Discover a World of Fun and Knowledge at Your Local Library


There’s a place, probably right in your hometown, where you can find books, movies, classes and seminars all at no cost to you. What is this wonderful spot? Your free public library, of course.

The library is a quiet place where phones are kept hidden and people speak softly, a refuge from the loud and sometimes boisterous world. You can wander among the bookshelves to find new authors while rediscovering old ones. No one rushes you, so you can take your time looking for whatever it is you desire that day. Do you want a mystery to challenge your mind, a thriller to scare you, or a comedy to make you laugh? How about a self-help book to learn crocheting or sewing, or one on how to refinish your great-aunt’s cedar chest? Or do you have dreams of becoming a writer or painter? There are plenty of books to help you accomplish your goals. If for some reason you cannot get to your local library that often, many have eBooks and even eReaders on loan so you can download your choices right from home.

For children, libraries are a gold mine of information and fun. Many offer puppet shows, storytimes, book bingos and much more. Take your kids when they’re young, even before they can read, and let them pick out their own books. Give them an appreciation of the stories inside and let their imaginations add to them. Help them discover new worlds and ideas between the covers. Enroll them in classes so they can make new friends and learn new skills. If you have teens, there may be classes that offer tips for saving for college, homework help, and computer coding tutorials.

For adults, there are usually a variety of classes and activities that may focus on everything from using social media and tax return preparation to yoga and book clubs. Many libraries also offer museum passes, so you and your family and friends can visit for free or at drastic discounts. This opens up a whole new world for many who could not afford it otherwise.

Libraries have greatly expanded their services over the years, so take advantage of all they have to offer. Either stop in or go to your local website for more information.

Written for The Country Register published across the U.S. and Canada.

Phobias – what do you fear?

squad 1

While doing research on phobias, I expected to find the usual ones such as fear of spiders, clowns, water, and driving over bridges. However, I was amazed at the number of phobias out there, the odd names that they have and the specific fears mentioned.

For example, did you know that some people fear peanut butter sticking to the roofs of their mouths? It’s called arachibutyrophobia. Or that others are afraid of the color yellow? That would be xanthophobia. Ironically, the fear of long words is sesquipedalophobia, so the name of the phobia itself would be enough to bring on anxiety in people with it.

As defined by, “A phobia is an excessive and irrational fear reaction. If you have a phobia, you may experience a deep sense of dread or panic when you encounter the source of your fear.”

Do you fear having a phobia? If so, you have phobophobia, which sounds pretty redundant.

These fears are very real to the people who suffer from them and phobias can make everyday living a real challenge. But what causes phobias, and what can be done to help manage them?

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), “Scientists believe that phobias can be traced to a combination of genetic tendencies, brain chemistry and other biological, psychological, and environmental factors.” While being attacked by a dog as a child may lead to a fear of dogs (cynophobia), other fears often come out of the blue and are nonsensical, such as papyrophobia, a fear of paper.

The ADAA lists a variety of treatment options such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, anxiety management, relaxation techniques, and medications. One or a combination of these may be recommended.

So the next time someone tells you that they’re afraid of the sun (heliophobia) or the rain (ombrophobia), don’t just tell them to get over it. Many people know their phobias are irrational, but they can’t just wish them away.

The Scotch Plains Rescue Squad is a volunteer organization of Neighbors Helping Neighbors. With over 90 volunteers, we answer emergency calls not only in Scotch Plains but in surrounding towns as well when needed. Besides answering calls, you will see our ambulances at many special events held in town, such as Scotch Plains Day, the Memorial Day Parade, high school football games, and the summer concerts on the Village Green. We are also available to provide demonstrations for Boys and Girls Scout troops, clubs, and any other group that may be interested in what we do. In addition, we lend out wheelchairs, crutches, canes and other assorted medical equipment free of charge. Our Auxiliary Group holds fund raisers and provides other much needed support for our members. Please reach out to us if there is something we can do for you, or if you would like to become a part of our organization. (908) 322-2103 for non-emergencies or

Contributing Author: Susan Baldani, a life member of the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad.

Book review of After Anna

After Anna

When Dr. Noah Alderman lost his wife and the mother of his son to cancer at a young age, he had a hard time believing he would ever feel joy again. But years later, after meeting and marrying Maggie, he rediscovers what it’s like to have the perfect family. He and Maggie are happy and in love, and she in turn truly loves his son Caleb.

