Tuesday, March 30, 2010

When Doctors Disappoint (Or, Maybe Aunt Lizzie Was Right)

It's kind of ironic (my life is built around irony, if you haven't noticed) that today is National Doctors Day and I'm just back from one of the most disappointing visits to the doctor ever.

It started around Christmas, maybe earlier, I don't know, when Boo developed this hacking sort of cough whenever he would play the Wii.  It would seize hold of his chest muscles, and he'd erupt with this loud "heeeehhh!"  Just once and that would be it ... and then, no lie, 10 seconds later it would happen again.  Over and over and over again.

This can't be good, we thought, so like any decent parents, we took him to the pediatrician ... who pretty much advised us to ignore it.  A nervous habit, maybe a tic, something called exercise-induced asthma ... pick a diagnosis, any diagnosis! Chest sounded clear, breathing seemed ok, nothing to worry about. 

Still, this continued into this decade, and on and on ... so I made an appointment for today with our ENT at the Big Children's Hospital in the City about two hours away from us in rush hour traffic, which is what one always must travel through to get to Big Children's Hospital in the City because one needs to get the first available appointment with Dr. ENT. So, through the pounding rains, Boo and I set off this morning in the dark at 6:30 a.m. and made it with 10 minutes to spare before our 8:20 a.m. appointment.

An hour later, I was pulling out of our parking spot. Suffice it to say, Dr. ENT (who we generally really like, which is why I'm incurring the out-of-network insurance charges to take my son to him at Big Children's Hospital) was even less concerned than the pediatrician. We left his office with no more than a "nothing we can really do, just follow up with your pediatrician, see you in 6 months" nod and a handshake. Meanwhile, I get to live with this barking seal like sound every 10 seconds when my kid is playing the Wii (which I'm not inclined to have him give up because a) it is something he's good at and b) it is exercise on crappy weather days like this).

I hate to say this, but this is happening more and more often with my interactions with the medical establishment. There's this indifference, this unspoken notion that I'm wasting their precious time (as if my remaining 5 vacation days and the 1/2 tank of gas it took to get to Big Children's Hospital aren't precious enough). I don't always have the greatest of faith in medical professionals, and today only reinforced that mindset of mine. The Husband and I differ on this dramatically.  Whereas I will go weeks and months without refilling prescriptions, years without checkups (I mentioned to him last night that I think I need my eyes checked as it has been 7 years since my last prescription), he is vigilant about this stuff. (I should clarify that I am only lax on this in regard to myself, not my kids.)

This was kind of my mom's Aunt Lizzie's approach to medical matters. I never knew her, but from the stories handed down, Aunt Lizzie was a deeply religious woman who believed that all things could be healed with prayer and some old-fashioned homemade country cooking, be it soup or shoo-fly-pie or whatever, or an uplifting letter to a friend who was ailing.  No doctors or hospitals or medications for her, thank you. 

So I was thinking about Aunt Lizzie as I drove back home. Maybe there's something to be said about her approach, a trust in either one's instincts or a higher power. Blame it on the rainy weather, blame it on other factors going on in my life, and I'm beginning to question my ability to trust my own path, to successfully advocate for my kid.  (The nurse practitioner - who looked to be all about 11 years old - looked at me aghast when I mentioned Boo received zero services, despite being on the autism spectrum.  "In our state, he's not delayed enough," I said, as Boo folded himself into thirds and attempted to do a forward roll off the office chair.)

Back home, I found my solace in Facebook and all my mom friends with medical degrees from the School of Real Life chimed in as I threw myself a pity party.  One emailed to say that her son has the same exact condition, and that her pediatrician has said the exact same thing.  "It's hard to listen to," my friend emailed, about her son's identical coughing. 

She made me feel better than any visit to a specialist could have done.  She listened, she understood.  She made me feel like a decent mom. 

And if she lived closer, I probably would have invited her over this afternoon for pie. 


photo taken of Boo at the Storybook Ball (hence, the Superman costume he's wearing) at the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia.  He's playing in the Emergency Room exhibit of the children's museum, pretending to look at x-rays.

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, March 29, 2010

Morning in America


She gave me the news this morning, along with my large French Vanilla coffee.

My Dunkin' Donuts lady is leaving.  In two weeks. 

She got a better job, one with more humane hours (and bosses), one that is better for her and her family.  It's at the local hospital.  I'm not sure what exactly she'll be doing or if my generic reference letter played a part in this, but there was no mistake from her smile that this is a step up for her, a better move. 

She saw what she needed to do, and she did it.  And I couldn't be any happier.

She gives me an espresso shot of hope, that somehow, maybe, things in this crazy negative world might get a little bit better.

That for at least one person I care about, it really is morning in America



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, March 28, 2010

The Sunday Salon


How can it be possible that 2010 is already one-quarter finished?!   With this being the last Sunday in March, it is. Very hard to believe.

It has been a pretty good reading week for me.  I started - and finished Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat's Jewel Box. What a beautiful book! I must admit, before reading this, I wasn't aware of Albright's penchant for pins and the significance they carried in relation to world events.  It's a fascinating book for the photography of the pins, but also for her stories of her years on the world stage.

In last week's Sunday Salon, I wrote about my current audiobook, The Book Thief, and wondered if I should really be reading it instead. TC commented that this one really does lend itself more to the printed version because of the stories and pictures contained within. I took that advice and now am inclined to agree.  And now I agree with what everyone raves about with this one! 

I picked up a small volume of poetry at the library last weekend, started reading it while Betty was selecting her books, and couldn't put it down.  Slamming Open the Door is a powerful collection of poems written by Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno, following the murder of her daughter Leidy. I don't want to say much more about this one just yet - other than it is a powerfully heartbreaking collection - because I will be talking about it more on April 6 when I'm part of the 2010 National Poetry Month Blog Tour being hosted by Serena of Savvy Verse and Wit.

Hope you are having a great Sunday with much reading!


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, March 27, 2010

Weekend Cooking: Warm Spinach Salad with Beans and Feta Cheese

March is a funny month, meterologically-speaking, on this part of the East Coast.  There are gorgeous days when temperatures soar into the 60s and 70s, and there are days like today when it is downright cold with the thermometer barely reaching 30 degrees.

It's hard not to think spring when seeing fresh crops of vegetables, like asparagus, but the cooler temps make one want to hold onto those warmer dishes. 

I was in the mood for a warm salad the other day, and in keeping with the spirit of improvisation that other Weekend Cookers wrote about a few weeks ago, I came up with this warm spinach salad with great northern beans and feta cheese.

I started by sauteing some onions and garlic in a pan - not too much, maybe a handful of onions and the equivalent of 1 tsp. or so of garlic.
Then I added the bag of spinach to the pan, along with a drained can of beans.  You can use less beans if that's more your preference. I sauteed all this until the spinach got nice and bright green.



(It always amazes me how a whole bag of spinach can get reduced to such a small amount.)  This only took a few minutes.  Then, I sprinkled the feta cheese on top.


I thought this was pretty tasty, if I do say so myself.  You might want to make some adjustments with the beans or garlic or feta for your preferences.  I happen to like all of those, so the quantities worked for me.  This could be a side dish for a few people, or as a main course for one.  (Nobody in my family was too interested in this, I'm sorry to say, so it was all mine.)

Happy 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. 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.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Links I Liked

We could all laugh a little more, as Robin's post ("Laugh and the World Laughs With You") reminds us.  And, I dare you to look at this photo of Robin's kids in the snow and not laugh.  If you need further motivation, it just took first prize in the MomSpace Magazine Winter Photo contest!

My kids never got into Curious George as much as I hoped they would I did ... but if you or a kid you know are fans of the little monkey, check out this new exhibit at The Jewish Museum in Manhattan.

Speaking of Manhattan, a New York story of a ride along the milky way.   (I absolutely love the concept of this blog, the3six5's posterous.)

I've been loving these posts on my friend MOM-NOS' blog about her incredible recent talk about autism with the kids in her son Bud's class. (Start here with "Circle of Friends"). These posts have done more to restore my faith in this generation than ... well, actually, the next two links that I include below.

I love 11 year old Will Phillips (love!!!! him!!!!) for speaking out for equality for all.  I don't know if I necessarily agree with his stance of refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance, but you gotta give him points for this speech. 

Speaking of equality, our cousin Joey might soon be a household name because of his work with The Equality Project. A segment on our local news prompted CNN to pick up the story (unfortunately, I don't have that link - can't find it) and ... you didn't hear this from me, but word from Joey's dad is that a Big Name TV Person's people have been in touch.  But for now, here he is on Action News last week:



Till next time ...


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.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Everyone Deserves Access to Helping Shorts (Re-Post)

This post was originally published on September 9, 2009 here on The Betty and Boo Chronicles. But for new readers, and in light of the whole healthcare reform issue, I thought this might provide a little laugh in the midst of all the craziness. 


Everyone Deserves Access to Helping Shorts

Maybe he was inspired by watching President Obama's speech on Tuesday in his 2nd grade classroom.

Whatever it was, when I mentioned to Boo that I wanted to watch President Obama on TV tonight, he pleaded - pleaded! - with me to stay up late and watch with me.

So, I agreed. "You can watch until 8:30," I said.

We settled onto the couch, at one point Boo commandeering my laptop to Facebook and Twitter on my behalf.

"Do you know what he is talking about?" I asked Boo.
He shook his head. "I think he wants to make the USA a better place."

I tweeted this adorable tidbit (only to be RTed by some miscreat who spouted off about misguided youth - and no, surprisingly it wasn't South Carolina's Official State Idiot Rep. Joe Wilson), and then Boo wrote his own Tweet.

President Obama is talking about helping shorts.

Huh? Helping shorts?

Helping short people?

Oh.

No, Boo, I laughed. Not helping shorts.

That would be health insurance.

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.

Erin's Dream

How is it possible that the very people who have lost so much, suffered unimaginable heartache, are the same ones who can move forward in such a positive way that makes a difference for so many? 

I don't know Erin Curtis personally, but there is something about her story, her dream, that we can all connect with.

Her grandmother's farmhouse, a reminder in so many ways of a time gone by. 

The loss of one, then two, of her children to infant acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a rare cancer very difficult to treat and unheard of in non-twin related siblings. 

And now, a chance to hit the refresh button on their lives and the lives of others. 

Today's Philadelphia Inquirer tells of Erin's dream of transforming her grandmother's 5 acre farmhouse into a place for families grieving the loss of a child or facing the loss of a child due to terminal illness.  A place with a memorial garden, space for fundraisers, walks along the creek.

To do so will take money - about $220,000 for the initial renovations.  That's why Erin's Dream is entered in the Pepsi Refresh Everything Challenge to win $250,000 toward this very worthy project.  Of course, there will be more needed down the road ... but this represents a start, a chance for a new beginning for so many people.

You can help by voting for Erin's Dream in the Pepsi Refresh Everything Challenge.  You can vote 10 times a day, up until March 31.

Go. Vote. Refresh.



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, March 23, 2010

Guest Post from The Husband: Another Biden Gaffe? Big Deal.

Joe Biden was right: it is a big fucking deal. By now, you've no doubt watched about 100 versions of Biden's statement of the obvious, made Tuesday while embracing President Obama at the signing ceremony for the health care reform bill. "This is a big fucking deal!" Biden 'whispered' into Obama's ear as the two men hugged.


Based on the look on the President's face when Biden dropped the 'fuck bomb', it seems as if Obama realized immediately that his big-mouth Vice President's words had been picked up by the microphone. The expression on Obama's face read something like, "Oh, he is such an asshole."

There are many angles to this story. First and foremost, as I said when I led off the post, it is a big fucking deal. The Obama Administration managed to do what has eluded leaders in this nation for over 100 years: provide universal health care. Books will be written, classes will be taught and even mini-series will be filmed detailing exactly how in the hell the President managed to do this. It's that big a deal. Love the bill or hate it, there is no question it is a big fucking deal.

I'm more interested, though, in the angle on Biden. The man [who I've done a 180 on, by the way; I used to dislike him with a passion unbridled] is a big mouth, who loves to hear his own voice.

So, a little 'fuck bomb' is nothing. In Biden's defense, it is important to remember that one of his best friends on Earth was the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy [D, Mass.]. No one in American politics worked longer on the cause of universal health care [granted, for the first 30 years he did so between drinks and waitresses] than Kennedy. No doubt, Biden was thinking a lot about his late friend in the moments leading up to Biden's introduction of Obama on Tuesday. I wouldn't doubt that Biden was caught up in an emotional moment and merely expressed what he was feeling.

I also like the way the White House is dealing with it: which is essentially to say, "Hey, it's Joe Biden: what the fuck do you expect?" That is definitely the way to play this rather than trotting out poor Joe and making him apologize for it. First of all, he's just as likely to say something stupid during the apology anyway, thus making a bad situation more hysterical.

More importantly, though, exactly what would he be apologizing for? Biden did not lean into an open microphone and calculatingly say they word 'fuck' so that every nun and altar boy from here to Scranton could hear him. You had to really, really listen good to get the gist of what Biden said to Obama. Yes, the Vice President should know about 'hot' microphones and that nowadays they can pick up your goddamned thoughts let alone something you whisper.

But Biden is an emotional man. Obama knew then when he tapped him to be his running mate. It's a passion that often - perhaps more often than not - gets Biden into trouble. Like just about any politician, he has an enormous ego, thinks he's brilliant, and believes that he would be doing you a disservice if he did not point out to you just how brilliant he is. He is also compassionate, well-read, accomplished, smart, funny, and - from most accounts - a generally likeable fella.

And, like most of us, he uses the word 'fuck' a lot. Unless you've never used the word, never thought the word, and possibly never committed the act associated with the word, you've no right to castigate Biden. Dumb to utter the 'fuck bomb' before a world wide audience? Yep. A national moral crisis that will leave an entire generation of young children scarred for life? I think not.





reprinted with permission from The Husband's blog and now copyrighted 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: Chick, Chick, Cous!

I'm over at (Never) Too Many Cooks today, making my culinary blogging debut there, so stop on over and say hi.  I'm serving up a very simple and easy dinner of boneless chicken, chickpeas, and couscous that (wait for it ... ) both my kids devoured last week.  Here, try a bite:


I kind of improvised this dinner, using a marinaded chicken recipe of Rachael Ray's and having a craving for couscous and knowing my kids would eat chickpeas. We tend to go for the plainer foods in our house, so this isn't meant to impress anyone.  (Although if one can manage to get my two 8 year olds to eat something other than Stouffer's Macaroni and Cheese, that is impressive to me.) 

Chick, Chick, Cous! comes from the fact that, in our house, it helps to give a new dinner a catchy name.  Say it like "duck, duck, goose" and tell me if that isn't more appetizing to an 8-year old than "chicken with couscous and chickpeas.")

You can find the full recipe recipe over at (Never) Too Many Cooks.  Along with a lot of other tasty morsels from my new friends. 



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, March 22, 2010

What Congress Should Legislate Next

Now that we've gotten health care reform out of the way, I hereby propose a new broad-sweeping piece of legislation for Congress and the Senate to enact into law as soon as humanly possible. 

It is time for someone to figure out exactly how the hell to legislate common sense. 

They say it can't be done, that it is impossible to legislate morality and common sense, but after last night, anything is possible.  This, I believe, is more than doable.  Make no mistake, not passing the comprehensive Common Sense Reform Act of 2010 will result in an even greater downturn of our country.

Maybe it's me, but this morning brings all kinds of news stories to my airwaves, prompting my reaction of what the hell were they thinking?  And I'm not even talking about health care reform -  although the member of Congress who yelled "baby killer" on the House floor would certainly fall into that category.  (Does anyone know where Joe "You Lie!" Wilson was?)

We have reports here in Philadelphia of a "flash mob" of thousands of teens and young adults (and I'm sorry, but judging from the photos of some of these folks, they look a lot older than "young adult.") descending upon South Street.  Just, you know, because.  Now, for those non-Philly natives, South Street is a funky area of town comprised of restaurants, shops, and clubs.  It's an experience, usually one that is a pleasant and fun, especially on a warm spring night, as Saturday was in these parts.  But really, what are people thinking that makes them cause havoc and mayhem to an entire section of a city and scaring the bejeebers out of people? (These sorts of flash mob episodes are becoming epidemic in my city of ruins, by the way.)

Similarly, across the river in South Jersey, we have a 16-year old who picked up one of the public-address systems in Walmart and calmly ordered all "black people" to immediately leave the storeWhat was he thinking?

And this morning, reports of a drive-by shooting in Philadelphia - this because the shooter (Driver A) was allegedly annoyed that Driver B would not let him into traffic.  Driver B was following her friend to the expressway, which is tricky to find in that part of town in the dead of night.  What was Driver A thinking?

These things are true crimes, yes.  But they are accompanied by even more and more head-scratching incidents, ones that don't (yet) have any crime or apparent breakage of the law attached. Those are the ones that I believe need the protection of some strong, unanimous, bi-partisan legislation.

We need to be protected from people like the ones above, absolutely, but we also need to be protected from the likes of people who need a sign on one of our area's major highways that advises:  FENDER BENDER? MOVE VEHICLES OUT OF TRAVEL LANES.  Swear to God, this is brand new ... I saw it this morning.  Really?  People need to be told this?  It's really kind of infuriating, in a way, that my tax dollars had to be spent on the very creation of such a sign to ... well, try to communicate some common sense. 

Shortly after seeing that, I pulled into the drive-thru of my Dunkin' Donuts, only to see the woman in the car ahead of me hand my Dunkin' Donuts Lady a bag of trash from her car. 

