Monthly Archives: November 2012

FUN FRIDAY: Wild Wrappings

In my ongoing endeavor to make you all crazy with envy, I am announcing that not only is my Christmas shopping done, but this weekend I start wrapping those carefully selected gifts.

Actually I have a good excuse for wrapping so far in advance. We have a summer cottage in Maryland, which we also use over the holidays as a home base while visiting folks up north. Now before you add “What? She’s got a Second Home” to your list of why you hate me, let me point out that not all second homes are created equal. Here’s our “cottage.”

Kass's summer house

It’s a bit of a fixer-upper, but at least it’s a roof over our heads (although that roof has a tendency to leak). But back to my excuse reason for wrapping packages now instead of later. You see, we leave for Maryland around mid-December, so a good chunk of the month is taken up with closing up our Florida house, packing suitcases, jamming our van full of packages and said suitcases, and then driving for two to three days, followed by opening the house up there and cleaning all the creepy little spiders out of the corners. Sometimes there are other little inconveniences we need to address before we can relax and enjoy the holidays. Last year we arrived to discover that an earthquake had busted our water pipes. Yes, you heard me right; they had an earthquake in Maryland last fall!

So I’ve learned the hard way to get most of the presents wrapped early.

This year, I decided I should get more creative so I went looking for new ideas on the internet. Google pointed me first toward Martha Stewart’s site, where I was told I could make my own gorgeous wrapping paper. Nah, too much work!

So then I clicked on the link to go to Squidoo’s site. And I stumbled on Amazon’s naughty little secret. *teehee*

They sell gag Christmas paper that ranges from irreverent to downright raunchy. If you want to the see the latter, you’ll have to go to the Squidoo site. This is a G-rated blog. (Note: You’ve got to keep scrolling way down, well past the bacon wrapping paper–yeah, they’ve got bacon wrapping paper–to get to the really good stuff.)

Hmm, maybe I’ll temporarily change our rating to PG-13, so I can show you my favorites. This first one is from Big Mouth Toys sold by Stay At Home Dads, We Know Games!!! thru Amazon. Seriously, I did not make that up. That’s the seller’s name.

I may just get some HOHOHO paper to wrap my son’s presents in.

Wait, don’t freak out! He’s 32 years old, and he loves a good pun.

 Here’s a suggestion for those folks on your list who tend to over imbibe during the holidays (from Big Mouth Toys, sold by Think Fast Toys thru Amazon’s Add-On Program).

Sloshing Thru the SnowAnd for those who are athletically-challenged (from Big Mouth Toys, sold by BIGFLYSPORTS  *snort*  thru Amazon’s Add-On Program).

A Nutcracker Season

 Ouch!

At this point, you may have come to the same conclusion that I have. Maybe I’m not as motivated to start wrapping presents as I thought I was, since I’ve just wasted the last two hours looking for goofy wrapping ideas to put in this post.

But wait, I also stumbled on some other interesting ways to have one’s gifts delivered. Most of us wait for the chubby fellow to stuff himself down our chimneys. But in Switzerland, he may show up in your backyard on skis.

photo by Norbert Aepli (noebu), color and contrast edit by Lucas, Wikimedia Commons

Or if you’re one of our brave men and women serving in the armed forces, you may have this elf throw your gifts at you.

WWE’s Maria Kanellis

 I’m not real sure exactly what culture has a Santa sheep but I couldn’t resist this picture. 

Santa sheep with gifts

photo by StYxXx, Wikimedia Commons

 And if you’re spending Christmas in a Space Station, Santa may arrive in an astronaut’s suit. And you may have to nail the tree to the table and tie the presents down.

Christmas 1997 on the Mir Space Station, public domain

How about you? When, where and how do you prefer to wrap your Christmas goodies? And how is Santa likely to deliver them this year?

(Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.)

 

We blog here at misterio press once a week about more serious topics, usually on Monday or Tuesday. Sometimes we blog again, on Friday or the weekend, with something just for fun.

Please follow us by filling in your e-mail address toward the top of the column on the right, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun!

 

Did Your Mom Give You ‘The Look’?

As we head into the season of overspending, overindulging, and dealing with relatives we don’t always like, I figured it might be helpful to pass on some advice I learned years ago about guilt.

My mom had this look. From across the room, she could make me want to crawl under the nearest piece of furniture. She didn’t have to say or do anything else. The Look was enough to tell me I’d screwed up big time!

Nobody but nobody can make us feel guilty quite like our mothers can. And that’s a good thing, because moms and dads are responsible for teaching us right from wrong. It’s their job to instill guilt in us!

I'm 5, Mother just gave me The Look

Me, age 5, looking quite subdued, after my mother (the one with the crossed arms) just gave me The Look! (This was an in-laws’ Christmas night party my father endured for many years.)

As kids, guilt may stop us from doing stuff we know our parents wouldn’t like, even if we’re not too sure why that stuff is wrong. We just know our folks will be mad, and disappointed in us, if we do it. Guilt starts out as a variation on fear. Fear of rejection by someone we care about, i.e., our parents. So at first we feel guilty mainly if we think we’re going to get caught, or if we’ve already been caught doing something wrong.

But once we’ve got a fairly good conscience established, the guilt isn’t necessarily linked anymore to whether we’re likely to get caught. Indeed, children will sometimes confess to their parents that they did something wrong, just to make the guilt go away.

Now guilt has become a motivating emotion in its own right. It keeps us on the straight and narrow.

The Big Guy in the Sky knew exactly what He was doing when He invented guilt. He was the first parent to give The Look, as He tossed Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden for disobeying Him.

Adam and Eve beingin banished from the garden

(from free clipart by christiansunite.com)

The purpose of guilt is to remind us of the rules we internalized as kids. It’s supposed to stop us when we are about to do something that breaks those rules. It keeps us from stealing or from hitting people when we’re pissed at them. If we feel the desire to do those things, the guilt kicks in. If we don’t do the behavior, the guilt goes away.

