to a point where I was not beating myself up. I was embarrassed and was angry that I had switched off my alarm for something I had been looking forward to that whole day. But you know what? It was a 15 minute meeting. It was not the end of the world. But for me, it was a “last” that I missed. (Wow, tearing up again while writing this.)

An hour after this mini-depressive episode, we started watching the movie. It was fun to understand the context of the memes that have been circling around for a while and geek out over the gorgeous animation. BUT HOLY COW WOW WOW WOW I DIDN’T EXPECT FOR THIS FILM TO RIP MY HEART OUT. 

Without trying to drop too many spoilers, this movie sums up exactly how I am feeling about leaving the undergrad years. Woody, who is the protagonist across all four of these movies, is trying desperately to fulfill his purpose of being a toy by taking care of all the people around him. In doing this though, he sometimes forces what he thinks is correct instead of letting things naturally play out. You can even see how exhausted it makes him, but he keeps pushing through because of his love for his fellow toys and his kid. 

MAJOR SPOILER COMING IN THE MOST VAGUE WAY I CAN POSSIBLY WRITE IT BUT IF YOU DON’T WANT ANY SPOILERS WHATSOEVER SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH! 

*****************In the end, a choice is made that shows that these films truly were Woody’s story, not Andy’s. It shows that leaders can move on from what/who they once loved to new stages of life that could be much more fulfilling, even though it is majorly bittersweet. There were so many moments in the third act of this movie that I was thinking, “Oh my gosh, this exactly how I am feeling about leaving school.” In the end, Woody got the best happy ending for him, even though it meant leaving his previous normal.************************

 

(Spoilers done)

 

In the midst of this surreal time, Ben and my two other E-Board members, Lexie and Nick, have been working hard to set up the up and coming leaders for success in this coming year. Three of the four of us are graduating, leaving Lexie with a brand new team of bright, talented and thoughtful leaders, all of whom were freshmen this past year. There was a lot of anxiety in the first few weeks of this mess of who was going to step up, but across our organizations for theatre and film, there is a rise of leaders who will carry on with the work the upperclassmen started. I have full confidence in the students who were voted into leadership and those who will continue to lead without the title. It has been a blessing to see the students I got the opportunity to love and pour into over the past few months step up to the plate, and I know they will be wonderful. 

Moving on is so hard. A year ago, the mega-scary-depressed version of me would have been relieved that the rest of the school year had been canceled, but now, it’s so hard to say good-bye because of how wonderful the last seven months have been. But I believe that while college was a great thing, I am moving on to an even better adventure. It doesn’t make it any easier to say goodbye, but there is comfort in knowing that the things are being taken care of by some awesome people. Good leaders understand when they have trained other leaders that it’s okay for them to move on so that those new leaders can take the reins. I believe that the senior class helped raise up some awesome underclassmen this year. We can rest easy knowing that even better times are to come, even when things look uncertain. 

Thanks to “Toy Story 4,” I started to truly process my grief of my senior year being cut short. Is the process over? No, and it will probably take a long time to get through it. But now, I know that there’s at least one cowboy out there who understands the exact feelings I am wrestling with. If you haven’t watched this movie year, I highly suggest that you give this underrated film a watch. Is it perfect? No. But it’s a film I desperately needed in this weird time we know as April 2020. 

 

Until Next Time,

Abby

 

 

 

Pro Tips for Grocery Shopping During a Pandemic

Ever since this pandemic kicked me off campus and canceled all of my theatre jobs, I decided to get a job at a grocery store. The last time I worked an eight hour shift that didn’t involve being in a theater was in high school when I was working weddings. In a few weeks, I’ve gone from being a full time student to working about 36 hours a week pulling groceries for online orders, sorting crates, and delivering purchases to customers’ cars. It hasn’t been a huge amount of time, but I’ve picked up a lot of insight on what it’s like for employees dealing with their everyday work life.

On top of this, I’ve seen how hard it can be when stores are dealing with high stress situations. In normal circumstances, there are usually certain times of the day that are when things are rough on employees, sort of like a rush hour. However, if you haven’t heard yet, the world is dealing with this really weird pandemic, which means that people are panicking. When people panic, it tends to make mundane tasks like grocery shopping a lot more difficult. To combat this craziness, I have comprised a list of Ten Pro Tips to help you have a successful grocery run. 

