Commentary #117: “A Free In-School Grocery Store At An Atlanta School Is Tackling Child Hunger”

Image Credit: Jasmine Crowe, featured in NPR story.

I love this idea! Way to go, NPR!

A Free In-School Grocery Store At An Atlanta School Is Tackling Child Hunger

Jasmine Crowe is one amazing woman. She started feeding people out of her apartment in 2013, every weekend for three years. That alone is amazing.

But then she went further, and truly above and beyond.

Check out the information below. Her company, Goodr, is incredible. Now that she’s partnered with rapper Gunna, the students at Ronald McNair Middle School have access to amazing resources. What struck me the most was that now, the kids at school can bring home dinner or other supplies, no questions asked. If the adults are working when school lets out, these kids can bring home food for their families. To me, that’s a huge weight lifted!


Resources

Goodr

Everybody Eats

Jasmine Crowe: What Can We Do To Tackle Food Waste and Hunger? | TED Radio Hour (September 3, 2021)

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #259: My Skin & Makeup Routines (Part 7)

From Summer’s Concoctions!

Welcome back! It’s been almost two years since I did one of these posts. I have some awesome new products to share and rave about!

Here are the links to my other posts:


Skin

Bath and Body Works – I love the Beautiful Day scent! I found this scent through a beautiful gift basket that was given to me for my wedding nearly six years ago (Where did the time go?!). I’ve bought it ever since.

Summer’s Concoctions! – This is the newest small business I learned about through social media. I love Summer and her determination to grow her business. She’s a former multi-level marketing consultant / independent contractor, but decided to get out and start her own business. I’m so proud of her! I joined her own new Facebook group after seeing her posts in a great group called your MLM is not a small business, Karen. I immediately placed an order with her. I cannot rave about her products enough. I’ve bought her Body Butter and Body Scrub so far, and I can’t wait to buy more. Her products are handmade, affordable, and really fast shipping! They smell amazing, too!! I’m borderline obsessed with the Orange Ginger! And she has a long, long list of scents to choose from – New colors, too. I paid $31 total for the six two-ounce (2 oz.) jars and shipping. It got to me in less than a week from Indiana to Virginia. She is super responsive to messages. She’s currently operating through Facebook only, but I’ll keep you posted if she has other business updates. She just posted a customer’s order of Christmas-scented hand sanitizers, so you better believe I’m jumping on that quick!

Clean & Clear – I’m using up my existing products now. I plan to switch to CeraVe soon.

This deodorant has changed my world. I think I found it at CVS or Walgreens a while ago.


Hair

Herbal Essences – I’m currently using Hello Hydration, the large bottles from BJs. Once that’s used up, I have new bottles of Moroccan My Shine ready. I found it through Harris Teeter.


Makeup

Eyeliner – Illamasqua felt tip liquid liner. I found this unopened sample from the eBay store Needle in a Haystack Treasures. Please check out Cynthia’s store! I’ve found a lot of great things from her in the last few years.

Great Lash Clear Mascara – This has been a great alternative to black/brown mascara.


What about you?

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

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

Let me know about any awesome small businesses that you support, too!


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 🙂

Getting Personal #235: Part of History (January 20, 2021)

Image Credit: CNBC.com

Today has been a momentous day for me. See below. This is what I posted on Facebook this morning. I’m still in awe, and still celebrating.

I hope others in my life will be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine soon!

Cheers, friends!


January 20, 2021

How am I feeling? Grateful, humbled, thankful.

I received my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine this morning at Sentara Obici Hospital.

The staff at Obici were fabulous. Everything went smoothly. The first dose felt exactly like the flu shot. Aside from a slightly sore arm, I’m not feeling any side effects.

After I got back to my car, I prayed. I thanked God for this opportunity. My 95-year-old Grandpa got his first dose at the Portsmouth Naval Medical Center yesterday.

Today is also Inauguration Day. The U.S. will have a new President, and the first-ever woman Vice President will be sworn in. I’m grateful, humbled, and thankful.

Now, it’s back to work (from home), but I feel better and safer today than I have in a long, long time.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #215: Visiting the Dermatologist – Update!

I have a happy update to report!

Thanks to Caz for checking on me, multiple times!

