Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I'm forsaking all fortune cookies

This was my fortune today: "You constantly struggle for self-improvement...and it shows."

Last week, my fortune said, "In love, you are practical and keep your feet firmly planted on the ground."

Where are all the good fortunes, huh? Ones that say, "A man in an armadillo costume will walk through your office door and hand you a golden pinata filled with Mint Milanos." or "Your boyfriend will be gifted Southwest Airlines' lifetime achievement award and receive free air miles for eternity." or "Unbeknownst to even yourself, you are a world class snowboarder and need only click your heels three times to become the professional snowboarder you are destined to be."

Seriously. I should get a job writing fortunes. Where do you sign up to do that?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Happy Birthday Coffee!

So I rang in year #26 in an alright way--at Stonewater Ranch with the YD staff... The most unexpected joy in the midst of the birthday hurrah (besides having one of my coworkers convince everyone I was turning 30...euk) was inviting the other girls on staff to grab some coffee with me during free time--and realizing there were 15 other girls to come with! It was nearly three times the number of women we had on staff when I started with YD!

And really--where do you want to enjoy birthday coffee if not at the amazing "Just Plain Hardware." Plain, Washington, home of Stonewater Ranch, may not have a Krispy Kreme or a movie theater...or even a stop light...but they have fantastic Tully's espresso. And when you're turning 26, what more can you expect but some good coffee and good friends to share it with?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Props to "The Man."

So, I am very resistant to "The Man." You know this, yes?

When I say, "The Man," I specifically mean, "Any corporate conglomerate that I'm convinced is ruining America via mass-produced consumer goods and the exploitation of capitalism." My beef with big chains is rooted in how they destroy the local guy who lives and works in the community and can't compete with the pricing...and then as a result, how it homogonizes society and lessens overall quality. At the top of my list is the obvious Wal-Mart, followed by Costco, and Target. IKEA's on the list too, even though they're Swedish...mostly because of the store's non-user-friendly store layout. You can rest-assured that this line of thought started because of my heritage as the daughter of small-town independent grocers, but as I've developed as an adult, it's developed as one of my personal life principles.

To live my resistance, I have not stepped foot in a Wal-Mart in over two years...I have only been in Costco twice in my entire life (and spent $0)...and I make fun of IKEA a lot...

It's a good principle, but I haven't come to the point where I can avoid all chains... I love Gap jeans...and I spend a lot of time at Starbucks. I have not come to the point where I'm willing to sacrifice the jeans I love and the writing atmosphere I love for my principles...

And in the midst of it, how can I reconcile the fact that Starbucks has fantastic customer service? How can I reconcile that as I was pulling up to the drive-thru today to pick up my previously ordered "Berryblossom White Tea," I discovered I was wallet-less. When I told the cashier, she sweetly responded, "Today's drink is on us." My jaw hit the car door.

Sometimes I get mad at The Gap and Starbucks, thinking, "How dare you give me exactly what I want!" Today was one of those days. I was thankful for some fantastic customer service...and yet I'm kind of frustrated that Starbucks is a chain that's doing a lot of things right. It doesn't take away from the fact I get frustrated that they're not 100% Organic, Shade-Grown, Free-Trade... but they have fantastic customer service--a kind of customer service that's dying with the local hardware store...

So if I were to write a letter today, here's how it would go:

Dear "The Man,"

I get mad at you a lot. I want you to know this. You really, really frustrate me...and you're actually an insensitive jerk most of the time.

But today, I'm really you treated me really well. I really appreciate you making me feel like I wasn't a moron for leaving my wallet in my other jacket pocket and depriving me of your amazing BerryBlossom White Tea. I'm so impressed!

It doesn't mean that I'm okay with the fact that you are no Cafe Ladro, using 100% Fair Trade, Shade-Grown, Organic Coffee... In fact, I really think that if you're going to use your Spiderman-like "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility," you should really pursue this.

However, your customer service today (and 99% of days) is fantastic, which is definitely significant...and I want you to know that in the midst of all the angsty letters you may get from crazy Seattle liberals, you're doing something right.

A Happy Customer

P.S. Did "The Man" just sway me to his side for $1.89? I'm afraid that might be true...oh, how I'm so easily deceived...

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Revisioning and Refocusing

A few weeks ago I was thinking, "I don't know if I want to do this anymore..." Ever since I returned from the YS conventions, my desk has been piled in paperwork, and two months of being on the road had be backlogged in minutiae...


And I discovered that I hate details... (not all details obviously...because we all know that when friends have detail questions they are very apt to say, "Who sings the song about the rain on your face?" or "Does this sentence need a colon or a semi-colon?") No--the details that frustrate me are the ones that require me to manage spreadsheets, put together 500 application packets, or write the same article every month about a new kid from a challenging life circumstance making some dramatic decision to change his life in the name of following Jesus Christ. It's these kinds of details that I find tedious and draining...