The problem comes in when we’re not quite sure what we’re feeling guilty about, or when we feel conflicting emotions about something. Then what do we do with those guilty feelings? When I was still a novice psychotherapist, more years ago than I am willing to admit, I learned a simple five-step approach for dealing with guilt.

  • First, you determine exactly what behavior you are feeling guilty about. It may be a behavior you’ve already done, or one you want to do, or something you feel you should’ve done but haven’t, and/or don’t particularly want to. Sometimes it helps to say it out loud: I feel guilty because I want to/don’t want to/did/did not __________ (fill in an action).

  Example: I feel guilty because I don’t want to go to my in-laws’ for Christmas dinner.

  • Second, you identify the internalized rule that the behavior is breaking. You may notice that the rules often have the words always or never in them. This is because children are all-or-nothing thinkers by nature. So the rules get recorded in our conscience in this child-like absolute language.

In our example, the rule might be ‘One is always supposed to be nice to one’s in-laws.’ Or perhaps, ‘One should never make people feel rejected and unloved.’

  • Third, you analyze the rule to decide whether or not you still believe it is valid as it stands, or does it need to be modified, or perhaps ejected completely from the rule book.

Let’s say in our example that the in-laws are not very nice people and they don’t treat you or your spouse (their own grown child) very well. Every holiday spent with them is totally miserable.

Do you really have to keep being nice to people who aren’t nice to you?

(A word of caution here. This exercise is not meant to be used to justify whatever you want to do by changing the rule. Ask yourself if you honestly still believe in the rule!)

Or perhaps your in-laws are nice enough people but you just really hate the long drive and the boring conversation.

Is it okay to make them feel rejected and unloved just because they’re boring?

  • Fourth, depending on how you now feel about the rule, you either modify the rule and/or the behavior so that they are in sync with each other again.

First Scenario (nasty in-laws): You might decide to change the rule to ‘One should be nice to one’s in-laws unless they are nasty people who mistreat you and/or your family members.’

There are several alternatives for changing your behavior. If you really hate going to your in-laws, is it time to take a stand and insist they treat you all better? (This, of course, must be discussed with your spouse and it’s their call ultimately, since it’s their family.)

If your spouse isn’t ready to deal with it, then you might decide to suck it up and go anyway. But now you are doing it to support your spouse, not out of guilt because you’re supposed to be nice, even to people who aren’t nice to you.

Second Scenario (nice but boring in-laws): You may very well decide that the rule should stand as is. Wait, let’s take that word never out of there. Absolutes like that are rarely a good idea.

 How about: ‘One should try very hard not to make people feel unloved or rejected.’

So you probably want to suck it up and go spend one evening with the boring but harmless in-laws. You don’t need to feel guilty, however, about not liking it!

Which brings us to step 5…

  • Fifth, once the behavior and the rule are in sync, thank the guilt for doing it’s job and then send it on it’s way!

But wait, you might be thinking, I still feel guilty for not liking my in-laws!

Why? No, no, not why don’t you like your in-laws; we’ve already determined that they are either nasty or boring. Why are you feeling guilty about your feelings. Guilt isn’t about feelings; it’s about behavior. We can’t control how we feel; we can only control how we act. (See The History of Emotion for a somewhat tongue-in-cheek description of how our society came to the erroneous conclusion that we should control our feelings, not just how we express them.)

If you’re doing the right thing, it’s okay to let go of the guilt–pat yourself on the back even–and move on.

This really hangs some people up though. I had a client say to me one time. “Well, I know it really is okay to do that, even though I was taught not to. So if I feel guilty about it, then I can go ahead and do it.”

Is your head spinning maybe just a little? Mine did at the time. I finally figured out what she meant. Her guilt was the sacrifice to the Parent Gods so that she could then go ahead with the behavior; i.e. it’s okay to break the rules Mom and Dad taught you, as long as you feel guilty about it.

No, no, if you don’t believe in the rule anymore, then change the dang rule! You’re a grown-up now. You get to think for yourself.

If you really have trouble letting go of the guilt, sometimes a ritual is helpful.

For example, I’ve had clients write out the whole thing on a piece of paper. “I feel guilty about… The rule is… I have changed the rule/behavior to… The guilt has done its job. Thank you, guilt. You can go now.” Then I’d give them a book of matches and have them burn the piece of paper (over an empty trash can) as a symbol of letting go of the guilt.

I love this 5-step exercise. It has helped me sort out my guilty feelings more than once and pointed me in the right direction to act appropriately.

What about you? What do you tend to feel guilty about? Can you let guilt go once you’ve figured out what to do?

By the way, the contest celebrating the release of Celebrity Status, A Kate Huntington Mystery, is still going on through next Sunday. Clcik HERE to enter.

 (Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.)

 

We blog here at misterio press once a week about more serious topics, usually on Monday or Tuesday. Sometimes we blog again, on Friday or the weekend, with something just for fun.

Please follow us by filling in your e-mail address toward the top of the column on the right, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun!

 

Are You a Pre-crastinator Rather than a Procrastinator?

 It’s Thanksgiving weekend here in the U.S., so Americans are focused on…

CHRISTMAS SHOPPING!! (A mall in Toronto actually; photo by Benson Kua, Wikimedia Commons)

While everybody else is gearing up, I’m done. I finished my Christmas shopping last Friday. Now before you decide to hate me, let me point out that my goal of being finished all yuletide acquisitions by December 1st is not necessarily coming from the healthiest of motivations.

There really isn’t a word for what I am. I’m the opposite of a procrastinator. Some people might say that I’m organized, or even disciplined. I am definitely organized. Not so sure about disciplined. Better descriptors for it might be obsessive-compulsive or even control freak! 🙂

Procrastinators put things off for psychological reasons. The task makes them anxious. They’re afraid of screwing it up, so they avoid dealing with it until the very last minute.

I am the opposite for equally neurotic reasons. I am afraid that something will go wrong if I wait too long. That somehow I won’t get it done on time. The thought of that makes me so anxious that I want to do it RIGHT NOW. Get it done and then I know everything is okay!

