Getting Personal #18: Best. Day. Ever.

I hesitated to use the word “perfect.” I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate.

But, during our thank-you speech at our wedding reception, I couldn’t think of any other word that was better.

November 14th was truly a perfect day.

Disclaimer: All photos in this post, unless otherwise stated, were taken by Amanda MacDiarmid, or her second shooter, Cathy. Amanda owns and operates Stellar Exposures.

All credit goes to them.

We started the day early – My parents and I arrived at the church at 6:45 a.m. Hair and makeup quickly followed, and our ceremony started at 11:00 a.m. sharp.

My dress was in a tree!

My dress was hanging in a tree!

One of my all-time favorites.

One of my all-time favorites.

Amanda is so creative!

Amanda is so creative!

Getting dressed!

Getting dressed!

Our save-the-date postcard and our invitation.

Our save-the-date postcard and our invitation.

Our program on the brick steps leading to the sanctuary.

Our wedding program on the brick steps leading to the sanctuary.

Amanda and her second shooter, Cathy, were absolutely FABULOUS!

Our ceremony was held at the church that I have been attending since I was four-years-old. Aldersgate United Methodist Church holds a special place in my heart. We were so fortunate that our former associate pastor, Eric Song, came down from Winchester to marry us!

The sanctuary.

The sanctuary.

Beautiful shot.

Beautiful shot.

He played his guitar during the groomsmen entrance, and I could hear it as I was waiting to enter the sanctuary.

Dea Atkinson, a long-time church friend, played a lively variety of music on the piano. She is amazing!

Pastor Eric Song playing his guitar during the groomsmen entrance.

Pastor Eric Song playing his guitar during the groomsmen entrance.

Walking down the aisle with Mom and Dad.

Walking down the aisle with Mom and Dad.

Al seeing me for the first time :)

Al seeing me for the first time 🙂



One of my favorites :)

One of my favorites 🙂

The ceremony had a lot of laughter, and a few tears. Eric did an amazing job! It was a whirlwind – It was over in just 25 minutes! But it was amazing. I felt completely surrounded by love and peace.

One of my favorite parts of the ceremony was the love letters that Al and I wrote to each other. Eric asked us to write a letter to each other, but neither of us could see it. We both ended up writing about our first date on September 4, 2010. It was awesome!

About 100 people came to our wedding, which was perfect.

I married into a HUGE family. Being an only child, it’s so awesome! We were so grateful that most of our family members were able to join us for our special day.

Mom and Dad.

Karen (Momma) and Jim (Daddy).

My family. L to R: Uncle Richard, Auntie Marn, Mom, LB, Dad, Cousin Ryan, and Uncle Butch.

My family!
L to R: Uncle Richard (Mom’s brother), Auntie Marn (Dad’s sister), Karen (Mom), LB, Jim (Dad), Cousin Ryan, and Uncle Butch (Dad’s brother-in-law).

Al's immediate family! L to R: Bruce (Dad), Debbie (Mom), Al, and Nick (Brother and brother-in-law)

Al’s immediate family!
L to R: Bruce (Dad), Debbie (Mom), Al, and Nick (Brother and brother-in-law).

91-year-old Grandma Helena came!! L to R: Al, Grandma, Nick

This was spectacular – 91-year-old Grandma Helena came!!
L to R: Al, Grandma, Nick

Pastor Eric and his wife, Heather!

Pastor Eric and his wife, Heather!

Beautiful and handsome.

Beautiful, and handsome.

Wholesale Flower Market, Inc., in Chesapeake, did our arrangements. They wrapped my bouquet with one of my grandmother's handkerchiefs and attached one of her gorgeous brooches.

Wholesale Flower Market, Inc., in Chesapeake, did our arrangements – They were absolutely gorgeous. They wrapped my bouquet with one of my grandmother’s handkerchiefs and attached one of her gorgeous brooches. Grandma Grace, who passed away in July 2013, was definitely with us in spirit.

Aunt Pam and Uncle Bill.

Aunt Pam and Uncle Bill.

L to R: Cousin Kellie, LB, Al, Aunt Rosalind, and Uncle John.

L to R: Cousin Kellie, LB, Al, Aunt Rosalind, and Uncle John.

L to R: Nick, LB, Al, Mia (future niece), and Savy (future sister-in-law).

L to R: Nick, LB, Al, Mia (future niece), and Savy (future sister-in-law).

L to R: Uncle Ken, Aunt Karen, LB, Al, Aunt Brenda, and Uncle Joe.

L to R: Uncle Ken, Aunt Karen, LB, Al, Brenda, and Uncle Joe.

Uncle Dan and Aunt Jeanne.

