Book Review #99: “Makena: See Me, Hear Me, Know Me” (World By Us)

After reading Evette’s book, I quickly moved to Makena’s book in the World By Us collection from American Girl.

Makena loves fashion, and posts her #OOTD (outfit of the day). I love how expressive she is!

Similar to Evette’s story, racism is a major theme in Makena’s story. Despite Makena’s struggles to come to terms with not one, but two incidents in her young life, I applaud American Girl for addressing both incidents in a thoughtful way. It definitely educated me.

It also encourages open communication between family members, and how talking about your feelings with someone that you can trust is so important.

Reading Makena’s story was another eye-opener for me, as a white woman, to how one phone call or one remark could very easily put someone else’s life at risk in an instant.

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.

Getting Personal #249: Sesame Street LEGO Ideas

The front of the box.

I knew I wanted this LEGO set when it was first announced. At the time, however, it was a lot of money, and I felt I didn’t absolutely need to have it.

However, I made a decision a few months ago to reward myself with it at the end of May. I’m so glad I did! I was pleasantly surprised that it shipped so quickly from the LEGO website. I bought it on in the middle of a week, and it arrived that weekend.

I documented the journey in stages. There were six sets of numbered bags in the box, and I figured I would stretch it out as long as I could. The entire set is 1,367 pieces.

The back of the box.

Part 1

The beginning was building the street and the base of 123 Sesame Street. Each part had a new Muppet mini-figure to build. Big Bird was first, my favorite.

I love the attention to detail. See the spiderweb?


Part 2

The second part was building Elmo and the first floor of 123 Sesame Street.

Do you see the back wall of Big Bird’s nest?

The bottom floor is Elmo’s room. I love how the windows look real and open!


Part 3

The third part was the second floor of 123 Sesame Street, and Ernie.

This part added the bathroom, with Rubber Duckie, and more to Big Bird’s nest.


Part 4

The fourth part included the roof of 123 Sesame Street, and Bert.

Bert and Ernie’s bedroom is done, too.


Part 5

The fifth part included Cookie Monster, Hooper’s Store, and the apartment above.

I love the details. The stickers really help illustrate the set!


Part 6

The final part was Oscar in his trash can, the garden, the fire escape, Big Bird’s nest, outside Hooper’s, and the Sesame Street signpost.

I can’t get over how much research was put into this LEGO Ideas set! It was well worth the money – About $130 total. The instruction book had fun photos and backstory on the designers and creators.

This will be proudly displayed in my office. It’s currently on the living room coffee table. I smile every time I walk in the room!


I really loved this set. Many of you know how much Sesame Street means to me!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #111: “50 Best Films About Writers, Ranked”

Image Credit: Medium

I stumbled upon this article when I was researching a daily film challenge post for Facebook. The question that day was: “A film where a character has a job you want.”

My answer: Finding Forrester (2000)


Here’s the link to the article about the 50 best films:

50 Best Films About Writers, Ranked |Flavorwire

Now, granted, this particular article was published in 2014. But, I wanted to take a closer look at these movies and offer my thoughts.

50. Sylvia (2003) — I have not seen this.

49. Finding Forrester (2000) — I have seen this movie, and I like it. I want to watch it again.

48. Total Eclipse (1995) — I have not seen this.

47. Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994) — I have not seen this.

46. Deathtrap (1982) — I have not seen this.

45. Henry Fool (1997) — I have not seen this.

44. Manhattan (1979) — I have not seen this.

43. Barfly (1987) — I have seen pieces of this movie.

42. The Pillow Book (1996) — I have not seen this.

41. My Left Foot (1989) — I have seen this movie, and I like it.

40. American Splendor (2003) — I have seen pieces of this movie.

39. Swimming Pool (2003) — I have not seen this.

38. The Front (1976) — I have not seen this.

37. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) — I have seen this movie, and I like it. I want to watch it again.

