Friday, April 3, 2020

Help Animals Effected By Pandemic

As I've mentioned before, my husband and I own a zoo in Branson, Missouri, in the heart of the Ozarks. We have lived here full time for almost two years now, and absolutely love our Ozark life, but we need a little help keeping the animals fed while our zoo is closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If don't need any more information and you'd like to make a monetary donation now, you can do it one of two ways:



If you'd like a little more information, here's what's going on ...

Humans are not the only species to be greatly effected by the outbreak of COVID-19. Zoo animals across the United States are also at risk. No, these animals in a large part cannot contract the disease, but they do need daily care, bedding, heat and electricity, medicines, and most importantly food to survive. With most of the country on quarantine, this has now become a serious issue for many smaller, privately owned zoos.

Branson's Wild World is a small zoo and aquarium in the tourist town of Branson, MO. This attraction has been especially hit hard by this pandemic, due to the nature of the town itself. The winter is especially slow for Branson, and most businesses use most or all of their savings to get through the months of January and February. Then in March, spring break helps everyone climb out of debt and function normally. This is true for the zoo, too. However, with the upswing of COVID-19 cases, Branson was mandatorily closed for the month of spring break, and possibly will be for many more months to come. Many businesses can close and conserve money, but not an aquarium and zoo like Branson's Wild World. The tropical animals need heat. Electricity runs filters and pumps for fish and UV bulbs for reptiles. They need water to drink and food to eat. It takes about five full time staff to cover all the vital tasks. Being closed for any amount of time can be devastating.

Due to this outbreak and our desperate need for funds, we are asking for animal lovers to donate whatever you can to help our animal friends. All proceeds of this GoFundMe will go directly to the care of the 400+ species of animals we have in our care. We have applied for SBA disaster relief funding, but everyone says it could take anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks to receive anything. Our goal is to raise money to get thru this waiting process. Our goal is $15,000.

Thank you for considering to help us. Our website is if you would like to see pictures of our wolves, sharks, dingoes, and many other animals your donation will be providing for.

If you'd like to make a monetary donation, you can do it one of two ways. 

One, we have a GoFundMe set up here:

Two, you can donate via PayPal: 

If you'd like to make a food donation, here is the list of food items we feed our animals each week:

Romaine 20 heads
Carrots 10lbs
Cucumber 8lbs
Squash 8lbs
Zucchini 8lbs
Bell peppers 5lbs
Sweet potato 10lbs
Celery 4lbs
Mixed greens 5 lbs
Broccoli 5lbs
Cauliflower 4lbs
Apples 10lbs
Strawberries 4 lbs
Bananas 15lbs
Oranges 10lbs
Blueberry 2 lbs
Grapes 10 lbs
Mangos 7
Kiwi 2 lbs
Pears 5 lbs
Cantaloupe 2
Watermelon 2
Chicken 460lbs
Beef 100 lbs
Fish 50 lbs

Thank you so much, in advance, for your help.


Thursday, April 2, 2020

Notre Dame’s 1988 “Unbeatable” Team

(Caption: Chris Zorich #50, Defensive Tackle for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish blocks Chris Dalman #50 of the Stanford Cardinal during their NCAA Independent college football game on 7 October 1989 at the Stanford Stadium, Stanford, California, United States. Notre Dame won the game 27 - 17. Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Allsport/Getty Images)

For this week’s Throwback Thursday post I thought I’d dust off another book from my Notre Dame book shelf. What book have I picked? Jerry Barca’s “Unbeatable: Notre Dame’s 1988 Championship and the Last Great College Football Season.” Jerry does an incredible job of sharing the magic that happened both on and off the field that year, and includes backgrounds of your favorite players from the 1988 Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football team. I’d like to share a few excerpts from the book this week, focusing on one player, my friend and classmate, Chris Zorich.

(This story originally ran on

Just nine starts into his college career, Chris Zorich had already become a cult figure. High school football players started wearing belly-showing half jerseys to look like Zorro, the beast who played nose tackle for the Fighting Irish. Before the Miami game, a group of Notre Dame students pulled names out of a hat to determine which one would win the privilege of painting his body with Zorich’s number 50.

