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?”

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.

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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Wish Big on This Bright Star Friday, Dec 18 2020 

One of the gifts of 2020 is a star so bright it lights up the night sky. Known as the “Christmas Star,” a planetary conjunction will culminate on December 21 and be especially vibrant and easily visible after dusk, particularly from Southern locations.

Approximately every 20 years, Jupiter and Saturn become aligned and appear to pass each other in the solar system in what is called a great conjunction. A conjunction is an apparent passing of two or more celestial bodies while a great conjunction refers only to Jupiter and Saturn. What makes this astronomical event so important is that it is the closest great conjunction since July 16, 1623 but that one took place during the daytime making it nearly impossible to witness at that time. This one is also the first conjunction (not great conjunction) to be easily observable since March 4, 1226.

Henry Throop, an astronomer in the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington, explains the phenomena. “You can imagine the solar system to be a racetrack with each of the planets as a runner in their own lane and the Earth toward the center of the stadium. From our vantage point, we’ll be able to be to see Jupiter on the inside lane, approaching Saturn all month, and finally overtaking it on December 21.”

We can spot this “star” by looking toward the southwest just after sunset. Jupiter will appear to be the brighter planet. We can find Saturn slightly above and to the left of Jupiter until December 21. The planets will appear very close together, but they really are hundreds of millions of miles apart.

With binoculars or a small telescope, we may also be able to see Jupiter’s four large moons orbiting around it. However, visibility will be minimized the farther north we are located. For example, those in our southern states will have a better viewpoint than those in the northern ones. Cloud coverage, city lights, and geographical obstructions will also impact visibility.

Astronomers such as Johannes Kepler, believe the Christmas Star that announced the birth of the Messiah, also was a conjunction. In 1603 Kepler stated that the Christmas Star actually was a triple conjunction of Jupiter, Saturn, and the Sun that appeared to go backwards for several weeks. Other astronomers believe that the conjunction was between Venus and Jupiter, not Saturn and Jupiter.

The Christmas Star is a sign of hope and promise. Let’s pray this great conjunction brings us a hefty dose of both.

PS

If the star wasn’t visible in your location, check out some of these photos. I believe you can make your wish on these virtual images because we are in a virtual kind of year.

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Check NASA’s website and follow them on Facebook from more astrological information.

Have you read, “Mary, the Mother of Jesus” or “Pet a Pet to Ease the COVID Blues” on my other blog?

My newest book, Inspired Caregiving. Weekly Morale Boosters, is the perfect gift for overworked parents, teachers, and other caregivers.

(Stock Image)

Nature Escape Monday, Oct 12 2020 

The Midwest is popping with color. One of my favorite escapes is a walk through nature. With the change of seasons in this area of the U.S., the scenery is never stagnant. A surprise awaits at every time of year, and this autumn is not letting us down.

This past weekend, my boyfriend, Paul, and I walked along the Batavia Riverwalk along the Fox River in Batavia, Illinois. The path is gorgeous at any time of year but autumn offers a feast for the senses. The meandering river, active wildlife, vibrant plant growth, and rustling, falling leaves participate in a well-orchestrated dance that can be seen, heard, and smelled.

An American Goldfinch, in its winter coat, calmly posed for us in a bed of wildflowers.

Geese lazily glided down the river.

A gull feasted on fresh fish.

And ducks basked in the October sun.

The river leapt over the little dam.

But the greatest surprise of the day was what I believe to be jasmine. It’s delightful fragrance announced its presence before we spotted the lush growth attracting hungry bees.

The Wildflower Sanctuary on the Batavia Riverwalk is a joint project of the Batavia Plain Gardeners Organization and the Batavia Park District in cooperation with the City of Batavia and the Riverain Apartment complex. Volunteers initiated the project in 1991 and continue to maintain it.

A short retreat to this sanctuary, or your closest park, forest, or prairie can offer well-needed respite. Join the volunteers or simply escape into nature for a boost of peace and happiness.

