Tag Archives: Birthdays

sunday salon/currently … 47

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Busier than usual weekend.  I had a work event on Friday night so I didn’t get home until 10 p.m. Yesterday, The Girl and I went to Panera for lunch and then to the library where she hung out with some friends (they enjoy a monthly teen Anime Club program at the library). I tried to do some writing during those few hours, but my concentration was shot.  I did write part of a book review and I caught up on some blog reading (and regular reading) so that’s something.

The library program doesn’t end until 5 p.m., so we picked up Jason’s Deli as a quick dinner. They opened their first store in the Pittsburgh area a month ago and this was our first time trying their food, which was … okay.  The kids and The Husband liked the pasta alfredo; I wasn’t too crazy about the Super Salmon Slaw Salad (had too much of a “kick” to it for my taste) or the vegetable soup (too bland). We’ll give it another try at some point, though.

And here we are at Sunday evening. Today happens to be my birthday, so … yay, 47.  This isn’t much different than any other typical Sunday.  I woke up with yet another weekend sinus headache, probably due to the crazy weather we had last night that resulted in this unwelcome gift from Mother Nature:

Snow - 4-3-2016That’s approximately a half inch of snow on the ground, as seen from our back deck. It’s all gone now, but the cold lingered the whole day.  (Fortunately, a 2 hour nap helped relieve my headache so I could salvage some of this birthday.)

Scorpion Tongues

Still reading and enjoying Scorpion Tongues: The Irresistible History of Gossip in American Politics by Gail Collins. So entertaining … and some of these stories about past presidential campaigns make the current one look downright boring. This is absolutely fascinating.

And with that, another weekend and birthday comes to a close. Hope you’ve had a great weekend!


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sunday salon/ currently … 3/6/2016


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Currently …
It’s Sunday evening and I’m just getting a chance to visit the Salon and catch up with blog posts. This weekend seemed to be a bunch of errands: an appointment for The Boy, the usual grocery shopping, and Kohl’s because The Boy needed ANOTHER pair of sneakers. (Teenage boys and their growth spurts are not friendly to the pocketbook, let me tell you.)

Celebrating …
The Husband’s birthday weekend. I took a half day from work on Friday and we had lunch together at Eat’n Park — simple, since that’s what the budget permits these days. We came home to discover an Edible Arrangements sent from his parents.  On Saturday, I made one of his favorite dinners (baked ravioli casserole) and we had Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Ganache cake for dessert. (I treated myself to TJ’s gluten free cupcakes so I wouldn’t feel deprived.)

Reading …

Scorpion Tongues

Given the current political climate, this seems to be an appropriate time to read Scorpion Tongues: The Irresistible History of Gossip in American Politics by Gail Collins. I’ve had this on my bookshelf for more than four years now, so in the spirit of #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks, it’s my current read.

Sugar Crush

This week I finished Sugar Crush: How to Reduce Inflammation, Stop Pain, and Reverse the Path to Diabetes by Richard P. Jacoby, DPN and Raquel Baldelohar.  The cupcakes for The Husband’s birthday notwithstanding, I really am trying to be more conscientious about the amount of carbs and added sugar I consume.  I eliminated sugar in my coffee awhile ago and I really don’t miss it, but there’s a lot more I could be doing.


House of Cards!  Absolutely love this show and Season 4 is FANTASTIC so far. (I’m only up to Episode 4.) True confession time: this may have been one of the reasons why I took a half day off from work on Friday. I mean, there were other reasons but that was a happy coincidence. (As it turned out, I didn’t start watching until after dinner.)

Anticipating …
Our first rehearsal and cast party for Listen to Your Mother Pittsburgh is this coming weekend. I’m really looking forward to meeting all the other ladies who will be in this year’s show and hearing their stories for the first time.

And speaking of which …


Tickets are on sale NOW!  I’m so excited about this show and for as many people as possible to hear the fabulous stories of the women in this year’s cast. If you’re going to be anywhere near Pittsburgh on May 6, I would love to see you in the audience.

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Currently …Birthdays, Burghosphere, and Books

Chocolate cake

Currently …
Sunday evening, at the end of a busier than usual weekend. The highlights: a dentist visit for an 8:45 a.m. root canal (there’s no better way to spend a Saturday, let me tell you) and a Sunday afternoon hanging out with some of Pittsburgh’s best bloggers at Best of the Burghosphere, which I’ll post more about tomorrow. Afterwards, The Girl and I stopped by Half Price Books for some birthday shopping. As much as this may surprise some of you, I’d never been there before today. It’s now The Girl’s favorite store (and one of mine, too).

Celebrating …
We’re celebrating the kids’ birthdays this weekend. Hard to believe they are 14. We kept things fairly low-key with one of their favorite dinners (a simple version of pasta with chicken in alfredo sauce) and the chocolate cake, pictured above.

Reading … 
I finished two books this week, which is practically unheard of for me — especially given the slow pace at which I’ve been reading.

M TrainAccidental Saints

M Train by Patti Smith, which I enjoyed. This has a very free-form quality to it.  If you’ve ever been part of a writing workshop and the instructor says to write for ten minutes about whatever comes to mind, that’s what this feels like.  (It’s not so easy writing about nothing is the first line and at times this feels as if you’ve stolen a glimpse at a page written in Patti Smith’s notebook.) Non-linear in structure, M Train is what I would describe as a “writer’s book” and it isn’t going to appeal to everyone. It meanders, often in an esoteric way.

Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People, by Nadia Bolz-Weber, who is the pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver.  I picked this up at the library after hearing a great interview with the author on NPR’s Fresh Air.  This was more … I don’t know … religious? theological? than I expected. (Also a bit too self-deprecating.)

Not Reading …
Another week, another DNF.  Despite my appreciation for its author, I’m finding the characters in Moral Disorder and Other Stories by Margaret Atwood to be somewhat boring.  I’ve been listening to this collection of linked stories on audio but it isn’t holding my attention. Back to the library it goes.

Anticipating …
Thanksgiving, which comes with a few additional vacation days from work for me.  Plenty of time for Thankfully Reading Weekend!

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live like you were dying

One of my favorite photos ever of Betty, taken by me in June 2011
during our family vacation in Strathmere, NJ. 

Let me clear up something right from the get-go, for any relatives or potential employers googling my name who are reading this:

I’m not dying.

At least, not to my knowledge and not in the sense that one thinks of when one proclaims that they’re dying.

What I am doing is celebrating another birthday today.


And it’s a big one.

Not big in the kind of birthday with a 0 at the end of one’s chronological age. Not big in the kind of birthday surrounded by surprise parties or mid-life crises.

But one that I have been conscious of since I turned sweet 16, a birthday that bided its time in the distance, taking a step closer with every passing year. Most of the time, I hardly noticed the creeping numbers as I was busy with other things – college, early marriage, infertility treatments, houses, jobs.

When the kids arrived, the numbers came closer. They stood on the edge of the lawn and the driveway, making their presence known. When I turned 40, they knocked on the front door like a pair of proselytizers while I pretended I wasn’t home.

When you lose a parent as a child, time seems to stop at that age that the parent’s life did – because, in a sense, it did. It goes on, of course. Of course it does. Graduations, weddings, births … they all happen. But the parent is memorialized in the child’s mind as being forever the age that he or she was at the time of the passing.

When I was a teenager, my dad died suddenly, unexpectedly. He was 44. As most things do when you’re 16, that seemed (well, okay, I admit it now) kinda old.

It’s only been in the last decade or so – and especially in the last few months with The Husband having thyroid cancer at 43, and now on my birthday today as I turn into a pumpkin at 44 – that I’ve come to realize how very young my father was. How much living he had left to do. How much he missed and still is missed.

But I’ve also come to believe and realize that, as much as we sometimes push and prod and wish otherwise, these life mysteries are not exclusively ours for the questioning.

On my dad’s 44th birthday, he had 4 months left to live. Four goddamn months. None of us had a clue. There was no cancer waiting to strike, no accident down the street, no being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Had he known, I doubt he would have lived his life any differently; he would have still gone to work at the Center City Philadelphia engineering firm every single day; he still would have fertilized the lawn; he still would have gotten up at 3 a.m. to don a volunteer fireman’s uniform; he still would have agreed to be an usher at church.

He wasn’t about grandiose gestures or about carpe diem. He lived his simple life. He just was.

What there wasn’t on his 44th birthday was dread, no fatalism. Had we known, had things been different, maybe his outlook would have been different. We speculate, of course, as you do.

So, being the same age now as he was then, I could greet this birthday with a sense of doom, counting down the weeks and months of this 44th year until the precise day when I am officially older than my dad. (Believe me, I’ve calculated the exact day it will happen.)  It would be easy to do in the face of the year gone by, the unemployment and the cancer in its wake.


