Do You Want Peace? Thursday, May 12 2022 

If you had the power to bring peace and justice to absolutely everywhere in the world, would you use that power? Would you at least make an attempt to promote peace?

Well, you do have such power, and it isn’t very complicated. More than 100 years ago, the Virgin Mary gave us a peace plan that she promised would work. And she provided clear instructions for us to follow.

Over the course of six months from May 13 to October 13, 1917, Mary appeared to three shepherd children, Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta in Fatima, Portugal. The plan is simple but does take some effort on our part. Basically, it is to build a relationship with Mary’s son, Jesus. If Jesus is our first thought before we act, we would be kinder, gentler, and loving. The more of us who do this, the more peaceful our world becomes.

One way in which to grow closer to Jesus is to pray the rosary daily. Throughout the rosary, we meditate on the life, works, and death of Christ. The repetition of prayers is calming, which allows us to think clearly. We end feeling more relaxed and positive.

Mary warned that if we did not strive for peace, an already greedy, angry, and selfish world would become worse. At that time, World War I was in progress. Undoubtedly, we did not heed the warning. We know that a greater war did in fact occur, and we have continued with conflicts ever since then.

At the time of the apparitions, Lucia was 10 years old, Francisco was 9, and Jacinta was 7. The Fatima children were quite young yet followed Mary’s instructions to the very best of their abilities. If they could do it, so can we.

For more information on Mary’s peace plan, see my booklet, Fatima Today, available for only 99 cents from ACTA Publications. To learn how to pray the rosary or understand it better, see my book, The Rosary Prayer by Prayer.

Tulip Timing is Everything Thursday, May 5 2022 

Have you ever experienced a time when everything you did turned out perfectly? You set out for an adventure, and with each step, you happened to be at the most opportune moment for the ultimate outcome. Everything you hoped for fell right into place.

Well, this week, my boyfriend and I went on a quick three-day get-away, and most everything we experienced, wasn’t that. In fact, the trip was quite disappointing.

Paul and I drove about three and a half hours to Holland, Michigan, a sweet little town on the east side of Lake Michigan. The plan was to enjoy the views and experiences of Holland a few days before their annual tulip festival. We imagined discovering a tulip haven, a mini paradise with tulips growing everywhere prior to the expected crowds.

We arrived late afternoon on Monday and checked into the Staybridge Suites on James Street. The hotel was very nice with friendly, accommodating staff. We had a full kitchen with counter seating, a sitting room, and a comfortable bed. The price was reasonable as our reservation was a bit off-season, and they offered a military discount. So far, so good.

We unpacked and went out to find a restaurant. Initially, we only spotted fast-food chains, which rarely are our food of choice. Google showed most of the local restaurants to be on a main strip, but with so many one-way streets, it was tricky to get there. We could see where we wanted to go but had difficulty figuring out how to get there. Later, we learned that U-turns are a thing in Michigan for just this reason.

When we arrived at the four-block downtown area on 8th Street, our next challenge was to search for a parking lot that had an open spot that wasn’t reserved. After touring several of the area’s public lots, we finally found a space and walked over to a lovely street with trees in bloom and attractive shops.

Restaurants were scattered throughout. To our dismay, they were closed on Mondays. At the end of the downtown area, we found an Irish Pub that was open. Damp and chilled from the drizzling rain, tired, and very hungry having only eaten snacks all day, we got a comfy table by the fireplace. A friendly waitress served us a couple of beers and a delicious, hearty dinner of Irish stew for me and shepherd’s pie for Paul. Rejuvenated, we were ready to go again.

Since tulips were the reason we ventured to Holland, we headed out to the main parks. We expected the town to be decked out in the blooms. Surprisingly, few homes showcased them. More tulips are blooming in my own neighborhood.