 

  • Keep a two week stock pile in your house and try and go back to the store every few days to refresh it. This is a tip I learned from my future in-laws who are currently living in Italy for Ben’s momma’s work (yeah, they’ve been in much stricter lock-down a lot longer than we have). Fill your grocery cart ONCE with a huge stock pile, then try and go back every few days to restock a few things. This keeps you from having to hull a bunch of groceries every few weeks and gives you a better chance of getting the things you’d like. 
  • Even if you aren’t as spooked, please respect social distancing. Fun fact: employees are told to mega respect social distancing, as in, we could get in trouble if we don’t abide by it. Keep this in mind, as well as the fact that other people are more anxious about this situation than you might be. 
  • Go early, and don’t get upset at grocery workers when you can’t find what you came to get right before they are about to close. The store I work at tries to restock throughout the day, but it’s really hard to keep things like eggs and toilet paper on the shelves. Do yourself a favor and go early in the day so you can get what you need! 
  • Unless you have a household with more than six people and you all drink milk every day, you don’t need to get three gallons of milk. Milk expires, y’all. 
  • If it’s cold outside, dress warmly, because you might be standing outside for a bit. A lot of stores are starting to limit the number of people that come into a store, which means that you might have to wait outside for a bit. 
  • Wear a mask if you are dealing with cough (even if it’s a cough that is being caused by seasonal allergies.) It’s not fun when you’re a cashier and have a customer cough in your area. It’ll put everyone else at ease. 
  • Make sure you wash any produce you buy right when you get home. This is just a rule of life in general to follow, more than likely a lot of people have touched the fruits and veggies you just bought. Go give them a good rinse and a scrub once you get home with you haul. 
  • Please just go by yourself. I know your husband gets side-tracked while shopping and it’s helpful when you go with him, but please try to limit the number of people per household going to the store to one person. This allows more people to be in the store and more families across the board being able to get what they need. Now, there are some cases where it is not possible (single moms with kiddos, for example) but if it is doable for your household, please follow this tip. 
  • Check smaller stores for toilet paper. Big stores run out a lot faster than smaller stores. CVS, Walgreens, even gas stations; try there if your favorite chain store is out. 
  • If you have a senior citizen or immunocompromised friend in your life, offer to go shopping for them.  Take the time to serve people who are a higher risk than you by going shopping for them. It’s a task that can bless someone’s home and might keep them safe from this nasty illness. 

 

 

Stay safe out there, friends. I know I am personally struggling a lot to hang onto joy during this wacky time, but this will end at some point. Let me know if you have any tips that I didn’t mention here!

 

Until Next Time, 

Abby

 

Life Goes On

I’ve had two weeks to write something. Anything. I’ve made three different outlines for blog posts about dealing with the grief of losing the last two months of a normal college experience, handling depressive episodes or how it’s okay to be sad when life gets turned upside down. But I couldn’t get anything to work. Processing has been brutal and I feel as if I am just now getting some stability in a severely unstable world. 

Everyone is dealing with this temporary normal differently. For some, it’s a major disruption that is causing a lot of anxiety. For others, it’s a much needed reset time. For me, it’s a bit of both. I love planning for future events. Having the knowledge of what is coming makes me feel more at peace with my busy life. I was so excited for the four different shows I was working on at school and in Kansas City. Within 48 hours, they were all canceled. On top of this, the wonderful things I had planned for the last few weeks of school is gone. While friendships remain, the chapter of my life as an on-campus college student is done. I was preparing myself to say goodbye, but having to leave the way we all had to was not the way I wanted it all to end. On the flip side though, being home has given me time to reconnect with myself. I was flirting with the line of burn out but when everything came to an abrupt end, so did the burn out. I have gotten time to rest, recharge and reassess. There are countless blessings in this insane time of life. 

I’ve done my best to take care of myself, and the best way I know to do that is having structure. I was offered a job at Walmart which now has me working 32 hours a week serving my community. I’m able to reconnect with old music students as well as new ones as I explore the amazing world of Zoom teaching. Side bar: I literally had three Zoom meetings within five hours of each other yesterday and it was the trippiest thing ever. I have time to work with the social media team of my department to make our Theatre, Cinema and Dance pages engaging for everyone stuck in their homes. I’ve made exercising a high priority and I can tell that my body very much appreciates it. While this is not how I would have liked my last semester of college to go, life still goes on, and life is good. 

My biggest pro-tip for this season (or any season): allow yourself to feel. If you need to cry, do it. If you need to laugh, find some funny youtube videos. If you need to be angry, call a friend you trust. However, do not buy into the lie that you shouldn’t feel a certain way. Your feelings are valid and you need to allow yourself to process them. 

Life is uncertain and that’s okay. We’re all in this together and no matter how scary things seem, we will make it through.

