Caves! What Lies Beneath Thursday, Sep 23 2021 

From the mountains to the forests and sky to the seas, nature’s masterpieces are on display for anyone who takes the time to notice. Plant life from moss to oak trees, clouds, sand, waterways, prairies, soil, hills, insects, birds, and land animals show off their hues, shapes, music, and fragrances.

Go deeper, and we also can find nature’s magnificence below ground level. My boyfriend and I recently took a trip to Blue Mound, Wisconsin to experience the treasure of Cave of the Mounds. The natural structures, textures, and colors left me in awe.

The area’s history dates back more than 400 million years ago when warm waterways covered it and the discarded calcium carbonate seashells compacted into limestone. Over the next few million years, carbon dioxide created in rain and melting snow, and then becoming diluted carbonic acid, seeped through the surface soils, dissolved the limestone, and created cavities. Simultaneously, the water table lowered causing streams to deeply erode the stone and allow air to fill in the developing cave.

Water droplets and dissolved calcium carbonate and minerals continued, and still continue, to drip though the cave and build on each other forming structures called speleothems.

Stalactites are speleothems growing down from the ceiling.

Stalagmites are structures forming from the ground up.

Helictites grow sideways and downward. And round oolites are considered cave pearls.

The rate of growth of these speleothems is tremendously slow taking 50 to 150 years to build one cubic centimeter of cave onyx, depending on the speed of the dripping water and the amount of calcium carbonate it contains.

The colors of the trails of crystals formed by these droplets varies with the minerals they carry. For example, reddish brown crystals contain rust—oxides of iron; black, purple, blue, and grey contain manganese compounds; and those with calcite appear as translucent or white crystals.

Nearly all of the more than 400 known caves in Wisconsin are privately owned. Cave of the Mounds is noted as a National Natural Landmark in a public-private partnership with the National Park service. It is located on a family owned property that was used for dairy farming. In 1939, the family also contracted out a portion of the land for quarry blasting. The cave was discovered when one of those contractors blasted an opening to the hidden world below.

Cave of the Mounds is open year-round and maintains temperatures in the 50s. Located outside of Madison, Wisconsin, Midwesterners have easy access to this natural gem. Guests can meander through the cave on their own, spending as much or as little time as desired. Typically, it takes about an hour to view as it is only about 1/5 of a mile long and from 40 to 57 feet below ground. Guides are on hand at the beginning of and about half-way through the tour to answer questions. At this time, tickets for adults are under $20. Trails surround the cave and also are open to the public.

I expected the cave to be dark, dank, dirty, and buggy. Instead, it was quite clean without visible creatures, well-lit, and had a smooth, concrete pathway on which to walk. The air quality varies with the barometric pressure but also was comfortable. I understand that water drips in the cave on rainy days and those with melting snow.

If you aren’t able to visit Cave of the Mounds, check out their virtual tour. You lose the close up experience of being surrounded by nature’s sculptures but will get a sample of what to find there.

*Pilgrimages offer countless benefits, and you don’t have to travel far. Find out how in this post, “Stillgrimage-Taking a Pilgrimage Near Home“.

*Looking for gifts for caregiving friend? Check out these books: Inspired Caregiving, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, and Navigating Alzheimer’s.

Killdeer Pair Tuesday, Jun 15 2021 

I’m working on the most enjoyable book. It consists of poetry and nature photos. I’m shooting photos of wildlife and writing poems inspired by what I see.

Keeping my eye out for interesting creatures and plants is making me more aware of the environment. I love walking through woods and fields and noticing what’s going on around me. I had no idea how much was literally in my backyard.

This photo is too blurry for publication because of the distance I had to zoom in. But I wanted to show you these adorable birds. Aren’t they cute together?

The photo is of two killdeers, one of the many birds I’m newly discovering. The killdeer is considered an upland shorebird, although they don’t live at the shore. Killdeers have two black bands around the neck, a brown back, and white belling. They are known for their broken wing impression which draws intruders away from the nest.

Wherever you live, you’re likely to find new species, as well. Keep your eyes open. You’ll be surprised how many fascinating plants and creatures are right underfoot!

*Who Do You Want Your Children to Follow?

You can see all of my books on my website, Marykdoyle.com.

