Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas to You and Your Favorite People!

Hello Sparlke, Sparkle devotees! (are there any of you left?) It's time for the traditionally cliche Christmas blog post! But that's ok. Certainly I can step away from my skeptical life outlook for this most sacred of holidays. At least for the duration of this post.

Today something very strange happened. I woke up, prompted by no alarm, at 8 am. If you know me at all, you know that I am perpetually sleepy. Like a sleep 12 hours and I'm ready for a nap type of gal. This is to say I literally can't remember the last time I willingly got out of bed before 11 on a Saturday. But today I woke up at 8. And I knew my parents were going to walk "up town" (ah, small town life) to get coffee, so I thought I'd be ambitious and join them. Along with us came my grandpa and my aunt and uncle. So we strolled through the cold winter sun to the local coffee shop and had our morning caffeine fix together. And it was wonderful.

I don't even regret missing out on my usual 3 extra hours of sleep. Now that I live 10 hours away from my parents, the mornings that I can spend leisurely chatting with them are so limited. I'm far past the teenage days where hanging out with my family was so Uncool. Now I actually like my parents, believe it or not. And as I sat back and listened to my family laughing and sharing stories at our morning get together, I felt pretty darn lucky.

I think I have the best family in the world. Do I expect you to think I have the best family in the world? Heck no. I hope you think YOU have the best family in the world. Because when we lose our jobs, when we break up with our significant others, when we move to a new town and know no one, our families are the constant in our lives. Mine will always be quirky and hilarious, but rooted in faith and intensely connected to each other. I would have them no other way. (Even when they start to drive me crazy.)

I hope that you get to spend time with your family this Christmas, whether it's the family you were born into or the family you've discovered along the way. And I hope you believe you're with the best people in the world.

Sparlke, Sparkle! Merry Christmas, all!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

18 Months

"We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." -T.S. Eliot

Have you ever noticed that you can never, ever, no matter how hard you try, stop learning things? Honestly! Even when you *think* you've mastered a skill, or memorized a fact, or become comfortable with an area of knowledge, it's at that exact moment when The Universe chass├ęs in and says, "Great job, sucker. Now! Here are the assembly instructions for your life... in Portuguese." 

Oh, and then there is the universe's partner in crime: Time. Ohhhh, hoho! Time. Time is the worst.  It works in beautiful and fluid unison with The Universe to ensure that we all learn exactly how inept we are at our most vulnerable moments. And my second grievance against time? It's rarely kind enough to be the right amount in any situation. 

But, my sparkly fellows, I assure you that this is not a post based on grumbling. Oh, no. There is a point, I promise. But first, you need to go with me on a small but necessary journey of the past 18 months of my life. Because you see, Time and The Universe have been teaching me things I can only share with you through shared experience. And for those of you that have shared in most of this experience, then perhaps, you may just learn something about either my life or yours that you did not already know. And if that's the case, well, perfect.

So 18 months ago I was just starting grad school and I thought I knew it ALL. Yes. I was *that* girl. I had it all planned out. Career goals? Check. Great friends? Check. Supportive Family? Check. Long-distance relationship? Check. Healthy body and mind? Pretty much check. Well wasn't I just the luckiest? I was out to save the world, and I was going to do it my way. What did any stupid schools have to teach me that I didn't already know? I figured I would just use some common sense humor and pirouette my way through grad school. That's what I've always done, easy peasy. 

Boy, was I clueless. 

Not only did I have a lot to learn academically, but thanks to  the lovechild of the hero (Universe) and our heroine (Time) of our story, I was brought to my knees with a kind of humility that could have only come from the one thing we can never "easy-peasy" our way through: Change. I did not even begin to understand what kinds of changes my life could have over 18 months. 

To begin with, I started living by myself for the first time. This was extremely liberating and also very lonely at first. All my great friends started scattering this way and that, off to new adventures. Here I was, still in the same place, but grasping desperately for familiarity. My supportive family was still there, but even my relationships with each of them could not be unchanged. Career goals switched quickly, and I wobbled my way down a haphazard road of choices until I finally chose an internship site. E
ventually it became pretty clear that all these changes would even break-up my long distance relationship.  Health stayed with me for the most part, but my body and mind couldn't manage to soak up all the stress of these changes without changing a bit themselves. 

\Oh, but my friends. This is not all. Not even close. There was so much good that came from these changes. Although my great friends *did* have to scatter, the precious ones, the ones who matter, well you're all still here. I am so thankful for you. I am so lucky to be able to keep in touch with you as much as we do, and even more lucky that several of you have been able to come and visit me. Those weekends and overnights are my absolute most favorite times. And guess what! In the past 18 months I even got some *new* great friends. Social Work Frands, Mair, and so many other lovely more. I couldn't have made it without you, in all honesty.  Change brought me you, and for that, I am forever grateful. And then there came the not-so-long-ago day that Time and The Universe marched one of the more remarkable people I have ever met right into my life. It just so happens that just as I had settled into being content with being a single gal, I met a guy who completely knocked my proverbial socks off. Along those same lines, I walked into the HR office at my internship to get a new lanyard a couple weeks ago and I walked out with a job offer. You just never know when great things will happen. The Universe is funny that way, but in this particular case, I'm diggin' its sense of humor. 

Family:  I feel a little more grown up than I did a year and a half ago. Thanks for raising me and loving me, and putting up with me all this time. Ten points for you. I love you each so much.

So, ladies and gentlemen of sparkle nation, let us bring back our attention to the beginning quote.

 "We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." -T.S. Eliot

What does it all mean? To me, these wise words mean a couple of things. 
  1. We never stop learning because we are constantly in a state of exploration and realization. We may know a part of the answer, but the whole answer, the truest answer, is that we are always changing. We are always growing so that which we know is only so temporarily. 
  2. Because we are constantly exploring and realizing, we are always getting to know ourselves and our surroundings a little bit better. Things change so quickly, but in the end we come back to the same few and important things. Friends, your inner self, family and home are all people and places we can see differently, and often more beautifully over time. You get to know these things better and better with each passing day. It's like watching a great movie over and over. You notice things you didn't see the first million times. It's always so exciting when that happens. 
And that's it. That's all she wrote. Time and The Universe are certainly two things I always want on my side. I do my best to appreciate each of them on a daily basis. I know that without them, there would be no Change, and without any change, well, I'd still be 6-year-old me wearing monochromatic sweatsuits and bows to school everyday. (Not to mention I wouldn't know many of you wonderful folks who make my life so darn sparkly.)

