Tag Archives: Unemployment

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.

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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.

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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 –

– to keep going.


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breaking news of the bookish kind

outside the Carnegie Museums
Pittsburgh, PA
taken by me, September 2012

I’ve been given the green light to break some news in this space here – but first, some background of sorts.

Pittsburgh is the kind of big small town where people are, for the most part, very approachable. Maybe it’s our proximity to the Midwest, maybe it’s something that hearkens back to this city’s gritty steel past, but there is something ingrained in this town that makes folks naturally inclined to be helpful, to give someone new a chance.

(I happen to think it’s all that, plus a symbolic byproduct of being surrounded by all these bridges.)

As a transplant here, I’ve had a bit of a tough go of it, professionally-speaking. Unemployment and a now almost year-long job-hunt has changed me completely, permanently. Reinventing oneself sounds easy on paper; in reality, it’s damn harder than I ever imagined.

Fortunately, when someone in Pittsburgh knocks you down, three more usually extend a hand or an opportunity to help you back up.

On Tuesday, I happened to be in the right place (Twitter) at the right time (in the morning) when I spotted a tweet from Tony Norman, columnist and associate editor (and now, books editor) for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. We had met in October at Podcamp Pittsburgh through my friend Sue Kerr. Unbelievably, Tony had heard of my very blog.

So I emailed on Tuesday, then I found myself with Tony today talking books, and local politics, and about my 11 year old son’s ambitions to be Pittsburgh’s next mayor (hey, we sort of have precedent in such matters), and (who the hell knew?) our shared native hometown of Philly.

The result of all that?

I’m now among the Post-Gazette’s freelance book reviewers. I’ll be reviewing literary fiction and my first review should be within the next month or so.

I know, right? Needless to say, I’m beyond thrilled. Sure, it’s a nice notch in this writer/editor/blogger/consultant/whatever else comes along life of mine, but know this: not only does the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette give ink to books (a rarity among metropolitan newspapers) but Tony also seems committed to local writers. His weekly books column includes local books (including self-published works) that have been published in the past year. Yes, you read that right, folks.

I’ll say it again, for it bears repeating: a major metropolitan newspaper whose book editor gives print time to all books, the big bestsellers and your neighbor’s e-book alike.

Because that’s how we do things here in the ‘Burgh.


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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 Elance.com, at indeed.com, 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 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.

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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 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.

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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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