Health Check Up v.3

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It’s been awhile since I’ve written one of these! Lots of things have been going on, so let’s get right to it:

Physical

I’ve lost about 15 pounds! How crazy is that? We’re having a weight loss challenge at work where we pay in to lose 10 pounds and keep it off. If we do that, we get our money back. I’m determined to get it back. I can feel how my body is reacting to my healthier choices and I really like it. I’m able to climb stairs easier. I’ve started to enjoy working out. I willingly signed up to walk a 5K next month. The old me wouldn’t have done that. I’m really enjoying the new me.

Mental

I’ve seen my doctor and I’ve recently been diagnosed with PMDD (premenstral dysphoric disorder). The easiest way to describe it is more intense PMS symptoms with major mood swings, anger outbursts, violence, and suicidal thoughts. I don’t experience all of these symptoms, but enough to warrant a diagnosis. I’ve been put on antidepressants and I can honestly say I feel so much better. I wish I would have talked to my doctor sooner about all this.

The Plan

I’ve been meal prepping more, and I think it’s really helping me stay on track with my calories. I want to prep more. Feel free to share some healthy recipes! What I really need to work on is working out at home. I feel this “mommy guilt” where I know exercise is good for me, but I feel guilty that I’m taking time for myself when I could be spending it with my son. It’s something I really need to work on.

Fingers crossed I can get to my goal weight soon! Only 30 more pounds to go!

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A Hard Drinking Era: Guest Post by Eleanor Kuhns

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Spirits or distilled liquor were consumed so enthusiastically during the 1790’s (and before and after) that tourists and important men alike began to decry the habit. The U.S. was a nation of drunkards. George Washington, a whiskey distiller himself, referred to the heavy drinking as the ruin of half the workmen. And John Adams complained about the length of time it took to get something built. One day’s work earned a man enough to stay drunk all week so they worked one day out of seven. Women, of course, were never supposed to be seen intoxicated.

How did we get into such a pickle? Well, part of it was cultural. Cotton Mater (of Puritan fame) declared,  “Drink itself to be a creature of God.”

Water tended to be dirty. It was frequently contaminated and just plain unappetizing. In Natchez water from the Mississippi River had to be set aside so the sediment could settle. (ugh!) Milk was unpasteurized and if the cow ate something like jimson weed the milk would be poisonous. Alcoholic beverages made with boiled water were safe. This was not only true in the United States. Throughout the Middle Ages and continuing onto the eighteenth century, just about everyone drank beer. Even children. They drank ‘small’ beer with an alcoholic content of 4% or so. (Without modern controls, the alcohol content fluctuated wildly. I saw beer being made as would have been done in the 1700s in Colonial Williamsburg. They are not permitted to sell it because the results vary so much. The alcohol content ranged from the 3 or 4% range all the way up to 8 or 9% or more.)

In times where the food supply could be erratic at best, beer – and other alcoholic beverages – supplied a significant portion of the day’s calories. Unfiltered beer especially has a higher nutritional content than leavened bread, more protein and B vitamins and fewer phytates (chemicals that bind to minerals such as calcium and prevent them from being absorbed in the intestines).

Also the cereal grains from which beer and whiskey could be transported from the western frontier (like Pittsburg in 1793) to the east in the form of whiskey and sold for more than four times the price for the grain itself and without adding to the cost of transportation.

Everyone drank. Ben Franklin is quoted as saying if God wanted men to drink water He would not have given him an elbow to bend a glass with. Toddlers were put to sleep with alcohol or the sugary residue at the bottom of the glass. (This makes my hair stand on end.) In the early days of the 1700s, the favorite drink was rum, sweet and alcoholic. Rum was made from molasses. Part of the triangle trade (slaves, molasses and rum) it was distilled at first in Maine and Massachusetts. Later the distillation was moved to the West Indies to be closer to the sugar cane. After the Revolution, however, it was not patriotic to drink rum. Whiskey, especially rye whiskey, was all-American. The grain was grown in the United States and it was distilled into whiskey here as well.

Early opposition to drink came from the Quakers. By 1777 they were ordered neither to distill nor to sell distilled beverages. The Shakers (i.e. the Shaking Quakers) practiced restraint and drank mainly water.  They were, however, famous for their cider and it went from ‘kind’ to ‘hard’ very quickly in an age before refrigeration. The Methodists saw drinking as a barrier to purifying the church and society so they joined the crusade. A number of doctors also spoke out against the perils of heaving drinking. Dr. Benjamin Rush, a doctor famous for his work during the Yellow Fever epidemic in Philadelphia in 1793 was a leader.