Uncle Dan and Aunt Jeanne.

Uncle Bill and Aunt Susan.

Uncle Bill and Aunt Susan.

Cousins Micah and Ashley.

Cousins Micah and Ashley.

The whole family!

The whole family!

The proud parents.

The proud parents.

The wedding party! Y'all rock! L to R: Liz, Katie, Stephanie, Melissa, LB, Al, Bruce, Nick, Joe, and Mike.

The wedding party! Y’all rock!
L to R: Liz, Katie, Stephanie, Melissa, LB, Al, Bruce, Nick, Joe, and Mike.



The girls!

The ladies!

No one planned the coordinating black and red shoes!

No one planned the coordinating black and red shoes!

Mom and Dad :)

Mom and Dad 🙂

The men!

The men!

Standing in front of the floor-to-ceiling stained glass piece.

Standing in front of the floor-to-ceiling stained glass piece.

After the ceremony, Charlie from Orange Peel Transportation came to pick up the wedding party and shuttle us to our reception at Cedar Point Country Club in Suffolk, about 15 minutes from the church. It was a brisk day, but sunny and crystal clear!

Our gorgeous cake, made with love by Tracy Grandon.

Our gorgeous cake, made with love by Tracy Grandon.

One of the three amazing art pieces that our future sister-in-law Savy made for us! Check out SavyArt for more!

One of the three amazing art pieces that our future sister-in-law, Savy, made for us! Check out SavyArt for more!

Our first dance. We danced to "Who I Am With You" by Chris Young.

Our first dance. We danced to “Who I Am With You” by Chris Young.

Father-daughter dance. Dad and I danced to "Carolina In My Mind" by James Taylor. This was a surprise for my mom as well - Dad played this song when he proposed to Mom!

Father-daughter dance.
Daddy and I danced to “Carolina In My Mind” by James Taylor. This was a surprise for my mom as well – Dad played this song when he proposed to Mom!

Mother-son dance. Al and Mom danced to "My Wish" by Rascal Flatts.

Mother-son dance.
Al and Mom danced to “My Wish” by Rascal Flatts.

Aunt Karen said a beautiful blessing over the food.

Aunt Karen said a beautiful blessing over the food.

Our fabulous DJ, Matt! He's with Music Makes You Happy Entertainment. He was stellar!

Our fabulous DJ, Matt! He’s with Music Makes You Happy Entertainment. He was stellar!

Al and I love movies, so he edited images of famous movie couples for our tables!

Al and I love movies, so he edited images of famous movie couples for our tables!

Beautiful! I love this photo of us :) Here's to more adventures! L to R: Drew, Katie, LB, Al, Heaven, and Justin.

Beautiful! I love this photo of us 🙂 Here’s to more adventures!
L to R: Drew, Katie, LB, Al, Heaven, and Justin.

The beautiful maid of honor, Melissa, making her speech.

The beautiful maid of honor, Melissa, making her toast.

The best man, Bruce, a.k.a. Dad, giving his speech.

The dapper best man, Bruce, a.k.a. Dad, giving his toast.

The father of the bride, Jim, giving his speech.

The handsome father of the bride, Jim, giving his thank-you speech and toast.

After eating and toasts, we DANCED!

View More:

Let’s boogie!


If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!

Mom and Dad!

Mom and Dad!

Chris and Donald.

Chris and Donald.

Olivia and Christine!

Olivia and Christine!

Brad Daniels with Ebb & Flow Films!!

Brad Daniels, our fantastic videographer, with Ebb & Flow Films!!

Tearing up the dance floor.

Tearing up the dance floor.

Standing, L to R: Nick, Crystal, and Savy. Sitting: Mia. Crystal was our wedding planner! Check out Cherry Blossom Planning Factory!

Dancing, L to R: Nick, Crystal, and Savy. Sitting: Mia.
Crystal was our (glitter bomb, of course!) wedding planner! Check out Cherry Blossom Planning Factory!

Dance, dance, dance!

Dance, dance, dance!

Around 3:30 p.m., Amanda and Cathy came to Al and I, and asked us for 15 minutes to go outside for some portraits. I needed it then – I was so hot! The brisk air was so refreshing!



It was a little windy, but it felt awesome!!

It was a little windy, but it felt awesome!!

I forgot that we were on a golf course!

I forgot that we were on a golf course!

Beautiful. That light!

Beautiful. That light!

November 14th was perfect. The pictures that Amanda and Cathy took, they number in the thousands. I’m incredibly grateful for each and every one. Thank you, Amanda and Cathy, for capturing our special day so beautifully!!

A HUGE thank you goes out to our families, first and foremost. Thank you for supporting our love since 2010. Thank you for being amazing every day!

