Healthy Planet, Healthy Us Friday, Jan 27 2023 

Would you like cleaner air, lower prices, and fewer catastrophic weather conditions? We can move closer to all of this with a few minor lifestyle changes.

There’s no denying that the whole earth is seeing troubling weather and events caused by that weather–fires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and mud slides. The snowballing impact of these circumstances is tremendous. People are losing their homes, neighborhoods, and livelihoods. Crops are being destroyed, which results in higher food costs and shortages. And these conditions will continue to increase over time.

Some say the cause is due to global warming. Others say it’s normal weather cycles or our lack of faith. And there are those who say that’s nonsense. Whatever the cause, if we want it to stop, we have to look honestly at what we are doing as a nation and individually. At the very least, we can show respect and gratitude for our God-given gifts.

Consider some of the small things that can be done to improve conditions. Yes, these steps require some effort, and perhaps sacrifice. However, we will suffer one way or another. Why not do what we can to improve conditions and leave the earth in better condition than it is right now?

Take a look at this list and see what you can do. A few minor changes will make a big difference.

  • Reduce waste by making careful purchases of items that truly will be used.
  • Repurpose items rather than tossing them in landfills.
  • Donate items in good condition.
  • Consider shopping at resale shops rather than for new merchandise.
  • Use long-lasting lightbulbs.
  • Avoid plastic water bottles.
  • Raise air conditioning thermostat temperatures one degree.
  • Lower heating temps one degree.
  • Conserve water when cleaning, washing, playing outside, and watering lawns and gardens.
  • Clean-up rivers, ponds, forests, and parks.
  • Don’t dispose of medications and chemicals inappropriately. Check with your town and disposal company for their options.
  • Eat locally grown foods to avoid transportation waste.
  • Eat less meat, such as by serving meatless meals one or two days a week. Animals contribute greatly to carbon dioxide production.
  • Promote better environmental understanding.
  • Demand and vote for better environmental protection.
  • Pray for our planet.

*Our faith changes as we age, and for good reason. Have you read, Young in the Spirit?

*Photo: Wayne, IL

Our Best Self in 2023 Friday, Dec 30 2022 

The beginning of a new calendar year and birth year are good times to reassess where we are in our lives. For me, the timing is perfect. A May 31st birthday allows me to take note and make adjustments about 6 months apart every year.

The first step is to get in tune with our health because if we are not physically and emotionally balanced, we are less or totally ineffective. Think body, mind, and spirit, and ask ourselves questions such as the following.

  • Do we have chronic pain or ailments? We can begin by assessing our diet, exercise, and sleep patterns. If we are doing what we can to maintain good health and still suffering, it may be time to check in with a professional–a physician, chiropractor, or other healthcare provider.
  • Are we getting enough exercise? We don’t have to go from no exercise to running marathons. Start with gentle stretches, half hour walks, or walking back in forth in the house while swinging our arms.
  • Diet is critical to overall health. Food is fuel, and its quality is as important as quantity. Serving ourselves on small plates and in small bowls helps to reduce overeating. We also want to avoid processed foods. Processing breaks down the quality and adds high amounts of fat and sodium. Reading product labels on packaging is important in knowing what we are consuming. Best yet, eat whole foods. Think apple rather than an apple muffin and a piece of chicken rather than a breaded and fried chicken finger.
  • We want to ask ourselves how we are feeling emotionally? How often are we sad, impatient, frustrated, angry, or afraid. Sometimes it’s a matter of perspective. When we recognize our many blessings, we can see others’ needs and how we may assist them rather than wallowing in self-pity. If we feel these emotions regularly, then we might consider speaking with a counselor. We don’t function well when consumed with negative thoughts. And perhaps we should pass on watching the nightly news or watching television programs with violent or disturbing content. Our brain will continue to process those images and thoughts when we sleep. Listening to relaxing music or reading a fun book at bedtime is a better alternative.
  • Monitoring our financial health is also vital to mental health. Those impulse buys add up and can cause anxiety later when they need to be paid off. Taking a moment to ask ourselves if the item is something we need or will really use before purchasing can eliminate mounting debt and the stress of payments beyond our capabilities later.
  • Are we social? Connecting with other people is a basic human need and a key to longevity. Avoiding caustic relationships is just as important. Surrounding ourselves with healthy, and supportive friends promotes those same characteristics in ourselves.
  • Is our faith being fed? Trusting in a higher power alleviates us from believing we are in control of everything and therefore, responsible for all that goes wrong in the world. It also encourages us to understand how we are all connected and treat one another with love and respect no matter our station in life.
  • And perhaps the most important factor in well-being is recognizing our purpose. What’s our reason for getting up in the morning? Do we have meaningful people to care for and activities to occupy our time? Knowing our passions, such as gardening, playing a musical instrument, volunteering at a community center, food bank, or senior center; or drawing feeds our spirit with compassion, creativity, peace, and beauty.

