Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Moses the Lion

Today I am going to introduce you to my next favorite animal at the zoo, (no, I really don't  have any favorites, I love them all equally!), Moses the lion.

Moses is a new addition to our zoo, coming to us this summer from a zoo in Oklahoma. He is an incredibly handsome, twelve year old, male lion; and he knows that he is handsome. When I walk down to where his enclosure is, he always stretches, and then saunters over to where I am and poses ... just to make sure that I can get a good look at him and his magnificent mane. 

He, like Tati the Tiger, has been very vocal lately. I'm not sure if he's trying to get the attention of Tati, or the female lion, Raina. Either way, he's been very vocal in trying to display his male prowess. I love falling asleep, and waking up in the morning, to the sound of the lions and tigers talking amongst themselves. It has been one of the coolest things about living on property here at the zoo. 

Here's Moses! 

(You can visit Moses yourself at Wild Valley Animal Park! Coming soon ... personal tours of the park. For more info visit: http://wildvalleybranson.com/)








Monday, August 20, 2018

We Survived!

On Friday of last week, I anxiously wrote about how endless "Preference Day" felt, and that Bid Day couldn't arrive soon enough; and then it did! My daughter called me at 1:30am on Saturday morning to let me know that Preference Day (Pref Day) had finally concluded. She explained to me that she had got invited to Pref Day parties by the two houses that she had listed as her #1 and #2, and that she thought things had gone well. At the end of the Pref Day parties, they once more submitted their final list, ranking the two houses, and then had a long night of nervous waiting ahead of them until the the 10:30 am countdown to the opening of the "bids."

I arrived at the University of Arkansas at 9:30 am, a full hour before the envelopes would be opened. The Greek Amphitheater was already quite full, with the "Potential New Members" (PNMs) front and center, all of the current sorority members sitting in their sections behind the PNMs, and then all of the families standing on the grass behind the seats. The music was blaring, there were balloons everywhere, the different houses were doing their cheers; it was all pretty overwhelming as I walked in and found a place to stand. I was only a few feet onto the grass when the tears started falling. Thank goodness I had my sunglasses on, and why in the world did I think it was a good idea to wear makeup? Not only was I crying, but it was a million degrees and I was sweating it all off anyways. So much for photo opportunities later.  

The festivities started officially at 10:00 am. They thanked everyone and their brother who had helped out with the week's events. One-by-one, each sorority house did their signature cheer. Then the Gamma Chi's (or counselors), who have to disassociate themselves from their houses for the week, unveil which house they belong to, which was really cool. And then at 10:30 am they counted down from 10, a cannon of confetti sprayed the crowd with tiny bits of shiny, colored paper, and the girls opened their bids. Talk about pure joy. The screams, laughter, tears of joy, jumping up and down, hugging ... every range of emotion displayed once the envelopes were opened, and then they all ran to their houses. 

With so many people crammed into the amphitheater, of course my phone had no signal. I started walking towards the street that all of the sorority houses were on, not really knowing where I was going because I could not get a hold of my daughter, but then she finally texted me back ... "PHI MU!! MEET US AT THE HOUSE!" It was such an incredible scene. Girls reuniting with their families, introducing their parents to their fellow recruits and new sisters. Lots of photo taking. So much excitement. Then, after they did the big group photos, they took all of the new pledges into the house and did a ribbon pinning ceremony, which kicks of the 10 week pledging process the girls are about to embark upon. 

Let me talk about this house for a second ... it is absolutely stunning. The house she is pledging, Phi Mu, is one of the two sororities at the University of Arkansas which just got brand new houses, and let me tell you; it's incredible. I almost didn't want to touch anything, it's just that gorgeous. After we had a snack, and explored the house a bit, we went with one of her friends and her family to get some lunch, and then before I knew it, it was 4:30 pm and time for me to go home. 

And so, in one day I said goodbye to both of my children. I had already hugged my oldest goodbye earlier that morning as he headed back to college, and then I hugged her goodbye and wished her good luck for her first week of classes. How on earth can I be an empty nester already?? Didn't they just start grade school YESTERDAY?? 

