Getting Personal #73: June Goals Recap

June Goals Recap

Image Credit: Fueled By Carrots

June is over!

Here’s the link to my June Goals post:


Here we go!

  1. Celebrate our 100th blood drive! — Accomplished!
  2. Refresh/update my summer wardrobe. — Semi-Achieved.
  3. See Wonder Woman! — Accomplished!
  4. Celebrate Nick and Savy’s engagement/upcoming wedding! — Accomplished!
  5. Attend the 10-year high school reunion with my IB classmates. — Accomplished!
  6. Celebrate Mom’s retirement! — Accomplished!
  7. Buy bikes! — Accomplished!
  8. Visit the library at least once. — Accomplished!
  9. Work to write between three-four Book Reviews. — Accomplished!

Here’s the breakdown:

Celebrate our 100th blood drive! — Accomplished!

  • We had an excellent blood drive for #100 on Saturday, June 3rd.
  • I was FINALLY able to give blood – Happy dance!
  • We collected 60 units total, which is excellent for a summer drive. Historically, the summer months are the worst for the Red Cross and other blood banks, because there are less donors.

Blood Drive 100

The awesome cake my mom bought at our local BJ’s!

Refresh/update my summer wardrobe. — Semi-Achieved.

  • I’m mainly happy that I moved/re-organized my fall/winter clothes! Those are stored away until the seasons change again (It won’t be long!)
  • I also moved some spring/summer clothes into my closet, and organized those properly.
  • Next: Go through the huge hamper at the bottom of the closet!

See Wonder Woman! — Accomplished!

  • I’m so glad we went to see it. It was AWESOME!
  • Gal Gadot is a FREAKING ROCKSTAR.
  • If you haven’t seen it, it is highly recommended!

Wonder Woman

Al’s caption on Facebook, June 4th: “Going to see Wonder Woman with my Wonder Woman.”

Celebrate Nick and Savy’s engagement/upcoming wedding! — Accomplished!

  • We had a great time at their house, as we always do.
  • Al’s parents drove us there, and my mom came with us!
  • It was an awesome reunion – Seeing Mia, Crystal and Steven, Jeremy and Chelsea, Rachel and Jason, Kudu, and others!

Attend the 10-year high school reunion with my IB classmates. — Accomplished!

  • After a few challenges, like changing restaurants, 18 of us (11 classmates, 7 spouses, and Sean’s not-so-little brother) gathered at Waterman’s at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront on Saturday, June 17th. We had a great time!
  • Thanks, Sean, for setting this up!
  • We had to wait an hour and a half for a table big enough to open up, so a bunch of us gathered on the boardwalk for a while. We stood in a huge circle and had a great time catching up and reminiscing. It was really great to have that opportunity, because by the time we got in the restaurant to eat, it was hard to hear everyone!

Markus Miller

Markus was smart to hand his phone to our waiter! This is one of the better photos. It was so great to see everyone! Image Credit: Markus Miller.

Celebrate Mom’s retirement! — Accomplished!

  • We celebrated at Spaghetti Eddie’s with my parents on the last day of school.
  • The school had a wonderful end-of-the-year luncheon, where Mom and several other retiring teachers and staff were recognized.
  • A photo mat was passed around the school and signed for my mom, and all the messages were so sweet!
  • She received a wonderful send-off after 23 years at Chittum Elementary.

Buy bikes! — Accomplished!

  • We were able to support a fantastic local business, SCAT Bikes – And, they’re only a few miles from our house!
  • In one Saturday, we purchased two bikes, two helmets, a bike rack that works for both of our cars, and a fancy adjustable bar that makes my bike more stable when transporting it.


Al took this photo last weekend before we hopped on. 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!

Visit the library at least once. — Accomplished!

  • I went twice!
  • I picked up The Man in the High Castle and The Lost Symbol, and then renewed The Lost Symbol. I’m deep into that one now, and loving it! Trying hard to finish it before next Saturday!

Work to write between three-four Book Reviews. — Accomplished!

Final Thoughts:

  • I was able to put Accomplished next to eight out of nine goals. I think this is a record! I was so excited when I started counting!
  • The one goal that was Semi-Achieved: I’m just happy that I got things organized. I still have some more work to do, but that’s fine by me!

Did you have any goals for June?

Come back tomorrow to see my goals for July!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #72: “Forest Path, Cork County, Ireland” (Reblogged)

It’s been a while since I shared one of Just Wunderlust’s incredible photos!

Ireland, among many other countries and places, is on my “bucket list” to visit. I’ve always loved being in nature as much as possible, especially surrounded by trees.

I’m living vicariously through one of my college roommates right now, as she shares her cross-country trip with all her Facebook friends. They’ve made it to the West Coast, and her photos have been awesome!

