Category Archives: In Honor Of…

Love Thy Neighbor

by Kassandra Lamb

easter eggs in basket

photo by Toelstede – Wikipedia-Name Nyks CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons

Sunday was Easter. On a secular level, many of us are celebrating spring and rebirth on this day, with symbols like eggs and bunnies and chicks.

But Easter is one of the two most joyous holidays in the Christian calendar. It commemorates the Christian belief that Jesus rose from the dead after being crucified, after allowing himself to be tortured and killed for the sake of others.

Although the religious components of this holiday are matters of belief, most historians agree that a man named Jesus did live in ancient Israel, around the time of the Roman occupation, and he was crucified.

He could have saved himself. All he would’ve had to do was disavow everything he stood for. He could have lied to Pontius Pilate, told the man what he wanted to hear, and he would have skated.

But then we would have no conscious memory of his teachings, two thousand and seventeen years later. Martyrdom is often required in order to make a lasting impression.

Technically, I’m a Christian. I was baptized in the Methodist Church and I’m a confirmed Episcopalian. I say technically because lately I haven’t felt all that willing to publicly admit that I’m a Christian. Some folks have been giving Christianity a bad name.

One of the most important teachings of Christ is:

Love thy neighbor as thyself.

Well, I don’t know about the “as myself” part. I’m pretty darn fond of myself. But I try to remain benevolent toward those around me. And I know Jesus meant everyone when he said neighbor. But we might as well start close to home.

I live in a college town, so those who are literally my neighbors are a fairly diverse lot.

Benevolence is easy with our neighbor to the left. She’s a white, middle-class, elderly widow who’s lived here longer than we have and loves to garden. Her yard is always neat.

IMG_0422 cropped

Directly across from us is a middle-class white man and his twenty-years-younger wife. They were also here before us and we always wave and smile when we see them. He has grown children close to his wife’s age. We don’t know the story behind that, but it isn’t our place to judge.

The family that has been the most friendly lives next door to him. They are a Lesbian couple with one child, a son. They were the first to greet us as new neighbors when we moved here, with a basket of cheese and wine and a lovely card.

Their son, who was 6 when we moved here, is now 20. He has a steady girlfriend now. I get a little teary-eyed when I see him cruising down the street in the pick-up truck that used to be one of his moms’ main means of transportation.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve never officially introduced myself to the slightly swarthy-skinned woman and her daughter, who moved into the house on our right about a year ago. I haven’t even had many opportunities to give a friendly wave. They pretty much keep to themselves. Are they illegals? Or just shy?

None of my business, but I stand ready to wave and smile if I do spot them outside.

The single white guy next to the Lesbian couple doesn’t mow his lawn all that regularly. I find that annoying but try not to hold it against him.

The house on the corner is occupied by three (or more; it’s hard to keep track) students. Two of them drive motorcycles, but other than that they’re fairly quiet. So live and let live.

A middle-aged African-American couple moved in down the street a few months ago. They put on a new metal roof, added a freestanding garage, and repaved their driveway. The place looks really nice and I told them so, when they were climbing into their car one day as I walked past with my dog.

(I should point out here, lest I come across as holier than thou, that I am naturally a very outgoing person.)

photo by Alexscuccato CC-BY-SA-4.0 International, Wikimedia Commons

photo by Alexscuccato CC-BY-SA-4.0 International, Wikimedia Commons

I always feel better when I come home from my walks, and not just because of the satisfaction of good exercise.

All that waving and smiling brightens my own mood.

I wonder what would happen if everyone smiled and waved at everyone they cross paths with every day (yes, even in big cities up north). What kind of ripple effect would that have, internally and externally?

I know it’s been said before, but why can’t we all get along? And why can’t we start today by loving every “neighbor” we encounter?

Happy belated Easter, everyone!

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. 🙂 )

4 Reasons Why I Love Being an American*

by Kassandra Lamb

(*Note: by American, I mean resident of the U.S. Please don’t take offense, my Canadian and Central/South American friends, but “resident of the United States” is just too big a mouthful to say again and again.)

This year, as I contemplated what to write for yet another patriotic post for Independence Day, I was tempted to go light again, as we have sometimes done in the past for Memorial Day or the 4th of July, with recipes and nostalgia about childhood cookouts and fireworks. With all the ranting and ravings by politicians right now, it’s easy to think, “No, no, no, I don’t want to get involved in any of that heavy stuff.”

