This Is Us Has Returned

The television show, The Paley Center Salutes This Is Us, debuted with much fanfare one week prior to the return of my favorite TV show, This Is Us. The Paley show discussed the many layers of the characters’ lives including the birth of triplets, one of whom was stillborn. The Caucasian parents adoption of an abandoned African American baby who was born the same day makes for many awkward moments in their upbringing.

The time-tripping story takes you throughout their lives, often in the same episode. Viewers must watch carefully for clues to which era is being portrayed. The Paley Center program introduced the creators, writers, directors, and actors of this popular dramatic, multigenerational series. The program revealed insight into how they were able to portray the intertwining of the characters’ complicated lives from childhood to adulthood.

The writers worked diligently to create a believable family drama and allowed the actors to have some input into how their characters evolved. One heart wrenching example involved one actor’s disclosure that his father died when he was ten years old. This allowed the actor to use the impact of his loss in a compelling reaction to the death of his actor father during a significant scene.

The popularity of this series prompted People Magazine to publish an entire issue devoted to the complete guide to the show. Each character is described and featured with beautiful color pictures. Snippets of storylines are explained and hints of scenes to come are revealed. For devoted fans of This Is Us, this magazine is a keeper.

Some fans of the show go online after each episode to discuss the numerous story lines and how they are affected by them. Many people have said they relate to the characters’ problems and are touched by the way characters handle each situation.  

To understand this compelling, multigenerational, multiracial story, watch the series from the beginning. Get a copy of the magazine. Have your tissue handy. If you are already a fan, please tell me how this show affects you.

Video Game Monsters That Scare Me

I am someone who’s grown up watching horror films and I would say I don’t scare easy. I tend to look at movies with a filmmaker’s perspective and appreciate the work it took to bring them to life.

Horror video games are a completely different story, particularly the ones that completely immerse the player within a life-like environment. The atmosphere aside, I get especially terrified when coming face to face with certain video game creatures. Below is my list of monsters I’d rather run from or avoid encounters with than engage in combat.

1) Banshees (Mass Effect 3) – Long-limbed mutant aliens with a distinctive scream, Banshees are one of the most formidable adversaries present in Mass Effect 3. They are capable of teleporting toward you in short bursts and will kill you instantly if they catch you. The downside of Mass Effect 3 is that it is impossible to completely avoid encounters with these creatures. You are forced into a close-quarters fight with one near the end of the game. Even more scary is facing both Banshees and Phantoms – human adversaries who are equally deadly at close range – in the hardest difficulty of multiplayer skirmishes.

2) Deathclaws (Fallout series) – A creature that I had zero knowledge of until very late into my first playthrough of Fallout 3, Deathclaws are large reptilian demonic-looking monsters with long talons. I was too scared to move for several minutes when I first saw one. I have since tried to avoid encounters with the creatures when possible. I am even too chicken to venture into most areas where large groups of Deathclaws can be found.

3) Revenants (Resident Evil: Revelations 2) – Most genetically-engineered monsters in the Resident Evil series are the stuff of nightmares. But those created by a sadistic scientist in Revelations 2 are in a league of their own. For starters, there are the Revenants – creatures comprised of two or more humans that have been stitched together to create a downright terrifying monstrosity. Even more disturbing than their appearance is the way they move – slow jerky movements when standing upright or insanely fast when on all fours. Revenants are so scary that I’m glad they only exist in a video game.

4) Glasps (Resident Evil: Revelations 2) – Like Revenants, Glasps are insect-like monsters that I wouldn’t want to see in the real world. What makes them so scary is that they’re virtually invisible to the naked eye. The only way you can tell they’re close is that they emit a chemical that causes distorted vision in their intended victim. The closer they are, the worse the distortion is. There have been times where I’ve gotten turned around and mistaken where the creature is coming from, which resulted in me running straight at it. Suffice to say, the way they kill you if you let them get too close is not pretty.

5) Mirelurk Queens (Fallout 4) – When I played Fallout 4 for the first time, I did so with very little inkling on what to expect. This game differed from the previous titles in the series in many ways – updated graphics, a central character who actually spoke rather than mutely engaged in conversations, and brand new monsters to combat. The latter worked against me when I encountered an enormous creature known as the Mirelurk Queen. I had gotten used to human-sized Mirelurks – mutant crab-like creatures — in previous Fallout games and didn’t view them as much of a threat anymore. The Queen, however, is ten times bigger and can spit acid at you. During my first battle against said creature, I hid in a stairwell where the Queen couldn’t easily get at me and just sporadically poked my head out to take shots at it.

6) Wendigos (Until Dawn) – It should be noted that I’ve never actually played Until Dawn, but simply watching YouTube videos of someone else’s playthrough got me terrified of Wendigos. The monsters featured in Until Dawn are former humans who fell victim to a curse centered around a remote area in the mountains and turned into banshee-like monsters. Wendigos are particularly vicious and scary. The means to dealing with them is to stand perfectly still – which can be achieved by holding the console controller steady — so they can’t see you. Funny side note – I made the mistake of watching Until Dawn on YouTube one night before bed. When one of the Wendigos unexpectedly jumped out through a trapdoor, I went from barely being able to keep my eyes open to being wide awake.

7) Rams (Dead Island) – Dead Island is a very intense game where you’re trapped on an isle largely populated by zombies. The majority of these zombies are quite deadly and you encounter variants of the creature that possess their own unique forms of attack. The zombies that scare me the most in Dead Island are the Rams – hulking brutes wrapped in strait-jackets that will charge at you and kick you to death if they catch you out in the open. My general tactic is to climb on something – such as a car – to stay out of their reach. During the final segment of the game, however, you are forced to venture through a prison compound where the Rams are out in droves. Extreme caution or running past them is highly advised.

There are many other video game monsters I’d prefer not to tangle with, but the ones on this list really stand out. If you want to share about a game-specific creature you’ve found terrifying, please share in the comments below.

Brett Kavanaugh?

The thoughts expressed in this article are solely those of the author.


Sometime this month the Senate is going to vote on whether or not to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. The Republican Party, in general, thinks he’ll be the fifth vote to overturn Roe v. Wade and abortion will no longer be legal in the United States. The Democratic Party is fighting this. But what about the people, the citizens of the United States? How do most of them feel?


This issue is complex. For one thing, abortion only affects women. I can’t imagine a man having one. I think of Kamala Harris’ question last week asking Judge Kavanaugh if he knew of any laws that let the government regulate the male body? He had to stop and think. And, after a very long pause, he said he didn’t.


I remember a time when abortion was illegal in the United States. What did girls, and yes, they were girls—16, 17, 18 or older, do when they found out they were pregnant, unmarried and couldn’t or wouldn’t marry the father? They had what was called a “back alley” abortion or went down to Mexico or used a coat hanger.


Most of these abortions didn’t go well. Usually the person performing the abortion was not a doctor, or if they were, they were not performing the abortion with the latest equipment in a sterile environment. Frequently, later that night or the next day, the girls had to be rushed to the hospital because they were infected or hemorrhaging. Many died, and of those who didn’t, many could no longer have children because of the damage the procedure had done to their internal organs.


Then along came Roe v. Wade. Women and girls could now have safe, legal abortions. Almost everyone lived. There were few infections, few hemorrhages and almost no one died.


So then, did all women, or most women, go out and have abortions? No. Most women don’t want abortions. They want to have children. But they want the option of abortion available for those who do.


Do most women believe abortion should be a nine month choice? Of course not. They want a time limited option available in which a woman can have a safe and legal abortion. After that time is up, unless there are extraordinary circumstances, like the life of the mother is at stake, abortion would no longer be a possibility.


I’ve participated in many conversations between women who are very liberal, very conservative and in between. After a while, we were always able to come up with reasonable limits, while at the same time keeping the option of abortion available for those who need it.


In recent surveys, 35% of Republicans, 60% of Independents and 75% of Democrats* want limited, legal abortions available to everyone. Almost no one wants to go back to the old days of “back alley” abortions and all the dangers they entailed.


Where do you stand on this issue? What do you think? How does your position on this issue affect how you feel about Brett Kavanaugh being nominated to the Supreme Court? Are you in favor or against his nomination and why?


A Writer’s Confessional Part Seven

Trying to find a voice for my brand, my business, has been an interesting journey, and one I’ll have to take with my brand as an author too. It culminated from several talks with Jo Self, who I mentioned in my August blog, and another expert Kirsten Back, who is an expert in branding oneself through copywriting. They both pushed me to share my inner self with the public. It was a hard thing to do, to find that inner strength and share. But it opened parts of my history that I had forgotten because it was woven in the fabric of me. So, now, I’d like to share it with you.


Unique Confident Beautiful

Bringing out your uniqueness through jewelry and art


When I was young, I always wished I fit in more with the crowd, that I would grow up to have my dream job as an architect and make a lot of money and that my family reaped the benefits.

Becoming the responsible business owner, I am today though, I had to travel many precarious roads of emotional turmoil, making decisions I thought I would never have to make. But I wanted to say I was happy with myself and what I did for a living, creating a harmony that was an innate part of my being. I wanted to be able to shout to the world that yes this is who I am, this is what I’m supposed to do, and I’m happy with the choices I’ve made. But growing up wasn’t comfortable, and outside influences were always pushing me onto a road I didn’t know I shouldn’t be on. I was sabotaging myself by not seeing what I kept repeating throughout the stages of my life.

As a child, my parents told me what I should wear, what didn’t look good on me (when I thought it looked awesome) and finally let me make my own choices as my teen years swept me up in an emotional tornado. Peers, like most teens, balked at my choices if I didn’t follow the trend. No, I shouldn’t wear black all the time or wear my favorite black, leather and suede boots, these things weren’t in style. My inner voice in a lot of those years was often silenced, which continued in the years that followed.

