All posts by Abby Wolff

About Abby Wolff

As far back as I can remember, I have been creating. I was blessed to grow up in Kansas City into a family that encouraged me to pursue my passions in the arts. I am currently on track to double major in Animation and Theatre/Cinema at Missouri Western State University. Some of my favorite moments on stage have been playing Ruth in Blithe Spirit (MWSU), Genie in Aladdin (CYT-KC), and Anybody's in West Side Story (CYT-KC). Behind the scenes credits include Dramaturg and Scenic Charge for The Great American Trailer Park (MWSU), Prop Designer and ASM for The Addams Family (TitP-Shawnee Mission), and Prop Designer for The Drowsy Chaperone (OCTA). Along with working on and off stage, I also serve as the Vice President of the Alpha Psi Omega- Xi Eta cast. When not on stage or in the animation studio, you can usually find me either working in the Missouri Western scene shop, working on short films, or writing and doodling in coffee shops. Life is too short to be boring. We have been given the opportunity to live extraordinary lives, and I want to use the time I have to make art that matters.

Revists: What Else is Good?

We have reached the point in the semester where I am starting to give less of a crap about passing my classes, which is quite dangerous with my Spanish class. When this starts to creep in, I have learned that I must snuff it out quickly before it destroys any chance of me being productive. One way of doing this has been writing. However, I have no creative energy to spare. So I started going through my old blog posts. I found an entry from 2015 where I talked about a faculty advisor who would always ask us, “What else is good?” So, in the spirit of my other “Revisits,” I decided to look back on my list from 2015 and make a new list for 2019 to compare what was good then and what is good now. The items in italics are from 2015, and the items in bold are from this year. 

 

  • I haven’t gotten lost yet in my math class.
  • While I am frustrated in my Spanish class, I have a solid 75% as my overall grade right now and that makes me super happy.
  • While my meteorology class is super boring, I have over 100% in the class because my teacher gives so much extra credit.
  • I love my Directing 1 class. It’s such a solid group of students who are going to put on a fantastic showcase in December.
  • I am growing as an artist in my Drawing class this semester.
  • I have lined up two projection design jobs outside of school.
  • Cinderella opens next week and this show is gonna be awesome!
  • Right now, I am stage managing for five short plays and today our technical director said I was doing a good job.
  • I made the Improv team again! This summer, I get to travel to San Diego with nine other super awesome, talented funny CYT students to compete in a comedy competition called Improvaton.
  • I have dates set to visit Lubbock, Texas to check out the grad school I will hopefully be attending in Fall 2021.
  • My car works in the snow, thank the Lord.
  • My dear, temperamental car is still running.
  • Walking Dead starts again on Sunday.
  • Sweet Ben and I have started season 4 of Yugi-Oh!
  • I got four new piano students!
  • Over the course of five years, I had the opportunity to teach 25 kids music. Right now, I currently only teach my professor’s daughter on a weekly basis, but it is still so rewarding to be able to pass along musical knowledge.
  • My Mac doesn’t restart every ten minutes anymore.
  • I have figured out how to make my iPad keep a charge.
  • Art Club at school is going great! It’s been so much fun so far, and I can’t wait to see what this awesome group of people do this spring.
  • Our pledge class for Alpha Psi Omega this year is so stinking big and it’s awesome.
  • One of my paintings sold at the Juice shop that I sell art at this week.
  • In a few weeks I get to go back and work at Songbird.
  • While I love doing shows, after next week, I’m going to have a month and a half off from rehearsals. I’ll be able to catch up on school stuff and get a handle on my big research project.
  • Ha, what is a break? However, I love all the scripts I am working on right now and all the peers I get to create with.
  • I have a free drink to go get at Starbucks tomorrow.
  • I have kept a promise to myself and have not had Starbucks for 40 days. It sucks but I am proud of myself.
  • I have a warm home, food in the fridge, running water, a toilet, wifi, and a wonderful family to come home to everyday.
  • I love my suitemates, my dorm is cozy and fun to be in, and have a trusty coffee machine.

 

What else is good in your life? Don’t forget to take time to remember what positive things are going on. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have 26 Spanish verbs to go memorize. 

 

Until Next Time, 

Abby

 

Reflecting on “Crazy for You”

Ever since I can remember, I have been a theatrical person. When I was younger, my parents had me try sports but nothing ever stuck. My mom and dad didn’t want to force me to do activities I wasn’t interested in, so I was never a top athlete by any means. However, in elementary school, I always had a blast with our yearly musicals. From kindergarten to fifth grade, I participated in the class musical. I would usually get some sort of featured roll, but it wasn’t until fifth grade that I got a “lead.” Around this time, I also started participating in a community theater group called Christian Youth Theater. My family was originally only going to participate in one show, but by the time I graduated from high school, I had over thirty acting credits under my belt via CYT. 