 

Until Next Time,

Abby

 

Pray Specifically

One of my biggest pet peeves is the preaching of the “Prosperity Gospel.” To summarize, prosperity gospel boils down to this: if you believe in God, He will bless you and give you everything you pray for. Here’s the kicker with that: what if the answer to your prayer is, “no.” What happens if your faith is based on the idea that God is a genie who is going to grant your every wish? What happens when you pray for a giant house and nice cars and you never get them? Does that mean that God isn’t real? You can see how damaging this mindset can be, however, there are hundreds of churches in America perpetuating this idea. 

*deep breath* But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. For the longest time, I struggled with my prayer life because I felt guilty for asking for things from God. When I prayed, I didn’t want God to think I was only talking to Him because I wanted Him to give me stuff I wanted. Due to this mind set, I stopped praying all together for a while. Looking back, I think to myself, “Wow, that was a super bonkers way of dealing with this issue.” But y’all, it was a struggle, especially during my early years of high school. 

Fast forward to the year before I transferred to Missouri Western. I was at a loss. The plans I had been holding onto with an iron grip had dissolved completely. I was back to square one and needed to figure out where I was going to school. I remember having a conversation with a friend about my dilemma and they asked about how I was praying about the situation. I answered, “I mean, I’m praying about it.” Their response was, “But how are you praying?” It was here that I realized that while I had begun asking for things in my prayers again, I was being very passive about it. I began to pray specifically. I prayed for clarity, peace and understanding for the future. Sure enough, as I began to pray this way, the decision making process became so much easier. Yes, I still had to make difficult choices, but the more I was in tune with asking God for insight as to what is the best option the more clear things became. 

I very recently went to visit a potential grad school with Sweet Ben. It was a trip that we have been planning for months and over the last few weeks, I began to try and scare myself out of going through with it. As the time came closer to make the huge trek down to Texas, I prayed, “Lord, give us obvious ‘yeses’ or ‘nos’ on this trip. If this is not where we are supposed to be headed, put up a gigantic road block for us.” Over the course of the beautiful day of visiting the school, we were encouraged by several faculty members and two grad students who were assigned to get to know us. We discovered that the two students were Christians and were able to find out about the fairly large faith-based population in the department. On top of all of this, Ben and I stayed with one of my mom’s cousins and her family, which was an absolute joy. Knowing that there is a community of family and soon-to-be friends at a school that has the sort of education we are looking for was a huge answer to prayer. There was a huge sense of peace driving back to Kansas City. Before heading out of town, we stopped at a local coffee shop and I sat there with an overwhelming feeling of being at home. While we haven’t been accepted to the grad program yet and there is still some fogginess about the future, I was confident that our prayers had been answered. 

Shocker to Past Abby: it is totally acceptable to pray for what you want! James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows.” God wants to bless us. He has a huge desire to lavish His love over us. He is a good Father who is waiting to hear from us. Now, is he just a wish-granting factory? No. However, He’s the Dad that wants to give His kids the best He has to offer. This is why sometimes the answer is “no.” There was a time a few semesters ago that I was praying desperately for a job that would help relieve a huge financial burden that I ended up not getting. I was upset for a while, until I realized that the job would have taken up a lot of physical and mental energy that I did not have to spare. I am now grateful that I was protected from that job, even though it seemed like a great thing at the time that I was applying for. I write this to encourage you to pray specifically for what is on your heart. Pray with boldness and humility. Pray with the knowledge that God will answer, and pray for the wisdom to hear His response with an open heart. 

 

Until Next Time, 

Abby

Leap Day 2020 Time Capsule

I think it’s fun that 2020 is a Leap Year. It makes the year all the more exciting! Four years ago, I made a “Leap Year Time Capsule” on this blog, so I went back to the original post to see what I wrote. Now it’s time to update the time capsule in hopes that I am still writing on this website in 2024 (that does not seem like a real year). 

 

2016 Abby’s Leap Day List

Favorite Color(s): Green and Purple

Favorite TV Show: Right now, The Office

Favorite Movie: Star Wars

Favorite Musical: HAMILTON

Favorite bible verse: 1 Timothy 4:12

Favorite show I’ve been in: Tie between Mulan and Godspell

Favorite Class: Dark Room Photography this semester, but Design last Fall was amazing.

Favorite Teacher: Carlos Bass

Favorite art medium: Graphite and really good colored pencils

Favorite show you saw this past year? Newsies

Currently reading: “Trust me, I’m Lying” and “Taming of the Shrew”

Best place you’ve traveled: San Diego (TAKE ME BACK)

Education so far: About to finish my associate’s degree at Maple Woods this spring.

Biggest achievement?: Almost finishing my associates degree before I turn 18

Top 5 favorite pieces of art you’ve done?

