Sharing the Love

My virtual friend Elaine just nominated me for a Versatile Blogger Award. Thanks, Elaine!! We’ve never met, but I’m totally joining her writing group when I get back to Raleigh as I’m 99.8% sure that my schedule will allow it. I’m not sure why she only nominated me for the award instead of just giving it to me. I mean, it’s not like there’s a committee somewhere voting on the matter. So what am I going to do? I’m going to AWARD Versatile Blogger Awards to some people. Yeah that’s right. I’m just handing them out. And I’m claiming mine while I’m at it, and yours too, Elaine. Because I think we’re all winners.

The way this thing works, see, is I have to tell you 7 things about myself that you don’t already know, and then I can give the award to up to 15 other bloggers (Technically I’m supposed to nominate them, but whatever. I AM the committee). Then I’ll notify them that they’ve won, and they can join the committee and give the award to 15 of their own peeps. Word. So here we go with yet another list of things about me…

  1. I have never eaten steak.
  2. I still know all the words to “Ice Ice Baby.”
  3. I wash my pillow cases more often than my sheets because (a) clean pillow cases keep my face from breaking out as much, and (b) I’m lazy.
  4. I have 3 shirts featuring pictures of my former/future boss, Dan. I’m wearing one right now.
  5. I always wear undies. A bra is optional with some outfits.
  6. To my knowledge, I do not appear in any YouTube videos.
  7. All my cars have been Toyotas.

And now for the awarding. You know, guys, we used to just call this an activity, and we tagged other people to play along. Do we really have to “win” something now to have a little fun on the Worldwide Interweb Net? Ok fine, but if you accept this award, you have to link back to me and act REALLY excited about it all. Ok? Ok.

And the Versatile Blogger Award goes to…

I chose these blogs because they are the best of the ones I’ve discovered the most recently. And also, even if they don’t participate in the game…uh, I mean very serious award giving…I think that they will at least not find it completely lame. And I can notify them all via twitter. Hooray!

Congratulations, y’all! I look forward to reading your random information!

Interview With Jason Boyett (aka my best bff forever)

As you may recall, I posted a review last week of Jason Boyett’s new book, O Me of Little Faith. Well, I had the opportunity to sit down with Jason and ask him a few questions. And by “sit down with,” I mean, I sat down and emailed him, and I think he probably sat down to email me back. That counts, right? (Best BFFs FOREVER!!) Here’s what we said to each other. (My questions are all big and important, and his answers are written in a smaller font and confined in smaller boxes.)

You spent a lot of time with O Me of Little Faith. If you and the book were high school seniors, what would you write in its yearbook?

Dear O Me of Little Faith: I told you some things I’ve never told anyone else, ever. You helped me deal with some issues and clarify my thinking on a lot of stuff, so I appreciate that. But you should really put a shirt on.

Really? No “Stay cool,” “RHASL” or “Roses are red, coffee is black, and I’m the first one to sign in your crack”?? Ok then, next question…

Doubt is something that you’ve struggled with for a long, long time. What made you want to write the book now?

Because I’m tired of burying that internal struggle and disguising it behind the mask of a Christian who has it all figured out. I don’t, and I don’t see any use in pretending otherwise. In the process of being honest about these doubts, I’ve discovered that lots of other believers have them, too. So I wanted to write the book as a way to share how I’m learning to deal with it — in hopes that others can walk alongside me in this journey. I hope it’s an encouraging book that reaches out across the loneliness that always seems to be attached to doubt. I hope it provides a safe place for us to start talking about this kind of thing, rather than hiding it.

Right on. I’m a big fan of honesty.

There are lots and lots of (awesome) footnotes in the book. Why didn’t you just include those thoughts in the text? Were you one of those kids in college who gave all your serious psychology papers a title and then a second, snarky, alternate title? I was.

I have never written a serious psychology paper, so no luck there. But I have always loved footnotes. Sometimes, as I’m writing, I think of a joke or an aside that’s only marginally related to whatever I’m writing about. And I really want to use it, but it just doesn’t seem to fit in the text. It might disrupt my precious narrative flow or get in the way of whatever point I’m making. Or it just might not be necessary at all. So what do I do with this frivolous stuff? Either I edit the joke away…or I turn it into a footnote. Footnotes are the clear choice, right? Right.

