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.
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 2017, 2018, 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.
Participate in Camp NaNoWriMo, July 2020. — Accomplished!
Publish my updated TBR post. — Accomplished!
Re-organize the filing system. — Semi-Achieved.
Finish cleaning out the cabinet above the oven. — Accomplished!
Finish de-cluttering the dining room buffet. — Semi-Achieved.
Begin the binder of university newspaper articles for preservation. — Accomplished!
Send at least five cards, letters, and care packages. — Did not accomplish.
Continue preparations for P.E.O. Virginia State 2022 Convention. — Accomplished!
I had a really good month. I’m still working from home, as is Al. We are grateful to our companies for keeping us and our colleagues as safe as possible as the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc in the United States.
I’m really happy with what I’ve accomplished with this session of Camp NaNoWriMo. I wanted to add 20,000 new words to the novel I started during NaNoWriMo 2013. Look for a post about that in August.
I’m really pleased with finally getting to cleaning out the cabinet above the oven. I filled a 13-gallon trash bag nearly full with expired food and spices. A lot of it had gotten pushed to the back of the cabinets, and it’s hard for me to reach back there without standing on a chair or step stool. It’s so much easier to find the spices now. The next step is to install either a Lazy Susan system or moving shelves in both cabinets so that it’s even easier to locate what we need when we’re cooking.
The dining room buffet is a work in progress. I finally got the kitchen table cleaned off, and have kept it clean and clutter-free for almost a full week.
The filing system is also being evaluated. I need to do a few more things in my office before that can be accomplished, but I’m hoping to get a few more boxes out of the room this weekend. I also filled a trash bag and three small boxes with old books and DVDs for donation to the thrift stores. My couch is clean again!
I’m excited to buy acid-free paper and sheet protectors to preserve my university newspaper articles. I got a 3-inch binder for free from a sorority sister that was preparing to move, so that should be plenty of space to store everything.
What about you? Did you have any goals for the month of July?
Today is the day that I have been strangely anxious about for the last several weeks.
Today – July 17, 2020 – marks ten years since I escaped from my abusive boyfriend, John.
While I haven’t written down the entire book of what happened to me from 2006 through July 17, 2010, I wanted to share pieces of it, and things I’ve learned in these last ten years.
Something that Elin Stebbins Waldal wrote in her memoir, Tornado Warning, will stick with me forever:
“… I know what he can be and is capable of so I almost always feel on guard. It’s hard to just relax and trust him. It’s all so weird.”
The abuse started gradually. It was all mental and emotional abuse. John’s words could cut me like a knife. One text message could spin me out of control into What-If-Land, where I was terrified that I’d said the wrong thing. Eventually, even the words “I love you” didn’t feel safe.
John hit me twice in the week that I broke up with him, that fateful week in mid-July 2010. That was the only true physical abuse I endured. I was lucky to get out when I did.
I feel fortunate that I didn’t suffer as much physical abuse as Elin did, but, to be honest, the emotional and mental abuse was worse. The two hits that John delivered on that Monday and Wednesday simply solidified my beliefs that I was not happy, that this was not right, and that I finally had enough courage to speak up, say something, and leave.
John and I dated from July 1, 2006 through July 17, 2010. The first year, and part of the second year, I thought they were great, although there were red flags that I missed. John swept me off my feet. He romanced me. I thought he truly loved me.
I thought we were okay because we’d successfully dated the entire first year at different high schools. Turns out, he completely changed his college plans to be with me. I knew I was going to Longwood in November 2006. He had been accepted to VCU, which was only 45 minutes away in Richmond. But, he applied to Longwood, got in, and decided to go there to be with me. It sounds romantic, but it was the beginning of the perfect storm.
He started isolating me almost immediately. I remember how upset he was that I got to move in earlier than him, because I was going on a retreat with my Honors College classmates the weekend before the semester started. I could hear the anger and jealousy in his voice during the few phone calls we exchanged before he moved on campus. Each phone call made me feel horrible, like I had done something wrong.
