Jerusalem. City of Sensual Overload. Thursday, Nov 7 2019 

DIMG_3985.Old JerusalemStalls packed with brightly colored scarves, carpets, and clothing. Whiffs of olives, spices, and humanity. Ancient art and centuries of architecture intermixed with current signage and walls of graffiti. Heavy military presence controlling the massive crowds. Narrow cobblestone streets streaming with people from all over the world. Arabic, Hebrew, and English along with Russian, French, Italian, and countless other languages ring through the air.

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I just returned from a pilgrimage to Israel and Italy and the impact of the trip has left my head full of images, sounds, and smells. As Dorothy said to Toto in the Wizard of Oz, Americans such as myself quickly realize that in Israel, especially in Old Jerusalem,  we’re not in “Kansas” anymore, an expression that indicates things are very different than our norm.

Jerusalem is the largest and poorest city in Israel. Located between the Mediterranean and Dead Seas, it’s also one of the oldest and perhaps, holiest, cities in the world. The first human settlers are believed to have arrived in the Early Bronze Age around 3500 B.C. In 1000 B.C, King David conquered Jerusalem and his son, Solomon, built the first temple.

 

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In only about a third of a square mile, numerous locations are considered significantly important to Jews, Christians, and Muslims which has resulted in a long history of conflict.

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  • For the Jewish community, Jerusalem is recognized as the site of Mount Zion, the traditional site of King David’s tomb, and the Western Wall.
  • Christians hold the city sacred because it is where 12-year old Jesus impressed the elders in the temple and later spent the last days of his ministry, was sentenced, scourged, taunted, crucified, and resurrected.
  • Muslims also are religiously connected to Jerusalem because it is where the prophet Muhammad ascended into heaven from what is known as the Temple Mount.

In adition to being emotionally and spiritually moved, Israel was fascinating for me because I’m intrigued with other cultures and religions and appreciate the opportunity to learn from them. Personally, I never felt unsafe but often did not feel welcome by the majority of Israelies. When traveling, I strive to be a good guest and representative of my home country. I’m not sure how much this mattered to most people I encountered. Greeting Jews in Hebrew rarely resulted in anything other than a blank stare. Currently, more than 60% of its residents are Jewish, 36.5% are Muslim, and only 1.8% are Christian. (The other 1.2% are unspecified.)

The religious tension in the country is evident, even among the Christian denominations. Everyone vigorously defends their sacred site and appears to be reluctant to allow others to visit. Without the assistance of our experienced and knowledgable guide, navigation through the country and entering sites at the best times would have been difficult, if not impossible. Our guide also protected our money by pointing out where we could safely use a credit card and deal fairly with merchants.

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Most of our meals were prearranged and buffet style. Typical meals consisted of stews, fish, grilled vegetables, salads, and breads. My favorite foods were those common in the region including falafal, schnitzel, shwarma, hummus, olives, herring, and dates.

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Stay tuned for more to come on this adventure! Faith-related posts will be posted on my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books.

 

 

The Peculiarities of an Artist Wednesday, Aug 14 2019 

A writer died and met St. Peter at the pearly gates. St. Peter told the writer that she’d be going to heaven but would satisfy her curious mind by showing her hell before entering.

The writer walked into hell and was horrified to see all the souls with beads of sweat pouring from them as they frantically kept writing, writing, writing at their desks for all eternity.

“Wow,” remarked the writer. “I’m glad I’m not going there.”

Then St. Peter opened the gates of heaven and led the writer to a room where, again, souls were frantically writing, writing, writing at their desks.

“I don’t understand,” exclaimed the writer. “How is this different from hell?”

St. Peter responded, “In heaven, all the writers get published.”

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Without a doubt, my mother loved me, but she did not understand me. She found me odd, especially when it came to my need to write, which I’ve wanted to do as long as I can remember. When I was a child, I’d either write or memorize a little poem that I’d tell her before leaving for school in the morning. She realized that writing was my passion but was too practical to believe I could make a living at it.

I never fit my mother’s strict, mater-of-fact idea of a respectable employee and therefore, a responsible adult. I was, and am, a freelance writer, which meant to her that I could not adequately support my family as a single parent. She often pointed out that the department store, Penney’s, was hiring.

Many of us writers, artists, musicians, dancers, and others in the arts have college degrees or specialized training in addition to years, or decades, of experience. And yet, our employment and financial security can be uncertain. We rarely experience job security even if we once reigned at the top in our field.

However, our need to create and work in our art is necessary for us to thrive emotionally. Writing is my oxygen. I must put words together, write, rewrite, and publish, preferably, with financial gain. It’s integral to the essence of my being.

Overall, my mother noticed that artists are different. We perceive the world from an alternate perspective taking in everything and everyone around us, not only through our eyes, but also through our hearts. We are highly sensitive to universal energy, which sets us up for depression, anxiety, and sometimes, addiction to relieve the pain we absorb from others.

We are curious, playful, and compassionate. We are observers, often hiding in the background soaking in the action. We appreciate beauty, variety, the unusual, and unique. We are the explorers, risk takers, innovators, and visionaries–practical and impractical, fearful and fearless at the same time.

