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.

30 Tips on How to Not Suck at College

I’m about to begin my seventh year of college. Obviously, this makes me a complete and total expert on all things college. Whether you’re beginning community college or a four year university, I have devised a list of 30 Tips that I have picked up over my time as being a 15 year old homeschooler at Maple Woods and as my 21 year old self going into my final year of undergrad. It’s a mix of things I learned: both things people said to me that I took to heart and things people told me that I ignored/later regretted. Enjoy!

30 Tips on How to Not Suck at College

(In no particular order of importance)

  1. Guys, go to class. Seriously, don’t be stupid and skip all the time. Your mom and dad aren’t here to tell you to get up for school. Take some responsibility for your life and get your butt to class. 
  2. For the love of everything good and right in the world, backup your files. You know that flash drive that you rely on? That little thing that holds every paper you have to turn in this semester? Yeah, it’ll probably poop out on you during finals week. It takes like two seconds to drag and drop files into an online storage site like Google drive. Use it or you will call your parents sobbing in December. 
  3. Prioritize sleep. There are times I am planning my homework and social schedules around my bedtime. All-nighters are horrid and if you’re up until 3:30am every single night, you will be a miserable grump. 
  4. Get a job. Most campuses have a lot of on-campus work options, but towns that have colleges are usually pretty good with working with student schedules. 
  5. Know your resources. Schools often offer a lot of free services, like tutoring and counseling centers. 
  6. Drink more water than any other liquid. 
  7. If you feel like you’re the only person who isn’t drinking, don’t feel lame, cause you aren’t the only one. 
  8. If you are drinking, for the sake of you and everyone around you, be safe and considerate. Literally no one wants to have puke in their car or on their living room floor. 
  9. Join a club. Or two. Or six. Clubs are GREAT.
  10.  I am a huge advocate for flashcard studying. Focus on what you are writing and get a friend to quiz you on the cards you’ve made. 
  11. Don’t use your microwave for science experiments. If you’re wondering what happens to candy corn when you put it in the microwave, let me save you the trouble: it smells like burnt cotton candy and turns into sugary lava that breaks bowls. 
  12. Set clear ground rules with your roommate(s). If an issue comes up, talk about it and resolve it as soon as possible. The longer you let things fester, the quicker bitter feelings build up. 
  13. It is not the end of the world if you have to drop a class. Preferably, do it before deadlines hit so you can get if not all then some of your money back. 
  14. Professors have office hours: utilize them. 
  15. Become a secret agent in the dining hall. Some might frown upon smuggling out extra fruit or yogurt, but it’s a nice way to have study snacks for later. Also, you’re spending a ton of money already, might as well stretch your dollar. 
  16. People will get mad at you if you leave your clothes in the washer and/or dryer. This anger could lead to your clothes being tossed on the floor. Don’t be that person. 
  17. Take pictures and/or make videos with your college pals. This time does not last forever, so take advantage of the awesome tools we have to save some memories. 
  18. Look back at Tip #7. Same thing applies with sex. If you don’t want to have sex/ don’t feel ready for it, do not allow anyone to make you feel stupid for not doing stuff that you aren’t comfortable with. 
  19.  Find friends that you can work well alongside. I’ve been told by a few people to never work with your friends, but I beg to differ with that statement. The best work partner I’ve ever had is my best friend and the fact that he and I know each other so well makes work more enjoyable and manageable. 
  20. Learn how to budget, whether or not you have a job. 
  21. Find yourself a podcast that talks about a subject that interests you, especially if you have a long drive back home. This podcast can also come in handy on long walks to classes or having background noise for homework evenings. 
  22. Freaking text your mom. She misses you. 
  23. You don’t need as many clothes/shoes/accessories as you think you do. You’ll probably end up wearing the same pair of shoes everyday and honestly, no one really cares what you look like. 
  24. HOWEVER: If you enjoy dressing up, you do you! Don’t feel like you have to change yourself just because you’re starting college.   
  25. Even if you don’t like sports, try to go to a few games, especially if they’re free with your student ID. During my first year at Missouri Western, I randomly found a bunch of theatre majors at a football game and we had a grand time talking about our career goals while our team got whipped. 
  26. Not everyone knows what weed smells like before going to college, and no, you’re not dumb for not knowing what it smells like. If you’re like me and didn’t know until you lived on the fourth floor of a building (which causes all the smoke to float up to your room), it smells like skunk spray. 
  27. Sometimes, if your neighbor is being rowdy, instead of going straight to your RA, just knock on their door yourself. Half the time, it’s just a bunch of boys who look like they could still be in middle school yelling at a video game. They’ll be quieter if you tell them you have an 8am the next morning. 
  28. Do not rule out picking up new hobbies when you go to college. While yes, you shouldn’t change yourself, it’s good to expand your interests; it can lead to new friends! For example, I never thought I would be a WWE fan, but now I have a Ricochet t-shirt and I love Becky Lynch with all my heart. Watching wrestling with my fella’s roommates has opened up a whole new world of friendships that I wouldn’t have had if I had stuck to my mentality of, “ugh, no, I don’t wanna watch this because my cousin in middle school loves WWE.”
  29. Any time a teacher offers extra credit, do it. Don’t be a fool. 
  30. Understand that it’s normal and okay for your high school relationships to drift apart when you go to college. This was something I struggled with hardcore my first three semesters at Missouri Western. I had a death grip on my high school friendships that I wanted so badly to stay strong. Because of this, I wasn’t fully living in the moment and enjoying my new friends. There’s nothing wrong with missing your hometown pals, but know that you shouldn’t shut out the possibility of new relationships.

