Alebrijes. Creatures of a Dream World Thursday, Jun 23 2022 

Question: What has clawed feet, fins, a tale made of fish, and fangs?

Answer: Alebrijes.

Think mythical creatures in brightly colored, seemingly random patterns. Alebrijes have characteristics of a mix of land, water, and air animals adorned in every color of the rainbow. And you can see examples of these playful sculptures at Cantigny Park in Wheaton, Illinois now through October of this year.

The exhibit features 48 unique sculptures. Wander through the park and you’ll find the alebrijes scattered through the lush gardens. The kids will enjoy spotting the creatures and checking them off on a photo sheet they can pick up in the information center.

The folk-art sculptures originated in 1943 when Mexican artist Pedro Linares fell seriously ill. He dreamed of a forest of unusual animals-a donkey with butterfly wings, rooster with bull horns, and lion with an eagle head. The animals repeatedly shouted Alebrijes! Alebrijes Alebrijes!

When Linares recovered from his illness, he began creating the creatures he saw in his dream with strips of paper and glue made from wheat flour and water. The sculptures became popular when artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo were drawn to their creativity and vivid beauty.

Some of Linares’ designs were later carved from a local wood called copal, which is thought to be magical. The name “alebrijes” now applies to sculptures of this type made from both paper-mâché and wood. Unfortunately, demand for the wood carvings have resulted in a depletion of the copal trees.

The Cantigny Park alabrijes creations begin with a design on paper by one of 6 artists from Mexico City. If accepted, the creature is made in miniature. Then it is painstakingly replicated in full.

Parallels have been made between alabrijes and historically recognized supernatural creatures from Mexico’s indigenous and European past such as dragons, gargoyles, and judas-red cardboard demons burned in Mexico during Holy Week as a purification ritual. Monster alebrijes are believed to protect homes by scaring away evil spirits.

The art exhibit, “Alebrijes: Creatures of a Dream World,” is presented in partnership with the Mexican Cultural Center of Dupage, City of West Chicago, and DuPage Convention & Visitors Bureau. See the Cantigny Park website for more information.

** When you are your loved one’s full-time caregiver, don’t feel guilty for stepping away. If you don’t care for yourself, you won’t be able to care for them. Inspired Caregiving. Weekly Morale Builders

Do You Want Peace? Thursday, May 12 2022 

If you had the power to bring peace and justice to absolutely everywhere in the world, would you use that power? Would you at least make an attempt to promote peace?

Well, you do have such power, and it isn’t very complicated. More than 100 years ago, the Virgin Mary gave us a peace plan that she promised would work. And she provided clear instructions for us to follow.

Over the course of six months from May 13 to October 13, 1917, Mary appeared to three shepherd children, Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta in Fatima, Portugal. The plan is simple but does take some effort on our part. Basically, it is to build a relationship with Mary’s son, Jesus. If Jesus is our first thought before we act, we would be kinder, gentler, and loving. The more of us who do this, the more peaceful our world becomes.

One way in which to grow closer to Jesus is to pray the rosary daily. Throughout the rosary, we meditate on the life, works, and death of Christ. The repetition of prayers is calming, which allows us to think clearly. We end feeling more relaxed and positive.

Mary warned that if we did not strive for peace, an already greedy, angry, and selfish world would become worse. At that time, World War I was in progress. Undoubtedly, we did not heed the warning. We know that a greater war did in fact occur, and we have continued with conflicts ever since then.

At the time of the apparitions, Lucia was 10 years old, Francisco was 9, and Jacinta was 7. The Fatima children were quite young yet followed Mary’s instructions to the very best of their abilities. If they could do it, so can we.

For more information on Mary’s peace plan, see my booklet, Fatima Today, available for only 99 cents from ACTA Publications. To learn how to pray the rosary or understand it better, see my book, The Rosary Prayer by Prayer.

Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem Tuesday, Mar 15 2022 

While pilgrimaging in Israel and Italy in 2019, I followed the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, a processional route symbolizing the actual path Jesus walked to Calvary. Catholic churches typically display images of this path around the church so parishioners may walk and pray while meditating on Jesus’ Passion. I’ve walked this many times in churches, and it’s always meaningful. However, it’s nothing like walking the actual path in Jerusalem.

Following are photos from my pilgrimage in regard to the Stations of the Cross. When looking at the tree with thorns, notice how long those terrifying spikes are and remember that they were formed into a wreath and pressed into Jesus’ skull.

+ + +

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

  1. Jesus is Condemned to Death
(Site Where Jesus Was Condemned to Death. Jerusalem)
(Thorns as Used in Jesus’ Crown, Jerusalem)

2. Jesus Carries His Cross

(Via Dolorosa. The Path Jesus Walked to His Crucifixion)

3. Jesus Falls the First Time.

(Location Where Jesus Fell the First Time. Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem)

4. Jesus Meets his Mother Mary

(Location of the Fourth Station of the Cross, Where Jesus Met His Mother. Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem)

5. Simon Helps Jesus

(Site Where Simon Helped Jesus Carry His Cross. Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem)

6. Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

(A Woman Wiped Jesus’ Blood and Sweat from His Face. Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem)

7. Jesus Falls the Second Time

(Jesus Fell a Second Time on This Site. Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem)

8. Jesus Comforts the Women of Jerusalem

(Jesus Comforted the Women on His Way to the Cross. Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem)

9. Jesus Falls the Third Time

(Jesus Fell Three Times. Image in the Church of Condemnation. Jerusalem)

10. Jesus is Stripped of His Garments

(Before Jesus Was Crucified, He Was Stripped of His Garments. Jerusalem)

11. Jesus is Nailed to the Cross

(Jesus Was Nailed to a Cross. Jerusalem)

12. Jesus Dies on the Cross

(Alter Over Site of Jesus’ Crucifixion. Jerusalem)

13. Jesus is Taken Down form the Cross

(Pieta, Vatican, Italy)

14. Jesus is Buried

(Stone of Anointing Where Jesus’ Body Was Prepared for Burial. Jerusalem)

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Meditate on Christ’s Passion with the book, The Rosary Prayer by Prayer, available from Amazon and ACTA Publications.

Mary’s Peace Plan is Today’s Peace Plan Friday, Feb 25 2022 

Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine has everyone on edge. Putin’s been taunting the country for weeks reminding the people of previous days of terror. His unpredictability and bullying make us wonder how far he will go. Could the invasion of one small country lead to an all-out world war?

We can’t turn our backs on the Ukraine, or anywhere else. From a selfish standpoint, what effects one, effects all, in one way or another. In addition, we know the Ukrainian people. In this technologically, interconnected world, we know people across the globe through online chatting, news coverage, and business dealings. We may even be neighbors, coworkers, or related to them.

The Virgin Mary says there is a way to prevent war. World peace is possible, and Mary explained how it could be achieved. She clearly spelled out a plan in 1917 in Fatima, Portugal through a series of apparitions to three young shepherd children: ten-year-old Lucia dos Santos, nine-year old Francisco Marto, and seven-year-old Jacinta Marto.

Mary’s peace plan consists of specific instructions, but overall, her point was to pray, and to pray unceasingly. In particular, she instructed to pray the rosary every day.

“The rosary is a path to peace because it promotes peace within us, and that peace reflects on everyone we encounter. The rhythmic sequence of prayers is very calming and allows us to meditate more fully on the life of Jesus. It draws us closer to Christ because it is Christ-centered. And where Christ is, there is peace.” (Excerpt from Fatima at 100. Fatima Today)

At that time, the world was at war (WWI), and Mary warned that if we didn’t change our ways, a greater war would result. We know, in fact, that a greater war (WWII) did occur resulting in the loss of more lives and destruction.

Mary’s peace plan is as important today as ever. We don’t have to sit by and watch the pain and destruction across the globe while hopelessly ringing our hands. We can take action in a real way, because prayer works.

We can pray in our own way or pick up those rosary beads. Praying the rosary only takes about 15-20 minutes. Isn’t that investment of your time worth personal and world peace?

