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Thursday, July 28, 2016

"To Kill A Mockingbird" is not racist

The book shows a different time yet still carries a significant message -- we are all equal, or at least we should be.

"To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee was not required text for me in school, though perhaps it should have been.
It has been hailed as the great American novel, and if you think about it, during the time it was published the U.S. was full of turmoil. The Civil Rights Movement was just beginning and people around the nation were fighting for people of color to fully gain their freedom as well.
"To Kill A Mockingbird" helped shed light on the dark reality that black people were considered second- and even third-class citizens.
I don't believe the book is racist -- instead it shows the sentiment of the time.
The book's premise is pretty straight forward -- a white, Southern lawyer was appointed to defend a black man accused of raping a white girl. Even though that girl was considered trash, the black man was still convicted just because he is black.
This story being told by an eight-year-old girl makes it seem innocent, yet is fraught with unintentional racism on the part of Scout. Jean Louise "Scout" Finch isn't racist on purpose, but society has made it subconsciously clear to her that black people are beneath her, despite her family's housekeeper being black.
The book is set in the 1930s, and in those times, most people just accepted that white people had their place and black people had theirs. Segregation was a way of life.
Atticus offers his voice of reason, however, and told his children, "There's nothing more sickening to me than a lowgrade white man who'll take advantage of a Negro's ignorance. Don't fool yourselves—it's all adding up and one of these days we're going to pay the bill for it. I hope it's not in your children's time."
This quote, and many others, seem to show how Atticus felt -- that black people deserved to be treated equal to white people.
Despite Atticus's outward attitude toward black people, the undertones show racism is just as ingrained in him as the rest of the town of Maycomb. Scout asked Atticus why he's defending a black person when Atticus said many people say he shouldn't be.
"For a number of reasons," said Atticus. "The main one is, if I didn't I couldn’t hold up my head in town, I couldn't represent this county in the legislature, I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do something again."
Basically, if Atticus didn't defend Tom Robinson, he would be shirking his duty as an attorney to uphold the law, which is to equally defend any person who needs help.
However, it is plain if given the choice, Atticus would not have taken the choice. He was, however, appointed to defend Tom Robinson.
The whole book showed the racism of the time, from the use of the N-word by adults and children alike, to how all black people lived in a slum near the town's dump.
I'm not going to lie, I had a hard time reading this book.
It took me several years to get into it. I bought my copy of "To Kill A Mockingbird" in 2008. I read the first few chapters and didn't like it, so I put it aside.
I tried again a few years down the road and did the same thing.
I picked it up a few months ago and still, I couldn't read it.
This time around, as challenged by my audience, I finally read it and now appreciate the book.
I think my struggle was Scout and her brother, Jem, and their friend, Dill, were trying so hard to get Boo Radley to come out of his house. The book seemed to focus on that for a hundred pages, so I got bored.
But this time, I understood Ms. Lee was setting up a much deeper story and I found myself devouring page after page.
It was a good read and sadly fascinating, yet unsurprising, to see how the South worked in the 1930s.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Nature's bounty

Today, I will not regale you with tales from my weekend, nor sad posts about stuff that does not interest you.
I will instead share one photo with you of the small bounty I collected from my very weedy garden:

These green peppers are only about 5 inches long, but they
sure are tasty! (Photo by Anna Jauhola)
We have also plucked about eight tomatoes from the vines and several dozen spicy peppers.
Have a great Monday!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Stories of the Spirit Realm

Otherwordly, strange and obscure phenomena and activities fascinate me.
I've had my tea leaves read, I've gone "cemetery hunting," I have very strange dreams nearly every night and I seem to always meet people who have reoccurring experiences with ghosts.
Unfortunately, I do not possess any hidden talents of being able to tap into another realm, which would be super awesome. Instead, I am a single-dimensional human who craves to tell the stories of those who can see certain things the rest of us cannot.
This thought stirred in me again yesterday as my new neighbor told me some personal stories of hauntings and the like, which brought back fond memories of my best friend in high school.

