Turning Flaws Into Assets Sunday, Dec 14 2014 


Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer had a very shiny nose, and that nose helped make him the reindeer we’ve grown to know and love.

The children’s tale of a reindeer with a glowing, red nose was written by Robert L. May for Montgomery Ward. May’s Rudolph is much like he believed himself to be, an outcast who didn’t fit in with the rest of the crowd. Rudolph’s bright, red nose made him the brunt of bullying and excluded him from reindeer games. But in the end, it is that nose that saved the day when Santa needs him to lead the way.

The famous story was written for commercial purposes in 1939. The long-time department store of Montgomery Ward gave away coloring books every year for Christmas. To save money, May was hired to write a story they could use in one of these books and publish themselves. More than 2.5 million copies were distributed that first year alone.

The story became even more popular when May’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, adapted the story into song. Gene Autry’s recording of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer hit the radios in 1949 and was the second best-selling record of all time until the 1980s.

Montgomery Ward turned over the story’s copyright to May in 1947, ensuring him financial security.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Angels On Board Saturday, Dec 6 2014 


Angels are among us. Who hasn’t heard a story of someone being saved or comforted by a presence that appeared in the nick of time and then vanished before their eyes? Plenty of saints, and countless regular folk, tell stories about angels. They are referred to in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, as well as in the Quran. Revelation 5:11 says angels numbered, “myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands.” Whether we see them or not, they are everywhere.

Symbols of peace and love, angels are depicted on cards, posters, figurines, jewelry, and clothing. Culturally, fascination surrounds these spirits. Who are they? Where is my angel? And, do angels really have wings?

We refer to good people and loved ones who have passed away as angels, but in fact angels never were human. They were created as pure spirit and always will be that. They also have unique characteristics and are intelligent, holy, and here to assist us as God’s messengers, warriors, and guides.

Angels offer our own spiritual support group right here, right now, ready and waiting to help.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle


Happy Thanksgiving Wednesday, Nov 26 2014 

The last few years have been increasingly stressful for me. In addition to extensive physical and emotional demands, I’ve had the responsibility of making several difficult and heartbreaking decisions. It’s taken quite a toll on my health, however I do feel that I’m gaining strength and envision an easier tomorrow on the horizon.

No doubt, many of you have your struggles as well. Perhaps this has not been your best year either. And yet I’m sure you, as I, have much to be thankful for. It often seems that when we feel loss we are more aware of what else we do have. I never lose sight of the fact that my list of blessings is quiet extensive.

Together, let’s take a moment to give thanks and wish one another peace and love. Happy Thanksgiving.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Ignore What Annoys You Sunday, Nov 16 2014 

Recently I got a little pimple on my cheek that annoyed me. It wasn’t very big, but just wouldn’t go away. I finally squeezed and poked at it hoping to get rid of it once and for all. Instead, it became infected and grew to cover half of my face. At least it seemed that way to me. It’s finally healing but would have been gone by now if I’d just left it alone.

I’m taking this as a life lesson. So many little problems consume way too much of our thoughts. Many are ones we cannot do anything to change. Like a dripping faucet, the negative energy of that unpleasant person, uneven step on the front porch, and rush hour traffic brings us down every time we think about it.

The Serenity Prayer, attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, offers a guide in dealing with these situations. It begins, “God, give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.”

The challenge, of course, is in distinguishing between what can and cannot be changed. It isn’t always easy to know if the problem is one that’s best dealt with immediately or one that can never fully be resolved.

But we do eventually figure that out in time. If we keep trying different ways to resolve a situation and it continues, we might have to let it go. For example, there are people that will never compromise, never treat us respectfully, and repeatedly hurt us. These are the problems we have to accept that cannot be changed, as the prayer goes. Our only alternative may be to wish them peace and avoid them as much as possible. There is no benefit in placing ourselves in an ongoing position that causes us pain.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Earning Potential Tuesday, Oct 28 2014 

Statistics consistently show that the more education we have the more employment opportunities are available to us and with a greater earning potential. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Department of Labor, the unemployment rate for those with only a high school diploma is 7.5% whereas those with a Bachelor’s degree is down to 4%. In addition the average weekly earnings for those with only a high school diploma is $651 while those with a Bachelor’s degree earn nearly twice that much. And the earning power continues to increase with higher education.

The more education we have the more choices we have for employment, although today many graduates are experiencing disappointment in their ability to acquire employment of their choice. We are at a time in history when the debt of tuition has to be weighed against the time it will take to earn enough to pay it off. I’m a strong advocate for education and personal growth but for many, college is not possible for a number of reasons.

The Careerbuilder section of this past weekend’s Chicago Tribune listed five of the best jobs without a college degree. The positions include Dental Assistant with an annual salary range of $28,820-$41,980; Elevator Installer with an annual salary range of $62,060 to $91,240; Health Information Technician with a salary range of $27,520 to $45,260; Massage Therapist with a salary range of $24,380-$51,820; and Carpenter with an annual salary range of $31,550 to $55,340.

