Small Hours

I’m watching a play. There are two 20-something aged girls in pyjamas, curled up in over-sized armchairs facing the audience. Over the next 45 minutes I listen to their conversations. The ones that happen in the small hours of the morning, when best friends talk about everything and nothing simultaneously. I know these hours and friends well. Immediately memories start playing out in my mind. One friend inebriatedly crying about the effects of global warming on ocean animals after we built a fort and had too much whisky. Squeezing the hand of another on a rooftop right before we graduated college, afraid of letting go and growing up. Having the worst flu of my life and deciding the obvious antidote was to cuddle up on the couch together and spend the entire day watching the Godfather series for the first time.

The stage lights end and begin scenes intermittently. I soon recognize that I’m witnessing a shuffling of memories—various conversations during those hours that become the breeding grounds for future nostalgia. The girls, still enveloped in their armchairs, begin to turn from the audience towards each other and their discussion reveals that this is actually a play-within-a-play. The earlier conversations are perhaps entirely false. One girl tries to remember while the other gets upset for parts being erroneously represented. One is really here, the other is not. This relationship now grievously exists in one-sided memory.

“The worst part is that I’m not even me anymore. I’m just how you remember me.”

Light-hearted, funny, sentimental conversations fade into something that is universally experienced yet rarely portrayed: the loss of self that happens when old friendships dissolve.

The small-hours-kind-of-friends are like mirrors. We love the part of ourselves they reflect back to us. When one of those friendship ends it’s as if there’s a part of yourself you can’t see anymore. Whether the ending happens suddenly or more commonly, slowly and gently over time, any attempt at revisiting is prone to error and inaccuracy. I think one of the most jarring parts of growing up that no one tells you about is how often you will experience this:

Looking back on something you thought you knew and discovering the reality you believed was something else entirely.

We talk about making vows with partners, but don’t we also make them with our friends? Not ones said out loud wearing pretty outfits in front of a smiling crowd. Silent ones in pyjamas that happen between “what’s up”s and “remember when”s. Vows that are spelled out in leftover pizza crusts and danced out on dorm room floors. Those vows made during the small hours propel us through so many big days. We assume best friends are forever kinds of things. We assume these friendships will fill us in the ways they always did. That this friend will know how to love us the way we need through all of life’s ups and downs. We assume that we’re honest with ourselves and with one another. We assume that we’ll always put forth effort in equal measure. But vows made between friends are just as subject to change as vows made between partners. It feels to me that most of us are taught to regard these changes with an air of nonchalance and progressive acceptance. This seems increasingly evident to me as I journey through a phase of life that is incredibly transitional for everyone my age.

It’s natural. Life happens. They’ll understand. People change. Things get busy. I’m sure we could just pick up where we left off. 

I get that. I’ve parted ways from friends both abruptly with mutual acknowledgement and in a slow, silent fade out. I’ve cried after hearing about a friend’s engagement because of the changes that I knew would inevitably follow. I’ve quietly seethed over a friend’s job placement knowing it would take them far away from me. I’ve stayed up all night anxious about how things “felt weird” when we hung out last. I’ve experienced the sink in your chest the instant you realize they don’t care as much as you do anymore.

This play made me realize that everything I just described is a reaction of fear. These “normal” transitions in a friendship doesn’t just mean the change or loss of this person who has a specific and important part to play in your story. It’s kind of like a change and loss of self. If you love who you are around someone, if you’re attached to what they bring out in you or how they know and understand you, and then that connection shifts in a big or small way…it’s startling. Hard. Uncomfortable. It’s shitty, okay? It’s just shitty. And I wish friends acknowledged the silent vows more often. I wish friends talked about the transitions when they happen.

I don’t have a tidy conclusion or a specific point to make. Mostly I just saw a play and it brought my feelings to life in one of those beautifully messy ‘ME TOO’ ways that art tends to do.

Here’s to the magic of the small hours.

I wouldn’t take any of them back, no matter the outcome. Maybe that’s the point.

