Essentia Health Hosts Annual Brainerd Lakes Bicycle Safety Clinic May 14

Essentia Health Hosts Annual Brainerd Lakes Bicycle Safety Clinic May 14

Teach, Test, and Reward bike safety

The Bicycle Safety Clinic

Children are invited with their parents to the Brainerd Lakes Bicycle Safety Clinic from 10:00 a.m.–Noon on Saturday, May 14 at the Brainerd High School’s lower parking lot, or Brainerd High School gym in the event of inclement weather. And don’t forget to bring your bike and helmet!

Bicycling is a favorite past time for all ages, but understanding safety first is the key to staying safe and having fun! Children and their bike will visit various stations for a review of bicycle safety rules, a bicycle safety check, and be checked for a properly fitted helmet. Then they will put the knowledge they gained to the test by riding a mock course. Once complete, they will be awarded a coupon for a free Dairy Queen treat and can enter a drawing for a $100 gift certificate toward a bike purchase.

If a child does not have a bike helmet or the one they have does not fit properly, they will receive one from Essentia Health. “We are excited to bring this event to our community,” said Naomi Mowers, Trauma Coordinator at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center. “Learning bicycling safety at a young age will stick with someone for life, just like riding a bike.”

The Bicycle Safety Clinic is open to riders of all ages free of charge. The event will be held rain or shine and is brought to you by: Essentia Health, Crow Wing County Passenger Safety Coalition, Baxter Police Department, Brainerd Police Department, Brainerd Parks & Recreation, Brainerd School District 181, Easy Riders Bicycle and Sport Shop, Dairy Queen, Lakes Area Law Enforcement Association (LALEA), and Trailblazer Bikes.

“This (Bike Safety Clinic) is an opportunity for us to provide the community with injury prevention,” said Mowers. “It’s a way to actively engage kids and inform them of some of the things that they can do to prevent injuries while riding a bike.”


A visit with multicultural YA Author, D.G. Driver

One of my favorite books of 2014/2015 is hands-down Cry of the Sea by D. G. Driver. This book came across my desk during Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2015 and it caught my eye because of not only the environmental theme, but also the fact that the main character in the book is a Native American teenage girl. That’s just not something you see very often. Within the first chapter, I was hooked.

Here’s a quickie summary of this awesome middle reader/YA book:

About the Juniper Sawfeather Novels: Juniper Sawfeather is the teen daughter of environmental activists with an ability to discover mythical creatures during her attempts to protect the natural world. In the award-winning novel Cry of the Sea she strives to help real mermaids caught in an oil spill from being exploited or killed? In Whisper of the Woods, while trying to stop the logging of Old Growth trees, she finds herself trapped 170 feet up in one by an ancient tree spirit that is unwilling to let her go or allow anyone to save her.

So, since I’ve had the honor of working with D.G for several years now, I thought I would pick her brain on everything from her writing habits to where she sees herself in the future. Enjoy!

Q:What was your inspiration for your Juniper Sawfeather? It’s so rare to see a protagonist that is a strong, intelligent Native American female teen, what made you head in that direction with the Juniper character?

In the 90s I worked for four years as the assistant teacher in a 3rd/4th grade classroom in a private school for children with Learning Disabilities. The curriculum called for us to do a huge unit on Native American history each year, and it was always my favorite unit. We would discuss the different regions and how the housing, legends, hunting or food gathering, lifestyle, etc. was different from region to region. I was particularly drawn to the cultures along the Pacific, being a Californian, and the tribes in the Pacific Northwest were my favorites. I was so enthralled with the mythology of that region that I learned more on my own and eventually wrote an adult fantasy novel during that time about a young woman who is trapped in a painting of one of the legends. I never did anything with it, though.

When I first came up with the idea for Cry of the Sea, I knew I needed it set in the Pacific Northwest because that’s where the oil spill would happen. I knew that I wanted my protagonist to have environmental activist parents. It seemed a good fit to me, based on what I had learned over the years, to have at least one of her parents be Native American. I felt that the historical and spiritual connection to the land would be important to the story. That said, I didn’t want the book filled with all the Native American tropes found in most fantasy novels: dream walking, mystical shamans, peace pipes, etc. I have always seen this book more as a science fiction than fantasy, so I wanted everything to feel very realistic and believable.


