calendar_2015_blogMarch 31 – April 2, 4:00 p.m. Babysitting 101 at Central Branch. Learn the essentials of babysitting with a University of Maryland Extension instructor. Participants receive a certificate. Must attend all three sessions: Mar 31, Apr 1 & 2. Ages 13 & up. Register online or by calling 410.313.7800.

Monday, April 6, 3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Blood Pressure Screening at Glenwood Branch. Free, walk-in blood pressure screening and monitoring offered by Howard County General Hospital: a Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. Well & Wise event. 1st & 3rd Mondays; 3:30 – 5:30 pm. No registration required.

Tuesday, April 7, 2:00 p.m. & 3:45 p.m. EatPlayGrow™ at Central BranchExplore health and safety concepts inspired by children’s literature. Ages 3-5 with adult; 45 min. Multi-week series. Well & Wise event. Limited space; tickets available at Children’s Desk 15 minutes before class.

Wednesday, April 8, 6-8:30 p.m. Free.  Caring for the Young Athlete Successful prevention, evaluation and rehabilitation of sports-related injuries and concussions is crucial for any young athlete. During this seminar in the Howard County General Hospital Wellness Center, Johns Hopkins pediatric specialists in orthopaedics, sports medicine, neurosurgery, surgery and physical therapy will discuss injury prevention and the signs/symptoms of more serious conditions and when to seek help. Dinner is included as part of this free event.

Saturday, April 11, 9-11 a.m. $35. Self-Defense for Young Women Teens ages 12 to 15 will learn physical and psychological strategies of self-defense. Held in the Howard County General Hospital Wellness Center.

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With the vernal equinox behind us the days will grow longer and the nights shorter. Nature is in balance for that brief moment, and then we move on. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could achieve that kind of balance in our lives, even for one day in the year? One of my favorite ways to reconnect and rejuvenate is through gardening. I am a terrible gardener but that’s not the point. The point is to get dirty, smell the soil and be humbled and amazed when a seed actually becomes a flower. Sharing with others this incredible magic through picture books is one of the joys of spring Children’s classes. Or just take a walk through the Enchanted Garden and restore your soul.

208028“There once was a city without gardens or trees or greenery of any kind.” Peter Brown’s tale of urban renewal and the persistent of nature (both plant and human) begins with this sobering statement. Our hero, Liam, discovers a small patch of weeds, and through trial and error, he nurtures a garden that grows and grows. As the garden greens, the colors brighten until the sky is blue and Liam is surrounded by flowers. Other gardeners take on the challenge and the city itself becomes more colorful. An inspirational tale inspired by the Manhattan High Line project.

We are fortunate in Howard County to have green space within the reach of all our citizens. Perhaps we should all take more advantage of these for our health, both physical and mental.

if you plant a seedKadir Nelson is one of my favorite illustrators and he knocks it out of the park with If You Plant a Seed. “If you plant a tomato seed, a carrot seed, and a cabbage seed,” then that is what you will grow. Rabbit and Mouse work together and have a beautiful harvest. When the birds come begging to share in the feast Rabbit and Mouse plant a different seed, selfishness, and – “it will grow, and grow, and grow … into a heap of trouble.” After a food fight where most of the harvest is destroyed, Mouse offers one of the last pieces to the birds. In return the birds bring Mouse and Rabbit all kinds of wonderful seeds showing that “the fruits of kindness … are very, very sweet.” Gorgeous oil paintings are a hallmark of Nelson’s books, making this a book to return to again and again to enjoy his artistry.

Share this book with those who are still working on that notion of sharing- or bunnies!

Up in thup in the garden and down in the dirte Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner is a paean to the natural world and all of the creatures who contribute to the success (and sometimes failure) of spring planting. The often unseen life all around the garden, such as a praying mantis that eats mosquitoes, pill bugs that chew through leaves, honeybees that pollinate flowers, and a garter snake that hunts grasshoppers, are lovingly depicted by illustrator Christopher Silas Nelson. This is a full year in the garden as a young girl and her grandmother plan, plant, tend, and harvest. A lovely, quiet book for sharing right now when for many of us it is a little early to begin planting, but never too early for planning.

