Friday, December 31, 2010

Auld Lang Syne! Or something.

Would someone please clue me into what "Auld Lang Syne" actually means? Maybe I'm the last to figure this out, but it's still a random accumulation of letters to me. First one to answer has my best wishes for the new year!

So 2010. What a year. I'd like to take this time to recap some of the highlights of the past 365 days. Feel free to skim, skip or add your own in the comment section!

January: This was quite a long time ago. I don't really remember any significant happenings besides the birthday of my sparkly best, Deva!

February: Once again, the shortest month. Probably it was cold in Valpo.

March: Last domestic Chorale tour...around the midwest. Woo! Trying to get 45 of my peers to pay attention when I tell them where to stand was never so A. Rewarding, B. Overwhelming, C. Joyous or D. Pointless. Take your pick!

April: An up and down month, if I recall. Spending a few days blitzed in Montana at NCUR was pretty fun. Dealing with a very sad death on Valpo's campus was not. Someone should have said, "Beware the ides of April."

May: Holy cow, what a eventful month! Last undergrad finals ever, Duffy's brat fry, the 22nd anniversary of my birth, a little thing called graduation, Chorale tour to Germany.... phew! I'm actually surprised I fit all that in in 31 days.

June: Blech.

July: Gag.

August: Exhausted.

September: Finally settling into the new job. Accepting life changes (sort of.) Found another school that does not have off Labor Day.

October: Coached a lot of junior high volleyball, which was truly a joy. Jetsetted to Chicago to check out the Art Institute and while there, saw the Lion King with my dad - very cool show!

November: Printmaking like a madwoman. Spent my first Thanksgiving in Nebraska, which basically felt like an early Christmas.

December: Whoa! All of a sudden, we are at the end of the year! How the heck did this happen? I feel like I aged about a decade. I did accomplish the great feat of finally putting up my first art exhibition -the highlight of perhaps my entire year. And of course Christmas with both sides of my family reminds me how many blessings I have in my life.

So all in all, a pretty OK year. Some pretty high highs, and some pretty low lows, but I've decided to chalk them all up to "life experience." I guess the moral of the story is that I'm ready to tie up 2010 in a sparkly little bow and move on to whatever 2011 has to offer me!

Happy New Year, all. Cheers to you and yours.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Best Way to Spread Christmas Cheer is Singing Loud for All to Hear

And if you can't hear me singing from your respective states that are not Nebraska, you can YouTube search some old Chorale videos and I'm sure you'll get the picture.

Well, Merry Christmas everyone! You're probably all thinking, "What kind of sad person has time or desire to blog on actual Christmas Day?" That kind of person is me, friends. But when you have 16 people in one smallish house and everyone's talking and there's not enough room for us to all spread out and nap after the big's nice to get away from it all for a few minutes or so.

So here I am, chatting to you fine people. I'll keep it short, as I want to resume my lounging and wine-drinking as soon as possible (the true reason for the season.)

What's so sparkle, sparkle (or sparlke, sparkle as the case may be) about Christmas? Besides the glitter that comes attached to every ornament, headband, shoe and decoration associated with Christmastime? Let's take a moment to remember the more important sparkly aspects of this time of year.

There's the sparkly spirit of Christmas. Sure, we all have reasons and moments that we don't feel our best around the holidays. It could be an overwhelming amount of things on our to do lists or just that "crowded lonely" feeling - you know the one, TOO many people, still feeling alone. But I think when it comes down to it, some of the best qualities of human nature are promoted and celebrated at Christmas. Peace, joy, generosity and love are *hopefully* in abundance. And I hope we all have enough sparkle, sparkle in us to keep that goodwill spinning through the world after all is said and done too.

If you don't get to see your family that often (which I don't anymore) there's the sparkly feeling of being back with loved ones that you can count on. I sang with the church choir this morning and from the balcony I could see my whole family taking up a pew and a half, and I just felt so blessed. I'm pretty tight with the fam, and remembering that sure makes my heart sparkle, sparkle. They're the star to my Christmas tree, if you will.

And of course, there's the truest and most lovely sparkle of all - the fact that Christmas is really about the celebration of Christ and his birth. A Savior who came to the world, gave up hanging out in heaven and became a person, just to save my life? Pretty sparkle, sparkle.

Merry Christmas, ya'll. Friends afar, I wish I could see you today, but know that I'm thinking of you all and missing you dearly. Hope you sparkle all day long.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Remember Me?

Hello Bloggy-Type People!

Official Bloggy Photo of Just My Head  

Remember me?  

