Monday, December 29, 2014

I Want To Belong To You // Katie Herzig (cover)

Here's one more cover before the New Year. I'm thinking that in 2015 sharing a couple videos a month will be great accountability for me to continue practicing and stretching my skills.


I Want To Belong To You
by Katie Herzig

Have you ever seen such kindness
Such resigned delight all in one glance
Right when you pass me
I watch, you see
You smile, I breathe
Air in my chest
I’m trying my best

The sun left me so quickly
I am stuck under the moon
I want to belong to you

I pray no one will find you
I’ll stay right where I am
‘Til you come back
Don’t let me lose you
Before there’s a chance to begin

Suddenly light on my feet
With a sweet rearrange of the day
Everything’s changed now

One quick exchange
It’s not the same
Kind of goodbye
Gone with a sigh

The sun left me so quickly
I am stuck under the moon
I want to belong to you

I pray no one will find you
I’ll stay right where I am
‘Til you come back
Don’t let me lose you
Before there’s a chance to begin

To My Ten Year-Old Church-Going Self

I grew up in a conservative, Christian religion. Some of my earliest memories are sitting in Sabbath school (the Saturday equivalent of Sunday school) and listening to Bible stories on the felt board and being hushed in church for picking fights with my brother over who got the last Cheerio. I attended our church schools from kindergarten to my last year in college. To say I grew up in a fully religious culture is an understatement. For Pete's sake, we produce our own brand of veggie meat.

Photograph by Wade Dunkin

So, my innocent ten year-old self would probably be abhorred to know that my twenty-seven year-old-self works in a secular environment at a non-religious school, doesn't regularly attend church, and has had more alcohol to drink in the past year than in my entire life (and that's saying a lot because I really hate the taste of alcohol). And yet, I have more peace and joy in my life than ever before. I am growing in my awareness that life is a gift and how I respond to it matters. And if that's not the best definition of spirituality, I don't know what is.

Life is a gift and how we respond to it matters.

How I think about God and church and spirituality has changed a lot in the past few years and I think that's okay.

I'm learning that the best kind of Christian is not one that protects themselves from "the ways of the world" but one that engages with it fully from a place of openness and love.

I'm learning that no amount of Christian education will "save" a person from making some really terrible decisions.

I'm learning that there are more similarities than differences between the world's various religions. What we seem to be fighting about is semantics.

I'm learning that church attendance was never meant to be the signifier of a "good" Christian.

I'm learning that while my generation may be leaving our church buildings in droves, it doesn't mean we are leaving the church. Those beliefs and that lifestyle don't expire when we walk out the door. I promise. We will do church differently and that's okay.

I'm learning that I do not have a spiritual life. I am a spiritual life.

I'm learning that there is a little piece of God in me, which makes me awesome. But there is also a little piece of God in everyone else, which makes me humble.

I'm learning that I come from dust, and yet, the Universe was made for me. Whoa.

I'm learning that the pain in me is the same pain in others. The joy in me is the same joy in others. We are all in this together.

So to my ten year-old self, I need you to know this: 
-God can't be put in a box or a building.
-The world is less black and white than you might like it to be.
-Your judgment of others doesn't make you better than others.
-The symbolism and fundamentals you practice right now matter. Just less than you think.
-Don't throw out all "religion" and "church" to be cool. There's a lot of good there.
-Some day you'll be pretty angry at God and find a way to blame most of your problems on him/her. That's cool. That's normal.
-Oh, and P.S. while alcohol does taste as bad as your parents said it would, drinking it doesn't condemn you to hell, and it's just a nice way to show respect and appreciation to a gracious host.
-Keep growing. Keep learning. Onward.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

There Will Be Time

"And indeed there will be time for the yellow smoke that slides along the street, rubbing its back upon the window panes. There will be time, there will be time to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet. There will be time to murder and create and time for all the works and days of hands that lift and drop a question on your plate. Time for you and time for me. And time yet for a hundred indecisions and for a hundred visions and revisions before the taking of a toast and tea."

                                                  -T.S. Eliot quote from the movie, Wish I Was Here

Will there be time?
For meeting?
For creating?
For indecisions and revisions?

This doesn't feel quite true, but that doesn't mean it's not.

It probably just means I'm imagining scarcity. A season of "not enough". Not enough time or money or experience. Not enough. Scarce. A fearful way to live.

Korea always feels temporary. We have no intentions of staying here forever and ever. So there's always "after Korea." There's always, "Well, after Korea we should..." but most of the time, "Oh my word, what will we do after Korea?" And I wish I could say this is a recent phenomenon, like we're just feeling this way because we might be leaving in August, but in one way or another, I've been thinking about what happens after Korea since the first day we got to Korea.

We are a hopeless species, aren't we?

"Living in the moment" has become such a catch phrase in recent years. Like it's a thing we all want to do, but usually it takes some kind of traumatic experience before any of us really do it. Being present. Being here. Now.

So, in my attempts, a song for your holiday hangover: "Details in The Fabric" by Jason Mraz.

Wishing you peace and time and abundance.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

"Don't Play With a Lion's Whiskers"

Disclaimer: This conversation that I had with one of my Korean co-workers is not meant to constitute everyone in Korea. She cannot attest to how everyone in Korea feels about the subject. But I still think one story matters and chances are she is not alone.

It's not often that American pop culture is something I want to talk about in Korea. There's just not a lot of good things to say about Miley Cyrus and the human orgies we call "music videos". Most of the stuff we produce is a little provocative for Korea's more modest media. But with the latest Sony announcement to not release their comedy about North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, I brought it up to Jiyoung out of curiosity.

"A lot of people in America are talking about this. Do people in South Korea seem to care?"

She answered easily: "Not really. I don't think it's big news."

This was surprising to me because I expected that South Koreans would either be humored or enraged and I was really curious to know which. However, her response was mostly, "Meh."

"There is a Korean proverb," she told me. "It is not wise to play with a lion's whiskers while he is sleeping."

