"I am alive and kicking"

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The holidays cause sore hands

As Christmas approaches, my hands are getting more sore.
Sick. What were you thinking! Naughty. Santa's not coming to your house.
I MEAN, my hands are sore because I've dragged out my yarn and crochet hooks. I've been making a few gifts, and trying my luck at selling a few items.
Crocheted fingerless gloves, or wristers, make a great holiday gift.
AND, they're easy to make.

I've been successful on both fronts, particularly with fingerless gloves, or as some people call them, wristers.
Do your hands get #$&@*%! cold during the day -- sitting at your computer, taking notes in class, listening patiently to a customer complain?
I know my hands are always freezing, unless I'm taking a burning hot shower.
Fingerless gloves are an awesome gift idea.
I've also tried my hand at winter headbands. They are pretty fancy, especially the ones with a hole in the back for your ponytail or braid.
I'm currently working on a red had with a white brim for my kiddo. He said he wants a pom pom on the top. We'll see if I'm crafty enough to figure that one out.

For you crocheters out there, here are two of my favorite sites for free patterns:

www.allfreecrochet.com 

www.redheart.com

Happy Holidays and happy crocheting!


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Shop Local! (Note: This is a shameless plug)

Admittedly, I am a Walmart shopper. I'm sorry. I'm poor, and the national retailer saves me a ton of money.
However, I do enjoy shopping locally when I can spare a few extra bucks.
So, as Christmas is right around the corner (and I've been writing an article about this) I'm going to pull a shameless plug for all my downtown and local business owners and friends.
Shop local, whether it be for Christmas or any other time during the year. (Disclaimer: I will be mentioning a few stores below. No offense meant to anyone left out.)
Here are a few reasons why you should shop locally:
1. Local shops can offer items large retail stores don't or different, more exciting versions. For example, I was in The Little Red Hen the other day and saw they had adult coloring books. Yes. You can get these at Walmart. BUT, the ones at The Little Red Hen were a tad different. They weren't as big, so they probably fit nicely into a medium-sized purse. The store offers some sweet metallic markers to fill in your creations, so that's awesome. And the store offers books with an array of designs.
Another unique item option (note: incredibly shameless plug) awaits you at The Framer through 316 Vinyl Creations, which creates gift items featuring vinyl designs. There are completed items in store, or customers can bring their ideas in for completion.
2. Local clothing stores offer quality clothing at decent prices and typically have sales throughout the holidays. Take a leisurely Saturday and pop by these shops, most of which are on Main Street, and peruse what deals they have -- Adorn Boutique, Ideal Fashion and Furnishings, Geyermans, Harve's, Tickled Pink, to name a few. Watch for ads, too, as businesses may offer deeper discounts with coupons or other special discount days.
3. While you're shopping, you may get thirsty or a tad hungry. Locally owned restaurants and cafes aren't that far from most of the local businesses. Downtown has two coffee shops -- Cafe Teresa and Cornerstone Cafe -- where you can stop for delicious coffee and lunch or a snack. Plus, both shops have a few gift items to peruse.
4. Out for some holiday decorations? Stop at Ben Franklin, Bonnie's deKor, The Pin Cushion or Fabric and Textile Warehouse. If' you're real crafty, you can make your own decorations from fabric, yarn and other materials. If not, you can simply buy your items.
5. Have an antiquer in the family? Jeez, we have two stores on Main they'd enjoy. The Antique Mall has a huge collection of anything you can imagine for antiques. There's always something different in there. If that antiquer likes to dress up for certain occasions (perhaps a themed holiday party), take them to Einstein's Costume Shop. They'll be blown away at the huge selection.
6. Don't forget the flower shops -- Cherrybee's and Nepstad's. They offer all sorts of gift items. Growing up, our flower shop was one of my two go-to places to get gifts. They always have unique items found nowhere else.
7. Although I typically favor pet adoption over pet purchase, don't forget Mitchell has Ed's Pet World! Even if you don't want to purchase a pet, the store still has a ton of options for pet gifts or gifts for your pet. ;)

Gosh, I could go on and on.
The point is, support your local businesses. There are plenty of statistics out there that prove shopping locally boosts a town or city's economy.
Here are a few links, if you're curious and so you know I'm not just blowing smoke.

http://www.amiba.net/resources/multiplier-effect/ 

http://smallbizsurvival.com/2014/02/want-to-help-save-your-small-town-start-your-own-business.html

Happy shopping!

Monday, November 9, 2015

A jaunt through the neighborhood

Today's post is brought to you by Gus, the border terrier:

This is me with my human brother. I was trying to convince
him to let me run free. He laughed at me. I then pooped in his room.

I have commandeered my human's magic box to share a story.
In her cleaning frenzy on Sunday, my human mommy became irritated with my pacing and mercifully said, "You need to get out, Gus."
She led me to the back door where my harness usually lay on the floor. On Sunday, it was hung up out of the way.
She forgot to put it on me.
She opened the door and let me out without the harness. We were both surprised.
I looked back at human mommy, she looked at me and I ran!
Weeeeeee!!! I'm free!!!
"He'll come back," I heard her say and shut the door.
Who cares? I thought as I ran around sniffing.
I ran about the neighborhood, caught sight of my human brother riding his bicycle, so I dodged behind a house and ran some more.
I peed on several trees, around a fence where I saw another dog, who barked at me.
I pooped in some bushes and barked and chased a cat until it climbed a tree and hissed.
I just wanted to play.
But running around at full speed after being cooped up is hard work.
I got really tired. And thirsty.
I looked for water, but couldn't find any.
I trotted into my backyard and my human mommy opened the back door.
She was so happy to see me, she gave me a biscuit and fresh water.
Whew! I guess I'm set for running until the next time my foolish humans forget to make me put on my harness.
"I knew you'd come back, Gus," human mommy said. "Who's a good boy? You're a goooooood booyyyy."
I am a good boy. So to maintain that facade, I will sign off.
I didn't just use human mommy's magic box.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Literacy and the Giant Pumpkin

