Writing Prompt #6: Skinning Humanity

“We are all brothers under the skin – and I, for one, would be willing to skin humanity to prove it.”

-Ayn Rand

I’ve mulled over this topic for a while now. There are so many facets to this one.

Here’s a few questions to ponder:

  • How do you see yourself?
  • How do you see others?
  • How are you acting and showing yourself to others?

I put up a picture of a being that is half-angel, half-demon. I believe that there are angels and demons within all of us, and then those angels and demons also themselves known, through our words and actions.

Also, Ayn Rand is a bad-ass. I read several of her books in high school and college (Anthem, The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged). I plan to re-read them, as I know my perceptions have shifted in becoming an adult. Check her out. I could fill a blog post and then some about her, her life, and her works.

This post was partially inspired by a conversation between my friend Justin and I.

In the fall of 2010, we originally met as classmates in Halliday’s Basic Broadcasting class. I’ll admit, at first, Justin intimidated me. He towered over me, plus he was taller than everyone else, with the exception of the two basketball players in the class.

He normally dressed in all black, didn’t say much to anyone, and appeared “emo” to me.

But I didn’t know him then.

On the flip side, Justin thought I was a super energetic sorority girl who took notes constantly. I mean, I literally wrote down almost everything that either Halliday said, or what was on his PowerPoints. Yeah, I was that kid.

Justin said, “Do not judge the holy man to be 100 percent pure, and do not judge the kid all in black of being incapable of giving and feeling love.”

In short, this goes back to the old saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

Because of this conversation, I started looking at the people around me a bit differently.

I personally try, with all my might, to not judge anyone. I want to make an honest effort to get to know people first, before deciding if I like them or not.

For the most part, I get along with almost everyone. I kill with kindness, so to speak. However, there are some people, and some character traits, that just bug the hell out of me and drive me crazy. So, my resolve is to avoid these people and character traits as much as I can. If there are instances where I can’t avoid them, I just smile, nod, and get through it. And if it becomes unbearable or massively uncomfortable, I cut them out of my life. It’s happened before, and it will probably happen some more in the future. It’s really freeing, actually.

With Justin, I may have been intimidated at first, but that didn’t last long. We ended up in group projects for both of Halliday’s Broadcasting classes, and we progressed from classmates to being friends. Now, four years later, we’re close friends and enjoy meeting up as often as possible with our significant others.

Justin also shared this system he had come up with a while ago, called “The Caste of 4 Wings.”

“What you wear and how you act around strangers and friends are key factors in how your wings will be seen”

There are four types of wings that people can possess:

  1. White Angel Wings: People who are seen by society and others to be good, caring, and warm people. In truth they are that. They help out others, volunteer, do good work for others.
  2. Black Demon Wings: People who are seen as no good and untrustworthy, evil and vile. They live up to that, as they abuse people, murder, rob, treat others like shit.
  3. Black Angel Wings: Wings wore by people who are seen as good people and someone you can trust but in reality they are the opposite. Can manipulate people, use the trust of others and exploit it for their own personal gain. How they are seen by others is not who they really are.
  4. White Demon Wings: Wings wore by people deemed by society as a menace, like outsiders or loners who people think don’t do anything really. In reality they just want to love people, can perhaps be hurt and want others to say “It’s okay.” and despite what others see them as, their true friends know the goodness, love, and kindness in their hearts.

I was absolutely fascinated as Justin was explaining this to me.

Then it shifted to what wings we thought we had. For me, I thought it over for a while.

In the past, I’ve been characterized as having White Angel Wings – Being the teacher’s pet, being a “goody two-shoes,” volunteering my time and talents, always willing to sign up, step up, and help anyone.

And over the years, that hasn’t really changed, I don’t think. I’ve always tried to be warm, caring, and a good person overall. However, I’m certainly not perfect, nor do I want to be. So I may have White Angel Wings, but I try to be as humble and down-to-earth as possible.

Justin considers himself to have White Demon Wings. Once I read the explanation, it made perfect sense. This is how I saw him when we first met at Longwood. I personally never saw him as a “menace,” but I originally thought he was a loner and kept to himself. I knew he loved video games. I wasn’t sure about him and his personality, at first.

In reality, he’s a wonderful guy, with such a big heart. I’ve enjoyed getting to know him better over the last few years, and he’s a great friend. I’m so happy that he’s found love with his girlfriend Heaven. He enjoys his solitude and he’s definitely a gamer, but those are not bad things. He likes to plan get-togethers with our group of six friends (Al, me, Justin, Heaven, Drew, and Katie). We’re stoked about going to Kings Dominion in a week and a half with Al, Heaven, Katie, and our friends Brian and Mike.

