My Brother, Jeremy

Jeremy Wolff is an astounding human being. For eighteen years, I’ve had a front row seat to watch him grow and mature into the dashing individual he is today. To be quite honest, I don’t think my family was sure we were ever going to get to the point where we are right now. A lot of people told my parents that Jeremy was probably never going to be able to talk in full sentences, let alone graduate from high school. Well, he proved them all wrong, because if you’ve ever had a conversation with him about something he’s passionate about, you know that he has no problem talking anyone and everyone’s ear off.

To give you some background, when my brother was in preschool, he was diagnosed with Asperger’s and ADHD. In today’s modern medical world, Asperger’s now just falls on the Autism Spectrum. According to Autism Speaks, the disorder can be defined as, “a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication.” For the first few years of Jeremy’s verbal communication, he would only mimic what other people said instead of having his own original thoughts to add to conversations. He also had a very hard time putting on weight and was tiny until we discovered how many allergies he had. When we were in stores, we would always make a run for it when we heard a musical baby toy go off because the high pitched noise would make Jeremy cry. These are just a few examples of the obstacles Jeremy has overcome. With the help of many amazing people, especially my mom, he learned to communicate, finally grew, and learned how to cope with the frustrations around him.

We recently celebrated Jeremy’s high school graduation, and I shared two things I had learned from being his big sister. The first is the importance of being willing to slow down. While Jeremy and I are siblings, we are polar opposites. I am the type of person to plan their life three months in advance because I am always on the go. I’m also the kind of person who likes things to be done quickly. With Jeremy, I’ve learned that it’s not only okay but good to slow down for others. Taking an extra ten seconds to further explain something or listen to someone’s excited rant is not the end of the world. In fact, it might open your eyes up to a bigger world around you.

The second lesson I’ve learned is to never judge a book by it’s cover. Yes I know, it’s an old cliche, but it is so true. There are so many times that Jeremy was dismissed for one reason or another, and so many people have missed out on the chance to get to know him. Multiple times over the course of my college experience I have been quick to judge others by their outward appearance and first impression, along with the opinions of others. However, time and time again, when I took the time to slow down and really get to know certain people, I kicked myself for being so quick to judge. There’s a bible verse that Jeremy and I both learned in Awana that says, “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” This was God talking to Samuel, who was trying to figure out which of Jesse’s sons to anoint as the next king of Israel. The most unlikely of the bunch was the one God chose, and the Shepherd David ended up being one of the greatest kings of Israel. Often times we move along with public opinion instead of forming our own. I cannot promise that I’ll never fall into the trap of jumping to a final opinion on a person too quickly ever again. However, from the experience of being Jeremy’s older sister, I can say I am getting better at treating everyone with the same amount of respect as I would like to have.

Jeremy is one funny dude. While he’s not a huge fan of photos, he has made many of our family photos experience quite hilarious. He’s also super passionate about his interests, and because of his love of talking about his favorite things, he does not know a stranger. This man can talk to anyone who knows how to hold a game controller or what an anime is for a good long while without getting tired of sharing his wealth of knowledge with them. If you wanna hear an amazing concert, just hang around our house for a bit, because you’ll end up hearing Jeremy’s amazing pipes from his bedroom. Most of all though, he’s the one boy who has been there through every heartbreak I’ve ever gone through. He’s the one who gives me his rare but blessed hugs when some guy has been dumb. He’s also one of the handful of people that has to approve any romantic relationship I have. If Jeremy approves, then I must have made a decent choice. To tack on, Jay is a total stud and any lady would be lucky to do on a date with this handsome man.

I won’t lie and say Jeremy and I are the best of friends. We bicker every other day and drive each other nuts. I irritate him and he irritates me. At the end of the day though, I know that the boy that lives down the hall from me is one of the biggest blessings God has given me. The hours we’ve spent watching Gravity Falls or quoting the Julian Smith “Hot Cool Aid video” are memories I will treasure forever. Jeremy has overcome so much and I know he will live a full life in the years to come. I am so grateful to have such a smart, funny, good-looking little brother, and I wouldn’t trade him or the lessons he’s taught me for anything in the world. As my mom says often, when you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism. No two cases are ever the same, and no person with autism is just, “that autistic kid.” People are not labels. Never underestimate a person just because they are different from you. You might find you can learn a thing or two from them!

 

Until Next Time,

Abby                   

 

Revisits: Suck More

There’s literally no good way to title this post.

 

With these revisits, I make it a rule for myself to not change anything that I originally wrote in 2017. I started this experiment with myself when I was cleaning out my Google Drive and ran across two documents in which I was pushing myself to write once a day for an entire year. Neither project was completed to the intended goal, but the original drafts serve as a sort of time capsule for myself. Though only two years have passed, I have grown and changed so much. When I first read this entry, I giggled at my past self a lot, but I feel like she had some good stuff to say. So, without further ado, words in bold are 2017 Abby, and italicized words are from 2019 me. Enjoy!

 

January 12, 2017

I need to allow myself to suck more. *Snorts* Okay I’m sorry, I’m sorry, the word choice just makes me chuckle. We as humans learn better through trial and error. In order for there to be “error”, you have to try multiple times. This is quite true. When starting a summer job where I make deliveries for a cafe downtown, I was told to not forget to check the orders to see if they bought potato chips. What did I forget the first time I did deliveries by myself? The chips. You better believe I have not forgotten since, because having to drive back to that office with a bag of chips was not the most fun thing in the world. As a species, we’ve made more advancements to improve our lives through failure. Take Thomas Edison; that guy screwed up so many times until he got something right, and he’s one of the standards for success.

