7 Things Sunday

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

 

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

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

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

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

#dreamingandscheming

Four. I’m excited for this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Love,

Taylor

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

Ask Yourself

The end of 2013 is just around the corner! Which means it is a great time to think back and ask yourself some questions about twenty-thirteen. I adored Emily’s New Year post . I may have to make my own. But I would encourage everyone to ask themselves the following 10 questions. It’ll do your soul some good.

 

1. When did I feel most alive this year?

During my selfish little escape to Los Angeles this summer. I’ve never traveled by myself for no good reason other than “because I want to”. And it ended up being exactly what I needed. I had QT time with friends, spent time alone, geeked out at art museums, soaked up the sun, explored, went to an epic concert, and then the second I landed back in Iowa I joined my family for a 4th of July week at the lake house. So. Good.

2. What am I most proud of accomplishing this year?

Graduating from college and getting accepted to graduate schools. Clayton and I are planning on going to Edinburgh in the fall of 2014! It’s been a dream just out of reach for so long. I hope it finally happens.

3. How can I improve my relationships?

It is hard to generalize this. I think of relationships on an individual basis. The ways I can improve my relationship with my sister are different than the ways I can improve my relationship with my neighbor. But I have always believed keys to happy, healthy relationships are presence, communication and thoughtfulness. As someone who has the tendency to be a bit too dependent on my relationships to feed me emotionally/mentally/spiritually, I think one way I can improve my relationships with others is by being more loving of and confident in myself…I realize that sounds backwards. Just trust me. It’s harder for me to be and easier for me to do.

4. What new habits do I want to cultivate?

Well, I start Farrell’s kickboxing in January. Emily and I are kicking sugar and I’m afraid to realize what affect hat will have on me haha. Clayton and I want to become super savers (in an effort to make the whole Scotland thing happen, but also because it’s a great idea in general. We’re definitely culprits of eating out too much (I always say this will change when I have a kitchen that isn’t the size of a peanut but that’s probably a lie).

5. What do I need to let go of?

Nagging doubts. Impulsive Target purchases. My art-making hiatus. Trying to do everything on my own.

6. What lessons did I learn?

Plenty of them, I’m sure. I had a lot of lessons in faith this year. I realized how at my core I really perceived God’s love as conditional. I think this comes with growing up in a rule/dogma/systematic-driven religion. I don’t say that with disdain. It just is what it is. I don’t believe anyone is trying to screw things up for other people. But I feel like a lot of church is people telling you what to know and not how to know. It was shocking to see how disconnected my head and heart could be. I knew that the world is very gray, but felt like there had to be a black and white answer. I knew that God loved me no matter what decisions I made in my life, but I felt like if I gave up on my broken relationship that He would love me a little less. I knew that I’m not big enough to ruin any plan of God’s, but I felt like I was messing with some sort of divine course. I was terrified of missing out on the healing and restoration that He promises, as if there is only one way that can or will happen. I felt intense guilt for something I hadn’t even done yet. I felt guilty for just entertaining the idea.  I had a friend tell me that I needed to stop seeing God as “either/or” and instead as “both/and”. Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. He never answered a question with “yes” or “no” and he never asked close-ended questions. The way he healed one person was completely different from another. This was really transformative for me. Someone can tell me I was wrong about this or that (sometimes that person is me), but at the end of the day God only knows. And I have to be ok with the mystery of Him, knowing that God and silence will be experienced simultaneously and even as the same thing.

“All saying must be balanced by unsaying, and knowing must be humbled by unknowing. Without this balance, religion invariably becomes arrogant, exclusionary, and even violent.”

“Praying takes away your anxiety about figuring it all out for yourself, or needing to be right about your formulations. At this point, God becomes more a verb than a noun, more a process than a conclusion, more an experience than a dogma, more a personal relationship than an idea. There is someone dancing with you and you aren’t afraid of making mistakes.”

“It is an amazing arrogance that allows Christians to so readily believe that their mental understanding of things is anywhere close to that of Jesus. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, the Life.” I think the intended effect of that often misused line is this: If Jesus is the truth, then you probably aren’t.”

“God is everywhere and always. And He is scandalously found even in the failure of sin.”

“Honoring and allowing of mystery was consistently practiced by Jesus. So many of his sayings are so enigmatic and confusing…if he had been primarily concerned about perfect clarity from his side, and obvious understanding from our side, he surely didn’t do very well as a communicator, even in his lifetime. Protestants insisted on reading and studying scriptures, thank God, but then they were certain they had the one and only interpretation and ignored many of the others. This, even after Jesus so often (7 times in Matthew 13 alone) taught hat the ultimate reality (the Kingdom) is always like something- clearly a simile or a metaphor inviting further experience and journey, not an idea with definitions that could be checked true or false on an exam.”

Quotes from Richard Rohr’s book (mentioned below).

7. Am I passionate about my career or what I’m doing with my life?

I don’t necessarily have a “career” per se. I’m working towards one. But after the New Year I’ll be nanny once again for Miss Vivian and Miss Lola, who is pretty new to the world. I’m looking forward to spending my days with them. I love being around kids. They give me the chance to be creative. They invite me into their little worlds. They teach me. It’s really great.

8. How well did I take care of myself?

Pretty well, I think. It’s been a very self-reflective year.

9. What inspired me?

At the ChildVoice benefit auction I was inspired by how the organization is growing and the values they uphold. Their goodness and perseverance astound me. I am so lucky to have served them and I hope to do it again in the future.

The documentary Miss Representation inspired me to be cautious of the messages I am buying into as a woman.

These books really influenced my faith and inspired me to expand my mental horizons: The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See by Richard Rohr, The Benefit of Doubt by Gregory Boyd, and A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans.

The Enneagram! It’s a personality test, but more in depth. Is that really nerdy of me? I don’t care. It’s about self-development. It shows you your tendencies at every level from extremely unhealthy to healthy. It’s helped me to understand the lens through which I see things and to better understand the lens through which other types see things. You can take the classic test for free here and read an in depth description of your type(s) here.

And every year I am inspired by the people involved in the details of my every day life. They inspire me to reach my full potential and love me when I’m not there.

10. If I could sum up this year, what word would fit?

Rollercoaster.

Love,

Taylor