The main location to see tulips in Holland is Windmill Island Gardens. Unfortunately, we arrived a few minutes after 5pm and were told that the last tickets for the day were sold. The ticket vendor said that we could come back after 6pm when the windmill closed (a key viewing spot) and wander through the gardens. However, she added there was little to see. Because of the unusually cold and rainy weather, only about 25% of the tulips were open.

The lady suggested we check out a nearby park called Window on the Waterfront that had more open buds. The tulip photos shown here were taken at that park. The location claims 100,000 tulips. The winding paths were pretty, but it was difficult to take a photo that didn’t include the cars and buildings on the streets surrounding it. And much like Windmill Island Gardens, the majority of tulips were yet to open.

We woke Tuesday morning to heavy rain, and the forecast stated it would continue like that all day. We searched online for museums only to find ones of interest were not open. We did try one that some online information indicated was open. After running through a downpour from the lot behind the building to the museum door in front, we discovered it was closed until Friday.

Soaked and frustrated, we decided to pack up and return home. Paul was just getting over a bad cold, and the weather was not good for him especially. Plus, I had a work event to attend on Thursday and a meeting on Friday.

The drive home took us two extra hours due to the weather and a truck accident, which thankfully, did not include us. We crawled in traffic long enough for me to read through my hundreds of emails.

In retrospect, we should have done more research on the sites and restaurants in Holland, their hours and days of operation as well as ticket prices, and considered the weather forecast. We also could have checked this online tulip tracker to learn how many flowers were currently in bloom. No doubt, the parks will be beautiful next week.

Holland wasn’t what we expected but probably is a good destination for young families. The beaches along Lake Macatawa are said to be clean and fun. There also are some activities, such as the wooden shoe factory and Nelis’ Dutch Village, a cute, albeit small, Dutch-themed park that young children would enjoy.

Do you have any advice on where to or not to go for a little getaway? I’d love to hear about it.

***

Alzheimer’s disease is frighteningly common. Help out your friends who care for loved ones with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Give them the gift of information and understanding with the books, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, Navigating Alzheimer’s, and the Inspired Caregiver.

Help Our Wee Friends. Temporarily Remove Birdseed Feeders Wednesday, Apr 27 2022 

Are we required to wear a mask or not? Should we remove our seed/grain bird feeders or continue filling them? Current guidance on birdfeeders is almost as confusing as mask wearing. However, I have some helpful information for you.

Although no official ruling has been made, wildlife agencies recommend that we do, in fact, take our feeders down until May 31, 2022, or until infections subside. Risk is relatively low for songbirds to contract or spread the avian influenza (EA H5N1 strain of avian influenza HPAI), but if that should happen, the spread could be devastating, especially for domestic poultry. A mass outbreak could cost billions of dollars and millions of lives in poultry.

The United States declares that it has the strongest avian influenza surveillance program in the world. This program, APHIS, collects and tests large numbers of samples from wild birds in North America and says that the outbreak started on the East Coast and swiftly spread through the Midwest and beyond. The virus has been detected in several states including, Pennsylvania, Utah, Texas, Idaho, Colorado, Montana, and North Dakota.

HPAI is a highly pathogenic avian influenza. However, the effect of the virus varies with the type of bird. According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), HPAI was detected in the state of Illinois in wild Canadian geese on March 10, 2022. Since then, wild bird mortality from this virus has been confirmed in Champaign, Fulton, Sangamon, and Will counties with a more recent mortality event of more than 200 birds in Cook County. Impacted birds include waterfowl and waterbird species and raptors, including eagles and owls, as well as domestic poultry. Recently, the U.S.D.A. reported 41 dead bald eagles infected with the virus across the country.

The organization also that any occurrences of deceased or sick bald eagles be reported. Caution should be taken when disposing of any deceased wild birds. The recommendation is that gloves and a mask be worn, the carcass sealed in double-plastic bags, and then hands and clothing should be washed with soap and water.