I also wanted Juniper to be a very contemporary teen, one who lives in the suburbs and goes to regular public high school. I wanted her to feel isolated because of her parents’ interests and her heritage, so I decided not to have her live on a reservation. Now, in book 2, Whisper of the Woods, I did a lot more with her family roots. I have her family fighting her uncle who is the Tribal Chief Executive of a reservation council and has ordered a lumber company  to destroy a section Old Growth Red Cedar trees on their land. There was a lot of extra research done to make this book sound authentic.

Q: Who is your mentor or biggest influencer when it comes to your writing?

When I first started taking writing seriously I read Ray Bradbury’s Zen and the Art of Writing. That book was the most helpful thing I’ve ever read. The biggest thing I took away from it was that I should not worry about the grammar and mistakes but just write. I needed to get the story down. I could always fix it later. I’ve lived by that my entire writing career.

I also give a lot of credit to the Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators Midsouth group. Their yearly conferences are always full of stimulating lectures and workshops. The region hosts a lot of published authors who are friendly and willing to give advice and work as a team. (I mean, Ruta Sepetys shared a signing table with me one year. Tracy Barrett always asks after my daughter when I see her, and Sharon Cameron’s daughter used to perform in shows with me.) I’ll confess that the indie authors in the group don’t get quite as much “celebrity” as the authors with the big houses, but I’ve always felt respected, included, and encouraged.

Q: If you were to let parents, teachers and librarians know ONE THING about Cry of the Sea and Whisper of the Woods..what would that one thing be?

The Juniper Sawfeather books are clean YA fantasy appropriate for ages 12 and up that are about a smart, sensitive girl who cares about the environment and all creatures that inhabit it. I believe her to be a great role model.

Q: Where do you see yourself in five years?

My dream is to sign with an agent and get published with a major publisher. I write a lot of Middle Grade fiction, and I believe strongly those books will be more successful with a big house than indie published. I want them in school libraries and to do lots of school visits. I currently am the lead teacher in an infant classroom and love my babies, but I’d really like to write full time by the time my daughter heads off to college.

Q: If you were to give any advice to the those who dream of writing and publishing a book, what advice would you give?

Take your time and write a good book. It’s really not a race. So many time people think that when they are done writing that first draft, they are finished. Make sure the novel is well-crafted and clean and has gone through several revisions before you submit to agents or publishers. If you go the self-publishing route, make sure you hire an editor and research marketing before you publish.

Q: What are you most grateful for?

With regard to writing? That I have the ability to do it and that the ideas keep coming. That over the past couple years I’ve been introduced to so many people through social media and at writing events that have been incredibly supportive and helpful.

With regard to the rest of my life? I’m grateful for my family who seem to not mind too much that I need to spend entire Saturdays in my home office every weekend writing.

Q: What would you like readers to know about D.G. Driver??

I majored in Theater Arts. My intentions were to become a successful actress, not a writer. I wrote as a hobby until I discovered I liked writing more than acting and that submitting to faceless editors was way less frightening than auditioning in front of real live people. Also, when writing a book I get to play all the parts, which is way more fun.

I still like to perform, however, and so I do local community theater here in Nashville. Since Cry of the Sea was picked up to be published by Fire and Ice Young Adult Books I made a resolution to only do one show a year instead of two or three. This has been very hard for me as I watch audition dates come and go. I just saw auditions for The Little Mermaid pass by and lamented that my chance to be Ursula had just fled. When this comes out I will have just passed up on trying out for Thoroughly Modern Millie. Why? I really need to finish book 3 of the Juniper Sawfeather books more than I need to play the villain in that musical. However, I absolutely won’t pass on trying out for A Little Night Music at the end of summer. I’ve been waiting for someone to produce that show here in town, and I’m so itching to sing “Send in the Clowns.”

D.G. Driver

You can read D.G.’s awesome guest post on my sister blog Franticmommy where she shares her insights on being a published writer and finding time to write AND be a mom. Read the full story HERE.






Buy Links:

Cry of the Sea

Amazon Kindle



Lulu (for print)


Whisper of the Woods

Amazon Kindle



Lulu (for print)


What’s a Flexitarian?

By Bonnie Brost, licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health.

Only 1 in 10 Americans eats enough fruits and vegetables, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vegetarians should be making the grade, so there’s plenty of opportunity for the rest of us to improve our diets.

Most Americans are omnivores because we eat both animal and plant foods. We are products of our culture and influenced by our family meal patterns. Many of us don’t think beyond the concept of food as fuel for our bodies. Often we eat to satisfy an appetite unrelated to hunger, and often our choices aren’t healthy or nutritious. We usually don’t consider the effects on the environment or how animals were raised.


Many people wonder if vegetarians are healthier. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says a vegetarian diet is associated with a lower risk of death from heart disease. Vegetarians often have lower cholesterol and blood pressure than non-vegetarians as well as lower rates of hypertension and Type 2 diabetes. Vegetarians also tend to have a healthier weight and lower overall cancer rates.

There are, generally speaking, four different types of vegetarian diets:

  • Strict vegetarian or vegan: This diet excludes all animal products such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese made from animal products and dairy products from animals. It also excludes any processed food that contains animal products.
  • Lactovegetarian: This diet excludes meat, poultry, fish and eggs but allows dairy products from animals.
  • Lacto-ovovegetarian: This diet excludes meat, poultry and fish but includes eggs and dairy products. Most vegetarians in the United States fall into this category.
  • Flexitarian: This is a semi-vegetarian diet that focuses on vegetarian food with occasional consumption of meat, poultry or fish.

Flexitarian is a relatively new and interesting concept. The flexitarian advantage is a basic awareness of the value of eating a plant-based diet. Flexitarians consider how to regularly include more fruits, vegetables and beans while just occasionally eating an animal product. The reason to eat an animal product may be a craving, or attending an event where meat, fish or poultry is served.

I like the term flexitarian because it is open and inviting. And it may be a great new motivator to include fruits, vegetables and beans into our meal plans while enjoying some animal products that we enjoy.

People choose vegetarian diets for many reasons, including personal preference, health concerns, dislike for meat or a belief that a plant-based diet is healthier. Many adopt a vegetarian lifestyle for ethical reasons. They avoid meat because they do not want animals killed or harmed, or because they believe it helps protect the environment.

Religious beliefs play an important role in vegetarianism. Eastern religions, such as Buddhism and Hinduism, practice ahimsa, meaning “do no harm,” and so do not eat meat. They are the largest vegetarian population in the world. They also believe in the dietary customs of self-control and purity of mind and spirit.

If food choices are well chosen, a vegetarian diet can be very healthy. However, certain nutrients can be harder to get on a vegetarian meal plan, such as iron, calcium, Vitamin B-12, Vitamin D and zinc. Anemia and chronic fatigue can occur if foods that provide these nutrients are not eaten or a supplement isn’t taken. Check out the American Heart Association’s discussion on a healthy vegetarian diet, which provides good advice.



If you’ve always wondered what a vegan meal would taste like, try this Roasted Edamame Salad. Edamane is another name for soybeans. This salad, adapted from the Food Network, is high in protein and fiber and offers some iron from the edamame.

Roasted Edamame Salad

Roasted Edamame Saladphotosource

12 ounces frozen shelled edamame, about 2 cups
1 cup frozen corn
¼ cup sliced green onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon minced garlic (1 clove)
1 cup chopped fresh red pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or rice wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place edamame, corn, green onion, olive oil, salt and pepper into a 13-by-9-inch pan and stir to combine. Roast 10 to 15 minutes, until edamame begins to brown. Cool in refrigerator. Add chopped red pepper, garlic, basil and vinegar to the edamame mixture. Toss to combine. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Nutrition information
Serving size, ¾ cup;  calories, 130; total fat, 5 grams;  saturated fat, 0 grams; cholesterol, 0 grams; sodium, 100 milligrams; potassium, 340 milligrams; carbohydrates, 16 grams; fiber, 5 grams; protein, 11 grams; calcium, 50 milligrams.


feed your brain with these healthy eating tips

Feed your brain with these healthy eating tips

By Bonnie Brost, licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health.

