Socks, Please Santa Thursday, Dec 15 2016 

 

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The snow glitters in the blowing wind. Trees and decks and shrubs and ground are dusted in sparkling white snow. So pure, clean—and deceivingly inviting. The temperatures are frigid today, and so are we the moment we step outside.

It looks like we will have a cold winter this year in the U.S. Midwest and North, so we might think about adding socks to our list for Santa and purchasing a pair or two for someone in a homeless shelter. We’ll all endure the winter so much better if we do.

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Women’s fashions aren’t always thoughtful of what we ladies must endure. Live through a number of seasons and we encounter countless summers and winters when we are dressed for looks but not comfort. I know I’ve had too many summers when I was dressed too warm and too many winters when I could have had a few more yards of fabric on me!

A positive trend this winter season are knee and above socks. They’ve been out of fashion, and difficult to find, for many years. We have them back in full swing right now.

Neutral to an array of fun designs are available. We also have leg warmers again. I tried a pair yesterday, and I was amazed at how much warmer I was without the cold air penetrating my jeans. They were only $7 at Marshall’s, but the cute socks are more in the $15-$20 range.

(Why not check out my website or author Facebook page?)

 

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Sun’s Up Saturday, Apr 16 2016 

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

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

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

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

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

©2016, Mary K. Doyle

Fall Colors Tuesday, Sep 30 2014 

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Spring blossoms with hope, summer peaks with flora and fauna, and autumn bursts with color.

The leaves are beginning to change in the Midwest. A new splattering of vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds is seen everywhere we look. It’s like fireworks shooting a new display every day.

The process of leaf changing is fascinating. Much has to do with the declining hours of daylight and the types of trees. Aspen leaves turn bright yellow; oaks’ turn red or brown; dogwoods’ turn purplish red or light tan; and some of the maples’ turn brilliant scarlet. Others, such as elm leaves do not change at all. They simply die and fall off.

For the trees with leaves that do change, leaf color is influenced predominately by the shortening of daylight but also by pigments in the leaves and weather. For optimum color, leaves require a warm, wet spring, favorable summer temperatures, and warm, sunny fall days with cool but frostless nights.

During the spring and summer, the trees take in water from the ground through their roots and carbon dioxide from the air. They use sunlight to turn the water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and glucose in a process called photosynthesis.

There isn’t enough light or water in the winter for photosynthesis. The green chlorophyll disappears from the leaves revealing the yellows and oranges that until then were present but unseen. The cool nights of autumn turn the glucose bright reds and purples.

Unlike the tender leaves of deciduous trees, the tough needles of evergreens with their heavy wax coating and fluid inside their cells resist freezing and withstand severe winter conditions.

(Information gathered from the U.S. Department of Agriculture)

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

The Weight of Weather Friday, Sep 26 2014 

Some dispute the effects of weather on the body. For those of us who feel it in our joints and bones, we don’t need any scientific basis for the phenomena. We are our own meteorologist. Many of us can predict the weather by the effect of barometric pressure on our bodies.

Last month we had heavy cloud coverage, rain, and a high mold count in the Chicago area for several weeks that knocked me off my feet. The mold and humidity triggered my asthma and fibromyalgia resulting in labored breathing and pain that made it difficult for me to get off the couch.

More than 5 million people in the United States have fibromyalgia. The Mayo Clinic describes it as a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue and sleep, memory, and mood issues. Tension headaches, temporomandibular joint disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, and depression are common. There also is an increase in levels of certain chemicals in the brain that signal pain. The brain’s pain receptors develop a memory of the pain making them more sensitive causing them to overact.

Stress and weather, especially low air pressure, are my greatest causes of symptoms. The heavy weight of the air results in great pain.

Air pressure is also called barometric pressure because it is measured by barometers. Barometers measure the current air pressure at a particular location in inches of mercury or in millibars.

High pressure systems moving in often predict cooler temperatures and clear skies. Low pressure systems bring warmer weather, storms, and rain.

Atmospheric pressure is the weight of tiny particles of air molecules exerted upon us. The pressure and its density is related to the weather—the air’s temperature and height above the Earth’s surface.

The Earth’s atmosphere is pressing against each square inch of our bodies with a force of about 14.7 pounds per square inch. The force on a space of a little larger than a square foot is about 1 ton and it is up to our bodies to balance the pressure within us with that outside.

Since the pressure depends upon the amount of air above us, the pressure decreases as we go higher. As elevation increases there is less atmospheric mass resulting in the barometric pressure dropping about 1 inch of mercury for each increase of 1,000 feet. Our ears pop as we move up to balance the pressure between the outside and inside of our ears and we breathe faster to bring more air molecules into our lungs to make up for less air.

I feel considerably less pain on clear days and at higher elevations, so perhaps the solution for me is to keep my sights on the heavens and stay high above the clouds.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Hello Spring Tuesday, Mar 25 2014 

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Congratulations Winter Survivors!

According to the calendar, spring has sprung. Now if only we could get Mother Nature to understand that.

I don’t have to tell you that it’s been a tough winter. Most, at least in the Midwest, experienced the toughest season in decades. We had way too many bitter cold days and way too much snow. But we got through it. We’re still here, ready for warmer temps and sunny days. Pat yourself on the back for your outstanding ability to endure, persevere, and move on.

Like the first crocus that pops its head up from the cold, hard ground, we emerge into the new season bright with hope and optimism. Embrace the moment. Before long, we will be complaining about the heat.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Step Carefully Tuesday, Feb 25 2014 

With the exception of my philtrum, (That’s the groove between the nose and lip. I just wanted to use that word because it sounds cool.), every inch of me is bruised and hurting. I fell last night and have more colorful spots on me than the tattooed lady at the circus my husband likes to talk about.

The snowplows pushed snow up to the top of our mailboxes on the street, which we have to step up on to reach the box. A brief thaw and refreeze turned the mound into solid ice. I took one step up and fell right down to the street with a thud.

It will be interesting to see the statistics at the end of the season on weather-related injuries. We’ve had so much cold and snow here in the Midwest; I’d be surprised if the emergency rooms aren’t keeping unusually busy with sprains, strains, lacerations, and breaks due to falls and heart attacks from shoveling.

I’m really good at giving advice that I don’t take but here are a few things we can keep in mind the rest of this winter:

  • Keep our hands out of our pockets. We can’t brace ourselves, or even balance very well, if our hands aren’t available.
  • Take small steps. It’s easier to recover from a slip if are feet are closer together.
  • Dress appropriately. At least my jacket offered some padding, and if I had to remain on the ground for a while, I wouldn’t be chilled.
  • Hold on to the handrails. When walking up and down stairways, the railings can prevent us from going all the way down should we slip.
  • Walk cautiously. My fall is a reminder to slow down and step carefully. If you don’t, nature will force you to do so. I’m not moving very quickly today.

And here are a few suggestions when driving:

  • Drive slowly enough for conditions.
  • Keep space between vehicles.
  • Use headlights.
  • Brake before turning.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

No Need for Groundhogs Tuesday, Feb 4 2014 

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Here in the Midwest, we didn’t need a rodent to tell us we have six more weeks of winter ahead of us. Regardless of the groundhog seeing his shadow, we are fully aware of the mounds of snow around us and the alternating cold and snowy days ahead in the forecast.

The news is buzzing with salt shortages, record-breaking snow day closings at schools, and traffic accidents due to the weather. But there is good in everything, even in these conditions.

Personally, I like the brightness of the snow. There appears to be so much more light streaming through the windows as the sun reflects on the snow. And when outside, we are wearing sunglasses almost as often as during the summer.

Here are a few other positives about this winter weather:

  • Hot showers, hot drinks, and fluffy blankets are so much more enjoyable.
  • Snow resorts don’t have to make snow. The real stuff is here in abundance.
  • Snow removal and heating repair employees are banking a lot of overtime.
  • No need to hurry home from running errands. That ice cream in the trunk isn’t going to melt.
  • We get to wear beautiful scarves, sweaters, and boots.
  • Not enough space in the refrigerator? We can just set those cold drinks outside the door.
  • We’ve gotten our money’s worth out of our winter wear.
  • Snow plow sales are up.
  • Schools and some businesses have closed due to blizzard and subzero conditions. This has offered a lot of us days to enjoy family and the homes we work so hard to maintain.
  • Kids are getting a lot of exercise and practice building snow-people and forts.
  • Cuddling keeps us warm and happy.
  • Snow makes a good surface for identifying animal tracks.
  • Artists are not lacking in material for snow sculptures.
  • The farmers’ fields will have plenty of moisture for planting in the spring.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

How Cold is it? Monday, Jan 6 2014 

If hell is in the Midwest, beware of all those things you said would happen when hell freezes over. With actual temperatures double digits below freezing, everything instantly freezes. You may remember reading in one of my past posts that frozen turkeys are flash-frozen at 30 degrees below zero. Wind chills currently are well below that.

Brrrrr does not describe how cold it really is here. But there are colder places.

The coldest recorded temperature in the U.S was -79.8 F at Prospect Creek, Alaska on January 23, 1971. The earth’s coldest inhabited town is Oymyakon, Russia in northeast Siberia. It’s not unusual for residents to experience temperatures as low as -60s, and their coldest recorded temperature was -89.8 in 1933. The long-standing record for the coldest temperature anywhere was -128.6 F recorded in Antarctica in July of 1983!

Frostbite and hypothermia risk is great at subzero temperatures. In addition to the cold, travel remains difficult in many areas due to the heavy snowfall and ice. If you have to go outside, dress in layers, and cover every inch of skin. Return indoors as soon as possible. Use fireplaces and space heaters safely, and never heat a room with your oven.

It’s a good day to work from home or take the day off. Snuggle up with a good book, movie, loved one, or pet. You can fill a need for productivity by cleaning a closet, gathering income tax information, or putting on a pot of soup. You also may give those with limited mobility a phone call to see how they are doing.

Wherever the day takes you, may you be safe and warm.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Tornado Season Monday, Apr 8 2013 

Tornado season is upon us, and although there are people who are intrigued by these violent rotating columns of air, most of us hope never to experience one up close.

Tornadoes may strike without any warning, but some of the signs that indicate the possibility of a tornado are a dark, often greenish sky; large hail; large, dark, low-lying clouds, particularly if they are rotating; and a loud roar like a freight train.

A tornado watch means that tornadoes are possible. You should listen closely to instructions by local emergency management officials.

A tornado warning indicates that weather radar sighted a tornado and you should seek shelter immediately. This shelter is preferably away from windows and in a basement. If this is not possible, look for an inside space protected from falling and blowing debris. Residents of mobile homes are advised to go to a nearby shelter facility, if time permits. It’s also advisable to designate a place to meet family members in the event you are separated.

Tornadoes are very unpredictable but here are a few averages of interest:

  • The U.S. typically has about 1,200 tornadoes every year.
  • Peak season for the Midwest is late spring through early summer.
  • The average speed of a tornado is 30 mph.
  • Most tornadoes move southwest to northeast.
  • Tornadoes typically occur between 3 and 9 p.m.

For more information, go to:

http://www.ready.gov/tornadoes

http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/education/svrwx101/tornadoes/

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

Hot Topics Monday, Jul 16 2012 

The Midwest is steaming hot, hot, hot. We are experiencing record-breaking temperatures this summer and little rain creating a number of problems for farmers and consumers, some of which we have yet to realize.

Emotionally I feel better when I can perceive things in a positive light. So here are some of my brighter thoughts on the unrelenting heat:

  • Siestas are necessary.
  • There’s no snow to shovel.
  • Less clothing is acceptable.
  • It’s too hot to work too hard.
  • It’s a good summer to relax and read.
  • Peaches are smaller but much sweeter.
  • It’s OK to sweat because everyone else is too.
  • Kids are enjoying lots of sprinkler and pool time.
  • Most of us are fortunate enough to have air conditioning.
  • All that water we should drink is more refreshing than ever.
  • Museums and libraries are cool and educational places to spend a hot day.
  • Air conditioner repair technicians and lemonade vendors are getting overtime.
  • When it’s too hot to go outside our chances of sunburn and skin cancer is reduced.

What cool ideas can you add to this list?

©Mary K. Doyle

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