Getting To The Bottom of the Glass

By Christy Gualtieri

When you think of the phrase “craft beer,” what image comes to mind? A frosty glass sitting proudly on a polished-wood bar, the light shining through it just-so, making it irresistible? A skinny hipster with a well-oiled mustache holding a pint glass in one hand and a corncob pipe in the other? Or a long-lost American art form making a delicious comeback?

Whatever it is to you, it’s certainly a phenomenon.  Craft beer is more than just a drink – it’s become an experience; similar to sommeliers standing around sniffing, swirling, and judging a glass of wine, so too do beer tasters gather to taste, discover, and savor the flavors of craft beers.

The revival of beer in America, according to a timeline from craftbeer.com, began after Prohibition ended in the United States.  Prohibition had killed off hundreds of breweries, and hundreds more were closed between the 1930s and the 1980s due to commercialization and beer monopolies.  In the past few decades, however, homebrewers, looking for a way to create the beers they could no longer buy on the market, capitalized on the curiosity and desire of others to find something outside the box, and began their own breweries (often called “microbreweries”), thus beginning what many would call the “resurrection of beer.”

The craft beer industry has grown exponentially in recent times.  According to the Brewers Association, there was a 17% rate of growth in breweries between 2015-2016 alone, with over 5,200 craft breweries in the market.  The greater Pittsburgh area, where we are located, is home to over thirty craft breweries, and offers beer lovers an annual ten-day festival in celebration of craft beer.

But let’s take a look at the psychology begin the phenomenon: what in particular has been drawing so many people to craft beer? Here are some possibilities:

  1. It’s still a niche market.  Craft beer, although exploding in popularity, is still not the most popular option.  It needs to be sought out – and learned out, as well.  Craft beers – and the process it takes to create them – is not something that is easily commodified, and people can be drawn to the process it takes to create it.  There is still an exoticness that exists around craft beer that can draw folks in.

  2. It’s a sensory experience.  Much like wine or even coffee tastings, craft beer can offer drinkers a chance to discover the many flavor profiles, food pairings, and aromas that come with it.  There are thousands to choose from, which could send any craft beer enthusiast on a long mission to discover them all!

  3. It connects knowledge to knowledge.  Writer Russell Edwards, who wrote on the subject of the psychological connection to craft beers, explained that there are many opportunities to connect craft beer to history.  A brewery might showcase a particular beer that was popular during an earlier time, for example, bringing knowledge of that time period and the history of the beer together, which might peak someone’s interest!

  4. It’s honestly just great fun! For hundreds of years, people have communed together to share stories, community, and quality time with friends over beer.  Gathering with a microwbrew or craft beer in hand is another fun way to continue the tradition!

Until next time,
Christy

Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son, blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com, and tweets @agapeflower117. Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health.

Acknowledging Our Healing

By Christy Gualtieri

Have you ever swallowed a pill that was so big and so awkward that it hurt going down, and maybe even hurt your insides for a while afterward? Or eaten a taco chip that had an unfortunate point on one end that you swore scraped your entire esophagus going down? I’ve felt like that recently, but not physically – emotionally.  Maybe you have too: you’ve gotten bad news from work, or had to handle a situation with a family member that hurt for much longer after the conversation has ended.

How do we heal? How do we keep going?

There is some truth to the fact that time can work wonders.  Simply removing ourselves from a bad relationship or a social media addiction can make a difference, for example.  And it’s very tempting to just keep plowing through things like nothing’s happened at all, but I know, speaking from experience, that it just won’t work.

I know what not to do when faced with a hurtful situation: nothing.  Because whatever is hurting you will never turn into nothing; it’ll keep growing inside of you, nearly consuming you, until it gets what it wants: acknowledgement.

I think a lot of times people just want to be seen.  Not everyone, of course (I know many shy people who would prefer to have very minimal contact with anyone if they didn’t have to), but I think, shy or not, we want to be seen.  Known, even if just to a few people.  Acknowledged.

