Sunday, March 27, 2011

the eating habits of dragons

I like to listen to sermons when I jog. And now that I have access to a treadmill where I nanny 3 days a week, I am packing in the sermons. Podcasts are da bomb.

Sometimes, though, I get scared that someone is going to break into the house while I'm jogging in the basement, perfectly content with my ear buds in and the sweat dripping down my back. (I am not a delicate exerciser. It is an unpleasant thing to behold. In the weight room in college, I was running on the treadmill and a guy walked past, looked at me, then looked again, his eyebrows coming together in a very concerned wrinkle. Yes, I'm fine. It's natural that my face looks this way. This is why I'm thankful the treadmill I now use is in a basement, where there are no windows.)

But then, after I think, "What if someone breaks in?" I assuage myself with the image of the intruder stopping at the top of the basement stairs and listening for signs of life. He would hear:


Then he would assume that, like Rochester, these people were keeping an insane person locked away in their house, and he would flee in fear. But not before RAJAH THE NINJA CAT takes him out with one swift swipe of his devil claws! Because there's nothing so fulfilling as combining Charlotte Bronte with 21st century spy drama.

Meanwhile I am in the basement, thudding away on the treadmill, listening to a sermon from the Vineyard. If you haven't listened to a sermon from VCC, I highly encourage you to extract your carving knife from whatever drawer you keep it in and carve out some time to listen. They've just finished a series on generosity, and the last sermon had me in stitches as I ran my 4.8 miles per hour.

It also had me contemplating, as all VCC sermons do, my own heart. If Mr. Burglar stood long enough at the top of the stairs, he also would have heard me exclaim, "Amen," and possibly, "Yeah, Heather," because sometimes the wiser part of me feels like the stupider part of me really needs to grasp certain concepts. Oh, Wiser Me, you're so wise. Love, Stupider Me.

So, inspired by Kevin's sermon, I was thinking about generosity, gratefulness, contentedness, etc. I remember my VCC small group leader a couple of years ago making the comment, "When was the last time you saw a commercial that said, 'Everything you have is okay; just keep what you have'?" It is very true that, no matter how much stuff I have, I am always looking for what else could be mine.

Mmm, I want those seasons of Chuck.
Oooh, I want a First Aid Kit CD.
Ahhh, I want a new skirt for spring.

I read an article in the Wall Street Journal the other day (it's not that impressive - I only read the Personal Journal section, and even then I usually choose the articles with the biggest pictures) about happiness vs. purpose. Research shows that those who pursue happiness are actually less likely to be happy than those who pursue purpose. Ironic! Those with purpose in life live longer, are less prone to diseases like Alzheimer’s, and report more of an over-all sense of well-being. The article talked about people desiring the feeling of watching a great movie or eating a great meal, versus people who work with the homeless or are family-oriented. 

That's the part that really got me. 

College-aged kids experience more emotional and psychological problems today than they did 100 years ago, because the focus of life has shifted from relationships, family, and community, to material things, possessions, and achievement.

I've been there. I know what it's like to search for happiness, and that search is always going to come up fruitless. Happiness doesn't last; it will always run out, end, or slip through our fingers. And then we're left with that empty feeling that shoots us on another quest to fill it. But I've been thinking about ending the search for "more" and instead living in gratitude for what I have. I think it's there that we find purpose. And underlying purpose is that steady joy and confidence that God gives, because He never runs out, ends, or slips through our fingers.

So, instead of making a list of "I want," what's my list of "I'm grateful for"?

When you live in gratitude, it is really, really hard to live in sin. - Jon Weece

P.S. This post had nothing to do with dragons or what they eat...but I was afraid if I titled it something like "What I'm Learning About God," nobody would read it. People are much more likely to read about what I'm learning about dragons.
Saturday, March 26, 2011


Excuse me while I rub my legs together like a mute cricket. This could go on for a while.

My mom and dad spent a couple weeks in Israel, and upon their return they brought Ahava.

...Do you hear that? I think angels are singing.

False alarm, it was just my legs. Aaaaahaaaavaaaa.

Ahava is a brand of skin care products made with minerals from the Dead Sea. Ma & Da brought some body wash and lotion back for the family to experience...but it may or may not have yet to leave my shower cubby.

Do you ever wonder what it'd be like if God covered our bones and muscle with silk instead of skin? It would be like this, my friends. It would be exactly like this.

