Writing Prompt #55: “52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge” (Week 17)

Week #17: Something You Take For Granted.

The first thing that came to my mind is my health. I’m incredibly grateful that I am relatively healthy. I see my doctor every year; I go to the dentist twice a year. I don’t have any chronic conditions, with the exception of my generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

The last time I was truly sick was back in February, when I was diagnosed with the flu and a sinus infection simultaneously. Luckily, I was given Tamiflu and an antibiotic, and I was basically back to normal in four days. It was incredible.

I try really hard to stay healthy. Al and I work out at the local gym nearly five days a week – We get up at 4:15 a.m. I’m currently walking the treadmill for 30-45 minutes, but I want to get back to weight training soon.

My new FitBit that Al got me for Christmas has been very helpful in holding me accountable – I try for at least 5,000 steps per day, if not more. I also log my water intake – My goal is 75 ounces per day. It feels really good to surpass those goals!

Eating healthy/healthier has been the biggest challenge – I’m constantly looking for better, easier recipes! I’ve tried really hard to limit how junk food I eat, but that’s not easy with my stress levels sometimes! We’re trying to eat more salads at dinner, and eating out less frequently. I want to keep up the routine of meal planning and prepping on Sundays – It makes the rest of the week a lot smoother.

If you have any tried-and-true recipes that you love, I would love to hear them!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Prompt #54: “52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge” (Week 16)

Week #16: Simple Things In Life.

There’s too many to list!

A few of my favorites:

  • Having a cup of coffee in the morning.
  • Forehead kisses.
  • A long hug after a long day of work/school/meetings.
  • Seeing the beautiful roses right outside my house.
  • Having a car that I can drive almost anywhere, any time.
  • Reading almost every night before going to sleep.
  • Experimenting with essential oils – Lemongrass is the current favorite (for the diffuser in the living room and the wool dryer balls).
  • Singing along in the car.
  • Getting together with friends for monthly dinners, and game nights!
  • Discovering new podcasts.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Prompt #53: “52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge” (Week 15)

Week #15: Things You Like About Spring.

I love the warmer weather. I’m grateful that the daylight sticks around longer, and I don’t have to drive home from work in the dark!

I’ve always loved nature. In the spring, the trees and flowers come back to life! It’s a beautiful sight.

Spring brings back memories for me, too. I think of the spring breaks I had from school. As a kid, I spent most of them in Florida with my family. My dad’s parents took the whole family on a Princess Cruise during spring break and Easter when I was nine!

In college, spring was when the semester started to wind down. It usually snowed right before spring break, but then the temperatures rose into the 70s, sometimes the 80s. A lot of the girls broke out their bikinis and started tanning on the lawns. I’m not a huge fan of hotter weather, but feeling a cool breeze as I left The Rotunda office or the library at night was amazing!

Easter is one of my favorite church celebrations. The sanctuary is adorned with gorgeous flowers, the hymns are beautiful, and butterflies are released after the service to signify Jesus coming back to life.

It’s a time of more sunshine, warmth, transition, and feeling happier!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Prompt #52: “52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge” (Week 14)

Week #14: A Talent You Have.

I’m grateful for being able to write well, as well as edit. I loved being the Copy Editor of Longwood’s newspaper, The Rotunda, for nearly two full years.

Now, I’m the “resident proofreader” at my work, and I love being able to help when called upon. It helps keep my skills sharp!

In addition, I’ve helped edit a children’s book, several resumes, and one dissertation.

I’m grateful that I’m able to share my talents with others!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Prompt #51: “52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge” (Week 13)

Week #13: A Challenge You’ve Overcome.

Wow, where to start?

Some of you know that I was born at 25 weeks, so I had to fight for my life at the very start!

But, thinking about this post over the past week, one of the biggest challenges for me was deciding to leave my friends and school district to pursue something completely different.

When I was in eighth grade, a new magnet program had just started in one of Chesapeake’s high schools called International Baccalaureate (IB). It wasn’t new to the Hampton Roads area at the time, but it was fresh and brand-new for the City of Chesapeake and Chesapeake Public Schools.

Several of the freshmen came to my middle school to give us an overview of the program and how we could apply. After much consideration and discussion with my parents (and a good bit of prayer), I decided to apply.

