What Child is This? Tuesday, Dec 20 2022 

Do you know this baby’s name? Most of you will recognize this ornament as a representation of Jesus, even though it’s unlikely that Jesus looked like this. (Jesus was of Middle Eastern descent and hid with his family in the African country of Egypt. He was probably darker complected with dark hair and had Middle Eastern features.)

Amazingly, we only require a hint to grasp the meaning of an image. And we have many that represent Jesus and Christianity. A star in the sky reminds us of the star of Bethlehem that led shepherds and kings to the newborn Christ child, the anointed one. See a cross and we contemplate the great sacrifice–Jesus’ offering of himself for our eternal salvation. Spot a simple fish symbol on a bumper sticker, and we know that driver is probably a believer in Jesus and professes to walk the talk of Christianity.  

In this season of hope, we have so many generally recognizable symbols in addition to those that are faith based. From evergreen trees, especially those in the spruce family, that trigger our thoughts to Christmas trees to reindeer reminding us of Santa’s sleigh, holiday cheer is everywhere.

May our holidays be rich in meaningful symbols, loving memories of the people who cared and supported us to this point, and enjoyable moments of sharing, giving, and humbly receiving. And may we all know peace in 2023.

***The holidays add extra burdens in managing loved ones with dementia. Reach out to your caregiver friends and relatives with an extra hug, note or text, or a plate of healthy food this season. They need more than you’ll ever realize. For more ways to help, see my books, Inspired Caregiving, Navigating Alzheimer’s, and The Alzheimer’s Spouse.

If you’ve read any of my books, I’d be honored if you wrote a short review on Amazon.

Turkey Truths Tuesday, Nov 22 2022 

The popularity of turkeys in North America came about in an interesting way. Turkeys are thought to have been domesticated more than 2,000 years ago in Pre-Columbian Mexico. In fact, turkey fossils found in southern United States and Mexico date back more than 5 million years.

During the 1500s, European explorers captured turkeys on our continent, brought them to Europe, and then later brought them back to North America in the 17th century. If you think about it, turkeys could have walked their way up north faster than journeying back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean to get here!

Following are a few turkey facts. Much of this data was gathered from the Farmer’s Almanac website. This site is an excellent resource for an array of fascinating articles on animal and plant life. You might want to check them out.

 

  • Male turkeys are called toms
  • Female turkeys are called hens.
  • Baby turkeys are called poults.
  • Male turkeys gobble to attract hens.
  • Females do not gobble. They make a clicking noise
  • Turkey eggs have an incubation period of 28 days.
  • Wild turkeys can be aggressive toward humans and pets in attempt to show pecking order.
  • Wild turkeys eat seeds, nuts, insects, and berries.
  • A wild turkey lives from three to four years. A domestic turkey lives about 26 weeks.
  • The bright red, loose skin on a turkey’s neck is called a wattle.
  • A group of wild turkeys is called a flock. A group of domesticated turkeys is called a rafter or gang.
  • Mature turkeys have approximately 3,500 feathers.
  • Turkeys are cable of making more than 20 distinct vocalizations.
  • Domesticated turkeys cannot fly, but wild turkeys can fly for short distances.
  • The bird’s gizzard helps break down food and other objects such as stones.
  • 46 million turkeys are sold for Thanksgiving
  • The ratio of white to dark meat on a turkey is typically 70 to 30.
  • The average person in the U. S. eats about 15 pounds of turkey in a year.

**Jesus’ mother Mary was an extraordinary woman who understands our human pain. If you ask, she will pray your prayers with you and guide you closer to her son. See the books Grieving with Mary, The Rosary Prayer by Prayer, and Fatima at 100. Fatima Today.

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.

Tulip Timing is Everything Thursday, May 5 2022 

Have you ever experienced a time when everything you did turned out perfectly? You set out for an adventure, and with each step, you happened to be at the most opportune moment for the ultimate outcome. Everything you hoped for fell right into place.

Well, this week, my boyfriend and I went on a quick three-day get-away, and most everything we experienced, wasn’t that. In fact, the trip was quite disappointing.

Paul and I drove about three and a half hours to Holland, Michigan, a sweet little town on the east side of Lake Michigan. The plan was to enjoy the views and experiences of Holland a few days before their annual tulip festival. We imagined discovering a tulip haven, a mini paradise with tulips growing everywhere prior to the expected crowds.

We arrived late afternoon on Monday and checked into the Staybridge Suites on James Street. The hotel was very nice with friendly, accommodating staff. We had a full kitchen with counter seating, a sitting room, and a comfortable bed. The price was reasonable as our reservation was a bit off-season, and they offered a military discount. So far, so good.

