Hot Topic #7: Welfare

Image Credit: Lars Larson

Image Credit: Lars Larson

“We should measure welfare’s success by how many people leave welfare, not by how many are added.” ~Ronald Reagan

That photo above?

Originally posted May 30th

At last count:

  • 70,000+ likes
  • 492,500 shares, and counting
  • Literally countless comments

I received quite an education when I found this and shared it on Facebook about two weeks ago.

It inspired me to take the comments that were posted on Facebook, and research welfare on my own.

First, the basic definition of welfare:

  • Welfare is the provision of a minimal level of well-being and social support for all citizens, sometimes referred to as public aid.

This link gives information about the U.S. welfare system.

The Heritage Foundation is another interesting resource about welfare, welfare spending, and welfare reform.

Back in 2012, The Weekly Standard published an article titled “Over 100 Million Now Receiving Federal Welfare.”

Note – This count of Americans did not include those receiving Social Security or Medicare.

In my opinion, because this chart was released by the Republican side of the Senate Budget Committee, it’s slightly biased.

However, in any case, the numbers are striking. The chart started in the first quarter of 2009, where over 97 million Americans were receiving means-tested welfare. The chart ends in the second quarter of 2011, where over 107 million Americans were receiving the same kind of welfare. Keep in mind, this chart encompasses all of 2009, all of 2010, and the first half of 2011, when the country was plunged deep into the “Great Recession.”

The article goes on to indicate that food stamps and Medicaid were the two highest programs of enrollment.

Unfortunately, I don’t think those numbers have changed for the better.

As for the picture in the beginning of this post, I was glad to get both sides of the story.

Arguing in favor of making drug testing mandatory in all 50 states when applying for welfare, it makes sense, in a way. Most employers nowadays require hired employees to complete a drug test before starting work, to comply with employees being alcohol- and drug-free in the workplace.

Applying it to welfare candidates makes sense – ALMOST.

The comments I got on this photo were how mandating drug tests could jeopardize these people greatly. I get that, I really do. If you’re applying for welfare and you’re required to get a drug test, that adds pressure. And if you’re already on drugs, that added pressure doesn’t help at all.

Another point that was made was about the money involved. Apparently those states – Florida, Kentucky, and Missouri – have LOST money because of mandating these drug tests. If a person applying for welfare passes the drug test, then the state gives them the money for the drug test, along with starting their welfare benefits.

It was fascinating to read the comments – It certainly humbled this writer!

Welfare has helped many in this country, no doubt, for many years. Food stamps keep adults and children from going completely hungry. Medicaid gives struggling parents and children the access to the healthcare facilities that they simply can’t access without assistance. And there are other programs too.

But what we always hear about is those who use and abuse the system, such as women or parents who keep having children because they know that their welfare benefits will increase with each child. That kind of thing. Apparently these women have been dubbed “Welfare Queens.”

That makes me sick.

My argument, when originally sharing this photo, was that there needed to be more regulations to the welfare system. More crackdowns. More restrictions. Because of the comments that were made, I now know that’s not the case.

These numbers should certainly be tracked and analyzed, and I think that can be improved and publicized better. Investigations should be done into suspected cases of abuse, and it should be consistent.

However, welfare is keeping many afloat.

I just wish these people could/would eventually get off welfare and make their lives even better … But that’s another story.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Adventure Time: Chesapeake, VA Edition (Katie and the Sleepover)

Image Credit:

Image Credit:

This quote is Katie to a T!

Katie came and slept over this weekend!

We’ve been friends since that fateful The Rotunda student newspaper meeting in 2007. We are going to be bridesmaids in each other’s weddings – Mine in about four months, and Katie’s is being planned for sometime in 2016. It’s very exciting.

I hadn’t had a close friend sleep over at my house in several months, so it was awesome this worked out.

Katie and I - January 2015

Katie and I – January 2015

Last night, my parents, Al, Katie, and I went a friend’s house for the spring/summer social of PEO. Mom and I are sisters. PEO stands for Philanthropic Educational Organization. It is a wonderful group of women in the U.S. and Canada, who raise money for educational scholarships and loans for women in the U.S. and internationally. PEO also has its own college, Cottey College, in Nevada, Missouri.

I could sit here for days and tell you about PEO. My mom became a sister in 1992. Before that, my dad’s grandmother, mother, and his two sisters have been PEOs as well.

Katie learned about PEO through a woman from Illinois, who came to Norfolk last month to speak at a leadership conference. This woman said that Katie should talk to other PEOs, and at the time, Katie said that she didn’t know anyone who was a sister.

Come to find out, earlier this week, I extended an invitation to her, and her response on Facebook was, “Wait, isn’t PEO philanthropic educational organization?”

I about fell off of Al’s couch when she wrote that!

The social was very nice – A great group of women and their spouses/significant others, also known as B.I.L.s. There was so much food! Katie talked to several of the ladies who were very eager to meet her and get to know her better. Having PEO socials is like a reunion of sorts – There are six local chapters within the cities of Suffolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach – so it’s awesome to see who shows up!

After food and drink, Sara gave a presentation about her last year as a Cottey student. Sara is from Virginia Beach and discovered Cottey after visiting for a weekend. It’s a great school. It only has 250 women, but a bunch of states and over 15 countries are represented. A lot of money that PEOs raise goes directly to Cottey. Clearly, going to Cottey changed Sara’s life – She just earned her two-year degree, went to Thailand for two weeks before graduation, and is now considering Longwood (!!) or Christopher Newport University for further education. Katie and I are hoping to take a trip out to Cottey at some point – It sounds like so much fun!

