Writing Prompt #71: “52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge” (Week 33)

Week #33: Something You Look Forward To.

I’m definitely looking forward to the next few months, as we start to wrap up the year 2017, for several reasons.

I start what will hopefully be my LAST paralegal class next week! It’s Legal Writing, and I’m excited about it. I just ordered my textbook, and I’m excited to be in the presence of a new professor!

September kicks off Labor Day weekend, which is usually the weekend that Al and I celebrate our dating anniversary. It’s hard to believe it’s almost been SEVEN years!

The following weekend, I’ll be heading to the “Mimosas in the Mountains” event – A fancy term for Savy’s bachelorette weekend! I’m so grateful that she invited me along and has included me during their wedding planning and festivities. I’m so excited to spend a weekend with her, Crystal, and several of her amazing friends! I may die a little when we go on this supposedly epic hike on Saturday. But, that’s why I just bought KEEN hiking boots and socks! Thank you, Amazon Prime!

October 14th is Nick and Savy’s wedding! It’s gonna be fantastic. I can’t wait!

The weekend after is Hampton Comic-Con! We’ve never been, so it sounds like it will be fun!

Then, as we make our way into November, we will celebrate our second wedding anniversary. Time flies, doesn’t it? Two weeks after that, it’s Thanksgiving!

December dawns with the spirit of Christmas. My anticipated graduation from TCC is a week or two before Christmas. I’m excited to celebrate Lyndsey’s 30th birthday around the 16th! And then, we’ll blink, and we’ll be celebrating New Year’s Eve and Kathryn’s birthday!

Needless to say, these last few months of 2017 will be exciting!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚

Writing Prompt #70: “52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge” (Week 32)

Week #32: A City You’ve Visited.

I will always feel like a part of me belongs in New York City. I don’t ever want to live there now, although I used to dream about it for years. Yes, I was that kid who wanted to leave Virginia far behind and either start by going to college there, or become a famous writer and live in an apartment and enjoy the city.

Being born at Mount Sinai Hospital, it’s directly across the street from the west side of Central Park, one of the most amazing parks in our country. I could spend hours upon hours looking at Google Images of people’s photos. When I take Al to visit the city for the very first time next summer, I want to spend as much time in the park as possible, getting as many photos as I can. I have fond memories of practicing softball with my dad when we were there to visit the hospital. I need to find those photos and share them. I’m definitely an awkward 13-year-old there, but we had so much fun.

My parents took me back to the hospital every summer until I was 16 years old. The story that’s been told is the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurses say, “Our greatest joy is seeing these children grow.” The last time we were there as a family, in 2004, there were two gigantic bulletin boards on one wall of the unit, completely covered in pictures of kids who “graduated” from the unit. Most are school photos, but some are family photos. Every single one is precious. My parents did that for a few years, and we found an old photo of me on the bulletin board when we were there. It was staggering to see how many photos were there. My parents have a photo of that visit – Me, Dr. Ian Holzman, and my mom – on their refrigerator.

But, the nurses also remember the babies who didn’t survive.

When I was 18, and a senior in high school, the Oscar Smith Chamber Orchestra was invited to play at Carnegie Hall. It was such an amazing experience to close out my high school years. It rained the entire weekend, but everyone had a blast. Many of my classmates had never seen the city, and one long weekend wasn’t enough to take it all in. We played our hardest. I almost cried as we walked out on stage, seeing the historic venue from that perspective absolutely took my breath away. Many of our families were there to support us. My mom invited the head nurse from the Mount Sinai NICU, Doris Haddad, to come to the performance. She cried. She gave me flowers. It was awesome! I graduated from high school about two months after we performed.

I’ve been fortunate to have seen a lot of New York City throughout my life – Broadway shows, Times Square, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the World Trade Center before and after 9/11, the Statue of Liberty, being on the plaza at The Today Show, Radio City Music Hall, FAO Schwarz, Macy’s, the New York Public Library, the Ghostbusters Firehouse, Tribeca, Soho, the subway, The New York Times building, different museums, Katz’s Deli, Ellis Island, Governors Island … I could go on.

But, now, as an adult, I’m realizing that I’ve only seen a very small fraction of what the five boroughs have to offer. When we visit next summer, I want to see Madison Square Garden, Brooklyn, The Bell House (home of NPR’s Ask Me Another), Coney Island, Staten Island, The Bronx, and Queens. I want to experience a variety of restaurants. I’m sure there’s many museums that are new and different, too. Plus, I’ve never been to an American Girl Store. The New York store is one of their flagship stores, so, why not?


Have you ever been to New York? What did you like about?

