Ah, January. That magic time of year when you resolve to lose weight, eat healthy, and get more exercise. I think April would be a much better time to make those kinds of resolutions. But even in these short, cold days there are always opportunities to get up and get moving. Childrens’ classes at Howard County Library System are great places to shake your sillies out. Join us and find some great picture books to help the whole family get their groove on.

kitchen dance“Scrape! Splash! Clunk! Clang! … I hear kitchen sounds,” says the curly-headed narrator as she and her little brother wake up to the sounds of their parents’ kitchen dance. Creeping downstairs, they see mother and father as “side by side with stacked plates they glide,” turning the routine of washing-up into a tango. When Mama spots the two children, she and Papa sweep them up into an affectionate foursome, all singing, “Como te quiero!” Maurie J. Manning depicts this Afro-Latino family with bright colors providing movement and warmth as Papa and Mama strut their stuff. Their joyful inclusion of the kids makes this book read like one long hug—as the narrator says, after being tucked back into bed with a couple extra besitos, “Umm, hmm.”.

Take the opportunity to bust out your favorite moves with your littles and create a family moment.

you are a lionThe popularity of yoga has even babies practicing asanas, and this picture book is a fun way to get toddlers started. Paired spreads introduce a pose in simple non-rhyming verse, accompanied by an image of a child on a small circle of grass in the middle of white pages; the spread that follows reveals the pose in a nature setting along with the creature the pose imitates. The instructions for the poses are extremely basic and the illustrations encourage participation. The sweet, colorful illustrations include an ethnically diverse group of children demonstrating such poses as a lion, a cobra, and downward-facing dog. The soft hues and natural settings convey the spirit of a yoga class. The text reads almost like haiku. There is no discussion of yoga and the activities could be used to corral the energy of a rowdy group or an individual child.

Yoga is one of the few forms of exercise I practice consistently. It can be as vigorous or as gentle as the season and mood demand. HCLS has a great collection of books and DVDs to start a home practice.

i got rhythmRhythm is everywhere in this celebratory jaunt through an urban neighborhood, from the drummer in the park to playground games to the subtle beat of butterfly wings. The straightforward narrative captures the engaging ways the narrator finds her own rhythm exploring the world around her. Schofield-Morrison’s text pulses with a beat of its own and practically demands audiences to clap along. Each double-page spread offers interactive elements presenting each way the narrator catches the rhythm (hands, knees, feet, and more) to the fun readers can have joining in and keeping the rhythm with their own bodies. Morrison’s oil-on-canvas illustrations complement the story with expansive spreads crackling with movement, the saturated color palette helps the action jump off the page. The urban setting and varied cast depict diversity as an integral part of everyday life.

From board books like Sandra Boynton’s Philadelphia Chickens (cow chorus lines!) to Steve Jenkins’ Move! (a fascinating pictorial study of animal movement)- picture books will help everyone “Get Active.”

Shirley ONeill works for Howard County Library System as the Children’s and Teen Materials Specialist. She cannot believe she actually gets paid to do this job.

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diet soda canRecent studies have shown that intake of artificial sweeteners may contribute to glucose intolerance. Those of us who enjoy diet drinks and cut calories by selecting foods with sugar substitutes may decide that the trade-off is not the healthy choice. We may want to think twice before satisfying cravings for Diet Coke and go for an unsweetened iced tea instead.

Glucose intolerance is a serious health risk because it can lead to diabetes as well as metabolic syndrome. Diabetes is characterized by the body’s inability to produce insulin to process sugar intake. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that is needed by the body to regulate glucose levels. Metabolic syndrome is a set of biochemical changes that increases one’s risk for heart disease and diabetes. The physiologic changes in metabolic syndrome include glucose intolerance, abnormal lipid levels, insulin resistance and obesity.

The human intestines are filled with microscopic living organisms, the so-called “gut flora.” A normal intestinal environment is home to these organisms, most of which are bacteria. A study published in the 9/18/2014 issue of Nature described findings that intake of artificial sweeteners changes the composition and function of this flora. The researchers fed mice three of the most commonly-used sugar alternatives: aspartame (Equal), saccharin (Sweet’N Low) and sucralose (Splenda). The mice drinking the artificially-sweetened water had altered intestinal bacteria and marked glucose intolerance. Antibiotics administered to kill this bacteria resulted in resolution of the glucose intolerance.

Additional research was carried out on a limited number of human subjects. Nondiabetic subjects who reported artificial sweetener use were more likely to develop glucose intolerance over time than were those who stated they did not use artificial sweeteners. These participants also were more likely to show changes in gut flora. The researchers gave seven human subjects high levels of saccharin over six days, and four of thee subjects then had abnormal sugar levels. The scientists theorize that the altered combination of bacteria causes a change in glucose metabolism, blocking the sugar levels from declining as quickly as they should.

Although the study’s authors point out that the percentages supporting their findings are statistically significant, they note that more studies are needed. Over the past several years, evidence has accumulated that intake of artificial sweeteners increases sugar cravings. Some studies have even shown that those who use artificial sweeteners are more likely to be overweight. Now with the possibility that these additives can have serious health effects such as diabetes, the support for decreased ingestion of artificial sweeteners grows. The research findings indicate that it might be time to cut back on total intake, perhaps drinking one fewer can of diet soda per day and selecting a snack of nuts or blueberries rather than sugar-free cookies. Limited consumption of products with artificial sweeteners could be important to limiting the associated health risks. Similar to other medical recommendations regarding nutrition and fitness, the guidance at this point is moderation.

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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destructive relationshipsI have bonded with many people throughout my life; building a lot of different relationships of varying degrees, some lasting longer than others. I have friends that I have known since elementary school that I still make a point of seeing, even if it’s not as often as we’d all like. The great thing about it is that we always fall right back into rhythm and savor that comforting familiarity. I also have close friends that I get to see more often and enjoy spending the majority of my free time with them because they bring me a tremendous amount of joy. However, this doesn’t mean that everyone I have met so far has been a “keeper.”

As we all start a new year, it’s important to set goals for ourselves, try something new, change a bad habit, or create any other sort of resolution that we need in our lives. This year, I decided to skip the fad diet that I won’t stick to. Instead, I want to continue to explore what defines my own happiness so I can make the necessary changes. A big part of this has to deal with eliminating the people in my life that are bringing me down.

It’s important to evaluate all of your relationships and ask yourself how each one affects you and your happiness. It’s never easy to cut people out of your life, but in many cases it may be for the better. Maybe someone is holding you back or isn’t willing to make the necessary changes in their own life to grow and mature. You must respect yourself enough to say “no” to those toxic people who are demanding of your time and energy.

ten minutes ten months ten yearsIt’s not easy to admit, but I’ve allowed toxic people to be an important part of my life for longer than they deserved. I gave them too many chances and then, gave them “one more” so they could prove to me that I wasn’t making a mistake in doing so. Sadly, it was a mistake. Those chances only left me confused. How could a person I cared about disregard all of my kindness and continue on with their selfish and inconsiderate pattern? Once I realized that the problem didn’t come from my end, I was able to accept that sometimes a person needs to reach a certain point in their life on their own. Sure, I could have kept being supportive, but to what end? What difference did it make if I wasn’t really getting through to the person? I didn’t want to be disappointed anymore. I realized that my own happiness was more important. I decided that instead of being ever-so-willing to do favors for others that I needed to do the biggest favor of all for myself: take care of me. Allowing myself to let go of someone that I loved and wishing them nothing but the best was tough, but necessary.

Digging deep and coming to the conclusion that I needed to follow through with a difficult decision didn’t make me any less of the genuine person I have worked toward being. It didn’t make me stop being kind to others or even discourage me from helping those who need it. Instead, I felt like I had gained a new level of respect for myself. This year, I hope you not only succeed in all of the goals that you have set for yourself, but also take the time to really look at who enhances your happiness and simply let go of those who aren’t on that list.

Laci Radford is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Savage Branch and STEM Education Center. 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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you know when the men are goneNow, more than ever, American readers owe it to themselves to gain a deeper understanding of the emotional, psychological, spiritual, and social toll that war – and its after-effect has on U.S. military families.

In, You Know When The Men Are Gone, Siobhan Fallon’s exquisitely linked short story collection, eight distinct experiences, become ours as well:

Meg Brady, of 12A, has become obsessed with her neighbor, Natalya Torres, whose self-serving behavior and Heidi Klum beauty belie terrible secrets—some of which Meg cannot help, nor resist overhearing on the other side of their thin, shared wall. Frantic Ellen Roddy forgoes an imperative visit to her oncologist when she learns that her troubled fifteen-year-old daughter may have kidnapped her own baby brother. And a woman wants to go back in time when she stumbles on an email that could alter her life forever.

Drama and deployment are illuminated in You Know When The Men Are Gone, by first-time author, and army major wife, Siobhan Fallon.
Set on army housing at Fort Hood, Texas, these stories have a dynamic relationship, as characters you meet in one move through the pages of another—surprising, even shocking readers.
And although Fallon is not gender exclusive, her focus is indeed the wives: their intricate kinships and ability to steel themselves for everything from homework to gossip to military readiness is, at times, heart-wrenching.

But best of all, Fallon writes with amazing grace, capturing the fragility and resilience of an American culture sworn to protect us in the event of war.

Aimee Zuccarini

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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icecream-ipodHappy New Year, and welcome to 2015! Will the babies born this year be the start of a new generation, or will they fall into the growing cohort of “Generation Z”? What will define them? What qualities will they possess? How will the other generations view them? Should we even give a flying fig?

Believe it or not, it is that last question that interests me most of all. Yes, you read correctly; I am most concerned with whether or not we should “give a flying fig.” (Has she lost her mind? Is she recovering from too much New Year celebrating? Is she just desperately trying to fill blog-space?) Well, the last one may be a little true, but I assure you, for the most part, I am legitimately posing this question: Why are we so keen to label and define generations, and is there any validity or potential danger in doing so?

Don’t get me wrong; classifying certain periods of time, especially by some specific events that helped shape the way people lived during those times, is not without use. Even creating handy labels can make discussing a particular generation flow a little better. (Face it, it’s easier to say “The Lost Generation” than “people typically born between 1883 and 1900 who were disillusioned by the war.” Thank you, Gertrude Stein.)

It was The Lost Generation that seemed to really set the trend for naming generations in Western Civilization, particularly the U.S. After that, we have The Greatest Generation (born around 1901 through 1924); The Silent Generation, sometimes called Traditionalists, (1925 through 1942); the Baby Boomers (1943 up through the early 1960s); Generation X (early 1960s through early 1980s); Millennials (early 1980s through early 2000s); and Generation Z (which, at the moment seems to be anyone born in or after the late 1990s or early 2000s through the present. As with most generational labels, however, Z will be more clearly defined after some time has passed).

fast futureThese generational cohorts are interesting and the people born into them do seem to exhibit some shared characteristics (mainly defined by shared events that they’ve experienced, such as economic or political climate, or world events like war or technological advances). Books or studies that examine say, for instance, how many Millennials are comfortable with technology, having been born into it, and how this is affecting the world, like in Fast Future by David Burstein, seem useful, or at least interesting. Other media discussion of generations, some that even focuses on negatives, like the economic worries caused by the larger number of Baby Boomers retiring, as discussed in The Next America by Paul Taylor, also seem realistic, or at least measurable.

But is it fair or right or even healthy to make broad generalizations about someone born during a particular time period? Can we really assume that Millennials are entitled, that Gen Xers are cynical, that Boomers are workaholics, that Traditionalists are rigid rule followers? (On the flip side, we can’t assume that all Millennials value diversity, that all Gen Xers are self-reliant, that all Boomers are optimistic, or that all Traditionalist are loyal.)

the next americaI’m raising this issue now because 2014 seemed like the year of the “generation generalization” to me. I couldn’t go online without seeing something claiming that “Millennials are this” and “Baby Boomers are that.” I found all these claims upsetting for a number of reasons: 1. Many of the claims were less than flattering (Millennials are especially taking a hit, and that is a shame for any group, but especially for one just starting to make its way in the world); 2. I have friends and colleagues of all ages, and I don’t want them to be stereotyped or discriminated against because of age, nor do I want to be; 3. As someone born smack in the middle of the Gen X group, I remember the uncomfortable and stigmatizing feeling I had, particularly as a young adult, when I was “defined” as being shiftless and morbid and apathetic; and 4. Respectable thinkers, news organizations, employers, and many other surprising sources seem to be taking these generational descriptions a little too much to heart, to the point that it is causing some strife for young and old. (Plus, I believe it is irresponsible, lazy science. ←If you do nothing else, please click on this link; I love this article.)

Seriously, reading all these descriptions of how a certain generation is supposed to behave, what that generation values or not, and why that generation is often to blame for some world problems was really starting to upset me. Plus the consequences can be severe; generational biases can even lead to stereotype threat, which is kind of like self-fulfilling prophecies, but with the stereotype determining the action of the person or people being stereotyped. I kept wondering if my reaction to this was the result of too much social media exposure (that’s another topic for another time). So I began to look around and found, happily, that plenty of organizations, from the APA to the AMA, are acknowledging that these generation generalizations can be wrong, hurtful, and limiting. I’m sure that we can see the dangers of all the different kinds of stereotypes in the world and have long fought to dispel many of them.

My wish for everyone for 2015, myself included, is to begin to question all these generational generalizations as well. I think this should be the year that we try to banish any gross assumptions and start making our judgments one individual at a time, as we get to know each person.

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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Welcome to 2015! We’ve got a clean slate and 364 more days to achieve our new goals. So, what exactly are you hoping to do in 2015? I asked readers to answer the question: “What’s your New Year’s resolution?” Here’s what they said:

My New Year’s Resolution? Sure, I’d like to lose some weight, eat better, exercise more, learn some thing (or things) new, work harder, smile more, kvetch less… But really, I’d like to work on being kinder, a bit more patient, and a better citizen of the world. These should be my everyday resolutions. – Joanne

Training for and running my first marathon. – Anna

Gratitude. I want to be more grateful for my comfortable existence and appreciative of all the wonderful people in my life. – Cherise

Get married. – Jake
Eat Healthier. – Diane
Stay alive. – Rosalie

Touch it once! [An example:] Take off your shoes – and instead of leaving them in the hallway, put them away. – Tracy

Keep a Gratitude List. – Maryam

Say “no,” more often. – Monica S.

Play the piano, again. – Carolyn

Cook more! – Monica L.

Keep one resolution for the entire year – OK, maybe just until spring! – Nancy

I would like to be more creative for food. Why not meatball waffles? – TJ
Life is about milestones not the Government’s stamped bill. 2015 I plan to continue my exploration of my photographic passion. My focus will further my son in school and continue showing him school can be fun. And finally I want to further my relationship with my wife. Marriage will never plateau. – Matt
To turn 42 unscathed! – Stephanie
Travel. Always travel. – Beth
To have a kitchen. Oh wait… I’ll go with self-care. – Rachel

To unpack the boxes that have been upstairs for 6 months! – Megan

Walk. – Shirley
Clean out my basement. – Eileen

To work harder and be nicer. – Tim
To travel more! – Nik

I have signed up for “52 Weeks to an Organized Home” (I do well with lists), joined “One a Month Meals,” and developed a financial plan to help with [managing] my money better. My goal this year is to organize my life. Disorganization sucks time and energy. I am so lucky to have so many wonderful people in my life, I need to get [myself] together so I have more time and energy to spend with them. – Colleen
My resolution is no to never make any more resolutions! – Karl

To dis-assemble my “need to please” wiring and learn how to say “NO,” and be a more patient mommy too. – Sarah
Making resolutions is easy; following through is the hard part.

this year I willM.J. Ryan, author, notable publishing CEO, and business consultant, wrote a book about this difficult task of making lasting change in our lives. Her book, This Year I Will– : How to Finally Change a Habit, Keep a Resolutionor Make a Dream Come True (2006), is absolutely relevant today and more profound than I expected for a “self-help” book. Briefly and effectively, Ryan offers credible advice and insight to the struggles we have with achieving our goals via vivid anecdotes, explanations of the advances in neurological science, and sound, logical reasoning. Possibly one of the best “how-to” books I’ve come across in a while, this book will make you feel like change is not only possible, but achievable.

This book will help you understand what’s holding you back and give you the tools you need to “try, try again.” Motivation is gift, and there’s plenty of it in this title to give you a good push in the right direction- especially if you’re feeling a bit stuck, or overwhelmed by the resolutions you’ve set for yourself. If you’re doing pretty well and feel good about the direction of your life, this book will only help you find that spark of inspiration that you didn’t realize you were missing.

As for me, I think 2015 is going to be a year in which I do all that I can to explore, reinvent, and pay attention to what I need to maintain a wholly healthy life.

I hope 2015 is the year you drive change in your life for a better, healthier, happier you.

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

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