Great Midwest Weather Monday, Aug 15 2022 

Rarely, are we in the Midwest United States envied for our weather. We typically experience hot summers and cold winters. The change of seasons is fun to some extent. It is just that winters can be long, bitter, and dark when we have weeks with little sun.

However, our weather is currently perfect. Unlike much of the country (our coasts are hot and dry and south has had storms with flooding), the Chicago area is in the 70s/low 80s during the day with low humidity and pleasantly cool in the evening.

Also, we’ve had a good amount of rain, so our grass, shrubs, and trees are lush and green. The flowers, birds, and butterflies are in abundance. (Except for the rare occurrence of monarchs.) And fields are plentiful with fruits and vegetables.

I love the summer–the deep greens and lavish flora and fauna that surrounds us. The best part is that I can work on the patio surrounded by wee creatures coming and going. I find it inspiring, rejuvenating, and exhilarating.

*Photos: Black swallowtail butterfly, goldfinch, hydrangea, hummingbird.

*Take care of yourself while you take care of your family. Follow along with weekly photos, affirmations, prayers, suggestions for caring for yourself, and a little humor with my book, Inspired Caregiving.

Nature Speak Tuesday, Aug 9 2022 

The trees,

and shrubs

and grass

and wildflowers

The animals

and birds

and bugs

and fish

The rivers

and oceans

and mountains

and beaches

The wind

and rain

and sleet

and snow

The moon

and sun

and stars

and sky

Speak

in whispers

and shouts

and songs

and tears.

(Photo: Michigamme River, Channing, MI, 7/3/21

Photo and Poem by Mary K. Doyle)

*

**Do you know that I’ve written 11 books? You can find all of them on my website.

Particle Physics Matters Monday, Aug 1 2022 

Having been married to a magician (Marshall Brodien) for 24 years, I learned decades ago that much goes on without our knowing, and it happens right in front of our eyes. Such is the way of particle physics, the branch of science that focuses on the actions and purpose of life from its teeniest, tiniest parts, and searches for answers as to what the universe is made of and how it works.

Fermilab is the United States’ premier particle physics and accelerator laboratory. There, approximately 4,000 scientists and engineers from more than 50 countries, seek to solve the mysteries of matter, energy, space, and time. Each year, the lab also hosts nearly 1,000 university students participating in research programs.

According to their website, Fermilab’s vision is to lead the nation in the development of particle colliders and their use for scientific discovery and advance particle physics through measurements of the cosmos. They also intend to lead the world in neutrino science with particle accelerators.

Neutrinos could be responsible for matter that created a universe dominated by matter and making it possible for us to be here today. At this time, more than 1,400 scientists from at least 35 countries are building the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment which is anticipated to send a neutrino beam from Illinois’ Fermilab through the earth to a neutrino detector at Sanford Underground Research in South Dakota.

Many moons ago, when I was in elementary school, I learned that atoms were the smallest unit of matter. Research has since discovered that atoms consist of smaller particles called quarks and leptons (which includes neutrinos), and it’s likely these units may be broken down into even smaller particles.  

Studies at Fermilab are conducted on particles using accelerators that recreate the conditions of the early universe. These accelerators and other sensors and detectors allow scientists to observe subatomic particles by smashing them into each other.

To the novice, these studies are beyond our understanding. However, extensive information on Fermilab’s website and at their learning center breaks much of it down to basic levels. The public is welcome to visit Fermilab to walk through their prairie paths, interact with hands-on activities at the Lederman Science Center, attend guided, scheduled tours at Wilson Hall, and even observe a herd of bison.

Founded in 1967 on 6,800 acres in Batavia, Illinois, Fermilab is managed by the Fermi Research Alliance LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science.

For an extraordinary opportunity to learn more about Fermilab’s extensive research projects including neutrinos, dark matter, and dark energy (which comprises 96% of the universe), visit Fermilab and their website or call 630-840-3351.

**Do you know that I’ve written 11 books? You can find all of them on my website.

Advances in Early Detection of Alzheimer’s Wednesday, Jul 20 2022 

A simple blood test reveals a great deal about our health. Anemia, blood cancers, and infection can be detected in addition to learning information regarding heart, liver, and kidney function. And soon we may have a blood test for Alzheimer’s disease, as well.

