Book Review #95: “Camp”

I fell in love with this book within the first few pages. I was enveloped into the world of Camp Outland, and I felt so sad when it ended and I had to say goodbye to Camp and the characters in it.

The way Rosen crafts his characters is amazing. They all have names, and personalities, and interests, but they could also be people that you know in your own life. That’s how real he makes them. I found myself coming up for air in my hammock on my porch a few weekends ago, not realizing I’d read 200 pages already.

The story of Del and his adventures at Camp are fun, silly, and amazing. The friends he’s met, and the one that he’s determined to fall in love with, are all unique and precious. I love the counselors, too, and their stories. To go along with Del on his quest is a wonderful journey with so many emotions wrapped up together. I laughed, I cried, and just adored this book.

I can’t wait to read it again. This will stay on my bookshelf forever. It’s marketed toward ages 14 and up, but I believe that everyone should read this book. There are so many real-life lessons that are wrapped up in this adorable love story, told at an amazing place that I think a lot of people wishes had existed many, many years ago in the real world.

Thanks to Mike Holtzclaw for another excellent recommendation.

5 out of 5 stars.


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 🙂

Hot Topic #32: Justice for George Floyd (Chauvin Guilty on All Counts)

Image Credit: Republic World

My hands are shaking as I write this post. I’m in disbelief. I never thought I would see and hear these words, live-streamed for all the world to witness:

Count I – Second-degree unintentional murder, GUILTY

Count II – Third-degree murder, GUILTY

Count III – Second-degree manslaughter, GUILTY

Derek Chauvin has been found guilty on all charges in the death, the murder, of George Floyd that occurred on May 25, 2020.

I prayed before the verdict was read, feeling tears spring to my eyes. I couldn’t believe it when the first “Guilty” was read, I was stunned. And then I cheered. And then I cried. And I prayed again.

Chauvin’s bond was immediately revoked, and he was taken into custody.


I reflected on this in my post, Hot Topic #30, on June 4, 2020. Thankfully, less than a year later, I’m writing a post in relief and happiness that this verdict was actually reached.


With all that said, there is still more work to be done.

“The healing work begins,” spoken over and over in George Floyd Square in Minneapolis this afternoon.

Black Lives Matter.


Resources

The BIPOC Project

Black Lives Matter

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

BIPOC-Owned Businesses to Support Today and Everyday


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #92: “Loved By The Beast: A Historical Retelling of Beauty and the Beast”

I received my copy of this book for free from the author. I’m excited to read more from her!

This is Elliott’s debut novel, but you wouldn’t know it. She immerses you in early 18th century France instantly. The hardest part for me was not picturing the movies!

I loved Lea and Audric. I also appreciated Elliott weaving in their families, and their elaborate histories. It was so charming and special, like I was dropped into an actual history book and enveloped in a warm embrace the entire time. I had a really hard time putting it down. It took me a long time to finish it, but every single chapter kept me wanting to read the next one.

Even better, Loved by the Beast is the first in a trilogy called The Beast’s Legacy. I’m looking forward to reading Book 2, Service and Slumber: A Historical Tale Inspired by Sleeping Beauty very soon. The third book, A Gentle Pursuit, is slated to be published soon.


Have you read any historical retellings?

Do you enjoy fairy tales?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #112: Thoughts on “Baby Driver”

Image Credit: Wikipedia

I bought Baby Driver (2017) on Blu-ray for Al for his birthday. I’d never seen it until recently, but thought the trailer looked pretty cool a couple of years ago.

From the get-go, I was pulled in and wasn’t let go until the end credits. Edgar Wright is a master filmmaker, and pretty much a genius! I immediately recognized why Al enjoyed this movie so much in the theater. I originally wasn’t interested, and I’m pretty sure I was out of town when Al went to see it. But, my goodness, I wish I had seen this in the theater!

