Tuesday, December 27, 2005


The name for this blog originated with an Over the Rhine album titled Ohio, and in the title song, Karin sings, "Hello Ohio. The backroads. I know Ohio like the back of my hand. Alone Ohio where the river bends. It's so strange to see your story end."

2 years ago, when I was preparing for the move to Washington, the words seemed fitting, especially because Karin was talking about something I love more about Ohio than anything else--the backroads.

In all of it, I remember that feeling of the open midwestern backroad, and the counsel and contemplation that late-night drives from Indiana to Ohio bring...and I know that tomorrow I will be leaving Ohio again.

In honor of leaving, I have compiled a list of things I love about Ohio/Indiana and will miss as I head home to the Northwest. These are in no particular order:

1. The Backroads. Especially the routes I take to get to and from the homes of various relatives at unmentionable speeds.

2. Steak and Shake. 24-hour chain of greasy spoon dining. A staple during Taylor days.

3. Fazoli's. Real Italian. Real Fast. And beautiful unending breadsticks.

4. Trail Bologna. Amish people make fabulous hors d'oerves

5. Baker's IGA Vegetable Dip. There is nothing like this fine dip in the entire world, and the world is sadder for not knowing of it.

6. Sitting with High School Friends at a local restaurant and running into blasts from the past.

7. The Big Blue Arch on the Ohio/Indiana border.

8. The passion with which we embrace our local sports teams. (i.e. at Christmas, every person in my entire family received at least one piece of Ohio State memorabilia, even though my cousin Kris is the only one who has attended Ohio State).

9. My dad's digital recording studio! Barrista Boy is not yet finished, and I find the whole process of recording sound to be both exciting and tedious.

10. Little John Lennon and Little Ringo. These are the knit dolls I made dad for Christmas. I am horribly attached to them. I will miss them. Little John Lennon even has his own theme song, which I wrote for him.

11. Talking with my mom in the patio room dressed in PJ's.

12. Talking with dad about songwriting while plucking on his stash of fine axes.

13. Loudly composing impromptu songs with Sean while we're walking into the church on Christmas Eve. (Mom and Dad duck and hide in a shrub claiming that we are not their children. This makes us sing louder.)

14. Watching Grandma and Grandpa Casey hold hands and kick back in their matching recliners.

15. Driving Grandma and Grandpa Baker to holiday gatherings.

16. Being within enough driving distance to spend my weekend with Noah and Beth, Hannah and Jon, Adria, Suzanne and Barrett, and Danara.

17. Feeling like life has a context that is 25 years deep.


So, I will be sad to leave Ohio again. And yet, I am excited to return home to Washington. I am excited to see my rivers. I am excited to see my apartments, and my church, and my friends, and my kids. I am excited to finish my stash of smoked salmon. I am excited to see my mountains. I am excited to have espresso stands and consistent cell phone service, and I am excited to be in the place God has laid on my heart to be for this point in my life.

Before I return there, I pause for a 5-day visit to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and a weekend with 17 Taylor friends. Updates and photos will come, I'm sure.

"Alone Ohio. Where the river bends. It's so sad to see your story end."

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from the staff of Backroads-Midwest-Coast.

Also, "Happy Hanukkah," because if Jesus were around today, he'd probably celebrate it, being Jewish and all.

And Happy Kwanzaa too, because Africa is a pretty snazzy continent...and it taught me, among other things, that even the most realistic-looking ebony bookends can be mass-marketed to unknowing tourists using normal wood and a tin of shoe polish.

p.s. Dad and I are now music producers. You can hear a demo version of the song we sang this evening at church here. (Written by GBaker, Guitar by GBaker, Vocals by HBaker.)

p.p.s. Maybe I'll post "Barrista Boy" by the end of the week...my first original song...that will be my Merry Christmas present to you.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

In Context.

I've never really thought about myself as being 'weird' ... and yet, as I've gotten to know people in Washington, such terms tend to be thrown my direction. They hear me break out in song or quote from commercials that aired fifteen years ago, and they say, "how do you know these things?" I shrug my shoulders and say, "I don't know."