*For more information on how to pray the rosary, read The Rosary Prayer by Prayer available from Amazon.comACTA Publications, and my website. 

Bison or Buffalo? Tuesday, Oct 19 2021 

Biscuit or cookies? Bison or Buffalo? The meaning of words can change over time in ways that hardly resemble what they originally signified.

What the British call “biscuits,” we call cookies or crackers, depending on whether the pastry is sweet or savory. And then we apply that word, biscuit, to a fluffy little bread instead of a twice baked or dried flat item, as it originally meant.

We created a similar misnomer with our buffalo. We’ve called bison buffalo for so many centuries it’s now acceptable to use either bison or (American) buffalo, even though they are entirely different animals. The difference would be as if we called a goat a lamb.

Both bison and buffalo belong to the family Bovidae but are not closely related. Prior to the arrival of Europeans in North America, buffalo only referred to Cape buffalo and water buffalo, which are native to Africa and Asia. Bison are found in North America and Europe.

Bison, or American buffalo, have humps at their shoulders and bigger heads than true buffalo, beards, and thick coats which are shed in the spring and early summer. Bison and buffalo can also be identified by their horns. Bison horns are sharp and short. Buffalo horns are much larger. Cape buffalo have horns that resemble handlebar mustaches, and water buffalo’s horns are large, long, and curved in a crescent.

According to the Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation biology institute, European explorers are likely to be responsible for the name confusion. It may have evolved from the French word boeuf, which means beef, or because bison hides resembled the buff coats worn by the military at that time.

There are variances between the different types of bison, as well. The European wood bison are larger. American bison are slightly hairier, heavier, and shorter. Their horns also are different. European bison horns point forward allowing them to interlock horns while American bison’s structure promotes charging. In addition, American bison are easier to tame and breed.

Bison are grazers that primarily eat grasses in addition to some flowering plants, lichen, and plant leaves. Snow can sit on their shaggy coats without melting. Bison weigh up to 2,400 pounds and stand about six feet tall at the shoulder. They grunt, snort, and bellow and may act aggressively when threatened. Bison charge and butt heads with other bulls but do not fight to the death. They have excellent senses of hearing and smell but poor vision. Bison typically live up to 15 years in the wild and as long as 25 years in captivity, if not subject to wolf predation.

At around three years of age, males leave their maternal herd and either live alone or with other males until mating season, which occurs from July through September. At that time, dominant bulls may maintain a small group of females to mate. They bellow and roar when they want to get a female’s attention. They also will chase any rival bulls away. Cleverly, bulls shield the cows’ vision with their body so they can’t see other males and be tempted to stray.

After the first few weeks of the season, subordinate bulls may be allowed to mate with the remaining cows that haven’t yet mated. More males than females have been observed to display homosexual behaviors.

Gestation period lasts 285 days. Bison calves are lighter in color than their parents for their first two months. Calves are nursed for at least 7 to 8 months or until the cow is pregnant again. By the age of three, bison cows are mature enough to produce a calf of their own. Males do not assist in raising the young.

The Sioux consider the rare birth of a white buffalo to be spiritually significant. It indicates the return of White Buffalo Calf Woman, a cultural prophet and the bringer of their Seven Sacred Rites.

When indigenous people arrived 27,000 years ago, they relied on bison for food, clothing, shelter, and even their spiritual practices. Every part of the animal was utilized and meaningful for the survival of the people.

By 9000 BC, bison roamed rich grassland from Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico and on the east coast from New York to Georgia. The area is described as the great bison belt. It’s estimated that the bison population exceeded 60 million in the late 18th century.

But by the 1800s, herds were nearly eliminated. Bison were hunted for sport. Passengers were known to shoot at the animals from trains. Bovine diseases from domestic cattle also played a part in their deaths. However, most of the lost bison were slaughtered by the U.S. government in an organized effort to destroy the livelihood of the Plains Indians. Only 541 bison remained in 1889.

