Commentary #77: “There’s a severe shortage of mental health professionals in rural areas. Here’s why that’s a serious problem.”

Mental Health - Quotefancy

Image Credit: Quotefancy

I recently read another CNN article that I felt was worthy of sharing. It was published on June 20, 2018.

Here’s the link to the article:


For years, I’ve been fascinated with the Appalachian region of the United States. Part of it is because my grandmother (Mom’s mom) was raised in West Virginia, and other extended family members have lived in West Virginia and Kentucky, to name a few states.

The mountains are beautiful. Grandma Grace was raised during The Great Depression, and they survived. I have vague memories of visiting Great-Grandma Laura Bethany (whom I’m named after) on her farm in Ripley, and seeing Mom’s aunt’s and cousins in Beckley. These two areas aren’t deep in the mountains, but you can definitely see and feel the hills and valleys.

With all that said, Ripley and Beckley are small, but mighty. Other areas of West Virginia, and other states in the Appalachian region, have certainly struggled with the volatility of the coal mining industry, among other issues. The limited amount of research I’ve done shows years of struggles with poverty, unemployment, access to health care, and more. However, the Appalachian people are steadfast. I don’t want to be prejudicial, but research-based.

Along with difficulties accessing quality health care, and affording that care, mental health care is somewhat tied to that. It’s fascinating, as well as immensely frightening.

When I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) in the summer of 2015, I started taking a bigger interest in mental health, including news articles about the topic. I’m grateful that I have a stable job, with good health insurance, and access to good mental health resources and services.

I’ve seen several counselors since I was in college, for a variety of reasons, but the counselor who diagnosed me with GAD was a watershed moment for me. She helped me unpack a variety of issues that were causing significant stress, and in turn, contributing to my anxiety. I’ve been able to better understand GAD, and to work to figure out the best ways to limit and control my anxiety. It’s a daily exercise, but I’m proud to say that I’m not taking any medication, and I’m able to live a fairly productive life thanks to a powerful and helpful support system. I realize that my situation is very unique, and I’m grateful for everything!


The article is packed with statistics. I won’t go through all of them, but the main point is a majority of non-metropolitan counties do not have a psychiatrist, and nearly half do not have a psychologist. The best definition of a non-metropolitan county that I could find is one that does not have a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and has a population of 10,000 or less (Health Resources & Services Administration).

One of the interviewees, a clinical psychologist, pointed out that many rural areas only have generalists, i.e., primary care providers (PCPs), and there’s little to no specialized care. People are left on their own due to a lack of community mental health care, and nearby relevant hospital services.

The services that are available are focused on crisis intervention, not prevention. These services attempt to address the crisis as it’s happening, but nothing is available to prevent the crisis.

In addition to the lack of services and resources, health care funding cuts are exacerbating this problem. Roughly 80 rural hospitals closed between 2010 and 2017. Hundreds more are at risk.

Another problem the rural population faces is isolation. Isolation can spark downward spirals, which can lead to drug addiction, overdoses, depression, and suicide. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), rural areas have a higher suicide rate than non-rural areas, which has been widening since 2001.

This is a significantly complex and challenging problem that can’t be addressed with a single solution. However, there’s one bright spot that is starting to emerge – Telebehavioral health. The article provided the example of a patient in Wyoming “seeing” a psychologist in Pennsylvania via virtual sessions and online portals.

As promising as telebehavioral health appears, the article points out a host of other issues that rural residents face. Access to the Internet is one, being proficient with computers / technology another, and having the financial resources to access these mental health professionals.

To me, there needs to be a series of steps to tackle these issues. I don’t have all the answers, and I try to be as objective as possible.

There needs to be consistent investment in mental health services across the U.S. Every rural area that does not have a psychiatrist or psychologist should probably have at least one of each. The currently practicing doctors should be linked up to the existing mental health services, as well as be / become advocates for improving those services. Continued work to reduce the stigma of mental illness, addiction, and other mental health issues will also be beneficial.

