Commentary #55: A Must-See, Incredibly Powerful Message from Beautiful Seventh Grader’s Slam Poem

Slam Poetry

Image Credit: The Odyssey Online

I found the video below on Facebook recently, and it spoke volumes to me:

Background: At the end of this past school year (The video was posted on Facebook on May 25th), this beautiful 7th grade girl at Queen Creek Middle School delivered this incredibly powerful slam poem. This was part of the end of her 7th grade writing class.

Caption from 12 News: “When a 7th grade writing class at Queen Creek Middle School presented poems for their end of year assignment, one student stood out with a powerful message.”

It’s been viewed over 33 MILLION times.

According to the public comments, this beautiful young lady is named Olivia.


Her teacher publicly commented on the video. His name is Brett Cornelius. He was the one recording Olivia’s performance, and obtained her parents’ permission before sharing it.

“She presented this for almost every single 7th grader. They were moved to tears, as was I. She’s brilliant beyond words, and this poem is just the icing on top of her perfectly cooked cake. What’s even more incredible is that she worked on this for over a month, truly digging into the raw depths of teenage hood and expressing her feelings of the good, the bad, and the ugly of walking the halls of the school as a young woman. She’s humble and honest, that’s for sure. I’m proud to have met this little lady!”

“I am her teacher and that assignment was one I went back and forth about assigning for weeks. Obviously, there are no regrets. She transferred to our school, so unfortunately I was not prone to her incredible educational aptitude, but we worked tirelessly to give her creative outlets to express herself. Her parents advocated for her the entire way, too. She’s a blessed child, that is for sure. Thank you!”


It’s hard to hear some of her words, but her message is profound.

I think I’ve watched this video at least a dozen times since I shared it to my own Facebook timeline on Friday, July 21st. And, every time, it’s given me chills and brought tears to my eyes.

This doesn’t apply to just middle school, or just 7th graders, or just girls.

Yes, Olivia directly addresses middle school girls, but her message is more powerful and more far-reaching than that.

I saw myself in Olivia’s words. I saw myself in Olivia’s voice. I saw myself as Olivia struggled to hold back her emotion. I saw the tears in her eyes, as I felt tears in mine.

I saw myself in middle school – Glasses, braces, acne. Experimenting with makeup, but not allowed to wear much of it. Trying to be my own person, but also wanting to fit in.

I saw myself in high school – Exchanging my glasses for contact lenses. No more braces. Wearing makeup a bit more often, but not too much. Trying to keep up with the rigors of IB, while not showboating to the kids in orchestra and gym who were the regular kids.

I saw myself in college – Finally, freedom! But, with that freedom, I also endured a four-year-long abusive relationship. When I finally saw the light at the end of my junior year, I saw a shell of myself. I was broken. My confidence had vanished, although I’m sure I was still super enthusiastic on the outside. Deep down, I knew I needed to leave, to escape, but I was also terrified that no one else would love me, no one else would want me.

I even saw myself now, in the present day – I struggle with body image. I struggle with the fact that I’ve gained 25+ pounds since graduating from college six years ago. I’m getting better with my eating habits, and I drink far less soda than I used to. I drink at least 75 ounces of water every day, if not a little bit more. I only consume alcohol sparingly now (The good stuff is expensive, haha!) I know that my day job is a major contributor – I’m behind a desk eight hours a day. I wear makeup almost every day, but I don’t feel like a clown. I feel grown-up and professional.

But, I’m also a human being. I have feelings. And it’s okay to have these feelings.

The point I’m trying to get at is Olivia’s message is important for EVERYONE to hear. Maybe that’s why it’s been watched over 33 million times. What this amazing young woman wrote and performed (by memory, no less) is a reminder to everyone that we hide behind our true selves.

For me, personally, I don’t want to be so afraid. I don’t want to be so scared of or disgusted by my body image. I want to embrace it, as best that I can, at least. I want to continue to be confident. I don’t want to fake it until I make it as much anymore. I want to be as genuine as possible.

Can I do that? I know I can.

