every dog has a giftAny pet owner knows that spending time with their pets can be a big source of stress relief. Cuddling my cats – and of course I have cats, I’m a librarian! – always makes me feel better, no matter what the problem. It’s not just their calming presence when they sit nearby and let me pet them, I’ve heard that a cat’s purr hits a frequency that can aid in healing. Their furry company is comforting, whether the healing bit is true or not, and I’m glad to say I’m not the only person that holds that opinion.

When it comes to man’s best friend, the ever-loving dog, it’s not surprising that there are a plethora of books to choose from concerning how dogs have helped people. There’s You Had Me At Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness, Love At First Bark: How Saving an Animal Can Sometimes Help You Save Yourself, Every Dog Has a Gift: True Stories of Dogs Who Bring Hope and Healing Into Our Lives, A Dog Walks Into a Nursing Home: Lessons In The Good Life From an Unlikely Teacher, and The Possibility Dogs: What a Handful of Unadoptables Taught Me About Service, Hope, and Healing. Plus loads more! Dog people just can’t help writing about the awesomeness of their furry friends. Of course I jest! Despite being a cat person now, I grew up with a great big dog who was a vital companion for me through my high school years, so I get it. Those lovable, loyal, attentive creatures give their everything, and seem to often bring out the best in their owners (as evidenced by all those titles I mentioned). Dogs in particular can perform animal therapy by visiting patients in a hospital or by being a friendly, nonjudgmental audience for struggling readers as in HCLS’s A+ signature initiative Dogs Educating & Assisting Readers (DEAR).

saved rescued animalsDon’t worry, I didn’t forget about cats. Although not as popular a topic as dogs, there is still Making Rounds With Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat about a cat providing comfort and companionship to patients of a hospice when their time is about to come to an end, Homer’s Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life With a Blind Wonder Cat, and A Street Cat Named Bob: And How He Saved My Life. While most of the pets and animals written about are the most common, cats and dogs, there are still stories like Saving Simon: How a Rescue Donkey Taught Me the Meaning of Compassion or Saved: Rescued Animals and the Lives They Transform which includes many dogs, some cats, horses, birds, turtles, and even a rescued deer.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m gonna go hug my cat and tell her she’s done a good job.

Jessica Seipel is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Savage Branch. She has worked for the Howard County Library System, in various positions, since 2003. When not at work, she spends her time reading science fiction and comics, visiting local breweries, watching horror movies, and playing video games.

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Okay, so last month, I confessed my juice reboot failure, but it wasn’t for pity or even to vent my frustration (well, maybe a little venting). It was to share how I’ve learned from my mistakes and turned those lemons into lemonade (or a healthful lemon juice blend).

First off, let me say how much easier it is to incorporate juices into your diet when the weather is warmer–it’s often refreshing to grab a juice or smoothie instead of a big meal on these warmer days. Secondly, when the hubby and I were going for the full, 3-day reboot, we were a little overwhelmed (and hungry). We are currently trying to incorporate just one juice or smoothie into our day. We may try a reboot again just for the “clean slate” effect, but one a day seems much more do-able for us. I should note that though we may choose a juice or smoothie for breakfast or lunch, we are not doing this as part of some fad weight-loss/meal replacement plan. We simply want to incorporate more fruits and veggies into our diet, and a juice or smoothie makes that easier to do.

Speaking of easy, here’s the biggest win we’ve taken from our juice fail: keep it simple. For the juice reboot, we purchased a nice juicer, since we figured the soluble fiber from the juice might be a little easier on my sad digestive tract than the insoluble fiber you get from smoothies made in blenders (and we didn’t want to have to purchase a crazy-expensive Cadillac of a blender). We are still using the juicer, especially for harder fruits and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots, apples, and pears. But making juicing and smoothies more part of our natural routine has meant looking for quicker and easier ways to do it. We were pleased to discover that our very ordinary blender could handle the job (within reason).

We also took advice from our friend Cristina, who has some family trying out juicing and smoothies. She said that they started with other people’s recipes, but eventually started changing them up a bit and trying things that worked better for them. For example, when the hubby and I started making smoothies instead of just juicing, we used the very popular 10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse as a blueprint. We were a little bummed that some recipes called for sugar substitutes, since we don’t really like things overly sweet and were more interested in just adding some healthier foods to our diet instead of just losing weight. We started tweaking the recipes a bit and came up with a very basic formula for the world’s laziest smoothie, as demonstrated in the video below.

Finally, as I mentioned last month, the original juice reboot called for us to go vegan a few days leading up to the juicing and a few days after. We were going to use it as a jumping off point for the VB6 diet, and did to a certain point. Now that we are having juice or smoothies once a day, we find it is a lot easier to stick to only vegan (or at least vegetarian) fare before 6 p.m. most days. Do we falter some days? Absolutely. But our new simplified and laid-back approach to juicing and smoothies takes a lot of the pressure off and helps us to keep the momentum needed to maintain the healthier eating habits we are trying to acquire.

