Hello, Spring!

Spring officially arrived on March 20th … but here in southeastern Virginia and many other parts of the U.S.A., it certainly hasn’t felt like it!


I don’t really have a favorite season. I like all four, for different reasons:

Winter

winter-landscape-tofuhaus-com-791851

The picture above says it all. I love snow and the way it touches the landscape. I love the cold breeze and when I can see my breath. I like being bundled up in warm fleece and scarves … when the calendar says it’s supposed to be winter, anyway. See below.

However, this winter has been a major exception. I don’t like all the wishy-washy, Mother Nature can’t make up her freaking mind, mood swinging changes in temperatures. Some people (like my mom) say that they love living here in SE VA because we get all four seasons. Yeah, right. We get a few minutes of spring and fall every year (maybe), then the rest of the year is all summer and winter.

“You can’t get too much winter in the winter.” ~Robert Frost


Spring

river of flowers

If I had to pick a favorite season, I’d choose spring. I love seeing the new life sprouting from the ground and the trees. One of the best things about living in SE VA is that there are so many trees and parks and places with nature. I love that I can hear birds singing almost every morning.

Don’t believe me? Check out the links below (but I highly recommend visiting in person!)

Norfolk Botanical Garden – Norfolk

Portsmouth City Park – Portsmouth

Oak Grove Lake Park – Chesapeake

Sandy Bottom Nature Park – Hampton

Noland Trail and Mariners’ Museum Park – Newport News

False Cape State Park – Virginia Beach

First Landing State Park – Virginia Beach

Chippokes Plantation State Park – Surry

And there’s beaches and rivers, too.

Also, this spring I signed up with the Hidenwood Presbyterian Church co-ed softball team. I’m so excited to get started – We’ve been practicing for a week already, and our first game is a week away from today. Play ball!

“Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!'” ~Robin Williams


Summer

summer

Summer is a love-hate season for me. Summer to me means freedom – Freedom from school, freedom to travel, freedom from clothing (to an extent). However, in SE VA, it just gets terribly hot and humid. And quickly. And for a long time. It depends on the year, but usually it starts to get hot and miserable sometime in May and lasts clear to the end of September. Blech!

However, with summer comes some of my best memories. My birthday is in the beginning of August.

The annual church mission trip to North Carolina happens every July – I started going in high school and this summer will be my eighth trip. Carolina Cross Connection is a great group!

Several years ago, my friend Liz’s parents bought a beach house in Corolla. Until then, I had never traveled to the OBX, outside of trips to Kitty Hawk and a family friend’s beach house in Southern Shores. The Easterbrooks’ sunny yellow house holds amazing memories for me. Talk about freedom!

Even better, summer was the season that Al and I met. We watched “Inglorious Bastards” with his brother Nick the night before I left Chesapeake for my senior year at Longwood, and I knew that night that I wanted both of them to be in my life somehow until the end. The first two weeks of school were filled with texts, Facebook, and Skype. I brought Nick’s girlfriend at the time (a new Longwood freshman) home for Labor Day weekend, and Al and I decided that we’d go out to dinner at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront on September 4th … Well, the rest is history.

“Tears of joy are like the summer rain drops pierced by sunbeams.” ~Hosea Ballou


Fall

fall leaves

Like winter, the picture above says it all. The fall represents gorgeous colors as the trees prepare for winter. I have fond memories of helping rake the leaves in my parents’ backyard and then jumping in them for hours with the neighborhood kids. My dad and Mr. Porter from across the street usually put a big blue tarp down before we started, and then they’d drag us around the yard with the leaves. So much fun.

One of my fondest memories of fall was a youth group camping trip to Sherando Lake when I was a sophomore in high school. It was stunning scenery, much like the picture above. I experienced my first canoe flip in the lake (not the best moment; the senior boys flipped us! Jerks!) That was also the trip when I discovered my first high-school crush … Sigh.

