Lauren Martino: Welcome to Library Matters. I’m Lauren Martino and I’m here with my co-host, Julie Dina.
Julie Dina: Hello.
Lauren Martino: And today, we are here to talk about decluttering. Happy January, the holidays are over. Your house is probably packed with stuff. And it’s New Year, it’s a time for new beginnings and it’s a season to declutter. So with us today, we have two MCPL staff members, Fred Akuffo.
Fred Akuffo: Hello, everyone.
Lauren Martino: Who needs decluttering and has some very creative strategies he tells us to – that have worked for him that he’d like to share. I’m really curious to hear this, because I need this myself. And with us today as well is Angelica Rengifo.
Angelica Rengifo: Hello.
Lauren Martino: Who assures me she is on a minimalists journey. Angelica and Fred, can you define decluttering for us? What is it and why should we be thinking about it?
Angelica Rengifo: So, one of the first things that I will like to may clear is that decluttering is not organizing.
Lauren Martino: Okay.
Angelica Rengifo: So, decluttering is to get rid of things.
Lauren Martino: Okay.
Angelica Rengifo: Get rid of things you don’t use. Get rid of things you don’t want anymore. Get rid of things that are broken and you’re not thinking of fixing or getting fixed.
Julie Dina: Or you are thinking, but that’s all you’re doing.
Angelica Rengifo: Or you’re not going to get to it.
Julie Dina: Yeah
Angelica Rengifo: Yeah. So decluttering is making a space for things that matter in your life and taking away declutter that it doesn’t allow you to see and appreciate those things.
Fred Akuffo: For me, decluttering is placing things back in their proper place for better flow in your life. If you listen to a lot of TED talks as a TED talk about flow and how gaining and comprehension of how flow works makes your life better. So for me, I think decluttering is a practice that can assist with that.
Julie Dina: So every one is talking about decluttering. Now, let’s dive in and find out why is decluttering actually a thing now where people just neither 20 years ago, or was the concept simply calls something else back then. What do you guys think?
Angelica Rengifo: Did June Cleaver ever declutter? Does she ever need it? It’s what I want to know.
Julie Dina: That’s a research we need to.
Fred Akuffo: Yeah. I think with the shows like Horrors and things like that, I think it cost people to maybe pay attention to more of what they have gone on in their own homes. Now the Horrors are you know, people who are on the extreme. But I think when you watch a show like that and then you turn around and look at your own place, you see, you know, some efforts that you could probably participate in as a practice.
So I think, yeah, with some of the media that has come out now, addressing some different things that people struggle with, decluttering has become a bigger issue. Also, cluttering is not just physical, it’s –
Julie Dina: Yeah.
Fred Akuffo: – sometimes I think you can have some mental cluttering going on and that can contribute to how it looks in your life.
Angelica Rengifo: Decluttering, again, going back to the question is a thing because we – maybe the gen – now people want to have experiences. They want to create memories instead of accumulating things and more things on top of things that we sometimes don’t even know that we have and then we end up buying the same thing twice or three times because we cannot find the original thing.
For example, right now you have TV show on Netflix based on the book of Marie Kondo, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” about how to tidy up. And we see the houses of these people filled with things that they don’t use, that don’t fit them, that were part of like a period of their lives that is long gone and we just accumulate things and that’s how I think generations have change.
We are not going to take all the stuff that we buy and we accumulate. We’re not going to take it with us once we are like sick in bed at the end of our lives. We are not going to say, “Oh, I remember that dress that I bought 15 years ago.” We’re going to remember all, “Oh, I remember the trip that I took with my kids for three days to the beach.”
Lauren Martino: All right. Have you read heard “The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up”?
Angelica Rengifo: Yeah, I have read a quite a few books about decluttering.
Lauren Martino: I just love the facts that there’s a life-changing Manga. So, Fred, what made you aware your need to declutter? What got you started thinking about this?
Fred Akuffo: Okay. This is an interesting one. I’ll say comments form the internal customer and what do I mean by that? I noticed one day, one point, that I had – one of the cleaners who is in-charge with cleaning up the library asked me, “So you would like me to clean your desk for you?” And, you know, I was like, “No, no, I got it.”
And then a second question came from the same person thirty seconds later, “Not really, I can do that for you if you like.” And I’m like “No, no, no. That’ll be fine. I got it. I got it.” And then not long after, maybe another day that following week I had a volunteer who work at the branch and same question came up. “Hey, you know, I can come an extra day if you like and help you out with your desk.” “No, I’m all right now. I’m good.”
Lauren Martino: Was there a spill?
Fred Akuffo: No, no, no. I let her know, “You know, I’m okay. I’m going to be getting to it in a minute.” And then the same second response from her came, “No, no, no, I’m serious. I can do that. I can come another day and we can work on your desk, you know what I mean?” And so at that point, I’m starting to become aware that –
Lauren Martino: The sign.
Fred Akuffo: – there is something wrong here and –
Lauren Martino: The world is letting you know.
Fred Akuffo: Yeah, yeah. So I took a quick glance maybe from a visitor guest point of view and just looked with some other eyes and noticed that I can’t see the color of my desk. It’s all white covered with papers, books, things like that. So, I made a mental note to myself, “Yeah, we might need to take care of that and do a little bit decluttering.” So I’m more of the folks that are need of the decluttering.
Lauren Martino: How about you, Angelica?
Angelica Rengifo: Three years ago, I could be found shopping at least once, twice a week, anything, food, clothes, shoes, accessories, decor, online, at the store. And then, I think I watched something on TV and I said to myself, “I want to travel. I want to see other things. I want to have memories. Other people are doing this, why can’t I do it?”
And I started analyzing my spending and realize that all of my money was going to shopping and things that I will wear once, maybe never. I have shoes – I had pair of shoes that I never wore. And – because they look cute on the store and they look cute on feet, but then I was not comfortable buying.
Lauren Martino: You can walk.
Angelica Rengifo: I mean, walking on them.
Julie Dina: Yeah.
Angelica Rengifo: And I decided that all my money was going to go traveling. And last year, I just went too odd that I started a no spending year. This is my third month.
Lauren Martino: No spending year.
Angelica Rengifo: It has been hard. It has not been perfect.
Lauren Martino: So what are the rules of these, like clearly you have to buy food.
Angelica Rengifo: A no cloth – yeah.
Lauren Martino: Okay, okay.
Angelica Rengifo: And so essentials I buy, food, of course, gas, doctors appointments, rent, of course, just the essentials and I give myself once a week to like go out to eat.
Lauren Martino: Okay.
Angelica Rengifo: But I’m not allowed to buy shoes, clothes, decor. I’ve been looking at this blanket for like a month then I’m like I want it but I don’t need it. So it’s also changing the mentality of buying, of wanting and masking this want as need. So that’s what has changed my perspective on consuming goods besides food, which I need. But also, I was buying more food that I needed for a week.
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
Angelica Rengifo: So, things were going bad and it was – as a result, I was wasting money that way too. So I – trying to do at least planning from Sunday two meals per week to declutter my fridge as well and my pantry.
Julie Dina: So decluttering could be seen as a way of saving money as well.
Angelica Rengifo: Oh, it is a big way of saving money towards maybe paying your debt, student loans, which is usually a big one for everybody, paying your mortgage, your credit card, making finally plans to take that vacation that you have always wanted. And so –
Lauren Martino: You’ve done any of these traveling yet that you want to do? Where it begun?
Angelica Rengifo: Yes, I have.
Lauren Martino: What this enabled you to do?
Angelica Rengifo: I’ve been to few a cities in Italy. I’ve been to London, Paris, Amsterdam, a few other ones. Yeah.
Lauren Martino: Wow. Is it worth it?
Angelica Rengifo: Yes. It has been really worth it. I’ve been getting rid of clothes at the same time and I really don’t need anymore right now, so, yes.
Lauren Martino: Do either of you have any resources you’d like to share that have been particularly helpful in your decluttering journeys?
Fred Akuffo: For me, I had read a book a friend of mine has suggested. It wasn’t a decluttering book, but he talked about things in a decluttering method. And this is a “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. And he talked about not having things build up by not taking care of things.
So, if you have something that needs to be done, do it, get it off your checklist, so it’s not building a pile up in the back of your mind. And the back of the mind, when you have a pile up building up, you start to lose other things to deal with that. So it’s kind of like I express to people sometimes and I say, “Look, if you tell me to do more than three things at a time, I’m going to start forgetting things. I’m going to start dropping things,” you know, because, you know, for me that’s what I can handle. You know, sometimes I tell my wife, “You know, only three things to the grocery list. If you had five, I’m going to forget the milk, okay?” So – but that’s –
Lauren Martino: It’s a Pat Hutchins’ book.