36. Ruby Sparks (2012) — I have seen this, and it’s a good movie!

35. Impromtu (1991) — I have not seen this.

34. Kill Your Darlings (2013) — I have not seen this, but I want to.

33. Contempt (1963) — I have not seen this.

32. Prick Up Your Ears (1987) — I have not seen this.

31. Adult World (2013) — I have not seen this.

30. Julia (1977) — I have not seen this.

29. Poetic Justice (1993) — I have seen pieces of this movie.

28. Fellini’s Casanova (1976) — I have not seen this.

27. Shakespeare in Love (1998) — I have seen this, but it’s not my favorite.

26. The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) — I have seen this, and it’s an excellent movie.

25. Midnight in Paris (2011) — I have not seen this.

24. Iris (2001) — I have not seen this.

23. Before Sunset (2004) — I have seen pieces of this movie.

22. The Door in the Floor (2004) — I have not seen this.

21. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) — I have seen pieces of this, and I want to watch it in full.

20. Misery (1990) — I have seen this, and I want to watch it again.

19. Before Night Falls (2000) — I have not seen this.

18. Deconstructing Harry (1997) — I have not seen this.

17. The World According to Garp (1982) — I have seen pieces of this movie, and I want to watch it in full.

16. The Hours (2002) — I have seen this movie, and it’s good.

15. Naked Lunch (1991) — I have not seen this.

14. Starting Out in the Evening (2007) — I have not seen this.

13. Bright Star (2009) — I have not seen this.

12. Young Adult (2011) — I have seen pieces of this movie, and I want to watch it in full.

11. Certified Copy (2010) — I have not seen this movie, but I want to.

10. A Man For All Seasons (1966) — I have not seen this.

9. The Shining (1980) — I have seen this movie, and it’s good.

8. Providence (1977) — I have seen pieces of this movie, and I want to watch it in full.

7. Sunset Boulevard (1950) — I have seen this movie, and it’s good.

6. My Brilliant Career (1979) — I have not seen this movie, but I want to.

5. Adaptation (2002) — I have seen this movie, and it’s excellent. I want to watch it again.

4. An Angel at My Table (1990) — I have not seen this.

3. Wonder Boys (2000) — I have seen this movie, and it’s excellent. I want to watch it again.

2. Barton Fink (1991) — I have seen pieces of this movie, and I want to watch it in full.

(1) Reprise (2006) — I have not seen this movie, but I want to.


What do you think about these 50 movies? Let me know!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #108: Thoughts on “The Baby-Sitters Club” (Netflix)

Image Credit: The Today Show

The minute I saw the trailer for the Netflix take / re-boot of The Baby-Sitters Club, I knew I wanted to watch it!

I ended up watching all 10 episodes over the course of one day – Last Saturday. I was so easily sucked in!


As someone who devoured the books as a kid, I was a little nervous, as the Netflix series appeared to have been updated for modern times. But, it worked out really nicely. I want to re-read all the books now.

The girls playing the club members were cast so well. I was so gleeful when I realized, at the beginning of episode two, that the creators and producers had used the handwriting of each girl. I remember that from the books, and the CD-ROM game! I think I had the Clubhouse Activity Center.


If you’re looking for a lot of nostalgia that’s updated for today’s girls, tweens, teens, and moms (Dads, too!), this is a great series. It’s fun, easy to watch, and engaging. It also covers a lot of real-life experiences, particularly friendship, parents, divorce, boys, periods, and bullying, among other things.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Prompt #248: “April AND May WIP Writing Prompt Challenge (extended): The Temporary Insanity of Our Empty Streets … CONTINUED”

Image Credit: The New York Times

Here’s the link to Didi’s challenge:

April and May WIP Writing Prompt Challenge (extended): The Temporary Insanity of Our Empty Streets … CONTINUED

As an Author/challenge joiner: All you need to do is use the characters from your WIP (work in progress), or even a published works, and plug them into the given scene for a short story style post. It can be funny, serious, deadly, really just whatever you want as long as it’s true to your characters (as in, what they would actually do in this situation)!! It’s a fun way to be creative with those personalities that you as their creator love so much. It’s also a fun way to introduce them to the world and your blogs, without giving away your plots and twists… Just pure ‘meet my characters, and get to know their personalities’ separate from their book.


Donning their cloth masks, Brennan and Kristin both sighed. A simple trip to the grocery store wasn’t simple anymore. It hadn’t been for weeks.

“Okay, B., let’s get in and get out. This is so stressful.”

Brennan reached over the center console and squeezed Kristin’s hand. He wanted to kiss her so badly. Usually, kissing started melting the stress away.

“I know, K. But, we’re here, together. We’re being safe. Right?”

