Getting Personal #11: Memorial Day, The Military, And An Awesome Charity

With Memorial Day coming up tomorrow, I wanted to share my thoughts on the military, and tell you about an awesome charity that was highlighted by TODAY.com earlier this week.

Something I see online almost every year, around this time, is the the reminder that this weekend is not all about the day off from work on Monday, the road trips, the “unofficial start to summer,” and so on.


One of the images that I saw on Facebook being shared earlier this week definitely made me pause and reflect:

I’m not sure if the numbers under Iraq and Afghanistan are accurate anymore (unfortunately), but the numbers in general are stunning, breathtaking, compelling.

Also, the Gulf War was unfortunately omitted from this graphic, so I am adding 294.

Since the U.S. entered World War I in April 1917, a total of 619,594 U.S. men and women have died for our country.

Wow.


I loved this article about Elsa Zarate. She started Bands4Courage, making custom bracelets and wristbands out of old military uniforms.

Image Credit: Elsa Zarate

Image Credit: Elsa Zarate

It all started when she took apart her son’s old boot camp uniform and made a wristband of parts and pieces, to keep him close to her while he was deployed with the Marines.

It was so unique that people started ordering bracelets and donations of uniforms started pouring in. She provides five free bracelets to anyone who donates a uniform. Bracelets typically cost between $5 and $10. One-half of the proceeds directly supports organizations that work with service members and their families. With every bracelet, Zarate includes a card with information about the uniform used in the piece and the person who wore it for our country.

Her son returned home safely and is stationed in California, but Zarate knows of those whose sons, daughters, parents, and other family members weren’t so lucky.  She made her first bracelet in 2011, and, to me, she is definitely proud of what she does.


I’m definitely going online and checking out Bands4Courage. As a proud Coast Guard brat and having other relatives serving and have served (grandfathers, cousin, extended family), I’m very passionate about the military. Throughout the last several years I have considered joining the CG, but ultimately realized that I’m just not military material. However, I will tell my kids about my dad and my family with great pride and admiration. And if they decide some day to go to one of the military academies for college, join the ROTC, or enlist in one of the branches of service, I will beam with pride as I encourage them to serve their country proudly and with great honor.

As we celebrate Memorial Day 2015, I will be thinking of my Grandpa Madan in heaven, who served in the Army. He married my Grandma Grace just five days before D-Day in 1944. He fought valiantly in Europe and received the Purple Heart. One of my favorite pictures of him is him in his Army uniform. I definitely miss him, he’s been gone for nearly seven years now, but I always think of his service. He never talked about the war, but I know his service left a lasting impact on his life.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

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Writing Wednesdays #15

Image Credit: pixshark.com

Image Credit: pixshark.com


Welcome back!

It’s Wednesday – So it’s time for another installment of “Discussion of Differences.”

Enjoy!


Finally, after what seemed like hours, it was Anabelle who broke the silence.

“Relocate? As in, move?”

Bethany and Hunter merely nodded.

Everyone’s eyes looked at each other around the circle. No one moved, no one spoke. There was barely any breathing.

Bill took a deep breath and finally said what everyone was thinking.

“This is crazy. Absolutely crazy! But, I like it.”

Their Saturday adventure stretched into Sunday. No one slept that night. It was like a teenage slumber party – Everyone was whispering and basically giggling. The idea was simply crazy and nutty, but it sounded like loads of fun.

Everyone eventually fell asleep, the three couples intertwined in different places in Bill’s bedroom. All six of them had different dreams of Europe dancing in their heads.

The next morning, it was like everyone had left their old lives behind. All they could talk about was the future. Everyone had a different version, but it all led down the same path.

As everyone prepared to leave Bill’s house, the excitement was electrifying. A whole new adventure was in its infancy.

Lisanna and Hunter were headed northwest – Lisanna back to LT to finish school, and Hunter back to work in the mountains.

Anabelle was staying with Bill until Monday, then she had to head back southeast to her mom’s. Bethany and Will were headed southeast as well – Back to their parents’ houses and back to work.

But as they headed their separate ways, their lives, as they knew it, would never be the same. They promised to meet again in a month’s time, back at Bill’s, for another weekend of scheming, dreaming, and achieving this concocted plan.

The scheming and dreaming carried everyone through that month of work, workouts at the gym, parental drama, and studying. It was stressful, carrying around this big secret. Everyone had made a pact that Saturday to not tell anyone outside of the six, not until the plans took better shape, that is. But it certainly wasn’t easy.