My recent mole biopsy was not cancerous. It was labeled as an “atypical mole.” This is on the low end of the spectrum for pathology and dermatology. I do not have to come back for another exam in 2020 unless the area becomes pigmented. If that happens, then they will need to get what are called clear margins, which can be significant. This is what happened at least once with a mole on my back.

I’m so grateful to the staff at my dermatology practice!

Thanks to everyone for reading my earlier post, commenting on it, and offering support. This is one of the many reasons why I adore the WordPress community.

Stay safe!


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 🙂

Getting Personal #187: My Skin & Makeup Routines (Part 6)

Image Credit: Pinterest

It’s been well over a year since I published a skin and makeup routine post!!

Here are the links to my other posts:


Skin

I decided a few months ago to switch back to LUSH products, and Bath & Body Works. I finally decided I wasn’t happy with the cost of the Rodan + Fields products, among other things. More to come on that with a different blog post, very soon.

  • Ocean Salt (face and body scrub)
  • Angels on Bare Skin (face and body cleanser)
  • Magic Crystals (shower scrub)
  • Eucalyptus Spearmint (body wash and foam bath)
  • Eau Roma Water (toner)
  • Imperialis (moisturizer)
  • D’Fluff (shaving soap)

Hair

  • I Love Juicy (shampoo)
  • American Cream (conditioner)

Makeup

I threw out all my old products, including everything from Mary Kay and Savvy Minerals by Young Living.

I’m happy with my LUSH and drugstore products at this point. At the moment, I only use liquid eyeliner and mascara. However, I plan to use a Target gift card on some new blush and a few eyeshadow palettes soon.


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 🙂

Commentary #89: “He’s a disabled Gulf War veteran with a new purpose: Save birds nearly wiped out by pesticides”

Injured veteran finds purpose

Vallieres shows an owl to a veteran during a demonstration at the New Hampshire Veterans Home. Found on CNN.

Around the middle of April, I stumbled upon a fascinating headline whilst browsing CNN.com, as I do nearly every day:


Robert Vallieres served our country. He came home from the Gulf War broken, and nearly died. He’s battled a traumatic brain injury (TBI), chemical exposure, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), among other things.

However, he’s channeled his recovery into volunteering with the New Hampshire Audubon Society.

He’s helping to track and rehabilitate peregrine falcons and bald eagles.


What started it all? His son, who was three at the time. He asked his dad what type of bird he saw. Vallieres bought a bird identification book, binoculars, and they started learning together near their home in Concord, New Hampshire.

In the newspaper, he saw an ad for a birding trip in the state’s White Mountains. He signed up. What stunned him was when a falcon grabbed a bird in mid-air. And it helped him appreciate and enjoy the outdoors – Using all your senses.

Unable to work, the New Hampshire Audubon Society was looking for volunteers to count and track peregrine falcons and bald eagles. Both were nearly wiped off the map due to the pesticide DDT, now banned, which killed unhatched chicks in the 1960s.

The New Hampshire Audubon Society was thrilled to have Robert come on boarding. With his military training, a lot of the same skills applied to counting and tracking these birds.

“Finding rhythm or purpose in life besides myself,” says Vallieres, “Not to get stuck on myself, to have an outlet and be semi-physically fit.”


In addition to volunteering, Robert built a nesting box for kestrel falcons in his yard. It worked. He now has breeding pairs.

He also works to rehabilitate birds for Wings of Dawn, a local wildlife hospital.

He also takes birds to the New Hampshire Veterans Home monthly. The home was so impressed with Robert that they applied for and received a grant to get dozens of binoculars for residents to observe the birds on the property. They also purchased more bird feeders so the less-mobile residents can experience the visitors.

He still struggles with migraines and painful scar tissue. Seeing birds take flight, however, helps him lift his own wings.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth

Commentary #82: “How Iceland Got Teens to Say No to Drugs”

The Atlantic

Image Credit: The Atlantic

I saw this article on Facebook recently. Thanks to Brittany A. for sharing it.

Here’s the link to The Atlantic’s article, published January 19, 2017:


What were you doing in 1997?

According to a local psychologist, Gudberg Jónsson, back then most of Iceland’s teens were drinking or drunk. All the time. It felt unsafe.

Fast-forward 20 years. There aren’t teens wandering the park, nearly passed out drunk. There aren’t many wandering teens at all.

Why?

They’re involved in after-school classes, art club, dance, music, or with their families.


Iceland boasts incredibly low percentages of teens drinking, using cannabis, or smoking cigarettes.

