Book Review #58: “Prez: A Story of Love”

Prez: A Story of Love

Image Credit: Amazon

I learned about this book through my P.E.O. sisterhood. The author, Margaret Garrison, is the sister-in-law of one of my chapter sisters, Cathy W.

Since our chapter typically plans our programs about a year in advance, I knew I definitely wanted to be there when Margaret was discussing her book. I had my money ready, because I was pretty sure I was going to buy the book on the spot. She even signed all books that were sold!

During her talk, she enveloped us in the often-mysterious world of college and university administration, having worked in the higher education arena for much of her adult life. She’s also a professor.

Her book, although a work of fiction, combines several of her real-life experiences and passions.


Although this book is Garrison’s first novel, you wouldn’t know it. It’s a hefty book, but a lovely and solid read!

I love all the characters she created for the book, but Katherine Embright shines as the protagonist. She’s breaking new ground in the small university town of Hurley, North Carolina – She’s the chancellor of Wickfield University during the 1989-1990 academic year. You could say she’s breaking the proverbial glass ceiling.

She’s tested multiple times throughout this watershed year – In her chancellor duties, her love life, and reacting to both current and world events.

Reading Prez gave me impressive insight into the challenges that higher education officials and administrators go through. I laughed a lot, and definitely shed my share of tears, I found myself thinking back to my days at Longwood University, where I covered the Board of Visitors (BOV) for The Rotunda student newspaper for several years. Longwood had an impressive female president, Dr. Patricia Cormier, for nearly 15 years. She proudly served from 1996 through 2010.

I thought of her life as I was reading about Katherine’s.

Although it took me more than a month to finish the book, I can only think positive thoughts about this book. It’s a wonderful story, especially for it being the author’s first novel.

The story certainly has its share of controversy – No spoilers. But, in spite of several characters’ transgressions, the book gives an incredible message of hope and faith, among other positive qualities.

I highly recommend this book. It’s a feel-good love story. One that, at the time that I bought it, I didn’t know that I needed.

The book came into my life at a time where, when I was more than halfway through it, my family was experiencing several losses – Three uncles passed away in a matter of two weeks.

This book helped me renew my faith, and helped me recognize the true importance of family.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚

 

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Commentary #67: “God Hears His Children” – A Music Review

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I have an amazing friend, Chloe, who lives in Tennessee. We’ve struck up a friendship because of our shared love of American Girl dolls. We’re involved in multiple AG groups on Facebook, and we message each other several times a week. Chloe has autism, but nothing is stopping her! She has competed in several pageants, including Miss Shining Star, several online Facebook photo pageants, andΒ Tennessee Miss Amazing!

Recently, she shared on Facebook that she had written a poem, titled “God Hears His Children.” Well, a family member helped her put music to the words. The iTunes release of the “God Hears His Children” single happened today!

To purchase, go to iTunes and search for “God Hears His Children – Single.” The thumbnail image is yellow lights with a microphone. Chloe’s name is in the upper right-hand corner, and the title is in the bottom right-hand corner.

eBay

Image Credit: eBay

When Chloe gave me a sneak preview of the single, I loved it!

I’ve already downloaded it, and I anticipate listening to it often.

It’s a good first start for her, and I’m thrilled that she took such an awesome leap of faith. First, she wrote the poem. Then, she asked her family member to help her set it to music. And, she wanted to get it submitted to iTunes!

I’m so proud of her!


Her passion, drive, and determination has blown me away from the day I met her on the American (AG) Girl Doll Obsessed BST Facebook group!

In addition, she’s a faithful member of the American (AG) Girl Dolls Obsessed: His Rock Facebook group. She also recently created the Amazingly Ag free online doll pageants Facebook group!

I hope she continues writing poems, and maybe creating more music in the future!

Congratulations, Chloe!!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚

Book Review #57: “Victory in the Valley”

Victory in the Valley

Image Credit: Amazon

I’m incredibly excited to say that Victory in the Valley is authored by someone I know and respect. Domeka Kelley is a courier at Riverside, and I love seeing his smiling face as often as possible. He is well-respected in the Riverside community, as well as our local communities here in Virginia. He is a pastor, and has left a lasting influence on everyone he meets.


Kelley has written a really good memoir. It’s part memoir, part testimony, and part Bible study. For this being his first book, it’s really a good effort. I respect his attention to detail, and including so many Bible verses. He has inspired me in so many ways with this book!

The main message he’s trying to get at is “valleys” are not bad things. Valleys are preparing you for climbing the mountains. What a powerful message!

Victory in the Valley is roughly 100 pages long, but I found myself taking my time to digest every single page. I love how he incorporated so many Bible verses throughout the book! It took me three full reading nights to finish the book, and I have a greater appreciation now for books that make me stop, pause, and think!