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Do you know that October is the month of the rosary?

Our 1950-Early 1960s Moms Wednesday, Sep 16 2020 

One of my many blessings is a group of women who I’ve known since high school. Susie, Sally, Mary Ellen, and I have supported one another through the ups and downs of life for almost 50 years. As an added bonus, we gained the wisdom of each other’s parents. All of our parents acted as our bumpers in the bowling alley of life. My friends and I could go to any parent, any time.

With the recent passing of Susie’s mother, our last living parent, I was reminded of the responsibilities of women in our early childhood. Homemaking was an exhausting full-time job back then. Mothers had little, if any, time of their own. Their life was about service to family.

When I was a child, visions of my mother included seeing her standing at the washing machine, ironing board, or wearing an apron at the stove. Mom was always working. She didn’t have the conveniences of a microwave, dishwasher, permanent press clothes, or even the ability to drive a car. She walked to the grocery store dragging her folding shopping cart and kids in toe.

Women’s work was labor intensive. Food was cooked from scratch, dishes were washed by hand, clothes needed knuckle-bleeding scrubbing on washboards before tossing into the washing machine, socks were darned, everything had to be ironed, and shoes were polished weekly. The work was never-ending.

Some vendors went directly to the homemaker. Vacuum cleaner, encyclopedia, magazines, and cleaning supply salesmen knocked on the door and gave their sales pitches. Milkmen dropped off the heavy glass containers of milk. Some vendors strolled the streets with push carts or small trucks while ringing bells or calling out their goods such as rags, fresh vegetables, and even bleach for sale, as well as knife sharpening.

During the school year, children came home for lunch. Mothers had only a couple of hours for their morning chores before they needed to prepare our lunches, clean up, and send us back to school for the afternoon. No doubt, it seemed that they barely got us out the door when we returned looking for snacks, needing help with homework, and asking the all-important question, “What’s for Dinner?”

What seemed like most of my childhood, my mother was pregnant. Mom was accomplishing her duties in hot summer kitchens and chilly winters with a growing belly. She had five live births and one stillborn, a total of 54 months of pregnancy in 13 years, which wasn’t unusual at that time. Reliable birth control was not available and any attempt at preventing pregnancy in our Catholic families was frowned upon.

One of my favorite memories of my mother is of her ironing in the living room and watching soap operas, with me at her side while I “ironed” doll clothes on my little ironing board. I was raised to be a wife and mother, just like Mom. However, I had no idea how exhausting her days were. Some women worked outside of the home in limited positions, such as nursing, secretarial, and teaching. However, once married, most “retired.” Wife and mother was their job.

Through all of this, women of the 50s/60s were required to look their best at all times. Most wore (circle or sheath/wiggle) dresses, pencil skirts, stockings, and pumps or stiletto shoes year-round, although pants were becoming popular on occasion. Waists were cinched with a belt or sash. Undergarments included girdles, bullet bras, garter belts, slips, and scratchy petticoats to make their circle dresses stand out.

When out of the house, women were certain every hair was in place and makeup was applied, especially lipstick. Accessories included pearls, clip-on earrings, broaches, gloves, a clutch purse, and often, a hat. Little boots could be worn in winter snow storms, but their outfits were designed for beauty, not comfort or warmth.

On behalf of all the “children” my age, we are most grateful to all the loving and hardworking moms. Their attention to providing us with nurturing homes is gratefully appreciated.

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Photos: Mary, Susie, Sally, Mary Ellen, 2020. Shopping cart and washboard. My parents, John and Pat Doyle, 1956. My grandmother (Florence McCarthy), mother, and Aunt Marlene, 1963.

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Have you read, Love from a Distance,” my blog post on COVID restrictions on families visiting loved ones in memory care homes, on my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books?

Are You Sympathetic, Empathetic–or Neither? Thursday, Sep 3 2020 

“I know exactly how you feel?” We often say this, but is it really true?