So what about Will Rees, my detective? He doesn’t drink whiskey or rum. His favorite drink is coffee. (After the Boston Tea Party, tea was considered unpatriotic.) Lucky for Rees, coffeehouses, popular in England especially after 1660, crossed the Atlantic to the Colonies. Like the taverns, they were very important to the War for Independence. The rebels met in both coffeehouses and taverns to air grievances and to plan strategy. Coffee became a popular drink and was widely available. To this day the United States is the leading consumer of coffee.

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EKuhns credit to Rana FaureEleanor Kuhns is the 2011 winner of the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel. A lifelong librarian, she received her Masters from Columbia University and is currently the Assistant Director of the Goshen Public Library in Orange County New York.

 

 

Website URL: http://www.eleanor-kuhns.com

Blog URL: http://www.eleanor-kuhns.com/blog

Facebook URL: http://www.facebook.com/Eleanor-Kuhns

Twitter: #EleanorKuhns

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/eleanor-kuhns-36759623

Does Time Really Fly?: A Guest Post by Judy Alter


At lunch one day recently a friend said, “The years fly by, but some days sure do drag.” The more I thought about her words, the more profound they seemed. My oldest grandchild is graduating from high school this spring. No, can’t be! She’s still that darling four-year-old with curls and dancing eyes. Wrong. She still has the curls and the dancing eyes, but she’s eighteen now. I have no idea where the time went, but it flew.

I think this saying may be especially true for authors on those days when the words won’t come. Some days, they simply leap on to the page, and I barely know where they came from. Such days pass by in a flurry. But other days, when I’m stuck in the soggy middle of a book, I struggle for a single sentence. I have no idea what’s going to happen next. I stare out the window, telling myself I’m thinking about it, but I’m really wondering how long it is until lunch time. Two hours yet? Can’t be true.

Occasionally there’s a day when I am caught up on enough that I indulge in pleasure reading—for me, almost always a mystery. Much as I love to get lost in a book, a day of reading, with no phone calls or contact with the outside world, also drags.

I think age comes into this. The past has flown by because we’re looking back at it, and our memories of twenty years are sharp and clear (if we’re lucky—it’s yesterday’s events many can’t remember). And the highlights stand out as our memories search backward—we don’t remember the days that crawled by.

I heard somewhere that the older we get, the less likely we are to have high points in our days. We have less going on in our lives. Not so true for those of us who retired to a busy career or a hobby that consumes waking moments. A day without a phone call or visit with a friend or some other peak moment counts to me as a day without a high point, and it can seem long.

What can you do on those days that seem to drag to vary the pace of the day? Stop whatever you’re doing, and do something completely different. If you’re at a desk, get up and move about—take a walk, work in the garden, cook something. Pick up the phone and call someone. Sometimes taking a shower is enough to break the pattern.

There’s an irony here though. The more you keep your days full of activities so that they don’t drag, the faster time will go by. And then you’ll say, as I do, “Where did the last year go?” Or perhaps you’ll say with the 17th-century poet Andrew Marvell, “But at my back I always hear/Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.”

Seize the day! Carpe diem.

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JudyAlter2

An award-winning novelist, Judy Alter is the author of several fictional biographies of women of the American West. In The Gilded Cage she has turned her attention to the late nineteenth century in her home town, Chicago, to tell the story of the lives of Potter and Cissy Palmer, a high society couple with differing views on philanthropy and workers’ right. She is also the author of six books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries series. With the 2014 publication of The Perfect Coed, she introduced the Oak Grove Mysteries.

Her work has been recognized with awards from the Western Writers of America, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame. She has been honored with the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement by WWA and inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame and the WWA Hall of Fame. http://judyalter.com/

Blog URL: http://www.judys-stew.blogspot.com

Facebook URL: https://www.facebook.com/judy.alter

Skype: juju1938

Buy link for Murder at Peacock Mansion:

https://www.amazon.com/Murder-Peacock-Mansion-Plate-Mysteries/dp/0996013156/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1485799111&sr=1-1&keywords=murder+at+peacock+mansion

Buy link for The Gilded Cage

http://www.amazon.com/Gilded-Cage-Judy-Alter/dp/0996013121/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1460738028&sr=8-1&keywords=the+gilded+cage+alter

Dam Witherston: Guest Post by Betty Jean Craige

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Dam Witherston is the third of my Witherston Murder Mysteries. The others are Fairfield’s Auction and Downstream. They are all set in a fictive town in the north Georgia mountains where everybody knows everybody else and few people are bad. However, even in this idyllic community of four thousand souls somebody is murdered every year or so, and Mev the police detective, Aunt Lottie the online columnist, and Mev and Paco’s teenage twin sons Jaime and Jorge and their friends collaborate to identify the murderer.

