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Friday, May 18, 2018

Freelance, volunteering, and baseball ... oh MY!

Setting a permanent blogging schedule and coming up with ideas is hard when you are managing three positions.
It's been a long 2018 already and I'm about ready to be back to 1 1/2 jobs, but I am enjoying my adventure right now.
Since January, I've been filling in at the local newspaper covering court and writing feature stories. I'm not covering court any more, but feature stories are never ending, and I'll enjoy the opportunity for as long as it lasts. This has been fulfilling and it hit me pretty hard that I really miss that kind of writing. It's been fun to get back into the community and area to share others' stories. With blogging, I really didn't feel I had any backing or pull to just go up to someone and say, "Hey. I'm a blogger and former journalist. I want to do a story on you."
On top of this, I've also continued to write resumes for an online resume writing company. It's definitely an interesting position and has given me the boost I needed to feel like a real freelance writer. I get to visit with people all over the country, which is fun and hilarious when they realize I'm in South Dakota. Most clients are from one of the Coasts or in Chicago. So they find it utterly fascinating that I'm a freelance writer from what they probably consider the Wild West.
Unbelievably, some haven't heard of The World's Only Corn Palace!
I'm also still working limited hours at a local custom framing shop, handling email, social media, cutting vinyl, any general computer things / research, and whatever else the boss needs. :)

If you can believe it, I've also been busy working on newsletters for two local nonprofit organizations - First Circuit Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), which works with children going through the court system, and The Carnegie Resource Center, which houses the Mitchell Area Historical Society and the Mitchell Area Genealogical Society.
Both have been learning experiences, mostly in scheduling and figuring out how to juggle paid work and volunteer work.
Again, it's hard!
But it feels good to help out two great organizations.

Now, the school year is drawing to a close and Jacob has already started baseball. His team won their second game last night, putting them 2-0 for the season. It is fun to see how the returning players have improved and how much the new players have learned already. The coaches are awesome and work hard with the boys, positively reinforcing them, and teaching them good sportsmanship.

Please, bear with me as I attempt to reenter the world of blogging. I will be here, but it may not be as often as I like! Happy summer to everyone!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Girl Scout Troop honors fallen veterans

Last November, I wrote about local Girl Scout Troop 57005 raising funds to provide proper headstone foundations for veterans who never received them.
On Monday, Oct. 9, the troop hosted ceremonies to bless and honor three veterans for whom they were able to provide granite slab foundations -- Charles Phillips, Edward O'Connor, and William J. Hannett. In order to do this, the Troop has raised approximately $5,500, long past its original goal of $1,000.
The U.S. Government provides the headstones, said Debra Emme, troop leader and office assistant at Davison County Veterans Service Office.
First Sgts. Chuck Eilts and Dean Weis provided military honors for the ceremonies, and presented the Troop with a properly folded flag for each veteran. Joe Graves, a deacon from Holy Family Church in Mitchell, provided the blessings for each headstone and foundation.
Emme said the Troop will keep one flag, a second flag will go to a great-great nephew of Charles Phillips, and the third flag will be displayed in the Davison County Commissioners chambers.
The Troop will continue to raise money for more foundations, said Emme. There are still at least eight more veterans buried within Mitchell's Graceland and Calvary cemeteries who did not receive proper headstones or foundations.
The Troop has worked with Shafer Memorials in Mitchell to set up a fund for the project. Anyone who wants to donate can call Shafer Memorials at 605-996-3115, or stop by the office at 1023 N. Main Street. Just let them know your donation is for the Troop's project.
"There are still many (veterans) without a headstone, so our goal is to go through and continually seek those in need and complete the research," Emme said.

