Bird or Bug? Monday, Jun 15 2020 

They may be young but they are often smarter than the adults.

I have two seven-year-old grandsons, a five-year-old granddaughter and five-year-old grandson. Technology doesn’t intimidate any of them. The two oldest grandsons became ZOOM experts before I did. Their parents expose the children to nature, athletic classes, and travels that I didn’t experience until much later in life.

And their energy can be deceiving. As they literally run circles around us, the wee ones are taking in everything around them and remember what they saw and heard, especially if it is something we’d rather they hadn’t noticed.

This past weekend, my grandsons Daniel and Nathan helped me water my garden. We saw an unusual creature hovering over the petunias and sucking up nectar. I thought it was a bee or other type of insect because it had three body parts—a head, thorax, and abdomen, but it was larger in size than a normal bee or moth. Nathan insisted that it was a hummingbird.

Thanks to the “Bug Queen,” my friend, Carol Hendrix, we learned we both were somewhat correct. This beauty is a Hummingbird Clearwing Hemaris thysbe, an insect that mimics a hummingbird. It belongs to the Family Sphingidea (a family of moths, commonly known as hawk moths, sphinx moths, and hornworms). These moths are moderate to large in size and are distinguished by their rapid, sustained flying ability. Their subfamily, is the Macroglossinae, moths in the order Lepidoptera.

Most of my plants are on a set of three shelving units against the back of my house. It allows me full use of my limited space and plenty of sunshine with southern exposure to promote hearty growth of flowers, herbs, and vegetables and less consumption by chipmunks and rabbits. The Hummingbird Clearwing Hemaris thysbe isn’t often seen in my area of the Midwest, so I appreciate that it visited my little boxes of plantings. The opportunity to have witnessed one in action up close and personal was a special gift of nature.

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Check out my posts, “Waling in Someone’s Painful Shoes” and “Why We Suffer.”

If You’re Going to Fly, Fly Like an Eagle Tuesday, May 5 2020 

When I was a kid, I wanted to fly. I had to restrain myself from jumping off ledges and thinking I could soar into the sky. Strange, but true.

If you want to fly like a bird, the eagle would be a powerful choice. The eagle represents freedom as it lives high, soars majestically, and sits at the top of the food chain.

The royal creature was chosen as the symbol of the United States of America on June 20, 1782 because of its strength, longevity, and that it is native to North America. The scientific name comes from Haliaeetus leucocephalus signifying a sea (halo) eagle (aeetos) with a white (leukos) head. At that time, the word “bald” meant “white” not hairless.

Eagles are members of the Accipitridae family which also includes hawks, kites, and vultures. Scientists loosely divide eagles into four groups based on their physical characteristics and behavior. The bald eagle is considered a sea or fish eagle.

Bald eagles are found throughout most of North America, from Alaska and Canada to northern Mexico, but half of the world’s 70,000 bald eagles live in Alaska. Sexual maturity is attained at four to five years. These great birds range from 28-40 inches in length. Females are about 25% larger than males averaging as much as 13 pounds to the males 9 pounds. Their eyes are similar in size to humans but their eyesight is four times greater than our perfect vision.

It’s no wonder they are so amazing to watch in flight. Eagles are powerful fliers soaring on thermal convection currents at speeds of 35-43 mph when gliding and flapping and about 30 mph while carrying fish. They can dive at speeds between 75-99 mph. And their impressive wingspan is between 6 to 7 and a half feet across.

Both male and female adult bald eagles have a blackish-brown back and breast; a white head, neck, and tail; yellow feet, legs and beak; and pale-yellow eyes. Their call consists of the weak staccato, chirping whistle kleek kik ik ik ik. The calls of young birds tend to be more shrill than those of adults.

We are blessed to have nesting eagles in the little town in which I live along the Fox River in Illinois. Bald eagles usually are sensitive to human activity while nesting. However, the ones in my area don’t seem to mind a fascinated yet respectful audience below snapping photos.

Eagles have the largest nests of any North American bird. Nests can be up to 13 feet deep and more than 8 feet wide. These mammoth nests can weigh as much as a ton so they require a sturdy perch. Coniferous or hardwood trees for perching, roosting, and nesting are typically more than 66 feet tall and offer proximity to prey.

Eagles mate for life, at least the life of one of the pair. Nest building occurs by mid-February. One to three eggs hatch from mid-April to early May and the young leave nests late June to early July. Around 50% of the newly hatched eagles survive the first year.