For decades, we’ve heard how to take care of our hearts. Eat healthier. Stay active. Control blood sugar, blood pressure and blood cholesterol.

We’ve heard little about how to keep our brains sharp as we age. The science of nutrition and brain function is relatively new and evolving. However, what is known is that if you follow the advice for a healthy heart, you’re helping your brain as well.


Scientists know certain nutrients and other key compounds are essential to brain function. For example, a deficiency in Vitamin B12 or iron can lead to impaired cognitive function.  Other components deemed important to our brain health are phytonutrients and antioxidants, which are found in colorful fruits and vegetables. Some researchers estimate there are up to 4,000 phytochemicals but only a fraction have been studied closely.

One researcher, the late James Joseph, said our “loss of mental agility may be less due to loss of brain cells than to the cells’ failure to communicate effectively.” The brain has billions of neurons that communicate through neurotransmitter synapses. That system may short out when it doesn’t get the amount of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants needed to keep it functioning well. “Perhaps there is no better place in which to gauge the power of antioxidants than between the minute connections of the nerve and brain cells,” Joseph said.

Joseph served as director of the Neuroscience Laboratory at the USDA-ARS Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. One of his most significant findings was that diets supplemented with fruits, vegetables and nuts could forestall or even reverse age-related declines in cognitive and motor function. Joseph explained how vibrantly colored foods rich in phytochemicals protect against diseases such as cancer, arthritis, and memory and vision loss. He wrote a book, “The Color Code: A Revolutionary Eating Plan for Optimum Health,” which outlines ways to improve our diets by including colorful fruits and vegetables.

We want to eat to help keep our neurons communicating effectively and build new brain cells.  As we age, we can create new brain cells, just not as fast as we used to.

More advice can be found in the evidence-based Memory Preservation Nutrition Program, which Nancy B. Emerson Lombardo helped create. She is a founder of the National Alzheimer’s Association and Alzheimer’s Disease International as well as a research assistant professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine. The program has shown strong associations between good nutrition and a decreased risk of cognitive decline in older adults.


Lombardo’s tips for brain-healthy eating include:

  1. Squelch the sugar. Avoid highly processed, refined carbohydrates. Improve blood sugars as pre-diabetes and diabetes increases risk of dementia.
  2. Decrease bad fats such as trans fats and saturated fats. These are inflammatory to the body and the brain. Use low-fat dairy and decrease red meat.
  3. Increase intake of good fats.  Eat more fatty fish, nuts, seeds, avocados and olive oil that are high in monounsaturated fats and omega 3 fatty acids.
  4. Spice it up.  Many herbs and spices have amazing protective properties including cinnamon, ginger, rosemary, oregano, sage, saffron, turmeric and pepper.
  5. Eat your veggies and beans.  Have three to five cups a day.
  6. Focus on fruits. Berries are nutrient-dense foods loaded with potent antioxidants that can help counteract inflammation in the body and facilitate signaling among brain cells.  All berries are important and can be fresh or frozen.  Apples help to increase memory.  Aim for three to five servings or two to four cups of fruit a day.
  7. Choose whole grains because they are rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. This includes brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, whole grain crackers and popcorn.
  8. Stay hydrated.  Drink six to eight glasses of fluid each day, preferably water.
  9. Get your Vitamin D.  Get outside this spring and summer to get Vitamin D from the sun.  A growing body of research shows that Vitamin D is essential for brain health.  Discuss a supplement with your doctor.

Lombardo’s diet sounds like a heart-healthy diet to me. The good news is that it also helps preserve your brain power.

By Bonnie Brost, licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health in Duluth.


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