Fred Akuffo: Yeah, yeah.
Lauren Martino: Don’t forget the butter.
Fred Akuffo: Right, right, right. So – but that’s what I’m talking about in terms of the nonphysical side of decluttering. Sometimes you got to declutter, you know, your thoughts, your mind, you know. And sometimes we don’t want to focus on meditations much because we got sits still.
And in today’s society, everybody is moving everywhere, you know, high rates speed and all that kind of thing. But sometimes it’s good to just take that time where there would be 15 minutes in two days. Just meditate on what you’re going to get – got going on and what you need to take care of. And then take care of those things and check them off so that your mind can be free and your flow can be better.
Lauren Martino: Angelica, what do you have to share with us?
Angelica Rengifo: Some of the people that I follow on YouTube are more towards minimalism, but they also give you an insight on things that you can’t use. You don’t have to follow every single thing, you don’t have to go to the extreme. But some of my favorite ones are “Pick Up Limes”. She has decluttered and she’s a minimalist not only in her lifestyle and her work, but also even her diet.
Julie Dina: How does that work?
Angelica Rengifo: She is all about plant-based diet and her meals are very simple, very repetitive in the sense that it’s not the same thing every day, but maybe every other week she repeats a series of meals. And by practicing what you are making, what you are cooking, it becomes easier.
Lauren Martino: You get better at them.
Angelica Rengifo: So it simplifies your life, what you’re buying at the store. You’re using it more. It doesn’t go bad and you know where to get it and at what prices you’re going or what places you’re going to get the best prices from. So I really like her.
Then Joshua Becker and, of course, “The Minimalist” are the two – or three in this, three guys that – or really the pioneers in the minimalist movement.” And they also have books. They have TED Talks. And they are really good at making you think a different way about things in your clutter, in your baggage. And what you have and what you don’t need in what to – or how to appreciate what you have that you’re not seeing.
Lauren Martino: Do have any particular titles by Joshua Becker you can recommend to us.
Angelica Rengifo: Well, I am reading – he has two books and I am reading right now “The Minimalist Home.” This is – Joshua Becker is a husband and he’s a father, and he started to declutter his home with his family. And he, again, is a pioneer in this movement and he gives you guidelines on how to simplify your home lifestyle and what issues contribute to home clutter. So this is a great book to maybe start with Joshua Becker in “The Minimalist Home.”
Lauren Martino: So do either of you have any tips for those of us who just doesn’t come naturally to?
Angelica Rengifo: We have to, one, to make a change, first of all, because we can’t read all we want and it sounds pretty and it looks pretty, and it’s the fad right now. But if we don’t really wanted, it’s not going to last and we will go back to our old ways. So, first of all, we have to want it.
And then I think it will be great to create a plan. Like, what do we want to get rid of? Why do we want to get rid of things? What are we going to do with the things after we peerage them from whatever they are?
Lauren Martino: That’s the challenge.
Angelica Rengifo: How are we going to get rid of them? And know yourself that you’re going to be able to follow through, that you’re going to do the things that you plan for. And that – and also realize that not every single method that you read or hear about is going to work for you. So, I do a little bit of everything I have read. I have read the book about “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning” by Margareta Magnusson.
Lauren Martino: Which just sounds like a crazy well novel to me, right? This is – it sounds like fiction.
Angelica Rengifo: But it’s an easy read. It’s very short if you want to do it as an audio book. And she is an older person. She is a widow and she gave me this point of view of like, do I want my family to go through all my belongings when I’m dead? And of course the answer is no for 99.9 percent of us.
Julie Dina: Why should my descendant see that I bought this horrible blue dress in the ‘80s and –
Angelica Rengifo: Exactly. So that’s one thing that I have kept with me from her book. Then I have Marie Kondo in the does this make me happy? Does this make me want to go like, oh yes, I want it. I want to keep it. So, things say that not everything is going to work for you. So you have to know yourself to decide what is going to work and be willing to try what you think my worry can then decide what to keep.
Fred Akuffo: And in terms of knowing yourself, you know, sometimes I handle things from a lazy man’s point of view. So, if you’re – if you consider yourself more on the lazier side, one thing you can do is do they wanted a challenge? And that is any area that you want to take care of in terms of cluttering, get rid of your clutter. You can take one item out of that area each day and/or it could be one or two, you pick the number five.
But whatever number gets you to point where you’re tired to do it anymore, you pick that number once a day and then by the end of the week, you’ll have a noticeable change. And it will seem like you never did anything at all.
Julie Dina: And it’s like somebody has that. I think it’s Regina Leeds has that 8 Minute Organizer book that’s like, you know, just take eight minutes and do something today and –
Fred Akuffo: Yeah, yeah, sort of along those lines. Yeah.
Julie Dina: Yeah.
Fred Akuffo: So you didn’t have to, you know, take all the time out of your life but, you know, you’re making progress in little moments as well.
Angelica Rengifo: Eight minutes.
Lauren Martino: Eight minutes.
Angelica Rengifo: Now, have I done this? No. Partially because I started doing it and then my husband rested up. So the new plan is to let’s do it together, eight minutes together.
Lauren Martino: Together.
Angelica Rengifo: Yes, so that we both see the fruits of our labor and can hopefully keep it that way.
Fred Akuffo: Yeah. If you’re going to do it a little bit out of time, you can’t put anything on top of it after you’ve it.
Angelica Rengifo: Yes, yes.
Fred Akuffo: So, you take those five pieces, make sure three pieces don’t get back on their.
Angelica Rengifo: And that’s the challenge, right?
Lauren Martino: Do either of you have any tips on decluttering sentimental items?
Fred Akuffo: Okay.
Angelica Rengifo: This is the worst.
Fred Akuffo: Yeah. My tip would be, you know, sentiment is tough because sentiment means different things to different people. And they impact people in different ways in terms of gravity.
So one thing I suggest when dealing with sentimental items is – have you – when is the last time you visited the sentiment in your life? You know, you can ask yourself that question. You know, if it’s so important, when is the last time I actually dealt with this particular item in terms of how much I claim it means to me? If it was like five years ago when you last held this item in your hands, it’s probably not that much of a sentiment.
Angelica Rengifo: I think for sentimental items, again, they are really hard to get rid off. Like Fred was saying, is different. It’s a different item for everybody. It’s a different item size for every family member. But, why not make a part of the decor, get rid of all this other clutter around this item that doesn’t let you see what is sentiment – very sentimental to you or that you’re attached to it and show off this one that is more important than this other two or three.
So, sometimes you don’t have to get rid of sentimental items. You don’t have to feel guilty about keeping them. Show them off if they are that important to you. If it is a dress, like let’s say your kid’s baptism, why don’t you frame it and put pictures around it and something like that and keep it.
Fred Akuffo: Yeah, I like that. Make it part of the decor, yeah.
Angelica Rengifo: Yeah.
Lauren Martino: So, now we’ve succeeded in decluttering, we hope. Let’s imagine we’ve gotten there. We’ve done it. Things are decluttered. How do we keep it that way?
Angelica Rengifo: So I will say some ways to keep it that way is not bringing in anymore items that you do not need. Do not bring into your kitchen single used gadgets. You don’t need a cutter for apples, one for your mangoes, one for your avocadoes; there is a knife. A knife does the same job that all those three gadgets does one way.
Think about ways that something you already have can’t – what this thing you already have can do instead of buying one new thing for just one purpose. Also, another thing that we can do is make plans for every single dollar in your budget. The way it’s planned it is like a promise to yourself that this money is going to – we’re going on a movie on Sunday and pizza afterwards. Those are memories.
Yes, you’re spending money but those are memories that you’re creating with people that you care about. Instead of bringing things into your house that are not going to give you space to lay down in the couch or walk around the bed or put your car in your garage because our priorities are so twisted that we are keeping things in our garage while we have an investment that is $30,000, $40,000 outside under the snow, rain and sun all year around instead of putting it inside the house in protecting this car that is costing us a lot of money.
Lauren Martino: It’s a good point.
Fred Akuffo: It’s interesting she said that. I – not that I’m hearing this, I’m thinking one thing that will help us stay away from the ad seen on TV store.
Angelica Rengifo: Oh, yeah.
Fred Akuffo: I’m talking about specialty item.
Angelica Rengifo: Pro-tip
Fred Akuffo: There’s a lot of –
Lauren Martino: Like the mango cutter you talked to –
Angelica Rengifo: Like that mango cutter.
Fred Akuffo: The mango cutter.
Angelica Rengifo: I almost bought it.