Fall also means apples and bonfires. I have never gone apple-picking, but that’s on my to-do list. Plus, I want to make an apple pie from scratch one day!

“By all these lovely tokens September days are here, With summer’s best of weather And autumn’s best of cheer.”  ~Helen Hunt Jackson


So, there you go. My thoughts on the four seasons.

Needless to say, after the long, miserable winter I’ve experienced for the last several months, I’m stoked for days of sunshine and those days that I can put my windows down and feel the breeze when I drive. Bring it on!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

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Quarterly Review

Seeing that the first quarter of the year is almost over (already – I swear every single year gets faster and faster), I want to do a bit of a review.

As 2013 came to a close, I started thinking about the New Year. In the past, I made New Year’s Resolutions, but like 99.9 percent 0f all humans, I never followed through.

However, inspiration struck. I decided on 14 things for 2014.

2014

I took a cardboard box top and proceeded to write my 14 goals in multi-colored Sharpies.

1. Balance checkbook every month

2. Complete the 52-week savings challenge

3. Donate to Goodwill once a month

4. Find & make 14 new recipes

5. Finish 2012 novel

6. Finish 2013 novel

7. Invest in pastel painting / artwork

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

9. Read at least 5 new books

10. Reduce screen time

11. Take a Medical Terminology class

12. Take iron pill every day

13. Walk 20 minutes during lunch

14. Yoga

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1. Quarterly Review (QR): Work in progress. This has never been my favorite thing to do, but I know how important it is.

2. QR: So far, so good. I’ll admit, I have to write it down in my little black book (a.k.a. planner) every week; otherwise I have to go into my online banking and combine several forgotten weeks together on one Friday. However, I have been faithful since week 1. By year’s end, I will have added approximately $1,378 to my savings account! Want to know more? Check out the form that I’m using this year.

3. QR: So far, so good. This is one of the goals where I’ve actually managed to go above and beyond in these three months – I have also donated to several people in need, to a charity yard sale benefiting Relay for Life for the American Cancer Society, and I’m constantly on the lookout for local charities / thrift stores in my area.

4. QR: So far, so good. I have really enjoyed this goal, especially since Al and I have a standing Tuesday night date night at my apartment. I have around an 80/20 split so far in terms of successes. Most of the screw-ups have been desserts that really needed a mixer, but Al ended up being my strong man with long-lasting arm power. Fortunately, Al’s mom was sweet enough to buy me a Hamilton Beach mixer, so problem solved! Favorites so far: Chicken Alfredo lasagna roll-ups; Oreo cheesecake cookies; and my first crack at homemade pizza last week!

5. QR: Haven’t started.

6. QR: Haven’t started.

7. QR: Work in progress. Al took me to one of the best art supply stores in the 757 – Jerry’s Artarama in Virginia Beach. I’m talking an art student’s mecca. By “investing,” I mean to invest in creating again. I loved my Visual Arts class in high school – I focused on pastel painting then and I want to get back into it. The next big project to tackle for the pastel work is finding / making a table that is large enough that I can create. In addition, I am starting a side business of crafting custom wreaths as wedding gifts – Stay tuned on that one.

8. QR: Work in progress. The weather’s been so unbelievably snotty, it’s been mostly a lost cause. Plus, I need to invest in a new helmet and wrist guards before I strap on the rollerblades. Side note – I did sign up for the Hidenwood Presbyterian Church’s newly-forming co-ed softball team; games start April 7th. I can’t tell you how excited I am. I played softball for the Western Branch Little League for one season – 8th grade in the spring of 2003 – and I never forgot it.

9. QR: Work in progress. I have several of the intended books on my headboard shelf, but I’m still working my way through book #1. I intend to post book reviews to the blog once I finish reading each selection.

10. QR: Work in progress. I was diagnosed with computer eye strain several years ago, so much so that I can’t wear my contact lenses at work. I definitely want to complete a social-media-free weekend soon and blog about that. Want to know what a social-media-free weekend is all about? Check out Nikki’s reflection.

