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

Laugh Like a Baby Wednesday, Jul 30 2014 

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Who can resist a laughing baby? Even when toddlers are naughty, their exuberance sparks the same in us. Life is good, and they don’t hold back on expressing that joy.

Babies find humor in the simple things. We can play peek-a-boo non-stop. For some reason our appearance and disappearance is hilarious.

What fascinates me is how early in life they know what is funny and how to be funny. Our little Samantha laughed at my husband when she was only three weeks old. She knew even then that Papa was being silly.

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And how clever they are at such young ages. My daughter, Erin, and I were talking on the phone when 17 month-old Tyler vanished. They were in their home with all doors closed and locked, but she could not find him anywhere. She called his name repeatedly. He did not respond.

We became increasingly more concerned. We feared he was stuck or hurt somewhere.

Finally, she found Tyler hiding behind the couch. He burst into a huge belly laugh when he saw her frantic face. He was very proud of how well he hid from his mommy and how he scared her to pieces. He took advantage of her being distracted on the phone. Maybe next time she will think about that before taking her attention away from him.

And then last Saturday, while playing on the floor with my other 17 month-old grandson, Daniel, he took a large mouthful of water from his sippy cup and proceeded to spit it out into my hair. I screamed and jumped. He burst into laughter. This little guy knew exactly how to tease his nana and how much fun that would be.

Babies are innately happy and playful. Somehow, even little ones know early on how to get a reaction out of grown-ups.  They enjoy surprising us. Most of all they love to laugh.

Our world is pretty stressed out right now. There is tension all around. Sure, we need to pay attention and take the many problems seriously.

But we also need to stop from time-to-time and put our troubles aside. Smiling, laughing, and playing are good for us. A happy break here and there helps to get us through the tough stuff.

(Photos: Daniel, 17 months-old; Samantha, 3 weeks-old and Marshall)

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Make That Cigarette Your Last Friday, Jul 25 2014 

We do some of the craziest things that put our lives on the line—driving recklessly, eating poorly, and abusing drugs and alcohol. Smoking cigarettes is another of the fast roads to self-destruction. Although a recent survey found that cigarette smoking is down about 20% in the U.S. than it was 50 years ago, one smoker is too many.

More than 1,300 people die each day in this country due to smoking. Smokers die on average 13 years earlier than non-smokers.

Every cigarette has a negative effect on the body. Chemicals in tobacco reach the lungs where the blood then carries toxins to every organ in the body. Smoking lowers immunity, causes coughing and breathing difficulties, problems with blood pressure, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema. It increases chances of getting cancer, heart disease, strokes, and cataracts.

Smoking is bad for our looks, as well. It ages the skin, teeth, and fingernails. Non-smokers are often offended by the lingering smell of cigarette smoke on the smoker, which they cannot detect themselves.

And e-cigs are not any better. The battery operated devices contain not only nicotine but unknown chemicals. Since they are not regulated, no one knows exactly what is in them. There is no evidence that e-cigs help smokers quit the habit, as some claim. But it does appear that if kids start with them, they are more likely to progress to regular cigarettes.

There is the expense to consider also. An average pack of cigarettes costs about $5.31. This is money that can be used on hobbies, our families, and even necessities.

If you are reluctant to stop smoking to improve your own health, think of the people around you. About 49,000 deaths each year are caused by exposure to secondhand smoke.

The good news is that the body responds well once smoking is stopped.  We begin to heal within 20 minutes of the last cigarette.

My father was a smoker for most of his life. He died at the age of 73 from lung cancer. He is gone 13 years, and I miss him every day. I understand when he started smoking in the 1940s that it was the cool thing to do. People were not aware of the dangers. But honestly, I’m angry with him for not stopping sooner, not wanting to be with me and the rest of the family longer.

Today, everyone knows the risks of smoking. Everyone knows every puff is deadly. Please care enough about your life and your loved ones to quit the habit today.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

All Children Are Our Children Tuesday, Jul 22 2014 

Just another day in the city. Children playing hop scotch,  walking home from school, sitting on their front porch with their grandmother, and sleeping in their beds when a bullet finds its way to them, taking their lives.