So I start my Christmas shopping in early October. My brother and I usually go on an all-day shopping binge trip, hitting at least two or three major stores. Now you might think this odd that my brother goes with me. Before you revoke his man card, let me point out that he does so in the hope that I will find things for him to buy for everybody in the family. And I usually do. I am a shopper extraordinaire. If I could figure out how to make a living from shopping…

But I digress. Once I’ve got a big chunk of my holiday shopping done on that trip, do I relax and cruise along, picking up a few things here and there? After all, I’ve got over two months.

Heck no! Once I get started, I want to get it done!

Afraid that I will forget someone, I make a list of everything I’ve got and who I still need some things for. Then I start methodically nailing down those final purchases.

I mentioned last week that I was going to my church’s Holiday Bazaar. We have a wonderful bunch of women (they call themselves the bazaar ladies, and yes the double meaning is intentional) who work throughout the year to make all kinds of gorgeous craft items–wreaths, jewelry, decorated baskets, ornaments, paintings, placemats, baked goods… just about anything imaginable related to Christmas or that would make a good gift. The prices are good, and the proceeds (95-100% of what we pay) goes to help the homeless in our town!

Going into the Bazaar I usually only have a few people left to buy for. This year, I got them all covered. Here’s my haul:

A wreath for my bird-watching friend, Doris (look close; you’ll see the birdies); some luscious-smelling potpourri for JJ; a necklace for Alice; a little something extra for the hubs (even though I thought I was done for him); a cute little felt bag to put a gift card in and… Voila, I’m done!

How about you? Are you a pro-crastinator or a pre-crastinator? When do you usually do your holiday shopping?

Oh, and by the way, Happy Thanksgiving!

(Seriously, I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving! I certainly have lots to be thankful for this year.)

 Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

 

We blog here at misterio press once a week about more serious topics, usually on Monday or Tuesday. Sometimes we blog again, on Friday or the weekend, with something just for fun.

Please follow us by filling in your e-mail address toward the top of the column on the right, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun!

 

Are Psychopaths/Serial Killers Born or Raised? Yes, All of the Above.

Sorry, no post here because I am the guest of Stacy Green today over at Turning the Page, talking about The Making of a Psychopath–the Ultimate Thrill Seeker–how psychopaths and serial killers are both born and raised. Guaranteed to make the hair stand up on the back of your neck!

But before you hop over there, check out the contest below if you haven’t already entered. And I’ve got a Fun Friday post planned for this week on Christmas shopping–Are you a Pro-crastinator or a Pre-crastinator?

THE Celebrity Status (Book 4 in the Kate Huntington Mystery series) CONTEST!

Win a $30 gift card and more (everyone who enters gets a FREE e-book copy of Multiple Motives, the first book in the series) HERE!

This book is also available in paperback. Good luck to everyone who enters!

(Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.)

 

We blog here at misterio press once a week about more serious topics, usually on Monday or Tuesday. Sometimes we blog again, on Friday or the weekend, with something just for fun.

Please follow us (by filling in your e-mail address toward the top of the column on the right) so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun!

 

“I WON, I WON!!!” – Aren’t Contests Fun?

I’ve never been all that into contests, mainly because I never, ever win them. And then I won one, totally unexpectedly.  And it launched my publishing career!

My church has a Holiday Bazaar every year in November (indeed, this year’s starts tonight; I’ll show you the goodies I score next week). They usually have a raffle and I always buy $10 worth of tickets, sometimes without even knowing what the prize is. I’m just trying to help out my church.

A few years ago, I was shocked when I heard my name being called out the last day of the Bazaar. For a minute I reverted back to childhood and thought I’d done something wrong. A woman’s voice kept loudly and persistently calling my name, and then she called out, “Please come to the raffle table.”

Holy Moly, I’d won! They’d pulled one of my lovely little Christmasy-colored raffle tickets out of the box!

I didn’t even remember what the prize was. I approached the table and the woman, DeeDee, handed me a tan box. All it said on the outside was Amazon. And then it clicked. I’d just won a Kindle! Cool, I thought.

Not much of a reaction, huh.

You see, I’m a bit of a techno-idiot. Up to that point, I hadn’t given e-readers much thought. Just another annoying newfangled gadget, I’d assumed. For a few minutes, I even considered giving the Kindle to someone on my Christmas list. Boy, am I glad I didn’t do that!

It took me about a month to figure out how to use my new toy, but after I got the hang of it, I loved it!

And then I went to a writers’ conference and one of the presenters was talking about how e-books were turning the publishing industry upside down. I also met misterio press’s co-founder, Shannon Esposito, at that conference.

I won’t bore you with the details but that conference set things in motion. Shannon and I hatched a plan, and we started looking for top-quality mystery writers to join us (we’re still looking for a few more, by the way; we’re a bit picky). A year later, misterio press was born!

And it all started with that contest. If I hadn’t won that Kindle, I wouldn’t have really understood what that presenter was even talking about.

So now I LOVE contests!  And we’re holding TWO right now here at misterio press.

One is to celebrate Kirsten Weiss’s launch of The Shamanic Detective. Hurry, that one only has three more days to go! I’ve also got a contest going because I’ve just launched Book 4 in my Kate Huntington Mystery series, Celebrity Status.

We love contests so much here at misterio that we’re holding another huge one in December, so stay tuned!

The Shamanic Detective (3rd in the Riga Hayworth series)

Win this fabulous swag pack:

HURRY! Contest ends November 18th! Enter HERE to win!

 AND the Celebrity Status (Book 4 in the Kate Huntington Mystery series) CONTEST!

 

Win a $30 gift card and more (everyone who enters gets a FREE e-book copy of Multiple Motives, the first book in the series) HERE!

 

Both books are also available in paperback. Good luck to everyone who enters!

Tell us about some of the contests you’ve won.  Or do you believe, as I once did, that contests are a waste of time because you never win?

(Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.)

 

We blog here at misterio press once a week about more serious topics, usually on Monday or Tuesday. Sometimes we blog again, on Friday or the weekend, with something just for fun.

Please follow us (by filling in your e-mail address toward the top of the column on the right) so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun!

