Saturday, June 23, 2012


Barbara Ward-Finneran
Believing in spite of the doubts.

Taking risks.

Family game nights.

Someone who makes you smile even when they aren't around.

Thinking before you speak.

Knowing there is beauty even in things that cause pain. 

Unconditional love.

People who give you strength.

Knowing everyday is important.

Loving life and being brave. 

Keeping the promises that you make to yourself!

Thursday, June 21, 2012


DRL welcomes Mrs. Patty Smukall, Zoologist, Teacher, and now, Party Planner!

Patty Smukall

Yes, it was a birthday party, and yes, it was all about SHARKS!

While teaching Marine Biology at a local Middle School, I was approached by the parents of one of my students. She asked me if I would organize and run a birthday party for her daughter and several of her friends. Her daughter loved our classes so much, she wanted a “shark” party. After finding out what the girl had in mind, I was happy to oblige.

The party took place in my school Science lab in the evening. I decorated the room with netting, hanging fish, and of course, a giant paper machete shark. The back table was covered in a sea-blue cloth with shark paper goods and a shark centerpiece. I even redid my bulletin boards to reflect the theme.

For food , we had “shark bites” (chicken fingers) with BBQ sauce,  blue jello mold with gummy sharks swimming in it, foot and hand shaped biscuits with a ‘bite” taken out of them, and assorted dips with taco chips ( chips were placed in dip sticking up like a shark fin.) For dessert, I made shark cupcakes using regular cupcakes and twinkies. They looked amazing, if I say so myself!

 And now the reason why this mom asked me, the science teacher, to handle this party. The party activity the student chose was dissecting sharks! That’s right – DISECTING sharks. We spend part of the evening studying sharks and their habits. We then dissected. The girls were thrilled. I had a lab coat for each child ( courtesy of the student’s mom) with their name on the pocket “Dr._______”  .  I issued them protective glasses and latex gloves. They had the time of their lives, and I did too!

After dissecting, what better thing to do than eat?We had a feast and watched them movie “Jaws”. We all slept in sleeping bags and I projected images of the sea with all kinds of sea life on the ceiling. We fell asleep to the sounds of my “oceans” meditation tape. In the morning, we were up early and the mom made us shark shaped pancakes for breakfast. Each student got a goodie bucket of “shark bait” which included gummy sharks, a sharks tooth necklace, a small stuffed shark bean bag toy and shark shaped cookies.

 The student and her mother were thrilled. The guests had a fabulous time and I felt it was a great success. I guess it must have been ,because since then I’ve had several requests for parties, including a sea turtle party, dolphin party, clown fish party, Octopus party  and more. I guess if the economy keeps going on the way it is , I can always fall back on this as my 2nd career!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Marion Pellicano Ambrose

While visiting a friend today, she told me about a TV show she had seen, which documented  the life  of a very unusual dog named Stubby. After hearing a little a bit about the show, I felt I wanted to learn the whole story for myself. I read several articles, watched some  videos and checked the web for everything I could find. So here is the story of  Stubby, WWI Veteran and Hero!

 Stubby was a stray Pit Bull Terrier who was abandoned in New Haven, Connecticut during the time of World War I. He was a homeless, stray living out of garbage cans. One fateful day, he wandered on to the parade ground of the Yale University campus. At that exact time, the 102nd Regiment, 26th Infantry Division happened to be training to be deployed. A soldier named John Robert Conroy, took pity on the pathetic little dog and named him “Stubby” because of his stubby little tail. Conroy started leaving food and water for the dog and let him sleep in the barracks on occasion. Stubby’s winning personality and great intelligence soon endeared him to all the other soldiers. This dog was so smart that he learned the bugle calls, learned to march in formation with the men and believe it or not, learned to salute superior officers by raising his forepaw to his brow.

Stubby truly became “one of the men” and when it came time for the 102nd to ship out, Stubby was conveniently stuffed in Conroy’s coat and smuggled onto the ship headed for France and the War. Once at sea, Stubby was allowed on deck and the sailors also fell in love with him. The machinists’ mate made him asset of his own dog tags.