Few situations are identical. However, it’s easier for us to sympathize with someone whose experience is similar to one we’ve been through.

I have great sympathy for pregnant women in the Midwest this summer. With the anxieties of COVID and the social unrest in addition to the challenges of pregnancies during the hottest summer on record, these women must be pillars of strength and endurance. I’m certainly not pregnant now! My pregnancies are long-passed. But I can relate to the discomfort of summer pregnancies while in the midst of frightening circumstances. I really do sympathize with them.

In contrast, I empathize with the struggles of people of color. I’m not Black or Brown, so I can’t know how it really is for them. I can only imagine how it might feel to be Black and entering a store with all white people or question why it appears to me that I’m treated differently.

Sympathy and empathy are similar yet distinctly different words. When sympathetic, we relate emotionally to someone from a point of experience. We share feelings with another person.

Empathy is emotionally distant. We may imagine being in a particular situation but have not experienced it personally. We can’t really know the emotional impact to things we have no reference to ourselves.

If we’ve never been without a meal, how can we know how it is to have little to no food to feed our family for weeks on end? If we haven’t fled our home town in fear of our safety, can we really envision the desperation of leaving all of our friends and family behind to trek hundreds of intensely hot and terrifying miles to seek asylum in a strange land? We don’t personally know the suffering that comes with such a decision.

Our world is currently crying for empathy. People are literally shouting to be heard, to be understood. Everyone benefits from good listening skills, imagining how it might feel to walk in our neighbor’s flip flops, and taking other people’s feelings to heart. Peace will come if we are still and quiet long enough to be even a little empathetic.

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Check out my post, Riches to Rags, on St. Francis and the sweet town of Assisi, Italy and also my website for all of my books.

Who Knows the Truth? Tuesday, Jul 21 2020 

Throughout the world, and certainly in the United States of America, we are fiercely fighting for truth. However, our versions of truth, justice, and equality are polarized to a point that is exploding.

We hold on to our truths dearly, but how long has it been since we strove to understand rather than shout our perception of right? And when was the last time we reviewed the bases of our own truths?

Truth is defined as the actual state of a matter, a verified or indisputable fact, proposition, or principle. It’s a body of real things, events, and facts, a property of being in accord with fact or reality.  

We accept our truths based on research, unique experiences, and the wisdom of political, religious, and social leaders as well as our mentors. All of these factors bring us to a personal truth, one that may be quite different from our neighbors. In addition, we humans are flawed and perhaps all of us are biased to some level, which compromises our ability to be completely truthful.

It’s important to recognize how much we reflect the leaders we follow. These leaders influence our words and actions. We repeat and imitate what they preach.

A trustworthy leader exemplifies vital qualities and characteristics such as honesty, integrity, transparency, confidence, commitment, accountability, empowerment, empathy, compassion, and vision. Strong decision-making capabilities and communication skills are important. Trustworthy leaders promote unity and team-work. They substantiate their facts, express honest opinions as such, and do not exaggerate, distort, or take facts out of context.

America was born on radical ideas, cultural diversity, and a wide range of beliefs. The promise that we will be tolerant and accepting of these differences is what makes our country so beautiful, exciting, and fascinating and offers opportunities to learn and grow from one another.

If we want peace at home and throughout the world, we all must step back, breathe slowly, listen to all points of view, and respond with compassion toward our brothers and sisters. And we need to seriously consider the leaders we believe in, trust, and identify with.

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Check out, God’s Kingdom Here and Now and First Place Award for The Alzheimer’s Spouse on my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books.

Masked Since Antiquity Tuesday, Jun 30 2020 

Mandated or recommended, masks are the talk of the day. Do we have the right to choose wearing them or not? Which ones are best? Why do we dislike them? And do we really need them?

