Friday, April 30, 2010

The Surprise of a Poem

For reasons probably better left unspoken, I was feeling in a little bit of a funk a few weeks ago. It's been an interesting month with my transition from my (now old) job to a new one and one evening, these lines from one of of my favorite poems were echoing in my head.

So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure...
That you really are strong
And you really do have worth
And you learn and learn...
With every goodbye, you learn.

So I did what any socially-connected person with a random thought would do: I posted the above lines as my Facebook status. 

And was amazed at the comments. 

You see, I thought everyone knew that poem, which is called "After a While."  I first read it shortly after my father died when someone sent it to my mom in a sympathy card and she shared it with me.  A calligraphied version of it has resided everywhere from my college dorm to the guest room in our current house. The lines are so familiar, so defining of my life, that I guess I assumed it was the case with everyone. 

Not quite. 

Because several of those commenting on it had clearly never heard this before, even those with similar life experiences as mine. I copied and pasted the whole thing and sent it to several people, all the while thinking that poetry is really an amazing gift, isn't it? It's a gift when someone shares a favorite poem with us, a surprise that these words, arranged just so, have been there all along, waiting for us to discover them.

Today marks the last day of National Poetry Month, so in the spirit of such, I'm not going to assume you know this one. If you do know it, enjoy it one more time ... and pass it on to someone who might need it. 

After A While, by Virginia Shoffstall
After a while, you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,
And you learn that love doesn't mean leaning.
And company doesn't mean security,
And you begin to learn that kisses aren't contracts
And presents aren't promises,
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes open,
With the grace of a women, not the grief of a child,
And learn to build all your roads on today
Because tomorrow's ground is too uncertain for future plans,
And futures have a way of falling down in midflight,
And after a while you learn
That even sunshine burns if you get too much.
So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure...
That you really are strong
And you really do have worth
And you learn and learn...
With every goodbye, you learn.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Book Review: The Heart is Not a Size, by Beth Kephart

The Heart is Not a Size, by Beth Kephart
244 pages
copyright 2010

People disappear, go missing, vanish without a trace.

It happens everyday, in communities big and small, rich and poor, around the corner and across the globe. Sometimes we're unaware of this, and sometimes we know exactly what we don't want to - or are afraid to - admit to ourselves and to others. It is then that this knowledge takes hold, becomes suffocating, too much for hearts to bear.

Such is the case with Georgia, the teenage narrator of Beth Kephart's exquisite new novel, The Heart Is Not a Size, set amid the stifling heat of Juarez, Mexico. There, in the community of Anapra, exists the ghosts of las muertas de Juarez ("the dead women of Juarez"), this horrible true-life phenomenon that has been occurring for years where women routinely disappear and are found (when they are found) murdered and often disfigured.

Learning of las muertas de Juarez and the conditions there doesn't stop Georgia from being called to be of service to that community, to want to give of herself to better the lives of others through a service project.

"The muertas stories were always right there in my research on Juarez, near as a mouse click. They always made me sadder than I can say - not being afraid of Juarez, but sad for Juarez, full of some big desire to do something that would make things better for the ones the murders left behind." (pg. 22)

Georgia encourages her best friend Riley to come along on the trip to Juarez, which Riley does despite the objections and prejudices of her overbearing, over-Botoxed mother.  The result is a trip that changes both girls, as the secrets they both carry are silently brought out under the scorching Mexican sun.

"There is a silence that stumbles toward words, and silence that transcends words. The skies change, and the truth does. But right then silence was truth, the stars; silence was Drake; it was me breathing." (pg. 186)

Amid so much silence and sadness, there is also - make no mistake about it - much color and life in The Heart is Not a Size. Beth Kephart, always a master of the literary detail, infuses her novel with vibrant color. She allows her reader to see the brilliant colors of community - the children's bright clothing and smiles and laughter, the bangles of the bracelets that Riley creates for them, the splash of orange that streaks Riley's hair, the silver glow of the moonlit sky.

Perhaps because Georgia can't quite put into words the experiences she is having - physically and emotionally - Kephart gives Georgia the gift of a camera's lens, through which she captures the images of the trip in her photos. For so much happens to her in such a short time, that she somehow knows she is going to need these images to reflect on an emerging understanding about feelings and life experiences that often defy understanding.

"I was taking photograph after photograph. I was looking into the houses where the doors had been blown off, remembering the women who had never made it home, who had been taken, vanished, disappeared, never to come back to this, their home. I was thinking how too-small the houses were for grieving; how a daughter might have waited up all night, all day, all night again for a mother to return. How a sister might.  Socorro. And then what? And then how do you make the best of that? And what do you say to all the other daughters, and how do you keep your loved ones safe? How do you keep standing up when you are shaken to the bone?" (pg. 203)

In addition to being a master of capturing emotions like these and the contrast of life and death, author Beth Kephart deftly weaves a contrast of worlds for her reader. The geographical proximity of Juarez to glittering El Paso, Texas, right across the border. The privileged life of kids growing up in the mega Main Line McMansions of the Philadelphia suburbs compared to the poverty and primitive conditions faced by kids growing up in Anapra, Mexico. The spoken and the unspoken.

From reading Beth's blog (daily, for me) and hearing her words about Juarez, you know that she is passionate about this community, that its people live within her own generously abundant heart, and that perhaps this novel is her way of giving them a legacy - to let them know that they matter to her and that they are important enough to matter to many others. That by sharing their story, our hearts may also increase, stretch beyond our own limitations and boundaries, make room for one more issue amid so many other heartwrenching issues and causes in our world.  To awaken a compassion and a courage to do what we can to make a difference, to save a soul (maybe our own?) from disappearing.

The Heart is Not a Size has its own blog and Facebook page. In addition, author Beth Kephart's blog is here.

What Other Bloggers Thought:
Book Crumbs
Booking Mama
Devourer of Books
Em's Bookshelf
My Friend Amy
Read What You Know
Reading Junky
S. Krishna's Books
Word Lily

FTC disclaimer: I received The Heart is Not a Size for review via the publisher and via My Friend Amy, coordinator of an online book tour for the book.  I was not compensated in any financial way for this review and my opinions are purely my own.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Honey, Honey

This anniversary today was a little bit easier, for some reason, than others.  Maybe it was because I was busy at work, finishing up my second-to-last-day at this job.  Maybe it was because my calendar is now Blackberry-ized, not paper, so I don't have the date staring at me. 

At 9 a.m., I was at my desk, same as I was (albeit it different desk, different place) 14 years ago when I got the call that my uncle had died.  This wasn't unexpected, given that he was terminally ill, but was enough of a jolt to seem seismic.  Some years on this day, I've stopped mid-work, almost as if the phone was to ring again.

And then, the day was over and I was heading home.  It is then, on this long drive that ends tomorrow, that my thoughts most often tend to wander.  I remembered, again, the day.  Not too bad of an anniversary, I thought.  Still .... 

I switched my XM station from 80s on 8 to 70s on 7 ... and ABBA's "Honey, Honey" was playing.

My uncle was a big ABBA fan ("it's such happy music, how can you not smile when you hear it"?) and there will never be a time when I don't hear any of their songs without thinking of him saying that. Honey was also the name of one of his very best friends, whose car he borrowed in order to make it to my wedding rehearsal dinner in time. The two converge in my novel in progress. 

I've been accused on occasion of looking for meanings and reasons amid mere coincidences, and I'm okay with that. And sometimes, yes, sometimes a coincidence just is exactly that - nothing more, nothing less. 

Whatever this little coincidence was - something out of nothing or something saying thanks for remembering me! - the happy music worked its magic once again, making me smile.

Photo taken by me 1/24/2010, during a trip to a local paint-your-own pottery shop with Betty's Girl Scout troop. I thought these little nonchalant angels, just waiting in the wings to be chosen and painted, were pretty cool looking.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Sunday Salon: Inspiration from Steve

We hear so much - so very, very much - about how difficult it is to be a new writer trying to break through the obstacles of this ever-changing world of publishing, don't we?

 Allow me to explain where I'm coming from with this.

This week I've been reading The Best American Short Stories 2009, edited by Alice Sebold (series editor Heidi Pitlor).  I'm really enjoying this collection, and like many of the stories ("Yurt" by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum, "Beyond the Pale" by Joseph Epstein, "The Farms" by Eleanor Henderson", "Sagittarius" by Greg Hrbek) all for very different reasons. If you're a fan of short stories, this is a collection worth checking out. 

 What I especially love about short stories is the opportunity to sample new (or, at least, new to me) authors.  I love the endnotes about the inspiration for the stories and their other works. 

 I'm not fnished with this collection yet, but there is one story that rises above the others (no pun intended), and that is "Rubiaux Rising" by Steve De Jarnatt. Originally published in the Santa Monica Review, this is the tale of a drug-addicted, disabled veteran trapped in an attic during the ravages of Hurricane Katrina.

 Suffice it to say that this is an incredibly haunting story.  It has stayed with me for days, demonstrating Mr. De Jarnatt's talent as a gifted writer. As a reader, you are right there with Rubiaux in that attic.  You cannot read this story fast enough. 

"In the attic Rubiaux watches light pour in - dancing dust around, slow and celestial like the Milky Way. His ears improve with a crack-jaw yawn. What's that high-pitched rushing? Those low knocking sounds like bowling heard outside the alley. And that slow, mean rumble. What is coming this way?

A shock wave hits the house like a dozen Peterbilts crashing one after another into the frame. Beams groan, the whole foundation nearly quaking off its shoulder, nails and screws strain to hold their grip, eeking like mice as wood and metal mad grapple to hold their forced embrace.

A new light shines at the far window, painting the ceiling with golden ripples. Reflection. Water. Water is coming. Water is here.

Rubiaux, who has been through more than anyone should ever have to, tries to remember his comfort song, the one he always hummed in his head on those endless missions, packed sardines inside the furnace of the A2.

"Wingo wheat lariot ..." He tries to sing the first notes of the refrain again and again like a needle that can't hop a scratch-trap groove. "Wingo wheat lariot - comin' for to - coming for to - coming to for - for to - to for - " But his addled noggin short-circuits. No sweet chariot can take him home today."

 And as I finished it, I thought, I need to read more of this guy's work. 

 Which is a bit of a problem, you see ... and where the inspiring part comes in. 

 Mr. De Jarnatt is an accomplished film and television director and screenwriter but when it comes to short stories, "Rubiaux Rising" is not only the very first piece of fiction Mr. De Jarnatt has gotten published, but it was his first submission.

 Allow that to sink in for a second.  Guy writes a short story, sends it out, and winds up being read by Alice Sebold and included in The Best American Short Stories 2009.

 Is that not truly awesome?  Is that not inspiration for all of us?  I love that.

 Congratulations, Mr. De Jarnatt, on this tremendous accomplishment and for giving us this great story.  But do us all one favor, please?  Don't rest too long on your laurels with this one.  Speaking for myself, I can't wait to see what else you've got.

A few other bloggers (all new to me ... yay!) have had good things to say about "Rubiaux Rising":

A Few Words
I Read a Short Story Today
Orange Words (there is a bit of a spoiler in this post)
Ramblings of the Hand and Pen
Spin This

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Yard Sale Treasures

Our church held a yard sale today as a fundraiser, so with The Husband working this morning, the kids and I set out to see what bargains could be had. Finding things to do on these days is often difficult, as the kids have very different interests.  This was no exception.  Betty, always eager for any opportunity to shop, was all gung-ho; Boo could not wrap his mind around the concept and because of such, was incredibly resistant. (We're going through a pretty obstinate stretch, behavior-wise, with him.  Happens every damn spring, but that's another post ... or not.)

"I don't want to buy a yard!" he hollered, when I made the suggestion of going to the sale.

A bribe of lunch at Friendly's helped to pry him out of the house and away from the TV and computer.  (Which was a significant part of my motivation.) And off we went. 

There weren't too many kid-related items for Betty and Boo's age range (that will change when we sign up to be sellers next time around; I just didn't get my act together in time for today). What was kind of impressive though was how they dealt with their money.

Boo earned $2 from the tooth fairy last night, so he wisely decided to keep $1 at home and take $1 to the sale. He spent a total of 80 cents (a Bugs Bunny Christmas VHS video for .75 and a Christmas tree ornament for .05) and was thrilled to have change. Most of what Betty picked out were clothes, so I bought them for her.  As well as a few other goodies:

I think we did pretty well.  Betty spotted an empty Mrs. Fields cookie tin with Happy Father's Day written on it and at .25, immediately knew that would be the perfect Father's Day gift.  She also got a small children's cookbook for .25.  As for clothes, she picked out a pink skirt, pink belt, and an Old Navy sweatshirt, all for .50 each. 

For me, I bought a pair of brand new tan heels for $10, a pair of black boots for $2.00 (seriously, $2!  For black boots!), three scarves for .50 each, a box of notecards for $2, an ice cream scooper for .25 (we don't have one), and of course, three books: Sacred Contracts: Awakening Your Divine Potential, by Carolyn Myss; Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee by Charles Shields (so incredibly excited about that!), and Indigo Children, by Lee Carroll and Jon Tober.

Total spent? $18.

Lunch at Friendly's cost more than that!

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Weekend Cooking: Cookbook Review of The Deen Bros. Take It Easy, by Jamie and Bobby Deen

Her down-home Southern cooking has made Paula Deen a household name, and with good reason.  Between her immensely popular Savannah restaurant, The Lady and Sons, to her television appearances, to her cookbooks, she is the go-to woman for all things Southern goodness.

She's also the mother of two boys, Jamie and Bobby Deen, who are food celebrities in their own right.  Following in their mother's footsteps, they hosted a Food Network show called Road Tasted and often appear on Good Morning America. And like their mama (as they affectionately call her), they have a new cookbook.

I spotted Jamie and Bobby's book, The Deen Bros. Take It Easy: Quick and Affordable Meals the Whole Family Will Love at the library and paging through it, the recipes looked simple, tasty, and ... dare I say it? even a little bit healthy.  (I will confess that I've never made a Paula Deen recipe, nor read one of her cookbooks. Her meals look scrumptious, but way too fat-laden for my cholesterol levels.) 

The premise of the book is that, while their mother's food is delicious and the centerpiece of their family life and livelihoods, their schedules don't often allow for the slow Southern way of cooking.  Jamie and Bobby Deen strive to give their readers - and their mama's fans - the same down home goodness in less than 45 minutes of preparation.

Jamie and Bobby live up to expectations in Take It Easy (and it certainly helps that they are rather easy on the eyes, are they not?)  There's something for everyone in this book - yes, even the vegetarian! - although many of the recipes draw (or should that be drawl? :) on their Southern heritage.  Recipes abound for meat, poultry, fish, pasta dishes, crockpot meals, main-course salads, kid-friendly foods (Jamie has a 3 year old, so he knows toddlers' picky tastebuds) and of course, desserts. The Deen Bros. Take It Easy is photographed so beautifully and written in such a style that you just want to sit down at the table with the Deen family for dinner and listen to them talk.

Here's one of the recipes from the book that we enjoyed:

Quick Braised Chicken with Rosemary and New Potatoes

3 pounds chicken legs, cut into thighs and drumsticks (or just use one or the other)
2 Teaspoons salt, plus additional for seasoning
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus additional for seasoning
1 pound small new red potatoes, cut into eighths
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, the olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and rosemary.

3. Place the chicken in a large broiler-proof baking pan and season with additional salt and pepper. Add the potatoes to the pan. Pour the rosemary mixture over the chicken and potatoes and toss to coat.

4. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover the pan and transfer to the broiler. Broil, 4 inches from the heat, for about 10 minutes, or until the juices run clear when the chicken is pricked with a fork. Serve Hot, with pan juices spooned on top.  (my note: this needed a little more cooking time in my oven ... at the 45 minute mark, it seemed more done).

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Some other recipes from the book that I can't wait to try:

Aunt Peggy's Pickled Cucumber, Tomato and Onion Salad
Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges with Brown Sugar and Cinnamon
Tomato and Mozzarella Salad with Balsamic Vinegar and Basil
Honey Mustard Baked Chicken
Garlicky Chicken and Peanut Stir Fry
Moist and Easy Corn Bread
Saucy Tilapia with Tomatoes and Capers
(I don't eat pork but if I did, their Grilled Caesar Pork Tenderloin would be on my must-try list)
Grilled Chicken Breasts with Brown Sugar Pineapple Rings
Mama's Yankee White Bean Pies
Baby Buttermilk Biscuit Pizzas (this is from the kid-friendly section ... pizzas with buttermilk biscuits as the crust!)
Baked Hush Puppies
Cheesy Cinnamon Toast (this looks real similar to a breakfast we get every single day whenever we're on vacation)
Ten Minute Blackberry Cream Pie

Happy eatin', y'all!

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Links I Liked

Moms Rising has been covering healthcare reform forever (and thank goodness, because they have been a reliable source of news for me on this issue).  This post explains very clearly - and offers up some solid links - about what the healthcare reform means for women and children.

Also from Moms Rising, this post The Food Revolution, The Work Revolution hits on a key reason why I am changing jobs in this economy. Workplace flexibility and an openness to telecommuting are critical.

And a third post from Moms Rising (you really should be reading that blog): It's not just my food resolution, a guest post by Jamie Oliver.

Speaking of food, Erin from $5 has created a coupon database, which is FREE to access!  Thank you, Erin! I'll definitely be making good use of this.

Confused (or just wondering) about the difference between sponsored posts, advertorials, reviews, etc. in this world of blogging?  Just Precious, who knows of what she speaks in the world of PR, defines opportunities in blogging for all of us.

Yogi asks us a poignant question (and gives us an important reminder) this week:  Where were you on April 19, 1995?

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and on Spare Candy (one of my favorite blogs), you can read President Obama's proclamation of such. A shout-out for Rosie for such great posts on this issue.  As someone soon to be working in the child abuse field, I am very appreciative to you for these.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Recipe: No-Cream Pasta Primavera

I'm in the kitchen over at (Never) Too Many Cooks today, with this great recipe for No-Cream Pasta Primavera that reminded me of some Olive Garden lunches with co-workers ... back in the day, pre-recession, when people had such a thing as discretionary income and could afford to go out to lunch.

(Yes, there should be farfelle pasta in this photo and in real life, there was.  We just ate the finished dish before I had a chance to take a photo of it.)

Bon appetit!

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Book Review: The Generosity Plan: Sharing Your Time, Treasure, and Talent to Shape the World, by Kathy LeMay

The Generosity Plan: Sharing Your Time, Treasure, and Talent to Shape the World
by Kathy LeMay
copyright 2009
240 pages

It's National Volunteer Appreciation Week, and I can't think of a better time to talk about Kathy LeMay's new book, The Generosity Plan.

