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.

Support Tuesday, Nov 29 2022 

Dig in,

and brace yourself.

Learn from those who know more.

Then be part of the system of

support.

(Tree Roots on Cliff, Matthiessen State Park, Oglesby, IL)

***The holidays are exhausting for those of us in the best of health. Protect your loved ones with dementia from fatigue that will result in frustration for them and you by limiting time out of the home and the amount of people for them to interact with. See more helpful hints in my books Navigating Alzheimer’s, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, and Inspired Caregiving. And please, if you’ve read any of my books, please write a short review on Amazon. I’d greatly appreciate it.

Seasonal Gifts Wednesday, Nov 9 2022 

Here in the Midwest, the change of seasons, especially as autumn eases into winter, can bring us down. We must bid adieu to warm, sunny days, flora, and fauna knowing it will be many months before these joys return.

Most of the leaves have fallen and the blossoms have faded. We’ve said good-bye to our hummingbird friends. Squirrels are busy storing food for the barren winter. The wind blows louder.

But nature still has surprises for us to find.

Today I strolled through Cantigny Park in Wheaton, Illinois and was delightfully surprised.

Purples, pinks, oranges, yellows, browns, reds, and greens. Flowers, leaves, and branches.

Birds singing, chattering. Wasps searching for the last drops of sweet nectar.

My heart soared with so many treats to the senses. The most exciting was finding fragrant roses in bloom.

The frost is coming. These lovely days are numbered.

But nature will always provide us with delights. All we have to do is seek them.

* Caring for a loved one with dementia? You are not alone. I know what you are going through. So do others. Ask for the help you need. Navigating Alzheimer’s, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, Inspired Caregiving.

Surprise Find Wednesday, Sep 28 2022 

One of my favorite activities is to walk in the midst of nature. Pathways along rivers, lakes, and ponds offer abundant opportunities to spot flora and fauna. Treasures are to be found everywhere we look–deer, woodpeckers, turtles, moss, fungi.

One “treasure” I hadn’t considered are snakes. On a recent walk, a six-year-old nature enthusiast pointed out several snakes along a pond and stream I’d otherwise be oblivious to. I’ll be looking more closely under the rocks, tree stumps, and in the waterways on these types of walks from now on.

Approximately 40 species of snakes slither through Illinois. Most snakes have no interest in harming humans–until humans start poking them, which in my opinion, is fair. Only four species are venomous: Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake, found in the northern part of Illinois; and Copperhead, Cottonmouth, and Timber Rattlesnake, found in the Southern end of the state.

Our state’s venomous snake species are pit vipers and belong to the Viperdae family. Their distinguishable characteristics include their elliptical (vertical shaped) pupils, their large sensory heat-sensing pits on both sides of their heads between each eye and nostril, their broad, triangular shaped heads, and a single row of scales under the tail.

I honestly don’t know what type of snake I encountered on that walk. If you do, please tell us!

***Take care of yourself so you can better care for your loved ones. Suggestions on how to do that can be found in my book, Inspired Caregiving. Amazon has it at a bargain price right now.

Honey, I Love You! Wednesday, Aug 24 2022 

Nature feeds our bodies and our spirits. It provides us with beauty, interest, creativity, food, and medicine. So, when we look for solutions, why not look to nature first?

Such natural generosity is evident in the sticky, sweet syrup of honey. Amazingly, honey contains antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antifungal properties. When purchasing honey, look for a rich, dark color as the darker the honey the greater the antioxidant properties. Honey also has vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, which vary according to the nectar source.

Countless claims contest to the healing effects of honey. Here are a few:

  • It’s said to release serotonin thereby increasing one’s mood. That serotonin converts to melatonin aiding in sleep.
  • Local honey is thought to assist in relieving seasonal allergies.
  • A spoonful of honey coats and soothes a sore throat and suppresses a cough.
  • Some believe in the effectiveness of honey dressings on minor burns and scrapes.
  • A solution of honey and warm water can be applied to the scalp to relieve itching and flaking.
  • In addition to drinking lots of water, honey may assist the liver in processing alcohol oxidation and ridding toxins from over-consumption of alcohol.
  • Raw, unprocessed honey may be applied as a mask to reduce the inflammation and redness associated with acne.
  • Honey is said to reduce irritation after an insect bit.
  • Honey may improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
  • It may even lower blood pressure.

According to WebMd, Manuka honey, which is produced only in New Zealand by bees that pollinate the Manuka bush, is considered particularly beneficial. The flavor is slightly more earthy than regular honey but this type of honey offers much more in the way of nutritional and antibacterial properties. In addition, it contains methylglyoxal (MGO) and hydrogen peroxide. It may be particularly beneficial for bacteria-related digestive disorders and wound healing. Bandages containing Manuka are available over-the-counter.

