Book Reviews #3, #4, and #5: The “Divergent” Trilogy

I was initially just intrigued by these three books. The first movie came out in March, but I definitely wanted to read the books first.

I was excited because the author, Veronica Roth, is literally MY AGE and a big inspiration to me, as a writer. If she can write a trilogy of books, and then some, AND sell the trilogy to a movie studio, then so can I!

But I finally started reading in July, when I went to North Carolina for a mission trip with my church.

I powered through Divergent on the drive down (Seven hours as a van co-pilot will do that), and bought Insurgent at a Walmart when we arrived. By the time I got back home a week later, I wanted to get through Allegiant as quickly as possible.

As of last night, at the end of December, I was only six chapters in.

But, today, I have finished!!

For me, I found myself comparing the Divergent trilogy to The Hunger Games trilogy. The three books are structured very similarly:

  • Divergent is building the characters and the story.
  • Insurgent is where the action kicks into high gear.
  • Allegiant is very political and picking up the pieces from the war/massive conflict in Insurgent.


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I liked Roth’s writing style. I enjoyed learning about the characters. Tris reminds me of me, in a way. Really easy read – I powered through this one in just a few hours.

4 out of 5 stars.


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This is where the action was. I liked the plot lines and the development of the characters. I also liked how the story picked up from the last page of Divergent.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


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This one … It was tough. It took me almost five whole months to get through it, mainly due to this thing called life. I was almost immediately turned off by the alternating points of view, back and forth and back and forth. As a writer, I completely understand Roth’s intentions, but as a reader, it just didn’t flow as well as I’d thought. It certainly wasn’t a bad ending, it was just tough to wade through.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Just for kicks, here are some delightful Divergent memes!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Quarterly Review #4

Is it really the end of the year? 2014 just FLEW BY!

This is last Quarterly Review (QR)!

14 Goals for 2014

1. Balance checkbook every month

2. Complete the 52-week savings challenge

3. Donate to Goodwill once a month

4. Find & make 14 new recipes

5. Finish 2012 novel

6. Finish 2013 novel

7. Invest in pastel painting / artwork

8. Map routes in neighborhood to walk / run / rollerblade

9. Read at least 5 new books

10. Reduce screen time

11. Take a Medical Terminology class

12. Take iron pill every day

13. Walk 20 minutes during lunch

14. Yoga

1. QR: COMPLETE! I’m so happy to have caught up with my finances!

2. QR: COMPLETE! I saved so much money this year!!!

3. QR: COMPLETE! Although I’m planning to lock myself in my bedroom this coming weekend, and not come out until the closet is clean and all the random boxes are gone 🙂

4. QR: COMPLETE! This was such a fun challenge. I plan to keep this going in the years to come 🙂

5. QR: This didn’t happen this year. But that’s okay, because next week ushers in a new series of blog posts related to this!

6. QR: See #5.

7. QR: This didn’t happen exactly the way I had hoped this year. However, I made a bunch of wreaths, and I love that!

8. QR: This didn’t happen exactly the way I had hoped, but the FitBit is still awesome!

9. QR: COMPLETE! It took me down to the very wire, but I did it!

10. QR: I’m getting better at this! Continuing to work on this in the New Year 🙂

11. QR: COMPLETE! I got a 95 on my midterm exam in October! I maintained an A average in the class, so that made me exempt from the final exam. I got an A in the class!!

Photo Credit:

Image Credit:

12. QR: This didn’t work out as planned. Still having issues with consistency. However, I’ve been able to donate blood in October and December, so I must be doing something right!

13. QR: This didn’t work out as planned, mainly because of the up-and-down weather! I’ve definitely been more creative in this department, though. Planning to take more and more steps in 2015!

14. QR: This didn’t work out as planned, but I thoroughly enjoy and look forward my meditation times in the mornings and evenings while I’m in my bed 🙂

This exercise was great for me this year. My parents were especially complimentary and shared it with many people.

With that said, I’m not going to do this again for 2015. I just want to focus on the year ahead. There are so many wonderful things, already, to look forward to:

  • Al and I celebrating our engagement
  • Al and I getting married
  • Al and I buying our first home together
  • Visits and reunions with wonderful friends
  • Traveling and having amazing adventures with great people
  • Reading more books
  • Seeing family, some for the first time in YEARS, as a result of the wedding
  • Getting at least two tattoos
  • Getting closer to receiving my Paralegal Studies degree
  • Continuing to write on this blog
  • Making progress on my three novels
  • Helping others
  • Being Laura Beth
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Image Credit:

Happy New Year to all my readers – Thank you for making this year one of the best!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂


Getting Personal #6: My Love Story

Ah, love. Ain’t it great?

I know I’ve mentioned my relationship with Al on this blog before, but today, I wanted to share a bit more about us.

I have to give most of the credit to Al’s brother, Nick. If Nick and I hadn’t become such good friends in 2009, I don’t think Al and I would have ever met. Nick tried to set up Al and I in the summer of 2010, but I knew I needed to wait a little bit, since I had just ended a long-term relationship.