All I can say is that Bid Day was an incredible day, and was not only everything I dreamed it would be, but more. It exceeded every single expectation I had of the day; completely. 

Here are a few photos from her glorious Phi Mu bid day. Let the collegiate adventures begin! 










Cheers!

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Book Review: The Pluck of the Irish

With just over two weeks until the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame’s home opener against the University of Michigan, I’m looking for anything and everything Notre Dame that I can get my hands on. In my search to ingest all things Notre Dame, I found this wonderful new book, “The Pluck of the Irish: 10 Notre Dame Sports Figures Who Made a Difference.” This inspirational anthology tells the stories of 10 individuals (not all athletes) who were influenced by Notre Dame and went on to make a difference. 

(This book review was first published on OneFootDown)

The book, written by Jim Hayden (a Notre Dame graduate himself), is a fun and enjoyable read for anyone who wants to understand the positive impact that an institution like Notre Dame can have during a crucial, formative period of their lives. Also, it shows how students, staff and administrators can have a profound impact on the University they attend. 

The Pluck of the Irish opens with a tribute to Harry Ornest, whose family’s contributions made this book possible. Ornest is best remembered as the owner who rescued the St. Louis Blues (of the National Hockey League) in the 1980’s, and who had a lifetime of success in managing teams and enjoying sports of all kinds. Once Harry realized at age 22 that he wasn’t good enough to play baseball professionally, he made sure he wasn’t far away from the game. He taught his children the value of hard work, had a good sense of humor, and loved to laugh, even at himself. In the foreword, written by Laura Ornest (Harry’s daughter), she hopes “these stories of notable Notre Dame sports figures inspire you as much as our dad inspired us.” 

The book includes stories about Father Theodore Hesburgh: Shaping History, Johnny Lujack: Hard Times Forged a Legend, Haley Scott DeMaria: First, You Survive, Red Smith: The Elegant Explainer, Muffet McGraw: Hard Lesson on the Hardwood, Geoge Blaha: The Voice in the Wind, Pete Duranko: The Impact Player, George Dohrmann: To Tell the Truth, Tommy Hawkins: The Agent of Change, Rocky Bleier: Down, But Never Out, and concludes with some Fighting Irish Fun Facts and Tales. 

Which chapter did I enjoy the most? That’s a tough question, as I have enjoyed them all. Even though I have heard Haley Scott DeMaria’s story many times, and was a student at Notre Dame when it all happened, I always find myself so inspired each time I read it. Of course, Father Hesburgh’s chapter is uplifting, and even contained a story about Father Hesburgh that I’ve never heard before. And I very much enjoyed Johnny Lujack’s story. I am always blown away by the stories of the athletes from the 1940’s who made it a priority to balance going to college along with serving their country and fighting in WWII. They are our true heroes. 

I don’t want to tell you too much about the book or you won’t go get it yourself! Please, do yourself a favor and check it out ... Pluck of the Irish: 10 Notre Dame Sports Figures Who Made a Difference. It is available in both print and ebook versions, on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Do you have any specific questions about the book? Leave them for me in the comments section!

Cheers & GO IRISH!

Friday, August 17, 2018

Letters From Mom

My daughter has been participating in Sorority Recruitment this week, and today is "Preference Day" ... which basically means that I am a nervous wreck. When I talked to her last night she seemed WAY more calm than I feel, so kudos to her for truly trusting the process and keeping herself together. 

Tomorrow is Sorority Bid Day, when they find out whether or not they have an offer to join a Sorority. This whole process has been very interesting for a mom who went to a school (Notre Dame) that did not (and still does not) have Greek life. I hope my daughter has enjoyed the week, but from the mom aspect, it's been a pretty stressful week, especially seeing as we still haven't found a home to live in here in Branson, but that is neither here nor there. 

Seeing as I shared my first letter from my dad earlier in the week, I thought I'd share my first letter to my daughter today. I am counting down the hours until I find out whether or not she gets a bid, and tomorrow I will head down to Arkansas to hopefully celebrate with her (fingers crossed)! I am thrilled as she heads down her collegiate journey, and can't wait to see how her path unfolds. Here you go ... hope you enjoy it!








_________________________
August 7, 2018

Letters from Mom - #1

Hi Cate!

By the time you open this letter, you will have made it through the first two days of Sorority Recruitment. You will probably have also gone through the first round of cuts, and even though you knew they were coming, I know they are still not easy. I’m also sure that you’ve heard them tell you to “trust the process” more times than you can count, but I am going to say it one more time, trust the process. They have been recruiting girls to become members of sororities since 1851 (here’s a little sorority fun fact: the first sorority was Alpha Delta Pi, and it was founded on May 15, 1851, in Macon, Georgia), and the “process” truly does work or they wouldn’t be using it all of these years later! You have everything within you to get you through this. You are strong, smart, beautiful, funny, caring, and generous; and whichever house you land in will be lucky to have you. Remember, every sorority house at Arkansas is great. They all having amazing girls, functions, intramural sports, sisterhoods, and soon you will call one of them home.

Don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s journey. Every girl is going to go through recruitment on her own path, and every girl will get to her number one choice differently, and that is okay. Bid day will be amazing for each and every one of you, no matter how you got there. Also know you will be so much stronger as a result of going through the recruitment process, and you will see a resilience in yourself that you may have never seen before. You are about to embark upon a new journey, not just academically at college, but with your sisters as well, that you will remember and treasure for the rest of your life.

I am so proud of you. Proud of everything you have done up to this point, and proud of everything that you will do in the next four years. Just like the good witch Glinda told Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, “You’ve always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.” I can’t wait to see all of the things that you will learn and experience over the next four years. My four years at Notre Dame were truly some of the best years of my life. They molded and shaped me into the woman I am today, equipped me with skills that I use every day, both professional and personally; and the friends I made there are probably the closest friends I have to this day, even though we live far apart and only see each other a few times a year.

I love you, my dear! Enjoy every moment of this, and call home!! J

Here’s a little “Note to Self” for recruitment week:

-          Your feelings ARE valid
-          You ARE allowed to enforce your boundaries
-          You DO NOT need anyone else’s approval
-          You ARE capable of amazing things
-          You ARE enough

I love you! Next letter … next week!

Love you,
Mom

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Tati the Tiger

Now that I have relocated down to the Branson area where our two zoos are located, I am going to start introducing you to some of our animals. Today I'm going to introduce you to one of our tigers, Tatiana, or Tati for short. 

We've had Tati since she was a small cub, and she really loves my son as he was with her during her formative years. Last night he was running the length of two sides of her enclosure, and she was running right along with him. It's pretty cool to see which humans they attach themselves to. She is a beautiful, playful creature, and has a wonderful personality and temperament. 

She and the other cats that we have on premise have been pretty vocal since I've been here, and most mornings I wake up to tigers and lions roaring, which is pretty fantastic I must say. And, without further ado ... here's Tati!

(You can visit Tati yourself at Wild Valley Animal Park! Coming soon ... personal tours of the park. For more info visit: http://wildvalleybranson.com/)
















Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Letters From Dad

Yesterday's morning walk to see all of the yawning animals was pretty fantastic, I must say, but today I woke up to the sound of pouring down rain hitting the roof of the zoo building (dome) that we are currently staying in; so, no morning walk. Today I'm going to write a little bit about sending our baby off to college.


Dad and I at a college football game circa 2007-ish
When I went to Notre Dame back in 1989, we lived in Simi Valley, Calif., a "suburb" of Los Angeles in Ventura County. I hadn't seen Notre Dame since I was nine years old, so I headed off to South Bend, Ind., to attend Notre Dame on the blind faith that if my dad had liked it, I would like it, too. Seeing as I was so far from home, and long distance phone calls were expensive in 1989, my dad got into the habit of writing me a letter every week. Each one was dated and numbered, and each one was filled with dad  words of wisdom to help me cope with the rigors of Notre Dame and the homesickness that accompanied being so far away from home. 