Kristin winced. Everything had gotten harder. She was under the same roof as Brennan, in his own apartment, for the foreseeable future. She should be thrilled! But, then, the lockdown started. And it was driving both of them crazy.

Sure, they’d had a lot of sex, and were generally enjoying spending more time together. But, the simplest things were now so difficult. Brennan had been furloughed. He picked up two different virtual assistant jobs to make up for his one day job. Sitting behind a computer all day was draining. And Kristin, wanting to help keep the lights on and contribute, was able to score a temp job. But it was all online, too.

The apartment was big enough where they could separate for their jobs when they needed to. But, being stuck in a 750-square-foot apartment for days, weeks, and now months, was increasingly challenging.

“Let’s go over the list one more time, and then let’s get this over with.”

Brennan sighed. He loved Kristin, that part was obvious. But, this lockdown was not going the way he’d hoped. His emotions were all over the place. And he felt obligated to help keep Kristin from experiencing a full breakdown. He could see it coming – She was teetering on the edge.

“Okay, milk, eggs, bread, paper towels, bathroom cleaner, toilet paper, if we can find any …”

Kristin sat back in the passenger seat. Brennan saw the tears.

“K., look at me.”

She turned. Two tears spilled out, soaking into the blue floral fabric.

“I love you. I say that to you so much because that’s one thing that won’t be changing. Okay? We can do this. We’re together.”

Kristin sighed. “I love you, too, Brennan. I’m sorry. I feel like all I’m doing is apologizing.”

Brennan stroked her hand, remembering that he needed to use hand sanitizer again before they got out of the car.

“I know you’re sorry. I’m sorry, too. I feel like I haven’t been apologizing enough, you know?”

Kristin leaned over and brushed her lips to his forehead. “What do you feel you’re sorry for?”

Brennan’s eyes turned serious. “I feel bad for inviting you down here, with our colleges closed and shuttered, and then the full lockdown hit. I feel guilty. Maybe selfish, too.”

Kristin laughed slightly. “As frustrating as this lockdown has been, I can’t imagine being alone, living alone, right now. We’re together. We’re healthy. And we’re doing a lot of different things. Your apartment hasn’t been this clean, like, ever. We’re both working. There’s really nothing to feel guilty or selfish about.”

She paused. “Now, let’s get this trip over with. I want to get home, wipe everything down, and then get busy. You know, that busy. That’s the only selfish thing I want.”

Brennan smiled, squeezed her hand, and turned the car off.

“I’m feeling selfish like that, too. Lead the way, darling.”


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Hot Topic #29: Banned & Controversial Books

Found on CNN

This is a topic that comes up every single year!

The idea for this post came from a recent article on CNN: These books are gaining ground in an Alaska town after a school board voted to remove them from class.


The books that are under fire in the town of Palmer are F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby; Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man; Joseph Heller’s Catch-22; Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried; and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.

Members of the Matanuska-Susitna (Mat-Su) Borough School Board met in mid-April to “approve the district’s High School English Elective Curriculum and reading list.” After lengthy discussions, “an amendment was introduced during the meeting to scratch the five books off the curriculum. Five members voted in favor of the removal, two voted against. The vote has no impact on the books’ placement in school libraries. In the same vote, the board also removed ‘The Learning Network,’ a resource for educators from The New York Times Company as a mentor text for district teachers.”

Palmer is about 40 miles from Anchorage in the southern part of the state. It serves 46 schools and more than 19,000 students.

Board members received a one-page flier from the district’s Office of Instruction regarding the potential controversies. “Concerns about the pieces of literature, according to the flier, included sexual references, rape, racial slurs, scenes of violence and profanity.”

All this to say that the books have not been banned from the district. The article was written to make the point that the school board voted in favor of removal.


What about community members?

According to the article, “No community members had signed up to comment prior to the meeting.” And, “since the decision was made as an amendment, community members didn’t have a chance to give their input.”

“The material for the English elective class were reviewed through a stakeholder survey, a community survey and a council of educators — including teachers, librarians and administrators — among other reviewers in the 2019-2020 year, the school district said.” The recommendations were then brought to the school board.


Positive spin on the situation

There is some good news. A Facebook page was created after the meeting, advertising “The Mat-Su Valley Banned Book Challenge.” Any student that read all the works can enter for a change to win $100. However, the administrators of the page have considered upping the monetary prize because of the interest in the challenge. At the time the article was published, over 200 students had joined the page.


