When Live Entertainment Was It Thursday, May 21 2020 

Even with limitations due to COVID-19, we have a range of sources of entertainment to choose from. But imagine the world in the late 1800s and early turn of the twentieth century. Television, radio, and of course, the internet, were yet to be invented. Live entertainment was the only option.

Vaudeville was a fun venue that began in the late 1800s in France and became popular in the United States and Canada soon after. Chicago opened its first official vaudeville theater at the West Side Museum in 1882. More theaters seating as many as 2,000 patrons soon followed. Musicians, singers, dancers, comedians, magicians, ventriloquists, strongmen, impersonators, acrobats, clowns, jugglers, and actors shared the stage for a variety extravaganza.

Irish immigrants took the brunt of crude derogatory jokes for years but then turned the table by becoming the majority of entertainers. My grandfather, Jack Doyle, born in Ireland in 1897, was one of those on stage. Grandpa was fascinating to me, even at a young age. He was funny and gentle. My fondest memory is of him lifting me onto the counter and watching him bake.

According to blurred, undated newspaper clippings, Jack Doyle was a “well-known” Chicago vaudevillian and comedian before and after his military service. Articles state that he was injured in France in 1917 and spent time in military hospitals. The only dated article was of my grandfather in the J.W. Norman Circus in 1925.

Low-priced tickets to cinema movies and the Great Depression led to the extinction of vaudeville by the 1930s. Some of the actors found work in silent movies and then talkies, but most scattered into circuses and traveling shows.

Ironically, before vaudeville ended, my grandfather studied and became a member of the Illinois Association of Physio-Therapists. An undated letter of invitation was sent out announcing that his office on Lawrence Avenue in Chicago was open to treat “sprains, lumbago, sciatica, nervousness, neuritis, neuralgia, poor circulation, rheumatism, dyspepsia, constipation, reducing, and rebuilding through the use of Swedish massage, ultra violet ray, and infrared ray. Grandpa was forced to close his practice when patients were unable to pay during the Depression but continued to be called Doctor Doyle.

Unfortunately, Grandpa passed away when I was only six years-old. It was enough time to leave a memorable mark on me but not longer enough to ask all the questions I’ve had ever since.

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Want to see the tiny mustard seed? Check out my post, “Small but Mighty Mustard Seed” as well as “Choosing a Memory Care Home Sight-Unseen” on my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books.

If You’re Going to Fly, Fly Like an Eagle Tuesday, May 5 2020 

When I was a kid, I wanted to fly. I had to restrain myself from jumping off ledges and thinking I could soar into the sky. Strange, but true.

If you want to fly like a bird, the eagle would be a powerful choice. The eagle represents freedom as it lives high, soars majestically, and sits at the top of the food chain.

The royal creature was chosen as the symbol of the United States of America on June 20, 1782 because of its strength, longevity, and that it is native to North America. The scientific name comes from Haliaeetus leucocephalus signifying a sea (halo) eagle (aeetos) with a white (leukos) head. At that time, the word “bald” meant “white” not hairless.

Eagles are members of the Accipitridae family which also includes hawks, kites, and vultures. Scientists loosely divide eagles into four groups based on their physical characteristics and behavior. The bald eagle is considered a sea or fish eagle.

Bald eagles are found throughout most of North America, from Alaska and Canada to northern Mexico, but half of the world’s 70,000 bald eagles live in Alaska. Sexual maturity is attained at four to five years. These great birds range from 28-40 inches in length. Females are about 25% larger than males averaging as much as 13 pounds to the males 9 pounds. Their eyes are similar in size to humans but their eyesight is four times greater than our perfect vision.

It’s no wonder they are so amazing to watch in flight. Eagles are powerful fliers soaring on thermal convection currents at speeds of 35-43 mph when gliding and flapping and about 30 mph while carrying fish. They can dive at speeds between 75-99 mph. And their impressive wingspan is between 6 to 7 and a half feet across.

Both male and female adult bald eagles have a blackish-brown back and breast; a white head, neck, and tail; yellow feet, legs and beak; and pale-yellow eyes. Their call consists of the weak staccato, chirping whistle kleek kik ik ik ik. The calls of young birds tend to be more shrill than those of adults.

We are blessed to have nesting eagles in the little town in which I live along the Fox River in Illinois. Bald eagles usually are sensitive to human activity while nesting. However, the ones in my area don’t seem to mind a fascinated yet respectful audience below snapping photos.