COVID Relief Thursday, Mar 25 2021 

My friend, Patricia, says it’s been a year of Lent. Patricia’s correct in the fact that there’s been a lot of sacrifices since the beginning of the pandemic. The difference is that during Lent, we choose what we want to give up. Few of the changes and challenges we experienced during this time was the result of a personal choice.

It’s been a very long year. I’ve followed the guidelines in regard to mask-wearing, social distancing, and hand-washing. I forfeited traditional holiday celebrations and gatherings with loved ones in exchange for the avoidance of contracting the COVID-19 virus.

My doctors warned that I was at very high risk of hospitalization and death from COVID. From the beginning, I vowed to do my best to avoid the virus. Most of all, I didn’t want a long-term disability. I was considerably more concerned about lasting side effects from the COVID-19 virus than any risk from the vaccine.

I’m relieved to be fully vaccinated. A weight has lifted, and I can’t help but smile. I now have more freedom to be with loved ones, hug them, and enjoy our special days together.

Scheduling vaccination appointments is finally getting easier as more vaccine becomes available. Mass vaccination sites, as well as local pharmacies and pharmacies within grocery stores, are also expanding appointments.

None of the authorized and recommended vaccines contain live virus. Therefore, these vaccines cannot cause someone to develop COVID. Any symptoms we may develop is the result of our bodies developing immunity.

According to the CDC, COVID-19 vaccines do not interact or alter our DNA. There are two types of US vaccines authorized for use.

1. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna RNA (mRNA) vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response. The mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell where our DNA is located. It cannot affect or interact with DNA.

2. Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine is a viral vector vaccine. This is a modified version of a different, harmless virus (the vector) that instructs our cells to produce antibodies to protect us from future infection. Instructions are delivered in a form of genetic material but do not integrate into a person’s DNA.

It’s believed that these vaccines will prevent serious illness or death from this virus. However, it is uncertain how well these vaccines prevent spreading the virus or how long they are effective. For these reasons, we are encouraged to continue to wear masks and remain 6 feet apart while in public places and wash our hands thoroughly and frequently.

***

“Celtic Cross and God’s Everlasting Love” and “Underground Ancient Symbols of Faith” are posted on my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books.

Inspired Caregiving. Weekly Morale Boosters is a helpful and encouraging gift for the caregivers in your life.

Photo: Light house, Fabyan Park, Batavia, IL

Traditional, Complimentary, and Alternative Remedies Thursday, Feb 4 2021 

The older we get the more we discover the magnificent workings of the human body. We learn, not because our interest is naturally peaked, but rather, as parts weaken and wear, we come to know the normal function of a particular muscle, joint, organ, or system.

We take much for granted with our health. We expect to step out of bed in the morning and continue running until the end of the day. When a shoulder or knee aches, hands don’t grip like they used to, or chronic back pain slows us down, we realize how much was going on inside of us with little previous appreciation.

My first therapeutic choice is to seek one that is natural and less invasive. Vitamins and herbs; essential oils; and breathing exercises such as through yoga, meditation, and qi gong can be effective in addition to or replacing a pharmaceutical drug or conventional therapy. This is not to say that conventional medicine can be replaced entirely. Often, it is the appropriate solution. I simply prefer to try something else first.

After months of debilitating fatigue with minor physical exertion, constant leg cramps, dizziness, shortness of breath, and overall nerve tingling, my cardiologist believed the culprit was microvascular resistance which affects the small blood vessels. I had tests to look at the heart and larger vessels but couldn’t test smaller ones because I also have fibromuscular dysplasia. Probing the vessels risked tearing them.         

My doctor suggested I try taking either nitroglycerine or L-arginine to improve blood flow. He said if it worked, we could be reasonably certain it was indeed microvascular resistance. I chose the arginine (an amino acid available over the counter), and soon found tremendous relief. I no longer needed a nap after walking down my street or was up all night with leg cramps. The arginine also lowered my blood pressure which was running high even with medication.

Technically, there is a difference between the terms complimentary and alternative therapies. Complementary remedies are disciplines used with conventional medicine while alternative ones are used in place of it. For example, as when dealing with irritable bowel, diet may be used to work with traditional medicine, to compliment it, or as an alternative to any pharmaceutical prescription.

Many of these therapies such as Ayurveda, acupuncture, and reflexology have been around for thousands of years. They’ve been a trusted solution for an array of medical issues. However, practices do raise concern when there is a lack of federal regulation. Many therapists, such as those administering massage and chiropractic medicine, are regulated, while many others are not.  