  • It's amazing how good a well-seasoned avocado can taste!
  • Salad and vegetable broth--sigh--very vegan and satisfying, if not altogether mouth-watering.
  • Steamed broccoli, brown rice, and tofu, made delicious with a little help from their good friends Sriracha and soy sauce.
  • Avocado also makes a great vegan topping for a whole-grain bagel.
  • The little blender that could!
  • Hey, does my blueberry smoothie resemble planet Earth? Maybe just a little?
  • Yummy vegan chili (with a dollop of cheating sour cream).
  • Vegan tacos? Yep, and tasty.

 

Joanne Sobieck-Lingg is glad to blog about her many, disparate interests (though expert in none, except maybe parenthetical asides). In past lives, she was a writer, proofreader, editor, project manager, teacher, and even co-coordinator of a certain health blog. She has been happily ensconced among the fiction and teen books at the Central Branch of HCLS since 2003.

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Ever heard of no ‘poo? It’s really not what you think.

No ‘poo advocates ditching store-bought shampoo and conditioner for ethical, environmental, economic, and health reasons and replacing it with baking soda and apple cider vinegar.

I had severe dandruff that none of the store-bought shampoos cured.  Head and Shoulders made the dandruff and the itching worse. Neutrogena’s T/Gel worked a while, then it stopped working and the itchiness came back. Selsun Blue helps with the itching but the scent is completely intolerable to me. I couldn’t even watch those dandruff shampoo commercials on TV where the person can’t wear black because of embarrassing dandruff. Desperation led me to no ‘poo two years ago and I lasted a whole three months.  In short, after going no ‘poo, I found that my hair was cleaner for a longer period of time and that my dandruff problem was cured (for the duration that I went no ‘poo).

So why should you try no ‘poo? No more harmful chemicals polluting our waterways. Looked at the ingredient list of shampoos and conditioners recently? I don’t know about you, but I certainly do not know what most of the ingredients are, let alone how to pronounce them. Take, for example, the ingredients in Pert Plus shampoo:   Water, Ammonium Laureth Sulfate, Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Glycol Distearate, Cocamide MEA, Dimethicone, Cetyl Alcohol, Fragrance, Sodium Citrate, Polymethacrylamidopropyltrimonium Chloride, Sodium Benzoate, PEG-14M, Dihydrogenated Tallowamidoethyl Hydroxyethylmonium Methosulfate, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Chloride, Citric Acid, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Ammonium Xylenesulfonate, D&C Yellow No. 10, FD&C Blue No. 1. I probably should have paid better attention in chem class.

Going no ‘poo is also very animal friendly. I highly doubt baking soda and apple cider vinegar mix needs to be tested on animals. Companies that do not conduct animal testing proudly advertise that they do not conduct animal testing. For a list of companies that might conduct testing on animals, click on this PETA link. PETA has separate listings of cosmetics companies that do and do not conduct animal testing.

Another reason to try no ‘poo? Economic reasons. It is vastly cheaper to buy baking soda and apple cider vinegar than it is to purchase shampoo and conditioner, even if it’s a two-in-one shampoo. After the initial shock of switching to no ‘poo, your scalp will begin to secrete less oil, and as a result, you’ll wash your hair less frequently.  Fewer washings means that you’ll stretch your baking soda and apple cider vinegar supply much longer.

Initially, there may be no difference after switching. It took two weeks for me to notice that my hair was less oily, less itchy, and less flaky. My main problem with no ‘poo, however, was the inconvenience of it. There are no shampoo and conditioner-filled plastic bottles ready to go. With no ‘poo, you need to prepare your own baking soda and apple cider vinegar concoctions. It’s not complicated, but it is very inconvenient.

Here’s the recipe: For “shampoo,” mix together 1 tablespoon baking soda with 1 cup of warm water. For “conditioner,” mix together 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar with 1 cup of warm water. Warm water is very important because the one time I used regular room temperature water, it felt very cold once I dumped it onto my head.

Now for the inconvenient part. I keep my baking soda, apple cider vinegar, and measuring spoons/cups in the kitchen. I make the mix in the kitchen before I head to the shower and put it into two separate soda bottles. I use soda bottles because I have a lot of them (soda is my vice), and the smaller neck allows me greater control on how much I pour onto my head at once. I also mark with a permanent marker on the bottle itself how much water goes into the bottle so I need not constantly bring out the measuring cup. Finally, I keep handy a newspaper so I can funnel the baking soda directly into the soda bottle.

