My Wee Bird Friends Monday, Aug 23 2021 

Sadly, I believe my resident hummingbirds have left for the season. I haven’t seen any of them for a few days. Last week, a wee one flew around in front of me on the other side of my patio door for several minutes. Perhaps, she was saying good-bye.

One of the greatest joys for me this summer were my hummingbird visits. When the weather was perfect for working outside on my patio, I had a vantage point of view of the hummingbird feeder and butterfly bushes in my little garden that drew the tiny creatures near me. The birds’ fluttering and feeding captivated my attention so much so I felt they’d hypnotized me. I had difficulty looking away to return to my work.

The United States sees only about two dozen of the 325 species of hummingbirds in the world. Most are found in Central and South America and do not regularly migrate.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are common in the United States and the ones who migrate to my area. They fly 500 miles nonstop across the Gulf of Mexico during both their spring and fall migrations. The longest migration of any of these birds is by the rufous hummingbird which flies more than 3,000 miles from Alaska and Canada to Mexico.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds weigh only 3 grams but are mighty with an ability to dart quickly and even fly upside down. Interestingly, hummingbirds rotate their wings in a figure eight beating them approximately 80 times per second.

Hummingbirds are dressed in 1,000 to 1,500 feathers, which is fewer than any other type of bird. They cannot walk or hop. Their feet are tools for scooting sideways while perched, scratching, and preening. They have no sense of smell but extraordinary eyesight.

My winged friends consume approximately one half of their weight in sugar daily. They can feed five to eight times per hour. In addition to nectar, they also feed on insects, spiders, tree sap, and juice from fruits.

Hummingbirds do not suck but rather lick nectar with their fringed, forked tongue and draw the nectar up into their throats. They may lick 10-15 times per second.

The bee hummingbird is the smallest measuring 2.25 inches long. And in spite of their minute size, hummingbirds can be very aggressive attacking jays, crows, and hawks if they enter their territory.

Their average lifespan is three to 12 years.

*See some of my writing tips in my post, Begin With a List.

*Check out my website, Mary K Doyle.com.

*Photos: Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds

The Happy Flower Monday, Aug 2 2021 

Sunflowers are blooming everywhere around here, in fact, The National Garden Bureau designated 2021 the Year of the Sunflower. They are symbolic in the Chinese culture of good luck, lasting happiness, love, loyalty, and longevity.

Sunflowers come in a variety of colors, sizes, and fullness. The 70 cultivars of sunflowers belong to three groups—giant sunflowers, dwarf sunflowers, and colored sunflowers. The largest sunflower varieties grow to more than 16 feet in height and some have flower heads as large as more than 12 inches in diameter. Fast growing, most varieties mature in only 80 to 95 days. The happy flower blooms in shades of yellow, orange, and red attracting birds, bees, and butterflies.

Sunflowers are heliotropes, moving with the sun as they begin the day facing east and progress to the west along with the sun and then back east again. They are one of the few plants that are heat-tolerant and resistant to pests.

The tall plants with coarse, furry stems are native to North America. They’re predominantly cultivated as a food source. Each flower produces around 1,000 seeds to be used as an ingredient in salads, smoothies, and breads, and toasted as a snack as well as used as bird feed. Ground into an oil, sunflower oil is a less expensive than olive oil. 

Sunflower seeds are helpful in reducing cholesterol, rich in protein and healthy fats, and a source of antioxidants. The oil is a source of vitamin E and can promote hair growth and soothe sensitive or irritated skin.

Sunflowers are popular in bouquets because we can’t help but smile when seeing their sunny faces. And after providing happiness, when the petals have dropped, the heads can be placed outside for birds to enjoy the seeds or dried out and used as scrubbers.

*Check out, “Our Planet’s Health and Well-Being” on my other blog.

*I’ve written three books for you, my caregiver friends: Inspired Caregiving, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, and Navigating Alzheimer’s.

*Photos taken at Tom’s Farm Market, Huntley, IL.

