Getting Personal #182: Reflections on September 11th, 18 Years Later

September 11th Tribute in Lights

Image Credit: CNN

Content warning: Some images and descriptions shared in this post may be disturbing.


Today marks 18 years since the horrific terror attacks on the United States. Two planes crashed into the “Twin Towers” of the World Trade Center in New York City, another crashed into the Pentagon, and a fourth went down near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Where were you?

I’ll never forget.

I had just started seventh grade at Jolliff Middle School in Chesapeake, Virginia. That Tuesday was absolutely gorgeous – Not a cloud in the sky. We had been in school for a week.

I have to give props to the administration and staff. The students had no idea what was going on, and they held their emotions in check the entire day. By the time I learned about it, it was near the end of the school day. I was heading into Mrs. Owen’s history class, and our principal, Mr. Glisson, was standing nearby.

I can’t remember if he was outside the seventh grade hallway, or outside our classroom door. I just knew something was wrong; it was highly unusual for him to be away from his office or the front of the school. He gave every student a quartered piece of paper, that read, in part, “Due to today’s events, we are cancelling the PTA meeting and all after-school activities. Please spend tonight with your families. Thank you for your support of our school.”

Immediate confusion came over my face, and I walked into Mrs. Owen’s class dumbfounded. I turned to my best friend, Melissa, and asked her what “today’s events” meant.

“Didn’t you hear? Two planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, and another crashed into the Pentagon.”

Tears sprang to my eyes. I was born in Manhattan. I had walked by the Twin Towers many times. I had flown over the Pentagon. All my memories of New York flooded my brain, and I immediately felt overwhelmed and sad. I wanted to go home right then, but I said a prayer for everyone on those planes and their families.

I definitely don’t remember what was discussed in history class that day. For the first time, I felt like a zombie when school dismissed. Thankfully, Tuesdays were the after-school day for the youth at church, and I figured that was the best place we could be at that point.

Mrs. Rouquie picked us up in her gold Dodge Caravan, and I felt fresh tears when I spotted the magnetic American flag on her van door. We sat in absolute silence the whole ride from school to church.

There was a portable TV in the youth lounge. Dawn-Marie, our associate pastor, and Courtney B., were glued to the TV. Local reporter Andy Fox was reporting live from the Pentagon, and we saw the collapsed side of the building, still smoldering.

The next few days were a complete blur. Our local paper, The Virginian-Pilot, had “HORROR” in blood-red letters on the front page the next day.

Image result for 9/11 the virginian pilot

The front page of the paper, dated September 12, 2001. Image Credit: pilotonline.com – Found on Google Images

The coverage by the media was staggering. It felt like it was never-ending.

And, in a way, it is never-ending. Here we are, 18 years later, and there are still troops from multiple nations fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The babies who were born on September 11, 2001 are now old enough to vote, and old enough to fight in those wars.

It’s never-ending for the families of the 2,977 victims who died that day on American soil. More than 6,000 people were injured. Others have died from related cancer and respiratory diseases.

But, in spite of all the tragedy, the U.S. came together as a country. We came together, back then, at least.

I won’t get into politics here. Right now, I’m sitting in my kitchen, thinking of the victims and their families.

God Bless America.

Image result for raising the flag at ground zero statue

The flag raising at Ground Zero. Image Credit: CNN

The World Trade Center cross. Image Credit: Wikipedia

WTCmemorialJune2012.png

The reflecting pools, part of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. Image Credit: Wikipedia

Image result for the pentagon memorial

The Pentagon Memorial. Image Credit: Wikipedia

Image result for flight 93 memorial

Flight 93 Memorial. Image Credit: Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #178: Reflections, On My Birthday

Jeremiah 29-11 - lilyandval

Image Credit: lilyandval.com

This is my fourth birthday reflection! I can’t believe I started this annual tradition in 2016. I’ve enjoyed reading the posts from 2017 and 2018, too.