To our friends, thank you for your love and support. It means the world to us. Thank you to those who hosted bridal showers, offered help of all kinds, were a phone call away when I wanted to pull my hair out, and much, much more. We were so happy that so many of you were able to come celebrate with us!

Thank you to our fantastic vendors!!

Ceremony Site: Aldersgate United Methodist Church

Reception Site & Caterer: Cedar Point Country Club

Linens: Waterford Event Rentals

Videographer: Ebb & Flow Films

Photographer: Stellar Exposures

DJ: Music Makes You Happy Entertainment

Flowers: Wholesale Flower Market, INC.

Hair & Bridal Party Make-Up: Mystique Salon & Day Spa

Transportation: Orange Peel

Wedding Ninjas: Cherry Blossom Planning Factory

Happy New Year, friends.

Here’s to 2016!

Dancing and singing to "Don't Stop Believin" - The last song of the night.

Dancing and singing to “Don’t Stop Believin'” – The last song of the event!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #17: The Final Countdown

Image Credit:

Image Credit:

Here we are, the last week before we tie the knot!

I can hardly believe it. It’s been a little over 10 months since we got engaged. And this time next week, we’ll be Mr. and Mrs., realizing that we are finally experiencing post-wedding and pre-honeymoon.

A ton of emotions washed over me today. I got my hair trimmed at the salon, my last “single” haircut. I signed a couple of credit card receipts, knowing that this is one of the last Saturdays that I will sign anything as “Stricker.”

I told Al that I was a little nervous, but more excited more than anything. He told me not to be nervous. It won’t be perfect, but at the end of the day, we will be married. I even shed some happy tears earlier tonight.

Everything is falling into place. Our guest book/canvas/work of art was dropped off today (It is absolutely gorgeous!), I have a ton of thank-you notes to write this week because so many amazing packages have been arriving, I finished the first draft of our wedding program this afternoon, and Al is completing the final touches on our movie couples seating arrangements for the reception 🙂

I’m trying to treat this upcoming week as normally as possible, but it will certainly be interesting. Most of my relatives will be flying in at the beginning of the week and spending time with us at the house. I get to enjoy dinner with Katie and Brian on Thursday night while Al is taken out for his bachelor festivities. Mom and I have our own self-imposed deadline of Wednesday for everything on our plates to be done. I need to clean up my room, and pack!

So much to do in these last few days, but my excitement is brimming.

As the title says, I’ll leave you with this. Enjoy your weekend!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #15: Nerdy, Geeky, and Damn Proud Of It

I saw this amazing piece on Facebook recently:

I just bought a similar 16 x 20″ print earlier this month. Last week, it arrived from Texas!

I can’t wait to frame it and put it up in our eventual house.

Growing up, I was classified as a smart kid, probably a nerd too. I wasn’t ashamed of it, except for the couple of boys that regularly taunted me with the classic “teacher’s pet” insults. Thinking all the way back to elementary school, I was the girl that enthusiastically raised her hand in all my classes, sat right up front (for the most part), that kind of thing. I enjoyed school overall and enjoyed learning as much as I could, whenever I could.

This art print spoke to me in many ways.

We believe in Magic

I remember first learning about Harry Potter in elementary school – The first book was released on June 30, 1997, when I had just finished second grade. Many of my friends had read and re-read the books by the time we were getting ready to go to middle school.

I’ll admit, I was a late follower, and definitely a skeptic at first. I wasn’t a huge fan of fantasy works in elementary school. However, once I got my copy of the first book, the others quickly followed. I still have my paperback copies of all seven books, well-loved and well-read.

I was fortunate enough to travel to Europe with 40 of my high school classmates and teachers for 17 amazing days in the summer of 2005. Our first stop was England for a few days. At some point when the trip was being planned, it was announced that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was scheduled to be released on our last day in England! The majority of us were big fans, and this was a highlight for our trip. We were in London, and there was a Waterstones (the British equivalent to our Barnes & Noble) bookstore close to our hotel. The book was being released at midnight on July 16th, so we all lined up around the block and eagerly waited. Because of that trip, most of us have a hardcover copy of the British edition! It was such a cool experience!

When Al and I met in 2010, the last two movies were being released. They were awesome! It was so great to see all eight movies in theaters over the course of several years.

I distinctly remember Al and his brother Nick getting up at the crack of dawn on Black Friday, 2011, to pick up the entire series on Blu-Ray from Best Buy. I didn’t join them for the trip, but I have enjoyed having them available to watch over and over.

We have epic adventures

Over the almost five years that Al and I have been together, we have had so many adventures! Most of them have revolved around movies. We love checking out the newest releases in our local theaters.

