Adventure Time: Portsmouth, VA Edition (2022 P.E.O. Virginia State Convention)

I’ve posted about P.E.O. and Virginia State Convention before, but this was a whole new adventure! In November 2019, I was asked to be a co-chair for the 2022 Virginia State Convention. I gave it some thought, but quickly said yes because the convention was going to be held in Portsmouth! Perfect!

We held all our planning meetings over Zoom because of COVID-19. That was a feat in and of itself!

Friday, May 20th

Friday was a mix of activity and lulls! There was a flurry of set-up. Our fabulous Convention Committee got to work. Rebecca and I helped set up different areas, and answered questions.

We went to lunch at Olde Towne Public House with the Convention Committee and the Virginia State Board. Yum!

I walked more than 18,000 steps!

After Projects Night, the Franc 7’s (P.E.O. sisters under 40) gathered around the fire pit outside the hotel. We had a wonderful time!

Rebecca and I shared a room on the 15th floor of the Renaissance Hotel!
View of the Elizabeth River from our room.
View from the window near the elevators. Downtown Norfolk is in the background.
This is the logo that Al designed for Sue. This was before Projects Night started on Friday evening. We listened to videos of project recipients, and each one was awesome!

Saturday, May 21st

Saturday was the big day. Most of the Convention business was conducted. I walked more than 11,000 steps!

We celebrated our Golden Girls (Sisters who have been in P.E.O. for 50 years) with a delicious lunch.
Sue’s theme was based around a lighthouse. My parents borrowed this lighthouse from our church, and the lighthouse bench was from my parents’ house!
Rebecca and Kevin.
Al and me!
Our table at dinner. The long tables were for the Virginia Handbell Consort. Their performance was amazing!
Bells and flute!
Rebecca, Sue, and me.
The lighthouse centerpieces were painted by different chapters in Virginia.

Sunday, May 22nd

Sunday was the final business session, clean up, and leave! Overall, it was a big success. S

o many people thanked Rebecca and I. It was wonderful to be appreciated and recognized for our work. We couldn’t have done it all without our Hostess Chapters (F/Hampton, G/Alexandria, L/Norfolk, Q/Norfolk, and X/Virginia Beach) and the members of the Convention Committee.


It was an incredible Convention. I’m happy that I’ve been able to be on both sides of the coin now! I’ve been a delegate multiple times, and now I’ve been able to help plan and make a Convention come to life. It was such a cool experience!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #99: “Makena: See Me, Hear Me, Know Me” (World By Us)

After reading Evette’s book, I quickly moved to Makena’s book in the World By Us collection from American Girl.

Makena loves fashion, and posts her #OOTD (outfit of the day). I love how expressive she is!

Similar to Evette’s story, racism is a major theme in Makena’s story. Despite Makena’s struggles to come to terms with not one, but two incidents in her young life, I applaud American Girl for addressing both incidents in a thoughtful way. It definitely educated me.

It also encourages open communication between family members, and how talking about your feelings with someone that you can trust is so important.

Reading Makena’s story was another eye-opener for me, as a white woman, to how one phone call or one remark could very easily put someone else’s life at risk in an instant.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #98: “Evette: The River and Me” (World By Us)

I’m always up for new books from American Girl. When they announced the new World By Us line with three books, I was excited. I was able to get the books practically brand-new from a seller in the big American Girl Obsessed BST group that I’m a member of on Facebook.

The first book that I read is Evette’s book. She’s passionate about the environment. The book also addresses the pandemic, social media, and other real-life issues. Racism is one big topic that’s incorporated. I also love the community center that’s featured!

I read through the whole book in one night several months ago. Most American Girl books don’t take me long to read at all, but this one was also beautifully illustrated!

The interesting part about these books, and this line/collection, is that the characters are 13 years old, which is older than the typical target demographic for the company. I personally think this is a great thing, and it shows that American Girl is dedicated to diversity, inclusion, education, and other things.

Given that the target audience is quite a bit younger than myself, I had to put myself in the shoes of a 13-year-old while reading it.

