Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Book Review: Hjärnkoll på värk och smärta

Hjärnkoll på värk och smärta (Understanding Pains and Aches) by Martin Ingvar och Gunilla Eldh

Publisher: Natur och Kultur

Year: 2012

Category: Non-fiction: Medicine

I often read books and think “I really should recommend this to so and so, they will love it!”. Rarely do I read books and think “Everyone MUST read this book NOW"!” And even more seldom do I feel this way about a non-fiction book, because lets face it, a lot of people look at you like you are nuts when you recommend a non-fiction book to them (I am putting biographies to one side here). This book I put out facebook and tweets about saying that EVERYONE MUST READ THIS BOOK! Why do I feel this way about a rather slim non-fiction book? Well first I should tell you something about me:

Right now I start every single day in pain. I am lucky, I don’t start every day in pain, 365 days per year. In fact I had been moderately pain free since December. But about a week ago it was as if I had walked into a wall, been hit by a bus and run over by a train all at once. There wasn’t a single joint, bone or muscle in my body that did not ache. I should have know the signs were there, the stress (5 weeks left of term, grades are due and national tests are looming), the dizzy spells and the headaches, yet I was surprised when the pain hit all at once. What does this have to do with the book I just read? Well it is a book about pain management. It is written for both pain sufferers, their loved ones and those who come into contact with them, both privately and professionally. And boy do I wish more people had read it.

It is based on research, but written in a very accessible way. It goes through both the causes of chronic pain and some of the therapies that exist to deal with it. It recommends how you should prepare for a doctors visit. It also takes Swedish medical care to task. The authors talk about a situation that has become much to common in Sweden in the past few years, many doctors surgeries are staffed by locum doctor and they are different every single time you go. The doctors have very few minutes for every patient and what is important for chronic pain sufferers is conversation, that someone takes them serious. The book points out the importance of not having to tell your story every time you go to the doctor. This takes energy. Being met by a doctor who dismisses you as someone who is whiny takes energy. And when you only have a minimum of energy this is stressful.

The book points out the connection between anxiety, depression and pain. This is something I have been treated for with KBT and for me that worked to a certain degree. At least it stops me from wallowing to much. It also taught me to plan. For example this weekend. I really needed to do a deep clean of my apartment, with the fibro hitting last weekend and work being crazy and the weather bad (I needed to take the recycling to the end of the road) I had let things go. Luckily this was a four day weekend so I planned it so that I have a day to recuperate. I’m not sure I need it, but planning for it is a better idea than not. 

In many ways this book confirmed the things I already knew about my own pain and how to best manage it. I haven’t missed a day of work this year because of pain, because I can manage it and because I have understanding students, colleagues and boss. My students are fantastic in that if I tell them that I am having a “dumb” day they respect that it might take me longer to reply to them. They can be my arms and hands and write on the white board when the pain is to bad. My colleagues check in on my class if I need to lay down for a bit. My boss encouraged me to make use of the company health care. I’m lucky.

The last chapter in the book was interesting to me from a different perspective. It talks about pain management in the elderly, especially those with dementia. My mother is a geriatric nurse and I used to work at a nursing home. Here I also got some of my previous knowledge confirmed, I also learned some new things. My mum encouraged me to touch my residents. She has always pointed out the importance of human contact in caring for others. This book also emphasizes this. This is something I’ve taken with me to my teaching career. I know that there has been a lot written about how you have to be careful when touching a student, but I firmly believe that patting someone on the shoulder, or hugging a girl who is devastated because her boyfriend has broken up with her, is something that we SHOULD do. So there. Anyway back to the pain management of the elderly. The book points out that many of those who suffer from dementia might also be in pain and that this pain manifests itself as increased “dementia behavior”. The patient appears restless and disturbing, but it might actually be pain, or lack of stimulation. To me this is fascinating because I have listened to my mom preach this for years. She is a strong believer in less medication is better and that stimulation is necessary.