But we love getting out of the house and the theaters, too. We’ve enjoyed exploring different areas of Hampton Roads and beyond!

For more on the adventures we’ve embarked upon, check these out:

Galaxies Far Far Away

Star Wars. Enough said.

Photo Credit: Debbie Vardaro

Halloween, 2011. Photo Credit: Debbie Vardaro

I loved this post on a Star Wars Facebook group today:

Image Credit: Julie Bowser

Image Credit: Julie Bowser

Yeah. December 18th. I have my Yoda shirt all ready to go!

We Do Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Stuff

Doctor Who is pretty rad. Al’s brother got into it, and as a result, we have watched several episodes together. It’s an interesting concept, time travel. And it’s amazing that DW has been airing since 1963!

Tidewater Comicon, May 2015.

Tidewater Comicon, May 2015.

Going Where No Man Has Gone Before

Al and I love Star Trek. We’ve seen all the movies, and Al has almost all the series saved in his Netflix queue. My personal favorite is TNG, but I have enjoyed watching all of them over the years. The new movies are great, and I look forward to more!

The odds are ever in our favor

I got hooked on The Hunger Games trilogy almost immediately. Reading the three books in rapid succession only furthered my interest in both reading and writing young adult literature. The movies have been great too. I’m kind of sad because the movie series is coming to an end in November! But, I plan to re-read the books and keep them, and the movies, in my collection forever.

We do cosplay and passion

Buying costumes and thinking of new ideas has become so much fun!

Al and I started dressing up for Halloween together in 2011.

Then, over the last three years, we’ve had a lot of fun:

Photo Credit: Lane Bellar

Halloween, 2012. Photo Credit: Lane Bellar

Photo Credit: Debbie Vardaro

Halloween, 2013. Photo Credit: Debbie Vardaro

Photo Credit: Al Vardaro

Halloween, 2014. Photo Credit: Al Vardaro

Photo Credit: Al Vardaro

Special Ghostbusters Jamberry nail wraps. Photo Credit: Al Vardaro

In May, Al and I embarked on our first comic-con adventure together. It was so awesome!

Image Credit: Al Vardaro

Image Credit: Al Vardaro

The dates for 2016 was recently announced: May 21-22.

For more info, check them out: Tidewater Comicon.

So excited!

We also recently learned that there will be a Hampton Comicon! Go to their Facebook page and click Like and Share!

I look forward to building my Stargirl cosplay for 2016 🙂

In addition to comicons, Al and I also like Superman:

Facebook Credit: Al Vardaro

L to R: LB, Jesse, and Al. Facebook Credit: Al Vardaro

We are looking forward to the new Supergirl TV series this fall, as well as Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice when it’s released in March.

Image Credit:

Image Credit:

We also watch The Flash on TV every week – Grant Gustin is a local boy! Besides that, it’s an awesome show too. Check it out, season 2 is coming soon, Wednesday nights on the CW!

So, I’m definitely a nerd and a geek, and I’m so damn proud of it. I feel fucking awesome.

I enjoy absolutely everything I talked about here, and even beyond this. To name a few:

  • The Divergent book and movie series
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • Comic books
  • Comic Book Men
  • Batman: The Animated Series
  • Tabletop web series on YouTube via Geek & Sundry
  • Back To The Future
  • Jurassic Park

I look forward to passing on all of this, and more, to our kids someday.

Until then, I’ll continue to be enthusiastic in my nerdom!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Adventure Time: Doswell, VA Edition (Kings Dominion Getaway)

Image Credit:

Image Credit:

The last weekend in July, Al and I road-tripped up to Doswell, Virginia, the home of Kings Dominion!

Neither of us had been back to KD for several summers, so we were looking forward to meeting up with Katie, Brian, Mike, Justin, and Heaven for a little weekend getaway.

We all stayed at the Best Western Kings Quarters, which was on the KD property. Justin and Heaven had gone on their own mini-vacation in June and recommended the KD package, which included the room reservations and tickets to the park. The hotel was awesome! There was a full-service Denny’s in the place, where we enjoyed a group dinner together on Saturday night. The food was excellent too, and all the staff were so nice and friendly.

Al and I arrived on Saturday afternoon, after a frustrating morning of several traffic jams. While planning this trip, Katie and Justin made a deal. Katie would wear a Ravens shirt, if Justin wore a Steelers shirt. So, naturally, I knew I had to show up in my new Packers shirt 🙂

L to R: Justin, Laura Beth, and Katie

L to R: Justin, Laura Beth, and Katie.