After Black Opal Books accepted Downstream for publication and took on the series I learned that I was writing “cozies.” A “cozy mystery” is a category of crime fiction in which the characters, often eccentric or comic, are well developed, their actions involve little violence or explicit sex, and the events take place in a closed environment. The author tacitly agrees to play fair with the reader by giving appropriate clues to the crime’s solution—not so many as to lead the reader to guess what happened early on, but enough to enable the reader to figure it out by the end of the novel if he or she thinks hard. And the reader must have fun participating in the detection.

In my mysteries I provide information about the events not just through the narration but also through an online newspaper called Witherston on the Web, locally known as “Webby Witherston,” to which Lottie, the boys, the police, and other folks in town contribute. Webby Witherston includes Breaking News, Announcements, Editorials, Lottie’s “North Georgia in History,” Cartoons, Letters to the Editor, Police Blotter, and the Weather.

Why do I enjoy writing cozies? Because I like creating a puzzle for readers to enjoy solving. It’s a game we play together. I only wish I could hear my readers laugh, or at least say, “Aha!”

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BJ Craige and CosmoDr. Betty Jean Craige is University Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature at the University of Georgia. She has lived in Athens, Georgia, since 1973. Betty Jean is a teacher, scholar, translator, humorist, and writer. Her first non-academic book was Conversations with Cosmo: At Home with an African Grey Parrot (2010). After retiring in 2011, she published a column about animal behavior in the local paper titled “Cosmo Talks” and began writing fiction. Her Witherston Murder Mystery series includes Downstream (2014), Fairfield’s Auction (2016), and Dam Witherston (2017).

Buy links:

Dam Witherston  https://www.amazon.com/Dam-Witherston-Murder-Mystery/dp/1626945985/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1487542092&sr=8-1&keywords=dam+witherston

Downstream http://www.amazon.com/Downstream-Witherston-Murder-Mystery-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B00OSXPV4A/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1458158780&sr=8-1&keywords=downstream+craige

Fairfield’s Auction http://www.amazon.com/Fairfields-Auction-Witherston-Murder-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01AXN3546/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1458158803&sr=8-1&keywords=fairfield%27s+auction+craige

Bookish Podcasts


As you might know from previous posts, I love listening to podcasts. Usually I listen to true crime podcasts, but sometimes I branch out into different genres…mainly book-related podcasts. Here are the main bookish podcasts I listen to, as well as a few that I might need to start listening to in the future.

wsirnWhat Should I Read Next is the show for every reader who has ever finished a book and faced the problem of not knowing what to read next. Each week, host Anne Bogel interviews a new person and finds out their tastes. Then, she makes recommendations about what to read next.

I’ve been reading Anne’s blog, Modern Mrs. Darcy, for a while now. Truth be told, I think that MMD is what this blog wants to be when it grows up. When I saw that she was launching a podcast, I knew I had to subscribe. I have found so many books to read thanks to this podcast. I have a whole spread of TBR books in my bullet journal (post about that later), and I’m so excited to check them all off soon. The first one I’m trying is Still Life by Louise Penny, and I’m glad I finally picked it up. Thanks Anne!

 

overdueOverdue is a podcast about the books you’ve been meaning to read. Join Andrew and Craig each week as they tackle a new title from their backlog. Classic literature, obscure plays, goofy murder mysteries: they’ll read it all, one overdue book at a time.

I love the tone of this show. It’s just two guys talking about books they’ve read. It makes you feel like you’re sitting in there with them. I jump around with the episodes. I only listen to the ones that feature books I’ve read. There are plenty of books that they cover that I want to read, but I don’t want to spoil them for myself. My all-time favorite episodes are the 50 Shades episodes (numbers 50, 100, and 150). They’re absolutely hysterical.

 

hpatstWhat if we read the books we love as if they were sacred texts? What would we learn? How might they change us? Harry Potter and the Sacred Text is a podcast reading Harry Potter, the best-selling series of all time, as if it was a sacred text. Just as Christians read the Bible, Jews the Torah and Muslims read the Quran, we will embark on a 199-episode journey (one chapter an episode, to be released weekly) to glean what wisdom and meaning J.K. Rowling’s beloved novels have for us today. We will read Harry Potter, not just as novels, but as instructive and inspirational texts that will teach us about our own lives.

