Writing Prompt #79: “52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge” (Week 41)

Week #41: Hobbies.

I absolutely love reading. Books give me so much joy! I love the fact that I’m able to read almost every night before I go to sleep. I have quite a personal library that runs from my childhood to the present, but I also love libraries!

Writing is another hobby. I’ve been writing since I was 10 years old. I do regret throwing away a lot of my old journals. However, I did keep the blue binder, covered in stickers from doctor’s offices and gifts. Those have both handwritten and typed stories from fifth grade through high school. Who knows, you may see some of them here on the blog.

Last year, I restarted my hobby of American Girl dolls and books. It took off like wildfire. I have more dolls, clothes, shoes, and accessories now more than ever. Al is helping me design and build a custom doll cabinet for my office.

Those three are my main hobbies. But, I also love traveling, photography, cooking, playing computer games, riding my bike, playing softball, trivia, and spending time in nature. I love using my camera, and I’m learning how to take better photos with mu phone. I would love to be on a softball team again. Eventually, I would love to have the Carmen Sandiego games, and the Roller Coaster Tycoon games on my computer – So many awesome memories! I also enjoy watching game shows – Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! will always be my favorites.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂


Writing Prompt #78: “52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge” (Week 40)

Week #40: Greatest Accomplishment.

I took a risk in eighth grade. There was a new program that had just started at one of Chesapeake’s high schools, called International Baccalaureate (IB). The program coordinator, Mrs. Ingersoll, and two of the ninth-grade students came to Jolliff Middle to tell us about it, and how to apply.

I remember being so excited  that I couldn’t stop talking about it.

I completed my application, took several tests at Oscar Smith (and left my purse, school ID, and house key there by accident! I got it back, but I had to call the school on my own and explain what happened), and crossed my fingers.

I still remember the day I found out I was accepted. Mrs. Lyons, the guidance counselor, showed up during orchestra class. I nearly screamed in the hallway when she told me the good news. I wanted to call my parents, although they already knew. I felt like I was on cloud nine.

My euphoria was shattered a bit when several of my friends were very upset that I was leaving. I was excited for the challenge – New school, new friends, new ways of learning and thinking – but I was also sad. I leaving everything behind, except for my house and my parents, for something new. I was basically alone on the giant school bus – No one else from the Western Branch area was in the program when I started in 2003.

Despite begging my parents to go back to Western Branch probably every week for the first six months of my freshman year, I persisted. I struggled immensely, especially in the very beginning. At first, I had D’s and E’s on a lot of quizzes, and a even a few tests. I went to so many tutoring sessions, my head spun. My test anxiety was through the roof. I cried quite a bit. Everything was hard!

However, being part of IB was completely worth it. It isn’t for everybody, but it ended up being a really good fit for me. I enjoyed myself – It fostered my life-long love for learning (with the exception of math). Plus, I learned to think critically, and challenge myself to do better and understand the concepts presented before me. There wasn’t a lot of memorizing or teaching to the SOLs, although we still had to take them!

Learning that I would receive my IB Diploma in 2007 was one of the big shining moments in my life. I felt a sense of massive accomplishment – Two years of prep work, and two years of application of the prep work paid off, in spades. Although the IB exams were immensely stressful, I wasn’t alone. There were 40 of my peers taking them with me, and our teachers did their best to prepare us for all of them. We all celebrated at the end of exams with a massive party!

I learned so much about myself during my high school years, and I truly believe IB made me a better person. I started off college in a better place, and I did really well at Longwood due to being in IB. I didn’t have to take as many gen ed classes! I was able to get math and science completely out of the way by the end of my first year, and then I was able to focus on the classes I truly enjoyed – Creative writing, history, and communications.

Back in June, a good number of us got together for a 10-year reunion. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, reminiscing about our experiences from 2003 through 2007, while also catching up on our careers, aspirations, marriages, children, and hobbies. I’m excited to see what happens when we plan our 20-year reunion.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Prompt #77: “52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge” (Week 39)

Week #39: Your Heritage.