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Shout out to my C venues team mate Anna Jeary for her brilliant writing and Fourth Wall Theatre for showcasing Small Hours at the Edinbrugh Festival Fringe. 
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. I spent a week in Ireland and loved it. Irish people are just the best. Highlights include:

  • Seeing The Book of Kells and library at Trinity College Dublin, which was something I had really enjoyed learning about in my art history courses and so, SO cool to see in person.
  • Experiencing clay pigeon shooting. I was one, surprised that clay pigeons are not shaped like birds and two, even more surprised at how well I did at shooting them. Who could’ve seen that coming?! It must be all those games of N64 007.
  • Soaking up some sunshine and seeing where the last scene from The Guard was filmed before getting 99s and listening to a very amusingly beginner saxophonist on the promenade. If any dude wants to serenade me with a saxophone that would very okay with me.
  • Even though the weather was slightly disastrous, seeing the Cliffs of Moher was amazing!!
  • Watching our classmate Derwin perform in his Irish dancing show. So talented with the feets, that one.
  • Michael’s car tours of Galway and the surrounding towns. “This is the bad turn. Everyone knows what you mean when you say that you’re so many kilometres from the bad turn.”…”Oh, this is (enter name)’s house and you see there in the yard? That’s the grave he made for his dog.”
  • Sailing with Katie and her parents and daring to jump in the coldest water I have ever been in.
  • So.much.dancing
  • Tom Barry’s, the most dreamy beer garden
  • Playing some tunes on the Shandon Bells at St. Anne’s

A wee video montage: http://replayapp.com/v/FDQSmPvDB8/

Two. This might be the most positive song ever and I can’t stop listening to it:

Three. Yesterday I had one of those moments that kinds of defines you as a person. I just left the hair salon and got on the bus. I felt a very strange sensation and realised that there was a mentally handicapped man in the seat directly behind me…wait for it…chewing on my hair!! Yep. Just sucking away on the ends of my fresh locks. And I didn’t have the heart to ask him to stop. So, I just let it run its course and then sort of leaned forward in my seat so it was out of reach.

Four. I went to a Picasso and Lee Miller photography exhibition at The Portrait Gallery and was blown away by these best buds. There was a whole group of friends, really…painters, poets, photographers. They were so tight knit and supportive of each other’s work. They created resistance publications together during WWII and Miller was a war photo correspondent for Vogue. Picasso wasn’t allowed to exhibit any work during the war, but he created constantly, so there were pictures Miller took of all his new pieces when she finally got to see him on Victory Day. She took thousands of photos of Picasso during their friendship and her husband wrote his biography. It felt like a privilege to see how personal the photos were- documenting everything from holidays together, to having kids, new homes, changing relationships, visits at work, etc. It reminded me of Midnight in Paris (which everyone should watch). And it made me wonder if the famous contemporary artists of today have that sort of thing going for them.

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Five. It has been a weekend of saying farewell to people who have made such an imprint on this sentimental soul of mine. And when you meet people who do that, you don’t want them to just become a tiny part of your life, you know? Like, oh it’s been years since I’ve seen so-and-so. We just went to grad school together for a year. Noooo! I hate the idea of not knowing the next time you’ll see a person. It’s a terrible thing. Honestly, I can’t get over how fortunate I am to have spent a year in such good company- friends from my course who I’ve been through the trenches with and could not have survived without, the Steampunk crew who make life feel so full and happy, friends from church who have loved and cared like the superstars they are, and great flatmates who made a new and unfamiliar place feel like home. I’ve held it together so far, but I have a feeling at that flight gate on Tuesday I will be a mess. I don’t want to leave. I want to come baaaack. But I don’t know if, how, or when that will be a possibility. I don’t know if I just take a risk and a big leap or if I wait for something to happen. I need a UK visa fairy to come tell me what I should do because my head spins when I read into it. Maybe I’ll just put up a kickstarter to fund my stay? 😉 BUT all of that said, I am also really, really excited to fly back to Iowa and be home with all my homies who I have missed immensely. Although, you won’t see much of me until after I submit my dissertation August 19th. Booooo.