Other recommendations include the omission of feeding wild birds in close proximity to domestic flocks. It’s important that pet birds and backyard poultry remain housed in a building until the risk decreases. Also, feeding geese, ducks, gulls and other shorebird species should be avoided as not only does the gathering of birds while feeding increase the risk of them contracting the virus, so does our human presence since we can carry pathogens on our hands, clothing, and shoes, as well.

According to IDNR, it is unlikely that hummingbird and oriole feeders will contribute to the spread of HPAI because these birds are more species specific. Therefore, hummingbird feeders may remain up.

When we may again feed our songbirds, IDNR recommends that bird feeders and baths be completely emptied and cleaned weekly with a solution of nine parts water to one part bleach and then thoroughly rinsed.

For more information, see articles on the CDC website, U.S. Geological Survey, Wildlife Illinois, and the IDNR.

***Parenting is rewarding yet exhausting. Get a daily boost with Inspired Caregiving.

Careful with the Crazy Talk Wednesday, Apr 20 2022 

We can be our worst enemy. Through our self-talk, we sabotage our confidence, stifle our ability to excel, and repeat negative thoughts that lead us into the dark.

When we dwell on our shortcomings and failures, we tend to exaggerate making things much worse than what they really are. Negative statements about ourselves and what we believe others think of us, only pull us down emotionally and prevent us from succeeding. We lead our own path to depression and anxiety and become sad and irritable.

Nor does such self-talk do anything to motivate us to work harder or strive higher. It’s healthy to honestly acknowledge where we can improve, but we should do it in ways that empower. For example, rather than dwelling on how we failed to deliver a clear message in a presentation, we can review the presentation, think about what we can change, and know that we will do better next time.

We also can repeat affirmations, words that affirm positivity. Such positive thinking is empowering. I prefer those that are peaceful, compassionate, and appreciative of the good around us.

Following are a few affirmations you might want to try. You can find more information on Healthline.

My voice matters, and I do make a difference.

My heart is open. I radiate love.

My life is a gift. I appreciate everything that I have.

***Jesus’ mother understands our pain. Learn how to pray with her in our times of need. Read, Grieving with Mary. Finding Comfort and Healing in Devotion to the Mother of God.

The Lizzardo Museum of Lapidary Art Monday, Apr 11 2022 

The Chicago area is known for its outstanding museums. But my boyfriend, Paul, and I actually went to one I’d never heard of, and I’ve lived here my whole, l-o-n-g life. We recently discovered The Lizzardo Museum of Lapidary Art in Oak Brook, Illinois. Lapidary relates to stone and gems and the craft involved in engraving, cutting and polishing.

The Lizzardo Museum displays more than 200 pieces of extraordinary jade and other hard stone carvings from around the world in addition to uncarved rocks that are naturally impressive. We spent the afternoon gazing at each piece, thoroughly intrigued with the mastery required to create such magnificent items and the stunning beauty of the large, uncut stones.

I loved the traditional jade green pieces but was surprised to learn jade can be found in other colors. Here is a carving of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy, in Jadeite Jade (early 20th century). Notice the lovely lilac, blue, and even gold shadings.

Here are others with such variations.

At the museum, you can find sculptures in other substances and stones, as well. Here are a couple of the ivory pieces on display. Some of these pieces have the delicacy of lace.

This figure is made from rich, green malachite.

And this exquisite box consists of numerous elements including Malachite, Rhodochrosite, Gold in Quartz, Sugilite, Turquoise, Jade, Copper Ore, Lake Superior Agate, Datolite, and Opalized Palm Wood

The most massive carving at Lazzardo is the Altar of the Green Jade Pagoda, (Jade/Jadeite on Teakwood with Cloisonné, 1933, Designed by Chang Wen Ti, China). Carved from a nine-ton boulder from Myanmar, the altar consists of over 1,000 pieces of jade and took 150 skilled jade carvers more than ten years to complete. The masterpiece was donated to the Lizzardo Museum in 2018.

Other amazing works include the Florentine and Roman stone mosaics. No matter how closely I looked at these intricate pieces, I could not see the tiny stones. To me, it was if the scenes were painted.

