Heavenly Arboretum Friday, May 14 2021 

Escape to a botanical garden and it as if we are in another dimension. We are carried away from our earthly problems into a heavenly land.

That is how I felt when my boyfriend, Paul, took me to The Morton Arboretum. Paul presented me with an early birthday gift of membership, and took me away for the day. I’ve been in a lot of pain recently, but while at the arboretum, I was submerged in peace and beauty, distracted from inner thoughts.

The total number of Botanic Gardens recorded in the U. S. ranges anywhere from 296 to 1014 depending on the criteria used. The approximate number of living plants recorded in these gardens is around 600,000.

The Morton Arboretum is located in Lisle, Illinois. This arboretum is internationally recognized as containing one of North America’s most comprehensive collections of trees and shrubs with 220,000 labeled pants. And where there is flora, there is fauna. The area is alive with land and water creatures.

Walk, run, hike, or bike across these grounds and explore the surrounding glory. Each garden and path offers differing treasures. And of course, everything changes with the seasons. God’s paint brush works wonders year round.

(Here is a list of botanical gardens and arboretums in our country.)

Give the gift of hope and peace to your favorite caregiver, Inspired Caregiving. Weekly Morale Builders.

Have you seen my latest post on my other blog, “Honoring Mary, Our Blessed Mother?”

Celebrate the Small Stuff Thursday, May 13 2021 

Life is built on baby steps. We may pause to note the milestones—major birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, retirements, or an award, but we can’t get to the big stuff without the little accomplishments along the way. An improved test score, eating a healthy meal, extending a kind word to a stranger, completing a troubling work project, or a clean kitchen at the end of a hectic day is what it’s all about. These little achievements are cause to celebrate.

Our daily challenges demand our attention. The disasters and struggles shout for us to respond. Yet, in the most trying times, we continue to have moments of joy, moments to commemorate. Focusing on these gains, no matter how minor, keep us positive and hopeful. We recognize that good things are happening all of the time instead of being stuck in sorrow.

We also remain in the present. We’re not mourning the past or fearing the future. We are powerful in the moment. And all those strong, happy moments lead to bigger successes.

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“Honoring Mary, Our Blessed Mother”

Have you seen my website, Mary K. Doyle?

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.

COVID Relief Thursday, Mar 25 2021 

My friend, Patricia, says it’s been a year of Lent. Patricia’s correct in the fact that there’s been a lot of sacrifices since the beginning of the pandemic. The difference is that during Lent, we choose what we want to give up. Few of the changes and challenges we experienced during this time was the result of a personal choice.

It’s been a very long year. I’ve followed the guidelines in regard to mask-wearing, social distancing, and hand-washing. I forfeited traditional holiday celebrations and gatherings with loved ones in exchange for the avoidance of contracting the COVID-19 virus.

My doctors warned that I was at very high risk of hospitalization and death from COVID. From the beginning, I vowed to do my best to avoid the virus. Most of all, I didn’t want a long-term disability. I was considerably more concerned about lasting side effects from the COVID-19 virus than any risk from the vaccine.

I’m relieved to be fully vaccinated. A weight has lifted, and I can’t help but smile. I now have more freedom to be with loved ones, hug them, and enjoy our special days together.

Scheduling vaccination appointments is finally getting easier as more vaccine becomes available. Mass vaccination sites, as well as local pharmacies and pharmacies within grocery stores, are also expanding appointments.

None of the authorized and recommended vaccines contain live virus. Therefore, these vaccines cannot cause someone to develop COVID. Any symptoms we may develop is the result of our bodies developing immunity.

According to the CDC, COVID-19 vaccines do not interact or alter our DNA. There are two types of US vaccines authorized for use.

1. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna RNA (mRNA) vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response. The mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell where our DNA is located. It cannot affect or interact with DNA.

2. Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine is a viral vector vaccine. This is a modified version of a different, harmless virus (the vector) that instructs our cells to produce antibodies to protect us from future infection. Instructions are delivered in a form of genetic material but do not integrate into a person’s DNA.

It’s believed that these vaccines will prevent serious illness or death from this virus. However, it is uncertain how well these vaccines prevent spreading the virus or how long they are effective. For these reasons, we are encouraged to continue to wear masks and remain 6 feet apart while in public places and wash our hands thoroughly and frequently.