Protecting students?

There were several quotes in the article regarding the students, and the school board’s intent to protect them from the content of these books. Many of them depict abuse and violence.

“To think that by not reading ‘Why the Caged Bird Sings’ means therefore children will not be exposed to sexual abuse is … closed-minded and ignorant.”

“‘There are many, many students in our district who don’t know that the trauma maybe they’ve experienced is trauma that somebody else has written about and yes, they can go and talk to somebody then,’ Welton said in the meeting.”

‘”I think you’re putting your head in the sand,’ she said. ‘If you really, truly believe that you are protecting your children, you can protect them by just saying, ‘Don’t take that class.'”


The main takeaway for me is that these books are for an English elective class. To me, however, I think these quotes hit the nail on the head. If these students aren’t supposed to or allowed to read these books in school, what other opportunity would they have to read them? Would these students take them out of the library themselves? Apparently, the chance to win money is plenty inspiring.


If you’re interested, check out the links regarding banned and challenged books below.


For me, I’ve read The Great Gatsby and The Things They Carried. I read Invisible Man and Catch-22 so long ago! I’ve read parts of I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. I think I’ll add the last three to a future TBR. I re-read The Great Gatsby every year. And I think I should re-read The Things They Carried at some point.

Have you read any of these five books?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #103: “The Elegance of Kindness”

Image Credit: Found on Gratitude and Trust

This post started with an email and a YouTube link. Thanks, Momma V.!

Al’s mom sent this link to me, asking if I’d seen it: Story Behind the Song: The Rainbow Connection


I hadn’t, so I clicked on it. It’s a bit dated now – It was posted in October 2016. However, what I clicked on and witnessed was nearly 12 minutes of magic and appreciation. It was an interview where Paul Williams discusses how “The Rainbow Connection” came to be. In the middle, Williams mentioned his website, Gratitude and Trust, along a post he wrote called “The Elegance of Kindness” about Jim Henson. I paused the video, grabbed a Post-It note, scribbled that down, and continued the video.

Visiting the website a little while later, I noticed that Paul posted it in September 2013. But, dates don’t matter.


As I started reading, all I felt was warmth when I digested Paul’s words. What an amazing life he’s had as a songwriter. He’s also a recovering alcoholic, a major feat by itself. And, to meet AND work with Jim Henson! Wow.

He told the same story in the video as he did in his blog post, about not wanting to throw any surprises at Jim when he and Kenny Ascher were beginning to produce the music for The Muppet Movie (1979).

Jim smiled, and reassured Paul with these words, “Oh, that’s all right Paul. I’m sure they’ll be wonderful. I’ll hear them in the studio when we record them.”

Hearing Jim say that immediately allayed Paul’s fears and worries. He also told this story in the liner notes when the soundtrack was re-released for the nearly 35th anniversary of the movie. And, in a way, this meeting paved the way for one of the most memorable and warm songs that has ever been created.


But the point here is “the elegance of kindness.” As I was telling Al about the video and the blog post, he immediately nodded and said, “Yes, exactly. That’s how many people have described Jim Henson. How kind he was.”

Jim Henson died in 1990. I wasn’t quite two years old when he left the world. But, I’ve learned who he was. And what an impact he has made! In his short 53 years, he became a legend. He created the Muppets, helped develop characters for Sesame Street, produced The Muppet Show, started the Jim Henson Foundation, and founded Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.


I made the same connection that Paul did about Jim. With kindness comes trust. With kindness and trust, magical things can bloom and grow. I don’t think “Rainbow Connection” would have been written if Jim Henson didn’t trust Williams and Ascher. There have been so many issues with trust, time and time again, with the world of entertainment. And it’s not limited to entertainment, either.

I write this post as the pandemic continues. I’m frustrated and appalled at the President of the United States and other leaders who have spouted clear lies, and they have incited great fear among millions of people. Millions of people who have gotten so many mixed messages at the worst possible time. No wonder I have trust issues! And there’s not a shred of kindness from the top. Sadly.


However, my spirit has been renewed. There is kindness, still.

Some Good News with John Krasinski is AWESOME!

I’ve loved Steve Hartman since he started reporting with CBS News in the 1990s (Remember Assignment America? And throwing a dart at a map of the U.S.?). A while ago, he did a four-part series called Kindness 101. Not only are his kids adorable, but he’s sharing many of his stories, old and new, and reminding everyone who’s watching what the important things are in life. Character. Gratitude. Empathy. Optimism. Purpose. I’ve watched all of them, and I’m excited the series is continuing.

