Writing Prompt #116: The ABC Book Challenge (The Letter B)

 

ABC Book Challenge - B

Here’s the link to Tiana’s post:


Memorable titles that start with the letter “B”:

The Baby-Sitters Club - Elle

Baby-sitters Little Sister - Amazon

Baby-Sitters Club series

  • I devoured this series, as well as Baby-Sitters Little Sister books, for years. Check out my Awesome Authors post on Ann M. Martin!

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Because of Winn-Dixie

  • I don’t remember when I read it, but it made me cry.

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Beezus and Ramona

  • I loved Beverly Cleary’s books. I read nearly all of them before I started middle school. Ramona has always been one of my favorite characters.

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The BFG

  • Roald Dahl is another one of my favorite authors. I remember being assigned to read The BFG in elementary school, but falling in love with it.

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Bleachers

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Briana’s Gift

  • I stumbled upon Lurlene McDaniel at the library when I was in high school, I think. Like a few other authors, I quickly devoured all of her books. All of her books make me cry, but they’re well-written, and also somewhat relevant, too.

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Bridge to Terabithia

  • This is one of my favorite books. However, it always makes me cry. I sense a theme here!

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Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America

  • I appreciate Barbara Ehrenreich’s writing, too. Al gave me this book for Christmas, and I eagerly read it.

Books starting with “B” that I wish to read:

Between Shades of Gray

  • Tiana mentioned this book – I’m definitely intrigued!

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Blood Drive

  • I can’t believe I haven’t heard of this short story until now!

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The Bonfire of the Vanities

  • I’ve never read it. But, I feel it’s appropriate. Wolfe was a heralded writer, and I’m always intrigued by books set in New York City.

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Breakfast at Tiffany’s

  • Another book I’ve never read. I love Truman Capote. Adding this to my TBR, stat!

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The Bridges of Madison County

  • I think I have a copy of this, somewhere. If not, I’m sure my library probably has a copy, since this book was one of the best-selling books of the 20th century.

What books have you read, or want to read, that start with the letter B? Let me know!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

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Commentary #77: “There’s a severe shortage of mental health professionals in rural areas. Here’s why that’s a serious problem.”

Mental Health - Quotefancy

Image Credit: Quotefancy

I recently read another CNN article that I felt was worthy of sharing. It was published on June 20, 2018.

Here’s the link to the article:


For years, I’ve been fascinated with the Appalachian region of the United States. Part of it is because my grandmother (Mom’s mom) was raised in West Virginia, and other extended family members have lived in West Virginia and Kentucky, to name a few states.

The mountains are beautiful. Grandma Grace was raised during The Great Depression, and they survived. I have vague memories of visiting Great-Grandma Laura Bethany (whom I’m named after) on her farm in Ripley, and seeing Mom’s aunt’s and cousins in Beckley. These two areas aren’t deep in the mountains, but you can definitely see and feel the hills and valleys.

With all that said, Ripley and Beckley are small, but mighty. Other areas of West Virginia, and other states in the Appalachian region, have certainly struggled with the volatility of the coal mining industry, among other issues. The limited amount of research I’ve done shows years of struggles with poverty, unemployment, access to health care, and more. However, the Appalachian people are steadfast. I don’t want to be prejudicial, but research-based.

Along with difficulties accessing quality health care, and affording that care, mental health care is somewhat tied to that. It’s fascinating, as well as immensely frightening.

When I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) in the summer of 2015, I started taking a bigger interest in mental health, including news articles about the topic. I’m grateful that I have a stable job, with good health insurance, and access to good mental health resources and services.

I’ve seen several counselors since I was in college, for a variety of reasons, but the counselor who diagnosed me with GAD was a watershed moment for me. She helped me unpack a variety of issues that were causing significant stress, and in turn, contributing to my anxiety. I’ve been able to better understand GAD, and to work to figure out the best ways to limit and control my anxiety. It’s a daily exercise, but I’m proud to say that I’m not taking any medication, and I’m able to live a fairly productive life thanks to a powerful and helpful support system. I realize that my situation is very unique, and I’m grateful for everything!