I must say, although my home county is in the middle of nowhere, the people continually find outrageously wonderful ways to raise money for worthy programs.
A Facebook friend of mine had a video on his wall about a giant pumpkin being dropped on a van in Minnesota.
This piqued my interested, though I never imagined it would be in Lancaster, Minnesota.
But there it was.
A video of a huge 1,400 pound pumpkin being dropped on a windowless minivan.
Although this is not an original activity -- I've found many links to similar events around the country -- it is certainly entertaining.
Charlie Bernstrom grew the pumpkin. Volunteers sold tickets to people for $1 a piece for a chance to be the one to drop the pumpkin.
All the funds raised went to the Kittson County Literacy Council-- a program that provides books and other materials for children around the county.
I applaud anyone who helps facilitate any fundraiser, but to bring some originality and pizzazz to it, that takes some doing.

Watch the video here.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Begone sickness! Bring on the soup, and writing

Chicken noodle soup is not my favorite.
In fact, I don't really like soup.
But, it tasted so good yesterday when I could finally eat after not being able to open my mouth or swallow very well for 36 hours or more.
Mmm ... chicken soup is delicious when it's the
only thing you can get into your mouth.

I have strep throat. Yippee. And I fought it for three days before going to the doctor.
I am dumb.
And I'll probably do it the next time too.
I digress.
My absence from here began with my poor kiddo being sick for three days. His problem was just a bad cold with sore throat and an upset tummy.
Then my sore throat kicked in and a runny nose. I started taking cold medicine and prayed it would work.
God hates me.
Instead, the cold medicine did NOTHING.
And I once again developed a swollen tonsil, making it very difficult to swallow and almost impossible to talk. I didn't sleep for three days.
And I ignored pleas from friends to just go to the doctor.
"Nah, I'll be fine."
Seriously, I'm so dumb.
Finally, in tears on Sunday morning, I dragged myself into the urgent care and the doctor/PLN/PA lady who took care of me said my throat was the worst she'd seen in a long time.
Got an antibiotic shot. My kiddo watched that happen and laughed. I later reminded him he still needs his flu shot -- and when that happens, I'll laugh at him.
"Noooo, Mom! I don't want a flu shot!"
"Too bad, monkey. And I'm gonna laugh!"
So I got antibiotics and steroids, and went home around noon.
By 9 p.m. I was finally able to eat chicken noodle soup.
God bless the person who thought up this tasty meal.
My favorite part? The carrots. Nice squishy carrots. When you can barely chew, they really are the best.
So, now my week will be spent playing catch up with a writing challenge -- and housework.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Uffda! I hate sore throats and colds

Just a short update. My kiddo was under the weather for three days and now I have caught the vicious bug.
Please excuse me until next week.
If I'm lucky, I will be back on track next week with lots of makeup work to do.
Hoping I can get decorating for Halloween this weekend. If so, pictures will follow.
In the meantime, wash your hands, use tissues or your elbow when you sneeze and if you feel like garbage be smarter than me and stay at home.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

From horse heads to store-bought costumes

The history of Halloween costumes


Freddie Krueger.
Jason. 
Pennywise.
Disney characters.
All terrifying costumes many wear on Halloween. 
But why do we dress up in costume on the spooky holiday? 
Well, according to History.com, the Celts wore masks - usually made of animals heads - when they went out on Oct. 31 to blend in with spirits wandering the Earth. 
Remember, many believe the veil between the spirit world and our world is thin on Oct. 31. 
As time wore on, people attended masquerades and dressed in fancy costumes to hide their identities. 
In searching old photos on the Internet of Halloween costumes, many masks were homemade (possibly from plaster or paper mache) and were quite terrifying.


Like these guys. Um. Yikes.

These children are terrifying. Are the goggled
ones herding the two in the middle?

It wasn't until the 20th century that people began wearing more commercialized costumes. 
According to trueghosttales.com, the first store-bought costumes weren't available until the 1930's.
But even today, many create their own Halloween costumes. 
Personally, my Halloween costumes were typically thrown together at home. One year I was Morticia from the Addams Family. Of course, the costume was a bit lumpy as it went over my winter coat and snow pants. It snowed heavily that Halloween and we tromped through about two feet of snow that night trick-or-treating. 
Hollywood stars like Lon Chaney and Bela Lugosi made the creepy tradition of Halloween costumes that much more entertaining. Werewolves, vampires, witches, goblins and more. 
Hollywood continues to have that impact. 
Look at the rush to be zombies or zombie killers because of The Walking Dead. 
What do you plan to dress up as? If you weren't thinking of it, what was your favorite costume you once wore? 
Whatever you dress up as this Halloween, let it be entertaining and in good fun. I have a few ideas in mind for our trick-or-treaters this year. 
There might just be a werewolf lurking in our yard, and a superhero to save would-be victims.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Celebrate Halloween at a party, not the bar

As I mentioned in my previous post, Halloween parties used to be awesome.
Now it seems most people just go to the bar, dress like tramps and get drunk.
I would love a good Halloween party with a required original costume -- nothing from a department store. Perhaps, along with your costume, you'd be required to do some research and get into character.
Games would be a must, including some of the basics like bobbing for apples.
Another could be Blind Man's Bluff in the dark outside so the players couldn't see the blind man either. How spooky.
Anyway, I could come up with a million ideas.
But here are a few websites to inspire you for your own Halloween party that doesn't take place at a bar.