I really appreciated how the author and the diversity team that is recognized in the book did their homework and tried to respectfully and carefully craft a story that was relevant and would potentially resonate with readers, families, and others.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #118: “Mom Opens Store and Uses Proceeds to Pay for People’s Adoptions”

Brittany Berrie opened The Adopted Closet in Davenport, Iowa to help cover the cost of adoption for families. Image Credit: Amanda Williams

This is such a cool story that Good Morning America covered!

Mom opens store and uses proceeds to pay for people’s adoptions (November 11, 2021)


Brittany Berrie finalized the adoption of her 11-year-old daughter, Gracie Lou Susan Johnson, earlier this summer. It was finalized after several years thanks to the generosity of Berrie’s cousin, who insisted on paying for the remaining costs. The average cost of adoption in the Unites States, through a private agency, ranges between $60,000 and $70,000. Costs can vary wildly as well.

Trying to find a way to thank her cousin, Berrie decided to help pay for another family’s adoption. She knew first-hand how expensive the process was. While organizing a garage sale with her mom, she had the idea to use the proceeds to help fund another adoption. Once people knew where the proceeds were going, donations poured in and never stopped.

Overwhelmed with clothes and other items, Berrie knew that they needed a store.

She converted her family’s garage into The Adopted Closet. Family members, including Gracie, keep the store running three days a week.

The proceeds from the garage sale and the store, in a matter of months, have already helped fund one family’s adoption, of two boys, which was finalized on November 6, 2021.

Berrie’s efforts coincide with National Adoption Awareness Month, observed every November. The lawyer for the family whose adoption was just finalized stated that the high costs is very prohibitive for a lot of families, making Berrie’s commitment and efforts even more remarkable.

Berrie is committed to continuing The Adopted Closet, and hopes to expand into a storefront to keep the store open year-round.


I’m super impressed with Berrie and her family. Being foster parents and/or adopting children is a huge act of love. And there are so many in need right here in the U.S. I’ve listed several resources below!


Resources

Fact Sheets | Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI)

National Council for Adoption

National Foster Parent Association (NFPA)

AdoptUSKids

Average Adoption Costs in the United States | Family Equality

Comparing the Cost of Domestic, International and Foster Care Adoption | American Adoptions


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #114: Viewpoints on Health – A Conversation with David Sheff

David Sheff, right, and his son, Nic. Image Credit: The New York Times

I had the opportunity to participate in a live-stream with the James Madison University (JMU) College of Health and Behavioral Studies and Mr. David Sheff, author of Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction and the new book, Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy. This was presented in collaboration with Sentara Healthcare, and I learned about this opportunity as a Sentara employee. It was open to everyone, and was presented through Facebook and YouTube.

The structure of the event was a conversation between one of the JMU staff members and David Sheff. Before it started, the JMU staff members commented that “Sheff will share about his family’s experience with addiction. He will also report on findings from the years he spent investigating the disease of addiction and America’s drug problem.”


With David, his family’s experience with addiction was with his son, Nic. He was plagued with anxiety and depression. He was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder. However, Nic’s first experience with drugs was marijuana at age 11.

Sheff emphasized that parents can’t do it all. They aren’t their child’s social worker, psychologist, counselor, etc. The sooner that parents intervene, the better.

One topic that came up was “tough love,” Sheff and his wife did not go that route with Nic. Sometimes, it’s successful, but a lot of times, it’s not successful.

Family also sometimes adds to the problem.

One of the best things that parents can do is ask for help, whether that be from a counselor, coach, teacher, or doctor. There are a lot of support groups online, too.


What is Addiction?

“Addiction is the only disease that lets our family members hit rock bottom.”

Addiction is a health problem, not a problem of morals. It’s not bad behavior, either.

It’s a brain disease. We don’t want people to get worse.

Sheff said, “I didn’t know rock bottom had a basement.”

Using the term “bottom” is dangerous.

There are alternatives that work.

For healthcare providers – People don’t want to be addicted. We need more people to be trained to recognize the warning signs. And it’s not just a need for healthcare providers. So many others should be trained as well – Coaches, clergy, teachers, counselors, parents, guardians, and more.


How to Help or Get Help

Early warning signs include isolation, sadness, depression.

Don’t talk to your child or children – LISTEN to them.

