Faces of The Des Moines Catholic Worker

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

“I wear this hat that says Grandpa on it because I love my grandkids. I’ve got two of them. I haven’t seen them in a few years, though. I’m kind of the black sheep of my family.”

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

“Uh oh. You got me smiling.”

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

“She’s good for me. She calls me out when I’m lying or drinking. She knows my problems and she loves me anyway.”

Processed with VSCO with c2 preset

“I want a full body shot because I’m fabulous, baby!”

Processed with VSCO with c2 preset

Rita and her dog Gizmo, who I think is her doppelganger.

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

“You know what I always say: Don’t do what I wouldn’t do and don’t name it after me.”

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

“I started living on the streets when I was 12 years old, man. I lived in New Orleans for 10 years. I worked on a tug boat. Had myself a wife, house, daughter, grandkid. Then Katrina hit and an oak tree landed on our house. We came back to Des Moines but man, I lost everything.”

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

Guests make and sign a “Get Well” card for a friend in ICU.

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

“Canda was fucked up in the 1960s. That’s why I left. Came here to the land of the free and home of the brave, man. But you guys are screwed now.”

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

“I’m thinking about dying my hair blue. It’d go with my outfit, don’t you think?”

Processed with VSCO with c2 preset

He goes by the name Hawkeye and I’ve never seen him not wearing Hawkeye gear. Go Iowa.

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

“Do you think this picture will get me a knight in shining army?”

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

This is Bryan, but she calls him “Too Tall”.

Processed with VSCO with b3 preset

“My shoulders are my favorite part of my body but I’ve never had a picture of them. Can my portrait be of my shoulders instead of my face?”

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

R. Kelly’s ‘Bump n Grind’ is Jimmy’s ringtone. Everytime I see him this plays and I get “My mind is telling me no. But my body, my body is telling me yeeehuheeesss” stuck in my head.

Love,

Taylor

BOOM.

YOU GUYS!!

I am very excited to share this with you:  See Through Stories

Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 10.51.23

You see, I’ve had several life ties to Alzheimer’s disease: personal (my grandma was diagnosed), professional (I worked as a CNA on an dementia unit), and academic (this was my research topic for my dissertation). In grad school I had this idea to start a story-telling project with people diagnosed early onset and well… I ACTUALLY MADE THE IDEA HAPPEN. Or got it started, anyway. And that’s the hardest part, right?

This has been slowly growing over the last few months and today I am officially launching the website for See Through Stories. There are only two features so far, but I’m hoping that all of you will help me spread the word so I can make connections to more people interested in taking part. I think if there can be anything beautiful about having dementia, it might be that it forces people to live fully present in the moment. I think we could all learn a little from that.

I don’t know if this will last one year or 50 years. I don’t know if this will stay a project or become and organization. I don’t know if this will just feature people where I live or if I’ll be fortunate enough to hear the stories of people with dementia all over the globe. I don’t know if I’ll work solo or if I’ll be lucky enough to form a dream team. There’s a lot I don’t know.

It’s new. It’s figuring itself out. I’m going to be patient and present with it. No matter what it becomes or doesn’t become, I’m proud of myself for at least seeing the idea through. And I expect that I’ll enjoy every bit of the work immensely because it has me all like: damn, people are beautiful.

 

Love,
Taylor

Extra special thanks to:

The Alzheimer’s Association in Des Moines for connecting me to the wonderful people I’ve interviewed so far // My family, for literally everything // Ryan, who helped get this off the ground from every technical standpoint and was my brainstorming partner// Sarah, Rachel, and Lewis for consistently insisting I must do this, from the very beginning // Andrew, for being my sounding board.

 

7 Things Sunday

One. Lambing season is starting and this is basically who I aspire to be:
IMG_7291I have always had a thing for sheep. I don’t know what it is about them. I had a plush lamb toy named Cuddles that I slept with as a child. I also had this polaroid of a sheep running down a hill with it’s mouth open (it was hilarious, trust me) that my grandfather took and I kept it pinned up on my bulletin board for a really long time. I see so many of them in fields whenever I take the train, but I have yet to give one my affection. I want to so baaaaa-d. Word on the street is that I may even be able to assist in the birth of some. Now there’s something to add to my resume.

Two. This week’s feels:

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 13.38.29

IMG_7286Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 10.49.19 

Three. When I tell people that I’m working at a cafe in North Berwick, they give me really strange looks and ask why I’m working all the way out there. Well, mostly because out of twenty-some places I applied to, they were the only ones to call me back and give me a job. But I think it was a fate thing. You know when you meet people and you know right away, Yep. I’m going to adore you. You just fit. Some of us who work together, we’re all kind of in the same place, working through some of the same what is my life right now?! stuff. Work shifts often turn into therapy sessions. I know I haven’t been there very long, but the two days a week I spend working have been full of life-giving cups of coffee, a lot of laughing, and some incredibly lovely people. This picture is blurry, but I love it anyway. Here are some of the Steampunk girls at the 65th birthday party for one of our regulars, Graham. Champagne. Stovies. Dancing to oldies. A night to remember, for sure.

