Getting Personal #220: Reflections, on My Birthday

Image Credit: lilyandval.com

This is my fifth birthday reflection post! I can’t believe I started this annual tradition in 2016. I’ve enjoyed reading the posts from 20172018, and 2019.

Here we are, 2020! I mentioned in my 2019 post that it had been a roller-coaster ride. Well, 2020 has been one for the books! And it’s only August!


We celebrated having Phineas and Ferb in our lives and our home for the first year in December. They have truly brought so much joy to our lives.

The biggest change toward the end of 2019 for me was changing jobs. I resigned from my analyst position at Riverside on August 13, 2019. That was a significant moment for me. When I was hired in 2012, I thought I would be with Riverside for 10+ years. I saw legacy employees everywhere. I lasted 6 1/2 years, which is now impressive to me, mainly because of the 30-mile-each-way commute I drove every day, five days a week, for 5 1/2 of those years. It got old. But I loved what I did.

An opportunity in Norfolk presented itself in February, and I had my first interview pretty quickly. Months went by, and by the middle of July, I’d figured the team had hired someone else. Lo and behold, I got a call for a second interview at the end of July. I interviewed with the vice president of the department, and I was hopeful, but it was hard to not get excited. I was offered the job a few days after my birthday. I started my role as the Managed Care Contract Analyst for Sentara Healthcare on September 3, 2019.

The first few months, until Christmastime, were difficult. I asked myself several times if I’d made the right choice. I had a couple ugly breakdowns, snot-crying, all of it. But, after the holidays ended, I finally started to feel at peace. I wasn’t the new girl anymore, because a new director came on board before Thanksgiving. I was starting to mesh well with my team, and it was remarkable to notice the differences between the two health systems. As I drove the 14 miles to work in Norfolk, rather than 30+ miles to Newport News, I felt more at ease.

Then, on March 17th, everything changed again. We had our last in-person team meeting, a quick huddle in the afternoon. Because of the virus that we now know as COVID-19, many people in our office were asked to begin working from home, effective immediately.

I set up my personal laptop on one of my parents’ old card tables in my home office, and seethed for the first two weeks. I was miserable. This virus was not only scary, but everything that I enjoyed doing was taken away almost instantaneously – Having date nights with Al at restaurants, movie theaters, hugging my family, traveling, regular meetings for P.E.O. and AAPC, and running the computer and projectors for church services on the third Sunday of every month. Our 20th Anniversary blood drive in April was cancelled because the church was shut down. My extroverted side was scared, sad, and incredibly anxious.

However, as time passed, I pulled myself up out of moping in Al’s old desk chair and started looking at the positives. Al and I were both incredibly fortunate to not only still have our jobs, but that we were both able to work from home. I bought an awesome sit-stand desk on sale, and Al did the same. I bought a computer monitor to mimic my two screens in my cube. Al and I downloaded all the grocery store apps and started ordering online. My anxiety started to ease. I dove into editing the first draft of my first novel for Camp NaNoWriMo in April. I spent a lot more time with Phineas and Ferb. I started getting my home office into shape.

Now, having nearly five months of this “new normal” in the rear-view mirror, I’m happier. I’ve stayed productive at home with work, blogging, my novels, P.E.O., AAPC, and other obligations. We’ve saved a ton of money because of the reduced need for gas, car maintenance, and tolls. Sure, our grocery budget increased, but I think a lot of people did that. Fortunately, and most importantly, everyone in our immediate families has stayed healthy and safe. My 94-year-old Grandpa left Florida, moved in with my parents, and sold his condo within five weeks.

We put a new roof on the house and garage. We’ve started making plans for new siding, gutters, and windows. I accomplished my Camp NaNoWriMo goal for July. I’m primed to finish the second edit of my first novel for my alpha readers by the end of August. Al and I will celebrate 10 years together on September 4th. While we can’t celebrate our five-year wedding anniversary at Galaxy’s Edge in Disney World this fall, I bought the official cookbook, and can’t wait to spend a few days off with Al in November to celebrate.

