Book Review #68: “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City”

evicted

Image Credit: Amazon

I think I first heard about this book from friends on Facebook, who all said what a powerful book it was.

Then, author Matthew Desmond was interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air in April 2018. My local area, Hampton Roads in Virginia, was specifically mentioned in the interview regarding high numbers of evictions in three separate cities. It stung, and propelled me to want to learn more. As soon as possible.


I bought the book in August, and finally started it in late December. But once I started, I could not put it down. By the time we came home from the farm on December 26th, I’d flown through Part One. I was itching to go to bed that night, eager to dive in to Part Two. It only took me a few more nights of intense reading to finish it. I came away from it with a greater understanding, and appreciation, for being able to own my own home with my husband. It’s one of those books that makes me realize how good I have it, especially as a white woman with no children.

I’m drawn to books like this because of the human interest. I was reminded of the term “ethnography,” which is the systematic study of people and cultures. Author Matthew Desmond settled in Milwaukee, in the trailer park and other low-income neighborhoods, to not only interview people for the book, but to learn about their lives, and specifically what they go through day by day. The housing crisis and recession of the late-2000s began while he was conducting interviews, and it’s referenced in the book as well.

However, the housing crisis and recession are not all to blame here. It’s just one factor. There are many other factors involved with eviction and those who struggle with it. Landlords have profited by buying cheap, often dilapidated houses or buildings, charging rent, and then sometimes refusing to fix inherent problems in these properties. The tenants complain, nothing gets fixed, and rent can go unpaid or withheld. There are certain processes for evictions, but they vary greatly. There are voluntary and involuntary procedures. It’s definitely not black-and-white.

When someone is evicted, that goes on their record. It’s exponentially harder for parents with children to find an affordable place to live, and eviction(s) exacerbate that problem. Multiple evictions are even more problematic. It’s a vicious cycle, where parents want to protect their kids from negative influences and crime, but can’t break out of those areas because of their eviction record. Welfare benefits can also be affected. If you’re lucky to have a job, getting evicted can cause immense stress, affecting job performance and more. Choices have to be made, painfully – Pay rent, or the utilities, or the car repair, or a need for your kids. Kids are uprooted, shuffled, changing schools, and also stressed. It’s a horrible experience all around.

Desmond’s dedication to these interviews, living in their space, researching the processes and procedures, and soaking up everything he could about eviction shines through this book. It’s depressing, in more ways than one, but incredibly informative, educational, and eye-opening.

This is one of those books, in my opinion, should be studied and taught in schools, especially upper levels of high schools and colleges/universities. It’s an important issue that needs more focus, discussion, and change.

My eyes were opened widely to the multiple problems regarding eviction. I thought I knew a few things, but this book turned my thinking completely on its head. The book focused specifically on Milwaukee during a set number of years, but there are eviction problems and issues throughout the entire U.S.

That was one of the focuses of Desmond’s interview with Terry Gross – Thanks to receiving a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant in 2015, Desmond has started The Eviction Lab, where a dedicated team of researchers and students from Princeton University are creating the first-ever eviction database in the U.S. At the time of the interview, in April 2018, the Lab had already collected 83 million records from 48 states and the District of Columbia.

The book was also awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2017. That says something, too.

“Stabilizing a home has all sorts of positive benefits for a family,” Desmond said in the interview.

Desmond has written two other books, and co-authored one on race. I look forward to reading and seeing more from him.

5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #154: January Goals

Happy New Year!!


Here are my goals for the month of January:

  1. Help Al maintain our new and improved budget spreadsheet.
  2. Check out savings and investing apps.
  3. Clear the clutter in my Lady Lounge.
  4. Donate, donate, donate.
  5. Continue work on my 2013 WIP.
  6. Reset our cleaning schedule.
  7. Get back on track with The ABC Book Challenge posts.

Here’s the breakdown:

Help Al maintain our new and improved budget spreadsheet.

  • We decided to start a Google Doc that has all of our budget items for 2019. Hopefully, this will be much more manageable and less frustrating!

Check out savings and investing apps.

  • Since I listen to a lot of podcasts, there are always advertisements. I’ve heard about Robin Hood, an investing app. I don’t know if I’ll commit to it, but I want to check it out.
  • One app that our sister-in-law loves and swears by is ibotta.