Similarly, the quality and potency of over-the-counter remedies can vary greatly between brands. 500mg of calcium can be very different from one company to another or even one bottle to another of the same brand depending on the credibility of the supplier. And yet, we all know ineffective physicians and generic drugs that differ from others, as well.

When choosing any practice or remedy we should remember that they all pose a level of risk. Consumers must do their research and weigh the benefits, side effects, and potential risks before moving forward.

***

Want to know the honest truth about an author’s potential for profit? See my post, “The Reality of an Author.”

Have you “liked” me on Facebook?

Respect Life—With Limitations Friday, Jan 29 2021 

The world feels like a snow globe that keeps getting shaken. In addition to a world pandemic, the most bizarre reaction to a presidential race, and domestic terrorism, people we thought we knew are acting in ways that seem foreign to us. Their views are so out-of-sync from our own that we are completely confused by these people.

With this comes a lot of judging. If our thoughts are drastically in opposition to theirs, who is right? One of the current topics causing such debate is abortion. Specifically, should the question to abort a baby be the deal-breaker in determining the most righteous candidate, cause, or position?

Respecting life from conception is an issue of great personal concern. I do believe that taking a life at any stage is wrong. But it appears to me, that for many people, respecting life only pertains to the unborn. A living creature is another matter. Consideration for immigrants fleeing threats to their well-being, people of color and differing sexual orientation asking for fair and equal treatment and opportunity, convicted felons awaiting state-sanctioned homicide, and the destruction of God’s gifts of flora and fauna is minimal, if non-existent.

I believe my obligation is to strive to love all of God’s creations including the good, bad, and especially, the ugly. Judging belongs to the Lord. Seeing God in all people and all things can be challenging when they do not fit into our description of desirable or deserving, but they are of God, none-the-less.

***

Want to know what the success of an author really means? See “The Reality of an Author” on my other blog.

Healing, Hope, and Recovery Monday, Jan 18 2021 

Joe Biden certainly has his challenges ahead. According to his website, our 46th president of the United States’ lofty ambitions include the battle to control the COVID-19 virus, build prosperity, secure family health care, achieve racial justice, save the climate, and restore decency, defend democracy, and give everybody a fair shot. The wisdom of his age and extensive service to our country as senator and vice president along with his happy disposition and ability to build friendships on both sides of the aisle as a moderate Democrat brings hope to a country in crisis. He’s also a devoted family man with an intelligent, educator wife, Jill, who will be our First Lady.

Biden’s strength and character are built on his foundation of (Catholic) faith and conquering life challenges and heartache. A courageous and humble man, he is quick to acknowledge his political failures and rectify them. His personal struggles, including a stuttering disorder and the sudden losses of his first wife and baby has made him stronger and more compassionate.

Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. was born on November 20, 1942 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He played football and baseball in high school and was class president both his junior and senior year. He also played football his freshman year of college. Education didn’t come easy to Biden. He struggled and persevered through his studies receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Delaware and a law degree from Syracuse University.

Biden practiced law as a public defender and then at a firm before being elected senator of Delaware at the age of 29 in 1973. He was reelected to that position six times. He then served as vice president during the Obama administration from 2009 to 2017.

For our country to fully and more quickly recover, all of our support is needed. Joe Biden is inheriting a country in the midst of a pandemic that has taken more than 400,000 American lives and an economic crisis with an unemployment rate that has doubled since March, 2019. In addition, we have a deteriorating infrastructure, wage stagnation, drastic income inequality, and tremendous national debt. Biden must also strive to remove all of the walls–the border wall, the need for a wall around our capitol building to protect our governing body and democracy, and walls between family and friends divided due to political division.

For the peace and prosperity of our country, whatever your political affiliation, please pray for God to bless Joe Biden and the United States of America.

***

Have you read “American Novena” on my other blog? Check out my latest book, Inspired Caregiving. Weekly Morale Builders.

Recipe for Inner Peace Tuesday, Jan 12 2021 

Yoga, meditation, and lots of prayer. These are a few of the ingredients in my personal recipe for inner peace. When I’m stressed, hurt, disappointed, or frustrated, I center myself. Still and quiet, peace comes to me.