I can’t say a whole lot without creating spoilers, but the music is absolutely top-notch. The cast was expertly picked, and I honestly can’t think of a single person that would have been better than those who were in it.

I want to watch it again soon, and I told Al that Baby Driver is now in my top 10 list of all-time movies. I’m really glad I bought that Blu-ray!


Have you seen Baby Driver?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth:)

Book Review #91: “Just Mercy”

I was fortunate enough to find my copy through a friend’s store on eBay. I’d heard about the book for a good while, and knew I wanted to see the movie. But, I’m the type of person that likes to read the book before seeing the movie.

Bryan Stevenson is an incredible man. This book is not only a memoir, but a history lesson.

Stevenson graduated from Harvard Law School, moved to Atlanta, and then heard about a man on death row named Walter McMillan. He moved to Alabama to run the Southern Center for Human Rights operation in Montgomery. He is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). As of August 2016, EJI has saved 125 men from death.

It took me a lot longer than usual to finish this book. I wanted to take my time with it. Ever since the murder of George Floyd in May, I’ve wanted to learn as much as I can about people of color. This book is no exception – Stevenson writes about the appalling history of slavery, Jim Crow, lynchings, disproportionate arrests and heavy sentences, and the struggle of getting relief and overturned convictions for significant sentences, along with wrongfully imprisoned people.

Stevenson’s stories of these people on death row in multiple states, mostly men, but also a few women, were heartbreaking. Some were sentenced to death for crimes that were committed when they were children. Others were prosecuted to the maximum, when the laws that should have shielded them were blatantly ignored. There are more than a few people with physical and intellectual disabilities on death row in the United States.

This is a book that I think everyone should read. Even though it was published in 2014, it is definitely still relevant today.

I’m looking forward to seeing the movie adaptation soon.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #90: “Soulflow” (Audiobook)

Kristen Martin is amazing!

This book went on my Amazon wishlist within hours of her announcing its release date on her podcast, That Smart Hustle.

Then, in March 2020, Kristen made an amazing decision. In part due to the stresses of the coronavirus pandemic, she recorded every chapter of Soulflow, and released one per day from March 20 through April 5. At first, I wasn’t sure if listening to the book would work for me. It’s been YEARS since I’d listened to a book. Think back to books on tape and books on CD from the library. Yeah, that long ago.

But, I dove in. And I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed it. I got a late start in listening to it, so all the chapters had been released by the time I started the Introduction in early May. I found myself listening to multiple chapters per day while working from home. I love Kristen’s voice!

Between May and August, I’ve listened to the entire book twice. I plan to listen to it a third time before the end of 2020.

I know, personal development books get a lot of flack. Trust me, I’ve read a lot of them over the years. But, I feel like Kristen’s book is different. It is personal development, but it also has a lot of her memories and experiences. To me, it’s relatable. This may be in part because she and I are virtually the same age, but I keep coming back to it.

I love Kristen’s energy through this book. I was planning to read some of her fiction work first, but I’m glad I listened to this one first. I’m even more excited now to read her fiction. If her second personal development book is this inspiring and influential to me, I can only imagine what worlds she’s created with her fiction.

5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #111: “50 Best Films About Writers, Ranked”

Image Credit: Medium

I stumbled upon this article when I was researching a daily film challenge post for Facebook. The question that day was: “A film where a character has a job you want.”

My answer: Finding Forrester (2000)


Here’s the link to the article about the 50 best films:

50 Best Films About Writers, Ranked |Flavorwire

Now, granted, this particular article was published in 2014. But, I wanted to take a closer look at these movies and offer my thoughts.

50. Sylvia (2003) — I have not seen this.

49. Finding Forrester (2000) — I have seen this movie, and I like it. I want to watch it again.

48. Total Eclipse (1995) — I have not seen this.

47. Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994) — I have not seen this.