Cheers to 32!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #110: Fatphobia in the Medical System, and Thin Privilege

I found this on Facebook on July 29, 2020. It was originally shared by Heatherina Lavender on May 25, 2018.

This was utterly shocking to me. I’m ashamed of how shocking it was.

No wonder Americans have issues with eating disorders!


The resounding comment I got when I shared this on my Facebook page/profile was about Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Many of my friends have it, but almost all of them were not properly or appropriately diagnosed for YEARS. And that is completely unacceptable.

I remember learning about PCOS in “Family Life.” I think The Care and Keeping of You, by American Girl, may have covered it? I can’t remember for sure. I also read Girlology multiple times through the library.

Here’s some more information about PCOS:

  • The ovaries produce an abnormal amount of androgens, male sex hormones that women typically have in small amounts.
  • Some women do not have cysts in their ovaries with PCOS, and some women have cysts that do not have a PCOS diagnosis.
  • The most common treatment is medication, but there is currently no cure.
  • Many women with PCOS have insulin resistance.
  • Symptoms: Missed periods, irregular periods, excess body hair, weight gain (especially in the belly region), acne or oily skin, infertility, skin tags, dark or thick patches of skin in certain areas.

I’ve included a list of resources at the end of this post.


I’m not a medical professional, far from it. I’m not here to give medical advice. However – Something I completely agree with in this series of screenshots is this: Unless your child is severely obese, there should be no discussion of weight at their doctor visits, especially not in front of them.

Having worked for two different healthcare systems since 2012, I’ve watched the changes in body mass index (BMI), weight management, diabetes, nutrition, and more. It’s been staggering, and a lot of it has made my head spin. I can’t imagine how it feels for people with chronic pain, autoimmune diseases/disorders, and parents!

Also, the way weight is approached needs to change. A good example is what happened to a family member more than a decade ago, probably 17-18 years ago now. They knew full well they were overweight, and never went to the doctor regularly. Well, this family member ended up with a terrible UTI, and needed antibiotics at a minimum. They went, reluctantly, and the doctor advised bloodwork since they were already there at the office. To no one’s surprise, the bloodwork indicated Type 2 diabetes.

But, here’s the kicker. The doctor didn’t say “I want you to lose weight.”

The doctor said, “I’m giving you a week to improve these numbers. Then we’ll re-evaluate.”

This family member went home, started walking more frequently, and started changing their diet. It’s been a slow process, but the doctor was pleased with their progress in that one week. And the progress continued. Their diabetes is now under control, and has been successfully controlled for the last several years. It’s remarkable what that doctor said. It changed the family member’s life!


I mentioned eating disorders (EDs) earlier. I’ve been educating myself on EDs for quite a while now. I personally have never truly experienced or suffered from (or diagnosed with) anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating, or disordered eating, but I know many people who have. It’s mostly women, but I know men who have struggled as well. It’s called a disorder for a reason. Many of my friends, thankfully, have received help.

One blogger who truly opened my eyes has been BeautyBeyondBones. She posts the most amazing and delectable recipes based on her specific eating plan (Specific Carb Diet – SCD – among others), but she has also been incredibly candid about her ongoing journey with ED. She was in treatment, relapsed, and has been recovering ever since.


The other thing I noticed was “thin privilege.” I had to look it up.

In simple terms, it means that I, among others, have never experienced demeaning comments, unsolicited advice, medical discrimination, paying more money for clothes and airline seats, and other shaming instances because I’m “thin.”

Have I gained weight? Of course. I’ve gained about 35 pounds since I met Al in 2010. But, there are reasons why – I graduated from college and wasn’t walking around campus multiple times a day, every day; I started working a job in front of a computer (and that hasn’t changed since 2011, except for getting a sit-stand desk); and I got older. Studies show that a woman’s metabolism begins to slow down at age 25.

If we looked at my BMI, I’m borderline overweight for my height. But, I don’t let that affect me.