I could choose to live this 44th year like I was dying.

He said
“I was in my early forties
With a lot of life before me
And a moment came that stopped me on a dime
I spent most of the next days
Looking at the x-rays
Talkin’ ’bout the options
And talkin’ ’bout sweet time”
I asked him
“When it sank in 
That this might really be the real end
How’s it hit you
When you get that kind of news?
Man, what’d you do?”

He said
“I went skydiving
I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Blue Manchu
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying”
And he said
“Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying”

He said
“I was finally the husband
That most of the time I wasn’t
And I became a friend a friend would like to have
And all of a sudden going fishin’
Wasn’t such an imposition
And I went three times that year I lost my dad
I finally read the Good Book, and I
Took a good, long, hard look
At what I’d do if I could do it all again
And then

I went skydiving
I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Blue Manchu
And I loved deeper 
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying”
And he said
“Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying
Like tomorrow was a gift
And you’ve got eternity
To think about
What you’d do with it
What could you do with it
What did I do with it?
What would I do with it?

I went Rocky mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Blue Manchu
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I watched an eagle as it was flying”
And he said
“Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying
To live like you were dying
To live like you were dying”

“Live Like You Were Dying” ~ sung by Tim McGraw

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!

photo and blog post 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.

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The 35 Day Project: Kindness #1 – Bus Stop Waiting

Yesterday I told you about my friend and fellow Pittsburgh blogger, Tiffany Harkleroad. She’s launched “The 35 Day Project,” a spread-as many acts-of-kindness-as-you-can initiative for the 35 days leading up to her 35th birthday, which is on April 20. She’s encouraged her friends to join in. If you can do one act, great! If you can do all 35, even better. No pressure.

These acts don’t have to cost much money (and in my case, they can’t, given that I’m still unemployed and trying to make a go of this freelance writing, editing, and consulting business). But kindness doesn’t have to have a big price tag, so I’m all in. (Plus, you know I love this kind of thing.)

Today is a miserable weather day here in Pittsburgh, no question. I didn’t expect a snow day, but I was pretty sure the freezing rain and “slippy” (see, this Philly girl’s gettin’ da ‘Burgh lingo dahn!) roads would be enough for a 2 hour delay.

Not so much.

As I waited with my kids at the bus stop, it occurred to me that today is probably a pretty tough day to be a bus driver. Not only with the crappy, unrelenting winter weather, but also with the emotional heartache of Saturday’s bus crash involving the Seton Hill University women’s lacrosse team and the loss of their coach and her baby. My kids have only been taking the bus since early February, but every morning and every afternoon, the bus driver – a kindly, grandmotherly type – waves to me as she drives off.

This afternoon, this will be waiting with me at the bus stop. Some Little Bites muffins, some packets of tea, and a thank you note that says, inside:

“It’s not easy driving a school bus on regular days, especially days like these. Thanks for all you do to keep our kids safe today and every day! Enjoy some tea, muffins, and relaxation on us.” 

Want to be part of Tiffany’s 35 Day Project, too? Go here.

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.

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Today, I Am 4

Dessert tray at Habitat, where I lunched with several Pittsburgh bloggers on Saturday.
Photo taken by me, August 11, 2012

Today, I am 4.

(Or, to be more specific, this blog is 4 years old. Today.)

Every year, without fail, I tell myself I’m going to “do something” for my blogiversary (one of those made-up Internet words that I admittedly cannot stand).

And every year, without fail, this day somehow sneaks up on me and I’m caught unprepared.

No giveaway, no poignant pre-written post, no survey, no State of the Blog, no lofty goals or vision for the future.

(In the last four years, I’ve seen where plans get me. It ain’t always pretty.)

So here we are, four years into this blogging thing, still winging it. Four years and 108,004 pageviews and 4,929 comments and 1,428 published posts and another 260 posts lingering in drafts later.

I have a tendency to sometimes not finish what I’ve started. Despite The Summer of My Unemployment, there are still many unpacked boxes from our move four months ago. There’s still an unfinished novel (although it is further along than it would have been without the summer of unemployment). My kids’ baby albums are not yet complete.

But that’s true of all of us, isn’t it, no matter where we are in our life stages and our journeys. Whether we are 4 or 44 or 104, we are all works-in-progress. I certainly am and it is no secret that I have been reflecting on and, yes, sometimes struggling with the direction of the blog.

When I wrote my first post 4 years ago (you can read it here), I wasn’t sure what this blog would become. It was intended to be simply a chronicle of the goings on of our life, particularly as it concerned Betty and Boo – the nicknames for my now-10 year old twins. It was a way to keep the long-distance grandparents connected on our everyday doings and especially, to give people a glimpse of our life with autism. (I can tell you that my earliest blogging influences and inspirations were MOM-NOS, who writes so poignantly about her son Bud, and author/blogger Susan Senator, who writes about her family, especially her son Nat.) So many have become inspirations and influences and friends since.

Recently, I’ve long felt a name change is needed – but to what, and how, and when? In a world that demands that we all (not just bloggers, but especially bloggers) have a personal brand, and that writers like me create a platform on which we can instantly catapult when our books are ready for you to read and to buy, where does that leave an everyday unniched blogger like me who writes about a hodgepodge of things like the books she likes, parenting a child with autism and the funny/poignant things that kid does, the recipes I want to remember, the incredible things I’m still discovering in Pittsburgh, the ways that this city reminds me so much of my beloved Philadelphia, the issues in the news that make me drag out my soapbox and yell “pay attention to this, dammit!”

For now, at age 4, it leaves me right here. Not going anywhere, feeling so incredibly grateful for all of you who take the time to read what I have to say. Whether you’re one of the 4,929 comments here or on Facebook, I hope you know that I am so thankful to you. There are so many people I could and want to send shout-outs to, but we’d be here all day, and besides, you probably know who you are. Don’t you?

And I have boxes to unpack and novels to write.

One more thing. Since you know how much I love lists, here’s the Top 10 Most Popular Blog Posts (by pageviews) Since 2008.  (I’m especially proud that #5 and #9 made the list).

1. Announcing the Memorable Memoirs Challenge – Dec. 6, 2010
1,717 pageviews

2. Book Review: Marriage Confidential: The Post-Romantic Age of Workhorse Wives, Royal Children, Undersexed Spouses, and Rebel Couples Who are Rewriting the Rules, by Pamela Haag – Feb. 14, 2012
1,187 pageviews

3. Going Gaga for Greyson Chance – Nov. 9, 2010
771 pageviews (This was my all time highest post at one time. The photo has been stolen a lot, too. Still, I happen to be fond of this post.)

4. Book Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Oct. 21, 2011
748 pageviews

5. For Elaine – Nov. 15, 2010
639 pageviews

6. Introducing the Memorable Memoirs – Dec. 27, 2009
302 pageviews

7. Weekend Cooking: Broccoli Cheese Soup – Jan. 15, 2011
288 pageviews

8. Announcing The 2012 Memorable Memoirs Reading Challenge – Dec. 11, 2011
264 pageviews

9. “Mommy, Why Does Baby G. Have to Go to Jail?” – May 25, 2011
190 pageviews

10. I’m Still Giving Away … 2 Books (GIVEAWAY CLOSED) – Feb. 8, 2011
164 pageviews

Thanks for reading. As some politicians say, here’s to four more years.

Maybe even with some changes.

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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I Was Amelia Earhart, by Jane Mendelsohn

I Was Amelia Earhart
by Jane Mendelsohn
Knopf Doubleday 
1997 (reprinted edition) 
160 pages

This is more of a reflection – an appreciation, really – rather than a review of Jane Mendelsohn’s first novel I Was Amelia Earhart. I say this because I read this in one sitting more than a year ago, during a fickle weather summer day at my aunt and uncle’s beach house. Even though I wrote down the quotes I loved from the novel and I remember loving the entire book itself, it has been too long now to adequately conjure up the stuff that makes for a proper review.

That being said, I think one of the hallmarks of a great book is the hold it has on the reader long after it is finished – and I’ve often thought of I Was Amelia Earhart in the year since. 

Google, that informer of all things necessary to know, tells me through its doodle that today marks Amelia Earhart’s 115th birthday, so what better time to share this wonderful book with you?

For starters, this is a really different kind of book. Mendelsohn weaves fact and fiction of Amelia Earhart’s life, that with her wealthy New York publisher husband G.P. Putnam and her drunken navigator Frederick Noonan. She imagines what may have happened during their ill-fated flight and the aftermath, which, in I Was Amelia Earhart, is longer than we may have thought. It is rendered beautifully and vividly between the first and third person (not an easy feat!).

And the writing. I can’t say enough about the writing (every writer should read this, honestly) so I am just going to let the quotes stand alone with this one. (This was one of those novels where I could have highlighted every passage. It was just that gorgeous. I was enraptured by the fourth sentence, I swear.) I couldn’t pick just one or two to share with you. Here are nine of them. 