As I thought about “The Caste of 4 Wings,” I realized there are people that I have encountered in my 26 years on this Earth who have all four types of wings. I certainly prefer to interact with the ones that have White Angel Wings and White Demon Wings. However, I’ve acknowledged that a select few that I’ve known have had Black Angel Wings and Black Demon Wings. Fortunately, most of them have faded from my life, at this point. There are a few that are manipulators that I have to deal with and have dealt with, but as long as I’m able to take them in small doses, I’m good.

These wings can be applied to everyone. I’ve thought about those who have made headlines recently, from the President, to Dylann Roof, to the Pope, to the people who report the news.

  • President Obama: Due to the nature of his position, as a politician in the U.S. and now the Commander-in-Chief, I would classify him as having Black Angel Wings, from my perspective. However, there are others that probably perceive him as having Black Demon Wings. In fact, there are probably people in this country that have thought of him as having all four kinds of wings, at certain points in his career.
  • Dylann Roof: As the suspected shooter of nine black people in a South Carolina church, this guy has Black Demon Wings, all the way. I can’t see it another way.
  • Pope Francis: Like the President, I’m sure people have thought of the Pope as having different kinds of wings. For me, I’m happy that he has been proactive on so many issues. Because of that, and the appearance of a warm, caring nature for everyone, I would give him White Angel Wings.
  • News Anchors/Reporters: As a mass media major in college, I definitely got an education on what news reporters and anchors do and how the broadcasting realm works. Their images are projected for all to see, but we don’t really see them off-camera. We don’t know who they really are when the camera turns off. Again, people have probably given them all four types of wings at some point. It’s hard to pinpoint, but for me, I can see them having Black Angel Wings or White Demon Wings, and in rare instances, White Angel Wings.

Keep in mind, these are just examples. And these are strictly my thoughts and opinions.

What do you think?

I’m glad Justin and I had this conversation. It really has changed my perspective on people, both in my life and those that I have never met.

I really like “The Caste of 4 Wings,” and I’m happy Justin shared it with me. Now I find myself thinking of people in terms of what wings I think they have, and then setting out to see if my perceptions are really true, or not. It’s fascinating to think about. This is something that will stick with me forever.

I encourage you to try it for yourself. Think about the wings you think you have, and then the wings of people around you. You might surprise yourself. I know it surprised me.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #8: “Quiverfull of Shit: A Guide to the Duggar’s Scary Brand of Christianity”

Disclaimer: This post contains strong language.

Image Credit: quotesabouteducation.net

Image Credit: quotesabouteducation.net

As many of you know, I follow my friend Megan’s blog, Freckled Italian, religiously. No pun intended.

I enjoy her posts immensely, and quite often, I’m inspired to write my own posts by reading hers.

Example – I was inspired by her Friday, June 26th post.

She wrote:

To Read:

Like Megan, I also don’t understand how the Duggars are so popular still!

When the Duggars first emerged on the scene, I was initially fascinated and intrigued, like many others. My parents don’t have cable TV, so I have not been a regular consumer of their show on TLC, now titled “19 Kids and Counting.” But I’m amazed that MILLIONS of people watch the show! However, with their many interviews, I have learned more than my fair share about them.

My interest peaked again when their 19th child was born prematurely. I was a preemie myself, so I felt a connection there.

But now, with the latest revelations of their oldest son’s alleged molestation, including two of his own sisters, I have absolutely zero interest in their lives anymore. I shake my head at the headlines. I’m angry. However, I wasn’t really surprised though. Molestation is often kept secret, by victims in particular, for years and years. It’s fucking terrible. I understand secrecy to an extent, but it is a terrible crime. It’s a stigma that needs to be changed. Not speaking up can cause these predators to continue their path of destroying innocence for years on end.

Personally, I was starting to get turned off by the family a few years ago, when two of the daughters entered courtship, married, almost immediately became pregnant, and declared that they wanted to have as many children as God willed them.

The courtship part was interesting to learn about, but it’s heavily supervised by the parents, and there are no individual dates. Every facet of communication is under the watch of the parents. Each single text is copied to the parents! Wow. Many children in courtship also save their first kiss for their wedding day.

… Nope, that’s not my thing!

Although I am a Christian, I don’t believe in their views of so-called Christianity. For me, I believe the couple is in complete control of adding children to their family – God is not in control in this instance. After all, the couple is having the sex to conceive, or saving the money for the adoption, or saving the money for fertility treatments, or making the decision to not have any children at all.

So, this article really intrigued me. As soon as I started reading, however, I started to feel my stomach turn. I felt so uncomfortable. I remember asking myself, just a few sentences in, “Wow, they really believe all of this?”

There are your Christians (a.k.a., me). Then there are your evangelical Christians. But the Duggars – The Duggars have gone a step further than that, which I never imagined:

“… they’re followers of a particularly scary fundamentalist sect known as the Quiverfull movement, which adheres to a deeply patriarchal and highly authoritarian set of beliefs about gender and culture.”

Wait … What?

I had no idea.

