No Mothballs for Me Wednesday, Sep 17 2014 

Chipmunks rule the land. The cute little critters dig holes all around my house.

My sister suggested placing mothballs—those old-fashioned white, pungent balls grandmas used decades ago—along the perimeter of the house to ward them off. I don’t know how many chipmunks they kept away, but I couldn’t stand the smell and found that I was avoiding everywhere that the mothballs were. I retrieved and tossed them all. Surprisingly, the trash can smelled from them for weeks afterwards.

Mothballs are small balls of chemical pesticide and deodorant used to protect clothes from mold, moth larva, and silverfish. It also may repel snakes, mice, and other small pests. Not only is their smell offensive and overpowering, mothballs pose some serious health hazards. They must be used with great caution around family pets and children.

The ingredients have changed over the years but they continue to be somewhat flammable. They contain a chemical called 1,4-dichlorobenzene. Sometimes packaging lists it as para-dichlorobenzene, p-dichlorobenzene, pDCB, or PDB.

Mothballs are highly toxic when ingested. The US Department of Health and Human Services has determined this ingredient to be a carcinogen. It is a neurotoxin and may cause series illness or death. Large quantities in a basement or living space may also cause respiratory problems.

A better alternative to mothballs may be to spread blood meal or pieces of unchewed sticks of fragrant gum near chipmunk holes.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Flood Water Caution Friday, Sep 12 2014 

The Midwest is certainly seeing its share of flooding. But as stated on the government website, flooding is possible anywhere it rains.

Floods are caused by spring thaws, heavy rains, and damage to the landscape due to construction and wildfires. Also weakened levees can result in catastrophic floods.

A few terms to keep in mind:

  • Flood Watch—Flooding is possible.
  • Flood Warning—Flooding is occurring or will soon. Evacuation may be necessary.
  • Flash Flood—A flash flood is rapid flooding of low areas caused by intense rainfall.
  • Flash Flood Watch—Flash flooding is possible.
  • Flash Flood Warning—A flash flood is occurring.

Flash Floods are the #1 weather-related cause of death in the U.S. The water can move faster than it appears. As little as six inches can knock you off of your feet, pull you under, and result in drowning.

Recommendations during flooding include:

  • Do not drive through flooded streets.
  • Stay away from power lines and electrical wires. Electrical current travels though water.
  • Turn off the electricity. Even unplugged appliances such as televisions, can cause shock.
  • Watch for small animals that may have found shelter in your home during evacuation.
  • Step carefully across floors covered with debris. There may be broken glass or other harmful items underfoot.
  • Don’t smoke or use candles until you are certain the gas has been turned off and the area aired out.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

The Sting of Fall Tuesday, Sep 9 2014 

It’s that time of year. The wasps, which seem more active in the fall in the Midwest, have joined our outdoor fun in full force, especially when food is involved.

Vespid wasps include paper wasps, yellow jackets, and hornets. They can be differentiated from bees by their lack of body hair and thin, elongated bodies.

Paper wasps live in colonies of less than 100 and build open umbrella-shaped nests often suspended under eaves. Yellow jackets and hornets have colonies larger than 100. Hornets build massive, enclosed nets found hanging from tree branches. Yellow jackets, the most annoying wasps to humans, also make enclosed nests but build them below ground.

All three produce new colonies each year. Only the mated queens survive the cold winter months. In late summer or fall, the old queen dies, and a new one mates before its siblings die off.

The severity of reaction to a wasp sting depends on our sensitivity and whether we’ve been stung before. Most often, there is a little swelling or itching. If the stinger is visible, it should be gently removed and the area washed with soap and water. A cold compress and a pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, will ease the pain.

An allergic reaction may include mild nausea, intestinal cramps, diarrhea, or swelling larger than 4 inches in diameter at the site. We should seek medical assistance immediately if there is difficulty breathing, swelling of the lips or throat, faintness, dizziness, confusion, rapid heartbeat, or hives.

(Information gathered from mayoclinic.com and about.com)

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Who’s Looking at You? Saturday, Sep 6 2014 

All I want for Christmas is a drone.

