Our 1950-Early 1960s Moms Wednesday, Sep 16 2020 

One of my many blessings is a group of women who I’ve known since high school. Susie, Sally, Mary Ellen, and I have supported one another through the ups and downs of life for almost 50 years. As an added bonus, we gained the wisdom of each other’s parents. All of our parents acted as our bumpers in the bowling alley of life. My friends and I could go to any parent, any time.

With the recent passing of Susie’s mother, our last living parent, I was reminded of the responsibilities of women in our early childhood. Homemaking was an exhausting full-time job back then. Mothers had little, if any, time of their own. Their life was about service to family.

When I was a child, visions of my mother included seeing her standing at the washing machine, ironing board, or wearing an apron at the stove. Mom was always working. She didn’t have the conveniences of a microwave, dishwasher, permanent press clothes, or even the ability to drive a car. She walked to the grocery store dragging her folding shopping cart and kids in toe.

Women’s work was labor intensive. Food was cooked from scratch, dishes were washed by hand, clothes needed knuckle-bleeding scrubbing on washboards before tossing into the washing machine, socks were darned, everything had to be ironed, and shoes were polished weekly. The work was never-ending.

Some vendors went directly to the homemaker. Vacuum cleaner, encyclopedia, magazines, and cleaning supply salesmen knocked on the door and gave their sales pitches. Milkmen dropped off the heavy glass containers of milk. Some vendors strolled the streets with push carts or small trucks while ringing bells or calling out their goods such as rags, fresh vegetables, and even bleach for sale, as well as knife sharpening.

During the school year, children came home for lunch. Mothers had only a couple of hours for their morning chores before they needed to prepare our lunches, clean up, and send us back to school for the afternoon. No doubt, it seemed that they barely got us out the door when we returned looking for snacks, needing help with homework, and asking the all-important question, “What’s for Dinner?”

What seemed like most of my childhood, my mother was pregnant. Mom was accomplishing her duties in hot summer kitchens and chilly winters with a growing belly. She had five live births and one stillborn, a total of 54 months of pregnancy in 13 years, which wasn’t unusual at that time. Reliable birth control was not available and any attempt at preventing pregnancy in our Catholic families was frowned upon.

One of my favorite memories of my mother is of her ironing in the living room and watching soap operas, with me at her side while I “ironed” doll clothes on my little ironing board. I was raised to be a wife and mother, just like Mom. However, I had no idea how exhausting her days were. Some women worked outside of the home in limited positions, such as nursing, secretarial, and teaching. However, once married, most “retired.” Wife and mother was their job.

Through all of this, women of the 50s/60s were required to look their best at all times. Most wore (circle or sheath/wiggle) dresses, pencil skirts, stockings, and pumps or stiletto shoes year-round, although pants were becoming popular on occasion. Waists were cinched with a belt or sash. Undergarments included girdles, bullet bras, garter belts, slips, and scratchy petticoats to make their circle dresses stand out.

When out of the house, women were certain every hair was in place and makeup was applied, especially lipstick. Accessories included pearls, clip-on earrings, broaches, gloves, a clutch purse, and often, a hat. Little boots could be worn in winter snow storms, but their outfits were designed for beauty, not comfort or warmth.

On behalf of all the “children” my age, we are most grateful to all the loving and hardworking moms. Their attention to providing us with nurturing homes is gratefully appreciated.

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Photos: Mary, Susie, Sally, Mary Ellen, 2020. Shopping cart and washboard. My parents, John and Pat Doyle, 1956. My grandmother (Florence McCarthy), mother, and Aunt Marlene, 1963.

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Have you read, Love from a Distance,” my blog post on COVID restrictions on families visiting loved ones in memory care homes, on my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books?

Are You Sympathetic, Empathetic–or Neither? Thursday, Sep 3 2020 

“I know exactly how you feel?” We often say this, but is it really true?

Few situations are identical. However, it’s easier for us to sympathize with someone whose experience is similar to one we’ve been through.

I have great sympathy for pregnant women in the Midwest this summer. With the anxieties of COVID and the social unrest in addition to the challenges of pregnancies during the hottest summer on record, these women must be pillars of strength and endurance. I’m certainly not pregnant now! My pregnancies are long-passed. But I can relate to the discomfort of summer pregnancies while in the midst of frightening circumstances. I really do sympathize with them.

In contrast, I empathize with the struggles of people of color. I’m not Black or Brown, so I can’t know how it really is for them. I can only imagine how it might feel to be Black and entering a store with all white people or question why it appears to me that I’m treated differently.

Sympathy and empathy are similar yet distinctly different words. When sympathetic, we relate emotionally to someone from a point of experience. We share feelings with another person.

Empathy is emotionally distant. We may imagine being in a particular situation but have not experienced it personally. We can’t really know the emotional impact to things we have no reference to ourselves.

If we’ve never been without a meal, how can we know how it is to have little to no food to feed our family for weeks on end? If we haven’t fled our home town in fear of our safety, can we really envision the desperation of leaving all of our friends and family behind to trek hundreds of intensely hot and terrifying miles to seek asylum in a strange land? We don’t personally know the suffering that comes with such a decision.

