Monthly Archives: February 2015

Forgiving My Body — #BOAW2015

by Kassandra Lamb

This post is part of The Beauty of a Woman Blog Fest, sponsored by the marvelous August McLaughlin. After you read this, hop on over to her site for some other great BOAW2015 posts–some that are funny, some that are serious, some that are some of both. And there are prizes! Woot!!

BOAW2015 logo

logo by Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson

Why is it that we so often fail to appreciate what we have until we lose it?

Unlike way too many women in our society, I have always had a fairly decent body image. I know I’m no beauty but I haven’t broken a mirror yet.

The fact that I didn’t disliked my body was borderline miraculous since I didn’t like my inner self all that much during my high school and college years. But in my youth, I took my health and my natural slenderness for granted.

After a round of therapy in my early twenties, I learned to love myself. But I still tended to take my body for granted.

Me at 30, with my 3-year-old son.

Me at 30, with my 3-year-old son.

I was blessed with a high metabolic rate that gave me lots of energy and allowed me to eat just about anything without worrying too much about my weight. Occasionally, I’d get close to my “panic weight” and I would go on a moderate weight-loss diet for a week or two and get it back down.

In case you’re starting to hate me about now, read on…

At age thirty, I became a therapist and started counseling women who were struggling to feel good about themselves and their bodies. I finally realized–intellectually at least–how lucky I was to have both a high metabolism and a healthy attitude toward my body. But emotionally I still didn’t completely get it.

In my late thirties, I developed symptoms that pointed toward early menopause. My doctor ran some tests. It turned out that Graves disease (i.e. a hyperactive thyroid), not menopause, was causing my hot flashes, dizzy spells and muscle fatigue.

For the next three years, I struggled with this disease. Medications had little effect. My endocrinologist recommended having my thyroid removed. I resisted, not wanting to be dependent on synthetic hormones for the rest of my life.

I had more and more problems with muscle fatigue. I would start a project on the horse farm we owned at the time, and halfway through it I’d become so weak I could hardly walk. I was forced to give up the Aikido lessons I loved.

My now over-revved metabolism kept me awake at night, leaving me tired but jittery during the day. I described it at the time as my engine racing but I couldn’t get it to go into gear so I could actually accomplish anything.

For the first time in my life, I hated my body. It had betrayed me. I was still relatively young–just over forty–and yet most women in their fifties had more energy than I did.

Finally I gave in and agreed to the thyroidectomy. This is done via radioactive iodine that gradually destroys the thyroid. For the next six months, as my thyroid tissue diminished, I fluctuated between hypothyroidism (low hormone levels) and what my doctor defined as normal.

But it didn’t feel all that normal to me. Each time the hypothyroid symptoms would become noticeable (weight gain, fatigue, hair falling out), the doctor would increase the dose of my synthetic hormones.

Age 50, at my son's college graduation

Age 50, at my son’s college graduation.

But each time this happened, I gained a few more pounds before things stabilized again. By the time all was said and done, I was 45 pounds overweight. And my “new normal” was a lot less energetic than I was used to being.

Eventually, I came to three realizations. One, slender was a thing of the past. My goal weight is now 15 pounds higher than my “panic” weight was in my youth. Two, I had to adjust to my new energy level if I wanted to enjoy life again. And three, I had to forgive my body, and in order to do that I had to face the anger I felt toward it.

I knew as a therapist that you can’t just talk yourself out of feeling a certain way. Emotions must be acknowledged and vented, no matter how illogical they are, before they will dissipate. So I finally let myself fully admit how pissed I was at my body.

Finally, my anger ran its course and that cleared the way to adjustment. I faced the fact that the reserve tank of energy, that most people can tap into when needed, just wasn’t there for me anymore. I learned to pace myself–to allow recovery time in between demands on my energy.

I grew to be okay with my body again, not necessarily loving it, but not hating it either. For the better part of two decades, I assumed that was as good as it would get–a truce between me and my body.

Only recently have I realized that instead of taking my body for granted, I had started to ignore it, pretending that it wasn’t really “me.”

A year ago I decided that, for health reasons, I needed to lose some of the excess weight. (I had lost weight a few times before but it would gradually creep back up; my body is the poster child for set-point theory.) This time I needed to lose it gradually so my set point would adjust along the way. I doubled my exercise and moderately decreased my calorie intake.

The plan is working. I’ve got ten pounds left to go. And I’m enjoying the increased energy (still not what it used to be) and I’m feeling healthier overall.

But recently I started to feel something else again. And this is the main reason I decided to write this post.

I’m starting to feel connected to my body again. It is part of “me” again. And I realized it always has been, whether I liked it or not. By ignoring it emotionally, I was deadening myself to part of myself.

I feel good about being in my body again. I feel lighter (emotionally as well as physically) and happier.

For many years as a counselor, I preached to my clients that one’s worth does not come from one’s packaging but from what is inside that package. I still believe that, but I’ve come to realize that our physical well-being is definitely tied to our emotional well-being.

It’s all “part of the package”–inside and out!

Have you ever felt betrayed by your body? Were you able to forgive it eventually?

