Stranger and Stranger…Danger

When some of us were younger, we had very specific and tried-and-true safety rules to follow:
• No swimming until at least a half hour after eating.
• Do not run with scissors, pencils, sticks, or anything else that can put your eye out.
• When the street lights come on, you come in.
• And, most importantly, do not talk to strangers, ever!

Well, it’s a new world. Science and society have changed, and the kids are so savvy and “meta” in so many ways. Science, for example, has proven you’re not going to die if you swim without waiting the 30 minutes, just maybe suffer from some cramps at worst. Society has shown us that a routine schedule is a little more dependable than streetlights with younger kids, and flexibility and discussion are important in setting curfews with older kids. Plus, we’re all a little more cautious/aware of where are kids are these days, especially with the help of cell phones and other innovations, including apps and gadgets.

Well, and as for the savvy kids themselves, they often know, at surprisingly young ages, not to run with pointed objects or to talk to strangers. And they even may counter with such chestnuts as: “I don’t need a pencil if I have an iPad,” “What if I’m lost?” or “Can’t I talk to a police officer?”

In fact, “Stranger Danger” as we might have once known it and talked about it has kind of fallen by the wayside. According to Kidpower “Stranger Danger” doesn’t really protect anyone as it should since most violence is caused by people the victims know rather than by strangers, and enforcing the idea that dangerous people called “strangers” are lying in wait everywhere can be emotionally unsafe for kids. They go on to suggest: “Instead of Stranger Danger, kids, teens, and adults need to know about Stranger Safety and to be prepared to use self-protection skills for avoiding and escaping an assault both from strangers and people they know.”

Kidpower says focusing on what to watch out for and preparing kids with skills before letting them go anywhere on their own, as well as ensuring they have skilled adult supervision while their own skills are still developing, is far more effective than just creating a sense of fear about all strangers. The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) (you remember McGruff, right?) has good tips on teaching kids the difference between strangers and safe strangers and how to recognize and handle dangerous situations. They also offer some good, common sense pointers/reminders such as: know where your children are, show them examples of safe places to play, teach them to trust their instincts and be assertive, and always encourage them to play with others (hey, safety in numbers, that’s one from the good old days).

Kidpower goes on to say, “Practicing Stranger Safety and self-protection skills successfully helps to increase confidence, develop competence, and reduce anxiety.” This is especially good if it is done in a fun, not scary, way.

Kidpower and the NCPC have some great resources, as do many other Websites devoted to child safety, everyone from Scholastic Books to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. And of course there are helpful items at HCLS, such as the book Stranger Safety, and the DVD I Am Not a Target!. So check out some resources and remember we want our kids not to be afraid of strangers but smart about them.


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2013 Marks 40 Years of HCGH’s Commitment to Caring for Generations

Birthdays are often family celebrations. Generations gather around the birthday child, or parent, or grandparent to help them celebrate the past and make wishes for the future.

This year marks the 40th birthday —  or anniversary —  for Howard County General Hospital and it will be a year full of celebrations. We hope you’ll join in the festivities because we’ve been caring for generations — your generations!  From infants to children, to adults and seniors, we’ve been there every step of the way.

In the beginning, it all started with a vision.  A growing new community needed top-notch healthcare and a hospital.  The Columbia Clinics and Hospital opened its doors in July of 1973 with only 59 beds and an emergency room that required you to call ahead so they could unlock the doors to meet you.  Originally the local hospital was designed only to deliver babies and provide short term care, like overnight stays, and simple surgeries. Even before the doors opened, however, visionaries knew that Columbia and Howard County would continue to grow; the need for a more comprehensive hospital was readily apparent. In 1974 the Columbia Clinics evolved into Howard County General Hospital — an independent, not-for-profit hospital created to care for the ever-evolving healthcare needs of a growing region. Today the hospital has 249 beds in individual rooms. We’ve grown from 88 physicians to over 900 physicians and from 485 babies delivered the year we opened to 3,333 babies delivered in 2012.

Throughout the upcoming year we’ll tell you the story of how we continued to grow and expand over the past forty years. We’ll do it by focusing on generations —  our children, our youth, our adults and our seniors.  We’ll tell you great stories about the addition of our special care nursery, now the Lundy Family Neonatal Intensive Care Unit  and about The Center for Maternal Fetal Medicine  which provides perinatal services and high risk pregnancy care. We’ll talk about the Children’s Care Center and our pediatric emergency services. We’ll give you a virtual tour of the Patient Pavilion, which houses three inpatient units, and the Bolduc Family Outpatient Center, and we’ll talk about the more recent creation of The Comprehensive Breast Center, which offers a full range of treatment options for breast cancer patients. We have many old —  and new —  stories to share.

And, just like a real family celebration, we’ll tell you the story of our birth and our growth through the use of old photo albums, and scrapbooks. We hope these will inspire you to share your individual stories with us, as well!

Read more about our early beginnings!

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Quiet Riot: The Power of Introversion


Introversion: it sounds like the name on an 80s pop band or some kind of condition you just need to get over already. The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines it as: “the state of or tendency toward being wholly or predominantly concerned with and interested in one’s own mental life.”

Sigmund Freud, in that way only he could, ascribed sexual meaning to the most non-sexual thing and considered being introverted a form of pathology, a way to deal with the outside world (and sex) by shutting in on oneself. Carl Jung was much kinder in how he saw introversion, seeing it more as an attitude toward life, an inner psychic kind of energy.

These days, thankfully, the introvert is enjoying a surge in popularity and is not only very functional, but quite capable of contributing to the world. Two exceptional books to have come out recently address the hidden wealth and beauty of being an introvert in a world that often screams extrovert.

“Introverts who are not shy,” Sophia Dembling, author of The Introvert’s Way, writes; “[they]are used to being told they could not possibly be introverts.” Many assumptions are made about introverts that are outright false or just the result of well-intentioned misunderstandings, including the misconception that an introvert is a snob.

“I have to admit, there were times over the course of my life…when even I wondered if maybe I were some kind of coldhearted snob. Why was I so reluctant to go to parties and why did I want to leave them shortly after arriving? Why? Because it’s not my nature. I’m an introvert. And there’s not a damn thing wrong with me.” So says Dembling who provides scientific and cultural background about introversion as well as helpful tips and an understanding of the introvert’s nature.

If you’re an introvert, it isn’t that you’re shy, but that you appreciate the benefits of quiet solitude. You’re not antisocial, instead, you find spending time alone a great way to recharge before moving on again in the world. It’s not that you dislike people, but that you find more meaning in one-on-one connections than in large get-togethers.

Another recent book (which appeared on The New York Times Best Seller list and at one point had almost 200 requests on it at HCLS) on introversion is Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Susan Cain’s amazing book truly speaks to anyone who is introverted or understands what it’s like to be. 

“Without introverts,” Cain tells the reader, “the world would be devoid of the theory of gravity, the theory of relativity, W. B. Yeats’s ‘The Second Coming,’ Chopin’s nocturnes, Proust’s ‘In Search of Lost Time,’Peter Pan, Orwell’s ‘1984’ and ‘Animal Farm,’ The Cat in the Hat,Charlie Brown, ‘Schindler’s List,’ ‘E.T.,’ and ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind,’ Google and Harry Potter.”

As someone who is an introvert, I love that the author recognizes many introverts feel social pressure to be outgoing and talkative and that they can be quite good at disguising that little fact.

Full of lots of interesting insights and useful information, QUIET gives credit to some of the most innovate minds that just happen to be introverted. Praising the hidden strengths of introverts, Cain suggests that revealing the power of quietude will not only free introverts to be themselves, but will add to positive advancements in leadership, parenting, intimate partnerships, and the workforce.

Angie Engles has been with the Howard County Library System for 17 years, 14 of which were at the Savage Branch. She currently works at the Central Branch primarily in the Fiction and Audio-visual departments. Her interests include music, books, and old movies.


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Classes and Events to Make You Well & Wise!

January 24, 7-8:30 p.m. Living with Breast Cancer. This group is designed to meet the needs of breast cancer patients with a Stage IV diagnosis. This safe, welcoming group provides encouragement, support and education and meets on the 4th Thursday of each month. FREE. HCGH Claudia Mayer Cancer Resource Center. Call 410 964-9100 x5 for more information and to register.

January 26, 10-11:30. Together We Thrive. Patient support group offered for men and women diagnosed with cancer, where participants can share, explore, and be encouraged in a safe environment. This group meets the 4th Saturday of each month. FREE. HCGH Claudia Mayer Cancer Resource Center.  Call 410 740-5858 for more information and to register.

January 26, 2:00 p.m. Math Circle. Are you good at math? Do you love numbers? Join the HCLS Math Circle at the East Columbia Branch to learn about patterns and intricacies in the world of mathematics. Use logic and problem solving skills to solve brain teasing problems. Ages 11-14. Register online or by calling 410.313.7700.

January 28, 7-8:30 p.mKitchen Wisdom: Nutrition and Delicious Meals.  They say that variety is the spice of life!  In part 2 of the Healthy Weight, Healthy You series, sample food and learn how to spice up healthy meals with herbs and seasonings for a variety of taste.  FREE. HCGH Wellness Center, 10710 Charter Drive Columbia.

January 28, 10:15 a.m. Healthy Kids. Class at the Savage Branch to explore simple health concepts inspired by children’s literature. Multi-week series. Ages 3-5 with adult; 45 min. Tickets available at Children’s Desk 15-30 minutes before class. Classes offered on 1/29 at the Miller Branch at 2 & 7 p.m.

January 28, 11:30 a.m. Just For Me. Classes at the Savage Branch for children ages 3-5 who are ready for an independent class that includes creative expression, listening comprehension, and early reading skills. 30 min. Also offered 1/29 at 10:15 & 11:15 at East Columbia Branch—tickets available at Children’s Desk at 10:30 a.m. Also on 1/29 at 10:30 a.m. at the Glenwood Branch; register online or by calling 410.313.5579. And 1/30 at 10:15 & 11:15 a.m. at the Elkridge Branch; no registration required. Also on And again on 1/30 at 7 p.m at the Miller Branch; tickets available at Children’s Desk 15-30 minutes before class.

January 29, 7:00-9:00 p.mSmoke-Free Lungs.  Do you want to give up smoking but don’t know where to begin? Learn tips for quitting your tobacco habit and master long-term success.  This program provides support and education for those wanting to quit as well as support for those who already have quit. Attend one or more sessions- according to your needs. FREE. HCGH Wellness Center, 10710 Charter Drive Columbia.

January 30, 7:00 p.m. Meet The Author: George E. Leary Jr. George E. Leary Jr., M.A., will speak at the East Columbia Branch. He provides mental health services to addicts and those living with HIV/AIDS. He established and operated two recovery houses in Baltimore, Maryland, and served for nine years on a mobile crisis intervention team. In his book, What’’s Wrong With My Kid?, he applies his personal trials and professional expertise to provide a practical and compassionate guide for parents. Learn what to do if you suspect your child may be headed down a dangerous road. In partnership with HC DrugFree. Register online or by calling 410.313.7700.

January 30, 5:30- 9:00 p.m. Adult, Child and Infant CPR/AED. This course will teach you the skills needed to clear an airway obstruction perform cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and teach you how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). At the successful completion of this course, you will earn a two- year American heart Association completion card. $55.  HCGH Wellness Center, 10710 Charter Drive Columbia.