Our world is currently crying for empathy. People are literally shouting to be heard, to be understood. Everyone benefits from good listening skills, imagining how it might feel to walk in our neighbor’s flip flops, and taking other people’s feelings to heart. Peace will come if we are still and quiet long enough to be even a little empathetic.

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Check out my post, Riches to Rags, on St. Francis and the sweet town of Assisi, Italy and also my website for all of my books.

Who Knows the Truth? Tuesday, Jul 21 2020 

Throughout the world, and certainly in the United States of America, we are fiercely fighting for truth. However, our versions of truth, justice, and equality are polarized to a point that is exploding.

We hold on to our truths dearly, but how long has it been since we strove to understand rather than shout our perception of right? And when was the last time we reviewed the bases of our own truths?

Truth is defined as the actual state of a matter, a verified or indisputable fact, proposition, or principle. It’s a body of real things, events, and facts, a property of being in accord with fact or reality.  

We accept our truths based on research, unique experiences, and the wisdom of political, religious, and social leaders as well as our mentors. All of these factors bring us to a personal truth, one that may be quite different from our neighbors. In addition, we humans are flawed and perhaps all of us are biased to some level, which compromises our ability to be completely truthful.

It’s important to recognize how much we reflect the leaders we follow. These leaders influence our words and actions. We repeat and imitate what they preach.

A trustworthy leader exemplifies vital qualities and characteristics such as honesty, integrity, transparency, confidence, commitment, accountability, empowerment, empathy, compassion, and vision. Strong decision-making capabilities and communication skills are important. Trustworthy leaders promote unity and team-work. They substantiate their facts, express honest opinions as such, and do not exaggerate, distort, or take facts out of context.

America was born on radical ideas, cultural diversity, and a wide range of beliefs. The promise that we will be tolerant and accepting of these differences is what makes our country so beautiful, exciting, and fascinating and offers opportunities to learn and grow from one another.

If we want peace at home and throughout the world, we all must step back, breathe slowly, listen to all points of view, and respond with compassion toward our brothers and sisters. And we need to seriously consider the leaders we believe in, trust, and identify with.

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Check out, God’s Kingdom Here and Now and First Place Award for The Alzheimer’s Spouse on my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books.

Open Our Ears and Hearts Tuesday, Jun 2 2020 

I am so, so very sad. Our country is in serious trouble. Americans are suffering on multiple levels. Many were barely earning enough to pay their basic living expenses before the pandemic which then caused illness in unprecedented numbers and record-breaking levels of unemployment. And now we are seeing rioting, looting, and destruction of property and even life.

I’m so sad and disturbed that

  • Racism continues. Our country was founded on the promise of equality but the reality always has been otherwise.
    • Let’s make an honest effort to treat one another with compassion, respect, and equality regardless of race, religion, gender identity, or age.
  • George Floyd’s life was snuffed out by a cruel police officer while other officers failed to stop him.
    • As a country, let’s demand all those in roles of authority treat everyone with compassion, respect, and equality regardless of race, religion, gender identity, or age.
  • Good police officers who truly serve and protect suffer the backlash caused by bad cops.
    • Let’s treat police officers and those in roles of authority with compassion, respect, and equality regardless of race, religion, gender identity, or age.
  • Towns that strive to provide clean, inviting shopping districts for patrons are being defaced by graffiti. And shop owners who labor long hours and invest personal finances to provide employment and items for sale to their neighbors suffer destruction and looting by rioters.
    • Let’s assist these towns and shop owners with cleanup and patronage treating all owners and employees with compassion, respect, and equality regardless of race, religion, gender identity, or age.
  • Protestors who attempt to declare an important message and prompt positive change are being sabotaged by violent, terrorist thieves.
    • Let’s honestly listen, strive to understand the protestors’ issues, and treat peaceful protestors with compassion, respect, and equality regardless of race, religion, gender identity, or age.
  • Innocent people are brutalized and even killed by rioters caught up in chaotic frenzy.
    • Let’s lookout for and protect one another and treat everyone with compassion, respect, and equality regardless of race, religion, gender identity, or age.

2020 is progressing as a trying year, for sure. But there also are so many lessons to be learned. Problems don’t vanish without being attended to. The longer problems are ignored, the greater the frustration and response. Let’s strive to open our ears and hearts to one another and treat everyone with compassion, respect, and equality regardless of race, religion, gender identity, or age.

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Why We Suffer? Check out my post on 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.

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.

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.

***

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.

Looking Behind to Look Ahead Monday, Dec 30 2019 

Last year my resolution was to be healthy. I ended up in the hospital right off the bat the second week of January. So, I hesitate to try this resolution thing again.

Statistics say that about half of all adults make New Year’s resolutions. The new year, and new decade, offers us an opportunity to assess where we are and where we want to go, as well as the person we want to be. However, fewer than 10% keep these goals for more than a few months.