Eagles have the largest nests of any North American bird. Nests can be up to 13 feet deep and more than 8 feet wide. These mammoth nests can weigh as much as a ton so they require a sturdy perch. Coniferous or hardwood trees for perching, roosting, and nesting are typically more than 66 feet tall and offer proximity to prey.

Eagles mate for life, at least the life of one of the pair. Nest building occurs by mid-February. One to three eggs hatch from mid-April to early May and the young leave nests late June to early July. Around 50% of the newly hatched eagles survive the first year.

Eagles are opportunistic feeders devouring dead or decaying fish. Their preferred prey includes grebes, duck, gulls, coots, herons, egrets, and geese up to 4 pounds in weight. Along some areas of the North Pacific coastline, bald eagles are now preying on seabird colonies rather than their traditional kelp. This may be due to overfishing and otters interfering with their food source. Ironically, being at the top of the food chain makes them more vulnerable to consuming toxic chemicals in the environment.

Eagles maintain a respected role in the Native American culture. Pow wow dancers use the eagle claws and feathers as part of their ceremonial dress. In the Navajo tradition, eagle feathers represent the protector. Navajo medicine men use the leg and wing bones for ceremonial whistles. The Lakota people present eagle feathers as honorary symbols to those who achieve a notable task. The Pawnee consider eagles as symbols of fertility because their nests are built high, and they fiercely protect their young. The Choctaw relate the bald eagle with the sun and a symbol of peace.

The average lifespan of bald eagles in the wild is around 20 years, with the oldest confirmed one having lived 38 years. Premature death often results from impact with wires and vehicles, gunshot, poisoning, electrocution, trapping, emaciation, and disease.

The Department of Interior removed the bald eagle from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened, but eagles are still protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

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Choosing a Memory Care Home Site-Unseen” and “Perfect Opportunity to Ponder” are two of my most recent posts on my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books. And watch on my Author FaceBook page for upcoming virtual presentations.
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All photos on my site were taken by me, Mary K. Doyle, unless otherwise noted.

Mask Attire Thursday, Apr 30 2020 

Do you think this mask looks good on me? Does it bring out my eyes? Does it clash with my outfit?

Who could imagine that the #1 2020 wardrobe accessory would be masks? Every day, I’m at my sewing machine for a few hours sewing for my very large family. The masks aren’t particularly stylish, and likely, do clash with wardrobes. At some point, I may be able to make ones that are fun to wear or more attractive, but for the time being, the ones I’m making are functional and no-fuss with inserting liners. The option is to get at least one in everyone’s hands and on their faces.  

If you must shop for materials to make masks, be ready to hunt. Most fabrics and notions needed for mask-making are difficult to acquire due to high demand, limited inventory, store closings, and short-staff to fulfill orders. And be ready to wait weeks or months before supplies arrive, if you’re lucky enough to get them at all. Most frustrating, ordering often results in later notices that the item is no longer available after spending hours locating ones said to be in stock. If possible, order from your local family-owned sewing shops. You may have more success in getting what you want and will help to keep the business open.

Creativity with substitutions that don’t jeopardize the integrity of the masks is key. Tightly woven fabric, such as cotton quilting fabric, is recommended for the two outer layers. There are many suggestions online as to what can be used as a filter. Masks can be designed with a pocket to replace filters after every use or be fully machine washable and dryable after use. The object is to have several layers over the face without obstructing breathing.

It’s a good idea to watch a few instructional videos on YouTube before beginning. JoAnn Fabrics has several. Other videos offer ideas for substitutions.

A mask doesn’t take long to make, but it’s a tedious job. There are a lot of little stops and goes along the way. This is my favorite pattern. I use only quilters cotton fabric for the two outside layers and prefer flannel for the lining since I haven’t been able to get my hands on nonwoven interfacing.

I recently found that two layers of lining, which results when you fold your fabric in half as suggested, may be more protection but is too warm as the outside temperatures rise. I’m now cutting the flannel 7 ½ by 7 ½ and setting it in the lower half of the mask so when folded over, there is one layer plus a fold over to place the wire.

