About Me

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be. Shel Silverstein

Sunday, July 14, 2013


1. an awkward, usually unintentional dive in which the front of the body strikes the water horizontally, the abdomen or chestbearing the brunt of the impact.

Most of you know that I am doing Teach for America, and that currently, I am training in Philadelphia. Our training, also known as "Institute," adheres to the sink or swim method. Who learns how to swim faster (albeit not necessarily more gracefully); the tossed-in-the-deep-end novice or the shallow-end, arm-floaties expert? It's efficient, however, thoroughly uncomfortable. And it's the scariest and most difficult deep-end I have ever jumped into. And I jumped in head-first and landed unintentional-bellyflop style via one of those... "Let me show you my expert dive even though I have never tried diving before." AKA: blind ambition. Did I mention it's thoroughly uncomfortable?

Yet despite my extremely reasonable, well thought-out, and totally applicable metaphor, inner-voice Taelor is still extremely judgmental of recently tossed-in-the-deep-end Miss Russell. In the past two weeks, I have yet to make it through twenty-four hours where I haven't seriously debated if I am capable of providing my students with the education they deserve. The love I have for them already, and the desire need I feel to be the best teacher I can be for them runs so deep that diving belly-flopping in was beyond terrifying. It took every ounce of courage I could find in my heart, and those ounces dissolved the moment they drip-dropped into the ocean of overwhelming I splashed into. But I'm learning to accept that that's okay. Because, I'm swimming. Maybe I'm struggling and haphazardly thrashing, but my head is above water. I'm not sinking.

I am not perfect, but I have blind ambition. I am not perfect, but I have the audacity to overcome the seemingly impossible. I am not perfect, but I do all of this for my students. I am not perfect, but I need to and I will struggle more than I have to in my life so that my students can struggle less in theirs.

I may currently have a very painful, very red belly. And I may be exhausted from thrashing about. And I might will be every single day. But the one thing I refuse to do, even though I'm not a deep-end expert, is play it selfishly safe in the shallow end. Why? Because my students did not get that choice; because my students don't swim in a pool with a shallow end. 

“Growth is possible only if there is imperfection. I would like you to remember again and again, I am imperfect, the whole universe is imperfect, and to love this imperfection, to rejoice in this imperfection is my whole message.” 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Thoughts on being a Liberal Christian: (this post will probably offend you)

Okay, this blog post is definitely going to be more on the ranty side. First off I want to say that I am a Christian. I also am majoring in Global Studies/ Political science. In preparation for the upcoming election I have been reading both the Republican and the Democratic platforms published on their respective websites. However, this rant is not necessarily towards one side or the other, or really about politics at all. It is about hypocrisy, across the board.

 I have the word "Faith" tattooed on the inside of my left wrist and find myself caught in many heated conversations because of it. I do not rub elbows with many fellow Christians very often. I live in a low-income area of Austin, I have befriended people based on their person rather than their religious tendencies. Most people I meet and converse with have very similar opinions. Most argue that Christians (and religions in general) are corrupt and hypocritical. The profess one thing, and act another. And sadly, I agree 100%. I feel as though, the religion I affiliate with personally, in general, does not uphold the simple requests Jesus made to us. I also strongly believe that if more Christians did uphold these requests, we would not face such backlash from everyone else. 

Now this rant is about to go political and I know I will (probably) be offensive. 

The Republican Party presents itself as the only party that truly upholds Christian values that are so central to society. That ANY step off the Christian line threatens the foundation of our country.

On page twelve of the Republican Platform, it states:
"We support the public display of the Ten Commandments" 

I assume that this means that they pride themselves in upholding these commandments. Let's take a closer look (I have selected the three I think are more predominately violated): 

2. You must not make for yourself an idol
Although this argument is dependent upon latter arguments, I think its good to think about it first. There are so many commands made by Jesus in the Bible that we are ignoring in order to maintain economic privileges. In my heart, I strongly feel as though ignoring those commands so you can make as much profit as possible is 100% hypocritical and undermines any claim that to support the Republican party for religious reasons.

4. Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 
How can monetarily average and below average American citizens observe the Sabbath when two combined full time minimum wage jobs still doesn't adequately provide for their families? Especially when programs who provide support to them are cut so the wealthy citizens can have lower taxes to buy more things they don't need.

6. You must not murder.
I 100% understand that some war and violence is unavoidable. All of human history has been littered with violence, including Christian history. However, how does undermining a Christian-based concept (such as marriage solely between man and woman) be so threatening to our nation, if one of the most important COMMANDS in the Bible being broken over and over every single day totally acceptable?

