Monthly Archives: February 2016

4 Things We’ve Learned After 40 Valentine’s Days

by Kassandra Lamb

beating heart

by Nevit Dilmen, CC-BY- SA 3.0 Wikimedia

Hubs realized this past Valentine’s Day that it was our 40th one together. We started dating in the fall of 1975. That got me thinking about when and why I fell in love with him, and some of the more important lessons of the last 40 years.

Here are 4 of those lessons learned…

Cover your mate’s back:
Although I’d been growing fonder and fonder of him since we’d started dating, I actually fell in love with my husband on that first Valentine’s Day. He’d planned a special evening, starting with a reservation for dinner at a fancy downtown restaurant, for 8:00.

The restaurant had seriously over-booked. By 9:15, Tom had approached the check-in station several times, only to be told that it would “just be a few more minutes.”

“Do you want to go somewhere else?” he asked. But where could we go for a nice dinner on Valentine’s Day without reservations? McDonald’s?

My knees wobbled and I clung to Tom’s arm as we were finally shown to our table at quarter to ten! I was literally weak with hunger.

Suddenly my easy-going boyfriend turned into the Incredible Hulk. He had words with first the waiter and then the maitre ’d, demanding that we be served food RIGHT NOW.

A tossed salad appeared in front of me, and I fell in love with this man who would stand up for me when I was too weak to stand up for myself.

(BTW, that restaurant went out of business a few months later.)

We’ve had each other’s backs a few other times through the years… whenever one of us had to be in the hospital, for example. We’ve both slept on those horrible foldout chairs and have been awakened every few hours along with our spouse when the nurses or aides came in to take vital signs or give medication. We were there to be the other’s spokesperson and protector when they were too sick or too doped up to think straight. (And a couple of times the presence of a clear-headed defender turned out to be critical.)

It may not sound all that romantic, but hey, if you can’t count on your mate to have your back, who the heck can you count on?

swans scratching each other's backs

photo by Susanne Nilsson, CC-BY-SA 2.0 Wikimedia Commons

Accept each other as unique human beings:
There’s a myth out there that couples need to share a lot of interests. Not really. A few shared interests are good, so you have something to do together. But it’s okay for each of you to do a bunch of things the other one isn’t into. Tom’s into photography and computers. I’ve got a point-and-shoot camera that no longer focuses properly and a secondhand desktop for which I paid $250.

I love to shop and play cards, and of course, write. He’d rather stick pointed sticks in his eyes than go shopping or play cards. And writing is a necessary chore that is sometimes required in the work that he does.

Instead of resenting the time that the other spends on non-shared interests., honor that those things are important to your mate. I wait patiently when we’re on vacation while he takes a hundred shots of every sight we see (I’m only exaggerating a little). He never says a word about the nights I stay up until 3 a.m. because the muse has struck and I must get those precious words down before they slip away.

And we never try to make the other do what we’re interested in but they’re not. He resists the urge to makes fun of my point-and-shoot camera and I find other people to play cards with.

Time is the most important gift:
Having said all of the above, make sure your interests don’t get in the way of spending time with your spouse. As is so often the case, it’s quality as much as quantity (if not more so) that counts. Dinner is check-in time for us. It may only be twenty minutes to a half hour, but we’re not reading or watching TV or playing with our cell phones. We’re telling each other everything important–and some things that are not all that important but are just interesting–that’s happened to us that day.

bread and wine

Bread, Wine and Thee (photo by Beatrice Murch, CC-BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

And on Fridays, we have date night. We started that when our son was about thirteen. We have a special dinner, just the two of us, share a bottle of wine, and really linger at the table until we’re totally caught up on things. Then we relax and watch videos together for the rest of the evening.

Be proud of each other:
Don’t just say it to each other. Tell others about your spouse’s accomplishments. No, you don’t have to be a bore about it. But let your spouse know you’re proud of them by telling the world.

Tom’s my best salesman. He’s always telling me about some coworker who happened to mention that they like mysteries, or just that they like to read. That’s his opening! He doesn’t have enough coworkers that his efforts will make a major difference in my writing income. But it definitely makes a difference in my confidence level to hear that he’s proud enough to brag about my writing to anyone who will stand still and listen.

How many Valentine’s Days have you had with your honey? And what have the years taught you about living and loving together? And even if you’re not coupled at the moment, what makes you feel especially loved–by friends, lovers and/or family?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological suspense series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

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. 🙂 )

Quick, Buy More Toilet Paper!

by Kassandra Lamb

Recently a good part of the country experienced the blizzard of 2016. And now it’s snowing again up north.

