Sweet Twisted History Wednesday, Dec 12 2018 

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With the progression of the seasons comes the move from everything pumpkin to everything peppermint. But if the iconic Christmas peppermint candy canes aren’t your thing, you can appease your sweet tooth with your choice of an array of other flavors. Sour Patch, Jolly Ranchers, Orange Crush, and A&W are some, as well as–believe it or not–rotisserie chicken and pickle.

Legends about the origins of candy canes link a preacher and his lessons on Christianity to the candy. The story is that candy canes were designed with red to represent Jesus’ blood, white for the Resurrection, and the J-shape for the name, Jesus.

None of this is true, but it didn’t stop an elementary school principle in Nebraska from banning candy canes for these reasons. Most likely, the basis of the legend came from someone who indeed did use candy canes to teach about Jesus, but artwork shows images of candy canes long before these stories first circulated.

White, straight candy sticks date to the 17th century and came in several flavors, including mint. The twist of red and white began showing up around the turn of the 20th century. And the hook shape may have begun as a means to hang them on decorated Christmas trees, a German custom that became more popular when Queen Victoria and her German husband displayed them in their home in the mid-1800s.

What’s your favorite flavor? I’m still a traditionalist and like the peppermint, especially  when it’s crushed and mixed with white chocolate.

(Have you seen my latest posts on my other blog including: Save it For Those Who Listen, Soulful Connections, and The Alzheimer’s Teacher?)

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Remembering a Life of Integrity Wednesday, Dec 5 2018 

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Today in the United States we celebrated the life of one of our most remarkable presidents, our 41st, George Herbert Walker Bush. President Bush was noted throughout the ceremonies for his achievements not only as our country’s leader but as a US Navy war hero, former Vice President, philanthropist, friend and father.

It was President Bush’s character that was recognized most of all. He was a fine, honorable man who served his country, family, and the world community with dignity, integrity, compassion, and honesty in addition to a great sense of humor.

Death reminds us of our vulnerability. No one lives forever. It also serves as a reminder of how we will be remembered. We ask ourselves, “How have we made our mark on this world? Who have we touched, and how have we done that?”

In the end, there will be no one else to blame or point the finger at. We will have to stand on our own failures and achievements.

If we honestly can review our lives and realize where we can do better, it’s not too late to change our course, to leave behind a better us.

(Do you follow my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books?)

A Fuller Story of Ourselves Tuesday, Nov 27 2018 

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Who am I?

That’s a basic question we all ask of ourselves. Our identity consists of many factors including character, personality, health, ancestry, profession, and role. And today science offers opportunities to easily investigate further in ways that only a few years ago were not accessible for the masses.

 

Providers offer testing for genetics, ancestry, and combinations of the two. Taking advantage of a Black Friday special, I sent for one of those combination kits. I don’t expect any surprises. My mother conducted extensive research into our family genealogy. And I doubt I have any hereditary tendencies toward diseases. Although I have several health issues, I believe them to be due to stress.

 

So why am going to submit to testing? I’m still curious of the test results and may be able to pass on some information to my children. I’m most comfortable with in-depth research on any story, including my own.

 

If you are contemplating doing the same, choosing a test company can be daunting. There are dozens out there including Ancestry.com, 23andMe, and CRI Genetics. Honestly, I chose one that my son found interesting. But there are a few factors to consider.

 

First decide if you are interested in knowing more about your ancestry, your genetic make-up, or both. Then read about the companies that offer the tests you are interested in. Where are they located? How do they secure personal information? How advanced is their technology? How many genetic markers do they test? And what do reviewers say about their results?

 

Such testing may provide you with connections to relatives you did not know before, inform you of potential health issues that you may be able to avoid with a healthy lifestyle, or eliminate uncertainty surrounding your family health risks.

 

But the answers you receive may come with an emotional as well as financial price. You also may discover information about your ancestry or genetics that you’d rather not have known.

 

Keep in mind that just because a health risk is revealed it does not mean you will definitely develop it. The tests merely offer opportunities to be proactive and seek professional guidance in avoiding or handling the outcome more fully.

