Commentary #91: “Appalachia has a new story to tell, and it’s not an elegy” (Editorial)

Ridgeview High School Robotics Team

This is the championship Ridgeview High School robotics team from Southwest Virginia. Way to go! Image Credit: Dickenson County Public Schools

This was a fascinating editorial that one of my good friends, Mr. Lin, shared on Facebook a while ago. Mr. Lin used to be a teacher at my local elementary school, but has since created an impressive career in school administration. He has been an assistant principal and a principal in the Roanoke County Schools, Floyd County Schools, and now in Pennsylvania.

Here’s the link to the original post:


On The Roanoke Times’ website, the caption with the photo I used states: “The first team from Ridgeview High School in Dickenson County to win a state championship was its robotic team in 2018. That team went on to the world championship in Detroit, where it placed 9th out of 64 teams. Our editorial at left looks at how J.D. Vance’s ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ perpetuates negative stereotypes of Appalachia. There’s a different story the region ought to tell, and the engineering skills of students in one of the state’s most rural localities ought to be part of that new narrative.”

Every time I read something new about Appalachia, whether it’s an editorial or not, I always learn new things or discover something different. This editorial was no exception.


When I first heard about Hillbilly Elegy on NPR’s Fresh Air, I was immediately intrigued. I kept telling myself I was going to read it, but here we are, in July 2019, and I haven’t read it yet. Maybe that’s a good thing.

I didn’t realize Ron Howard is planning to make a movie about the memoir, either. I admire Howard immensely. However, I’m hesitant to see it, whenever it is released. I don’t appreciate negative stereotypes, whether they’re implied or not.


Maybe my feathers are ruffled because of my own Appalachian “history.” Much of my mom’s extended family hails from West Virginia. I have fond memories of many family reunions in Ripley and Beckley. I loved visiting my great-grandmother, Laura Bethany Powers, whom I am named after. She lived to be 102!

In addition, I started researching Appalachia on my own in high school and throughout college.

This editorial opened my eyes to the progress that has been made and seen in Southwest Virginia. Since it is the Roanoke newspaper, I understand why they focused on their own region. Still, seeing the positive statistics made me happy, and hopeful.


I still plan to read Hillbilly Elegy, eventually. I have another 15 or so books I want to read first.

But, after I read Hillbilly Elegy, I’ll likely look up the other two books that were mentioned in the editorial:

  1. What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia, by Elizabeth Catte
  2. Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy, a collection of essays by scholars and community activists in the region, edited by Anthony Harkins and Meredith McCarroll

I found one other part of the editorial to be striking:

“Given all this talent, technology companies ought to be competing to locate in Appalachia, not acting as if it didn’t even exist. These are the stories we need to be telling the world — that we are a topographically-challenged and economically-challenged part of the country that is populated by smart, hard-working people.”

An interesting thought, and that needs to be explored much further.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #90: “9-year-old boy raises nearly $80K to give bulletproof vests to police K-9s”

I stumbled upon this story on Facebook recently. Way to go, Brady!

Here’s the link to the post from my local news station:


In Ohio, the local news has been following Brady Snakovsky for nearly a year now. At that point, in November 2018, Brady had raised enough money to donate more than 50 vests to K-9s in nine states. That’s incredible!

Picture

Image Credit: Brady’s K-9 Fund

Bulletproof vests for police K-9s can cost more than $1,000. Brady got the idea when he and his mom were watching an episode of “Live PD,” where a K-9 did not have a bulletproof vest. With his mom’s help, Brady started a GoFundMe.

As of June 2, 2019, Brady has raised enough money to donate 85 vests. Currently, there’s a waiting list of 57 officers whose K-9s need the vests.

Now, Brady’s K-9 Fund is officially a non-profit organization.


The most recent dogs to be vested are K9 Mike, K9 Lemm, and K9 Hoss. They all serve with the MTA Police in New York City.

Other dogs have been vested in Ohio, Connecticut, California, and South Carolina.

I think Brady is an awesome kid! I’m so happy he was inspired to help these amazing dogs, his mom was willing to help him get started, and how his message has spread. Way to go, Brady!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #73: “Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone” *Re-Read*

Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone

Image Credit: Amazon

Thank you, J.K. Rowling, for pulling me out of what looked like a long reading slump.

I finished the series for the first time roughly a decade or so ago, after waiting what felt like FOREVER for Deathly Hallows to be available at the library.

Late last year, I decided I wanted to re-read it all. And it did not disappoint!

I was surprisingly nervous when I started reading the first few lines. Having read all the books, and seen every movie adaptation multiple times, I wasn’t sure how this re-read would go. Thankfully, I was worried for nothing.

I was instantly transported to Rowling’s London. I fell in love all over again. Her writing is truly spellbinding. I couldn’t put it down, promising myself one more chapter.

I felt almost the same way as I did when I was first taken by these books. I was a “late bloomer” with the books. While my friends had read and re-read the books years before I started, I was a bit of a fantasy snob. I declared I wasn’t interested in a book about wizards and witches. J.K. Rowling, darling, you proved me wrong.

Nearly 20 years after first falling in love and wanting more of Harry, Ron, Hermione, Hagrid, Professor McGonagall, and Dumbledore (and having to actually wait for the next book to be released!), I’m so happy I decided to re-read this book. The minute I closed the book, I wanted to go downstairs and crack open The Chamber of Secrets.

5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #72: “Columbine” *Re-Read*

I try my hardest to post Book Reviews within 24-48 hours after finishing the book. However, life has been pretty hectic recently. I finished Columbine in mid-April, just after the acknowledgment of it being 20 years since the tragedy. I’m just now posting my review.

I have a special connection with this book. The author, Dave Cullen, came to Longwood in the spring of 2010 as a guest lecturer. I was able to interview him for an article I wrote for the student newspaper, The Rotunda. He graciously signed my copy when I bought it at his lecture. It was strange, reading his message from March 17, 2010. That feels like a lifetime ago!

I’m glad I re-read this book. I remember how I felt after I read it the first time. Part of me wishes I’d re-read it before now, before nine years had passed. However, I still felt similar emotions as I did the first time.

I have to give major props to Cullen on his research and dedication to this book. This is one of the best accounts I’ve read of the events that occurred on April 20, 1999. And Cullen goes deeper than that. He covers the massacre, but also delves into the lives of the shooters, their families, and survivors.

It’s not perfect, but as someone who originally read memoir-style books such as The Journals of Rachel Scott: A Journey of Faith at Columbine High and She Said Yes: The Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall years ago, when the tragedy was still relatively fresh (I was almost 10 when it occurred), I appreciate the time and effort Cullen devoted to this book.

If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it. Cullen makes it clear that he is a journalist first, and it’s evident throughout. His amount of sources is simply incredible. It’s very dense, and tough to read, but it’s an important work. I’m glad Cullen devoted many years to writing this book.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Prompt #236: The ABC Book Challenge (The Letter Z)

The ABC Book Challenge - L

This is it! The last letter of the alphabet for The ABC Book Challenge!

Memorable Books Starting with the Letter “Z”:

47301

Zlata’s Diary: A Child’s Life in Wartime Sarajevo

  • I first read this book in high school. It inspired me to write my Extended Essay for the IB Program in Peace and Conflict Studies, to study the effects of the Bosnian and Kosovo conflicts on children.

Books I’d Love to Read Starting with the Letter “Z”:

18329840

Zeitoun

  • A true story springing from Hurricane Katrina.

12334

Zelda

  • I’ve been fascinated with F. Scott Fitzgerald since high school. With that fascination comes wanting to learn more about his family.

What books have you read, or want to read, that start with the letter Z? Let me know!


Thank you so much for following along with me on this incredible journey! I started it in July 2018, and here we are, roughly nine months later. I’ve really enjoyed writing and researching new books, and remembering the good ones I have read.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #88: “Make Your Own MAGIC and Manifest Your DREAM LIFE”

The quoted words in the title of this blog post comes from a relatively recent episode of the That Smart Hustle podcast by author Kristen Martin. I haven’t read any of her books yet, though I plan to change that sooner rather than later. I discovered her Facebook page, and then stumbled upon to her podcast. I subscribed, went all the way back to Episode 1, and just fell in love.

That Smart Hustle - Soundcloud

Image Credit: Soundcloud

I love her voice, her style, and her podcast format. They’re short, sweet, and simple.

Granted, she does things very differently than I do. But, what she shares in her podcast episodes are always encouraging and inspiring to me.

I’m not “into” or “practice” certain things such as the phases of the moon, crystals, tarot, and so on. I know people who do a combination of things like this, and I’m not arguing against any of it. As a Christian, I pray. However, I really like the idea of manifestation. And, I think I’m already doing it, and didn’t even realize it.

In this episode, Kristen expands upon manifesting, and how she does it in her life. It’s based on the law of attraction. Focus on something to bring it into your reality. There are several ways to accomplish this: Meditation, visualization, or using your conscious and subconsicous to focus on this thing, or goal, or whatever it may be.

Once you’ve pick the thing or goal to manifest, then you have to take action. As an example, if you want to get a new job or a promotion, then you focus on that job or promotion, visualize it, and then clean up your resume, submit the applications, or climb the ladder toward that promotion. It takes effort, and hard work, but it pays off.

For me, I “accidentally” manifested the completion of the first draft of my first novel. I was tired of struggling with the ending of the book, and I decided I just needed to finish it, no matter what it took. When I saved the draft on March 30th, the feelings of elation, pride, and joy I had were remarkable. I practically jumped up and down in my living room. I posted about it on Facebook, and the response and feedback I received was absolutely incredible. I realized how many people were cheering for me, how proud they were, and how many are looking forward to the book when it’s ready to be published. I’m still blown away by it all, and here we are nearly three weeks after I finished it.

Am I manifesting anything new, you may ask?

Yes, I am!

  1. Being debt-free
  2. Completing the first draft of my second novel

These two things are huge in my universe right now. I just took major action on #1 today, and it’s definitely a step in the right direction after a lot of negative thoughts, and a huge emotional breakdown between yesterday and this morning.

I’ve been actively participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this month for #2, and I feel so good with the progress I’ve made thus far. And we’re only 11 days into the month!

As I write this post, I just realized the Monthly Goals posts I make here on the blog are also forms of manifestation. I set those goals, and having them in writing on the first day of every month allows me to take action on them immediately, or work on them throughout that month. And, I’m able to look back on them whenever I want, to remind myself of the goals, and invest more time, energy, or whatever it is to accomplish those goals.

Now, why is “dream life” capitalized in the title?

Well, Kristen says in the podcast that you can use manifestation to help you build your actual dream life. I love this idea. She talks about making a list of everything you dream about that you want in life: What job do you have, what car are you driving, what are you wearing, what house do you live in, what state or country do you live in, and so on.

I will be working on this in my personal journal, and I’m pretty stinking excited about it already. If you’re interested in doing this yourself, think of it as your “vision board,” but those visions are achievable. Making this list, using techniques like this, will help me make those dreams a reality.

All that said, I still pray to God. As a Christian, that’s a given for me every day. That won’t change a bit.

And something special has been happening at my church that I haven’t talked about very much. As a congregation, we have a Breakthrough Prayer we are challenged to pray every day at either 5:17 a.m. or 5:17 p.m. The reason 5:17 is significant is that’s our Bible verse, 2 Corinthians 5:17, for the Next Level Innovations (NLI) process we are embarking upon for the next three years.

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here!

How fitting that our church is New Creation United Methodist Church.

In a way, NLI is another form of manifestation. The three-year process has a series of goals and visualizations, and it takes effort and action from everyone involved to make it successful. I love the mantra: Going from good to GREAT.

I know, for me, since we started this process, I’ve already experienced a few breakthroughs, and I can only imagine there are many more to come.

Here’s the Breakthrough Prayer:

Almighty God, today breakthrough in our lives and in our church. Make us a new creation. Transform us by the power and presence of your Holy Spirit. Show us how to make a difference in our community and the world. Give us boldness to follow where You lead. Amen.


Resources


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #71: “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America” *Re-Read*

Nickel and Dimed

Image Credit: Goodreads

When I initially read this book, it was assigned reading for one of my very first college classes. I can’t remember which one, but this book left a profound impact on me. Slowly, I started reading more from Barbara Ehrenreich. However, this is the book that started it all.

I started college in the fall of 2007, about a year before the financial crisis that began in 2008. I believe I was assigned to read this book at a poignant time. I also believe I’m re-reading this book at another poignant time, at the beginning of 2019.

Going into re-reading this, I realized my copy of the book was updated with a new afterword, published in 2008. However, the overall concept – Studying low-wage jobs and attempting to understand their socioeconomic impacts – is nothing new. That’s part of the reason I was drawn to Matthew Desmond’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.

Ehrenreich embarked on an experiment in 1998 – Trying to see if she, as a single, middle-aged woman, could survive as a waitress, a cleaner (hotel maid and house cleaner), a nursing home aide, and a seller / retail associate for a month, in three different cities. Each chapter explores a different type of job and a different city. She quickly realized the challenges with each one, and each city presented its own obstacles with housing, food, and assistance. Along the way, she met a variety of people working these jobs. A few were fortunate, but many were barely making ends meet. Several were working 2-3 jobs full-time, and still struggling with their incomes and their partner’s / spouse’s income(s) as well.

I won’t spoil anything, but she learns many lessons along the way. She discovers multiple issues with affordable housing, child care costs, fast food, health care, education, and the way these companies treat their employees.

I got a bit lost with the footnotes, statistics, and percentages, and glossed over a few of them toward the end. However, reading the updated afterword was important, and appreciated. This country has a lot to learn, still, in 2019. We need to treat employees, especially those earning the absolute minimum, better.

Overall, I’m glad I took the time to re-read this book. It’s a bit “dated” now, since Ehrenreich’s experiment started and concluded 21 years ago. However, it’s still relevant in many aspects today. And, like her, I’m grateful for everything I’ve had and worked for. This is a valuable book that will stay on my bookshelf forever.

4 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