After the social wound down, I drove Al back to his house. He gave Katie the two pieces of artwork we bought from Tidewater Comicon for her fiance, Drew. We’re so excited!

We got home and chatted with my parents for a while before Katie and I hung out. She was thrilled that I had my American Girl dolls on display, and we launched into planning a future trip to D.C. with our close group of friends!

We both started getting sleepy and decided to turn in for the night around 11:00 p.m.

I woke up this morning around 6:00 and turned on the TV. Katie joined me around 6:30, and then my parents were shocked that we were up so early. The four of us chatted and shared stories before Mom started to get ready for church. Katie and I ate breakfast, talking about her upcoming trips to Pittsburgh and then Ohio!

She Face-Timed with Drew for a few minutes as well, so that was fun to talk to him for a bit.

This morning was nice and relaxed. Katie then got cleaned up and headed toward Richmond to see Drew and Drew’s dad a little while ago.

The sleepover was so much fun – Hoping to do it again really soon!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂





Commentary #7: “We Tried On Victoria’s Secret Bathing Suits And This Is What Happened”

Image Credit: Buzzfeed

Image Credit: Buzzfeed

Buzzfeed has its hits and its misses.

This one, though – A huge hit!

Check it out – We Tried On Victoria’s Secret Bathing Suits And This Is What Happened

I shared this post earlier this week, almost as soon as I saw it on my Facebook Newsfeed. Once I shared it, I got an almost immediate response, with multiple likes and several comments, plus a few shares.

Body image, particularly for women, has been a flaming hot topic for many, many years. More recently, it’s been spotlighted with stories like Jennie Runk, Tess Holliday, and others.

In addition, bathing suits (in general) and Victoria’s Secret have also been under the microscope for a good while.

I was so impressed with these six women on the Buzzfeed staff. They put themselves out there, for literally the world to see, in one of the most vulnerable ways possible.

However, I say that last sentence with a challenge. It shouldn’t make anyone feel vulnerable to be in a bathing suit. Period. And notice that I said ANYONE. This doesn’t just apply to girls and women. We can’t forget about the boys and men, either.

We are a very self-conscious society. Yes, there are and there have been movements to make women and girls and others feel more empowered, stronger, more comfortable in their skin, and so on. I think that’s great. However, these movements, like YouTube videos, tend to go viral for a while, and then fade.

With that said, there are several empowering campaigns that I follow on Facebook that I think are awesome:

These pages go beyond body image – They work to promote confidence, strength, smarts, and so many other positive things! Check them out – I love them.

But over here, behind my laptop, I’m standing up with my head held high. I have struggled with body issues in the past. But no more.

Now, after many years of putting myself down and feeling sorry for myself, I am finally looking at my five-foot-six, 132-pound frame, every single morning, with PRIDE. I feel happy to look at myself in the mirror. I smile.

I’m so excited to go to Kings Dominion next month with Al and a group of our closest friends. I’m excited to wear a tank top and shorts. I’m excited to wear a bikini to the newly-expanded water park.

I do own some more conservative swimsuits – A tankini, and two one-pieces – but I wear those with equal pride. I’m excited to celebrate summer and showcase my body.

In fact, I may actually buy one of the swimsuits featured in the photo shoot. This is one of the Buzzfeed staff:

Image Credit: Buzzfeed

Image Credit: Buzzfeed

That – Wow. That photo is sexy to me. It shows strength! I love the design and the colors too.

Best part – It’s REAL. It wasn’t Photoshopped or re-touched.

That looks better than anything else I’ve seen.

Bottom line: Not all swimsuits have to be bikinis to be sexy.

Image Credit: Buzzfeed

Image Credit: Buzzfeed

The six women at the top of the photo look healthy, happy, and enthusiastic. And I love it!

I cannot wait to rock my swimsuits with just as much happiness and pride!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Wednesdays #18

Image Credit:

Image Credit:

Welcome back! Happy Wednesday!

Enjoy the next installment of “Discussion of Differences.”

But hear this – You can do this. You’re so close. Just buckle down and endure these last few weeks – I promise that the end result will be so worth it.”

Lizzy sniffled and considered her words carefully.

“Thanks, B. Really. It’s so great to have a friend like you. I feel more of a connection to you than anyone else, which is probably why I’ve been texting you non-stop for the last six days. I’m sorry about that, by the way. I just get into a groove of feeling the need to write out everything that I’m currently thinking. I simply forgot that you have these things called work, and your own school, and your life with Will and your family. Will you accept my apology?”

Bethany then realized she’d been holding her breath. As she let it out slowly, she also considered her next move.

“Lizzy, of course I accept your apology. But – You need to make a commitment to me.”

“B – Anything. Anything for a friend like you.”

“Please, for the love of everything holy, text me only once a day from now on. I don’t care if it’s a novel, but consider it a reward, of sorts. You can text me at the end of every day, but only when you get through all of your classes, all of your homework, and any other obligations that you have. Do we have a deal?”

Bethany could almost see Lizzy, see her making that face when she’s seriously considering something.

