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.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset
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

In the Wrong Place

I keep finding myself listening to a similar conversation with friends. Although there are different people and situations, I keep sensing a fear to admit when they find themselves in the wrong place. They’re in the wrong job and pretending it’s the right fit because they invested so much time and money into their study. They’re in the wrong relationship but convinced he’s going to change or she just needs to put in more effort. They’re using all the wrong things to numb their pain, thinking they’re fine because it makes them happier. They’re pretending to believe something they no longer believe because they don’t want to have an identity crisis. The list could go on.

I sense the fear of admission because I recognize it in myself. I’ve been there. I admit that I could be projecting, but I don’t think that’s what this is.

This is what I know it to be:

Deep down, from your inner most being there is a protest.

“I was not meant for this. This isn’t right.”

But you smother the protest for weeks, months, years. The protest dies, but resurrects itself the next time something happens that isn’t right. Why don’t you listen? Why do you make excuses? Why do you keep going?

Because there aren’t other options. There are only things tying you down. There is no green grass on the other side that you can see from where you’re standing. You don’t know exactly how you arrived here in the first place, but you sure as hell don’t know how to get out. You don’t have a plan or an alternative. So, you keep putting up with what doesn’t feel right because even though it might not be ideal, it’s what you have. There’s always hope, right? Always potential. It would be stupid to surrender a perfectly fine or at least comfortably familiar job/life/relationship/etc. and instead hurl yourself into a complete mystery.

Look, by all means, give this all you’ve got. Please keep going as long as you possibly can. Exhaust all your resources. Use up every last drop of determination and optimism you can muster.

But know this: there is something holy and relieving about surrendering to the inner protest of, “This isn’t right.”

There is something that happens in a person when they admit the fear and are brave enough to go, “I don’t know what it’s supposed to be like, but I know it’s not this. I don’t know what’s next. I don’t know if it’s going to be worse or better. All I know is that where I’m standing now isn’t right, so I’m going to move.”

This is how life changes. This is how you find your sanctuary. The choices made from that place of, “I don’t know, but not this” are terrifying. But if that inner protest begins to play like a broken record, LISTEN. Be brave. Move. Because the next step might feel worse at first. In fact, expect that it will. But at least it won’t be “this”…whatever your “this” is.

The solution to fear is not creating security, it is having courage.

 

IMG_6578
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.

IMG_2067

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

Screen Shot 2015-12-06 at 10.05.06

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.

IMG_1284

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.

n500200640_2169591_5787

We’ll probably be like this only fatter.

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

IMG_1204

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…

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 08.03.41

Love,

Taylor

Home

My flights from Edinburgh to Amsterdam and Amsterdam to Minneapolis went smoothly and on time. Of course its always the final and shortest flight that has to screw everything up. We boarded 30 minutes late. Then we had to deplane because the thunderstorms in Des Moines were too severe. We waited another hour. Then we took off. Then the storms were bad again, so we flew in circles in the air for another 45 minutes before finally landing. I was supposed to arrive in Des Moines at 8:30 pm and didn’t get in until 11:30. But this is what I loved about the whole experience…

I was immediately reminded of why Iowans are the best people you’ll meet. They’re so freaking nice. Any other group of people in the airport would have been groaning, whining, asking the gate agent a million questions, etc. (I was even starting to wear thin at this point after I had been travelling for almost 24 hours with no sleep). But not this group. While we were waiting to re-board, someone goes, “Well folks, at least its not a snow storm, am I right?” and everyone laughed in agreement. The woman sitting next to me at the gate offered to share her snacks with me. There was a group of people huddled around someone’s iPhone periodically giving the rest of us updates on the weather radar. When we re-boarded, one man said to the flight attendant, “Well, look at that. You’ve still got a smile on your face! I appreciate that” and as we exited the plane in Des Moines the ground crew were at the door with everyone’s carrier luggage that hadn’t fit in the overhead compartments. One lady, as she was being handed her suitcase, said, “Wow! That was so fast. Thank you so much!”

These people…always remembering the upsides.

**The waterworks started going the second I walked off the plane and by the time I made it to my parents in baggage claim I had to promise that I honestly wasn’t sad to see them. If you’ve seen the movie Inside Out, at this point I could imagine Joy and Sadness sharing my memory marble. Fortunately, my parents know me well and so they just laughed and said, “We’ve been preparing ourselves for the fact that you will probably be like this for a few days.”

When I finally ventured into town the other day I almost had a little panic attack. I was naive and thought maybe I could get away with working on my paper in a coffee shop inconspicuously. But what actually happened was that I couldn’t even make it to the counter for 15 minutes because I knew the next 7 people who walked through the door and although I was really, genuinely happy to see all of them…it was just a lot all at once. And maybe jet lagged brain wasn’t ready for the onslaught of realisations that I’m actually home. I decided to walk back to my dad’s house (which is about a 45 minute walk that goes from one end of town to the other) and I can’t walk by anything without there being very specific memories attached to it.

The corner of Jefferson and Washington where I got hit by a car (well, technically I hit the car) because my bike breaks went out.

The last house we lived in as a family where my favourite cat is buried and where I was told things that changed my entire life, really. Where we had bonfires and covered my bedroom wall in written memories and lip prints.

Smokey Row, where I got to work with literally all of my best friends. Where we took espresso shots before prom and Emily spit hers out across the entire counter. Where I met customers who felt like family and who’s orders I remember still to this day. Where we listened to Kanye West’s ‘Graduation’ album in the dish room about a million times and yelled at kids who were making out in the loft.

