Sunday, October 04, 2015

The Joys of Ramen

Ah, ramen noodles. The bane of every college student, everywhere. In fact, it's almost like a bonding thing, that point in life where you're so poor you're subsisting mainly on ramen noodles three times a day. It brings us all closer together.

Yet, somehow I missed that experience. I mean, we had ramen as a kid around the house because I know from experience my favorite flavor is chicken. When I grew up and went to college, I never had that point of ramenness that all others seemed to talk about. Mostly because I went to a University where someone had the bright idea to install convenience stores attached to the dining halls and what's more, they had the absolutely brilliant idea of allowing students to use meal plan money in them. As a result, I spent a good chunk of my college experience eating things from Amy's Kitchen, Nature's Nectar and other amazing super natural and organic and more or less good for you brands. All for the low, low price of free. (ok, not free exactly, I did pay for the meal plan money after all.) In fact, I probably ate better in college than I do now, seeing as how once you graduate and realize what all that amazing food costs in real money, it suddenly doesn't seem quite as worth it.

The point of this all is that only recently have I learned the joys of eating ramen, and I'm not talking about boiling it up and throwing it in a cup. When I was a young lass, you see, I was never much interested in household chores. I preferred the outdoor work. My mother despaired that I would ever learn certain all important skills, but I must have absorbed something through osmosis because I definitely cook in her style. I call it Doctor cooking.

It all started with a couple of Youtube videos I stumbled upon. My husband laughs at me for spending time watching people play video games, but unbeknownst to him, I watch a lot more than that. Anyway, the first one showed a couple making "Crispy Noodles" with ramen and the second showed a guy frying ramen with eggs. And I mentally kicked myself and thought "Why didn't I think of that," because I'd fried rice before to make a dish affectionately known in our house as "Hot Dog Fried Rice." But never in all my days did I think of frying the noodles. My favorite food at the Chinese restaurant is Lo Mein.

So the wheels in my head began turning and that's where doctor cooking comes in. Following a recipe is great, but sometimes you don't have exactly what you need. So when I'm trying to figure out what to feed us poor college young adult adults, my brain works something like this:

What do I have in the kitchen? Tuna. Ok, well, what can I use the tuna for? Tuna salad. Great. What goes in tuna salad? celery, mayo. I don't have celery but I have corn and mayo and garlic and onion... and on it goes until I've figured out what we're having for dinner that day or the next. I might add that I generally don't do this while I'm standing in front of the cupboards either. It's while I'm showering, doing laundry and watching those Youtube videos my husband likes to tease me about.

So I saw these videos and I thought to myself. This is great! But I know how to make it better. We have leftover chicken and soy sauce. I'll go ahead and add the eggs. I can sautee some onions and...OH! we have frozen veggies. By the time I got out of the shower, I knew exactly what I was going to make. And let me tell you what, I was pretty happy with the results. Because I was so pleased with this dressed up Ramen, I wanted to share it with you, though it's not a recipe really because it's meant to be played with.

Put the ramen in water on the stove. You're not going to boil them, you just want them to get hot enough that they break apart. In the meantime I chopped half an onion and put it in a pan with some olive oil. While that was cooking, I began picking cooked chicken off the carcass (whole chickens were on sale at Aldi for 95 cents a pound last week.) When the noodles were broken up, I drained and rinsed them in cool water before adding them to the onions. I added a little more olive oil and then two eggs. I let the eggs cook a bit while I added soy sauce, about half of the spice packet that comes with the ramen and garlic powder. Next, I added the frozen veggies (we don't like them soggy so didn't want them to cook as long) and the chicken. Then I basically tasted and tweaked until it was hot through and I liked the flavor. It was amazing! I sent the leftovers with my husband for lunch today so am waiting for his verdict. Hopefully it's as popular as hot dog fried rice.

If you're curious, here are the original videos I watched. As you can see, I kind of combined them a bit.

Monday, August 10, 2015

A Writer's Work is Never Done

So here's the thing. A writer's work is never done. Weird right? Most people think a writer writes a book and boom, that's it. Nope. There's a lot more to it than that. So, today I am going to talk about one of the most important aspect of writing the dreaded revisions.