“You got it, B. Anything to save our friendship!”

Bethany chuckled. “Lizzy – I wasn’t going to end our friendship. I’m just a worried mother hen right now. Do you understand? Anyway, I look forward to your end-of-day texts!”

“B – You rock. I feel so much better now. When’s the best time to text you?”

“Um, any time before 9:30 p.m. After that, I’m asleep. Got it?”

“Okie dokie. I’ll text you tonight then! Thanks, B. You’re an awesome friend.”

“Alright. Let me eat my food and I’ll get back to work. I’ll text you back tonight to let you know that I got it and read it. Now go pass those classes!”

Bethany could almost see the smile returning to Lizzy’s face.

Bethany originally wanted to approach Hunter about Lisanna’s issues, but she felt better once she’d hung up the phone. Still, Bethany didn’t want Hunter to be in the dark about anything.

With shaking hands, she picked up her iPhone and logged into the FlixelFlaxen. She saw the red message bubble at the top of the screen. It always made her heart soar – Almost as much as her personal phone buzzed with a text or picture message from Will.

Bethany almost felt bad that she had such a close relationship with Hunter – They were pen pals, too – but they both knew it was completely platonic. Both of them cared about their significant others too much, along with their friendship, to jeopardize anything.

Bethany just stared at Hunter’s last message for at least five minutes before tapping the screen to write a reply. Whatever she wrote, she had to do it quickly – Her lunch break was almost over. At least she’d been able to scarf down her sandwich while talking with Lizzy.

Finally, in the last two minutes of her lunch hour, Bethany felt confident in her thoughts.

Hey there. I hope you had a good lunch break. I just spent three-quarters of mine talking with Lizzy. Yes, actually talking with her over the phone. I don’t want to get in the middle of anything between you two, but I wanted to be transparent with you. That’s what friends are for – I don’t want to keep any secrets from you. I completely understand if you don’t want to share or talk about it.

Bethany let out a frustrated sigh, peppered with relief. She always felt better when she actually communicated her thoughts and feelings – Whether it be through spoken word, or written. She just didn’t want to hurt anybody.

Hunter had far more freedom at his job – He was able to stay on the FlixelFlaxen throughout the day, unlike Bethany.

He always got excited when the new message icon popped up. He really did enjoy Bethany’s conversations. After all, he had never expected to be friends with her after her graduation more than three years ago. He was immensely grateful for her friendship – She’d gotten him through some dark times, ones that she didn’t know about. And that included issues with Lisanna.

He read B’s latest message once, and then paused before reading it again. He always like to read things more than once.

He took off his glasses, closed his eyes, and pressed his hands to his face. His worst fears were becoming reality. Lizzy was a super senior. Over the last several weeks, he had noticed her withdrawals increasing at an alarming rate. He knew she was struggling, but he had no idea how to help her.

“Oh, fuck. Fuckity fuck fuck fuck! Now B knows. Now what?”

He had to distract himself for a few minutes before replying to her. Luckily, he knew Bethany was working on a big project this afternoon, so he had more than enough time to consider his response to her.

After a lopsided combination of a little bit of video editing and quite a bit of anime, Hunter’s head was clear enough. He didn’t like replying to Bethany on impulse, if he could help it.

He took a deep breath as he poised his hands over the keyboard.

Interesting. First of all, it’s not your fault – I know that Lizzy’s gotten super close with you since last we met at Bill’s. And that’s great! I appreciate you letting me know. And being honest with me. Keeping secrets is never a good thing – Even between friends. Not to worry though – You’re not getting between us. In fact, you saying something has actually been helpful. It’s made me realize that there’s more of a problem than I had originally thought. Let’s work together, if that’s okay with you. I think you want to help Lizzy as much as I do. What do you think?

Hunter finally breathed out as he clicked Send.

“Now, the waiting begins. Until then – More distraction!”

As Bethany wrapped up her project toward the end of the day, she took a bathroom break. She had had Hunter in the back of her mind all day, and barely hit the lock on the bathroom door before beginning to read.

She heaved a sigh of relief as she skimmed through Hunter’s reply. She was grateful for his understanding, but also worried. How were the two of them going to help Lizzy through this storm?

Bethany liked to plan, so she started formulating one in her head as soon as she’d read the last word. By the time she got back to her desk, she’d tapped out a skeleton plan.

Hunter had basically beaten her to the punch though:

I think I have a plan. Of course, I want to hear your thoughts before I decide. But I feel like I need to visit Lizzy every weekend until the end of the semester. I think she misses my company. I’d like to think that my visits help her get through the week prior and at least part of the week afterward. I wish I could stay longer than three days, but rules are rules.

Bethany’s eyes widened. That didn’t sound like a good solution – At first glance, anyway. After all, Lizzy had said the whole spiel about wanting to be alone in front of the whole group.

Her own plan was partially for Hunter to visit more often, but certainly not every weekend until mid-December! Bethany’s combination of fear and hesitation were based on experience – Sometimes spending every waking moment, or every weekend in the case of a LDR, together, have bad results. It sometimes pushes the couple apart.

And Lizzy didn’t need to push anything else away right now. She needed the continuing support of Hunter, Bethany, and her other friends, but also have that balance of time alone. Of course, Bethany knew that she couldn’t change Hunter’s mind, but she could weigh in with her opinion.

