7 Things Sunday

One. My sister was offered a big girl job with Laura Geller Cosmetics in Columbia, South Carolina. She’s trying very hard to convince me to move there with her. Hmmmm ūüėČ I’m sad that she’s leaving Colorado, but I’m proud of her and excited for this new adventure! Way to go, Madison.

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Two. I wrote about the #KnowJustice project a couple months ago when I was working at ArtForceIowa. The Des Moines Register published this article, highlighting a little bit of what is happening with #KnowJustice and some other exciting arts events in Iowa that have to do with race and justice. I can’t wait to see what comes out of this workshop.

Three. This week my grandpa was in the hospital for a heart procedure that ended up not happening. They ended up needing to¬†start him on a new medication that required monitoring him in hospital for several days. I spent a few of those days¬†hanging out with family in his room¬†and keeping grandma company over night. She¬†kept telling grandpa, “I kind of love you a lot” and giving him kisses. And then at one point when he was getting an EKG he told the nurses he wanted grandma to come over and give him a kiss while they were scanning him so that he could see what it did to his heart. Seriously?! Stop. it. I can’t handle that kind of adorableness. #lifegoals.

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They make my heart explode.

Four. I’ve now reached 6 months into my job search. If P.O.D can get nominated for a Grammy three times, I feel like I should be able to land a job in my field, you know? Sometimes life is cruel and unfair. But there are a few applications I’m feeling fairly optimistic about. Fingers crossed. Toes crossed. Everything crossed. Waiting is hard. Staying really proactive in the waiting is even harder. But I know that life happens between point A and point B. I will always be waiting for something, so I should learn to love what happens while I wait.

Five. ¬†I think you have to be very close to someone in order to have the green light to go off on them when they’re being dumb. In my opinion, you have to approach these situations from a place of, “I could be wrong, but…”¬†but still… I respect and appreciate the hard blow of redirection when it comes from a loving place. And it rarely comes. Most of my friends are listeners. They ask good questions. They’re comforting. But sometimes being a true friend isn’t just blindly agreeing, standing in solidarity, or waiting to see what happens. It’s coming alongside,¬†telling them their eyes are closed, and shouting out what it is you see. The other night I was telling one of my best friends about something that happened recently, and they just went off on me and got upset. But I understood they weren’t upset¬†at¬†me or¬†with¬†me,¬†but¬†for¬†me. And I needed that. I needed to have my motives challenged and my actions questioned so I could figure out how to either defend myself or realize I was wrong. I needed to hear the perspective that wasn’t “I understand,” but rather, “I don’t understand what you’re thinking or doing. This is¬†insane and f-ed up and you need to ___ because I love you and I hate seeing ___.” I need to be better at this as a friend, too. It’s a delicate balance and a thin line because when are you being a good friend and when are you just being an ass? BUT, is it not completely worth figuring out how to do gracefully?

Six. This is awesome.¬†And then Frieda told them about love…

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Seven.¬†I was in a yoga class this week where the instructor played this song during savasana and I legit shed a few tears. It’s like a musical security blanket. I will not apologize for kind of really loving The Fray.

Love,

Taylor

7 Things Sunday

One.¬†All I want for Christmas is 3 kittens and a bag of festive socks…

Two. I love lists and this is a really good one:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/art-therapy-techniques_56562017e4b072e9d1c19f9b

Three. I would like to introduce you to my labor of love as of late: the #KnowJustice Project. Between writing grants, researching, and planning out the implementation… this has been on my mind constantly. I. am. so. stoked. for. this. I probably won’t be around to see it happen, which is tough on the ol’ heartstrings. But I digress…

First of all, did you know that Iowa ranks #1 in the nation for over-incarcerating minority men?¬†A 2014 ACLU report found that¬†they are 8 times more likely (compared to a national average of 3.7) to be imprisioned than Caucasians for the same drug posession charges. Right now it feels like a day rarely passes that we don’t hear about police brutality, a school shooting, or racial profiling.¬†These layered, complex issues involve cycles and systems that seem overwhelmingly hopeless of change.¬†

#KnowJustice aims to show youth entrenched in our judicial system that hope for them as individuals is not lost. We believe their life experiences and voices matter. At ArtForceIowa, we don’t stand in judgement of what they’ve done, but in awe of their creative potential (I am blown away by the kids I work regularly). #KnowJustice will give them the¬†tools and opportunity to learn about their personal rights, contemplate their own participation in the justice system, and to respond creatively through art. Using art to elevate the voices of minority, court-involved youth, this¬†project engages the public in a discourse around system disproportionality and the social injustices these youth face. The project has three components:

  1. ArtForceIowa youth who are out of detention will participate in a series of workshops instructed by a group of Drake law students from the Children’s Rights Clinic.¬†In an effort to ensure that youth today comprehend their personal rights, discussions will center around how to handle interactions with law enforcement, what it means to have free speech, and what their rights are at school and in detention. They will be encouraged to think critically and respond artistically, creating work reflective of what they learned in relation to their own experiences.
  2. Youth residing in detention will be collaborating with local artist activists to explore, analyze, and strengthen the connections between personal rights, social activism, and artistic practice. The result will be a participatory visual art installation that is designed and conceptualized around the personal narratives of youth facing significant adverse experiences and systematic disproportionality.
  3. In a society where a lot of tension exists around minority youth and the justice system, it is the youth involved who largely remain voiceless. In the media, it is not their stories, feelings, and thoughts heard. The #KnowJustice exhibit at Polk County Heritage Gallery will display the art installation and other work created by the youth at ArtForceIowa and the Polk County Juvenile Detention Center, giving them a public platform to express and voice their experiences. The exhibition will run for 6 weeks, giving the public an opportunity to better understand the challenges faced by this underrepresented, marginalized demographic. Throughout the exhibition, other special events will take place such as a poetry slam and public roundtable. 