Historically, humanity doesn’t remain peaceful for long. Eruptions arise within our inner circle and the world at large more often than not. Between COVID, political unrest, and domestic terrorism, this certainly is one of the more intense periods of disruption we’ve seen in the U.S. for some time.

How can we remain calm and peaceful with so much going on? I believe we can outweigh the negative with positivity and goodness. The more peaceful we are within ourselves, the more we extend that tranquility far out beyond us.

Here are a few suggestions for promoting personal peace. Focus on one or mix them up for a relaxing cocktail. I’d love to hear what you can add to this list.

  • Begin the day with a positive thought.
  • Practice daily relaxation in a quiet setting.
  • Meditate.
  • Pray. Pray. Pray.
  • Accept what can’t be changed.
  • Turn off the electronics.
  • Exercise.
  • Breathe consciously.
  • Forgive and ask to be forgiven.
  • Let go of petty disputes and disappointments.
  • Volunteer at a homeless shelter or food pantry.
  • Avoid books, movies, and online activities that include violence, inequality, cruelty, or profanity.
  • Surround yourself with gentle, loving people.
  • Attend in-person or virtual church services
  • Avoid gossip and unsubstantiated posts.
  • Give thanks for your many blessings.
  • Smile at strangers.
  • Treat others respectfully.
  • Check on elderly neighbors.
  • Read inspirational books and other writings.
  • Pray for peace.

***

If I say I will pray for you, I really will. See my latest post, “Praying for Those on Your List,” on my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books.

Have you checked out my latest book, Inspired Caregiving?

Faith-Driven Election Wednesday, Nov 11 2020 

The chaos, division, and anger may not show it, but in my opinion, the 2020 Presidential Election has been one of the most faith-driven elections in U.S. history. Voters examined issues such as immigration, racism, abortion, domestic production, environmental health, and the economy in relation to their interpretation of biblical and religious teachings.

Ironically, most of us fell into one of two camps. We took the very same ideals and saw them from completely opposite view-points. “Fake News” was suspect on both sides. Neither trusted, or continues to trust, information from the other. Each side believes they know God’s truth. Many feared the outcome if one or the other candidate won, and some believe that the end-times is now quickly approaching.

With the rise of COVID-19, severely diminished employment opportunities, vast economic disparity, and friends and neighbors divided on hot issues, toxic slander, and ill perceptions of the candidates, as well as each other, boils and spews across everything from social media to neighborhoods and homes.

Perhaps our best reference for what to do at this time is Jesus’ teaching about the greatest commandments. Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” He continued by saying the second is to love our neighbor as our self (Matthew 22:34-40).

Following this guide, we should pray and listen to the Lord all day every day and treat each other with compassion and kindness. We also can strive to live each moment as if it is our last, which, for any number of reasons, may truly be. That would mean to avoid causing pain, injustice, or insult to anyone or anything at all times.

***

Have you seen the posts on my other blog, “New Blood Test For Alzheimer’s Disease,” “Compassionate and Devout Saint Margaret,” or “Through the Church Doors?

Check out my recently updated website with information on all of my books.

Our 1950-Early 1960s Moms Wednesday, Sep 16 2020 

One of my many blessings is a group of women who I’ve known since high school. Susie, Sally, Mary Ellen, and I have supported one another through the ups and downs of life for almost 50 years. As an added bonus, we gained the wisdom of each other’s parents. All of our parents acted as our bumpers in the bowling alley of life. My friends and I could go to any parent, any time.

With the recent passing of Susie’s mother, our last living parent, I was reminded of the responsibilities of women in our early childhood. Homemaking was an exhausting full-time job back then. Mothers had little, if any, time of their own. Their life was about service to family.

When I was a child, visions of my mother included seeing her standing at the washing machine, ironing board, or wearing an apron at the stove. Mom was always working. She didn’t have the conveniences of a microwave, dishwasher, permanent press clothes, or even the ability to drive a car. She walked to the grocery store dragging her folding shopping cart and kids in toe.

Women’s work was labor intensive. Food was cooked from scratch, dishes were washed by hand, clothes needed knuckle-bleeding scrubbing on washboards before tossing into the washing machine, socks were darned, everything had to be ironed, and shoes were polished weekly. The work was never-ending.

Some vendors went directly to the homemaker. Vacuum cleaner, encyclopedia, magazines, and cleaning supply salesmen knocked on the door and gave their sales pitches. Milkmen dropped off the heavy glass containers of milk. Some vendors strolled the streets with push carts or small trucks while ringing bells or calling out their goods such as rags, fresh vegetables, and even bleach for sale, as well as knife sharpening.

During the school year, children came home for lunch. Mothers had only a couple of hours for their morning chores before they needed to prepare our lunches, clean up, and send us back to school for the afternoon. No doubt, it seemed that they barely got us out the door when we returned looking for snacks, needing help with homework, and asking the all-important question, “What’s for Dinner?”

What seemed like most of my childhood, my mother was pregnant. Mom was accomplishing her duties in hot summer kitchens and chilly winters with a growing belly. She had five live births and one stillborn, a total of 54 months of pregnancy in 13 years, which wasn’t unusual at that time. Reliable birth control was not available and any attempt at preventing pregnancy in our Catholic families was frowned upon.

One of my favorite memories of my mother is of her ironing in the living room and watching soap operas, with me at her side while I “ironed” doll clothes on my little ironing board. I was raised to be a wife and mother, just like Mom. However, I had no idea how exhausting her days were. Some women worked outside of the home in limited positions, such as nursing, secretarial, and teaching. However, once married, most “retired.” Wife and mother was their job.

Through all of this, women of the 50s/60s were required to look their best at all times. Most wore (circle or sheath/wiggle) dresses, pencil skirts, stockings, and pumps or stiletto shoes year-round, although pants were becoming popular on occasion. Waists were cinched with a belt or sash. Undergarments included girdles, bullet bras, garter belts, slips, and scratchy petticoats to make their circle dresses stand out.

When out of the house, women were certain every hair was in place and makeup was applied, especially lipstick. Accessories included pearls, clip-on earrings, broaches, gloves, a clutch purse, and often, a hat. Little boots could be worn in winter snow storms, but their outfits were designed for beauty, not comfort or warmth.

On behalf of all the “children” my age, we are most grateful to all the loving and hardworking moms. Their attention to providing us with nurturing homes is gratefully appreciated.

***

Photos: Mary, Susie, Sally, Mary Ellen, 2020. Shopping cart and washboard. My parents, John and Pat Doyle, 1956. My grandmother (Florence McCarthy), mother, and Aunt Marlene, 1963.

***

Have you read, Love from a Distance,” my blog post on COVID restrictions on families visiting loved ones in memory care homes, on my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books?

Are You Sympathetic, Empathetic–or Neither? Thursday, Sep 3 2020 

“I know exactly how you feel?” We often say this, but is it really true?

Few situations are identical. However, it’s easier for us to sympathize with someone whose experience is similar to one we’ve been through.

I have great sympathy for pregnant women in the Midwest this summer. With the anxieties of COVID and the social unrest in addition to the challenges of pregnancies during the hottest summer on record, these women must be pillars of strength and endurance. I’m certainly not pregnant now! My pregnancies are long-passed. But I can relate to the discomfort of summer pregnancies while in the midst of frightening circumstances. I really do sympathize with them.

In contrast, I empathize with the struggles of people of color. I’m not Black or Brown, so I can’t know how it really is for them. I can only imagine how it might feel to be Black and entering a store with all white people or question why it appears to me that I’m treated differently.

Sympathy and empathy are similar yet distinctly different words. When sympathetic, we relate emotionally to someone from a point of experience. We share feelings with another person.

Empathy is emotionally distant. We may imagine being in a particular situation but have not experienced it personally. We can’t really know the emotional impact to things we have no reference to ourselves.

If we’ve never been without a meal, how can we know how it is to have little to no food to feed our family for weeks on end? If we haven’t fled our home town in fear of our safety, can we really envision the desperation of leaving all of our friends and family behind to trek hundreds of intensely hot and terrifying miles to seek asylum in a strange land? We don’t personally know the suffering that comes with such a decision.

Our world is currently crying for empathy. People are literally shouting to be heard, to be understood. Everyone benefits from good listening skills, imagining how it might feel to walk in our neighbor’s flip flops, and taking other people’s feelings to heart. Peace will come if we are still and quiet long enough to be even a little empathetic.

***

Check out my post, Riches to Rags, on St. Francis and the sweet town of Assisi, Italy and also my website for all of my books.

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