“More and more now, I remember things. Images, my life, the sky. Sometimes I remember the life I used to live, and it feels impossibly far away. It’s always there, a part of me, in the back of my mind, but it doesn’t seem real. Whether life is more real than death, I don’t know. What I know is that the life I’ve live since I died feels more real to me than the one I lived before.” (pg. 1)

“Only much later did I realize what I had done by marrying him.  I didn’t blame myself, but I realized that I had surrendered to the whims of men – even I who had been so bold and independent, even I who had taken on the humilating task of sitting in the back of an airplane like cargo when I knew perfectly well that I could fly it myself better than the so-called pilot in the cockpit – I realized that I had surrendered so easily because I had been, despite my most vigilant efforts, infatuated with the men who made the rukes. Sitting in my future husband’s office, listening to the drone of his comfortable voice, I felt an infinite rush of sympathy for him. O knew he was hidden, even from himself, and I wanted to be the only person who really knew him. Later, this realization made me suspect that I had loved my husband. Selfishly, but at least I had loved him.” (pg. 18)

“By 1937, at the tender age of thirty-nine, she was the loneliest of heroines.  She was more expressive around the eyes, and no movie star seemed as mysterious as she or wore leather and silk with such glamorous nonchalance.  But she felt as though she had already lived her entire life, having crossed the Atlantic solo and set several world records, and she had no one to share her sadness with, least of all her husband. Her husband, G.P., her business manager. He’s the husband who made her famous, who devoted himself to her, even when she hated him, even when he hated her back. She needs him so that she can fly, so that she can escape from him, so that she can escape from the very people who worship her.” (pg. 19)

Radio interview:“Miss Earhart, would you like to tell our radio listeners anything else about your trip?
I’m very much looking forward to it.
What I think the public would most like to know, Miss Earhart, is why, why do such a daredevil kind of thing?
Because I want to.  And because I think women should do for themselves the things that men have done, and have not done.”
(pg. 24-25)

“Much later, when I looked back on the flight, it seemed to me that we had been two lost souls in an immense netherworld, traveling toward an arbitrary goal, wondering which of us was more forsaken: the navigator who didn’t care where we were going, or the pilot who didn’t care if we ever got there.We must have both known that we shared something, a secret craving for oblivion. But there is no such thing as oblivion.  Oblivion is a lie.” (pg. 40-41)

“We became voyeurs of the intimate relationship between wind and sand.  We watched the air draw fine lines on the surface of the desert and make wrinkles in the face of the wasteland. We saw a dust storm whip the ground into the air until the world disappeared from sight. Later, in the aftermath of the apocalypse, ominious black eagles appeared out of nowhere, winging around us, like carpetbaggers hoping to benefit from the devastation of a war.” (pg. 46)

“They were both dying ridiculous deaths, she thought, brought about by hubris and liquor. They might as well have been lovers, she thought. They had made all the blunders of a typical couple: he had woken up from the dream too late, and she was too angry to forgive him for his absence. It was tragic, but life was tragic, especially the mysterious entanglements of men and women.” (pg. 59)

“When she thinks of her father now, she sees him at the end of the day.  That’s his time of day, twilight, or just before. The late afternoon, when the sun is setting, when it feels sad and beautiful, like the last day. When the sadness is too unbearable to think about, and this makes you strangely cheerful.” (pg. 95)  (I absolutely love, love, LOVE this quote. I’ve used this several times in posts on this blog and if there’s a way I can ever get the OK to use it in my own novel, I want it to be so.) 

“There is a time known as the between. The between voyager travels through uncharted territory, navigating dangers, attempting passage into the next life. There are times in life, after a death of some kind, when we are open to the slightest shifts, when our powers are acute, when we can change the future. The between voyager temporarily possesses an immensely heightened intelligence, extraordinary powers of concentration, special abilities of clairvoyance and teleportation, flexibility to becomes whatever can be imagined, and the openness to be radically transformed by a thought or a vision or an instruction.” (pg. 138-139)  Bold lines are from Robert A.F. Thurman’s commentary in his translation of The Tibetian Book of the Dead.

I Was Amelia Earhart is Jane Mendelsohn’s debut novel. She has since gone on to write Innocence (which I wasn’t so much a fan of) and American Music (which I absolutely loved). Suffice it to say, she is one of my  favorite authors (and I hope is working on something new.)

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