Maggie, after suffering from postpartum psychosis, going through a painful divorce, and losing her baby daughter Anna after her ex-husband takes her to France, is grateful to have found happiness again and to have a child to love and care for after so many years of loneliness. She loves her husband and adores her stepson.

Everything is right in their world until an out-of-the-blue phone call turns their lives upside down. When the caller introduces herself to Maggie as her daughter Anna and says she wants to meet, Maggie is thrilled. Now 17 and having lost her father, stepmother and stepbrothers in a plane crash, Anna claims to want to reestablish a relationship with the mother she hasn’t seen since she was 6 months old.

At first, Noah and Caleb are just as thrilled to have Anna in their home and a part of their family as Maggie. But as time goes on, things are not what they seem, and their peaceful world is shattered when Anna accuses Noah of unspeakable crimes.

Who should Maggie believe and where does her loyalty lie? With her husband who has been completely devoted to her during their marriage, or her own daughter, whom she has missed deeply for so many years?

“After Anna” explores the complex dynamics of families and how the power of love can bring a family full circle and survive even the most devastating events. Lisa Scottoline, a New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award winning author of 30 novels, weaves a tale so emotional and involving that it is hard to put down. Plus, an unexpected turn of events towards the end leads to a stunning conclusion.

To find out more about Lisa Scottoline and her books, visit

Written for The Woodbridge Magazine published in the UK.

Homemade Birthday Parties

Birthday cake

While I was growing up, most parties were held in people’s homes, especially birthday parties. These days, many parents feel an obligation to have them in bowling alleys, movie theaters, and indoor sports centers since this is what most of the other parents are doing.

In my family, we have managed to keep birthday parties in our homes or backyards. The guests are mostly other family members with a few friends thrown in the mix. This tradition is still meaningful to us, and a way to celebrate our milestones with the people who mean the most.

We often bake our own cakes and make the food for the celebration, but we may also have a store-bought piñata or a Pin the Tail on the Donkey and other games to add to the fun. Of course, we have the birthday themed plates and party hats to add to the festivity. Balloons and streamers are always great additions and make the occasion that much more special. If the weather is warm, outdoor toys such as water balloons, sprinklers and water guns can allow kids to have fun while staying cool. If you have a pool, even better. There are no times limits or restrictions to the number of people you can have and the party can start and end at any time. The children in the family never seem disappointed with these parties and enjoy being the center of attention for the day.

I have great memories of childhood birthday parties at my relatives’ homes, and I’m glad the younger people in my family are continuing this tradition. I love being able to visit with relatives and friends I may not get to see very often in a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with celebrating outside the home. Many parents may not have the space or the time to prepare food and decorate. As long as the birthday boy or girl is happy, that’s all that really matters.

Written for The Country Register published across the U.S. and Canada.

The Cast – book review

The Cast

Women are strong. They can raise families, succeed in business, and have fulfilling lives, as long as they’re willing to work hard. This is the focus of Danielle Steel’s book “The Cast,” published in May of 2018.

Kait Whittier comes from tough stock. Her grandmother was left a single mother of four after her husband committed suicide during the Depression. Not only did she find a way to support her own children, but also to build an empire to pass down to future generations.

Following in her grandmother’s footsteps, Kait manages to raise three independent children by herself while writing for a well-known magazine in New York City. Now that they are grown and live far away, she misses them dearly but tells herself she is perfectly happy with her life as it is.

One night at a party, Kait meets Zack, a television producer from Los Angeles, and tells him about her grandmother and the legacy she left behind. He finds himself captivated by her story and tells her she should write about her, or someone like her, for a new show. She dismisses the idea and tells herself that he was only being polite.

Stuck indoors during a terrible blizzard, Kait sits down at her computer and starts to write. Before she knows it, 15 hours have passed and she finds herself immersed in the lives of three fictional women who are determined to succeed against all odds.

Sending her manuscript off to Zack on a whim, she doesn’t expect much to come from it, but a short time later Kait is in Hollywood living a life she had never dreamed about. All is not perfect though as she wrestles with celebrity egos and deals with the tragedies that befall both her and her new-found friends.

“The Cast” really gets to the heart of family relationships and the new connections that are made as we make our way through life. It explores the unexpected events that occur without warning, both the happy and the sad, and how people can adapt to almost anything. But most of all, it celebrates the strength of women now and in the past, and how their decisions have changed the paths of those who have followed in their wakes.

To find out more about this book and New York Times bestselling author Danielle Steel, please visit

Written for The Woodbridge Magazine published in the U.K.