 

College is an awesome time of growth, self-discovery, and(as stressful as it can be) should be a ton of fun. Make the most of the time you have. You have no idea how fast time flies until you’re getting ready to pack up your life one last time for senior year. 

Do you have any tips to share about the college experience? I’d love to read them in the comments below! To everyone preparing for school to begin, I wish you the best of luck and hope you have a great 2019/2020 school year! 

 

Until Next Time, 

Abby

 

Sewing Class

On February 15th around 2:15pm, I thought about going back to my dorm room and swallowing all of my anti-depressants. It was a Thursday. I was sitting on a stool trying to focus on the demonstration my professor was doing, but the invasive thoughts kept whispering in my brain. It would make people happier. You wouldn’t have to keep trying so hard. You aren’t feeling anything anymore anyways. 

I had thought about suicide before for brief seconds, but this was the first time that there was an action plan. It was also the first time I was rationalizing the thought. Praise the Lord, I had the instinct to text Sweet Ben, who was across the room at a sewing machine, and my friend Nathan, who was across campus. I told them both about the thought and that I felt that I was safe, but that I was scared. I knew that my parents were already worried about my mental state, but I didn’t end up telling them about all this until about two weeks later. 

I thought about killing myself many more times during the following two months. I hated going to counseling appointments because I felt like a loser. I didn’t want to take my Prozac because I didn’t think it was helping. For the first time in my life, I experienced an extreme struggle to get out of bed each morning. Going to church wasn’t much easier, because I felt like God was mad at me. I wasn’t sure who actually liked me and was just waiting for every important person in my life to drop me. On one of my lower evenings, I admitted to Ben that there were times when I got in my car by myself that I hoped I would get in an accident to end my hurting. It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever admitted to someone. 

During this period of my life, I was reading my bible every day. Not just reading a few verses and checking it off my list, but really studying the word and having a deep communication with the Lord. I had never felt closer in my relationship with God. So why was I contemplating ending my own life? Cause doesn’t it say God won’t ever give us more than we can handle? Doesn’t it say we are conquerors? Doesn’t it say He will never leave us or forsake us? 

Here’s the thing: the phrase, “God won’t give you more than you can handle” is complete crap. Guys, we gotta stop using this phrase, because that’s not what the Bible is saying to us. It also can make you seem like a jerk when you are trying to comfort people who are hurting. There’s a verse in 1 Corinthians that is quoted all the time, especially during times of suffering. In chapter 10 verse 13, Paul says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.” Friends, trials are not the same thing as temptations. If you jump over to James, chapter 1 says that, “No one undergoing trials should say, ‘I am being tempted by God.’ For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” It’s true that God won’t allow us to be tempted beyond our strength, but it does not say that we won’t deal with trials that feel like the world is falling down on us. God does not tempt us, but He does allow trials to enter our lives to sharpen and grow us. 

If you go over to 2 Corinthians 1:8-9a, you see that Paul is in a rough spot. He’s only about a paragraph into this letter to the church in Corinth when he unloads this. “For we don’t want you to be unaware, brother, of our affliction that took place in Asia: we were completely overwhelmed- beyond our strength-so that we even despaired of life. Indeed, we personally had a death sentence within ourselves…” 

O o f

Paul, the greatest missionary of all time, the guy who wrote a large chunk of the New Testament: he was open about the fact that he and his ministry partners felt so overwhelmed to the point of wanting to die. But look what Paul says in the second part of verse 9: “…so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises us. We have put our hope in Him that He will deliver us again.” God uses our afflictions to draw us closer to Him. He is the one who pulls us through the deep valleys. 

