Writing Prompt #51: “52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge” (Week 13)

Week #13: A Challenge You’ve Overcome.

Wow, where to start?

Some of you know that I was born at 25 weeks, so I had to fight for my life at the very start!


But, thinking about this post over the past week, one of the biggest challenges for me was deciding to leave my friends and school district to pursue something completely different.

When I was in eighth grade, a new magnet program had just started in one of Chesapeake’s high schools called International Baccalaureate (IB). It wasn’t new to the Hampton Roads area at the time, but it was fresh and brand-new for the City of Chesapeake and Chesapeake Public Schools.

Several of the freshmen came to my middle school to give us an overview of the program and how we could apply. After much consideration and discussion with my parents (and a good bit of prayer), I decided to apply.

I still remember how nervous I was. I even left my purse and house keys at Oscar Smith on the day of my interview and test! (Luckily, I got them back with nothing missing!)

After what seemed like waiting forever, the guidance counselor pulled me out of orchestra to tell me I had been accepted. At that moment, I felt pure joy. I was excited for something new!

However, once I started telling my friends, my joy and excitement started to erode. I was leaving them behind at Western Branch, according to them.


Going in, I knew this program was going to be challenging. I knew I was going to be taking college-level courses throughout my four years of high school. The summer assignments were enough to make me croak! I started questioning my decision, but I knew I needed to try it first.

I was the only student from the Western Branch district that first year; I was alone. Several people at church teased me incessantly – They said I was a “traitor” for leaving, especially since Oscar Smith’s football team consistently beat the snot out of Western Branch’s!

For the first six months of freshman year, I cried almost every day. I wanted to go back to Western Branch; I wanted to be with my friends again. My grades tanked! It was a struggle. Math sucked even more. Spanish was a nightmare! Even orchestra was harder!

Making friends at Oscar Smith was hard, but keeping friends at church and Western Branch was harder. I wanted to try out for the school softball team, but ended up not because I realized I couldn’t juggle IB, orchestra, and softball. It wasn’t possible.


Fortunately, once I adjusted (along with the other 49 kids in my class), it started to get better. After Christmas, my grades started to improve. My brain just needed time to adjust to the increased workload, managing the higher-level concepts, and being in a completely different environment. It got easier during sophomore year. It got harder in junior year, when we transitioned to full IB, with our assessments, Extended Essay, and preparing for our exams. We were all nervous wrecks for half of senior year as we prepared and took our exams, but we were done by the end of May. We were able to relax and enjoy the last few weeks before graduation.

The teachers were amazing, in my opinion. They were experts in their fields, but they were also willing to bend over backwards to help anyone with anything. The IB coordinators, Mrs. Ingersoll, and later Mrs. Lancaster (who’s still the coordinator today), were counselors, shoulders to cry on, and a support system. I think of Mrs. Lancaster (Biology, now the IB Coordinator), Mrs. Cofield (European and U.S. History), Mr. Degnan (English – Now one of the high school’s assistant principals), Mrs. Zwemer (Geometry, Math Studies – May she rest in peace), and Mr. Allen (20th Century History) often, to name a few.


This year marks 10 years since high school graduation. Although I clearly remember the struggles, the griping, the crying, the frustration (I still don’t fully understand the Federalist Papers, hardly anything with Algebra II, or why the Visual Arts teacher was so harsh with certain levels of interpretation), I also remember that I accomplished something – I earned my IB Diploma. I earned college credit. I went into Longwood with a much better understanding of most freshman college courses (with the exception of math – I still got a C in Honors Statistics!).

Because of IB, I was able to go on a 17-day trip to Europe (England, France, and Spain) in the summer of 2005. What an experience! Because of that trip. I decided to take a class at Longwood that took me back to France for a week in 2008, being able to further appreciate the museums of Paris and everything that the City of Lights offers.

I learned so much in four years. All because I took a chance on a new program, and I decided to stick with it, even when I thought I was going to fail everything.

Now, I’m proud to say that a current IB freshman is from my church. Many students from Western Branch have gone through the IB program in the last 10 years – Liz, Jeremy, Alyssa, Steven, Lindsey, and more.

IB was a great challenge for me, but one of the most rewarding in my entire life. I hope it’s still around when my future children are ready to go to high school!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

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 🙂

Book Review #30: “Angels & Demons”

angels-and-demons

Image Credit: Amazon

I originally thought The Da Vinci Code was the first book to feature Robert Langdon, but I was proven wrong!

This was a HUGE book. I wanted to finish it last week, but it was so dense that it took me until 11:00 p.m. last night to finally finish. It’s 616 pages total!


To be blunt, I have several praises, as well as several criticisms.

I was instantly drawn into Robert Langdon’s world. Brown hooked me within the first few sentences. I was along Langdon’s side from Harvard, to Switzerland, to Vatican City, to Rome. It was a bit of a whirlwind at first, and then you get plunged into the worlds of CERN,  Vatican City, the Catholic Church, history, and symbolism.