Not really. But it is the hot item of our times. Nearly every day we see another news story about a drone. Amazon owner Jeff Bezos wants to use drones for home deliveries. So does Google. Martha Stewart loves hers. Photographers see the world from a whole new perspective offering realtors, artists, developers, farmers,and scientists literally a bird’s eye view.

And then there are those for military use.

The Predator drone flew over Afghanistan for the first time on September 7, 2000. The unmanned, unarmed plane buzzed over Tarnak Farms, a major al Qaeda camp. The U.S. says the video footage was necessary for counter terrorism. According to the Council of Foreign Relations, the first known killing by an armed drone occurred on November 2001, taking the life of al Qaeda’s military commander, Muhammad Atef, in retaliation of the September 11 attacks on the U.S.

The possibilities are endless, and there’s no turning back with these remotely controlled unmanned aerial vehicles that raise a number of questions in regards to security, safety, and privacy. Who knows what the future will bring with a sky full of drones buzzing overhead?

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

D Is For Disease Prevention Friday, Aug 22 2014 

According to a significant study recently published in the journal, Neurology, older adults severely deficient in vitamin D may be more than twice as likely to develop dementia than those who are not. Participants consisted of a group of 1,658 Americans aged 65 and older in the National Heart Blood and Lung Insittute’s Cardiovascular Health Study.

Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. Currently there are more than five million Americans living with the disease and this number is expected to soar to more than 13.5 by 2050.

The more deficient in vitamin D, the greater the risk of developing dementia. Still unknown is whether eating foods high in this vitamin or taking supplements can delay or prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

Vitamin D has also been linked to preventing asthma, diabetes, and cancer. My pulmonologist, cardiologist, internist, and family physician have all recommended I take it for various reasons.

Vitamin D may be absorbed from sunshine and supplements. It also is found in eggs and oily fish like salmon and sardines.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Fold or Hang? Tuesday, Aug 19 2014 

What is your preference of handling clothes? Do you fold them and stack on shelves or in drawers or do you hang them in the closet?

The choice is often determined by our ratio of closet to shelf space, but if we care about our clothes, some care helps them last longer.

I’m a hanger. I prefer the ease of pulling clothes out of the dryer and hanging them directly on hangers as opposed to folding. I’m not a good folder and have little space for folded clothes, so they get more wrinkled when I do.

Either way, clothes should not be overcrowded. Stuffed drawers or closets will lead to wrinkled clothes. I knew a man who hung his suits precisely two fingers apart on the rods. It was a bit eccentric but showed an appreciation for what he had.

To keep your clothes in their best shape, the all-things-home expert, Martha Stewart, suggests:

  • Hang – lightweight shirts and blouses made of linen, rayon, or cotton.
  • Hang – blouses made from delicate fabrics, such as silk and satin, on padded hangers.
  • Hang – jackets, overcoats, and suit jackets on sturdy hangers.
  • Hang – skirts on skirt hangers.
  • Hang – trousers over sturdy hangers.
  • Hang or Fold – pants made of thicker fabrics, such as jeans and corduroys.
  • Hang or Fold – heavy sweaters. (If hung, fold over hangers.)
  • Fold – lightweight sweaters.
  • Fold – evening dresses, especially if they are beaded or made from heavy fabrics,  so that their shapes are not distorted.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Pack a Basket Friday, Aug 15 2014 

Some of the most romantic paintings visible at the Art Institute of Chicago depict picnic scenes without any wind, rain, humidity, or insects to interfere with a perfect day.

From the time I was a child until only about five years ago, my very large extended family gathered for an annual picnic. Around 50 relatives—aunts and uncles, first, second, and third cousins, parents and siblings—gathered to share food, games, and stories. It was all love and fun until the water toss. Then we became a family divided with every man for himself.

The word “picnic” (pique-nique) was seen for the first time in print in the 1692 edition of Tony Willis, Orignines de la Langue Francaise. The word was used to describe a group of people who brought their own wine to a restaurant. It signified everyone contributing toward a meal.

Picnicking became popular after the French Revolution when royal parks were once again opened to the public. From then on, throughout the centuries people have enjoyed a day outdoors and a humble meal brought in a towel or nestled in a basket.

Today’s picnic basket usually consists of a cooler, which is much safer alternative to keeping foods fresh. A few other food-safety precautions include: taking only the amount of food you think you will use, separating raw and cooked foods, keeping cold foods cold and hot foods hot, carrying extra water and disposable wipes for clean-ups, and disposing leftovers at the end of the picnic. It isn’t likely the remains will be uncontaminated or bug-free.

The food and activities set the tone of the day. Enjoy a simple meal of peanut butter and jelly or one as sophisticated as caviar and toast points. Fish, toss a Frisbee or ball, play croquet, or lay on the grass and relax to your favorite music.

Don’t let the season pass without packing a lunch and setting out for a park or beach. Shared with friends, family, or a special someone, these are the things that memories are made of.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

We Are Not For Sale Tuesday, Aug 12 2014 

Humans do a lot of horrific things to one another and human trafficking tops the list. I thought I understood the crime but an article in the August 2014 St. Anthony Messenger Magazine brought my understanding to another level.

According to the United Nations, human trafficking is defined as the transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons, by means of threat, use of force, or other forms of coercion, for the purpose of exploitation.

I thought the crime was something that happened in other countries or cultures but now know that it is the second-leading crime worldwide, including in the United States. It’s been reported in every state of this country, the top five states being California, Texas, Florida, Minnesota, and Ohio.

In the article, “The Face of Human Trafficking,” Theresa Flores says that when she was in high school in the affluent city of Birmingham, Michigan, she fell victim to trafficking when a schoolmate drove her home from track practice. He first stopped at his home where he drugged and raped her. The following day he started a daily pattern of abuse and threats to her and her family should she ever report the crimes. For two-years the young man auctioned her off to multiple men every evening.

Theresa said her family were devout Catholics, loving, and attentive. They never learned of the abuse because she worked hard to conceal it from them for fear of their safety, sneaking out after everyone was asleep. The abuse finally ended when her family moved out-of-state.

Theresa is now a licensed social worker and tells her story so that she may alert parents and inform young people that there is a way out. In 2011 she formed the group, SOAP, which stands for Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution. Their hotline number is:  1-888-373-7888.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Expressing Sympathy Tuesday, Aug 5 2014 

“We have no words to express our sorrow.” Really? There are at least a quarter of a million words in the English language. Did you actually run out of all of them? After a death, we wish to express our sadness and offer a bit of comfort to their close friends and family. We say some silly things because we just don’t know what to say. We don’t know how to make things better. One of the most common sentences in sympathy cards is, “You are in my thoughts and prayers.” If you’ve experienced the death of a loved one, you probably received a stack of notes with this sentence. These, and other common expressions such as, “I’m sorry for your loss” or “I’m sorry for your troubles,” are fine to start with, but you might stop and think for just a moment. Begin by thinking about the person you are writing to and the one who passed away:

  • Can you say something kind about your friend or their deceased loved one?
  • Perhaps you have a fond memory of them that you can share.
  • Can you remark on their outstanding reputation, personality, or generosity?
  • Did the deceased suffer a long illness or die suddenly?
  • Was your friend involved in their care?
  • Can you identify with your friend’s loss?
  • Do you know of a Bible verse, prayer, or poem that is appropriate?

Expressing a thought imperfectly is better than not saying anything at all. Go ahead and use those common phrases if you can’t come up with anything else. But taking one more minute to think before writing or speaking truly can offer a moment of comfort to someone who is grieving.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Dr. Bow-Wow Friday, Aug 1 2014 

If you are concerned that you may have cancer, see a dog. Several studies are underway with dogs sniffing out cancers. Some of these studies are federally funded, and they come with great hope for early detection.

The University of Pennsylvania researchers say results are 90% successful in identifying the scent of ovarian cancer in tissue samples. Currently, there are no other effective tests for early detection. The dogs also are used in detecting prostate cancer in urine samples with 98% accuracy, where the traditional PSA test gives a high percentage of false positives.

Dogs are long recognized for their acute sense of smell. They have 220 million olfactory cells in their noses compared with 50 million in humans. The studies found that dogs detect chemicals emitted by tumors referred to as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Whether some types of dogs are better than others at detection is still unclear.

The findings of these studies may open up possibilities of use with breath samples to find breast, colon, and lung cancers. There also may be the ability to copy this type of detection with a machine or chemical test. Researches are finding much hope from what they are learning from man’s best friend.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

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