This book has only been published in Swedish and in some instances it is geared towards Swedish conditions, however many of the conclusions drawn are applicable in other countries too.


Copyright ©2012 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

I’m baaaack!

Sorry for the long break. Apparently my old laptop did NOT like tea. Silly laptop. I’ve now got a new one and am hoping to get several posts written Monday and Tuesday while I am off (YAY national holidays!!)

I’ve been reading some really interesting books so please come back.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

The Sunday Salon: Help Wanted

The Sunday Salon.com

As many of you know I teach English at a Swedish High School. I am slowly starting to plan out the next academic year and I would love some help from all of you. I need tips on the following types of books:

  • Short stories (classic or modern, if the classics are available in the public domain my principal will love you all)
  • YA books suitable for girls but also for classroom discussion. These books do need to work for boys too, but the class is mainly filled with girls. Many of these girls are reluctant readers, or have problems with English (remember they are ESL students).

I have some ideas of the books I want to teach but I would LOVE some more ideas.

imageImage Credit Carl Larsson, thank you Alexandra for the fabulous Pintrest board

In other reading news January was a great reading month, February sucked. I had real problems settling down with ONE book. I kept picking books up and then putting them down. Not because they were bad but because I just couldn’t focus. I am hoping March will be better.

imageImage by Ilon Wikland

I’ve spent the last few days with my smart, caring, beautiful niece “Madicken”. She is 19 months old now and to my joy ADORES reading. Right now her favourites include the books about Pettson and Findus (Indus as she says) and the Max books. She also loves Pippi, even if she just knows the music right now (She loves to dance).


Copyright ©2012 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Thursday Tea: Gaudy Night

Thursday Tea

The Book: I recently finished Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy Sayers and felt that I couldn’t quite leave Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey behind. I wanted to spend some more time in the company of these two people so I decided to re-read Gaudy Night. A good cozy set at Oxford seemed to just the thing to ward off the cold that seems to have Europe in a firm grip, as well as allowing me to spend some more time with Harriet and Peter.

The Tea: Apple, Cinnamon and Raisin tea.

Do They Go Together: They do go really well together both have a warm feel with a bit of a spicy twist at the end.


Copyright ©2012 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Happy Birthday Dickens

Dickens google doodle

Love today’s Google Doodle.

My favourite Dickens is probably A Christmas Carol. Although I actually find that Dickens, for me, is better in movie/mini-series form than in book form (don’t all die). I really enjoyed the BBC miniseries of Bleak House but I found the book tedious. Anyway, Happy Birthday Mr. Dickens!


Copyright ©2012 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

In Memoriam: Astrid Lindgren

Today marks the ten year anniversary of the death of one of my favourite authors of all time: Astrid Lindgren. She left behind a rich and wonderful legacy of books that generations have loved and continue to love, in fact one of her characters, Pippi Långstrump is my 17 month old niece’s current favourite. I could think of no better way to honour this fantastic lady than to share with you two favourite songs to which she has written the lyrics. One is my niece’s and one is mine.

The lyrics were written by Astrid Lindgren and music by Jan Johansson. This is my niece’s favourite. She adores Pippi, has a Pippi doll house, a large Pippi doll, shirts etc. And despite not being old enough to see the movie or read the book knows the characters already. I am incredibly happy about that.

One of my favourite songs is “Fattig bonddräng” from one of the moives about Emil. The lyrics are written by Astrid Lindgren and the music by Georg Riedel. The song is often played at funerals and glorifies the hard work of the farm labourer. It is an incredibly sad song in some ways but also an empowering one. In the end, although Alfred has had his faults he is welcomed in to heaven because God has seen his hard work. It shows Astrid’s compassion with those in life who do not have an easy time.


Copyright ©2012 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

TSS: Bookish Connections 1

The Sunday Salon.com

Some months ago I spoke about changing the directions of this blog. Still focusing on books, but more on the connections between books and the things I learned. This post is about the connections between the books I have recently finished and am currently reading.