Eagles are opportunistic feeders devouring dead or decaying fish. Their preferred prey includes grebes, duck, gulls, coots, herons, egrets, and geese up to 4 pounds in weight. Along some areas of the North Pacific coastline, bald eagles are now preying on seabird colonies rather than their traditional kelp. This may be due to overfishing and otters interfering with their food source. Ironically, being at the top of the food chain makes them more vulnerable to consuming toxic chemicals in the environment.

Eagles maintain a respected role in the Native American culture. Pow wow dancers use the eagle claws and feathers as part of their ceremonial dress. In the Navajo tradition, eagle feathers represent the protector. Navajo medicine men use the leg and wing bones for ceremonial whistles. The Lakota people present eagle feathers as honorary symbols to those who achieve a notable task. The Pawnee consider eagles as symbols of fertility because their nests are built high, and they fiercely protect their young. The Choctaw relate the bald eagle with the sun and a symbol of peace.

The average lifespan of bald eagles in the wild is around 20 years, with the oldest confirmed one having lived 38 years. Premature death often results from impact with wires and vehicles, gunshot, poisoning, electrocution, trapping, emaciation, and disease.

The Department of Interior removed the bald eagle from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened, but eagles are still protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

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Choosing a Memory Care Home Site-Unseen” and “Perfect Opportunity to Ponder” are two of my most recent posts on my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books. And watch on my Author FaceBook page for upcoming virtual presentations.
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All photos on my site were taken by me, Mary K. Doyle, unless otherwise noted.

Butterfly Royalty Friday, Jan 17 2020 

Our spirts dance with the flutter of the monarch butterfly. But don’t be fooled by the delicate, free-flying beauty. They are considered to exhibit the most highly evolved migration patterns of any known species of insects and follow a fascinating tag-team of life cycles.  

Repeatedly, four generations of butterflies complete four unique phases. Beginning around February or March, the first generation returns from a warmer climate, locates a mate, and lays eggs on milkweed plants.  The eggs develop into larvae, a form of caterpillars.

Caterpillars are voracious eaters, capable of consuming an entire milkweed leaf in less than five minutes. They gain about 2700 times their original weight, and in the process, excrete an abundant quantity of “frass” (or waste).

A monarch butterfly caterpillar then pupates into a chrysalis. Metamorphous continues into an adult butterfly. Females are distinguished from males by the lack a black spot on an inside surface of its hind wing. This generation as well as the next, lives about six weeks and repeats the process of finding a mate and laying eggs.

As a grand finale, the fourth generation of the monarch butterfly lives considerably longer—six to eight months—and is the only one to migrate to warmer climates. Monarchs fly at speeds ranging between 12 to 25 miles an hour. Similar to migrating birds, they use the advantage of updrafts of warm air to glide as they migrate. This helps preserve energy required for flapping their wings for the 2500-mile flight from the Great Lakes to Central Mexican fir forests.

While in Central Mexico, the incredible monarch butterflies, once again, begin a four generation cycle through their life spans. The last generation makes the return 2500-mile voyage to the Great Lakes the following spring.

Butterflies are an integral element of our landscape. However, the king of all butterflies may not be around for much longer. The population has decreased to levels of near extinction due to colder, wetter winters and hotter drier summers, development, and widespread use of herbicides, all of which has severely reduced their food source. We can help by planting milkweeds and other nectar plants. For more information, go to the Monarch Waystation Program

To learn more about monarch butterflies, see the website, Learn About Nature, and watch here for the monarch butterfly life cycle in action.

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Have you read my latest post, Sacred Water, on my other blog?

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I’m out and about speaking to family caregivers with loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease. Please join me:

1/21/20, 6-7p, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, Arden Courts of West Orange, NJ

1/22/20, 6-7p, Navigating Alzheimer’s, Arden Courts of Whippany, NJ

1/23/20, 6-7p, Navigating Alzheimer’s, Arden Courts of Wayne, NJ

2/12/20, 11-12:30, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, Arden Courts of Largo, FL

3/17/20, 5:30-7, Home-Managed Care, Arden Courts of Avon, CT

3/18/20, 5:30-7, Home-Managed Care, Arden Courts, Farmington, CT

4/2/20, 1-2:30p, Navigating Alzheimer’s, Inter-Faith Chapel, Leisure World, MD

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(Photo Credit: Free Stock Photo of Monarch Butterfly)

(Political) Climate Change Thursday, Nov 14 2019 

(Venice, Italy)

As I noted in my last post on my Mary K Doyle Books blog, the recent pilgrimage to Israel and Italy with my daughter, Lisa, was the perfect trip at the perfect time for us. The saying is that “Timing is Everything,” and that’s certainly evident with recent events in both countries we visited.

I’m grateful to the many loving friends and family who covered us in prayers. No doubt, their prayers helped keep us safe and make a holy pilgrimage. Our trip was peaceful and in perfect weather.

(Bethlehem, Israel)

Cross-border violence began this week between Israel and militants in Gaza and continue after an Israeli air strike that killed a Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that their campaign is directed at Islamic Jihad, the second largest militant group in Gaza. Israel holds the group responsible for 100s of rocket attacks from Gaza since fighting began.

(St. Mark’s)

In addition to the troubles in Israel, Venice is under water. Water levels are at their highest in more than 50 years peaking at about 6 ft. St Mark’s Square was one of the worst hit. The square has flooded six times in 1200 years, according to church records. The crypt is now completely flooded. Venice’s mayor Luigi Brugnaro blamed the enormous damages on climate change.

One of the greatest gifts of travel is the bond that develops between differing peoples. Once we’ve met and connected with someone from another society, we become more aware of their daily situations and concerns and understand them better.

The trauma to the people and their land in both countries saddens me. Lisa and I were privileged to see Israel and Italy in their glory. May all of Israel and Venice return to peace and tranquility very soon.

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(See all posts from both of my blogs on my author 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?” 

Slow Down to Speed Up Friday, Jun 14 2019 

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How often have you wished for a few more hours in a day? Most of us practice a fast-paced regimen of hustling from work to activities and running errands beginning with the moment we rise to the time we go to bed. And yet, at the end of the day, we feel we haven’t accomplished enough. As quickly as we cross off an item from our to-do list, several more spring up. That never-ending cycle is frustrating and exhausting.

But counter to what most Americans may believe, slowing down from time-to-time increases rather than decreases productivity. We have to periodically veer off that highway to end up where we really want to go.

My friend, Sister Chris, says that we’ve lost the understanding of our need to retreat. By engaging in periodic self-assigned time-outs, we are not slacking from our responsibilities but increasing our performance. In general, the removal from the hectic daily schedule most of us engage in can promote clearer thinking, a renewed and more positive outlook, and a healthier way of life which results in better efficiency.

The separation from technology and daily problems during retreats helps to reduce the flight of flight reaction to ongoing events and the accumulation of the stress hormone cortisol. Our hearts become more open which enhances the ability to release sorrow and pain which benefits our overall health.

In addition, the resting brain is essential to self-reflection and stimulating creativity. We gain clarity as answers come in silence improving our decision-making capabilities. An added benefit is that we often make life-long bonds with other participants as like-minded people will be in attendance at these retreats.

And retreats are longer lasting than even a “relaxing” vacation because they are more focused. They also omit the need to schedule activities or seek dining options. Typically set in calm locations, everything is planned for participants.

To find your perfect retreat, consider what you would like to improve. Retreats are targeted toward specific goals. For example, business retreats strive to identify individual talents, increase confidence, and promote team-building. Yoga retreats’ goal is not only to develop better yoga practices but also mindfulness and meditation. Retreats that focus on overall well-being can assist with better eating and exercise habits, work/life balance, and emotional release. Whereas spiritual retreats focus on increasing inner peace and a greater connection with the divine.

(Do you follow my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books?)

 

Super Berry Wednesday, Jan 9 2019 

elderberryStep aside blueberries. You have some competition as a super food. The elderberry is rapidly gaining in on you.

My daughter, Erin, has me hooked on elderberry syrup, pills, and tea after reading some credible studies. As a nurse, Erin, seeks the scientific findings such as this one before jumping on the home-remedy bandwagon. Another study reported in The National Center for Biotechnology in 2016 found elderberry supplementation reduces cold duration and symptoms in air-travelers.

Rich in flavonoids, consuming elderberries is thought to offer numerous health benefits. In addition to reducing colds and flu symptoms, elderberries are believed to offer some prevention and reduction in allergies, urinary tract and bladder infections, headaches, constipation, epilepsy, scarlet fever, and measles. The purplish-black berries may also improve digestive health, rheumatism, and sinus, back, leg (sciatica), and nerve pain (neuralgia) in addition to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

Some positive effects even have been seen on markers of the heart and blood vessels, as well, with a reduction of the level of fat in the blood and a decrease in cholesterol. Elderberry may even increase insulin secretion and improve blood sugar levels.

