Blessing of Bright Stars Friday, Aug 21 2015 

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Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease is both heartwarming and heart wrenching. It is an intense and intimate form of care, especially for spouses caring 24/7 for the main person in their lives. They become one as the caregiver must think and feel for their spouse all day, all night. We are their external hard drive as they no longer can tell if they are hungry, tired, anxious, or uncomfortable. Remaining calm, compassionate, and steady is essential.

My husband, Marshall, has Alzheimer’s disease. Symptoms have been noticeable for at least 11 years; however, Alzheimer’s can be progressing in the brain for 10 to 20 years before any signs. I cared for Marshall at home for the first 10 years. He now resides in an assisted living home for memory care where I talk to him and/or visit him daily.

Marshall was a larger-than-life personality who continues to light up the room. But our conversations are basic at this point—mostly about how much we love each other.  The stars shine brightest in the darkest of night, and each time he says, “I love you” and “You are the love of my life” is a bright star indeed that I hold close to my heart.

WGN-TV is airing a special on Alzheimer’s at 7pm Central Time on Saturday, August 29. The program, Unforgettable: Living with Alzheimer’s, also will stream live online on wgntv.com and be replayed on Sunday, August 30th at 2pm Central Time on CLTV. I was interviewed for this special along with doctors, patients, and Glen Campbell and his wife, Kim.

You also can listen to an interview I had with Dean Richards on WGN radio on this subject.

  • Read more about caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s in my new book, Navigating Alzheimer’s. 12 Truths About Caring for Your Loved One, available from ACTA Publications or Amazon.

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

 

Good Enough to Eat? Tuesday, Aug 18 2015 

For decades I cooked for a full table of family and friends every day. At that time I always had a packed refrigerator and pantry from which to select ingredients.

Now I eat alone most weekdays but can serve a crowd on weekends. This makes keeping fresh ingredients on hand more challenging. If I don’t cook much for a few weeks, excess items may go to waste before using them.

Fortunately, we have some dried, boxed, and frozen foods that have a longer shelf life. Chopped onion and green pepper is available in the freezer section which offers an easy way to use small portions without wasting a whole onion or pepper. Boxed whipping cream and milk may be stored in your cabinets until opened. And some products that we only use in certain recipes, such as buttermilk and tomato paste, are available in powdered form. Mixed with water, they are nearly identical to the fresh product.

Whatever food is used, it’s important to closely watch the date stamped on every item from pancake flour to cottage cheese to avoid illness. However, there is confusion as to what those dates really mean. Unless clearly stated, the date may be the recommended sell date or use by date. And this date may not apply once the product is opened. A good rule of thumb is to toss the food if there is any concern about its freshness to avoid food-borne illnesses. As I tell my kids, “When in doubt, throw it out. We can’t always know by the way a food looks or smells if it is safe to eat.

The US government has some recommendations on their website for common OPENED products. These recommendations are for foods that are stored properly in the inside of a refrigerator – not on the door – at 40° or below. Here are a few of these items and the length of time they may be kept safely (in the refrigerator) after opening:

  • Bacon – 7 days
  • Eggs, raw in shell – 3-5 weeks
  • Eggs, hard-cooked – 1 week
  • Egg, chicken, ham, tuna and macaroni salads – 3-5 days
  • Hot dogs – 1 week
  • Leftovers – 3-4 days
  • Lunch meat -3-5 days
  • Meat, ground -1-2 days
  • Meat, fresh beef, veal, lamb, pork -3-5 days
  • Milk -5-7 days past the date stamp
  • Poultry, fresh – 1-2 days
  • Sausage – Chicken, turkey, beef, or pork -1-2 days

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

My No List Sunday, Aug 2 2015 

One of the benefits of becoming a woman of, let’s just say, a—mature—age, is that I can say NO. I care a lot less about what others think.

Maybe it’s the good little Catholic girl in me, but in the past I regularly did things out of obligation. I pushed myself beyond what was physically and emotionally healthy. Somethings I took to the extreme. I’m not sure why I felt the compulsive need to have everything in order all the time.

Other times I was caring for loved ones. These people are very dear to me, and I wanted to be there for them. But I went too far, sacrificing my well-being for theirs.

And then there are those I didn’t want to offend even though they weren’t particularly kind to me. In the end, they weren’t any happier after all of my efforts.