Processed with VSCOcam with m3 preset

Four. Like most people, I listen to music when I go get my sweat on at the gym. But lately I’ve been obsessed with listening to stories instead. I become so engaged in them, I forget that I’m running. Plus I like to think I look less like I’m dying if one makes me break out in a smile or slightly audible laughter. Here are a couple favorites from The Moth:

 

For Cynthia’s full story, you can listen here

Five. Speaking of stories…Today is International Women’s Day! Some of the most inspiring and courageous women I have ever known, I met through ChildVoice International in Uganda. To honor the young women they have worked with, ChildVoice is doing a Kickstarter campaign to fund and publish a collection of their stories.

“Lifted from the rich traditions of storytelling in Uganda, this book seeks to capture the true stories of war, heartache, faith and forgiveness in one community…With experiences and emotions that transcend time and place, this book delivers a journey from darkness to light as told by those who experienced it most closely. 

…Brought together by the work of one organization, ChildVoice, to restore the voices of children silenced by war, Grace and other survivors share their stories as part of their journeys toward healing and spiritual transformation. 

…Through these stories, readers may find strength for personal journeys toward healing, and the courage to face their obstacles. Powerful, provoking, and educational, Enduring the Night invites the reader to join the conversation and be a part of something greater, for in doing so, one cannot helped but be moved to action in support of women worldwide.”

I have never been so confident in an organsation to #MakeItHappen for women in their community. Please consider supporting their cause!

Mama Cecelia telling me some of her story. She is truly the fiercest woman I’ve ever met. She also has my favourite voice to imitate and shared our love for baby bunny Brenda, sheltering her with protection (which is really saying something because Ugandans eat rabbits rather than use them as house pets). Picture 5

IMG_7338

Six. Every person/place/thing is adapting to new technology and figuring out ways to utilise it. I get that. This is where the world is going. As I start to see more and more art museums adopting digital mindsets, a part of me recoils because I suppose there is a tiny voice in my head saying, Nooooo! Please can this please just be one place that doesn’t look like a Buffalo Wild Wings in terms of screen coverage? Can’t we just put down the digital tools and sit on this nice little bench and LOOK at the art. Take it in. Let our imaginations go wild or give it critical thought. So, when I read about all the ways technology is helping visitors engage and learn more I feel torn and see valid points from all sides. But I completely give in when I read how it can be used for experiences like this.

Seven. This was just one of those weeks, you know? When all the bad news comes at once and you can’t do anything about it except have painful conversations that lead to nowhere. By the end of the week my heart felt like someone had been using it as a stress ball. Here’s to setting an intention for a new week full of great potential to at least be better than the last: Be patient and present (and go on more dates with the sea because honestly…so good for the soul):

IMG_7308IMG_7225

Love,

Taylor

7 Things Sunday

I discovered at some point as a teenager that people feel comfortable confiding in me about their problems. Sometimes people I barely knew would message me to hash out whatever happened to be troubling them. And still today, whenever someone tells me, “I haven’t told anyone that before” I feel slightly astonished that suddenly I’ve been picked to be on the receiving end of such intimate knowledge. I sat next to a lady on an airplane who told me about how she’s felt alone her entire life. My friend and I were checking out at a gas station really late at night and the cashier just started telling us about her failing marriage. I was reading alone on a park bench once and someone I had gone to school with came up and went on to tell me a really messed up life story that I won’t repeat here. I can’t tell you why this happens. A friend once said, “You just have one of those faces that makes people feel like they can word vomit on you, and you’ll still be smiling.”

Don’t get me wrong. I will still smile if you vomit on me, metaphorically…or literally for that matter. I do genuinely care about people…even random flight buddies and gas station strangers. I do genuinely enjoy listening. I’m happy that my face potentially has some sort of invitation stamped on it. BUT this also means that from time to time I hear information that I didn’t want or need to know. There are no precautionary measures I can take. Words get said and then they’re out there. There’s no going back. They just float in word space for a few moments before they make themselves at home in my brain. And this is what happens every time: I keep cool as a cucumber in the moment. But after a few minutes/hours/days of trying to be really okay, mature, handling it like a champ, etc…I.freak.out.

This sort of happened recently. I called my sister. This conversation ensued:

Me: “X was telling me about Z and I thought I was fine. I really did. But then it just totally threw me off my game and I’ve been in a funk lately. I can’t figure out why! I don’t want to do anything with anyone. I sleep all the time. I slept for thirteen hours yesterday. THIRTEEN. I want it to be fine. It’s so annoying. Gaaaahhhhh.”

