As summer turns to fall, I feel the seasons changeover with achy twinges in my joints. Some people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), like myself, feel changes in the weather with their bodies. I can feel big storms, pressure changes, and shifts in humidity.

Frequently, the most challenging transition I encounter is when summer shifts to fall. I often feel my best during summertime. I experience less joint pain, swelling, stiffness, and have more energy overall. Unfortunately, as those warm summer days darken into chilly ones, my joints grow achier and harder to move.

Through the years, I’ve developed coping mechanisms to handle these seasonal changes. I don’t think I have a perfect routine, but I better understand what helps me to feel better and manage the changes in my physical condition.

      • Get more rest. Instead of getting angry at my body and denying the problem, I have to be gentler on myself and take time to get more rest. I try to go to sleep earlier, if possible, on week nights. And on weekends I may sleep in or take naps during the day. On especially bad days, I may scale back my schedule and replace activity with more resting.
      • Stay warm. When my joints become cold I have two problems. I feel worse, with more pain and stiffness. Plus, it takes a ridiculously long time for me to warm up and feel better. The best plan is to stay warm in the first place. I often dress warmer than most people—taking out the sweaters as early as September. And at night I have a heating blanket turned up on high. Taking proactive measures can help prevent bigger problems with my RA.
      • Keep up with gentle exercise. When my RA feels worse, it can be very difficult to motivate myself for exercise. It’s natural for my body to complain about moving when my joints ache and feel stiffer than molasses. But even on bad days if I do some gentle stretches and slow motions, then my bones loosen up and some of the pain dissipates. A little exercise can go a long way, which will hopefully help me feel better tomorrow as well.

Living with rheumatoid arthritis has its limitations, but I can still take care of myself with some gentleness. While I can’t necessarily fight the effects of winter, I can ease my body into it with a little self-care. Taking the time to observe how I feel and experiment with some techniques for combating the worst symptoms has helped me navigate the changing seasons.

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

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As technology increasingly shapes and informs how we interact with each other online, how can we foster positive communication through social media, and how can we encourage people to make good choices about the information they share? What does it mean to be a good digital citizen, and what impact does our online presence have on our off-line reputation? How and why do our online and offline personas differ? Could our online personas benefit from more deliberate thought about how we portray ourselves and interact with others? What role, if any, should civility play in our online personas? Learn how social media users of all ages can cultivate and demonstrate digital civility, appropriate communication, and personal responsibility when using social media platforms.

Wellness permeates all facets of our lives from physical and mental to behavioral and beyond.
Howard County Library System invites you to join the discussion and register for this event here.


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How many hours does your child spend in front of a screen? Factoring in smart phone, video game, computer, and television time, the average child today spends 7 hours with electronic media. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises parents to wait until a child is at least 2 before allowing any screen time. Older children and teens should be limited to 1-2 hours per day. The AAP recommends that every home have a “screen-free zone” where there are no electronic devices. Ideally, bedrooms and dining areas should have no computers, televisions or video game consoles.

growing up socialThe Johns Hopkins Medicine online library includes information on school-aged children’s developmental milestones as well as television guidelines. Children learn and enjoy so many new skills and activities as they grow. Watching television to the exclusion of playing, reading, doing crafts and spending time with friends narrows a child’s world. When they do watch television, children benefit from watching with their parents so they can discuss what they see. Selecting kid-appropriate shows allows parents to guide their children toward the highest quality programming. Most children spend 3 hours per day watching television. This is time that could instead be spent participating in sports, exploring nature, writing a poem, playing a new board game or discovering an amazing author.

Excess screen time has been associated with poor school performance, attention deficit disorder, and obesity in children. Increased exposure to social media platforms places children at higher risk of bullying, anxiety disorders, depression, suicidal ideation, and dangerous behavior. We are all so busy that it is already challenging to get enough sleep. Using electronic devices before bedtime, however, can make it more difficult for children to fall asleep and contributes to sleep disorders.

screen free activitiesAs parents, we can promote reading, creative play, and activities that use the imagination. We can model limited use of electronic devices with our own behavior. We should show true interest in our childrens’ school and free time plans and encourage open communication. Family activities such as hiking, card games, art projects, and making music are great ways to spend time together. The HCLS collection includes many books about travelling with kids. For some local adventure, check out Fun with the Family in Maryland: Hundreds of Ideas for Day Trips with the Kids and Day Trips in Delmarva. HCLS has so many wonderful books filled with ideas for family entertainment. Take a look at Project Kid:  100 Ingenius Crafts for Family Fun, 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids:  The Very Best and Easiest Playtime Activities from, and Unbored:  The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun. All include imaginative play and craft ideas for all ages. Enjoy some time being a screen-free family.

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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living well online

We need new vocabulary. We require more extensive terminology for social media friends and electronic interactions. My kids do not know a world where social media friends did not exist, but still, they seem to know that there is a difference between a Facebook friend and a friend who knows your heart. Depending on your personality and social comfort zones, however, it might not be so easy to know the difference. My kids enjoy interacting with people in person, talking with them, hanging out with them, so they know that an internet-based relationship is not the same. On some level, they know that an Instagram follower you see pictures of or posts from almost every day is a different relationship from someone you only see once a year but with whom you’ve shared a summer at camp or a year in high school precalculus. Your classmate moved away and you’ve kept in touch with her ever since. You don’t hear from her every day on your smart phone, but you feel close to her anyway. In the most basic terms, children with human interpersonal relationships know not to confuse quantity with quality. Still, the blur of daily digital bombardment can confuse one’s emotions. A Snapchat community may feel more real than your favorite school group. A stranger’s Snapchat story may be more engaging than the cafeteria conversations you shared with classmates.

For me, who has spent the greater percentage of her life to date without social media friends, the concepts demand further definition. Is Jimmy Fallon my friend because I follow his daily tweets from The Tonight Show? Of course he isn’t, but I have access to his ideas 24/7 as long as I have an internet connection. On the other hand, my human friends may be out of town or at work or offline (perish the thought). I find myself wondering, do I know that fact or have that opinion because I exchanged ideas with another person or because I had a frequent electronic interaction with a particular point of view? Did I hash out a social argument or did I just absorb it, become saturated with it, through posts on Facebook by people I don’t even know, people who have their privacy settings set to “public” or “friends of friends.” Friends, facts, opinions vs. eFriends, eFacts, ePinions.

safe social networkingA reason for new words is to provide us with a common language. Each individual’s use of terminology helps us understand whether that person has a healthy understanding of social media interactions. A person who cannot clearly distinguish between a social media friend and a human interaction friend might not use the terms correctly or precisely. This would help us recognize, for example, if a child was having an online relationship with someone they had never met, someone whom they really didn’t know. It would be a clue that your widowed father wasn’t getting out much and had become isolated in an online world where he no longer shared human laughter and had become quite lonely. Alternatively, it would be a way to talk about relationships with a highly introverted coworker who seeks help developing vital personal interactions and bridging a gap to emotional fulfillment.

As we evolve as an eSpecies, the percentage of time we spend in electronic versus human interaction will change. These interactions affect our personalities, our relationships, our cultures, our societies. Let’s grow our language to encompass these different worlds and empower us to differentiate between them.

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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every dog has a giftAny pet owner knows that spending time with their pets can be a big source of stress relief. Cuddling my cats – and of course I have cats, I’m a librarian! – always makes me feel better, no matter what the problem. It’s not just their calming presence when they sit nearby and let me pet them, I’ve heard that a cat’s purr hits a frequency that can aid in healing. Their furry company is comforting, whether the healing bit is true or not, and I’m glad to say I’m not the only person that holds that opinion.

When it comes to man’s best friend, the ever-loving dog, it’s not surprising that there are a plethora of books to choose from concerning how dogs have helped people. There’s You Had Me At Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness, Love At First Bark: How Saving an Animal Can Sometimes Help You Save Yourself, Every Dog Has a Gift: True Stories of Dogs Who Bring Hope and Healing Into Our Lives, A Dog Walks Into a Nursing Home: Lessons In The Good Life From an Unlikely Teacher, and The Possibility Dogs: What a Handful of Unadoptables Taught Me About Service, Hope, and Healing. Plus loads more! Dog people just can’t help writing about the awesomeness of their furry friends. Of course I jest! Despite being a cat person now, I grew up with a great big dog who was a vital companion for me through my high school years, so I get it. Those lovable, loyal, attentive creatures give their everything, and seem to often bring out the best in their owners (as evidenced by all those titles I mentioned). Dogs in particular can perform animal therapy by visiting patients in a hospital or by being a friendly, nonjudgmental audience for struggling readers as in HCLS’s A+ signature initiative Dogs Educating & Assisting Readers (DEAR).

saved rescued animalsDon’t worry, I didn’t forget about cats. Although not as popular a topic as dogs, there is still Making Rounds With Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat about a cat providing comfort and companionship to patients of a hospice when their time is about to come to an end, Homer’s Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life With a Blind Wonder Cat, and A Street Cat Named Bob: And How He Saved My Life. While most of the pets and animals written about are the most common, cats and dogs, there are still stories like Saving Simon: How a Rescue Donkey Taught Me the Meaning of Compassion or Saved: Rescued Animals and the Lives They Transform which includes many dogs, some cats, horses, birds, turtles, and even a rescued deer.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m gonna go hug my cat and tell her she’s done a good job.

Jessica Seipel is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Savage Branch. She has worked for the Howard County Library System, in various positions, since 2003. When not at work, she spends her time reading science fiction and comics, visiting local breweries, watching horror movies, and playing video games.

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Okay, so last month, I confessed my juice reboot failure, but it wasn’t for pity or even to vent my frustration (well, maybe a little venting). It was to share how I’ve learned from my mistakes and turned those lemons into lemonade (or a healthful lemon juice blend).

First off, let me say how much easier it is to incorporate juices into your diet when the weather is warmer–it’s often refreshing to grab a juice or smoothie instead of a big meal on these warmer days. Secondly, when the hubby and I were going for the full, 3-day reboot, we were a little overwhelmed (and hungry). We are currently trying to incorporate just one juice or smoothie into our day. We may try a reboot again just for the “clean slate” effect, but one a day seems much more do-able for us. I should note that though we may choose a juice or smoothie for breakfast or lunch, we are not doing this as part of some fad weight-loss/meal replacement plan. We simply want to incorporate more fruits and veggies into our diet, and a juice or smoothie makes that easier to do.

Speaking of easy, here’s the biggest win we’ve taken from our juice fail: keep it simple. For the juice reboot, we purchased a nice juicer, since we figured the soluble fiber from the juice might be a little easier on my sad digestive tract than the insoluble fiber you get from smoothies made in blenders (and we didn’t want to have to purchase a crazy-expensive Cadillac of a blender). We are still using the juicer, especially for harder fruits and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots, apples, and pears. But making juicing and smoothies more part of our natural routine has meant looking for quicker and easier ways to do it. We were pleased to discover that our very ordinary blender could handle the job (within reason).

We also took advice from our friend Cristina, who has some family trying out juicing and smoothies. She said that they started with other people’s recipes, but eventually started changing them up a bit and trying things that worked better for them. For example, when the hubby and I started making smoothies instead of just juicing, we used the very popular 10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse as a blueprint. We were a little bummed that some recipes called for sugar substitutes, since we don’t really like things overly sweet and were more interested in just adding some healthier foods to our diet instead of just losing weight. We started tweaking the recipes a bit and came up with a very basic formula for the world’s laziest smoothie, as demonstrated in the video below.

Finally, as I mentioned last month, the original juice reboot called for us to go vegan a few days leading up to the juicing and a few days after. We were going to use it as a jumping off point for the VB6 diet, and did to a certain point. Now that we are having juice or smoothies once a day, we find it is a lot easier to stick to only vegan (or at least vegetarian) fare before 6 p.m. most days. Do we falter some days? Absolutely. But our new simplified and laid-back approach to juicing and smoothies takes a lot of the pressure off and helps us to keep the momentum needed to maintain the healthier eating habits we are trying to acquire.

  • It's amazing how good a well-seasoned avocado can taste!
  • Salad and vegetable broth--sigh--very vegan and satisfying, if not altogether mouth-watering.
  • Steamed broccoli, brown rice, and tofu, made delicious with a little help from their good friends Sriracha and soy sauce.
  • Avocado also makes a great vegan topping for a whole-grain bagel.
  • The little blender that could!
  • Hey, does my blueberry smoothie resemble planet Earth? Maybe just a little?
  • Yummy vegan chili (with a dollop of cheating sour cream).
  • Vegan tacos? Yep, and tasty.


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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