There’s also a great, significant need for psychological testing in the substance abuse treatment system. For Nic, he had not had any psychological testing in the 10 years that he’d been in treatment, and that was years ago. After he had the proper psychological testing, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and, more importantly, he hasn’t relapsed since then.

In terms of a healthcare system that treats disease, there simply aren’t enough providers.

“Diseases of despair”

There was a study conducted of pediatricians not too long ago. Nearly 70 percent of them couldn’t recognize a drug problem in a child.

In 2020, 80,000 people died from drug overdose.

Sharp increase: Isolation from lockdown. Also, drugs have normally/usually been social gatherings. Because of the isolation, no one was with them to call 911.

Money has been diverted form support programs to help with COVID-19.

Pharmacological: Brain disease, chemical issues.

Opioid addiction: Meds lower cravings.

Methadone and suboxone – These drugs help people function! It’s almost equivalent to cancer drugs.

Replace shame and guilty with knowledge and hope.

Irresponsible prescribing needs to stop. Educating professionals needs to increase. Not leaving people alone.

Medications must be monitored.

Teenagers: Opioids must commonly found / used in home medicine cabinets.

Identify stressors: It takes a village, support for everyone

Mental illnesses often go undiagnosed or not properly diagnosed, sometimes for years or decades.

Societal problems: No money, no food – Those things, and others, lead to violence. Also consider unemployment and abuse.

Be relentless: Make a million phone calls if you have to.

There have been successful Nurse-Family Partnerships, where a nurse is in consistent contact and communication with a family, offering support and medical assistance.

Teenage pregnancy is a significant factor, too.

A team that works together can help: Write resume, job interviews, proper nutrition, staying at a job.

Support includes making appointments, going to counseling sessions.

There needs to be an increase in and acceptance of harm reduction programs, community resources, needle exchanges.

There’s a JMU graduate who works for a needle exchange program in Tacoma, Washington.


I have not yet read either of Sheff’s books, but I plan to. See the links below for more information.


Resources

FRONTLINE | Chasing Heroin (2016) – Exploring what happens when addiction is treated like a public health issue, not a crime.

At George Floyd’s Treatment Center, Recovering Clients See Racism in Addiction Assumptions | FRONTLINE (2021)

Syringe Services Programs (SSPs) FAQs | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Methadone | MedlinePlus

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

What is Addiction? | American Psychiatric Association

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #94: “Courtney: Friendship Superhero”

I wasn’t surprised at all when I powered through Courtney’s second book on Monday night before bed.

This book opens in the last few days of school of the 1985-1986 school year. The Hands Across America event is held, raising money for hunger and homelessness.

Courtney goes to the arcade, and continuing to work on her Crystal Starshooter character and levels of her video game. She meets a new friend, Isaac. He’s an even better video game player. Courtney eventually learns he’s also a talented artist.

As she navigates the waters of family and friendship, Courtney learns that Issac has an illness called HIV. Requests for privacy turn into anger about keeping secrets. Courtney feels like her friendship with Sarah, her best friend, is falling apart.

This book expertly navigated the fears of HIV and AIDS in 1986. I immediately drew parallels between Isaac and Ryan White, a teenager in Indiana who contracted HIV in 1984 through contaminated clotting factor that he received for hemophilia.

Courtney learns several lessons about true friendship along the way, even though she gets entrenched in the fight over Isaac and the local residents wanting to keep him out of school. How awful that these families and children faced such horrible discrimination, just like Ryan White and his family did.

The fun part of the story is when Courtney discovers the first Pleasant Company catalog, and falls in love with Molly McIntire!

I’m not sure if there will be more Courtney books, because American Girl revamped their book line several years ago. They changed the original six-book format to two longer books. This one covers the summer, fall, and winter of 1986.

However, I’m inspired to re-read Ryan White’s autobiography, Ryan White: My Own Story, and learn more about the 1980s. I was born in 1988, so I’ve always been intrigued by events that happened around the time I was born, and things that happened before I started forming core memories.

5 out of 5 stars.


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 🙂

Book Review #82: “Janesville: An American Story”

This was one of the books I picked up through a generous Barnes and Noble gift card from my parents. I’ve always been interested in and fascinated by non-fiction and human-interest stories. Amy Goldstein was one writer I had not heard of that afternoon in August, but something called to me.