I feel alone in these oddities, until I spend a bit of time with my family. Then, suddenly I feel normal.

Since Friday, the Baker family has had the privilege of enjoying the company of Sean's girlfriend (Rachael), and it's been interesting to ponder an outsider's perspective of us...because we've all been together pretty much non-stop for the last five days, and I assumed she would have an opinion...I mean, how could you not when you're in the presence of four storytellers who burst out with anecdotes, song lyrics, and movie quotes pretty much 24-7?

As we returned home from a smashing Cleveland Cavalier's victory over the Utah Jazz this evening, I asked her, "Does Sean make more sense now?" and she replied, "He makes a lot more sense in context."

I thought that was a great term to describe families...as a context...and maybe family is this grand thing because it not only reminds you that you are weird, it helps you understand why. I'm okay with that. I like that we're all weird together.

Sunday, December 18, 2005


I have been in Ohio for 56 hours, and on average, that would equal seeing/ conversing with 227 people per hour. For you statisticians out there (yay Ruthie!), this means that since arriving home, I have officially bumped into/talked to the entire city of Coshocton, and half of Newcomerstown.

There have been many, many, many, many people in my life throughout the last two days (to all of you who are currently reading about yourselves in the third person! Hello! It has been good to see you!)

Today, when 75 people showed up at the Baker home to visit (that is a concrete figure. No exaggeration necessary.) I felt like I continually stumbled all over myself saying, "Gah! Hello! {hug}. How are you? . [insert funny comment by me.] [insert mutual laughter.] [insert foot-in-mouth comment.] [insert awkward pause.] [insert self-inflicted pain for stupidity of previous comment.] Well, it's good to see you! {hug again}. Thanks for coming!"

Overwhelming and disorienting while simulataneously centering and assuring....this is what home feels like.

The highlight thus far, I suppose, (after seeing hundreds of people whom I love and after spending a lazy evening with Chevy Chase, mom, dad, Sean, Sean's girlfriend Rachel, and Chinese Take-Out), is the amount of music that has filled our home during the last 55 hours.

No joke.

Dad wrote a bunch of songs. I wrote some songs...and last night, we're sitting in our living room with ten people singing worship songs/original songs, and jamming like there's no tomorrow (above, you see me playing dad's fine taylor hybrid koa electric...and dad holding strong on his Sunburst Nancy Griffith Taylor.)

And dad wrote this amazing song about Christmas, and I had the privilege of singing it with the worship team during 9am service. The song is just amazing, and I get chills when I sing it, and people were bursting out of their seats when we were finished because it was that good....It's all about this shepherd boy whose father takes him towards the star to see Jesus...and ooooh.....if you can arrange to be in Coshocton, Ohio on Christmas eve, then get your booties to Grace UMC at 7pm, because, well, it's going to be amazing. (We're going to lay it down on dad's mixer this week, and when we do that, I have grand intentions to open a myspace music page so everyone can listen. AND so you can listen to the original songs Erin and Esther wrote me as a birthday present.)

That's all I have to say. I promised mom to finish the dishes, and it's nearly midnight, so I will get a move on that.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


Tick-tock, tick-tock. The Ohio-Bound clock is getting so very much closer.

Still yet to do today is lots of errands, a meeting in Anacortes (to discuss programming for Bob's Island Getaway 2006), a Christmas Party for YD staff, and then turning around and driving to Heidi's in preparation for our 4:30am airport run! Woo woo!

I will see you on the East Side.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Seattle Public Library Inspires Heather With Life Vision.