And I don’t, but I think that I do want to remind myself and others of just how great this country is. In many ways, it’s one of the best in the world.

So here are my 4 top reasons why I love being an American:

1. This country was founded by some pretty smart people.

We humans have a tendency toward short memories. And thus history repeats itself again and again, because we forget the lessons of the past, and sometimes even the recent past.

Our founding fathers were smart, even if they did dress funny.

Our founding fathers were smart, even if they did dress funny.

But our founding fathers got that this was a great hazard for our fledgling country. They wove into the very fabric of its foundation — in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights — clauses that were designed to keep this new country they were forming from making the same mistakes the European monarchies had recently made.

Instead of designing a government that would stifle the populace in order to maintain control, they guaranteed certain “inalienable rights” to everyone in this country. That was a profound and rather novel concept at the time.

It might have taken a few generations for Americans to get it that everyone truly meant everyone (women, African-Americans, Native Americans, Asian-Americans, LGBT folks, etc.), but when these groups got up the gumption to speak up against their exclusion from those inalienable rights, we had to admit (grudgingly sometimes) that they had a point.

2. This country was founded on good moral values.

While the Constitution and Bill of Rights guarantee freedom of religion and separation of church and state, the founding fathers were God-fearing men. They strove to shape a society that was based on Judeo-Christian values, such as tolerance and compassion.

We even have a Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles: "...designed to examine racism and prejudice around the world with a strong focus on the history of the Holocaust. " -- Wikipedia (photo by Cbl62 at English Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

We even have a Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles: “…designed to examine racism and prejudice around the world with a strong focus on the history of the Holocaust. ” — Wikipedia (photo by Cbl62 at English Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

Again, we may have taken a couple of centuries to get anywhere close to fulfilling that vision, and we have a ways to go yet in certain areas, but we do strive toward these goals. Not all nations do, and not all societies even see tolerance as desirable.

3. Americans are survivors.

We come from gritty pioneer stock. Our ancestors braved the perils of a hostile ocean and an unknown land to start a new life. They had a variety of reasons for coming here, from escaping religious persecution to seeking a better life to being shipped here against their will as prisoners or slaves. But they survived a lot of hardship and struggled to carve out a life for themselves and their descendants.

That’s the genetic pool from which we’ve sprung.

So when something knocks us down, we get up, brush ourselves off and keep trucking. And when others are knocked down, we rally around with help and encouragement. I was never prouder to be an American than these past few weeks as this country supported the LGBT community after the horror in Orlando. Even most of those Americans who might not approve wholeheartedly of their lifestyle got it that it wasn’t okay for 49 people to go from happy dancing to dead in a matter of minutes. The whole country is still mourning their loss and praying for the fifty-some folks who were injured and the families of all of the above.

4. America grows over time.

We may do it in fits and starts and sometimes fight it tooth and nail, but we grow. We adjust. We move on. As I watch the evening news each night, I see a society that is struggling with letting go of the past, or what we perceive the past to have been, and at the same time, is struggling to keep up with a rapidly-changing world.

I’ve lived long enough to have experienced some of the good old days. Some of them were indeed good, and some not so much. Those are best left behind.

By the same token, we should not be too quick to toss out the old just because it is old (says the woman who recently gave up her flip phone and got her first smart phone). To paraphrase the saying from the 12-step programs, we should “keep what works and leave the rest.”

Our history as a country (and I’ve seen this personally for the last 6 decades) has been one of pendulum swings on a variety of issues – to the right, to the left, back and forth – and eventually we find the balance on each issue, often somewhere in the middle.

Personally, I have faith that the United States of America will continue to eventually find the balance. Because we are a great country!

(photo by Ian Kluft, CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

(photo by Ian Kluft, CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Happy Birthday, America!!

(Please, no political rants in the comments.)

Note: Today’s the last day for Vinnie Hansen’s giveaway of 3 copies of her new release, Squeezed and Juiced, over on Goodreads! Check it out!!

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. 🙂 )

Memorial Day ~ Honoring the Fallen and Launching the Fun

by Kassandra Lamb

As a kid, I loved Memorial Day. I had no clue what it’s real significance was. I just knew it meant the beginning of summer.

kids in poolOur local community pool opened, and we swam no matter how chilly the May breeze in Maryland still happened to be (even if the lifeguards were in their sweats, as they sometimes were).

Summer meant swimming and going “down the ocean, hun.” But it also meant freedom – mostly from school.

at the beach

Me and my brother in Ocean City, MD; I’m about 5 here.