Research shows Manuka honey can stimulate tissue regeneration, reduce inflammation, and decrease swelling. Studies also show it to be helpful in treating gingivitis.

As with most things in life, with all the positives, there are a few factors to consider. Manuka honey is definitely pricier than regular honey. And all honey contains calories, although, most people believe it is sweeter than white sugar and so can be used in lower quantities. Also, some people can be allergic to the pollen and/or digestive enzymes from the bees.

Most importantly, the American Academy of Pediatrics cautions parents not to introduce honey to children before the age of 1 year of age. Children’s underdeveloped immune systems make them vulnerable to botulism, a serious form of food poisoning. Incorporating honey in cooked food should be safe for children.

*See more at WebMD.

*Pray for world peace. We all will be better for it. The Rosary Prayer by Prayer, Grieving with Mary, Fatima at 100. Fatima Today.

*Thank you to all who have read my books, and especially, to those who have read and reviewed them on Amazon.

Great Midwest Weather Monday, Aug 15 2022 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nature Speak Tuesday, Aug 9 2022 

The trees,

and shrubs

and grass

and wildflowers

The animals

and birds

and bugs

and fish

The rivers

and oceans

and mountains

and beaches

The wind

and rain

and sleet

and snow

The moon

and sun

and stars

and sky

Speak

in whispers

and shouts

and songs

and tears.

(Photo: Michigamme River, Channing, MI, 7/3/21

Photo and Poem by Mary K. Doyle)

*

**Do you know that I’ve written 11 books? You can find all of them on my website.

Tulip Timing is Everything Thursday, May 5 2022 

Have you ever experienced a time when everything you did turned out perfectly? You set out for an adventure, and with each step, you happened to be at the most opportune moment for the ultimate outcome. Everything you hoped for fell right into place.

Well, this week, my boyfriend and I went on a quick three-day get-away, and most everything we experienced, wasn’t that. In fact, the trip was quite disappointing.

Paul and I drove about three and a half hours to Holland, Michigan, a sweet little town on the east side of Lake Michigan. The plan was to enjoy the views and experiences of Holland a few days before their annual tulip festival. We imagined discovering a tulip haven, a mini paradise with tulips growing everywhere prior to the expected crowds.

We arrived late afternoon on Monday and checked into the Staybridge Suites on James Street. The hotel was very nice with friendly, accommodating staff. We had a full kitchen with counter seating, a sitting room, and a comfortable bed. The price was reasonable as our reservation was a bit off-season, and they offered a military discount. So far, so good.

We unpacked and went out to find a restaurant. Initially, we only spotted fast-food chains, which rarely are our food of choice. Google showed most of the local restaurants to be on a main strip, but with so many one-way streets, it was tricky to get there. We could see where we wanted to go but had difficulty figuring out how to get there. Later, we learned that U-turns are a thing in Michigan for just this reason.

When we arrived at the four-block downtown area on 8th Street, our next challenge was to search for a parking lot that had an open spot that wasn’t reserved. After touring several of the area’s public lots, we finally found a space and walked over to a lovely street with trees in bloom and attractive shops.

Restaurants were scattered throughout. To our dismay, they were closed on Mondays. At the end of the downtown area, we found an Irish Pub that was open. Damp and chilled from the drizzling rain, tired, and very hungry having only eaten snacks all day, we got a comfy table by the fireplace. A friendly waitress served us a couple of beers and a delicious, hearty dinner of Irish stew for me and shepherd’s pie for Paul. Rejuvenated, we were ready to go again.

Since tulips were the reason we ventured to Holland, we headed out to the main parks. We expected the town to be decked out in the blooms. Surprisingly, few homes showcased them. More tulips are blooming in my own neighborhood.

The main location to see tulips in Holland is Windmill Island Gardens. Unfortunately, we arrived a few minutes after 5pm and were told that the last tickets for the day were sold. The ticket vendor said that we could come back after 6pm when the windmill closed (a key viewing spot) and wander through the gardens. However, she added there was little to see. Because of the unusually cold and rainy weather, only about 25% of the tulips were open.

The lady suggested we check out a nearby park called Window on the Waterfront that had more open buds. The tulip photos shown here were taken at that park. The location claims 100,000 tulips. The winding paths were pretty, but it was difficult to take a photo that didn’t include the cars and buildings on the streets surrounding it. And much like Windmill Island Gardens, the majority of tulips were yet to open.