Four. My friend Jacci posted this hilarious article about a sub Reddit feed¬†where ‘Former Emo Kids Have Been Posting What They Look Like Now That They’ve Grown Up’. I don’t have much evidence¬†of me in that phase thanks to DELL desktop computer crashses and the decline of Myspace, but I did find one picture. I think this is Andrew and I at a high school wrestling match when we were 15. He’s rocking a¬†double popped collar and tiger stripe highlights. I’m wearing a Mewithoutyou band tee. I remember that night we went to Smokey Row, played Candyland and Tetris, and took pictures that we later edited on Windows¬†Paint. LOL.¬†IMG_2173

And here we are almost 11 years later. Somehow still best friends. And I’ll have you know that hours after this picture was taken, we freaked out over Spotify adding The Spill Canvas’ old albums to their repitoire (yes, I have periodically checked ever since I opened an account).

Five. Friday night I danced, drank and delighted in the festiveness of Peace Tree’s Annual Holiday Sweater Party with Jaxine, my parents, and the friends we made in there (my favorite being Matt, in his ‘Fleece Navidad’ outfit). My professor/academic advisor at Grand View was playing in his band, The Monday Mourners. So that was fun. Woot woot.

 

Six. This is kind of old news, but I love the app PHHHOTO. Go download it. It does stuff like this:

Seven. I just finished reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and it has got me all fired up about creativity. I think 2016 is going to be a year of big magic that I make for myself, if nothing else.

“Stop complaining. Every time you talk about how difficult and tiresome it is to be creative, your inspiration takes another step away from you, offended. I started telling myself that I enjoyed my work. I proclaimed that I enjoyed every single aspect of my creative endeavours- the agony and the ecstasy, the success and the failure, the joy and the embarrassment, the dry spells and the grind…It is not about how you write, or paint, or play… it is about why: because of delight. You must live your most creative life as a means of fighting back against the ruthless furnace of this world.”

Love,

Taylor

7 Things Sunday

One.¬†Everybody, this is Evan. He is the most adorable wee Scottish lad I have ever met. I mentioned to his auntie that I missed hearing him come into the coffee shop saying, “Tay Tay!”…and then she sent me this. Be still my heart. Waaaahhhhhhh. I want to go back.

 

Two. This week was ArtForceIowa’s Holiday Hustle (I’m so good at naming things, you guys). The youths¬†performed Christmas tunes, gave our visitors tours of the space, sold cards and shirts they designed and made, and exhibited paintings. Several sold their first paintings ever and were so proud! It was adorable. Cookies and hot chocolate were consumed. Snowmen were drawn. Holiday cheer all around.

When I got home my sweet, elderly¬†housemate Norm asked me, “Do you feel like you can be yourself at work?” I love this guy. Who asks that? I laughed and said, “I do! It doesn’t feel like a typical workplace. I get to work with people I consider friends and everyone is very encouraging of being yourself.” And then my heart kind of exploded at the sound of my own words. ArtForce has been such a good family to come home to. I am one lucky lady.

Three. BUT my time at ArtForce is wrapping up. Well, at least my paid time. In January¬†I will be very unemployed, which feels simultaneously like a world of possibility and world of unfortunate impossibilty. But perhaps there are friends out there sprinkled across the US of A who think “Hey, Taylor should come stay with me/us while she looks for a job in this new, exciting place.” Or perhaps not. But you never know unless you ask. So, if you’re such a friend, call me/beep me sometime. I can compensate for hopsitality with a variety of domestic and creative endeavors.

I’ve also been contemplating just working any job that will give me loads of overtime for the next 6 months and saving up to spend the summer back in Edinburgh where I can work the festival, travel, attend my MA graduation, and hang out with the people I miss so soooo much.

#dreamingandscheming

Four.¬†I’m excited for this:

http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/wireStory/mike-birbiglia-man-show-winter-35560500

If you’ve never watched Mike Birbiglia: My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend on Netflix, I recommend it. At least until you get to the part about The Scrambler. Trust me.

Five.¬†Yesterday I was enjoying¬†a cup of coffee, like I do every morning. I’d probably drank half of it when I got this really bad side pain. I excused myself to the bathroom and suddenly felt my face burning. I caught myself in the mirror and BOOM. It looked (and felt) like I had suddenly developed severe sunburn all over my face. Then it spread.¬†My neck, arms, and legs broke out into hives. The backs of my knees were swelling up. I was itchy and hot everywhere. My dad ran to the store for Benadryl. Bless him. And all was fine. But apparently we had started on a new bag of coffee that I had never had before.

So, please do not ever offer me Hills Bros. coffee. I am just thankful I didn’t randomly develop a caffeine or coffee allergy in general. That would make my life so sad and tired. But out of curiosity, does anyone know what could have caused this? I drink coffee…all kinds of coffee…alllll the time. I’ve never had this happen before.

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Six.¬†Awhile back my grandmother went through a break-up…so-to-speak. There was a man I called her “companion”. That was the most accurate description I could think of. Calling him her boyfriend felt weird. But they had been doing life together for as long as I can remember. When they stopped, I remember driving in the car with my grandma and she told me, “The other day I was sitting in Jester Park and I saw this deer. Just beautiful. We used to always go and watch the animals there together. I just wanted to pick up the phone and call him but I knew I shouldn’t do that. It’s just hard to change those habits.”

And as she said this, I felt something in my brain move. As if I could feel my own perspective widening. Here was this 70-something year old woman. My grandmother. She was describing her own feelings and life situation. And at the time, they were exactly the same as mine.We were going through the same thing. All of the sudden the 50 year age difference didn’t make any difference at all.