A brief story about that: a number of years ago I worked at a large coffee chain, and every now and again the staff would be charged with holding coffee tastings.  We’d set out samples of coffee and stand behind a table, and hand out coupons for drinks people might be interested in.  Although it had to do with coffee, and most customers were there to drink coffee, there were a lot of people who did not want anything to do with the tastings and samples.  Many people would walk right past us as we smiled at them and said hello, and, to be perfectly honest with you, it was a bit hurtful.  Some folks would go out of their way to not have to talk to us; some people would ignore us; some people wouldn’t make eye contact, just plain willing us to not speak to them.

Life can look very different when people go out of their way to avoid you.  But just as it can look negatively, it can be such a positive thing when people see you, when they return your smile, and when they actually look at your face instead of right past where you are.

And it’s the same with healing the problems that we carry within us.  Even just acknowledging them, giving them a name, does a great service: it tells us that we’re aware, that we’re working toward fixing it, whatever that fix would look like.  It may be a visit to the doctor, a phone call to an estranged family member, a session with a therapist.  Acknowledging your problem is having an awareness that things might not look how you want them to, but it’s a step forward.

And sometimes, just that one little step might be all you need to keep you moving into a peaceful place of healing.  If you’re struggling today, know that I see you! And I hope that you find what you need to be well.

Until next time,
Christy

Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son, blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com, and tweets @agapeflower117. Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health.

One of Her Greatest Lessons

By Christy Gualtieri

Thud: Peter, you know what?
Peter: What?
Thud: My happy thought will help you.
Peter: What’s your happy thought, Thud?
Thud: Mine’s my mother.  Do you remember your mother, Peter?

  • Hook (1991)

Mother’s Day is approaching, and I sit uncomfortably between two worlds: being a mother myself, and having to remember my own Mother’s passing.  She died last year at the end of January, and it seemed that all of the Mother’s Day decorations and cards exploded in the grocery store right after Valentine’s Day, leaving me with a lot of time to think about what I would be missing.

The week before Mother’s Day last year, I found myself grumpy, irritable, and just plain angry at things I normally wouldn’t bat an eye at.  It was fear — how would I get through the day? Would I be able to enjoy my own Mother’s Day, my own children, on that day? Or would it just be about my own Mom, and how much I missed her? The day itself came and went and it was difficult, but here we are, another year later, and I find myself facing those same emotions, that same fear.

But this year, I’m a little farther out from the day she died, and it makes a difference.  Last year, Mother’s Day was a brutal hit of reminders about how she’s just not here anymore.  And this year, I’m feeling more reflective about it.  I think about how she gave me a great gift just before she died, a great lesson that I think – and hope – to turn over in my mind when the holiday comes.

Just before my mother died, in the last few months and in certainly the last few weeks, she became very aware of what was important.  Issues she had cared about barely even registered with her; things to gossip about just fell away.  Time became very essential, and the things that she felt mattered the most to her – her faith, her family, the love she had – those were the things that now occupied her mind.  She didn’t have time anymore for the trivial things, because she could see now how much they truly didn’t matter.

And this year, I am leaning on that example. I’m taking stock of what I find to be important to me, and holding them closely, learning how to let the other things go.  All of the fears, all of the worry, all of the thousand little insignificant things that would make up my day are things she taught me to get rid of so I can focus on the rest.  I hope I am able to keep trying to do that, and I am grateful for her example that showed me how.

I wish a very happy Mother’s Day to you and yours, especially if your mother is no longer with you.

A quick reminder! May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, and I encourage you, if you haven’t already, that it’s a great time to find a counselor or therapist who can best meet your needs.  If you’re feeling alone, depressed, anxious, or just plain “stuck”, know that help is out there for you! It has done wonders for me personally, to get to know myself and what really matters in my life, like my mother did.  I hope the same for you!

Until next time, be well!
Christy

Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son, blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com, and tweets @agapeflower117. Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health.

What You Do Matters

By Christy Gualtieri

A little over a week ago, my children and I were involved in a car accident. We were traveling on the highway and a garbage truck crossed into our lane and hit us, causing us to hit the concrete divider on our left side. It dragged us for quite a way; and when the accident ended, my car stayed, immovable, in the left lane and the garbage truck had made its way to the right shoulder.

I had never been in that large an accident before. I had been rear-ended a couple of times, but those were only minor events; and this was a real, window-glass-shattered, doors dented, tires-blown-out emergency.

