7 Things Sunday

One. I spent a week in Ireland and loved it. Irish people are just the best. Highlights include:

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

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

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

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

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

Lee-Miller-and-Picasso

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

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

IMG_0737Seven. Lawls

IMG_0740

Love,

Taylor

2014: Surrender

At the beginning of this year, I was nannying for these two little gems:

IMG_0470

I know. The cuteness is too much.

During this time my friend Hilary gifted me a daily meditation devotional titled, Surrender.

Most mornings I would make myself a cup of tea, set baby Lola in her rocker and read an excerpt out loud until she drifted into nap land. Also, my favorite quote happened to be, “Surrender to what is, let go of what was, have faith in what will be,” by Sonia Ricotte. Due to the current events of my life at the time, the word surrender felt very fitting.

It became my word. My mantra. My prayer. My theme.

2014 became the year Taylor learned what it means to surrender. In some aspects, I didn’t have choice, and in others, I had to consciously choose to learn. I surrendered a 7-year relationship. I gave up a place I made home. I let go of certain hopes and dreams but yielded to others. I had to accept and become comfortable with a lot of unknowns. I relinquished control of what I could not change, and subsequently that meant enduring the most change I’ve ever experienced in 365 days.

If I were to summarize what I learned it would be this:

Surrender is equal parts freedom and defeat. There is a certain power and greatness in both. When I surrender to a higher power, I am no longer the center of my life and therefore I begin to see this power in everything and everyone. Sometimes it is impossible to have a plan and that is okay. And in all honesty, the stronger I realize I am capable of being, the more intense the desire becomes to just screw it all and have a breakdown.

So, 2014…(insert a string of expletives): You were hard. You were great. I’m glad you’re over.

What is my word for 2015?

Fierce.

You can laugh if you want. I am aware this is a word that is used to describe warriors, severe weather, lion cats and/or Beyonce. But I’m around a lot of Irish people and they use it as an adverb for “very” or “extremely” (ex: “She was fierce loud”).

So, this is the year I will be more intentional, braver, sassier, and unstoppable. I will love, work, and play fiercely. Give me all you got 2015. I’m ready for you.

Happy New Year, everyone.

http://slide.ly/embed/0f767b1ec5fa5d4c9459f9bfbf1b51b7/autoplay/0

2014 by Slidely Slideshow

Love,

Taylor

Free at Last

I JUST FINISHED MY FIRST SEMESTER OF GRADUATE SCHOOL!!!!

How I started out the semester:

Photo on 13-12-2014 at 10.56

 

How I finished the semester:

Photo on 14-12-2014 at 12.26

 

At this rate, I am projected to look something like this by the end of the course:

Grad-school-barbie

 

Here’s to a few weeks of freedom before round two!!

Bring on the drinks, podcasts, movies, textbooks, time to cook, adventures, and social life.

Love,
Taylor

The Challenge of Change

I’m one to give people (and myself) the benefit of the doubt.

I’m quick to say, “Oh, that’s just the way he is/she is/I am wired.”

I tend to believe that we are victims/products of our histories, environments and circumstances.

The love I have for people and the dislike I have for confrontation often overrides my need to bring up anything I find bothersome about someone.

BUT. I also get hung up on the idea of potential. Not what someone should be, but what they can be. I have this nagging desire to make people see this potential they possess (and to live up to my own, obviously). It’s horribly annoying because acting on that desire potentially becomes overbearing or offensive. Reaching potential requires changing. People don’t always like change. People don’t always believe they can or should change. I will be the first to admit, I am one of those people.

I re-read Viktor Frankl’s ‘A Man’s Search for Meaning’ recently and it was very convicting for me in regards to this topic. Here are some excerpts:

“For what matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into triumph, to turn one’s predicament into a human achievement. When we can no longer change our situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

“Man does not simply exist, but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become the next moment. By the same token, every human being has the freedom to change at any instant.”

“In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.”

“A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the ‘why’ for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any ‘how’.”