I started the year finishing off my re-read of Julia Spencer-Fleming’s books  I Shall Not Want and One Was a Soldier. Those books are like a big steaming mug of tea for me…total comfort. I’ve also started a new crime series, the White House Chef series by Julie Hyzy. So far I have managed the first two books (State of the Onion  and Hail to the Chef) and I have the third (Eggsecutive Orders) on my Kindle. I’ve also read Mästerdetektiven Blomqvist by Astrid Lindgren which is a cozy mystery for children. In it a character from my final fiction book, Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy Sayer, makes a brief cameo as the young detective ponders what Lord Peter Wimsey would do in the situation.


So far my book choices have been connected by a common genre, mysteries, cozies even. None of the sleuths are professional sleuths. They all rather meddle in things that are none of their business. Or possibly only their business tangentially.

There are however connections to some of the non-fiction books I have read and am currently reading. The first two connections are quite easy to see, I’ve read a biography about Astrid Lindgren by Margareta Strömsted. Lindgren was of course the author of Mästerdetektiven Blomqvist*  and the biography showed how Lindgren’s childhood environments influenced her writing, so one could see parts of her childhood in the books.. My second non-fiction book was a book titled Astrid Lindgren and Christianity by Werner Fischer-Nielsen. Again the connection here is obvious. Although I didn’t quite buy the thesis in this book it did give me some interesting thoughts, and I did like that Fischer-Nielsen focused on one of my favourite characters, Madicken. My final non-fiction book is the one I am currently finishing and it a way it has a connection to several of the books mentioned. The book is Hatar Gud bögar? (Does God Hate Gays?) by Lars Gårdfeldt, and is a book highlighting how, primarily, churches have treated the GLBT community, and how this community is trying to find a place within the church. It is a very interesting book and I hope to review it in the next week or so. You can of course see how it is connected to the previous mentioned non-fiction book, however it also has a connection to one of the specific works of fiction as well as the whole series of books. That book is I Shall Not Want. At one point in the book the following exchange takes place:

The boy pushed his overgrown bangs away from his face. “Under protest. Organized religion is a tool of the capitalist machine.”

“He’s taking a summer AP course in Marxism-Leninism,” Dr. Anne said. “God help us all.”

Clare handed the teen her overloaded key ring and Thermos of coffee. “Would you open up for me, Colin? And drop this in my office?”

He took the jangle of keys. “Why not? I’m only a member of the proletariat, crushed by the oppressive boot heels of history. Want me to light the candles, too?”

“Thanks.” Clare turned to his mother. “Remind me to give him some books on liberation theology.”  (250-251)

It is the last sentence that connects the two books, as Gårdfeldt bases much of his argument on liberation theology. I had not heard about this movement prior to reading I Shall Not Want and I was geekily excited when I realized how the two were connected. Gårdfeldt’s book is also connected to a previous book in the series in that, as A Fountain Filled with Blood is in a large part about gay bashing and the rights of GLBT individuals to marry and live their life free of fear.

Scotland 008

Most of the books also have a common theme of acceptance and helping those less fortunate in them. All the books manage to make this point without banging you over the head with it. Yes some of them are more obvious in this theme but they aren’t annoying about it.

I’m very happy with the books I’ve read so far this year, and I love the fact that there are so many interesting and thought provoking connections. Although I’ve always seen connections between what I am reading and what I have read before, by highlighting the connections through the blog I feel that I am getting deeper into the books. I am seeing them in a new light.


Copyright ©2012 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Book Review: Astrid Lindgren och kristendomen

Astrid Lindgren och kristendomenAstrid Lindgren och kristendomen – utifrån Pippi, Emil och Madicken (Astrid Lindgren and Christianity – from Pippi, Emil and Madicken) by Werner Fischer-Nielsen

Category: Literary Criticism

Language: Swedish

This book rather disappointed me. It seemed way to contrived. The author had decided that Lindgren’s books had biblical parallels and by golly he was going to make them fit.

