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?

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.

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“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

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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Recipe for Inner Peace Tuesday, Jan 12 2021 

Yoga, meditation, and lots of prayer. These are a few of the ingredients in my personal recipe for inner peace. When I’m stressed, hurt, disappointed, or frustrated, I center myself. Still and quiet, peace comes to me.

Historically, humanity doesn’t remain peaceful for long. Eruptions arise within our inner circle and the world at large more often than not. Between COVID, political unrest, and domestic terrorism, this certainly is one of the more intense periods of disruption we’ve seen in the U.S. for some time.

How can we remain calm and peaceful with so much going on? I believe we can outweigh the negative with positivity and goodness. The more peaceful we are within ourselves, the more we extend that tranquility far out beyond us.

Here are a few suggestions for promoting personal peace. Focus on one or mix them up for a relaxing cocktail. I’d love to hear what you can add to this list.

  • Begin the day with a positive thought.
  • Practice daily relaxation in a quiet setting.
  • Meditate.
  • Pray. Pray. Pray.
  • Accept what can’t be changed.
  • Turn off the electronics.
  • Exercise.
  • Breathe consciously.
  • Forgive and ask to be forgiven.
  • Let go of petty disputes and disappointments.
  • Volunteer at a homeless shelter or food pantry.
  • Avoid books, movies, and online activities that include violence, inequality, cruelty, or profanity.
  • Surround yourself with gentle, loving people.
  • Attend in-person or virtual church services
  • Avoid gossip and unsubstantiated posts.
  • Give thanks for your many blessings.
  • Smile at strangers.
  • Treat others respectfully.
  • Check on elderly neighbors.
  • Read inspirational books and other writings.
  • Pray for peace.

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If I say I will pray for you, I really will. See my latest post, “Praying for Those on Your List,” on my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books.

Have you checked out my latest book, Inspired Caregiving?

Exploding Squash Friday, Nov 20 2020 

It was a quick dinner—spaghetti squash with oil, garlic, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. And I wanted to make it quicker by baking the squash in the microwave. After washing and pricking the small squash, I placed it in the microwave for about 7 minutes. It inflated and sizzled, so I pricked it again with a fork. The squash exploded in my face.

Small burns covered my forehead, eyelids, cheeks, and chin. I ran cold water on my face and placed a cool compress on it. Even minor burns keep burning for some time, so it took about an hour before I could apply fresh aloe vera from a plant I keep in the house. I continued to dab aloe on the burns for several days. Vaseline also helped, especially on my eyelids.

Aloe vera has incredible healing properties. By the following morning, the burns were significantly better, and at day two there are only a few pink spots on my face. One area on my forehead blistered and opened, so that one may take a little longer to completely heal. Also, the impact of the explosion on my forehead and right eye caused throbbing for a couple of days.

To avoid risk of serious burns and squash seeds and pulp imbedded in your hair, skin, and clothes, follow the standard rule—carefully cut open the hard squash before baking. The problem with cooking since I was a young girl is that I know all the shortcuts and am not as careful as I should be. This incident is a good reminder that the few extra minutes to do things correctly can save a lifetime of needless suffering. I was very fortunate not to have more serious burns or damaged my vision.

Mayo Clinic recommends treating minor burns (no larger than three inches in size) by holding the burned area under cool (not cold) running water and applying a cool, wet compress on the area until the pain subsides. Absolutely do not break blisters. Should blisters break on their own, clean the area with water and apply an antibiotic ointment. If a rash appears, stop using the ointment. Once the burn is completely cooled, apply a lotion containing aloe vera to prevent drying. Cover the burn with a loosely wrapped sterile gauze. If needed, take an over-the counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen or Tylenol.

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Have you read my last posts on my other blog: “New Blood Test for Alzheimer’s Disease” or “Compassionate and Devout Saint Margaret?”

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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Mask Attire Thursday, Apr 30 2020 

Do you think this mask looks good on me? Does it bring out my eyes? Does it clash with my outfit?

Who could imagine that the #1 2020 wardrobe accessory would be masks? Every day, I’m at my sewing machine for a few hours sewing for my very large family. The masks aren’t particularly stylish, and likely, do clash with wardrobes. At some point, I may be able to make ones that are fun to wear or more attractive, but for the time being, the ones I’m making are functional and no-fuss with inserting liners. The option is to get at least one in everyone’s hands and on their faces.  