"Yeah, I think I get that. In English, we say, 'Don't poke a bear.' "

"Right. I think America is just poking the bear with this movie."

I explained that "America" was not releasing this movie, a few Americans were. And I asked, "Is Hollywood responsible to North Korea? I think they can make whatever movies they want and if North Korea retaliates, then that's their prerogative, I suppose."

"Maybe you're right," she said. "It is their right to say what they want. But I wonder if they ever think about South Korea, how this will effect us?"

I was a bit taken back by her candor, but leaned in for more.

"You are far away from North Korea," she said. "You are the most powerful country in the world. If North Korea retaliates toward you, you'll be fine. But what if North Korea retaliates toward us?"

She talked about how North Korea is like an ornery step-brother, but still family. How it's easy for outside countries to pitch all these ideas of reunification or intervention, but South Korea is slow to act because they know what this could mean for their safety and well-being.

"You think that Korea and America have a great relationship. We really don't."

"But the U.S has military bases here. America wouldn't just go provoking North Korea without talking to South Korea first."

"America might warn us, but probably wouldn't ask our advice. We are not friends with America. We have a relationship. We have to care."

"You have to care about what?" I asked.

"About American economy. American politics. You effect us. We have to...umm...what's the word?" She reached for her cell phone and showed me the translation: tolerate.

She said that some people want the military to stay in Korea for protection, but others want them gone. I asked why. She said that sometimes U.S. servicemen are seen as troublemakers. She wouldn't go into a lot of detail but I did five minutes of research and found plenty of information supporting her claim:

-from South Korea publicly asking the U.S. to keep it's service members in line

-to a city mayor cancelling a "Friendship Concert" because of a "never-ending string of crimes by American soldiers."

-to the director of the National Campaign for the Eradication of Crimes by U.S. troops in Korea (yes, it's sad that this group is needed) seeking punishment for servicemen crimes by Korean courts versus American courts which often fail to properly carry out justice.  Sadly many establishments in Seoul have barred soldiers from frequenting their bars because of complaints from female patrons.

-and unfortunately, we have a long history of getting out of crimes during the American stay in Korea.

I understand why Jiyoung would feel some hesitance against the notion that the U.S. and Korea are friends.

"We are grateful for the U.S. and their help during the Korean war. They have provided a lot of training and protection from North Korea. We do a lot of trading of goods with America that greatly benefits our economy and people like you come here to teach English. We are grateful. But provoking North Korea with this movie is just another thing that potentially strains our relationship with America."

I asked her if she was glad to hear about the movie being shut down.

"I am relieved."

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Try // Colbie Caillat (cover)

I preach it cause I need to hear it.


Put your make up on
Get your nails done
Curl your hair
Run the extra mile
Keep it slim
So they like you. Do they like you?

Get your sexy on
Don't be shy, girl
Take it off
This is what you want, to belong
So they like you. Do you like you?

You don't have to try so hard
You don't have to give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don't have to change a single thing

You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try
You don't have to try

Get your shopping on,
At the mall,
Max your credit cards
You don't have to choose,
Buy it all
So they like you. Do they like you?

Wait a second,
Why should you care, what they think of you
When you're all alone, by yourself
Do you like you? Do you like you?

You don't have to try so hard
You don't have to give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don't have to change a single thing

You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try
You don't have to try

Take your make up off
Let your hair down
Take a breath
Look into the mirror, at yourself
Don't you like you?
Cause I like you

Friday, December 12, 2014

Shirley and Moe

Marriage is a really beautiful thing.
It's also a really agonizing thing.

Shirley says of her late husband, Moe: "It was always nice to have his arms around me."

I can't watch it without crying.
Without wanting to just snuggle up to Jeremy
and scream about all the injustice of this thing called "dying".

But it's beautiful too.
To think about the love we share and spread and how it makes us better.

Recently, an acquaintance in our part of the world asked, "Well, you two. What makes for a good marriage?"

It seemed such a large question for such a simple occasion, We both sort of took a deep breath and immediately unqualified to respond at all.

What do we know about marriage in only two years?
What do we have to say about this beautiful thing without dirtying up the edges with our fingers? What do we know?

Apparently, a lot.

Because we sat and talked for quite awhile about how marriage is beautiful and agonizing. Sometimes on the same day.
How it breaks you, but also builds you.
How it strengthens and melts your heart.
How it makes you consider if your reaction to "this person" is really about them or if it's really about you.
How it gives you a partner in life and there are few things better than a lazy, Saturday morning with your best friend.

I don't get a lot of chances to talk about our marriage. Mostly because there's not a lot of people to talk to in general. But I'm always quite proud of what we've built whenever I get the chance.

Like today, a co-worker unloaded about 30 minutes of frustrations with her husband and her marriage. Things like not coming home. Things like broken promises. Things like not being a good father to their kids. And in moments like this, I want to sympathize by adding a list of things my husband sucks at too. But I can't, because that wouldn't be true.

At one point, she looked at me and said, "You really love Jeremy, don't you?"

"I do."

"And the nights grow cold without you
and the world is filled with the anguish of my loneliness
and the stars join me in sorrow
while I long without wearying to hold you once more in my arms
to embrace you and kiss you and love you
all my love"

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

For The Days When I Want To Complain

There's a hallway at school that I walk at least two times a day: once in the morning when I arrive and once when I leave to go home. It's the beginning and end to my day. And I've made it a habit of reciting a mantra whenever I pass through:

I am not a slob,
I am a beauty of another kind.

I am not less than,
I am more than enough.

I am not susceptible to the opinions of others,
because I know who I am.

I am a beautiful soul; 
imperfect and flawless
at the same time.

I am a strong, confident, intelligent, beautiful woman
who is worthy of love and belonging.

And while it's certainly no quick-fix, it's a good reminder of things I know to be true. Things that don't change. Things that I need reminding of.


But today, the word's aren't sticking. They fall empty on the ground like discarded trash. I mumble through the damn mantra and move on with my day, determined that shouldering through is my best option.