Oh I concur.

I read the book almost entirely while at my job as a Census 2010 employee. Where did you write it? And what’s the most boring job you’ve ever had?

I wrote it at my desk in my office in my home in Amarillo, Texas. Late at night, mostly. Honestly, I haven’t had too many boring jobs or jobs that allowed me much reading time. My first real job involved delivering prescription medications. It required a lot of driving, which was kind of boring. But reading while driving doesn’t exactly cause the time to speed by. (It does, however, shorten your lifespan.)

Unless you get yourself one of them high falutin’ books on tape. You know, one read by somebody real sexy…like Conway Twitty.

Are you concerned at all that the book will cause doubt where it did not exist before?

Possibly. But, you know, we make it pretty clear on the back cover that it’s a book about doubt. If you are surprised to encounter doubt and hard questions when reading it, then you weren’t paying attention. You can’t say you weren’t warned. But here’s the thing: as believers in Christ, we are supposed to be following and pursuing the truth. Or, the Truth. Capital T. If it’s the truth, shouldn’t it be able to stand up to honest questioning? What do we have to fear? I think the questions I ask in the book are honest ones, born of my desire to understand. So I can ask my questions and express my doubts in pursuit of the truth, or I can hide them in the name of spiritual safety or comfort or peace of mind. Which action is the more truthful one?

Good one. Let’s open that up for discussion, shall we? Hey readers, please discuss.

Chapter 8: “The Paralysis of Weddings and Births” starts out, “I was fearless until I became a father.” But just two chapters earlier, you told us that until 8th grade, you were “soil-your-britches-scared” of roller coasters. Why you gotta be such a liar?

Ahh! Contradictions! My entire thesis has now been ruined! You’ve caught me. I wasn’t actually fearless until I became a father. I was using hyperbole in order to start that chapter off with a bang. Also, you’re mean.

I’m kidding. That’s really picky. But that’s the kind of scrutiny with which (I assume) the majority of intelligent God-doubters read the Bible. The “the-Bible-contradicts-itself-too-much-for-me-to-believe-it” argument keeps them from getting over or pushing through their doubt. What do you have to say to them?

Well, as long as we’re being honest, let me admit that I am one of those kinds of doubters. Reading the Bible is frustrating for me. People tell me the best way to combat my doubt is to “get in the Word.” But I have gotten in the Word. I’ve even written a book about the Bible (Pocket Guide to the Bible, available at fine bookstores near you). But when I read the Bible, I tend to come away with more questions than answers. You’re saying it’s not fair for you to be overly picky about the contradictions and discrepancies that certainly do exist in my book. I agree that there are probably mistakes. That’s because I’m a human being and I mess up. A lot.

But there’s a difference — I’m not claiming my book to be divine. Many people DO claim the Bible to be divine, without mistakes and without error. That’s what I was taught as a child, that the Bible was the “very Word of God.” So when I read the Bible and see these apparent errors or contradictions that require exegetical gymnastics in order to explain away — well, it causes me to doubt. It generates questions and a lot of frustration, because God has given me a brain. Should I just turn it off and ignore the stuff that makes me uncomfortable? I don’t think so, because that’s not intellectually honest. My entire faith tradition is built on what the Bible teaches. If I am going to devote my life to what it teaches, then it needs to be able to bear some close scrutiny. Again — if the Bible is true, it should be able to withstand my honest questions.

So to answer your original question, what would I say to the folks who struggle with faith due to doubts about the Bible? I would say this: I get it. I totally understand. If I have trouble understanding and even trusting the Bible, then of course I’m going to be dealing with some doubt.

What I like so much about that chapter, though, is that it encourages action in spite of doubt. No. That’s not true. It doesn’t encourage – it takes away your best excuse for inaction. It kicks you in the face and says, “Stop being so freaking lame and selfish.” That is not a direct quote or even an insinuation, really. It’s just what I took from it. By the way, Chapter 8: “The Paralysis of Weddings and Births” seriously changed my life. This isn’t a question, just an opportunity to say thank you.

You’re welcome. It’s a fairly philosophical chapter, with all that Kirkegaard stuff, but I understand where you’re coming from. Sometimes you just have to make the leap into the fog of uncertainty, right?