Yes, many of us have God-given talent and enjoy what we do, but we truly do sweat to make it as meaningful as possible. Our objective is that our pieces speak for themselves well beyond the words, the paint, the sounds, the movements.

All of this makes following an earthly clock challenging, especially when we’re in our groove. Our own sense of timing sets in, removing us further from the traditionalists. We definitely are following the beat of a different drummer, a rhythm all our own.

We can be that square peg trying to keep up with the rest who fit into all the round holes around us. And the ironic thing is, we don’t want to go into that round hole. It frustrates and irritates us. Our need is to be free, to fly.

We artists are accustomed to criticism and rejection. It’s not your response to our art that hurts us as much as our own. We are harder on ourselves than anyone else could be. It’s so difficult to walk away from a piece that can never really feel complete or perfect.

So please don’t take our need for periodic isolation and moodiness personally. We know that we can appear aloof and detached, but we are not ignoring you. We’re just lost in our art and a space neither here nor there. We’re off in other-worldly dimensions of creativity and will see you again soon.

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Join in the conversation every Friday on my author Facebook Page.

Have you seen my last post on Mary K Doyle Books, “Land of the Free?”

 

Always Believe Something Wonderful is About to Happen Thursday, Jun 27 2019 

Always Believe

I once bought a greeting card for myself. At $6.95, it was an extravagant purchase, but the beautifully decorated card offered a powerful message that spoke to me. It read, “Always BELIEVE Something Wonderful is About to Happen.”

At the time, the words were so needed. My husband, Marshall’s, health had been declining more rapidly than it had been due to the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. I was struggling to balance work and family responsibilities and remembering all the blessings that I do have in my life.

The card reminded me to hang in there. We never know what’s around the corner. Life is full of delightful surprises. We trudge along a path only to discover sunshine in an opening we had no idea was ahead.

Living with a positive attitude is so much more enjoyable and healthy than being stuck in doom and gloom. It’s certainly was how Marhall lived. He often said, “Think positively.”

We have every reason to remain happy. After all, something wonderful is about to happen.

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(Want to know what I’m wondering about? Every Friday I tell you on my author Facebook page. Check out my last post on Mary K Doyle Books, “Is Love Enough?

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?)

 

Passing Through the Tough Stuff Tuesday, Jun 4 2019 

Today is a painful, fibromyalgia day for me–body aches from head-to-toe and fatigue. The good news is, like most of life’s trials, it will pass.

No one escapes the tough stuff whether it is physical or emotional. However, as my sister, Patti, says, “It’s not what happens to us but what we do about what happens that matters.” We easily can make a difficult situation more trying if we resist or revolt rather than work through it. When we continue to move one step at a time through a troubling situation, we soon find ourselves at the other end of that tunnel.

For me, that means a quiet day at my desk with a positive outlook knowing I soon will see you on the bright side, my friends.

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(Did you see my last post on Mary K Doyle Books: Marian Devotion through Art?)

 

Moving Along Monday, Apr 30 2018 

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On the first anniversary of moving into my townhome, I’m acutely aware of my blessings. I’m rich in what matters most in life.

The past year has been relatively peaceful. Marshall continues to do well. My children, grandchildren, step-children, and step-grandchildren are healthy. And I’m enjoying meaningful work to pay my bills.

For many years, my stress level was at a peak. The years previous to this move were intense caring for Marshall 24/7 at home for ten years and then transitioning him to managed care, working through a few disturbing issues with relationships, clearing out the house in preparation for sale, the intrusion of showing the home for two years, negotiating the home sale/purchase, packing to move, and then unpacking in my new home all while overseeing Marshall’s care and working. Countless times I believed I was close to the breaking point.

But here I am, and I’m so very grateful! I’m blessed with a home I can manage and afford. I love the space and my kind neighbors.

Marshall, although always on a decline due to Alzheimer’s disease, calls me by name and tells me he loves me every day. Our time together is typically very tender.

I am greatly blessed with an extensive group of family and friends. They are supportive, attentive, and carry me with their love and kindness. My children and grandchildren especially bring me great joy.

And to top it off, I have work opportunities that allow me to use the gifts God gave me in ways that minister and connect with people dear to my heart. I’ve written two books in my new home, one of which is under contract, and beginning a new one. In addition, I’m speaking regularly, predominately on caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s.

When we are traveling through the dark tunnel, the journey can feel endless. The rays that do shine through are difficult to see and the number of steps into the sunshine is so uncertain.

The only way out of that tunnel is to keep going. Most often, we enter the light wiser and stronger.

(Do you follow my posts on Mary K Doyle Books?)

Rant on Comcast/Xfinity Wednesday, May 24 2017 

I’m cool as a cucumber, calm as a gentle stream. I don’t get road rage—I’m the most patient driver on the road. I rarely get rattled caring for my husband with Alzheimer’s or rambunctious grandchildren. I really am typically easy-going.

Until I had to deal with Comcast/Xfinity.

Working with them after my recent move turned me into an angry person I didn’t recognize. One day, I even lost my temper and was nasty with reps. My blood pressure rises just thinking about them.

There were problems with the cable. A second TV didn’t work, and I was repeatedly told there was something wrong with my equipment. All of it magically failed overnight while moving. Actually, after a visit, the technician said the error was on their end.

Most frustrating were all the phone issues.

  • Comcast said I’d have the same phone number I’ve had for 30 plus years. It was originally issued by Illinois Bell, so that tells you how long I’ve had it. After several HOURS on the phone with Comcast, and a week later, I was told the temporary number they issued me will be my permanent one. It happens, they say. Even moving only 2-3 miles from my last home. Had I been told of the possibility from the beginning, I wouldn’t have wasted so many hours dealing with reps who repeatedly told me it would be another 24-48 hours. I would have waited to print “Just Moved” postcards to include my new phone number.
  • It took ten days and multiple calls to get a rep to update my online info so that I could see my account online.
  • I had no voice mail for 16 days. The prompt said my number was unavailable.
  • Caller ID continues to identify me by someone else’s name. Yesterday Comcast said they aren’t responsible for that. It is the slow processing of the providers of those I call, such as AT&T.

No doubt, all this rambling and ranting sounds familiar to many of you as you’ve had the same experience with carriers. They aren’t life-threatening problems but still, intensely irritating, particularly because of the waste of time. I lost countless hours that cost me work and pay.

And it’s been unnecessarily stressful. All reps were pleasant as they read their scripts but few could reason beyond their prescribed steps. It took multiple contacts before anything was resolved.

I guess it is the sign of the times. I moved 8 times with my previous number with AT&T and it was as simple as lifting up the phone in my new home to find it all working. But today we deal with too much technology, too little employee training, and the fact that these providers are so much in demand they needn’t care how the consumer feels.

I apologize for the rant. As you know, I strive to write positive posts, so perhaps I can assist you with your next move by warning you. Perhaps if I’d known all of this was likely, I would have taken it more in stride.

Think! Sunday, Jan 22 2017 

Many decades ago in a journalism class, I learned about media gatekeepers. Gatekeepers are the controllers of what and how the public thinks.Every level of the media participates in gatekeeping to some degree.From reporter to publisher, each person determines not only what information is to be promoted, but also the content and spin.The higher up on the gatekeeper ladder, the more that step controls.

Gatekeeping may be subtle or overt. Even the most unbiased reporter can’t help but be partial to a degree. Turn to any media source, and we note a more distinct angle. We recognize what side of the fence they sit on. Their view of how the world should be is injected into every story.

So much of our news coverage is speculation about what might happen. The emotional spin on possible outcomes creates public stress, anxiety, and anger rather than peace, unity, and positive action.

Know that when one story or clip is shown repeatedly, someone is manipulating our emotions. It is a form of propaganda. Think about the motive behind repeatedly projecting that piece into our minds. Why would someone want you to see that taken out of context?

It is all of our responsibility to seek the whole truth, to dig deeper. We must find more than the handful of stories we repeatedly are shown. To understand a complete story or situation we need to check multiple sources. Check out “facts” (rumors) on credible sources such as Snopes.com. At the very least, if you can’t or won’t verify your information, don’t pass it on.

(See info on my books on my website and all my posts on my author Facebook page.)

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.

Passionate! Tuesday, Sep 27 2016 

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Our passions are the frosting on the cake of life. Mine are evident from my blog posts. The majority are in regards to my family, faith, and writing. I also am passionate about healthy living and Alzheimer’s research and support.A day without at least one of these, is a sad day indeed.

My relationship with God is primary. My family is my greatest joy. And writing allows me to utilize my creativity in a ministry of offering readers credible information, guidance, and hope.

Living and breathing these passions is the fuel that keeps me going. I’ve faced, and am facing, a tremendous amount of challenges in several areas of my life, and I’m keeping afloat because of the blessings of my passions. They give purpose and value to my pain and growth.

Studies repeatedly find that people who have a purpose live longer and healthier. Our passions make us happy, and when we are happy, blood pressure and stress lowers, both of which positively impacts our health tremendously.They give reasons to drag ourselves out of bed. They offer an outlet to express ourselves and make us feel like our lives matter, what we do matters, we matter.

We typically have several passions. But if you are contemplating what yours might be, think about how something makes you feel.Most often, passions are ways in which we share the best of ourselves with others. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who or what means most to you?
  • Do you use your talents and gifts? How so?
  • How do you express your creativity?
  • What do you do for your closest circle of family and friends?
  • What types of goals do you set for yourself?
  • How do you help other people, animals, or our planet?

Making time to be aware of and delving into our passions every day brings joy. However, maintaining balance is essential. Anything we take to an extreme, can develop into an addiction.We are more than one thought or activity.I enjoy a piece of chocolate in the afternoon. But it wouldn’t be a treat if it was the only food I ate.

(Take a look at my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books, and author Facebook page.)

 

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