Actually, I could talk about Kathy LeMay and her work on any given day of any given week.  As I mentioned previously, I first met Kathy at a Women's Funding Network conference in Toronto in 2004.  Even while battling the flu (or some such horrible illness), Kathy inspired all of us with a speech where she admitted that she'd just written a sizeable (for her) check to WFN and in doing so, proudly proclaimed herself to be a philanthropist. 

To the hundreds of us gathered in the room, it seemed that Kathy had been considering herself a philanthropist for years.  She certainly had the background, from her work as a volunteer in refugee camps in the former Yugoslavia and launching a successful consulting practice.  But what looked so easy to us in the audience really wasn't, as she writes of that transformational experience in The Generosity Plan.

"To me, writing $25, $50, and even $100 checks wasn't enough to say, 'I am a philanthropist.' Philanthropy still meant big money.  It wasn't until I turned thirty-one years old - after seventeen years of activism everywhere from Massachusetts to the former Yugoslavia - that I stepped in front of a crowd of four hundred at a philanthropy conference and, with my body shaking, named myself a philanthropist. The minute I said it, two women jumped from their chairs and cheered .... One woman said, 'That speech was the permission I needed to make philanthropy my own.'"  (pg. xv)

(Can I just say on a personal level how absolutely so cool it was to see this speech that I attended - and which remains one of the best I have ever heard - mentioned in this book?)

Kathy writes that we all have that power within us to become a philanthropist, to support the causes we care about regardless of how much or how little we have to give.  It doesn't matter if we have five million dollars or five dollars, if we have five days a week or five minutes a day.  What matters is being bold enough to take that first step toward becoming your own definition of a philanthropist.

"Boldness asks you to come out of your comfort zone, if only for a moment.  How do you know if you're stepping into boldness? You know you are being your best bold self when you feel excited, nervous, and hopeful in the same moment. You know you are being your best bold self when the action you are about to take will change you inside. Again, bold doesn't have to be big and flashy, but it should be daring for you. When you are bold for you and your own life, you can feel the change. When you are bold for something bigger than you, you make change." (pg. 147-148)

What if we want to be bold, to do something more meaningful with our gifts, but don't know how to get started - or even what causes we are drawn to? Kathy shows us how.  She takes the reader step-by-step through examples in her personal life and others, and from there, the reader begins to learn how to create his or her personal generosity plan based on causes and issues that you were attracted to as a child, or ones that were important to your family, or those impacting your life now.

She also gives concrete suggestions for working that plan and for developing a network of support for when staying the course becomes difficult. Because, as in any relationship, there is a cycle to one's philanthropic giving and involvement, especially when "our" cause gets swept up in the latest issue that the media or a particular celebrity is touting.

"...the real change happens over the long haul. The difference is made when we stay the course with our cause versus getting involved in everything that becomes visible or high profile. Staying the course lets you know that your vision is sound, your boldness intact, and your authenticity is front and center. Staying the course means that you will be there for your cause through the good times and bad, successes and drawbacks, wins and losses, and ups and downs. Staying the course means you truly believe in what you say you believe and you will stand in this effort for as long as it takes." (pg. 151)

We make all kinds of plans in our lives, Kathy writes, but yet most of us fail to plan thoughtfully for our charitable giving.  How many of us know how to research a nonprofit organization we're interested in supporting, beyond reading its website or annual report?  (Hint: Charity Navigator and GuideStar are great for this.) Or what to look for when we do find this information?  So often, our giving is done sincerely (the raffle tickets purchased from the neighborhood kids, the box of Girl Scout cookies bought from your coworker) but not purposefully in a way that can make a strategic, meaningful, transformative impact on our world and those in need. 

As someone who has spent her entire professional life encouraging others to be generous with their time, talent, and treasure to a variety of nonprofits, The Generosity Plan is a helpful book for nonprofit volunteers and donors.  If you're new to the idea of philanthropy or volunteering, or if you've been involved in charitable causes for years, there is no shortage of suggestions.  Indeed, there is something in here that everyone can begin to use immediately, in our own way and through using our own talents and giving of our own treasure, on the path of being a change agent for our world.

Visit Kathy's website, The Generosity Plan, for more information on the book, other reviews, and upcoming events where she will be speaking. 

FTC disclaimer:  I borrowed this book from the library, and although I consider Kathy a friend and am admittedly a bit of a fangirl of her work, I was not compensated in any way for this review. 

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

His Old Friend

"Can you imagine us years from today
Sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange to be seventy...
Old Friends
Memory brushes the same years ..."

"Old Friends/Bookends" ~ Simon and Garfunkel

My mom called to me this morning from the kitchen, looking out onto her patio (pictured here in the December snows), announcing Jack's arrival and that of his dog.

He needed no introduction, and we greeted each other like long-lost relatives, which in a sense we practically are as our family has been intertwined with Jack's ever since I can remember. Jack was among my Dad's closest friends, if not his best friend.  They'd worked together first at one firm, then another, then another - a small group who did what they did so well that they were often recruited as a team.  They still talk about those days and each other by their first names - Jack, Joe, the two Charlies (or, as we're fond of saying here, "Chah-lee"), the others whose names have been forgotten. 

And my Dad, the one who is missing from this baseball-type lineup of engineering Whiz Kids, the one who lives in their pasts frozen in 1985 as the young father of two, whose precise block-printing is still talked about, whose blueprints and drafting papers Jack still keeps and proudly shows off to my brother before bestowing pieces of time gone by.   The one who had the ultimate, albeit untimely, early retirement package.

My mom and stepdad moved to this particular over 55+ community last fall, and they've quickly become part of the active adult nirvana lifestyle that such villages with quaint names promise. My mom was drawn to this new development for reasons she could and couldn't quite pinpoint.  Since moving in last fall, she's found one new old friend after another, one connection leading to another.   Life coming full circle in the cul-de-sacs of their lives.

And so it was with Jack, who spotted my mom on one of her walks through the curving streets and paths connecting the homes, and immediately recognized her and reintroduced himself, pointing out his own house within a few hundred yards.

"It's so great to see you!" I said to Jack this morning on the blustery patio, having not seen him since my Dad's funeral 25 years ago.

"You can't be more than 19," he joked.

"More like 41," I replied and realizing how that must have seemed to him, his friend's daughter now just three years shy of the same age as my Dad was when he called in sick with the flu and wound up a candidate for a heart transplant.

"I have the best story to tell you someday about you and your brother, something your Dad talked about," Jack said. 

"I'll tell you someday," Jack promised again, and then he was off, just like that, headed down the path.

Wait, I wanted to say.  Tell me today.  Tell me this mysterious funny story that has piqued my curiosity, whatever tale of suburban parenthood that was so compelling that a coworker friend could still remember it and carry it with him more than 25 years later.

Tell me today.  Because we've all seen what happens to someday.

"A time it was, it was a time
A time of innocence, a time of confidences
Long ago it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They're all that's left of you ..."

"Old Friends/Bookends" ~ Simon and Garfunkel  

first photo taken by me of my mom's back patio on Christmas Day, 2009; photo above taken by me of the walking paths connecting the homes in my mom's development, Easter Day 2010.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Building the Dream of The MLK Jr. National Memorial, One Blogger at a Time

In one of the sessions I attended as part of the Association of Fundraising Professionals conference this week, nonprofit blogger Katya Andresen suggested that fundraisers should reach out more to bloggers.

I thought about this, and realized that it makes perfect sense - and how, as someone who has been blogging for nearly two years now (and who has been known to occasionally write about causes and issues I'm personally passionate about and touched by), I've never been approached by a nonprofit connected with those issues to help spread the word about their cause.

Until, ironically,Tuesday - while I was in Baltimore, attending and LiveTweeting Katya's session, Supersize My Online Savvy

That evening, I opened my email to find a note - complete with links galore, including that of a "Social Media News Release" from a representative with The Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial.  It was a follow up to a previous email, which I admit I'd ignored, but with Katya's sage suggestions in mind, I took a look at. 

My first question was, why me? This is a potluck blog, one without a particular niche because I don't live my life exclusively in one realm. Although I love talking about the books I'm reading and giving my thoughts on them, I don't consider myself exclusively a book blogger ... but I consider myself part of that community. I'm fairly open about our family's journey with Boo, who has Asperger's Syndrome, so I consider myself one of the autism bloggers ... although, not exclusively. I'll write about my writing, about the recipes I've tried, about the funny (at least to me) things my kids say or things we do as a family. I'll stand on my soapbox and give you my two cents on sale about the day's issues and news. Any of these sorts of topics are fair game for that's day's post. 

So yeah ... why me? Perhaps it was my post about meeting civil rights activist Dabney Montgomery that might have caught the attention (or Google Alert) of the folks with The Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project. Or my review of the children's book, My Brother Martin. Whatever it was, someone with the project clearly did their homework, and presented their case in a professional yet personal way with a compelling website and a courteous email (and an equally courteous follow up one). Again, I'm impressed by this and even though I don't have a huge readership, I'm happy to spread the word about this project, which has raised $106 million of the $120 million needed to build the dream of a national memorial to one of our country's greatest heroes.

As a family, this would certainly be something I would take my kids to see if we were visiting Washington D.C. My son Boo would be especially enthralled, given his passion (genetic from his father) for history and biography. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is a worthy project - one with big ambitions, yes, but the whole reason it exists to begin with is because King himself had big dreams, no? - and if this is something of interest to you, I encourage you to check it out.  The site is impressive, with videos and virtual tours of what the memorial will look like, how kids can help through the Kids for King campaign, banners like the one to the left (it should click right into the MLK site, but doesn't - which is the fault of my computer's quirkiness, not the site itself).

But it is also the social media aspect of this that is intriguing to me, and that in of itself is worthy of nonprofit professionals to look at.  This is an organization that is doing many things right with social media - which savvy nonprofits cannot ignore and must master given today's always-connected society and with so many of people living our lives online.  And because the MLK Memorial folks have done so much right with this project, their credibility and worthiness is enhanced in my eyes as a supporter.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Some Funny (and Bizarre) Search Terms

There hasn't been any shortage of fun and bizarre search terms that have led people to my blog. It's always amusing to see these phrases ... at least, I think so.

"now we can go between the moon and New York City"
"well i'm lost in love and i don't know much when you get caught between the moon and new york city."
"new musicals with caught between the moon and New York City."
"the boo bea songs"

"snowmaggedon pictures"
"betty boo wedding photography"

"poem love comes for a season"
"the melody to the song Happy Birthday To You was written by two women of which occupation?"

"James Madason" - (someone searched on this twice, with the same spelling, so I guess they figure that's how our former President spells his name. It is ... if you're Boo and you're 8.)

"betty blogspot"

"oodles of fun answers and questions 3/1/10" (I'd like to think we have oodles of fun and provide answers to questions every day around here, not just on March 1.)

"3 orangutans, 1 blender" (Um ... this one is just downright weird and a bit creepy. I can't imagine which one of my posts could possibly conjure up this search. Or what the hell the searcher was searching for!)

"does boiling onions calm down crying child"
"when a spouse runs for political office"

"speech unbound chronicle review"

"does don draper know his brother dead"
"don draper band"

"found out he my brother kite runner"

"runway catwalk clothes clothing vogue dior vuitton versace ralph"

And my favorite (althought the orangutans in the blender are a pretty close second) is this:

"facebook is watching you."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Today, We Remember

Ross A. Alameddine
Christopher James Bishop
Brian R. Bluhm
Ryan Christopher Clark
Austin Michelle Cloyd
Jocelyne Couture-Nowak
Kevin P. Granata
Matthew Gregory Gwaltney
Caitlin Millar Hammaren
Jeremy Michael Herbstritt
Rachael Elizabeth Hill
Emily Jane Hilscher
Jarrett Lee Lane
Matthew Joseph La Porte
Henry J. Lee
Liviu Librescu
G.V. Loganathan
Partahi Mamora Halomoan Lumbantoruan
Lauren Ashley McCain
Daniel Patrick O’Neil
Juan Ramon Ortiz-Ortiz
Minal Hiralal Panchal
Daniel Alejandro Perez Cueva
Erin Nicole Peterson
Michael Steven Pohle, Jr.
Julia Kathleen Pryde
Mary Karen Read
Reema Joseph Samaha
Waleed Mohamed Shaalan
Leslie Geraldine Sherman
Maxine Shelly Turner
Nicole Regina White

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

The Sunday Salon 4/11/2010: Generosity and Goodness

For whatever reason, Blogger is being incredibly stubborn about not allowing me to schedule posts.  I just realized my Sunday Salon from this past week didn't post when I'd intended it to.  Better late than never, I guess. 

I'm heading to Baltimore today for a conference with 4,000 other souls who do the same thing I do for a living.  It should be a good couple of days and I'm really looking forward to it - although the four days away from home is a little bit daunting, I'll admit.  There is some downtime, so I'm bringing along a few books ... of course. 

Two of my books this week happen to be coinciding with this conference. As I mentioned in last week's Salon, I'd picked up Kathy LeMay's The Generosity Plan, which I'm almost finished reading.  It's a quick read of how all of us have the potential to give of our time and talents and treasure to causes we care about, even in these recessionary times when work and home pressures are increasing and discretionary income for philanthropy is dwindling.  Kathy shows us why this is important, not just for the nonprofits our gifts are directed to, but for ourselves.

I work for a nonprofit and have always worked for nonprofits, so I'm guessing I'm not the target audience for this book.  (Although I will read anything Kathy LeMay has to write.)  It does give me some food for thought, however.

Last week at the library, I happened to notice Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu's book, Made for Goodness and Why this Makes All the Difference.  As it turns out, Desmond Tutu is a keynote speaker at the conference! Of course I had to check it out and it will be coming with me this week.  I think it's pretty cool that I saw the book (had no idea about this book until I saw it.)

I'll be blogging about Desmond Tutu's speech later this week.  I think it is on Tuesday.

I hope everyone who participated in the Read-a-Thon had a great day!  I didn't sign up this time around, but I have been trying to visit as many blogs as possible to do some unofficial cheerleading.  And I couldn't let a Read-a-Thon go by without any reading, whether I'm participating or not, so I feel a little better now that I've read about 50 pages of The Generosity Plan.

Hope you have a great week!

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Charmed in Charm City

On our wedding video (and yes, at nearly 17 years old, it is indeed a VHS video) several of our guests offer their wishes, thoughts, and advice to me and The Husband.  There are the standard Hallmark sentiments from people representing various eras of our lives, and then there are The Husband's two best friends - best man and groomsman in our wedding.

They're standing together for this interview, and the one whose job is to quote people for a living says, very sincerely and simply:  "Just amazing ... wishing ... well, I'm sure J. would agree with that."

J.'s response is a simple, "L'chaim!"  and the whole scene makes me laugh, every single time.

I've been away from the blog for the last few days, due to being at a professional conference in Baltimore (also known as Charm City).  The trip was incredible for many reasons, and I was thinking about that incoherent quote from our friends while I drove home from Baltimore this afternoon because that speechless in-awe feeling is how I'm feeling.

I don't talk much on here about what I actually do.  It's not really a secret, and you can read between the lines and figure it out, but I just haven't felt the need to introduce my work as a fundraiser/PR director for a nonprofit into the mix of posts on books, Aspergers, food, politics, whatever I'm in the mood to write about here at the time. 

I'm doing so now because over these past few days, I knew that I would want to write about some of the experiences we had because they were absolutely extraordinary.  Among our keynote speakers was Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  Being in the same room with him was like being in the presence of God.  We also heard from Lee Woodruff, wife of Bob Woodruff, who spoke about his brain injury and the impact it had on their family.  We heard from Peter Thum of Ethos Water and Jeff Salz, two people who aren't household names but who were incredibly inspiring for different reasons.  I also met Dan Heath (and won his new book!) and went into full groupie mode when meeting one of my favorite nonprofit bloggers, Katya Andresen. (I bought her book and had her sign it too.)

There's a lot I want to tell you about - the books, the food, the shopping, the people I mention above. So I'll be doing just that over a series of posts over the next couple days or so. 

But let me say this: I've had an incredible couple of days. There's something immensely energizing about being with 4,000 people who get what you do and struggle through every day.  I needed this conference in so many ways, for so many reasons. 

And what this conference brought home for me this week, too, was how the lines between these various aspects of one's life are more and more often blending into each other - like the voices and personalities of our wedding video guests.  I used to be (still kind of am) the type of person who keeps their friends separate - for example, my friends from high school would never interact with my friends of college, nor would coworkers at one job ever be introduced to someone from another job.  But as I found myself as one of the people live tweeting the conference, I found myself thinking more and more about these kinds of issues, the graying of these fine lines between the various aspects of our lives.  It's something I might write more about in the coming days or weeks. 

Till then, I'm still riding the high of these four days of living a very lucky and charmed life.

photo taken by me on Sunday evening 4/11/2010 at the Inner Harbor, Baltimore, MD.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Reading in Spirit

Happy Read-a-Thon Day to my book blogging friends!

I'm not officially participating this time around, primarily because I'm ... um ... very busy this morning (as you can tell from my sitting here on the sofa, still clad in PJs, frittering away time online). 

As of tomorrow, I'm leaving my family for four days and heading for Baltimore, where 4,000 people who do what I do for a living are gathering for an international conference.  (If you follow me on Twitter and notice a lot of tweets  and RTs from me with the hashtag #afpmeet, that's why. And if you happen to be a reader of this blog and are actually among those 4,000 attending, send me an email.) 

I'm really looking forward to it, although it is weird ... I don't think I've been away from The Husband and the kids this long before.  (Somehow, I think they will survive.)

So, there's a few things to do around the house (like blogs to read and Facebook statuses to update) before I go.  Not much time for reading, but I thought I would cheerlead when I can.  I can't not participate at all.  I mean, really ... one has to have priorities, you know.

Happy reading everyone!

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Book Review (Audio): The Secrets of a Fire King, by Kim Edwards

The Secrets of a Fire King, by Kim Edwards
Audio read by Bernadette Dunne

Before The Memory Keepers Daughter skyrocketed up the best-seller list, author Kim Edwards wrote another book, a collection of short stories.

We all know how much I love a good short story collection, and since I adored The Memory Keepers Daughter, I was interested in reading this one. I was even more interested when I spotted the audio at the library.

Before I start with the commentary, I gotta say something about that cover.

It kind of creeps me out, if I do say so myself. It's too ... embryotic. Too freaky. Anyway, I just had to mention that.

Maybe I keep conjuring up embryos in connection with this petri dish of stories because, with a few exceptions, they all kind of struck me as not quite ... fully formed. The adjective that I keep coming back to for these stories is "nondescript." I've been listening to this audio all week and while they're nice enough stories, most of them fall somewhat flat, forgotten as soon as I eject the CD.

