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Three years ago I devoted an entire summer’s worth of Throwback Thursdays to doing a review a series of historical novels by American Girl (yes, that’s the doll company) devoted to a girl growing up in the 1970’s named Julie Albright. I thought it would be fun to comparing how the 1970’s were portrayed in those books with my own memories of growing up during that same era.

In the midst of doing those reviews, American Girl decided to revamp its historical line by retiring a few dolls and placing the remaining historical dolls under a new product line known as “BeForever.” In the process I found that the original six novels I had reviewed earlier that summer were combined into two large volumes with all of the original illustrations removed. In addition American Girl released another volume that was basically a “Choose Your Adventure” book.

By the time I finished reviewing that Choose Your Adventure book (A Brighter Tomorrow: My Journey With Julie), I had not only read and reviewed all of the books in that series, I was starting to burn out from doing this project. I briefly revisited this series last year when I did a review of a movie short that American Girl did based on the books called And the Tiara Goes to…

The last time I went to the American Girl Place in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia, I found that a new Julie Mystery was published earlier this year called Message in a Bottle. This is the first new Julie Mystery book since 2013 (when Lost in the City was published) and the first new Julie Book overall since A Brighter Tomorrow: My Journey With Julie was released in 2014. (If you’ve missed the reviews I’ve done for other books in this series, there are links at the end of this post where you can read them at your leisure.)

I know that The Police had a hit song called “Message in a Bottle” but that song didn’t come out until 1979—two years after the events in this book. The closest song title that actually came out in Julie’s era (1975-1977) is Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle,” which came out a few years earlier in 1972.

The book was written by Kathryn Reiss, who wrote the previous Julie Mysteries The Tangled WebThe Puzzle of the Paper Daughter, and The Silver Guitar. The cover image was done by Juliana Kolesova and Joe Hinrichs.

All of the Julie Mystery books follow the events in the original Central Series books (which are now only available in the two-volume BeForever Books (The Big Break: A Julie Classic Volume 1 and Soaring High: A Julie Classic Volume 2) and Good Luck, Ivy.

Since this new book is the latest one published and since the events take place in the summer (while the previous Julie Mystery, Lost in the City, takes place during spring break), I’m going to assume that it follows Tangled Web, The Puzzle of the Paper Daughter, The Silver Guitar, and Lost in the City.

Like all of the other Julie books, this one was written for a target audience of girls between the ages of 8-12 so some of the hot button topics of the 1970’s (such as the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision, which legalized abortion) won’t be mentioned at all.

She’s back and all ready to solve another mystery!

Synopsis: Julie Albright is a white girl with long blonde hair and brown eyes growing up in 1977 San Francisco. Her parents are divorced so she spends most of her time living with her mother, who operates her store full of handcrafted items (some of which are made from repurposed and recycled clothes) called Gladrags, and her 17-year-old sister, Tracy, in a small apartment that’s located above her mother’s store. On most weekends she stays with her father, a commercial airline pilot, in the same home that the entire family lived in before the divorce. During her visits with her father, she gets a chance to spend some quality time with her pet brown rabbit, Nutmeg (who has to stay with her father because her mother’s apartment complex doesn’t allow pets), and play with her best friend who lives across the street, Ivy Ling.

It’s the summer and schools are currently closed until September. Julie has been spending most of it alone in her mother’s apartment reading library books. (Apparently Julie’s 11th birthday came and went since it’s on May 1.) Both of her parents are busy with their jobs. Her sister Tracy is currently working not one but two summer jobs so she is rarely home these days. Her two closest friends, Ivy Ling and T.J. (whom the book misidentifies as “CJ” so it’s pretty obvious that some editor screwed up big time), are currently out of town visiting relatives.

But then her mother receives a letter from her younger sister, Nadine, whom she hasn’t seen in 10 years. Nadine writes that she desperately needs her sister’s help on the commune where she lives with her son, Raymond, and she would like for her sister to come soon. She also mentions that she doesn’t have a phone so Mrs. Albright should just drive to the commune as soon as possible.

Apparently Tracy isn’t able to take time off from either of her two jobs so Mrs. Albright has arranged for her to stay at her father’s home and she also got her assistant at Gladrags to mind the store while she’s away. Her and Julie hit the road, driving north of San Francisco.

They eventually reached Sonora, the small town that’s located closest to Nadine’s commune. They decide to eat lunch at the outer space-themed Galaxy Cafe. They are waited on by a teen girl named Dolores who’s having such a hard time with arriving at her job on time from her break and messing up orders that the cafe’s owner, Mr. Coker, really chews Dolores out in front of Julie and her mother. Mr. Coker apologizes for Dolores’ mistakes and says that the meal is on the house. When Mrs. Albright mentions that she’s on her way to the commune to visit her sister, Mr. Coker says that Dolores lives at the commune herself. He also says that he had offered to buy the land from the commune but they keep on turning him down each time.

Julie and her mother arrive at the commune known as Gold Moon Ranch and Julie meets her Aunt Nadine and cousin Raymond (who’s around Julie’s age) for the first time since she was a toddler. As they are given a tour of the facilities, they learn that Gold Moon Ranch is supposed to be a self-sustaining commune where people live off the land and they make extra money on the side selling their homegrown vegetables and jars of honey. The commune includes a small cottage for each family unit along with a large central building, known as the Big House, where all the commune members eat their meals and gather for other events. The commune children are educated in a one-room schoolhouse on the premises and the adult members take turns serving as teachers. There is a large treehouse for the children to play in. There is also a separate bathhouse building with toilets (which are little more than seats on the ground over open pits) and with a water pump where the residents draw water to take a bath. (The commune has no running water or electricity.) They raise chickens, cows, and sheep while also growing their own vegetables. They make everything from scratch, including butter and wool yarn.

The commune got its name from the fact that it is located on the site of a former gold mine where gold miners used to dig during the California Gold Rush that went on from 1848-1855. The former mine has been boarded up in order to deter kids and trespassers from going in.

Nadine and her husband, David, founded Gold Moon Ranch and things were okay until her husband decided to join the military and fight in the Vietnam War. This decision was a shock because both Nadine and David were previously opposed to the war and so were all of their fellow commune members. It turns out that David joined because his twin brother was missing in action and he wanted to find him. He learned that his brother was killed and he was seriously injured not long afterwards. He relearned how to walk in rehab but he was unable to resume his work at Gold Moon Ranch due to his injuries so he has decided to take a part-time job at the library in Sonora. (Nadine mentions that things had become so strained between her and her husband that he decided to live in Sonora instead of the commune.)

David is described in the book as being very industrious and good with his hands before he went off to Vietnam. Ever since David went off to war the various commune members have been gradually moving out and it has gotten to the point where the remaining members can barely keep the place running and they are also having a hard time paying taxes. The reason why Nadine asks her older sister for help is because Mrs. Albright had been writing Nadine letters about how she had founded her Gladrags store and is currently doing well with it.  Nadine hopes that Mrs. Albright can put her knowledge and experience to work in helping the commune start its own store where they can sell their various handmade items.