Sister: “What do you mean you can’t figure out why? It’s because you’re a human with feelings. You’re not a rock.”

Right. She’s such a cheeky little voice of reason.

______________________________________________________________________

So, for anyone else out there who finds themselves in the same place: HEY. Shit happens. It’s going to affect you. Let it. But then maybe you can think of some things that make you feel fierce and do them. Here’s my list:

One. Stress cleaning! (Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this) Clean out the fridge. Refold everything in your dresser. Organize that drawer you put everything that doesn’t have a home in.

Two.  Cook. Ordering take out when you’re bumming is oh-so-tempting. But cooking forces you to focus on what’s in front of you. Whip up a favourite or try something new. Take some satisfaction in making something with your own hands. Plus, call me crazy, but I find chopping vegetables kind of therapeutic.

Three. Get some fresh air and a change of scenery. Hike. Bike. Walk. Run. Swim. Downward dog. Just go stand and breathe somewhere else.

Four. Feel the rhythm of the night. One night last week I was walking to a friend’s flat, had my headphones in, and was listening to a song that pretty much demanded dance moves. So, as I approached this street lined with empty bars, I unashamedly danced past the bouncers, who were thoroughly entertained by my mad skills. I also rediscovered this gem thanks to Spotify, which took me back to 2009 when I drove around in a giant metallic blue pick up truck and practiced my Lil Jon voice. Its just so unnecessarily aggressive. I die of giggles every time.

Five. Pray. Praying tends to stop the me, me, me and I start meditating on something far greater. I focus on people I love or causes I care about. And I listen, but it’s the kind of listening that doesn’t deplete me in any way.

Six. Do one thing you’re passionate about. I hadn’t painted in forever. I couldn’t bring my paints with me. I don’t have money to buy new ones. But I was talking about this to an invigilator at the City Art Centre and he told me there’s an art room that’s technically for children, but I could use it any time I wanted. So, I did! And it felt sooooo good.

Seven. Force yourself to do something social. I think pretty much everything we look for in life can be found in knowing and loving other people. In a world that shouts at us about being independent, the reality is that we need community. I’m all for taking time to be alone. Sometimes I need it to reenergise. But when I get stuck in a rut, I find that ususally all it takes to shake it off is being in good company.

Love,

Taylor

PS- on a completely pointless and unrelated note…did you guys know that Brad Pitt’s brother looks exactly like the lovechild of Zach Braff and John Travolta?

IMG_6624

7 Things Sunday

7thingssundayyy-1
Since it is Easter…
7 (of many) reasons I think Jesus was the man:
One. Jesus a radically awesome friend to women. There is a Jewish blessing that goes, “Blessed are you, Lord God, Ruler of the Universe, who has not made me a woman.” In Jesus’ day women were essentially seen as property. Men didn’t speak to women in public. Rabbis were not to teach women.  And yet we see many accounts of Rabbi Jesus teaching women, even one-on-one. He included men and women as disciples. We see Jesus interact with women intimately and personally. They flocked to him. They used their resources to support his ministry. Jesus violated the morals and traditions of his society to give women honor and respect.
When the religious leaders were tired of Jesus’ popularity, teachings, and rule-breaking, they thought they could bring a charge against him. So they instigated a mob and drug a woman caught in adultery (which was punishable by death) before Jesus. They said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So, what do you say?”
Jesus has a lose-lose situation, here. If he shows her mercy, he ends up condoning adultery and getting arrested or at the very least he proves the Pharisees’ point. If he agrees with the stoning, then so much for all his teaching on mercy and forgiveness. So much for his unique and against-the-grain treatment of women. So what happens?
He bends down and writes something on the ground (what he wrote remains unknown, but I like to think it said something like, “Suck it, Pharisees!”). Then when they continued to question him, he stood up and said, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw the stone at her.”
BOOM. No takers. No condemnation. Walk away, people. Daughter: go home, live your life, don’t cheat anymore.
Who stood at the foot of the cross when Jesus’ male disciples fled? Ladies.
Who did Jesus choose to first appear to when he rose from the dead? Ladies. WHAT?! This is amazing. Women had such little standing in culture and certainly no authority to be religious spokespersons. And here Jesus is, giving them this role to be the first to tell others of his resurrection.
Two. Jesus was really annoyed by self-righteous religious people and legalism. Amen, me too. Thank God. Literally. Jesus told the crowds in Matthew 23, “…don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden. Everything they do is for show.” He goes on to say to the Pharisees things like, “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either…For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!….You ignore the more important aspects of the law- justice, faith, and mercy…Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness…Snakes! Sons of vipers!”