But it's not. And on a good day, I know that.

So, I'm starting again, even when it's hard, the best way I know how: gratitude.

-The week before Thanksgiving, our friend Becca, sent us a holiday box full of goodies like gluten-free stuffing mix and pumpkin pancake mix. We've got the sweet pumpkins and pine cones on our table.

-My dear, friend Kylie sent me some dangly earrings in the mail. They are delicate and beautiful and make this girl feel special. (Sidenote: why is "dangly" not a word? I don't want "dangling", I want "dangly"!)

-Yesterday, Jeremy came home with a giddy bounce in his step. He couldn't wait to show me that he'd made paper Christmas stockings that we could hang by the tree. That guy.

-There's a gal in one of my 5th grade classes who has a crush on me. She's the cutest thing. And sometimes, I'll look over and she'll be staring at me, but won't have noticed it until my eyes get big and I say, "Hi." She'll get flustered and go back to her work.

-I have a co-worker who regularly asks me, "How does your mind feel?" instead of "What do you think?" and it makes me chuckle.

-One of my "old" students that I spent last year teaching, saw me in the hallway yesterday and gave me a hug. The only English words she seems to know are "Ms. Bo!" and "Hi!" but she's got a sweet heart. She's also our province's best ping-pong player. Who knew?

-The other day, a home room teacher down the hall walked up to me and said, "Gift." She waved a small Korean flag and handed it to me. I said, "Thanks!" and "Why?" and she just walked away because certainly "gift" surpassed what she was comfortable saying in English.

-This morning I stepped outside to ride my bike to work in long underwear, my puffy jacket, hat, scarf, and gloves to find that it wasn't as crazy cold as it has been. That's something!

-I have this first period off. Yay! Then, only three other classes to teach today. What a blessing.

-유자차 "yoo-jah-cha" is this citrusy-tea drink that we love. It looks like orange marmalade in a jar, but you scoop it into hot water and it sinks to the bottom and it's's just...great.

-During the week, just about the time when I think America has gone to sleep, my Mom sends me these random e-mails at sometime after 1am (her time). She's a night owl, so this is like her prime time. But I'm always surprised and touched that she takes the time just to say "hi."

...and last, but certainly the best thing about this day: I'm wearing my adjumma pants.

An "ajumma" is an older, married Korean woman and they have a reputation for being a bit aggressive. (look, she even made Wikipedia!) Like, they've lived this long in a hierarchical society with so many people above them, so now they are just going to let their hair down and do whatever the hell they want! And often times, if you see an adjumma on the street, she's pushing people out of her way and wearing a combination of loud and mismatched patterns. I don't know why this is a thing, but it's a thing.

Here's a popular Korean TV show called "Running Man" where they'll do certain stunts while imitating "the ajumma." I'm not the only one who knows these pants are awesome.

But I may be the only one who wears them to school and gets away with it.

Like, I said: grateful.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Christmas Song

Perhaps its the dump of snow that has me in the holiday spirit. The past week in Korea has been icy cold and casting fresh snow on us about every other day. It make my morning bicycle commute really terrible, however, I try not to think about too much and turn up the heating blanket I use at school. We've been piling on more layers, spending more time in pajamas, and drinking more tea, because the season demands it!

Even though Korea is a largely Christian country, they surely haven't caught on to the intense holiday marketing campaigns that start in October in the States. And I can't say I'm exactly disappointed, just surprised. It's rare to see Christmas lights or trees, though I have heard some K-pop renditions of Christmas songs once or twice on the radio.

So Christmas spirit around these parts is mostly do-it-yourself. We've got the tree. We've got the YouTube fireplace. We're drinking the hot chocolate. All that's needed is my favorite Christmas song, appropriately named: The Christmas Song.

Sidenote: I'd never actually had roasted chestnut before last week. They are quite common round these parts, though oddly absent from the country where we sing the dang song!

So, I would like to dedicate this song to my sweet, Mom and Dad in Colorado. I know how much you miss having me home to play piano, so this will have to do this year. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Rarer Than Love

"See nobody believes in friendship
People talk about it. 
That's the thing about friendship. 
It's a lot rarer than love
Because there's nothing in it for anybody." 

-a quote from the movie Are You Here?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Morning Train (Original Song)

I've written a handful of songs in my life. It doesn't come easily for me. In fact, most of the time it's excruciating and slow and stupid. "Stupid" like every lyric sounds stupid and awkward until I play it for a friend and their like, "It's good."


This one's pretty good, I think. My friend, Emily requested "The Gun Song" and she's talking about this one, which I've chosen to title a little less like an NRA-theme song. I wrote it a few years ago reflecting on a train ride I took in Australia. I took the trip to Australia on a short holiday from the year I spent in Cambodia. It was not a good time for me: dark, probably the worst season of my bulimia.

That morning, I had had breakfast with this kind Aussie couple that was letting me stay with them, they drove me to the train station, so I could spend the day exploring Sydney. Before getting on the train, I went and threw up my breakfast. I boarded the train and sat thinking to myself, "I am not in a good place. I wish someone would notice." But around me were all kinds of people that were likely fighting their own battles. People who might also be wishing someone--even a stranger--would ask, "How ya doin?"

So I started the train ride feeling really bad for myself "sitting on the morning train, the morning train no one can see her, looking past the darkness in her eyes," and then, started thinking about pain and how we all have it and how we all want relief from it: "living in a world that needs to heal."

