The Peculiarities of an Artist Wednesday, Aug 14 2019 

A writer died and met St. Peter at the pearly gates. St. Peter told the writer that she’d be going to heaven but would satisfy her curious mind by showing her hell before entering.

The writer walked into hell and was horrified to see all the souls with beads of sweat pouring from them as they frantically kept writing, writing, writing at their desks for all eternity.

“Wow,” remarked the writer. “I’m glad I’m not going there.”

Then St. Peter opened the gates of heaven and led the writer to a room where, again, souls were frantically writing, writing, writing at their desks.

“I don’t understand,” exclaimed the writer. “How is this different from hell?”

St. Peter responded, “In heaven, all the writers get published.”

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Without a doubt, my mother loved me, but she did not understand me. She found me odd, especially when it came to my need to write, which I’ve wanted to do as long as I can remember. When I was a child, I’d either write or memorize a little poem that I’d tell her before leaving for school in the morning. She realized that writing was my passion but was too practical to believe I could make a living at it.

I never fit my mother’s strict, mater-of-fact idea of a respectable employee and therefore, a responsible adult. I was, and am, a freelance writer, which meant to her that I could not adequately support my family as a single parent. She often pointed out that the department store, Penney’s, was hiring.

Many of us writers, artists, musicians, dancers, and others in the arts have college degrees or specialized training in addition to years, or decades, of experience. And yet, our employment and financial security can be uncertain. We rarely experience job security even if we once reigned at the top in our field.

However, our need to create and work in our art is necessary for us to thrive emotionally. Writing is my oxygen. I must put words together, write, rewrite, and publish, preferably, with financial gain. It’s integral to the essence of my being.

Overall, my mother noticed that artists are different. We perceive the world from an alternate perspective taking in everything and everyone around us, not only through our eyes, but also through our hearts. We are highly sensitive to universal energy, which sets us up for depression, anxiety, and sometimes, addiction to relieve the pain we absorb from others.

We are curious, playful, and compassionate. We are observers, often hiding in the background soaking in the action. We appreciate beauty, variety, the unusual, and unique. We are the explorers, risk takers, innovators, and visionaries–practical and impractical, fearful and fearless at the same time.

Yes, many of us have God-given talent and enjoy what we do, but we truly do sweat to make it as meaningful as possible. Our objective is that our pieces speak for themselves well beyond the words, the paint, the sounds, the movements.

All of this makes following an earthly clock challenging, especially when we’re in our groove. Our own sense of timing sets in, removing us further from the traditionalists. We definitely are following the beat of a different drummer, a rhythm all our own.

We can be that square peg trying to keep up with the rest who fit into all the round holes around us. And the ironic thing is, we don’t want to go into that round hole. It frustrates and irritates us. Our need is to be free, to fly.

We artists are accustomed to criticism and rejection. It’s not your response to our art that hurts us as much as our own. We are harder on ourselves than anyone else could be. It’s so difficult to walk away from a piece that can never really feel complete or perfect.

So please don’t take our need for periodic isolation and moodiness personally. We know that we can appear aloof and detached, but we are not ignoring you. We’re just lost in our art and a space neither here nor there. We’re off in other-worldly dimensions of creativity and will see you again soon.

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Join in the conversation every Friday on my author Facebook Page.

Have you seen my last post on Mary K Doyle Books, “Land of the Free?”

 

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Bring in the Dogs Wednesday, Jul 24 2019 

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Flight delayed? Bradley International Airport in Hartford, Connecticut has a remedy to keep everyone calm—pets to the rescue.

While waiting in BDL for a flight home that ended up delayed more than six hours, handlers and their therapy dogs remained available for petting. I definitely can attest to the positive affect the Australian Shepherds had on the initially irritated crowd. Grunts and groans quickly transformed into oohs and ahs once the dogs appeared. The animals’ mere presence was helpful, and after a few strokes of their luxurious coats, travelers magically became significantly calmer. Smiles blossomed across the gates between travelers and the staff working diligently to accommodate everyone.

Pet Therapy, also known as Animal Assisted Therapy, involves a handler and an animal trained to assist people with physical and emotional issues. The therapy is found to help lower blood pressure, release endorphins, alleviate pain, reduce stress, improve motor skills and joint movement, and improve verbal and social skills. Dogs and cats are the most common animals used as “therapists,” but fish, guinea pigs, horses, and even dolphins are trained.

