Saturday, January 30, 2016

Library Loot #4 and Lulu's Library # 5


Caldecott Award winner and bookmaking trailblazer Brian Selznick once again plays with the form he invented and takes readers on a voyage!

Two seemingly unrelated stories--one in words, the other in pictures--come together. The illustrated story begins in 1766 with Billy Marvel, the lone survivor of a shipwreck, and charts the adventures of his family of actors over five generations. The prose story opens in 1990 and follows Joseph, who has run away from school to an estranged uncle's puzzling house in London, where he, along with the reader, must piece together many mysteries.

I took this out because we own (and love!) The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and we've read Wonderstruck. Hugo was very good; I did 't care much for Wonderstruck (nor did my little guy), but this one is FANTASTIC!! I'll be picking up a copy for us to keep. We are definitely looking forward to Brian Selznick's next literary creation! 



(all images from

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Myddfai Reiki: Coping with Depression (from Amy Poehler's Smart Girls site)

Out Comes The Sun: Coping with Depression

Out Comes The Sun: Coping with Depression

Depression is a nasty bugger. It’s sneaky, showing up when you least expect it. It’s humorless, draining your days of laughter. It’s a liar too– it convinces you that things might never get better, that whatever you are going through just won’t ever end. It’s tricky, making you feel like you won’t be understood. Depression has a way of making you feel like you are all alone, that no one is going to understand you, and even worse, no one is going to be able to help you.
Depression is a jerk. Depression is not your friend.
Sometimes depression is circumstancial. It may come from grief over something or someone you have lost, or from your plans and goals being messed with, or a heartbreak you just didn’t see coming. Sometimes it doesnt even have a cause. Sometimes it’s just a part of your life, showing up uninvited, for no good reason. It doesn’t matter what caused it, it just matters that you believe it wont last forever.
In an article for NPR, David Yeager, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, says, “It doesn’t help that stressed-out teens often fall into hopelessness. When kids have hard things happen to them, they think it’ll be like that way into the future.”
“What if we could convince kids that things can change for the better — would that help mitigate the high rates of depression?” Yeager tested that out. The results of his latest study, published in Clinical Psychological Science, suggests that it does. The study divided 600 ninth-graders into two groups. Half participated in a brief intervention program designed to help them understand that people and circumstances can change. These teenagers were shown several articles, including one about brain plasticity, and another about how neither bullies nor victims of bullying are intrinsically bad.
“We didn’t want to say something to teenagers that wasn’t believable,” Yeager says. “We just wanted to inject some doubt into that problematic world view that people couldn’t change.”
The sun will come out
Depression is that little black rain cloud that Winnie the Pooh sings about, floating over you and casting a melancholy shadow over your days. When you’re stuck under it, it’s incredibly hard to remember that depression is a thing that is happening to you,  it isn’t you. The sun will come out, and it will look like the faces of your family and friends, it will look like love and support and kindness.
If you or someone you love is currently struggling with depression, there are lots of resources and ways to reach out to get the help you need. Contacting your doctor, a parent, a teacher, a friend, someone you trust and feel safe around to discuss how you are feeling is a wonderful first step.

Resource list for websites and hotlines:
Image credit: Unsplash | Pixabay

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Ellie's Kitchen: The Health Benefits of Knitting

I know I said I had planned on the 'Ellie's Kitchen' segments to be foodish, but knitting is so cozily domestic, I thought this fit better here than in 'Myddfai Reiki.' I am currently recovering from strep throat, an ear infection, and minor surgery; my husband and sons are also all sick with various forms of ear-nose-throat-chest yuk...I think we all need to sit down and knit. (I just started a scarf for my sister who pointed out that even though she has about ten winter scarves, I made one for our mother, but not her, and SO.....)

The Health Benefits of Knitting

Credit Paul Rogers

Personal Health
Jane Brody on health and aging.