Montgomery Co. MD, not far from where we once lived (photo by heado, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, Wikimedia Commons)

Blizzard of 2016 aftermath, Montgomery Co. MD, not far from where we once lived (photo by heado, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, Wikimedia Commons)

During the blizzard my native Maryland got about two feet of the white stuff dumped on them. That’s a lot of snow for a state that is technically below the Mason-Dixon line.

But is it really reason to panic?

When did we become such a crisis-oriented society? Oh, yeah, it’s when the media got a foothold…

I’m five feet, four inches tall (I used to be five-six, but hey, old age happens). Yes, two feet is a lot of snow, but it still only comes up to just above my knees. With a little effort, I can walk in it without snowshoes. And with some shoveling and the wonders of modern all-wheel drive, I can drive in it.

When I lived in Maryland, I used to marvel at the run on stores for milk, bread and toilet paper before a snowstorm. I got the milk and bread part, but honestly people, how much time do you plan to spend in the bathroom during the two to three-day period it takes for the snow plows to dig you out? I would think that the 4 to 6 rolls that most households have on hand would suffice.

Have we become such a namby-pamby society that the possibility of running low on toilet paper has us running to the stores? Come on, we’ve got tissues and paper towels and houseplant leaves to supplement before we truly should get desperate.

My point here is that we have been conditioned by the media to go into crisis mode over things that previous generations considered everyday challenges.

Here ya go! Car snowed in; break out the skis. (NW Washington, DC photo by Alejandro Alvarez CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, Wikimedia Commons)

Here ya go! Car snowed in; break out the skis. (NW Washington, DC photo by Alejandro Alvarez CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, Wikimedia Commons)

Funny story. Thursday was grocery shopping day for me when we lived in Maryland, and one week, there was a snowstorm predicted for Friday. I braved the store anyway, and actually we were a little low on TP, so I headed for that aisle.

When I got there, a dozen or so people were staring at bare shelves, with bewildered and anxious expressions on their faces. Surely the store hadn’t sold out of the golden sheets this early in the panic!

Then a store employee walked past. “Hey, didn’t you all see the big display up front. We moved it up by the door.” No, apparently most of us were busily checking our lists or something, not expecting our local grocer to be quite that blatantly mercenary.

I pushed my cart up front and nabbed a precious 4-pack, then went home and reassured my houseplants that their leaves were safe, for now.

We’ve since retired to Florida, but we’re not immune to the hysteria mongering down here. Oh Lordy, there’s a tropical storm headed for the coast. Everybody panic! No, just put away your porch furniture, and to be on the safe side, your grill, because it’s gonna be kind of windy for the next day or two.

In the media’s search for the next big story, they’ve turned this country into the land of fear!

Despite what you see on the evening news, the world is not coming to an end, and you probably don’t need to buy more toilet paper. But you might want to water your houseplants, just in case.

photo by Luis Fernández García CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons

photo by Luis Fernández García CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons

What about you? What has the media made you unduly afraid of in recent times?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington mystery series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

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. 🙂 )

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. in Relationships — Why Is It So Hard?

by Kassandra Lamb

In honor of Valentine’s Day coming up this weekend, I figured a post on relationships would be appropriate.

1200px-Valentines_heart pub domain.svgI read an article recently–a blog post by a guy named Matt–and I think he has absolutely nailed the main problem in most modern relationships, even those in which the partners would say they are “happy.” He posted it less than a month ago, and it’s gone viral. Last time I checked it had over 3,000 comments.

But sadly only about half of those commenters actually got what he was really saying.

The title is: She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes By the Sink. And I highly recommend that you pop over there and read it after you finish this post.

The commenters who didn’t get it thought it really was about the dishes. How could his wife divorce him over something so trivial, some asked. Others came down on her side, calling him a slob who expected his wife to be his maid.

All this despite the fact that he points out that it wasn’t about the dishes. It was about the lack of respect he was showing her, when he refused to change a minor habit–that of leaving a glass by the sink instead of putting it in the dishwasher–and when he tuned her out every time she complained about this minor habit.

The one mistake I think Matt made in his analysis of all this was conceptualizing it as a gender difference issue. I don’t think it is, or at least not completely so.

Most of us, male or female, have a tendency to dismiss something as unimportant unless it’s important to us, or unless we can readily understand why it’s important to someone else. It’s perfectly natural to judge the importance of something through our own filters.

But when we commit to love another person, we have to make a conscious effort to understand what’s important to them. And if we can’t understand, that doesn’t change the reality that it IS important to them. We still need to respect that.

This could happen regarding a lot of things that are important to either partner. I’m sure the issue even comes up with gay and lesbian couples. One of them is neater than the other, and the other one doesn’t get why it’s not okay to throw candy wrappers into the backseat of the car.

