Healthy Planet, Healthy Us Friday, Jan 27 2023 

Would you like cleaner air, lower prices, and fewer catastrophic weather conditions? We can move closer to all of this with a few minor lifestyle changes.

There’s no denying that the whole earth is seeing troubling weather and events caused by that weather–fires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and mud slides. The snowballing impact of these circumstances is tremendous. People are losing their homes, neighborhoods, and livelihoods. Crops are being destroyed, which results in higher food costs and shortages. And these conditions will continue to increase over time.

Some say the cause is due to global warming. Others say it’s normal weather cycles or our lack of faith. And there are those who say that’s nonsense. Whatever the cause, if we want it to stop, we have to look honestly at what we are doing as a nation and individually. At the very least, we can show respect and gratitude for our God-given gifts.

Consider some of the small things that can be done to improve conditions. Yes, these steps require some effort, and perhaps sacrifice. However, we will suffer one way or another. Why not do what we can to improve conditions and leave the earth in better condition than it is right now?

Take a look at this list and see what you can do. A few minor changes will make a big difference.

  • Reduce waste by making careful purchases of items that truly will be used.
  • Repurpose items rather than tossing them in landfills.
  • Donate items in good condition.
  • Consider shopping at resale shops rather than for new merchandise.
  • Use long-lasting lightbulbs.
  • Avoid plastic water bottles.
  • Raise air conditioning thermostat temperatures one degree.
  • Lower heating temps one degree.
  • Conserve water when cleaning, washing, playing outside, and watering lawns and gardens.
  • Clean-up rivers, ponds, forests, and parks.
  • Don’t dispose of medications and chemicals inappropriately. Check with your town and disposal company for their options.
  • Eat locally grown foods to avoid transportation waste.
  • Eat less meat, such as by serving meatless meals one or two days a week. Animals contribute greatly to carbon dioxide production.
  • Promote better environmental understanding.
  • Demand and vote for better environmental protection.
  • Pray for our planet.

*Our faith changes as we age, and for good reason. Have you read, Young in the Spirit?

*Photo: Wayne, IL

Undo and Redo Tuesday, Jan 24 2023 

As I sat at my sewing machine removing stitches for the third time from a quilt that I’d been working on, I thought about how much in my life has been about doing, undoing, and redoing. Stitch, rip out, stitch again, only to rip out and stitch again until it is right.

My profession is like that, too. I write once but rewrite over and over. I really don’t mind the undoing and redoing because I then have an opportunity to write it better the second or third or fourth or fifth time. I can step away and see what I’ve written from a different perspective. In the end, I have a product I’m proud to put my name on.

Looking back, I see that my education was sort of a redo, as well. I did not attend college after high school but instead married two years later. My parents actually discouraged a higher education for me. What was the point, they asked? Being a good wife and mother was the ultimate goal. It was the early 70s, the end of a period when women were raised solely to be housewives and mothers.

Both of my grandmothers worked while raising their families. But my mother, and most women of her generation, did not. During the first couple of decades after World War II, men returned home and back into the workforce replacing the women who took over for them while they were gone. The working mom was the exception, and she was often looked down upon by other women.

My mother attended college for three years and worked as a chemist for General Foods before marrying and giving birth to her firstborn, my brother. I never understood why my mother never returned to complete her college education or wanted to work again.

Nor did she understand my desire to do so. She agreed with my then-husband that returning to school was a waste of family money.

But I longed for more. My solution was to apply for every available scholarship. I ended up with much more money than needed for junior college. Progress was slow as I’d take one class at a time. It was 18 years before I’d completed an associates, bachelor’s, and master’s degree. During those years, I had three children, divorced, worked, and remarried. School had to be squeezed in between other priorities, my children being the most important. Most likely, earning those degrees immediately after high school would have been easier, but I was fortune to have the opportunity and perseverance to accomplish it later.

