raindrops rollThere is something about summer and water. Rain water, ocean water, pool water, all kinds of H2O. One of the miracles of the natural world, and an essential requirement for life. One in nine people lack access to safe water. Howard County residents are fortunate in our easy access to clean, refreshing water, lying within the watersheds of two major tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay. We all appreciate the beauty and the science behind the water cycle, and its importance to our well-being.

With lyrical words and striking images, April Pulley Sayre celebrates rain.”Rain plops. / It drops. // It patters. / It spatters.” From the beginning of a storm to the return of the sun, this splendid presentation reveals the wonder of water. Short, rhythmic lines, often only two words but rhyming or alliterative, are set one to a page against an amazing photograph. Sayre’s close observations, many in an ordinary garden, will lead readers and listeners to look closely at her photographs and at the world around them. Insects shelter from a shower; drops cling to flowers. There are tiny reflections in the globules. Raindrops bend down grasses, highlight shapes and band together. Some of the pictures harbor secrets. Preschoolers can appreciate the poem and pictures, but older children will appreciate the facts in the concluding “Splash of Science,” going on to describe “Raindrops Inside You,” connecting the reader to the water cycle.

June and July offer us many opportunities to enjoy rain storms from the safety of our balconies, decks, and front stoops. Celebrate the return to earth of the clean, safe water.

all the water in the worldLots of picture books introduce young children to the water cycle, but few have such an infectious beat and eye-catching illustrations as this title, which begs to be read aloud. “Where does it come from? / Water doesn’t come. / It goes. / Around. That rain / that cascaded from clouds / …then slipped into rivers / and opened into oceans, / that rain has been here before.” Children encountering the scientific concepts for the first time may need help understanding how, exactly, Thirsty air…licks…sips… guzzles water from lakes and oceans. Little ones will respond immediately to the noisy, delicious sounds and rhythms in the words as well as the kinetic energy in the beautifully put together digital illustrations. Playfully arranged type adds to the visual fun while giving cues for the reader. On the final spreads, a mothers hair swirls into a wave of water that becomes a joyful spiral of living creatures, all reinforcing the simple, profound message: our lives depend on water.

The water cycle is a great way to expose young children to science in a fun way. HCLS has a variety of experiment books for all ages.

bringing the rain to kapiti plainVerna Aardema’s illustrated retelling of a traditional Kenyan folktale is reminiscent in rhythm and repetition of The House that Jack Built. The illustrations are evocative of African artwork, stylized and dramatic. This tale of a shepherd shooting a hole in the clouds to water his herd is lighthearted in its delivery, but it also conveys on a child’s level the trouble that dry seasons can bring to a poor farming community. This is good for children growing up in a wealthy industrialized society where clean water is available at the turn of the tap. Stories like this one may open their understanding to the fact that other people do not have access to the resources they take for granted. Grownups will remember this as a Reading Rainbow book.

Take a swim, wade in a stream, stroll in the rain, appreciate the bounty of nature- just don’t take the book into the pool.

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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road trip snacks

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9 Healthy Snack Tips for Your Summer Road Trip

Summertime means road trip time! Here are some great ideas to fight off those snack attacks, and keep your energy up, too!  Plan your snack pack before you hit the highway to avoid unhealthy fast food stops and remember that a small insulated cooler is a must have.