Eventually, Conroy’s commanding officer caught wind of the dog aboard. When confronted, Conroy gave the command: “Present Arms!”  Stubby saluted the officer who immediately gave his blessing for Stubby to stay with the 26th, even into battle.  Stubby became the official mascot of the American Expeditionary Force and gave support and encouragement to each of the homesick soldiers on the front lines.

During his tour of duty, Stubby participated in 17 battles and 4 major offensives. In 1918 he was wounded in action and almost died, in a chemical weapons attack where the Germans launched mustard gas. But Stubby was too tough to let a little gas get him, and because of his experience, he became a “mustard gas detection dog”, letting the men know there was gas before it got to a lethal level. He would warn the men to put on their gas masks by running up and down the line, barking and nipping until they put on their masks. His actions saved countless lives this way.

Stubby was also able to detect artillery fire before the shells started exploding. This also saved many lives, as Stubby could sense German ground attacks before the men. They said he could sniff bratwurst coming from miles away and would warn the sentry by barking or even biting him until he would sound the alarm.

  Stubby spent much of his free time looking for wounded and dying Allied soldiers to rescue. According to first-hand accounts, this dog could hear English being spoken and he'd immediately run over and check out the wounded man. If the wounded man was able to walk, Stubby would lead him back to friendly lines. If the soldier was too wounded to move, Stubby would stand there and bark until a medic arrived.

Stubby the War Dog was wounded again in combat in April 1918, when he was hit with a German hand grenade while participating in the assault on the German town of Schieprey. Despite receiving shrapnel wounds to his forelimbs and chest, Stubby survived the grenade blast, lived through some emergency surgery, and spent his convalescence time cheering up the wounded men in the field hospital. He returned to action a few months later and helped participate in the liberation of Chateau Thierry, a deed that impressed the  French ladies living in the city so much that they made him a chamois blanked decorated with the flags of the Allied countries to thank him. The men of the 102nd, for their part, made Stubby a jacket designed to look like an American military uniform, and then they decorated it with Stubby's name, rank, and medals – medals that included the Purple Heart, the Republic of France Grande War Medal, the Medal of Verdun, and medals for every campaign in which he'd served.

But this thing wasn't done yet. While serving in the Argonne Forest during the Meuse-Argonne campaign of September 1918, Stubby was patrolling the trenches when he discovered a camouflaged German spy hiding out mapping the Allied trenches. Stubby must have smelled the bratwurst on this man or something, becaude he started barking and circling the soldier,  the spy made a run for it but Stubby chased and took him down. Stubby bit the spy in the rear causing him to curse spontaneously, and in German. He held the spy down until the Americans could take him into custody. For his bravery and diligence, Stubby was promoted to the rank of Sergeant, which meant that the dog now outranked his owner, who was only a Corporal at this time. Stubby became the first dog to be promoted to a rank the army. When the Americans brought the German spy back to camp they stripped the prisoner of his Iron Cross and pinned the German military medal on the dog's jacket instead.

After the war, Sergeant Stubby was smuggled back to the states, where he was an instant celebrity. He was inducted into the American Legion, offered free food for life from the YMCA, and whenever he went out of war bonds promotion tours five-star hotels would relax their "no dogs allowed" policy for the canine war hero. He went to the White House twice, met three presidents, and in 1921 the American overall commander "Black Jack" Pershing personally pinned a one-of-a-kind "Dog Hero Gold Medal" on Stubby's military jacket.

When Robert Conroy ended up attending Georgetown University for law school after the war, Sergeant Stubby went with him. The dog immediately became the official mascot of the football team – and to this day the University sports mascot is still a dog . In addition to hanging out with the players, it eventually became tradition to bring Sergeant Stubby out on the field during Halftime of football games and he'd pump the crowd up by running around the field pushing the ball around with his nose. Nobody had really done anything like this before, meaning that, Sergeant Stubby might have possibly invented the Halftime Show.

Sergeant Stubby, American war hero dog, died in 1926, at the (approximate) age of ten. Stubby was preserved and is displayed in his own exhibit at the Smithsonian's Museum of American History.