Even though we could walk to the park from the hotel lobby, Al and I decided to fork over the $15.00 for parking. As we pulled up to the attendant, $20 bill in hand, she looks me up and down. She smiles and says, “What is that on your shirt?”

“That happens to be a Green Bay Packers shirt, ma’am.”

She got so excited she could hardly speak.

“Wow … That’s so awesome … Wow! Well, you know what, you made my day … I’d show you my Packers tattoo if I could [on her leg/ankle] … But because of that shirt, no charge for you two!”

Al and I look at each other, dumbfounded

“Uhhhhh … Wow! Thank you, so much. Who are we to argue?”

She smiles and hands us the $20 back.

“Go Packers, and welcome to Kings Dominion! Have a great day!”

Saturday was full of great fun. The photo above was taken after we’d gotten completely soaked on White Water Canyon.

All of us rode Intimidator 305, except for Justin and Mike. After waiting a fairly long time, we all realized that we were actually in line for the first row. I’m not normally scared of any roller coasters or heights, but that realization made my stomach sink.

Brian rode by himself. Katie and Heaven rode together next. Al and I were last. I remember watching the lift cable come down to hook up to the train and I look at Al, feeling panicky, yelling, “This was NOT A GOOD IDEA!”

For the first time in my life, I closed my eyes on a roller coaster. Sure, it was only about 10 seconds of that first drop, but I was absolutely terrified. It was such a rush though! My hands didn’t stop shaking until about five minutes after we got off the ride though.

I was happy that we rode first row on one of the tallest and fastest roller coasters in the world, but I can’t say I’ll be doing that again.

The rest of Saturday was spent walking the park, catching up, and making our way to the newly-expanded Soak City water park. It was crazy crowded, but I was impressed. It felt like a mini-Water Country was dropped in the middle of Kings Dominion!

Paradise Plunge was one of the best decisions. You step into one of three chambers, either red, yellow, or orange, and cross your arms and ankles. Then, the floor suddenly drops out and you plunge feet-first. It was such an awesome ride!

Al and I both wore our FitBits for the majority of the weekend (We didn’t take our chances at Soak City – They’re not supposed to be submerged at all), and we both clocked around 25,000 steps by the end of Sunday!

We wrapped up at the park and headed back to the hotel for showers and relaxing. We all met up for dinner. Later on, we met up in the room that Katie, Brian, and Mike had reserved. Katie brought Cards Against Humanity, and Al and I brought Epic Spell Wars. We had a great time; we stayed up past 1:00 a.m. killing each other with amazing spells and laughter.

The other awesome thing that happened was Justin had a small gift for Al and I. He had found a frame with a bunch of vintage Star Wars cards online, and he gave us the cards. It’s so cool! I don’t have a picture at the moment, but being surprised with those, knowing that we are big Star Wars fans, was AWESOME!

Sunday was a slower day. We all met up for lunch at the Jukebox Diner – Delicious burgers!

The Juke Box Diner, seen from the Eiffel Tower observation deck.

The Juke Box Diner, seen from the Eiffel Tower observation deck.

We hung out for a few more hours, and then capped off the weekend by exploring the replica of the Eiffel Tower.

The base of the tower, waiting for the elevator to take us to the observation deck.

The base of the tower, waiting for the elevator to take us to the observation deck.

Best Western Kings Quarters, seen from the Eiffel Tower observation deck.

Best Western Kings Quarters, seen from the Eiffel Tower observation deck.

Panorama of the park, including Volcano and Intimidator 305.

Partial panorama of the park, including Volcano and Intimidator 305.

Justin and Laura Beth.

Justin and Laura Beth.

Al and Laura Beth :)

Al and Laura Beth 🙂

Photo montage!

Re-creation of a photo that was taken in 2010. L to R: Laura Beth, Brian, and Katie

Re-creation of a photo that was taken in 2010.
L to R: Laura Beth, Brian, and Katie.

The whole gang! L to R: Al, Laura Beth, Brian, Justin, Heaven, Katie, and Mike.

The whole gang!
L to R: Al, Laura Beth, Brian, Justin, Heaven, Katie, and Mike.

WindSeeker ascending - View from the Eiffel Tower observation deck.

WindSeeker ascending – View from the Eiffel Tower observation deck.

The guys. L to R: Al, Justin, Brian, and Mike.

The guys.
L to R: Al, Justin, Brian, and Mike.

The girls. L to R: Laura Beth, Heaven, and Katie.

The girls.
L to R: Laura Beth, Heaven, and Katie.

The Longwood crew! All five of us are Longwood University graduates :)

The Longwood crew! All five of us are Longwood University graduates 🙂

Heaven and Justin holding "Robin," their prize from one of the arcades.