It's pretty expensive, so once these precious little bottles run out, I probably won't be experiencing this miracle of life until I am old and retired, when I decide to buy bottles of Ahava instead of a sports car.

Though, I wonder if I name my first born Ahava, could I get free stuff? And if I name my second born Avaha, does that warrant a lifetime supply? What if I name my third born Dead Sea?

I bet when we walk into our mansions in heaven, God will have stocked our bathrooms with gift baskets full of Ahava. And I bet our sheets will be Egyptian cotton, too.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011

*** ALERT *** ALERT ***

Sometimes on the news they'll flash "ALERT ALERT" on the bottom of the screen, in this odd red graphic that sort of throbs like a dying heart, and I'll think that something life-changing is about to be announced. Like WWIII, or that Skynet has become self-aware, or that Gerald Ford was eaten by wolves. Then they end up telling us that Maxwell House is raising its prices for the THIRD time this year. Good Lord, because we all know that "rising coffee prices" are a sign mentioned in Revelation that the apocalypse is just around the corner.

"ALERT ALERT (throb throb), BREAKING NEWS: Jesus seen descending from clouds with cup of coffee, proclaiming, 'Beans, beans, to those far and near,' while the silver trumpets blasted, 'The best part of being raptured up is Folgers in your cup.'"

Alert THIS, Fox News: I finished a book.


I finished Louisa May Alcott's biography, and it was like a defibrillator to my reader's (and writer's) heart. I feel like I've gotten to know so much better the author of my favorite novel. Sometimes while reading, I forgot I was reading about a famous literary figure. I was reading about just a woman, who had aspirations and ambition and talent and so much character. So I would think, "Wow! She was friends with Hawthorne, Emerson, Thoreau, and Longfellow!" And then I would remember that she is, in fact, Louisa May Alcott.

Did you know she didn't even want to write Little Women, but did it because her publisher wanted a "girl's book," and Louisa needed the money? Even after Little Women made Louisa rich and adored, she kept writing with the intent of producing "one good book."

Hello. You just wrote one of the most beautiful books in literary history, that will live on for hundreds of years through movies and on Broadway and through eyes and hearts soaking in your words time and time again on book's pages. Ms. Alcott, your one good book has been written.

So now the question is, what do I read next? Any suggestions? My brain is alive with juices like wine, and I'm hungry like the wolf.
Saturday, March 19, 2011

I think we would've been best friends

A Sample of our Lessons
"What virtues do you wish more of?" asks Mr. L.
I answer--
Patience, Love, Silence,
Obedience, Generosity, Perseverance,
Industry, Respect, Self-Denial.
"What vices less of?"
Idleness, Willfulness, Vanity,
Impatience, Impudence, Pride,
Selfishness, Activity, Love of Cats.
                                  - Louisa May Alcott's journal, age 12.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011

an essay

What I Did on Spring Break
by Heather K
March 15, 2011

On one spring break I went to New England with my best friend. Her name is Courtney, and she has brown hair, like mine, but hers is long, which mine isn't, but we're still friends. We went on a plane that left before the sun was even in the sky, and the night before we ate an entire package of Oreos because if we didn't they would've gone bad. But we didn't think about our stomachs going bad, which they did after we ate the whole package of Oreos.

When we were in Connecticut we did a lot of things like eat M&Ms and eat chocolate cake and eat chocolate cookies that came out wrong but still tasted good. When we were in Massachusetts we also did a lot of things like eat fudge and when we were in Rhode Island we did lots of things like eat Dunkin' Doughnuts. But there are a lot of other things in New England besides chocolate that we did.

Like for instance we spent a long time in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery where a lot of famous writers are buried and got a big surprise when they found out about God, because they were Transcendentalists. Woops! Courtney and I tried to find a bathroom, but evidently dead people don't pee, so we had to find one in one of the shops downtown (a bathroom, not a dead person). But before we left I got to see where my favorite author was buried, Louisa May Alcott, and I got to tell her how much she means to me, even though she probably couldn't hear me. But that was pretty special. And then we saw a tombstone where someone's name was "BLOOD" and that made us laugh.

We were supposed to go to Boston but we ended up spending all day in Concord and that was okay with me because I also got to see the place where the Revolutionary War started. It started because there was a gunshot, and the people in red thought the people with farm equipment fired it while the people with farm equipment thought the people in red fired it, so there was war. This is why you always tell the truth and don't try to cover up what you did wrong, because what if the guy who fired the shot did it on accident, but was too scared to admit it because he didn't want to get in trouble? I know that's happened to me and if it weren't for my brother my parents never would have found out about the stain in the basement where we spilled ink and I tried to cover it with a rug.