One more piece of advice: keep your mouth closed so the baking soda or apple cider vinegar mixtures don’t accidentally stream into your mouth. It’s all natural so it won’t kill you, but it might dampen your enthusiasm for going no ‘poo. The baking soda and apple cider vinegar mixes are not nearly as viscous as regular shampoo and conditioner, and hence, they do dribble all over your head no matter how careful you are.

Finally, does it work, you ask? I had my doubts about this, but I tried it anyway, reasoning I didn’t really have anything to lose and that I’ll be wiser for the experience.  The apple cider vinegar especially worried me as well as I did not want to smell vinegary. I even took precautions for my first attempt to make sure I didn’t have to interact with anyone immediately following my first no ‘poo experience. But to my surprise, my hair did not have even a whiff of vinegar tainting it (with a thorough rinsing of the hair, of course) and my hair was very soft after my first no ‘poo experience. Now, I still do no ‘poo once a week to keep my dandruff in check and use small amounts of shampoo and condition during the week because I cannot resist the sweet smell of shampoo.

Mio Higashimoto is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the East Columbia Branch. She has a background in history and spends much of her spare time knitting, reading, hiking, and watching Star Trek reruns.

(Special repost from November 2012)

 


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Do No Harmdo no harm is a gift of a book bestowed upon us by Henry Marsh, an accomplished British neurosurgeon. These linked stories eloquently describe life as the person who holds others’ lives in his hands. With 35 years in practice, Mr. Marsh has insight into all aspects of providing medical care. (In the UK, surgeons are referred to as “Mr., ” so please allow me to refer to this renowned physician as Mr. Marsh.) He shares his accomplishments, fears, and failures. He boasts, gripes, mourns and vents.Mr. Marsh takes us inside the skull, behind the orbits, into the brain. We join him on a fascinating anatomic journey as he incises through to the meninges, the spine, and the pituitary gland. We are riveted by the urgency of his patients’ conditions such as brain tumors, aneurysms and trauma. We are pulled along hoping that all of his patients do well, but he leaves us with no illusions.  These are stories of life and death and the mistakes even the most experienced surgeons make.

Not only patient outcomes lie at the heart of Do No Harm. Mr. Marsh also describes the challenges he has faced as son, father, husband, medical colleague and customer of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). There is much dark humor in the aggravation he describes dealing with NHS management and computerized health records. Will there be beds for his patients? Will he be able to coax the NHS computer system to show him the patients’ brain scans? He admits to an arrogance that has mellowed over time, but we see that he continues to be an opinionated force wherever he goes. One of my favorite chapters is “Infarct,” where he confronts how medical care and bureaucracy impossibly conflict.

In Mr. Marsh’s beautiful descriptions of his days, as he cycles to work, evaluates patients, instructs new surgeons, and waits to enter the “operating theatre,” we appreciate his dedication. His powerful introspection illuminates how medicine is a “craft.” Enmeshed in the combination of art and science exists a huge human element with alternately confident and nervous providers striving to develop their skills to provide the best treatment for their patients. As in a lecture he has delivered internationally, “All My Worst Mistakes,” Mr. Marsh is willing to share his experiences so that others can grow from what he still hopes to learn.

Mr. Marsh never loses perspective on his fallibility as a surgeon no matter the fame he has achieved. As an example, he has worked extensively in Ukraine providing care to its medically underserved population. Documentaries have been made about him and his service. Still, he writes “of surgical ambition and of my failure” and reminds us that diagnosis and treatment plans are filled with “uncertainty” and that “patients become objects of fear as well as of sympathy.” As a reader, I am grateful for his honesty and generosity as a neurosurgeon and author.

Cherise Tasker is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Central Branch and has a background in health information. Most evenings, Cherise can be found reading a book, attending a book club meeting, or coordinating a book group.

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being mortal“I learned about a lot of things in medical school, ​but mortality wasn’t one of them,” writes Atul Gawande, MD, in Being Mortal:  Medicine and What Matters in the End. Given that the two certainties of life are birth and death, how is it possible that medical training does not include education about preserving a patient’s well being at the end of life? How did survival at any cost begin taking precedence over the quality of one’s final days?
When the time comes to make difficult medical treatment decisions, it can be nearly impossible to see past the immediate choices. When a friend or loved one can no longer care for her/himself, the realities of nursing home and assisted living facilities may defeat even the most dedicated patient advocate. The time to read  Being Mortal is before these life events happen, and they will happen, in some form, to nearly all of us.

In Being Mortal, Dr. Gawande describes his efforts to improve delivery of end-of-life care and what he learned from the experiences of patients, friends and family members. There are no simple reasons for why we struggle with preserving quality of life as we age and experience failing health. There are certainly no easy solutions. Dr. Gawande addresses these complex questions with concise, elegant and insightful prose. The book is at once personal and prescriptive for improving the lives of the sick and the aging. His presentation and formulations are direct but he makes it clear it won’t be easy either for our society or for each of us individually.