I read further, feeling my gut twist a little tighter with every word.

Birth control is evil?

Building a “pint-size fundamentalist Christian army”?

Whoa, baby. No pun intended.

That’s a little crazy.

And there’s more.

If you or your spouse happens to be infertile, and you’re part of the Quiverfull movement, well, apparently you’re shit out of luck. Apparently, God doesn’t believe in fertility treatments. So, even if you desperately want children – or God is telling you that you want X number of children, so sorry.

Also, this article doesn’t breathe a word about adoption, or foster care, or anything like that. Interesting.

“Women must obey the orders of men, in all cases”

Um, no. Hell no. Fuck no! Where are we, the 20th century, or earlier?!

I get it, in a way. Women have been submissive to their husbands – In past years. I’m sure there are some women, Candace Cameron Bure being a famous example, who prefer/enjoy being submissive.

For me, however, I believe that my future marriage is a partnership between Al and I. I try to treat Al as equally as possible, knowing that Al tries to do the same for me. When it comes to raising our future children, I would ideally like to stay home with them, if I’m able to. But, if not, I feel confident that I will be happy as a working mom as well. I will be happy as a wife to Al, and a mother to our future children, period.

“Premarital sex is sinful, and women are temptresses – who must also be sexually available to their husbands”

According to the article, this Quiverfull culture/movement, women (and men) have a lot of fucking restrictions.

I realize that there are a few denominations of Christianity that frown upon dancing, banning it even. However, with Quiverfull, women aren’t allowed to show their shoulders (Apparently that has caused their brothers in Christ to “stumble”), and then they can’t dance, AND they can’t front-hug their siblings.

What the fuck?

This makes me feel like I’m back in high school, remembering the strict dress code for school days, and then remembering the rules in place for prom and other dances. Wow!

In terms of sex, the only type allowed is “heterosexual, vaginal sex between a biological male and a biological female … and it can occur only in the bonds of holy matrimony with the intent of procreation.”

I get that, in a way. Growing up as a Christian in the United Methodist Church, I learned that sex before marriage was very much frowned upon, and if we did so, we were sinners and needed to ask God for forgiveness.

However, now, as an adult, I don’t necessarily believe that to be so bad. Sex is natural, between two people that love each other and want to express that to each other. In my opinion, as long as you’re not fucking around with multiple partners, willy-nilly, irresponsibly (i.e., without protection, you’re using your body for prostitution, etc.), I think it’s okay. As long as you love the person that you are in a committed relationship with, and you two are safe about it, I think premarital sex is okay.

“Parents control their children’s lives”

I agree with this, to an extent. As a parent, you are responsible for EVERYTHING your child does, from the day they are born until the day they turn 18. For 18 years, YOU are on the hook for your child. There are so many stories I hear from people I know, and in the media, about how the parents need to be schooled in basic parenting, or not have kids at all.

All right – Moving on …

What I don’t agree with is certain suffocating limitations in Quiverfull.

Again, no dancing. This also means no music that could cause you to dance – Meaning you’re limited to hymns and classical music. I like hymns and classical music, but if those were my only options, I think I’d prefer silence at some point. Dancing has so many benefits too – It’s exercise, it’s expression, it helps relieve stress, and so on.

Reading is restricted to “approved Christian books.” This saddens me, greatly. I love to read. I’ve learned so much about myself, about the world around me, and about my love of writing because of books. I can’t imagine not being able to go to the library as a child, to explore the wonder of getting any book I wanted, over and over. I do read some Christian books and literature, but I relish in having a choice to do so.

I do agree with controlling Internet access. That’s important, especially in today’s world of sextortion, online predators, and more. For me, my kids will not have a smartphone until the earn the money to get one, and then Mom and Dad will have strict limits on everything until their 18th birthday. My job, until they’re 18, is to protect them. I want to teach them about the bad things in this world, and then help protect my kids from it as much as possible. My kids may hate me for years on end, but my job is to be their parent, not their friend. I cannot emphasize that enough!

I don’t agree with not having a television. This is something that will be limited in my house when it comes to my kids, but it will be there. I want them to get away from the electronic devices and, you know, go outside and play. It’s how I grew up. I got kicked out of the TV room and off the computer, and sent outside. My kids will be no different.

“Families must be self-sufficient – no schools and no government assistance, no matter how many kids”

This fascinated me. Remember my recent post on welfare?

For the most part, I look at parents who choose to homeschool their children, and I think it’s amazing. I personally don’t think I could do that, ever. The best part is that we have a choice to do that. While I have a lot of beef about our education system in the U.S., I believe I got a great education in the Chesapeake public school system, and having the opportunity to be in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program in my high school was a great challenge.

However, Quiverfulls are basically mandated to live debt-free and without government assistance. Sorry – I have no idea how that’s even possible! There are so many in this country who are drowning in debt – Particularly student loan debt (It’s the fastest-growing kind, far exceeding mortgages, car loans, and credit card debt). It’s absolutely fucking terrible, it’s absurd. Many of these people will die with this debt. And that’s a damn shame!

The end of the article was also interesting, titled “The Human Toll of Quiverfull.”

This quote struck me: “It’s easy to laugh at the retrograde and irrational ideas of the Quiverfull adherents, but as Josh Duggar, Bill Gothard, and Doug Phillips have shown, the movement’s anti-feminism and authoritarianism can very easily elide, excuse, and hide abusive behavior.”

Yes, these ideas are definitely irrational. They’re hard to comprehend. After reading this article a full four times, I still have trouble wrapping my head around it all.

However, there is no excuse for abusive behavior. Zero, zilch, nada!! As a survivor of emotional, mental, and physical abuse, it makes me bristle to hear of women and men being abused, and then getting sucked back in because of broken promises. It makes me sick. But, at the same time, I’m grateful that I finally saw the light and realized I wasn’t happy, that I had lost myself, and took the steps to finally break up with John Ivey on Saturday, July 17, 2010.

I’m recently started to see a counselor to address my struggles with anxiety, recent panic attacks, and other issues that I’ve had and developed, partly because of what I endured in my four-year relationship with John. I want to overcome these issues, as much as I can, before I start a new chapter with Al when we marry on November 14th.

I want to become a better Laura Beth – A better woman, a better Christian, a better daughter, a better fiance and future wife to Al, and a better friend. I’m doing this for myself. And I feel so good!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Wednesdays #20

Happy Wednesday!

After the initial shock wore off, and stopping several times for brief chats with sorority sisters and old friends, they finally settled in the library. Since it was early on a Saturday, it was basically deserted, very quiet and peaceful – Perfect. They quickly laid claim to one of the biggest study rooms on the second floor, with a door, and made sure there were six chairs. It certainly was a tight fit, but they made it work.

Lisanna then announced that she had a surprise for everyone – On Friday, she had taken the initiative and reserved a bunch of books on Europe and traveling. Everyone was visibly thrilled. Up until this point, no one was really sure how truly on board Lizzy was with the whole idea. But this effort on her made everyone realize that she was just as excited about the adventure and motivated to plan it with the group.

Bethany was probably the most excited of them all – She definitely saw a positive shift in Lizzy because of this efforts. In addition, the daily texts had also become increasingly encouraging. With each passing day, it had appeared to Bethany that Lizzy was feeling better overall, far more diligent in her studies, and almost had a sense of peace and content come over her. The furthest proof, and icing on the cake, was Bethany finally seeing her in person – Lizzy had an ear-to-ear grin from the moment that everyone had arrived on campus.

Bethany sighed contentedly as everyone picked a book and started thumbing through them.

“Hey, everyone. I loved your surprise, Lizzy! Thank you. This is a huge help. But I actually have a surprise, too.”

Everyone’s eyes followed Bethany’s hands from the moment she finished speaking. You could cut the tension with a knife as she methodically unzipped her backpack. The suspense was killing everyone, but no one hardly breathed.

Finally, Bethany put the mystery item in the center of the desk. She sat back and watched everyone take it in.

Eyes as wide as saucers, again. But no one moved, nor spoke. The silence made Bethany wither inside, like a plan trying to survive without water.

Finally, someone had the courage to speak up – Bethany couldn’t put her finger on who it was. It may have been multiple voices for all she knew. But the words went like this:

“This. Is. So. Awesome!!!!”

Bethany heaved a huge sigh of relief. Her creative efforts paid off! As she snapped back to reality, she had to interject her hands to prevent the ensuing fight over the journal. The six descended into chaos, play-acting like little children.

“It’s mine!”

“No way, dude. I saw it first!”

“Let me see! Let. Me. See!”

But Bethany’s hands were quicker. She snatched the journal like a ninja and hugged it to her chest. She glared an icy stare and attempted to restrain her voice – They were in the library, of all places – as she mutedly yelled,


Everyone immediately ceased all movement, whether it was in mid-grab or mid-word. It was like Bethany had yelled “FREEZE” in a hot game of freeze tag. She had to stifle a laugh at everyone’s ridiculous expressions, as she attempted to lower her voice into a stern whisper, complete with a wagging finger.

“What are we, in elementary school? Nope. I wanted everyone to see it, but I guess we’re going to have to, you know, share, like we’re all in kindergarten again. Oh, and take turns – Nicely. Everyone will get their chance to see it, I promise. I’m not going to take it away – Unless you decide to fight over it again. And, for the love of everything holy, keep your voices down! We are in the library, after all, and we need to stay quiet! Do you really want to get kicked out?

Everyone sheepishly lowered their eyes and shook their heads. Bethany rolled her eyes – Reigning in these class clowns may be harder than she had originally imagined.

