A Much Too Long (like This Title) List of Place- and Culture-Themed Coloring Books for Adults and Colorists of All Ages (but It Could Be a Whole Lot Longer)

November 25, 2015 § 6 Comments


OK, here’s the deal. Since adult coloring books are all the rage now, and because there are studies that show that coloring can reduce anxiety and stress, I decided I’d search Amazon to see what titles I could come up with on the topics of travel, places, cultures, and the like.

After I came up with 30 or so, I was feeling pretty good about myself, but then a few things happened. First, my tendency to be obsessive about lists kicked in and I felt the need to make my list not just longer, but all-inclusive. Then I realized that if I wanted to include designs and patterns (Indian, Celtic, Arabic, etc.) I’d never be done, so I eliminated them, as much as it pained me . . . because a lot of those book are pretty cool. But just when my list seemed more manageable, I discovered the whole library of Dover coloring books. I was bombarded with all their history-themed offerings, and I had to decide what made a coloring book “adult” rather than “for kids.” I put some more titles in, left some out (more pain), and expanded my category from adults to “colorists,” a term I see thrown around by publishers. I figure it means people who take their coloring seriously, even as they use it to wind down, people who are more-mature colorers who choose detailed pictures that can accommodate sharpened pencils, not just fat Crayons: colorists. Of course detailed pictures would include all those intricate designs and patterns. . . . Did I mention how much it pains me to leave them out?

So after all that, here’s the list I’ve come up with. It’s nearly 200 entries long, and it’s caused me no small amount of anxiety to put it together. It wasn’t just finding them all, but also arranging them (I gave up on working too hard on that), trying to get all the links straight, and realizing that my list is outdated before I hit the publish button.

What I’m trying to say is that my efforts to put together an exhaustive list have left me exhausted . . . and stressed.

I guess I need to order a coloring book so I can relax. Now, what about colored pencils? Is 24 enough, or should I go with 500?








Latin America




North America/United States







[photo: “Crayons de couleur,” by Nicolas Buffler, used under a Creative Commons license]

A Horrible Bird Named Jealousy

November 18, 2015 § Leave a comment


[Read the full post at A Life Overseas.]

“You can’t keep a bird from flying over your head, but you can keep it from building a nest in your hair.”

You’ve probably heard a form of this saying, usually referring to some sort of temptation.

I like the old Jamaican version: “You can’t keep crow from flyin’, but you can keep him from pitchin’ ‘pon you head.”

What birds are circling nearby for you? Lust? Anger? Hopelessness? Greed?

Yeah, I’ve got those. But there’s another kind of bird that wants to roost in my hair. It’s nasty and dirty, with grey oily feathers. It’s heavy and clumsy and foul smelling. It’s eyes, they’re a dull green. It’s name is Jealousy.

This is not the kind of righteous jealousy felt by God, whose name is Jealous (Exodus 34:14). No, my jealousy makes me lay claim to things that are not my own. If there are taller people in the room, not only do I look for a box to stand on, but I’m also tempted to kick the feet out  from under them. There’s nothing attractive about Jealousy, and the nest it wants to build is repulsive, as well, made out of frustrations and excuses, crooked sticks, rusty paper clips, snakeskins, and used Band-Aids.

Jealousy is the offspring of a strange combination of parents: One is “You’re not good enough,” and the other is “You deserve better.”

It’s been hovering close by for a long time, like a loyal friend. But it’s not a friend. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. And yet, there it is.

Continue reading at A Life Overseas.

[photo: “Home Improvement,” by Mike Timberlake, used under a Creative Commons license]

Empathy: A Ladder into Dark Places

November 11, 2015 § 4 Comments


When Brené Brown, a professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, discovered that “the way to live is with vulnerability,” it flew in the face of her training as a researcher. She had been taught to control and predict, the antithesis to being vulnerable.

She voiced this in a 2010 TED Talk, and the video went viral. Two years later, she followed it up with another TED Talk, this time on the topic of shame. While not as popular as her first video, it’s powerful in its own right. In it, she shares about the response to her earlier talk and stresses two basic points: “Vulnerability is not weakness,” and “We have to talk about shame.”

To combat shame, she says, we need empathy, because “empathy’s the antidote to shame.”

If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence, and judgment. If you put the same amount in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive. The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me too.

That brings us to a third video. This one is a short animation, adapted from a presentation Brown made on vulnerability to the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA). The RSA piece is titled “The Power of Empathy.”

“Empathy is a choice,” says Brown, “and it’s a vulnerable choice.”

In this short, embedded below, she refers to four attributes of empathy, identified by nursing scholar Theresa Wiseman:

  1. Seeing the world as others see it
  2. Being non-judgemental
  3. Understanding another’s feelings
  4. Communicating that understanding

The animation is a nice touch in fleshing out Brown’s words. I especially like the image of lowering a ladder down into another person’s darkness. One of the books we have on our bookshelf at home is Bonnie Keen’s A Ladder out of Depression: God’s Healing Grace for the Emotionally Overwhelmed. It is nice to see that ladder not just as a metaphor for recovery, but for empathy, as well. (As an aside, I also like how, when you can’t see her face, Brown sounds a lot like Martha Stewart.)

