Category Archives: Unemployment

pocketful of miracles (as provided by dickens, sinatra, and mom)

My mom’s Christmas tree in the room where I sit.
Photo taken by me. 

“Pee-rac-ti-cal-i-ty de-us-nt intrest me,

Love the life that I lead.

I’ve got a pocketful of miracles,

And with a pocketful of miracles,

One miracle a day is all I need!

Tree-rou-bles, more or less,

Bee-ah-ther me, I guess when the sun doesn’t shine.

But there’s a pocketful of miracles,

The world’s a bright and shiny apple that’s mine, all mine.

I hear sleigh bells ringing, smack in the month of May

I go around like there’s a snow around,

I feel so good, it’s Christmas every day!

Lee-ifes a carousel, fee-ar as I can tell

And I’m riding for free.

I’ve got a pocketful of miracles,

But if I had to pick a miracle,

My favorite miracle of all is you love me.”
“Pocketful of Miracles” ~ sung by Frank Sinatra

Christmas Day has drawn to a close and I am the only one stirring in the house. Santa has long left his big scene, scattering an American Girl doll, clothes and books in his midst. We’ve gone a-visiting, eaten more than we should have (cholesterol be damned), and been renewed by being back with family and friends.

In this midnight hour, I am awake in the sunroom and reading  A Christmas Carol on my Kindle. With every click, I identify more with Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim – and, as a fundraiser, with The Portly Gentlemen. And if I’m being honest, which I try to be, I may see a former boss or two in Scrooge.

We all have at least one Ebenezer as a Ghost of Horrible Job Past, don’t we?

Despite telling myself I wouldn’t, I sneak a peek at, at, at the fiscal cliff negotiations and Obama’s plans to return home early from his vacation.

I watch the storms on the horizon, back home in the western part of the state, and reluctantly rearrange schedules to cut this vacation short.

I think about cancer, the surviving and the not surviving thereof.

I look around the sunroom here at my mom’s house and spot a little book: Joan Borysenko’s chock-full Pocketful of Miracles: Prayers, Meditations, and Affirmations to Nurture Your Spirit Every Day of the Year. 

I turn to today, December 26.

Seed Thought:
Although the Light has been reborn in our hearts more brightly because of the past year’s cultivation of compassion, tolerance, humility, humor and kindness, more growth is yet to come. More difficulties are yet to arise and lead us through the next spiral of awakening. In this year to come, remember the Buddhist practice called “making difficulties into the path.” If we use all of our trials, all our fears, all our disappointments to spur ourselves on, just think of all the fuel we’ll have for the journey! 

We’ve seen a lot of things this year, but I often need to be reminded that we have also seen a lot of cultivating of compassion, tolerance, humility, humor, and kindness.

I am an Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the 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.

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PodCamp Pittsburgh. This Weekend. I’m So There.

I’ve come to realize that living in Pittsburgh means making some tough choices – especially on the weekends.

Especially this weekend.

There are a ridiculous number of amazing-sounding things going on this Saturday and/or Sunday in Pittsburgh. (Actually, that’s true of many weekends here. Honest to God, I’ve never seen a city with so much to offer as this place does. It’s crazy.)

This Saturday, I am in serious need of a clone. On one hand, there’s Women Read/Women Write, an event bringing readers and writers together to celebrate the books women love to read. It’s free. Take a look at that agenda. This is exactly my thing. Perfect for the novel in progress. 
But. BUT! I also happen to need a little thing known as a JOB, and since that doesn’t seem to be happening in the traditional “Email-resume,Get-interview-Get-hired” type of way (I’m good for steps #1 and #2, not so much #3), I need to do whatever I can to attract and secure more freelance writing and consulting work
I’ve been giving some thought to somehow trying to connect both of my blogging endeavors in some way – somehow merging the professional with the personal. Whether it can be done, I don’t know – but that’s where PodCamp Pittsburgh 7 comes in, making this excellent timing for me in regards to potential networking, and learning, and all that good stuff. 

This Saturday and Sunday at Point Park University, you can take part in this, too. (Registration is still open. And. It’s. FREE.) 
What exactly is PodCamp Pittsburgh?

Wonderful question (as a certain political candidate would say). Anticipating such, the @pcpgh peeps put together The Beginner’s Guide to PodCamp Pittsburgh, from where I cut and pasted this from:

PodCamp is the most awesome thing in Pittsburgh.

But if you really want to get specific…
PodCamp Pittsburgh is a social, new media conference. It started in 2004 and was originally built around podcasting (hence the name PodCamp), and has since grown across North America. PodCamp Pittsburgh has also evolved into a study of information sharing online and how it affects us in different ways every day.

