Tag Archives: health

What are you hiding under your pillow this week?

This week (September 26th-Oct 3rd) marks  the 28th annual celebration of Banned Books Week.

bannedbooks_readout.lg_horizInterested in knowing what books have been challenged this year? Check out Robert P. Doyle’s Books Challenged & Banned in 2008-2009: Speak Read Know. Doyle compiled the list based on reports from the Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom, and you might be surprised at what some parents and schools are willing to consider unfit for adolescent eyes.

Among the list are classics, like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird. Other titles are new to me, but surprising just the same. Take Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, a book about a young boy who leaves his Indian reservation to attend an all-white school. A host of awards supports the book as credible and critical for young adults (2007 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature and the National Parenting Publication Gold Winner 2007 to name just two), but the book was challenged because it mentions masturbation.

Okay, fine. But I’m curious if those same parents who challenged many of the award winning books on Doyle’s list are the same parents who dropped their 12 or 13 year old off at the cinema to watch Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (PG-13 for sexual material) or rented Step Up 2 for their 14 year old’s slumber party (PG-13 for “suggestive material” and really skimpy outfits)?

Then, there are the books I wish I’d read when I was young, like Esther Drill’s Deal With It!: A Whole New Approach
to Your Body, Brain, and Life as a gURL
This book reveals everything every girl wants to know, and needs to know, about her body’s evolution into womanhood. At sixteen years old, my high school friend innocently misinformed me (and embarrassed me) about the natural workings of my own body. She had no idea what she was talking about. I doubted her information, but I felt too ashamed to ask anyone else, until I was well into my thirties.  Esther Drill’s book was challenged at a Community Library close to my home. The book was thought to be “worse than an R-rated movie,” as if educating young girls about their own biology is obscene.

I don’t want my daughter to grow up in the dark.

Read the list. Find out what books have been challenged in your area, and why. If the library won’t let you borrow it, then buy it. The book they ban is most likely the best book on the shelf.

Dirt Roads and Pine Trees

Up north, where the paved highway gives way to old asphalt then gravel and finally dirt, tall northern pines grow in height and mass.

I took a walk through the woods this weekend, alone, searching for quiet or at least reprieve. And, I noticed my view of the woods changes on a given day, depending on the state of my mind.

Sometimes, the pine trees look menacing to me, like barriers closing in. My mind fills with what if’s and I rummage through contingency plans for escape. Other times, the trees stand tall and open. They guide me up towards the clear blue sky. I follow their trunks down to forest floor — soft in its layer upon layer of pine needles and moss, and protective with its offerings of shade and shelter and periodic sun beams throughout.

How can I see the same picture in such extremes?

Depression is so subtle.It settles quietly, and I don’t notice until it lifts.

I made my way through the woods, through shadows from trees and deep sand in the dirt road. I kept looking down to find my footing. My head swelled. Until, finally, there was a break. An opening. The sun. And a one lane bridge built precariously over a small stream.

I stood there, on the bridge, for several minutes, unwilling to turn back. I held my breath and burned the image into my brain: water over rocks, bees on flowers, the sun. The clearing.

The Science of Writing

I came upon this article from Real Simple Magazine the other day, where Jonah Lehrer writes about the science of thinking. He mentions indecision, which leads to panic, which I relate to well:

  • I can’t decide what I want to cook for dinner (because, really, I don’t want to cook dinner). Then, the kids ask the dreaded question: what’s for dinner? I panic.
  • I fall into half an hour of quiet time. For twenty minutes, I consider the pros and cons of doing this, that, or the other. Then, I realize I have ten minutes left to start and finish whatever I decide. I panic.
  • I want to insert a third bullet here, because I think three is better than two. But, I can’t decide which anecdote fits best. Oh, boy.

With interest, I read Mr. Lehrer’s 10 tips to streamline my thinking and rid me of constant doubt. At one point, he suggests I “consider alternative points of view.” So I did.

I re-read his article through my writer’s eye and honed in on a few correlations between the science of thinking and the science of writing:

He says, “Tap your emotions.”
My writer’s mind translates, Don’t just regurgitate them into a journal, channel that resentment or frustration or elation into a good story.

He warns, “Don’t think under pressure.”
My writer’s eye twitches. Pound out and publish that blog post too quickly, and you’ll spend the rest of the night in bed staring at the ceiling, in a panic.

He suggests, “Be skeptical of your memories.”
My writer’s mind preaches, If working on a “he said, she said” memoir, start wearing a wire. Even if your brain falters, your digital recording won’t.

He encourages, “Go ahead and daydream.”
My writer’s brain fantasizes, Write like you’re getting paid for it.

He advises, “Think about thinking.”
My writer’s head nods, Write about writing.

Then, my writer’s eye squints, And get back to rewriting that novel, missy.

The new debate.

I live in a northern state, where summer only lasts a month or two. Where I feel like a lizard come march, scurrying from sunbeam to sunbeam while the air is still cold. And, I mourn at the first site of falling leaves in early August.

I’ve heard living here puts me at high risk for vitamin D deficiency. We simply don’t get enough sun, they say. Or maybe it’s that we don’t get outside enough. Could be my high-carb diet doesn’t leave space enough for vitamin D to take root.

Whatever the reason, this article brings the vitamin D deficiency debate to the forefront. And, like the egg debate, no one can quite decide if it’s good or bad, if statistics are true or false, or whether or not we should run to the nearest Vitamin Shoppe.

I’m a pessimist when it comes to health and statistics or research on what I should eat or avoid. I live in the city. I’m not a self-sufficient farmer growing all my own in organic soil, raising free-range chickens or grass-fed cattle. I assume I’m ingesting all sorts of carcinogens that filter out all the good stuff.

I never know what to do when the current “breaking news” hits my screen. I read it, but unless I win the lottery soon or come into a large plot of land and the equipment to work it, I’m stuck. Stuck shopping at the large chain grocery stores that buy corporate farm products and factory processed meats and sell them at a discount that I can’t afford to ignore.

Sure, I can run out and buy a load of vitamin D. I hear it’s cheap right now. Maybe I should run out and buy in bulk, before the pharmeceutical companies hone in on the critical levels of deficiency. But, as soon as I get home and unpack my boxes of D, I’ll open my laptop and read another article about another study that suggests everyone got a little too excited the first time around.