Here it is:

Morning Train

Sitting on the morning train, the morning train
no one can see her
looking past the darkness in her eyes

Two seats down a business man, he reads and scans
and moves his hands
searching for a way to make a buck

Stepping on with snow-white hair
a wrinkled face that longs to share
the stories that have brought her there

Furrowed brow with headphones on
he stares ahead, he won't respond
hiding in a shell that's made of steel

Living in a world that needs to heal

If it's not my problem, then it's nobodies problem
we've all got our problems of our own
and the world is just too big
and the need is just too great
and really all we want is to go home

Looking in her baby's eyes
she walks and cries as she's denied
the water to survive another day

Working for a meager pay
he sweats and bleeds and falls on his knees
living in a life no one deserves

Breathing fear and disbelief 
running far to seek relief
witnessing too much at eight years-old

Living in a world that needs a home

If it's not my problem, then it's nobodies problem
we've all got our problems of our own
and the world is just too big
and the need is just too great
and really all we want is to go home

He holds a pistol to his head
hoping that he'll soon be dead
wanting to escape this hell on earth
losing hope in all that's left
a hurting world of pain and death
wondering if there's any God at all
cause if there was he'd catch us when we fall

If it's not my problem, then it's nobodies problem
we've all got our problems of our own
and the world is just too big
and the need is just too great
and really all we want is to go home
but none of us will get there 
on our own

Thursday, November 27, 2014

I Am Not Jesus (Thank, God)

There are a lot of things I don't know about spirituality and God and the meaning of life. Endless questions about what's true, what's real, what's important, and what matters most. We could have lengthy conversations about this week's hot-button "issues" like climate change, the ethics of stem-cell research, abortion, marriage equality, Ferguson, and the like, however, all of these questions would end with me saying, "I just don't know." And that would be true. And valid. And worth something. Maybe worth everything simply because it's the truest thing any of us could ever say, "I don't know."

It's so tempting to see the world in black and white. To pretend that there's one "right" answer or one "right" way to look at something. And this makes me really nervous. Because I think that if you look around this world for just a few minutes, from the peacefulness of this room to the chaos in Gaza, from the joy of new life to the grief of a life ended much too short, you have to admit that there aren't any easy answers to any of this. We are all doing our best in this messy life and that's enough.

I can't tell you the "right" answer to these religious/political "issues."
I can't prove to you the existence of God.
And I don't really want to.
I don't care to.

Here's what's been inspiring me lately: Glennon Doyle Melton. Do you know her? If you don't, you should. She's had a blog for awhile, but most recently she wrote a book called Carry On, Warrior. I like her. She says simple things that matter.

She made these two little video clips that I just love and wanted to share them with you because they emphasize two things I know for sure about God lately:
#1. We have endless opportunities in the digital age to form opinions about issues and then Tweet them with little/no consequences. And while it may look really edgy to judge other people's behavior, it's not my job. I may have an opinion, but God never asked me to judge people. All I gotta do is love 'em. So that's what I'm going to do.
And #2. Grace is not a big deal, it's the deal. It's the best thing Christianity's got going for itself and I think it's been grossly under-emphasized. Preach it, folks. It's a beautiful thing!

Here she talks about judgment and how we try to play Jesus by telling other people to "leave your life of sin." We're not Jesus. We're the ones holding the stones.

And here she opens with a Hafiz poem that I. Just. Love. and talks about how refusing grace is like refusing to dance at a party and picking on other people who are dancing. It's no good.

I get that grace thing. I get how she says, "I am a recovering alcoholic and food addict. Grace is the only buzz I have left and they will take it from my cold, dead hands."

If I believe what the Bible says about being forgiven (period!), then I am shameless. Gone are the days of groveling and moping around in my shame and guilt. That doesn't make me holier, that makes me a bad listener.

So, the best thing I can do is let it go.
To choose self-acceptance instead of self-judgement.
To choose to let myself off the hook instead of being myself to a pulp.
To choose grace.

These things I know for sure.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Scarcity and Abundance

Last week, I eavesdropped on a Facebook conversation between two friends who were planning to see each other this week. Awkwardly, I asked, "What's happening next week?" They promptly reminded me that they'd be together because it's Thanksgiving. Of course. It's Thanksgiving.

This week, I've been feeling the weight of scarcity. Of not having enough. Enough friends. Enough family nearby. Enough holiday spirit. Enough joy. Because it doesn't feel like Thanksgiving over here in Korea. And why would it? Thanksgiving is a distinctly American holiday. So, I'm sitting at school as if it's any other Thursday knowing that, right now, my family is driving nearer and nearer to Colorado where they will all be together for the holiday.

And all I'm thinking is: poor me.

My wise cousin, Angela, shared this video through her counseling website.

So, I'm sitting here in Korea trying to fight the scarcity epidemic by being grateful. Because there really is SO much to be grateful for:
-getting to live in Korea
-wonderful co-workers
-a job that pays me money
-a nice, warm apartment
-no diseases
-all hands, legs, fingers, and toes
-good friends
-great family
-getting TWO packages this week
-the luxury of travel
-in short, more abundance than I could ever need.

Tomorrow night, we'll celebrate our own version of Thanksgiving with a few friends and yummy food. Chicken will have to do on this side of the world. And that's fine by me.

From holiday seasons in Cambodia, to holiday seasons in Korea, I know that this time really is a gift. Not everyone gets to spend time abroad, particularly during the holidays when you get to see how other cultures do it. And we won't always be so far away.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

On Writing

Recently, a friend said to me, "Heather, you just turned twenty-seven, you have all the time in the world over there in Korea, and you haven't written a second book yet?"

Basically: What's your excuse? 

And I know that he was probably joking and he would feel terrible if he knew how much his comment has stuck with me this past week; but his words still stung. Less because he uttered them and more because I was already thinking them.

Lately, the tapes in my head have been:
You don't have anything important to say.
You don't have anything important to say.
You don't have anything important to say.
You don't have anything important to say.
You don't have anything important to say.
You don't have anything important to say.
You don't have anything important to say.
You don't have anything important to say.

And after awhile, you begin to believe just about anything you hear on a daily basis.

I've been a writer since I was in first grade. 
I've kept journals ever since I could write. 
I started a blog when I was nineteen. 
I wrote a book when I was twenty. 
I am a writer.