My dad’s old apartment on the square where I experienced by first heartbreak. Where we sang the star spangled banner really loudly and obnoxiously from the roof during Tulip Time. Where my outfits consisted of combinations of pearls, purple eyeliner, lace tank tops and cardigans in every colour of the rainbow.

The cannon, where Rachel gave me lessons on how to swear.

The canal next to the movie theatre where Caroline and I once waded for quarters and came up with enough to buy a piece of cake. Score (apologies for all the stolen wishes)! Where I went to many midnight movie premieres. Where I once sat through all of The Devil Wears Prada with my head tilted to the side trying to get rid of my swimmers ear because I had jumped off of the cliffs at Red Rock.

Happy Joe’s, the most frequented venue of summer 2005. Cheese sticks. Boys. Arcade games. Watching music videos. Skateboarding.

Central College where I met some of my favourite people in the whole world. Where I attended epic dorm dance parties and enjoyed the benefits of McP’s mini cupcake maker. Where I played games of Nuke ‘Em and graduated from high school. Where I raked leaves and chased around little Marco. Where I departed from to take off for Haiti and Reynosa, trips that grew my faith, deepened my relationships, and widened my worldview.

The park where Walker and I had a wedding for our trucks. Where I smoked my first cigarette. Where I saw my first girl fight.

Kevin’s house where in the dead of winter we listened to Bright Eyes records and drove around looking at Christmas lights and having stupid deep discussions.

Aaron’s house where I passed out in the lawn after being hypnotised at prom. Where we stayed up late talking after I threw his bachelor party. Where we’d play card games, listen to Jason Derulo, and make tiramisu.

This list could reach novel-length. But the point being…small towns don’t really change. But you do. And then you come back and you realise that you can go live on the other side of the world. You can go experience all these other places. You could even spend the majority of your life somewhere completely different. But home never leaves you. Not really. And home is obviously a place, but it exists in people, too, I think. When you revisit, it hits you that certain aspects of your being are completely gone. They’re dead. They don’t exist anymore. But you know how you can listen to a mixed tape from ages ago and certain songs bring you back? They bring back a moment in time and you feel like you’re actually there for 3 minutes and 45 seconds or whatever it is. Isn’t it the same for people and places? Like the other night…getting in my truck and driving to West Market Park to meet up with Cameron brings me back to a certain time. We are different now. Life is so different now. I’ve seen him in various, more recent contexts and continue to ‘grow up’ with him, but 16 year old Cameron and Taylor still exist in the recesses of my mind. I don’t know if this is making sense or if it sounds like sentimental nostalgic shite. Probably the latter. But oh well. Obviously, you will never remember something exactly as it was. You will never have these memories forever. You cannot realistically go back and relive them. But I find something really mind blowing and comforting about memory keepers. I think to live with chronic nostalgia would be a terrible, terrible thing. However, sometimes a good dose is helpful in a transition season to remind you of where you came from, realise where you are, and prompt you to ask where you’re going.

n500200640_747526_7712

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.
IMG_0029 IMG_0035 IMG_0098 IMG_0103 IMG_0104
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.
IMG_0115 IMG_0116 IMG_0117 IMG_0119
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.

IMG_0157 IMG_0158 IMG_2465IMG_2469

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.
11403050_10154131294288975_4637264006976235950_n 11659320_10154131529003975_3259573247521089296_n
IMG_0169
IMG_0191 IMG_0199
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.

IMG_0304 IMG_0374

IMG_0359 IMG_0379

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.

IMG_6773
Setting up for the Raoul De Keyser exhibition
IMG_7022
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

IMG_7247
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:

Hey Soul Sister

Yesterday I was savoring a delicious breakfast in the company of these two lovelies. We were discussing workplace dynamics, conflict resolution, documentaries, progressive women’s movements, faith, etc. Ya know, the usual…

Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset

While sipping my coffee, I stopped to think about what my closest girlfriends do with their lives. I came up with the following:

Revitalizing neighborhoods, community building, leading people in worship, parenting, studying to be a midwife, assisting refugees with urban gardening and childcare employment, researching for child and welfare policy, coordinating volunteers, managing projects and events, serving people onboard aircrafts, teaching America’s youth, leading missional outreaches across the globe, helping homeless families transition into stable housing, campaign management for healthcare reform, and running their own small business.

You know, I think Jesus was spot on when he said that to be a leader you must first be a servant. These women are the most service-oriented people I know and that is one thing that makes them incredible leaders. The occupation part is just a glimpse. They also serve on committees, volunteer in churches, grow vegetables or knit scarves and give them away, teach yoga classes and mentor at-risk kids. THEN, on top of that, they also find time to bring me lunch when I’m sick, take me to the airport at ungodly hours, dance with me, remind me of my self-worth, defend me, let me get snot all over their shirt as I sob into it, accept my flaws and allow me to see theirs. They challenge me to see God in new ways, they inspire me with their intellect and passions and they bring me comfort with their presence (along with a million other tiny and big things).

In the last week some of these friends have told me:

-They were sexually harassed in workplace environment

-They attempted to lead a group at work and were immediately shut down

-They didn’t feel heard or that their voice mattered

Siiiiggghhh. I hate that.

And there’s nothing I can do to fix it or make it go away. I also hate that.

BUT, I just want to say:

Chin up, cookie.

You are courageous for being where you are and doing what you do.

You are lovable for making the world a better place with the work of your hands and the fruit of your spirit.

You are capable of leading one or one-hundred-thousand with your voice and your abilities.

You are valuable because you exist. And good Lord, am I thankful that you do.

Fight for a place at the table. Speak up. Make waves. Cause a ruckus. Practice your Wonder Woman stance.

Love,
Taylor