46. Deathtrap (1982) — I have not seen this.

45. Henry Fool (1997) — I have not seen this.

44. Manhattan (1979) — I have not seen this.

43. Barfly (1987) — I have seen pieces of this movie.

42. The Pillow Book (1996) — I have not seen this.

41. My Left Foot (1989) — I have seen this movie, and I like it.

40. American Splendor (2003) — I have seen pieces of this movie.

39. Swimming Pool (2003) — I have not seen this.

38. The Front (1976) — I have not seen this.

37. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) — I have seen this movie, and I like it. I want to watch it again.

36. Ruby Sparks (2012) — I have seen this, and it’s a good movie!

35. Impromtu (1991) — I have not seen this.

34. Kill Your Darlings (2013) — I have not seen this, but I want to.

33. Contempt (1963) — I have not seen this.

32. Prick Up Your Ears (1987) — I have not seen this.

31. Adult World (2013) — I have not seen this.

30. Julia (1977) — I have not seen this.

29. Poetic Justice (1993) — I have seen pieces of this movie.

28. Fellini’s Casanova (1976) — I have not seen this.

27. Shakespeare in Love (1998) — I have seen this, but it’s not my favorite.

26. The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) — I have seen this, and it’s an excellent movie.

25. Midnight in Paris (2011) — I have not seen this.

24. Iris (2001) — I have not seen this.

23. Before Sunset (2004) — I have seen pieces of this movie.

22. The Door in the Floor (2004) — I have not seen this.

21. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) — I have seen pieces of this, and I want to watch it in full.

20. Misery (1990) — I have seen this, and I want to watch it again.

19. Before Night Falls (2000) — I have not seen this.

18. Deconstructing Harry (1997) — I have not seen this.

17. The World According to Garp (1982) — I have seen pieces of this movie, and I want to watch it in full.

16. The Hours (2002) — I have seen this movie, and it’s good.

15. Naked Lunch (1991) — I have not seen this.

14. Starting Out in the Evening (2007) — I have not seen this.

13. Bright Star (2009) — I have not seen this.

12. Young Adult (2011) — I have seen pieces of this movie, and I want to watch it in full.

11. Certified Copy (2010) — I have not seen this movie, but I want to.

10. A Man For All Seasons (1966) — I have not seen this.

9. The Shining (1980) — I have seen this movie, and it’s good.

8. Providence (1977) — I have seen pieces of this movie, and I want to watch it in full.

7. Sunset Boulevard (1950) — I have seen this movie, and it’s good.

6. My Brilliant Career (1979) — I have not seen this movie, but I want to.

5. Adaptation (2002) — I have seen this movie, and it’s excellent. I want to watch it again.

4. An Angel at My Table (1990) — I have not seen this.

3. Wonder Boys (2000) — I have seen this movie, and it’s excellent. I want to watch it again.

2. Barton Fink (1991) — I have seen pieces of this movie, and I want to watch it in full.

(1) Reprise (2006) — I have not seen this movie, but I want to.


What do you think about these 50 movies? Let me know!


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 #108: Thoughts on “The Baby-Sitters Club” (Netflix)

Image Credit: The Today Show

The minute I saw the trailer for the Netflix take / re-boot of The Baby-Sitters Club, I knew I wanted to watch it!

I ended up watching all 10 episodes over the course of one day – Last Saturday. I was so easily sucked in!


As someone who devoured the books as a kid, I was a little nervous, as the Netflix series appeared to have been updated for modern times. But, it worked out really nicely. I want to re-read all the books now.

The girls playing the club members were cast so well. I was so gleeful when I realized, at the beginning of episode two, that the creators and producers had used the handwriting of each girl. I remember that from the books, and the CD-ROM game! I think I had the Clubhouse Activity Center.


If you’re looking for a lot of nostalgia that’s updated for today’s girls, tweens, teens, and moms (Dads, too!), this is a great series. It’s fun, easy to watch, and engaging. It also covers a lot of real-life experiences, particularly friendship, parents, divorce, boys, periods, and bullying, among other things.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