I sew a doubled piece of florist wire along the top to press along the bridge of the nose for a closer fit. I begin by folding an 8-inch piece of wire in half, then twist the two wires together, bend in the ends, and wrap the ends in a narrow quilt-marking tape that is like masking tape. The wire is placed in the crease of the fabrics folded in half and sewn around it to hold in place.

Ties allow for universal fit, but take a little longer to make, a little more effort to wear, and can get caught in long hair. The standard elastic ear loop is cut to 7 inches. 6 1/2 inches is a better fit for me and my daughters while many of the men in the family need 7 1/2 to 8, so make adjustments if you are making the masks for people you know.

If you can get them, purchase number 90/14 needles which don’t break as easily as others when top stitching. The thick, bulky pleats make it difficult for the needle to penetrate without bending or snapping. The best option I’ve discovered is to cut the liner about 1 ½ inches narrower than the outer piece, center it on the back of the outer fabric, and sew around all sides to hold in place. This eliminates having to get your needle through double layers of cotton plus the double layers of lining when pleating.

The process goes quicker if everything is pre-cut and ready to assemble before sewing. I line up my outside fabrics, liners, cut elastic, ties, and prepared wire before beginning. And I press often after stitching.

Once you do a few masks, the process is quick. I’ve made at least 50 in the last couple of weeks. I can’t say it is fun, but I also don’t mind it. The activity is meaningful, important, and like a little ministry providing a product needed by most everyone in this very unusual time.

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Check out my last post on Midwest Mary, “Perfect Opportunity to Ponder,” and watch on my Author FaceBook page for upcoming virtual presentations.

TP Deal Breaker Thursday, Apr 23 2020 

I’ll share a little personal story with you, one that is often passed around the family. I’m a kindergarten dropout. The deal breaker was the school’s toilet paper. It was too scratchy. Once I tried that paper, I told my mother I’d never go back to school again.

The school I was supposed to go to burned down and was being rebuilt (Our Lady of the Angels, Chicago, IL), which actually was the cause of my anxiety and school. In the meantime, I was sent to a public school, a very long walk away. (It seemed like five miles but probably was one.) My mother felt much the same way I did about sending me to school and dragging my baby sister along for the walk, so she allowed me to stay home.

I’m hearing lots of TP discussions. People can’t get the good stuff, or any at all. Many overbought and are hoarding (bad karma), so now there are shortages. Who would have thought one of our challenges today would be getting toilet paper?

My ex-mother-in-law once told me when she was a child, her mother sent her to the fruit stands to ask for the papers that oranges were wrapped in. They preferred that over the Sears catalog, a common alternative. Imagine using that stiff, inked paper on your behind?

Only the wealthy early Roman citizens had it better. They used rose petals. Most other Romans used public potties and wiped themselves with sticks with a sea sponge on the end, that also was used publicly. Throughout history, and still today, people simply used their hand. Scots are said to have used sheep fur, sailors used the knotted end of a line (Yowie), Native American Indians wiped with moss and leaves, and early Americans used corn cobs.

Now wouldn’t you rather use any kind of toilet paper than those substitutes?

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See my latest post on Mary K Doyle Books, “Shopping in an Apron Mask.” And visit my website.

Easy Homemade Headboard Monday, Apr 13 2020 

Since all of my presentations are on hold, I’ve had extra time on my hands. I’m not one to sit around and watch TV. I can get depressed and lonely living alone and distanced from loved ones. So, I keep busy.

The past few weeks I changed all the door knobs in the house from worn brass to polished nickel, hung a rod in the guest bath, hung racks in the garage, installed a timer for the outside front door light, organized my tools and hardware, shredded office files, baked, quilted, wrote, and read.

I also made a headboard for the guest bedroom. The normal way would be to attach covered foam to plywood and hammer nails where you would want tufting. However, I simply covered foam with fabric and used an assortment of buttons I had. I sewed the buttons with a long needle to pull them in as much as I could. The tufting isn’t dramatic, but I’m happy enough with the end result.

The headboard is light, so I sewed a band across the top of the back and hung the headboard on the wall with a row of tea cup holders. The total project cost under $50 and took me most of a day to complete.

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See photos from my pilgrimage to Israel and Italy in my latest post, The Road to Crucifixion, on my other blog? And check out all my books on my website.

The COVID Affect Tuesday, Apr 7 2020 

You’re not worried about yourself. You don’t fit the demographics for anything other than a normal viral reaction. So why should the restrictions apply to you? Why should you suffer because someone else may get sick?