“Are we calmer now? Alright, then. Let’s all play nicely in this tiny sandbox we’re in. Now, I’m going to pass it over here to Anabelle first …”

Anabelle didn’t snatch it away from Bethany. She held the journal as if it were a china doll. Bethany had filled nearly all of the 150 pages, but she’d elected to save five pages for each section, to all each of the five to have their own place to create their notes, canvas, or Pinterest ideas. It was only fair. In addition, she’d given each person their own color – To help differentiate, and keep some order to the chaos. She’d used the same color Post-It notes as bookmarks at the top of the sections as well.

After the journal made its first loop around the group, Bethany reached into her backpack again, and produced six pens.

“These are the same colors that go with the journal. I want you to use them as much as you want – Don’t worry, I bought plenty of extras whenever those first ones run dry. Plus, you’ll see that I put them on lanyards with each of our names and ‘The Great European Adventure.’ I thought this would be a great reminder of what we’re striving for when times get tough or when we’re wading through our everyday lives.”

As the pens got passed around and the feverish chatter started again, the kind that was becoming commonplace during their meetings, Bethany and Will’s eyes met. Will grinned at Bethany as she leaned into him. She sighed with relief as Will kissed her forehead.

As they watched the group, Will murmured into Bethany’s forehead, “I think we’re going to be just fine. Why were we all worried?”

Aside from a bit of squabbling about whose turn it was to have the journal, the weekend, like all the other meetings so far, passed by far too quickly.

After the unveiling of the travel books and the journal/pens combination, the study room grew very hot and uncomfortable. Plus, everyone was getting hungry. Since Lisanna had already checked the large stack of books out of the library for the month-long reserve period, everyone took a stack and they gingerly made their way out of the library and into the bright sunshine and brisk breeze. The group carefully made their way over to the Student Union, where they had their pick of food options. The rest of the afternoon slipped away like the sun did behind the buildings, as everyone thumbed through the books and passed the journal back and forth. Before everyone knew it, the dinner rush was flowing through the café and the six decided it was far beyond time to haul their treasure trove all the way back to Lisanna’s apartment for the evening festivities.

All three of Lizzy’s apartment-mates were away for the weekend – Definitely a rare sight and treat – so the six proceeded to party like it was 1999. The books and journal went promptly into a corner of the living room, and out came the baking supplies, pizza, frozen appetizers, and a few adult beverages. Since no one was going anywhere until the next morning, it was safe to let loose a little, as long as they stayed relatively quiet.

Toward the end of the night, everyone was fat and happy, along with being drunk on a little bit of alcohol and a whole lot of love and excitement. The three couples quickly chose their corners and proceeded to make out and get frisky like no one was going to live past the dawning of the morning sun. It got dangerously close to being naughtier than that, but someone wisely noticed everyone teetering on the edge of all six of them being naked in the same space, and called a time-out. Everyone laughed, immediately straightened up, and headed to their respective private places for the night. Not saying that anyone went to sleep immediately, or anything, but no one wanted to see anyone else doing their private business if they could help it.

Sunday morning came far too quickly. It was exciting, because all of the meetings up until this point had been forced to end by Saturday night. No one had gotten a lot of sleep, for obvious reasons, but that was okay. The excitement was still buzzing.

After getting a slow start to the morning, someone suggested going to the Brunch Bungalow restaurant that was close to the edge of Farmerstown. It had amazing food – It was pretty much the town’s greasy spoon, and boy was it a popular place. It was difficult to get a table for all six of them, but they waited patiently amidst the smells of pancakes, bacon, and eggs wafting around their noses.

Finally, a very hung-over group of LT students – Assumed to be a mix of freshmen and sophomores coming down from the previous night’s Greek row crawl – gave the six a table near the back. Bethany had made sure to grab the journal before leaving Lizzy’s apartment.

After ordering their food – A smorgasbord of French toast, waffles, sausage, eggs, and lots of bacon – silence fell around the table. Bethany had set the journal in the center. She had flipped through the pages at some point the night before – Almost every page was full.

She sighed. She wasn’t sure what to say.

“Lizzy, first of all – Thank you so much for hosting us this weekend. I think, judging by last night, anyway, that we all had a great time.”

Everyone gave slight nods and murmurs of agreement – It was clear some of the group were a little hung over as well.

“I’m so impressed with what all of y’all have put in this journal since yesterday. I mean, I gave this to y’all almost 24 hours ago – and it’s practically filled up now. Thanks, guys. I don’t quite know what to say.”

Bethany paused. She was getting emotional. She was part of the slightly hung over group, but why else did she feel hot tears threatening to burst at any moment?

Will noticed her chin quivering, and he gently kissed her temple while murmuring, “It’s okay, baby. It’s okay.”

Bethany let one tear go. Everyone immediately looked massively concerned.

She wiped the tear away and flashed her signature grin as a sign of good faith.

