Thursday, August 30, 2012

When You Get a Call from School at 10:30 on the Second Day .... know there's no way in hell this can be good.

At least, that's what my initial reaction was when my cell phone rang on Wednesday, at 10:30 a.m., and the caller ID flashed the name of the kids' brand new middle school.

The Second Day of School was not even two hours old.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I thought. We haven't even survived a fucking week yet and here we go. Let the autism games begin.

Reluctantly, I pressed ANSWER on my cell, mentally calculating whether my to-do list would accommodate the migraine that this call would surely bring on.

"Good morning, this is Melissa," I mustered up, in my calmest, got-this-crazy-life-all-under-control-thank-you parent voice. Hit me with it. I'm ready for whatever you're bringing me.

With an exuberance that could rival that of any Disney Channel tween diva, the caller introduced herself as Boo's new "case manager" for 5th grade. Seems that the "caseload" of special ed students required an assistant for Ms. D., the autism support teacher whom Boo worked with last year. She was "so incredibly lucky and excited to be working with Boo."

"Oh," I half-laughed. "Um ... that's great to hear."

"I know that yesterday was a big day for him, full of a lot of transitions. A new environment in middle school, new teachers, a new routine. I just wanted you to know that I was keeping an extra eye on him, just to see how he did."

I was speechless.

"Oh my gosh," I stammered. "Thank you. Thank you so very much."

"And I wanted to know, are you or your husband coming to Back to School Night?" I confirmed that I was. She was, she continued, having a little meet and greet in one of the classrooms prior to the back to school night, and was hoping I could stop by. Nothing formal, just to get acquainted, put faces to names.

This I could do.

This I could most certainly do.

I've written before about how getting special education services back for Boo was a significant reason for our move back to Pennsylvania more than a year ago. And while this move wasn't easy, nor without a significant loss of money, and I'm still trying to sort my own work situation out (again), moments like that one call on the second day of school have a way of bringing straight to our new doorstep why - despite everything - this was absolutely the right decision.

Maybe that phone call was a reminder to my often-cynical self that something that seems to portend gloom and doom on the surface really can be an amazing gift once we listen to what it really is all about.

(Photo taken by me at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, October 2011. Even our aquatic life in the 'Burgh are Steelers fans.)

copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Happy Birthday, Michael

In the lobby of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, taken during our visit to Cleveland, Ohio this weekend.

For more Wordless Wednesday photos, click here.

copyright 2012, Melissa, 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: Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl
by Gillian Flynn
415 pages 

"I was told love should be unconditional. That's the rule, everyone says so. But if love has no boundaries, no limits, no conditions, why should anyone try to do the right thing ever? If I know I am loved no matter what, where is the challenge?" (pg. 414) 

I drank the Kool-Aid with this one and my God, was this gooooood.

Gone Girl is the summer's hottest book, currently enjoying the #1 spot on The New York Times Bestseller list. It is the book that every blogger is talking about (well, along with that other book). Normally, with all this kind of hype, I wouldn't want anything to do with this book, but this one was absolutely irresistible.

For starters, it's a mystery, and I don't do mysteries. I scare easily, and I started this while The Husband was out of town for the night. This isn't a fright-fest, per se; this is more of a "what the fuck?!" fest.

(And that's in every sense of the word. Really. Be forewarned that if the likes of the f-word and a lot of gratuituous acts and descriptions thereof are not your thing, Gone Girl has all of the above in abundance. And then some. And then some MORE. I wound up wanting to give this 4.5 stars on Goodreads, and that minus .5 was because of the language and descriptive goings-on and I am far from easily offended.)

For those who have no idea what Gone Girl is about, allow me to give you just the most barest of plot summaries - because this is one of those books that the less you know about it, the better. Nick and Amy Dunne have been married for 5 years. On the morning of their 5th anniversary, Amy goes missing. ("I took a cue from your beloved Mark Twain: What ought to be done to the man who invented the celebrating of anniversaries? Mere killing would be too light." (pg. 109) 

OK, enough said.