Also, I would like to first say that these arguments I have made are not ALL specifically towards the Republican party, but towards government as America knows it. All I am arguing here is that Republicans cannot simply pick and choose which Biblical commands to abide by.

When I was in elementary school, 5th grade specifically, I had very little friends and was teased frequently. In order to cope with this, I chose a Bible verse to memorize. To this day, I can recite it, and it remains a foundational teaching to my faith. 

Luke 6:37
"Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive and you shall be forgiven."

So, based on this scripture, you should not be surprised at my total shock when I read in the Republican platform that they violated all three in two little sentences.

"We condemn the State blacklisting religious groups which decline to arrange adoptions by same-sex couples. We condemn the hate campaigns, threats of violence and vandalism by proponents of same-sex marriage against advocates of traditional marriage." (Page 12 Republican Platform)

Judging those who take part in or support same sex marriage, proudly condemning (ACTUALLY using the exact word that Jesus told us not to use), and blatantly taking an unforgiving attitude.

Also, side note:

Seriously? Like seriously, would Jesus do this? Matthew 5:38-42

Jesus never once, never once acted in anyway but lovingly towards anyone EXCEPT those who adhered to and taught laws that did not serve His wishes and His Kingdom. Those who extend hate on behalf of Jesus definitely qualifies as the latter. 

"The institution of marriage is the foundation of civil society. Its success as an institution well determine our success as a nation. It has been proven by both experience and endless social science studies that traditional marriage is best for children. Children raised in intact married families are more likely to attend college, are physically and emotionally healthier, are less likely to use drugs or alcohol, engage in crime, or get pregnant outside of marriage... Furthermore the future of marriage affects freedom." (page 31 Republican Platform)

Excuse me. Two points to be made here.

First, I want to apologize to all single parents, unmarried parents, and gay parents who have been directly offended by this passage. I argue that despite marital status, parental INVOLVEMENT is what  is best for children. There are PLENTY of children raised in "traditional" heterosexual homes that suffer. Marriage is not the answer, involvement is.

1. MAYBE if children of non-traditional parents (i.e. homosexual parents) weren't teased by children raised to judge others, or told by their future potential PRESIDENT that their parents are somehow flawed, they would not resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms or fall to peer pressure to fit in to a society that otherwise does not accept them.

2. The biggest issues facing childhood healthiness and happiness is money. Children whose parents work multiple jobs, seven days a week, and still can't pay the bills... do you think the fact that they have traditionally married parents keeps them from feeling neglected, discouraged, and unable (and unwilling) to say no to unhealthy temptations? Nope. Do you think the fact that they have traditionally married parents somehow makes their extremely under funded and inefficient educational programs better? Nope. Do you think cutting social programs that enable their parents to be home more often, or cutting funding to their schools is going to solve any of those problems? Absolutely not.

3. Here's an unexpected 3rd argument for you, how in the WORLD does forcing a mold on love and marriage affect FREEDOM? Well maybe they were correct. It absolutely affects freedom. Extremely negatively. Remember when interracial marriages were illegal? Remember all the "Biblical" support to back up "Traditional single race marriages" were essential to maintaining our values as a country? How does this new marriage issue differ? It doesn't... it's simply a modern violation of the same rights..to choose your parter. We have freedom OF religion, so why can't those who don't have a religion be free FROM religion and laws based upon it? Also, I dare anyone to show me somewhere in the Bible where JESUS says same-sex marriage is not okay.

"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. "
John 15:12

"Love one another" means "love all people," not just "love other Christians."

One the Republican Party's major foundational arguments is that of severely reducing any sort of welfare, and decreasing taxes on the wealthy. Was Jesus a capitalistic minded individual who opted to leave those who couldn't keep up behind so he could pocket a few extra bucks?

"Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling." 
Peter 4:9

"Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life."
1 Timothy 6:17-19

Also, as hypocrisy in general within Christianity goes, so many manipulate these commands to mean.. be generous to your church. Now, while I think that is important, I also more firmly believe that Jesus meant the Church as in His bride. His people. Look who Jesus invested in... the sick, the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, the sinners... That's where our tithes should go. Not to indefinite programs that only feeds the already Christian church body. However, on the other side, there are SO many great churches out there that ARE super generous in following Jesus's investment. 

"Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets."
Matthew 7:12

To all those voting based on tax reasons, who support the removal of essential social programs, who believe that those who can't adequately provide for themselves should be left behind, here is some food for thought: 

(P.S. Those addicted to drugs and alcohol are suffering a DISEASE, and they deserve rights too. Looking down on them and believing that they don't deserve basic human essentials and REFUSING them help because they made mistakes like everyone else and fell victim to addiction, is not what Jesus would do. Supporting a health care system that REFUSES treatment to those with serious diseases or those who are struggling to find a job, leaving them to go extremely deep into the debt hole or sacrifice their health, is also something Jesus would not do)

"But if someone who is supposed to be a Christian has money enough to live well, and sees a brother in need, and won't help him--how can God's love be within him ?"
1 John 3:17

"Anyone who oppresses the poor is insulting God who made them. To help the poor is to honor God."
Proverbs 13:41

"The Christian who is pure and without fault, from God the Father's point of view, is the one who takes care of orphans and widows, and who remains true to the Lord--not soiled and dirtied by his contacts with the world."
James 1:27

"He who shuts his ears to the cries of the poor will be ignored in his own time of need."
Prov. 21:13

"If you have a friend who is in need of food and clothing, and you say to him, "Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat hearty," and then don't give him clothes or food, what good does that do?"
James 2:15-16 

"Are there still some among you who hold that "only believing" is enough? Believing in one God? Well, remember that the demons believe this too--so strongly that they tremble in terror! Fool! When will you ever learn that "believing" is useless without doing what God wants you to? Faith that does not result in good deeds is not real faith."
James 2:19-20

 For I was hungry and you wouldn't feed me; thirsty, and you wouldn't give me anything to drink; a stranger, and you refused me hospitality; naked, and you wouldn't clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn't visit me.' "Then they will reply, 'Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?' "And I will answer, 'When you refused to help the least of these my brothers, you were refusing help to me.' "And they shall go away into eternal punishment; but the righteous into everlasting life."
Matthew 25:42-26

"If you have two coats," he replied, "give one to the poor. If you have extra food, give it away to those who are hungry."
Luke 3:11

Would I like a country with a Christian based government? I would LOVE it. However, the only present self-proclaimed Christian aligned political party in our country is not following the Jesus that I have fallen in love with. In my eyes, and many others, they are only reinforcing the hypocrisy arguments that turn so many people away from even listening to what I have to say about my faith. 

I will be voting Democrat in November, because honestly, their policies are much more aligned with Jesus' (despite never once claiming to)*: Acceptance without any judgement, generosity without greed, helping others who struggle to help themselves. Patience, GRACE, and love WITHOUT conditions.

*Honestly, I am not a diehard supporter of either party. I also have many opinions about how our political system works in general, as well as the corrupt nature of most politicians regardless of party. However, when faced with three choices (the worst, the less worse, and apathy), I will always choose the best available. One step at a time to a better nation, better world.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Bansky Hunt: London

I have almost fully recovered from my post-fall break cold and have been extremely productive homework wise, so... I decided to indulge myself in a little blogging :) Over my fall break, I went with two friends to Dublin and London. On our last day of the entire trip (and the only sunny one), we decided to go on a Banksy hunt. Scouring London for just a handful of his street art was one of the most emotional and thought-provoking days of my entire trip. This is where I would usually give an overview about Banksy for those of you who may not know who he is, but honestly, all I know about him is how his art affects me personally and I cannot take away from your own experience by trying to sum him up from my own perspective. But, basically, he is a street/graffiti artist that has a political agenda.

I have loved Banksy's work for a while now, but I had yet to experience the other half of his meaning: the locations he chooses. Banksy showed me a side of London that I would have never seen. He showed me a side of London that is overlooked; forgotten. I picked three pieces to go find that were located in places easily accessible on the Tube: Camden Town, Warren Street, and Seven Sisters.

Upon first step out of the Underground Station, Camden Town is an awesome, hip, young, fun part of town. It actually reminded me a lot of my hometown of Austin.

But, as we wandered passed the colorful, populated, facade of the main street, we found ourselves in a lower class neighborhood. We were surrounded by those who work hard for little pay and live in a rough part of town. And then, as I am wondering why Banksy chose this area, we find it on a very unsuspecting wall. We frankly felt a little silly taking pictures of something that is just a wall to everyone who lives there.
This piece is a tribute to one of London's regulars in the graffiti world who recently was convicted of criminal damage. The technical meaning of the piece, though, isn't what struck me. What struck me about this piece was its foreshadowing of the emotional ride Banksy was about to take me on. 