Olivia, you’ve certainly inspired this 29-year-old. Let’s do this. Thank you!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Commentary #54: “What To Pay For When Publishing”

Things I Learned About Self-Publishing

Image Credit: AbridgeClub.com

I was inspired to write this post from James Harrington’s Blog of Geek and Writing.

Here’s the link to his original post:


As someone who has several novels / stories in the works (A never-ending cycle, it seems), I’ve gotten more and more curious about self-publishing in the last year or so. I have nothing ready to self-publish as of yet, but I like to plan ahead!

Jim offers this advice, as a self-published author on Amazon. You should be prepared to pay for the following:

  1. ISBN Numbers
  2. Copyright registration
  3. Cover
  4. Editing and Reviewing
  5. Advertising

He brings up some excellent points. Before reading his post, I knew that having someone else design the cover, as well as hiring someone else to edit and review your work, would definitely be worth the money. However, I didn’t think about ISBN numbers, copyright registration, and advertising.

Jim says that if you do decide to self-publish, you should be prepared to spend at least $400 at an absolute bare minimum. However, it’s also wise to spend a little more if you want your work to reach more people! (Don’t we all?)


Jim’s post made me research a little bit deeper. Keep in mind – Everyone has their own opinion, and the Internet is chock-full of advice about self-publishing.

There are so many avenues available now – It made my head spin! There’s CreateSpace and IngramSpark, and then a massive number of independent publishers. A Google search for “self-publishing” is almost overwhelming and panic-inducing.

Here’s a few links:

A lot of these articles tend to agree on several items:

  1. Purchase your own ISBN (International Standard Book Number).
  2. Hiring “book doctors” and getting it copy edited by a professional.
  3. Don’t just choose one medium – Consider publishing in print and e-book formats, and even audio books.
  4. Marketing is key.
  5. A good cover design is immensely helpful.
  6. Do your pricing research, and be mindful of the different percentages of the price that each company takes (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Audible, etc.) when a copy of your book is sold.

The bottom line – The publishing and self-publishing worlds seem to be constantly evolving. It’s hard to keep up with!

But, I’m glad that I have bloggers like James, among others, who are willing to write posts, offer advice, and answer questions!


Have you self-published anything? If so, what was your experience like? Can you offer any advice?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Awesome Authors #5: Margaret Mitchell

Margaret-Mitchell-Quotes-3

Image Credit: Relatably.com

Another Awesome Author that I was recently thinking about was Margaret Mitchell.

Confession time: I have never read Gone With The Wind all the way through. I attempted several times in middle school (mainly for the massive amount of AR points!), but never accomplished it. However, it’s on my TBR, and I’m absolutely determined to read it before 2017 ends.

Having never fully read the book also means that I’ve never seen the movie. That’s another goal of mine, but that will only happen after I finish the book.


Learning about Mitchell’s life was simply fascinating, having not known much past writing Gone With The Wind.

Born in 1900, she started writing and illustrating stories from a very early age. Her mother kept many of them, and several boxes of stories were still in the house when Mitchell left for college. She was a very imaginative child, making up fairy tales, cowboys and Indians stories, and more.

Starting in 1922, she wrote feature articles for The Atlanta Journal Sunday Magazine. Although her journalism career was short-lived due to a persistent ankle injury, she wrote 129 feature articles, 85 news stories, and several book reviews in the span of four years.

Her husband, John Marsh, was part of the inspiration for Mitchell (known as Peggy by then) to write Gone With The Wind. Having left journalism due to her ankle injury, John grew tired of constantly lugging books back and forth from their house to the library, and finally said to her,

“For God’s sake, Peggy, can’t you write a book instead of reading thousands of them?”


Sadly, Mitchell’s life was dramatically cut short. She died at age 48 when she was hit by a speeding car while crossing the street with her husband in Atlanta. She never fully regained consciousness. The driver was eventually convicted of involuntary manslaughter, and served 11 months in jail.


While she is best known for Gone With The Wind, I wanted to highlight a few more of Mitchell’s works. Incredibly, she destroyed some of her manuscripts herself, and others were destroyed after she died!

