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.  

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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

What to Do in Quarantine Thursday, Mar 12 2020 

Remember all those days you asked for things to slow down? Well, your request has been granted. The world is currently on hold.      

With the Coronavirus/COVID-19 taunting us, we are advised to avoid social gatherings, wash our hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, and be particularly careful if we are more than 60 years old and/or have chronic health conditions such as heart and lung disease and diabetes.

So, what to do if we are laying low? We are busy, social people and are used to being on the go. Switching gears to a slower pace takes some adjustment.

Here’s our opportunity to catch up on our long list of things we’ve been putting off. Following are some suggestions:

  • Deep clean the house.
  • Enjoy our homes that cost so much to live in.
  • Pray.
  • Play board games with the family.
  • Bake.
  • Practice our musical instruments such as piano, guitar.
  • Clear out the DVR. Watch all those recordings we wanted to capture.
  • File income tax.
  • Complete the census survey.
  • Work on crafts such as scrapbooking, sewing, wood cutting, flower arrangements, etc.
  • Organize the garage.
  • Clean out closets.
  • Paint a room.
  • Sort through our collections such as coins, model cars, and memorabilia.
  • Work on a household budget.
  • Video chat with loved ones.
  • Write notes to elderly homebound.
  • Journal feelings.
  • Meditate.
  • Organize photos. 
  • Exercise-walk, practice yoga, get on the bike.
  • Wash the car.
  • Read through that stack of books and magazines.

Most of all, try to be loving and supportive. We’re all feeling the stress, and a little love can go a long way. And, hang in there, my friends. This too shall pass.

***

Have you seen my last post on Mary K Doyle Books, “One Year Later?”

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**Update on my presentation schedule: Due to COVID-19, presentations are postponed until this summer or later.

Dreaming of the Dead Monday, Jan 27 2020 

The theory is that we can learn much about ourselves by analyzing our dreams. And although there are many suggestions as to what images mean, only we can know the true significance. What can be a terrifying symbol to one person can be reassuring to another.

Recurring dreams and topics are common. I often dream of babies. People give me their babies to hold, rock, feed, care for.

I also dream of the dead. I believe the “dreams” offer important messages from loved ones who have passed away. Sometimes, souls simply show up to say “Hello.” They are often smiling or even laughing, and I’m reassured to see them this way.

Lately, some of my dreams have a different twist. The dead truly are just that. In every appearance friends and relatives who are no longer physically walking this earth are dead in the dream. They tredge zombie-like, or not at all. They do not speak or react.

As I’ve written about in other posts, my husband, Marshall, passed away last March. I also speak and write about a fatal illness, hear stories of those who have the disease and are fading from this life, and learn of residents in memory care homes who are no longer with us. Perhaps, all of these factors contribute to my morbid dreams.

Or mayber there’s a deaper meaning. A typical interpretation of death is change, rebirth, or the need to get rid of dead weight. There have been many changes in my life over the past year, so perhaps this is the gist of these nigh visions.

Here are some of my latest ones.

  • I was walking up and down stairways in apartment buildings with Marshall. Dead Marshall. He walked but was silent, grey, and stumbled along. I had to guide and hold him up. – I believe I understand the significance of this dream as it occurred during a time I was considering a permanent home for his remains and where I would eventually join him.
  • I sat at a dinner table with the living and the dead, many dead. Most I recognized, and those who were deceased in my dream truly are gone. I was disturbed because when I’ve dreamed of them in the past, they looked alive and spoke to me but did not on this occasion.
  • In this dream, everyone was “alive.” My family was in a large home that was under massive renovation and we were selling. My parents, who passed away 20 years ago were there, and my cousin, Cathy, who also is deceased, walked in with another cousin. Cathy was beautiful, happy, and it was wonderful to see her.
  • My mother suggested that I drive her turquoise car around the corner to go to school. After class, I returned to the parking lot to discover that her car was missing. I was so upset that I borrowed her car when I could have walked and now it was gone. But my mother didn’t care at all since she never used it. In fact, my mother never did drive when she was alive. — Maybe my mother is encouraging me to get rid of more things that no longer have a use.