If you didn't know, I read a lot. And by a lot I mean, a lot a lot. I read all kinds of things but one thing I read a lot of is Indie books. Why? Because a lot of times they're free or low priced and honestly, I've found some really good books that way. To be honest though, a lot of indie books are...well... crap. The main reason? lack of revisions and editing.

Rewrites, editing and fixing things are actually, in my opinion, the most important aspect of being a writer. I'm serious. Even more than writing the book in the first place. For me, it's also the most difficult part of being a writer because I'm lazy. I think this happens to a lot of indie writers as well. They get the book done and are all excited to publish it. As a result, I've read books with unfollowable stories, novellas that should've been full length novels, books with bad spelling, weird sentences and  rushed endings, stories where everything is crammed in all at once. This does not make for a pleasurable reading experience.

I think sometimes authors get so caught up in what their writing, in telling their story that sometimes they forget the reader can't see what's inside their head and they leave things out. Sometimes the opposite happens as well. They make their worlds so big and so expansive, it's hard for the general reader to follow. (This is the issue I have with a lot of High Fantasy.)

So writers, I beg you, edit and revise your books. Yes, it can be rough and maybe you have to cut scenes out but trust me, it's for the good of the overall project. If your child had a weird disease that made their hair blue but was slowly killing them, you would cure it, not leave it because you like his or her hair color.

Wow, that totally turned into a rant.

The other thing you deal with as a writer is learning when to say "Enough" because that's the opposite end of this spectrum. (And this is what I mean by the title.) It is possible to revise and edit too much. You are always thinking of ways to improve your story or your dialogue or your scenes. At some point you have to just let it go, let your baby fly. (Although author Joe Clifford Faust has mentioned that even after his books are published, he hates them and thinks about how he could have made them better.) The key is finding a balance.

Personal example: I started writing a novel in high school. I finished it in College. I edited it before I left for Russia in 2011 and started sending it out when I was overseas. I came home and I want to start sending it out to agents and publishers again, however looking at it I'm like "Oh wow, some of these scenes sound like they were written by a twelve year old girl." I've matured since I originally wrote it and now I'm going through it again. I'll get some people to read it when I'm done and send it out again. I need to realize that there is a time to let it go. (Although I actually tend to fall more at the "meh...rewrites...Who needs 'em spectrum." Hence the weird stuff that shows up in the blog sometimes)

So, the point of today's lesson:
Revisions = good
Too many revisions = bad
Good ideas+ good rewrites and editing = good novels.

Happy writing.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Why I Support Polygamy

First off, let me start off by saying I hate politics. I spent about 30 seconds as a political science major in college. It took one class to make me realize that everyone has an opinion about politics and everyone is extremely passionate that their political view is the right one. I on the other hand do not. While I like to be aware of what's going on in the world, I don't feel the need to yell about it, or get into arguments about it or even really talk about it. I just don't like conflict.

It was no surprise then last week when Facebook and the internet exploded with the Supreme Court's decision to legalize gay marriage in all 50 states and everyone was freaking out that I just watched it all happen as I usually do when some newsworthy item occurs.

Except I didn't.

For some reason I decided that this would be as good a time as any to express my views on polygamy. Polygamy? You might ask. Why polygamy? I honestly don't know. Maybe because I read a lot about fundamentalist Mormons? Maybe because there are people out there living polygamy as an alternate lifestyle. Who knows? But I felt the need to express that while the homosexual community is out there celebrating a milestone, there are still people out there who aren't free to love.

When I started posting about polygamy on Facebook, I got a lot of different responses. From Christian Right friends who joked about what they would legalize next to members of the gay community condemning me for being unloving and joking about these things. It was then I realized that I was serious.

I'm not going to lie. It kind of did start out as a joke. Back before gay marriage was legal. I'd say things about how if they were going to legalize that, they should legalize polygamy. But then I started thinking about it and it occurred to me that if two consenting adults of the same sex can legally get married, what about multiple consenting adults? Everyone says that marriage should be equal, people should have the right to have the benefits of marriage and that with these recent court decision the mission was accomplished. Except it wasn't.

The United States has a history of persecuting polygamists. There are people out there whose practice of polygamy is deeply tied to religious beliefs making it not only an issue of marriage but an issue of religious freedom as well. Legalizing polygamous marriages would not only help with this persecution and lead to acceptance, it would aid in things such as the abuse of welfare and other government benefits.