I am really so thankful for you all. Can't wait for the next 18... everything. 

Peace, Love and Soul,

Monday, November 7, 2011

Holy Blog Hiatus, Batman!

Welp, here we are again. It's that time where I apologize for neglecting Sparlke, Sparkle and you think to yourself "It's OK, Abby, I don't even really care that much." But just in case there are a few people who have been mourning the lack of sparkle in their lives, to you people, I am sorry. I don't know what the deal is, I just haven't been feeling particularly inspired lately. Or when I am, it's at really inconvenient times like when I'm driving or at my apartment (which lacks the necessary internet access to make this blog possible.)

At any rate, here are a couple life updates... just to keep you all informed that I am indeed alive and basically well.

*I still live in Nebraska. So, that's happening.
*Work is going well for the most part, we're in the process of making some stained glass windows so it's nice to have a project on the docket. That means I get to fill out more forms! Joy! But seriously, it's good to have work. These working-off-commission type businesses are sort of risky endeavors, and it's good that we have some income flowing. (Oh hey, shameless plug for my job... check out pretty art we make at
*I'm gearing for reapplying to grad school, which is simultaneously overwhelming and terrifying. The best combination! If I get into one school, I will be happy. Just. One. Please?
*I've been taking a Art Since 1945 class at UNL and it is fantastic. I have to say I really love learning about art, and I don't care if that makes me a nerd or whatever. Even crazy movements like the Viennese Actionists (look them up, if you dare) are fascinating, even if not so much aesthetically pleasing. Fun stuff.
*More printmaking is happening in my life! Not as frequently as I'd like, because I've been more busy with this other class, but I'm getting some interesting results. Drypoint etching this week, yay!
*And I still miss my friends. So here you go, friends: an open invitation to the great state of Nebraska! Anytime you're here, drop by Seward and I will show you the sights and sounds. It will be the best 45 minutes of your life, I promise.

Ok, have a sparkly day, everyone. I will attempt to come back soon with more life revelations for you to enjoy!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Good Thing I Am Busy These Days...

...or you'd be getting a lot more posts like the one I'm about to write. You see, I have a complaint to file. That complaint is about geography. Now, I have nothing against the subject of geography in school. Memorizing state capitals isn't too much of a chore, and I always did enjoy coloring in the maps. No, my issue has to do more with the fact that with geography seems to exist in a larger than 30 mile radius of where I am located at any given time. For example, if you're any sort of Sparkle, Sparkle follower, you know that I currently reside in the great state of Nebraska. And of course when I say "great," I really mean "great at being far away from everyone." Because when it comes to being far away, Nebraska really does take the cake with that one.

What I'm getting to here is that it's getting kind of old to be so far away from the people I love the most. And sure, I could be in another country or something, but this is already far enough to make things inconvenient. It might be OK if I were in a big city with a major airport, because then I wouldn't have to pawn off my possessions to afford a plane ticket home. (I jest, I only have to give up food for a couple of weeks, don't worry.)

I guess this is just how life post-grad goes. Everyone spreads out, and you're lucky if you're within driving distance of those who used to live one room away from you. Maybe it will get easier eventually, but it's still hard for me to know that getting to see my best friends might be a luxury that I can only afford (time or money-wise) a couple times a year at most. I mean, these are the people I with whom I've had midnight study break dance parties, watched Pride & Prejudice countless times, played drinking games while watching Lifetime movies, battled apartment mice, made ridiculous rap and BSB music videos, endured countless philosophical conversations in CC, and complained about the terrible Valpo weather time and time again. I mean, they're my family. Except we don't get to spend holidays together.

Basically, I miss you. Yes, if you're reading this, I probably miss you because A) My social life has really hit an all-time low and B) I'm assuming there aren't too many true stalkers wasting their time with this blog. I know I'll be able to make new friends at the different places I find myself, but it's still hard to be away from the people who have become, well, critical to my happiness. I just have to remind myself of the great JayMay lyrics, "And if you never stop when you wave goodbye, you just might find if you give it time, you will wave hello again." Maybe he's talking about romantic relationships (per usual) but I think it works all-around. So I will try to keep waving, metaphorically of course, don't want to attract stares, and hopefully I'll see you again soon.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Arghhh Matey, Take 2.

Hello all! If you're new to Sparlke, Sparkle, or if you didn't read the most recent post, or if you have short-term memory loss, I'm going to tell you right now that this post will probably be very confusing if read out of context. So let me just back up here a second and remind you all that I did indeed promise a blog post about life with specific references to pirates. So here we go, and don't say I didn't warn you.

Lately life has been feeling a tinge anti-climatic. It's been more than a year since graduation, I'm still in Seward at the same job, and I'm beginning to feel like my life really should have started by now. What's the hold up, huh? Have I not paid my dues yet? Does having a glamorous job require several more years of servitude in the lower ranks of employment? Perhaps so. Now, what would a pirate have to say about all of this?

I don't know much about pirates, but I'm assuming that you can't just jump on a ship and declare yourself "Captain." (keyword!) The current Captain would never stand for that. You have to spend some time swabbing the deck and rigging the mast and stuff. (Is that even right? Rigging the mast? If so, I'm very impressed with my intrinsic knowledge of ships.) And as you're doing all these menial tasks, a young pirate should always be NETWORKING. Ahh, yes, one of those buzzwords of college that hardly means anything anymore because so many people have told us to do it that we forget how it's done. But I think it involves getting in good with the first mate, bringing a bottle of rum to the deckhands and even cozying up to the guys in the brig, because you never know when they're going to redeem themselves and remember your kindness and give you a job that pays six figures and a generous Christmas bonus.

So yeah, sucking up seems to be key. But not in an ingenuous way, or the Captain will see right through you and make you "walk the plank." (keyword!) And then you're worse off than when you started - in the ocean, sinking fast because I'm not convinced that too many pirates actually know how to swim. Irony? Aye aye. So how does one little pirate get to the "buried treasure?" (keyword!) AKA, the dream job, family, house, what have you. Frankly, I have no idea. If I did, I'd be doing it, duh. And then my blog posts would have a more now-that-I-have-what-I-want-what-d0-I-do-with-it quality about them. So at least you have that to look forward to!

I think the bottom line is this: No matter what your profession, you're probably going to have to spend some time below deck. Sure, there are people that get handed their dream life on a silver platter right along with their diploma, but I am not one of those people. And I know for a fact that most of the people I know are not that person either. I suppose it's just best to sit tight and work/hope for the best. It's not so bad if you have other pirate friends who are going through the same thing.