Do I struggle with body image? Yes. A lot of it was ingrained in my head from certain family members since childhood, church members, and my ex-boyfriend who was incredibly vain and wanted me to look good for him at all times. I struggled with how to work out properly for years.

Now, in my early 30s, I finally have a healthier mindset. You are not defined by your weight or image. Children are certainly not defined by that. I have vowed to remove this harmful language from my vocabulary!


Resources


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #106: “The Public Library as a 21st-Century Indoor City Square”

Isn’t this space breathtaking? I could stay here for days. Image Credit: Civic Architects

My cousin Ryan sent me this link recently, and I was immediately intrigued!

Here’s the link: The Public Library as a 21st-Century Indoor City Square


This article was published in March 2019, but it’s a really cool idea. The U.S. should really start paying more attention to what the Europeans are doing!

The premise: Amsterdam-based Civic Architects helped transform a former locomotive shed into a public library and public space.

The skeleton of the locomotive shed was basically preserved. There’s a ton of natural light. A series of movable textile screens are able to be adjusted through a computerized system.

In addition to books, there are small “labs” in the space, visitors can learn new skills and experiment. Meetings are held, exhibitions can be displayed on the large reading tables, and there’s a coffee kiosk. The space can hold up to 1,000 people at one time.


I really like this idea. There are so many abandoned buildings and industrial spaces, and that’s not just in the U.S. If this idea were to be embraced, it would take time and money, but it would also create employment opportunities, engage revitalization efforts, and help the community at large.


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 🙂

Adventure Time: Florida Edition (Round 4 – Family Visit)

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One of the views from the boardwalk at John’s Pass, the entertainment district of Madeira Beach. This is part of the Intracoastal Waterway, which empties into the Gulf of Mexico.

After resigning from my job on August 13th, I was asked to leave the company immediately. Given I had a bit of paid vacation ahead of me before starting my new job on September 3rd, I was toying with the idea of visiting my Grandpa Stricker in Florida. Thanks to the encouragement of Mom, Dad, and Al, I decided to book a flight and spend several days in the sunshine.

I flew down on Tuesday, August 27th. Southwest was great. I changed planes in Baltimore, and landed in Tampa a little earlier than scheduled. I rode the Super Shuttle with several people from the airport to Grandpa’s condo.

After I got settled, I caught up with my Aunt Marny. I hadn’t seen her in person since my wedding in 2015!

For dinner, we had amazing chicken salad from this place called Chicken Salad Chick. It started in Auburn, Alabama. It has 135 locations total, as far west as Texas and Oklahoma, and up through Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, and Ohio. There is one location in Virginia! If you live in the Richmond / Glen Allen areas, you’re in for a treat!

On Wednesday morning, Aunt Marny asked if I wanted to have brunch at the Sweet Sage Cafe and Boutique in North Redington Beach. I didn’t hesitate!

I had their delicious “two’s two’s” item, where I chose French toast, bacon, and yummy eggs. There was sangria, too.

A happy accident happened to me, too. I had been casually searching for a 4ocean bracelet after one of my co-workers at Riverside had bought one. The boutique sold them! I picked the green one, and found out later it’s the “sea turtle” one. Perfect!

One of the many funny signs inside the Sweet Sage Cafe.

The exterior is so colorful and calming.

Love Radar!

Hook, Line, and Drinker.

After brunch, we went to John’s Pass, the entertainment district of Madeira Beach.

Pelicans taking a rest.

A fun tiki bar boat tour.

A beautiful heron.

An old-fashioned taffy pulling machine in action.

On Wednesday night, we went to PJ’s Oyster Bar early for happy hour and seafood!

Aunt Marny and I both enjoyed a Yuengling. We all got something different – Grandpa had his shrimp, Marny got clam strips, and I got the crab cakes, fries, and Caesar salad.

There were Blues Brothers statues everywhere!

I had a really good trip. I’m glad I took the time to visit!

