If you want to mix getting fresh air and light exercise with a dash of culture this fall, why not visit a local sculpture or topiary garden? There are quite a few within a driving day trip from the Baltimore/DC corridor. While many flowers are past blooming at this point, there’s still plenty to see.

Ladew Topiary Gardens

No matter when you come to Ladew, there is always something to look at no matter what’s in bloom. Full of color themed gardens and fun topiary works, Monkton’s gardens don’t disappoint. If you want something a little less touched by gardeners, they also have a 1.5 mile nature walk on the grounds as well punctuated by educational points discussing the different types of landscape and foliage.

Annmarie Sculpture Garden

If you happen to find yourself in Solomons, Maryland, this gem is an arts center as well as a sculpture garden. They house works from the Hirshhorn and the National Gallery of Art, as well as their own permanent collection. Throughout the year they also have a rotating temporary collection of works, currently including gnome and fairy houses and artistic birdhouses scattered throughout their ¼ mile path through the woods.

US National Arboretum

Located in the Nation’s Capital, the National Arboretum is 446 acres of gardens and trees. It’s great for bike riding or walking. It’s also free! They also house a nice collection of bonsai, some of which are at least 400 years old!

Chanticleer Garden
Chanticleer calls itself a “pleasure” garden, and it certainly is a feast for the senses. With a heavy emphasis on texture and the sculptural forms of plants, it is a unique visual treat.

Longwood Gardens

Longwood is an impressive collection of indoor and outdoor gardens and one of the nation’s first public parks. It covers over 1000 acres of gardens, woodlands and fountains. If you prefer your summer nature experiences after dark when the temperature has dropped somewhat, Longwood also hosts evening fountain displays, live music and fireworks.

Nick Swaner is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Savage Branch of Howard County Library System. Working in the library allows him to explore and expand his expertise in all manner of geekery.


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nutritionWe all remember that special food our parents used to feed us when we were sick as kids. As adults, it seems reasonable that those same comfort foods would help us feel better as adults, but many times that is not the case. In the new age of gluten-free, anti-inflammatory, plant-based, low GI, diets all promoting health and anti-cancer benefits however, how are we supposed to know what’s right for us when we are sick?

We all know that one of the major side-effects of chemotherapy is nausea. This can lead to loss of appetite and weight loss at a time when you need those nutrients most. A healthier diet can help with those tummy troubles. Either way you look at it, a healthier diet can lead a cancer patient down the road to a faster recovery.

Some changes will be obvious. Processed and pre-packaged foods, the red velvet cheesecake at your favorite restaurant, are almost certainly bad. Others may not be so obvious. Multiple sources list vegan diets as optimal, but this is up to the individual. Cutting back on red meat is a start as many tend to find it has a metallic taste after treatment. Non-animal proteins such as beans and nuts will be easier to digest. Vegetables are going to be the most important food group for cancer patients, specifically leafy greens. Easy to digest whole grains are also important.

With all this knowledge, there are definitely some foods you can, and should, still eat.

Still not feeling great? Chemocare has some great advice for how to prevent nausea and continue eating when you need those nutrients the most. My personal favorite for stomach problems is eating smaller meals throughout the day instead of two or three big ones.

Aryn is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Miller Branch and has been with HCLS for over 3 years. She has many hobbies including, but not excluded to: exercising, vegetarian living, and eating cake. Perhaps cake is neither “well” nor “wise” but it’s certainly delicious!


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nowhere hairThe title of this post is a quote attributed to Susan McHenry, from The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo

“Cancer.” The first thought we may have when seeing someone without any hair or eyebrows.

Hair loss can be one of the greatest fears for a cancer patient. Many patients about to undergo chemotherapy shave their heads to avoid the experience of watching their hair thin and disappear. Why does this hair loss occur and why don’t all patients undergoing cancer treatment lose their hair? Medication administered to target and kill cancer cells is commonly referred to as “chemotherapy.” Many patients whose cancer treatment includes chemotherapy will lose their hair because of the mechanism of action of these medications. Some cancer patients undergo radiation treatment as well. Radiation may also result in hair loss.

Alopecia is the clinical term for loss of hair from the body. Alopecia can be in a specific area of the body, such as the scalp, or all over the body. Hair grows out of follicles and is characterized by a long growth phase, a transitional phase, and a brief resting phase, after which the hair falls out. One mechanism by which chemotherapy works is to kill off rapidly reproducing cells. Cancer cells and hair cells both divide constantly- and for this reason are targeted by many forms of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy speeds the progress of hair to the resting phase, resulting in a sudden onset of hair loss. Cancer patients receiving particular types of drugs, however, may not experience hair loss. Medications targeting specific cells or parts of cells or those that attack cancer by boosting a patient’s own immune pathways are unlikely to affect hair growth.

LEARN Cancer MEthodSince each medication has a slightly different onset of action and duration of effect, hair loss from chemotherapy may occur within a week or not until several weeks after treatment. Hair loss may be partial or total. Hair will usually return several weeks after treatment is completed. New hair growth may be a different color or texture from what it was prior to treatment, but the change is rarely permanent. Radiation therapy also destroys rapidly growing cells, so hair follicles in the area targeted by radiation may be destroyed. Hair loss in these areas can be permanent. If hair does return, any alteration in texture or color may be permanent because the goal of radiation is to alter and remove treated cells to prevent their regeneration. Radiation may target every cell in its path, while chemotherapy’s long-term effect is to permanently destroy only cancer cells.

Every cancer patient is different. Each person’s experience of hair loss is highly personal. One close friend might have a response you expect, another might surprise you. Be open and forthright and your friend or family member will appreciate your support. When one of my friends had hair loss during chemotherapy, she welcomed the hand-me-down hats from another friend whose sister had gone through chemo. A different person may not have wanted these hats. Sensitivity and empathy goes a long way. Years later, my friend and I still laugh about the wonderful experiences we had because she was bald and wearing a bold hat. It seemed we always got the best table in the restaurant and the most attentive service. Once, we got special attention from a rock star signing CDs after a concert. We’re convinced it was the crazy hat.

Websites for organizations such as the American Cancer SocietyJohns Hopkins Medicine and the National Cancer Institute offer useful information about coping with chemotherapy-induced hair loss. The comedian Jay London has said, “I was going to buy a book on hair loss, but the pages kept falling out.” Nonetheless, there are many helpful text references including Cancer Caregiving A to Z: An At-Home Guide for Patients and Families and Learn to Live Through Cancer: What You Need to Know and Do.

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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foodinjarsWe know that some folks have small kitchens—maybe a starter kitchen or a kitchen downsized from a big house to an apartment—but they dream of a big country kitchen with room to store equipment to stretch the harvest season by preserving food at its healthy best. It is frustrating to see those beautiful strawberries or bountiful tomatoes and think “I’d love to make jam or sauce but I don’t have the equipment I would need or the room to store it.”

There is hope for the small kitchen–and it doesn’t require a remodel! Howard County Library System has a few books that might help you make the best of your kitchen and will show you how you can make preserves, pickles & sauces in small batches with very little special equipment.

Sarah Kallio and Stacey Krastins, authors of The Stocked Kitchen (2011), have a “system.” Follow their advice and their grocery list and you will free up lots of space in your small kitchen. They also include a full range of recipes that use only their pared-down list of staples.

The City Cook: Big City, Small Kitchen, Limitless Ingredients, No Time (2010), by Kate McDonough, also advocates a well-planned pantry. She also discusses the equipment needed in a well-planned small kitchen. Her shopping advice is written with New York City residents in mind, but could be applied to our area—we do have access to a rich variety of ethnic and specialty foods. A culinary school grad, McDonough includes over 90 recipes. If you like her book, try her website for more advice and a searchable recipe database.

So, you’d like to put “food in jars”–try Marisa McClellan’s book, Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-round (2011). Most of her recipes are designed for boiling water bath canning which can be accomplished with only a pot on your stove that is tall enough to cover the jars you plan to use by 2 – 4 inches. Others of her recipes, like rosemary salt, pancake, bread or cake mixes in jars, homemade vanilla extract don’t require any processing at all.

art of preservingPickling is a great way to preserve a bountiful harvest. Andrea Chesman, in The Pickled Pantry (2012), has “from apples to Zucchini, 150 recipes for pickles, relishes, chutneys & more.” Her claim is that not everyone will like a particular pickle, but there is a pickle for everyone. While you are experimenting to find your favorite pickle you don’t want to have to make six quarts at a time so she writes most of her recipes for one quart batches. She also tells about an intriguing technique to preserve the overflow of cucumbers—dehydrate them, store them in airtight bags or jars for up to a year, then rehydrate them with pickle brine when you are ready to use them.

The Joy of Pickling (2009) by Linda Ziedrich has “250 flavor-packed recipes for vegetables & more from garden or market.” This is an excellent thorough book about the art & science—and joy—of making pickles. She even covers pickled apples, pumpkin, oysters and eggs.

To go beyond pickles you might like, try The Art of Preserving (2012) by Rick Field, Lisa Atwood, and Rebecca Courchesne. They cover “how to make jams, jellies, curds, pickles, chutneys, salsas, sauces and more plus recipes to use your creations.” And they also briefly review “the basics” of home canning, of fruit spreads, and of pickles. I really like that they pair a recipe for the preserves with a recipe to make, such as blackberry preserves used in blackberry cheesecake tartlets.

The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest by Carol W. Costenbader is a classic. The newest edition is from 2002, but classics age well. Another classic is the Complete Book of Home Preserving (2006). Both of these have well-illustrated and complete instructions for all kinds of preserving; from canning to drying to freezing.

These titles are readily available at Howard County Library System. So, no matter how small your kitchen, you can get the advice you need to preserve the harvest—in small batches.

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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Saturday, Aug. 16, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. Ask A Master Gardener. Discuss gardening questions and concerns at the Glenwood Branch. University of Maryland Extension – Howard County Master Gardeners. Also offered at the Miller Branch Saturday, Aug. 16, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. and Aug. 18 7 – 8:30 p.m. No registration required.

Saturday, Aug. 16, 10 a.m. Compost Demonstrations. Master Gardeners discuss and demonstrate composting on a drop-in basis at the Miller Branch. Free bins provided for Howard County residents. University of Maryland Extension – Howard County Master Gardeners. No registration required.

Saturday, Aug. 16, 11 a.m. Crop Swap. Do you have an abundance of vegetables from your garden? Let’s crop swap! Bring homegrown produce to trade for something new and delicious at the Miller Branch. Share growing tips and favorite varieties. Families welcome. Leftovers donated to the Howard County Food Bank. Set up from 11 – 11:30 a.m., swap from 11:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. Registration is required. Register online or by calling 410.313.1950.

Saturday, Aug. 16, 3 p.m. Kindergarten, Here We Come. The Central Branch will have stories and activities to help mark that all important first day, including boarding a real school bus. For children entering Kindergarten this fall; 45- 60 min. Cosponsored by Friends of Howard County Library and Howard County Public School System. Registration is required. Register online or by calling 410.313.7880. Another is offered on Aug. 19 at 10:15 a.m. at the Savage Branch and again at 7 p.m., and also at 2 p.m. at the East Columbia Branch. Offered again on Aug. 20 at 10:15 a.m. at the Savage Branch and at the East Columbia Branch at 7 p.m. And offered Aug. 21 at 10:15 a.m. at the Savage Branch.

Monday, Aug. 18,  Blood Pressure Screening at Glenwood Branch – a Well & Wise Event. Free, walk-in blood pressure screening and monitoring offered by Howard County General Hospital: A Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. Also offered, Tuesday, Aug. 12, 1 - 3 p.m. 

Monday, Aug. 18, 2 p.m. Infectious Diseases. Learn about infectious diseases, how they are spread, and how disease detectives work to find and stop their spread using medical technology and nanotechnology at the Savage Branch. Participate in mock disease outbreaks around the globe to learn to identify and handle some of the most dangerous diseases, select the right medical or nanotechnology methods, and develop a communication pack to let others know. Being an Infectious Disease Detective has never been more fun! Ages 11-18. HiTech is funded in part by a National Leadership Grant for Libraries from The Institute of Museum and Library Services. Visit hclibrary.org/hitech_events. Registration is required. Register online or by calling 410.313.0760. Offered again on Aug. 19 at 2 p.m. , Aug. 20 at 2 p.m., Aug. 21 at 2 p.m., and Aug. 22 at 2 p.m.

Monday, Aug. 25, 7 p.m. I’m Going to be a Big Brother or Sister. In partnership with Howard County General Hospital: A Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. A Well & Wise class. Come to the Central Branch to prepare for the arrival of a baby in this class for new siblings. Enjoy stories, activities, and bring a favorite doll or stuffed animal to practice holding your baby. Resources for parents, too. Families; 30 – 45 min. Ticket required. Limited space; tickets available at Children’s Desk 15 minutes before class.

Tuesday, Aug. 26, 5 – 6:30 p.m. Weight Loss Through Bariatric Surgery in the Howard County General Wellness Center. Learn about weight loss surgery from Johns Hopkins Center for Bariatric Surgery. Register online or call 410-550-5669.

Tuesdays and Thursdays, Sept. 16 to Nov. 6, 6:30 – 8 p.m. Healthy Weight Connection. Kick-start individual lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise, to help you reach a healthier weight. Receive personalized guidance from a certified dietitian. Various nutrition topics and gentle yoga. Class held in the Howard County General Wellness Center. Cost is $195. Register online or call 410-740-7601.

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When you get a cancer diagnosis, it is natural to panic, get depressed, and feel angry. But, as Dr. Agus says in A Short Guide to a Long Life, take it not as a death sentence, but as a wake-up call and an opportunity to take control of the health of your own body by learning all you can, studying your options, and going forth with the best treatment that you and your doctor have decided on, all with the best positive attitude you can muster. But don’t become so micro-focused on this one area of your health that you let other areas of your life get pushed aside or forgotten, such as the simple joys of playing with an animal friend or eating a delicious meal.

You know your health is all wrapped up like a rubber band ball with your emotions, your lifestyle, and your attitude. More than anything, eating can be the most important and healthy thing that you can do to guarantee your body receives the raw materials to fight the growth of cancerous cells and to keep the rest of your body humming along in fine shape.

I am going to list a few of my favorite cookbooks from Howard County Library System for those who want to have some new recipes for themselves, a family member, or a friend who may be living with cancer and going through radiation and/or chemotherapy treatments. They may need some help with preparing a nourishing meal, especially if they have a decreased appetite and not much energy. Don‘t forget, drinking lots of fluids is super important, so check out the great drinks and smoothie recipes too–they are great for throwing in healthy ingredients!

The most beautifully illustrated book of clean, green, and fresh recipes is No. 4, but my favorite is No. 1 because it is written as if there is a helper there with you as you plan to make a tasty recipes with notes of interest on how certain ingredients are beneficial or may help with treatment side-effects. For instance, one note says that metal, as in silverware, can often have a bad taste or feel in your mouth when you are getting cancer treatments. So, the suggestion is to go get some pretty plastic ware so that your eating implements are not an impediment to having some yummy healing food.

My son, who underwent two radical craniotomies for brain cancer, said that it was the preparation of the food and often the smell of the cooking, and even sometimes the energy to do the chewing, that really didn’t make eating appealing. Things that could be prepared quickly were helpful. What he appreciated the most was cold things like yogurt, ice cream, fresh fruit shakes, and smoothies. Simple things like crackers and dips or hummus, omelets, cereal or even ramen noodles were preferred as well.

What helped my son the most? Someone who was there providing love and support as well as a full pantry and refrigerator with lots of good-for-you ingredients for wholesome recipe options, especially as he felt better and began to want to experiment with more foods and flavors as his health, energy, and well-being improved. You will find a treasure-trove of great recipes in these books to complement any lifestyle or condition, and remember healthy eating is for all of us always –and thanks for reading my story.

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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1CarePackageIt’s natural to want to show someone you care for and have been thinking about them, but it can sometimes be hard to come up with what to do or say. Do you send someone with cancer a get well soon card? Take them out to dinner? Send flowers? Just give them a hug? (Probably advisable, unless you’re sick -in which case stay away!) One good option is to give them a care package – it will show that you’re thinking about them and that you care how they’re doing, even when you can’t find the right words.

So, what do you put in a care package for someone who’s dealing with cancer (or other serious illness)? The following are just a few of the things I would pack for a friend going through treatment.

  • Something that’s cute or nice to look at; a little thing that will make them smile. I added  a small vase of flowers and a happy bumble bee knot-wrap containing a bath bomb and some sweet soap – just to help them relax in the bath and smile a little.
  • Soothing ginger and mint teas – to help an upset stomach or lessen nausea
  • Tea ball (a robot!)
  • Tea scoop
  • Travel mug
  • Lotion to soothe irritated and dry skin, the stronger and more intensive care, the better.
  • Lip balm
  • Hand sanitizer (unscented if possible)
  • Some treats, just for fun! A little bit of chocolate can make anyone feel a little bit better sometimes.
  • Streaming video service subscription – great for those days when you’re too exhausted and run down to go out for entertainment.
  • Easy to make chicken noodle soup
  • Home-made lap blanket
  • Travel water bottle – though a whole case of bottled water for the trunk of their car can be a big help after chemo sessions
  • The theme of my care package is "comfortable self-care." I thought about the things that would make me feel better and the things I would like to have on hand. The beauty of care packages is personalizing them. Some people need skull caps or soft hats when their hair starts to thin or magazines to flip through while sitting in a chemo chair. These are only a few of my ideas, what would you put into a care package?
  • Something that’s cute or nice to look at; a little thing that will make your care package recipient smile. I added a small vase of flowers and a happy bumble bee knot-wrap containing a bath bomb and some sweet soap – just to help them relax in the bath and smile a little.
  • Soothing ginger and mint teas – to help an upset stomach or lessen nausea. Tea ball (a robot!), tea scoop, and Travel mug.
  • Lotion to soothe irritated and dry skin, the stronger and more intensive care, the better. Think about lip balms and unscented hand sanitizer too.
  • Some treats, just for fun! A little bit of chocolate can make anyone feel a little bit better sometimes. If they don't eat them now, they'll still be there waiting. It can be nice to have a treat to look forward to.
  • Streaming video service subscription – great for those days when you’re too exhausted and run down to go out for entertainment. The library is a great resource for streaming and digital content, be it e-books, digital audio books, magazines, and even some movies. A home-made lap blanket (or any exceptionally soft blanket) along with some easy-to-make chicken noodle soup can bring real comfort.
  • Finally, something that your care package recipient will take with them everywhere: a travel water bottle. Though, a whole case of bottled water for the trunk of their car can be a big help after chemo sessions. Extra points if you have a cooler to spare.

