Tag Archives: Baseball

in which i briefly (and gladly) interrupt my political punditry for dewey’s 24 hour readathon

Holy crap on toast, people, can’t we all just try to get along? It has been a long week, what with surly Internet emoticons flying about Vice Presidential candidates (#TeamBiden) and sports teams (Go Yankees!). My Facebook stream has seen uteruses compared to houses and perfectly respectable people compared to H*tler (and this was all just yesterday afternoon). Methinks it is time to step back, take a breath, and CHILL OUT for a weekend.

That said, what better time for Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-Thon, right? THE WHOLE COUNTRY could use a Read-a-thon about now, amiright? (With assigned reading material for some, I might add. Oh, sorry, I’m slipping back into political punditry mode. It happens.)

I’m going to be less of a Read-a-Thon participant this time around because we have friends from Philly arriving mid-afternoon to (as per Betty and Boo) “hang out with Daddy and help his cancer feel better.”  Hence, I don’t have my usual stack of books lined up (so, no photos to show you) and I probably won’t be participating in too many mini-challenges. When I can, I’ll be reading and trying to fulfill my cheerleading obligations. (I think I only signed up for 2-3 hours, so that should still be doable.)

As we head into Hour 4, I spent some time on Twitter this morning chatting with various Read-a-Thoners and I set up a spreadsheet to keep myself somewhat on track. I tried turning off my word verification and all that other crap that I use to try to keep the nonsense out of the blog, but I was deluged with spam immediately and I’m sorry, guys, but I don’t have the time or patience for that shit, so I had to turn it back on.    If that prevents you from leaving me a comment, I understand. No biggie.

OK. Time to read. I’m kicking this Read-a-thon off with my current read, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. I’m on page 123.

Let’s do this, kids. Happy Read-a-Thon Day!

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Wordless Wednesday

Yankees vs. Orioles
Camden Yards, Baltimore, MD
September 18, 2010

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copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo’s Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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The Sunday Salon: A Mixed Bag of Books This Week

How is it even possible that this is the last Sunday in September … and that October begins this week?!  I mean, honestly. 

We were in Baltimore last weekend with a million other people for the Yankees-Orioles games, so I skipped last weekend’s Salon.  The time that I would have normally been spending in this spot was being spent with Betty at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, which was fascinating.  (Don’t miss the dolphin show, if you go.) I’m wishing I was back in Charm City this weekend for the Baltimore Book Festival, though, as it sounds like such a great time.  Maybe next year ….

But speaking of Baltimore and books, I made the mistake of taking Olive Kitteridge with me on our trip last weekend and starting it an hour before we had to leave for the Yankees game.  Big mistake.  If you read my review of Olive Kitteridge this week, you know how much this incredible book captivated me. I loved this. I nearly wound up taking this to the game with me (and in fact, there was a woman sitting behind us who was reading a mystery novel – I don’t remember which one – during the game). 

I’m still making my way through The Early Stories of Louisa May Alcott 1852-1860, which has some wonderful gems in it (“The Rival Prima Donnas,” Bertha,” “A New Year’s Blessing”) along with a few that have left me somewhat confused (“Little Genevieve,” “A Lady and a Woman.”)  There’s an Amazon review that suggests not starting with this collection if one is interested in reading Louisa May Alcott’s short stories and at this point, I kind of agree.  Diehard Alcott fans and those wanting to read her entire body of work will enjoy this, but the casual reader? Not so much, I don’t think.

My current read is John McNally’s After the Workshop, a satirical and humorous look at the post-grad life of an Iowa Writers Workshop writer. (No matter that Jack Hercules Sheahan graduated a mere 12 years ago.)  After publishing one short story (“The Self Adhesive Postage Stamp”) in The New Yorker,  Jack’s novel-in-progress continues to collect dust while he works as a media escort for writers (mostly of the prima donna variety) visiting Iowa on their book tours.

I’m almost scared to review this one because McNally, through Jack Sheahan, appears to be familiar with book blogs.  He (the character of Sheahan) refers to leaving comments on blogs early on in the book, as well as being at Book Expo America. I love that … and fortunately, I don’t think John McNally needs to worry about my review because I am really enjoying After the Workshop so far. It’s a fast and funny read, one that’s keeping me entertained as I wonder who the fictious authors really are (this is kind of like the “You’re So Vain” of the literary world).

