Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Great new titles in the "If you were me and lived in..." series: Scotland and Hungary

We are visited again by the wonderful series, “If you were me and lived in…” Today, I am reviewing two books featuring the countries: Scotland, a country on my bucket list to visit, and Hungary, a country with an interesting history.

First, Scotland is the northern third of Great Britain and has about 790 islands in the North Sea. The capital is Edinburgh and it is famous for its university of medicine, law, science and engineering. The book covers common names in the country as well as what children might call their mom and dad. We learn that the unicorn is Scotland’s official animal because it represents grace, purity, healing and happiness. Any book about Scotland would not be complete without learning about Loch Ness and its famous monster, Nessie. We also learn about some of the favorite dishes of Scotland, like porridge, tattie scones (potato muffins), cullen shink (a soup with haddock, potatoes, and onions) and of course, haggis. Children will learn about golf and how it was first played in 1457 in Scotland and the famous Highland Games with its traditional dress, events and music.

Second, children can learn about Hungary, a landlocked country in Central Europe. The capital of Budapest is actually three cities separated by the Danube River. Buda and Obud on the west bank and Pest on the east bank. Children learn about places to visit in Hungary like The Balaton, the largest lake in Central Europe and the Caves of Aggtelek filled with stalagmites, Readers will also learn about the famous dishes of Hungary such as goulash and menygyleves. Saint Stephen is celebrated in Hungarian as a hero as he was the first king of Hungary, crowned in 1001, he united the people. Children will learn that the famous Rubik’s Cube was invented in Hungary by Professor Erno Rubik in 1974.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. These books are great educational tools for any children’s library. It presents the information in a way that engages the children without giving any information that they wouldn’t be interested in. I highly recommend all the titles in the “If you were me and lived in…” series.

If you were me and lived in Scotland
If you were me and lived in Hungary

Are available on Amazon in paperback for $9.99

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Death with Dignity: a view of both sides

The story of Brittany Maynard has re-sparked the debate of the choosing the time of our deaths. She was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and given six months to live. Brittany moved to Oregon in order to use the state’s Death with Dignity Act. She died on November 1, 2014 just 18 days before her 30th birthday. I’m on the fence with this debate. I feel so conflicted that I can’t make a decision. I see too much of both sides. Currently, Washington and Vermont have laws similar to Oregon’s. I will discuss Oregon’s law as well as the pros and cons of physician-assisted dying. During my research, I found long lists of pros and cons. I will focus on the top 3.

Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act legalizes physician-assisted dying with certain restrictions. Under the law, a competent adult who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, which will take the patient’s life within six months, may request in writing from his or her physician, a lethal dose of medication with the purpose of ending the patient’s life. The law is voluntary and must be initiated by the patient. Once the request has been made, a physician will review the request and the patient’s medical records. It must be determined that the patient is free of any mental condition which could impair his or her judgment. A second, oral request is made before the prescription is written. The law protects doctors from liability and also states that the patient’s decision cannot effect his or her “life, health, or accident insurance or annuity policy.” The law also allows doctors, pharmacists or healthcare providers to refuse to participate if they have moral objections.

The first item on the pro list is the end of pain and suffering of the patient. I have seen patients who were dying of cancer and I could see they were in pain. If a person knew the pain they would be in at the end, would that person not have the right to avoid such pain? The second item on the pro list is a person should be allowed to die with dignity without fear of losing their physical or mental capacities. I also have seen individuals who were at the end of their illnesses who were not the same person. One person comes to mind. At the end of her illness, she was not herself and I know she wouldn’t want to be remembered like that. Lastly, patients can arrange their final goodbyes. Who wouldn’t want to say goodbye on their own terms?