About 15 years ago, I was invited to join a knitting group. My reluctant response — “When would I do that?” — was rejoined with “Monday afternoons at 4,” at a friend’s home not three minutes’ walk from my own. I agreed to give it a try.
My mother had taught me to knit at 15, and I knitted in class throughout college and for a few years thereafter. Then decades passed without my touching a knitting needle. But within two Mondays in the group, I was hooked, not only on knitting but also on crocheting, and I was on my way to becoming a highly productive crafter.
I’ve made countless afghans, baby blankets, sweaters, vests, shawls, scarves, hats, mittens, caps for newborns and two bedspreads. I take a yarn project with me everywhere, especially when I have to sit still and listen. As I’d discovered in college, when my hands are busy, my mind stays focused on the here and now.
It seems, too, that I’m part of a national resurgence of interest in needle and other handicrafts, and not just among old grannies like me. The Craft Yarn Council reports that a third of women ages 25 to 35 now knit or crochet. Even men and schoolchildren are swelling the ranks, among them my friend’s three grandsons, ages 6, 7 and 9.
Jane E. Brody with a blanket she created.Credit
Last April, the council created a “Stitch Away Stress” campaign in honor of National Stress Awareness Month. Dr. Herbert Benson, a pioneer in mind/body medicine and author of “The Relaxation Response,” says that the repetitive action of needlework can induce a relaxed state like that associated with meditation and yoga. Once you get beyond the initial learning curve, knitting and crocheting can lower heart rate and blood pressure and reduce harmful blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
But unlike meditation, craft activities result in tangible and often useful products that can enhance self-esteem. I keep photos of my singular accomplishments on my cellphone to boost my spirits when needed.
Since the 1990s, the council has surveyed hundreds of thousands of knitters and crocheters, who routinely list stress relief and creative fulfillment as the activities’ main benefits. Among them is the father of a prematurely born daughter who reported that during the baby’s five weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit, “learning how to knit preemie hats gave me a sense of purpose during a time that I felt very helpless. It’s a hobby that I’ve stuck with, and it continues to help me cope with stress at work, provide a sense of order in hectic days, and allows my brain time to solve problems.”
A recent email from the yarn company Red Heart titled “Health Benefits of Crocheting and Knitting” prompted me to explore what else might be known about the health value of activities like knitting. My research revealed that the rewards go well beyond replacing stress and anxiety with the satisfaction of creation.
For example, Karen Zila Hayes, a life coach in Toronto, conducts knitting therapy programs, including Knit to Quit to help smokers give up the habit, and Knit to Heal for people coping with health crises, like a cancer diagnosis or serious illness of a family member. Schools and prisons with craft programs report that they have a calming effect and enhance social skills. And having to follow instructions on complex craft projects can improve children’s math skills.
Some people find that craftwork helps them control their weight. Just as it is challenging to smoke while knitting, when hands are holding needles and hooks, there’s less snacking and mindless eating out of boredom.
I’ve found that my handiwork with yarn has helped my arthritic fingers remain more dexterous as I age. A woman encouraged to try knitting and crocheting after developing an autoimmune disease that caused a lot of hand pain reported on the Craft Yarn Council site that her hands are now less stiff and painful.
A 2009 University of British Columbia study of 38 women with the eating disorder anorexia nervosa who were taught to knit found that learning the craft led to significant improvements. Seventy-four percent of the women said the activity lessened their fears and kept them from ruminating about their problem.
Betsan Corkhill, a wellness coach in Bath, England, and author of the book “Knit for Health & Wellness,” established a website, Stitchlinks, to explore the value of what she calls therapeutic knitting. Among her respondents, 54 percent of those who were clinically depressed said that knitting made them feel happy or very happy. In a study of 60 self-selected people with chronic pain, Ms. Corkhill and colleagues reported that knitting enabled them to redirect their focus, reducing their awareness of pain. She suggested that the brain can process just so much at once, and that activities like knitting and crocheting make it harder for the brain to register pain signals. More of Stitchlinks findings are available at their website.
Perhaps most exciting is research that suggests that crafts like knitting and crocheting may help to stave off a decline in brain function with age. In a 2011 study, researchers led by Dr. Yonas E. Geda, a psychiatrist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., interviewed a random sample of 1,321 people ages 70 to 89, most of whom were cognitively normal, about the cognitive activities they engaged in late in life. The study, published in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry & Clinical Neurosciences, found that those who engaged in crafts like knitting and crocheting had a diminished chance of developing mild cognitive impairment and memory loss.
Although it is possible that only people who are cognitively healthy would pursue such activities, those who read newspapers or magazines or played music did not show similar benefits. The researchers speculate that craft activities promote the development of neural pathways in the brain that help to maintain cognitive health.
In support of that suggestion, a 2014 study by Denise C. Park of the University of Texas at Dallas and colleagues demonstrated that learning to quilt or do digital photography enhanced memory function in older adults. Those who engaged in activities that were not intellectually challenging, either in a social group or alone, did not show such improvements.
Given that sustained social contacts have been shown to support health and longevity, those wishing to maximize the health value of crafts might consider joining a group of like-minded folks. I for one try not to miss a single weekly meeting of my knitting group.

Thought for the day...

