DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!

October 2015

Oct 30 2015

Free Floating

by Dea Anne M

I am four or five. Maybe I’m six–memory, always slippery at best, becomes more so with time. We are visiting my South Georgia grandparents for the summer and in a few days we’ll be celebrating July 4th on St. Simons Island. There will be cousins to play with, a picnic dinner, the beach (which I already love passionately) and, best of all, us kids get to stay up late, past 9:00, and see fireworks! Like most kids I know, I imagine an exotic, secret world that bursts open after I am asleep–a world that only adults know about–and I have never seen fireworks before. I’m excited in that jumpy, can’t-stop-talking way so familiar to parents everywhere. Then someone, an aunt or maybe even my adored grandmother, speaks the awful words.

“There’s supposed to be a strong chance of rain that day. We need to make some other plans in case we wind up staying at home.”

In an instant, I feel overwhelmed–almost crushed–by the plain fact that it might, possibly could, rain and ruin what was promising to be one of the most thrilling and enjoyable days of my life. Normally an optimistic and happy child, I am starting to display a bent for the dramatic reaction particularly when confronted with anything perceived as “unfair.” The feeling is entirely sincere and, some of the time, embraces a wider scope than my own pleasure and concerns, but it’s a trial to my parents nonetheless and probably to anyone else within earshot. I know all of this and yet I can’t help myself. I start shedding anxiety like a skin that keeps growing itself and shedding all over again. I am verbal, highly so, about my distress. What I want, what I need, is for someone to assure me that all will be well–that it will, in fact, not rain on the Fourth of July.

Children are often prone to worries and fears, really as much so as adults. I think some adults do have an unfortunate tendency to dismiss childhood fears as silly or merely something to outgrow as quickly as possible.

“There’s a monster under your bed? Wait’ll you have a mortgage and two car payments! Now, go to sleep.”

“Olivia and Caden don’t like you? Well, just be yourself! Besides, in ten years’ time, you’ll have forgotten their names.”

alligatorOf course, that monster is as real as can be–to your young self–and ten years might as well be forever when tomorrow morning, yet again, you’ll have to face the school bus and your classroom where Caden and Olivia loom large.

The parents in Mercer Mayer’s There’s An Alligator Under My Bed don’t believe there is an alligator because they, of course, “never saw it,” so the resourceful young hero devises his own plan of action. This includes luring the creature to the garage with food, including the last piece of pie. I find the story and the illustrations charming (as I do with almost all of Mayer’s work) and I think this book will help children, especially very young ones, confront their own fears and worries.

scaredFor older children, James J. Crist’s What To Do When You’re Scared and Worried can help with all sorts of fears and concerns ranging from concrete worries about bullying, to social anxiety, and phobias.

Tools include journaling and behavior modification exercises, as well as advice to parents about when it might be time to consult an expert. Recommended.

 

I am in my late twenties, living in a shared house with roommates who hate each other, and working at a job that I am convinced is going to kill me with stress. I start waking up in the early morning hours convinced that I’m somehow not living life the way I should. I’m desperately unhappy and yet I don’t know what I need to change. Live alone? Move to San Francisco? Quit the job and just see what happens or look for something else and hope for the best? I feel trapped inside my circumstances. One morning at 4:00 a.m., I wake up with my heart racing and unable to take a full breath and nearly paralyzed by fear. 

“I have to do something,” I whisper aloud. 

I start the yoga relaxation exercises I had learned years before–until I can breathe again. Then, I get out of bed and practice yoga postures until I feel stronger. A month later, I’ve found an apartment and moved out. (Fortunately, the year lease is up and the house’s owners want to sell.) Three months later, I quit the job and I am fortunate enough to find another in a short time. 