Here we are, 2019! This year has been a bit of a roller-coaster ride. But it’s been mostly good!


This time last year, we were anxiously awaiting the arrival of our greyhound. It was going to be our first dog together, and we were so excited. We welcomed Pablo to our house in September. However, we quickly realized this poor baby was experiencing severe separation anxiety. We had to return him to the greyhound agency after four weeks. Al and I were incredibly devastated. But, we knew he needed to be in a home with someone who was either retired or home much of the day, and with other dogs or greyhounds. By the time we returned him to the agency, there were at least four people who were willing to take Pablo!

We had a short cooling-off period, and gave ourselves time to heal. We continued working, finally got our HVAC system finished and working, and a few weekend trips away.

Around Thanksgiving, Al and I had been casually researching local rescue organizations, thinking we were going to be ready to try again after the holidays. We had heard good things about Saver of Souls Pet Rescue, based in Virginia Beach. A few people we know had great success with them and adopting from them. We fell in love with bonded brothers, older miniature pinschers named Phineas and Ferb. We filled out the application, and crossed our fingers. We didn’t want to get our hopes up, but we felt drawn to them.

Our lives changed on December 2nd. We learned at an event in Virginia Beach that our application was approved, and we could take Phineas and Ferb home!

 

Image may contain: Al Vardaro and Laura Beth Vardaro, people smiling, dog, eyeglasses, beard and outdoor

The day we adopted our two furbabies – December 2, 2018. Al is holding Phineas and I’m holding Ferb. They are our goobers!

They have changed our lives for the better! I can’t imagine not having them. It’s hard to believe December will be a year since we adopted them. We’re hoping for many years with them. We believe they will turn 10 sometime in November.

Aside from adopting Phineas and Ferb, we’ve stayed busy! I truly think turning 30 was a huge turning point for me. I’ve enjoyed finding and making new recipes, celebrating many birthdays, taking trips with Al, and soaking up as much time with family and friends.

Here’s a few other big things that happened this year:

  • I read 17 books in 2018, including two Advance Reading Copies (ARCs).
  • On March 30, 2019, I hit a HUGE milestone with my writing. I finally finished the first draft of my 2012 WIP, tentatively titled, “Experiences From Camp.” It’s just over 50,000 words. It feels incredible! Two of my friends have graciously offered to look it over and begin the editing process with me!
  • I paid off some significant credit card debt!
  • I have seven American Girl dolls now. Mia, Girl of the Year 2008, is the newest addition.
  • I participated in a wonderful group of Gal Pals on Facebook, and really enjoyed it. I look forward to participating in another round, either later this year or the beginning of 2020.

Cheers to 31!

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Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #21: Back In The Swing Of Things

Swing-Out

Image Credit: quotesgram.com

This quote was the most fitting for this post. A lot has happened in the last month! There’s a couple things I have to keep under wraps for a little while longer (No, I can assure you that I’m not pregnant – I know that’s what some of you were probably thinking!), but here’s a few that I can share:

  • I started reading the second book for the 2016 reading challenge and I love it!
  • Al and I are celebrating six months of marriage today!
  • I start my summer class on the 23rd, and it’s the first on-campus class for me in five years. I’m excited to be in a law library for two nights a week!
  • I got an A in Family Law!
  • Tidewater Comicon is next weekend! Woohoo!

I’m excited to be back to writing. Look for future posts about LanternAsia, books, movies, and more!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Hot Topic #8: Slaves to Technology

Image Credit: bizgovsoc6.wordpress.com

Image Credit: bizgovsoc6.wordpress.com

“Pretty much 100% of people are texting while driving and they’re killing everyone with their cars. People are willing to risk taking a life and ruining their own because they don’t want to be alone for 5 seconds.”

~Louis C.K.


Technology is an integral part of our lives. At times, it seems like we’re constantly surrounded by it – and it’s hard to get away from it.

I’m completely guilty of this. But I’m trying to be better.