Bethany couldn’t respond right away. She needed to mull this over, maybe even talk to Will about it. But there was another pressing thing on her mind: The next meeting. It was just eight days away!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂


Commentary #6: The Size of the Ring (Shouldn’t Fucking Matter)

Image Credit:

Image Credit:

Disclaimer: This post contains strong language.

This was recently brought to my attention, via Facebook:

The original caption with the photo reads: “Let me hear your honest thoughts ladies.” This was originally posted in December 2014.

At that time, this photo got 152,000+ likes, 66,000+ comments, and 17,000+ shares.

Amid those 66,000+ comments – I know it’s hard to read – the comment directly underneath the photo reads:

“dear greedy cunts, if you will dump a man pouring his heart out to you because he can’t afford a rock as big as your overinflated ego please reevaluate your life and maybe lay off the MTV.”

When The Tasteless Gentleman re-posted it on January 6th, their caption was:

“this shouldn’t even be a question.”

Their post garnered almost 27,000 likes, 27,300+ shares, and literally countless comments.

A friend put it this way:

“and I think it’s fucking stupid really. If the man truly loves you and can only afford a small ring at the moment, and you say, ‘That’s it?’, then honey you saying no will be the best thing you ever did for him, cuz [sic] clearly you don’t deserve him.”

Precisely! I don’t think I could have said it better.

I couldn’t agree more.

However, with that said, I will also share my honest thoughts.

I mean, this is a “commentary” post, after all.

Engagement rings, in general, are wonderful. They’re beautiful. They’re unique to each and every girl/woman. I’ve seen many beautiful rings on the left hands of many friends, family members, and other women in my life.

However, did you know that the “tradition” of the diamond engagement ring is actually relatively new? Because of  the De Beers company and their crafty ad agency, in the early 1900s, they created a brilliant marketing campaign aimed at men in the U.S. – Diamonds are valuable, and giving your woman a beautiful diamond ring matters.

It was fascinating to learn about – Here’s one blog post about it.

With all that said, I don’t believe that it’s necessary to give your girl/woman an engagement ring.

Prime example: Al’s mom.

When Al’s parents decided to get married years ago, Al’s mom told his dad that she didn’t want a ring – They didn’t have a lot of money to begin with. What she really wanted, more than anything in this world, was this particular set of pots and pans. So that’s what Al’s dad did!

I was shocked when she first told me that story several years ago, but I love it. It is so unique! She’s not a jewelry person, anyway!

Also, to the women who value the ring and the size of said ring over the main point … Fuck off. Fuck you. That’s ridiculous. That is pure bullshit. I give you both my middle fingers.

That, right there, is basically the definition of being materialistic. And that is incredibly sad.

The main point, of course, is seeing your man (You know, that one, the one you’ve presumably devoted a good bit of your time/love/energy/effort to, whether it be a few months or several years or maybe you even had a child with him before this moment) down on one knee, asking you one of the biggest questions EVER.

If you’re that superficial, to claim that the size of the ring matters MORE than your man AND his love for you … What the hell.

You don’t deserve him. You don’t deserve that ring. You don’t deserve to be involved with him for one more second.

You (should) know how the song goes: “Can’t buy me love …”

I absolutely adore my engagement ring. Al let me pick out what I wanted, even after I offered to him, came right out and told him that I put my full trust in him to pick one out for me.

I look at it – Find myself/ catch myself staring at it, a lot – falling more in love with it, and the man who gave it to me, every single day.

Photo Credit: Al Vardaro

Photo Credit: Al Vardaro

At the same time, I’ve heard several stories of men who want to give their wives better rings. Someone I know wants to give his wife a bigger, better ring for their 10-year anniversary, a few years from now. To me, it’s so sweet and thoughtful that he wants to basically re-propose to her, knowing that the ring he had to originally proposed marriage was bought with limited money. Now, years later, they’ve grown in their careers to have better things. That’s awesome to me, and it shows how much he loves her and wants to give her what she deserves, in his mind.

But back to the original point. The same friend asked me what I would do if Al had held up a box with a ring like in the first picture – Would I say yes?

My answer:

“Absolutely. Without question, without hesitation.”

It’s not about the ring, not at all. It’s because I love Al. He is amazing. He is a wonderful man, a man that I have dreamed of marrying, and having children with, and building a life together for several years now. I’m beyond excited to know that in less than five months, that dream will fucking finally become reality. And I can’t fucking wait. The ring on my left hand is a symbol of our love together, but I know, 100 percent, that I would be just as much in love with him and excited to marry him on November 14th if it were smaller. I would never turn him down, ever.

Even if Al couldn’t have afforded a ring at the time he wanted to propose, I still would have said yes, no matter what. Without question, without hesitation.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Hot Topic #6: Homelessness

Image Credit:

Image Credit:

We all see it, probably every single day – Someone at an intersection or some other place, aiming for high visibility from cars – People with cardboard signs, asking for help.







I’ve always been torn when I see one of these people with their signs.

When I was younger, on a trip to New York City, my parents and I were visiting the hospital where I was born. Outside the entrance, there was this black woman, a little older, thin and frail, literally begging for people to help her. It was around my birthday, in early August, so it was definitely hot and humid that day too.

As a child/early teenager (I think I was in middle school at the time), I asked my mom if we could give this poor woman, clearly suffering, money or buy her some food. I remember Mom getting a little upset, frustrated, and telling me no, that we didn’t know if she was on drugs, that kind of thing.