Jessica Seipel is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Savage Branch. She has worked for the Howard County Library System, in various positions, for a decade.


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calendar_2014smTuesday, August 12, 7:00 p.m. Movin’ Up to Middle School. Starting sixth grade? Meet new classmates, discuss the big move, and learn the secrets to success at the Elkridge Branch. Compete in a book bag relay and combination lock time-trial! Registration is required. Register online or by calling 410.313.5088. Also available August 18 at 7:00 p.m. at the Miller Branch.

Wednesday, August 13, 4:00 p.m. Kindergarten, Here We Come. The Glenwood Branch will have stories and activities to help mark that all important first day, including boarding a real school bus. For children entering Kindergarten this fall; 45- 60 min. Cosponsored by Friends of Howard County Library and Howard County Public School System. Registration is required. Register online or by calling 410.313.5579. Offered again at 7:00 p.m. and on Thursday, August 14, 10:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. at the Glenwood Branch, and August 14 at 10:30 a.m. at the Elkridge Branch. Also offered August 16 at 3:00 p.m. at the Central Branch.

Saturday, August 16, 11:00 a.m. Crop Swap. Do you have an abundance of vegetables from your garden? Let’s crop swap! Bring homegrown produce to trade for something new and delicious at the Miller Branch. Share growing tips and favorite varieties. Families welcome. Leftovers donated to the Howard County Food Bank. Set up from 11 – 11:30 am, swap from 11:30 am – 12 pm. Registration is required. Register online or by calling 410.313.1950.

Monday, August 18, 10:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. SAT Prep. The SAT is the most widely used college admission exam. Take advantage of our SAT Math Prep course specifically designed to help students excel on the math portion of the test. Students will take an official practice exam to simulate the experience, learn test-taking strategies, and solve problems related to algebra, geometry, and probability. Grades 9-12 only. Graphing calculators are recommended. HiTech is funded in part by a National Leadership Grant for Libraries from The Institute of Museum and Library Services. Registration is required. Register online or by calling 410.313.0760.

 Blood Pressure Screening at Glenwood Branch – a Well & Wise Event. Free, walk-in blood pressure screening and monitoring offered by Howard County General Hospital: a Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. Also offered, Tuesday, August 12, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. at Elkridge Branch. No registration required.

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Sick by Eric C. Bryan [https://www.flickr.com/photos/flowers-of-the-sea/]One of the illnesses I dread most are summer colds—the worst! Summer is usually the time of year when I feel my best. My rheumatoid arthritis doesn’t like winter and cold weather makes my joints stiffer and achier. So when the summer rolls around with the warm days, I have more energy and generally feel better than any other time of year.

Maybe that’s why I have extra hatred for summer colds, because they strike when I want to be actively out and about. Recently I caught a cold that unfortunately turned into bronchitis. My husband and I feared something else was going one when the cold didn’t improve after a couple days, I spiked a 100 plus fever and my cough worsened.

With my rheumatoid arthritis (RA) I often am more susceptible to bugs because I’m taking immunosuppressant medications. This means I pick up illnesses easier than others and that a regular illnesses (like a cold) can easily become more complex and turn into more serious issues. Hence, my cold turning into bronchitis.

Since a cold can turn into a bigger problem, I’ve been talking with my doctor about prevention steps to avoid contracting bugs. She told me one of the most effective practices is to avoid touching surfaces with my hands and to wash my hands frequently. While there are plenty of objects I need to touch every day, I do try to avoid highly-trafficked objects like door handles (or use a paper towel when grabbing a door). Also, I’ve become more aware of not eating or touching my face unless I just washed my hands because a lot of the bugs we pick up move from surface-hand-face-mouth. My hope is that cutting back on exposure will help me to stay healthier and avoid contracting viruses.

Additionally, I talked with my doctor about vaccines. People with suppressed immune systems can more easily contract illnesses that vaccines may be able to prevent. For example, I get the flu shot every year and make sure I’m up-to-date on other available vaccines. Consulting with my doctor is very important because there are certain vaccines (with live viruses) I cannot take because of my RA, while other additional ones are highly recommended.

It also can’t hurt to talk with a doctor about vitamins. I’ve found that taking a multivitamin and vitamin C every day has reduced the number of colds I get every year. Just making sure you’re having the right amount of nutrients and eating healthy can support everyday health.

Prevention is a powerful thing—much preferred to getting sick and all the time and medications needed for getting well again. Talking with a doctor about some simple steps you can take to stay healthy can be worthwhile and save the hassle of a nasty summer cold.

Kelly Mack lives in Washington, DC, and works for a marketing communications firm.


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fault in our starsI don’t want to say “You have to have been living under a rock not to have read/seen/heard of The Fault in Our Stars” because heaven knows I am frequently unaware of popular things, current fads, or even world-changing news at times (plus it is a little unkind to say that to someone anyway). But The Fault in Our Stars is colossally popular. It was even first mentioned on this blog two years ago by our wonderful JP. And, though I have yet to see the movie (sorry, Nerdfighteria, I promise as soon as it makes it to DVD, I’m there), I have read the book and laughed and cried through the amazing story of Hazel Grace and Augustus.

But what is the appeal? Why has a love story about two teenage cancer patients struck a chord in so many people? (It really is much more than a love story between two teenage cancer patients, but I can’t go into it without giving too much away.) I think (aside from the fact that the writing and the characters are humorous, honest, heartbreaking, smart, and realistic), the book’s popularity has a lot to do with how much cancer still looms in people’s lives. I’ve rarely met a person whose life hasn’t been touched by cancer in some way or another. Additionally, according to the CDC, cancer is still the second leading cause of death in the U.S., and, according to the WHO, lung cancers are the #4 killer in the world.

But why is this ancient beast (The American Cancer Society cites the first recorded description of cancer from Egypt at about 3000 BC) still plaguing us after so many years and so much research? Cancer certainly gets a lot of attention. For example, in FY2013, The National Cancer Institute’s budget was $4.8 billion. And there are numerous cancer research programs throughout the world. Even HCLS carries four periodicals devoted to cancer alone, and there are over 1,200 books in our collection dealing with this topic. But cancer continues. Is it really the result of a fault in our stars?

this star won't go outWell, maybe it’s a fault in our cellsThe National Cancer Institute states: “Cancer is a term used for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and are able to invade other tissues.” Or maybe it’s a fault in our blood or lymph systems since it “can spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems.” Or maybe cancer is a fault in our genes as the American Cancer Foundation points out how certain risk factors that run in families and abnormal gene function can also play a role in cancer.

Maybe, however, we should stick with blaming our stars after all; The National Cancer Institute points out that cancer “is not just one disease but many diseases,” and with many possible causes. These causes and risk factors can include: chemical and environmental elements (including food content and radiation exposure), genetics, hormonal changes, infectious agents, exposure to the sun(!), tobacco use, weight, and physical activity levels, just to name a few without getting too in depth. We might as well blame the stars (not just the sun, but all of them) since some factors we can control, some we can’t, and Fortuna’s mood seems to come into play more than we’d like. No wonder cancer remains a provocative topic; it truly can come out of no where and change everything.

Alas, cancer is still very much a reality in the world, and I think we all hope for a day when it’s not. The Fault in Our Stars treats a frightening topic with care but without a sugar coating. Sometimes just a sense of mutual understanding can provide great comfort. And I feel this book has touched many hearts; it certainly did mine. If it touched your heart too, you may want to check out This Star Won’t Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl, a collection of works from the brave, young lady who was one of the inspirations for The Fault in Our Stars.

Joanne Sobieck-Lingg is glad to blog about her many, disparate interests (though expert in none, except maybe parenthetical asides). In past lives, she was a writer, proofreader, editor, project manager, teacher, and even co-coordinator of a certain health blog. She has been happily ensconced among the fiction and teen books at the Central Branch of HCLS since 2003.


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calendar_2014smMonday, Aug. 4, 6:30 p.m. Move with Games at Elkridge Branch – a Well & Wise Class. Exercise while competing with friends on the Wii or XBox Kinect. Healthy snack provided. Ages 11 – 17. No registration required.

Monday, Aug. 4 & 18, 3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Blood Pressure Screening at Glenwood Branch – a Well & Wise Event. Free, walk-in blood pressure screening and monitoring offered by Howard County General Hospital: a Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. Also offered, Tuesday, August 12, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. at Elkridge Branch. No registration required.

Tuesday, Aug. 26, 5 – 6:30 p.m. Weight Loss Through Bariatric Surgery Learn about weight loss sugery from Johns Hopkins Center for Bariatric Surgery. Call 410-550-5669.



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self healingMusic gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. ~ Plato, ~400 BCE

Every sound in our environment affects our minds and bodies.

Consider a warm evening with crickets chirping outside your open windows and distant passersby murmur quietly. You’re well on your way to sleep, when a car’s brakes screech, followed by a discordant crash and angry shouts. The tranquility you were experiencing is gone, affected by sounds in the environment.

Music has a profoundly positive effect on the mind and body. Music helps us to concentrate, wakes us up or helps us to sleep, excites or calms us. And people used it for social bonding—in religion or love, or for mind-altering experiences such as war dances, since before time began. Anyone who has rocked out at a concert or flipped on the radio to your favorite music station knows that we are still using and enjoying music today.

Scientists have recently identified the ways that music changes the state of the body. The levels of the brain chemicals dopamine and the endorphins rise; the pupils dilate, antibodies increase (with their protective role in the immune system). In the brain, music activates the amygdala (involved in processing emotion) and prefrontal cortex (involved in decision-making).

These chemical changes explain why music is so appealing. With an increase in the brain chemical dopamine, anxiety decreases and depression lifts. Research has found that music is as effective as medication in decreasing presurgical anxiety. Even sick premature babies respond well to the playing of music. People listening to music at the gym showed improvements of 15% in their endurance and workouts, and coronary disease patients boosted cognitive and verbal skills while exercising.

So, the pleasure of listening to music is an important part of a balanced wellness program. What kind of music is best? Whatever you like! Pick your favorite music, make a playlist, and “medicate yourself with music.”

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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think like a freakStep up to the “retrain your brain” challenge. When the authors of Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, offer to share their unique insight into decision making, seize the opportunity. “Readers seemed to think no riddle was too tricky, no problem too hard, that it couldn’t be sorted out. It was as if we owned some proprietary tool – a Freakonomics forceps, one might imagine – that could be plunged into the body politic to extract some buried wisdom,” write Levitt and Dubner in their new book, Think Like a Freak. Experts on how to look at data differently, Levitt and Dubner have inspired readers to abandon preconceived notions and embrace nontraditional analysis of economic, political and social phenomena. I recall a fascinating question the authors had posed in their first book: Is it true that one’s name plays a part in determining one’s destiny in life? Thanks to Freakonomics, readers gained understanding of the significance of baby name selection. We learned what names tell us about parenting, economic mobility, and social stereotyping. I am ready to be a Freakonomics insider and exercise a similar approach to my own world.

Levitt and Dubner take us behind the scenes of their research techniques. They explain how to find the most useful questions, understand the data we use to answer the questions and apply effective techniques to implement a solution. Their ideas can be implemented in analyzing personal as well as global issues. When thinking about solving a problem, consider how a “freak” would do it. Do not think “right” way vs. “wrong” way. Instead, be conscious to seek out new information. Do not be satisfied with data that merely confirms a bias you already have. Be wary of traditional wisdom. Distinguish between correlation and causality. Persevere to find the root cause and do not settle for the proximal cause.

Freaks realize the importance of recognizing and acknowledging what they don’t know. Admitting you don’t know an answer not only takes the pressure off, it allows you to seek out the information needed to make a successful decision. Besides, to gather useful information, you have to ask the right questions…to know what you don’t know. Take your time and dissect a problem by asking and answering small questions. Levitt and Dubner argue that few problems are solved through focusing on just one big question. 

Thinking like a freak requires we accept that humans are motivated by incentives. As we train ourselves to use the brain of a freak, we learn that the majority of people make decisions that value personal gain over the greater good. This is not a negative statement, rather it is an insight that helps us understand how people think. Knowing this, we then use the power of reward as we work toward our goal. A freak also knows that data-accurate stories motivate people. The power of a telling a good story is, in part, enticing the listener to put him/herself in the other person’s shoes. The other part is including data to focus the listeners’ attention on facts. 

Freaks maintain their ability to think like children. They avoid the constraints of prejudice and willingly confront even the most obvious assumptions. As Levitt and Dubner point out, proof of this concept is that children are more skilled than adults at figuring out magic tricks. This is because, unlike adults, kids are not set in their ways and burdened by presumptions. Also like children, freaks are not afraid to have fun. Why suffer while you study when you can enjoy the journey instead?

I invite you to further explore Think Like a Freak. Learn intriguing skills such as teaching a garden to weed itself. Analyze whether knowing when to quit is just as important as deciding to proceed. Become a Freakonomics insider.

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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Reserve this item at Howard County Library SystemMoving can be one of the most fun (yet daunting) tasks a person ever has to face. You have to research until you find the desired new home, go through all of your belongings, and pack. The stress starts early and lasts until you’re fully settled in your new place.

I recently moved into a new apartment with a close friend. I thought the search was the tough part- and then, came the packing. I have a lot of stuff. A LOT of stuff. When I started tearing apart my closet, I found school assignments from elementary school. I felt like a hoarding mother with a soft spot for nostalgia. I knew I was in for a long and stressful process. After a while, I realized that getting rid of stuff wasn’t necessarily the issue. However, looking through everything and deciding what to keep was quite overwhelming. I had to ask myself a series of questions in deciding what to keep: Why do I have this? Where did it come from? Why is this valuable to me? How long have I had this? Do I need it? Do I use it? Would someone else benefit more from having this? These are just a few of the many questions that you can use to determine an item’s value. In Downsizing Your Home with Style, we’re invited to shift our perspectives from “I’ve got to get rid of this stuff!” to “What can’t I live without?” You’re not sacrificing your beloved belongings, you’re reducing your things to the “best and most loved.” That’s not a bad way to look at things.

Like I mentioned, I have a lot of stuff. Not only is there an abundance of stuff, but it’s all quite awesome. Whether it’s an item that was gifted to me or something that I found at a thrift store, I keep my belongings in good condition. This actually makes it more difficult when deciding what to get rid of. First, I offer belongings to friends who I think will appreciate certain items and give them a good life. Then, I take the remaining “give-away” items to a local donation center. Rarely, but on occasion, I may sell some things to make a little extra money.

Here’s another tip: upcycle! When you have an item that you absolutely can’t part with (and have no reason to keep) you can re-purpose it! Upcycling is a great way to hold on to a beloved item and actually get use out of it. I’ve found many creative ways to re-use otherwise trash-worthy items. One of my favorite re-purposed items came from a busted bass drum – which is now my bedside table. I have also used old and broken jewelry to make new jewelry and hair accessories. Repurposing items is fun! Plus, it can help you save money.

The other important thing to keep in mind is having an organization system. There are plenty of containers in various sizes sold in stores to aid in this process. This might be a possible opportunity to repurpose something! My roommate and I recently bought small hooks (cup hooks) and pieces of half round molding to make a wall mounted necklace rack. Total cost? Less than $3. Organize Your Home is filled with great tips on keeping your belongings organized no matter what room you’re in or what it is you’re trying to accomplish – like moving your household!

As stressful as moving can be, it is important to keep the end goal in sight. With plenty of research and organization you can find the perfect home and feel confident in the amount of belongings that make the move with you. While you might not need all of your old school assignments, it’s alright to gather all of those old band t-shirts and make them into a brand new quilt!

Laci Radford is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the East Columbia Branch (while her home branch, in Savage, is being renovated). She is a music lover, writer, and an avid reader. She enjoys attending concerts, plays, and other forms of live entertainment. Her favorite activities include scoping out unique items at thrift stores, bonfires with friends, and having tie-dye parties. She is studying Psychology and plans to become a music and art therapist sooner rather than later.


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Ahh, the farmers’ market…

vegetable literacyHow wonderful to have the farmers’ markets back! If you are lucky enough to have a market nearby you can plan your menus around an easy weekly visit to their tables full of colorful, juicy produce! Maybe you will even run into a vegetable that is new to you—have you tried kohlrabi yet? Maybe you like beets, but are looking for a new way to prepare them, or you’d like to find a recipe that will entice your family to eat kale. It’s time for a new cookbook! Here are a few recent cookbooks from the shelves of Howard County Library System.