“I’m good, guys. Honest. I’m certainly not sad – I’m more like super happy and super proud. And thankful to have such great friends. I know y’all are fully committed to this adventure; this crazy adventure that started as just a mere venting session between Hunter and I. I just can’t wait to see what happens next.”

With that, Anabelle remarked that the food was probably getting cold, so everyone dug in – Hungry for food and hungry for the adventure that lay in wait.

Bethany kept flipping the pages of the journal absent-mindedly as Will drove southeast toward home. He noticed that she had been awfully quiet during the majority of the drive – Normally she chattered away like a happy bird.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Adventure Time: Hampton Roads, VA Edition (Independence Day 2015)

I hope everyone had a Happy 4th of July!

Image Credit: 13NewsNow (WVEC)

Image Credit: 13NewsNow (WVEC)

I’m so proud to be an American.

This weekend, our close family friends Lucy and Emily stayed with us! They brought the fun red, white, and blue Aloha leis, and beautiful flowers 🙂

Yesterday, my mom made two delicious meals for lunch and dinner!

The rest of the day was filled with stories, laughs, and memories.

Last night, we were able to go to NOAA again to watch the fireworks spectacular, like we did last month for Harborfest 2015. Originally it was supposed to start at 9:30 p.m., but there were huge storm clouds and lightning rolling in, so the decision was made to start them at 9:00. Great call, because right after the show ended, the rain began!

One of the local TV stations posted an awesome video of the whole show! Enjoy 🙂

Today, Dad and I went to church early. We have a new senior pastor, and today was his first Sunday. I’m excited to get to know Pastor Randy and his family in the next weeks and months. Mom taught the children’s cooking class for Sunday School, and then we all went home to hang out with Lucy and Emily.

We hung around the house for most of the day. Al took his dad to see Jurassic World. Mom’s best friend Debbie D. came out to hang out, just like yesterday. We started discussing dinner, and before we knew it, I had called Al’s mom and invited them to Spaghetti Eddie’s, one of the best Italian restaurants in our area.

The eight of us enjoyed a variety of food, including salads, Fettuccine alfredo, subs, a white pizza, and two canolis. We swapped stories and laughed a lot.

Photo gallery!

Old Glory in front of the house.

Old Glory in front of the house.

Debbie D. brought Red, White, and Blue Pie.

Debbie D. brought Red, White, and Blue Pie.

The flag among the beautiful carnations Mom  got from Norfolk Florist.

The flag among the beautiful carnations Mom got from Norfolk Florist. Mom buys a voucher from our church Boy Scout troop, where she picks up fresh flowers every month for a whole year 🙂

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #13: The Psalms, A Journal, and A Journey

Image Credit: thebottomofabottle.wordpress.com

Image Credit: thebottomofabottle.wordpress.com

Image Credit: crossfireverses.wordpress.com

Image Credit: crossfireverses.wordpress.com

Image Credit: livingwords.in

Image Credit: livingwords.in

“What I see in the Bible, especially in the book of Psalms, which is a book of gratitude for the created world, is a recognition that all good things on Earth are God’s, every good gift is from above. They are good if we recognize where they came from and if we treat them the way the Designer intended them to be treated.” -Phillip Yancey

In my last Getting Personal post, I talked about how I planned to read all 150 Psalms in reverse order, ending with the morning of my wedding.

It’s been quite a journey so far. I wake up every morning excited to read the day’s Psalm, although sometimes I wait until I go to bed. It depends on the day. But I’ve been determined and diligent.

I’m so glad I decided to do this.

In addition to reading the Psalms every day, I have started a journal again. For those of you who know me, writing is a HUGE form of therapy for me.

I like writing down my thoughts whenever I get a chance. It’s very random, so I like to always write the full date and time. It makes for fun memories when I read back through the journals I’ve amassed over the years.

The other day, my journal came in handy when I had a cool story idea strike me on the way to Al’s after work. I wrote the immediate details on a legal pad when I first got to Al’s safely, but it was nice to transfer them into my journal later that night.

I’ve also started to fill this new journal with meaningful quotes, excerpts of the Psalms, and photos.

This particular journal is helping me through my journey with anxiety.

A few weeks ago, I dug up an old email from my boss. He had sent it to me after I had returned to the office after my car slid off snowy U.S. 460. It was about employee assistance with counseling.

I took the first step and called the number in the email on a Tuesday afternoon. I felt so much better after that one call. One phone call can truly make a difference.

After that first call, they set me up with a local counseling center, about 15 minutes from my office.

My first appointment is this coming week, on July 8th. I’m looking forward to this. I’m excited to take bigger steps in this journey. I know I will go into that office with my head held high, not ashamed of where I’ve coming from, nor ashamed of what I’m doing or where I’m going.

Anxiety is often misunderstood, more often than a lot of people may think. I myself was one of those people a few years ago, with a pen pal of mine. But now that I’m dealing with it myself, it’s been eye-opening. There are so many who struggle with it. It manifests itself in so many different forms.