Meanwhile Raymond has been distraught over his parents’ separation and he frequently talks about how his father had built many things on the commune and he basically misses his father. Julie tries to console her cousin by telling him that her parents are divorced and she once wanted her parents to reconcile but she has gotten used to her parents living apart. It’s obvious that Raymond hasn’t quite fully accepted his parents being separated while Julie has fully adjusted to her parents’ divorce because Raymond frequently talks about how much he misses his Pa.

If all that weren’t enough, there have been some pretty strange things happening at the commune. When Julie and her mother first arrived, they see the commune members trying to capture the chickens that had somehow escaped from the fenced-in area. Raymond tells Julie that the beehives are currently empty because the bees were somehow mysteriously driven away. Periodically Julie finds paper napkins scattered on the property that are the same ones that are used at the Galaxy Cafe. One night after midnight Julie follows her cousin to the entrance of the abandoned gold mine only for the two cousins to discover mysterious lights coming from that gold mine even though it’s supposed to be boarded up. Someone cuts the laundry cord while the commune’s freshly washed clothes were hanging outside to dry. Someone also manages to open one of the gates so the calf can run away while leaving her mother behind as the culprit leaves behind yet another one of those Galaxy Cafe napkins. (Julie finds the missing calf tied to a tree besides the river.)

During one of her walks with her cousin, Julie finds a perfume bottle along the river that runs near the abandoned gold mine. She later inspects it and finds that there is a message inside (hence the name of this book) while the bottle opening itself is sealed with wax. Julie manages to remove the wax, open the bottle, and take out the message. As she reads it she finds that it’s actually a poem about the downside of being a gold miner that has been signed with only the name Jack. Basically Jack wrote his poem to his “darling girl” where he expresses regrets ever becoming a gold miner and he now realizes that his love for her is a better source of being rich than gold.

What Julie saw at the commune raises all kinds of questions with her. Who really wrote that poem and why was it sealed in a bottle and thrown in the river? Who is behind all of those sabotage efforts on the commune and why is the person doing this? Is Mr. Coker doing this in an effort to get the commune to sell him the land? Or is it someone else, such as a disgruntled commune member? And what about those paper napkins from the Galaxy Cafe? Are they being left behind by accident or are they being left behind to send a subtle message to the commune that they should let Mr. Coker buy the property? Does that message in a bottle have anything to do with the sabotage that’s going on in the commune? Julie is determined to get to the bottom of all this.

The book ends with the two-page section titled “Inside Julie’s World,” discusses the rise of communes while mentioning the fact that the fictional Gold Moon Ranch is similar to a real-life Tennessee commune known as The Farm. The section mentions that these 1970s communes would later lead to the creation of co-housing and other forms of intentional communities in recent years (including co-housing for artists and senior citizens).

The section also goes into the plight of the Vietnam vets who returned home only to suffer through disabilities both physical and emotional while briefly mentioning veterans of more recent wars who have gone through something similar.

Music Mentioned in This Book

“Michael Row the Boat Ashore”

“Sweet Betsy From Pike”

“This Land is Your Land”

News and Other Stuff From the Era Mentioned

California Gold Rush
The Farm commune in Tennessee
Vietnam War

My Own Impressions Based on My Own Experiences With the 1970’s

I used to hear about people living on communes when I was growing up but my parents were never into living that lifestyle. I remember when there was a cul-de-sac court of four or five houses located across from the street where I lived and once a year that particular area would organize a block party that was especially for those houses. (I used to go to that block party with a friend who lived next door to me and we used to play with the kids who lived there. The adults never minded us being there at the block party even though our homes weren’t in that cul-de-sac. I remember having fun at those block parties.) My mother used to talk about how she was glad our house wasn’t in a cul-de-sac court so she wouldn’t have to get involved with organizing one of those block parties because she had enough to do with her full-time job (she was an office manager for a life insurance company that has long since been merged with another life insurance company).

If she felt like that about an annual block party, I can only imagine her reluctance to live in a commune where everything was shared and people had to constantly take turns making the communal meals or educating the children. Besides, there weren’t any communes located anywhere near Glen Burnie, Maryland (where I grew up). Heck, I can’t even say if a commune had ever been established anywhere in the Baltimore metropolitan area.

My then-fiancee and I started attending a Unitarian Universalist church just a few months before I was married at 23. It was a usual religious community where people (both with and without families) would attend weekly Sunday service and get involved in extra curricular activities (such as book discussion groups, dinners, and other types of social activities).

My then-husband and I had been members of that UU congregation for a number of years when we got involved in a day-long workshop that was put on by the Unitarian Universalist Association at our church, which had guided activities that encouraged people to come up with ideas as to how to attract more people to our congregation and to UUism in general. This workshop started off with all of the participants being divided into small groups. Then we were given questions about the congregation’s history that we would discuss within the small group.

During the course of doing this exercise, it came out that during the 1970’s that some of the members of our congregation had started to meet in a smaller group where they discussed the issues of the day. In time they started to hold dances and other social events. These members had been dissatisfied with society in general after living through such things as Martin Luther King’s assassination and the Vietnam War. They began talking and this group started to express dissatisfaction with the whole idea of living in nuclear families and they wanted to explore alternative ways of living together in a community.

This group formed the nucleus of a movement where they would live together in a community and jointly share in the household chores and child raising, just like the commune described in the book. However, this group took things a bit further by exploring what was then called open marriage where married couples started having side relationships while staying married to their spouses. (Today it would be called polyamory.) I know that not all communes had explored anything like this and I can understand why American Girl would not even want to even hint about this in that book since their target audience are kids from 8-12 and they just did not want to provoke parental outrage.

There were two communes that they attempted to form. The first one was a group home in the Washington, DC suburbs but that one lasted just a few years. There was another attempt as a group decided to start a farm in Southern Maryland. I know that this farm still existed as late as the 1990’s (that’s because one of our longtime members had moved there because she wanted to live there post-retirement while being reunited with her old friends from the 1970s but she only lasted a few years before she moved back to our area) but I don’t know if it is still around or not.

I was amazed as I was hearing that story for the first time because none of the older members had ever mentioned anything like that to me before. I found out that it was because this group became controversial among other congregation members who weren’t into exploring open marriages or alternative ways of living together. I was told that quite a few members had left over this and it nearly led to a congregational split at one point.

By the time my husband and I started attending that church, this movement had pretty much collapsed and I guess that the other members just didn’t want to talk about a movement that had become very divisive within our congregation so I didn’t learn about this for years until I attended that workshop.

This led to a lay-led summer service just a couple of years later as the people who were active during that group’s heyday spoke about their experiences. I learned quite a lot from that service. For example, in the Message in a Bottle book I read it said in the “Inside Julie’s World” section at the end that it was young adults who had formed communes. This wasn’t the case with the people who formed their own movement within our UU congregation. One of the speakers said that the youngest person involved in the movement was 35 at the time. Another speaker said that her 25-year marriage disintegrated as a result of her and her husband getting involved in all aspects of that movement, including open marriage. Basically the majority of people who were involved were in their 40s, 50s, and even older during the movement’s heyday. Another aspect of that movement is that they had a no-drug policy and one of the speakers said that they had drummed out a few members for violating that policy too many times.

I later read in UU World magazine that this movement exploring alternative lifestyles and relationships was not unique to just our congregation. This article mentions how there was casual sex that took place among members of many congregations during the 1970s, including partner swapping, and how one UU congregation member said that she was frequently propositioned by married men.

The closest I had come to ever living in a commune was the time when I lived in off-campus housing just a half a mile from the University of Maryland campus in College Park. All except one of us were full-time students. (The one non-student was an aspiring DJ who worked as a busboy just so he could make ends meet.) We would socialize and stuff but we rarely ate our meals together because of our different class schedules. We had our own boyfriends/girlfriends and none of us had ever gotten into polyamory or anything like that. (It was hard enough juggling just one relationship with our studies, let alone trying to juggle two or more relationships.) I moved out after I graduated from school and moved back to my parents’ home in Glen Burnie. I moved out again 10 months later when I got married to a townhouse that I still live in because I got it as part of my divorce settlement.

As for the book itself, it’s not the first time Julie had tried roughing it with her relatives (see Julie’s Journey ) but this book had a much better-written plot than Julie’s Journey. The book provided some insight on what it was like to live in a commune. I found it mildly amusing when Julie admired certain aspects of the commune (such as seeing the stars at night with much greater intensity than in the streetlight-soaked city skies) while her cousin Raymond and teen commune member Dolores envied her because she has access to television and all of the amenities of big city life (such as a public library with a lot of books). Julie also took the point of view that it would be very difficult for some people to adjust to a lifestyle like Gold Moon Ranch. At one point in the book Julie admitted that moving to Gold Moon Ranch would mean not seeing her father or friends as much and she would also have to leave her current school.

The book became gripping when a commune member was trapped in the abandoned gold mine in the middle of a heavy storm that had the riverbanks flooding and Julie found herself in a race against time to help free that person before the gold mine became so flooded that the two of them would drown.

I also like the fact that this was a mystery where I wasn’t able to figure out what was really going on until the very end, unlike the earlier Julie Mysteries where I would guess the ending about midway through the book and I would be found correct at the end. I think making the mystery challenging enough makes the book more interesting.

The one thing I miss from this book that the older edition of the Julie Books had were the Looking Back section at the end, which were a multi-page spread that not only featured text but also vintage photographs and other illustrations from the era in which Julie grew up in. This new book, like the newer BeForever books, only have a text-only two-page spread titled  “Inside Julie’s Word.” It would’ve been more interesting to young readers had there been at least one photo of a real-life commune just so the kids could get an idea as to what one really looked like. Granted any kid could just Google “1970s communes” on a computer but I think it’s more convenient to have the visual information at hand while reading the text without having to interrupt reading the book, go to a computer, and do an online search.

I found the book to be a pretty good read but I still think The Puzzle of the Paper Daughter is the best of the Julie Mysteries because it was gripping at times with people following her and Ivy as they went through the streets of Chinatown and it also delved into the uncomfortable history of the racism against Chinese Americans.

That’s it for my book review. I have no idea if American Girl will come out with any more Julie Mysteries but if it does, I’m sure that I’ll probably buy it and read it. I’ll probably write another review for this blog.

I also noticed something about the Julie Mysteries. The events in the first, third, and fifth books (Tangled Web, The Silver Guitar, and Message in a Bottle) predominantly take place while Julie is with her mother. The events in the second and fourth books (The Puzzle of the Paper Daughter and Lost in the City) take place while Julie is with her father. If there is to be another book, it would be the sixth Julie Mystery book, so I predict that—if such a book is written and published—it will take place when Julie is with her father and her pal Ivy Ling will probably be there as well.

That’s the only speculation I’m going to provide about any possible potential future Julie Books because I’m not into spreading rumors.

If you want to buy this book and/or read my other Julie Book reviews that I wrote back in 2014, check out the links at the end of this post.

Where to Buy Message in a Bottle

Amazon
American Girl
Barnes & Noble
Powell’s Books

The American Girl Julie Albright Books List

The Original Central Series

Meet Julie
Julie Tells Her Story
Happy New Year, Julie
Julie and the Eagles
Julie’s Journey
Changes for Julie

The Best Friend Book

Good Luck, Ivy

The Julie Mysteries

The Tangled Web
The Puzzle of the Paper Daughter
The Silver Guitar
Lost in the City
Message in a Bottle

The BeForever Books

The Big Break: A Julie Classic Volume 1—A compilation of the first three Julie Albright Central Series books (Meet Julie, Julie Tells Her Story, and Happy New Year, Julie).

Soaring High: A Julie Classic Volume 2—A compilation of the last three Julie Albright Central Series books (Julie and the Eagles, Julie’s Journey, and Changes for Julie).

A Brighter Tomorrow: My Journey with Julie

Other Media Featuring Julie

And the Tiara Goes to…—A film short based on the Julie books.

I was in a good mood that day for a few personal reasons (mostly related to my ongoing hunting for a new day job to pay my bills) that I decided to take the Silver Line Metro to Tyson’s Corner for the first time in over a year.

I ate dinner at Wasabi, which not only has good sushi but it has such a unique method of delivery that I shot this short video during a previous visit six years ago.

I also visited other stores like American Girl Place. The bad news is that I am currently dealing with the fact that the camera on my three and a half year old smartphone has been acting erratically since Christmas. Sometimes the camera will work and sometimes it doesn’t. There are times when I have to haul my older Canon Digital Rebel DSLR camera if I want to go to a place where I want to take pictures in order to ensure that I have at least one working camera. The downside is that the Canon is larger and heavier and it shoots in fewer megapixels than my smartphone and the images are less sharp than my smartphone camera no matter how much I focus the lens.

The phone part still works and money is still too tight for me to get a new smartphone. (If the phone part ever dies, I will have no other choice but to buy a new phone but I’m trying to make my current one last as long as possible.) I have to make do with what I have right now.

On that day I felt lazy so I left the Canon at home. That was a big mistake, especially at American Girl Place because I missed out on taking pictures on some gorgeous new dolls that had arrived in the store since my last visit. Oh well.

I took three pictures of what I purchased while I was at Tyson’s Corner after my trip. I found a new book at American Girl Place which focuses on the 1970’s historical character Julie Albright. A few summers ago I devoted several weeks of Throwback Thursdays to doing reviews of the Julie books. I plan on doing a review of this new book soon.

I also discovered that since my last visit a Lolli and Pops candy store had opened at Tyson’s Corner. I had already been to the one in Annapolis Mall and Westfield Montgomery Mall so it was no big deal that I wasn’t able to get any pictures of the Tyson’s Corner store. I purchased a small bag full of gummy bears made from champagne. (I found at least three different flavors of champagne in that store.) The last two photographs show my haul from that store.

Passover

A week ago or so a friend of mine who knew me when I was still married mentioned that he saw my ex-husband and found something disturbing about him. Yesterday I ran into another friend on Easter Sunday who also expressed similar concerns about my ex-husband after seeing him and his second wife at a local cafe.

I’m not going to elaborate on what their concerns are other than to say that I’m not surprised that they are shocked at what has happened to my ex-husband. Since he left me he has gone through a complete personality change that I can’t explain. (I’ve read plenty about personality disorder, psychopathy, narcissism, and sociopathy but I lack the credentials to diagnose my ex-husband or anyone else.) After all, my husband never told me he was unhappy in our marriage until he abruptly left me just three days after Christmas in 2011. (He left me three months after I underwent hip surgery.) He abruptly went from being a loving, caring husband to someone who became cold and distant. He refused to talk to me or to meet with me in person other than to bark out orders over email and text demanding that I adhere to a schedule where we would separate our finances and if I raised any kind of resistance, he would threaten to sue me. I found out from friends that he had left me for a woman whom I thought was a friend of mine but I now know better. She had been open about her mental health issues that became so severe that she had an experimental pacemaker implanted in her brain. She qualified for SSI disability just weeks before my husband left me for her.

If all that weren’t enough, my husband sent divorce papers in a .pdf format that was attached to an email message that was dated December 24, 2012. (Yes, he did this on Christmas Eve.) I later found out that he and the other woman got engaged just eight months after he left me. He married her two months after our divorce was final.

Sure I’m sad over what my friends have told me about him but here’s one thing I learned through both attending meetings of a divorce recovery group and seeing a therapist—the only person I can control is myself. I can’t control anyone else. Sure, I can give advice to someone but it’s up to the person to decide whether he or she will follow my advice or not.

I made the decision to have no contact with my ex-husband because of his cyberbullying threats of taking me to court if I didn’t do what he told me to do. My ex has never said that he was sorry for the pain he had put me through or even acknowledge his role in what happened between us. He once told me that it was my fault that he had to leave me so he could date that mentally ill friend of ours. (For the record, I never once told him that he should hook up with that woman. I would never recommend dating a seriously mentally ill person to anyone.) And the reason why he felt he had to leave: The day before my hip surgery I had gone to the American Girl Place in Tysons Corner, Virginia and I purchased this doll named Julie, who is part of the American Girl dolls’ historical line and she’s supposed to represent the 1970’s, mainly because her default outfit is similar to an outfit I once wore when I was growing up in the 1970’s. My ex wrote in a letter that he left behind that my purchase of this doll added to the clutter of our home and he had to leave because of it.

webfriendlyversion

That’s right, my purchase of this doll is the main reason my husband cited for leaving home, hooking up with a woman whom he knew has serious mental health issues, getting engaged to her while still being legally married to me, divorcing me, and marrying her just two months after the divorce was final.

Unless my ex makes a sincere effort to make amends to me for the hurt he has caused me, there is no way I’m going to contact him to see if he’s okay or if there is anything I can do to help him.

I’ll admit that I haven’t forgiven him at all. I learned through my divorce recovery group that forgiveness is a process that can’t be rushed and that there are some situations where it’s impossible to forgive a person. I can’t say I’ll never forgive him but I am just honestly not emotionally ready to do that right now.

Even if I was still in contact with him as a friend, there are limits as to what I can do. Any advice I give would work only if he wants to take it. If he decides against taking my advice, there’s nothing I can do about it because it’s his life and he’s the only one who has a direct say in over how he’ll live it.

If my friends raise their concerns about my ex with me again, I’m going to have to tell them “Sorry but I can’t do anything about it.” Because it is the truth.

I’m only writing a post about this because I know that there are people dealing with loved ones who have their own level of dysfunction—whether it’s due to drugs or alcohol or they are in a dysfunctional romantic relationship or they have mental health problems that they refuse to do anything about or they tend to gamble excessively or they have some other problem that have seriously impacted their lives. Many of us were raised in religious traditions where you’re taught that you’re supposed to be your brother’s (or sister’s) keeper and you have to be the hero to save that person from self-destruction. What I’m telling you—which flies in the face of most religious traditions—is this: you have no control over that person or anyone else other than yourself. If that person wants your help, then fine. You should help that person. But if that person refuses your offer of help, you have no other choice but to just let that person continue on his/her self-destructive path.

This was a lesson I learned through my divorce recovery group and it’s a similar message that other self-help groups, such as Al-Anon, also convey. The bottom line is that you can’t help anyone else unless that person wants your help.

However you can educate yourself so you can learn how to respond to someone else’s drama without getting consumed by it. I’m going to end this post with a short list of books I read that helped me learn how to deal with and respond to my ex-husband’s actions without losing my own mind.

Runaway Husbands by Vikki Stark. This was the first book I ordered from Amazon.com in the days after my husband left and I did a Google search on “my husband ran away from home.” That book helped me prepare for what would happen next since my husband had followed the same path to our divorce that the other husbands Stark profiled in her book went.

Psychopath Free by Jackson MacKenzie. This is a book that was invaluable in helping me to decide not to have any further contact with my ex-husband until he makes a sincere effort to make amends with me for what he has done to me.

The Language of Letting Go and More Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie. Both books are daily meditations that are designed to help the person with breaking away from a codependent relationship into living a well-integrated and independent life that’s free from codependency.

As everybody knows, today is Inauguration Day where Donald Trump gets officially sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. Rather than focus on that event, I’d rather talk about dolls instead.

First of all, I want to announce that I no longer own the Talking Donald Trump Action Figure.

talkingdonaldtrumpphotoforweb

I sold it last month on eBay. When I first purchased it years ago (which was sometime during either the first or second season of The Apprentice), I bought it as a gag gift for my then-husband. We both became hooked on that show because it was so hilarious and campy to watch. (This was a guy who was giving business advice on that show despite the fact that he had gone through multiple bankruptcies.) I figured that it was no big deal to buy a doll/action figure based on someone who was basically a buffoon but was essentially harmless as far as I was concerned. (Granted he wasn’t harmless to anyone who actually did business with him but to everyone else who had nothing to do with that guy, he was harmless.)

When my husband left me, he left the doll behind. It was no big deal because he was only 12 inches tall so I kept him among the other small dolls I own (such as Barbie, Volks Dollie Plus, Monster High and, Ever After High).

But then there was the initial flirtation of running for president back in 2011 and he did so by catering to the birthers who were questioning President Obama’s U.S. citizenship and contending that he was really born in Kenya. I felt that what he did was so reprehensible that I no longer could stand to watch his reality show after he decided against running and just continue with his reality TV career. I also began to ignore the doll. I would press the button in his back to hear him speak every now and then but I basically didn’t bother with it much.