 

The History of Emotions (and a contest to celebrate the launch of a new book!)

I’ve been thinking a lot about emotions lately, for a lot of reasons.

One was Veterans Day. Nothing makes our hearts swell quite so much as thinking about the sacrifice our troops make for us.

So first, let me say a huge THANK YOU to all the brave men and women through the years who have left home and family in order to protect and preserve our country! We owe you everything. Big HUGS to all of you!!!

The other day, I stumbled across this interesting tidbit. The English word, emotion, comes from the Latin word, exmovere, which literally means “to move out.” Ah, apparently the ancient Romans knew a thing or two about emoting. They got it that feelings needed to “move out” of us, not be suppressed or bottled up.

This made me curious, so I went cruising around the cybersphere to see how different cultures feel about feelings. Here are some of the random things I discovered that you can use to impress your friends at the next party you attend.

The Giriami people of coastal Kenya don’t separate reason from emotion, nor do they feel the need to segregate emotions from one another. Their word utsungu refers to bitterness, resentment, anger and grief–feelings that are often experienced together.

For the Ifaluk of the Caroline Islands, emotions are a social event. One of their emotion words is song, refering to justifiable anger at someone who has behaved inappropriately toward you. That person, when they find out you are experiencing song, is supposed to feel metagu. This word translates as fear/anxiety but it’s probably more about guilt and fear of social rejection. However, if the person who supposedly caused the song does not feel the anger is justified, then the two parties negotiate how they should feel, and depending on the situation, others may join the discussion.

I’m still trying to decide how I feel about that. On the one hand, they’re talking–always a good thing. But on the other hand, emotions determined by a committee? Yikes!

Most Native American cultures view emotions as part and parcel of the whole human experience–body, mind, emotion, spirit and the social context are inseparable. One’s goal is to remain in harmony within oneself, and also with others and nature. Physical illness is viewed as evidence that something is out of harmony and the healer’s task is to help the afflicted person regain that harmony.

Hmm, very interesting. In other words, many very old cultures, that would be considered ‘primitive’ by the standards of modern industrialized society, view emotions as a natural part of being human that is inseparable from reason or even from our bodies.

So how did Americans end up being so–well uptight I guess would be the best word–about emotions?

A little more messing around with Google and I had some answers. Seems that started with the Romans as well, although they never intended to promote the suppression of emotions.

They pretty much invented civilization. The Latin word civilitas, from which our words civilization and civility are derived, has several translations: politics/government, citizenship, and the behavior of an ordinary person. The Romans believed that every person, in order to be a good citizen, should behave in a manner that would avoid social friction. (The key word being behave.)

Cicero Maccari--fresco in Palazzo Madama, Rome

The Romans invented the Senate–now we know who to blame! (public domain in USA)

This concept of civilitas became one of the basic building blocks of European societies. Regardless of what one was feeling, the expectation was that one would behave in a civilized manner, i.e., exhibit self-control. Makes sense. We can’t be civilized if everybody is running around impulsively acting out every emotion!

So things hum along for quite a few centuries with most folks trying to be civilized, except when they were trying to conquer each other.

Then along comes the Age of Enlightenment, also referred to as the Age of Reason. There’s some debate about when exactly this age started, but it was somewhere between 1650 and 1700. A bunch of philosophers started to question two time-honored traditions, the authority of the church and the idea that monarchs were ordained by God to rule. They introduced the novel idea that all human beings could think for themselves. Wow, what a concept!

 A lot of great stuff came out of the Enlightenment, including the scientific method, democracy, free enterprise, the concepts of individual freedom and religious tolerance, the spread of literacy and the idea that books should be available to all people, not just the upper classes.

Unfortunately, however, as this movement took hold, the idea that reason should rule supreme evolved into a distrust of emotion. Emotions were the enemy of rationality. They were evil. Now it was no longer sufficient to control your behavior. Now you were supposed to control your feelings as well. It wasn’t enough that you refrained from hitting your neighbor or calling him names when you were mad at him; you were not supposed to feel that way!

The Age of Enlightenment gave way to Romanticism in the late 1700’s and emotions came back into vogue in Europe. But in the meantime, the British colonies in America had gone and thrown themselves a revolution and they were now the United States–a country founded on the concepts of the Enlightenment. Indeed, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights are pure Enlightenment philosophy.

The Romantic Era not only influenced art and literature in Europe, it had a huge impact on politics and nationalism there. American art and literature were also strongly influenced by it, but from a philosophy of life standpoint, the rugged individualists who’d braved leaving their homelands to settle in a new land still preferred the ideals of the Enlightenment.

So the attitudes toward emotion did not swing very far back toward the middle ground in the U.S. It was okay for poets and artists to be emotional but the rest of us were still expected to keep a lid on our feelings.

 Now as a psychologist and professor of developmental psychology, I know research has established that all human beings, regardless of race, culture or gender, feel the same feelings. We are born with the same basic emotions.

crying newborn

Indeed, we come into the world howling in protest, which is considered a sign of good lungs! (photo by Ernest F of his daughter, from Wikimedia Commons)

Tiny babies express happiness, interest, surprise, distress and disgust. Anger, fear and sadness show up around six months old. In the second year of life, pride, guilt and shame, called the self-conscious emotions, develop as the toddler realizes s/he is a separate entity from others, that s/he has a ‘self.’

Almost all other emotions are variations or combinations of these basic ones. We all feel these emotions. What varies from culture to culture is to what degree and in what way we express them. And how much we are allowed to acknowledge them within ourselves.

I also know, as a psychologist, that you really can’t suppress emotions. Pushing them down and trying to ignore them just makes them go underground, and then they’re likely to come out in unexpected and undesirable ways. One of my professors in college used the analogy of a volcano to describe the futility of suppressing emotions, especially anger. He said that if we manage to drop a huge boulder in the crater and stop the volcano from erupting, the pressure from the hot lava is still there. It will look for every crack and fissure in the sides of the mountain to come spewing out.

spewing lava

Lava spewing from side of volcano (Stromboli, Italy–photo by Wolfgangbeyer at German language Wikipedia)

So the Romans had it right, all those centuries ago. We have to move emotions out of our systems in some way, shape or form, but in a civilized manner.