Looking back on the last few years, I have come to the conclusion that I have put myself in a “I-Don’t-Want-To-Suck” bubble, mainly with my writing. When I was in middle school, I wrote a whole novel beginning to end, which was the only time I’ve ever done that. Why? Because that was during a time where I wasn’t pressuring myself to write brilliant things on the first try. That Drawn to Life draft was terrible, but it got done. Tis true. I have a 121 page manuscript still sitting on a flash drive somewhere that needs to get finished one day. It’s almost embarrassing that I’ve only finished one whole story when I’ve been saying almost my whole life that I want to be an author. Ugh, there’s a kick in the pants.

I think my biggest problem is that I want to be original, but so many of my ideas are based off someone else’s work. The kicker is that there is no “original” idea. Frustrating, yet true. It isn’t possible. In one way or another, everything is inspired by something else. As I think more on it, there is a sort of beauty in this. It’s an idea that artists of all medias are collaborating with each other to create new adventures for other people to enjoy. Do I condone straight-up copying someone else’s work? Absolutely not. But don’t beat yourself up because your *insert concept* is similar to someone else’s work.

I started this project in order to get back into the habit of writing. I figured that it was going to be hard, but I didn’t expect it to be this difficult already. Lol you have no idea, Abby. Another reason I think I might have dropped off the writing boat for so long is that it got hard. It wasn’t coming as easily as it once had. Here’s what I actually think happened: I started having higher standards for myself. I didn’t want to settle for anything less than my very best. The thing with drafts though: they aren’t *EVER* going to be your very best. The easy feeling of just writing whatever came into my head was gone. I had started to compare myself to people who had more experience or success and I didn’t match up to them. I have to come the resolution that it’s not a competition with anyone else; I am my own worst enemy. Side bar: this was around the time that I started wondering if I was dealing with depression, but thought that me being tough on myself would fix things.

It’s going to take getting over my pettiness and “woe is me” attitude to actually get some good work done. Tough self-love isn’t always the best route. I’m glad that I decided to take Mr. Warren’s Creative Writing class this semester. Ah Mr. Warren, my first and last professor at community college. He had me in his class when I was 15 and 18; he was a great influence. I think it’s going to help me out an awful lot. Over the past four years, I have learned that when a grade depends on it, I work a lot harder and end up making really great stuff. Other creative people don’t function like this, but I thrive on it. That’s why I’m going to school for art; if I am stuck in a classroom learning a skill vs. having to teach myself, I’m going to gain more progress in the classroom. So, my Myers Briggs personality type is an ESTJ-T, or “The Executive.” The most likely career paths for an ESTJ: law enforcement, upper level business, or military service. Least likely career paths: fine arts. Go figure.

School doesn’t start for another five days though. In that time, I want to start brainstorming and maybe even drafting SOMETHING. Literally anything. I have got to get back in the noveling game. For the past five years, “Write a Manuscript” has been on my New Year’s Resolution list. Now I know, we’ve talked about how I didn’t make a list this year, but maybe since I didn’t make an official list, it’ll actually happen this year. It didn’t, but that’s okay.

But seriously, who knew that this dinky little idea was going to be so hard 12 days into it!  My motivation is lacking; this is becoming more of a chore. Who knows if this is still beneficial? I’ll probably just be writing gibberish by December. Though, with how this week has gone, I’m surprised the last few days weren’t worse than they turned out. Being a hot, sick mess has been a struggle.

Here’s to writing SOMETHING!

 

I quit my 365 project about three months in. Later that year in November, I started writing again, but it was in a much lower level of positivity. About three months after that document was born, it was abandoned as well. That was the last time I had set a goal for myself with writing. Back in the December of 2018 though, I made a promise to myself to blog once a week in 2019. Since that first post on my once ghost town of a blog, I have not missed a week of blogging since. Almost six months of keeping up a writing goal is a big deal for me, and I’m happy to say that I am proud of myself. My advice to anyone who has failed before is this: try again. And again. And again. You never know when that “just one more time” will lead to a major success.

 

Until Next Time,

 

Abby

 

How To Do Homework: Undergrad Edition

I’ve officially been home from my first of two senior years of undergrad for almost a month now. It’s summer: the time to unwind and destress from the insanity of the school year. This is the time of year where I have the most time to sit down and really crank out some writing projects without the distraction of classes. So, what to write about when I have all this school-free time? How about a “How to do Homework” tutorial? This is my 100% foolproof method of accomplishing homework during the school year. It’s much easier to learn this process when you are away from the hustle and bustle of actual student life. If you are a recent high school graduate and want to know what the best way to succeed is when you start your college adventure, look no further than the list below.
How To Do Homework: Undergrad Edition

Step 1: Make some coffee- You need fuel!

Step 2: Make a list- It’s great to have a ground plan for what you want to accomplish that evening. Write out all the things you need to get done during this homework session.

Step 3: Clean your dorm- You can’t complete homework to the best of your abilities with a messy living space!

Step 4: Do the dishes- Well, you don’t want to be distracted by the fact that there are messy dishes in the sink while you are working on your studies.

Step 5: Reheat coffee- Your coffee got cold while cleaning. Nothing a quick 30-seconds in the microwave can’t fix!

Step 6: Make flashcards- Flashcards are the heart and soul of a great study session.

Step 7: Reward yourself with a snack- You’ve got a nice, pretty stack of flashcards next to you; time for another fuel break!

Step 8: Do the reading– Having some gypsy jazz playing in the background is helpful to make this more enjoyable.

Step 9: Snapchat the book you’re reading with the coffee cup- If it’s not on Snapchat, did it really happen?

Step 10: Reheat your coffee- You’re a slow drinker; pop it in for another 30 seconds.

Step 11: Hang upside down- Contemplating dropping out of school is optional at this point, but not recommended. You can chose to hang upside down from your bed, the couch, or your chair. You’re a pro at hanging upside down from your chair, since you have done this before in your Design Fundamentals class (sorry Cassie).

Step 12: Take notes on the reading- Use fun colored pens and highlighters to make it more engaging.