Fred Akuffo: Yeah, the microwave, egg boiler.
Angelica Rengifo: Yup
Fred Akuffo: You know, all those things.
Julie Dina: Well, now that we’re towards the end of our episode, this is traditional final question that we ask our guests. What are you currently reading? Fred, let’s start with you.
Fred Akuffo: “Federal Mafia” by Irwin Schiff. And it’s about taxes and the nation. And when you clutter people down with all the taxes and stuff, you can’t think freely about, you know, the ones you do need to pay or should be paying or should not be paying. So the power is that maybe benefiting from the lack of clarity of all those different tax logic, got to pay attention to. I haven’t read the book all the way yet so I’m still finding out, but that’s one.
And then another one is “Creature from Jekyll Island.” And that’s the interesting one because it talks about the Federal Reserve and how it is intentionally doing what exactly the people who created it meant for it to do, which doesn’t look like what we think it looks like.
And so that kind of relates to the cluttering too because, you know, sometimes when you are in the midst of clutter, you can’t see what things look like until somebody says to you, “Hey, I can clean that for you.” So, you know, a lot of people –
Angelica Rengifo: Like a full circle.
Fred Akuffo: A lot of people think that the Federal Reserve needs to be cleaned up and so, you know, maybe we got some decluttering to do in that space of finance for the country as well.
Angelica Rengifo: So, I am reading right now “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr. I wasn’t originally – was not thinking about how it relates to declutter, but thinking about it that way, this is a period in time when France was occupied by Germany and how this dad and his daughter have to move to another town. And what will you take with you if you have to leave in a hurry at your house?
Lauren Martino: Oh, wow.
Angelica Rengifo: What is important to you?
Lauren Martino: What’s that important?
Angelica Rengifo: I asked myself that question a few weeks ago and I said, I will take my dog and my passport are I think what I will take with me. Everything else can be replaced.
Lauren Martino: I will like to thank both of you for coming to our program today. Let’s keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to podcast on the Apple podcast app, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcast. Also, please review and rate us on our Apple podcast; we’ll love to know what you think. Thank you once again for listening to our conversation today. See you next time.
Summary: Decluttering enthusiasts and MCPL staff members Fred Akuffo and Angelica Rengifo talk about the decluttering movement and how libraries can help declutter your life in the new year.
Recording Date: January 9, 2019
Fred Akuffo: Library Assistant Supervisor at Aspen Hill Library
Angelica Rengifo: Community Outreach Associate for MCPL
Hosts: Julie Dina and Lauren Martino
What Our Guests Are Reading:
Angelica Rengifo: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Books and Other Resources Mentioned During the Episode:
Don't Forget the Bacon by Pat Hutchins
The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson
Getting Things Done by David Allen
The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker
The Minimalists: A website advocating simpler lifestyle with less stuff.
Pick Up Limes: A Youtube channel and website by a Canadian foodie advocating a simple life and a plant-based diet.
David Payne: Welcome to Library Matters with your host David Payne. Today it's MoComCon time again. MCPL’s Annual Comic Convention MoComCon is always one of the highlights of the year for MCPL and we trust for the community as well. So with MoComCon 2019 around the corner delighted to welcome two members of the planning committee MoComCon this year Dana Alsup, Head of Adult Services at the Marilyn Praisner branch welcome.
Dana Alsup: Hi.
David Payne: I should say welcome back veteran of many appearances.
Dana Alsup: Yes, several appearances on the podcast.
David Payne: And still smiling. And also welcome to Beth Chandler from our Collection Management Division. Again, welcome back to you Beth.
Beth Chandler: Oh, thank you, glad to be back here and talking about one of my favorite events of the year at the library.
David Payne: Great. Well, I'm sure MoComCon, 2019 is going to be bigger and better than anything before but let's start with the basics perhaps. Let me ask you both to tell us a bit about what MoComCon is all about, when and where will it be taking place and what kind of audience is it for. We start with you Dana.
Dana Alsup: It's for everyone. It really is for everyone. We have stuff that goes from preschools through adults. It will be at the Silver Spring Library on January 19, 2019. There is a few different start times. So if you are one of those preschoolers or a parent of a preschooler we have two story times one at 10 AM, one at10:30 AM. It was very popular last year so we added a second one. And then you can start registering for our Cosplay Contests and our escape rooms at 11 AM. And then all of the programs start at 12 and they run until 4 o'clock.
Beth Chandler: Yeah, we have quite a bit. We have a couple of favorites coming back about focusing on a couple of new things. We are going to have WiiU with Mario Kart and also an Oculus Rift to play a VR game.
David Payne: You can tell us more about that, that sounds fascinating.
Beth Chandler: Oh, my goodness. It’s a large virtual reality glasses that you put on and the particular thing we have is called what’s the name again Dana?
Dana Alsup: It’s called Beat Saber and I like to describe it as dance, dance revolution for your arms. You hold onto two things in your hands and then what you see are boxes flying at you and you have to hit them in a certain pattern with light sabers. It's going to be pretty awesome.
David Payne: Right.
Dana Alsup: And we’re getting I think two of them and they come from the state library. They are loaning them out to us for this event.
Beth Chandler: Yes, one of the many things paid for by your state tax dollars. So if you want to get a bit of a return on that come try some virtual reality that's pretty much for all ages who are old enough to manage the equipment. We literally do have things for preschoolers through seniors, including author Don Sakers coming back. He is going to be doing just one writing and publishing workshop but we have got a nice big room to fit aspiring writers. And we also have someone coming from visionary comics to talk about comics publishing for people who are more along the lines of comics artists. FutureMakers are coming back with a special 3D craft. See what else do we have of course the Cosplay Contest.
Dana Alsup: We have the Cosplay Contest. Those are at 3:30 in the afternoon and we have children, teens and adults WiiU. There is only 20 participants for each so registrations are until 11. We also have the Washington Metropolitan Gamer Symphony Orchestra coming they are sending a string quartet and they play different videogame and movie songs which should be very fun.
David Payne: That’s great. Where will they be located?
Dana Alsup: They will be in the third floor meeting room. So they'll be at 1:15. They’re sandwiched by Don Sakers before them, and then Chuck Sellner who is doing the comics publishing one on one after them.
David Payne: Well, it sounds really exciting. I think it's safe to say that MoComCon isn’t only for comic book lovers.
Dana Alsup: It's not. It's really for anyone. If you just didn’t want – even if you just want to come in and do some crafts or have your face painted there is lots of different activities. You don't have to be a super hero buff or comic person to join MoComCon.
Beth Chandler: We have our exhibitors too. We have a couple of people from stores that sell comic books and related items.
Dana Alsup: Although they will not be selling –.
Beth Chandler: Excuse me, no. They won’t be selling at the event but we will have some local groups you know costumers and people like that as well.
Dana Alsup: However, our friends at the library will be having their book sale again and they will also be selling T-shirts this year. They look different than the staff T-shirts but they will be selling those along with their graphic novels that they’ll have there on the third floor.
Beth Chandler: Yes, so if you want to proclaim to the world that you attended MoComCon ‘19 you can wear a T-shirt that says so.
David Payne: Looking back at last year’s event I can't remember offhand what the total attendance was. I remember it was quite staggering and I'm sure there’ll be a big turnout this year and I presume most of the attendees will come from the local Montgomery County area. But as word spreads about MoComCon do you know of people coming from further away on planet Earth at least.
Dana Alsup: I know that I think most people come from either Maryland or D.C. We did have and we had a presenter I think last year or the year before that came from New York to come and participate. So she came. I don't know if anyone comes from out of state yeah, but they definitely come from out of county. They’re not all Montgomery County residents that might have something to do with the fact that I drop off flyers in other counties as well.
David Payne: Right.
Dana Alsup: And we marketed outside of the county as well.
David Payne: Yeah, right. Now let’s turn to this year's event. What are some of the highlights we can expect at this year’s MoComCon and will there be anything new?
Dana Alsup: Well, we already talked about some of them. Some of the newer ones are the symphony orchestra quartet coming. Don has been there in the past two years and his event has been so popular that we put him in the big room. This year we haven't had or we’ve had video games and that we've had Minecraft before but we decided to switch it up and do Mario Kart and then have Oculus Rift, which we just found out about last week that we got that. FutureMakers has come before, but they are doing something different this year. It's called thermoforming which is used when making masks for all of this Cosplay things costumes, but this is not masks, they're just doing a simple thing to give you the concept of it.
