Things That Happened Today

  1. I cut a jerk off (because he was being a jerk) at 3 mph. He honked at me to show his dissatisfaction. He then turned on his bright lights, I can only assume, to prove once again that he was a jerk.
  2. On the side of the freeway, I saw one of those big, cylindrical spin brushes like they have in the automatic car washes. You know, the ones that spin their way down the sides of your car. I thought it was an odd place for it to be hanging out.
  3. The ants in my kitchen have multiplied exponentially. Seeing as we’ve had these little squatters for at least two months now, I think it’s time we tried something new.
  4. My gas light came on. Again. Seriously, gas light? I need gas EVERY week? That’s crazy.
  5. I listened to my Simon and Simon CD. That’s Paul Simon and Carly Simon. I dare you to make a better themed CD.
  6. I imagined eating gorgonzola and brie (separately). I’m a bad vegan.
  7. I actually ate hummus. Good vegan.
  8. I got paid to sit in my classroom alone for three hours. It was better than Census2010 because there were no children, and I had internet access.
  9. I watched too many episodes of Law and Order: SVU.
  10. I talked to Emily Furr Hogan on the phone. Day: made.

The Answer Is Yes

I’ve been so excited about answering this question ever since the questions started coming in. I’m not really sure why, but it’s my favorite so far. Here it is:

Are you ever going to come over and have dinner with me?

I love that this question was asked anonymously, but because I don’t know who asked it, I clearly can’t give a satisfactory answer, and I’m not sure it’s a serious question. If you really wanted me to come over and have dinner with you, wouldn’t you have just called, emailed or texted me? You could even tweet it at me. But I can’t come over and have dinner with you unless I know who you are.

However, if you will reveal yourself (your identity, that is), and if you live within a few hours’ driving distance, more than likely, I would LOVE to come have dinner with you. As long as you promise not to reveal yourself once I get there, and to cook foods I am willing to eat.

But for now, since I don’t know who asked it, I’m going to assume that everyone wants to have dinner with me, so here’s what we’re going to do. If you live within a reasonable distance and want me to come over and have dinner with you, the answer is yes. Please sign up in the comments section, and we’ll set it up. Just don’t be a psycho killer, ok?

Feel especially free to invite me to dinner if you meet these requirements.

QOTD (Question of the Day)

It’s Q&A time once again! Today’s question comes from formspring, and it’s a good one:

What’s your advice for someone who wants to start a blog but is too scared of not saying anything meaningful/too intimidated by technology/ too lazy to actually do it?

Well, this is really three questions, isn’t it? Oh what the hey, I’ll answer them all.

If you’re scared of not saying anything meaningful, I’d just like to invite you to read the past six years of Onward Hoe!, and then tell me why you think that blogging requires depth, insight and/or meaning to be worthwhile. I mean, if that’s the kind of blog you want to have, then obviously you’ll need to start digging deep into your heart/psyche for some powerful stuff. But I write about food and the gas it causes me to have, traveling and seeing water-skiing squirrels (ok I know I STILL haven’t done that), crazy dreams I have, and ridiculous things I find on the internet. Here and there, you might find something poignant or thought-provoking, but by and large, this really is not that sort of blog. And yours doesn’t have to be that sort of blog either. There are all kinds. Here are some examples:

  • Humor Blogs – I hope you’re on one right now. I never really intended it to be put into a category, but I am told it’s funny, so there you go. A few other notable humor blogs are Cake Wrecks, Jennsylvania and Stuff White People Like.
  • Parenting Blogs, which were originally called Mommy Blogs, but then daddies started writing them too, and it wasn’t PC or something to call daddies “Mommy Bloggers,” so we had to change it.
  • Hobby Blogs – Do I really need to explain this?
  • Political Blogs – These are the kinds of blogs I don’t visit.
  • Pop Culture Blogs
  • Celebrity Gossip Blogs
  • Personal Gossip Blogs
  • Travel Blogs
  • Sports Blogs
  • Religious Blogs
  • Photography Blogs
  • Blogs about blogging
  • Marketing Blogs

Oh my gosh there are a million different kinds of blogs that don’t require you to have anything meaningful to say ever! Isn’t that freeing?? And here’s another little tid-bit to free you from this fear: There are well over 100 MILLION WEBSITES on the internet, so if your blog isn’t “meaningful,” it’s likely that no one will ever notice.