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

I’ve probably written this 50 times already, but this year has been the most emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually exhausting year of my life. I can appear cool as a cucumber, but you guys: I’m mostly a mess. Yesterday I stayed in my pajamas all day. I ate ice cream and M&M’s for lunch. I didn’t really want to see or talk to anyone, so I didn’t leave my dorm. I sat in my bed and stared at the wall. It’s tempting to do this every day when you’re sad, but I can’t. I know I’m better than that. From an internal standpoint, I have been operating below my potential. I have wanted to shake off ‘suffering’ rather than choose into letting it transform me. I’m an extremely reflective person but I detest turning my attention inward. I hate focusing on myself. Hate, hate, hate, hate it. I understand that I am wired this way, but if I simply accept it and allow that to dictate my response to life, that won’t foster growth or freedom. Its hard to truly believe I have the authority to choose/change my response in hopeless situations that are out of my control.

I’m working hard on this one wee thing (‘wee’ is my favorite new adjective to use. Also, ‘dodgy’). I am committed to notice when I’m doing it, admit what I fear, and let it go again and again and again. It kills me when I see people who want to change something, who have all the resources and capabilities to do so, and they choose out. I know that if I want my relationships, career, and self to become something beautiful I have to be willing to stop the distractions. Pray. Listen for inner Tay. Ask questions. Mess up. Put some elbow grease into the process. And when I do everything I possibly can and it doesn’t work, will I keep fighting? When the advice, tactics, and tips make me feel like a failure, will I keep showing up? Am I willing to listen to myself, to find my own way, even when the way other’s have traveled isn’t working? Am I brave enough to create my own roadmap?

YES!

Amen.

Game face on.

 

Love,
Taylor

Seeing

I love people who see and capture moments in a brilliantly breath-taking way. I feel lucky to witness it. They inspire me to see the world with wide-eyes. I find myself releasing a little sigh or gasp at seeing the seemingly forgotten or unnoticed things frozen in time. The glances that are missed. The neglected nooks and crannies of a city street. The seemingly unimportant daily rituals. I love that a picture can breathe life into the ordinary by forcing you to pause and notice.

To notice the small things in the midst of life’s events; whether it be as celebratory and vibrant as a wedding or as habitual and mundane as walking up your driveway. There are things in every moment waiting to be noticed. To ignite a little something in you…if you stop to take a look. And maybe you don’t want to pull out a camera. Maybe you just want to be fully focused and present. Then take a mental picture. The importance is in the act of pausing to see it- whatever it is.

Love,

Taylor

(click image for photo cred)
Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 9.12.40 PM Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 9.16.49 PM Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 9.20.32 PM Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 9.30.55 PMScreen Shot 2014-05-19 at 9.52.36 PMScreen Shot 2014-05-19 at 9.56.04 PMScreen Shot 2014-05-19 at 10.00.33 PM

 

Good Girl

il_570xN.492659776_3a6f

I’m sitting on my therapist’s couch, clenching wads of damp, mascara covered kleenax in my fist.

I’m a crier. If you get me alone and talking about anything remotely emotional, the tears just flood in. It’s uncontrollable. I don’t even mean to most of the time. I try not to. It’s something I used to feel like I had to apologize for.

My parents tell me that when I was a little kid all they had to do was give me a look or raise their voice and I would start sobbing in remorse. Apparently their mild signs of disappointment were enough of a punishment for me. And this is still a thing. A while ago someone wrote me a lengthy message all about why and how this particular thing I had done was wrong. It wasn’t even something I had done to this person, but they wanted to make their opinion known and because I felt like they were disappointed in me, it ate at me for weeks. I cried. I wrote replies and deleted them. I was praying to get a sense of whether there was something I needed to feel ashamed of. I felt self-conscious and worried until I came to a point of realizing I had absolutely nothing to apologize for. I was okay with this thing. The other person involved was okay with this thing. The person who wrote me the message was not okay with it, but did they really know everything going on? No. The point being…I tend to base how I’m doing/feeling on how other people are doing/feeling and it’s really annoying.

“So, if you weren’t being the care taker or the good girl, then who would you be?” my therapist asks me.

An impostor, but a less stressed and anxious impostor. No…I don’t know.