The article is packed with statistics. I won’t go through all of them, but the main point is a majority of non-metropolitan counties do not have a psychiatrist, and nearly half do not have a psychologist. The best definition of a non-metropolitan county that I could find is one that does not have a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and has a population of 10,000 or less (Health Resources & Services Administration).

One of the interviewees, a clinical psychologist, pointed out that many rural areas only have generalists, i.e., primary care providers (PCPs), and there’s little to no specialized care. People are left on their own due to a lack of community mental health care, and nearby relevant hospital services.

The services that are available are focused on crisis intervention, not prevention. These services attempt to address the crisis as it’s happening, but nothing is available to prevent the crisis.

In addition to the lack of services and resources, health care funding cuts are exacerbating this problem. Roughly 80 rural hospitals closed between 2010 and 2017. Hundreds more are at risk.

Another problem the rural population faces is isolation. Isolation can spark downward spirals, which can lead to drug addiction, overdoses, depression, and suicide. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), rural areas have a higher suicide rate than non-rural areas, which has been widening since 2001.

This is a significantly complex and challenging problem that can’t be addressed with a single solution. However, there’s one bright spot that is starting to emerge – Telebehavioral health. The article provided the example of a patient in Wyoming “seeing” a psychologist in Pennsylvania via virtual sessions and online portals.

As promising as telebehavioral health appears, the article points out a host of other issues that rural residents face. Access to the Internet is one, being proficient with computers / technology another, and having the financial resources to access these mental health professionals.

To me, there needs to be a series of steps to tackle these issues. I don’t have all the answers, and I try to be as objective as possible.

There needs to be consistent investment in mental health services across the U.S. Every rural area that does not have a psychiatrist or psychologist should probably have at least one of each. The currently practicing doctors should be linked up to the existing mental health services, as well as be / become advocates for improving those services. Continued work to reduce the stigma of mental illness, addiction, and other mental health issues will also be beneficial.

Those support systems that people turn to in the event of a crisis – Family, friends, ministers, chaplains, and even first responders – should also have connections to mental health services. More mental health training for these support systems, specialized if possible, is also a good idea.

Throughout the network of ideas and potential solutions, the idea of making and sustaining connections and cooperation appears to be a common theme. In order to help the neediest residents, everyone involved with helping them should be educated, connected, and cooperative.

Example: Someone in a rural area is struggling with isolation and drug addiction, and overdoses. When the family member calls for an ambulance, the first responders take the resident to the local or nearest hospital. While recovering in the hospital, a series of people work behind the scenes to quickly identify others that can help – Family members, the hospital chaplain, the resident’s pastor, the resident’s primary care physician, and anyone else. Together, this network of resources work together to locate the nearest psychiatrist or psychologist, or even the nearest behavioral health center. The idea is to build a strong support system to get the resident the best mental health services possible.

This is strictly an example, but ideally, there needs to multiple levels of support and accountability for this to work. Every situation is different – Sometimes there’s no family, no primary care physician, difficulty accessing a behavioral health center, among other things. Regardless, if we invest in building these networks and support systems, maybe there can be a shift in crisis prevention, and less crisis intervention.


For more information, check out these resources. Several of these were also cited in the article.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Book Review #62: “The Casual Vacancy”

The Casual Vacancy

Image Credit: Kobo.com

It took me quite a while to read this book. I purchased it at Barnes & Noble at least two years ago, if not longer than that. I think I had a gift card to spend, because the paperback had the bargain price of $5.98.

I’ve been interested in this book since it was published in 2012. Having been a massive Harry Potter fan, and this being her first novel for adults, I had full confidence that I would enjoy this book just as much.

Poor Al. He’s heard me gripe and complain and whine about this book for weeks! But, I finally finished the book earlier this week after he went to sleep. It took way too long for me to finish 503 pages, but I DID IT!

Rowling is still one of my favorite authors, by the way. But, this book doesn’t make my list of favorites.

It’s not a bad book, but it’s really dense. There are SO MANY characters. It made my head spin initially. I get it – She’s focusing on multiple families, all who are involved in some way with the parish council. Also, the book could have been condensed. In my opinion, 503 pages for this book was too long. She could have certainly told this particular story in 300-400 pages.

As an American, I’ve been fascinated with England, British life, and so on for several years. Getting this fictional perspective of a parish council, different communities, and challenging decisions was really interesting. Overall, the cast of characters were diverse, and interesting. There was a lot more drama than I was expecting, but it wasn’t too distracting.

The book dragged quite a bit through the first half. I almost gave up – I was struggling with the characters, and it was a lot of mundane exposition.

However, around Part Five or Part Six, the action increased, and I actually started to enjoy it. Toward the very end, I was on the edge of my seat – The last 75 pages or so were really exciting. Definitely dramatic, and more than a bit of tragedy, but it felt like a thriller at that point. I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. I was slightly sad when I got to the last page.

Again, not my favorite book by Rowling, but I was happy I plowed through to finish.

3 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Writing Prompt #115: The ABC Book Challenge (The Letter A)

Image Credit: The Book Raven

I found this awesome book challenge through Tiana, who writes for The Book Raven! Tiana writes some of the most in-depth, intriguing book reviews. Check her out!

My goal is to post about one letter every week!

Here’s the link to her original post:


Memorable titles that start with the letter โ€œAโ€:

A Girl Named Rosa

A Girl Named Hillary

A Girl Named Rosa: The True Story of Rosa Parks

A Girl Named Hillary: The True Story of Hillary Clinton

  • I was immediately intrigued by this new series of books from American Girl. They’re designed for younger readers, but I still like reading them.

A Stand for Independence

A Stand for Independence: A Felicity Classic 2

  • Despite not having the original, beautiful illustrations, I love the historical books from American Girl. Felicity is one character that is close to my heart, because her story is set in Colonial Williamsburg!

A Winning Spirit

A Winning Spirit: A Molly Classic 1

  • Molly has always been my favorite American Girl.

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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

  • I struggled to read this book in middle school, but eventually re-read it in college. I think it’s time to read it again.

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American Wife

  • This is my favorite Curtis Sittenfeld book. I re-read it three times over the course of one summer.

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Angels & Demons

  • As much as I despised the ending, I love Robert Langdon’s character!

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Angela’s Ashes

  • Another good book that I read when I was in college.

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Animal Farm

  • I think I read this in high school? Orwell’s fiction feels closer to the truth now. *shudders*

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Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret

  • I’ve always loved Judy Blume.

Books starting with “A” that I wish to read:

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Accident: A Day’s News

  • I stumbled upon this book recently whilst scanning Goodreads. I haven’t read a lot of fiction about Chernobyl, so I’ll seek this out at my local library.

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All the Missing Girls

  • Al bought me this book for Christmas. I started it, fell into a reading slump, and stopped. Now, I’m ready to start fresh.

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All the President’s Men

  • Having seen the movie multiple times, I’m long overdue to read the book about the events that thrust Woodward and Bernstein into the spotlight.

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All the Rage

  • I just learned about this book from another blogger – Destiny, I think. Hopefully my library will have it.

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American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst

  • This book is in the stack on my nightstand!

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Among the Hidden (Shadow Children #1)

  • This book is on the top of my nightstand stack. This will probably be the next book I review.

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And Then There Were None

  • I love Agatha Christie, so I hope my library has a copy.

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Anna and the French Kiss

  • Several bloggers have read this book, so I need to satisfy my curiosity.

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Anne of Green Gables

  • I tried reading Montgomery’s books as a kid, but was never able to get into it. I think my mom has the whole series!

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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

  • Several bloggers have been raving about this book, so I’m adding this one to my list. Plus, I love the synopsis.

I love this challenge so far!

What books have you read, or want to read, that start with the letter A? Let me know!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Commentary #76: “A Seasoned Author’s Tips On Handling Criticism!” (Reblogged)

Didi Oviatt is a published author, but also an awesome blogger. I wanted to share her recent post about handling criticism.

I really liked Didi’s analogy. So much so, that I bookmarked the post to save it for future reference.

Criticism is tough. I’m pretty sure many of us have been there a time or two, as bloggers, writers, and just putting ourselves out there. It’s the nature of what we do. But, Didi put this tough topic in the context of cooking and recipes, and it’s a wonderful way to think about it.

