Writing Prompt #63: “52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge” (Week 25)

Week #25: Education.

I’m incredibly grateful for the education that I have received. I was so fortunate that my parents picked an excellent school district when we moved to Chesapeake. Overall, I had really good experiences throughout elementary, middle, and high school. I think fondly of many teachers that I had over the years!

After high school graduation, I was one of the very few that didn’t have to take out any loans to be able to earn my college degree. I don’t say this to brag, not at all – I say this out of incredible gratitude to my parents, who worked so hard to help me get a great education from Longwood. I have multiple family members, co-workers, and countless friends that have student loan debt. That makes me sad! It also makes me angry. Higher education has changed so much, and it’s even changed in the six years since I graduated.

Now, I’m grateful that I have a job that offers educational assistance to its employees! I have used it for several semesters, and it has been a significant benefit. I’m almost done with my Paralegal Studies degree after nearly five years.

I can’t say enough good things about the quality of the education that I have had over the years. With that said, I’m inspired by countless others and their stories.

  • The ones that have worked multiple jobs plus loans to pay for their education themselves
  • The ones that raise or have raised children while working full-time and attending classes
  • The ones that work tirelessly for years to educate themselves in the field that they are passionate about.
  • The ones that go for the Ph.D.
  • The ones that simply have a high school diploma and are just amazing husbands/wives, mothers/fathers, hard workers, volunteers, and so much more than their educational experiences.

My hat goes off to you all!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Prompt #62: “52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge” (Week 24)

Week #24: A Book You Learned From.

I wasn’t a big science fiction fan for a long time, but one book helped change my view.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.

I wasn’t thrilled when it was assigned summer reading when I was getting ready to start the IB program in 2003.

However, I was pleasantly surprised when I started reading it. The story was so intriguing, that I didn’t want to stop.

As I delved into the world of Ender, Valentine, his family, and the intricate / complicated world of Battle School and Command School, I learned several things. I learned to better appreciate the genre of science fiction, but I also identified with several of the characters. I saw parts of myself in Ender, Valentine, Rackham, and Colonel Graff. Thinking about it now, some of the wars and political themes aren’t so far off from our real world at the moment. I think this book also helped me become a better writer, and to be more considerate of other genres.

I learned later that there are other books with Ender. Eventually, I want to read them all.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #33: “The Devil’s Dozen: 12 Notorious Serial Killers Caught by Cutting-Edge Forensics”

The Devils Dozen

Image Credit: Amazon

Much like the last book I reviewed, I found this book at a bargain price! I actually bought it late last year, but I didn’t pick it up and read it until the last two weeks.

I’ll admit it – I love almost anything that deals with true crime. I saw this title and knew that I wanted to read it.

Or, so I thought.

The one thing that took me aback, and bothered me throughout the book, was how academic it was. I felt like I was reading 12 short research papers. Trust me – That’s not exactly what I want in a book. I certainly appreciated Ramsland’s attention to details and her use of sources, but it was a very dry read.

Other than that issue, reading about these 12 cases was fascinating. There were some cases I had already read / heard about, but there were 5-6 that were completely new to me. I appreciated that Ramsland explored a wide range of cases, both in historical context, and throughout the globe. It was really cool to see how other countries use and have used forensics to accomplish the same goal – Stop these criminals forever. It was also interesting to learn about how these various forensic techniques were developed as early as the late 1800s, and how they were utilized then, and now.

The academic style was the biggest detractor for me, and it was tough to keep reading. But, I’m glad I finished it. If you’re interested in a heavily-research-based series of true crime stories, I recommend it. Ramsland is a talented author and researcher!

3 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #32: “Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison”

Orange_Is_the_New_Black_book_cover

Image Credit: Wikipedia

At the end of April, during a long weekend with Al and his parents, I found this paperback while visiting the Virginia Avenue Mall in Clarksville, Virginia. There were so many books – It was a really cool indoor, two-story flea market. I was hunting for something else, but for $4.00, I couldn’t pass this up!

I haven’t watched the series on Netflix, but I’ve always been curious about it. I knew it was based on a true story / inspired by true events, but I didn’t realize that Piper Kerman had written a book about it!