Trying to figure out the puzzle that Brown laid out kept me interested. A scientist at CERN is brutally murdered, and he has connections to both the scientific and religious communities.

I liked Vittoria Vetra almost immediately. She’s feisty, gorgeous, and a great addition to Langdon. Langdon is the main character, but there were times that Vittoria was faster, and took control, and I liked it! She’s a smart cookie, and I knew Robert would be attracted to her.

The menagerie of twists and turns made me feel like I was on a high-speed ride through Europe! It was exhilarating. There were several days where I flew through multiple chapters and dozens of pages.

I applaud Brown’s dedication and commitment to historical accuracy, and being totally up front about not fictionalizing any locations, historical figures, or places (There’s a disclaimer in the very beginning). It felt even more real!

However, I had several issues with this book. There were three particular instances where I feel Brown is almost too graphic in his writing. As an aspiring writer of fiction, I know that, at certain times, it’s necessary to be graphic to illustrate and illuminate, But, Brown’s style was too much for this reader. I almost gave up every time. I almost didn’t want to find out what happened next. Some of it almost made me sick.

But, I pressed on.

Toward the end, as the intensity was reaching its peak in Vatican City, where decisions needed to be made quickly – Brown inserted this multiple-page speech by the Camerlengo (papal chamberlain) that just dragged on and on. I got the significance – The man was addressing the cardinals at a critical point in the conclave – but it could have been much shorter! Maybe dedicate a page or two, but not five or six! I felt so impatient during that section. I wanted to skip the entire speech and get just back to the action!

Finally, I hated the ending. It felt abrupt, it felt weird, it left me hanging a bit. It wasn’t a cliffhanger, but I hated how nonchalant it felt. I won’t give it away, but I felt a bit empty when I closed the book.

My first thought was, “That’s it? That’s how you end this ridiculously long book? Wow…”

After sleeping on it, I realized this morning why he ended it the way he did, but I still wasn’t happy about it!

If you’re looking for a thriller that involves conspiracy, mystery, secret societies, art history, exploring historic sections of Europe, and learning a lot about the Catholic Church – This book is for you.

Overall, I’m glad I stepped out of my comfort zone for this one. I’d heard of the movies, but haven’t seen them. The first few pages of The Da Vinci Code I read about a month ago made me curious about who Robert Langdon is and how he got himself into such a twisted web of history, religion, and murder. It’s an exciting book, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of him, and what happens next.

Despite my issues with Angels & Demons, I’m still motivated to read the other books with protagonist Robert Langdon – The Da Vinci Code (2003), The Lost Symbol (2009), Inferno (2013), and Origin (October 2017). Look for these reviews over the next few months.

3 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #64: “23 March, 2017 09:10” (Reblogged)

Wow. This photo is just stunning, and I felt I had to share it. Most of their photos instantly take my breath away! According to the tags, it was taken in Luxemborg.

It reminded me of the Beast’s castle in the remake of Beauty and the Beast!

We saw the movie last Saturday, and it was really good. Essentially, it was a shot-for-shot remake of the original 1991 animated film, but the nostalgia was there the whole time. The word “enchanted” comes to mind. I was attempting to sing the songs under my breath!

The cast was great. I was a little concerned with Emma Watson singing, having known her primarily for playing Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films,  but I thought she did a great job.

I want to go see it again!

Have you seen the Beauty and the Beast remake?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Just Wunderlust

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Writing Prompt #50: “52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge” (Week 12)

Week #12: Your Favorite Personality Trait

After much internal deliberation and debate, I think I’m most grateful for my compassion. I was raised that way, and I’m also grateful that it’s stuck with me all these years.

There have been several times where I was at a crossroads, and having compassion was one of the choices I could make. Although difficult sometimes, usually I’ve chosen to take the high road, and show compassion to others.

Compassion, however, does come with a bit of a price. I was a literal doormat for years, especially when I was younger. I was so naive. I would give so much of myself, only to have a few select people walk all over me, and straight up take advantage of me.

Example: I tried to be friendly and sweet with some of the popular girls (cheerleaders, etc.) in middle school – Boy, did that backfire.

It happened with my ex-boyfriend, John – I was so compassionate towards him, that I ended up in an abusive relationship with him for the better part of four years.

It happened more recently with another former friend, J. – He saw my compassion immediately, and that turned into an ugly infatuation situation (meaning him being infatuated/obsessed/in love with me/wanting to kiss me, etc.) that I couldn’t break free of for a good long while. He blocked me on Facebook almost a year ago. It hurt a little at first, but to be completely honest, I’m far happier this way.

I still give a lot of myself now, but I’m much more knowledgeable about people being mean-spirited and using others for their own gain.

I’ve scaled back a few friendships because of this. It was tough making that type of decision, but I’m grateful that I stuck to my guns. I’ve found that I’m far happier when I’m aiming my compassion at the people, places, and things that I truly care about!