Bethany almost slipped up, but luckily she caught herself. She turned the story into reminiscing about her previous trips to Europe – The first was 17 days in high school, and the second was a spring break trip courtesy of an art class at LT. In fact, she was the only one of the six to have previously traveled to any country in Europe. So she was automatically considered to be the expert.

Hunter and Bethany had also decided to keep their conversation on the FlixelFlaxen to a minimum. They still messaged daily, but swore to not talk about Europe unless the six of them were together. It didn’t seem fair, or right. They wanted to keep it as even and equal as possible.

Finally, the weekend before Halloween had arrived. It was once again time to travel to Bill’s mom’s house. Surprisingly, no one talked about Europe in the cars on the way up – It seemed like the discussion would work best with everyone together again. But that certainly didn’t stop them from thinking about it.

Everyone had a slight difference of opinion about Europe, but the overarching theme was plain excitement. This was a grand adventure. And the best part? The six of them were going to embark on this adventure together, no matter what.

The crunch of gravel underneath tires signaled to Bill that everyone had arrived. Anabelle had come to Bill’s early, to do some more wedding planning. That was going to be a factor in their European adventure, but she didn’t want to get ahead of herself. She wanted the six of them together for both the wedding and Europe, no questions asked.

Bethany and Will were eager to continue the discussion as well. The engagement ring had been finished months ago, but Bethany knew to just keep her mouth shut. She knew Will was planning the best proposal that he could think of, and she didn’t want to bug him about it. She allowed herself to daydream about it for a few minutes each day, but then put it out of her mind. She was easily distracted anyway. She knew Will would find the right place and the right time to ask her one of the most important questions ever. She couldn’t wait for it, but at the same time wanted to be surprised and swept off her feet.

Hunter and Lisanna drove to Bill’s separately, although the original plan was for Hunter to come down to LT on Friday, on his day off, spend the night, and then Hunter would drive Lisanna to Bill’s. Hunter was lonely on the workdays and the weekends that he wasn’t staying with Lisanna. He loved spending as much time with Lisanna as he could, and missed her terribly whenever he couldn’t come visit.

However, the final semester for Lisanna was quickly eroding her spirit, and it was becoming increasingly difficult for her to keep allowing Hunter to visit her on the weekends. She wanted to get the best grades possible, but ultimately make sure she passed all of her classes. They planned to walk at commencement in May, together. They both were part of the five-year plan at LT, but neither were ashamed of that. Lisanna just wanted to pass her classes and graduate – LT itself was quickly becoming part of the problem. She was also terrified of the real world, and what that meant for her relationship with Hunter. She felt torn, and was becoming frantic with each passing day.

Fortunately, being alone in the car for the 45-minute drive to Bill’s was therapeutic. She lost herself in the mix CD that Hunter had given her a month earlier for their anniversary. Her thoughts about the future took her to another place too.

“Maybe Europe is the sign that I’ve been looking for,” she thought as she cruised down the highway.

She did miss Hunter’s company in the car – They always had their best discussions there. But at the same time, she had just come off of midterms and needed Friday to clear her head. She had desperately wanted Hunter to come stay the night with her – For him to just hold her close and tell her everything was going to be alright, that it was going to be just fine – but at the same time, she just wanted to be alone. And that wanting to be alone terrified her even more. What kind of person, in a loving long-term relationship, wanted to be alone?

As the six friends came together at Bill’s house, all of the raw feelings surfaced, and quickly. As Bill opened the door, hugs were exchanged all around and the traditional greetings and salutations were said. But silence settled in immediately afterward. Their grand European adventure suddenly became the ugly elephant in the room – And that was the last thing that everyone wanted.

Much like the night that the idea was proposed, no one could speak up immediately. It was almost taboo, forbidden, and immensely awkward. Everyone read worry and fear that was written on each other’s faces. All six of them were basically thinking the same exact thought – What the hell are we doing?

Luckily, the elephant started to get smaller. Bethany had started a binder full of research, and started to pass it around. She’d also thought to bring along the photo albums from her two previous Europe excursions. That broke the tension, albeit slightly.

Everyone thumbed through the books for a few minutes, and they all got back around to Bethany eventually. She stacked them in a neat pile as she sat Indian-style on Bill’s bedroom floor, stroking the corner of the purple photo album aimlessly. Finally, she took a deep breath and said, “Well, what do y’all think?”