Sounds simple enough, but there's nothing simple about this book - nor these crazy as hell people who are incredibly, bizarrely complex.
"I don't know that we are actually human at this point, those of us who are like most of us, who grew up with TV and movies and now the Internet. If we are betrayed, we know the words to say; when a loved one dies, we know the words to say. If we want to play the stud or the smart-ass or the fool, we know the words to say. We are all working from the same dog-eared script.
It's a very difficult era in which to be a person, just a real, actual person, instead of a collection of personality traits selected from an endless Automat of characters.
And if all of us are play-acting, there can be no such thing as a soul-mate, because we don't have genuine souls.
It had gotten to the point where it seemed like nothing matters, because I'm not a real person and neither is anyone else.
I would have done anything to feel real again." (pg. 73)
Nick and Amy string each other along and you, as the reader, are just along for the literary equivalent of Mister Toad's Wild Ride.

Just check out my status updates on Goodreads as proof (I read this on my Kindle):

6% done:  "This chick needs some therapy, stat. And her parents are child psychologists? Definitely needs some therapy stat. All the hype is justified. Can't put this down. I am going to be a gone girl to my family until I am done this. Goodbye."

33 % done: "WHAT THE!!! I'm on the equivalent of page 139 and nearly just screamed. What a mindf%#;* of a book. Love it."

63%  done: "Remember that Rick Springfield song "Don't Talk to Strangers"? That's going through my mind right now, even though it's about a guy and a girl. This is going to come undone."

81% done: "Yikes. Ohmigodohmigodohmigod. This isn't going to end well. Well, maybe it will. Maybe. But this isn't good."

But it is.

It really, really is. 

4.5 stars.

copyright 2012, Melissa, 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, August 27, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Since I missed doing a Sunday Salon post yesterday, I thought I'd catch up by participating in in this week's It's Monday! What Are You Reading? which is hosted by my friend Sheila.

My absence in the Salon and my presence here has to do with the New York Yankees. We are Yankees fans, and since they were playing the Cleveland Indians this weekend (and since Cleveland is just two hours from us), we took that opportunity to turn it into a weekend family trip to Ohio. We visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Saturday and took in the game at Progressive Field on Sunday. It was a GREAT weekend and one that I'll recap in more detail soon.

It also meant not much reading this weekend. I didn't even take an ACTUAL PRINTED BOOK with me, only my Kindle. This is now the second time I've done that for a short weekend trip (and I'll probably do it again in two weeks time) and it's still kind of a strange feeling. I wonder if I'll ever get used to that?

It wouldn't have mattered because I'm still in a bit of a restless reading mode from last week ... so I actually haven't been reading all that much. It's driving me kind of crazy, to be honest. I've tried switching genres (fiction to nonfiction and back again), I've tried short stories and shorter tomes. Last week I finished The Years by Virginia Woolf and Unearned Pleasures and Other Stories by Ursula Hegi (which was just okay).  I can take a couple days of this, but now that this has lasted more than a week, it's a bit too much. I want to find the next book to fall in love with, and I want it NOW.

Fortunately, I think I may have found it. Thank God.

I've had Kelly Corrigan's memoir, The Middle Place, on my bookshelves for awhile, always as one of those books I've "been meaning to read." Like me, Kelly's a Philly girl. She writes in a comfortable, approachable style that makes you feel like she's you - or your best friend - or someone who you want to be your best friend. I listened to her second book, Lift, on audio and really liked it. Like Lift, I'm finding myself nodding my head in recognition and "my God, that's absolutely it" through so much of this, and I'm only on page 35.
"It is one thing to be a man's wife - quite another to be the mother of his children. In fact, once you become a mother, being a wife seems like a game you once played or a self-help book you were overly impressed with as a teenager that on second reading is puffy with common ideas. This was one of many things I had learned since crossing over into the middle place - that sliver of time when childhood and parenthood overlap. One day you're cheering your daughter through a swimming lesson or giving her a pat for crossing the monkey bars or reminding her to say 'please,' and the next, you're bragging to your parents about your newest trick - a sweet potato recipe, a raise at work, a fix for your ant problem. It's a giant Venn diagram where you are the only member of both sets." (pg. 28)
I'm also listening to this on audio (the narration by Tavia Gilbert is fabulous).