For the kids (and can be for adults):
http://fun.familyeducation.com/slideshow/halloween/33288.html

There are so many ideas on here:
http://www.party411.com/PlanYourParty/Holiday/Halloween.aspx

Don't feel you just have to go to the bar for Halloween. Get some of your friends and acquaintances together for an evening of haunted fun.
Good luck planning your party!

Friday, October 9, 2015

What's the real story behind Halloween?

Halloween has long been my favorite holiday.
Dressing up like someone else, enjoying a bag full of candy (sometimes including full cans of pop!) and attending the annual party at city hall couldn't be beat!
As a child, this was my one night of the year I got to stay out late and roam my hometown. I lived in the country and it was a special treat to stay in town for a party that lasted past midnight.
But what are the origins of Halloween?
We owe our spooky holiday to the Celts of 2,000 years ago, according to History.com.
Each year on Oct. 31, they celebrated Samhain -- an ancient ceremony where Druid priests would burn very large sacred bonfires and people would dress in costumes to ward off evil spirits. The people burned crops and animals as sacrifices to their deities.
Celts believed the veil between Earth and the spirit world was thinner on the evening between Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, allowing spirits to easily move between the two. They also believed the thin veil made it easier for the Druid priests to make predictions about the new year, including the success or demise of the year's crops.
The Celts' new year began on Nov. 1.
To prepare for the events of Oct. 31, the Celts snuffed out their hearth fires and relit them with flames from the Druids' sacred bonfires. They believed this fire protected them during the long winter months and throughout the following year.
The Romans began to change the holiday when they conquered Celtic lands in 43 A.D., according to History.com. Romans incorporated two festivals to the Celts' celebration -- Feralia, commemorating the dead, and Pomona, honoring the goddess of fruit and trees.
About 550 years later, the Christian religion began influencing the Celtic regions and the church instituted All Saints Day on Nov. 1. Eventually, Oct. 31 became known as All Hallows Eve.
Despite the church's attempts to create a different holiday to replace the pagan rituals, All Hallows Eve has transformed into our secular holiday of Halloween.
People around the world still believe in ghosts and spirits, and superstition still has its place. But we no longer wear masks and costumes to blend in with spirits who might want to harm us. We no longer place food outside our doors to distract ghosts that may try to enter or homes, like Celts did 2,000 years ago, according to History.com.
Instead, many of us find Halloween to be a fun holiday for children, a reason for adults to dress up and drink a LOT and for nonprofits to hold fundrasing events, among many other excuses to have some fun.
My personal favorite -- trick-or-treating! Not just for the candy and parties, but for the absolute thrill of scaring others and getting scared.
Whatever you do on Halloween, take a few minutes to appreciate the thousands-of-years-old history of the holiday. It may surprise you.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Annajauhola.com is no longer available!

Good day!
My afternoon has been filled with joy and frustration.
But I am proud and a little nervous to announce, I have a website!
annajauhola.com

I'm trying to work out the kink in the contact form, and I need to spruce up my welcome page, and add some photos.
Other than that, it's ready to go.

Short post today.
Too busy becoming a part of the 21st Century.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Defining myself as a writer

Working on defining myself as a writer is actually working!
I started the 2015 October Platform Challenge on Oct. 1 thinking, "Well this should occupy my time. Maybe I'll get something out of it."
Well, it has been well worth the six days so far.
Although I swore I'd never use Twitter, everything I've read has told me to reconsider.
I'm now a, what, Tweeter? Tweetest? A bird? I'm not sure, but I'm on Twitter - @AnnaJauhola.
I also have a specific Facebook account for myself as an author/writer AND I'm working on setting up an actual website.
What!?
It's just the push I needed to become more motivated and reinvigorated about being a writer.

Right now, I'm focusing on flash fiction and short stories, while I also better acquaint myself with character and plot development for longer stories and possibly a novel.
Thank you to those who have been reading my Halloweeny flash fiction. Hope you are enjoying it as much as I enjoy writing it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Finding inspiration and a new location

Two updates are in order.

1. I am still struggling for motivation. It's returning, slowly, but my mind remains elsewhere -- occupied with thoughts and regrets about Grandma.
But, I've been remembering our last conversation in an attempt to motivate myself. I told her about having two articles published and she was beside herself with glee. Literal glee. She was so excited I could hear her smile, which was kind of rare between us over the phone. The entire conversation was filled with, "Wouldn't it be wonderful if you became a famous writer!" and "Anna! I knew you could do that. You've always been a wonderful writer."
Sigh. My inspiration to become a writer came from her, although she never quite believed me.
I hope that inspiration can carry me.

2. Creepy guy has switched corners of our corner in the library and has taken my seat. I'm aghast, but not necessarily because he took my spot. I'm aghast because I'm in his corner, in a different chair, staring at his former chair and how filthy and ruined it is. The chairs in the library are sturdily built with firm cushions. Not only is the chair he once occupied now disgusting, but the chair arms, and the wall and carpet around it has a terribly visible accumulation of dirt. And, the chair cushion is sagging.
I'm torn. Do I alert the library staff? Or do I just play a game and see how long it takes for someone to clean it? Choices ...