Quite the opposite is true of my current audiobook. The only thing I’m wondering about with The Elegance of the Hedgehog is what the hell others have seen in this that I am clearly missing. Seriously, at page 104 and at the beginning of chapter 14, the only reason I’m still listening is because several book bloggers who I respect and have similar tastes as have raved about it (Beth Kephart Books) and warned me about the slow start (thank you Dawn of She is Too Fond of Books).  But I’ve gotta say I’m starting to lose my patience. Reading portions of it in addition to listening to it on audio isn’t helping.  I’m hoping this one turns around soon before I take delight in the thud it will make as I throw it back into the library’s book drop.

And finally, into this week a DNF book did indeed fall.  I only made it through the first 30 pages of Crossing Oceans before giving up.  I don’t know what it was about this one – maybe just a matter of having the unfortunate circumstance of coming on the heels of Olive Kitteridge, but it just struck me as too much of a made-for-TV movie.  I couldn’t get into this one at all, but I’m in the minority with this one.  My Friend Amy has a wonderful review of this one as does Becky’s Book Reviews and Books, Movies, and Chinese Food.

So, at the end of the week, we have a very mixed bag of reading here.  What about you?

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo’s Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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More than Just a Message in a Bottle

Vendors were lined along Pratt Street on Sunday afternoon, as Betty and I walked back from our early morning visit to the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Our next stop was meeting The Husband and Boo before taking in the Yankees-Orioles game at Camden Yards.

“ICE COLD WATER HERE ONNNNNE DOLLLLLLAR!!” the vendors hollered, holding dripping bottles in each hand.   “FOUR DOLLARS INSIDE!!!”

Betty stopped, turned to me inquisitively, her brow furrowed.

“Mommy, how can they possibly get $4 inside a bottle of water?”

Quote by the entrance to one of the exhibits at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.
“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.” ~ Loren Eiseley

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo’s Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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Book Review: The Best Kind of Different: Our Family’s Journey with Asperger’s Syndrome, by Shonda Schilling

The Best Kind of Different: Our Family’s Journey with Asperger’s Syndrome
by Shonda Schilling
Harper Collins
224 pages

For Philadelphians, the image of former Phillies pitcher Curt Schilling covering his head with a towel whenever Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams took the mound is embedded in our 1993 post-season minds.

In this new book, Curt and his wife Shonda don’t hide from their experiences with Asperger’s Syndrome as viewed through their eyes as parents to their son Grant, who was diagnosed at age seven.

I usually look at “autism memoirs” somewhat skeptically, especially when they are written by celebrities (who have very different lives – translation: more money and more help – than the people I know). I also eschew flowery sentiments like The Best Kind of Different. There are many, many words and phrases that come to mind when I think of Boo having Asperger’s and our family’s experiences, and  quite honestly, “the best kind of different” is usually not among them. (Surely not after this morning’s meltdown of epic proportions.)

But I must say that I found this to be a very honest and down-to-earth book.  It would have been much easier for the Schillings to remain silent, to not be as forthcoming with their struggles with Grant or about their oldest son Gehrig’s eating disorders or with their other children (and Curt) having ADHD.

“Though it’s one thing to make peace with your kids not being academically or athletically exceptional and realize how they are each special in their own ways, it’s another thing entirely to come to terms with one of your children being significantly different. This is every parent’s worst nightmare, that their child will be labeled different in some way, whether it’s a physical disability, social awkwardness, or coming from the wrong side of the tracks. The child who is different stands out and faces huge social and emotional consequences.  The other kids notice who is different. Just the word different seems to be a bad thing, carrying all sorts of assumptions and stigmas. Different means hardship, different means struggle.  It may seem like a reductive way of looking at the world, but as pretty much any parent will tell you, children can be incredibly cruel, and nothing attracts that cruelty like a kid who is labeled different.” (pg. 87-88)

In her book, Shonda Schilling gives example after example of Grant’s behavior and issues that confused and frustrated her – as well as her other children.  (The Schillings have four kids.) She writes how his tendency to run off in parking lots and crowded spaces, as well as his unpredictable meltdowns, made it difficult to take him anywhere, especially baseball games. How he had difficulty with simple transitions from one activity to another.  How he didn’t seem to listen or make eye contact and did socially inappropriate (but logical to him) things like walking into a neighbor’s house and helping himself to a Pop-Tart because “they have better Pop-Tarts.”  And yet at the same time, Grant was very intelligent, compassionate towards others (especially those with physical disabilities) and affectionate.