This was another book that I finished quickly, but forgot to write the review. I’m trying really hard to break this habit! I think it only took me about two weeks to read.

It was crazy to read about how Piper’s unfortunate globe-trotting escapades caught up with her several YEARS later. She was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison, and served her time in three different facilities.

Having only learned about prison from books and other media, reading a first-hand account from a woman who was not a typical inmate was eye-opening, and oddly fascinating. I say “not typical” because Piper was well-educated (She graduated from Smith College before getting involved with her criminal activities), and had an immense support system on the outside.

She did a fantastic job of painting the experience for the reader – I felt like I was right beside her the entire time. I really got to know Piper, as well as all the women around her. I went through many emotions – I laughed, I teared up, I wanted to scream. Mostly, I laughed. I personally think Piper tried to make the very best of her not-so-desirable situation, and I think she handled it really well.

I didn’t want to put the book down. I started to limit myself to only 1-2 chapters per night, because I wanted to read 5-6. It’s no wonder that this book has transformed into a successful series on Netflix.

Kerman did a great job with details, and made sure that the reader got as much of the full experience of her 15 months between Danbury, Connecticut; Oklahoma City; and Chicago as possible. It was also really interesting to go back in time, in a way, reading about headlines and news from 2003 through 2005.

She displayed a significant amount of courage by writing this book. She gives the reader an inside look into a tough place, and she does a really good job of showing honesty, sympathy, and advocacy.

I highly recommend this book. It’s definitely not the easiest read, but it really opened my eyes. I have a better understanding of what these women go through, and how those on the outside should be better about treating them. There’s still a huge stigma around incarceration, and these women deserve better.

5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #52: Thoughts on “The Keepers”

The Keepers - imdb

Image Credit: IMDb

Al mentioned this new Netflix Original series to me a couple weeks ago.

I watched the first two episodes, out of seven, alone. In retrospect, I’m glad that I re-watched them with Al this past week. We just finished the last one today. I don’t think I could have handled it alone.

Much like my Making A Murderer post from last October, I want to try to summarize the series here, and give my thoughts and feelings about it. I will do my best to limit any spoilers!

In November 1969, Sister Catherine (Cathy) Cesnik mysteriously vanished near Baltimore, Maryland. There had been an experiment where she and another nun were allowed to leave their convent and become public school teachers at the all-girls Catholic Archbishop Keough High School.

At the time of her disappearance, Cathy was going shopping for some bakery buns, and an engagement gift for her sister. When her roommate, Sister Russell Phillips, discovered that Cathy had not returned to the apartment, she notified two friends, one of whom was a priest. A few hours later, the police were called and an investigation began.

Sadly, just three days into the year 1970, Sister Cathy’s body was found in a local garbage dump, in nearby Lansdowne, Maryland. The initial investigation concluded that her skull had been fractured at the left temple, but little other evidence was found. The case remains open and unsolved.

The Keepers follows several of Sister Cathy’s students, in the present day, trying to solve her murder, and untangle the web that surrounded their beloved teacher.

Throughout the seven episodes, we learn that Father A. Joseph Maskell was the chaplain at Archbishop Keough, as well as the Baltimore Police Department, and the Maryland State Police. Prior to his arrival at Keough in 1967, Maskell was a priest at multiple churches/parishes in Maryland. Maskell stayed at Keough through 1975.

Gemma and Abbie are the primary amateur investigators in the case. They simply wanted to see Cathy’s murder solved, and to figure out what really happened. Along the way, they begin to discover the secret world that was surrounding their school, and the potential scandal that Cathy knew about.

Without going into gory detail, it was alleged that Father Maskell was committing acts of sexual abuse in his office in the school. In the episodes, several women (Jane Doe, Jane Roe, Mary, Donna, and others) describe what Maskell was doing to them. One woman, Lil, recounted how Maskell asked her to type the transcripts of the “counseling sessions” and “psychological reports” of the girls. Almost all of the reports were sexual in nature.

Gemma and Abbie, among others, start to realize that Cathy knew what was going on, and she was likely murdered to keep the scandal quiet.

Watching the first two episodes alone, I was absolutely horrified. I almost didn’t want to keep watching. What these women were saying that this man did to them made me sick.