Cemeteries hold a sense of history for me, and of peace --
but then I don't hear the voices. (Photo by Anna Jauhola)

Sue and I were always on the hunt for a good ghost story. We often walked through any cemetery we could find. She had always been sensitive to vibrations from another world, typically the spirit realm. And she was lucky enough to experience strange phenomena when visiting her dad during the summer.
She has given me permission to share a few of her stories.
When her dad lived in Peoria, Ill., he rented a house where Sue was not the only one to hear strange noises. One evening, after Sue put her younger sister to bed she went upstairs. Her dad and step-mom were out for the evening so it was just the two of them in the house.
Shortly after Sue's dad left, she heard the front door slam, keys thrown onto a table and footsteps walking around the living room.
She went downstairs to see why her dad had come home, but as she got halfway down the stairs the footsteps stopped. Sue called for her dad, but found neither him nor the keys she distinctly heard being thrown on a table.
A little spooked, Sue went back upstairs only to hear the same sequence of events -- door slammed, keys thrown and footsteps walking around the living room. The footsteps again stopped when she went downstairs. Afterward, she double checked on her sister and stayed downstairs, which seemed to keep the ghostly activity at bay.
When her dad and step-mom came home, she told them what happened. Her step-mom said she'd heard the same thing before.
That was one of the first most comprehensive ghostly experiences she shared with me.
It seemed every summer she had a different experience as her dad moved every few years for a better job opportunity. In the summer before our senior year of high school, I was fortunate enough to fly to Missouri and stay with Sue and her dad for a week. He lived in a Civil War era home about a block from a huge cemetery.
After a bit of searching, I found the house on several websites and then found the cemetery -- Lorimier Cemetery in Cape Girardeau.

Thanks to GOOGLE EARTH, I was able to find these images. Above: The house
Sue's dad rented while he lived in Cape Girardeau. Below: Lorimier Cemetery.

It is widely known this house was used as a seminary in the 1800s and was later a hospital during the Civil War. It is also widely accepted that the house is haunted.
That week I spent in Missouri yielded very little in the way of spiritual activity, which was disappointing.
However, our walk to the cemetery one day left Sue with a terrible feeling and me with chills.
I walked into the cemetery up the steps show in the picture above and began studying a nearby mausoleum, dating back to the Civil War. When I turned to say something to Sue, she still stood near the gate, frozen with an awful look on her face.
I asked her what was wrong and she said, "We need to leave. NOW."
The weather was so humid that day anyway. But her demeanor was creepy all the way back to the house -- she wouldn't say boo about what happened.
Then as we cooled off, she said, "I just heard whispers, all around. And the whispers weren't good."
If I remember right, something whispered right in her ear, "Get. Out."
A week later, I went home and Sue went through the summer without much activity, until her final week.
Her dad often checked his email in the middle of the night or early morning for emergencies at work. The computer was in the guest room where Sue slept. One night, she heard the door open and close, and figured it was her dad so she rolled over. When she didn't hear him sit down she opened her eyes and looked at the computer. He was not there.
She sat up and found an apparition at the end of the bed -- a man in a full Civil War era uniform -- staring back at her. They enjoyed each other's company for a few moments before the man walked off through the wall.
Our most recent adventure came during a break from college. We were both home, hanging out and decided to take Sue's dog Emma for a walk.
This is the route we took:

This west side entrance to the Greenwood Cemetery in Hallock
was Sue's usual route. (image courtesy of GOOGLE EARTH)
We chatted about nothing in particular, eyeing a vehicle parked ahead of us in the cemetery, until Emma started straining against her leash to go down the first of three lanes. Her usual route was the middle lane and Sue couldn't understand why Emma wanted to go another way. I had kept walking, probably telling a story, until I heard Sue say softly, "Holy shit."
I stopped and turned to look at Sue who had frozen in her tracks while Emma still strained to go down the other road. I asked what was wrong.
"There was a man over there wearing a pink plaid flannel shirt, jeans and boots. Just standing over a gravestone. When I looked away and looked back he was gone."
I suggested he had gotten in the vehicle that had been parked over there. But Sue insisted the vehicle had left before she saw the man.
Emma still refused to go any further.
Over the last 10 years or so, I've met people who have strange and partially prophetic dreams, regularly see ghosts and believe in reincarnation. I personally have deja'vu often and can't shake the feeling I've been on this earth more than once. But that's a story for another time.