*Queue Switchfoot: We were meant to live for so much mooooore.*

So when I sat down with my boss last week and told him I was feeling this way, he said, "Heather. It's time to adjust your lens...your view has become too narrow..."

And through that conversation, I realized that I had begun to view myself as the project manager who has the responsibility to not only manage all the details in the assigned project, but do them. I no longer saw my job being about being big-picture direction and visioning of the communication for an entire organization of 50 staff, 11 offices, and 8000 donors. Also--I was entrenched in taking care of all these details myself, since I mostly work alone and there's no one else to share the workload of the details with. This narrowed perspective is what was making me despise it all.

So the theme for this week has been "Adjusting the Lens" and gaining some perspective on what it is that I do and why on earth I enjoy it. I still feel like it's a right fit for me to be in Washington working with YD at this point in my life. I still love the area, love the people I work with, love that the reason we do what we do is motivated by such solid intentions, and love that I'm getting the opportunity to flesh out what it means to be a leader and innovator while in the midst of a body of people I love and trust.

I'm reading Andy Stanley's The Next Generation Leader, which is asking me challenging questions...it's asking me to define the areas of my job where I really excel--where I can do the things that no one else can do... and it's a challenge, because it's someday soon going to mean zoning in and focusing on a few things really well and letting all the other pieces fall to someone else. But then everything I read about leadership says, "This is what you must do." Ick...

And in order to do well in all of this, I feel like it's necessary that writing becomes a more significant component of my day-to-day... I've acquired an affinity for Tazo's Berryblossom White Tea this week and have spent 1-2 hours every evening at Starbuck's doing freewriting for an essay for friend Hannah's compilation of essays from 20/30-something women who grew up in the church. That process in itself is refining--to face these individual stories of my church-raising and how they've shaped me or damaged me... and to figure out how to process through and share those stories without hurting people. ACK! But the energy I get from the daily writing is fueling the desire to be more passionate in my day job.

When do I get to stop trying to figure out who I am? When do I just get to know? I guess when I stop changing, right...which is...never...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


So. The super Ms. Independent Heathermbaker now has a boyfriend...and apparently when it comes to the idea of boyfriend, I feel this incessent need to refer to myself in third person... (Don't deconstruct that too much. It's probably simply because the whole idea of it is so foreign to me...since the last time I used that term on a consistent basis I had the suffix 'teen' in my age.) So--I'd like to introduce you to the newest person in my life, who's apt to be make appearances on the blog from time-to-time...Clay...

Clay and I met back in October at the Austin YS Convention. You might remember this brief story...if not...you can read it here. We met as a result of a bulletin board ad Clay had posted in the Convention foyer looking for fellow concert goers to see an Alt-Country act at a local venue. I saw the ad late on a Friday night and called him because I wanted something fun to do and wanted to see live music in Austin. Fifteen minutes later we met on the Congress Bridge over the Colorado River in downtown Austin and spent 2 1/2 hours enjoying good music and great conversation. We clicked right away that first night...and Clay asked me to hang out again a few nights later.

Those two nights were so fantastic that we decided to keep in touch when he returned to his home in Tucson, AZ and I returned to my home here...we stayed connected through email and phone...and over the next two months the frequency of those emails and phone calls increased. In November, Clay asked me if he could come visit in January...so...he booked a ticket, and this weekend, he came.

We were definitely both excited and nervous about seeing each other again...I mean, seriously, what if those two evenings in Austin were a fluke? We didn't really think they were...but it was hard to be sure when we were having hard times remember what the other person looked like. So...on Wednesday I picked Clay up from the airport. At first it was a bit shocking to see him and think, "I remember you. I met you in Texas three months ago," trying to mesh the person in front of me with the person I knew so well over the phone lines.

It only took a few short hours to get used to the idea of being in the same room as each other...and by Thursday, it felt like sharing life together was completely normal. We tooled around my favorite Washington spots (Deception Pass and Pike Place Market). We spent time with lots of my friends (Heidi, Sarah, Miranda, Jenny, Zach, Cordell, Erin, Shaffer Wafer, Jade, Caedmon Rider, Lizzy, my Coworkers). We went grocery shopping (which is as close to visiting my home as we can get right now). We went out on a schmancy date. And it all felt so natural and good. By the time he left on Saturday, it was hard to say goodbye because it so felt like he belonged here.

But he did leave, which was really, really hard. Right now our lives are centered in two places that happen to be 1,700 miles apart. Although I'm not happy about that, but I'm at peace about it...it's the way things are right now. And even in being 1,700 miles apart, sharing life is so good. So...we're relying on God's grace and mercy...and continuing to pursue a relationship...refining the pieces of ourselves we can work on while we're apart...and waiting...it all feels very much like a beginning.