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If you had told me when I began my time at Missouri Western that I would be playing a role like Polly Baker in “Crazy for You,” I would have laughed. While I have had the opportunity to play major roles in musicals, I had never been a leading lady. More often than not, I was the goofy sidekick character who would be the comic relief for shows. I had done extensive dancing in shows before, but long duets with a leading man? Nope, not me. The only time I ever got close was with “Beauty and the Beast” when I read for Belle at callbacks and was ultimately cast as Lefou (which was an absolute blast). In high school, it seemed like only a handful of girls were cut out to being the leading ladies, and I wasn’t one of them. I was a funny girl, which was just fine with me. 

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Fast forward to my second to last semester of undergrad. I had just come back from a summer of recovery after a rough semester. I was a little wary of auditioning for a brand new director, but I had been told by multiple KC friends that Sarah Crawford was an amazing person to work under. I continued my streak of flubbing the words on each of my Fall semester audition songs (which horrified and astounded several freshmen). Callbacks were a nerve racking blast, and I must say, I have never left a dance call more confident that I did a good job. Waiting for the cast list was awful. When that list went up on the call board though, I was shocked and over the moon to see “Polly Baker” next to my name. 

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Sarah is unlike any director I have ever worked with. She is larger than life but still down to earth. She exudes confidence with grace and humility. She’s the kind of person who demands respect without ever having to verbally ask for it. I wanted to please her, but not in a way that I just wanted her to like me. I wanted to please her because I knew she knew what she was doing and if I got a thumbs up from her, that meant I was on the right track. 

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Getting back into the “musical theatre” actor mindset was a bit difficult for the first few weeks of rehearsals. I had received amazing technical training from a previous professor that truly helped me get grounded in straight play and film acting. Sarah was constantly telling me to raise the stakes with my character work. She even once said, “You’re too ‘on camera.’ This is musical theatre; I need BIG!” There was almost a bit of fear in going bigger. In the past, I’ve had certain people tell me that I was not believable on stage. I was worried that I would be too much, but Sarah promised that she wouldn’t let me look foolish on stage. She instilled a trusting relationship between the two of us right off the bat and I knew that she genuinely wanted to make me a better performer. 

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Working with Dr. Paul Hindemith is always a joy, but this show was extra special. I have been studying voice with Paul for almost two years now and it is astounding how far I have come over our semesters together. The techniques I have learned have helped me produce music that I ever thought was possible to come out of me. During this show especially, I learned how to maintain consistency in performances, even if I was exhausted. Before college, I didn’t know how to properly take care of my instrument, but now, I have gained the confidence that I could take care of myself for multiple weeks of shows. Anytime I can make Paul smile because of my singing is a blessing. I cannot thank him enough for the skills he instilled in me to do Polly’s track every night. 

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I worked opposite a transfer student named Ray Clark. My first impression of him was him wearing a full Scottish get-up to the TCD Meet & Greet, kilt and all. I thought he was a dork. When we got cast as Polly and Bobby, I was keen on becoming pals quickly. Full disclosure: I was stupid nervous about kissing him on stage and was a bit of an awkward potato until after we finally got it over with for the first time. As the weeks progressed, Ray and I established a strong bond between each other that made us wonder if we were long lost siblings. We would yell and whine about our dance steps while we practiced together. After an hour of practicing, we would rejoice together at the progress we had made. He was a trustworthy scene partner and someone I knew who would take care of me on and off stage. Now, he’s become one of my best friends! Funny how things work out.

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There were other moments throughout the process of this show that will make it unforgettable. Libby Denny and I were able to bond more than we ever had before. I got to invest in the new freshmen by showing them the ropes of our department. I got to aggressively kiss Sweet Ben in Act 2 every night. It was a bop. Above all though, playing Polly Baker showed me that I am not limited as an actress. I am capable of playing the roles I told myself I wasn’t pretty or talented enough to play. I am so proud of myself for not giving up. Walking in Polly’s shoes for six weeks helped me gain back the confidence I once had as a musical theatre performer tenfold. While the show was full of obstacles, it is a show I will forever be grateful to have been in at Missouri Western. 

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On our second to last performance, I left the stage after bows knowing that the previous two and a half hours had been the best performance of my life. All of the struggles, nervousness and juggling of homework and rehearsals was worth it. I was reminded of why I chose this path of study. The arts help us express our human experience. Even with a show as silly as “Crazy for You,” we are able to express childlike hope that making art will fix our problems. While that may not be the end-all-be-all solution to the world’s struggles, I full-heartedly believe that there is a special kind of joy that only theatre can bring. Being a part of this cast and crew made me realize this, and because of that, I will never look at the performing arts the same way again.

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Until Next Time,

 

You Might be a “Mom Friend” if…

Me: “Hey, maybe we shouldn’t climb over the room dividers on the balconies in this hotel.”

Friend: “Okay, thanks MOM.”

 

You ever deal with conversations like this? Well my friend, you most likely can be categorized as “The Mom Friend.” This special type of person possesses abilities that can be both a blessing and a curse. Over the years, I have found myself in this category, and I have identified ten traits that might help you too realize that you indeed are “The Mom Friend.” 