And every once in awhile someone will ask me, "When are you writing your second book?" and usually, I tell them, "As soon as you tell me what I should write about." That first book came easily through the desperate fingers of a desperate girl. It was all she could do to put those things on paper. So, it makes me wonder if I can only write well if I'm falling apart. And, in that case, if writing well is worth it.

I am not falling apart.
But I am not inspired either.
I don't know how to be a good writer.
I don't know how to make money writing.
I only know how to share what I 'm learning about the world.
And people like me are a dime-a-dozen.

Who doesn't know half a dozen melodramatic Millennials who want to be "discovered" simply for being awesome and talking about it online?

Many of the world's greatest writers will tell you that to write is to stretch and challenge a muscle. If you don't, it gets weak and flabby. So I've been working out. Every morning at 6:30am, I've been hitting the keyboard and busting out repetitions like nobodies business. Since November, I've been writing 1,000 words a day, so that by the end of 2014, I'll have roughly 50,000 words. In other words, a novel. It's an area I'm not comfortable in: fiction, nonetheless, science fiction.

When I work out at the gym, I am motivated by seeing results. But what are the results of all this writing? I just have words on a page. And while I hope that, surely, if I write often enough I'll get all the really bad stuff out and strike gold once in awhile, I'm not sure that that's how it works. 

But is it good?
Does it matter?
Would anyone benefit from reading it?

Many mornings I wake up and feel like all this writing is just a waste of time. Realistically, this novel will just sit on my computer for the rest of my life, because I just don't know what to do with it.

And so I wonder: If a writer taps away at a keyboard in the stillness of morning, does it make a difference?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A "Lately" Post

I don't always have interesting things to say (a.k.a. like today), but it's been awhile since I gave a good, old-fashioned update on this here blog. So here's what we've been up to lately:

Lately, we finished our fall season in the Korean Ultimate Frisbee league. That kept us busy a lot of weekends the past two months, so we're both sad and happy that that's over! Weekends!

Lately, Jeremy and I celebrated birthdays. He turned thirty and I turned twenty-seven. Woot! Woot! Three cheers for being alive: "Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray!" It just never gets old.

Lately, I've been trying to record a little music on my guitar, just to keep myself accountable to practicing and it's been fun. Jeremy's been learning the mandolin, so we've been having nightly jam sessions together. We've gotten darn good at the Lumineers' "Ho, Hey."

Lately, I found out who my Anonymous Commenter is and I feel a lot better. Some of you kindly asked if I was doing all right and I do feel relief knowing. Mental illness is a scary and strangling condition. Prayers for this acquaintance who's fighting this fight. 

Lately, our life in Korea has been more recognizable. We've been here for more than a year, which means that a few things begin to repeat. Like, Oh yeah, it's October, there's that random testing day where they don't let planes fly overhead so they don't disrupt the testers. No biggie! Or it's fifth grade sports day, which I've finally realized means: Come to school. Bring food to share. Eat food together. All day. We're getting the swing of things, if only the second time around!

But just because Korea is "recognizeable" does not make it predictable. Oh no. There are still random moments in taxis and sidewalks that leave us utterly baffled, but I suppose that's what makes life here interesting. For example, did I tell you all the story about the time I had the hiccups in a taxi? By and large, I've been under the impression that taxi drivers fall into one of two categories: I want to practice English with you or I don't give a damn. After we gave our directions to the driver, I wasn't quite sure which camp he fell into. But after my first hiccup at the red light, I knew I needed to create a third category: I don't speak any English, but I think you're funny. We spent the next fifteen minutes trying to communicate get-rid-of-hiccups methods only with hand gestures. Not. Easily. Done. But still a grand 'ol time as he gives me a method to try, I do it, we all wait in silence and then...and then..."hiiicccuuuuupp!"

Lately, I have a new mantra when I am on the street in Korea: "I am not entitled to personal space." It's a hard one to practice and a hard one to admit that I need. My super-chill husband, Jeremy, seems unfazed by being cut-off on the sidewalk or near collisions, but for some reason, this feels like such an easy fix, if we could just ALL AGREE!....(see where this is headed?). Whew. Deep breaths. Long story short, I liked Korea a lot more before I started riding my bike here. It's a jungle out there. And instead of suiting up for war every morning and growing more upset with every block. I'm just taking it slow, looking both ways (twice), and reminding myself that--though I may want it--I am not entitled to personal space.

Lately, I've been drinking soju with my principal. This is not a daily occurrence (especially since I really hate the taste of soju), however, when the teachers at school have dinner together it is customary that people pour a drink for the principal. It is a sign of respect. I am not expected to do so as it is usually the responsibility of the head of each department, but I leaned over to my co-teacher over ginseng-chicken soup and said, "Hypothetically, what would happen if I offered to pour a drink for the principal?"

Her eyes got real big and excited and I knew there was no turning back. She said, "Oh, you have to do it!" The principal is kinda, sorta the "king of the castle," so understandably, I got real nervous and sweaty. I asked a lot of questions. I double-checked my Korean pronunciation, but then, I went for it.

I got down on my knees.
I didn't make too much eye contact.
I held the soju bottle with two hands.
I covered my mouth to smile.
I turned my head to laugh.
I asked (in Korean) if he wanted a drink.
I poured the drink with two hands.
I accepted his offer to pour me a drink.
I turned my head to drink it.
Everyone laughed.
I wanted to hide.
But he seemed impressed.

Lately, I've found a particular joy in teaching the difference between words. Some sounds/letters just don't exist in the Korean language, so many Korean English speakers make the same predictable mistakes. For example, confusing "L" and "R", which inevitably means my kids say, "I eat lice." And once I explain it, they think it is hilarious! Or the difference between "Z" and "J" most frequently confused with the words "zoo" and "Jew." But hands down, my favorite word confusion is "chicken" and "kitchen." It's a good one. So good, that someone made this video that I always use in class. 