 

What are your feelings about these tests? Are you interested in doing them yourself? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

(Photo includes my great-grandmother–4th woman in the top row–my great-aunts, great-uncle, and grandfather, John Doyle, who is on the right.)

 

(Do you follow my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books?)

Pause Tuesday, Oct 16 2018 

DSCN2232My friend, Sister Chris, worked at The Blessed Trinity Shrine Retreat House in Fort Mitchell, Alabama for many years. She points out that we don’t know how to retreat. We don’t take time to “stop and smell the roses,” to enjoy the gifts before us.

Our noisy world is full of distractions. We are always on the run. Busy, busy, busy.

Retreats offer opportunities to relax and renew. The quiet time supports our spiritual, emotional, and physical health and helps us to increase in wisdom and concentration. We leave happier, clearer minded, and better able to meet the challenges of the future.

Retreat centers are typically found in tranquil locations surrounded in simple beauty. They can be anything from exotic and luxurious to a yoga mat in your bedroom but offer a safe place to clear your mind and recharge.

Many retreat centers focus on a particular intent such spiritual retreats for building relationships with God, retreats for victims of domestic violence to regain a sense of empowerment, and ones for overall relaxing of body, mind, and spirit.

We don’t have to spend 40 days in the desert praying and fasting as Jesus did. But his example teaches us that it is necessary to clear our minds in order to grow. If you are unable to get away, you can practice a moment of pause within each day. Sip a cup of coffee or tea alone on your front porch. Soak in the tub or enjoy a fragrant shower. Go for a massage. Listen to classical or relaxation music. Take a yoga class where you can stretch and breathe deeply.

For our own good and the peace of the world, let’s stop. The quiet time is an important investment in our well being.

(Follow me on Facebook and see my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books.)

Marshall Brodien Day Tuesday, Jul 10 2018 

Writing 101 Monday, Jul 2 2018 

Where to begin? That’s a common question when writing anything from a letter to an online informative post.

We can begin the first draft anywhere, because any meaningful writing should be edited before sending. A good practice is to list the points we want to make and then organize that list into a pattern that flows with a beginning, middle, and end.

The first one or two sentences should state the problem and what you want done about it. For example, if you purchased a package of pens and several do not write, your opening sentence might be, “I am seeking a refund for a package of Brand X pens I purchased on July 1, 2018 from Store B.” Continue by explaining what is wrong with the pens.

The last sentence can reiterate the opening by telling the reader the point of the letter. Be sure to include contact information.

Once we have everything we want to say, edit out repetitive and excess words. It’s rarely necessary for the reader to know we were having a bad day prior to using the pens. Simple, brief sentences that clearly express our thoughts is best. And check for grammar and spelling errors that can distract from the point we are making.

When we think the message is complete, a good practice is to read it aloud. We often can hear an error we do not see. The goal is to keep the reader engaged and for them to understand what we are saying.

(Follow me on Facebook and see my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books.)

Hot and Smokey Tuesday, Jun 12 2018 

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Cinnamon, cumin, sumac, and cardamom. One of my attractions to different cultures is their cuisine. Tai, Hispanic, Indian, Chinese, or Italian. I love them all! I thrive on the spices of ethnic foods and am excited when I discover a new one.

My newest seasoning of choice is chipotle powder. Chipotle is a smoke-dried jalapeno that has just enough heat and smoke to pack a great punch on everything from eggs and green beans to chicken and fish. Or try a few shakes over popped corn or even corn on the cop. 

For a quick, healthy snack, sprinkle chipotle powder on a mashed avocado. Add a squeeze of lime juice and a dash of sea salt. Top it off with a bit of fresh cilantro and you have a special snack to enjoy with tortilla chips.

Venture out to your grocery store’s spice aisle and be brave! Pick up some chipotle powder or another spice that you haven’t tried before. Purchase the smallest amount possible and experiment. You may find that you are drawn to more vegetables and proteins when you literally spice up your life.

(Follow me on Facebook and see my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books.)