And we’ll have our face painters and craftists same as last year and we will have an escape, we’ll have two escape rooms this year. One is run by Game of Rooms, which is an escape room company in I think Gaithersburg is where they’re located and they’re doing the eight to 13 age Harry Potter themed escape room. And then staff has put together another escape room for adults, teens and adults it's 14 and up, and its Game of Thrones themed. You don't have to have knowledge of Harry Potter and Game of Thrones to play though you don't have to know anything about Jon Snow to be successful in our escape rooms.
David Payne: Anything you like to add Beth?
Beth Chandler: Yes, our crafts are new this year. So one of the ones that looks really Q is little superhero puppets. You can create your own superhero and put them together with Brad so that the arms can move and so we’re glad to be able to switch that up a bit.
David Payne: Sounds great. So with all this in mind let me ask you both what are you most looking forward to MoComCon 2019? Let me start with you Beth.
Beth Chandler: Oh, I just like seeing all of the people who come having fun. Last year, I spent a lot of time with our Button Maker and people we go through scraps and find the piece that they want and you’ll cut it just the right shape and maybe color it if it's black and white. And we make little buttons so they can have cool buttons with a favorite character or something else cool on it. And people were just having a blast and it was fun to see all the different things people brought to make buttons and it really was all ages. We had parents making their own buttons as well as helping their little kids.
David Payne: That’s great and Dana.
Dana Alsup: This year although I love all the smiling faces. I think I’m looking forward to Oculus Rift I will be terrible at it. But I haven't seen it before, so I'm excited to experience it. And the first year we had VR but I didn't have time to do it, so we’re going to get it up and running the night before. So I think a staff can take a turn at it and only embarrass ourselves in front of each other and not.
David Payne: Get those arms to workout.
Dana Alsup: Right, not everyone else.
David Payne: Yeah, so let’s go back – back in time a bit as we mentioned this is the third year of MoComCon. Let’s go back to the beginning and tell us how MoComCon came into existence Dana?
Dana Alsup: It started with I think it was three or four staff members who wanted to do something specifically for teens and this was their proposals to do an event a comic con type event. And it quickly snowballed and gained interests, and so we developed it into something that was all-encompassing all ages. So as we’ve said at the third time preschool to senior. And it was accepted by the then director Parker and our Acting Director, Anita has graciously let us continue to do this. So it's – but I think they did a lot of research a number of other systems do this and it's been successful at other library systems as well.
David Payne: And Beth, have you been involved since the beginning?
Beth Chandler: I have indeed is the person who buys comic books and is someone who has worked with related programs in the past. I was absolutely thrilled and basically begged to get on the committee. So I'm delighted to have been one of the “founding members”. The first year it was a lot of work, but we learned how to streamline the work over the last couple of years and what sort of things we can and can't do as staff as well as finding a really generous array of local talent for people and organizations to participate and do the programming.
David Payne: Great, that actually leads me into my next question which is that as MoComCon has developed and grown over these past couple of years, what are some of the things you've learned about setting it up? Let me start with you Beth.
Beth Chandler: Oh, I would say crowd management working out the best ways to do lines, when to do lines, when to do tickets. One of our challenges is keeping the area in front of the elevators clear so that people can get in and out of the elevators. One of the things that at times you’ll help create crowds but also help to entertain crowds is having some Star Wars Cosplayers in.
Dana Alsup: Yes, R2-D2 last year was epic I think is the correct word.
But we had to keep R2 away from the elevator as soon as he got out of the elevator we had to quickly get R2 away. Him and his handler I know he is not a real thing. I will say other challenges we've eliminated some things that were challenges or that created too much work as Beth said we streamline things. We had the themed fandom rooms and they took a long time to set up and so this year we eliminated them just to give ourselves a little bit of a break and so we could set up the rest of the event in a more timely manner because they were – they took a lot of time.
Beth Chandler: But if you enjoy Finnish things we do have scavenger hunts this year.
Dana Alsup: Yeah, we have two scavenger hunts.
Beth Chandler: Yes, one for kids and one for teens and adults. So we think that will provide a lot of enjoyment and of course people can always take pictures not just for the teen and adult scavenger hunt which is I think it's Snapchat based.
Dana Alsup: It’s an Instagram scavenger hunt. So you’ll have I think it's five or six clues or things you need to take pictures of like get your superhero squad and take a picture, find your favorite graphic novel, take a picture with it, with a specific hash tag. And then we’ll go through at the end and if you got all five or six of these clues then we’ll do a quick raffle and you’ll get a prize.
David Payne: So looking back to the very first MoComCon, did you both think that it will be an annual event, was that the intention or –?
Dana Alsup: I think it was the intention. But honestly we had no idea what was going to happen. And when the library opened at 10 and everything is set up and you're just standing there waiting I was down on the third floor at the tech bar which we use as the information desk and it was like are people going to show up, do they know that this happens. And within I don't know 15, 20 minutes I was saying the same thing for the next four hours, welcome to MoComCon, this is what you can do today, here is the events. This is what you can do, do you want to register right away and it was nonstop and I didn't realize I was tired until I sat down in my car. So on that first year no one knew what to expect and when creating an event from scratch is so much work. But now we use a lot of the same models and same outlines that we've had these past couple of years, so it makes it a slightly easier.
David Payne: Obviously it’s a great community event. What’s the most positive effect do you think MoComCon has on the community? Let me start with you Beth.
Beth Chandler: I think one of them is people who might not otherwise think of coming into the library come in. I know we had a lot of teens and twenty some things come in. We tend to get a lot of families and senior citizens but we did get some of the younger people coming in and we also I think expanded people's ideas of what the library could be.
Dana Alsup: I agree with everything Beth just said.
Beth Chandler: Yeah, it also made teens lets people know that the library is a very a comics friendly place, a crafts friendly place, a fandom friendly place that we’re not just about your regular novels and children's books and educational things but we’re about fun and creativity and high-tech also.
David Payne: Yeah, and we should also mention that the whole event is completely free.
Beth Chandler: Completely free.
Dana Alsup: Yes that because we know it can cost over $100, sometimes several $100 to go to some of the big conventions. And this way, people don't have to worry about money. And one of the reasons that we aren’t selling things is the parents don't have to worry about their children begging to be bought something, but they can go home with several crafts if they want and pictures and of course a lot of memories.
David Payne: So if anybody looking to participate as a volunteer, how can one get information on volunteering?
Dana Alsup: I would contact us via social media, and then the social media team will forward that to me and I'll be in contact with them. But we are in – we’re always looking for volunteers the whole day, part of the day, you get a free T-shirt.
Beth Chandler: And yes, for teens, we can offer –.
Dana Alsup: SSL Hours.
Beth Chandler: SSL Hours.
David Payne: And for anybody unable to make it actually to the actual event can customers participate in any other way?
Dana Alsup: We’re having lots of – all the branches are having lead up programs or most of them are having lead up programs. And one of our presenters Don Sakers will actually be doing two events one in Olney and one in Germantown. And he has been extremely popular at MoComCon in past years where we have a – we had him in a smaller room and there was a limit and people were sneaking in. And so we were having him do some other events so more people can see him and more people can participate up county that way as well rather than down county and Silver Spring.
David Payne: Just look behind the scenes obviously for those people who go it's a spectacular event. But tell us how it actually comes about, what's the planning cycle and will he be planning for the next one almost straight after MoComCon 2019 is finished?
Dana Alsup: I will be. As the team lead I don't stop and MoComCon does not stop for me. A couple of weeks after the event we all come together and we have a discussion about what worked, what didn't work, what feedback we got from customers and how we can make improvements or change things to be better for the following year. And I almost immediately start figuring out how to make those changes happen. So it does, I get about a two week break and then it kicks back up again like halfway through February for me.
The rest of the team although I will say those that have been on the team, which most of them I think six or seven of us have done it all three years now. I don't think that the thought of it stops. I think that we see things and we write little notes about other possibilities or we meet someone as a presenter during summer reading and we try and pull that in. But the actual teen planning part doesn't start until June or July. So we spend seven months planning this and we meet in person once a month as a team and then there is many emails back and forth in between all those meetings and phone calls.
Beth Chandler: And documents created or updated.
Dana Alsup: Documents, yeah, we have a joint page where we should have all of our documents and calendars and things get changed. I mean, even now are the MoComCon schedule that's up on the website has been changed three times because we’ve changed you know, we added like we were adding our Oculus Rift or changed something and it doesn't stop.
David Payne: Yeah, so check the website for.
Dana Alsup: Yes, check the website for those up-to-date information.
David Payne: So with that in mind, let me ask you both what's the first thing you’re going to do when MoComCon is over. Let’s start with you Beth.
Beth Chandler: I am going to collapse into a comfortable chair and probably at a restaurant have a nice dinner and get some rest.