Our list of needed self-improvements may be long, but we can’t change everything all at once. On the other hand, if we do nothing, nothing changes. Making one small change until it becomes a habit, and then moving on to another, moves us closer to a better, happier us one step at a time.

***If making prayer a part of your daily life is one of those steps you want to make this new year, I have a few books that may be of help. Check out The Rosary Prayer by Prayer, Grieving with Mary, Fatima at 100. Fatima Today, and Saint Theodora and Her Promise to God.

Modified Holidays for Loved Ones with Dementia Monday, Nov 14 2022 

With the holidays approaching, all the fun and memorable events ahead present increased challenges for people with dementia. In addition, the darker days of fall and winter present other issues related to less sunshine. As many as 66% of people with dementia are thought to be affected by the setting of the sun. Beginning in the late afternoon, these people may show symptoms of confusion, anxiety, and aggression.

Families long for the traditions that mark the holidays. Special foods, music, colors, clothing, and decor shared with family and friends trigger emotions and tie memories of the past with the ones we make today. Sadly, our meaningful traditions are likely to be too much for our loved one with dementia. Including them can be more harmful and upsetting for them than enjoyable.

Brain power continues to diminish with dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease. Every level of stimulation we present to someone with this disease requires them to manage it with less and less ability. Think of all the stimulation we have this time of year–holiday lights; aromas from the kitchen; rich foods; and music, laughter, and multiple simultaneous conversations. This stimulation overload is exhausting for the healthiest people much less those already fatigued from daily living.

Maintaining a predictable routine with limited, controlled stimulation, and periodic rest periods is the key to keeping a person with mid-to-late-stage Alzheimer’s and other dementias calm. Parties that include our loved one with dementia are best limited to a handful of people at a time, close to or at home, in a quiet location, and for no more than two to three hours including travel time. Small group visits throughout the season rather than everyone at one time may be the best alternative.

Family members who do not spend much time with our loved one are not likely able to understand the change in traditions, or that our loved one may not be able to attend their festivities at all. However, celebrations with a loved one with Alzheimer’s is often more difficult for them than memorable or meaningful and therefore, need to be modified or completely abandoned. If we truly love them, the impact of our festivities on them and how we may include them in a way that is good for them rather than appeasing our emotional needs will be our priority.

**For additional guidance on living with loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, see Navigating Alzheimer’s, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, and Inspired Caregiving.

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.

Advances in Early Detection of Alzheimer’s Wednesday, Jul 20 2022 

A simple blood test reveals a great deal about our health. Anemia, blood cancers, and infection can be detected in addition to learning information regarding heart, liver, and kidney function. And soon we may have a blood test for Alzheimer’s disease, as well.

Alzheimer’s disease’ isn’t typically suspected until symptoms begin interfering with daily living. More than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and countless others unknowingly have it as the disease develops in the brain 10-20 years before symptoms appear. By the time Alzheimer’s is evident, valuable time has been lost—time that could have been used to maximize experiences with family and friends, plan for the future, make end-of-life decisions, and take advantage of medical options available in early stages.