So I now have quite a long list of things I refuse to do – unless I change my mind. Here are a few items on my No List:

  • I will not push myself to exhaustion. I’ve finally realized that taking breaks actually allows me to do more.
  • I will not hold on to little things that are best shared with my loved one. If I have something to say, I’m going to say it rather than simply think or feel it.
  • I will not do “fun” things if they are not fun for me.
  • I will not wear painful shoes no matter how cute they are.
  • I will not eat junk food – too often.
  • I will not go barelegged if I think my legs look better in hose.
  • But then I will not wear hose if it’s too hot, no matter how I look.
  • I will not pass up play time with family and friends.
  • I will not ever intentionally hurt anyone.
  • I will not look back with regret. I did what I thought was best at the time. I can only go forward.
  • I will not spend any time I absolutely do not have to with hurtful, petty people.
  • I will not hang on to past hurts.
  • I will not pass an opportunity to tell people how much I love and appreciate them.
  • I will not run unless my or my grandchildren’s lives depend on it. I just don’t like to run.
  • I will not pass on emails that say something bad will happen if I don’t.
  • I refuse to have cancer. I’m not doing it.
  • I will not breeze by my blessings without recognizing and giving thanks for them.

Now why don’t you make a list of your own? It’s quite liberating. Please share. I’d love to hear what’s on your list.

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

 

Gotta Have It Sunday, Jul 19 2015 

How long can you go without using your phone, drinking alcohol, smoking anything, or popping pills inappropriately? If you can’t last a day, a week, or more without an activity or substance, you may be addicted.

Addiction is a behavior that interferes with ordinary life responsibilities such as work, relationships, or health. It can be consumption of alcohol, nicotine, any illegal substance, or the inappropriate use of prescription or over-the-counter drugs, as well as physical activities such as sex, gambling, or shopping.

Addiction results in an inability to limit use of a substance or activity. Attempts to do so produces symptoms of withdrawal, such as irritability, anxiety, shakes, or nausea.

Addiction can result in a tolerance to a substance, an overreaction by the brain, or compulsion, usually due to emotional stress. It is not based on pleasure or has anything to do with morality or character.

Cell phones can be the road to several addictions. It is an extraordinary tool, but as so many good things, the more they offer, the more they can get us into trouble. Not only is addiction to our cell phones rapidly growing, they can promote other addictions such as texting, impulse buying, and gaming and gambling.

When an addiction takes hold, it owns us. Relationships, work, and our mental, physical, and emotional health suffers. Nor does it make us feel good about ourselves as it induces feelings of shame, guilt, a sense of hopelessness, and feelings of failure.

If a loved one asks you to eliminate the use of something, it’s likely they identify a problem you cannot see. Please call a hotline in your area. You are so much more than that substance or activity.

(Information from Psychology Today)

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

 

 

Another Door Opens Tuesday, Jul 14 2015 

The saying is that when one door closes, another opens. This belief is biblical as well. We simply have to ask. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened (Matthew 7:8).

That “perfect” job we recently were laid off from, the devoted pet that passed away, or the lengthy relationship that ended will always hold a place in our heart. Nothing can replace something that was meaningful to us. And some losses are incomparably greater than others. Their absence can be excruciatingly painful. The fact is that they once were ours, gifts to be thankful for and appreciated forever.

We can hold onto the hope that the future offers us treasures that will be beautiful in another way. Often it is something we never could imagine.

Think carefully about what you desire. Keep positive and confident. And don’t forget to do that knocking and asking.

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

In a Different Time Saturday, Jun 27 2015 

 

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One of my life’s blessings was to meet a group of friends in High School that are as dear to me today as they were then. Mary Ellen, Sally, and Susie are intelligent, witty, courageous, and compassionate women who’ve stood strong with me through thick and thin.

I recently came across a book, If for Girls, written by Jean Kyler McManus and Illustrated by Liselotte Malnar, that these friends gave me on my sixteenth birthday. It’s a sweet, palm-sized book with delicate pastel drawings and text in cursive.

It’s written in verse with each page beginning with “If you.” The book begins:

If you can live each day

with the assurance

That “A girl” is something

wonderful to be

 

If you can find a way

to meet your problems

with courage and with

true maturity

The book goes on by suggesting “girls” reject vulgar style and what is worthless, guard one’s principles, and not complain. It encourages standing up for what’s right, comforting those in need, and making firm decisions. It concludes:

If you can practice all the

Arts of living

With real integrity

You’re bound to be a

Happy person, always

And the lovely woman you were meant to be

I’m not sure how many teens today would encourage their friends to live such principles. I’m fortunate my friends did and have followed their own guidance. They truly are the lovely women they were meant to be.

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

Nutritious Whole Grains Sunday, Jun 21 2015 

Did you know that corn is a whole grain? Have you ever tried amaranth?

Whole grains are often recommended for a healthy diet, including the one I posted about in regards to lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. But in order to eat the recommended three servings a day, we need to know what qualifies as a whole grain food.