This post took some thought, and some research. On the outside, I’m an ordinary white woman.

But, my history / ancestry lays throughout Europe. My maiden name, Stricker, is descended from the German language. I’m fairly certain my dad’s family came from Europe. Grandpa Stricker was in the Navy for several years, and my dad was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Shortly thereafter, his family – Grandpa, Grandma, Auntie Marn, Aunt Nancy, and Dad – moved to St. Petersburg, Florida.

My mom’s paternal grandparents emigrated from the Ukraine, and my grandfather was raised Jewish in New York City. After starting college in Ohio and meeting my Grandma Grace, Grandpa Madan was in the Army during World War II. After the war ended, he got out of the Army, and they also settled in Florida, near Miami. My grandpa’s sister, Aunt Marilyn, lives in Boca Raton. Her daughter, Sherri, lives in Manhattan.

Besides the evident European ancestry, religion is a big part of my family history. My Grandpa Madan was raised Jewish. My mom was raised in the United Church of Christ. My Uncle Richard considered going into seminary. My dad’s family includes Methodists and Lutherans. I was raised in the United Methodist Church. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to attend services among several denominations – Lutheran, Catholic, Baptist, Russian Orthodox, Congregational, Presbyterian, and United Methodist, to name a few.

Writing this post has inspired me to learn even more about my family, their experiences, and their history. I want to learn as much as I can, and document everything along the way.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Prompt #76: “52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge” (Week 38)

Week #38: Music You Love.

In addition to the songs I mentioned in my recent Getting Personal post, here’s a few more insights into my musical tastes.

Contemporary Christian Music

Country Music


  • I loved Glee from Day 1!
  • I have almost every CD that’s been released.
  • If I need a pick-me-up, one of these CDs usually does the trick.
  • There are waaaaay too many songs that I love from this show to list! I should make a separate post.


  • A Chorus Line (1985)
  • Back to the Future (1985)
  • Batman (1989)
  • Chicago (2002)
  • Dirty Dancing (1987)
  • Enchanted (2007)
  • Flashdance (1983)
  • Footloose (1984)
  • Footloose (2011)
  • Forrest Gump (1994)
  • Ghost (1990)
  • Grease (1978)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1 & 2 (2014, 2017)
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
  • Interstellar (2014)
  • Jurassic Park (1993)
  • Mamma Mia! (2008)
  • Night at the Museum (2006)
  • Purple Rain (1984)
  • Saturday Night Fever (1977)
  • Shaft (1971)
  • Space Jam (1996)
  • The Bodyguard (1992)
  • The Guardian (2006)
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
  • Top Gun (1986)
  • Tron: Legacy (2010)
  • Wicked (2003)

Here are links to other blog posts I’ve written about music:

What about you? What are your tastes in music?

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Prompt #75: “52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge” (Week 37)

Week #37: Something You Created.

Going away for a long weekend is really discombobulating! I was definitely not prepared for this week’s post – Haha!

This is my “new” novel-writing journal. I’ve been so lucky to have received so many wonderful journals as gifts, and I’m starting to fill them up. However, I’ve had constant thoughts of actually finishing the three novels that I’ve already started, plus having a good idea for a fourth one.

So, a few weeks ago, during a lunchtime trip to Dollar Tree, I decided to do something about it!

I fell in love with the cover the minute I saw it!

I’ve been following several bloggers that use bullet journals, and I’ve always admired how creative they are, and how pretty they look. They’re taking planners and notebooks and turning them into works of art.

That’s part of my goal, as well. I want this notebook to be a source of inspiration, as well as a path to finishing these novels!

I’m really excited to dive in and write freehand, for once. I type so much now, between my work computer and my laptop at home – I think my cursive needs a workout!

What about you? Have you created anything recently?

Have you tried a bullet journal? I would love to hear from you!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Prompt #74: “52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge” (Week 36)

Week #36: Your Home.

This is perfect timing. I get to share some of the Before & After photos of our house!