Here’s the hard truth: we live in a broken world. We have a sinful nature on an imperfect planet, and because things are not how God originally designed, crappy stuff happens in our lives. We often wonder why bad things happen or why we feel terrible, and the ultimate reason is that the world is not how it should be. People also often ask why God doesn’t stop all the terrible things that happen in the world, and that’s because we are creatures designed with free will. We get to choose how to handle our lives; God isn’t our puppet master. Rather, He wants to have a deep and meaningful relationship with us. 

Now, did I know in my heart that the paragraph above was true when I was going through my horrible patch of depression? Yes. Did it make things any better? Yes and no. Yes, because living with hope makes life so much more bearable. And no, because I don’t know about you, but when I’m having suicidal thoughts, I don’t want bible verses thrown at me with the hope that I’ll feel miraculously better. Of course, God could work this way if He wanted to, but He gets our emotions. Jesus got angry when He saw leaders leading poorly. Jesus cried with His friends when His buddy died, even when He knew that He was about to raise that guy from the dead. Heck, Jesus got to such an intense point of despair that He was sweating blood (look up hematidrosis; it’s insane). 

God gets our emotions, which is why He designed us to be relational beings. I was beyond blessed by the people in my life, specifically my roommates, my parents and Sweet Ben. My roommates sat with me while we drank hot beverages and would listen to my frustrations. My parents have been and always will be a safe spot for me to land, even when I’m not pleasant to be around. Sweet Ben held me when I was sobbing uncontrollably on multiple occasions. I was thankful that instead of telling me bible verses about how God is good and that everything happens for a reason all the time, my people loved on me when I didn’t love myself. I was never alone even when depression was rearing its ugly head. 

If you are struggling with scary thoughts, I implore you to seek out help. No one is meant to go through life alone. Sometimes it’s good to get someone else’s help with your burdens. Suicide is a permanent choice that rocks more peoples’ worlds than you could ever imagine. Ending your life is not the solution to your problems and it will certainly not make anyone’s life any easier. Every person is designed to love and to be loved by others; don’t rob people of the opportunity to have you in their life. 

Back towards the top of this page, I asked three questions: Doesn’t it say God won’t ever give us more than we can handle? Doesn’t it say we are conquerors? Doesn’t it say He will never leave us or forsake us? Paul answered the first question for us, but what about the second two? 

 

So, are we conquerors? Yes.

Romans 8:37 Yet amid all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who has loved us.

 

Doesn’t it say He will never leave us or forsake us? Yes (many times in fact).

 

Psalm 94:14 For the Lord will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage

Deuteronomy 31:8 It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed

Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

I’m writing this while I watch the sunset over a lake in Oklahoma. There are thousands of bugs out singing their very loud song. My cousin and her friend are making friendship bracelets. My aunts and uncles are chatting about jobs. A few boats are still out hanging out on the lake. Down the hill, I saw a momma dear with two little fawns. I am so grateful that I did not listen to the intrusive thoughts I dealt with this last semester. If I had, I wouldn’t be sitting here enjoying the simple joys of a summer road trip. Life can still be hard. I still struggle with self-loathing thoughts from time to time. I sometimes feel I’m not wanted. However, I am constantly reminded of God’s love for me through the people He has put in my life. I believe that God loves us through others. He gives us hugs through tender-hearted friends. He encourages us with a kind word via a caring companion. He wipes away our tears through the love of a steadfast confidant. 

It’s July 27th, around 8:30pm, and by God’s grace I haven’t dealt with the scary thoughts I first had in sewing class for a few months now. It’s a Saturday. I am happy to be alive and growing. While I have not been cured of depression (and may never be), I know Jesus has conquered all. Because of this knowledge, I know I too can be an overcomer. 

If you or someone you love is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please use the prevention lifeline. Every life is valuable. 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273-8255

 

Until Next Time,

Abby

 

50 Ways to Love Another Human

There’s been a ton of “yuck” circulating as of late. It seems as if we’re spending a lot more time being angry with people instead of loving them. Regardless of race, gender, religion, political views, or whether or not the new “Cats” movie trailer gave you nightmares, all of us crave love in one way or another. A man named Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a book called “The Five Love Languages” which talks about how there are five different ways that we express and receive love: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Touch, Gifts, and Quality Time. Everyone accepts and gives love in different ways. Some people feel more loved when you give them a hug over you giving them a gift. While you can transfer affection to others in many different ways, it is always good to know which of the five is most prevalent in the people you interact with on the daily. This is super helpful in romantic relationships, but you can apply it to friendships and even work relationships. I’ve devised a list of 50 ways you can show love to another person  within the five categories of the love languages. That being said, let’s kick it off with…