Castle Lizzardo, an 18 K gold sculpture with diamond windows, is magical. The detail is extraordinary. The added stones appear as if the castle sets right into them.

Other pieces include this one titled, Mountain, which is carved from Lapis Lazuli (China),

The striation in the following vase comes from a stone called Blue John Fluorite. The vase sits on an Ashford Marble Base (late 20th century, England).

This lovely Madonna is carved from Rutilated Smokey Quartz (Germany) and leans with the flow of the stone.

And this Italian pitcher and German bird carving are made from Rock Crystal Quartz. I can’t imagine using such a spectacular and fragile pitcher.

I love the graceful movement of the Dancing Angel by Glenn Lehrer which is made from Drusy Agate with Silver on an Obsidian base (U.S.A.).

The museum also has dozens of cameos.

This one is part of a temporary exhibit of cameos based on the legendary tale of Faust.

And don’t miss the back of the museum where the unsculptured rock formations can be found.

Here is large piece of Fossilized Conifer Wood. The changes in the nature of the bark offers much to ponder.

The bright, lively Rhodochrosite is certainly eye-catching.

And check out these beauties – Rubies in Zoisite

Scolecite

Angel Wing Calcite

Ocean Jasper

and Mesolite.

In addition, the museum features a wall of dioramas the children will enjoy. The miniatures in these scenes were carved from gemstones in Idar-Oberstein, Germany.

Mining is showing destruction of the rainforest and other natural habitats, so I believe it’s important to appreciate the carvings we have rather than gathering any more of precious stones. The Lizzardo Museum offers much to enjoy.

The Lizzardo Museum is located at 1220 Kensington Road, Oak Brook, Illinois, 60523. You can reach them at 630-833-1616 and find their website here.

Admission is reasonable and varies by age-adults $10; seniors $8; students, teens, and children aged 7-12 $5; and children 6 and under are free. Members of the Lizzadro Museum and active members of the Armed Forces are admitted free of charge on any day the Museum is open to the public.

***Want a special gift for a caregiving friend? Check out the gift book, Inspired Caregiving. Weekly Morale Builders. I wrote it with that special friend in mind.

The Battle of the Bath Thursday, Apr 7 2022 

Getting a loved one with later stages of dementia into the shower is like setting them up for torture. They can put up quite a fight over things we commonly do. We need a hefty dose of patience and compassion to move our loved one through the process.

Bathing is a necessary, albeit challenging, component of Alzheimer’s care. Not only do the people around us appreciate cleanliness, bathing aides in the prevention of rashes, skin disease, and urinary tract infections. We can reduce frequency to three times a week because skin tends to thin with age and illness. However, hands, face, and private parts should be kept clean throughout each day.

The reasons people with Alzheimer’s detest bathing are many. 

  • They no longer understand why they need to bathe.
  • The concept of time is lost, so it can feel as if they just took a bath.
  • The cleansing process is confusing and forgotten.
  • People with dementia cannot regulate body temperate very well, which makes them feel cold.
  • The sensation of the water on their body is uncomfortable.
  • And they may be embarrassed about being naked and needing assistance.

Reasoning with someone with Alzheimer’s is not possible. An argument is sure to develop if we try to explain why a bath is necessary. But there are a few things that can be done to make it a little easier and safer for both the caregiver and bather.

  • If your loved one is emphatically resisting stepping into the shower, let it go for an hour or so. Our loved one may be more agreeable if we try again at a later time.
  • Engage them in a story, perhaps with a topic they still like to talk about or sing a song while you undress them and escort them into the shower.
  • Offer a treat, such as potato chips, a cookie, or ice cream as a reward once the shower is over.
  • Provide a safe shower with a hand-held shower head, safety bars, non-slip flooring, and a seat or bench.
  • Ensure that the room and the water temperature is comfortable.
  • Offer a washcloth, toy, or fidget item for them to hold.
  • Speak softly, respectfully, and directly to help move things along.