The most common resolutions in 2019 were to diet, exercise, lose weight, and save money. Most said that keeping those resolutions, especially in relation to dieting, were difficult to keep.

Psychologists note that the best way to honor a resolution is to make a realistic goal. A small step is more likely to be reached than aiming far beyond what is possible. Their guideline is to be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.

2019 certainly was not the most difficult year I’ve ever experienced, but it certainly was intense. After 15 years of watching Alzheimer’s disease devour my husband, Marshall, he passed away in March. Although still greatly saddened by what was robbed from us, I’m at peace holding on to the love he showed me and my children and knowing that he is playing tricks in heaven with way too many other loved ones. This year alone, another dozen friends and family members in addition to Marshall crossed the threshold into eternal life.

No matter how difficult or sad life can be, it also offers us occasions to celebrate. 2019 was no different. I attended three joyful weddings, including Disney’s Rapunzel and Flint at Blackberry Farm, and a 50th and a 40th wedding anniversary.

Work was fabulous. I had the privilege of meeting with other family members dealing with Alzheimer’s disease through 19 presentations across the country. In addition, my 10th book, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, was published, and is selling phenomenally well.

Updating on my townhouse continued, and I’m loving living here. Thanks to my son, Joe, the laundry room and guest bathroom had complete makeovers; stairway railings, powder room cabinets, my bedroom and bedroom furniture, and guest bedroom were painted; and major work was done on my garage.

Frequent Flyer miles built up this year, and the travel wasn’t only for business. My daughter, Lisa, and I went on a memorable pilgrimage with her church. We traveled through Israel and Italy sparking our faith to new heights.

And our timing was perfect. Soon after our return, Israel saw some unrest and Venice flooded. The places and people challenged by these troubles touch our hearts so much more now since connecting with them. We hold all of them close in prayer.

My personal life also took an unexpected turn when a friend become more than a friend this year. Paul and I met when our spouses resided in the same memory care home. We supported each other through some of the agony Alzheimer’s presents spouses and are now enjoying making new, loving memories together.

I can’t imagine the new year will have as many changes as this past one. All I know is that it’s ending significantly happier and more peacefully than it began. And that is my goal, rather than resolution, for 2020 and beyond.

Here’s to a peaceful, happy 2020!

***

Please join me at my next presentations in New Jersey:

Tuesday, January 21, 2020, “The Alzheimer’s Spouse,” 5:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Registration and Dinner, 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Seminar, Arden Courts of West Orange, 510 Prospect Avenue, West Orange, NJ  07052, 973.736.3100

Wednesday, January 22, 2020, “Navigating Alzheimer’s as the Family Caregiver, 5:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Registration, 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Seminar
Arden Courts of Whippany, 18 Eden Lane, Whippany, NJ 07981, 973.581.1800

Thursday, January 23, 2020, “Navigating Alzheimer’s as the Family Caregiver,” 5:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Registration, 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Seminar, Arden Courts of Wayne, 800 Hamburg Turnpike, Wayne, NJ  07470, 973.942.5600

Singing the Holiday Blues Monday, Dec 2 2019 

I thought it would be easier this year. Yes, my husband, Marshall, only passed away less than nine months ago, but this was my fifth year without him at Thanksgiving dinner, and I am at peace knowing that Alzheimer’s has released him into the hands of the Lord. Yet, at the end of Thanksgiving Day, I was still depressed.

As my friend, David, who just lost his wife to Alzheimer’s, said to me, no matter how we fill our days, the evenings are sad and lonely. I’ve noticed that the last few years have been like that. I’m more depressed after being with loved ones and returning home.

Keeping busy and social are important elements in preventing getting stuck in the muck of holiday depression. We need to do things that bring us joy. And at the end of the day, especially the most difficult ones, ease the loneliness with uplifting music, movies/tv/reading, and friends.

I’m fortunate to have people who help me through. My friend, Paul, insisted on coming over on Friday to watch a silly Christmas movie. He knew a cure for loss was company and humor. And then, my son and his girlfriend visited yesterday.

Remember, that although missing our loved ones, especially around the holidays never fully disappears, it does get easier. As my psychologist friend, Sue, says, it becomes a different kind of, more bearable mourning. My mother passed away in 1999, and I especially long for her while baking during the holidays. It’s not the heart-wrenching type of pain of the past, but more like a missing part of the puzzle of tradition and a gratitude for having those experiences at all.

May all your memories of passed loved ones bring a smile to your face and a warmth to your heart this holiday season.

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If you’re in the area, please join me for my last presentation of the year. “The Alzheimer’s Spouse,” will be from 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 5, 2019 at The Inter-Faith Chapel at Leisure World, 3680 S. Leisure World Boulevard, Silver Spring, MD 20906. For reservations, please call Julie Boone Roth, 301.847.3051.

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The Alzheimer’s Spouse is available from Amazon.com and ACTA Publications.comNavigating Alzheimer’s is also available from Amazon and ACTA.

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Do you follow my other blog, Midwest Mary, or my author Facebook page?

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