 

Words of Affirmation: Expressing words to build someone up

*Note: Words can go a long way, whether positive or negative.*

 

1) Compliment their outfit (this works for girls and guys, friends)

2) Post something awesome about them on social media 

3) Make them a playlist that reminds you of them 

4) Text them motivational quotes 

5) Write them fun messages on sticky notes

6) Spam their Snapchat 

7) Remind them of what makes them unique and awesome

8) Encourage them to pursue their passions

9) Validate their emotions 

10) Tell them you’re proud of them 

 

Acts of Service: Doing things to serve another person that take effort

*Note: When doing an act of service, positivity is key. Tasks done negatively or out of obligation don’t come across as loving.*

 

11) Wipe down their kitchen counter 

12) Cover the bill

13) Make them a hot beverage

14) Offer to drive

15) Help with laundry

16) Watch their favorite show/movie

17) Untangle headphones 

18) Make them a home cooked meal

19) Do the dishes (even when they aren’t yours)

20) Ask, “How can I make your life better today?”

 

Touch: Sharing a connection physically

*Note: Just because a person has Touch as their top language does not mean they only want sexual touch*

 

21) Make up a super cool handshake

22) Be intentional with hugs 

23) Give high fives 

24) Pat their back 

25) Play with their hair 

26) Sit close to them

27) Quick kiss on the cheek

28) Make eye contact when in conversation 

29) Respect boundaries 

30) If you know they are not a touchy person, ask if it’s okay to touch them before hugs/pats on the back, etc. 

 

Gifts: Giving a meaningful gift that makes another person feel thought of

*Note: This does not mean a person is materialistic if they have Gifts as their primary love language.*

 

31) Bring something home from a vacation 

32) Surprise them with their favorite candy

33) Find a cool rock? Give that to them and say, “I think you rock.” 

34) Pick wildflowers 

35) Fill a journal with photos and written memories with them

36) Purchase a book you know they would enjoy

37) Take them to a thrift store and find a second-hand treasure to give them

38) Bring them their favorite beverage

39) Frame your favorite photo of the two of you together 

40) Spend a quarter on one of those fun toy vending machines

 

Quality Time: Undivided attention 

*Note: Dedicating specific time for this person is important, which means canceling plans can really hurt.*

 

41) Read a book out loud together

42) Talk without phones present

43) Have a girl’s night complete with face masks and manicures

44) Play a board game

45) Go to the park

46) Try out a new coffee shop neither one of you have visited

47) Take a _______ class together (cooking, painting, etc.)

48) Run errands together

49) Watch a tv show together

50) Volunteer together 

 

Below, I’ve attached a link to the Five Love Languages Quiz. If you’re interested to know what your ranking of the five categories is, I strongly encourage you to check it out. I have found that knowing the love languages of people I care about has been super helpful in being a better friend and companion. Take time today to spread love to others. It’s important to remember that even though all of us have different opinions, we all still need to be loved by others. Just because someone thinks about the world in a way that you don’t agree with doesn’t mean that they are any less deserving of love and respect. 

 

Link to Quiz!

 

Until Next Time,

Abby 

 

How to Design for a Show

I’ve had the pleasure to work in projection, prop and set design over the past few years. You could say I’ve become somewhat of an expert at the design process. Today, I’d like to share with you my fool-proof method of how to successfully complete any design job. 

 

Let’s say you just got hired to do a projection design.

  1. Sit down with the director to get their vision for the show. This is best done with all the other designers present. 
  2. Read the script for fun. 
  3. Read the script, looking for themes throughout the text. 
  4. Read the script again as a designer. 
  5. Read the script one more time, just to make sure you haven’t missed anything. Keep in mind that you can go back and read the script at any time during this process (which you probably should do). 
  6. Doodle and research a lot, until you come up with as many awesome ideas as possible. 
  7. Ideally, you have gone through the script at least four months before the show goes up. Layout a timetable for yourself. Deadlines are super helpful. 
  8. Spend the first few weeks working super diligently on your designs. 
  9. Remember that you’re also a full-time student.
  10. Try and pass your Spanish class.
  11. Realize you have three months until the show opens, so you probably ought to start animating that really complicated piece now so that you don’t have to stress over it later. 
  12. Decide to blow off animating to go hang out with pals. You’ve got time. 
  13. Get assigned a group project in your Spanish class that you end up doing 90% of the work for because your partner is a slacker. 
  14. Spend an eight hour day animating a good chunk of your content. It is recommended to have a few cups (or gallons) of coffee to get you through the day. 
  15. Go to production meetings and realize that you’re both ahead and behind schedule. 
  16. Ponder how this is possible. 
  17. Flunk a Spanish test.
  18. Go to tutoring more consistently. 
  19. Realize the show opens in a month and you have a ton of work left to be done. 
  20. P A N I C
  21. Use the adrenaline that comes from procrastination to make some awesome content. 
  22. Program your designs. 
  23. Realize that there are about 9 ½ glitches in your designs. 
  24. Rerender those trouble spots. 
  25. Possibly cut some pieces of your design during tech week. 
  26. Possibly add some pieces to your design during tech week. 
  27. Cross your fingers and pray really hard during opening night that your design reads well on stage. 
  28. Collapse into your bed, resolving to do a better job planning and managing your time during the next job. 
  29. Accept the next job. 
  30. Repeat. 