  1. It’s A Wrap! Sandwiches can add protein and hearty grains to your diet. Keep wraps made with meat and cheese or hummus or veggies in a cooler.  Other options, like peanut butter and jelly on whole grain, can be kept at room temperature.
  2. Keeping It Cool: Yogurt. Whether it’s in a tube, made into a low-fat smoothie or mixed with fruit or granola, keep these road trip snacks in the cooler. It’s great snack for kids and adults.
  3. Hot On The Trail. Make trail mix at home that keeps well in a storage container with a lid.  Combine granola, raw nuts, seeds and dried fruits. Add a few dark chocolate chips for sweetness or wasabi peas for spice!
  4. Healthy Can Be Gouda, Too: low fat cheese, string cheese, single serve cottage cheese or cheese cubes. There are many low-fat cheeses, or soy or nut-based cheeses for those who are lactose intolerant. Prep cheese slices at home before and toss in the cooler. Pair with your favorite crackers you portion ahead of time, making it “snack-friendly” for the car.
  5. Dip It! Veggie Style. Fresh veggies can be sliced and stored in an insulated cooler. Road trip choices include cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, broccoli florets, cucumbers, celery and snap peas.  Add peanut butter or hummus as a dip to add good fats and protein, too.
  6. Energy Bars….Sweet! Replace those candy bars with an energy or granola bar. Protein and fiber, now that’s a healthier choice.
  7. Fruits, For Sure. Trip-friendly fruits that have been washed and sliced at home are a quick go-to from the cooler. Grapes and berries are finger-sized already. Others can be cubed and stored in containers, or eaten whole.
  8. Thirst Quenchers. Healthy beverages kept on ice are really nice on the road. Water, seltzer, 100 percent vegetable and fruit juices are the way to go.
  9. Go nuts! Craving crunchy? Pistachios, almonds, walnuts, whatever your favorite nut may be. Or go for sunflower or pumpkin seeds, air popped popcorn or rice cakes.
Karen Sterner is special events coordinator at Howard County General Hospital. She is an experienced traveler, having taken many road trips with her family.

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bettyvilleOf all the books you may want to avoid reading on the harrowing topic of old age, dementia, and caring for an elder parent, don’t let Bettyville be one of them. George Hodgson, an editor at Houghton Mifflin, had just about reinvented himself as a New Yorker, when his mother, Betty, began failing. Believing he could return to his boyhood home in Paris, Missouri and quickly get her situated, Hodgson could not have been more confounded. While there, his job was phased out and his mother was rejected from assisted living. No longer would the willful, capricious, and fiercely defiant Betty drive to bridge games, church choir, or the local beauty parlor. That would become Hodgson’s new full-time job – along with staving off Betty’s encroaching dementia.

Ragged scenes of frustration, fear, and sadness envelop them both. But, equally, there are Hodgson’s beautifully rendered memories of feeling loved – not only by both parents, but the small town of Paris as well. The fact that he was a gay son who never had “the talk” with either one did not diminish that love either.

Hodgson’s monumental commitment to his mother, Betty, continues to this day. Lucky for many of us (facing Hodgson’s same future), that he found the inspiration for this small gem.

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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Saturday, June 20, 1:00 p.m. Family Collaborative Art calendar_2015_blogat Glenwood BranchLooking for a creative outlet as a family to create a lasting keepsake together? Explore the paint resist method and collage techniques to create a family masterpiece on canvas board. Taught by Abrakadoodle Art instructors. Families (ages 3-12 & up with family); 60 min. Register online or by calling 410-313-5577.

Saturday, June 20, 2:00 p.m. Doc McStuffins’ School of Medicine at Savage Branch. Explore being a doctor through stories, songs, and activities. Bring your favorite stuffed animal or toy for a special check-up. Ages 3 & up; 45 min. Well & Wise event. Tickets available at Children’s Desk 15 minutes before class.

Monday, June 22, 2:00 p.m. Reptiles: Diversity in Scales at Glenwood Branch. Examine the diversity in and behavior of the Reptile Class with Richard Anderson from The Snyder Foundation for Animals. The class explores human activity and its negative consequences on the natural environment and on reptiles. More than 60 specimens are used to demonstrate reptile diversity. Participants may have the opportunity to touch some of the specimens. Arrive early and you might see a very large turtle walking around the library. Ages 5 & up; 60 min. Register online or by calling 410-313-5577.

Monday, June 22, 2:00 p.m. Super Science: Aerodynamics at Central Branch. Explore simple science concepts through hands-on activities with food and other items such as paint, playdough, and Borax. 45 – 60 min. Tickets available at Children’s Desk 15 minutes before class.

Wednesday, June 24, 7:00 p.m. Hands Only CPR & AED at Glenwood Branch. You could save a life! Learn about cardiac arrest, how to recognize it, 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). Ages 9-18; 60 min. Well & Wise event. Register online or by calling 410-313-5577.

Saturday, June 27, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. $50. Essentials in Babysitting will give you skills to manage children, create a safe environment and apply basic emergency techniques. Held in the Howard County General Hospital Wellness Center. Registration required.