As I started reading, I felt an instant connection because of the setting – Wisconsin. Just the cover alone made me think of the snow-covered hills and woods at my cousin Ryan’s house in Hortonville when we visited in the late 1990s.

But this story is more than that. It’s about multiple families and their take on one thing, one monumental event – The GM plant closing in 2008. What follows is the next five years of how this town of industry claws its way back from the brink, and how so many people were affected by what is now known as the Great Recession.

I liked how Goldstein divided the book by year. It doesn’t always work out well this way, but the way she structured it was solid. Keeping up with the cast of characters was a bit challenging, but it was nice to have a list of them at the beginning, before you even start reading.

One of the biggest takeaways of this book is how large the ripple effect is. It not only affects the workers, it affects the unions, their marriages, their relationships, their families, their political focuses, and more. And still, by the end of the book, Janesville has reached 2013. Have things gotten better? It’s hard to say. Goldstein’s on-the-ground reporting, going deep into Janesville and its people, is amazing research. I could tell she really got to know the people in the book, as well as a sense of the whole community.

Goldstein also attempts to balance the light and dark, so to speak. She looks at the GM workers and those struggling with layoffs and disappearing industry. A few pages later, she ties in Mary, the well-to-do head of the local bank, who is fundraising and trying her best to help others, while she is at the top of the heap in terms of wealth. Goldstein also shines a light on Paul Ryan, other political candidates, and Governor Scott Walker.

As complex as this book is, I enjoyed it. I’m glad I read it. I felt a sense of understanding, but not empathy. In 2008, as the Great Recession was beginning, I was starting my sophomore year of college. I know I come from a family of privilege. My parents only had to worry a handful of times when the government shut down and my dad was furloughed.

That was certainly stressful, but not nearly as stressful, heartbreaking, and frustrating as watching your livelihood simply vanish. And trying to keep your house. Keeping your marriage and family together. Watching your teenage kids work one, two, three jobs to help out. Sometimes losing loved ones entirely, whether it was health issues brought on by stress, or not finding a way out other than wanting to end your life.

Website: amygoldsteinwriter.com

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #100: “What Mum Taught Me” – Boundaries

Image Credit: Psych Central

This post originated from a friend’s Facebook post. I found it on Thursday, October 24, 2019. A. saw it and felt compelled to share.

It was originally shared on Facebook by Leslie Gaar, Writer on October 10, 2018.

The photos / screenshots come from Erynn Brook’s Twitter account. I encourage everyone to read it in its entirety.

I read Erynn’s story. And re-read it. And I’ve been coming back to it nearly every day since stumbling upon it on October 24th.


One thing is for sure: Boundaries are hard. Setting boundaries is even harder. But, at 31, I feel much more at peace with myself because of the boundaries I have set for myself. Many of them are unspoken, for me and myself only, but there are others that I make known, loud and clear.

Why? Unlike Erynn’s awesome mom, I was taught to stick it out. To not quit. To not leave. To not ruin anything.

And I’m now realizing how damaging that is.


I understand why, in a way – My parents are of a different generation. Overall, I think they did a good job of raising me. I know, as an only child and born severely premature, they sheltered me and protected me fiercely.

But, I don’t want to raise my future child or children like my parents did. I want to do some things differently.

Like Erynn’s mom, I want my child or children to have choices, to feel like it’s normal to come to Al or me with anything at any time, to not feel like they are bothering us, to express their discomfort openly. And Al and I both agree that if our child or children call or text at any time, asking to come home, we will come immediately, no questions asked.

Two of my family members have this rule with their daughter – Call us at any time, and we will come get you. There won’t be any questions when we pick you up. There may be questions in the morning / after whatever happened, but there won’t be any questions from us at the time we come get you.


What do you think about this? Let me know in the comments.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #185: Happy Birthday, Mom!

Today is my mom’s birthday!

I’m so happy to have been able to celebrate with her. Today was our regularly scheduled blood drive, and she ran it like a champ. Everyone sang to her, and I bought a fun rainbow birthday cake! We had a good time. She was going to take a nap later.

Hoping to take her out to eat sometime tomorrow.

Happy Birthday, Mom! I love you!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