If the government says a homosexual couple has the rights of the benefits of marriage, then who are they to say that other non-traditional groups can't have that right as well?

"But where would it end?" you might ask me. "How would the government control the amount of wives a man could have? What would then stop other kinds of marriages from being legalized?" My honest answer: I don't know. But I also think that marriage shouldn't even be a government issue. If it weren't a state issue, there wouldn't be these issues of who one can or cannot marry. But I'm digressing.

My point is, I respect the right of a man to have multiple wives if he so chooses. No one should be persecuted for that. People who were so passionate about legalizing gay marriage should realize that the work is not done. It's not just about homosexuality. You can't give rights to one group and ignore all the others and that is why I support the legalization of polygamous marriage.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Why I Don't Go to Work in My Pajamas

So, when Robbie and I were getting ready to move to the great state of Indiana, the most frequent question people would ask me, after the basics of course, was something along the lines of  "So, do you have a job lined up?"

The answer was "no" but that sounds weird in this day and age so I would go "Well, actually I have a job. I write freelance copy for webpages and can do that from home..." and I would go on to explain that it was sufficient for the moment.

One of my dreams in life was to be able to stay home and write. Okay, it's kind of a recent dream. Since I was in Russia last time really. When we lived in Ohio, one of the things Robbie and I discussed was me quitting my job and writing full time. Honestly though, I was kind of scared. I more or less enjoyed the job I had and the money I made paid a few small bills and then mostly went to us doing fun stuff. It was nice. So the idea of dropping it to go full time with a freelance job/my own writing, that doesn't have anywhere near a steady schedule was a little intimidating. When we decided to move, we also it would be a good idea to try this writing thing for a while.

So here we are, two months in and my day involves sleeping in, (Robbie works afternoons) and taking care of the house, doing the odd writing job and reading. Okay, I'm not going to lie, I've probably read something like 15 books since we left Ohio. "What a great life you must lead" you might be thinking. "How wonderful that you can just stay in bed if you want, you can go to work in your pajamas!"

That's right. Except I don't. Why? you might ask. Because it's a terrible idea. You see, I am a naturally lazy person. I've realized this as I've become an adult. I mean, working it nice. It makes you money and money buys you things, but honestly, I'd rather have my time. Time to do things. So, if Abigail were to stay in her pajamas all day, she would get nothing done. She would sit in front of the TV eating bon bons and watching Lifetime movies all day, if she even bothered to get out of bed. (Okay, not gonna lie that happens sometimes now anyway. Except for the Lifetime movies part. I'm rather partial to documentaries.)

So, we've kind of gotten into this routine. Yeah, I sleep in but it's generally because at our house we're up late. Plus I get to spend some morning cuddle time before Robbie has to go to work. But when it's time to get up, It's time to get up. Even when I feel like just laying in bed all day, I will still get up and get fully dressed. Usually in jeans and a t-shirt, but it doesn't matter. When I'm up and dressed, my body knows it's business time, whether the next thing on my list is walking the dogs, doing the dishes, packing a lunch or writing.

As weird as it sounds, getting dressed is the most important part of my day. Without it, the dishes wouldn't get done, the dogs wouldn't get walked, nothing would ever get clean and I'd never get any work done. Plus, making that effort makes me feel better about myself and makes me feel like, even if nothing else gets done because of some random act of God, at least I've accomplished one thing today.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Indy 500

So, I've decided to treat our move here as if it were a cultural experience on the level of Russia. It's been a rough transition so perhaps if I think of it that way, it'll help with the adjustment.

Anyway, Memorial Day weekend, Robbie and I got invited to go with his best friend and some other people to the Indy 500. For those of you who don't know, it's a race. With cars. But not cars. More about that shortly however.

Robbie's been and I guess if you live near Indianapolis you go at least once and then (especially if you live near the racetrack) you spend every other year hiding and waiting for traffic to clear. In any case I said "Sure, let's go. It'll be an adventure." So we did.

On the way to the track, Robbie explained to me a little about racing since apparently everyone in Indy knows all about it by osmosis. Me, not having that benefit, had to be educated. I learned that there are different colored flags for different things (Green means go, yellow means follow the pace car) and that while the Indy 500 is 500 miles (Which I did know) it's actually only 200 laps around the track. I asked Robbie how long it would take for them to race. "Oh probably about two hours." I didn't realize how fast those cars go. I was also informed that approximately 200,000 people show up for this shindig.

We decided to park at my in-laws because they conveniently live a semi-short walk away from the track (Although Robbie spent a good amount of time telling me how the walk used to be even shorter but this company called Allison Transmission bought the road that went directly to the track from the city and basically commandeered it so now everyone had to walk clear around. You learn fascinating things from the locals.) In the long run, it was a smart decision because we didn't have to pay for parking. I said it'd be no big deal to walk there and Robbie informed me that it wasn't the walk there that was rough, it was the walk back.

It wasn't hard to find the track. We just joined the great exodus of people. Which got bigger, and bigger and bigger the closer to the track we got. Once we got near the track, our first task was to find the rest of our group and thus was the first of many interesting conversation I was to have with my husband over the next several hours.

Me: Where did they say they were?
Robbie: Two o'clock on the round about.
Me: *Looking in that general direction How are we going to find them in this seething mass of humani...
Robbie: There they are!

So we met with our group and headed into the track. When you go to the Indy 500, you are allowed one cooler and one backpack per person. I had a backpack, our friends had coolers. We were told to go through this special line where they were checking these things. After making our way through the line without being checked (I have no idea...) we were in the stadium proper. Not gonna lie, it was pretty impressive. When they told me track, I was thinking track like for the sulky races at the far. You have a seat on any one of the bleachers and you can see the whole thing. These were our seats:

This is turn one. Yes. Turn one. There are four turns total.

This was from our seats looking in the other direction. You can't really see it but at the other end is turn 4.

Yeah, so basically this thing was huge. We had amazing seats. Right in the middle of turns 1 and 4. In the shade which was epic and believe it or not, that metal thing that was our little shady roof had more bleachers. I was told you could see the whole track from those top bleachers, but you also had to sit in the sun. I was glad we had the shade. 

There was a lot of announcing and fanfare before the race started. A tribute to America's armed forces, many patriotic songs, A song about Indiana. It was cool to hear America the Beautiful and God Bless America sung since you don't hear those songs sung much. Florence Henderson (Mrs. Brady) sang God Bless America and Jordan Sparks sang the national anthem. They introduced all the drivers and I also got to see Jeff Gordon. Okay, it was a ways away but it was still pretty cool. 

While we were waiting for things to get started, Robbie continued to tell me about the Indy 500 and we had yet another epic Abigail moment.

Robbie: Yeah, so this is different than NASCAR
Me: Wait, this isn't NASCAR?
Robbie: No, NASCAR uses more like regular cars and these aren't.
Me: So this is more like drag racing? Wait are there parachutes?
(People in front of us turn around and give us an odd look)
Robbie: Just be quiet...

I'm not an idiot I promise. I just am not familiar with these sports, although in my defense as soon as he said that about NASCAR, that clicked in my head. I've seen bits and pieces and realized that yeah, they do use more regular cars. 

Finally, after lots of waiting, the track was cleared, the racers were strapped in and a woman was brought to the microphone to utter those immortal words "Drivers, start your engines." I put on my ear protectors that my husband kindly brought for me and the engines went on. The drone of a billion bees could be heard. Seriously that's what it sounded like. The whole stadium was vibrating with the sound of it. I was super excited.

The flag was waved and the cars went off. Slowly. I looked at Robbie. "That was it? That wasn't very impressive" He replied that they did a couple of warm up laps first.Well, right off the bat, a couple turned into something like five. There was a car that immediately caught fire and a wreck so the race was off to a slow start. Eventually though, the green flag was waved and the race actually began. 

I had been joking about seeing a crash but let me tell you what, this years race was ridiculous. There were something like six crashes and a couple of pit crew members even got hit. (Link to Article About Pit Crew with Footage) It was insane. It was exciting though, even the not so exciting part in the middle. Once the cars got up to speed and spread out, the hum of the engines was almost constant, vibrating you, your water bottle, the stands and so on. In some ways, that was my favorite part. You're sitting there with ear protectors on and the engines are so intense that you can still hear them and feel them. It was really cool!

Eventually, we fell into this rhythm. Watch the cars come around the fourth turn, watch them as they go by, watch them go around turn one and then watch them on the giant TV screen as the go around turns 2 and 3. Then you pick them up live again at turn four. 