Sleep is Medicine Friday, Jul 23 2021 

Perhaps Americans should start putting sleep on their calendars and to-do lists. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one in three Americans are sleep-deprived. More than 35% of Americans get less than seven hours of sleep per night. Shockingly, one in 20 has fallen asleep while driving in the past month!

Sleep needs vary from one person to another. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. However, some are fine at 6 hours while others require up to 10.

One of the interesting factors regarding sleep is that deprivation can result in illness and illness can contribute to sleep deprivation. For example, due to at least two illnesses, I’m one of those people who experiences a cycle of pain and fatigue. The more tired I am, the more pain I feel and visa versa. I’m at a point where I can do anything as long as I allow rest times after physical activity.

Dozens of factors contribute to sleep deprivation including a too-busy schedule, too much caffeine or alcohol consumption, anemia, hypothyroidism, jet lag, unhealthy diet, anxiety, cancer, chronic infection, inflammation, and pain, kidney disease, concussion, COPD, depression, diabetes, fibromyalgia, physical or emotional trauma, hormone imbalance, grief, thyroid disease, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, obesity, and sleep apnea.

On the other hand, lack of sleep may result in other health problems. Researchers find that lack of sleep makes it more difficult to lose weight and poses an increased risk of diabetes, heart problems, depression, substance abuse and a decreased ability to focus, remember new information, and perform at optimum levels.

There’s also a connection between sleep loss and memory loss. Chronic sleep deprivation causes injury to parts of the brain that are essential in maintaining attention and forming and storing memories. In addition, it’s believed that our brains clean out substances while sleeping that otherwise interfere with its ability to transmit messages.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also called myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME and ME/CFS), is a particular problem with fatigue that is predominately diagnosed by ruling out other illnesses. Symptoms include fatigue that worsens with physical or mental activity, doesn’t improve with rest, and may also include difficulty with memory, focus, concentration, sore throat, enlarged lymph nodes, unexplained muscle or joint pain, and headaches.

The cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is unknown, although there are many theories ranging from viral infections to psychological stress. Some experts believe chronic fatigue syndrome might be triggered by a combination of factors.

If you feel that fatigue is a daily concern for you, it may be best to consult your physician.

*Have you seen my post, “Eat Well. Live Well?

*For information on caregiving to loved ones with dementia, you may find these books helpful: Navigating Alzheimer’s, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, and Inspired Caregiving.

*Photo: Lily Pad, Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, IL, 6/12/21

Fungi in Every Breath You Take Tuesday, Jul 13 2021 

The topic of fungus may not be the most entertaining one you read about today, but it is fascinating. And if you read this post through to the end, you’ll find fungi can also be scary.

Fungi include microorganisms such as yeasts, molds, mushrooms, rusts, smuts, and mildews. They are not plants or animals. They belong to their own kingdom. However, they are more like animals than plants because they gather their food. Most fungi are so small they are invisible to the human eye, yet they play a significant role in our health as well as the environment’s.

Although often thought to be interchangeable with the word mushrooms, mushrooms are actually a small percentage of fungi. Fungi live everywhere including soil, sand, air, on rocks, and on plants. It’s estimated that there are more than 5 million species of fungi. They are adaptable little things, sitting dormant for decades and growing when exposed to prime conditions.

Fungi play an important role in medications such as antibiotics, anticancer drugs, and cholesterol inhibitors. They are significant in cleaning up the environment, decomposing carbon-based materials that have died. In addition, they can absorb and digest environmental contaminants such as petroleum and pesticides. Fungi also are used to make yeasts for alcohol, bread, and cheeses and can be consumed as a meat substitute and protein source.

Depending on our location, we may breathe in up to four spores with every breath and as many as 92,000 each day. This can be a problem for people like me who are allergic to several forms of fungi.

One type of fungi is the stuff of horror movies. The zombie fungi, fungal genus Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, can infect ants and take over their behavior. It directs the ants to move to a location that is best for the fungus and then consumes the ant from the inside out while spreading spores to infect more ants so that the cycle continues.

For more information see this page on the University of Oklahoma’s website where much of this information comes from.

*Help your caregiver friends with loved ones with dementia with the books that will answer their daily questions: Navigating Alzheimer’s, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, and Inspired Caregiving.

