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.

Orchid Paradise Wednesday, Mar 9 2022 

I’m excited to share some photos from a recent Orchid Show, titled Untamed, at the Chicago Botanic Garden. I’ve seen orchids in abundance in Hawaii and growing in the Costa Rican jungles like weeds. But I’ve never seen the variety as I did at this show, and I want to share some of the photos with you, so you too can enjoy a few moments of peace.

The blooms were incredibly diverse and spectacular in colors, sizes, and styles. Orchids were speckled, spotted, and striped. Some reminded me of other flowers, such as narcissist, and the patterns on animals, such as giraffes or wild cats.

Orchids were arranged with other tropical plants in assortments hanging overhead, on the ground, and everywhere in between. Guests were treated to a paradise overflowing with orchids.

Orchidaceae, commonly called orchid, is a diverse flowering plant with about 28,000 accepted species. Many are fragrant, others have little-to-no scent, and some smell quite awful.

For home gardeners, growing orchids can be addictive but also challenging. If done well, the rewards are abundant with plants that bloom for many years.

According to the American Orchid Society, the trick to successful orchid gardening is determining the correct balance of light, air, and water appropriate for each plant in its particular environment. When orchids do not get enough light, they do not bloom and their foliage is dark green rather than a desired yellow-green. The goal is to give the plants as much light as they can tolerate without burning.

Orchids need air circulation around the plant and roots. The recommendation is to water a 6” pot every 7 days on average insuring that the plants do not dry out. Water should run through the pot when watering allowing the potting medium (typically not soil) to soak and flush out the salt.

Orchids should be fed by watering the plants first and then adding the fertilizer at ½ strength stated in the directions on the packaging.

Most of the information in this post was taken from the American Orchid Society website. You can learn more about caring for these plants on their site.

**Alzheimer’s disease is fatal disease that requires someone to have 3-5 caregivers for an average of 8 years. Care is a relentless 24/7 responsibility. Learn more about caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s and the needs of the caregivers in The Alzheimer’s Spouse, Navigating Alzheimer’s, and Inspired Caregiving.

If you’ve read any of my books, please post a comment on Amazon. I’d really appreciate it!

Snow Forms Wednesday, Jan 5 2022 

Winter definitely is here in the Chicago area. As I look out my window, teeny, tiny flakes of snow are falling, or rather briskly blowing. With a temperature of 18 degrees Fahrenheit and a wind chill factor of 3, that puny snowfall doesn’t call us out to play.

The chemical formula for snow is H2O. Snow is simply made up of one or more crystals of frozen water.

Snowflakes require a cycle of nature beginning with the evaporation of water from rivers, lakes and oceans. When temperatures drop to 32 degrees Fahrenheit or below, the moisture forms into tiny ice crystals. As the crystals fall, they connect with other crystals forming snowflakes. The more crystals that join together, the bigger the flake.

Snow may fall in various forms. The English language tends to describe snow with multiple words such as dry and powdery, wet and slushy, or round and icy. The Inuit people of the northern regions of Canada are said to have countless words for snow, perhaps as many as 50. However, this number is likely an exaggeration.

In the past few years, I’ve heard the term, “graupel” often used. Graupel is precipitation that forms when supercooled water droplets are collected and freeze on falling snowflakes and form into balls of crisp, opaque rime. “Graupel” differs from “sleet” in that graupel never re-freezes as sleet does. Sleet is ice pellets resulting from the re-freezing of liquid raindrops or partial melting of a snowflake.

Here are a few other interesting facts about snow.

  • Snowflakes usually have six sides.
  • Identical snowflakes are rare but possible.
  • Most of the volume of a snow layer consists of air.
  • Nearly every location in the United States has seen snowfall.
  • We know not to eat yellow snow, but it may not be a good idea to catch even fresh flakes on your tongue. Snowflakes can pick up specks of dust and other pollution along its descent.
  • Snow and ice usually appear white, because visible light is white.
  • Snow that looks blue is due to light waves scattered by the ice grains in the snow.
  • When falling crystals gather foreign substances such as algae and dust, the crystals pick up the color of the substance.

*Caring for a loved one with dementia? My books, Navigating Alzheimer’s, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, and Inspired Caregiving may be helpful. The books were written from a personal perspective and include credible research. I do understand the challenges you face.

Bison or Buffalo? Tuesday, Oct 19 2021 

Biscuit or cookies? Bison or Buffalo? The meaning of words can change over time in ways that hardly resemble what they originally signified.

What the British call “biscuits,” we call cookies or crackers, depending on whether the pastry is sweet or savory. And then we apply that word, biscuit, to a fluffy little bread instead of a twice baked or dried flat item, as it originally meant.

We created a similar misnomer with our buffalo. We’ve called bison buffalo for so many centuries it’s now acceptable to use either bison or (American) buffalo, even though they are entirely different animals. The difference would be as if we called a goat a lamb.

Both bison and buffalo belong to the family Bovidae but are not closely related. Prior to the arrival of Europeans in North America, buffalo only referred to Cape buffalo and water buffalo, which are native to Africa and Asia. Bison are found in North America and Europe.

Bison, or American buffalo, have humps at their shoulders and bigger heads than true buffalo, beards, and thick coats which are shed in the spring and early summer. Bison and buffalo can also be identified by their horns. Bison horns are sharp and short. Buffalo horns are much larger. Cape buffalo have horns that resemble handlebar mustaches, and water buffalo’s horns are large, long, and curved in a crescent.

According to the Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation biology institute, European explorers are likely to be responsible for the name confusion. It may have evolved from the French word boeuf, which means beef, or because bison hides resembled the buff coats worn by the military at that time.

There are variances between the different types of bison, as well. The European wood bison are larger. American bison are slightly hairier, heavier, and shorter. Their horns also are different. European bison horns point forward allowing them to interlock horns while American bison’s structure promotes charging. In addition, American bison are easier to tame and breed.

Bison are grazers that primarily eat grasses in addition to some flowering plants, lichen, and plant leaves. Snow can sit on their shaggy coats without melting. Bison weigh up to 2,400 pounds and stand about six feet tall at the shoulder. They grunt, snort, and bellow and may act aggressively when threatened. Bison charge and butt heads with other bulls but do not fight to the death. They have excellent senses of hearing and smell but poor vision. Bison typically live up to 15 years in the wild and as long as 25 years in captivity, if not subject to wolf predation.

At around three years of age, males leave their maternal herd and either live alone or with other males until mating season, which occurs from July through September. At that time, dominant bulls may maintain a small group of females to mate. They bellow and roar when they want to get a female’s attention. They also will chase any rival bulls away. Cleverly, bulls shield the cows’ vision with their body so they can’t see other males and be tempted to stray.

After the first few weeks of the season, subordinate bulls may be allowed to mate with the remaining cows that haven’t yet mated. More males than females have been observed to display homosexual behaviors.

Gestation period lasts 285 days. Bison calves are lighter in color than their parents for their first two months. Calves are nursed for at least 7 to 8 months or until the cow is pregnant again. By the age of three, bison cows are mature enough to produce a calf of their own. Males do not assist in raising the young.

The Sioux consider the rare birth of a white buffalo to be spiritually significant. It indicates the return of White Buffalo Calf Woman, a cultural prophet and the bringer of their Seven Sacred Rites.

When indigenous people arrived 27,000 years ago, they relied on bison for food, clothing, shelter, and even their spiritual practices. Every part of the animal was utilized and meaningful for the survival of the people.

By 9000 BC, bison roamed rich grassland from Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico and on the east coast from New York to Georgia. The area is described as the great bison belt. It’s estimated that the bison population exceeded 60 million in the late 18th century.

But by the 1800s, herds were nearly eliminated. Bison were hunted for sport. Passengers were known to shoot at the animals from trains. Bovine diseases from domestic cattle also played a part in their deaths. However, most of the lost bison were slaughtered by the U.S. government in an organized effort to destroy the livelihood of the Plains Indians. Only 541 bison remained in 1889.

Recovery efforts began in the mid-20th century. However, a major problem facing herds today is their lack of genetic diversity because that diversity was destroyed with the elimination of earlier bison.

Wild herds now roam in a handful of national parks and reserves in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Russia. They also are raised on ranches for commercial purposes such as meat, dairy, hides, and skulls. Bison meat tastes similar to beef but is lower in fat and cholesterol. It’s also higher in protein.

Recovery by private groups include the Inter-Tribal Bison Council which was formed in 1990. This group is composed of 56 tribes in 19 states that have established herds on tribal land.

Caution when photographing or viewing bison should be observed, as with all wild animals. Bison will attack if provoked. They may appear slow because of their weight and nonchalant grazing and lounging but they’re actually much quicker than humans and quite agile. They can jump high fences, swim, run as fast as 40 mph, and can stampede if in a herd. In North American national parks, more people were injured by bison than bears during the period between 1980 to 1999.

*Photos of bison were taken on the Oneida Nation reservation, Oneida, Wisconsin

*Do you know that October is the noted as the month of the Rosary?

Caves! What Lies Beneath Thursday, Sep 23 2021 

From the mountains to the forests and sky to the seas, nature’s masterpieces are on display for anyone who takes the time to notice. Plant life from moss to oak trees, clouds, sand, waterways, prairies, soil, hills, insects, birds, and land animals show off their hues, shapes, music, and fragrances.

Go deeper, and we also can find nature’s magnificence below ground level. My boyfriend and I recently took a trip to Blue Mound, Wisconsin to experience the treasure of Cave of the Mounds. The natural structures, textures, and colors left me in awe.

The area’s history dates back more than 400 million years ago when warm waterways covered it and the discarded calcium carbonate seashells compacted into limestone. Over the next few million years, carbon dioxide created in rain and melting snow, and then becoming diluted carbonic acid, seeped through the surface soils, dissolved the limestone, and created cavities. Simultaneously, the water table lowered causing streams to deeply erode the stone and allow air to fill in the developing cave.

Water droplets and dissolved calcium carbonate and minerals continued, and still continue, to drip though the cave and build on each other forming structures called speleothems.

Stalactites are speleothems growing down from the ceiling.

Stalagmites are structures forming from the ground up.

Helictites grow sideways and downward. And round oolites are considered cave pearls.

The rate of growth of these speleothems is tremendously slow taking 50 to 150 years to build one cubic centimeter of cave onyx, depending on the speed of the dripping water and the amount of calcium carbonate it contains.

The colors of the trails of crystals formed by these droplets varies with the minerals they carry. For example, reddish brown crystals contain rust—oxides of iron; black, purple, blue, and grey contain manganese compounds; and those with calcite appear as translucent or white crystals.

Nearly all of the more than 400 known caves in Wisconsin are privately owned. Cave of the Mounds is noted as a National Natural Landmark in a public-private partnership with the National Park service. It is located on a family owned property that was used for dairy farming. In 1939, the family also contracted out a portion of the land for quarry blasting. The cave was discovered when one of those contractors blasted an opening to the hidden world below.

Cave of the Mounds is open year-round and maintains temperatures in the 50s. Located outside of Madison, Wisconsin, Midwesterners have easy access to this natural gem. Guests can meander through the cave on their own, spending as much or as little time as desired. Typically, it takes about an hour to view as it is only about 1/5 of a mile long and from 40 to 57 feet below ground. Guides are on hand at the beginning of and about half-way through the tour to answer questions. At this time, tickets for adults are under $20. Trails surround the cave and also are open to the public.

I expected the cave to be dark, dank, dirty, and buggy. Instead, it was quite clean without visible creatures, well-lit, and had a smooth, concrete pathway on which to walk. The air quality varies with the barometric pressure but also was comfortable. I understand that water drips in the cave on rainy days and those with melting snow.

If you aren’t able to visit Cave of the Mounds, check out their virtual tour. You lose the close up experience of being surrounded by nature’s sculptures but will get a sample of what to find there.

*Pilgrimages offer countless benefits, and you don’t have to travel far. Find out how in this post, “Stillgrimage-Taking a Pilgrimage Near Home“.

*Looking for gifts for caregiving friend? Check out these books: Inspired Caregiving, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, and Navigating Alzheimer’s.

My Wee Bird Friends Monday, Aug 23 2021 

Sadly, I believe my resident hummingbirds have left for the season. I haven’t seen any of them for a few days. Last week, a wee one flew around in front of me on the other side of my patio door for several minutes. Perhaps, she was saying good-bye.

One of the greatest joys for me this summer were my hummingbird visits. When the weather was perfect for working outside on my patio, I had a vantage point of view of the hummingbird feeder and butterfly bushes in my little garden that drew the tiny creatures near me. The birds’ fluttering and feeding captivated my attention so much so I felt they’d hypnotized me. I had difficulty looking away to return to my work.

The United States sees only about two dozen of the 325 species of hummingbirds in the world. Most are found in Central and South America and do not regularly migrate.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are common in the United States and the ones who migrate to my area. They fly 500 miles nonstop across the Gulf of Mexico during both their spring and fall migrations. The longest migration of any of these birds is by the rufous hummingbird which flies more than 3,000 miles from Alaska and Canada to Mexico.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds weigh only 3 grams but are mighty with an ability to dart quickly and even fly upside down. Interestingly, hummingbirds rotate their wings in a figure eight beating them approximately 80 times per second.

Hummingbirds are dressed in 1,000 to 1,500 feathers, which is fewer than any other type of bird. They cannot walk or hop. Their feet are tools for scooting sideways while perched, scratching, and preening. They have no sense of smell but extraordinary eyesight.

My winged friends consume approximately one half of their weight in sugar daily. They can feed five to eight times per hour. In addition to nectar, they also feed on insects, spiders, tree sap, and juice from fruits.

Hummingbirds do not suck but rather lick nectar with their fringed, forked tongue and draw the nectar up into their throats. They may lick 10-15 times per second.

The bee hummingbird is the smallest measuring 2.25 inches long. And in spite of their minute size, hummingbirds can be very aggressive attacking jays, crows, and hawks if they enter their territory.

Their average lifespan is three to 12 years.

*See some of my writing tips in my post, Begin With a List.

*Check out my website, Mary K Doyle.com.

*Photos: Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds

Fungi in Every Breath You Take Tuesday, Jul 13 2021 

The topic of fungus may not be the most entertaining one you read about today, but it is fascinating. And if you read this post through to the end, you’ll find fungi can also be scary.

Fungi include microorganisms such as yeasts, molds, mushrooms, rusts, smuts, and mildews. They are not plants or animals. They belong to their own kingdom. However, they are more like animals than plants because they gather their food. Most fungi are so small they are invisible to the human eye, yet they play a significant role in our health as well as the environment’s.

Although often thought to be interchangeable with the word mushrooms, mushrooms are actually a small percentage of fungi. Fungi live everywhere including soil, sand, air, on rocks, and on plants. It’s estimated that there are more than 5 million species of fungi. They are adaptable little things, sitting dormant for decades and growing when exposed to prime conditions.

Fungi play an important role in medications such as antibiotics, anticancer drugs, and cholesterol inhibitors. They are significant in cleaning up the environment, decomposing carbon-based materials that have died. In addition, they can absorb and digest environmental contaminants such as petroleum and pesticides. Fungi also are used to make yeasts for alcohol, bread, and cheeses and can be consumed as a meat substitute and protein source.

Depending on our location, we may breathe in up to four spores with every breath and as many as 92,000 each day. This can be a problem for people like me who are allergic to several forms of fungi.

One type of fungi is the stuff of horror movies. The zombie fungi, fungal genus Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, can infect ants and take over their behavior. It directs the ants to move to a location that is best for the fungus and then consumes the ant from the inside out while spreading spores to infect more ants so that the cycle continues.

For more information see this page on the University of Oklahoma’s website where much of this information comes from.

*Help your caregiver friends with loved ones with dementia with the books that will answer their daily questions: Navigating Alzheimer’s, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, and Inspired Caregiving.

*Have you read my last post on Mary K Doyle Books, “Eat Well. Live Well“?

*Photos: 1. Giant Puffball, 2. ?

Lily of the Water Thursday, Jun 24 2021 

Impressionist painter Claude Monet loved water lilies so much he painted more than 250 works of art featuring this aquatic plant. The delicate blossoms transform a pond, shallow and still freshwater, and slow-moving streams into fragrant, colorful gardens.

Water lilies are important symbolically for several reasons. In the Hindu and Buddhist traditions they represent resurrection because many of the lilies close their flowers at night and reopen at sunlight. The bright aquatic flowers rising from the dirty mud symbolize enlightenment. Their association with water is also symbolic of birth.  

There are more than 50 types of water lilies found in a wide range of colors including white, pink, red, orange, yellow, purple, and blue. Tropical varieties typically have brighter shades. They also have variations of leaves including star-shaped, cup-shaped, smooth, and jagged.

Although water lilies are in the same family (Nymphaeceae) as lotus, they are somewhat different. Mainly, the leaves and flowers of water lilies (Nymphaea species) float on the water’s surface. The leaves and flowers of the lotus (Nelumbo species) rise above the water’s surface.

These aquatic plants are an important player in the ecosystem. The flowers and leaves provide shade which keeps the water cooler and prevents algae from growing. They also offer fish beneath the lily pads refuge from the hot sun and covered shelter from predatory birds.

*See “Visiting Memory Care Homes” on my other blog.

Do you know that I’ve written books on caregiving for loved ones with dementia, how our faith changes as we age, the rosary, praying with Mary in times of grief, and Saint Theodora/Saint Mother Theodore Guerin? You can see all of my books on my website or Amazon.

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