We unpacked and went out to find a restaurant. Initially, we only spotted fast-food chains, which rarely are our food of choice. Google showed most of the local restaurants to be on a main strip, but with so many one-way streets, it was tricky to get there. We could see where we wanted to go but had difficulty figuring out how to get there. Later, we learned that U-turns are a thing in Michigan for just this reason.

When we arrived at the four-block downtown area on 8th Street, our next challenge was to search for a parking lot that had an open spot that wasn’t reserved. After touring several of the area’s public lots, we finally found a space and walked over to a lovely street with trees in bloom and attractive shops.

Restaurants were scattered throughout. To our dismay, they were closed on Mondays. At the end of the downtown area, we found an Irish Pub that was open. Damp and chilled from the drizzling rain, tired, and very hungry having only eaten snacks all day, we got a comfy table by the fireplace. A friendly waitress served us a couple of beers and a delicious, hearty dinner of Irish stew for me and shepherd’s pie for Paul. Rejuvenated, we were ready to go again.

Since tulips were the reason we ventured to Holland, we headed out to the main parks. We expected the town to be decked out in the blooms. Surprisingly, few homes showcased them. More tulips are blooming in my own neighborhood.

The main location to see tulips in Holland is Windmill Island Gardens. Unfortunately, we arrived a few minutes after 5pm and were told that the last tickets for the day were sold. The ticket vendor said that we could come back after 6pm when the windmill closed (a key viewing spot) and wander through the gardens. However, she added there was little to see. Because of the unusually cold and rainy weather, only about 25% of the tulips were open.

The lady suggested we check out a nearby park called Window on the Waterfront that had more open buds. The tulip photos shown here were taken at that park. The location claims 100,000 tulips. The winding paths were pretty, but it was difficult to take a photo that didn’t include the cars and buildings on the streets surrounding it. And much like Windmill Island Gardens, the majority of tulips were yet to open.

We woke Tuesday morning to heavy rain, and the forecast stated it would continue like that all day. We searched online for museums only to find ones of interest were not open. We did try one that some online information indicated was open. After running through a downpour from the lot behind the building to the museum door in front, we discovered it was closed until Friday.

Soaked and frustrated, we decided to pack up and return home. Paul was just getting over a bad cold, and the weather was not good for him especially. Plus, I had a work event to attend on Thursday and a meeting on Friday.

The drive home took us two extra hours due to the weather and a truck accident, which thankfully, did not include us. We crawled in traffic long enough for me to read through my hundreds of emails.

In retrospect, we should have done more research on the sites and restaurants in Holland, their hours and days of operation as well as ticket prices, and considered the weather forecast. We also could have checked this online tulip tracker to learn how many flowers were currently in bloom. No doubt, the parks will be beautiful next week.

Holland wasn’t what we expected but probably is a good destination for young families. The beaches along Lake Macatawa are said to be clean and fun. There also are some activities, such as the wooden shoe factory and Nelis’ Dutch Village, a cute, albeit small, Dutch-themed park that young children would enjoy.

Do you have any advice on where to or not to go for a little getaway? I’d love to hear about it.

***

Alzheimer’s disease is frighteningly common. Help out your friends who care for loved ones with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Give them the gift of information and understanding with the books, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, Navigating Alzheimer’s, and the Inspired Caregiver.

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?

Sweet Twisted History Wednesday, Dec 12 2018 

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With the progression of the seasons comes the move from everything pumpkin to everything peppermint. But if the iconic Christmas peppermint candy canes aren’t your thing, you can appease your sweet tooth with your choice of an array of other flavors. Sour Patch, Jolly Ranchers, Orange Crush, and A&W are some, as well as–believe it or not–rotisserie chicken and pickle.

Legends about the origins of candy canes link a preacher and his lessons on Christianity to the candy. The story is that candy canes were designed with red to represent Jesus’ blood, white for the Resurrection, and the J-shape for the name, Jesus.

None of this is true, but it didn’t stop an elementary school principle in Nebraska from banning candy canes for these reasons. Most likely, the basis of the legend came from someone who indeed did use candy canes to teach about Jesus, but artwork shows images of candy canes long before these stories first circulated.

White, straight candy sticks date to the 17th century and came in several flavors, including mint. The twist of red and white began showing up around the turn of the 20th century. And the hook shape may have begun as a means to hang them on decorated Christmas trees, a German custom that became more popular when Queen Victoria and her German husband displayed them in their home in the mid-1800s.