All this making Shonda, who at the time knew only the sterotypes of autism and nothing about Asperger’s, utterly perplexed.

“Before I knew about Asperger’s, before I knew exactly what it was that made Grant different, the thing I kept coming back to was that he seemed like one big youthful, energetic contradiction. He would do something that would make you angry, and in the same breath he would tell you he loved you. This tendency made me refer to Grant as a child who would pinch you while he was hugging you. …. For years before Grant was diagnosed, this never-ending sea of contradictions was a constant source of confusion.  The contradictions are what make you think this is a just a phase, that somehow the “bad” part or the “odd” part of the contradiction will one day just stop, leaving only the “good” part behind. Isn’t it funny how willing we are to assume that bad behavior is somehow different, but good behavior is normal?” (pg. 59)

And as many of mothers with kids of special needs can relate to, Grant’s behavior and her inability to “fix” it also made Shonda feel as if she wasn’t a good mother and that many people saw her as the culprit. Being in the public eye and living such a high-profile life as the wife of a major league baseball player only compounded matters.

“Part of the problem was that despite my instincts that something was wrong, I felt as if people second-guessed me whenever I brought up Grant’s behavior. When I would talk to friends and family about how Grant acted, there was always an excuse, something that they felt made the behavior somehow my fault. They weren’t necessary trying to point the finger at me, and everyone was well-intentioned about giving advice, but all their ideas seemed to place the blame squarely at me, especially because Curt was on the road so often.

Grant didn’t respect me.
I spoiled him.
I wasn’t firm enough.

No matter whom I spoke to about the trends I saw in Grant, everyone seemed to dismiss it with a wave of the hand and an overly simplified generalization.  None of it felt right.” (pg. 73)

It feels kind of odd to say that I enjoyed this book, but I did – in the sense that it reads so conversationally (making it somewhat of a fast read for me) that it was like sitting down and having lunch with a friend, another mom who knows what it is like to walk this road. (I think that The Best Kind of Different would be helpful reading for others who might feel alone with this, or for relatives of those with Asperger’s.)

Even though children with Asperger’s have some commonalities, Asperger’s can be very different from one child to the next. Still, there is much about Grant’s personality that is very similar to my Boo’s – and many of the Schilling family’s experiences are similar to our own.

In telling her family’s story, Shonda Schilling doesn’t go where some other celebrities have gone – she doesn’t give advice on therapies, she doesn’t get on a soapbox spouting theories about autism’s causes, she doesn’t preach or tell others what to do.  While she gives strategies on what has worked for Grant and their family coupled with what they haven’t done, it’s presented in a very matter-of-fact, “here’s-what-works-for-us,” parent-to-parent style.

Shonda is also very honest on the impact that being Grant’s parents has had on her relationship with Curt.  For many years, she was pretty much parenting solo while Curt was on the road most of the year.  She describes their tense conversations over the phone, giving him the news of Grant’s diagnosis while they were on the road in a hotel room, and the decision for them to go into couple’s therapy together (along with her seeking out help for herself in the form of medication for depression).

Those of us who live this life know the statistics on the increased rate of divorce among married couples who have a child with special needs and the toll that parenting them takes. “Our job as parents is to prepare our kids for what is ahead of them, to teach them the difference between right and wrong and how to choose wisely. Sometimes, especially in the case of a child with Asperger’s, that’s easier said than done.  It takes parenting up to a whole other level.” (pg. 133)

Parents who are also parenting on this level often feel alone and misunderstood by others. (This was especially true in the book when Shonda writes about Grant’s participation in sports and the nasty remarks hurled at her when Grant had difficulty playing and being part of the team.)