Alzheimer’s disease’ isn’t typically suspected until symptoms begin interfering with daily living. More than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and countless others unknowingly have it as the disease develops in the brain 10-20 years before symptoms appear. By the time Alzheimer’s is evident, valuable time has been lost—time that could have been used to maximize experiences with family and friends, plan for the future, make end-of-life decisions, and take advantage of medical options available in early stages.

As of this posting, an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis is made through a combination of basic screening and physical, emotional, and cognitive exams. There may be genetic testing if it’s believed to have run in a family. A more definitive diagnosis can be made with a spinal tap that detects tau proteins in cerebrospinal fluid. However, this is quite an invasive test and not covered by insurance.

The progression of Alzheimer’s disease begins when brain protein called amyloid beta accumulates into plaques. Another protein, tau, then produces tangles. Neurons begin to die from this build-up of plaques and tangles. Finally, brain tissue atrophies which can be seen as decreased brain volume on MRI testing.

PET brain scans are our best testing option at this time. However, the test requires an injection of a radioactive tracer for imaging, is expensive, and not covered by insurance.

All of these tests have limitations. Even PET brain scans and cerebrospinal taps do not provide information on changes in the neurons. Most importantly, our current tests are not able to detect Alzheimer’s until the disease has progressed significantly.

An exciting option on the horizon is a blood test that can be taken earlier in the disease process, perhaps even before symptoms begin. The Lumipulse G β-amyloid Ratio (1-42/1-40) is in the development stage and is hoped to be available soon.

We also have a new form of MRI that detects the loss of neurons that precedes brain shrinkage and cognitive decline. This test will then offer results sooner than the traditional MRI.

Current Alzheimer’s research focuses predominately on finding treatment for symptom management. Detection before massive destruction of cells would be more beneficial, and perhaps it would lead to a cure, which is not yet available.

For more information, see the FDA and the Alzheimer’s Association sites and the books, Navigating Alzheimer’s, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, and Inspired Caregiving.

Magnificent Mandevilla Tuesday, Jul 5 2022 

Dipladenia or Mandevilla? I received a stunning, tall plant with brightly colored trumpet-shaped flowers for Mother’s Day from my son and daughter-in-law.  The plant was tagged “Mandevilla.” I loved it so much that I bought a second tall one and a small one in a pot.

I later noticed the small one was labeled dipladenia. With a little research, I found that dipladenia is a type of mandevilla. However, the taller variation is simply noted as mandevilla.

Mandevilla plants are evergreen, tropical vines, commonly known as Funnel Flowers or Rock Trumpets and bloom from June to October. They can be grown as annuals or perennials. Those typically noted as mandevilla crawl upwards to 16.4 feet. They have larger flowers and broader shaped leaves than dipladenia.

Dipladenia belong to the mandevilla genus. The plant grows bushy with downward growth rather than upward and vine-like. The leaves are fine, pointed, deep green, and slightly glossy. Dipladenia grow well in containers and hanging baskets.

All mandevilla plants need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day and well-drained, moist soil. They may be grown in or outdoors. If grown indoors, the plants should be kept warm and watered deeply and thoroughly about every 8-10 days. Plants do best when dead and damaged leaves and blossoms are removed. They also may also be trimmed to maintain a desired shape.

Hummingbirds and bees are attracted to the enticing blossoms of these beautiful plants. So, not only do we enjoy the flowers in our gardens, but we also have the birds and bees to watch, as well.

I’ve read that dipladenias are easy to propagate and will try to do so myself. Instructions say to cut a short length of healthy vine and remove the lower leaves. The cutting is then to be planted in a free-draining potting mix and placed in a bright, warm spot. The soil should be moist but not too wet or it will develop root rot.

If plants become infected with spider mites or aphids, the leaves may be wiped gently with a cotton swab and neem oil. 

Mandevillas are toxic to humans and pets.

* Information for this post was gathered from Plantophiles, Gardening Know How

*Peace begins within us. See Grieving with Mary, The Rosary Prayer by Prayer, and Fatima at 100. Fatima Today.

Alebrijes. Creatures of a Dream World Thursday, Jun 23 2022 

Question: What has clawed feet, fins, a tale made of fish, and fangs?

Answer: Alebrijes.

Think mythical creatures in brightly colored, seemingly random patterns. Alebrijes have characteristics of a mix of land, water, and air animals adorned in every color of the rainbow. And you can see examples of these playful sculptures at Cantigny Park in Wheaton, Illinois now through October of this year.

The exhibit features 48 unique sculptures. Wander through the park and you’ll find the alebrijes scattered through the lush gardens. The kids will enjoy spotting the creatures and checking them off on a photo sheet they can pick up in the information center.