Six. I’ve never had a caricature/portrait done before, but I spoke to a really sweet Polish artist when walking on the mile yesterday and she did mine. I don’t know how much it really looks like me, but it’s fun to have anyway. Support street artists!

IMG_0737Seven. Lawls

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Love,

Taylor

Oh, the places you’ll go

Musings from some recent travels.
The day my mom arrived in Edinburgh was unusually sunny and warm in Edinburgh, which was a giant cherry on top of what was bound to be a very happy day regardless. The summer feels called for an afternoon treat of salted caramel and dark chocolate ice cream from Mary’s Milk Bar while we sat on a sunny bench overlooking the castle and listened to buskers. We strolled through the gardens and popped into different shops before heading to the new cat cafe, Maison de Moggie, for some kitty cuddles. You have to pay a 7 pounds entrance fee for an hour time slot, but I haven’t gotten to be around any feline friends in ages. So. Totally. Worth it. That first night ended with Mexican and margs for my birthday eve and I was one happy lady.
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On my 25th birthday we arrived in Glasgow but got stuck in traffic behind a Protestant parade??? (no one could really tell us what it was exactly) for a long time before we could make it to our hotel. We had brunch at The Willow Tea Rooms, which were designed by the famous architect Charles Rennie MacIntosh. Swoon.
Then we took a taxi outside the city to find the church and apartment building where my great, great, great, great grandparents lived. Insane in the membrane. My mom got really into genealogy when I was growing up and at this time we had just moved to Pella, which is a town full of people who share Dutch heritage with me. I couldn’t have cared less about family tree business then. I mean, it’s not cool when your mom tells you that the first guy you have a major crush on in school is your 5th cousin. Thanks. Now what am I supposed to do with that information? But anyway, now I find it easier to take an interest in all of it with her.
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That afternoon we went to the Kelvingrove Museum. I nerd out about how good that museum is at providing really clever ways of engaging with their exhibitions. Obviously they’re educational, but I’ve seen some purely amusing ones as well. There’s a painting of this couple at dinner with little thought bubble screens next to them and a computer where you can type in whatever you imagine they’re thinking and it appears in the thought bubble screen. There’s also a painting of a scene from Briar Rose and next to it is a tiny bed and costume box where kids can dress up and act it out. After a 4th of July dinner of burgers and milkshakes we went to see a Bruce Springsteen tribute band. They really hammed it up and the crowd was ridiculously into it. One lady danced to every single song with everything she had. This was no two step or hip swaying action. Limbs were flying. Fingers were snapping. And it was a sauna in there. She had to have burned 1,000 calories. So, my 25th came to a close with people belting it to “Born in the USA”. Except none of them were.