The first item on the con list is doctors can mistakes about prognoses and patients may be ending their lives sooner than necessary. There are countless stories of patients given a few months to live who go on to live a few more years. Prognoses are often educated guesses. Second, pain and suffering can be relieved through palliative care. Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses with no cure intended. Palliative care is similar to hospice care. The focus is providing relief and the goal is to improve quality of life. A team of doctors, nurses and other specialists provide care. Lastly, doctors aiding in dying violates the Hippocratic Oath of “first do no harm.” Could the “first do no harm” be applied to helping a patient find relief in death? Could prolonging the inevitable be doing harm to the patient?

In conclusion, for me there are still a lot of questions. I know that many people cite religious beliefs for reasons against death with dignity. There are seven documented suicides in the Bible and each one is not condemned in the text. It is my belief that only God knows what is in someone’s mind and heart (Psalm 139:1-2). Only He knows someone’s true motives. I don’t know what I would do if I faced a prognosis as Brittany Maynard did. I know I would focus on my bucket list and saying goodbyes but I don’t know if I could take a lethal dose of a medicine. I do know that I cannot condemn those who chose to end their lives.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Another adventure for Anthony Ant!

Anthony Ant goes to Egypt by Julie Bettendorf is a delightful exploration of Egypt. Anthony Ant arrives in Cairo and meets up with Babu the beetle. Together they explore Egypt. They ride on camels, see the giant pyramids and the Sphinx. They explore the bazaar, a marketplace, where a wide variety of items are sold, such as blankets, rungs, and spices. Anthony Ant and Babu visit the museum where they see the mummies and the riches they were buried with. Next, they sail down the River Nile and see many of the temples along the way. Lastly, they go snorkeling in the Red Sea where they see beautifully colored fish and coral.

Anthony Ant goes to Egypt is a wonderful exploration of Egypt. The information is presented in a way which will appeal to children and engaging them in learning about the country. I highly recommend this book for any family and classroom library.

Anthony Ant goes to Egypt
Is available on Amazon
In paperback for $14.95
And on the Kindle for $2.99

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Passive-agressive behaviors: how to recognize them and how to deal with them

Have you ever gotten a sweet-yet-scolding comment? A comment that makes you stop and think “was that a compliment or an insult?” You may be dealing with a passive aggressive personality. While I researched this topic, I recognized a few behaviors I’ve been guilt of in the past. I realized that passive aggressive behaviors are common especially when someone feels powerless and needs to regain that power. I found something interesting in my research. Passive aggressive behaviors are significantly correlating with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator results of Introverted (I), Intuitive (N), and Perceiving (P) personality types. The questions I asked myself were how are passive aggressive behaviors developed? What types of behaviors occur? And how do can we effectively deal with such behaviors?

Passive aggressive behaviors develops in childhood with our parents. Parents who enforce strict rules and consistently put down, shout at or ignore the child. This can lead to a child learning repression rather than expression of their emotions, thoughts, ideas and opinions. When a child isn’t encouraged to express their emotions, they bottle it up. They learn to fear speaking out in case they are met with rejection or conflict. Essentially, passive aggressive behaviors stems from trying and failing (in the child’s eyes) to please his or her parents. When a person bottles up their emotions, they learn different, non-verbal and indirect ways of channeling true feelings. This secretive behavior leads to resentful feelings that stems from trying to keep people happy. They appear docile and accommodating while finding ways to covertly carry out desires and express their emotions.

There are three main types of passive aggressive behavior. First, the intentional ineffectiveness is the approach to doing a task with laziness and subtle mistakes intentionally in order to aggravate someone. For example, a boss gives a task to an employee who doesn’t like the task. The employee will then do the task enough to anger the boss but well enough to not receive any punishment. This behavior essentially gives a person a sense of power and satisfaction in a powerless situation. Because who is willing to say to the boss "no, I won't do that?" Second, intentional lateness and forgetfulness is when someone will exaggerate characteristics he or she knows someone hates. For example, if a friend is constantly being nagged for being late, that person will take control by deliberating being late. Lastly, sulkiness occurs when someone becomes sullen, cold and withdrawn instead of putting up a fight. It’s the use of the phrase “fine, whatever” when someone doesn’t want to do something but won’t stand his or her ground to avoid doing it.