 

 

  • You know other people’s schedules better than they do. You know when they’re free to hang out because you know when they have classes and what days they work late. When making plans, you’re the one to remind people not to double-book themselves. Bonus points if you have a color-coded planner for your own schedule. giphy (6)
  • You’re usually the sober one. I’ve only gone to four parties over the past two and a half years and have sober at 75% of them. Most of the time, the Mom Friend can also be known as the “DD,” aka, the Designated Driver. Thankfully, I’ve been blessed with college pals who don’t make me feel like a loser for drinking my Diet Coke at a get-together. tenor (1)
  • You check in on friends when they have a long drive home. Oh Lord, I cannot tell you how many times I have stayed up waiting for a friend to text me that they have gotten home and have freaked out irrationally that they have died when they don’t tell me they are indeed safe. Y’all, just send me a snap so I can go to sleep.  giphy (5)
  • You’re the one to get the phone call. On the flip side, if a friend is in distress, you best know that the Mom Friend will be the one to get a phone call. Whether it’s letting someone vent over the phone or coming to show up when someone needs you, you’re the one who will always pick up the phone to lend a hand. giphy (4)
  • You take on the weight of your peoples’ problems. And here’s the thing: you’ve also got a ton of problems. However, you more often than not will set aside your own issues to help others work through their struggles. You gotta be careful with this though, because you will often forget that your problems are just as valid. giphy (3)
  • You experience burnout about once a month. When you inevitably forget to take care of yourself, you experience a phenomenon called Burnout. You’re overly tired, lack motivation to be your normally chipper/organized self and end up snapping at people you love. This is when you take a step back from everyone and have a magical thing called, “Me-Time.” I spend my Me-Time scrapbooking, watching cartoons and/or reading something that does not involve school. It is so helpful and needed to avoid burnout. tenor
  • You don’t understand the term, “Letting Loose.” See #2. ‘Nough said. In all seriousness, it’s not just at parties involving adult beverages I’m referencing. I’m talking about going to the movies with pals, playing games or just sitting still for 30 minutes. It’s hard to relax when you feel like you always have to be taking care of other people.  calm-down-gif
  • You have a really hard time not telling people that they are making stupid choices. When your friends are being dumb, most of the time you just want to smack them and tell them to fix their life. While it is needed at times to call people out when they are making bad choices, sometimes, you have to let people learn from their mistakes. You can’t fix everyone else’s problems. *GASPS* I know, right? giphy
  • Your friends ignore your well-thought out ideas. And then they end up doing your idea in the end after they spend 30 minutes trying to figure out a plan. source
  • Your go-to question to ask when people walk into your home is, “Can I get you a *INSERT HOT BEVERAGE*?” Literally whenever any person walks into my dorm room whether it’s to study, watch Gravity Falls or play rowdy card games, I will offer them some form of hot beverage from my super cute coffee bar. This especially comes into play when someone walks into my dorm room with a sad look on their face, though there are many other reasons someone would need a hot drink. I follow the Sheldon Cooper Beverage Social Protocols, which are as follows: 

 

Upset: Tea

Upset about an unannounced house guest / Outraged: Cocoa

Angrier than ever and filled with despair: Hot apple cider with cinnamon sticks

Drunk: Coffee

For Jewish guests: Chicken broth

For Indian guests: Chai tea. If cardamom seeds are unavailable, English breakfast tea.

(See https://the-big-bang-theory.com/sheldons_beverage_protocols/ for more details on how to properly serve hot beverages) 

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We all need at least one Mom Friend in our lives, even people who fall into the category of companionship. Take time today to encourage the Mom Friends in your life; they’re probably the reason you’ve eaten, had enough water today and have a smile on your face. As the cover photo shows, Mom Friends are Superheroes! 

 

Until Next Time, 

 

Abby

Broken Streak

For the past 43 weeks, I have uploaded a blog post to this site every Friday in a way to keep a promise to myself that I could keep a habit going for a whole calendar year. Ideally, I like to finish these posts by Wednesday night/Thursday morning so I can have time to sit on them and process what I have written. However, it’s 11:30pm on Friday night at Applebees and this is my first time all week sitting down to write. It’s been a stressful week, but a show has been opened and I survived my Spanish test. 

 

There is nothing profound in this blog post. In fact, it’ll be late. I have broken my streak. Whenever I break a streak, I usually give up completely. But here I am, chugging away at a post, trying to keep a promise to myself. 

 

This post is not for anyone else but myself. It’s now Saturday afternoon, and while my streak of having a post every Friday has been broken, I still intend to keep this promise to myself. Abby, it’s okay to slip up. However, just because you slip up doesn’t mean you have to quit completely. Life is insane, but you’re tough and have conquered so much. Brush it off and keep going. 

 

*Deep breath* See you next week. 