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The next morning we headed for Inverness because mom really wanted to drive just an hour outside of the city to see Dunrobin Castle. We got to Central Station only to find out that our train was leaving from Queen Street Station. Whoops. We missed our first train and then accidentally missed the second train because I had the wrong time in my head. I also spent the morning trying to track down mom’s new camera, which had been left in a taxi in Edinburgh. So we weren’t really off to a smooth start whatsoever. But then once on the train we met Andrew, who is a sweet Canadian guy doing a solo backpacking Eurotrip. We ended up adopting him and he came to the castle and dinner with us. This is something I love about traveling and being in new places. People just pop into your life for minutes, hours, or days and you have spontaneous adventures and conversations. It just restores your faith in humanity a little bit, you know? I did feel bad that he had to endure a rather stressful 3 hours in the car while my mother tried to figure out driving on the right side of the road, but he was really patient and we didn’t kill anyone or anything— so all in all I think it went pretty well. Plus, Dunrobin Castle could be out of a fairy tale. It was insanely gorgeous. We walked through the gardens, played a quick game of croquet, and unfortunately missed the falconry display that happens in the afternoons (because what castle is a castle with out it’s falcons?). Gutted.
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The next day mom and I flew into Amsterdam and met up with Madison in the airport. There was an exciting baggage claim run/hug/cry moment. From the airport we drove to the little town of Heerenberg. To say it was picturesque would be an understatement. There were outrageous gardens, gangs of little old ladies on bicycles (future life goal), windy cobblestone streets, pretty trails through the country side, and adorable shopfronts and cafes. We made it to our lodging at the Kasteel Huis Bergh and upon approaching the castle gate, we were greeted by a duck and sheep. Our room…err..tower? was hands down the coolest place I’ve ever slept in my life. The next morning Madison and I went fro a 5 am run and got lost, which ended up being really fun. Before we hit the road, the three of us enjoyed a huge, tasty breakfast in the castle gardens. Mom wanted to visit the towns where her ancestors lived, but it was pouring rain all day so we ended up just driving through them which was a but of a bummer. We had a quick visit to the Kroller Mueller museum to see their Van Gogh collection and then went to dinner with a couple of mom’s distant relatives who had helped her map out a bunch of her family tree years ago.
On our last day in The Netherlands we hit up Amsterdam. It’s hard to do a city in one day. There’s so much more I wanted to see and do, but hey, I won’t complain. We went to the Rijks Museum, which was full of both gorgeous art and gorgeous security guards. Win win. We walked around the city, sampled local delicacies, and then went for a canal tour at sunset which was a pretty dreamy way to end the evening. There was a lot that reminded me of Pella, so it was almost strangely normal or comforting to be there.
We got back to Edinburgh and celebrated mom’s birthday with a nice lunch, cocktails, and a bit of shopping. She flew back to Iowa the next morning and Madison stayed with me over the weekend. Some quality sister time was much needed. Madison’s one request was whisky and Scottish folk music, so we fulfilled that at Sandy Bell’s and ended up joining a pub crawl later on. The next day we had brunch with some of my friends and went for a hike up Arthur’s Seat. We went to the airport together the next morning- she was off to Denver and I was off to Dublin. Neither of us ready to go back to reality quite yet.

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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’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:

7 Things Sunday

1. Have you ever been to an enchanted forest? Well, I have. And it was aaaaamazing. Check it: http://www.enchantedforest.org.uk/galleries/galleries

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2. The ladies of Block C, Flat 3-4 signed up to go speed dating together. Quite the bonding experience. It is pretty much just like the movies. You sit at a tiny table with your cocktail and day dream of asking really uncomfortable questions. Then there are 12 rounds of man-rotation and you get 4 minutes to decide what you think of them, jot down comments and write ‘date’, ‘ditch’, or ‘friends’ on your score card. For example (my real notes/fake names)…

Terry: Postman. Really into Nightclubs. Doesn’t like that I’m not into nightclubs.

Cameron: Made a Taylor Swift joke. Meh. How many of these am I going to get tonight? SRSLY.

Callan: Likes Wes Anderson Movies. Economist. Sick beard.

Robert: Competitive sailor. Sank his last boat. Has a baby face.

Drew: Avid juicer. Runs and weight lifts ‘to the point of exhaustion’. Doesn’t really look like it, though.

Then you turn your scorecard in and they email you the next day with your matches. I wouldn’t pay to do this again, but if you’re looking for a new adventure to have with your friends- DO IT!

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3. Halloween involved: A fantastically decorated flat. Air guitar-ing and dancing till the sweat dripped down… in a club’s ‘alternative’ room to the likes of Florence & The Machine, Blink 182, All American Rejects, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Will Smith & Jazzy Jeff, and Fallout Boy. Experiencing Scottish post-drinking munchies: aka chips and curry sauce (it was good, but my heart is definitely in a hot slice of Big Tomato pizza). Taxi cab foot massages…those heels will getcha.

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4. School is hard. Really hard. And all-consuming. I hate it. I’m stressed. I’m overwhelmed. I just can’t even. I decided if I fail the course, I will live as a homeless person to pay off all my debts and then I’ll write a book about it or have someone make a documentary about it. Maybe all the other people with failed degrees and excruciating amounts of student loan debt will join me and we’ll be a movement!

