Book Review #53: “Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America”


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This was the second book that Al gave me for Christmas. He’s heard me talk about Barbara Ehrenreich before. I read her book Nickel and Dimed (2001) for one of my early college classes, and it’s stuck with me ever since.

Right out of the gate, Ehrenreich writes about her own battle with breast cancer, and how “fighting cancer with a positive attitude” has permeated our culture. Although this book was published in 2009, nearly 10 years ago, the same sentiments appear to be holding strong. I have my own opinions about breast cancer charities and the amount of money that is spent on research (Susan G. Komen in particular), but let’s just say that Ehrenreich’s words and research fell in line with my thoughts.

Ehrenreich continues with chapters about the economy, life coaches, how “coaching” entered into corporate culture, and so on. One review compared positivity and positive thinking to a fake orgasm. “Fake it ’til you make it” is referenced a lot, and not always in a good way. But, Ehrenreich says, that’s okay. It’s actually healthier to not be positive all the time. Her main point is to not get brainwashed, and make sure you remain in control of your emotions.

While I was reading, I couldn’t help but think of the Pixar movie Inside Out (2016), where the viewers are inside the head of 11-year-old Riley and seeing her emotions (Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and Anger) interact. If you haven’t seen the movie, you should. And I wondered if Ehrenreich had seen it, and what she thought about it. A lot of her writing in this book, years before the movie was released, was spot on with the messages Pixar was sending to moviegoers. We all have Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and Anger among us and in us for a reason and a purpose.

I’m glad that I put this book on my Amazon wish list. I had been thinking about Ehrenreich and Nickel and Dimed a lot last year, and I found myself searching for more books written by her. I was not disappointed. I plan to read several more of her works in the future:

Despite this compelling read, I still have a positive attitude. I’ve always been an optimist – One nonfiction book isn’t going to turn me into a pessimist. However, I’m definitely going to pay closer attention to my surroundings, try not to get caught up in hype, and stay in control of my emotions.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂


Getting Personal #79: Reflections, On My Birthday

Birthday Quote 2017

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I wrote a Getting Personal post on my birthday last year, and I received a lot of positive feedback. I thought I would continue this tradition every year. For me, it brings the past year into focus, and it makes me feel good.

Since this time last year, I’ve lived in my own house with Al for over a year. I’m so happy that we’ve reached this point. We have independence. We’re navigating our way through “adulting” the best that we can. I’m happy that we both have stable jobs that give us good benefits, as well as modest incomes. We’re paying our bills and saving money, but we’re also able to have a little bit of spending money, too. Our house is certainly big enough for the two of us, but we also have room to entertain and (eventually) grow our family. We’ve already had adventures in dog-sitting, and we’re thinking about getting a cat, or two.

It’s amazing to look around, in almost any room, and realize that it looked completely different when we bought the house. We still have several projects on our list – Matching blinds for the rest of the windows, finishing renovating two dressers for two bedrooms, blackout curtains for our bedroom, painting an accent wall in the living room, and finishing my office – but we’re enjoying working on them together. And that’s the whole point, right?

It’s also hard to believe that I will likely, finally, earn my Associates of Applied Science degree in Paralegal Studies as 2017 comes to a close. Wow. It’s been a long five years, with a few semester breaks here and there – Like not taking any classes for the two semesters before my wedding, for instance. (Best. Decision. Ever.)

I’m officially registered for Legal Writing this fall. I’m headed to campus again on Thursday nights from late August through mid-December. I’m excited to take this class – This is one of the main classes that I have looked forward to since starting the program. Better late than never, but here we are. Keep your fingers crossed that this is truly my last class before graduation!

I’m also glad that I had the opportunity this spring to prepare for the boards (exam) to become a Certified Professional Coder (CPC). Many thanks to Shana for keeping me in the loop. It’s funny how things work out – I was hoping to take Legal Writing in the spring, but an English prerequisite was in my way, and I couldn’t register. During the Super Bowl in February, Shana told me TCC Workforce Solutions was offering the CPC exam prep class again (She took it in the fall of 2016). I was able to sign up in the nick of time, with the class starting two weeks after she told me.

I was incredibly nervous, but also excited. This was new territory for me. I’d had some exposure to ICD-10, CPT codes, and HCPCS codes through the nature of my job and my work, but not a lot. Casey, my former manager, encouraged me for years to get certified, and I finally took the plunge.

Medical coding is HARD. There’s three different sets of codes, and each code is for something different. It also depends on your interpretation of the doctor’s notes, which isn’t always easy.

Test day was Saturday, April 8th. It was almost six hours long! Luckily, I was able to answer all 150 questions before time expired, plus check my answers. I didn’t feel like I completely failed, but I wasn’t super confident that I passed.

About a week later, I discovered that I had passed the exam by accident. AAPC sends emails about meetings, and one of those emails started with, “Dear Laura Beth, CPC-A.” I almost fell out of my chair at work. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t seeing things, so I logged on to AAPC to see my score. I ended up passing with a 76 percent score (I needed at least a 70). I tore out of my cube and ran down the hall to tell Casey. I was jumping up and down!

I found out later that I was the ONLY ONE in my class to pass the boards. I was floored. There were 15 people in my class. It was amazing!

So, now I’m certified. I have to earn a set number of continuing education units (CEUs) by a certain time next year, but going to AAPC chapter meetings every month, plus doing webinars, add up. I was pinned by the Peninsula Professional Coders last month during a special ceremony, and there were several others who are newly certified. It feels nice to have such a supportive community. Being certified also opens the door to new job opportunities. I’m very happy at Riverside, but it’s nice to have different options when thinking about the future.

There have been some challenges this year, but nothing insurmountable. Casey left Riverside for another opportunity in mid-April, which was devastating to me.

We suffered with a broken AC unit at our house for about two weeks, at the peak of the hot weather. We know now that we need to replace our HVAC before next summer. We decided to forgo a wedding anniversary vacation this fall, but we’re planning to go to New York City in the summer of 2018!

I have a lot to look forward to as I start the last year of my 20s:

  • Former work colleagues becoming true friends.
  • Enjoying my slight obsession with LuLaRoe.
  • Being part of the Pray for Me Campaign at New Creation UMC.
  • Celebrating seven years together with Al on September 4th.
  • Heading to the mountains for a weekend in early September, celebrating Savy’s bachelorette and making new friends.
  • Helping Nick and Savy celebrate their kick-ass wedding at the Vardaro Farm in October!
  • Celebrating two years of marriage with Al on November 14th!
  • Being with family for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
  • Helping Tony and Rachael celebrate their wedding in December.
  • Finishing my 2012 NaNoWriMo attempt by reaching at least 50,000 words, and then editing begins!
  • Reading many more books.
  • Continuing blogging, and meeting many more amazing bloggers!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #20: “Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood”


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“I’d written Smashed not because I was ambitious and not because writing down my feelings was cathartic (it felt more like playing one’s own neurosurgeon sans anesthesia). No. I’d made a habit–and eventually a profession–of memoir because I hail from one of those families where shows of emotions are discouraged.”
Koren Zailckas, Fury: A Memoir

Like other books that I’ve reviewed on the blog, I picked up this book in a thrift store. I can’t remember when, but I was drawn to it almost immediately.

This is one of those books that I will keep forever. I think I first read it in high school, but it’s been a good one to re-read.

Koren takes us through her journey with alcohol. She started drinking at age 14, and stopped at 23. I applaud her courage to attain sobriety!

Three words come to mind when I think of her writing: Raw, unapologetic, and real.

Reading this book in high school, I remember thinking to myself, “Well, when I go off to college, I won’t be like that. I won’t go crazy and drink a lot. I might join a sorority, but I’ll be careful.”

Oh, high school Laura Beth. You ate your words.

Let’s back up a bit. I was raised in a family that always had beer and wine in the fridge. Dad usually drank a beer every night after work. Mom enjoyed a glass of wine most nights.

I had my first sip of beer at age 10 in my parents’ kitchen. I was curious, and Dad said I could taste it. Mom was appalled. It was one sip of Natural Light, and it almost made me puke. Despite Mom getting upset, I’m glad that Dad gave me that chance, because after that I told myself I didn’t want to taste that again until I was 21. (In college, I instantly recognized the true nickname of “Nasty Light,” although most frats had it on hand because it was super cheap).

I was allowed small amounts of wine before I turned 21 in the presence of Mom / Dad. It made feel good, and I started to understand how Dad having a beer was a method of relaxation and unwinding after a hard day’s work.

When I first went off to college, alcohol was not on my personal radar. The school was/is very strict about alcohol, with a three-strike policy and education courses if violations occurred. Plus, I knew Mom and Dad were footing most of the bills, and I didn’t want to jeopardize any of that.

However, under the influence of John for three of my four college years, alcohol was involved. My university has a bit of reputation as a party school, being in a small-ish town, and a good majority of students are in sororities and fraternities.

I remember re-reading Smashed at least twice in college, once before I joined Alpha Sigma Tau (AST), and once afterward. It was a striking experience, to say the least. I started to realize how sororities, fraternities, and alcohol mixed and blended together.

I went to several fraternity parties in my four years in school, both before and after turning 21, and before and after joining AST. (I turned 21 in August 2009, and joined AST that fall.) As I got older, I realized that I didn’t need alcohol to be sociable. Eventually, I started to feel disgust at these parties because everyone was getting drunk, wasted, and being incredibly stupid. It was unattractive. I usually remained sober so that I could keep an eye on my younger sisters and make sure no one got into serious trouble. It was embarrassing.