Saturday, June 27, 9 a.m.-Noon. $50. Women’s Self-Defense for ages 16 and up. Learn and practice effective, easy-to-learn techniques. Held in the Howard County General Hospital Wellness Center. Registration required.

Monday June 29, 3-6 p.m. Free. Family Hearing and Vision Screening for ages 6 years to adult. Includes adult glaucoma screening. Bring eyeglasses if you wear them. Held in the Howard County General Hospital Wellness Center. Registration required.

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blissEric Weiner spent many years as a foreign correspondent for NPR, and in that time visited many of the world’s countries. His travels frequently took him to decidedly unhappy places – or at least, people in unfortunate situations. A self-admitted “grump”, Weiner decided he would embark on a quest to find the happiest places in the world and, of course, write about it in his book The Geography of Bliss. Beginning at the World Database of Happiness in the Netherlands, Weiner checks out a list of the happiest countries in the world, statistically. His journey takes him to Switzerland, Bhutan, Qatar, Iceland, Moldova (the unhappiest nation in the world, to see what the opposite of happiness looks like), Thailand, Great Britain, India, and ends in America.

How can happiness be measured? According to Ruut Veenhoven at the World Database of Happiness, “you can’t be happy and not know it. By definition, if you are happy, you know it”, and so, you simply ask people how happy they are (p. 12). According to the research, the happiest person ever should be an extroverted optimistic married religious-service-attending educated busy Republican – as people who meet each of those criteria are happier than those on the opposite end of each spectrum. If that doesn’t describe you, well, no worries! The science of happiness seems to be rather subjective. Plus, there’s “reverse causality” (basically the real term for “what came first the chicken or the egg?”): are happy people more likely to be extroverted/get married/go to church/take on more work/etc or does the factor in question make them happy? Well, that isn’t really the question Weiner set out to answer (and it probably isn’t definitively answerable, anyway), he was more concerned with where and why people are happy. The answers to both questions – as much as they can be answered – were not what Weiner expected. None of the usual suspects predict happiness level, not diversity, equality, wealth, income distribution, or climate. Some things are obvious: basic needs must be met (you need food and shelter, for example), and you need enough income to fulfil those needs and not feel stressed, but beyond that… Weiner spent a whole book looking for that answer.

So, what is it? In the end, happiness is a complicated equation. It’s a careful balancing act: add a bunch of culture, some family and friends, a dash of money, a big helping of gratitude and trust, remove envy and excessive thinking. Weiner’s chapter titles give us some insight into his quest; happiness is: a number, boredom, a policy, a winning lottery ticket, failure, somewhere else, not thinking, a work in progress, a contradiction, home. Weiner asks interesting questions and uncovers some interesting approaches to happiness from all over the world. If happiness research piques your interest, The Geography of Bliss will provide you some intriguing food for thought. It’s also an excellent book for group discussion, complete with questions provided by the publisher.

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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lung cancer symptoms, screening

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According to the National Institutes of Health, “Lung cancer is the most common type of cancer in both men and women, and the majority of these cancers are directly linked to cigarette smoking.” Lung cancer is more prevalent in smokers; however, non-smokers can also get lung cancer. If you are suffering from a chronic cough, recurring pneumonia or bronchitis, shortness of breath, or have a cough that produces blood, you should see your physician.

Smokers often disregard their cough as “a smoker’s cough” and do not seek a diagnosis until the cancer is advanced. Also, some patients in their 30s and 40s falsely believe they are too young to have lung cancer and ignore their symptoms.

In addition to smoking, risk factors for lung cancer include:

  • exposure to radon
  • secondhand smoke
  • certain chemicals or asbestos
  • a family history
  • or previous radiation to the chest.

Many people think that lung cancer is a death sentence, but, when caught early, a combination of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery can significantly increase your chances of a cure. The key is to catch the cancer in its early stages through screening.

New Screening
If you are age 55 to 80, have smoked in the last 15 years, or are currently smoking and have a 30-pack-per-year smoking history, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends you receive an annual low-dose CT scan. This test allows us to see lung cancer in its earliest stages using much less radiation than a traditional CT scan. This screening has saved many lives and is available at local imaging facilities with a prescription from your doctor.