I have also found myself in pretty transparent¬†conversations recently with middle aged women I adore. I feel like I have a lot of moms, which is great. They bring me a lot of joy. And honesty. They’ve opened up about¬†grief, marriage, changes that happen with having adult children, hopes, faith, crises…the whole shebang.

And then when I stay at the Catholic Worker House, two of my house mates are guys in their 60s. And they’ve become dear friends who I admire deeply. Their life stories are already so incredible and they’re still living them. My boss is in his 30s and has an elderly lady friend that he regularly meets up with for oysters and champagne. He says they’ll sit and talk for hours every time. How fabulous is that!?

I don’t know…it’s all just got me thinking about how rare inter-generational living is in America compared to other places. It’s kind of a shame. You learn so much from people of all ages and you can develop wonderful friendships, too. Ones that give you wisdom and preparation for the roads ahead of you. All I know is that my life has felt much richer lately because I find myself spending quality time with people outside my own age range.

Seven.¬†There’s a fascinating exhibition at the Des Moines Art Center. Go check it out and/or read about it here:

http://www.desmoinesartcenter.org/exhibitions/laurel-nakadate

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Love,

Taylor

7 Things Sunday

One. Halloween happened. I went to a party in a big, beautiful old house. Pumpkin carving, Harry Potter themed cocktails, a portrait drawing studio, dance floor, and lots of good food shared by friends in killer costumes. The entire cast of the game Clue was present. I literally found Mrs. Peacock in the dining room with the candle stick. Walter White left tiny packets of Blue Magic in some of the food bowls (I think it was rock candy, based on my lack of post-consumption high). I got to quote one of my favorite movies of all time with Hot Rod himself. And I managed to spend $0 on my strawberry costume. I love Halloween.

Two. This work week was CRAZY. In the best way.

  • Jane Chu, Chairwoman for the National Endowment for the Arts came to visit ArtForce. She spoke to the participants in Lift Off (a workforce/design program in partnership with Children & Families of Iowa), asking them what they enjoyed the most about being there and YOU GUYS!! Their¬†replies were so perfect and heart warming, you would have thought we scripted them.But they were just simple, honest, on the spot answers. “I enjoy growing with this community,” “I love getting to work with these other artists and hear feedback about my work so my designs get better,” etc. Then Jane and crew were instructed by the youth in screen printing their own tees. Jane is an awesome lady full of positivity and a seriously great southern accent.¬†When she was describing the challenges and benefits of her life as a first generation Chinese American living with immigrant parents, she said that she lived a, “Bok Choy/Corn Dog life”. Lol.
  • We received grants¬†from four different¬†organizations/companies in one week.
  • We had a¬†poetry night for Creative Pathways on Wednesday and the kids had the option of reading a poem out loud or writing their own and surprisingly, the majority of them wrote their own. And they were amazing!
  • We received a mini-van from DART, which will help sooooo much with transporting to and from programs.
  • There was a¬†beautiful article by Micheal Morain in The Des Moines Register.
  • There was a¬†news spotlight on WHOTV.
  • There was¬†radio coverage from Chairman Chu on Iowa Public Radio.
  • We did a sub finalist pitch for a grant on Friday and found out that we moved on to the final round! Some Lift Off¬†youth screen printed statistics that were included in John Mark’s speech. They were rockstars. We celebrated with a good ol’ greasy spoon brunch at Waveland Cafe aaaaand the day ended with a staff meeting that included celebratory champagne in¬†plastic cups.

I felt like a proud mama bear all week. And I am really, really thankful for everyone who believes in what ArtForce is doing- whether you previously or currently teach and mentor, serve on the board, sponsor, or participate in the programs. It’s growing because of all of you! Yaaaaaaaay.

Three.¬†A few different people had mentioned this Headspace app to me and I finally downloaded it this week. It has 10 minute guided meditation sessions that you can use on-the-go or lounging at home. I fell asleep the first two times I used it…it’s that relaxing. I blame the use of a British guy for narrating. But the whole idea is that it helps you apply mindfulness to your daily activities, which is supposed to be effective in treating pesky things such as worry, stress, addiction, lack of focus, relationship problems, etc. I’d highly recommend it, especially if you’re an insanely busy person or you work in an environment that can be pretty draining on your headspace.

Four.¬†At the moment, I am all about knitting, Gong Fu’s Scarlett Ginger tea, and reading from a real¬†book (no more of this e-reader screen business).

Five. From the aforementioned book…

“The irony is that we attempt to disown our difficult stories to appear more whole or more acceptable, but our wholeness– even our wholeheartedness– actually depends on the integration of all of our experiences, including the falls.” – Brene Brown

Six. I miss being here so much it hurts.

Seven.¬†I have a roof over my head. My grandparents are lending me their car to drive. I have a part time job that I genuinely like and it keeps me from going¬†completely broke. I have the best friends and family I could ever ask for. I just spent the past year getting a Masters degree in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I have had a full life for only being 25. I have a great life. I know this. But I feel down and out. And when everything…all the changes, unsettledness, transition, heartache, anxiety…when it all catches up to me and I start bawling out of nowhere as I drive down 163… there’s this voice in my head that says,

You have no right or reason to feel this way. You know a lot of people who do have reasons to and you are NOT one of them. This is stupid. You’re being ridiculous. Stop it.¬†

So, I start judging myself for seeming so ungrateful.

Then I feel guilty for judging myself aaaaand feeling depressed in the first place.

All of which is super effective.