At PodCamp Pittsburgh, you’ll learn how to get started (or how to grow) sharing what you do with everyone else in the world through voice, video, pictures, text and other forms of media. You’ll find out what (and how to use) the latest tools others are using to accomplish great things.

(In other words, don’t be like me and see the word “pod” and think that this is a podcasting only type of thing. Clearly, it’s not.)

Did I mention that PodCamp Pittsburgh is FREE? Yes … free. It’s supported by volunteers, of which I will gladly be one on Saturday while also attending several sessions. (You can see the full schedule of sessions, their descriptions, and speakers here.)

I’m incredibly excited about this. PodCamp Pittsburgh is the perfect opportunity to make connections among those in our city’s traditional and new media scene and it is exactly what I need right now. 

Maybe it’s exactly what you need, too.

Leave me a comment if you’ll be there or follow me on Twitter @bettyandboo or at my professional account, @thefirmangroup. Would love to meet you and say hi!

I am an Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the 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.

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Play It Again, Bill

My Facebook status this morning:

“Two days later, I’m still going on about the Bill Clinton speech, how wonderful it was, etc. My Husband’s reply? “Jesus, this is the longest orgasm you’ve ever had.”

I adore Bill Clinton.

(You probably figured that out by now, as my politics ’round here aren’t really much of a secret.)

I adore Bill Clinton (my husband isn’t too bad either) and I always have and I probably always will. Back in the day, The Husband and I stuffed envelopes for Bubba’s campaign; we dressed up as Bill and Hill during an Election Night party; we braved the bitter cold in Washington D.C. on Inauguration Day 1993 just to say we were there.

I love him.

I know, I know … the guy has his faults and plenty of them. Don’t we all.

A saint he ain’t.

Say what you want about Bill Clinton. At this point, people either love the guy or not; he’s not changing any minds after all this time, after all the scandals and the headlines, after all of these years.

But that speech Wednesday night….damn.

The guy is good. So damn good.

I mean, did you SEE that? Did you see what he did up there?

My husband, the presidential scholar (really), has yet to watch Clinton’s speech – or any of the speeches made at the Democratic National Convention, so all he has to go on is what he’s read in the papers and what his swooning political junkie of a wife is raving about. (The DNC was the equivalent of the Super Bowl for me. Thank God we have an out-of-town trip this weekend to distract us because otherwise, I’d be going through major withdrawal. I could watch this every night. I want the Biden-Ryan debates to start RIGHT. NOW.)

I digress. Back to Bill.

While I tried to capture in words to The Husband why this speech was so powerful, I realized Bill Clinton did something Wednesday night that was so desperately needed – not just by the Obama campaign (because, make no mistake, he was needed by them) – but by those of us who lived through the early days of the Clinton administration and who remember what that time was like.

On Wednesday night, for 48 minutes, we got a reminder.

We have short memories. We think that whatever we’re going through right now is the worst it has ever been.

That’s an easy place for me to go to these days. The housing crisis took our entire life savings, everything we worked for over the past 20 years. I’m approaching that point in my job search now where I’m starting to get a little scared and entry-level positions are next on the application list for this overqualified person with 20 years experience in the field. For me, the past 3 months have been the longest I’ve been without a job since I started working at age 15. From what people tell me, I’m doing everything right, this was such a hard decision, I’ll definitely find something soon ….

I’ve been giving serious thought to the idea of starting a business. Part of me has already launched the damn thing and the other part is scared to death to do so. We need some money coming in on my end. It’s hard to be optimistic. It’s hard to believe.

Sometimes you need a little help.

We needed a reminder that we went through tough times before – in our lifetime, not in the black and white photos of the Great Depression that people of my generation never lived through.

And I think people in situations like mine, I think we needed a reminder of what Bill Clinton personally went through too.

They don’t call Bill Clinton the Comeback Kid for no reason. I mean, this is a guy who was IMPEACHED. To have him associated with your campaign in such a way would have once been unthinkable, political kryptonite.

You would have never known that on Wednesday night.

But when he says he believes with all his heart that things will get better, you want to buy what he’s selling, even if you have to use your last dime of your unemployment check to do so.

Bill Clinton made me believe in tomorrow again, if only for a night.

I’m betting he made a few of you believe you could be Comeback Kids, too.

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.

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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.

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Finding My Spark and Hustle – Part 1

At first glance, you wouldn’t think that Tory Johnson and I would have much in common.

Yeah, that Tory Johnson, the one pictured with me here. That Tory Johnson, she of the bestselling author fame (more on that at the end of this post) and of the Good Morning America contributor, and founder and CEO of Women for Hire, and Spark and Hustle and more.

But as I listened to her story yesterday here in Pittsburgh during her last stop on her national, 20-city Spark and Hustle tour, I quickly realized we had much more in common than I thought – right down to being mothers of twins.