I get what she’s doing. She wants me to connect these roles to my own self-worth. And she’s right. Because in my mind, if I’m not sending you a random card in the mail, or bringing you soup when you’re sick, or driving you to the airport at 4:30 AM, or buying you coffee, or volunteering for your event, then you won’t have any reason to like me or desire to do the same for me. And if I’m not always encouraging, forgiving, listening, reachable, peaceful, putting the needs of others before my own, accomplishing my goals, following the rules, making sure everyone understands me and is okay with who I am, etc., then I’m not being a good girl. I feel worthless if I’m not those things. That’s been one of the hardest parts of getting divorced; not feeling “good” anymore. And it’s not like anyone is making me feel that way. I’m doing it to myself. Why? Because for me, it’s always been the wrong/bad choice and all these other choices piled up that led to the “bad” one. It’s the whole thing where the one thing you would never let happen, happens and life becomes painfully ironic. Sigh.

But I can’t just turn these instincts off. I’m probably always going to try too hard to do the right thing. I will feel insanely guilty if you’re ever unhappy with me. I’m always going to worry too much about how other people are doing. And maybe swear words will always sound contrived coming out of my mouth and I’ll never have the ability to smoke or take a shot without looking absolutely ridiculous. But hey, it’s cool guys. I have this sense of obligation to be someone no one needs to worry about, someone who doesn’t ask for much, someone who has it together, someone who is always reliable and conscientious. Someone who lives her life in the lines. Creative, colorful lines, but still organized in a particular fashion.

Maybe a sense of obligation isn’t the right phrase because I’m fairly certain it is ingrained in me. I’m okay with that. I wouldn’t want to be someone else. But I’m working on catching myself before I step too far, you know? There has to be a happy medium between, “Hey! These beautiful qualities make up the fabulous being before you” and,”You’re trying way too hard and becoming increasingly detrimental to your own mental health. Chill, lady.”

So, I’m working on not getting taken advantage of. On not feeling hurt when I give and don’t get what I’d expect in return. On not doing something because I should or shouldn’t but instead because I want or don’t want to. I’m navigating my way through the past, trying to piece together what happened that caused me to arrive at this particular place. And in doing so, I’m processing how to move forward and be more in tune with my own wants and needs. I’m trying to find my voice and not be afraid of it. I’m getting better at bracing other people’s emotions and opinions without making it all about me. Because honestly, (and this is what my therapist is so good at reminding me of) I’m not all that important. And that’s a relief.

Love,

Taylor

7 Things Sunday

One. I love baking. One, because I love eating…desserts in particular. Two, because I love sharing the goodness. On this dreary afternoon I whipped up a Key Lime Pie with homemade graham cracker crust for Sunday night group. YOU GUYS, I even garnished it with little lime wedges because that’s how into it I was getting. It must have been well received because there isn’t any left. Bye, bye little pie.

photo

Two. Emily took me to see Once at the Civic Center and we loved it. I had seen the movie and owned the soundtrack, so it was really fun to see the stage production. I thought it was incredibly creative, humorous, and the music is brilliant. The set operated as a working bar, so before the show started we got to go up on stage, have a beer and watch the musicians play. How sweet is that?!

photo-2

 

Three. This week my boss is out of the country on vacation, sooooo I am solely in charge of holding down the fort *gulp*. I’ve never temporarily operated a non-profit on my own. Wish me luck. Send me good vibes.

Four. I really like this:

willing

Five. On Saturday morning I Skyped my friend Melissande (we went to Morocco together). We haven’t reallllly talked in almost a year, which I kick myself for, but we do a pretty good job of exchanging snail mail. I can easily go off on rants about all the more negative ways technology is impacting life, but then it redeems itself with moments like this…when I can have a coffee date with this dear friend who lives thousands of miles away. I can’t wrap my arms around her, but I can see and hear her beauty loud and clear. I realize Skype has been around for years now, but it still astonishes me.

Screen Shot 2014-04-26 at 7.36.08 AM

Six. Why did the man not mind being bald?………Because he didn’t want toupee for hair. Hehehehehe.