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Achieving S.M.A.R.T. Goals

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By Jason Pasquet

Good plans need good goals. It’s just that simple and straight forward. Yet goal setting will remain abstract when not given the proper attention and direction. Perhaps you really want to save enough money for the family boat vacation this summer. Or you may want to achieve and maintain a certain ideal weight. Whatever it may be, it’s a good start. Now, with a goal in mind, you cannot just hope that it will be realized with little effort. You can sow the seed in the earth of the mind, but when does it ever sprout on its own? Not with just a little water here and there, or maybe some sun and occasional fertilizer and weeding. Only with the right amount of attention and care can a goal, like a plant, ever be nourished and realized to full bloom.

If goal setting has been difficult, which is true for most of us, try out S.M.A.R.T. goal setting by Paul J. Meyer in his book Attitude is Everything! It is a very beneficial aid to a having a fresh new perspective on the goal-planning process. It may also change your life. So take out your planner and a pen, and let’s go into it.

S.M.A.R.T is the acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant/Realistic, and Timed. These terms will be the fundamental outline for the goal or goals you want to accomplish. Write these terms in order, going down the page, while leaving some spaces to write on.

Specific– There will be no more ambiguity. No more vague ideas. Find out specifically what you want and write a clear, concise statement of whatever it is you are aspiring to achieve. This is the “what” question concerning the goal. Now ask yourself the questions of: Where? Why? Who? Which? “Where” includes the place(s). “Why” are the various reasons for doing so. “Who” includes you and any others involved. And “Which” involves the resources and requirements you know are necessary. Take your time to answer these questions. They will help you to understand the rest of the S.M.A.R.T. acronym.

Measurable– How will you know that you have reached your goal? What does the outcome have to be? For example, I will know that I have taken the first step to overcoming my fear of public speaking, by talking to a group of my friends for 5 minutes straight on some potential hazards to the environment. This is was my first measurable step. Then you can design more specific goals that are measurable to help keep track of your progress. Ask yourself the right “how” questions to understand your desired outcome.

Attainable– Enquire on the practicality of the goal. Ask yourself which skills and capabilities would be necessary for its accomplishment–the “how to do” questions that will give you a reasonable understanding of how to go about putting them into action. This helps to know what resources are important to you for the achievement. And also give feedback on if it is reasonable and within your means.

Relevant/Realistic– Does the goal fit in with what is important to you? Is it the right time to start this goal? Investigate if the goal is relevant and in line with your priorities.

Timed– Set a specific time and date for the attainment. When would you like to see this goal realized? Would you like to measure the time in intervals? It’s up to you as to how you’d like to schedule the time limit.

Hopefully these S.M.A.R.T. tips will bring you closer to achieving your goals!

Jason Pasquet is a Customer Service Specialist for Howard County Library System. He is aspiring in the fields of psychology, life-coaching, NLP therapy, and counseling, and he enjoys a variety of books on philosophy/ethics and takes immense joy in learning new things.

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An organized approach to studying!

Two summers ago I was so excited to start my freshman year at Washington College. Just like any other freshman, I was nervous about meeting my roommate, making new friends and adjusting to classes and homework. I knew college would be more challenging than high school, but I was totally unprepared for the workload that the professors placed on me and my fellow classmates. The stress of moving away from home and living with someone unfamiliar, only added to the stress of classwork. The transition from high school to college became a huge struggle for me. My solution, naturally, was to whine and moan to my parents and older siblings about the issues I was having. They ignored my persistent complaints and assured me that with time, things would get easier and encouraged me not to give up.

A year and half later I can attest that the advice I was given freshman year has proven to be true. Over time I have learned how to better deal with stress and these four specific changes made things easier – especially during final exams – the most stressful week of each semester.

        1. Manage your time. When it is nearing the end of the semester and all my professors decide to hand out a million assignments at once, my daily planner becomes my best friend. Each night I make a list of things that I want to accomplish the next day, number one being the most pressing assignment. Sometimes I even go as far as to put time slots next to each item in order to indicate how much time should be spent on them. I find that planning my days out in advanced gives me less to worry about and also prevents procrastination.
        2. Don’t sweat the small stuff. There is no worse feeling than someone else is sitting in your spot at the library the night before the big exam, I get it. However, instead of getting upset about it, focus your energy on being productive. You will be amazed how much less stressed you feel if you ignore the insignificant dramas of everyday life.
        3. Take breaks from work. College is not only about going to class and doing homework; it’s about experiencing new things and figuring out who you are. Don’t forget to allow yourself time to do things that you enjoy.  Fun activities are a great way to relieve stress. Go for a run, have a gossip session with your best friends, listen to some music, or watch an episode of your favorite TV show. Do something that’s fun for you and helps you let off some steam. Keeping stress bottled up can cause both physical and emotional harm in the long run.
        4. Find what works for you. Everyone has their own methods when it comes to studying. When I study I like to listen to classical music and sit on my floor (strange, I know). I do know people though who prefer to work in the complete opposite setting – in silence while sitting at a desk. My advice to you is to find out what conditions are easiest for you to study in, and stick to them. This will help to eliminate any extra anxiety and stress that you might have because you will be more comfortable.

Stressful situations are sometimes unavoidable, especially for college students, but it is possible to weaken their blows. It was not too long ago that I was pulling my hair out because I was too overwhelmed. However, if I have been able to decrease the amount of stress in my life this drastically in just a year and a half, maybe by senior year I’ll be completely stress free!

Studying is not the only thing that creates stress in the life of a college student. If you are interested in finding out more about how to handle stress, check out Why Kids Lose it at College by Meg F. Schneider.

Sarah Lambertson is a sophomore at Washington College where she is studying business management and Spanish. She is an active member of several organizations including Zeta Tau Alpha, Students Helping Honduras and the tech crew at the campus theater.





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Notes from the Farmers’ Market Chef

by Barbara Cornell

‘Tis the season—for the Farmers’ Market Chef to hunker down with a good book and wait out the season.  The seed and flower catalogs promise that spring planting and summer harvest will again come, but for now we are looking for entertainment within the house.