Exactly. Ok. This might be a long shot, and it’s totally not related to the book, but I have to ask: Do you know Don Miller, and if so, could you set me up with him?

Don and I exchanged emails right after Blue Like Jazz was released, way before he became the super-famous DONALD MILLER. So he probably knows my name, and we have some mutual friends, and as writers we’d probably have a lot to talk about. But we’re not buddies or anything. So for me to attempt to set you up with him would be all kinds of awkward. For him. For me. For you.

Which is to say, of course! If we’ve learned anything from watching “The Office,” interpersonal awkwardness is hilarious. So let me get in touch with him right this minute.

Ok I know that’s a joke, and that you’re not going to get in touch with him about setting us up, but I have to admit, I might have just had a small aneurysm from the excitement. We should move on before I go into cardiac arrest as there is no one here to find me and take me to the hospital.

This is only quasi-related to the book, but do your kids have pet turtles? Do you ever stack them up on each other to teach them about faith? Have you chosen someone to take care of them after the rapture?

I have had several pet turtles in my life. Actually, they were tortoises — the kind we discovered crossing the street and felt sorry for so we took them home and put them in the backyard. And then they disappeared from October to May. And then we saw them again, maybe, twice more before they disappeared forever. Turtles are mysterious creatures.

I have never stacked a turtle, because I am haunted by what happened to Yertle. I couldn’t live with those consequences.

I haven’t taken steps to care for my pets after the rapture, but if I were to do so I would definitely go with my friend Bart, the guy behind Eternal Earthbound Pets, which is an actual business created to take care of Scruffy after you’ve gone to meet Jesus. Bart’s an atheist, so he pretty much figures he’ll be left behind. I interviewed him at my blog, by the way. Here and here.

Awesome. And finally, my roommate and I discussed the choreography of an interpretive dance during a roadtrip we took over the weekend. Do you have a song preference?

No preference, as long as it’s either Michael W. Smith or Kool Moe Dee. If you can find a way to do a mashup of those two, then I’ll be happy.

I’m on it. If your book tour brings you to western NC, let me know. I’ll make you a PB&J and have my dance troupe ready to perform our MWS/KMD/OMOLF liturgical dance.

It is time.

The last time I got my hair cut was in February 2008. It was REALLY short, and I did not care for it, but because of the cut I’d had before that one, it was necessary to cut it that short to reshape it into what I have now, and what I have now has obviously worked for a long time. It hasn’t grown into a mullet or a triangle, and for both of these things, I am truly thankful. But the time has come for a new ‘do.

It just needs a new shape and some layering/thinning out as it gets longer, so I’ve made an appointment to get it cut on Saturday. I was referred by Andrea, who just got a super-cute new style last week, to the gal who did hers, and although Andrea’s hair is not quite as curly as mine, I think Jennymac’s is, and she‘s the one who referred Andrea to the stylist I’ll be seeing on Saturday. Let’s just hope she can handle all this hair. And that she doesn’t cut too much of it off.

So I’m thinking I want a little bit of old Hollywood glamour in my everyday life. There’s no telling, really, how Marilyn Monroe’s style will translate in all my curls, but it’s worth a shot, wouldn’t you say? I don’t know, though. If I got all those layers, would it look cute like this, or would it look scary like this?

What do you think? Have you any suggestions? I’m open to them.

Hint: I’m not REALLY Whitney Chambers

If you’ve been reading Onward Hoe! since way before it was even called Onward Hoe!, you may recall that time when I was blogjacked by one Miss Whitney M. Chambers. And while I have to admit that her renaming of Ginger Spice to “No, You’re Spicy!” Spice is one of the most genius things ever written on this blog, I still seek vengeance. Oh, but wait…didn’t I blogjack her at the same time?

I DID!! Hahahahaha!! I’d forgotten all about this. So great.

Ok, no vengeance then. Just a story, and maybe a future t-shirt.

When we were down at Bald Head for me and Lauren’s b-days, we were out at dinner on Saturday night, and we got into a conversation about icing. I asked Whitney what kind of icing she preferred on her funfetti cake (which was cooling at the house at that very moment), and she said chocolate or white icing would be fine. A little disappointed, I said, “Oh. I got strawberry,” at which point, she lit up like a redneck’s backyard on the 4th of July and said something along the lines of, “OH! I didn’t know you were that serious. Yes. YES. Strawberry. That’s GOOD.”