The Farmers’ Market Guide to Vegetables: Selecting, Preparing and Cooking, by Bridget Jones, has been a staple since its publication in 2001. How nice to be able to highly recommend a new title, Vegetable Literacy (2013), by Deborah Madison. At “the vanguard of the vegetarian cooking movement” for over three decades, Madison now explores and celebrates the diversity of the plant kingdom. Her approach is to introduce us to each of twelve plant families, such as the carrot family, the mint family, the cabbage family, and show how ingredients are related and can easily substitute for each other. Each vegetable within the family gets several paragraphs of history and advice, a list of selected varieties, and a bit of “kitchen wisdom” followed by several wonderful-sounding recipes fit for a chef’s repertoire and a tantalizing photo.

heart of the plateMolly Katzen is well-known among vegetarians as the author of the Moosewood Cookbook, The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, and several other vegetable-themed books, including Salad People for preschoolers and up. Her newest is the The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation (2013) and it is lovely! I find the deep eggplant-colored cover and the illustrations and photos more appealing than the “handwritten” style of the Moosewood books. The organization is by categories such as soups, salads, pasta, sauces, etc. She has added a helpful list of the recipes that are “vegetarian” and those that are “vegan.” Katzen’s definition of her cuisine is “a beautiful plate of food, simply cooked, maximally flavored, and embracing as many plant components as will harmoniously fit.” this is one I will be taking home!

leafy greensForks over Knives: the Cookbook (2012) by Del Sroufe and others, is a companion to the Forks over Knives book and video. Whether or not you are convinced by the original book and video that you should embrace a wholly plant-based whole foods diet, the cookbook is a great collection of healthy recipes. There are only a few enticing photos, but that leaves more room for the wide variety of recipes. You will probably be introduced to a few new ingredients—be adventurous!

One of the most important categories of vegetables—and perhaps the most confusing and intimidating—is the leafy greens. Mark Bittman is the author of the How to Cook Everything series, the Minimalist column in the New York Times, and several “minimalist” cookbooks. Bittman wants you to enjoy your leafy greens! His Leafy Greens: an A-to-Z Guide to 30 Types of Greens Plus More Than 120 Delicious Recipes, written in 1995, when he was an avid gardener, deserved a reprint in 2012. The A-to-Z guide includes dandelions, seaweed and other wild greens as well as the more common collards and spinach. His recipes aren’t only about greens but about how to use them with pasta and proteins. The whimsical but realistic illustrations have also stood the test of time.

cooking with flowersWhat if you are the only vegetarian in your household—or you are a household of one? You may need the advice in Joe Yonan’s Eat your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook (2013). Yonan has an easy conversational style that encourages one to experiment and have fun cooking. His advice will help the single cook to shop efficiently and cook without a lot of leftovers.

My last reading suggestion is the whimsical Cooking with Flowers (2013) by Miche Bacher of Mali B Sweets. Bacher is trained as an herbalist but it is her creativity with everything from lilac sorbet to dandelion jam that will inspire you.

Summer is the easiest time of year to get plenty of healthful vegetables in your diet. Try being a “farmers’ market chef” this summer!

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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Female boomers in the U.S. make up a tad over 50% of the current population. And they are, healthier, wealthier, wiser, and making more lucrative investments than men. At least, according to Stephanie Holland of Sheconomy: A Guy’s Guide to Marketing To Women. But publishers and their authors don’t necessarily pitch to their vibrancy.

Library customers who make up the above statistic come in every summer asking the frustrating question: “Aren’t there any good books out there where the main character is – well – over 45?”

And the answer is: “There are! And you’re going to have a heck of a good time reading them!”

Julie and Romeo by Jeanne Ray

Julie Roseman and Romeo Cacciamani (both over 60 years old) are rival Boston florists whose families share a decades-old grievance. The fact that no one is precisely sure why or when it began doesn’t matter. In fact, all that Julie can remember from childhood is her father spitting on the floor if anyone dared utter the name “Cacciamani.”

Bitterness between the families only intensified when Julie’s teen-aged daughter, Sandy, and Romeo’s son, Tony, tried to elope. Fast forward almost 20 years: Julie’s divorced, Romeo’s widowed, and the Roseman-Cacciamani feud continues to simmer. Until Julie and Romeo meet at a job fair.

Suddenly, all hard feelings – not to mention the arid climate of post-menopause and erectile dysfunction go out the window — or at least the door of Romeo’s cozy, walk-in flower cooler where the two — well – combust. Hysterical!

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Suffering Downton Abbey withdrawal? If so, consider this well-mannered English confection (replete with hedgerows and high tea).

When his brother dies, staid widower and retired schoolteacher, Major Pettigrew, can only seem to express his grief to Mrs. Ali, a warm and affable Pakistani shopkeeper (and widow) whom he’s known for years. But sorrow has a way of making one ‘see’ someone anew. Especially when there’s a shared delight in discussing Kipling.

Slowly but surely, their world begins to eclipse everyone – including small-minded neighbors and self-serving relations. Everyone but them.

There is nothing, Simonson reminds us in this endearing tale, like the rich patina of mid-life love.

A Year by The Sea by Joan Anderson

And finally, not fiction, but a sobering memoir. And by a grown up, now 64.

While 26-year-old Cheryl Strayed, (Wild), may have clue-lessly walked the Pacific Crest Trail in toe-pinching hiking boots, and thirty-something Elizabeth Gilbert showed readers the way toward becoming a pasta-eating yogi in Eat, Pray, Love, memoirist Joan Anderson chose a far less glamorous path to self-discovery.

In her mid-fifties, her husband of many years informed her he was taking a job offer out of state – one that would necessitate selling their family home. Joan’s reaction, after a pragmatic assessment of her life (or rather shelf-life as wife and mother) was not what anyone in her family expected. She headed for Cape Cod.

There, a dilapidated summer house would become her unlikely ‘muse’ for the next twelve months. The best part of Joan Anderson’s life was far from finished.

Lucky us.

Aimee Zuccarini is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the East Columbia Branch. She facilitates several book discussions and writes the book reviews for The Maryland Women’s Journal.



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https://secure.syndetics.com/index.aspx?isbn=9780393070217/LC.JPG&client=hocop&upc=&oclc=I only think about olive oil when I really want fresh mozzarella with tomatoes and basil, and I generally just pick whichever brand at the grocery store looks the fanciest without being too expensive. Of course there’s a whole world behind the scenes that I had no idea about! It turns out that I should be treating olive oil more like a fine wine – carefully chosen to exact specifications with the flavor, quality, age, and origin in mind.

Tom Mueller’s Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil is more than just a risque title, it’s an eye opening “journey through the world of olive oil” covering the oil’s history and traditions, plus fun stuff like rampant fraud in the industry and the popular Turkish sport of oil wrestling.

There are eight flaws which can be found in olive oil:

    1. rancid
    2. fusty
    3. winey
    4. vinegary
    5. muddy sediment
    6. metallic
    7. esparto
    8. grubby

The presence of just one of these flaws barrs the oil from being graded as extra virgin. According to Mueller, many olive oils are labeled as extra virgin despite not meeting the standards legally imposed for such an assignment. Lots of these oils actually fall into the poorest category created by the International Olive Council (an intergovernmental agency instituted by the United Nations – this is serious business!): lampante, meaning “lamp oil,” which by law is unfit for human consumption and must be refined before being sold as food. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel great knowing that this is what I’ve probably been using.

1053785_40698773Why does it really matter? The taste suffers, for one. Further, excess refinement, aging, or mixing with other oils removes a lot of the health benefits that lead many to the use of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) in the first place. Mueller explains that “real extra virgin olive oil contains powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories which help to prevent degenerative conditions (p. 7)” and those properties are actually found in the same substances that give the oil it’s integral flavors. High bitterness and a velvety texture are signs of tocopherol, squalene, and hydroxytyrosol – antioxidants – and a peppery sting the back of the throat is a sign of oleocanthal – an anti-inflammatory (p. 104-5).

Desirable aspects of a good EVOO are a balance between bitterness, fruitiness, and pungency (peppery). Choosing a quality EVOO involves quite a few factors, but Mueller provided some tips for us laymen to follow if we can’t quite get to Italy to pluck olives off the tree ourselves:

  • It’s very perishable, so try to find it as fresh and close to the mill as possible – hey, the more local your food is the better, why not olive oil too? You want to protect it against light and air, so darker colored bottles are better if you can’t find it fresh.
  • Look for a best by date around two years away, as that should indicate that it was bottled recently. A harvest date is even better, and if there is one look for dates from the current year. Quality EVOO will be good for around 18 months to two years after it’s harvested and pressed.
  • Check the label for the specific grade: extra virgin. Ignore buzz words like pure, light, and first or cold pressed; as non-regulated terms they mean nothing. Even “pressed in Italy” and similar phrases are misleading as olives from other countries are imported and bottled in Italy before being re-exported with an Italian flag on the bottle.
  • Remember, different olive oils are good for different uses. A robust, full-bodied, or “early harvest” oil will pair well with strongly flavored food while a mild, delicate, or “late harvest” oil will work better with less flavorful foods (Mueller suggests it for chicken, fish, or potatoes).

I can’t wait to find a specialty oil seller now so I can experience the difference between quality EVOO and the stuff I’ve been using – I suspect I won’t be switching back.

Jessica Seipel is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Savage Branch. She has worked for the Howard County Library System, in various positions, for a decade.


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Female boomers well into their middle-years are unfazed by much. They’ve lived and seen it all – except (and frustratingly often) when it comes to themselves as the main character inside those sherbet-colored book jackets that the Library of Congress keywords “men-women-relationships-fiction.”

Escaping, at any age, into an addictive read is good for the psyche (less calories than M&Ms) and a woman’s right. But if AARP membership is looming, and the main character is once again 22 and trying to come to terms with a hole in one of her Jimmy Choos, not so much.

“Once in a while,” my 56 year-old hair dresser remarked recently, “I’d like to see me reflected in one of those beach reads. I mean, I may be an ‘old hen,’ but I can still make soup!”

Well, here are some books that may make her shout, “Winner! Winner! Chicken dinner!”

Blue Rodeo by Joann Mapson

If you’re like Maggie Yearwood, and limping away from your car wreck of a marriage, what better place to ease the pain than the ancient mountain village of Blue Dog, New Mexico? That’s Maggie’s mid-life plan anyway – especially as the move now puts her closer to a school for the deaf – and her embittered son. More than that, she seeks isolation as the only possible cure to her artistic impotence. At least, until a little Navajo/New Age Karma puts her in the path of luckless sheep rancher, Owen Garrett. Gritty and chile bola hot, Mapson’s second novel is filled with distinctive voices who have weathered life and love, but are ready to go around a second time. Messy, sexy, and true.

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough by Ruth Pennebaker

It all begins when Joanie Pilcher’s ex calls to say his 20-something girlfriend is pregnant. If that isn’t the icing on the cake (which already consists of an opinionated live-in mom, Ivy, and an angry adolescent daughter, Caroline), Joanie doesn’t know what is. Maybe her therapy group will – although their whining and complaining is secretly getting to her as well – not to mention, her boss who keeps reminding Joanie how lucky she is to have any job at her age. Meanwhile, bewildered Ivy tries to grapple with a world suddenly moving at warp speed. Walking into a boutique, the saleswomen inform the septuagenarian that she may be too old to appreciate their merchandise. Ivy’s kiss-off? Shoplift a scarf – which promptly lands her in jail. At the same time, Caroline, who suffers the realization that she is invisible at school, channels this rage into dying her hair pink and convincing herself that she has multiple personality disorder. All of which begs the question: can this wacky dynasty be saved? NPR commentator Ruth Pennebacker delivers with an ending that’s both predictable and satisfying. Like milk and cookies.

Aimee Zuccarini is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the East Columbia Branch. She facilitates several book discussions and writes the book reviews for The Maryland Women’s Journal.



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1024px-BlackberrySorry for those of you who thought I was talking about the hand-held, email-pager thingy. As far as I know, there are no known health benefits to those devices. No, I’m talking about the good, old fruit. There have already been some great Well & Wise pieces extolling the virtues of berries, but I’ve decided to shine a spotlight on the blackberry in particular because: 1. its season is almost over (yikes!); and 2. it holds a special place in my heart.

You see, I grew up in a pretty suburban neighborhood that was on the border of a pretty urban neighborhood. We had our fair share of backyard “fauna” as far as squirrels and bunnies and birds go. And there was plenty of lovely (though yard friendly) flora too. But the only edible plant that ever grew in our yard (other than dandelions) was one scraggly blackberry vine or bush. (Was it a vine or bush? To the Internet!) We had one blackberry cane or bramble that would faithfully produce a handful of delicious blackberries every summer. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but it was huge to me as I grew up in a time where microwaves, instant meals, and fast foods were “innovations.” So, in retrospect, this sad little bush/bramble/whatever (I think I’ll stick with “bramble” as it sounds more fairytale-ish) may have helped keep me alive.

I might be exaggerating a little, but blackberries are insanely good for you. Check out this Huffington Post blackberry morsel. And, in a book already highlighted by our own Farmers’ Market Chef, blackberries are named as one of the 50 Best Plants on the Planet! Cathy Thomas’s book also illustrates how they can be among the 50 tastiest too with recipes such as blackberry gratin, cherries poached in red wine with blackberries and mint, and breakfast quinoa with blackberries. I plan to try all three recipes.

But, back to my childhood memories: if this scrappy little bramble of goodness can spring up and survive in my childhood home, then it has a pretty good shot of being a hardy grower for others. In fact, it is featured in Vertical Vegetables & Fruit: Creative Gardening Techniques for Growing Up in Small Spaces by Rhonda Massingham Hart, so anyone might be able to capture a little bit of home-grown health. My kids and I are growing blueberries and strawberries in pots this summer; we might have to add a blackberry bramble to our little vegetal menagerie (if not for culinary and health reasons, then for sentimental reasons).

Joanne Sobieck-Lingg is glad to blog about her many, disparate interests (though expert in none, except maybe parenthetical asides). In past lives, she was a writer, proofreader, editor, project manager, teacher, and even co-coordinator of a certain health blog. She has been happily ensconced among the fiction and teen books at the Central Branch of HCLS since 2003.


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Monday & Thursday, July 7 & 9, 10:30 a.m. & 11:15 a.m. Little Ninjas at Miller Branch - a Well & Wise Class. Sykesville Tae Kwon Do Academy students demonstrate skills to aid in focus, balance, coordination, memory, control, discipline, confidence, and fitness through the art of Tae Kwon Do. Wear athletic shoes and loose fitting pants or shorts. Ages 5-7 with adult; 30 min. Registration and a signed release form required or register by calling 410.313.1950.
July 7 10:30 a.m. Registration|Release  July 9 10: 30 a.m. Registration|Release  
July 7 11:15 a.m. Registration|Release  July 9 11:15 a.m. Registration|Release 

Mondays, July 7 & 21, 3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Blood Pressure Screening at Glenwood Branch - a Well & Wise Event. Free, walk-in blood pressure screening and monitoring offered by Howard County General Hospital: a Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. Also offered, Tuesday, July 8, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. at Elkridge Branch.

Monday, July 7, 6:30 p.m. Move with Games at Elkridge Branch - a Well & Wise Class. Exercise while competing with friends on the Wii or XBox Kinect. Healthy snack provided. Ages 11 – 17. No registration required.  

Wednesday, July 9, 7-9 a.m. Prenatal Class for Early PregnancyParents-to-be and those in the first trimester of pregnancy learn about pregnancy’s early stages. Register at hcgh.org or call 410-740-7601. Howard County General Hospital Wellness Center, 10710 Charter Drive, Columbia, Md.


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penguinAs one of the editors here on Well & Wise, I get to read some of the neatest stories online and in books. One of our writers, Anna, shared a great blog post with me earlier this week which speaks to the unspoken etiquette of greeting fellow runners during their runs. It’s clear, through my own novice triathlete experience, that the recognition, encouragement, and community surrounding running is as welcoming as it is unique. If you are afraid of running, don’t like running, or just don’t know anything about running, I highly recommend you check out The Courage to Start and Born to Run. These books just might change your mind about the sport altogether. Below, Anna shares her encounter with runners at the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in Washington, DC.

Around mile five, we had to cross a bridge over the Potomac River into Arlington, Virginia. As we were crossing over, the runners coming back were encouraging us with high-fives and words of encouragement. The runners were doing high-fives all the way across the bridge! It was such a tremendous feeling to know that we weren’t alone in our quest to finish! I wished that I could have taken a picture, because it was one of the most tremendous experiences I’ve ever had as a runner. -Anna L. Downing

Have you ever had an experience like that while running? Let me tell you, it’s hard not to feel good about being out there and staying active when you’ve got runners giving you high-fives, friendly waves, smiles, or compliments like, “Looking good!”

John Bingham, “The Penguin,” is a runner who has pretty much capitalized on his own couch-potato turned multiple-marathoner story. He’s a beloved columnist/writer/athlete/awesome-guy-in-general – and his anecdotes will make you laugh, smile, and sometimes cringe. Plus, he’s pretty much the poster boy of inspiration for those of us (myself included) who wouldn’t necessarily be picked out of a crowd and called a “runner.” This book is packed with practical advice for beginner runners and is an awesome story of a normal guy who figured out what it means to run with a smile.

JP is the HCLS Editor & Blog Coordinator for Well & Wise. She is also a Children’s Instructor & Research Specialist at the Savage Branch. She is a storyteller, wannabe triathlete, KPOP-addict, baker of cupcakes, cancer survivor, and liver transplant recipient.


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Mocha-Cherry-Drop-1_webA vegan is one who does not consume any food of animal origin. No meat, no fish, no dairy, and no eggs. Jell-O is out too because it contains gelatin, a pork product. My husband is a vegan.

A flexitarian is one who mostly follows a vegan diet but occasionally consumes meat products. I am a flexitarian. Most of the meals we eat together at home are vegan meals simply because it’s impractical to cook two different meals and I do believe in the health benefits derived from vegan cuisine. Well, I do occasionally eat a steak in front of him, but he’s okay with that.