If you haven’t been to New York yet, what do you want to see or experience? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚

Commentary #55: A Must-See, Incredibly Powerful Message from Beautiful Seventh Grader’s Slam Poem

Slam Poetry

Image Credit: The Odyssey Online

I found the video below on Facebook recently, and it spoke volumes to me:

Background: At the end of this past school year (The video was posted on Facebook on May 25th), this beautiful 7th grade girl at Queen Creek Middle School delivered this incredibly powerful slam poem. This was part of the end of her 7th grade writing class.

Caption from 12 News: “When a 7th grade writing class at Queen Creek Middle School presented poems for their end of year assignment, one student stood out with a powerful message.”

It’s been viewed over 33 MILLION times.

According to the public comments, this beautiful young lady is named Olivia.


Her teacher publicly commented on the video. His name is Brett Cornelius. He was the one recording Olivia’s performance, and obtained her parents’ permission before sharing it.

“She presented this for almost every single 7th grader. They were moved to tears, as was I. She’s brilliant beyond words, and this poem is just the icing on top of her perfectly cooked cake. What’s even more incredible is that she worked on this for over a month, truly digging into the raw depths of teenage hood and expressing her feelings of the good, the bad, and the ugly of walking the halls of the school as a young woman. She’s humble and honest, that’s for sure. I’m proud to have met this little lady!”

“I am her teacher and that assignment was one I went back and forth about assigning for weeks. Obviously, there are no regrets. She transferred to our school, so unfortunately I was not prone to her incredible educational aptitude, but we worked tirelessly to give her creative outlets to express herself. Her parents advocated for her the entire way, too. She’s a blessed child, that is for sure. Thank you!”


It’s hard to hear some of her words, but her message is profound.

I think I’ve watched this video at least a dozen times since I shared it to my own Facebook timeline on Friday, July 21st. And, every time, it’s given me chills and brought tears to my eyes.

This doesn’t apply to just middle school, or just 7th graders, or just girls.

Yes, Olivia directly addresses middle school girls, but her message is more powerful and more far-reaching than that.

I saw myself in Olivia’s words. I saw myself in Olivia’s voice. I saw myself as Olivia struggled to hold back her emotion. I saw the tears in her eyes, as I felt tears in mine.

I saw myself in middle school – Glasses, braces, acne. Experimenting with makeup, but not allowed to wear much of it. Trying to be my own person, but also wanting to fit in.

I saw myself in high school – Exchanging my glasses for contact lenses. No more braces. Wearing makeup a bit more often, but not too much. Trying to keep up with the rigors of IB, while not showboating to the kids in orchestra and gym who were the regular kids.

I saw myself in college – Finally, freedom! But, with that freedom, I also endured a four-year-long abusive relationship. When I finally saw the light at the end of my junior year, I saw a shell of myself. I was broken. My confidence had vanished, although I’m sure I was still super enthusiastic on the outside. Deep down, I knew I needed to leave, to escape, but I was also terrified that no one else would love me, no one else would want me.

I even saw myself now, in the present day – I struggle with body image. I struggle with the fact that I’ve gained 25+ pounds since graduating from college six years ago. I’m getting better with my eating habits, and I drink far less soda than I used to. I drink at least 75 ounces of water every day, if not a little bit more. I only consume alcohol sparingly now (The good stuff is expensive, haha!) I know that my day job is a major contributor – I’m behind a desk eight hours a day. I wear makeup almost every day, but I don’t feel like a clown. I feel grown-up and professional.

But, I’m also a human being. I have feelings. And it’s okay to have these feelings.

The point I’m trying to get at is Olivia’s message is important for EVERYONE to hear. Maybe that’s why it’s been watched over 33 million times. What this amazing young woman wrote and performed (by memory, no less) is a reminder to everyone that we hide behind our true selves.

For me, personally, I don’t want to be so afraid. I don’t want to be so scared of or disgusted by my body image. I want to embrace it, as best that I can, at least. I want to continue to be confident. I don’t want to fake it until I make it as much anymore. I want to be as genuine as possible.

Can I do that? I know I can.

Olivia, you’ve certainly inspired this 29-year-old. Let’s do this. Thank you!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚

Writing Prompt #69: “52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge” (Week 31)

Week #31: Core Value.

The simplest definition of “core value”Β that I found is as follows:

  • Core values are the fundamental beliefs of a person or organization. These guiding principles dictate behavior and can help people understand the difference between right and wrong.

This one was a big challenge!

As I thought about it over the course of the last week, the one I kept circling back to was that I’m incredibly grateful for my faith and belief in God.

The image below was created by Caralyn, the beautiful and amazing author behind the fabulous blog called BeautyBeyondBones.