In essence, she approved. So I made like I was her and she was campaigning for the strawberry icing, and I said, “I’m Whitney Chambers, and I approved this icing.”

Well I thought it was funny, but suddenly, she got kind of upset and said, “No! You’re NOT Whitney Chambers.” I think at that point she was still kidding around because OBVIOUSLY I wasn’t actually claiming to be her. I was just imitating her as a politician with a campaign promise of icing. But then Will jumped in and said, “I’m Whitney Chambers. And I approved this icing.”

And then the people sitting immediately beside us chimed in one by one, “I’m Whitney Chambers…” until the folks at the other end of the table, with NO CLUE as to why we were all claiming to be Whitney Chambers, also claimed to be Whitney Chambers.

She did not approve of this.

But now, (maybe? hopefully?) she thinks it’s funny, and Lauren and I want to have some t-shirts made up that say “I’m Whitney Chambers” on the front and “and I approved this icing” on the back. Who wants one?

And now for a look at the leader board

As it stands now, still, in NC, Morrisville is the undisputed Onward Hoe! visit leader with 164 visits. Raleigh follows in second with 134, and Durham is still in third with 35 visits. No other NC town boasts more than 10 visits to us here at Onward Hoe!, but that’s ok. We love y’all anyway. Keep reading. Tell your friends. And hey! This is exciting. We’ve had 682 visits from 141 different cities in 28 states and 18 different countries! Eighteen freaking countries! That’s amazing to me. So whoever you are in Bridgeton, NC and Palo Alto, CA and Pompano Beach, FL and Pretoria, South Africa, welcome! I’m glad to have you, and I’m sorry I haven’t written anything in a week. I’m trying to make up for it now.

Have I mentioned how much I love Google Analytics? SO much.

an email exchange I hope you’ll enjoy

I emailed my friend Emily the other day because she lives in Washington, DC, and Donald Miller was, according to his twitter, also in our nation’s capital.

January 19, 2009


Donald Miller is in Washington, DC for the inauguration. I know that he was in Georgetown yesterday, and that he is downtown today. If you see him, please tell him to marry me. Tell him, “Don Rabbit, I know where Sexy Carrot is. She is waiting for your call.”

And here is her response, received today.

January 21, 2009


I cannot even begin to tell you how sorry I am that I only received your two emails TODAY!!!  I spent basically the whole weekend hanging out with Donald Miller, and I didn’t even once mention how you, his Sexy Carrot, were at home in NC awaiting his call / marriage proposal!!  I can’t believe this!!  I mean, all weekend he was like “Geez, you know, all I really want these days is a cute, loving, intelligent, humorous lady with whom I can spend the rest of my life.”  And all I did was sit there and console him rather than scream out “BETH PARENT LOVES YOU MARRY HER NOW!!!!!”

And for that I apologize.  I had no idea.

But the NEXT time I see him, you bet I’ll be ready.



 I love that woman.

check it

Every once in a while, I get bored with the layout of Onward Hoe!, so I look around for new themes, I download about ten of them that I really like, and then I find that eight of them have some sort of technical error in them that I lack the know-how to fix, and the other two turn out to actually be kind of lame. Or if they’re not lame, there are other problems, like my blogroll disappears, or you have to scroll way down to get to my Twitterances, or the font randomly changes size in the middle of the post. Or they’re too plain, or the colors aren’t “me,” or the title disappears and is replaced by a period, or when you try to post a comment, aliens abduct you and replace your brains with tapioca pudding, or she-bears come out of the woods and maul you, or something else tragic like that. And believe me, faithful friends and random readers, I’m with you in the dislike of all these things (particularly the she-bears), and I appreciate you voicing your opinions of my layouts, so please keep ’em coming.

And I would ask you to be patient with me in my search for the perfect blog theme. I know that this one is a bit surprising to those of you who know my true feelings about birds, but I just love the colors and the simple layout and the curly tree branches. It’s just so cute, I couldn’t resist, but then again, I may keep the layout and have some handy, designy buddy make me a new image for the top there. We’ll see. But now you’ve got the blogroll and the Twitterances and everything conveniently located on one side for your linking pleasure.

So…what do you think?

Makin’ a Comeback!!

Is “comeback” one word like that? Hmm. I think it might be. Spell-check has no problems with it. It does, however, have issues with “hmm.” Anyway, after a year-long hiatus, we’re bringing back the dirtydish, and I could not be more excited about it! Pretty much everything about it has changed except for the articles themselves, so head on over, check out the new digs, and if you feel so inclined, write us an article. We would do a little dance over it, I think.

Let’s talk books, shall we?

Again, special thanks to Danielle for bringing us a topic of bloggersation. By the way, “bloggersation” is apparently an acceptably-spelled word. I think something strange is afoot in my spell-check, so if you see any typos, please let me know. And please, if you feel so inclined, chime right on in via your own blog and/or the comments section!

What was the last book you bought?
The last two books I bought were On Writing Well by William K. Zinsser and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I bought them at the same time. I don’t remember which one they rang up last.

Name a book you have read MORE than once:
I have probably read C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe about fifteen times. I love it. I’ve also read Pride and Prejudice more than once, which is much more of a feat.

Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life? If yes, what was it?
I don’t know about a complete fundamental overhaul. If I were a good Christian, I’d say the Bible, which is so many things, not the least of which being life-changing. But I grew up in a Christian home, going to church and believing in the truth of the Bible, so it really helped to shape the way I was seeing life as I went along (and still is), but I can’t say that I had one worldview and then a different worldview after reading the Bible. It just didn’t work that way for me. There have been books, however, that have strongly illuminated Biblical truths in new ways for me, and those, I would say, have had more of the effect I think this question is asking about. One is The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the third (or maybe fifth depending on how you organize them) book in the Chronicles of Narnia. More specifically, the scene where Eustace, having been transformed into a dragon, encounters Aslan and turns back into a human. It’s beautiful and painful and deeply personal. It’s full of both discipline and grace. I really should just read that one scene every day.

How do you choose a book?
Usually, I choose books that have been recommended to me by others. Or if I’m a fan of a particular author’s work and they have something new out, I’ll pick that up too.

Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction?
Ooooooo this is hard!!! I tend to read more non-fiction, but I LOVE fiction as well. They’re just different ways to tell great stories, and both can have a profound impact on their readers.

What’s more important in a novel – beautiful writing or a gripping plot?
Danielle’s right on. It’s the characters. If you have gripping characters to follow, you’ll follow them anywhere (in plot) even if the writing is mediocre. And really, what is “beautiful writing” anyway? Honestly, a lot of the writing that critics would call “beautiful,” the average reader just finds verbose and confusing. If I have to read and re-read every sentence or paragraph (when I’m fully awake and cognizant), I’m probably not going to finish that book. But I remember when I was reading A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers, I felt like the story was carrying on without me whenever I put the book down, and that if I wasn’t reading it, I was missing it. I found myself wondering, in the middle of class, what was happening to the main character(s) in my absence, and every moment I got, I would sneak a peak to find out.

Most loved or memorable character:
Well, there’s Eustace. And I wouldn’t say he’s beloved, but Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice is quite memorable. Almost all the P&P characters are, though. Particularly that hot Mr. Darcy. Sigh.

Which book or books can be found on your nightstand at the moment?
Let’s have a look, shall we?

There’s the NIV Study Bible, On Writing Well, Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress by Susan Jane Gilman, The Database (aka my journal), and The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs (even though I finished it weeks ago).

What was the last book you’ve read, and when was it?
A couple of weekends ago, I read A Wrinkle in Time. I know I’d read it before, but it had been a while, so it was nice to revisit it.

Have you ever given up on a book half-way in?
On the way back from Mexico back in July, I started reading The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America by Bill Bryson, and I found it both uninteresting and condescending, which was the perfect recipe for offensive. Having grown up in small-town Southern America, I can tell you that very little of my life has been boring, so it should naturally follow that stories about small Southern towns  would also be not boring. I guess it’s difficult, though, to write good stories about piddly little places you find insignificant and prosaic when you are as important as Bill Bryson.