Getting Personal #214: July Goals

Welcome back!


Here are my goals for the month of July:

  1. Participate in Camp NaNoWriMo, July 2020.
  2. Publish my updated TBR post.
  3. Re-organize the filing system.
  4. Finish cleaning out the cabinet above the oven.
  5. Finish de-cluttering the dining room buffet.
  6. Begin the binder of university newspaper articles for preservation.
  7. Send at least five cards, letters, and care packages.
  8. Continue preparations for P.E.O. Virginia State 2022 Convention.

What about you? Do you have any goals for the month of July?

Let me know in the comments!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #213: June Goals Recap

Image Credit: jenny collier blog

Welcome back!

Here’s the link to my June Goals post: Getting Personal #211: June Goals


Here were my goals for the month of June:

  1. Give blood. — Accomplished!
  2. Finish the second draft of my novel. — Did not accomplish.
  3. Send the second draft of the novel to my readers for additional feedback. — Did not accomplish.
  4. Clean out and organize the linen closet. — Accomplished!
  5. Send the box of consignment items to Darby. — Accomplished!
  6. Begin the binder of university newspaper articles for preservation. — Did not accomplish.
  7. Send at least four cards or letters to friends. — Accomplished!
  8. Publish a post about The Ebony and Fire Writing Club at least once a week. — Did not accomplish.
  9. Re-organize the filing system. — Did not accomplish.
  10. Finish cleaning out the cabinet above the oven. — Did not accomplish.
  11. Finish de-cluttering the dining room buffet. — Did not accomplish.
  12. Spend another hour on American Girl items inventory. — Did not accomplish.

This month was weird. I was more deeply affected by the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests than I anticipated.

However, I was able to give blood! Yay! Al made steak the night before the drive, and my iron level was 14.3, one of the highest levels I’ve had. The baseline requirement for women is 12.5. And, my favorite phlebotomist, Spencer, was at the drive and helped me through it. I struggled to fill the bag, which is completely my fault. I forgot to drink enough water. More fluids!

I shipped off the massive Walmart box to Darby. It weighed almost 25 pounds! I paid almost $95 in shipping costs, but Darby offered me $164 in store credit, so I jumped on it. I’ve gotten a lot of pretty things this month, and I found a beautiful shirt with a flower on it and “Mom” on it for my mom.

I did a lot of other things with the house the month. The linen closet is finally clean and organized the way it should be, at least in my mind.

Al and I also went through our closets, filled two garbage bags full of outgrown clothes, and gathered several other things to donate. I dropped everything off at the thrift store on Sunday.

I’ve been slowly making my way through Just Mercy. It’s a good book, but it’s heavy. Look for a review on the Netflix documentary “13th” coming soon.

The Ebony and Fire Writing Club is currently on hiatus. I was disappointed at first, but one of the organizers wanted to take a break to focus on Black Lives Matter and some other priorities for a while.


What about you? Did you have any goals for the month of June?

Come back tomorrow to see my goals for July!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Hot Topic #31: Reforming The Police

First of all, I want to say that the word “defund” in this context is inflammatory and a poor word choice. I do not plan to use that word here when I am communicating my intentions. Feel free to reach out in the comments if you have questions.

John Oliver just covered this for Last Week Tonight: Police

There are so many analogies that I can make. The biggest thing that I’ve learned in my research is that we need to lighten the load of the police. Everything has been dumped on them. No wonder they’re overwhelmed and scared.


The following was written by Father Nathan Monk, posted to his Facebook page earlier this month.

“Imagine this with me for a moment. A guy falls asleep after drinking. He’s in line for Wendy’s because he’s needing some late night greasy food. He’s been out with his friends all night and he’s super tired. He falls asleep. An employee notices and goes inside.

They call 911.

The driver wakes up to a gentle tap on the window. He rolls it down. He’s a little confused and disoriented.

“Hi. My name is Stacy. I’m a social worker and I just wanted to make sure you are alright?”

“I just fell asleep.”