Step 13: Make a Quizlet- That way you can use your 15 minute walk to class as extra study time on your phone.

Step 14: Make another Quizlet- Your first Quizlet had the titles, the second Quizlet has the names. It’s not a waste of time; you’re studying by making the Quizlets.

Step 15: Reheat your coffee- This is the last time, I swear.

Step 16: Start studying through the first Quizlet- This can get addicting.

Step 17: Realize you should make one more Quizlet for good measure- Okay okay, hear me out. For art history, I had a Quizlet with the names of pieces, another one for the artist names, and then another one with the dates/genres. IT WAS NOT OVERKILL.

Step 18: Go bother your roommates- Bonus points if you go bother your boyfriend’s roommates by throwing one of their shoes into the elevator.

Step 19: Reheat your coffee- What is wrong with you?

Step 20: Burn your tongue because there wasn’t a lot of coffee left that you just reheated-     

Step 21: Make more coffee- *sigh*

Step 22: Notice that it’s 11:30pm- This is the ideal time to contemplate dropping out.

Step 23: Write the paper you’ve been procrastinating on all week in a panic because you want to go to bed- You forgot about this paper because you made all those Quizlets.

Step 24: Admit defeat, go to bed- Sometimes, it’s better to just sleep than run yourself ragged.

Step 25: Wake up the next morning, vowing to never do that to yourself again- You’ve learned; you’ve grown.

Step 26: Go about three weeks with a better hold on your homework- You’ve got sticky notes, phone alarms, and lots of notes written into your calendar to remind you. You even have a homing-pigeon who brings you homework reminders at lunch.

Step 27: Spend one night playing Risk and video games- The best of evenings.

Step 28: Throw off your helpful homework schedule- What have you done?

Step 29: Circle back to step 1- Repeat until graduation.

 

I hope that you have found this comprehensive guide useful. Stay tuned for How to do Homework: Master’s Program Edition, coming only Lord knows when.

 

Until Next Time,

Abby

 

Designing for “Little Women”

I’m the type of person who prefers dark room photography over digital photography. I enjoy shooting a roll of film, the terrifying process of developing that roll, and the tedious cycle of getting a perfect print. I feel that the work it takes to get that wonderful satisfaction of a single print is so often underrated and taken for granted. The same can be said for technical theatre at times. There isn’t the rush of receiving a standing ovation after a show-stopping performance. Instead, there are hours upon hours of staring at your sketches, trying an idea, throwing that idea out, debating with directors and fellow designers, trying new ideas, and wondering if what you’re doing is truly worth all the effort. But when you get something just right, you feel like you’re on top of the world. When you know that you have constructively contributed to a performance with your design, it makes the countless hours of the process worth it.

It wasn’t until high school that I discovered that I could have a viable career in the technical and design aspects of theatre. I had grown up performing in four to seven shows a year, so I was constantly surrounded by new designs. As I began to research where to go after I finished my associates degree, I initially looked at art schools in the Kansas City area. The problem with this plan was that I was going to lose the theatrical outlet I had become so used to while growing up. During my last few years of high school, I was given the opportunity to experiment in set, lighting, prop, and costume design while also performing in shows at our local community theatre. I loved the collaboration that happened between directors and designers; it was a whole new world to what I had known from just being an actor. A few directors who had seen my studio art over the years suggested that I look into theatrical design more seriously.

It was a wonderful change of plans that I ended up at Missouri Western, where I have been able to not only major in theatre, but also gain a minor in animation. Since transferring, I have had the opportunity to do my first projection design project in which I created all the content during, “Little Women: The Broadway Musical.” The set of animations included eleven digital backdrops that were designed in such a way that drawings would appear to be sketched onto the screen and then filled in with watercolors. There was also an element of typography work that was used during the song, “Fire Within Me.” While the main character, Jo, writes multiple stories throughout the course of the show, it is during this number that she is finally writing from her heart, which is why I wanted the words to be visually written out while she gave her monologue. Along with the text, I provided sketches of every cast member with various symbols that represented the character. I used these as the content to create a set of images that would cycle through during the pre-show and intermission. I spent three months in pre-production, five months in production and spent the two months leading up to the performances polishing my work. I have yet to experience a more gratifying feeling than seeing my art on stage in such a way, and I am itching to go through the process again.

I believe that there is so much to be discovered in the digital media side of theatre. Having the opportunity to grow as an artist throughout this process was character building and stretched me in more ways than I ever could have imagined. It was a happy accident that my original pitch for the backdrops was for them to be from Amy’s sketchbook, since I got to portray her while going through the design process. Creating the art for the show in a way was a chance for me to do character work for Miss March. Getting to dive into the world of projection design with a show that is near and dear to my heart was a fantastic learning experience, and I can’t wait to work on my next project!

 

Until Next Time,

Abby

 

Here’s a video that shows everything I created for Little Women; enjoy!

Revisits: Watson

This Revisit goes out to my best friend, Avery: the Thor to my Loki, the Watson to my Sherlock, and the most wonderful coffee pal a girl could ever ask for. I wrote this two years ago when I was getting over a cold, and the feelings remain the same. For reference: the original 2017 text is in bold, and my 2019 commentary is in italics. Enjoy!

January 10th, 2017

    There are certain people you meet that you know will go the distant distance in the friendship department. I’ve come to the realization that I won’t be in contact with the friends I see frequently now forever (how true, how true), but if there was one person I could count on to be a friend for life, it would be Watson. When I first started writing this document in 2017, I had the idea that I would publish it once the year was over. Because of this, I changed all my friends’ names. Fun fact: Avery is in my phone as “Watson” because it’s really satisfying to tell Siri to, “Call Watson.” While there have been times where we’ve fallen out of each other’s lives, we always manage to find our ways back to each other and pick up right where we started. YEAH LIKE WHEN YOU ONLY GET TO FACEBOOK EACH OTHER ONCE WHILE SHE’S IN INDIA FOR FOUR MONTHS.