More on the health benefits:

A vegan doesn’t consume cholesterol because cholesterol is found in animal products, and diets high in cholesterol can lead to heart disease. Most vegans also consume more fiber than the average person, and higher fiber intake can lead to reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and digestive tract problems. Vegan diets also contain more antioxidants because of the increased consumption of fruits and vegetables. Vegan diets can also help you lose weight because of increased fiber intake and lowered consumption of animal fats. However, there are some setbacks to the vegan diet to consider. Vegans need to be mindful of their consumption of protein, vitamin B12, riboflavin, vitamin D, calcium, iron, zinc, and essential fatty acids as these are more abundantly found in animal products. (Dupler, Douglas. “Veganism.” The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. Ed. Jacqueline L. Longe. 2nd ed. Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale, 2005. 2094-2097. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 1 May 2014.)

And sometimes you need a little pick me up. Eating healthy all the time and suppressing a sweet tooth can lead to burnout. An occasional indulgence is really OK, and important for those keeping dietary goals. My husband and I both love sweets. I always feel guilty when I eat Otterbein cookies or Pepperidge Farm cookies in his presence, so I sometimes secret them out of the house and eat these treats at work. My husband also prefers homemade cookies over store bought, and baking vegan cookies can be a challenge. Seriously, the very first time I tried a vegan cookie recipe, I baked bricks.

You don’t need to look for vegan baking cookbooks, although Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, Sticky Fingers’ Sweets, and The Joy of Vegan Baking are dedicated vegan baking cookbooks available at HCLS (Sticky Fingers’ Sweets is available through Interlibrary Loan). Sometimes, just perusing non-diet-specific cookbooks can yield vegan recipes that are already vegan or can be made vegan with a little bit of tweaking. Usually, I would have to substitute the milk with Earth Balance soy milk, or the eggs with Ener-G egg replacer. This time, all I did was substitute the butter with one tub of Benecol (8 ounces) for the Mocha-Cherry Drops in Milk & Cookies: 68 Heirloom Recipes from New York’s Milk & Cookies Bakery by Tina Casaceli. You could also use Earth Balance (vegan butter), but I prefer Benecol because of its buttery flavor. Milk & Cookies is available as an e-book through Maryland’s Digital eLibrary Consortium. (If you require assistance accessing this book through our website, don’t hesitate to ask any librarian at our branches. That’s what we’re here for, and that’s what we love to do. We even have one-on-one tutor sessions to teach you how to navigate the Overdrive website.) The only problem with this recipe was that it didn’t specify a baking temperature. I baked the cookies at 375 for 10 minutes. No problem. Also, the recipe in the book specified a yield of 2 dozen cookies but I got 42.

The verdict? The cookies, while they didn’t resemble the photo in the book at all, were delicious. My vegan husband ate them with his soy milk. I liked the crunch from the nuts and enjoyed the nice harmony of the chocolate and cherries.

Mio Higashimoto is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the East Columbia Branch. She has a background in history and spends much of her spare time knitting, reading, hiking, and watching Star Trek reruns.


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Tuesday, July 1, 7:00 p.m. Guided Meditation at Miller Branch – a Well & Wise Event. Enjoy a guided mindfulness meditation designed to impart a feeling of peacefulness and connection. Please bring a cushion or meditation pillow. Presented by Star Ferguson, M.Ac., L.Ac. Register online or by calling 410.313.1950.

Friday, July 4, HCLS is Closed in Observance of Independence Day.

Monday & Thursday, July 7 & 9, 10:30 a.m. & 11:15 a.m. Little Ninjas at Miller Branch – a Well & Wise Class. Sykesville Tae Kwon Do Academy students demonstrate skills to aid in focus, balance, coordination, memory, control, discipline, confidence, and fitness through the art of Tae Kwon Do. Wear athletic shoes and loose fitting pants or shorts. Ages 5-7 with adult; 30 min. Registration and a signed release form required or register by calling 410.313.1950.
July 7 10:30 a.m. Registration|Release  July 9 10: 30 a.m. Registration|Release  
July 7 11:15 a.m. Registration|Release  July 9 11:15 a.m. Registration|Release 

Mondays, July 7 & 21, 3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Blood Pressure Screening at Glenwood Branch – a Well & Wise Event. Free, walk-in blood pressure screening and monitoring offered by Howard County General Hospital: a Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. Also offered, Tuesday, July 8, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. at Elkridge Branch.

Monday, July 7, 6:30 p.m. Move with Games at Elkridge Branch – a Well & Wise Class. Exercise while competing with friends on the Wii or XBox Kinect. Healthy snack provided. Ages 11 – 17. No registration required.  

Wednesday, July 9, 7-9 a.m. Prenatal Class for Early Pregnancy. Parents-to-be and those in the first trimester of pregnancy learn about pregnancy’s early stages. Register at hcgh.org or call 410-740-7601. Howard County General Hospital Wellness Center, 10710 Charter Drive, Columbia, Md.

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In a rather comical episode of Frasier, Niles unexpectedly has to take his father’s place as guest speaker at an elementary school. Originally intending to take on his dad’s topic of safety issues, he soon realizes he’s losing his young audience and switches to the much more fascinating, but far grosser, hot button issue of what percentage of bug parts the FDA is allowed to let slide into various canned food items. It sounds like something far-fetched, but the truth is we are indeed eating bugs whether we know it or not.

The difference between that little humorous scare fest, though, and entomophagy (the consumption of insects as food) is in our voluntary participation. More and more well-respected experts are not laughing when they suggest the future of food sources for our planet lie in eating “grub.” It’s not uncommon these days to see articles like this run in respected sources, where the emphasis is on the health benefits of eating bugs.

In a double issue of New York dated August 15th/22nd 2011, Dana Goodyear wrote a feature article called Grub: Eating Bugs To Save The Planet. It offers up lots of interesting facts, but one of the most compelling (and a convincing argument for possibly consuming insects) is that lobster, shrimp and crabs are all far more disgusting eaters than insects. The former literally scrape the bottom of the barrel (or the ocean, in this case) while insects often feed on lettuce and flowers.

Edible, another serious examination of the health benefits of eating bugs, is oddly riveting and written in with such warmth, a sense of humor and an engaging style that Daniella Martin can’t help but pull readers in while also kind of charming them. Yes, the book has a dire premise at its heart: the world is slowly running out of food resources and someday what now sounds like a quirky fashionable idea behind a great book may be a harsh reality.

Martin makes a good case (backed up with lots of interesting facts and without a preachy or an uncomfortably persuasive tone anywhere in sight). She’s so good at presenting the idea of consuming insects as both health benefit and life-sustaining force that the only reason you’ll hesitate is because…well…eating insects (or at least, the thought of eating them) can be rather gross.

Expanding upon the “ecological, nutritional, economic, global and culinary” benefits of consuming insects, she dissects the various tastes and textures bugs offer. For instance, crickets taste nutty; bee larvae bear a resemblance bacon-chanterelles; giant water bugs smell like green apples.

The nuttiness in taste comes when crickets are roasted and rich in minerals, their exoskeletons also pack a nice punch with their crunch. For the reader brave enough to try entomophagy, Martin tackles everything: raising bugs at home, a “must have” list of edible insects, cooking basics and lots of recipes, including: wax moth tacos, salty-sweet wax worms, sweet-and-spicy summer June bugs and cricket kale salad.

Never preachy or overbearing, Martin nudges readers toward being ever so open-mindedness at the prospect of eating bugs: “Why not make the best of what we have the most of?” Her unique take on our world’s nutritional, economic and global problems related to food is also a culinary one. It’s not something you have to or may even want to ever consider, but Edible’s argument is never boring and makes for thoughtful reading.

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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Books have the power to make you feel…

“Engaging with fiction,” says professor emeritus of cognitive psychology, Keith Oatley, “is an empathetic act. We are not just book-reading, we are mind-reading. We experience emotions, our own emotions, in the circumstances of a character’s concerns, plans and actions.”1

In so doing, readers undergo a kind of “emotional transportation;” the impact of which, after reading significantly critical novels, like Americanah or The Book Thief, can linger and make sense of the real world for days afterward.2

Indeed, fMRI imaging can now confirm this correlation between literary fiction and empathy; but at an exciting cellular level. 3

Picture busy mirror neurons lighting up in a kind of knee-jerk reaction while you lose yourself in the tender narrative of a wistful Francie Nolan; (A Tree Grows In Brooklyn),4 or the young Marine lieutenant, (Matterhorn), struggling to define his place in the Vietnam War.

“Fiction is not just a simulator of a social experience, it is a social experience.”5

And it’s good — not only for the well-being of the reader — but for what it can render and reflect for all humanity.


Aimee Zuccarini is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the East Columbia Branch. She facilitates several book discussions and writes the book reviews for The Maryland Women’s Journal.


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5847802511_e74b43baa7_bLadies and gentlemen, boys and girls, gather your glitter and wave those rainbow flags proudly- LGBTQ pride month is upon us yet again! Pride events are annually recognized in honor of the struggles and victories of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) community; the most significant of these struggles being the Stonewall riots that took place in Manhattan, NY in 1969. Thanks to the brazen courage of the activists and political renegades who set the modern day gay and lesbian movement into motion (such as Del Martin, Phyllis Lyon, and Harvey Milk), many of us have claimed the right to live every beautiful shade of our lives out in the open and crave to celebrate that simple fact with our fellow human beings.

While many of us are lucky enough to live in countries where being ourselves and loving whom we choose is possible, sadly, not all of us are so lucky. When there are men, women, and youth still being persecuted, imprisoned, and/or murdered in many parts of the world for how they identify, for whom they choose to love, and for how they choose to express themselves, the concept of pride takes on a bigger significance. Currently, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association provides information regarding LGBTQ rights (or lack thereof) within the international realm. For instance, their website features a color coded world map that denotes countries where homosexuality can fetch up to 10 years imprisonment or even death.

The psychological and emotional stress of knowing one’s life is threatened by the laws and beliefs of one’s own country can scar a person in unimaginable ways. When we consider personal health and well-being, mental and emotional health are significantly important components to that puzzle. Living in a society with legally established modes of discrimination can affect a person, and may lead to anxiety, depression, self-harming behavior, or suicide. According to an article published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), titled Prejudice, Social Stress, and Mental Health in Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Populations: Conceptual Issues and Research Evidence, the prevalence of mental disorders in the LGBTQ community are precipitated by stigma, discrimination, experience of prejudiced events, expectation of rejection, concealing (i.e “being in the closet”), and homophobia (especially internalized forms).

A loving, honest, and safe environment should begin at home first and foremost. Life gives us each our fair share of challenges, and tests our will, our strength, and our well-being over the course of a lifetime. LGBTQ identified individuals must face even greater challenges when they are exposed to discrimination at home and within the society they live in from very early on. Imagine, just for a second, how you might respond in a world that did not fully accept you for something about yourself that you could not change. Sometimes all it takes is a compassionate heart, and the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, in order to gain some sense of another’s struggles from beyond the confines of our own perspectives.

There are various kinds of support available to LGBTQ individuals, and their allies, located in the US, and the Washington/Baltimore area in particular. Organizations, such as Chase Brexton, Human Rights Campaign, Whitman Walker Health, Equality Maryland, and the Fenway Institute’s National LGBT Health Education Center, are prepared to provide LGBTQ individuals with health and/or legal resources. Knowing that there are professionals and organizations equipped with the skills to serve the LGBTQ community is effectively beneficial, and lends great peace of mind.

Pride is a chance to collectively celebrate with members of an extended family and allies, with courage and love, knowing that we are each part of one human family. We have the honor of gathering and celebrating, as we fondly remember those who fought relentlessly so that we may be where we are today and have the rights we are entitled to. To my fellow LGBTQ family, and strong allies, I say, let us continue showing one another love, respect, and support. Life may be hard, but it’s most certainly short. Let’s embrace ourselves even more fully and celebrate all that we are, and all that we have yet to achieve. Happy Pride!

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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Robicelli’s: A Love Story, with Cupcakes (2013), further subtitled “with 50 decidedly grown-up recipes,” is by Allison and Matt Robicelli. A shining example is given on the front flyleaf– “The Laurenzano (fresh fig cake topped with goat cheese buttercream, fig balsamic gastrique, and crisp prosciutto flakes).” Not a sprinkle in sight! Here is a book where “salty” and “spicy” refer to the language, not the food. Allison explains that both she and Matt are from Brooklyn and they will be using their native tongue. Their tough attitude seems to be part of the reason they survived the closing of their gourmet shop four years ago and have, just last October, opened a new retail bakery. You will probably enjoy the humor—you will certainly enjoy the cupcakes!

Manresa is a city in Spain, a restaurant in Northern California, and the title of a new cookbook– Manresa: an Edible Reflection (2013), by chef and proprietor David Kinch. Everything about this book makes me gasp in wonder, from the photography to the inventive recipes. Kinch’s partnership with a local farm furthers his philosophy of  “a closed circle between guests, the farm, and Kinch’s highly personal haute cuisine.” This is not “fast” food, nor is it “comfort” food. I don’t think I will ever make Creamy Nasturtium Rice with Passion Fruit and Crab—it calls for sheets of gold leaf to be added, and, no, I don’t know if we are supposed to eat the gold leaf or if it is just for show! Read this book for Kinch’s beautifully written essays and enjoy it the way you might enjoy a movie about a place you will never visit!

“Leon” is the name of a restaurant chain operating in the UK and Europe. The owners say, “We opened Leon because we wanted to prove that it was possible to serve food that both tastes good and does you good. We want to make it easy for people to eat well on the high street. We want to do this in every major city in the world.” In this spirit of healthy comfort food, we have Leon: Baking and Desserts, one of several cookbooks by Claire Ptak and Henry Dimbleby. This is a very friendly book that will make you want to dip in right away and try a few recipes. It is divided in two parts, “Everyday”, including what to fix for tea time, and “Celebration”, where you will learn what Brits have on St. George’s Day.

Chelsea Market Cookbook (2013), by Michael Phillips & Rick Rodgers, has “100 recipes from New York’s Premier Indoor Food Hall.” It starts with the essential “brief history” of Chelsea Market, the meat packing district and the New York City Food Shed and continues with recipes from the more than 35 vendors in this iconic food hall. See the photos of some of the vendors/restaurants, read the Tips from the Pros, and you will almost feel like you have been there.

I saw The Lemonade Cookbook (2013) on the library shelf and thought I might see what one could make from lemonade! But no, this is “Southern California Comfort Food from L.A.’s Favorite Modern Cafeteria” by Alan Jackson and Joann Cianciulli. Very user-friendly, this cookbook lets you in on the secrets behind the lovely choices at Lemonade Cafeteria’s counters.

I don’t expect to visit very many world-famous restaurants in my lifetime. I will be content to find the occasional cookbook that lets me do some armchair traveling to where the setting is the star.

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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Photo by Pascal (pasukaru76) on Flickr

Last year, when I spent some time in physical therapy rehab, I not only learned exercises for strengthening my legs, but also learned a lot about strengthening my arms. Previously, I felt the benefits of yoga exercises and stretches for my arms, but during a long recovery for a knee replacement I couldn’t continue my regular yoga practice.

The first step was an assessment with an occupational therapist looking at my strength and range of motion in my arms. Because I have had rheumatoid arthritis for many years I have limited motion and stiffness in my joints. Additionally, my arms needed some strengthening because I can’t exercise them well with my arthritis.

Stretching and exercising arthritic joints is very important for maintaining strength and mobility. Even sitting in a chair, I can do simple exercises like rolling my shoulders, circle motions and stretching one arm with the other.

However, I learned a great addition to my exercise regime was to use light weights. My therapist had me start low with just one pound to get comfortable. We used ankle or wrist weights that fasten with Velcro because I have trouble gripping anything heavy with my hands.

It didn’t take long for me to work up to exercising with a couple pounds. Right now I can do my exercises with 3.5 pound weights, but my goal is to reach five pounds. When the exercises feel too easy and not as challenging, I add a half pound, but then, decrease the repetitions of the exercises. I then work my way up to the previous repetitions with daily practice of the exercises.

One important lesson is to take a break or cut back on the exercises when I’m having an arthritic flare up or joint pain. Too much exercise can aggravate the joints further. On days when my shoulders or arms are feeling more pain and stiffness, I may exercise with less or no weight. On very bad days, I don’t exercise and may instead do something soothing for my joints like applying heat or getting extra rest.

After I began using weights for my arm exercises I noticed a gradual increase in strength and less stiffness in the joints. If I get out of the habit for awhile, I do feel more arthritic pain and less mobility in my arms. It also takes me time to work back up and feel better. For these reasons I definitely advise sticking with a regimen and not skimping on the daily practice!

Before adding weights to your exercises, consult with a physical or occupational therapist to make sure it is a good match for your physical condition. Take it slow and listen to your body when exercising. The goal is to strike a balance between challenging your body, but not harming yourself. If you feel too much pain or discomfort that is a warning sign to dial it back. On the other side, if you don’t feel your muscles tire or a little soreness then you may need to increase intensity.

Kelly Mack lives in Washington, DC, and works for a marketing communications firm.


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PamPeeke_BrownLeather_webIn her publications – The Hunger Fix, Body for Life, Fit to Live, and Fight Fat After Forty - Dr. Pamela Peeke takes a holistic and integrative approach to mental, emotional, and physical fitness. From a perspective of full body health, she describes how to stay (or get) fit, healthy, and happy without endangering any aspect of your well being – a much needed and appreciated approach in our diet-obsessed culture.