Monday, July 18, 2016

A sincere 'Thank You' to my audience!

Over the weekend, I studied up on the statistics tab for my blog.
And wow!
I have an amazing amount of views from an overseas audience!
Now, my blog is not as awesome as most out there. It is a humble attempt at making an online presence. But, today I wanted to take some time and thank my readers and show you all the number of readers from different countries and continents I've had over the last year, month and week.
You may not be overly impressed with the numbers, but I'm grateful to those who visit my site, however briefly, and check out my posts.

So, in the last week, I've had several people visit and it was this week's stats that prompted this post.
I had two views from a place called Mauritius.
"Where the hell is that?" I thought. So I looked it up.
It is an island off the coast of Madagascar! What the heck? It is amazing to think someone so far away might be interested in reading some crazy lady's blog from South Dakota. Then again, they may have clicked on my site by accident. Who knows? If not, then thank you to that person from Mauritius!


Here are the stats from last week: 
So, yes, not entirely impressive views here, but then again, I haven't quite figured out how to be a really good blogger either.
I'm so far happy with this turnout, however.
It's pretty cool people in these countries are regularly viewing my site, because look at the month's visitors.

Visitors for the last month:
A little more impressive for Anna's Not Dead because this list includes China, Taiwan and India.
I have six views in a month from Sweden, probably thanks to a friend there.
But let's take a quick look at the all-time stats for visitors.

All-Time Stats: 
While most of my views come from the U.S., this shows that I have a pretty good start on an overseas audience as well! I'm surprised Russia and Germany are my top viewers overseas, but am also interested to see Spain, Canada and Ireland on the all-time visitors list.

Again, thank you to all who visit Anna's Not Dead. My thoughts are sometimes ridiculous and probably only apply to a very small audience, but I'm grateful for all who take time out of their days to check out my posts.
Hope you have a great week and you'll hear from me Thursday!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Delicious mind treats

The Line-Up is a strange, inspiring website

Do you enjoy scary, supernatural, haunted, bizarre and other disturbing facts, legends, stories and crazy information?
I certainly do!
Recently I discovered The Line-Up -- a website chalk full of these kinds of mysteries.
Almost immediately I clicked subscribe to fill my inbox even more full of their delicious mind treats.
I'm not sure why, but I've always been fascinated by the strange and unusual things in life, like unsolved mysteries, stories of haunted places, freak shows and so on.
The world today is bombarded with images and information so fast that a lot of this seems to be commonplace.
Just take a look at the screenshot below:

A screenshot of image results on Google from the search terms "greatest unsolved mysteries."

I typed into Google "greatest unsolved mysteries" and these pictures came up, many of which are immediately identifiable -- Loch Ness Monster, Bermuda Triangle, the Lost City of Atlantis, the abominable snowman or Yeti and the Jersey Devil.
Oftentimes, I wish I could be transported back to the late 19th century or early 20th century when computers, Internet and TV weren't even a remote possibility. Some of the mystery in the world would still be just that, and we would be even more thrilled by mysterious goings-on.
This week, The Line-Up provided me with a list of creepy horror books I plan to try.
They include: Wylding Hall; The Manitou; The Winter People; Summer of Night; and The Girl Next Door.
I'm always looking for some great inspiration for my own short stories, which often include strange story lines and odd outcomes.
Look for some more creepy stories coming soon!

Monday, July 11, 2016

An upgraded book list

Good Monday to you all!
(That's me trying for a great attitude for the week ... we'll see how that works.)
I had a pretty good response on Facebook for book suggestions, but wish I would have gotten some comments on my blog. I'll have to work on that.
Anyway, here is the list of books suggested to me that I plan to read and review:

To Kill A Mockingbird -- this is already in my pile, so it's first on my list.