That’s pretty intense stuff. As with the parable of the tax collector, Jesus consistently and intently made it evident that God looks at each individual’s heart posture. Only he knows, only he can make judgements. The rest of us are commanded to love.

Three. Jesus understands suffering. I take comfort in knowing this. That when I grieve something or someone, he’s doing it, too. I won’t even begin to compare any of my suffering to what he experienced. But he knew the pain of being betrayed by close friends. He knew the gut-wretchingness of seeing insane injustices all around him. He knew hunger. He knew accusation. He knew the pain of giving up family. He knew the pain of death. He experienced all the emotions I experience. I love worshipping a God who’s response to human suffering was to enter into it- to endure it with me and for me.

Four. Jesus was grace. The crucifixion story amazes me because I see just how jaw-droppingly full of grace God is, even in torture, awaiting an unjust death. His first words on the cross are to ask God to actually forgive the people who are killing him (Luke 23:34). Then, the criminal who hung on the cross next to Jesus, acknowledging Christ’s innocence, asks to be remembered when Jesus enters his kingdom. He doesn’t start confessing his sins or asking how to ‘get saved’, he simply asks to be a part of the kingdom. In his last seconds of life, hanging in excruciating pain on the cross, Jesus assures him they’ll be in paradise together that day (Luke 23:43). And then his last words on the cross moments before he dies are, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Five. Jesus was a “come to the table” guy. He was known disapprovingly as a friend to prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers, and a whole assortment of social outcasts. Jesus chose to wine and dine this crew. Even the disciples were a bunch of kids who hadn’t made the cut. Jesus seemed to do a lot of his ministry during mealtimes. Jesus’ first miracle (while full of symbolism) was turning tons of water into the best wine to save a bride humiliation and keep the reception dinner party going. During dinner one night, Jesus exemplfies the servanthood of leadership by washing his students’ feet. Jesus taught that the kingdom of heaven is like a wedding feast. Then, most infamously at the last supper he first offers himself as the Eucharist using bread and wine.

Six. Jesus was a story-teller. Who doesn’t love a great storyteller? The endless parables used to get on my nerves a little. If Jesus was worried about making everything clear and not leaving much up for interpretation, I don’t feel like he did that. He was a man of symbolism. I’ve come to hold a deep appreciation for that and what I assume his reasonings are for teaching this way. Parables, or stories that parallel a principle with an easily understood illustration are for one, memorable. They also allowed him to teach controversial lessons without getting in trouble with religious authorities for heresy. They indicate people’s spiritual condition, being lost on those who are resistant to instruction, while piercing the hearts that are open. And ultimately, I think it was because Jesus wanted to show us God, not lecture us about his principles. Jesus illustrates that he wanted us to understand how good God’s kingdom is and what it means for us as broken, fallen people. Jesus was constantly confronted with ways in which God’s intention had been perverted by human brokenness. God’s way had become all about religion and rules, not about humility and love. 

Seven. Jesus meets you where you’re at and has faith in you. Obviously, there are a lot of stories where Jesus is talking to a large group of people, but I’m always most amazed by his one-on-one interactions. He didn’t use a system or have a method when it came to healing and drawing people into relationship with him. He used various methods of speaking commands, asking questions, being touched or touching, forgiveness, compassion, to convey God in the way that specific person needed to receive it. He knew where each person’s faith was at, and he got on that level to call them into restoration. To call them to follow. I love this (paraphrased) part of Rob Bell’s “Dust” sermon…

If you are a disciple, you have committed your entire life to being like your rabbi. If you see your rabbi walk on water, what do you immediately want to do? Walk on water. So this disciple gets out on the water and he starts to sink, so he yells, “Jesus save me!” And Jesus says, “You of little faith, why do you doubt?” Who does Peter lose faith in? Not Jesus; Jesus is doing fine. Peter loses faith in himself. Peter loses faith that he can do what the rabbi is doing. If the rabbi calls you to be his disciple, then he believes you can actually be like him. As we read the stories of Jesus’ life with his disciples, what do we find that frustrates him to no end? When his disciples lose faith in themselves. He doesn’t get frustrated with them because they are incapable, but because of how capable they are. 

So Jesus, at the end of his time, tells the disciples to go make more disciples. Then he leaves. He dies. He promises to send his Spirit to guide and direct them, but the future of the movement is in their hands. He doesn’t stick around to make sure they don’t screw it up. He’s gone. He actually trusts that they can do it. God has an incredibly high view of people. God believes people are capable of amazing things. I’ve been told that I need to believe in Jesus, which is a good thing. But what I’m learning is that Jesus believes in me. 

 

Pisschrist_Extendo_by_Erevis

 

 Love,
Taylor