Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Don't Fear the Reaper, or the End of the World or Anything Else

(I'm just going to spare you the halfhearted apologies for my lack of Sparlke, Sparkle. You probably get it by now.)

This past weekend was Valentine's Day weekend, which meant that I spent it going to an art history conference and eating Thai food at a mall. (Not complaining, really.) Every year, the College Arts Association plans their annual conference right over the most lovey-dovey of holidays, probably in an effort to blast away all preconceived notions that art historians are primarily cat ladies by demonstrating that we can, indeed, get down with our bad selves. Truthfully, it was a good weekend and I learned a lot of new things that I can't remember off the top of my head. So much for information retention.

I was particularly struck by one talk that I listened to, given by an artist who creates books and collages out of handmade paper. She uses berries, leaves, snake skin, salt, dirt, and other natural material as the pulp of her paper, and the results were visually lovely. However, I became increasingly alarmed as she explained the motivation for her work. Each project stemmed from a global crisis - climate change, loss of resources, etcetera. She gave an enormous number of statistics from which I reached the following conclusion: we all need to move to northern Canada and Greenland NOW because that's basically the only land that will be left for human survival. But don't move to the coast! That will be under water.

You can see where this is going. I was alarmed because she was making a plausible case, and I was alarmed because she didn't give us a way out. (Well, there might have been a way out, but it was discussed at the end of the talk and by then I was sitting in a quiet panic thinking about my future life in Canada. CANADA.)

As I've been mulling over her work, it made me think about all of the other things I have good cause to panic over. My thesis is due in a few short months. I don't know where I'll be living after June. I have absolutely no job prospects at this moment in time. If I really went off the deep end, I'd already be planning my future as a homeless, unemployed grad school drop-out. Oh, and then there's that part about our world imploding around us and all the polar bears floating on their sad, miniature ice blocks.

Can you imagine living with that kind of fear on a daily basis? I could hardly handle it for a few hours! Are these problems serious? Certainly. I'm not advocating a life of ignorance, although sometimes that sounds nice. But I can't live a life always halfway under my metaphorical school desk, waiting for the bomb to drop. It's always easy to see how we're on the precipice of disaster - it's much harder to see how we might be on the precipice of something great. Or at least something OK.

I don't know if there's much of a moral to this post, but if there is, I think it has to do with a renewed feeling of positivity and floating-with-the-boat-ness. Living with a sense of urgency can be good and helps us be productive humans. Living under a weight of fear is not. It smushes us and makes me sad. I for one am not the best human I can be when I'm smushed. So I'll do what I can to make this world nicer, and try to keep my face turned to the bright side.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Wheels Keep On Turnin.' Or, I've Been Too Lazy To Blog

You can decide which title you prefer. I'm not even going to go through the whole "I've been such a terrible blogger, but I promise to do better from here on out!" It's been a while. You know it, I know it, we all know it. Let's just move on with our lives. Please know that I may or may not blog in the near future depending on whether I have any life revelations and/or I sit down to do it.

So I'm getting married in T minus 5 days. It's a pretty weird feeling, quite frankly. On one hand, a lot of things will change. Like my name. (Don't get me started on this one. You would think after centuries of gender inequality, the guys could buck up and change THEIR names for a few hundred years, but I have yet to convince anyone.) And the fact that I will live in Decatur... with a boy! Ew! Boys are messy and unorganized. Fortunately, I am clean and well-organized and I am also extremely determined to make these good qualities of mine override any negative organizational qualities of my male counterpart. And I suppose I'll have to coordinate shower times and grocery shop for two and share the TV and all sorts of married kinda stuff, too. I'm sure people have varying degrees of excitedness/nervousness for these sorts of changes. I'm mostly on the excited end, but every once in a while it hits me that I'm making a pretty large and permanent commitment.