I’ve always been a worrier and anxiety has reared its head often in my life. My partner told me recently, “You know there’s a new study that theorizes that people who worry or overthink are likely to be creative geniuses.” “Wow,” I thought to myself. “I could have formulated the Theory of Relativity or written Valley of the Dolls.” This despite the plain fact that I was born too late for either accomplishment, but well… it could have happened.

monkeyI sound flippant here and I don’t mean to be. Anxiety is no laughing matter, though DCPL carries two titles that, in part, depict the humorous aspects of extreme worry. My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind by Scott Stoessel and Daniel Smith’s Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety are both very readable, and often hilarious, memoirs through which fellow sufferers (or those who love them) may find some perspective at least.

yogaAs far as my own anxiety control is concerned, yoga remains a mainstay. Yoga Therapy For Stress and Anxiety: Create a Personalized Holistic Plan to Balance Your Life by Robert Butera, Erin Byron and Stefan Elgelid is a good place to start your exploration of the time-honored practice. The Chemistry of Calm: A Powerful, Drug-Free Plan to Quiet Your Fears and Overcome Your Anxiety by Henry Emmons is another source that emphasizes movement, nutrition and meditation to help calm the over-busy brain.

“It doesn’t matter,” he says. “In the end, it doesn’t matter at all.” Speaking is a friend of mine of many years standing and much beloved. He has survived a long battle with depression and anxiety with the help of therapy and medication and his own persistence. He’s in a slump right now but I have known him long enough to understand that this one is relatively minor, and quiet support and empathy will do more good than jokes or dismay. He has driven me nearly crazy many times through the years, but honestly, I think he’s one of the bravest people I know.

The title of this post is something of a misnomer. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is the accepted designation today for what Freud called “free-floating” anxiety. In very basic terms, it is worry or anxiety unconnected to events or a specific life situation (although it can seem to be). Very few of us enjoy lives free of care–and certainly, I think there are transitional modes of being or feeling that are part of the human condition and that can teach us a great deal if we allow it. Remorse comes immediately to mind. Generalized Anxiety Disorder, however, can be debilitating in the extreme. If that is your situation–and it has been going on awhile or threatens to become all-consuming–then I would urge you to seek out all the assistance and support that you can. Life is too fragile and precious for anything less.

{ 1 comment }

Oct 26 2015

Traditions, Myths and Superstition

by Camille B

Photo of Green CloverI was working as a cashier at a grocery store some years ago when I had the strangest reaction from a customer while ringing up her items. When her final total appeared on the screen, she inhaled sharply like someone had pinched her. When I turned to look at the screen, sure enough her purchases had come up to, you guessed it, $6.66. She promptly turned to the candy rack behind her and added a pack of gum to change the offending numbers. Then, with everything right in her universe again, she walked out of the store looking satisfied, or was it relieved?

The gentleman in line behind her was shaking his head as he placed his items on the counter. I didn’t ask him why, but I figured it was either because he couldn’t make sense out of what he’d just witnessed or he simply didn’t believe in it–luck, karma, jinxes, call it what you will.

According to an article on WebMD titled The Psychology of Superstition, more than half of Americans admitted in a poll to being at least a little superstitious. Says Dr. Stuart Vyse, PhD and author of Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition“Superstitions provide people with the sense that they’ve done one more thing to try to ensure the outcome they are looking for.”

The list is endless for the things that people do, worldwide, to either ensure good luck or ward off the bad–black eyed peas to ring in the new year, throwing rice on the bride and groom, no opening of umbrellas in the house, 7 years of bad luck for broken mirrors–the list goes on and on. Here is A List of Good Luck and Bad Luck Superstitions that includes many we’ve probably heard of at one time or another.

Maybe you don’t think you’re superstitious, you’re much too level headed and practical for that. The WebMD article notes:

Intelligence seems to have little to do with whether or not we subscribe to superstition. …On the Harvard campus–where one would assume there are a lot of intelligent people–students frequently rub the foot of the statue of John Harvard for good luck.”

“Wanting more control or certainty is the driving force behind most superstition. We tend to look for some kind of a rule, or an explanation for why things happen.”

