The Cicadas Are Coming Thursday, Apr 15 2021 

Brace yourself for the inundation of cicadas. As many as 1.5 million of the creatures per acre are due to emerge from the earth very soon. No need to worry about missing their appearance. We’ll hear them a mile away, see them covering foliage, and feel the crunch of their exoskeletons beneath our feet.

There are two main types of the 3,000 cicada species—annual and periodical. Annual cicadas emerge every year in late June or August, while periodical cicadas emerge in cycles of 13 or 17 years, depending on the species. A group of periodicals that emerge at the same time is called a brood. There are 15 different brood cycles. More than one type of brood may emerge simultaneously in the same area depending on their development. The group that we will see this year is known as Periodical Cicada Brood X (10) and rise from the earth when the soil temperature reaches 65 degrees for a depth of 8 inches.

The states gifted with this year’s presence of the insects include Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York (extinct or nearly so), Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington D.C.

Brood X cicadas are one to two inches long with a wingspan of three to four inches. They have black bodies, clear wings, and bold red eyes. They breathe through two spiracles on the thorax and eight on the abdomen. Their antennae are short and bristly.

Cicadas are harmless to humans. They may prick our skin if held but do not bite. In fact, people around the world, including Native Americans, once dined on them. They are said to taste like corn and can be grilled, steamed, boiled, or sautéed. Rodents, moles, squirrels, birds, lizards, spiders, killer wasps, snakes, and fish eagerly feast on the delicacies.

Our dogs may nibble on them, as well. However, we should deter them from doing so. Too many cicadas can make dogs sick. The bugs also may be contaminated with pesticides or cause choking in small dogs.

Unlike locus that can result in extensive agricultural damage, cicadas do not harm trees or shrubs. We may notice some leaf loss but not enough to cause lasting damage. According to the Department of Agriculture, molting cicadas eat twigs while adults do not even feed. In addition, their nutrient-rich exoskeleton will enrich the soil and plant growth.

The cicada has the longest life cycle of any insect. They live underground for 17 years while feeding on sap from tree roots. Once mature, they emerge from the ground, lose their exoskeleton, and sprout wings. They then mate, lay eggs in twigs of trees and branches, and die. Eggs hatch in about four weeks and then burrow underground for the next 17 years before repeating the cycle.

The creature’s vast emergence is believed to be a method of survival. So many cicadas arrive at once that predators cannot destroy the entire population. It’s also thought that predator birds tend to have lower density when it’s time for the cicadas to emerge.

Cicadas are among the loudest insects with male mating calls typically ranging from 90 to 100 decibels. That’s louder than a hair dryer or lawn mower but may be as loud as 120 decibels and heard up to one mile away. If you are one who enjoys the music of cicadas, you have three to four weeks to tune in.

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Cicada photo credits: Gene Kritsky, Ph.D., Mount St. Joseph University

See my last post on my other blog, “Forgive Yourself” and my website.

Luck and Faith of the Shamrock Monday, Mar 15 2021 

Oh The Shamrock

Through Erin’s Isle,
To sport awhile,
As Love and Valor wander’d
With Wit, the sprite,
Whose quiver bright
A thousand arrows squander’d.
Where’er they pass,
A triple grass
Shoots up, with dew-drops streaming,
As softly green
As emeralds seen
Through purest crystal gleaming.
Oh the Shamrock, the green immortal Shamrock!
Chosen leaf
Of Bard and Chief,
Old Erin’s native Shamrock!

  -Thomas Moore

See a shamrock, think of Ireland. The most iconic symbol of the Emerald Isle since the 18th century, shamrocks are used in emblems of state organizations, clubs, flags, and companies such as Aer Lingus airline. It’s even a registered trademark of the Government of Ireland.

The word shamrock comes from the Gaelic Seamrog, meaning little clover. Clover is commonly referred to as any number of plants belonging to the genus Trifolium in reference to their three leaves. Most botanists agree that the white clover is the original shamrock of Irish heritage. However, white, red, and hop clovers, and the clover-like black medick, are often used as shamrocks, all of which are members of the pea family. The sprigs are believed to have been consumed by the Irish people in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The four-leaf clover is a mutation rarely found in nature, which lends itself to the universal connotation of being lucky. The plant, oxalis deppei with its four leaflets is widely sold as shamrocks, but in reality, it is not clover.

The plant’s religious connotation has ancient roots. Celtic holy men, known as Druids, believed the clover to be powerful against evil spirits, and the number three found in clover to be mystical. Surrounded in legend, Eve is said to have carried a four-leaf clover out from the Garden of Eden. Most notably is St. Patrick’s use of the shamrock to explain the teaching of the Holy Trinity—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three persons in one God.

The three leaflets of the shamrock also represent faith, hope, and love. When a fourth smaller one is present, it represents luck due to its rarity.

