Book Review #72: “Columbine” *Re-Read*

I try my hardest to post Book Reviews within 24-48 hours after finishing the book. However, life has been pretty hectic recently. I finished Columbine in mid-April, just after the acknowledgment of it being 20 years since the tragedy. I’m just now posting my review.

I have a special connection with this book. The author, Dave Cullen, came to Longwood in the spring of 2010 as a guest lecturer. I was able to interview him for an article I wrote for the student newspaper, The Rotunda. He graciously signed my copy when I bought it at his lecture. It was strange, reading his message from March 17, 2010. That feels like a lifetime ago!

I’m glad I re-read this book. I remember how I felt after I read it the first time. Part of me wishes I’d re-read it before now, before nine years had passed. However, I still felt similar emotions as I did the first time.

I have to give major props to Cullen on his research and dedication to this book. This is one of the best accounts I’ve read of the events that occurred on April 20, 1999. And Cullen goes deeper than that. He covers the massacre, but also delves into the lives of the shooters, their families, and survivors.

It’s not perfect, but as someone who originally read memoir-style books such as The Journals of Rachel Scott: A Journey of Faith at Columbine High and She Said Yes: The Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall years ago, when the tragedy was still relatively fresh (I was almost 10 when it occurred), I appreciate the time and effort Cullen devoted to this book.

If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it. Cullen makes it clear that he is a journalist first, and it’s evident throughout. His amount of sources is simply incredible. It’s very dense, and tough to read, but it’s an important work. I’m glad Cullen devoted many years to writing this book.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #89: “He’s a disabled Gulf War veteran with a new purpose: Save birds nearly wiped out by pesticides”

Injured veteran finds purpose

Vallieres shows an owl to a veteran during a demonstration at the New Hampshire Veterans Home. Found on CNN.

Around the middle of April, I stumbled upon a fascinating headline whilst browsing CNN.com, as I do nearly every day:


Robert Vallieres served our country. He came home from the Gulf War broken, and nearly died. He’s battled a traumatic brain injury (TBI), chemical exposure, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), among other things.

However, he’s channeled his recovery into volunteering with the New Hampshire Audubon Society.

He’s helping to track and rehabilitate peregrine falcons and bald eagles.


What started it all? His son, who was three at the time. He asked his dad what type of bird he saw. Vallieres bought a bird identification book, binoculars, and they started learning together near their home in Concord, New Hampshire.

In the newspaper, he saw an ad for a birding trip in the state’s White Mountains. He signed up. What stunned him was when a falcon grabbed a bird in mid-air. And it helped him appreciate and enjoy the outdoors – Using all your senses.

Unable to work, the New Hampshire Audubon Society was looking for volunteers to count and track peregrine falcons and bald eagles. Both were nearly wiped off the map due to the pesticide DDT, now banned, which killed unhatched chicks in the 1960s.

The New Hampshire Audubon Society was thrilled to have Robert come on boarding. With his military training, a lot of the same skills applied to counting and tracking these birds.

“Finding rhythm or purpose in life besides myself,” says Vallieres, “Not to get stuck on myself, to have an outlet and be semi-physically fit.”


In addition to volunteering, Robert built a nesting box for kestrel falcons in his yard. It worked. He now has breeding pairs.

He also works to rehabilitate birds for Wings of Dawn, a local wildlife hospital.

He also takes birds to the New Hampshire Veterans Home monthly. The home was so impressed with Robert that they applied for and received a grant to get dozens of binoculars for residents to observe the birds on the property. They also purchased more bird feeders so the less-mobile residents can experience the visitors.

He still struggles with migraines and painful scar tissue. Seeing birds take flight, however, helps him lift his own wings.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth

Writing Prompt #236: The ABC Book Challenge (The Letter Z)

The ABC Book Challenge - L

This is it! The last letter of the alphabet for The ABC Book Challenge!

Memorable Books Starting with the Letter “Z”:

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Zlata’s Diary: A Child’s Life in Wartime Sarajevo

  • I first read this book in high school. It inspired me to write my Extended Essay for the IB Program in Peace and Conflict Studies, to study the effects of the Bosnian and Kosovo conflicts on children.

Books I’d Love to Read Starting with the Letter “Z”:

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Zeitoun

  • A true story springing from Hurricane Katrina.

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Zelda

  • I’ve been fascinated with F. Scott Fitzgerald since high school. With that fascination comes wanting to learn more about his family.

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


Thank you so much for following along with me on this incredible journey! I started it in July 2018, and here we are, roughly nine months later. I’ve really enjoyed writing and researching new books, and remembering the good ones I have read.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #88: “Make Your Own MAGIC and Manifest Your DREAM LIFE”

The quoted words in the title of this blog post comes from a relatively recent episode of the That Smart Hustle podcast by author Kristen Martin. I haven’t read any of her books yet, though I plan to change that sooner rather than later. I discovered her Facebook page, and then stumbled upon to her podcast. I subscribed, went all the way back to Episode 1, and just fell in love.