Screen Shot 2020-02-28 at 5.04.43 PM

Lowest time?: October 2014-July 2015

Highest time?: New friendships during Mulan

Present Goals? Finish raising money for my missions trip; Get my portfolio ready for art school; figure out exactly how I’m going to get my BFA; not fail College Algebra

 Favorite thing about Abby?: I haven’t given up and I won’t quit now 🙂

Let’s see what has changed!

 

2020 Abby’s Leap Day List

Favorite Color(s): Green, Blue and Red

Favorite TV Show: “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” (You’re currently watching the final season on Disney Plus!)

Favorite Movie: “Marriage Story” and “The Empire Strikes Back”

Favorite Musical: “Come From Away”

Favorite Play: “Proof” 

Favorite Bible verse: 1 Timothy 4:12

Favorite show I’ve been in: “Crazy for You” as Polly Baker

Favorite show I’ve designed: Projections for “Newsies”

Favorite Class: Directing 1 last semester 

Favorite Teacher: There are way too many good ones, but as far as classes for this semester go, it’s a hard tie between Manon Halliburton and Paul Hindemith.

Favorite art medium: Adobe Photoshop Sketchbook with my moody Apple Pencil

Favorite show you saw this past year? “The Lighting Thief Musical”

Currently reading: “A Challenge for the Actor” by Uta Hagen

Best place you’ve traveled: Rome, Italy to visit Sweet Ben’s family

Education so far: Getting ready to graduate with the BA in Theatre/Cinema (63 days!)

Biggest achievement?: Designing and performing in “Little Women”/ The second to last performance of “Crazy for You”

Top 5 favorite pieces of art you’ve done?

Lowest time?: Spring 2019

Highest time?: Being engaged (so now!)

Present Goals? Manage my many design projects; Get my portfolio ready for grad school; figure out exactly how I’m going to get work after undergrad; not fail Spanish 

Ten Year Dream/Goal: To be a PhD in Theatre and enjoy the work that I am doing. 

 

Favorite thing about Abby?: I have endured so much and truly am thriving. No matter how low life gets, I never stop pushing forward. I am so happy that I am not where I expected to be four years ago. In fact, I am so much better off than I ever could have imagined. 

 

 

It’s fun to see how much things have changed in four years. Enjoy your extra 24 hours this year! 

 

Until Next Time,

Abby

 

Revisit: A Month on Prozac

A few weeks ago, the link for a post I put up a little over a year ago popped up in my memories section on Facebook. It’s titled, “A Month on Prozac,” and I was slightly surprised to see it come up in my feed. Not because I was embarrassed that I had posted something so vulnerable on the Internet, but surprised that it’s been so long since I was processing through this new habit in my life. In honor of the year (plus a few weeks) anniversary of this post, I’ve decided to do a Revisit. Words that are in italics are the text from my original post, and words in bold are from 2020 me. Enjoy! 

 

On December 14th, 2018 I started taking Prozac. For those of you who don’t know, Prozac is a synthetic compound which inhibits the uptake of serotonin in the brain and is taken to treat depression. Confession: totally Googled that to look cool. Don’t ask me to tell you this fact off the top of my head; I cannot do it. In other words, it’s an antidepressant. Two years ago, I almost began taking a medication to help my mental state, but for a number of reasons, I decided against actually getting the prescription filled. I always wonder what would have happened if I had started the medicine when I was in high school. If I could only pass along one piece of advice about medication it would be this: do not let anyone make you feel like a bad person for taking a prescription from a doctor that you trust. Fast forward to the end of this past semester, I’m crying in the doctor’s office, my pride finally broken down and hesitantly agreeing to spend my four weeks off of school getting used to this new tool in my life. Ah, 2019 Abby, I am so proud of you for calling your meds what they are: a tool. 

The first few days, I was mad. Still get mad every now and then. I didn’t want to be medicated. I felt defeated. Why couldn’t I have taken care of myself before now, doing the things that would make me feel better (E.I., exercising consistently, taking water, staying away from people who are toxic for me and not compromising my personality to be liked, you know, healthy habits) without the help of these new chemicals being added to my system? I have had people in my life express that they didn’t believe medication did more good than they do harm. While no one ever told me to my face that they would be disappointed, there was always a little voice in the back of my head that worried my closest friends would judge me for having to use medicine to be a happier person. 