I was particularly surprised about the elevator installer. It isn’t a position I’ve ever thought of and don’t know the risks or skill level needed for it, but if you’re physically able and up for the challenge, it just might be a career to consider.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Yummy Yogurt Tuesday, Oct 21 2014 


Yogurt, yoghurt, or yoghourt—no matter how you spell it, the fermented milk product is a quick breakfast or healthy treat at any time of the day.

Yogurt is made by introducing yogurt cultures, which are a form of bacteria, into a milk product causing it to ferment. Cow’s milk is most commonly used, but yogurt can also be made from water buffalo, goat, mare, camel, yak, coconut, or almond milk.

The creamy deliciousness has a long history dating back into ancient times. Legend has it that Abraham owed his longevity, at least in part, to it. According to Wikipedia, yogurt was a staple in Russian, Western Asian, South Eastern, Central European, and South Asian cultures until the 1900s. It was patented with added jam in 1933 by a dairy in Prague. Yogurt wasn’t available in the U.S. until the early twentieth century.

Yogurt is rich in protein, calcium, riboflavin, and Vitamins B6, B12, and D. It’s often tolerated by people who are lactose intolerant because of the conversion of lactose to the sugars glucose and galactose and the fermentation of lactose to lactic acid. Yogurt may help prevent osteoporosis and reduce the risk of high blood pressure and vaginal infections.

When I developed pneumonia this past spring, I’d lost a considerable amount of weight. The pulmonologist said I should eat a lot of protein and named Greek-style yogurt as one item in particular to put on my grocery list.

Greek yogurt is thicker than regular yogurt. You can transform regular yogurt into the Greek-style by spooning 4 cups of plain whole-milk yogurt into a sieve with a coffee filter and set it over a bowl. Refrigerate for about 12 hours and you will get about 2 cups of thick yogurt.

Grocers offer dozens of varieties of yogurt in their refrigerator section. With and without fruit, and containing a wide variety of fat content and calorie count, it isn’t difficult to find a favorite style. I keep plain whole-milk yogurt on hand to mix in dips, sauces, and mashed potatoes, but my favorite flavored brand is Noosa’s mango. Noosa is pricey – $2.49 for 8 ounces, and only available in health and specialty grocery stores, but it’s so rich I only eat half a container at a time. This brand is all natural, gluten-free, and probiotic, from cows never treated with rrBGH. Go to their website: http://www.noosayoghurt.com for a 55 cent coupon.

(The 8 ounce container of Noosa’s mango yogurt has 270 calories, 11 grams of fat, 27 grams of total carbs, 25 grams of sugar, 30 mg of cholesterol, 14 grams of protein, and 110 mg of sodium. It also is a good source of nutrition—Vitamin A 17%, Vitamin C 12, Calcium 37 %, and Iron 3%))

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Pumpkin Everything Tuesday, Oct 14 2014 


Pumpkin biscotti, latte, bread, soup, and even ravioli. This is the season for pumpkin everything. The fruit—yes, botanists consider pumpkins a fruit—play an important role in American fall traditions. Halloween is no more complete without a gutted and carved Jack-O-Lantern than Thanksgiving is without a pumpkin pie.

Some countries, such as New Zealand and Australia, use the term pumpkin to refer to the broad category of winter squash but here it typically means the large orange, round or oblong fruit, although we can find them in an endless variety of shapes and colors.


It’s estimated that 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins are produced in the U.S. every year. Illinois is by far the top state for pumpkin production, raising 90-95% of them, mostly for Libby, a division of the Nestle Company. California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan grow most of the remainder.


Pumpkins typically range in size from less than one pound all the way up to more than 1,000! They are native to North America. Most pumpkins are grown for eating and can be boiled, baked, steamed, pureed, or roasted. They are a good source of Vitamin A. The seeds are often roasted and salted as well.

The tradition of carving pumpkins is thought to have been brought from Great Britain and Ireland where they carved many different types of fruits and vegetables. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s when it is recorded that they were used as lanterns. Catholic children are said to have carved turnips to represent a face, placed a candle inside them, and walked door-to-door begging for soul cakes on the eve of All Saints and All Souls in honor of deceased loved ones.

(Information gathered from mayoclinic.com, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Wikipedia.)

(Photo of my niece, Kelly, with a giant pumpkin, taken by a friend.)

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Making the Right Decision Tuesday, Oct 7 2014 


One of the most valuable lessons my father taught his children was how to make a decision. He didn’t rush in to fix things. He guided and allowed us to take care of ourselves and succeed on our own.

Together we would discuss the pros and cons of going one way or the other. We talked about repercussions, cause and effect, what we wanted to achieve, and which direction to go to make our goal happen. And then Dad encouraged us to make that final decision. If we wanted to discuss the end result with him, he was available, but he never criticized or judged what we did, even when we knew he would have done things very differently.