My recommendation for everything we do while caring for our loved one is to consider health and safety for both our loved one and ourselves. When that health or safety is compromised for either of us, it’s time to think about additional or different support. I know the challenges and 24/7 responsibilities you’re experiencing. I’ve been through it myself, and I hold you close in prayer.

**You’ll find many helpful hints in books written with you in mind: Navigating Alzheimer’s, The Alzheimer’s Spouse and Inspired Caregiving.

The Little Black Dog Wednesday, Apr 6 2022 

When my Grandpa McCarthy passed away, we found a little folded piece of paper in his wallet with a poem printed on it. My grandmother knew I loved poetry, so she gave me the paper.

The poem is meaningful to me on so many levels. It is beautifully written, and its message is thought-provoking. I can’t help but to ponder the scene when reading it. Mostly, the poem reminds me of my grandparents and their love for their German Shepherds.

Here is that special little poem.

The Little Black Dog

I wonder if Christ had a little black dog,

All curly and wooly like mine

With two silky ears and a nose round and wet,

And two eyes, brown and tender, that shine.

I’m sure if He had, that little black dog

Knew right from the start He was God,

That he needed no proof that Christ was divine

But just worshipped the ground that He trod.

I’m afraid that He hadn’t because I have read

How He prayed in the garden alone;

For all of His friends and disciples had fled –

Even Peter, the one called a stone.

And oh, I am sure that little black dog,

With a heart so tender and warm,

Would never have left Him to suffer alone,

But creeping right under His arm,

Would have licked those dear fingers, in agony clasped;

And counting all favors but loss,

When they took Him away would have trotted behind

And followed Him quite to the Cross.

– –Elizabeth Gardner Reynolds–

*I’m currently working on a couple of books on poetry. One should be out within about a year.

Step on It. Wood or Laminate? Tuesday, Mar 22 2022 

Hardwood, engineered wood, laminate, or carpeting. Choosing the right flooring for our homes comes with compromises. We make the best choice based on factors such as cost, required maintenance, and environmental impact. But we can’t have everything with one product.

I’ve gradually replaced most of the flooring in my townhome over the last five years. Except for the top floor landing and the stairways, carpeting has been removed. The remaining floors are either laminate or porcelain.

I chose these types of flooring because they are easy to maintain, don’t hold dust like carpeting, which is better for my asthma, and are more affordable. I had hardwood in my last home and appreciated its beauty and that it was organic. But at this point, I couldn’t afford the hardwood and wasn’t keen on the periodic expense and inconvenience of refinishing it every 7-10 years.

Here are some things to consider when choosing your next flooring:

Composition

  • Laminate is a synthetic flooring manufactured from melamine resin and fiber board. The top layer is imprinted with a textured image to replicate wood. Laminate is a floating floor. Planks lock into one another without glue or nails.
  • Engineered hardwood is a type of flooring consisting of several layers of wood or plywood. This flooring is stained and prefinished in the factory.
  • Solid hardwood flooring planks are produced from single pieces of wood and is available prefinished and unfinished. Wood is organic, breathing material that fluctuates with temperature and humidity.

Cost – Engineered wood flooring is 3-5 times more expensive than laminate, and hardwood is considerably more than that. The engineered wood and hardwood flooring also are more expensive to install.

Durability-Laminate is very forgivable. I (carefully) slide furniture across mine without scratching. It’s easy to mop, sweep, and vacuum. It’s also highly resistant to damage from moisture, staining, and fading. Planks can be swapped out if damaged. Good quality laminate can have a lifetime warranty.

Comfort and Sound-The floating aspect of laminate flooring, in addition to its composition, results in a soft, warm product to step on. It’s also quieter than hardwood.

Environmental and Health Concerns-Hardwood is thought to be the best for the environment, but I question as to how that truly compares with laminate. All materials used in manufacturing, finishing, and installing needs to be considered.