I am a huge advocate for writing down or telling yourself truths on a regular basis. Normally, I find this to be a really helpful way to not let thoughts and feelings derail you. But thoughts and¬†feelings¬†don’t always match circumstances. That is a thing that happens sometimes. It doesn’t mean that you are oblivious to the good that is happening in you and around you. It doesn’t mean you should use your energy to list all the reasons this is the wrong thing to feel. Being depressed or anxious is exhausting enough without having to work through a layer of judgement or guilt first. If you’re falling off the ledge, be kind to yourself. And patient. And supportive.

Love,

Taylor

7 Things Sunday

One. Last night I went to an astronomy class with Colyn and Hilary. It happened to be National Astronomy Day. We didn’t know. The room was surprisingly full and the lecturer was this old man named Vern who I immediately fell in love with. The amateur astronomer subculture is fascinating to say the least. It was kind of the best thing ever and we giggled through the entire program. I got to see the Andromeda Galaxy, the double star at the head of Cygnus (it looks like one star to the naked eye, but through a telescope you can see its actually¬†two! One is gold and the other is blue), and a Globular star cluster (50,000 stars) through a giant telescope. Next Sunday there’s a viewing party for the lunar eclipse if anyone is interested in going?! This might become a weekly venture of mine.

Two. I’ve completed one week of Whole30. The first week wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be, but maybe that’s because I’ve been trying to eat pretty healthy since I’ve been home anyway. I’ve been surprised at how sugar is added to pretty much everything. It took me forever to find bacon that didn’t have added sugar! Most condiments have added sugar. Almond milk has added sugar.¬†I saw that¬†pre-cooked chicken breasts often have ‘caramel colouring’ listen in their ingredients. Um. Whyyyy. The hardest part so far has been giving up alcohol, actually. Which is kind of hilarious for me. I think my year of trying to keep up with the Scots and Irish really did me in. I crave a drink every night. Especially G & Ts. But,¬†I’ve been sleeping great and pooping more. So that’s good, I guess.

Three. I had a job interview this week with the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison for an Arts Coordinator position. I should know after next week whether I was picked for¬†a second interview. I have 15 jobs applications and counting out there. Send me all your good vibes and/or connections. But in the meantime, I’m starting to work at ArtForce a few days a week again and I’m super pumped¬†to be back in that environment, to see the kids, and to keep my mind distracted for awhile.

Four. The other day I was picking up the ever adorable Vivian from school when I ran into my friend Alison and her daughter Corrine. Alison sent me this text later and it basically made my life.

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Five.¬†I’m going to rock the plus-one status for this dude in October (just booked my flight for LA today!). It will have been a year and three months since we’ve seen each other, which is the longest recorded gap in our 11 year history.

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We’ll probably be like this only fatter.

Six. You can find this card at Ephemera in the East Village.

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Seven.¬†I’ve gotten to chat quite a bit with friends from Edinburgh this week and goodness. I miss them. Heart aching-ly so. I have to go back for graduation next summer. NOTHING CAN STOP ME. Because honestly, I don’t think Google hangouts can handle any more of this…

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Love,

Taylor

7 Things Sunday

I’ve been home for a little over a month now. I don’t really know how to describe what the transition back feels like.

It’s not bad.

In fact, it feels really normal and fine in a lot of ways. I love being around my friends and family again. I love the hot sun and driving through rural gorgeousness. I love muggy nights on back porches with twinkle lights and brews. I love the sound of cicadas as I fall asleep. But I’ll get hit with a pang of shock and sadness at any given moment.

Because I miss cobblestone streets and secondhand smoke. I miss dancing in the terrible dance bars. I miss the weird things that happen on public transportation and walking by a freaking castle on a daily basis. I miss my friends and kirk and Steampunk crew. I miss chips, cheese and curry. I miss being offered a cup of tea all the time. I miss walking everywhere. I miss every little bit of it except for the wind and lack of Vitamin D.

I know from my own experiences and from watching various friends and aquaintances go through the “coming back home” from wherever you were for however long…that it can be really, really rough. People get stuck. They get depressed. They isolate. The job doesn’t come as quickly as they want. The friends aren’t around. You feel different. You feel lost. It’s not what you expected. You get anxious about waiting. Nothing goes right. It feels like this whole part of your life was just a weird dream. Oh, transition. Patience is truly a virtue.

I have been determined to not let myself slip into this place. Do people slip into it? Is it a choice? Or does it just happen? I don’t know. Maybe it’s not that dualistic. It’s probably a little of both. Either way, I have felt my foot slipping a lot in the last week or two, but I know I can also make choices to avoid just flat out falling.

So, here is what I have found to be beneficial in making the transition as smooth as possible. Hopefully, if you are/have been/will be in the same boat, there’s something helpful in the list.

One. Change your perspective.¬†Rather than being bored and lonely and focusing on everything I don’t have right now (i.e. a job, my own place, my own car, a vibrant social life, routine, etc.)¬†I want to choose to see this as a time where I’m free to do a lot of things. In a matter of weeks or months I will likely be back in the daily grind and will wish more than anything that I had all the time I do right now. Why waste it?!

Two.¬†Do what you love and do a lot of it.¬†I love creating. This last year I missed that so much.¬†Grad school required me to flex my left brain a lot. The right is a little rusty, which makes me nervous but you have to start somewhere. Like now. I started knitting a new scarf. I’m teaching myself how to embroider. I’ve been sketching more. I just painted over an old canvas to begin something new. I’ve been cooking awesome meals because I have the time to. I’ve surprised myself with how diligent I’ve been at morning prayer and meditation. I pulled out my kickboxing gloves from Farrell’s. Keeping your head and hands busy is crucial.¬†

Three. Say YES to everything.¬†Normally this gets me in trouble and I work relatively hard¬†not¬†to say yes to everything. But in this season, it’s been a good thing. Right now in this little window of time, I have freedom to say yes to everything. How awesome is that?! Want to come over and watch a movie? Yes. Want to go on a road trip? Yes. Want to come to my potluck? Yes. Want to teach this art class? Yes. Want to volunteer here? Yes. Want to housesit? Yes. Do you want to come stay with me after surgery? Yes. Do you want to go on a bike ride? Yes.