Those support systems that people turn to in the event of a crisis – Family, friends, ministers, chaplains, and even first responders – should also have connections to mental health services. More mental health training for these support systems, specialized if possible, is also a good idea.

Throughout the network of ideas and potential solutions, the idea of making and sustaining connections and cooperation appears to be a common theme. In order to help the neediest residents, everyone involved with helping them should be educated, connected, and cooperative.

Example: Someone in a rural area is struggling with isolation and drug addiction, and overdoses. When the family member calls for an ambulance, the first responders take the resident to the local or nearest hospital. While recovering in the hospital, a series of people work behind the scenes to quickly identify others that can help – Family members, the hospital chaplain, the resident’s pastor, the resident’s primary care physician, and anyone else. Together, this network of resources work together to locate the nearest psychiatrist or psychologist, or even the nearest behavioral health center. The idea is to build a strong support system to get the resident the best mental health services possible.

This is strictly an example, but ideally, there needs to multiple levels of support and accountability for this to work. Every situation is different – Sometimes there’s no family, no primary care physician, difficulty accessing a behavioral health center, among other things. Regardless, if we invest in building these networks and support systems, maybe there can be a shift in crisis prevention, and less crisis intervention.


For more information, check out these resources. Several of these were also cited in the article.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Advertisements

Commentary #75: “The war on drugs failed. It’s time for a war on abuse.”

Honor Blackman

Image Credit: AZ Quotes

The headline grabbed me instantly. It spoke to me.

Here’s the link to the opinion that CNN published on their website on Friday, June 15, 2018:


Full disclosure: This was published under CNN’s Opinion section.

CNN also published this Editor’s Note at the top of the page: Natalie Schreyer is a reporter at the Fuller Project for International Reporting, a nonprofit news organization that covers issues impacting women and girls globally. She is working on “Abused in America,” a Fuller Project initiative to cover domestic violence in the United States. Jessica Klein is a journalist and co-author of the book “Abetting Batterers: What Police, Prosecutors, and Courts Aren’t Doing to Protect America’s Women.” The views expressed here are solely those of the authors.


I read this opinion. And then I re-read it. It stuck with me all weekend long. It’s still with me as I finish writing this post.

The comparisons that Schreyer and Klein make are staggering. After reading it several times, it makes complete sense to me.

Sure, I’m definitely biased here. I am a domestic violence survivor. I am an abuse survivor. Neither of these are ever okay. I’ve read several powerful memoirs and accounts of survivors (Tornado Warning), and stories of those who tragically lost their lives (If I Am Missing Or Dead: A Sister’s Story of Love, Murder, and Liberation) over the years. I don’t want to read new ones, if I’m being perfectly honest.

There must be harsher punishments for habitual offenders. The opening story for this opinion both broke my heart and made my blood boil – An alleged abuser has never been convicted of a crime, despite 160 encounters with police in 15 years. Quick math – That’s an average of 11 encounters per year. That’s too many.

One encounter is too many.

It took way too long for the current stalking laws to be enacted, and even now, those laws aren’t necessarily the same in every one of the 50 states (although it absolutely should be). The problem here is there’s a lack of consistency. The power is usually left up to the states, and that’s where many problems lie. Where you live is a huge factor, and it absolutely shouldn’t be that way!

But, what about all these non-violent offenders, in prison for decades on drug charges?

I could write a proverbial book. What the Nixon administration started in 1971 was a so-called “war” that will never be won. Presidents Reagan and H.W. Bush kept fueling the fire. I myself was in the D.A.R.E. program in fifth grade. I vowed to never smoke cigarettes after watching my grandmother, my dad’s mom. She lived with emphysema for more than 20 years. She also had COPD, and was on oxygen since I was a child.

Now, in 2018, our country has been facing the “opioid crisis” for several years. Like the authors argue, “addicts who need medical treatment more than criminal punishment,” is so true. And, sadly, not likely to happen. There is a lack of investment in mental health treatment and addiction treatment. Addicts need resources such as medical intervention, quality treatment facilities, quality therapy and/or counseling, and continued support for as long as necessary to keep them sober, stable, and functional.

Why? We have more people in prison for drug possession than mental health treatment facilities. These men and women (not all, mind you), unfortunately, re-offend and get sent back to prison because they can’t get a good, steady job after being released. Struggling to support themselves and their families, they turn to what they’ve known as their source of income. And they’re stuck in this vicious cycle that doesn’t seem to end.

When I think of an “addict,” I think of someone involved with drugs such as heroin, methamphetamine, or crack. The harder, more dangerous drugs.

To think of how many people (many are people of color, too) are in jail or prison for non-violent marijuana offenses makes me incredibly angry. I’ve been supportive of the interest to legalize / de-criminalize marijuana. But, that’s another story altogether.

There needs to be far more accountability on the domestic violence and abuser side, however. The authors pointed to a fascinating report from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, which focused on High Point, North Carolina. When the focus was shifted toward cracking down on intimate partner violence, the number of intimate partner murders dropped from 17 (between 2004-2011) to just one (between 2012-2014).

Numbers are powerful. Seventeen murders dropped to one? Wow.

As I mentioned earlier, the current stalking laws took way too long to pass. Now, there really should be domestic violence courts in every state. The script should be flipped – Turn the thousands of drug courts (3,100 quoted in the opinion) into domestic violence courts. Problem solved? Maybe.

I’m not saying to get rid of drug courts altogether. What I’m saying is to shift the balance. Shift the balance of the number of courts, and maybe that will also shift the balance of power.

I certainly don’t have all the answers. I just feel strongly about the issues presented in this opinion. I hope more is done for all victims of domestic violence and abuse. No one deserves to go through the horror, shame, and terror. And this includes women, men, and children. There’s a lot of focus on women, but men and children are abused and violated every single day.


For more information, check out these resources. Many of these were also cited in the opinion.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #127: My Skin & Makeup Routines (Part 5)

Lush

Image Credit: LUSH UK

I’m trying some new things, so it’s time to write another Skin & Makeup Routine post!

Here are the links to my original posts:


Skin

I’m continuing my normal routine with a combo of my standard LUSH and Young Living products, but I wanted to share some new things I’ve purchased since my last post.

I took the Wolfberry Eye Cream with me on my recent trip to Blacksburg, and I love it!

Karma Kream is my new favorite body lotion. It’s perfect for right after I shave my legs!

These are three face masks that I received for free during my last trip to LUSH, which was at the end of April. If you redeem five empty and clean pots, you get a free face mask of your choice! Since I had 16 empty and clean pots, they gave me all three at once.

Since the last update, I started supporting a friend’s business with Rodan + Fields. I started with their Lash Boost. I’ve been using it for nearly two months. In just seven weeks, I’ve seen a massive difference! My eyelashes are fuller, darker, and I’ve lost less of them. I also don’t wear a lot of mascara anymore!

img_1612

Using Lash Boost is super simple! It’s the same concept as eyeliner on your lids. Once a day, swipe, swipe, and done!

I also took the quiz called “Finding Your Regimen” with their Solution Tool. Since skin cancer is very prevalent in my family, and I have the “fair skin curse,” I wanted to see what this said. After all, Rodan + Fields are two dermatologists!

My personalized recommendation was Reverse Lightening. So, I ordered it. Granted, I haven’t had a chance to start using it yet, since it’s a new regimen from what my skin has been used to. Hopefully I can start it over this weekend!

 

In addition, a while back I saw that Young Living offered something called the Bon Voyage Travel Pack. I added to my monthly order, and I’m so glad I did. This was wonderful to have during my flight to Florida – No issues with the TSA!

The travel pack includes:

  • Thieves® AromaBright Toothpaste
  • Thieves Waterless Hand Purifier
  • Thieves Dental Floss
  • Thieves Fresh Essence Plus Mouthwash
  • Young Living Toothbrush
  • Lavender Shampoo
  • Lavender Conditioner
  • Cinnamint Lip Balm
  • Morning Start™ Bath & Shower Gel
  • Genesis™ Hand & Body Lotion
  • ART® Light Moisturizer

img_1614

Here’s my updated LUSH wish list:


Makeup

I’m loving my Savvy Minerals. I don’t have any recent photos, but I recently used Essential Rewards (ER) to purchase a bigger variety of the eyeshadow offerings. More photos to come!

Here is the list of eyeshadow that I currently have:

  • Best Kept Secret
  • Diffused
  • Determined
  • Envy
  • Freedom
  • Inspired
  • Overboard
  • Spoiled
  • Unscripted
  • Jet Setter (eyeliner)
  • MultiTasker

I use either Jet Setter or MultiTasker on almost a daily basis! I’m excited to experiment with the different colors that I now have, too.

 


Hair

As much as I love Young Living’s shampoos and conditioners, it just wasn’t working out. Products with essential oils don’t mix well with hair that gets oily and greasy easily. I donated my unopened products to my church’s food pantry, which collects toiletries as well.

At the new LUSH store, I found their “Big” shampoo and solid conditioner. These were game-changers for me!

I also love their Sea Spray Hair Mist!

Everything I have reminds me of the beach!


What about you?

Do you have a certain skin routine? What about makeup?

Have you tried any homemade recipes related to skin or makeup?

Check back in a few months – I’ll likely have another update post to share!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Adventure Time: Florida Edition (Round 3 – Richard Madan’s Celebration of Life & Family Trip)

Image may contain: 3 people, including Laura Beth Vardaro, people smiling, people standing and wedding

Mom, me, and Uncle Richard, on my wedding day, November 2015. Image Credit: Stellar Exposures

It’s a funny thing sometimes, your conscience.

Saturday, April 7th, was my Uncle Richard’s 68th birthday. It was a busy Saturday, but this little voice in my head kept reminding me to call him for his birthday. Between a successful blood drive and going out to dinner with our friends Casey and Beth, that voice kept at it. I had a wonderful 20-minute conversation with my uncle that night. I could almost hear his smile in his voice.

Little did I know, that would be the last time I would hear him speak.

The following Tuesday, April 10th, my parents called after Al and I finished dinner. I could tell my dad was hesitating about something, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

Finally, the words that always signal bad news to me came out of his mouth: “Are you sitting down?”

My uncle had been in a car accident, near his house in Miami, Florida. Immediately after the accident, he was found unconscious in his SUV. Thankfully, medical personnel got him to the nearest hospital in time to save his life.

It was a flurry of activity that week. Mom flew down on Sunday, April 15th. My dad drove 17 hours straight from Monday night into Tuesday morning. They started organizing his house while visiting the hospital daily. Originally, there was hope of rehabilitation, and eventual discharge to some sort of assisted living facility.

But, the stroke was worse than everyone had thought. More moderate to severe. He wasn’t speaking, or eating. My mom made some of the most gut-wrenching decisions in terms of aggressive treatment and resuscitation. Thankfully, my dad was there by her side.

We knew things were near the end when he was transferred to an excellent hospice unit of another medical center. At five minutes to midnight, on Wednesday, April 25th, he passed away peacefully.

I had the opportunity to attend his Celebration of Life, and help spread his ashes. I took a full week off of work, and I’m so glad that I did.


Thursday, May 17th

I was very fortunate to find a seat on the same American Airlines flight as a friend from church. Her wonderful husband drove both of us to the airport. Aside from some unruly thunderstorms, it was an uneventful flight, direct from Norfolk to Miami. This was my first time on a plane in nearly three years!

After an adventure getting the rental car, my parents met us at Kathy’s hotel in Coconut Grove. My parents took me back to Richard’s house in Miami, where I saw first-hand the fruits of their labor. In the four weeks they had been living there, they cleaned everything out, painted everything, and deep cleaned the carpet. They hand-scrubbed half of the back deck, and were preparing to cut a big branch of the beautiful mango tree that was hanging over the deck. We picked at least 100 mangoes! I was very impressed with their work.

For dinner, we went out to Il Bambino, a wonderful Italian restaurant nearby. They spent several hours with Shirley and Bill, dear friends of my grandparents. They’ve been married for 65 years!


Friday, May 18th

The Celebration of Life was scheduled for Friday evening at Plymouth Congregational Church, and there was a lot to do before then. This is the church where my mom and uncle grew up. I have many memories of this amazing church since I was a kid.

Our friends Debbie and Lucy flew down from Virginia on Friday morning, and they stayed at one of the church guest houses. Plymouth is a sprawling church campus – 17 buildings on more than 11 acres of beautiful, lush, tropical land!

Kathy was wonderful – Between Mom, Dad, her, and me, we loaded multiple food trays from Publix into the rented Kia van and my uncle’s Durango SUV in the afternoon. We had plenty of time to get everything set up at the church before the celebration was scheduled to begin.

IMG_2900

The entrance table.

IMG_2901

I helped buy the guest book. I thought it was fitting that we had several Pan Am pens for people to use.

These photos are just some of the memorabilia from National Airlines and Pan Am. Richard was hired as a flight attendant by National Airlines in 1973. National merged with Pan Am in 1980. Richard flew with Pan Am until the company’s demise in 1991. He also worked as an instructor and trainer.

There were amazing letters from passengers, too, complimenting Richard on his professionalism, service, and more!

We had 50 people come to the celebration, which exceeded our expectations. We laughed more than we cried. Mom spoke. I spoke, telling the story of my conscience telling me to make that phone call. A dear friend from Plymouth, Dickie, echoed my words and implored everyone to “make that call.”

Richard’s best friend, Michael, an Episcopal priest, shared stories of their 45-year friendship. We could tell that Richard’s death has affected Michael greatly, since Michael called my uncle every night and they talked for an hour. Every night. For years. Now, he can’t make those calls any more.

A few flight attendant friends also spoke, but most of the evening was very much a beautiful, non-alcoholic wake. I was so happy to see so many friends, and to catch up with them and learn more about their lives. We sent everyone home with food, and by 11:00 p.m., we were beyond ready for bed!


Saturday, May 19th

Saturday started early. In preparation to sell Richard’s house, the wonderful real estate agent (who happens to be married to Plymouth’s amazing associate pastor) asked that one of the big branches of the backyard mango tree be cut down.

No problem!

I got to use power tools, and work with my dad and our good friend, Tim. Tim was a business associate of my grandfather’s and Richard for years. Tim’s kids, Timmy and Megan, grew up with me. Tim’s wife, Nancy, told me that whenever they told Timmy and Megan that we were coming to visit, they would get so excited. One of the best area restaurants is The Big Cheese Miami, and Timmy and Megan knew that when the Strickers were coming to visit, that meant a trip to The Big Cheese for everyone!

This was part of the branch that hung right over the deck. Not great appeal to potential homebuyers. It had to go!

That’s Tim, using the special mango picker. We also picked a bunch with pruners, and by hand!

We filled this crate, and two other big boxes, full of mangoes. My dad printed signs for the boxes, imploring people in the neighborhood to come and take mangoes!

The branch is gone! We set up the patio furniture, too, which I hosed down.

You can see where we cut several huge branches, in the left of the picture.

All clean!

After working in the backyard, Mom and I showered. We met Kathy, Debbie, and Lucy at Plymouth. We drove over to Terri’s gorgeous condo in Coral Gables, where she was hosting us for lunch.

The beautiful tropical plants surrounding the entrance.

Terri and Walter’s condo is on the 15th floor, and the elevator stops at their place. Such opulence! A few steps in, there are gorgeous floor-to-ceiling windows that give a panoramic view of Miami, Key Biscayne, and more.

The most beautiful orchids – They were everywhere!

Lunch was delicious, and it was so nice for my mom to have some “girl time.” I think Terri was pleased to host, and we learned more about her, too. She and my mom have been friends since third grade. Terri’s mom was Richard’s 5th and 6th grade teacher, and my grandmother was the “room mom,” so naturally, their families became friends. Terri was also a flight attendant with Richard for several years.

After lunch, we went back to Plymouth to spread Richard’s ashes. Plymouth has a beautiful memorial garden, with nameplates of those who have passed on. My grandfather, Norman Madan, and grandmother, Grace Madan, have nameplates already. Richard’s will be added soon. It was overcast, but wonderful words were spoken by Michael, and Moira McGuinn, one of the church’s amazing associate pastors. Mom, Dad, Michael, Moira, and I all took turns spreading his ashes in the garden.

As we were concluding the ceremony, I heard an airplane flying overhead. Perfect symbolism, in my opinion.

After we finished, we showed Kathy, Debbie, and Lucy the church and the grounds. It’s such an impressive place. Here’s some photos.

We went back to the house, where Mom and Dad met with the real estate agent. While that was happening, the rest of us packed our rented Chevy Tahoe full of the remaining items that needed to come home to Virginia. Kathy is an expert packer, so we had the job done in just a few hours.

By then, we were famished. I called The Big Cheese for takeout, and Dad drove me to pick it up. We did family style. All I cared about were their amazing garlic knots, but the rest of the food was divine.


Sunday, May 20th

Mom, Dad, and I left Miami around 10:00 a.m. We headed toward Seminole, on the west coast of Florida, to see my Grandpa Stricker. He’s 92 and doing great! I was so happy to get to see him, since I was woefully overdue for a visit.

I was happy to help Mom and Dad with the driving. Along the way, we stopped for lunch in Port Charlotte, Florida, to visit with our dear friends Rick and Kyle Watts. Rick and Kyle were Mom and Dad’s neighbors in Virginia Beach before I came along, and we’ve kept in touch all these years. They are currently taking care of Kyle’s mom, and Kyle herself has been keeping a close eye on Rick. He got a new heart via transplant in February, and overall, he’s doing great! It was so nice to see them – It had been too long.

We got to Grandpa’s in the early evening. We had leftovers from previous meals. Mom and I both showered, and turned in early. I got almost 12 hours of sleep!

Before Mom and I went to bed, she noticed this amazing male angina bird outside the window. Unlike other birds, they don’t produce oil to help dry their wings. So, when they get wet, they perch in a tree and spread their wings to help them dry out. We stood at the windows and watched this guy for nearly 30 minutes!


Monday, May 21st

We had coffee early, but knew Grandpa wanted to take us to breakfast. There’s an awesome hole-in-the-wall place near his house called Suzie Q’s Diner. Amazing food!!

This was my delicious breakfast – Their special spinach, mushroom, and Swiss omelet. Complete with hash browns and sourdough toast. Mmmmm!

After breakfast, Dad and I cruised around, seeing how much Seminole has changed in the last few years. The old Seminole Mall that we shopped at and the Cinemas 8 we went to in the summers is long gone – Now replaced by the hip and trendy Seminole City Center. There’s everything anybody could want there – Shops, restaurants, a LA Fitness gym, an upscale movie theater, and more. Very impressive.

We had lunch at home, but went out to dinner at the local Applebee’s. After dinner, we came home and vegged. We watched Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, and an episode of Antiques Roadshow before I turned in for the night.


Tuesday, May 22nd

We got up at 4:15 a.m. – My usual!

We were on the road about an hour later, preparing for the long haul drive home. I’m glad I decided to drive back with Mom and Dad. I was able to help out with driving both vehicles. Plus, I spent some quality time with both of them.

We stopped once in every state – Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. It all worked out. It was just a long marathon, 14 hours of driving.

Mom and Dad dropped me off at home around 7:00 p.m. – It was a nice end to a great trip.


I’m sad that my uncle passed away, but I’m grateful for my parents. I’m grateful that they’re both retired and were able to travel when they did. They spent 38 days together in a 940-square foot house – A true test to their 36-year marriage! They were a great team. There’s still more work to be done, but they accomplished quite a long list in the five weeks that they spent together in Miami. A true roller coaster of emotions.

I’m grateful that my work provides such generous PTO. I’m grateful that my colleagues were so understanding, and they appreciate the importance of family. I’m glad that I was able to spend the time off with my family, and seeing many wonderful friends.

Hold your family and friends close. Time is precious. Time is valuable.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #74: The “New Science of Psychedelics”

The New Science of Psychedelics

Image Credit: NPR

Many of you know that I enjoy listening to podcasts. One that I listen to regularly is NPR’s Fresh Air podcast.

This week, Terry Gross interviewed Michael Pollan, a world-renowned author. His books have typically focused on food and agriculture.

However, his new book, titled How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, discusses the history of psychedelics, and the “new” uses of them to help treat anxiety, depression, and helping cancer patients face their mortality.

There have been two phases of clinical trials up until now, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just approved Phase III, which is “testing of drug on patients to assess efficacy, effectiveness and safety.”

In researching for the book, Pollan himself became a “reluctant psychonaut” with LSD and psilocybin (magic mushroom) to see if these effects were real.

I won’t tell you Pollan’s results, but it’s a really interesting process. I recommend listening to the podcast version of the show, as it’s an extended edition, where Pollan and Gross discuss the history of psychedelics, which is so fascinating to learn. It’s amazing to learn how LSD was first synthesized, and how it has had a turbulent history. Pollan also discusses psilocybin to an extent, which is another interesting part of the story.

For me, I was definitely more than a little skeptical. I’ve never used any drugs or psychedelics in my life. I’ve seen counselors and therapists.

However, Pollan lessened my skepticism a bit during his interview with Gross. One of his interview subjects was a woman who had survived ovarian cancer. She was absolutely terrified of it recurring, and she was paralyzed with fear. She found a guide, a therapist who administered small doses of one of these psychedelics, and helped her along her trip. She discovered this “black mass” underneath her rib cage during the trip, and originally though it was her cancer. The guide helped her understand that it wasn’t cancer, but in reality it was her fear and anxiety. During the trip, she commanded the black mass to leave her body, and it did.

When Pollan’s fact-checker called to verify her account right before the book’s publication, Pollan’s original words were something to the effect of “this black mass was significantly reduced after her experiences with psychedelics.”

The woman corrected the fact-checker over the phone and said, “No, it wasn’t ‘significantly reduced.’ It was extinguished.”

Again, some of my skepticism remains, but as someone who has a diagnosed anxiety disorder (GAD), hearing the woman’s story gave me hope. I truly believe these psychedelics helped her.


For more information, check out the following links:


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #123: Home Improvement, Part 3

Home Improvement - MoneySpace

Image Credit: MoneySpace

Time for another Home Improvement update!

If you’re interested, here are the links to my previous Home Improvement posts:


Master Bedroom

I don’t have a current photo to share, but we finally got rid of the old curtain rods and ugly brown fabric! We have proper blinds now, like the rest of the house. Woohoo!


Living Room

This is an older photo, but we took down the old brackets above the big picture window. We went to Lowe’s and picked out fancy silver curtain rods, and coordinating / complementary curtains. The pattern is so pretty!

Since this photo was taken, Al bought two more panels so we close the curtains if we want to.


Lady Lounge

Nearly complete!!

I took this photo on April 12th.

Al’s dad was delivering the custom doll cabinet and wardrobe, so I needed to clear the space!

Delivery day: April 14th. It’s so beautiful!

On the left, Stephanie is the American Girl doll I’ve had since I was nine years old. She’s 20 now! And Molly was my dream doll. I bought her in 2013.

All six dolls! Left to right: Stephanie (American Girl of Today), Molly (Historical, 1944), Kit (Historical, 1934), Autumn (American Girl of Today), Chrissa (Girl of the Year, 2009), and Z (Contemporary Character, 2017).

The double-sided shoe rack still has room!

One Saturday, I was feeling super stressed and anxious about a lot of things. I went into my Lady Lounge, picked a different outfit for each doll, and re-dressed them. When I was done, I felt so much calmer and relaxed.

Molly is wearing the American Girl of Today Play Outfit from 1998. Kit is wearing the Beachside Outfit, first released in 2003.

Stephanie is wearing one of my all-time favorites, the Earth Day Outfit, which was released in 1996.

Autumn is wearing the Birthday Outfit from 1998. Chrissa is sporting the Picnic Outfit from 1998. Z is wearing one of her own outfits, Z’s Sightseeing Outfit from 2017.


Have you made any home improvements recently? I’d love to hear about it!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #72: Books That Every Reader Needs To Read

Books Everyone Should Read - Imgur

This is a consensus cloud of Books Everyone Should Read. Image Credit: Imgur

Thrice Read! You ladies are on a roll!

Here’s the link to their post:


So, without further ado, here’s my list!

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

  • I’ve expressed multiple times how much I love this book. I re-read it every year. It’s amazing sometimes how you fall in love with assigned reading!

To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee

  • This was another assigned reading book. It was incredibly powerful for me. I don’t re-read it every year, but I have read it multiple times.

The Notebook, Nicholas Sparks

  • Aside from the movie (2004) being excellent, the book is one of my all-time favorites from Sparks. It’s a classic romance, in my opinion.

The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank

  • Another assigned reading book that has stuck with me. Learning Anne’s story was pivotal, as I have Jewish relatives and ancestry. Plus, I’ve been fascinated by anything related to World War II for as long as I can remember.

The Giver, Lois Lowry

  • Lowry is one of my favorite authors. This book initially scared me, and gave me nightmares, so it was left unfinished for years. I think I finally got through it for the first time in college. It’s a powerful book. Plus, the movie adaptation (2014) is decent, too.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling

  • I don’t think I will ever not mention Harry Potter. Although I was a late bloomer in terms of reading the series, once I started, I was absolutely hooked. Rowling is a literal wizard!

The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins

  • I dove right in after it was published. This started the big dystopian kick for me. This book, and series, are ones that I will always keep on my bookshelf.

The Help, Kathryn Stockett

  • I love historical fiction, especially set in the 20th century. I devoured it within a few days, and then my mom read it. The movie (2011) is a great watch, too. Mom and I saw it together.

The Glass Castle, Jeanette Walls

  • I can’t remember who recommended Walls’ memoir, but I’m so glad they did. I could not put this book down, although I probably should have been studying at the time. Walls is an amazing writer and storytelling, and her family’s adventures are something to behold. This, and her other books, will always be on my shelves.

Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

  • This was another assigned reading book, for one of our first presentations in Mr. Degnan’s ninth-grade English class. Originally, I hated the book. But, years later, I re-read it, and now I love it.

Night, Elie Wiesel

  • My school district focused on World War II and the Holocaust in middle school. We did a huge unit on the Holocaust, and this book was a big part of it. However, this is one of those books that I’ve only read once, since it absolutely haunted me.

The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton

  • I don’t remember when I first read this book, but it’s always stuck with me. I found myself re-reading it several years ago, when I was going on job interviews right out of college. It’s one of those pivotal books that has so many lessons wrapped up in a good story. Plus, the movie adaptation (1983) is excellent – One of the best adaptations I’ve ever seen.

The Awakening, Kate Chopin

  • I agree with Thrice Read on this one. You either love it or hate it. I loved it from the first read.

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

  • Although fictional, Steinbeck perfectly captures the essence of despair as a family leaves Oklahoma to escape the Dust Bowl. But, life isn’t as rosy as they thought once they arrive in California. It’s a classic book about such a tumultuous time in American history.

The Polar Express, Chris Van Allsburg

  • I’m going to recommend Allsburg’s books as a whole (He’s written many, including Jumanji and Zathura), but The Polar Express was a childhood staple. My parents had the hardcover book, the cassette tape, and the bell. We also went to see the movie (2004) as a family. It will always hold a special place in my heart.

This was such a fun post! So much nostalgia!

What’s a book you believe ever reader should read at some point?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