One. My sister was offered a big girl job with Laura Geller Cosmetics in Columbia, South Carolina. She’s trying very hard to convince me to move there with her. Hmmmm 😉 I’m sad that she’s leaving Colorado, but I’m proud of her and excited for this new adventure! Way to go, Madison.
Two. I wrote about the #KnowJustice project a couple months ago when I was working at ArtForceIowa. The Des Moines Register published this article, highlighting a little bit of what is happening with #KnowJustice and some other exciting arts events in Iowa that have to do with race and justice. I can’t wait to see what comes out of this workshop.
Three. This week my grandpa was in the hospital for a heart procedure that ended up not happening. They ended up needing to start him on a new medication that required monitoring him in hospital for several days. I spent a few of those days hanging out with family in his room and keeping grandma company over night. She kept telling grandpa, “I kind of love you a lot” and giving him kisses. And then at one point when he was getting an EKG he told the nurses he wanted grandma to come over and give him a kiss while they were scanning him so that he could see what it did to his heart. Seriously?! Stop. it. I can’t handle that kind of adorableness. #lifegoals.
They make my heart explode.
Four. I’ve now reached 6 months into my job search. If P.O.D can get nominated for a Grammy three times, I feel like I should be able to land a job in my field, you know? Sometimes life is cruel and unfair. But there are a few applications I’m feeling fairly optimistic about. Fingers crossed. Toes crossed. Everything crossed. Waiting is hard. Staying really proactive in the waiting is even harder. But I know that life happens between point A and point B. I will always be waiting for something, so I should learn to love what happens while I wait.
Five. I think you have to be very close to someone in order to have the green light to go off on them when they’re being dumb. In my opinion, you have to approach these situations from a place of, “I could be wrong, but…” but still… I respect and appreciate the hard blow of redirection when it comes from a loving place. And it rarely comes. Most of my friends are listeners. They ask good questions. They’re comforting. But sometimes being a true friend isn’t just blindly agreeing, standing in solidarity, or waiting to see what happens. It’s coming alongside, telling them their eyes are closed, and shouting out what it is you see. The other night I was telling one of my best friends about something that happened recently, and they just went off on me and got upset. But I understood they weren’t upset at me or with me, but for me. And I needed that. I needed to have my motives challenged and my actions questioned so I could figure out how to either defend myself or realize I was wrong. I needed to hear the perspective that wasn’t “I understand,” but rather, “I don’t understand what you’re thinking or doing. This is insane and f-ed up and you need to ___ because I love you and I hate seeing ___.” I need to be better at this as a friend, too. It’s a delicate balance and a thin line because when are you being a good friend and when are you just being an ass? BUT, is it not completely worth figuring out how to do gracefully?
Six. This is awesome. And then Frieda told them about love…
Seven. I was in a yoga class this week where the instructor played this song during savasana and I legit shed a few tears. It’s like a musical security blanket. I will not apologize for kind of really loving The Fray.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
I’ll be spending my Valentine’s Day at The Des Moines Catholic Worker House feeding lots of friends with lots of friends. They say the way to people’s hearts is through their bellies soooo, it’s perfect. And last night I spent Galentine’s Day eating sushi and listening to some killer comediennes at Des Moines Social Club’s Second Annual Galentine’s Day All-Lady Lineup with some gal pals.
I hope that today you’re all feeling the love.
It’s been ungodly cold lately. Seriously. And blustery. I yearn for green grass, porching, freckles, and mojito season so very much. It’s important to have an arsenal of weapons for banishing winter blues when you live in Iowa. Here’s a list of my personal favorites…
One. Flower power. Because when everything around me is cold and dead, I need something happy and living.
Two. Sweat. I started taking hot yoga classes and I think this may be the thing of all things that has helped me survive the wretched winter. There is something about being in a 90 degree room for an hour and coming out drenched in sweat that detoxes the mind and body. But feel the burn however you prefer.
Three. Books on books on books. When going outside is terrible, stay inside and read.
Four. Tea Time. If there was anything I learned from spending last year in the UK, it is that there is a strongly held belief that a cup of tea solves every problem. So, I’ve stocked myself silly. If you’ve never been, you should pay Gong Fu in the East Village a visit! My latest favorite Gong Fu tea is Scartlet Ginger. I’m not a fruity tea fan, but the ginger offsets it and I’m hooked. Pictured below is Fredrich’s ‘Wellness’ tea, which is particularly excellent if you’re suffering from a cold. Or suffering from the cold.
Five. Start a project. I don’t know about you, but winter always feels like an inappropriately long waiting period. As in, I’m just waiting for it to be over. Starting something new keeps me busy and distracted from point A to B. I’ve always wanted to experiment with gold leaf and so I began incorporating it into a new painting. Hurray.
Six. Socks that rock. Good socks are crucial to keep those toes warm and comfy. I’m a fan of Smartwool. Personally, I think they’re totally worth the expense, but I ask for them at Christmas. You can wear them days on days without a wash and they don’t get stinky. I don’t know how it works, but it does.
Seven. Snuggle. Get the oxytocin flowing. I’ve been snuggling up with the Burbanks on Sunday evenings to watch all the Oscar Best Picture nominees. Complete with Kesslers + Coke, popcorn, and twinkle lights. I know The Revenant is incredible, but Room won me over. Go see it! Or read it.
I was asked to take some pictures and video at little baby Eliyas’ baptism a couple weeks ago. First of all, I had no idea what I was getting in to. I thought this would probably be a pretty casual affair. You know, like a little church basement reception with some cake and a few family photo ops. But there was easily over 100 people there, a huge buffet line, live muscians, balloons, booze flowing, dancing, etc. I was told relatives and friends came from Colorado, Ohio, Missouri, and North Dakota to help celebrate.
It seemed like the entire midwestern Eritrean community came together. And it was a gorgeous cultural experience to witness. Everyone was so affectionate and happy and they partied from 3pm to well after midnight! Ayyy oohhh.
Please notice: Guy pouring straight up Black Label into plastic cups for everyone, guy with a mullet that rivals Joe Dirt in terms of greatness, and how much of the serving and childcare men are doing. Claps all around.
The video is kind of long (it actually ends at 5:22) and horribly edited (thus why it continues the length of the song and not the footage) but you can check out some Eritrean dancing here (its very beginner friendly and awesome): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHx7QSR4msY
One. All I want for Christmas is 3 kittens and a bag of festive socks…
Two. I love lists and this is a really good one:
Three. I would like to introduce you to my labor of love as of late: the #KnowJustice Project. Between writing grants, researching, and planning out the implementation… this has been on my mind constantly. I. am. so. stoked. for. this. I probably won’t be around to see it happen, which is tough on the ol’ heartstrings. But I digress…
First of all, did you know that Iowa ranks #1 in the nation for over-incarcerating minority men? A 2014 ACLU report found that they are 8 times more likely (compared to a national average of 3.7) to be imprisioned than Caucasians for the same drug posession charges. Right now it feels like a day rarely passes that we don’t hear about police brutality, a school shooting, or racial profiling. These layered, complex issues involve cycles and systems that seem overwhelmingly hopeless of change.
#KnowJustice aims to show youth entrenched in our judicial system that hope for them as individuals is not lost. We believe their life experiences and voices matter. At ArtForceIowa, we don’t stand in judgement of what they’ve done, but in awe of their creative potential (I am blown away by the kids I work regularly). #KnowJustice will give them the tools and opportunity to learn about their personal rights, contemplate their own participation in the justice system, and to respond creatively through art. Using art to elevate the voices of minority, court-involved youth, this project engages the public in a discourse around system disproportionality and the social injustices these youth face. The project has three components:
Four. My friend Jacci posted this hilarious article about a sub Reddit feed where ‘Former Emo Kids Have Been Posting What They Look Like Now That They’ve Grown Up’. I don’t have much evidence of me in that phase thanks to DELL desktop computer crashses and the decline of Myspace, but I did find one picture. I think this is Andrew and I at a high school wrestling match when we were 15. He’s rocking a double popped collar and tiger stripe highlights. I’m wearing a Mewithoutyou band tee. I remember that night we went to Smokey Row, played Candyland and Tetris, and took pictures that we later edited on Windows Paint. LOL.
And here we are almost 11 years later. Somehow still best friends. And I’ll have you know that hours after this picture was taken, we freaked out over Spotify adding The Spill Canvas’ old albums to their repitoire (yes, I have periodically checked ever since I opened an account).
Five. Friday night I danced, drank and delighted in the festiveness of Peace Tree’s Annual Holiday Sweater Party with Jaxine, my parents, and the friends we made in there (my favorite being Matt, in his ‘Fleece Navidad’ outfit). My professor/academic advisor at Grand View was playing in his band, The Monday Mourners. So that was fun. Woot woot.
Six. This is kind of old news, but I love the app PHHHOTO. Go download it. It does stuff like this:
Seven. I just finished reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and it has got me all fired up about creativity. I think 2016 is going to be a year of big magic that I make for myself, if nothing else.
“Stop complaining. Every time you talk about how difficult and tiresome it is to be creative, your inspiration takes another step away from you, offended. I started telling myself that I enjoyed my work. I proclaimed that I enjoyed every single aspect of my creative endeavours- the agony and the ecstasy, the success and the failure, the joy and the embarrassment, the dry spells and the grind…It is not about how you write, or paint, or play… it is about why: because of delight. You must live your most creative life as a means of fighting back against the ruthless furnace of this world.”
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.
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.
One. On Monday I laughed until my sides ached, which is one of the better ways you can start off a week. Dave Ross and Kyle Kinane had a fantastic comedy set at Vaudeville Mews. And I was surrounded by these lovely gents from PHS days, making the whole situation even better.
Two. Everything leading up to the ArtForceIowa Open House on Wednesday afternoon is pretty much a blur. But all the chaos and frenzy funneled into a successful event! There was art on the walls, students galore, performers singing, an interactive assemblage project exploding, doughnuts being eaten, etc.
Three. I sent my Grandma Jeanne a Happy Mother’s Day text. 5 days later she sent me this:
Would you look at the use of that space bar?! I’m keeping this forever. I know she’s reading this. I love you, Grandma. You’re really cute.
Four. I woke up Thursday with a really sore throat and by Friday afternoon it was gone. I thank this guy…
I’m a believer.
Five. These songs.
Six. Saturday was second annual outdoor Water Ride. Thanks to generous sponsors like Des Moines Water Works, 100% of the proceeds from this bike ride go towards clean, sustainable water wells and education in Ghana! We only had around 25 registrants at the beginning of the week, causing us all to mildly freak out. But we had over 70 riders yesterday and it was one of the most beautiful days EVER for a bike ride! The staff at Orlondo’s graciously “hosted” us and provided riders with specials on pizza and beer (they also brought us volunteers jello shots and maracas?…I don’t get it, but I’ll take it) Thank you to everyone who helped and supported- thanks to you, Tsipasi’s water well will be officially operative on Memorial Day!
Seven. What a week. Phew. Sometimes the best gift you can give yourself is a guilt-free nap. True story.
The issue of clean water along with our overuse/waste of water as Americans (Oh, what? Yeah! That glass of water you didn’t finish and poured down the sink? That would have been saved and used to the very last drop in most parts of the world) has become a hot button topic. In recent years I can’t tell you how many campaigns and fundraisers I’ve seen to build water wells and develop water filters in under resourced areas. To be honest, the over saturation and lack of real exposure to the issue numbed me, as I’m sure it does for most people.
But then I saw how clean water impacted the hurricane affected villages of Haiti and the rural community of Lukodi, Uganda where I worked last summer. The University of New Hampshire Engineers Without Borders team visited over the summer and tested local borehole wells in Lukodi. According to the community members they spoke with, having clean water is top priority. Waterborne diseases from the community’s water supply led to severe illnesses (I’ve personally had a couple of waterborne illnesses and let me tell you-they are very debilitating). They found that roughly 80% of the community’s water supply was contaminated with E. coli. The team then worked to disinfect the wells and educate people on how to protect the water from contamination and fix issues that arise (“Offering a Helping Hand“).
Not only is the sanitation of water crucial to a community’s well-being, but the availability of it is, too. When our Ugandan friends would fetch water, they would carry a full jerry can (which is roughly 45 lbs when full) on top of their head and one in each hand. So, that’s like 135 lbs of water to carry! And most people have to walk MILES to get that. Some kids can’t even go to school when they have to fetch water. It becomes a huge day-long endeavor.
How do I let this change the way I view and treat water? I don’t take a shower every day. Call me gross, I don’t care. Unless I have excessively sweat or smell bad, I don’t need to take one. Now my goal is going to be to turn the shower water off in between my rinsing and repeating. I’ve done it before, I can do it again. It’s really the little things. I can water my house plants with the water I’m done drinking rather than toss it down the drain. I can shut the faucet off when brushing my teeth. I can avoid buying bottled water. And I can do my small part to encourage others in doing the same. Which brings me to (drum roll please)… The Water Ride.
The Water Ride is happening May 11 in Des Moines. Emily Boyd, Des Moines’ The Move Project and Des Moines Water Works are teaming up with wonderful volunteers to put on a bike ride where 100% (!!!!!) of the proceeds will go toward the $50,000 goal of building a solar-powered well and trench in a TBD location in Africa. There are 85, 40, and 20 (family friendly) mile bike routes to choose from. Prices go up April 12, so reserve a spot here. For additional information click here. Come to reach a personal goal, ride with friends, eat some good food, and do a small thing to make a BIG impact in a community across the world. Spread the word!
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