animal madnessShe called him “beast.”

He was a noble Bernese Mountain Dog, and next to her new husband, the love of Laurel Braitman’s life.

But after only a few months, the big dog she named Oliver, began to exhibit a series of profound behaviors: snapping at invisible flies, licking his paws into sodden masses, and eventually jumping out a third-story window – his unknown demons chasing close behind.

Serious medication and intense intervention were stepped up, but in the end Oliver succumbed to both emotional and physical trauma. Braitman, unlike her husband, was inconsolable, and soon his curious lack of empathy signaled a tipping point in the marriage.

Alone, Braitman now sought serious closure and catharsis: What exactly did Oliver feel or perceive that impaired his ability to function normally? And why the heck was it so eerily close to what humans feel? Braitman, a doctor of medical history, began to buttonhole the experts – animal psychologists, ethologists — even an animal trainer or two. Do we share an underlying brain structure that not only “exists across animal species,” but can similarly malfunction when an emotional state is compromised? More importantly, can understanding animal behavior benefit our own – even if we don’t speak the same language? The answers, Braitman found, were in the nine phyla of the animal kingdom.

From the adrenaline-charged cervidae for example. When pursued by predators, deer experience a blood-pressure spike not dissimilar to the white-coat hypertension I know I feel in a doctor’s office.

To the laws of attraction: Who knew bees were as picky about the flowers they pollinate as humans browsing online dating profiles? And then there are the giggling rats, the embarrassed octopus, and the bullied bonobo with PTSD. What, you might ask, was 17th century philosopher, Rene Descartes thinking when he arrogantly pronounced all beasts as “nothing more than automatons”?

Generous and engaging, Animal Madness: How Anxious Dogs, Compulsive Parrots, and Elephants in Recovery Help Us Understand Ourselves will have readers looking in the mirror more than once.

Curious George would give this one two opposable thumbs up.

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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calendar_2014smSaturday, November 8, 2:00 p.m. I’m Going to be a Big Brother or Sister. Prepare for the arrival of a baby in this class at the Central Branch for new siblings. Enjoy stories, activities, and bring a favorite doll or stuffed animal to practice holding a baby. Resources for parents, too. Well & Wise event. Families; 30 – 45 min. Tickets available at Children’s Desk 15 minutes before class.

Saturday, November 8, 2:00-4:00 p.m. Time for a Spa-liday. Need to relax before the holidays? Paint your nails, learn relaxation techniques, listen to soothing music, and make spa treats such as coconut oil hand scrub, bath fizzies, and glycerin soap scrubbies at the Savage Branch. Recipes and ingredients provided. Ages 8-13. Register online or by calling 410.313.0760.

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

Monday, November 4, 10:15 & 11:15 a.m. Turkey Twist and Shout. Sing and shake your turkey tail to tasty tunes at the Elkridge Branch! Ages 2-5 with adult; 30 min. No registration required.

Thursday, November 13, 1:00 p.m. A World of Kindness. CCome to the East Columbia Branch and celebrate random acts of kindness. Share books, songs, and make a craft. Choose Civility event. Ages 3-5; 30 min. Tickets available at Children’s Desk 15 minutes before class.

Wednesday, Nov. 19, 7 to 9 p.m. Happiest Baby on the Block in Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Center. Learn successful techniques that can quickly soothe your crying newborn and promote a more restful sleep for your infant. Parent kits are included in the $50 couple fee.

Thursday, Nov. 20, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Great American Smokeout in the Howard County General Hospital lobby: includes information and literature to help you stop smoking. Free event.

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overwhelmed work love and playMy son called me from college this past Sunday to ask me how he was going to find the time to take his bike to the shop to get fixed. He was already overwhelmed with classes, work, and applying to graduate school. How was he supposed to find the time to do everything that he needed to do? I did not have any easy answer for him, and I most certainly did not have an answer he wanted to hear at the time. About an hour later my son called again, and said he no longer needed to take the bike to the shop because while he was driving around campus, trying to find a free place to park, he drove into a parking garage with the bike on top of the car! He had forgotten that the broken bike, the same one we had talked about less than an hour ago, was still on top of the car! I think we can all relate to this story. I am sure most of us feel like there is never enough time to do everything we need to do. We try to do more than one thing at a time, and we wind up not doing anything well. Our to-do lists are never-ending. How can we live saner lives?

The first thing we all need to do is to take time for life. The world is not going to stop so we can finish our to-do lists. When my four children were younger my mantra was “we can only do our best and our best is not the same as someone else’s best, but as long as it is our best it is good enough.” Yes, sometimes my kids had to hand in papers printed in blue or even pink ink because our black ink cartridge had run out and all the stores were closed, but what was important was that the assignment was done and printed. We did our best with what we had at the time. At home and at work, we need to give ourselves permission not to have to do it all. We can start doing this by setting realistic expectations and be willing to realign those expectations, as needed.

It is not easy to find time in the day for ourselves. Advances in technology have made our lives easier, but those same advances have also made our lives more stressful. We are now “available” 24/7 to answer questions from work, school, family, and friends. Brigid Schulte in her book Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time says in chapter 7 there are three questions that drive much of the unending overwhelmedness: How much is enough? When is it good enough? How will I know? These questions are addressed in her book. “Great,” you are thinking, “but when am I going to have time to read a book?” Luckily for you Brigid Schulte will be at HCLS’s Miller Branch on Friday, November 7 at 7pm.

my age of anxietyScott Stossel, editor of The Atlantic, and author of 2014 New York Times bestseller My Age of Anxiety: Fear Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind will also be there. Together they will discuss their most recent works. You can register for Scott Stossel and Brigid Schulte in Conversation online at, by phone at 410-313-1950, or in person at any branch. Their books are availablefor borrowing at the library. Books will also be available for purchase and signing at the event.

We all need to make time for ourselves and what is important to us, which is why I am going to put attending this event on the top of my to-do list. I made a choice to find the time to read Brigid’s book and now I am making the choice to find the time to read Scott’s book this week. It will take courage to make the tough choices needed so we can be healthier both physically and psychologically. I do not want to wait until it is too late to live a good life. Do you?

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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Diagnosis and treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

As Daylight Saving Time ended this past weekend, we experienced the “fall back,” shortening our hours of sunlight during the day. During this time of diminished daylight, some people suffer from what is called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Learn more about SAD in the slideshow below. If you think you may be experiencing SAD symptoms, contact your primary care physician.


  • snowy landscape
    According to a Johns Hopkins study, SAD is a “mood disorder characterized by depression related to a certain season of the year – especially winter.” SAD is known to be caused by seasonal variations of light or decreased sunlight. [© Michal Bednarek |]
  • sun through window
    SAD peaks in December, January and February. During this time, many are seeing very limited, if any, daylight. Victims of SAD are typically adults between 18 and 30 years old and are more often women than men. [© Arman Zhenikeyev |]
  • According to the National Mental Health Disorders Association, approximately 10 to 20 percent of the U.S. suffers from mild SAD, and nearly five percent suffer from a more severe form. Geographically, SAD appears to be more common in people living far north or south of the equator. A person’s vulnerability is increased if they have a family history of SAD or other form of depression, or if they have clinical depression or bipolar disorder. [© Jperagine |]
  • sleepy employee
    Symptoms of SAD may include: Fatigue/low energy level/lethargy, increased daytime drowsines, increased appetite (often more for carbohydrates and sweets, resulting in weight gain), irritability/social problems, decreased sex drive, difficulty thinking clearly and/or diminished concentration. [© Ximagination |]
  • woman with doctor
    A diagnosis of SAD can be made after three consecutive winters of symptoms and complete remission of symptoms in the spring and summer months. [© Mauricio Jordan De Souza Coelho |]
  • bright sunlight
    The first line of treatment for SAD is light therapy, which is exposure to artificial light by sitting or working near a device called a light therapy box. This box mimics natural outdoor light by giving off a bright light that is thought to affect the brain chemicals linked to mood. Antidepressant medication and psychotherapy can reduce SAD symptoms either alone or in combination with light therapy. [© Halil I. Inci |]

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calendar_2014smMonday, November 3, 10:15 a.m. Just for Me. A class at the Savage Branch for children who are ready for an independent class that includes creative expression, listening comprehension, and early reading skills. Ages 3-5; 30 min. Tickets available at Children’s Desk 15 minutes before class. Also offered at 2 p.m. at the Miller Branch and 11/5 at 10:15 & 11:15 a.m. at the Elkridge Branch.

Monday, November 3, 2:00-6:00 p.m. HiTech Symposium. Join us at the Savage Branch for a dynamic event for students, parents, and educators, featuring STEM industry leaders and showcasing classes and various projects built by HCLS’ HiTech students (including a hovercraft, catapult, weather balloon, and music in our new sound booth). Learn how middle and high school students can participate in this STEM education initiative that teaches cutting-edge science, technology, engineering, and math via project-based classes. HiTech is funded in part through a federal grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.Sponsors include Friends of Howard County Library, Frank and Yolanda Bruno, and M&T Bank. Register online or by calling 410.313.0760.

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

Tuesday, November 4, 7:00p.m. Shell Shock: A Study in Medical History from Florence Nightingale to World War I.
Philip Mackowiak, M.D., comes to the Central Branch to discuss the impact of war trauma on Florence Nightingale and the combatants in World War I as he explores shell shock and post-traumatic stress disorder. He is a professor of medicine and the Carolyn Frenkil and Selvin Passen History of Medicine Scholar-in-Residence at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Register online or by calling 410.313.7800.

Tuesday, November 4, 7:00p.m. Guided Meditation. Enjoy a guided mindfulness meditation designed to impart a feeling of peacefulness and connection at the Miller Branch. Please bring a cushion or meditation pillow. Presented by Star Ferguson, M.Ac., L.Ac. Well & Wise event. Register online or by calling 410.313.1950.

Friday, November 7, 7:00 p.m. Scott Stossel and Brigid Schulte in Conversation. Do you make notes in a book’s margins? Imagine having a conversation with the author about your thoughts. Scott Stossel and Brigid Schulte indulge in the opportunity to discuss their most recent works and ask the pressing questions they’ve penned in the margins of each other’s books. Scott Stossel, editor of The Atlantic, is the author of the 2014 New York Times bestseller, My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind. An award-winning journalist for The Washington Post, Brigid Schulte wrote the New York Times bestselling Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time. Register online or by calling 410.313.1950.

Wednesday, Nov. 19, 7 to 9 p.m. Happiest Baby on the Block. Learn successful techniques that can quickly soothe your crying newborn and promote a more restful sleep for your infant in Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Center. Parent kits are included in the $50 couple fee.

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Wong Mei Teng meiteng’s baby season on Facebook these days. I love seeing my friends post their exciting news, especially knowing that I have my own special news that I am quietly enjoying right now.

I wonder about the friends that stay quiet. Those that I know love and want kids, but have not posted an announcement for themselves. I wonder if they are feeling that sting that comes with being happy for their friends, but wondering if it will ever be their turn, or knowing that they will never have that turn, or worse yet, knowing they had a turn and it was cut  short.

This summer, my husband and I lost a baby. My midwife thought I was farther along than I did, but it didn’t matter. It still hurt. I shared the news gradually with a very small group of people, mostly because I didn’t know how to feel.

I felt bruised. I was sad. I wasn’t devastated, but I still hurt. I had no idea how I would answer the question, “How many kids do you have?” I wanted to say, “Three.” – but people wouldn’t understand. I would cry at the oddest times over the oddest things – things that I had no idea would be a trigger. My husband held me while I cried.

I was pretty numb. I actually stayed at work while it happened because the rest of the leadership team was out that day and I knew someone needed to be there. Only one person in the office knew. I plastered a smile on my face, hunched over my computer, prayed that the cramping would go away quickly, and took the next triage call.

When I lost the baby, my midwife told me that other women would hear about it and tell me their own stories. She told me her story, and it was comforting to know I wasn’t alone. But, I quickly found out that miscarriages are taboo topics. People, especially those who have never experienced a miscarriage, can be very uncomfortable talking about them. Most of us don’t even announce pregnancies until we are past that golden “13 week” mark. It’s almost as if losing a baby doesn’t count until then. Like if we lose the baby in the first trimester, we can deal with it better by ourselves because “it was early.” 

I beg to differ.

miscarriage bookWe need to break this code of silence about the loss of a baby. We need to support each other through good news and bad. We need to be sensitive about the questions we ask, but neither should we be silent. A hug goes a long way. Don’t be afraid of tears. They are healing.

Dads need support too. My husband acknowledged that he did not yet feel as attached as I did, but he still hurt. The baby was half him, after all. And he had to watch me go through the emotional roller-coaster afterwords. I don’t know how he did it.

I still think of the baby often. It’s not every day any more, but I will never forget. If anything, it has given me a greater appreciation for my son and daughter. I don’t take the uneventful pregnancies I had with them for granted any more. Every “normal” milestone I achieve in this pregnancy gives me a sense of gratefulness that I didn’t have before.

I know that my husband will be there for me no matter what, always willing to hold me and let me cry.

And every time I see a friend post that they are expecting, or that their baby has arrived, I am glad. I am grateful that they, and their baby, are healthy. I also say a little prayer for those experiencing the pain of a loss, because I’ve been there- and it’s hard to face someone else’s joy over something you want so much when you’ve had it and lost it.

This pregnancy, I did what I always do – shared the news with close friends and family as soon as we found out. However, this time I plan to announce our news to the world before the 13 week mark. Once we have that first ultrasound I will share our joy, but I will share it with a prayerful heart for those who are hurting because of a loss.

I want to start conversations. Let’s take the taboo out of talking about miscarriage.

Rachel is a wife, mom, and registered nurse. She enjoys photography, playing with her kids, and tearing her house apart and putting it back together.

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