Great Midwest Weather Monday, Aug 15 2022 

Rarely, are we in the Midwest United States envied for our weather. We typically experience hot summers and cold winters. The change of seasons is fun to some extent. It is just that winters can be long, bitter, and dark when we have weeks with little sun.

However, our weather is currently perfect. Unlike much of the country (our coasts are hot and dry and south has had storms with flooding), the Chicago area is in the 70s/low 80s during the day with low humidity and pleasantly cool in the evening.

Also, we’ve had a good amount of rain, so our grass, shrubs, and trees are lush and green. The flowers, birds, and butterflies are in abundance. (Except for the rare occurrence of monarchs.) And fields are plentiful with fruits and vegetables.

I love the summer–the deep greens and lavish flora and fauna that surrounds us. The best part is that I can work on the patio surrounded by wee creatures coming and going. I find it inspiring, rejuvenating, and exhilarating.

*Photos: Black swallowtail butterfly, goldfinch, hydrangea, hummingbird.

*Take care of yourself while you take care of your family. Follow along with weekly photos, affirmations, prayers, suggestions for caring for yourself, and a little humor with my book, Inspired Caregiving.

Alebrijes. Creatures of a Dream World Thursday, Jun 23 2022 

Question: What has clawed feet, fins, a tale made of fish, and fangs?

Answer: Alebrijes.

Think mythical creatures in brightly colored, seemingly random patterns. Alebrijes have characteristics of a mix of land, water, and air animals adorned in every color of the rainbow. And you can see examples of these playful sculptures at Cantigny Park in Wheaton, Illinois now through October of this year.

The exhibit features 48 unique sculptures. Wander through the park and you’ll find the alebrijes scattered through the lush gardens. The kids will enjoy spotting the creatures and checking them off on a photo sheet they can pick up in the information center.

The folk-art sculptures originated in 1943 when Mexican artist Pedro Linares fell seriously ill. He dreamed of a forest of unusual animals-a donkey with butterfly wings, rooster with bull horns, and lion with an eagle head. The animals repeatedly shouted Alebrijes! Alebrijes Alebrijes!

When Linares recovered from his illness, he began creating the creatures he saw in his dream with strips of paper and glue made from wheat flour and water. The sculptures became popular when artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo were drawn to their creativity and vivid beauty.

Some of Linares’ designs were later carved from a local wood called copal, which is thought to be magical. The name “alebrijes” now applies to sculptures of this type made from both paper-mâché and wood. Unfortunately, demand for the wood carvings have resulted in a depletion of the copal trees.

The Cantigny Park alabrijes creations begin with a design on paper by one of 6 artists from Mexico City. If accepted, the creature is made in miniature. Then it is painstakingly replicated in full.

Parallels have been made between alabrijes and historically recognized supernatural creatures from Mexico’s indigenous and European past such as dragons, gargoyles, and judas-red cardboard demons burned in Mexico during Holy Week as a purification ritual. Monster alebrijes are believed to protect homes by scaring away evil spirits.

The art exhibit, “Alebrijes: Creatures of a Dream World,” is presented in partnership with the Mexican Cultural Center of Dupage, City of West Chicago, and DuPage Convention & Visitors Bureau. See the Cantigny Park website for more information.

** When you are your loved one’s full-time caregiver, don’t feel guilty for stepping away. If you don’t care for yourself, you won’t be able to care for them. Inspired Caregiving. Weekly Morale Builders

The Book of Which I’m Most Proud Tuesday, Jun 14 2022 

A question I’ve been asked over the years is which of the books that I’ve written is my favorite. This is a question that is as impossible to answer as which child is my favorite. Each book is special to me. I’m proud of all of all of them for different reasons.

Each was written with an intent to fill a need. Each book was sent out into the world with a mission to offer information and consolation to a particular audience. Most have won awards and sold consistently well over the years. And now I’m very excited about a new book coming out this year, which I will tell you about at the end of this post.