Here to Help You Quit
Cigarette smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer. In fact, nearly 90 percent of lung cancers in the United States are linked to cigarette smoking. Even if you have smoked for many years, quitting now can still significantly reduce your risk for developing lung cancer. If you are looking for help to quit smoking, join the Howard County Department of Health Tobacco Cessation Program or call 410-313-6265.

In recent years, many people have been turning to e-cigarettes as a substitute for tobacco cigarettes. E-cigarette users should keep in mind that the safety of electronic cigarettes has not been adequately studied (nor demonstrated). Formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, has been shown to be an inhaled vapor of e-cigarettes.

Francis Chuidian, M.D., is a pulmonologist with Johns Hopkins Community Physicians Pulmonary Medicine in Columbia.

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10662095145_08f4655cb6_zI’m ready for summer. Are you? My youngest son is the only one in my family still in school, so I feel a bit guilty each morning when I have to wake him up. His last day of school isn’t until June 19! The other night, though, it was my daughter who woke me up because she was not feeling well. I felt her head, and sure enough her forehead felt warm. Then came the tough part—finding a thermometer, or should I say, a working thermometer. I was able to find two thermometers, but the batteries were dead. Luckily (or so I thought), I remembered that I had sent each of my oldest kids off to college with a first aid bin that included a thermometer. I asked my daughter and my oldest son to find the bin that had their first aid stuff in it. Both of them answered simultaneously, “ I don’t know where that is. I never used any of that stuff. Are you sure you gave it me?” Finally, in the back of the cupboard in the bathroom I found a temporal artery thermometer, which I had a vague recollection of buying. We were not sure if this thermometer was working, but my daughter’s temperature registered almost four degrees higher than mine, so I felt it was safe to say she had a fever. She was also complaining that her neck was bothering her. I started Googling her symptoms and discovered a plethora of possible illnesses, most very unlikely.

I called my sister, who is a nurse, and she said, “It’s probably important to make sure you get a thermometer that you can count on.” As my kids would say “Thanks, Captain Obvious!” In my defense, I thought I had a working thermometer. My sister also reminded me of the risks of trying to diagnose an illness based on information I found on the internet. She told me to call my daughter’s doctor for a professional opinion.

The doctor thinks my daughter’s infection may have been caused by a bite she had gotten on her foot earlier that day in the grassy area at the pool. Anytime you are outside, you are at risk for infection. Most of us spend more time outside in the summer months than we do during the rest of the year. There are things we can do to keep safe and healthy. After all, we survived a long, cold winter– we deserve to enjoy the warmer weather.

Biting and stinging insects come out in force in the summer months. Most bites are harmless and cause only minor discomfort, but some bites can carry disease. One of the things we can do when we are going to be outdoors is to wear insect repellent. It’s prudent to keep your legs and arms covered as much as possible if you are going to be near wooded areas and grasslands or if you are going to be outside at dawn or dusk, when insects are most active. It’s also smart to remove insect breeding grounds, such as standing water, from around your home and to keep your garbage tightly covered. Everyone should get in the habit of carefully checking for ticks after being outdoors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lyme Disease is the most commonly reported tick-born disease in the United States. You can find more information on bites and stings here. You can also check the library for books on Lyme Disease. If you develop a fever or skin rash, please call your doctor.

If you do get bitten it’s a good idea to have some items in your first aid kit to treat any bites, stings, or skin inflammation. Some of the things to include in your kit are: a flat edged object to remove stingers, tweezers, an instant cold compress, antiseptic wipes, calamine lotion, antihistamine cream, an assortment of bandages, aloe vera gel, and of course, a working thermometer! Make sure you have one kit at home and one kit in the car or to pack in your suitcase. Now is a good time to check your first aid kit(s) and replace any used or expired items. A more comprehensive list of essentials to have in your first aid kit(s) can be found here.

Hopefully, the only temperature above 98.6 degrees that will need to go down this summer is the temperature outside. Have a safe, healthy, fun-filled summer everyone!

Editor’s Note: Please consult your family physician when experiencing symptoms of illness or discomfort. In case of emergency please call 911.

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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