Most of the time, the first few weeks of a medication are a little rough, and I can attest that this is true. Just because it’s tough though doesn’t mean you should give up on medicine. I hosted a Christmas party five days after I began the meds and let me tell you, I felt super nauseous in the middle of the get-together after taking it. PRO TIP: If you are taking a medicine that can make you feel icky so you take it at night to avoid wanting to throw up, it’s okay to adjust the time that you usually take your meds. For example, if you usually take your meds at 10pm but there are people in your house for a Christmas party, you can wait until they leave your house to take it so you don’t feel like you’re going to throw up on your friends. (Shout out to Avery for being my emotional rock during that party.) Then, for about eight days, I lost my appetite. While I still made myself eat something throughout the day, I ended up losing five pounds. Now, I’m trying to lose five pounds. It’s funny: when you’re happier, you’re more likely to eat food that makes you happy. I also began dealing with dryness in my throat, which, as a singer, scared me to death (Biotene is a life saver). 

However, after all of this, my follow-up appointment with our family doctor was much different than the first (the only tears that happened were when I had to get blood work). BLOOD WORK IS THE WORST. After regaining my appetite and beginning to have motivation to actually take care of myself physically, emotionally and spiritually, life was becoming so much more bearable. In fact, it was so much more than bearable. It was full of joy and expectancy towards the future. It was awesome and it only got better! I wasn’t scared about going back to school. I was having a much easier time communicating to the people I love. For example, when I’m irritated and snap at Sweet Ben, I am usually able to quickly identify why I am so grumpy. 99% of the time, it had nothing to do with him. God bless him for dealing with my moods. Little things that used to really bug me were becoming less bothersome. I still like the way I walk through Blum better, Ben. 

My classes started back up on January 14th, one month after beginning the medication. A month before, any thought of school, work, or the shows I’m working on would make me feel panicky and want to hide away from the world. I spent a lot of time in bed over that winter break. Beyond any expectation I could have had for myself, that first Monday back at school was marvelous. It was by no means perfect. Several instances popped up that threw off my uncommonly good mood. Mondays, am I right? This time however, there was so much more clarity for how to deal with these annoying happenstances. The next morning, I fully processed how miraculous it truly was how I handled the curve balls that were thrown at me. 

So, it’s been a month. And frankly, I feel great right now. And still do, praise the Lord. I am more at ease with daily troubles that arise. I am able to recognize when I need to take time for myself to recharge. I am now much more aware just how truly blessed and loved I am by the people God has put into my life. I am fully aware that things will get tough again, possibly very soon, but I am abundantly grateful for this past month of rest, recovery, and rediscovery of myself. Amen, sister. 

I write this to the person who is being stubborn about getting help, to the one who is scared of what others will say, and to the one who doesn’t think it’s worth the trouble: getting help does not make you weak. PREACH. You are a valuable human being and modern medicine is an incredible thing. God blessed people with amazing wisdom to create things that help us. While I don’t believe that all problems can be solved with medication, I am now a firm believer that they can do major good. A dear friend of mine once explained it to me this way: you wouldn’t tell a diabetic to pray harder for their illness to go away. While there are good foods that can help a diabetic and exercise can do wonders for anyone, but you wouldn’t tell a diabetic not to take their medication. The same applies to mental illnesses. There’s natural ways to treat depression and anxiety, but sometimes, your brain needs some extra help to function fully.

And to the Christian who is on the fence on starting a medication, I have one last nugget for you: God wants you to feel better, and He’s not gonna be mad at you for not praying more to Him to take your depression away. We live in a world of brokenness and unrest, but praise the Lord for His gift of knowledge that He has given to modern physicians. Use your resources, and know that you are not alone in your struggle. If you want, I’ll let you use some of my washi tape to wrap up your orange bottle.

It’s been 425 days since I started taking Prozac. I recently got new headshots taken and when I sent a few to my mom, she commented that I look so much happier, specifically in my eyes. She thought she might be over analyzing it, but after looking through my camera roll, I thoroughly agree with her. I am a happier lady! It’s awesome! I love not dreading getting out of bed. I love having the motivation to speak my mind. I love not being terrified that every single person hates me. I feel lighter; a huge weight has been lifted for me over the past year. 

November 2018 vs February 2020

Do I still have issues? Oh my word, yes. Fighting off depressive episodes can be the worst. However, I now have the knowledge to deal with them. On top of that, I have amazing people in my life who are a fantastic support system. A year ago, I was hoping that maybe I would stop taking the meds. It’s 2020, and I’m still taking Prozac every evening around 11pm. The main difference is that I do not dread it every evening. I have accepted the fact that I could very well need to keep using this tool for the rest of my life. Over this past year, I have been reminded that I am incredibly blessed. While some days are hard, life is so worth the living. I am grateful to be here and am eagerly looking forward to the future. 

