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Monday, November 28, 2016

Book about ordinary life shows strength of human spirit

"A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" is truly a book about nothing.
Oh, there's a story, and a damn good one, but really there is no plot line other than to know what happened to Francie Nolan from birth to age 16.


It's compelling, make no mistake. You get background on Francie's parents, which makes you wish for a better set of circumstances. However, you see there is hope for a brighter future, which pushes you through the book.
Although I've often wished to travel back to earlier days of the United States, this book made me take into account the early 1900s were quite difficult, especially for those who were uneducated.
Francie Nolan is a tenacious, but shy little girl. Like most children, she loves her parents despite their flaws. Francie often is confused by other children and how horrible they can be. However, she rises above what she's born into and finds a way out of the uneducated life her family has always known.
As she grows up, we see Francie not only through Francie's eyes, but many other characters -- her mother, Katie, her aunts Sissy and Evy, her father Johnny, and others -- often depict Francie from their own points of view.
I'm not an English scholar, so I don't necessarily stop to find the meaning in every book.
This book is, quite simply, about humans living their lives to the best of their abilities with the situations they're given. It is about human beings struggling to survive.
But what drew me into the book were the vivid descriptions of early 1900s Brooklyn and New York City, and the people who lived there.
It was little details like Katie's "vici-kid high buttoned shoes" that caught my attention. I actually had to look up what the heck these things are:


It was descriptions of junk dealers in Francie's neighborhood, the dingy tenements the families lived in and the strange and sad family dynamics that made this book so interesting.
Many called "The Grapes of Wrath" the defining book of The Great Depression.
I wouldn't go so far as to call "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" a defining book of a generation. But I would say, it excels at showing the joys and sorrows of human life with such triumph that it is definitely hard to put down.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Spoiler Alert: Political opinions from a mostly unpolitical person

The election is over, yet the divisive chatter remains.
I did not like either main presidential candidate this year. Nor did I vote for either one.
I voted my conscience, despite some views of my third-party candidate, and made my voice heard on a different, more common sense route for the United States.
I have held off on voicing my opinion after the election. Why? I'm not completely informed on everything regarding our new president-elect. I really regret not taking Jeff Hart's classes in high school (please don't judge me too cruelly, Mr. Hart).
Despite that, I feel the need to at least say a few things.
Although Donald Trump is not my choice for president, he is still set to be the president of my country. I do not support some of his intentions as our commander in chief, but I do realize that not all his propositions will come to pass. Yes, the president has the power to veto an act passed by Congress, but with a majority, Congress has the power to override it.
I still have hope that Donald Trump, despite his many flaws, will do his best in that office. I believe (and have to believe) that he will surround himself (or be forced to surround himself) with knowledgeable people for his cabinet and staffers. I have to believe people will slip in there and serve as voices of reason when the main voices are being unreasonable. I have to believe those voices will be heard and serve the people of our great country as best they can.
All our presidents have had major flaws - you know, because they're human. Many other presidents have been womanizers. That does not give Donald Trump the right to be one, nor does it excuse others from having acted inappropriately.
However, Donald Trump's actions do not give us as U.S. citizens the right to pass judgement. Our right to free speech does afford us the luxury to condemn his actions.
We must stand united, as we are citizens of the United States of America. Notice our country's name is not the Divided States of America.
As Donald Trump uses Twitter and other social medias to spread his unchecked words, please, use your own social media accounts to do better. I encourage and support free speech, but I do not support divisiveness. It is contradictory to what our country stands for.
This morning, I read a brief article titled "50 Groups/Individuals Jesus Says You Can Hate." 
I am not particularly religious, but I do believe Jesus sets a fantastic example for people of all faiths in that he loves all people. We have the right to our own opinions, but our country is founded also on the freedom of religion and the right to live our lives the way we want.
Despite Donald Trump's many faults, I am willing to give him a chance. He was elected fairly (unless that is proven otherwise). If he screws up, the United States has the chance to elected another person into office in 2020.
I will hold onto hope that we can again become a united country. And if Donald Trump helps start that, then I suppose his time if office will have been worth the commotion.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Freelance is not for Pussy Cats

Confidence is a huge key when branching off on your own venture of any kind, whether that be freelancing as a writer or creating your own product.
Confidence has not always been my strong point, however I've been working on it. I've been terrified about revamping and publishing my writer website.
It took a lot of courage and as much confidence as I could muster this week to finally publish my official professional freelance writer website.