Another reason emotions have been on my mind lately is because of the new book I’m launching today in my Kate Huntington Mystery series. Of course there’s an intriguing mystery to be solved, but the other theme of the story is what happens to the main characters when they are being hounded by the paparazzi (often not a very civilized bunch). How do they cope as their feelings of frustration and helplessness build up?

Check it out below. And there’s a contest to win free stuff! You even get a free e-book of the first novel in the series just for entering the contest.

And don’t forget to tell me what you think in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how we handle feelings in our society? And those of you outside the U.S., how do you think your culture’s approach to emotions is different or similar to ours? 

Celebrity Status, A Kate Huntington Mystery

Kate is now married to Skip Canfield, the man who patiently courted her through the last two books in this mystery series, and life is good. Skip’s private investigating agency may be doing a little too well, however. They’ve attracted their first celebrity client, a pop singer whose anonymous stalker has a twisted concept of love. Before Skip realizes just how twisted, he involves first his psychotherapist wife and then their lawyer friend, Rob Franklin, in the case.

Soon they are being hounded by paparazzi and someone is planting evidence to convince Skip that Kate and Rob are lovers. As they try to cope with this onslaught of unwanted attention and a stalker who will stop at nothing to remove the obstacles in his path, Kate and Skip struggle with the reality that you can’t always keep those you love from harm.

About the Author

Author Kassandra Lamb

Writing and psychology have always vied for number one on my Greatest Passions list. Since psychology was more likely to pay the bills, that’s what I studied (I’m partial to eating). But now that I’m retired from a career as a psychotherapist and college professor, I can spend most of my time in an alternate universe in which my protagonist, Kate Huntington, is always the kind, generous and insightful person I wish I was. When not at my computer, transported in mind and spirit into Kate’s world, I live in Florida and Maryland, with my husband and my Alaskan Husky, Amelia. I hang out a lot on Twitter and Facebook as well, so feel free to track me down there.

 Purchase

Kindle / Paperback / Barnes & Noble

Follow Kassandra Lamb

Website / Newsletter / Facebook / Twitter / GoodReads

The prize: a $30 gift certificate from Amazon, a canvas tote bag and a signed paperback copy of Celebrity Status. EVERY person that enters the contest will get an ebook of the first book in the series, Multiple Motives.

Ends 12/2 Fill out the form to participate

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

We blog here at misterio press once a week about more serious topics, usually on Monday or Tuesday. Sometimes we blog again, on Friday or the weekend, with something just for fun.

Please follow us by filling in your e-mail address toward the top of the column on the right, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun!

Eating Healthy Is Easier Than You Think

Let me preface by saying that I am neither a nutritionist nor a medical doctor, but in the early days of my psychotherapy practice, I specialized in weight management and compulsive eating issues. I studied nutrition so that I could responsibly guide my clients toward better eating habits. I am repeating here only things that I was taught by health professionals or have read in reliable professional publications.

In two earlier posts (“Obesity Is One of the Last Bastions of Prejudice…” and Dieting is the Best Way to GAIN Weight) I talked about how both our bodies and our psyches fight us when we try to lose weight the traditional way. I suggested that the first goal should be to eat healthy in order to be healthy. In today’s post I offer suggestions on how to do that.

It isn’t as hard to eat healthy, or at least healthier, as many people think it is. All it really takes is some knowledge and developing the habit of being aware of what you eat.

Let’s start by setting a simple goal. Every day, for the next month, can you try to do one thing to improve your eating behaviors? The idea here is to change gradually, so it isn’t such a wrenching experience. But one does have to stay on track; it’s easy to get distracted.

Below I will be giving you lots of Helpful Hints to change these behaviors. Do them in whatever order appeals to you, starting with the changes you think will be the easiest to make to get the momentum going. I’d suggest making a list for yourself, numbered 1 through 30, and check them off as you go. But make sure you keep doing the things you changed earlier in the month! You’ll want to refer back to the earlier posts as well. I actually ended up with 30 HH’s which was not intentional but it’s cool that it worked out that way.

Complex Carbohydrates are Your Friends:

Yup, you heard me right. Simple carbohydrates are the enemy, not carbohydrates in general. Simple carbohydrates are: refined sugar, sugary drinks, white flour, all baked goods made with white flour and refined sugar, white bread, white pasta, white rice, peeled white potatoes (do you see a trend here; if it’s white it’s probably not all that good for you).

These are harmful because they represent calories with little or no nutrition nor fill-you-up benefits to show for those calories.

Complex carbohydrates are vegetables, legumes, fruits and whole grain products. These are all high in fiber, which fills you up as well as being good for your system, and they are chock full of nutrients. Ideally we should be eating at least five to nine servings of vegetables/fruits and three to five servings of whole grains per day.

HH#17 (see the first two posts for HH#1-16):  Fresh vegetables are best but honestly most of us don’t have time to stop at the farmer’s market or grocery store every few days to get them. The next best thing is frozen (without any fancy sauces, just the veggies). If you eat canned vegetables, STOP! Many of the nutrients are lost during the canning process and salt, artificial preservatives and sometimes sugar are added.

If you’re like me and you’re not fond of veggies, eat even more fruit. They have many of the same nutrients. Fresh is best; frozen (with no sugar added) is fine; canned is okay IF it’s packed in fruit juice, not a sugary syrup. More on how to make fruits and veggies more enticing in a little bit..

HH#18:  Start reading labels when you shop. This will slow down the shopping process the first few times but after awhile you’ll know which products are good and which need closer examination before they go in your cart. If the first or second item on the ingredients list is sugar, corn syrup or any other kind of sweetener, put that item right back on the shelf!