I do, though, have a bone to pick with Brown—bear with me here, or just skip straight to the video. While she does a great job of describing empathy, she does so at the expense of sympathy. I really don’t think that empathy is “very different” from sympathy. I don’t agree that “sympathy drives disconnection.” Brown describes empathy as “feeling with people,” which actually sounds to me like a good description of sympathy. In fact, when the word sympathy came about over 400 years ago, it was from the Greek sin, “together,” plus pathos, “feeling.” . . . in other words, a “feeling together.”

Empathy, on the other hand, is a relatively new term, introduced into the English language by psychologist Edward Bradford Titchener in 1909. Titchener got the idea for empathy from einfühlung, a German word crafted 50 years earlier to describe a form of art appreciation based on projecting one’s personality into the art being viewed—thus, “a feeling in.”

Over time, sympathy has had to give ground as empathy has gained the high road, and sympathy has come to imply something more like “detached pity” or “a lack of compassion.”

But of empathy, Titchener writes,

We have a natural tendency to feel ourselves into what we perceive or imagine. As we read about the forest, we may, as it were, become the explorer; we feel for ourselves the gloom, the silence, the humidity, the oppression, the sense of lurking danger; everything is strange, but it is to us that the strange experience has come. We are told of a shocking accident, and we gasp and shrink and feel nauseated as we imagine it; we are told of some new and delightful fruit, and our mouth waters as if we were about to taste it. This tendency to feel oneself into a situation is called empathy, on the analogy of sympathy, which is feeling together with another. . . .

One could even make the case that inserting our feelings into another’s situation can get in the way of seeing the individualness of that situation. Sometimes it is better not to say, “I know how you feel,” but rather “I can’t imagine how hard this is for you.”

As Brown explains, sometimes the best thing to say is very little, something like “I don’t even know what to say right now, I’m just so glad you told me.”

Oh, well. Thank you for letting me step in and defend sympathy. I think it’s gotten a bad rap. I think it’s been misunderstood. And I empathize with that.

To see why a blog about cross-cultural issues is interested in the topic of empathy and listening, go here.]

(Brené Brown, “Listening to Shame,” TED, March 2012; Theresa Wiseman, A Concept Analysis of Empathy,” Journal of Advance Nursing, vol 23, issue 6, 1996; Edward Bradford Titchener, A Beginner’s Psychology, Macmillan, 1915)

[photo: “The Light,” by Amanda Wilson, used under a Creative Commons license]

Paddington: A Fish out of . . . um . . . A Bear out of the Jungle

November 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

15810316086_62a83999d1_zPaddington is one of my favorite movies that I saw last year. Much more than just a kids’ movie, it was nominated for best film at the UK’s 2015 Empire Awards, and won for best comedy. It also carries a 98% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

The story in a nutshell is this: When Paddington comes to London, it’s not quite what he’s heard it would be. And as if it weren’t enough of a culture clash for an orphan bear to arrive in the big city, this cub comes from “Darkest Peru.”

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, you should. It’s a great family film for Christmas time. And if you have seen it, here are some clips to refresh your memory.

First Contact: Meeting the Brown Family

BSL: Bear as a Second Language

Bathroom Etiquette: Those Aren’t Ear Brushes.

Sign Language: Why Do I Need a Dog for the Escalator?

[photo: “Paddington Bear Trail, Special Delivery By Ben Whishaw,” by Martin Pettitt, used under a Creative Commons license]

The American Way, Way Up There

October 17, 2015 § 2 Comments


On a recent flight over the Pacific, I perused the October issue of American Way, the inflight magazine of American Airlines. Here are my thoughts:

  1. Gracing the cover, singer/songwriter Jessie J “continues to redefine herself.” I wasn’t familiar with her first definition.
  2. At CashInYourDiamonds.com, I can sell my “unwanted diamonds for cash.” Finally, a place to unload all those gemstones that have been dragging me down.
  3. People Tools, by Alan C. Fox, is not a book about people who are tools.
  4. Reading the tagline “Athlete and TV host Michael Strahan knows how to dress” didn’t quite pull me into that article.
  5. Voodoo comes from vous, the French word for you, and the English do. Who knew?
  6. Judging by all the advertisements, hair loss must be a big deal for travelers.
  7. Oh yeah, Bondi is a beach in Sydney, not just an iMac color.
  8. The mag writers’ favorite shirt is made by Ledbury, with its “fused canvas interlining” in the collar to keep it from collapsing. . . because “crushed collars are a business traveler’s nightmare.” Can you say, “First-world problems”?
  9. It took me a while to realize that Amber Kelleher-Andrews, of kelleher-international.com, has been awarded “top global matchmaker,” not “watchmaker.” By the way, who exactly gave her that award?
  10. The editors let me know that “78% of readers will act on an ad they’ve seen in this magazine.” If that includes people who blog about the advertisements, count me in.