Everyone glanced around, unsure of what to do or say. Then, Anabelle spoke up.

“I think it’s a great start.”

Like the first night, Anabelle’s affirmation kicked off instant chatter. It was a great flurry of conversation. All three books left Bethany’s lap again and didn’t return for a good while. It was difficult keeping up and keeping track – Everyone was going in different directions. It had a wave of excitement to it, but it crashed just as quickly as a wave would on the beach.

The conversation died down again, and it became this awkward staring contest. No one wanted to kill the enthusiasm, but the challenges needed to be addressed eventually.


Come back next week for more!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

 

Getting Personal #10: Halfway There

Image Credit: admiredlyrics.com

Image Credit: admiredlyrics.com

“Woah, we’re half way there …” ~Bon Jovi


This song, I think, fits perfectly with my post today.

Today is May 14, 2015.

Our wedding day is November 14, 2015.

Doing some quick math – That’s six months away from today!


Everything is coming together beautifully. Right now I don’t feel stressed or overwhelmed.

But, this whole endeavor wouldn’t be possible without a bunch of awesome people:

  • Al is such an awesome and supportive fiance!
  • My mom is a rock star.
  • My dad is just awesome.
  • Our wedding planner, Crystal, is amazing, awesome, absolutely wonderful. I could fill pages and pages of praise.
  • Many thanks to Nick and Savy for the hook-up with Crystal!
  • Everyone who has offered to pitch in or help – Y’all are freaking fantastic!
  • All of our vendors have been so kind and gracious, including Aldersgate UMC, Cedar Point, Stellar Exposures, Wholesale Flower Market, and Music Makes You Happy, to name a few.
  • My bridal party rocks – Melissa, Stephanie, Katie, and Liz 🙂

I’m beyond excited to walk down that aisle six months from today, to marry the love of my life!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

 

Writing Wednesdays #14

Welcome back to Writing Wednesdays!

I’m so excited to kick off sharing my latest NaNoWriMo novel – “Discussion of Differences.”

Last November, in those 30 days, I wrote 16,237 words, the most I’ve ever written in my entire life in one period. I look forward to destroying that number with glee six months from now, but until then, I’m more than happy to share it with you, with the world.


It all started with a discussion of differences.

How life was different in the U.S., compared to Europe.

It gave Bethany and Hunter a grand idea.

Before this discussion started, Bethany and Hunter were close friends. They first met in college, taking mass media courses together at the Lancer Institute.

They weren’t close in college. Bethany had originally been intimidated by Hunter. Hunter thought Bethany was a great girl, but that they’d lose touch after Bethany graduated. Bethany graduated and went back home in 2011.

As the years passed, they kept in touch through the FlixelFlaxen. Bethany was dating Will. Hunter met a girl at LT named Lisanna. And then there was another couple – Anabelle and Bill – that Bethany and Hunter both knew well.

At the time the discussion started, Anabelle and Bill had been dating the longest – A little over seven years, since they were wide-eyed freshmen at LT. Bethany and Will were next – Just past four years. And Hunter and Lisanna brought up the rear; they had recently celebrated two years together. All their anniversaries fell between the beginning of September and the first of October. Whenever they could, the three pairs enjoyed meeting up to hang out and enjoy each other’s company.

The discussion of differences came out over the FlixelFlaxen. Since Bethany and Hunter were long-distance friends, they messaged each other daily. They’d become closer because of it. They shared everything from the mundane work experiences to deep, dark secrets of relationships, both past and present.

One day, while they were both at work, something was said about the Europeans capitalizing on the 4-day work week. Bethany was always jealous that Hunter only had to work Monday through Thursday.

Plus, there were other perks that a lot of Europeans have enjoyed for years. Better healthcare. More affordable college/university studies. Cheaper travel. The sense of adventure. Actual paid maternity and paternity leave. And there was more than that.

As the discussion continued, a plan started to form. It started as just a pipe dream, but just the thought was tantalizing.

Hunter began thinking of castles and the sense of adventure.

Bethany got a thrill because Will had just started working for a German-based company six months prior, and he had already been approached about traveling there in the future.

The six of them had diverse degrees and experience. While Bethany and Hunter had mass media degrees, they were working in completely different fields – Bethany was an analyst for a health system, and Hunter was a video editor for a husband-wife team that rode horseback trails all over the world.