    Her spirit and go-with-the-flow attitude is something I aspire to obtain. I’m Type A to the letter. I don’t think this is actually a phrase… *goes to Google* Yeah, I don’t think people say that. I want plans and structure in my life. Due to friends like her though, I am beginning to understand that it’s okay to relax and just let life happen at times (hence the only way I’m getting through this bed rest situation). OH YEAH. Okay, so backstory: I wrote this after having a doctor’s appointment where they told me I was having issues with my voice because I was overly exhausted. The good doctor told me the only thing I could really do was, “actually rest.” Ha. Ha. It took me another two years to actually figure out how to chill out. She jumps into adventures head on, it’s so awesome. ‘Tis true. She has done a lot of adventurous things in her life. I was the buzz-kill mom friend who was afraid of getting in trouble, so I didn’t have as many adventures.

      Ah, here is where we admit one of our biggest insecurities. There have been times where I’ve gotten upset because I’m never really a part of her social media presence. Yep. It’s kind of a really dumb thing to get upset about though. Let me explain myself a bit though. If you haven’t figured out yet from previous blogs, I am a very sentimental person. I take photos all the time and scrapbook like it’s a sport. I often go out of my way to capture selfies with friends even when they poke fun at me for it because I want to hold onto memories in as many ways as I can. However, not everyone is like that, and that’s something I’ve had to accept. While there are a the occasions where I’ll feel a little bummed to not be present on someone’s social media feed, it’s not something that should mess up a solid friendship. Ten years ago, that wasn’t even a thing, and I’m pretty sure that’s how long we’ve known each other. You don’t need to validate friendships through social media. Though I enjoy posting photos with my friends, a relationship is not validated by how many snapshots you have with someone on the internet.

    Today, Watson brought me coffee. I remember this day so distinctly, which is ironic to me because I was half-dead to the world. The last few days, I’ve been trapped in the house due to this stupid cold. We were supposed to go get coffee this afternoon at this neat place in Liberty, but I had to cancel due to the fact that it feels like there are baby elephants sitting on my sinuses. Wow, creative comparison  Abby. After texting her, she decided to bring me some yummy coffee from Caribou. It was quite delightful, and made me feel good that I had a friend who would do that for me. Honestly, it’s really easy to make my day. A sure fire way is to bring me a coffee, but literally, if someone brought me a rock and said, “Hey, I was walking, saw this rock, and thought you would think it was cool so I brought it to you,” I would be grinning for the rest of the day.

    You know who’s going to stick around for the long haul. There are going to be times where friends leave to move on to live their own lives. As we all should do, to be honest. That’s okay; people come into our lives when we need them, and sometimes, you drift apart as you grow into different people.  It can be good even. I mean, look at La La Land. Actually, no, I don’t want to think of that movie. I have a few friends who will make fun of me for this, but I love that film and at some point, I will be writing about it. Stay tuned.

    My point is, Watson is a friend that I feel like will always be there. We might be a world away from each other, but when we grow up, we’ll be able to go get coffee or look around a thrift store just like we used to. She’s a thrifting queen and I wish I had her skills. We could both have our babies on our hip and we’ll still make fun of the boys in our lives. She’s gonna laugh at that sentence. You just know, you know?

    Friends are important. The people we surround ourselves with shape us into the person that we become. I still regret the times that I blew off Watson to hang out with the “popular” kids. Ugh, being a people-pleaser to the unhealthy people in my life throughout high school was rough. It was so much time that was wasted where we could have gotten even closer. But, you can’t live in regrets. My sorrys have been said, and I have a wonderful friend who has my back, even when my face is stuffed up. She’s a quality human, that one. I’m glad I have her in my life as my partner in crime.

    God designed us to have community with one another. There are some people who are only there for a season, but others that will stick with you for years upon years. Be weary not to waste your precious time on people who are not looking out for your best interests. Not everyone will be your friend, and that’s okay. We would go crazy if we had to maintain friendships with every single person we ever encountered! However, with those friends we do hang onto, we have a responsibility to nurture them to the best of our abilities. I hope to never stop learning how I can be a good steward of the relationships God has blessed me with over the years. Avery, thank you for your friendship over the years: I am so grateful for you.

Cherish the people around you; they truly are a gift.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”

Until Next Time,

Abby

 

Lessons from the Year

Ah yes, one of those reflective posts about the past school year. A riveting expose on the major life lessons I have learned over the past nine months. An insightful analysis of how the human spirit can overcome all odds. Or, you know, just a fun little diddy to celebrate the fact that the hardest school year of my life has come to an end.

 

Upon returning to my home in Kansas City, I flipped through my completed 2018 scrapbook planner in comparison to my current 2019 one (here). Here are some highlights of the countless lessons I have learned this year.

 

August- Memorizing with songs is super helpful for Spanish. I only got a half point off on that first Spanish quiz because I forgot an accent on one of the names. Somehow, I must relearn everything this summer as to not fail my last two Spanish classes.

September- I very much enjoy film acting. God bless James for texting me early in the year when I wasn’t in rehearsals to come act in his directing project. Special shout out to his precious cat princess who enjoyed running between my legs during intense bits of dialogue.

October- Gypsy jazz is a blessing. Thank you, Nathan; I’ve got your playlist running through my headphones as I write this.  

November- Doing an overnight shoot after an all night sleepover is rough. It’s funny how I said I would never do another overnight shoot again and ended up ending my 21st birthday walking into the studio to do another one. Regardless, Andy is one of my favorite people and I would do a hundred more overnight shoots if it meant being able to keep making great films with him.

December- Prayer works. Sometimes it takes a long, long time, but man, when you see the Lord transfer someone’s life, it is absolutely miraculous and beautiful.