I returned to Longwood for my senior year, and before I left, Al and I exchanged phone numbers and started talking and texting – A lot. For the first two weeks of that semester, I couldn’t believe how close we were getting – I knew I would be happy if Al and I remained friends forever.

Well, fast forward to Labor Day Weekend. Nick’s then-girlfriend lived near us and went to Longwood, so he asked me to bring her home for the weekend. I realized I was going to be able to see Al, so we set up a dinner date for Saturday, September 4, 2010. That afternoon and night changed our lives forever. We had our first kiss on the Virginia Beach Boardwalk, and the sparks and fireworks were there from the very start.
Facebook Credit: Al Vardaro

This was the very first picture that was taken of us, on Labor Day 2010. Facebook Credit: Al Vardaro

Facebook Credit: Laura Beth Stricker

We took this picture when Al came to visit me at Longwood for the first time, just a couple weeks after we got together. Facebook Credit: Laura Beth Stricker

We endured a long-distance relationship from September 2010 to May 2011. I still remember how excited Al was when Christmas break approached, “You’re going to be home for FIVE WEEKS? I get to see you every day for FIVE WHOLE WEEKS!”

Facebook Credit: Al Vardaro

Al came to visit again during Longwood’s Oktoberfest weekend in October 2010. We played Color Wars together, and enjoyed the weekend with friends and my sorority sisters. This photo has Erin, far left, and Kelly, far right. Facebook Credit: Al Vardaro

Facebook Credit: Al Vardaro

In November, Al came to Farmville again to be my date for the AST Anchor Banquet. Facebook Credit: Al Vardaro

Facebook Credit: Al Vardaro

Right before Christmas break, he was my date for the Lancer Productions Snowball Dance. Facebook Credit: Al Vardaro

Four years together seems to just fly by!

Facebook Credit: Al Vardaro

We had a lot of fun with our friends in February 2011. This was taken at Macado’s, a favorite restaurant in Farmville. Back row, L to R: Lexi, Lyndsey, and Amanda. Facebook Credit: Al Vardaro

Facebook Credit: Laura Beth Stricker

Our six-month anniversary was March 4, 2011. I got creative with photos, and posted this to Facebook on our anniversary. Facebook Credit: Laura Beth Stricker

Facebook Credit: Laura Beth Stricker

I was in Los Angeles, California with The Rotunda newspaper staff for the ACP newspaper conference in March 2011. I wore the same outfit that I wore on our first date, had one of the staff snap my picture, and I posted this photo for Al online. Facebook Credit: Laura Beth Stricker

Photo Credit: Carley York

During the last weekend of April 2011, a fabulous photographer friend, Carley, did an amazing photo shoot around campus! Photo Credit: Carley York

Photo Credit: Carley York

Sitting on top of the Brock Commons Fountain, near the center of Longwood’s campus. Photo Credit: Carley York

This was my Facebook status for Valentine’s Day, 2012:

One of my favorite songs that makes me instantly think of Al and I: “Standin’ here feeling like a love struck Romeo…All I wanna do is hold you close and steal a little more time, is that such a crime? Sweet thing…Cause you know I need you and there’s no way I’ll be leavin’…til we’re kissing on the porch swing…oh my little sweet thing” ~Keith Urban

Happy second Valentine’s Day to Al, one of the best things that could have ever happened to me! ♥ 9/4/10 ♥

Facebook Credit: Al Vardaro

August 2012: When Jesse and Jessica came to visit Chesapeake! Facebook Credit: Jesse Rountree

Facebook Credit: Al Vardaro

August 2013: One of our favorite places to visit, Busch Gardens! Facebook Credit: Al Vardaro

Al’s caption on Facebook/Instagram: “Awesome girlfriend won VIP tickets to a Busch Gardens concert. KC and the Sunshine Band.”

Facebook Credit: Al Vardaro

December 2013: Can you tell that we like the Man of Steel? Center: Jesse, Al’s best friend. Facebook Credit: Al Vardaro

Facebook Credit: Laura Beth Stricker

This is one of my all-time favorite photos of us! Facebook Credit: Laura Beth Stricker

This is one of my favorite pictures of us. I had a housewarming party in my apartment last September. My beautiful Little, Lane, took this picture, and it is amazing. This picture is my background on my work computer, and every time I see it, it makes me smile from ear-to-ear.

One of my favorite songs, and one that makes me think of Al and I every time, is Taylor Swift’s “Mine.” I love these lyrics, and it gives me chills every time I hear it.