Clear the clutter in my Lady Lounge.

  • I started recently – I spent nearly two hours in there last Saturday afternoon. I filled four donation boxes, finally organized my bookshelf, replaced the light bulbs in the ceiling fan fixture, filled a trash bag completely, and cut up at least 10 various-sized boxes for recycling.
  • Next weekend – I want to concentrate on the filing system.

Donate, donate, donate.

  • I’m long overdue to make a few trips to the thrift store and the library.

Continue work on my 2013 WIP.

  • Current word count: 14,247 words.
  • My rough goal is to reach at least 17,000 words before the end of January.

Reset our cleaning schedule.

  • I started using our wall calendar to mark what area of the house needed cleaning every weekend. This was a good system for us, since we typically divide and conquer the cleaning together. Just need to get back to it.

Get back on track with The ABC Book Challenge posts.

  • My original plan was to post these every Monday, but it’s fallen by the wayside recently. However, I’m committed to posting one every Monday in January!

Do you have any goals for the month of January?

If so, I’d love to hear about them!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #153: December Goals Recap

New Year Ahead

Image Credit: First Baptist Church

It’s the end of 2018! Wow!!

Here’s the link to my December Goals post:

Ready?

Here we go!


  1. Finally reach at least 50,000 words for my 2012 WIP. — Accomplished!
  2. Finally send my 2012 WIP to my best friend for the first round of editing. — Did not accomplish.
  3. Make an outline for the remainder of my 2013 WIP. — Did not accomplish.
  4. Start planning next steps for my 2014 and 2018 WIPs. — Accomplished!
  5. Decorate for Christmas. — Did not accomplish.
  6. Read at least three books. — Did not accomplish.
  7. Enjoy Al’s company holiday party. — Accomplished!
  8. Seriously send some snail mail! — Did not accomplish.
  9. Be a Secret Santa! — Accomplished!
  10. Take donations to the library and thrift store. — Did not accomplish.
  11. Make an “essentials only” spending list for 2019. — Accomplished!
  12. Enjoy Christmas and New Year’s! — Accomplished!

Here’s the breakdown:

Finally reach at least 50,000 words for my 2012 WIP. — Accomplished! 

  • December 8th: 606 new words
  • December 9th: 217 new words
  • December 30th: 620 new words
  • December 31st: 2,372 new words
  • Current word count: 50,461 words
  • I’M SO EXCITED!!!!!!!!
  • I DID IT!!!!!

Finally send my 2012 WIP to my best friend for the first round of editing. — Did not accomplish.

  • I haven’t finished the story yet.

Make an outline for the remainder of my 2013 WIP. — Did not accomplish.

  • This was put on the back burner.

Start planning next steps for my 2014 and 2018 WIPs. — Accomplished!

  • I have a timeline established for these two. I want to use Camp NaNoWriMo in April to work on the 2014 WIP, and then the July session to focus on the 2018 WIP.

Decorate for Christmas. — Did not accomplish.

  • Since we didn’t celebrate at home this year, we decided that the tree wasn’t necessary.
  • I wanted to put up the wreath on our front door with battery-operated Christmas lights and Christmas ribbon, but that didn’t happen.

Read at least three books. — Did not accomplish.

Enjoy Al’s company holiday party. — Accomplished!

  • We had ourselves a good time!

Seriously send some snail mail! — Did not accomplish.

  • No effort at all.

Be a Secret Santa! — Accomplished!

  • See the photos below!

Take donations to the library and thrift store. — Did not accomplish.

  • The boxes are stacked and ready, but they didn’t make it to their destinations this month.

Make an “essentials only” spending list for 2019. — Accomplished!

  • Here’s my list: A new pair of glasses, a new pair of prescription sunglasses, my first pair of Rothy’s shoes, continuing Rodan and Fields skincare, and a new business suit.
  • A good chunk of the rest of my money will be squirreled away!

Enjoy Christmas and New Year’s! — Accomplished!

  • We had a wonderful time at Al’s parents for Christmas. We took almost a week off of work, and it was great. Al had nearly two weeks off altogether.
  • No New Year’s parties for us – Just a quiet night at home with our dogs, a delicious dinner, and watching movies until midnight, with Martinelli’s sparkling cider.