Annajauhola.com has been mine since last year, but it sucked until this week.
(Screenshot of my welcome page)
Now, I'm not a web designer. Nor am I a designer of any kind, unless you count designing stories with words. Haha.
Anyway, I don't think my website turned out too bad. It's clean, easy to follow and straightforward.
At least I hope so.
Step A of my next big test in gaining and keeping confidence is getting beta readers. What're those? People who will look at my site, tell me if it's any good and what I could do to improve it. For free, of course, because I'm just starting out. :)
Step B will be to contact and attract clients. For this portion, I'm working my way through Build Your Biz Challenge with Sagan Morrow! I'm also still using some great hints and tricks from Jorden Roper.
These two ladies have been the most helpful and give the most amazing advice and support I've received since I started my freelancing journey. A HUGE thanks to both of them!
I'm finding more confidence through BYBC and both ladies' blogs, along with the Facebook community Sagan created for BYBC.
Any freelancers, whether you're just starting out or you've been at it forever, check out Sagan's and Jorden's site for amazing tips, tricks, advice and continuing education. Perhaps check out my site too!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Yoga before bed: Experiment in better sleep

Like many of you, I usually don't sleep very well.
It's not that a don't get enough sleep, it's that I can't shut off my mind and I can't seem to find the right positions to sleep in, leaving me exhausted from tossing and turning. Other mornings, I'm worn out because I slept wrong and end up with shoulder or neck pain, or both, coupled with a headache.
To combat this constant issue, I decided to try yoga before bed. A friend suggested it awhile ago, but I didn't seriously consider it until recently.

The Child Pose is my favorite because it is so relaxing and just plain feels good.

I found a good video of basic moves that even the least balanced or talented person can do -- that would be me.
After only doing yoga prior to crawling into bed for one week, I haven't seen an immediate difference.
After the first night, I woke up refreshed and ready for my day. However, my day then drained me exponentially.
After the second night, I slept a little better and felt pretty good in the morning. I didn't hit snooze 10 times before getting up.
After the third night, I could tell I slept quite a bit better than normal, however I'd slept on my side and I ended up with a sore neck that day.
I skipped day four as an experiment and found the next day I woke up groggy, sore and cranky. Plus, I'd slept on my side again.
Day five, I did yoga, and the following morning I woke up less groggy.
Yesterday was day six. I think, perhaps, one needs to incorporate a couple different strategies with yoga.
Take this morning for an example. I did my yoga last night, but I slept wrong and have a terrible pain in my left shoulder.
I have a couple thoughts in mind after watching a few other videos.
Yoga is also a type of meditation. I need to do a bit more reading, but my main goal is to take this as a relaxation of the body and mind, not just the body.
If I can't turn off my mind at night, I won't be able to relax. Duh, right?!
I've realized I also need to make a conscious effort to change my sleeping habits. For example, I know I always sleep better when I lay on my back, yet I still sleep on my side. Why? I've always done it. But now I need to change it and sleep on my back.
I also need to focus on my intention while doing yoga. So far, I've focused on doing the poses correctly.
Tonight, which will be day seven, I will focus on intention and sleeping on my back. We'll see how this goes.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Veterans deserve respect in death, as in life

Veterans Day has always been an important day in my life, so it is only fitting I should write this blog the day before the 2016 holiday.
My family has history, like so many others, of men and women serving in the military.
My dad served in Vietnam, and my mother served in the military during an earlier period of the same war. Both my brothers and my uncle served in the military. My dad's dad served in World War II.
I've always had a reverence for those who have been willing to serve our country, whether they go overseas or protect us at home.
So when I heard that a Mitchell Girl Scout troop was raising money for a headstone foundation for a forgotten veteran, I couldn't help but be proud of such a young group of girls.
Troop 57005 -- a BROWNIE troop of girls in grades 2 and 3 -- volunteered to raise at least $1,000 for this service project in mid-October. With help, the troop set up a GoFundMe page to solicit donations, which came in fairly quickly.
The Brownies brought in more than $1,200, which will pay for the granite slab foundation, said Debra Emme, office assistant at the Davison County Veteran Service Office. Emme has a daughter in the Brownie troop. The project also received a cash donation of $250 from the Mitchell KOA Campground, Emme said, which is not included in the GoFundMe total.
For completing this project, the girls earn their Honor Our Veterans badges, she added.
The veteran for whom the troop raised money was William Hannett. He died in 1928 and still has a temporary marker. He is buried in a section of Calvary Cemetery in Mitchell.

This temporary marker is the only evidence that William J. Hannett,
a World War I veteran, is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Mitchell.
(Photo by Anna Jauhola)
Not far from his marker stand several others also bearing the last name Hannett. No one seems to know why William Hannett was forgotten, even though it seems relatives were not ignored.
This issue came to light last year when Jessica Davidson, Davison County veteran service officer, discovered veterans buried in the cemeteries in Mitchell did not have proper headstones.
Davidson, a veteran herself who served as a tank mechanic, said these vets deserve better than temporary markers.
Through hard work on her own time, Davidson said she was able to procure headstones and foundations for two other veterans last year -- Joseph Robert Ward, a WWI vet buried in the Old Part of Graceland Cemetery, and James M. Parker, a Civil War vet and POW, buried also in the Old Part of Graceland.

For James Parker, Davidson was able
to get a replica Civil War headstone to
place on a foundation.
(Photo by Anna Jauhola)
Jessica Davidson was able to get a bronze plaque
from the government to place in a foundation
for Robert Ward. (Photo by Anna Jauhola)














At least five other veterans buried in the Mitchell cemeteries -- all from the WWI era -- do not have proper headstones, and it has become Davidson's mission to remedy that.
"A disservice has been done for these people," Davidson said.
She added, it should be made clear, any fundraising done is only for the foundations for government-issued headstones like the bronze plaque seen above, or a flat marble headstone, which has been ordered for Hannett.
Schafer Memorials, on Main Street in Mitchell, will install the foundation for Hannett and has donated labor for the project. The money is raised, but Davidson said the foundation will not be laid until the spring when the ground warms up again.
Davidson said should they raise $3,000 total, then Schafer Memorials will be able to complete all foundations for the other five veterans as well.
Although the Brownie troop has come forward to help procure a slab for the headstone of William Hannett, Davidson is looking for others to do the same.
"I'm wondering if another service organizations like a Girl Scout troop, or Boy Scout troop or even a 4-H group, would like to help," she said.
However, should no one else volunteer, Davidson said she will likely pay out of her own pocket to get the other five granite foundations. That's how important this project is to her.

I urge everyone -- individuals, service organizations, businesses, whoever -- to donate whatever you can to this incredibly worthy cause. Without veterans who so humbly, proudly and selflessly served our country, we would not be here. They deserve our respect in death, as much as those who are still living.
You can still give to the Girl Scouts' GoFundMe page, or you can contact the Davison County Veteran Service Office at 605-995-8619.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Freelancing freedom requires hard work

Challenging myself to become a better writer and more successful has always been, well, a challenge.
This November, while many writers are taking part in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, I have engaged in a month-long course aimed at getting a freelance business up and running.
Since finding Jorden Roper, freelance extraordinaire and no-bullshit advice giver, I seemed to have lucked out on finding more straight-forward resources from which to learn.
Sagan Morrow, a freelancer, blogger and freelance coach, based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, created the Build Your Biz Challenge (BYBC). It is simple, straight forward and incorporates actionable tips that take 15 minutes each day to do. This is exactly the type of activity I’ve been looking for!