This is first on my list.

Little Women -- No I've never read this, but I think I may appreciated now that I'm older.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
The Simpsons Family History (Thanks Janelle! hahaha!)
Me Before You
The Wings of a Falcon
Catch 22
Mists of Avalon
Lady of the Lake
Seven Daughters of Eve -- Super excited for this one as it's all about mitochondrial DNA. Fascinating, Thanks Micaela!

Here are a couple books that I think were suggested in jest, If they were not, they will likely not be making my list of to-read books (Sorry Matt). However, my curiosity might take over and I could pick them up at the library one day ... if the library carries such things.

Uncle John's Bathroom Reader
Photography for Dummies: A Reference for the Rest of Us

If you have any more suggestions, I would love to hear them! Leave a note here in the comments below this blog.
Remember, whoever suggested the book I like best will be in for a surprise!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

My Top 15 Books and Series

You know you're a strange duck when you have a favorite book list like mine and your friends' lists look more like something plucked off a Harlequin shelf.
Perhaps I'm not strange, just have different, more broad tastes. Hmm ... 
I love sci-fi, young adult (or YA), history, historical fiction and mystery books. 
About half of the books on my Top 15 list I first read in high school, thanks to some of the best English teachers. 
The other half I picked up in college and after college. 
So, on this rainy morning, I give you my humble list of my favorites, a few of which include series of books. 

1. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
This book fascinated me from the start with its strange tone and being set in a future where books are banned and burned if found in a home. 

2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Another strange novel set in the distant future where people are created in test tubes and everything is just completely different from what we know. I've always wondered what Feelies must be like (movies where you can feel what's happening). 

3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
This book is the epitome of one of my favorite eras in American history, the Roaring 20's. The characters are vivid and I enjoy how the main character's narrative actually seems to make Jay Gatsby the main character. A very rich novel indeed. (Plus, it's written by a Minnesota native!)

4. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
After we read The Great Gatsby in high school, we moved on to the following decade, the Dirty 30's, with which I was also obsessed as my grandma told me many stories about growing up during the Depression. Again, another pivotal novel about a desperate time in American history.

5. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
I randomly discovered this Pulitzer Prize winning novel in my high school library and was absolutely riveted by Ms. Buck's story telling abilities. I had never been interested in the history of the Chinese people, but she made it worth learning. 

6. Staggerford by Jon Hassler
Another Minnesota native's book caught my attention with a gripping story, despite it seeming very boring at the beginning. The main character is endearing, despite his outward appearance and the secondary characters are so vivid, it's like I was transported to Staggerford even though the book is set in the 1970s. 

7. Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone series
I discovered Sue Grafton's writing in ninth grade, again, randomly in my high school library. "H is for Homicide" was the only copy of one of her novels on the shelf and I thought, why not? It remains my favorite book in the series and she's still going, with Y and Z left. 

8. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I was not particularly into Jane Austen in high school -- I never could finish "Emma" -- but "Pride and Prejudice" was on my required reading list in college and I fell in love with it. Despite the constant run-on sentences, Elizabeth Bennet is pretty bad-ass for defying the era's restrictions and rules for women. 

9. J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series
Although the Harry Potter books began while I was in high school, I shamefully admit I did not jump on the bandwagon until I saw the first Harry Potter movie. I was hooked. I literally holed up in my bedroom over Christmas break in 2001-02 and read the first and second books in the series while listening to the soundtrack from the first movie. Don't judge me. 

10. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
My fifth-grade teacher read the seven-novel series to our class, but I never read the books myself until college. In my third summer, I made it my mission to read the series and it was well worth it. 

11. 1776 by David McCullough
I love history and particularly love McCullough's writing. He makes it easy to read, rather than daunting, and his rendition of America's Revolutionary War is riveting. His biographies are also worth a try, but start with "1776" it's a little less imposing with its 386 pages compared to say, "John Adams" and its 751 pages. 

12. Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
Having been obsessed with "The Wizard of Oz" as a child, you can imagine my glee at finding a book that delves deeper into the story of Oz itself. Granted, it's by a completely different author and tells the story of the Wicked Witch, Elphaba, but it is exciting all the same. I always knew she wasn't as bad as everyone made her out to be. 

13. The Peculiar Children series by Ransom Riggs
This man is brilliant. I'm ticked I didn't think of it before! He uses old photographs around which he bases his stories. He creates an amazing and spectacularly vivid world in which "peculiar" children and adults exist only in hiding and are hunted by horrid, mysterious foes. The trilogy is just a great read. I get chills thinking about how awesome it is. 

14. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
This World War II novel is amazing, simply put. It tells a fictional story based on real life events of women who smuggled downed allied pilots out of Occupied France into Spain so they could return to action. I often cried throughout this book. To me, that's the mark of an awesome author -- to write something so vividly it causes such raw and powerful emotion. 

15. Peony by Pearl S. Buck
Yes. I have two books by Ms. Buck on my list. Peony is the main character, a Chinese girl who is a servant in a Jewish home in her home country. The intricacies of Buck's storytelling are again fascinating in this novel, first published in  1948.

What are your favorite books? I'd love to know because I'm always looking for a great new novel, biography or non-fiction book to read! I'm willing to try anything.
Leave some suggestions in a comment on this blog and I'll post a list. Then I'll read those books and write reviews! That should be fun.
Whoever suggests the book I like most will be in for a surprise!
Can't wait to hear from you.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Camping is a Labor of Love

Camping is a lot like giving birth.
Now, don't scoff. Just bear with me.
We recently went on our annual camping trip to northern Minnesota.

I, personally, spent days planning it -- making sure we had clean clothes, making lists of what we'd need for food and supplies, etc.
I packed the night before and then got up the next morning at 5 to finish some housework and then pack the trunk of my tiny Corolla as efficiently as possible. That way we were able to leave by, at the latest, 7 a.m.
When I gave birth, everything was planned because the doctor scheduled an induction. So I was packed the night before and ready to leave with my last-minute items the following morning -- toothbrush, hair brush, etc.
Although this is not the case for every birth, most women typically have a bag packed for a few weeks before their due date.
We arrived at Lake Bronson State Park around 4 p.m. last Saturday and set up camp. We enjoyed a campfire, blew up our air mattress and prepared for a night of ... sleeping on the ground.
That's right, our air mattress leaked, leaving Derek and me moaning and groaning halfway through the night.
But Jacob slept fine as our weight kept his portion of the air mattress inflated.
We suffered pain all week as a labor of love. A well-rested 6-year-old kept our minds off the fact we'd have to suffer poor rest each night.
Ah, well.
The memories in between are priceless -- Jacob bringing me a moth whom he named Fluffy; visiting the Kittson County Historical Society and its buildings; trying to explain the purpose of a payphone and discovering several in operation in Kittson County alone; Jacob making a new friend, even if it was just for a night; cooking over a campfire; playing in a sandbox.

Jacob wondering what the heck a phone
is doing in the middle of nowhere.
Jacob's friend for an evening, Brendan.

Jacob sitting in an upper seat in the caboose
at the Kittson County Historical Society. 
As with giving birth, and the pain that goes with it -- not only for mothers, but the mental anguish or anxiety for fathers -- the end result always seems to be worth the struggles.
Every year we choose to go camping not only because Jacob wants to, but because Derek and I have fond memories of camping as children (maybe me moreso than Derek).
And every year, Derek or I say, "This is killing me," after several nights of basically sleeping on the ground.
However, we still plan a camping trip with more prominent memories in mind of how much fun we all had the previous year.
Just like giving birth and all the pain endured in the process, I will gladly go camping again and again to witness the final result -- the three of us making lasting memories in a place we love, with people we love. Just as Jacob gives us endless joy, so will our memories of camping with him.
In the future, we hope our memories are upgraded to a camper and a solid sleeping situation.