As of this posting, an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis is made through a combination of basic screening and physical, emotional, and cognitive exams. There may be genetic testing if it’s believed to have run in a family. A more definitive diagnosis can be made with a spinal tap that detects tau proteins in cerebrospinal fluid. However, this is quite an invasive test and not covered by insurance.

The progression of Alzheimer’s disease begins when brain protein called amyloid beta accumulates into plaques. Another protein, tau, then produces tangles. Neurons begin to die from this build-up of plaques and tangles. Finally, brain tissue atrophies which can be seen as decreased brain volume on MRI testing.

PET brain scans are our best testing option at this time. However, the test requires an injection of a radioactive tracer for imaging, is expensive, and not covered by insurance.

All of these tests have limitations. Even PET brain scans and cerebrospinal taps do not provide information on changes in the neurons. Most importantly, our current tests are not able to detect Alzheimer’s until the disease has progressed significantly.

An exciting option on the horizon is a blood test that can be taken earlier in the disease process, perhaps even before symptoms begin. The Lumipulse G β-amyloid Ratio (1-42/1-40) is in the development stage and is hoped to be available soon.

We also have a new form of MRI that detects the loss of neurons that precedes brain shrinkage and cognitive decline. This test will then offer results sooner than the traditional MRI.

Current Alzheimer’s research focuses predominately on finding treatment for symptom management. Detection before massive destruction of cells would be more beneficial, and perhaps it would lead to a cure, which is not yet available.

For more information, see the FDA and the Alzheimer’s Association sites and the books, Navigating Alzheimer’s, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, and Inspired Caregiving.

The Book of Which I’m Most Proud Tuesday, Jun 14 2022 

A question I’ve been asked over the years is which of the books that I’ve written is my favorite. This is a question that is as impossible to answer as which child is my favorite. Each book is special to me. I’m proud of all of all of them for different reasons.

Each was written with an intent to fill a need. Each book was sent out into the world with a mission to offer information and consolation to a particular audience. Most have won awards and sold consistently well over the years. And now I’m very excited about a new book coming out this year, which I will tell you about at the end of this post.

Mentoring Heroes was my first book. Published in 2000, this book centered on my recognition through newspaper articles I’d written that successful people attributed their progress to the mentors who helped them along the way. I also recognized that women’s lives are complicated and multi-layered with family, household, and work responsibilities, and therefore, more challenging in finding ways in which to be mentored. Mentoring Heroes was widely used in university Women Studies programs and by clubs and groups. Today, I know that the book is dated in the way that it was printed–with copper plates and blue-line editing as opposed to today’s digital print method–and due to men participating more in household responsibilities and technology offering more ways in which to be mentored. Yet, the overall benefits and need for mentoring remains relevant.

The Rosary Prayer by Prayer, Grieving with Mary, and Fatima at 100. Fatima Today were inspired by a devotion to the Virgin Mary. These were the types of books I wanted to write since childhood. Praying with Mary should always lead to a greater devotion to her son, Jesus. Mary is our heavenly mother, and like a good mother, she loves us dearly, promotes peace among all creation, and encourages us to care for one another as Jesus does. Praying with her offers a sense of calm in a world where this type of alliance is greatly needed.

With the The Rosary Prayer by Prayer readers can pray along simply by following pages showing the placement on the rosary, the prayer to be prayed, illustrations by Joseph Cannella, and a reflection. Grieving with Mary is a best-seller that aligns praying with Mary in a wide variety of ways during times of loss. And Fatima at 100. Fatima Today is a little booklet that reviews Mary’s messages in Fatima, Portugal in 1917 and how those messages remain vital in attaining peace.

Seven Principles of Sainthood Following Saint Mother Theodore Guerin and Saint Theodora and Her Promise to God are books about a woman who immigrated to the United States to teach children and young woman. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, also known as Saint Theodora, and a small group of sisters opened schools throughout rural Indiana and Illinois in the mid to late 1800s, a time when Catholic schools were greatly needed and in which this band of women faced great obstacles. The sisters also opened a school for the higher education of women when women had little-to-no choice for such an opportunity. Seven Principles was written for adults and Saint Theodora and Her Promise to God was written for children. I was inspired to write these books after attending Saint Mary of the Woods College, the school Saint Mother Theodore founded, as well as her canonization in Rome, Italy.

Young in the Spirit was published in 2013 when I was closing in on one of those big decade birthdays (I was 60 in 2014-Yikes!). Big birthdays spark contemplation on where we came from, how we arrived at a particular point in time, and where we anticipate the future to bring us. One of the areas of contemplation for me was in regard to my faith—how it changed through the years and what I could offer the Church now. Those thoughts are at the heart of Young in the Spirit.

Hans Christian Andersen Illuminated by The Message was part of a series initiated by my publisher, Greg Pierce. The series offers a unique way to promote prayer by pairing Scripture verses with passages from classic writings. I chose Hans Christian Andersen in remembrance of my mother and her childhood book, a 1936 edition of Anderson’s Fairy Tales, the same book from which my mother read to me.

Navigating Alzheimer’s, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, and Inspired Caregiving was born from a need recognized by Pam Sebern, the director of a memory care home where my husband resided in his last years. Pam asked for books to help families understand dementia and better care for their loved ones while caring for themselves along the way. She felt that the books available at that time were too medical and needed a perspective from one who lived the experience. As my husband suffered from symptoms from Alzheimer’s disease for more than 15 years, and I was an author with substantial writing experience, Pam believed I could fulfill that need.

Navigating Alzheimer’s covers the basics of Alzheimer’s and ways in which we can work with our loved one. It offers family members and caregivers a clear overall of the changes they’re likely to notice. The Alzheimer’s Spouse also covers the basics of the disease but from the perspective of the spouse. Alzheimer’s touches every aspect of both spouses in devastating ways. Inspired Caregiving provides readers with a daily/weekly boost of inspiration. Each weekly reflection follows a rotation that includes a photo, prayer, thought, activity, stretch, affirmation, quote, and bit of humor to offer guidance, encouragement, improved self-talk, and maybe a smile. All three of these books are recommended by memory care facilities across the country.  

My next book, which currently is in publication, is less serious. I believe readers and I are in need of opportunities that promote peace, beauty, love, and inspiration. For this reason, my newest book, tentatively called The Gifts of Public Gardens, showcases vivid photos of nature that I have taken at public gardens paired with short, thoughtful poems. My intent is for readers to escape into the positive, wonderous gifts around us. I will keep you posted on when this book will be available.

If you’ve read any of my books, please post a review on Amazon. Readers rely on these comments to find books best suited to their needs.

Never Departed Monday, May 23 2022 

A beloved uncle of mine passed away this month. Uncle Walt was 81 years-old and suffered from a couple of health problems for decades. We would love to have had him longer, but his death was not completely unexpected. Therefore, his memorial was celebratory and honored him with some tears and lots of stories and laughter.

When someone suffers from illness, it’s not unusual to look at their death as a relief. We find a bit of comfort in knowing our loved one is no longer in pain, and for those who believe in heaven, that they are in a better, happier, and easier place from that point through eternity.

Yet even these expected deaths prompt deep pondering about our relationship with the deceased. We reminisce the good times. We also take note of our own passing in the unforeseen near or far future. It’s a wakeup call, a reminder, that no one lives forever. At some point, we too will cross to the other side. And no one knows when that time will come.

When I dream, I encounter friends and family who are both living and dead. These people typically are moving around in the same dream. I see some of them so often, I don’t miss them in this life as much. I’m comforted by their presence in my dreams and also my own death. It helps me to believe in the continuity of life, in one form or another.

Following is a free verse poem I wrote about my experience with such dreams.

*

Never Departed

Moving back and forth

between the living and the dead

friends and family,

past and present.

They’re all with me at the table

communicating when awake

and in my dreams,

sharing signs, words, and visions.

The ability to be together,

simultaneously

in this life and the next,

is comforting.

*

Photo: Hibiscus, Colon, MI, 8/2/21

*Take a look at my books: Grieving with Mary and Inspired Caregiving.

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.

Careful with the Crazy Talk Wednesday, Apr 20 2022 

We can be our worst enemy. Through our self-talk, we sabotage our confidence, stifle our ability to excel, and repeat negative thoughts that lead us into the dark.

When we dwell on our shortcomings and failures, we tend to exaggerate making things much worse than what they really are. Negative statements about ourselves and what we believe others think of us, only pull us down emotionally and prevent us from succeeding. We lead our own path to depression and anxiety and become sad and irritable.

Nor does such self-talk do anything to motivate us to work harder or strive higher. It’s healthy to honestly acknowledge where we can improve, but we should do it in ways that empower. For example, rather than dwelling on how we failed to deliver a clear message in a presentation, we can review the presentation, think about what we can change, and know that we will do better next time.

We also can repeat affirmations, words that affirm positivity. Such positive thinking is empowering. I prefer those that are peaceful, compassionate, and appreciative of the good around us.

Following are a few affirmations you might want to try. You can find more information on Healthline.

My voice matters, and I do make a difference.

My heart is open. I radiate love.

My life is a gift. I appreciate everything that I have.

***Jesus’ mother understands our pain. Learn how to pray with her in our times of need. Read, Grieving with Mary. Finding Comfort and Healing in Devotion to the Mother of God.

The Battle of the Bath Thursday, Apr 7 2022 

Getting a loved one with later stages of dementia into the shower is like setting them up for torture. They can put up quite a fight over things we commonly do. We need a hefty dose of patience and compassion to move our loved one through the process.

Bathing is a necessary, albeit challenging, component of Alzheimer’s care. Not only do the people around us appreciate cleanliness, bathing aides in the prevention of rashes, skin disease, and urinary tract infections. We can reduce frequency to three times a week because skin tends to thin with age and illness. However, hands, face, and private parts should be kept clean throughout each day.

The reasons people with Alzheimer’s detest bathing are many. 

  • They no longer understand why they need to bathe.
  • The concept of time is lost, so it can feel as if they just took a bath.
  • The cleansing process is confusing and forgotten.
  • People with dementia cannot regulate body temperate very well, which makes them feel cold.
  • The sensation of the water on their body is uncomfortable.
  • And they may be embarrassed about being naked and needing assistance.

Reasoning with someone with Alzheimer’s is not possible. An argument is sure to develop if we try to explain why a bath is necessary. But there are a few things that can be done to make it a little easier and safer for both the caregiver and bather.

  • If your loved one is emphatically resisting stepping into the shower, let it go for an hour or so. Our loved one may be more agreeable if we try again at a later time.
  • Engage them in a story, perhaps with a topic they still like to talk about or sing a song while you undress them and escort them into the shower.
  • Offer a treat, such as potato chips, a cookie, or ice cream as a reward once the shower is over.
  • Provide a safe shower with a hand-held shower head, safety bars, non-slip flooring, and a seat or bench.
  • Ensure that the room and the water temperature is comfortable.
  • Offer a washcloth, toy, or fidget item for them to hold.
  • Speak softly, respectfully, and directly to help move things along.

My recommendation for everything we do while caring for our loved one is to consider health and safety for both our loved one and ourselves. When that health or safety is compromised for either of us, it’s time to think about additional or different support. I know the challenges and 24/7 responsibilities you’re experiencing. I’ve been through it myself, and I hold you close in prayer.

**You’ll find many helpful hints in books written with you in mind: Navigating Alzheimer’s, The Alzheimer’s Spouse and Inspired Caregiving.

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