No matter your race, nationality, or lifestyle, COVID-19 will affect you dearly. The world will not be the same after this. If you are fortunate enough not to be personally touched, or know anyone who is, you still will be affected financially. Your employment opportunities, investments, insurance premiums, product availability, neighboring shops, bars, and restaurants you frequent, and countless other factors will be negatively impacted by the Corona virus. The more people infected, the longer and more intense the results.

Even healthy young adults I know who believe they had or have the virus tell me COVID was a tough illness to get through. It isn’t anything you want to be flippant about. If you do get it, you are likely to be down for the count for several weeks.

Please be responsible for the sake of the vulnerable and yourself. Wash your hands thoroughly and often, respect social distancing until notified, and be a beacon of light. Call or text friends, send note cards to those living alone, post uplifting quotes, music, video, and photos. Before we know it, we will be longing for quiet time at home again.

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Have you seen my latest post on Mary K Doyle Books, The Sacred Pit?

Six Feet of Love Thursday, Mar 26 2020 

I’m a hugger in withdrawal. I hug—everyone. I hug people I interview for stories, attendees walking into and leaving my presentations, acquaintances, and neighbors, in addition to family and friends. I’m comforted by physically being close to people, especially the ones I love.

A 20 second hug, the same amount of time we are advised to wash our hands, can reduce stress, pain, depression, anxiety, and fear and show support. I NEED those hugs. They are like fuel to me.

Yet, with COVID-19 looming over us, hugs risk extensive illness, or worse. I certainly understand the dangers of the embrace at this time but fear it will be the way of the future. Except for people we live with, hugs, as well as handshakes that connects us, may be joys and health benefits of the past.

So, at least for now, I promise to (do my best to) maintain the designated 6 feet of distance. Sadly, I will resist getting physically close. I care about you that much.

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See recent posts on my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books; Peace is a Prayer Away, COVID-19 Caregiving Challenges, and The Lord Be With You.

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Photo: Geese Keeping the Acceptable Social Distance from One Another on the Fox River, Batavia, IL

What to Do in Quarantine Thursday, Mar 12 2020 

Remember all those days you asked for things to slow down? Well, your request has been granted. The world is currently on hold.      

With the Coronavirus/COVID-19 taunting us, we are advised to avoid social gatherings, wash our hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, and be particularly careful if we are more than 60 years old and/or have chronic health conditions such as heart and lung disease and diabetes.

So, what to do if we are laying low? We are busy, social people and are used to being on the go. Switching gears to a slower pace takes some adjustment.

Here’s our opportunity to catch up on our long list of things we’ve been putting off. Following are some suggestions:

  • Deep clean the house.
  • Enjoy our homes that cost so much to live in.
  • Pray.
  • Play board games with the family.
  • Bake.
  • Practice our musical instruments such as piano, guitar.
  • Clear out the DVR. Watch all those recordings we wanted to capture.
  • File income tax.
  • Complete the census survey.
  • Work on crafts such as scrapbooking, sewing, wood cutting, flower arrangements, etc.
  • Organize the garage.
  • Clean out closets.
  • Paint a room.
  • Sort through our collections such as coins, model cars, and memorabilia.
  • Work on a household budget.
  • Video chat with loved ones.
  • Write notes to elderly homebound.
  • Journal feelings.
  • Meditate.
  • Organize photos. 
  • Exercise-walk, practice yoga, get on the bike.
  • Wash the car.
  • Read through that stack of books and magazines.

Most of all, try to be loving and supportive. We’re all feeling the stress, and a little love can go a long way. And, hang in there, my friends. This too shall pass.

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Have you seen my last post on Mary K Doyle Books, “One Year Later?”

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**Update on my presentation schedule: Due to COVID-19, presentations are postponed until this summer or later.

Agony in the Garden Wednesday, Mar 4 2020 

If you didn’t know the significance of the 13,000 square foot space, you’d see it as a peaceful, little garden dotted with olive trees. However, it is so much more meaningful than that. Overlooking the Garden of Gethsemane last October, the site stirred intense emotions within me. I longed to cross the ornate iron fence that secured it and actually walk on that ground to ponder more fully.