It only got worse from there. I spent nearly every break from college crying to my mom, unloading all my worries, anxieties, fretting, fears, and more. Once I dried my tears, I felt better. I picked myself up, dusted off, and moved along. But, the next break, it happened again, like clockwork.
Abuse manifests itself in so many ugly, horrendous forms.
It took years for me to see the light. Even though EVERYONE around me saw right through it, years before. I finally realized, at some point in 2010, that I was not the same Laura Beth. I wanted to change.
The key with abusive relationships (and friendships) is that YOU have recognize that you’re being abused. No one else can convince you otherwise.
When I read Janine Latus’s book in early 2016, I made these observations in my Book Review:
The constant feeling of walking on eggshells when talking to / being around your partner – You never feel calm / relaxed around them.
Being contacted multiple times by phone / text/ Facebook message, etc. – Always checking in, concerned if I was minutes late to something with him.
Restricting time with friends and family.
Manipulating ideas and thoughts (Example: John put the idea in my head that my own mother was one of the laziest people on this Earth, and he convinced me to tell her that. It was absolutely awful. Mom forgave me, but I still feel terrible about that, all these years later.)
Certain habits become routine / expected – John was always hunting for the new trends, and wanted me to go along with him. He wanted me to wear what he thought looked best. He asked me multiple times to change clothes (phrased as, “You’re wearing that?”), even if I felt great in what I had been wearing.
This book hit me harder than Tornado Warning, which surprised me. I remember reading the end of this book while Al was asleep next to me in bed, and my eyes filled with tears as I closed the book, filled with gratitude that I found and married the man who loves me for who I am and doesn’t want to change me.
I’m glad I read this. It renewed my gratitude that I am a survivor, but also renewed my awareness that women (and men) still suffer from, and die from, abuse every single day.
If nothing else, there are two specific terms that I want you to take away from this post: Love bombing, and gaslighting.
Love bombing: The practice of showering a person with excessive affection and attention in order to gain control or significantly influence their behavior.
Gaslighting: manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.
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.
Finish the second draft of my novel. — Did not accomplish.
Send the second draft of the novel to my readers for additional feedback. — Did not accomplish.
Clean out and organize the linen closet. — Accomplished!
Send the box of consignment items to Darby. — Accomplished!
Begin the binder of university newspaper articles for preservation. — Did not accomplish.
Send at least four cards or letters to friends. — Accomplished!
Publish a post about The Ebony and Fire Writing Club at least once a week. — Did not accomplish.
Re-organize the filing system. — Did not accomplish.
Finish cleaning out the cabinet above the oven. — Did not accomplish.
Finish de-cluttering the dining room buffet. — Did not accomplish.
Spend another hour on American Girl items inventory. — Did not accomplish.
This month was weird. I was more deeply affected by the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests than I anticipated.
However, I was able to give blood! Yay! Al made steak the night before the drive, and my iron level was 14.3, one of the highest levels I’ve had. The baseline requirement for women is 12.5. And, my favorite phlebotomist, Spencer, was at the drive and helped me through it. I struggled to fill the bag, which is completely my fault. I forgot to drink enough water. More fluids!
I shipped off the massive Walmart box to Darby. It weighed almost 25 pounds! I paid almost $95 in shipping costs, but Darby offered me $164 in store credit, so I jumped on it. I’ve gotten a lot of pretty things this month, and I found a beautiful shirt with a flower on it and “Mom” on it for my mom.
I did a lot of other things with the house the month. The linen closet is finally clean and organized the way it should be, at least in my mind.
Al and I also went through our closets, filled two garbage bags full of outgrown clothes, and gathered several other things to donate. I dropped everything off at the thrift store on Sunday.
I’ve been slowly making my way through Just Mercy. It’s a good book, but it’s heavy. Look for a review on the Netflix documentary “13th” coming soon.
The Ebony and Fire Writing Club is currently on hiatus. I was disappointed at first, but one of the organizers wanted to take a break to focus on Black Lives Matter and some other priorities for a while.
What about you? Did you have any goals for the month of June?
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.
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.
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.