And that’s the story of a true American World War I Hero – Sergeant Stubby.


Barbara Ward-Finneran
You never know for certain if trying something new will work out better then what you did prior to the new.  However if you never try something different, if you aren't willing to take a risk, you will certainly never find out.  It involves taking a leap of faith without being certain where you will land.  Or if you will even land on your feet.  In fact there's a good chance you could land on you ass.  Even then, from your bottom the best place to look from there is up.  Perhaps the hardest part is leaving your comfort zone.  That safe place where you have abided... sometimes for far too long.  Does the action of a calculated risk mean you've relinquished some sanity?  Who in their right mind leaves a job in this time of economic hardship to venture out into the unknown?  Naysayers will tell you to stay where you are and wait for a better time or place.  Wait to be really ready. My argument is, that that time may never come.  Perhaps we have to be brave enough to create the time and place. You are never going to be ready. However you can be fearless enough to ignore all that you hear except the voice in your heart that beats in time with the dream.  

Changing course and plotting a new path can be something dangerous to your stability and risky to life as you know it.  Yet, isn't the biggest risk challenging yourself to rise to the occasion?  Sure failure can result, but isn't the biggest failure not trying at all. Accept the fact that what you do could have negative repercussions and bravely move forward knowing that lessons learned will make it all worthwhile.  The "education" of the process will make you better and "smarter" then you are at this very moment. One you convince yourself that the risk is worth the gain,  it'll be easier to listen you your heart say "go for it", even when the mind wants to retreat and remind you that "you have no idea of what you are doing or all this will entail".  
The best ventures need to involve - not necessarily equal parts of passion, sense, dream, apprehension and adventure.  Taking a risk is dangerous, courageous, and maybe even preposterous.  It is also to be celebrated!  Even it terrifies you.  If you aren't at least a little bit scared then you probably aren't vested enough in the desired outcome.  A risk taker must be willing to bet the highest stakes on themselves. Be willing to work hard and put yourself out there... out of the box and out of your comfort zone. Be willing to go BIG or go home.  Willing to close your eyes and make a wish.  Vow all the blood, sweat and tears needed to make it work and take a leap of faith.  I do believe I'm there....

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

PARANORMAL PUB: Heartbeat Bridge

There's nothing like a good old summer spooky story being told around the campfire, during an evening bonfire at the beach, or even on the porch after dark. This story is said to have taken place near Heartbeat Bridge, located in Ellicot City, MD. This tale is told by people living in the area to explain why, to this day, a heartbeat can be felt through the pavement by people standing on the bridge. 
 -Marion Pellicano Ambrose

Something was going on. Jason felt it in his bones. Polly was too happy, too cheerful. No woman could be that upbeat and still be faithful to her husband. Jason sat down to a delicious, warm meal every night, and Polly sang to herself as she washed up. What kind of woman could be cheerful doing dishes? Try as he might, Jason never heard anything that hinted of a secret romance. It drove him crazy. Life was not this perfect.
Maybe Polly was seeing the milkman, or the grocer. Jason started getting up early in order to see who it was that delivered the milk. Much to his disappointment, the fellow looked as if he’d been born several centuries ago. Then Jason started doing the food shopping, and checked out every single male employee in the local grocery store. They were either antediluvian relicts—like the milkman—or still in diapers.
Later that month Jason was over at his father-in-law’s house working in the garage when he over heard his father-in-law call to Hank…Polly’s high-school boyfriend. Now he knew! He knew why Polly was so happy all the time. Her parents must have told her that Hank was coming home, and she was planning on running off with him.
Enraged with jealousy, Jason was waiting in the kitchen when Polly got back from church. He was beyond reason. He snatched up a newly sharpened steak knife, howling: “You’ve cut out my heart, now I’ll cut out yours!” Jason leapt around the table and ripped Polly’s still-beating heart out of her chest. Blood streaming everywhere, he sailed out the back door into the dark night and flung her heart, still thumping, over the side of the bridge that spanned the creek next to their home