Lately, I realized that the holiday season is coming. It's easy to forget over here because Thanksgiving is an American holiday and Christmas in Korea is not a big deal. But hopefully, we can do small things to make it special and not feel too far away. We won't be here forever. Some day, we'll sit around a Thanksgiving dinner back home and think of our memories here.

Ebbing and flowing.
Pushing and pulling.
Here and there.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Show // Lenka (cover)

I'm not great at guitar. I know about five chords. But I do enjoy it and want to get better, so posting videos to share is just the motivation I need.

I recorded Lenka's "The Show" for my sister-in-law, Kendra's, 30th birthday.


Song requests are always welcome!

The World of Ultimate (that you probably had no idea even existed...)

Today is our Korean anniversary and we're celebrating one year and three months over here yonder.

Fifteen months of kimchi.
Fifteen months of bus transportation.
Fifteen months of being the last person to get the joke.

But our lives in Korea have changed dramatically with the introduction of one little thing...

ROK-Uthe Republic of Korea Ultimate Frisbee league

After a year or so in Korea, you start to get the hang of things. You start to believe that you've experienced a good chunk of things Korea has to offer, but upon joining the league I realized how much I'd missed out on by not joining sooner. The Ultimate community is a fun one, full of good people from all over the world and, suddenly, you begin to feel a lot less alone. There are twenty-four teams in Korea. And what you may not know about Ultimate is that it is a self-regulated sport. Meaning, there are no referees. So each team is responsible for knowing the rules and working out conflicts that happen on the field. This creates some good conversation and compromise on the field, which is always cool to see. 

But beyond that, written into the rules is the basic idea that you shouldn't be a jerk. It's called the Spirit of the Game. These behaviors are as follows:
1. Treat others as you want to be treated.
2. Control yourself even under pressure.
3. Heckling is fun, taunting is wrong.
4. You can be competitive and kind.
5. If you are wronged, don't hit back. Be better.
6. Breathe. Take a step back.
7. Be generous with praise.
8. Impressions linger, your interactions matter.
9. Have fun.

If these aren't also guidelines for life, I don't know what is.

Photo by David Toft

I love playing with people who have agreed to these principles as well. It means, introducing yourself to your defender on the field and applauding her defense. It means, helping someone up off the ground. It means--as I witnessed from the sidelines once--a captain calling his own assistant captain for a Spirit Foul because he felt like he was acting out of line. Whoa.

Last spring, we started playing Ultimate Frisbee with some people around Cheongju and by mid-summer time, we were hungry for more. So we joined the ROK-U league which has two seasons: one in the fall and one in the spring. Somehow we managed to bribe ask enough people to play so we could form a legit team and Cheongju's first: the Cheongju Chewbaccas.

And for all of our excitement and team spirit, we were actually pretty bad. And I say that with all kinds of love and respect for the people I played with. We just didn't have the experience and know-how as the other twenty-three teams in the league. We quickly realized that we were only baby Chewies and had a lot to learn. Things like "offensive strategy" and "rules" and stuff. Sheesh!

Photo by David Toft

Our team was compiled of good folks from nine different countries: Korea, India, South Africa, Namibia, Scotland, Ireland, England, Canada, and the US of A. 

Together, we rented a bus and traveled to Suwon to play.
We journeyed several weekends to Daejeon where we met even more teams.
We stayed in love motels together.
We shared food together. 
We took at 6am bus to Ulsan to join in on the championship weekend fun.
We danced together.
We shared way too much alcohol together...
And then, we showed up Monday morning to teach English and do it all over again the next weekend.

Photo by Ron

And a lot of good people in the league took us in and showed us the ropes every step of the way. They made us their friends and we were so thrilled to have them. What good people. Well, except for Gannett, who is successfully squishing me out of this nineteen person-selfie with our sister-city, Daegu Tsunami!

Photo by Koko

Because while we might've lost more games than we won, we had a lot of fun doing it. By the time it was all said and done, we played fifteen games and our record was 1-14. You read that right (yes, the wins come first). But numbers only tell a small percentage of the story. At season's end, our team reached its greatest accomplishment: winning the league's Spirit Award. 

And that certainly counts for...well, everything.

Now that the season is over, I'm certainly sad, but also ready.
Ready for chill weekends.
And pajamas.
And Skype dates with people we love.
And French-press coffee.
And healing my eternal foot blisters from those 12 year-old soccer cleats.
And no more bus tickets.
And car sick patches.
And dilated eyes as a result of said patches.
And blurry-eyed Monday mornings at school.
And when my co-workers ask what I'm doing this weekend,
I'll be ready to say, "Nothing at all!"

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


There's this predictable time of day around 2pm where the world drops away.

Monday through Friday the internet world buzzes with activity. But only for half of my day, because that's the half of my day when America is awake. When BuzzFeed posts videos, and Ellen DeGeneres makes jokes, and my friends are active online.

And then...

The activity ceases.
The posts online are less frequent.
The emails stop entirely.
And it feels like the world goes to sleep.

Except for me.
I'm still here.
It's such an odd, lonesome feeling.
To know that--at this distance--the internet is my only connectivity to the rest of the world.
And then, it just stops.
And I'm here.
In Korea.

And then around 2:30pm, an email will pop into my inbox. And it's from Jeremy. He's just finished his classes and just wanted to check in. Because he's my person. He's the only one awake over here with me. And throughout the afternoon, we're the only ones around. The only ones saying anything.

It's like we're walking down an abandoned street at 2am.
And there's no one around.
But that's okay.
Because he's the best friend a girl could ever want.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Wooden Box

Looking back always made him anxious. Like willfully walking into a haunted house, waiting to be terrified. Like nothing good could come of it. It's a trap every time.

It had been a bad year for Mark. A bad decade, more accurately. Not much to look back for. Nothing worth remembering. And thinking about the past only highlighted the despair. Why bother? His parents had passed away within months of each other, leaving no plans in place to settle the arrangements. Those damn wooden boxes cost more than his first car and he hated himself for thinking it.