We woke Tuesday morning to heavy rain, and the forecast stated it would continue like that all day. We searched online for museums only to find ones of interest were not open. We did try one that some online information indicated was open. After running through a downpour from the lot behind the building to the museum door in front, we discovered it was closed until Friday.

Soaked and frustrated, we decided to pack up and return home. Paul was just getting over a bad cold, and the weather was not good for him especially. Plus, I had a work event to attend on Thursday and a meeting on Friday.

The drive home took us two extra hours due to the weather and a truck accident, which thankfully, did not include us. We crawled in traffic long enough for me to read through my hundreds of emails.

In retrospect, we should have done more research on the sites and restaurants in Holland, their hours and days of operation as well as ticket prices, and considered the weather forecast. We also could have checked this online tulip tracker to learn how many flowers were currently in bloom. No doubt, the parks will be beautiful next week.

Holland wasn’t what we expected but probably is a good destination for young families. The beaches along Lake Macatawa are said to be clean and fun. There also are some activities, such as the wooden shoe factory and Nelis’ Dutch Village, a cute, albeit small, Dutch-themed park that young children would enjoy.

Do you have any advice on where to or not to go for a little getaway? I’d love to hear about it.

***

Alzheimer’s disease is frighteningly common. Help out your friends who care for loved ones with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Give them the gift of information and understanding with the books, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, Navigating Alzheimer’s, and the Inspired Caregiver.

Help Our Wee Friends. Temporarily Remove Birdseed Feeders Wednesday, Apr 27 2022 

Are we required to wear a mask or not? Should we remove our seed/grain bird feeders or continue filling them? Current guidance on birdfeeders is almost as confusing as mask wearing. However, I have some helpful information for you.

Although no official ruling has been made, wildlife agencies recommend that we do, in fact, take our feeders down until May 31, 2022, or until infections subside. Risk is relatively low for songbirds to contract or spread the avian influenza (EA H5N1 strain of avian influenza HPAI), but if that should happen, the spread could be devastating, especially for domestic poultry. A mass outbreak could cost billions of dollars and millions of lives in poultry.

The United States declares that it has the strongest avian influenza surveillance program in the world. This program, APHIS, collects and tests large numbers of samples from wild birds in North America and says that the outbreak started on the East Coast and swiftly spread through the Midwest and beyond. The virus has been detected in several states including, Pennsylvania, Utah, Texas, Idaho, Colorado, Montana, and North Dakota.

HPAI is a highly pathogenic avian influenza. However, the effect of the virus varies with the type of bird. According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), HPAI was detected in the state of Illinois in wild Canadian geese on March 10, 2022. Since then, wild bird mortality from this virus has been confirmed in Champaign, Fulton, Sangamon, and Will counties with a more recent mortality event of more than 200 birds in Cook County. Impacted birds include waterfowl and waterbird species and raptors, including eagles and owls, as well as domestic poultry. Recently, the U.S.D.A. reported 41 dead bald eagles infected with the virus across the country.

The organization also that any occurrences of deceased or sick bald eagles be reported. Caution should be taken when disposing of any deceased wild birds. The recommendation is that gloves and a mask be worn, the carcass sealed in double-plastic bags, and then hands and clothing should be washed with soap and water.

Other recommendations include the omission of feeding wild birds in close proximity to domestic flocks. It’s important that pet birds and backyard poultry remain housed in a building until the risk decreases. Also, feeding geese, ducks, gulls and other shorebird species should be avoided as not only does the gathering of birds while feeding increase the risk of them contracting the virus, so does our human presence since we can carry pathogens on our hands, clothing, and shoes, as well.

According to IDNR, it is unlikely that hummingbird and oriole feeders will contribute to the spread of HPAI because these birds are more species specific. Therefore, hummingbird feeders may remain up.

When we may again feed our songbirds, IDNR recommends that bird feeders and baths be completely emptied and cleaned weekly with a solution of nine parts water to one part bleach and then thoroughly rinsed.

For more information, see articles on the CDC website, U.S. Geological Survey, Wildlife Illinois, and the IDNR.

***Parenting is rewarding yet exhausting. Get a daily boost with Inspired Caregiving.

The Lizzardo Museum of Lapidary Art Monday, Apr 11 2022 

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

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

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

Here are others with such variations.

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

This figure is made from rich, green malachite.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The museum also has dozens of cameos.

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

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

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

The bright, lively Rhodochrosite is certainly eye-catching.

And check out these beauties – Rubies in Zoisite

Scolecite

Angel Wing Calcite

Ocean Jasper

and Mesolite.

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

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

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

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

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

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