There was a snafu in downloading this from the library, so while that was getting worked out, I went ahead and downloaded Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell.

So that is what I am actually reading - and listening to - today, on Monday.

copyright 2012, Melissa, 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, August 25, 2012

Discovering Pittsburgh: Habitat, and a Behind the Scenes Tour of the Fairmont Pittsburgh Kitchen

One of the things that I've been thrilled to discover about Pittsburgh is its great restaurant scene. During the year that we've been here, I haven't eaten out at too many places - but I can say that I've enjoyed almost every place I've been to. People don't usually think of Pittsburgh as a restaurant town (we're the place that puts french fries on our sandwiches and our salads, after all) but I think that stereotype is changing (and has changed) with the revitalization of our Downtown area. When one wants to enjoy an upscale meal in Pittsburgh, fortunately we have more than a few fine restaurants to choose from in our city.

Many restaurants in Pittsburgh have been making a significant effort to focus on locally-sourced, sustainable food, and among them is the elegant Habitat, located Downtown at 510 Market Street in the Fairmont Pittsburgh. After our Pilates class at Verve a few weekends ago, Claire had made reservations for us bloggers to have lunch at Habitat. She had been there previously and enjoyed it, and she had also confirmed that they would have their "executive express lunch" available, even though we would be dining on a Saturday afternoon.

Our waitress was extremely attentive to our party of six, immediately bringing us a basket of bread, and water in the most adorable pitcher I'd ever seen.

I mean, seriously, is that not THE CUTEST THING??!! I WANT. Apparently, so do a lot of others and Habitat is savvy enough to use that to their marketing advantage; you could drop your business card in a box at the entrance for a chance to win one. (I'm still waiting for my call.) These were hand-crafted especially for Habitat, our waitress explained.

Pittsburgh Restaurant Week was upon us, unbeknownst to me (my blogging friends had to inform me). Sure enough, as promised, Habitat was indeed offering an "executive express" lunch consisting of soup, salad, sandwich, and dessert for only $16.00. I thought this would be a great way to sample several of Habitat's offerings, and I was quite pleased. (I don't know if this was a usual part of Habitat's menu or if this was a special for Restaurant Week, but regardless, I was glad.)

Shall we take a closer look?

I could have eaten an entire plate of this salad alone, especially the delicious chunks of avocado. The tomatoes were fresh and the dressing had just the right amount of tanginess without being overpowering.

I adore fish tacos (and fish in general), but the rest of my immediate family does not. Thus, it is usually one of my preferred menu items when I dine out. Succulent mahi-mahi adorned with peppers and wrapped in a flour tortilla was absolutely delicious (albeit slightly messy to eat, but I didn't really care about that).

A mini Oreo cookie cheesecake! Now, here's the thing with me and chocolate anything. I can only have chocolate in small quantities. It's a migraine-trigger for me, unfortunately, so I've pretty much had to give it up. This dessert, however, made me feel like Goldilocks: it was just the right size, just the right amount of chocolate to be satisfying, yet not enough to potentially send me into my typical three-day migraine throes of hell.

Several of my dining companions also chose the executive express lunch, however Alex selected the Bibb salad with compressed watermelon. According to the menu, this included mint, pickled red onions, and feta cheese with a herb vinaigrette.

Nikki got the Grilled Vegetable Wrap (I think) along with a side of sweet potato fries.