Unfortunately, we can’t completely redo every decision we make. Some have lifelong repercussions. Those are the times that require major alterations and adjustments. We often can get where we want to go, however it may be via the long and winding road.

***Have you read Young in the Spirit, Saint Theodora and Her Promise to God, or The Rosary Prayer by Prayer?

Please write a review on Amazon if you’ve read my books. I’d be most grateful.

The Measure of Success Tuesday, Jan 17 2023 

The definition of success is curious to me. Is it number based, such as our financial worth, how many boards we serve on, how much product we’ve sold, or how many children we have? Perhaps, it is title based, such as president, CEO, pastor, or doctor. Or is success the achievement of a personal goal, whatever that may be?

Most of us are critical of our self-assessment of success. For example, our goal may have been to become a professional singer. If our calendar is filled with dates does that indicate that we are successful? Or must we also consider how much we are paid for these bookings and the types of gigs we work?

One truth I found while interviewing hundreds of people through the years is that if someone has achieved greatness in a particular field, they likely have little to show in other parts of their lives. We only have so many hours in a day, so many days in our life to achieve this goal. If we devote 90% to one thing, we can’t put in more than 10% anywhere else.

While attending a television award ceremony years ago, I realized that those who received honors for their tremendous levels of success in a role on or behind the scenes honestly noted that they reached that level because of someone, mostly a spouse or life partner, who carried the load at home. They were able to focus entirely on their career because someone was behind them caring for the home, children, and even their personal needs. Their partner actually was equal in accomplishing that goal for one of them.

Some note that their personal success appears to be minimal to others yet is significant to them, such as maintaining sobriety, feeling positive or grateful, or regaining strength. Personal tragedy, injury, or illness may have robbed them of mobility, hope, or motivation. Getting back on track one minute step at a time may be a tremendous achievement for these people.

Perhaps, success is attaining a full package of work/family/life balance. We are doing well at work. We care for our family whole-heartedly. And we care for our personal needs considering what it takes to maintain a healthy body, mind, and spirit. That isn’t likely to put us at the top in any one particular position. But we are invested in all parts of our lives.

Recently, I was speaking with a wise, intuitive acquaintance. I told him that I was disappointed in my book sales. Several of my titles sold well, some are even considered best sellers at my publishing house. But none were going to cover my living expenses, much less the years it took to write them.

This new friend pointed out that books are written to fulfill a need in the author. Also, many of the books I’d written were helpful, even said to be life-changing, for readers. Those books helped more than I could measure because of the ripple effect—the number of people who were helped because of how the book affected that reader who then reached out to others. According to this acquaintance, that made a book successful.

It then appears that how we measure our success is a personalized assessment meaningful to us. Only we can set our goals and strive to attain them. Only we can honestly know if we are, and have done, what we’d hoped with our lives leaving behind a legacy of which we can hold our head up high.

***Here are a few of my “best-selling” and award-winning books: The Rosary Prayer by Prayer, Grieving with Mary, St. Theodora and Her Promise to God, Young in the Spirit, Navigating Alzheimer’s, The Alzheimer’s Spouse.

The Birth of a Book Wednesday, Jan 11 2023 

Birthing is hard work. Whether we humans are giving birth to a child, a horse to a colt, or a writer to a book, the process takes time, nurturing, and struggle.

My next book, tentatively titled, Tranquility, Transformation, Transcendence. The Enchanting Gifts of Public Gardens, is prime example. I’ve been working on this book for years. It is not only an unusual book for me, it is a bit different overall. The book contains photos of nature taken at three public gardens paired with poems prompted by the photo.

My previous books were quite serious. They covered the topics of women’s experiences with mentoring, praying with the Virgin Mary, Saint Theodore/Mother Theodore Guerin, spirituality and aging, and caregiving to loved ones with dementia. The Enchanting Gifts of Public Gardens is light, inspiring, and fun. It was a joy to put together and hopefully, a joy to read and ponder, something I needed, and I believe the world needs, now.