I love the idea of this series. I know that the Harry Potter series is important to many people on a personal level, and I like the experiment of reading the series for something more. Vanessa and Casper provide such great points and personal stories throughout their analyses. Not really a spoiler, but at the end of most episodes they try to do a reading activity. Usually it’s picking out a random quote from the chapter and viewing it through the podcast topic’s lens. I’ve tried that on my own, and I think it helps me get more involved with my reading. I want to do it more often!

 

pcJoin PotterCast in a continuing adventure through J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World. For eleven years PotterCast has remained your trusted source for discussion, celebration, and interviews with creators and actors from the Harry Potter Universe.

If I can get the backlogs of all the episodes, I’ll think I have died and gone to heaven. Eleven years of Harry Potter podcasts?! Oh man, sign me up! I’m really excited to hear from the actors and see what their experiences were like on set.

 

rgDo you love books? Want to learn how to make the most of your reading life? Join hosts Brea Grant and Mallory O’Meara every week as they discuss tips and tricks for reading better on Reading Glasses! Reading Glasses is a podcast designed to help you get more out of your literary experiences. As professional creatives and mega-readers, Mallory and Brea are experts on integrating a love of reading into a busy lifestyle. Reading Glasses listeners will learn how to vanquish their To-Be-Read piles, get pointers on organizing their bookshelves and hear reviews on the newest reading gadgets. Brea and Mallory also offer savvy advice on uniquely bookish problems. How do you climb out of a reading slump? How do you support authors while still getting books on the cheap? Where do you hide the bodies of the people who won’t stop talking while you’re trying to read? Mallory and Brea engage in a spirited weekly half hour discussion geared towards all kinds of book lovers — nerds, avid bookworms, comic fans and science fiction geeks, literary fiction readers, book hoarders, library users, people who prefer the company of words on a page to a crowded party and casual readers who want to read more.

Based on this description, it sounds like something I would create! I know this is a relatively new podcast (I think there’s only 2 or 3 episodes out), but I’m definitely going to check this one out!

 

tholEnthusiast Jacke Wilson journeys through the history of literature, from ancient epics to contemporary classics. Find out more at historyofliterature.com and facebook.com/historyofliterature.

I love fun history. When I was in college, the introductory lessons at the beginning of literature units were my favorite, because I loved learning the history of the time period and the writing. Now there’s a whole podcast about it! This is right up my alley.

Do you have any bookish podcast recommendations for me?

How’d You Sleep? 


If you’re anything like me, you value your sleep. I know I do, now more than ever. I’m actually writing this as I’m wide awake with my son (it’s 3AM where I’m at). Did you know that about 68% of Americans struggle with sleep at least once a week? That’s around 164 million people. Glad to know I’m in good company! I bet all of us try to squeeze in sleep where we can, but sometimes it’s hard.

In my college days, I was the nap queen. I would take naps after every class. There were a lot of all-nighters pulled so I could finish assignments. I’m pretty sure that contributed to my sleep being terrible. Before I was pregnant, I had the roughest time falling asleep. There were many nights that I would be awake most, if not all, of the night. It certainly wasn’t for lack of trying; I blame my insomnia genes I inherited from my dad. I’d try to use the time wisely and read as many books as I could, but mostly I would just lay awake, staring at the ceiling. During my pregnancy, I had the best sleep ever. I’m not even kidding. As long as I slept on my right side, I was golden. I think it was my body stockpiling sleep for the future. Enter now: I’m wide awake with my son, who’s snoozing away. When I put him in his crib, he wakes up. I also know that if I try to sleep, I won’t be able to. The joys of motherhood, am I right? I definitely try to sleep when he sleeps. Most weekends, he and I nap together.

Do you know what your body does while you sleep? Depending on how long you sleep, a lot! Leesa, an online mattress store, created this awesome infographic to help explain what goes on while you sleep. I now realize that I usually wake up within the first 10 to 20 minutes, and that makes sense. I also know that my naps with my son have to last at least an hour, otherwise I’m going to feel terrible for the rest of the day.

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Throughout the years, I’ve tried a couple different sleep aids. One that I used on and off for awhile was melatonin. It usually works fine…as long as you get at least 8 hours of sleep. If you get less than that, be prepared to feel groggy the next day. Another thing I’ve tried is aromatherapy. I used to spray lavender on my pillows to help me sleep. I’ve been researching essential oils, and I think I want to try them with my son. Best case scenario is that they will work and he will sleep through the night. Worst case scenario is that they don’t work but his room will smell nice. The best thing that’s worked for me was actually getting a new mattress. Now I can lay on my back and sleep without pain! It’s pretty amazing.