Weeks and weeks of summer vacation spread out before us. It seemed like infinity at the time. The possibilities for fun were endless.

Today I still get excited about the beginning of summer. It still means freedom – from coats and jackets and closed-toe shoes and socks (from shoes completely around the house or at the beach). And from heating bills (although in Florida, the AC bills can be worse).

We can open our windows and air out the winter staleness.

My mood lifts considerably when the weather warms toward summer and the days grow longer. The flowers are blooming and the grass is growing, soft underfoot. Right now, my magnolia tree in the backyard is about to burst into big gorgeous white blossoms.

cemetery

Alton National Cemetery (public domain)

The beginning of summer is when I feel most alive, so it seems particularly poignant when I remember what Memorial Day is really supposed to be about – to honor those who have given their lives for their country, to protect freedoms far greater and more important than being able to go barefoot!

It is a day that, like no other, brings to the forefront both the dark and the bright sides of human existence — the losses and tragedies, some of them quite senseless, and the exciting possibilities.

Being an eternal optimist (some have called me a Pollyana 🙂 ), I tend to focus on the possibilities.

How about you? What does the beginning of summer mean to you?

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. 🙂 )

7 Very Important Things My Not-Very-Healthy Mother Taught Me

by Kassandra Lamb

Waterolor beautiful girl. Vector illustration of woman beauty salon

This post is part of the Beauty Of A Woman Blogfest V sponsored by one of the most beautiful women I know, inside and out, August McLaughlin. And because she so bravely shares of herself to help and inspire others, I’m going to be a little more revealing in this post than I might otherwise be (no, not that kind of revealing; get your mind out of the gutter 😉 ).

And since this coming Sunday is Mother’s Day, I decided to talk about my mother.

I’m sure I’m not the only sixty-something woman who’s had to grow past the not-very-healthy role models presented by our mothers and the mixed messages our generation received about what it means to be a woman.

My mother was not a very strong person, emotionally, and she was a product of her time, coming of age in the 1940’s. She codependently let my father do whatever he wanted, in the interests of “keeping the peace” and “staying together for the sake of the kids.” My father wasn’t a bad man, but what he wanted was often misguided and almost always self-centered. He unintentionally caused his family a lot of pain, and she let him do so.

But putting aside that major flaw, my mother was a wonderful person in a lot of ways. And she taught me several valuable lessons. Some of these she taught me directly or by example, and some I learned by witnessing her bad example and doing the exact opposite.

1. She taught me to make the best of a bad situation.

Not that I would stay in a bad marriage like she did, but she showed me how to look for the way around obstacles without butting your head against them.

I didn’t appreciate this lesson for many years. In my youth, I tended to follow my father’s obstinate head-butting style.

His style of dealing with problems at work got him fired or “asked to resign” from so many jobs I lost count. Her style was to smile, make friends with, and eventually cajole her rivals into seeing things her way. As a result, she rose to director/dean level at the college where she worked, and she did so after having spent the first two decades of her adulthood as a stay-at-home mom.

2. She taught me to smile.

My mom laughing

Not in a false or fake way, but to genuinely be cheerful even if life isn’t completely going the way you would like it to.

I look back now and realize that much of what allowed her to be so cheerful was downright denial. But nonetheless, I grew up with a mother who often had a smile on her face.

She had a good sense of humor, which to some degree skipped a generation and showed up again in my son. What a delight it was to watch them interact!

3. She taught me to talk about my feelings with my friends.

I didn’t get just how miserable she was in her marriage until I was about fifteen years old. Gradually, during my teen years, she and I shifted from mother and daughter to friends and confidantes.

Looking back, I realize it wasn’t very healthy for a woman to share with her daughter how unhappy she was with the girl’s father. But in this case, I found those revelations validating. It wasn’t my imagination that my father was hard to live with.

When we went shopping, we’d sometimes pretend to be sisters. We frequently bought things (well, she paid for them), coats or pieces of jewelry, that we would share. I still have one of the pendant necklaces we bought on such an outing.

Was this a sick blurring of boundaries? Definitely. But this experience taught me to open up and share when I was hurting, something that would serve me well for the rest of my life.

I’m especially grateful for this lesson when I see female friends struggling to ask for what they need emotionally. The misguided message of our youth was that women should always put others first, which often translated into believing we were not worthy of support ourselves. But I learned, through my mother’s example, to ask for support.