Hey, here's a thought! Let's all band together and buy a ship and just sail around for a while and see how that suits us. We can go to tropical islands and hang out on the beach, drink lots of rum and make a regular vacation out of it! A pirate's life for me, right? Great! Meet you at the dock. I call being Captain.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Arrrrgh, Matey!

Well, the day has finally come. Yes, the day where I make a wonderfully coherent and timely life analogy about pirates. Didn't see that one coming, did ya? OK, that's sort of a joke. Really, I just wanted to post my newest printmaking creation because I'm pretty proud of it. And if you can't show off your pseudo-artwork on your own blog, where CAN you show it off? So here:

Ta-da! And let's see here. Pirates are like life because... well, sometimes we feel as if we're in a crazy storm, and barely staying afloat... Or maybe you've been looted. Or perhaps you have a talking bird. I don't know, I'm really not my usual metaphorical self today. Sorry to let you down. I will brainstorm on this and return soon with the answers to all life problems using the words "Captain," "Walk the plank" and "buried treasure." Get excited!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Growing Up Is Hard To Do, Or The Emotional Complications of Rearranging Furniture.

So it turns out I'm getting older. Not very quickly, of course, just at the normal rate. But it also turns out that as you get older, you have to do more things for yourself. Recently, I've taken on a slew of things that are making me feel pretty grown-up. Like buying a couch. I mean, a REAL couch, not a futon. And I bought it with MY money! That I earned at my job! Sheesh, it's exhausting to even think about for too long. Granted, the couch did come from an estate sale. (Which is just a glorified garage sale, except they charge tax, the jerks. Just remember this.) And yes, it is white brocade fabric circa 1968, but whatever. It's actually fitting in quite nicely in my apartment which is a funky conglomeration of furniture highlighting all of the best decades in design, AKA the '60s through '80s. And when I say "best," please know that I mean "most questionable in terms of actual taste or style." At any rate, I now have the following items in my living room: 1 couch, 1 chair, 1 shelf, 1 small table and 1 lamp. At least I didn't get overloaded with lamps or something. At least I'm balanced.

So figuring out where these 5 items go should be a breeze, right? Wrong. I think it would actually be easier if I had about 20 things, so that I could fill the space a little better. Instead, I currently have these pieces of furniture spread out as much as possible so that I don't have half a room with nothing in it. Of course the result is that each piece is in awkwardly in its own corner, with the open space just in the middle of the room. So now all the furniture pieces look as if they're laying in wait, prepping to attack each other, eyeing each other with doubt and mistrust. They KNOW they don't go together. Yes, I'm personifying my furniture. See what kind of emotional toll this has taken on me? It's hard trying to be an adult.

Unfortunately, until I find a coffee table, or a large potted plant, or something to tie it all together, I'm just going to have to deal with how it looks right now. It sort of reminds me of a college apartment, but parts of it are more real-house-esque. Perhaps I'm living in some sort of limbo, an interior design purgatory. Who knows. All I do know is that it perfectly reflects my life right now. Sort of a jumbled, odd combination of a bunch of different people, places, things, and plans. The weirdest part is that I feel strangely satisfied with it. I'm not content to stay here forever, but I feel as though I'm almost going through some sort of adult initiation. "Here," says Life, "I'm giving you 5 totally random pieces of me, life. Make it work." (I think Life kind of sounds like Tim Gunn here.) And so I'm trying to make it work. It's looking OK - a little ramshackle at times, but definitely some potential in there somewhere. So to all my post-grad friends, and anyone else who's in transition: I hope that you can work the bits of life you've been given into something lovely. If it's not working, try to rearrange the pieces. Cheers!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

These Shoes Rule! Let's Get 'em!

Ladies, have you ever had one of those days where you're out shopping for shoes and after searching numerous department stores you're just about ready to conclude that classy gray pumps are apparently just not "in" enough to offer anything that isn't satiny or covered in rhinestones and you're just, JUST about to walk out of Macy's in defeat and then THERE THEY ARE SHOES FIT FOR A QUEEN but they cost a bazillion dollars? No? Guys, have you? No takers?

Well, twist ending - this happened to me today. Let me just break it down a little bit more for you. As stated earlier, I guess gray is not the color of the season because let me tell you, gray heels are really no where to be found. At least not cute ones. Silver shoes, sure. But I'm not going to prom. I want to pretend to be slightly more mature. Anyhow, I really was about to give up for the day until I decided to take one last swing through the Macy's shoe department and I found them. I think they literally spoke my name as I stopped in front of them. They had an angelic sort of glow emanating from them, like the genie's lamp in Aladdin or something. After I checked the price and privately cursed the fact that I'm not independently wealthy, I just stood there looking at them. Then came the salesperson...

Me: (to self) I'm not going to buy these shoes. I can't spend this much money. It's not practical. Ugh but they're so pretty. I waaaant them. No! No. Must. Resist. Shoe. Temptation.

Salesman: And what size do you need in that pretty shoe?

Me: (hands over shoe) 8 and a half.

Ok, ok. But I was just going to try them on. Until I did and it was love at first step. At this point the shoes were practically begging me to adopt them. What could I do? Just leave them there? To be taken home by someone who could never love them as much as I already did? Of course not. That would be rude. So I bought them. And tried not to think about my poor checking account, which was unquestionably also screaming at me, but for other reasons.

I'm not sure there are too many good life lessons to be learned from this tale, besides maybe that I need to stop anthropomorphizing inanimate objects. But you know what? I don't even care. I love these shoes and I'll cry (with joy) if I want to.

BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Going Mobile... A Lesson in Never Losing Hope

So it has come to my attention that I have not updated Sparlke, Sparkle in quite some time, which is surely throwing all of your lives into a tailspin, wondering where your joy is going to come from now. Well, for that I must say I am deeply apologetic and I hope that any and all future haituses will not be as long or emotionally painful.

I was feeling particularly content with life about 45 minutes ago, which prompted me to think, "Hey! I should spread this contentedness via the intraweb!" So I ventured to my grandparent's basement to try my luck at their antique desktop. Alas, it was not my day. After loading a second tab on Internet Explorer, the computer got frazzled and decided to go catatonic. So I'm attempting to write this from le iPhone.