Have you visited Florida?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

 

Commentary #95: “Non-Fiction That Changed My Life”

Non-Fiction Quote

Image Credit: AZ Quotes

I enjoyed Norees’ post so much, I wanted to share it.

Here’s the link to her original post:


The only book on Norees’ list that I have heard of is Quiet.

I’m intrigued by The Autobiography of Malcolm X, by Alex Haley.


Her question was: What are some non-fiction books that had a big impact on you?

Here’s my list, in somewhat chronological order in terms of when I read it, or was assigned to read it.

The Diary of a Young Girl (1947)

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This was one of the first books I was assigned to read about World War II, the persecution of Jewish people during that time, and the Holocaust. I re-read it every couple of years as a reminder.

Night (1958)

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We read this as part of our Holocaust study in eighth grade. Now, I want to read the rest of the trilogy, after I re-read this one.

A Child Called “It” (1995)

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I was probably a bit too young to read this when I did (Middle school, I think), but it left a profound impact on me. I had legitimate nightmares and crying spells for weeks.

The Freedom Writers Diary (1999)

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This is one of those rare instances where I saw the movie adaptation, several times, before reading the book. I first read the book through one of the libraries, whether it was in Chesapeake or Farmville. I now have my own copy. I’m grateful for teachers like Erin Gruwell.

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America (2002)

Nickel and Dimed

This was one of the first books I was assigned when I started at Longwood in the fall of 2007. It left a profound impact on me. I’ve read it several times since then. Ehrenreich is now one of my favorite writers.

In Cold Blood (1965)

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I read this somewhere between high school and college. Capote was an incredible writer.

The Last Lecture (2008)

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I first heard about this book from one of my professors, Jeff Halliday. It’s one of the most moving, powerful books I have ever read. I believe everyone should read this book at some point in their lives. Also, if you haven’t seen Randy Pausch on YouTube, I highly recommend it. It’s powerful stuff.

Tough Choices: A Memoir (2006)

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I read this when I was in college. I found it at the library. Fiorina is an impressive woman!

Columbine (2009)

I learned about this book when the author, Dave Cullen, was a guest lecturer at Longwood in 2009. I had the pleasure of interviewing him for The Rotunda. It’s a tough book to read, but a good one.

The Glass Castle (2006)

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I first stumbled upon this book when I was in my junior or senior year at Longwood. This is another book, a memoir, that everyone should read.

Tornado Warning: A Memoir of Teen Dating Violence and Its Effect on A Woman’s Life (2011)

Image Credit: www.shapingyouth.org

This is another book that I think many should read, both men and women. And, I’m glad I’ve re-read it a couple of times.

If I Am Missing or Dead: A Sister’s Story of Love, Murder, and Liberation (2007)

If I Am Missing Or Dead

This is another book that came into my life at the perfect time, in February 2016. I’ll never forget reading it, late at night, in the early months of being married to Al, grateful that I was able to escape. Thanks to my good friend, Mike H., I learned about Janine and her incredible story. This is another book I think many others should read.

Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood (2005)

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I found this book at a thrift store at the perfect time, about 12 years ago. It’s a compelling account of how alcohol can affect someone so early. I think I need to re-read this. I first wrote my book review in 2016!

The Unknown and Impossible: How a Research Facility in Virginia Mastered the Air and Conquered Space (2017)

The Unknown and Impossible

Remember Mike H. from earlier? He’s now a published author. I loved reading this compelling 100-year history of NASA!

Grace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond (2012)

Grace and Grit - Amazon

I learned about this book through my church bulletin, as one of the women’s circles was reading it for discussion. I’m so glad I found out about this book. Lilly Ledbetter has had an incredible life, and wanted to fight for what’s right.

Girls Auto Clinic Glove Box Guide (2017)

Girls Auto Clinic - Amazon

Patrice Banks is a bad-ass! This was another author interview on Fresh Air. This is a must-have for every glove box!