I'm the other sparkle, in "Sparkle Sparkle".  In fact, some would say I'm the "sparlke" ;-)
I really am sorry I have been so MIA these past sparkly months, but truth be told, it might have been a good thing.  You see, in my graduate program, I have to write. A lot. So much so that I really began to resent the written word in all shapes and sizes.  Every time I thought about writing a blog post, the following would happen.

1. Groan about having to write papers. Become anxious about sitting in front of the computer to type something.
2. Look down at my soon-to-be arthritic hands (from typing over 200 pages this semester)

3. Think to myself "What do I have to tell the world, anyway?"

So you see, had I actually written a post, it probably would it of have been negative, snarky and resentful of paper writing.

But! Miracle of miracles, Winter Break is upon us. What does that mean?  My grumbles about the world are becoming more faint, and I'm ready to type again! So, followers new and old, what in the world shall I blog about?  I'd like to log some blog  (rhyming! i dig it!) time this break, and until inspiration nudges me in the "write" (puns! what fun!) direction, I'm open to suggestions. Let's hear 'em! I'll do my best to appease. 

Thanks for welcoming me back into your virtual lives, y'all. I'm excited to be back!  

Monday, December 13, 2010

Printmaking, or, What I've Been Doing with my Spare Time for the Past Fifteen Weekends

I've surpassed the 6 month mark in Seward, ladies and gentlemen. Somedays I'm amazed I've made it this far. Especially with the lack of social life. (aka, I have few friends. Come visit!) But, it hasn't ALL been one self-thrown pity party. No, I've been productive. Not only do I have a full-time job, I thought it would be fun to take a class too. And I have to say, it was fun. Rarely will you hear me say this, but I'm not being sarcastic. It was one of the best classes I've ever taken! My teacher was a baller, I got to play with art supplies AND I have these fun creations to show off. Granted, none of them will be going in MoMA anytime soon, but I'm still proud in a "Look Mom! Put this on the refrigerator" sort of way. Check 'em out! Hope you enjoy my brainchildren.

Yes, this is the infamous lobster I've talked to many of you about. I call it... "Lobster."

Here is a 6-color screenprint. Probably one of my favorite techniques, because you get to use lots of color and a squeegee.

The very first print I ever attempted. After several hours and many gouges in my fingers from the carving tool, the response I got from my teacher was, "I feel like I'm spying on this chicken with nightvision goggles."

An etching of the wood grain in my dresser drawer. Sorta kinda successful.

Probably one of my favorites, although I think the top part is better than the bottom. Etched that baby into a copper plate, boo-yah!

Photo lithography was not my friend. Womp.

Three-color screenprint. I feel as though this is not particularly inspiring, but still rather pretty.

This wasn't an assignment, just me playing around with the old type stamps at my teacher's house when we went there to use a special press.

Literally all of the light fixtures in my grandmother's house. Except for the chandelier. I just made that up for kicks.

Well, I hope you've enjoyed this adventure into my "art." Thanks for scrolling!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmastime is Here!

So I know you all have been waiting for this moment to come, but here's a little taste of Christmas at the Sloup household. The tree has been trimmed, the other 9 trees have been trimmed, every flat surface in the house has been covered by garland, fake snow or figurines, and the living room glows from the beam of a thousand+ Christmas lights. 'Tis the season to decorate beyond reason, no? The glorious tree! See how many Christmas balls? My grandma decorated ALL of them.
"Artistic" shot from below.

I am oh-so-excited to bust out my 87th box of Christmas balls for the tree!

As I'm pondering the Christmas season, I can't even count all of the things I look forward to every year. Here's a few of the highlights...

1. For the past few years now, my dad (who Deva and I fondly refer to as "Papa Lange") has tried to convince my family that it would be great for us to put on a Christmas performance, singing in 5-part harmony. Much like the VonTrapp family singers, except with fewer Nazis and more sarcasm. Last year, he even went so far as to print off some sheet music. However, the protests from my brothers were enough to stop his attempts to make us the hit of the holidays...last year. Who knows what tactics he'll try for 2010.

2. I know everyone says their grandma makes the best cake/pie/kolatches/what-have-you. But my grandma seriously makes the best Christmas sugar cookies. Seriously. And if you don't agree, that's fine. More cookies for me. But really, everyone in our family loves them. The cookies are kept in a cardboard box wrapped in wrapping paper in the toy room. The only reason to go in the toy room in the winter is to get cookies, because otherwise it's freezing in there. Needless to say, I make many sprints into the toy room. Recently, my grandma has given us each a limit of 17 cookies, but no one trusts each other to stick to the limit, so you gotta get in there fast. (17 is not very many. They're small.) Generally, I eat my mom's too. Whatev. So. Excited.