First Sgt. Chuck Eilts presents a flag to Girl Scout Troop 57005.
(Photo by Anna Jauhola)

First Sgt. Dean Weis and First Sgt. Chuck Eilts fold an American Flag to present to Girl Scout Troop 57005 during a recognition ceremony on Monday, Oct. 9. (Photo by Anna Jauhola)

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Delightful and Spooky Hike

Last Saturday, Jacob and I took a spontaneous drive to Mitchell to check out a trail near Lake Mitchell. The weather (inaccurately) stated we wouldn't have rainfall until early afternoon, so we headed to Turtle Trail and parked the car.

We started our walk without hoods. Then it started to rain.
(photo by Anna Jauhola)
This is the most wonderful walking trail I've been on! It probably took us a half hour to walk it, but we stopped and looked around too, we didn't just hike it as fast as we could. It's wooded and despite being right next to Indian Village Road, it is quiet and peaceful. The trail is well-maintained and we found many interesting features.

Jacob on the longer of the two bridges
along Turtle Trail. (photo by Anna Jauhola)
Jacob on the "hand tree."
(photo by Anna Jauhola)

Jacob particularly enjoyed the "hand tree" (at left).  He also enjoyed the two small bridges that allow hikers to cross treacherous ravines (drainage ditches) while making the pleasant hike.
Jacob stands, unafraid, to enter the dark path.
(photo by Anna Jauhola)
We also had one spooky experience while traversing this delightful hidden treasure. After walking through a lightly wooded area and coming into a bright clearing, we saw our path would lead to a dark tunnel.
Although it didn't seem too ominous, and I said, "Oh no, Jacob, look! A dark and scary path!"
Jacob (not to be deterred) said, "Don't worry, Mom. Onward!" quoting a character from a book series he is reading.
As if to add to the ambiance, while on the dark path, it began to rain -- lightly at first, but then it was steady enough to leave us both chilly.
But we didn't care!
Jacob spotted (using his Cub Scouting skills, no doubt) that beavers had chewed away at a couple trees so we stopped to look at those. (It was raining too hard by that time for me to get a good picture without getting soaked.)
We spotted many large rocks jutting out of the ground to the sides of the path, and admired the changing leaves as we made our way back to the car.

Jacob and I declared our hike was one of the best outings, and we'd definitely be back to Turtle Trail, and perhaps check out a couple of the other trails around the lake.
There are plenty, by the way! Just check out the City of Mitchell's website. There are a lot of things to do in the area, if only you're willing to take an adventure!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Flagg's storytelling makes up for frustrating beginning

Have you ever picked up a free book or two just because the cover looked interesting?
I recently picked up "Daisy Fay & the Miracle Man" by Fannie Flagg, who is, of course, well-known for authoring the book "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe." 

"Daisy Fay & the Miracle Man" is worth the read, despite
the first half being seriously frustrating. (Photo by Anna Jauhola)

I so enjoyed Flagg's style in "Fried Green Tomatoes" that I didn't think I could go wrong with "Daisy Fay." For the first half of the book, I was wrong. 
It's set in the South during the 1950s, and focuses on Daisy Fay Harper, an 11-year-old whose father's a drunk and mother is fed up with it. The book is composed of Daisy Fay's journal entries. The first half of the book was not fantastic. I was annoyed by how it seemed to jump all over, but that's life and Daisy Fay's journal entries reflect that pretty well. 
Once we jumped into 1956 about half way through the book, Daisy Fay's life really seemed to take shape. It was in a serious upheaval all through the first half. 
The second half of the book lived up to critics' acclaims on the back cover - "Side-splittingly funny!" and "A hilarious, endearing novel!" Throughout the first half of the book, I just shook my head at how dumb and irritating Daisy Fay's dad was.
Several times, I set the book down in disgust and my husband asked why I kept reading. I replied, "I'm invested in it now. I have to see how she turns out."
Throughout the second half, I giggled through almost every page. 
The ending - which I will not divulge - was particularly hilarious and satisfying. It left me wanting Flagg to write another book just so I could know what actually happened to Daisy Fay Harper. 
So, if you do pick up this book, stick through the first half so you can get to the second.
It is worth the two-day read. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

