calendar_2015_blogToday, Friday, Feb. 27, 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Maryland Legal Aid. Howard County Library System partners with Maryland Legal Aid to provide free civil legal services to financially qualified Marylanders. 1st Wednesdays, 2nd & 4th Fridays; 10 am -1 pm. For initial interview and appointment, please call 410.480.1057.

Monday, March 2, 10:15 a.m. Just for Me at Savage Branch. A class for children who are ready for an independent classroom experience that includes creative expression, listening comprehension, and early reading skills. Ages 3-5; 30 min. No registration required. Also offered at Miller Branch at 2:00 p.m. Ticket required. Tickets are available at 1:45 p.m.

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February is Valentines and American Heart month. It’s all about the heart, and these picture books are just the ticket to keep you heart-healthy and heart warmed.

henrys heartThis humorous fiction/nonfiction blend introduces us to Henry’s heart. Using speech-bubbles, text boxes,and charts (ala Scaredy Squirrel) we learn how this important muscle pumps oxygen and blood around his body. When Henry’s mother says Henry Malcolm Webber go play outside in the fresh air, we learn the importance of keeping the heart healthy through exercise. A tip from Henry – “If your mom uses your whole, entire name in a sentence, then you should listen to her and do what shes says, or you might get in big trouble”. Henry and his Dad go for a walk and suddenly his heart starts beating faster and faster. He sees the love of his young life, a puppy. “Broken-hearted” when his father says no to adopting it, Henry slides into a slump. No exercise, no appetite, no racing heart. Eyes and heart know something is wrong. Mom takes him to the doctor, who has a chat with the boy. A prescription is given, but Henry notices that Mom drives right past the pharmacy. Instead, his dad arrives with a puppy. And at bedtime, two hearts beat as one.

A 2013-2014 Black Eyed Susan Picture book nominee, this clever picture book is just the ticket for explaining how the mind and body work together for heart-healthy living and loving.

hug machineWhoa! Here I come! I am the Hug Machine!” cries this book’s ebullient young narrator as he dramatically crests a hill on the first spread. No shrinking violet, the boy explains in a series of spot illustrations why he is the “best at hugging” everyone and everything. Even hug requests from a spiky porcupine and a ginormous whale don’t faze the resourceful tyke. After refueling with pizza (his preferred food) to “keep the hugging energy high,” the Hug Machine traverses the neighborhood spreading his special brand of magic. Campbell’s watercolors exude warmth, emotion, and humor, from the expressions of several surprised recipients of the Hug Machine’s hugs to his own serenely closed eyes during each hug, which make it clear that he’s giving each hug his all. After a day full of hugging, the Hug Machine discovers it’s just as nice to be hugged as it is to give hugs. It’s a non-sappy, warm-hearted ending to a book that feels just like a big ol’ hug.

One of the pleasures of being a Children’s Instructor here at HCLS are spontaneous hugs from exuberant participants in a children’s class. Make a point of hugging your friends and family. It’s good for your heart and there is some evidence it keeps you healthy also!

giraffes cant dance“All the jungle’s got the beat, but Gerald the giraffe has four left feet.” Giles Andreae’s bouncy read-aloud is an ode to self-expression and having heart. When he is laughed off the floor the annual dance, Gerald sadly walks his lonely path home. A wise cricket admonishes him to listen to the music in nature, and dance to his own special beat. Gerald begins to dance, and soon everyone applauds his new found talent. When asked how it did it, he replied “We all can dance,” he said,”when we find music that we love.” Guy Parker-Rees’ brilliant full page watercolor spreads and comic illustrations invite the reader to this feast of self-expression.

One of my go-to children’s class books, this heartwarming tale encourages us all to “dance like there’s nobody watching. You’ve got to come from the heart if you want it to work.” Hug someone.

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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anti-aging, exercise

According to a Johns Hopkins study, “Most experts recommend exercise as the single most important anti-aging measure anyone can follow, regardless of age, disability or general level of fitness. A sedentary lifestyle accelerates nearly every unwanted aspect of aging.” [JackF]/[iStock]/Thinkstock

Exercise has long-term physical and mental benefits, even reducing arthritis symptoms in older adults

Physical Benefits of Exercise
A lack of physical activity can put you at higher risk for health problems such as diabetes and osteoporosis. In fact, according to Dianne Braun, P.T., a clinical program manager and physical therapist with Howard County General Hospital, “It is not only healthy for seniors to exercise, it can also be dangerous to not exercise. Not being physically active can be risky, as seniors can lose up to 75 percent of their strength from inactivity, making them prone to falls. Current statistics show that one in three people over the age of 65 fall every year and that number increases to one in two by age 80.”

Mental Benefits of Exercise
Not only does exercise help seniors physically, it can also have a positive effect mentally. Physical activity can help manage stress and reduce feelings of depression. “Depression is a big issue for seniors, and just five minutes of exercise a day has been shown to reduce the incidence of depression,” said Braun. Some studies also suggest that regular physical activity can increase various aspects of cognitive function.

How Much Exercise is Enough?
“General exercise recommendations for seniors include 30 minutes of exercise with strength training two times per week,” said Braun. “If you have a fear of increasing pain, or have a heart or medical condition, check with your physician for exercise guidelines. The important thing is to start exercising and make it a part of your daily routine.”

Studies show that exercising regularly and staying active have long-term benefits and improve the health of older adults. According to a Johns Hopkins study, “Most experts recommend exercise as the single most important anti-aging measure anyone can follow, regardless of age, disability or general level of fitness. A sedentary lifestyle accelerates nearly every unwanted aspect of aging.”

The Arthritis Antidote 
Though exercise may seem like the last thing you want to do when suffering from arthritis, exercise is very important to increase strength and flexibility, reduce joint pain and help with fatigue. Physical activity does not have to be at a high-intensity level, but studies indicate that a moderate level of exercise can help with the pain as well as help maintain a healthy weight.

“Strength training and aerobic activity (walking or other) are good for the joints. Many studies have shown a reduction in pain with regular strength training and aerobic conditioning,” said Braun.

Exercise Examples: 

  • Aerobic conditioning activities such as walking, biking, swimming, raking leaves
  • Strengthening activities for lower body: squats, single-leg stance, step-ups and sit to stand from a chair (try not to use your arms and upper body)
  • Strengthening for upper body that incorporates some weight lifting, such as arm raises, overhead raises and biceps curls.
Dianne Braun is a clinical program manager and physical therapist with Howard County General Hospital.

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6256627661_6566688ff5_zI’m sure you’re glad that this winter hasn’t been as cold and snowy as last winter. This season has had its moments and there are certainly many more weeks until the first day of Spring – and I am discounting whatever Punxsutawney Phil says right now! So, my question for you is: How are your fingertips, knuckles, elbows, knees, toes, and all of that dry skin that this cold, damp and dry weather affects? When you look through your magazines, you certainly see all the ads for gentle face-cleaning and dry-skin products and soaps. It’s overwhelming to see so many kinds at so many different prices.

Do yourself (and the skin you’re in) a big favor by investigating all the possibilities that are out there, because just for a few more months of this cold raw weather you really might benefit from using a product targeted for your specific skin condition. You can do research online, or visit a dermatologist for suggestions too. The best lotion may not be the most expensive either. I have a friend who slathers Vaseline on her chapped skin, but oh it’s so oily! I try to remember (but often forget) to pull on rubber gloves when I’m washing up in the kitchen or involved in other cleaning where using harsh drying cleansers are not helpful to the skin on my hands. I also try to remember to drink more water to help alleviate dry skin. I also pay attention to my weather app because I’m a devoted daily dog walker. My pooch (3 year old golden retriever) and I like to get outside for two or three daily walks around the neighborhood or even around town. There are so many great walking paths around this area.

in the kingdom of iceSometimes, well, because there isn’t much birdsong right now, I cruise with my earbuds. Recently, the audiobook I was listening to actually made me colder – I’m not sure it didn’t literally lower the temps and increase the winds just around me! My fingertips cracked badly and my skin got super-chapped! All because I was listening to In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides. It was a terrific cold story, following an expedition to the North Pole to see if there (actually) was a warm vent at the top of the world (which was in 1880 the prevailing thought). Things did not go as planned and the poor ship was held fast in the ice. What the crew had to endure in order to survive and try to get back to civilization from where they were trapped in the frozen Arctic circle was truly amazing. Can you imagine the freezing days for them? It certainly made me shiver and I felt cold and hungry the entire time I listened to the book. Please don’t be put off by that – it’s a wonderful tale of the times – but you may want to wait until August to check it out, if you’re feeling too cold right now! And you don’t have to be like the crew on this expedition, you can take measures to help you and your skin weather the cold weeks ahead. Just remember to drink more water, cream up your skin and protect your hands.

Susan Cooke has worked in Howard County Library System for 20 years. She loves golden retrievers, fresh veggies, and (of course) reading good books. She is proud to have her daughter, Sarah Cooke, working for HCLS alongside her!


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calendar_2015_blogSaturday, Feb. 21, 3:00 p.m. Hands Only CPR & AED at Miller Branch. You could save a life! Learn about cardiac arrest, how to recognize it’s happening, and the three simple steps of hands-only CPR for victims over 8 years old. Receive a basic overview of an automated external defibrillator (AED). Ages 9-18; 60 min. Registration is required. Register online or by calling 410.313.1950.

Monday, Feb. 23, 2:00 p.m. Howard County Book Connection: Tribes at Howard Community College, Smith Theatre (443.518.1420). Howard County Book Connection presents a panel discussion of Nina Raine’s Tribes, the 2014-15 book selection and award-winning play about belonging, family, deafness, and the limits of language. In partnership with Howard County Poetry and Literature Society; Rep Stage; and Howard Community College’s Office of Student Life, Theater Department, Arts Collective, and Horowitz Center.