The bad decade had started with his father's death and ended with the collapse of his marriage. Somewhere in the middle was that one DUI charge that he could never seem to hear the end of. One stinking ticket. God.

"Things will come around," his co-worker/only friend had told him. As if he knew.

"Yeah," Mark replied half-heartedly, "maybe you're right." Knowing full-well that he wasn't right. The things we say to get people off our back.

They both sat and stared at some horrible piece of "art" in the company break room. The kind you could pick up for twenty bucks at Office Depot in the back with the bulk Red Hot candies. The kind of picture that "inspires" people to give you over half their lives to sit at a desk and input data into a computer. That's some "art."

Breaking the silence, "What is that supposed to be anyway?" his co-worker ventured, motioning toward the picture. But no one answered because they both knew it wasn't really a question. Just words to fill the empty space. Were there any other kind of words?

Words stopped accomplishing anything useful years ago when no amount of them could smooth out the disjointed past with his wife. Nothing could please her. Nothing made her happy. She would scream, "You are not hearing me!" And he would scream back, "I can hear you just fine!" And then, they would retreat to their corners and wait for the courage to file for divorce. It came sooner for her than it did for him, and still, he was legitimately surprised that she'd actually followed through with it. He knew they had their problems, but he didn't realize the problem was him. All those papers. All that money. What a waste.

Every Sunday, he'd pull his red four-runner out of the garage and into the sunlit driveway. He'd spray it down with the hose and give it a good scrub. Something that always went well. Something he looked forward to. Something that didn't require talking or empty words or remembering. He'd busy himself with a detailed buffing of his front grill. It was the only thing that brought him any pleasure any more.

And he had so many things to be despondent about, "How could he ever be happy again?" Or that's the story he told himself for the final decades of his life until someone else paid for his damn wooden box.

Monday, November 3, 2014


When I was about eight years-old, I remember sitting in our kitchen with a bowl of Cheerios. Noticing the constant, yet somehow imperceptible rhythm of the clock ticking away on the wall. It's a sound that's always there, but only important/obnoxious once you become aware of it. Once you hear the ticking, you can't unhear it. And then if feels louder than it was before.

Time: ten-something in the morning. The jagged tick-tock pattern of the second-hand and the impossibly slow journey of the hour-hand. I remember crawling up on one of the kitchen bar stools to get a closer look at that minute hand. Peering only inches away, clock face to little-girl face and seeing--for the first time---that: That things moving! Always. All the time. Whoa. 

It's slow and hardly noticeable from far away, but when you get real close, you realize that those seconds flow into a slow pattern of minutes. And those minutes obviously make hours. And those hours make days. And days turn into weeks. And weeks turn into years. And almost twenty-years later, the same obvious truth still surprises me:

Time is always passing.
We can't stop it or delay it.

And yet we try. Hard.

We lie about our age.
Some people never turn thirty.
There's this apologetic tone in our voices when we tell people our age.
We mourn the loss of time.
We wish for the "good 'ol days."
Every movie seems to feature some young, sexy thing in his/her twenties.
We try to appear "youthful".
We use anti-aging creams.
We get cosmetic procedures to make it appear as though those years never happened.
There's something so "pathetic" about growing older.
About aging. About losing hair. And physical ability.

Time is something most of us think about, but, really don't want to talk about. We have such a strained relationship with time. Like it's your slightly-racist uncle. As if time is the problem we all have to live with but try to ignore as much as possible

And I get it, because I've felt it.
But I also hate it, because I think we can do better.

And this all might sound especially naive coming from a twenty-something whose skin is mostly in the same place where it started, but as I grow older, I don't want to resent each passing year. I don't want to dread the future. To feel only hatred for the coming of age. Because, in my mind, dreading another birthday is the same as dreading the continuation of life.

If you don't want another birthday, doesn't it mean you don't want another year of life? Which means you are done with this one. Enough is enough. It means that the idea of continuing to exist is just too embarrassing. Too hard. Too much.

I think we have to make some peace with the truth that is happening to all of us.
Every day.
Every where.

We are all growing up.
All the time.

And I think half of our battle with "the aging process" is less about the physical ramifications and more about what we think that means. Because--believe it or not--there's really not much difference between being 24 and being 54:
You can still party.
You can still have meaningful relationships.
You can still run marathons.
You can still not give a damn what people think.
You can still get speeding tickets.
You can still have great sex.
You can still travel the world.
You can still be attractive.
You can still be free.

Age only means what you think it means.

And today, I'm turning twenty-seven years-old. So I've decided that, for me, being twenty-seven means:
-Living in Korea with my husband.
-Sleeping in on the weekends.
-Snuggling on the coach to watch Scandal.
-Dancing in the kitchen.
-Playing Ultimate Frisbee on the weekends.
-Playing more guitar.
-Devouring books like chocolate.
-Devouring chocolate like books.
-Doing this NaNoWriMo thing during the month of November. I'm writing a novel, people!
-Lacking a solid career, but looking for one. Eventually.
-Feeling downright beautiful in my own body.
-Feeling optimistic about this ever unpredictable future.

Twenty-seven will come and go.
As will thirty-three.
And forty-one.
And fifty-six.
And sixty-two.

And being another year older, being alive, being here, means whatever you want it to.

To many more years of being here,

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Your Hands--JJ Heller (cover)

Sometimes, I play guitar. Not really, really well. But I play. And I played this song. Wanna hear it?

I'm making it a goal to post at least one song a month. It will keep me practicing and improving. Well, at least in the key of G...

                                                       "Your Hands"

I have unanswered prayers
I have trouble I wish wasn't there
And I have asked a thousand ways
That you would take my pain away
You would take my pain away

I am trying to understand
How to walk this weary land
Make straight the paths that crooked lie
Oh Lord, before these feet of mine
Oh Lord, before these feet of mine

When my world is shaking, heaven stands
When my heart is breaking
I never leave your hands

When you walked upon the earth
You healed the broken, lost and hurt
I know you hate to see me cry
One day you will set all things right
Yeah, one day you will set all things right

When my world is shaking, heaven stands
When my heart is breaking
I never leave your hands

Your hands that shaped the world
Are holding me
They hold me still

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Dear God

Dear God,

I didn't really want to write this letter.