 

Until Next Time, 

 

Abby

 

The Best Cartoon to Ever Happen

Okay, so I’m running on a cup of coffee (that I almost dropped my phone into) but fighting off NyQuil that is trying to knock me out. It’s 10:27pm and I’ve been sleeping half the day and dancing throughout the other half. I’m about to hit crisis mode before this musical opens. In light of this, let’s talk about the best tv show to ever exist EVER:

Gravity Falls

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After I made the family watch Girl Meets World a few years ago, my brother Jeremy suggested that we start watching a new Disney show about a set of twins who go to live with their great uncle in a very strange town over their summer break. The show follows Dipper, a very smart boy who wants to crack the mysteries surrounding the town, and his sister Mabel, a girl who embodies the word “whimsical”, as they make friends and discover the insanity that makes up Gravity Falls. Their con-artist Gruncle Stan hides his own secrets throughout the plots, and we come to find that his has a truly huge mystery that he has been trying to overcome the whole summer. 

Spoiler time: if you’re reading this and plan to watch this brilliant piece of television, scroll past this paragraph. When you see the next gif, you are safe. Come back after you’ve enjoyed two seasons of beautiful story telling. 

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In season 2, the twins find out that Stan is actually a twin himself, as he pulls his brother, Ford, from an inter-dimensional time portal. The two brothers are at each other’s throats, even when saving the universe was in the balance. It wasn’t until Stan and Ford realized that they needed to regain the comradery like Mabel and Dipper have that they were able to work as a team to stop the evil triangle demon, Bill. Anyone who hasn’t watched the show would probably think that this is a super lame villain, but I kid you not, he is one of the best written villians in a TV show that I have ever seen. 

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End of Spoilers

 

I love this show. It’s a very complex story full of cyphers and mysteries for the audience to try and crack. In fact, the fan-base figured out what major plot points through clues before the episode even aired. Stories that inspire that much passion are to be commended. Television like that is what inspires me to keep working on my own stuff. If I could create something that inspires that much excitement, I would be a very happy wolf pup. 

There’s a quote I found from Alex Hirsch, the creator of Gravity Falls. It says, “Gravity Falls was never meant to be a series that goes on and on forever. It’s meant to be an exploration of the experience of summer, and in a larger sense, a story about childhood itself. The fact that childhood ends is exactly what makes it so precious, and why you should cherish it while it lasts.” I found that quote while scrolling through my Pinterest, sitting on the couch with Jeremy on the floor with his giant blue exercise ball. We had been watching episodes all day together, enjoying each other’s company and not at each other’s throats. It was so nice. 

When I was living at home, I got my bro-bro to get off the Xbox tonight and come watch more episodes with me while I worked on a new drawing project or fought against my homework. I hope that my friend’s kids are watching my shows or reading my books and feeling the same whimsy I feel when I enjoy stories. I plan to start another watch-through with Sweet Ben and a new college buddy very soon. If you too would like to experience a story that will make you feel good about life, check out Gravity Falls: you will not regret it.

 

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Until Next Time,

Abby

Revisit: Grief

This past Wednesday should have been my buddy Houston’s 22nd Birthday here on Earth. Luckily for him, he spent it in heaven with his Saviour as he has done for the past several years. While the grief has evolved over the years and become manageable, there are still times where I find myself longing to see loved ones that have passed on before me. There is no time table on grief, and sometimes you will have waves of emotion come out of nowhere. 

This Revisit is from my first winter break of undergrad. I was back in Kansas City about to head back to St. Joseph for my second semester. 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. This week, I wanted to look back on where I was at almost three year ago in terms of how I thought about grief and hard questions we ask. Words in bold are 2019 Abby, and italicized words are from 2017 me.

 

January 8th 2017

During Sunday School today while we were doing a lesson on Job, a few of the girls were asking really hard questions. Seventh grade girls can ask really hard-hitting questions at the most unexpected times. You know, those questions. The questions like, “If God can do anything, why does He let sin happen?” and “Why doesn’t God fix bad things?” Earthly suffering is a tricky topic is juggle when looking at it from a human perspective. When you add God to the mix, there can be a lot of frustration and confusion. 

During my high school years, there were many times I was very angry with God. Like, super angry. As in lots of yelling in my car on drives to school that I didn’t want to go to and feeling guilty later that I was feeling perfectly normal emotions. A big time was when Houston died. A bright, wonderful, loving, talented 17-year-old killed in a car accident right before he was supposed to lead Tarzan. I mean, come on WHY? I’m never ever going to forget that horrible night when we were sitting at the table playing Jenga and mom got the phone call. After that phone call, I went to Target to pick up some things with my dad. I wandered the store, calling every person I could think of, including one of our Pastors. An hour later, our living room was filled with a dozen heart-broken teenagers. For a few weeks after that, I was bitter towards God. Why did He take someone like Houston? It seemed like Houston had so much more to give to this world. Having someone who is such a big light be taken away never fully makes sense to us. 