“… I say ‘Can you believe it?’
As we’re lying on the couch?
The moment I can see it.
Yes, yes, I can see it now.
Do you remember, we were sitting there by the water?
You put your arm around me for the first time.
You made a rebel of a careless man’s careful daughter.
You are the best thing that’s ever been mine.
But we got bills to pay,
We got nothing figured out,
When it was hard to take,
Yes, yes, this is what I thought about.
Do you remember, we were sitting there by the water?
You put your arm around me for the first time
You made a rebel of a careless man’s careful daughter
You are the best thing that’s ever been mine.
Do you remember all the city lights on the water?
You saw me start to believe for the first time
You made a rebel of a careless man’s careful daughter
You are the best thing that’s ever been mine.
You said, ‘I remember how we felt sitting by the water.
And every time I look at you, it’s like the first time.
I fell in love with a careless man’s careful daughter.
She is the best thing that’s ever been mine.’
Hold on, make it last
Hold on, never turn back
You made a rebel of a careless man’s careful daughter
You are the best thing that’s ever been mine …”

Al has been so sweet to give me jewelry pretty much every Christmas, for the last four years.

We have talked about getting married for a couple of years now, but we started ring shopping earlier this year. We chose a wonderful jeweler in Virginia Beach and they made a gorgeous custom ring from a picture I found thanks to Google.

I had an epiphany a couple of months ago, realizing that Al may propose to me on Christmas Day, keeping up with the jewelry tradition. I went back and forth for many weeks, trying to prepare myself, mentally and emotionally, for either scenario.

The only clue that he gave me was “something had come in the mail for me for Christmas” about two weeks ago.

Well, this morning, I went over to his house so we could exchange gifts before going to his dad’s family’s Christmas breakfast. He had a box wrapped up beautifully, complete with a red bow. When I got the paper off and the box open, this is what I saw:

Proposal 2014 (1)

Al explained that it was a music box, and when wound, it plays “You Are So Beautiful To Me.” I thought it was such a gorgeous and thoughtful gift!

Then, I opened the music box, and saw the black ring box next to it. I started shaking and I saw Al get on his knee and he asked, “Will you marry me?”
Photo Credit: Al Vardaro

Photo Credit: Al Vardaro

So, we are officially ENGAGED! We couldn’t be happier, and we are so excited to start this next chapter.

Best. Christmas. Ever.

Merry Christmas, to you and yours!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #5: Tattoos (Part 2)

And now, for part 2!

I hope you enjoyed part 1 of my tattoos commentary this weekend.

Here’s more pictures and stories!

This is my sorority sister Caitlyn.

Facebook Credit: Caitlyn Newman

Facebook Credit: Caitlyn Newman

This is 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8, commonly known as the “love passage.” It is one of the most beautiful and intricate tattoos that I have ever seen! Caitlyn got this done at Liquid Metal Tattoo in West Point, Virginia.

This is another sorority sister of mine, Becky, who has this sweet bird.

Facebook Credit: Becky Hall

Facebook Credit: Becky Hall

She got this at Il Bacio in Farmville, Virginia.

This is a friend of mine from Longwood, Ashley.

Photo Credit: Ashley Bowles Jones

Photo Credit: Ashley Bowles Jones

Can you guess what it is?

This is Al’s brother’s girlfriend, Savy. She has this STUNNING tattoo of koi as a half-sleeve from her left shoulder down to her elbow.

Facebook Credit: Savy Beng

Facebook Credit: Savy Beng

Here’s Savy’s story, in her own words: “Koi have always been a traditional symbol of prevailing through struggle. Like salmon, they trek upstream regardless of obstacles to come home. With coming to America, the death of my dad, the death of my brother, childhood abuse, a failed marriage, and raising a Child by myself while working and school full time, I feel like I’ve prevailed through a lot.”

This is one of my friend Summer’s tattoos. I love the script and the butterfly 🙂

Facebook Credit: Summer Randels

Facebook Credit: Summer Randels

In her own words: “… I got “Strength” with a butterfly tattooed on my hip-ish when I was 15. I suffer from mental illness, and I struggle(d) with addiction—mine being cutting. I got strength tattooed right be where all my self harm scars are, and I got a butterfly for the butterfly project.”

Learn more about The Butterfly Project.

Facebook Credit: Summer Randels

Facebook Credit: Summer Randels

This is another tattoo on Summer. I love this story in particular. I first heard this over the summer, but she was so sweet to share it with me again for this post! Thanks, Summer!

“I got my birds because when I was 8 years old I randomly threw a tantrum (yes, it was random), so my mom told me to go to my room until I calmed down, and once I calmed down enough I could come back downstairs. Well I never went back downstairs because I never calmed down. My mom then came in my room to check on me and asked me what was wrong. I told her that I wanted to go home. I Clearly confused she told me that I was home, but I told her that I wasn’t home and that Illinois was my home (all of our family lives there). I then proceded to tell her that I wished I was a bird so I could fly back to Illinois. So, I got 8 birds tattooed on my shoulder for the 8 main people who have helped me get my wings to be able to fly. The first bird is for my selfless mom who has taught me how to lead and love. The second and third birds are for my grandparents who have provided me with both everything I needed and wanted (I guess you could say they spoil me.) The fourth bird is for Demi Lovato who gave me the courage to speak up. The fifth bird is for my old cheerleading coach, LeeAnna, who loved me and cared for me as if I was her own child. She was with me at my worst, and I will never be able to thank her enough for everything she has done for me. The sixth bird is for my 10th grade English teacher, Mrs. Schwartz, who inspires me on a daily basis. I look up to her in more ways than anyone will ever know. The seventh and eighth birds are for my youth directors (more like my second parents), Debi and Doug, have been there for me since I was itty-bitty, and who have helped me grow in my relationship with Christ.”