And, as Dr. Vyse explains: “Sometimes the creation of a false certainty is better than no certainty at all, and that is what most research suggests.”

I honestly believe that we are more superstitious than we may think. I believe in the positive placebo effect–if you think something will help you, it may do just that. There is “power in belief.”

So, you may not consider yourself superstitious. You’re not likely to walk around the neighborhood avoiding every crack in the sidewalk for fear of breaking your mother’s back, or avoid step ladders and black cats at all cost, but you may knock on wood for luck, dash a pinch of salt over your shoulder before you eat, or check your horoscope on a daily basis–things that have become more habitual and ritualistic to you than superstitious.   Black Cat

For some, it might be that you’re more of a traditionalist than you are superstitious. Habits, rituals, and customs you hold dear–they have been handed down to you through culture, family or religion and have become a part of who you are. You wore something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue at your wedding. You always bake cookies and let the kids leave them out for Santa. Or, the guys always come over to your house for the Super Bowl.

And what about those traditions we keep but we know not why?

The story is told about a young girl who was one night helping her mother prepare the Christmas dinner. She suddenly turned to her mother and asked the reason why they always cut the end of the ham off before putting it in the pot to boil. Her mother thought about this for a minute and said:

“Honey, you know I don’t know, go and ask your grandmother, it’s the way she always cooked it and that’s how I do it now.”

So the girl went to ask the same question of her grandmother: “Grandma, why do we cut the end of the ham off before we boil it?” The grandmother frowned a while, and finally said:

“You know dear, I don’t know the exact reason, I got if from Nana, that’s how she used to cook it. I guess you’ll have to go ask her.”

Finally, the girl went to her great grandmother hoping that she was finally going to get her answer. “Nana, why do we cut the end of the ham off every year before we put it in the pot to boil?”

Nana smiled her toothless smile and said:

“Oh girl, one Christmas many years ago we were getting ready to boil that ham and realized it was way too big to fit in the pot, so we had to cut the end off to get it to fit.”

And that’s tradition for you. Some things we hold dear to us and cherish for very specific and sentimental reasons; others we met in place and follow because it’s what we know, what’s been passed down to us through the years and as such have become sacred.

Sometimes it’s a myth or legend, passed down through the years and retold so many hundreds of times, the lines between truth and reality have become blurred and entwined. Even though the logical part of our brain tells us this simply can’t be true, a teeny part of us still wants to believe in Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster, Atlantis, and the Bermuda Triangle. (Yes, maybe they are true!)

Finally, you may not identify with any of the above–you’re not one who is overly superstitious nor are you a traditionalist (and let’s not get you started by mentioning the word Yeti), but do you at least hold on to some favorite token or item that you figure brings you luck or good fortune? Grey’s Anatomy Doctor McDreamy wore his favorite ferryboat scrub cap while performing his surgeries. What do you use for your mojo? I know there must be something–a lucky penny perhaps or that special pencil you always use when you take your exams? Could it be that red rag you keep at the back of your sock drawer or maybe the rabbit’s foot hanging from the rearview mirror of your car? Whatever it is, I bet you that you’re not alone.

These were some of the items I discovered at DCPL while doing research for this post on the topics of myths, legends, superstitions and traditions.

Why People Believe Weird Things and The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer

Don’t Sing Before Breakfast, Don’t Sleep in the Moonlight by Lila Perl

Wisdom Tales from Around the World by Heather Forest

{ 0 comments }

Oct 19 2015

Ann Rules Indeed

by Hope L

annrulesAnn Rule wrote 30 New York Times bestsellers, all of which are still in print. I, for one, think she really does rule. Unfortunately, the prolific author died July 26, 2015, at age 83. She had her first bestseller in 1980 with her book about serial killer Ted Bundy.