Okay, so I'm getting a bit self-conscious that lately these entries have been much more about me than they have been about students. I don't remember where I was reading it...somewhere...where somebody said something... eugh... danggit, I don't remember...anyways, they said, "The first ten years you are in ministry are more about what God does to you than about what God does through you." I was like, "Euk! How discouraging..." It feels self-centered so much of the time. But if the purpose of this page is to share the inner mindset of a "youth worker," (which is my blog's ambiguous statement of purpose,) well, then, so-be-it what it is. *End of rationalization.*

Today, I did something that I've been wanting to do ever since I stepped foot in the grand city of Seattle, which was to sit in the Seattle Public Library. This was my month to plan Stuart, Bronco and I's "Day-Out" of the office for team meeting and fellowship...so we headed down I-5 to exit 165A towards the Seattle Public Library. It's an amazing 11-Story glass building, which opened in Spring 2004, and after gawking at the 10-Story atrium, the 4 floors of spiraling Dewey Decimals, and the 200-computer "Mixing Center," I found a quiet spot in a remote corner of the 10th floor, which had me at birdseye-level with skyscrapers and a clear view of Elliott Bay (which is a fancier name for the part of the Puget Sound that reaches into Seattle.)

I pulled out my journal and ending up sketching a web diagram called "Fusion of Outdoor and Creative Arts Ministry," which I suppose is becoming my idea of what I would love to do more than anything else in the world...I would love to run a creative arts program for students in some beautiful, inspiring mountaintop locale...and while I've been milling it over in my brain for months, no, take that back, years...today was one of the few times I've put thoughts down on paper. I even started make a list of "Choose-Your-Own-Adventure," Grad School coursework related to the subject areas...

I don't know what that means for my future at all really, because I don't necessarily think it's a project I should launch out and start tomorrow...(It's feels a bit like a sketch that Maude Flanders made of "Praise-Land," her idea for a Christian-themed amusement park which she designed with the wistful thought, "Someday"...See Simpsons Episode "I'm Goin' to Praiseland, Original Airdate 6 May 01.)

I do know, without a doubt, that I have absolutely no idea where I'm going in 2006. So. As New Year's Resolutions and things like that begin to come about very soon, my basic agenda for 2006 is to try to be very quiet and listen to the still-small voice which may be trying to give me foresight and direction. That may mean another year in Arlington with YD; that may mean Grad School in any number of places; and it may mean a number of other things.

I am looking forward to 2 1/2 weeks of talking with friends and family and traveling, and I'm looking forward to reading and journaling in my mother's glassed-in reading room surrounded by freshly fallen snow...because I am in desperate need of discernment and direction.

Monday, December 12, 2005


On Sunday morning, I was still wide awake at 4:30 after a late-night, staring at my ceiling. The man upstairs (n.b. this is not a metaphorical reference to 'the man upstairs;' it is an actual reference to the man who lives in apartment eight) was pounding on the ceiling and talking loudly on the phone, where I assume he was conversing with relatives in India.

I rolled out of bed and started fumbling through my kitchen in the dark looking for my journal. Seeing it nowhere, I realized it must have been at the office...so I found my back-up journal and began scouring every corner of the living room for a Pilot V-Ball pen (I have about 20 of them, and they are always in various places like my purse, coat pockets, and under the microwave.) I was afraid Heidi was going to emerge from the guest room, convinced that I was showing signs of schizophrenia as I pulled off the couch cushions and dug through the closet, quietly chanting, "Where is a pen...where is a pen..."

I crawled back under the covers and let loose with everything that was rolling around in my head--most of which was neither pretty or self-affirming. I was pretty hard on myself, fuming about my behavior and my own desparation.

And what triggered it?

Lately, I have been the queen of high expectations...not the good kind of high expectations where I set big goals for myself and achieve great things...the bad kind of high expectations where I expect people and situations to live up to the fulfillment and joy I desire. Then, when this 'thing,' whatever it is, is over, I'm filled with rampant disappointment that my life didn't head off in a glorious new direction just as a result of this event that I have pre-determined will be 'meaningful.'

Mostly, I do this with social situations, like, 'I have pre-determined that this meeting with a student will be a turning point in our relationship,' or, 'When I meet Derek Webb, we will have a deep conversation about Politics and Faith, and he will ask me to co-write songs with him,' or, 'When I go with my friends to this Christmas party, I will waltz around the room as a glittering social butterfly and have an amazing time and make thirty new friends.' When the situations don't pan out as I daydreamed they would, I become horribly insecure that I've missed an amazing opportunity.