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growing up emptyI recently watched a great documentary film, Living on One Dollar, which featured four university students who decided to spend a summer in rural Guatemala, and attempt to survive on $1 a day. The young men planned to stay a total of 56 days, so each brought $56 US dollars for a grand total of $224 US Dollars. In order to simulate the inconsistent and unpredictable income of the local day laborers, the students broke down their sum total into increments of $0-$9, and would randomly draw a piece of paper each morning with their “income” for that particular day. There were days that the “family of four” would receive anywhere from $0 to a whopping $9. The young men learned a lot from their new neighbors regarding how to plant and maintain a plot of land, as well as how to seek out and obtain a loan to cover necessary expenses.

Prior to embarking on this excursion, the students did their research, especially the two who were the brains behind the project (international development majors’, Chris and Zach). The men set out in the summer of 2010, and gained invaluable knowledge about the struggle and hardships of the individuals and families living in the rural Guatemalan village that they would temporarily call home. During the course of their stay, they encountered struggles of their own, not only in their attempt to secure proper nutrition each day, but also in their attempt to overcome unforeseen financial expenses. The domino effect experienced by so many living in rural villages like the one the men visited looks something very similar to this: limited opportunities leads to limited education leads to limited income leads to limited resources, which leads to limited/insufficient food options, which then leads to poor health/energy. Without a stable income, individuals and their families are unable to purchase food or maintain the gardens that will provide them with their daily recommended caloric intake values. Lack of a proper caloric diet, replete of all necessary vitamins and minerals, results in increased susceptibility to illness, diminished weight, diminished height, and diminished energy levels. Each of the young men experienced significant weight loss, as well as diminished energy levels during their stay. They also witnessed first-hand how the link between limited income and poor nutrition affects the individuals of the village, especially the children.

a place at the tableThe importance of good nutrition and adequate caloric intake is particularly important for growing children, but essentially, it’s of great importance to people of all ages. In order for the body and mind to function at an optimal level, one must consume a nutritious diet that provides adequate calories. In addition to low energy levels and an inhibited immune system, persistent lack of necessary vitamins and minerals may result in various nutrient and vitamin deficiencies, which may put one at risk of developing more serious health problems. In the United States, good health and nutrition are pillars of education taught with much emphasis from an early age. However, we can’t ignore the fact that health and nutrition are strongly influenced by income and economic status.

Just as the poor rural families in Guatemala are limited to a few staple sources of nutrition, so are the poorest families in the United States, and the rest of the world. Food assistance programs available here in the US, include Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Americans who are struggling simply to put food on the table, may benefit from such programs to enhance the quality of their diets. In Guatemala, a country with the fourth highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world and the highest in Latin America and the Caribbean-international organizations, rely on programs such as UNICEF and USAID.

I recommend that you check out the documentary, Living on One Dollar. It’s a great film!

When Jinelee De Souza isn’t channeling her inner super-heroine at Howard County Library System as an Instructor & Research Specialist, she’s doing so at the gym, during impromptu photoshoots with her bff, and everywhere in between.

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HCGH cardiac (heart health) team

Dr. Alexander Chudnovsky, director of Cardiac Rehabilitation Services at Howard County General Hospital, with (from left): Prasobha George, RN; and exercise physiologists Suzanne Jeffreys and Brett Goldberger. Dr. Chudnovsky is a cardiologist with Cardiovascular Specialists of Central Maryland in Columbia.

February is American Heart Month: Exercise to Tone Your Heart!

American Heart Month is a good time to remember how important exercise is for heart health. No matter what age you are or stage of life you are in, some form of exercise is beneficial for most people.

Alexander Chudnovsky, M.D., a cardiologist on staff at Howard County General Hospital (HCGH) and medical director of the hospital’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, wants you to know that exercise is for everyone, regardless of age or cardiac health status. The heart is meant to be used!

No Cardiac History?
Exercising doesn’t just tone the muscles in your arms, legs and core, it strengthens the heart muscle. According to the American Heart Association, physical activity helps prevent the nation’s number one and number four killers: heart disease and stroke. “When you exercise regularly, the heart becomes conditioned and uses oxygen and energy more efficiently,” says Dr. Chudnovsky. “To condition the heart, you should exercise at least four times a week and raise your heart to your target heart rate for 20 to 30 minutes during exercise.”

What is your target heart rate?
220 – your chronological age x 0.8 = your target heart rate.

The Cardiac Patient
In general, most cardiac patients benefit from exercise. Those with coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure can benefit significantly from cardiac rehabilitation offered in a clinical, monitored setting. You should discuss a cardiac program with your physician. HCGH offers many cardiac rehabilitation options to help those who have recently experienced a heart attack, angioplasty, stable angina, coronary bypass surgery, irregular heart rhythms, heart failure or transplant or valve surgery. Call 443-718-3000 for more information.

“Exercise can induce the heart to grow new blood vessels to supply areas of the heart that may have been affected by prior cardiac events,” notes Dr. Chudnovsky. “In addition, regular exercise can help reduce blood pressure, increase good cholesterol (HDL) and reduce bad cholesterol (LDL), improve glucose metabolism for those with diabetes and support weight loss.”


Before You Start: According to Dr. Chudnovsky, if you are planning to start exercising and you are not conditioned and have cardiac risk factors that include diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and/or a family history of cardiac events, you should see your cardiologist or primary care doctor before you put your heart under the stress of physical activity.

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