Case in point: I realized, after the fact, of course, of how rude it was to have my laptop while we had company over during the 4th of July weekend. I was listening to the conversation, but I felt terrible afterwards. I also noticed that I wasn’t the only one. The phones were put away, for the most part.


What boggles my mind, is people who don’t communicate by way of conversation anymore.

A few examples:

  • Al and I had lunch at a Mexican restaurant back in June. While we were there, having a wonderful face-to-face conversation, five guys came in and sat a booth across from us. The only time any one of them looked up from their phones was when a server came to address them. They all sat there, staring at their phones, the entire time. I couldn’t stop staring.
  • Our friends Justin and Drew were at a restaurant in Richmond a while back. Two guys sat at the table next to them, diagonal from each other. As soon as their waiter left, these guys pulled out their phones, not making any spoken conversation, no eye contact, nothing. When they were leaving, Justin turned to Drew and said, “Do you know what I saw in there? Slaves to Technology.”

I’ve heard other stories – Some more horrifying than people sitting in a restaurant, not making conversation. I’m talking about texting while driving, and other distractions.


When I Googled “slaves to technology” – This is what I found:

Granted, both of these articles were published in 2013. However, in those two short years, people all around you, day after day, have proved that this is still true!

I couldn’t find the link, but I remember reading an article a week or two ago, a first-hand account of a mom and her husband. The mom, who is a blogger, discovered that her iPad was having a problem one night. Instead of picking up the phone and dialing Apple’s customer support, she and her husband found themselves scrambling, looking for the closest Genius Bar in the closest Apple store to their house. They used all their tech in the house, desperate for a quick solution. Finally, if I remember correctly, after hours of panic, the iPad problem was actually fixable in less than five minutes, with a simple command.

She reflected on that night with horror and disdain – She and her husband were so focused on clamoring for a solution to fix their tech problem, that they forgot about the simple things. They could have left the iPad alone for the night and decided to wait until the next morning to fix it. But, she said that this insistence on fixing this instrument RIGHT THEN was further proof of their addiction to technology.


I found the Louis C.K. quote in one of the articles I mentioned earlier. It’s so true. We are afraid of being alone.

Granted, I am guilty of having sent texts in the car before. But now, I have my phones either in my purse in my backseat, or in my passenger seat where they’re out of my reach. I don’t text anymore, unless I’m at a complete stop at a stoplight, and that’s only when I respond to someone else’s text. I try really hard not to pick it up AT ALL while driving. The only people I will normally answer a call from in the car is Al, either one of my parents, or if my bosses are calling. My dad takes it a step further, he always asks me if I’m eating, drinking something, or driving. If I answer “yes” to any of those three, he’ll always say to call back when I’m safe.

I actually like the solitude of being alone in my car. Sure, traffic can be terrible on my drives to and from work, but that’s what the radio and CDs are for. I’ve learned so much from listening to NPR more frequently, for example. I’ve relished in hearing brand-new songs on the radio stations more than once. I’m also one of those people that drum on the steering wheel and bob my head when I hear a favorite song, while belting it out at the top of my lungs. Knowing that Al and I are getting married in less than four months (!!) and we do plan on having children down the road (no pun intended), I know that my days of solitude in my Camry are numbered.


For me, I try not to be bound to technology. Part of it is because I work on a computer for my job – It is a constant in my career. Sure, I enjoy having an iPhone. Sure, I enjoy having a laptop. I have a Nook tablet as well.

There are days where I leave work and go to Al’s, and I just do not want to stare at another fucking screen. We normally eat dinner in front of the TV, and there are times where I just look at my food or want to talk to Al, more than looking at another damn screen.

I do have diagnosed eye strain – It’s why I can’t wear my contact lenses to work anymore, I have to use my glasses. And when I do wear my contact lenses, I have to be very careful with my screen time. My eyes do actually go into overload mode when I look at too many screens, and subsequently, my brain gets overloaded too.