"On Writing" Best Writers' Book on the Market

For Christmas, my brother sent me On Writing by Stephen King, which I requested.
Many writers have praised this book as the best book on writing. A few of my writer friends have said the same thing. While I loved the narrative portion of King's book, in which he tells snippets of his life that influenced him as a writer, I really love the sections called "Toolbox" and "On Writing." 
The entire book is geared toward those who write fiction, but really this book can apply to every writer -- even this trained journalist. Many of the principles he discusses I've often applied as a reporter, such as don't write in passive voice, don't be over descriptive, and be brief but clear. 
But as a (struggling) fiction writer, I find King's list of tools we should all employ particularly helpful.

Every writer needs these items in their toolbox (so says
Stephen King, and I think we should listen to the King.)
(Photo by Anna Jauhola)
This book is inspiring and around every bend are humble
words of wisdom from an incredibly down-to-earth guy.

(Photo by Anna Jauhola)

I wrote down the overall list of tools I need to keep in my writer toolbox at the beginning of the section in the book. And I completely agree with each and every one. I can always improve on vocabulary, grammar, and basic elements of style, but the tool I struggle with the most is PRACTICE. 
King's advice for this? You just have to. You have to force yourself to practice. Good advice, Mr. King. But how? His thoughts are simple and to the point. 
He says (and I'm paraphrasing here) to pick a time every day to write, and preferrably a place where you can close the door, literally, so that you are able to concentrate. 
If you're serious about writing, you will find and make the time to practice. AND, the best part? It doesn't matter what you write. Just as long as you write. That's one way to generate ideas. 

King's varied background in the 1950s, 60s and 70s seems, at least to me, so ridiculously frought with situations that inspired his stories, it's still hard for me to imagine drawing any inspiration from my childhood spent in on the northern prairie of Minnesota. 
His book has moved me, though, and I've been racking my brain for any details - however small - on which to base a story. 
A few come to mind. 
Cemeteries were a central theme in my life, as odd as that sounds, and are something I've always wanted to use in a good story.
My brothers and I spent a good deal of time at the river growing up. That setting could spawn a story or two. 
Most of my time was spent at school, which could obviously spawn a lot of ideas. 
A good portion otherwise was spent at either my part-time job at a gas station or at Grandma's house. Come to think of it, Grandma's could be a great setting for some interesting stories. 

So you see? King really got me thinking. And that's just the tip of the iceberg! In his book, he told the story of how he first envisioned the story for Carrie. He was a janitor just out of high school and had never seen a container for feminine napkin disposal until he was cleaning the girls' locker room. He envisioned an embarrassing scene of a girl getting her first menstrual cycle in the shower at school while her classmates taunted her. He later remembered a tidbit about adolescent girls developing telekinetic abilities around puberty. He connected the two and he had a story. 
I've been working, and will continue practicing, to identify small details like that and couple them with life experience to find a good combo to create a compelling story. 
Can I do it? Sure! With the right amount of practice and the use of my writer's toolbox, I can succeed.

If you are serious about writing fiction, or any kind of writing really, pick up On Writing. It's completely worth it, even if you aren't a Stephen King fan. His advice is solid and his success speaks for itself - he obviously did something right. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Discovering S.D. Communities: Wessington Springs

When we moved to South Dakota, and I began venturing around the countryside as a reporter, I found so many great small communities with fantastic hidden gems. 
I'm featuring one of my favorite communities for the first of many summer outings my family and I are taking. In conjunction with Jacob's third baseball game, we took a road trip to Wessington Springs, S.D., a community of just more than 1,000. We arrived an hour early for the game, and I suggested we stop by Shakespeare Garden.
This amazing garden, up on a beautiful hill on the west side of town, turned 90 years old in April. It is home to thousands of flowers and gorgeous landscaping, AND the only structure with a thatched roof in South Dakota.