 

Remember when I said I was an expert at the design process? Yeah, that was a big fat lie. To be quite honest, I don’t think anyone ever becomes a complete expert at this ridiculous process, especially when you’re still in school. Each show is its own beast, and the challenges you ran into during the last show most likely won’t be the ones you’ll deal with on the next job. You must be willing to constantly learn as you work; it’s part of the gig. The thing that’s really great about the theatre community is that there are a lot of really talented people to work alongside and learn from. No design process will be 100% smooth, but there’s a certain beauty in the rough spots. It’s from the rough spots that we become better artists and problem solvers, and because of this, we make better art. 

 

Until Next Time, 

Abby

 

Revisits: La La Land

Conversation between me and my best friend

 Me: Did I ever tell you the first time I saw “La La Land” was with Micah?

Avery: Wait what?

Me: Yeah, we didn’t realize it was a romantic comedy until we were watching it. 

Avery: And you saw it in theaters?

Me: Yeah.

Avery: Just the two of you?

Me: Yeah.

Avery: That’s the best thing I’ve ever heard in my life. 

(Y’all don’t need context. Micah, if you’re reading this, I love you and I’m glad we have a solid enough friendship that we were able to go watch a movie musical together and have an intellectual chat afterwards about it without it being a date.)

 

I cannot tell you how many of my cinema friends are going to jump down my throat for writing about this movie, but who cares. I love this movie, maybe even more than I did when I first wrote about it in 2017. I thought it would be interesting to do a revisit to how I felt about this film two years ago. Words in bold are the ones I wrote in 2017, which have not been altered in any way. The writing in italics are from my 2019 self. Enjoy!

 

January 7, 2017

La La Land is a mean movie. It’s a beautiful piece of film, has catchy tunes, really fun dancing, costumes I wish were in my closet, and a wonderful score that I must find the sheet music for. One of my biggest stress relievers is to play through the songs in the easy version of the score I bought for someone else. As someone who doesn’t have a ton of time to practice consistently, it’s nice to have the easy versions of movie scores to sight-read. THE ENDING THOUGH WAS AWFUL. Okay, maybe awful isn’t the correct word. It ended how real life usually goes, which, sometimes, can be awful even in good circumstances. “Awful” was how I always used to describe the end of this film. Let’s see if I still feel that way. 

Some many people I know loved this film. Many of the posts in my Facebook feed have been the praises of La La Land and how it was so inspiring. It’s true; it is an inspiring film. Two people fall in love with each other and believe in each other’s dreams. They push each other to be better. They fight for each other’s goals. But the thing is, they don’t fight for each other. I didn’t get the idealistic/hopeless romantic ending I wanted. Here’s the thing about this movie: it is not about the love of two people. This film is a love letter to Los Angeles. While there is a depiction of a year long relationship, the story is  more so about the two lovers chasing their dreams, not each other. 

The montage that Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling’s characters have at the end of the movie of “what could have been” caused a huge stir of emotions. At the forefront of these emotions was what was happening right in front of me. These two, fictional people both had their own dream worlds, or La La Lands, where they both achieved greatness and kept the romantic bond between them. If they had made different choices throughout their life, sure, they could have ended up together at the end of the movie like how probably 95% of the audience wanted them to. Probably not 95%, but you get the idea.  Instead though, she pursued her acting career, got married to a caring husband and had a beautiful little girl, and he finally opened his pure jazz club, which is hugely successful and brought the fulfillment he was looking for. They’re lives are both good, but they let go of the relationship in order to chase dreams. 