I was numb towards God in Romania. That night in the children’s home up in the mountains when both Grams and Grandma weren’t doing well and my team was praying for them, I remember praying, “God, please don’t take her till I get home.” It was one of the last few days I spent in the country with my missions team. We had finished our service work and were doing some sight-seeing on our last few days.  Totally selfish thinking, but I didn’t talk to her enough at my graduation party. I wanted more opportunities to talk to her. I just wanted to talk to her one more time. Come to wake up hours later, Susan  was gone from her suffering, leaving me on Earth with my own. I’m glad God took that pain from her, I truly am, and that’s where I find my joy. But the grief, that still lingers, and has fanned the flame of other grief I haven’t yet gotten over. This grief has lightened over the years, but still remains. 

God’s timing is perfect, and that’s not just something I say because that’s what I’ve been told all my life. No, I trust that His plan is perfect, because He is perfect. But man, there are times I’d really like to see His timeline laid out. It’s so aggravating being trapped in this human form at times; being stuck in my sinful body when I know that there’s going to be a time when the pain and hardships that are caused by sin are gone. Constantly fighting against my own body in order to be in communion with my Father is exhausting at times. I know the Holy Spirit brings us strength when we are weary, because if He weren’t inside of me, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t be alive right now. I guarantee that if I did not have Christ living in me that I wouldn’t be alive today. 

Oh, how awesome is my God that He would reach out to a wrecked piece of creation like me. How awesome that He would take my little hand and wipe away the tears from my eyes. How awesome that He would carry me through the pain of loss and heart break. How awesome that He would hold me as I shake with anger and grief. How awesome that He would lay down his life for me. How awesome that He would send other hearts that He’s created to live out the call of rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep. How awesome that He never leaves us, even when we wander. 

Suffering comes in many forms. It can be something seemingly small or hugely devastating, but regardless of what level it is, I feel as though I have come to the conclusion of how I look at God through it all. God is bigger than me. This is a huge understatement, but it is still true. God is bigger, and He sees the bigger picture, because He created it. Who am I to wag my finger t at Him and tell Him that He’s wrong? What right do I have to shake my fist at the One who went through the greatest amount of suffering any person could ever go through? While my soul may bleed and ache, I know that He knows the “why”, even if I never will. 

 

Life can suck at times. I am unbelievably grateful that I have a Father who remains unmoving even when I am being tossed by massive waves. Is grief ever easy to handle? Absolutely not. Is pain something we should be happy with having? Of course not. Even in the midst of our suffering though we can still find joy when we understand that what happens in life can shape us into stronger people. Do I have all the answers to why crappy stuff happens? No, and I never will as long as I am on Earth. Because of this, I have given up the fight in trying to understand and chose to press on by continuing to grow. Lord, let me today and everyday renew my commitment to reflecting Your Love even when my imperfect life seems to be crumbling down around me. 

 

Until Next Time, 

Abby 

 

Simple Joys

Life is stressful. Spanish tests make you cry. Dance steps that you don’t understand can make you feel like a loser. However, there’s a lot of great stuff to remind you to love life. I did an exercise with myself this past week where I wrote down as many things that bring me joy. This is what I came up with!

  • Walking to class with your favorite album playing through your headphones
  • A cup of tea in the morning when you’re feeling icky
  • Jump in a puddle
  • Ten different colors of pens
  • Making a friendship bracelet
  • Sparkly eyeshadow  
  • Using stickers to check off items on your to-do list
  • Neon flashcards for studying
  • Wishing on a dandelion 
  • Hot coffee to accompany you during homework sessions
  • Watching cartoons from your childhood with your pals
  • Sidewalk Chalk
  • Taking selfies with people you love 
  • Bean bag chairs
  • Playing Risk at 11pm with your people
  • Doodles in the margins
  • Petting a happy doggo
  • McDonald’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Reading a book that is in no way, shape, or form related to school work
  • Pink Sunsets
  • Binge watching “Yugi-Oh”
  • WWE Video Games
  • Holding hands
  • Eat chocolate
  • Wandering through an art museum 
  • Lemon drops
  • Leaving an encouraging sticky note on the bathroom mirror
  • Bubble wrap
  • Getting a new pair of shoelaces
  • Orange Soda 
  • Treating yourself to two flavors of ice cream
  • Hand-written letters
  • Sitting under a tree
  • Apple-Spice Candles
  • Spending time coloring
  • Fuzzy Blankets 
  • Dressing up in the middle of the week for no particular reason
  • Hammocks
  • Sitting on a bench and people watch
  • A Bouquet of flowers from the grocery store
  • Snuggles on a rainy day
  • Turning off your phone for the evening 
  • Pizza Nights
  • Looking for shapes in the clouds
  • Washi Tape
  • Cleaning your room
  • 1am discussions
  • Drawing little hearts on your sneakers

Take heart and cling on to the simple joys of life. I found that the more I added to my list, the easier it became to appreciate the little things that made my days sunnier. Set aside time to truly give thanks for the blessings that come in small packages.