This is a screen shot of Sagan's website. You can see all the great
options she offers for freelancers and continuing education.

I’m super excited to complete these step-by-step activities each day because they are giving me a great sense of what I need to do as a freelancer.
Before beginning this course, I’d worked hard to develop my niche (through help from Jorden) but got sidetracked and lost momentum. My brain stalled and I couldn’t seem to get back on course.
I began following Sagan’s blog awhile back and even subscribed to her updates via email. However, my inbox started to overflow with “help” from several sources I’d thought sounded good. So Sagan’s emails got lost in the mix, until one day, an email from her caught my eye. 
I opened the one about BYBC and was immediately intrigued. I signed up and am so happy I did!
Her course (which is FREE) is making me think through a process I would never have been able to figure out on my own. She’s forced me to revisit my goals and create a few new ones for much further down the line.
She gave us a calendar on which she described the activity for each day of the month. This is helpful because I can be thinking ahead to what I may need to research, or just be thinking deeper about an aspect of freelancing I’d never thought of before. 
On top of all this, those taking part in the challenge have the opportunity to be involved in a peer group on Facebook! It is interesting to see what other freelancers want to do, what level they're at and their goals, so far. I've also made a few contacts through the group, and hope to make a bunch more. 

A screen shot of the top of our Facebook group page.

I’m excited to see what the next few weeks bring. My main goals are to have a functional website up and running by the end of November, and gain at least one client in the next three months (if not before).
The class is totally free, and if you are interested, visit Sagan’s site. The challenge isn’t only for freelance writers, like me. There are designers, editors, hair stylists, Pilates instructors, and other professionals taking the course with me! Plus, Sagan has a bunch of helpful blog posts and other freebies available for your perusal. 

Give it a go. At the very least, you may learn something. At the most, you may be inspired to branch out and start your own business. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

'Little Women' a capital book

My philosophy for reading in recent years is to power my way through the first chapter of a book that is dry or doesn't quite excite me. I've often found my hook in the second, third or fourth chapters.
That's exactly what I had to do with "Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott.

I'm so happy I finally read 'Little Women.' (Photo by Anna Jauhola)
When Teddy "Laurie" Laurence entered the picture in chapter three, I was immediately intrigued by his interaction with Jo at the New Year's party. 
Their immediate friendship made me yearn for them to be together. 
I was so happy that Laurie became a permanent fixture in the Marches' lives and, for me, Laurie and Jo are the characters that made this book worth reading.
Laurie and Jo romped as children, watched each other grow up and watched each other's hearts break, only to be renewed as adults.
In truth, this book took forever for me to read. It was good, but I wasn't dying to read it every night.
However, it was interesting to follow Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy.
They made me laugh and cry and get angry.
Amy is infuriating with her attitude that she must marry someone rich, but endearing when she tries so hard to be like her older sisters.
Meg's struggle with wanting pretty things but knowing she should remain humble is something with which I can relate.
Beth's saintly nature is admirable, but it made me sad she resigned herself to being a homebody. I can also relate to her mindset (not her saintly nature).
However, I relate to Jo the most. She's a writer. She is one of the boys. She does what she wants, yet also does what is required at home. She was determined to remain single and independent, yet she wanted a house full of boys. Despite that love wins in the end, her reward is so sweet and she still is able to fulfill her goal.
Her fire and enthusiasm, anguish and despair are what spoke to me throughout the book.
I wish I had half of Jo's ambition.
Overall, I'm really glad I read "Little Women." It is a true classic. I saw many themes in the book that still hold true today, nearly 150 years later.
It may have inspired me to later read "Little Men" and "Jo's Boys." But one step at a time.

Look for my next review on "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn."