Good Listeners Wednesday, Oct 19 2022 

Good listeners are rare. In fact, I know few people I could award this title. I myself am lacking here.

We talk. But listening is another matter. We interrupt and interject. We walk away or hang up when someone says something we don’t want to hear.

Why do we do this when we don’t want others doing these things to us? We aren’t listening if we are talking. And when we talk over someone, we are saying that what we have to say is more important than what they are telling us. So many of our arguments could be avoided if we heard what actually is being said and we showed one another the respect to fully listen.

Effective communicators are engaged in a respectful exchange of thoughts. We listen in ways that we want to be heard. We then are able to learn from others and solve problems together.

Here are a few basic guidelines to better communications:

  • Don’t interrupt the speaker.
  • Rather than thinking of what we want to say next, concentrate on what the speaker is saying.
  • Don’t criticize or judge, especially before hearing the speaker’s whole story.
  • Maintain eye contact with the speaker.
  • Offer non-verbal cues that we are engaged, such as a periodical nod.
  • After the speaker has stopped speaking, paraphrase so we clearly understand what was said.

*Books make great gifts. Does your gift list include anyone who may find one of my books helpful such as Inspired Caregiving, Navigating Alzheimer’s, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, Grieving with Mary, or The Rosary Prayer by Prayer?

The Book of Which I’m Most Proud Tuesday, Jun 14 2022 

A question I’ve been asked over the years is which of the books that I’ve written is my favorite. This is a question that is as impossible to answer as which child is my favorite. Each book is special to me. I’m proud of all of all of them for different reasons.

Each was written with an intent to fill a need. Each book was sent out into the world with a mission to offer information and consolation to a particular audience. Most have won awards and sold consistently well over the years. And now I’m very excited about a new book coming out this year, which I will tell you about at the end of this post.

Mentoring Heroes was my first book. Published in 2000, this book centered on my recognition through newspaper articles I’d written that successful people attributed their progress to the mentors who helped them along the way. I also recognized that women’s lives are complicated and multi-layered with family, household, and work responsibilities, and therefore, more challenging in finding ways in which to be mentored. Mentoring Heroes was widely used in university Women Studies programs and by clubs and groups. Today, I know that the book is dated in the way that it was printed–with copper plates and blue-line editing as opposed to today’s digital print method–and due to men participating more in household responsibilities and technology offering more ways in which to be mentored. Yet, the overall benefits and need for mentoring remains relevant.

The Rosary Prayer by Prayer, Grieving with Mary, and Fatima at 100. Fatima Today were inspired by a devotion to the Virgin Mary. These were the types of books I wanted to write since childhood. Praying with Mary should always lead to a greater devotion to her son, Jesus. Mary is our heavenly mother, and like a good mother, she loves us dearly, promotes peace among all creation, and encourages us to care for one another as Jesus does. Praying with her offers a sense of calm in a world where this type of alliance is greatly needed.

With the The Rosary Prayer by Prayer readers can pray along simply by following pages showing the placement on the rosary, the prayer to be prayed, illustrations by Joseph Cannella, and a reflection. Grieving with Mary is a best-seller that aligns praying with Mary in a wide variety of ways during times of loss. And Fatima at 100. Fatima Today is a little booklet that reviews Mary’s messages in Fatima, Portugal in 1917 and how those messages remain vital in attaining peace.

Seven Principles of Sainthood Following Saint Mother Theodore Guerin and Saint Theodora and Her Promise to God are books about a woman who immigrated to the United States to teach children and young woman. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, also known as Saint Theodora, and a small group of sisters opened schools throughout rural Indiana and Illinois in the mid to late 1800s, a time when Catholic schools were greatly needed and in which this band of women faced great obstacles. The sisters also opened a school for the higher education of women when women had little-to-no choice for such an opportunity. Seven Principles was written for adults and Saint Theodora and Her Promise to God was written for children. I was inspired to write these books after attending Saint Mary of the Woods College, the school Saint Mother Theodore founded, as well as her canonization in Rome, Italy.

Young in the Spirit was published in 2013 when I was closing in on one of those big decade birthdays (I was 60 in 2014-Yikes!). Big birthdays spark contemplation on where we came from, how we arrived at a particular point in time, and where we anticipate the future to bring us. One of the areas of contemplation for me was in regard to my faith—how it changed through the years and what I could offer the Church now. Those thoughts are at the heart of Young in the Spirit.

Hans Christian Andersen Illuminated by The Message was part of a series initiated by my publisher, Greg Pierce. The series offers a unique way to promote prayer by pairing Scripture verses with passages from classic writings. I chose Hans Christian Andersen in remembrance of my mother and her childhood book, a 1936 edition of Anderson’s Fairy Tales, the same book from which my mother read to me.

Navigating Alzheimer’s, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, and Inspired Caregiving was born from a need recognized by Pam Sebern, the director of a memory care home where my husband resided in his last years. Pam asked for books to help families understand dementia and better care for their loved ones while caring for themselves along the way. She felt that the books available at that time were too medical and needed a perspective from one who lived the experience. As my husband suffered from symptoms from Alzheimer’s disease for more than 15 years, and I was an author with substantial writing experience, Pam believed I could fulfill that need.

Navigating Alzheimer’s covers the basics of Alzheimer’s and ways in which we can work with our loved one. It offers family members and caregivers a clear overall of the changes they’re likely to notice. The Alzheimer’s Spouse also covers the basics of the disease but from the perspective of the spouse. Alzheimer’s touches every aspect of both spouses in devastating ways. Inspired Caregiving provides readers with a daily/weekly boost of inspiration. Each weekly reflection follows a rotation that includes a photo, prayer, thought, activity, stretch, affirmation, quote, and bit of humor to offer guidance, encouragement, improved self-talk, and maybe a smile. All three of these books are recommended by memory care facilities across the country.  

My next book, which currently is in publication, is less serious. I believe readers and I are in need of opportunities that promote peace, beauty, love, and inspiration. For this reason, my newest book, tentatively called The Gifts of Public Gardens, showcases vivid photos of nature that I have taken at public gardens paired with short, thoughtful poems. My intent is for readers to escape into the positive, wonderous gifts around us. I will keep you posted on when this book will be available.

If you’ve read any of my books, please post a review on Amazon. Readers rely on these comments to find books best suited to their needs.

Author Proteges and Their New Books Thursday, Jun 9 2022 

On February 23, 2022, I posted about a new position I have with my publisher as a marketing advisor. I’m enjoying coaching authors in ways they can promote their new books. Every author and book are unique in its opportunities to reach their readers. I brainstorm with these authors on how they may take advantage of those avenues, such as reaching potential readers in their particular lane, as well as with press releases, blog posts, and maintaining an informative website.

If I was grading the authors I’ve worked with so far, I’d give them all A+s for their efforts. They fully understand their responsibility to promote their book along with the publisher and are striving to do so to the best of their abilities. Perhaps one or more of their books are exactly what you’re looking for. Following is a bit about each of them and links for ordering.

Steven Denny, author of The Merton Prayer: An Exercise in Authenticity illustrates how words are powerful, both the ones we say out loud and those that ramble in our heads. Author Steven Denny claims that a group of words written by Thomas Merton that begin with “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going” changed his life. And he isn’t the only one. Denny offers fourteen reflections on this prayer with color photographs, scriptural passages, personal stories, and questions designed to stimulate serious and deep reflection on the profound words of the Merton Prayer.

Leaps of Faith: Playful Poems and Fanciful Photos by Marva Hoeckelman, OSB is a quirky, faith-filled book of playful poems and photos depicting contemporary monastic life in America. Sister Marva shakes up some of the stereotypes of vowed religious held by many in secular society with her imagination and personal experiences in this fun, yet thoughtful, book.

Sometimes David Wins is a remarkable book of true stories by community organizer Frank Pierson who spent a career encouraging and training people to organize enough power to take on the Goliaths that sought to do them wrong. Starting with his own family’s checkered history of involvement in the infamous Ludlow Massacre in Colorado in 1914 and continuing through the founding of community organizations in Illinois, New York, Arizona, Nevada, and Colorado, Pierson weaves his considerable storytelling skills to create a picture of “the world as it could be.”

  • Bending Granite: 30+ True Stories of Leading Change compiled by Tom Mosgaller, Maury Cotter, and Kathleen Paris is an inspiring and informative book for leaders from committee chairs and supervisors to educators and students. Readers are gifted with more than 30 stories from people who share how they brought about positive change under circumstances that were as challenging as bending granite.

These books are available from both the publisher, ACTA Publications, and Amazon.

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.

Careful with the Crazy Talk Wednesday, Apr 20 2022 

We can be our worst enemy. Through our self-talk, we sabotage our confidence, stifle our ability to excel, and repeat negative thoughts that lead us into the dark.

When we dwell on our shortcomings and failures, we tend to exaggerate making things much worse than what they really are. Negative statements about ourselves and what we believe others think of us, only pull us down emotionally and prevent us from succeeding. We lead our own path to depression and anxiety and become sad and irritable.

Nor does such self-talk do anything to motivate us to work harder or strive higher. It’s healthy to honestly acknowledge where we can improve, but we should do it in ways that empower. For example, rather than dwelling on how we failed to deliver a clear message in a presentation, we can review the presentation, think about what we can change, and know that we will do better next time.

We also can repeat affirmations, words that affirm positivity. Such positive thinking is empowering. I prefer those that are peaceful, compassionate, and appreciative of the good around us.

Following are a few affirmations you might want to try. You can find more information on Healthline.

My voice matters, and I do make a difference.

My heart is open. I radiate love.

My life is a gift. I appreciate everything that I have.

***Jesus’ mother understands our pain. Learn how to pray with her in our times of need. Read, Grieving with Mary. Finding Comfort and Healing in Devotion to the Mother of God.

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. 

Author Marketing Advisor Wednesday, Feb 23 2022 

I’m excited to share with you that I have a new position as an Author Marketing Advisor with ACTA Publications. I’ll be working with authors inspiring them and informing them of the competition they face, the responsibilities of the publisher, the need for authors to self-promote, and especially, ways in which they can bring their book to the attention of readers. In addition to several of my books being published by ACTA, I’ve also worked for them as a trade rep and wrote a blog reviewing their books as they were released.

After researching, writing, and rewriting for several years, authors balk at the thought of having to market their book, as well. However, the fact is, publishers package books, align the books with distributors, print and warehouse copies, and fulfill orders. Their marketing consists of listing them on Amazon, in catalogues, and on their website; sending out review copies; and producing sell sheets. They may also nominate books for awards.

Authors must do the rest to alert the public of their new book. Considering the millions of books released each year (more than 4 million books were published in the U.S. in 2019) in addition to those previously published and still available (perhaps as many as 20 million worldwide), an author’s new title is just one in a stadium-sized library stacked floor to ceiling.

After all the time and passion an author invests in a book, it is of little value if no one knows it exists. Authors who actively get the word out about their books do sell copies. The rest see their books collecting dust on their own shelves.

Publisher Greg Pierce at ACTA Publications made an ingenious move in hiring an Author Marketing Advisor. By doing so, he’s investing more money in the title, but also, and more importantly, in its success. In the end, publisher and author should benefit much more than they would without this guidance.

As authors, we don’t just write books. We start a business of book selling that may even include public speaking, one of the most lucrative ways to sell that book. The challenge for most of us is that, although we may be powerful storytellers in print, we are not particularly business minded. The marketing, selling, payment collection, bookkeeping, and tax filing make us uncomfortable. We find we must push ourselves to complete these other tasks.

It’s all very time-consuming. We must decide how much time and money we are comfortable investing in our book’s success and where we want to focus. Does our budget and time allow for building and maintaining a website and/or blog? Are we active on social media and want to post about the topic of our new book? Are we socially active and able to talk up our book or make cold calls to organizations that will find our book of interest?

Publishing our books is like giving birth to children. Our responsibility is to send them out into the world, especially if they serve a public need. Creative marketing offers countless opportunities to do just that.

*Have you read my books? You can find all of them on my website, most on Amazon, and some on ACTA Publications. Check out my newest ones, Inspired Caregiving, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, Navigating Alzheimer’s and my best sellers, Grieving with Mary and The Rosary Prayer by Prayer.

*Winter Photo taken at Cantigny Park, Winfield, IL, 2/18/22

Reality Wednesday, Feb 16 2022 

Is my reflection

any less real than my

physical being?

(Mute Swan, Schaumburg, IL., 5/15/21)

* Would you like to connect with me on my Facebook page, website, or Linked In?

Virtual or Reality? Monday, Jan 24 2022 

Did you receive your invitation to the wedding reception of the year? After a ceremony in front of a small group of family and friends in their village in India, Dinesh Sivakumar Padmavathi and Janaganandhini Ramaswamy will hold a virtual reception. Approximately 2,000 guests will personally be greeted and then allowed to explore a castle in a Harry Potter style metaverse.

The couple chose this option because of the COVID limitations they would have to follow with a traditional wedding in India. Interestingly, the digital reception also allows for a 3D avatar of Ramaswamy’s deceased father to bless their union.

The metaverse currently is a hot spot to create dream homes and vacations. It’s a space where digital representations of people and their surroundings can interact without actual physical contact.

If you’ve experienced a 3D, or a 3D Imax movie, you know what it feels like to be immersed in the scene. The movie appears dimensional, and it is as if you can reach out and touch the items in the movie.

Virtual Reality is 3D on steroids. VR uses computer technology to create a simulated environment. The scene is above and below you as well as all around. You can make contact with items coming in your direction. For example, you may hit a “ball” with your paddle or bat, move furniture, or navigate through dimensional spaces.

A simulated experience may appear true-to-life or animated. Applications now are used for entertainment, education, and business while wearing a head-mounted display (HMD).

I received an Oculus HMD from my boyfriend, Paul, this past Christmas. I’m a newbie with minimal experience at this point but am finding some interesting places to travel, museums to visit, ways to exercise, and beautiful settings for meditation. There are tons of games on the systems, however, I doubt I will play any of them. I’m on the computer most of the day and need time in the real world.

One of my first VR experiences was to travel underwater to a coral reef. The feeling was realistic. Unlike viewing on a television, I felt as if I was in the water and could look all around and below me. There was an exciting sense of presence in the environment.

The advantages of VR seem to be the ability to experience opportunities otherwise limited by time, expense, or physical ability. Fun workouts, interaction with friends in a playful way, learning from a more realistic vantage point, and traveling to places, and hopefully, time periods are some of the possibilities.

The drawback is that, like everything, it costs to play. HMDs are several hundreds of dollars, and additional equipment is needed for some experiences. In addition, most of the activities require a one-time or ongoing fee.

The few studies on this rather new technology show that virtual reality is safe for most adults when used appropriately. Typical warnings include not to engage in VR when ill, with a headache or nauseous, or inebriated. Anyone who has experienced seizures or heart trouble should also avoid VR.

Time in VR should be minimal to avoid fatigue, eye strain, and elevated heart rate. As with all the video games, they are addictive. And there can be difficulty managing surroundings, being able to distinguish what is virtual versus real resulting in tripping, falling, or hurting yourself or others, so some precautions are necessary.

If children are participating in VR, they must be closely monitored. We can’t differentiate virtual reality from real life until at least ten years of age. Children can become confused as to what actually happened to them or what they experienced virtually.

Most importantly, to avoid losing touch with the people and places in our lives, VR should be restricted to no more than a few hours a week. Like all technology, balance is key. We can quickly forget where we live, the people in our real world, our responsibilities, and the meaning of what it is to live authentically if we choose to remain in images artificially projected into our heads.

**Please remember the caregivers in your life. They may find these books helpful, Inspired Caregiving, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, and Navigating Alzheimer’s.

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