 

Until Next Time, 

Abby

 

Lies from the Christian Film Genre

If it isn’t obvious by the banner above or some of my previous posts, I am a pretty vocal Christian gal. I’m also a gal who loves watching and making movies. In fact, half of my bachelor’s degree is in cinema! Whenever a new movie from Christian production studios hits theaters, there is a huge wave of believers proclaiming, “YOU MUST GO SUPPORT THIS FILM AT THE BOX OFFICE!!!!!!!” And if you ask, “Why must I go support this film at the box office?” you often will get the reply, “BECAUSE IT IS A CHRISTIAN MOVIE!!!!!” And then you’re the worst Christian ever if you say, “Well, honestly it doesn’t sound like it’s getting very good reviews, so I don’t really wanna spend my money to go see it.” 

Over my 21 years of life, I’ve been surrounded by Christian media. Veggietales? That was (still is) my jam. Adventures in Odyssey? Love me some radio drama. Left Behind? …okay the books were great, but the movies… While I have seen some great forms of entertainment that have the gospel message at the center of the piece, I have seen many more films that just plain awful. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to learn what it takes to make good art. The Christian film genre seems to struggle with this idea of “good art” and I think it boils down to these six lies that this genre constantly spouts out. 

 

God needs defending

“I feel like God wants someone to defend Him.” This was a line from the main character in “God’s Not Dead,” a film that came out in 2014 and sparked two more films to join the series in 2016 and 2018. When I heard this piece of dialogue a few days ago while watching the review that made me sit down and write these thoughts, I laughed so hard. Fun fact: the Bible describes God as a lion. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a lion before, but those bad boys don’t really need anybody’s help. Christians: our God does not need defending. He’s not up in heaven, curled up in a corner thinking, “Ah man, someone said I wasn’t real today, I sure hope to Me that one of my super followers will prove that I’m real!” Yeah, no. Should we be bold when we talk about how God continually is changing our lives? Absolutely, but He doesn’t need us to be the last line of defense. In fact, God really doesn’t need us at all (that’s kind of the whole point).

 

If you are a Christian in the United States, you are highly likely to be persecuted and these movies show that there are court cases to prove it. 

This is something that gets me fired up in general: when people reference sources WITHOUT EVER READING THE ACTUAL SOURCE. I’m gonna use “God’s Not Dead” again as an example. At the end of the credits, there is a list of court cases that apparently inspired the making of the film. Film reviewer Kevin McCreary pointed out the inconsistencies in the cases that were listed. 

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(Go watch his videos, he’s great)

“God’s Not Dead” is a story about a student arguing with a professor in the classroom about the idea of God being dead. There’s about a dozen other story lines, some of which are way more interesting that the main character’s plight, and the movie ends with the classroom of easily swayed college students standing up and saying that God, is in fact, not dead. Here’s the kicker though: you’ll notice that none of these cases support the message of the film. In fact, having these cases listed make it seem as if the filmmakers think you are too dumb to do your own research to see that they were lying to you. That, or they’re naïve enough to Google search “Christian Court Cases” and just copy and paste the first six articles they find into their credits. Either way, people are being fed false information. 

I am not going to pretend that there is not prejudice in the United States against Christians but it is nowhere near as bad as Christian films want you to believe it is. It’s instilling a fear-based mentality of, “Oh no, if I’m in a public school or in a job that has nothing to do with ministry then I run a huge risk of being wrongly persecuted like the protagonists of these films!” Y’all, there are people who are being tortured and murdered for having bibles in other countries. We’re doing just fine in the United States. 

 

Every single character who is not a Christian is a horrible person who needs to be saved by your preaching.

I hope that this is self-explanatory, but just in case anyone needs a refresher: just because someone believes differently than you does NOT make them the scum of the earth. Why is it that in every Christian film, the antagonist seems like one of those vaudeville bad guys? It’s like the writers think that all Atheists are sitting in their classrooms and offices thinking, “Hahaha, how can we make these pathetic Christians know they’re totally inferior to my Evolution-believing, Abortion-loving, Proud-Liberal mind?” Contrary to what these movie makers want you to think, the only people like these who exist are characters in their stories. 

With how jacked up our online (un)civil discourse is at the moment though, it can be easy to forget that people are people. Here’s the hard truth: humans don’t save souls. My parents can’t take credit for my salvation, even though they were the ones to lead me to Christ. Stop looking at every person who has a different world view from you as the enemy who needs to be fixed. Instead, look at people how Jesus looked at them: living, valuable beings who need love. 

 

Storytelling should be sacrificed for preaching.