I definitely agree that the books have moral and ethical themes but I think that this is rather typical for children’s books. Last year I read but didn’t review another book of literary criticism with regards to Astrid Lindgren’s books. This book dealt with her folk tale/fairy tale books and the author there discussed the fact that the children’s stories that Lindgren grew up with often had a moral to them. I am not disputing the fact that Lindgren grew up with biblical tales but I do find it hard to see that she has consciously included biblical themes into her stories. Instead this book has made me more convinced that many of these stories are universal in their appeal, no matter what religion you confess.

This book further deepens my belief that we humans create belief systems in order to make sense of the world. These systems and stories change little over the centuries, however their familiarity isn’t a bad thing.

I do like that Fischer-Nielsen highlights one of my favourite Lindgren characters, Madicken. As he points out this is a character that is often forgotten when one analyses Lindgren’s work and I think this is a shame. Madicken and Lisabeth have much to offer girls who live in stable families. I also, as Fischer-Nielsen points out, think these stories have a good discussions on class systems in society. Although these systems are seemingly gone from Swedish society, I think that they are still there in some respects. I think that one of the stories that is highlighted in this book could lead to some very good discussions with children.

Overall I think this is a book that although it is a quick read one could give a miss if one is studying Lindgren’s body of work.


Copyright ©2012 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Book Review: Astrid Lindgren–En levnadsteckning

Astrid Lindgren en levnadsteckningAstrid Lindgren – En levnadsteckning (Astrid Lindgren-A portrait of a life) by Margareta Strömstedt

Category: Biography

Language: English

Astrid Lindgren’s books have a special place in the heart of most Swedes. As Strömstedt in this book points out the phrases from the books have entered the general vocabulary of most Swedes (373). To use her figures as examples means that everyone will understand the reference. This book explores where these figures come from.

The book is divided into three parts with a post script. The first part tells of Lindgren’s family and childhood. Strömstedt maintains that her childhood was her biggest inspiration for her books, and makes a very compelling case for this. She shows how events in Lindgren’s own childhood, as well as in the life of her parents and grandparents have been incorporated into the different books. The regular, old-fashioned life is one of the things I absolutely adore about one of Lindgren’s series, the one in called “Bullerbyn” in Swedish or “Noisy Village” in English. Although I grew up in a cul-de-sac in a big city I had some similar experiences. And boy did I dream of the exact experiences that Lisa and her friends had. My friends and I often played games that were based on the different adventures in Lindgren’s books (our imaginary horses bore a striking resemblance to those of Mio and Jumjum and there is a game based on that played by Mästerdektektiven Blomkvist). I found it fascinating to read about how Lindgren’s own childhood informed her writing.

The second section in the book deals with Lindgren’s adulthood, when her books were published. Although little of the information in this part was new to me, I loved to read Lindgren’s own comments on events and issues. For example I was gratified to see that she had made a conscious decision to make the teachers in her books nice people. As a teacher myself I am all to aware of the fact that teachers are often portrayed as either not very nice people or as pretty absent characters with little understanding of the children placed in their care. In addition I was glad to see her view on women both through her books and through some writing she had done. Amongst other things she severely criticized the priests in the Diocese of Lindköping when none of them voted to allow female priests. In a rather snarky (yay) letter she pointed out that although Paul had written about women in church we now lived in a completely different world and perhaps we should not listen so much to him.

The third part of the book deals with Lindgren’s old age and her political activism. Lindgren became involved in several political debates during the later years of her life. These debates were primarily concerned with the rights of children and animals (although she is also well known here for a contribution to the debate around taxes). Her work for children’s rights and environmental issues is something for which she continues to be admired for here, as well as something that you can see had a clear connection to her early life where she lived close to nature.

I really enjoyed this book and learning more about one of my favourite authors. I highly recommend this book to others.   