Too intimidated by technology, you say? Y’all. Blogging is SUPER-easy. If you can send an email, you can post a blog. I know I use WordPress software now, but honestly, if I were just starting out again, I would use Blogger.com. That’s where I started, and it walks you through every step of setting the thing up, so you literally don’t have to know anything about web design or html code or anything. You don’t have to download anything, you don’t have to install anything, you just have to do the writing. Amazingly simple. And if you need help, you can email me.

If you’re too lazy, well that’s your own fault. I don’t know that there’s a lot I can do to help you there as I’m pretty lazy myself, but here’s my thought: If you want to do something – like REALLY want to do it – you do it. We can all agree that sloth is my deadly sin of choice, and that I have a slight fear of commitment, but I’ve been blogging regularly for six years. SIX YEARS! The trick for me has been to not think too much about my commitment to the blog, but just to write what I think is funny or interesting. And I see a lot of funny/interesting things.

If you ever have moments in your life when you think, “Oh my gosh I have to tell somebody about this,” then you can blog. Like the other day, I was getting into my car to go to work. I had just eaten dinner, and I really wanted something sweet. I wondered if I had any candy in my car, and then I opened the door and saw half a bag of lemon drops in the console. And y’all, OUT LOUD, alone in my car, in a voice like Mae West saying, “Why don’t you come up and see me sometime,” I said, with regard to lemon drops, “Ring-a-ding-ding.” And immediately, I needed to tell someone about it.

Now, that is a story best told in person so you can actually hear me say it, but that’s what I’m talking about – moments when you think, “Who can I tell about what has just happened?” I have a lot of those moments, so I am rarely hard-up for material, and that is what provides me with the motivation to make it happen (nearly) every day.

If that doesn’t help you, then once again, remind yourself that if you start a blog and then don’t keep up with it, probably not many people will notice or care. At least that takes the pressure off.

So no matter what the reason you haven’t started a blog, I just want you to know that if I can do it, you can do it. If you really want to, that is.

It has been an exceptionally good week.

Today I made a delicious lentil recipe I found here. I had to cook it longer than the recipe calls for, but it was REALLY good. I stuffed my face with it for lunch AND dinner, and I’m going to have it for dinner again tomorrow (and probably lunch on Friday). Apart from that, this week has just been really good.

The weather is perfect, I saved electricity today by drying my laundry out on the porch, my students and I all came back from spring break with renewed energy, so classes have been particularly enjoyable and productive this week, I have had lots of good conversations with friends, DLF IS A FULBRIGHT SCHOLAR!!!!!!!!!! (which means I am legally obligated to go to Belgium in the next year), I’ve had a couple of really awesome hair days, I read the entire gospel of John yesterday, Lost and Glee were both great, and I’m going to Wilmington this weekend with my roommate. I honestly don’t know that I could ask for a better week. I think to do so would be extremely selfish and picky (but I wouldn’t argue with a boyfriend being thrown into the mix).

I don’t know what else to tell you except good night, pleasant dreams, ask me more questions, and I’ll talk to you tomorrow.

Question of the Day

Today’s question comes from my formspring page. I’m not sure if someone actually asked me this, or if maybe formspring just felt bad for me because no one was asking me anything, so they threw one out there for me to answer. I don’t really care. It’s a good question.

What are your long-term plans in life?

I kind of thought we’d start out with things like, “What are your favorite pizza toppings?” or “How DO you get your hair to be so awesome?” but no, we’re going straight for the big guns. Mama, is that you again? Do you really think you’re going to get a satisfactory answer to this one? I’ll try.

I got out of the planning business a long time ago. I don’t know how many of you know this about me, but I started out in undergrad as a music major. I had plans, see? I was going to be a music therapist. But then that fell through, and I haven’t done much planning since. My college advisor asked me one time what my five-year plan was, and I think I just stared at her blankly for a minute before I either started laughing or broke down in tears. I just could not envision my life five years out. I still can’t. I haven’t even tried since then, and five years is really not that long, so as far as long-term plans go…well, you got me. I have no idea.

I do have things I want to do, but I don’t have a time line for them or anything like that. I’m working toward some goals, but I don’t know when I’ll achieve them, and I’m not trying to plan my life out too much because (a) there are so many things I can’t control, and (b) where’s the fun in that? I really like the spontaneity I’ve got going and the freedom I have to change things up at a moment’s notice. But for those of you who really want a more concrete answer to this question, the things I want to do are as follows:

  • get married
  • have kids (although I’m really interested in adoption, so I might get some kids rather than having them myself)
  • publish books (multiple)
  • continue to see new places in the world
  • build my savings account back up
  • pay off my student loans
  • eat delicious food
  • own a home
  • live off of writing and teaching (although I could still do the Census for fun)
  • enjoy whatever life throws at me because somehow, it all has the potential to be beautiful

Who’s next? Keep ’em coming!

Food Project Update OR Soy No Mas

So as you may recall, I’m poor, and I had all this food sitting in a bag on the floor because it wouldn’t fit on my shelf in the food cabinet, and as a result of these two things, I decided to eat all my food before buying new food. ALL my food. Well, I’m proud to say that I’m down to a bag of rice, two half-boxes of pasta, a jar of salsa and about a spoonful of almond butter. I think I can feel good enough about that kind of progress to go shopping when I get paid tomorrow. Unless y’all have any ideas for that kind of food combination.

Yeah I didn’t think so. Me neither.

Back story: When my beloved Brookie was just getting to know her husband Matt, he was in Wilmington and she was in Raleigh, so there was a lot of emailing that went on, and they switched up the subject lines for each message, which was really cute. Well, they’d already established that they both spoke Spanish, and Brookie wanted to make the subject line for one email about this dairy-free ice cream called Soy Delicious, but since “soy” in Spanish means “I am,” she questioned whether this was an appropriate thing to say to a man she barely knew (I am delicious). I told her it was hilarious and to go for it. She did. They are married. I take full credit.

ANYhoe, in the past few weeks, since I used up the last of the soy milk, I have noticed a marked improvement in both my skin and my digestive system, which makes me seriously wonder if I’ve got some kind of soy allergy. Now, for most people, this would qualify as a minor inconvenience – minor because my gas and skin problems are not that serious, inconvenience because there is soy in almost EVERYTHING. But for a vegan (even a quasi-vegan), the possibility of a soy allergy poses a larger problem.

Soy is what vegans eat. Soy beans, soy milk, soy ice cream, soy cheese, soy sauce, tofu, tempeh, textured vegetable protein (TVP), etc. It’s a complete protein, which is what I tell people when they look at me all concerned and say, “But you have to eat meat. HOW DO YOU GET ENOUGH PROTEIN?!?!” This is a different post entirely, but suffice it to say, I just explain to them about soy, and although they don’t buy it and think I’ve been brainwashed by the Japanese, they tend to leave me alone about the protein.

So if I’m allergic to soy, what ever shall become of me? As a vegan, with no more soy, do I too cease to exist (remember that Spanish lesson from earlier, kids)?

I had an existential crisis for a moment over this, and then I got really excited about eating a wider variety of veggies and beans and not relying so wholly on soy to complete a meal. I mean, after this little food challenge, I’m all kinds of creative in the kitchen. Once I’ve got my pantry restocked, there will be no limit to the flavors I can create! Oh I can’t wait to make a grocery list!

1000 Ways I’m Better Because of Blogging

Ahem. Do I look any older today? Any wiser, perhaps? You may notice that I have a new banner up at the top there, which is all thanks to my awesome sister, who is much better at that sort of thing than I am. But that’s not what I’m talking about.

This is my ONE THOUSANDTH BLOG POST. I wish I knew how many words that was, but I have no idea. To be sure, it’s enough to fill multiple books, which is very encouraging. I know that I am capable of writing a book. It’s just going to be a matter of time and diligence. And that leads us directly into today’s actual post. I’m not really going to list 1000 ways I’m better because of blogging. You can read back through the past six years to see my journey if you want to. I’m just going to hit five highlights that I think encompass them all.

