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.

***

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.)

The Essence of Nature Saturday, May 14 2016 

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Lavender for sleep. Peppermint to keep alert while driving. Tea Tree Oil to disinfect. I’ve used essential oils since the early 70s, but now they are my go-to-source for nearly every need.

Young Living’s Purification eliminates odors in the trash can. Thieves cleans and disinfects counter tops. Lavender soothes burns. Peppermint keeps ants away. And the lovely fragrance of diffusing jasmine makes me happy.

Pure essential oils are concentrated compounds that have been pressed or distilled from plants. They do not have a fatty or oily component. They are called “essential” because they carry the essence of the plant or plant part they are made from.

Essential oils can be diffused, and some used directly on the skin or even ingested, if they are of high quality.

I was drawn to essential oils more recently because I sought a more natural pain remedy. I’m allergic to most prescription and over-the-counter ones. I also am trying to eliminate as many chemicals as possible. Essential oils have offered me many options for all of this.

©2016, Mary K. Doyle

(Have you seen my posts on Mary K Doyle Books or my author Facebook page?)

Sun’s Up Saturday, Apr 16 2016 

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Finally, the sun is shining in the Midwest. We can have any weather in the spring-rain, sleet, snow, chilly, or warm-but these are the days we treasure. It’s in the 70s and everyone is running outside, waving to neighbors, driving with the windows down, and firing up the barbecue.

It’s also the time we get our first sunburn of the year because we forget about sunscreen. Actually, we should be using sunscreen year-round. We can burn even on a cloudy day since UV light passes through clouds.

Studies show that the daily use of sunscreen significantly slows the aging of skin and lowers risk of cancer. Broad-spectrum sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher is our best defense. Anything less only protects from sunburn.

The recommendation is to apply a generous amount of sunscreen to dry skin 30 minutes before going outside. Be sure to cover all exposed areas including the head if hair is thin. Reapply at least every two hours and immediately after swimming.

(Beautycounter Protect SPF 30 All Over Sunscreen uses non-nano zinc oxide, which is an effective and safe natural mineral sun blocker, aloe vera for hydration, and green tea and blood orange extracts for antioxidants. Find yours here on my website.)

©2016, Mary K. Doyle

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

Statistics and Magician’s Wife Tuesday, Feb 23 2016 

 

Storytelling throughout history was the passing on of the essence of an event. Specific details were not necessary. It was a person’s emotional interpretation of a significant occurrence. The heart of the story was what was important.

These stories would get passed down by word of mouth, so they altered along the way. I recently heard on the science program, Nova, that every time we recall a memory, we edit it. It becomes less and less accurate because our imagination fills in bits and pieces of things that may have happened, and then those imagined additions become part of the memory.

Today, we do more reporting than storytelling. We want specific details—time, dates, and numbers. When I wrote Sunday feature articles for the Chicago Tribune, three things were to be included: real voices, meaningful quotes, and statistics. Stories needed to be about people with real concerns, told in their own words, and backed up with relevant data.

Statics are an important element in substantiating a story. They tell a level of truth in numbers. Although it was my least favorite college class, I do realize its significance from sports and politics to science and demographics. However, in all reality, even those numbers are a matter of interpretation and can be twisted.

WordPress offers a stats page for each of my blogs. It shows the number of views, likes, visitors, and comments for every post and even where those viewers are located. These numbers give me an idea of who is reading my blogs and whether they are of interest to anyone. There is a wide variation of numbers for many reasons including relevancy of content, writing style, and the time and day of posting.

My most viewed post ran back on August 19, 2013. It had 777 views on WordPress plus countless others via Facebook reposting.

For those who might like to re-read it, and those who never saw it, here it is again:Top 10 Ways You Know You Are a Magicians Wife

©2016, Mary K Doyle

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