Final Thoughts

  • I was able to put Accomplished next to six out of 12 goals. I’ll take 50 percent. Not bad for the end of the year!
  • The six goals that I did not accomplish: A lot of these were due to time constraints, and lack of motivation and effort.

What about you? Did you have any goals for the month of December?

Come back tomorrow to see my January Goals!

Happy New Year!!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #82: “How Iceland Got Teens to Say No to Drugs”

The Atlantic

Image Credit: The Atlantic

I saw this article on Facebook recently. Thanks to Brittany A. for sharing it.

Here’s the link to The Atlantic’s article, published January 19, 2017:


What were you doing in 1997?

According to a local psychologist, Gudberg Jónsson, back then most of Iceland’s teens were drinking or drunk. All the time. It felt unsafe.

Fast-forward 20 years. There aren’t teens wandering the park, nearly passed out drunk. There aren’t many wandering teens at all.

Why?

They’re involved in after-school classes, art club, dance, music, or with their families.


Iceland boasts incredibly low percentages of teens drinking, using cannabis, or smoking cigarettes.

Here are the numbers. This was a survey of 15-year-old and 16-year-olds, reporting these activities for the previous month.

Drunk, 1998: 42 percent
Drunk, 2016: 5 percent

Ever used cannabis, 1998: 17 percent
Ever used cannabis, 2016: 7 percent

Smoked cigarettes every day, 1998: 23 percent
Smoked cigarettes every day, 2016: 3 percent

It’s radical, and exciting. But, there’s a method behind it. And if adopted by other countries, it could have a revolutionary change. However, it’s a big if.


In 1992, Project Self-Discovery was formed, offering teenagers “natural-high alternatives to drugs and crime.”

Instead of a treatment-based approach or program, the idea was to allow the kids to learn anything they wanted, including art, music, dance, martial arts. By having the kids learn a variety of things and skills, their brain chemistry was altered, and give them what they needed to cope better with life. Other ways to combat depression, anxiety, numb feelings, etc. Life-skills training was also incorporated.

Research and studies in the early 1990s showed a series of factors that played into Icelandic teens not getting involved with alcohol and drugs: Participating in organized activities three to four times per week, especially sports; total time spent with parents during the week; feeling cared about at school; and not being outdoors in the late evenings.

Youth in Iceland began gradually, before being introduced nationally. Correspondingly, laws were changed. You had to be at least 18 to buy tobacco, and 20 to buy alcohol. Tobacco and alcohol advertising was banned. In addition, another law, still in effect today, prohibits children aged between 13 and 16 from being outside after 10 p.m. in winter and midnight in summer.

Another key provision was involving schools and parents. State funding was increased for sports, dance, art, music, and other clubs. Low-income families received help or assistance to take part in these extracurricular activities.

“Protective factors have gone up, risk factors down, and substance use has gone down—and more consistently in Iceland than in any other European country.”

Youth in Europe started in 2006. The questionnaires – Sent out to many European countries, South Korea, Nairobi, and Guinea-Bissau – shows “the same protective and risk factors identified in Iceland apply everywhere.”

However, no other country has made changes on the scale seen in Iceland. Sweden has called the laws to keep children indoors in the evenings “the child curfew.”

There are cities that have reported successes, being a part of Youth in Europe. Teen suicide rates are dropping in Bucharest, Romania. Between 2014 and 2015, the number of children committing crimes dropped by a third in another city.

“O’Toole fully endorses the Icelandic focus on parents, school and the community all coming together to help support kids, and on parents or carers being engaged in young people’s lives. Improving support for kids could help in so many ways, he stresses. Even when it comes just to alcohol and smoking, there is plenty of data to show that the older a child is when they have their first drink or cigarette, the healthier they will be over the course of their life.”

Would something like this work in the U.S.?

Not a generic model, nothing exactly like Iceland, but something specifically tailored to individual cities, maybe even individual communities. By working with communities to identify the biggest issues and the biggest needs, maybe adopting facets of the Iceland program may help teenagers, and others, in the U.S.


