Getting Personal #44: October Goals Recap


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Hi, my amazing readers!

I’m stunned – It’s the end of October! Wow!

Here’s the link to my October Goals post:


Here we go!

  1. Prep the house for our first overnight visitor! – Accomplished!
  2. Donate blood! – Did not accomplish.
  3. Plan our Halloween costumes! – Accomplished!
  4. Decorate the house for fall! – Semi-achieved.
  5. Clean up the clutter and plan my office space! – Accomplished!
  6. Recap my 44 for Bill Movement participation. – Did not accomplish.
  7. Celebrate birthdays – Mom’s and Mia’s! – Semi-achieved.
  8. Read at least two books on my 2016 Reading Challenge list, and publish those book reviews. – Semi-achieved.
  9. Join the Portsmouth Public Library. – Accomplished!
  10. Read through Megan’s cookbook, and try at least two of her recipes! – Accomplished!
  11. Sign up for a pen pal through Geek Girl Pen Pals. – Accomplished!
  12. Get ahead with my Trial Prep & Discovery Practice assignments. – Accomplished!
  13. Get excited for our wedding anniversary getaway! – Accomplished!

Here’s the breakdown:

Prep the house for our first overnight visitor! – Accomplished!

  • This one was a little wonky. Our original visitor wasn’t able to come down during the weekend of October 14th due to a work schedule conflict. It actually worked out okay – There were some unexpected changes that weekend, and Al and I ended up moving a good chunk of furniture from my parents’ house to ours.
  • However, Al’s parents stayed with us this past weekend! It was awesome. We had a great time. They stayed overnight on Friday, and then went to see some of our family yesterday.

Donate blood! – Did not accomplish.

  • I was so close. My favorite phlebotomist, Spencer, was able to work the drive at the beginning of October, for the first time in over a year!
  • Unfortunately, I just barely missed the mark. For women, you need a score of 12.5 for hemoglobin, and I got to 12.4. Argh!
  • I’m beefing up my vitamins and investing more research into iron-rich foods. I will give again in December!

Plan our Halloween costumes! – Accomplished!

  • We went to Kathryn and Tim’s annual Halloween party on the 22nd as a wizard and witch headed back to Hogwarts. We had matching Griffyndor ties, collared shirts, and dress pants. We also showed off our wands from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Decorate the house for fall! – Semi-achieved.

  • I showed off my painted pumpkins, and I was able to give another stylized “V” one to Al’s parents! Mom was so excited – She can’t wait to put it in the house on the farm!

Clean up the clutter and plan my office space! – Accomplished!

  • I finally got so fed on a Sunday night that I turned into a tornado and went to town. It’s still a work in progress, but I have all my doll items in an organized pile now.
  • Plus, there was enough floor space to move the vintage yellow couch into another corner! I can’t wait to transform that space into my reading nook.

Recap my 44 for Bill Movement participation. – Did not accomplish.

  • This didn’t happen. I’m still writing letters!

Celebrate birthdays – Mom’s and Mia’s! – Semi-achieved.

  • We went out to dinner with my mom and dad to Szechuan Inn, a great local Chinese place. Mom had a great day!
  • We’re hoping to meet up with Mia in November to celebrate her. They were super busy in October, and Nick and Savy both got the plague after attending a wedding!

Read at least two books on my 2016 Reading Challenge list, and publish those book reviews. – Semi-achieved.

Join the Portsmouth Public Library. – Accomplished!

  • I marched in there after the blood drive on October 1st. The man that helped me was wonderful! I’m hoping to visit next Saturday to check out my first books!

Read through Megan’s cookbook, and try at least two of her recipes! – Accomplished!

  • I successfully made Burger Bowls and Chili-Lime Sweet Potato Fries!
  • We’re gonna look through the Shrimp section next!

Sign up for a pen pal through Geek Girl Pen Pals. – Accomplished!

  • I officially signed up! Woohoo!
  • I started emailing Penni, who posted in a forum that she was essentially left high and dry by her “match.” She’s wonderful!

Get ahead with my Trial Prep & Discovery Practice assignments. – Accomplished!

  • I finished my midterm exam ahead of time, and I feel like I did well. We graded them in-class on the 25th. I missed a few questions, but I got all of the extra credit right! I’m pretty sure I scored a high B or a low A.
  • I put in some good work on both folders last weekend and this weekend. Everything is due at the end of November, and I feel really good right now.

Get excited for our wedding anniversary getaway! – Accomplished!

  • We’re going to Hatteras Island, North Carolina! We love the beach, and I can’t wait to show Al all that Hatteras has to offer. We are so excited to get away, and enjoy our first anniversary!

Final Thoughts

  • I was able to put Accomplished on 8 out of 13 goals! Woohoo!
  • The three goals that were Semi-Achieved: I’m happy that I was able to do as much as I did this month!
  • The two goals that weren’t accomplished: I’m excited to conquer them in November and December!