Dana Alsup: It's similar. Last year I got into my car and it was so quiet and I just sat there reveling in the silence because it's very noisy in the building. And there is a lot of just kind of shouting things to other people across the room to try and tell someone something. So it's I like this silence and then I pretty much just go home and I forced my husband to figure out dinner that night. It’s usually Taco Bell then. And this year it's the Saturday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day so we get a full two day weekend after this, which is thrilling.
David Payne: So now and to put you on the spot you're going to be wearing the MoComCon T-shirt. But if you could come in costume, who would you come as Dana?
Dana Alsup: Jeez, I don’t know. Probably, I’m a Star Wars fan so I’d probably be like a Han Solo though I figure that out. Although, I’d leave my blaster at home because there is no weapons or fake weapons allowed at MoComCon. So we wouldn't have to have the question of who shot first.
Beth Chandler: Oh, I have the fantasy end covered. I’m a big Manga & Anime fan and I actually have a costume for Rahab, who is 800-year-old mage. She is a minor character in the Manga & Anime, the ancient magus bride and I just love elder wise women types so I'd probably do that.
David Payne: So from costumes to theme songs if MoComCon had a theme song, what do you think it might be? Start with you Beth.
Beth Chandler: I was racking my brains. I mentioned this to my husband and being a big Hayao Miyazaki fan, he said why not the song from My Neighbor Totoro. I’m like oh, walking song. Hey, let’s go, hey, let’s go. I'm happy as can be.
Dana Alsup: I like that.
David Payne: Could you follow that Dana?
Dana Alsup: No, I can’t. I think it would need its own new song of course.
Beth Chandler: Well, that's an idea for next year. We have a song writing contest.
Dana Alsup: There we go, yet another contest. I think it would have to be like I don't even know the name of the song, but You're The Best Around like I just it feels that way to me and that’s how I feel about the team too. I would be completely lost as a team lead if it wasn't for that team.
Beth Chandler: Okay, I should add, we have the most fun meetings usually at meetings like okay, what's next on the agenda and you know, who wants to do this and we hear crickets. And ours it's something like okay, who wants to do the research on this video game like volunteers could you?
David Payne: Right.
Dana Alsup: Yeah, we do use a lot of terms from comic con type things like tribute or we’ll have floor prefects this year and I think I’ll have them wear peas.
David Payne: So are there any special characters that one should be on the lookout for?
Dana Alsup: We usually have the FIFO first come and so they are Stormtroopers and they walk around. They’re great for a photo op, get your like Christmas card photo for next year. Last year, Chewbacca came and R2 as I’ve already mentioned which when R2 came in I think I screamed. I was so excited about it. We haven't gotten word officially if R2 will be there or not but those are our main cosplayers are Star Wars cosplayers. And then people come, our first year we had a group of people come just because they were so excited and they brought their like very serious cosplay cast students.
Beth Chandler: Oh, those were the Mortal Kombat Cosplayers.
Dana Alsup: Yeah.
Beth Chandler: They were fantastic.
Dana Alsup: They were amazing and Wonder Woman was there as well. All those photos of them are on our Flickr accounts. They were amazing and they didn't even want to participate in the Cosplay Contest. They just wanted to be there as photo ops for customers to take pictures which I thought was very nice of them.
David Payne: So do have any idea what time the Stormtroopers might be there or –?
Dana Alsup: They usually get there before the branch opens and then they change and then they walk around and they usually take a break. The first year I can’t remember a kid said where is Kylo Ren. He is here, he is somewhere because he had been walking around and I had just given Kylo Ren a water bottle then I said even villains need water breaks.
Beth Chandler: Yeah, I've been really delighted to see the array. Last year I actually saw Nausicaa from Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind. I mentioned, my husband and I are both Miyazaki fans and we were talking beforehand I would love to see one punch man. He is a Manga superhero who can defeat anybody and I mean anybody with just a single punch. And he looks like this ordinary, actually he looks like a very boring 20 or 30 something guy with a bald head, but yet I think it would be hilarious if someone cosplayed him. It’s very funny Manga. So I wouldn't be surprised if we see him. We have seen people play Haikyu, Hetalia and some other I know we’ve had at least one or two people from Naruto of course. So we’ve seen more Anime in a lot of the characters.
Dana Alsup: Always a few doctors.
Beth Chandler: Oh, yes.
David Payne: Yeah, so for those attending be prepared for anything.
Beth Chandler: Yes.
Dana Alsup: Yeah, you never know who you’re going to meet.
David Payne: Right, we’ll bump into, yeah. So for those interested in finding the most up-to-date information where can they check to find it?
Dana Alsup: On our website. So on the MCPL website just under the search box for a catalog you'll see MoComCon there and you can click on that and it's going to have the schedule of events which you can print out and bring with you, which I recommend because we don't hand out the schedules because we save paper. So we’ll have that there. And then there is also the registration forms for the Cosplay Contests there if you want to print it out and fill it out beforehand. If you are under the age of 18 your guardian must sign that form.
David Payne: So we hope the weather will be kind to us, but in case it isn't, is there a weather date?
Beth Chandler: Yes, we do. It's two weeks from then, I believe its February 2nd. Dana is checking on the precise date.
Dana Alsup: February 2nd, yes.
Beth Chandler: February 2nd and I would also like to add that when we say everybody is welcome we meet everybody. Although the crowds might take a bit to get through we are fully handicapped accessible library. And if anyone needs sign language interpreters just contact your local library and tell them that you intend to go to MoComCon and when you would like the sign language interpreters. If anyone needs a quiet space at that point our coloring room is going to be somewhat quiet. And the first floor should also be fairly quiet it’s just the post office and the coffee place.
Dana Alsup: Yes, I would assume the post office will be kind of quiet. We call it our superhero break room as our quiet room coloring room just little break.
David Payne: You want to get away from it all. Oh, yeah.
Dana Alsup: Yeah, take off your cape.
David Payne: So we traditionally close our episodes by asking the guests what are you currently reading comic book or otherwise. So let me start with you Beth?
Beth Chandler: Well, of course, I am reading Graphic Novels. I recently finished Upgrade Soul which is a very serious adult graphic novel dealing with the future way of making older people young again and of course the technology does not work as it's intended.
David Payne: Bit of a problem there.
Beth Chandler: Yes, it is. It’s multi-award-winning. I definitely recommend it if you want some really good serious science fiction and it is also wonderfully diverse.
David Payne: And Dana?
Dana Alsup: I’m on a bit of a biography binge. I just read Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's book Crazy Love, which is wonderful and she is a local author. And now I'm reading Michelle Obama's Becoming. And I have another biography on deck for next just in a biography binge.
David Payne: Well, Dana and Beth thank you very much indeed for coming in and sharing your knowledge of MoComCon 2019 and previewing it. It sounds like a great event. We’re really looking forward to it. Keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on the Apple podcast app Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Also, please review and write to us on Apple podcast. We love to know what you think. Thank you for listening to our conversation today and see you next time.
Summary: Librarians Dana Alsup and Beth Chandler talk about MCPL's upcoming comic con, MoComCon. MoComcon will take place January 19 at Silver Spring Library. The con will offer events for all ages, including workshops, escape rooms, crafts, cosplay and more, all for free!
Recording Date: December 19, 2018
Dana Alsup, librarian at Marilyn Praisner Library and chair of the MoComCon committee.
Beth Chandler, librarian at MCPL's Collection Management office and member of the MoComCon committee.
Host: David Payne
What Our Guests Are Reading:
Beth Chandler: Upgrade Soul: A Graphic Novel by Ezra Claytan Daniels.
Books, Authors, and Other Resources Mentioned During the Episode:
Don Sakers: Science fiction writer and reviewer who will be offering a writing workshop at MoComCon 2019.
501st Legion: A prominent Star Wars costuming group. The local Old Line Garrison chapter of the 501st will make an appearance at the con.
Haikyu!! by Haruichi Furudate
Hetalia by Hidekaz Himaruya
Game of Rooms: An escape room firm that will run one of the two escape rooms at the con.
My Neighbor Totoro by Hayao Miyazaki
Naruto by Masahi Kishimoto
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind by Hayao Miyazaki
One-Punch Man by One
Visionary Comics: A local comic studio and publisher. Visionary Comics will offer a session on publishing in the comic industry during MoComCon 2019.
Washington Metropolitan Gamer Symphony Orchestra: Enjoy the music of video games played by this local orchestra at the con!
David Paine: Welcome to Library Matters with me; David Paine.
Lauren Martino: And I'm Lauren Martino.
