Writing Prompt #63: “52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge” (Week 25)

Week #25: Education.

I’m incredibly grateful for the education that I have received. I was so fortunate that my parents picked an excellent school district when we moved to Chesapeake. Overall, I had really good experiences throughout elementary, middle, and high school. I think fondly of many teachers that I had over the years!

After high school graduation, I was one of the very few that didn’t have to take out any loans to be able to earn my college degree. I don’t say this to brag, not at all – I say this out of incredible gratitude to my parents, who worked so hard to help me get a great education from Longwood. I have multiple family members, co-workers, and countless friends that have student loan debt. That makes me sad! It also makes me angry. Higher education has changed so much, and it’s even changed in the six years since I graduated.

Now, I’m grateful that I have a job that offers educational assistance to its employees! I have used it for several semesters, and it has been a significant benefit. I’m almost done with my Paralegal Studies degree after nearly five years.

I can’t say enough good things about the quality of the education that I have had over the years. With that said, I’m inspired by countless others and their stories.

  • The ones that have worked multiple jobs plus loans to pay for their education themselves
  • The ones that raise or have raised children while working full-time and attending classes
  • The ones that work tirelessly for years to educate themselves in the field that they are passionate about.
  • The ones that go for the Ph.D.
  • The ones that simply have a high school diploma and are just amazing husbands/wives, mothers/fathers, hard workers, volunteers, and so much more than their educational experiences.

My hat goes off to you all!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Prompt #62: “52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge” (Week 24)

Week #24: A Book You Learned From.

I wasn’t a big science fiction fan for a long time, but one book helped change my view.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.

I wasn’t thrilled when it was assigned summer reading when I was getting ready to start the IB program in 2003.

However, I was pleasantly surprised when I started reading it. The story was so intriguing, that I didn’t want to stop.

As I delved into the world of Ender, Valentine, his family, and the intricate / complicated world of Battle School and Command School, I learned several things. I learned to better appreciate the genre of science fiction, but I also identified with several of the characters. I saw parts of myself in Ender, Valentine, Rackham, and Colonel Graff. Thinking about it now, some of the wars and political themes aren’t so far off from our real world at the moment. I think this book also helped me become a better writer, and to be more considerate of other genres.

I learned later that there are other books with Ender. Eventually, I want to read them all.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #32: “Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison”

Orange_Is_the_New_Black_book_cover

Image Credit: Wikipedia

At the end of April, during a long weekend with Al and his parents, I found this paperback while visiting the Virginia Avenue Mall in Clarksville, Virginia. There were so many books – It was a really cool indoor, two-story flea market. I was hunting for something else, but for $4.00, I couldn’t pass this up!

I haven’t watched the series on Netflix, but I’ve always been curious about it. I knew it was based on a true story / inspired by true events, but I didn’t realize that Piper Kerman had written a book about it!

This was another book that I finished quickly, but forgot to write the review. I’m trying really hard to break this habit! I think it only took me about two weeks to read.

It was crazy to read about how Piper’s unfortunate globe-trotting escapades caught up with her several YEARS later. She was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison, and served her time in three different facilities.

Having only learned about prison from books and other media, reading a first-hand account from a woman who was not a typical inmate was eye-opening, and oddly fascinating. I say “not typical” because Piper was well-educated (She graduated from Smith College before getting involved with her criminal activities), and had an immense support system on the outside.

She did a fantastic job of painting the experience for the reader – I felt like I was right beside her the entire time. I really got to know Piper, as well as all the women around her. I went through many emotions – I laughed, I teared up, I wanted to scream. Mostly, I laughed. I personally think Piper tried to make the very best of her not-so-desirable situation, and I think she handled it really well.

I didn’t want to put the book down. I started to limit myself to only 1-2 chapters per night, because I wanted to read 5-6. It’s no wonder that this book has transformed into a successful series on Netflix.

Kerman did a great job with details, and made sure that the reader got as much of the full experience of her 15 months between Danbury, Connecticut; Oklahoma City; and Chicago as possible. It was also really interesting to go back in time, in a way, reading about headlines and news from 2003 through 2005.

She displayed a significant amount of courage by writing this book. She gives the reader an inside look into a tough place, and she does a really good job of showing honesty, sympathy, and advocacy.

I highly recommend this book. It’s definitely not the easiest read, but it really opened my eyes. I have a better understanding of what these women go through, and how those on the outside should be better about treating them. There’s still a huge stigma around incarceration, and these women deserve better.

5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

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 Keepers 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 🙂

Writing Prompt #61: “52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge” (Week 23)

Week #23: Favorite Physical Trait.

I love my eyes. They’re one of traits from my dad. Most people can tell that I look a lot like my mom (We have the same face shape, and our voices are very similar), so I love the traits from my dad slightly more. I have his hair, eyes, and skin.

I love that my eyes are hazel. I think it makes me unique! Green is also one of my favorite colors, so I’m happy that I have eyes that reflects that part of me.

I can’t say much more than that. Come back next Wednesday for more!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Prompt #60: “52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge” (Week 22)

Week #22: Something You Use Every Day.

I’m incredibly grateful to have a safe, reliable car! I’m glad that my dad helped me choose my Camry. “Sandy” has been with me since the summer of 2010.

She’s been on many adventures with me in the last seven years. She was with me during my senior year at Longwood.

She’s been there throughout my entire history with Al, with the exceptions of our first date and our wedding day.

She’s been on many road trips, through multiple moves, ability to get me to several different jobs, years of continuing education, and more. Her wheels take me back and forth to the gym, to work, to meetings – All around Hampton Roads, and beyond.

I try really hard to take care of her. I’m able to change the oil myself. When she had a flat tire in April, I was grateful that I have AAA and they came to change it in the rain.

She’s about to cross the 200,000 mile mark in a few months (We got her with 66,000 miles). I sincerely hope she lasts several years longer!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Prompt #59: “52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge” (Week 21)

Week #21: Things You Like About Summer.

For the longest time, I always proclaimed that summer was my favorite season. It makes sense – My birthday is in August, and I have many fond memories of being out of school and enjoying family vacations.

As an adult, the heat and humidity here in Virginia is very annoying, and my favorite seasons have shifted to the spring and fall.

But, I’m grateful for all the summers that I have had on this Earth. I remember numerous trips to Florida to see both sets of grandparents, and friends of my mom and my dad. All the amusement park visits – Disney World, Sea World, Busch Gardens in Williamsburg and Tampa Bay, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, Hersheypark, Kings Dominion, and a variety of aquariums and museums. We went to West Virginia several times to see my mom’s extended family. Every summer until I was 16, we went to New York City to go back to the hospital where I was born, sight-see, and visit Mom’s cousin Sherri. Several of our friends had beach houses in North Carolina as well.

My church hosted Russian children for three weeks almost every summer, starting in 1999. It was so much fun – They always loved the beach, going to the mall, swimming, and exploring what our small part of the U.S. had to offer. They were absolutely fascinated by the ocean and swimming pools. They begged to go back to Virginia Beach multiple times – I think one year we took them five or six times in the three weeks they were with us. When summer starts to arrive, I always think of them.

Summer also makes me think of fresh-cut grass, watermelon, BBQ, being around water a lot, swimming, riding my bike, roller-blading, endless library trips, traveling, the beach, going to the movies, Super Soakers, water balloon fights, and catching fireflies.

This summer, I hope to make more library trips, buy our own bikes and take many rides around the neighborhood with Al, take a few days off from work to enjoy the outdoors, watch the fireflies, and listen to the crickets.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