The American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) is a deciduous shrub native to areas of the Midwest and Eastern North America. Fragrant white clusters of blossoms bloom each summer. In warmer areas, blossoms may appear throughout the year.

Raw berries should not be eaten as they can cause nausea and vomiting. And the bark, seeds, stems, leaves, and roots are inedible. They contain a cyanide-inducing glycoside, which in large quantities, is toxic.

Elderberries are safe when cooked. They may be consumed in pies, jams, juices, gummiessyrups, and wine. At this time, there is no standard dosage of elderberry to take when suffering from colds or flu but some suggest one tablespoon of syrup extract four times a day. It’s also unknown as to whether or not consuming elderberry products daily is beneficial.

(Did you see my post, “The Magician’s Escape Plan,” on my blog, Mary K Doyle Books?)

Powerful Pele Tuesday, May 15 2018 

 

Bring a flashlight and water and don’t take any of the lava rock. Those were the guidelines my husband and I were given in 2002 prior to walking on the Kilauea volcano. It was active then, but nothing like it is today. However, the volcano captivated me and left a memorable impression.

At the time, I didn’t know there were different types of volcanoes. I expected a tall cone to spew lava like my fifth-grade science fair project. Instead, the volcano was relatively flat with multiple cracks and tunnels that flowed into the ocean.

As we walked out in the black of night, we crossed fissures that glowed bright, red with lava deep beneath. It was intensely hot. The experience was both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.

Many Hawaiians believe the fire goddess, Pele, created the Hawaiian Islands and governs the Kilauea volcano, controlling the lava flow. Legend warns visitors who remove volcanic rock will suffer her wrath. Countless visitors testify to experiencing bad fortune after doing so and eagerly return Pele’s precious volcanic material.

There are about 1500 active volcanoes worldwide in addition to those under the ocean. Approximately one third of these have erupted in the past 100 years. Scientists have identified 169 volcanoes in the United States that are expected to erupt at some time. Most are in Alaska where eruptions occur nearly every year. The remainder are in the West and Hawaii.

The Kilauea volcano in Hawaii is one of the most active on Earth. It has been erupting since 1983. The eruption of Katmai Volcano in Alaska in 1912 is said to have been the most violent eruption to occur within the United States.

Volcanoes are openings or vents where lava (molten rock after it erupts above the Earth), tephra (small lava rock), and steam erupt on the Earth’s surface. Volcanic terrain is built by the slow accumulation of lava. The vent may be visible as a depression at the top.

Through a series of cracks within and beneath the volcano, the vent connects to one or more linked storage areas of molten rock made of oxygen, silicon, aluminum, iron, magnesium, calcium, sodium, potassium, titanium, and manganese. This connection to fresh magma (molten rock, crystals, and dissolved gas below the surface of Earth) allows the volcano to repeatedly erupt in the same location increasing its size until it is no longer stable.

Magma originates tens of miles beneath the ground. It is driven upwards by buoyancy because it is lighter than the surrounding rock. Magma may erupt by pouring from vents as fluid lava flows or shoot violently into the air as dense clouds of rock shards and gas. Ash (shards of tephra) then may be carried in the wind around the world.

Volcanoes are categorized by their shape and size. Cinder Cone volcanoes are the smallest and are made of small pieces of solid lava.

Composite Volcanos, also called Stratovolcanos, form the largest mountains. These volcanoes have steep, even sides made from repeating layers of lava flows, volcanic ash, cinders, blocks, and volcanic bombs. The tallest composite volcano on Earth is the Ojos del Salado in Chile with a summit elevation of 22,615. The tallest in the United States is Mount Rainier in Washington State with a summit elevation of 14,410.

Shield Volcanoes are built almost entirely of fluid lava flows. They have a sloping dome shape similar to a warrior’s shield. They were built slowly by the growth of thousands of lava flows over great distances and cooling in thin sheets. The Hawaiian Islands are made of a chain of shield volcanoes which include Kilauea and Mauna Loa.

Lava Domes are technically lava flows but contain lava that is too thick to flow away from the vent and therefore squeeze out and accumulate as a giant pile over and around the vent. Lava domes may look like pointy spines, a giant muffin, flower petals opening, or as tongues.