David: And today we are looking at mental and physical wellness. As these winter days get shorter and temperatures continue to drop, many of us begin to experience what we might call as winter blues. But while winter can be a challenging time for many of us, health and wellness is of course of your own concern. So joining us today, we have two very special guests who are going to share their knowledge and interest in mental and physical wellness. Welcome to Nicole Lucas, who is Program Officer with the Montgomery County Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, otherwise known as NAMI, welcome Nicole.
Nicole: Hi, thank you.
David: Welcome also to Elizabeth Lang, who has the very eloquent title of MCPL's Assistant Facilities and Accessibility Program Manager, is quite a mouthful, I hope I got that right?
Elizabeth Lang: You did, hello.
David: Anyway, welcome.
Elizabeth: Thank you.
David: So, let's begin by asking you both. Obviously you come from very different approaches to this. What does wellness mean to you both? Let me start with Elizabeth.
Elizabeth: Okay. Well, being a librarian, I looked it up in the dictionary. So the Merriam-Webster dictionary says that, "the quality or state of being in good health, especially as an actively sought goal." But personally, wellness to me really -- I think of is taking good care of myself physically and mentally.
David: That seems to sum it up. How about you Nicole?
Nicole: Well, I took a different approach just because of my background at NAMI. So the two of mental health and mental illness get interchanged quite frequently, and so we define mental health as how you're taking care of yourself and how you cope with stress and everyday things like work and raising children and getting through the ins and outs of what you're going through and how you handle those the emotions. And then as far as mental illness, that's more of how the illness affects the way people think, feel, behave, or interact with others.
And there are many different mental illnesses and they have different symptoms that impact people in different ways. So I think it's really important to distinguish the two. Because when you think of mental health sometimes people think mental illness when that's not necessarily the case.
David: Thank you.
Lauren: So you can come at it from a really positive perspective as opposed to just looking at what could go wrong.
Nicole: Absolutely yes. And when we do our presentations at NAMI that's one of the questions it's almost like a trick question that we ask is, well, what comes to mind when you think mental health and people automatically started throwing out depression, bipolar, sadness, anxious, worry, all that stuff. But we're just asking like you know what do you do to help deal with? What do you do for fun? And we have to kind of tease that out. But once we get that going, then it's like oh, okay, that's what you mean.
Lauren: Elizabeth, can you tell us a little bit about why the library is a good place to look for health resources?
Elizabeth: Oh sure. The Montgomery County Public Library collections include print and online resources by reputable sources on health and wellness topics, almost anything that you can imagine. Some resources have a broad overview of a topic like managing stress or staying fit. Others cover very specific topics like nutrition for healthy aging or pool workouts. That's an actual book that we have in our print collection. Resources that are available on the shelves in the library include health and wellness books, magazines, documentaries and the MCPL website also has some great resources.
We have a LibGuide about health that collects a dozens of health resources all in one place. The information includes things like getting health insurance through the Maryland Health Connection and health topics that have been in the news recently, such as the opioid epidemic. There's a section devoted to online health resources such as the Gale Health and Wellness Resource Center, which is a huge database of health information covers diseases, conditions, drugs, diagnostics, treatments, therapies, etc.
The health LibGuide also has a section that covers how to find health services locally, a section about kids' health and a listing of trusted health websites. So it's really a one-stop health resource, best of all. All of these resources are free to Montgomery County residents. They just need their library card.
Lauren: Did you mention workout videos? We get a lot of workout videos.
Elizabeth: We have many wonderful workout videos, absolutely.
Lauren: Now I got the belly dance like workout video at some point which is a lot of fun. [Laughter]
Elizabeth: I haven't seen that one -- one that I did have checked out several times as Tai chi -- Tai chi wonderful -- wonderful video, yep.
David: So turning to you Nicole, tell us a bit about NAMI, the Montgomery County Chapter is I think one of many up and down the country. How long has NAMI been in existence, and what are some of the programs that you offer?
Nicole: So the Montgomery County Chapter has been in existence for about 40 years. We actually predate the national office, so it's kind of like a fun fact that we share with the community. So we operate at three different levels: national, state, and then local. So there's over 900 affiliates or local chapters however you want to describe it, and so Montgomery County is the local chapter.
At Montgomery County, I'm the Director of Programs, and we offer about 14 different programs and our goal and our mission is to provide support, education, and advocacy for people living with mental illness and their family members. The great thing about what we do is everything is free and we also offer a helpline to the community where people can contact us for resources.
David: And how are you funded?
Nicole: We are funded through foundations, through the county government and through membership and private donations. So kind of all of the above. All hands on deck when it comes to funding or non-profit, so.
Lauren: Anyway you can.
Nicole: Anyway, we can, yes. And we are a small staff. We have five full time staff and that's the other differentiator with NAMI is that all of the programs that we offer are run by volunteers because that's the requirement in order to facilitate a support group, a class as you have to have lived experience. So that is who basically helps us run NAMI. So we do a lot of services with very small staff, but a very dedicated volunteer base.
Lauren: So you've got a lot of people in there who know what they're talking about from?
Nicole: Lived experience, that's correct.
Lauren: That's amazing.
David: And I think I read that your motto is you are not alone is that correct?
Nicole: Yes. That's right. You're not alone, which is true because one in five people live with mental illness and so I always tell people in my presentations that if you haven't been touched by it, then I don't know if I quite believe that just because everybody has had it, maybe just you know in the moment or situational. But if you yourself haven't, you definitely have a family member or a friend that has been touched by it because it's so prevalent.
David: And presumably also there's people who may have it, but aren't aware of it.
David: That comes into it too.
Nicole: It does.
David: Nicole, can you tell us about a typical program you might do some of the programs you do offer?
Nicole: Sure, absolutely. So like I said, we provide program, we provide classes, support groups and presentations. And the two populations that we serve are for the individuals with living with mental illness and the family members. But to go back to the history of NAMI and how we were founded was by five family members who had children with mental illness and they could not find any resources.
So they got together and they said this shouldn't be this hard to try to find help for my child and so they form NAMI and so that really was the foundation of NAMI and out of that came one of our signature programs or classes which is called family to family. And that is a twelve week class that we offer because for lack of a better word is a very popular class, but I'm thankful that we have it that we can offer family members who are caregivers to their loved one.
And the class is always full. We always have a waiting list. We try our best to offer it if not monthly, every other month and that's where our volunteers come into play because we need volunteers to keep up with the demand specifically for this particular class.
David: Great, thank you. Tell us more about the typical content you one might find in the program?
Nicole: Sure, so when the family to family class, it's a psycho educational class which basically means that the participants learn about different mental illnesses. They learn about how to set boundaries with their loved ones, so they learn some practical advice and suggestions on how to care for their loved one. They also learn about resources in the community because as you mentioned there are some cases where you have mental illness, but you don't acknowledge that you have it and that's the case a lot of the times.
And it's very frustrating for family members because they don't know what to do. So our class teaches them that. And it's a very full class like I said and it's a lot of content and for that reason sometimes we have multiple -- we have participants who take the class multiple times because I've heard feedback that they learn something new every time. So it's kind of generally speaking of what the content covers.
There's also -- I'm sorry one last thing. There is also an empathy exercise that we do in the class which is great because it shows the family member what it's like to live with mental illness if you're experiencing symptoms. And after we do that exercise, it is very powerful because they come out of it and say.” Wow, now I know why I can't communicate with my loved one” because they're symptomatic, they're hearing voices, they're seeing things, they're feeling you know things on their body. So it really gives a lot of insight to those family members.
David: Wonderful, thank you.
Lauren: Elizabeth, can you recommend any books or magazines that kind of speak to some of these same issues that NAMI deals with or anything else regarding physical or mental health?
Elizabeth: I'm more aware of resources relating to the physical aspect of things. One of my favorites is prevention magazine which I brought a sample of. I know that the listeners can't see it.
Lauren: We can see it.
Elizabeth: But you guys can see it. It's here. It's available in print as well as online and it covers a wide range of health and wellness topics. Sometimes it does cover mental and physical health both, but it focuses mainly on physical health.
Lauren: We have that available through Flipster, do you know?
David: I believe we do.
Lauren: Okay. That's how I read the current issue. Because it was not on the shelf when I went to find it in print. I read the current issue online.
Elizabeth: It always includes practical tips which I really appreciate. It's not just you know the fury or the research behind things. But it will tell you try this or try that. This might help or that might help.
David: Elizabeth, can you just tell us what Flipster is?
Elizabeth: Sure. Flipster is an online app that allows you to access the digital version of the magazine.
Lauren: I couldn't find the print copy so I went to the electronic copy, which is always available.
Elizabeth: Yeah, you check it out online basically instead of picking it up and sitting down or at a table in the library.