Personally, I see mask wearing like cigarette smoking. I understand the desire and choice to smoke but I hate the smell, and I don’t believe anyone has the right to inflect their second-hand smoke on me and my health. In the same way, I understand the discomfort and inconvenience of mask wearing, but I don’t believe anyone has the right to spread their potentially deadly germs in my face. If they won’t wear a mask, they can remain in their home.

Since the Stone Age, masks have been worn by nearly all cultures. The oldest known mask is from 7000 BC. Traditional ones were used for protection, disguise, hunting, entertainment, punishment, membership in secret societies, celebration, healings, and rituals. They were made from any number of materials including leather, wood, and feathers. I have one from Hawaii made from volcanic ash and covered in carved symbols.


One of the few collections I have is a wall grouping of masks, carvings, and a painting I’ve acquired from my travels. In addition to the one made from ash, the collection includes a ritual mask from Papua, New Guinea purchased in Hawaii and one made by the Incas and purchased in Aruba, festival masks from Venice, Italy, face carvings from Alaska and Jamaica, a totem from Hawaii, a leather work from Portugal, and a painting of a turtle on tapas, a type of fabric carefully and arduously made from softened wood bark. My attraction to these items stemmed from their craftmanship, symbolism, and personal contact with the artist or vendor.

When I purchased the ritual masks, I was assured that they had been cleansed. The spirits of the dead or other beings were no longer attached, so I needn’t be concerned about carrying those spirits home with me. That statement opened up a greater fascination and appreciation of the artifacts. I had no knowledge of the historical or cultural meaning of them or that death masks were created in the likeness of the deceased.

Some ritual masks, such as those in West Africa, are used to communicate with ancestral or animal spirits. They can be quite symbolic. For example, closed eyes may show tranquility while bulging foreheads means wisdom.

Today we are familiar with masks of protection such as those for welders, gas masks, police shields, oxygen masks, and our all so familiar, medical and health masks. I don’t plan on adding any of these to my wall.

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Have you read “Angels to Guard You Wherever You Go” and “Easy Test with Big Answers” on Mary K Doyle Books?

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Bird or Bug? Monday, Jun 15 2020 

They may be young but they are often smarter than the adults.

I have two seven-year-old grandsons, a five-year-old granddaughter and five-year-old grandson. Technology doesn’t intimidate any of them. The two oldest grandsons became ZOOM experts before I did. Their parents expose the children to nature, athletic classes, and travels that I didn’t experience until much later in life.

And their energy can be deceiving. As they literally run circles around us, the wee ones are taking in everything around them and remember what they saw and heard, especially if it is something we’d rather they hadn’t noticed.

This past weekend, my grandsons Daniel and Nathan helped me water my garden. We saw an unusual creature hovering over the petunias and sucking up nectar. I thought it was a bee or other type of insect because it had three body parts—a head, thorax, and abdomen, but it was larger in size than a normal bee or moth. Nathan insisted that it was a hummingbird.

Thanks to the “Bug Queen,” my friend, Carol Hendrix, we learned we both were somewhat correct. This beauty is a Hummingbird Clearwing Hemaris thysbe, an insect that mimics a hummingbird. It belongs to the Family Sphingidea (a family of moths, commonly known as hawk moths, sphinx moths, and hornworms). These moths are moderate to large in size and are distinguished by their rapid, sustained flying ability. Their subfamily, is the Macroglossinae, moths in the order Lepidoptera.

Most of my plants are on a set of three shelving units against the back of my house. It allows me full use of my limited space and plenty of sunshine with southern exposure to promote hearty growth of flowers, herbs, and vegetables and less consumption by chipmunks and rabbits. The Hummingbird Clearwing Hemaris thysbe isn’t often seen in my area of the Midwest, so I appreciate that it visited my little boxes of plantings. The opportunity to have witnessed one in action up close and personal was a special gift of nature.

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Check out my posts, “Waling in Someone’s Painful Shoes” and “Why We Suffer.”

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