Monday, September 21, 2015

My Grandma was and is an inspiration

On the eve of my grandmother's funeral, I am sitting in the dark listening to calming instrumental music. 
My boys are sleeping and I just can't bring myself to lay down yet. 
I didn't get to say goodbye. She went so quickly. 
In visiting about Grandma with relatives and looking at pictures, it is comforting to revel in the fact she had a good life full of family, friends and adventure. 
For me, Grandma was more than a grandma. She helped me through life when I didn't have a mother at home. She served as my motherly figure. And she did a damn fine job. 
Although we fought bitterly sometimes, she was so important to me. She will always be important to me. 
Despite our spats, she taught me self-reliance and self-preservation. 
She taught me the importance of slowing down and taking the time to do something right the first time. She also taught me to accept my mistakes, learn from them and move on. 
Grandma's storytelling has truly inspired me throughout life. 
Her stories about growing up on the same land I grew up on fascinated me. I soaked in the descriptions of farm life during The Great Depression and even the war years. I enjoyed hearing about her exploits, like riding calves when Grandma Annie told her not to, which resulted in a long scar down her arm. The calf bucked her off and she landed in barbed wire. 
Uffda. 
Grandma later told me she lied to her mother and said she fell on prickly bushes when she took out garbage to the scrap pile. 
Grandma's storytelling inspired me to become a storyteller. 
I envied her ability to easily describe scenes. My imagination soared when she described the tomte (Swedish gnome) her father said lived in his trunk he brought from Sweden. 
She often encouraged my writing, and she was happy it became my chosen profession. 
In turn, I was immensely proud of her published article, "Mama's Cupboard" and unpublished book about a girl named Lizzy who has adventures with a tomte. 
We were much the same in that we often could express ourselves better in writing than out loud. 
I will miss her boisterous laugh at our ridiculous story ideas, the crazy dreams we had when we slept and when we watched Hyacinth on the British sitcom, "Keeping Up Appearances."
Thank you for the memories, Grandma. You have been, and will continue to be, an inspiration. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Living my dream

As I toiled away at the library today, I sat across from a middle-aged man with a seriously outdated laptop.
He furiously (and loudly) typed away as I struggled to conjure material for a blog post.
As he typed, my pounding headache grew worse, and I noted the sticker on the top of his computer. The words "Living my dream" were printed in the middle of a cartoon cloud.
So I stopped to think about that and realized, I'm living MY dream.
Although I am -- let's face it -- financially poor, I am gaining riches I didn't think I would after I quit my full time job.
Not only am I able to pick up my son from school every day, I get to go home and spend time with him. This is something that had not been possible ever since he was born.
For nearly six years, I dropped my son off at daycare early in the morning, went about my regular work day, picked him up and spent about two hours with him before bedtime. Total, we maybe saw each other three to four hours a day. It was ridiculous.
On top of that, my husband and I never saw each other. It was rare we worked the same shift. In fact, it's rare we currently work within the same time frame. BUT, we do see each other on weekends now, and some evenings and early mornings, which is an improvement.
Now, I'm working two part-time jobs I enjoy and actually have free time in which to write what I want to write. Some of it has netted me a few bucks, most of it has been for my own entertainment and education.
I'll do my best to remember that guy's sticker.
I am living my dream of being a better mom, writer and wife (not necessarily in that order).

Monday, September 14, 2015

It's okay -- Butterflies don't live long

I'll confess.
My blogging has been less than satisfactory.
I'm afraid I may bore you to tears with stories about my son, but here we go again.
He had a rough week.
He got in trouble at school for calling a para-professional a name -- nothing terrible (stinky butthole, if you're wondering) -- but nothing good either. So he had to sit on the bench at the following day's recess.
Then that same evening, he lost control of his bicycle and ate the pavement in front of our house. His nose was all swollen, which caused purple lines and he had a fat lip. There was little blood, so at least he didn't have a broken nose.
The following day at school must have also been rough, because he came home and fell asleep on the couch at 4 p.m. He didn't wake up until 5 a.m.
He and I have both been crabby lately, so this weekend perked us up a little bit.
We painted pumpkins. He was super excited about that. But he insisted we purchase EIGHT pumpkins. Eight. We had to have eight.
So, we went to a local pumpkin patch along the highway leading to our tiny town and picked out eight little pumpkins. We bought paint and brushes, and sat outside in the perfect weather on Saturday afternoon (after I had a nap).
He painted one as Spiderman, painted a spider on another, a vampire, some random colors and two others I can't quite recall. I also painted a vampire with bats, and a white pumpkin sporting a skull face.
Then, on Sunday, my son successfully rode his bicycle to the neighbor's shallow ditch to collect sticks -- not sure why. As I was reading in the lawn chair, I heard him talking to me from a block away and looked up to him gingerly walking toward home. I met him halfway and he said, "Mom, look, this butterfly landed on me!"
So he had a butterfly friend for two hours or so. The poor thing had rips in its wings and couldn't fly. The kiddo enjoyed watching the butterfly drink sugar water from a stick and carried it around the yard. It would crawl on his shirt, up the back of his neck -- "Mom, it tickles! -- and settle in his hair.
Finally, my son decided it was time to let the butterfly go, so he set him back in the ditch -- and then accidentally stepped on him.
He came back to tell me that without tears and said, "But, Mom, it's okay, because butterflies don't live long lives anyway."
Well. I guess that's true. At least he accepted it was an accident and there was nothing he could do about it.
This morning he went to investigate the dead body to find only the wings remained.
He was also okay with the fact a bird probably ate the body and left the wings.
He told me birds have to eat too and they like insects.
"But remember, Mom. Butterflies don't live long lives, so it's okay."

Thursday, September 10, 2015

College was NOT the best four years of my life

OK. That long weekend really screwed me up.
So, I have here another rejected write-up and would like to share it with you. 