Decades ago, people had fewer things and fewer opportunities, therefore, fewer choices. Although that limited potential in some ways, it omitted the continuous challenge we encounter every minute of every day today. We have so many decisions to make. Our lives our stressful because we begin with which shampoo to use, what outfit to wear, which shoes go with that outfit, and what to eat.

Most of the decisions we stress over are insignificant. How much does it really matter if we have Cheerios or Shredded Wheat for breakfast? If a choice has little impact on our well-being, or that of other people around us, it’s not likely our decision is worth the time and effort to worry about.

Many decisions also can be back-tracked. We may go in one direction and find it isn’t working as well as we hoped, so we regroup and go another way.

Then there are those decisions that are life-altering, such as a marriage, a major residential move, or a split second decision that results in a traffic accident.

In some cases, making a list can be quite helpful. Gather as much information as possible, and then sort the entries into columns showing the benefits and drawbacks. One item may make the decision clear. For example, our child may have an opportunity to develop her interest in music at a particular school but the tuition is beyond our budget. We simply can’t afford to send her there.

To avoid being on edge all day, every day, we must let go of the little stuff. If we don’t stress over every little move we make all day long, we have more energy for the big things.

And then follow my dad’s guidance by asking yourself:

  1. Do I have all of the necessary information?
  2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of an action?
  3. Am I willing to do what it takes to follow through with this decision?
  4. Am I prepared to accept the responsibility, criticism, or accolades that may come with my decision?
  5. Will this action achieve my goal?

(Photo: My dad, John Doyle)

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Fall Colors Tuesday, Sep 30 2014 



Spring blossoms with hope, summer peaks with flora and fauna, and autumn bursts with color.

The leaves are beginning to change in the Midwest. A new splattering of vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds is seen everywhere we look. It’s like fireworks shooting a new display every day.

The process of leaf changing is fascinating. Much has to do with the declining hours of daylight and the types of trees. Aspen leaves turn bright yellow; oaks’ turn red or brown; dogwoods’ turn purplish red or light tan; and some of the maples’ turn brilliant scarlet. Others, such as elm leaves do not change at all. They simply die and fall off.

For the trees with leaves that do change, leaf color is influenced predominately by the shortening of daylight but also by pigments in the leaves and weather. For optimum color, leaves require a warm, wet spring, favorable summer temperatures, and warm, sunny fall days with cool but frostless nights.

During the spring and summer, the trees take in water from the ground through their roots and carbon dioxide from the air. They use sunlight to turn the water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and glucose in a process called photosynthesis.

There isn’t enough light or water in the winter for photosynthesis. The green chlorophyll disappears from the leaves revealing the yellows and oranges that until then were present but unseen. The cool nights of autumn turn the glucose bright reds and purples.

Unlike the tender leaves of deciduous trees, the tough needles of evergreens with their heavy wax coating and fluid inside their cells resist freezing and withstand severe winter conditions.

(Information gathered from the U.S. Department of Agriculture)

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

The Weight of Weather Friday, Sep 26 2014 

Some dispute the effects of weather on the body. For those of us who feel it in our joints and bones, we don’t need any scientific basis for the phenomena. We are our own meteorologist. Many of us can predict the weather by the effect of barometric pressure on our bodies.

Last month we had heavy cloud coverage, rain, and a high mold count in the Chicago area for several weeks that knocked me off my feet. The mold and humidity triggered my asthma and fibromyalgia resulting in labored breathing and pain that made it difficult for me to get off the couch.

More than 5 million people in the United States have fibromyalgia. The Mayo Clinic describes it as a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue and sleep, memory, and mood issues. Tension headaches, temporomandibular joint disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, and depression are common. There also is an increase in levels of certain chemicals in the brain that signal pain. The brain’s pain receptors develop a memory of the pain making them more sensitive causing them to overact.

Stress and weather, especially low air pressure, are my greatest causes of symptoms. The heavy weight of the air results in great pain.

Air pressure is also called barometric pressure because it is measured by barometers. Barometers measure the current air pressure at a particular location in inches of mercury or in millibars.

High pressure systems moving in often predict cooler temperatures and clear skies. Low pressure systems bring warmer weather, storms, and rain.

Atmospheric pressure is the weight of tiny particles of air molecules exerted upon us. The pressure and its density is related to the weather—the air’s temperature and height above the Earth’s surface.

The Earth’s atmosphere is pressing against each square inch of our bodies with a force of about 14.7 pounds per square inch. The force on a space of a little larger than a square foot is about 1 ton and it is up to our bodies to balance the pressure within us with that outside.

Since the pressure depends upon the amount of air above us, the pressure decreases as we go higher. As elevation increases there is less atmospheric mass resulting in the barometric pressure dropping about 1 inch of mercury for each increase of 1,000 feet. Our ears pop as we move up to balance the pressure between the outside and inside of our ears and we breathe faster to bring more air molecules into our lungs to make up for less air.

I feel considerably less pain on clear days and at higher elevations, so perhaps the solution for me is to keep my sights on the heavens and stay high above the clouds.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

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