When Trump decided to really run in the 2016 elections while saying horrible things that were racist, sexist, and anti-Islamic, I began to rue the day I actually bought that action figure as a gag gift. I finally decided to sell the doll on eBay because I just didn’t want it around my house anymore. I like dolls that make me feel happy and put me in a good mood and that Donald Trump action figure made me feel the opposite. I didn’t get a lot of money for the doll (I only had one bidder who was willing to pay the $20 minimum bid and I didn’t get that bid until the third and final week that I ran the auction) but I felt relieved to finally get it out of my house.

At least I’ll have these two videos to remember the doll by. The first is my “Trump” poem that I wrote for a local poetry reading event in 2011 and I later made a video featuring the Donald Trump doll. The other is my demonstration video of the Donald Trump doll that I made when I was preparing to sell it on eBay.

Now I’m going to switch gears a bit and talk some more about some other dolls that I have.

I recently came across this campaign on Instagram, known as #westandwithalldolls, where American Girl doll owners were urged to post pictures of their dolls (especially dolls of color) in solidarity with all women and minorities who are currently being maligned and even attacked by Donald Trump and his supporters. I chipped in with the cause by uploading pictures of my three American Girl dolls.

First, here’s Addy Walker holding a sign this quote from Martin Luther King.

“Again we have deluded ourselves into believing the myth that capitalism grew and prospered out of the Protestant ethic of hard work and sacrifice. The fact is that capitalism was built on the exploitation and suffering of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor, both black and white, both here and abroad.”

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Here’s Ivy Ling holding a sign with this quote from Confucius.

“To put the world right in order, we must put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.”

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Even though the #westandwithalldolls campaign specifically requested that everyone post pictures of dolls of color, I decided to use my one white American Girl doll, Julie Albright, because I found this one quote from the late Frank Zappa that pretty much says it all about race relations, especially among whites who aren’t bigoted towards people of color or anyone else who’s different from them.

“Hey, you know something people? I’m not black. But there’s a whole lots of times I wish I could say I’m not white.”

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I got that quote from the lyrics to the song “Trouble Every Day,” whose video you can watch below.

Here’s one group photo of all three of my dolls with their signs.

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If you want to contribute to that Instagram campaign, or see all the photos that have been uploaded so far, check out the hashtag #westandwithalldolls.

Santa Claus

 

 

 

 

For the past five years I’ve undergone some extreme drama. It all started in 2011 when I fell twice in a week and I ended up knocking my hip replacement (which I originally received back in 2008) out of alignment. I was told that I had to undergo hip revision surgery in order to put my hip replacement back in alignment if I wanted a chance of walking normally again.

The day before my scheduled surgery I decided to go on a fun shopping trip. I went to Tysons Corner, where I shot these photos as I walked around the mall in my walker. I decided to treat myself to something nice. I ended up going to the American Girl place where I purchased this historical 1970s doll, named Julie Albright, because she was wearing the same kind of outfit that I wore back in the 1970’s.

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I didn’t tell my husband about the purchase at the time because it was the day before my surgery and we both had been stressed out over my upcoming surgery. I just didn’t want to provoke a fight or anything. I decided to just hide the doll while I eventually planned on telling him about the purchase once my hip started to heal. (It wasn’t like we couldn’t afford the purchase because he was—and still is—a programmer at NASA.)

I went through with the surgery followed by physical therapy. My husband took wonderful care of me while I was in recovery. He never indicated that he was unhappy or anything. There were times when I took the doll out of her temporary hiding place while I admired her and read the books that I purchased at the same time as the doll. I was looking forward to getting my life totally back on track with the man I loved. We shared a lovely Christmas Day together and I sensed that we were going to make out okay.

But then, just three days later, he walked out on me. It was so abrupt and shocking. In addition, he left behind a note where he essentially blamed my purchase of American Girl’s 1970s historical doll Julie Albright as the main reason why he left because this doll “added to the clutter of our home.” I was dumbfounded by all this. I thought he had merely flipped out after all the stress he had gone through. (Not only did he had to deal with my hip operation but there were job-released stress plus he was battling bronchitis during the holidays.) I wrote a blog post that night stating that I hoped we would get back together.

I had seriously thought about selling the doll on eBay because I really didn’t want a doll to destroy what had basically been a decent marriage. I also felt horrible that my purchase of that doll was what made him feel that he had to leave home after he spent a serious amount of time to make all of the necessary arrangements before my surgery then taking leave from his NASA job to take care of me after my surgery. I never intended to drive my own husband away from home. I thought that if I would sell the doll on eBay, I would tell my husband about the sale, and he would return home.

I was so glad that I never did this because a month later I had friends tell me that they had saw him with one of the barmaids at a local cafe who had been struggling with severe depression (she only worked two nights a week because of it and she had recently qualified for SSI disability payments) and he had been taking her on dates to the same cafe where she worked. So, yeah, he blamed a doll that I purchased the day before my hip surgery for making him leave me for a seriously mentally ill friend.

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Over the next several months he would engage in cyberbullying where he would demand that we separate our finances via email and text (he refused to call me or meet with me in person to talk like normal human beings) according to his own schedule and if I balked in any way, he would threaten to sue me. (I still have those original hateful emails printed out and filed away.) I’m sure he probably blamed my purchase of that doll the day before my hip surgery for what he did as well.

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I later found out that eight months after he walked out on me and hooked up with that mentally ill friend, he asked her to marry him and she agreed even though he was still legally married at the time. I’m sure he probably blames my purchase of that doll the day before my hip surgery for making him do that. (LOL!)

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In 2012, just four days before the first anniversary of our separation, he sent an email that was dated December 24 (Christmas Eve) that contained a divorce petition in a .pdf format that was attached to the email. Between the cyberbullying demanding that we adhere to this separation of finances schedule or else he would sue me and emailing a divorce petition on Christmas Eve, I am now convinced that he basically lied to me all those years when he said he “loved” me. How else can I explain the fact that one day he acted like he loved me and still wanted to stay with me and the next day he not only leaves me but he acts like he has detested me all those years? He probably blames my purchase of the doll the day before my hip surgery for that one as well.

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Three months after our divorce was final he married the other woman despite her mental health issues. He probably blames my purchase of the doll the day before my hip surgery for that one as well.

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It’s so lame and cowardly for a man to blame a doll for leaving his wife without ever telling her that he was unhappy (while pretending to love her all those years), refuse to speak with her while demanding that she followed a certain schedule that he set, start dating a seriously mentally ill woman (and, yes, he knew about her mental health before he hooked up with her), quickly get engaged to her while still being legally married, send divorce papers in an email on Christmas Eve, then marry the other woman just three months after the divorce is final.

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I’m trying my best to move on. I’m at the point where I no longer want to have anything to do with him mainly because I’m convinced that he lied to me all those years when he said that he loved me. I go out with friends but I’m not in a relationship or anything like that. Right now I’m busy with trying to survive in a harsh economy while dealing with the arrival of President Donald Trump next month.

I’m mostly over my ex-husband but there are times when I still remember what he did to me whenever I see or hear something that dredges up the past. One reminder came just a couple of months ago when old recordings surfaced where Donald Trump told Howard Stern that he thinks that Lindsey Lohan would be great in bed because she was troubled at the time. Thanks to Trump’s confession, I now realize that this may possibly be one of the reasons why my husband has chosen to replace me with a mentally ill woman. I guess I should publicly thank Donald Trump for that insight. (LOL!)

All I can say is that I’m glad I never sold this doll on eBay in an effort to get my husband back because it would’ve been an exercise in futility.

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It’s that time of the year where people are crowding the shopping malls in an effort to buy gifts for Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa. Instead of fighting surly drivers for a parking space, how about staying home and buying some unique things from me? Here is what I’m highlighting for sale this holiday season.

Do you like adult coloring books? Looking for something different from the usual ones that are currently on the market? For some NSFW fun, try my adult coloring book, Burlesque Beauties, which definitely puts the “adult” in adult coloring book.

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Purchase Burlesque Beauties right here.

When I originally created my first (and, so far, only) item for my new RedBubble shop, President Trump, I honestly thought that it would be something that was going to be hot for a limited time until Election Day then it would be obsolete. Thanks to the outcome of those elections, it looks like my President Trump line will be hip and relevant for at least the next four years (unless he somehow gets impeached or killed).

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You can buy this design on a variety of products ranging from leggings to bedcovers to cases and skins for your favorite electronic device. Check it all out right here.

I also currently have the following items available for auction on eBay through December 29 or until someone makes the highest bid (whichever comes first). There are no hidden reserve prices or anything like that and I have set relatively low minimum bids on these products.

Doll Couch Made From Recycled Dance Dance Revolution Pad

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This is the same couch that I displayed at the 2014 Greenbelt Mini-Maker Faire and the 2014 DC Mini-Maker Faire. While this couch came from a pattern that was made for American Girl dolls, I found that it can also fit Mini Super Dollies and Ellowyne Wilde dolls as well. Bid on this couch right here.

Barbie Doll Customized as an Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Action Figure

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I recently made a series of DIY videos on how to customize a Barbie doll (especially the Made to Move Barbie) into Marvel Comics’ off-beat superhero known as the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. I decided to sell the doll that was featured in that video series. I figured that anyone who is looking for a Squirrel Girl doll/action figure to give to someone else (especially a child) but doesn’t have the time to customize a doll would want to buy her. I’m basically taking advantage of the fact that, as of this writing, there are no officially licensed dolls or action figures based on this character by making my own customized version available for sale. You can bid on my customized creation right here.

Knitted Fur Coat Made Especially For Barbie, Blythe, Pullip, and Other 1/6 Scale Dolls

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I wrote about the making of this one a few days ago. I decided to put it up for sale. Keep in mind that this piece is hand-knitted (by me) using fur yarn so it’s definitely not some cheaply made Third World sweatshop crap. I sewed hooks in the front so you can close it and keep it closed. It’s perfect for people who are itching to dress their doll in something appropriate for this time of the year. Bid on this doll coat right here.

Knitted Outfit for American Girl Dolls and Other 18-Inch Dolls

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Like the smaller knitted coat, I also wrote about this outfit in this blog recently. I decided to sell this one as well. This is a one of a kind outfit that was hand-knitted by me. I sewed snaps in the back instead of using velcro, which is convenient because you won’t have to deal with the hassle of getting your doll’s hair stuck every time you change into this outfit. (Even though most of the official American Girl outfits cost around $30, they still use velcro just like the manufacturers of cheaper doll outfits. If I was going to spend that much for doll clothes, I would expect something nicer than velcro.) Bid on this outfit right here.

In addition to my handcrafted stuff, I will also have a couple of other items available on eBay. I didn’t make either one but I decided to list them here along with everything else.

Talking Donald Trump Action Figure

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This is the same action figure which I gave as a gag gift for my then-husband sometime during the first or second season of The Apprentice, long before Donald Trump’s foray into politics. I used this one in the video for my “Trump” poem back in 2011. Now that he’s the president-elect, I’m going to see how much of a collector’s item this doll really is. (If some hardcore Donald Trump fan wants to offer me a huge amount of money for it, I’m willing to accept the offer.) So if you’re shopping for gift to give to someone who voted for Trump and is a true believer, here’s your chance to surprise that person with an action figure that not only has realistic articulated joints but can also say phrases using The Donald’s own voice. I made a video demonstrating the action figure’s talking and posing capabilities.

Bid on the Talking Donald Trump Action Figure right here.

Card Set Featuring Reproductions of Vintage Betty Page Pinup Photos

The cards in this set are about the size of baseball trading cards. They all feature vintage photographs of 1950’s pinup model Betty Page, who inexplicably underwent a popular revival in the 1980’s (while many of her other 1950’s female pinup contemporaries still remain in obscurity to this day) and she still remains a cult figure today with plenty of male admirers. I purchased this card set from a catalogue as a Christmas gift for my then-husband because I figured he would like it since he used to purchase the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue each year. It turned out that I was wrong. He told me that Betty Page didn’t really excite him all that much compared to Cindy Crawford or Paulina Porizkova. I think he only went through that card pack once or twice then left it alone. Of course he left it behind when he walked out on me five years ago this month. I tried donating it to the yard sale that was run by my support group for people who are separated or divorced by the organizers told me that I would be better off selling it on eBay because it might be a collector’s item. So I’m selling it for very low minimum bid mainly because I just want to get rid of it. You can view a few sample pictures from this set and make your bids right here.

That’s it for the auctions. I’ve set each one up so it’ll be relisted two more times if I don’t get any bids the first week. But the entire auction will end on December 29 regardless of whether I sell anything or not so don’t delay and bid today!

This year I got into knitting because it’s one activity that tends to calm me down, especially whenever I go through extreme stress (such as finding money to pay the bills or dealing with my mother’s latest health issues). One day I would really love to knit (and maybe even sew) my own clothes. I decided to start small with making doll clothes just so I can train myself for the day when I will finally try knitting a human-sized sweater or some other type of clothing. I came across this book written by Nicky Epstein called Knits for Dolls, which focuses on knitting clothes for American Girl and other 18-inch dolls.

I found one pattern that was intriguing called “Alice’s Tea Party.” It’s obviously based on the Tea Party scene in Alice in Wonderland but this doll looks like she’s dressed like a 1920’s flapper who’s ready to go to a party featuring a live jazz band.

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I changed the colors from the original pattern. I ended up using pink and black, which made the out seem much bolder.

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Most modern 18-inch doll clothes tend to use velcro, including even the expensive American Girl doll clothes. I decided to use snaps instead because I know what it’s like to get a doll’s hair tangled in velcro and it’s such a pain.

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Here are the various American Girl dolls modeling the same outfit, which gives you an idea of how the outfit would look against various hair and skin colors.

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I even made a short promo video for this outfit.

For the past few days I’ve been trying to get my life in gear. I’m working on a new series of DIY videos on how to customize one of those new Made to Move Barbie dolls, the first of which I’ll write about tomorrow. I’m also currently looking for a new day job to pay the bills since my last one ended so badly that I had to write a retraction post about that startup because the startup’s founder had previously talked me into writing a glowing post about the startup in this very blog instead of getting a separate blog account that would be devoted to promoting that startup. (As a result, I had to institute a new policy that I would no longer use this blog to write about work that I’m doing for other people until after there was some kind of closure to that work.)

But then I read something about one of the candidates in this year’s election that literally triggered me into remembering my divorce. Here’s some background information: Lindsay Lohan was a child star who appeared in many Disney movies while she was growing up. She was one of those child stars whose appearances as a teenager in the films Freaky Friday and Mean Girls showed that she had the potential to be one of those rare type of child stars—someone who could successfully make the transition as an adult actress taking on mature roles that could potentially gain her an Academy Award nomination (and maybe even an Oscar) a la Jodie Foster or Judy Garland. That promising potential was sadly squandered when she got into drugs and alcohol and one could easily spend an entire afternoon perusing the gossip sites for a litany of the troubles she has gotten herself into since she turned 18.

A new recorded audio from Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s past has recently surfaced where Trump was engaged in a conversation with radio shock jock Howard Stern over how hot the then-18-year-old Lindsay Lohan was while mentioning that her father, Michael, was a train wreck that would affect Lindsay needing a father figure in her life. Stern asked Trump “Can you imagine the sex with this troubled teen?” Here is Trump’s answer:

“She’s probably deeply troubled and therefore great in bed. How come the deeply troubled women, you know, deeply, deeply troubled, they’re always the best in bed?”

Of course that audio provoked all kinds of protests ranging from Lohan’s Freaky Friday costar, Jamie Lee Curtis, to Lohan herself. But this story has triggered me on a personal level for this reason: For many years I was in a stable marriage to a man whom I thought was very loving and devoted and who was also full of integrity. In September, 2011 I underwent hip surgery. During the next three months I received very loving care from my husband while he kept on telling me that he loved me. We celebrated a lovely Christmas holiday together. Just three days after Christmas he came home, told me that he was moving out, left me with two notes (one was a schedule that he wanted me to follow even though it would ultimately lead to our divorce while the other was a “reason” letter where he essentially blamed my purchase of the 1970’s historical American Girl doll on the day before my hip surgery because that doll “added to the clutter” of our home), then ran out the door.

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For the next few weeks I reached out to him numerous time by phone, email, and texts but he refused to answer them and he refused to speak with me. I wondered if he had found someone else and I suspected that if he did she would’ve been someone whom he met through his NASA job. It wasn’t until a month later when a few of my friends let me know that, yes, they had seen him with another woman but she wasn’t a NASA co-worker.

That woman was someone whom I knew and I thought was a friend. She has also been open about how she had spent much of her adult life battling severe depression. In fact she said that her depression is so severe that she has an experimental pacemaker in her brain. Despite that she was only able to work only a couple of days a week and she ended up getting SSI disability. About 11 months before my husband left me in 2011 she ended up spending a few days at Sheppard Pratt Hospital in Baltimore because her body had grown accustomed to the current course of treatment and she became really depressed. My husband and I had planned to visit her in the hospital one night when it turned out that she was released the afternoon before our planned trip to Baltimore. I was completely dumbfounded to learn that my husband had chosen this person—with all of her personal baggage—to be his mistress instead of one of his female NASA co-workers. My husband married this woman two months after our divorce became final.

When I read Donald Trump’s words on how deeply troubled women are the best in bed, I started to imagine my ex-husband having that same attitude. For the last few years I kept on thinking that my husband would have stayed with me if only I had developed a severe mental illness, which is totally fucked up thinking. My husband could have left me for any one of his female NASA co-workers who are all very intelligent, very independent, and share his fascination with air and space travel but, instead, he picked the one person whose life and career have been adversely affected by mental illness. I feel horrified that there are men out there like Donald Trump and my ex-husband who are getting attracted to deeply troubled women when these unfortunate women should really be left alone to quietly deal with their own issues in their own way without interference from anyone else (unless the women themselves ask for help).

My ex-husband has actually acted on his impulses and I have totally lost all the respect I ever had for him. (There are other longtime friends who had confided in me that they now avoid him as well because they have become so alienated by his behavior in recent years.) I don’t know whether Donald Trump has ever knowingly had sex with someone with mental illness or who’s deeply troubled in other ways but he has been accused of rape and sexual molestation of women and girls as young as 13.

I wish I could say that I’m shocked but this is the man whose inappropriate remarks about his daughter Ivanka have served as the basis for The Daily Show‘s two-part series Don’t Forget: Donald Trump Wants to Bang His Daughter and Again, Don’t Forget: Donald Trump Wants to Bang His Daughter and he has bragged about how you have to grab women by the pussy.

Those latest Donald Trump/Howard Stern remarks reopening old mental wounds about how my marriage fell apart is bad enough but a couple of days ago I got word that my mother is once again back in the hospital in Glen Burnie for sepsis. Friday I had to cut short my job hunting attempts so I could travel from the DC area to Glen Burnie to visit her. Yesterday I went to the hospital for the second day in a row.

I had planned on going today but there is this strange smell emanating from the kitchen that has been going on for the past couple of days and I really need to do a thorough cleaning to get to the source of that. (I suspect that there’s a dead mouse trapped somewhere in some crack or crevice.) I’m going to have other family members fill in for me today then tomorrow do this schedule where I stop by the Maryland Workforce Exchange for professional help on how to improve my job hunting efforts in the morning then drive on to Glen Burnie to visit my mom in the hospital in the afternoon.

But right now I’m going to have to get in a position where I force myself to work on the kitchen because I’m feeling kind of sad and depressed over everything. 😦

Nearly two years ago I did a series of Throwback Thursday posts dedicated to reviewing a series of historical books released by American Girl (yes, that’s the doll company) about a young girl growing up in the 1970’s named Julie Albright. Since I grew up in the 1970’s myself, I thought it would be fun to compare and contrast how the books depicted the era with my own childhood memories of that same era.

I haven’t done any book reviews since that time mainly because no new books have been released in this series since 2014 (when the book A Brighter Tomorrow: My Journey With Julie came out).