Shamiya Adams is yet another victim of gun violence in Chicago. It was 9:30 on a summer evening. The 11 year-old was at a sleep-over with her friends. The children were enjoying girl-talk and s’mores when a random bullet soared through a window zeroing into Shamiya’s head.

How can it be unsafe for a child to play with friends inside their home? If they aren’t safe there, then where?

Shamiya was one of at least 22 shooting victims in a 12 hour period this past weekend. No doubt Shamiya’s shooter was a teenager, a young person who’s now taken the life of another young person. When caught and tried, he will be confined to a prison with other criminals.

We never must be immune to the sobbing mothers seen weekly on the news, heartbroken over the loss of their children due to gun violence.  Our children cannot grow up thinking this is normal. Children shouldn’t witness or know, be related to, or be a victim of gun violence. They also should respect the lives and property of others and not spend their summer firing weapons as if in a video game.

A couple of years ago, the daily program, Chicago Windy Live, featured a special program on inner city violence. Father Michael Flagler, the beloved pastor of St. Sabina Church and an integral part of the community, said the problems are multi-layered. They can’t be solved with one change. Poverty, parenting, drug and alcohol abuse, education, employment opportunities, community involvement, and mentoring are issues that need to be addressed.

These children in the mix of all of this are not “that neighborhood’s” children, they are our children, our future. If you are able to help an inner city child or their family, please do so. We can change this situation and the future of our city one child at a time. At the very least, remember them in your prayers.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Don’t Ask for Ketchup on That Dog Friday, Jul 18 2014 

The crack of a baseball bat and aroma of hot dogs heaped in condiments signal summer is here in full swing. And the two often go hand-in-hand.

Many a summer festivity, picnic, barbecue, and baseball game include hot dogs. It’s estimated that more than 7 billion hot dogs will be consumed this summer in the U.S. Americans eat about 60 dogs a year.

The creation of the hot dog is debated but the name is thought to have originated in Germany in the mid to late 1800s where it wasn’t uncommon to consume dog meat. Sometimes they also are called franks, after Frankfurt, Germany.

Today hot dogs are cooked sausages typically made from pork and/or beef, fillers, flavorings, and preservatives. The filling is encased in small intestines of sheep or sold without any skin.

Their more nutritious, but not so delectable, cousins may be made from chicken, turkey, or vegetarian ingredients. They may also be gluten-free, preservative-free, or organic.

Hot dogs can be grilled, steamed, fried, broiled, or microwaved. They are pre-cooked but should be served warm to avoid Listeria bacteria. My favorite dogs are Hebrew National 100% all natural kosher beef. They are tasty and relatively healthy.

Hot dogs can be topped with mustard, ketchup, onions, mayonnaise, relish, cheese, chili, or sauerkraut, but beware where you make your garnish selection. Areas and baseball parks, such as Coney Island and Fenway Park, offer their specialties with signature flavorings and toppings. In some areas of the country the dogateur will be highly offended if you request toppings outside the local cuisine.

The traditional serving in Chicago is a Vienna beef hot dog topped with mustard, chopped onions, sport peppers, fresh sliced tomatoes, a pickle, and a sprinkle of celery salt. One last important touch is that the delicacy be served in a poppy-seed bun.  You don’t want to frustrate a vendor in Chicago by asking for ketchup. It you really want it, you might ask them for ketchup on the side for your fries.

For a twist on tradition, order a corn dog, which is dipped in corn batter and deep-fried. Enjoy a plain hot dogged chopped in some baked beans or a mini-hot dog wrapped in bread dough and served as an hors d’oeuvres.

Nathan’s Hot Dogs holds an annual hot dog eating contest every July 4th. This year’s winner, Joey Chestnut, proposed to his girlfriend before chowing down 61 franks and buns.

Hopefully, the young man does not practice every day. Although delicious, the tasty treat is not recommended as a daily diet. The American Institute for Cancer Research states that consuming one hot dog or serving of processed meat every day increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 20%. Hot dogs also are high in sodium, fat, and nitrites. In addition, hot dogs pose a choking risk in young children. The suggestion is to cut them into small pieces to reduce the risk.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

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