Some background: Al and I purchased our house in June 2016. We live in a quiet neighborhood in Portsmouth, Virginia. After a frustrating search and a failed attempt at home-buying in 2015, which sadly stretched into a massive ordeal through early 2016, we hooked up with an awesome local realtor. Evelyn is amazing!!

Our house was built in 1967. We are the third owners. It’s two stories, with several bedrooms, 2 1/2 bathrooms, a utility room, and two garages!

Once we learned that there was hardwood floor underneath the carpets, we ripped up everything, except for the carpet on the stairs. We found a local man, Steve Hales, to refinish our floors. He and his crew worked non-stop for the better part of four days in late June 2016 to get the job done. They turned out absolutely gorgeous!

These four photos show what one of the bedrooms used to look like. This was after the floor was finished, but before we painted. The bubblegum pink wall had decorative paneling on it, and we spent the better part of a Sunday removing ever piece of wood, all the nails, and patching the ridiculous number of holes!

One cool thing – Three of the bedrooms had decorative paneling, and we found writing and signatures from the first owners behind it! It was like a treasure hunt.

This is our living room. I posted the first photo, without furniture, on Facebook the day after our floors were finished. I think it got well over 150 likes/reactions, and at least 15 people reached out to me, asking for information on who did the work. I hope Steve and his guys got some good business!

We originally had our sectional couch one way, but we ended up moving it to the opposite way, and we haven’t really changed anything since. We did upgrade to an actual TV stand, so Al’s nightstand could finally go up to our room! We also added matching blinds to the windows. Next step is finding some nice curtains!

These are two of the bedrooms. One will be the future guest room, and we’ve turned the other one (with the ceiling fan) into Al’s epic man cave!


This is our kitchen. The only thing we did here was paint the walls – Originally, it was a much darker blue. We’ll eventually replace the hardware on the kitchen cabinets, and likely kick out the “peninsula” to make some more room. But other than paint, some Murphy’s Oil Soap, and new shelf paper in the cabinets and drawers, we didn’t change anything else.

I really like our vintage Westinghouse stovetop, and our oven is in the wall! It was a bit of a learning curve at first, but I really like it. I love that I can look out the window while at the sink.


We received this awesome dining room set from church friends, whose son was moving out of an ODU apartment and didn’t need it. Many people have been incredibly generous, trying to find furniture for us. This was the table setting when we hosted Nick, Savy, and Mia last summer!

This photo also shows part of our screened-in porch. We can’t wait to do more with that down the road. For now, we have clothesline out there, and we want to put some patio furniture out there at some point!

We’ve already celebrated one Halloween and one Christmas in our house. I love these painted pumpkins! A local girl paints them. We bought a gorgeous pre-lit Christmas tree and had it in our living room. Excited to celebrate many more holidays!

All in all, I’m extremely grateful that we are in the place that we are. Once our ordeal was over in March 2016, everything started to fall into place. We’ve certainly had our challenges over the last year. Being homeowners, there are always things that happen! We’re gotten better with budgeting, improving with saving, and planning for the future. We know that our HVAC system is next on the list to be replaced, and then we’d like to get the windows replaced. We love our neighborhood, our house, and we can’t wait to make more memories together.

And don’t worry – More Before & After posts are coming soon!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth



Writing Prompt #73: “52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge” (Week 35)

Week #35: Your Neighborhood.

I took this picture last summer, right after we moved in.

In January, we were covered in snow!

What a gorgeous sunrise!

I love where we live! We definitely lucked out! One of the signatures is the crepe myrtle trees that line most of the streets. They’re absolutely beautiful.


Al took this photo a few months ago, right after we bought our bikes from SCAT Bikes, the local bike shop. We love riding around our neighborhood – Very safe and quiet. We certainly work up a good sweat! The only change we’ll make is better bike seats!

As this photo shows, our neighborhood allows us to safely ride bikes whenever we want. We have a nice mix of retired folks, younger couples like us, and a good number of kids. The school buses will start showing up next week!

It’s hard to believe we’ve been in our house for well over a year now!

I’m incredibly grateful that we found a house and a neighborhood that we could comfortably afford! I can see us raising our child / children here for many years.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