Today, clover is considered a nuisance when it pops up in our lawns but once was included in lawn seed mixes. Until the 1950s, clover was considered a beneficial addition to the overall look and feel of a lawn as it is inexpensive and maintenance-free. Clover is easy to mow, fills in thin spots, tolerates compacted soil better than grass, doesn’t require fertilizing as it captures nitrogen from the air, and attracts honeybees. It is also soft to walk on.

Erin go bragh! (Ireland forever)

Do You Believe in Leprechauns?

* Take a dose of self-care with my newest book, Inspired Caregiving. Weekly Moral Builders.

Healing, Hope, and Recovery Monday, Jan 18 2021 

Joe Biden certainly has his challenges ahead. According to his website, our 46th president of the United States’ lofty ambitions include the battle to control the COVID-19 virus, build prosperity, secure family health care, achieve racial justice, save the climate, and restore decency, defend democracy, and give everybody a fair shot. The wisdom of his age and extensive service to our country as senator and vice president along with his happy disposition and ability to build friendships on both sides of the aisle as a moderate Democrat brings hope to a country in crisis. He’s also a devoted family man with an intelligent, educator wife, Jill, who will be our First Lady.

Biden’s strength and character are built on his foundation of (Catholic) faith and conquering life challenges and heartache. A courageous and humble man, he is quick to acknowledge his political failures and rectify them. His personal struggles, including a stuttering disorder and the sudden losses of his first wife and baby has made him stronger and more compassionate.

Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. was born on November 20, 1942 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He played football and baseball in high school and was class president both his junior and senior year. He also played football his freshman year of college. Education didn’t come easy to Biden. He struggled and persevered through his studies receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Delaware and a law degree from Syracuse University.

Biden practiced law as a public defender and then at a firm before being elected senator of Delaware at the age of 29 in 1973. He was reelected to that position six times. He then served as vice president during the Obama administration from 2009 to 2017.

For our country to fully and more quickly recover, all of our support is needed. Joe Biden is inheriting a country in the midst of a pandemic that has taken more than 400,000 American lives and an economic crisis with an unemployment rate that has doubled since March, 2019. In addition, we have a deteriorating infrastructure, wage stagnation, drastic income inequality, and tremendous national debt. Biden must also strive to remove all of the walls–the border wall, the need for a wall around our capitol building to protect our governing body and democracy, and walls between family and friends divided due to political division.

For the peace and prosperity of our country, whatever your political affiliation, please pray for God to bless Joe Biden and the United States of America.

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Have you read “American Novena” on my other blog? Check out my latest book, Inspired Caregiving. Weekly Morale Builders.

Recipe for Inner Peace Tuesday, Jan 12 2021 

Yoga, meditation, and lots of prayer. These are a few of the ingredients in my personal recipe for inner peace. When I’m stressed, hurt, disappointed, or frustrated, I center myself. Still and quiet, peace comes to me.

Historically, humanity doesn’t remain peaceful for long. Eruptions arise within our inner circle and the world at large more often than not. Between COVID, political unrest, and domestic terrorism, this certainly is one of the more intense periods of disruption we’ve seen in the U.S. for some time.

How can we remain calm and peaceful with so much going on? I believe we can outweigh the negative with positivity and goodness. The more peaceful we are within ourselves, the more we extend that tranquility far out beyond us.

Here are a few suggestions for promoting personal peace. Focus on one or mix them up for a relaxing cocktail. I’d love to hear what you can add to this list.

  • Begin the day with a positive thought.
  • Practice daily relaxation in a quiet setting.
  • Meditate.
  • Pray. Pray. Pray.
  • Accept what can’t be changed.
  • Turn off the electronics.
  • Exercise.
  • Breathe consciously.
  • Forgive and ask to be forgiven.
  • Let go of petty disputes and disappointments.
  • Volunteer at a homeless shelter or food pantry.
  • Avoid books, movies, and online activities that include violence, inequality, cruelty, or profanity.
  • Surround yourself with gentle, loving people.
  • Attend in-person or virtual church services
  • Avoid gossip and unsubstantiated posts.
  • Give thanks for your many blessings.
  • Smile at strangers.
  • Treat others respectfully.
  • Check on elderly neighbors.
  • Read inspirational books and other writings.
  • Pray for peace.

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If I say I will pray for you, I really will. See my latest post, “Praying for Those on Your List,” on my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books.

Have you checked out my latest book, Inspired Caregiving?

A Few Extra Bucks in the Pocket Thursday, Dec 3 2020 

Aging has its perks. Sure, time takes its toll on our bodies resulting in a full range of chronic aches and pains, but with age, also comes a few privileges. Senior discounts and early access to stores in this season of COVID are two of those little blessings. And I do enjoy shopping when I have stores such as Target, Jewel, and Aldi, and the availability of employee assistance, all to myself.

