Recent Reads

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Speedbumps: Flooring It Through Hollywood, by Teri Garr –                Autobiography

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A Pig in Provence: Good Food and Simple Pleasures in the South of France, by Georgeann Brennan – Memoir and recipes

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Technically, It’s Not My Fault: Concrete Poems, by John Grandits – Poetry & Wordshapes


Recently Read: 500 Treatments for 100 Ailments

I recently… “read” isn’t the right word. I can’t say I read every page. I lookedIMG_7680.jpg through all of the pages and *read* (and marked for later!) many of the pages in “500 Treatments for 100 Ailments”, by Gustafson, Ren, McEoin, Espinosa, and Caley.

I’ve been getting into herbal medicine lately as an adjunct to Western medicine. For instance, I know there’s no cure for the common cold, and most cold medicines are just doing what a number of things in my kitchen and garden can already do, without Red Dye #40 or Blue Dye #5 or weird fillers and preservatives. I’ve been getting curious about what else I can treat at home – either in place of over-the-counter meds/Western medicine or in conjunction with it.

The book is organized by complaint – muscle aches of various sorts, allergies & colds, skin issues, etc. For each complaint, there is a short “diagnosis” section describing the complaint, a short list of “symptoms”, and a “treatment goal” – often stating something like “we don’t aim to magically cure you of this thing, rather we aim to help reduce the inflammation/pain. If X happens, go see your regular medical professional”. The Treatments for each and every Ailment comprise five parts: Conventional Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (to include herbs and acupressure points), Naturopathy (to include diet changes, supplements, and herbs), Homeopathy, and Herbalism.

I like that this is how the book is organized. Most books are organized around the herbs – 40 things to do with Calendula, 23 things to do with Mugwort. Which is great if I have a ton of Mugwort in my yard, and I can remember all the things it’s good for when those ailments come up. But that’s not really how my brain works with regards to health-related material. When I have a headache, I want to know how to treat it.

This book will not teach you how to make salves, tinctures, compresses, or infusions (though it does give very general information on making the teas). It also will not teach you how to identify the herbs in the wild (actually, it assumes you’re likely buying from a reputable herbal/homeopathy shop). Fortunately, that information is easy enough to find elsewhere. I was also surprised to find it doesn’t have a glossary of any sort. Some terms are defined within a sentence, but not every time that term is used. It also doesn’t give you *all* the possible herbs/supplements/acupressure points to address any given ailment – it gives *some*, and there are a few brief cross-references here and there (“this tea/tincture is also good for similar ailments such as…”).  And it gives *very* little info on contraindications – things like “don’t mix these particular herbs because you’ll create a nasty combination” or “don’t use these infusions/salves if you already use X medications”. To their credit, throughout the book they let you know this book is mostly for informative, beginner purposes, and suggest repeatedly you start with very low doses of any given treatment, and consult your medical professional or a qualified practitioner of whichever approach you choose.

I’m excited to try out some of the treatments. We have a variety of serious illnesses in our family, and I feel I have a pretty good sense of where my limits are for what I’m willing to try and what I’ll leave to professionals. We’re also pretty good at looking up components of treatments for possible negative interactions with the meds we currently take. I also feel like I’ve got access to resources – professionals I can talk with, more reading I can do on herbal preparations & interactions, people with a wide range of experiences in making and using herbal treatments – to support my learning. I’ve got a couple of good “here’s a plant, here’s how to identify it, here are some things you can treat with it” books. It’s nice to have this book that works the other way ’round.

Recently Read: Kitchen Gardening in America

Okay, “Recently read” is stretching it a bit here. I didn’t actually Image result for kitchen gardening in americafinish the book. And this post is more about how I read the book than a review of the book itself.

I started “Kitchen Gardening in America”, by David M. Tucker, with high hopes. I love writing about gardening/farming/cooking/preserving. Unfortunately, I was heavily influenced by a note in his acknowledgements/ introduction, thanking the person who noted his heavily male-centric research and writing. To be fair, most of history features men, because throughout the world and throughout history, men are the ones allowed (typically, by other men) to do things and men are the ones whose deeds -good, bad, and otherwise – are most often recorded. But women make up half the world, half of history. So perhaps more than a brief mention of their contributions are in order. So Mr. Tucker says he went back and fixed that issue as best he could.

I appreciate him acknowledging this – he could have just left the final draft as it was, the issue and editing and rewriting unmentioned. I appreciate that he brought it up – hopefully future readers and writers will make some small note and it will influence their own reading and writing.

That said, it was hard for me to get past it. No matter what period or topic he wrote on, I kept wondering “what else has he glided over, decided wasn’t important enough to include, didn’t dig far enough to find out?” I finally decided if I was this suspicious of someone’s writing, perhaps I need to stop reading it.

Maybe I’ll try reading it again another time.

Recently Read: Rock Steady

I just finished reading Rock Steady: Brilliant Advice From My Bipolar Life, by Ellen Forney.

This is an awesome book for folks with Bipolar I, Bipolar II, Depression, Image result for rock steady ellen forneyAnxiety, and Mood Disorders. Based on her own experience with Bipolar, it’s a terrific read. Lots of great advice for readers newer to their diagnosis or new to building their toolbox, and lots of great reminders for readers more experienced with their disorders.

The illustrations help make this a less formal-feeling “self-help” book, while it’s clear through the text that Forney really knows her stuff. Between two decades of her own experience and the research she’s done, there are lots of good, accessible ideas with the reasoning behind each one.

It’s not the kind of book you would simply hand to a friend or family member who is new to your diagnosis, but once you’ve read it once or twice, it would be a good book to go through together as a starting point.