4. She taught me to love shopping, and to cherish a bargain above all else.

shopping mall

A shopping mall at Christmas time was heaven for us! (photo by BazzaDaRambler CC-BY-2.0 Wikimedia Commons)

Seriously, retail therapy is almost as good as the best counselor out there! (This coming from a retired psychotherapist.)

But my mother was very frugal. The only thing better than finding the perfect purse, dress, sofa, drapes, etc. was finding it on sale, with an additional X percent off.

One of the items we bought and shared was a pair of earrings that were little shopping bags, with “Shop Til Ya Drop” on the sides. I wonder what happened to them…

Today, shopping for clothes or pretty things for my house is preferable, of course, but I even find grocery shopping or running to Home Depot for bags of mulch a reasonably pleasant experience.

5. She taught me to be a good mother-in-law.

Unlike all too many mothers, she was not the least bit jealous of nor negative about the girlfriends and boyfriends my brother and I brought around to the house. She welcomed all of them–the sluts and the nerds, and the sweet girls and nice guys.

And she welcomed the people we married into the family with open arms and a generous heart.

Thanks to my mother’s legacy, it wasn’t hard for me to realize what a wonderful person my daughter-in-law is.

6. Ironically and indirectly, she taught me to put my child first.

wailing newborn with his grandmother

My newborn son (36.4 years ago) with his grandmother; he’s wearing a sleeper that says #1.

At some point in my adulthood, she told me that my brother and I were the best things that had ever happened to her. Not an unusual admission by a parent, but it actually surprised me.

Why? Because she had thrown us under the bus with my father more than once.

Her own father was a well-meaning but spineless man, addicted to get-rich-quick schemes. He couldn’t hold a job (sound familiar), and finally my grandmother tossed him out on his ear. (She was a strong woman.) My mother was twelve at the time.

For the next decade, she received eloquent letters full of empty promises (we found them in her papers after she died). But she saw her father rarely, and then not at all.

Her desperation for a man who would actually be there in her life was so great that she would do anything to keep her man, including ignore the damage he was doing to her children.

My son and I lock horns occasionally. (We both inherited a trait from my father that my mother called stubbornness. I prefer the term determination.) But when my son really needs something, I will drop everything to be there for him and his family. I surprise even myself sometimes by the ferocity of my reaction when he is in need.

7. She taught me to be strong and independent.

Again, not by being a role model for those traits–she was anything but those things–but she gave me permission and encouragement to be confident in myself. My stubbornness frustrated her when I was a kid and a teenager, but later she admitted that she was pleased to see how strong and independent I was. She was proud of the adult I had become.

And for all her flaws in raising me, once I was an adult, my mother and I were best friends. She’s been gone for thirteen years now, and I still wish I could pick up the phone and call her to talk about whatever’s on my mind.

I love you, Ma! Happy Mother’s Day!!

Please head over to August’s website to find the links to the other posts in this blogfest about the Beauty of a Woman. Some of the posts are serious, some are fun but all are interesting and well worth your time.

How about you? What did your mother teach you, for better or worse, about being a woman? (Note: I will be traveling this week, so there may be a delay in responses to comments.)

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. 🙂 )

Stubbornness and Gratitude (especially for readers)

by Kassandra Lamb

I am not a patient person, but I am stubborn (as my mother frequently pointed out when I was a kid). We often hear the advice to stop daily and be grateful for one or more of the good things in our lives.

I find that I have no patience for that. Not that I’m not grateful, but taking time to stop and do something so intangible seems to get lost in the shuffle of busyness each day.

by Granny Enchanted CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported, Wikimedia Commons

by Granny Enchanted CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported, Wikimedia Commons

Still I am grateful for my blessings–my family, my friends, a comfortable income and being retired which means I can be so busy with the things I really want to be doing. And this year, I am particularly grateful for my stubbornness.

For the first three years of my writing career, I lost money. That’s not unusual for a new business enterprise, I kept telling myself. But it’s not like me to have the patience to stick with something that isn’t working. I’m not a quitter, but if I can’t figure out why something isn’t working in my life, and make it work, my impatience takes over and I tend to move on to other things.

But with the writing, although I was extremely frustrated at times, I kept plugging away. I tried so many different things to promote my books; none seemed to have enough impact on sales to be worth the effort and/or the cost. But I felt like I’d already invested so much into this whole writing dream, and my books were selling, just not enough to cover the expenses of producing more of them.

A few times I was tempted to just “rest on my laurels,” i.e. let the books that were out there continue to sell slowly but hopefully surely, and go back to being truly retired, as in play cards and go out to lunch with friends several times a week. But I knew in my heart of hearts that if I stopped doing all promotions, the sales would dry up.

And that’s what really kept me going, because we authors need our readers. Without readers, our characters stop living. We blow breath into them, but readers have to read our words in order to have those people we created–who are sometimes more real to us than the folks who populate our lives–continue to live.

And now this year, things have shifted. I reached what is sometimes called the tipping point and my books started selling well enough to cover expenses and then some. So thank you, Lord, for my stubbornness, which for once won out over my impatience.

And thank you, readers, for bringing Kate and the gang to life each time you read one of my stories!

photo by my favorite photographer, Nevit Dilmen, CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

photo by my favorite photographer, Nevit Dilmen, CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

 

And to fellow writers, I say:

Keep putting one foot in front of the other until you get there.

God bless you all!

And have a very Happy Thanksgiving!!!

 

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. 🙂 )

What’s Your Favorite Holiday?

by Kassandra Lamb

Independence Day has always been my second favorite holiday, Christmas being the first. But now I think July 4th is edging toward first place.

1000px-United_States_flag_waving_icon pub domain.svgWhen I was a kid, we went to a big cookout at the house of my parents’ friends, the Chucklers (not their real name; honestly anyone named that should pay to have it legally changed). I’m calling them that because they were cheerful people and we always had a lot of fun there. My brother and I would romp around with their kids in the woods by their house.

Then when we’d worked up a good appetite, we’d see who could run the fastest to get back to where the food was laid out. The centerpiece of the meal was a huge pot of homemade Maryland crab soup. I can close my eyes and taste the tomato and Old Bay on my tongue. Indeed, Mrs. Chuckler’s crab soup spoiled me for anybody else’s.

bbottle of Old Bay seasoning

The not-so-secret ingredient in Maryland Crab Soup! (photo by Beeblebrox, CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

As dusk settled around us, we’d pile into cars and drive a few miles to a huge field where the local volunteer fire company put on a fireworks display that is the best I’ve ever seen, bar none! The finale was always a picture in the sky, made up of fireworks. One year it was an American flag. Another it was the face of George Washington. I kid you not! I have no clue how they could be so precise with the fireworks to make that happen.

I think that our favorite holidays are influenced by our memories of those times in the past. Christmas has many fine memories attached to it as well, but it hasn’t been the same since my mother passed away. But those memories of July 4th remain unsullied. Thus the rising of that day in the ranks of my favorite holidays.

This year, we’ll be on our annual trek to Maryland/Pennsylvania to visit family and friends. Our home base is in Rock Hall, Maryland, which has the second best fireworks ever. The house we’re renting is just a few blocks from the harbor, and my brother is staying with us the first week of July.

So we’ll stroll down to the harbor early, with our picnic dinner and a bottle of wine, and nab a prime spot by the water. After a leisurely picnic, we’ll people-watch until time for the fireworks. And although we won’t be having Maryland crab soup for dinner, the evening will still be spiced with those memories from childhood of good times spent with family and friends celebrating the birth of our country.

(photo by Ian Kluft, CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

(photo by Ian Kluft, CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

How about you? What’s your favorite holiday? Does it have pleasant memories attached to it?

(Note: our blog will be on summer hiatus for the month of July. See you in August!)

Oh, and don’t forget to grab a copy of Vinnie Hansen’s updated edition of One Tough Cookie, the second in her Carol Sabala series and newly re-released under the misterio press imprint.

One Tough Cookie, A Carol Sabala Mystery

OneToughCookieCarol Sabala’s boss sends the baker and amateur sleuth on a mission: find out who tampered with a teacher’s cookie dough and sickened the faculty. While Carol hones her investigative skills by gathering clues on the campus, a student is found dead on the high school’s stage. Did she fall? Commit suicide? Or did a killer hurl her from the catwalk?

When Carol seeks answers, a ruthless stalker comes after her!

Now Available on AMAZON and SMASHWORDS

 

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

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

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

Happy Memorial Day! (with recipes)

by Kassandra Lamb (on behalf of the whole gang)

Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington Cemetery

Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington Cemetery (public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Memorial Day in the U.S. is all about honoring the men and women in our armed forces, past and present. And most especially we honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for this country.

There are no words sufficient to express our gratitude!