When Al and I watched them together, there were several moments where we paused it, and said, together, “What on Earth is happening? Why? Holy freaking cow! This is absolutely nuts!”

We found that our profanity increased as the episodes went over. We could not believe that Maskell, and several others, got away with these terrible acts for so many years.

We noticed that, unfortunately, there are deep ties between the Archdiocese and the police. We’re convinced that there’s money involved, as well as rampant corruption. And this is just in Baltimore!

According to Wikipedia, there are 197 particular churches in the U.S. and the U.S. Virgin Islands. That’s a lot!

To summarize, The Keepers is a decent series. It could have been told in five episodes, rather than seven. But, it’s an important story to be told. When we were watching, we were reminded of the movie Spotlight from 2015. It’s an incredible movie, and it follows similar veins from Boston.

In talking with others on Facebook, my hope is that series and movies like these will help victims to gather the courage to come forward, to tell their stories. Abuse is not acceptable or okay in any form, but against children is especially heinous. These men (and women) should be punished accordingly. The church needs to stop “transferring” priests and others that are accused of abuse and other crimes. They need to be prosecuted. More importantly, these victims need to be believed. They need to be respected and applauded for their courage.

There needs to be justice for Sister Cathy.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Prompt #61: “52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge” (Week 23)

Week #23: Favorite Physical Trait.

I love my eyes. They’re one of traits from my dad. Most people can tell that I look a lot like my mom (We have the same face shape, and our voices are very similar), so I love the traits from my dad slightly more. I have his hair, eyes, and skin.

I love that my eyes are hazel. I think it makes me unique! Green is also one of my favorite colors, so I’m happy that I have eyes that reflects that part of me.

I can’t say much more than that. Come back next Wednesday for more!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #71: June Goals

June Goals

Image Credit: jenny collier blog

Welcome to June! We’re basically halfway through 2017 – Already! Time is flying by.


Here are my goals for the month of June:

  1. Celebrate our 100th blood drive!
  2. Refresh/update my summer wardrobe.
  3. See Wonder Woman!
  4. Celebrate Nick and Savy’s engagement/upcoming wedding!
  5. Attend the 10-year high school reunion with my IB classmates.
  6. Celebrate Mom’s retirement!
  7. Buy bikes!
  8. Visit the library at least once.
  9. Work to write between three-four Book Reviews.

Here’s the breakdown:

Celebrate our 100th blood drive!

  • It’s TOMORROW. Wow!
  • This should be relatively easy: Successfully donate, and then party!

Refresh/update my summer wardrobe.

  • I need to go through all my clothes this month – Put away all the fall/winter items still in my closet, sort out the ones that need to be donated, and make sure the rest isn’t hiding in suitcases!
  • I definitely need a few more pairs of shorts that actually fit!

See Wonder Woman!

  • I’m so excited to see this!

Celebrate Nick and Savy’s engagement/upcoming wedding!

  • Their fun and creative “Stock The Bar” party is this weekend!
  • They always put on a great party – Tons of food, loads of friends, and usually shenanigans and live music!

Attend the 10-year high school reunion with my IB classmates.

  • Scheduled for later this month, I’m excited to get together with several of my IB classmates and their spouses/significant others.
  • Lots of us have kept up through Facebook over the years, but it’s really cool that we’re all gathering together in-person!
  • Fun fact: The restaurant we’re going to was the same place where Al and I had our first date!

Celebrate Mom’s retirement!

  • Mom’s cleaning out her classroom, for good.
  • We’re excited to celebrate her long career as an ESL teacher!

Buy bikes!

  • This has been on our list every since we bought our house.
  • Luckily, there’s a bike shop just a few miles from us.
  • We took a trip there a month or so ago, so we want to go back and actually buy!
  • We’re excited to live in a neighborhood where we see families walk, run, skate, and ride their bikes and scooters.

Visit the library at least once.

  • My ultimate goal is to do this at least once a month going forward, but I need to remind myself!
  • Since the library near my house has limited hours, the best time for me to go is on Saturdays.

Work to write between three-four Book Reviews.

  • I have one review in the pipeline, and I’m almost done with another book!
  • I have a good feeling that I can power through at least one more book, maybe even two!

Do you have any goals for the month of June?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