Seven. The kids I work with love to laugh at how often I have no idea what they’re talking about. And then they make me guess, which apparently becomes the funniest part. I’m hoping that this is endearing for them in some way. In case you were wondering, this week I learned that calling a girl a “thot” means you’re calling her a ‘hoe’ or ‘slut’. A “bae” is the person you call or text ‘Before Anyone Else’. I said they should get me Hooked-on-Ebonics…but then I realized they’re too young to know about Hooked-on-Phonics. So that joke failed. Then I felt awkward.

Love,

Taylor

Juvie Jamz

Every week at work we go into the juvenile detention center and do a one hour art or writing workshop with youth there. It’s a great way to briefly spare them from boredom and recruit kids that are interested in participating in our programs once they’re out of detention. Sometimes it’s fantastic. The kids are engaged and happy to be there. Other weeks feel like disasters. The past couple weeks we’ve been expanding on the idea of home. We’ve encouraged them to come up with similes and metaphors for home. To think about what home is or where home is. To explore unique ways of describing where they come from. For one person it’s grandma’s house. For another it’s the basketball court. Or Chester’s Chicken. Or the neighborhood park. Or Liberia. After hearing/reading what emergedit felt good to know that everyone could at least think of some place or someone that felt like home, even if the connotations weren’t great. On the other hand, my heart still sank into my gut. It’s hard to wrap my head around these homes I’ve never entered. But I think what they write exposes a lot. I learn a lot about them and where their heads are at without having to outright ask them and without them having to outright tell me. There’s this strange paradox I see of kids having to grow up way too fast, but never actually growing up. I’m not sure if that came out right or makes sense. Anyway…here’s an example (from a kid who wouldn’t perform his rap in front of me because he said my ears were too precious):

I come from a broken home, shattered dreams and stained mildew floors

Crawling around on all fours in my drawers

My dad always high like my ambitions to grow and survive

I went from not knowing when I’d eat to having so much, I’d throw away half my plate

I went from a rental property to a place I’d learn to call home

My dad smoked so much meth, he done lost his dome

But my mom, cold as stone, took me away and said he’d have to live on his own

Not always the best, my whole life’s been a test

I’d have to learn a lot of things on my own because my dad left me

On Father’s Day I used to cry

I’d wish death upon my dad in my own eyes

Through all the deception, all the lies, he left a son who would have to find his own will to strive and survive

 

Juvie Jamz

I have a severe case of job whiplash (a general life whiplash, to be honest). It isn’t a bad thing. It just is what it is. I took a job at a non-profit arts organization that offers art and workforce readiness programming for at-risk/court-involved youth. So, I basically went from spending all day with the sweetest baby girls to juvenile delinquents. I went from nursery rhymes and pre-school pick up to court rooms and gangster rap. It’s been a weird transition. But hey… I’m excited to have a job in my field! I love what the organization does and am excited about the summer programming possibilities/opportunities. I believe so passionately in the transformative power of art and am driven to see these kids achieve their best in ways that are dignified and fulfilling. I’m honored to be a support, an advocate, a cheerleader.

Granted, I’m only two weeks into this job, so maybe I’m over analyzing all of this…but here’s what’s going on in my head and heart:

I’m just a nice, fairly quiet, middle-class, small town, white girl. I don’t know what its like to grow up in foster care or be initiated into a gang when you’re 6. I don’t know what its like to see your brother get shot or to shoot someone else’s brother. I don’t know what its like to live in fear of getting jumped. I don’t know what its like to have parents addicted to drugs. I don’t know what its like to runaway from home. I don’t know what its like to get arrested. I don’t know what its like to hold so much anger and hate in my body. I don’t know what its like to always be in trouble. I don’t know what its like to have a .1 GPA. I don’t know what its like to experience racism. I don’t know what its like to be really poor.

And I feel guilty for all of that. For the sake of bonding, relating, understanding, being influential, etc…I wish I shared in the experiences. It’s strange to be in an environment where being myself feels hard and awkward. It baffles me how insecure teenagers can make me feel about myself haha isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?

“You just don’t get it.” Truth. I don’t. I can’t. But I want to. Is that enough? Or are the all the words from my lips going to be discredited? Will my be attempts at being genuinely interested and invested roll off your shoulders?