What’s your favorite flavor? I’m still a traditionalist and like the peppermint, especially  when it’s crushed and mixed with white chocolate.

(Have you seen my latest posts on my other blog including: Save it For Those Who Listen, Soulful Connections, and The Alzheimer’s Teacher?)

Stop! Reflect! Give Thanks! Wednesday, Nov 23 2016 

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I’m not one to long for the past. My life’s been a mix of extremes—excellent and dreadful times. I look back on the good ones with gratitude and prefer not to relive those that were difficult.

However, I do miss the Thanksgivings of my childhood. Thanksgiving weekend was relaxing. We laid around through the weekend, savored the leftovers, watched tv, and visited friends and family. We were happy doing nothing! The Christmas chaos didn’t begin for weeks.

There’s no down time anymore. We clear the lavish Thanksgiving table without digesting that last piece of pumpkin pie, and are off and running through the New Year. There’s so much to do: shopping, wrapping, card writing, baking, cooking, and partying.

Please don’t let this very important holiday pass without a moment of pause. Reflect on our abundance and give thanks. Acknowledge our many blessings and appreciate the food and friendship around us. These are the riches of life.

The Dawn of Spring Saturday, Mar 19 2016 

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Color returning to our baby’s cheeks. The price of gasoline going down. Greenery poking through the dark earth. We search for signs of hope, and the dawn of spring does that in the gentlest ways.

Today marks the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere, its earliest arrival since 1896. The season corresponds with the vernal equinox, the day when day and night are nearly the same. Equinox comes from the Latin aequus and nox, meaning equal night. Earth’s two hemispheres receive the sun’s rays nearly the same amount of time because the tilt of the Earth is zero relative to the Sun. The equinox occurs at the identical moment worldwide regardless of the time on the clock.

Nature responds to the increasing sunlight with birds singing, trees budding, crocus blooming, and temperatures climbing. Resurrection, new beginnings, and life anew. Our spirit is lifted in anticipation of happy, sunny days.

©2016, Mary K Doyle

What a Woman Wants Saturday, Feb 13 2016 

 

IMG_1649Heads up guys—I have the secret for making your Valentine very happy.

The days of my husband, Marshall, showering me with lavish gifts are long gone. No more jewelry, flowers, or chocolates from my sweetheart. But he does give me everything I need from him.

Marshall was a generous gift-giver. He showered his loved ones with extravagant treats and never hesitated to pick up the dinner tab. The more money he made, the more he gave. He spoiled all of us, and himself, without going beyond his means. He gave what he had when he had it.

He’s been retired a decade, and unaware of the meaning of Valentine’s Day for many years. He still tells me he’d “like to do something nice for me.” But because of Alzheimer’s disease, those thoughts are fleeting and have no connection to significant occasions on the calendar. He no longer can show me how he feels with store-bought gifts.

What he does do is to tell me how he feels. Repeatedly he tells me how much he loves me and what I mean to him. Today he said that he lives for me. How romantic is that?

What a woman wants is to feel special. We want to know that our man holds us close to his heart. My love has done that for me every day since the day we met. No present is better than that.

So my suggestion to you is to say those things you hold in your heart. We need to hear it, even if we know. Don’t hold back this Valentine’s Day. Tell the one you love how dear they are to you.

And give her a little something to open. Those “I love yous” don’t get the rest of you off-the-hook for a gift.

©2016, Mary K. Doyle

 

How to Keep That Resolution Thursday, Dec 31 2015 

Tonight’s the night to begin anew. The approach of the New Year raises hopes for better living, and we do this with resolutions, our part in making a change.

British psychologist Richard Wiseman found through his research that only 12% of us actually follow through with our resolutions. He also found why those who did succeed were able to do so. Surprisingly, our willpower had little to do with it.

Here are a few of the steps found to be effective:

  • Make only one resolution.
  • Write it down.
  • Set specific deadlines for small steps along the way.
  • Publicly declare your resolution. Telling friends and family makes us more accountable.
  • Reward yourself as you progress.
  • Don’t quit. If you stumble, pick yourself up and move forward

My resolution is to live healthier. One of the ways I’m doing this is by using skin and beauty products without harmful chemicals. Beauty Counter uses as many natural and organic ingredients as possible. Any synthetics are carefully researched to ensure safety. These items are some of the safest for consumers and the environment available anywhere. And they are effective and luxurious.

Thank you to my daughter, Lisa, for leading me to Beauty Counter. Why not check out their line for yourself?

Good luck on making your own resolutions!

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

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