Did you have any goals for October?

If so, how did you do?

Come back tomorrow to see my November goals!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Adventure Time: Virginia Beach, VA Edition (The Magical Music of Harry Potter)

Al bought these tickets on September 12th.

On Saturday, October 29th, the wait was finally over!

The performance was at the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts in Virginia Beach.

The Virginia Symphony Orchestra always puts on a good show!

Before the show, Al and I went to dinner at Bahama Breeze Island Grille, which is across the street from Town Center. It was my first time eating there, and it was delicious! We splurged on the Firecracker Shrimp appetizer, and Al had a Lemon Breeze – Very tangy lemonade.

I ate the Jerk Chicken Pasta – Yummy! It was a perfect dish for me – Bowtie pasta; perfectly seasoned, thinly sliced jerk chicken; asparagus; mushrooms; and a Parmesan cream sauce.

Al had the Calypso Shrimp Pasta – Linguine, spicy shrimp, tomatoes, peppers, onions. We both had our plates topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, after dining on Caesar salads.

We will definitely be back – We had no room for dessert!

Then, on to the show! I proudly wore my “Just A Wizard Girl” T-shirt from my awesome Little, and my new Gryffindor socks! Al and I went to a Halloween party last weekend with our Gryffindor ties and wands!

We had Orchestra seats, about six rows from the stage. It was awesome!

The orchestra was conducted by Benjamin Rous, who seamlessly inserts himself into every performance. We’ve seen several performances conducted by him (The Music of John Williams, Looney Tunes, etc.), and he is so animated and lively. He also takes the time to explain certain aspects of the music – Recurring themes, how notes are put together, and showcasing different parts of the orchestra.

Each of the eight films were showcased, and Rous lauded each composer with high praise. We know John Williams is a genius, but Nicholas Hooper, Alexandre Desplat, and Patrick Doyle are just as amazing.

Rous quoted Desplat, saying that them man considered his score a success if he even attempted to honor John Williams.

Here’s the rundown of the show. I’ve posted a few links to the music so you can hear a bit of what we did. It was awesome!

Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

  • “Harry and Hermione”

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone

  • “Nimbus 2000”

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

  • “Double Trouble” (featuring the Virginia Symphony Orchestra Chorus)

– Intermission –

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

  • “The Chamber of Secrets”

Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone


  • “Aunt Marge’s Waltz”

It was awesome to see a few fellow Harry Potter nerds at the show – Shelby and her husband, Jake, and Kristi and Tiana!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #45: A 700-Year-Old Haven for Mental Health


An aerial view of Geel, Belgium. Image Credit: Tripwolf

“She made broken look beautiful and strong look invincible. She walked with the universe on her shoulders and made it looks like a pair of wings.”


Thanks to Facebook Memories earlier this week, I was reminded of an exceptional town in Belgium that has adopted a completely different approach on helping those that need help with their mental health.

Here’s the link to the original story:

I shared this story on Facebook in October 2015. I remember reading with great interest at the time, but then I filed it away in my brain.

Then, at the beginning of July, Geel re-entered my life.

Remember my recent post on podcasts?

One of the seasonal ones is NPR’s Invisibilia. I kept hearing about it in promos during other NPR podcasts. I subscribed in the spring of 2016, eager to listen to season 1 and prep for season 2.

Then, on July 1st, they released the episode titled, “The Problem with the Solution.”

The episode focused on Geel, and how the hosts went to Belgium to see this idea for themselves.

I remember being rapt with attention in my car during my work commute, hanging on every word.

I couldn’t get it out my head.

Seeing the article from Upworthy made me curious about how the U.S. helps those with mental health issues. Other countries and continents, too – Not just Europe. I’m thinking about Africa, Asia, and Australia. What about China, or Japan?

Over the next few weeks, I plan to research this and do a follow-up post with my findings.

Final Thoughts:

I find Geel’s approach fascinating. It’s interesting that the boarding population has decreased to due a reduction in the number of host families, but I think that’s part of the cycle. The inference that there’s a decreased need for farmhands makes sense.

It’s hard to believe that this one town has done this giving for 700 years, but i think it’s awesome. I’m excited to do more research, to see how the U.S., Canada, and other countries work with mental health issues.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #43: “For Anyone Considering Suicide, From Those That Have Been There” (Reblogged)

I love Carla’s blog. She writes about so many important issues!

This is such a powerful video. The Mighty is a wonderful site!

I love her idea of writing letters to those with depression, thinking of suicide, or struggling with a debilitating illness. Since she lives in Australia, she will be starting with just Australia (Postage is very expensive to go outside of the country!)

With that, since I love sending cards and letters, I would like to do a similar effort in the U.S.