That Smart Hustle - Soundcloud

Image Credit: Soundcloud

I love her voice, her style, and her podcast format. They’re short, sweet, and simple.

Granted, she does things very differently than I do. But, what she shares in her podcast episodes are always encouraging and inspiring to me.

I’m not “into” or “practice” certain things such as the phases of the moon, crystals, tarot, and so on. I know people who do a combination of things like this, and I’m not arguing against any of it. As a Christian, I pray. However, I really like the idea of manifestation. And, I think I’m already doing it, and didn’t even realize it.

In this episode, Kristen expands upon manifesting, and how she does it in her life. It’s based on the law of attraction. Focus on something to bring it into your reality. There are several ways to accomplish this: Meditation, visualization, or using your conscious and subconsicous to focus on this thing, or goal, or whatever it may be.

Once you’ve pick the thing or goal to manifest, then you have to take action. As an example, if you want to get a new job or a promotion, then you focus on that job or promotion, visualize it, and then clean up your resume, submit the applications, or climb the ladder toward that promotion. It takes effort, and hard work, but it pays off.

For me, I “accidentally” manifested the completion of the first draft of my first novel. I was tired of struggling with the ending of the book, and I decided I just needed to finish it, no matter what it took. When I saved the draft on March 30th, the feelings of elation, pride, and joy I had were remarkable. I practically jumped up and down in my living room. I posted about it on Facebook, and the response and feedback I received was absolutely incredible. I realized how many people were cheering for me, how proud they were, and how many are looking forward to the book when it’s ready to be published. I’m still blown away by it all, and here we are nearly three weeks after I finished it.

Am I manifesting anything new, you may ask?

Yes, I am!

  1. Being debt-free
  2. Completing the first draft of my second novel

These two things are huge in my universe right now. I just took major action on #1 today, and it’s definitely a step in the right direction after a lot of negative thoughts, and a huge emotional breakdown between yesterday and this morning.

I’ve been actively participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this month for #2, and I feel so good with the progress I’ve made thus far. And we’re only 11 days into the month!

As I write this post, I just realized the Monthly Goals posts I make here on the blog are also forms of manifestation. I set those goals, and having them in writing on the first day of every month allows me to take action on them immediately, or work on them throughout that month. And, I’m able to look back on them whenever I want, to remind myself of the goals, and invest more time, energy, or whatever it is to accomplish those goals.

Now, why is “dream life” capitalized in the title?

Well, Kristen says in the podcast that you can use manifestation to help you build your actual dream life. I love this idea. She talks about making a list of everything you dream about that you want in life: What job do you have, what car are you driving, what are you wearing, what house do you live in, what state or country do you live in, and so on.

I will be working on this in my personal journal, and I’m pretty stinking excited about it already. If you’re interested in doing this yourself, think of it as your “vision board,” but those visions are achievable. Making this list, using techniques like this, will help me make those dreams a reality.

All that said, I still pray to God. As a Christian, that’s a given for me every day. That won’t change a bit.

And something special has been happening at my church that I haven’t talked about very much. As a congregation, we have a Breakthrough Prayer we are challenged to pray every day at either 5:17 a.m. or 5:17 p.m. The reason 5:17 is significant is that’s our Bible verse, 2 Corinthians 5:17, for the Next Level Innovations (NLI) process we are embarking upon for the next three years.

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here!

How fitting that our church is New Creation United Methodist Church.

In a way, NLI is another form of manifestation. The three-year process has a series of goals and visualizations, and it takes effort and action from everyone involved to make it successful. I love the mantra: Going from good to GREAT.

I know, for me, since we started this process, I’ve already experienced a few breakthroughs, and I can only imagine there are many more to come.

Here’s the Breakthrough Prayer:

Almighty God, today breakthrough in our lives and in our church. Make us a new creation. Transform us by the power and presence of your Holy Spirit. Show us how to make a difference in our community and the world. Give us boldness to follow where You lead. Amen.


Resources


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #71: “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America” *Re-Read*

Nickel and Dimed

Image Credit: Goodreads

When I initially read this book, it was assigned reading for one of my very first college classes. I can’t remember which one, but this book left a profound impact on me. Slowly, I started reading more from Barbara Ehrenreich. However, this is the book that started it all.

I started college in the fall of 2007, about a year before the financial crisis that began in 2008. I believe I was assigned to read this book at a poignant time. I also believe I’m re-reading this book at another poignant time, at the beginning of 2019.

