2496308570_c4245a2d4b_zI recently had an experience that tested the popular British mantra: “Keep calm and carry on.” What happened? I was trapped in an elevator.

It’s not the first time, I’m afraid. I have a history with elevators. But it has been several years since I was last involuntarily trapped in an elevator.

Ironically, I was returning home from a relaxing massage appointment when the elevator broke down with me inside. Luckily, the emergency call button worked and help was called right away.

The hardest part was waiting in the capsule, feeling the heat and anxiety build. I’m not usually a claustrophobic person. Quiet doesn’t bother me, nor does solitude. But the fact of being in a space I cannot leave started to make me sweat and itch.

I felt the urge to scream. But no, that wouldn’t help and it wouldn’t make me feel better—just more upset about a situation I couldn’t change.

Breathing helped—not too big or quickly. Slow, regular breaths. Take it easy. Be steady.

I called my husband to let him know what happened. (Thank goodness for cell phones!) It made me feel better that he knew I was safe, just waiting for help.
Then, the emergency responder called back and asked me for my information while we waited. Hearing her voice was soothing—the world was still out there and I would soon return. She saw the fire department responders coming and let me know of their arrival.

They called through the door to ask if I was OK. I could see them and was relieved. The outer door was open in moments, but they struggled with the inner door. Finally it popped open like it was meant, and I could roll out in my wheelchair.

It was good to see the faces of strangers. Funny that it had only been about a half hour, but it felt like longer. They asked if I wanted to see the paramedic, if I was OK. I shook my head—I was fine, just wanted to get back home.

“I’m sprung,” I joked with my husband as I headed home. I felt liberated and that I’d won a small battle by keeping the fear demons at bay.
Sometimes we are challenged unexpectedly and have to summon calm and strength in strange places. I was reminded of the power of staying cool in (literally) a tight spot. This is a lesson I hope not to forget and can be applied more widely in daily life.

From stressful work situations to the annoyances of daily commuting, a little calm and breathing can go a long way to finding a way through the moment.

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

 


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How strong is the biological element in gender? Is it psychologically possible, in infancy, to engineer one’s sexuality? At what point in utero are we wired to be male or female?

In 1966 rural Winnipeg, none of these facts mattered to a teenaged couple whose baby boy had recently suffered a botched circumcision and now faced a life they could not imagine. They would journey all the way to Baltimore to the Johns Hopkins Psychohormonal Research Unit under the auspices of psychologist, John Money. Their son, they were promised, would be successfully reassigned as a girl. What Janet and Ron Reimer may not have been told was that “sexual reassignment had never been done on a normal child with normal genitals and nervous system.”

Journalist John Colapinto delivers a precise and compelling examination of a world-famous case that proved “pre-birth factors set limits on how far culture, learning, and environment can direct gender identity in humans” in As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl.

Only more compelling is getting to know David Reimer himself. A girl from the age of two until eighteen, his battle with depression and self-loathing is heartbreaking—shocking at times—but you will come away believing he is one of the bravest people you have ever met.

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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driveChoosing to embark on a journey of self-improvement is the best gift you can give yourself. One of the many ways you can do this is by starting a new hobby or craft. Depending on who you are, you might want to create something or maybe you want to learn a new skill. Regardless, you will experience quite the array of emotions throughout the process… but that’s half the fun; isn’t it?

As the leaves change and the air becomes crisp, I tend to get inspired. I find myself looking at the fall foliage and wanting to create something. I’ll breathe in the chilly air and suddenly need to sit down and pick up my out-of-tune guitar. However, staying motivated can be tough in between life chores and scheduled meals. I feel that the excuse, “I’m too busy” is used quite a bit in our hectic world. I know that I am definitely guilty of this.

When making a change in your life, you have to be mentally prepared. When it comes to adding in a new hobby, learning to manage your time and set realistic goals become vital pieces of the motivation puzzle. Letting something you love be the first thing dropped when time is an issue, will only hurt you in the long run. It is important to do things that bring you happiness and joy. Developing time-management skills is one of the best things you can do for yourself. I experienced a crash course on the topic while taking a particular college class. My professor gave us enough work for a lifetime and expected nothing but the best. I was forced to figure out how to complete all of his work to the best of my ability while still passing my other classes. The skills I gained (though at an accelerated speed) have stuck with me and are put into action on a regular basis. Making a desired skill or hobby a part of your schedule is very fulfilling.

beadsSetting realistic goals will save you from a lot of stress. If you want to learn how to make jewelry, don’t try to make an entire set in one week. Instead, try to learn a certain technique and keep building on that foundation in the following weeks. If you want to write a book, don’t try to write a chapter a day, just be sure to write something (one sentence counts). The last thing you want is for your new found interest to become a chore or stressful task. You will feel a great sense of joy upon meeting these goals instead of being disappointed that you won’t have enough pieces for the jewelry show next weekend.

Everyone deserves a fun and rewarding way to relax. Start baking, go buy a saxophone, or take up glass-blowing. Whatever your “I’d love to know how to…” or “I wish I could make…” dream is, turn it into reality. Learn how to best manage your time and set goals that are realistic and achievable. The combination of the two will help you to stay motivated as you witness your progress and gained knowledge over time. Change color with the leaves and add a new dimension to your life.

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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calendar_2014smMonday, Sept. 8, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Blood Pressure Screening at Savage Branch. Free, walk-in blood pressure screening and monitoring offered by Howard County General Hospital: a Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. No registration required.

Monday, Sept. 8, 10:30 a.m. & 11:15 a.m. Tae Kwon Do: Mommy & Me at Miller Branch. Mommy and child participate in a fun-filled activity, led by instructors from Sykesville Tae Kwon Do, while developing movement awareness, motor skills, balance, coordination, flexibility, and agility. Wear athletic shoes, and loose fitting pants or shorts. Ages 2-3 with adult; 30 min. Registration and a signed release form is required.

Sept. 8 10:30 a.m. Registration|Release  Sept. 8 11:15 a.m. Registration|Release

Tuesday, Sept. 9, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Blood Pressure Screening at Elkridge Branch. Free, walk-in blood pressure screening and monitoring offered by Howard County General Hospital: a Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. No registration required.

Tuesday, Sept. 9, 6:30 p.m. I’m Going to Be a Big Brother or Sister at Miller Branch. 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 a baby. Resources for parents, too. Families; 30 – 45 min. Ticket required. Well & Wise event – In partnership with Howard County General Hospital: A Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine.*Limited space; tickets available at Children’s Desk 15 minutes before class.

Saturday, Sept. 13, 2:00 p.m. Declutter Your Life at Glenwood Branch. Ellen Newman, owner of ClutterRx, shows how to make your life easier by clearing the clutter. Register online or by calling 410.313.5577.

Monday, Sept. 15, 3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Blood Pressure Screening at Glenwood Branch. Free, walk-in blood pressure screening and monitoring offered by Howard County General Hospital: a Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. No registration required.

Tuesday, Sept. 16, 7:00 p.m. Hands Only CPR & AED at Elkridge Branch. Learn how to start CPR right away and continue doing chest compressions until help arrives. Learn about cardiac arrest, how to recognize it’s happening, and the three simple steps of Hands-only CPR for victims over 8 years old. Receive a basic overview of an automated external defibrillator (AED). Training in Hands-Only CPR gives you the ability to help save a life without using mouth-to-mouth ventilation or obtaining a certification card. Ages 11-17. Register online or by calling 410.313.5088.

Starts Tuesday, Sept. 16, 6:30 – 8 p.m. Healthy Weight Connection. Kick-start lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise, to help you reach a healthier weight. Receive personalized guidance from a certified dietitian. Classes run in Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Center. Tuesday/Thursday through Nov. 6. Cost is $195.


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sports psychologyBoth my kids played indoor soccer this past year, and what an eye-opener it was for me. Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, let me start by saying that I have one kid who will quite visibly cringe when the ball approaches and another who will very enthusiastically run up and kick the ball in absolutely the wrong direction. Needless to say, they get their great athleticism from me. But I do want them to be active and have the opportunity to learn about team work and good sportsmanship. And these were not teams or leagues being scouted by major-league recruiters or anything. So imagine my surprise when I encountered what I thought was only a thing of the past (and/or bad movie stereotypes)…poor-sport parents.

Let me clarify, no one was booing or name calling (mostly) or throwing things at the opposing team; it would seem that most sports associations have nipped that behavior in the bud, thank goodness. And my kids’ coaches were fair, encouraging, and focused on learning and fun. But parents who were attempting to “enhearten” members of their child’s team, or even their own child, were sometimes a bit aggressive in their “cheering.” There was a lot of “coaching” from the sidelines, a lot of outwardly expressed “frustration” when the “fan’s” team did not do as hoped, and even some not so subtle “rejoicing” when the other team missed. (That may be the greatest number sarcastic quotation marks I’ve ever used in a single sentence.)

Also, to clarify, I am very much opposed to giving out trophies for just showing up. I think competitive environments can be very good for children. All people need to learn to deal with disappointment and frustration in graceful ways (just as they should learn to deal with advantage and success in gracious ways). I am not at all questioning the kids, the parents, or the coaches in their competitive feelings, which I think are quite natural and can even be healthy. What I am questioning is the way that some people (adults in particular) express those feelings. Are we teaching our kids civil ways to communicate and providing the best examples of self control? And what is behind some parents’ lack of control?

stressed parents kidsIn the book Pressure Parents, Stressed-Out Kids, Wendy S. Grolnick, Ph.D. and Kathy Seal discuss the psychological phenomenon known as “ego-involvement.” “Ego-involvement is a tendency to wrap our self esteem or ‘ego’ around successes or failures… [and] we occasionally wrap our egos around our children’s achievements.” This sometimes occurs “when our protective and loving hard-wiring collides with the competition in our children’s lives, prompting us to wrap our own self-esteem around our children’s performance…[giving] us our own stake in how well our child performs.” Gronlick and Seal go on to explain how this ego-involvement adds another layer of pressure on parents, making them subject to more ups and downs in their own self-esteem and weakening parenting skills because the parents are too distracted from their child’s needs.

The idea of ego-involvement is reinforced in Sport Psychology for Youth Coaches by Ronald E. Smith and Frank L. Smoll. The authors talk about the positive or “Mastery” approach to coaching that encourages athletes to continue desirable behaviors by reinforcing or rewarding them. But Smith and Smoll eschew the negative approach that attempts to eliminate mistakes through punishment and criticism. They state that the negative approach is “often present in an ego-based climate.” They also acknowledge that it is not just coaches who can create ego-based environments. Smith and Smoll suggest ways for coaches help curb parents’ ego-involvement and best deliver the message to parents who pressure their child too much that this can “decrease the potential that sports can have for enjoyment and personal growth.” They even quote Wayne “The Great One” Gretzky who said, “Parents should be observers and supporters of their athletically inclined children, never pushers.”

So, I don’t have any great solutions to poor-sport parents. Many sports organizations have come a long way at informing parents what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Sadly, however, this doesn’t always eliminate the behavior (and, rightfully, most coaches are paying more attention to the players rather than policing the parents). And there is no sure-fire method to eliminate any negative comments that may take place off the field. Maybe the best place to start is to look at oneself and ask, “Am I guilty of ego-involvement? Am I putting my kid’s needs first? Am I a ‘pusher’ or a model of civility and good sportsmanship?”

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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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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