The formula for weight loss is simple, right? Burn more calories than you eat – easy as that. However, becoming or staying truly fit takes more than eating the proper foods and getting enough exercise; it involves reducing stress and eschewing self-destructive habits. But how do you do that? Each aspect taken on it’s own seems easy enough, but taken as a whole it’s a hefty list: reduce stress, eat nutritious foods, decrease or eliminate self-destructive habits, and practice enough safe and satisfying exercise. Whew! I can’t even get to the end of that sentence without getting tired.

Luckily for all of us, Dr. Peeke has outlined a couple scientifically backed plans to improve health and wellness for people of any age or gender. Following Dr. Peeke’s three stage detox and recovery plan as outlined in The Hunger Fix or the five point plan she lays out in Fit to Live will ensure that all variables in the health and fitness formula are addressed. In The Hunger Fix, Dr. Peeke describes how dopamine rushes can be connected to unhealthy foods in the brain, and she lays out a plan to replace “false fix” foods with healthy fixes like meditating, writing, walking, or even laughing. In Fit to Live, she reframes healthiness with a simple question, “Are you fit to live?” Meaning, are you really mentally, emotionally, and physically fit enough to survive in the modern world with all it’s stressors and possibilities? With a lifestyle and health assessment, Dr. Peeke provides long term prognoses of different levels of fitness and a plan to improve by cutting out toxic lifestyle elements.

As you’ve no doubt seen previously on Well & Wise, Dr. Pam Peeke, internationally renowned expert on nutrition, stress, fitness, and public health, will be speaking tonight, Monday June 9th, at the Howard County Library System Miller Branch at 7:00pm. Registration is available online or by calling 410-313-1950. Come by to ask Dr. Peeke your nutrition, stress, and fitness questions directly!

Jessica Seipel is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Savage Branch. She has worked for the Howard County Library System, in various positions, for a decade.



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Did you know that Columbia’s movie theaters offer free refills on tubs of large popcorn? Sadly, I not only know that, but I get the free refill, bring it home, and find myself eating a handful of popcorn without even having felt hungry or made a conscious decision to eat a snack. Because of this behavior and many others that inevitably will surface in future blogs, Dr. Pamela Peeke’s The Hunger Fix flew off the shelf and into my hands.

As I settle in for a motivational read, I wonder how the book will speak to me. I pride myself on being self aware. I try to be self critical on an as-needed basis, but often I feel free to put myself down just because. Since my childhood found me in a family where food was the solution to every problem, self-deprecation and food can be a vicious cycle for me. I dole out my own misery and its relief. Will Dr. Peeke recognize this pattern, acknowledge this person?

Dr. Peeke convincingly promotes the idea that food can be an addiction. One in three Americans is obese. Even many Americans who are not overweight struggle with food addiction. One’s body physiology helps fuel this food addiction by creating the urge to satisfy the “dopamine-driven reward pathway.” Unlike other addictive substances, food is needed for life. The challenge is to avoid “False Fixes” (destructive behavior) and the “dopamine-fueled pleasure burst” that lead to unhealthy overeating. The goal is to say “no” to false hunger and go for “Healthy Fixes” (productive behavior) instead.

When science is presented alongside advice, my attention is focused. Dr. Peeke’s advice hooked me. She points to studies of brain scans showing diminished dopamine receptors in the brains of obese subjects, causing these subjects to have to eat more to trigger the good feelings associated with food. This is the same physiology seen in the brains of substance abusers and alcoholics. Dopamine is released by the brain during pleasurable activities. Eating and thinking about foods we like causes dopamine release. The “high” we get with dopamine release leads us to seek that high. If the dopamine release continues to increase in frequency and amount, the body accommodates by decreasing the number of dopamine receptors. With fewer receptors, the “high” feels diminished, causing the addict to increase the consumption in order to achieve an equally powerful high. The activity in the brain’s prefrontal cortex (PFC) is also reduced in obese subjects. The PFC is the region of the brain associated with complex decision making. Decreased activity in this area of the brain may indicate an association with lack of willpower and reduced mindful behavior. Of note, stressful lifestyles increase the body’s acetylcholine and cortisol levels. Dopamine can counteract the uncomfortable feelings caused by those hormones.

The chemistry behind food intake as a means to cope with stress is real. The power of reward is just as real. We can form new habits regarding what we see as a reward. Just because food was a reward for me as a child does not mean it always has to be this way. Dr. Peeke applies her knowledge of neurochemistry to guide readers to the place of “Healthy Fixes,” taking us through the stages of detox and recovery. She provides abundant information on constructive thought processes (mind), nutritious dopamine-building foods (mouth), and healthy dopamine receptor-regenerative behaviors (muscle). As the “fix” proceeds, the PFC is strengthened. Just as overeating can become the body’s new normal, so too can healthy behaviors become what we are accustomed to and what we crave. A healthy relationship with food can be achieved.

Intriguing, right? Well, I invite you to explore The Hunger Fix further. Browse our blogs on Dr. Peeke’s books. The best news of all is that you can hear her in person when she visits the Miller branch on Monday, June 9, 2014 at 7 pm.

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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Sexual harassment takes many forms and it can come from co-workers or strangers on the street. But what do you do when your customers harass you? Share your comments below.

Last month I regaled you, dear reader, with some challenges of working in the public service realm, specifically some of the harassment (intentional or not) that can come from customers/clients/patrons/vendors. I did not, however, get to talk about any potential solutions or coping mechanisms. This month, I’ll try to explore those (though I am no expert).

First and foremost, a company or organization may not even realize that there is a problem unless the employee brings it to their attention, which a lot of employees are hesitant to do since harassment from customers doesn’t fall under the traditional definitions/policies. This great article from Work It, Richmond discusses how employers, once aware of the problem, should let the customer/client know that a behavior is unacceptable. Some businesses are even making their in-house harassment policies available for customers/vendors/business partners to openly read; therefore, people who do business with a particular organization will already know what behaviors will not be tolerated and what consequences they may face (such as being banned from that organization). Companies/organizations should support employees who are made to feel uncomfortable, but sometimes an employee may not even know that she/he is being harassed.

Equal Rights Advocates provides a clear description of different types of sexual harassment, including the tricky nonverbal types. They state, “To be illegal, sexual harassment must be unwelcome. Unwelcome means unwanted. For this reason, it is important to communicate (verbally, in writing, or by your actions) to the harasser that the conduct makes you uncomfortable and that you want it to stop.” So even without involving the company, an employee has the right communicate a wish for the harasser to stop certain behaviors. Sometimes communicating this type of information may be difficult. There are plenty of resources to help, such as Deal with Difficult People: How to Cope with Tricky Situations and People; Perfect Phrases for Dealing with Difficult People: Hundreds of Ready-to-Use Phrases for Healing Conflict, Confrontations, and Challenging Personalities; and Dealing with Difficult People.

Of course all of these “solutions” puts the onus on the employer or the employee. What about the harasser? Sadly, some people may not recognize that they are acting in an abusive way unless they are informed of it. Even more sadly, some people may not care. Not to oversimplify, but I’d challenge people to put themselves in the position of the worker. I put this challenge to myself and came up with a list of things I will not do to someone who is my “captive audience” on a public service desk:

  1. I will try to only discuss topics that deal with the workplace in which you are working.
  2. If we do engage in “small talk,” I will keep it to a minimum and be sensitive to the fact that you are at work and have limited time for chit-chat.
  3. I will try to avoid asking questions that require you to reveal personal information.
  4. I will not comment on your appearance, good or bad.
  5. If I am overcome with a desire to be your friend or try to get to know you on a personal level, I will ask you politely if you wish to get together sometime outside of work, and then drop it completely if you tell me “no thank you,” without trying to wheedle or press you for more information.

I’d love to know if anyone else has any suggestions/modifications to add to my list. I do think these would make a nice basis for anyone trying to be considerate of those working in a public forum.

Recovering from an abusive situation at work and regaining a sense of comfort in your workplace is a whole other undertaking, an important one–one that, hopefully, a human resources department can provide some help with. There are some resources that might be helpful, such as Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement, and Peace; The PTSD Workbook; The Body Keeps the Score; and Anxiety and Avoidance: A Universal Treatment for Anxiety, Panic, and Fear, just to name a few. Also, seeking counseling and guidance from a professional would be wise.

Joanne Sobieck-Lingg is glad to blog about her many, disparate interests (though expert in none, except maybe parenthetical asides). In past lives, she was a writer, proofreader, editor, project manager, teacher, and even co-coordinator of a certain health blog. She has been happily ensconced among the fiction and teen books at the Central Branch of HCLS since 2003.


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“It’s about change, about committing to a new way of living–one that will ensure a lifetime of self-esteem and confidence.” Cindy Crawford, model

Ready for mind and body fitness? Open Body-for-LIFE for Women and be amazed by the attention-grabbing cover lining. Like the personal stories inside, the before and after photos attest to the success that so many different women have found following this book’s advice. Dr. Pamela Peeke, a physician specializing in nutrition and metabolism, introduces MMM – the Mind-Mouth-Muscle Formula for physical and mental fitness. Relying on the gender-specific studies of women’s biology and physiology, Dr. Peeke presents a health plan tailored around hormonal milestones. Taking into account biological, behavioral, social, and psychological factors, MMM confronts the challenges of motivation, healthy eating, and fitness. The book even includes detailed weight training and stretching instructions with helpful photos guiding the reader in proper form.

PamPeeke_BrownLeather_webSome highlights of this inspirational book include the “Cut Calories without Counting Them” page and the “Smart Foods Table” for constructing healthy meals. There is an informative nutritional table comparing energy bars. (The healthy fast food, energy bars are not all created equally so it can be tough to know which one to choose). Dr. Peeke’s fitness guidelines are especially encouraging in their emphasis on intensity rather duration. The goals are based on the science of metabolism and never feel overwhelming or unrealistic. There is also an abundance of insightful stress management tips such as the Rule of Reverse Expectations, “Anticipate that there will be obstacles in your path….Remember that in the midst of difficulty lies opportunity.” Dr. Peeke writes about creating “motivational targets” to overcome tough times and invigorate healthy choices.

Whether you are most interested in improving your emotional, nutritional, or physical fitness, check out Body-for-LIFE for Women. Next, register at hclibrary.org to meet the author on Monday, June 9, 2014 at 7 pm at the  Miller branch. Dr. Peeke will be speaking about her books and taking questions. See you there!

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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Are you ready for the nice weather and the unofficial start to summer this Memorial Day weekend? After the winter we experienced, I think we’re all excited to finally be outside doing something other than shoveling snow! I’m looking forward to gardening, barbecues, and spending time with family and friends. Are you planning a trip to the beach or spending time at a pool?

Many of us look forward to this time of year, but this time of year can also elicit fear and anxiety. Why? It’s simple: swimsuit season. Shopping for a swimsuit is usually on top of our list of things to avoid. This year let’s make a pact to not let body image issues affect us in negative ways. We will not succumb to the fear and anxiety that normally accompanies us into the dressing rooms when we try on swimsuits. Everyone has something he or she would like to change about his or her body and this can motivate us in a good way to exercise more or eat better. Our goal should be a stronger body and better health, year round.

The days are warmer and there are more hours of daylight! Get outside and walk, run, swim or bike! You will feel better afterwards, I promise. We all deserve the benefits of exercise, so start now. HCLS has a great collection of books and DVD’s to help you get started.

Whatever you do this summer, focus on what you love about your body instead of what you want to change. Be mindful about what you say about your body, because it will affect how you feel about yourself. It won’t be easy, but try to silence your inner critic and speak to yourself like you would to a friend. Stop comparing yourself with the body images so often portrayed in the media. Many of us do not have time or money for personal trainers, in-house gyms, or the best photographers or airbrush artists. What we can do is make realistic, positive changes in our lives to become more fit and healthy. We can commit to not dwelling on the negative. Friends and family love and support us just the way we are!

Isn’t it time we free ourselves from worrying about what other people think? If there are people in your life who are making you feel inadequate in some way, it’s time to ignore them and trust yourself. Go ahead and try on that swimsuit and smile at what you see. It might be hard to do at first, but most things that are worthwhile are. Make it a goal to give yourself a compliment every day. When you look in the mirror say something positive about what you see.

If you are interested in learning more about body image check out the many books, magazines and articles available at HCLS. Information on body image is also available at Womenshealth.gov.

So, are you ready to make the commitment to stop the negative self-talk? To not let worries about how you look in your swimsuit spoil your summer fun? Great! Go ahead and give yourself an emotional high-five the next time you look in the mirror! Now grab a book from one of the summer reading displays at the library, put on your swimsuit, smile, and I will see you at the beach or pool this summer.

Don’t forget your cover-up. No, not your swimsuit cover-up (you can bring that too), but your sunscreen. Visit the Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library for more information on how to choose and apply sunscreen.

On a more serious note, if you know someone who has an unhealthy preoccupation with body image, encourage him or her to seek help from a counselor or doctor. You can visit the Johns Hopkins Medicine Eating Disorders Program to find answers to frequently asked questions.

Nancy Targett is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Miller Branch. She lives in Columbia and is the proud mom of three boys and a girl and a Siamese cat.


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FINALLY, we have our spring weather, and what better way to celebrate the end of the seemingly endless winter of doom than to jump on your bike and go for a ride! While I am referring to the pedal-powered variety and not the motorized kind, to each their own (typed as my colleague zooms into work on his bright yellow motorcycle, haha).

Ok, back to bikes –  basically, they are an amazing invention that allows for fresh air, exercise, and adventure all while helping the environment – lots of positives here, right? Not to say I am a bike pro at all, I just like to ride on the weekends with my son. Every summer we take the bikes on our annual trip to Cape Cod and explore the trails there.

My preschooler and I have graduated from the front bike baby seat to the back bike toddler seat to the half-bike attachment on the back of my bike to the little kid bike with training wheels! We’ve done it all! I think. I have to say though, I’m not a fan of any of the “behind me” options. I worry about not being able to see my son, as he is  prone to rascally-hi-jinx and practical jokes that backfire!

Some bike books at HCLS that the younger kids in your life might like (that have my son’s stamp of approval) are Row, Row, Row Your Boat; and Ride, Ride, Ride Your Bike by Wes Magee, Henry on Wheels by B.B. Bourne, and I Can Ride! by Lynn Kertell, which are all neat early readers so the kids can practice their sight words. Some engaging picture books are The Best Bike Ride Ever by James Proimos, Duck on a Bike by David Shannon, Vera Rides a Bike by Vera Rosenberry, and Off We Go! : A Bear and Mole Story by Will Hillenbrand.  The bear and mole story is our favorite for learning to take off those pesky training wheels (not that we have yet).

If you want something a little more mature, let me recommend The Long Run: A New York Firefighter’s Triumphant Comeback From Crash Victim to Elite Athlete by Matt Long.  Talk about inspirational! This man went from a near-death experience while riding his bike to stage an amazing recovery, including teaching himself to walk again, and going on to run in the New York marathon three years after the accident. Definitely an unbelievable biography, especially if you are in the midst of tough times and need a good reminder about not giving up.

Other great reads for adults are The Best Bike Rides in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia or even Short Bike Rides on Cape Cod, Nantucket & the Vineyard if you are a “Cape Codder,” like myself.  There is also The 10 best of everything national parks : 800 top picks from coast to coast which contains everything from bike rides to backpacking to kayaking and more, all ordered into neat chapters based on location.

Happy biking, and happy National Bike Month to you all!  Ride safe!

Sarah Cooke is a Teens’ Instructor & Research Specialist at HCLS Savage Branch. When she’s not working with her beloved teen customers on rap-battles and murals, she enjoys time with her rambunctious pre-schooler. He is currently teaching her the joys of finger-painting outside the lines, which could very well be a life lesson for all of us.


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According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness nearly 83% of people with celiac disease go undiagnosed. Jennifer Esposito was one of them. Read about her journey from mysterious illness to living with celiac in “Jennifer’s Way.”

Wait, I have WHAT?

Celiac disease.

What? Are you implying that I have a silly act?

No. You have celiac disease. That means that you cannot eat this, that, no, definitely not that, not this, that, OH NO, Uh – uh, Nope, Sorry…

Wait, what?!?! NO BROWNIES!!! You’re kidding me, right? No? Really??? REALLY?!?!?! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! Okay.

Hello. I am Alexa Kempner and I am here to talk to you about celiac disease.

Celiac disease, as defined by the United States National Library of Medicine, is an auto-immune condition that damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing vital nutrients required for staying healthy. The intestinal damage is due to a reaction to eating gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and possibly oats. (Celiac Disease. U.S. National Library of Medicine. NCBI, 2011. Web. 4 Jan. 2012.<http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001280/>.)

The results of this internal damage can become fatal, much like a peanut intolerance in that respect. Most people don’t know about this disease until a loved one or they themselves is diagnosed. It’s also common for one to suffer for countless years without knowledge of celiac, and experience the constant, nausea, vomiting, intestinal pain, fatigue, and aches and pains. I was lucky. I only suffered for about nine months. Yeah, that’s right. I experienced these symptoms. I couldn’t get out of a chair or climb a flight of stairs without horrible pain. My aches and pains could be likened to someone opening and closing a door with unkempt, rusty hinges for about nine months. I could barely eat– a minuscule saltine cracker eventually proved to be too much. I lost nearly 15 pounds total over that period and my parents went on “worry overload.” (Mind you, my dad is not a worrier!)

Despite those traumatizing nine months, I am thankful that I experienced them. I could have poisoned myself for years with gluten–filled treats without knowing it. I could have ended up in the hospital, or worse, wasted away to nothing. However, due to those nine months, I am here today to peak your awareness of celiac disease. May is “Celiac Awarness Month.”

As one may expect, allergy information and ingredients provide those plagued with celiac disease knowledge of any potential gluten interference. While my friends and family can pick any item of food and eat it without a thought, such as deli meats, I am stuck reading the allergy information and ingredients. However, I have help- my mom. When I was first diagnosed with celiac disease, my mom went into nutritional action. She scoured the Internet and library for any information about celiac disease. Her degree in nutrition certainly helped.

Thank goodness I live in a time when there are so many gluten-free foods on the market. Many manufacturers are putting the Gluten-free symbol right on the package so it’s not necessary to read ingredients all the time. Also, many restaurants have gluten-free meals on their menus. It does take some time adjusting to the idea that you have to watch what you eat, but it beats the alternative. I can happily say that I did gain back those 15 pounds and then some.

Alexa Kempner is finishing up her Freshman year at UMBC. She was diagnosed with celiac when she was 16 years old and has since been on a gluten-free diet. During the summer, she works at Howard County Library System’s East Columbia Branch as a shelver.


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We all know about celebrity chefs. We see them on the Food Network. We even have an opportunity at the Glenwood Branch to discuss the books of celebrity chefs– the Food for Thought Book Discussion meets next on June 25 to talk about Jacques Pepin, and August 6 to discuss Maida Heatter. What I would like to talk about are celebrity cookbooks, the authors of which are famous, but not necessarily for their cooking!

Actress Gwyneth Paltrow published My Father’s Daughter: Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family & Togetherness, in 2011. It’s full of stories of the food of her childhood with her famous father and mother. She updates a lot of her favorite recipes to healthier versions and introduces each with an engaging paragraph and the photographs are well-chosen.

A few years later, in 2013, we have Paltrow’s It’s All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great. Apparently what happened in the interim is that Gwyneth was working too hard and allowing stress to affect her health. She took the advice of her doctor to pay attention to the healing qualities of food and began to restore her balance. She asked food writer Julia Turshen, who assisted her with her first book, to be her coauthor for this one. The effect is similar—lovely pastel photos, many of Gwyneth—and a clean spare look to the pages. Paltrow and Turshen take the healthy mandate seriously and offer notes on using the recipes for gluten-free, vegan, and elimination diets.









The Romney Family Table (2013) by Ann Romney, shares family traditions and memories of Ann and her husband, Mitt, and their family. If you are a Romney fan you will especially appreciate these warm reminiscences, but the recipes, too, are simple and useful and “so good, so easy.”

The Real Girl’s Kitchen (2013) is by actress Haylie Duff, sister of Hilary Duff, and I have to say this is a wonderfully designed little book. The photography, the formatting, the recipes that look like old paper—they all fit together around the sweetly friendly conversational introductions to the simple recipes. It does not matter that I already know how to make many of these dishes—the book makes me want to make them again. If you like her writing style you can read more on her blog, Real Girl’s Kitchen.

How about an author who is not real, but a character developed by Jackie Collins? I think if you are a fan of Lucky Santangelo in Collins’ seven books about her, you’ll also like The Lucky Santangelo Cookbook (2014). I’m not a fan of all the celeb selfies of Jackie and her famous friends, but, to each her own!

Next month, watch for cookbooks in which the setting is the star! So many new ones center around fabulous restaurants—I can hardly wait to get my hands on them!

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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Society has a knack for pitting women against one another with their ads and the way they spotlight certain attributes that encompass “beauty.” Instead, women need to focus on the fact that each person and their body are going to be different. This is what deserves to be celebrated. These so called imperfections are what make you unique.

I could spend the rest of this post discussing the faults found within every form of media when it comes to the portrayal of the “perfect body.” Instead, I have chosen to focus on the emotional effects of such an influential part of our daily lives. The media is constantly sending out messages that make us take a second look at ourselves and how we live. One message that I have chosen to ignore is that there’s only one way to be “perfect” or “beautiful.”

The main goal of every individual should be to define what it personally means for them to be healthy and happy. This has to deal with everything from exercise to appreciating the “little things.” Looking a certain way should be equated with wanting to be healthy and not wanting to be “beautiful.” You are already beautiful! Yes, you!

I am sure we can all find things about ourselves that we wish were different. Some of these things might not ever be able to be changed. However, your attitude and perspective can definitely change. Instead of looking at a feature as something that is “wrong” with you or something that makes you less physically attractive/desirable, stop and ask yourself how you arrived at such a conclusion. Do you honestly feel that those things make you any less human than anyone else? What needs to happen in order to love every inch of your body? Taking the much deserved time to answer questions like these will help you to understand why you feel a certain way about yourself. It will also help you to see realistic ways to make changes in areas where it’s possible to do so.

Just like the next person, I have my bad days. I have days where no matter what outfit I pick out I still feel like it doesn’t look flattering. I have days where there is no taming my frizzy hair or magically getting rid of a blemish breakout before the important event I’m about to attend. We all have these days. The important thing is to not think this way every single day. Look at yourself in the mirror and gaze at the sight of how truly wonderful it is to be you. Admire your beauty both inside and out. Be confident in your body and show the world that “beauty” has many definitions.

How boring of a world this would be if we all looked the same. I say we redefine the term “imperfection” and stop viewing it as something that is a fault or undesirable. Be the “perfect” in imperfection. After all, there is only one you!

Laci Radford is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the East Columbia Branch (while her home branch, in Savage, is being renovated). She is a music lover, writer, and an avid reader. She enjoys attending concerts, plays, and other forms of live entertainment. Her favorite activities include scoping out unique items at thrift stores, bonfires with friends, and having tie-dye parties. She is studying Psychology and plans to become a music and art therapist sooner rather than later.


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I’ve recently gotten into watching a lot of documentaries. Not just any documentaries, but specifically those from Nova. I have to say, it may be the coolest and most useful rediscovery of my life. I remember watching some Nova documentaries as a kid, but it had been years! They cover pretty much any educational topic you can think of, from ancient civilizations to animals to cutting edge scientific discoveries. Many of them are even available through the library. My favorite (thus far) was a special I expected to fall asleep to in short order, but ended up staying up until the wee hours of the morning in order to finish: Doctors’ Diaries.

The Nova crew followed seven doctors from medical school at Harvard through to their chosen careers. Beginning in 1987, Doctors’ Diaries spans 21 years of these seven doctor’s lives. This special is broken into two parts: part one covers their time at medical school and all its years of learning and work, including their residencies and internships. Part two meets back up with everyone some years later to see where and how they have established their careers. All seven are promising students – I mean, they got into Harvard after all! – though they come from all walks of life. For example,  at least one came straight from their undergraduate degree, while another worked as a bouncer and auto mechanic before choosing to pursue a medical degree. These three women and four men all pursued different specialties and went into completely different areas of medicine (and two left medicine entirely).

This peek into the lives of doctors is fascinating and illuminating. All of them bring up some surprising details of their lives – like how difficult it can be to have a successful personal life when so many hours are spent working. Being any sort of medical doctor clearly comes with a price attached to the salary and respect. I know I came out of this documentary with a new understanding and esteem for all my physicians. It’s a hard, demanding, rigorous career path that can also be wildly fulfilling and allow for an incredible impact to be made on a community. Disregarding for a moment the intelligence and perseverance necessary, would you have what it takes to become a medical doctor? Well, now you can watch Doctors’ Diaries for an inside peek at what it requires on a personal level.

Jessica Seipel is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Savage Branch. She has worked for the Howard County Library System, in various positions, for a decade.


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I love to travel. One of my favorite things is to plan a trip—whether to visit new places or to see friends and family. But I have to admit traveling with a disability and health issues can be a little complicated. Even domestically there are lots of barriers to navigate, but many more potential issues for international travel.

My travel wish list is long and constantly growing. Although I use a wheelchair and have accessibility concerns, I have done pretty well with seeing many parts of the continental U.S., some Caribbean destinations, and a few spots in Europe.

I’ve pretty much mastered domestic travel with the ability to fly, train, or bus. Usually I prefer to travel with my motorized wheelchair so I can be independent. But if I have a companion, such as my husband, to push my manual wheelchair I can travel by car and have some more flexibility on travel arrangements. My motor is great, but it requires accessible vehicles and buildings, which is not always a reality of my travel destination.

One thing I’ve learned about travel and health and disability issues is that usually there’s a solution to every problem. It may be difficult and require a change of plans, but you can still go many places and see a lot. I don’t view my disability as a limiting factor, rather as an incentive for creative thinking.

I have a family member who travels with oxygen and I recently began taking an injectable medication requiring refrigeration. Even for these details, there are solutions. For my medication, I have a little carry case with a cold pack. Oxygen can be rented nationwide or a travel-size machine can be used.

Planning an accessible trip requires a willingness to be persistent on the details. For example, I require a certain type of accessible hotel room, so I reserve it in advance. and later double check (and sometimes triple check) to confirm the details. I have a checklist for flight/travel method, hotel, local travel, and destinations.

The Internet is very helpful for research, but sometimes I have to delve deeper and send out emails or make calls. One great change is that more places are increasingly aware of accessibility needs and have made updates. How fantastic when I was planning a visit to Rome and learned the Colosseum had an elevator! You’d be surprised at how welcoming people can be and willing to accommodate different people with disabilities and health needs.

International travel is still challenging because the U.S. has better accessibility laws. Most places abroad don’t have basic requirements like ramps or elevators. Modern construction will often make things more accommodating, but it’s hard to rely on. I’ve been to a few European cities and the accessibility was mixed. But with some research and tenacity, there’s a lot to see and do while working around these barriers.

No matter the disability or health challenge, travel is very possible. For me, travel opens my eyes to new perspectives and brings me many joys of discovery and adventure. See you on the road!

Kelly Mack lives in Washington, DC, and works for a marketing communications firm.


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1196478322_fa47d6c732_oThe Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) states, “Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site.” Most people think harassment only connotes sexual behavior, and another term “workplace bullying” has been adopted to create awareness of additional threatening behaviors. A lot of people also think harassment or bullying can only take place among coworkers. I’d like to focus a moment on just some of those threatening and disruptive behaviors in a public service forum and how they can manifest among clients/customers.

Wow, Joanne, great topic—way to greet spring, Captain Bring-down. Sorry, maybe the cold, extra-long winter had me lingering in some dark places of the mind, but I don’t want to discuss seasonal allergies, sunblock, or even SAD right now.

There should be a certain expectation of safety and comfort in one’s workplace (check out #3 on this list from Harvard Business Review; actually, check out all 12—it’s a good list).

However, working in the public sphere can be challenging in ways that working in corporate settings are not; workplace bullying is not just a potential problem among employees. One of the biggest challenges is the “ownership” your customers can sometimes feel they have over you. I like that I have regular customers, people who have come to trust me or feel they know me a bit over my 10+ years at HCLS. I do get a little uncomfortable when customers ask personal questions or reveal something overly personal about themselves. But mostly, I handle these situations as politely and gently as I can without too much worry.

So how do we regain comfort in an extremely tricky situation? How do we prevent the potential health problems caused by harassment when the harasser is not a fellow employee and not subject to the same rules? I will explore solving it in next month’s post.

Joanne Sobieck-Lingg is glad to blog about her many, disparate interests (though expert in none, except maybe parenthetical asides). In past lives, she was a writer, proofreader, editor, project manager, teacher, and even co-coordinator of a certain health blog. She has been happily ensconced among the fiction and teen books at the Central Branch of HCLS since 2003.


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PamPeeke_BrownLeather_webRecently, I turned fifty; yes fifty! I can’t believe my age as I rarely ever feel fifty. As a runner, and in somewhat good fitness health, why would I pick up Fight Fat After Forty? I have very little fat on my body and, according to my doctors, women would kill to have my weight and metabolism. (Thank you running!) However, I was intrigued and open to learning new techniques to help me stay fit and healthy. Women after the age of forty have problems with their metabolism, weight, and hormones. Dr. Peeke discusses this in her book and how stress plays an active part in our lives as women.

Dr. Pamela Peeke’s book is divided into three templates. The first template involves learning to develop a “Stress-Resilient Personality.” In this template, you should be able to identify the peaceful times in your life versus the stressful times. She calls this “regrouping your stress.”

The second template focuses on learning how to de-stress your eating and how to utilize food to keep your stress hormones in check. You learn how to distinguish between hunger (“I need to survive”) and stress-induced appetite (“I want to numb stress”). Yes, that donut, chocolate, or soda that you crave may not be hunger! She discusses how to taste and savor your foods versus just eating them.

The third template teaches you how to incorporate a variety of stress-reducing physical activities into your daily routine. This will help with your energy level and increase your stress resilient personality. I spent too much time on this template and incorporating her activities into my running/fitness routine.

As Dr. Peeke states in her book, “This is the second half of your life and you have the power to make your future years rich and rewarding.” Dr. Peeke has written several other books. She recently published The Hunger Fix: The Three-Stage Detox and Recovery for Overeating and Food Addiction. She also has written Body-for-LIFE for Women: A Woman’s Plan for Physical and Mental Transformation; and Fit to Live: The 5-Point Plan to be Lean, Strong & Fearless for Life.

Dr. Pamela Peeke will be visiting HCLS Miller Branch on June 9 at 7 pm. Registration for the event opens on May 2. I am looking forward to her visit and learning how to stay healthy for the rest of my life.

Anna Louise Downing is a Customer Service Specialist at the Miller Branch. She is an avid reader and enjoys Disney, music and her passion for running. She has been a race ambassador for several local races and is a Sweat Pink Ambassador for promoting women’s health. Follow her journey towards being physically fit with running and healthy lifestyle choices here on Well & Wise.


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Do you have little ones in your household? If you do there are a few issues that are unique to your kitchen. One is how to feed your children the most healthy food. Another is how to bring them up with the habit of preparing their own healthy food.

I sought out some books on this subject and found a few great ones to share with you.

First is Weelicious: 140 Fast and Easy Recipes (2012) by Catherine McCord. Her recipes grew from a blog she began when her first child was born. As her family has grown, the blog has blossomed into a polished website with amusing and instructive videos and advice. Her advice—as is mine—is to “turn passive eaters into active ones” by getting the kids involved in the preparation of their food. As soon as they are old enough to wash their hands they can wash vegetables. If they helped mix the salad they are more likely to enjoy eating it. McCord’s book covers foods from baby purees right up to casseroles the whole family will enjoy.

Jenny Flake is another food blogger who focuses on recipes that keep kids happy. Her book is The Picky Palate Cookbook: 133 Recipes for Even your pickiest eaters (2012). She is a happy mom whose adventures in cooking began when she realized she “didn’t know how to cook anything.” She dove right into her new kitchen and even entered cooking contests. Her enthusiasm is contagious and the photos make the food look scrumptious, but there is no promise of healthfulness and, as with McCord, above, no nutrition information. While both books cover a lot of the same ground, McCord’s is a little more child-oriented and Flake’s has more general family appeal.

The Mom 100 Cookbook: 100 recipes every mom needs in her back pocket is another 2012 publication by a blogger (—it was a very good year!). Author Katie Workman is founding editor in chief of a recipe website, as well as her own website. She has an engaging writing style and has arranged the book in 20 chapters, each headed with a “dilemma, a predicament, a head-scratcher.” Each dilemma has five solutions, accompanied by sidebars like “What the kids can do” and “Vegetarian notes.” Top all this off with a superb index (librarians like that!) and a list of suggested menus and you have a great cookbook—even though the recipes don’t have nutrition information.

If you want to get even more serious about your child’s nutrition, try Stacey Antine’s Appetite for Life: the thumbs-up, no-yucks guide to getting your kid to be a great eater (2012). Antine founded HealthBarn USA—part working farm, part classroom, part summer camp—on her family’s New Jersey farm in 2005. She is passionate about teaching children about food and fills her book with advice and ideas and recipes—each of which has nutrition information! Here is a book to learn from and to trust.

My last recommendation is The Cleaner Plate Club: more than 100 recipes for real food your kids will love (2010) by Beth Bader and Ali Benjamin. The authors share a passion for feeding children well. They “examine why children eat what they do—how their food preferences are created,” talk about shopping strategies and introduce vegetables alphabetically. If this sounds dull, you have not opened the book yet! Great illustrations, sidebars, a piece on converting recipes for the slow cooker, and one on varieties of oils. This is more than just a cookbook. You can sample more of Benjamin’s writing and recipes here.

I really enjoy browsing the new cookbooks at Howard County Library System branches! I hope you will too.

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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The ancient Greeks believed that books were psychologically and spiritually vital, often posting signs over their library doors which proclaimed them “healing places for the soul.” C.S. Lewis is attributed with saying “We read to know we are not alone.” And James Baldwin once wrote: “It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”

Most any introvert will probably tell you she has found great great solace in books, that there have been times when they’ve saved her life. I know, for me, both fiction and nonfiction have gotten me through bad times and helped me see things from a completely different perspective so that I could improve my situation.

Recently, I discovered The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness, 751 Books To Cure What Ails You by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin. It may sound pat or like a joke book, but I kid you not, there are lots of helpful things in here on surviving everything from adolescence to apathy (once you get past your indifference to pick up the book).

I found the “love, unrequited” section absolutely fascinating, both for personal reasons and because, through the ages, it’s been a staple of many a fascinating novel.

Actress Jennifer Lawrence said once in an interview that when she likes someone a lot, “I’m terrified of them instantly. I’m not scared of them — I’m scared of me and how I will react.” That’s easily understandable, if you ask me. Whether you’re not sure how someone feels about you or you’re afraid that your pitiful attempts at a poker face will give you away, it’s a lot to process. If you are able to keep it together the whole time, you’re underwater, and you suffer in silence. It’s when you start acting out on your feelings when it becomes an entirely different, much more embarrassing situation (obviously not a good thing).

In an ideal world, crushes would be left far, far behind in high school and, as full-grown adults, we’d never ever have to face them again. Unfortunately, we sometimes may find ourselves moving from a simple crush to liking someone who doesn’t feel the same. And to make it worse that can happen in situations that are particularly trying, where you’re forced to be around that person on a regular basis.

“Unrequited love is a particular kind of love that can only ever go one way.” The authors of The Novel Cure write, and further ask, “How can the object of your love see anyone worth loving return when you are willing to throw yourself at his or her feet, exposed and bleeding like a piece of uncooked meat?”

In the novel Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett, a young Swedish pianist suddenly declares his undying adoration for the soprano with whom he is traveling. It’s enough to make the singer wince in discomfort and Patchett adds, “The kind of love that offers its life so easily, so stupidly, is always the love that is not returned.” Moments like this are just plain cringe-worthy, for both parties.

Urban Dictionary defines a crush as “a burning desire to be with someone who you find very attractive and extremely special.” Crushes can generate barely controllable reactions — like feeling super shy and inexplicably giddy at the same time. You can’t choose who you have a crush on, but you can choose how you react once you figure out that you have a crush on someone. This is particularly true with highly sensitive people who can gravitate (on no conscious part) to highly impossible, overwhelming crushes or love. The absurdity of romantic love and how much pain we put ourselves through over it comes to light here in a way I’ve never seen before. As Anouchka Grose writes in Why Do Fools Fall In Love: A Realist’s Guide To Romance, “love is just mad.”

In fiction (most of the time) unrequited love turns out to be a complete misunderstanding and both parties discover they really do like each other. “It’s an experience of an unbearable absence,” writes Grose.

But there is help and hope because as one wiki on unrequited love states: “it’s hard to really, truly love someone when it’s all one-sided.” It’s not love, it cannot fully love the way we know it, the way we’re successful and happy in it, unless it’s reciprocated. Coming to a point where you accept this is one of the first steps towards getting your rollercoaster heart back on track.

In David G. Amen’s Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain, he shares research from the University Of Michigan which shows that people suffering rejection in love (whether through a breakup or unrequited feelings) have areas activated in their brain that are the same parts for responsible for physical pain.

Sometimes the writers of The Novel Cure spare no feelings. They won’t meander around the barn or soft shoe what they have to tell you because in cases like this someone needs to knock some sense into you. One passage that speaks to the part where you actually start to get over that crush:

“If the love you feel is not returned, pause in your foolish gushing and ask yourself the following question: in your eagerness to love, have you made yourself unlovable, lacking in self-respect? If the answer is yes, you’ll be incapable of inspiring more than a guilty no. Buck up. Look yourself in the eye and tot up your return. Then demonstrate that worth with the sort of behavior that someone as wonderful as the person you love surely deserves in return.”

In this case, I think some tough love is just what the doctor would order.

The Novel Cure suggests these titles may soothe the troubled soul:

Here are some helpful online articles and sites you might want to browse:
Why Unrequited Love Is Actually Good For You
Love Advice For Guys-Dealing With Unrequited Love
How To Handle The Pain of Unrequited Love
Loving Someone Who Doesn’t Love You Back: How to Get
Unrequited Love: Making A Bigger Fool Out Of Yourself

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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April is also Alcohol Awareness Month, and has been designated as such by the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) since April of 1987. For over 28 years, this organization, which was founded in 1944, has been tirelessly fighting to support, educate, and help individuals, and their loved ones overcome the negative effects of substance abuse. Widespread awareness on responsible alcohol consumption, as well as the consequences of irresponsible use and the triggers/motives that lead to abuse, are ways in which individuals can empower themselves with beneficial knowledge on how to avoid becoming a victim of alcoholism.

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionaryalcoholism has been defined as “a chronic progressive potentially fatal psychological and nutritional disorder associated with excessive and usually compulsive drinking of ethanol and characterized by frequent intoxication leading to dependence on or addiction to the substance, impairment of the ability to work and socialize, destructive behaviors (as drunken driving), tissue damage (as cirrhosis of the liver), and severe withdrawal symptoms upon detoxification.”

The pervasiveness and widespread use of alcohol in our society creates a Pandora’s Box effect, in which the presence of certain factors in an individual may easily lead them from a point of control to one of no return. It seems that alcohol’s persistent popularity is due in part to cultural and social ties that are taught, learned, and reinforced through social media, and common traditions/celebrations. A few examples of settings where alcohol is not only readily available, but also strongly encouraged, are: college and university campuses around the country; sporting events and tail-gating gatherings; momentous life-defining celebrations, such as weddings; parties of all sorts aka the “we just want to party” party; the legendary post-work happy-hour; weekday/weekend restaurant, bar, lounge, club outings; coming home after a long day at work and helping oneself to a “cold one” or a glass of wine. Alcohol consumption in the aforementioned settings demonstrates just a handful of socially “acceptable” places where the ingrained social cues to partake in the act of drinking come into place.

According to the World Health Organization, harmful use of alcohol causes 2.5 million deaths worldwide each year. Therefore, abuse of the ole “giggle water” (early 20th century reference to an intoxicating beverage; alcohol) is truly no laughing matter, and one’s use should be approached with caution and respect. It is easy to lose sight of the detrimental effects it can wreak on the mind, the body, and the spirit when consumed to excess. From a historical standpoint, drinking, in all its multifaceted and two-faced glory, has been a liquid witness to some of the greatest joys and the most heart-wrenching tribulations for many people around the world; we drink it to feel happy, we drink it when we are mad, and we drink it if we are sad. Through these behaviors we reaffirm the power and position of alcohol in our society and culture. And it’s through straightforward and realistic education regarding alcohol use that young people can learn to mature into responsible consumers of alcohol (if they so choose). Boring lectures about alcohol that likens it to the big bad wolf of Little Red Riding Hood fame may not be received with enough serious attention; however, a live Q & A with someone that has experienced and survived the devastating effects of alcoholism may prove rather eye-opening.

 There are currently many resources and services within Howard County that are available to those who feel they may be struggling with their ability to manage or control their use of alcohol. The Howard County Department of Health provides substance abuse and addiction services; Howard County General Hospital often provides classes and ongoing support groups regarding substance and/or alcohol abuse; Alcoholics Anonymous (Al-anon/Alano) meetings are held at the Serenity Center, and other locationsHoward County Mental Health Authority provides an extensive list of individual and group addiction counseling/therapy locations. Exploring each of the many resources available can be helpful, in order to discover what works for one’s personal goals towards recovery.

Let us take the time this month to reflect on our own personal relationship with alcohol, or reach out to someone in our lives who may be struggling with alcohol abuse right now. While there are many helpful resources for individuals, there are also plenty of resources available for their friends and family, i.e. Smart Recovery for family friends and Al Anon Family Groups.

Alcohol can be enjoyed with control and moderation. However, when drinking takes a dark turn, and abuse and addiction surfaces, seek the help you need. Just remember, you’re never alone.

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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In April 2001, the National Minority Health Month Foundation inaugurated National Minority Health Month. The goal is to raise awareness about the health disparities that affect racial and ethnic minorities and to strengthen the capacity of local, state, and federal organizations to reduce those disparities. Prevention, early detection, and control of disease complications are important keys to advancing health equity. This year the theme focuses on prevention: Prevention is Power: Taking Action for Health Equity. Chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, to name a few, are among the most common and more importantly preventable of all health problems in the United States.

This April you can take action for a healthy heart. Heart disease and stroke are a leading cause of death for all racial and ethnic groups in the United States. Some of the things you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease are eat a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, limit alcohol use, and do not smoke.  Take a moment to read the CDC fact sheet on heart disease, which includes information on signs and symptoms, risk factors and prevention. Howard County offers wellness activities, workshops, walks, nutrition education, health screenings, and more through Get Active Howard County. You can also find many books on heart disease at one of the Howard County Library System (HCLS) branches.

Some minority populations including African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and American Indians are at a higher risk of developing diabetes and related complications. This April is the perfect time to develop strategies including diet and lifestyle changes to prevent the onset of diabetes.  Visit the Johns Hopkins Diabetes Center for more information on the disease, diabetes education, including classes, and nutrition, including education and counseling.  If you or a loved one is living with diabetes, HCLS has an extensive collection of materials to help navigate your meal planning, exercise, and diabetes education.

A leading cause of preventable illness and death in the United States is tobacco use. Smoking cigarettes causes devastating disease and premature death across all races and ethnicities, but smoking is more prevalent in some racial and ethnic minority groups. The US Surgeon General said, “Smoking cessation represents the single most important step that smokers can take to enhance the length and quality of their lives.”

If you live or work in Howard County, there are free smoking cessation and tobacco treatment programs offered through the Health Department. Visit here or call 410-313-6265 for more information. Howard County General Hospital: A Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine will be offering Smoke-Free Lungs seminars this summer.

Immunizations are a powerful way to prevent disease. In April you can ensure that your immunizations and your family’s immunizations are up to date. Immunizations not only help the recipients, they also help persons who come in contact with them.  Protecting children from vaccine-preventable diseases is an effective tool for advancing health equity.  You can see the vaccine requirements for children attending school in the state of Maryland here. Also, take a moment now and mark your calendar to remind yourself and every member of your family to get the flu vaccine this fall.

If the fact that you are under-or uninsured is preventing you from taking the steps to help manage or reduce your risk for chronic disease, please visit the Howard County Health Department or call 410-988-3737 for more information on health care programs and services that may be available to you and your family. Also, HCLS will host a class to help older adults and individuals with disabilities navigate the MAP & SHIP programs, presented by the Howard County Office on Aging’s Aging and Disability Resource Center in May.

This April, do yourself and your loved ones a favor by taking action for a healthy you. Educate yourself and ask your doctor about disease risks more common to your racial or ethnic background, and learn what you can do to prevent those conditions. Knowing your risks gives you power. Reducing those risks can lead to a healthier you and longer life.

Nancy Targett is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Miller Branch. She lives in Columbia and is the proud mom of three boys and a girl and a Siamese cat.


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You can’t tell if someone has high cholesterol by what they look like – a fact I can personally attest to as a person with high cholesterol. I don’t look like someone with high cholesterol, as I keep getting told. The problem is I don’t really know what it means to have “high cholesterol,” so I decided to do some research and figure it out.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fat-like, waxy substance that can be found in all parts of your body. It aids in the production of cell membranes, many hormones, and vitamin D. The cholesterol in your blood comes from two sources: the foods you eat and your liver. However, your liver makes all the cholesterol your body needs. Cholesterol and other fats are transported in your blood stream in the form of spherical particles called lipoproteins. The two most commonly known lipoproteins are low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL).Johns Hopkins Health Library

I started with Controlling Cholesterol for Dummies (Rinzler & Graf, 2008), which says that a high level of LDL particles (low-density lipoproteins, also referred to as “bad” cholesterol) correlates to a higher risk of heart disease or attack (p. 17). Lipoproteins are fat and protein particles that carry cholesterol into your arteries (LDL) or out of your body (HDL). The more cholesterol in your bloodstream, the higher the risk for buildup and possible heart attack. This can also happen in cranial arteries, blocking the flow of blood to your brain and potentially causing a stroke (p. 30).

However, Cholesterol Clarity: What the HDL is wrong with my numbers? (Moore & Westman, 2013) posits the idea that cholesterol isn’t the problem we’ve been taught. In fact, the real issue may be chronic inflammation as caused by smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, consuming trans fats and processed carbs, and stress (p. 38). Cholesterol can’t accumulate in your arteries on it’s own, they need to be inflamed first.

A good indicator of this inflammation is the C-reactive protein, a level which can be checked by your doctor (p. 39). Additionally, LDL cholesterol varies in size from large, fluffy, and harmless (Pattern A) to small, dense, and potentially dangerous (Pattern B) (p. 98).

How can you get your cholesterol levels and what should they be?

Cholesterol levels are usually obtained through a blood test at your primary care physician’s office. It’s important to know your LDL and HDL numbers as well as your total cholesterol measurement since a high level of HDLs is good for your body. A high total cholesterol number can be less serious if your HDLs are high, just as a low total cholesterol number can be bad if your HDLs are low. What amounts to a dangerous level? A total measurement above 240, HDL’s below 40, and LDLs above 160 (Rinzler). The size of LDL particles can also be tested through a particle size test that can be ordered by your doctor or by individuals online (Moore & Westman, 2013, p. 99-102).

How can you manage your cholesterol?

A few simple steps should help lower your bad cholesterol level: exercise, reduce fatty food consumption, lose a little weight, and reduce damaging behaviors like smoking and drinking. Exercising and avoiding fatty foods are two categories where almost every person can find some health benefit, regardless of cholesterol level. Some resources for heart healthy cooking are the American Heart Association’s Low-Fat, Low-Cholesterol Cookbook, The DASH Diet Action Plan, Quick & Easy Cookbook, and The Mediterranean Diet for Every Day.





We’re still learning what cholesterol does for our bodies and how we can live long and healthy lives. The most important thing is to be your own health advocate. There’s nothing wrong with getting a second opinion when it comes to your health and well-being. The best thing to do with any health concern is read all the information and consult your doctor, who’ll be best suited to help you with your questions.

Jessica Seipel is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Savage Branch. She has worked for the Howard County Library System, in various positions, for a decade.


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For more years than I can remember certain seasons have been a struggle with congestion, sneezing, itchy eyes and the uncomfortable symptoms of allergies. Only recently did I brave a visit to an allergist and discover many reactions to a variety of common allergens: grass and tree pollen, molds, dust, and much more. Now I had an explanation for why I can be sniffly all year, but much worse in the spring and fall when certain allergens temporarily explode into activity.

I had been self-medicating with over the counter drugs, but the allergist has been very helpful in trying some stronger prescriptions and experimenting with a regiment to provide more relief. I’ve learned about medications, nasal sprays, and even eye drops (I don’t do eye drops – no, I really don’t, just ask my husband). Part of the process is just trying out medications to see what works for me.

Knowing what allergens spike reactions can be helpful, but they are nearly impossible for me to avoid. The doctor also shared information about cleaning and methods to minimize allergens indoors. Hopefully, managing my exposure at home will help me to feel better and get through the worst weeks of the year.

Another treatment I’m considering is supposed to have longer-term effects: allergy shots. They work to calm down the immune response to allergens that causes the uncomfortable symptoms like sneezing and congestion. The series starts more frequently and in time can be spaced out until the allergic reactions stop or are minimized.

One of the questions I’ve been pondering is if my allergies have a relationship to my rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Both are autoimmune-related diseases with RA attacking the joints and allergies attacking my sinuses (or so it seems). While my research hasn’t revealed a connection confirmed with research, I can’t help but wonder. It makes sense to me that my aggressive RA would be linked to strong allergies.

In the meantime, I visit my doctors and pursue treatment for each condition. Seeing the allergist has been very revealing for me to understand the discomfort of allergies and what I can do to feel better. I may never know why I have these allergies, or RA for that matter, but it’s good to be on a path to treat and hopefully better manage my health.

Kelly Mack lives in Washington, DC, and works for a marketing communications firm.


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A friend I’ve had since college and I always talked about how we were finally going to be “cool” when we were in our 40s. We have always been a bit geeky and weird and certainly a little on the fringes. In our 20s and 30s this didn’t win us any popularity contests (and, if truth be told, by the time we hit our mid-20s, we didn’t really care anymore). But we continued to joke that when we hit our 40s, we’d really have our acts together. We’d be fit, poised, and prized for our “unique sensibilities.”

Well, we’re there now, and we aren’t any of those things (well, we are prized by the people who love us). We’re not completely surprised by this lack of celebrity. We kind of knew forty-somethings weren’t where people usually looked to find trendsetters and rock stars. We are a little disappointed that we’re not in better shape, but really only have ourselves to blame for that. But the last thing we expected was to be almost invisible. Society doesn’t exactly seem to embrace women of our age, especially if we don’t look half as young as we actually are.

I know, I know, I’m sounding whiny and self-pitying (a far cry from poised and cool). But I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, mainly because I feel like I’m having to find greater balance between some of the most important and stressful things I’ve ever done in my life. Well, there’s not a lot I can do about some of the societal perils of my age, but I can probably do some things so I at least feel a bit better about myself physically and mentally. Some new help on that front may be available for me (and anyone else, 40 or not) from Dr. Pamela Peeke.

Dr. Peeke is an expert on nutrition, stress, fitness, and public health, but she mainly caught my attention with the book entitled Fight Fat After Forty: The Revolutionary Three-Pronged Approach that Will Break Your Stress-Fat Cycle and Make You Healthy, Fit, and Trim for Life. How could I not be drawn to that title? Now, Dr. Peek doesn’t just limit herself to the 40+ crowd of the world. She recently published The Hunger Fix: The Three-Stage Detox and Recovery for Overeating and Food Addiction. She also has written Body-for-LIFE for Women: A Woman’s Plan for Physical and Mental Transformation; and Fit to Live: The 5-Point Plan to be Lean, Strong & Fearless for Life.







.And, if you’re still curious about what Dr. Peeke can teach us, she’s coming to HCLS. She’s visiting June 9, 7 p.m. at the Miller Branch. Registration for the event opens on May 2. I think with some of Dr. Peeke’s help, I may able to turn into that cool forty-something yet!

Joanne Sobieck-Lingg is glad to blog about her many, disparate interests (though expert in none, except maybe parenthetical asides). In past lives, she was a writer, proofreader, editor, project manager, teacher, and even co-coordinator of a certain health blog. She has been happily ensconced among the fiction and teen books at the Central Branch of HCLS since 2003.


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A lot of up to date medical information can be found using the Internet. Since one search in Google can yield thousands of results, how do you sort out which information to make use of?