Food made from whole grain, whether it is cracked, crushed, rolled, or cooked, contain the entire grain seed in its original proportions. It contains the bran, germ, and endosperm.

In the United States, if an ingredient label says whole wheat or whole wheat flour, we can be assured that it contains the whole grain. However, in Canada if the words “whole grain” are not included in the label the wheat may be only 95% whole grain.

The most common whole grains include: amaranth, barley, buckwheat, corn, millet, oats, quinoa, rice, rye, sorghum, teff, triticale, wheat, and wild rice. Amaranth, quinoa, and buckwheat do not belong in the Poaceae botanical family as the others do, but are considered “pseudo-grains” because they have the same nutritional profile.

Amaranth was a staple of the Aztec culture until Cortez threatened to put to death anyone who grew it in an attempt to destroy the entire civilization. The grain has a peppery taste and high level of protein and an amino acid called lysine that is negligible in other grains.

Barley is one of the oldest cultivated grains. Its tough hull is difficult to remove without losing some of the bran but lightly pearled barley is still high in fiber.

Buckwheat isn’t really a grain. It’s actually botanically related to rhubarb. Buckwheat grows well on rocky hillsides.

Bulgur is the result of wheat kernels that are boiled, dried, cracked, and sorted by size. It is high in nutrition and cooks in only 10 minutes.

Corn has the highest level of antioxidants of any grain or vegetable. Most of the corn grown in the U.S. is fed to cattle but also commonly found in foods for human consumption. When corn is combined with beans, the combination of amino acids raises the protein value.

Millet includes several small, related grains commonly consumed in India, China, South America, Russia, and the Himalayas. It’s found in variations of white, gray, yellow, and red and is high in protein and antioxidants. Millet is gluten-free and used in flatbreads, side dishes, deserts and even alcoholic beverages.

Oats contain a fiber called beta-glucan that is effective in lowering cholesterol and has a unique antioxidant that helps protect blood vessels. The more oats are steamed and flattened, the quicker it cooks.

Quinoa, pronounced keen-wah, is botanically related to Swiss chard and beets. It can be found in a light color as well as red, purple, and black. Quinoa should be rinsed before cooking to remove the bitter naturally occurring residue of saponins. It is a complete protein containing all the essential amino acids.

Rice can be found in white, brown, black, purple, and red. It’s one of the most easily digested grains and is gluten-free. Converted rice has added B vitamins making it healthier than white but still lacks the nutrients found in brown and other varieties.

Rye is high in fiber producing a feeling of fullness. To lower glycemic index, look for whole rye or rye berries on the label.

Sorghum, also called milo, thrives where other crops cannot. Although edible and can be eaten like porridge or ground into flour, most of the U.S. crop is fed to animals, made into wallboard, or used for biodegradable packing materials.

Teff has twice the iron and three times the calcium of other grains. It is the principal source of nutrition for over two-thirds of Ethiopians.

Triticale, pronounced trit-i-KAY-lee, is a hybrid of durum wheat and rye. It is easy to grow organically.

Wheat contains large amounts of gluten, a stretchy protein necessary for bread to rise. Bread wheat is considered hard or soft depending on its protein and gluten content. Wheat has many varieties including einkorn, farro/emmer, freekeh, kamut®Khorasan, and spelt.

Wild Rice really is a seed of an aquatic grass rather than a rice. It was originally grown by indigenous tribes around the Great Lakes. Because of its high price and strong flavor it’s usually blended with other rices or grains. Wild rice has twice the protein and fiber of brown rice but less iron and calcium.

(Information from this post was taken from the WholeGrainsCouncil.org. Go to their site for more details.)

 

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

Get the Lead Out Thursday, Jun 11 2015 

Poverty, education, drugs, and family structure all play roles in the crime rates in cities such as Chicago. However, studies on children poisoned with lead may indicate the greatest factor of all. Brain scans of toddlers exposed to lead, even in small amounts, were found to have significantly less gray matter in parts of the brain that control attention, emotions, and impulses. Also, the production of white matter that transmits signals between different parts of the brain was scrambled.

According to a June 7, 2015 Chicago Tribune article by Michael Hawthorne, studies show that kids with higher levels of toxic metals in their systems not only struggle in school but also commit more violent crimes. This is particularly important information in consideration of the high crime rate in low-income areas where the potential for lead exposure is significantly greater due to the number of older buildings and vehicles there, as well as the expense of removing lead paint.

The former Chief of Lead Poisoning Prevention at the Chicago Department of Public Health, Anne Evans, compared the results of lead levels to the performance on standardized tests of more than 58,000 children born in Chicago from 1994 to 1998. Those exposed to the metal had a significantly higher failure rate in reading and math.