I found this on Facebook, and knew it was meant to be shared:

"We are not here on Earth to be alone, but to be a part of a living community, a web of life in which all is sacred. Like the cells of our body, all of life is in constant communication, as science is just beginning to understand. No bird sings in isolation, no bud breaks open alone. And the most central note that is present in life is its sacred nature, something we need to each rediscover and honor anew.
We need to learn once again how to walk and breathe in a sacred universe, to feel this heartbeat of life.
Hearing its presence speak to us, we feel this great bond of life that supports and nourishes us all.
Today's world may still at times make us feel lonely, but we can then remember what every animal, every insect, every plant knows and only we have forgotten: the living sacred whole."
—Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee
Photo :unknown

The Sacred Feminine for Life shared Working with Oneness's photo.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Myddfai Reiki: Feeling Lost? Even Non-Believers Can Find Peace in Prayer...from Care2

Feeling Lost? Even Non-Believers Can Find Peace in Prayer

It’s a challenge to “learn” how to hope. There’s no recipe, no map. And yet, that’s what my psychiatrist told me to do when I confessed that, late at night, the only thoughts that could pacify my staunch sense of hopelessness were those of death and self-harm.
I tried counting backward from 500; listening to talk radio; cross-stitching images of taxi cabs by LED candlelight. Still, the self-loathing, the fear, the emptiness could not be muted. I came to feel as if I was living on a respirator — that my life was somehow forced, unnatural.
Then one night, without even thinking, I whispered aloud: “Please, God, help me.”
This was a strange occurrence, because even though what I said felt quite natural at the time, I identify myself as an atheist: I believe it far more likely that mankind would invent a god than that such a deity might actually exist. Yet I found myself not only praying, but also feeling it was the right thing to do. Suddenly, the need for morbidity faded away. I slept, and slept soundly.
The discord of it all hit me hard me in the morning: Why would a person who doesn’t believe in God engage in a behavior that seems so strongly to indicate otherwise? Perhaps, I thought, belief is like shrapnel embedded in one’s skin; if a person grows up believing in God, she can’t ever truly be rid of long lost convictions. Prayer, then, is a habit we return to in times of stress, like smoking or gorging oneself on junk food. I simply needed a fix — something that didn’t leave ashes or crumbs dusted along my sheets.
But that remains, in my mind, a hollow excuse. After speaking with my old rabbi and a favorite philosophy professor, in addition to reading essays by various theologians and psychologists, I came to understand that prayer isn’t just a regularly programmed appeal to God for health, wealth and an end to world hunger. As psychotherapist Michael J. Formica writes, “prayer is the setting of an intention; it is not a plea, but a resolution.”
From a psychological perspective, prayer is understood in two ways: God is either something outside ourselves to whom we turn as our lives are governed by forces over which we have no control, or God is something inside of us that acts as a touchstone and reminder of who we really are and what we really value. In other words, when we need answers, we either look to whatever or whoever is “out there,” or we call to that which is already within — what some refer to as the divine Self.
The latter understanding of prayer is what most resonated with me; I didn’t feel as if I plead for someone else to step in and manage my discouragement, but that I was asking, perhaps even telling myself to learn how to cope and to hope. Something about that act felt holy, as I was addressing something — call it my spirit or my subconscious — that was more aware of my abilities, what I was capable of, than I could ever possibly be when distracted by pain. I was having a kind of conversation with a stronger, more compassionate version of me.
That sense of speaking to someone who’s not technically (or physically) there is also one reason why people such as atheists might be drawn to prayer: There is statistical scientific reason to believe that when people pray, they feel as if they are engaging in social interaction. If this is the case, it makes sense that depressed or vulnerable individuals might find comfort in what the brain recognizes as a valuable personal exchange. After all, even if one doesn’t believe in God, that doesn’t minimize a very deep-seated need to feel connected to others. If one is deprived of that need, she — or, rather, I — might search for a way to feel like I’m not alone, and that whomever I’m speaking to truly cares for and supports me because that entity truly knows me as I am. (It sounds a bit like therapy, doesn’t it?)
In the end, what I find most amazing is that it’s the person who does me most harm — the one who thinks I’m weak and stupid and forever lost — whom I ask for help. And, in turn, it’s that same person who offers peace, understanding … and the blessing of a good night’s sleep.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Cleansing and Cleaning

My latest post for the SageWoman Magazine blogs.....

Cleansing and Cleaning: Normally as we approach Imbolc I am thinking ahead to growth and rebirth: setting goals, planning gardens, asking how I can change and improve aspects of myself or my life. Not this year. With two people in my house fighting strep throat, one recovering from a stomach virus, and another knocked flat by an upper respiratory infection, the last thing...