Heaven and Justin holding “Robin,” their prize from one of the arcades.

Thanks for the memories, KD!

The Kings Dominion 40th Anniversary sign.

The Kings Dominion 40th Anniversary sign.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Adventure Time: Hampton Roads, VA Edition (Lyndsey Visits)

Image Credit:

Image Credit:

Lyndsey came to visit this weekend. She and I talk on the phone regularly, we try to talk at least once a month; but we haven’t seen each other since May 2014.

On Friday, Lyndsey arrived around 7:00. My mom made delicious pork kebabs with pineapple and peppers, yummy! We all shared stories and laughs for a good while, before Al, Lyndsey, and I left for Norfolk. Nick’s band, Without Lines, was headlining a show at Belmont House of Smoke.

Before heading to Norfolk, we dropped by Al’s house for him to get his camera and earplugs for Lyndsey. As we drove near the house, several neighbors were outside. There was a mama black bear and her three cubs, high up in a pine tree!

Bad Weather Birds played first – They were pretty good. All three of us had earplugs in, which was a good thing, considering we were sitting next to one of the speakers! Their cover of “Don’t You Forget About Me” was awesome!

Then, Without Lines took the stage and proceeded to rock out!

Check out the photos below:

Bad Weather Birds

Bad Weather Birds – Brent, John, Joe, and Padric.

Without Lines

Without Lines – Left to right: Dani, Nick, Dan, and John.

We didn’t get home until close to 1:30 a.m., but it was totally worth it.

On Saturday, we all slept in. It was wonderful!

Around noon, Lyndsey and I went to get lunch for the three of us at Zaxby’s. Yum!

At Al’s, we watched Penguins of Madagascar. It was cute 🙂

After lunch, we made a decision on seeing a movie. Earlier last week, Lyndsey had said she was interested in seeing either Spy or Ted 2.

It was such a funny movie! Melissa McCarthy was a great choice. It was a good story too. We all laughed our asses off! All three of us would highly recommend it.

After the movie, we headed back toward Al’s. We stopped at Gianna’s Pizzeria on the way and picked up a white pizza and garlic knots. My car still smells amazing!

We ate dinner, and then Al and I introduced Lyndsey to Munchkin. So much fun 🙂

On Sunday, I got up early and got ready for church. Lyndsey and I enjoyed breakfast, before heading off to church. Yesterday was our new senior pastor’s first official Sunday. The church was almost full, which was a very pleasant sight to see. Pastor Randy gave a great message on prayer.

After the service, there was a “Welcome Home” brunch for Pastor Randy and his family. Pastor Randy is married to Robin, and they have three sons, Robbie, Ricky, and Ryan.

The food was delicious, and there was lively piano music from one of our talented women. Then there was a short set of welcome to the Duncans. Then the whole Duncan family stood around the piano and serenaded everyone with a beautiful song, “He Touched Me.” They all have great voices!

Lyndsey, Laura Beth, and Al :)

Lyndsey, Laura Beth, and Al 🙂

Lyndsey and I went back to my house, where we proceeded to talk and reminisce for several more hours. Finally, after 5:00, I directed Lyndsey to BJ’s so she could get the cheapest gas possible, and then she left for home. She had a safe trip and texted me last night to say she had gotten home safe.

This was such an awesome weekend!

Definitely not waiting another year to get together.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #8: “Tornado Warning: A Memoir of Teen Dating Violence and Its Effect on a Woman’s Life”

“This book is dedicated to the countless individuals who have suffered at the hands of a loved one; may you find peace and healing in your journey and know that your life has meaning and purpose. Every human being and living creature deserves a life free from torment of any kind; there is no excuse for abuse.”

~Elin Stebbins Waldal

This is now the second time I’ve read this book.

This book was displayed on one of my local library’s shelves, several years ago. The title stuck out to me immediately. I felt compelled to pick it up and read it.

Then I remembered this book again a couple months ago. I remembered it was called “Tornado Warning” and I remembered there was a brightly-colored flower on the cover.

I decided, right then and there, to buy it.

When I received it in the mail, I was pleasantly surprised to learn my copy had been signed by the author.

“Love begins inside …”

Love (using a drawn heart), Elin

Today, July 17th, is the five-year anniversary of my freedom, my emancipation.

Like Elin, I was fortunate to get out of my abusive relationship, alive.

For me, it took four years, and 16 days.

Re-reading this book, several years apart, was striking for me. The book was published in 2011, so I’m fairly certain the first time I read it was either in 2011 or 2012.

No matter how much time passed, my feelings were exactly the same.