Powerful Pele Tuesday, May 15 2018 

 

Bring a flashlight and water and don’t take any of the lava rock. Those were the guidelines my husband and I were given in 2002 prior to walking on the Kilauea volcano. It was active then, but nothing like it is today. However, the volcano captivated me and left a memorable impression.

At the time, I didn’t know there were different types of volcanoes. I expected a tall cone to spew lava like my fifth-grade science fair project. Instead, the volcano was relatively flat with multiple cracks and tunnels that flowed into the ocean.

As we walked out in the black of night, we crossed fissures that glowed bright, red with lava deep beneath. It was intensely hot. The experience was both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.

Many Hawaiians believe the fire goddess, Pele, created the Hawaiian Islands and governs the Kilauea volcano, controlling the lava flow. Legend warns visitors who remove volcanic rock will suffer her wrath. Countless visitors testify to experiencing bad fortune after doing so and eagerly return Pele’s precious volcanic material.

There are about 1500 active volcanoes worldwide in addition to those under the ocean. Approximately one third of these have erupted in the past 100 years. Scientists have identified 169 volcanoes in the United States that are expected to erupt at some time. Most are in Alaska where eruptions occur nearly every year. The remainder are in the West and Hawaii.

The Kilauea volcano in Hawaii is one of the most active on Earth. It has been erupting since 1983. The eruption of Katmai Volcano in Alaska in 1912 is said to have been the most violent eruption to occur within the United States.

Volcanoes are openings or vents where lava (molten rock after it erupts above the Earth), tephra (small lava rock), and steam erupt on the Earth’s surface. Volcanic terrain is built by the slow accumulation of lava. The vent may be visible as a depression at the top.

Through a series of cracks within and beneath the volcano, the vent connects to one or more linked storage areas of molten rock made of oxygen, silicon, aluminum, iron, magnesium, calcium, sodium, potassium, titanium, and manganese. This connection to fresh magma (molten rock, crystals, and dissolved gas below the surface of Earth) allows the volcano to repeatedly erupt in the same location increasing its size until it is no longer stable.

Magma originates tens of miles beneath the ground. It is driven upwards by buoyancy because it is lighter than the surrounding rock. Magma may erupt by pouring from vents as fluid lava flows or shoot violently into the air as dense clouds of rock shards and gas. Ash (shards of tephra) then may be carried in the wind around the world.

Volcanoes are categorized by their shape and size. Cinder Cone volcanoes are the smallest and are made of small pieces of solid lava.

Composite Volcanos, also called Stratovolcanos, form the largest mountains. These volcanoes have steep, even sides made from repeating layers of lava flows, volcanic ash, cinders, blocks, and volcanic bombs. The tallest composite volcano on Earth is the Ojos del Salado in Chile with a summit elevation of 22,615. The tallest in the United States is Mount Rainier in Washington State with a summit elevation of 14,410.

Shield Volcanoes are built almost entirely of fluid lava flows. They have a sloping dome shape similar to a warrior’s shield. They were built slowly by the growth of thousands of lava flows over great distances and cooling in thin sheets. The Hawaiian Islands are made of a chain of shield volcanoes which include Kilauea and Mauna Loa.

Lava Domes are technically lava flows but contain lava that is too thick to flow away from the vent and therefore squeeze out and accumulate as a giant pile over and around the vent. Lava domes may look like pointy spines, a giant muffin, flower petals opening, or as tongues.

Modern science provides warnings in advance of eruptions to assist in the preservation of human life but can do little to protect homes, farms, and businesses in the event of eruption. Magma contains dissolved gases which provide the driving force of most volcanic eruptions. Even if magma never reaches the surface, gases can continuously escape into the atmosphere from the soil and vents.

The most abundant volcanic gas is water vapor, which of course, is harmless. But significant amounts of carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and hydrogen halides also are emitted, all of which are potentially hazardous to plant, animals, property, and people. Also, in ash producing eruptions, ash is often coated with hydrogen halides. This can poison drinking water supplies, agricultural crops, and grazing land.

For more information, check USGS, Volcano Discovery, and USGS volcanic videos .

(Follow me on Facebook and see my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books.)