Recovery efforts began in the mid-20th century. However, a major problem facing herds today is their lack of genetic diversity because that diversity was destroyed with the elimination of earlier bison.

Wild herds now roam in a handful of national parks and reserves in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Russia. They also are raised on ranches for commercial purposes such as meat, dairy, hides, and skulls. Bison meat tastes similar to beef but is lower in fat and cholesterol. It’s also higher in protein.

Recovery by private groups include the Inter-Tribal Bison Council which was formed in 1990. This group is composed of 56 tribes in 19 states that have established herds on tribal land.

Caution when photographing or viewing bison should be observed, as with all wild animals. Bison will attack if provoked. They may appear slow because of their weight and nonchalant grazing and lounging but they’re actually much quicker than humans and quite agile. They can jump high fences, swim, run as fast as 40 mph, and can stampede if in a herd. In North American national parks, more people were injured by bison than bears during the period between 1980 to 1999.

*Photos of bison were taken on the Oneida Nation reservation, Oneida, Wisconsin

*Do you know that October is the noted as the month of the Rosary?

Luck and Faith of the Shamrock Monday, Mar 15 2021 

Oh The Shamrock

Through Erin’s Isle,
To sport awhile,
As Love and Valor wander’d
With Wit, the sprite,
Whose quiver bright
A thousand arrows squander’d.
Where’er they pass,
A triple grass
Shoots up, with dew-drops streaming,
As softly green
As emeralds seen
Through purest crystal gleaming.
Oh the Shamrock, the green immortal Shamrock!
Chosen leaf
Of Bard and Chief,
Old Erin’s native Shamrock!

  -Thomas Moore

See a shamrock, think of Ireland. The most iconic symbol of the Emerald Isle since the 18th century, shamrocks are used in emblems of state organizations, clubs, flags, and companies such as Aer Lingus airline. It’s even a registered trademark of the Government of Ireland.

The word shamrock comes from the Gaelic Seamrog, meaning little clover. Clover is commonly referred to as any number of plants belonging to the genus Trifolium in reference to their three leaves. Most botanists agree that the white clover is the original shamrock of Irish heritage. However, white, red, and hop clovers, and the clover-like black medick, are often used as shamrocks, all of which are members of the pea family. The sprigs are believed to have been consumed by the Irish people in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The four-leaf clover is a mutation rarely found in nature, which lends itself to the universal connotation of being lucky. The plant, oxalis deppei with its four leaflets is widely sold as shamrocks, but in reality, it is not clover.

The plant’s religious connotation has ancient roots. Celtic holy men, known as Druids, believed the clover to be powerful against evil spirits, and the number three found in clover to be mystical. Surrounded in legend, Eve is said to have carried a four-leaf clover out from the Garden of Eden. Most notably is St. Patrick’s use of the shamrock to explain the teaching of the Holy Trinity—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three persons in one God.

The three leaflets of the shamrock also represent faith, hope, and love. When a fourth smaller one is present, it represents luck due to its rarity.

Today, clover is considered a nuisance when it pops up in our lawns but once was included in lawn seed mixes. Until the 1950s, clover was considered a beneficial addition to the overall look and feel of a lawn as it is inexpensive and maintenance-free. Clover is easy to mow, fills in thin spots, tolerates compacted soil better than grass, doesn’t require fertilizing as it captures nitrogen from the air, and attracts honeybees. It is also soft to walk on.

Erin go bragh! (Ireland forever)

Do You Believe in Leprechauns?

* Take a dose of self-care with my newest book, Inspired Caregiving. Weekly Moral Builders.

Healing, Hope, and Recovery Monday, Jan 18 2021 

Joe Biden certainly has his challenges ahead. According to his website, our 46th president of the United States’ lofty ambitions include the battle to control the COVID-19 virus, build prosperity, secure family health care, achieve racial justice, save the climate, and restore decency, defend democracy, and give everybody a fair shot. The wisdom of his age and extensive service to our country as senator and vice president along with his happy disposition and ability to build friendships on both sides of the aisle as a moderate Democrat brings hope to a country in crisis. He’s also a devoted family man with an intelligent, educator wife, Jill, who will be our First Lady.