Books require time to stew, develop. I begin with a concept, a rough idea of what I’d like to cover. The book then takes on a life of its own once I begin to gather research and thoughts. The end result is often very different than I originally anticipated.

This evolution happens for many reasons. Occasionally, the story I want to tell isn’t more than what should be covered in an article or blog post, so I write it that way, instead. Every now and then, I lose interest in the topic, which no longer allows me to write an interesting book, and so I abandon that idea completely. Sometimes, the information I’m attracted to is heavy in a particular direction, and therefore, I venture off down that path.

I believe one book I wrote was spirit driven. While writing The Rosary Prayer by Prayer, I felt as if I was being directed by a higher power. The writing came together quickly and smoothly.

Most often, the book I write is basically the same as my original intention–with some refinement. Either I or my publisher narrows the topic. For example, in The Enchanting Gifts of Public Gardens, I had written poems about nature that were from numerous locations. My publisher advised I narrow this book to three public gardens. The rest may be used in future books. Now that this one is ready to go to publication, I totally agree with the narrower focus.

The process of putting a book together is like building a puzzle. Words build sentences that build paragraphs, that build pages and chapters, and so on. Even the title continuously evolves. I began The Enchanting Gifts of Public Gardens with the working title Poetic Nature. There were several reasons why my publisher wasn’t keen on that. And who knows what it will be in the end. It may continue to be tweaked.

Hopefully, the timing for this book is perfect. My last book, Inspired Caregiving, was released at the beginning of the COVID pandemic. Many of my other books, particularly the ones on prayer, did well during that time, but Inspired Caregiving never got much attention, which is unfortunate. I believe it has much to offer caregivers on every level from parents and teachers to caregivers of those seriously ill.

The Enchanting Gifts of Public Gardens is scheduled to be released this spring. It is ready and waiting its turn to go through the publishing process, so I hope to be telling you more about it soon.

*Mary K Doyle Author Page on Amazon

Love Them Where They Are Tuesday, Jan 3 2023 

Like sunshine

on an overcast day

rays of the man I knew

peek through the clouds

leaving me longing for more.

This poem sums up how we feel while living with a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. Like a tease, we are shown moments of lucidity that briefly allow us to think all is well. Periodically, our loved one knows us, remembers our many adventures and shared life. Such moments quickly vanish and become less frequent as the disease progresses.

I wrote this poem for the opening page of my book, Navigating Alzheimer’s. My husband, Marshall, showed symptoms of Alzheimer’s during the last 15 years of our marriage. The heartache of witnessing the decline of his health and memories of our lives together continuously diminishing, in addition to the demands of around-the-clock caregiving, took its toll on my own mental and physical health. However, I learned while caring for him that loving and accepting him where he was at each point in time in the illness was important. Since, as of this writing, there is no way to reverse the disease, symptoms are progressive. Although today may be sad and difficult, tomorrow will likely be worse.

Live in the moment, enjoy the moment, alongside your loved one, wherever that takes you.

***Learn more about managing symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other dementias, as well as my experience, in the books The Alzheimer’s Spouse and Navigating Alzheimer’s. And please, if you have read either of these books, write a short review on Amazon.

Our Best Self in 2023 Friday, Dec 30 2022 

The beginning of a new calendar year and birth year are good times to reassess where we are in our lives. For me, the timing is perfect. A May 31st birthday allows me to take note and make adjustments about 6 months apart every year.

The first step is to get in tune with our health because if we are not physically and emotionally balanced, we are less or totally ineffective. Think body, mind, and spirit, and ask ourselves questions such as the following.