*Have you read my last post on Mary K Doyle Books, “Eat Well. Live Well“?

*Photos: 1. Giant Puffball, 2. ?

Lily of the Water Thursday, Jun 24 2021 

Impressionist painter Claude Monet loved water lilies so much he painted more than 250 works of art featuring this aquatic plant. The delicate blossoms transform a pond, shallow and still freshwater, and slow-moving streams into fragrant, colorful gardens.

Water lilies are important symbolically for several reasons. In the Hindu and Buddhist traditions they represent resurrection because many of the lilies close their flowers at night and reopen at sunlight. The bright aquatic flowers rising from the dirty mud symbolize enlightenment. Their association with water is also symbolic of birth.  

There are more than 50 types of water lilies found in a wide range of colors including white, pink, red, orange, yellow, purple, and blue. Tropical varieties typically have brighter shades. They also have variations of leaves including star-shaped, cup-shaped, smooth, and jagged.

Although water lilies are in the same family (Nymphaeceae) as lotus, they are somewhat different. Mainly, the leaves and flowers of water lilies (Nymphaea species) float on the water’s surface. The leaves and flowers of the lotus (Nelumbo species) rise above the water’s surface.

These aquatic plants are an important player in the ecosystem. The flowers and leaves provide shade which keeps the water cooler and prevents algae from growing. They also offer fish beneath the lily pads refuge from the hot sun and covered shelter from predatory birds.

*See “Visiting Memory Care Homes” on my other blog.

Do you know that I’ve written books on caregiving for loved ones with dementia, how our faith changes as we age, the rosary, praying with Mary in times of grief, and Saint Theodora/Saint Mother Theodore Guerin? You can see all of my books on my website or Amazon.

Killdeer Pair Tuesday, Jun 15 2021 

I’m working on the most enjoyable book. It consists of poetry and nature photos. I’m shooting photos of wildlife and writing poems inspired by what I see.

Keeping my eye out for interesting creatures and plants is making me more aware of the environment. I love walking through woods and fields and noticing what’s going on around me. I had no idea how much was literally in my backyard.

This photo is too blurry for publication because of the distance I had to zoom in. But I wanted to show you these adorable birds. Aren’t they cute together?

The photo is of two killdeers, one of the many birds I’m newly discovering. The killdeer is considered an upland shorebird, although they don’t live at the shore. Killdeers have two black bands around the neck, a brown back, and white belling. They are known for their broken wing impression which draws intruders away from the nest.

Wherever you live, you’re likely to find new species, as well. Keep your eyes open. You’ll be surprised how many fascinating plants and creatures are right underfoot!

*Who Do You Want Your Children to Follow?

You can see all of my books on my website, Marykdoyle.com.

Summer-Fresh Herbs Thursday, Jun 3 2021 

One of the prime factors in cooking the tastiest dishes is to use fresh, quality ingredients–fresh herbs being particularly important in most recipes.

Purchasing herbs in your local grocery store offers a convenient but expensive option. However, these herbs are only as fresh as the harvesting and transporting allows and are handled by multiple people. Also, we typically only use a portion of the packet and toss the rest.

The best alternative is for us to grow our own herbs. We then know the quality of the soil and seed, especially when choosing organic products, and likely are the only ones to touch these herbs. Most significantly, we can pick the exact quantity we need for a dish.

In the Midwest, cilantro grows best in spring conditions. However, most others grow well throughout the summer. Rosemary is said to be the easiest herb of all to grow.

A sunny window can offer space for a mini-indoor garden, if your herbs can get at least four to six hours of direct sunlight. Use pots with drainage holes to avoid over-watering.

I have limited garden space, so my herbs are planted in pots on outdoor shelves. I prefer purchasing small plants rather than starting my herbs from seed. This allows me to beginning harvesting within a couple of weeks. This year my herb garden consists of the end of the cilantro and lavender, mint, parsley, basil, rosemary, and sage. These are ones I know that I will use and work within my allotted space, but there are so many more from which to choose.