So, then we hopped back on the Tube to Warren Street to see one of Banksy's more infamous pieces. 
Now, Warren Street was totally different from Camden Town. It was a lower-average middle class area. And that is exactly what it was, average and a bit lackluster. We saw lots of people around our age, some families, and some of the more artsy types. The thing that stood out the most to me about Warren Street was the GIANT tower visible from all angles of the area. It was the CCTV main tower. For those who don't know, CCTV is the 24/7 omnipresent surveillance system in London. It's extremely similar to the book 1984 except it is London, not America. Traveling through London, it's easy to miss the cameras following your every move. But, for the locals, 90% of their lives are constantly being documented for the government. Right to privacy, anyone?

It was about this point in the hunt that the pieces were becoming the supplementary piece to the bigger puzzle of Banksy's message. Onward to greater social awareness location number 3: Seven Sisters. 

Now, let me first start off by telling you that the Tube ride north to Seven Sisters was enlightening in and of itself. Each stop further from central London weeded out the businessmen, the students, the fashionable, the intellects, until all that was left were tired men and women taking the long Underground commute back home.

Walking out of the Underground station, I realized that this was definitely the roughest neighborhood of the three. I guess a good way of putting it is that Seven Sisters was the kind of place you are probably better off keeping your eyes to yourself. Stuck between wanting to turn around and realizing that turning around is exactly what Banksy is fighting against, I kept walking. 

Those next couple hundred steps between the Underground Station and the painting is when the lightbulb went off in my head. 

Banksy knows he is famous and that people will come to see his work. Example, me. He uses this as one of his artistic mediums. He pulls you into the political/social statement he is making.  He makes you experience for yourself the injustice he is protesting against. It is way too easy to "appreciate" artwork, poetry, literature, music, etc.. that has social and political agendas while still keeping yourself separated and untouched by the subject of the artwork. I got to ride the Tube with the forgotten and disregarded population of London, I got to see where they live, how they live. Bansky successfully made it impossible for me to be detached from the subject of the art that I was "appreciating."

It left me thinking long and hard (and uncomfortably on an 8 hour bus ride from London to Paris) about my own art and how I want it to be perceived and the power it has the potential to hold. I have spent so much time wanting to make the viewer experience the emotions of the subjects of my photography. My ultimate goal in life is to take the poverty, the hunger, the pain, the dehumanization and slam it down smack in the faces of the rest of the world until something substantial is done about it.

Bansky successfully brought me to the lower/middle classes of London, and I want to take others to those suffering around the world. I don't want you to ignore them, to pity them, to offer them your excess change; I want you to sit next to them in a subway, to share a meal with them, to walk through where they live, to feel the utter roughness of their lives so intimately that it's etched in your brain and in your heart.  When I grow up, I want my photography to do that. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Life's a Beach?

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to go see Omaha Beach in Normandy. For those who aren't 100% familiar with the location, it is the beach where the Allies attacked the Germans on the coast of Normandy. Omaha is the specific beach that the United States had their regimes attack. This event is better known as D-Day, June 6, 1944.

For some reason, I was overtaken emotionally by the thought of literally touching the sands on which thousands died to fight against the Germans in WWII. Our entire group was in the little museum that was off the beach a little bit, and I simply could not maintain enough focus to stand still and read about what happened on the beach. I needed to interact with it personally. So while everyone else was looking at relics from that day, I snuck off to see the ultimate relic: the beach. I hiked a good 15 minutes down the banks to the shore, each step bringing me closer and closer to an emotional mourning for the soldiers and their families. 

Whenever I finally got to the beach, I was practically in tears. I began to feel silly because I was crying for no personal reasons, but simply for the overwhelming history I was getting to experience. I was all alone on a peacefully haunting beach where, 67 years ago, thousands of men fought and died.

Standing on the edge of the water, closing my eyes while trying to picture the ships, submarines, airplanes, guns, troops, noise: the chaos, I was taken aback by how peaceful the beach still seemed. It was if the air was saying, "yes, the history here is terribly haunting, but everyone who died here is now in peace." Although, maybe I simply heard what I desperately wanted to hear. 

 Throughout my studies here in France, we have been studying both WWI and WWII. Prior to studying here, I understood the major countries, political figures, and general reasons for the wars, but until now I have yet to really humanize the wars and appreciate the little consequences that mean so much more than the overarching ideas. My whole life, I have been so anti-war. I never have, and have yet to understand what part of the human condition leads us to make points and take power by killing massive amounts of men and why so much of our money goes to developing the next best way to kill large amounts of people, when we could be putting that same money to SAVING even larger numbers of people.