Four. Have fun.¬†Today I painted outside and then I came in and moved the furniture so I could do cartwheels and dance around like a lunatic. By myself. And it was really. freaking. fun. After that, I made myself a gin and tonic and jumped on my bed. And then I took a bubble bath. I mean…it¬†beats watching TV. Or at least I think it does.

But seriously. You should do cartwheels and dance to this, too.

Five. People, people, people.¬†Re-connect. Make the effort even if/when people aren’t making it with you. And with the right friends, be open about how you’re dealing with everything. You might be surprised by people’s insight. You also might be surprised at how good it feels to be social when you force yourself out of the woe is me/sulky/I’m cool doing this all on my own headspace. And if you can stay in touch with the people you love oh so much in your ‘other home’ doooooo it.

Six. Try to balance.¬†I completely acknowledge that it is important and normal to let yourself fully feel and wrestle with all the complicated, frustrating, weird, messy, transitional shit, too. Don’t get me wrong. I know you can’t just switch it off and be a busy, social, happy bee until life’s pieces fall together. Reflecting is good. Bumming out okay. But no one has to stay there.

Seven. Pep talk to yourself on the regs.¬†Oh man. For as positive and optimistic and proactive as all this ^ makes me sound. I am full of doubt and worry and anxiety. I have to tell myself truths all the time to counteract everything else in my head that is much louder and more obnoxious. These pep talks usually happen in the bathroom mirror and in the car when I’m driving. But they work. I know when I start pep talking myself it means that I’ve been paying attention to my thoughts. It’s like I’m catching them and holding them up to the light in order to examine whether or not they’re legitimate or if I need some rewiring. My best friend has this notecard on his door where he wrote “Remember the upsides”. If you suck at catching your own thoughts, put reminders to stay positive in places you will see them. It’s simple.

Love,

Taylor

7 Things Sunday

One.¬†It was really fun to have the ‘rents in the ‘burgh this past week. If you are lucky enough to know them personally, then you know that one thing they do very well is dinner. It is never a quick thing. It is an event. This is something I have especially missed about them: the way they engage in sitting around the table, filling stomachs and emptying wine glasses, laughing and sharing good conversation for hours late into the night. I was definitely thankful to partake in a lot of that while they were visiting. I enjoyed being able to show them¬†some of my frequents¬†in the city and to have new adventures with them, too! My dad introduced Monty Python and the Holy Grail to Madison and I at a very young age and it has been quoted in our household for years. Therefore, its no surprise that I¬†particularly loved the day trip we took to¬†Doune Castle just outside of Stirling where most¬†of Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed. The audio tour was equally historic and hilarious. Plus, it completely made my day¬†that they had coconut halves available so you could gallop around and re-enact scenes. IMG_9450 IMG_9326 IMG_9332 IMG_9338 IMG_9344 IMG_9358 IMG_9411IMG_9436Two.¬†I had two other visitors I wasn’t expecting to see in these parts. It had been yearssss since I hung out with these gents. It was great to bro out, booze it up, and reminisce about loads of amazingly awkward adolescent memories. 11406122_634871980326_3782550340534631469_o If you had told me that the guy I went to prom with when I was 14 would be drinking a 1968 scotch with me in Scotland ten years later…(and that he would still be wearing a Postal Service t-shirt… ;))IMG_9535 Yes, this is a cocktail served in a light bulb…11406205_634872015256_6009199173115826407_o Three.¬†Speaking of adolescence– this made me crazy nostalgic: IMG_9457 Four.¬†It was 70 degrees for three days in a row this week!! EXCITEMENT. You don’t understand how big of a deal that is. I was working two of the three days so I didn’t get to enjoy it to the fullest, but just one day of being in the sunshine and my summertime nose freckles are out and ready to party. Must…get…vitamin…D… IMG_9325Five.¬†The dissertation writing is coming along very slowly. I’ve honestly never been a procrastinator. Until now. I think its a cumulation of things, but I’m mostly just feeling burnt out. Meh. If you have writing a MA thesis before and have any tips or advice, please feel free to share the love. I had originally been planning on doing a feasibility study for an organisation called Arts in Healthcare, but this fell through and left me scrambling to think of something else. I had a classmate who mentioned a project that the Scottish Chamber Orchestra was doing with dementia patients, which I found interesting. A few days later I was walking through the library and saw a book on the new stock shelf that caught my attention because the cover looked cool (I always judge books by their covers) and it ended up being about architectural design and dementia. The next day I was walking to class and the Alzheimer Association van was parked outside with an information table. At this point I’m thinking, Ok, ok…I can take a hint. I ended up chatting to the representative and finding out that two theatres in Edinburgh had received grants to make their venues dementia-friendly and that Edinburgh as a city itself had this whole policy strategy to become¬†dementia-friendly. It felt like something was starting to click– especially when I thought back to how I used to be a CNA in a dementia care facility, I’ve worked in hospitals, I’ve done art therapy with elderly people, and my grandmother had recently been diagnosed with Alzhiemer’s. During my internship at the gallery in the Royal Botanic Gardens, I was discussing all of this with the curators and they told me that the man in charge of outreach¬†for the gardens was heading up¬†a dementia-friendly programming collaboration between all the national collections in Edinburgh (The Royal Botanic Gardens, The National Library, The National Galleries, The National Museum), so I went next door to talk about this with him and he connected me with more people to talk to. Cha-ching.