Derek and Jacob visit with Kathy Dean at the Ann Hathaway
Cottage in Shakespeare Gardens in Wessington Springs, S.D.
(Photo by Anna Jauhola)
A little about the history of the garden on a plaque as you enter the historic landmark. (Photo by Anna Jauhola)
The shining jewel in the garden is the Ann Hathaway Cottage, which is registered as a National Historic Landmark, and - of course - features the thatched roof. Unfortunately, the cottage wasn't open when we visited the garden. But, we met Kathy Dean, a community volunteer who was working on removing plants around the cottage to make a clear path for sprinkler heads. Dean is one of many volunteers who help take care of the garden and cottage, and was full of friendly information. 
The Shakespeare Garden's annual music in the garden events begin in July, and I'm excited to venture back to the beautiful town in the hills. The cottage will be open then! And I'm so excited to see it. 
Since we couldn't visit the cottage this time around, we took a slower walk through the garden to enjoy the crazy variety of flowers and plants, such as: irises, daisies, peonies, snapdragons, and hastas. The garden offers several benches for resting and viewing, a little pond with a fountain, and - my favorite - a tiny fairy garden.

This is one of two fairy gardens you can discover at the
Shakespeare Garden! (Photo by Anna Jauhola)

It was a fun treat to accidentally discover this tiny little village, complete with houses, garden furniture, fences, and fairies. I was just tickled. 
I'm pretty sure I could visit Shakespeare Garden a hundred times and still be excited to stop by just to enjoy its beauty. The people of Wessington Springs truly have a treasure hidden within the edge of its western residential area.

The grounds are open to the public during daylight hours. The cottage is open by appointment, but also during special events - like the music in the garden, which will take place every Thursday in July. 
Oh, one more thing. Thank You, volunteers, for keeping this amazing landmark in such great condition for the public. And to Kathy, who took time to visit with me and my family. We will be back! And on our next trip, hopefully we can take the day to see a few other places in town.

P.S. Jacob's game was awesome! He's on the Rookie team and they defeated Wessington Springs 25-15. Jacob scored a run and tagged one player out when he played second base! 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Black Hills: Worth every penny - even for the flat tire

"What's the best part of our vacation so far, buddy?" I asked Jacob as we drove back to our hotel on day two of our Black Hills vacation.
"The rock shops!" he said.
That's right. Jacob's favorite part of our amazing vacation in the Black Hills of South Dakota was the rock shops. Naturally, I did not take any photos of Jacob with his rocks. So I will first share this classy photo:
Jacob and Frances at Mount Rushmore National Monument -- a trip he's been
begging to take for two years. (Photo by Anna Jauhola)
Mount Rushmore was a close second, he said, third was the swingset at Mountain View Lodge & Cabins, and then fourth was the cave at Jewel Cave National Monument. And in fifth place, the Museum @ Black Hills Institute (dinosaur skeletons).
"Really? The swingset?" I asked.
"Yes! It's awesome!"
Again, I did not take a picture of him on the swingset, which is goofy, because he spent a LOT of time on the swingset while we were there. But, I did take this shot of the view out or hotel room door:
We woke up to these lovely rocky hills every morning. Mountain View Lodge & Cabins
was amazing! Best stay around! (Photo by Anna Jauhola)
On our last night, we had a bonfire!
(Photo by Anna Jauhola)
Our first morning in the Hills greeted us with a flat tire. Thankfully, our host, Kirsten, pointed us to Dales Tire in Rapid City - awesome service!
Two hours, two nails, a fixed tire, and $20 later, we were on the road to Mount Rushmore. 
It's still just as amazing as when I first saw it 10 years ago. This year, though, we ventured down the Presidents Trail so Jacob could get the best possible view of the Four Famous Faces, as he kept calling them. 
And he did. Around every turn he got a different view of the monument. This was his favorite: 

(photo by Anna Jauhola)
Until we got to this particular position quite a few miles from Mount Rushmore on day two:

Mount Rushmore from Iron Mountain Road. (Photo by Anna Jauhola)