If you like analyzing dreams, I’m interested in your thoughts. What do you think they indicate, and what are some of your recurring dreams? I’d love to hear from you.

***

Did you see my last post on my other blog, Sacred Water?

You can see all my posts, random thoughts, and presentation dates on my author Facebook page.

Looking Behind to Look Ahead Monday, Dec 30 2019 

Last year my resolution was to be healthy. I ended up in the hospital right off the bat the second week of January. So, I hesitate to try this resolution thing again.

Statistics say that about half of all adults make New Year’s resolutions. The new year, and new decade, offers us an opportunity to assess where we are and where we want to go, as well as the person we want to be. However, fewer than 10% keep these goals for more than a few months.

The most common resolutions in 2019 were to diet, exercise, lose weight, and save money. Most said that keeping those resolutions, especially in relation to dieting, were difficult to keep.

Psychologists note that the best way to honor a resolution is to make a realistic goal. A small step is more likely to be reached than aiming far beyond what is possible. Their guideline is to be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.

2019 certainly was not the most difficult year I’ve ever experienced, but it certainly was intense. After 15 years of watching Alzheimer’s disease devour my husband, Marshall, he passed away in March. Although still greatly saddened by what was robbed from us, I’m at peace holding on to the love he showed me and my children and knowing that he is playing tricks in heaven with way too many other loved ones. This year alone, another dozen friends and family members in addition to Marshall crossed the threshold into eternal life.

No matter how difficult or sad life can be, it also offers us occasions to celebrate. 2019 was no different. I attended three joyful weddings, including Disney’s Rapunzel and Flint at Blackberry Farm, and a 50th and a 40th wedding anniversary.

Work was fabulous. I had the privilege of meeting with other family members dealing with Alzheimer’s disease through 19 presentations across the country. In addition, my 10th book, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, was published, and is selling phenomenally well.

Updating on my townhouse continued, and I’m loving living here. Thanks to my son, Joe, the laundry room and guest bathroom had complete makeovers; stairway railings, powder room cabinets, my bedroom and bedroom furniture, and guest bedroom were painted; and major work was done on my garage.

Frequent Flyer miles built up this year, and the travel wasn’t only for business. My daughter, Lisa, and I went on a memorable pilgrimage with her church. We traveled through Israel and Italy sparking our faith to new heights.

And our timing was perfect. Soon after our return, Israel saw some unrest and Venice flooded. The places and people challenged by these troubles touch our hearts so much more now since connecting with them. We hold all of them close in prayer.

My personal life also took an unexpected turn when a friend become more than a friend this year. Paul and I met when our spouses resided in the same memory care home. We supported each other through some of the agony Alzheimer’s presents spouses and are now enjoying making new, loving memories together.

I can’t imagine the new year will have as many changes as this past one. All I know is that it’s ending significantly happier and more peacefully than it began. And that is my goal, rather than resolution, for 2020 and beyond.

Here’s to a peaceful, happy 2020!

***

Please join me at my next presentations in New Jersey:

Tuesday, January 21, 2020, “The Alzheimer’s Spouse,” 5:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Registration and Dinner, 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Seminar, Arden Courts of West Orange, 510 Prospect Avenue, West Orange, NJ  07052, 973.736.3100

Wednesday, January 22, 2020, “Navigating Alzheimer’s as the Family Caregiver, 5:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Registration, 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Seminar
Arden Courts of Whippany, 18 Eden Lane, Whippany, NJ 07981, 973.581.1800

Thursday, January 23, 2020, “Navigating Alzheimer’s as the Family Caregiver,” 5:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Registration, 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Seminar, Arden Courts of Wayne, 800 Hamburg Turnpike, Wayne, NJ  07470, 973.942.5600

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