Like I mentioned, Kelley shares his powerful testimony. He gives glory to God, his wife, his children, and quite the amazing group of people who have encouraged him along his journey. He takes the time and effort to share multiple definitions of words, and connect the Bible to his own experiences. However, he remains humble in saying that his life experiences hardly compare/relate to the experiences that people in the Bible went through. How awesome is that!

With all the praise and positivity I wanted to proclaim, there were just a few places where I had issues/problems.

There were some continuity issues, but I think that’s only because I’m using to seeing memoirs that are more chronological. So, that’s not a major issue.

One big problem I did have was at the very end of the book, Kelley writes that he has a sequel in the works. That’s great! Woohoo! I did a happy dance!

However, I didn’t really appreciate the multiple mentions of the sequel at the very end. One mention at the very end of the book, like the very last page, separate from the text, would have been enough for me. It’s like he wanted to set up a cliffhanger, but made it come off as a drawn-out “To Be Continued …” moment, spread out among several pages. That didn’t make me feel so awesome at the very end.

I really don’t like giving a lot of criticism, but I try to make it as constructive as possible. I realize that writing a book, no matter how long, is NOT EASY. It isn’t! Kelley even admits toward the end that he struggled immensely with how to end the book, and it wrapped up beautifully (except for the multiple mentions of the sequel).

I’m all for self-promotion. Do it, don’t shy away from it. But, just don’t force it down your readers’ throats, that’s all. There’s a need for balance.

I’m eagerly looking forward to the sequel. I waited several weeks to get my copy of Victory in the Valley from Amazon in my hands – It was out of stock for quite a while (Not a bad thing!), so I’m hoping that when the sequel is released, I can get my hands on a copy a little bit faster!

I definitely recommend that everyone read Victory in the Valley. Even if you’re not religious, everyone can learn something from this book. But, if you are religious, it’s a powerful example of how God moves in someone’s life, and affects every aspect of their being. Kelley has had the opportunity to be a motivational speaker in several instances, and I believe that this is one of his callings, along with being a pastor.

He is incredibly inspiring, motivating, and just has a great story to tell. Reading his book has reaffirmed my faith, and motivated me to buckle down and finish writing my own books!

4 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

Commentary #53: “12 Things You Only Understand If You Grew Up Going To Church Camp”

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My friend Cara shared this article a few days ago on Facebook. Just reading the title sent me back into nostalgia. Almost every summer, from fourth grade through college, and a few as an adult, I was at some sort of church camp!

Here’s the link to the original post:


I wish I had more photos to share!

Since a lot of my church camp experiences happened before I entered the world of Facebook, a lot of them are in traditional photo albums at my parents’ house, etc.

However, I did manage to find a few!

CCC 2012 (2)

CCC 2012, Albemarle, North Carolina – This was our finished wheelchair ramp!

CCC 2012

CCC 2012, Albemarle, North Carolina – We worked hard, but we also made time for fun, like ice cream!

Bandannas – Need I say more?

  • I’m not wearing bandannas in these photos, but for years, I did! They were fashion accessories – The girls traded them back and forth! We also went to the Dollar Tree before the trip to find new colors!

You probably dressed up in some interesting outfits.

  • Maybe? I remember the staff at Carolina Cross Connection (CCC) many a summer decked out in costumes, overalls, tights, tutus, and more!

Camp games were the best games!

  • Absolutely! I learned to play nine square at the camp in Florida with Daniel, Aime, and Loren (and quickly realized how competitive it was!)
  • At CCC, the icebreaker games were hilarious! Every summer was different, and it was great watching the adults!

Everyone had a camp crush they will always remember!

  • Oh, yes – No names mentioned here, but this was a definite.
  • I do know several people who met their true loves at CCC. Matt and Alex got married at a CCC camp!

You made friends that will last a lifetime.

  • Yes – I still have letters, cards, and photos from camp friends!
  • A lot of us have kept in touch through Facebook now.

You master taking 5 minute or less showers!

  • This is so true – Although the cooler water felt amazing after long days in the sun!
  • It was really hard to juggle everything carefully – Shower caddies would have been an amazing investment back then!
  • Most camps do this, but I highly recommend wearing Old Navy-style flip-flops or some type of sandal that can get wet in the shower! Camp showers are NOTHING Β like your bathroom at home.

You were a master at coming up with skits and chants for your team!

  • I certainly tried. I enjoyed the group effort!
  • I definitely didn’t have much of a voice when I came home.

Every worship song seems to be 10 times better at camp!

  • This is probably the most true statement of them all!
  • CCC camps usually have some sort of “hill” or “mountain” on the property, and those experiences were always amazing!
  • I’ll always remember the girls on CCC staff standing on chairs to hold the handwritten song lyrics, with a lot of us holding flashlights!

You had a crush on someone in the band.

  • For me, this wasn’t necessarily summer camp, but mainly the Blackstone retreats!
  • I still have a few of my shirts signed by all the band members!

You always packed way more than you needed.

  • I was one of those people who followed the list of items to the letter!
  • It was so much fun packing for the trip, but such a drag packing to go home! Nothing seemed to fit properly.
  • Sometimes, I borrowed the big black garbage bags for my dirty laundry – Yuck!

You can try to tell someone about camp but no one else will understand.

  • Exactly! I wore my camp shirts to school a lot, and I enjoyed telling my friends when they asked.

You start your countdown for camp next year the day you leave.

  • This was especially true in high school, since I went to CCC nearly every summer!
  • I also did this in 2011 and 2013, because I knew I was going to be taking a whole week off work to go to CCC in 2012 and 2014! I felt very adult then, haha.

Did you go to church camp?

What were some of your favorite memories?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚

Getting Personal #27: Reflections, On My Birthday

Birthday - quotesgram

Image Credit: quotesgram.com

There’s no significant holiday in August, so my birthday has always felt like one.

My parents have a beautiful frame that holds two of my footprints and my birth announcement. Around the age of 10, I remember reading it, trying to understand it, and then carefully taking the frame it to my mom, asking her what it meant.


There’s a reason why there are two footprints in that frame.

The first one, very tiny, has the following caption:

  • 1 lb., 15 oz.

The second one, a little bigger, has the following caption:

  • 5 lbs., 10 oz.

I came into this world 15 weeks too soon.

I was given a 50/50 chance of survival.

I am a survivor.

My birth announcement indicates that I came home from Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City on my actual due date – November 18th.

Through pictures and stories, I learned I was on oxygen for the first full year of my life. I was hospitalized twice within that first year for the common cold.

My favorite baby picture is the one where my dad’s wedding ring fit through my whole hand, hanging off my tiny wrist like a bracelet.

I first flew on an airplane when I was six months old, oxygen and all.

My parents put me in every kind of therapy program imaginable – Speech, occupational, physical. You name it, I was probably in it.


As I grew older, I simply marveled at, and was humbled by, my beginnings.

I was placed in a class called “Developmental First” at my elementary school, in between kindergarten and first grade. It technically held me back for a year, but it was a wonderful class that helped me immensely. There were about 10 other kids in the class with me, who all needed an extra boost, so to speak. My mom and my teacher, Mrs. Mansell, are still close friends to this day.

I was in occupational therapy until third grade, working on my motor skills.

I was in speech therapy until fourth grade. I still remember the day that I was pulled out of Mrs. Hartis’s class and told that I had “graduated” from speech.

Towards the end of elementary school, I discovered my passion for writing. The “Young Authors” program / contest was held every year, and each student created their own story, writing and illustrating it. Once finished, it was bound with spiral-looking plastic and sent off to be reviewed. My little book, titled “Electro Girl,” was chosen for recognition, and my parents and I were invited to an awards ceremony. That ceremony is also where I also met my best friend, Melissa.

Since then, I haven’t been illustrating any more books, but I’ve been trying to write them. I’ve kept a blue binder, covered in stickers, that’s full of stories that I wrote from age 10, all the way through the end of high school. I want to dig it out at some point and look through it again.


Reflecting on my time so far on this Earth, I feel immensely humbled and blessed. There were so many people who bent over backwards for me – My parents, my family, our friends, the doctors and nurses, teachers, and so many others. There were thousands of prayers, kind words, and constant encouragement – Then, and now.

Before I leave you on this gorgeous Sunday morning, I want to share my favorite Bible verse with you.

Jeremiah 29:11

Jeremiah 29-11 - lilyandval

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Jeremiah 29-11 - embeddedfaith

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I think I was in sixth grade when I was first introduced to this passage. I clearly remember the first time I read this passage in my own Bible – I immediately grabbed a pen and underlined it.

For those who know me, I almost NEVER make marks / highlights / notes in any books, at all, unless it’s super important or significant.

It’s stuck with me ever since.

On tough days, I know that I can look at this verse, and I feel peace.

God has a plan.

He always does.

Thanks for reading.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚

Getting Personal #21: Back In The Swing Of Things

Swing-Out

Image Credit: quotesgram.com

This quote was the most fitting for this post. A lot has happened in the last month! There’s a couple things I have to keep under wraps for a little while longer (No, I can assure you that I’m not pregnant – I know that’s what some of you were probably thinking!), but here’s a few that I can share:

  • I started reading the second book for the 2016 reading challenge and I love it!
  • Al and I are celebrating six months of marriage today!
  • I start my summer class on the 23rd, and it’s the first on-campus class for me in five years. I’m excited to be in a law library for two nights a week!
  • I got an A in Family Law!
  • Tidewater Comicon is next weekend! Woohoo!

I’m excited to be back to writing. Look for future posts about LanternAsia, books, movies, and more!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