Regular blog readers and Facebook friends know it has been an … interesting summer, one that I’ve spent reflecting, questioning, writing – and yes, job-hunting again as a result of The Layoff back in June. That layoff initially made the answering of the “so, what do you do?” questions yesterday at Spark and Hustle a bit awkward, but I quickly realized that a good many of us currently were (or once were) in similar situations as mine.

Even someone as successful and as accomplished as Tory Johnson.

“Sometimes you don’t voluntarily give up the paycheck,” Tory said in her opening remarks, referencing being fired 20 years ago as a publicist from NBC News. “Sometimes the paycheck gives up you.”

Even after subsequently getting another job, there was always a sense of “a nagging panic” which was “the pain of a pink slip.” The thing that Tory couldn’t shake was that she would always be working for someone who had the power to say that she wasn’t needed or wasn’t good enough.

She knew that she had to make a change, which led to her founding her company Women for Hire and then Spark and Hustle.

Yesterday, in her fast-paced, no-nonsense style, Tory dispelled many of the common myths about starting a business:

you don’t need to have an MBA (Tory didn’t finish college);
you don’t need to have a fat Rolodex (Tory didn’t know many people)
you don’t need to be tech-savvy and have a fancy office (she had an AOL dial-up account and baby twins crawling afoot)
you don’t need a lot of money (“we’ve all seen people with a lot of money not be a success.”).

What you do need is a spark, an ember of an idea, something that awakes your passion – and the hustle.

It is “all about the hustle – the decisions you make each day,” Tory said.

That led into Dr. Vonda Wright as the perfect first speaker. In a separate post, I’ll talk about her and the other speakers (which included one of Pittsburgh’s most inspiring and well-regarded business leaders, Rebecca Harris of Chatham University’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship; the awesome Rachel Blaufeld from Back’nGrooveMom who was instrumental in bringing Spark and Hustle to Pittsburgh, and Stacy and Dawn, two absolutely hilarious ladies who made accounting systems seem downright fun). Intermingled between the speakers were remarks by Tory – it was a jam-packed day – and I’ll cover it all in my next few Spark and Hustle posts. But one more thing!

One of the things we learned was that we have to take risks and to ask for things we want. So … I told Tory Johnson that I write a book blog that has over 200 readers and would she consider providing an autographed copy of her book for me to give away to one of my blog readers? She gladly agreed, and I am incredibly grateful.

You will want to read this if you are a small business owner or considering becoming one. Simply leave a comment on this post to be eligible to win an autographed copy of Tory Johnson’s latest book, SPARK AND HUSTLE: LAUNCH AND GROW YOUR SMALL BUSINESS NOW.

More to come.

UPDATE: BOOK GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED. Congratulations to Beth of Crafty Designs by Beth (you can find her on Facebook as Crafty Designs by Beth) for being the winner of the signed book! 

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.

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The Sunday Salon: A Perfect Storm

From the looks of our weather outside and the forecast, we’re in for quite a summer storm today. I could have predicted as much, given the migraine that’s been holding my head hostage since Friday afternoon. It’s raining. Earlier, thunder was heard in the distance. Still is.

Fortunately, the weekend errands are completed and we don’t have any plans for this Sunday – which of course meant that I woke up at 5 a.m. As much as I would welcome a lazy morning of sleep, I decided to fight through the headache and use the two hours that the quiet house provided to do some writing and tweaking of the novel.

I’m still focused on hopefully having a full first draft of this completed by the end of this summer, thanks to the unexpected luxury of time provided by being laid off 7 weeks ago. This summer really has been a gift in that way and I’m grateful for that, incredibly so. There are still details to be worked out and still much writing to be done (oh, so much writing!) but there is something to be said for having this time to see my way through to this story. Forget the writing and the research behind the writing: the very time it takes for a story to come together in one’s mind is something I hadn’t realized or fully appreciated before this summer. And I’ve needed that.

That said, I’ve been doing more reading than writing over the last two weeks, but the two are intertwined. Since the novel I’m writing is set in the midst of the AIDS epidemic, I’ve been reading Randy Shilts’s incredible book, And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic. It’s one of those books that I had always been meaning to read “someday.” Still, even knowing it would probably prove helpful in the writing of this particular story of mine (and it absolutely has), it was still intimidating. I mean, we’re talking 602 pages. It may be one of the longest (if not the longest) books I’ve ever read.

With 200 pages to go, I’m hoping to finish this today. It’ll be like my own solo Read-a-thon. And then, reading-wise, it’s on to … well, I’m not quite sure. Maybe a shorter book or two, especially since this is a busier week than usual. I have a second interview for an intriguing job, I’ll be attending Tory Johnson’s Spark and Hustle conference, and The Husband will be at a work retreat at the end of the week.