Tell me: do you get enough sleep? What are some tips and tricks to help you fall asleep and stay asleep.

 

On the Subject of Humorishness: A Guest Post by Gino Bardi

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“Where do you get your jokes?”  This question came from a well-intentioned woman who had asked me to sign one of my books for her. The fact that someone just asked me to sign a book, screwed me up a little, so I had to think about it a few seconds.

“A joke is when a priest, a rabbi and a kangaroo go into a bar, and the bartender says… something which I can never remember,” I explained. “I don’t write jokes.”

“What do you write, then?”

“Humor.”  Surprisingly, this was not a satisfactory answer. I could tell this by the metamorphosis of her facial expression. Her bright, eager smile drooped like a candle in a microwave oven, which is exactly the wrong place to keep a candle.

“Is there a difference?” She said this in a tone that told me any answer I gave her would be the wrong one. I spent the rest of the day, and long past my 8 PM bedtime, pondering the question. ‘What, really, is humor?’ I asked myself. “Don’t ask me,” said myself. “Ask the ladies.”

So I brought my question to Cortana, Siri and Alexa. They know everything, after all. Hang on, this will only take a minute.

(Talk amongst yourselves)

Okay, I’m back. Waste of time. Not to mention how much they sound suspiciously alike. Don’t ever ask the ladies anything unless you’re prepared for a lecture featuring lots of big words like cognitive and perspective and experiential. I had to figure it out myself. That’s okay. I’m a writer. I make stuff up all the time.

Here’s what I think: Humor is whatever is funny. And funny is everywhere and everything. Okay. Almost everywhere and everything. You only have think of a subject…then think just a bit harder, push just a little, and the mundane becomes funny. Or funnyISH, which is close to funny. And funnyish is way better than not funny.  Mel Brooks, a very funny man, puts it like this: You only have to exaggerate a little bit.

For example…let’s say you’ve decided that your next automobile will be a self-driving one (and while we’re imagining stuff, let’s for a moment pretend that someone has offered you, say, forty grand for the 2003 Saturn you’re currently driving, so you can afford to buy it.)  There are plenty of concerns and considerations you might have about self-driving cars. Big important life changing stuff that everyone is worried about.  But there is also a lot of stuff no one is thinking about.

You can pick the color of your new car, of course, but how about the sex? Would you want your car to be a man or a woman? What if you were sitting at a stoplight in your very macho Jeep Cherokee, and a cute hot pink Corvette pulled up alongside…would your car even notice when the light had changed? Or would it be flirting as hard as it could with the pink Corvette? Would the car behind you start honking it’s horn, embarrassing the owner?

And what about gasohol? How much gasohol can a self-driving car consume before you shouldn’t ride in it? Would you let a self-driving car fill up on gasohol and drive your daughter to the prom?  Would the owner get in trouble for buying gasohol for an under-aged car?  

Are you even worried about this kind of stuff? You should be. When you worry about this stuff all the time, and find yourself writing it down, then you can stop worrying about “what is humor?”  Or are you still wondering what the bartender said to the priest, the rabbi and the kangaroo?

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Gino BardiGino B. Bardi was born in New York City in 1950, and lived on the South Shore of Long Island until he attended Cornell University in 1968, during the tumultuous era of Vietnam War protests. Armed with a degree in English/Creative Writing, he diligently sought work in his field and soon wound up doing everything but. For the next forty-four years he cranked out advertising copy, magazine articles, loan pitches and short stories while running a commercial printing company in Upstate New York. Along the way, he married his college girlfriend, became father to three lovely daughters and decided that winter was an unnecessary evil. In 2008 he sold the printing business, retired, and now writes humorous fiction in his home on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Two signs hang above his desk: “Bad decisions make good stories,” and Mel Brooks’ advice that “You only need to exaggerate a LITTLE BIT.”

The Cow in the Doorway is his first full-length novel and won the statewide Royal Palm Literary Award for best unpublished New Adult novel for 2015, followed by the Best Humor Novel of 2016, also from the Royal Palm Literary Awards.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Gino-B-Bardi-247107555622707/?fref=ts

Twitter:   https://twitter.com/ginobardi1

LinkedIn:  Gino Bardi

Skype:  gino.bardi

Buy links:

Three on a Match https://www.amazon.com/Three-Match-Gino-B-Bardi-ebook/dp/B0711LXSGG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1496103622&sr=8-1&keywords=three+on+a+match+by+gino+bardi

The Cow in the Doorway http://www.amazon.com/Cow-Doorway-Gino-B-Bardi/dp/1519493398/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1461959101&sr=8-1&keywords=cow+in+the+doorway