I still remember how nervous I was. I even left my purse and house keys at Oscar Smith on the day of my interview and test! (Luckily, I got them back with nothing missing!)

After what seemed like waiting forever, the guidance counselor pulled me out of orchestra to tell me I had been accepted. At that moment, I felt pure joy. I was excited for something new!

However, once I started telling my friends, my joy and excitement started to erode. I was leaving them behind at Western Branch, according to them.

Going in, I knew this program was going to be challenging. I knew I was going to be taking college-level courses throughout my four years of high school. The summer assignments were enough to make me croak! I started questioning my decision, but I knew I needed to try it first.

I was the only student from the Western Branch district that first year; I was alone. Several people at church teased me incessantly – They said I was a “traitor” for leaving, especially since Oscar Smith’s football team consistently beat the snot out of Western Branch’s!

For the first six months of freshman year, I cried almost every day. I wanted to go back to Western Branch; I wanted to be with my friends again. My grades tanked! It was a struggle. Math sucked even more. Spanish was a nightmare! Even orchestra was harder!

Making friends at Oscar Smith was hard, but keeping friends at church and Western Branch was harder. I wanted to try out for the school softball team, but ended up not because I realized I couldn’t juggle IB, orchestra, and softball. It wasn’t possible.

Fortunately, once I adjusted (along with the other 49 kids in my class), it started to get better. After Christmas, my grades started to improve. My brain just needed time to adjust to the increased workload, managing the higher-level concepts, and being in a completely different environment. It got easier during sophomore year. It got harder in junior year, when we transitioned to full IB, with our assessments, Extended Essay, and preparing for our exams. We were all nervous wrecks for half of senior year as we prepared and took our exams, but we were done by the end of May. We were able to relax and enjoy the last few weeks before graduation.

The teachers were amazing, in my opinion. They were experts in their fields, but they were also willing to bend over backwards to help anyone with anything. The IB coordinators, Mrs. Ingersoll, and later Mrs. Lancaster (who’s still the coordinator today), were counselors, shoulders to cry on, and a support system. I think of Mrs. Lancaster (Biology, now the IB Coordinator), Mrs. Cofield (European and U.S. History), Mr. Degnan (English – Now one of the high school’s assistant principals), Mrs. Zwemer (Geometry, Math Studies – May she rest in peace), and Mr. Allen (20th Century History) often, to name a few.

This year marks 10 years since high school graduation. Although I clearly remember the struggles, the griping, the crying, the frustration (I still don’t fully understand the Federalist Papers, hardly anything with Algebra II, or why the Visual Arts teacher was so harsh with certain levels of interpretation), I also remember that I accomplished something – I earned my IB Diploma. I earned college credit. I went into Longwood with a much better understanding of most freshman college courses (with the exception of math – I still got a C in Honors Statistics!).

Because of IB, I was able to go on a 17-day trip to Europe (England, France, and Spain) in the summer of 2005. What an experience! Because of that trip. I decided to take a class at Longwood that took me back to France for a week in 2008, being able to further appreciate the museums of Paris and everything that the City of Lights offers.

I learned so much in four years. All because I took a chance on a new program, and I decided to stick with it, even when I thought I was going to fail everything.

Now, I’m proud to say that a current IB freshman is from my church. Many students from Western Branch have gone through the IB program in the last 10 years – Liz, Jeremy, Alyssa, Steven, Lindsey, and more.

IB was a great challenge for me, but one of the most rewarding in my entire life. I hope it’s still around when my future children are ready to go to high school!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #51: “Woman Moves into Old Mall after Shops are Converted into 48 Tiny Homes, Could You Live Like This?”


Image Credit: Country Living

I saw this post on Facebook last week, almost randomly. It made me stop and think.

Here’s the original post:

When I shared it on Facebook, several of my friends commented on it. The discussions we had were fascinating.

One of my friends from college lives in a tiny house now, and absolutely loves it! She’s steps away from the ocean in Virginia Beach.

I also thought back to last fall, when Al and I were visiting his parents’ farm for the weekend. We were watching the show “Tiny House Nation.” I remember being in awe of these renovations/ Granted, it’s a reality show, but the concept is really cool.

Back to the shopping mall – The smallest units in the renovated mall go for $550 per month, which is definitely affordable in Providence, Rhode Island.

Returning to the present, I went to trusty old Google to find out more.