Lost Laysen (completed 1916, published 1996)

Lost Laysen

Image Credit: Amazon

Reading about this novella was amazing! I definitely want to read it, if I can find it. I’m so glad it was published, even though it took 80 years.

The Big Four (never published)

As a teenager, Mitchell wrote The Big Four, a 400-page novel about girls in a boarding school. At this point, it is thought to be lost. This makes me sad – It sounds like an intriguing story.

Before Scarlett: Girlhood Writings of Margaret Mitchell (2010)

Before Scarlett

Image Credit: Amazon

This book is a collection of 28 of Mitchell’s early writings. The description on Amazon sounds so intriguing. It makes me think of me, in a way, when I wrote stories as a child. I’m considering adding this one to my TBR – I hope my library has it!


I leave you with this inspirational quote from the author herself:

“I had every detail clear in my mind before I sat down to the typewriter.”


What about you? Have you read Gone With The Wind? Have you read anything else by Margaret Mitchell?

Come back next month for another exciting installment of Awesome Authors!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Commentary #53: “12 Things You Only Understand If You Grew Up Going To Church Camp”

Pinterest 2

Image Credit: Pinterest

My friend Cara shared this article a few days ago on Facebook. Just reading the title sent me back into nostalgia. Almost every summer, from fourth grade through college, and a few as an adult, I was at some sort of church camp!

Here’s the link to the original post:


I wish I had more photos to share!

Since a lot of my church camp experiences happened before I entered the world of Facebook, a lot of them are in traditional photo albums at my parents’ house, etc.

However, I did manage to find a few!

CCC 2012 (2)

CCC 2012, Albemarle, North Carolina – This was our finished wheelchair ramp!

CCC 2012

CCC 2012, Albemarle, North Carolina – We worked hard, but we also made time for fun, like ice cream!

Bandannas – Need I say more?

  • I’m not wearing bandannas in these photos, but for years, I did! They were fashion accessories – The girls traded them back and forth! We also went to the Dollar Tree before the trip to find new colors!

You probably dressed up in some interesting outfits.

  • Maybe? I remember the staff at Carolina Cross Connection (CCC) many a summer decked out in costumes, overalls, tights, tutus, and more!

Camp games were the best games!

  • Absolutely! I learned to play nine square at the camp in Florida with Daniel, Aime, and Loren (and quickly realized how competitive it was!)
  • At CCC, the icebreaker games were hilarious! Every summer was different, and it was great watching the adults!

Everyone had a camp crush they will always remember!

  • Oh, yes – No names mentioned here, but this was a definite.
  • I do know several people who met their true loves at CCC. Matt and Alex got married at a CCC camp!

You made friends that will last a lifetime.

  • Yes – I still have letters, cards, and photos from camp friends!
  • A lot of us have kept in touch through Facebook now.

You master taking 5 minute or less showers!

  • This is so true – Although the cooler water felt amazing after long days in the sun!
  • It was really hard to juggle everything carefully – Shower caddies would have been an amazing investment back then!
  • Most camps do this, but I highly recommend wearing Old Navy-style flip-flops or some type of sandal that can get wet in the shower! Camp showers are NOTHING ย like your bathroom at home.

You were a master at coming up with skits and chants for your team!

  • I certainly tried. I enjoyed the group effort!
  • I definitely didn’t have much of a voice when I came home.

Every worship song seems to be 10 times better at camp!

  • This is probably the most true statement of them all!
  • CCC camps usually have some sort of “hill” or “mountain” on the property, and those experiences were always amazing!
  • I’ll always remember the girls on CCC staff standing on chairs to hold the handwritten song lyrics, with a lot of us holding flashlights!

You had a crush on someone in the band.

  • For me, this wasn’t necessarily summer camp, but mainly the Blackstone retreats!
  • I still have a few of my shirts signed by all the band members!

You always packed way more than you needed.

  • I was one of those people who followed the list of items to the letter!
  • It was so much fun packing for the trip, but such a drag packing to go home! Nothing seemed to fit properly.
  • Sometimes, I borrowed the big black garbage bags for my dirty laundry – Yuck!

You can try to tell someone about camp but no one else will understand.