All of this has accumulated into me researching how arts organisations can be dementia-friendly, which more or less¬†has to do with training, programming, and accessibility/environmental structure. Its been interesting to inquire about who/what informs the understanding of ‘dementia-friendly’ and how that is then manifested. I’m still in the middle of it all, but I’m continually fascinated by what I’m learning and inspired by what cultural organisations are doing to raise awareness and ensure that their venues and staff are safe, welcoming, and both confident and thoughtful in their communication. It really is so much about being thoughtful and putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.

I attended the Dementia Awareness Conference in Glasgow a couple of weeks ago¬†and the theme this year was ‘Global Progress, Local Impact’. It was amazing to hear from people in Japan, Germany, Norway, Ireland, and the UK about what is happening in response to this health issue. It was said that,¬†“Dementia is the global health time bomb.” In the next 15 years the number of people living with the condition¬†is expected to reach over 75 million and over 65% of those people will be living in developing countries. I loved¬†hearing about what Join Dementia Research is doing to encourage people to participate in studies that create a discussion between the public and the researchers on an equal playing field. We need to understand what happens to the brain before someone is diagnosed, which means we need to be studying younger people right now and following them through the coming years. Secondary prevention is necessary for research and reducing risk of further decline or full blown development. We go for things like breast and cervical cancer screenings. We should do the same for brain health. And since¬†such a large percentage of¬†people affected are¬†living in developing countries, we must focus efforts there on education, awareness, and diagnosis that doesn’t involve the use of MRI/PET scans which are likely unavailable.

I don’t know what my career trajectory will look like after I graduate. This could potentially be a big part of it, a tiny part of it, or no part of it. But I do know that I will continue¬†to keep talking about it and doing what I can to support progress– we tackle stigma through social action. 11108950_1615766365376983_5806580678071055583_nSix. Like many, many Americans, my sister loves country music and she’s very persistent in sending me songs. I admire her determination to convert me to fandom but you see, I¬†do¬†love country music. I just don’t love it in the sense that I want to listen to it. Ever. I love it because it is one of the most ridiculous things in existence. Just the other day, this showed up on my Spotify and I died. God bless ’em. IMG_9536Seven.¬†I joined Twitter yesterday if you want to follow. I was really sad that @Tayrannosaurus @Taybaybay and @TweetsbyTay were already taken. I was just too late to the name game. ¬†Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 00.08.08Love,

Taylor

PS: These are something to behold. Best thrift purchase I’ve made in a long time. #bibbabe #dungareehungry #overalldoll IMG_9557

7 Things Sunday

One.¬†I really wanted to go to the Isle of Skye but it is best to go there with a car, which is something I don’t have. So, I posted in a Couch Surfer discussion group for Edinburgh to see if anyone else wanted to go that could possibly drive and Voila! We became a group of four headed for the magical island in a tiny but efficient Yaris. It was a fierce and incredible trip.¬†The first night we got there I remember lying down to sleep and being startled by the stillness. Absolute silence. I could not hear a thing. I’ve been to remote places before but this was a whole other level of quiet. It’s strange how unsettling silence can be when you aren’t used to it. The next morning I woke up before everyone else (story of my life), made some coffee, went on a walk and talked to the sheep and lambs. I¬†saw more of them than I did people…as if I needed more of a reason to fall in love with the place. We spent all of the days hiking: The Quiraing, Old Man Storr, a couple of places around Egol, and The Fairy Pools¬†(we may have climbed to The Lord of the Rings soundtrack a few times because it felt that epic) and the evenings were for stretching our legs, drinking wine, and getting toasty by the fire. The landscapes there are unreal and breathtaking. The pictures don’t even do it justice. Overall, Skye was exhilarating and good for my soul. One side note: I needed to get some gloves before we left and ended up having to buy ones from the children’s section. Tiny hands.¬†Baby chilly fingers.

Two. (Most of) Flat 3-4 celebrated Clare’s birthday last week! We made a delish fajita dinner together. Then we went out for karaoke. It was hilarious to see which songs everyone picked. Everything from Alien Ant Farm to Taiwanese band called SHE to R. Kelly was sang. I surprised myself by keeping up with Andre 3000 and totally dominating ‘Ms. Jackson’. I’m now trying to cope with the fact that I may be pursuing the wrong career entirely. IMG_8748

I feel very¬†lucky that I ended up with these babes for flatmates this year. We’re from six different countries, speak three different languages,¬†and all have very different personalities…which sounds like it could be a disaster but hey, not only have we survived- we’ve thrived. I will miss everyone’s endearing quirks, late night kitchen conversations, movie nights, scouring the ‘reduced to clear’ section of the grocery store, taking out the bin bags¬†together, going on walks, and generally anything Arnie says or does. We’re having a flat ‘Last Supper’ on Monday before we all take off in different directions. Nooooo ūüė¶