As we got closer and closer to taking my daughter to college last week, I decided to write her a letter as well. I hope she enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed the letters from my dad And then, as I was packing boxes for the move, and going through stuff in the basement, I came across a box labeled: "letters from dad," and sure enough there they all were in their numbered glory.

Today I'm going to share with you the first letter my dad sent to me at Notre Dame. Dad wisdom ... straight ahead! 

Cheers!







_________________________

September 7, 1989

Letters from Dad - #1

Hi Lisa !!!!!

Yesterday was the first day of school in Simi Valley and as usual the temperature broke 100 degrees. Hot stuff, huh?! Well at least at night the temperature drops into the mid 50's so we can get some decent sleep. We don't have air-conditioning like some other people I know.

By now I'm sure you are really getting into your courses, sizing up your professors, realizing how hard the work is at the college level, and wondering what you got yourself into. To be sure, you're not alone, if that's any consolation. I remember my first nights at Notre Dame, lying awake wondering if I was going to make the grade, worrying about my first tests, and trying to adjust to living away from home. But a funny thing happened after a few weeks. After a while it seems like you've lived there all your life, you become comfortable and secure in your surroundings, and life becomes a little more bearable each day as you struggle to stay up with your studies. And believe me, everybody who is studying Engineering or Science will be struggling, that's just par for the courses. But remember, it's a long semester, it will be full of ups and downs (I failed my fair share of tests), you just have to keep picking yourself up and marching forward. 

Don't forget to take a break once in a while, the old "all work and no play" thing. I think that's why they make you take the type of physical education they require during the freshman year. It not only introduces you to the recreational facilities at the University, but forces you to do something physical and get away for a little while from the strenuous mental efforts you will have to make to succeed. 

Well so much for fatherly philosophy. I haven't started reading the "Killer Angels" yet, I'm in the middle of reading three other books right now, but it certainly looks like you're going to learn in great detail about the battle of Gettysburg. There is a computer simulation of this battle that I intend to buy, and what's interesting is that you can command either side yourself or you can assign different Southern Generals to see if one of them might have done better than Robert E. Lee. I'll let you know if I find one.

I'm going to install an updated version of Kindwords this weekend. It has automatic hyphenation and a thesaurus which can check 40,000 word and provide 470,000 synonyms. Not too bad for a little home computer. 

Keep the Faith kid and get enough rest for those weary brain cells. Next letter, next week. 

Love you,

Dad

xoxo


Monday, August 13, 2018

My New Neighbors

This year has brought a lot of changes to my family. We sent our baby to college last week, along with relocating the family from big city living in St. Louis, to small town living just outside of Branson. Did I mention that the little town we're settling in has a population of 408? Soon to be 410. What in the world have we done! 

I am blessed, though, that my employer has allowed me to work remotely from Branson part of the month, and from St. Louis part of the month. This is so great for me because it allows me to be with my husband more of the month, but yet still allows me to be back in St. Louis to get some face time at work, and to visit with family and friends. Pretty much the perfect balance in my eyes.

This morning was my first "work remotely" day, and as I sit here eating my lunch, I thought I'd share with you photos of my morning walk. It seems as if I should have made a bigger pot of coffee and shared it with my new neighbors. 

Here's Tatiana, trying to wake up.

My what big teeth you have, Tati

Raina, our female lion at Wild Adventure Animal Park, getting in on the yawn action.

And here's Moses, Mr. Vocal, who woke me up this morning with his roaring.
Hope you're having a great Monday!

Cheers!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Turning the Page

Ever since I wrote my last post back in March (yep, my last post was back in March), I have been anticipating the new chapter that I was about to embark upon, and now it's here.


The house in St. Louis is sold, all of our belongings have been transported (in a pod/container) to our new hometown of Reeds Spring (in the Branson, MO area). And while I anticipated that I would have some challenges to face, they have manifested themselves in ways quite differently than what I expected. In case you didn't know, I'm a planner. I planned this move pretty well, or so I had thought. I began packing in the spring, trying to go through things and purge the items we no longer needed. We started looking for houses early, in order to find just the right one, one that would make everyone happy. And I spent time organizing all of the things my daughter would need for her move to college. I thought I had everything orchestrated out pretty well. Okay, maybe not so much.


Even with me starting to pack and go things back in March, I still got to a point where I was just throwing stuff in boxes. This is what was heard quite regularly that last week. Children: "Mom, which box do you want me to pack this in?" Me: "JUST PUT IT IN A BOX!" And at the end, as those last few boxes were getting packed, I was packing with the plan that we would only be "homeless" for a few days, but that didn't work out so well either. As it turned out, that perfect house, the one we painstakingly found after searching for months, the one we were supposed to close on once we arrived in Branson, ended up slipping through our fingers, leaving us without a home.

So, on Wednesday of last week, we packed the last few items on the container, signed the papers to sell our current house, and drove in a caravan of cars to Branson. Then, we got up bright and early on Thursday, drove to Fayetteville, Arkansas, to move my daughter into her dorm at the University of Arkansas. On Friday morning, we took our daughter and her roommate to breakfast before we headed back to Branson to regroup, and start looking for a home all over again. The good news in all of this is that the whole reason we moved to Branson is because we own two businesses in Branson: two zoos. And at one of the properties, we have a makeshift two bedroom "apartment," and when I say apartment, that's kind of a stretch; so at least we aren't truly homeless.

And here I sit, in my makeshift office, in our makeshift apartment, with the zoo just outside the door, eagerly anticipating the calm after the storm. And yes, I know we'll get everything sorted out, and that this chaos is only temporary, but I sure wish I had a Magic 8 ball right about now, and could see how all of this is going to shake out. Stay tuned ... as I detail my adventures of an Irish Girl living in the Ozarks.

Hey, at least the new neighbor is pretty cute ...


Oh, and if you're ever in the Branson/Springfield area ... please check out our two zoos: Branson's Wild World, and Wild Valley Adventure Park

Cheers!


Friday, March 23, 2018

How Do You Face Forks in the Road?

Yes, I know I haven’t been here in a while. I do most of my writing over at HerLoyalSons.com (in case maybe you were living under a rock), but periodically I try and swing by the old stomping grounds and say hello. If you know me, or follow me on social media, you’ve probably gathered that I’m a pretty positive person. I’m definitely a glass half full person, and as a friend once told me years ago, I’m the “eternally happy” person. Now that doesn’t mean I don’t have my down days, because of course I do. But for the most part, I do a pretty good job at seeing the silver lining in things.


The other thing I work very hard on, in the age of social media, is to refrain from partaking in the comparison game. It is so easy to get caught up in comparing yourself with the accomplishments of others. Oh look, so and so’s kids are so much more mature than my kids are, or look at her, she’s moving so much more quickly in her career/professional development. I am well aware that we all move through life at different paces, but I too sometime fall prey to the comparison trap.

As of late, I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflection. With one kid in college, and one on the way to college this fall, my household is about to change pretty drastically. As an almost empty nester, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what the next phase of my life is going to look like, and I am kind of at a loss. Part of the problem is that I am a planner, and with so much change in my life, it is very difficult to plan. Not to mention the fact that I am not super great at dealing with the unknown, and there seems to be a lot of that as well. And let’s be real, I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up.

I’m taking a week off from work next week to recharge my batteries, and spend a little one-on-one time with my daughter. I’m hoping to take a deeper look inward and try to get some clarity as to where I am headed … or maybe where I want to be heading during the rest of 2018 and beyond. I’ve got a stack of books I’m taking with me, including “Play Big” by Dr. Jen Welter, and “Present over Perfect” by Shauna Niequist. And I am very excited about the thought of spending a little time with my toes in the sand, which is always recharging to me.

So, how is your 2018 looking so far? We’re almost one whole quarter in. Are you progressing as planned? Or have you encountered the proverbial “fork in the road?” I hope your year is off to a fantastic start. Got any advice about dealing with change and uncertainty? Please send it my way … I’d love to hear it!

Cheers!