I drew so many comparisons between Elin and myself. I saw so many similarities between her abusive boyfriend, Derrick, and mine, John. We both met these guys when we were 17. (I turned 18 a month after John and I started dating.)

Even Elin’s writing style is similar to mine.

It’s a brief memoir, less than 200 pages, but those pages speak volumes. It envelopes you in Elin’s world, from age 17, to the present day with her husband Jimmy and her children, to her childhood, and back again. It’s a fascinating, yet frightening tale.

I’m a visual reader. I can tell I’m reading a good book when I can put the book down, or look up for a few moments, and see the scene I was just reading in front of me, like watching a movie.

The scenes she painted, they were absolutely horrific.

I could almost hear the yelling, the screaming.

I cried several times. I had to put the book down several times and reach for something comforting to hold for a while. If I read for a while before bed, I could close my eyes and visualize the last scene I had read, with a chill crossing my skin every time.

A girl, apparently from Connecticut, according to the address label affixed to the inside cover, highlighted several passages of the book.

One of Elin’s journal entries had this highlighted:

“… I know what he can be and is capable of so I almost always feel on guard. It’s hard to just relax and trust him. It’s all so weird.”

That was me, to a T.

John hit me twice in the week that I broke up with him, that fateful week in mid-July 2010. That was it.

For Elin, however, her physical abuse was far worse. I could see it. I could almost feel it, feel what Derrick was doing to her. I had goosebumps almost the entire time I read, and re-read, this book.

However, Elin and I both suffered immense emotional and mental abuse. It was absolutely chilling to read her story. I feel fortunate that I didn’t suffer as much physical abuse as Elin did, but, to be honest, the emotional and mental abuse was worse. The two hits that John delivered on that Monday and Wednesday just solidified my beliefs that I was not happy, that this was not right, and that I finally had enough courage to speak up, say something, and leave.

This book brought a lot of flashbacks to my abuse that I endured. John and I dated from July 1, 2006 through July 17, 2010. The first year, and part of the second year, were great. I would say they were almost perfect. John swept me off my feet. He romanced me. I thought he truly loved me.

From my experiences: College changes people. Usually, it changes for the better, but college can change people in the worst ways as well.

If you and your boyfriend/girlfriend from high school go to the same college together, take it from me, you’re taking a big risk.

And this doesn’t just apply to romantic relationships. Friendships are affected. Families change.

Abuse manifests itself in so many ugly, horrendous forms.

For me, it took years for me to see the light. Even though EVERYONE around me saw right through it, years before. I finally realized, at some point in 2010, that I was not the same Laura Beth. I wanted to change.

The key with abusive relationships is that YOU have recognize that you’re being abused. No one else can convince you otherwise.

The only complaint I had with Elin’s book is with the structure. Her intentions were good to intersperse her personal journal entries with the memoir, but it was difficult to follow at times. It got confusing. It felt a little forced. It felt out of place at certain points.

Other than that, I’m so grateful I bought this book. This book is symbolic of my experiences, the journey that I was on from 2006 through 2010.

This will sit on my bookshelf forever. I plan to share this book with my children, when the time is right. Elin has done that with her children, and I look forward to the days when I share my stories with my children, trying to help them understand that any kind of abuse is wrong.

I believe everyone should read this book.

5 out of 5 stars.

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 🙂

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: Richmond, VA Edition (Round 4)

Yesterday, Al and I drove up to Richmond to reunite with our friends Drew, Katie, Justin, and Heaven. The six of us hadn’t gotten together since January!

The main reason for the get-together was this:

All of us were excited to see Avengers: Age of Ultron. Drew, Justin, and I had bought the tickets online late last week.

I won’t spoil anything, but I will say this: If you like the Avengers, go see this movie in the theater. It’s totally worth the money!

The movie was at 5:15, so Al and I drove up in the morning. We hung out with Drew and Justin before Katie and Heaven arrived. We’re all big fans of John Oliver and his show Last Week Tonight, so the four of us watched his episode on Government Surveillance. I hadn’t watched it, and it was very compelling.

Watching that prompted Al to suggest the documentary Terms and Conditions May Apply. Al and I watched it together on Netflix a while ago, but neither Drew nor Justin had seen it, so we watched it. It’s startling.

Image Credit:

Image Credit:

We decided to head to the movie theater after that, and it was perfect timing. Katie was pulling into the driveway as we were walking to my car, so we all piled in my car and headed to the theater. We drove through downtown with the windows down – What a beautiful day! It was so nice to see the bright sunshine after two straight days of rain!

We got our tickets and hung out for a while, getting our popcorn, ICEEs, and sodas before settling in. Heaven met us there. Some of the previews were awesome, including Ant-Man and Jurassic World. There are a bunch of awesome movies slated for release this summer!!