This photo makes me think of the stories I used to dream up when I was younger. The first “book” that I wrote was set in a forest (in Oregon, not Ireland), but that’s what I thought of when I saw this photo earlier today.

I could easily take this photo and start to create a whole world/story line. I love that I still have an active imagination. I need to pick up a new notebook this weekend – I have several story ideas bouncing around in my head that I want to write down ASAP!

Are there certain places you dream of visiting?

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Just Wunderlust

Michelle Sommer
Forest Path, Cork County, Ireland

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Writing Prompt #64: “52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge” (Week 26)

Week #26: Someone You Got To Meet.

First of all, I can’t believe this post marks the halfway point of this challenge! Time is flying by!

Now, I was originally going to write about Robert Redford, but then I realized that I was only in the room with him that day in 2011, so he doesn’t count (Rats!).

However, I will talk about how I got to meet Sister Helen Prejean.

Here’s a question: Have you seen the movie Dead Man Walking (1995) with Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon?

Did you know it’s based on a true story?

I had the opportunity to write about Sister Helen’s guest lecture at Longwood University for the student newspaper, The Rotunda. I was so moved hearing about her experiences that I immediately wanted to buy both her books – Dead Man Walking (1993) and The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions (2004). The second book appealed to me because of one of the innocent men was from Virginia.

After she finished speaking, I was only able to talk with her for a few minutes, but she graciously inscribed both of my books with personal messages. She thanked me for coming out, and I offered to send her a copy of the article I was writing. I headed back to my dorm that night forever changed! Her work advocating against the death penalty will stay with me for the rest of my life – I think about her often.

The piece I wrote ended up being one of the longest in the eight semesters that I worked on the paper. It had to be significantly revised for publication, but I’m immensely proud of what I wrote, and what was published. I looked – I couldn’t find it in The Rotunda’s online archives, but I know I saved it somewhere on my computer or a flash drive. After writing this post, I’m committed to finding it – Once I do, I’ll share with you all soon.

After I graduated, I added up all of the pieces I had written for the paper. I think it was around 125 total, maybe more. It felt really good.

I’m fortunate that I was able to meet Sister Helen. She changed my world view, forever.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Blog Awards #14: Mystery Blogger Award – Number 2!

Mystery Blogger Award

Image Credit: Found on Bookmark Your Thoughts

This post has been a long time coming – Back in late April, the beautiful Jenna at Bookmark Your Thoughts nominated me for the Mystery Blogger Award! I’m so honored to have been nominated for this award for the second time.

Thanks, Jenna!

Here’s the link to the post where I was nominated:

What is the Mystery Blogger Award?

“Mystery Blogger Award” is an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best our there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award if also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging; and they do it with so much love and passion.

– Okoto Enigma

Okoto Enigma is the creator of the Mystery Blogger Award! A link to her blog is here.

The Rules

  1. Put the award logo/image on your blog
  2. List the rules
  3. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  4. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well
  5. Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
  6. You nominate 10 – 20 people
  7. Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog
  8. Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify)
  9. Share a link to your best post(s)

About Hot Shot Headlines

I started Hot Shot Headlines several years ago as a way to continue blogging after college. I was assigned to create a blog in my Computer-Mediated Communication class with Dr. Bill Stuart in 2009. I decided to write about movies that my classmates may have never seen before. Several people complimented my writing, so I knew I wanted to blog in my spare time. After several failed blog attempts, I wanted to combine my Mass Media education with writing. The result has been this amazing experience where I’ve been able to connect with so many people around the world! Thanks to everyone who has read my posts, liked them, commented on them, shared them, and appreciated my writing. It means the world to me!

And The Nominees Are …

I’ll admit, I don’t like pressuring anyone to do anything! Participation in these awards is completely voluntarily. However, I love seeing other people’s responses!

  1. In A Messy World
  2. meganelizabethmorales
  3. His Perfect Timing
  4. The Real Deal

Questions from Jenna

One. If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?

  • I would love to be invisible – Think Harry Potter’s Invisibility Cloak! That would be amazing!

Two. What are your top three book/book series?

  1. Harry Potter series
  2. The Great Gatsby
  3. Anything American Girl-related, but especially the Historical Fiction

Three. What is your favourite colour and why (i.e., reminds you of something, etc.)?

  • I love the color green – It represents many things in my life. I have a green birthstone (peridot, for August), I’ve been a die-hard Green Bay Packers fan for practically my whole life, I love the green grass and trees, and my sorority colors are green and gold (Alpha Sigma Tau).

Four. If you could become part of a book, television or movie fictional world, which one would it be?

  • This question is so hard for me, simply because I love so many types of books, television series, and movies! But, if I had to pick just one, I would love to be part of the Harry Potter books / movies. It’s an amazing world!

Five. What are you currently reading? How would you rate it at this moment?

  • I just started reading The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. It’s good, so far!

My Questions to the Nominees

  1. What’s your favorite song at the moment, and why?
  2. What / where would be your ideal place to live?
  3. Do you have a favorite place to go on vacation?
  4. If you could do one job for your whole life, what would it be, and why?
  5. What is your dream car?

My Best Posts

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #35: “The Man in the High Castle”


Image Credit: Catspaw Dynamics

Finally! This is one book that I was hoping to finish a LONG time ago. I almost finished it in the fall, but the two-week window from the library closed so quickly. It was bugging me, for months. I hate not finishing books, unless it was so insufferable that I couldn’t stand to finish it.

This book was not one of those insufferable ones. I got it from the library two Saturdays ago, and I just made the deadline. Hooray!

It was an intriguing book. In a sentence: Imagine if the Allies lost World War II.

Think about that. If Germany, Japan, and Russia had won, what in the world would happen?

Philip K. Dick is (was) a very interesting writer. As I’ve said in previous reviews, I’m not a huge fan of science fiction, but alternate reality has recently captured my attention. I’ve even considered using it in some of my own writing.

Now that I’ve finished the book, I’m excited to see what Amazon has done with their TV series of the same name.

Trying not to give away a lot (The book is only a little over 200 pages), it’s 1962 and the U.S. has been divided into the Greater Nazi Reich and the Japanese Pacific States. Mr. Dick creates multiple characters as they try to live their lives under seemingly oppressive rule and challenging times.

Mr. Dick also creates “a novel within a novel.” This is something that I don’t see very often, but I usually enjoy. The novel within the book shows details of what would happen if the Allies HAD won the war, though it’s different that what actual history has shown. Regardless, it was fascinating. I appreciated how the author carefully wove it into the plot.

In writing this post, I started looking at other books that employ alternate reality or history. One that made me raise my eyebrows was Bring The Jubilee (1953) by Ward Moore, about an alternative Civil War. You can bet I’m adding this one to my TBR.

This was not a hard read, at all, despite my previous reservations / hesitancy about science fiction. It flows easily, and I enjoyed learning about the different characters. Through his words, it was frighteningly easy to imagine what life could like if the Allies had lost and Germany and Japan swiftly took over everything. The characters attempt to make the most of what they have and what they are living with, but I imagine that life would be pretty miserable. I found myself reading at least one chapter per night, unless I was completely exhausted.

This book made me think about how wars affect everyone and everything. Unfortunately, several countries in our world are suffering under dictatorships and oppressive rule, and there’s nothing that anyone can do about it!

Seeing what Mr. Dick created made me shiver. I’m curious to see what else he wrote in his short time on this Earth (He died in 1982 at age 53, from a stroke).

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #34: “Music in My Heart: My Journey with Melody”

American Girl Melody Music

Image Credit: American Girl

If you haven’t already, I recommend checking out my previous Melody book reviews before reading this one:

This book was incredible! I’ve been so impressed with how historically accurate Melody’s books have been – I can clearly see the research and attention to detail. Every time, I feel like I’ve been transported to Detroit, Michigan in 1964.

I love how there are previews of the next book at the end of the previous ones – It makes me excited for the next chapter, in a way. This way, I discovered the modern girl in this story has a piano teacher named “Ms. Stricker,” which happens to be my maiden name! I realize this is fictionalized, but I can’t tell you how excited I was to see that! It’s so rare to see something like that!

To me, this book had more adventures than Maryellen’s journey, which I really liked. It was exciting to pick so many paths!

Melody is such a sweet character. It’s one of the things that immediately drew me to her stories when she was introduced in 2016. She’s passionate about her family, music, and the world around her. She wants to do what’s right!

Without giving away a lot of details, I loved everything about this book. Melody and the modern girl both love music, especially the piano and “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Because of Melody, our modern girl discovers Motown, and experiences the Civil Rights Movement first-hand. We even meet a few key figures along the way!

This book snatched me up and didn’t let me go! I wanted to keep reading the first night, but I had to break it up over two of them. Getting up so early is a curse sometimes.

I’m keeping Melody’s books forever!

There’s at least one more Melody book out there – A mystery! I’m hoping my library has it! But, if I’m being honest, I’ll probably buy it, at some point.

I’m definitely adding more American Girl books to my TBR!

5 out of 5 stars.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Awesome Authors #4: Truman Capote

Truman Capote

Image Credit: AZ Quotes

I’m so far behind on these posts!

But, I’m back now. I also have several new ones in the works! I’m fully committed to publish a new one every month, going forward.

In Cold Blood (1966)


Image Credit: Google

This is the only book of Capote’s that I’ve actually read. However, if you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. This is one of the books that inspired my interest in true crime. It’s a completely true story, and it chilled me to the bone. Writing this post makes me want to re-read it.

I’m surprised that I slept well after finishing it!

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1958)


Image Credit: Wikipedia

I completely forgot that Capote wrote this one, until I was researching for this post. I’ve only seen part of the iconic movie, but I know several people who love it. I definitely want to put this on my TBR!

Capote was a prolific writer – He discovered his calling when he was only eight years old! Wow!

He started with short stories. Throughout his short life (He died in 1984 at age 59), he was published in a variety of magazines, including Mademoiselle, EsquireVogue, The New Yorker, and others.

His first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms, was published in 1948.

In addition to several novels and multiple short stories, Capote also produced other literary and entertainment works – Local Color (collection of European travel essays), The Grass Harp (novel, then play), Beat The Devil (original screenplay), and House of Flowers (Broadway musical).

After his death, a number of Capote’s works have been published posthumously, starting in 1986. Random House has published Summer Crossing (2006) and The Early Stories of Truman Capote (2015), among others.

The more I read about Capote and his life, I want to read much more of his work. In addition to Breakfast at Tiffany’s, I want to add Music for Chameleons (1980), and Summer Crossing to my TBR.

What about you? Have you read any of Truman Capote’s books?

Come back next month for another installment of Awesome Authors!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Prompt #63: “52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge” (Week 25)

Week #25: Education.

I’m incredibly grateful for the education that I have received. I was so fortunate that my parents picked an excellent school district when we moved to Chesapeake. Overall, I had really good experiences throughout elementary, middle, and high school. I think fondly of many teachers that I had over the years!

After high school graduation, I was one of the very few that didn’t have to take out any loans to be able to earn my college degree. I don’t say this to brag, not at all – I say this out of incredible gratitude to my parents, who worked so hard to help me get a great education from Longwood. I have multiple family members, co-workers, and countless friends that have student loan debt. That makes me sad! It also makes me angry. Higher education has changed so much, and it’s even changed in the six years since I graduated.

Now, I’m grateful that I have a job that offers educational assistance to its employees! I have used it for several semesters, and it has been a significant benefit. I’m almost done with my Paralegal Studies degree after nearly five years.

I can’t say enough good things about the quality of the education that I have had over the years. With that said, I’m inspired by countless others and their stories.

  • The ones that have worked multiple jobs plus loans to pay for their education themselves
  • The ones that raise or have raised children while working full-time and attending classes
  • The ones that work tirelessly for years to educate themselves in the field that they are passionate about.
  • The ones that go for the Ph.D.
  • The ones that simply have a high school diploma and are just amazing husbands/wives, mothers/fathers, hard workers, volunteers, and so much more than their educational experiences.

My hat goes off to you all!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Prompt #62: “52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge” (Week 24)

Week #24: A Book You Learned From.

I wasn’t a big science fiction fan for a long time, but one book helped change my view.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.

I wasn’t thrilled when it was assigned summer reading when I was getting ready to start the IB program in 2003.

However, I was pleasantly surprised when I started reading it. The story was so intriguing, that I didn’t want to stop.

As I delved into the world of Ender, Valentine, his family, and the intricate / complicated world of Battle School and Command School, I learned several things. I learned to better appreciate the genre of science fiction, but I also identified with several of the characters. I saw parts of myself in Ender, Valentine, Rackham, and Colonel Graff. Thinking about it now, some of the wars and political themes aren’t so far off from our real world at the moment. I think this book also helped me become a better writer, and to be more considerate of other genres.

I learned later that there are other books with Ender. Eventually, I want to read them all.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #33: “The Devil’s Dozen: 12 Notorious Serial Killers Caught by Cutting-Edge Forensics”

The Devils Dozen

Image Credit: Amazon

Much like the last book I reviewed, I found this book at a bargain price! I actually bought it late last year, but I didn’t pick it up and read it until the last two weeks.

I’ll admit it – I love almost anything that deals with true crime. I saw this title and knew that I wanted to read it.

Or, so I thought.

The one thing that took me aback, and bothered me throughout the book, was how academic it was. I felt like I was reading 12 short research papers. Trust me – That’s not exactly what I want in a book. I certainly appreciated Ramsland’s attention to details and her use of sources, but it was a very dry read.

Other than that issue, reading about these 12 cases was fascinating. There were some cases I had already read / heard about, but there were 5-6 that were completely new to me. I appreciated that Ramsland explored a wide range of cases, both in historical context, and throughout the globe. It was really cool to see how other countries use and have used forensics to accomplish the same goal – Stop these criminals forever. It was also interesting to learn about how these various forensic techniques were developed as early as the late 1800s, and how they were utilized then, and now.

The academic style was the biggest detractor for me, and it was tough to keep reading. But, I’m glad I finished it. If you’re interested in a heavily-research-based series of true crime stories, I recommend it. Ramsland is a talented author and researcher!

3 out of 5 stars.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