Three.¬†I said goodbye to my campus room yesterday and moved into a new flat for the two months I have left in Edinburgh. It’s a cheery, sunny place and my bedroom has a view of the sea! I’m sharing it with two other girls who work full time. They’ve been absolutely lovely and welcoming. They helped me move in and had a¬†sweet bouquet of roses in my room. D’awwww. But as I was unpacking everything last night I was internally moaning about the constant transition. Always going. Always changing. Never settled. Never knowing what comes next. Sometimes I love it or I at least wouldn’t know how to function without it…but I. am. so. tired.¬†I don’t want to keep adjusting to a new thing when I’m just getting used to the previous new thing. And yet I can’t imagine how long I’d be content with staying in one place or doing one thing. Maybe it’s just the age/life stage. “My heart wants roots, my mind wants wings, and I cannot bear their bickering.” No truer words have ever been spoken. For real. IMG_9108 IMG_20150304_163054703_HDR IMG_20150304_163505201_HDR Processed with VSCOcam with kk2 preset Four. At the moment I tend to¬†put more effort into my breakfasts than I do into writing my dissertation. Whoops. IMG_8742 Five.¬†When you’re at the station and have to pee sooo bad that you’re willing to pay for it and then… IMG_9091Six.¬†My Dad and Wendy are coming to visit¬†in TWO DAYS! I’m so excited I might cry. And my mom is coming to visit the first week of July! We will get to celebrate both of our birthdays while she’s here and we’re spending a few days in¬†The Netherlands seeing¬†our ancestral stomping grounds. She can geek out about genealogy and I can geek out about art museums. Holllllaaaa(nd).

Seven.¬†This is the best thing I’ve tasted since I moved here: originalLove, Taylor

7 Things Sunday

One. Lambing season is starting and this is basically who I aspire to be:
IMG_7291I have always had a thing for sheep. I don’t know what it is about them. I had a plush lamb toy¬†named Cuddles that I slept with as a child. I also had this polaroid of a sheep running down a hill with it’s mouth open (it was hilarious, trust me) that my grandfather took and I kept it pinned up on my bulletin board for a really long time. I see so many of them in fields whenever I take the train, but I have yet to give one my affection. I want to so baaaaa-d. Word on the street is that I may even be able to assist in the birth of some. Now there’s something to add to my resume.

Two. This week’s feels:

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Three.¬†When I tell people that I’m working at a cafe in North Berwick, they give me really strange looks and ask why I’m working all the way out there. Well, mostly because out of twenty-some places I applied to, they were the only ones to call me back and give me a job. But¬†I think it was a fate thing. You know when you meet people and you know right away,¬†Yep. I’m going to adore you.¬†You just fit. Some of us who work together, we’re all kind of in the same place, working through some of the same what is my life right now?!¬†stuff.¬†Work shifts often turn into therapy sessions. I know I haven’t been there very long, but the two days a week I spend working have been full of life-giving cups of coffee, a lot of laughing, and some incredibly lovely people. This picture is blurry, but I love it anyway. Here are some of the Steampunk girls at the 65th birthday party for one of our regulars, Graham. Champagne. Stovies. Dancing to oldies. A night to remember, for sure.

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Four.¬†Like most people, I listen to music when I go get my sweat on at the gym. But lately I’ve been obsessed with listening to stories instead. I become so engaged in them, I forget that I’m running. Plus I like to think I look less like I’m dying if one makes me break out in a smile or slightly audible laughter. Here are a couple favorites from The Moth:

 

For Cynthia’s full story, you can listen here

Five. Speaking of stories…Today is International Women’s Day! Some of the most inspiring and courageous women I have ever known, I met through ChildVoice International in Uganda. To honor the young women they have worked with, ChildVoice is doing a Kickstarter campaign to fund and publish a collection of their stories.

“Lifted from the rich traditions of storytelling in Uganda, this book seeks to capture the true stories of war, heartache, faith and forgiveness in one community…With experiences and emotions that transcend time and place, this book delivers a journey from darkness to light as told by those who experienced it most closely. 

…Brought together by the work of one organization, ChildVoice, to restore the voices of children silenced by war, Grace and other survivors share their stories as part of their journeys toward healing and spiritual transformation. 

‚ĶThrough these stories, readers may find strength for personal journeys toward healing, and the courage to face their obstacles. Powerful, provoking, and educational, Enduring the Night invites the reader to join the conversation and be a part of something greater, for in doing so, one cannot helped but be moved to action in support of women worldwide.‚ÄĚ

I have never been so confident in an organsation to #MakeItHappen for women in their community. Please consider supporting their cause!

Mama Cecelia telling me some of her story. She is truly the fiercest¬†woman I’ve ever met. She also has my favourite voice to imitate¬†and shared our love for baby bunny Brenda, sheltering her with protection (which is really saying something because Ugandans eat rabbits¬†rather than use them as house pets).¬†Picture 5

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Six.¬†Every person/place/thing is adapting to new technology and figuring out ways to utilise it. I get that. This is where the world is going. As I start to see more and more art museums adopting digital mindsets, a part of me recoils because I suppose there is a tiny voice in my head saying,¬†Nooooo! Please can this please just be one place that doesn’t look like a Buffalo Wild Wings in terms of screen coverage? Can’t we just put down the digital tools and sit on this nice little bench and LOOK at the art. Take it in. Let our imaginations go wild or give it critical thought.¬†So, when I read¬†about all the ways technology is helping visitors engage and learn more I feel torn and see valid points from all sides. But I completely give in when I read how it can be used for experiences like this.

Seven.¬†This was just one of those weeks, you know? When all the bad news comes at once and you can’t do anything about it except have painful conversations that lead to nowhere. By¬†the end of the week my heart felt like someone had been using it as a¬†stress ball. Here’s to setting an intention for a new week full of great potential to at least be better than the last: Be patient and present (and go on more dates with the sea because honestly…so good for the soul):

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Love,

Taylor

7 Things Sunday

One.¬†I’ve been doing my graduate placement at Inverleith House Gallery, which is a small contemporary art gallery located inside of The Royal Botanic Gardens (which as Spring approaches, I get continually more stoked about). I am currently conducting research into developing a patron funding scheme for the gallery, which has been a great experience so far and reminds me how small and networked the art world is. I find it really unique that this gallery is part of, yet still separate from the gardens. They often try to coordinate exhibitions that somehow relate to the nature around them, but I’ve had really interesting conversations with the staff around the struggle of being a house of contemporary visual art in the midst of botanical science, and the difficulty of communicating to visitors the correlation between the two. You’d be amazed at how irate people can be¬†when they don’t “get” art.