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (2016)

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Matthew Desmond was interviewed on Fresh Air, discussing the book and his ongoing project on evictions and the database he has been building. Like Ehrenreich, Desmond is a true ethnographer, and I can’t wait to read more from him.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption (2010)

Unbroken A World War II Story of Survival Resilience and Redemption

I’m glad I received this book through a book swap. Hillenbrand is a remarkable writer. This is not my most favorite non-fiction book in the world, but Louie Zamperini’s story is incredible and important.


Want to Read

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2010)

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I’ve been wanting to read this for years.

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail (1997)

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I took a Linguistics course at Longwood. We read a different book by Bryson, and I really enjoyed it. I’ve always been fascinated by the Appalachian Trail, so I think this book would be great.

Hidden Figures (2016)

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I’ve wanted to read the book since the movie adaptation was released. The movie is excellent, so I’m pretty the book is pretty terrific, too.

Educated (2018)

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Tara Westover’s interview on NPR’s Fresh Air was one of the most riveting podcast episodes I’ve listened to. I hope to read this before the end of 2019.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (2016)

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I’ve been curious about this memoir since hearing the author’s interview on NPR’s Fresh Air.

Parkland: Birth of a Movement (2019)

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I’m not ready to read this yet, but just knowing that Cullen wrote it is enough to put it on my list.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (2012)

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Granted, I didn’t hear about this book until the movie adaptation with Reese Witherspoon was announced, but it peaked my interest.


 

Getting Personal #178: Reflections, On My Birthday

Jeremiah 29-11 - lilyandval
Image Credit: lilyandval.com

This is my fourth birthday reflection! I can’t believe I started this annual tradition in 2016. I’ve enjoyed reading the posts from 2017 and 2018, too.

Here we are, 2019! This year has been a bit of a roller-coaster ride. But it’s been mostly good!


This time last year, we were anxiously awaiting the arrival of our greyhound. It was going to be our first dog together, and we were so excited. We welcomed Pablo to our house in September. However, we quickly realized this poor baby was experiencing severe separation anxiety. We had to return him to the greyhound agency after four weeks. Al and I were incredibly devastated. But, we knew he needed to be in a home with someone who was either retired or home much of the day, and with other dogs or greyhounds. By the time we returned him to the agency, there were at least four people who were willing to take Pablo!

We had a short cooling-off period, and gave ourselves time to heal. We continued working, finally got our HVAC system finished and working, and a few weekend trips away.

Around Thanksgiving, Al and I had been casually researching local rescue organizations, thinking we were going to be ready to try again after the holidays. We had heard good things about Saver of Souls Pet Rescue, based in Virginia Beach. A few people we know had great success with them and adopting from them. We fell in love with bonded brothers, older miniature pinschers named Phineas and Ferb. We filled out the application, and crossed our fingers. We didn’t want to get our hopes up, but we felt drawn to them.

Our lives changed on December 2nd. We learned at an event in Virginia Beach that our application was approved, and we could take Phineas and Ferb home!

They have changed our lives for the better! I can’t imagine not having them. It’s hard to believe December will be a year since we adopted them. We’re hoping for many years with them. We believe they will turn 10 sometime in November.

Aside from adopting Phineas and Ferb, we’ve stayed busy! I truly think turning 30 was a huge turning point for me. I’ve enjoyed finding and making new recipes, celebrating many birthdays, taking trips with Al, and soaking up as much time with family and friends.

Here’s a few other big things that happened this year:

  • I read 17 books in 2018, including two Advance Reading Copies (ARCs).
  • On March 30, 2019, I hit a HUGE milestone with my writing. I finally finished the first draft of my 2012 WIP, tentatively titled, “Experiences From Camp.” It’s just over 50,000 words. It feels incredible! Two of my friends have graciously offered to look it over and begin the editing process with me!
  • I paid off some significant credit card debt!
  • I have seven American Girl dolls now. Mia, Girl of the Year 2008, is the newest addition.
  • I participated in a wonderful group of Gal Pals on Facebook, and really enjoyed it. I look forward to participating in another round, either later this year or the beginning of 2020.

Cheers to 31!

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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 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