Mentoring Heroes was my first book. Published in 2000, this book centered on my recognition through newspaper articles I’d written that successful people attributed their progress to the mentors who helped them along the way. I also recognized that women’s lives are complicated and multi-layered with family, household, and work responsibilities, and therefore, more challenging in finding ways in which to be mentored. Mentoring Heroes was widely used in university Women Studies programs and by clubs and groups. Today, I know that the book is dated in the way that it was printed–with copper plates and blue-line editing as opposed to today’s digital print method–and due to men participating more in household responsibilities and technology offering more ways in which to be mentored. Yet, the overall benefits and need for mentoring remains relevant.

The Rosary Prayer by Prayer, Grieving with Mary, and Fatima at 100. Fatima Today were inspired by a devotion to the Virgin Mary. These were the types of books I wanted to write since childhood. Praying with Mary should always lead to a greater devotion to her son, Jesus. Mary is our heavenly mother, and like a good mother, she loves us dearly, promotes peace among all creation, and encourages us to care for one another as Jesus does. Praying with her offers a sense of calm in a world where this type of alliance is greatly needed.

With the The Rosary Prayer by Prayer readers can pray along simply by following pages showing the placement on the rosary, the prayer to be prayed, illustrations by Joseph Cannella, and a reflection. Grieving with Mary is a best-seller that aligns praying with Mary in a wide variety of ways during times of loss. And Fatima at 100. Fatima Today is a little booklet that reviews Mary’s messages in Fatima, Portugal in 1917 and how those messages remain vital in attaining peace.

Seven Principles of Sainthood Following Saint Mother Theodore Guerin and Saint Theodora and Her Promise to God are books about a woman who immigrated to the United States to teach children and young woman. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, also known as Saint Theodora, and a small group of sisters opened schools throughout rural Indiana and Illinois in the mid to late 1800s, a time when Catholic schools were greatly needed and in which this band of women faced great obstacles. The sisters also opened a school for the higher education of women when women had little-to-no choice for such an opportunity. Seven Principles was written for adults and Saint Theodora and Her Promise to God was written for children. I was inspired to write these books after attending Saint Mary of the Woods College, the school Saint Mother Theodore founded, as well as her canonization in Rome, Italy.

Young in the Spirit was published in 2013 when I was closing in on one of those big decade birthdays (I was 60 in 2014-Yikes!). Big birthdays spark contemplation on where we came from, how we arrived at a particular point in time, and where we anticipate the future to bring us. One of the areas of contemplation for me was in regard to my faith—how it changed through the years and what I could offer the Church now. Those thoughts are at the heart of Young in the Spirit.

Hans Christian Andersen Illuminated by The Message was part of a series initiated by my publisher, Greg Pierce. The series offers a unique way to promote prayer by pairing Scripture verses with passages from classic writings. I chose Hans Christian Andersen in remembrance of my mother and her childhood book, a 1936 edition of Anderson’s Fairy Tales, the same book from which my mother read to me.

Navigating Alzheimer’s, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, and Inspired Caregiving was born from a need recognized by Pam Sebern, the director of a memory care home where my husband resided in his last years. Pam asked for books to help families understand dementia and better care for their loved ones while caring for themselves along the way. She felt that the books available at that time were too medical and needed a perspective from one who lived the experience. As my husband suffered from symptoms from Alzheimer’s disease for more than 15 years, and I was an author with substantial writing experience, Pam believed I could fulfill that need.

Navigating Alzheimer’s covers the basics of Alzheimer’s and ways in which we can work with our loved one. It offers family members and caregivers a clear overall of the changes they’re likely to notice. The Alzheimer’s Spouse also covers the basics of the disease but from the perspective of the spouse. Alzheimer’s touches every aspect of both spouses in devastating ways. Inspired Caregiving provides readers with a daily/weekly boost of inspiration. Each weekly reflection follows a rotation that includes a photo, prayer, thought, activity, stretch, affirmation, quote, and bit of humor to offer guidance, encouragement, improved self-talk, and maybe a smile. All three of these books are recommended by memory care facilities across the country.  

My next book, which currently is in publication, is less serious. I believe readers and I are in need of opportunities that promote peace, beauty, love, and inspiration. For this reason, my newest book, tentatively called The Gifts of Public Gardens, showcases vivid photos of nature that I have taken at public gardens paired with short, thoughtful poems. My intent is for readers to escape into the positive, wonderous gifts around us. I will keep you posted on when this book will be available.