January- I have missed doing improv more than I knew. I had the opportunity at KCACTF to do a long form improv workshop with students from across the region, including a gal who is an incredible scenic painter that I idolized last summer. Our team still has the Loopers group chat going semi-strong; it was a good time.

February- I truly could make a career doing projections for theatre. I cried during the first tech rehearsal while I was standing backstage waiting for my entrance. Seeing my months of animation actually work on stage was amazing and I look forward to the next opportunity I have to tackle this art form again.

March- It’s possible to almost lose an eye and get frostnip in the span of 16 days. (See this post for the story about me getting whacked in the face with an ice skate during “Little Women” here) Pro Tip: when doing an outside shoot in the woods when it’s cold, constantly move your body, or your sweet fella might have to carry you through the woods to your producer’s car, where you will throw up because of how much pain you are in due to how cold you are, which will lead the two of them to taking you to urgent care. The best thing to come from that situation was getting a solid nap in the waiting room. Hot dang though, that film looked GOOD.

April- Giving a bad performance does not define you. You’ll have stellar performances and ones that you wish no one had witnessed. Regardless of how each performance goes, you go in the next day and breathe out the character once again with a fresh mind and heart.

May- God provides. I spent weeks trying to nail down a part time job for the summer. I was ready to give up until I went to a bridal shower and ended up having a conversation with a long-time friend of the family. As I type this, I am looking out over Downtown Kansas City with a cup of coffee, waiting for 10:40am to hit so I can walk down the street to one of my favorite places for an afternoon of work. This is the kind of life I relish, and totally beats working in a department store.

 

It’s astounding to see how much growth I have gone through since August. I thought that flipping though last year’s planner would be a lot harder. There’s memories in there that are bittersweet, but I’m getting to a point where “bitter” is starting to fade away as an adjective. I know that there will be years that will be tougher and that there are countless things I still need to work on with myself, but the future is bright, which is something I wouldn’t have said three months ago with confidence. Bring on summer and one more year of undergrad, Life: I’m ready for you.

 

2 Corinthians 5:17-Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

 

Until Next Time,

 

Abby

 

Crazy Calendar Lady

I love my planner. When I say love, I mean it’s basically my favorite possession and if some guy snatched my backpack, I would care about getting my planner back more than my wallet. Why do I have so much affection for this book that is supposed to just hold dates and assignments? Because I am a calendar-scrapbook-addict. And a sticker-addict. And a mega- washi-tape-addict. When I’m stressed out, I reorganize my tape storage box.

I can’t claim credit for coming up with the idea of scrapbooking my planner. Four years ago, my dear friend Suz introduced me to the wonderful world of scrapbooking her Erin Condren planner. I dabbled with sticking random photos into my planner, but it wasn’t until the January 2017 that I started decorating the pages on a weekly basis. Let me tell you, those first few months of spreads were ROUGH, but around March, I finally got into a system of creating my weekly layouts. Now, I’ve got it down to a creative science.

This year, I made the switch from Erin Condren to Plum Paper (which was one of the stupidest difficult choices I have ever made in my life). What’s nifty about Plum Paper is that you can get extra pages added to your personalized calendar. I’m a sucker for grids, so I got a checklist insert at the end of each month. I also got some swanky dotted paper, because who doesn’t love this magical type of paper? With these additional pages, I have dipped my toe into the water of bullet journaling via making daily goal and mood tracker sheets. It’s something I’m still perfecting; I consult Pinerest on the daily.

Whenever someone lays eyes on my planner who hasn’t seen it before, there is usually a list of questions I receive 95% of the time.

 

Planner Scrapbooking FAQs

  1. When did you start scrapbooking your planner? As I said before, I played around with scrapbooking my 2016 planner a little bit, but it wasn’t until 2017 that I started doing it consistently. I am currently on my third year of the scrapbooking adventure, and hope to go back to finish the 2016 planner someday.fullsizeoutput_2ff3  (March 25th-March 31st 2019 Spread)
  2. How do you get the little photos?-My process is copying and pasting my photos from the week into a Word document and making them all 1 ½ inches wide. I end up with a grid of photos that I print and cut out! God bless my roommate Indigo who has been printing them for me on a weekly basis this year. fullsizeoutput_3011(Photo sheet for April 22th-April 30th)
  3. How do you make your spreads? I decide a color scheme with four roles of washi tape. I’m a weirdo who has to stick to patterns or it bugs me to no end. I consult the photo gallery on my phone to layout all the photos to cover up the ridiculous schedule I had to adhere to for the week. From that color scheme I have picked out, I go through the dozen or so sticker books I have to fill in the extra space.fullsizeoutput_3015 (My beautiful collection of washi tape)
  4. How long does it take you to do a spread? Usually about 20-45 minutes, depending on how complex I want make the spread that week.fullsizeoutput_2ff2 (April 15th-21st 2019 Spread)
  5. Why do you scrapbook?  Two main reasons: It’s a great way to forget about the stress of the week by covering up my schedule with cute photos and fun stickers. It’s also a great way to practice gratitude. Even when I’ve had an awful week, looking back at silly snapshots from the week makes me remember that life isn’t all that bad.fullsizeoutput_2ff1 (Antigone Highlights)
  6. What’s the deal with your mood tracker? This school year was full of extreme highs and lows. From major disappointments to triumphant successes and seasons of deep despair and radiant joy, I have been all over the spectrum. I had heard about people who journaled about their moods on the daily, and I decided to try and make a visual chart for myself to keep track of my own. I make a key of colors that correspond with certain moods, and also use stickers to track things like spirals, when I’ve felt encouraged, and The Red Baron (you can figure that one out for yourself). I’m only on my second month of mood tracking, but it’s already helped a lot when I communicate with loved ones or my counselor.fullsizeoutput_3017 (April Mood Tracker and Daily Goals)
  7. How do you set up your bullet journal? I started doing my daily goals in bullet journal form this January with a set of goals that I thought I needed to improve on. Over the course of February, March, April and May, some of those tasks has stayed the on the list every month, some have been consolidated, and others have been taken off the list for now. It all depends on what’s going on that month. For example, I always have “Jesus Time” at the top of my page, but for the month of May, I’ve got “Practice Gentleman’s Guide Music” as a daily goal to prepare for the show I will be performing in June.fullsizeoutput_2ff4 (May Mood Tracker and Daily Goals)
  8. I don’t how to do something like this; how do I start? It’s all a matter of starting without having any expectations. My planner looks so different from Suz’s planner and ours both look super different from ones you can find online. Pinterest is a great resource for getting inspiration, but don’t be afraid to make it your own. Come over and hang out with me; I have many stickers to spare!