“I had no idea. I was out there trying to have fun - and really survive,” he said.

Zorich is a sports rarity. In the lionization of athletes, his story is more truth than fable. He went to the same high school as Chicago Bears Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus. He grew up with his mother, Zora, in a one-bedroom apartment in a two-story brownstone on the corner of Eighty-first and Burnham on Chicago’s South Side. Rent was $140 a month. Zora, a diabetic on welfare disability, received $200 a month. She slept on the couch, and Chris slept in the bedroom.

When the money ran out each month, Zora put young Chris on her bike and pedaled to the local supermarket shortly after closing. There she parked next to the Dumpster and lifted Chris over her shoulders into the trash. He picked through what the grocer had thrown out, handing his mother partly rotten meat and produce. Zora would cut away the spoiled parts, and they had their food until the next check came or until they needed to return to the Dumpster.

“She did the best she could, but there were times things were tight,” Zorich said.

Dope fiends, drug dealers, gangs, and prostitutes colored the neighborhood scene. No one went to college. If someone graduated high school, it was a major accomplishment. Zorich never knew his father, but that was never an issue. Most kids in the area didn’t know their dad. There were only about a half-dozen dads in the neighborhood of about sixty families.


He wanted to play football when he entered Chicago Vocational High School as a freshman, but Zora refused to sign the paperwork allowing her boy to participate in the violent sport. In his sophomore year, Chris begged and pleaded with Zora to sign the permission slip. She refused. On the way to school the next day, Chris forged her name.

He lied to his mother, telling her he was getting home late because he was in the school play and participating in other school activities. The ruse fell apart when Zora found his football gear in the apartment.

“You’ve been lying to me, haven’t you?” she asked, confronting Chris. She sat him down on the couch and told him she was doing her best to raise him on her own.

They talked for several hours. Chris told her football taught him discipline and he was around people who set goals. She allowed it, but she didn’t see him play until the last game of his senior year. She was too worried he would get hurt. Chris had the assistant principal and some friends bring her to the game and sit with her in case she got upset witnessing her son on the gridiron.

“Oh my God. You’re good,” she told Chris after the game.


At Notre Dame, Zorich found a utopia. There were tree-encircled lakes, with ducks and squirrels to hand-feed. The dining hall had all-you-can-eat food. Some students complained about it. Not Zorich. He didn’t even share his. People left bicycles unlocked overnight in front of dorms. “And they were still there in the morning,” Zorich said. “Are you kidding me?”

His freshman year, he did not play a down. On the night before home games, he slept in his dorm while other classmates, ones who had a chance to see action, stayed with the team.

He moved from middle linebacker to nose tackle in his first year. Playing on the scout team during a practice leading up to the Michigan State game, he caused havoc for the first-team offense when he put a hand on the ground on the defensive line. After practice, Holtz announced to the team that they had found the next nose tackle.


His weight room sessions were performances. He curled as much as the punter bench-pressed, and he bench-pressed 500 pounds.

While Zorich grunted and maxed out on the bench, Ricky Watters leaned over in his face and mocked his stutter. The next thing everyone saw was Zorich chasing Watters around the weight room until the flanker escaped. Zorich wouldn’t forget. Later, at training table, he might sneak behind an unsuspecting Watters, who had sat down to eat, and clamp a headlock on his tormentor.

Part of Zorich knew it was in jest, but he only knew one way to react. “Where I’m from, when you talk shit, you’ve got to back it up, and that meant fighting,” Zorich said.


If you’d like to read more about Zorich and the rest of the guys on the Unbeatable 1988 team, and everything that went into creating that magical season ... go check out Jerry Barca’s book for yourself! (Once you start it, you won’t want to put it down.)

If you’re not the book reading type, Jerry Barca was also one of the producers of the Hesburgh film, and if you haven’t watched it yet ... what are you waiting for?? You can watch it on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, and if you’ve got Amazon Prime, you can watch it for free!

Have you guys been reading any good books during your time staying at home? Please share with me ... I’m always looking for something good to read.

Cheers & GO IRISH!

Friday, March 27, 2020

Former Notre Dame Linebacker Te’von Coney

(Caption: Sep 8, 2018; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Te’von Coney (4) celebrates after a tackle in the first quarter against the Ball State Cardinals at Notre Dame Stadium. Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports)

Over the past several weeks, Te’von Coney and I have been working on a project together. And while I am not quite ready to debut that just yet, I would love to take this week’s Throwback Thursday post to share Te’von’s journey with you, and fill you in on some of the wonderful things he is doing in his community.

(This story originally ran on

Te’von Coney, born on June 10, 1997, was born and raised in West Palm Beach, Florida. As a young man growing up, Te’von focused his energy on his academics and football, using the tools he learned both on and off the field to carry him through the adversity he faced in his everyday life. His perseverance and hard work paid off, resulting in an outstanding high school career (In his junior season, 2013, Coney helped Palm Beach Gardens reach Florida Class 8A semifinals by recording 172 tackles, six forced fumbles, and two interceptions. During his senior season, 2014, Coney recorded 136 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries, and two interceptions.), and finished as a 2015 Under Armour All-American.

He continued his academic and football career at the University of Notre Dame, where he would graduate with a B.A. in Philosophy, and a minor in Business Economics. Notre Dame was the perfect place for Te’von to shine both on and off the field. On the field, Te’von playing in 12 games as a true freshman in 2015, on special teams and as a reserve linebacker, and registered 13 tackles. During his sophomore season (2016), he played in all 12 regular season games and started in nine. He recorded 62 tackles, including 33 solo stops. In his junior season (2017), he appeared in all 13 games and started in seven. He led the Irish in solo tackles (57), assisted tackles (59), total tackles (116), TFLs (13.5) and ranked second in sacks (3.0). In his senior season (2018), he started all 12 games and led the Irish with 107 total tackles. He registered nine TFLs, 3.5 sacks, five QB hurries, four break-ups, an interception, and a fumble recovery. Te’von was selected as a Midseason All-American by Pro Football Focus (first team), to numerous award watch lists, and at the end of 2018 was named first team All-American by PFF. He rounded out his collegiate career by recording a career-best 17 tackles (top by any player in a bowl game) in the 2018 Citrus Bowl.

Currently, Te’von is on the roster of the Las Vegas Raiders, where he signed as an undrafted free agent following the NFL Draft in 2019. The NFL dream, however, has not been all sunshine and rainbows for Te’von. At the end of August, the Raiders cut Te’von, and he had to return home to West Palm Beach to continue training and pursuing his goals. His hard work did pay off, though, as the Raiders signed him to their practice squad on December 11, 2019.

Te’von’s journey, and the adversity he has faced thus far in his life, has created a burning desire in him to do something to give back. While pursuing his dream of playing in the NFL is important to him, making an impact in his community through inspiring hope and opening doors of opportunity for the youth in his community who struggle just like he did is driving his purpose off the field.

Tough Choices
In 2020, Coney launched Tough Choices. The objective of Tough Choices is to educate, inspire, and mentor the youth in communities that are in dire need of additional, equitable support. “We maintain that it is essential to be able to connect and build with the youth on platforms with components they can identify with.” Tough Choices is not a brand, but a movement crafted to encourage change, reform education, and spark growth.

To kick things off, Te’von has created an apparel line to help fund and promote his cause. His next steps are to create a mentorship program (once we’re done social distancing, of course), that will provide resources and guidance for the youth in his community (and beyond eventually) to help them pursue their dreams, whatever they may be.

In February of this year, Te’von participated in the NFL Players Association Externship program, in which he visited the United Way Worldwide headquarters in Alexandria, Va.