Memorial Day is also the unofficial kickoff of the summer season. Children’s laughter rings out; splashing noises can be heard coming from neighbors’ pools (or your own); the air is redolent with delectable odors from backyard barbecues.

We decided that this year we’d share some of our favorite (and easy) summer recipes. We’re going to take you from cocktails to dessert. But since the desserts need a little time, either in the oven or the fridge, we’ll start with those.

July2012-063-1024x768First up: red, white and blue strawberries! (from Kathy Owen)

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs of strawberries, washed and blotted dry
  • 12oz pkg of white chocolate chips
  • blue decorating sugar, poured into a small bowl

Directions:

Line a baking sheet or jelly roll pan with aluminum foil.  Melt chips in microwave, according to package directions (you may need to stir in between cycles and add more time) until smooth.  Dip strawberries 2/3 of the way into the melted chocolate, then 1/3 of the way into the blue sugar.  Place on foil.  Put the tray in the fridge for about 2 hours, or until chocolate hardens.

A couple of things to keep in mind:

1) It’s really important to dry the strawberries thoroughly before dipping; otherwise, the chocolate won’t stick to them very well.

2) Don’t make ahead; plan to use them that day.  The strawberries will start releasing water, which will get into the sugar’s blue dye and create a drippy mess.  (They still taste good, though!)

Our other dessert: Grandma Weiss’s Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie (from Kirsten Weiss, of course)

strawberry rhubarb pieIngredients:

Crust:
1 ½ cups flour
1 TBSP Sugar
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup ice water
1 tsp grated lemon peel
½ cup unsalted butter

Filling:
1 ½ pints sliced strawberries
2 cups diced rhubarb
1 cup sugar
2 TBSP kirsch
1 TBSP tapioca

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
For pie crust: Mix flour, sugar, salt, ice water and grated lemon. Cut in butter (or use fingers), until dough is mealy. Roll out 2/3 of the dough to line the pie pan. Refrigerate remaining dough, which will be used for lattice.
Mix strawberries, diced rhubarb, sugar, kirsch, and tapioca. Let stand for 15 minutes.
Roll out remaining dough and cut into strips for lattice. Fill pie with strawberry-rhubarb mix and top with lattice. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until crust is golden.

And now that the desserts are setting up or baking, it’s time for cocktails!!

a margarita, with lime

(photo by Akke Monasso, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimdia Commons)

Vinnie Hansen offers up her main character’s favorite drink recipe: Carol Sabala’s Margaritas

Put lots of ice cubes in a container for mixing. Coat the rims of margarita glasses with fresh lime juice and dip in salt (ground sea salt preferred.) Fill the glasses with ice cubes.
In the mixing container add to the ice cubes:

● 3 oz. of Hornitos Tequila Sauza (or higher shelf)
● 3 oz. of Controy (This is the secret ingredient, a Mexican orange liquor that I’ve never found in the U.S. A good Triple Sec is a fair substitute.)
● 1 oz. fresh lime juice

Shake or stir and pour over the ice in the glasses.

Guacamole_y_nachos pub domain wiki

(public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

These are potent, so enjoy with plenty of chips and guacamole!

The best guacamole is simply smashed avocados, a dollop of your favorite salsa, and a squirt of lime. Some folks might need to add salt and pepper. That’s it. NO MAYO!

Okay, before you have that second margarita, you’d better stir up this side dish, which needs to chill for a while.

Shannon Esposito’s Summer Orzo Salad recipe:

orzo salad

(photo by Vegan Feast Catering, CC-BY 2.0, Wikimedia Common)

Ingredients:

-1 cup of orzo
-1 cup of baby peas or edamame
-1 diced red pepper
-1 diced green pepper
-handful cherry tomatoes halved
-2 TBSP lemon juice
-2 tsp olive oil
-sea salt/pepper to taste
-fresh cilantro (I use cilantro but you could use dill, basil or rosemary instead)

Directions:
-Cook orzo for 5-6 minutes in boiling water
-Add all other ingredients and mix well

Like revenge, this is a dish best served cold. 😉

Okay, is your stomach growling about now? Mine is!

Our main dish comes from my husband, since I, like my main character Kate Huntington, am not the world’s best cook. Tom makes the best hamburgers (and steaks) I’ve ever tasted, even in restaurants!

His secret is the seasonings, and it’s really quite simple (although they don’t taste nearly as good when I make them; I hope you have better luck duplicating his touch).

Tom’s Best Hamburgers Ever

Ingredients:

● 1 lb. Lean ground beef
● McCormick’s Grill Mates Hamburger seasoning (sub their Steak seasoning for steaks)
● Morton’s Season All
● McCormick’s Grill Mates Barbecue seasoning
● McCormick’s Grill Mates Mesquite seasoning

hamburger

(public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Directions:

Form ground beef into 4 patties. Place them on a preheated grill. Sprinkle a moderate amount of Hamburger seasoning and Season All on the top of each patty. Sprinkle Mesquite and Barbecue seasoning on each with a lighter touch. Immediately flip burgers over and sprinkle the seasonings on the other side. Cook to desired level of doneness, turning frequently.

Grab a bun and your favorite condiments and dig in!

What’s your favorite summer recipe?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb on behalf of the entire group. 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. 🙂 )

What We Put Our Mothers Through… Even Before We Were Born

by Kassandra Lamb

In honor of Mother’s Day, I thought I would share with you all some tidbits from two small booklets I found amongst my mother’s mementos after she passed away. I’m not real sure why she chose to keep them, perhaps for their comic value.

One booklet’s title is “Instructions for Expectant Mothers” and its pages are quite yellowed (circa 1948 when my brother was born). The other is called “Information for Obstetric Patients” and is not quite as yellowed (circa 1952 when I was born). Here are some of the pearls of wisdom doctors dispensed to their pregnant patients in the 1940’s to 1950’s:

Clothing:
“After the fourth month, all garments should hang from the shoulders, not from the waist. Specially designed garments will make your condition less conspicuous.”

THEN! (photo by by Bundesarchiv Bild,  CC-BY-SA 3.0 de, Wikimedia Commons)

THEN! (photo by by Bundesarchiv Bild, CC-BY-SA 3.0 de, Wikimedia Commons)

 

 

Not real sure how a tent with sleeves makes one less conspicuous but… (and don’t ask me why the woman is playing a clarinet in this picture; I have no clue).

 

 

 

NOW! (photo by Montse PB CC-BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

NOW! (photo by Montse PB CC-BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

 

 

 

 

 

 

More words of wisdom about one’s attire when pregnant:

“...If you have never worn a corset, you may not need one during pregnancy, especially first pregnancy. If you have any discomfort due to lack of support, you should wear a corset.

Wait a minute! Waistbands are verboten but it’s okay to wear one of these…

A maternity corset

A maternity corset (seriously, I’m not making this up!)

Sexual Intercourse:
“Sexual intercourse is permitted during the first 7 months of pregnancy, except during the time when menstruation would normally occur.”
(my emphasis)

Say what? Why in the world would you not be able to have sex during the time when you would normally have a period if you were not pregnant? This is in both booklets, with no explanation given. *scratches head*

Travel:
“Many women wish to know if they may travel to various out-of-town places. The answer is no, and if you go, you must be entirely responsible…Automobile rides on smooth streets and roads are permissible, but you should not make long tours even under the best of circumstances… It is not advisable for you to drive a car after the fourth month.”
(again, my emphasis)

“…you must be entirely responsible” – apparently doctors worried about malpractice suits even then.

Hey Lady, you better get out behind that wheel if you're over 4 months pregnant! (image from Dorothy Levitt's front piece to The Woman and The Car)

Hey Lady, you better get out from behind that wheel if you’re over 4 months pregnant! (image from Dorothy Levitt’s frontpiece to The Woman and The Car)

Gee, Mom, I’m really sorry about all that I put you through. In addition to those hours of labor, 2 a.m. feedings and rebellious teenage years, you had to wear a corset while pregnant with me, couldn’t drive, and still had to keep track of your periods even when you weren’t having them, so you’d know when you weren’t supposed to make whoopee.

Thanks for all the sacrifices you made for me!

(Btw, I seriously doubt my mother did any of those things.)

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms out there, young and old and in between!!

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

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

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

The Things We Take For Granted…

by Kassandra Lamb, on behalf of the whole misterio press gang

All of us here at misterio have lived a few decades (we’re not sayin’ how many) and we’ve had our share of trials and tribulations, some of which have found their way into our stories.

But today we wanted to focus on the good stuff in life. And when we stopped to think about what we were most grateful for, we discovered that it was all too easy to take those things for granted.

So starting off on that theme is Kirsten Weiss.

getting a glass of water at the sink

(Photo by CSIRO, CC-BY 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

I’m grateful for my family and friends, of course. But everyone says that, so I’ll go deeper.

