Jerusalem. City of Sensual Overload. Thursday, Nov 7 2019 

DIMG_3985.Old JerusalemStalls packed with brightly colored scarves, carpets, and clothing. Whiffs of olives, spices, and humanity. Ancient art and centuries of architecture intermixed with current signage and walls of graffiti. Heavy military presence controlling the massive crowds. Narrow cobblestone streets streaming with people from all over the world. Arabic, Hebrew, and English along with Russian, French, Italian, and countless other languages ring through the air.

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I just returned from a pilgrimage to Israel and Italy and the impact of the trip has left my head full of images, sounds, and smells. As Dorothy said to Toto in the Wizard of Oz, Americans such as myself quickly realize that in Israel, especially in Old Jerusalem,  we’re not in “Kansas” anymore, an expression that indicates things are very different than our norm.

Jerusalem is the largest and poorest city in Israel. Located between the Mediterranean and Dead Seas, it’s also one of the oldest and perhaps, holiest, cities in the world. The first human settlers are believed to have arrived in the Early Bronze Age around 3500 B.C. In 1000 B.C, King David conquered Jerusalem and his son, Solomon, built the first temple.

 

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In only about a third of a square mile, numerous locations are considered significantly important to Jews, Christians, and Muslims which has resulted in a long history of conflict.

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  • For the Jewish community, Jerusalem is recognized as the site of Mount Zion, the traditional site of King David’s tomb, and the Western Wall.
  • Christians hold the city sacred because it is where 12-year old Jesus impressed the elders in the temple and later spent the last days of his ministry, was sentenced, scourged, taunted, crucified, and resurrected.
  • Muslims also are religiously connected to Jerusalem because it is where the prophet Muhammad ascended into heaven from what is known as the Temple Mount.

In adition to being emotionally and spiritually moved, Israel was fascinating for me because I’m intrigued with other cultures and religions and appreciate the opportunity to learn from them. Personally, I never felt unsafe but often did not feel welcome by the majority of Israelies. When traveling, I strive to be a good guest and representative of my home country. I’m not sure how much this mattered to most people I encountered. Greeting Jews in Hebrew rarely resulted in anything other than a blank stare. Currently, more than 60% of its residents are Jewish, 36.5% are Muslim, and only 1.8% are Christian. (The other 1.2% are unspecified.)

The religious tension in the country is evident, even among the Christian denominations. Everyone vigorously defends their sacred site and appears to be reluctant to allow others to visit. Without the assistance of our experienced and knowledgable guide, navigation through the country and entering sites at the best times would have been difficult, if not impossible. Our guide also protected our money by pointing out where we could safely use a credit card and deal fairly with merchants.

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Most of our meals were prearranged and buffet style. Typical meals consisted of stews, fish, grilled vegetables, salads, and breads. My favorite foods were those common in the region including falafal, schnitzel, shwarma, hummus, olives, herring, and dates.

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Stay tuned for more to come on this adventure! Faith-related posts will be posted on my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books.

 

 

Junk Food Junkies Wednesday, Sep 18 2019 

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Skip the meals and go straight to the munchies. Granola bars, cookies, nuts, potato chips, popcorn, candy, pretzels, ice cream. We’re a snacking society. Not only do we snack all day and night, main meals are often replaced with snacks as well. All these goodies can add up to significantly more calories if we don’t choose our foods wisely.

We make more than 200 decisions about food each day, and most are made unconsciously. Rarely do we choose to eat because we are hungry. Instead, we’re prompted by outer influences—stress, a clock that says that it is meal time, boredom, or a reward.

And we eat more when distracted watching TV, listening to music, playing a game, reading, or worse, the food is just present. Studies show that if offered an unlimited amount of food, particularly when empty plates are continuously cleared away, we will eat 73% more than we would otherwise. Who doesn’t eat at work simply because the food is in front of us? It may not even be items we particularly care for, but there it is, so we fill a plate and mindlessly munch while working.

We can consume fewer calories if we use smaller plates, select from smaller containers, decrease the variety of choices on hand so we don’t sample all that is out, don’t buy in bulk, choose healthy foods only, and keep higher calorie ones in areas that are difficult to retrieve, or better yet, not bring them into the home or office. Although all foods contain calories, choosing grapes, almonds, carrots, cheddar cheese, and dark chocolate offer significantly more nutritional value than potato chips, gummy worms, and crackers.

We also should avoid late-night snacks. Although that is when we are more likely to be drawn to high-calorie foods, studies find that food isn’t as satisfying at night. We can end up eating more and choosing foods that are the least healthy.

We’ll also eat less if we eat slowly. Since we’re influenced by the people we eat with, dining with a slower eater can help us slow down. Taking at least 20-30 minutes to finish a meal allows our body to release hormones that promote feelings of fullness.

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Have you read Walking Away from Alzheimer’s Disease on my other blog?

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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?”

 

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?)

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