(Don’t forget to check out the other BOAW2015 posts!)

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 (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Time for Chocolate!

by K.B. Owen

With the decadence of Mardi Gras upon us (and the sugar-coma of Valentine’s Day fresh in our minds), a post solely dedicated to chocolate seemed appropriate. Our fascination with this particular food item is older than you might think. Enjoy!

It’s hard to imagine a world without chocolate, isn’t it? But how and when did folks first discover it?  Was it always the sweet dessert we know it to be?

Image by David Leggett, via wikimedia commons.

Image by David Leggett, via wikimedia commons

The beginnings: Mesoamerica (early central Americas)

image via nhcs.wikispaces.com

Chocolate was initially consumed in beverage form.  Some scholars put its use as far back as the Olmecs (1500-400 BCE), even earlier than the generally-acknowledged Mayans (250-900 CE), and Aztecs (14th CE).  Both Mayans and Aztecs used it in their sacred rituals – including cheering up sacrifice victims too depressed to dance in their own pre-sacrifice “celebrations.”

In fact, the Aztecs valued cacao beans as currency.  According to early documents, three cacao beans could get you a turkey egg (source: Cornell University).  Cacao wafers were also issued to soldiers, to be dissolved into beverage form when needed. It was considered fortifying on long campaigns.

Spain

"Cortes". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cortes.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Cortes.jpg

“Cortes”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

In their travels/take-overs, Spanish Conquistadors were introduced to chocolate (although Cortez considered it a “bitter drink for pigs”) and brought it back to Spain.  Once modifications were made, with the addition of  sweeteners, vanilla, and other flavorings more familiar to the European palate, the beverage became popular among the wealthy class in Spain.  It was also considered somewhat medicinal in nature.  But it wasn’t until the 17th century that it seemed to catch on throughout Europe.

The 19th century: chocolate changes from beverage to candy

We have the Swiss and the Dutch to thank for developing processes whereby the fat content of chocolate was reduced (and some of it added back, in the form of cocoa butter), and the resulting product could be molded more easily into bars and discs.  At first, this was intended to make it easier to dissolve into water or milk as a beverage, but the smooth, aromatic sensation of eating the resulting solid form of the chocolate made it quickly appealing.

We also have the British to thank for passing the first legislative standards for chocolate in 1860, which kept commonly-used adulterations such as brick dust (I kid you not) out of our chocolate!

White's Chocolate House, London, 1708. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

White’s Chocolate House, London, 1708. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Ghirardelli, Guittard, Cadbury, Lindt, Hershey, and Nestle (who invented Milk Chocolate) – all were chocolate makers who furthered the quality of chocolate in the 19th century, through various mechanical processes.  The sources below have more info about them, along with other fascinating facts.  Check them out!

Chocolate – food of the gods (Cornell University)

Cacao and Chocolate Timeline

The Food Timeline

Understanding Chocolate

Smithsonian: A Brief History of Chocolate

In the spirit of Mardi Gras and chocolate decadence, here’s a favorite chocolate recipe of mine.  It’s a cross between cocktail and decadent dessert (even reading about it may be fattening, LOL).  My hubby made them for a murder mystery party we hosted a while back, and they were a big hit:

MUDSLIDE (makes 1)

from the Bartender’s Pocket Guide

Ingredients:

1 oz Kahlua

1 oz vodka

1 oz Bailey’s Irish Cream

2 scoops vanilla ice cream

1 Oreo cookie

chocolate syrup

whipped cream

Directions: Blend the first 5 ingredients until smooth.  Circle a drizzle of chocolate syrup inside a large parfait glass.  Pour in the blended ingredients and top with whipped cream and another drizzle of chocolate syrup.

Yum!!

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Image via Wikimedia Commons

A special salute to the passing of Italian confectioner Michele Ferrero, son of the inventor of Nutella, Pietro Ferrero. Michele coined the term “Nutella” for the spread his father concocted to get more mileage from the scarce cocoa available (there was a shortage during WWII). The company is also responsible for Tic-Tacs and Ferrero-Rocher truffles (among other products). Ironically, or fittingly, he passed away on Valentine’s Day, the holiday best known for chocolate.

What are your favorite forms of chocolate, or do you think chocolate is wa-a-ay too fussed over?  I’d love to hear from you!

Posted by Kathy Owen (aka K.B. Owen). Kathy is a recovering former English professor with a PhD in 19th century British literature. She is currently raising three boys and working on Book 4 in the Concordia Wells series of historical cozy mysteries.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Why Is the Divorce Rate So Low? (encore)

by Kassandra Lamb

No, that is not a typo in the title. I am asking why the divorce rate is not higher. As I contemplate the approach of the 38th Valentine’s Day I will spend with my husband, I thought this was a fitting time to again offer up this post I wrote in 2012.

I am absolutely amazed that anybody makes it for 38 years, or longer even, without divorcing. Or committing homicide.

First let me disabuse you all of the common myth that the divorce rate is 50%. This is just plain not true, but like most myths, it gets repeated so often, with absolute certainty on the part of the person saying it, that we all believe it.

