Book Review #98: “Evette: The River and Me” (World By Us)

I’m always up for new books from American Girl. When they announced the new World By Us line with three books, I was excited. I was able to get the books practically brand-new from a seller in the big American Girl Obsessed BST group that I’m a member of on Facebook.

The first book that I read is Evette’s book. She’s passionate about the environment. The book also addresses the pandemic, social media, and other real-life issues. Racism is one big topic that’s incorporated. I also love the community center that’s featured!

I read through the whole book in one night several months ago. Most American Girl books don’t take me long to read at all, but this one was also beautifully illustrated!

The interesting part about these books, and this line/collection, is that the characters are 13 years old, which is older than the typical target demographic for the company. I personally think this is a great thing, and it shows that American Girl is dedicated to diversity, inclusion, education, and other things.

Given that the target audience is quite a bit younger than myself, I had to put myself in the shoes of a 13-year-old while reading it.

I really appreciated how the author and the diversity team that is recognized in the book did their homework and tried to respectfully and carefully craft a story that was relevant and would potentially resonate with readers, families, and others.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #275: Stranger Things The Upside Down LEGO Set

Al got me the massive Stranger Things The Upside Down set for Christmas!

Part 1

Part 1 was building four things: Hopper, the mini-fig stand with the Stranger Things title card, Hopper’s Hawkins Police Department SUV, and the bike.

The wheels really move!


Part 2

The second part was building the base of the “real world” house and Mike.

The base took the better part of two hours! But you can start to see parts of the house and the yard.


Part 3

Part three began building the house and Joyce. She is holding Will’s drawing in one hand and a flashlight in the other. Plus, her mini-fig head has two different facial expressions.

The enclosed room is Will’s bedroom. It has his bed, desk, boom box, and shark poster.

The other room is the living room with the couch and coffee table. The yellow phone is on the wall. You can see the alphabet and Christmas lights on the wall next to the door.


Part 4

Part 4 saw the completion of the living room, with the green chair, and building Lucas. He’s holding his slingshot and a flashlight.

The siding was added to the house, along with the front porch furniture and accessories.


Part 5

Part 5 included the roof and building Dustin.

Dustin is holding a walkie-talkie and his compass.

Part of the ceiling is this cool light brick that lights up when you push the button!


Part 6

Part 6 included building Will and the base of the Upside Down house.

It’s definitely darker!


March 18th: This post was scheduled to publish before I finished the set, so I will update soon!


Part 7

Part 7 is building the Upside Down house bedroom and living room.

Commentary #117: “A Free In-School Grocery Store At An Atlanta School Is Tackling Child Hunger”

Image Credit: Jasmine Crowe, featured in NPR story.

I love this idea! Way to go, NPR!

A Free In-School Grocery Store At An Atlanta School Is Tackling Child Hunger

Jasmine Crowe is one amazing woman. She started feeding people out of her apartment in 2013, every weekend for three years. That alone is amazing.

But then she went further, and truly above and beyond.

Check out the information below. Her company, Goodr, is incredible. Now that she’s partnered with rapper Gunna, the students at Ronald McNair Middle School have access to amazing resources. What struck me the most was that now, the kids at school can bring home dinner or other supplies, no questions asked. If the adults are working when school lets out, these kids can bring home food for their families. To me, that’s a huge weight lifted!


Resources

Goodr

Everybody Eats

Jasmine Crowe: What Can We Do To Tackle Food Waste and Hunger? | TED Radio Hour (September 3, 2021)

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #116: Thoughts on “LuLaRich”

Image Credit: Google Images, Amazon Prime Video

Buckle up, friends. This is going to be a long post. Strong language is used.

Some of you know that I used to buy LuLaRoe (LLR) clothing for two years, from 2017-2019. At the time, I had no clue it was a multi-level marketing company, or MLM.

Now, Amazon Prime Video has released a decent documentary that features the founders, former front office employees, current and former “retailers,” and a few more.

NOTE: I originally set this post to publish on September 20th after having re-watched Episodes 1 and 2, thinking I was going to be able to re-watch all four episodes before the post published automatically. That didn’t happen. It published automatically, and I forgot about it for a few days. I decided to update the scheduling to publish it on September 24th after needing to re-watch Episodes 3 and 4 and make my notes about it. So the updated publishing date is actually September 24th.


Episode 1 – Start Up

Image Credit: LuLaRich

I can’t believe the producers of this documentary were actually able to get DeAnne and Mark Stidham on camera! I’d love to know how that conversation went. Wow!

You are the boss of your business! — Hahahahaha. No, you’re not. MLMs are not legitimate small businesses. Period.

One of the commentators is Robert FitzPatrick – Author, MLM Expert – He was interviewed on Roberta Blevins’s excellent podcast, “Life After MLM.” He’s written two books on MLMs.

Independent fashion retailers — No, actually, you’re an independent contractor. And you have to pay taxes!

$5,000 buy-in (Say WHAT?!?!) Holy moly. This one blew my mind. What the fuck? I could do so much with $5,000 – So much!

Selling breast milk to afford start-up costs — Ummmmm. Yeah. That’s absolutely insane. Nope!

A million dollar company to a billion dollar company. — It grew way too fast, and no one was able to keep up. Plain and simple.

Weight loss surgery — What the actual fuck. No, no, no.

Roberta Blevins — Amazing woman! I have a link to her podcast above! She is awesome!

“Why are the leggings wet? Why does the whole house smell like dead fart leggings?“ — Right on, Roberta! Inferior product doesn’t sell!

“LuLaRoe tricked people into joining a pyramid scheme.“

Actual depositions from the State of Washington v. LLR — I laughed and cringed at the same time!

Mark spouting passages from the Book of Mormon — Yeah. Roberta was right. You are/were in a cult!

LLR logo is a pyramid!

DeAnne’s maiden name is “Startup.” Seriously!

DeAnne is the 10th of 11 children. She has a twin sister, Diane.

Mark is one of four kids. Never wanted to work a job or work for a boss. “When you’re an entrepreneur, there’s no upper limit.”

1988 – DeAnne went to a swap meet in California. Bought four dresses from a man. Started booking dress parties. The first party sold 300 dresses. DeAnne did that for 27 years.

She started making maxi skirts after her daughter asked for one. Sold 20,000 maxi skirts quickly. Mark started in production.

2012 – Brittany Hunter from Utah, came and got skirts out of DeAnne’s van. DeAnne and Mark officially formed LuLaRoe, LLC in 2013. The name comes from three of their granddaughters – Lucy, Lola, and Monroe.

What I really liked about LuLaRich was the group of people they interviewed. When I first saw the trailer, I was pretty sure the producers had only interviewed DeAnne, Mark, and both former and current fashion retailers. It was really nice to see journalists and other experts, too! And home office employees that really spilled the tea.

For those who may not know, MLMs have been around for a good long while. The first one in the United States was Nutrilite in the 1940s, and then they were purchased by Amway. Other MLMs include Tupperware, Mary Kay, Pampered Chef, Scentsy, Herbalife, and Rodan + Fields. But there are a lot more – I remember hearing for either this documentary or Roberta’s podcast that there are about 300 active MLM companies in the United States. And many of them have gone global to other countries. Ewwwwww.

What is really being sold is the opportunity.

You can only go about 13 levels, and you surpass the population of the Earth.

Even though MLMs have been around and growing since the 1940s, it’s really exploded in the last 10 years or so. It’s advertised primarily through social media.

Buy it for wholesale, sell it for retail. It’s not get-rich-quick. —- Yeahhhhhh. Right.

Mark: Underutilized resource of stay-at-home-moms (SAHMs). A lot of people of faith attracted to this business. It’s a pure meritocracy.

Meritocracy: Government or the holding of power by people selected on the basis of their ability.

Sam Schultz, DeAnne’s nephew, joined LLR in 2015 as the events director. Part of the same demographic as the fashion retailers. He hired Mario Lopez to present DeAnne with an award. The photos went viral, and 11,000 people wanted to join the company after that weekend.

2016 – LLR made over $70 million, and expanded to a new home office in Corona, California.

Catastrophic growth, corporate tornado.

“Helping families, blessing lives.” — Wow.


Episode 2 – Show Up

Image Credit: LuLaRich

LLR created a video called “5 Ways to Finance Your Start Up Costs.” The smallest initial package was $5,000. The largest was $11,000!! Examples: Open an interest-free credit card, sell your breast milk.

LLR home office employees! I honestly wasn’t expecting these people to be interviewed, but it was AWESOME. LaShae is my FAVORITE. Worked at Macy’s originally. She met DeAnne in the hallway, she had Chanel on. She marched her to the warehouse and picked out a few pieces because she wasn’t wearing LLR! She was wearing Chanel!!

Derryl Trujillo came to LLR after working for Steve Madden, and reffing and officiating high school volleyball too. He found the ad for data entry and customer service on Craigslist. He was placed in the email department, which was the first line of defense for the company. They tried to be the filter of the building. Mark and DeAnne were seldom around the office, the window seat had to look out for their cars. The family had six Mercedes vehicles. Eight-five to ninety percent (85-90%) of the sixth floor was the family. No one had a clue to run the company of that size. “Data entry” was a Google Doc spreadsheet. Everyone kept editing it, and things would change second to second!

Creating the compensation plan on the fly.

Onboarding team – Fill out your application for LLR, and you were put into the onboarding queue. The team would call these retailers and let them know they were now a part of the family. Mark had a quota. What do you need to onboard 500 people on a Saturday?

These prospective retailers had the LuLaRoe phone number saved as “LuLaRoe – Life Changing Call.”

The number of retailers just grew and grew and grew. By 2016, there were 15,000 retailers! By the end of 2016, there were over 60,000!!

Unicorn hunting – Because you could only pick sizes and the type of clothing, you never knew what prints you were going to get! There were limited prints, too. It was nuts watching the documentary! I participated in multiple Facebook Lives when I bought LLR from three different consultants, so I understand the frenzy!

They talked about the Leadership Bonus Plan. It went from Retailer to Sponsor to Trainer to Coach to Mentor. There was a huge push to recruit and to buy. Recruiting was emphasized. Roberta purchased $78,000 worth of clothing wholesale, and made $83,000 total. And that didn’t include her business expenses. She made $65,000 in bonuses! It’s really easy to see how lucrative this was!

Social media posts were always supposed to be positive, and then attributed to LuLaRoe! DeAnne would become upset if a post didn’t have the #becauseofLuLaRoe hashtag!

And then there were the LuLaRoe cruises! You had to qualify for the cruises, which meant you had to sell $12,000 worth of clothes per month. That’s crazy! But there are/were people who qualified for 5-6 cruises!


Episode 3 – Blow Up

Image Credit: A member from the Facebook group your MLM is not a small business, Karen. https://www.facebook.com/groups/166294847640193/?ref=share

Mark and DeAnne would go live online. Every single Tuesday, people would tune in! There was so much idol worship and celebrity.

People started realizing that there was a lot of control. A couple of people started putting the pieces together and thinking, “Oh my God I’m in a cult.”

Enter Becca Peter. She sells washi tape online. For fun, she researches LuLaRoe online. The sales tax was strange, that was her first clue.

LuLaRoe takes advantage of these feelings that women have – They want to be great moms to their kids, but also contribute to the household. It’s the opposite of empowering.

Some of these women started involving their husbands in their LuLaRoe world. And then there’s the “retire your husband” thing. I hate that with a burning passion. It’s another control thing!! Paul said it perfectly – It’s devious and sinister! You’re trapped!

Over 80 percent of people have no one underneath them in MLMs. In 2016, 70 percent of LLR consultants made NO MONEY – ZERO.

If everything is possible, nothing is true. It’s all a farce, a fallacy. The documentary didn’t really discuss the cost-sunk fallacy, but it’s true of all MLMs.

Then there’s the gastric sleeve. DeAnne and her sister, Lynnae, were recruiting women to go to Tijuana, Mexico to get the surgery! The group chat was called “Tijuana Skinny’s.” DeAnne got the surgery and is on video where she lost 72 pounds. Courtney Harwood from North Carolina was looking into it, and ultimately decided on the weight loss balloon surgery in the U.S. – She nearly died! And then she was told that the gastric sleeve was the way to go.

Then the number of retailers went up to 90,000. And if you weren’t making money, it wasn’t the obvious over-saturation of sellers, but it was because “you weren’t working hard enough.” How demoralizing is that!?

Roberta opened a box of inventory in 2016, and realized one item was soaking wet – One pair of leggings. A couple of shipments later, there was a horrible smell from the box. When filing a return request, one of the choices was “Stinky leggings.” Seriously! They were selling moldy leggings, and there was product outside, exposed to the elements. The Mentors went to the home office, and it was met with agitation and being dismissive.

The material was changing! The leggings were arriving with holes, or ripping apart after one hour. The material itself was thinner. The company claimed that they weren’t distributing old product, but they were. The design theft was rampant. They told designers to find a print, change two things, and then voila! It’s a new print!

If you complain or criticize, then you’re the loser. It highlights so many insecurities! Negativity is a big no-no. Use the delete button! People were being scolded like children. For most of the consultants, they were used and betrayed. In my opinion, there was also abuse! There was gaslighting and love bombing.


Episode 4 – Toe Up

In June 2017, LuLaRoe changed their bonus structure. It would be based on sales rather than ordering. The checks were cut in half almost overnight.

Complaints were rolling in, and the question of whether or not LLR was a pyramid scheme kept coming up. And then there was the return policy. The company implemented a 100 percent buyback policy. Consultants would get a full refund, and there was no expiration date.

A bunch of people joined, and then a lot of people left. It was a mass exodus. LLR paid over $100 million during that time. Then they reverted back to the original policy with an additional stipulation, and leaders were not eligible for refunds.

News coverage swelled. Social media groups exploded, such as “LuLaRoe Defective.” And then a few people started talking about hiring a class-action attorney. The reason? Withholding approved refunds is illegal.

The case started as a breach of contract case because they changed the buyback policy almost overnight. They started a website called LLR Class Action. The number of people who contacted the attorney was staggering.

There have been dozen of lawsuits filed against LLR, in multiple states. They were sued for defective leggings, and then copyright infringement. The MyDyer lawsuit basically called Mark and DeAnne outright scammers – One claim is that LLR owes them $49 MILLION DOLLARS. LLR is also tied to many LLCs, in multiple states. Many of them were set up simultaneously in 2017.

Then, in January 2019, a civil lawsuit was filed by the Washington State Attorney General. It alleged that LuLaRoe was operating as a pyramid scheme.

Depositions were taken from DeAnne, Mark, Kenny Brady, and Jordan Brady. They have absolved themselves of all blame and/or responsibility. In my humble opinion, they are all fucking scammers and greedy bastards. There, I said it. All of them are awful people. Mark, especially, reminded me of both of my abusive relationships. It’s all about the money!


Resources & More Information

How LuLaRoe cost some women their homes, cars, savings, and marriages | The New York Post (September 2021)

4 Shockingly Manipulative Work Moments in the ‘LuLaRich’ Documentary | HUFFPOST (September 2021)

Amazon’s ‘LuLaRich’ perfectly explains the demise of the girl boss | MSNBC Opinion (September 2021)

Why Women Are Quitting Their Side Hustle: Leaving LuLaRoe | VICE (May 2019)


Have you watched LuLaRich? If so, what did you think?

If you haven’t, are you planning on watching it?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #115: “Israel Eases Restrictions on Blood Donations By Gay Men”

Photo Credit: redcrosschat.org

This article, from ABC News and The Associated Press, published in mid-August, is news that is long overdue.

Israel eases restrictions on blood donations by gay men

Israel follows the U.K. and the U.S. in easing restrictions due to a decrease in needed blood supplies. The U.K. made their changes earlier this year to allow more gay and bisexual men to become donors, and the U.S. updated their screening questions in 2020.

The health history screening in Israel has been updated to use gender-neutral wording, and changing the timeframe from 12 months to three (3) months.

While I personally think that the overall restriction should be dropped entirely, I also understand the continued need to protect blood recipients. I have several gay, lesbian, and bisexual friends who have not donated because of these restrictions. Their argument is that blood products are now tested, and have been for years, for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other life-threatening infectious diseases. While this is true – Testing for HIV with the American Red Cross started in 1985 and has been reviewed and updated since then – I’m honestly not sure this restriction will ever be dropped entirely. It’s very rare that HIV Type 1 or 2 will come up after a single blood donation, but it has happened.


Resources

If you’re interested in giving blood or other blood products (platelets, plasma), visit these websites for more information.

United States – American Red Cross

Blood Donation Eligibility Requirements | American Red Cross

United States Blood Banks (not affiliated with the American Red Cross)

United Kingdom – NHS Blood and Transplant

Israel – MDA – National Blood Services

The easiest way to search is to type in “giving blood” plus the country that you reside in.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Prompt #251: “50 Masterpieces You Have to Read Before You Die, Volume 1” (Book 1 – “Little Women”)

Image Credit: Amazon

Welcome back!


The first book on the list was Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Originally, I was excited. The first and last time I read Little Women was for one of my first presentations / projects in Mr. Degnan’s ninth grade English class, circa fall 2003.

However, now, I don’t quite understand how I remember enjoying Little Women back then. This was a tough read, even with the illustrated version! Nothing against Alcott, but the writing style threw me off almost immediately. I got through the first 60 pages, and found myself setting it aside. I picked it up again, and slowly made my way to the end. But it was painful.

I do enjoy the relationships among the March women, especially during the time period of the Civil War. They all miss their father. But, they also enjoy their lives as best they can. It was fun to watch these girls become “little women” over time. As an only child, this book made think of what it would be like to be in a bigger family.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Kimberly and I are ready to move on to Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen.


Have you read Little Women?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Prompt #250: “50 Masterpieces You Have to Read Before You Die, Volume 1” (Introduction Post)

Image Credit: Amazon

I’ve partnered with a friend, Kimberly, from a great Facebook group called The Book Drunkard, to read through Volumes 1 and 2!

The goal is to explore as many books as possible – I’m excited!


Here’s the list of the first 50 books:

Alcott, Louisa May: Little Women

Austen, Jane: Pride and Prejudice

Austen, Jane: Emma

Balzac, Honoré de: Father Goriot

Barbusse, Henri: The Inferno

Brontë, Anne: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Brontë, Charlotte: Jane Eyre

Brontë, Emily: Wuthering Heights

Burroughs, Edgar Rice: Tarzan of the Apes

Butler, Samuel: The Way of All Flesh

Carroll, Lewis: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Cather, Willa: My Ántonia

Cervantes, Miguel de: Don Quixote

Chopin, Kate: The Awakening

Cleland, John: Fanny Hill

Collins, Wilkie: The Moonstone

Conrad, Joseph: Heart of Darkness

Conrad, Joseph: Nostromo

Cooper, James Fenimore: The Last of the Mohicans

Crane, Stephen: The Red Badge of Courage

Cummings, E. E.: The Enormous Room

Defoe, Daniel: Robinson Crusoe

Defoe, Daniel: Moll Flanders

Dickens, Charles: Bleak House

Dickens, Charles: Great Expectations

Dostoyevsky, Fyodor: Crime and Punishment

Dostoyevsky, Fyodor: The Idiot

Doyle, Arthur Conan: The Hound of the Baskervilles

Dreiser, Theodore: Sister Carrie

Dumas, Alexandre: The Three Musketeers

Dumas, Alexandre: The Count of Monte Cristo

Eliot, George: Middlemarch

Fielding, Henry: Tom Jones

Flaubert, Gustave: Madame Bovary

Flaubert, Gustave: Sentimental Education

Ford, Ford Madox: The Good Soldier

Forster, E. M.: A Room With a View

Forster, E. M.: Howards End

Gaskell, Elizabeth: North and South

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von: The Sorrows of Young Werther

Gogol, Nikolai: Dead Souls

Gorky, Maxim: The Mother

Haggard, H. Rider: King Solomon’s Mines

Hardy, Thomas: Tess of the D’Urbervilles

Hawthorne, Nathaniel: The Scarlet Letter

Homer: The Odyssey

Hugo, Victor: The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Hugo, Victor: Les Misérables

Huxley, Aldous: Crome Yellow

James, Henry: The Portrait of a Lady

Keep an eye out for new Writing Prompt posts as I read through these books!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Prompt #249: An Evening in London

Image Credit: Imbibe

My friend, Ren, and I met through the NaNoWriMo group on Facebook. She loves many things British, and we talk on Messenger frequently. She inspired me to write this post about London society and parties.

Enjoy!


The invitation nearly slipped out of Beatrice’s hands, soaked in sweat. She leaned back in the Uber, muttering to herself.

“You’ve got this, you’ve got this. Everything is going to be just fine.”

The Uber driver glanced in the rear-view mirror.

“We’ve nearly arrived, Miss Winchester. Do you need a water or something from the cooler?”

Beatrice smiled slightly.

“I’d down a nice glass of Chardonnay right here, given the chance,” She thought, praying it didn’t come out of her mouth.

“Miss Winchester? Are you all right?”

“Oh, yes, I’m fine. Thank you, sir. Water, please.”

He fished out a cold Dasani. Beatrice’s hands shook slightly as she unscrewed the cap. She set down the invitation on the black leather seat, wishing she’d asked him to turn around and take her back to her building.

She swallowed, feeling a little better.

“Thank you for the water, sir, I appreciate it. How much do I owe you?”

The man smiled. He’d been driving for Uber for quite a while, and it earned him a good living. He’d paid extra for the car cooler several months ago, and knew when the society season ramped up. The spring and summer were unbearable at times, and it wasn’t just the temperatures.

Beatrice Winchester was his first society passenger of the night, and he knew there were many more to come. The invitation that was fluttering in her hand when he pulled up to her building was the signal.

Beatrice shuffled a bit. She never thought a mix of taffeta and silk could be so uncomfortable, even though she loved the dress the minute she saw it on the dress form in the shop window in February.

“How much do I owe you?”

“It’s nothing extra, Miss Winchester. Unless you’re feeling generous, of course. It’s my pleasure to provide beverages to my passengers.”

She laughed. “I wish you could carry alcohol, sir.”

He matched her laugh. “Nearly every customer of mine, especially at your age, says or wishes the exact same thing. I can’t, by Uber rules, but I wish they would, with so many people asking.”

Beatrice felt a bit more relaxed as the ride came to an end. She liked this driver, James, and looked forward to requesting him for the ride home. It was nice that you could do that with Uber and Lyft, unlike the traditional cabs.

“Well, here we are, Miss Winchester.”

Beatrice turned her head. The butterflies swarmed again.

The office building had been transformed into a gala. So many people were outside, it felt like a red-carpet event for celebrities.

“Are you paying through your phone?”

“Oh, yes, thank you.”

She opened her Uber app, paid her fare, tipped generously, with a few pounds extra for the cold water. And gave him five stars. Beatrice Winchester was hard to please, but this was easy, in comparison to what she was facing.

James’s phone dinged with the payment confirmation.

“Thank you, Miss Winchester. Much appreciated and obliged.”

She tipped her head. “You’re welcome. Are you going to be driving later?”

He smiled. “All night.”

“I’ll wait for you. You’re one of the best drivers I’ve had.”

He smiled, undid his seat belt, and got out to open her door.

“Do you need anything else?”

She smiled, shook his hand, and thanked him for opening her door.

“I’ll see you later, I hope.”

“I hope so, too, Miss Winchester. Thank you again for your generosity and kindness. Enjoy the party.”

She watched him straighten her seat belt, close her door, and wiped his hands before getting back in the driver’s seat. He nodded to her again, cut on his turn signal, and navigated back into what was now heavier traffic.

Beatrice sighed, watching him drive away.

—-

She didn’t want to turn around, but forced herself to. As a promise to her mother last year, Beatrice had agreed to go to at least one society party, if invited. Her mother had married her father long before she was ever invited to any society party, so it was a lot to ask of Beatrice.

At this point, she was 21, floundering a bit at university, and was struggling with general direction. She didn’t consider herself a party girl, but enjoyed going out with her friends. But these society parties were well-respected, and many were honored to be invited. So when the fancy envelope, with delicate calligraphy, showed up in Beatrice’s mailbox in January, her mother was beside herself.

“Oh, Bumblebee, how marvelous! We must get you a dress soon.”

Beatrice sighed as her mom dissolved into another coughing fit. The bronchitis was chronic now, even with a weekly housekeeper, no pets, and no more roses from Dad.

“Mom? Are you okay?”

She struggled to catch her breath. “Yes, of course, Bumblebee. I’m going to sit down.”

“I can always ring you back.”

“No, no. I’m fine now. This is a momentous occasion that needs to be celebrated.”

“Mom, come on. It’s one society party.”

“This one party may make all the difference, Bumblebee.”

Beatrice rolled her eyes, but felt her heart swell. Maybe her mom was right. The party wasn’t until June. After classes ended. The summer was always her favorite season. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.

—-

As she rolled her shoulder blades, trying to ignore the still-very-uncomfortable dress, impossible strapless bra, higher-than-normal heels, and copious sweat, Beatrice took a deep breath. She listened. The familiar notes from the string quartet entered her ears.

She hummed along with the beautiful music of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata as she pressed her way through the crowd. She clutched the invitation, praying she would find the front door soon.

“May I help you?”

“Yes, I’m here for the party.”

“Your invitation, please.”

Feeling icky, she handed over the damp invitation.

“Welcome, Miss Beatrice Winchester. There is plenty of food and drinks available, at no extra charge. Bathrooms are to the right of the event hall. Stay as long as you like. Did you drive here?”

“No sir, I took an Uber.”

He nodded. “That’s pleasant to hear. Some guests do drive themselves, and we usually have to take away their keys. We are glad that you won’t be one of them tonight. We are very safety-conscious.”

Beatrice smiled, although feeling even more uncomfortable, if that was possible.

“Well, Miss Winchester, please enjoy your evening. We are delighted in your presence. If you need anything at all, please find one of the staff members.”

Beatrice smiled, thanked the man and woman, and tipped the doorman.

She climbed the stairs, feeling a blister form on her left heel.

“Oh dear. The shoes are coming off sooner than I thought.”

—-

The cold air was welcomed, although the event hall was packed and humid. Beatrice lost count at 200 people, although the room easily held 500. There weren’t many tables and chairs, just the smattering of high cocktail tables in the four corners. There was a massive dance floor. The string quartet was ending Moonlight Sonata as she searched the room.

She absent-mindedly fiddled with her sequined clutch, trying to figure out her next move. The string quartet bowed, and polite applause rose. She clapped along. As the string quartet departed, she saw someone approach a small stage with a microphone.

“Welcome, everyone, to the first society party of the year. We are delighted that so many of you have joined us this early in the evening. We have a lot of great entertainment lined up tonight. We also have food and drinks at no extra charge. We are expecting about 500 people total. Please, enjoy yourselves. I’ll be back shortly to introduce the next entertainment.”

Polite applause rose again as the man departed. Recorded pop music started up from the speakers, and a few women started dancing.

—-

Beatrice was tempted to become one with a wall, but pictured her mother’s face. She was so thrilled this day had come, even though Dad had to take the obligatory photos because Mom was sick in bed, again. She could barely speak, hardly able to tell Beatrice she loved her.

She pictured Mom’s face, then Dad’s. Even though she felt she was floundering in every aspect of life, she knew Mom and Dad were proud of her. After Evan died three years ago, this was such a bright spot. Beatrice was determined to keep buzzing along, even if it was only for one night to buoy her parents’ spirits.

“Hi! I’m Abigail. What’s your name?”

Beatrice smiled. “Hi, I’m Beatrice. Nice to meet you.”

“Do you dance?”

Beatrice shrugged. “I’m pretty daft.”

Abigail laughed. “I’m terrible, but anyone who tells me to my face that can shove it. Come on!”

Beatrice was swept up in the dancing. All the girls on the floor were kind, almost too polite. There was Abigail, Mallory, Melody, Emily, and Wren. Another girl named Ashley soon joined in.

“Where are the guys?”

Beatrice laughed, trying to catch her breath. “I think they’re all intimidated by us.”

Mallory whooped. “They’re all jealous. We’re the best dancers in this whole lot.”

The girls danced for another half-hour, until “Uptown Funk” ended.

—-

Abigail and Mallory, clearly the most experienced society party-goers, showed the rest of the girls the ropes.

“We come for the dancing, and the drinks!”

Beatrice smiled. “So, how is this different from going out to the pub or club?”

Mallory hooted. “This is the fanciest of them all. I love getting dressed up. Sure, my mum is always thrilled and fusses over me, but I get a kick of every party. Some of my gals have found husbands, a few left their guys and fell in love with girls, and the rest of us love being single and partying it up every season.”

“Is there an age limit?”

Abigail waved her hand. “Kind of. The upper age is around 30. It’s ‘expected’ that you have a job, a family by then. But I scoff. I’m 28. As long as I keep getting invited, I’m coming. It’s nice to get dressed up, get your hair done, full makeup, and let loose a little.”

Beatrice shifted. “I’m still pretty uncomfortable.”

Mallory snorted slightly. “I felt that way my first party, too. I didn’t want my taxi to leave. The driver was so handsome, too.”

Beatrice relaxed a bit. “That’s how I felt, too. My Uber driver is pretty hot, if I do say so myself.”

It turned out that five of the girls had been James’s passengers at least a couple of times. He was evidently very popular.

—-

“Is he married?” One of the youngest girls, Evelyn, asked dreamily.

Beatrice smiled, and thought she recognized Evelyn.

As Mallory answered in the negative, Beatrice kept glancing at Evelyn.

“Evelyn, darling, where do you live?”

She was startled by Beatrice’s question.

“233 Cornwall.”

“That’s my building!”

“Come off it, really? Which floor?”

Abigail leaned over and whispered to Mallory. “Every single time. There are people who live in the same buildings, and don’t even know it.”

Beatrice relaxed even further after meeting Evelyn. They quickly made plans to meet up again. Beatrice didn’t even need that big glass of Chardonnay to quell her nerves, although she appreciated the offer. She enjoyed herself as the night slipped away. The ladies ate, drank a bit, flirted, and danced.

—-

About 450 guests showed up. The party got a bit raucous after one the most sought-after DJs in the city was revealed to be the main entertainment.

Beatrice felt herself buzzing with her new friends, enjoying the diversity of the group. Abigail and Mallory were the most experienced. Evelyn was starry-eyed the whole time.

Emily danced her feet off with one guy who kept undressing her with his eyes, not that she noticed. Melody was making the rounds with three different girls, trying not to tip off any of them.

Ashley was feeling insecure about transitioning from Adam, but she felt inspired by all the women.

Wren was swept up with a guy that everyone else thought was creepy. He ended up getting kicked out a few hours later because he got himself uproariously drunk, tried to steal the microphone from the DJ, and projectile vomited on the security guards as they were escorting them out.

Abigail jabbed her thumb in his direction and giggled, laying her head on Mallory’s shoulder. “That’s another thing that happens. Every. Single. Time. Without fail. We always laugh at the crazy drunk ones. They get hauled out, and we all dissolve into giggles.”

Evelyn sipped her wine, feeling a bit unsteady.

“Beatrice?”

“Yes, Evelyn?”

“Can I share your Uber home with you? I’m feeling sleepy.”

Abigail chuckled. “That’s the wine talking, dear.”

Evelyn blushed. “It is my first party.”

Mallory sighed. “Don’t go yet, girls. Please!”

Evelyn stifled a yawn. “I’ll go easier on the wine. Next time.”

Beatrice smiled, and helped Evelyn to her feet. “Come on, sweetie, let’s get James and go home.”

Evelyn laid her head on Beatrice’s shoulder. “Yes, let’s do that. Help me not slobber all over him? Deal?”

Beatrice waved at the other girls as Evelyn chattered on.

“Until the next party, girls! Let’s do this again soon.”

James was as handsome as ever, helping Evelyn and Beatrice into the backseat.

As Evelyn dozed off within minutes, James caught Beatrice’s eye.

“Did you have a good time, Miss Winchester?”

“Yes, I did, indeed. And please, call me Beatrice. Thank you for driving us home, James. I have several new friends. And I can’t wait for the next society party.”