  • Do we have chronic pain or ailments? We can begin by assessing our diet, exercise, and sleep patterns. If we are doing what we can to maintain good health and still suffering, it may be time to check in with a professional–a physician, chiropractor, or other healthcare provider.
  • Are we getting enough exercise? We don’t have to go from no exercise to running marathons. Start with gentle stretches, half hour walks, or walking back in forth in the house while swinging our arms.
  • Diet is critical to overall health. Food is fuel, and its quality is as important as quantity. Serving ourselves on small plates and in small bowls helps to reduce overeating. We also want to avoid processed foods. Processing breaks down the quality and adds high amounts of fat and sodium. Reading product labels on packaging is important in knowing what we are consuming. Best yet, eat whole foods. Think apple rather than an apple muffin and a piece of chicken rather than a breaded and fried chicken finger.
  • We want to ask ourselves how we are feeling emotionally? How often are we sad, impatient, frustrated, angry, or afraid. Sometimes it’s a matter of perspective. When we recognize our many blessings, we can see others’ needs and how we may assist them rather than wallowing in self-pity. If we feel these emotions regularly, then we might consider speaking with a counselor. We don’t function well when consumed with negative thoughts. And perhaps we should pass on watching the nightly news or watching television programs with violent or disturbing content. Our brain will continue to process those images and thoughts when we sleep. Listening to relaxing music or reading a fun book at bedtime is a better alternative.
  • Monitoring our financial health is also vital to mental health. Those impulse buys add up and can cause anxiety later when they need to be paid off. Taking a moment to ask ourselves if the item is something we need or will really use before purchasing can eliminate mounting debt and the stress of payments beyond our capabilities later.
  • Are we social? Connecting with other people is a basic human need and a key to longevity. Avoiding caustic relationships is just as important. Surrounding ourselves with healthy, and supportive friends promotes those same characteristics in ourselves.
  • Is our faith being fed? Trusting in a higher power alleviates us from believing we are in control of everything and therefore, responsible for all that goes wrong in the world. It also encourages us to understand how we are all connected and treat one another with love and respect no matter our station in life.
  • And perhaps the most important factor in well-being is recognizing our purpose. What’s our reason for getting up in the morning? Do we have meaningful people to care for and activities to occupy our time? Knowing our passions, such as gardening, playing a musical instrument, volunteering at a community center, food bank, or senior center; or drawing feeds our spirit with compassion, creativity, peace, and beauty.

Our list of needed self-improvements may be long, but we can’t change everything all at once. On the other hand, if we do nothing, nothing changes. Making one small change until it becomes a habit, and then moving on to another, moves us closer to a better, happier us one step at a time.

***If making prayer a part of your daily life is one of those steps you want to make this new year, I have a few books that may be of help. Check out The Rosary Prayer by Prayer, Grieving with Mary, Fatima at 100. Fatima Today, and Saint Theodora and Her Promise to God.

What Child is This? Tuesday, Dec 20 2022 

Do you know this baby’s name? Most of you will recognize this ornament as a representation of Jesus, even though it’s unlikely that Jesus looked like this. (Jesus was of Middle Eastern descent and hid with his family in the African country of Egypt. He was probably darker complected with dark hair and had Middle Eastern features.)

Amazingly, we only require a hint to grasp the meaning of an image. And we have many that represent Jesus and Christianity. A star in the sky reminds us of the star of Bethlehem that led shepherds and kings to the newborn Christ child, the anointed one. See a cross and we contemplate the great sacrifice–Jesus’ offering of himself for our eternal salvation. Spot a simple fish symbol on a bumper sticker, and we know that driver is probably a believer in Jesus and professes to walk the talk of Christianity.  

In this season of hope, we have so many generally recognizable symbols in addition to those that are faith based. From evergreen trees, especially those in the spruce family, that trigger our thoughts to Christmas trees to reindeer reminding us of Santa’s sleigh, holiday cheer is everywhere.

May our holidays be rich in meaningful symbols, loving memories of the people who cared and supported us to this point, and enjoyable moments of sharing, giving, and humbly receiving. And may we all know peace in 2023.