Going into re-reading this, I realized my copy of the book was updated with a new afterword, published in 2008. However, the overall concept – Studying low-wage jobs and attempting to understand their socioeconomic impacts – is nothing new. That’s part of the reason I was drawn to Matthew Desmond’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.

Ehrenreich embarked on an experiment in 1998 – Trying to see if she, as a single, middle-aged woman, could survive as a waitress, a cleaner (hotel maid and house cleaner), a nursing home aide, and a seller / retail associate for a month, in three different cities. Each chapter explores a different type of job and a different city. She quickly realized the challenges with each one, and each city presented its own obstacles with housing, food, and assistance. Along the way, she met a variety of people working these jobs. A few were fortunate, but many were barely making ends meet. Several were working 2-3 jobs full-time, and still struggling with their incomes and their partner’s / spouse’s income(s) as well.

I won’t spoil anything, but she learns many lessons along the way. She discovers multiple issues with affordable housing, child care costs, fast food, health care, education, and the way these companies treat their employees.

I got a bit lost with the footnotes, statistics, and percentages, and glossed over a few of them toward the end. However, reading the updated afterword was important, and appreciated. This country has a lot to learn, still, in 2019. We need to treat employees, especially those earning the absolute minimum, better.

Overall, I’m glad I took the time to re-read this book. It’s a bit “dated” now, since Ehrenreich’s experiment started and concluded 21 years ago. However, it’s still relevant in many aspects today. And, like her, I’m grateful for everything I’ve had and worked for. This is a valuable book that will stay on my bookshelf forever.

4 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Prompt #235: The ABC Book Challenge (The Letter Y)

ABC Book Challenge - J 2

Memorable Books Starting with the Letter “Y”:

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Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories

  • Dr. Seuss should make the list every time!

Books I’d Love to Read Starting with the Letter “Y”:

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The Year of Magical Thinking

  • I’ve heard great things about Joan Didion and her writing for years, but I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by her.

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The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books (and Two Not-So-Great Ones) Saved My Life

  • A book about books, and how these 52 books changed someone’s life? Yes, please.

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The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir

  • I feel like I’ve seen some of our TV special or documentary about Cylin and John Busby. Regardless, I want to read their book.

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Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape

  • The title alone makes want to go out and find this book ASAP.

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Yes Please

  • Amy Poehler is hilarious. ‘Nuff said.

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The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls

  • I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this book cover before, but I don’t remember reading the book itself.

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You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life

  • I first heard about this book a few months ago when I was listening to author Kristen Martin sing its praises on her podcast, That Smart Hustle.

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Your Movie Sucks

  • I love Roger Ebert, may he Rest in Peace. I really want to read this soon.

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


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #87: Thoughts on “Flint Town”

Flint Town

Image Credit: IMDb

I was off work on a recent Friday, and it was so nice to have a little bit of a break. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to watch. This title kept popping up in my Netflix profile, so I figured, “Why not? Let’s try it.”

Before Al came home from work that day, I’d watched the entire season. All eight episodes.

At first, I thought the documentary series was going to be about the police force in Flint, Michigan. It was certainly about that, but also so much more.

Flint Town is a real, gritty, almost unedited profile of these officers and their lives. I got so invested in the story, especially the emotional side, it’s no surprise I plowed through all eight episodes in one day.

In addition to being police officers, you ride along with them as they deal with the continuing water crisis, limited and dwindling resources, and changes in the city administration. Both good and bad.

I wrote Hot Topic #19: The Water Crisis in Flint, and Others in March 2017. The series started before that. And it was compelling, and pretty sickening, to watch.

My heart went out to everyone in Flint. Seeing these interviews – Officers, officers’ family members, city officials, local activists, and members of the community – It’s beyond obvious this city has been struggling for years.

At the same time, toward the end of the series, I started thinking beyond Flint. There are THOUSANDS of other cities in the U.S., not to mention so many others places on this planet of ours, that don’t have safe, clean, acceptable drinking water. I started thinking about my own city – Portsmouth, Virginia – and my water, my city administration, my police force.

Just before I watched this series, the story broke one morning that our own police chief in the City of Portsmouth, Tonya Chapman, had suddenly resigned. When she was hired in 2016, she was the first female, African-American police chief of a municipal force in the entire Commonwealth of Virginia. Currently, Angela Greene, the former Assistant Police Chief, is serving as interim Police Chief until a replacement is hired. But we don’t know when that will be.

And, there continues to be finger-pointing, frustration, and controversy from many different sides, including the city administration, citizens, the local NAACP chapter, and the Fraternal Order of Police.

Flint Town is a story that can easily resonate with many across the United States. It’s a tough one to watch, but it’s a series that is relevant, and thought-provoking.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