Friday, June 8, 2012


Barbara Ward-Finneran
Is where you are going predestined?  Is it written in the stars? Can we wish for it on moonbeams? Or do we make our fate by creating our dreams? 

Having taught children for the greater part of two decades I believe we forge a journey by developing our gifts and fostering our desires by using all that we are to the best of our abilities.  I am blest to have assisted and mentored many along their journey to young adulthood. In some cases even beyond.  I have had too many children to count, two of them "my own" and have honestly loved them all.  As an art teacher, I get to watch my students grow from pre-schoolers to middle schoolers and build relationship with them along the way each year.  It's a beautiful process that I will forever treasure.  I recently watched my 18th group of 8th graders graduate.  At graduation some are happy to leave and others fight back tears.  An emotional situation that follows most of us through all the great changes in our lives.  Change is bittersweet.  Those forks in the road where we pause to ponder before moving forward leave us cherishing the past while excited and scared for the future.  As we age the sweet successes get mixed up with memories of where we may of zigged when we should of zagged.  Never regrets.  But, perhaps a wonderment of what might have been.  If your are lucky, never wishing what is to be different.  Mistakes, risks and dreams help to shape this adventure we call living. All of it it though, good, bad, indifferent and rock bottom - always a part of who you are today.  To everything there is a season and seasons change.  Each step part of your journey to the next destination.  

When we are "all grown up" it's sometimes easier to be scared and safe then face the adventure fearlessly.  Somewhere along your travels you relinquish the ability to just let go and throw your hands in the air and have faith that the wild ride will end with you still safely buckled in longing for the next thrill.  Is it wisdom? Responsibility? Stupidity?  A combination thereof and so much more.  

Graduations are official - you know it's time for change.  It's an ending of a beginning. Those signs of change aren't always so obviously marked later in life.  Yet many an inspiring word from a graduation could be applied when you face a path that is divided and aren't sure which road to take. Those speeches encourage and empower you.  Words that we should allow to echo in out minds and hearts whenever we are faced with change, challenges and choices.  

Change has been a pretty constant "theme" in my recent posts.  It's what is swirling around me in recent weeks and I cannot escape it.  Nor, am I ready to specifically define it. I will watch more graduations at the school I love, yet it might not ever be in the same capacity as years gone past. It is yet to be decided.  I have yet to decide.  As I plan and ponder what is to be written on the next page - I am lucky that when reflecting on my own writings I find inspiration and faith.  That which makes me know and believe that the best is yet to come.  

Last year I received the ultimate compliment of being chosen by the graduating class to speak to them at graduation.  Below I share that reflection with you.  I dedicate it to all of my graduates, past and present... and to the graduate in all of us - who needs a little reminder that no matter where we are in the journey, or the bumps in the road --- that we will grow and change and once again --- "come into our own"!  

"Decide that you want it more then you are afraid of it." 
- Bill Cosby
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Graduates, I am both humbled and honored to be asked to speak to you tonight.  I have been blest to know you since your first days at HNJ, no matter what year you joined our family of friends.  I have been privileged to know you when you were little enough to discover that scissors really do cut hair and small enough to climb in my lap and tell me “My kind heart ‘got’ broken”.  I’ve watched you grow through paintings and drawings as well as giggles and tears.  We have shared moments of, “Hands on your head, Hands on your shoulders”, to “Come on, it’s time to settle down", to, “How are you?”  Tell me how things are going”.  I’ve seen you transition from white shirts to blue shirts, and from seat sacks to lockers.  I can recall bundles of nerves that first week of middle school and helping with combination locks, assuring you things would get easier, that you’d come into your own.
Before me now, I no longer see small children.  You are an amazing, vibrant group of young ladies and gentlemen who have come into their own at HNJ. Who have become leaders, athletes, artists and scholars.  Who have used their talents and gifts to reach this marvelous milestone called graduation.  
Accomplishment such as this can be bittersweet.  Amidst this joy and excitement there comes change and the unknown.  No one is safe from the effects of change.  It is part of life and life changes.  We learn to embrace change and accept that love remains.  You have been loved here at HNJ.  That love fills our hearts, overflows our soul with happiness, and engraves the mind with memories.  It will be with you wherever your life takes you. 
Life is an amazing wondrous gift from our Lord above.  It has been given to us and we are free to create ourselves to our limitless potential all while reflecting His image and likeness.  Your life and your talents are God’s gift to you, what you do with those talents is your gift to the Father.   I challenge you to aspire to use the gift of your limitless potential.  Dream.  Wish. Wonder.  Hope.  Believe.  Pray.  The canvas before you is white washed new and you have the ability to create the masterpiece you desire.  God created each one of you and you are enough.  You matter.  You make a difference.  You can be everything you desire.  The power is within you to direct your journey and create your own dreams.  No matter what your stage, make your performance based in kindness and have your interactions reflect love.  Allow Jesus to shine through your accomplishments.  Breathe Him in and always breathe out His love.
As you leave these hallways behind, and embark on your newest adventure, I wish I could promise you it will be easy.  That you’ll not have hard or dark times. Just know, that it is only because the darkness can we appreciate the beauty of the stars. I assure you - You will come into your own!” Hold fast to memories and the love they go with you always.  In the words of Dr. Seuss, Do not cry because it’s over, Smile because it happened.  
I love you all. You inspire me!

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Barbara Ward-Finneran

Nothing will change, until you decide what needs to be changed. You must face what is needed to be done in order to commit to doing it! 

In the process you may lose some things - but it is nothing compared to what you have the ability to gain!   

Keep the promises that you make to yourself!
©  All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Marion Pellicano Ambrose
If you use GOOGLE as your search engine, you probably say today’s “doodle” which celebrates the opening of the first drive in theater on June 6, 1933, during the “Golden Age of Cinema”. Seeing the doodle brought back so many memories for me.
I remember being so excited that my family was going to the movies! My mom got us into our warm pajamas and we set up blankets and pillows in the back seat of our 1957 Ford Fairlane 500. It was torture waiting for it to get dark, but the sun finally set and we drove out to the huge field that was the Drive in Theater, in Walden , New York.

I can hardly remember any of the movies we saw at the drive in, just flashes of memory: a tiny man fighting a huge spider with a needle, a cowboy tied to a wagon wheel by indians, and John Wayne. I’m sure we saw several John Wayne movies since my dad was a big fan. What I do have a crystal clear picture of is the drive in itself. I can see the poles we parked  by, on a mound of dirt. On each pole was a gray, metal contraption that piped the sound of the movie into our car when we attached it to a partially rolled down window. I remember having to drive over 2 or 3 mounds trying speakers until we found one that worked. Once the movie started, the crackly sound filled the car and all eyes were on the gigantic screen at the front of the lot.

I can still recall the thrill of going to the refreshment stand with my father at Intermission. There were hamburgers, hot dogs and other treats pre-made and in silver foil wrappers. Ice cream, candy, popcorn, and soda were also available and placed in cardboard trays to be carried back to the car. There was also a children’s playground for kids to burn a little energy during intermission.

After intermission, the movie began again.  This is about all can remember. Being 6 or 7 at the time,I never got to see the end of a single movie because, I always fell asleep. All I recall is waking up in my bed the next morning, having been carried safely by my dad and lovingly tucked in by my mom. I don’t know what I felt then, but today as I think of it, I feel overwhelming love and gratitude to my parents for giving me this kind of childhood. I wish I had remembered moments like this while they were still here so I could have told them.

The era of drive in movies has passed, but there are still many ways parents can share moments with their children that will create these same type of nostalgic, treasured memories. I tried to create them for my children and to my great joy, my daughter talks about her favorite memories of our excursions from when she was little. It’s my greatest hope that, when I’m gone, she and my son will continue to remember and cherish these special family moments, and know how much they were loved.

*For those of you who are too young to remember the Drive-In Movie, take a look at GOOGLE’s  little movie celebrating the anniversary of the first Drive-In.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

SHE SAID... Sanity in the Summertime = Playtime

Barbara Ward-Finneran
Summertime is the biggest blessing.  Laid back days to stay up late and sleep in until morning is practically over when desired.  Time to frolic in the sun and play with friends.  Extra hours for reading, games and lots of laughter.  Pure bliss except when interrupted by that dreaded sentence... "Mom, I'm bored".

I'm very lucky it's not a sentence that frequents my boys lips.  A combination of creativeness, "Camp Mommy", and sibling camaraderie as well as being a house where "all the kids" can play keep it at bay at our place.  Yet just a little over a week into summer here where I live, and  I have friends who are already over hearing it.  (Yes, I know, my northern peeps - envious as you are because you are still in school - talk to us in early August when we are back in session already!)  Many solve this issue by offering up random chores or yard work that's just begging to be done and dreaded by all.  Still others spring into mission impossible Mom style by finding all kinds of wonderful ways to ward off the dreaded doldrums of our kids having too much time on their hands.  

I adore my mom and admire all that she taught me and how she raised me.  But truth be told, I don't recall her, or the other moms in my life when I grew up entertaining us. At least not regularly.   One of the reasons I swear by the "more the merrier" rule.  The more kids that are hanging out playing the more fun there is to be had by all - without me needed to conduct the fun train.  When I was a kid, we had to play.  Outside.  Rain, shine, heat and snow - outside you'd go.  Endless hours with the neighborhood kids 'til the street lights came on.  

Wanna keep your sanity this summer?  Dare I say, plan some time to just play.  For your kids and for yourself - alone and with them.  Spend time together without the coordinated distraction of events, activities and electronics.  Unplug and find some ways to stir up some good old fashion (and might I mention free - to quote my cousin - "free" is my favorite four letter F word!) fun.  Make forts in the living room, take a walk even when it might be 100 degrees in the shade - the AC will be there when you get back and you'll appreciate it more.  Make ice pops in paper cups, build sandcastles by the beach, collect sea shells, beat the pants off them in staring contests, and play "war" until you can't stand to see those cards anymore. You can always end the game by throwing in the towel with "52 Pick Up".  Laugh and have fun.  Moments that make memories help you keep your sanity and it's cheaper then therapy.  And when that runs thin...  schedule some playtime for yourself with your gal pals and or with your honey.  Recharge your battery, reconnect, read a good book, and even "wine" down once and a while if necessary. Make time for playtime and you'll not lose your mind but rather have the times of your life.  Taking in the smiles, love and laughter... that's what really matters. That's what keeps us sane.  In the really big scheme of things - nothing else matters.  “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”