If you must shop for materials to make masks, be ready to hunt. Most fabrics and notions needed for mask-making are difficult to acquire due to high demand, limited inventory, store closings, and short-staff to fulfill orders. And be ready to wait weeks or months before supplies arrive, if you’re lucky enough to get them at all. Most frustrating, ordering often results in later notices that the item is no longer available after spending hours locating ones said to be in stock. If possible, order from your local family-owned sewing shops. You may have more success in getting what you want and will help to keep the business open.

Creativity with substitutions that don’t jeopardize the integrity of the masks is key. Tightly woven fabric, such as cotton quilting fabric, is recommended for the two outer layers. There are many suggestions online as to what can be used as a filter. Masks can be designed with a pocket to replace filters after every use or be fully machine washable and dryable after use. The object is to have several layers over the face without obstructing breathing.

It’s a good idea to watch a few instructional videos on YouTube before beginning. JoAnn Fabrics has several. Other videos offer ideas for substitutions.

A mask doesn’t take long to make, but it’s a tedious job. There are a lot of little stops and goes along the way. This is my favorite pattern. I use only quilters cotton fabric for the two outside layers and prefer flannel for the lining since I haven’t been able to get my hands on nonwoven interfacing.

I recently found that two layers of lining, which results when you fold your fabric in half as suggested, may be more protection but is too warm as the outside temperatures rise. I’m now cutting the flannel 7 ½ by 7 ½ and setting it in the lower half of the mask so when folded over, there is one layer plus a fold over to place the wire.

I sew a doubled piece of florist wire along the top to press along the bridge of the nose for a closer fit. I begin by folding an 8-inch piece of wire in half, then twist the two wires together, bend in the ends, and wrap the ends in a narrow quilt-marking tape that is like masking tape. The wire is placed in the crease of the fabrics folded in half and sewn around it to hold in place.

Ties allow for universal fit, but take a little longer to make, a little more effort to wear, and can get caught in long hair. The standard elastic ear loop is cut to 7 inches. 6 1/2 inches is a better fit for me and my daughters while many of the men in the family need 7 1/2 to 8, so make adjustments if you are making the masks for people you know.

If you can get them, purchase number 90/14 needles which don’t break as easily as others when top stitching. The thick, bulky pleats make it difficult for the needle to penetrate without bending or snapping. The best option I’ve discovered is to cut the liner about 1 ½ inches narrower than the outer piece, center it on the back of the outer fabric, and sew around all sides to hold in place. This eliminates having to get your needle through double layers of cotton plus the double layers of lining when pleating.

The process goes quicker if everything is pre-cut and ready to assemble before sewing. I line up my outside fabrics, liners, cut elastic, ties, and prepared wire before beginning. And I press often after stitching.

Once you do a few masks, the process is quick. I’ve made at least 50 in the last couple of weeks. I can’t say it is fun, but I also don’t mind it. The activity is meaningful, important, and like a little ministry providing a product needed by most everyone in this very unusual time.

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Check out my last post on Midwest Mary, “Perfect Opportunity to Ponder,” and watch on my Author FaceBook page for upcoming virtual presentations.

The COVID Affect Tuesday, Apr 7 2020 

You’re not worried about yourself. You don’t fit the demographics for anything other than a normal viral reaction. So why should the restrictions apply to you? Why should you suffer because someone else may get sick?

No matter your race, nationality, or lifestyle, COVID-19 will affect you dearly. The world will not be the same after this. If you are fortunate enough not to be personally touched, or know anyone who is, you still will be affected financially. Your employment opportunities, investments, insurance premiums, product availability, neighboring shops, bars, and restaurants you frequent, and countless other factors will be negatively impacted by the Corona virus. The more people infected, the longer and more intense the results.

Even healthy young adults I know who believe they had or have the virus tell me COVID was a tough illness to get through. It isn’t anything you want to be flippant about. If you do get it, you are likely to be down for the count for several weeks.

Please be responsible for the sake of the vulnerable and yourself. Wash your hands thoroughly and often, respect social distancing until notified, and be a beacon of light. Call or text friends, send note cards to those living alone, post uplifting quotes, music, video, and photos. Before we know it, we will be longing for quiet time at home again.

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Have you seen my latest post on Mary K Doyle Books, The Sacred Pit?

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