If your dialogue sounds like you are reading from a pamphlet about Jesus from the 1970’s, you have made a mistake. There’s a philosophy with Christian media that if it can change just one person’s mind then it doesn’t matter how hokey the writing turns out. As an artist who is a practicing Christian, this is very frustrating to me. My goal is for everything I do to be an act of worship. In other words, I want everything I do to glorify my Creator who gave me my gifts. This mindset encourages me to strive to do everything with a high quality. I avoid doing things halfway. When I write something, it doesn’t say, “This is a piece written by a Christian who is a Christian because God loves Christians who write about Him because Jesus is the best and everyone should be a Christian.” I do my best to reflect my values in my writing, but I am not going to sacrifice basic structure to force in a Bible lesson. There have been films like “Soul Surfer” and “The Miracle Season” that have been successful at having Christian values being a central part of the story without them constantly using “Christian-ese.” (See, there are a few faith-based movies that I like.) Let’s just tell good stories instead of trying to awkwardly shove the Gospel at people. 

 

Low Budget is an excuse for Low Quality 

No. No No. No No No No No. I go to a public college that does not get a huge amount of funding for students to make film projects. With what we have though, I have seen my peers make some stellar pieces of cinema. If my pals at college can make things with great actors, special effects, writing and direction on a no-money-budget, then Christian films should be able to do the same with their million dollar budgets. 

 

If people judge the movie, they are attacking your Christian faith.

No, they’re using basic critical thought to judge whether or not a film is worth watching. Calling a movie out because it had errors that could have easily been fixed is not attacking an entire religion. When Christians get up in arms about why a film should be loved and watched by everyone, it can be easy to give the wrong impression. You can get loud and angry with people when you are trying to argue your point, and when you are yelling, it’s kind of hard to do that whole, “love your neighbor” thing. If I was a person who didn’t believe in Jesus and someone told me I was attacking them personally because I didn’t like a movie, I would be concerned. I would think, “Geez, why is this person so upset over a movie I don’t like?” Your identity in Christ is not hinging on how many people like the latest Christian movie at the box office. Furthermore, if a fellow Christian does not like said latest movie, they are entitled to that opinion, especially when that opinion is grounded in truth. As believers, we are to be on constant alert for inconsistencies and things that can lead people away from the Lord. There are things in this genre that blatantly lead people away from what the Bible really says and if we sit by and keep quiet, we become part of the problem. 

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A dear friend, who happens to Hindu, told me that religion should not be a genre, and I agree with him 100%. This label is not helpful and honestly, I refuse to accept it as an actual genre. “The Passion of the Christ” was a highly successful film that was not marketed as a “faith-based” movie. It was advertised as a mainstream story that people of any and every background could enjoy. Because they marketed the film in this manner, the movie-going audience was not just a bunch of Christians who felt it was their duty to go watch a movie about Jesus. 

When people hear that a film is part of this so-called Christian genre, it repels people who aren’t already “in the club.” Films can often turn into a fan-service for Christians rather than as a way to get non-religious people interested. We need to get back to the root of storytelling, and the most successful stories are the ones that are relatable. Making films with one-dimensional characters who either think that the Angel of God has told them that they need to defend Jesus in their classroom or the Atheist villain who once believed in God but now is an evil person is not a way to use such a powerful medium of entertainment. Let’s make movies that truly reflect the human spiritual experience, which is messy and imperfect. Let’s stop comprising filmmaking in the name of ministry. Let’s start making our actions more important that the labels we put on them. 

 

Until Next Time, 

Abby 

 

Memory|Stream of Consciousness Blog

To follow up last week’s blog, writing is hard when you don’t have any ideas that you want to use. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a LONG list of prompts. However between classes, work and theatre ventures, the creative writing part of my brain has checked out.  Maybe since I’m not called to rehearsal, I’ll get a burst of inspiration while I derp around my dorm room. Also, pro tip: don’t get paper cuts, because Band-Aids make it slightly difficult to type, even if they are the awesome Avengers kind. Better yet, don’t slice your wrist on the fly rail wire while you’re at work, because not only will your arm will hurt when you type, but your Sweet Ben will have to help you clean it and put a giant bandage on it. There’s no point in living in the past though, onto today!

Actually, I do like looking back at the past; that’s why I take so many pictures and am a scrapbook fanatic. A few of my friends have given me grief in the past for taking so many snapshots. It was a lot worse in high school, but you know what? I barely talk to my high school friends anymore. It’s not because we hate each other or anything; we’ve all just grown apart. I like having albums of photos to look back on and remember the wacky adventures I had with my high school besties. I enjoy having memories captured to reminisce with. I mean, how else am I gonna look back at the “Good Old Days”? 

For my high school/Associates Degree graduation party, my mom got over 400 photos printed to display on boards. After the party, I took the displays apart, but gave the photos a new home. I had recently moved into the former gaming/office room, and decided to line my door with photos. Every time I walk in or out the door, I saw the faces of people I love. Sometimes, they reminded me to pray for someone. Other times, they lifted my spirits because they remind me that I’m not alone in life. Since then, I’ve moved rooms and have half way moved out of the house. Even though that door of photos is gone, I still have all those precious snapshots tucked into an album that I’ll flip through every so often.