3. As soon as my brother Jordan arrives, there's the annual hunt for the Christmas gorilla. "What's the Christmas gorilla?" you might be thinking. Well, it is what it is. It's a stuffed animal gorilla. Actually, the gorilla has no intrinsic Christmasy qualities. He's just holding a banana. However, somewhere along the line, Jordan started placing the Christmas gorilla in a prominent location of the house. Not to have her Christmas-only themed decorations tainted by this silly ape, my grandma took to hiding the gorilla each year. Well, she hasn't stumped Jordan yet, and the Christmas gorilla continues to make its yearly appearance much to grandma's chagrin.

The great thing about traditions like these is that no one really knows where they started (except for the cookies. Those have been around since the dawn of time.) And yet, as ridiculous as they might seem to the outsider (you), I cherish these little quirks. Frankly, I can't wait to see where the Christmas gorilla pops up this year, or what songs my dad will have picked out for the family choir. I know the greater traditions of Christmas like being with family, exchanging gifts and celebrating the birth of Christ are all important and wonderful. I just want to let these unusual customs have their moment in the limelight too.

So enjoy your Christmas traditions, whether they're funny or serious, traditional or original. Or make up a brand new one starting this year! Whatever it is, it's sure to make your holiday season more memorable. As long as the memories don't involve you stealing my share of the sugar cookies, we're good to go. :)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Happiness hit her like a train a track...

Ok, did you watch this?? It's been playing through my mind for the last week ever since Glee remade it for the most recent episode. Personally, I like the original version better. Never mind the kind of trippy artistic direction going on in the music video, close your eyes if you must. Doesn't this song make you want to get up and dance?

Although the beat is addicting and the melody is oh-so-singable, the words to this gem are what really fascinate me. Disclaimer: she's singing about the "Dog Days," not the "Dark Days." I know, I was confused too. Anyhow. According to the always reliable source Wikipedia, "Dog Days" are the hottest, most sultry days of the summer. They can also be a period of time that is "stagnant, or marked by a lack of progress." You might be asking yourself as you nod off, "Self, why is Abby giving me a boring history lesson?" Well, wake up! Because the dog days are OVER! It's a good thing, people.

We all have dog days. Frankly, it's much easier to have them than to not have them. You let yourself get swamped down with the tiring details of life and you can't step forward in any direction. I know this because I do it all the time. I'm much too prone to getting overwhelmed and letting it blind my big-picture vision. However, my friend Florence makes a great point when she says, "Leave all your love and your lovin' behind, you can't carry it with you if you want to survive." I suppose you could look at that in a sort of lonely way, but as this is my post, I reserve the right to promote my own lyrical interpretations, so there.

We all have dog days, and many a time it's because we're holding on to something from the past. Our failures and rejections morph from something that used to be an event that simply happened into a being that smothers us. Why? Because we used to love those things. A school we didn't get into, an estranged relationship, a job we missed out on, a loss we didn't expect. And you really can't carry those with you if you want to survive. Keeping your head above water is hard enough, and harder still if you have rocks tied to your feet.

Anyhow, I really just love this song. Because it's one of those that gets me singing when I'm tired and because I want to be able to say these words and really mean them. Just please don't smack me if I'm still humming it the next time I see you.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Well, folks. It's finally happening.

I'm mentally nesting. That's right, you heard me correctly. No, no. I'm not pregnant. Definitely not. I am however, going through a phase where the average home appliance makes me giddy with excitement. Blenders, silverware, rugs, you name it. I'm dying for a home.

Here's how I figure it. At this age, my mother, grandmothers, great grandmothers, etc. were all already married and starting to run their own households. So my recent obsession with homeware is clearly just genetics. It's time for me to be a person! A real person who has her own space. I don't care if my own space is 400 square feet. I don't need a lot of it, I just need some.

The other day I was watching my aunt do some rug hooking (don't ask me to explain it) and I had a sudden, uncontrollable urge to make coasters. For my home. Which does not exist. A week before that, I drifted off into daydreams about picking out place settings. In my home. Which does not exist. And yesterday, I couldn't help but google search dinner party ideas, of which I will host my home. Which does not exist. Am I painting you a pretty picture? As Will Ferrell famously said, "I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!"

But before you judge me too much for this, let me just ask you. When's the last time you thought about your future? Probably, like, this morning. Everyone thinks about the future. It's impossible not to. Now most people think about it in terms of school, jobs and family. I just happen to be in interior decorating mode. So cut me some slack, alright? And if you really love me, you'll buy me something from Pier 1.