Now about those whole grain products. Key word is WHOLE. If the bread wrapper says “wheat” bread, keep going. You want the “whole wheat” bread. Okay, I can hear you whining from all the way over here. “But I don’t like the taste of wheat bread.” That is only because you are not used to it. It doesn’t taste the way you expect bread to taste. Soooo…

HH#19:  Make the switch to whole grains gradually. Start with that wheat bread that isn’t whole wheat. It’s taste will be closer to what you are used to because it is made of at least half white flour. Change the bread you eat one meal at a time. Breakfast toast is wheat for a few days, then add your lunchtime sandwich to the closer to whole grain category. Once you’re used to the taste of the ‘fake’ wheat bread, it will not be hard to make the switch to the whole grain breads.

Look for brown rice (now comes in the quick cooking variety just like white rice) and whole grain spaghetti. These tastes are not as drastically different from the white versions, just a bit nuttier. And you will be amazed how much faster you get filled up, and how much longer that meal sticks with you. This is because these products haven’t had all the fiber processed out of them!

In the first Obesity post, I talked about how our bodies are programmed for more primitive times. Part of that programming is that we become satiated faster when food is boring (like the dried meats and berries we had to eat during the lean winters in cave-person times). Soooo…

HH#20:  Keep the meats and starches (that are higher calorie) boring but spice up the variety of the fruits and veggies to make them more appealing. There are lots of easy ways to make them exciting. (See my friend, Ginger Calem’s blog for some great veggie recipes!)

Now let’s work on eliminating liquid calorie consumption. We can take in a tremendous amount of calories without realizing it as we attempt to quench our thirst throughout the day. The worst offenders are carbonated beverages. Not only are they pouring empty calories into you but the carbonation leeches calcium from your bones!

The artificially sweetened ones are not better. Now you’re getting unnatural chemicals along with those calcium-leeching bubbles. And research has found that people drinking artificially sweetened soft drinks gained more weight over time than those drinking regular soft drinks (not sure how that works, but hey, that’s what the research has found!)

So let’s get rid of the soft drinks completely (except as an occasional treat). Again, you can wean yourself gradually. I used to be addicted to Cokes, drank them morning, noon and night. But when I took those nutrition classes I mentioned earlier and found out about that whole calcium-leeching thing, I switched over to water and tea.

HH#21:  When you are thirsty, drink water FIRST! We need a lot of water to flush out our systems and most Americans don’t drink nearly enough of it. If you don’t like what comes out of the faucet, then drink bottled water, but again read the labels. Avoid the ones with added minerals (designed to make you more thirsty) or flavorings with either sugar or artificial sweeteners.

HH#22:  Other beverages that are okay: fruit juice cut half-and-half with water (fruit juice is very good for you but it is high in calories), moderate amounts of tea or coffee (unless you are pregnant). If you are used to dumping a bunch of sugar and creamer into such beverages, again wean yourself slowly back (a half teaspoon of real sugar is only 8 calories). If you drink iced coffee or tea, make your own! Don’t drink the bottled stuff. They’re chock full of sweeteners. I have a Mr. Coffee Iced Tea Maker and I love it! Makes great iced tea with minimal effort.

We try to keep it simple at our house.

Last but not least, before we move on to the subject of proteins and fats, do not completely deprive yourself of yummy treats. Deprivation almost inevitably leads to rebellion and overindulging (see Dieting post). But if you have trouble eating sweets and similar foods in moderation…

HH#23:  Get them out of the house. Only allow yourself to have these treats when you go out, and then only when you truly want them. Don’t make a habit of always getting dessert when you eat out, but if you want dessert, cut back a bit on the rest of what you order. And consider sharing that dessert so both you and your companion can enjoy with less guilt.

Myths and Misconceptions about Protein, Dairy and Fats:

Can you guess what one of the biggest malnutrition problems in the United States is?

Calcium. Children and women of any age need three to five servings of calcium-rich foods a day for healthy bones. And dairy products are, by far, the most calcium rich. But drinking milk has gotten replaced by sodas in a lot of Americans’ diets.

Sure you can take calcium supplements (not a bad idea) but our bodies absorb calcium far better from food than from a pill. More on how to get enough calcium into your system in a minute.

A common myth about healthy eating is that we need a lot of protein. We actually only need small amounts of protein at one time, but we need to consume protein frequently throughout the day in order to repair our muscles and organs.

Proteins are made up of amino acids. All animal proteins, including human protein, are made from the same amino acids. Different plants, however, are made up of different amino acids. No plant has all of the amino acids humans need to build new human protein. So animal proteins are referred to as complete proteins (they have all the amino acids we need) and plant proteins are called incomplete proteins (some of the amino acids we need but not all of them).

The human body has no mechanism for storing protein for later use. As we eat protein, it either gets transformed into human protein to rebuild muscles and organs or it gets broken down into its chemical components. What does this mean? It means that excess protein that our body does not need right at that moment as protein gets turned into… Drum roll, please. Carbohydrates!

Those carbohydrates then get burned as fuel for energy or get stored for later energy needs. In other words, eating extra protein instead of carbohydrates does us no good because our body just turns the excess protein into carbohydrates.

Here’s the chemistry (don’t worry, I’ll keep it simple ’cause chemistry makes my head hurt). The four basic elements that make up all proteins (some amino acids will have other components as well) are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen (which tends to hang out with the hydrogen in the form of H2O, i.e., water) and nitrogen. If the protein is not needed at that moment by our bodies, then the nitrogen is removed from the protein molecule. What we have left is carbon plus hydrogen and oxygen (water) or carbo-hydrates. The nitrogen then becomes waste material and is excreted in our urine.

Not only does excessive protein do us no good, it can actually be harmful. For one thing, getting rid of that excess nitrogen is hard on the kidneys and can sometimes trigger kidney disease. And excessive protein interferes with the absorption of calcium (lots of research has been done on this recently). So our society’s movement toward more protein and less carbs in our diets is a major factor in the calcium deficiencies we’re now seeing in this country.

HH#24:  Eat a small portion of animal protein (meat, dairy or eggs) or carefully-balanced plant proteins at every meal. Fill up the rest of your plate with whole grains and veggies or fruits. Snacks should also include some protein, and not just because your body might need those amino acids right then. Protein fills us up better than carbohydrates and it takes a bit longer to digest so it stays in the stomach, keeping us feeling full, for a longer time.