Harvard University researcher Robert Samson conducted a two-year study on education and crime in low-income areas of Chicago. When he added data from lead testing he was shocked to find the similarity between the rate of children younger than six in 1995 with lead poisoning and the rate of aggravated assault in 2013 when those kids were 17-22 years old. Other studies are finding similar results.

We’ve known for decades that lead in paint, gasoline, and pipes is dangerous to our health. But perhaps, like me, you didn’t understand exactly what that meant. Now we know that no child should ever be exposed to such a toxin.

©2015, Mary K Doyle

 

Eat Well. Live Well. Friday, May 29 2015 

Food is nature’s medicine. Well, at least before we add all the butter and sugar. A recent study published in the journal, Alzheimer’s & Dementia: the Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, showed a particular diet, known as the MIND diet, lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 53% in participants who faithfully adhered to it.

MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. The acronym comes from the fact that the MIND diet is a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diets. This diet is predominately based on whole, natural foods but one that is easier to follow than the other two.

The MIND diet consists of vegetables—especially a generous amount of green leafy ones, nuts, berries—especially blueberries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil, and wine.

Foods to avoid include red meat, butter and margarine, cheese, pastries and sweets, and all fried and fast food.

The study also showed that the longer we’re on the diet, the better. But even those who only adhered to it moderately saw a 35% lower risk.

The study, which began in 1997, was funded by the National Institute on Aging. One researcher was from Harvard School of Public Health. The others were all from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Participants consisted of more than 900 people between the ages of 58 and 98.

Click on the link below for a chart to hang on your refrigerator:

MIND Diet Chart

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

BC—Before Credit Cards Saturday, May 23 2015 

Once upon a time, there was a busy mom who needed groceries but she couldn’t shop that day. She had no money left in her bank account.

Why didn’t she use her credit card, you ask? There was no such thing at that time.

 

Believe it or not, there was a time not that long ago when people couldn’t buy anything if they didn’t have the money to pay for it—unless the store owner kindly allowed them to pay later. They’d count out pennies and refigure numbers over and over in the checkbook to decide if they could afford an item before purchasing.

Today, if we need automotive repairs, new shoes for our son, or dental work—we charge it. In fact, a good many of us charge everything we purchase. And few pay that debt off each month when the bill arrives.

Throughout history, there was some sort of credit extended where a creditor allowed buyers to take home a product and pay them back later, typically with an additional charge. Sometimes, however, it was just considered good business. When I was in high school I worked at a neighborhood grocery store. The owner’s office was covered in notes taped to the wall above his desk with IOUs from customers who owed him for groceries. Often, a child was sent for a few items and the mom would just pay the next time she went in.

From the 1800s to 1930s consumers had small coins or charge plates marked with their identification. They’d show their coin or plate to the cashier when they checked out and that information was marked on their receipt.

The coins and charge plates were replaced in the 1930s with the Charga-Plate, a small rectangular sheet of metal embossed with the customer name, city, and state. It was similar to a dog tag. A paper card was on the back with the customer’s signature. Oil companies issued their own cards beginning in the 1940s as did major domestic airlines in the United States. Use of these cards, as well as ones issued later by department stores, were limited to that specific company.

In 1946 John Biggins, a Brooklyn banker, offered his customers a card to use for credit. A similar card was later offered in 1951 for New York’s Franklin National Bank customers.

Frank McNamara is credited with the development of the Diners Club Card when he could not pay his dinner bill at a restaurant because he had forgotten to bring his wallet. He offered the restaurateur an IOU on a small cardboard card. The Diners Club Card was soon used for travel and entertainment at numerous locations. Carte Blanche and American Express cards followed. The first cards made from plastic came out in 1959.

Bank of America, later known as VISA, offered the first general purpose card in 1966. Banks joined together and created InterBank Card Association, now known as MasterCard.

These early charge cards only allowed credit for a month. Consumers were required to pay in full when they received their bill. It wasn’t until 1987 when American Express issued a credit card allowing customers to make monthly payments. Around this time the general public commonly began carrying cards in their wallets.

As with every new innovation, there are pros and cons. Credit’s allowed the public to get our medical care, automotive repairs, and college education in addition to the zillions of things we think we need from ice cream to manicures. On the other hand, our lives now include credit card fraud and debts that become impossible to pay off.

According to an online calculator, if we only made the minimum payments on a $5,000 charge, it would take 12.5 years to pay it off. The total interest paid would total $2,916. If the charge was $10,000, it would take 14.8 years to pay the debt with an interest payment of nearly $6,000.

Like calories in our bodies, it’s so much easier to put the dollars on the card then it is to take them off.

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

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