And I realized that the only reason to be insecure is if I'm presenting myself...Heather is something that I should be insecure about presenting the world...but Christ? There is no insecurity in Him...and were I presenting Him instead of myself in these social spheres that I find to be overwhelming and disappointing, I might not be so consistently disappointed.

At "The Upper Room," we're working through the book of John, and as I was leading the group in worship last night, I reaffirmed Nathan's message for the evening, where he shared the verse that should be the mantra of our lives out of John 3:30: "He must become greater; I must become less." That verse brought me to my knees, as I shook my head at these insecurities that have been plaguing me...and I come back to something Derek Webb says, "I'm so thankful that I'm incapable of doing any good on my own." I don't think I've reached the point of being 'thankful,' but I'm at least understanding the incapability...

(If I had a brain in my head, I would probably spend more time on the river, because it's one of the few things in my life in which I am always reminded of my own inadequacy. This is a photo of our trip on the Stilly River on Thanksgiving weekend).

Friday, December 09, 2005

Tower of Pisa...

I'm driving down the road on my way back to the office after eating lunch with students at school, and Rufus Wainwright is singing to me on an old mix cd. He says, "I'm just a little bit Eros, a little bit Irish, a little bit Tower of Pisa whenever I see you so please be kind if I'm a mess."

Suddenly, I'm like, "Rufus. You are a genius!" (He can't hear me, of course, because he lives in some fancy apartment in L.A. or Paris or somewhere where he drinks chocolate milk and smokes cigarettes all day long. But for the moment, I pretend like I don't know that.) I say, "Rufus! We are a little bit Tower of Pisa."

I'm thinking about how no one would really care about the entire town of Pisa if there wasn't this crazy, poorly-built structure in the middle of it. It would just be another European town with another monastery, some nice artwork, and some fancy, old architecture. But....there is this leaning, messed-up building, and people go all the way across the globe just to see someone's screw-up.

There are lots of great products of screw-up's out there....Post-It's, Silly Putty, The Cleveland Browns 1999 expansion team...

...and then there's me. I was uniquely created, therefore I'm not a screw-up...but I still feel like I'm a little bent tower that isn't quite what I was intended to be. I think for moment about my potential, and how great it is, and how it's every so slightly skewed. (If we are desiring to make this the most obvious Christian parallel, we could say that this is a parallel for depravity, but I want to be a bit more specific than that.)

Yesterday, I met with the Leadership Development team all day, which is a chance for me to sit down with 6 of my brightest co-workers and brainstorm about our careers under the facilitation of YD President, Mark Evans. It's always a challenging and rejuvinating day, and by the end of yesterday's meeting, I could feel myself maturing as a leader and beginning to understand how young I still am. I told the group that if you put my worklife to a juicer, there could be a lot of excess squeezed out...so they asked me at what percentage of my current capabilities do I feel I am working, and I told them 50%. So. Having now voiced that, the challenge for me is to grow into the leader that I know I'm capable of being, especially now that I have told my co-workers how much more I am capable of doing.

I had this misconception that it was about being empowered and developed by those above you, but I'm beginning to get the impression that leading and doing is about choosing to do it yourself, not having it asked of you. This is difficult for me, because I thrive off of the brainstorming and accountability that comes in being an individual member of a dynamic team...

So, my need for personal management of time and priorities is increased since I spend most of my week in an office by myself.

In regards to the Tower of Pisa, it is a structure made famous by its blatant weakness. People flock to it because there is something wrong with it, yet it's somehow still beautiful? I don't quite get it, and I don't really want to dwell on it, other than to say I can choose to hide my weaknesses and keep scraping by...or I can choose to be a Tower of Pisa...which might mean following through on something and exposing weaknesses in the process. I assume that others might find something beautiful in that.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


The Ohio-bound counter is ticking down to the wire, which is exciting.