For example, there is a betrayal aspect to the story "Spring, Mountain, Sea" that could almost be viewed as a prelude to the central plot of The Memory Keepers Daughter; in fact, the two incidents are similar enough that I was curious to know if it had inspired or influenced the novel. However, unlike the novel, the betrayal in this short story is mentioned and then all but dismissed, only to be referenced once more. It seems integral enough to the short story that it does the tale a disservice.

Perhaps it's just that the novel format is a stronger one for Ms. Edwards, and that's OK. I think as writers we're allowed - encouraged, even - to experiment. We need to, otherwise how will we ever know what  works? 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Book Review (Poetry): Slamming Open the Door, by Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno (National Poetry Month Blog Tour 2010)

Slamming Open the Door
by Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno

I never should have read this book. 

I never should have read this book because it should never have been written ... because the subject of these incredibly heartbreaking poems, Leidy Bonanno, should still be alive.

Leidy should be alive today, not memorialized so lovingly on the pages of Slamming Open the Door, a collection of poems written by her mother Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno. 

Her name is pronounced "lady" and her nickname was Ladybug - hence, the ladybug on the cover and the images of them throughout the book in illustrations and in several poems. We meet Leidy as a child ("Meeting You, Age Four"), as a nursing school graduate ("Nursing School Graduation Party, Six Weeks Before"), as a 21-year old victim of domestic violence ("Hearsay"). Her beautiful face greets the reader, and you smile wistfully back, only to be immediately choked by the first poem, "Death Barged In."

Death Barged In
In his Russian greatcoat
slamming open the door
with an unpardonable bang,
and he has been here ever since.

He changes everything,
rearranges the furniture,
his hand hovers
by the phone;
he will answer now, he says;
he will be the answer.

Tonight he sits down to dinner
at the head of the table
as we eat, mute;
later, he climbs into bed
between us.

Even as I sit here,
he stands behind me
clamping two
colossal hands on my shouders
and bends down
and whispers to my neck:
From now on,
you write about me.

As painful as it must have been to do, I'm grateful to Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno for sharing Leidy and her story with us. In each poem, in each line, she gives us every emotion that accompanies Leidy's death. We are there with Kathleen and her husband as they call Leidy's cell phone, as they drive to her apartment, as the police officer gives them the news. We're there in the flashbacks at Leidy's graduation party from nursing school, and we know exactly who Kathleen is talking about when she writes:

When Dave clears his throat,
and raises his glass to toast her,
we raise our glasses too -
and Johnny Early, a nice young man
from Reading Hospital,
smiles and raises his glass.

(This particular poem chilled me for personal reasons, because of the eerie similarities to Kristin Mitchell who I wrote about in this post ("Run Life Your Way: Remembering Kristin Mitchell"), Kristin was also 21 when she was also killed by her boyfriend, three weeks after her college graduation. I've met Kristin's family, and in his speeches, her father often mentions that he first met her boyfriend at her graduation ceremony, just like Kathleen did.)

In Slamming Open the Door, we see the full spectrum of grief, from the anger to the absurd.

Sticks and Stones
To you, who killed my daughter—
Run. Run. Hide.
Tell your mother
to thread the needle
made of bone.

It is her time now
to sew the shroud.
The men are coming
with sticks and stones
and whetted spears
to do what needs doing.

What Not to Say
Don't say that you choked
on a chicken bone once,
and then make the sound,
kuh, kuh  and say
you bet that's how she felt.

Don't ask in horror
why we cremated her.

And when I stand
in the receiving line
like Jackie Kennedy
without the pillbox hat,
if Jackie were fat
and had taken
enough Klonopin
to still an ox,

and you whisper,
I think of you
every day,
don't finish with
because I've been going
to Weight Watchers
on Tuesdays and wonder
if you want to go too.

When I signed up for the National Poetry Month Blog Tour being hosted by Serena of Savvy Verse and Wit  I had a different book of poetry in mind to feature. Then I saw this at the library, started reading it while my own daughter was selecting her books (the irony not being lost on me), and couldn't put it down. 

When I did, I realized that this needed to be the poetry collection I reviewed as part of National Poetry Month, because Leidy's story - that domestic violence can happen to anyone, anywhere, regardless of one's background or education or anything - is one that needs to be told to as many people as possible. It's a story that needs to be told, too, because it shows us that we're not alone in our grief - that although the specific circumstances and details might differ, we have all experienced similar emotions.

Although, understandably, the majority of the poems focus on Leidy's death and the aftermath, Slamming Open the Door is also a tribute to her all-too-brief life.  She lives in the hearts of those who loved her, and for those of us who didn't know her, we get to do so in these 41 emotional and contemporary poems.

Slamming Open the Door is the recipient of the 2008 Beatrice Hawley Award.  For more information about the book and links to other reviews, as well as more information about Bonanno's other work, please visit Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno's website at

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Manhattan Clam Chowder

I'm over at (Never) Too Many Cooks today, serving up a bowl of Manhattan clam chowder that my mother made for me - from a recipe that dates back to 1976!

Stop on over for a taste and see what else we've got cooking.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Sunday Salon: Birthday Edition

Getting this week's Sunday Salon right under the wire this evening, but I have a good excuse.  My birthday was this weekend, today was Easter, and work has gotten interesting. I've been preoccupied this week with a job offer - which I have happily accepted - so the next few weeks are going to be a little crazy 'round here with beginnings and endings. 

I wanted to visit the bookstore for my birthday, but didn't have a chance to get up to the mall.  Instead, I found myself dropping off library books and although I have plenty of library books still at home and had no reason to even glance in the direction of  the New Books shelf (oh, who am I kidding?) I figured that it couldn't hurt to look. 

So imagine my delight when I saw one of the books I was planning to buy, right there in front of me!  Of course, that led to a dilemma: I really wanted to buy The Generosity Plan: Sharing Your Time, Treasure, and Talent to Shape the World because I met its author, Kathy LeMay, six years ago at a conference. Kathy gave a speech that was and still is, without a doubt, the best speech I have ever heard.  It was only right to support someone who I consider to be an influence on my way of thinking ... but I wanted to read this book now! 

(And I started to, right there in the library ... and imagine my shock when on the very page I turned to, Kathy wrote about that very speech I'd been in the audience for! It's about how all of us have the power to be philanthropists - that it doesn't take big checks with multiple zeroes to be considered such.  That designation isn't just the property of those with wealth.  We all have the potential to be charitable, to change the world through our gifts, even if they aren't of the amount that will get our names on buildings.  It's about finding your philanthropic passions and ways you can support them, even in small ways (especially in small ways).

This book moves quickly, so in that regard I think it would be a good choice for Dewey's 24-Hour Read-a-thon, which is coming up this Saturday, April 10.  I'm not signing up this time around - although I will likely read and cheerlead unofficially.  I'll be travelling to Baltimore's Inner Harbor right after the Read-a-Thon (any good independent bookstores I should visit in the area or any other bookish-things to do?) so will need to get things in order on the home front, rather than reading.

Happy Easter to all who celebrated the holiday today and for those who didn't, I hope you had a great weekend too. 

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Book Review (Kids): My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., by Christine King Farris

My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., by Christine King Farris and illustrated by Chris Soentpiet

"Early morning, April 4
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride
In the name of love!
What more in the name of love?"   
"Pride (In the Name of Love)", U2

At the beginning of this beautiful picture book, Christine King Farris invites the reader into her family circle. 

"Gather round and listen as I share childhood memories of my brother, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I am his older sister and I've known him longer than anyone else. I knew him long before the speeches he gave and the marches he led and the prizes he won.  I even knew him before he first dreamed the dream that would change the world."

Christine gives her reader a glimpse of a close-knit family where the kids practiced piano and played practical jokes, all during a time when "certain places in our country had unfair laws that said it was right to keep black people separate because our skin was darker ..."   Still, despite the times, their Atlanta neighborhood was one where all kids played together, regardless of race.

"The thought of not playing with those kids because they were different, because they were white and we were black, never entered our minds."

Before long, the King children learned about injustice when their friends suddenly weren't allowed to play with them anymore.  Christine writes about how her brother Martin (known as M.L.) "looked up into our mother's face and said the words I remember to this day.  He said, 'Mother Dear, one day I'm going to turn this world upside down.'" 

My Brother Martin doesn't go into King's assassination at all, instead focusing on his formidable years and the importance of family and standing up for what one believes in.  It's told in simple language, with gorgeous illustrations. I think it speaks to kids at a time when they might be realizing that their friends are of different ethnic backgrounds or of a different race. It reinforces the message that we're all equal, that even though someone might look different, they enjoy many of the same things.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Weekend Cooking: A Vegetarian Easter Dinner

We celebrated last Easter quietly and low-key at home, instead of traveling to have dinner with family. In looking through my recipes and posts from a year ago, I happened to stumble upon an unpublished post about the vegetarian Easter dinner I made for the four of us. I thought I would share that with you for this edition of Weekend Cooking. 

(Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.)

Apparently, last Easter I made Risotto with Peas and Broccoli. I'm guessing this was a recipe from the box or something because I didn't write it down.

We also had Asparagus Parmesan (found here on

1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound fresh asparagus spears, trimmed
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter with olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add asparagus spears, and cook, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes, or to desired firmness. Drain off excess oil, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.

I also made Balsamic Roasted Red Potatoes (also from

2 tablespoons olive or canola oil (I used olive)2 pounds small red potatoes, quartered
1 tablespoon finely chopped green onion (I used regular onion)
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (this was a little too much for our taste)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes, onion and garlic; toss to combine. Add the thyme, rosemary and nutmeg; toss well. Cook and stir for 2-3 minutes or until potatoes are hot.

Transfer to a 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan coated with nonstick cooking spray. Bake at 400 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until potatoes are golden and almost tender. Add the vinegar, salt and pepper; toss well. Bake 5-8 minutes longer or until potatoes are tender.

If you have a vegetarian at your table this weekend (or anytime this spring, really) maybe some of these dishes might be good ones to try. They're pretty basic, but together they made a nice meal.

Happy Easter to all who are celebrating. If you're not, I hope you have a great weekend too!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Perpetual Change

"Every spring is the only spring, a perpetual astonishment."
~ Ellis Peters

I was born on Holy Thursday. There aren't any dramatic stories surrounding my birth, just a simple one.

My mom recalls that the world was still in winter grayscale when she went into the hospital to have me, but when she came home several days later (back in the ancient days when moms stayed for nearly a week after childbirth), spring had definitely sprung.

It was, she says, like the world was completely changed. And in many ways, it was.

Today is Holy Thursday (my birthday is this weekend) and I was thinking about that, given the week I had.  It didn't start out too good, as you can probably surmise from my previous post.  The hospital visit with Boo, the crappy weather on top of a miserable winter, all of it were taking its toll. 

What I didn't write about on Tuesday was that I was in full procrastination mode.  I had an email flashing on my BlackBerry from a potential employer.  The interview was OK - not one of my best, not my worst - and I wasn't sure if this was a job I was interested in.  I had my reasons, but as I listened to myself, I was wondering if perhaps they weren't just flimsy excuses.  This field is too emotional, I said, ignoring the fact that this is very closely related to the field I currently work in. There are two other jobs that I'm a candidate for that sound better. I had a million reasons for not returning that call. 

The Husband convinced me otherwise.  "Just hear them out," he suggested.  "Listen to what they have to say." I reluctantly agreed to do so, emailing while pumping yet another $35 worth of gas into my car for my 150-mile round trip commute (I spend around $100 per week in gas) that I'd love to talk more, fully rehearsing my "thanks, but no thanks" courtesies.

By 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning, everything changed.  With one conversation, I began to see possibilities where there hadn't seemed to be too many.  I called The Husband, my end of the conversation sounding like a broken record of "but what if what if what if what if ...." 

What if I just said yes?

I'm one of those people who sometimes talks a nice game about embracing change, but has a tough time actually doing so.  Sometimes it takes a little convincing ... or a look around at the scenery, to see the small bud of possibility on the bare branch. Sometimes we get a little too comfortable, coast a little too long on autopilot, that we're blind to what is right in front of us. 

One of my mentors in college and in life once told me - and I have never forgotten this - that we make decisions based on what is right for us at the time.  Nothing terribly profound, but a reminder to be grounded in the moment, to go with what feels right, because in the end, that is all we have when caught up in the seasons of change.

photo taken by Betty during our recent trip to the zoo.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.