Sweet potato fries are A BIG THING here in Pittsburgh. (That's something else I've learned during the past year here in this city.)

We were impressed with the open kitchen at Habitat, so being the curious bloggers we are, we meandered over, cameras in hand. Imagine our surprise when Paula, the sous chef invited us behind the scenes for an impromptu tour!

Initially I thought that our spur-of-the-moment tour was going to be that of the kitchen of Habitat itself, which would have been neat. Little did I know that we were not only just seeing the restaurant's kitchen, but the kitchen and cooking operation for THE ENTIRE FAIRMONT HOTEL, which was in the midst of preparing for a wedding. ("They're at the church right now," Paula calmly explained. No worries.)

This was AWESOME and a great surprise to our already terrific day. Being foodies, we were in our glory.

Paula explaining the workings of the kitchen's high-tech fridge, which can freeze or thaw things quickly. (I didn't take notes during this tour, so this is all from my head.)

Tables ready for room service. 

Tables awaiting a romantic champagne and chocolate dessert.

 Cute chef dudes preparing appetizers for the wedding reception later that evening. 

Bruschetta in parmesan cheese cups! 
(Yes, they let us sample them ... and they were amazing!)

Dinners, plated and in a large walk in fridge, prepared for the wedding. 

Salad dishes 

Centerpieces for the wedding tables.

Salad spinner.  

Mixing bowls. 

Pastry machine.

I think I could make room on my counter for one of these. 

Or this. 

A room devoted to nothing but chocolate! 


I absolutely enjoyed my lunch at Habitat and would highly recommend it to others (in fact, I already have). Thanks, too, to Paula and her staff for our tour of the kitchen!

Habitat is located in the Fairmont Pittsburgh at 510 Market Street, Pittsburgh, PA. Habitat's website, which includes their menus, hours and directions, Chef Andrew Morrison's blog, and a schedule of events, can be found here. 

Discovering Pittsburgh is an occasional feature on The Betty and Boo Chronicles where I write about the new adventures and places we are discovering in our new city.

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, quotations, beer, wine, photographs.

copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Play the Game Tonight

Up until about 4:15 p.m., this was a pretty good day.

Afterwards? Not so much.

Some disappointing news on the job front led me out into the afternoon toward pick up duty for Betty and Boo. I was not (to put it mildly) in the mood to argue with my offspring about my choice of dinner selections (yes, we're having pasta again; deal with it) nor anything else for that matter.

Which is how I almost missed what greeted me at summer camp.

I walked into a scene that would have been unimaginable not all that long ago - but one that I almost allowed my temporary frustration and my festering anger to allow me to miss. There, on a carpet with half a dozen (at least) other kids and teacher, was my son.

Playing a game.

But wait, you guys. Wait.

It gets better.

"Mom," he says. "Can I finish up this game before we go?"

Can you?


You're damn right you can, kiddo.

As I said, the magnitude of this didn't register with me until after I drove (just so) slightly over the speed limit to the summer camp, Bruce Springsteen's "Lonesome Day" blaring from my car speakers at top volume.

Until after I banged the pots and pans together to boil rigatoni and microwave tomato sauce, because that's all I could muster up the brainpower for as dinner. Until after I poured myself a glass of Merlot and then another.

Until after I sat myself down on the deck to talk sensibly to The Husband and get my game face on for another day.

Sometimes it takes us a little while to realize what's important, what's right there in front of us.

My kid sat down with others and PLAYED A GAME TODAY.

What did it take for that to happen, I wondered. How many years, how many therapy sessions, how many teachers? How much work?

If he can do that, overcome all those odds which were surely stacked against him, then surely I can overcome mine.

Game on.

copyright 2012, Melissa, 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, August 21, 2012

Discovering Pittsburgh: Verve 360 Pilates Pittsburgh

What Saturday mornings are typically like here in the Betty and Boo household:
  • Occasionally sleeping past 6 a.m., if Betty and Boo don't greet the day by fighting amongst each other.
  • Couch potato-ing about on our respective laptops and electronic devices.
  • Reheating Friday night's pizza for lunch
  • Schlepping out to the grocery store in mid-afternoon.

What Saturday mornings are NOT typically like here in the Betty and Boo household:
  • Rummaging through still-unpacked (from our move 4 months ago) boxes for something that a) passes for a workout outfit and b) passes for a workout outfit that fits.
  • Driving into Downtown Pittsburgh to meet up with people I've never met (but who I know online via our blogs)
  • Taking a Pilates class at Verve Wellness with said people I've never met.
  • Lunching with the ladies at the Fairmont Hotel. 

The latter was my day on Saturday August 11, when I met up with a group of Pittsburgh bloggers for what turned out to be a great morning at Verve Wellness and a fabulous lunch at Habitat. (I'll have a review of that in a separate post.)

Claire (Live and Love to Eat) had organized what she called a 'Burgh Blogger Bash. Being a reader of her blog and interested in meeting some local bloggers, I emailed Claire.

Which is how I discovered that our day was to start at  Verve Wellness ... where the studio was generously providing us bloggers with a free, one hour beginners Pilates class. (You can have an opportunity to partake in this too. More on this in a bit.)

I immediately became nervous. I'd never taken a Pilates class. I am woefully out of shape. (I have the cholesterol numbers and triglyceride counts to prove it, baby!) Did this mean I'd have to start TRAINING for a blogging event? (And by training, that would be walking around the block. Maybe even TWICE.) Maybe this wasn't the best idea after all. Maybe I could change my mind and maybe just go to lunch.

Right up until the morning of the event, I was still unsure about everything except the certainty that I was going to make a complete fool of myself. It was a voice of reason that gave me the confidence I needed.

"Maybe someone will help you," my 10 year old son Boo offered.

For new readers to the blog, my son has a form of autism called Asperger's Syndrome. I write about him and autism here often. So this awareness, this very IDEA from him that someone would be able to help, that I could ASK for help, was beyond huge and the confidence booster that I needed.

At Verve itself, we were greeted warmly by the front desk personnel. The first floor of Verve is a salon and spa area, offering hair care, cut and style, manicure, pedicure, and massage services. Probably a lot more. We were shown to the comfortable changing area on the second floor, which is where the spacious workout studio is also located.

We met our enthusiastic instructor, Linda, who took a few moments to ask each of us about our exercise history, especially with Pilates, and any pre-existing conditions. (As the oldest person in the group, I was, of course the only one with an ailment. My creaky left shoulder that I "did something to, maybe slept on funny" got me out of an exercise or two.)

As she led us through the mat exercises (are they exercises? moves? positions? I don't remember), Linda interspersed her cues to us with bits of history of Pilates and the differences between this and yoga, as well as other workouts. Several participants in the class, for example, were swimmers.

One of the things that I was most surprised about was that I wasn't a sopping wet dishrag at the end of the class - meaning that, I expected this to be like my 8 a.m. college aerobics class that left me damn near unconscious for the rest of the morning. (Of course, I was in a lot better shape 22 years ago, but that's besides the point.)  I expected to be gulping water nonstop, not to mention the oxygen tank that I assumed the paramedics would be bringing. Don't get me wrong: as a newbie, this was hard (I felt it the next day, believe you me) but there were parts of the Pilates class that were ... dare I say it? Relaxing.

So. Let's just cut to the chase. Did I like the class? Well, yes and ... maybe not so much. I liked how it made me feel afterwards, and I suppose that is the most important thing, right? I liked that Linda was incredibly patient with me when I was a bit (OK, maybe a lot) uncoordinated and I'm grateful that my blogging friends were patient with me, too. Is Pilates for me? I don't know.

What I do know, though, is that I am glad that I gave it a try and I am appreciative to Verve 360 Pilates Pittsburgh for giving me the opportunity to do so.  Now it's YOUR TURN. Verve 360 Pilates Pittsburgh is offering one of my blog readers the chance to win a free Pilates class at their studio, which is a $40 value. This is a great opportunity to try Pilates if you're a beginner, like me. Verve is conveniently in Downtown Pittsburgh. To be eligible to win, you must leave a comment on this blog post. I'll draw a winner on Friday, August 31, 2012. Thanks again to Verve 360 Pilates Pittsburgh for offering the class and the prize!

Me and my new friends post-Pilates class: From top left to right: Claire (Live and Love to Eat)Angela (Health’s Angel), Alex (Brain Body Because), Nikki (Life After Swimming). Seated: me and Katie (K.E.P.T. You Fit).

Discovering Pittsburgh is my occasional blog feature on The Betty and Boo Chronicles about the places and things that we're, well, discovering and doing here in our new city. 

copyright 2012, Melissa, 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, August 20, 2012

Finding My Spark and Hustle, part 2

It has been more than a week (almost two, now) since I attended Tory Johnson's Spark and Hustle conference here in Pittsburgh and I am still thinking about it. 

(That's the sign of a good conference.)

Much of that had to do with the people I met and Tory herself. A lot of that had to do with the speakers we heard from, and the rapid-pace format of the day. 

Yes, the format. Having worked in the nonprofit fundraising and communications field for 20 years, I've been to a lot of workshops and conferences. A LOT OF THEM. And this one was refreshingly different. We came to Spark and Hustle because we wanted to hear from Tory (check!) and to hear from others (another check!). I looked at the schedule of speakers, expecting the usual breakout sessions and, seeing none, wondered how they were going to fit all this in. 

I need not have worried. These ladies had everything covered - from fitness, to branding, to sales and marketing, to social media, to the dreaded accounting and bookkeeping (which was anything but dreadful). And, best of all, no breakout sessions ... which meant we didn't miss any presentations. (There were, however, a few speakers/presentations that I missed and/or don't have many notes on, so I'm just going to highlight those that I do.)

After remarks from Tory (you can read what I wrote about that in Finding My Spark and Hustle, part 1), we heard from the invigorating Dr. Vonda Wright, who charged us to find our mantra, that one word that defines us and what we do as businesswomen. (Examples: For Disney, their word is MAGIC. For IBM, it's THINK. For Vince Lombardi, it's WINNING. Vonda's word is MOVE.) 

This is different, Vonda said, from a tagline. A mantra is for you. A tagline is for your customers. 

She also advised aspiring entrepreneurs (which is not a job but rather "a philosophy of working") to "be willing to eat tuna." Most interestingly, she told us that 70% of how we age is controlled by us and only 30% is genetic. I found that fascinating. 

Dave Yunghans, Constant Contact
We then heard from Dave Yunghans, Regional Development Director for Constant Contact. I happen to be a Constant Contact devotee, having used it to create and produce e-newsletters for the last five years or so. Love it. We spoke about the need (still!) for email in a world that is seemingly dominated by Facebook and Twitter. 

Dave spoke to us about the trust factor in online purchasing. 

"People will never buy anything from you until they trust you," he said (in, I might add, a Philadelphia accent, which this Philly girl was beyond delighted to hear in this corner of Pennsylvania).

See, I trust this guy already.

Dave provided several eye-opening statistics in his talk:
  • 81% of people trust recommendations or online opinions. 
  • Only 36% trust advertising (all forms of it). 
  • Marketing used to take 7 "touches" to reach someone. Now, it's 33. 
  • The average person has 234 Facebook friends. 
  • Email that contains video is opened 30% more than email that doesn't. 
We can rise above the ordinary in small and large ways, Dave said, and he gave some great examples of that.  Engaging with one's audience happens in small doses, and happens over time. 

He also said that "hope is not a strategy," to which I tweeted that for a lot of nonprofits, hope is sadly very much their only fundraising plan. (I'll be doing a blog post on that at some point.)

Rachel Blaufeld of BacknGrooveMom (standing, in orange) being recognized by Tory Johnson
At Spark and Hustle, I was thrilled to meet two local bloggers. I've been reading Rachel Blaufeld's blog, Back'nGrooveMom for a few months now. Same with Chaton of Chaton's World. Both ladies were at Spark and Hustle, and it was great to be able to put faces to ... blogs. They were delightful, and I hope our paths cross again soon.

Rachel was instrumental in bringing Tory Johnson's Spark and Hustle to Pittsburgh; initially, the Steel City wasn't on the company's radar at all and Blaufeld convinced them to include Pittsburgh on their 20-city national tour. In this picture, Rachel is being recognized by Tory for her efforts.

Rachel also spoke later in the conference. "Your network is really bigger than the biggest ad," she said. We all have such a powerful network and I think sometimes we forget that.

Dawn Brolin, operator of Professional Accounting Solutions, and Stacy Kildal, founder of Kildal Services, LLC, both selected by Intuit GoPayment.

Accounting + Bookkeeping + Finances + The afternoon spot of a conference that is guaranteed to put people to sleep = A recipe for disaster, right?

Not with these ladies. Check out the photos to see how Dawn Brolin and Stacy Kildal took to the stage, with Lady Gaga's "The Edge of Glory" blaring at top volume.

THESE ARE ACCOUNTANTS, people. And they were absolutely hilarious. I want these ladies as my accountants and I'm willing to bet that every one of the attendees at Spark and Hustle do, too. Best takeaway from their session was giving a client an engagement letter right at the very beginning of the relationship, stating, among other things, "here's how you pay me."

"Walmart gets paid right away," said ... one of the ladies. (I forget which one; I was probably too busy laughing.) "You should too. Am I right?"

Wild applause.

They spoke about technology and how we're moving toward a "zero data entry world." (More wild applause.)

They really need to take this on the road. (Well, I guess they kind of did, with Spark and Hustle.) They've got accounting gold, right here.

Rebecca Harris, Director of the Center for Women's Entrepreneurship at Chatham University 
Among the people I was thrilled to meet was Rebecca Harris. (Especially, as I wrote in "Any Road Will Take You There. Maybe." I tried to take one of her classes almost exactly a year ago!) She has such a wonderful reputation here in the Pittsburgh area. At Spark and Hustle, she spoke about the fears that keep us from starting a business, including the fear of
  • failure
  • change
  • hiring
  • selling
  • taking chances 
(and probably many more.)

"We have to take risks," Rebecca emphasized. "The person who risks nothing, has nothing. These fears are actually causing havoc in your life and you have to overcome them."

At this point, I had to leave in order to pick up the kids from camp on time (The Husband was out of town on a work retreat) but not before I heard one more piece of advice from Rebecca.

"You are not a product of your past experiences, abilities, or behaviors." 

That keeps so many of us held back, doesn't it? Especially those of us who have been downsized, laid off, fired. I thought about this as I drove home, how this really does play into the fear and the notion that we're not good enough and makes us scared to take risks. I know that has been true for me. 

No more, I decided. Whether it is work or whatever it is, we all have the power to reinvent ourselves, to find our own spark and hustle. 

Starting now. Today. 

As I mentioned in my previous post, I took Tory Johnson's advice and  boldly asked for what I wanted ... a signed copy of Tory's newest book (Tory Johnson's Spark and Hustle: Launch and Grow Your Small Business Now) to give away to one of my blog readers. If this is of interest to you, leave me a comment on this post to be entered to win a copy. (If you left a comment on the previous post, you can leave one on this one too, to double your chances.)

I'll draw a winner next Monday, August 27.  - GIVEAWAY CLOSED. Congratulations to Beth of Crafty Designs by Beth 

copyright 2012, Melissa, 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.