Facebook Credit: Summer Randels

Facebook Credit: Summer Randels

From Summer: “[This is] my mom’s cross. My mom was married 3 times, and after all the divorces she wanted to get that tattooed on her ring finger to symbolize that her love for Jesus and God will always be first.”

This is Amy, my good friend Ashley’s sister. I love the heartbeat and the script 🙂

Facebook Credit: Amy Hinman

Facebook Credit: Amy Hinman

In Amy’s own words: “I get so stressed out that I never take the time to just breathe and live in the moment. It’s a reminder to be in the moment always and just breathe.”

This is another Longwood friend, Brittany. She was my awesome Peer Mentor when I was a freshman 🙂 And now she’s in the NOAA Corps, and sometimes sees my dad more often than I do.

Facebook Credit: Brittany Anderson

Facebook Credit: Brittany Anderson

In Brittany’s own words: “The two swallows are for my nautical miles I’ve traveled (each equals 5,000 nm a piece). The red bird is on my right because red buoys are on your right when you return home to port. The coordinates are to where Eleanor was born.”

And, finally, Al’s cousin’s wife, Erin.

Photo coming soon!

In Erin’s own words: “So, in line with your tattoo post…I have a ‘tramp stamp’ of a tribal sun (got it on my 20th b-day in 2002–my Dad says it’s proof that 2002 was the year I ‘Lost My Damn Mind!!’) it’s nothing special…BUT…has the wicked cool distinction of being created by a LEGALLY BLIND tattoo artist. (Yeah, I let a blind lady permanently mark up my body.)”

Thank you again to EVERYONE who contributed! I loved seeing the photos and reading your stories!!

As for me, I have several ideas in mind already. Thanks to Justin, I definitely want to get some ink in the near future.

The following picture represents the idea for my first tattoo:

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

I don’t want to get it exactly like this, but this is the basic idea. I have loved ankle bracelets for the longest time, but I’ve always broken them somehow. The last really nice one got caught in the car door when I was coming home one night, and I haven’t worn one since then.

So, I want to get a permanent one. I want to have seven charms, and the bracelet.

1. A red heart, for love.

2. A depiction of the cross pendant that my parents gave me for high school graduation, for my faith.

3. An anchor, for Alpha Sigma Tau.

4. A daisy, for PEO.

5. The letters NYC in green, gold, and purple, for where I was born, purple for my survival from premature birth, and green and gold for the Green Bay Packers.

6. A butterfly, for their grace and beauty.

7. A sun, for my sunny disposition.

Along with the ankle bracelet, I have two other tattoos that I want to get.

I want to get a tattoo of a typewriter. I have been writing stories since I was 10. I have been fascinated with typewriters for many years. I love my dad’s Smith-Corona and I hope that I’m able to use it more. I want to own one at some point. Getting ink of it will remind me of writing and how much I love it.

The last idea I have (for now) is in honor of my dad. I have looked up to him my whole life. I shamelessly admit, I’m a total Daddy’s girl.

Anyway, he served in the Coast Guard for many years. He went to the Coast Guard Academy, and then did a combination of active duty and reserve service until he retired in the early 2000s.

So, this tattoo is a homage to that.

I want ink of the insignia, and then my dad’s name, rank, and years of service curving around it. I want to pay tribute to him, and I think this is a great way to do it.

Those three are the ones I want to start with. Any others that come along afterward, they will have as much meaning as these three do to me.

I’m not planning on getting all three at once, but with the New Year fast approaching, I’m considering getting the ankle bracelet one sooner rather than later 🙂

That’s all for now! I hope you enjoyed these two posts!!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂



Getting Personal #5: Tattoos (Part 1)

My interest in tattoos started about five years ago.

As a child, I never grew up around them – My parents don’t have any; not even my grandfathers, who proudly served our country, got one. The only person I can think of that may have one is one of my uncles, but that’s it.

Growing up, I had the perception that getting a tattoo, let alone multiple ones, was not a wise choice, almost a stupid decision. I vowed that I would never get one.

Even in college, I held that vow of never getting one. A lot of my friends didn’t have them or had no interest in getting any.

I think it officially started when I joined the sisterhood of Alpha Sigma Tau in the fall of 2009. Going Greek was one of the best decisions that I have ever made, and it affected me in so many ways.