“You should approach finding medical information on the Internet the same way you would approach buying a nonfiction book…do the authors come from reputable institutions? Do they have the proper credentials? Was it published recently?” says McMaster’s Flemming, who conducts seminars and workshops on Internet health issues. [1]

In general, health and medical information websites sponsored by the U.S. government, not-for-profit health or medical organizations, and university medical centers are the most reliable resources. [2]

If you do make use of a commercial site, look to see if it has a HONcode seal (pictured above).

Okay, what exactly is a HONcode? HON stands for “Health on the Net.”

The Health On the Net Foundation (HON) is a not-for-profit organization headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The purpose of the foundation is to advance the development and application of new information technologies, notably in the fields of health and medicine. [3]

Where does the “code” part come in? The HONcode is a checklist of eight principles Internet users should apply to any site posting medical information. Prime among them: information must be provided by qualified professionals, and it has to be designed to support, not replace, the relationship between doctor and patient. [1] Compliant sites are identified by the blue-and-red HONcode hyperlink seal displayed in a prominent location.

So, before you spend too much time on any site offering medical information, make sure to follow these guidelines:

Identify the sources: Read the “About Us” section on the website you visit and notice the dates of the information to make sure content is current.

Look at the HONcode: The Health On the Net Foundation requires that medical sites meet a certain level of authoritative and credibility standards. Approved sites display a HONcode seal acknowledging their certification.

Always call your doctor: Medical sites can be helpful and educational, but you’ll always want to refer to your child’s doctor for any medical diagnosis or treatment.

[1] McClelland S. Users beware. Maclean’s [serial online]. June 21, 1999;112(25):58. Available from: MasterFILE Premier, Ipswich, MA.
[2] Miller, J. (2013, Aug 18). Savvy senior: How to find the best medical information online. Capital. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1426394474?accountid=6126
[3] (2000, Feb 03). PR Newswire. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/447850252?accountid=6126

Teresa Rhoades worked at the Central Branch from 2004-2005. During the next two years, she moved out of state and completed a degree in Library & Information Studies. She is currently the Assistant Branch Manager for the East Columbia Branch. She spends much of her spare time being walked by her dog, an extremely energetic German Short-haired pointer.


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Linger, even for one chapter in this massive book, and you will soon find yourself caught up in psychiatrist and National Book Award winner, Andrew Solomon’s comprehensive (albeit eloquent) and tender tribute to the myriad parents of “horizontal” offspring — that is, dwarfs, transgenders, schizophrenics, prodigies, those who commit criminal acts, and more.

Solomon’s all-embracing assertion (as a homosexual, and therefore, a horizontal child himself) is that the parents of such children, along with the children themselves, deserve voice and a raison d’etre. Even the ones certain to be defined as bad parents are given voice: Is it hard or easy to love a child that society has deemed imperfect? Does bearing a child with supreme challenges take us to the edge of an awful precipice? Or does it make us, as one mother says, “Deeper for it?”

Sue Klebold, mother of one of the two teens who committed the Columbine massacre, divested her soul to Solomon when the question was asked if it would have been better had her son never been born.

“I believe,” she said, “it would not have been better for me.”

Far From The Tree is the Camino Trail of epic reads. Take the journey anyway — if not for the privilege to walk in the shoes of some of the most diverse parents and children you will ever meet.

Aimee Zuccarini is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the East Columbia Branch. She facilitates several book discussions and writes the book reviews for The Maryland Women’s Journal.


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IMAG0531-e1396102400821-webThe Veggie­-Lover’s Sriracha Cookbook by Randy Clemens has been (hands ­down) my favorite cookbook of 2013 and is still going strong in 2014. I have made about half a dozen recipes from the book and plan to make many more.

One of my personal favorites has been soondubu jjigae, loosely translated as “Korean Soft Tofu Stew with Kimchi.” Soondubu Jjigae is great for warming up during the last days of winter and also contains heaping amounts of kimchi, or pickled cabbage. If you’ve been turned off by the smell, you may want to reconsider. Health magazine listed kimchi in its top five World’s Healthiest Foods earlier this year citing its high levels of vitamins A, B, and C- as well as its digestive benefits. It’s low in calories and high in fiber too! So, if you’re trying to stay healthy, you may want to give the national food of South Korea another try.

Reserve this item at Howard County Library SystemThe Veggie­-Lover’s Sriracha Cookbook isn’t about kimchi however, it’s about sriracha. The Thai chili sauce has been getting a lot of press recently, mostly because of it’s delicious flavor and spicy kick, but there has been some research into its potential health benefits as well. Sriracha contains real chili peppers, well­-known to boost metabolism and serotonin levels, and garlic, a key ingredient in regulating cholesterol and blood pressure. The most familiar brand of sriracha sauce (the one with the rooster on it) is also gluten-­free and vegan. It’s even certified kosher.

So, if you haven’t tried either of these delicious foods, grab a copy of The Veggie­-Lover’s Sriracha Cookbook and make yourself a bowl of soondubu jjigae. If that’s not the comfort food you’re craving, try the Sriracha and Green Onion Biscuits with Country Mushroom Gravy. It’s pretty good too!

Aryn is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Miller Branch and has been with HCLS for over 3 years. She has many hobbies including, but not excluded to: exercising, vegetarian living, and eating cake. Perhaps cake is neither “well” nor “wise” but it’s certainly delicious!


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If you need help getting your family started on a healthier path, try Eat! Move! Play! Simple, direct, and manageable for any family!

I haven’t always been on the healthy path. There have been many years where I loved fast food! The convenience alone was worth the price I was paying. Then, I became a mom. Still, the convenience of fast food was a big factor. Then, I got divorced and started raising my daughter on my own. Still no change, and the convenience became an even bigger excuse. After a long day of work, a long drive home, and homework to do (yep, working full time and going to school), who wants to cook dinner at 6:30 at night?

Then, something changed. Finally. I started seeing myself and my habits through my daughter’s eyes. I saw how much she would expect me to stop at the drive-thru or to go get ice cream. It was then, that I saw my bad habits were creeping into her life. It had to stop. I became a part of Elf for Health, a group on Facebook, that gave daily challenges for four weeks. It wasn’t all health-driven, some of the challenges were to write positive things about yourself, call a loved one, etc. But it was the healthy challenges that started planting the seed within me. I began to understand that I needed to set better examples for my daughter. And frankly, I want to be around a long time for her- so, it was finally time to step it up.

Eating healthy and exercising are two great ways to lead by example. But there are other ways too, things we can do on a daily basis. I read an article by Steven C. Reuben for Johns Hopkins that hit the nail on the head. He said, “One of the most common teachable moments happens every time you drive your car with your kids inside” (p. 1). So true!! I am always careful when a driver cuts me off or rides my tail. If my daughter says something about a driver who cuts me off my response is this, “well, we don’t know what that person is going through, maybe they are just having a bad day or they aren’t feeling good.” (trying to keep it simple, she’s 4.)

A couple of weeks ago we were leaving Target and I saw a $10 bill on the ground next to my car. For that split second I thought, “Sweet! $10!” Then, I decided the universe was giving me a chance to teach her something, so I took that teachable moment. As I was writing a note she asked what I was doing. I explained to her that I thought the car next to mine dropped the money so I was writing a note and leaving it on their windshield. She asked, “Why?” I explained that we never know how bad that person needs that money, “it could be their lunch money.” She smiled and said that it was a nice thing to do. Teaching moment success!

Remember to pay attention, you never know when your children are watching you.

Monika is no stranger to the healthy-living community online. You may recognize her from Everything Mommy or Fitness Mama blogs. She has a 4 year old daughter, Ava, and works and goes to school full-time in Las Vegas.


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When I was a kid, I would look forward to my birthday because it was a time to celebrate with the people I truly enjoyed being around. Getting older has changed this a little bit. While I still look forward to spending time with those I hold dear to my heart, I experience a fear of getting older.

I’m in my mid-twenties now, and I’m questioning my successes up to this point. I wonder about my future. I realize it’s important to keep sight of your goals, and that making comparisons on where other people are in life isn’t the way to do it. I’m reminded that it’s crucial to follow your own path at your own pace.

It’s seems that a notable amount of people get caught up in making comparisons. Comparisons about where others are in life at the same age, what they accomplished last year versus the year before, and where a family member may have been at that same age. This process can be rather counter-productive. If you allow your energy to feed the thoughts of “Why are things different for me?”, then that energy is never going to be available for working on where you personally want to be. The way one person lives their life is going to be completely different from the next, and neither of those lifestyles mean that you are doing anything wrong.

I see friends of mine who genuinely think less of themselves because of the current job they have or their lack of a marriage license. I have had similar thoughts creep into my daily routine, but I’m aware that making these comparisons doesn’t equate to what happiness means to me. Perhaps, somewhere along the line, our perception of “the norm” (whatever that means) got the better of us.

Getting older can be a tricky concept to grasp. I find myself feeling anxious even though it’s an exciting experience. Things that were once daily activities or part of a routine are now memories, some more distant than others. Instead of feeling disconnected from these experiences, I make a point of noting the value of each memory and how it has shaped me as a person thus far.

I have decided that I am not going to let getting older feel like a bad thing. It’s just a new thing. Growing and adapting is all part of the human experience.

In the midst of growing older and discovering the reward of change, it is important to remember one thing; don’t abandon yourself.

Laci Radford is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the East Columbia Branch (while her home branch, in Savage, is being renovated). She is a music lover, writer, and an avid reader. She enjoys attending concerts, plays, and other forms of live entertainment. Her favorite activities include scoping out unique items at thrift stores, bonfires with friends, and having tie-dye parties. She is studying Psychology and plans to become a music and art therapist sooner rather than later.

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Are you in the mood for some more culinary travel? Last month I highlighted several wonderful cookbooks from the Mediterranean, Spain, Italy, France, Indonesia, and Ireland. I felt like I was mining in a vein rich in gold! There were so many great cookbooks from around the world in our Glenwood Branch that we mounted a display. The books have been flying off the shelves! I hope this means you will indulge me in a little more “eating around the world.”

We ended up in Ireland last month. Let’s start in The Scottish Kitchen (2004), by Christopher Trotter. I have a soft place in my heart for Scottish food even though I never got to know my Scottish grandmother’s cooking. Chef, and restaurateur, Trotter does a great job of bringing Scottish regional specialties to life as he profiles the traditions of “the eight culinary regions” of Scotland. Yes, you will learn how to make haggis, but you will also see some foreign influence in dishes like osso bucco Florentine.

Janna Gur’s The Book of New Israeli Food (2007) begins with “What’s cooking in the melting pot?”–a promising start! I asked a friend, fresh-returned from a visit to Israel, to comment on this one. She testifies that the Israeli breakfast, a holdover from kibbutz days, really does include “everything”–salads, fruits, fish, and all manner of eggs and cheese. The hummus recipes will produce the fluffy, smooth mainstay that she encountered on her visit. A new recipe for my friend was shakshuka, a pan of tomato sauce, usually fresh-made and well seasoned, with eggs cooked on top. You will need fresh bread to soak up the savory juices and a salad to round out the meal. As with the best cookbooks we get a taste of the culture as well as the food with excellent photographs of the people, the food and the farms and restaurants of Israel.

Japanese Farm Food (2012), by Nancy Singleton Hachisu, is a charming visit inside a real Japanese organic farm. A California girl, Nancy first came to understand real seasons while in Japan. When you live on a farm “you don’t choose the vegetables, they choose you.” You plan meals around what is ripe, not around recipes. She says “Walking among the rows [of vegetables] I would stroke them and feel their energy. Touching vegetables while they are living is something every cook should do. You have to accept them, not force your will on them.” I loved reading about the foods unfamiliar to me from someone so obviously in love with the foods and the lifestyle she has adopted. Great food writing aside, I also love the photography and layout. Nancy’s comments on a recipe are in red type while her occasional essays on foods are in white type on red pages—very striking. Read this as a recipe book or as a narrative on life as a “foreign bride” in Japan.

In contrast, Burma: Rivers of Flavor (2012) is written by Naomi DuGuid, a“photographer, writer, world traveler,” more in the style of a travelogue. We experience Burma a little more as outsiders, but it’s wonderful all the same. She describes a “market by candlelight”; vendors set up their wares lit by one or two candles and at dawn, snuff out the candles and move their displays off the streets to set up all over again in an open area. Duguid has spent over 20 years “exploring food as an aspect of culture” and has “co-authored six cookbooks that focus on home cooking—in the Indian Subcontinent, in the outlying areas of China and in the Mekong region.” She hopes the stories, recipes, and photographs will give readers an urge to go and meet the people of Burma for themselves.

And I hope that you will experiment with some of these healthful recipes from all over the world. Be an adventurous cook!

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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Many people assume that people with disabilities cannot be athletic. They probably never heard of the Paralympics, an international athletic competition for people with disabilities. The competitions follow the summer and winter Olympic Games in the same venues just a couple weeks after.

The current U.S. Winter Paralympics Team features 80 athletes competing in sports like: alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, sled hockey, snowboarding, and wheelchair curling. The team includes 32 returning Paralympians who have previously won an impressive total of 50 medals. Eighteen athletes are U.S. military veterans and active service members.

When I get frustrated with my exercises and feel like I’m getting nowhere, it helps to note the achievements of these disabled athletes. While I struggle with my rheumatoid arthritis and physical limitations, it helps to know others with disabilities have worked hard to succeed in their sport to proudly represent their country.

My earliest exposure to the Paralympics was a documentary film, called Murderball, about the U.S. wheelchair rugby team that competed in the 2004 games. The film told stories about the players’ experiences with disability and the importance of athletics to their well-being. I found the film personally inspiring as it dug into the athletes’ stories of disability and coping with their physical challenges. What resonated with me strongly were people with disabilities working to live their lives and pursue their dreams without yielding to exclusion or low expectations of the society around them.

While exercise has always been important for maintaining my health and mobility, I gained a newfound appreciation for athletics when I saw the film and learned more about the Paralympics. It helped me to understand that while I may live with a disability, I can still be an athletic person like able-bodied people. My exercise may look a little different or be adapted for my abilities, but it can be just as challenging (sometimes more so because I’m coping with joint damage and weakened muscles).

What the Paralympics tells me is that anyone can be an athlete, if they desire it. Adjustments can be made to account for physical challenges and needs, with tools to emphasize and accentuate our abilities.

If you have the chance check out some of the Paralympics games—they will be shown on television and also online—it is well worth it. I look forward to seeing some of the competition and daydreaming about new sports and adventures to try.

In the meantime, I’ll stick to my customized exercise routine, while also periodically challenging myself to try new things like the athletes I so admire.

Kelly Mack lives in Washington, DC, and works for a marketing communications firm.


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Whether you’re interested in autism already, know nothing about autism and want to understand it more fully, or just like reading about how a real family deals with life issues, you will enjoy Keiko Tobe’s series With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child. Volume one begins with a young woman, Sachiko Azuma, who feels very lucky: her adoring husband Masato has an excellent job, they live in a nice condo, and she just had her first child, Hikaru. Life seems perfect until Hikaru starts acting strangely. He hates being held, he cries all the time for no clear reason, and he won’t return affection. Sachiko’s husband is overworked and exhausted, and her mother-in-law blames Hikaru’s misbehavior on Sachiko for taking shortcuts in her parenting and failing to discipline. On the verge of resorting to abuse, Sachiko takes her child to a doctor who diagnoses Hikaru as autistic. She originally finds it hard to believe that her beautiful son has an incurable condition, but when Hikaru’s behavior disrupts a family funeral – it’s the last straw for Sachiko. She finally takes him to a Social Welfare Center that can offer her help, direction, and understanding.

The eight volumes of With the Light are large for a manga series, with each volume exceeding 500 pages, but they fly past. As the series continues, Hikaru ages through adolescence and Sachiko develops methods for Hikaru to control his behavior and learn along with the rest of his classmates. They face many trials – from daily prejudice to a teacher that doesn’t agree with the allowances necessary for Hikaru to stay in normal classes. It’s very realistic in its depiction of an often misunderstood neurodevelopmental disorder, even though it is a work of fiction and some liberties are taken to keep the story entertaining.

According to A Beginner’s Guide to Autism Spectrum Disorders by Paul Taylor, autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed through impairments in three areas of behavior: social interaction, communication, and activity/interests. Hikaru shows all these impairments as his story continues, from keeping to himself and missing non-verbal cues (social interaction) to barely speaking (communication), to repetitive behavior and obsession with order (activity/interests). As educational as it is enjoyable, Hikaru’s path through school illustrates some of the ways in which autistic students can learn alongside developmentally normal students with only small changes to the classroom. Taylor’s text covers many of the principles used in With the Light to help Hikaru learn and communicate, including the creation of structure and predictability, anticipating transitions, creating self-help options like a place for Hikaru to go when he’s feeling too stressed and needs to recover, and ensuring that all those involved in the classroom understand the disorder and what can be done to help.

It’s especially interesting to see how a non-American culture deals with the complexity of autism. Tobe includes many resources and even some essays on autism and raising autistic children, many from a distinctly Japanese point of view. Among other resources, the library can offer the aforementioned Beginner’s Guide to Autism Spectrum Disorders as an introduction, while the Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism is made up of essays from “autistics, parents, and professionals” that provide a more personal touch. Temple Grandin, a doctor, professor, engineer, and autism activist has written numerous books on autism, including 2013’s The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum and her autobiography Thinking in Pictures, which was the subject of the movie Temple Grandin starring Claire Danes.

If you’re looking for more answers to your questions concerning autism or need support, the Howard County Autism Society is a good place to start. This organization has been serving our community for over twenty years and is a wellspring of information and resources for individuals and families living with autism spectrum disorders. 








Jessica Seipel is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Savage Branch. She has worked for the Howard County Library System, in various positions, for a decade.


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