Until Next Time, 

Abby

 

Sports on Stage

Growing up, I tried sports. They were not my thing. I did find, however, that theatre was my thing. Since discovering this, I’ve been on a path that has led me to now: finishing my final semester of my undergraduate degree in theatre (94 days till graduation as of the original date of this post). I have found, however, that many of my favorite scripts involve stories that center around sports. Specifically, one of my all time favorite plays is The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe. I first read the play in Spring of 2017 and it became one of my dream shows. I want to be in it. I want to design for it. I want to direct it. I want to get my hands on this script as many times as possible. So, when I saw that Normandale Community College was performing the show at KCACTF Festival 52 in Region 5 this year, it became my top priority show to see. I was also intrigued to see the show Colossal by Andrew Hinderaker, which was being performed by the same school. At first glance I thought, “Okay, a football version of The Wolves, this should be cool.” But oh man, I was dead wrong, and glad to be wrong. When I sat down in the theater to experience the play for the first time, I pulled out my notebook to help me remember details so I could write about the show later. Sixty-five minutes and six pages of notes later, I left Colossal extremely moved. It was about the same with The Wolves: I left the theater in tears with so many thoughts and notes that I am still processing days after seeing the performance. But what made these shows so good? Well, dear reader, I am glad you asked. 

Before diving into the details of Normandale’s productions, let me give you a quick summary of the two plays. Colossal follows a man who was once a record breaking college football player who suffered from a career ending injury. Mike is now in a wheelchair and is in physical therapy. Throughout the show, a younger, pre-injury version of himself talks to Mike and takes the audience back in time to see him at the peak of his athletic ability. Through this nonlinear storytelling, we are able to see his love for his teammate, Marcus, grow, while his relationship with his father becomes more broken. Mike’s relationship with his father, Damon, was disrupted by Mike’s desire to play football. Damon, who owns a dance company, was furious that his son would choose to play a sport that could potentially destroy his body.   What I found most interesting about this show was that while there was the romantic subplot between Mike and Marcus, the true love story came from Mike finally reconciling with his father. In an age where LGBT+ representation is becoming more prevalent in contemporary scripts, I appreciated that it flowed seamlessly through the plot. It was not forced in the writing and the on stage intimacy and beautifully handled (hats off to the directing team). Overall, the story between Mike and Damon is the relationship you are rooting for to be healed throughout the course of the play. The ending of the show was the most satisfying ending I have seen on stage in a long time and put in me a spot where I could have immediately sat down to watch it all again.   

The Wolves follows a girl’s high school soccer team as they warm up for each of their games throughout their competitive indoors season. The girls are only distinguished by the numbers on their jerseys, and many of the conversations that they have overlap each other. This makes the audience focus in to try and pick up every detail that is being said. DeLappe’s script is written in such a way that the truly important, plot driving moments are punctuated by the fact that they are not being overlapped by other conversations. There are a wide range of conversations that happen amongst the very diverse group of girls, from ghost stories to why the “R” word is not okay to the rumor that #7 had an abortion. We see teammates who were best friends deal with a major rift, a captain who is doing her best to be an authority figure for her peers even though she is uncomfortable, sheltered girls, and a player who deals with a major anxiety disorder. Throughout the course of the show, the team is dealt a devastating blow and because of this, learn that the biggest battles are won as a team. Ten minutes into the play, I wrote down the note, “Man, I don’t miss high school.” However, by the end of the piece my mind was right back in the mindset of being 16. I remembered the wonderful highs, the horrible lows, and all the levels in between that came with being a teenager trying to figure out life. The Wolves is written in such a way to remind those in the audience who are long past high school just how dynamic and emotionally driven that period of life once was. It also is a great example of how teenagers deal with grief, how adults dealing with grief behave in front of teenagers, and what happens to the teenagers when they see the adults in distress. There are so many layers of psychology through this character-focused show and the gals of Normandale pulled it off wonderfully. 

Every performance an actor takes has its own physical demands, but shows involving sports have their own special challenges. The casts of The Wolves and Colossal took this challenge to the extreme. The girls’ soccer team was constantly doing warm-up stretches and ran drills that are used regularly in the actual sport. Each cast member held themselves in such a way that made it seem as if they truly had been playing soccer since they were little. They also had to have an extreme amount of mental focus to be able to carry on separate conversations happening simultaneously.  While The Wolves was very impressive physically, Colossal took it up about ten notches when it comes to physical dedication on stage. The twelve cast members who played football players were astounding. Twenty minutes before curtain, they were on stage doing warm ups that you would see at any pregame. Accompanied by a stellar drumline, the actors did passes to each other in the center aisle of the theater, push-ups, and contact choreography, aka, tackle exercises. Throughout the preshow, Damon was stretching and doing several different contemporary dance combinations, foreshadowing his character’s role in the show. What I found most astounding though was when present-day Mike was watching a video recording of his past self playing football. The actors would run the play and Mike would “pause” the recording, and then press “rewind” on his remote AND THE ACTORS REWOUND ALL OF THEIR ACTIONS. Not to mention the half-time show, which was a contemporary dance piece accompanied once again by the drumline that communicated the battle of traditional masculinity and the bonds/struggles between a father and his son. The amount of strength, grace and control that was displayed throughout Colossal was the single most impressive physical performance I have seen on stage in my whole life. 