But, beyond the eye strain, I think my brain craves non-tech things, like writing and reading. I love that Al gave me the tablet for my birthday several years ago, but I can’t read books on it. I use it for games and fashion magazines mostly, plus having a really convenient, lightweight way to access Wi-Fi, rather than lugging my laptop around. However, books will always be ink and paper for me, always. And as much as I like typing and writing on the computer, I enjoy writing in cursive, and do that every chance I can get.

I love disconnecting from the world too. Last summer, I went on a mission trip to North Carolina with my church. I left my iPhone at home and went seven hours west to towns that had minimal cell service. For a full seven days! It was WONDERFUL!

And I plan to do that again when I’m on my honeymoon in November – And I can’t wait!


I leave you with an article, aptly titled How To Not Be A Slave To Technology.

As for me, this weekend, I plan to disconnect again. I plan to turn off my iPhone and leave it at home, and head up to Doswell to thoroughly enjoy Kings Dominion with Al and amazing friends Katie, Brian, Mike, Justin, and Heaven. SO FUCKING STOKED!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #14: Words

Image Credit: thedeconstruction.org

Image Credit: thedeconstruction.org

I’m on the team that runs the computer booth at my church. On Sundays, we run the computers and projectors, putting the order of worship, the scriptures, and the songs and hymns on a screen and the walls, big and bright and huge.

We have two services: an 8:30 service that is more modern and contemporary, and an 11:00 service which is more traditional.

I grew up going to Sunday School and the 11:00 service.

As a young adult, however, I feel more of a connection with the 8:30 service, especially the music.


On a recent Sunday when I was in the booth, the worship band at 8:30 played this one song, titled “Words” from the band Hawk Nelson.

Here’s an excerpt of the lyrics:

They’ve made me feel like a prisoner
They’ve made me feel set free
They’ve made me feel like a criminal
Made me feel like a king

They’ve lifted my heart
To places I’d never been
And they’ve dragged me down
Back to where I began

Words can build you up
Words can break you down
Start a fire in your heart or
Put it out

Let my words be life
Let my words be truth
I don’t wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You

You can heal the heartache
Speak over the fear
(Speak over the fear)
God, Your voice is the only thing
We need to hear
(We need to hear)

Let the words I say
(Let the words I say)
Be the sound of Your grace
(Sound like Your grace)
I don’t wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You

I wanna speak Your love
Not just another noise
Oh, I wanna be Your light
I wanna be Your voice

I don’t wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You


I realize the intended message is for us to speak God’s word, be his voice, etc.

For me, though, it’s more than that.

This song is empowering. It shows me that we should be a voice, not just for God, but for ourselves, for those around us. We shouldn’t be afraid to use the voice that God gave us!


Words are incredibly powerful.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names/words will never harm me.”

WRONG!

As someone who was taunted and teased, particularly in elementary school, words can and do hurt.

Why do you think we have such a fucking terrible epidemic of bullying and bullying-related suicides?

I know the old saying is “Actions speak louder than words.”

Normally, typically, that is the case.

However, words are also significant.

What you say, sometimes, can make more of a difference.


I’m gonna put my foot in my mouth for a second. Remember, earlier, I said, “We shouldn’t be afraid to use the voice that God gave us!”

Well, that was me. For the longest time, in college especially, I felt afraid to use my voice. I was afraid to speak up and make myself known, particularly to John, who was exerting powerful control over me with his own words and actions.

I was afraid that I wouldn’t be heard, wouldn’t have listeners.

But, I think it goes back farther than college. I was raised to be respectful, to let others speak (a.k.a., “Laura Beth, be quiet so that someone else can have a turn to speak…” I can hear my mother’s voice constantly.)

Because of that, I felt embarrassed. I remember turning red on many occasions when Mom (and sometimes Dad) brought that up. Yes, I know I’m a Chatty Cathy. But using my voice was (is) a way to express myself.