Back in November American Girl came out with a short movie based on the Julie books called And the Tiara Goes to… I haven’t seen it until late last month mainly because I was diverted by a bunch of other things (mainly Artomatic). It is a second in a series of short movies American Girl have released on YouTube based on the BeForever historical characters, with only two movies having been released as of this writing. (The first one, Maryellen and the Brightest Star, is based on the 1950’s character Maryellen.) Here is the movie for you to view. I’ll write my own thoughts underneath the video.

I’ll try to refrain from posting any spoilers in case you want to read my review before watching the movie. Julie Albright is depicted in the books as being a bit of a tomboy who’s into sports so much that she willingly goes through great lengths (such as launching a petition drive) in order to be allowed to play on the school’s basketball team, even though the coach feels that only boys should be allowed to play basketball. Her favorite books are the Little House series written by Laura Ingalls Wilder based on Wilder’s real-life childhood as the daughter of pioneers in the American West. She is also depicted as being into making crafts, showing great concern about the environment, and being willing to stand up for the underdog (such as her deaf classmate, Joy). She even makes a successful run for school president because she wants to reform the school’s detention system because, based on her own personal experiences, she feels that it’s not an effective way of discipline. She has never indicated that she was into anything even remotely fashionable or girly. (In fact, it’s her older sister, Tracy, who’s portrayed as being a trendy teenager who is concerned about her looks.)

So I found the movie’s premise of Julie being interested in entering a school beauty pageant to be a bit jarring in the least. It sounds more like an activity that her older sister would get involved with, not Julie.

Come to think of it, I found the idea of an elementary school holding a girls-only beauty pageant to be pretty jarring because I don’t recall any of the elementary schools in my area (Anne Arundel County [Maryland] Public Schools) ever holding beauty pageants in the 1970’s. I think there were beauty pageants that used to be held at the Harundale Mall a few times but they were done by outside groups, not the public school system.

There were a few moments in that film. The Water Fountain Girls were initially depicted as being just as nasty and snarky as they were in the books. It was cool seeing the friendship of Julie and Ivy being depicted on screen that was pretty close to the books. It was nice that Julie’s divorced parents were portrayed as being willing to act civil and friendly around each other for their children’s sake, which can show children whose parents are going through a divorce that it’s still possible to maintain a relationship with both parents even if they don’t live together under the same roof. The scene where Julie expresses her wish to Ivy that her parents still lived together is a common wish that many children of divorce have but Julie is also shown as being reconciled to her current family situation, which can show children of divorce as how it’s possible to adjust to growing up in a broken home.

Julie’s friend and basketball teammate, T.J., doesn’t have much of a role in that movie beyond the opening scene, which is too bad since he is such a pivotal and supportive character in the books.

Even though Julie is supposed to grow up in the 1970’s, the only thing that really depicted that era was the scene where Julie is talking to Ivy on a rotary phone and both Tracy and Julie’s mom tell her to hang up the phone because Tracy has to make a phone call. (This harkens back to the days before cell phones were so prevalent when most homes had only one phone line because the cost of having two or more lines installed was very expensive. So everyone living in that household had to share the same line. Even if each room had its own telephone, all the phones shared the same line. This meant that only one person could use the phone at a time.) There were a few scenes where Julie’s mom wore hippy-style dresses that could’ve come from the 1970’s. Otherwise there wasn’t much else that let viewers know that this story was taking place in the 1970’s.

Basically I felt that the story of Julie entering a beauty pageant was a bit off compared to how she was originally depicted in the books. It’s too bad that the film didn’t do a story that’s actually based on the books, such as the big basketball game in the second Central Series book, Julie Tells Her Story (which is now only available as part of The Big Break: A Julie Classic Volume 1 BeForever book), where she frequently encounters sexism from the players on the opposing team and she gets injured enough during the game that she is escorted off the court before the game ends and is sent to the hospital. That scene, complete with Tracy having a difficult time getting a hold of both of her parents (her mother was stuck running her Gladrags store while her father was late due to his plane flight), would’ve made a far more compelling short than the storyline in And the Tiara Goes to…

Having seen And the Tiara Goes to… and the previous one featuring the 1950’s character Maryellen, I have to say that the Maryellen movie was the better of the two mainly because the story was better done. (I’ll admit that I haven’t read any of the Maryellen books so, unlike Julie’s movie, I have nothing to compare it to.) That movie made more of an effort to show that the story took place in the 1950’s than the Julie movie did in depicting the 1970’s.

So that’s it for my review. I have a feeling that American Girl will eventually make at least one movie short based on all of the BeForever characters (except for the ones that have been archived, such as Caroline Abbott from the War of 1812). If a sequel is ever made to And the Tiara Goes to… I really hope the filmmakers will make a better effort to provide more of a 1970’s atmosphere with references to current events, music, TV shows, fashion, and celebrities so today’s children will know what it was really like to live in that era. And, please, no more beauty pageant stories. That one was definitely out of character for Julie and the results seemed totally awkward on screen.

The American Girl Julie Albright Books List

The Original Central Series

Meet Julie
Julie Tells Her Story
Happy New Year, Julie
Julie and the Eagles
Julie’s Journey
Changes for Julie

The Best Friend Book

Good Luck, Ivy

The Julie Mysteries

The Tangled Web
The Puzzle of the Paper Daughter
The Silver Guitar
Lost in the City
Message in a Bottle

The BeForever Books

The Big Break: A Julie Classic Volume 1—A compilation of the first three Julie Albright Central Series books (Meet JulieJulie Tells Her Story, and Happy New Year, Julie).

Soaring High: A Julie Classic Volume 2—A compilation of the last three Julie Albright Central Series books (Julie and the EaglesJulie’s Journey, and Changes for Julie).

A Brighter Tomorrow: My Journey with Julie

Other Media Featuring Julie

And the Tiara Goes to…—A film short based on the Julie books.

Dancing Skeleton

Last Halloween I made a video where I burned a lock of my ex-husband’s baby hair right on October 31, 2014. I had come across his baby hair in an envelope while I was doing some decluttering and things were so strained and hurtful between us that I just didn’t feel like delivering that small envelope to his new home that he now shares with the woman he left me for and subsequently married soon after our divorce was final. (On top of it, she was a friend of mine who had also been open and honest about her struggles with mental illness.)

I read online that burning hair in a Pagan/Wiccan ceremony is supposed to negatively affect the original owner of that hair. For added effect I decided to do that ritual on Halloween while I made a video of myself burning his hair.

Well nothing has happened to my ex-husband. I see him every now and then so I guess he’s okay but I can’t say for sure. (We are no longer on speaking terms and I’m still adhering to my therapist’s advice of not contacting him at all.)

I didn’t get around to uploading that video on YouTube until New Year’s Eve while I wrote a post on New Year’s Day about it. But I think it was the wrong time of the year to publicize it because I didn’t get too many YouTube views.

So here is the original video for you to view at the right time of the year. It also includes a cameo appearance from my American Girl doll, Julie Albright. My video explains why that doll is even relevant to my marital breakup and my ex-husband.

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