How many others felt college was just something you did and not where you met your best friends? Or had the best experiences?
My four years of college were good, but not great. Here's why:


College was supposed to be the time to become inspired, but I just went through the motions.
Each semester of college I eagerly signed up for classes, ensuring I'd get the ones I needed to complete my major. Rarely did I take the opportunity to sign up for classes I wanted to take.
College didn't leave me with any life-changing impressions of how the world would be, except it's not what you know, but who you know and drama is ever present.
At one point during college, I was assigned an adviser who was a journalist who covered the Vietnam War in Vietnam. I was excited, thinking she'd be able to give me great advice and point me in real-world directions to become a fantastic journalist.
Instead, when I consulted her for class choices, she looked at my list and said, "Well, it looks like you've got it all figured out." She turned back to her computer and I sat stunned.
I asked, "Do you have any advice on which classes would help me better?"
"No," she replied. "It looks like you are right on track."
I asked her what kind of extracurricular activities I could do to improve my skills as a writer. She didn't have an answer and brushed me off for another appointment.
Her classes were no different. She didn't find my writing up to par, yet wouldn't give me advice on how to improve. Instead, she just fawned over two other students whom she thought had fantastic skill and used their writing to berate the other students.
After I realized my adviser would be of no help, I signed up for the easiest classes I could just to get done with college. Through this, I discovered my friend and mentor, Katherine. Through her class, I learned solid writing skills and at least a basic knowledge of layout. I also learned that building relationships with sources is incredibly important. Gaining the trust of one source can lead to gaining the trust of others and helps build your reputation as a respectable writer.
Above all that, Katherine gave me the confidence I needed to leave college and feel good about being a writer.
Not only were classes less than fulfilling, it was a struggle for me to live with other people.
I lived on campus all four years during college -- two of those years were spent in an apartment shared with three girls.
It was 95 percent drama. I imagined the experience had to be what it was like to have sisters, making me even more glad I grew up in a house full of boys.
Most days I withdrew to my room to read or do homework just to avoid the constant catting about who left what where. On many occasions, I went over to a friend's house or the library just to be in a calm environment.
You'd think there'd be a bright spot aside from the drama of living with a bunch of women. There wasn't.
Believe me, I tried to find that bright spot by doing all the college-y things people expect college students to do.
But again, I just went through the motions -- I hung on the edges of friend groups, went to the bar, crashed a few parties, took a random weekend excursion, pulled several all-nighters, procrastinated, and so on.
I know college is supposed to be about meeting the best friends of your life and finding yourself. College was more like graduating to a larger high school, except I had way more responsibility.
My life didn't change until I got my first job and realized college taught me virtually nothing.
Don't get me wrong, college is important -- whether it's a two-year school or an Ivy League university. What you learn in college is useful, but I had literally one class and one instructor that left an impression on me.
Although my collegiate career was less than satisfactory, it wasn't entirely useless. I met people along the way who have since pointed me in the right direction and helped me grow as a person and in my career.
Really, college was the diving board for me to find the best times of my life.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Plug along after the high

And the high has worn off. 
No. Not that high. Where's your mind?
I'm talking about two of my articles being published. 
The last six articles I submitted to The Mix have been rejected. 
"No big deal," I told myself over the first two. "Those were crap anyway."
The next two, I said, "I can see why they didn't bother."
The last two, I cursed under my breath. They were good, but obviously not good enough. 
My eyes are blurry from reading other articles that were accepted and published. Blurry because I don't feel they were as well written. 
Sigh. 
Plug along, as my dad always says. 
Plenty more work out there to be had. 

On that train of thought, I'll share with you one article that was rejected. 
It's not original, by any means, but I used a letter format for the subject, "I unfollowed you because of how annoying you are on social media." 
Enjoy!

Dear Facebook friend,
Your cryptic and attention-seeking messages are annoying.Please stop.You won't? I'll pull your hair out for you, as per your post. Better yet, maybe I'll shove those baked goods in your face for you after you've debated for 10 posts whether to eat them.No. These would be favors.I'll unfollow your wall instead. Whew, that's better. My feed is much less cluttered now.The constant barrage of your insane need for attention is mind-boggling.It's cool that you post a good recipe once in awhile, or a picture of your cute child doing something hilarious.But, for the love of chocolate, let's stop posting messages like, "feeling sad :(" or "Can't take this anymore" when you likely made the choices causing your issues.It's tiring watching the posts gather 10 or 15 comments asking whether you're OK and offering all kinds of help just for you to say, "Thanks for all the support" or "Oh everything is fine now, just had a moment."Further, your picture posts in between these cryptic ones saying you don't care what others think of you are ridiculous. Are you passively trying to tell someone off? Or do you need to justify every little post you make?I don't know, but I wish you'd stop.Also, posting a play-by-play of what you do each day is unnecessary. Each tiny little task you do is no one's business but your own. I don't care if you child cracked the door to ask you a questions while you pee. I don't care if you had to wait in line for the bathroom at work only to find it disgustingly demolished by the previous user. I don't care if your spouse ignored your plans ... again ... leaving you at home with the kids.Millions of us never get to have any plans in the evening because we are happy to be at home with our families.I do care if you, say, burn your hand somehow and are at the emergency room. However, please don't post something like, "Ouch. We'll see how this goes" an add a photo of the ER sign.I do care if your spouse has an illness and is sick at home after a long day of therapy and treatments. But please, don't play the martyr and post how tired you are after caring for the person you vowed to care for.This type of attention-seeking behavior is frustrating. If you need attention that badly, please find your circle of friends and visit with them.Better yet, find yourself a shrink. He could at least give you direction in how to cope with whatever it is that causes you to seek this much attention.But for crying in the mud, don't seek it from strangers who could very well view your post, figure out where you live and then burgle your house while you're complaining via social media about your self-inflicted wound or how hard it is to care for your loved ones.Reading your unwanted posts has become a plague on my daily life. I find myself irritated more often as I get sucked into your page reading about your latest ridiculous life actions. I feel my face contort into the expression of, "What. The. Beep."Then I realize, "Wait! I DO have another option!"I love that unfollow button. It allows me to choose when I see your feed. It's been fantastic. I've been able to keep up with events in your life I care about, and ignore your righteous complaints about how hard life is otherwise.Good luck on your future need for attention. On social media, you'll likely keep finding it, just not from me.Your friend,Anna

Thursday, September 3, 2015

An innocent beginning to a fuller life

People often ask me why I didn't put my son in the tiny school in our tiny town.
I tell them I didn't want him to have my experience growing up. Maybe that's selfish, but I've seen him flourish in the Mitchell School District. He is in a smaller class section, but has the advantage of being in a larger school. The best advantage so far being he doesn't know every single one of his classmates.
(A note to my classmates: I wouldn't trade my experience, but wish I would have had more opportunities.)
Case in point -- he already has a girlfriend.
Now, my son is not really dating this cute little girl, but they acknowledged earlier last year that they were boyfriend and girlfriend. I'm not sure what this means to them, but to me it means my son is open to all kinds of relationships. He's not in the mindset that he only has to play with boys and be dirty.
He and this girl maintain their relationship status. In fact, my son took a picture of himself on my computer, placed a heart graphic around his face and said the picture was for his girlfriend. He even said last year he wanted to marry her.
It's adorable.
On Wednesday, the little girl called my son's name and ran up to hold his hand on the way out of the building.
"They've been in a pretty long relationship," the girlfriend's mother said to me yesterday as we giggled about it.
It's all innocent at this point, of course, but so refreshing.
I was shy about dating or even calling anyone my boyfriend -- ever.
My point is, I'm just so happy my son is able to be open and excited about being around people.
For whatever reason, my son and this girl clicked from the beginning and haven't grown tired of each other. The little girl moved on to first grade this year and my son is repeating kindergarten, but they find each other at recess -- daily.
He may go through the phase where he thinks girls have cooties or he shouldn't be hanging out with girls. Frankly, I hope it's short and he is able to comfortably mingle with both boys and girls his whole life, something I've been uncomfortable with.
My simple wish is that my son is comfortable with who he is, something I still struggle with, and he seems to be off to a pretty good start.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Ghosts, bees and tennis shoes

This is what I get for exercising


I should have figured my day would have some weird events. 
I'm just wondering what might come next. 
My mind started furiously working this morning around 5:15, much to the protest of my body. 
But when my alarm chirped, I rolled out of bed and found my tennis shoes. Oh, I didn't go play tennis. That would be overkill. 
I actually went on that walk I alluded to in my last post. 
At 6 a.m., I stretched outside my back door and walked with a purpose down the sidewalk to the road.
It was dark. There are few streetlights in our little town and it was a tad unnerving. 
It was more unnerving when I saw someone else by the dumpster at the park about a block from our house. I figured they had to be stretching before starting a morning walk or run on the path around the ball diamond. 
The figure, in a light-colored top, started off on the path headed east at a good jog. I thought for sure I'd see the person as I got to the opposite side of the ball diamond. No such luck. I wasn't gone more than 20 minutes and there was no one to be found around the park. I checked just because it bugged me. 
Who had I seen? The cemetery is just up the hill, north of the ball diamond. Do ghosts need exercise? If so, I'm screwed. 
My morning was mostly mundane until I took a break, visiting with my boss and another business owner on Main Street. I picked a dead leaf off a plant in a hanging basket, thinking I'd be nice and help keep the plant in good condition. 
No. 
Some damn hornet or wasp, not sure which, decided I invaded his home and stung me. That little bastard. He stung my middle finger, too, so I decided to show him what I thought of him ... and smooshed him on the sidewalk. 
Then I felt guilty. 
But then I didn't, and stepped on it again. 
I really didn't feel guilty once the venom moved down to my middle knuckle and into my wrist. 
My hand and wrist still feel weird. 
Good thing I'm not allergic. 
Now I'm wondering what my afternoon will bring. I have to mow the lawn and clean up all the crap that's accumulated over the summer. I hate that. 
I'll probably get stung again, just for good measure. Or a residual haunt will start appearing in my back yard. 
Why did I get up so early? 

P.S. I'm still waiting to hear how you stay motivated to do the things you enjoy doing! Send me a message. I dare you!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Distractions shouldn't be excuses

Just get to work


A creeper sits in my same favorite, cozy corner of the library.
Every day. 
Every day he's there with his laptop. And he's an unshowered, unshaven slob. It shouldn't concern me but it does. It's a serious distraction in the best lit area of the building. 
What does he do? Is he a freelancer, like me? Can't be. I never see him type. 
Does he use the free WiFi to email or chat with people in distant locations?
Does he use the internet to search out porn? 
What!? What does he do here every day in his impossibly sloppy outfit, one that includes a button down shirt that doesn't quite button down all the way?
I'll leave that vision to your own imagination.
I know the library is kind of the place for riff raff to hang out, but seriously ... Doesn't he have a job? 
He hasn't done anything offensive, by any means, other than dress socially inappropriately. 
These are the shallow thoughts I try to work on. 
So, then I have to ponder, what do people think of me when I come into the library nearly every day? I typically am dressed casually. Sometimes, I'll be in dress clothes. But I'm put together, not busting out of my shirt. 
I do actually get work done most of the time, but those around me don't see the work I do. 
Instead of worrying about this guy, I should probably worry about real issues, like getting back to my own work. 