I’m More Confident in My Writing Ability

I started blogging in 2004 after meeting some girls in NYC who had blogs and couldn’t believe I didn’t have one. I think we’d met just once or twice before they both recognized that I would either love it or be good at it (I’m not sure which – maybe both). And for the first little while there, I really didn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t set out to make this website what it is. It just evolved. In the first few months, I blogged about two things: Christianity and community league hockey. And while the hockey was a lot of fun for me, I’m not sure anybody else got it. But my more spiritual writing was what got people’s attention. Those were the posts people read and said, “You know, you’re a really good writer.” I didn’t really believe them (still have trouble with it, actually), but taking the risk of putting my words out into the world began to build a confidence I hadn’t known with anything before.

If you read any books or blogs or articles on writing, one of the things you’ll have read over and over again is that in order to be a better writer, you have to write. Just write and write and write. Every day. And it’s funny – I never really considered what I do here writing. Not “real” writing anyway. Not writing that matters, but it does. It matters to me, to my craft, and hopefully to at least a few people here and there. And I’d like to think I’ve gotten better at it over the years, but even if I haven’t, even if I’ve stayed at the same level or even regressed, it doesn’t really matter because I love it more every day, and the more I fall in love with writing, the more confident I am in my ability to do it. And maybe that’s what improving is.

I’m a Better Problem Solver

I know things about HTML that no Psychology major or ESL teacher should know. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve screwed up this website to the point where I thought I’d lost everything and would have to start all over. And then, miraculously, I fix it. Sometimes this requires the assistance of several people who are clearly much smarter than me, but I think that’s part of problem-solving – humility and the support of people who still love you even though you suck at something.

So first of all, to everyone who has helped me solve a technical issue, I’d like to return the favor. If you ever need anything edited, or if you have a website you want me to advertise, or if you’d like some vegan cupcakes or cookies, you just let me know.

And the other part of problem-solving is just not being afraid to fiddle around. Granted, that’s how I get myself in trouble, too, but it is how I learned to do 100% of the things I now know how to do with my page design, and it spills over into the rest of my life. When I started this thing in 2004, I was not the kind of person who ever would have dreamt of going vegan, writing a book, walking marathons or cutting up/refashioning her clothes. I did what I’d always done, ate what I’d always eaten, wore my clothes the way they were made, and didn’t often push myself into territory that was dramatically different or uncomfortable (sometimes, but not often).

But as I’ve learned to solve problems better, I’ve gotten more comfortable with experimentation and challenge because I’ve realized that (A) it is very hard to screw things up entirely, (B) I am very luck to have an amazing network of people who are always willing to help me out, and (C) that’s how I learn.

I’m No Longer Afraid of Commitment

If you are one of the, like, three people who’ve been reading this since it began, you’ve been with me through two phone companies, eight moves, thirteen roommates, *cough cough* boyfriends/quasiboyfriends, countless crushes you didn’t even know about, three churches (not counting any of the ones involved in Church Search 2010) and at least five jobs. And there have been times when I’ve been more committed to blogging than others. I hope you’ll have noticed that over the past year or two, I’ve become more consistent. This is a phenomenon that is slowly taking over more aspects of my life. I’m living in places for longer, I’ve been with the same phone company for several years now, I try to blog every day, but if I can’t, at least three times a week, and in general, I’m looking for places to be and people to be with for the long haul.

And I’m not scared of it. I am sometimes scared of not having these things ever, of always being this sort of nomad who blows in and out of people’s lives, is never truly known and then easily forgotten. But I know that’ll never happen. I’m too good with a telephone.

I Have a Voice

…which I use on the phone for hundreds of minutes each month. If you haven’t heard it, email me your digits, and I’ll call you. For real. But mostly I’m talking about two things:
1.    My writing voice.
2.    A platform.

I was at my new Thursday morning writing group yesterday, reading a chapter from my book-in-progress to two listeners. One of them has read/heard a lot of me, and the other was a woman I’d just met. And one of the things the new lady had to say was that she loved how my voice on paper was exactly like my speaking voice. I don’t always achieve this, but as my confidence grows, so does my authenticity. And perhaps even more exciting than having a voice is having people recognize it and like it.