11. QR: Work in progress. I full intend to complete this goal during the summer session of classes at TCC.

12. QR: Work in progress. I was diagnosed with anemia in college. I try to give blood at my home church – Aldersgate UMC – every eight weeks, and I have to take iron supplements to meet the hemoglobin requirement. Interested in learning more about blood donation? Check out the American Red Cross. Every 2 seconds, someone needs blood. Every blood donation can save as many as 3 lives. 

13. QR: Work in progress. See #8 – The weather has been ridiculous thus far. I will say, however, that my music on my iPhone has been great motivation. Frozen soundtrack and Taylor Swift for the win.

14. QR: Haven’t started. And I have no excuse, now that my DVD player has been successfully tested. I need to buck up, block off some time in my planner, and connect with the yogi I found at OneLife Fitness last year.

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Look for three more reviews in June, September, and December.

Do you have any goals for 2014?

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

One Month Later

A month ago tonight, I was still traumatized.

I had gone from being euphoric to being absolutely terrified. I had survived sliding off Route 460 in the beginning of a nasty snowstorm. I wasn’t hurt and my car didn’t have a scratch.

As I sit here on my futon in my warm, cozy apartment, I listen to the wind and rain outside as another cold front pushes through the 757.

Although I was stranded for a day and half and out around $315 for the tow and the hotel room, it could have been a whole lot worse.

I’m counting my blessings tonight.

I have a much greater respect for the weather and the power of a vehicle. I am far more cautious now when I plan any drive in my car. I always check the weather and plan accordingly. No drive or trip is worth my life.

All of this happened for a reason. I know, without a doubt, that God and my guardian angels were by my side on that cold, miserable Wednesday. And I will never forget it.

I’ve been impacted by this experience forever. I occasionally shudder at the memories of that day, but I keep putting it into perspective.

  1. I wasn’t physically hurt.
  2. I did not damage my car.
  3. I didn’t hit anyone else or cause injury.
  4. I had everything I needed for my hotel stay because of careful planning.
  5. I had the resources available to afford the tow and the room.
  6. I had loving, caring friends and family who supported me through the ordeal.

And for all of that, I’m grateful.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Right Here

I love music. Like most of us, I have certain genres that I love (country, oldies, rock and roll) and ones that I detest (rap, hip-hop, metal). But there’s one genre that I’ve had a love-hate relationship with for many years: Christian music.

I grew up in a United Methodist church about 10 miles from my house. My parents and I moved to Chesapeake in the fall of 1992, and Mom & Dad proceeded to “shop around” the churches in our area – and there were plenty to choose from. I was 4 years old at the time, and we all easily fell in love with Aldersgate from the first visit. Someone remind me to tell the church bathroom story later 😉

When we became members, I grew to love singing the hymns in worship. Then, as I reached middle school in the early 2000s, our youth group had stacks of CDs (and some cassettes) of contemporary Christian music. See examples below:

Avalon – Testify to Love

Casting Crowns – If We Are The Body

MercyMe – I Can Only Imagine

Newsong – The Christmas Shoes

Steven Curtis Chapman – Dive

Switchfoot – Dare You to Move

There are so many more I could list, but I’ll spare you.

As I journeyed through middle school and high school, I developed the love-hate relationship I mentioned earlier. I loved certain songs – Case in point, all of the YouTube links are some of my absolute favorites.

And then there were periods of weeks or months that I couldn’t stand to listen to any of it. The hymns in worship kept me grounded, but the contemporary stuff drove me nuts for certain periods.

Part of the problem was me – when I found out the local library carried a ton of the contemporary music. I remember grabbing up to 10 CDs at a time and working my way through them for each two-week loan period. Once I received my iPod halfway through high school, I filled it to the gills with full albums of easily 20-30 different Christian artists. The “Christian & Gospel” genre was by far the biggest group in my iTunes.