It is a good season to enjoy cookbooks, and to enjoy fiction—how about a hybrid of the two!  Fans of Patricia Cornwell’s character Kay Scarpetta have probably discovered her 1998 “novelette” Scarpetta’s Winter Table.  It is a short little narrative (91 pages) of a week between Christmas and New Year’s when Scarpetta and her coworkers and friends spend some down time and feed each other.  The “recipes” are really just descriptions of how they are preparing their food.

Susan Wittig Albert is a prolific writer of cozy mysteries, notably her China Bayles series.  China is a refugee from the legal rat race pursuing her dream to run her herb shop, “Thyme & Seasons” in Pecan Springs, Texas.  Albert’s 2003 book An Unthymely Death and Other Garden Mysteries is a “treasury of stories, herbal lore, recipes, and crafts from the world of Pecan Springs.”  One could read the stories and skip the recipe sidebars—or read the recipes and skip the stories!

The rest of my reading suggestions make no pretense at fiction and are housed happily in the cookbook section of the library. For example, readers of Jan Karon will recognize the characters in Jan Karon’s Mitford Cookbook & Kitchen Reader, 2004.  Karon claims she can’t really cook, so she recruited cookbook editor Martha McIntosh to develop the recipes, each one in turn credited to one of her characters.  Excerpts from her books are sprinkled liberally throughout and Karon adds notes and personal stories that indeed “give readers an extended family.”

Debbie Macomber, on the other hand, loves to cook and believes “sharing recipes can bind us with others…It’s about nurturing traditions.” Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove Cookbook, 2009, follows a central character, Charlotte Jefferson Rhodes, around the town of Cedar Cove as she visits other characters at addresses which are titles for her books—breakfast at 16 Lighthouse Road, tea at 6 Rainier Drive.  After dessert she follows with Easter, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  The dishes are lovingly photographed.  No wonder some fans have told Macomber they gain weight just reading her books.

Joanne Fluke’s Lake Eden Cookbook: Hannah Swenson’s Recipes from the Cookie Jar, 2011, takes place in Swenson’s Lake Eden, Minnesota, bakery and coffee shop, “The Cookie Jar,” at her 4th Annual Christmas Cookie Exchange Luncheon.  In addition to the many recipes from her mystery series that stars Hannah Swenson, Fluke has added many new recipes and layered them between slices of narrative.  The language is homey and peppered with personal notes (“You’d better lock your freezer if you want them to last”).

So why are these homey recipes from fictional locales showing up in a “Wellness” blog?  I believe the act of cooking for—and eating meals with—loved ones is its own kind of health food.

Barbara Cornell joined the Howard County Library System in 1993 as Assistant Branch Manager at the new Elkridge Branch.

Since 2000 she has enjoyed a shorter commute to the Glenwood Branch.


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Classes and Events to Make You Well & Wise!

2012 CalendarJanuary 19, 2:00 p.m. Food Allergies: Staying Safe And Having Fun Local teachers, authors, and parents Lang and Julie Wethington come to the Central Branch to discuss how to teach children with allergies to be food-safe in social settings. Parents encouraged to bring their children. Register online or by calling 410.313.7880.

January 14, 10:15 a.m. Healthy Kids. Class at the Savage Branch to explore simple health concepts inspired by children’s literature. Multi-week series. Ages 3-5 with adult; 45 min. Tickets available at Children’s Desk 15-30 minutes before class.Classes offered on 1/15 at the Miller Branch at 2 & 7 p.m.

January 21, Howard County Library System Closed

January 22, 10:15 &11:15 a.m. Just For Me. Classes at the East Columbia Branch for children ages 3-5 who are ready for an independent class that includes creative expression, listening comprehension, and early reading skills. 30 min. Also offered 1/22 at 10:30 a.m. At the Glenwood Branch; register online or by calling 410.313.5579. And 1/23 at 10:15 & 11:15 a.m. at the Elkridge Branch; no registration required. And again on 1/23 at 7 p.m at the Miller Branch; tickets available at Children’s Desk 15-30 minutes before class.

January 22, 2:00 & 7:00 p.m. Healthy Kids. Come to the Miller Branch and explore simple health concepts inspired by children’s literature. Multi-week series. Ages 3-5 with adult; 45 min. Tickets available at Children’s Desk 15-30 minutes before class.

January 22, 2:30 p.m. Inkblot. Come to the East Columbia Branch and learn about Rorschach! Bring an unlined notebook and an apron to create unique designs. Ages 7-10; 45 min. Tickets available at Children’s Desk 15-30 minutes before class.

January 23, 11:30 a.m. The World Around Me. A class at the Central Branch exploring simple social studies concepts inspired by children’s literature. Multi-week series. Ages 3-5; 45 min. Tickets available at Children’s Desk 15-30 minutes before class. Offered again on 1/25 at 10:15 & 11:30 a.m. at the East Columbia Branch.

January 23, 7:00 p.m. Introduction To The College Experience. Come to the Central Branch to ask questions about campus life, social life, exams, and how best to prepare for your first year of college. Ages 16 & up; parents welcome. Register online or by calling 410.313.7800.

January 23, 7:00 p.m. Career And Technology Education Expo. Come to the East Columbia Branch to learn how the Howard County Public School System’s Career Academies prepare high school students for college and careers in the 21st century. Academy students offer skills demonstrations. Ages 11-17. No registration required.


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The Year of H3N2

National and international viral studies indicate that the predominant strain of flu this year is the subtype H3N2 of influenza A. Every year, scientists study which strains of flu predominate internationally and determine what the composition of the flu shot should be. Traditionally, the vaccine will include one of each of the following types of killed virus: H1N1 influenza A, and H3N2 influenza A and influenza B. The killed viruses in the vaccine generate an antibody response in the shot’s recipient. Two weeks after immunization, the recipient develops the antibodies needed to provide protection against the flu. Studies to date show that the predominant flu infections are those covered by this season’s vaccine.