BeautyBeyondBones (2)

Image Credit: BeautyBeyondBones

I draw a lot of inspiration from Caralyn. Reading her posts always lifts my spirits, and renews my faith!

She’s also inspired me to get even closer to God. Because of her, I pray a lot more. I also pray a lot more out loud, especially in the car!

I’m excited to be participating in the upcoming Pray for Me Campaign at New Creation, which kicks off on August 10th. The idea behind the campaign is to “bridge the gap between generations through prayer.” I love it! Our Director of Children and Youth Ministries, Jeremy, started promoting this a few months ago, and I helped run the promotional video last month during both services. I felt immediately inspired, and filled with hope. I can’t wait to be a personal Prayer Champion for my young one throughout this entire upcoming school year! I firmly believe that participating in this campaign will strengthen my faith, and help me become a better Christian and a better person! I know that God is smiling on all of us, all the time, even when it’s dark and gray outside.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚

Book Review #40: “The End of Everything”

The End of Everything

Image Credit: Amazon

A couple of weeks ago, I found this book while I visited 2nd and CharlesΒ with a dear friend of mine. They opened a new location across the street from my office last year – They have every type of book, DVDs, Blu-ray, vinyl, CDs, toys, games, and more. Some things are brand-new, still in the packaging! It was only $5.00, so I figured I’d give it a shot.

I immediately recognized that Abbott is the author of other books such as You Will Know Me (currently on my TBR). I was intrigued by a combination of the cover and the synopsis on the inside. And, I can’t really turn down a hardcover book for $5.00!


I found myself reading multiple chapters per night, and I ended up finishing the book after less than a week.

In the 1980s, Lizzie and Evie are finishing up eighth grade, best friends since childhood. They’re attached to each other’s hips, but they appear to be going through their own paths and struggles. What 13-year-olds don’t?

Lizzie’s dad left years ago, but her mom looks like she’s been having a man over to the house recently. Evie appears to be living in her older sister, Dusty’s, shadow, but also excelling at soccer while trying to figure out what happens next.

Then, mere weeks before eighth-grade graduation, Evie Verver suddenly vanishes. As her family and the police investigate, Lizzie proves to be invaluable, finding multiple clues and helping assemble the complex puzzle. Everyone is desperate to get Evie back, although different characters are going through different emotions and handling the situation in different ways. One suspect, from their own neighborhood, looks promising, and the intensity continues to increase.

The book weaves together the complex topics/subjects of a child abduction, painful childhood memories, blossoming sexuality, and the relationships of parents with their children. The setting was the 1980s, and Abbott stays faithful to it the entire time. She also does a good job with balancing tragedy with triumph in her writing.

The only major complaint I had was that Abbott focuses so much on the relationship between Lizzie and Mr. Verver, and then tries to also explain/develop the relationship between Dusty and her father. The lines started to blur, and it was hard to tell sometimes who Abbott was referring to, and to figure out what exactly was going on.

It was challenging to differentiate between the two, and I felt a little creeped out by the end of the book. Mr. Verver appeared to be the sweetest, least-pervy of the fathers in the book, but some of the allusions that Abbott was making, absolutely made my skin crawl. Part of me didn’t want Lizzie, Evie, or Dusty to be taken advantage of, but part of me knew that the setting was also a different era (in a way), and parent-child relationships can still be taken too far, if you catch my drift. It makes me shudder just writing it.

Abbott is a great writer overall, and I look forward to reading more of her books! I just hope this one is just a fluke.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚

Hot Topic #21: The Confounding Congress

Congress

Image Credit: AZ Quotes

Disclaimer: This post contains strong language.


Hey there, readers. Bear with me. This post is probably going to be long-winded, basically a stream of consciousness, and likely have a significant amount of profanity in it.

You’ve been warned.


As a result of a spirited discussion with my wonderful husband last weekend (Note – Not spirited as in angry or anything. We typically tend to agree on most things, including politics and things going on in Washington), I’ve been inspired / motivated to write out some thoughts about our United States Congress.

Simply put – It’s completely fucked up.

And it has been for a LONG time.

Meanwhile in Congress

Image Credit: Meme Center


I decided to read through the entire U.S. Constitution.

Friends, it’s been way too long since I read this (I think the last time I read it in full was, begrudgingly, for my 10th grade IB Government class). I’m glad that I took the time to read it – It was like another education.

The Patriot Post

Image Credit: The Patriot Post

Here’s some highlights:

“All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” (Article I, Section 1)

“The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.” (Article I, Section 2).

“The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, [chosen by the Legislature thereof,]* for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.” (Article I, Section 3).

“The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.” (Article I, Section 6).

“The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.” (The 16th Amendment – Passed by Congress July 2, 1909. Ratified February 3, 1913.)