Fast forward to starting college at Longwood, fall of 2007. I still had a high number of Christian artists on my iPod and iTunes from all of those CDs, but I found myself skipping over 95 percent of the songs. I fell back to the small list that are still my all-time favorites, especially Avalon, MercyMe, and Steven Curtis Chapman.

I was also struggling with my faith in general. I was very homesick for the first several months, having moved 150 miles away from my parents and my church. Add to that my boyfriend, who became more and more abusive over a long and arduous 4-year period from 2006 to 2010, and the love-hate relationship continued to evolve.

I don’t remember when this happened, but one day at Longwood I found this song embedded in my iTunes:

Jeremy Camp – Right Here

I had heard a few of Camp’s songs before, and I wasn’t particularly impressed. I felt he was straining in the songs, like he was trying too hard to get the message across.

However, seconds into “Right Here,” I was taken. I was overwhelmed. For the first time in what seemed like forever, I had a few moments of peace.

This instantly became one of my go-to songs. I have it on my iPhone now, and whenever I’m feeling stressed, I know I can go scroll through my artists and find that song. It has an incredible calming effect on me.

Another song I love by Camp is an oldie but a goodie – “Walk By Faith.” It has similar effects on me as “Right Here.” They both make me well up with emotion a little bit, and I have to become acutely aware of my surroundings when listening, because I am known to break out into spontaneous singing.

I’ll leave you with an excerpt from both “Right Here” and “Walk By Faith.”

All the world is watching

All the world does care

Even when the world weighs on my shoulder now

These feelings I can bare

Because I know

That you’re here

Chorus

Everywhere I go

I know you’re not far away

You’re right here

You’re right here, yeah, yeah

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Well I will walk by faith
Oh even when I cannot see it
Well because this broken road
Prepares Your will for me

Help me to win my endless fears
You’ve been so faithful for all my years
With the one breath You make me
Your grace covers all I do
Yeah, yeah , yeah, yeah, yeah

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Hot Topics: Return of the Blog

I have returned! I can’t believe it’s been almost six months since last I wrote. One of my best friends has been putting my writing to shame with her brave, fearless endeavor into the blogosphere – Against The Pull of Gravity (http://againstthepull.wordpress.com/). Please check it out and comment!

Anyway, this amazing friend has inspired me to return – So, thank you!

For months (may be closer to a year now), I have carried around a mini spiral notebook in my purse with my black-Sharpie-cursive writing on the pink plastic cover:

Inspiration. Brain Sparks. Light Bulbs. Bingos. Ideas. Writing. Musings. Thoughts.

Most of the time, this notebook has been my place to jot down reminders and shopping lists. However, I recently started to fill the pages, front and back in orange gel pen, with topics. The top of each new page emblazoned with the underlined “Hot Shot Headlines.”

Here’s the list, thus far:

1.  On The Road with Steve Hartman

2.  ”I Will Sing and Not Be Silent” – Allen Pote

3.  ”Will You Come and Follow Me” – Kelvingrove

4. “Walk by Faith” – Jeremy Camp

5. Frozen

6. Pastels / Art / Potters’ House @ HPC

7. Arriving at Hidenwood

8. Elisabeth Von Trapp

9. Jennifer Lawrence

10. “The Paris Wife” Book Review

11. Tiffany Truitt Trilogy

12. Dear America Book Series

13. The Project for 15

14. V.C. Andrews & Her Books

15. An Attitude of Gratitude

16. Lesson in Leadership (President of AST)

17. My Quest to Get on Jeopardy!

18. Walking Around My Building (The Week of January 13th)

19. My Accident (February 12th)

20. The Impossible Command of Love (Pastor Bill Lamont Sermon, February 23rd)

21. NaNoWriMo

22. Forensic Files

23. Medical Terminology / Coding

This is just a taste of what’s to come :)

Until the next headline, Laura Beth