“My experience with the United Way was very important to me as a young professional. I learned how to start a foundation, how to build it from the ground up, and how to make it sustainable so that it will be around long after I am gone. I want to be sure that my foundation will continue changing lives. Working with the United Way gave me unbelievable insight on how I can take the ideas I currently have and make them even better. We also had the chance to go into some schools in the communities surrounding Washington, D.C., where we learned the struggles they are facing. They shared with us the common problems that teenagers are dealing with, and showed us how things can vary across the country in different environments. I learned so much from the schools we visited, and it increased my knowledge of things that I can do to make a positive impact to support the youth in my own community.”

“The entire externship was invaluable to me, and has given me knowledge that I will use throughout my journey. They shared information with me about my own city, which will help me support my community better. For example, they shared with me the hunger statistics within my community. They also shared with me how great the need is for mentoring, and how beneficial mentoring is to keep kids focused and provide them with the guidance and knowledge that they need to not only make good decisions, but to do great things. I want to be able to show the youth in my community all of the opportunities that are available to them.”

“When I returned to Florida, I also visited FAU with the United Way, and saw yet another way I can make a difference within my community. College students also need mentoring, especially first generation college students. These students often need help in order to be successful in college while dealing with possible family struggles at home. These kids want to be in school, but often times it is hard for them to stay there without some outside help. In addition to this, I want to educate the high school kids in my community and make sure they are prepared before they make decisions about their future. College is the right choice for many kids, but there are more options than just college, such as trade schools, which can lead to successful futures.”

“I am truly grateful for the opportunity to work with the United Way. They have been in the non-profit industry for over 100 year, and having access to that type of knowledge is truly priceless and I’m incredibly thankful for their help.”

I love keeping in touch with former Notre Dame Fighting Irish student-athletes, and sharing all of the wonderful things they are doing in their communities; Te’von is no exception. If you would like to collaborate with Te’von in moving his mission forward, he is currently looking to create partnerships with like-minded people and brands. If we as a community work together, we can reach so many more young adults and help them chase their dreams and reach their potential. If you would like to learn more about helping Te’von with his mission, you can reach out to him here.

Cheers & GO IRISH!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Notre Dame Football and the 1918 Spanish Influenza

(Caption: University of Notre Dame’s football team, 1918. Back row: Coach Knute Rockne, Charles Crowley, Early “Curly” Lambeau, George Gipp, Raleigh Stine, Frederic Larson. Middle row: Eddie Anderson, Maurice “Clipper” Smith, Captain Pete Bahan, Bernard Kirk, Heartley “Hunk” Anderson. Front row: Frank Lockard, Norman Barry, William Mohn. University of Notre Dame Archive)

Since we can no longer look forward to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish’s spring game due to its cancellation as a result of the current coronavirus pandemic, I’ve been spending my time rereading some of the Notre Dame books on my shelves. I remembered that in Jim Lefebvre’s, “Coach For a Nation: The Life and Times of Knute Rockne,” he wrote about the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, and so I thought I’d pull that book off the shelf this week and write a bit about the 1918 Notre Dame football season.

(This story originally ran on

Although the pandemic of 1918 came to be known as the Spanish influenza, the epidemic probably didn’t originate in Spain. Spain was neutral during World War I, which meant there were no wartime press restrictions in that country. As a result of this, some of the first published reports of the epidemic were printed in Spanish newspapers, which lead people to believe that the disease started there.

The Spanish flu spread across the world during the final months of World War I, but the worst part of the pandemic in South Bend occurred in October of 1918, with the first reported case occurring in September of 1918.

On October 11, 1918, Dr. Emil G. Freyermuth, the South Bend city health officer, issued a city-wide order forbidding all public gatherings until further notice. All schools, theaters, clubs, churches and other religions institutions were closed. Public funerals, meetings dances, and other events were cancelled. Even the University of Notre Dame cancelled several of their football games that month. The city street cars in South Bend remained running and restaurants weren’t required to close. The street cars were ordered to operate with all windows open, with the hope that it would prevent the flu’s spread.

“The same Thursday that Dr. Freyermuth announced the closing of public buildings, Rockne released a revised football schedule that met the latest government requirements, which stated that no college teams could make any trips during October, and they could make no more than two trips in November. The Irish would host military teams from Municipal Pier, October 19; Camp Custer, October 26; and Great Lakes, November 9. The Michigan Aggies would visit Cartier Field November 16, and away games were to be at Nebraska November 2 and Purdue November 23.” (Excerpt from Jim Lefebvre’s, “Coach For a Nation: The Life and Times of Knute Rockne.”)

Even though the pandemic was starting to flatten by the end of October, many people were still uneasy. Nebraska backed out of their scheduled game on November 2, however, Rockne filled that spot with Wabash College, and took his team to Crawfordsville, Indiana, to get things moving back to normal. Notre Dame’s football team only ended up playing one home game that fall, on November 9th, tying Great Lakes NTS, 7-7. On November 16th, they lost to the Michigan Aggies (now Michigan State University), 13-7. The Purdue game, which was originally scheduled for October 19th, was played on November 23rd, and was won by Notre Dame, 26-6. The season was finished on November 28th, when the Nebraska game was rescheduled, a game that ended in a scoreless tie. The Fighting Irish 1918 season record was 3-1-2 in Knute Rockne’s first season as Notre Dame’s head coach.

Below is another excerpt from Jim Lefebvre’s, “Coach For a Nation: The Life and Times of Knute Rockne.”

“Before the epidemic slowed, more than 200 Notre Dame students would be afflicted; classes were canceled for days and at least nine students died. So serious was the epidemic at Notre Dame that Cavanaugh described its impact on the campus in a letter to a friend 10 months later as ‘the death of all human joy.’ Quarantines were imposed to prevent the spread of the disease. As the bodies mounted, funerals were held outdoors to protect the mourners against the spread of the disease. The Great War claimed an estimated 16 million lives. The global influenza epidemic that began in 1918 killed an estimated 50 million people, approximately 650,000 in the United States.”

“On campus, tamping down reports of influenza became a major endeavor. Father Cavanaugh took to the pages of the Scholastic with a letter to ‘check any wild rumors about sickness at the University.’ In it he said the deaths of two students at St. Joseph’s Hospital on October 22 were not related to the illness of the 50 listed as sick on campus, whether those 50 were in the Infirmary, the Minims (grammar school, under the age of 12), or at the SATC (Student Army Training Corps) Hospital: ‘At the present time there are just three very sick boys ... we have had very little evidence of the presence of the so-called Spanish Influenza. This may be due to the fact that the Notre Dame boy, as a rule, is in exceptionally good shape physically ... We have had four deaths this year out of a population of 1500 students. One was little ‘Bobbie’ Corrigan. He was constitutionally weak and all of us knew he would never get through his youth. The others were Lester Burrill, William Conway and George Guilfoyle. Guilfoyle and Conroy died this morning. They have been fighting a battle with pneumonia all week. I make this statement so as to prevent ignorance and malicious people from frightening the public needlessly and also, to clip the wings of the sensation mongers.’”

If you have not read Lefebvre’s, “Coach For a Nation: The Life and Times of Knute Rockne,” I highly recommend it. It is the most comprehensive research on Knute Rockne’s life that I have ever seen, and it is a very enjoyable read!

Cheers & GO IRISH!

Friday, June 14, 2019


I like words ... but I also like numbers. I have a few favorite ones ... 3, 10, 11, 26, 29 ... and I'm the person who sees these numbers, or combinations of them, everywhere I go.

Three, however, seems to be my magic number. Between working full time, raising kids, keeping the house together, and covering Notre Dame football, it takes me about three years to write a book. Is that too slow? Just right? I don't know. But that's how it seems to work for me.

I feel a giant sigh of relief that it's out the door ... and that I'll have books in my hands shortly. I've heard someone explain that writing a book is like having a child, and I have to agree with that. I've poured my heart and soul into this project, and created something that I'm proud of. I hope you all enjoy it , too. 

Cheers & GO IRISH!

Monday, September 24, 2018

What I Wish I Knew When I Was a Freshman

This year has been consumed by the move of 2018. Over the last six months I have spent a great majority of my life packing, purging, moving, and now unpacking and purging again. I would not wish this on my worst enemy. Seriously, moving stinks. But, occasionally I have stumbled across a gem or two that is worth sharing, and this is one of them. 