Preventive measures in addition to the flu shot include frequent hand washing, use of hand sanitizer, avoiding contact with sick people, and good nutrition. Try to avoid touching your nose, mouth, or face as this will help prevent contact exposure of your mucous membranes and respiratory system to the virus. Regular exercise and getting plenty of rest may help boost your immune system. If you exercise at a fitness facility, don’t forget to use cleaning wipes before and after using each piece of equipment.

Unfortunately, a person about to develop the flu may be contagious for a full day before any symptoms develop. The flu may be transmitted for as many as 7 days after symptoms first develop. A good rule of thumb is to stay home and limit your exposure to others until you have been fever-free for a full 24 hours.

To stay informed about the flu, there are several excellent websites that include verified scientific data and medically sound advice. A comprehensive webpage that includes links to information about multiple flu-related topics is this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) site. If you would like to track the progress of the flu each week, including number of cases, locations, and flu types and subtypes, check out this report. If you have not decided whether the flu shot is right for you, the CDC has a useful information page. The World Health Organization (WHO) also generates information for internet users across the globe.

Cherise Tasker is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Central Branch and has a background in health information. Most evenings, Cherise can be found reading a book, attending a book club meeting, or coordinating a book group.

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The Eyes of A Child

When I was in second grade, I failed a standard vision screening and was prescribed glasses so that I could read the blackboard. I picked out an ultra-cool pair of blue cat’s-eye glasses with little rhinestones in the corner.  (Hoping that wearing such cool specs would be my armor against taunts of “four eyes”.)  As I grew and my vision changed, my glasses changed too. I can remember receiving a new pair of glasses after one dramatic prescription shift. I saw the world sharp and crystal clear for the first time in a long time. Route 40 has never looked more beautiful than it did on that ride home years ago. Eyeglass styles evolved- even as taunting the visually challenged remained static. We began to wear very tiny “granny glasses” with our mini-skirts and fishnet stockings- or if you were a boy- with your tight bellbottom jeans.

My neighbor who was older and drank green wheat grass smoothies and ate only nuts and berries gave up his glasses. He read somewhere that daily exercises could cure poor vision. It seemed plausible so I tried it, too- for a day. That whole groping your way through the school hallways was a little embarrassing. Just as our culture hit the tinted aviator stage of eyeglass style, I was able to graduate to contacts. A critical step for me as it was becoming more difficult to participate in sports with specs and the whole thing about guys not making passes at girls who wear glasses was beginning to matter more to me than I would ever admit.

Perception of those who wear eyeglasses has, thankfully, changed. Wearing specs is no longer the mark of a pariah and has instead become a right of passage. (The late, great pediatrician Dr. Leffler once told me that the sobbing little girl who had just left his exam room was having a very bad day. When I looked concerned, he laughed and said she was told she didn’t need braces OR eyeglasses!)

As a parent of twelve eyes, I know that the world of ophthalmology, specifically pediatric ophthalmology has continued to evolve. New treatments including surgeries have been developed for a variety of conditions. Doctors recognize that younger patients aren’t just miniature adults when it comes to eye problems. They grow and change and so their treatment is dynamic and ongoing. Often children can have many of the same issues as adults including low vision, cataracts, and retinal detachments, but treatment can be very different and examining and diagnosing the smallest patients takes a special skill set.


As a parent, it can be difficult to understand our child’s diagnosis and the available treatment options and harder still to decide if and what kind of surgery is the best option. I understand now how my parents felt.  Children may have the luxury to focus on the style of specs… but parents must focus on the substance of vision and ultimate health of their child’s eyes. After all, they say it’s a gift to be able to see the world through a child’s eyes so it’s important to ensure that we can see it clearly!


If your child has a vision or eye health issue, I encourage you to check out The Eyes of Children– a free seminar on Thursday, January 17, at the HCGH Wellness Center from 7:00-9:00 p.m. Johns Hopkins pediatric ophthalmologist, Dr. Anya Trumler will talk about your child’s vision and eye health and how it can impact learning. She’ll also talk about common complaints, and answer any questions.


Mary Catherine Cochran works as a Senior Communications Project Manager at Howard County General Hospital: Johns Hopkins Medicine where, among other things, she manages and writes for the Well & Wise blog.


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Consider the Onion

Onions are gross. That may seem unfair, but a small group of Well & Wisers from HCLS were having a discussion one day, and, as it will when you work in a library and discuss almost everything, onions came up. And the consensus was, whether because of taste, texture, or both, onions are not a a crowd favorite. Now there was defense of this poor, maligned bulb. Some declared that onions are a necessity for mirepoix, others admitted that caramelizing made onions more palatable, and one person proclaimed that onions are beneficial to circulation. What? Wait a minute. You don’t make a claim like that in a library without citing your sources. So, we decided to take a closer look at the onion.

The LiveStrong Foundation seems to confirm the circulation claim. Red and yellow onions, as well as zucchini and grapes, contain quercetin, a bioflavonoid that has a wide array of properties, including the ability to strengthen and extend the capillaries and improve circulation.

But that’s not all the onion has going for it (sorry, onion haters). According to the George Mateljan Foundation for the World’s Healthiest Foods (WHF): onions are also high in polyphenol, and “for colorectal, laryngeal, and ovarian cancer, between 1-7 servings of onion has been shown to provide risk reduction. But for decreased risk of oral and esophageal cancer, you’ll need to consume one onion serving per day (approximately 1/2 cup).” WHF also indicates that onions may provide cardiovascular benefits by lowering blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, and improving cell membrane function in red blood cells; help support bone and connective tissue, especially in menopausal and post-menopausal women; provide anti-inflammatory benefits; possibly help balance blood sugar; and help prevent bacterial infection.

Onions are part of allium vegetables, but haven’t gotten nearly the attention of that rock star garlic. There’s even some research evidence suggesting that one should include at least one serving of an allium vegetable—such as onions—in your diet every day.