In addition to cooking with herbs, I also toss a few leaves in my iced and hot tea, lemon and limeade, and water. The hint of flavor and fragrance of the herbs transforms a normal beverage into a special treat. They also offer numerous health benefits. For example, sage and rosemary can improve brain function and memory. Peppermint relieves IBS pain and reduces nausea.

*

Inspired Caregiving was written for the caregivers in your life. It’s a gift book with lovely photos and manageable bits of information and inspiration.

You can see all my books on my website.

Have you seen my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books? Posts relate to my published books.

Minnie, Mighty Chipmunks Friday, May 21 2021 

They’re back! Some find them a nuisance, even destructive. Chipmunks dig holes throughout our gardens and take bites out of our plants.

The busy small, striped rodents can also be quite entertaining. Last summer, my resident chipmunk enjoyed dining on my back step. She’d select one of the nearby cherry tomatoes, find a comfy spot, and nibble away.

Chipmunks are the smallest members of the squirrel family. They diet primarily on seeds, nuts, buds, and fruits, but they’ll also munch on small frogs, worms, and bird eggs. They carry their food in cheek pouches into their burrows where they dine–unless they find a safe location, like my patio. Those burrows can be more than 11 feet in length and are kept quite neat. Shells and feces are stored in separate refuse tunnels.

Western chipmunks breed only once a year. However, Eastern chipmunks mate in early spring and again in early summer producing litters of four or five and hibernate through the winter. Newborn chipmunks are 2 1/2 inches long and weigh only .1 ounce! They are toothless, blind, and furless. The wee creatures typically live about three years.

Chipmunks are integral to forest ecosystems as their activities help establish seedlings. These small mammals also consume fungi and disperse spores of truffles which cannot do this on their own. In addition, they are a food source for other mammals and larger birds.

*Do you have a loved one with dementia symptoms? You may enjoy playing Memory Games with them.

*Check out my website and author Facebook page.

Heavenly Arboretum Friday, May 14 2021 

Escape to a botanical garden and it as if we are in another dimension. We are carried away from our earthly problems into a heavenly land.

That is how I felt when my boyfriend, Paul, took me to The Morton Arboretum. Paul presented me with an early birthday gift of membership, and took me away for the day. I’ve been in a lot of pain recently, but while at the arboretum, I was submerged in peace and beauty, distracted from inner thoughts.

The total number of Botanic Gardens recorded in the U. S. ranges anywhere from 296 to 1014 depending on the criteria used. The approximate number of living plants recorded in these gardens is around 600,000.

The Morton Arboretum is located in Lisle, Illinois. This arboretum is internationally recognized as containing one of North America’s most comprehensive collections of trees and shrubs with 220,000 labeled pants. And where there is flora, there is fauna. The area is alive with land and water creatures.

Walk, run, hike, or bike across these grounds and explore the surrounding glory. Each garden and path offers differing treasures. And of course, everything changes with the seasons. God’s paint brush works wonders year round.

(Here is a list of botanical gardens and arboretums in our country.)

Give the gift of hope and peace to your favorite caregiver, Inspired Caregiving. Weekly Morale Builders.

Have you seen my latest post on my other blog, “Honoring Mary, Our Blessed Mother?”

Celebrate the Small Stuff Thursday, May 13 2021 

Life is built on baby steps. We may pause to note the milestones—major birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, retirements, or an award, but we can’t get to the big stuff without the little accomplishments along the way. An improved test score, eating a healthy meal, extending a kind word to a stranger, completing a troubling work project, or a clean kitchen at the end of a hectic day is what it’s all about. These little achievements are cause to celebrate.

Our daily challenges demand our attention. The disasters and struggles shout for us to respond. Yet, in the most trying times, we continue to have moments of joy, moments to commemorate. Focusing on these gains, no matter how minor, keep us positive and hopeful. We recognize that good things are happening all of the time instead of being stuck in sorrow.

We also remain in the present. We’re not mourning the past or fearing the future. We are powerful in the moment. And all those strong, happy moments lead to bigger successes.

*

“Honoring Mary, Our Blessed Mother”

Have you seen my website, Mary K. Doyle?

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