I leave you this Wednesday with a quote from Nelson Mandela:

“Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly – but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.”


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #50: “Students Turn the Tables on a Journalist”

It-is-not-enough-for-journalists-to-see-themselves-as-mere-messengers-without-understanding-the-hidden-agendas-of-the-message-...-John-Pilger

Image Credit: Ask Ideas

I read several advice columns, on almost a daily basis:

I don’t always agree, but several letters have made me think about certain things in my own life, such as dealing with certain friendships, how to consider money matters, and how to help the environment in different ways.


Last Monday, I stumbled upon an intriguing headline:

I don’t normally read “Parents Talk Back,” but I felt like I needed to read this one.

And, I was right.

Scenario: The columnist is approached by her daughter. Daughter asks mother to come talk to her middle school classes before starting a unit on investigative journalism.

Mother agrees, and creates a lesson plan with the teacher. Her ideas: Discuss the First Amendment, explore how the free press works, the different types of news sources, and examples of investigations.

She taught this lesson six times, to groups of 40 students. That’s 240 students! Armed with candy, she encouraged the students to answer and ask questions.

She later received over 100 notes from the students, thanking her for the enlightening discussion.

Here’s some of the responses:

  • “I learned a lot of new things about how to gather information on public files.”
  • “I’m taking journalism in high school, and I wasn’t that excited about it, but now i am! Can’t wait for that class.”
  • “Who knows — you may have possibly inspired a future journalist.”
  • “It gave me new insight on the steps reporters take to write a story and how they’re viewed by the public. My favorite part was when you explained the impact of journalism on real world issues.”
  • “My favorite thing you said was that reporters helped bring bad things to light.”
  • “My favorite thing you said was that investigative journalists don’t do it for the money, they do it for the truth.”
  • “My favorite thing you said was you’ve been a journalist for 20 years, and that’s a record to me, because most people quit because people say mean things.”

I found myself re-reading this column a few times over the last week. It’s awesome that one woman made such an impact on 240 students, in one day!

Reading this column has inspired me to look into opportunities of sharing my varied knowledge on topics such as reading, writing, journalism, mass media, blogging, donating blood/blood drives, and maybe even the world of healthcare.

I’m not sure where this will lead me, but I’m excited!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Awesome Authors #3: John Grisham

John Grisham Quote

Image Credit: AZ Quotes

This installment of Awesome Authors covers one of my all-time favorites, John Grisham. I give partial credit to him for leading me to pursue my Paralegal Studies degree, and developing my initial interest in the field of law. I aspire to own all of his books, someday! I need to pre-order his newest book, Camino Island.

He’s smart, sharp, and he writes really good books!


The Pelican Brief (1992)

The Pelican Brief

Image Credit: Wikipedia

This was the first Grisham book I read. My own copy is well-loved. I tend to re-read it at least once or twice every year.

The movie adaptation (1993) is one of my absolute favorites! Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington were perfect co-stars.

The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town (2006)

The Innocent Man

Image Credit: Wikipedia

This book sparks the clearest memory for me – I stumbled upon it in high school, at the Chesapeake library, probably right after it was published. I love true crime stories, so I remember flying through it. I have my own copy, so I’ll probably re-read it at some point in the near future.

The Whistler (2016)

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Image Credit: Amazon

You can check out my review of Grisham’s latest work here:

A Time to Kill (1989)

A Time to Kill

Image Credit: Wikipedia

I don’t remember when I first read it, but I didn’t realize it was his first novel until much later!

Theodore Boone series (2010-present)

I have some catching up to do, but I’ve read Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer (2010), and Theodore Boone: The Abduction (2011) thus far. I found both of them at the Chesapeake libraries, and I’m working on getting copies of all six books.

I need to read Theodore Boone: The Accused (2012), Theodore Boone: The Activist (2013), Theodore Boone: The Fugitive (2015), and Theodore Boone: The Scandal (2016).

Theo is a good kid, and Grisham is a decent writer for kids!

A large number of Grisham’s novels / original works have been adapted for the screen:

  1. The Firm (1993 film, 2011-2012 TV series)
  2. The Pelican Brief (1993)
  3. The Client (1994 film, 1995-1996 TV series)
  4. The Chamber (1996)
  5. A Time to Kill (1996 film, 2011 stage play)
  6. The Rainmaker (1997)
  7. The Gingerbread Man (manuscript, 1998)
  8. A Painted House (2003 TV movie)
  9. Runaway Jury (2003)
  10. The Street Lawyer (2003 TV pilot)
  11. Mickey (2004)
  12. Skipping Christmas (Christmas with the Kranks, 2004)
  13. The Associate (TBA)
  14. The Testament (TBA)
  15. Calico Joe (TBA)

He’s also published four collections of short stories, and three works of non-fiction.


What about you? Have you read any of John Grisham’s books?

Come back in late April for another installment of Awesome Authors!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