According to the site, Coswick.Inspire, it’s important to research the product’s level of safety before buying. The glue used to bond composite material in the manufacturing of laminate can contain formaldehyde resulting in toxic substances emitting into the air. However, there are eco-friendly products available. Laminate is thought to be 84% recyclable.

Hardwood is biodegradable, organic. Most European and North American hardwood flooring manufacturers produce flooring that contains zero harmful VOC emissions and use glues that are free from formaldehyde.

Appearance-Quality laminate can be quite attractive, but there’s no denying the beauty of hardwood. It also offers the best resale value.

*

We can’t care for our loved ones if we don’t care for ourselves. Check out easy ways to do just that along with information to ponder, stretches to keep us healthy, and even a few laughs in my book, Inspired Caregiving.

Breastplate of St. Patrick Thursday, Mar 17 2022 

We’ve experienced disturbing issues for years now. The constant onslaught can make us feel helpless. But we never are. There’s always something we can do.

For example, we can donate to the needs of the desperate people of Ukraine and all those who are hungry using reputable organizations. We can pass on clothes and household items we are not using or literally open our doors to the homeless and displaced.

And prayer is always an option and so very powerful. Today, being St. Patrick’s Day, is an especially good day to pray the prayer of St. Patrick. Most often, I simply pray the “Christ, be with me…” part, but the entire prayer isn’t that long. I also change the “me” to “us” and the “every man” to “everyone.”

Try it for yourself. You may be very surprised at the protection you feel for yourself and others.

Peace be with you.

*Have you read The Rosary Prayer by Prayer or Grieving with Mary? Please write a review on Amazon if you have.

Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem Tuesday, Mar 15 2022 

While pilgrimaging in Israel and Italy in 2019, I followed the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, a processional route symbolizing the actual path Jesus walked to Calvary. Catholic churches typically display images of this path around the church so parishioners may walk and pray while meditating on Jesus’ Passion. I’ve walked this many times in churches, and it’s always meaningful. However, it’s nothing like walking the actual path in Jerusalem.

Following are photos from my pilgrimage in regard to the Stations of the Cross. When looking at the tree with thorns, notice how long those terrifying spikes are and remember that they were formed into a wreath and pressed into Jesus’ skull.

+ + +

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

  1. Jesus is Condemned to Death
(Site Where Jesus Was Condemned to Death. Jerusalem)
(Thorns as Used in Jesus’ Crown, Jerusalem)

2. Jesus Carries His Cross

(Via Dolorosa. The Path Jesus Walked to His Crucifixion)

3. Jesus Falls the First Time.

(Location Where Jesus Fell the First Time. Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem)

4. Jesus Meets his Mother Mary

(Location of the Fourth Station of the Cross, Where Jesus Met His Mother. Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem)

5. Simon Helps Jesus

(Site Where Simon Helped Jesus Carry His Cross. Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem)

6. Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

(A Woman Wiped Jesus’ Blood and Sweat from His Face. Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem)

7. Jesus Falls the Second Time

(Jesus Fell a Second Time on This Site. Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem)

8. Jesus Comforts the Women of Jerusalem

(Jesus Comforted the Women on His Way to the Cross. Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem)

9. Jesus Falls the Third Time

(Jesus Fell Three Times. Image in the Church of Condemnation. Jerusalem)

10. Jesus is Stripped of His Garments

(Before Jesus Was Crucified, He Was Stripped of His Garments. Jerusalem)

11. Jesus is Nailed to the Cross

(Jesus Was Nailed to a Cross. Jerusalem)

12. Jesus Dies on the Cross

(Alter Over Site of Jesus’ Crucifixion. Jerusalem)

13. Jesus is Taken Down form the Cross

(Pieta, Vatican, Italy)

14. Jesus is Buried

(Stone of Anointing Where Jesus’ Body Was Prepared for Burial. Jerusalem)

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Meditate on Christ’s Passion with the book, The Rosary Prayer by Prayer, available from Amazon and ACTA Publications.

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