It may not be the first of Rule’s books that I’ve read, but The Stranger Beside Me definitely is the one that scared me the most and was the most memorable. I think it was the personal connection that Rule had to Ted Bundy that made that book unique and incredible–that, and of course, the subject matter of Ted Bundy, a serial killer whom most of us have heard about.

More recently, I read her book about Gwinnett County dentist Bart Corbin, Too Late to Say Goodbye: A True Story of Murder and Betrayal.

Ann Rule was once a Seattle police officer, and that’s why her writing seems so authentic, so mesmerizing. Right now I’m reading Every Breath You Take: A True Story of Obsession, Revenge, and Murder, and she fleshes out the myriad of details and somehow puts everything into a fascinating  account. Allen Van Houte, the criminal in this book, is truly unbelievable–and she recounts with incredible heartbreak the many people whose lives he ruined.

Bundy

I’ve read a lot of true crime books, and I’d have to say that Ann Rule is right up there at the top of my favorites. She would write forewords to her books that spoke to readers like they were friends, often inviting them to drop her a line or an email.  Indeed, Every Breath You Take was written after Rule received a request from a fan who said that her sister wanted Rule to write her story should she ever die tragically (at the hands of her then ex-husband).

Click here to see what’s available by Ann Rule at DCPL.

{ 2 comments }

The world is full of awards for literature—the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, the Edgar Allan Poe Award—but a recent conference introduced me to one I had not been familiar with before.

Named after a child born with cerebral palsy, the Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award is given every other year to the authors and illustrators of books, written for children and young adults, that show an accurate portrayal of individuals with developmental disabilities.

The award-winning titles feature characters with a range of disabilities, from Autism or Down Syndrome to intellectual disabilities that cause trouble in school.  The authors give us good stories with a lot of heart and help us genuinely empathize with the characters.

A few books I had read and loved previously went on to win this award:

scarA Small White Scar by K. A. Nuzum

In the summer of 1940, all Will wants to do is get away.  He’s sick of working the family ranch, sick of his father holding him back from what he wants to do, and sick of taking care of his twin brother, Denny, who has Down Syndrome.  But when Will decides to run away to compete in a rodeo, Denny follows.

 

The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowdlondon

Salim got on the London Eye Ferris Wheel—his cousins Kat and Ted watched.  But when the ride stopped a half hour later, Salim was nowhere to be found.  The police can’t find him, but Kat and Ted, making use of Ted’s unique way of viewing the world, are on the case.

rememberRemember Dippy by Shirley Reva Vernick

Johnny planned on enjoying his summer, but a change in his mom’s plans means he has to stay with his aunt and take care of his older, autistic cousin, Remember.  Will a pet ferret and the weather channel be enough to save Johnny from complete boredom?

 

The Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award is a collaboration between the Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities, the Council for Exceptional Children, and the Special Needs Project.  For more information about the award, and a full list of winners, click here.

{ 0 comments }

Oct 9 2015

Meru vs. The Holiday Inn

by Hope L

meruI have written previously here about adventurous sports like mountain climbing, ultra-marathons and cross-canyon treks.

But when I saw the film Meru (which won the Audience Award at Sundance) over a weekend at the Midtown Art Cinema, I thought, “Oh, come on now!”

Narrated by one of my favorite authors, Jon Krakauer (who knows a few things about mountain climbing), the film follows the pursuit of three climbers to summit the thus far unattainable Himalayan peak Meru. (Click here to see the movie trailer featured at The Guardian.)

Now, when I read and blogged about Krakauer’s and other climbs of Mount Everest, I thought surely that must be the ultimate challenge. Hardly. Meru sort of makes Everest look like the Holiday Inn.

I’m exaggerating, per usual, but watching these guys in their ledge bivouac, dangling precariously and waving in the sheer winds of an ice storm, having first lugged their equipment up the straight vertical cliffs (no sherpas in their right minds would work here), fighting frostbite and avalanches in a quest to perch atop a single “shark fin” protruding from this massive rock–well, let’s just say they wrote the book on crazy.