Here are the numbers. This was a survey of 15-year-old and 16-year-olds, reporting these activities for the previous month.

Drunk, 1998: 42 percent
Drunk, 2016: 5 percent

Ever used cannabis, 1998: 17 percent
Ever used cannabis, 2016: 7 percent

Smoked cigarettes every day, 1998: 23 percent
Smoked cigarettes every day, 2016: 3 percent

It’s radical, and exciting. But, there’s a method behind it. And if adopted by other countries, it could have a revolutionary change. However, it’s a big if.


In 1992, Project Self-Discovery was formed, offering teenagers “natural-high alternatives to drugs and crime.”

Instead of a treatment-based approach or program, the idea was to allow the kids to learn anything they wanted, including art, music, dance, martial arts. By having the kids learn a variety of things and skills, their brain chemistry was altered, and give them what they needed to cope better with life. Other ways to combat depression, anxiety, numb feelings, etc. Life-skills training was also incorporated.

Research and studies in the early 1990s showed a series of factors that played into Icelandic teens not getting involved with alcohol and drugs: Participating in organized activities three to four times per week, especially sports; total time spent with parents during the week; feeling cared about at school; and not being outdoors in the late evenings.

Youth in Iceland began gradually, before being introduced nationally. Correspondingly, laws were changed. You had to be at least 18 to buy tobacco, and 20 to buy alcohol. Tobacco and alcohol advertising was banned. In addition, another law, still in effect today, prohibits children aged between 13 and 16 from being outside after 10 p.m. in winter and midnight in summer.

Another key provision was involving schools and parents. State funding was increased for sports, dance, art, music, and other clubs. Low-income families received help or assistance to take part in these extracurricular activities.

“Protective factors have gone up, risk factors down, and substance use has gone down—and more consistently in Iceland than in any other European country.”

Youth in Europe started in 2006. The questionnaires – Sent out to many European countries, South Korea, Nairobi, and Guinea-Bissau – shows “the same protective and risk factors identified in Iceland apply everywhere.”

However, no other country has made changes on the scale seen in Iceland. Sweden has called the laws to keep children indoors in the evenings “the child curfew.”

There are cities that have reported successes, being a part of Youth in Europe. Teen suicide rates are dropping in Bucharest, Romania. Between 2014 and 2015, the number of children committing crimes dropped by a third in another city.

“O’Toole fully endorses the Icelandic focus on parents, school and the community all coming together to help support kids, and on parents or carers being engaged in young people’s lives. Improving support for kids could help in so many ways, he stresses. Even when it comes just to alcohol and smoking, there is plenty of data to show that the older a child is when they have their first drink or cigarette, the healthier they will be over the course of their life.”

Would something like this work in the U.S.?

Not a generic model, nothing exactly like Iceland, but something specifically tailored to individual cities, maybe even individual communities. By working with communities to identify the biggest issues and the biggest needs, maybe adopting facets of the Iceland program may help teenagers, and others, in the U.S.


My two cents: While I do drink alcohol now, I’ve never smoked. I was never tempted by alcohol as a teenager. Not at home with my parents, anyway.

I was involved with music and sports from a very young age – Piano, gymnastics, soccer, then the viola, and softball. My church was another huge part of my life. If I wasn’t in school, at music lessons, or at sports practice, I was likely at church.

Also, I know my parents played a huge role in my life. Being an only child, I know I’m a bit biased. But, we had dinner at the table almost every night. We didn’t eat out a lot. The Internet was new, and no one had a smartphone. We had a computer, but there were strict limits, and more educational games than Web surfing. They were fully present in my life. I may have been sheltered and protected, but it gave me so many benefits.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

 

 

 

Commentary #81: “How One Woman Is Teaching Homeless & Foster Care Children To Dream”

Precious Dreams Foundation

Image Credit: Sam Dahman

A dear friend shared this article on Facebook on November 30th, and I felt compelled to write about it.


Who knew that decorating an ordinary, simple pillowcase could make such an impact?

Nicole Russell, together with volunteers, provides comfort items that help children in transition to self-comfort.

What makes you happy?

What images can help you dream?

Things that many of us take for granted – Warm pajamas, stuffed animals, receiving blankets, books, and journals – This foundation helps provide it!

This is awesome!


If you’re interested in learning more, please see the resources below:


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