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?

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.

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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.

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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!

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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

Singing the Holiday Blues Monday, Dec 2 2019 

I thought it would be easier this year. Yes, my husband, Marshall, only passed away less than nine months ago, but this was my fifth year without him at Thanksgiving dinner, and I am at peace knowing that Alzheimer’s has released him into the hands of the Lord. Yet, at the end of Thanksgiving Day, I was still depressed.

As my friend, David, who just lost his wife to Alzheimer’s, said to me, no matter how we fill our days, the evenings are sad and lonely. I’ve noticed that the last few years have been like that. I’m more depressed after being with loved ones and returning home.

Keeping busy and social are important elements in preventing getting stuck in the muck of holiday depression. We need to do things that bring us joy. And at the end of the day, especially the most difficult ones, ease the loneliness with uplifting music, movies/tv/reading, and friends.

I’m fortunate to have people who help me through. My friend, Paul, insisted on coming over on Friday to watch a silly Christmas movie. He knew a cure for loss was company and humor. And then, my son and his girlfriend visited yesterday.

Remember, that although missing our loved ones, especially around the holidays never fully disappears, it does get easier. As my psychologist friend, Sue, says, it becomes a different kind of, more bearable mourning. My mother passed away in 1999, and I especially long for her while baking during the holidays. It’s not the heart-wrenching type of pain of the past, but more like a missing part of the puzzle of tradition and a gratitude for having those experiences at all.

May all your memories of passed loved ones bring a smile to your face and a warmth to your heart this holiday season.

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If you’re in the area, please join me for my last presentation of the year. “The Alzheimer’s Spouse,” will be from 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 5, 2019 at The Inter-Faith Chapel at Leisure World, 3680 S. Leisure World Boulevard, Silver Spring, MD 20906. For reservations, please call Julie Boone Roth, 301.847.3051.

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The Alzheimer’s Spouse is available from Amazon.com and ACTA Publications.comNavigating Alzheimer’s is also available from Amazon and ACTA.

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Do you follow my other blog, Midwest Mary, or my author Facebook page?

Junk Food Junkies Wednesday, Sep 18 2019 

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Skip the meals and go straight to the munchies. Granola bars, cookies, nuts, potato chips, popcorn, candy, pretzels, ice cream. We’re a snacking society. Not only do we snack all day and night, main meals are often replaced with snacks as well. All these goodies can add up to significantly more calories if we don’t choose our foods wisely.

We make more than 200 decisions about food each day, and most are made unconsciously. Rarely do we choose to eat because we are hungry. Instead, we’re prompted by outer influences—stress, a clock that says that it is meal time, boredom, or a reward.

And we eat more when distracted watching TV, listening to music, playing a game, reading, or worse, the food is just present. Studies show that if offered an unlimited amount of food, particularly when empty plates are continuously cleared away, we will eat 73% more than we would otherwise. Who doesn’t eat at work simply because the food is in front of us? It may not even be items we particularly care for, but there it is, so we fill a plate and mindlessly munch while working.

We can consume fewer calories if we use smaller plates, select from smaller containers, decrease the variety of choices on hand so we don’t sample all that is out, don’t buy in bulk, choose healthy foods only, and keep higher calorie ones in areas that are difficult to retrieve, or better yet, not bring them into the home or office. Although all foods contain calories, choosing grapes, almonds, carrots, cheddar cheese, and dark chocolate offer significantly more nutritional value than potato chips, gummy worms, and crackers.

We also should avoid late-night snacks. Although that is when we are more likely to be drawn to high-calorie foods, studies find that food isn’t as satisfying at night. We can end up eating more and choosing foods that are the least healthy.

We’ll also eat less if we eat slowly. Since we’re influenced by the people we eat with, dining with a slower eater can help us slow down. Taking at least 20-30 minutes to finish a meal allows our body to release hormones that promote feelings of fullness.

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Have you read Walking Away from Alzheimer’s Disease on my other blog?

I’d love it if you’d join our conversations on my Facebook page?