My weekend was unproductive, due 99 percent to my own laziness. I attribute the other 1 percent to the fair being in town. 
This week will hopefully promote more inspiration, coupled with lots of reading and research.
I have a few projects to work on, but it's been hard to find inspiration and ambition. 
I've been told to be focused, you must first have a strong body and mind. Well, I seem to have about a quarter of that down. My mind is strong, but only half as strong as it should be. I credit that to my feeble body. I'm often tired because I sleep poorly, never exercise and have an awful diet. 
Goals can inspire people, and once inspired me. Here are a few I hope to use to get started: 
1. Take a walk every day. It doesn't matter when, but I've read it improves brain function, along with your body. 
2. Drink more water. Again, nourishing mind and body. 
3. Sit down and write at home, not only at work. 
4. Stop worrying about that creepy guy in the corner of the library. He's not hurting anyone. Unless he downloading kiddie porn, then he's a criminal. 

I won't bore you with daily updates on how this is going, but by God, I plan to update you once in awhile. Otherwise, I won't keep myself accountable. 

Do you have a favorite activity that keeps you focused and inspired to do what you like to do? I'd like to hear about it!
You can email me at the bottom of the page using the contact form or you can comment on this post.
If I get enough responses, I'll include them in my next post about how my goals are coming along. 


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Rejection is not the end of the world

Learn from it and move on


As a child and teenager, I could deal with the possibility of Freddie Krueger living under my bed or popping out from the darkness that surrounded our country home at night.
What scared me more was rejection.
Oftentimes, I didn't ask to play with the popular kids, whom I'd known my whole life. I was too scared they'd say no. This wasn't an unfounded fear -- they'd said no many times before. It's not that we were all so different, it's that it seemed I carried a stigma no one could quite identify. So began my contentment to have only a few friends at a time.
I went through my elementary and middle school years feeling rejected, powering through it with a smile, most days.
Into high school, I'd stopped caring about hanging with the popular kids. I'd become comfortable with a small circle of friends with whom I associated during school hours. However, I rarely asked them to hang out outside school, for fear they'd reject my offer. Again, this was not without foundation.
I had one friend who often invited me over to watch movies, but nearly everyone I asked to hang out at my house declined.
Maybe it was because stories I told came out sounding silly and only made sense to me. It made people laugh because I ended those stories with, "And it was funny," but I could tell they easily tired of my jesting.
All this sounds incredibly sad. And it was. But I wish I hadn't allowed myself to feel this way for so long.
Feeling rejected led to feeling sad and useless, when in fact I had so many ideas flowing in my head, I could have put my energy into something productive.
I had a drawer full of notebooks filled with attempted stories that fizzled out. When I couldn't think of something good to write, I'd quit and think, "No one would want to read it anyway." A cop out, a reason just to not feel rejected in person.
Looking back at my times of depression, I realize how I wasted my life as a teenager. My fear of rejection stopped me from pursuing some great hobbies.
Growing up with acres of woodland literally in my backyard, I always wanted a professional grade camera so I could practice nature photography. I was too afraid to ask, knowing the camera and equipment would cost too much and my request would be denied.
I didn't even try.
In my years since, I've realized not trying is not an option.
When you request something, the worst someone can tell you in a civilized situation is "no." I've become accustom to deciphering whether it's wise to just let it go or to attempt to persuade the person otherwise. It worked when I was in college, for example, and I asked for a computer. I suggested my dad, brother and grandma chip in for a refurbished computer as my Christmas and birthday present.
The worst someone can do in a tense situation is yell at you. For me, that's typically been over the phone and it's usually not a rejection of me -- it's a rejection of the situation.
Do I still have a fear of rejection? Sometimes.
When I need to make a phone call to arrange an interview, I often have a heavy feeling, thinking I'll have to do a lot of persuading just to talk to that person. Usually, it turns out the interviewee is more than happy to talk.
When I text a friend to arrange a time to meet, the old me says, "They're probably busy. Maybe I shouldn't bother with this." The new me realizes my friends now are willing to make time for me and are happy to listen to my ridiculous stories because they have their own to tell. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

I'm no one's crutch

I don't make good friends easily. And it's been hard to cut a few people out of my life for my own emotional and mental well-being.
A few people in my life I've called friends have taken advantage of me -- using me as a crutch or what I've termed a "fall-back" friend.
It often seemed I was the one people turned to when everyone else stopped listening to their gripes. I was happy to lend an ear and help if I could, knowing personally how hard it was to confide in anyone.
With an extreme amount of alone time, I began to think about these friends who talked to me -- rather at me -- only when they needed something. My mentality at the time caused me to blame myself for how they used me. What had I done to irritate them so badly they never asked how I was? How can I change to make them like me better? Why, when I take the time to listen, do they still only call me when they need something? How can I get them to say thank you?
At one point I isolated myself and made excuses if someone did call. Sometimes I didn't pick up the phone or respond to emails or text messages.
One person who used me as a crutch actually had the balls to call me a hermit and say she was worried about me when I made the mistake and answered her call. Yet in that same conversation, she talked only about herself and how horrible her life was. She never bothered asking if everything was all right with me.
It was at that point I cut her out. I was tired of being her crutch. I didn't want to waste my time on her constant complaining any more.
One friend in college made me realize I was more than just a sounding board. She was my life-saver. She made me realize friendship is more than just one friend listening to another -- it's learning new things about each other every time you hang out, sharing your hopes and dreams, sharing your fears and anxieties, singing so loud to music you can't speak the next day. She taught me about all the things I'd missed out on until I met her in 2002.
Though she and I don't talk often, it's always a give-and-take conversation -- not just a, "Hey Anna, I called to piss and moan" or "I called to tell you about my latest excursion you weren't invited to."
The few people I've cut out of my life never really said much about it. They each had their own groups of friends. I was simply that sounding board they used when their friends couldn't stand their whining any more. I was the person they shared embarrassing or questionable news with first to get some sort of satisfaction they were doing the right thing and ensuring that others wouldn't be so judgmental.
Most friends I cut out of my life were purposeful losses. I felt guilty about letting them go, but I was tired of being the "fall-back" friend and wanted to move on. I still have contact through Facebook with a few, but really it's just a comment or a like here and there.
Once I finally envisioned myself as a person more worthy of friendship than I'd been led to believe, I felt good about letting those friends go. After all, I never really had them to begin with, it seemed.
I now recognize those who might use me as a "fall-back" friend and just extend a friendly greeting, but steer clear of any real relationship. I don't want to be sucked into that kind of situation ever again. 
Now I have a small circle of good friends who are always willing to talk and have that great give-and-take conversation every friendship should have.
I'm no longer anyone's crutch, nor am I a "fall-back" friend. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Post-nasal drip