“That’s impossible.” I believe that there are ways out of tough situations but maybe that’s because I’ve been afforded options and opportunities my whole life. I believe you can overcome addiction, but maybe that’s because I’ve never had one. I believe you can stop cycles of violence, but maybe that’s because I’ve read a lot about achieving peace.

“I can’t change it.” I think part of every egocentric high-schooler is the inability to see or imagine beyond what is right in front of them. I know I’ve been there before. That said, it has been amazing to me to see how much power the past seems to hold for them. The belief that your past not only influences, but dictates your future. The belief that the past is a much stronger force than the present. Obviously there is a lot about our pasts we didn’t have control of: where we were born, who are parents were, our social and economic status, how we were raised, what we saw and what was done to us as children, etc. There are uncontrollable factors that set us up on involuntary trajectories. Yet, I just have such a hard time believing that the past robs us of change, if we want it badly enough. I might not “get” where they’ve been or what they’ve done, but I want them to look where they’re going. And I feel like I need to expect things from them. You know, bigger, better, brighter things. I don’t know the cost/benefit analysis of something like leaving a gang. I don’t know how difficult it is to jump through systems. Everything is easier said than done, I know. Maybe change or doing the “right” thing means taking a beating or lots of beatings, or losing family, or moving away from everything you know.

Cue: City High ‘What Would You Do’

*sigh*

I’m constantly picking apart every interaction and they probably couldn’t care less. C’est la vie.

In summary: I don’t know anyyythiiinnngggg. But whatever, tough kids…

I’m just going to be there. To help you apply for jobs. To ask you about how you’re going to achieve your goals. To tell judges that you’re involved in something good. To draw next to you. To listen to your free-styles. To read your poems. To be proud of you. I’m going to love you to pieces (but honestly, I will probably never love dirty south rappers or your Nicki Minaj art collages).

Deal.

Without further ado…here is a piece written by one of the students during a free-writing activity we led at the detention center last week. Juvie Jamz might make a semi-regular blog appearance:

“I come from drugs

Where every nigga’ round me gettin’ mugged

Where people catchin’ feelings trynna get snug

When girls in your ear listen to your convos like they planted a bug

Where to the West, them white girls got their Columbias and Uggs

Where sleepin’ under the bridge is better than sleepin’ in the mud

Little girls go from tots to thoughts and every nigga you see endin’ up on the Block”

-Anonymous

Love,

Taylor

 

A Look Back

I was reading through some writings from my time doing art therapy in Uganda and this one particularly stuck out to me this morning:

Each girl has a few minutes to draw whatever she would like. After a while, Megan and I asked them to close their eyes. With eyes closed, Megan and I took black markers and drew some sort of line on their drawing. Essentially, we messed up their pretty little pictures. After we let them express their shock and disappointment, we challenged them to make the black mark a part of their drawing. Turn it into something. Don’t let it ruin the picture, but instead think of it as an opportunity to create something new or different.

And just like that the black lines went from being dark, obstructive, and out of place to being jump ropes, snakes, mountains, gardens, boats, hearts, etc.

Sometimes in life someone or something comes along and messes up your picture. You weren’t ready for it. Your eyes were closed. Maybe you opened up your eyes only to see that someone abducted you at 14 years old and now you’re forced into killing people with your bare hands. Maybe you opened your eyes only to see that your spouse cheated on you and ran off with all your money. Maybe you opened your eyes only to see your house burning in a forest fire. Maybe you opened your eyes only to see that the dream you were chasing is never going to be a reality. Black marks look different for everyone, but they invade all of our pictures from time to time. A lot of people let black marks define their pictures. But, like we told the girls, “You and God in you are capable of making something good and beautiful come from something that once seemed dark and horrible.”

A friend recently told me, “God doesn’t eliminate evil. We don’t really see evidence of that. He transforms it.”

God doesn’t give or use erasers, He’s more creative than that.

I don’t know about some of you, but I’ve got lots of black marks in my picture right now. I feel like all I can do is pray and hold onto my marker. Challenge accepted.

Love,

Taylor

20140226-091718.jpg

20140226-091837.jpg