Shark Tank-Educational Entertainment

Many aspire to be world-changing entrepreneurs, but few get the aid of moguls like Barbra Cochran, Lori Greiner or Mark Cuban. Enter Shark Tank, a unique show where up-and-coming executives pitch their ideas to these stellar magnates to win financial and educational aid. As the daughter of a business owner, I’ve learned to watch and analyze each contestant. One of the less enjoyable features of the show is Kevin O’Leary, nicknamed Mr. Wonderful of all things. He fills the role on Shark Tank that Simon Cowell filled on American Idol of the brutally honest and somewhat caustic judge. However O’Leary compliments far less than Cowell, and goes for cheap personal insults a bit more. Aside from that, two charming standouts are Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner, both experienced and compassionate entrepreneurs who offer wonderful advice whether or not they take up the client. Overall it’s a great show for those interested in business and entrepreneurship. 9/10 for making real impact, being educational, and having educated and objective judges. One point deficit because “Mr. Wonderful” is a thorn in the side of the show and the viewers.

Wonder-Two Hours of Pure Sunshine

*Stay tuned!! This article is a segue into broadening this blog!!!

The critically acclaimed 2017 movie tells the story of August (Auggie) Pullman, a fifth grader with some unique physical challenges. The lovely thing about this movie is that the physical issues are only a catalyst for much larger social issues as he begins his first year in public school. Julia Roberts portrays his mother with a stunning blend of grace and grit, striving to pursue her own artistic dreams amidst the newfound free time. Izabela Vidovic adds a poignant humility to Auggie’s older, oft-ignored sister Olivia. But the breakout star besides Vidovic is Daveed Diggs (apparently of Hamilton fame) as Mr. Browne, the perceptive and compassionate teacher. Overall (and here comes the segue part), as a human with some unique physical challenges, I greatly enjoyed the joy and humor that set the tone of the movie and showed that humans are more than appearances or limitations. Auggie enjoys Minecraft, Star Wars, and family, he has friendship issues, and he remains optimistic and curious about life. 10/10 for unique characters, uplifting tone, and ability to relate. I recommend this for ages 8 and up, anyone looking for a feel-good family movie, particularly families in unique situations.

As this blog progresses, I’ll begin writing some personal essays, sharing some of my unique story. Stay tuned!

19 Books to Read by Age 19

I am both an avid writer and a voracious reader. I’ve read at least 100 books over my lifetime, but few stick out as lasting gems. Those gems are listed here for your entertainment and consideration. Many of these are YA, so keep these in mind for younger friends and family as well. Enjoy!

1. The “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series-5 books

This modern take on Ancient Greek mythology is written for young adults but all ages can enjoy it. The series follows young demigod Percy Jackson as he navigates his newfound identity as a son of Poseidon and the joys and challenges that come with it. Since the publication of the first series, Rick Riordan has written multiple sequels and vastly expanded the world of demigods. While these sequels are good books, the first five remain the magnum opus of the collection.

2.  The “Hunger Games” series-3 books

This wildly popular YA series deserves its acclaim. Most people are familiar with this but a brief summary for others: The series uses young Katniss Everdeen to explore issues of class differences, corrupt government, sacrifice, and identity.

3. “Sleeping Freshman Never Lie

This independent novel explores Scott Hudson’s freshman year of high school, along with major life changes at home. High school students will relate to his growth and turmoil, from stumbling into covering his least favorite subject on the newspaper to wondering how to help his wayward older brother. The novel is equal parts hilarious and heartwarming.

4. “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” (I read the first book, but there’s a whole series)

This book, while saccharine-sweet, is a lovely story of friendship and the turmoil of the transition between child and adult.

5.”Twilight” series (4 books)

Hear me out before y’all unsubscribe: it’s a perfect example to writers of what NOT to do. Also, sometimes we just like to read trash, the same way some people like to eat candy. I once read it when I was about 12 for the “romance” and “adventure”. Now I read it to laugh at Bella, and critique the lack of word choice and characterization.

6. “Romeo and Juliet” (1 play)

This play is a cornerstone of Western culture. The tale of star-crossed lovers, while unrealistic and trite. is an entertaining read. Yes I read Shakespeare and Twilight both for fun, that’s just me. Even if romance is repulsive, it’s worth a read simply for cultural knowledge.

7. “Paper Towns” (1 book)

I had to put a John Green book on this list because he’s my spirit animal, but I wasn’t going to be cheesy and put The Fault in Our Stars. Paper Towns is a mystery/coming-of-age story about a high school senior who tries to find his missing crush and ends up finding himself. It’s really endearing, has a lot of cultural references, and is generally gender-neutral in terms of appeal.

8. The Penderwicks (2 books I’ve read, there are some more sequels) This endearing series tells the story of four Penderwick sisters, their eccentric professor father and lovable dog Hound. Set in Massachusetts, the first book details a summer trip to a mansion and the second is a year in the life of the quirky family. Young girls can relate to the sisters, and parents will enjoy the heartwarming hijinks. This is a little on the younger side of YA, from about 10 to 13, but still a pleasant read

9. Little Women -(1 very large book) I cannot believe I almost left this off the list! This is one of my favorite books of all time. It centers on the March family of four sisters and their parents as they navigate challenges and keep faith in Civil War-era Massachusetts. The three main reasons I love this book are 1) a strong emphasis on Christian faith without feeling preachy 2) strong women who take charge and protect those they love 3) the focus on family and friendships. This is the perfect book for mothers and daughters to read together.

These are some of the books that have greatly impacted my life and remain treasured stories to this day. Let me know if you’ve read any of these, or what some of your favorites are!

Monumental Occasion!!!!

Hello all!! Yes it is unusual for me to post two articles in one day, but this is an unusual occasion: I have just had my first article published in the Bethel University Clarion!!! The text of the article is below the pictures. This is less an instance of hustling and fighting for what I want and more a story of showing up, taking the opportunity that was offered, and then making it happen. I’ll post a link to each weekly article as it gets published, but this one is a special occasion. Enjoy!!!!!

New Dunn Bros to open and hire students

The coffee shop will include a stage for performers and open this spring on County Road E.

By Elena Vaughn

A new Dunn Brothers Coffee slated to open this spring will hire Bethel and Northwestern students.

The shop will share a building with the American Red Cross at 1160 County Rd. E. in Arden Hills. The owners? Two Bethel alums.

Greta and Adam Dvorak graduated in 2012 and 2013, both with degrees in biblical and theological studies. They began dating after graduating, then got married December 2016.

Adam Dvorak is in his second year of working as the Bodine residence director, while Greta Dvorak is a barista.

Greta Dvorak was inspired to open the shop during college, but her love of coffee began in middle school. She first told her father of her idea to open a shop.

“Coffee is a family/cultural value,” Greta Dvorak said. “If I’m drinking a cup of coffee with you, it means that I want to be with you, I want to sit with you (and) be present in our conversation.”

Greta Dvorak will run the main operations while Adam Dvorak will oversee finances. Greta Dvorak’s mother will help make and serve coffee while her father will lend other support.

Greta envisions the shop as a center of community and growth, both among college students working and studying there and within the larger Arden Hills community.

The space itself will feature a fireplace with seating, conference rooms, a children’s area and a long community table. There will also be a stage where local artists of various kinds are invited to perform and share their creations.

The menu of the new shop will include pastries, breakfast and lunch sandwiches, soup and an appetizers menu. The beverage menu will feature many types of coffee, smoothies, iced tea and lemonade.

Greta Dvorak’s passion for college student growth came from a positive experience her senior year at Bethel, where she was a resident assistant in Getsch alongside Adam.

Their focus on hiring mainly college students stems from their desire to foster community outside of the store itself. They are open to hiring students of all majors.

Adam Dvorak recalls days of building community when he was an RA in college.

“Living life with those men was so impactful for me,” Adam Dvorak said. “Those nights where life just happens, it’s just people sitting together, getting to know each other.”

His advice for building community is consistent investment day-in and day-out, even in the “insignificant” moments.

Application announcements are forthcoming.

Black Panther-A Cultural and Cinematic Revolution

The latest installment of the Marvel franchise centers on the hidden African nation of Wakanda and the struggle for its throne between two very different ideals.

Chadwick Boseman brings a quiet dignity and power to the title character (also called T’Challa), recently crowned after the death of his father. T’Challa struggles to balance aiding the world with Wakanda’s vast resources without losing their way of life. Michael B. Jordan plays Killmonger, the king’s bitter cousin who aims to aid the world by freeing oppressed people using violence. Jordan helps create a character shaped by unimaginable trauma that audiences can strongly empathize with. The strong contrast and tension between the two adds depth and texture to what could be a boring action flick.

The other unique feature of Black Panther is its depiction of strong and complex women in leadership. The elite bodyguard of the king is comprised entirely of women, and the general of this bodyguard gets a unique tension between loyalty to the overall throne or to any particular king. In addition to this character, we see T’challa’s sister Shuri as the prominent technology designer and an important aid in battles. (She also has plenty of sass and wit) We also see his ex Nakia (played by the stunning Lupita N’Yongo) aiming to heal the world by being a spy and showing T’Challa other perspectives and possibilities on this issue.