But that’s not all, onion naysayers; onions have been a staple among home remedies for a long time. Organic Facts suggests that onions can provide relief for problems such as the asthma, respiratory problems, angina, cough, and even the common cold. They also indicate that onions can be used to prevent tooth decay and oral infections, may aid in thinning of the blood, and can improve anaemic conditions. Organic Facts even has recipes for treatments, all containing onions, that are said to relieve earaches, treat urinary tract infections, produce glowing skin, repel insects, and boost sex drive (typed with raised eyebrows).

So the onion creep factor may be something we just have to get over. There’s too much good stuff going on in those layers. You can certainly learn more about them through books such as Onions, Onions, Onions by Rosemay Moon. And they’re little wonders that you can easily grow, as detailed in Grow Your Own Vegetables Carol Klein. But if you just can’t get over the yuck factor, maybe you can get some of their benefits though other allium vegetables, so you may want to check out Garlic and Other Alliums: The Lore and the Science.

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Upcoming Classes and Events to Make You Well & Wise

Monday, Jan 14. 5:30-9:00 p.m. Adult, Child and Infant CPR/AED 2013. This course will teach you the skills needed to clear an airway obstruction, perform cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). At the successful completion of this course, you will earn a two-year American Heart Association completion card.  This course is for community members and does not meet the qualifications for health care provider. $55.

January 17, 2013. 7:00-9:00 p.m. The Eyes of Children. Learn about your child’s vision and how it impacts learning. Pediatric opthalmologist Anya Trumler, M.D. will discuss eye health and safety, common complaints and what you can do. The Howard County General Hospital Wellness Center, 10710 Charter Drive, Columbia 21044.

January 18. 8:30 a.m. -2: 30 p.m. or January 23. 6:00- 9:00 p.m. Living with Diabetes. If you’ve just been diagnosed with diabetes–or even if you have been living with diabetes for some time and would like to make a commitment to improve your health–this course will teach you how to change your habits and will give you practical, attainable solutions for staying healthy. Our diabetes specialists will not tell you what to do–instead they will empower you with information and design a diabetes management plan to fit your lifestyle. 
Living with Diabetes is a two-day, interactive, group course taught by an endocrinologist, diabetes nurse educator, dietitian, psychologist, podiatrist, and exercise specialist.  The class is held at The Bolduc Family Outpatient Center at Howard County General Hospital. Choose either a day program or a condensed evening program. Day classes will be held Friday and the following Tuesday from 8:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Evening classes are held Wednesday and Thursday from 6-9 p.m. Most insurance plans cover all or part of this program. For more information or to register, please call 443-718-3000.

January 21, 2013. 7:00 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Looking to Lose Weight? In part one of our Healthy Weight, Healthy You series, our certified nutritionist and registered dietitian will discuss physiology and health challenges that affect your weight. Learn to plan meals that taste great, provide balance in your diet, and promote health. Free

January 12. 10:00 a.m.  Incredible Honey Bees with the Howard County Beekeepers. Learn about honeybees and beekeeping. FREE

January 20. 2:00 p.m.   Meet Our Local Farmers: Learn about farming, harvests, buying tips, markets and CSAs.  FREE! Come meet our local farmers. We have invited farmers who sell at our county markets, who provide us with CSAs and farm stand produce, plants, cheese and fruit to come set up a mini market. They will also be discussing why they farm here, what they love most about their choice to work the land in and around Howard County.   Farmers with CSAs will be answering questions and signing up anyone interested. Find out where to get meat, eggs, cheese, dairy and winter root veggies while our county markets are closed.  FREE Event. Families welcome.


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Food Allergies: Staying Safe And Having Fun

by Jean Pfefferkorn

Remember birthday parties–playing games, playing with friends, and eating the traditional cake and ice cream? Suppose your little one was excluded from this highlight of the kid calendar?

Many children are excluded, not because they don’t have enough friends, but rather because they can’t eat—or can’t be in the same room with—the foods, which their bodies may not tolerate.

Food allergies—a strong response to a food, triggered by an overzealous immune system—are common in children. Causes are unknown, and there is currently no cure beyond avoidance of the allergens. It’s serious: allergic food reactions can lead to anaphylaxis, other serious illness, and possible death.

For children,  allergens usually include eggs, milk, peanuts, and soy. Tree nuts and peanuts are the usual culprit for the deadly allergic reactions called anaphylaxis.

Seven-year-old Jack lives in Columbia, with multiple food allergies. His parents—teachers/authors Lang and Julie Wethington—have worked to find ways to keep Jack safe in family life, social gatherings, and especially childhood birthday parties.

Lang and Julie have written a book for children with food allergies, Yes I Can: Have My Cake and Food Allergies Too,  to encourage them to enjoy all of life, including allergy-safe food. The book, which is beautifully-illustrated by the authors, opens dialogue with family members and is an excellent teaching tool for children.

At the Central Branch on  Saturday, January 19, the Wethington family, including Jack, are giving a talk  about their experience.  Parents and children are encouraged to come together to share in the discussion, which begins at 2 p.m. Please register online or by calling 410.313.7880.

Jean has been working at Howard County Library System’s Central Branch for nearly nine years.

She walks in the Benjamin Banneker Park whenever she gets a chance.


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Eight Tips to Choosing More Complex Carbs

If you’ve decided to go no or low carbs this year, you should know that not all carbs are created equal.  Simple carbohydrates- found in white bread, sodas, white rice, pastries, and processed foods- are more quickly digested, can raise blood glucose levels faster and may contribute to weight gain. Complex carbohydrates, on they other hand, are more gradually absorbed. Found in whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, Complex carbohydrates fuel your body for longer periods and they are often a good source of fiber, minerals and vitamins.


Eight Tips to Choosing More Complex Carbs

    1. Cold cereals should include 5 or more grams of fiber per serving. Check the ingredient list to see if whole oats, whole wheat or another whole grain is listed first. Check your favorite cereal brands to see if they meet these two guidelines.
    2. If you are a hot cereal fan- switch from the instant oatmeal in packets which have added sugars, and try a hot bowl of steel-cut oatmeal instead. (Did you know that you can make oatmeal in your slow cooker overnight?)
    3. Switch to whole grains when choosing breads. Don’t just read the name of the bread- make sure that whole wheat or another whole grain is listed first on the ingredient list.
    4. Eat fewer potatoes and choose brown or wild rice, barley, quinoa, millet and bulgur instead. If these grains are unfamiliar to you try websites like for ideas on how to incorporate these rich, nutty grains into your diet. Or try the recipe below!
    5. Try whole wheat pasta, or pasta made with half whole-wheat and half white flour.
    6. Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and remember- juice doesn’t count in those servings!
    7. Eat more legumes. Beans and Lentils- which are also a great source of protein- can be prepared in a variety of ways. Look beyond the standard chili recipes for new ways to incorporate these into your diet.
    8. Snack on small amounts of nuts and seeds– they are higher in fiber and much more filling than a candy bar!



Zesty Quinoa Salad

1 cup quinoa

2 cups of water

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 limes, juiced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon red pepper- to taste

1 ½ cups halved cherry tomatoes

1 15-oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed

5 green onions finely chopped

¼ cup fresh cilantro

Ground pepper to taste

Bring Quinoa and water to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until Quinoa is tender and water has been absorbed (about 10-15 minutes). Set aside to cool

Whisk Olive oil, lime juice, cumin, salt and red pepper together in a bowl

Combine quinoa, tomatoes, black beans and green onions together in a bowl and pour dressing over the quinoa mixture, toss to coat.

Serve immediately or chill in refrigerator. (Great to make a day ahead)


Mary Catherine Cochran works as a Senior Communications Project Manager at Howard County General Hospital: Johns Hopkins Medicine where, among other things, she manages and writes for the Well & Wise blog.


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The Poem in Winter

by Cherise Tasker

When short on time but long on the need for beautiful language, I find a poem may be the perfect choice. Tired of weather and how its whims can change plans, if not lives, we can look to literature for motivation and empathy.

In his 1921 poem “January,” William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) refuses to be distracted by harsh conditions. He is staying on track and meeting challenges. A writer, family practitioner, husband, and father, Williams understood the pull of multiple responsibilities all too well. He wrote in his 1951 autobiography, “I had my typewriter in my office desk…. If a patient came in at the door while I was in the middle of a sentence, bang would go the machine? I was a physician. When the patient left, up would come the machine…. Finally, after eleven at night, when the last patient had been put to bed, I could always find the time to bang out ten or twelve pages.”

Again I reply to the triple winds
running chromatic fifths of derision
outside my window:
Play louder.
You will not succeed. I am
bound more to my sentences
the more you batter at me
to follow you.
And the wind,
as before, fingers perfectly
its derisive music.

– William Carlos Williams

Can his words help us focus our attention, make a resolution for 2013, exceed our goals? The poet has been in this place before, facing barriers to his tasks at hand. Likewise, we may find ourselves trying to finish a chore we’ve been putting off, make a healthy eating choice the doctor recommended, or take a walk when it’s 30 degrees outside. Williams pushes back against detractors. Can we?

Cherise Tasker is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Central Branch and has a background in health information. Most evenings, Cherise can be found reading a book, attending a book club meeting, or coordinating a book group.


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Classes and Events to Make You Well & Wise!

2012 CalendarJanuary 5, 11:00 a.m. Rubber Duckie Twist & Shout!. Celebrate Rubber Duckie’s birthday with song, dance, and a story at the Glenwood Branch. Ages 2-5 with adult; 30 minutes. Register online or by calling 410.313.5579. Class is repeated at Glenwood Banch on 1/8 and 1/9 at 10:30 a.m. Classes also offered at the Miller Branch on 1/10 at 10:15 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.

January 7, 10:15 a.m. Healthy Kids. Class at the Savage Branch to explore simple health concepts inspired by children’s literature. Multi-week series. Ages 3-5 with adult; 45 min. Tickets available at Children’s Desk 15-30 minutes before class. Classes offered on 1/8 at the Miller Branch at 2 & 7 p.m.

January 7, 11:30 a.m. Just For Me. Class at the Savage Branch for children ages 3-5 who are ready for an independent class that includes creative expression, listening comprehension, and early reading skills. 30 min. No registration required. Also offered 1/8 at 10:15 & 11:15 a.m. At the East Columbia branch; tickets available at Children’s Desk 15-30 minutes before class. Offered again on 1/9 at 10:15 & 11:15 a.m. at the Elkridge Branch; no registration required. And 1/9 at 7 p.m. at Miller Branch; tickets available at Children’s Desk 15-30 minutes before class.

January 7, 3:30- 5:30 p.m. Blood Pressure Screening. Free, walk-in blood pressure screening and monitoring at the Glenwood Branch offered by Howard County General Hospital. 3:30 – 5:30 pm. No registration required.

January 7, 7:00 p.m. Pruning. The bare branches of January and February present the ideal time to prune woody shrubs and trees. Joe DiGiovanni comes to the Miller Branch to discuss his pruning expertise through demonstrations and photos. University of Maryland Extension – Howard County Master Gardeners. Register online or by calling 410.313.1950.

January 8, 7:00 p.m. Guided Meditation. Guided meditation presented by Star Ferguson-Gooden, M.Ac., L.Ac., at the Miller Branch. Enjoy a guided mindfulness meditation designed to impart a feeling of peacefulness and connection. In addition to her Master’s degree in Acupuncture, Star Ferguson-Gooden holds a Professional Certificate in Energetic Healing and is faculty at Tai Sophia Institute. She and her husband co-own their practice, Sage Center for Wellness, in historic Ellicott City. Register online or by calling 410.313.1950.