“No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of representatives shall have intervened.” (The 27th Amendment – Originally proposed Sept. 25, 1789. Ratified May 7, 1992.)


They’re fighting over healthcare, but they all know that they’re completely exempt from whatever legislation that eventually passes?

I say that every member of Congress should have to go through the same process that all of the other Americans in this country go through to sign up for healthcare. They should experience the hardships that so many others face!

There is no “employer-sponsored healthcare” in this instance – That’s only for people who work for businesses that offer health plans to them. Period!


Wouldn’t it be great if Congress also couldn’t vote for themselves?

I wish that every member of Congress could be knocked down a peg, so to speak. I wish we, the people, could mandate that every single member only makes $7.25 an hour. Yep, you got that right, make sure that those serving in Congress only make minimum wage.

Oh, and you’re capped at 40 hours a week. No overtime. Nothing extra. And during those 40 hours, you get your work done. If your work isn’t done … You can be fired. Kicked to the curb. If you’re kicked out, then you have to go back home and start all over. Plenty of Americans have gone through layoffs, corporate restructuring, and being fired. Why should members of Congress just be able to sail through?

You get two weeks of vacation per year – That’s it. No more ridiculous recesses that last WEEKS. Recess is for those in elementary school.

No more housing allowances – That’s only given to those who serve our country in our armed forces. Period.


Back to healthcare for a minute. Since you, as a member of Congress, only make $7.25 an hour – You have to choose your healthcare like anyone else who only makes minimum wage. Yep, that makes you have to take the time and go on Healthcare.gov or go through the exchanges to find your health plan.

Oh, and you have to make sure your spouse and all of your children are covered, too.

Not so easy now, is it?


Oh, and whatever happened to serving in Congress actually being a service to your constituents and this great nation?

If I remember correctly, not too long ago, there were no career politicians. None, zero. There were farmers who were elected in Kansas, businessmen elected in Arizona, dentists elected in California – Those men (and later women) maintained their households, jobs and/or businesses, and lives in their constituencies. When their work was done in Washington, they went back to their families and jobs and businesses at home, and worked with their constituents to help their districts change for the better. These men and women didn’t have apartments or houses in Washington, Virginia, or Maryland. They went home to Kansas, Arizona, California, and so on!

Congress_meem

Image Credit: PolitiFact — Based on numbers from 2014, this is nearly 100 percent accurate. *facepalm*


If you stuck with me through now, thanks for reading! I try really hard to not get political on the blog. But, sometimes, something makes me really mad, and the best way that I cope is to write about it!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚

Commentary #54: “What To Pay For When Publishing”

Things I Learned About Self-Publishing

Image Credit: AbridgeClub.com

I was inspired to write this post from James Harrington’s Blog of Geek and Writing.

Here’s the link to his original post:


As someone who has several novels / stories in the works (A never-ending cycle, it seems), I’ve gotten more and more curious about self-publishing in the last year or so. I have nothing ready to self-publish as of yet, but I like to plan ahead!

Jim offers this advice, as a self-published author on Amazon. You should be prepared to pay for the following:

  1. ISBN Numbers
  2. Copyright registration
  3. Cover
  4. Editing and Reviewing
  5. Advertising

He brings up some excellent points. Before reading his post, I knew that having someone else design the cover, as well as hiring someone else to edit and review your work, would definitely be worth the money. However, I didn’t think about ISBN numbers, copyright registration, and advertising.

Jim says that if you do decide to self-publish, you should be prepared to spend at least $400 at an absolute bare minimum. However, it’s also wise to spend a little more if you want your work to reach more people! (Don’t we all?)


Jim’s post made me research a little bit deeper. Keep in mind – Everyone has their own opinion, and the Internet is chock-full of advice about self-publishing.

There are so many avenues available now – It made my head spin! There’s CreateSpace and IngramSpark, and then a massive number of independent publishers. A Google search for “self-publishing” is almost overwhelming and panic-inducing.

Here’s a few links:

A lot of these articles tend to agree on several items:

  1. Purchase your own ISBN (International Standard Book Number).
  2. Hiring “book doctors” and getting it copy edited by a professional.
  3. Don’t just choose one medium – Consider publishing in print and e-book formats, and even audio books.
  4. Marketing is key.
  5. A good cover design is immensely helpful.
  6. Do your pricing research, and be mindful of the different percentages of the price that each company takes (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Audible, etc.) when a copy of your book is sold.

The bottom line – The publishing and self-publishing worlds seem to be constantly evolving. It’s hard to keep up with!

But, I’m glad that I have bloggers like James, among others, who are willing to write posts, offer advice, and answer questions!


Have you self-published anything? If so, what was your experience like? Can you offer any advice?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