I realize now that, even though my parents said that I could always come and talk to them, about anything, at any time, I didn’t do it a lot. Unless I was desperate or had a problem or was in trouble (and even then, it was absolutely terrifying to open my mouth and say something), I didn’t always feel comfortable talking to them.

I don’t want to raise my future children that way. Words are powerful, and they need to be expressed, and they need to be heard.


To me, the written word is just as powerful, if not more so, than the spoken word.

Because of a lot of encouragement and support, I’m blogging a lot more, more than I ever have. And I fucking love it. I get a bit of a rush, a bit of a high, whenever I get an idea – Whether it be something for a blog post, or a story idea, or maybe something that I could mold into a novel.

Journaling is also helping me with my journey through counseling and anxiety. It’s a release. I like to talk things out, but writing things down also helps, so much.


As I reflect on right now, on this Thursday, preparing for the end of this work week and for an amazing weekend getaway (More on that next week!), I’m so happy that I discovered a love for words at a very early age.

I still have the blue binder, covered in random stickers, that contains the short stories that I wrote from fifth grade up through high school. I want to eventually re-visit those and expand them, as I want to do with my fiction pieces from my college workshop and more current NaNoWriMo novels, but for now, I really enjoy re-reading them, and reflecting on how I got those ideas. How I spent hours at my desk, in the car, and even on the school bus, writing until either my left hand cramped up from holding the pen or I literally ran out of paper.

I’ll keep writing. I’ll keep blogging. I’ll keep journaling.

But, most of all, I’ll keep on keeping on, knowing that I have a powerful voice that should be heard.


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 🙂

 

Hot Topic #5: The Police

“My heroes are those who risk their lives every day to protect our world and make it a better place – police, firefighters, and members of our armed forces.”

~Sidney Sheldon


On Saturday afternoon, I went to Subway to grab lunch before heading to Al’s. As I parked my car, I saw a Chesapeake police car in the lot.

When I walked in, two officers in uniform were there, eating. As I ordered my sub, chips, and cookies, I thought about what they go through every day. What the police forces across the country endure. All the recent protests, riots, and accusations. The calls for justice, and for peace.

As I paid and was getting ready to leave, I saw that I would pass by their table on my way out.  I wanted to take a minute, stop, and thank them for what they do every single day. They serve and protect us, the ordinary citizens of towns, cities, and states.

They appeared to be partners, or maybe they just traveled in the same car to get lunch. They were deep in conversation, and I didn’t want to interrupt. But I made sure to make eye contact with one of them and I smiled.

It made me feel good.


In the last 24 hours, the world watched as Baltimore, Maryland dissolved from peaceful protests into  violent riots. The police did their duty, but over 20 were hurt.

Watching the news outlets and social media over the course of the day today, there were three things that stuck out to me:

Image Credit: The Anti-Media

Image Credit: The Anti-Media

Image Credit: Patrick Nasuta

Image Credit: Patrick Nasuta

Image Credit: B. Scott

Image Credit: B. Scott

I have always admired Dr. King.

However, I’m sure he is turning in his grave right now.


The photo above is part of the Auxiliary Unit of my city’s police department. I feel safe and secure, knowing that there are good men and women, like these people pictured, protecting my neighborhood and my city.

However, I realize that not all cops are stellar.

Being a cop, no matter what town, city, or state, is not easy. These people deal with the worst of the worst, day in and day out. They always have their guard up. They go into work, into their shift, not sure if they’ll come home to their houses or families safely. They work long hours. They have a lot of stress.

Many of us have absolutely no idea what they experience, unless we have family members or close friends involved in a department or on a force. And even then, not a lot want to talk about work.


I just want to encourage you, when you see one, to acknowledge and smile at an officer in uniform. Sometimes, that tiny gesture, one that only takes seconds, can make all the difference in someone’s day.

I know I plan to say “Hi” more and thank them for their service. Most of us do that with members of the military in uniform or veterans – Why should police officers be any different?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