Lisanna was finally wrapping up her degree at LT, and was scheduled to graduate that winter. She currently had no clue about continuing education or work.

Anabelle was in graduate school, but in an online program. Bethany was in the same boat. They knew they could continue school if the need arose to move.

Bill and Will were both recent hires. Both were finally working in their respective fields after years in the same dead-end positions.

All of them were young. Will was the oldest, the closest to 30. And they were all serious about their relationships – Anabelle and Bill recently became engaged. Bethany and Will were heading down the path toward engagement. Lisanna and Hunter were serious, but not sure about their future; not until Lisanna became a LT graduate, anyway.

They all immensely enjoyed each other’s company. Most of their adventures happened at Bill’s mom’s house in the center of the state. It was a lot of Saturdays, about a month and a half in between each one. Those Saturdays slipped through their fingers, and left everyone excited for the next meeting. They couldn’t get enough.

Bethany and Hunter kept the conversation to themselves, but not for long. It was just too exciting not to share.

They waited long enough, but just barely made it to the next adventure. It was at Bill’s mom’s, about a week before Bill and Anabelle’s anniversary. The day was filled with shopping, laughter, and everything associated with autumn.

As they carried in the pizza and settled to watch some movies, both Bethany and Hunter cleared their throats simultaneously. They glanced at each other, and took a deep breath. Neither was eager to speak up first.

Finally, after a final glance at Hunter, Bethany swallowed and opened her mouth.

“Hey, guys?”

Everyone’s heads swiveled around. They were all in a rough circle, a mix of perching on Bill’s bed and on the floor.

Bethany normally didn’t get nervous. She had spoken in front of 500 people in her church sanctuary multiple times. But all of a sudden, having just ten pairs of eyes on her made her clammy and shaky.

She cleared her throat again. Will sensed something was wrong. He started to stroke her back – That calmed her, ever so slightly.

“Guys, Hunter and I have an idea that we wanted to share with you.”

Bethany motioned her head in Hunter’s direction. Fortunately, Hunter didn’t miss a beat.

“So, yeah, we’ve been thinking about an adventure.”

All eyebrows went up.

Unfazed, Hunter continued.

“Well, it’s not the normal adventure, like these meetings have been. We’re thinking bigger.”

Hunter smiled and nudged Bethany with his bony shoulder.

Bethany took another deep breath and leaned into Will before speaking.

“We’re thinking an European adventure.”

As the word “European” escaped her lips, everyone gasped. Not of utter shock, surprisingly, but more excitement. At least, from what Bethany could tell. The six of them were very simple people. Adventurous, yes, but not necessarily on a global scale.

No one spoke for a few moments. There was some palpable tension in the air, and neither Bethany nor Hunter knew quite what to do. Do they explain or begin to elaborate, or just let everyone process it?

Finally, Will was the first audience member to speak.

“So, Europe, huh?”

With that, everyone started talking at once, except for Hunter and Bethany. This was not the reaction they had prepared for, it was actually better than they had expected. They both exhaled a small sigh of relief.

Of course, the whole story hadn’t been revealed, either.

The initial conversation went on for at least 15 minutes before it died down. It seemed like every country had been discussed in that time, and with each new country and city that was named, the excitement continued to build.

Without warning, it got deathly quiet. Eight pairs of eyes slowly focused back on Hunter and Bethany.

“Oh boy, here we go again,” Bethany thought as the speaking ceased to exist.

 Fortunately, Hunter did the talking this time.

“Nothing is set in stone. It’s just an idea. But we were thinking that the six of us could, well, relocate.”

Now the gasps clearly contained shock and surprise. Everyone’s eyes were as wide as saucers. No one spoke. It appeared that all jaws had simultaneously hit the floor.

There was no flurry of conversation. Just silence.

Bethany was becoming increasingly uncomfortable. She absolutely loathed confrontation, especially among friends. She also greatly disliked tension. She knew it was definitely there in that room, and she felt like there was nothing she could do about it. The only comfort she had, at that moment, was that Will’s arm around her shoulders hadn’t budged an inch. But she could feel his eyes on her, trying to search her for understanding, almost desperate to find the meaning of what Hunter has just uttered.


Come back next week for more!


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: imdb.com

Image Credit: imdb.com

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 🙂