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Setting up for the Raoul De Keyser exhibition
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Office bookshelves that I am obsessed with

Two.¬†I’ve accepted a summer marketing and development internship with Art in Healthcare! AiH has a collection of 1400 contemporary artworks and use that collection to¬†do site-specific commissions and rentals within the healthcare sector. ¬†They also have outreach programming where professional artists deliver workshops in community settings/care environments and put on an annual exhibition of the art created. I am really, reallllly excited about this opportunity, which perfectly blends my visual art/art therapy/CNA/hospital work background with what I am learning right now. Plus, the office is in an amazing community arts centre that has the kind of natural lighting that makes an artist go weak in the knees. There’s also a random, giant, painted cow statue when you first walk in…which made me feel right at home. Hey, Iowa. Anyway, I will be tailoring my dissertation around the work I do for AiH and this will allow me to stay in Edinburgh and work for the art festivals in August, too! Woot, woot. Now I just need to find someplace affordable to live…ha…ha.

Three. Now that graduate placements are in full swing, I have been reaping the benefits of my classmates’ connections and access to comp tickets. This week Katie and I got¬†killer seats for Dirty Dancing at the Edinburgh Playhouse. It was pretty awful (imagine lots of really bad visual effect screens and dancers who can’t act) so I’m glad we didn’t pay to go see it. But what the show lacked, the audience made up for in entertainment. SO many drunk middle-aged women who cheered and whistled whenever Johnny took his shirt off and literally got up out of their seats to dance during the final performance. And then I got to see The Scottish Chamber Orchestra at Queen’s Hall. A very different experience/audience spirit, but my first time at an orchestral performance. And it felt so foreign to just sit and listen to music. To¬†watch¬†music. With no distractions. It was a beautiful thing. IMG_7237

My hot date. And shout out to our Tanzanian waiter friend, Coleman, who gave us more wine than we payed for. You're the man.
My hot date. And shout out to our Tanzanian waiter friend, Coleman, who gave us more wine than we payed for and didn’t run away scared when we saw him on the bridge later that night and I got so excited I nearly hugged him. You’re the man.

Four.¬†If you’ve read to this point and/or follow me on social media, it probably appears like everything is beautifully amazing, falling together, and that I’m having the time of my life. Sometimes that is true and I want to pinch myself because I can hardly believe this is my life right now. But if I stop to think about everything that has happened since this time last year, I get this sensation of being in a tornado and¬†I panic. Honestly, not a day goes by when I don’t feel sad and pissed off. Everyone around me tells me how well I’m handling everything, how they never have to worry about me, how balanced I am, etc. But for some reason, I hate hearing that.¬†I find myself wishing I could easily slip into¬†self-destruction mode and that I would do something really stupid because I honestly¬†want¬†to, I¬†feel¬†like it and I’m convinced that I have a reason/excuse/justification to. I play out all these scenarios in my mind and then I never do it. I can never bring myself to follow through with any of them. And yes, yes,¬†I realize that being annoyed by the strength of your own conscience sounds pretty insane. So, I’ll just accept being a balanced-insane-person and¬†bring it back to the point I wanted to make…which was that what gets shared is hearts and rainbows, because I¬†cling to those life-giving moments to make the life-draining ones seem fewer and farther apart. But what pushes me to be better and feel better are the sweet people¬†in my life who send me mail, take me to brunch, and join me in sporadic kitchen dancing (three things that are pretty much keys to my heart). IMG_7025 IMG_7256

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Can I have this for every meal?

Five. Since I haven’t had time for all the hiking I had dreamed I would be doing in Scotland, taking walks along the seaside has been my substitute. My head feels clearer when I’m near the water. The tide is so low right now that you can see ridiculously random items that have washed up on shore. Treasure hunt!¬†Every few steps, I see something that makes me go…HOW DID YOU GET HERE?! Like, a hot water bottle with a pot leaf imprint or a pink ceramic frog. I also love how many textures there are on the beach and turning over rocks to find teeny tiny creatures. IMG_7218 IMG_7223 Six.¬†I planned little summertime spiritual pilgrimage to the island of Iona, where the ecumenical Iona community has three residential centres. People from different backgrounds and parts of the world live and work together in community, putting on a variety of week-long programs and retreats centred around peacemaking, interfaith dialogue, social justice and the environment. Taking this trip is important to me because my faith has stretched and grown in new ways since I came here. I have been learning that there are¬†there are ways God cannot grow you and there are things he cannot reveal to you unless you are, or willing to be, alone and in a place of isolation. I’ve¬†been really challenging myself to face those places. To know my way around them.¬†To consciously choose not to use crutches, but to keep walking even though things are broken and strained. To figure out what I’m afraid of. What I want. What I don’t want. To unclench my fists. To give up what is not mine to hold. And for me, there has been a¬†level of honesty, a depth of relationship, and a drive to overcome my shit that I haven’t experienced until here and now. Abbey2_00571038091_f8c585c4 Seven.¬†On top of work, placement, and classes…here’s what I need¬†to accomplish in the coming weeks:

March 12: Fundraising/Sponsorship application pack

March 27: Group marketing plan and presentation

April 7: 2,500 word essay

April 9: 3,000 word essay

April 14: 3,000 word essay

April 17: 3,000 word essay

I might be off the grid for awhile.

Peace out, homies.

Love,

Taylor

P.S. This song: