Monday, May 31, 2010

Still Remembering Their Names



At Riverside National Cemetery, they are still reading the names.  Still remembering the ones who have given the ultimate sacrifice.

Last year for Memorial Day, I wrote about the Roll Call Project at Riverside National Cemetery in California, where an estimated 500 volunteers read the names of all 148,000 veterans buried there.  It took the volunteers more than a week to read each and every name.  Think about that for a minute.

"The names are printed on pages - 2,465 pages, to be exact. Each name representing a life lost and a memory kept alive. They read in shifts in the morning, in the hot sun, in the quiet darkness of night. They read the names so that others will remember."   (from my blog post 5/24/2009)

The volunteers continue the Roll Call Project for a second year by reading the names of the nearly 6,000 soldiers who have died in the past year.

Today, we remember all their names.

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, May 30, 2010

The Sunday Salon: After Book Blogger Con, It's Time to See the Lilies


Can you stand another post about the wonderfulness that was BEA and the first annual Book Blogger Convention held on Friday?  I went to New York just for the day on Friday, an incredible experience that you can read about (and see photos from) via my Book Blogger Convention Recap: Early Morning (Chapter 1).

Today we're planning a visit to nearby Longwood Gardens to see a special exhibit called Lilytopia.  For those not in the Philadelphia area, Longwood Gardens is a spectacular place - public gardens, a conservatory (pictured here during their OrKid event in January's dead of winter), children's gardens, and much more. I wouldn't have known about Lilytopia if it wasn't for Longwood Gardens' Facebook page, and the gorgeous photos that they've been posting there have sealed the deal for my decision to go to this.  (The power of social media!)  We're lucky enough that we live close enough to Longwood to visit even just for an afternoon, which is about the length of stamina that we tend to have. 

I have about 100 more pages to go with reading South of Broad, Pat Conroy's newest novel.  It's over 500 pages, and yet this is the sort of book I kind of don't want to end. I'm loving this one. With the unofficial start of summer upon us, I think South of Broad is the perfect summertime novel (as I wrote in my most recent Beach Reads column that I do for a local (to me) blog, Surviving the Sandcastles). 

That'll have to wait a little bit, though.  For the rest of today, there's a little girl who is waiting to see the lilies.   


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.

Book Blogger Convention Recap ~ Early Morning (Chapter 1)

So there I was at 4:05 a.m. on Friday morning, driving through the pitch-black streets of my sleepy little town, heading for the Amtrak train that would take me to The City That Never Sleeps. I'd planned to be at Book Expo America (BEA), but having just started a new job earlier this month, I couldn't really justify taking more than one day off. 

The Book Blogger Convention - a day long circled on my calendar - was finally here. The day before,  I was an excited, nervous, migraine headache from hell induced wreck, especially since I wasn't sure of the logistics of the Amtrak station and because I'd never been to New York City alone. And I had only previously met one person who would be at the convention.  (That would be author Beth Kephart.)

But, I found the train station in time for my 5:30 a.m. train and within the hour my headache disappeared as I watched the sun come up over Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  This was my first visit to New York in 15 years, meaning that it was also the first time since 9/11 that I saw the skyline in person. Definitely a heart-tugging moment.

My train arrived on time at Penn Station and I began walking the city blocks towards the Javits Center.  I know nothing about architecture, but I thought the building itself was pretty cool ... even if the reflective outside did remind me of the opening credits of Dallas.


Inside the cavernous jaws of the Javits, the signs and banners from BEA were still up.  Among them was the one for Justin Cronin's new book, The Passage (perhaps you've heard of it? :) 

(this isn't the banner, but one of the downloads from http://www.enterthepassage.com/.  I was too busy trying to find the meeting room to take a photo of the banner itself.)

Now's as good a time as any to mention this:  I've been following The Passage/Justin Cronin lovefest with interest because ... Justin Cronin himself was one of my teachers in grad school!  (I know!) He taught in the Masters of Professional Communication program at a local university in Philadelphia.  I think our class was Writing for Business, or something like that. It was, obviously for both of us, a hundred years ago. If memory serves me correctly, I think his first book Mary and O'Neil had recently been published when I had him as an instructor.

Anyway, I digress. I found the convention registration and the day was underway when Natasha from Maw Books handed me the swag bag of goodies pictured at the top of this post.

Speaking of which, you know how there's always this talk about how the Academy Awards people get goodie bags with stuff worth katrillions of dollars?

The Academy Awards has nothin' on the Book Blogger Convention swag.  Check it out!




Inside, there were the above books (Amanda from The Zen Leaf was at my table at breakfast, and raved about the Deb Caletti books, which varied with each bag.)   I'm excited about The Sweet By and By, which was already on my TBR list, as well as Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives. (Don't tell anyone, but I might just happen to have extra copies of both of these, so it is entirely possible that a giveaway of sorts might be in this blog's future.)

One of the first bloggers I ran into was Trisha from eclectic / eccentric, who is just as delightful in person as she is on her blog.  I've been reading Trisha's blog for awhile now and meeting her was like saying hi to a dear friend. Alix from HEETR Promotions and Publicity also joined our group for breakfast and she was equally as delightful. (Anyone who would consider hailing a cab in New York for a Starbucks run is definitely someone I want to hang with.)


Also part of our breakfast table were these lovely bloggers:


Diane from Book Chick Di; Gaby from Starting Fresh; Serena from Savvy Verse and Wit; Laura from I'm Booking It; and Pam from Midnyte Reader.  Not pictured (but also at our table) was Pam from Bookalicio.us and Amanda from The Zen Leaf

A few of us from our table then began meandering politician-at-a-rubber-chicken-dinner-style from table to table, introducing ourselves to other bloggers. Normally, this would be somewhat out of character for me, but my goal was to meet as many of the 250 attendees as I could, especially since I didn't have the luxury of being there previously for BEA.

I'm so glad we visited some other tables because I got to say hi to some of the folks who have been in my Google Reader for awhile and whose blogs I adore.  I didn't get a picture, unfortunately, but I loved meeting Sheila from Book Journey (that woman is the most together person, style-wise! If schlumpadinka me had a miniscule of her fashion sense ...), Carrie from Care's Online Book Club (who is adorable) and Kim from Sophisticated Dorkiness (who is way more sophisticated than dorky). 

And then it was onto our morning sessions, but not before meeting Amy from Amy Reads (we have similar nonfiction reading tastes, I discovered), Linda from Minted Prose, LLC (a publisher), and paranormal romance and romantic suspense author Caridad Pineiro.

Maureen Johnson's keynote speech was first on our agenda, and that deserves its own post ... which I'll do in the next chapter of my Book Blogger Con recap.


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, May 29, 2010

Welcome to New Book Blogger Convention Friends!

Hello and a warm welcome to new friends visiting for the first time from Friday's Book Blogger Convention! I loved meeting so many of you, and I'm glad you've taken a moment to stop by The Betty and Boo Chronicles. Thank you so much.

(For regular readers, this is a "sticky post," meaning that it will stay up as the first post for a couple days or so. My most current blog posts will be the next post after this one.)

If you're a new reader here, welcome! Here's a little bit about me (hi, I'm Melissa!) and my blog ...

I've been blogging here since August 2008.  Originally, my thought was that this would be a fun way to keep my mother (and mother-in-law) updated on their grandchildren's doings. (Betty and Boo are pseudonyms for my 8 year old girl/boy twins.) I would use this space to chronicle our family's activities. But it became more than that.

It became a connection with others, people I consider friends and would otherwise never met. On a deeper level, blogging offered an opportunity for me to start writing for fun again. I do a considerable amount of writing for my job as a nonprofit fundraising and PR director, but I had lost my own venue, my own voice.

Before hitting publish on that first post, I realized I needed to start writing again. Blogging brought the gift of writing - doing it, appreciating it, connecting with others who love to write and appreciate good writing - back to me.

At one point during those early days, I stumbled onto a book blog.  And then another.  And another. And then I found myself reading blogroll after blogroll, and discovering that - holy cow! - there was this whole big community of people like me who loved to read.  Even better, they liked to write about what they read.  I could do that, I thought.

And then the Presidential election campaigns were in full swing (often right in my own backyard), and I found I had a few things to say about those goings-on, in addition to various issues in the news or the craziness that passes for pop culture sometimes.

So the result of all this? Is a blog that's hard to define.  I don't have a niche, per se.  I'm a potluck-dinner type of blogger.

On any given day, I'm likely talking about books (I tend to read contemporary, literary, and young adult fiction, short story collections, memoir, and nonfiction), but the next day, I might write about our family's experiences with autism (specifically, Asperger's Syndrome), which my son has.  Or bullying in schools or dating violence. Or something in the news, especially if it's of a local nature.  Or offering up some political commentary.  Or a recipe that, miraculously, my picky-eater twins devoured. Or a few paragraphs of my novel in progress. Or a guest post from my husband's blog.

I'm also a contributor to a locally-based blog, Surviving the Sandcastles, where I write that blog's weekly Beach Reads column.  Every other week, I'm in the kitchen at a food blog, (Never) Too Many Cooks.  I participate regularly in The Sunday Salon and Weekend Cooking, and I host the Memorable Memoir Reading Challenge (which you can join anytime).

For new readers, perhaps browse through the labels on the sidebar "What I Tend to Write About on My Blog."  If there's something of interest, let me know in the comments.  I'd love to hear from you.

In the meantime, thank you so much for stopping by for what I hope will be the beginning of many more visits together!


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, May 28, 2010

Thank You, Book Blogger Con Organizers!



This one is for everyone who had any part in organizing today's incredible Book Blogger Convention.

Thank you!

For your hard work and countless hours behind the scenes.
For your attention to the myriad of details that made things seem flawless.
For arranging for us to hear from such wonderfully entertaining and educational speakers.
For creating the very definition of community.
For taking an idea and turning it into a reality.

It was truly an amazing day and you have so much to be proud of.

Thank you so very much!


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, May 25, 2010

Armchair BEA: Living Her Life (A Real-Life Author Event with Beth Kephart)

Shhh.  Don't tell anyone, but I'm not really technically supposed to even be here at Armchair BEA.  You see, while I'm not at the actual, real-life BEA festivities in New York, I will be at the Book Blogger Convention on Friday.  So, I kind of feel like I'm betwixt and between two book blogging worlds this week. Hopefully you don't mind an imposter crashing the Armchair BEA party.  Besides, there's enough room in this armchair for all of us, isn't there?

Anyway, I've seen a few Armchair BEA posts with today's suggested theme/posting prompt about attending book signings and a few people have daydreamed about attending such an author event with Beth Kephart. I was lucky enough to do exactly that in February 2009 when she did a talk at a local library.

In full groupie form, I brought along three of the Beth Kephart books I owned and promptly bought three more right on site at the event.  Patiently, Beth not only signed all six of the books I had, but did so by adding a personal message to each one. (I hung around late enough that I thought Beth and I would be left to turn out the library's lights.)

I thought that I'd re-publish that post for today (particularly since I can't seem to finish the post-in-progress about the most recent signing I attended, that with writer Jonathan Mooney, author of The Short Bus).

Living Her Life (Reflections on Tuesday's Talk by Beth Kephart), originally published on The Betty and Boo Chronicles, February 11, 2009

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

"How do you know Beth?"

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

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

I will do that, I promised.

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

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




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, May 23, 2010

The Sunday Salon


It's starting to feel very real, isn't it, that we're finally at the week of all bookish goodness ... BEA and the first Book Blogger Convention!  I'll only be in New York on Friday for the latter (am a little disappointed about missing the BBC reception on Thursday evening, as well as several bloggers who will only be at BEA and not the Con) but these things happen.  Needless to say, I am very excited to meet so many of my book blogging friends. Hopefully my BlackBerry and camera batteries will be up to the task.
Being Kindle-less, I've been giving much time to contemplating which book to take with me on my nearly 2 hour Amtrak ride to the Big Apple. My current read, South of Broad by Pat Conroy, would be perfect.  However, at 471 pages, it's pretty hefty for such a trip.  

I've promised a review of This One is Mine by Maria Semple "in mid-late May" so I'm thinking that might be my Amtrak book.  From several other reviews I've seen, it seems to be a fairly quick read, right? So, if you're headed to Book Blogger Con and see someone on Amtrak on Friday reading this, please say hi.

(Drop me a note in the comments or on Twitter @bettyandboo if you're going to be at the Con ... I'd love to meet you!)

We're headed to a graduation party this afternoon, so not much more time today for reading or blogging. Hope you have a great Sunday and a fabulous week ahead, regardless of whether your plans include BEA, the Book Blogger Convention, Armchair BEA or something equally as fun!


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, May 22, 2010

Weekend Cooking: Strawberry Fields Forever

I absolutely love where we live. I really do. Compared to the Philadelphia suburbs where I spent my entire life, to us this area is downright rural. Sure, some of the "locals" and natives grumble about folks like us, buying homes on what was once a family farm, and the big box stores popping up in the next town. It's still - at least to me - more rural than not, and I love that I need more than one hand to count the number of farms, produce stands, and farmer's markets within a 10 minute drive of my house.

I'm not much of a gardener (the herbs probably have a 50/50 chance of surviving) so to me, you can't get much more locally-grown than a farm 10 minutes away.

Strawberries are in season here now, so Betty and I spent part of this morning deep in the patches of a nearby farm. We went strawberry-picking here last year, and these were the best strawberries I'd ever had.  Definitely not your supermarket variety in a plastic container, trucked in from the opposite coast.




We each had our own bucket.  I'm always kind of sympathetic to the misshapen, lumpy berry that might otherwise be overlooked, while Betty looks for perfection in color and shape. (We make a good team that way.)

We wound up picking 6.5 pounds of strawberries! (They were priced at $1.85 per pound.)  


Down at the small farmer's market located at the end of the patch, we were chatting with the owner when Betty piped up that we were planning to make a strawberry shortcake with our bounty.  The farmer's wife mentioned that she's been making individual layered strawberry shortcakes with her homemade cinnamon shortbread recipe, whipped cream, and strawberries.  OK, I'm sold. 
In addition to the strawberries, asparagus is also in season here.  They had the asparagus loose in a bin, fresh from the field.  If you look carefully, you can see the grittiness of the dirt layered on each stalk.

 

We rounded out our farm stand purchases with a few other items.

I'm thinking tonight's dinner will be Portobello Mushroom burgers with carmelized onions (I have some Vidalias) and tomatoes, maybe a little champagne mustard that I purchased at the Flower Market, asparagus, and the cinnamon shortbread strawberry shortcake.

I'll be sure to let you know how it turns out!

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.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Book Review: Notes from the Cracked Ceiling: Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and What It Will Take for a Woman to Win, by Anne E. Kornblut

Notes from the Cracked Ceiling: Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and What It Will Take for a Woman to Win
by Anne E. Kornblut
2009
270 pages

Let me start by saying this: if you care at all about women's issues, politics, and the future of our country, you need to read this book.

Anne Kornblut is a White House reporter, and has covered "from start to finish" the three most recent Presidential campaigns. Her reporting background shows, as this is an extensively researched and detailed book - but, make no mistake, it is exceptionally readable and riveting. In some places, it reads like a novel. (Maybe that's because there were some aspects of the 2008 Presidential campaign that did seem stranger than fiction, no?)

I have a lot to say about this one, so let's get to it.

In the beginning, back in the good old days of 2007, I was a Hillary supporter. Unbeknownst to me, I was somewhat in the minority demographically. Kornblut explains why.  (Although, I don't think I meet the standard for "young woman," but just play along with me here, 'kay?)

"[Young women] considered themselves postfeminists, to the extent they thought about it, and preferred not to view the world in terms of gender. Supporting Barack Obama was proof of their liberation: they were free to choose whomever they favored for president, unburdened by any old-fashioned notions of loyalty or sisterhood, a sign that women were now diverse and evolved enough to disagree.


And if young women felt fully liberated - or were even totally oblivious to the barriers that had once existed, in many cases before they were born - it was hard to blame them. Nothing in 2008 felt unequal. Women had worked alongside men as peers in every profession for decades, with discrimination and sexual harrassment laws on the books. Women were heads of corporations and universities, as senators and governors and chiefs of police .... Every year seemed to bring a new achievement, making the next one less remarkable." (pg. 82-83)

In regards to Sarah Palin, Kornblut has done for me what no other writer I've read has been able to: she has succeeded in making me sympathetic to Sarah Palin. (Just a leeettle, teensy-tiny bit.)

But before I get into that, what was most eye-opening about Notes from the Cracked Ceiling was the lack of women advisors and strategists who weren't part of key decisions in either the Clinton or McCain campaigns. Writes Kornblut:

"[Clinton's] women's outreach division was a separate unit, cordoned off from the rest of the campaign and not involved in many of the core message decisions. The head of outreach to women, Ann F. Lewis, was not on the important strategic phone call each morning." (pg. 39)

Well, duh. If we have any hope of getting behind the desk of the Oval Office, we've got to first get in the room. Or, for starters, on the damn phone.

Some of the strategies intended to capture more of the women's votes went unheeded - even when proposed by men.

"One especially creative idea came from outside Clinton headquarters, from Joe Trippi [former campaign manager for Howard Dean] .... Very early in the 2008 campaign cycle, Trippi met with the Clinton campaign ... to pitch the idea of an online fund-raising drive to draw in one hundred dollars apiece from 5 million women - half a billion dollars, in other words, with the imprimatur of Web-smart female contributors." (pg. 42)

The idea was flatly rejected, quickly. Two weeks later, in a meeting with David Axelrod of the Obama campaign, Axelrod said, "You know, I read in a book somewhere that if you raised a hundred dollars apiece from five million contributors, you'd have a broad network of future support." (pg. 42)

Look how that one worked out for the Obama campaign.

Similarly, "[n]ot one female strategist was involved in the [Palin] selection process - not out of hostility but because the already bare-bones McCain campaign had very few women on staff. Nor were there senior advisors with experience running women's campaigns." (pg. 93)

Had there been, Kornblut writes, "they might have cautioned McCain that women are usually held to a higher standard, especially on questions of toughness and competence - and that women won't switch party affiliations just to vote for a woman. Female candidates also have to remember that women can be deeply suspicious and critical of one another. Palin's appearance was another obvious red flag: a group of female advisors could have gently reminded the McCain men that women are not always thrilled to see a young, attractive woman step into the limelight, and they might need to prepare for the long knives." (pg. 93)

The McCain camp didn't think any of this was critical, and when people like Republican governor of Massachussetts Jane Swift (who had twins while in office) shared with the campaign some of her experiences as a female candidate, it appeared to have been dismissed.

So, if we as voters are rejecting Hillary and Sarah, the question remains if there are, in fact, any women who might be potential candidates and what characteristics, what background, what persona do they need to have in order to crack the ceiling of the Oval Office once and for all?

Kornblut gives us glimpses into several women and their qualifications, noting that there are several commonalities among them. She points out that many have a background in law enforcement as well as having battled breast cancer - and Kornblut shows that these are characteristics that are viewed as strengths in the light of a potential Presidential run.

What I've written here barely scratches the surface of Notes from the Cracked Ceiling; in fact, I have 17 additional passages Post-Marked that I didn't even mention.  This book is chock-full of insider political baseball and reading it makes you feel like you have a front row seat to history.

Which, if you think about it, is what we had.

More information about the book:

The Washington Post has a special page on its website about the book and the issues raised.
Anne Kornblut's website is here.


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, May 18, 2010

Dare to Be Adequate


Dare to be adequate.

It's an interesting concept to wrap one's mind around, isn't it?  Especially when one's mind tends to stray into perfectionistic tendencies like mine does.

Today I attended a workshop where the speaker, fundraising trainer and consultant Kim Klein, gave us permission to do just that. Kim's point was that as busy nonprofit professionals in an increasingly competitive environment where we're frequently being asked and expected to do more with less, we need to know what aspects of our work is worth giving extra scrutiny to and what areas where being adequate will be just fine.

Things like being OK with not re-doing your entire newsletter because of a typo in one article.  Not trashing reams of paper because a batch of letters has the slightest imperceptible smudge.

Been there, done that, many a time.

Admittedly, I have a hard time with the concept of daring to be adequate.  A really hard time.  I'm getting better, but it is still very much of an ingrained mentality, almost like it is part of my DNA or something.  And in some ways, it is.

My Dad was a mechanical engineer, someone who spent his days drafting precise blueprints and drawings of the exact dimensions of plumbing structures that would one day be located in some of Philadelphia's largest museums and schools.  There was no room for mistakes in his work, and that carried over into our homework assignments - the dioramas, the posterboard displays - that we sought his assistance with. 

I found myself practically channeling my father's spirit the other night while helping Boo with his homework.  You see, Boo's teacher doesn't believe in the concept of erasing - as in, the activity one does with the tip of a pencil when one makes a mistake.  Instead, they're instructed to cross out their words, their sentences, whatever went awry, all in the interest of saving time. 

This horrifies me.  (OK, yes, I know there are real substantial issues and situations that should warrant my indignation, but it's true.)

This flies in the face of everything I've ever been taught, everything that my formative years spent as a student in one of Pennsylvania's most competitive school districts shaped my mind into.  And yes, I've felt strongly enough about this Anti-Erasing Campaign by Boo's teacher that I've brought it up during parent-teacher conferences.

"Your work is a reflection on you," I emphasized to Boo the other night, launching into a monologue about how people perceive sloppy work and having pride in your work that probably went over Boo's 8 year old head. I swear I could hear my father applauding from The Great Beyond.

We see this in the blogging world, too, don't we?  We look at other people's blogs - their posts, their designs, their photos, their followers (boy, do we look at their followers!) - and we feel this pressure inside, this little voice, that tells us that we don't measure up.  That we can't and won't possibly ever measure up, that our words aren't going to be the ones that are going to be retweeted to the twitterverse, that our witty post isn't going to be the one going viral, that our photo isn't going to make it onto screensavers everywhere. 

I've fallen victim to this perfectionistic mentality more times than I care to admit.  I've gone back to edit blog posts.  I have over a hundred posts in Drafts as I type - and why?  Because they're not good enough.  They're not quite ready for prime time.  But does that mean that they should be scrapped altogether?  Maybe, in some cases - but in others, probably not. 

Maybe it's OK to have the occasional adequate post, instead of self-imposed pressure to make every post Pulitzer-worthy.

I still believe that our work is a reflection of ourselves, that quality matters, that we should strive for excellence. I probably always will believe that, because that's how I'm hard-wired. But perhaps there are times when we need to allow ourselves to be a little bit human while we're striving to be the best and the brightest.

I'm not giving up my erasers, not by a long shot. But I'm betting the world will still keep on turning if I occasionally allow myself to cross out.

Photo taken by me during a trip to a make-your-own pottery place with Betty's Girl Scout troop.

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, May 17, 2010

Links I Liked

I'm telling you, I learn something new with every Moms Rising post.  I'd heard that antibacterial soaps and the like aren't all they're cracked up (and promoted) to be, but I never knew exactly why.  Alice Shabecoff's post, Antibacterials = Anti Health explains this in great detail.  Clearly, I need to be paying more attention to this.

Speaking of paying attention (or, more accurately, not paying attention) this Newsweek piece by Andrew Romano offers some thoughts (which I agree with) on Why the Media Ignored the Nashville Flood.

My friend Kirsten is a development consultant for nonprofits in the Louisville, KY area and has a great post on her blog, Fundraising Headlines about the importance of marketing for nonprofits.

And my other friend (and the blogger behind Stephanie's Stories) Stephanie is auditioning - in her bathrobe, no less! - for a chance to be Oprah's next talk show host. Go here and vote - up to 100 times a day - for Aunt Steph's Stoop.  Even if you don't like Stephanie's audition tape, you gotta give props to Stephanie for having enough chutzpah to be filmed in her bathrobe knowing that Oprah herself is watching.

Finally, yesterday (Sunday 5/16) marked the 20th anniversary of the deaths of Sammy Davis Jr. and Jim Henson. My husband has a tribute to both men in his post, Sammy and Kermit: Remembering When Entertainment was the True Reality.  Well worth the read. (I'd be linking to this even if the author wasn't the guy on the laptop next to mine.)

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, May 16, 2010

The Sunday Salon: Reading for Work and Pleasure


The book I'm reading this week is not one that I'd expect everyone to go running out to get - although if you work in the nonprofit sector, are on a nonprofit's board, or work in another fundraising capacity with a charity, this is well worth the read.

It's Kim Klein's Reliable Fundraising in Unreliable Times: What Good Causes Need to Know to Survive and Thrive, a book I currently have out from the library and which I just purchased. Klein's work is known to those of us in this field and she is going to be at a workshop I'm attending this week.  I'm lucky enough to be part of a small group consult with her, and bought the book to - yes, the groupie in me comes out - have her sign.


It's not all work and no play on the reading front, though. I'd forgotten how much I love Pat Conroy (although I regularly drive over a bridge that, if the glint on the canal meets the setting sun just so, tends to remind me of the ending scene of The Prince of Tides). Conroy's latest, South of Broad, is just as much a treasure.  It's both my fiction read and my audiobook this week.  I need to do both with this one because I'm coming up on the library due date (with no more renewals at the library, naturally) and because I'm not listening to audios as much because I'm (very happily) doing less driving with my new job.

Book Expo America and the Book Blogger Convention have kind of snuck up on me, and it's hard to believe they are just around the corner.  I'd planned to go to BEA on Thursday as well as the Book Blogger Convention on Friday, but now it looks like I'm just coming to New York for the day on Friday (leaving really early in the morning on Amtrak.  Does anyone know if the Jacob Javits Center really is within walking distance of Penn Station, as it appears to be on the map?)  With having just started my new job on the 3rd, I have only a few hours of vacation time; my new boss is encouraging me to go, but I feel funny taking two days off during my first month at a new job.

Just another example of the intersection of work and play this 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.

Remembering Sammy and Kermit: When Entertainment Was the True Reality Television



WHEN ENTERTAINMENT WAS THE TRUE REALITY TELEVISION: Sammy Davis Jr [left] and Jim Henson [right, with Kermit] were part of an era of talented entertainers the like of whom we'll likely never see again. Both men died 20 years ago today.

I wish I could take credit for this post, but instead, it belongs to my husband. This appears on his blog today and is re-printed here with his permission.


How is it possible that 20 years have passed? It is simply inconceivable to me. I can remember the day as though it was just a week ago. The double-whammy. One you knew was imminent, the other was a punch in the gut. 20 years. May 16, 1990. On that day, 20 years ago, we lost two of the greats: Sammy Davis Jr. and Jim Henson.

What I can't remember, however, is whose death I learned of first [Henson died first, early on the morning of May 16th]. I want to say it was Sammy's, but that may have more to do with the inordinate amount of media coverage it garnered compared to when word of Henson's death was released. Sammy had been in deteriorating health from throat cancer. When he was admitted to Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in early 1990, doctors told him they might be able to save his life with a radical new procedure that included the removal of his vocal chords. Perhaps apocryphal, the story goes that Sammy looked at the doctors and said, "I'm not leavin' [this Earth] without my pipes, man." True to his word, Davis discharged himself from the hospital in mid-March 1990 and went home to die. For weeks, a morbid vigil developed in front of Davis' California home as reporters seemingly eagerly awaited word of the entertainer's death.

It was that preparation and expectation that may explain the way Henson's death was - at the time - overlooked by many. The mainstream media was ready for Davis' death. True, Davis was also a larger 'star'. But Henson's death at any other time would have been the lead story. Instead, it was largely overlooked at the time. It was only as days passed - particularly the moving memorial tribute to him by Big Bird at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City on May 22nd - that the reality of Henson's death began to sink in. I defy anyone to watch it and not be moved to tears.

Being of the same age as Sesame Street, I grew up with Henson - although I was probably about 10 when I first heard his name. My favorite Muppet was always Kermit the Frog. I enjoyed the others, but to me Kermit was the star.

Humble, funny, sarcastic without malice, and above all: an entertainer. That describes both Henson and Sammy Davis [not to mention Kermit]. That was another factor that made their deaths so ironic and sad: there are too few nice people in the world; to lose two in one day sucked.

Unlike Davis' terminal illness, Henson's death was completely unexpected. The entire episode took less than four full days. On May 12th Henson traveled to visit his father in North Carolina. The next morning he awoke not feeling well. Surprisingly - considering his Christian Science religious background - he sought out a doctor for consultation that day. The doctor found nothing to indicate pneumonia and simply told Henson to take aspirin and try to sleep. Henson decided to fly back home to New York. Henson was visited at home by his wife - from whom he was now separated - where they talked long into the evening. He fell asleep but awoke at 2 am on May 15th coughing up blood and having difficulty breathing. He uncharacteristically told Jane he thought he was dying. Around 4 am he consented to being taken to the hospital. He was admitted at 4:58 am at roughly the same time he became unable to breathe on his own at all. He was placed on a ventilator and pumped with an aggressive series of antibiotics. It was no use. Twenty hours later, at 1:21 am on May 16th, he died. The cause of death was organ failure due to a streptococcal infection.

While Henson was extremely influential on my childhood memories, so was Sammy. I first saw him singing The Candyman somewhere. He appeared in an episode of All in the Family a little later [this was, no doubt, a re-run, as the original episode aired in 1972]. I saw him in old clips. Singing, dancing. Laughing. Sammy was the real deal, and I knew it even as a kid. As much as I loved Michael Jackson as a kid, I scoffed at comparisons between he and Davis when it came to entertainment and dancing. While Davis had almost as bizarre a personal life as did Jackson [although I knew about neither man's peccadilloes until much later], Sammy had charisma and charm. Jackson had surprisingly almost no personality at all.

There was something endearing about Sammy. He'd appear on a sitcom [I seem to remember a recurring character on Diff'rent Strokes] throughout the 1980s and I came to truly love his music and his persona. To me, even as a kid, Sammy Davis was cool.

So, today, on the 20th anniversary of their deaths, I remember these two great men. I sit here in wonder that it has been 20 years. Today, had they lived, Henson would have been 73 and Davis 84. Over the past twenty years many of their collaborators and contemporaries are gone. Indeed, the last person with whom Sammy recorded a song - Lena Horne - died just the other day [the song, by the way, is phenomenal: I Wish I'd Met You].

They were part of an era when 'entertainment' meant more than watching some fat bastard try to lose weight, some chick with enormous tits and not-so-enormous talent try to win a karaoke contest, or some incredibly dysfunctional psychopaths try to raise eight children on television in an attempt to become famous.

It meant real talent. Real magic.

Sammy Davis and Jim Henson. They were the ultimate and true reality television. RIP gentlemen, 20 years later you are still sorely missed.



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

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Weekend Cooking: Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating, by Mark Bittman


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.

Mark Bittman's book Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating is an insightful look at how the way many of us eat is having a detrimental impact on many critical aspects of our lives - from our personal health, of course, to the well-being of animals and the global environment. By making a few changes and different choices in our eating habits, Bittman claims that we can play a part in reducing the severity of some of these issues.

Food Matters is divided into two sections.  In the first portion of the book, Bittman provides some eye-opening statistics (conveniently highlighted in the margins of the pages) about food production, especially factory farming.  (While there are some unsettling numbers in this book, this isn't Upton Sinclair's The Jungle.)  Some of these are ones we've heard before, but others were new to me.  Consider the following:
  • 60 billion animals are raised each year for food. That's 10 animals for every human on earth.
  • In the United States alone, 9 billion chickens, 100 million pigs, 250 million turkeys, and 36 million cows are killed each year for food.  
  • 50% of the antibiotics in the United States go to animals.
  • 1 billion people in the world are chronically hungry.
  • 1 billion are overweight.
Clearly, something is wrong with this scenario and something needs to change. Bittman presents a compelling case for that change starting with the choices we make. "By simply changing  what we eat," he writes, "we can have an immediate impact on our own health and a very real effect on global warming - and the environment, and animal cruelty, and food prices. That's the guiding principle behind Food Matters, and it's really very simple: eat less meat and junk food, eat more vegetables and whole grains." (pg. 4).

This isn't a diet book, nor a call to become vegetarian or eat only organic vegetables.  It's about making healthier choices more often while not completely depriving ourselves of the foods we love.

Food Matters includes 77 recipes and a suggested food plan that follows these general principles.  Again, Bittman emphasizes that these are merely suggestions and ideas.  They're sensible ones, though, and the recipes are ones that look tasty, fairly economical, and healthy.

The other evening, I had a craving for carrot soup. Now, I normally don't care for carrot soup - but maybe reading Food Matters made me think differently, even on a subconscious level.  So I turned to the recipe section of the book and lo and behold, Bittman has a recipe for Creamy Carrot Soup on page 202, which I made for dinner along with open-faced melted cheese sandwiches. (I toasted bread slices and placed a slice of cheese on top, then put them in the oven to melt.)  I was making fries for the kids, so decided to make this variation of grilled cheese that way instead of the traditional version with butter.

Creamy Carrot Soup
makes 4 servings

Notes from Food Matters: This soup is as cold as it is hot, and its creaminess comes from vegetables, not dairy items, though you can certainly enrich this soup by stirring in a pat of butter or a splash of coconut milk after pureeing.

In place of the carrots you might try fennel or celery; root vegetables like parsnips, celery root, or turnips; spinach, sorrel or watercress; sweet potatoes or winter squash; any potatoes; peas (alone of with some romaine lettuce). If you want to add spices - either curry powder or ground cumin seeds are good with carrots - stir them in just before adding the stock in Step 1.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion or a 2-inch piece of ginger, chopped (my note: I chose the onion)
about 1.5 pounds carrots, roughly choppped
1 large starchy potato, peeled and roughly chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups vegetable stock or water
1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves for garnish

1. Put the oil in a large, deep saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat.  When the oil is hot, add the vegetables. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, until the carrots soften a bit. Add the stock and cook until the vegetables are very tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

2. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup in the pan. Or cool the mixture slightly (hot soup is dangerous), and pass it through a food mill or pour it into a blender. Puree until smooth, working in batches if necessary. (You can make the soup ahead to this point. Cover, refrigerate for up to 2 days, and reheat before proceeding.)

3. If you're serving the soup hot, gently reheat it, stirring frequently. If you're serving it cold, refrigerate, covered, for at least 2 hours. Either way, taste and adjust the seasoning and garnish before serving.

This was a little bit weaker than I anticipated, but that could have been because I used canned potatoes (all I had on hand) and baby carrots, not the kind pictured here.  I think if I made this again, I would use larger carrots and a russet potato.

Food Matters is an informative book for anyone who is concerned about our planet and issues related to our food supply (factory farming, antibiotic use, etc.) and who is interested in trying some new, simple and healthy recipes.


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, May 14, 2010

He Traveled So Far



My son has a best friend.
He came over to our house yesterday and they played video games.
For an hour.

My son has a best friend.

"And you with the blue in your eyes
The storms of life leave a few lines
And squinting you search for the signs
Of kindness, of love, of someone
To walk with in rain or in sun
Until then, life's hardly begun

You traveled
You traveled so far
You traveled so far to be here ...."

"We Traveled So Far" ~ Mary Chapin Carpenter


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Start Your Engines



It's NASCAR weekend here in these parts, which is a little like being dropped onto the set of "Cars."  You know you're in NASCAR country when Tony the Tiger pulls up next to you at a traffic light.


These photos were actually taken last May.  However, Tony might be getting a run for his money this time around the track.  While driving to a meeting yesterday, a car passed me on the highway that leads to the Speedway, but not before I noticed two bumper stickers on it.

On the left was a NOVICE DRIVER bumper sticker.  On the right, NASCAR.

Take a guess which one was more accurate.

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, May 10, 2010

Book Review: The Day the Falls Stood Still, by Cathy Marie Buchanan

The Day the Falls Stood Still
by Cathy Marie Buchanan
copyright 2009
305 pages

"We all matter so very little, not at all after a generation or two. And it is the same for all mankind; not even the greatest of men amount to anything that will survive the forward march of time." (pg. 215)

With The Day the Falls Stood Still, author Cathy Marie Buchanan gives her reader a sweeping, majestical love story set amid the grandeur and mystery of Niagara Falls. As her first novel, this is an incredibly impressive debut for so many reasons.  The characters are so well developed, the history is fascinating and supplemented with fictitious newspaper accounts and vintage photos, the writing is poetic and lyrical, the details (especially of the clothing) are intricately woven, and the descriptions of the riverbed show that Buchanan knows of what she speaks.

The Day the Falls Stood Still spans nearly a decade in the life of narrator Bess Heath, who at the novel's beginning in 1915 is finishing her junior year at a prestigious boarding school in the same Niagara Falls area community where her well-off family lives. Within the first few pages, however, Bess' life changes dramatically: her father has lost his well-paying job and has become an alcoholic; her beloved sister Isabel is suffering from what we now know is depression while hiding other secrets; and her mother is doing her best to hold the family together by working as a seamstress. 

In the midst of this turmoil, and while mourning the life she had, Bess meets local fisherman Tom Cole. Predictably, the two fall in love, only to be met by reactions of scorn and disapproval by everyone from the local busybodies to Bess' family and friends.

When Bess receives a marriage proposal from wealthy Edward Atwell, the brother of her best friend Kit, that sets into motion a theme that recurs throughout The Day the Falls Stood Still. The novel explores the question of familial obligation and loyalty, of friendship, of following one's heart versus doing what is expected or demanded, of legacies inherited from our ancestors and the legacy we're leaving for generations to follow.

These are themes that have been explored in countless stories, but I believe one of the qualities of a great writer is the ability to show a reader these themes in a way that seems brand new, to keep one engrossed in the story and to not want to put the book down.  Cathy Marie Buchanan does this beautifully in The Day the Falls Stood Still, and the fact that this is her first novel makes that feat even more impressive.

This is a love story, to be sure, but it is also a story imbued with the spiritual and mystical qualities that infuse our lives. For Bess and especially Tom, the river and the falls hold a power over them that isn't easily explained, as Bess relates:

"Then he speaks almost shyly, as though he is not sure I want to hear: 'There's something more, too.  There are moments, usually on the river. It's nothing I know how to explain.'

I watch him, filling with wonder. I have heard Father argue that intuition is entirely rational. There is no mystery, no magic, nothing astonishing as far as he is concerned. A woman knows her child is ill, even before laying her palm on his forehead, only because he slept late and called out in the night and ate poorly the evening before. It does not matter one iota that she cannot articulate the clues. Father would say, 'We do not always know what we know.'

But I am not so quick to rule out mystery and magic. I like the astonishing and do not doubt that it exists. What is God, after all, if not mystery and magic, and astonishing? I have little inclination to scoff at Tom's bit of mystery. From my window seat at the academy, I saw prayers in the rising mist." (pg. 89)

My heart was swept away in the love story of Bess and Tom, one that spans the entire novel and is still as strong as strong toward the novel's end as it is in the beginning.