The best way to balance plant proteins to get a complete set of amino acids is by combining legumes–beans, peas and nuts–which are high in plant protein, with corn or whole grains, which have the amino acids the legumes lack. Here are some ideas on how to do this: corn and bean chowder, brown rice and beans, peanut butter on whole grain bread. Note: peanut butter on white bread has no protein value to us humans because the peanuts are an incomplete protein!

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of protein, eggs get a bad rap in our society. They have the best quality protein available. Their cholesterol content is on the high side but there are a lot of other nutrients (B vitamins, antioxidants, etc.) that are good for your heart. These compensate for the cholesterol. Most of the fat and cholesterol is in the yolk, so eating just the whites (or two or three whites to one yolk) can be a healthy alternative for folks prone to high cholesterol.

Avoiding fat as much as we can is not a bad idea but there are several things to keep in mind. Fat takes even longer to digest than protein so a little bit with each meal will keep us more satisfied for longer. Also our bodies do need some fat.

HH#25:  Again, read labels. Look at the ingredients list and compare the calories. Low-fat or non-fat products often have other things added to them to make them taste okay–things like extra sugar or salt!

HH#26:  Salad dressings can be a major source of excessive fat calories with little to no nutritional value. Put your dressing in a dish on the side rather than on the salad. Dip your fork tines in the dressing and then stab some salad. You’ll get a more even distribution of the dressing so that each bite is tasty, but you’ll use a good bit less dressing.

Last but not least on the subject of fat is the issue of how much nutrition you are getting along with that fat. Which brings us to cheese. Cheese also gets a bad rap it doesn’t deserve. If you can find a low-fat cheese that tastes good and doesn’t have a bunch of other crap added to it, go for it. (I use American cheese made from 2% milk rather than whole milk for sandwiches.) But cheese is so nutrient rich, and filling, that it is worth the fat calories!

photo by PB Obregon (see Wikimedia Commons for license)

HH#27:  So make sure you get three or more dairy servings a day. Cheese, milk and yogurt do double duty. They are the best sources of calcium out there, by far, and they also fulfill the animal protein requirement. Yay! Let’s hear it for dairy!

A Word or Two  (or 50 or so 🙂 ) about Absorption:

It is not enough to eat the foods that are high in the nutrients we need. We also have to avoid eating them with other things that will prevent absorption.

Two things improve calcium absorption. One is vitamin D. Milk and calcium supplements are often fortified with it these days. Which is good because one of the side effects of people being more careful about sun exposure (the normal way our body manufactures vitamin D) is that many people now are deficient in this vitamin. Also research has found that calcium supplements are better absorbed if they are taken with a meal.

A lot of stuff interferes with calcium absorption. Some foods that are high in calcium unfortunately are also high in substances that bind with calcium and make it hard for humans to absorb it. Legumes (beans, etc.) and dark green leafy vegetables like spinach are high in calcium and are often touted as good alternatives to dairy products. But these foods are also high in oxalic acid, which interferes with calcium absorption. And legumes contain another substance that binds calcium and lessens absorption, phytates.

Oxalic acid is also found in some berries and in chocolate and tea. Tea also contains tannins (as does red wine) that bind with calcium. And last but not least, sodium causes the kidneys to secrete more calcium in urine. Are you beginning to understand why it’s so hard to get enough calcium into our systems.

As already mentioned excessive protein interferes with calcium absorption as well. And calcium interferes with the absorption of the iron–another important and often deficient nutrient–from meat and other protein-rich foods.

Is your head spinning about now? Let me see if I can simplify this a bit.

HH#28:  Avoid drinking tea with a meal or eating chocolate with high calcium foods (chocolate milk is yummy but less calcium will be absorbed). As much as possible, either eat dairy or some other kind of protein at any given meal/snack. To maximize calcium absorption, try to avoid legumes and large amounts of wheat bran at those meals/snacks where you are consuming dairy (see sample menus below).

HH#29:  Slowly cut back the amount of salt you add to foods. As you do your taste buds will adjust and will pull more of the natural flavor out of the food. Check sodium content when reading labels. If it seems excessive, avoid that product.

HH#30:  Last but not least, eat smaller meals more often, with snacks in between so you never get ravenously hungry and you always feel satisfied. And you will also be giving your body those frequent small doses of protein needed to rebuild muscles and organs.

Okay, Now You Are Ready to Lose Some Weight!

Say what? Wasn’t that what all this healthy eating was about anyway?

Yes and no. Eating healthy should be your first goal. Once your eating behaviors are healthier, you need to do two things in order to lose weight.

One, increase your physical activity (see Obesity post for why this is absolutely essential) to a minimum of thirty minutes of aerobic activity (you should be sweating and breathing heavy but not dying) five times a week, or one hour or longer of activity three times a week, minimum! More is better but you don’t have to kill yourself. (Always a good idea to check with your doctor before starting an exercise program if you have been fairly sedentary.)

Second, you need to reduce your calorie intake. But not too drastically as this will just trigger a set point adjustment downward that will be disastrous (see Obesity post). The ideal is to lose one to two pounds a week (much more likely to stay off!) One pound of fat equals 3,500 calories so you want to reduce your caloric intake by 7,000 calories per week, or about 1000 calories a day.

Note: This is simple math, folks! You cannot lose weight without reducing the number of calories you take in versus the number of calories you burn!

Start by tracking your ‘new normal’ healthy eating. Write down everything you eat for a week. At the end of the week, figure out the calories of the foods you ate (either by checking their labels or by using this handy-dandy calorie counter from WebMD).

Now average the total calories for a day by dividing the week’s total by seven. Your goal is to get at least 500 calories below that each day, and preferably closer to 1000 calories less per day. But don’t do this by cutting out a meal or skimping on breakfast. You’ll notice that the breakfasts in the sample menus below are generous. This is the meal that will set the tone for the day. If you skimp here, you will likely be hungry all day.