 

Scrapbooking my planner has been one of the best forms of self-love I have done over the years and I can say with confidence that it has helped improve my mental health. Maybe the washi tape life isn’t for you, and that’s okay! Find something that makes you happy and use it to decompress. It’s amazing what 30 minutes of sticking mini photos down with sparkly stickers does for the soul.fullsizeoutput_2ff5

 

Until next time,

Abby

 

Trusting the Text

Is it just me, or can actors be some of the biggest control freaks ever? Maybe it’s just me, I dunno; someone fact check me, please. For me personally, there have been so many instances in my life when partaking in theatrical endeavors that I have found myself trying to have a tight hold on what I think the character is feeling. I create my own idea of what the character wants and feels. While yes, there is a certain amount of internal development that is up to the actor portraying the character, so many times, it’s easy to miss what the writer intended to be said on stage.

I recently got to work on a translation of Sophocles’s “Antigone” by Anne Carson. What’s most interesting about Carson’s translation is that there is not very much punctuation written into the script. Aside from a few question marks and exclamation points, there isn’t a ton of established punctuation. This allowed freedom for the cast to really sit down and digest the words that we were speaking. We had to do our homework by adding our own punctuation. The lyrical nature of her script was fascinating to study and by far one of the biggest challenges I have had thus far as a stage actor.

A favorite saying that our director, Tee Quillin, would say at least once a rehearsal was, “Trust the text.” There is a tendency with actors, especially young actors, to add their own interpretation on the lines they are reciting that sometimes is in the total opposite direction of what is needed for the show. It’s easy to walk into a show thinking, “I know what I want this character to be like,” and totally disregard what is truly needed from you as a performer.

I struggled with this majorly while playing Ismene, Antigone’s younger sister. There are so many ways that this character can be played, and Tee’s direction that he was taking us on was that Ismene is naïve to a major fault. The poor girl had so much love for her family but was trapped following the rules that had been set in place by earthly leaders. Since Ismene was following the rules made by men instead of those set by the gods, there was a major disconnect between her and Antigone.

Another thing about Ismene is that she really does not have a lot of fight in her, unlike her older sister. This is where my struggle stemmed from. I have dealt with a lot of crappy situations in life that have dragged me down, but I have never felt completely hopeless. Getting to that mental state was a long process, and a frustrating one, I might add. I would leave rehearsal, kicking myself that I wasn’t getting what our director wanted. There were many conversations about the character, and Tee always pushed this one thought: Trust the text.

The beauty of storytelling on stage is that actors are able to bring to life the words of playwrights. Every writer puts great thought and detail into the words they put down on paper. It takes analysis and time to get a true understanding for what the writer wants to be portrayed on stage. It also takes not only a good director to convey the theme of the work to their company, but also a trust in that director that they have done their homework in analyzing the script. From there, the actor must trust the words that they are speaking to do their work.

In Shakespeare’s masterpiece, “Hamlet,” the title character gives a speech to the players that begins with him saying, Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue. But if you mouth it, as many of your players do, I had as lief the town crier spoke my lines.” Basically, Hamlet is telling the actors to not over-exaggerate the lines he has given them like other actors did; otherwise, he might as well have a newscaster say the lines. Further down the page, Hamlet continues, saying, “Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observance that you o’erstep not the modesty of nature. For anything so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is to hold, as ’twere, the mirror up to nature, to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.”  Translation: Fit the action to the word and the word to the action, always acting natural, no matter what it takes. Exaggeration has no place on stage, where the purpose is to represent reality, holding a mirror up to virtue and to the pulse of the times.

What makes this one of my favorite Shakespearean speeches of all time is that Good Old Will used his main character to call out all the over-acting actors of his time. The performers were exaggerating everything instead of playing true-to-life. Shakespeare was calling out the people who weren’t just taking writer’s words at face value and performing them earnestly. I believe that this speech is one that every actor should have memorized and revisit over and over again during their career. It can be easy to lose sight of the truthfulness needed to be an actor. It’s also terrifying to be truthful. You know why? Because being truthful means being vulnerable, and that is hard to do with just one person, let alone an entire audience.

The more I thought about the phrase, “trust the text,” the more it made me think about my spiritual life. So often, I think to myself, “I’m sure this is the right thing to do,” without really talking to the One know really knows what is best for me. It’s amazing that we have been given a book that was literally inspired by the breath of God and we so often don’t really trust it. Oh yeah, the Bible says, “Be anxious for nothing,” and “Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or be dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” But am I a person who is anxious all the time? Yep. Am I a person who is often afraid and/or dismayed by how life is going? You betcha. Even though I have been told time and time again that I am *never* alone, I still have a hard time trusting the guide book that has been given to me. However, during the times I let go, breathe, and let God take a hold of my worries, I find that in my vulnerable state, I feel much more freedom as I walk through life.