January 9, 10:15 & 11:30 a.m. The World Around Me. Classes at the Central Branch exploring simple social studies concepts inspired by children’s literature.Multi-week series. Ages 3-5; 45 min. Tickets available at Children’s Desk 15-30 minutes before class. Classes offered again on 1/11 at 10:15 & 11:30 a.m. At the East Columbia Branch.

January 9, 7:00 p.m. Healthy Teeth And Mouths Can Save Your Life. Gingivitis leads to tooth loss and contributes to strokes, miscarriages, and heart disease. Learn the key facts at the East Columbia Branch about dental and oral systemic health from Dr. Damian Blum, DMD.  Register online or by calling 410.313.7700.

January 10, 7:00 p.m. From Seeds To Seedlings. Discover how to jump start spring gardening. Presented at the Glenwood Branch by Jo Ann Russo. University of Maryland Extension – Howard County Master Gardeners. Register online or by calling 410.313.5577.


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Healthier Teeth for 2013

Now that 2013 is here, it is time to follow through with our healthy New Year’s Resolutions, and one of the first steps to a healthier body this year is a healthier mouth. To get you started, Howard County Library System invites you to attend Healthy Teeth and Mouths Can Save Your Life. Please join local dental health expert Dr. Damian Blum, DMD, at 7 pm on Wednesday, January 9, at our East Columbia Branch.

While most of us realize that gingivitis can lead to tooth loss, it can also contribute to strokes, miscarriages, and heart disease. Learn the importance of good oral health and how to prevent most dental problems. This promises to be a life-changing workshop on everything you wanted to know about dental and oral systemic health.

Register for this Well & Wise class online or by calling 410.313.7700.


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Classes and Events to Make You Well & Wise

calendar_2014smJanuary 4, 10-11:30 a.m. Together We Thrive. Held the first Saturday of each month this patient support group is for men and women diagnosed with cancer. Participants can share, explore and be encouraged in a safe environment. Registration required. Facilitated by Mary Dowling, LCSW-C. (410) 740-5858 for more information.

January 6, 3:30 p.m. Blood Pressure Screening. Free, walk-in blood pressure screening and monitoring at Glenwood Branch offered by Howard County General Hospital: a Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. Well and Wise event.

January 6, 6:30 p.m. Move with Games. Exercise while competing with your friends at the Elkridge Branch on the Wii or XBox Kinect. Healthy snack provided. Ages 11-17. No registration required.

January 6, 7:00 p.m. Guided Meditation. Presented by Star Ferguson-Gooden, M.Ac., L.Ac. at Miller Branch. Enjoy a guided mindfulness meditation designed to impart a feeling of peacefulness and connection. Register online or by calling 410.313.1950. Well & Wise Event.

January 7, 10:00-11:30 a.m. Medicare 102: Why Medicare Isn’t Enough. Learn about Medicare Advantage/Health Plans (Part C) and Medicare Supplement policies (Medigap). What should you consider when deciding which Medicare choices are right for you? Understand how plans vary, your costs, and when is the best time to enroll. Presented by the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), Howard County Office on aging.

January 7, 3:30 p.m. Care Giver’s Support Group. Meets on the first Tuesday of each month at 3:30 p.m. or the second Saturday of each month at 10:00 a.m.- noon.. Registration is required.  Claudia Mayer Cancer Resource Center, 10710 Charter Drive, Columbia MD. Call 410-740-5858 for more information

January 8, 10:30 a.m. Healthy Kids. Explore simple health concepts inspired by children’s literature at the Glenwood Branch. Ages 3-5 with adult; 45 min. Multi-week series. Register online or by calling 410.313.5579.

January 9, 7:15 p.m. You Can Run, Too! Meet Betty Smith, record holder for the most miles (89) in 48 hours run by a woman between 70 – 74 years old. Smith discusses how proper posture, strengthening exercises, balance, and relaxation have allowed her to run ultra marathons without injury. Stephanie Dignan, founder of The Boot Camp Girl, LLC, also offers advice for reaching your fitness goals. Ages 14 and up. Well & Wise event. Register online or by calling 410.313.5577.

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Wild brambles along the Little Patuxent. Photo by M. Cochran.

In November I was hiking through the woods, focusing on the camera in my hands, when a wicked sticker bush snagged me and left an angry bloody scratch across my leg. I’d like to tell you that I suffered the assault with grace and fortitude…and sweet words…  but not so much. What the heck? What did I do to deserve that wound? I started to react in anger to trample the blasted weed and remove it from my trail, but just as I moved forward, the setting sun illuminated it, making it glow deep red and I could see each individual thorn and the spaces where the ones that were still stuck in my leg had been ripped from the stem and I wondered- anthropomorphism runs deep within me- if perhaps the sticker bush felt undeservedly wounded as well?

And isn’t that life, after all? You follow your path- sometimes paying attention, sometimes distracted- when something comes along interrupting your progress, your thoughts your dreams and you can rage against the thing or you can pause and look for the wonder in the midst of the thorns. You’re still sidetracked and perhaps even wounded, but your fresh start- your healing-  happens in a place of acceptance and in that acceptance- a state of grace.

I have a saying attributed to a few including Joseph Campbell, hanging in my office.  It says; “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned so as to live the life that is waiting for us”. It is a great reminder for me especially during the times when life- in all of its rich and glorious colors- refuses to stay within the neat, straight lines I’ve drawn.

My New Year’s wish for all Well & Wise readers is that each of your days in the upcoming year is filled with grace and wonder. And, as the Irish say…   “May you live each day of your life!”

Happy New Year!

Mary Catherine Cochran works as a Senior Communications Project Manager at Howard County General Hospital: Johns Hopkins Medicine where, among other things, she manages and writes for the Well & Wise blog.

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