Hopefully, the snow is behind us. Let us enjoy as the poet says when the “world is mud-Luscious” and “puddle-wonderful” and it’s spring!

Shirley ONeill works for Howard County Library System as the Children’s and Teen Materials Specialist. She cannot believe she actually gets paid to do this job.

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“Exercise affects your whole body and makes your bones and muscles stronger. It improves your heart, lungs and brain function. It also reduces weight, increases lean body mass and can improve a child’s immune system,” said Suzie Jeffreys, an exercise physiologist at Howard County General Hospital.

Not only does exercise help children physically, but mentally as well. “Kids need to get up and move every day. It is a natural part of living and gets our blood flowing and allows more oxygen to reach the brain, which can result in clearer thoughts, better grades, more energy and focus, and improved test scores,”  noted Jeffreys.

“If you get them moving while they are young, it becomes a way of life. They don’t have to get drenched with sweat. Anything they do is better than sitting on the couch or in front of a video game or on their phone,” said Jeffreys.

Know Your Child’s Fitness Personality
With all the latest technology distractions geared toward children, they may sometimes need a little encouragement from their parents to get moving. “There are different fitness personalities. Not everyone is a born athlete and not everyone wants to be—so get to know your child,” remarked Jeffreys. Fitness personalities include:

The “Non-Athlete” – These children need more encouragement and help to get and stay active. They are not inclined to physical activity due to either lack of interest, ability or both. For these children, it is important to introduce exercise gradually and make it fun. To pique their interest, schedule time for activity, invite friends and find something they enjoy.

The “Casual Athlete” – These children find enjoyment in being active, but may not be a star athlete and are most likely not comfortable in a competitive environment. If you get these children out and moving, they will lead you, and you can introduce them to new activities and inspire them with new equipment or attire.

The “Athlete – These children do not need to have you encourage them as much as support them. Continue to provide support by recognizing their talents and suggest trying a variety of activities.

Low Cost Exercise Options in the Howard County area:

  • Team sports through leagues or school
  • Get Active/Stay Active Howard County has a variety of programs and allows kids to try out different activities.
  • Howard County Striders is a great opportunity to run and walk with other kids at a variety of fitness levels.
  • Girls on the Run is an after-school program through the schools: 443-864-8593,
  • Howard County Recreation Centers (Glenwood, North Laurel, Roger Carter) are great resources for families to play basketball, walk/run on an indoor track, jump rope or swim for a reasonable fee.
Suzie Jeffreys is an exercise physiologist for Howard County General Hospital.



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choosing civilityThe 17th century English political philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, wrote: “life is nasty, brutish and short.” He was witnessing the collapse of the then existing political and social order—a bloody civil war was being waged between those who supported the erstwhile British Monarchy, and those who wanted to abolish it. Hobbes was deeply pained by the resulting carnage and atrocities committed by both sides, and he saw the ‘natural order’ of things collapsing under his very eyes. Living and working conditions were brutal. This was a time of great social upheaval in England, resulting in ‘nasty’ physical and mental illnesses, leading to short-life spans and great misery. People behaved “brutishly” towards each other. There was, at that time, a marked decline in what we now call “civility.” The consequences were disastrous for the nation.

Today, we live in far better times, which Hobbes could not even have dreamed about. Life expectancies have improved dramatically. The average lifespan in the United States recently reached the low 80’s. A majority of the population now enjoys good physical and mental health. Standards of living have steadily improved throughout the past century. Most of us live in relative peace, and continue to enjoy the blessings of civilized life.

Although we do not yet have a perfect world, we can strive to improve our quality of life by cultivating civility towards each other. Civility can permeate all aspects of our relationships—at home, at school, at work, as well as in all our market and non-market transactions. If there is such a thing as “Utopia,” then practicing civility may take us there. This will not be an easy ride by any means, but it can be done, if we put our minds and energies into it.

What exactly is “civility?” How does it differ from concepts such as morality, religion, or ethics? How does civility promote mental health and well-being? Why should a society care about civility? To explore this topic, let us briefly discuss three related concepts: religion, morality, and ethics.

Different religious beliefs can often collide with each other, leading to uncivil behavior. Driven by religious fervor or dogma, adherents to a particular religion can tear apart the delicate social fabric that exists in a multiracial or multi-ethnic nation. This can obviously lead to physical and mental illness.

Another widely used term: morality, in most cases, is “culture-specific.” It is also a product of historical circumstances, geography, and religious traditions. What is considered immoral in one society may be an accepted common practice in another. A traveler moving from one country (which adheres to a particular moral code) to another, will find that their inhabitants subscribe to a different moral code of conduct. Interpretations of moral conduct have no universal validity. They are riddled with vagueness.

Ethical conduct and principles have much more commonality with “civility.” However, one can be civil, without being ethical, and vice versa. Ethics deals with certain modes of behavior or actions/decisions we choose to make in everyday life– what is considered as “right” or “wrong” in our national consciousness.

Fortunately, the concept of civility has great universal appeal, without invoking religion, morality, or ethics. Civility can (and should) be central to everyday human interaction. It promotes healthy human relationships, which in turn contributes to our sense of overall life satisfaction and happiness. The result is “a healthy body and a healthy mind.” Whether one is deeply religious or not; moral or immoral (as determined by context), and ethical or unethical, one can choose to be “civil.” Consequently, adherence to common principles of civility promotes overall mental health and well being, without our having to put labels such as “right” or “wrong.” We need not associate or confuse civility with other things.

How can civility promote a good Quality of Life? What should we do? This theme will be explored in the next installment of this topic.

Dr. Gopal C. Dorai is an author, economist, statistician, and Professor Emeritus at William Paterson University.

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Monday, March 23, 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. $15/AARP members, $20/others AARP Driver Safety class refresher for ages 50+ in the Howard County General Hospital Wellness CenterRegister here.

Tuesday, March 24, 10:30 a.m. Brain Aerobics at Miller Branch. Give your brain a workout. Enhance your memory and have fun at the same time. Join us and keep your brain challenged with puzzles, word games and other smart tasks. Well & Wise event. Register online or by calling 410.313.1950.

Tuesday, March 24, 7-8:30 p.m. Free Medicare 102: Why Medicare Isn’t Enough Learn about Medicare Health Plans (Part C) and Medicare Supplement Policies. Presented by the State Health Insurance Assistance Program, Howard County Office on Aging in the Howard County General Hospital Wellness CenterRegister here.

Tuesdays/Thursdays, March 24-May 14, 6:30 to 8 p.m. $195 Healthy Weight Connection Kick-start individual lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise, to help reach a healthier weight. Receive personalized guidance from a certified dietitian. Various nutrition topics and gentle yoga. Tuesdays and Thursdays in the Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness CenterRegister here.

March 31 – April 2, 4:00 p.m. Babysitting 101 at Central Branch. Learn the essentials of babysitting with a University of Maryland Extension instructor. Participants receive a certificate. Must attend all three sessions: Mar 31, Apr 1 & 2. Ages 13 & up. Register online or by calling 410.313.7800.

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5892760393_1666c64567_zOne of the major factors contributing to different forms of stress, bodily afflictions, mental illnesses, high anxiety levels, and general dissatisfaction with modern life can be found in the lifestyles we have voluntarily chosen. For example, our inability (or unwillingness) to bring about an appropriate balance among the various components of what should be a “well balanced life” exacts a heavy toll on our body and psyche. For many people, undue, excessive emphasis on any one aspect of life—such as –office work, career, climbing the corporate ladder, pursuit of wealth, etc. leads inevitably to wanton neglect of other important ingredients of a well-balanced life. This type of personal choice leads to various ailments, imbalances and misalignments. In consequence, anxiety, worry, stress, and mental tension ensue.

Our sedentary lifestyles, with its emphasis on income producing activities, and neglect of other important aspects of living, (such as rest, recreation, exercise, relaxation, and adequate sleep), can and does result in irritability, fatigue and poor physical health. Some of us seem to have no time for anything other than the economic aspects of living. Consequently, we become victims of such an unbalanced life style. The neglected areas of life cry out for attention. They manifest themselves in many warning signs – many physical and mental ailments—and we tend to ignore them at our peril.

So the obvious question is: what should be done? What is the remedy? How do we correct this obvious imbalance? Fortunately, the answer is not far to seek!

thriveVarious aspects of daily life, such as: earning and spending; work and career aspirations; family responsibilities; social obligations; activities that promote physical and mental well being—these must be properly balanced—to produce good health and peace of mind. The resulting improvement in life satisfaction will be immeasurable. Whenever we lose sight of this balancing principle, and ignore the vital contribution that each of these components contribute to our sense of life fulfillment, the result is: physical and emotional distress. Happiness and contentment elude us. Life seems empty—filled with worry, anxiety, tension and stress.

The paradox of our unbalanced lifestyle is this: What we think of as enhancing the quality of life—money, power, position, prestige and recognition (all good things in themselves)- can be pursued to excess, to the detriment of our overall quality of life. This is a trap that should be avoided.

So, it is up to each one of us to recognize the importance of balance in life. Engage yourself in a variety of activities—physical, mental, spiritual, and whatever else you want—but do it NOW. Make it a habit. This would be a wise and welcome choice we can and should make; the benefits would be immeasurable.

Dr. Gopal C. Dorai is an author, economist, statistician, and Professor Emeritus at William Paterson University.

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pregnancy and exercises


You’re expecting a baby and you want to stay fit and healthy. But you probably have some questions about what kind of exercise and how much is safe for you and your baby. Lahaina Hall, M.D., an obstetrician on staff at Howard County General Hospital, has some answers for you.

Q: Can I exercise when pregnant?
You can exercise while pregnant, as long as you do not have any medical or obstetrical issues that put your health at risk. Some conditions that would limit exercise are vaginal bleeding, premature rupture of membranes, incompetent cervix, low placenta or risk factors of preterm labor. You should always speak with your doctor first before starting any exercise regimen.

Q: What is a healthy amount to exercise?
If you don’t already exercise regularly and you are beginning an exercise regimen during pregnancy, start slowly and work up to a goal of at least 30 minutes a day. This can have significant health benefits and help with the process of labor.

Q: Is there a time when I should stop exercising?
There is no set time to stop exercising if your pregnancy remains uncomplicated. Certain exercises may be more challenging as the pregnancy progresses, and those exercises will need some modification. Avoid excessive exercise in hot, humid weather. Stay hydrated. Stop exercising if you experience pain, vaginal bleeding, contractions, leakage of fluid, chest pain, shortness of breath, headache, decreased fetal movement, muscle weakness or are feeling faint or dizzy.

Q: Why should I exercise while pregnant?
Exercise during pregnancy has many benefits. It helps build muscle, bone and stamina; improves energy, mood, sleep and posture; promotes strength and endurance; relieves stress; and may possibly help to prevent and treat gestational diabetes.

Q: Which exercises are best for pregnant women?
The best exercises for pregnant women include swimming, walking (if you don’t exercise, walking is a good way to start and build endurance over time), cycling, low impact aerobics and running, especially if you were a runner before pregnancy.

Q: Are there any exercises I should avoid?
You should avoid exercises with an increased risk of falling and contact sports.  Skiing, horseback riding, gymnastics, hockey, soccer, football, basketball, volleyball and boxing are not recommended. After the first trimester, you should avoid exercises requiring you to lie on your back.

Q: How can I avoid injury?
Always warm up before exercising. Stretching is particularly important. This can help avoid stiffness and injury. Hormones during pregnancy cause ligaments to become more relaxed, enabling joints to be more mobile and at risk of injury. Always cool down after exercising by slowly reducing activity and then stretch.

As pregnancy progresses, be aware that your center of gravity will shift with your growing abdomen; this can make you less stable and more likely to lose balance and fall.

STAY HYDRATED!!!!! Make sure to drink water before, during and after exercise.

Lahaina Hall, M.D., is an OB/GYN with Signature OB/GYN in Columbia. For an appointment, call 410-884-8000.





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