You now recognize passive aggressive behaviors, how do you deal with them? First, don’t take the behaviors as a personal attack and don’t feel guilty. Passive-aggressive behavior is often a defensive mechanism which has nothing to do with the person who is on the receiving end and more about the person who is committing the behavior. Second, be patient, refuse to play their games and avoid tit-for-tat behaviors. Continuing the cycle of passive-aggressive behaviors will only escalate and make the situation worse. Third, let the person simmer and calm down before approaching the real problem. A real solution usually cannot be reach when someone is angry. The best course of action is to let the person calm down and allow them to be able to think rationally. Then a possible solution can be reached without any hurt feelings. Lastly, talk about it. Be frank, open and blunt but show respect for someone’s emotions, ideas and thoughts. Ignoring the behaviors isn’t going to make the behaviors go away. If the behaviors bother you, confront them and discuss the real source of the behaviors.

In conclusion, if we are honest with ourselves, we realize that we all have committed passive-aggressive behaviors from time to time. Sometimes we can’t help ourselves when it feels better to seek revenge than confront the person who made us angry or annoyed us, etc. However, passive-aggressive behaviors are not healthy and hurts us more than we realize, leaving us with resentment and bitterness. If you are not willing to confront the person with their behavior, you need to let it go. Don’t let it fester and build up. If you experience passive aggressive behaviors, confront the person with their behaviors, sometimes I’ll bet, they weren’t even aware of what they were doing. The number one, most important key to any healthy relationship is communication. Open communication can stop more angry fights and arguments than we probably realize. I know it may sound easier said than done, but believe me, it is worth it.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Two new titles in the When I grow up, I want to be... series

Wigu Publications has released two new titles in their wonderful When I grow up I want to be… series. In this series, children are introduced to different careers. Today, I have two new titles to introduce to you.

First, in the U.S. Army, Jake must do a report about what he wants to be when he grows up. He’s unsure about what that is. His dad decides to take him to an army surplus store where Jack learns about the U.S. Army. The book explores the history of the Army which began as the Continental Army in 1775. Jake learns about the Army’s uniform, the different stars, stripes which indicate rank, the patches which indicates unit and specialty. Jake also learns about the different jobs available in the Army such as doctors, nurses, lawyer and firefighter. He also learns about the service ribbons and medals that are rewarded like the Purple Heart, the Silver Star and the Medal of Honor.

Second, a Veterinarian, Sofia wants a pet of her own but her mom says no. One rainy night, she finds a stray cat and the family takes her to the vet, Dr. Helen. Dr. Helen tells Sofia and her family all what a vet does for animals. There are vets for household pets, farms and ranches, and zoos and wild animals. Sofia also learns about the school training that a vet must go through to earn his or her degree. The most popular pet is the cat and dogs were the first animals to be domesticated. Sofia also gets a lesson in what it takes to be a responsible pet owner.

Both books are great introductions to different careers for children to explore. The information provided is fun, engaging and educational. I highly recommend these titles and the other titles in the series for any family or classroom library. Children will enjoy reading about the different careers that are possible for them when they grow up.

When I grow up I want to be…in the U.S. Army
When I grow up I want to be…a Veterinarian
are available on Amazon in paperback for $12.95
and on the Kindle for $2.99

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Alcoholism: a disease which touches so many

I have a love-hate relationship with alcohol. I am not a big drinker. I do enjoy a rare cocktail. My favorite drink is Rum and Coke but I don’t seek out the alcohol and often times I will turn down a drink. I am a child of alcoholics. My mom is a recovering alcohol who has seen her life turned upside down because of her drinking. She has come a long way and is currently working to help others end their alcoholism. My dad has not been able to end his drinking. Despite his consistent reassurances that he has, I know when someone is drunk by their voice. Because of this, we do not have a relationship. Alcoholism is a chronic and progressive disease with involves problems controlling drinking, the preoccupation with alcohol and the continued use of alcohol despite health issues. Alcoholism isn’t just a drinking problem. It becomes a life or death problem.