“Antigone” was an experience that taught me how to breathe out the text and to really trust not only my director and fellow actors, but also the playwright. When you allow the text to do it’s work, you find that you aren’t having to work as hard. By not forcing a performance, you are better able to connect with your audience. It also reminded me that I still have so much to learn about myself and my craft, but that it’s perfectly fine that I don’t have it all figured out yet. That’s the point of life; we’re always learning. I can say that I finally got to a point with Ismene that I was proud of myself as an actress. It was difficult and a little painful at times to work through the emotions of the character, but understanding how to trust the lines I had been given was a lesson I will forever be grateful for. As long as I keep performing, I will always make sure to have those three words in mind as I get to know my character, and as long as I continue my walk with Christ, I will be persistent in learning how to truly trust His text.

 

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Cast, Crew and Designers of “Antigone”

 

Until Next Time,

Abby

 

Revisits: November 27th 2017

I started doing “Revists” when I ran across two documents that I was working on in 2017 to gain consistency in writing. A good chunk of the entries are light and funny, but some of them are very heavy, particularly entries from November 2017 onwards. I tried making two promises to myself to stick with the daily writing project, both of which I fell short on. This post is from the midst of a show week and a deep “blue period” for me. When I first read this post, I cried when I realized how much hurt I was dealing with at the time that I didn’t fully grasp. This was at a point in my life where I was refusing to get help or to deal with issues that needed to be addressed. Point of reference: writing in bold is the original text, writing in italics commentary. 

 

11/27/2017

I’m so thankful to past Abby for not putting a quantity goal on this project if mine, because as this semester comes to a close, I’m not going to have any extra time to even breathe. Oh just you wait until the spring semester, Abby. I was PISSED last night when Kelsey emailed us saying we had Short and Sweet rehearsal, because I was going to use tonight to try and get ahead on some homework. It was a huge sigh of relief when she sent an email this morning saying it was a false alarm, but I was quite irritated still to say the least. Kelsey, if you’re reading this, I love you, Grandmama. Receiving that email from you was awesome.

Trying to get everything organized is going to be the death of me. I’ve got three giant projects to finish for my studio classes, and I think I’m biting off more than I can chew. Ha. Yes, yes you were. You’re gonna be doing that for another year and a half. Oh well. Trying to get that freaking portfolio together so that maybe the art department will give me more money next semester. Man, I am glad that I dropped down to an animation minor and that I don’t have to deal with applying for scholarships for my Bachelor’s anymore.

***

Oh my gosh, I literally have no idea when I’ll get these art projects done, I’m going to die. You made it through, it’s okay. Why are my projects always so elaborate? Because you like to challenge yourself. Why can’t I be a bum and just BS my work like half my peers do? Well… Because I’m a freaking over achiever and if I don’t push myself to do my very best I feel like a loser. Let’s try and rephrase this: I give my best effort in every area of my  life, but if I fall short of my personal expectations, that doesn’t mean I’ve  failed.

I know I’m not a perfectionist. Eeeeeeh wondering if that isn’t the case. I most definitely slack off on some stuff. I wish there was a term for a person who wants everything to look great.

I guess there is a word for that…

“Overachiever”

Which you already used, Abby

Dummy Oh sweet girl.

Ugh, I need to be kinder to myself. I guess I sort of did something for myself today. I made a sheet of photos and “illegally” printed them in the office. It’s technically not illegal, but they would probably be mad if I used company time to make a sheet of scrapbook photos. Oof, I remember this day. It was a really slow day, but I felt really bad about it.

I’m the worst.

Oh well.

I have found recently I am giving less-of-a-crap for a lot of things that I probably shouldn’t. Having to work my ass off constantly is exhausting; I don’t have time to give a crap anymore. Side bar: adding a Sabbath to my weekly routine has been the best thing I have done for myself over this past month of my life. Hopefully this isn’t how I’ll always be. It’s not: now you care almost a bit too much. I want to “give a crap” about stuff. I want to care. I just feel like I’ve turned into a robot of negative emotions. I’m a Tin Man. I don’t have a heart.

That’s a huge hyperbole, because I do care. I obviously do; I cry on my boyfriend all the time.  Which that needs to change ASAP, Abby. You’re an annoying hot mess who needs to get their act together and stop being a Debbie-Downer all the time. You’re afraid of everything and it’s dumb. Snap out of it. WOW WOW WOW. I wish I could say I didn’t talk to myself like this anymore, but sentences like this come out of my mouth often. God bless my life allies who are good at helping refute negative self-talk.

I should never be a counselor.

In other news, I’m gonna stop taking birth control. I think it’s one of the reasons I’m an emotional pipe bomb all the time. Ah yes, a choice that was influenced by people who don’t believe in medicine. Granted, there are other factors, but I am thinking the additional hormones being added to my body aren’t really helping. Maybe my period will be normal now, I dunno, but at this point, I’ve gotta fix my brain for the good of everyone around me.

I don’t have a cute little button for this post. To be quite honest, two different drafts are sitting on my desktop that I got half way through this week but abandoned for the time being. It’s okay to admit to yourself that you’re not alright. At times, you’ve gotta take a step back, breathe, and do what you need to take care of yourself. That can mean spending two hours with your Disney Princess coloring book while watching “The Office.” Or, it can mean blasting a T-Pain album while beating up bad guys in your Spider-Man video game. Sometimes, it means sleeping through the day.  

As stated before, I wrote this original post during a very low period of my life. Full disclosure, I’m in a much lower valley now than I was on November 27th, 2017. I don’t write this post to say, “Oh, woe is me, everyone should feel bad for me.” I share this very vulnerable part of my brain in hopes that someone else can be helped by hearing my story. So, in absence of a button-ending, I’ll leave you with this: take care of yourself, not for the benefit of other people, but for *you*. You are important and worth the effort.

 

Until Next Time,

Abby

 

Top Five Scenic Painting Jobs

For someone who has always enjoyed painting, getting to move to larger projects via theatrical sets has been a great challenge over the past few years. Here are my top five favorite projects I have worked on thus far!