5. On a happier note…because who is happier than Bryce Avary? He’s like the human equivalent of confetti. I don’t care how lame this is, but he has a pseudo greatest hits album called Bryce Avary, His Instruments and Your Voices and when you hear the crowd come in on each track, you can’t help but sing along with all of your heart.

6.

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7. I keep finding myself wandering into this place. It’s so light. And you can watch artists at work. And it there are lots of benches. And there’s coffee downstairs. It’s just perfect.

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Love,

Taylor

7 Things Sunday

One. I’m usually operating in a 70% fear, 30% confidence ratio when it comes to graduate school. I was not anticipating how research and theory-based everything was going to be, rather than practical. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the why part of that. When you have a room full of students with dance, theater, studio art and music backgrounds and then you ask them policy questions regarding various epistemological and ontological methodologies…(insert deer in the headlights look). I get it. We need to be able to think critically, but I’m over here all like, “Yo! Where are my paints?” Oh, a 52 is a passing grade (yes, that would be a D) and apparently we’re all to be quite pleased with ourselves if we get that mark because it means we met the requirements of the assignment. The chance of obtaining a level of distinction is slim…(insert deer in the headlights look). One of my classmates took a tally of how many times our lecturer used the word “fail” during our induction…45!! Our lecturer is getting his PhD at the moment and the restructuring of our course is a part of that. So basically, we are all guinea pigs. Ok, I need to stop or I’ll start hyperventilating. Send me good vibes, people. Whew.

Two. I saw a powerful photography exhibit in Summerhall last weekend. The photographer is 22-year-old Mahmoud “Ezz” al Zanoon, a man from Palestine that captures life in Gaza. Next to each photo he had displayed an entry from his journal, narrating the context of the photo. I thought this was a beautiful addition, as it only made the photo and the story behind it come to life more for me as a viewer. At the end of the exhibit there were two giant cards taped up on the wall where you could write a note to the children who were featured in most of the photos. Reading the things people wrote made me cry. As I left, I felt so uncomfortable. There was this paradox in the fact that those pictures brought the issue closer and at the same time painfully highlighted for me how removed I am. This is happening. RIGHT NOW. In my world. I can’t even begin to grasp what life for those who are in Gaza…or Syria, Iraq, Israel, etc. I don’t know that talking about it does anything other than make you feel less ignorant. But like what most people wrote on the cards…we are here. We’re watching, hoping, praying…with bursting hearts.

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Three. My holiday season is booked!

Thanksgiving: a weekend in London with my friend Jacci, who is there for graduate school as well. Pellicans uniting across the globe! But for real, it will be lovely to have a little bit of home with me. I’m excited for THIS and THIS and obviously THIS.

Christmas: a week experiencing a proper Joyeux Noel with my friend Melissande and her family. Visit a few cities. Soak up every moment I get to spend with my French soulmate.

New Years: back in Edinburgh for the Hogmanay festivities.

Four. For your next dance party: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdzI-191xhU

Five. My flatmate Jess had a birthday this week, so I was making brownies in the kitchen and my other flatmate Arnie (from Taiwan) had never baked anything before. She got REALLY excited about helping me bake and once we got those brownies in the oven, she crouched in front of the oven to watch the dough rise. Are you kidding me with that?! So cute. Fast forward a day. We’re having Jess’ birthday party which required pulling out some S Club 7 and Spice Girls tunes. Arnie had NEVER heard of the Spice Girls. WHAT?! The next night, she came up to me and said, “Taylor. Today I google Spice Girls and I listen to all 9 songs! Yeah. SO good” and then she proceeded to do a version of the “Stop” music video dance. So, Arnie is basically my favorite person.

Six. If you are someone who wants to keep up with international news, but you find it daunting…sign up for theSkimm. They do all the reading for you, break it down into easy to read editorials (which are written with wit that will make you LOL on occasion) and deliver it daily to your inbox. It’s great.

Seven. 

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I will be snuggling up with the library.

Love,
Taylor