Lauren: What are some of your other favourite resources for physical and mental wellness?
Elizabeth: Okay, I brought a couple of items with me in addition to prevention magazine that I think are really good resources. Just for general information about health, one of them is a book called Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition. It was written by T. Colin Campbell, who is a nutritional biochemist. And the book explores why a plant-based diet is likely the best diet for humans to eat.
It reviews research and talks a lot about the problems that we create for ourselves and we try to examine one nutrient as separate from other nutrients. And how that kind of reduction is, doesn't show us a full picture which is why sometimes there will be studies that are released that say eggs are good for you and then next week there's a study that says that eggs are bad for you. So this book takes sort of a large review and talks about how we can be skeptical of what we're hearing and how to evaluate what health claim might be valid and what might be less valid.
Lauren: That's really important because we're all constantly bombarded with conflicting information and have been for decades and decades and it speaks to that.
Elizabeth: Right, it's hard to know what to pay attention to. So his book just cautions us to be careful basically. So I really -- I recommend that people read that if they have a strong interest in health topics. I also brought a book by a local author, Robynne Chutkan, I believe this how her name is pronounced. She has gastroenterology practice in Chevy Chase I believe. And she talks a lot about gut health and this is a new area of study that science is showing is very important to personal, physical health. She runs a practice and writes some books that talk specifically about the kinds of things that we can do to make sure that our guts are healthy and how that impacts our overall health.
Lauren: Have you read I Contain Multitudes, it is kind of along the same lines, but more of a.
Elizabeth: I have not but, I know what you're referring to.
Lauren: Yeah, that's I mean it's the less you know how to version and more the amazing world of microbiomes.
Elizabeth: Right. It's about all the billions of little bacteria that live inside us that sort of help us run things properly digestively, yes.
Lauren: And what happens when we try to get rid of one and then everything else comes in like they were talking about how like hospitals are now looking at putting germs in the hospital rooms to counteract the bad ones, yeah because what do you do, you just find a way to crowd them out.
David: So a reminder to our listeners is that all of the resources that we mentioned in today's podcast can be found in our program show notes on the podcast webpage. While we are talking about library resources, Elizabeth, are there any documentaries on health and wellness available in the library collection?
Elizabeth: Yes, many. We have documentaries on the shelves in all of our branches and they cover a wide range of topics as we were referring to earlier exercise tai chi, those sorts of things. We have videos that are about eating and on topics that are more related to mental health reducing stress and wellness. My favourite resource though is not actually the DVDs that we have in the shelves.
We have an online on demand film streaming resource called canopy that has over 500 documentaries on health and wellness topics. And they're broken out into categories like sports and fitness, nutrition, mental health, death and dying in addiction. And a lot of these are award winning films. They're really excellent. I have more things on my to-watch list than I will ever have time to get to.
David: That's great. Thank you. Nicole, turning to you in the work that you do, you are so well placed to see and observe developments in the field. What are some of the current trends you're seeing in mental health and wellness?
Nicole: I think the biggest trend that we're seeing is providers are encouraging their patients or their clients to use mindfulness techniques. So they're going back to I mean, there's the traditional therapy, medication, senior doctor, but in terms of concrete treatment that you can do at home, that you could do at work, is mindfulness activities and I feel like that's a little bit of a buzzword, so I wanted to take a minute to describe what that means.
So I kind of see it as two-fold. Mindfulness can be defined as letting go of taking things for granted, meaning mindfulness challenges us to awaken from these mind habits and appreciate the little things. So you know the little things of you know your daughter coming home with a picture that she drew at school that you add to all the other 800 files- [Laughter]
Elizabeth: When you are so tempted you just say I'm just want to cook dinner.
Elizabeth: I don't need to look at that right now.
Nicole: Yes, or listening to your spouse's day or your partner's day and just really staying in the present. And then the second piece to that is that it can be defined as being in the moment. And so being more in the moment of like observing our surroundings like the trees that I'm looking at outside as we're doing this -- having this conversation, looking at Elizabeth's scarf and see how pretty it is and not thinking about what I'm going to cook for dinner and, “Oh gosh I hope my daughter did her homework,” that kind of thing.
And that's one of the things that we do, that's one of the things that we also -- that's included in our class for individuals living with mental illness and that class is called peer to peer, and is mindfulness activities and it has really been helpful. And so that's the biggest trend that I'm seeing is the mindfulness. Do you know of any resources that we have that address mindfulness? I feel like it's also been a big trend in a recent publishing?
Lauren: Yeah, we do. We have mindfulness materials and traditional, the section of the library that offers Buddhist materials. Traditionally, mindfulness is associated with Buddhism. But it has sort of grown beyond that. We do also have mindfulness materials in other areas of the library as well. So you know searching for mindfulness in our catalog online will bring all of those materials up. We've got a number of programs too. I know it's over spring we offer like meditation classes in English and Spanish, and I'm sure there are several others throughout the system that-
Nicole: Yes, we have several branches currently offering yoga, meditation, qigong, and tai chi classes, and all of those or many of those will contain a component of mindfulness.
David: So Nicole, I see you both allowing a list of recommended readings which we will include in the show notes. Can you just tell us a bit about-?
Nicole: Sure -- sure. So this has been a work in progress. So we listen to our members and those that take our classes and reach out to us because that's one of the questions that we get, especially when you're in the beginning stages of crisis for lack of a better word as what can I read. So we develop the list and we have it broken out by mental illness, so specific to the diagnosis and they vary from bipolar to depression to OCD.
So it's a combination of all of the above. And then we also included from a family's perspective because that was a feedback that we got also. That we wanted to hear what the family were saying about caring for a loved one with mental illness. It's not a comprehensive list because it's a work in progress, but it's a good starting point because I think also too when we have participants in our class, they described not way, but people who have taken the class, they are described as a deer in headlights.
Because if you think about you have a loved one with mental illness, you just got a diagnosis, you don't know where to turn to, you show up at this class, and you're like I don't know what's going to happen next or where to go next or what to do and what's going to happen. So we developed this reading list as kind of a starting point and it's somewhat of a roadmap to go along with the programs that we offer.
David: It's great. Sounds like a great start. So in talking about mental and physical wellness of course, we're referring to children as much as adults. Elizabeth, what kind of information does the library have for health and wellness for children?
Elizabeth: Well, we have the same kind of range of materials for children and about children that we do as the materials that are for and about adults. As it mentioned, the health LibGuide on our website has a section that is devoted to children. So it offers information about children's health resources and in our branches any children's department will have materials on the shelf that staff can show to our customers that address both how parents can address children's health issues as well as books for the children themselves to learn about their own health issues or health and wellness in general.
David: It's wonderful. And Nicole presumably NAMI caters as much to children in your offerings as anyone else?
Nicole: That's a really good question, because our model is a little bit different. So we offer the classes for family members who have a loved one over the age of 18 and then we have classes for the parents who have a child under the age of 18. So we don't target under the age of 18 specifically. However, we do have a program when we go into high schools and middle schools and do a suicide prevention resiliency program. So in that case, we do touch that population, but primarily in terms of NAMI's core program, it's really for adults.
Nicole: For the exception of the parents, but it's the parents for the kids under the age of 18.
David: Right, okay. Thanks for clarifying that.
Lauren: Nicole, do you have any particular advice for anybody who's struggling with or has family members who are struggling with mental health problems and I guess they're in that deer in the headlights stage, they been blindsided and they don't know where to turn, they don't know what to do?
Nicole: Yeah, absolutely. Everybody situation is different and that's why I go back to always going to your primary care provider. If it's the family member who has a loved one that's experiencing these signs and symptoms, we recommend that they keep a journal of the behaviors. So that when their loved one or if and when their loved one does go to the doctor they have some kind of documentation of the behaviors, we're not doctors at NAMI, so we don't diagnose and that's one of the things that we talk about in our presentations is that, don't diagnose your family member because that's going to-
Lauren: As tempting as it may be.
Nicole: As tempting as it may be, that's going to probably put them on the defensive. But always go to the doctor first, and if they don't go which is often the case also is that you make sure that you take care of yourself. And I know I spent a lot of time talking about the classes, but we also have support groups for both the loved one and for the person with the illness. And there is no commitment and that was one thing I didn't mention. For the classes, there is a commitment. You've to sign up and register family to family as twelve weeks, peer to peer for the person with illnesses eight weeks.
But sometimes people aren't ready to commit and that's okay. So they can do the support group and the support group is exactly what it is you just show up if you want to go and if you don't want to go you don't show up.
Lauren: Low commitment.
Lauren: Fit in the door.