 

Honorable Mention- “21 Chump Street”- I was not on the official design/construction team for “Short and Sweet,” which is a collection of short plays and films that my college puts on once a year. However, a friend of mine was directing Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 15 minute musical, “21 Chump Street,” and for her set, she was using the chalkboard from our scene shop. I was asked if I could add some graffiti to the chalkboard, which resulted in me spending an hour in the theater blasting Taylor Swift and going to town on the board. It was a nice way to spend the afternoon.

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5) “Schoolhouse Rock Live!”-This one doesn’t technically count as I really only painted one part of the set. “Schoolhouse” was the first show I ever did in college, and is still one of my favorites. While I was an actor in the production, I found myself wandering into the scene shop a few times to help on set construction. The first time I went in, I was told to finish putting together a set of stairs. After a few visits, I ended up painting most of the Lolly House, which ended up as the homebase for the band that was playing for the show. It was during this project I learned how to mimic the look of cinder block via sawdust and a hudson sprayer. Not gonna lie, it was pretty cool to be on stage every night with a set I had helped to create.

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4) “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged” –This is another one that I only did part of the painting process for, but it was because of “Schoolhouse Rock Live” that I was able to teach others some helpful techniques. Over the winter break of 2017, I was home in KC while my paint shoes were safe in their locker in St. Joe. “Surely I won’t need to take these home over break!” (Famous Last Words) Some of my dear friends were in a production of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged” at the time through the theatre program I grew up participating in. I offered to come in and help gather costumes and assist in painting the set. Due to the limited amount of rehearsal time though, cast members filtered in and out of their rehearsal space and the warehouse where the brick walls were being painted. Since I had just worked on a brick project a few months beforehand, I was able to guide the process with students who hadn’t put a hand on scenic painting before. I came back into town a month later to see the show, and let me tell you, those brick walls looked super spiffy. Side bar: my purple converse ended up becoming my secondary set of paint shoes.

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3) “Blithe Spirit” –Ah, the biggest love/hate/mostly hate experience I have had thus far with a painting project. Let me preface this with the fact that “Blithe Spirit” is my favorite play that I have gotten to perform in thus far. British humor cracks me up, y’all. The whole play takes place in the living room of the Condomine house, so since there was only one location, we had a lovely, elaborate box set. God bless our Technical Director, Scroggs; his carpentry skills were off the charts for this project. There was so much math involved in creating the staggered walls of the set, and I am forever envious of those who have a natural knack for drafting. Those gorgeous walls needed a pattern though, which is where I came in. I spent about ten hours going up and down a ladder stenciling the massive set. The little paint roller I was using had a wonderfully frustrating habit of falling off the handle every five minutes, and I looked like I had leprosy every time I finished a painting session. Proud to say though, there was only one part of the wall that I messed up math-wise while painting. My stage husband enjoyed pointing it out to me every other day. It helped fuel our arguments during the show.  

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2) “Spring Awakening”-I live in the Midwest, and in the Midwest, there’s this thing called snow that likes to throw off everyone’s lives. The winter of 2018, we didn’t have as much snow, but goodness sakes, we had a ton of ice. We had so much ice that our campus closed for three days. Oh, did I mention that those three days were right in the middle of tech for “Spring Awakening?” Yeeeeeeeeah not the greatest timing. However, the show must go on, and the set must be finished. I had the pleasure of collaborating with Brett Carlson on creating 128 square feet of our “Song of Purple Summer” mural. Learning how to make canned paint look like watercolor was a fantastic skill to learn and led to a gorgeous end result. Replicating the process for KCACTF51 was terrifying because I wasn’t sure if I could measure up to what was made the year before, but I surprised myself by my recreation. (Fun fact: this show was one of the main reasons that Sweet Ben and I became good friends. It was a long process, but it was good to have a partner for the project.)

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1) “Antigone”-Woohoo for my current project! This design was a collaboration with Ben and our professor Jeff for our set design independent study. There was an afternoon where Ben and I were cleaning out the paint kitchen, and stumbled upon these banners that had been used for a show years beforehand. We were in the midst of brainstorming what we wanted the set to look like, and he had the idea to have some form of banners as part of the design. Ben’s got a knack for creating symbols, so together, we created runes for not only each character in the play, but also runes for characters that were part of the other plays in Sophocles’ trilogy about the line of Oedipus. From there, we ended up creating 14×5 foot banners that hang on either side of the stage. After Ben did the math, we drew out the symbols in a what we lovingly refer to as the “Death Tree.” I then spent a few hours filling them in with black paint (shout out to Ted Dekker for writing spooky books that are fun to listen to while painting for a Greek tragedy).

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The next day, I tea-stained the giant banners to tone down the brightness of the muslin we had painted on. We attached them to one of our batons so we could fly them out to dry. While looking at them, I was so anxious about the next step. Our idea was to make blood stains on the banners, but I loved how nice they looked up to this point. I didn’t wanna screw up the hours of work we had already put in! I spent about an hour mixing and testing different washes of paint to try and great the right color for the job. I ended up soaking the ends of the banners in a gallon bucket of the wash mixture I landed on. My hands were stained red and I looked like I had just committed a horrible crime. Following this, I went a little nuts with splatter painting, creating some pretty sick looking “blood splatters.” This technique only added to me looking like a psycho murderer, but dang, did those banners look awesome. It was a fun adventure to wander around the building while covered in the paint; I’ve never heard our costuming professor laugh as loudly as she did that afternoon.

 

While there have been moments of frustration and self-doubt while working on each of these projects, all of them led to really gratifying end results. Overall lesson from these experiences: don’t doubt yourself. Even if you make mistakes, you’ll always end up learning something new from each assignment you take on. Don’t be afraid to make a mess; the messy projects are usually the most fun!

 

 

Until Next Time,

Abby