Jason cleaned up the blood-stained house with extreme care and buried Polly’s body deep in the woods outside of town. Then he wrote several letters, carefully mimicking Polly’s handwriting, and mailed them to himself and her parents. Within a few days, everyone in town believed that Polly had been secretly seeing a man from the next town and that they had run away together.
Late one evening, he went out to the bridge to gloat in triumph over his unfaithful wife. Polly had gotten what she deserved, he thought. As he stood staring down at the water, he became aware of a vibration under his feet. Da-dum. Da-dum. Da-dum. It floated softly through the air, a simple rhythmic thudding. Da-dum. Da-dum. Da-dum. Jason’s hands began to tingle as he recognized the soft thudding sound. It was the same beat he had felt when he held Polly’s bleeding heart in his hands. Da-dum. Da-dum. Da-dum.
The heartbeat rang in his ears, thundering so loud that he was afraid it would wake the neighbors. Da-dum. Da-dum. Da-dum. Jason clapped his hands over his ears and ran back to the house. But he could not escape the terrible sound: Da-dum. Da-dum. Da-dum. Even the floorboards seemed to vibrate to the slow, steady rhythm. Da-dum. Da-dum. Da-dum. It sounded like a heart-beat. Polly’s heartbeat. Da-dum. Da-dum. Da-dum.
Jason screamed in terror and flung himself out of the house, running toward the bridge as the heartbeat grew louder and louder in his ears. Jason leaned over the railing.
“Curse you, Polly!” he shouted.
Da-dum. Da-dum. Da-dum.
With a wild shriek, Jason flung himself headfirst off the bridge like a diver, and was smashed to death on the rocks below.
Underfoot on the bridge, the pavement still vibrates to the beat of a dead heart. For now and always.
Da-dum. Da-dum. Da-dum.

Excerpted from Spooky Maryland by S.E. Schlosser

Monday, June 18, 2012


Barbara Ward-Finneran
Never thought I'd joke about that after last year's fiasco of having my license suspended do to a clerical error with the hyphen in my name.  It was so NOT funny.  But I'm not talking about my drivers license.  I'd like to request that my "responsible adult" license be revoked?!  PLEASE!  For a few days, a day, a hour. In a way that is more effective then playing ostrich with your head in the sand.  Or running away to an evening of GNO with adult beverages and or desserts. Or having a date night in a child free zone.  Or spending a little time in some sort of fantasyland that you fancy.  All effective in their own ways - but none of those good times make "it" go away!  You get stolen moments of forgetting the world and it's realities.  Fleeting occasions to escape what overwhelms you, but cannot be ignored.  At least not for any real length of time with out things coming crashing down. As a responsible adult it is our job to prevent those crashes in all arenas of our life.  At all costs. At times even at your own expense.  

Yes, I am having one of those, "Make it Stop" evenings.  It'll pass... it always does.  I'm certain I'll be back to "Soul Food" and my "Miss Mary Sunshine" in no time at all...

However in the meantime, I'm going to say, ARGGGGGGG!  And, additionally give myself permission to have a cup of something cold and creamy from the freezer and drown my sorrows with some Hershey's syrup.  I call it "something" because I only keep the type of dairy desert in the house that doesn't constantly scream my name.  Only the decadence of certain name brands get the respect being ice creams that are worth the calories.  I will however compose enough control to not drive to Seven Eleven and purchase a pint to polish off in a single sitting.  Yes, I know it won't fix a damned thing.  I also know I'm having a moment and not an relapse of an emotional eating disaster.  I can allow myself a moment.  I can even allow myself a good cry if needed. I know it'll all be okay.  If not tomorrow, then soon.  As for tomorrow... I'll catch you then, after I go have my moment.  Since my license can't be revoked, and reality will be there in the morning, I'll settle for a fleeting moment.  After all, I'm positive, that they don't make "it" all go away - but they certainly give us time to regroup. Embrace whatever momentary escapes you can when you can! Whipped cream anyone???

Sunday, June 17, 2012


To all the men who know being a Daddy is about love and actions.  It's about hanging the moon and stars and being an everyday unsung hero for all the right reasons.