I’ve known several people who take medication for it, to control it, and they lead amazingly normal, happy lives.

As I was pondering my journey so far, earlier this week, I stumbled upon an article titled “How I Stay Happily Married To A Man With Anxiety.”

It was an amazing read. It struck so many chords with me.

On this long holiday weekend, I’m grateful to be an American. I am an American who is currently struggling with anxiety, but I’m excited to be on this journey. I have the Psalms, my journal, such an amazing support system, and inspiring words to look at, to make every day a little less anxious for me.

I look forward to getting better, and becoming a better Laura Beth.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Wednesdays #19

It’s Wednesday again!

Here’s the next installment of “Discussion of Differences” – Enjoy!

As she drove toward Will’s house after work, she spoke potential responses to Hunter aloud. She knew something would eventually bubble up to the surface.

Bethany parked in Will’s driveway and hustled inside – It was really starting to be autumn, with the crisp chill in the air. She kissed Will as soon as she crossed the threshold, and then excused herself to the bathroom. She had logged into the FlixelFlaxen before she’d left work, and was ready to reply.

Look – I completely understand how you feel. You know full well that Will and I were in a LDR before I graduated. I desperately wanted Will to come visit me every single weekend, but I knew – We both knew – that wasn’t practical. I personally don’t think it’s practical in your case, either. I think you should be as supportive as possible, though. Visit her every other weekend. It’s only six weeks until the end! You both can handle this, I know it. I want to help, but I want you to make the decision. Let me know what happens.

Hunter was gaming – as usual – when the notification beep interrupted his music. He paused the game and clicked over to the FlixelFlaxen. He’d gotten really good at skimming Bethany’s messages, so it took less than a minute for him to get the gist.

His response was lightning fast:

Thanks for your thoughts. I really appreciate it. You’re right, in a way. We both want to see each other every weekend, but I don’t think it will help anything. It is only six more weeks. I’ll see if she wants me to call her more often – Maybe that will help during the weeks that I can’t visit her. She definitely needs all the support that she can get. Thanks again – You’re a great friend.

Bethany smiled and went to sit by Will’s side, as happy as a clam.

As Bethany and Will settled into watching the newest episode of “The Big Bang Theory,” Bethany drifted off into dreamland again, visions of all things Europe dancing in her head.

The next day marked a week away from the next get-together. Since it was a Saturday, Bethany devoted most of the morning to writing everything down. She switched back and forth between the computer and her special Europe journal. After the first meeting, Bethany and Will had gone to Target the following week, and Bethany wandered into the stationery aisle. She scanned the journals and notebooks until Will heard her gasp. Bethany had found the ultimate 7-subject notebook. Yes, there are notebooks that go beyond the 5-subject kind now!

Bethany thought it was just perfect – There were actually enough sections to cover all the bases. There were six equal sections, one for each person, since Bethany was delegating roles for everyone. Then the seventh section was reserved for general planning, wish lists, doodles, photos – Sort of like a European Pinterest board, but on paper.

She knew that the Target in Chesapeake very likely didn’t carry maps of Europe, but that’s exactly what she wanted to do for the cover. Bethany had always been neat and clean with her school notebooks, so she was excited to be creative with this one.

Along with the journal, Bethany snagged a pack of colorful Sharpie markers and the multi-colored foil star stickers that everyone coveted in elementary school. She could hardly wait to get out of the store and head to Will’s to finish her masterpiece.

By the end of the afternoon, Bethany triumphantly declared her custom journal complete. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, she was able to print out a super-imposed map of the continent that was scaled to the precise size of the notebook cover. With the Sharpies, she boldly wrote THE GRAND EUROPEAN ADVENTURE in one corner, and then doodled around the other corners in different scripts. The final touch was the star stickers, meticulously placed on the cities that everyone had mentioned through their previous conversations – London, Paris, Nice, Madrid, Barcelona, Florence, Rome, Berlin, Stockholm, Vienna – The list appeared as if it would never end. She even ran out of stickers before finishing the list!

She couldn’t wait to start writing in it, but she was whisked away by Will to the bedroom for some overdue sexy time. It could wait, but not much longer. They would all meet up the following Saturday, and there was still so much to do and prepare.

Over the course of the week, Bethany carved out an hour every night that was solely dedicated to filling the journal to the brim. She wanted to fill every single inch, if at all possible. She made it like a scrapbook that had Pinterest and a travel agency come together. She was having the most fun, and she knew she would be sad when it was truly finished. She did decide early on to leave some space for everyone else’ input – It wouldn’t be fair otherwise.

However, she couldn’t wait for everyone to see it. She even tried to hide it from Will, but that didn’t work so well. He could tell that she was really excited, and that buoyed his spirits. For some reason, he was having an inkling that Saturday’s meeting was not going to be as stellar as Bethany and the others were anticipating.