From then on, I couldn’t stop staring. It broke my heart.

That memory has stuck with me for all these years. As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve learned that there are so many ways to help others who are in need.

I wanted to share with you a few ways, and tell you a few stories along the way.

First up – Blankets For The Homeless, or BFTH for short.

Image Credit: Blankets for the Homeless Hampton Roads

Image Credit: Blankets for the Homeless Hampton Roads

This is Mariah. She’s now 21 years old. And she’s making a massive difference.

Her story is amazing. She was born and abandoned on Christmas Eve. She was fostered, then adopted. She was homeless in the first hours of her life, and now she’s made it her mission to help those who are helpless and less fortunate.

BFTH is three, almost four years young now, but to the Hampton Roads area, it’s been a massive blessing since 2011.

They have a large following on Facebook – Blankets for the Homeless Hampton Roads. I love seeing the photos of donations, as well as distributions. Everyone’s smiling.

They are officially a 501c3 non-profit. Their mission: “Providing blankets, coats, hoodies, JEANS, clothes, hats, gloves, shoes, back packs, tents, tarps, toiletries, etc., & lunches to the homeless.”

Many of you who read the blog know that I follow Freckled Italian, Megan’s blog, obsessively. I love her work!

One of her posts that struck me recently was titled “On Cleaning Out My Closet.” Check it out!

Reading, and re-reading, that post from Megan, inspired me to clean out my OWN closet. I try to clean out my closet around every six months – Basically every spring/summer and then again in the fall/winter. I normally gather everything up and put it in bags and take it to the local Goodwill near my office.

However, since learning more about BFTH, cleaning out my closet this time took on a whole new meaning. When I looked at my entire wardrobe that Saturday, I immediately decided to separate it into two categories – The main one for BFTH, and the smaller one for Goodwill.

As I went through each item, I kept thinking, “If I were homeless, what would I appreciate receiving?”

I also went into my bathroom and gathered all the travel-sized toiletry items I could find. I also threw in extra, unopened, pads and tampons for the girls/women.

After the wardrobe clean-up, this was the stack of donations. I've since added to it.

After the initial wardrobe clean-up, this was the stack of donations. I’ve since added to it.

I’m very much looking forward to the day when I load up my trunk and make my way to Virginia Beach to help Mariah and her ongoing mission – Hopefully soon.

When that does happen, I’ll be sure to publish a follow-up post!

Next, I wanted to share what the state of Utah has been doing about their homeless population and housing.

Here’s one of the best summaries I could find:

In eight years, Utah has reduced homelessness by 78%, and is on track to end homelessness by 2015.

How did Utah accomplish this? Simple. Utah solved homelessness by giving people homes. In 2005, Utah figured out that the annual cost of E.R. visits and jail stays for homeless people was about $16,670 per person, compared to $11,000 to provide each homeless person with an apartment and a social worker.

So, the state began giving away apartments, with no strings attached. Each participant in Utah’s Housing First program also gets a caseworker to help them become self-sufficient, but they keep the apartment even if they fail.

The program has been so successful that other states are hoping to achieve similar results with programs modeled on Utah’s.

via Nation of Change

(Posted by Conspiracy Theory With Jesse Ventura – January 20, 2014)

Whoa. That’s powerful!

Here’s a few hot links as well:

This is inspiring. I hope Utah’s example will spread!

Another group that struggles with homelessness is our military veterans.

This is both sad and maddening at the same time.

These men and women have served our country proudly. The last thing that they should struggle with is affordable housing, on their home soil!!

“We have an epidemic of homeless veterans on our nation’s streets. Over 100,000 brave men and women just lost in the shuffle.” ~Mac Taylor, CSI: NY recently featured an article on helping homeless vets with socks.

The smallest items, like socks, can easily be overlooked when people think about the homeless.

When I was going through my wardrobe, I took time to count the pairs of socks I owned. I was immediately ashamed – I lost count at 30 pairs! I vowed then and there to include clean socks in my donations, to both BFTH and Goodwill.

The best thing about BFTH is they help everyone – Men, women, children, and even pets!

Another topic that’s come up regarding the homeless is the sheer number of abandoned houses. The city of Detroit comes to mind almost immediately, with numerous stories of the amount of houses, and the city auctioning them off for $1.00 so long as the winner fixes it up, and so on.

But it’s not just Detroit. There are abandoned houses in every town, city, county in this vast country of ours. Something needs to be done.

In my opinion, everyone needs to work together to rescue these houses and turn them into something positive. It would spread positive vibes in so many ways, I think.

If people came together and worked together to clean up these houses and make them livable, a homeless person or a homeless family could have a home again. With a home, they would be able to start their life or lives over. The thought of owning a home is still a dream to so many people.

I think of Habitat for Humanity. My parents used to volunteer with the local South Hampton Roads chapter – Our family and others from church helped build several houses in the early ’90s in some of the neediest areas of Portsmouth.

When Al and I get our first house, I plan to visit the local Habitat Re-Store to see what they have to offer. All the money from the stores go back to helping people and families build their own homes!

Two weeks ago, the story of Hailey Fort, from Washington state, went viral.

This girl, all of nine-years-old, has been an activist for the homeless since she was five. She’s made it her goal to build portable shelters AND grow food for these people.


Another story came out in April, from Denver, Colorado – The story of The Purple Door coffee shop.

The title of this story says a lot: “Coffee shop takes girl from homelessness to happiness.”

Toward the end of May, Steve Hartman on CBS profiled a man in San Francisco, helping with his sewing machine. I love Steve’s stories. This one – It’s mending people’s clothes, impressions, and hearts.

So, you may be asking at this point, “How can I help? What can I do?”

It’s overwhelming, really.

Here are my thoughts:

  • Adopt the thought: “If I were in this situation, what would I like to receive?”
  • Donate food to your local food pantry. My church does a weekly distribution, and there are so many families that receive assistance this way.
  • Volunteer with Panera Bread’s Operation Dough-Nation program.
  • Learn more about Habitat for Humanity.
  • Educate yourself about the community/communities around you. Unfortunately, right now, homelessness is never far away.
  • As Mariah says, “We are also asking that everyone make a ‘Blessing Box’ to keep in their car with five non-perishable lunches, blankets, and as the weather gets colder, hats and gloves to be able to immediately help someone in need. You can make a difference! We all can!”
  • Any amount of money certainly helps, but sometimes, the littlest items are far better.
  • Be the change! Be proactive. If everyone gave the tiniest bit of effort and time, this world would greatly improve.

Bottom line: Get involved! No effort is too small.

Also, it’s never too early to teach your children about the powers of giving, either.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Adventure Time: Scottsburg, VA Edition (Round 2)

Image Credit:

Image Credit:

This past weekend, we visited Al’s parents at their farm 🙂

It was different this time around – My parents came to visit. They followed us up on Saturday morning. We got to the so-called halfway point in Lawrenceville, VA, and we knew we were in the country when the Food Lion employee walking into work in front of us actually said hello and struck up a conversation!

Scottsburg is roughly a three-hour drive from Chesapeake, and it’s one of the easiest drives. Unless there’s some sort of accident that backs up traffic, you follow US-58 almost the whole way there. It’s more fun in a convertible, like Al and I did last year, but we still had a great time this trip. It’s really nice to be able to drive a couple of hours and get away for a bit, without having to leave the state!

When our two-car caravan arrived around noon on Saturday, Al’s mom had lunch ready. Yummy meatball subs and her famous pasta salad! My parents got the tour of the house – It’s a very short tour, since the house is only two bedrooms and one bathroom!

After we ate, we took the longer property tour. They’re on eight acres of land! It was really hot outside, so we traipsed through only half of it. Al’s mom pointed out the garage that Al’s dad is building himself, the barn, the pond, the fields, the cow pasture next door, and the small garden she’s started since the last time Al and I visited.

Photo gallery!

View from the front yard.

View from the front yard.

I love this flag!

I love this flag!

Gorgeous day lilies behind the house.

Gorgeous day lilies behind the house.

The new garage, in progress. Al's dad is doing this all by himself. Amazing!

The new garage, in progress. Al’s dad is doing this all by himself. Amazing!

The garden. Did you know that pinwheels help keep pests away?

The garden. Did you know that pinwheels help keep pests away?

Around sunset, storms in the distance. Looking out to the cow pasture next to the farm.

Around sunset, storms in the distance. Looking out to the cow pasture next to the farm.

Wild flowers growing on the barn.

Wild flowers growing on the barn.

It was a really nice visit.

One of the coolest experiences we had was at dinner. Ernie’s is the local place, it has an amazing buffet. We noticed that there were more cars than usual in the parking lot. We were seated in the huge dining room, used for meals, wedding receptions, and more.

We quickly found out why there were so many cars: There was a huge group in the same room, celebrating a man named Cecil, who just turned 90 years old. The six of us were thoroughly entertained by all the stories that were told about this wonderful man, from his children to a host of friends. Al’s mom was so moved that she asked someone to point out who Cecil was. Then she went up to him, explained we had been seated in the corner, enjoyed all the stories and accolades, and she wished him a Happy Birthday and hugged him. It was so sweet!

Before we realized it was Cecil’s birthday bash, we saw a few women stand up and introduce themselves to the crowd. Two of these women were very candid, explaining that they were single. One of the two had the best line of the night:

“I’m such-and-such age, I am single, and I am looking for a man … but I need to check his bank account first.”

My parents left after dinner to head home. Al and I stayed the night. I think all four of us were in bed before 9:30 p.m., we were so tired.

Sunday morning, I woke up around 6:00, not able to sleep comfortably any longer. I knew Al’s mom was awake, so it was nice to talk to her for a while and be with her and Lilly, their sweet chocolate lab. Al slept until 6:30 a.m., a new record! Since the two of us get up on the five weekdays around 4:30 a.m. to go to the gym and work out together, Al rarely sleeps in.

Before we left to head home, Al’s mom made the fluffiest pancakes with bacon and maple sausage – Yum!

I look forward to the next visit!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Wednesdays #17

Image Credit:

Image Credit:

Welcome back to the latest installment of “Discussion of Differences.”

Bethany caught Hunter’s eye. She deliberated folded the note as Hunter watched. She nudged Will, and silently motioned to the note and then to Hunter. Will merely nodded and passed it along.

Hunter took the note from Will and immediately gave it to Lisanna. She looked up and smiled, eyes gleaming. Bethany knew then she’d made the right decision.

Bethany smiled as she turned back to Lisanna’s page. She wrote just three words:

To be continued …

Although no one wanted it to happen, it grew very late all too quickly. Fortunately, Bethany and Lisanna were able to have their first one-on-one before the group broke up for the night.

“Lisanna? Or, can I call you Lizzy?”

Bethany sensed the hesitation in her voice as she spoke the words. She was a little nervous, but she wanted to make Lisanna as comfortable as possible.

“Either one. I don’t mind. How about you? Bethany? Beth? B, like in your note?”

Bethany smiled.

“Any of those. As long as you don’t call me later for supper.”

They both giggled.

Bethany sighed with relief. The joke from Dad always seemed to break the ice and ease tension every single time.

Things were going smoothly, so far.

“I know very little about you, only the bits and pieces that Hunter’s told me. But I liked you from the start, I want you to know that.”

Lisanna smiled shyly. She felt the heat in her cheeks, but it was a good sense of embarrassment. She felt pride that Hunter spoke so highly of her among his closest friends.

“So, Lizzy, I don’t want to know your whole life story. Not tonight, anyway. I just wanted to introduce myself and start our friendship, the right way.”

“I appreciate that, B. I really do. You’re a good friend.”

Bethany smiled.

“So, Lizzy, I have a few questions. I want to make sure that you have an equal share in this adventure that we’re planning …”

Another hour quickly slipped through their fingers. Lisanna and Bethany were just chattering away, as if they were long-lost friends. They’d learned so much about each other in that lone hour. Both were instantly sad when they both caught glimpses of Hunter and Will in the reflections of their glasses.

“Aw, baby, do we have to?”

Will nodded solemnly. “Yep, baby. Sorry. We have an hour and a half drive, remember? It’s definitely late.”

Bethany frowned, with a little bit of a pout, but smiled just as quickly.

“Well, I’m sure that our next planning session isn’t too far away. After all, December will be here before we know it!”

Lisanna’s eyes instantly grew as dark as the sky outside. Bethany covered her mouth with her hands, eyes wide with horror.

“Oh, Lizzy. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean …”

“B – It’s okay, honest. Sorry I scared you. Just hearing that one word brings up so many emotions.”

Bethany instinctively extended her arms and Lisanna eagerly accepted the hug.

“One thing I can promise you – Everything will be alright.”

The next planning session was scheduled two weeks later. This time though, Lisanna wanted to host it at her apartment at LT, for a change of pace.

As before, the unspoken pact remained the same – No formal discussion until the six were together again.

Bethany silently vowed to get everything on paper before then, as much as possible. She didn’t want to formally announce her delegations until everything was written out – That’s how she rolled. They may not like it, but it didn’t bother her. Being a mass media student and a creative writing minor had helped her grow a thick skin. Besides, she needed to do a little bit more research and investigation into everyone first. She wanted to be as prepared as she possibly could.

Meanwhile, the anxiety was gradually building. There were still a lot of practical questions that hadn’t yet been answered, like money, passports, and jobs – All those details that were, you know, only slightly important. But no one seemed bothered by it. Nothing was set in stone as of yet. There was lots of scheming and dreaming, and that’s the way it should be. At least, for now.

Over the next two weeks, Lisanna and Bethany talked almost as much as Hunter and Bethany did via the FlixelFlaxen. It seemed like that initial conversation in Bill’s living room had sparked something. Bethany certainly wanted to get to know Lisanna better – But it started to get uncomfortable more quickly than Bethany had expected.

It was apparent, almost right off the bat, that Lisanna was texting all the time. It was like her phone never left her hands, although Bethany knew full well that she had a full load of classes, and homework, and her other friends at LT. Plus, there was Hunter, too. Bethany didn’t want Lisanna to get distracted – Especially not now, with the month of November fast approaching.

November meant the inevitable – The winding down of the fall semester and the ultimate climax of final exams. Then, more than ever, Bethany wanted Lisanna’s focus to be on passing her exams and her classes.

It finally came to a head the day before Halloween, less than a week since last they’d met. Bethany’s phone was vibrating at least 30 times per hour – So much so that she had to silence it well before lunchtime. She knew Lisanna’s class schedule by heart, and becoming concerned that Lisanna was just ignoring it all.

Finally, Bethany took her lunch break. She grabbed her leftover Subway sandwich, threw on her jacket, and strode out to her car in the parking lot. Kicking the leaves along the sidewalk, Bethany clicked Send.

The dial tone hummed as Bethany muttered, “Come on, come on, just pick up the damn phone, Lizzy.”

Finally, at the last ring before voicemail kicked in, Lizzy’s voice crackled.

“B? I’m eating right now, and I’m in a big rush. Can I call you back?”

“Wait! Do not hang up this phone. Listen to me. I’m worried about you – You’re texting me constantly. Are you even paying attention in your classes anymore?”

Lizzy’s silence spoke volumes.

Bethany raised her free palm to her forehead and let out an exasperated sigh.

“Lizzy – I don’t want to be your mother. But – You have to focus now, more than ever. You do want to pass your classes, don’t you?”

The only thing Bethany heard from the other end was soft sobbing.

“Lizzy – I’m sorry. I didn’t want to be mean, but it’s so true. You’re so close to the end! I’m just looking out for you, that’s all.”