If you’ve read any of my books, please post a review on Amazon. Readers rely on these comments to find books best suited to their needs.

Do You Want Peace? Thursday, May 12 2022 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lizzardo Museum of Lapidary Art Monday, Apr 11 2022 

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

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

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

Here are others with such variations.

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

This figure is made from rich, green malachite.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The museum also has dozens of cameos.

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

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

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

The bright, lively Rhodochrosite is certainly eye-catching.

And check out these beauties – Rubies in Zoisite

Scolecite

Angel Wing Calcite

Ocean Jasper

and Mesolite.

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

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

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

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

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

Breastplate of St. Patrick Thursday, Mar 17 2022 

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

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

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

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

Peace be with you.

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

Mary’s Peace Plan is Today’s Peace Plan Friday, Feb 25 2022 

Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine has everyone on edge. Putin’s been taunting the country for weeks reminding the people of previous days of terror. His unpredictability and bullying make us wonder how far he will go. Could the invasion of one small country lead to an all-out world war?

We can’t turn our backs on the Ukraine, or anywhere else. From a selfish standpoint, what effects one, effects all, in one way or another. In addition, we know the Ukrainian people. In this technologically, interconnected world, we know people across the globe through online chatting, news coverage, and business dealings. We may even be neighbors, coworkers, or related to them.

The Virgin Mary says there is a way to prevent war. World peace is possible, and Mary explained how it could be achieved. She clearly spelled out a plan in 1917 in Fatima, Portugal through a series of apparitions to three young shepherd children: ten-year-old Lucia dos Santos, nine-year old Francisco Marto, and seven-year-old Jacinta Marto.

Mary’s peace plan consists of specific instructions, but overall, her point was to pray, and to pray unceasingly. In particular, she instructed to pray the rosary every day.

“The rosary is a path to peace because it promotes peace within us, and that peace reflects on everyone we encounter. The rhythmic sequence of prayers is very calming and allows us to meditate more fully on the life of Jesus. It draws us closer to Christ because it is Christ-centered. And where Christ is, there is peace.” (Excerpt from Fatima at 100. Fatima Today)

At that time, the world was at war (WWI), and Mary warned that if we didn’t change our ways, a greater war would result. We know, in fact, that a greater war (WWII) did occur resulting in the loss of more lives and destruction.

Mary’s peace plan is as important today as ever. We don’t have to sit by and watch the pain and destruction across the globe while hopelessly ringing our hands. We can take action in a real way, because prayer works.

We can pray in our own way or pick up those rosary beads. Praying the rosary only takes about 15-20 minutes. Isn’t that investment of your time worth personal and world peace?

*For more information on how to pray the rosary, read The Rosary Prayer by Prayer available from Amazon.comACTA Publications, and my website. 

Nurture Yourself Tuesday, Feb 8 2022 

Midwest winters can be not only cold and snowy but gloomy, especially when we don’t have sunshine. The frigid temperatures and icy/snowy road conditions restrict our ability to get out. We end up tired and depressed.

When feeling down, take note, and take care of yourself so, you can better care for the other people in your life. We have lots of little ways to do this that don’t cost much in time or money. Take a walk in nature. Even gloomy days in a forest or park offer natural beauties and wildlife to brighten our spirits. Meet a friend for coffee or lunch. An hour or two offers us a distraction and warms our hearts as well as our bodies. Or watch a humorous program. Laughter reduces stress hormones and depression, reduces pain, and increases creativity.

You can find more ways to care for yourself in my book, Inspired Caregiving. I wrote it with you in mind!

*They all laughed when I said I wanted to be a professional comedian. Well, no one is laughing now.

Virtual or Reality? Monday, Jan 24 2022 

Did you receive your invitation to the wedding reception of the year? After a ceremony in front of a small group of family and friends in their village in India, Dinesh Sivakumar Padmavathi and Janaganandhini Ramaswamy will hold a virtual reception. Approximately 2,000 guests will personally be greeted and then allowed to explore a castle in a Harry Potter style metaverse.