Copyright ©2012 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Thursday Tea: One Was A Soldier

Thursday Tea

The Book: My current fiction read is a re-read for me: One Was A Soldier by Julia Spencer-Fleming. This book is such a mixture of bitter and sweet, with Clare “not doing well, not doing well at all” at the same time as the romance between her and the Chief having a high point.

The Tea: Raspberry Honey from Tea Hugger. I spent two summers with my friends in Greensboro, NC and on Saturdays we would go to the farmers market and buy fruit and veggies and other locally produced items. While walking around we would sip ice tea from the ladies at Tea Huggers and eat samples. I miss my friends every single day. For Christmas they sent me a care package with different things from the farmers market and one of the items was a tin of my favourite tea, Raspberry Honey. Thanks again Curls!

Do They Go Together? Yes they do, very well. Like the book the tea has a somewhat bitter taste at first, then a smooth sweetness that reminds me of Clare and Russ’s love.


Copyright ©2012 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Library Loot: December 28 to January 4

Library LootLibrary Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

I’ve never done a Library Loot before but with my goal of reading more from my local library I thought I would give it a try. I went into the library the other day with the goal to just browse and came home with quite a few books. And the books I came home with do rather point to my eclectic taste in reading. All the books are in Swedish so the English titles are my own translations.

First two books are books of lists (of sorts), because who amongst us can ignore a good list?

1001 böcker du måste läsa innan du dör1001 Böcker du måste läsa innan du dör: i urval av Göran Hägg (1001 books you must read before you die: picked by Göran Hägg) I have the English version of this (although it is currently at my cousins, long story), and I wanted to see which books had been included in the Swedish version.

52 kvinnliga författareThe next book is 52 kvinnliga författare: från 1700-tal till 2000-tal (52 female writers: from the 18th Century to the 21st Century) by Lena Kjersén Edman. This book has short portraits of female authors as well as lists of books they have written and suggestions for other books about them. With my interest in feminism I couldn’t resist this book.

Astrid Lindgren en levnadsteckningI recently read (but didn’t review) a book titled Astrid Lindgren och sagans makt (Astrid Lindgren and the power of the fairy/folk tale) by Vivi Edström so when I saw the following two books on the library shelves I had to bring them home: first we have Astrid Lindgren: en levnadsteckning (Astrid Lindgren: A portrait) by Margareta Strömstedt which is a biography of one of my favourite authors.

Astrid Lindgren och kristendomenThe second book is Astrid Lindgren och kristendomen- utifrån Pippi, Emil och Madicken (Astrid Lindgren and Christianity- from Pippi, Emil and Madicken) by Werner Fischer-Nielsen. This book dovetails nicely with my desire to read books that are connected in different ways, as it is connected to my reading on religion.

Hatar Gud BögarThe next book is also on the topic of religion and is actually the publication of a thesis. It is titled Hatar Gud bögar? Does God hate gays? Lars Gårdfeldt. Gårdfeldt is a priest in the Swedish church and a campaigner for gay rights. I think this will be a very interesting read.

Kulla-Gulla i slukaråldernKulla-Gulla i slukaråldern by Ulla Lundqvist (I can’t actually find an appropriate translation for this books title, sorry). This is a book written by a woman who has a doctorate in literature and it is about middle grade “girls” fiction. The books about Kulla-Gulla which are mentioned in the title were some of my favourite when I was growing up and I love books about books so I couldn’t pass this one up.

Yoga för allaMy final book is called Yoga för alla (Yoga for everyone) by Rosamund Bell. I love yoga but can only make class once a week. I know I should do more at home but I never get to it. I was leafing through the different yoga books at the library and this one was the only one that  promoted the type of yoga I practice (Iyengar). It has great photos that shows the different asanas as well as (and here was the kicker for me) having different programs for you to follow. I hope this will help me to get into a routine.


Copyright ©2012 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.