I remember being fascinated by a sea turtle tattoo that one of the sisters had on her lower leg. I love turtles – Always have, always will. I ended up in the Turtle Family of the Longwood chapter, and my interest was quickly heightened. Most of my sisters either had tattoos already or wanted to get them. They knew what they wanted, and the stories behind them were inspiring to me. It was intriguing, and I wanted to know more – As much as I could possibly learn.

As I met more and more of the active sisters and the alumnae of Longwood throughout the years, I learned that many of these tattoos had significant meaning to the woman. Most of them were relating to family, and then it went into connections, feelings, memories.

Along the way, I discovered that tattoos can truly be an art form on one’s body.

Note: This is not my sorority sister’s sea turtle tattoo, I just like it!

Earlier this week, I put out a Call for Photos, explaining my idea for this blog post.

The response I received within hours was absolutely overwhelming.

I started getting Facebook messages almost immediately, and it just mushroomed every day.

The pictures I received, the stories I read, just confirmed my desire to write this post.

And, since I received so many responses, I’m doing a part 2!

I wanted to start with the person that has influenced a lot of my thoughts and opinions on tattoos: One of my best friends in this world, Justin.

Justin currently has four tattoos, and has plans to get several more. He believes his body is a canvas for this art.

I’m so grateful that he sent me pictures of all four, along with so much detail about them.

Thanks, Justin!

Photo Credit: Justin Clatterbuck

Photo Credit: Justin Clatterbuck

This was Justin’s first tattoo, on his left shoulder. He got it in September 2013 at Kiss of Ink in Farmville, Virginia. This is the Fairy Tail Guild Emblem, from the Fairy Tail anime. The meaning behind it: “No matter what, your comrades have your back. Believe in them, and there’s nothing you can’t do.”

Justin’s other three were done by the same artist at the same tattoo shop – Ryan at Ben Around Tattoos in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Photo Credit: Justin Clatterbuck

Photo Credit: Justin Clatterbuck

This was Justin’s second tattoo – It’s on the left side of his chest. These are the Keyblades, Oathkeeper and Oblivion, from the game Kingdom Hearts. Meaning behind this one: “Within light there is darkness, and every day is a battle within our light and dark in the daily choices we make. A ying and a yang so to say.”

Photo Credit: Justin Clatterbuck

Photo Credit: Justin Clatterbuck

Here is Justin’s third tattoo. He got it this past summer, on the right side of his chest. This is the Recon Corps symbol, from the Attack on Titan anime. Meaning behind it: “Even when your back is up against the wall, don’t give up.”

Photo Credit: Justin Clatterbuck

Photo Credit: Justin Clatterbuck

The above is Justin’s latest tattoo. He got this in November, on his right shoulder. This is a mixture of Paragon and Renegade symbols (a.k.a. Renegon), from the game Mass Effect. Meaning behind it: “We all have moral choices to make, each one affecting our lives down the road. Make your choice today. Are you Paragon or Renegade today.”

I’ve had conversations about tattoos with Justin for months now, and it’s been great!

Because of him, I have several ideas for tattoos that I want on my own body … But you’re going to have to wait for part 2 for that!

Next, I wanted to feature my first official response to my Call for Photos – My dear friend, Amanda.

Photo Credit: Ralph Kuhnley, Jr.

Photo Credit: Ralph Kuhnley, Jr.

Not only is this a gorgeous photo of Amanda, it showcases an amazing story.

Amanda got this tattoo for her 21st birthday, in 2010. She got it at Alley Cat Tattoo in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Here are Amanda’s own words: ” … Near the end of my struggle, I got this tattoo done as a constant reminder that what I had done to myself was not a failure, but a lesson. A lesson to never need repeating. The placement was chosen because the skin stretches very little in this location, and it can be covered easily. But I always know it’s there…and I can show it off when I want to. Just like I can choose when to share my story.”

Thank you, Amanda!

I think I’m going to wrap this up … For now.

Look for part 2 – Coming soon!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Hot Topic #3: The Family that Cancelled Christmas

Here we are, less than a week until Christmas, 2014.

Earlier this month, a story on caught my eye – A mom and dad cancelled Christmas for their three sons.

Photo Credit: Lisa Henderson (Over The Big Moon)

Photo Credit: Lisa Henderson (Over The Big Moon)

… Cancelled  … Christmas?!

Did your eyebrows go up like mine did?

As I read the story, I realized that mom Lisa and dad John were trying to teach their three boys about the reason for the season – Giving, rather than receiving.

It was intriguing to me. The story that TODAY featured was abbreviated, so I found the full essay on Over The Big Moon.

Lisa and John had noticed their boys were caught up in entitlement and were having some related behavioral issues, so they decided to turn the month of December into a giving season. There won’t be presents, Santa, or stockings in their house next week.

Rather, they have worked on multiple service projects and using money for gifts for others, together.

I think this is awesome!

About two weeks after the original post, Lisa Henderson published an update on Over The Big Moon, the site that she runs with her friend/neighbor Dana, out of Utah – Check it out here.