There are memories from old scrapbooks that make me remember times with people who used to be my closest friends. Some entries include twinning in Superman shirts, various snapchats from/involving Avery, a screenshot saying, “Antibodies is just around the corner”, playing card games after a black box rehearsal in my living room, and my ticket stub from seeing La La Land with my buddy Micah. Even just writing about those memories has made me smile, but here’s the thing: I barely talk to half of these people anymore. I’ve got memories scrapbooked from old crushes, boyfriends, and friends that turned into not so great pals. However, just because a relationship comes to an end for a sucky reason doesn’t mean you have to completely forget about the good memories you had with that person. You have people in your life for seasons at a time.

The art of photography is very important to me. I enjoy the silliness of taking selfies or goofy photos with my friends, but I also very much enjoy making art through the media. Mom still doesn’t get why I took darkroom photography in community college, but oh man, I loved that class. I was so glad that I still was allowed to use the photo lab during my final semester at Maple. The process of getting a single darkroom print is so long and tedious, but when you get a great shot, it’s all worth it. Plus, when you’ve got fun photos, you can add cartoons on top of them and make yourself crack up at your own jokes. 

I guess the idea of a single print taking a lot of work can relate to relationships. You can’t just expect a friendship to happen. You have to work for it. The thing with friendships though is that it doesn’t feel like work when it’s a true friendship. I used to feel like I had to work extremely hard for my “friendships”. Funny enough, the people I used to break my back to impress don’t have a presence in too many of the photos I hanging up in my dorm room for my senior year of college. Thing is though, those people show up in scrapbooks, journals and photo albums as good memories. So, I can either look at those people with bitterness and/or regret, or I can thank the Lord for the influence they had in my life for a time. We move on and grow up, but living with heavy thoughts from the past is not helpful in your growth process. If you pull anything from this jumbled stream of consciousness mess, hear this: treasure your memories, but don’t let them hold you back from new relationships and adventures. 

Fingers crossed that your friendly, neighborhood red-head gets a creative spark back while battling spanish quizzes. Thank you for reading, and happy memory-keeping. 

 

Until Next Time, 

Abby 

 

WRITER’S BLOCK: Aglet Edition

There are times when I get writer’s blocks. There are different types of blocks: ones when you are dealing with a combination of both lack of inspiration and motivation, and others where you are just lacking the ideas. And then there are the times when you are back to being a full time college student and you cannot make your brain sit down and write something deep. When I get in these funks, I just do word vomit writing on a random topic and see what comes of it. So let’s talk about something everyone should know about: Aglets.

Honestly, the only reason I know what in the world an aglet is credited to the classic Disney Channel show Phineas and Ferb. There’s one episode where the genius step brothers decide to raise awareness for the tiny piece of plastic/metal at the end of shoe laces. The big song of the episode, “A-G-L-E-T” is one that every now and then slips into my brain and won’t leave for a good, long while, even though the episode come out in 2009. In fact, it’s swimming around my head now. Maybe I’ll even dream about it tonight. If you haven’t listened to it ever, go look it up. It’s a bop. 

Aglets are very helpful to those whose shoes get attacked often. I admit it; I am guilty of untying my friend’s shoes from time to time. A shoe attack is truly successful when you are able to get the laces pulled out through the holes that keep them in place. If you’re a poor soul whose aglets have fallen off, or worse, never had aglets to begin with, you’re stuck trying to thread your frayed lace back through its hole. It’s extremely frustrating for the victim of the attack, but slightly amusing for the person who did the deed. 

When I was younger, I had a strange habit of picking at the aglets on my laces. I wasn’t enlightened to the fact the aglet was a friend to my shoe and therefore a friend of mine. Out of boredom, I would pull away at the plastic until my poor shoelace was left in ruins. I would then have to put a piece of scotch tape around the devastated shoe lace to avoid the dilemma of having to rethread a tattered piece of string. Thankfully, I am no longer a child and have learned the ways of the world. Well, at least the ways that involve the end of shoelaces. 

I wonder who the chap was that invented the aglet. This little piece of plastic is something that is taken for granted so often; maybe the inventor was taken for granted, too. I mean, he’s not a person like George Washington or Neil Armstrong that we learn about in history class. I bet he was the kind of guy that got made fun of in high school. He’d get his glasses knocked off or his books thrown across the hallway. All the while he’d think, “Someday I’m gonna prove all you wrong and do something great!” And what does he do? He invents this little thing that half the population doesn’t know the name of and dies without fame or fortune. 

*Jumps onto Internet*

After a quick Google search, I learned that the inventor credited to the creation of the aglet was a gentleman named “Unknown”. I guess his parents didn’t like him very much. Just goes to show you that you can do something awesome for the world, yet everyone still will forget your name when you die.

 

This ended up being a lot more depressing than I ever intended it to be. 

 

Lord, let me get inspiration/time to write next week.

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Until Next Time,

Abby