"Did she just hand you her trash?" I said, incredulously.  Dunkin' Donuts Lady nodded. 

"People," she sighed. 

"What the hell was she thinking?" I said, incredulously, this blog post already half-written in my head.

And I won't even go into this weekend's main source of frustration for me - well, OK, maybe I will - that of a mob of kids at the park/playground in my development.  Betty and I walked down to the playground, a mere quarter mile from our house, only to find - once again - a group of ne'er do wells of teens literally hanging on the slides and monkey bars. 

Now, they weren't doing anything ... except behaving in uncouth ways, talking of things I can't type on this blog for fear of the hits such questionable verbiage will produce.  Quite simply, I was uncomfortable being around them and from the looks exchanged with several other parents, I wasn't alone. 

There's a skate park area of this park, specifically for the teenage population, so there is no justification for these kids climbingrunningjumpinghanging on the same playground equipment as toddlers. We wouldn't put a 14 year old in the same classroom as a preschooler, so why is this any different? This happens all the freaking time at this playground, and once again, I felt I had no choice to leave the park because of these kids' behavior and conduct. 

Because really, what other recourse did I have? Tell them to stop talking about such gross and explicit topics in front of my 8 year old? What, and be met by, at best, nah-nah-nah-nah-nah declarations of free speech or, at worse, the barrel of a gun and a group of adult bystanders there with their kids all too ready to look the other way and do nothing as I would hypothetically be beaten to a pulp in front of my child?

There's nothing I can do about this except watch the housing prices of the homes directly facing said playground plummet by another hundred thousand dollars.  If I contact our town's Mayor and tell him I'd like a refund of my tax dollars for the slide in the park that I built that my kids cannot use now because a 17 year old is running up and down on it, he'll probably tell me that the State Police patrol regularly but other than that, it's out of his hands. If I write an op-ed to my local paper, nothing will happen. 

Because nothing can.  Because they're not doing anything except being idiots.  They're not thinking

And that fact that so many of us aren't, that is why we need protection in the form of a law. That is why we need the comprehensive, bi-partisan, Common Sense Reform Act of 2010 enacted immediately. 

Photo taken of the playground scene referenced above. Notice the little girl (not mine) trying to climb up.  She made it, but the kids barely let her pass and go down the slide before THEY took their turn. That's not right.  Clearly, I've turned into an old fart when stuff like this drives me nuts.  (Then again, I was an old fart when I was born.)
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, March 21, 2010

The Sunday Salon: A Menagerie of Books This Week


It's a gorgeous Sunday here, and Betty and I will soon be visiting the zoo (my 8 year old veterinarian-in-training wants to check on her favorite Siberian tiger), followed by stops at the library and the supermarket.  These were our plans for yesterday, but what I suspect is a burst eardrum of Boo's (and the resulting pain) kept us close to home.

Which was fine (being close to home, not the burst eardrum) because that allowed me to finally finish and write a review of David Plouffe's The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama's Historic VictoryIt's a very thorough account of the Obama for America campaign, and I liked this one a lot. The irony wasn't - and still isn't - lost on me that I finished this on the eve of another new chapter in the Obama legacy. As the historic healthcare reform vote looms this afternoon, it has the potential to be the defining issue of a historic presidency that Plouffe and so many people sacrificed so much to achieve.   I read this for my Memorable Memoir Reading Challenge (one more to go!) and for Support Your Own Library.

My last four books have been nonfiction, so I'm really craving a good novel right now. That's somewhat complicated by the fact that several books I want to get to are due back to the library soon, so I don't have the luxury of indulging in even a semi-chunkster - hence, I'm reading a few shorter, quick books at a time. 

I started Exactly as I Am: Celebrated Women Share Candid Advice with Today's Girls on What It Takes to Believe In Yourself at my desk over lunch. It seems to be a quick read and a good book to keep in one's purse (or Kindle). I'm reading this one for the 2010 YA Challenge and the Support Your Local Library Challenge.

I had ulterior motives for starting Madeleine Albright's Read My Pins last night as the kids and I were reading together before bedtime. Always one drawn to baubles, bangles, and beads, I thought Betty would be entranced by the glitter of the pins on each page. I was right, as Madeleine Albright's pins are absolutely gorgeous. More important, though, is that I thought it would be a subtle way of introducing her to our former Secretary of State as an example of an accomplished woman ... as opposed to some, uh ... other notables I can think of.  I'm reading this one for Women Unbound and the Support Your Local Library Challenge.

And then there are these two, which I haven't even opened yet, but which I am hoping to get to this week.


Oh, wait .... I almost forgot my audiobook!  I just started The Book Thief  (narrated by Allan Corduner) last week and am loving this.  It's kind of a Catch-22, though.  The writing is so good that I often think I should be reading this instead.  But then I think, isn't that one of the qualities of good writing, that it can work just as well spoken as written?  Regardless, The Book Thief was among my want-to-make-sure-and-try-to-read-this books for this year and now I understand what y'all have been raving about! My commute is going to be a few days less than usual this week, so it's possible I might have to resort to the printed word to keep up. 

OK, now we're off to see what awaits us at the zoo and the library. Make it a great Sunday everybody!

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, March 20, 2010

Book Review: The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama's Historic Victory, by David Plouffe


The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama's Historic Victory
by David Plouffe. Campaign Manager, Obama for America
390 pages
2009

We know how this story ends. 

It is the beginning and the middle chapters, some of which we know and some of which we're just learning, that David Plouffe shares with us in his recounting of the Obama campaign, The Audacity to Win. 

"When we entered the race, we talked a lot about trying to run a different kind of campaign. The odds of our electing a president were against us: our only hope of success depended on breaking free of the standard political paradigm and becoming a movement. ... Above all, it meant a change in tone. We wanted to avoid engaging in the snarky tit-for-tat that had consumed our politics for years, and to put the grassroots - the people - before interest groups and endorsement politics. We wanted to reach voters individually rather than expect some group or person to deliver them.


"Our dogged refusal to be led around by the nose by insiders and interest groups was driven by a few factors: We had no margin for error; We knew we wouldn't run the perfect campaign, and we didn't, but we could not be cavalier in making decisions on resource allocation - whether time, money, or message. We had none of them to waste." (pg. 68-69)

The Obama campaign strategy, as conceived and executed by "the Davids" (Plouffe and Axelrod) and their team, was many things.  It was a break from the conventional ways of campaigning, from the focus on grassroots organizing to the embrace of online fundraising.

What David Plouffe shows his reader is that while there were many successes (and rightfully so), there were mistakes and missteps. He is forthcoming about many of these, about Obama's ("I don't want this to happen again" stern reprimands when they did) and shoulders the blame often. Plouffe reminds us of the facets of this campaign that one either forgets just 18 months after the election or that we didn't know about. For instance, I never knew how indecisive Obama was about running for President (even after he had decided to do so - a hesitancy shared by Plouffe as he contemplated becoming his Campaign Manager.)

"I called Obama in Hawaii to tell him. 'Against my better judgement," I said, "I've decided to accept and manage this nutty enterprise. All-in. I'm yours until we win or lose.'
'I am very grateful,' he responded. 'I'll do my best to make sure you don't regret it.'" (pg. 26)

In looking back on the Obama campaign with The Audacity to Win, it would have been easy for Plouffe to simply remind us of the good stuff, the feel-good moments of the campaign. He does this, absolutely, but his is a surprisingly more critically candid view of the campaign than I originally anticipated, especially knowing that Obama supported the writing of the book.

As just one example, Plouffe is honest about the campaign's failings to fully research Jeremiah Wright. There were issues with the man beginning literally from Day 1 when Obama announced his candidacy. Plouffe fully owns that these issues should have prompted a thorough internal review in order to stave off the crisis that erupted in April 2009 - which would, ironically, prompt one of the campaign's best moments, the speech on race at the National Constitution Center (a truly incredible place to spend some time, by the way) in Philadelphia.

There's a lot of talk about political strategy in The Audacity to Win (the reader is along for the ride through every single state - in Audacity, nearly every state gets a full analysis, from delegates to ad strategy) and enough inside baseball stories of the Obama campaign to satisfy the most fervent political junkie. The reader almost feels part of the staff, privvy to conference calls and campaign emails. (Maybe that's somewhat intentional, given the campaign's strategy of reaching out to donors directly.)

The Audacity to Win takes a much more complimentary view (understandably so) of the Clinton campaign than Anne Kornblut's book, Notes from the Cracked Ceiling, while Plouffe's view of the McCain campaign (particularly in regards to the Sarah Palin pick) is one of eyebrow-raised puzzlement and perplexity. Palin was barely on the Obama campaign's radar, and where he could have had opportunity in his book to take different shots, Plouffe doesn't, preferring to stick to discussions of the strategic nature.

Plouffe illuminates the more humorous moments of the campaign - the fact that the campaign bus was always tuned to ESPN instead of the pundits on the cable news channels and how many of the late-night conference calls were conducted by Plouffe from the bathroom of the small Chicago apartment that he shared with his wife and son.

Plouffe is at his best in The Audacity to Win when he marries the personal and the political. Anyone who has ever lost a beloved pet can empathize with Plouffe's heartbreak and helplessness when his wife calls from across the country with news of their dog's decline and death. With this simple anecdote - and others, like a Cat's in the Cradle type of moment with his young son, and the announcement that he and his wife were expecting their second child on November 2, 2009 - he poignantly illustrates the demands that campaigns require of their staff and the dichotomy of not being there for many of life's significant moments.

At times, Plouffe also connects his early pre-Internet political experiences as a staffer on Tom Harkins' 1990 campaign with those of the ingenues he supervises on the Obama campaign. On the eve of the release of the influential Des Moines Register poll in December 2007, Plouffe writes of days gone by when he was charged with going to the Register building at midnight to persuade a deliveryman for a copy of the paper to learn Harkins' poll results.

"Since then I have never seen a Register poll without thinking of that night and of how seemingly insignificant moments like that can have an outsized impact on your professional trajectory." [Oh, how very true, David!]  "Now I got to play the old hand: I told our mostly under thirty staff about how we used to get the Register poll down at the docks because there was no Internet, and they would roll their eyes and look at me like I had escaped from the set of Cocoon." (pg. 116)

(As a peer of yours age-wise, David, I know that look so very well.) 

The Audacity to Win is a book with great appeal to political junkies like me, but also for people interested in organizational communication, the culture of the workplace, and management.  Plouffe writes of the "no drama" rule of the Obama campaign and how establishing basic rules from the get-go allowed them to build an organization - and an organizational culture - worthy of a model for many other businesses.

I finished this book this morning, spending a few hours reading the final 100 or so pages.  Doing so on the eve of this momentous vote on health care reform lends itself to a bit of irony.  Regardless of what position you have on healthcare reform, and however tomorrow's vote comes out, this issue (and this historic vote) will come to define the Obama presidency.

A presidency that so many worked so hard for and sacrificed so much to achieve. 

What Other Bloggers Thought:
Books 'N Border Collies

FTC disclaimer: Borrowed from the library.  Will need to take out second mortgage to pay the overdue fees.

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: (Never) Too Many Cooks

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.

Indulge me in a little bit of self-promotion, if you will, for this edition of Weekend Cooking.

If you're a regular around here at Weekend Cooking, chances are you're reading a foodie cooking blog or two.  Well, there's a fairly new one that launched in October 2009 that I'd like to tell you about.  

It's called (Never) Too Many Cooks, and this week I was invited to become one of the eight cooks in their kitchen! I'm thrilled about this for a lot of reasons, but especially since I already "know" several of the other cooks from sampling their great blogs. It is very much like hangin' with some good friends over a great meal and a bottle of wine (or not). 

I'll be cooking up ... uh, something ... every other Tuesday, starting on the 23rd. (Actually, I think I know what recipe I'm sharing for my debut.  It's a kid-friendly recipe that I created this week and that someone else probably perfected along the way, but I've given it the catchy name of Chick, Chick, Cous.  (Get it? Like duck, duck, goose?)  Hey, whatever gets my kids to eat something more than Stouffer's Macaroni and Cheese, y'know?  Mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do.

I hope you'll stop over and check out what we're cooking up.  (We also welcome guest posts, too.) Because, just as there's such a thing as (Never) Too Many Cooks, there's also such a thing as never having enough food blogs to read either.



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, March 19, 2010

And Now, Another ... and Another

Just 18 days ago, I wrote a post about Gina and Vanessa, two beautiful girls from a nearby community who ended their lives in a suicide pact, stepping into the path of an Acela train screaming by at 120 mph. 

Today's news brings word that a student from the same high school was found dead by his parents, after they went looking for him at the abandoned mill where his rock band practiced. He'd hung himself in that space where (you can picture it, right? because we've all been there in one form or another)  he was one with a song, maybe an electric guitar or keyboard, but more than likely, a teenage musician's dream of greatness.

And then there was my audible gasp as I read the Facebook status last night of my longtime, dear friend Michele.  Back on February 26, she posted the news that her brother (and only remaining sibling) learned his cancer has returned.  Last night, she shared with us the incredibly horrible news that his wife ended her own life, leaving their three kids (ages 15, 12, and 9) behind.

So much sadness.  And again, no words.

Except, again, these:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
http://www.suicide.org/

My cousin Joey's Facebook group, The Equality Project

The Nemours Foundation page About Teen Suicide

American Academy of Pediatrics: Some Things You Should Know About Teen Suicide

The STAR Center (Services for Teens At Risk), a comprehensive research, training, and education center founded by the State of Pennsylvania General Assembly in 1986 to address adolescent suicide and depression.

photo taken by me 1/24/2010 at Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA.
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.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hello, Guinness? Um ... Never Mind.

Hello, Guinness Book of World Records?

Is this the Department of Perfect Attendance for Second Graders?

It is?  Well, I'm calling about Boo's perfect attendance record. You know, the one he's been defending like a prize fighter since the first day of first grade, 20 months ago?

Sadly, you can save yourselves a trip to our little state. No need for any award this June.

One and a half years of perfect attendance met its end last night around 12:30 a.m. when the stomach virus made its venegence known, every which way and every possible direction ... if you get my drift.

Fortunately, he's feeling better today.  Let's just not mention the fact that the record is kaput just yet, 'kay?






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.

It's Not Easy Bein' Green


At the top o' this St. Patrick's Day morn, our house could easily have been confused with a scene straight out of the new NBC show Parenthood.

There was me, bleary-eyed and pajama'ed and barefoot, shuffling into the garage for a few replacement rolls of toilet paper. There was my multi-tasking husband, up since 5 a.m., short-order cooking the kids' regularly scheduled breakfast special of chocolate chip pancakes while answering work emails on his BlackBerry. 

There was Betty, having a few moments of solitude away from her brother by watching TV. There was Boo, on the sofa, reading a biography of John F. Kennedy and asking if I knew what page the author wrote about "the convertible."  (My sleep-deprived, insomniac'ed, admittedly tasteless reply at 5:45 a.m.:  "I'd imagine it might be towards the end.")

Upstairs, I showered; upon getting dressed, I was greeted by The Husband.

"I think Boo's sick," he announced.  "He doesn't want breakfast." (Highly unusual.)  "Says his stomach hurts." (Boo is a literal kinda kid; he almost doesn't know how to lie.) "His color is off."  (Current reigning Mother of the Year that I am, I didn't notice.)

"Hey, Boo?" I said, approaching my little presidential historian.  "You feeling OK?"

"I don't know. Maybe."

"Well," I tried again.  "Do you feel sick?"

"I don't know."

"How's your stomach?"

"Not too good."

"Maybe we need to think about staying home?"

That got his attention.  "NO!!!!!  I'LL LOSE MY PERFECT ATTENDANCE!!!!"

He was clearly getting agitated, worried that this would set back his record.  He'd gotten Perfect Attendance in 1st grade, and unbelievably, his streak continues into 2nd.  

"I know that's important to you, pal," I said.  "But what's more important, perfect attendance or being healthy?" 

"BOTH OF THEM!!!!!!!!!!!" Boo shrieked.  

"Listen," I tried again.  "If you don't get the award, maybe they will have an award for just missing one day.  Or we could celebrate as a family." 

"NO!!!!!!!" 

The end result was keeping Boo home from Before School Care, and making a game time decision when school started.  No sooner did we get him calmed down from that when Betty had a crisis of her own.

"Oh ... my God," she announced dramatically.  "It's St. Patrick's Day and I'm. NOT. WEARING. GREEN!!!!!!"

She was, however, wearing her coat and was literally headed out the door with The Husband, en route to Before School Care. 

"I need to wear something green!" 

"Honey," I said, "What you need is to get going.  Plus, I'm not sure you own anything that's green." 

"AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!" she howled.  "Do you know what this means??!!!"

Um ... that it's hard to find anything green when your entire wardrobe consists of various hues of pink?

"It means that WE ARE GOING TO HAVE A DESTROYED HOUSE TOMORROW!!!!!!!!"  Betty hollered.

We stared.  Looked at each other and at her.

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"If you don't wear GREEEEEEEEEENNNNNNNNN on Saint Patrick's Day, a LEPRECHAUN will come in the NIGHT and ...and ... DESTROY OUR HOUSE!!!!!"

"A leprechaun is not going to destroy our house," reasoned The Husband. 

"HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT????" 

"I've never heard of leprechauns being malicious," I offered. 

"MO-OOMMMMMMM!" 

"Will you just humor her and go see if she happens to own anything green, please?" The Husband asked me.  