Not because I'm angry or upset, but just because I don't have much to say. I feel like I should say something. Anything. Just to check in. Just to say, "Hey, I'm still kind of, sort of fumbling around here." I mean, I'm pretty sure you're the real deal, and, at the same time, if you were, I'm not sure how I'd know it. There are so many people in so many places talking/preaching/screaming about who you are. And if you are who they say you are, I'm not sure I want you.

I don't want a God who judges me vehemently based on how I dress, what I eat, and what music I listen to.

I don't want a God who will punish/burn those who chose the "wrong" day as Sabbath.

I don't want a God who applauds bigotry and hatred toward LGBTQ folk.

I don't want a God who advises people to set fire to abortion clinics.

I don't want a God who sees me as less-than because I've got a vagina.

I don't want a God who has a political agenda.

I don't want a God who promotes war and violence as a vehicle to peace and love.

I don't want a God who thinks that Americans invented Christianity.

I don't want a God who measures my "godliness"by my church attendance.

In short, I don't want most of what many modern-day evangelicals have co-opted and called "Christianity", and yet, I know you must be more than that. Better than that. Right? Please?

If so, tell me more. Because that's the kind of you I can get down with.


Thursday, October 23, 2014


From Brenda Ueland's If You Want To Write:

"Inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic striving, but it comes to us slowly and quietly all the time, though we must regularly and every day give it a chance to start flowing, and prime it with a little solitude and idleness. I learned that when writing you should feel not like Lord Byron on a mountaintop but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten--happy, absorbed, and quietly putting one bead in front of another."

Most recently, I'm feeling content with "putting one bead in front of another." Trying not to assume what the future holds. If I will ever write another book. What--if any--career I will ever have.

Happy and absorbed.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Things You Probably Didn't Know About Korea

For this edition of it's-the-18th-of-the-month-which-means-we've-been-living-here-for-fourteen-months post, I'm going to share some random things I didn't know about Korea before living here.

-The mayor of Seoul recently affirmed same-sex marriage and commented that he hoped Korea would be the first Asian country to do so.

-In some women's restrooms, you can find the Etiquette Bell. It's a button you push that masks the sound of whatever you're doing in the bathroom.

-There's a big (1 ton) rubber ducky floating in a lake in Seoul.

-Sometimes/often when Korean women appear at an event (or especially on TV) wearing a skirt, they will put a blanket over their knees to be modest.

-Love motels are a thing in Korea. You can pay by the hour if you want to meet up with your secret-lover for a quick visit. Most foreigners just know they are cheap and convenient at may $40 USD per night. But these places are super secretive and have special places to park so that you don't have to be seen going in.

-Korea is one of the cheapest places in the world to buy cigarettes, thus, a lot of people smoke. It costs about $2.30 USD for a pack in Korea, compared to $14.40 USD in Norway.

-Twenty percent of Korean males reportedly wear some kind of make-up.

-In Korean restaurants, there are little buttons on the table used to summon your server. They don't talk to you. They don't ask if you need anything. They don't hover. They just come when you call. It's kind of nice. Oh, and there's no tipping in Korea!

-Korean school kids are the least happy, but they get the best grades.

-Bizarrely, there have been Americans who have defected to North Korea. I just...I don't...I...

-It is customary for the eldest son to invite his parents to live with him and his new bride. Can you imagine?

-South Korean activists often send balloons filled with leaflets over to North Korea.

-Mark Zuckerberg paid us a visit recently. Watch out Apple...

-Lily from Modern Family is Korean!

-Male South Korean soccer players can earn military service (2 years) exemption if they win gold in the Asian Games.

-Arirang News is where I get a lot of my information over here. It's pretty cool. They have a TV channel, online streaming, and radio. Check it out to learn more.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Dear Anonymous Commenter

Dear Anonymous Commenter,

Since July 22nd, you have posted 196 "Anonymous" comments to my blog.

Now, my comment moderation process means that any time someone wants to comment, the comment must be approved by me first. Most of the time, I publish 100% of the comments sent my way, however, of the last 196, I think I've posted one because I just don't know what to make of them.

Almost every day, and recently every hour, I'll have a new comment (or twelve), ranging from:

10:22p Bo, I sure do love you. I sure do love your Blog. ^_^

I am that I am

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Proverbs 9:10"

;) I want to go you a "Oso" hug rite now and sniff you. I bet you smell like a lawn field of wild flowers. . . . Sunday or Moonday . . .

You are my heart beat Heather. Nothing you can say or do will or could ever change that. I got you in the marrow of my bones beatin in my chess.

Riding the wave i keep my dreadlocks dry mane

God is dog spelled backwards. 
Cat backwards is Tac and say10 can sit on it. 

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9


Where is the singing Heather? She stole my heart the first time that little bird sung a sang while tickling those black n whites. Ew wee 13thsun got 'em heated !

I hope and have faith that you will confirm and approve us on your brief trip to the "States". 

Don't let these Korean people keep you down. Keep up and good work and as my Grandpa said, "Once you got 'em goin don't stop". You got no worries and no problems your next year in Korea in set just throw a few bones to your peeps in North America then return to you nest in paradise.

I do all my banking at The Heather Bohlender Bank. Bo Bones Korea Bank. ^_^_^ I have always loved you Heather with a mighty love and I will overwhelm you like a mighty wave."

HB 4 Prezzi ! That's UU

I am going to frame your toes and hang the picture frame up in my living room. JK I think that might be illegal. ^_^ Love you ! 

I'm glad you are enjoying my blog. However, I would really like to know who you are and if we've met before. So this is just a heads up that I have disabled anonymous commenting. If you want to comment, you can sign up with a username and password. And unfortunately, if you continue spamming my blog posts, I'll have to block you.