That's my story...and that's Clay--a good man...a youth minister in Tucson who grew up in Texas, spent his college years studying about ministry and theater, and loves pretty much everything I love (except for American Idol). He's sweet, funny, encouraging, and is beginning to challenge and refine me in unexpected ways. I'm very excited to introduce him to you.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Steve the Counselor just walked by my office. Even though he's from Washington, he supports and loves OSU...in fact, his mom was OSU's homecoming queen back in the 40's or something crazy like that...

He just walked by my office and recommended I fly a flag at half-mast in front of my office door...drape it in a way that communicates, "Don't talk to me, I'm in mourning."

My coworker Stuart didn't understand this grief this morning, when he showed up in an orange and blue t-shirt with a Gators logo taped to his chest. I took the logo, ran it through the shredder, and returned it to him in pieces.

Somehow, even the shredder and the half-masted flag doesn't make the sadness go away.

I love you Ohio...I love you Buckeyes... we are allowed to be sad today.

Monday, January 08, 2007

It's just one of those days...

One of those days when your team is playing in a little game called the National Champion- ship!

I'll be cheering especially hard for James Laurainitis, since I once said two words to him in an elevator in Charlotte and all...you best be cheering too...

(Please note the jersey--#10 Troy Smith...2006 Heisman Trophy Winner. It ain't no thang.)

Friday, January 05, 2007


My favorite song by Kutless says, "Why can't you see freedom is sometimes just simply another perspective away?"

So...this site has an interesting perspective...check it out.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

New Years in Chi-Town...

For the eighth year in a row... my Taylor crew has gathered for a New Years hurrah.

What's intriguing about an annual New Years party with a core group of friends is that it's really more than a party... it's the one time of year where we're all together with our oldest, dearest friends... it's a time of centering and remembering who we are because of the comfortability to be ourselves... and while there's the expected new years fun of manic living room dance parties, there is also usually tears and reflection that bring closure to a tough year.

So, the Photojournalistic highlights....

Millennium Park and The Art Institute...

While we were staying with dear friend Allison in her urban home in Lawndale, on Saturday morning, we took the El down to Millennium Park... BekahD, Janelle, Suzanne, BeccaM, Mike, and Chris said hello to the bean, while I trekked over to the Art Institute to say hello to my favorite piece by Marc Chagall, White Crucifixion.

I really love the Art Institute more than most places in the world...and it was fantastic to have an afternoon to myself in the city. I love strolling through the halls and discovering new art to love...this time I really connected with the Greek iconography...and the part of me that used to be enamored with dollhouses loved the miniatures...

Cafe Iberico...

Later that evening, our group of fourteen enjoyed very fine cuisine at a Spanish restaurant, Cafe Iberico...and as far as the food there (amazing Tapas and Paella), we escaped the evening at $11 a plate for dinner! Amazing! So...if you're headed to Chi-town anytime soon and looking for fabulous food downtown, do not miss it.

Not only did I get fabulous food, I was introduced to the glamorous world of Spanish music videos, which are essentially, what would happen if Christina Aguilera's less attractive cousin had a music video produced by the Teletubbies.

New Years Eve in Lawndale...

Seriously...what New Years celebration is complete without taking fifteen small town and suburban white kids into an urban African-American church for morning worship? Allison took us to her home church, Lawndale Community Church, where we sang and swayed to the tunes of a sweet gospel choir. And--I learned a lot about the ministry of this amazing church from Allison, who works with HIV patients at Lawndale Christian Health Center. Hence--why we were staying with her in such an interesting Chicago neighborhood, where she lives out Jesus to her neighbors and coworkers everyday.

And then--the New Years extravaganza itself, which typically includes some SDP's (Spontaneous Dance Parties) and a lot of laughter...this year it also included some choreographed dancing from High School Musical. Woo!

Heartbreaking, though, was the moment when Suzanne and Barrett called in from Zambia to say hello. It had been over three months since I've heard the voices of these friends of mine (which prior to their move to Zambia...we talked several times per week...) It's very odd to have friends on the other side of the world and only have time to say, "Hello! I love you! I miss you! Happy new year! Here's Renee!" So--to Drew, Lisa, Nate, Jessica, Suzanne, Barrett and other friends around the world who were not with us, we missed you immensely! (Mike and Chris especially missed you...because, well, they were surrounded by ten women all weekend.)

And onto 2007...

On New Year's morning, we took some time to pray and thank God for a new year...to thank God for the blessing of amazing friendships...and to take the time to bless each other for the coming year. It's truly incredible to have Christian friends doing amazing ministry all over the world and to gather together once a year to enjoy them and be encouraged by them. We work to not take this privilege for granted...

Over the last eight years, we've gathered in Indiana, Ohio, Chicago, and Colorado...and next year we're headed to Arizona...so next year around this time, expect exciting tales of the desert sun and the Grand Canyon...because it's highly probable that when TU folks are around, a goofy and ridiculous time will be had by all.

And lest ye forget, Charlie, Janelle, me, Pam, Renee, and Suz are here to remind you that brown is the new black...