I hate to tell y’all this, but only about 7% of what I do here is for you. Mostly what happens is I see something noteworthy in the world or inside myself, and I want to document it. I don’t put it to you for your approval, but for your participation. But when you do approve, well that feels really good. And the more people approve of what you have to say, the more they want to hear, and the greater the opportunity for you to speak on the topics that really matter to you. I don’t do much of that here (mostly it’s just general ridiculousness), but on the days when I do have something important to say, I’m glad y’all are here to listen, and if I’ve said something that resonated with you, feel free to pass it on.

I Know Who I Am (and So Can You)

I feel the most like myself when I am genuinely laughing – not laughing out of politeness or discomfort or as a way to fill a void, but really cracking up. In those moments, I’m not self-conscious, I’m not worried, I’m not dissatisfied. That’s me being myself fully and completely.

These have been good, good times, friends, and if you weren’t around for some of the earlier ones, I want to invite you to see the hilarity for yourself.

Ode to a Weather Man – My poetry really is one of my favorite things on here.
The Zimmerman Limmermacht dream – You know you’re crazy when this kind of thing goes on without you even thinking about it.
Hey, remember when I was a pole dancer? Good times.
The one in which I shake my head violently.
One of my all-time favorite poems, God is NOT a Temp.
The one where Whitney imitates a porn film.
Goodness gracious how many haikus did I write that day?
That’s Racin’!
The one where I talk to Jane Austen, who, sweet as she is, is really quite thick.
Roy Orbison + Clingfilm = Endless Entertainment
Why I’m becoming a Jehova’s Witness (It took me 3 tries just now to type ‘witness’ instead of ‘Whitney.”)

Here’s to another 1000 posts!! Onward Hoe!!

The Biggest Difference Between Freelancing and…Not

I think it has been well established that I like to write. And on that note, a sidenote: I’m about to hit 1,000 blog posts, and I’m trying to think of something exciting to do for it. Any suggestions? End of sidenote.

So I’ve been writing freelance for the past couple of years for various websites and having a lot of fun with it. I’d like to do it more. I’d like to write as my main job (and teach a few days a week), but here’s the thing. As a freelancer, you have to actually finish work in order to get paid. If you sit at your computer for eight hours a day and don’t complete anything, that’s zero dollars for you. If you work as a normal employee (on salary, hourly wage or contract) of a company, you get paid just to show up, and they assume that you’re working the whole time. I mean, obviously if you never do any work, you’ll get fired, but I’m just sayin’ – I have long conversations with people online while they’re at work. During this time, they are getting paid while I am not because they’re at work (“working”), but I’m not getting anything done. A job job is, therefore, in just about every way provided you like your job, preferable. But I have yet to find a company that will pay me to write about the kinds of things I write about full time.

If you know of such a company – one that wants to pay someone to write for 35-40 hours a week on topics such as hair gel, crazy people, internet dating, personal victories over technological ineptitude, vegan food, weird dreams, musical theater and travel – let me know. But I can’t even imagine what that company would be, so I guess Onward Hoe! is it. Come on fancy ads! Baby needs a new pair of shoes! (Not really, but it sounded better than “Baby needs an oil change, some hair gel and toothpaste.”)

Yum yum yum! Delicioso!!

I normally don’t post on the weekends, but I just made something delicious, and I had to share it with you. Based on my ideas from the other day about what to do with all my food, and loosely modeled after the recipe found in the comments from that post, here’s what I did:

1/2 cup brown rice (dry)
1 cup water
1-2 tbsp. olive oil

I just cooked the rice according to the instructions on the package, and while that was happening…

3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 red onion (because I’m not that big an onion fan), chopped

Sautee onions in olive oil until translucent, add garlic and sautee another minute or two. Add:
3/4-1 cup black beans (canned: drained, rinsed)
3 tsp basil
3 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
dash of salt/pepper

I let that all simmer together until the rice was done, and I kept adding water just to keep it from burning or drying out too much. When the rice was done, I dumped it in the pan with the bean mixture, and then I added:
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup dried cherries

Next time, I might add a little more rice or take out the dash of salt. I might try a little more cumin, but maybe not. It was good. And I could see this being a great side dish or maybe a filling in a wrap of some sort – either in tortillas or spinach leaves…or whatever leafy green you wanted to put it in.

If you try it or any variation of it, let me know how it turns out!

Next up: Hazelnuts, rotini pasta, chickpeas, honey, lemon, aaaaaaaaaaaaaand sweet potato fries. Ideas?