"C'mon, Betty," I said.  "Let's just see if there's anything green in your closet." 

I found a turquoise .. ish green top.  "How about this? It's close to green.  Plus, it has sequins!" I smiled broadly, enthusiastically.  

"Those sequins FALL OFF!" she shrieked.  

"Well, we certainly can't have that on top of leprechauns destroying the house," I acknowledged.  "You're going to have to wear what you're wearing, and that's it." 

"ARRRGGHHHHHH!!!!  Not fair!!!!"

Meanwhile, over breakfast Boo was still back in 1963, immersed in the details of the John F. Kennedy assassination (maybe angry leprechauns had a hand in that too?)  While texting my boss to say I would be in late after taking Boo to school, I began Googling "leprechauns destroying houses" and "wrath of the leprechaun."  Satisfied with the dearth of information on such a phenomenon, I turned my attention back to Boo, whose color had returned and was miraculously back to his regularly scheduled self.

Unfamiliar with the morning drop-off protocol at school, I was clueless as to what time school even started.  And heaven forbid we be more than a nanosecond late and jeopardize the Perfect Attendance record.

I pulled up to the curb of the school, kneeling down to face Boo on the sidewalk. 

"Do you want me to walk into school with you?" I asked.

"No, I can do it," he answered.

For a moment, I was taken aback, caught off guard.  "Really? You sure?"

He nodded. 

"OK, then," I said, giving him a hug and accepting his lopsided one in return. "You have a great day.  I love you!"   

He walked then, my boy, striding across the wide driveway entrance to the school, his backpack slung over his shoulders, the crossing guard guiding his steps. Something told me to watch him, to pay attention, because suddenly I realized that this vision of my boy walking into school by himself was something I'd never seen before. I'm usually a state away by now, I thought, lingering a moment in the drop off lane. 

And not only was it something I never saw before, but it was one of taking-your-breath-away moments of a time that I never thought I would see, my little boy on the spectrum, with his labels, with his struggles.  

My little perfect attendanced leprechaun, on a quest for his pot o' gold stars at the end of his rainbowed spectrum.  

photo taken by me, 4/3/2009, of a rainbow that appeared after the wackiest weather that coincided with my 40th birthday.

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, March 15, 2010

Remembering Aunt Hon

This is what I'll remember about Aunt Hon.

We were probably around 10 years old, in the 4th grade. Most likely, my best friend C. and I just walked the 1.5 miles from our elementary school along major roadways, something that we did frequently in those days. (The world was a very different place then.) Scrambling up the steep hill dominating my friend's back yard in a typical rowhouse Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood, we knocked on - and then burst through Aunt Hon's kitchen door.

There she was waiting, as if she'd been doing so all day, snack in hand. Expecting us, as if nothing else mattered.  Waiting to hear all about our day.

We probably gave her an earful, C. and I, because we could talk.  And talk. Talk as only 10 year old girls can talk, and probably about the boys we liked. (The whole reason C. and I became friends in the first place was because we both were in love with the same 4th grade boy, who didn't care for either of us. That didn't stop us, Harriet the Spy style, from getting the scoop on his real girlfriend, Anne Marie. In the process, we decided it would be easier to be friends. Thirty years later, here we are.)

Aunt Hon wasn't my aunt, biologically speaking. She belonged to C., and because Aunt Hon didn't have any children, she was very much devoted to C. and very much vice versa.  And because I was C.'s best friend, and because I stayed that way for the past 30 years, she kind of became my Aunt Hon too.

The one word that comes to mind when I think of Aunt Hon - and she would probably laugh at this - is regal. Quietly dignified, always with a smile, never angry. She was tall with jet-black hair, always well-dressed, incredibly generous even to me. She reminded me oh-so-much of my own grandmother, so much that they could have passed for sisters. 

Aunt Hon was there for all C.'s family events, of course, and so was I.  The confirmation parties, the graduations, a bridal shower, a wedding, a christening. Several years ago, The Husband and I joined them on their family vacation for a few days and Aunt Hon was there still - declining a little but relatively unchanged, asking about our jobs, our twins, genuinely interested to hear what was going on.

And that's why I think Aunt Hon was, to me, such a gift.  It's a rare thing, I think, to be so intertwined with another family for three decades, since childhood, to feel compelled to take a vacation day for one of their funerals, as I did today to say goodbye to Aunt Hon. I described this loss on Facebook as losing a piece of one's childhood, because that is what it seems like as time speeds up in one's 40s and loved ones (and loved one's loved ones) disappear with increasingly regularity.

I think having Aunt Hon for 30 years taught me something very important: that as hokey as it sounds, it really does take a village (or even a rowhoused neighborhood in Northeast Philadelphia) to raise a child.  It is very much what my friend Stephanie DiCerbo Baffone, aunt extraordinaire, writes about often in her experiences as an aunt - how aunts are truly so very important in our lives because although we may not know it, they make up so many of the building-blocks of ours.

I don't remember what Aunt Hon made me and C. for lunch that day - sandwiches probably, and for some reason I am thinking of watercress.  I don't even remember anything else about that three-decades old day, but as fuzzy as it is, it is the defining memory for me of Aunt Hon, the one I will hold on to.

Because as I look back and see us at that small kitchen table, I'm enveloped with a feeling of safety, of being protected and cared for, and I don't see that happening too often today.  I'd be horrified if one of my kids spent the afternoon at a friend's relative's house ... with someone I hardly know, eating something they made?!?! 

Perhaps that's the real reason I'm sad today, why it feels like with Aunt Hon's passing we have lost something special.  In her we have, because she was a truly special person. But it's the fact that with her passing goes a time gone by, of innocence, of a simpler and more trusting world that we will never see again except in the fuzzy Kodachromes of our minds.


copyright 2010 by 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.

Book Review (Audio): The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
2003

"A man who has no conscience, no goodness, does not suffer." (pg. 301)

No matter how much we try to ignore, bury, or forget our past, it is always with us - as well as the burden of guilt that often accompanies the actions we'd prefer to forget, until we can forgive ourselves. Such is the premise of The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini's powerful bestselling first novel.

The Kite Runner is a heartwrenching story about friendship and family, about loyalty and guilt. It is the story of two boys, Amir and Hassan, growing up in Kabul, Afghanistan. Amir is the son of a wealthy man and lives a comfortable life; Hassan and his father work as servants in Amir's home. Amir's mother died during childbirth; Hassan never knew his mother, as she left him and his father when he was very young.

All they have is each other, and what seems to be - until one fateful, life-changing day - an idyllic childhood, even in Afghanistan.

Initially, I wasn't as captivated by The Kite Runner as I was with A Thousand Splendid Suns, which I also listened to via audio. Several times I found myself thinking, "this is what all the hype was about?" Make no mistake: Khaled Hosseini is a truly talented writer, and this is a powerful story - but unlike Suns, the first half of The Kite Runner didn't have me in its grip from the get-go.

That changed in the latter portion of the book. There comes a point in the story (and those who have read it know when that is) when the action steps up pace considerably, and you're on the edge of your seat wondering what happens. Hosseini gives his reader a believable story, and it is one that in lesser skilled hands could fall prone to the tendency to be tied up neatly and perfectly.

That's not this story, and it is even more stronger for it. For if the ending was different would have been a disservice to the character of Amir and minimized his struggles.

It's hard to say much more about The Kite Runner without giving any spoilers away. Despite my initial misgivings, in my opinion it has earned the many accolades it has garnered.

One amusing note: I listened to this on audio, but I also have a printed copy (yay, one book from Mt. TBR read!). In the back of my copy, there's an ad announcing that Khaled Hosseini's next book about Afghanistan "Driving in Titanic City," will be published in summer 2006. I never knew that was the original title for A Thousand Splendid Suns (a much better choice, in my opinion).

Challenges: Audiobook
Support Your Local Library Challenge (because it was an audio book)

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, March 13, 2010

Weekend Cooking: A Champion of a Birthday Cake

A new friend of mine is a trained pastry chef who recently converted her garage into a small bakery business. I've been wanting to try some of her custom creations. So, when The Husband's birthday rolled around last week and my MIL invited us for dinner, I suggested ordering a cake from Michelle.  I knew exactly what I had in mind; a cake that resembled a New York Yankees jersey.

The party was postponed last week because of sickness and rescheduled for today, but torrential rains have forced another cancellation. The cake, however, was already ordered and made.

Betty has quite the sweet tooth and loves sitting with me to look through the cakes, cookies and pies on Michelle's website, so she was thrilled to accompany me to the actual bakery.

Where we were presented with this!


Because it has The Husband's name on it, I had to cut this cake a little bit ... but there's still enough for you to have a piece, if you'd like. It is a two layer chocolate cake with a vanilla buttercream icing.  It's the size of a sheet cake. It's delicious and very rich. I know this because within ten minutes of this arriving in our house, the sleeves and part of the collar disappeared, so now the jersey resembles a tank top.

There's no way we will be able to eat all of this, so I am thinking of freezing part of this for the rescheduled party next weekend.  (What do you chefs think ... does that sound feasible?) 

Either way, this birthday cake is a home run!

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.

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.

REPORTER

Friday night, my mood was one of a cauldron of frustration.  No one thing or one person was to blame; it was (and admittedly, still is) a bwitches' brew of festering issues, personality clashes, obstacles big and small seemingly out of one's control. I needed an escape, a brief respite of sorts from all this.

So I went to the Congo. You know, the one in central Africa.

I don't watch much TV, and the last movie I saw (on TV or otherwise) was nearly a year ago. But I needed to get outside of my own head, to focus on something other than my own life for a little bit. Searching through the free HBO On Demand offerings, I found the documentary REPORTER, featuring the work of Nicholas D. Kristof, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning journalist with The New York Times. 

Before watching REPORTER, I was familiar with Kristof's work mainly through the buzz in the blogosphere surrounding his book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into  Opportunity for Women, written with his wife, Sheryl WuDunn. Along with upwards of 156,000 other people, I'm Kristof's friend on Facebook (and you should be, too) where he frequently posts his columns and other work.

Nick is, quite simply, an extraordinary human being and an exemplary journalist - a dying breed to begin with, but the caliber of which is nearly gone. (Case in point: my day on Friday included suggesting to someone in that field that "servicing people throughout the county" might connotate something very different than the work my organization actually does.)

In REPORTER, we accompany Kristof into the villages of the Congo where a brutal war has been raging since 1998, resulting in the deaths of 5.4 million people.  His work, and that of his small team, is to find the one most compelling story amid millions that will make people like me - preoccupied on a Friday night with what, in comparison, are trivial, insignificant issues - care about what is happening right now to people in remote villages in central Africa.

"We've all heard that one death is a tragedy, a million a statistic, but at what point does the number of deaths become too large for our minds to process?" asks Kristof.  

Nick believes - as do I now - that one's compassion is greatest when we can relate to one person, or one thing at a time, as opposed to millions.  It's easier to care about and process (as difficult as the processing is), the story of one 41 year old woman (same age as me) dying of excruciating pain of a bedsore infection.  Before the war, this educated woman had saved money; she had hope.  She had a very different plan than this.

REPORTER is a must-see for so many reasons. It is not a pretty film.  It does not leave one with all that much hope. What it does leave you with, especially at the end,  is how important it is to cover issues of global poverty and how Nicholas Kristof's work of bringing the stories of Darfur, of Iraq, of Africa to our doorsteps and laptops is important. It shows us this global crisis one person and one story at a time. And while it is important to cover issues of domestic poverty, there is also a congruent urgency of needing to pay attention to issues like the ones Nick shows us, through REPORTER and his columns.

Watch the trailer for REPORTER, narrated by filmmaker Eric Daniel Metzgar.  It is currently on HBO On Demand, and comes out on DVD as of March 21.

 
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.