***

“Celtic Cross and God’s Everlasting Love” and “Underground Ancient Symbols of Faith” are posted on my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books.

Inspired Caregiving. Weekly Morale Boosters is a helpful and encouraging gift for the caregivers in your life.

Photo: Light house, Fabyan Park, Batavia, IL

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.

Dip It Friday, Mar 5 2021 

Creamy onion dip and crunchy, salty potato chips. Back in the 70s, this appetizer was a party standard. Packages of Lipton powdered soup and sour cream were always on hand to whip up this yummy chip topper at any moment.

I’m a dipper. I love dipping veggies, pretzels, and chips of every kind. Most dips are high in fat, sodium, and calories, so I offset my cravings with healthier alternatives whenever possible. Today we have low-fat and low-calorie choices in our local grocery stores. Hummus in a variety of flavors, including chocolate; chunky and smooth salsas; guacamole, plain and with other fruits and vegetables; vegan “cheese” sauces; and dips made from vegetables such as cauliflower, are pre-made, ready to grab and go.

Most of these dips can easily be prepared at home with a few ingredients. Transform old favorites into healthier alternatives by substituting items, such as plain yogurt for sour cream. One cup of sour cream has 492 calories and 48.21 grams of fat and only 7.27 grams of protein as opposed to one cup of yogurt at 154 calories, 3.8 grams of fat and 12.86 grams of protein. Yogurt is also a better choice for those with lactose intolerance, and it is rich in calcium and vitamins B6 and B12.

Vegetables can make some of the tastiest dips. White Bean, Black Bean, Avocado and Edamame, Spicy Edamame, and Babaganoush dips may be your family’s newest favorites. Nuts also add an amazing twist to dips. My daughter, Erin, is a master at turning cashews into her children’s favorite “cheese” sauce. These recipes take a little more time, such as this one for Vegan Nacho Cheese, but it is so much lower in fat and cholesterol and contains more vitamins, so she isn’t concerned about how much her children want to use.

Here are a couple other recipes for you to try. I’d love to hear your suggestions.  

Avocado Hummus

2 garlic cloves
1 (15-ounce) can of garbanzo beans
1 lemon, zest and juice
2 tablespoon tahini
2 avocados
Salt
Olive Oil
Paprika

1. Place garlic cloves, garbanzo beans, lemon zest and juice from the lemon and tahini in a food processor. Blend until smooth. Salt to taste.

2. Add two avocados and blend just until smooth. Salt to taste once more. Transfer to a bowl. Top with a few tablespoons of olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika. Serve with pita chips, crackers, or vegetables.

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Cranberry Salsa

  • 1 (12 ounce) bag of cranberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, cut into 3-inch lengths
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 3/cup white sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt

Combine cranberries, cilantro, green onions, jalapeno peppers, lime juice, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Chop to medium consistency refrigerate immediately, Serve at room temperature with tortilla chips or over cream cheese.

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Have you read my newest book, Inspired Caregiving or post on my other blog, “Pray It to Pieces?”

Natural Humidifiers and Air Filters Friday, Feb 12 2021 

With the frigid winds fiercely blasting across the Midwest, inside air quality tends to be shockingly dry. Houseplants offer a natural way to not only humidify but clean the air, as well. They increase humidity through transpiration acting as organic antibacterial humidifiers.

Researchers found that plants can remove dust, mold, and allergens in our homes. In fact, rooms with plants have 50-60% less mold spores and bacteria than rooms that do not.

Dr. Bill Wolverton, the principle investigator of the NASA Clean Air Study, proved the ability of houseplants to filter waste products produced by humans. In an attempt to protect themselves, plants release phytochemicals which likely repel irritants. When we are near these plants, we also are protected from the mold spores and bacteria they fend off.

In addition, they make us happier. The greenery produces a calming effect, improving mental and physical well-being. Plants also are found to improve sleep when placed in bedrooms.

When choosing a plant for the home, it’s a good idea to consider the following:

  • Where will this plant be placed?
  • Is there enough room for the plant to grow?
  • How much light does this plant require?
  • How often do we want to water the plant?
  • Is this plant harmful to children or pets if ingested?