Biden’s strength and character are built on his foundation of (Catholic) faith and conquering life challenges and heartache. A courageous and humble man, he is quick to acknowledge his political failures and rectify them. His personal struggles, including a stuttering disorder and the sudden losses of his first wife and baby has made him stronger and more compassionate.

Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. was born on November 20, 1942 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He played football and baseball in high school and was class president both his junior and senior year. He also played football his freshman year of college. Education didn’t come easy to Biden. He struggled and persevered through his studies receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Delaware and a law degree from Syracuse University.

Biden practiced law as a public defender and then at a firm before being elected senator of Delaware at the age of 29 in 1973. He was reelected to that position six times. He then served as vice president during the Obama administration from 2009 to 2017.

For our country to fully and more quickly recover, all of our support is needed. Joe Biden is inheriting a country in the midst of a pandemic that has taken more than 400,000 American lives and an economic crisis with an unemployment rate that has doubled since March, 2019. In addition, we have a deteriorating infrastructure, wage stagnation, drastic income inequality, and tremendous national debt. Biden must also strive to remove all of the walls–the border wall, the need for a wall around our capitol building to protect our governing body and democracy, and walls between family and friends divided due to political division.

For the peace and prosperity of our country, whatever your political affiliation, please pray for God to bless Joe Biden and the United States of America.

***

Have you read “American Novena” on my other blog? Check out my latest book, Inspired Caregiving. Weekly Morale Builders.

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?

Wish Big on This Bright Star Friday, Dec 18 2020 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PS

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

***

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

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

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

(Stock Image)

Thanksgiving Mussels Monday, Nov 23 2020 

The aroma of turkey roasting in the oven along with stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie lures us to the kitchen every Thanksgiving. However, this traditional meal has evolved since the first historic dinner. According to the pilgrim writer, Edward Winslow, crustaceans and mollusks were an important part of that first feast.

Europeans ventured through North America and established settlements since the 1500s. Friendly and hostile interaction with indigenous people occurred from the beginning. The holiday we celebrate today goes back to an event between the English setters who landed in Plymouth in 1620 and wanted to give thanks sometime in the fall of 1621 for their first abundant harvest and the assistance of their neighbors.

The little documentation we have tells of a three-day celebration between 90 Wampanoag indigenous people and about 50 English settlers. The food was prepared by the only four women (Eleanor Billington, Elizabeth Hopkins, Mary Brewster, and Susanna White) who survived the Mayflower voyage and first year in the New World. Young daughters and male and female servants likely assisted the women.

In addition to crustaceans, mollusks, and fish, one account states that the settlers hunted for fowl for the celebration. They returned with turkeys, venison, ducks, geese, and swans. Herbs, onions, and nuts were added to the meat before roasting.

Local vegetables likely included onions, beans, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, and carrots. Corn was ground, boiled, and pounded into a thick porridge that may have been sweetened with molasses. Neither white nor sweet potatoes were yet available in the area.

Fruits indigenous to the region included blueberries, plums, grapes, gooseberries, raspberries, and cranberries. The pilgrim’s sugar supply was depleted by then, so no sugared cranberry sauce reached their table that year.

The settlers also lacked butter and wheat flour to make pie crust. That prevented pie or bread stuffing from being on the menu. Nor did they have ovens for baking. Some accounts do say that early English settlers in North America roasted pumpkins by filling the shells with milk, honey, and spices and baked the pumpkins in hot ashes.

Although the holiday did, and continues to center on food, the occasion was to show gratitude. This year has been a tough one for so many, but we likely have things to be thankful for, none-the-less. It’s a good idea to take a few moments this week to recognize our gifts and give thanks.

***

Looking for gift ideas for caregivers? How about the uplifting book, Inspired Caregiving, or The Alzheimer’s Spouse, or Navigating Alzheimer’s?

Do you know there’s a New Blood Test for Alzheimer’s Disease?

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