That being said, I'd like to take this time to contemplate the things that aren't going to change. That might seem a little strange. Like, sure, it will still take 2 cups of flour to make the perfect banana bread. But I want to promise a few things to you people, and to myself, that will remain steadfast even when I am legally bound to another human being.

I promise I will always be sarcastic. If I've ever offended you, I'm sorry. I was probably trying to make a joke and it completely failed. This happens sometimes. I just don't envision myself becoming super sincere all. the. time. just because I'm a wife. Sorry.

I promise I will never pee with the door open. I hear this happens with married couples. There are a few select people that I will pee in front of and none of them has ever been or will ever be a man. Perhaps I'm "building a wall" but that is just fine in my opinion.

I promise I will continue to buy shoes as I see fit. If we are super poor, I'll hold back. I'm not financially stupid. I just don't think I need to let my foot attire see decay because I have a joint checking account.

I promise you, Justin, that I will never call you "hubby." If you are married and you use this term, I won't judge. It's just not for me. I may perhaps use the term "hubsters," but only rarely and only ironically.

I promise I will never change my Twitter handle. I will always be Abbalange. ALWAYS!

I promise (to the best of my ability) that I will not get pregnant any time soon. Wedding photos are enough to handle all over your newsfeed without me chucking sonograms in there, too.

I promise I will always leave time for my lady friends. I promise I will not go flying off to married land never to return for a night of margaritas and dancing. (I'm not sure I've ever actually had a night of both margaritas and dancing together, so someone should make this happen.) I promise I will take girls' trips, call you to talk about nothing and everything, and make time to hang out on the weekends. You all have been here since the beginning and I'm pretty much cementing you all in until the end.

And just in case you're starting to think that I'm way too cynical and actually won't make a good wife at all, I do promise to love that JTGroth guy forever. He's fun and amusing and can reach the shelves that are too high for me. He's the whole package deal!

Last but not least, I promise to be juuuuust an inconsistent enough blogger to keep you on the edge of your seats at all times. You're welcome.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Procrastination, Or the Birth and Sustenance of Sparkle, Sparlke

Things I do when I want to procrastinate, in no particular order:

1. Check Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, school email. Rinse and repeat until I come out of the haze and realize that nothing is going to change in the next 3 minutes.

2. Wash my dishes. Let me tell you, my dishes are always clean.

3. Contemplate vacuuming. Unfortunately this one only seems to hit me in the late evening when it's really too late to vacuum. I'm not going to be that annoying neighbor.

4. Pinterest.

5. Check out the headlines on espn.com. Feel really proud when Illinois makes the headlines in a good way. Feel annoyed and yet understanding when some commentator makes disparaging comments about them.

6. Play Candy Crush on my phone. This is a dumb little game with which I have an unhealthy obsession. Every 25 levels or so, it prompts me to pay $.99 for the next 25 levels. I have done so twice thus far. "This is what it must be like to be one of those kids who plays World of Warcraft," I think to myself.

7. Put away random objects that have found their way to my coffee table and kitchen counter.

8. Call my mom and ask if she wants to get coffee. This is actually quite a nice one, although it often takes longer than washing the dishes.

9. Contemplate my impending wedding.

10. Check the refrigerator to see if I have anything to make for lunch and/or dinner. If not, hooray! I get to go grocery shopping, which equals more procrastination.

11. Take a shower. At least I'm improving my life with this one.

12. Check my email again. Aaaaaand again.

13. Think about how I should really be doing work. Feel increasingly guilty the longer I do this.

14. Make myself some coffee, or if I'm feeling really adventurous, go to get coffee from a local establishment. Walk leisurely so as to not get back to my work too soon.

15. Channel surf for about 15 minutes. The only times this one lasts longer than that are if Remember the Titans or a Lifetime Movie is on.

16. Take a nap. (This one is my favorite.)

17. Wander aimlessly from my bedroom to my living room, while trying to locate my motivation.

18. Wait, have I checked my email recently?

19. Stretch.

20. Update Sparkle, Sparlke, which works out great for all you fine people, but not so great for my workload. Thankfully I'm dedicated to the cause and have no intention of giving up my fine procrastination skills anytime soon. That means more blog posts, lucky you!

Ok, time to check my email. You know, because it's been a while.

Friday, February 1, 2013

25 things I've learned since being 25

One of my very dear friends texted me a few minutes ago and jokingly told me that when she sees me tomorrow she expects to hear 25 things I've learned since being 25. And I got to thinking, I DO learn a lot everyday, so why not try it? So, these 25 things are not all things that I have learned in the last 3 days since I've been 25, but they are definitely things I've learned over the last 25 years.

1. The relationships you have with others are invaluable. You never know what person is going to come out of the woodwork and change your life forever.

2. Confidence is 70% of life. The other 30% is the effort  you put into making yourself confident about things.

3. It's sometimes OK to receive, especially when you give. You can't spend your life helping everyone else and then not accept assistance when it's offered. That's just dumb.

4. Your career isn't the thing that is probably going to bring you the most joy. For a small portion of the population it is, but for the rest of us poor schmucks, we have to be satisfied with our hobbies, families and friends to keep us happy.

5. Flossing is important. I don't not do it anymore. (see number 2.)

6. Optimism is not naive, especially when it makes you try harder.

7. Anger is very useful and often spurs you try harder. (see number 6.)

8. Being wrong does not necessarily mean you're wrong. Rather, it's better to have tried and failed than to never try at all.

9. Sunshine and color can change your mood and your thoughts for the better.

10. Little luxuries are important, and in my opinion, necessary whenever doable.

11. Being disappointed in others will only leave you feeling alone. People will have to figure it out for themselves. Hopefully until this time, you can find enough reserved comfort in yourself to carry on.

12. Very few people are truly mean, most of them are just terribly mistreated and terribly sad.

13. When you wait for the other shoe to drop (metaphorically) sometimes you wait a long time. Don't assume the worst. Sometimes, not always, but sometimes, things do work out.

14. There is not a "right" choice. Half of the decisions we make on a daily basis are luck, the other half were never choices to begin with.

15. If you want something very badly, don't dwell too much. There is a world full of people happening and living all around you- maybe you'll miss the something you're waiting for while you're too busy waiting.

16. Keep a part of yourself for yourself. It doesn't matter who you love or who or spend the rest of your life with or who your best friend is, was, or will be. You are the constant in your own life, spend some time with you.

17. Appreciate the things you have. Believe me, I know what bleak looks like. Even when I get so scared that something terrible will happen, I remind myself that I have resources and relationships and a team of people who love me. You probably do too. Don't forget that.

18. Your life will not probably run on time or according to plan. The plan is that there is not a plan. And that's coming from the Master Planner herself. Embrace it, or spend the rest of your life with your tushy draggin' on the ground while your life pulls you along. (Personally I prefer the no rug-burn route!)

19. When you can find the humor in dark places, you are totally fine.

20. Don't be afraid to meet new people. All of my good friends were once complete strangers, and most of these poor strangers were the unlucky recipients of me forcing myself into their lives.

21. Try not to let everyone know how bad it gets sometimes. Once you're that raw, it's very hard to step back from them. Make sure it's real when you go there.

22. Show up. When you say you'll do something, do it. And don't agree to do things you're not comfortable with.

23. Try not to be too critical of yourself, but be a little bit critical of yourself. Everything in moderation.

24. Tell other people that they're good at something. Just do it. You never know who needs a little extra nudge.

25. Be kind. There was never a situation that didn't call for kindness in some capacity.

So there you have it. 25 things. Maybe in another 25 I can add some more. Mostly I'm just going to try to appreciate most everything that comes my way, and the things I can't appreciate I will try to forget quickly.

Have a sparkly weekend!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

13 Can Be Lucky Too, Right?

Thirteen is a notoriously unlucky number and now we have to live with it for an entire year. Those with superstitious tendencies might be freaking out, but I refuse to believe in such bizarre concepts. It is just a number after all. This is the same mentality that caused me to pick #13 for my volleyball jersey in high school. I'm not sure it really brought me that much luck, but I never had any major injuries either, so I figure things even out.

So here are thirteen of my hopes for 2013:

1. I'll start with a small, rather reasonable hope. I hope Illini makes the NCAA tournament. This doesn't seem like too much to ask, but based on the past few years, I'm sure all fellow Illini fans understand where I'm coming from. I try to be an optimistic fan, but I won't lie - there's a little part of me that's just waiting for the team to spontaneously combust.

2. I hope that I survive two more semesters of school, preferably with most of my hair still attached to my head.

3. I hope that I only have to move one more time this year. I really, really, really cannot express how much I loathe moving, so this hope should probably actually be #1 on this list.

4. I sincerely hope that I do not accumulate any more chairs. This may sound like an unusual aspiration, but I currently have eight chairs in my small apartment and it's getting out of control.

5. In the same vein as #1, I hope our Fighting Illini wins more than two football games this year. There are no words for how I felt about the abysmal state of football in Champaign last year.

6. I hope I stick to my generic New Years resolutions to work out more, eat healthier, read more, etc. etc. etc. I have only limited expectations for this one.

7. Well, I mean, naturally I hope for World Peace.

8. I hope I get to travel out of the country. I have no set plans to do so, but if 2013 wanted to surprise me with any kind of international travel, I would not object.

9. I hope Sean Lowe finds his one true love on the Bachelor.

10. I very much hope that my best, Deva, finds a new job that gives her some peace of mind and a joyful soul. Along the same lines, if you are unhappy in your current situation, I hope that YOU find a new job/city/person/pet/wardrobe. Really, I do!

11. I would really love a kitten. I realize this is dependent on a number of variables including but not limited to real estate restrictions, significant other's whininess, and dollars in the bank. But seriously. A fluffy kitty on my lap right now sounds amazing.

12. I reaaaally hope I get married this year. If I do not, plan on reading a lot more Sparkle, Sparlke posts.

13. Last but not least, I hope, against all hopes, that this is the year that Justin Timberlake does in fact bring sexy back, and give this world the gift of a new musical album. Because it's about freakin' time, dangit.

And a 14th for good fortune - I hope life puts a little more sparkle in your path!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Planning Stuff vs. Not Planning Stuff

If you're anything like me (type A, oldest child, possibly a tad OCD) you love the concept of planning things. Events, schedules, trips, itineraries (I even love that word!), and more. I am a full-fledged weirdo when it comes to planning. While I sometimes say I enjoy the spontaneity of life, I often find myself stressing out when things aren't planned properly or when things don't go according to the plan I had already set out in my mind.

I have been doing a lot of planning lately. Plans to get my semester finished with my sanity (somewhat) in tact... plans to get the perfect Christmas gift for everyone on my list... plans to get said Christmas gifts while maintaining a graduate student budget (womp... sorry DIY receivers)... plans to make the most out of my short time in Seward and Wisconsin with my family... and there are even more to come in the new year. Plans for weddings (woo!) and bachelorette parties and another semester of crazy and whatever the heck I'm going to do with my summer...

The list goes on and on, as I'm sure yours does too. We can never plan enough, because let's face it, it's difficult to stop time from continuing on at the pace it deems necessary. Which is really unfortunate, because it often feels that if only I could stop time, I'd actually be able to relax and enjoy the moment. But that's sort of a shame, isn't it? We have this whole entire world and our whole entires lives to soak up and relish, goshdarnit! Why must we hinder ourselves with plans for the future when the future has yet to even arrive?? (The answer here is obvious: because otherwise we would go nuts never having anything ready.)

But seriously, planning is great to some extent, but I often find that the best moments are those that I somehow manage to relinquish my iron grip on control and let things flow. Yesterday, my dad announced it was time for the yearly trek down the hill from my grandma's house to Plum Creek (or Plum "Crick" if you're truly from Nebraska) to walk on the ice. For the past couple of years I have either declined the invite because I was too stuffed from Christmas food to consider doing anything as exhausting as walking or haven't gotten to go because it was too warm for anything to freeze over. Well, this year it was definitely cold enough (think single digit degrees - gross) and I figured I'd better take advantage. So I set aside my plans of A. napping and B. not getting frostbite, to slip and shuffle and slide down the iced over creek with my cousins and brothers. It was lovely.

The moral of the story is this, friends. Plans are good. Plans help us organize things and accomplish tasks. Plans make me happy. But what also makes me happy is spending time with the people I love and not necessarily having any end goal in sight. So I hope you get to truly relax and just be with those that you cherish. Most likely those are going to be the best moments you have.

Merry Christmas! Peace, Joy, Love, Hope abound.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Upside to Struggle, Or What One Should Remind Oneself When One's Bicycle is Stolen

If you don't follow me on Twitter (which obviously you should - @abbalange), then you may not have been informed of the very dire news that my bike has been stolen. Ripped it straight up off the bike rack where I HAD IT LOCKED UP. Right outside my apartment! Which apparently is more crime-ridden than I was aware of based on the window-bashing episode of a few weeks ago. And it's all the more painful because I was really falling in love with this bike. It was a nice old lady cruiser with a low seat so I didn't have to bend over while riding. It had a light and a rack and even a spot for a mile counting mechanism, thanks to the previous owner who totally pimped it out and then never used it. It was just the best bike! And now it's gone, off to live with someone who will surely not love it as much as I did.

As an aside, I'd like to take this moment and say that if YOU, person who stole my bike, due to a movie-worthy coincidence, are reading Sparkle, Sparlke, hear this: RUDE! If you had merely asked, I would have let you ride my bike around the block (obviously under my surveillance since you are not to be trusted.) But yeah, you're a big, fat jerk.

So, needless to say, I was struggling this morning. Monday always seems to punch me in the face, but today it just roundhouse kicked me in the gut. I spent most of the morning feeling totally bummed out, especially as I rode a different bike I borrowed from my parents which just wasn't the same, and was totally prepared to be thoroughly pissed off for the remainder of the day. But then I made remembered something I had heard on the radio this morning, and I'm going to pull it all together in that sparkly way you love so much.

The radio DJ this morning was talking about a woman who was studying differences between the approaches the United States and Asian countries take to education. Specifically the approaches to struggling. Through many conversations with both American and Asian families, she found that Americans tend to operate under the assumption that it's our intelligence that causes our success. On the other hand, in some Asian countries (they didn't state which ones), success is attributed to hard work and a "practice makes perfect" attitude. So when a person struggles with a concept or problem or idea, we Americans might figure the struggle is due to our lack of intelligence. Conversely, the conversations with these Asian families showed that they saw struggle as an opportunity instead of a detriment. The fact that one is struggling doesn't mean someone is dumb, it just means there's work to be done.

The obvious connection here would be to the fact that I feel that I'm struggling EVERY DAY in grad school, but no. I like to make things interesting on this blog, so I'm talking about how I'm struggling with the fact that someone took my bike! When these types of things happen, I just want to hate everyone. I struggle to remember that not everyone is a bike-stealer. But this is an opportunity to remind  me that for the one person who stole my bike, there are dozens, perhaps hundreds of people who did NOT steal my bike! And that's kind of cool if you really think about it. For the most part, there are more kind, good people out there in the world. It's just those few jerks that distort our view of humanity. So if someone ripped you off today, try to remember all those people who didn't. Focus on the good. Revel in kindness.

And if you see someone on a black Pure Trek bike that looks stolen, get their address so I can send them a courteous thank you note for this life lesson.