The folk-art sculptures originated in 1943 when Mexican artist Pedro Linares fell seriously ill. He dreamed of a forest of unusual animals-a donkey with butterfly wings, rooster with bull horns, and lion with an eagle head. The animals repeatedly shouted Alebrijes! Alebrijes Alebrijes!

When Linares recovered from his illness, he began creating the creatures he saw in his dream with strips of paper and glue made from wheat flour and water. The sculptures became popular when artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo were drawn to their creativity and vivid beauty.

Some of Linares’ designs were later carved from a local wood called copal, which is thought to be magical. The name “alebrijes” now applies to sculptures of this type made from both paper-mâché and wood. Unfortunately, demand for the wood carvings have resulted in a depletion of the copal trees.

The Cantigny Park alabrijes creations begin with a design on paper by one of 6 artists from Mexico City. If accepted, the creature is made in miniature. Then it is painstakingly replicated in full.

Parallels have been made between alabrijes and historically recognized supernatural creatures from Mexico’s indigenous and European past such as dragons, gargoyles, and judas-red cardboard demons burned in Mexico during Holy Week as a purification ritual. Monster alebrijes are believed to protect homes by scaring away evil spirits.

The art exhibit, “Alebrijes: Creatures of a Dream World,” is presented in partnership with the Mexican Cultural Center of Dupage, City of West Chicago, and DuPage Convention & Visitors Bureau. See the Cantigny Park website for more information.

** When you are your loved one’s full-time caregiver, don’t feel guilty for stepping away. If you don’t care for yourself, you won’t be able to care for them. Inspired Caregiving. Weekly Morale Builders

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.

Quality Ingredients Wednesday, Jun 1 2022 

A favorite cookie in my family is a simple twist on the famous Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie. Everyone asks for my version. They say it is special.

I follow the regular recipe with one exception. Well, actually, two. I use chunks of both white and semi-sweet chocolate. I also omit the nuts.

I believe these cookies are so delicious partially because of the two types of chocolate, but mostly, it’s due to the quality of the ingredients. I use sea salt, pure vanilla, and organic sugar, butter, eggs, and flour and chocolate from a specialty chocolate shop (Graham’s Fine Chocolates and Ice Cream) in my town. The cookie is delectable because of the decadent ingredients.

That is the way with life. Exceptional details raise the ordinary to extraordinary.

Original Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour

1 teaspoon Baking Soda

1 teaspoon Salt

1 cup Butter (Softened)

3/4 cup Granulated Sugar

3/4 cup Brown Sugar

1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

2 Large Eggs

2 cups Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels

1 cup Nuts (chopped)

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in a large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in the flour mixture. Stir in the morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

*Have you read any of my books? If you have, please, please, please write a review on Amazon. My newest book, Inspired Caregiving, offers a boost to all caregivers-parents, teachers, and those who look after ailing loved ones.

Never Departed Monday, May 23 2022 

A beloved uncle of mine passed away this month. Uncle Walt was 81 years-old and suffered from a couple of health problems for decades. We would love to have had him longer, but his death was not completely unexpected. Therefore, his memorial was celebratory and honored him with some tears and lots of stories and laughter.

When someone suffers from illness, it’s not unusual to look at their death as a relief. We find a bit of comfort in knowing our loved one is no longer in pain, and for those who believe in heaven, that they are in a better, happier, and easier place from that point through eternity.

Yet even these expected deaths prompt deep pondering about our relationship with the deceased. We reminisce the good times. We also take note of our own passing in the unforeseen near or far future. It’s a wakeup call, a reminder, that no one lives forever. At some point, we too will cross to the other side. And no one knows when that time will come.

When I dream, I encounter friends and family who are both living and dead. These people typically are moving around in the same dream. I see some of them so often, I don’t miss them in this life as much. I’m comforted by their presence in my dreams and also my own death. It helps me to believe in the continuity of life, in one form or another.

Following is a free verse poem I wrote about my experience with such dreams.

*

Never Departed

Moving back and forth

between the living and the dead

friends and family,

past and present.

They’re all with me at the table

communicating when awake

and in my dreams,

sharing signs, words, and visions.

The ability to be together,

simultaneously

in this life and the next,

is comforting.

*

Photo: Hibiscus, Colon, MI, 8/2/21

*Take a look at my books: Grieving with Mary and Inspired Caregiving.

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