Later, teachers told me to listen to a computer’s idea of what I should major in once in college. At the time I thought what it picked for me was the right choice, architecture. But as the structural weight of that world failed me, the dreaded words, “We’re going to have to let you go,” verbalized, I had to find another path to take. It didn’t seem like a blessing at the time. I’d followed all the rules, did what people asked of me, but the approval I was looking for never really came. The power to say, “Yes, we like that.” Or, “No, we don’t like that. Do it again.” belonged to someone else.

Looking back at the sporadic days of depression, the struggle to find some way to contribute to my family, make them proud of me, it was being laid off that redirected me down a road where I could see the potential for a new career. I would set my own rules, be the architect of my own designs. But, it would take years for my world to open to these possibilities.

I can say, now, I embrace me. I’ve grown into a uniquely beautiful and confident woman who’s comfortable in her own skin and is doing what makes me happy. I took a leap and said, “I’m going to start my own business. I’m going to use my artistic talent differently. I’m not going to let other people dictate what is right, what is trendy. I’m going to make beautiful pieces of art that someday will be put up proudly in someone’s home or given as a gift because they choose it.  I’m going to make jewelry that appeals to my uniqueness, that makes me feel beautiful and confident and I hope that other people in the world will feel the same way, they’ll tell themselves that they’re worth it.

I’m on a road that I chose for myself. With all the past mountains of pain I had to climb, all the failures that were the rocks in my palms, there was always a bridge to traverse to get to the other side of the mountain and the success that awaits me. I just had to cross it to find me.

I am WjK Artisan Designs!

Game Spotlight — Don’t Starve

Though I wrote in a blogpost back in January that I might take up streaming on a regular basis, it is a theory that worked better on paper than it did in real life. I work a full-time job and I am in the process of writing a story. I have other activities that take up a lot of my time. And I lack a good PC that will let me play the more graphics-laden immersive games I like, such as Mass Effect Andromeda, Fallout 4, Subnautica, and several upcoming titles.

During a vacation from work, I decided to broadcast a streaming session. I sent out a notification to several Discord channels I’ve been following and started an hour-long broadcast on August 15. The game I picked was a popular title I’d favored for a while – Don’t Starve. To make it easier on myself, I tweaked the game settings to lessen the amount of monsters encountered and increase my odds of survival.

The one thing that surprised me was that several of my viewers had never played this game and had no idea what it was about. Some of them did express interest in trying it themselves based on what they saw.

For those unfamiliar with this title, Don’t Starve is a game that focuses on base building, harvesting resources, crafting items needed to survive, and fending off monster attacks. I try my best at it, but I think the longest I’ve made it is 80 to 90 days. I haven’t really mastered making it through the winter or summer, but the game can be modified to remove those seasons entirely.

Don’t Starve is a very complex and layered game that can be difficult to master, but quite rewarding when you figure it out. For starters, you can pick from one of fifteen characters from the base game and DLC – each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Initially, you only start with one – all the others can be unlocked depending on time spent playing the game or if certain conditions are met. My personal favorites are Webber, a humanoid spider who can live amongst the normal spiders without fear of attack, and WX-78, a robot that can upgrade its stats by chowing down on gears.

Each playthrough of Don’t Starve generally starts you out near a forest grove unless you’re playing the Shipwrecked DLC – but more on that later. Constructing an axe to chop down trees and a pickaxe to mine stone is a must early on since one of the things you’ll want right away is a permanent campsite. But it’s generally good to wait until you find an ideal location for your base before you hunker down.

The thing about Don’t Starve is that the land you find yourself inhabiting has a number of different environments to explore, such as forests, deserts, swamps, and prairies. Each of these environments or biomes contains their own unique harvestables or food sources you’ll need for long-term survival. Finding a base location that’s close to many of them will really help out in the long run.

Some of the early structures you’ll want for your settlement are farm plots to plant seeds and an icebox to keep food from spoiling too quickly. It also helps to construct armor and a suitable weapon to lessen the damage you take from inevitable monster attacks. The rest, you’ll have to discover for yourself.

And for those who do master the base game and are looking for an additional challenge, the Shipwrecked DLC offers a radically different adventure. In this scenario, you must construct a sailing vessel to move from island to island in search of resources to survive. Shipwrecked offers a whole new set of obstacles and dangers to overcome and feels like a completely separate game from Don’t Starve.

There is also another DLC called Hamlet due out this December. I don’t know many details, but Hamlet will bring a village into the mix where goods can be traded. I don’t know if this add-on will make the game easier, but I look forward to finding out.

I hope you all enjoyed this article and that Don’t Starve sounds like a game you might be interested in. Whatever your feelings, be sure to share them in the comments below.