  • Exactly! I wore my camp shirts to school a lot, and I enjoyed telling my friends when they asked.

You start your countdown for camp next year the day you leave.

  • This was especially true in high school, since I went to CCC nearly every summer!
  • I also did this in 2011 and 2013, because I knew I was going to be taking a whole week off work to go to CCC in 2012 and 2014! I felt very adult then, haha.

Did you go to church camp?

What were some of your favorite memories?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Awesome Authors #4: Truman Capote

Truman Capote

Image Credit: AZ Quotes

I’m so far behind on these posts!

But, I’m back now. I also have several new ones in the works! I’m fully committed to publish a new one every month, going forward.


In Cold Blood (1966)

in-cold-blood

Image Credit: Google

This is the only book of Capote’s that I’ve actually read. However, if you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. This is one of the books that inspired my interest in true crime. It’s a completely true story, and it chilled me to the bone. Writing this post makes me want to re-read it.

I’m surprised that I slept well after finishing it!

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1958)

BreakfastAtTiffanys

Image Credit: Wikipedia

I completely forgot that Capote wrote this one, until I was researching for this post. I’ve only seen part of the iconic movie, but I know several people who love it. I definitely want to put this on my TBR!

Capote was a prolific writer – He discovered his calling when he was only eight years old! Wow!

He started with short stories. Throughout his short life (He died in 1984 at age 59), he was published in a variety of magazines, including Mademoiselle, Esquire,ย Vogue, The New Yorker, and others.

His first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms, was published in 1948.

In addition to several novels and multiple short stories, Capote also produced other literary and entertainment works – Local Color (collection of European travel essays), The Grass Harp (novel, then play), Beat The Devil (original screenplay), andย House of Flowers (Broadway musical).

After his death, a number of Capote’s works have been published posthumously, starting in 1986. Random House has published Summer Crossing (2006) and The Early Stories of Truman Capote (2015), among others.

The more I read about Capote and his life, I want to read much more of his work. In addition to Breakfast at Tiffany’s, I want to add Music for Chameleons (1980), and Summer Crossing to my TBR.


What about you? Have you read any of Truman Capote’s books?

Come back next month for another installment of Awesome Authors!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

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 Keepersย 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

Commentary #51: “Woman Moves into Old Mall after Shops are Converted into 48 Tiny Homes, Could You Live Like This?”

landscape-1427471032-the-arcade-providence-view-from-second-floor-photo-credit-ben-jacobsen

Image Credit: Country Living

I saw this post on Facebook last week, almost randomly. It made me stop and think.

Here’s the original post:


When I shared it on Facebook, several of my friends commented on it. The discussions we had were fascinating.

One of my friends from college lives in a tiny house now, and absolutely loves it! She’s steps away from the ocean in Virginia Beach.

I also thought back to last fall, when Al and I were visiting his parents’ farm for the weekend. We were watching the show “Tiny House Nation.” I remember being in awe of these renovations/ Granted, it’s a reality show, but the concept is really cool.

Back to the shopping mall – The smallest units in the renovated mall go for $550 per month, which is definitely affordable in Providence, Rhode Island.


Returning to the present, I went to trusty old Google to find out more.

This is part of what I found:

TinyHouses-Infographic-1000wlogo

Image Credit: The Tiny Life

To answer the question posed in this post’s title, I don’t think I could swing it with just 225 square feet of living space. If I were single, then maybe. But, being married and starting to plan for our own family, it would certainly be a tight fit. I don’t do well in super-cramped spaces, anyway. However, I give props to people who can hack it, and I also know people that enjoy it.

With the Facebook discussion, I started thinking about the struggling mall across the street from my parents’ neighborhood. To me, it either needs to be torn down completely, or renovated somehow. It would be cool to see something different, since brick-and-mortar stores are slowly fading away (Consider the recent news about Sears, Kmart, JCPenney, Staples, etc.). There’s so much potential with the space.


To learn more about tiny houses and other alternative housing methods, here’s a few more links:


What do you think about tiny houses?

Do you think tiny houses could/would work in old shopping malls, or other abandoned buildings?

Do you know anyone who has a tiny house?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