***The holidays add extra burdens in managing loved ones with dementia. Reach out to your caregiver friends and relatives with an extra hug, note or text, or a plate of healthy food this season. They need more than you’ll ever realize. For more ways to help, see my books, Inspired Caregiving, Navigating Alzheimer’s, and The Alzheimer’s Spouse.

If you’ve read any of my books, I’d be honored if you wrote a short review on Amazon.

Soft Molasses Cookies Friday, Dec 16 2022 

Cookies are my dessert of choice and the one I bake the most. I’m always trying new recipes while also counting on the old family favorites. One of those favorites is Soft Molasses Cookies.

This is an easy cookie recipe because it is a mix, scoop, and drop. So many of the other favorites are cookies that require individual care such as my rich, gooey brownie balls which require multiple steps and take most of a day to make.

Try these easy, rich, tasty molasses cookies for yourself. They’re great with milk, coffee, and tea.

*

Soft Molasses Cookies

Ingredients

¾ cup butter, softened

½ cup white sugar, plus more for topping

½ cup brown sugar

¼ cup dark molasses

1 egg

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¾ teaspoon cardamom

½ teaspoon cloves

½ teaspoon salt

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, cream the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the molasses and beat until combined. Add the egg and beat well. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.

In another bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt together. Add the dry ingredients a little at a time to the creamed mixture.

Form dough into small balls. Roll into sugar. Place balls on ungreased baking sheet about three inches apart.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned and appear set. Let cool for five minutes on baking sheet before transferring.

**Books make great gifts. They have the power to change someone’s life. Could one of my books help you or someone you know? Check out my books on my website or Amazon.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Monday, Dec 12 2022 

Rich in symbolism and significance, this familiar image of Mary, the mother of Jesus, is actually a self-portrait. The true story of Our Lady of Guadalupe is fascinating and intertwines cultures across continents and centuries right through to the present. Countless miracles have been attested to devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, including one incredible personal miracle I myself received in 2008.

Read on for more of this intriguing story.

* * *

In the late sixth century, Pope Gregory the Great gave a black Madonna statue to Archbishop Leandro of Seville, Spain. When the Arabs invaded the country in 711, the statue was buried in the mountains of Asturias along the Guadalupe River. (Burying sacred items was a common practice to prevent their desecration and theft.) The legend is that five centuries later, Mary appeared to a man named Gil Codero and instructed him to dig for the buried sculpture. Codero retrieved the statue and placed it in a shrine on that same spot. The Spanish people showed honor to Our Lady of Guadalupe, Spain, by journeying to the shrine to pray.

Several centuries later, on December 9, 1531, across the ocean on the hills of Tepeyac, Mexico, a young peasant named Juan Deigo was drawn to a bright light. There Juan found within a cloud a beautiful woman dressed in vivid colors. The woman spoke to him in his native Aztec tongue of Nahuatl. She said she was the Ever-Virgin, Holy Mary, Mother of the God of Truth. The Lady instructed Juan to go to Bishop Zumarraga of Mexico and tell him to build a chapel on the hill. However, it took Juan three attempts and a miracle before he convinced the bishop that this message indeed came from Mary.

In the midst of winter, Mary provided what Juan thought was a sign for the bishop. It consisted of an exceptional bouquet of flowers, including Castilian roses, that he gathered from snow-covered hills per Mary’s instructions. Mary arranged the flowers herself and wrapped them in Juan’s own modest cloak, known as a tilma. However, it was a much more impressive sign than the beautiful flowers that Mary gave the bishop. Upon opening the cloak to present the bouquet, the exact image of Our Lady as revealed to Juan was printed on his tilma. The shocked bishop humbly dropped to his knees in tears.

The apparition was important to the indigenous people as well because it struck some significant correlations between the natives and their pagan gods:

  • Mary was shown in bright, bold colors standing in the rays of the sun on a crescent moon. The indigenous people considered the goddess Coatlicue the mother of the sun and the moon.
  • Mary told Juan that her name in his native tongue was Tlecuauhtlacupeuh, which means “the one who crushes the serpent.” One of the native gods, Quetzalcoatl, was a feathered serpent to which people sacrificed women and children.
  • The natives soon learned that while the serpent god required human sacrifice, Mary’s son, Jesus, sacrificed himself for all people.