We also got to pretend to be people in the war, except I think maybe I was a viking at one point. I'm not sure if there were vikings in the Revolutionary War, but New England's by an ocean, so there might've been.

One of my favorite things that we did was go to the Yankee Candle Factory, because there was a lot of stuff to play with even though we probably weren't supposed to play with it, like a horn we pretended was from Gondor and some candles that were supposed to smell like your wedding day. We also stole some fudge but it was an accident. Well, not really, but we tried really really hard not to, so it was kind of an accident. I got peanut butter and I don't remember why kind Courtney got.

Some other fun things we did were go to Yale and accidentally join a tour group (this time it really was an accident), but we just pretended we were actually interested in going to Yale and nobody suspected we were impostors. This time I did not pretend like I was a viking. But on our way to Yale we played 20 questions and it was Courtney's dad's turn to pick something for us to guess, and when he did my first guess was "jaws of life" and it was right. I am really good at playing games.

One day I got to go with Courtney to her barn where her horse lives with some other very angry horses, and I got to put hay in the field for them but then I had to run very fast because they were running toward me very very fast. This was before Courtney got the whip out.

Also one day we played on the rocks in Rhode Island by the Vanderbilts' summer cottege which is one million times bigger than my house which I live in all of the seasons. We pretended like we were mermaids and sang "Part of Your World" while the waves came up around the rocks, because obviously we are like fish compared to people like the Vanderbilts.

As you can see, Courtney and I did a lot of things on spring break, and a lot more things that are not recounted here (just like Jesus in the Bible). Like when we watched Australia and I don't remember anything about it except there was a stampede of cows, and I only remember that because Courtney and I still laugh about it. Or when Courtney thought one of the stores was "Balloons and Bosoms" when really it was "Balloons and Blossoms." Or when a woman held up a porcelain bunny in an antique shop and asked Courtney if she'd pay that much for it, and Courtney said, "Maybe if it was a bigger bunny." Or the time we went ice skating and Courtney looked very graceful, and I was very graceful too, but Courtney was graceful on her feet while I was graceful more on my stomach.

And that is what I did on my spring break. The end.

Newport, Rhode Island, March 15, 2009
Sunday, March 13, 2011

come on skinny love, what happened here?

I feel I need to confess:  I haven't read a book in its entirety since October. And before that, it was July.

I'm so ashamed.

I feel like something in my mind has broken. Somehow the words my eyes take in never make it all the way to my brain, but get lost along the way. Something about the wiring, I think. So my brain gets bored and starts to play outside while my eyes desperately plead, "We're losing him! Focus!"

But no matter how hard I furrow my brow or how many times I reread the same paragraph, my mind is already frolicking through the grass squealing "Weeeeee!" while my eyes turn to jelly in their sockets.

This is not a pretty thing.

Last night I watched a teenage girl read a book unwaveringly through the entire church service. The preaching wasn't there, her arguing sisters next to her weren't there, and the only time she looked up was, I'm pretty sure, when she felt me watching her. I of course looked away very quickly and nodded at the pastor as if I'd been listening the whole time. Ah yes, grace. Grace and Jesus. Jesus is gracious. Preach it brother man. Amen.

But I wondered, what happened to me? I used to be that girl. I used to come back from Christmas breaks and answer the questions of what I'd done by listing off how many books I'd read. I used to make the world disappear and come back to reality smelling like pages and ink. I used to read.

What. happened. to. me.

So today when I took my parents to O'Hare, I decided I was going to stop in Milwaukee on my way back and kneel at the altar of Barnes & Noble until my heart was right with the printed word. Shed the tears of repentance on the green carpet of forgiveness. You dig it? Oh Book Land, take me back.

But when I got there, I didn't even know where to go. Fiction? Nonfiction? Journals?

I went to the bathroom. Like a bride who steps up to the long aisle runner of the sanctuary and then veers off to fix her veil in the lobby mirror. There's nothing wrong with her veil. She's just a coward.

When I walked into the bathroom, a tiny girl with thin blond curls stood against the wall, looking worried. She held her hands, coated in soap suds, in front of her, like a surgeon freshly-scrubbed and ready to take an unexploded grenade out of a North Korean soldier. (I take most my facts about doctor life and behavior from episodes of M*A*S*H.) Her mother stood next to the sink with the water running. She was pregnant and clean-looking, like she shopped in the maternity section at GAP. She glanced at me briefly when I walked in, then looked back at her daughter.