I strongly believe that the best thing that comes from doing shows about sports is the empathy building that comes with it. Theatre as an artform is intended to create empathy, but there is a special kind that comes from stepping into the world of sports. It’s stereotypical that theatre people are not sports people. They didn’t play “sportsball” because they were in rehearsals. People who grew up playing competitive sports spent all of their time doing their respective games. Taking on shows like Colossal or The Wolves gives people who didn’t grow up playing organized sports a chance to gain a new perspective on what others find joy in. Likewise, I strongly believe that a person who loves sports but isn’t super keen on theatre could watch one of these two plays and walk out with a slightly higher appreciation of the arts. As theatrical artists, it is our job to build connections through the work we create. Sometimes, those connections are meant to make the audience grow, but more often than not, those connections are intended to shape you into a better storyteller, artist, and overall human being. 

I was deeply moved by the work put on by the casts and crews of Normandale’s productions at KCACTF. They were bold, innovative, physically and emotionally impressive, well-done, and handled with grace by everyone involved. There’s usually at least one show a year that will re-fan the flame for my love of theatre and I am blessed to have gotten two for the price of one so early on in 2020. Bravo, Normandale. I wish your school nothing but the best in your future productions. Thank you for sharing your gifts at Festival 52 this year. 

 

Go see theatre, y’all. It makes you a better person. 

 

Until Next Time, 

Abby

 

Rome Highlight Reel

Hello, 2020! Woof, we’re only two weeks into this year and life is C R A Z Y! However, it’s the best kind of crazy. It’s only 43 days till the opening night of my final performance at Missouri Western, 73 days till my 22nd birthday, 108 days till graduation, and 217 days till I marry my best friend. Life is bonkers, y’all. 

I was blessed to end 2019 and ring in 2020 in Italy with my future-in-laws. For those who don’t know, Sweet Ben’s mom is at the Nato Defense College in Rome and will soon begin her next assignment in Naples, Italy. Ben’s sister and dad are also abroad with her, so this trip right after Christmas was the first time we had all been together since August when Ben and I sent them off at the airport. Over the course of eleven days, I got to have so many wonderful adventures in a country I had always dreamed of visiting. Here is an abridged version of the eleven days I got to spend with Ben and his family in Rome! 

Day 1 (12/27)

Highlight: After three flights (one of which was eight hours long), we landed in Rome and got to hug Ben’s parents and sister. Once Ben and I had a nap after lunch to battle jet lag, we took the Metro to a cozy little pizzeria. Little did I know that the first thing you see once you exit the station that leads to the restaurant is the Colosseum. Yeah, that was a pretty nifty sight to behold before dinner. 

Favorite Taste: Salami Pizza. Honorable mention goes to the shot of Limoncello after dinner. 

Fun Fact: It’s super common for Europeans to have coffee after dinner. This is a cultural norm I can totally get behind. 

 

Day 2 (12/28)

Highlight: Sant’Eustachio is said to be one of the best coffee shops in Rome. Judging by the crowd that was crammed into this relatively small space, a lot of people thought it was really good. If you’re ever in Rome, go check out this place. While it was a bit overwhelming, my Romeo e Giulietta was delightful. 

Favorite Taste: Gnocchi and Mozzarella in Tomato Sauce at this little corner restaurant we found by wandering down the wrong street 

Fun Fact: In 609, The Pantheon was the first temple that once honored Roman gods to be transformed into a church. This saved this brilliant piece of architecture from being destroyed during the Middle Ages.

 

Day 3 (12/29)

Highlight: On the first Sunday of the month, it is free to enter into Vatican City, which causes a TON of people to come out to visit. After going through the museum (which includes the jaw-dropping Sistine Chapel), we found a shortcut to go into St. Peter’s Basilica. Wandering through the gigantic church and praying with Ben for our future marriage was a beautiful experience that I will treasure for the rest of my life. 

Favorite Taste: Cappuccino after visiting Vatican City

Fun Fact: Michelangelo, the artist who painted the Sistine Chapel, originally said “no” to painting the massive room because he reasoned that he was a sculptor, not a painter. The Sistine Chapel is considered to be the greatest masterpiece ever created. You aren’t allowed to take photos of the chapel, so enjoy this doggo statue that we found. 