Throughout my college experience, I learned a few things along the way:

  • Liquor is cheap, and it’s super sweet.
  • I’m definitely a lightweight.
  • I never truly blacked out at all, but there was one sorority party where I was asked to leave (I learned later it was mainly because of the friends with me, and not me personally), and I passed out cold in my bed. I woke up 12 hours later.
  • I was the designated driver for one Saturday night for AST as a senior, and I vowed to never do it again.
  • I can clearly see the attraction to alcohol, and it almost makes me sick.

Now, nearly six years removed from college, I can clearly see a culture of alcohol. Not only at my university, but at most other colleges and universities across the U.S. It’s tough to swallow.

Sure, going away to college is a rite of passage, and alcohol is usually involved at some point for nearly every student.

However, I don’t like the idea of getting drunk. To me, it’s sloppy and irresponsible. Also, too many innocent people get hurt or die every day because of drunk or intoxicated drivers.

I do drink, but only occasionally. Alcohol is expensive, and I rarely justify having it in our house. Al doesn’t drink, and that’s been a great thing for me. I usually indulge during parties or social events, but I always have Al drive. If I do drink, I make sure that I eat plenty of food and have water with me. Alcohol does relax me, but I believe that I know my limits.

I like certain beers and usually don’t discriminate with wine, but I stay away from the liquor and mixed drinks – Too many painful college memories. Plus, it’s too sweet for me.

Reading Koren’s words at age 28 was also a different experience. I’m glad that I’ve read this book multiple times. It’s made me reflect on different aspects of my life, and how I’m grateful that my own drinking has never spiraled out of control. However, I’m glad that Koren had the courage to write this book, tell her story, and help others. I’m glad that she has achieved sobriety, and that she is a successful writer.

Koren’s memoir is one that will always be relevant to me, even though it was published 10 years ago. She’s a gifted writer, and I look forward to reading Fury: A Memoir some day soon.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #47: Giving Thanks


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Since today is Thanksgiving Eve, I wanted to take a few minutes to write about giving thanks and reflecting on so many blessings that I have.

I’ve been pretty busy these last few weeks, which is why you haven’t seen many posts from me recently. Since last year, November has become a whirlwind month. We just celebrated a year of marriage. We went on a super relaxing vacation. Since we got home, we’ve dived back into reality – Home improvement projects, making sure parts of our house don’t flood, getting excited for the holidays.

I’m in the home stretch with my Trial Prep class. I’ve been trying to finish my two big projects that make up 45 percent of my grade – They’re due next week. After that, all that’s left is my final exam.

I’m blessed to be a part of several wonderful families – By blood, by marriage, by church. I’m looking forward to creating our family-favorite, absolutely delicious Chocolate Mousse Cake tonight, to share with Al, my parents, family friends, and church family tomorrow afternoon.

Reflecting on 2016, overall, it’s been a pretty good year.

No doubt, I’ve dealt with challenges, nightmares, anxiety attacks, friendship difficulties, and information overload.

There are still people in shock over the election results. There are families dealing with insurmountable tragedies – House fires, hospitalizations, difficult pregnancies, refugees trying to migrate, the horror of war, losing children / family members in school bus crashes. It happens every single day.

But, I thank God for a wonderful marriage, loving families, amazing health, stable jobs, a beautiful house, food in the fridge, and the ability to help others.

As we enter the 2016 holiday season, I’m motivated to help others as much as possible. It’s about giving, not receiving. I hope to give a pint of blood in two weeks. I hope to help at least one child have an amazing Christmas morning. I hope to spend quality time with my family and friends.

I’m very blessed. Writing everything down here, in this amazing space and platform, has only increased my gratitude.

I’m also incredibly grateful for you, my readers. Thank you so much for helping this little blog blossom into something amazing, especially this past year. All of you are amazing!

Readers, I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving tomorrow!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #43: “For Anyone Considering Suicide, From Those That Have Been There” (Reblogged)

I love Carla’s blog. She writes about so many important issues!

This is such a powerful video. The Mighty is a wonderful site!

I love her idea of writing letters to those with depression, thinking of suicide, or struggling with a debilitating illness. Since she lives in Australia, she will be starting with just Australia (Postage is very expensive to go outside of the country!)

With that, since I love sending cards and letters, I would like to do a similar effort in the U.S.

Especially since I considered suicide once. It was the fall of 2008. So much was going on in my life, it was starting to become too much – My first grandparent had passed away, I wanted to leave Longwood and come home, I was having problems with my long-term boyfriend, he was using a few friends to aggravate me and feel even lousier.

If you would like to receive a card or letter, or you know someone who could use a little bit of encouragement and love, please contact me through the links below:

Thank you, Carla, for sharing!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #19: “Go Set A Watchman”


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“Prejudice, a dirty word, and faith, a clean one, have something in common: they both begin where reason ends.”
Harper Lee, Go Set a Watchman

This is the third book from my 2016 Reading Challenge!

I bought this book almost immediately after it was published.

To Kill A Mockingbird is near the top of my all-time favorite books – One that I re-read almost every year. When this manuscript was discovered and then published, I knew I needed to get my own copy.

I was immediately attracted to the cover. It’s gorgeous, classic, and something that I think will stand the test of time.

Please note: I will do my best to limit spoilers in this review, but this is your formal warning.

I’ll admit, I read too many articles surrounding the publication of this book in the summer of 2015 – Something I don’t normally do.

There was one significant character detail, surrounding Atticus, that was a bombshell. To me, it came completely out of left field, especially given the events from Mockingbird.

It’s so significant, that I choose to not reveal it here.

However, after I bought the book, I tried to shelve that bombshell and read it with an open mind.

It took me over a year to sit down and read it, but better late than never.

Go Set A Watchman reintroduces the characters of Atticus, Calpurnia, Hank, and Scout, now referred to as Jean Louise Finch. Lee takes us along for the ride with Jean Louise, as she travels from New York to her hometown of Maycomb, Alabama. She visits for two weeks every year.

I could see how the passage of years had changed everyone, and not necessarily for the better.

I was immediately immersed in Jean Louise’s world. She’s 26 now, and I saw the image of Scout fading and her womanly image forming throughout the book.

Having always enjoyed historical fiction, I appreciated Lee’s take on a typical Southern town, struggling to accommodate the black community and start to accept their burgeoning civil rights. The NAACP and Brown v. Board of Education are prominently mentioned, giving me the impression that the story is set after 1954.

Lee paints certain scenes so well that I felt like I was right there, listening to the local gossip in the livingroom during the Coffee. I could hear the train whistle. I could almost smell the marsh when Hank and Jean Louise go for their swim at Finch’s Landing.

At first, I sympathized with Jean Louise. She’s grappling with visiting her hometown that is struggling with so much change, while trying to keep her wits about her. The same condition that killed her mother has now killed her brother, Jem. She is horrified by her father’s actions at a Citizens’ Council meeting in town. She begins to lose her faith in everything that she thought she knew.

Most of the time, I wanted to keep turning the pages. It’s definitely a dramatic novel, exploring Jean Louise’s actions and reactions to her hometown and all the changes around her. She’s changing as a woman, as a daughter, and as a friend, plus trying to adapt to the world that is in flux.

However, toward the last section, it felt like Jean Louise’s two weeks in Maycomb were more like two years. There was so much dialogue, along with multiple large chunks of inner monologue and stream-of-consciousness, that got very muddy and tough to wade through.

To make sure I was following along correctly, there were several times where I had to pause and re-read some lengthy passages, and I didn’t appreciate that at all.

Also, there were several instances where the speaker or character wasn’t clear, and I had to review the previous passage or even the whole page of text to see who was being referenced. It was immensely annoying, frustrating, and made my head hurt. I kept reminding myself that the main focus of the novel is on Jean Louise, but, as a reader, it’s no fun having to try to figure out the character from page to page.

Overall, Go Set A Watchman is a decent sequel to a landmark novel such as Mockingbird. It clearly illustrates the struggles of the time, and how a 26-year-old woman would potentially adapt to so many changes in a short time period.

It has several excellent qualities – Love, family, friendship, morals, and balancing acceptance. I believe it accurately portrays the attitudes of those white, and black, of the time period, in the troubled South. It was an intriguing novelization of the deep South that made me consider how I would react if I had been in Jean Louise’s shoes.

However, it felt about 75 pages too long. Lee could have done without multiple pages of Jean Louise’s murky thoughts and memories. By the end, some of her outbursts and interactions with others appeared overly dramatic, immature, and frustrating. It was almost too heavy with her characterization, and I found myself wanting more of other characters, particularly Atticus, Hank, and even Calpurnia.

It’s a decent addition to my bookshelf, but not one that I will constantly praise and applaud for years to come.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #40: “Blue Morpho Butterfly Swarm, Brazil” (Reblogged)

Another breathtaking photo from Just Wunderlust! I love butterflies, so when I saw this notification pop up in my email this morning, I knew I had to share it.

When you see a butterfly, what does it mean to you?

To me, a butterfly symbolizes peace, tranquility, and strength.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Just Wunderlust

Blue Morpho Butterfly Swarm, Brazil

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