"Is it the water?" She asked. I gathered she was trying to figure out why her daughter, who looked like her name was Daisy or Phoebe or something else dainty and fragile, was having a breakdown. "Do you want a towel? Can you tell me what's wrong?"

I went into a stall as she patiently asked more questions. The little girl continued to answer her mother with absent whimpers, like she couldn't remember why she was crying and had already begun to think of other things, but still needed to be upset because she'd already started to be. If she couldn't explain what was going on inside, the only option was to keep up appearances on the outside.

I get you, Daisy.

I walked around Barnes & Noble four times, then walked out the door feeling as though the store and I were strangers, when once we dwelt together in familiar communion. I left like a dried sponge where once I soaked my parched mind.

Good news is that the world is ending on May 21 (according to the people on the street corner with a big sign saying "JUDGMENT DAY"), so I won't have to worry about finding the little lost fibers of brain that have detached themselves from their cranial epicenter. Come back, little fellas. I miss feeling whole.
Friday, March 11, 2011

Heather vs. Spy Cat 2.0

I think the cat where I nanny is a spy.

See, I've been watching a lot of Chuck recently. The framework of my mind is extremely malleable, and sometimes I get confused as to what's real and what's not. One time I watched Goodfellas and the next day when I was driving and saw a helicopter, I thought it was following me because the government was busting me on drug dealing.

I'm not even a little bit being facetious.

So yesterday when the cat, whom we'll call Shir Kahn because every spy has a cover name, peeped out of his cardboard house with his eyes all glassy and green and looking around like when Gollum's looking out of his cave talking about how he "forgot the taste of bread," I became suspicious.

Here's why:

1.) Sometimes when Shir Kahn's cleaning himself, I think he's really talking into a bug wired in his fur. Plus he won't let me cuddle him, and who denies cuddling with me unless he's trying to hide a secret spy device? (At least that's what I tell myself. "Why won't [insert male name here] flirt with me? Ah, he must be a secret spy agent man.")

2.) From what I gather from Chuck, there are two main ways to extract information from your subject: Torture and seduction. Shir Kahn has already left scars on my arm and hand and used my leg as a scratching post, so he knows that torture only results in me kicking his ribcage or shining one of those red laser lights in his eyes. The only thing left is seduction, and I should've known when yesterday he jumped up on the couch and looked at me as if to say, "Eh-hem. I've come to sit on your lap. So...purr. Purr." I looked at him unmoved and said, "You don't look like you really want it, buddy." He wouldn't make eye contact with me and then walked away. He's not very good at seducing.

3.) I think he has somehow connived my 16-month-old ward into working for him. Yesterday William very deliberately took my hand and tried to shove it through the hole in Shir Kahn's cardboard house where Kahn likes to devour the little furry mouse that wriggles around helplessly from a stick. I was not okay with this. Also, today while watching the Fox News, Bret Baier had just mentioned something about President Obama declaring Libya a no-fly zone, and William laughed out loud. Who laughs out loud at Libya? Evil spy people, that's who.

4.) I really have been watching a lot of Chuck. Last night I woke up shaking my leg because I was dreaming I was being chased by spies and one of them had grabbed onto my ankle. Luckily I didn't have my pepper spray by my bed or my sheets probably would've gotten maced. (Yes, I have pepper spray and have on more than one occasion slept with it next to my bed.)

I don't know what Shir Kahn could possibly want from me, or who he's working for, but I'm onto him. His "woe is me, I'm coughing up a fur ball" bit is not fooling anyone. And the kid may be impressionable, but he also eats crayons and likes to show people his belly button. So I probably wouldn't count him as an asset.
Monday, March 7, 2011

stay where you're at & I'll come where you're to

Wouldn't it be cool if there was a super hero named Captian Question Mark? He could spell his name like this:


You pronounce the question mark.

He could have his own television show, called The Grammatical Conundrums of Captain?. If that doesn't draw the younger demographic, I don't know what will. And he could have a theme song. Like this:

is that a comma splice? Hark!
Dangling participles make him cry;
Split Infinitive's a bad guy;
using poor grammar only reveals that
ending a sentence with a preposition proves your low

Try humming your little tyke to sleep with that one.