Severe head colds can cause you have have revelations that later turn out to be drug or lack-of-sleep induced idiocies.
My state of mind Monday inspired this blog post.
I blew my nose so much yesterday that it is now red and chapped, and looks like I've snorted God only knows what. I didn't, I swear. I just am too cheap to buy aloe-infused tissues. Instead I use toilet paper that feels more like sandpaper to blow my nose. Because of that, my snot often runs out the sides of the paper when I blow, overflowing onto my hands, thus lending to embarrassment in public.
Did you know snutophobophobia is the fear of blowing your nose?
I've never been afraid of blowing my nose, I just don't like doing it, particularly in front of people. But, every time I get a cold, it seems I'm always stuck at work or in a public place, and it's just impractical to get up every five seconds to blow my nose in private.
It's never just a stuffy-head type of cold. It's the full-blown runny snot that dribbles out without warning -- inevitably leaving spots on my shirt. That was my morning yesterday, but thankfully my boss is more than understanding and we chuckled about it.
In a sad attempt to get some rest between work and picking up my son from school, I drove the 10 miles to get home and felt like I barely made it. Normally, driving is one of my favorite things to do. But that 10-mile trek felt more like a trip through a hall of mirrors.
A sandwich and chips perked me up enough to get back to town in one piece, wearing pajamas nonetheless. As I waited for the school bell to ring, my nose seemingly cooperated. Then one minute prior to the end of school with the hall full of parents, it said, "Oh wait, you're in public? Take that!" and it let out a stream of runny mucus. And me without any tissues, aloe-infused or otherwise.
So I used my shirt. Not my finest moment.
After another drive through that hall of mirrors, which was actually twice as worse this time around, I settled on the couch while my son played outside. He was then gracious enough to let me lay down for two hours until supper.
I woke up to him whispering, "Mom, it's time to get up in the morning!" which is our usual greeting any time we get up from sleeping. Begrudgingly, I rolled out from my cocoon and began to shiver -- great, I had the chills. By bedtime, I was sure I had a fever and naturally took a burning hot shower to warm up. Because that makes sense.
At any rate, my nose had stopped running and my clean pajamas remained unstained. And today, my drive into town was much more enjoyable.

Friday, August 21, 2015

A contemplation on death

Despite being very much alive, I do think a lot about death.
Take for instance, I often think of my mother, who is dead. We didn't have a good relationship, but I got to say my piece and say goodbye before she died. I kind of regret I wasn't physically by her side when she left this world, but I'm at peace with that.
I often think of my great-grandmother, for whom I am named. My grandmother has told me so many stories about Grandma Annie that I feel I knew her, even though she died two years before I was born. I have even visited Grandma Annie's grave on many occasions, just to say hi.
Daily, I remember my mother-in-law, who so greatly enriched my life. She died young and it still irritates me no one seemed to think to say out loud the cancer had returned. It irritates me most that the doctors didn't seem to take her history into account.
I've mentally organized my last wishes. I do not want to be stuck in a box for eternity -- I find it creepy. My remains will be cremated and spread in several locations, in order to ensure the freedom of my spirit.
This may sound a little weird, but would you want to be stuck underground in a box, which is placed inside another box, for the rest of time?
I've visited cemeteries in which no one I know is buried. I'm fascinated by old gravestones. I don't know what it is about them, it's just wonderfully creepy and deeply sad all at the same time. Many old cemeteries contain so many infant markers, however, that the sadness is overwhelming.
Not knowing for sure what the afterlife holds isn't of great concern to me. Do we come back in another life? Do we move on to heaven or hell? Do we just rot in the ground, eventually forgotten by the world?
Almost unfathomable questions worth pondering sometime.
But I say, enjoy life while you're here. Mourn those you've lost, though don't wail "misery and woe" the rest of your life. They would want you to live. And perhaps, take some time to plan as much as you can for your own death. No one wants to be stuck with the bill or heartache of having to plan for your last arrangements on their own.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Alive and Kicking

Working my way toward a freelance career


It’s true. I’m not dead. In fact, I’m quite alive and busy.
After an extensive search for a domain name for my blog, I couldn’t think of anything clever or entertaining. Then my friend Rachel sends me a note … “annaisnotdead.com. I googled your name and the first picture that popped up was a gravestone. and I thought, wait, Anna’s not dead!”
So, in the spirit of me not pushing up daisies, I have created this blog to share my take on a variety of subjects. I love history, reading, writing (of course), travel (although I don’t get to very often) and the obvious family involvement of hanging with my boys (son and husband). I love sharing unique stories about others, particularly those around me or people I don’t even know, but who have a fascinating story to tell.
I have a moderate social life, but mostly I’m working to balance family and work, which can sometimes make me feel like I’ve kicked the bucket.
I recently quit my nine-year career as a newspaper reporter to pursue freelance writing, but still have a love for sharing feature-y type stories, many of which will likely appear on this site.
With that, I hope you enjoy the strange, unique, entertaining and hopefully informative posts I plan to provide for you! Happy reading!