Are you old enough to remember this Odd Couple? (Jack Klugman and Tony Randall in the Odd Couple on ABC, 1973)

Are you old enough to remember this Odd Couple? (Jack Klugman and Tony Randall in the Odd Couple on ABC, 1973)

For most of his life, my husband was a long-distance runner. When we were first married, I didn’t get why this activity was important to him. I asked him why, and he couldn’t really give me a good answer. “Because it feels so good when I stop,” was what he said. Huh?

He ran at lunchtime a couple of times a week, and that was fine. But on the weekends, he used several hours of our potential time together pounding the asphalt. And I spent those hours resenting his absence.

And then his father died of a massive heart attack. My husband quite smoking and increased his running to every day. And I stopped resenting it, because now it made sense to me why it was important.

Today I know that his father’s heart attack was only a catalyst for the increase in running. It wasn’t why it was important to him. Like all athletes, he enjoyed challenging his body, and he liked the endorphin high after a good run (the “feels good when I stop” feeling). I, on the other hand, do not get the athletic mindset at all; I exercise because I know I have to in order to stay reasonably fit and healthy.

Okay, so the key problem is not all that gender related. It’s the lack of understanding regarding certain things that are important to our partners, and tending to dismiss and/or resent those things. And this, in turn, causes our partners to not feel respected.

So why is it that all too often these resentments and misunderstandings are about the guy doing/not doing something that annoys his wife?

Here’s the part that is gender related, but it’s not some mysterious, natural difference in how we see or feel about things. It comes back to some socialized differences, how each gender has been taught to interact with the world and others.

public domain (Wikimedia Commons)

public domain (Wikimedia Commons)

These are generalizations, so of course there will be exceptions. But in general, women have been socialized to care about their homes and maintaining their nice appearance. Who’s the one who is apologizing for the mess (whether there really is one or not) when we drop in on a couple? Probably the woman, because she feels that how the house looks is a reflection on her.

Men care about their homes, but in different ways. Its size and value reflect on how good a breadwinner he is. And he wants to be comfortable in his home, to be able to relax there after a long day at work (and not have to always be neat and tidy, thank you very much).

Also, men, in general, have been socialized to tune women out when they are “nagging” about something that the man deems to be trivial (and most things related to keeping the house nice fall into that category). Their fathers were clueless about these issues, so how could they teach their sons–either by example or with more blatant, verbal lessons–how to cooperate with a woman’s attempts to keep the house looking respectable?

And even though we are supposedly liberated now, and equal partners, both sharing the housework… blah, blah, blah… many men still remain oblivious to this issue, because they are modeling those fathers, who modeled their fathers before them.

Most women don’t start out nagging, by the way. First, they ask. Then, they gently point out. Then, they point it out a little more strenuously. (The man will have no conscious memory of these earlier attempts to get him to comply because he tuned them out.)

Eventually women begin to nag, letting their irritation show more and more. And sometimes, like Matt’s wife, they start to slowly stop loving this man who can’t seem to hear that it’s a simple thing to put a glass in the dishwasher, rather than leaving it on the counter. She resents, maybe without even being consciously aware of the resentment, that he seems to care so little about what is important to her that he can’t bother to do this small thing.

So why does this not happen in the other direction? Why doesn’t the man start to resent when the woman doesn’t get what’s important to him? He very well might, and justifiably so. And certainly such resentments have led to the decline and even the dissolution of more than one marriage.

But here are some other gender factors that affect all this.

  • Most of the time, the things that are important to him, that she doesn’t get, are things that don’t directly involve her. They’re activities he likes to do, such as tinkering with his car or watching sports. Maybe she gives him some flak about the time these activities take away from things she deems more important. And he resents that. But he often does them anyway, and most likely not in her presence (either because he leaves the house to do them or she leaves the room). So the negativity around these things is most likely sporadic and short-lived. And he’s programmed to tune her out! (Now, if she doesn’t learn to shut up about these things, eventually they may have problems, but she probably will learn to shut up. See below) .
  • Most of the time, the things that are important to her, that he doesn’t get, involve their home, which is shared territory. He lives in that home too, and his actions affect that home, and her efforts to keep it nice, on a daily basis.
  • Women are socialized to pay closer attention to the quality of their relationships, especially with their spouses. It’s a residual of the old belief that the woman was supposed to make the man happy, to adjust to his mood and worry about whether she was pleasing him. So today, women–again through modeling their mothers and their grandmothers before them–tend to pay attention to the state of the relationship more and analyze it periodically to determine if it is still a happy one. Now, they are noting their own happiness as well as their husband’s, but they’re still more the “keepers” of the relationship. (I’m not pulling this out of my hat, folks; research has been done on the subject.) As a result, the woman is more likely to figure out why something is important to her man and stop giving him a hard time about it.

She may not have the right reason (as was the case regarding my husband’s running) but she has a reason that makes sense to her. So she lets it go, or maybe even supports these activities that she once resented (by buying him new running shorts when the old ones get ratty 😉 ).

The man, on the other hand, just tunes her out when she bugs him about taking his shoes off at the door or putting his dirty dishes in the dishwasher. The situation never changes and the resentment builds up. Each time it is less about the shoes or the glass by the sink and more about the fact that he doesn’t get why this is important to her.

Let me add one more thought. Even though these actions may seem like a “small thing,” It’s hard to change a habit, so cut your mate a break if s/he seems to be trying.

And if you’re the one trying to correct some little thing that annoys your mate, you will no doubt forget to do so in the early stages. Two precious words can defuse your mate’s bitching at you about it. “I’m sorry.” (Adding “I’ll keep trying to remember” wouldn’t hurt.) Say it in a pleasant voice, not an irritated one, and your spouse’s anger will most likely melt away. You might even get a kiss and a hug for your efforts.

Remember, it is NOT about the dang glass! It’s about whether or not s/he feels heard and respected!

(Please do go read Matt’s post now; it gives some details from the male perspective that I found surprising and enlightening! But don’t read the comments; most of them just confuse the issue.)

Are there things, even little things, that are important to you that your significant other just doesn’t get? Do you think there might be some things that are important to him/her that you’re not getting?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington mystery series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

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 Power of Group Support

by Kassandra Lamb

I’m in the middle of a two-week stint of fast-drafting. What is fast-drafting, you might ask?

A bunch of authors get together and make a commitment to themselves and each other that they will write X number of words per day for a certain period of time. Each author sets their own goals but they’re not supposed to let anything interfere with making it happen.

I’m going for 3,000 words a day, an ambitious but not unreasonable goal. I’m normally lucky if I write 3-4,000 new words per week. Mainly because too many other things come up that need my time and attention, or at the very least, they break my train of thought.

(public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

(public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

But having made this commitment to the group, I have been able, for the most part, to give myself permission to ignore most of those other demands (fire or blood, I will probably respond to 😉 ).

And it’s amazing how much the cheering section of the group can do for one’s motivation.

Each day we report in on our progress and everybody comments with Woohoo’s and Yay’s if we make our goal, or even if we don’t but we at least get some new words on the page. If we hit a snag, the group will rally around and offer support and advice to get us unstuck.

The last time I did this, it was just a one-day affair, with 30 to 60-minute “sprints.” It happened to land on a day when I had many other distractions and obligations. I wasn’t able to participate in all of the sprints. And yet I cranked out over 6,000 words that day. During one 60-minute sprint alone, I wrote 3,000 words.

I’m not real sure why the group support makes such a difference. It’s really a bit of a mystery. It all remains positive. If you fail to make your goal for the day, nobody gives you a hard time. Indeed, the group will commiserate. And somehow that makes one that much more determined to write more the next day.

It’s amazing. Truly this kind of group effort gives meaning to the saying:

The whole is greater than the parts!

It reminds me of when I worked with a group called Women Build. They were an all-female crew that built houses for Habitat for Humanity. There were a few young, strong women in the group but most of us were middle-aged or older. Nonetheless, we managed to hang drywall and sand floors and shingle roofs. A dozen or so of us would show up at the building site each Saturday morning, and together we’d somehow get things done that none of us would dream of doing by ourselves. In less than a year, we had built a house!

How about you? Have you ever found you could do something as part of a group that you’d never have accomplished all on your own?

This fast-drafting session was organized, by the way, by my sister mp author, K.B. Owen. Check out her post if you’d like to know more about why fast-drafting with a group is so successful for authors. I especially like Elizabeth Anne Mitchell’s comment about outrunning one’s inner critic. 🙂

If you are an aspiring writer, you might want to check out my new guidebook for newbie authors.

It’s just 99 cents for a limited time! (Goes up to $2.99 soon.)

a SomedayIsHere FINAL (1)Someday Is Here! by Kassandra Lamb

This easy-to-read, how-to guide is full of both practical advice and emotional support. Psychotherapist turned successful mystery writer, Kassandra Lamb takes novice writers by the hand and walks with them on their journey, pointing out pitfalls along the way, some of which she discovered through tumbled-head-first-into-them experience.

From the decisions to be made before setting pen to paper to whether to submit to agents or self-publish, from the basics of writing craft to the nuts and bolts of copyrighting and ISBNs, from promotion strategies to the perseverance needed to make your writing business a success, this overview of the writing and publishing process is a must-read for new authors who aren’t sure what they’re getting themselves into.

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Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington mystery series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

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. 😉 )