Not only did Mary speak to the people in their language, she reached out to Juan as his friend and protector. She told Juan not to let anything discourage or depress him. She said he should not fear any illness or pain, because she was his mother. She promised to protect him in the folds of her mantle in the crossing of her arms. After the apparitions millions were drawn to this special woman and her message, thereby converting to Christianity.

The Spaniards in Mexico were touched by the miracle, as well. Tlecuauhtlacupeuh, the name Mary used to address herself in the language of Nahuatl, sounded like the word “Guadalupe” to the Spaniards. The Lady even wore stars on her cloak as found on the ancient statue of Guadalupe, so the Spaniards believed she was their own Lady of their native land of Guadalupe, Spain.

In addition, Mary’s relation with Juan forced the Spaniards to reconsider their perceptions of the indigenous people, whom they considered inferior. Mary honored the native culture with her presence. Consequently, the Spaniards had to recognize and respect them equally as children of God.

Scientists made several studies on the tilma to verify its authenticity. The scientific consensus consistently found that the icon truly is a heavenly creation. There are no brush strokes. Nor are the rich colors the result of any paint of dye known to humankind (with the exception of some flourishes added later).

The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe illustrates Mary’s love for all people. However, she is most present to the poor, sad, sick, and lonely because that is where she is most needed. She is with us in our grief and human pain. Mary’s motherly concern is that everyone is treated justly and strives to live a life in a way that is pleasing to God. Her message always is to pray more and live peacefully.

Today, Juan’s tilma is displayed in the world’s busiest Marian shrine, Our Lady of Guadalupe Basilica, located in Mexico City. Millions of pilgrims travel worldwide each year to see the magnificent piece firsthand. From a moving walkway only a few feet below, pilgrims can see the image of Mary exactly as Juan saw her nearly five hundred years ago. The reality of the privileged opportunity to brush so closely to this self-portrait of our Blessed Mother is evident in the stream of awe-struck faces of the pilgrims beneath it. The experience is life-changing for the many people who claim they receive personal miracles in its presence.

After five centuries, it is extraordinary that the tilma exists today unharmed and without deterioration of the cloth or colors. Made from the fibers of a cactus plant, it typically would disintegrate within twenty years. Also, a bomb exploded beneath it in 1921 ripping apart the marble in the sanctuary but without causing any damage to the tilma or its glass cover. The tilma’s incredible survival alone is an inspiration to patrons praying before it.

—Excerpt from my bestselling book, Grieving with Mary

***

You can order Grieving with Mary from Amazon and ACTA Publications. You also might be interested in The Rosary Prayer by Prayer, also available from Amazon and ACTA.

The Power of One Monday, Dec 5 2022 

After leaving a store in a little strip mall, I sat in my car shuffling through my purse. I jumped when a woman knocked on my window.

“I’m sorry to frighten you,” she said sobbing. “May I take a photo of your license plate?”

I stepped out of my car, and the woman explained that she was in her car on the phone with her husband’s heart surgeon. She was very sad and frightened about the upcoming surgery and her husband’s fragile health when she looked up and saw my car adjacent to hers and my plate, which reads, “PEACE.” The woman said she believed the plate was a message for her not to worry, that all will be well. We hugged, and I promised to remember her husband in my prayers.

Sometimes, I wonder if I’ve done enough in my life, if my words, my actions—if I—matter. No doubt, many of us feel the same way. But really, we don’t have to accomplish extraordinary achievements to make a difference. It’s the little things that are powerful enough to change someone’s day, and possibly their whole thought process.

***Are you sad, troubled? Ask our heavenly mother, Mary, to pray with you. Learn more about this in my book, Grieving with Mary.

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