James raised an eyebrow, and they both laughed.

“I’m glad you had a good time, Beatrice. Most society invitees do. And making new friends is always good and fun. Thanks for trusting me to drive both of you.”

“We look forward to requesting you again, hopefully soon.”

James smiled, and focused back on the empty streets. Beatrice sighed, checked on Evelyn, and stared out the window. As she watched the city lights pass by, she sighed happily. Mom and Dad would be thrilled, and she was satisfied, too. She wondered when the next fancy envelope with calligraphy would be in her mailbox.

Even if she never got another one, she knew she’d made at least seven new friends tonight, and that was a pretty successful night in her book.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #91: “Just Mercy”

I was fortunate enough to find my copy through a friend’s store on eBay. I’d heard about the book for a good while, and knew I wanted to see the movie. But, I’m the type of person that likes to read the book before seeing the movie.

Bryan Stevenson is an incredible man. This book is not only a memoir, but a history lesson.

Stevenson graduated from Harvard Law School, moved to Atlanta, and then heard about a man on death row named Walter McMillan. He moved to Alabama to run the Southern Center for Human Rights operation in Montgomery. He is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). As of August 2016, EJI has saved 125 men from death.

It took me a lot longer than usual to finish this book. I wanted to take my time with it. Ever since the murder of George Floyd in May, I’ve wanted to learn as much as I can about people of color. This book is no exception – Stevenson writes about the appalling history of slavery, Jim Crow, lynchings, disproportionate arrests and heavy sentences, and the struggle of getting relief and overturned convictions for significant sentences, along with wrongfully imprisoned people.

Stevenson’s stories of these people on death row in multiple states, mostly men, but also a few women, were heartbreaking. Some were sentenced to death for crimes that were committed when they were children. Others were prosecuted to the maximum, when the laws that should have shielded them were blatantly ignored. There are more than a few people with physical and intellectual disabilities on death row in the United States.

This is a book that I think everyone should read. Even though it was published in 2014, it is definitely still relevant today.

I’m looking forward to seeing the movie adaptation soon.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Tag #96: “Do I Have That Other Book Challenge”

This is my bookshelf in my office!

I saw this on Lori’s blog, All Things Momma Blog, and decided to make my own post! It’s not a traditional tag, but a fun challenge!


Here’s what Lori writes: “The original of this challenge was fun and stressful and now there is another one. Hooray. Part two was created by Keeping Tabs and Current Chapter on youtube. It is a scavenger hunt type challenge with 20 prompts. You’re supposed to time yourself and see how fast you can find all of the books, but I’ll just be picking at the prompts over a couple of days when I have time to do so.”

I had a lot of fun with this. I was able to look at my entire bookshelf in a new light.


1. Do you have a book with a fox on the cover or part of the plot?

No.


2. Do you have a book that was published the year you were born, or within a 3 year radius?

Meet Kirsten was published in 1986. I was born in 1988.


3. Do you have a book with music as a weapon or magic?

No.


4. Do you have a series with mismatched covers?

No.


5. Do you have a book with a shapeshifter?

Fallible Justice, Laura Laakso (ARC).


6. Do you have a book signed by the author?

Columbine, Dave Cullen. Cullen came to my school, Longwood University, in the spring of 2010 to speak and promote his book. I was lucky enough to interview him for Longwood’s student newspaper, The Rotunda.


7. Do you have a book with a mostly red cover?

Finale, Thomas Mallon.


8. Do you have a book between 287 – 306 pages?

True Stories of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Kevin Dwyer and Jure Fiorillo – 249 pages.


9. Do you have a book with a main character who wears glasses?

More Than Enough: Claiming Space For Who You Are (No Matter What They Say), Elaine Welteroth


10. Do you have a book with a title that has the same number of letters as your first name?

No. Since I go by Laura Beth, apparently nine-letter titles are difficult.


11. Do you have a book with cybercrime/technology as a plot point?

The Alpha Drive, Kristen Martin.


12. Do you have book written in another language or translated to English?

No.


13. Do you have a book written by an Asian author?

Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng.


14. Do you have a book with a moon on the cover?

No.


15. Do you have an illustrated children’s book?

Thank You, Mr. Falker, Patricia Polacco.


16. Do you have a collection of fairy tales or myths?

No.


17. Do you have a sci-fi/fantasy with an alliance between races?

No.


18. Do you have a book with a narrow front cover? (paperback with a front cover that is slightly trimmed shorter/narrower than the rest of the book)

No.


19. Do you have a book that includes the first chapter of the sequel?

The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins.


20. Do you have a book with a broken spine?

The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank. I’ve had my copy since middle school, I think.


I’m not tagging anyone for this challenge, but feel free to participate!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