This frequently quoted statistic is based on comparing the number of marriage certificates issued in any given year with the number of divorces filed in that year. That number indeed hovers around 50%, because the number of people GETTING MARRIED has been going down at the same rate as the number of people getting divorced.

Counting the number of people who are STILL MARRIED in any given year and comparing that to the number of divorces is a more complicated and costly process, so it isn’t done very often. (This data, by the way, is collected by the Center for Disease Control. So I want to know which is the disease, marriage or divorce? I’m assuming the latter. But I digress.)

Comparing those getting divorced to those still married paints a very different picture. The divorce rate in the U.S. actually peaked in 1979 at 23% (yes, that is TWENTY-THREE PERCENT; it has never been 50%). These days it hovers around 20%. Much better odds than 50-50!

(If you don’t want to take my word for it, here is a good article on the subject at PsychCentral and a study from the Center for Disease Control.)

So why am I saying the divorce rate is surprisingly low, if it’s actually a lot lower than everybody thinks it is?

Because it just isn’t all that easy to stay married for decade after decade. First we’ve got that whole men-and-women-don’t-really-understand-each-other thing going on. (See my gender differences posts for more on that topic.)

Then throw the stress of parenthood into the marriage mix. Are we clueless about what we are getting into there, or what? But then again, if we weren’t clueless, the species would have died out by now. If we knew in advance how hard parenting is, nobody would do it!

This is me at 3 months old; would you look at that hair!

Then we’ve got the whole aging process, and the fact that people change over time, as they experience new and different things. We don’t always change at the same rate or in the same direction as our partner does. So it takes a lot of work to stay on the same wavelength.

And we should keep in mind that marriage was invented back when the average lifespan was twenty-five years! As recently as the early 1900’s, one partner or the other was bound to die after a couple decades–from childbirth, disease or a cattle stampede. And I can’t help but suspect that, before the days of modern forensics, a certain number of household accidents were early versions of a Reno quickie divorce.

So how have hubby and I made it this long? First, you’ve got the making-the-right-choice-to-begin-with factor. We lucked out there, or perhaps it was divine intervention, because I had definitely dated my share of losers before he came along.

The most important part of making that right choice is marrying someone who shares your values. You don’t have to have all the same interests or even come from the same background or ethnic group. But you do need to care about the same things in life. And fortunately we do.

Probably the single most important factor in surviving marriage over the long haul is communication. You gotta talk to each other, every day, about the little stuff and the big stuff, and about how you feel about things. It’s real easy to get out of the habit of doing this, or to decide that a certain subject is just too painful, or will start a fight, so you don’t go there.

Study after study has found that the single most important factor in marital satisfaction is that both spouses consider their partner to be their best friend.

So Happy Valentine’s Day to my best friend! I hope we have many more, but I’m not taking anything for granted, because marriage is hard work.

 

When you stop laughing at hubby’s funny-looking tuxedo, please let me know what you think are the important aspects of keeping a relationship strong.

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 (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

The Danakil Depression

by Kirsten Weiss (with intro by Kass Lamb, who will also be replying to comments)

Kirsten, in her day job, sometimes ends up traveling to some pretty exotic places. When I put out a plea for some blog posts for February, this is what she sent in from Ethiopia (feels almost like she is our foreign correspondent 😉 )

Kirsten Weiss

 

Drop the words “Danakil Depression” at a cocktail party, and most people will think you’ve got an exotic mental ailment. But the Danakil isn’t a state of mind, it’s a place. One of the harshest environments in the world, it lies in Ethiopia, near the Eritrean border.

I wasn’t supposed to go there.

There are bandits. Eritreans (the Ethiopians are in a hot/cold war with them). And like Death Valley, it’s below sea level and hot enough to kill.

But it also has some of the most fantastic geology on the planet. Sulfur fields blazing orange and green and yellow. Salt mountains striped purple and white. A boiling lava lake. Salt flats.

I traveled there as part of a tour, because this is one place where do-it-yourself won’t cut it. It’s too hot. Too dangerous. And you need special permission to trek to certain places.

When I read the tour itinerary, I thought the salt flats would be the least interesting part of the adventure. Blah, blah, get me to the boiling lava lake! But the salt flats were the most memorable. Camel caravans laden with salt swayed across their sparkling whiteness. We reached the salt lake at sunset. One-inch deep, my fellow travelers appeared to be walking on water, the sun turning the world into a shimmering blue and pink haze.

But this is one of those times when words won’t cut it. So enter the Danakil Depression photo essay:

Danakil Collage

No, I probably won’t be writing a mystery novel set there, although my martial arts instructor is convinced I need a fight scene on camelback. However, since I write paranormal mysteries, some of these otherworldly aspects might make it into a book, somewhere. You never know where you’ll find inspiration.

Posted by Kirsten Weiss. Kirsten is the author of The Hoodoo Detective, book six in the Riga Hayworth series of paranormal mysteries: the urban fantasies, The Metaphysical Detective, The Alchemical Detective, The Shamanic Detective, The Infernal Detective and The Elemental Detective. She’s also the author of Steam and Sensibility, a steampunk novel of suspense.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )