Friday, July 5, 2013

That Blog Goes to Eleven

Strathmere, NJ
June 2013
photo credit: Melissa Firman
Oh, hey.

You still hanging out here?

That's what I thought.

We're all over at my new blog, www.melissafirman.com.

I moved my blog about a month or so ago and ... well, I know what they say about how you shouldn't really care about your statistics and all, but I admit that I kind of DO, and ... well, my subscribers aren't what they used to be.

As in, it looks like there may be all of 11 people over there.

Eleven!

Or maybe there were really only 11 people here and Feedburner was just playin' with me for nearly five years, or maybe traffic's down because of the summer, but whatever.

If you haven't made your way over to the new place (www.MelissaFirman.com), I'd love for you to do so. You can subscribe to the new blog at www.melissafirman.com/feed.  

See you there?


Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Betty and Boo Chronicles Has Moved!

The Betty and Boo Chronicles has moved!  

You can find me (and my blog) at my brand new, self-hosted website: melissafirman.com 

Here's the quick link to re-subscribe: melissafirman.com/feedI'd love for you to stop over and check the new place out! 

See you there! 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

In Appreciation of Jean Stapleton: Those Were the Days (when tv dared to mention rape and cancer and lesbians)

Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh, PA
taken by me, August 2011

Jean Stapleton was no dingbat.
Emmy-award winning actress Jean Stapleton died on Friday, at the age of 90. Although Ms. Stapleton had a rich and productive career in the theater and on Broadway, she is, of course, best remembered for her endearing portrayal of Edith Bunker, the daffy and long-suffering wife of “lovable bigot” Archie. 
Like my 40-something peers of my generation, I grew up watching “All in the Family” in real-time. I’m old enough to remember not quite getting the jokes as I laughed along with my parents and grandparents (the same reaction as my kids have today when they watch Edith, Archie, Gloria, and Meathead in re-runs on YouTube) but realizing that the male characters were a little too familiar to the ones (my grandfathers, namely) who were sitting next to me on the couch ....continue reading the rest of this post on my new website, www.melissafirman.com. 
(Quick link to re-subscribe: www.melissafirman.com/feed so you don't miss a post.) 








I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you! copyright 2013, 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.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Armchair BEA: Giveaway Day!


Logo design by Sarah of Puss Reboots 

At the actual BEA (currently underway this week in New York), there's no shortage of swag. In that same spirit of things, and so those of us at home this year aren’t left out of the abundance of book goodness, many a blogger and publisher alike are hosting special Armchair BEA Giveaways today … including me.
I couldn’t keep my giveaway to just one item. Not today. My husband (who had thyroid cancer last fall) got some fantastic news health-wise this morning, so I am in a very appreciative and generous mood. This means that I am giving away TWO fantastic prizes. 
Head over to my new site at melissafirman.com for your chance/s to win. 



Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Armchair BEA 2013: Paths to Becoming a Better Blogger


Armchair BEA 2013
Armchair BEA logo design credit: Sarah of Puss Reboots
love today’s Armchair BEA blogging topic because it coincides so well with much of what I’ve been contemplating and working toward recently.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s introduction to these series of posts, I’ve been blogging for nearly five years. During that time, my approach has undergone some dramatic changes while certain things have remained the same. The obvious change is .... read the rest of this post at my new blog home, melissafirman.com.


Armchair BEA 2013: Introductions


Armchair BEA 2013
Armchair BEA logo design credit: Sarah of Puss Reboots
It’s a big week in the book world.
And if it’s a big week in the book world, that means it’s also a big week in the book blogging world.
The occasion is the huge industry conference and trade show known as Book Expo America (BEA) happening in New York, where authors and agents and publishers and editors and enthusiasts are celebrating the written word in all its forms.
That also means it’s time for Armchair BEA, which is (as per the mission statement on the website), ”the experience for book bloggers to participate in Book Expo America (BEA) from the comfort of their homes. This experience is created lovingly by book bloggers specifically for our peers who for whatever reason are not able to participate in the main conference in New York each year. We bring publishers, authors, and bloggers together in celebrating our love for all things literary by hosting celebrations such as sneak peeks, daily discussion topics, and sponsored giveaways.” 
I’ve been to part of BEA in the past (there is a book blogging conference as part of the festivities), but funds and timing didn’t permit such for me this year. So, bring on Armchair BEA!
We have daily themes/writing prompts to blog about, so let’s get this party underway with today’s topic: some introductory questions.
  1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging?
I’m Melissa and I launched my blog, The Betty and Boo Chronicles, nearly 5 years ago. You can read the story behind the name and the decision to start blogging here. Recently, I made the leap to self-hosting because it was a logical way to combine my own writing (I’m currently at work on a novel) and my new freelancing and book editing business.
2. Where in the world are you blogging from? Tell a random fact or something special about your current location. 
Before moving to my current city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I had such a misconception about this place. I envisioned a gray, gritty, dirty town with nothing but abandoned steel mills. Now, granted, our winter weather does tend to be a little bit (OK, a lot) on the gray and gritty side. But, you know what? Pittsburgh is one of the most spectacular and beautiful cities I’ve ever seen. Vibrant, creative, and inspirational people are everywhere in Pittsburgh. We’re extremely friendly, warm, and collaborative. (We kind of thrive on that here.)  Pittsburgh is known as a sports town – and deservedly so – but it’s really much more of an artistic, cultural, and literary community than I ever could have imagined.
3. What are you currently reading, or what is your favorite book you have read so far in 2013? 
New and Selected Poems, Vol 1 Mary Oliver
I usually have a volume of poetry on my night table for times when I am in between books (i.e., just finished a book but am too tired to start something new). Right now, that happens to be New and Selected Poems, Volume 1 by Mary Oliver.
I also have Chris Bohjalian’s latest (The Lights in the Ruins) set for a July publication date that I will soon start for my freelance book reviewing job with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but before doing so I am hoping to read both The Double Bind and The Sandcastle Girls. 
Favorite book of 2013 (so far) is The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin. 
4. Tell us one non-book-related thing that everyone reading your blog may not know about you.
I need a job.
Soon.
(My professional background is here with additional background and my writing portfoliohere.)
5. Which is your favorite post that you have written that you want everyone to read?
Oh, gosh. This is like choosing a favorite child. I have nearly 2,000 posts on a variety of topics, so this is impossible. The ones about The R Wordabout Kristin Mitchellabout autism,about unemployment, and about Baby G (because that saga is still going on, nearly 2 years later) would probably head up my favorites list, all for different reasons.
Make sure to visit the Armchair BEA page for more introductory and daily topic posts!
Hey! Did you know this blog is on the move? Go to melissafirman.com and subscribe so you don't miss any posts! 


copyright 2013, Melissa Firman

Friday, May 24, 2013

Book Review: He's Gone, by Deb Caletti

He's Gone
by Deb Caletti
Bantam Books Trade Paperbacks
2013
323 pages 

It seems somehow fitting that, when the book blogging world is beginning to buzz with all things Book Expo America (BEA) related, that I'm reviewing a book by an author who would never have made it onto my radar if it wasn't for BEA.

An explanation is probably needed.

You see, back in May 2010, I attended the Book Blogger Convention (as it was called back then, and which is part of BEA) and I happened to sit with this table of bloggers at breakfast.


We'd gotten swag bags, of course, so naturally our talk turned to the books provided to us in the bags.

Amanda (not pictured) was beyond ecstatic to see that a Deb Caletti book was included. Each of us had different titles. Amanda raved about Ms. Caletti's writing. We all swapped books around the table. I'd never heard of Ms. Caletti before that moment, but I figured, why not. When another book blogger likes someone that much, I usually pay attention.

And then The Queen of Everything sat on my bookshelves for another 2.5 years (nearly a year of that in storage) before I picked it up again.

And I loved it.

(The Queen of Everything is a young adult novel, just so those who are purists and don't read YA know of this in advance. But, it's really good.)

So when I saw that TLC Book Tours was offering up Ms. Caletti's first fiction for adults, I knew I wanted in.

And for the most part, I loved this one too. He's Gone represents a nice segue from the young adult market into adult fiction (although I personally don't draw any such literary distinction, as I'm one of those adults who reads YA).

There's still the temptation to categorize Ms. Caletti's fiction as light, but He's Gone is not that. For starters, this novel focuses on the very real, very heavy, and very dark issue of physical and emotional abuse, as told and experienced through the eyes of Dani Keller. Married with the typical issues that befall blended families, Dani and Ian seem to have a typical life of professional success. They live somewhat comfortably on a houseboat in Seattle, drawing little attention to themselves, until one morning when Ian turns up missing following a party with Dani and his colleagues.

Unfortunately, Dani's not too much help in the investigation, as she's had a bit too much to drink and her memory of the night's events is fuzzy, at best. For some in the novel, she's an easy character to cast judgment on; her role as "the other woman," "the homewrecker") has lent itself to many opportunities for blame and scorn from Ian's ex-wife and his kids. She also sees herself to blame, too - which is common for people who have been victims of domestic violence.

While she doesn't remember the actual circumstances that led up to Ian's disappearance, what Dani does remember is the beatings and the verbal abuse from her ex-husband Mark which had her seeing Ian as someone who could rescue her. Now, as she tries to do whatever she can to rescue Ian, Dani reflects on the reasons she initially turned toward him as she discovers who really is the missing person in their relationship.

Ms. Caletti, a National Book Award finalist, kept me turning the pages, constantly wondering did he ... and maybe she did ... or maybe they did .... He's Gone is an engrossing, psychological read that has been compared by some to Gillian Flynn's bestselling Gone Girl for the mindbending directions it takes the reader.

That being said, there were a few things about He's Gone that left me puzzled and wondering. It's hard to say too much without spoiling the plot - and I'm not a detective or a mystery reader so what the hell do I know? - but there were some aspects of the police investigation into Ian's disappearance that seemed strange. Like ... possibilities that could have been looked into a bit more thoroughly.

That's all I'm sayin'.

But I was happy with the way the novel was resolved, and I'll certainly be reading more of Ms. Caletti's work ... so that's really all that matters, right?

Thank you very much to TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. I was provided with a copy of He's Gone in exchange for my honest review. I did not receive any additional compensation for this post.

Read more about He's Gone and what other bloggers thought here.

For more information about Deb Caletti and her other books, visit her website at www.debcaletti.com.
















I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you! 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, May 22, 2013

Something Old, Something New



We have a wedding to celebrate this weekend, one that comes close on the heels of the 20th anniversary of our own. My mother will mark a milestone birthday that she would probably rather me not mention. In a few weeks, I will have been jobless for a year - the longest stretch since I was 15. Other recent life-shifting events have contributed to my reflective mood.  
For awhile now, I've been pondering a name change for the blog. Several of you know this and have been helping me brainstorm for awhile. Back in August 2008, I called this corner of the Internet The Betty and Boo Chronicles to keep far-flung family members updated on my kids (who are the “Betty” and the “Boo” in the title). 
But shortly, my original vision for what this blog would become evolved into something different. (Life tends to do that sometimes.) 
I discovered book blogging, and I started to review books and participate more and more within this fantastic community. The blog also became a place where I wrote about our family’s journey raising a child with autism, my thoughts on politics (and sometimes my son’s), the novel I’m in the process of writing, our move to Pittsburgh, coping with long-term unemployment, what we had for dinner, issues in the news, and more.
And then a funny thing happened. As the kids grew, the blog grew up, too. Instead of being about chronicling Betty and Boo, it became more about chronicling … me. My journey as a professional, an entrepreneur, a writer, a special needs advocate, a feminist, a wife, a mom.
Which leads us here. Longtime readers know that I’ve been pondering a name change for awhile, one that still encompasses all of the above (and more – such as upcoming writing and my entrepreneurial endeavors) while moving away from the cuteness of the “Betty and Boo” aspect. (Although at 11, they are still pretty cute … but don’t tell them their mom said that!)
The only blog name for now?
Is mine. 
The real one.
So, I'm not giving up blogging. Quite the opposite. I'll be shifting most of my attention - and new content - over to www.melissafirman.com and I hope you'll join me there. It's still a work in progress (isn't everything?) and I'll keep this blog up for awhile longer, but I'm proud of the work I've done over the last few days on the site and I'm excited about what's to come. 
I hope you are too. 



I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you!

copyright 2013, 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, May 20, 2013

All Politics is Local. Go Vote.


As it tends to do, our dinner table discussion turned political tonight. Thanks to YouTube and old-fashioned parents who still enjoy reading the print edition of their newspapers, Boo is smarter about politics than your average 5th grader.

Tomorrow is an important election for Pittsburgh. After what has been a rather interesting (and kinda crowded at times) primary campaign for Mayor, we go to the polls.

Well, not we exactly. We're in the suburbs, so we don't have a direct say in this contest. Boo, however, has been following this race closely and has a definite favorite candidate. (He's endorsing Bill Peduto, in case you're interested.) When I asked him if he was planning to wear his campaign button to school tomorrow, he looked at me perplexed.

"But we can't vote tomorrow," he said, meaning voting in the geographical (not chronological) sense.

"No," I acknowledged. "That's true, we can't. Not in the Mayor for Pittsburgh race. But we can care about and find out more about the issues they stand for because they affect all of us. What happens in Pittsburgh affects the entire community because we like to go into Pittsburgh to do things, right?"

"Like the Pirates? And the Carnegie Science Center? And food?"

"Exactly. And we care about a lot of people who live in Pittsburgh. And we can encourage other people to vote right here in our little town for our local elections. So, maybe wearing your button might remind them."

He shrugged. (These days,the half-hearted shrug is something I'm getting used to.) Still, I think he got it.

So. No matter how small or how local, if you have an election tomorrow, your voice matters. Make it be heard. Make it be counted.

#VotePgh

photo taken by me, Pittsburgh, March 1, 2012


I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you!

copyright 2013, 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.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

taking care of business: my newest nonprofit strategist post



My newest "Nonprofit Strategist" column is up at Benchmark Email's website, and I hope you'll take a look. This month I'm talking about Ori and Rom Brafman's book Click: The Magic of Instant Connections (Broadway Books, 2010). They didn't write this as a business tome, per se, but the concepts that they present about how we interact and connect with others are interesting ones for the professional and the personal worlds.


From my post:


Now, I'm one of those people who believe that we meet the people we meet in life for a reason. There are just too many people in this world for us to be meeting the ones we meet for no good reason ... hence the people we meet need to matter.  Call it karma, fate, providence, whatever you want.

But this clicking business ... I always thought it was sort of serendipitous, a bit of magic. As it turns out, magic is actually part of it but there is more psychology involved than one might think.  What's even more fascinating is that it is actually possible to create these moments because in almost every instance when we click with someone, the same five factors (or, "accelerators") are generally at play.

If you have anything to do with donors or volunteers or organizing special events or dealing with people, read the entire post ("Making Nonprofits Click") here.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

It's a Small World, After All

I'm trying to imagine the conversation, trying to put myself in another person's glass slippers shoes, so to speak.

I'm thinking the scenario goes something like this:

Two moms, both living with their modern-day Prince Charmings in Manhattan.

Both with children attending the same private school.

Mom A mentions that they're going to Disney World for spring break and Mom B's response is the all-too-familiar eye-roll, accompanied by the even more familiar been-there done-that semi-annoyed sigh.

That's because Mom A and Mom B know what we all know - that even though Disney is supposedly The Most Magical Place on Earth, it can also be akin to The Seventh Ring of Hell (at least in my view) with wait times for rides being as long as 90 minutes, according to a poll of my friends via Facebook.

A disclaimer: I don't wait 90 minutes for anything. Not a table in an overpriced chain restaurant, and certainly not for a 3 minute amusement park ride, Disney or no Disney. Hence, I needed to do the Facebook poll of friends who have gone to the Magic Kingdom as a family because The Betty and Boo Family has not made a sojourn to Orlando, Land of Required Childhood Vacation Spots. Nor do we plan to in the foreseeable future. 

(I know. My kids are dreadfully deprived.)

But! There's good news for those who ARE sprinkled with pixie dust. Apparently it's now possible to arrange for a fairy godmother to wave her magic wand and bibbidi-bobbidi-boo! You now have a pumpkin in the form of a motorized scooter or wheelchair and your long-line ride problem is solved!

According to an article in yesterday's New York Post, you can hire a disabled "black-market tour guide" (the NY Post's words, not mine) to pose as a member of your family's entourage and therefore easily bypass those pesky 90 minute wait times for the rides by taking advantage of Disney's services for guests with disabilities. (Disney allows each guest who needs a wheelchair or motorized scooter to bring up to six guests with him or her to a more convenient ride entrance.)

This supposedly could have been arranged via a VIP Tour with Dream Tours Florida, a firm reportedly owned by Ryan Clement and his girlfriend Jacie Christiano, and will run you $130 per hour, or $1,030 for an eight hour day. (They are, according to their website, suddenly not offering such tours at this time "[d]ue to inaccurate press and slander.") This practice was discovered by social anthropologist Dr. Wednesday Martin while doing research for her new book, Primates of Park Avenue. She is also the author of (in keeping with the Disney theme) Stepmonster: A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We Do. 

Okay. Deep breaths. As you might imagine, I have a few issues with all of this.

First, let's play devil's advocate for a minute. Like all good movies, sometimes what we think we're seeing isn't always the whole truth. One reads that all these rich bitches are hiring these tour guides, which then somehow translates into our minds as there must be this underground secret stash somewhere of developmentally disabled people that Dream Tours is exploiting by renting out by the hour.

Which is entirely believable because we have seen such examples of such depravity time and time again, haven't we? It's our biggest fear as parents, as people who love someone with a disability, and it's not impossible for us to go there, to make that leap, because we've seen the worst in people. (Hell-lo, Cleveland!)

We know and we fear the happily-never after side of how our kids and the most vulnerable are treated by the Cruella de Villes lurking among us.

But could it also be possible that Mr. Clement and Ms. Christiano, for whatever reasons - call it desperation, call it greed, call it whatever - are in this just for themselves? That they see this as a way for Ms. Christiano (who reportedly has an auto-immune disease and uses a scooter) as a way to make a few extra bucks? Who the hell knows how their business was really doing in this shit-tastic economy? Maybe it's really just Ms. Christiano who is really the only "black-market tour guide" who is earning $1,030 a day by using her disability to help families get onto the rides faster.

I'd like to believe that. I really would. I'd like to believe that their bungled media response to reporters' questions is simply a result of scared naivete, of poor crisis communications management. (And if that's the case, I hope they get in touch if they need a PR strategist. I happen to be available.)

That still doesn't make it right.

Because there are still a lot more things incredibly wrong and rightfully outrageous about this.

In my view, this story shows that we truly do live in a small, small world when it comes to employment and people with disabilities.

It's a small, small world where only 20.7% of the labor force is made up of people with disabilities. (Source: United States Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy)

It's a small, small world when the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is at 12.9%, compared to 6.9% for people without. (Source: United States Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy)

And it will continue to be a small, small world with the current dismal economy and the state of human services for the number of people with disabilities who need gainful, meaningful employment as well as those who will need jobs in the future.

We're living in a fairy tale, going 'round and 'round on the same ride.

The only way this story has a chance of a happy ending is if changes are made. Because people with special needs deserve the same employment opportunities as all of us. Because if indeed there was a practice of employing and hiring people with disabilities for the purpose of skirting the system, then the outrage most certainly belongs with those who perpetrated such morally despicable acts.

And it certainly belongs on a mindset that sees people with disabilities mere playthings for the rich, as objects and goods to be bought and sold on the "black market."





I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you!

copyright 2013, 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.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Sunday Salon: May 12


I've been surrounded by books for most of the past week, yet little reading has been done.

(As you may have noticed, even less blogging has been done, too.)

In January, I started attending a new church, a Unitarian Universalist congregation that I've been meaning to "check out" since we moved here. It only took me a mere 16 months to get around to going one Sunday.

It was time. If I'm being honest, I've been feeling somewhat adrift and unsettled here. I started feeling that way during The Husband's cancer treatments, when our entire support system was six hours away, and it isn't helping that the one-year anniversary of my unemployment looms with continued dead ends everywhere I turn.

When you're in such a state, you tend to turn to anything that is familiar and (hopefully) safe and legal for comfort. We were UUs back in Philly and Delaware, so we know this faith. It's home for me. I really like this congregation and I think it's a good fit with what I am looking for. So, when they asked for volunteers to help out with the rummage sale fundraiser this week, I signed up for several mornings as a way to get out of the house and to try and meet some new people.

We had a large book section and of course, that's where I spent most of my time - organizing and sorting donations and (whoot!) getting first dibs on the offerings.

Meet the newest additions to my bookshelves:


Fresh Choices: More Than 100 Easy Recipes for Pure Food When You Can't Buy 100% Organic, by David Joachim and Rochelle Davis

New American Poets of the '90s, edited by Jack Myers ad Roger Weingarten

Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Herland: A Lost Feminist Utopian Novel, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The Tennis Partner, by Abraham Verghese

Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann (one of my favorite books EVER and one that I own on Kindle, but I couldn't resist a copy in print)  

Sarah's Key, by Tatiana De Rosnay

Crash Diet, Stories by Jill McCorkle

Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes

I donated six books to the sale, plus a bunch of children's books, so coming home with nine books isn't too bad, huh? I can live with that ratio. We made $6,000 on the rummage sale, according to what they announced at church this morning!

As for the rest of today, I'm planning to spend what's left of my Mother's Day catching up on the reading I've neglected over the past week. On Friday I started Deb Caletti's novel He's Gone (which is also Ms. Caletti's  first novel of adult women's fiction). I loved The Queen of Everything, which was my first introduction to Deb Caletti, and this novel is also completely engrossing.

He's Gone begins with the sudden and unexplained disappearance of Dani Keller's husband, Ian. The couple, both on their second marriage, live on a houseboat in the Seattle area (a familiar setting if you've read Caletti's other books). As Dani desperately searches for her husband, the reader learns about the couple's not-always-smooth-sailing pasts through Caletti's skillful use of flashbacks.

I'm on page 136 of 323 of the ARC, and I've found myself saying some variation of "Why don't you ____??!!" or "You really need to ____!" and "When the hell are you ______, you idiot!" a few too many times. I'm hoping these questions and issues will be answered or resolved soon. They're not at the point where I'd be tempted to give up (yet), but something needs to start happening. That being said, this is a really good "escapism" novel.

Literally.




I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you!

copyright 2013, 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.

light to guide you (for mother's day)



On this Mother's Day, my boy will be the chalice lighter at church this morning. 

It's especially significant, I think, because tomorrow marks 28 years since learning that becoming a mom would take a very different path than most travel. Little did we know. 

And that's what today, all of our days, are really all about, aren't they? We forge our own paths and our own way as mothers and as women. As people. We do the very best we can in the face of obstacles, big and small. 

And whether you're a mother in the traditional Hallmark sense, or as a different definition that has special meaning for your life, know that on this day and every day you are a light to those on your path.

Happy Mother's Day. 

photo taken by me, April 2009. 













I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you! 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, May 7, 2013

Book Review: Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, A Young Man, and Life's Greatest Lesson, by Mitch Albom

Tuesdays with Morrie
by Mitch Albom 
Doubleday
1997

Random House Audio
2007
3 hours, 41 minutes

Yeah, I know.

Everyone in the world knows what Tuesdays with Morrie is about, so this hardly needs an introduction - much less a review.

A guy's favorite teacher is dying; guy decides to spend every Tuesday with favorite teacher; guy learns about himself and life in the process. Guy writes book about the experience and the rest becomes bestselling history.

Schmaltzy? Sure. But you know what?

Sometimes we need a little schmaltz.

Sometimes we need to be reminded of life's truths and lessons.

Such was the case when I picked this audio book up at the library. I've had this on my bookshelves forever - I think I bought it at a book sale or maybe I inherited it from my grandparents' belongings after one of them died. At the time I listened to this, The Husband was going through his cancer treatments and I wanted a short audio that would both preoccupy and inspire me in the car.

It certainly did that - and I have to say, this was a lot better than I expected. Mitch Albom narrates this audio and the version I listened to was a 10th anniversary edition with a prologue of Mitch's reflections on the memoir's overwhelming success and how his life changed as a result. He also addresses criticisms that he  "cashed in" on Morrie's illness and points out that proceeds from the book greatly helped Morrie and his family with the medical bills brought on by his fight with ALS.

I thought Mitch's narration of this was wonderful. Truthfully, I don't think anyone else could have narrated it because it is such a meaningful and personal story to him. It felt like he was having a conversation. The production quality was also very good, with no distracting music.

Maybe this resonated with me moreso because of the circumstances going on while I was listening to Morrie's words of wisdom. During a difficult time, Tuesdays with Morrie was a nice reminder to appreciate the lessons that life, no matter what trials it gives us, has to offer.


I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you! 


copyright 2013, 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.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Not Just Any Cover Reveal (this one has a blurb by me!)




When I was a kid, I always wondered about those people who were quoted on the backs of book covers.

Never mind the authors themselves. In my view, they were, like, gods. Or goddesses.

But as awesome as I always thought it would be to be an actual author (I'm still working on that), I thought it would be just as cool to be one of those important people who somehow got their thoughts blurbed endorsing a book.  I always wondered how that happened.

Now I know.

Here's the funny thing, though.

Regular readers of the blog know that, while I often read young adult novels, I very, very rarely read paranormal romance young adult novels. That just isn't my thing (and this isn't an open invitation for every paranormal romance YA author to send me your book to review, because most likely I will say no.)

But Melissa Luznicky Garrett is a friend and has been one for a number of years. Some time ago, I did some writing for Melissa when she edited an online parenting magazine. We kept in touch after she closed the publication and these days we mostly hang out on Facebook talking about writing, our kids, and griping about the crappy winter weather in our respective corners of the world.

So, yeah. We're friends.

I've followed her writing career through her first novel Precipice (which I reviewed here) and her three books (Turning Point, The Spirit Keeper, and Blood Type) thereafter.

I thought Melissa's talent really took off with The Spirit Keeper, which is the story about Sarah Redbird, a Native American teenager whose mother and grandmother died in a house fire when she was 11. The truth behind the fire, however, involves a family secret, an ancient legend, and a curse - not to mention Adrian, the cute new guy at school.

It's a fast-paced, entertaining read. Near the end of The Spirit Keeper, Sarah reflects that "[t]he uncertainty of my future was written in the margins of my life." (pg. 276). I love that line, and it sets up perfectly the conflict that readers are in store for in The Spirit Keeper's sequel, The Prophecy, which is due out at the end of this month.

As you know, the traditional job hunt hasn't gone so well for me, so I've been trying to make my own professional path as a writer and editor. I approached Melissa about doing some editorial work on The Prophecy and she happily agreed.

Today, the cover of The Prophecy has been revealed.


I loved being part of The Prophecy and I loved the editing experience. I'm proud to have been a part of making this book happen. And I am so incredibly proud of my friend Melissa for all her hard work and her dedication to her craft that has gotten her this far. What people don't know about her is that she is often working on three or four books at once, while caring for three children, and managing a busy household, and promoting her other books. She is definitely a writer worth watching.

Please. Take my blurb for it.

"Just as 17 year old Sarah Redbird finds her inner strength to break an ancient curse, THE PROPHECY proves that author Melissa Luznicky Garrett continues as one of the strongest writers of paranormal romantic young adult fiction. With her innovative plots, dramatic scenes, and memorable characters, Garrett makes her readers of all ages fall even more in love with Adrian and Sarah. The result is a highly entertaining read with echoes of the eternal powers of ancestry, spirit, nature, and love on every page."  ~ Melissa M. Firman, author and book blogger, The Betty and Boo Chronicles, http://bettyboochronicles.blogspot.com 

For ordering information for The Prophecy (Book 2, The Spirit Keeper series), follow this Goodreads link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17878345-the-prophecy

For The Spirit Keeper, http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12369175-the-spirit-keeper














I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you!

copyright 2013, 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, May 1, 2013

Governor Corbett Drops Trou, Pisses on Pennsylvania's Unemployed



HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Governor Tom Corbett held a Wednesday morning press conference to clarify his remarks about unemployed people being on drugs made on Radio PA's "Ask the Governor" program.

In regard to Pennsylvania's slippage from 7 to 49th in job growth since 2011, Corbett made a statement accompanied by a dramatic (and unforgettable) visual.

"Cake is too good for the unemployed people of this state," he said. "And besides, none of 'em can afford it anyway. Instead, I say, let them drink piss!"

With that, the Governor ceremoniously unbuckled and unzippered his pants as aides handed him a urine specimen cup, which he filled and then promptly raised.

Specimen cups with Corbett's campaign logo were then distributed among attendees in the crowd.

"Cheers to the hardworking people of Pennsylvania, who are putting us back to work!"





I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you!

copyright 2013, 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, April 27, 2013

Read-a-Thon Update: Hour 15


This may go down as one of those infamous well, hell, I tried kinda Read-a-thons.

This ain't good, friends. Not good at all.

First, I overslept. Then, most of the afternoon was spent taking Betty to a dress fitting for a wedding she's in next month, and stopping at a consignment shop across the street to see how much they'd take for an entire bin of  her outgrown clothes. (The answer? $10.50. I pretended to be deliriously happy about that while swearing that next time, I'd just drop them off at Goodwill and save myself the freakin' hassle.)

Not to mention internally swearing about the TIME I WAS WASTING. I mean, didn't they know that TODAY was the READ-A-THON and I needed to read ALL THE BOOKS???!

And then my Read-a-thon spreadsheet vanished, so I can kind of only estimate the amount of time I've read. (I did manage to read for a bit this morning and this afternoon.Thank GOD.)

And then Betty needed my assistance for downloading some iTunes songs.

Which is what we were doing for the past half hour.

(The Husband is usually VERY accommodating of my Read-a-Thon days, mind you. It's just that he is recovering from a particularly nasty stomach virus and thus the food preparations and whatnot fell to me, diverting my attention from the day at hand.)

Meanwhile, at 10 p.m., IN HOUR 15 OF THE READ-A-THON, this pile of books is still SITTING here, MOCKING ME.


From top to bottom, here's what I had on deck for this Read-a-thon:

My Kindle (on which I am currently 65% of the way through Little Women)
Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots, by Jessica Soffer 
Joe Jones, by Anne Lamott
The Singer's Gun, by Emily St. John Mandel 
Not pictured is The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson, which I listened to in the car on the way to the dress fitting.

HOUR 15 UPDATE: 
Total Pages Read (so far): 54 pages

Total Time Read: 3 hours 

Total Audiobook Time: 1 hour 

Everyone in this house is in bed now, so it's GAME. ON. PEOPLE.

I HAVE HAD A FROZEN CHOCOLATE BANANA MOCHA.

FROM SHEETZ.

I am ready to rock the books.

It's Hour 15.

Let's get this party started.

Who's with me?




I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you!

copyright 2013, 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.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Weekend Cooking: Produce Sale



There are two grocery stores in close proximity to me, plus a Costco. One of the grocery stores has a reputation in this area for being somewhat expensive, and as I've been scrutinizing our food bills lately, I've come to agree. (I didn't think they were out of line compared to what I was used to paying in Delaware, but whatever.) Recently, that same supermarket ended a popular rewards program which has caused considerable PR backlash; as a result, I've been shopping more frequently at a cheaper store which also happens to be closer to my house.

For its second anniversary in this location, this store celebrated by having what it called a "two-day sale" on Thursday and Friday. I took a look at the circular, expecting to find a lot of processed crap that we don't eat.

I was pleasantly surprised.

A lot of the sale items were fruits and vegetables, at ridiculously low prices. We're talking bags of potatoes for 67 cents and almost everything else not much more than 98 cents each.

Here's what I got:


3.5 lbs. of stem tomatoes
8 oz. white mushrooms
5 Braeburn apples
2 bags of small russet potatoes (3 lbs. each)
3 zucchini
3 lbs. of strawberries
2 bags of lettuce
2 bags of baby carrots
2 seedless cucumbers
1 lb. green beans
half of a watermelon

I paid just $22.62 for all this, which I thought was quite a bargain.

Usually with sales like this you don't find fresh produce on sale, so as a vegetarian (and occasional vegan) I was very appreciative of this. The produce section was also the busiest, which was very encouraging. (Of course, this store also had a lot of meat on sale - this is Pittsburgh, after all - and people were equally as excited about that. But since I don't eat meat, I can't comment on the prices on that. They seemed reasonable, though.)

I don't have a meal plan for all this, but I am thinking we may snack on the fruit and make simple meals like a pasta salad, green bean and chickpea salad, and pita pocket sandwiches with the rest. Regardless of what I make, it's a nice taste of spring before the farmers' markets start opening up.

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, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.



I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you!

copyright 2013, 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.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

What Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day Means When You're Unemployed



Exactly nine years ago this week, I was in Toronto's Pearson International Airport sitting next to the co-creator of Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day.

We were returning from the same global women's conference, one that would change how I viewed myself, my profession, and the world. At 35, I had just been appointed the first-ever executive director (and first and only paid staff member) of a women and girls foundation. A part-time position, my new job was the perfect balance for my desire (and, yes, need) to work and the need to be Mom to our then-2 year old twins. I remember feeling intoxicated with this work and in love with this fundraising career of mine.

As we waited to board our planes, the energy of the conference remained. I complimented Marie on her keynote speech. We talked politics, about Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day, about my toddlers. To her, I was probably just another person in an airport but I remember feeling heady, proud, and professional.

Nine years later, Toronto seems like a lifetime ago.

Something that happened to a different person.

I was different then.

I am even more changed now.

* * *
At least once a week, my 11 year old daughter asks about Take Your Daughter to Work Day.

(In her world, her brother is left at the door.)

She talks about this incessantly. About the projects she'll be working on. About the people she'll be meeting with. About what desk she'll sit at and of course, where she'll go for lunch.

I used to be part of these conversations.

I'm not anymore.

* * *
It has been almost a year since I was laid off.

After the foundation job that took me to Toronto, I took a position as a fundraiser for a domestic violence organization. Stayed there five years. We moved for my husband's job during that time, which increased my commute by 2 hours a day. I stayed, mainly because I loved the work and the people and because I was fortunate to have a supportive boss who allowed me to create a flexible schedule and work one day a week at home. I will always, always be grateful for that.

But at some point, dumping $125 down your car's gas tank each week isn't sustainable (public transit and car pooling wasn't an option) and I took a nonprofit job with a child abuse agency much closer to home. My role was to write grants and to increase awareness for the organization, and the result was the best fundraising year they'd ever had.

And a year later my husband was tapped for a better position - six hours away. Here in Pittsburgh. Where we knew nobody and the job hunt would start again. From scratch.

During a recession.

* * *
I didn't mind the $20,000 pay cut.

It was a job when hundreds of thousands of people didn't have one.

It wasn't perfect, but I was going to do my best at this, and I truly believed I did.

But sometimes your best isn't good enough for people who want the impossible.

And sometimes you aren't the right fit for people who expect perfection.

And sometimes you don't ask the right questions when you don't realize you're being lied to.

Regrets? Yeah, you could say I have more than a few.

But I also have some words of advice from a mentor from a long-ago internship, someone who believed in me and who still does, who once told me for very different reasons that we make the best choices we can based on the information we have at the time. That's the best we can do.

It has become my mantra.

* * *
At dinner the other night, the kids announced they had to interview someone in their family about their job.

What if nobody in their family has a job, I thought.

They both called dibs on Daddy. The assignment was "Math in the Real World" and how that grown-up used math in his or her every day job. They started peppering The Husband with questions while I silently cleared the table.

"You're not angry that we picked Dad, are you, Mom?" Boo said. "Because, you know, you kind of don't have a job."

"I'm not angry, baby," I said. "Not about that."

* * *
We live in a country of haves and have-nots.

Those who have dealt with long-term unemployment and those who have not.

Those who have not known this life leave know-it-all comments on blog posts like this and tell people like me to stop mooching off of the taxpayers and to just go get a job already at Wal-Mart and that I really must not be trying hard enough and that there's no excuse and maybe I'd have a job if I didn't blog so damn much and have I thought about going back to school to learn a trade and have I tried nonprofit XYZ because you know, those nonprofits they are ALWAYS looking for fundraisers, they're always hitting people up for money, ha, ha, ha, and there are so many of them here in Pittsburgh (I know, I've either sent my resume to or interviewed personally with 27 of them) and oh, by the way, congratulations because this is what you voted for when you cast your ballot for Obama because Romney would have fixed this mess and given you a job by now.

Or they'll say that it is just a matter of time, that I'll find something, that I need to meet more people here, that  it's all about personal connections. And then the personal connections really do make that call or send an email and the result is the same because a dozen other personal connections have pulled the same strings, with bigger favors attached.

Those who have known what long-term unemployment is like or who are living this life with me, well, you understand that I am lying when I say that it doesn't matter whether I can Take My Daughter or Son to Work today, right?

That it doesn't hurt when your child comes off the bus and tells you that half her class was at their parents' workplace today?

You understand what I mean when I say that this fear goes deep, that you worry at what point does a parent's long-term unemployment become something imprinted on their psyche, a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Maybe you see the anger, too, from your child who calls your former employer names and tells you that you were too good for them anyway.

And that you swear you can see yourself diminish more every day in your child's eyes and that even though you know they will understand when they get older, that seems like such a long, long time from now and you would do anything in the world to stop that from happening.

* * *
My daughter is still talking about how many of her friends weren't in school today because of Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day. ("A lot of people were absent," she reported.)

(The Husband was home sick so he was out of commission.)

I tell her again about how I met the woman who co-created Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day. How we sat together in the Toronto airport. I sound like an aging football jock, talking about my glory days when I used to raise thousands of dollars for women and families.

It's not much, but it's all I have this year. I see the disappointment and I tell myself that Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day doesn't matter, but it does because so many kids are in the same situation of having a parent caught up in long-term unemployment. So many, many families are like ours, or worse.

And that disappointment is what gives you the motivation to continue on, to slam refresh again on the job search board; to contact yet another colleague from 1995 on LinkedIn; to go to that networking event and the one next week and the one the week after that; to not take it personally when the place that you had two interviews with never calls you back; to pitch that editor with your freelance article; to cold-email that guy on LinkedIn who said he needed a content writer in hopes that maybe he'll be the first client for your freelance business; to ask that friend if they know anyone at a nonprofit who might need a grantwriter; to downsize and dumb down your 20 years of experience on your resume, removing anything that makes you look overqualified; to try and do whatever it takes to keep your head above water and to keep going on.

It's what fuels your belief in this city of steel that has reinvented itself time and time and still time again, that makes you inspired by its bridges, and that makes you hold on to the hope that while this may be just one day, better days will come shining through.








I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you!

copyright 2013, 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, April 24, 2013

Hey,You. Need a Book for the 24 Hour Read-a-thon?


Yes, my lovelies, it is once again time for that wondrous biannual event: Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon.

Regular readers of the blog know that I love participating in this, and that I've done so for several years now.  Basically, it is just as the name implies. You read for 24 hours. You're allowed to take breaks, even naps. You're allowed to eat. (That's absolutely encouraged.) You can read for charity, like some of us used to do in elementary school. There are mini-challenges and cheerleaders and prizes and all kinds of fun that you can read about on the Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon website here. (That will give you the start time for your particular time zone.) Here in Pittsburgh, the party will be getting started on Saturday, April 27 at 8 a.m. (Although I may not be able to resist starting on Friday.)

For me, some read-a-thons have gone better than others (in terms of how many books I've read) but it's all about creating a sense of community, honoring the memory of Dewey (a beloved book blogger who started the event in ...2008, I think? but who has since passed away), and most importantly, coming together virtually to share our joy of reading and our love of books.

Here's the thing about Read-a-thon books. Everyone is different, but my most successful Read-a-thons have been when I've selected fairly quick, easy books as my literary companions. I love to say that I've completed 1, 2, 3 or even more books by the end of the event. For that to happen, speaking for myself, they need to be relatively quick reads. (As it is, my husband is amazingly accommodating of my blogging/read-a-thon nuttiness, but life still goes on.)

So, if this is your first Read-a-thon, or if you're stuck for some book ideas, here are some books I've read (not necessarily during Read-a-thons, but sometimes so) that would be good choices for this event. The links take you to my reviews so you can read more.

If you like literary fiction of the prize winning type...
The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes (163 pages)
Tinkers, by Paul Harding (191 pages)

If you like your literary fiction more on the mysterious, what-the-hell is she thinking side
Bad Marie, by Marcy Dermansky (212 pages)

If you like Southern literature and don't mind an Oprah's Book Club selection ...
Ellen Foster, by Kaye Gibbons (126 pages)


If you want to laugh and cry at the same time ...
The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green (318 pages ... it won't feel like that, honestly.)

If you want some awesome pictures with your story ...
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs (348 pages. Same as above. It really won't feel like 348 pages.) 

If you want some magical realism and escapism ....
Anything by Sarah Addison Allen (see my review of The Girl Who Chased the Moon and The Sugar Queen)

If you like your YA fiction with no vampires and more poetic prose ...
Anything by Beth Kephart (see my reviews of The Heart is Not a Size,  House of Dance, Nothing But Ghosts, Small Damages



If you're in the mood for a memoir...
Lift, by Kelly Corrigan (my review is of the audio version)
or Open Heart, by Elie Wiesel (79 pages)


I'm still working on my list of books that I'm planning to read this time around. Hopefully I'll have that post up tomorrow or Friday. Until then, happy Read-a-thon planning! Can't wait! 


I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you! 

copyright 2013, 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.