Moving Along Monday, Apr 30 2018 

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On the first anniversary of moving into my townhome, I’m acutely aware of my blessings. I’m rich in what matters most in life.

The past year has been relatively peaceful. Marshall continues to do well. My children, grandchildren, step-children, and step-grandchildren are healthy. And I’m enjoying meaningful work to pay my bills.

For many years, my stress level was at a peak. The years previous to this move were intense caring for Marshall 24/7 at home for ten years and then transitioning him to managed care, working through a few disturbing issues with relationships, clearing out the house in preparation for sale, the intrusion of showing the home for two years, negotiating the home sale/purchase, packing to move, and then unpacking in my new home all while overseeing Marshall’s care and working. Countless times I believed I was close to the breaking point.

But here I am, and I’m so very grateful! I’m blessed with a home I can manage and afford. I love the space and my kind neighbors.

Marshall, although always on a decline due to Alzheimer’s disease, calls me by name and tells me he loves me every day. Our time together is typically very tender.

I am greatly blessed with an extensive group of family and friends. They are supportive, attentive, and carry me with their love and kindness. My children and grandchildren especially bring me great joy.

And to top it off, I have work opportunities that allow me to use the gifts God gave me in ways that minister and connect with people dear to my heart. I’ve written two books in my new home, one of which is under contract, and beginning a new one. In addition, I’m speaking regularly, predominately on caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s.

When we are traveling through the dark tunnel, the journey can feel endless. The rays that do shine through are difficult to see and the number of steps into the sunshine is so uncertain.

The only way out of that tunnel is to keep going. Most often, we enter the light wiser and stronger.

(Do you follow my posts on Mary K Doyle Books?)

“Sew,” What’s Your Hobby? Thursday, Apr 12 2018 

Stamp collecting, flower arranging, gardening, playing a musical instrument, woodworking, gourmet cooking, bead working, antiquing, knitting, reading, painting, jewelry making, singing, writing, athletics, magic, playing chess or bridge, learning a new language.

If I had my way, I’d engage in one hobby after another. Currently, I’m hand quilting a massive bedspread for my bed. It’s the first quilt I’ve worked on in several years. Although the sewing leaves my hands in tremendous pain due to fibromyalgia and arthritis, I’m loving every minute of it.

The word, hobby, relates to an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation. Strangely, the word evolved from hobby-horse. The reasoning behind the shift is that the activity is like a favorite pastime, such as riding a hobby-horse, that doesn’t go anywhere. In fact, this is not so at all. Studies show numerous benefits from participating in a hobby.

Our hobbies often are what some people do professionally. We aren’t at that level or don’t have the time to pursue it to that extent, but the activity brings us pleasure and distraction from the tough stuff in our lives. Hobbies are our “time out” from obligations and promote a sense of calm and purpose. The activities help us structure our time. They offer an incentive to get our work done. We’re more efficient overall. And engaging in hobbies is more constructive than staring blankly at the TV.

In addition, hobbies create opportunities to make new social connections with like-minded individuals. And those social connections are an important key to happiness and longevity.

Here are a few more benefits of delving into hobbies.

Hobbies

  • Help us cope with stress, which is very important to our health
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Relax the mind
  • Stimulate the brain with new challenges
  • Help us to build self-confidence
  • Offer us a sense of purpose
  • Ward off depression by bringing joy to our spirit
  • Promote a sense of the present as we focus on what we are doing at that moment
  • Can reduce mindless eating as our hands are preoccupied
  • Assist us in discovering talents we didn’t know we had
  • Promote productivity in other areas of our life because we are happier and more focused
  • Can provide additional income
    Help us transition to retirement
  • Prevent boredom and filling time with bad habits
  • Improve brain health and memory
  • Increase good stress known as eustress
  • Assist us with improved sleep
  • Offer opportunities to mentor and share our gifts produced from these hobbies
  • Make us more patient

If you are seeking a new hobby, look at local junior college and park district listings of classes and inquire what your friends enjoy. If you do have a hobby, please tell us! We’d love to hear from you.

(Do you follow my posts on Mary K Doyle Books?)

 

 

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