I have learned two major factors that have, although not changed my perspective, opened my understanding of war. There are people, governments, out there in the world that will terrorize and have their way with the world and it's population despite any civil efforts to stop them. Sometimes, the tough choice between two evils needs to be made. The men that fought on the beach I got to personally experience, they were fighting an evil that needed to be stopped at all costs and they were willing to have the price be their lives. They traded their lives on that beach for the lives of thousands more that would have been murdered had they no one to fight for them. The other thing I have learned is that the soldiers, on both sides of the war, are merely men, my age, with parents, wives, siblings...lives back home. Sometimes we forget about that when we develop biases against "the enemy." We need to learn to humanize seemingly inhumane conditions. The German soldiers were just as human as the soldiers fighting for the Allies, and despite what they were fighting for, coerced or not, they deserve to be remembered as well.

I admit that I did take some sand from Omaha Beach, and it is currently displayed on my desk in my apartment as a reminder of all that I have learned and have yet to learn about the history, present day, and future of France, the world around me, and myself.

over and out.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

réflexions sur la beauté...

To me, a Texas girl, I think Angers is a beautiful, albeit small and simple, European town. To the French students who grew up knowing nothing but the beauty of Europe find it to be less than attractive. It's as if to experience the true beauty of something, you have to experience it for the first time and it has to be an experience outside of your own personal norm. I find the mix of ancient, medieval, modern, and all the time periods in between to be a beautiful eclectic mess, yet if I grew up seeing this everywhere.. I might prefer a city made up of buildings built after 1800. This... phenomena lends itself to subjectivity based upon the individual and his/her own experiences. Something that is beautiful, ugly, awe-inspiring, boring, overwhelming, etc.. is based only upon what I know and don't know. Nothing has one inherent universal characteristic. 

Another example is Paris. This weekend, all of the American students will be taking a trip to Paris, all of which are excited. There is so much history and beauty bursting from the seams, yet to the French students who either lived there or have been there more times than they can count are apathetic to all that we, that I, am anxious to experience. This makes me wonder if I have taken advantage of experiences that others would be overwhelmed to  have simply because it wasn't outside the little bubble that I know. Why do thrilling experiences have to happen outside our bubble? Does broadening our horizons force us to look back inward and appreciate what we have always known? Does it help us to better understand what we have been blind to, whether positive or negative? 


over and out.

Travel Excitement

Yesterday, our professor took all of us to the train station to teach us the in's and out's of train travel throughout France and Europe. It finally made traveling a reality and led to a lot of excitement! Although, buying the right train pass has been a little confusing, I think I finally figured it out :)

Also, this past weekend was extremely fun! There are 9 students from St. Edward's in Austin and about 12 French students also in our group. We all live on the same floor at our apartment and are intermixed in the same classes. It has been so fun to be able to bridge the language barrier and have the Americans and the French bond and form such good friendships for such a short period of time.

There was a festival in Angers this past weekend, so after spending Friday in Brittany kayaking on the Atlantic, we all went out to experience the festival. Saturday we found a free electronic concert which was probably my favorite part of the weekend.

One thing the whole group seems to be learning is a good balance of study time, sleep time, and fun time. Our first week, we all went out almost every night. It is so tempting to do so whenever you meet a large group of new people who happen to all live merely a couple of feet from your door. The first week, we had very little homework so it was okay, but now most of us are having the homework pile on and are tired thanks to our thrown off sleep schedule. The value of using my time wisely has never been so... necessary! And I am glad to be learning how to manage my time.

over and out

Thursday, September 8, 2011

un euro pour mes pensées

While walking my 30 minutes home from class this morning, I had really good quality thinking time. So far, the most important thing that living in France has taught me is how to live sans excess. I brought one lump sum of money with me and have no job, so wasting precious funds on a 8 euro cheeseburger has become absolutely absurd to me. Why spend 30 euros on a particular brand of makeup, whenever I could wear none and use that money on a train ticket to an adventure? Why buy bottled water whenever the tap water, albeit doesn't taste awesome, but it's perfectly safe to drink? I spent a good 10 minutes deciding between 4 euro fresh brie and 1 euro pre-packaged brie in MonoPrix yesterday. I bet all the french people around me were thinking "I have never seen a girl stare at cheese for this long" (except they would be thinking it in french). The strangest thing about all of this, is that in a matter of a couple of days stuck in another country, I have gone from someone who spent her money randomly and undoubtedly haphazardly, to a girl who has her priorities set on experience rather than material and a firm grasp on how wasteful excess truly is.

I apologize for a such an all over the place post as my first blog from France... but... what I am learning is more important than my living environment and what classes I am taking (although I will post about those soon!)

over and out.

P.S. It's cold here!