Thank you, Didi! You are one of many people who continue to inspire me.

Criticism Quote

Image Credit: BrainyQuote


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Didi Oviatt

Sometimes I think of reviews and critique, be it negative or positive, as being suggestive ingredients of sorts for my next creation. Like my writing/books is actually a four course meal. Iโ€™ve shopped, prepped, marinated, mixed, chopped, fried, blended, and baked until Iโ€™m utterly exhausted. I feel like the food is as perfect as I can possibly get it and itโ€™s time to be served.

The guests show up, ready to devour my masterpiece (or read the book per say), and here I am pacing the floors from the sidelines. I watch as some people slowly pick at it before actually giving it a taste. Some people dive right in without second thought. Theyโ€™ll eat as much food as possible, as quickly as they can, until theyโ€™re ready to pop. Some let each bite swirl around in their mouths slavering the flavor.

And in the end, EVERYONE has something toโ€ฆ

View original post 1,023 more words

Awesome Authors #16: Chris Van Allsburg

Chris Van Allsburg

Image Credit: Quotefancy

Chris Van Allsburg was practically a household name when I was younger. He has created some of the most beautifully illustrated books I have ever seen. Our future kids will definitely know about him, too.

Born in East Grand Rapids, Michigan, in June 1949. Van Allsburg has an older sister. His parents moved a few times between East Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids. After graduation, he attended the College of Architecture and Design at the University of Michigan, where the art school was located at the time. After graduating in 1972, he went on to the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where he obtained a master’s degree in sculpture in 1975. He opened a studio. Struggling with time in the studio, he started to sketch his ideas and designs at home. His wife thought his drawings would be good for children’s books. His first book, The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, was published in 1979.

He resides in Providence, Rhode Island, with his wife, Lisa. They have two daughters, Sophia and Anna. Van Allsburg converted to Judaism, which is Lisa’s faith.

He has received several awards, including two Caldecott Medals for U.S. picture book illustration. He was the 1986 U.S. nominee for the biennial, international Hans Christain Andersen Award, the highest international recognition for those who create children’s books. In April 2012, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from his alma mater, the University of Michigan.


The Polar Express (1985)

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Image Credit: Wikipedia

My parents have had a copy of this book since before I was born. It was a Christmas tradition for years to read the book and/or listen to the story on cassette tape. We even had a collector’s set with the book, cassette tape, and a silver bell. If you haven’t read it, you should.

Also, the movie adaptation (2004) is wonderful. We went to see it in theaters, likely the weekend it was released. We love Josh Groban in our house, so we also got the soundtrack and DVD. It’s a thing.

Jumanji (1981)

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Image Credit: Wikipedia

I’m pretty sure I first read this book through either the Chittum Elementary School library, or the Russell Memorial Library. I remember the Reading Rainbow episode, too.

Like The Polar Express, the movie adaptation (1995) is awesome, with Robin Williams and a cast of characters. I think I saw it on TV first. It’s one of my favorite movies that will never get old. We also saw the sequel (2017) in theaters, and it was pretty good, too. We miss you, Robin. There was also a TV series that ran from 1996 to 1999.

The Wreck of the Zephyr (1983)

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Image Credit: Wikipedia

This is one book that I hadn’t heard of! I need to see if the local library has it.

Zathura (2002)

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Image Credit: Wikipedia

This is one instance where I saw the movie adaptation (2005) before I read the book. It’s always fun to think about and dream about space. We actually watched the movie again recently – It’s really well-done. Plus, it’s fun to see several actors when they first got their start in the film industry.


What about you? Have you read or seen any of Chris Van Allsburg’s work?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Commentary #75: “The war on drugs failed. It’s time for a war on abuse.”

Honor Blackman

Image Credit: AZ Quotes

The headline grabbed me instantly. It spoke to me.

Here’s the link to the opinion that CNN published on their website on Friday, June 15, 2018:


Full disclosure: This was published under CNN’s Opinion section.