In each episode, Captain? can show how urgently one should understand proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

For example, in one episode, Captain?'s arch nemesis Split Infinitive (notorious for misusing the English language and leading a gang of rebellious high school drop-outs, who named themselves "Slang," in removing the apostrophe from the Handbook of Vital Punctuation, and also for using run-on sentences), has been locked in a bunker full of explosives, and in a shocking state of humility (and possibly desperation), texts Captain? for help. Captain?, of course, being good-spirited, compassionate, and an overall very nice super hero, agrees to help. Let's take a peek at the rest of the conversation:

SI: Thx cpt? your gr8
C?: My great what?
SI: no. . .your great
C?: My great...grandmother? My great sense of style? My great ideas on exploding cigarettes, so that when people toss them from their car windows it results in immediate consequences? "Your great" is not a complete sentence.
SI: Look I foot have time 2 argue about grammar rite now
C?: I understand. In which case, the most important thing to remember so you don't die is.
SI: Is what???
C?: What?
SI: u didnt text me a complete sentence
C?: Well neither did you, so I suppose we're even.

Kids will learn several things from this episode:
1.) T9 is not reliable, so always proofread your texts.
2.) Compassion only goes as far as a willingness to speak and write properly.
3.) Proper punctuation and spelling are worth the extra effort, because otherwise you might blow up. (Also, I would stay away from throwing your cigarettes out the car window, just in case that idea actually came to fruition.)

Maybe Captain? can have a girlfriend, too. She can be a princess named Pun. She writes songs using word play and has a lot of folksy emotional baggage. Or is that Jason Mraz?

You see, every epic tale is only one worth telling if it is grammatically correct. Would Frodo have destroyed the Ring if Elrond had said, "It must be thrown into the fiery chasm from whence it came from"? No way would Frodo have accepted a mission from a guy who used two of the same prepositions in his sentence. Keep that in mind for the future, and remember: The future is only ours as long as the apostrophe still makes things possessive.

(That's how Captain? ends his shows, after he addresses the audience about how only you can prevent punctuation mutilation.)
Friday, March 4, 2011

strange things are afoot at the Circle K

Don't you hate it when you're in a public bathroom and, as you're trying to open the door with your foot, someone walks in?

I sure do.

Today I was at my favorite exit on I-65. Exit 172. It's the last Chick-fil-A if you're coming from Kentucky, but I guess it's the first if you're coming from Wisconsin. Kind of a glass-half-empty/glass-half-full kind of outlook, isn't it? I like to stop at the Circle K, because it has the cheapest gas, though not the cleanest bathroom. Life is full of decisions such as these.

This bathroom has toilets that look like they haven't been replaced since 1980, and the toilet paper is definitely one-ply and probably We-R-Cheap brand. The faucet is no longer silver, but that spotted-texture that your faucet gets when you brush your teeth and the toothpaste sprinkles the mirror and sink. Only imagine that 300 people [a day] have brushed their teeth and flung toothpaste specks all over your bathroom [for the past 30 years]. And they were all using Arm & Hammer.

These spots were definitely not toothpaste residue, however, but probably tiny spores that would grow inside my lungs if I breathed them in. And then I would mutate. Into a gas station attendant.

Of course this bathroom would have a hand blow-dryer instead of paper towels, leaving me to figure out how to open the door after I've washed my hands. I am strictly opposed to the use-your-sleeve-as-your-hand technique, because, hello, my sleeve is still attached to my body. And what if I rest my sleeve against my cheek later on, after I've forgotten I used it to open a spore-covered door handle? I may as well rub my face all over the bathroom floor.

And of course trying to pull at one-ply toilet paper with wet hands is a form of torture they implement in Pacific prison camps.

"I can't...grab...the toilet keeps...disintegrating...IT'S ALL OVER MY FINGERS...."

So the only option left is to use your foot. Right? Can we all agree that that's a sane move to make?

I had just raised my leg in a ballerina-esque pose, attempting to artfully slip my toe through the handle and pull downward using all the grace and poise of a swan craning its neck to drink from a crystal-like lake. Then the door pushed open and this girl leaned back, startled, as if I had just tried to decapitate her with my calf.
She said, "Oh!"
I said, "Sorry!"
Then I laughed awkwardly and, with dripping hands, said, "Thanks!" and ran very quickly out the door.

Maybe she didn't notice my leg in the air?

At least I didn't have to touch the door handle.

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