But almost running out of food and fuel has to be the last straw. It’s not like they have Papa John’s on speed dial up there.  I mean, even at the bottom of the Grand Canyon you can get a meal in a restaurant!

No, although the views are breathtaking at the top of the world, I fear my only involvement in extreme sports will have to continue to be outlasting the green-haired Generation X-er on the Stairmaster next to me at the gym.

And oh, does that make me happy!

Mammoth Book of Eyewitness EverestBut undoubtedly I will be reading more about Everest soon, inspired by the new movie with Jake Gyllenhaal.  There’s nothing better on a chilly day (or a hot one) than reading inside in a comfy chair (or sitting in a climate-controlled theater) while the crazy people in freezing, life-or-death adventure-dramas do their thing.

Use this link to find more books at DCPL about mountaineering and Everest, including The Mammoth Book of Eyewitness Everest edited by Jon E. Lewis, with 32 firsthand accounts.

Note to self: Stock up on hot chocolate and popcorn!  It’s going to be a COLD winter!

If you want to view the trailer for Gyllenhaal’s film, see: Everest – Official Trailer (HD) – YouTube.

{ 2 comments }

Oct 7 2015

On eBooks and the Printed Page

by Arthur G

Ever since the very first Kindle slipped from Amazon’s amorphous think tank and into our homes and our lives, publishing industry experts the world over have been sounding the dirge of the printed book. For over a decade, these voices have rung loud and true over a variety of media outlets, and while not all were convinced that the bound book would go the way of the dinosaurs, this debate had nonetheless forced a divide in the publishing world, with clear-cut Pro-Print and Pro-Digital sides locked in eternal battle, united only by a common enmity.

That may sound a little melodramatic, but I must confess to being a tad fed up with this same old tired song. While I admit a learned bias in favor of “old school books,” when ensnared in a good read, I couldn’t care less if I was holding an electronic device, a musty hardback, or a clay tablet in cuneiform. But I understand the many vocal opinions on this matter, which is probably what hooked me when Alexandra Alter of The New York Times recently published an article discussing the apparent decline of eBook sales and the tentative reemergence of printed materials. After giving some background of the anticipated “digital apocalypse” that never came, Alter casts cold water on the once widely held view that bound book sales were in permanent nosedive. The article is a good read, with loads of enlightening statistics and well worth a look, but I’m still bothered that it carries the same Manichean, all-or-nothing attitude forever coloring the eBook/printed book conflict.

Here at DCPL, we offer a collection of eBooks and audiobooks through OverDrive  and EBSCOhost, in addition to the many printed books we offer our patrons. Reading eBooks or printed books shouldn’t be an either-or proposition–there’s room for both, as long as they keep people reading. A love of lifelong learning can be nurtured in any format, whether digital, bound, or audio.

I would love to hear other thoughts on the eBook vs. regular book debate, and whether you have a personal preference for one or the other.

{ 1 comment }

There is so much available on our library website. I’d like to discuss the RSS feeds with you today. They are listed on the right side of the DCPL homepage. One recommendation I make to patrons all the time is to check out these feeds, which are updated every Wednesday, to find out about new items at the Library. There are also feeds for popular reads currently available in the system–with no waiting. We have a feed for everyone!

Below are some examples of what DeKalb County Public Library offers when following RSS feeds.

New Adult Fiction

New Adult Nonfiction

Great Reads, No Waiting

Great DVDs, No Waiting

New Adult DVDs

New Young Adult Fiction Titles

New Juvenile Fiction Books

If you have a book club or want to have a movie night, the feeds for Great Reads, No Waiting or Great DVDs, No Waiting can provide the perfect option! If you see items of interest, but all of the copies are already checked out, you can make a request for a Hold to receive the next available copy. (See the information about Holds on Materials on this page.)

I hope you have a chance to check our RSS feeds out and let us know what you think!

{ 0 comments }