Posts tagged ‘health’

Teen Life Issues: Book Ratings

Movies are rated.  Video games are rated.  But books are not rated.

While a few books might have a “14 and up,” recommendation on the back cover to indicate reading level, nothing indicates whether the actual content of the book is appropriate –or totally inappropriate–  for a given age group.  We all know kids who read at a 14-year-old level when they are eight.

And even these barely-helpful “14 and up” reading-level indicators, if they are used, are almost hidden, on the back of the book, in small type.  Is this responsible publishing?

Whose responsibility should book ratings be:  publishers? parents? public schools? independent reviewers?  Right now, we have nothing.

Unless you are so diligent that you take the time to read multiple reviews (assuming there are some) on the latest book your child’s reading, you will have no clue whether the content of the book is great for your child, or whether the content of the book exposes your child to explicit sexuality, gore, profanity, or political propaganda.  Yikes!

Book ratings are on my mind today because my third grade son brought home a book from school last week.  It was called “The Haunting of Derek Stone.”  My son received the book as a prize for having turned in his homework for twenty days in a row.  We started to read it together.  It was lively, engaging, and a little bit scary, but not too scary, on day one.

The next day, we read on.  Yikes!  The book introduced the young main character to his dead brother’s body, being possessed by a long-dead spirit.  The possessed corpse could not bleed.  It set rats on fire.  It did not recognize its own family.

My son said he didn’t want to keep reading.  Hallelujah!  Me neither!

Out of curiosity, I scanned most of the rest of the book on my own.  I ran into attempted murders, mild gore, lots of fear-of-death stuff, and spirits possessing other bodies, and legions of the dead attempting to kill the living.

I was horrified.   And I’m no third grader.

I threw that book in the trash can.  Not that it wasn’t well written, imaginative, and free of sex, explicit gore and profanity.  It was.  But it was way too scary for a kid.  I don’t want to rush his childhood.  It angers me that some books are marketed as innocent, kid-worthy reading, but they are so scary.

My 12-year-old stepdaughter told me the plot of her favorite book series, the “Hunger Games” series.  I asked her what they were about.  She told me the whole book (okay, the first two books) in great detail. I wanted to stop her after the first five minutes of her narration.  Guess what?  The entire premise of that book is kids killing other kids.  Did you read that?  Killing children!

I don’t care that there’s a noble twist that tries to make the child-killing morally acceptable (the main character enters the killing game to save her sister from entering it).  I don’t care that the main character tries to save another little girl while she’s there, killing others.  I don’t care that the more reprehensible children in the killing contest, lose.  I don’t care that in the second or third book, they kill the president of their country –and thus halt the killing games.  Too little, too late.

The fact remains: children are being depicted killing children, in a book marketed to children.

The time has come for book ratings.  Critics of book ratings will say lots of things, like “literature is complex and cannot be boxed into a “G,” “PG,” “PG-13,” “R,” or “X” rating system.

But a simple rubric could help us navigate better books for kids.  It could include phrases like “contains explicit violence” or “uses more than one burst of profanity” or “depicts sexually active characters.”

Gone are the days when we can assume that the latest Scholastic book your kid brought home is okay.  A book rating system is long overdue.

The Link Between Optimism and Survival in Life

Is there a link between optimism and survival?

In Flashes in the Night , a brand new book about the survivors of the 1994 sinking of the ship Estonia, author Jack Nelson writes about the thin line of endurance that can separate life from death.

When the Estonia sank in the Baltic Sea between Estonia and Sweden, only 137 out of 989 passengers survived.  What made the difference between survival and death in that freezing, terrifying place?  Nelson asked that question in interviews with many of the survivors.

The answer was the inner determination and tempered optimism of individuals.

“One factor is determination to make it, and the other is optimism without being overly optimistic,” Nelson said.  With bitter-cold waves washing over them, a voice that survivors identified as Mr. Positive reassured everyone they’d be rescued. Yet, Mr. Positive died after four hours.

“Many people on the Estonia just gave up. Some went into shock, sat down, and waited for their fate. But those who decided they would endure no matter how long it took were more successful at living,” said Nelson.

Interestingly, a 2008 study from the University of Michigan found that optimism played a role in cancer patients’ management of pain and fatigue. Patients who were more optimistic tended to report less severe pain.  And a 2005 study from the University of Miami found that self-reported well-being was a strong predictor of years of survival for the 163 breast cancer patients studied.  (Personality and social connection were also survival prediction factors.)

But in The Longevity Project, a research project and book by Howard S. Friedman and Leslie R. Martin, optimism was not found to necessarily extend life; Friedman and Martin’s study found key longevity traits (barring accident and disease) to be prudence and persistence.

What do these studies and stories mean, taken together?

I don’t know.

But I like being around the optimists that I know, much better than I like the pessimists, and I like myself better when I am thinking positively.

I love the creed of the International Optimists Club. (Did you know there was an international Optimists Club?)  Their creed is long, but here’s a portion of it:  (to read the whole creed, go to )

  • Promise yourself to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
  • Talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.
  • Think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only   the best.
  • Be as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about  your own.
  • Forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements.
  • Give every living creature  you meet a smile.

One of America’s classic public addresses on optimism was given in 1974 at Brigham Young University by Gordon B. Hinckley, who said:  “I am asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still our voices of … sarcasm…  I am not asking that all criticism be silenced… What I am suggesting… is that we turn from the negativism that so permeates our society and look for the remarkable good… that optimism replace pessimism, that our faith exceed our fears.”