The only drawbacks to pet therapy may occur when people are allergic to animal dander or sanitary issues arise. Pets also may be at risk from unintentional harm from people.

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Have you seen my last post on Mary K Doyle Books, “Speak to Me?” 

Always Believe Something Wonderful is About to Happen Thursday, Jun 27 2019 

Always Believe

I once bought a greeting card for myself. At $6.95, it was an extravagant purchase, but the beautifully decorated card offered a powerful message that spoke to me. It read, “Always BELIEVE Something Wonderful is About to Happen.”

At the time, the words were so needed. My husband, Marshall’s, health had been declining more rapidly than it had been due to the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. I was struggling to balance work and family responsibilities and remembering all the blessings that I do have in my life.

The card reminded me to hang in there. We never know what’s around the corner. Life is full of delightful surprises. We trudge along a path only to discover sunshine in an opening we had no idea was ahead.

Living with a positive attitude is so much more enjoyable and healthy than being stuck in doom and gloom. It’s certainly was how Marhall lived. He often said, “Think positively.”

We have every reason to remain happy. After all, something wonderful is about to happen.

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(Want to know what I’m wondering about? Every Friday I tell you on my author Facebook page. Check out my last post on Mary K Doyle Books, “Is Love Enough?

Slow Down to Speed Up Friday, Jun 14 2019 

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How often have you wished for a few more hours in a day? Most of us practice a fast-paced regimen of hustling from work to activities and running errands beginning with the moment we rise to the time we go to bed. And yet, at the end of the day, we feel we haven’t accomplished enough. As quickly as we cross off an item from our to-do list, several more spring up. That never-ending cycle is frustrating and exhausting.

But counter to what most Americans may believe, slowing down from time-to-time increases rather than decreases productivity. We have to periodically veer off that highway to end up where we really want to go.

My friend, Sister Chris, says that we’ve lost the understanding of our need to retreat. By engaging in periodic self-assigned time-outs, we are not slacking from our responsibilities but increasing our performance. In general, the removal from the hectic daily schedule most of us engage in can promote clearer thinking, a renewed and more positive outlook, and a healthier way of life which results in better efficiency.

The separation from technology and daily problems during retreats helps to reduce the flight of flight reaction to ongoing events and the accumulation of the stress hormone cortisol. Our hearts become more open which enhances the ability to release sorrow and pain which benefits our overall health.

In addition, the resting brain is essential to self-reflection and stimulating creativity. We gain clarity as answers come in silence improving our decision-making capabilities. An added benefit is that we often make life-long bonds with other participants as like-minded people will be in attendance at these retreats.

And retreats are longer lasting than even a “relaxing” vacation because they are more focused. They also omit the need to schedule activities or seek dining options. Typically set in calm locations, everything is planned for participants.

To find your perfect retreat, consider what you would like to improve. Retreats are targeted toward specific goals. For example, business retreats strive to identify individual talents, increase confidence, and promote team-building. Yoga retreats’ goal is not only to develop better yoga practices but also mindfulness and meditation. Retreats that focus on overall well-being can assist with better eating and exercise habits, work/life balance, and emotional release. Whereas spiritual retreats focus on increasing inner peace and a greater connection with the divine.

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

 

Music Moves Me Wednesday, May 29 2019 

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Lift the soul or spark a party. Music is the beat of life.

Most mornings, I wake to music rather than a screaming alarm. Recently, a song played that caught my breath, “I Giorni for piano, violin, and string by Ludovico Einaudi. The melody is light, playful, and offered a joyful way to start the day. The song  continuously has replayed in my head since.

A world without music would feel one-dimensional. Imagine how flat movies and restaurant dining would be without music. It’s more than background noise. Music plays to our emotions. It creates drama, atmosphere. Yesterday’s tunes revive memories of events and feelings we experienced years ago prompting both happiness and tears. New memories are engraved in our brains paralleling the music played at the time.

Personally, each genre affects me differently. I can go from melancholy to prayerful with the change of a tune. I’m physically moved when music strikes a chord and can’t help but sway or tap.

When writing, I listen to instrumental music, mostly classical, to raise creativity and not interfere with the words dancing in my head. This playlist also works for relaxation. Many of my favorite pieces are by my friend, Andy Mitran such as “Levels of Peace,” “Blooming Canyon,” and one of my favorites, “Dream Time.” Driving requires something more energetic such as Santana’s “Smooth.” I also love the sounds from around the world whether it be Latino, Hawaiian, Spanish guitar, or Middle Eastern.