She was, understandably, overwhelmed by the viral response and the Internet “trolls”, along with the reaction to the  multiple media appearances (Good Morning America, TODAY, etc). The main negative comment/opinion was that Lisa and John were doing this to punish their boys – and Lisa responded with a resounding Absolutely not.

Read more below:

” … Somehow the word consequence has become synonymous with punishment. I never used the word punishment. What we are doing is done out of love, not anger and we are making sure that it is a positive experience. Every choice we make has a consequence.  The definition of consequence is: an act or instance of following something as an effect, result, or outcome. Consequences by definition are neither good nor bad. I want my kids to understand that their behavior and choices matter, so we try (as much as possible) to have natural consequences rather than punishments. If our society teaches kids there are no consequences we do them a huge disservice for their future lives. My kids were expecting the world without giving much thought to others. The natural consequence is that we are giving them opportunities to give and not receive this Christmas season. We are making it fun and enjoyable …”

I can see the perception of punishment, but personally, I don’t see it that way.

Case in point – My own family.

My parents were out of town the week prior to Thanksgiving. The day before the holiday, my mom texted me, saying that she and Dad had discussed an idea – Instead of giving gifts this year, what did I think about adopting a local family of African refugees for Christmas?

Immediately, I wanted to say yes. I decided to wait to say yes in person, but there was no question in my mind when I saw that text.

A dear friend of ours, Emily, has been studying social work at a local university. We learned about this family of African refugees – A mom, dad, and three children, ages six, two-and-a-half, and a newborn – through Emily working with them this past semester.

After letting Emily know that we wanted to do this, my mom and I went shopping one cold Wednesday night. We set a budget, and wanted to get at least one piece of clothing for all five family members, a toy for each child, and then books.

Mom and I had so much fun that night, although the hardest part was finding just one toy for a 6-year-old boy that didn’t have a choking hazard. I had no idea! We definitely enjoyed it though.

Plus, we got everything we wanted, and we were under budget!

Mom put everything in gift bags and I met Emily at the university that Friday to deliver them. Emily was overwhelmed with our generosity and kept saying thank you. I was tickled pink that we decided to do this, and it was another reminder of the real reason for the season.

The end of Lisa’s update post struck me:

“I think one commenter summed it up perfectly. Her words in response to our Cancelling Christmas were, ‘Sounds to me like this will be their first true Christmas.'”

I couldn’t agree more. I feel that way, too.

With just six days left until Christmas Day, I wanted to share my thoughts. I think this is a wonderful story. As for my parents and I – I mentioned to my mom after we finished shopping that Wednesday night that I think we should make this a tradition for every year, and she agreed. I like giving back to others, and I feel like this is a great way to do it.

I’ll be posting a few more times before Christmas … But I also wanted to wish my readers a very safe, healthy, and happy holiday season!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Adventure Time: Richmond, VA Edition (Round 2)

I love it when four people and I are able to get together every few months. The five of us always have a great time together. I’m talking about Al, me, Justin, Drew, and Katie.

Our last rendezvous was in October, before Halloween. We try to plan as much in advance as we can, since we typically only have three-quarters of a Saturday to hang out and enjoy each other’s company.

This time around, we decided to do “Fandom Day.” We all have loves – Superheroes, sports teams, the list goes on. I wore my Green Bay Packers sweatshirt, Al donned his Tidewater Comicon T-shirt that he got the previous weekend, Justin represented the Denver Broncos, Katie was decked out in the black and yellow of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Drew rounded out the five of us with his all-time favorite superhero, Wolverine.

This last adventure mainly focused on this idea:

Photo Credit:

The Ninja Turtles – Carved out of watermelons!  …          Photo Credit:

We all love the Ninja Turtles, since we’re all kids of the mid- to late 1980s.

Drew took it a step further and bought us these epic T-shirts!!

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Donatello … Photo Credit:

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Leonardo … Photo Credit:


Michelangelo … Photo Credit:


Raphael … Photo Credit:

We started the day with a little bit of shopping – We went to Target, Five Below, and Michaels Arts and Crafts. Five Below was the favorite – We all found different things for multiple people, from Despicable Me tape with the Minions to Grumpy Cat magnets.

We also got the supplies for carving the Ninja Turtles – Metallic green spray paint and glow bracelets in the four colors.

Since it was fall, and we wanted to do the Ninja Turtles carving idea, we headed out to a pumpkin patch near Drew’s house. It was so fun! I can’t remember the last time I went to one, I must have been a kid. This patch was HUGE! It also had a hayride, a play area for the little ones, adorable dogs, and things for sale other than pumpkins – Apples, melons, and fresh honey!

Photo Credit: Al Vardaro

Selfie on the hayride! …          Photo Credit: Al Vardaro

Photo Credit: Al Vardaro

HUGE pumpkin patch! … Photo Credit: Al Vardaro

Photo Credit: Al Vardaro

Katie in the wheelbarrow! …  Photo Credit: Al Vardaro

On the way back to Drew’s house, we split up to get pizza! Katie and I went to Dominos while the guys went to Little Caesars. Al and I tried the Pretzel Crust Pizza from Little Caesars for the first time – It was pretty good, but it was plenty salty!

