Saturday, February 28, 2009

Still Scrappin'

We're approaching the 31st hour of the weekend scrapbooking retreat, and I have 36 pages to show for my time so far. I'd like to come out of this with an album chronicling Betty and Boo's birth (and the six year process it took to get them born). That's my very ambitious goal, but if I can walk out of here with 50 completed pages, I will be a happy scrapper.

I'll post some photos tomorrow of some of my pages, as well as the food (oh my word, the delicious food!) that we have been treated to this weekend. It's been decadent.

Now, back to work ...

Friday, February 27, 2009

Blogging at the Scrapbooking Retreat

I'm retreating this weekend.

As I type, I'm seated in a conference room with 60 other people with albums and paper and stickers spread out before us. One of my best friends (who is seated across from me) and I are spending the weekend at a scrapbooking retreat where, until 4 p.m. Sunday night, we will be engaged in a non-stop marathon of cropping. I have big goals for this weekend, and hopefully there will be a completed album of the twins' birth (and the 6-year process of birthing them).

If you've never been to such an event, I'll be blogging throughout the weekend and keeping y'all updated. You can also feel free to leave a comment to encourage me!

There's also food and drink, so this has all the makings of a fun time. So, if you'll excuse me, there are some photos to be cropped ....

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Through the Transom

This was taken in the foyer of our house this afternoon - a regular Thursday afternoon in February at 5:04 p.m. I had just arrived home from work and dropped my stuff in the dining room when I noticed the light. I just thought it was so cool how the light hit the transom window at exactly that moment.

I have an idea for a poem inspired by this and what I was thinking about when I captured this, but I couldn't resist sharing the photo in the meantime. (I know ... I'm borrowing heavily from Beth Kephart's style of posts on her blog with this photo and an accompanying poem, but I can't help it ... )

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Word Play

There's a small playing area in the waiting room of Boo's social skills group and among the toys scattered about is a magnetic board with plastic letters.

The other week, Boo went over to the board and started playing with the letters .

I didn't think too much of this, and then after about 2 or 3 minutes (I swear, it was a very, very short amount of time) he called me over. "Mommy, look at what I wrote," he said, pointing to the board.


Talk about a kick to the heart. This is at a social skills group and my kid is spelling out "PleasE bE Kind kids" on the magnetic board. I nearly fell over. (For the record, I don't think the kids are unkind in the group. I think he was merely reiterating the rules of the group.) But wait - he wasn't done. He tossed "PleasE bE Kind" to the floor and within a minute or two (I swear, a minute or two) produced this:



Followed immediately by this:



I was - and still am - at a loss for words.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Live-Blogging President Obama's Address to Congress

I thought I'd provide a running commentary during President Obama's address to Congress ...

Nice shout-out to Michelle Obama.

I don't think I will ever get tired of seeing Obama and Biden in such a setting.

GREAT beginning to the speech - we will recover from this. Yes. This is what was needed right from the get-go.

I love how the camera goes right to John McCain when Obama says that some may be skeptical of the economic plan. Could McCain be smirking any moreso than he was? Can you imagine how different this address would be if he was in front of that microphone? And if Sarah "the media was so unfair to me during the campaign" Palin was in the seat occupied by Joe Biden?

"Nobody messes with Joe ... " That's awesome. Love that.

The Dean says that someone needs to staple Nancy Pelosi to that chair.

And there you have the take-away line of the night - that by not finishing high school and going onto some additional training, that you are not only failing yourself but failing your country.

I don't think I have ever teared up during any Presidential address. That little girl and the story of her letter to Congress about her school ... that got me.

All in all, a good speech, I thought. Let's hope it works ....

Book Review: Matrimony, by Joshua Henkin

I was fortunate to win a copy of Matrimony last fall in a giveaway. The premise was appealing to me, that of the story of Julian Wainwright and Mia Mendelsohn, coming of age in 1986 as students at Graymont College. Over the course of the novel, Matrimony becomes the story of many of us in Julian and Mia's generation - the story of finding our way and making choices, of losing loved ones to death or other circumstances, of discovering what really matters.

It's the story of a marriage, but as Joshua Henkin explained in one interview I read, it is really about several marriages. I agree; while the focus is on Julian and Mia, Matrimony is also about how the relationships of their parents and close friends are also woven into the dynamics of their marriage.

This, then, is an intriguing premise, one that initially - like the heady feeling of new love - attracts the reader. Henkin is at his best early in the novel when capturing Julian and Mia's relationship during their college years, and he nails collegiate life as it was in the '80s and '90s. That nostalgia is what I liked best about the book, with passages such as this:

"It made him nostalgic for a time when everyone was just dropping by, the cheeseburgers and onion rings eaten on dorm room floors, the hastily organized surprise parties, the years when time unfurled illusorily before them, when there was nothing to do but celebrate one another."

What happens afterward, then, in the years when time doesn't furl illusorily, when it plods on through the monotony of the every day; when we discover the flaws in people, their baggage from the past (and from our parents' pasts); when we learn about the mistakes made along the way? Julian and Mia aren't immune to the major issues that lurk and resurface in longtime relationships - and in fact, such an issue happens to them and forms the basis of Matrimony. And that's where I seem to part company with other readers of the novel because how this is handled affects my belief in the story as a reader and my identification with and interest in the characters. Without giving much away here, I had some trouble grasping Julian's reaction to discovering something about Mia's past. And I had even more trouble with the resolution of the issue - if you can call it a resolution, because there didn't seem to be one.

Matrimony has been called a "quiet" novel - and indeed, it is. There was no discussion between the couple about a major, life-altering situation. I also had some trouble with this given the fact that Mia's chosen profession is of a therapist, yet the issue - which sure as hell would have necessitated counseling for many a couple - is not discussed, is not mentioned, is seemingly brushed off as easily as the dog hair from their pet. Something - and I'm not sure what it is - is missing in the novel with the treatment given to this situation. Perhaps Henkin is trying to convey that this is how this particular marriage - and others - function, that crap happens and we deal with it in our own ways and we live with it. Perhaps.

On a personal note: I had a difficult time writing this review because I've emailed with Joshua Henkin, who really seems to be a great guy - and book bloggers know how supportive he has been of our little community here as well as in-real-life book clubs (often traveling 2 hours each way to join groups in person for their discussions of Matrimony). So, I feel bad for not liking this as much I as really wanted and hoped to. I didn't dislike Matrimony (in fact, there are parts that are very good and fItalicunny), it's just that the disconnect I felt to Julian and Mia really affected my experience with the book. Other characters, such as Carter Heinz and Professor Chesterfield, for example - were ones I could relate to more. (Everyone knows a Carter, and I could swear that I had at least one class with Professor Chesterfield.) That's what I mean about parts of Matrimony being well-done; Henkin has the ability to give the reader strong, identifiable characters within an intriguing storyline, but Matrimony doesn't quite get there for me.

I know that I am very much in the minority with my thoughts on this one, and that's one of the reasons I include links to other reviews from other book bloggers. There are a lot of different takes on this book which provide for healthy discourse in forums such as these. I do encourage taking the time to read others' thoughts and giving Matrimony a chance. Rating: 3.5 stars.

Other reviews (if I missed yours, my apologies ... just leave the link in the comments and I will update this post with your review too).

Age 30+ ... A Lifetime of Books

Book Club Classics

BookingMama

Books on the Brain

Caribous Mom

Everyday I Write the Book Blog

Maw Books Blog - Matrimony book review

Maw Books Blog - Interview with Joshua Henkin

My Friend Amy
New York Times Book Review

Bookstack

Bloggin' bout Books and a guest post by Joshua Henkin here.

The 3R's: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness

The Hidden Side of a Leaf (miss you still, Dewey .... )

The Literate Housewife

Wake Up Calls

One of the benefits of being home for two days with a sick child up at all hours of the night (that would be Betty) is that I've gotten the chance to do more reading than usual - blogs, my library books, the magazines around the house. The March 2009 issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray has a page devoted to some newfangled alarm clocks, such as the Flying Alarm Clock by thinkgeek.com. From Thinkgeek's website:

The Flying Alarm Clock wakes you up with a loud shrieking alarm coupled with a little propeller-driven key that leaps off your nightstand. To turn off the horrible racket, you have to get out of bed and retrieve the key. The propeller flies the key high into the air and off into some dusty corner. You have to force your sleep addled brain into wakefulness, move your stiff legs and retrieve the key before the alarm goes off.

And here's a photo of this horrid thing, which I can assure you would not last very long in my house.




Waking up to a flying helicopter might not be everyone's cup of tea, so if you'd prefer something with a bit more of a bang in the morning, perhaps the Banpresto Dangerbomb Alarm Clock might be more to your liking. The DangerBomb Clock from Banpresto is an alarm clock that requires a fast-thinking mind. It has 3 different colors of cords ready for you to choose and disconnect when the alarm clock goes off. The answer is indicated by light of the color. If the wrong cord is disconnected, DangerBomb Clock will continue to make loud explosion noises. A good idea to wake yourself up.

Who the hell thinks of these things???!!

Library Loot: February 18-24, 2009

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Robin from A Striped Armchair and Alessandra from Out of the Blue that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

So I told myself on Saturday that the word of the day was "restraint." Restraint from getting more library books when I already have two stacks on my night table. I counted the books I have out - 13. But ... well ... I couldn't resist these from the New Releases shelf.




later, at the bar (a novel in stories) - by Rebecca Barry

Synopsis (from bn.com)

Lucy's Tavern is the best kind of small-town bar. It has a good jukebox, a bartender with a generous pour, and it's always open, even in terrible weather. In the raw and beautiful country that makes up Rebecca Barry's fictional landscape, Lucy's is where everyone ends up, whether they mean to or not. There's the tipsy advice columnist who has a hard time following her own advice, the ex-con who falls for the same woman over and over again, and the soup-maker who tries to drink and cook his way out of romantic despair.


Theirs are the kinds of stories about love and life that unfold late in the evening, when people finally share their secret hopes and frailties, because they know you will forgive them, or maybe make out with them for a little while. In this rich and engaging debut, each central character suffers a sobering moment of clarity in which the beauty and sadness of life is revealed. But the character does not cry or mend his ways. Instead he tips back his hat, lights another unfiltered cigarette, and heads across the floor to ask someone to dance. A poignant exploration of the sometimes tender, sometimes deeply funny ways people try to connect, Later, at the Bar is as warm and inviting as a good shot of whiskey on a cold winter night.

the rain before it falls - by Jonathon Coe

Synopsis (from bn.com)

Following The Rotters’ Club and its sequel, The Closed Circle, Jonathan Coe now offers his first stand-alone novel in a decade, a story of three generations of women whose destinies reach from the English countryside in World War II to London, Toronto, and southern France at the turn of the new century.


Evacuated to Shropshire during the Blitz, eight-year-old Rosamond forged a bond with her cousin Beatrix that augured the most treasured and devastating moments of her life. She recorded these memories sixty years later, just before her death, on cassettes she bequeathed to a woman she hadn’t seen in decades. When her beloved niece, Gill, plays the tapes in hopes of locating this unwitting heir, she instead hears a family saga swathed in promise and betrayal: the story of how Beatrix, starved of her mother’s affection, conceived a fraught bloodline that culminated in heart-stopping tragedy—its chief victim being her own granddaughter. And as Rosamond explores the ties that bound these generations together and shaped her experience all along, Gill grows increasingly haunted by how profoundly her own recollections—not to mention the love she feels for her grown daughters, listening alongside her—are linked to generations of women she never knew.


Matters of Faith, by Kristy Kiernan

From the author of Catching Genius, a novel of a young man's search for faith-and its unintended consequences.At age twelve, Marshall Tobias saw his best friend killed by a train. It was then that he began his search for faith-delving into one tradition, then discarding it for another. His parents, however, have little time for spiritual contemplation. Their focus has been on his little sister Megan, who suffers from severe food allergies. Now Marshall is home from college with his first real girlfriend, but there is more to Ada than meets the eye-including her beliefs about the evils of medical intervention. What follows is a crisis that tests not only faith, but the limits of family, forgiveness, and our need to believe.

you won't remember this: stories, by Kate Blackwell

Synopsis from bn.com
The twelve stories in Kate Blackwell's debut collection illuminate the lives of men and women who appear as unremarkable as your next-door-neighbor until their lives explode quietly on the page. Her wry, often darkly funny voice describes the repressed underside of a range of middle-class characters living in the South.


So that wasn't too bad, right? Only four books? Weeellllllll ... as we made our way to the circulation desk, these two caught my eye, newly shelved on the New Releases shelf.


Rex: A Mother, Her Autistic Child, and the Music That Transformed Their Lives, by Cathleen Lewis

The inspiring story of Rex, a boy who is not only blind and autistic, but who also happens to be a musical savant.

How can an 11-year old boy hear a Mozart fantasy for the first time and play it back note-for-note perfectly-but struggle to navigate the familiar surroundings of his own home? Cathleen Lewis says her son Rex's laugh of total abandon is the single most joyous sound anyone could hear, but his tortured aversion to touch and sound breaks her heart and makes her wonder what God could have had in mind. In this book she shares the mystery of Rex and the highs, lows, hopes, dreams, joy, sorrows, and faith she has journeyed through with him.

Out of all of these, Rex is probably the one I will read first. I may actually bump that up higher on the TBR pile on my night table.

Click: What Millions of People are Doing Online and Why It Matters, by Bill Tancer

From Publishers Weekly:
Do Americans really spend that much time surfing porn sites? Which demographic visited Anna Nicole Smith's Web site most frequently? Who reads Perez Hilton? More than mere trivia nuggets, the answers to these questions define online behaviors among a varied mix of Internet users. Tancer, who leads global research at Hitwise, an online market research company, guides the reader through the search patterns among 10 million Internet users, challenging myths and making new discoveries about the psychology of consumers, illustrating that clicks speak louder than words and can reveal unspoken truths about individual drives that are not expressed via other forms of media.

Everyone from marketing managers who want to know how much power social networking sites wield in the online market to political pollsters trying to decipher the disconnect between exit polls and election results would be advised to heed his research. Witty and invaluable in its insights, this book is destined to become a primer for online marketers and usability experts while shedding new light on the mindset and curiosities of the average Web surfer, i.e., your friends and neighbors.

There won't be a library visit next weekend, due to my being away on a scrapbooking retreat, so I am guessing the 13 books I already have out and these will have to hold me over for awhile. (Ya think?)

Monday, February 23, 2009

In Appreciation and Remembrance: Christopher Nolan,1965-2009

I was saddened to read on Karen Harrington's blog Scobberlotch (don't you just love that word and blog title?) of the death of author Christopher Nolan, as reported in this article from the BBC.

One of my college classes was called "Individualism and the Common Good," a course jam-packed with literature and films that I still remember 20 years later. One of the books we were required to read was Christopher Nolan's semi-autobiographical novel, Under the Eye of the Clock. I refer to this as a semi-autobiographical novel because although the story is of Nolan's life, he writes of himself in the third person, as a boy named Joseph Meehan. From the back cover of the book, which still has a place on my bookshelf:

"Imprisoned from birth by a mute and paralyzed body, Christopher Nolan found his voice with the aid of a typing stick attached to his forehead ... he reveals with words at once compelling, strange, and evocative a world most people have never known. Yet with the insight that distinguishes the finest work of autobiography, Nolan's writing transcends his unusual experience and captures the universal need for love, acceptance, and friendship."

And his mother's words, as Christopher Nolan writes, in the voice of Joseph:

"I never prayed for you to be born crippled. I wanted you to be full of life, able to run and jump and talk just like Yvonne. But you are you, you are Joseph, not Yvonne. Listen here, Joseph, you can see, you can hear, you can think, you are loved by me and Dad. We love you, just as you are ... "

What parent of a special needs child hasn't thought the same as Mrs. Nolan? Christopher's mother's love is also referenced in this quote by U2 singer Bono, who attended school with Nolan (and whose song, "Miracle Drug" is reportedly about the author).

"We all went to the same school and just as we were leaving, a fellow called Christopher Nolan arrived. He had been deprived of oxygen for two hours when he was born, so he was paraplegic. But his mother believed he could understand what was going on and used to teach him at home. Eventually, they discovered a drug that allowed him to move one muscle in his neck. So they attached this unicorn device to his forehead and he learned to type. And out of him came all these poems that he'd been storing up in his head. Then he put out a collection called Dam-Burst of Dreams, which won a load of awards and he went off to university and became a genius. All because of a mother's love and a medical breakthrough."

When I first read Under the Eye of the Clock, published in 1987 when Christopher Nolan was 21, I was only two years younger, a 19 year old college student. I had no idea that within the next two decades I would have a child diagnosed with autism and be able to empathize oh-so-well with Mrs. Nolan's words. I want to re-read Under the Eye of the Clock soon, but until then, I found myself paging through the book tonight, reading passages like this one in the chapter titled "Hell Guffawed" (great title) of Joseph's thoughts and nervousness following his tour of - and acceptance to - Mount Temple Comprehensive School.

Consider how lucky you are. You have served your time to coldness in outlook. Now you have got your foot in the door, maybe you ought to panic. Think of the others gone before you - did they have fiery intellects? Were they stored away in a back room, dirty, neglected, frowned upon? Did sun ever tan their opaque skin? Did they ever see the night sky? Did kindness ever move them to tears? Did they ever delve their hand in cold water? Did someone ever feel for their clenched fists and gentl prise them open, so that water could run between their withered fingers? Did they feel the cold nervous heartbeat of a damp frog? Did they hold a wriggling worm in the palm of their hand? Did they ever feel soft summer rain as it tickled down their face or the headbowed battle to breathe in the face of a blizzard? Did they ever gloat with pleasure in a warm bubbly bath and afterwards sneeze in an aroma of talcum powder? Did sunshine blind them from an early-morning golden-copper sun, or did they ever see winter-bared trees silhoutted against crimson shot with pastel blue evening skies? Did they ever hear a real sound of laughter free of innuendo coming pouring from a pal's heart? Did they ever feel absolute satisfaction when the golf ball they were let help to hit rolled straight as a die and plopped into the miniscule-sized hole? Did they ever have their father's company on lovely secluded walks as birds did their nut, each bird bursting forth its chest trying to outdo its neighbours song-filled stand? Did they ever feel a dear sister's love when she spent backbreaking hours designing and painting an intricate celtic drawing especially for them? Did they ever love a foolish dog and marvel at his happiness? Did they ever feel good omens? Did they ever heave a sigh of healthy feeling despite awful paralysis? Did they rush through breakfast to be in time for school? Did they wait for Santas unable to sleep, fretting that Santa wouldn't come if they were not asleep? Did they dare to carp if bad vibes came from their sister? Did they ever detect jealousy in their sister's clambering for bigger helpings, bigger toys, bigger slices of family attention? Did they ever get so much love that the able-bodied sister wished that she were crippled too? Did they ever? And if they didn't, was that the end of that?

It took me about 10 minutes to type that lengthy passage. I can only wonder how long it took Christopher Nolan to do the same, only using the typing stick attached to his forehead.

And finally, one more passage, this from the chapter "Knife Used" where Christopher writes about his teacher's discovery that attaching the typing stick to his forehead would give Christopher a means of communication:

"Now he struggled with the certainty that he was going to succeed and with that certainty came a feeling of encouragement. The encouragement was absolute, just as though someone was egging him on. His belief now came from himself and he wondered how this came about. He knew that with years of defeat he should now be experiencing despair, but instead a spirit of enlightment was telling him, you're going to come through with a bow, a bow to break your chain and let out your voice. "

A bow to break your chain and let out your voice. Yes. That is exactly what Christopher Nolan, dead at 43 following "ingest[ing] food into his airway" (according to the BBC) did with Under the Eye of the Clock. Not only did he let out his voice, but it turned out to be one so eloquent for millions of others and those of us who love them.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Miley, Miley, Miley

One question: why the hell is Miley Cyrus showing more cleavage on the red carpet of the Academy Awards than her mother?


(I know the answer to this. I'm just ... getting old, I guess.) Perhaps I should just be thankful that she is attending the Oscars with her mother in the first place.

Best of the Week: February 15-22, 2009

I'll start this "Best of ... " with a mea culpa. I'd promised The Dean's best friend since their first day of kindergarten in 1975 that I would include his article from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel about cookie king Wally Amos (you know him as "Famous Amos") among my "Best of ..." posts. That was last week. It's still a great, heartwarming story, one that I would have likely included here even if the reporter wasn't the best man in my wedding.

No sooner did I finish writing my acceptance post for receiving the Honest Blog award when this post from the Freakonomics blog (based on the fabulous book of the same name) caught my eye. Time.com lists the Top 25 Blogs and the five most over-rated blogs. (Sadly, The Betty and Boo Chronicles didn't make the first list; happily, The Betty and Boo Chronicles didn't make the latter, either.) Which of these blogs do you read? I read a few: Confessions of a Pioneer Woman and The Huffington Post, to name just two.

Faithful readers of this blog will (maybe) remember my post about Wing Bowl, the Wingettes and the hot-sauce stain it leaves on the City of Brotherly Love every January when more than 20,000 yahoos descend on piles of chicken wings for a glutton-filled gorge-a-thon. The organizers redeemed themselves a little bit this week when they gave $20,000 (representing the proceeds from Wing Bowl) to the Fraternal Order of Police Survivors Fund. Within the past 16 months, six Philadelphia police officers have been killed in the line of duty, the most recent being last week when 25-year old officer and expectant father John Pawlowski lost his life after being shot by some low-life.

Now Facebook is being blamed for the same behavior that the Internet and email has been blamed for since their incarnation.

Simple Mom has a great post about the importance of musical education for kids.

There are two other items that I read this week, but they are the basis for two blog posts later this week.

Have a good one!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Reconnecting

Last night when we were young
Love was a star, a song unsung
Life was so new, so real, so bright, a
ges ago, last night

Today, the world is old
You flew away, and time grew cold
Where is that star that seems so bright
Ages ago, last night ...

"Last Night When We Were Young" written by Harold Arlen, performed by Carly Simon, Frank Sinatra, and probably countless others

It is so easy to forget, as we go about our daily lives. It happens silently, the months slipping into years, the years into decades. A reunion passes, a classmate dies from leukemia at age 30, a war waged when last you spoke has segued into another, a milestone birthday is reached in the fall followed by one in the spring. Lives change directions unknowingly with only the briefest of passing thoughts, the I-wonder-whatever-happened-to ....?

We don't recognize this until it happens, until time presents itself front and center in the form of a casual mention from a conduit. Thought you'd like to know ... she wrote; and then, my Friend Request Pending, the response within a half hour, a squall of emails amidst professional lives within a 10 minute drive of one another that actually resemble those majored in back in the day. And then the picking up from where we left off in the early 90s, before the Internet, before email, when what are you doing now? was handwritten in a lengthy letter or communicated via a landline phone. And then dinner plans next Wednesday, a Palm entry that even the most foolish gambler would not have ever wagered on when this week began.

The Dean mentioned the other day about how funny this phenomenon is of reconnecting with people who knew ye back in the day, before we became jaded, back when we knew it all. How strange and surreal, but somewhat comforting at the same time, to ease into that banter unique to your circle of friends, of remembering the shared history of eccentric bosses and jokes of old. Of discovering a part of you that you didn't realize had gone missing, but was buried under the cobwebs of our lives and the successes and failures that define them. Of remembering the importance of what has long been forgotten, and the hope of reconnection. Of holding on to the past because in the end, that is all we can do, that is all we know in this uncertain future, that is all that matters.

I Now Pronounce You the Winner of Matrimony ...

Many, many thanks to the 13 entrants in my first giveaway! (There were 14, but Anonymous withdrew.) I entered all your names in random.org and the lucky winner is number 13, MissWendiki!

There were 13 items in your list. Here they are in random order:

13. MissWendiki


Timestamp: 2009-02-21 15:08:35 UTC

Congratulations MissWendiki! And thanks again to all who entered!


Friday, February 20, 2009

Father and Daughter


If you leap awake in the mirror of a bad dream
And for a fraction of a second you can't remember where you are
Just open your window and follow your memory upstream
To the meadow in the mountain where we counted every falling star

I believe the light that shines on you will shine on you forever
And though I can't guarantee there's nothing scary hiding under your bed
I’m gonna stand guard like a postcard of a Golden Retriever
And never leave till I leave you with a sweet dream in your head

I'm gonna watch you shine
Gonna watch you grow
Gonna paint a sign
So you'll always know
As long as one and one is two
There could never be a father who loved his daughter more than I love you

Paul Simon, "Father & Daughter"

Remembering my Daddy today ... 1940-1985

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Honored, part 2

I want to fulfill my obligation in accepting the "Honest Blog" award, so here are 10 honest facts about me ...

1. I read the obituaries every day, as soon as I possibly can.

2. I'm not crazy about flying.

3. I've been told that I tell people too much personal stuff too soon.

4. I agree with number 3.

5. I have a very strong dislike of talking on the phone. If it can be communicated via an email, all the better.

6. If you work with me, you know that I am known for not ever deleting a single work-related email. Ever. You never know when you will need to cover your ass. Been there, done that.

7. I have issues with clutter. I'm working on this and I probably will be forever.

8. I have a hard time letting go of friendships, and if I could, I would stay in touch and regular contact with everyone I ever said hello to. Personally, that's one of the reasons I like Facebook so much.

9. I never watched cartoons (i.e. Saturday morning shows, after-school cartoons, etc.) as a child. They weren't forbidden in my house, but I just wasn't interested and couldn't have cared less. As a result, I am rather clueless when people my age wax nostalgic about episodes of Bugs Bunny and Popeye and god only knows what other characters.

10. I've never smoked, nor have I ever tried smoking. It's like the cartoons - I never saw the appeal of partaking in such activities.

Well, now, aren't you just so thrilled that D. gave me the Honest Blog award? Could have probably done without knowing some of those tidbits, huh?

And now, for the three blogs I will bestow this on ...

All the People I Know in Real Life blogs (see blogroll) are worthy of nomination, but I can't single just one of them out. That wouldn't be playing fair, particularly when one is giving out the Honest Blog award. Hence, I give this award to:

1. from here to there and back - Kristen's is a fairly new blog for me, but one that I am truly enjoying for the incredible writing and insights she offers. FHTTAB helps put life with a special needs child into some much need perspective and because of that, this is one blog that I make sure to read on a daily basis.

2. The 3R's: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness - this was one of the first blogs I discovered six months or so ago. Florinda became one of my earliest commentators and voices of encouragement. I admit that I borrowed the idea for "best of the week" from her because she is among the best at this. She's always good for adding a few more new blogs to my reader ...

3. simple.green.organic.happy - I've never met her, but Robin could qualify for the "people I know in real life" blog category because I "knew" her through another forum pre-beginning my blog. She, along with Beth Kephart (of Beth Kephart Books), are responsible for awakening my newfound interest photographing the everyday moments. Robin's blog has helped introduce me to many things, including at least one paid freelance gig.

There are so, so many others that I could nominate and it was really hard to select just three. You are all deserving!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Honored


Well. I am truly surprised. It seems that I've received a "Honest Blog" award from D., whose blog you can check out (and I hope you do) over at I'm just me ... Apparently, one bestows the "Honest Blog" award to bloggers who do the following:

"These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find friends and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships will be propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to other bloggers who must choose to pass this on and include this cleverly- written text into the body of their award."

In accepting this, I need to agree to tell 10 honest facts about myself and nominate three bloggers to receive this. For the former, since I've already done the 25 Things meme on Facebook, that shouldn't be too hard - but I want to think about that. (Plus I'll get another post out of that, helping me with my New Year's Resolution of writing at least one blog post per day.) And for the three bloggers, I think I know who my nominees will be ... but I want to give them their just due by adequately recognizing them when I am more awake than I currently am.

D., thank you so very much for this. It came in my inbox on an evening where it was a much-needed pick-me-up. I love the Honest Scrap button. (You know I'm into scrapbooking bigtime. I am going on a weekend scrapbooking retreat next weekend and am counting the nanoseconds). You were one of the very first readers of The Betty and Boo Chronicles when I started writing this and I was convinced I knew you in real life in a six degrees of separation way. (I still think that's a possibility!) You're a frequent commentator, which is always gratifying. And your blog, too, is the definition of exceedingly charming, as your love for your family, especially your daughter Tink, is inspiring to us all.

Thank you. I am very, very appreciative. More than you know.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Guest Post by Boo: My Favorite Presidents

In honor of President's Day, Boo would like to present you with:

My Favrote Presidents:
  1. John Q Adams-1825-1829

  2. Martin Van Buren-1837-1841

  3. Zachary Taylor-1849-1850

  4. Abraham Lincoln-1861-1865

  5. Rutaford B Hayes-1877-1881

  6. Teddy Roseavelt-1901-1909

  7. Herbert Hoover-1929-1933

  8. Franklin D Rosevelt 1933-1945

9. John F Kennedy 1961-1963

10. Lyndon B Johnson 1963-1969

11. Richard M Nixon 1969-1974 (only president to resighn office)

12. Gerald R Ford 1974-1977

13. Jimmy Carter 1977-1981

14. Ronald Reagan 1981-1989 (only president who was shot and after he was shot he did not die but died in 2004.

15. Bill Clinton 1993-2001 (Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton are the only presidents on this list that's alive)

But Wait Theres MORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.....................................

(to be continued in another post)

Matrimony Giveaway: Deadline Extended

Seems that love is definitely in the air with the book blogging community, as at least three of us (Maw Books and Bloggin' Bout Books and yours truly) are hosting giveaways of Joshua Henkin's book Matrimony.

My giveaway deadline was yesterday, but since other bloggers are also hosting giveaways, I thought I would extend the deadline into this week to give folks another opportunity to win this. So far, I only have two entrants, so your chances of winning here are excellent.

So, you have up until and including Feb. 20 to enter. (DemMom and It's only me ... you're still entered, don't worry.) Just leave a comment below. I'm hoping to have my review up sometime this week.

Best of the Week - February 8-15, 2009

Some of the best things that I've read over the past week ...

Finally, there's one corporate CEO who gets it. I applaud Steven Korman for his appeal to corporations to resist laying people off just for the hell of it. Certainly, as Korman says, some "reductions in force" are necessary at some businesses just to stay afloat. That's different from slashing thousands of jobs and lives for the sake of increasing profits by miniscule amounts, which might be impossible to do anyway. It's hard to wrap one's head around the fact that our country lost more than half a million jobs in January alone.

We all know people who seem to be faking their way through life. This article in Time shows us that, indeed, more people may be incompetent than we otherwise realized.

One of the best fundraising events I ever attended was a very simple, low-key affair sponsored by Girls Inc. of Philadelphia. My boss at the time was part of their board and we went to the event after work. Held in a large hotel lobby, it was no different than similar such functions - hors d'oeurves, cocktails, a silent auction, merchandise for sale. What was it about this event that makes me remember it 5 years later? I think it was the palpable passion that the organizers felt for the girls they were helping and the commitment they had. That's why it's sad to see this article about Girls Inc. coping with the loss of their DHS funding, this in the midst of an already challenging economic environment. They're a casualty of others' mistakes, but the girls they serve don't have to be. This is one of those instances where I wish I could do more than write a check that would only be a drop in the bucket in the face of their losses.

Here in the Betty and Boo household, we adore The Muppets and the genius that was Muppet creator Jim Henson. We watch episodes of The Muppet Show regularly on DVD with the kids. Muppet fans will enjoy this article from Mental Floss, "Surprising Stories About 20 Muppet Characters" about real-life people the characters are based on, the "backstory" on the various characters, and more.

Lost in the discussion about the stimulus package (which is certain important) was the announcement on Thursday, made by Vice President Joe Biden at the Special Olympics World Games in Boise, Idaho, that Kareem Dale has been named the special assistant to the president for disabilities policy. According to the article on the Special Olympics website, "Dale’s appointment marked the first time a U.S. president has had a special assistant focused exclusively on disability policy." I don't expect miracles from Mr. Dale, nor do I expect him to fix everything that is wrong with disability policy in our country, but it certainly nice to have a friend of people with disabilities in the White House.

If you haven't visited the Special Olympics World Games page yet, this collection of photos and feature stories is a good place to begin. Just when I think I have read the most inspiring story ever, I read another and think the same thing. One that is likely to stay with me for awhile is the story of Maryam Hasan, a Special Olympian from the United Arab Emirates. Her sport? Snowshoeing. Maryam trains in 100 degree heat on the Arabian beaches. Her motivation is her absent father, and her goal isn't a medal - it is to win her father's approval and acceptance by showing him that, despite her physical challenges, she can succeed. (Go to this page and then scroll down to "Be A Fan of Empowerment" to watch the video about Maryam.)

Have a great week!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Six Months

When you're dating, the six month anniversary is a big deal.

Wait - scratch that. What I should have said was this: from what I remember dating to be like ("Dating is Dead," 12/16/08), the six month anniversary was a big deal. Maybe not so anymore.

Regardless, today marks the six month anniversary of the launch of this here blog. I know in the blogosphere (a word I'm not crazy about) the one year "blogiversary" (a word I really am not crazy about) is celebrated moreso, for good reason.

But allow me to take the occasion of six months of blogging to say that this has been - and continues to be - a most enjoyable ride. I thought I would like doing this, but the reality is that I love it and somehow, it has become an essential part of my day.

So thank you. Whether you've been reading all 228 published entries since my first post six months ago ("It's About Time," 8/15/08) or just arrived here a second ago, whether you're one of my relatives or someone halfway around the world whom I've never met. I'm beyond flattered that you're interested in whatever it is that I have to say, be it my thoughts on books or indulging my kids' quotes and guest posts, or my soapbox stands on current events. I'm grateful and humbled that you care enough to read along and to possibly come back for more.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Library Loot: February 11-17, 2009


Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Robin from A Striped Armchair and Alessandra from Out of the Blue that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

To fully appreciate my Library Loot this week, it would be helpful (not to mention embarrassing for yours truly) to say a word or two about last week's haul, which I'd neglected to post about.


We live in a county with 12 library branches, and during any given week, our errands and to-do's usually take us within the vicinity of four of them. There's "the little library" as Betty and I refer to it; there's the small-ish one for our town; there's the large branch very conveniently located a major highway that we traverse frequently, and there's the even larger branch located in the college town where Boo attends a social skills group every Saturday afternoon. They all have their pros and cons.

Last Saturday, three of the books I checked out during our weekly visit were ones already on my night table.
The Sugar Queen, by Sarah Addison Allen
The Bible Salesman, by Clyde Edgerton
Sundays at Tiffany's, by James Patterson














No, I didn't forget that I'd already checked them out. Just the opposite. All are nearing the maximum limit for renewals and there's slim chance that I will get to them before they absolutely must be returned. So, when we were at that particular library branch, I saw them on the shelves and promptly checked them out again - scoring myself another 9 weeks to get 'em read. (I also checked out the CD of The Sugar Queen). The copies that I originally checked out now can be returned in time.
In addition, last week I also got these cookbooks:
Low-Fat, Low Cholesterol Cookbook, American Heart Association
Lorna Sass' Short Cut Vegetarian, by Lorna Sass



All right, so that brings us to this week ... when I again checked out two books currently on my night table for the sole purpose of getting more time to read them. (I am starting to think I need to discuss this issue with a therapist.)

The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, by Joshilyn Jackson
Without a Backward Glance, by Kate Veitch



And just for good measure, I couldn't resist either of these:

Unaccustomed Earth, by Jhumpa Lahiri
So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids, by Diane E. Levin , Ph.D and Jean Kilbourne
The Icarus Girl, by Helen Oyeyemi
The Best American Poetry 2008



I'm currently listening to Unaccustomed Earth on audio and am really enjoying it. With audios, I'm finding that if the story is really well-written, I want to get the book and read the words. Soak them up. Let them linger. The audios are both a way to speed up my reading, then, and a way to quickly gauge whether I'd like a story.
So Sexy So Soon has been on my radar for awhile now, and is timely with Betty's interest in Hannah Montana and - I'm very sorry to report - The Cheetah Girls. Hannah, I don't have a problem with. The Cheetah Girls ... yeah. I don't know their story, but I'm not overly crazy about them. The Icarus Girl has also been on my to-read list for some time, and The Best American Poetry is simply because I don't read enough poetry.

And with that, I am off to bed ... but not before reading briefly to try and make a dent in this large pile on the night table!

A Happy Quote About Love

Love is much nicer to be in than an automobile accident, a tight girdle, a higher tax bracket or a holding pattern over Philadelphia.
~Judith Viorst, Redbook, 1975

Friday, February 13, 2009

Flowers

A Valentine's Day bouquet of roses, sent to me from The Dean.

Look at the flowers - for no reason. It is simply unbelievable how happy flowers are. ~Osho

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Book Review (Kids): Mr. Lincoln's Whiskers



In honor of President Lincoln's 200th birthday today, I give you a review of Mr. Lincoln's Whiskers, a children's book written and illustrated by Karen B. Winnick.

This is a delightful book about 11-year old Grace Bedell, living in New York with her many brothers and sisters. Abraham Lincoln is running for President and Grace's father gives her a picture of him. He looks kind, Grace thinks, but his face seems sad. She decides he would look better "with whiskers." Unbeknownst to her family, Grace writes to Lincoln and presents her case why he should consider growing a beard.

Writing her letter is a considerable act of courage and independence for Grace, coming of age in 1860 when women weren't allowed to vote nor expected to voice opinions. (Grace does the latter during a dinnertime conversation with her brothers and father, offering them her position on slavery and the issue's impact on Lincoln's chances of winning the election).

To Grace's surprise - not to mention her family's - Mr. Lincoln replies. A month later, Grace and her family see Lincoln when his train stops in their town during his inauguration trip to Washington, D.C. Lincoln steps out of the train, tells his handlers that he wants to see Grace, and she comes forth from the crowd (how did he know she would be there? Pretty good advance work for 1860, no?). To everyone's surprise, he has whiskers - and he goes to be our first American President with a beard, in addition to a few other notable distinctions.

Written for a 6-9 year old audience, this is a delightful book on so many levels. It is at least partially true (an 11-year old girl Grace Bedell really did write a letter to Lincoln about growing a beard; however, the train stop encounter with Grace is something that my favorite presidential historian in this house has never heard of). More importantly, Mr. Lincoln's Whiskers shows girls that they can have opinions - and that they matter, and that they are entitled to their opinions. It also gives young readers an introduction to Lincoln and the time period in which he served as our President. Finally, in an increasingly digital age, the book includes the text and reproductions of the actual letters between President Lincoln and Grace Bedell.

Highly recommended for this age range and a book that is presented in a way that holds children's interest and perhaps sparks curiosity about Lincoln and a different time period.

(Boo would like you to know that he would have written or contributed to this review, but he is "still getting his thoughts together" about this book.)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Living Her Life (Reflections from Tuesday's Talk by Beth Kephart)

We came together last night, a collection of people knowing of our connections and yet unknowing the specific path that led each of us there. For some, the path was a church aisle, others a winding road, the long steps toward a dance hall, the fiber optics of cyberspace. Warm coffee and cake broke the ice among many of us strangers. Gathering by the display of books, we struck up conversations.


"How do you know Beth?"

"The dance studio," one would answer. And no other explanation was needed.

I struck up a conversation with an elegantly dressed, silver-haired woman, and together we struggled to figure out why the other seemed so familiar in looks and mannerisms. We provided mini-biographies of our lives ("Do you live around here?" "Not now, but I went to college here on the Main Line ..." "Did you play tennis?") and segued into discussions of the books before us. Yes, I said, House of Dance would be a wonderful choice for a special 11-year old in her life and yes, she said to me, you will love reading Ghosts in the Garden and you must visit Chanticleer sometime. I will do that, I promised.

And then we were treated to a slideshow of photographs, richly detailed and poignant photographs that elicted soft sighs and audible smiles throughout the audience. We heard excerpts from books and insights into their birth, and we asked about the state of publishing today, about the photographs, about the process. We learned more about one another, the passion some of us had for writing, the appreciation others had for those who do it well.

And then one final photo of the evening, taken by the author herself to capture the collection of people, the warmth of our togetherness before heading out into the winter night.



Thank you, Beth, for allowing us to be part of your special evening and, as always, for giving us a glimpse into your world so that we may understand and know ours all the better.

Valentine's Day Giveaway: Matrimony by Josh Henkin

Yes, it's my very first giveaway! In the spirit of Valentine's Day, I am pleased to offer you, my dear readers, a copy of Matrimony by Josh Henkin.
True confession time: I'm still reading this myself, so I don't have a review yet. However, I will say that it's proving to be a good read and one that is taking me back to my college days. Josh Henkin captures those collegiate years pretty well.
I'll have more to say about Matrimony once I'm finished, but for now it's your turn. Leave a Comment if you'd like to be entered. Deadline is Sunday, Feb. 15.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Best of the Week - February 2-7

I'm slightly behind on this week's Best Of post, and definitely more behind than I'd like to be with my blog reading. I'm pre-scheduling this one to publish on Tuesday, because I will have the good fortune to be attending a talk by author Beth Kephart that evening. I can't wait to tell you all about what is bound to be a wonderful event. Till then, here are some items of note that you might find to be of interest.

This has been a week tinged with sadness and uncertainty. Beth Kephart captures, as she so eloquently does, exactly how I am feeling this week in her post, Up to Us. I'm very much looking forward to meeting Beth in person next Tuesday.

For you Pennsylvania residents, this post by The Dean about Governor Rendell's proposed plan to bail out Philadelphia Media Holdings, owners of The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Daily News, just might leave you speechless.

Just what motorists need: Google and Amazon are planning to have more books available on our cell phones.

Is there anyone who hasn't done the "25 Things ..." Facebook meme? As this article from Time.com states, maybe there are some things that our Friends are better off not knowing about us.

I am so grateful to MOM-NOS (whose blog is truly among the best of the best) for mentioning me in her post. I'm humbled that you would mention my blog as one that you rely on for book recommendations. So many other book bloggers are more prolific and certainly more speedy in their reading than me, but wow ... I was completely surprised and flattered by that. Thank you.

And thank all of you for continuing to be here. I am so grateful to be in such wonderful company.

Monday, February 9, 2009

But Did Putin Request "The Visitors"?

So it seems that John McCain isn't the only political figure who is passionate about ABBA. According to published reports, including this one from UPI, Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin recently took in a private performance of "Dancing Queen" and "Mamma Mia!" by Bjorn Again, an ABBA tribute band.

Oh, but the January 22 show wasn't just another gig. Reportedly, Bjorn Again was flown from London to Moscow, traveled for an additional 9 hours, and were told to perform behind white curtains so they could not identify the members of the audience. They were also told that they were not permitted to leave the stage.