The speaker, a great optimist, actually lived to be 97 healthy years old.



Is Stress Keeping you From Living a Healthy Life?

Stress is something we all have to deal with at one point or another in our lives. Whether it’s family problems, co-worker friction, kids, or just a full schedule, stress is hiding around every corner. It seems like stress is the cause of so many conditions — not sleeping well? You’re probably stressed. Constant headaches? Stress. Shoveling down and entire pint of ice cream in one sitting? Stress.

Your eye is twitching and can’t seem to kick the caffeine, so you ask your doctor what you can do to live a healthier life. The answer, “don’t stress”. My response, “well, duh.” This is the point where I need to tell you that I’m making a broad generalization of how stress affects our lives. I’m not here to diagnose you, that should be left to a true medical professional, but in my own experience it seems like reducing stress is that reliable old wives cure for whatever it is that ails you.

It’s all fine and well for someone to tell you that you need to reduce the stress in your life, but the question is how? You can tell me to reduce my stress levels until your face is blue, but that won’t change the fact that my toddler is throwing a tantrum in the other room, and guess what, it’s stressing me out.

My life is far from stress free, but I have worked on a few things that have helped me, and it doesn’t hurt to share, right? So here are my tips at reducing your stress.

Stop saying, “I won’t have to worry when…”

When is abstract, when is never going to come. It’s something we all think about, I won’t have to worry when I finish school, I won’t have to worry my car is paid off, I won’t have to worry once my kids have grown up and moved out of the house, I won’t have to worry when [insert life changing event here]. Once you have achieved that goal, there will always, always, be something else that will cause you stress. Instead, start saying, I’ll be happy now. Sure you have finals, or a pushy boss, or stain on your new carpet, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find anything positive in our lives.


It seems so simple, but in this day and age where go, go, go is the norm, we often forget to take break. It doesn’t have to be long, five minutes will do. Just take a moment of meditation to center yourself and collect your thoughts, think about everything that is Stressing you out and comb through all the tangles. Once you feel like you have a solution, dive right back in. I don’t care if you need to lock yourself in the bathroom to do it, just get it done!

Learn to say “no”

There are a billion good causes out there and a million more reasons why you should be helping out with Every. Single. One. But the fact of the matter is, not even superman could do it all. Prioritize what’s important to you and don’t break your back by stretching yourself out too thin.

NOW is the time to take control of your stress and start living a happier, healthier life.

Life Care Options: Caring For Aging Parents

When I grow older, I hope I can stay at home like my grandmother did.  She lived too  far away from us, so none of her family could take care of her.  But she had in-home assistance for many years before she died.

The assistants, who came three times a day, became dear friends to her.  They shopped and made her meals, did her housecleaning, hoisted her up in a harnessed machine and down onto the toilet and into the shower, rubbed her hands with cream, opened her mail, and tucked her in bed at night.  What a blessing it was for her not to have to go to a nursing home, where the wallpaper, the furniture, the bedding, the art on the walls, and the neighbors would be unfamiliar and strange.  She lived and died in her own place.

What will you do when your aging parent can no longer care for him or herself?  Will you become his/her primary caregiver?  Will you move your parent to an assisted care facility?  Will you use the services of an in-home health assistance agency?  What will your aging parent want?  What will you want for yourself, when you are the one aging and in need of assistance?

Fifty million Americans currently provide the home care for an adult family member, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving.  And these people are exhausted.  Caring for an aging parent can be very taxing emotionally, physically, and socially.  Whole families are affected.

If you’re thinking that this is a topic for someone else, think again.  This issue affects all of us, eventually.

My brother, Kenneth Lane, owner of a home care agency called CareMinders Home Care, has shared his interesting perspectives on this issue with me.  He said that some of the adult children of his clients see their aging parents’ needs very differently.  One child might say, “Oh, Dad is in dire straits.  He’s falling, he’s disoriented, and he needs 24-7 care as soon as possible!”  Another might simultaneously say, “Oh, Dad is fine.  He just slipped, but that was because there was water on the floor.  He can take care of himself.”

My brother directed me to read an insightful article on the topic of aging parents, called “Letting Go of My Father,” by Johnathan Rauch for the Atlantic Monthly.  Here it is:

The article moved me.  The author, Jonathan Rauch, the son of an aging man, described himself as “unprepared for one of life’s near certainties—the decline of a parent.” He discovered that millions of middle-aged Americans, like he, are struggling to cope with this crisis that  he says needs to be “plucked from the realm of the personal and brought into full public view.”

The article, “Letting go of my father,” revealed that caregivers live in quiet crisis, but do not want to “confess desperation” so they keep the struggle quiet, as if they are “being graded on coping stoically.”

Rauch wrote that as his own father aged and declined, Rauch reached his own breaking point, and he eventually told his father that “…he was already in assisted living, but that I was the assistance; that I was overwhelmed, under qualified, and barely hanging on emotionally; that I wanted to be his son again, not a nurse and nag and adversary.”

But what options do adult children have when aging parents can no longer live on their own?  While some jump to the conclusion that their parents have to sell belongings, give up the neighborhood and freedom and move into a nursing home, others jump to the conclusion that children should be the primary caregivers for aging parents.

But caregiving becomes an increasingly taxing burden as the parent’s health weakens over time.  Because all of the services available at an assisted living center are also available at an individual’s home, at a fraction of the cost of a nursing home, increasingly, many adult children of aging parents are turning to in-home health care.  Many aging parents do not wish to leave their homes for nursing homes and nursing homes are often prohibitively expensive.