"'You were the reason I got up in the morning.'
'You're still the reason I do.'
There are moments when it feels like my heart is not large enough to hold what I feel. Love wells in my eyes and I do not blink it away. I let it roll onto my cheeks.
He is a faded silhouette against his glittering river. Still, I can see the sheen that has come to his eyes." (pg. 276)

Finally, let me also say that this novel represents all that I love about book bloggers. Quite honestly, on the surface this might not have been a book that I would have chosen on my own. It's historical fiction, a genre I usually shy away from because it has always seemed intimidating to me (I know, doesn't that sound ridiculous?) but which I am starting to acquire a deeper appreciation for. Instead, I happened to see this on the library's New Books shelf and remembered seeing a positive review about it on a book blog (apologies for not remembering which one, although it might have been Darlene's from Peeking Between the Pages), so I picked it up.

And was quickly, gladly, swept away in the current of a great read.

Cathy Marie Buchanan's website is here.

What Other Bloggers Thought:

Linus's Blanket 
Medieval Bookworm
Peeking Between the Pages
Presenting Lenore
Redlady's Reading Room
Savvy Verse and Wit
Shelf Love
The Burton 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.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Simplicity of Mother's Day



My Mother's Day gifts from Betty:  a handmade necklace (very much in the Chicos style, don't you think?), an award for being Mother of the Year, and a rock shaped like a heart that she found several months ago and has been keeping for Mother's Day ever since.

The Husband made me breakfast of scrambled eggs, vegetarian bacon, and toast. He did six loads of laundry and folded it and put it away (just as he does every. single. weekend. .... I know, I am a kept woman) while I spent most of the morning (OK, all of the morning) online reading blogs ... and my damn Google Reader still hasn't budged from 1000+. 

In the afternoon, Betty and I visited the library and the grocery store (it might be Mother's Day, but I'd still like to eat for the remainder of the week), and Starbucks. There, standing in line for my Cinnamon Dolce Latte, the person behind me said, "Melissa?" and there stood an acquaintance from my elementary school (a whole state away), who I haven't seen for 30 years, with her daughter. 

Thanks to Facebook, I knew she lived in the general area, and Facebook is how she recognized me.  We're only Friends from Facebook because she is friends with someone who The Husband once supervised.

Amazing to think that in another place and time without this social media thing, we could have easily been standing in line together at Starbucks, unknowing of our connection beyond the need for caffeine.

A simple, low-key Mother's Day with good food, connection with friends, coffee, books, and time to enjoy it all.

Can't ask for a better day 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.

The Sunday Salon: The Reading Mother


One of my favorite poems is "The Reading Mother" by Strickland Gillilan (1869-1954). You know, the one that ends with the lines "You may have tangible wealth untold /Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold /Richer than I you can never be / I had a Mother who read to me."

Growing up, ours was not a house filled to the rafters with books - unless they were in my bedroom. My parents weren't avid readers and to this day, my mother is probably good for reading two - maybe three - books a year. I don't remember my Dad reading anything other than two newspapers a day or the latest issue of Popular Mechanics. So I'm not quite sure, exactly, where my love of reading came from. Make no mistake, though ... my brother and I were definitely encouraged to read.

We were taken to the library often, and I distinctly remember my mom co-signing for my first library card and encouraging me to write a fan letter to author Carolyn Haywood (pictured at left).

I also remember one library book that apparently made an impression on my mom, because she was glued to every word.  As if it was yesterday, I remember sitting on the sofa with my mom in our Northeast Philadelphia twin rancher home, asking non-stop if I could read her book. I've never been able to find it since. It was about a boy named Gideon - I'm pretty sure his name was Gideon, or maybe something close - who may or may not have had some learning challenges. A beige cover is in my mind. Ring any bells, anyone?  This would have occurred in the mid 1970s.

Anyway, with this being the Mother's Day edition of The Sunday Salon, I wanted to give a special Mother's Day thank you to my mom for teaching me how to read at age 3, taking me to the library, and still - as a reader of this blog - always encouraging my love of reading and writing.

As for other reading updates this week, I finished Cathy Marie Buchanan's debut novel, The Day the Falls Stood Still.  What a captivating read! It's a historical fiction novel, usually not my genre of choice, but this one had so many great reviews from other book bloggers that I had to get it at the library. I'll have a full review up this week or so.

For last night's dinner, I made a fried rice recipe based on one from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, so it seemed appropriate that his book, Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating was the one I selected as my current read.  Our diet is basically a flexitarian one, with the kids and I eating chicken a few times a week and The Husband staying to a vegetarian diet. We could do better, though, and the staggering statistics presented in Food Matters (and the recipes!) will be a good motivator.

Also on tap for this week are two other library books that are due back this week (with no more renewals), Morning Drive: Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Talking by Michael Smerconish (who I am a big fan of) and True Believer by Virginia Euwer Wolff, which is the second in the young adult Make Lemonade trilogy.(See my review of Make Lemonade here - which also holds the distinction for being the most searched on topic on this blog.)  It's also a good Mother's Day themed book, because it deals with how it truly takes a villiage to raise a child and the choices we make as mothers and those who care for kids.



Hope your reading week is a good one, and if you're celebrating Mother's Day, I wish you a wonderful day!

I had a mother who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea.
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth;
"Blackbirds" stowed in the hold beneath.
I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.
I had a Mother who read me tales
Of Gelert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness lent with his final breath.
I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings-
Stories that stir with an upward touch.
Oh, that each mother of boys were such!
You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be --
I had a Mother who read to me.
 ~Strickland Gillilan