Back at the house, we ate while watching The Nightmare Before Christmas – One of our favorite movies! I can’t believe this movie is well over 20 years old now!

Before the end of the night, we played a couple rounds of Cards Against Humanity (CAH) – Our new favorite tradition. Katie surprised Drew with two of the expansion packs, because the last time we all met in August, we’d played through the whole basic deck while sitting around Al’s kitchen table.

The next get-together is currently set for the weekend of January 17th … It’s so exciting!

We have plenty of ideas already:

  • Making s’mores dip
  • Playing more CAH
  • Playing Munchkin together for the first time
  • Watching The Lord of the Rings – The extended versions, of course
  • Taking a group photo!
  • And potentially extending the fun into Sunday!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂


Getting Personal #4: Exploring Self-Love and Self-Esteem

“Life is our greatest possession and love its greatest affirmation.” ~Dr. Leo Buscaglia

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Have you ever heard someone tell you, “I love him/her more than life itself?”

Have you said it yourself?

Making that declaration can be interpreted in several ways:

(a) You would do absolutely anything for this person.

(b) If need be, you’re not afraid to lay down your life for them, or rescue them, or do everything in your power to save their life.

(c) You’re more than willing to put them above yourself, every single day.

(d) You can’t imagine your life without them in it.

(e) All of the above.

I write this post with a heavy heart. I have several friends struggling right now with multiple issues, including love and self-esteem. There are so many days I wish I could be the one to just take their pain away, but I’m not Superwoman, nor will I ever be.

For now, I just love others in my life as best that I can. I listen, I ask questions, I’m there for them as much as possible. But mostly, I try to listen and let them tell me their story or stories. I want them to know that I am present, and more than happy to help them as much as I possibly can as Laura Beth is able to. I just try to be the best friend that I absolutely can be.

I personally believe that loving yourself as your own person is equal, if not more so, important to loving someone else. You are you, first and foremost. You need to appreciate yourself and work to understand yourself first. Your likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses, and so on.

But, that’s just me and my opinion.

I want to make this post a source of information as well. I like doing research, and spreading help and knowledge wherever I can.

Here’s Psychology Today’s take on self-love.

This is a fascinating step-by-step process on loving yourself.

Have questions about self-esteem? Look no further.

Here’s one more guide to self-esteem – Take a look.

As I said earlier, I’m here to listen. I certainly like writing and sharing information with you, but one of the greatest joys I have in life is visiting and talking with people. I wish that certain people in my life weren’t so far away, so I do my best to keep up via Facebook.

In 2015, I plan to get much better about writing more letters and dropping more cards in the mail over the course of the year. If you’re interested, give me your address! I love sending and receiving mail – It’s like Christmas when something other than a bill comes to my house!!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Hot Topic #2: The National Football League in Recent News

“To paraphrase several sages: Nobody can think and hit someone at the same time.”
Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others

I like the sport of football. My family, especially my dad’s side, has been loyal Green Bay Packers for as long as I can remember. I think we still have the foam Cheeseheads somewhere in our attic. My dad has a well-worn GB T-shirt, patched and frayed. I have a newer sweatshirt showing my fandom. My dad’s sister and brother-in-law reside in Wisconsin, and my cousin Ryan proudly owns part of their stock.

Did you know, the Green Bay Packers are the only team owned outright by its fans?

But, as many of you know, the National Football League (NFL) has endured plenty of hits and tackles, particularly this season.

Initially, what got my blood boiling was the act that Ray Rice committed against his then-fiancee, Janay. He hit her so hard that she fell unconscious, and then he dragged her limp body out of the elevator. I think everyone knows that at this point.

I will never forget Wednesday, July 14, 2010. That afternoon, John Ivey hit me so hard in the arm/elbow, that I lost my grip on the steering wheel of my mom’s car. Thank goodness we were at a standstill in traffic at the time. We had been dating for a little over 4 years when he hit me. He hit me on a Wednesday afternoon, and I’d ended the relationship by Saturday morning.

But, this isn’t about me. I wanted to share that snippet of my life because I’ve been there. Domestic violence should not be tolerated.

And for the most part, it isn’t tolerated. People, both men and women, are arrested for it every single day.

But sadly, it took a high-profile NFL star to make the public truly aware of it. To that, I shake my head.

The other point I want to make is that recently, Rice won his appeal of his indefinite suspension.

This means, that he is cleared to play in the NFL again – If a team decides to sign him.

I hope not. I hope he never gets the chance to play professional football ever again.

He was cut from the Baltimore Ravens soon after everything started coming to light, thanks to the media. The Ravens did the right thing.

This new development/decision … Not so much.

According to an article by CNN,”‘The suspension has been vacated,’ George Atallah, the assistant executive director of external affairs for the players’ union, said.”