And that affect of music on me isn’t only man-made. Leaves rustling in the wind, pounding rain, a bubbling brook, baby cooing, or symphony of birds and insects captivate my spirit.

Music abounds around us. Listen closely. Do you hear the beat of life?

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(Have you seen my blog post, the Review Power?)

Answer with Care. Or Not at All Wednesday, May 8 2019 

IMG_3180A trip of a life-time. A family member in trouble. The “IRS” demanding payment. Scams on every level play on victims’ emotions to entrap them into sharing personal date and hard-earned money.

I recently received a phone call that rang for ten minutes straight. Caller ID showed “Name Unavailable” and the phone number of the caller. No doubt, the caller thought harassing me with the ongoing ring would force me to answer.

Instead, I called my carrier on another phone, and they instructed me on how to stop the ringing (press #77 without picking up). I then filed a complaint against the caller. Google notes that number has multiple complaints from consumers who did answer.

We have a few options today to reduce the number of solicitors and scammers. None are sure-proof, but the more caution we take, the last chance we have of being scammed. The number one rule of prevention is not to answer a number we don’t recognize. If the call is truly coming from someone needing to reach us, they can leave a message. And above all, do not give information to anyone we aren’t absolutely certain that we know.

Some carriers, such as Xfinity Voice, offer codes to reject block calls. Their Anonymous Call Rejection is set by following these simple steps

  1. activate  your caller ID
  2. Enter *77
  3. Listen for 3 beeps
  4. Hang up.

In some areas, this code may connect you to law enforcement. (It did not when I used it in the Chicago area.)

It’s also advised to list your phone numbers with the National Do Not Call Registry This registry is managed by The Federal Trade Commission and should prevent calls from telemarketers. Telemarketers are prohibited, but not actively prevented, from calling. Nor does this action eliminate calls from political organizations, charities, telephone surveyors, or companies that a consumer has an existing business relationship with. Setup is simple with a few clicks on their website.

No More Robo is another option to prevent computerized telemarketing and political auto-dialing. It is free for landline phone lines but users need to know that this also eliminates automated calls from public-service and emergency announcements. Users should supply an option for text messaging to their cell phones to receive these messages.

Scammers will always find ways around roadblocks, but these options help in the meantime.

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Color Your Mood Friday, Apr 26 2019 

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Do you remember the acronym, Roy G Biv (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet) for the sequence of colors in the rainbow? From powder blue to fire engine red, we all have our color preferences, and those preferences drive our choices from the foods we eat to the cars we drive. We’ll pay more for items that appeal to our senses even though the performance of the product is rarely affected by its color.

Psychologists have found that our color preferences appear to be rooted in personal experiences. We are influenced by reactions of those surrounding us. If we’ve been told we look good in certain colors, we’re more likely to lean toward them. And this results in cultural preferences of the colors we surround ourselves in, as well.

Perhaps these color choices also are a result of how they make us feel. Color consists of light and energy. Every color has a specific frequency and vibration which can affect us emotionally and physically. Not only does light (and therefore color) enter through our eyes, it also can penetrate our skin and may activate hormones causing chemical reactions within the body.

Evidence of color used for healing dates back to at least 2,000 years. Research has found patterns of reactions in people as a result of color. However, it’s important to note that the shades of these colors alter results.

According to studies, in some people, red increases the heart rate. If you want to be creative, work in a purple room. Green often is restful because it is gentle on the retina. Blue is calming and can decrease respiration and lower blood pressure. Yellow may promote positively, but as with orange, it reflects more light which can also lead to irritation as well as hunger.

What’s your favorite color and how does it make you feel?

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(Have you seen my latest post, “Prayers From and to the Communion of Saints,” on my blog Mary K Doyle Books?

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Share at Least Your Excess Tuesday, Apr 2 2019 

How well are you doing with your 2019 resolution to lose weight? Perhaps donating the price of that decadent mid-day mocha late coffee, cookies and cream ice cream, or candy bar might help you reach your goal and a child in need.

Every single day, 18,000 children under the age of five years-old die from hunger and diseases related to poor nutrition (UNICEF). Approximately 165 million children in the world under the age of five are stunted because of chronic malnutrition. And nearly half of the people in the world are hungry some or all of the time.

The U.S. is not immune from hunger. According to the US. Department of Agriculture, 14% of households with over 16 million children can’t provide enough food for its members at some point each year. More than 48 million Americans live below the poverty line resulting in more than 20% of the children in the U.S. at risk for hunger.

What does it say about a society that allows children to suffer or die from hunger? If throwing out excess food is a habit in your home, please consider cutting back spending on food for your household and send that money to your local food bank, Feed My Starving ChildrenNo Kid Hungry, Feeding America or UNICEF

(Have you seen my last post, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, on my blog Mary K Doyle Books?)

Genetics, Not Math Wednesday, Feb 27 2019 

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In November, I posted that I submitted to genetic testing (A Fuller Story of Ourselves). At that time, I was most curious about the health aspect of the testing. Fortunately, results indicated that I was not predisposed to any of the ten diseases tested.

Since then, the ancestry portion has intrigued me. 3/8 German, 3/8 Irish, and 2/8 Italian. That’s how I used to describe myself. I based this status on my grandparents: My maternal grandmother was all German, maternal grandfather all Irish, paternal grandmother all Italian, and paternal grandfather half Irish, half German.

But those proportions weren’t correct after checking out my ancestry with 23andMe. I never considered the genetic roll of the dice when each of my parents contributed a random half of their genetics to me. Nor did I speculate beyond a couple of generations. My mother spent decades researching our family ancestry through the 1800s, so I thought that I knew the whole story.

My 23andMe genetic testing went back to the 1600s, so it takes into consideration the generations prior that migrated and blended long before my grandparents. I’m 99.8% European. In addition to German, Irish, and Italian, I also have traces of Greek and Balkan, Scandinavian, Spanish and Portuguese, .2% Ashkenazi Jewish, undesignated broadly Northwestern European, and undesignated broadly Southern European. (Percentages may change and ancestry may become more specific as the 23andMe data base increases.)

Most surprising was my ancestry compared to my sister, Margaret. I’d expected us to be nearly identical because Margaret and I look most alike out of five siblings. In actuality, we’re only 53.6% genetically identical. Although 23andMe stated that they suspected we were sisters, my son and I are nearly the same proportion at 50% identical.

The proportions of ancestry, and even some of the nationalities between Margaret and me, differed. In addition to the ancestry list, 23andMe offered an interesting picture of the genetic areas tested and where we were completely identical, half identical, and not at all identical.

The more family members participate in testing, the more interesting the picture of our past will be revealed. Perhaps I’m more genetically like one of my other four siblings that I resemble the least.

What are your thoughts on genetic testing?

(Check out posts on my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books, including We Can’t Know for Sure, How Will Our Story End, Sacrificing for God’s Mission.)

Super Berry Wednesday, Jan 9 2019 

elderberryStep aside blueberries. You have some competition as a super food. The elderberry is rapidly gaining in on you.

My daughter, Erin, has me hooked on elderberry syrup, pills, and tea after reading some credible studies. As a nurse, Erin, seeks the scientific findings such as this one before jumping on the home-remedy bandwagon. Another study reported in The National Center for Biotechnology in 2016 found elderberry supplementation reduces cold duration and symptoms in air-travelers.

Rich in flavonoids, consuming elderberries is thought to offer numerous health benefits. In addition to reducing colds and flu symptoms, elderberries are believed to offer some prevention and reduction in allergies, urinary tract and bladder infections, headaches, constipation, epilepsy, scarlet fever, and measles. The purplish-black berries may also improve digestive health, rheumatism, and sinus, back, leg (sciatica), and nerve pain (neuralgia) in addition to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

Some positive effects even have been seen on markers of the heart and blood vessels, as well, with a reduction of the level of fat in the blood and a decrease in cholesterol. Elderberry may even increase insulin secretion and improve blood sugar levels.

The American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) is a deciduous shrub native to areas of the Midwest and Eastern North America. Fragrant white clusters of blossoms bloom each summer. In warmer areas, blossoms may appear throughout the year.

Raw berries should not be eaten as they can cause nausea and vomiting. And the bark, seeds, stems, leaves, and roots are inedible. They contain a cyanide-inducing glycoside, which in large quantities, is toxic.

Elderberries are safe when cooked. They may be consumed in pies, jams, juices, gummiessyrups, and wine. At this time, there is no standard dosage of elderberry to take when suffering from colds or flu but some suggest one tablespoon of syrup extract four times a day. It’s also unknown as to whether or not consuming elderberry products daily is beneficial.

(Did you see my post, “The Magician’s Escape Plan,” on my blog, Mary K Doyle Books?)

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