The symptoms of alcoholism are:

  • Unable to control amount of alcohol. An alcoholic can’t have just one beer or one glass of wine. They will drink until the whole case or bottle is gone and often without realizing that they have drank so much. 
  • Strong need to drink. This need is constant and irresistible urge. Thoughts of getting a drink consume everyday activities and the person will not have relief until he or she has a drink in the hand. 
  • Develop tolerance which leads to the need of more alcohol to feel the same effect.
  • Physical withdrawal symptoms when not drinking (i.e. nausea, sweating, and shaking)
  • Experience blackouts
  • Keeps alcohol in unusual places (i.e. in the bathroom, in the car, or at work)
  • Legal problems, relationship issues, unemployment or financial issues due to drinking
  • Loss of interest in activities and hobbies that you once loved. 

The causes of alcoholism have been researched and debated. The consensus is that alcoholism has genetic, psychological, social and environment components. It makes sense that someone who has parents and even grandparents who were alcoholics can be predisposed.  Is it a solely genetic or a combinations of the components? I think alcoholism a mixture of the social and environment components with interaction with the mental state of an individual. The risk factors of alcoholism are: 1) steady drinking overtime due to stress or an escape mechanism, 2) age at which someone begins drinking. The earlier someone starts, the higher the risk of alcoholism, 3) family history, and 4) social and cultural factors, if drinking is a part of parties and other gatherings, an individual would be more likely to drink.

The health complications from alcoholism are widespread. The most common health issue is the development of various liver aliments such as liver disease, cirrhosis and fatty liver. Alcoholism also can lead to digestive problems such as gastritis and pancreatitis. It can contribute to various heart ailments such as enlarged heart, heart failure, high blood pressure and stroke. There are hosts of other complications that alcohol can contribute to: diabetes complications (i.e. hypoglycemia), sexual and reproductive issues (erectile dysfunction in men and menstruation issue in women), eye problems, birth defects (i.e. mental retardation, organ defects, facial malformations, and impaired growth), neurological complications (i.e. dementia and short term memory loss), weakened immune system and a higher risk of cancer. Of course, death. Alcohol related deaths are the third leading cause in the U.S. In 2012, 31% of driving fatalities were alcohol related.

For me, alcohol isn’t worth it. The host of health and social problems that can arise is just not worth the alcohol. I suppose it is easy for me to avoid alcohol for various reasons: 1) majority of alcohol is not gluten-free (although manufacturers are now coming out with gluten-free options, 2) I simply don’t like how alcohol tastes or how it makes me feel and 3) alcohol is very expensive. I understand that for some people, the pull of alcohol is often too great. If you or someone you know needs help with alcohol, there are countless of organizations which can help. Alcoholics Anonymous ( is the most well-known. Look for your local organizations for more information and help. The first step is begins with you.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Lucky 7 Show: a story of working together

The Lucky 7 Show by Mary Jo Wisneski Johnston and illustrated by Richa Kinra is story about resolving problems through collaboration. It takes place in a seven-sided barn where seven entities want play. A plan must be created to make everyone happy.

The story opens with the reader meeting Muscatino Rattuti the Great, aka Musky, a gray wood rat who discovers a seven-sided barn which is perfect to store all his treasures. But he isn’t the only one who wants to use the barn. Together with the weathervane horse, Musky come up with a solution so that everyone can use this amazing barn?

The motto of the story is collaborate, maximize, optimize and be successful. The story is presented as a magical fantasy which is meant to entice readers to “further research animals and their behavior, flight principles, games and game theory, social studies and geography, mechanical principles, music and art” (background information for the book). The Lucky 7 Show was an interesting story with beautiful illustrations and a wonderful lesson of working together.

The Lucky 7 Show is available on Amazon
in hardback for $20.95
in paperback for $14.95