Overall it’s a stunning film with strong representation, character depth and female gaze. 10/10, I’ve already seen it twice and I’m raring to go back. In conclusion, WAKANDA FOREVER!!!

I Capture the Castle-A Forgotten Gem

Hello! Instead of actually finishing one of my nine drafts, I figured I would write an entirely new post, because why follow through on a project? 😂 To be fair, this is a wonderful book and deserves some honor. It was originally written in 1948 by Dodie Smith, who also wrote 101 Dalmatians. I Capture the Castle centers on sisters Rose and Cassandra and their quest to improve the family status through marriage While I have not yet read any Jane Austen works, this story seems to me like a modern Pride and Prejudice based on what I’ve heard of it. There is lots of romantic entanglement, a zany father, and a sweet farmhand too. Recommended for anyone who loves rom-coms  and/or soap operas. 9/10 for intriguing characters, lovely setting, and a precocious protagonist. One point lost for occasional excess drama.

Elementary-Modern Deduction


The adventures of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are well-known to the world, but “Elementary” puts a modern spin on these complex tales. The familiar deduction wizard, portrayed perfectly by Jonny Lee Miller, is a recovering drug addict relocated to New York. Joan Watson portrays a fresh take on his trusted partner, as well as his addiction counselor. A hardworking NYPD captain and a loyal colleague detective round out the principle cast. The show balances heart, humor, and challenging mental and ethical puzzles. The show tactfully addresses Sherlock’s addiction without exploiting its dramatic value; rather it adds complexity and depth. In point of fact, one of the strengths of the show is the complexity, depth, and many relatable facets of each brilliant character. 9/10 for complex characters, engaging logic puzzles and ethical dilemmas, and wonderful multi-episode arcs. One point deducted for occasionally excessive gore. I wouldn’t recommend this show to anyone under age 15, bur adults will enjoy it immensely.

Thoughts from a College Girl 

Hi everyone!!! I am aware I haven’t posted in about two months and I apologize. I had a Rosetown show and work at Raising Canes. And this week marks Welcome Week at Bethel University in Arden Hills!!! To celebrate/apologize, here’s an extended metaphor describing my current mentality. College is like Skydiving-stepping off the solid surface out into nothing. Falling through the air with all the things swirling around me. But I’ve made some friends so they are kind of a home base. I’m learning how to navigate both the architectural and social labrinyths of the institution, and hourly grow more confident in my place in this wonderful community. I look forward to tremendous growth in all areas of my life. Let College begin!!! 

Wonder Woman-The Perfect Movie

Oh my….wow. OK so I recently saw this movie and it is officially my current favorite superhero movie of all time. The fact that it’s not Marvel makes me a little annoyed, but I can work with it. Where do I start? Let’s start with her upbringing. Diana was brought up as the princess of the Amazons, and she had no contact with men until she was about 25 or so. Her lack of knowledge of the rest of the world allows us to see our own everyday realities from a fresh perspective. Her companion Steve Trevor (played by the ever-lovely Chris Pine) is a true American hero, without once seeming contrived or stereotypical. The typical comic book archetype of a villain is turned on its head and viewers are left reeling in shock. And Diana’s kick-ass tribe of Amazonian ladies outdoes any and all modern “squads”. The best part of the movie is that Diana is allowed to be a strong and independent woman, regardless of the patriarchal society around her. Overall a strong action film for anyone who’s a comic nerd. Even if you don’t like action movies, this movie is a watershed moment in film, so go see it and bring as many people as you can.

Where Men Win Glory-A True American Hero

(I found this picture of Tillman online. He’s wearing his pro jersey for the Arizona Cardinals)

Jon Krakauer’s stunning biography Where Men Win Glory details the life and death of Pat Tillman, a nationally known NFL player who turned down a multimillion-dollar contract to serve in Afghanistan, a decision that ultimately cost him his life. The chapter arrangement is reminiscent of Steinbeck’s style in The Grapes of Wrath, alternating between Tillman’s life and chronicling the Afghan political turmoil that led to his untimely death in 2004. I honestly don’t care much for political history of any nation, but reading about the thoughtful, tough, sensitive, gentile giant named Pat Tillman, I wish I could have met him. I realize posthumous tributes are often written with rose-colored glasses, but Krakauer authentically paints a complex man who’s at once relatable and strange in his uniqueness. I’m not even done with the book yet and I can already give it a 9.5/10 for entertaining anecdotes, a relatable protagonist, and an emotional tribute. Half a point lost because the politics aren’t my cup of tea, but I respect the narrative structure. Even if you have no clue who Pat Tillman is, read this.