Especially since I considered suicide once. It was the fall of 2008. So much was going on in my life, it was starting to become too much – My first grandparent had passed away, I wanted to leave Longwood and come home, I was having problems with my long-term boyfriend, he was using a few friends to aggravate me and feel even lousier.

If you would like to receive a card or letter, or you know someone who could use a little bit of encouragement and love, please contact me through the links below:

Thank you, Carla, for sharing!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #42: My First-Ever To Be Read List (TBR)


Image Credit: TED Blog

Thanks to a recent conversation via blog comments with Maureen, who writes the fabulous blog Sparkle, she gave me that kick in the pants to finally make a To Be Read (TBR) list of my own!

In addition, this is the perfect segue for me to get back onto Goodreads and hold myself accountable that way, too.

Now, with this post, I’m currently focused on wrapping up my 2016 Reading Challenge first, so that’s why the remaining books from that list are at the top of this list.


Here we go!

Laura Beth’s To Be Read (TBR) List, as of October 2016:

  1. The Language of Silence, Tiffany Truitt (An awesome sorority sister of mine, and a local author!)
  2. Black Rabbit Hall, Eve Chase
  3. Gone With The Wind, Margaret Mitchell
  4. The Red Tent, Anita Diamant
  5. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
  6. Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller
  7. New Boy, Julian Houston
  8. The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling
  9. The Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins
  10. 11/22/63, Stephen King
  11. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs
  12. Hollow City, Ransom Riggs
  13. Library of Souls, Ransom Riggs
  14. Tales of the Peculiar, Ransom Riggs
  15. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, J.K. Rowling
  16. Quidditch Through the Ages, J.K. Rowling
  17. Music in My Heart: My Journey with MelodyErin Falligant with Denise Lewis Patrick
  18. The Sky’s the Limit: My Journey with MaryellenValerie Tripp
  19. Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, Emma Straub
  20. Modern Lovers, Emma Straub
  21. In the Unlikely Event, Judy Blume
  22. You Will Know Me, Megan Abbott
  23. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
  24. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
  25. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, Laura Hillenbrand
  26. Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann
  27. The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson
  28. The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
  29. Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson
  30. Another Brooklyn, Jacqueline Woodson
  31. The Art of Memoir, Mary Karr
  32. Loving Day, Mat Johnson
  33. American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes, and Trial of Patty Hearst, Jeffrey Toobin
  34. The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson, Jeffrey Toobin
  35. The Grid: The Fraying Wires Between Americans and Our Energy Future, Gretchen Bakke
  36. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, J.D. Vance
  37. A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression, Jane Ziegelman and Andy Coe
  38. Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney
  39. Bright, Precious Days, Jay McInerney
  40. Underground Airlines, Ben Winters
  41. A Good Month for Murder: The Inside Story of a Homicide Squad, Del Quentin Wilber
  42. American Girl: Ultimate Visual Guide, Erin Falligant, Laurie Calkhoven, Carrie Anton
  43. Teardrops of the Innocent: The White Diamond Story (True Colors – Volume 1), Allie Marie (Another local author!!)
  44. Grace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond, Lily Ledbetter

That’s all, for now!

I plan to update this list quarterly. Since this is the last quarter of 2016 (Already!), look for an update to this list in January!

Cheers! Happy reading!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #19: “Go Set A Watchman”


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“Prejudice, a dirty word, and faith, a clean one, have something in common: they both begin where reason ends.”
Harper Lee, Go Set a Watchman

This is the third book from my 2016 Reading Challenge!

I bought this book almost immediately after it was published.

To Kill A Mockingbird is near the top of my all-time favorite books – One that I re-read almost every year. When this manuscript was discovered and then published, I knew I needed to get my own copy.

I was immediately attracted to the cover. It’s gorgeous, classic, and something that I think will stand the test of time.

Please note: I will do my best to limit spoilers in this review, but this is your formal warning.

I’ll admit, I read too many articles surrounding the publication of this book in the summer of 2015 – Something I don’t normally do.

There was one significant character detail, surrounding Atticus, that was a bombshell. To me, it came completely out of left field, especially given the events from Mockingbird.

It’s so significant, that I choose to not reveal it here.

However, after I bought the book, I tried to shelve that bombshell and read it with an open mind.

It took me over a year to sit down and read it, but better late than never.

Go Set A Watchman reintroduces the characters of Atticus, Calpurnia, Hank, and Scout, now referred to as Jean Louise Finch. Lee takes us along for the ride with Jean Louise, as she travels from New York to her hometown of Maycomb, Alabama. She visits for two weeks every year.

I could see how the passage of years had changed everyone, and not necessarily for the better.

I was immediately immersed in Jean Louise’s world. She’s 26 now, and I saw the image of Scout fading and her womanly image forming throughout the book.