"I'll just get on Safari and type away!" I thought foolishly. Nope. Apparently you cannot actually type in the New Post box on le phone. This is still a mystery to me. So I try to download a blog app, which should solve all my problems right? Wrong. "Cannot connect to HTTP. Try again later," this app told me. No! I have to spread joy NOW!! So I got a different app and finally, success! The moral of this story being, if you don't give up hope, you will eventually be able to bore people to tears with the tales of your unimportant phone malfunctions.

But maybe I'll stop being totally shallow for just a moment and say what I really wanted to say originally. Which was in fact, don't lose hope. I have been blessed recently to find myself feeling rather good about life. Job is a little tedious, but at least I have one. I'm going to be coaching volleyball again in the fall as well as taking some art/art history classes , so I'm looking forward to that. And I'll be getting an apartment soon! All good things. And just a year ago, heck, just 6 months ago, I was thinking if I survived this year, it would be a miracle. It reminds me of something someone said on Twitter once: "Last year was shitty and this year I live in Paris. So if you aren't happy, cross your fingers for luck, put your head down and work." I know it's just Twitter, but I thought that was actually rather inspiring. So much can change in a year, or even in a few months, or sometimes even just a few days. As cheesy as it is, there really is no way to know what is going to step in front of your life's path.

So please, dear sparkle, sparkle fan, if you're having a tough time of it, don't lose hope. Much like connecting to your blog on your phone, sometimes it takes a few tries to make a proper connection. But seriously. Eventually you will find joy, and if you're not looking around, joy will inevitably find you. BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sparlke, Sparkle Showcase: Tim

I'm sure by this time you all were thinking, "Is Sparlke, Sparkle gone forever?? Where is the joy in life???" Well, have no fear, ladies and gents. I have not disappeared completely. Although that is slightly deceiving because today's post is actually by guest author, Tim. Here's a quick bio. Tim is a friend of Devin's, ergo, a friend of mine. He likes bike riding to and fro, using maps as decorative elements, formulating intricate plans to win the love of Katy Perry, and pondering the moon. So without further ado, a sparkly bit of prose from the one and only Tim.

a yarn of a pool

Today, I wanted to share a story with you about the pool party that never was meant to be. To give a fair warning: it’s a story of heartbreak. But stick with me because when the dust settles you just might learn something about yourself on this short journey we’re about to take.

Back in late January, I went with my friend Dan to the ARC to run on an early Sunday afternoon. I had made the stereotypical New Years resolution of getting into shape, and I knew that it would only last until mid-February, so I had to act while there was still time. We ran at the indoor track-- not anything too extensive, just enough for us to realize how much running sucks again. Afterward we decided to lounge in the pool.

The purpose of going to the pool was just to chill out after the run, it wasn’t meant to be any sort of intense exercise. After a while we learned it was a lot of fun just splashing around and jumping off the diving board. I reminded myself that I cannot jump off a springy diving board, and came to the realization that I may never learn how to properly do it, and will have to go through the rest of my life not being able to.

But anyway, between the splashing and jumping off the diving board in an incorrect manner, an idea hit me. Now, ideas flow through my mind on a daily basis like the Deepwater Horizon pumps oil into the Gulf of Mexico (is this joke too soon, or too late? Maybe a little bit of both). But this was different, and I knew it right from the onset. My idea was a simple one: sometime in the spring we should all get together and have a pool party at the outdoor pool here at the ARC. You know, there will be sunshine, warm weather, beach balls, dance music, everything.

But what day to choose? That, my friend, is simple. The very first day the outdoor pool opens. Why? Why not? But what day was that? I had no idea, so I decided to ask the lifeguard there, “Could you tell me when the outdoor pool opens?”. “Well, I think it’s late April, early May, I’m not exactly sure.”

This, of course, was absolutely no good. I’m a man of dates, of specifics, of marking things on a calendar. I can’t pencil in vagueness into my calendar.

So, I got to work. On Monday I called the ARC and started my investigation. They told me that the ARC outdoor pool was set to open on Saturday, April 30th. I searched weather records, finding average highs, average lows in Champaign, IL for April 30th. The data was overwhelming. Numbers, graphs, charts, old video weather reports dating back to 1982. Finally, I arrived at a conclusion: the average high was 61 degrees. Is this doable? Yes. Well, wait. Actually 61 is quite cool for swimming weather, isn’t it? Well, it’s not that big of a deal, and 61 degrees would never stop me from going into the pool. Ever.

Turns out, that’s exactly what happened. (This is the rising action part of the story).

It was decided and the date was set. A simple Facebook event was created, and invites were sent out. People were excited. I was going to buy a beach ball. What could go wrong?

Actually, several things. The first major clue came in mid-February. At approximately 3:30 a.m. I decided to run the Champaign-Urbana Half-Marathon, which, coincidentally, was April 30th. The same exact day as the pool party. Well, I decided I would do both. The race was in the morning so it left plenty of time for pool fun in the afternoon.

What followed was 2 and a half months of patiently waiting. The buzz was building up. Rumors were flying around about guest celebrities that were set to make an appearance. The week before the pool party was relatively quiet, and again, this should have been a clue that something was amiss, but alas the curtain of naivety was placed before me and my conscious coaxed me into thinking that everything was all right.

Then, during the week before the party all of a sudden I get news from my friend, Sarah. She told me that the website of the ARC has the pool opening on Sunday, May 1st. May 1st!? No! This can’t be.

Needless to say, my world was completely flipped upside down. We were mere days away from the big day and just like that the date had been pushed back. I immediately got on the phone with the ARC. They said that the pool always opens on May 1st, and it was never set to open April 30th. I knew I was defeated. Frustrated, I said, “You have no idea how this impacts the lives of so many people,” and hung up.

Well, I calmed down. The date would just have to be moved to the next day. Luckily, many people still had their schedules free on that Sunday so it was not much of a hardship.

Race day arrived. It was a perfect day to run, and likewise would have been great for a pool party. The original forecast was for rain the entire weekend, but Saturday slipped by as being a nice spring day.

The next day, Sunday, May 1st, is when it all went down. In the morning, it was very nice out-- sunny, warm in the mid 60s. You could tell it was going to be a bit chilly to be jumpin in any pools, but it was definitely doable. Then, around 1pm in the afternoon the temperature dropped. It got cloudy and cool very fast. Now we were in the 50s with just a couple of hours until the party at 3pm.

At around 2:30 you could just tell no one was going to show up, but the captain always has to go down with his ship, and I decided that I was going to go anyway. At least I’ll be able to say I was in that pool the first day it opened.
Well, two of my buddies somehow agreed, and we decided to meet at 3pm. I got to the ARC just before then and as I entered I saw that the pool was completely deserted. When I went inside there was a sign at the desk to swipe in that said “Pool Closed.” Pool closed? I asked the attendant about it. “Well, when the temperature gets below 60 degrees the lifeguards have to close the pool because it’s too cold. It’s a safety thing.”

Talk about dreams getting crushed. And safety issue? Please! I don’t need Big Brother going around telling me when it’s too cold to jump in frigid water and when it’s not. I can get hypothermia all by myself, thank you.

That was it. My two friends and I went in the indoor pool, but it was not the same as a full fledged outdoor shindig.

Sometimes in life, you gotta roll with the punches every now and then. Sure, plans didn’t go as expected, but at each stage you have to view with what was given to you and go from there. Just because things didn’t go exactly as you had planned doesn’t mean you failed. Look at it as being nudged into changing direction. Take it from nature herself-- flexibility is key. Trees bend instead of resisting the wind. Bears just sleep for a whole winter because it’s cold out and can’t find anything else to do. Elephants got stuck with a really long nose but they use to to throw twigs and stuff at each other. I think you get the idea.

So I think we can all sparkle a little brighter if we keep our heads high, never look back, but also never forget the lessons learned from the past. My lesson? You’re really throwing the dice when you plan to swim when it averages 61 degrees outside. But you know, I would still play those odds any day of the week. Life can punch you in the stomach sometimes, but you have to get back up and kick it right back, because you just can’t take that nonsense from anybody, especially if you’re trying to plan an outrageous pool party.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Summer, Or That Time of the Year When I Don't Want To Cry When I Go Outside

I'm a warm weather girl. I don't think there's ever been a time when I've actually been excited about going out into 30-degree weather. Some people relish the crisp sting of frigidness, but if I could, I'd hibernate inside from November to March. I hate the way you have to tense your muscles just to retain any sense of warmth, rendering you perpetually sore for an entire season. I hate the way you have to wear 18 layers of clothes just to feel remotely comfortable. I hate the way my fingernails turn blue on a regular basis and my nose always feels like ice. Snow is pretty, but I don't want to be in it. Give me a white Christmas, and then pack it up by New Year's, thank you very much.

Anyhow, this ranting is not to focus on the trials of winter, but rather to show you all just how much I love summer! Summer is warm and bright. The days are long and the nights are beautiful. Sure, we midwesterners deal with humidity that does scientifically unexplainable things to a gal's hair, but it's a small price to pay for being outside without growing icicles off your eyelashes. So now that it's officially summer, here's some things I'm looking forward to in this hot and sunny season...

*Eating and drinking outside is fabulous. I can't think of anything more pleasant than sitting outisde in the evening after the worst of the heat is gone and just relaxing in the sunset. Doesn't it sound like a Norman Rockwell poster of the 21st century? I mean, really. Talk about a utopia. As long as there's no 50 mph wind (which, unfortunately, is rare in Nebraska) I would do this everyday.

*The OUTDOOR pool! Woo! Let's get excited for laying out right next to a glittering oasis of chlorine! Except that's going to have to wait here in Seward. Apparently there were some massive repair errors at the Seward Municipal Pool, and now it won't be open for another couple of weeks. Well, you say, just go to another pool in town. Ha! Do you know where I live? We're lucky to even have one. So I continue to trek to the YMCA and swim inside, which is less conducive to tanning/burning in my case.

*As kids, my brothers and I would always get dragged along to outdoor summer concerts by my parents (read: by Papa Lange) and although I don't really remember getting into the music, I do remember running around various parks, just absorbing summer at it's finest. Now that I'm older and can appreciate this, I'm going off on my own summer concert adventure. Yes, I will be channeling my inner hippie at Bonnaroo, a music festival in Tennessee. Despite my nerves about possibly not sleeping and/or showering for 4 days, I'm pumped to see talent the likes of the Black Keys, Florence + the Machine, Amos Lee, Alison Krauss (Cham-paign Cen-tral clap, clap, clap-clap-clap), Mumford & Sons, Iron & Wine and oh so many more. Not to mention, Lil Wayne will be there, so how can you go wrong?

*Summer themed cupcakes! Why stop at cake when you can take that extra leap and make summer cake?? Really, all this involves is putting some fruit or something on top, and you instantly have something that is more reminiscent of warm weather and summer vacation. I like raspberries and strawberries, personally. There's also the bonus of getting sucked into the delusion that putting fruit on cake makes it healthy. Which is totally accurate, right? Riiiight.

And there's so many other things that are wonderful about summer. Summer dresses, summer storms, summer road trips, summer sporting events, summer weddings... the list goes on and on. So soak up your summer! Get outside and do something that looks like it could be a spread in a home-living magazine! Roller blade! Bike ride! Jump rope! Hop scotch! Drink scotch! Whatever you need to do to enjoy this most wonderful time of the year, do it! Marvel at this world in its peak of alive-ness. And don't forget the sunscreen! (mostly note to self.) Happy summer!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My Therapy, Or Why I Like To Swim

I can't be upstairs with my grandparents right now because they're watching Minute to Win It. I don't have anything against that show, but it makes me so nervous to watch people do ridiculous things like bounce pencils into cups or balance a slinky on their head. I just can't handle it. Don't ask me why, usually game shows don't have this adverse of an effect on me, but that's just how this is. (I'd much rather be watching Hour to Deflower, right Davo?) So here I am, in the basement, Sparlke, Sparkling it up for you all.

I've been swimming a lot lately and I've been thinking about why it is that I like this form of exercise so much. One, I hate to run, and this feels a little like the kinder, gentler cousin of running that doesn't make me want to scream in agony. Two, I like being in the water. I always have. As long as it's not frigid, I'm happy being in a pool or lake or ocean. It just feels nice, don't ask me why. And three, swimming is the best form of self-therapy I've ever discovered. Think about it. You can't really listen to an iPod in the pool (unless you get super fancy and buy a bunch of water-proof gear, but that's kind of ridiculous in my opinion). So there's a ton of time to think. Sometimes it's trivial thinking, but recently I've seen a lot of correlation between the act of moving through the water and just life in general. Bear with me here. Swimming can be broken down into three simple parts.

Pull. This would be the arms part, for those of you unfamiliar with the sport. This is where I do the most work, mostly because my legs get lazy, but I can be much more efficient when I really reach forward on each stroke. That's basically how life works, right? I don't think I need to tell you that if you put a little effort into whatever it is you're doing, it's easier to achieve those goals. I've been mood-swingy about my current job and life situation these days - feeling like I'm not really good at what I'm being asked to do at work, and not always enjoying it either. Maybe I'm not reaching far enough. Recently, Devin told me she doesn't want to see me settle simply because it's the easy thing to do. What a wise best friend I have. It's hard to pull yourself forward, but you kind of just have to do it to keep moving.

Kick. Obvious what this is about. Like I mentioned before, this is where I get lazy. It's really easy to let my arms do all the work and sort of drag along in the back. But that's exhausting, because then I have to deal with all of this dead weight that naturally wants to sink to the bottom of the pool. Hellooooo life metaphor! What happens when we don't actively work to slough off the negativity in our life? Yeah, it just tries to drown us. Whether it's tricky emotions, bad habits, or being tied down to the past, we have to kick these things if we want any chance of staying afloat. Get them off and away, and make sure they don't sneak back and grab hold again.

Breathe. This part is so rhythmic, you would think I'd forget it was happening. But this is the part that hurts the most. Not a consistent hurt, but when I'm tired, every breath is like fire in my lungs. And you can't just breathe however you want to, unless you want a nose full of water (which I don' will make me sneeze). Swimming forces me to breathe on a beat, a pulse, a 1-2-3-Breathe, 1-2-3-Breathe. Sometimes I don't think I'm going to make it past the 1-2, but I always do. I've never (yet) had to stop in the middle of the pool because I simply can't catch my breath. Even though it hurts and aches, I've realized I can go a lot further than I think. And such is life, no? Maintaining a sense of rhythm in life is good. It means we have something to push us along when we feel we're losing our grip. Just stick with your beat, whatever it is, and you'll probably be able to keep going even when it's rough.

So that's why I like to swim. Because I can find ways to cope with life and the curveballs it throws at me. Because it gives me some time to myself where I can reflect on the day or create my mental to-do list or whatever. And because when I'm finished, I come out totally clean. And that's a sparkly life-thought, too.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

One Year Out.

Well, today is graduation day for a lot of folks in the great town of Valparaiso, Indiana. It's a little hard to believe that I'm no longer among the most recent grads of Valpo. I definitely don't feel like too much more of an adult than I did after I walked across the stage. And yet, when I reflect upon the last year and everything I've done and experienced and felt... then it starts to seem impossible that it could have all happened in only 365 days. Just for kicks, let me take you through a couple of the highlights (and lowlights) of the first year of "real life." This will be fun, I promise.

-I got a job. And not a lifeguarding summer job, not a 2 hours a week job in the Christ College office (although that was a sweet gig, who knew stuffing envelopes could be so fun?) But a real, legitimate, I have to sign a contract to accept this job, job. Granted, I don't think it's what I'll be doing for the rest of my life, but that's neither here nor there. I get paid on a regular basis, woo!

-I started living with my grandparents. This is where I sort of feel like I regressed a little in the process of becoming an adult, but I didn't think I was going to be in Nebraska for more than 3 months...then I didn't think I was going to be in Nebraska past this see where this is going, no? But bottom line is that I'm fortunate to have family that will take me in from the rain and snow (a lot of it here, as much as Valpo? Hard to say.) and even make me dinner most days.

-I figured out how difficult it really is to get five girls together in the same town on the same days. Frankly, I'm amazed I got to meet up with my girlfriends from Valpo even twice this year. And though it's a little daunting to look forward to a whole year of logisitical planning to see people once in a blue moon, it's worth it when we finally reunite and the world spins properly on its axis once more.

-I went through the entire spectrum of possible emotions: joyous, sad, amused, bitter, excited, disappointed, surprised, tickled pink, numbed. You name it, I did it. Thankfully, I feel like I've reached a content, happy place (for the most part) and no longer am I tempted to climb to the top of my house and throw myself from it. Moral victory? I think so.

-Although not as thrilling as some of the more major events, I've learned a whole slew of completely specific art-related tasks that will most likely bear no practical importance to me in the future. But they're still fun to do, like making stained glass windows, or screenprinting or glazing ceramic tiles. I suppose you could call this "building my life resume?" Maybe. Still working on the language for all that.

OK, maybe that wasn't really that fun. But it's been an interesting year, and those are just the things that popped into my head during this brief look back. I can only imagine that the next year of my life will be just as surprising as the last, so I'm trying not to make as many unalterable plans as I did before. If anything, this year I've learned to go with the flow, because frankly, it's exhausting and quite pointless to swim against it. Things will happen or not happen, people will be there or not be there, you will move or not move. There's no way to know. But that's what makes it exciting, right? Or at least, that's what my dad is always telling me. So yeah, the first year as a real person is over.

Last thought, here. My friend Stephanie is an amazing singer and in one of her songs, she says, "Another year passes, I try to keep up. I wonder how it will all be beautiful." I think this everyday. I do wonder how my life will be beautiful, but I've learned that it could happen in a million different ways. I'll give you the update in another year, and we'll see where we're at. For now, congrats to all of you who are graduating. Keep your chins up if you can't see the future clearly, and keep your eyes open so you don't miss anything. Theoretically, it all comes together at some point. :)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Fashion, Or What You Should Be Wearing This Spring If You Want To Be Popular

Spring has been non-existent in Seward so far this year, but that does not mean spring fashion is going to hold its horses! Oh no. We must press forward toward a brighter, more fashionable future despite the fact that this abysmal weather only makes me want to wear sweatpants and hoodies. However, for those of you that know the fashion calendar, you know that "spring" fashion is really fall fashion. While the general public is just barely thinking about spring dresses and flip-flops in March, designers are already looking ahead to next winter. That's why they call it fashion-FORWARD. At any rate, you may normally go to to get up to date on the latest trends. But I argue that Sparkle, Sparkle is just as valid, if not more, of an insider source on the fads you shouldn't miss out on. Let's delve.

This girl is clearly making not only a fashion statement, but a philosophical declaration as well. By wearing her cardigan backwards, she defies the normality of button up sweaters and asserts that the opposite of our social standards may very well be considered par for the course, if only we open our minds to the endless possibilities of wearing our clothing improperly. My only question is this: why stop at cardigans? I hope spring 2011 is full of backwards hats, jeans and pumps. So metaphysical.

Just when you thought capes, floppy hats and velveteen pantaloons were so out, Christian Dior proves to us that some trends never go out of style. Whew, what a relief. I was hoping I'd get some more use out of my leatherette blouses.

Now this look really has a lot going for it. It's so accessible, so attainable for the average Joe or Josephine. Just grab your favorite thick-knit sweater, some costume wigs and a glue gun and you've got yourself a DIY project that will take mere minutes to complete. The result? Fashion. Pure fashion.

If someone would have told me last year that furry, rolling suitcases were going to be a must-have for this spring, I probably would have nodded sagely thinking, "Of course. It's about time." What I could not have told you however, was that it would be necessary to pair this timeless accessory with a hairstyle that resembles 1964 on speed. Now that I know this though, you can bet your bottom-dollar I'll be sporting this funky fresh combo as soon as I can get my hair dyed gray.

I'm sure I don't have to remind you of that commonly-said phrase in the fashion world, "Someone's always watching you from within the clothes." What? You've never heard of that phrase? Well, I hate to be so esoteric, but at least you'll get the gist now that you've seen this pretty little ensemble. Yes, those are eyes collaged into her shirt. Now you know why fashion says things like this. And let's not even talk about all of the catchphrases having to do with pink feathers emitting from one's hips. There are just too many to count.

So hopefully this Sparkle, Sparkle guide to spring/fall/arbitrary seasonal fashion will give you some great ideas for how to kick off the season in style. Yes, it's legit. Yes, you'll look amazing. Yes, everyone can pull it off. You're welcome.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Beauty, Every Day.

As you may know, lately I've been trying to figure out how to find joy on a daily basis. Sometimes this is really hard for me. I don't wake up every morning and say, "Wow! A new day! Aces!" In fact, I hardly ever use the term "aces" but just go with me here. Sometimes I need a little inspiration, a little push in the right direction. One thing that always makes me love life a little more is finding beautiful things and looking at them or just being around them. And I'd like to introduce you all to a man who knew how to find beautiful things better than anyone else.

For the past two years or so now, I've been studying and learning about the artist Reinhold Marxhausen. At Valpo, I did some preliminary research (that kind of got snuffed out eventually - long story), but I really got to delve into Marxhausen when I got to Seward. In fact, if you know me pretty well, you'll know that this is the guy that my art exhibit in St. Louis is all about. Anyhow, Marxhausen started the art department at Concordia and taught there for about 40 years. He also happens to be the grandfather of my good friend Anne, who I basically knew from the womb. (Our moms and dads are best friends, it's cute.) There's the connection for me. But since jumping on the Marx train, I've been wow-ed over and over again, I can't even count how many times.

This man is so special and unique. His entire artistic philosophy was based around the idea that beauty can be found in everything and anything. A shadow in the bathroom, scraps of wrappers, piano wires, whatever. It was all aesthetically intriguing to Marx. And it shows in his artwork. While he did the traditional oil paintings and watercolors, his more interesting pieces are those that are made out of scrap wire or dryer lint (yes.) I'm not trying to give you an art lesson (not really, at least) but I am trying to point out how this man saw things. I mean, he knew how to see. And it wasn't just a phase he went through. Those who really know him say he was enthusiastic for the wonder of life every single day, because he could see the beauty of life everywhere.

So I have to ask myself, here's this man who I've been studying and he's a fascinating artist and a family friend. And if I think so highly of him (which I do), shouldn't I be infusing his philosophy into my life? I'm probably not going to go out and make a bunch of art, but it's a mindset that I can adopt and embrace. I find joy in beauty, and if beauty is everywhere...well, that suggests that joy is everywhere too. Why do I work so hard to deny that simple fact? All I really have to do is look around, and make sure I've got my eyes open.

(Also. I tried really hard to post some pictures here, but my grandparent's old computer isn't much for cooperating with the user. Rude. Instead, here's a video of when Marxhausen was on the David Letterman show with some of his sound sculpture. You can kinda get the idea of the type of guy he was.)

Monday, April 18, 2011

These Days, Life is a Grab Bag

I would just like to start this post by saying, you all are lucky I don't blog out my thoughts every morning. Why? Because you would be very confused about me and my opinion about everything in life from job to people to future to love to fill-in-the-blank. (Maybe you're confused about me anyways. But believe me, this would make it worse.) That's because I'm feeling very up and down about EVERYTHING right now. I thought about calling it some sort of hormonal freak-out, but Devin referred to it as a "grab bag." Which sounds much more pleasant.

So yes, life is a grab bag right now. I never know how I'm going to feel on any given day. Today, I think about life in Seward, and I think, "Eh, things could definitely be a lot worse!" But just a few days ago, I thought about life in Seward and thought, "I can't believe I've failed on so many other levels that this is where I have to settle." Sometimes I think about life in Seward and I think, "Thank God I don't have to be flung out into the real world yet." And there are more mindsets that float in and out of fashion, too. It's been sort of frustrating. To not know how I'll approach the day until I'm in the midst of it... well, I'd just really appreciate a little heads up.

But alas, that's not how things work. I'm coming to terms with a lot of things right now, and one of them is that I just plain-old don't know what's going to happen next in life. As someone who likes to plan and organize, this totally throws me off my game. How am I supposed to plan for the next 10 years of my life if I don't know what my job situation will be in 3 months!? And if I can't plan for the next 10 years of my life, how am I supposed to SURVIVE!?! OK, hopefully it's not really that drastic, but it often feels that way.

So how do I embrace the grab-bagginess of life? As several people (Mama Lange, Papa Lange and Davo) have told me lately, it's all about the attitude. One of the few things I can control in this crazy world. I don't consider myself a natural optimist, so sometimes it's hard to find the good in everything that comes along. It's just hard to stay pumped up about one thing when I really want another. But it's not too late to change, right? Granted, changing an entire facet of my self is going to be difficult, but here starts my venture to become a person who joyfully goes with the flow. I need to live up to my middle name! Find excitement in the unknown, not fear or anxiety. Take what comes and make that what I want. Never forget the power of a slight change of perception. And most importantly, be grateful.

I'll probably need your help for this. If you see me being a downer - smack me upside the head and set me straight! I won't be offended, I'll be tickled that people read Sparkle, Sparkle and truly take it to heart. So yeah, I'm going out with joy today. And hopefully tomorrow and the day after that too. Cheers!