Bethany heard sniffles and then a deep breath.

“You’re – You’re right, B. I’m just so overwhelmed. Stressed. Exasperated. Done. Finished!”

Bethany sighed. “I know, Lizzy. I know all of it. Believe me, I’ve been there. We all have – Even Will. We all had some kind of senioritis, especially toward the end of the last semester.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #12: 150 Days, 150 Psalms

At a recent chapter meeting, one of my PEO sisters and I were discussing my wedding. She asked if I knew the date on the calendar that marked 150 days before the big day. I asked her to look it up and text me – Personally, I was really curious as to why she asked, and I found myself eagerly awaiting her text!

Turns out there’s this idea that the bride and groom read the Book of Psalms in reverse order, together, starting at 150 days from the wedding to the actual day. Then, read it again, this time in numerical order, for the first 150 days after the wedding.

I really liked Laura’s account of her own journey – Check it out.

After Joy texted me the date a few days later, I started reading and researching. I pondered. I prayed – A lot. I talked to a few others, asking them if they had heard of it. I talked to Al as well.

After all of that, I decided I was going to do it on my own. I was very excited at the thought, very eager to get back into regular Bible reading. I have read the entire Bible over the years, but I haven’t been consistent or disciplined with it. So I saw this idea as a personal challenge, as well as seeing the potential for this to be a great reward.

As the date drew close, I started to feel a sense of great purpose with this idea, while also thinking of it as a final countdown to one of the biggest days of my entire life.

Today, June 17th, marks 150 days until I marry Al. It is so exciting!

Each week, I plan to share one of the Psalms with you. I am thrilled to get back to reading my Bible – I use The Message. There are several Psalms I know by heart – The 23rd Psalm, for example – but I had no idea that there were 150 of them total!

I hope you’ll follow along on my journey as I prepare for the last few months of my engagement!

Today was Psalm 150. I took a few minutes this morning after my shower, in the quiet of my bedroom, and opened my Bible for the first time in, well, forever.

I was instantly comforted.

As I read the words, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and calm come over me.

I felt so empowered.

For the first time in forever, for a few minutes, I truly felt calm and relaxed, focusing on these words.

This psalm focuses on music, which made me think back to the post I wrote last year on music and identity.

After I read the psalm, I sat there, on my bed, in awe. A lot of negative/sad/depressing things have happened in my life in a very short period of time recently.

For a few minutes this morning, however, all those thoughts disappeared. It was amazing!

So, the words of Steven Curtis Chapman came to mind:

“…I’m diving in, I’m going deep, in over my head I want to be
Caught in the rush, tossed in the flow, in over my head I want to go
The river’s deep, the river’s wide, the river’s water is alive
So sink or swim, I’m diving in (I’m diving in…)”

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Adventure Time: Norfolk, VA Edition

During the first weekend in June, Al and checked out Harborfest 2015!

Harborfest is an annual event for downtown Norfolk, chock-full of tall ships, maritime events, live music, and amazing food! This year was the 39th annual festival, billed as “the largest, longest-running, free maritime festival in the nation!”

All the juicy details are in the 2015 Norfolk Harborfest Event Program.

Al and I decided to ride The Tide for the first time! It’s the light rail system that runs for seven miles throughout downtown Norfolk and part of Virginia Beach. I drove us to one of the park and ride stations, close to the Virginia Beach end of the line. We picked a one-day GO pass, so for $4.00 you had a ticket for unlimited rides for 12 hours.

Once we disembarked at the Civic Plaza station, we walked a couple blocks to Town Point Park, a 7-acre space on the edge of the Elizabeth River, where all the action was!

Part of the USCGC Eagle, one of the first ships that Daddy sailed on!

Part of the USCGC Eagle, one of the first ships that Daddy sailed on!

The Brazilian vessel "Cisne Branco"

The Brazilian vessel “Cisne Branco”



This guy was so cool! This was the Miami Fly Boards demonstration - Jet pack propulsion!

This guy was so cool! This was part of the Miami Fly Boards demonstration – Jet pack propulsion!

Red Trouser Show

Red Trouser Show – Two acrobats!

Norfolk has been dubbed the "Mermaid City." This is one of many decorative mermaids throughout the city.

Norfolk has been dubbed the “Mermaid City.” This is one of many decorative mermaids throughout the city.

Dropping the AST anchor in front of the Eagle!

Dropping the AST anchor in front of the Eagle! Anchored in Tradition since 1899!

Al and I stayed for about two hours, and headed home for dinner. Later, his brother Nick, girlfriend Savy, and Savy’s daughter Mia met us at the house and we piled in my car to head to NOAA, where my dad works. The parking lot happens to be on the banks of the river, so it’s a perfect place to watch the fireworks extravaganza!

The photo below depicts a previous Harborfest fireworks show, taken from the bow of the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson.

Harborfest was so much fun, although it was a little steamy that Saturday. It’s a huge event and even though it was crowded, there was a relaxed, light atmosphere. We didn’t tour the Eagle, sadly, because the line was wrapped around the ship and down the block. Hopefully next year!

The light rail was an awesome way to great around, and I’m so glad Al suggested it. It saved us money – The special event parking close to the festival was more expensive than the light rail pass – and it was a great experience. I plan to use the light rail a lot more when I visit Norfolk.

If you’ve never been to Norfolk or Harborfest, check it out!!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