Dr. Gawande and both his parents are physicians. When Dr. Gawande’s father is diagnosed with cancer, the treatment options become so complicated that even a family of medical professionals loses track of chemotherapy choices and which course of treatment will best match the end-of-life wishes Dr. Gawande’s father had expressed. His father wanted to be a person rather than just a patient. Like so many of us, he wanted to live out the end of his life on his own terms.

Dr. Gawande is a perceptive investigator known for his articles in New Yorker ​magazine. He has explored such hypotheses as the one in which lessons learned at the Cheesecake Factory and applied intelligently can improve the quality of medical care. He looked at the Cheesecake Factory’s profitable mass production of food people want to eat and their excellence in creating satisfied customers and analyzed how the same management philosophy could improve patient care and hospitalization outcomes. He has published two essay collections, Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science​​ and Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on PerformanceBetter: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance.His writing explores his practice of general surgery, the challenges of applying medical technology humanely, and issues of medical ethics.  In The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right he proposes changes to healthcare delivery that can minimize medical errors.

Now, with Being Mortal, Dr. Gawande gives us a book that should be required reading for all healthcare providers. It’s a book to be read before or during decision making regarding nursing home placement, cancer care planning, and terminal illness management. It’s a book that explores what gives our lives and our mortality meaning.
Cherise Tasker is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Central Branch and has a background in health information. Most evenings, Cherise can be found reading a book, attending a book club meeting, or coordinating a book group.

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raindrops rollThere is something about summer and water. Rain water, ocean water, pool water, all kinds of H2O. One of the miracles of the natural world, and an essential requirement for life. One in nine people lack access to safe water. Howard County residents are fortunate in our easy access to clean, refreshing water, lying within the watersheds of two major tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay. We all appreciate the beauty and the science behind the water cycle, and its importance to our well-being.

With lyrical words and striking images, April Pulley Sayre celebrates rain.”Rain plops. / It drops. // It patters. / It spatters.” From the beginning of a storm to the return of the sun, this splendid presentation reveals the wonder of water. Short, rhythmic lines, often only two words but rhyming or alliterative, are set one to a page against an amazing photograph. Sayre’s close observations, many in an ordinary garden, will lead readers and listeners to look closely at her photographs and at the world around them. Insects shelter from a shower; drops cling to flowers. There are tiny reflections in the globules. Raindrops bend down grasses, highlight shapes and band together. Some of the pictures harbor secrets. Preschoolers can appreciate the poem and pictures, but older children will appreciate the facts in the concluding “Splash of Science,” going on to describe “Raindrops Inside You,” connecting the reader to the water cycle.

June and July offer us many opportunities to enjoy rain storms from the safety of our balconies, decks, and front stoops. Celebrate the return to earth of the clean, safe water.

all the water in the worldLots of picture books introduce young children to the water cycle, but few have such an infectious beat and eye-catching illustrations as this title, which begs to be read aloud. “Where does it come from? / Water doesn’t come. / It goes. / Around. That rain / that cascaded from clouds / …then slipped into rivers / and opened into oceans, / that rain has been here before.” Children encountering the scientific concepts for the first time may need help understanding how, exactly, Thirsty air…licks…sips… guzzles water from lakes and oceans. Little ones will respond immediately to the noisy, delicious sounds and rhythms in the words as well as the kinetic energy in the beautifully put together digital illustrations. Playfully arranged type adds to the visual fun while giving cues for the reader. On the final spreads, a mothers hair swirls into a wave of water that becomes a joyful spiral of living creatures, all reinforcing the simple, profound message: our lives depend on water.

The water cycle is a great way to expose young children to science in a fun way. HCLS has a variety of experiment books for all ages.

bringing the rain to kapiti plainVerna Aardema’s illustrated retelling of a traditional Kenyan folktale is reminiscent in rhythm and repetition of The House that Jack Built. The illustrations are evocative of African artwork, stylized and dramatic. This tale of a shepherd shooting a hole in the clouds to water his herd is lighthearted in its delivery, but it also conveys on a child’s level the trouble that dry seasons can bring to a poor farming community. This is good for children growing up in a wealthy industrialized society where clean water is available at the turn of the tap. Stories like this one may open their understanding to the fact that other people do not have access to the resources they take for granted. Grownups will remember this as a Reading Rainbow book.

Take a swim, wade in a stream, stroll in the rain, appreciate the bounty of nature- just don’t take the book into the pool.

Shirley ONeill works for Howard County Library System as the Children’s and Teen Materials Specialist. She cannot believe she actually gets paid to do this job.

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