After the movie, we all headed to Cheeburger Cheeburger, which is becoming a tradition with our group. We enjoyed burgers, fries, their crispy onion rings, and shakes. Delicious!

Once we were full, we headed back to Drew’s. Al and I had to drive back last night (I have my final exams this week!), but before we left, I had brought some gifts for everyone:

  • Mini-Marvel bobbleheads for all six of us. The cool thing was that they were mystery boxes. I got the Green Goblin, Al and Katie got the Hulk, Justin got Thor, Heaven got the Silver Surfer, and Drew got Galactus.
  • A Wolverine mug for Drew
  • A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles mug for Katie
  • A stuffed owl named “Owliver” for Heaven
  • A ceramic bank shaped like Pikachu for Justin

It was so much fun!

We also celebrated Heaven and Justin’s graduation from Longwood. Commencement is next weekend, so Drew and Katie gave them cards and gift cards to Game Stop and Domino’s.

Al and I had to leave after that, but we had an awesome time!

Can’t wait until we get together again!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂


Adventure Time: Chesapeake, VA Edition

I hate snow.

This adventure time was delayed for two weeks in a row because of the white stuff.

But, finally, spring decided to arrive in Chesapeake.

It may have been cloudy and spitting rain last weekend, but it didn’t prevent Justin from driving down to see Al and I.

We were finally reunited, almost two months to the day since we last met.

Justin pulled in front of my house about five minutes before I arrived from work. We went inside and he met my mom. I gave him a quick tour of the house, helped him put his stuff in his chosen room, and then we were off to meet Al for dinner.

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Image Credit:

For dinner, Al and I took Justin to Gianna’s Pizzeria, in the Harbour View section of Suffolk. If you live in the 757 area and haven’t tried this place, it is one of the best! It’s not a chain. It’s Italian. And it’s amazing!

After we stuffed ourselves silly, we went to Al’s house to wind down Friday night. We explored YouTube and watched several episodes of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver before calling it a night.

Saturday was dubbed “Opposite Day” for Justin and I. You see, I am a Green Bay Packers fan, while Justin is a Denver Broncos fan. Months ago, Justin and I were talking online about our teams. I think it was Justin who said something to the effect of, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we bought each other shirts for the other’s team?”

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Image Credit:

So that’s exactly what we did.

The hilarious thing was that Justin was noticed at least twice during the day with his Packers shirt. When we went to mini-golf in the mall, the lady working the place said they were her team. So did our server at Red Robin! It was hysterical. Justin almost said something, but decided against it. The three of us had a great laugh though.

We started Saturday off early. Al was getting his car inspected, so Justin and I went over early to pick him up. Then we went out to O’doodleDoo’s Donuts in Suffolk. They have the best donuts!

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Image Credit:

After dropping off a half-dozen donuts to my parents, we went to Al’s.

We thoroughly enjoyed our donuts, including Twix, red velvet, chocolate Pi, mint chocolate chip, and more 🙂

We caught up with the Last Week Tonight with John Oliver episodes, then switched to TableTop with Wil Wheaton (Geek & Sundry). Al and I love this series!

We watched one of the most recent episodes, featuring Epic Spell Wars. It looked so awesome, that Al immediately went to Amazon and bought it!

Around lunchtime, we went up to the mall to check out Lunar Mini Golf. It was so much fun!

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Image Credit:

Everything glowed in the blacklight. We had fun watching kids run around during a birthday party, and we played all 18 holes. You get three rounds of the course for the price of admission, which is only $8.00. The paintings on the walls were really epic too!

We enjoyed lunch at Red Robin before going back to Al’s for more fun.

One of the things that we were most looking forward to was playing Munchkin. Al bought the game several months ago, and then when we met in Richmond in January, Justin had given Al some extra cards.

We played two games. Before this, Al and I had only played once, just the two of us. It was awesome to have Justin play with us. It’s much better to play with at least three people, if not more.

The second game was better than the first. Justin still managed to win, even though Al and I killed him – twice!

Hoping to play with Drew, Katie, and Heaven the next time that the six of us can meet.

We went back out into the world to get dinner at Zaxby’s. When we returned, we watched a few things on Netflix and Amazon Prime while we ate, including the pilot episode of Fringe. Al was showing it to Justin, and it took me back to when Al and I watched the series together several years ago. It’s definitely a different show, but it is really cool.

On Sunday, Justin and I hung out at my house for a few hours before he drove home. He brought CSI: NY on DVD. That is the best of the CSI series, in our opinion.

This was one of the best weekends ever! I hope that Justin can come back to visit very soon.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