I almost fell out of my chair when I read that.

As I said earlier, domestic violence shouldn’t be tolerated. And the NFL has spoken up about that. They’ve gone so far to take up the Say NO MORE campaign – Watch the video here.

But, that’s not enough.

Ray Rice should have continued to be suspended. Furthermore, he should have stayed in jail. That’s what others who commit acts of domestic violence go.

I’m disgusted by Ray Rice, former U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones (She presided over the appeal case), the media in general, and even Rice’s now-wife.

I’m applauding the Baltimore Ravens team and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

The Ravens cut Rice from the team, and Goodell extended Rice’s original suspension of two games to it being indefinite.

Barbara Jones stated that her decision to vacate the second penalty – The indefinite suspension – was … “‘Because Rice did not mislead the commissioner and because there were no new facts on which the commissioner could base his increased suspension, I find that the imposition of the indefinite suspension was arbitrary. I therefore vacate the second penalty imposed on Rice,’ …”

In addition, Jones said “the case wasn’t about the number of games that Rice was suspended but the need for Goodell to be ‘fair and consistent’ in its discipline.”

Back up for a hot second.

“The need for Goodell to be ‘fair and consistent’ in its discipline” ?!?!?!

This case was extreme. How on earth was Roger Goodell expected to be “fair and consistent” in disciplining its athletes with this case?

The Rice case came on the heels of several other domestic violence and child abuse cases against NFL players – Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings. Jonathan Dwyer of the Arizona Cardinals. Greg Hardy of the Carolina Panthers. Ray McDonald of the San Francisco 49ers. Quincy Enunwa of the New York Jets.

All those were within the last few months of this year, 2014.

But there’s more. Read about the numbers behind domestic violence arrests of NFL players here, and a report on the players still playing here.

I’m disgusted. Athletes in this country, and around the world, are so high on people’s pedestals. It’s like some people worship these men and women. Kids idolize their favorite players; they want to be just like them.

People actually look up to these players, these men that have committed horrible acts against the people that they supposedly love and care for?

Not me.

I may be a die-hard Green Bay Packers fan and I’ve watched the team evolve and change over the years, but I don’t have a jersey of a particular Green Bay player, and I never will.

For now, I’ll follow the news of the Packers, and I’ll continue to read the news. But, it certainly doesn’t mean I’m happy with these events.

In fact, I wish more far more people were up in arms about this.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Adventure Time: Farmville, VA Edition

Back in October, I had the opportunity to spend a weekend in my beloved Farmville.

Farmville is the home of my alma mater, Longwood University. I loved every single second as a student there. I jump at every opportunity to come back and visit.

The reason I traveled to Farmville in the middle of October was for a very special event – The Grand Re-Opening of Stubbs Hall.

Stubbs Hall was my home for my senior year, as a sister of Alpha Sigma Tau. It has historically been Longwood’s sorority dorm. It is the one of just two female-only residence halls still in existence – Longwood went co-ed in 1976!

When I was a resident, Stubbs had no A/C. It was a great place to live, but it was definitely old.

When I arrived in Farmville on Friday afternoon, I was not prepared for the sights that I saw.

It looked like the entire town had transformed in just three and a half years. So many familiar places are gone now – Kroger, Dairy Queen, Shoney’s.

The Robert Russa Moton Museum is getting a great addition.

The Lancer Cafe in the Student Union looked completely different.

And that weekend, the beloved Cunninghams Hall was being prepped for demolition.

And even though there were stark changes, I was still thrilled to be in Farmville. I was reunited with my good friend Justin. I met his girlfriend, Heaven, in person for the first time. I got to see a ton of my sisters, both alumnae and active on campus. I stayed in a hotel room with two amazing sisters all weekend.

We explored Farmville on Saturday morning before the Stubbs events began. I returned to Pairets, Red Front Trading Company, Barnes & Noble, and Chick-fil-A. I experienced The Fishin’ Pig for the very first time, as well as 202 Bar and Grill. I laughed so hard I cried and almost fell off the hotel bed. One sister hosted a marshmallow roast and cornhole at her house on Saturday night. I had a blast.

And, of course, no adventure would be complete without pictures!

Amazing sisters in our spectacular new chapter room - They even kept the beloved built-in shelves! Facebook Credit: Kristin Walker

Amazing sisters in our spectacular new chapter room – They even kept the beloved built-in shelves!
Facebook Credit: Kristin Walker

I love Kristin! Facebook Credit: Kristin Walker

I love Kristin!
Facebook Credit: Kristin Walker

The beautiful Alyssa! Media Credit: Alyssa Taylor

The beautiful Alyssa!
Facebook Credit: Alyssa Taylor

Sisters outside of Stubbs! Facebook Credit: Heather Lin

Sisters outside of Stubbs!
Facebook Credit: Heather Lin

I love my sorority. I love my sisters!

Stay classy, Farmville.

I’m sure I’ll see you again sooner rather than later.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