If you’d like to read your favorite inflight magazine from the comfort of your web browser, take a look at Inflight Magazines: My Virtual Seat-Back Pocket Runneth Over.

[photo: “There’s no way like the American way (colorized),” by Whitewall Buick, used under a Creative Commons license]

Roads, 2, 3, 4

October 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

Silent Darien: The Gap in the World’s Longest Road

Stretching from Alaska to the pencil tip of Argentina, the 48,000km-long Pan-American Highway holds the record for the world’s longest motorable road. But there is a gap—an expanse of wild tropical forest—that has defeated travellers for centuries.

The gap stretches from the north to the south coast of Panama—from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It’s between 100km and 160km (60-100 miles) long, and there is no way round, except by sea.

It was only in 1960 that anyone managed to cross the Darien Gap by car—in a Land Rover dubbed The Affectionate Cockroach and a Jeep. It took nearly five months, averaging just 200m per hour.

Carolyn McCarthy, BBC News, August 14, 2014

Tea Has Charms to Sooth the Savage Breast

October 2, 2015 § Leave a comment


East Asian tea ceremonies. Chai in India. Iced tea in the US. North African mint tea. Tea time in the UK.

Tea is a cherished part of cultures around the globe. But why?

One reason is its standing as a stress reliever.

“Would you like to join me for a cup of tea?” Just the invitation itself sounds soothing. Though science can’t explain all the whys, researchers have been able to bolster tea’s reputation as a cure for stress.

One study, published in the journal Psychopharmacology in 2006 shows the effects of black tea on stress. In it, researchers from University College London removed tea, coffee, and caffeinated beverages from the diets of 75 men. They then gave them caffeinated fruit mixtures to drink four times a day for six weeks. For some, the drink was a placebo, but for others, it contained the active ingredients of black tea.

After subjecting the groups to stress-inducing situations, the researchers found that the “tea” drinking group, when compared to the placebo group, had lower levels of the stress-hormone cortisol. Those participants also reported higher levels of relaxation during the recovery period and showed lower levels of blood platelet activation, which is associated with the risk of heart attacks.

Andrew Steptoe of UCL says,

We do not know what ingredients of tea were responsible for these effects on stress recovery and relaxation. Tea is chemically very complex, with many different ingredients. Ingredients such as catechins, polyphenols, flavonoids and amino acids have been found to have effects on neurotransmitters in the brain, but we cannot tell from this research which ones produced the differences.

Nevertheless, our study suggests that drinking black tea may speed up our recovery from the daily stresses in life. Although it does not appear to reduce the actual levels of stress we experience, tea does seem to have a greater effect in bringing stress hormone levels back to normal. This has important health implications, because slow recovery following acute stress has been associated with a greater risk of chronic illnesses such as coronary heart disease.

Nada Milosavljevic, of the Harvard Medical School, writing at The Daily Tea, describes two possible ingredients that could lead to stress reduction. One is L-theanine, an amino acid found only in tea, which can decrease one’s heart rate and lessen the sympathetic response to stressors. It also increases the brain’s levels of dopamine and serotonin.

And there are polyphenol antioxidant catechins. Polyphenols, Milosavljevic writes, “positively affect neurotransmitters in the brain, making it easier to maintain mental balance.”

Psychologists Malcolm Cross and Rita Michaels, of City University London, say that tea’s calming effects are not just chemical, but cultural as well. In their study, commissioned by Direct Line insurance, they gave 42 individuals a stress-inducing task, then served half of them a cup of tea and half of them a glass of water. While the water group reported elevated stress levels, the tea group’s levels of stress were even lower than before the stress activity.

Some in the tea group said that they saw drinking the tea as something relaxing that marked a break from their anxiety. Some reported feeling “cared for” by those who prepared the tea for them. And the group as a whole conversed with the tea maker and fellow tea drinkers—while the water group drank in silence.

Cross tells The Telegraph,

This study shows that the social psychological aspects of tea enhance the effects of its chemical make-up on our bodies and brains. It’s possible that this culturally rooted, symbiotic function between mind and body explains why Britons instinctively turn to tea in times of need.

Put simply, the findings illustrate what most mothers would tell us: if you’re stressed, anxious or just feeling blue, make yourself a nice calming brew.

(Andrew Steptoe, et al., “The Effects of Tea on Psychophysiological Stress Responsivity and Post-Stress Recovery: A randomized Double-Blind Trial,” Psychopharmacology, January 2007; “Black Tea Soothes Away Stress,” University College London, July 16, 2010; Nada Milosavljevic, “An Antidote to Stress: Calming Teas & Tisanes,” The Daily Tea, August 5 2014; Malcolm Cross and Rita Michaels, “The Social Psychological Effects of Tea Consumption on Stress: Executive Summary,” 2009; Richard Alleyne, “A Cup of Tea Really Can Help Reduce Stress at Times of Crisis, Claim Scientists,” The Telegraph, August 13, 2009)

[photo: “Tea Time,” by Taidoh, used under a Creative Commons license]


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