Having always enjoyed historical fiction, I appreciated Lee’s take on a typical Southern town, struggling to accommodate the black community and start to accept their burgeoning civil rights. The NAACP and Brown v. Board of Education are prominently mentioned, giving me the impression that the story is set after 1954.

Lee paints certain scenes so well that I felt like I was right there, listening to the local gossip in the livingroom during the Coffee. I could hear the train whistle. I could almost smell the marsh when Hank and Jean Louise go for their swim at Finch’s Landing.

At first, I sympathized with Jean Louise. She’s grappling with visiting her hometown that is struggling with so much change, while trying to keep her wits about her. The same condition that killed her mother has now killed her brother, Jem. She is horrified by her father’s actions at a Citizens’ Council meeting in town. She begins to lose her faith in everything that she thought she knew.

Most of the time, I wanted to keep turning the pages. It’s definitely a dramatic novel, exploring Jean Louise’s actions and reactions to her hometown and all the changes around her. She’s changing as a woman, as a daughter, and as a friend, plus trying to adapt to the world that is in flux.

However, toward the last section, it felt like Jean Louise’s two weeks in Maycomb were more like two years. There was so much dialogue, along with multiple large chunks of inner monologue and stream-of-consciousness, that got very muddy and tough to wade through.

To make sure I was following along correctly, there were several times where I had to pause and re-read some lengthy passages, and I didn’t appreciate that at all.

Also, there were several instances where the speaker or character wasn’t clear, and I had to review the previous passage or even the whole page of text to see who was being referenced. It was immensely annoying, frustrating, and made my head hurt. I kept reminding myself that the main focus of the novel is on Jean Louise, but, as a reader, it’s no fun having to try to figure out the character from page to page.

Overall, Go Set A Watchman is a decent sequel to a landmark novel such as Mockingbird. It clearly illustrates the struggles of the time, and how a 26-year-old woman would potentially adapt to so many changes in a short time period.

It has several excellent qualities – Love, family, friendship, morals, and balancing acceptance. I believe it accurately portrays the attitudes of those white, and black, of the time period, in the troubled South. It was an intriguing novelization of the deep South that made me consider how I would react if I had been in Jean Louise’s shoes.

However, it felt about 75 pages too long. Lee could have done without multiple pages of Jean Louise’s murky thoughts and memories. By the end, some of her outbursts and interactions with others appeared overly dramatic, immature, and frustrating. It was almost too heavy with her characterization, and I found myself wanting more of other characters, particularly Atticus, Hank, and even Calpurnia.

It’s a decent addition to my bookshelf, but not one that I will constantly praise and applaud for years to come.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #41: Declaring My Love for Podcasts


Image Credit: Capterra Blog

“If you want to stand out as a leader, a good place to begin is by listening.”

– Richard Branson

This little purple app on my iPhone makes me deliriously happy:


Image Credit:

Podcasts are certainly not a new thing to me. I had to create a three-part series for my Advanced Broadcast Production class at Longwood in the spring of 2011.

It was certainly interesting, but given that I hate / absolutely loathe the sound of my recorded voice, it was a challenging assignment.

Then, fast-forward several years.

For my personal phone, I upgraded from a non-smartphone to an iPhone 6 almost a year ago.

About a month into this new experience, my wonderful husband officially introduced me to the Podcasts app, and I haven’t looked back.

As I started playing around, I discovered that National Public Radio (NPR) had a lot to offer. So, I started there.

It was information overload. There were way too many to choose from!

Now that I’ve settled into a regular routine, I love listening to these episodes in my car. I almost always play at least one episode to get me through the drive to and from work, five days a week. My commute is roughly 30 miles, and it takes anywhere from 35-45 minutes to get to and fro (sometimes longer), so these anecdotes have definitely kept me entertained!

Here’s my current podcast playlist (alphabetical order):

Out of this list, there’s seven that are produced by NPR, and I love all of them.

Ask Me Another and Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me! both satiate my game show and trivia palates on a weekly basis. I’m actually hoping to get on both programs, at some point.

I love learning about history and cool stories – Most of these podcasts give me that fresh feeling every week!

The Nerdist is hilarious – I love the cast of characters that Chris Hardwick gets to interview! The best part is I get to pick and choose what I listen to, and when I want to do so. Recently, he’s interviewed the likes of Neil deGrasse Tyson, Mayim Bialik, Summer Ash, and Sarah Jessica Parker!

Several of the podcasts that I subscribe to have a “seasonal” format. Embedded, Invisibilia, and Serial have done this. It’s like a TV show – They produce a certain number of episodes, and then take a break to prepare for the new season.

It can be frustrating at times, but I know these men and women are hard at work and dreaming up even bigger things!

I’m always looking for new or interesting recommendations. If you have any podcasts that you crush on or love to listen to, I’d love to hear them!

Also, here’s a thought:

  • If you were to dream up an idea for a podcast, what would you do, and why?

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