“I understand. This is my colleague, their name is Dominque. They want to go order your meal for you while we talk. What did you want?”

“A number four with a coke.”

“Would you mind pulling your car over there so we can talk? Dominique will be getting that meal for you.”

“Ok, just a second. Am I in trouble?”

“No, we just want to make sure you are safe and that everyone else on the road is safe. Can we do that together?”

“I can do that!”

After a conversation, Stacy and Dominique decide that they are pretty sure they can confirm that the driver has been drinking. They ask a lot of questions about his drinking habits. They determine that he clearly doesn’t have a drinking problem. He just rarely drinks, didn’t know his limits, and made a mistake to get behind the wheel.

After his meal, the driver is feeling much better. The social workers offer to have his car towed to his house and an Uber comes to pick him up.

In this scenario, Rayshard Brooks is still alive. He’s given compassionate and reasonable care. This is what community should look like. This is a way we could re-envision what our response could be as a society. This is what it would look like to defund the police.”


What Father Nathan Monk has imagined is perfectly reasonable. Putting it into practice, however, is a different story.

Do I think it can happen?

With the right people involved, the right resources, and the proper allocation and adjustments of funding, YES.

But, it’s not just reforming the police.

It’s reforming mental health services, social services, education, and the list goes on and on.


A lot more work needs to be done. That’s the one thing that is crystal clear.

So, what can you, as a resident of your community, do?

Get involved with your city leaders. Find out who oversees the police department. Here in Portsmouth, Virginia, the police chief’s boss is our city manager.

Participate, productively, in city council meetings. Demand change. Send emails to those directly responsible.

Most importantly – Vote in the election this November. Research the candidates that will be on your ballot. Exercise your constitutional right. Request a mail-in ballot if you don’t feel comfortable voting in person. This is the one big thing that EVERYONE can do, and it’s one of the easiest things. Look up your State Board of Elections for more information.


Resources

Reforming Police | American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

Police Reform | The New York Times Magazine

The Change We Need: 5 Issues that Should Be Part of Efforts to Reform Policing in Local Communities | Advancement Project

Police Reform | The Marshall Project

How to reform American police, according to experts | Vox

The City that Really Did Abolish the Police | Politico

These New Jersey cities reformed their police – what happened next? | The Guardian

Fixing the Force | PBS FRONTLINE


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #212: Visiting the Dermatologist

Image Credit: Wandervogel Diary

I have the fair skin curse.

Well, not exactly. But having fair skin is difficult sometimes.


My first pre-cancerous mole was removed from my back before I graduated from high school. I’ve experienced multiple sunburns, and at least two of them have blistered. The song lyric “sunshine on my shoulders” was so true for me, and also very painful.

Since that first mole removal, I’ve become more vigilant about caring for my skin, being mindful of my sun exposure, and seeing a dermatologist for an annual skin check.


However, I’m also human.

Many of you who know me, know that I grew up around water. I don’t enjoy the beach as much as I used to, but I didn’t always use sunscreen or reapply like I should have, especially in my college years.

The combination of multiple sunburns over many years, and having fair skin caused multiple moles to pop up. I’ve had four significant moles (maybe more, I lost track for a while) removed and biopsied from my back. I’ve had more stitches in my back than anywhere else on my body.


The good news? My annual skin checks are working. Plus, I’m much more aware of my sun exposure now, and I’m using sunscreen, hats, and protective clothing more frequently.

I went to the dermatologist today, after my original appointment was changed twice due to COVID. The Suffolk office is really close to my house. The doctor was great, although I miss my old nurse practitioner (NP) terribly. She left the practice in mid-2019 to go out on her own.

Everything looked good for this year, with the exception of a two-toned brown/black mole on my upper left arm. The doctor was great and pointed out why he was concerned about it. A team of two ladies came in after the doctor, numbed my skin around it, and removed the mole for biopsy. I’ll be notified of the results in 1-2 weeks, depending upon how long it takes for it to be reviewed by pathology.

If need be, the office will call and schedule me for a follow-up visit. In the past, my NP needed to obtain clear margins, meaning that they needed to go a bit farther out from where the mole was removed to make sure all the pre-cancerous cells are gone. Otherwise, it could develop into actual skin cancer.


Skin Cancer

There are three types of skin cancer: Basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.

Basal cell carcinoma is typically slow-growing, and the most common type of skin cancer. It can develop from actinic keratoses, which are scaly, damaged areas of skin. These can occur in places with lots of sun exposure – Your face, scalp, and the back of your hands.

Squamous cell carcinoma is less common. UV exposure is a contributor, but you’re at higher risk if you have had chronic skin wounds, radiation therapy treatment, or were an organ transplant recipient.

Melanoma begins in the melanocytes, where the skin pigment cells change into cancerous cells. This is the lowest diagnosed type of skin cancer, but it has the highest death rate. Melanoma has been found on the torso / trunk, lower legs, palms, soles of the feet, and the skin under the nails. UV exposure is the biggest factor, but family history is also significant.


Educating Yourself

You can do self-check skin exams on yourself!

Here are the “ABCDEs” to look for:

  • A – Asymmetry (Not the same shape on all sides)
  • B – Border irregularity (Ragged / blurred edges)
  • C – Color (Different shades of tan, brown, or black)
  • D – Diameter (Larger than 1/4 inch)
  • E – Evolving (Changes over time)

Now – Don’t panic if you see something suspicious. It’s important to call your dermatologist to make an appointment, or ask family / friends for recommendations. You can also check your health insurance (U.S.) for in-network providers that are close to you. Some providers also perform virtual visits, or you can text photos to a secure phone number for review.

Also, make an appointment as soon as possible if you experience itching or swelling of a skin lesion, if the lesion changes size or color, or there’s pain in the area.


Not Just Fair Skin

There are many factors with skin cancer. Here are a few things to be aware of regarding higher risks.

  • Hair color – Blond/blonde or red
  • Skin that freckles or sunburns easily
  • Family history of melanoma or non-melanoma skin cancer
  • History of unusual moles
  • History of sunburns, particularly blistering ones
  • History of tanning bed use
  • More than 50 moles, or any that look irregular
  • Organ transplant recipient

It’s a good idea to visit a dermatologist annually if you tick off more than one of these. Most skin exams take 10-20 minutes. For today’s visit, I was out the door in 35 minutes, and that included the biopsy. I have to let the area heal with twice-daily bandage changes and petroleum jelly after the first 24 hours (Tip: Don’t use Neosporin or triple antibiotic ointment!) It’s really simple and virtually painless.


Resources

For more information, check out the links below.

Annual Exams | Skin Cancer Foundation

What to expect during a skin exam | MD Anderson

Skin Cancer | MD Anderson


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Tag #94: “Books as First Dates Tag”

I’ve seen this blind date with a book idea in libraries and bookstores! Image Credit: Hawaii State Public Library

I was tagged by the lovely Jenna at Bookmark Your Thoughts! Thank you!

Here’s the link to Jenna’s post, where I was tagged: Books as First Dates Tag

Jenna discussed her ideal first date. For me, it’s definitely biased, but my first date with Al was absolutely magical. The original plan for September 4, 2010, was to go to dinner at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, and then wait for Chicago to perform as part of the American Music Festival. We had a lovely dinner, and then strolled along the boardwalk. We kissed for the first time that night, and I legitimately saw sparks and fireworks. We talked for hours. I think he took me home at 1:30 a.m. Turns out, he knew he wanted to marry me after that first date, so I think it worked!


The Creator & the Rules

The creators of this tag is Alice @ Love for Words! The rules are …

↠ Link back to the original tag.
↠ Thank and link back to the person who tagged you.
↠ Tag 5+ bloggers.
↠ Have fun!


One. First and Last: A book/series you’ve read and enjoyed, but can’t bring yourself to read again.

Ghettoside by Jill Leovy. It’s a really good book, but I don’t think I’ll ever read it again. Some of the visual images I got will haunt me forever.


Two. With a friend of my friend: A book/series someone recommended to you that turned out to be different from what you had expected

The Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth. Many of you know my feelings about Allegiant, so we’ll leave it at that. I don’t have the books in my collection anymore. I was so disappointed. I haven’t picked up any of Roth’s other books since.


Three. Double date: A book whose sequel you immediately had to read

The Hunger Games! I didn’t have the sequel after finishing it, so I immediately went out and bought both Catching Fire and Mockingjay.


Four. Let’s go to the movies: A book/series that should be adapted to the screen.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware.


Five. Dreamy stargazing: A book that made you go ahhhh and ohhhh

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks.


Six. Fun at the fair: A book full of colours

Mosquitoland by David Arnold.


Seven. Amusement park adventure: A book that was a roller coaster

Smashed by Koren Zalickas.


Eight. Picnic with cherries: A book whose food descriptions made you feel all *heart eyes*

I agree with Jenna, the descriptions in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban always make my mouth water.


Nine. Trip to the museum: A book that taught you valuable stuff

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond.


Tag – You’re It!

Kristian – Life Lessons Around The Dinner Table

Destiny – Howling Libraries


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #107: “Everything Wrong with Rachel Hollis”

This photo is not wrong or a bad thing. This was the photo that made Rachel Hollis go viral in 2015. I remember feeling inspired! Any woman who feels confident enough to rock a bikini is awesome. Image Credit: msrachelhollis.com

A wonderful friend shared this YouTube video earlier this week on her Facebook page: Everything Wrong with Rachel Hollis (Deep-Dive)


I’ll admit, I was originally intrigued by Rachel Hollis. See the bikini photo above. Several authors I follow on social media, and a few bloggers, have lauded her personality and her business, among other things. One author in particular has mentioned Hollis and her self-help books – Girl, Wash Your Face, and Girl, Stop Apologizing – on her podcast multiple times.

I almost bought both books.

But, I’m so glad I didn’t.

Granted, this is only one video that’s an hour and 33 minutes long. However, within minutes of the opening commentary, I felt so relieved that I haven’t bought into Hollis, her books, or her influence.


Even putting the words “everything wrong with rachel hollis” into Google brings up a slew of articles and videos about how harmful Rachel Hollis’s message is!


I almost feel bad for Rachel. The daughter of a Pentecostal preacher, she has said in multiple interviews and videos to her fans about how awful her family life was and how her childhood was so terrible.

She moved to Los Angeles at age 17. She worked as a production assistant at Miramax for a while, and then she started her own party-planning business. When she was 19, she met Dave Hollis, who was a Disney executive. He was eight years older – 27.

The age difference doesn’t matter, but the way they have treated each other does. Listening to the excerpts of videos during this hour and 33 minutes made me cringe. First of all, Dave looks like and sounds like a creep and an asshole. I feel terrible for their four children. I stopped the video multiple times, and reflected on how much of their relationship sounded like the abusive relationship I was in from 2006-2010.

Aside from all the narcissism and veiled abuse, Rachel’s messages to her fans are full of, absolutely dripping, food issues, hypocrisy, and toxic positivity.


To add to it all, Rachel has been a guest speaker at multiple conferences and retreats for multi-level marketing (MLM) companies! There’s excerpts of her speeches at events for LuLaRoe (LLR), BeachBody, Arbonne, and doTERRA. These companies have already ensnared vulnerable women, and Rachel appears to be a role model! She’s a woman, a wife, a mother, a Christian. All valuable, desired, normal things.

So much of her message is hypocrisy and surface-level bullshit. She gives the barest bones of “advice,” but a lot of it is toxic.

The RISE conferences that she and Dave have hosted cost up to $1,795! And that doesn’t include airfare, hotel, and other things.

Hard pass.

In addition, she doesn’t realize when she’s causing harm. Actually, she likely doesn’t care when she’s doing it. And that’s the worst thing.

After getting just one negative / critical book review on one of her fiction books, she hasn’t read or looked at any other reviews of her books. Not one.

And, get this, her fiction books – Party Girl (2014), Sweet Girl (2015), and Smart Girl (2016) – have been lauded and praised. They’re much better than the self-help ones, from what I’ve heard.

She immediately blocks people who even breathe a word or shadow of negativity or criticism. She ignores it all. And that’s so sad.

I immediately picked up on the passive-aggressive stance. It has to be exhausting to be that way ALL THE FUCKING TIME.


So, I wasn’t surprised when I saw the news yesterday that she and Dave are headed toward divorce. I should be thrilled for her. But, all I could think about was her having to deal with such a toxic relationship for the last 18+ years. I was relieved for their kids, but only briefly. I think all four will need major therapy.

I feel sorry for Rachel Hollis. But, at the same time. I’m really glad I didn’t buy into her influence. I’m just sad for the countless wives, moms, military spouses, and those who have joined MLMs who have been swept up under her spell.

I hope, for her sake, that Rachel Hollis will be able to raise her children to be better than her and her soon-to-be ex-husband.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #89: “The Less People Know About Us: A Mystery of Betrayal, Family Secrets, and Stolen Identity”

When I did a recent Tag post, I picked this book as “An intimidating book on your TBR.”

I wrote: “The Less People Know About Us: A Mystery of Betrayal, Family Secrets, and Stolen Identity by Axton Betz-Hamilton. I know the backstory behind this book, Betz-Hamilton’s memoir, from the Criminal podcast. (Make sure you listen to Episode 51 first, then Episode 125). I want it to be as amazing as I think it is, based on the podcast episodes that were so masterfully produced.”


As soon as I heard about Betz-Hamilton’s book on Episode 125 of the Criminal podcast, I added it to my wish list. I was so thrilled when I opened it as part of my Christmas gift from Al at the end of 2019.

It took me nearly six months to get to it, but I knew I was avoiding it. I had so many high hopes for this book, and I did not want to be disappointed.

Thankfully, this was not disappointing.


It’s hard to talk about this book without giving away certain things. But, I will say that I hope Betz-Hamilton writes more books. She did an incredible job with this. It’s such a personal story, and she truly turned it into action. She has done incredible work with helping identity theft victims for many years, while simultaneously trying to solve the mystery of identity theft in her own family.

If you’ve wanted to learn about identity theft, and its interesting history, this is a great book to read. Betz-Hamilton started her investigation with hardly any resources, and little law enforcement involvement. Times have certainly changed, and she helped educate many people along the way. Without her work, I don’t think identity theft would be as widely known or investigated now.

I related to this book in a few ways. Axton and I were both only children. I struggled with my relationship with my mom, especially as I became a teenager. But, I realize how good I had it. Axton lived in a version of hell under her mother’s roof until she went to college. I recognized so many signs of abuse, sadly.


The chapters were the perfect length. I flew through multiple chapters every night, and struggled with putting the book down.

It was so interesting to read about her life. This book spanned from before she was born up through the early 2010s. I really enjoyed the personal anecdotes, mixed in with academia and identity theft history. I’ve found myself searching for presentations she’s given. I’m hoping she’ll offer a course on identity theft. I want to learn more from her.

This is currently my favorite book of 2020. I’m already planning to re-read it next year.

5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #211: June Goals

Image Credit: Fueled By Carrots

Welcome back!


Here are my goals for the month of June:

  1. Give blood.
  2. Finish the second draft of my novel.
  3. Send the second draft of the novel to my readers for additional feedback.
  4. Clean out and organize the linen closet.
  5. Send the box of consignment items to Darby.
  6. Begin the binder of university newspaper articles for preservation.
  7. Send at least four cards or letters to friends.
  8. Publish a post about The Ebony and Fire Writing Club at least once a week.
  9. Re-organize the filing system.
  10. Finish cleaning out the cabinet above the oven.
  11. Finish de-cluttering the dining room buffet.
  12. Spend another hour on American Girl items inventory.

What about you? Do you have any goals for the month of June?

Let me know in the comments!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #210: May Goals Recap

Image Credit: pinterest.com

Welcome back!


Here’s the link to my May Goals post: Getting Personal #206: May Goals

Here were my goals for the month of May:

  1. Re-organize the filing system. — Did not accomplish.
  2. Clean out the cabinet above the oven. — Semi-Achieved.
  3. Start a new writing prompt series. — Semi-Achieved.
  4. Spring clean my closet. — Accomplished!
  5. Publish at least one Book Review. — Accomplished!
  6. De-clutter the dining room buffet. — Accomplished!
  7. Spend at least one hour on American Girl items inventory. — Accomplished!
  8. Start re-organizing the garage. — Accomplished!

I made a lot of progress this month. I’m really pleased with the number of posts I published here!

I threw out all the expired products in the cabinet above the oven, and made a list of needed replacements. The job isn’t finished, but I’m happy with the progress.

I learned that my favorite consignor, Darby, was going to be accepting new consignment boxes as early as June 1st, so I rushed to sign up for a box. I’m mailing it to her new house in Washington State next week. I had a lot of fun going through everything in my closet, and I nearly filled the huge box from Walmart that our new Blu-ray player came in. Plus, everything is now organized for the summer!

We made a ton of progress on our garage. I’m so happy with it. Everything has a place. We filled our trashcan. And we can walk around freely without tripping. Al also was able to move the refrigerator from the detached garage out back to the attached garage, so we can have drinks out there and some overflow space for freezer items. We also worked together to clean and sanitize it.

I published THREE Book Reviews! Yippee! I’ve finally gotten back in the habit of reading between 15-45 minutes every night before bed.

I also embarked on a new Writing Adventure with joining the Ebony and Fire Writing Club. Stay tuned for more posts every week!


What about you? Did you have any goals for the month of May?

Come back tomorrow to see my goals for June!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Adventures #6: The Ebony And Fire Writing Club – What Projects Are You Working On?

Welcome back!

Buckle up, friends. Expect a post about The Ebony and Fire Writing Club coming to you every week for the foreseeable future!

I’m so thrilled with the reaction and support that I received earlier this week when I announced that I was joining the club in my Writing Adventures #5 post. If you’re interested, contact Tiana or Phoenix!


Here’s the link to Tiana’s newest post: The Ebony and Fire Writing Club: What Projects are you Working on?

Here’s the link to Phoenix’s newest post: From The Ebony and Fire Writing Club: Tell Us What You’re Working On!

Also, here’s the link to the main club page: The Ebony and Fire Writing Club


Here’s my details!

My Current Writing Project

I’m currently editing my draft of “Experiences From Camp.” This is the novel that I started during my first-ever NaNoWriMo in November 2012. It took 6 1/2 years, but I finished the first draft on March 30, 2019. I’ve sent it to several people to read and critique since then, and I’ve received some really good feedback.

For Camp NaNoWriMo April 2020, I printed out the first draft, threw it in a binder, and went to town with a blue pen and hot pink Post-It notes. Now, coupled with the reader feedback I’ve received so far, I’m translating it into a second draft on the computer. Once the second draft is done, I’ll send it back to my readers. I have set a deadline of sending the second draft to my readers no later than June 30, 2020.

Writing Advice

You don’t have to write a novel! You may enjoy writing poetry, fan fiction, blog posts, short stories, or free verse. It doesn’t have to end up as a book or something published. As long as you’re writing, that’s amazing! You have a gift. And, since you’re on WordPress, you’re creating!

I recently wrote a short story for a contest, and I had so much fun! It was a great way to stretch myself and actually submit something.


What are you working on?

If you feel comfortable, tell me what you’re working on in the comments! I’ve always enjoyed supporting others and being a cheerleader.


Stay tuned for another Writing Adventures post, coming soon!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