When it was over, I was aware of a breeze coming through the large hole where my passenger front window used to be. Shattered glass littered the seat next to me. Other vehicles outside were slowly passing by my car, the curious faces of the drivers trying to catch a glimpse of what had happened. I tried to catch their eyes and made a handsign of a phone – please, call; somebody, please call the police. I turned to look at my four year old, who was scared but otherwise okay, and as I tried to calm him down, reassuring him that we were fine, I realized that I could not hear my nearly two-year old daughter, who was strapped in behind me in a rear-facing car seat.

“Is she okay?” I asked my son, but he did not answer me – he was still recounting everything that had happened. I couldn’t open my door to get out to see her, so I tried calling out her name. No answer. I tried to put my hand on the passenger seat to turn around and see, but there was so much glass. I began to brush it off, and just then, a face appeared at the hole.

It belonged to a friendly-looking, curly-haired woman. “Are you all right?” She asked me. “I’m a nurse, I drove by – I didn’t see the accident happen, but I saw that you had your kids in the car and I had to stop. I called the police, they’re coming – help is coming.”

I tried to smile, but I was still disoriented. “My daughter, I can’t see her,” I told her. “She’s behind me in the seat, but I can’t get out to see her. Is she okay?”

“She’s fine,” the woman told me. “I see her right there, she’s giving me a little smile – hi sweetheart, you’re okay – She’s fine. I just had to stop to see if you were all right, I’m glad you are all right.  I got kids too, I know what it’s like. I’m so glad you’re okay.”

I thanked her again and she got in her car and drove off. I kept reassuring my children as I looked out of the back window. Traffic was starting to back up; I was sure we were the cause of a lot of grumbling from folks trying to get through one of Pittsburgh’s many tunnels. Cars continue to trickle past us, and I was worried that it was taking the police so long to arrive.

A few minutes later, I watched as another car drove around us and stopped in front of my car. A man walked out and over to my passenger window.

“Are you all right?” He asked me, looking into the car. He was a large man, with a tattoo on his arm.

“Yes, thank you,” I replied. “Someone else stopped too, said they called the police.”

“Good,” he said. “I saw you were here, and I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”

He looked around again, nodded, and left. A few seconds later, we heard the sirens of the ambulance and fire truck that had been dispatched to help us, and it wasn’t too much later than that when my kids and I were able to safely exit the car and make our way home, a bit shaken up but amazingly otherwise no worse for wear.

There is a lot to consider when I think about that accident. There are the biggies, of course, the what-would-have-happened-if scenarios to ponder, but I mainly find myself thinking about those two commuters who went out of their way to stop and make sure we were okay. They didn’t have to stop; they just could have called from their own cars and continued on, but they took the time to stop on a busy highway to make sure a frightened woman and her two children, whom they had never met, were all right.

And that means so much to me. I am, of course, grateful for the EMTs and Firefighters that assisted us and did a wonderful job helping, but I was just so struck by the impact (no pun intended) that those other two people had on me. I will probably never see them again; I don’t know who they are or where they are from, but I know that their kindness meant a great deal, and I am so grateful to them.

I know that sometimes, maybe most times, you may feel as though the little things you do don’t matter much. But honestly, as the recipient of a little kindness that did a lot to calm my heart and my mind, those things do matter, quite a bit. I hope this encourages you to keep doing those little kindnesses; they may make someone’s really bad day much, much better.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son, blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com, and tweets @agapeflower117. Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health.

The Games We Play

By Christy Gualtieri

Chocolate, or vanilla?
The Beatles, or the Rolling Stones?
Nintendo, or Sega Genesis?

Growing up, we were a Sega Genesis family.  My brother and I took turns playing Sonic the Hedgehog until our fingers nearly fell off, sometimes forgoing our turns if it meant that the other one had gotten to a higher level.  We loved the high tech-ness of it, the new world that was so much more than what Atari games had to offer us.  16-bit graphics — unbelievable! As generations before us did, our friends and I gathered in basements and living rooms to socialize, but not to listen to records or watch TV or to merely gossip.  We’d gather around a screen and cheer each other on as we played different video games — to a kid growing up in the ‘90s, there was no better way to spend your time.

And now, with the advent of even greater technology, the bar has most definitely been raised.  The cavemen-like days of shimmying up a two-dimensional ladder in Donkey Kong or puttering slowly around a track in Excitebike are long over, with realistic RPGs and first-person shooting dominating the scene, not to mention the 3-D awesomeness of the newest generation of virtual reality games that really make you feel like you’re in whatever universe you want to be.

Of course, there are drawbacks to the gaming world.  There is a genuine concern about the relationship between kids’ attention spans and the influence of video games, and of course, serious conversations about the connections between video games and violence.  It’s easy to get caught up in the differing viewpoints.

But there are stereotypes, too.  Think about someone who’s really into “gaming,” and you might assume that they’re all pale, out-of-shape outcasts with a serious lack of Vitamin D and no social skills whatsoever.  But you may be surprised by the connectability that gamers share, the universality of competition around the globe.  The Internet has given gamers the ability to instantly connect with other players around the world; a person never has to play alone – never has to feel alone.

My brother-in-law has a serious video game collection.  Name the system, and he has it.  He knows the savviest ways to get the newest system as soon as it’s released, while the rest of the masses are put on waiting lists.  When we visit, we have a great time trying out the newest technology, and it’s just plain fun.

Just recently, we tried out the new Nintendo Switch.  Its particular innovations draw on the fact that most of the games that are played on it make the player rely on not looking at the screen at all, but at each other.  We had a great time, and I was drawn once again to what makes video games so entertaining: the competition, the skill, and the feeling of escapism that comes with entering new, beautiful worlds with the push of a button.

I’m excited for what the next generation of video gaming is going to come up with!

Thanks for reading,
Christy

Christy GualtieriChristy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son, blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com, and tweets @agapeflower117. Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health.

Choosing Your Own Adventure

By Christy Gualtieri

“The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.”
Alan Bennett, The History Boys

I’ve always loved reading.  Ever since I was very little and I first learned to read, I could be found anywhere, reading anything that happened to be lying around and in arm’s reach. I loved the many popular book series of the day: Sweet Valley Twins (At the age of 11, I was too young to be allowed to read the Sweet Valley High series, although I had hidden the fact that I’d read many of them already from my mother), everything by Roald Dahl, and the Baby-Sitters Club.

One of my favorites, though, was the Choose Your Own Adventure series – a book that was unique in that you didn’t read it cover-to-cover; you chose what the character did as you went through, sometimes skipping whole chapters. I liked them because each book contained dozens of paths to get through the book, so it was like reading many different books in one. When I was done with one adventure, I’d just go back to chapter one and begin again with another path. I do admit that I would cheat here and there; if the book asked me to choose one path I’d hold the page I was on and look ahead; if I didn’t like it, I’d choose the other.

The Choose Your Own Adventure books are enjoying a bit of a comeback these days, and for good reason: everyone likes to feel in control of their own lives, even kids, and it’s fun to undergo an adventure with little risk involved (like I said, if you don’t like the adventure, you can just go back a chapter and pick a new one!). Sometimes it depresses me to know that when I’m going through a bit of a rough patch in my life, I can’t just “flip ahead” to the next chapter to see if I’ll make it through alright, to get that assurance that I’ll be able to get through different anxieties or worries that I feel or the difficult days that I have. On those days, I have to work a bit harder to remind myself that those days are part of the adventure too, even if it doesn’t seem like it; that spending hours sorting through my kids’ toys or running back to the grocery store twice in one day all plays a part in how my life is going to turn out, unglamorous as it can be.

But there are days when it’s all going well, and I don’t want to skip ahead! When I’m having a great weekend with my family or catching up with friends I haven’t seen in years, or I’m finally being productive with a creative project — and then here comes the cue on the bottom of the page that reminds me that there’s more to come.

I don’t know what it’ll look like, and sometimes that makes me nervous. I don’t know what your life is going to look like next either, but I invite you to choose your own adventure today! Choose to take the riskier path, have a little fun! I will try to do that same thing too.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

Christy GualtieriChristy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son, blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com, and tweets @agapeflower117. Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health.