Tuesday, July 7, 2020

July Resolutions

I like most people write my New Year's Resolutions in January, break them within about 30 days, and after that never look back at them.

I decided to bust them out over the weekend. I read them and didn't just laugh, but laughed hysterically.

Yep, I threw them out and started over.

I know this year has been an extreme year, but the goals I wrote in January were written in a different time. (It's crazy how MUCH things have changed in six short months.) We're in a new normal now. (Good grief I hate that phrase.) It's time for a do over.

Here are my redirected goals:

1. Walk every day. Whether it is for 5 minutes or 50.

2. Network daily. Invest in your career by investing in others.

3. Encourage 1 person a day. Reach out and say, "I see you."

4. Spend 2 hours a week learning. (I read A LOT.) Foster your curiosity. 

5. Be more aware of others. Put yourself in their shoes. Think from their perspective. What could you be doing better as a leader, teammate, partner, aunt, cousin, spouse, etc. 

Sometimes you need to regroup, redirect, and try again. 


What are your plans for the second half of 2020?


Why Aren't We Confident?

I received this fantastic email today from Team EBY ... and I'd love to share it with you, in case you missed it.

Credit: Apartment Therapy

Be a lady, they said. 

...Don’t talk too loud. Don’t talk too much. Don’t take up space. Don’t sit like that. Don’t stand like that. Don’t be intimidating. Why are you so miserable? Don’t be a bitch. Don’t be so bossy. Don’t be assertive. Don’t overact. Don’t be so emotional. Don’t cry. Don’t yell. Don’t swear. Be passive. Be obedient. Endure the pain. 

- Camille Rainville, “Be a Lady, They Said”

Did you know? One in three girls with a grade point average above 4.0 do not think they are smart enough for their dream career.

Read that again. That’s every third peer, sister, daughter, or friend you know. Let it dawn on you, the realization that these smart, capable women face an epidemic no matter how deserving they truly are.

Why aren’t we confident? Why can’t we seem to escape these assaults to our self-esteem? Why do we never feel smart enough? Pretty enough? Strong enough? Good enough?

It's simple. From the time we were young until now we've been told to be something other than who we are, had expectations placed on us from society's norms, and told we need validation from others to feel confident in who we are.

No longer.

We are not asking for permission to be ourselves, we are demanding that our whole selves be accepted. We are powerful just as we are but we must now figure out how to let the rest of the world in on that secret.


Power Tip 1: Take up as much space as you want

Power Tip 2: Talk as loud as you want

Power Tip 3: Yell. Swear. Cry. Emotion is powerful


Stop listening to who the world says you are 'supposed to be' and just be. Hell yeah, it feels vulnerable and scary to put yourself out there, but it's the path one must take to step fully into your most powerful and confident self. The world is waiting.

Want to read more? Check out their blog HERE.

I'm not sure if you needed to hear this today, but I sure did.


Monday, June 22, 2020

Change is Hard

(Photo: Pedro Lastra/Getty Images)

The word change normally refers to new beginnings. But transformation, the mystery we’re examining, more often happens not when something new begins, but when something old falls apart. The pain of something old falling apart—chaos—invites the soul to listen at a deeper level. It invites, and sometimes forces, the soul to go to a new place because the old place is falling apart. Most of us would never go to new places in any other way. The mystics use many words to describe this chaos: fire, dark night, death, emptiness, abandonment, trial, the Evil One. Whatever it is, it does not feel good and it does not feel like God. We will do anything to keep the old thing from falling apart. 

This is when we need patience and guidance, and the freedom to let go instead of tightening our controls and certitudes. Perhaps Jesus is describing just this phenomenon when he says, “It is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13–14). Not accidentally, he mentions this narrow road right after teaching the Golden Rule. He knows how much letting go it takes to “treat others as you would like them to treat you” (7:12). So, a change can force a transformation. Spiritual transformation always includes a usually disconcerting reorientation. It can either help people to find a new meaning or it can force people to close down and slowly turn bitter. The difference is determined precisely by the quality of our inner life, our spirituality.

—from The Wisdom Pattern: Order, Disorder, Reorder by Richard Rohr, OFM

Sunday, June 21, 2020

You are Worth More than Many Sparrows

(Image from the www.deccanherald.com)
A dear friend of mine shared this beautiful reflection her father wrote and I'd love to share it with you all on this Father's Day 2020. I hope you all have had a wonderful Sunday. And without further ado ...

“…You are Worth More than Many Sparrows.” by Brian Conroy

My father, an Englishman, would call whomever was the youngest among his brood of grandchildren “My little Sparrow.”  It was a sweet and gentle term of endearment.  To hear it coming from a strong, manly carpenter, as my dad was, made it even more endearing.  He loved his little ones and doted on them unabashedly.

Externally, his life was governed by his sense of duty, order, simplicity, and righteousness, but his heart was wild with love.  He loved his wife with a relentless devotion.  He loved his God the same way.  Each morning, as he prepared for work before the rest of the household awoke, he could be found on his knees – literally – in prayer at the beginning of the day.  A Catholic gentleman in every respect.

I was privileged to have been present at his death after his long encounter with cancer.  He died in such holy peace I was left with the most profound experience of my life.  I became witness to the arc of a life well lived.  A life  balanced between duty and love, between work and the arts.  He was very much as I imagine Saint Joseph to have been – a “righteous man, a working man.”  Tradition holds that Jesus and his mother Mary were present at Joseph’s death.  I am convinced they were there with my father too “…now, and at the hour of his death.”

Here at the Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time we are past the Glory of Easter, the Pentecost that concluded it and the beautiful Solemnities of Trinity Sunday and Corpus Christi that followed.  Here we are now in Ordinary Time, living ordinary lives in extraordinary circumstances: a perplexing, frightening pandemic, intense but necessary social disruption.  It is a time when as Jeremiah says today, “I hear the whisperings of many: ‘Terror on every side.’”

While our days are difficult and many a reckoning is at hand, each and every human being, as daughter or son of God, is assured that he or she should “Fear no one.” The Father knows us, knows our needs; every sparrow falling is held in the gaze and love of God.  “Are you not worth more than many sparrows?” Jesus asks.  And we hear Saint Paul today assuring us of this truth, that Jesus Christ, the love of God made visible, is the gracious gift of God that “overflows” for us. 

The image of falling sparrows in today’s reading reminded me of my own dad and the witness to love and mercy he gave me.  What does that image say about the Heavenly Father we encounter in the Gospel today – God as a severe judge, or God as loving and merciful Father, wild with love for his children?  – If that is the case, how can we in turn treat those around us any other way?  How can we fail to love our fellow human beings the way God loves them; the way the Father knows and loves us?  “Even all the hairs of your head are counted.”

We who are fathers ourselves model for our children who and what God is.  We teach them by who and what we are and what we do; it’s quite a responsibility to live up to.  For me to model the love of God the way my own dad did - this takes grace and mercy itself.

In my mind’s eye, I can still see my father with a little one on his lap and hear him say in his South-of- England accent, “How’s Grandpa’s little sparrow then?”

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:

GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/f/wild-world-animal-care-fund

PayPal: PayPal.me/BransonsWildWorld

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 www.bransonswildworld.com 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: https://www.gofundme.com/f/wild-world-animal-care-fund

Two, you can donate via PayPal: PayPal.me/BransonsWildWorld 

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 OneFootDown.com)

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 OneFootDown.com)

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!