Most plants require little care. We tend to overwater which breeds gnats in the soil and promotes root rot. Many plants can go weeks or even months without water. A little dead-heading and dead leaf cleanup, proper watering, and sunlight goes a long way.  

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See the post, “Price of Protection from COVID in Memory Care Homes.”

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Traditional, Complimentary, and Alternative Remedies Thursday, Feb 4 2021 

The older we get the more we discover the magnificent workings of the human body. We learn, not because our interest is naturally peaked, but rather, as parts weaken and wear, we come to know the normal function of a particular muscle, joint, organ, or system.

We take much for granted with our health. We expect to step out of bed in the morning and continue running until the end of the day. When a shoulder or knee aches, hands don’t grip like they used to, or chronic back pain slows us down, we realize how much was going on inside of us with little previous appreciation.

My first therapeutic choice is to seek one that is natural and less invasive. Vitamins and herbs; essential oils; and breathing exercises such as through yoga, meditation, and qi gong can be effective in addition to or replacing a pharmaceutical drug or conventional therapy. This is not to say that conventional medicine can be replaced entirely. Often, it is the appropriate solution. I simply prefer to try something else first.

After months of debilitating fatigue with minor physical exertion, constant leg cramps, dizziness, shortness of breath, and overall nerve tingling, my cardiologist believed the culprit was microvascular resistance which affects the small blood vessels. I had tests to look at the heart and larger vessels but couldn’t test smaller ones because I also have fibromuscular dysplasia. Probing the vessels risked tearing them.         

My doctor suggested I try taking either nitroglycerine or L-arginine to improve blood flow. He said if it worked, we could be reasonably certain it was indeed microvascular resistance. I chose the arginine (an amino acid available over the counter), and soon found tremendous relief. I no longer needed a nap after walking down my street or was up all night with leg cramps. The arginine also lowered my blood pressure which was running high even with medication.

Technically, there is a difference between the terms complimentary and alternative therapies. Complementary remedies are disciplines used with conventional medicine while alternative ones are used in place of it. For example, as when dealing with irritable bowel, diet may be used to work with traditional medicine, to compliment it, or as an alternative to any pharmaceutical prescription.

Many of these therapies such as Ayurveda, acupuncture, and reflexology have been around for thousands of years. They’ve been a trusted solution for an array of medical issues. However, practices do raise concern when there is a lack of federal regulation. Many therapists, such as those administering massage and chiropractic medicine, are regulated, while many others are not.  

Similarly, the quality and potency of over-the-counter remedies can vary greatly between brands. 500mg of calcium can be very different from one company to another or even one bottle to another of the same brand depending on the credibility of the supplier. And yet, we all know ineffective physicians and generic drugs that differ from others, as well.

When choosing any practice or remedy we should remember that they all pose a level of risk. Consumers must do their research and weigh the benefits, side effects, and potential risks before moving forward.

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Want to know the honest truth about an author’s potential for profit? See my post, “The Reality of an Author.”

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Respect Life—With Limitations Friday, Jan 29 2021 

The world feels like a snow globe that keeps getting shaken. In addition to a world pandemic, the most bizarre reaction to a presidential race, and domestic terrorism, people we thought we knew are acting in ways that seem foreign to us. Their views are so out-of-sync from our own that we are completely confused by these people.

With this comes a lot of judging. If our thoughts are drastically in opposition to theirs, who is right? One of the current topics causing such debate is abortion. Specifically, should the question to abort a baby be the deal-breaker in determining the most righteous candidate, cause, or position?

Respecting life from conception is an issue of great personal concern. I do believe that taking a life at any stage is wrong. But it appears to me, that for many people, respecting life only pertains to the unborn. A living creature is another matter. Consideration for immigrants fleeing threats to their well-being, people of color and differing sexual orientation asking for fair and equal treatment and opportunity, convicted felons awaiting state-sanctioned homicide, and the destruction of God’s gifts of flora and fauna is minimal, if non-existent.

I believe my obligation is to strive to love all of God’s creations including the good, bad, and especially, the ugly. Judging belongs to the Lord. Seeing God in all people and all things can be challenging when they do not fit into our description of desirable or deserving, but they are of God, none-the-less.

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Want to know what the success of an author really means? See “The Reality of an Author” on my other blog.

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.

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