The couple chose this option because of the COVID limitations they would have to follow with a traditional wedding in India. Interestingly, the digital reception also allows for a 3D avatar of Ramaswamy’s deceased father to bless their union.

The metaverse currently is a hot spot to create dream homes and vacations. It’s a space where digital representations of people and their surroundings can interact without actual physical contact.

If you’ve experienced a 3D, or a 3D Imax movie, you know what it feels like to be immersed in the scene. The movie appears dimensional, and it is as if you can reach out and touch the items in the movie.

Virtual Reality is 3D on steroids. VR uses computer technology to create a simulated environment. The scene is above and below you as well as all around. You can make contact with items coming in your direction. For example, you may hit a “ball” with your paddle or bat, move furniture, or navigate through dimensional spaces.

A simulated experience may appear true-to-life or animated. Applications now are used for entertainment, education, and business while wearing a head-mounted display (HMD).

I received an Oculus HMD from my boyfriend, Paul, this past Christmas. I’m a newbie with minimal experience at this point but am finding some interesting places to travel, museums to visit, ways to exercise, and beautiful settings for meditation. There are tons of games on the systems, however, I doubt I will play any of them. I’m on the computer most of the day and need time in the real world.

One of my first VR experiences was to travel underwater to a coral reef. The feeling was realistic. Unlike viewing on a television, I felt as if I was in the water and could look all around and below me. There was an exciting sense of presence in the environment.

The advantages of VR seem to be the ability to experience opportunities otherwise limited by time, expense, or physical ability. Fun workouts, interaction with friends in a playful way, learning from a more realistic vantage point, and traveling to places, and hopefully, time periods are some of the possibilities.

The drawback is that, like everything, it costs to play. HMDs are several hundreds of dollars, and additional equipment is needed for some experiences. In addition, most of the activities require a one-time or ongoing fee.

The few studies on this rather new technology show that virtual reality is safe for most adults when used appropriately. Typical warnings include not to engage in VR when ill, with a headache or nauseous, or inebriated. Anyone who has experienced seizures or heart trouble should also avoid VR.

Time in VR should be minimal to avoid fatigue, eye strain, and elevated heart rate. As with all the video games, they are addictive. And there can be difficulty managing surroundings, being able to distinguish what is virtual versus real resulting in tripping, falling, or hurting yourself or others, so some precautions are necessary.

If children are participating in VR, they must be closely monitored. We can’t differentiate virtual reality from real life until at least ten years of age. Children can become confused as to what actually happened to them or what they experienced virtually.

Most importantly, to avoid losing touch with the people and places in our lives, VR should be restricted to no more than a few hours a week. Like all technology, balance is key. We can quickly forget where we live, the people in our real world, our responsibilities, and the meaning of what it is to live authentically if we choose to remain in images artificially projected into our heads.

**Please remember the caregivers in your life. They may find these books helpful, Inspired Caregiving, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, and Navigating Alzheimer’s.

How to Pray Wednesday, Jan 19 2022 

Believers have it easy. When we truly believe in a loving God who cares for us, we’re assured that when we ask for something and give our worries and wants to God, God will respond in a way that is best for us. We have no need to fret. We are in God’s hands.

So, is there a special way in which we need to pray, to talk to God? The answer is, definitely not. Our prayers are heard however we communicate with the Lord.

Devotion may be shown using words spoken, thought, or read; executing or pondering sacred art or music; holding sacramentals, such as medals and rosaries, to prompt our prayers; meditating in sacred spaces; and through simple acts of charity and love.

For example, adult coloring books are popular ways to destress. When coloring in a book that offers religious words and artwork, we can use the activity as a tool to pray.

After writing the book, Saint Theodora and Her Promise to God for the Sisters of Providence of Indiana, I was asked to write a shorter version of the book for a coloring book. While coloring, we can use this book to think about Saint Theodora, also known as Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, and how she prayed and discerned her calling. We then can consider how God calls on us and how we respond to that call.

Try it for yourself. Talk to God, and then listen. God will answer. We just need to pay attention.

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

*Unsure of how to pray the rosary? Here’s an easy and inspiring way. Just turn the pages of The Rosary Prayer by Prayer and follow along.

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