The race is intense the whole way, but where it really gets intense is toward the end. I felt kind of bad because there was this huge group of people sitting in front of us who were part of this one racing team. The driver was doing super well the whole race and then around like two thirds of the way through he crashed. He was okay, but his car wasn't and so he was out of the race. 

Even if you're not a racing fan, the last twenty or so laps are exciting. Everyone is trying to maneuver and so there's a lot of back and forth between the top racers. Robbie's best friend wanted a guy named Powers to win because he'd won the race twice already. Winning it a third and coming back next year for the 100th race to try and win it a fourth time would make for great marketing according to John. 

So there we are, it's getting down to the wire and suddenly there's this three car crash. So it's close to the end and everyone has to follow the pace car while they're cleaning things up. Robbie tells me that he hopes they don't end on a yellow flag because that's a lot more anticlimactic ( I mean really, who wants to finish a race not going full speed.)

Thankfully though, the mess got cleaned up before the end. It was a very dramatic finish and Juan Pablo Montoya ended up winning. It was kind of funny that he won because apparently the first time Robbie ever saw the Indy 500, Montoya won as well. After the race I looked at him and said "Well Robbie, you've come full circle. Montoya won the first time you came to the race and Montoya won today. Now you never have to come back."

The crowds dispersed pretty quickly after the race ended. And Robbie was right, the walk back was terrible.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Cornfields and Trains

So it's been a while. I know. I had a rough transition back to the States. I actually have three or four blog posts that are sitting here in draft form from after I got back that I couldn't finish. Perhaps someday.

In the meantime, the latest news is that I'm now in the great state of Indiana. We moved her for my husband's job. Our apartment complex is smack dab in the middle of cornfields off of  "county road 250" and the closest object of interest are train tracks about half a mile down the road. In either direction.

You can't make this stuff up.

I always thought where I grew up in Ohio was rural. Just kidding.

But anyway, the most positive thing about this experience so far is that when we moved here, we decided that Abigail needs to work on her writing. I've been doing freelance work for an advertising company out of Canton so that brings some money in and then in between unpacking boxes, walking our dogs and watching ridiculous YouTube videos, I write for myself. That aspect of it I like.

I like being able to set my schedule and do something that I love. When I was in Russia one thing I wrote in my journal is that the desire of my heart was to be able to stay home and write. Looks like God's given me just that opportunity.

So stay tuned for more about writing, life and the culture shock of switching states.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

12 Hours

Twelveish hours from now, I will be on a plane leaving Russia.  Today was my last day at church. Yesterday was my last day in the city in the sense of walking around and seeing things.

The last couple weeks have been interesting. I don't know if I can really do a good job of describing the emotions that go along with it. Or lack thereof. 

For about a week and a half I was depressed. I didn't want to be social, it was difficult to even be at the church because it physically hurt. I spent the last year getting to know people and becoming part of the church family here and leaving them is really hard. 

I wasn't feeling numb exactly. My best friend told me that I sounded "dull" not dull as in "Oh gosh Abigail are you going to whine about leaving some more? how dull!" but dull as in my emotions exist but they aren't quite sharp or bright. 

I think some of the reason for this feeling is I feel like I haven't really had a chance to process it, or grieve. Every time I feel like I want to cry or get upset about leaving, I find myself controlling it. I imagine once I get home I'll feel like I can afford the luxury of being upset. 

People ask me what my next step is. Honestly, I have no idea. I have a better idea of what I want to be doing than before I came, but I still don't know what's going to work out. All I know is that I want to sleep for a while. Not the sleep of jet lag. That's a given. But I just feel weary. Emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically. Sleep sounds really good right now. Especially since I haven't been sleeping well nights the past two weeks, although that has gotten somewhat better. It's weird to think that this time "tomorrow" i.e. Eastern Time. I'll be home. Weird to think I'll be back in "my" culture, although I know it won't feel completely like mine. Not for a while. The past month or so, I've realized that people will post references to things on Facebook and I don't get them. I just look at it and am like "What in the world are they talking about." In a way it's kind of nice. Facebook "connects" people, not getting the cultural references makes me feel not connected. I actually don't mind the feeling. The world is too noisy sometimes.

Anyway, I guess that's really all I have to say about that. I feel like I didn't do a good job explaining my state of mind, but since I'm feeling a little surreal and a little dull, perhaps I can reflect on it better once I get home...