Also exciting--The Seahawks are 10-2, after a snoozer second-half of a blow-out game last night...(with half of the 4th quarter left, there were only about 25 Eagles fans left in the stadium, and I'm convinced they only stayed so they could be on t.v.) Matt Hasselbeck is amazing. Shaun Alexander is amazing. I heart the Seahawks. They play the Colts on Christmas eve. If you are in Coshocton and care about the Colts or the Seahawks or the fate of the Super Bowl, you should come watch it with me. I will be a nervous wreck.

Thursday is Leadership Development Day, which is also exciting. It means I get to sit in a room with eight of my co-workers and brainstorm and visioneer our lives. I love it, and the last time we met, I felt like I was renewed with life vision/passion/direction. Here's to hoping this day is half as good as that one.

That's all I have to say about that. Heidi, Sarah and I are ready to party like there's no tomorrow at the YD Adventures Resource Staff Christmas Party on Saturday! Woooo! And in my next twelve days, I can count on my hands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 Christmas parties. Geez Louise.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Re: Questions to ponder over the weekend.

re: question #3--My gloves were in my denim purse; question #6--I'm going to watch the Seahawks on Monday Night Football at the Spencers. (these are the only questions that have been decently answered so far....Over the weekend, pondering my life wasn't really on the agenda, because I somehow scheduled it out with meetings, events, Christmas shopping, etc.)

But, what was discovered over the weekend is that Heather has a penchant for karaoke! One of my students (who is also singing at all times) and I grabbed a mic to do outstanding covers of American Woman and December 1963 during our weekend Christmas Party, dubbed "That Christmas Thing..." Believe it or not, I had never before actually stood before a crowd to perform in this manner, and while I thought I was just being interesting, apparently the crowd has now deemed me 'crazy.' I don't know what they're talking about, really. Yesterday, one of my friends used the word 'flamboyant,' to describe my personality...which I don't really understand either. Maybe I'm normal and everyone else is weird.

The event itself was fun, and I enjoyed the time I spent with students both preparing for it and participating in it...our turnout was quite small for the kind of event it was and the investment we had made in it. So, what to do, really? There are 2500 kids ages 13-18 in Arlington Public Schools, and we obviously care a lot about seeing all of those 2500 kids have the opportunity to receive love and mentoring and hear about what Jesus Christ has done for them...but how do we get their attention?

No good answer today, but I feel much more like I'm ministering to hyped-up, busy Suburban kids than actually working with 'small-town kids with nothing to do.' I think we have to continue to work to be more creative and think more outside-the-box....oooh, I can feel the axons and dendrites stretching. This demographic is sooo hard!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Questions to ponder over the weekend:

1. In what direction is my life headed?
2. Is God trying to say anything to me right now. If not, why is he being so silent?
3. Where are my gloves?
4. Should I go to Grad School soon, and if so, where?
5. Why is Santa considered part of "Christmas" while Hanukkah is not, even though the Jewish people are more representative of a Christian heritage than elves and reindeer?
6. Where am I going to watch Monday Night football?
7. Why do schools in Washington get snow days for a 1/2 inch of snow?
8. Who will guard the door when I am sleeping?
9. Why does the man in the apartment upstairs clear his throat so much?
10. Why did both Johnny Cash and Ray Charles share common drug addictions and endure the early death of a brother?
11. Will I be prevented from becoming a legend because I am clean and my brother is healthy?
12. Where is my husband?
13. When will I ever finish reading The Brothers Karamazov and Brothers K?
14. Why do I find it impossible to write songs that mean something but find it very easy and inspiring to write songs about such things as the barrista at Starbuck's and things I have knit?
15. Why do so many kids have to die of hunger and AIDS?
16. Why do teenagers think it's cool to smoke?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Speaking of our bodies remembering...

In regards to the last entry and remembering pieces of yourself....Rev. Jan has asked me to prepare and play a piano duet with her for Christmas Eve Service at my home church in Ohio. She's faxing me the music tomorrow, and I am thrilled that I will not only get to perform a piece with my piano teacher of nine years, but that I will be able to share a piano piece during worship...which used to be something I did regularly. I haven't formally played piano in public since Spring 2000. So. It is exciting!