This is part of what I found:


Image Credit: The Tiny Life

To answer the question posed in this post’s title, I don’t think I could swing it with just 225 square feet of living space. If I were single, then maybe. But, being married and starting to plan for our own family, it would certainly be a tight fit. I don’t do well in super-cramped spaces, anyway. However, I give props to people who can hack it, and I also know people that enjoy it.

With the Facebook discussion, I started thinking about the struggling mall across the street from my parents’ neighborhood. To me, it either needs to be torn down completely, or renovated somehow. It would be cool to see something different, since brick-and-mortar stores are slowly fading away (Consider the recent news about Sears, Kmart, JCPenney, Staples, etc.). There’s so much potential with the space.

To learn more about tiny houses and other alternative housing methods, here’s a few more links:

What do you think about tiny houses?

Do you think tiny houses could/would work in old shopping malls, or other abandoned buildings?

Do you know anyone who has a tiny house?

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #30: “Angels & Demons”


Image Credit: Amazon

I originally thought The Da Vinci Code was the first book to feature Robert Langdon, but I was proven wrong!

This was a HUGE book. I wanted to finish it last week, but it was so dense that it took me until 11:00 p.m. last night to finally finish. It’s 616 pages total!

To be blunt, I have several praises, as well as several criticisms.

I was instantly drawn into Robert Langdon’s world. Brown hooked me within the first few sentences. I was along Langdon’s side from Harvard, to Switzerland, to Vatican City, to Rome. It was a bit of a whirlwind at first, and then you get plunged into the worlds of CERN,  Vatican City, the Catholic Church, history, and symbolism.

Trying to figure out the puzzle that Brown laid out kept me interested. A scientist at CERN is brutally murdered, and he has connections to both the scientific and religious communities.

I liked Vittoria Vetra almost immediately. She’s feisty, gorgeous, and a great addition to Langdon. Langdon is the main character, but there were times that Vittoria was faster, and took control, and I liked it! She’s a smart cookie, and I knew Robert would be attracted to her.

The menagerie of twists and turns made me feel like I was on a high-speed ride through Europe! It was exhilarating. There were several days where I flew through multiple chapters and dozens of pages.

I applaud Brown’s dedication and commitment to historical accuracy, and being totally up front about not fictionalizing any locations, historical figures, or places (There’s a disclaimer in the very beginning). It felt even more real!

However, I had several issues with this book. There were three particular instances where I feel Brown is almost too graphic in his writing. As an aspiring writer of fiction, I know that, at certain times, it’s necessary to be graphic to illustrate and illuminate, But, Brown’s style was too much for this reader. I almost gave up every time. I almost didn’t want to find out what happened next. Some of it almost made me sick.

But, I pressed on.

Toward the end, as the intensity was reaching its peak in Vatican City, where decisions needed to be made quickly – Brown inserted this multiple-page speech by the Camerlengo (papal chamberlain) that just dragged on and on. I got the significance – The man was addressing the cardinals at a critical point in the conclave – but it could have been much shorter! Maybe dedicate a page or two, but not five or six! I felt so impatient during that section. I wanted to skip the entire speech and get just back to the action!

Finally, I hated the ending. It felt abrupt, it felt weird, it left me hanging a bit. It wasn’t a cliffhanger, but I hated how nonchalant it felt. I won’t give it away, but I felt a bit empty when I closed the book.

My first thought was, “That’s it? That’s how you end this ridiculously long book? Wow…”

After sleeping on it, I realized this morning why he ended it the way he did, but I still wasn’t happy about it!

If you’re looking for a thriller that involves conspiracy, mystery, secret societies, art history, exploring historic sections of Europe, and learning a lot about the Catholic Church – This book is for you.

Overall, I’m glad I stepped out of my comfort zone for this one. I’d heard of the movies, but haven’t seen them. The first few pages of The Da Vinci Code I read about a month ago made me curious about who Robert Langdon is and how he got himself into such a twisted web of history, religion, and murder. It’s an exciting book, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of him, and what happens next.

Despite my issues with Angels & Demons, I’m still motivated to read the other books with protagonist Robert Langdon – The Da Vinci Code (2003), The Lost Symbol (2009), Inferno (2013), and Origin (October 2017). Look for these reviews over the next few months.

3 out of 5 stars.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