Bring in the Dogs Wednesday, Jul 24 2019 

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Flight delayed? Bradley International Airport in Hartford, Connecticut has a remedy to keep everyone calm—pets to the rescue.

While waiting in BDL for a flight home that ended up delayed more than six hours, handlers and their therapy dogs remained available for petting. I definitely can attest to the positive affect the Australian Shepherds had on the initially irritated crowd. Grunts and groans quickly transformed into oohs and ahs once the dogs appeared. The animals’ mere presence was helpful, and after a few strokes of their luxurious coats, travelers magically became significantly calmer. Smiles blossomed across the gates between travelers and the staff working diligently to accommodate everyone.

Pet Therapy, also known as Animal Assisted Therapy, involves a handler and an animal trained to assist people with physical and emotional issues. The therapy is found to help lower blood pressure, release endorphins, alleviate pain, reduce stress, improve motor skills and joint movement, and improve verbal and social skills. Dogs and cats are the most common animals used as “therapists,” but fish, guinea pigs, horses, and even dolphins are trained.

The only drawbacks to pet therapy may occur when people are allergic to animal dander or sanitary issues arise. Pets also may be at risk from unintentional harm from people.

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Have you seen my last post on Mary K Doyle Books, “Speak to Me?” 

On the Healthy, Sunny Side of Life Monday, Jul 8 2019 

IMG_2025Sunshine isn’t a guarantee in the Chicago area. Most of the year is overcast. When skies are clear, it’s like Christmas here. Residents are deliriously happy and out and about soaking in that rare commodity which is so good for our emotional and physical well-being.

Recent studies suggest that a substantial percentage of the global population is deficient in vitamin D. We need sun exposure on bare skin for 5-10 minutes 2-3 times per week to obtain enough sunlight to produce the necessary amount of vitamin D, which is difficult to achieve in many areas. The lack of sunshine, in addition to high pollution and the use of sunscreen which interfere or prevent absorption, are the main reasons.

Deficiency can be avoided by consuming eggs, fish (especially herring, mackerel, salmon, trout, swordfish, and tuna), fish liver oil, and chicken in addition to fortified foods such as cereals, dairy products, and orange juice. There also are an array of capsules and pills on the market from which to choose from, although there is a great variation of product quality to be aware of.

Vitamin D is actually not a vitamin. It’s considered a pro-hormone. Unlike vitamins, which are nutrients that cannot be created by the body, vitamin D can be synthesized when sunlight hits our skin. But vitamin D breaks down quickly making it difficult to attain and retain enough of it especially in winter.

Sunlight is vital to our health for many reasons. Without it, we may experience fatigue, an increase in aches and pains, severe bone or muscle pain, stress fractures, and a waddling gait in addition to asthma in children. The vitamin regulates calcium and phosphorus and helps to maintain proper bone structure.

Research suggests that vitamin D supports lung function and may play a role in the prevention of type 1 and 2 diabetes; hypertension; multiple sclerosis; heart disease; colon, prostate, and breast cancers; rickets; osteoporosis and bone fractures; rheumatoid arthritis; and swine flu in addition to treating plaque-type psoriasis. It also helps to reduce depression, anxiety, and fibromyalgia symptoms, as well as improve cognitive function.

The recommended intake of vitamin D is about 400 IU but does vary by age. Senior adults are sometimes advised to take double that amount. However, don’t go overboard with this or any vitamin. Excessive consumption of D, called D hypervitaminosis, can lead to calcification of bones and hardening of blood vessels, kidney, lungs, and heart. The most common symptoms of over intake are headache, nausea, dry mouth, a metallic taste, vomiting, constipation, and diarrhea.

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Do you follow my other blog: Mary K Doyle Books?

Would you like to attend my next presentation? It’s free of charge. I’ll be presenting on “The Alzheimer’s Spouse” on 7/16/19, at Arden Courts of Avon, CT and 7/17/19 at Arden Courts of Farmington, CT. If you are in the area, I’d love to see you there. Together, we can find solutions to some of your concerns.

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