We all want our kids to be part of the team, and as parents, we want to be part of a winning team that has us on top of this game of life. It’s a struggle for most of us, especially those who are parenting children with special needs. The Best Kind of Different doesn’t present a perfect game by saying everything is wonderful in the world of autism, but instead scores a home run by simply showing that more of us are in this game than we might think.


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(Not So) Wordless Wednesday: Summer Goes Out with a Bang

My in-laws were visiting this weekend, so as part of our activities, we went to our minor-league baseball team’s second-to-last game of the year.  It’s always a great night out, especially so when they have a fireworks display after the game (which they do several times during the season).  It kind of reminded me of a particular Frank Sinatra song, one of my favorites.

And there used to be a ballpark
Where the field was warm and green
And the people played their crazy game
With a joy I’d never seen
And the air was such a wonder
From the hot dogs and the beer
Yes, there used to be a ballpark right here.
And there used to be rock candy
And a great big Fourth of July
With the fireworks exploding
All across the summer sky …
And the people watched in wonder
How they’d laugh and how they’d cheer
And there used to be a ballpark right here.
Now the children try to find it
And they can’t believe their eyes
’cause the old team just isn’t playing
And the new team hardly tries 
And the sky has got so cloudy
When it used to be so clear
And the summer went so quickly this year.
Yes, there used to be a ballpark …

Right here.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo’s Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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The Sunday Salon: Three Home Runs and The One That Struck Out

We’re having a gorgeous Labor Day weekend here, weather-wise.  My in-laws are visiting for the long holiday weekend and last night we all went to see our minor-league baseball team, which is always a fun night out. 

Baseball is actually a big part of my current read, The Best Kind of Different: Our Family’s Journey with Asperger’s Syndrome by Shonda Schilling, mother of four and wife of baseball pitcher Curt Schilling. It’s the story of their family’s experiences with their now-11 year old son Grant, who has Asperger’s Syndrome. So far, I’m finding this to be a very honest memoir and although our family is very different than the Schillings, much of Grant’s challenges and Shonda and Curt’s reactions to them are very similar to our experiences with Boo.

(We’re listening to Frank Sinatra as I write this post and ironically, “There Used to Be a Ballpark” just came on. This is one of my many, many favorite Frank songs. “And the summer went so quickly this year ….”  Frank always tells it like it is, doesn’t he?)

And speaking of people who tell it like it is (or should be), my week started by finishing Seth Godin’s newest book, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? which I really enjoyed.  (See my review here.) I’m a fan of Godin’s and this book, while a little bit of a departure from his typical marketing books, is still the straightforward, classic Godin that one expects.

After Linchpin, I moved on to The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien. I had all good intentions of reading this when Kim from Sophisticated Dorkiness did her read-along, but I didn’t get to it in time. This was an incredibly well-written and powerful book, one that I agree should be required reading for every American (as is written on the jacket of my copy of The Things They Carried). 

The Things They Carried was one I read in just two days (it’s fairly short, so easy enough to do) and then it was onto a short story collection by a new-to-me author, Greg Mulcahy, that I borrowed from the library. You all know how much I love short stories and I usually have a pretty good track record with them, but occasionally there will be a collection that I’m just unable to connect with.  Such was the case, unfortunately, with Carbine.
I read the first nine (of 41) stories before deciding this one wasn’t for me. Of those I read, most were very short – only couple pages (and some barely two pages)  – and at first I thought that was the reason they weren’t resonating.  I think it is something more, though.  None of the characters had names, which led to them blending together in my mind. I’m sure that was intentional and a way to show that the characters could be anyone, even oneself, but the abstract nature of the ones I read just wasn’t working for me. 
Abandoning this collection also made me wonder about when the appropriate point is to give up on a short story collection. I’d like to think with nine stories I gave Carbine a fair chance, as I usually don’t have any definitive “rules” on when I abandon a book (although I usually try to give a book approximately 50 pages). For those of you who are also short story readers, when do you decide if a particular collection isn’t working for you? Or does it all depend on the book?

On this holiday weekend (in the U.S., at least) that celebrates workers, I hope whatever book you’re reading is working for you and not striking out at bat.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo’s Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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