Nicole: Yeah. And I see that is more like the gateway into starting the treatment process, and then once they get more comfortable then they may commit to taking a class to learn more about how they can help themselves.
David: So Nicole now that we've talked a lot about NAMI, where can anybody interested find out more information on NAMI, your services, and how to contact you?
Nicole: Okay. So you can go to our website at namimc.org. You can call us at 301-949-5852. Please like us on Facebook at NAMI Montgomery County and you can follow us on Instagram at nami_mc.
Lauren: We've covered a lot of material in a lot of different areas, but I want to make sure that you both have the opportunity to say whatever it is that you were excited about preparing for us. So what else would you like to tell us about?
Elizabeth: This winter the libraries are offering some health-related classes that I think are pretty interesting. We have at our Kensington Park and only libraries a bone-builders class for people over 55. This is offered on an ongoing basis. And it's an evidence-based bone building and fall prevention program sponsored by Montgomery County's Department of Health and Human Services, the recreation department, and the volunteer center.
Additionally, in partnership with the African-American health program, the Germantown library is hosting classes called kick starting your health, how to prevent and manage chronic diseases. That provide information and resources on how to prevent and manage diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, and dementia. Those are just a few of the health related programs. If you visit our website, you can search through all of the events that we offer through our events calendar. You can contact any branch or you can look for a print copy of our calendar of events around various locations in Montgomery County.
David: So, Nicole, turning to you, mental illness, the term mental illness is a very brute. Can you tell us some of the warning signs that one might look out for mental illness?
Nicole: Sure, yeah sure absolutely. So this isn't inclusive list, but these are just signs and symptoms to look for either in yourself or for your loved one. If you're feeling sad, if you're isolating, withdrawn, unmotivated that could be a sign of depression. Also self-harming and that is where someone may be making plans to harm themselves or they're cutting, that's definitely a warning sign.
Risk-taking behaviours, where they're out of control, engaging in risky behaviors and this isn't like an all-or-nothing kind of thing, it can be one or two symptoms that you're seeing. Also, the person can be just feeling fearful all the time, sudden overwhelming fear for no reason. Sometimes they have racing heartbeat or fast breathing. Other signs could be weight change and that could be one way, you know either way weight gain, weight loss, that can be an indication for maybe an eating disorder.
Severe mood swings is another symptom or warning signs to look for. Also, the obvious substance use, excessive use of drugs or alcohol, drastic changes in behavior that's unlike them. So as the family member, you know kind of the baseline of your loved one and that's why I go back to the journal writing. It's a little bit easier as the family member to see the symptoms but when you're the person with the illness and maybe sometimes you don't have that support system. So that means they have to have the insight to recognize these things and sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn't.
Lauren: Well, that's part of a lot of illnesses isn't? That you've just -- you cannot recognize that something is wrong.
Nicole: Right, you lack that; absolutely. And then lack of focus, difficulty concentrating and some of these things like lack of focus, I mean that could be just like not sleeping because my baby won't sleep through the night.
Lauren: No coffee.
Nicole: Right, yeah, no coffee. You're just you know working.
David Paine. Another day at work.
Nicole: Yeah, another day at work. So some of these things that's why again documenting, just monitoring the behavior so that way you have more of a timeline to see the progression of these warning signs. Montgomery County has a crisis center that we always refer to also so in addition to following up with your doctor, but if you don't have that, you can also call the Montgomery County Crisis Center which is 24/7 and that number is 240-777-4000. And they're always have someone on staff to help and they also have a mobile crisis team where they can send someone out to assist in a situation.
Lauren: It's good to know. Is there anything else you wanted to share with us Nicole about your work at NAMI?
Nicole: Sure. One of the things that I just wanted to highlight is that when you have mental illness, it's important to remember that it's not anybody's fault. It's not caused by poor parenting or weak character. It's not preventable at this time, but it's more about following your treatments whether it's medication, seeing your therapist, being involved in activities. And then it's not hopeless.
These illnesses present difficult challenges, but help is available through NAMI and other organizations, use our helpline to help get connected with resources of the community that can help you maintain your recovery. But that's one of the things that we just want to remind people that people living with mental illness, remember it's one in five and there is one, two, three, four, five people in the room right now. So, my point being is that we're all touched by it, and recovery is possible in terms of if you get connected with your treatment and you follow your plan. And that's really the message that we like to lead with at NAMI.
Lauren: Thanks a lot Nicole and thanks Elizabeth. We have one more question that we ask all of our Library Matters guests and that is what are you reading right now? Elizabeth, what would you like to share with us?
Elizabeth: Well, I'm reading several books. The most interesting of those is a graphic novel called Upgrades Soul, written by Ezra Claytan Daniels. It's about an older couple who are offered the opportunity to perhaps participate in experiment that may rejuvenate them mentally and physically. But it's an experimental treatment and they're not exactly sure how it's going to go and then lo and behold, all does not go as was expected. It's a lot of science fiction, it's very interesting, it's a big dick graphic novel which I really like. I like the more complicated stories. It was not written as a serial originally, it's just a standalone, it's very interesting I would recommend it for anybody who likes graphic novels or science fiction.
Lauren: And ties in nicely with our wellness discussion.
Elizabeth: Yes, it does.
Lauren: Nicole, what are you reading right now?
Nicole: Well, mine is work related. Just because we -- like I mentioned we have the help lines, so we get lots of calls from people and I try to stay relevant and being able to give recommendations to our callers. So I'm reading If Your Adolescent Has Depression or Bipolar Disorder, and it's by Dwight Evans and Linda Andrews. I like this book because when we get calls from especially families of adolescence; it's really hard to determine is it adolescent behavior or is it mental illness.
Lauren: Because they're not always super distinguishable.
Nicole: No, they aren't. And so this is a really clear concise road map. It's very easy to read. And one of the things that I try to be mindful of is that when you're in crisis, you probably -- you go through these different steps, you start calling all these different resources, you start reading all these books, you sign up for everything and then you're like on overload. So that's why I like this book because it was a little bit more simple, because I think that when you're going through those different stages simple sometimes, it's the whole 'less is more' kind of thing.
And I think that our callers appreciate that, especially when I tell them let's just do one thing at a time, let's focus on you know, whatever the priority is. We also have a parent support group which is something different at NAMI because it used to be just all family members in general. But now we have parent support group, so if you have a child under the age of 21, we have a specific group just for that population. And we find that to be very helpful for the families who you know, have adolescents that are experiencing these different types of symptoms and behaviors.
Lauren: Thank you so much for this conversation, Nicole and Elizabeth. It's been really informative and really helpful. Listeners, don't forget to keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on the apple podcast app or Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Also, please review and rate us on apple podcasts and leave us some comments because we would love to know what you think. Thanks for listening to our conversation today and we'll see you next time.
Summary: MCPL staff member Elizabeth Lang and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) representative Nicole Lucas talk about the resources MCPL and NAMI offer to maintain your mental and physical wellness. The NAMI helpline is 1 800 273-8255.
Recording Date: December 5, 2018
Elizabeth Lang: Assistant Facilities and Accessibility Program Manager at MCPL
Nicole Lucas, Director of Programs for the Montgomery County chapter of NAMI,
Hosts: Lauren Martino and David Payne
What Our Guests Are Reading:
Elizabeth Lang: Upgrade Soul: A Graphic Novel by Ezra Clayton Daniels
Nicole Lucas: If Your Adolescent Has Depression or Bipolar Disorder: An Essential Resource for Parents by Dwight L Evans and Linda Wasmer Andrews
Books, Authors and Other Resources Mentioned During this Episode:
Bone Builders: An enjoyable, evidenced-based bone building and fall prevention program.
Deep End of the Pool Workouts by Melisenda Edwards and Katalin Wight
Gale Health & Wellness Resource Center: Online articles on health, medicine, and wellness from magazines, journals, and reference books.
Health Care: Online health care resources available through MCPL's website.
Kanopy: A streaming movie service available for free to MCPL card holders.
NAMI Family-to-Family: A free, 12-week course for family caregivers of adults with severe mental illness.
NAMI Montgomery County: A non-profit organization dedicated to providing "support, education, advocacy, and public awareness to promote recovery and so that all individuals and families affected by mental illness can build better lives."
NAMI Peer-to-Peer: An experiential learning program for people with any serious mental illness who are interested in establishing and maintaining their wellness and recovery.
NAMI Recommended Reading List: This is the book list NAMI representative Nicole Lucas mentioned. It lists about two dozen books for individuals and their families related to various mental illnesses.
Prevention: Prevention magazine is available online through RBdigital Magazines.
Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition by T. Colin Campbell and Howard Jacobson