I found a printout of "what I wish I knew when I was a freshmen." I have no idea where this came from, or who sent it to me, but I can tell it was printed on 9/4/2001. If you know where this originated from, please let me know so that I can give them credit for it; because it's pretty darn amazing. So, here it is! Oh, and if you're going to the ND vs. Stanford game this Saturday, pack your GREEN! 

What I wish I knew when I was a freshmen at Notre Dame ...

  • A National Championship in football was not included in my tuition payment.
  • A National Championship in football was also not included in my room and board.
  • Access to the University of Notre Dame library was included in my tuition payment.
  • Bookstore Basketball is the biggest event of the spring semester, bar none.
  • Four years could seem like four months.
  • The "Notre Dame Connection" we hear so much about in the job world works for graduates from outside of the College of Business, as well. It just takes longer.
  • Every freshmen deserves a chance to start fresh, no matter what people thought of them in high school.
  • In The Observer, the appearance of 53 instances of misspelling or poor grammar in a single issue results in the editor-in-chief remarking, "Hey gang, nice job today!"
  • No matter how bad it looks outside, Club 23's juke box makes it one of the coolest bars in South Bend.
  • I'll never be in this place, with so many talented, good people, again in my life. Ever.
  • That kid down the hall that I didn't talk to freshman year could end up being a life-long friend.
  • Members of the opposite sex like you for reasons you can't quite comprehend. And you never get why they hate you, either. 
  • US Military Prisons have barracks with better facilities than Campus View Apartments.
  • You don't have to get hammered and hook-up to have a good time at an SYR.
  • I shouldn't have turned down that hot chick who asked me out because I was too lazy to walk to Pangborn from North Quad to pick her up.
  • Giggling in class every time someone says "depends," "moist," or "member" is not a good idea.
  • There are some members of the administration who listen to and are excited by great ideas from students, and who do all they can to help them implement those ideas.
  • Taking the chance to study abroad could change your life.
  • Some of the coolest, hippest, most interesting music available today is found on WVFI, not on 92.9 FM, South Bend.
  • With just a little ingenuity, open-mindedness, and creativity, there are some great date restaurants in South Bend.
  • The conversations one has late night with one's roommates and friends are a large part of what matters to you down the line. They build friendships, they help you learn, and they're a great place to share ideas. Note: If all you and your friends talk about late night is what might have happened with Led Zeppelin if John Bonham hadn't died, find new friends. 
  • Feeling a little homesick is natural.
  • There are many things more important than grades.
  • There are many things more important than getting hammered.
  • The guys down the hall who appear to know everything sometimes know almost nothing that matters.
  • Skipping class to play video games is rarely a good idea.
  • Skipping class to toss a baseball around on the first nice day of spring is often a good idea.
  • Going to church, even though my parents aren't making me anymore, is a good idea most of the time.
I hope you enjoyed that little blast from the past. And now, back to unpacking I go! 

Cheers & GO IRISH! 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Love Thee Notre Dame

It’s not a Notre Dame working weekend for me, and while I will miss not seeing the game in person, I am secretly thrilled to be home on a weekend for the first time in four weeks. I’m still not comfortable being in the press box, or on the sidelines, but I’m working on it. Every week, every time I work a game, I’m working on it.

Maybe, someday, I’ll be happy with how I’m doing, but I’m just not there yet. And no, I may not be a “real journalist,” or a football “expert,” but I’m learning, and growing, and soaking up as much information as I possibly can. My opinions and beliefs may not be perfect, or even right, but they are mine, and they’re all that I’ve got. I do this because I love it, and it’s a passion of mine, but I’m not sure that I’m good at it yet, or ever will be.

I hope you enjoy my writing, and my coverage of Notre Dame football, and I hope I’m not a disappointment to the “real writers” out there. And, while I’ve got you here, I’d just like to say thank you. Thank you for following me and supporting me on this journey. Love thee Notre Dame.

Cheers & GO IRISH!