My two cents: While I do drink alcohol now, I’ve never smoked. I was never tempted by alcohol as a teenager. Not at home with my parents, anyway.

I was involved with music and sports from a very young age – Piano, gymnastics, soccer, then the viola, and softball. My church was another huge part of my life. If I wasn’t in school, at music lessons, or at sports practice, I was likely at church.

Also, I know my parents played a huge role in my life. Being an only child, I know I’m a bit biased. But, we had dinner at the table almost every night. We didn’t eat out a lot. The Internet was new, and no one had a smartphone. We had a computer, but there were strict limits, and more educational games than Web surfing. They were fully present in my life. I may have been sheltered and protected, but it gave me so many benefits.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

 

 

 

Getting Personal #149: December Goals

BeautyBeyondBones 14

Image Credit:BeautyBeyondBones

Holy moly. It’s already December. December of 2018. This year absolutely FLEW BY!


Here are my goals for the month of December:

  1. Finally reach at least 50,000 words for my 2012 WIP.
  2. Finally send my 2012 WIP to my best friend for the first round of editing.
  3. Make an outline for the remainder of my 2013 WIP.
  4. Start planning next steps for my 2014 and 2018 WIPs.
  5. Decorate for Christmas.
  6. Read at least three books.
  7. Enjoy Al’s company holiday party.
  8. Seriously send some snail mail!
  9. Be a Secret Santa!
  10. Take donations to the library and thrift store.
  11. Make an “essentials only” spending list for 2019.
  12. Enjoy Christmas and New Year’s!

Here’s the breakdown:

Finally reach at least 50,000 words for my 2012 WIP.

  • I’m seriously *this close* (Imagine me making a small space between my thumb and index finger) to reaching 50,000 words!

Finally send my 2012 WIP to my best friend for the first round of editing.

  • Once I hit 50,000 words (or more), I’ll send the Word document off to Melissa! I’m so excited that she agreed to do the first round of editing!

Make an outline for the remainder of my 2013 WIP.

  • Doing all these writing projects and endeavors in 2018 is inspiring me to pick up my other WIPs. I really want to flesh out the rest of this one, tentatively titled “Specialton.”

Start planning next steps for my 2014 and 2018 WIPs.

  • Along the same lines, I want to set deadlines for outlines and fleshing out my 2014 WIP, tentatively titled “Discussion of Differences,” and my newest WIP, tentatively titled “Tunnel Vision.”

Decorate for Christmas.

  • We are going to decorate this weekend!

Read at least three books.

  • I’m nearly finished with my current book. I’m itching to finish it, and start on the next one. My nightstand stack needs to decrease!

Enjoy Al’s company holiday party.

  • I’m excited to attend the “Masquerade” on Friday, December 7th.

Seriously send some snail mail!

  • I’ve been a pen pal to an 8-year-old boy in another part of Virginia since the school year started. I can’t wait to send him a birthday card this month.
  • I also want to send some other mail to a few friends that I enjoy corresponding with throughout the year.

Be a Secret Santa!

  • I’m excited to be a “Secret Santa” to three teenagers this year!

Take donations to the library and thrift store.

  • This is self-explanatory. Clearing out the Lady Lounge and garages!

Make an “essentials only” spending list for 2019.

  • My savings account has been woefully depleted since the middle of 2017, due to high credit card bills. I’m determined to commit to saving as much money as humanly possible during 2019, so I want to make this list and stick to it.
  • A few examples: New glasses, new prescription sunglasses, a new pair of black flats/dress shoes.

Enjoy Christmas and New Year’s!

  • Both holidays will be here before we know it!

Do you have any goals for the month of December?

If so, I’d love to hear about them!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #148: November Goals Recap

BeautyBeyondBones 16

Image Credit: BeautyBeyondBones

November felt like a long month, but it was a good one!

Here’s the link to my November Goals:

Ready?

Here we go!


  1. Participate in NaNoWriMo 2018! — Accomplished!
  2. Celebrate three years of marriage with Al! — Accomplished!
  3. Switch over my wardrobe. — Accomplished!
  4. Take my lunch to work every day, except Fridays. — Accomplished!
  5. Donate items to Project Beauty Share. — Did not accomplish.
  6. Continue work on my Lady Lounge. — Semi-Achieved.
  7. Write at least two Book Reviews. — Accomplished!
  8. Focus on de-cluttering. — Semi-Achieved.
  9. Enjoy Thanksgiving! — Accomplished!

Here’s the breakdown:

Participate in NaNoWriMo 2018! — Accomplished!

  • I enjoyed starting the story. I didn’t make nearly as much progress as I wanted, but I did write a good chunk! Look for my NaNoWriMo 2018 recap on the blog soon!

Celebrate three years of marriage with Al! — Accomplished!

  • We enjoyed a lovely dinner at The Vintage Tavern in Suffolk. A beautiful dress and coordinating sweater arrived just in time for me to wear it!

Switch over my wardrobe. — Accomplished!

  • It felt really good to finally do this. Plus, I pulled out a good pile of stuff to donate, too.

Take my lunch to work every day, except Fridays. — Accomplished!

  • Saving money is awesome!

Donate items to Project Beauty Share. — Did not accomplish.

  • I didn’t do it this month, but I need a bigger box now. I found more things to give!

Continue work on my Lady Lounge. — Semi-Achieved.

  • I didn’t make as many progress as I wanted, but I did spend some time reorganizing a few spaces.

Write at least two Book Reviews. — Accomplished!

Focus on de-cluttering. — Semi-Achieved.

  • The biggest accomplishment was clearing off the dining room table for the party of 11 that we had to celebrate several birthdays and our wedding anniversary during the weekend of November 18th!
  • Given how cold it’s gotten recently, I fully expect to fill up a lot more boxes next month!

Enjoy Thanksgiving! — Accomplished!

  • We enjoyed a lovely meal with my parents and several family friends. I made chocolate mousse again. Best of all, after everyone else left, A land I spent the better part of four hours with my parents, catching up and sharing stories.

Final Thoughts

  • I was able to put Accomplished next to six out of nine goals. Yay!!
  • The two goals that were Semi-Achieved: A lot of this was time-based. Plus, most of our weekends in November were completely full!
  • The one goal that I did not accomplish: I’m not too upset about. More things to donate to a worthy cause!

What about you? Did you have any goals for the month of November?

Come back tomorrow to see my December Goals!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #146: November Goals

November - Carrington Academy

Image Credit: Carrington Academy

We’re getting close to the end of 2018! It gets faster every year.


Here are my goals for the month of November:

  1. Participate in NaNoWriMo 2018!
  2. Celebrate three years of marriage with Al!
  3. Switch over my wardrobe.
  4. Take my lunch to work every day, except Fridays.
  5. Donate items to Project Beauty Share.
  6. Continue work on my Lady Lounge.
  7. Write at least two Book Reviews.
  8. Focus on de-cluttering.
  9. Enjoy Thanksgiving!

Here’s the breakdown:

Participate in NaNoWriMo 2018!

  • I’m so excited to finally start fleshing out this new story!

Celebrate three years of marriage with Al!

  • It’s hard to believe we’ve been married for three years!

Switch over my wardrobe.

  • The weather has been absolutely nuts. Today, November 1st, we were expecting a high of 80 degrees. It’s ridiculous.
  • However, I’m ready to pack away the warm weather items and pull out the sweaters!

Take my lunch to work every day, except Fridays.

  • I’m usually pretty good about this, but we’re trying to save as much money as possible right now for some needed home repairs in a few months, so taking my lunch as much as possible will certainly help.

Donate items to Project Beauty Share.

  • As I mentioned last month, I discovered this awesome program in Washington state. I just need to a take lunch break to swing by the post office and get it off to them.

Continue work on my Lady Lounge.

  • This goes hand-in-hand with the de-cluttering goal, but I really want to clear out more boxes and make space for my desk!

Write at least two Book Reviews.

  • I’m super close to finishing my current book.
  • Plus, reading before bed has been helping me sleep better.

Focus on de-cluttering.

  • This goes for my Lady Lounge, our garage, my closet, and cabinets!

Enjoy Thanksgiving!

  • We don’t know our plans just yet, but I know it will be a good time with our family and friends.

Do you have any goals for the month of November?

If so, I’d love to hear about them!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