I have my goals and dreams. Do I want to achieve them? Of course. As the credits started to roll though, I began to think of how one day, I will be parting ways with the people I love so much now. Take Doc (Micah; I used code names for my friends when I was writing in this document because I was paranoid someone would read it), who came to the movie with me after a lot of bickering over why I was willing to go to Lee’s Summit to ride out with him so we could talk instead of just driving to Kansas myself. Avery and I joke that my love language is “quantity time.” He’s one of the most brilliant people I know (still true), and one of the people I love most in my life. Come this Fall though, we’re going to part way. I went to St. Joseph, Missouri to study theatre at Missouri Western. He moved to New York City to study at King’s College. Doc is going to be extremely successful no matter what he ends up doing, but it hurts to think that I most likely won’t be as close to him as I am now to watch him succeed. 

The people I hold dear won’t always be there. My friends and I, we’re all growing up. We’re all gonna go to different colleges. We all have different dreams, and those dreams aren’t intertwined with other people. Correction: dreams are always intertwined with other people. They just might not be the ones that you think they are. Our goals are for ourselves, no one else, and that’s okay. God gave us all the drive to do our best at whatever we do. It hurts though to think about life without these people. The countless coffee runs, the banter and teasing, the walks, the laughs, the jam sessions; one day, those will be fond memories that we’ll tell our kids about. But will be all be together 20 years from now? Chances are, no, and it really, really sucks to dwell on. This used to be something that I would dwell on a lot and honestly really didn’t come to peace with until a few months ago. 

Which is why I will do my best not to dwell on it. See above; I wasn’t super successful with that. I will continue to encourage my friends in theirs dreams. If I can help them reach their goals, I’ll do everything I can to assist. If there’s an opportunity to tell one of them that they are so valued and loved, you bet I’ll take every chance I can to do so. I want to try and stick by Dickinson’s words in reference to the “nows”. I was referring to a poem by Emily Dickinson which says, “Forever – is composed of Nows.” Focusing on how life will change someday will absolutely ruin the fleeting time I have left. You can’t be stuck in your La La Land: the real world never works out exactly how you want it to, and that’s okay. 

Man, I really love my friends. 

Alright, two years later. I love this film still, and I love the people that were in my life in 2017. However, as I predicted, most of them are not in my life anymore. Sure, we float in and out of each other’s lives on a rare occasion, but my core group of friends now is very different from what it was in high school. I’ve become a new Abby. Not necessarily a different one, but an older and somewhat wiser one. I’ve learned to not have a death grip on relationships. I used to get very upset when faced with the fact that just about all of the people you encounter in your lifetime will not remain there forever. While yes, it is perfectly normal to grieve the loss of a relationship, this does not mean that you have tight fists on relationships or circumstances. If you spend too much time and energy on your current situation, you may find that you were blinded to a new path that is 100x better than what you already have. 

If you find that a relationship you thought was going to last a lifetime ends, an opportunity you really wanted falls through, or you just feel like life is at a standstill, remember that forever truly is composed of “nows.” Your La La Land dream might not play out like you thought it would, but I think you’ll find what ends up happening is better than your favorite Oscar-snubbed-musical film. It’s easier said than done (believe me, I know), but learn to hold your life with open palms instead of clenched fists. The less time you spend worrying about trying to control your ideal dream the more time you’ll have enjoying your beautiful life. 

 

Until Next Time, 

Abby 

 

Why Write?|My Influences

Since I was small, I’ve wanted to be a writer. That’s always been the dream. In fact, recently, while cleaning out my closet, I found a few of my first “books”. They were stories written on notebook paper accompanied by illustrations drawn with crayons. As I got older, I got more sophisticated tools of the trade. My grandma gave me my first laptop: a big clunker from the early 2000’s that she had gotten from the school where she taught Computer Science. Now, I scribble away in notebooks and transfer my brainstorming mess to an equally messy Google Drive. While my goals have changed many times over the years, one has always remained a constant: I’ve wanted to write things that impact others. 

I have had such a wide range of influences over the years. My mom was very encouraging of my reading habits. Early memories of Arthur, Berenstain Bears, and countless other picture books are still stuck in my head. I quickly caught on to the chapter book craze, taking out at least ten new books every time I visited the library. I’m convinced that about 70% of my upper body strength came from my reading addiction; carrying a huge stack can be tough when you’re 3’0” tall (still can be difficult when you’re 5’0”).

As I’ve grown up, I’ve found several writers that have really shaped my reading tastes and have inspired my own writings. C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series will forever be one of my favorites, followed closely by J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. The magical stories easily carry you off and make you forget about the rest of the world. On the opposite side of the spectrum, John Green’s Turtles All The Way Down and Stephen Emond’s Wintertown are two contemporary pieces that deal with real life issues in humorous ways. While both novels have heavy subjects in them, the reader is still able to relate to the characters, which is extremely important. As someone who struggles with mental health, these are two books I have come back to many times for a reminder that I am not alone.

The real influence for me though seems to be in adventure stories, particularly the ones that deal with extraordinary powers and/or circumstances. Books like Hunger Games, Rot and Ruin, and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes are so much fun to read because you feel as though you are part of the action yourself. Then there’s film and television writers like George Lucas (Star Wars) and Alex Hirsh (Gravity Falls). Finally, I can’t forget to mention comic books and graphic novels. As they rise in popularity, the more detailed and deep the stories get in this visual form of literature. Stan Lee, the creator of Marvel Comics, is one of my writing idols. His dynamic and relatable characters have been some of my favorites for years. A good writer is needs to be able to create characters that will be loved for years, not just for a phase of time. Some books, movies, and shows are popular for a little while, but if the characters aren’t truly dynamic and grab onto the audience, the audience will move onto something new, forgetting them almost entirely. Characters from Stan Lee’s books like Captain America, Spider-Man and Iron Man have stood the test of time and are still as popular, if not more so, as when they first got published. 

As I grow older and surround myself with other creators, my new inspiration has come from my friends. I always get super hyped when my buddy Nathan sends me new drafts of his scripts. I’ve had the pleasure of acting in two of my pal Andy’s screenplays which provided great challenges to me as an actress due to their complexity. Sweet Ben has made me laugh, cry and laugh so hard that I’ve cried while reading his plays. Dozens of other peers have inspired me over the years. It’s astounding to see how my friends have become my writing influencers. I am grateful that I have people around me that inspire me to continue to better my craft and that have supported my ideas as I unscramble them from my head. Whatever you want to be good, whether it’s dancing, video gaming, cooking, running, singing, fishing or bowling, find people to share in the journey of learning. Life is so much better when you surround yourself with people who inspire you to be the best at what you love.  
Until Next Time,

Abby

Trading My Sorrows- Psalm 40:1-3

There’s this song called “Trading My Sorrows” that we sang all the time in the theater group I grew up in. It’s based off of Psalm 40, which is a passage I find myself going to often. I sat down and really broken it apart, piece by piece, and these were my observations from the chapter. 

I waited patiently for the Lord- Waiting on God is the first step to getting out of your situation. Sometimes God has us wait to work on our trust in Him. 

…and He turned to me and heard my cry for help.- God is listening for us to call out to Him. We need to be proactive in stepping out in our faith so we can watch Him act. You see, God is always reaching out to us in friendship; we’ve got to reciprocate. 

He brought me up from a desolate pit- God brings us out of our most crappy situations. If you’re trapped in a pit with no way of getting out yourself, you need someone else to throw down the rope to you. You also have to trust your rescuer that they are more than strong enough to pull you out. Struggling against the rescuer will make the process much more difficult. 

…out of the muddy clay,- See above. I kind of like to think of this as quick-sand. The more you struggle in mud, the deeper your feet can sink in. The longer we just wallow in our situation without asking for help, the deeper we slip into our frustration and disaster.

…and set my feet on a rock, making my steps secure.- Now we are doing a complete 180 in this verse. God picks us up from instability and grossness onto a stable and clean foundation. Your feet can’t slip through solid rock. 

He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.- We learn how to worship from God. We are all hardwired to worship something. Even though we were created for the purpose of worshipping God, out earthly desires often times pull us away from our original design. By reading the scriptures, we learn more about who God is, and with that knowledge, we are better able to worship Him. 

Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.- From our actions, people can come to faith. People can watch us and learn where our joy comes from, and we can plant seeds to bring them closer to Christ. 

 

Psalm 40:1-3, what a set of verses. It’s a passage that has been made into a fun song that I play on my green guitar while jumping up and down with kids and teachers before classes, rehearsals and performances. Often times with any worship song we lose sight of what we are actually singing. I challenge you to look up the source of your favorite songs sung in church or on the radio. Study where the lyrics came from in the first place. I find when I do this for myself, it makes worshipping much more meaningful to me. Give it a try, and feel free to share your favorite songs in the comments so I can check them out too! 

 

Until Next Time, 

Abby 

 

My Killer Quest Experience- “The Lighting Thief Musical”

On average, I find myself attending around 15 live performances a year, most of the time in education or community environments. I have quite the stack of programs in my room, not to mention that dozens that have gone missing over the years. There have been a handful of shows that I have seen that have stood out from the rest and have made me truly appreciate the career field I am so passionate about. The most recent one to be added to this list was, “The Lightning Thief.”

When I was in middle school, Rick Riordan’s book series about Percy Jackson and his demigod adventures were all the rage. My 7th grade history teacher loved them and set aside time to read a chapter of the first book out loud to our class whenever she had the chance. A few years ago, a musical was created based off of this book. At first, I was pretty skeptical. After the disasters of the two movie adaptations, I wasn’t too keen on seeing another interpretation of the story. However, with my dear friend Libby invited me to join her to see the tour in Tulsa, I agreed, open to the idea of seeing a show she loved so dearly.

During intermission of the show, I began typing out a list of all the things I was astounded by with this wonderful production. I just had to write about it! This was an experience that was reminding me of the joy that can come from theatre. So, without further ado, here is my Top 7 List, in no particular order, for the “The Lightning Thief Musical.”

Costuming- The more design classes I take, the more details I notice every time I watch a show. The costuming for this company was so carefully planned, and props must also be commended to the backstage dressers. With the amount of quick changes in the show, I can imagine that things can get super hectic super quickly. A little detail I appreciated was the compliment between Percy’s green jacket and Annabeth’s red striped shirt. Red and green are my favorite complementary color couple, and while I was a little bummed that there were no orange Camp Half-Blood shirts present, this was a nice design touch. Also, I didn’t know how they were going to get a centaur to work on stage, but the way they made that bit of magic work was hilariously clever. Our Dungeons and Dragons loving costume professor would have gotten a kick out of all the fantasy costumes used for this production.

Lights- This show could definitely fall under the category of “spectacle theatre.” I’ve gotten into debates with peers before about flashy shows before. I do agree with the fact that theatre can be done without elaborate “extras” such as projections, sound effects and complex sets. However, I believe that there is a certain kind of beauty that can be found from technical design. The lighting design for this show was unlike anything I had ever seen. God bless the Stage Manager who had to call this show, because holy cow, there was a lot going on. The designer created storms, underwater moments, the illusion of driving down a highway and so much more with the tools they had. Because of the high energy nature of the show, the design elements need to match the energy of the actors. This was one of the best examples of a design element working with the script and performers to effectively tell the story.

Stage Combat- I am a huge fan of well executed fights on stage. What was really interesting is that when you watch actors with good training, you realize they perform at about 75% the speed one would actually fight at in real life. There’s an immense amount of control that has to go into performing stage combat. The goal is to make the audience believe that you are hurting one another without actually doing any damage. I’ve taken a few hits from scene partners who decided to throw punches or kicks too quickly, so it’s always refreshing to see a really well done (and safe) live performance. Bonus: the staging for the reveal of Percy’s sword, Riptide, was fantastic.

Kid characters on stage- I think it’s very important for kids to see character portrayed on stage that are their age. While the touring ensemble is comprised of professional adults, it was astounding how well they were able to come across as twelve year olds. That was my biggest gripe with the Percy Jackson films: they made him sixteen! Young theatre audience members need to see characters that they can truly relate with on stage.

Opportunity for the future- While the tour company is made up by seven cast members, there are dozens of characters in this script. As I was sitting in the audience, I realized how great this show would be for community or educational theaters. There is a wealth of opportunity for actors to be featured in a high-energy show. This musical is definitely near the top of my list of shows I hope to direct one day: it would be a blast!

Children with ADHD- I’ve grown up learning about ADHD due to the fact that my brother was diagnosed with the disorder when I was in elementary school. It’s a subject that is very near and dear to my and my family’s hearts. I am really grateful for writers like Rick Riordan for creating characters like Percy Jackson who have learning disabilities. It’s so important for people to be educated as to what ADHD, dyslexia and other disabilities are like. In the musical, the lead actor did a stellar job of not only portraying a twelve-year-old, but also a child with ADHD. Seeing the frustration from not being able to focus and wanting to be a “good kid” made me tear up several times during the performance. It’s things like that which remind me how powerful this art form can be.

Friendship- If you’re a major fan of Rick Riordan’s books, you know that Percy and his friends don’t stay twelve forever. Riordan tackles the topics of crushes and dating in high school in books later on in the series. However, the main point between the relationship of Percy and Annabeth’s characters in “The Lightning Thief Musical” is their friendship. Sure, there’s a bit of flirting here and there, but it’s awkward and silly, just as all twelve year old relationships are. There is also the solid friendship between Percy and Grover, which was super fun to see in person, as Grover and Percy’s bromance is one of my favorites out of all the books I’ve ever read. It was refreshing to see a show with an absence of romance. It just goes to show that you can tell a good story without characters professing their undying love for one another.

I am so grateful for the Killer Quest I got to share with my sweet friend this summer. Sharing a theatrical experience with someone you are close to makes the show even better. If you ever have the opportunity to see this show, do yourself a favor and go. It was a hilarious, impressive and impactful performance that I will never forget.

 

Until Next Time,

Abby

 

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