A view of Mount Rushmore through one of the tunnels on Iron Mountain Road
on day two of our trip. (photo by Anna Jauhola)
After a few hours at Mount Rushmore, we stopped through Keystone and took a quick look around. My husband gifted me with a Black Hills Gold ring for Mother's Day and my birthday. Great gift! 
This is where Jacob discovered the joy of filling a pouch with beautiful rocks. From then on he couldn't help but talk about rocks and beg to stop at every rock shop along the way. 
Then we drove back through to Hill City and stopped at the Museum @ Black Hills Institute. It's a great museum full of prehistoric skeletons and fossils, many of which have been unearthed in South Dakota. It's amazingly full of sealife found in South Dakota, too. Why? South Dakota was mostly covered in water during prehistoric times. 
The most impressive piece in the museum is Stan, the most complete male Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. He's an impressive specimin and Jacob was amazed, despite being super tired.
Jacob with Stan the T-rex at the Museum @ Black Hills
Institute in Hill City. (Photo by Anna Jauhola)
The Museum is totally worth the admission, which is way cheap, by the way, for a year's pass! Definitely should be on your tour list the next time you go through the Black Hills. 
After the Museum, we went to ..... a ROCK SHOP, just a block from the Museum. So, Jacob spent some money there. 

On day two, we ventured to Jewel Cave National Monument. Bonus - it was free! April 15 happened to be National Parks & Monuments Day, offering free admission to the park and cave tours. 

A close-up of the end of the bacon strip.
(Photo by Anna Jauhola)
My camera skills aren't great, so my pictures from the cave tour aren't awesome, but below are a few I got that are still pretty cool. 
This is the largest strip of bacon formation
within Jewel Cave. (Photo by Anna Jauhola)

One of the calcite formations inside Jewel Cave,
(Photo by Anna Jauhola)

Jacob enjoyed the cave, really, despite his
unimpressed expression. (Photo by Anna Jauhola)

After the cave, we took a drive along Iron Mountain Road. It is a beautiful drive, which includes three tunnels that frame Mount Rushmore and pigtail bridges that are unique to the area. We saw three deer, five antelope and one bison. 
Then we had enough time left in the day that we drove back into Rapid City and went to Reptile Gardens. It's still super amazing. Jacob wanted to go back on Sunday, but decided not to. Here are a few pics from that excursion: 
Jacob was not excited about this big rock, but about either lizards
or brightly colored birds behind me. (Photo by Anna Jauhola)
Derek and Jacob enjoying the botanical gardens. (Photo by Anna Jauhola)

Bubba the parrot showing off. (Photo by Anna Jauhola)
Derek eyeballin' a Chinese crocodile. (Photo by Anna Jauhola)
Gigantic sea turtle skeleton! (Photo by Anna Jauhola)
There's one weird prairie dog in this village. (Photo by Anna Jauhola)
He was only crabby because I made him take
this photo. (Photo by Anna Jauhola)
On Sunday, after we checked out of our beautiful hotel, we took a quick drive up to Deadwood. It was Easter, so very few businesses were open, and we just walked around. We did take the steep drive up to Mount Moriah Cemetery to see Wild Bill Hickok's and Calamity Jane's gravesites, but did not trek up to Seth Bullock's grave, 700+ feet above the cemetery. 
Jacob observing Wild Bill's gravesite.
(Photo by Anna Jauhola)
Signs denoting where Wild Bill and Calamity Jane
are buried. (Photo by Anna Jauhola)

Perhaps on another trip, we'll go visit Mr. Bullock, but holy crap, that was a steep road and we were tired. 

On our way out of town, we did stop at the Dinosaur Park in Rapid City, but I haven't downloaded those photos yet. I'll add them later. 

For anyone who hasn't been to the Black Hills, it is definitely a trip worth saving for! I can tell you, it's one you should take over and over again, at different times of the year. We went in April because it was cheaper. Despite the fact many of the shops weren't open, it was a great vacation!