Just today, I read a father’s account of his daughter, Emerson, and her letters. Her handwritten letters and decorated envelopes. She wrote a letter to her mailman, Doug, expressing her appreciation for him to help her mail her letters. Now, it’s gone all over the country, through thousands of people and postal workers. I’m inspired to be a pen pal again.

And, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Sesame Street’s theme is now “Smarter, Stronger, Kinder.” The elegance of kindness can, and should, be embraced as young as possible. But, you’re not too old to start. You’re never too old to embrace something like kindness.

Enjoy a special performance of “Rainbow Connection” from Kermit that posted to YouTube last week.

Stay safe, stay well, friends.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #101: Sesame Street 50th Anniversary Special

The minute the 50th Anniversary Special was announced, I marked my calendar for November.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the full special posted on the PBS website for a whole week, from November 17th through the 24th. I watched it twice! And I experienced so many emotions!

I really enjoyed the story. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was a great host! And so many former cast members were a part of it. The songs were my favorite part, especially the performance of “Sing” at the end.

I’m planning to get it on DVD when it is released.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Prompt #247: October WIP Challenge Prompt: Bewitched!!

Found on Didi Oviatt

I love Didi’s monthly writing challenges!

Here’s the link to Didi’s challenge post: October WIP Challenge Prompt: Bewitched!!

Lizzy adored Halloween. When she and Hunter met, they had bonded over one movie in particular: The Nightmare Before Christmas. Multiple times since then, they’d dressed up as Jack and Sally. Everyone thought they were adorable together.

But Lizzy also enjoyed another Halloween tradition – Becoming a witch. It was a secret from many of her friends at the Lancer Institute, or LT for short. But, the minute the air turned crisp and cool, her witch’s hat, black robes, and potions came out of the closet.

She and two of her closest friends, Brittany and Ashley, gathered in the woods, about two miles from LT’s campus. It was becoming a nightly tradition since that wild October night three years prior.

Brittany was in charge of the massive black cauldron. Earlier this October, they’d constructed a makeshift storage area in their favorite clearing. It wasn’t immediately visible to the average passerby, so the three ladies were pretty proud of themselves. It was a welcome change to Brittany – Lugging that massive cauldron was getting old. Her arms were pretty buff, though.

“It’s almost nightfall, my pretties. What spell should we conjure tonight?” Ashley cackled slightly.

Lizzy looked up at the crimson sky, contemplating. Emotionally, she was sad. Hunter, having to work, wasn’t able to come to the annual LT Halloween celebration. They would still dress up as Jack and Sally, per their tradition, but she was still sad he wouldn’t be at LT to celebrate like he had for the previous two years. She wished he was still a student with her.

“Lizzy? Darling, are you okay?”

Tears in her eyes, she turned to Brittany and Ashley. This felt like a true sisterhood. All of them, at some point, had been rejected by several of the eight sororities at LT. Who needed sororities when the three of them could gather in the woods at any time of night?

Lizzy swallowed. “I want to conjure a happiness spell.”

Ashley and Brittany looked confused. “A happiness spell?”

Lizzy nodded, jutting out her chin. “I’ve been so sad recently. Being here with both of you makes me happy, but I want to be happier.”

Ashley chortled slightly. “Is this because you miss Hunter?”

Lizzy stuck her tongue out. “Maybe.”

The three got to work.

“Double, double, toil and trouble …”

POOF!

As the cloud of hazy purple smoke started to clear, Lizzy felt a bit dizzy. She hadn’t had anything to drink, but she felt drunk. She stumbled a bit, but Brittany caught her.

“Lizzy?”

“I feel great! Oh, wow …”

Her world went sideways.

Lizzy woke up, puzzled as to why she felt the cold, damp leaves on her face. She was on the ground. Alone.

“Brittany? Ashley!”

Lizzy thought she’d heard faint giggling.

“Ashley! Brittany! This isn’t funny!”

Lizzy grabbed her hat, and stumbled to her feet.

“Where are you?”

Lizzy turned in circles, feeling increasingly confused. She certainly wasn’t happy. She was scared.

The spell had backfired. And Lizzy was all alone.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