The Dragon by Sharon Harrigan

My daughter was already in the front car of The Dragon, hugging her seven-year-old doppelganger who, weirdly, shares her name. The Ellas, dressed in pink, bobbed in blonde, the colors of the dogwood blossoms this festival is named for, were blind to the scarred cheeks of the carnies, in whose hands we put their lives.

Wide Open Spaces by Abigail Dotson

My dad gave me a gift. He taught me how to be with him without being with him. He gave me a space to feel safe. I am thirty-two. Eight years ago my dad died. I miss him something awful. I struggle with feeling safe in the world daily. I am fraught with panic; I often have a broken heart. I miss my daddy. But sometimes, when the world is quiet, I can find him using the map he drew for me all those years ago. I open my windows; I listen to the sounds of the earth; I imagine myself beside the soft orange glow of the propane heater and strain my ears until I hear the soft pitter-patter of his presses. I breathe in the cold air and connect to the space he created for me. I am safe. I am good in this world.

To Drink or Not To Drink: Caffeine and Pregnancy by Claudia Copeland, Ph.D.

Searching through the biomedical literature, I looked at four major categories of caffeine effects on the developing fetus. The first category, major birth defects, was easy to evaluate. Very high levels of caffeine have been shown to cause birth defects in animals (Nehlig & Debry 1994), but the levels at which these effects are seen are so high that they would not practically apply to even staunchly caffeine-addicted humans. To assess whether caffeine has these kinds of effects in humans, epidemiological studies (studies of populations of humans) must be used. In a systematic review of the epidemiological literature on cardiovascular malformations and oral clefts (Browne 2006), no evidence was found that caffeine alone was teratogenic for humans. [Caffeine has, however, been found to increase the risk of birth defects by other substances, such as tobacco and alcohol (Nehlig & Debry 1994)]. In a review of several animal studies and epidemiological studies exploring birth defects in general, Christian & Brent (2001) concluded that moderate caffeine use alone should not put fetuses at risk for birth defects. The outcome of epidemiological studies and the extremely high levels of caffeine needed to cause birth defects in animals is reassuring- moderate caffeine use should not lead to birth defects in humans.

Smoke Inhalation by Gayle Brandeis

It is 11:00 in the morning, but it looks like sunset, the air tinged with an eerie orange-gray light. Southern California is on fire, and we are breathing it in. Yesterday, my son wanted to bring his scooter outside. He put on goggles, wrapped an Ace bandage around his mouth. It wasn't enough protection against the smoke as far as we were concerned.

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