The Garden of Gethsemane is located at the foot of the Mount of Olives, just above the Kidron Valley, in Jerusalem. Gethsemane comes from the Aramaic word gath semanim meaning “oil press.” The site is considered sacred as it is where Jesus often met his disciples (John 18:2, Luke 22:39) and the area in which he prayed prior to his arrest and crucifixion (See Mark 14:32-50 and Matthew 26:36-56). The Eastern Orthodox Church also recognizes the garden as the location where the Virgin Mary was buried and assumed into heaven after her dormition on Mount Zion.

Gethsemane is adjacent to the Church of All Nations which enshrines what is said to be the exact section of the bedrock from the garden where Jesus prayed. The church was built on the site of two ancient churches, one which was destroyed by an earthquake in 746 and a 12th century chapel built by the Crusaders that was abandoned in 1345.

On his last night in the garden, Jesus admittedly was concerned. He told Peter, James, and John that he was deeply grieved even to death and asked them to stay awake while he prayed. In fact, Jesus asked them three times. Each time, Jesus returned to find his friends asleep.

We can condem Peter, James, and John for their failure to oblige Jesus’s request, but hanging over that iron fence of the Garden of Gethsemane, I had to ask myself, “Am I awake with Jesus?”

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Pray the first Sorrowful Mystery, The Agony in the Garden, with my book, The Rosary Prayer by Prayer.

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Upcoming Presentations:

3/17/20 –”From Home to Managed Care,” Arden Courts of Avon, CT
3/18/20 –”From Home to Managed Care,” Arden Courts of Farmington, CT
3/26/20 –”Navigating Alzheimer’s,” Arden Courts of Geneva, IL
4/2/20  – “Navigating Alzheimer’s” Inter-Faith Chapel, Silver Springs,MD

4/8/20 –  “Navigating Alzheimer’s,” Aspired Living of Prospect Heights, IL

Dreaming of the Dead Monday, Jan 27 2020 

The theory is that we can learn much about ourselves by analyzing our dreams. And although there are many suggestions as to what images mean, only we can know the true significance. What can be a terrifying symbol to one person can be reassuring to another.

Recurring dreams and topics are common. I often dream of babies. People give me their babies to hold, rock, feed, care for.

I also dream of the dead. I believe the “dreams” offer important messages from loved ones who have passed away. Sometimes, souls simply show up to say “Hello.” They are often smiling or even laughing, and I’m reassured to see them this way.

Lately, some of my dreams have a different twist. The dead truly are just that. In every appearance friends and relatives who are no longer physically walking this earth are dead in the dream. They tredge zombie-like, or not at all. They do not speak or react.

As I’ve written about in other posts, my husband, Marshall, passed away last March. I also speak and write about a fatal illness, hear stories of those who have the disease and are fading from this life, and learn of residents in memory care homes who are no longer with us. Perhaps, all of these factors contribute to my morbid dreams.

Or mayber there’s a deaper meaning. A typical interpretation of death is change, rebirth, or the need to get rid of dead weight. There have been many changes in my life over the past year, so perhaps this is the gist of these nigh visions.

Here are some of my latest ones.

  • I was walking up and down stairways in apartment buildings with Marshall. Dead Marshall. He walked but was silent, grey, and stumbled along. I had to guide and hold him up. – I believe I understand the significance of this dream as it occurred during a time I was considering a permanent home for his remains and where I would eventually join him.
  • I sat at a dinner table with the living and the dead, many dead. Most I recognized, and those who were deceased in my dream truly are gone. I was disturbed because when I’ve dreamed of them in the past, they looked alive and spoke to me but did not on this occasion.
  • In this dream, everyone was “alive.” My family was in a large home that was under massive renovation and we were selling. My parents, who passed away 20 years ago were there, and my cousin, Cathy, who also is deceased, walked in with another cousin. Cathy was beautiful, happy, and it was wonderful to see her.
  • My mother suggested that I drive her turquoise car around the corner to go to school. After class, I returned to the parking lot to discover that her car was missing. I was so upset that I borrowed her car when I could have walked and now it was gone. But my mother didn’t care at all since she never used it. In fact, my mother never did drive when she was alive. — Maybe my mother is encouraging me to get rid of more things that no longer have a use.

If you like analyzing dreams, I’m interested in your thoughts. What do you think they indicate, and what are some of your recurring dreams? I’d love to hear from you.

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Did you see my last post on my other blog, Sacred Water?

You can see all my posts, random thoughts, and presentation dates on my author Facebook page.

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