"It was the smallest audience we have ever performed to, but Mr Putin was
really enjoying it, shouting 'bravo' and clapping with the others," singer Aileen McLaughlin told The Times [of London]. "He was dancing along in his seat to 'Super Trouper' and raised his hands in the air during 'Mamma Mia' when we asked the audience to."

Singer Jennifer Robb told The Daily Telegraph: "The prime minister didn't
stand, but he and his wife, or whoever it was, were jigging about on the sofa
and singing the words to 'Honey, Honey.' All his officials were singing away and
doing a finger-pointing dance. They really got into it, even though there were
only nine of them. At the end, the prime minister shouted, 'Bravo, bravo' and
gave us great applause."

The Kremlin, however, is denying that such a concert occurred. So, as a proud ABBA fan, I'd like to pass along a message to my man Vlad, should he be reading this. (Whaaaaat? You don't think it's conceivable that the Russian Prime Minister is a closet reader of The Betty and Boo Chronicles?) There's no shame whatsoever in being an ABBA fan. In fact, truth be told, it actually makes me sleep a little better at night knowing that the Russian Prime Minister shares my appreciation of ABBA.

What I'm still wondering, though, is if Vlad requested the title song from ABBA's final album in 1981, "The Visitors."

But how I loved our secret meetings
We talked and talked in quiet voices, smiling ...
Now I hear them moving, muffled noises
Coming through the door, I feel I'm crackin' up
Voices growing louder, irritation building
And I'm close to fainting, crackin' up
They must know by now I'm in here trembling
In a terror evergrowing, crackin' up
My whole world is falling, going crazy
There is no escaping now, I'm crackin up
These walls have witnessed all the anguish of humiliation
And seen the hope of freedom glow in shining faces
And now they've come to take me
Come to break me
And yet it isn't unexpected

I have been waiting for these visitors ....

The cost of this private concert of ABBA's best hits? $30,000 (or $45,000, according to the New York Post). The blog fodder potential? Priceless.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Counting the Days


Beach at Undisclosed Location, our family's vacation spot, June 2008

We stepped out this morning for church and greeted temperatures in the 60s. Driving to church,I was rather tempted to skip the exit and head right on down to the beach. (Should we be so lucky to get another spring day in the middle of this month, I plan on doing exactly that.) It was only me and Betty, and I'm guessing she wouldn't have minded, as she seemed to have read my mind.

"In June we're going to Aunt E.'s beach house, right?" she inquired.

For the last few years, we've spent Father's Day weekend - which also usually coincides with The Dean and my anniversary - down the shore at my aunt and uncle's Undisclosed Location beach house. They graciously lend it to us, as they've done for the last few years on that weekend (among other times) and we're always very grateful.

"I think so," I said. "If no one else is there and if she lets us have the house again, then we will probably go, yes."

"Aunt E. is quite a woman!" Betty proclaimed, loud enough for the other church-goers who were walking up the path with us to hear.

In addition to being quite a woman (which she is), Aunt E. is also quite the regular reader of this blog. So, Aunt E., if the house is still available, put us down for our normal stay.

Looks like more than one of us is counting the days.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Telling Lies

Oh, quit telling lies
You're making me
Making me cry.

"Quit Telling Lies" ~ Hannah Montana *

We were sitting in the minivan this afternoon, Betty and I, scarfing down McDonalds while waiting for Boo's social-skills group to finish up. I was luxuriating in an afternoon infusion of caffeine, and Betty was happily munching on her Happy Meal, delighted with her prized "Hello Kitty" watch ("Oh, Mommy, how did the people at McDonalds know I needed a new watch?" she sighed dreamily. All the better to market to you with, my dear, I refrained from cackling.) I explained that Daddy would need to set the watch, as my energies were too diminished for such a task.

"Mommy, I hate to tell you this..." Betty began dramatically. "...but Daddy told you a lie at your wedding." With a lie being drawn out for maximum drama, as only a 7-going-on-17-year old can muster.

"Oh, he did now, did he? Hmmm, what would that have been?"

"You gave him a gift, but he didn't like it, but he only said he did," Betty announced authoritatively.

"Is that so?" I answered. (For the record, a hundred years ago when our nuptials occurred, The Dean and I both thought the custom of exchanging wedding gifts was ridiculous and considered the fact that we were vowing till death do us part to be sufficient enough.)

When we got home, Betty repeated this revelation verbatim to The Dean, who is partially amused and partially perplexed. Several hours later after intermittant light-hearted cross-examination, Betty's sticking to her story. (She's a future lawyer's dream on the witness stand, that Betty.) Claims that The Dean disclosed this confidence to her while playing a Hannah Montana board game.

The irony of which is not lost on me, as the whole premise of Hannah Montana is, of course, based on the idea that she is living a secret life.

( * very deep and profound lyrics, wouldn't you agree?)

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Real World Champions

I'm so glad that Susan Senator wrote this post ("Are You Game?") highlighting this article - otherwise, I wouldn't have had any idea that the 2009 Special Olympics Winter Games are being held this weekend in Boise, Idaho. Starting tomorrow and continuing through February 13, more than 2,400 athletes from more than 100 countries will be competing in alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, figure skating, floor hockey, snowboarding, snowshoeing and speed skating.

To give you an idea of how large this is, the 2009 Special Olympics Winter Games are bigger than the 2002 Winter Olympics held in Salt Lake City, Utah.

There's something about Special Olympics that has the power to touch even the most hardened of us, I think. It's evident in the folks who, heeding the wish of the event organizers to provide a hand-made scarf to each of the participants, knitted well over the needed 2,000 scarves. At last count, the Winter Games organizers had received 60,000 (and counting).

From the World Games Update page of the Special Olympics website:

And although they all have one goal: to do their personal best and strive for the gold medal, their individual lives and interests are as varied as their numbers. Many live in orphanages, some have never traveled outside their local communities and a few are from nations mired in poverty or countries engaged in conflict and unrest.

There are figure skaters who can unlock the mystery of a Rubik’s Cube, repair watches, make jewelry, play the trumpet and have earned a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do. There is a cross-country skier who performs stand-up comedy; a floor hockey player who volunteers at a fire department; a speed skater who is a member of the Society of American Magicians; and one who likes to hike in the Alps. Other athletes include an Alpine skier whose artwork was selected to be in a show, one who competed on her high school gymnastics team and another who appeared in a fashion show with Nadia Comaneci and Mihaela Radulescu. Some are even married and have children, like cross country skier Shawn Stainbrook, the father of twins, from Nevada, USA.

In these depressing economic times, we need the 2009 Special Olympics Winter Games more than ever. The Games are a reminder that we too, regardless of our personal challenges, can overcome obstacles. For one day, for one moment, the power exists for each one of us to triumph over adversity, to climb our mountains and reach for our stars (to quote one of my life mentors).

To become a true world champion.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Yesterday Once More

If I had unlimited time and even more unlimited funds, I swear I would write a book about the psychology of Facebook. Maybe such a book has already been written ... but regardless, I just find the whole Facebook phenomenon fascinating on so many levels. And even though it's only been in existence for five years, it's really been around in different forms for much longer.

As a teenager, I had a pile of pen pals. We found each other through "Friendship Books" and "Slams" - small handmade books, stapled together, adorned with stickers. Some were simple, others wildly elaborate. They arrived in the mail, accompanied by long, handwritten letters, missives about the drudgery of school, of boyfriends loved and lost, of parents, of cliques. Of music that I thought too cool - Depeche Mode, INXS, Simple Minds, The Psychedelic Furs. The idea behind the FBs and Slams was that you would receive one from a pen-pal, who had received it from one of her pen-pals. To every corner of the country and the globe the FBs and Slams traveled, allowing you to become friends with someone you had common interests with.

I lived for those letters and the envelopes stuffed with Slams and FBs that required extra postage. On the rare occasion, I would be allowed to make a long-distance phone call to a pen-pal, usually to wish her a happy birthday. We had parental-imposed time constraints on these cross-country calls.

And then, most of the pen-pals faded into the busy-ness of high school, of college, and the FBs and Slams disappeared. Letters became fewer and fewer. One pen pal and I took to exchanging cassette tapes, and the written missives turned into verbal monologues about the drudgery of school, of boyfriends loved and lost, of parents, of cliques. We interspersed our ramblings with recordings of our favorite songs. And then, as careers took hold and our lives became entwined with those who would become our boyfriends, our husbands, our ex's, the letters became yearly Christmas cards and updates.

And now, our emails have also gone the way of the letters. I've kept in touch with four of my pen pals, three of whom are on Facebook. We've become teenagers again, sending each other daily status updates and videos and links. We're doing the "25 Random Things," just as we did in the Friendship Books of long ago.

One of my pen pals, who I have actually kept in touch with, is recovering after a prolonged, complicated, medically-bungled illness. Tonight, she accepted my Friend request and among the groups she belongs to was "I Had Pen Pals in the 80s and Swapped FBs and Slams." Eagerly, I clicked through the list of members to see if there was anyone I recognized.

There was. And now, we are Friends. Just like that.

Like yesterday once more.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Coveting a Blog Layout

So, as you may have noticed, I read a lot of blogs. I may not read every post from every blog, but hey, there's only so many hours in a day.

In my perusal of other blogs, however, I've started coveting a feature of more than a few blogs I've seen.

I want a layout that has links at the top of my blog. You know, little tabs that say About and Books Read in 2007 or Read in 2008 and Photos and ... you get the idea. I want to be able to do that, but I am clueless and the more I play around trying to figure out exactly how to do that, the more frustrated I am.

Some women lust over clothes, shoes, jewelry .... but me? I lust for layouts.

So ... if you happen to be a blogger with such a cool feature, I beg of you ... how do you do that?

Icicles

I just love, love, love this photo, which was taken by my second cousin, M.B.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Sunset

Winter sunset on Friday, January 30 ~ as seen from our front door

Monday, February 2, 2009

Boo, On Groundhog Day

Boo had to write a short essay about Groundhog Day today. Here it is, for your reading pleasure.

I am happy that theres 6 more weeks of winter:

Well, I didin't watch the groundhog news. but my dad told me there was 6 more weeks of winter. i'm glad the groudhog saw his shadow.

2/2/09 Dear Groundhog,
I'm glad that you saw you're shadow. I love winter because of the ice. Love, Boo XOXO

The "I love winter because of the ice" is rather perplexing, as Boo comes from a long line of folks who would just as rather hibernate during the winter. Yours truly especially.


Batting a Thousand

A milestone occurred over the weekend here at The Betty & Boo Chronicles, and it went completely unnoticed by yours truly.

According to the counter at the bottom of the page, there have been 1,053 hits to this blog since I added that little odometer-like device here.

In my little world, 1,000 hits is a big deal. It still amazes me every time I get a comment, particularly from someone who doesn't know me in real life.

At some point soon, I will look up to see who Visitor 1,000 was .... and if Sitemeter deems me worthy of knowing such information, Visitor 1,000 will win a prize of some sort. I have no idea what that will be, but I will think of something.

In the meantime, thank you ever so much for reading. It is appreciated (especially tonight) more than you could ever possibly know.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Best of the week - January 25-February 1

For whatever reason, I didn't have many links in this post this week. It's not for lack of reading or items of interest. I'm not sure of the reason. But, here are a few tidbits to check out.

I personally like my politicians to have a little bit of a sense of humor, in a good way, which is how I took this joke by Joe Biden. We are seriously way too muzzled in this P.C. on crack society of ours if something like this becomes a big deal. Folks need to lighten the hell up.

Jenna and Barbara Bush offer some light-hearted (and not so light-hearted) advice in their letter to Malia and Sasha Obama about growing up in the White House and having a first-hand look at history.

World War I seems to be the stuff of history books, but not to Frank Buckles. Today's Philadelphia Inquirer has a great story about Frank, who turns 108 today and is the last known veteran ("our last living link") of World War I. He also has his own website.


Moving on from politics ... as it turns out, even the Sex and the City set isn't immune from the economic woes. I honestly don't know what I would do with myself if The Dean cut my Bergdorf allowance in half and if I had to give up bottle service. Oh, the horror! (What the hell is bottle service anyway? Somehow I don't think it's what I know to be bottle service - meaning, every weekend I take our bottles to the Recycling Center.)

That's all until next time. Have a good one!

The Right Book at The Right Time (or, Book Review: House of Dance)

Sometimes, if we're lucky, a book comes into our lives at precisely the right moment that we need it. We may not know it at the time, but as we read, it speaks to us on a level that is more than literary.

Sometimes, if we're lucky, a book brings to us the poetry of language, the dance of words, the vivacity of color in the details.

Sometimes, if we're lucky, a book brings back memories of days long ago, the innocence of childhood.

And sometimes, we get a gift of finding all this in one small treasure.

And if we're really lucky, we actually know the author - even if that knowing is just through her blog.

The book I speak of is this one, which I just finished.

I spent this morning engrossed in the last 100 or so pages of this novel by Beth Kephart, and it's such a fitting book for today. Today my grandparents are so much on my mind, as they would have been married 67 years today. In a sense, they still are. Even though my Mom-Mom has been gone nearly five years now, my Pop-Pop still awakes in the smallest hours of the day, looking for her.

Like Rosie's grandfather, my Pop-Pop appears to be nearing the end of his days (although his fighter's spirit, fading that it is, could very well outlive all of us) and we're conscious, acutely so as February begins, of time. And so is Rosie, all of 15 but much older and wiser than her years as she spends her summer by her dying grandfather's side, sorting through his books and travelogues and music of days long ago and days that once were still to come. In doing so, Rosie discovers her grandfather's story, one of hopes and dreams and "maybe somedays." One that we all can relate to.

When she isn't with her grandfather, Rosie is at the House of Dance. As the summer progresses and her grandfather's health declines, and Rosie's mother's emotional absence becomes more palpable, Rosie plans to give her grandfather a final gift.

I don't want to give much more away here, which I hope is doing justice to this exquisitely layered story of familial love and loss, of the push-pull of parent-child relationships, of time, of music. Of living for the moment, which Kephart is so proficient at capturing the essence of doing.

Two more thoughts: first, don't let the categorization of House of Dance as a young adult/teen novel dissuade you from reading this. Beth Kephart recently wrote that she tries to write for all ages, and in House of Dance, she most certainly does. Secondly, my praise of this novel is separate from my acquaintance with Beth, which I consider a privilege to have. Those of you who know me in real life know that I'm not the type to heap unwarranted praise or to curry favor. I'm certain that I would have been giving House of Dance 5 stars even if I wasn't acquainted with the author through her blog.

Highly recommended and well worth the read.