He tried to mask it, but it wasn’t easy. Because he and Bethany had been together for over four years at that point, she’d gotten really good at being able to tell when something was wrong with him or if something was bothering him. After all, Will was one of the most easy-going people she’d ever met, so it wasn’t really hard to perceive when something was different.

Will finally came to the conclusion that he had to let Bethany know of his suspicions. He spent the first part of the week trying to rehearse what she was going to say, because he knew that Bethany would likely react really strongly. She didn’t take kindly to uncomfortable situations, and more so if they blew up in her face all of a sudden. He decided he would take her to dinner and attempt to tell her his thoughts that Thursday. He figured it would give her enough time to react to it and process it before the meeting took place. That was his hope, anyway.

Thursday night, they met at Will’s after work like usual. Normally, they went out to dinner as a couple on Fridays, but Will liked to pull a surprise every so often, to keep Bethany guessing. That night, they decided on Outback. Will drove, and even though he was holding Bethany’s hand and chattering like everything was normal, in his head he was desperately trying to formulate the right words. He knew this wasn’t going to go well.

After they ordered their salads and steaks, they were making small talk about work. They had mutually decided that their conversation about Europe would be minimal to none between the two of them. They agreed that they could talk about their own wants and wishes, but nothing that involved the group. It was all about fairness. Then, the conversation suddenly fell off a cliff, and Bethany heard Will swallow and breathe deeply.

“Will? What’s wrong? You look worried.”

He cleared his throat – It was now or never.

“Bethie, I am worried. I’ve tried to find or come up with the right words all week long, to try to tell you this carefully or gently. But, I’ll just be straight with you – I know that’s how you like it.”

It was Bethany’s turn to swallow. She instantly got nervous and edgy whenever Will was nervous – It generally wasn’t a good sign.

“Will, honey, I appreciate that. I really do. You know me so well. What is it? You know that you can tell me anything, right?”

Will nodded and bowed his head a little. He didn’t want to meet her eyes, but he forced himself to do so.

“Okay, here it is. I’ve had this inkling that this meeting on Saturday is going to be a disaster. I don’t know why or how or what, but that’s just my gut feeling. I don’t know what to do.”

Bethany’s eyes softened. She stroked his right hand with her left, and with her right hand, cupped his chin and kissed him.

“Sweetheart, I can tell you’re worried. I am too, a little bit. I think it’s because we’re going to start talking about the real details now. You know, the money aspect is a big one …”

Will nodded. He felt his gut untwist a little.

“The fun party planning period is ending. But, we’re all friends. We’ve been through some tough times already – Remember how worried we all were when Bill’s mom had that stroke?”

Will nodded again. He started to breathe normally again.

“Everything will be fine. If we do disagree, so be it. We don’t have to plan everything in one Saturday. Actually, we can’t do that. There will be many more Saturday meetings before the official adventure begins.”

Bethany smiled. Seeing her grin restored Will’s confidence and faith. He cupped her chin and kissed her longingly.

“Whew. I feel better. Don’t you?”

Bethany nodded vigorously.

“I keep saying it because it’s so true – Talking it out is the way to go.”

“Well, that was perfect timing. I think I see our waitress coming with our food. Let’s enjoy our meal and think about something else for a change – Like maybe having sexy time when we get back to your house?”

No one could wipe the grins off their faces.

By Friday, pure excitement took over. Everyone could hardly wait to drive up to LT. On the surface, it looked like a good change of pace. There were a lot of advantages – More places to hang out, the library was nearby if further research was needed, more options than pizza for food choices.

But, there were also disadvantages – Distraction was the main obstacle. Since classes were still in session, students were on campus, and the five alumni all had friends still attending the school. However, they hadn’t publicized their travels or meeting on social media for that exact reason.

Since the first meeting, they solely communicated via a group FlixelFlaxen message, rather than individual statuses and tagging all six people every single time. This way was also much more efficient than a group text. In terms of traveling, though, it was decided that Bethany and Hunter would be in charge of the main communications, and then Hunter would communicate with Bill accordingly. It seemed a lot easier that way, since they were three couples and all the communicating parties had to do was speak with their other halves to get the message across.

The excitement, along with a little bit of pressure, steadily rose as everyone converged on Farmerstown, Virginia, the home of the Lancer Institute. It was like a homecoming of sorts for Bill and Anabelle, and Will and Bethany. The campus was rapidly expanding, almost by the day, and Hunter and Lisanna assured everyone that they likely would not recognize most of Farmerstown and LT. They were right.

The other couples were in awe. So much had changed since Anabelle, Bill, and Bethany had graduated in 2011. A lot of the familiar stores had closed long ago, and new things were either in place or under construction. The biggest residence hall at LT was being prepared for demolition. They took a tour of the renovated art building and sorority dorm – It was astounding.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