Most retail stores offer discounts on particular days. Kohl’s is every Wednesday while Walgreens offers senior discounts on the first Tuesday of the month, if you are a Balance Reward member. Signing up for that takes only a minute.

But think beyond retail. AMC has a senior policy. So do some utility, insurance, and phone companies such as Sprint and T-Mobile. I recently asked AT&T if they offer senior discounts. They do not (at least for my plan) but they gave me a $15 credit just because I asked.

Traveling? Check out Budget, Avis, Hertz, Delta, Marriot Hotels, and Motel 6. Attending a performance or going to a museum? Ask for that discount before purchasing tickets. You’ll be surprised how often a few dollars will be subtracted.

The trick to getting those reductions is to ask for them and follow their rules. The qualifications vary greatly from one company to another. Some simply respond to the request, while others need proof of age by showing identification. Others offer those discounts on special days or when booking through AARP. In fact, AARP can point you in the direction of many of these benefits.

Check company websites or call before shopping. You have nothing to lose by asking.

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Pet a Pet to Ease the COVID Blues.

Thanksgiving Mussels Monday, Nov 23 2020 

The aroma of turkey roasting in the oven along with stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie lures us to the kitchen every Thanksgiving. However, this traditional meal has evolved since the first historic dinner. According to the pilgrim writer, Edward Winslow, crustaceans and mollusks were an important part of that first feast.

Europeans ventured through North America and established settlements since the 1500s. Friendly and hostile interaction with indigenous people occurred from the beginning. The holiday we celebrate today goes back to an event between the English setters who landed in Plymouth in 1620 and wanted to give thanks sometime in the fall of 1621 for their first abundant harvest and the assistance of their neighbors.

The little documentation we have tells of a three-day celebration between 90 Wampanoag indigenous people and about 50 English settlers. The food was prepared by the only four women (Eleanor Billington, Elizabeth Hopkins, Mary Brewster, and Susanna White) who survived the Mayflower voyage and first year in the New World. Young daughters and male and female servants likely assisted the women.

In addition to crustaceans, mollusks, and fish, one account states that the settlers hunted for fowl for the celebration. They returned with turkeys, venison, ducks, geese, and swans. Herbs, onions, and nuts were added to the meat before roasting.

Local vegetables likely included onions, beans, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, and carrots. Corn was ground, boiled, and pounded into a thick porridge that may have been sweetened with molasses. Neither white nor sweet potatoes were yet available in the area.

Fruits indigenous to the region included blueberries, plums, grapes, gooseberries, raspberries, and cranberries. The pilgrim’s sugar supply was depleted by then, so no sugared cranberry sauce reached their table that year.

The settlers also lacked butter and wheat flour to make pie crust. That prevented pie or bread stuffing from being on the menu. Nor did they have ovens for baking. Some accounts do say that early English settlers in North America roasted pumpkins by filling the shells with milk, honey, and spices and baked the pumpkins in hot ashes.

Although the holiday did, and continues to center on food, the occasion was to show gratitude. This year has been a tough one for so many, but we likely have things to be thankful for, none-the-less. It’s a good idea to take a few moments this week to recognize our gifts and give thanks.

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Looking for gift ideas for caregivers? How about the uplifting book, Inspired Caregiving, or The Alzheimer’s Spouse, or Navigating Alzheimer’s?

Do you know there’s a New Blood Test for Alzheimer’s Disease?

Faith-Driven Election Wednesday, Nov 11 2020 

The chaos, division, and anger may not show it, but in my opinion, the 2020 Presidential Election has been one of the most faith-driven elections in U.S. history. Voters examined issues such as immigration, racism, abortion, domestic production, environmental health, and the economy in relation to their interpretation of biblical and religious teachings.

Ironically, most of us fell into one of two camps. We took the very same ideals and saw them from completely opposite view-points. “Fake News” was suspect on both sides. Neither trusted, or continues to trust, information from the other. Each side believes they know God’s truth. Many feared the outcome if one or the other candidate won, and some believe that the end-times is now quickly approaching.

With the rise of COVID-19, severely diminished employment opportunities, vast economic disparity, and friends and neighbors divided on hot issues, toxic slander, and ill perceptions of the candidates, as well as each other, boils and spews across everything from social media to neighborhoods and homes.

Perhaps our best reference for what to do at this time is Jesus’ teaching about the greatest commandments. Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” He continued by saying the second is to love our neighbor as our self (Matthew 22:34-40).

Following this guide, we should pray and listen to the Lord all day every day and treat each other with compassion and kindness. We also can strive to live each moment as if it is our last, which, for any number of reasons, may truly be. That would mean to avoid causing pain, injustice, or insult to anyone or anything at all times.

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Have you seen the posts on my other blog, “New Blood Test For Alzheimer’s Disease,” “Compassionate and Devout Saint Margaret,” or “Through the Church Doors?

Check out my recently updated website with information on all of my books.

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.

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