 

Day 4 (12/30)

Highlight: Enjoying a lazy day and taking Star and Carebear on a walk. 

Favorite Taste: The richest hot chocolate I have ever tasted with the espresso I mixed into it because mochas do not exist in Rome

Fun Fact: People take their dogs EVERYWHERE. It was so funny to see so many different dogs out and about, including in the malls and some restaurants!  

 

Day 5 (12/31)

Highlight: We spent the last day of the year exploring an apartment complex that has sixteen murals on the sides of the buildings. There were so many moments throughout this trip where I would turn to Ben and say, “Can you imagine looking out your window every day to see *insert amazing sight*?” My personal favorite was the wall with rainbow squares. We were also able to find a coffee shop that put a bit of chocolate in coffee, which made me quite happy. 

Favorite Taste: French champagne with apple juice to ring in the New Year

Fun Fact: Many Italians wear red underwear to ring in the New Year. It’s said to bring good luck!

 

 

Day 6 (1/1)

Highlight: There’s sight called the Aventine Keyhole on a hill in a village in Rome, where you have a breath-taking view of St. Peter’s Basilica. We waited in line for almost an hour to take a look through this keyhole, and boy, was it worth it. (Photo credit of the view goes to Google, as my little iPhone wasn’t able to do the view justice)

Favorite Taste: Mini tiramisu at a 95 year old coffee shop 

Fun Fact: The keyhole is part of the property owned by the Priory of the Knights of Malta, a Roman Catholic religious order of crusader knights that was formed in the 11th century. It is the oldest surviving chivalric order in the world and is a sovereign entity under international law.

 

Day 7 (1/2)

Highlight: Climbing to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa is a TRIP, y’all. The climb is worth it though for the amazing view you get of the city. 

Favorite Taste: Lemon and Strawberry Gelato in the train station 

Fun Fact: Keith Allen Haring was an American artist whose pop art and graffiti-like work was inspired by NYC streets. One of his works can be found in Pisa, Italy! 

 

Day 8 (1/3)

Highlight: Ben and I took a walk with his mom in search of coffee. Afterwords, I played Monopoly for the first time in about eight years. The game took three hours, and because of my stubbornness and negotiation skills, I somehow won. Ben was proud. 

Favorite Taste: Chicken dumplings at an Italian Chinese restaurant 

Fun Fact: Monopoly was first published in 1935. It’s been causing fits of rage and strain on every sort of relationship around the world for 85 years. 

 

 

Day 9 (1/4)

Highlight: Van Gogh and Monet are two of my favorite painters ever. We got to have a VR experience where the viewer got to tour through the world of the some of the works created by these two artists. Not gonna lie, it was a bit emotional for me to get to be immersed in paintings I’ve admired my whole life. 

Favorite Taste: Fresh bruschetta mmmmm so good. Know what’s not good? Green Apple Limoncello. It’s like drinking battery acid. 

Fun Fact: You can trace the origin of bruschetta back to Ancient Roman times. It’s popularity has spread a lot since then and is still a classic favorite in Italian restaurants. 

 

Day 10 (1/5)

Highlight: While we were wandering around the ancient ruins of Ostia, I saw a large black cat just doing his thing. I followed him to take a picture and, naturally, he ran away because some weird American was being annoying. When we went through the bookstore, we found the same cat and his friend just chilling out in the shop! We saw a few other cats when we were leaving to head back home, which was probably the largest population of cats we saw on the whole trip. We happened to see another cat during our night tour of the Colosseum. It was quite funny to see people be more interested in the cat living in the ancient architecture than the stunning building itself.  

Favorite Taste: Marble cake at the café in Ostia

Fun Fact: Ostia was a port and commercial center of republican Rome. The ruins of the city include an amphitheater that could seat up to 4,000 people. Bonus fact: there are signs outside the Colosseum telling guests to not disturb any cats that are on sight. Apparently, there is a kitty colony in the stadium! 

 

Day 11 (1/6)

Highlight: There were some ridiculous seagulls we encountered during our final day in Rome. It’s almost as if they were posing for people as they took photos of them. Ben and I spent a lot of time trying to translate what these weird birds were squawking at each other. 

Favorite Taste: Bubble Toffee from my La Befana stocking

Fun Fact: The story of Pinocchio originated in Italy and the character is a common souvenir you can find on just about any corner. When we were walking through the city, we found a real life Geppetto!

 

I have always been of the belief that everyone needs to leave their home country at least once in their life. Traveling expands your worldview, reminding you how much bigger this planet is outside of your hometown. I am so thankful that I got to satisfy my travel bug urge in Rome with the Smiths, and look forward to more travels in the future!

 

Until Next Time,

Abby