Saturday, April 9, 2011


This may be hard for some of you to believe, but I'm not always all sparkle, sparkle. I know, I know. This blog has been nothing but pure joy for all of you all the time. (Don't worry, I know I've complained a lot. I do the sarcasm thing. It's happening right now.) Despite my best attempts to be sparkly the past few weeks, it's been muy dificil for me. If you read my previous post, you know that I've been reaching new and unexplored levels of insanity lately. A combination of craziness at work, life decisions galore and my seemingly WORSENING cell reception have me constantly contemplating jumping off my roof. I need to get back to a sparkly place, stat.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that I may be staying in Seward for at least another year. This means I definitely need all the sparkle I can get. Not that I don't love this town for all of the nostalgia it holds in my heart, but sometimes a gal just needs a Target within 20 minutes. Or like, a Starbucks. I know I sound completely shallow but you all know you'd feel the same way. I'm just not a small-town girl. So let me try and find some sparkly qualities about all of this...

-I save money on gas since I can walk to work in 10 minutes.
-The Rivoli is a super cute, 1940's vibe, one-screen movie theater. I feel like if I keep going there enough, I'll meet Ryan Gosling a la The Notebook and we'll live happily ever after.
-We've got brick streets here. They look quite pretty.

Ok, I'm struggling a little. I talked to my dad today and he told me to take the "unfortunately" out of my situation. As in, unfortunately I won't be going to grad school this fall, leaving the rural life, and getting closer to the musuem world. Even though those things were part of my expectations for life, I have to admit I'm still very blessed in the scheme of things. I have a JOB for goodness' sakes! That in itself is a great commodity these days. I am lucky to live near my grandparents, aunt and uncle, and younger cousins. I never saw them that often growing up, and now we get to be a part of each others' lives on a regular basis. And hey, I have my health. (Despite the allergies.) In the end, I should be saying "fortunately" about my life.

I know a lot of people who have been dealing with the post-grad blues. It seems to be one of those things that just comes with the territory. If you're having a day where all you can think of is the unfortunately's of life, try thinking of even the smallest things that are good. Maybe you had a cupcake for lunch. Maybe it's Friday. Maybe you're NOT recovering from a car crash. When you think of it, I bet the pros outweigh the cons. We all experience events in life that throw our expectations out the window, and that's often hard to deal with. I guess we just have to take a second to reassess, take a deep inhale/exhale, and pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. Maybe even buy a pair of boots that have straps to really flesh out the analogy. Or just buy shoes in general! On that note, I'm starting to feel so much sparklier already. :)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Lately my life feels crazy. Like I'm blindfolded on a treadmill that's just 3 clicks too fast for me, and all the while people are chucking snowballs at me from all sides. Sound awesome? This is what I get for being a Type A personality and not having a life plan. (If by the way, you have a spare life plan, or have a good idea as to where I can find one, please let me know.) Everything I'm doing right now seems to be random, and I much prefer cohesiveness. Now I suppose that's not something that very many people get in life. It seems much more common to have a million unrelated tasks and projects going on at once.


Apparently so. I'm hoping down the line this little period of freneticism will turn out to be a great learning experience. You know, I'll be like, really good at multi-tasking and stuff. And in the larger scheme of things, this is nowhere near the hardest time of my life by any means. It just feels...disconnected. Hopefully I'll figure out how to piece it all together soon, or I may go insane. Although judging by this post and how I've been talking and acting lately, most of you probably feel I've already hit that point. Whatever. It was bound to happen sooner or later.

This blog post is even disjointed! Seriously. I apologize for making you read this. I actually hope you've stopped by now. If you haven't, here's a good chance... riiiiight now. Stop.

For any of you brave enough to venture on, I'll reward you with a sweet little piece of irony (cue Alanis Morrisette). I felt my first 10 minutes of calm today...while using a power tool. This buffer not only shined up the stained glass windows we're working on here at the CLA, but it also brought a little peace to my mind. Whatever works, no?

Friday, March 25, 2011

How To Have A Thrilling Family Vacation With The Langes In 10 Easy Steps

Hey-O from Arizona! For the past week, I've been hanging with my fam in Las Vegas, Grand Canyon and Sedona. It's been pretty glorious, so I thought I would give you all a few pointers on how to re-create this experience for yourselves.

Step 1. Choose a spring break locale that is typically warm, but during spring break is actually quite cold. I might suggest the Grand Canyon, where our average temperature this week was 38. And yes, that's degrees fahrenheit. Lovely.

Step 2. Choose another spring break locale that specializes in gambling and naked women. Like Las Vegas! It was all I could do to keep from covering Micah's eyes everywhere we went.

Step 3. When you're in Las Vegas, make sure to get into the elevator with a guy and his lady-friend. It'll make for a couple of hilariously awkward moments as it dawns on you that this is not a family friendly atmosphere.

Step 4. Plan your main hiking in the Grand Canyon the day after it snows. That way the trails will be icy, muddy and downright treacherous. It's fun for everyone!

Step 5. Definitely don't pack for winter weather. Where's the adventure in having proper attire for cold outdoor activities? It's more exciting when you can't feel your face.

Step 6. Make sure Papa Lange sees you EVERY time you go close to the edge of a cliff. This will result in one of the following statements/exclamations (and they never get old):
a. "(Insert Name Here, possibly repeat several times)! You are WAY too close to that edge!"
b. "Walk on the inside of the trail!"
d. "Don't even joke about that. That is too creepy." (Usually follows a pantomime of me throwing myself over the edge of a cliff.)

Step 6. Get my mom to say something in Spanish.

Step 7. Go to an outlet mall and watch my parents have the inevitable how-long-we're-going-to-spend-shopping haggling session. It's fun to watch my mom talk my dad from 1 hour to 2.5, or my dad persuade my mom that 4 hours is going to literally kill him.

Step 8. Bring only one iPod/iPad/iPhone charger for the whole family. It never ceases to amaze me how many Mac products one family can have, and how they always need to be charged at the same time.

Step 9. Let Papa Lange get to sleep before you. You will never feel so much joy as you do when you try to fall asleep to the peaceful sound of bulldozers, aka my father's incessant snoring.

Step 10. Play the car-sickness card as much as possible so you don't have to sit in the back of the van.

See? It's easy to have an unforgettable time in the Southwest! But in all seriousness, I love traveling with my family. My brothers are hilarious, my parents like doing a lot of different things, and we all get along just swell (for the most part!) It's been great having what might be one of the last few family vacations together. I'm a fam gal through and through and I am so thankful to have these trips. Now, if only we could go somewhere legitimately warm...