Modern science provides warnings in advance of eruptions to assist in the preservation of human life but can do little to protect homes, farms, and businesses in the event of eruption. Magma contains dissolved gases which provide the driving force of most volcanic eruptions. Even if magma never reaches the surface, gases can continuously escape into the atmosphere from the soil and vents.

The most abundant volcanic gas is water vapor, which of course, is harmless. But significant amounts of carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and hydrogen halides also are emitted, all of which are potentially hazardous to plant, animals, property, and people. Also, in ash producing eruptions, ash is often coated with hydrogen halides. This can poison drinking water supplies, agricultural crops, and grazing land.

For more information, check USGS, Volcano Discovery, and USGS volcanic videos .

(Follow me on Facebook and see my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books.)

Socks, Please Santa Thursday, Dec 15 2016 

 

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The snow glitters in the blowing wind. Trees and decks and shrubs and ground are dusted in sparkling white snow. So pure, clean—and deceivingly inviting. The temperatures are frigid today, and so are we the moment we step outside.

It looks like we will have a cold winter this year in the U.S. Midwest and North, so we might think about adding socks to our list for Santa and purchasing a pair or two for someone in a homeless shelter. We’ll all endure the winter so much better if we do.

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Women’s fashions aren’t always thoughtful of what we ladies must endure. Live through a number of seasons and we encounter countless summers and winters when we are dressed for looks but not comfort. I know I’ve had too many summers when I was dressed too warm and too many winters when I could have had a few more yards of fabric on me!

A positive trend this winter season are knee and above socks. They’ve been out of fashion, and difficult to find, for many years. We have them back in full swing right now.

Neutral to an array of fun designs are available. We also have leg warmers again. I tried a pair yesterday, and I was amazed at how much warmer I was without the cold air penetrating my jeans. They were only $7 at Marshall’s, but the cute socks are more in the $15-$20 range.

(Why not check out my website or author Facebook page?)

 

Know GMO Monday, Jul 18 2016 

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The more options science offers us, the more concerns we have in regards to ethics, health, and safety. Those concerns often create emotionally charged camps with opposing viewpoints. Such is the way with GMO products.

GMO, the acronym for Genetically Modified Organisms, and GE, the acronym for Genetically Engineered, refer to living organisms whose genetic material has been manipulated through biotechnology. Genes are isolated and added to cells in a laboratory to produce desired traits in new cells, altering the DNA.

Most developed nations, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, either significantly restrict or ban the production and sale of GMOs. They consider them to be unsafe.

But, according to the FDA, GMO/GE foods are as safe as non-GMO since all must meet the same food safety requirements. The FDA also states that the practices of selective breeding and cross-breeding have been in existence for thousands of years with the same intent of creating more flavorful crops with higher yield and resistance to insects and diseases.

Foods from GMO plants were first introduced into the U.S. food supply in the 1990s. Today, cotton, corn, and soybeans are the most common GMO crops. In fact, 93% of all soybeans, and 88% of all corn planted, are from GMO seeds. Other major GMO crops include potatoes, squash, apples, and papayas.

Anti-GMO activists, who refer to these crops as “Frankenfoods,” argue that GMOs may cause environmental damage and health concerns. The non-profit organization, The Non-GMO Project, describes GMOs as living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated through genetic engineering creating “unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial, and viral genes that do not occur in nature.” In addition, they say that contrary to public belief, none of the GMO traits currently on the market offer increased yield, drought tolerance, enhanced nutrition, or any other consumer benefit.

Instead, The Non-GMO Project claims that there is evidence that GMOs do result in health problems, environmental damage, and violation of farmer’s and consumers’ rights. And there is great concern that  GMOs are engineered for herbicide tolerance. This results in increased use of toxic herbicides like Roundup, and the emergence of super weeds and bugs which require even more toxic poisons to extinguish them.

Since as much as 80% of conventionally processed foods contain GMOs, The Non-GMO project advises reading labels carefully. They offer the example of raisins that may be packed with a small quantity of oil which could present a high-GMO risk.

However, the ability for consumers to clearly identify products containing GMO ingredients is another dimension of the argument as companies are not required to disclose this information on labels (except in Vermont). A bill that recently passed will allow consumers access to this knowledge through some type of hidden labeling such as a “QR-code,” but this won’t happen for several years.

(The FDA states that GE/Genetically Engineered is the more accurate term. I use GMO in this post because it is more commonly used.)

(Have you seen my posts on Mary K Doyle Books and Saint Theodora/Mother Theodore Guerin or my Facebook author page? I also have a Facebook page for each of my books with information specific to that title.)

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