I’ll see where the winds – and whims – take me.

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.

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Weekend Cooking: Farmer’s Market, Food on the Table, and Farmer’s Market Vegetarian Quesadillas

What I bought from the farmer’s market on Friday afternoon.
Photo taken by me on August 3, 2012

Since my first attempt at vegetable garden didn’t do all that well this year (that’s a whole separate post I’m working on), I’ve started doing the next best thing – visiting our local farmer’s market. And by “started doing,” I mean that Friday was the first time in THE ENTIRE ONE YEAR that we have lived here that I’ve gone to the farmer’s market. Which is all kinds of ridiculous, because there’s no reason this should have taken me this long. They set up in two locations: on Fridays, they are in the parking lot where the LIBRARY is (I mean, hello!) and on Saturdays, they are in the parking lot of the township building.

Anyway, so I picked Betty up from gymnastics camp on Friday afternoon and we had some time to kill before picking up Boo. We meandered over to the library and then to the farmer’s market. Betty immediately started yammering to the sellers about how we were going to be doing all of our shopping there from now on because the food is local and tastes better because it doesn’t have so far to travel. My girl. Taught you well.

I was just buying whatever looked good and whatever I knew our family would eat. All the produce in the photo above came to around $30. (What’s not pictured is an additional 6 ears of corn and a couple cherry tomatoes that rolled off the table while I was, as The Husband says, channeling my inner Annie Leibovitz by photographing produce.) I generally spend around $20-$25 in the supermarket for much fewer fruits and veggies than what I got at the farmer’s market.

Meal Planning with Food on the Table
I’ve been trying to be more conscientious about meal planning, given my unemployed status recently. Have you guys tried Food on the Table yet? I’m LOVING this site. Food on the Table integrates the sale items at your supermarket with your menu preferences AND GIVES YOU IDEAS FOR WHAT TO MAKE! And it is damn accurate too. Yes, I checked … because a) I am crazy that way and b) I’d be pissed as hell if the site told me that something was on sale at Giant Eagle and it wasn’t.

But it WORKS and it works beautifully and it is fabulous.

(Food on the Table isn’t paying me to say any of this, by the way.)

I actually had an honest-to-God meal plan last week. (OK, I picked up sandwiches from Sheetz mid-week because I didn’t have anything planned, but hey … 4 out of 5 days ain’t bad!) I have a meal plan prepared for this week, too.

Farmer’s Market Vegetarian Quesadillas
Tonight’s dinner combined my bounty from the farmer’s market along with my new meal-planning prowess thanks to Food on the Table.  I made Farmer’s Market Vegetarian Quesadillas, with some changes and one notable addition: I included one package of MorningStar Farms Meal Starters Chik’n Strips.

As I was chopping the veggies, I had water boiling for the beautiful corn that was picked yesterday morning.

Back to the quesadillas:


1/2 (cup) red bell pepper, chopped  (I used one green pepper, which wound up being 1 cup)
1/2 (cup) zucchini, chopped (I omitted; the kids and husband aren’t zucchini fans)
1/2 (cup) red onion, chopped (I used half of one of the large onions)
1 (tablespoon) olive oil
8 (9 inch) whole wheat tortillas (we had flour tortillas to use up)
1 1/4 (cup) shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese (I may have added a bit extra cheese)

In a large nonstick pan, cook red pepper, zucchini, and onion in olive oil over medium to medium-high heat for about 7 minutes, or until just tender. (This is an untouched, straight out of the camera photo. Don’t these onions and peppers look gorgeous?)

My note: I added the Chik’n Strips in the middle of cooking this. See?

Remove vegetables from pan.

Coat the same pan with cooking spray, and place one tortilla in pan. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of cheese evenly over tortilla, and layer 3/4 cup of the vegetable mixture over the cheese. Sprinkle another 1/8 cup of cheese on the vegetables, and top with another tortilla. Cook until cheese melts, flipping once.

(FLIP ONCE??!! Like, as in the WHOLE QUESADILLA??? That made me SO NERVOUS, yinz. Like, Olympic performance nervous. Because, you know, I do not flip food. This is not a skill that I possess. 

The results? The judges (i.e., my internal critic) deducted some points for movement and shiftiness of the quesadilla, but overall the quesadilla stayed intact.) 

Repeat until all ingredients are used.

The Husband and I loved the quesadillas. Boo’s not a fan of onions, so next time I need to decrease the amount for him. The kids also had a hard time finishing an entire quesadilla along with a corn on the cob; one quesadilla might be sufficient for both of them, with two pieces each.

But, you know, they tried this and ate about half of it. Which is HUGE in this house.

This one goes into the regular rotation … as does a visit to the farmer’s market (which is open until the first week in October!)

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.

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.

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