CNN also published this Editor’s Note at the top of the page:ย Natalie Schreyer is a reporter at the Fuller Project for International Reporting, a nonprofit news organization that covers issues impacting women and girls globally. She is working on “Abused in America,” a Fuller Project initiative to cover domestic violence in the United States. Jessica Klein is a journalist and co-author of the book “Abetting Batterers: What Police, Prosecutors, and Courts Aren’t Doing to Protect America’s Women.” The views expressed here are solely those of the authors.


I read this opinion. And then I re-read it. It stuck with me all weekend long. It’s still with me as I finish writing this post.

The comparisons that Schreyer and Klein make are staggering. After reading it several times, it makes complete sense to me.

Sure, I’m definitely biased here. I am a domestic violence survivor. I am an abuse survivor. Neither of these are ever okay. I’ve read several powerful memoirs and accounts of survivors (Tornado Warning), and stories of those who tragically lost their lives (If I Am Missing Or Dead: A Sister’s Story of Love, Murder, and Liberation) over the years. I don’t want to read new ones, if I’m being perfectly honest.

There must be harsher punishments for habitual offenders. The opening story for this opinion both broke my heart and made my blood boil – An alleged abuser has never been convicted of a crime, despite 160 encounters with police in 15 years. Quick math – That’s an average of 11 encounters per year. That’s too many.

One encounter is too many.

It took way too long for the current stalking laws to be enacted, and even now, those laws aren’t necessarily the same in every one of the 50 states (although it absolutely should be). The problem here is there’s a lack of consistency. The power is usually left up to the states, and that’s where many problems lie. Where you live is a huge factor, and it absolutely shouldn’t be that way!

But, what about all these non-violent offenders, in prison for decades on drug charges?

I could write a proverbial book. What the Nixon administration started in 1971 was a so-called “war” that will never be won. Presidents Reagan and H.W. Bush kept fueling the fire. I myself was in the D.A.R.E. program in fifth grade. I vowed to never smoke cigarettes after watching my grandmother, my dad’s mom. She lived with emphysema for more than 20 years. She also had COPD, and was on oxygen since I was a child.

Now, in 2018, our country has been facing the “opioid crisis” for several years. Like the authors argue, “addicts who need medical treatment more than criminal punishment,” is so true. And, sadly, not likely to happen. There is a lack of investment in mental health treatment and addiction treatment. Addicts need resources such as medical intervention, quality treatment facilities, quality therapy and/or counseling, and continued support for as long as necessary to keep them sober, stable, and functional.

Why? We have more people in prison for drug possession than mental health treatment facilities. These men and women (not all, mind you), unfortunately, re-offend and get sent back to prison because they can’t get a good, steady job after being released. Struggling to support themselves and their families, they turn to what they’ve known as their source of income. And they’re stuck in this vicious cycle that doesn’t seem to end.

When I think of an “addict,” I think of someone involved with drugs such as heroin, methamphetamine, or crack. The harder, more dangerous drugs.

To think of how many people (many are people of color, too) are in jail or prison for non-violent marijuana offenses makes me incredibly angry. I’ve been supportive of the interest to legalize / de-criminalize marijuana. But, that’s another story altogether.

There needs to be far more accountability on the domestic violence and abuser side, however. The authors pointed to a fascinating report from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, which focused on High Point, North Carolina. When the focus was shifted toward cracking down on intimate partner violence, the number of intimate partner murders dropped from 17 (between 2004-2011) to just one (between 2012-2014).

Numbers are powerful. Seventeen murders dropped to one? Wow.

As I mentioned earlier, the current stalking laws took way too long to pass. Now, there really should be domestic violence courts in every state. The script should be flipped – Turn the thousands of drug courts (3,100 quoted in the opinion) into domestic violence courts. Problem solved? Maybe.

I’m not saying to get rid of drug courts altogether. What I’m saying is to shift the balance. Shift the balance of the number of courts, and maybe that will also shift the balance of power.

I certainly don’t have all the answers. I just feel strongly about the issues presented in this opinion. I hope more is done for all victims of domestic violence and abuse. No one deserves to go through the horror, shame, and terror. And this includes women, men, and children. There’s a lot of focus on women, but men and children are abused and violated every single day.


For more information, check out these resources. Many of these were also cited in the opinion.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