If you hit a plateau (and you probably will), do NOT reduce your calories further. Instead, increase your activity level and hang in there. (And put the scale in the attic for a bit–see Obesity post–because you will be building muscle again. This is good because muscle burns calories every minute of every day.)

If you’re not in the mood to look at menus, then please jump down to the comments (or click on the little speech bubble at the top).

What do you think about all this? What’s your greatest obstacle to eating healthy likely to be?

 

Three sample menus:  Calorie counts are in parentheses with total at the end. I’ve thrown in some processed foods for lazy cooks like me. The first total number of calories would be an appropriate weight-loss level for most males or weight-maintaining level for most females; the second count would be an appropriate weight-loss level for most females.

Menu #1:

Breakfast:  3-egg white, 1-yolk omelet with onions and green/red peppers (sauteed in olive oil), and diced tomatoes (200 total), whole wheat toast with olive oil-based soft margarine (120 per slice), 4 oz. orange juice or other juice (55) = 375-495 calories depending on whether you have 1 or 2 slices of toast. (No dairy because high protein of eggs would interfere with calcium absorption)

Mid-morning:  8 oz. glass of 2% milk (130) or 4 oz. low-fat, fruit flavored yogurt (110)

Lunch:  Cheese, tomato and lettuce sandwich: 1 oz. of your favorite whole milk cheese or two slices 2% American cheese (100-120), two thick slices of tomato (15), three leaves of romaine lettuce (15) on whole wheat bread (2 slices, 120) with light mayo (thin layer, 35; thicker layer, 70) – sandwich is 285-340 calories; one fruit cup in 100% juice (60) = 345-400 calories.

Afternoon snack: one 1″ square cube of cheese (60-70), one medium-sized apple (95) or small bunch of grapes (104) = 155-174 calories

Dinner:  Stouffer’s Farmer’s Market vegetable lasagna with whole grain pasta, two 2″x2″ pieces (280), small spinach, tomato and broccoli florets salad (60) with 1 ½ tbsp. lite dressing on the side (60) = 400 calories

(If you eat dinner early, have less afternoon snack and a lite snack mid-evening–glass of milk or piece of fruit or one piece of toast)

Roughly 1500-1600 calories for the day (to reduce calories further, eliminate OJ with breakfast, have just one slice of toast, move fruit cup from lunch to afternoon snack instead of apple or grapes, and reduce by ½ to 1 square the lasagna at dinner = 1200-1330 calories)

7-8 fruits/veggies; 5-6 whole grains; 3 dairy; iron from eggs and spinach salad

Menu #2:

Breakfast:  (my hubby’s favorite) 1 cup steel-cut oatmeal (150) mixed with ½ cup low-fat, plain yogurt (75) and ½ cup fresh fruit (50), OR with 4 oz. low-fat, fruit-flavored yogurt (110); 4 oz. OJ or other juice (55) = 315-330

Mid-morning:  8 oz. Glass of 2% milk (130) or 1″ square of cheese (60-70) and 4-5 rye crackers (65-80) = 130-150 calories

Lunch:  2 tbsp. Peanut butter (200) on whole wheat bread (120), thin layer of margarine or jelly (60) so peanut butter doesn’t stick to roof of mouth :-); small box of raisins (90) = 470 calories (peanut butter/wheat makes complete protein; no dairy because peanut butter/wheat and raisins would block absorption)

Afternoon snack:  Fruit cup in 100% juice (60) and 1″ square of cheese (60-70) = 120-130 calories

Dinner:  3 oz. fillet of Wild Alaskan salmon (make sure it’s wild Alaskan, much better for you than ‘Atlantic’ which is actually farm raised, not wild), baked (180), 3/4 cup of brown rice (162), 1 cup steamed veggies (zucchini, carrots, tomatoes, peppers) drizzled with olive oil and basil (80) = 422 calories

Roughly 1450-1500 calories for the day (To reduce further, eliminate OJ with breakfast, drink 1% milk, reduce peanut butter by ½ tbsp., reduce jelly or margarine on sandwich, have fruit cup instead of raisins at lunch, ½ piece of fruit with cheese for snack, cut servings at dinner a little bit = 1200-1300 calories)

5-6 fruits/veggies; 5 whole grains; 3 dairy; iron from raisins, salmon

Oops, on Day 3, you oversleep and are in a hurry.

Breakfast:  ½ cup canned fruit, drained (50) mixed with 4 oz. container of fruit-flavored low-fat yogurt (110) = 160 calories (can be shoveled in while getting dressed) If time, add a piece of wheat toast and margarine (120) = 270 calories

No time to make a sandwich so toss the leftover vegetable lasagna from two nights ago, a box of raisins, a medium apple and another yogurt in lunch bag.

Mid-morning:  apple (95) and 2nd low-fat yogurt (110) = 205 calories (you are making up for a too-light breakfast)

Lunch:  two 2″x2″ squares of veggie whole-grain pasta lasagna (280)

Afternoon snack:  box of raisins (90)

Dinner:  (eaten early because light on calories during the day) 2 cups corn and navy bean (with carrots and celery) chowder (300), 6-12 rye or wheat crackers or 1-2 slices wheat bread with margarine (100-240) = 400-540 calories

Mid-evening:  8 oz. Glass of 2% milk (130)

Alternate Dinner:  Skinless chicken breast, baked with garlic and herbs (110), medium baked potato–eat the skin; that’s where most of nutrients are (115) with 2 tbsp. margarine (120), 1 cup steamed broccoli (30) with 1 tbsp. margarine (60) = 425 calories

1275-1440 calories for the day (To reduce, cut portion of chowder to 1 ½ cups, just have 4 crackers or dry bread, dunked in chowder; or have smaller potato, use less margarine – 1140-1300 calories)

7-8 fruits/veggies; 3-4 whole grains; 3 dairy; iron from raisins, legumes or chicken

This should give you the idea. Please let us know what you think in the comments.

(Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.)

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Lana’i of the Tiger: An Islands of Aloha Mystery (Volume 3)

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