For my “day job” I travel to developing countries. Every time I do, I’m struck by two things. First, how easy and bountiful my life is – electricity, clean water (and good pressure), food, a nice home, phones that work, a health care system that keeps my family well…

Next, I’m struck by how quickly I forget how fortunate I am once I return home. This western luxury seems so normal, but for most of the world’s population, it’s remarkable.

And from Vinnie Hansen (also very much the world traveler):

Every night, before bed, my husband and I each say three things from the day for which we are thankful.  The difficult part of this blog was to limit my blessings to three:

1. My husband – Because Prague is more fun with a partner . . .

IMG_2736as is Caracas, Quito, Jacó, Barcelona, Havana, Vancouver, Paris, Zihuatanejo. . . .

2.  Good health – In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald creates a theme of the divide between rich and poor, and even the old rich vs. the nouveau riche. But his narrator Nick has the profound realization, “. . . there was no difference between men, in intelligence or race, so profound as the difference between the sick and the well.” I don’t take this blessing for granted. I walk every day, bike, and practice yoga–all exercises that travel well. This pic is from Sayulita, Mexico with the yoga palapa overlooking the Pacific. 🙂

3. Creative pursuits – These feed my soul. In addition to writing, I enjoy playing keyboard with two ukulele groups.

And on the subject of health, from Shannon Esposito:

1.  Being alive. I don’t say this flippantly, as I’ve had a scary year health-wise.

2.  The internet, because it’s allowed me to find my writing tribe.
CDC_pomegranate pub domain
3.  Pomegranates

(I have no idea how that one made it onto her top three list; you’ll have to ask her about that in the comments)

And mine:

1.  I’ll start with health as well. I’ve had a healthy year, but not all my friends have. Shannon’s health scare, along with watching an older friend’s struggle with Parkinson’s disease, have reminded me just how precious and fragile one’s health is.

hand of a statue holding a pen

Hand holding pen on the statue of Isaiah at Piazza Spagna, Rome (by gnuckx, CC-BY 2.0, Wikimedia)

2.  The gift of my talents, both in writing and psychology. We tend to take that which comes easily to us for granted, forgetting that not everyone shares those particular skills.

3.  All the wonderful people in my life. We hear about and read about the bad guys so much, both in real life and in fiction. But most of the world is populated by good folks–honest and caring. I’m blessed to know quite a few of them, including the ladies here at misterio press.

And finally our resident historian, Kathy Owen, couldn’t help herself. She just had to tell us about the origins of Thanksgiving Day as an official national holiday:

engraving of McKinleyPresident McKinley signed into law the national holiday of Thanksgiving in 1897. For me, this part of his accompanying speech aptly expresses the spirit of the holiday:

“On this day of rejoicing and domestic reunion, let our prayers ascend to the Giver of every good and perfect gift for the continuance of his love and favor to us, that our hearts may be filled with charity and goodwill, and that we may be ever worthy of his beneficent concern.”

The three specific things for which I am grateful this Thanksgiving aren’t particularly unusual. I’m sure we all value them: health, family, and humor.

For me, humor is especially important. Whenever the first two have their less-than-ideal times, it’s indispensable!

How about you? What do you tend to take for granted? What are you most grateful for this Thanksgiving?

cute Thanksgiving postcard, circa 1913

postcard circa 1913 (from painting by Frances Brundage, now in public domain)

Best wishes to everyone for a happy Thanksgiving!

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. 🙂 )

Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged – Mourning Robin Williams

by Kassandra Lamb

Almost everyone familiar with Robin Williams’ work is mourning the loss of that talent and the tragic way that his life ended.

His death hit close to home for me for so many reasons. He was just a year older than myself and I spent my early adulthood years laughing at his hit TV show, Mork and Mindy, and at his comic routines on The Tonight Show.

Robin Williams--2007

Robin Williams–2007

But the main thing he and I have in common is Bipolar Disorder. I’m not sure if he ever said in public that he had this disorder, but I’m relatively comfortable making this armchair diagnosis (armchair because although I’m a psychologist, I never met the man in person).

A few days after his death, his wife shared that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. This had apparently sent him tailspinning into anxiety and depression. This again hit close to home as a dear friend of mine has PD. And the saddest part of my friend’s experience with this disorder (so far) has been watching this previously calm and upbeat man struggle with the anxiety and depression the disorder has caused.

But back to Bipolar Disorder. This biologically-based psychological disorder is not well understood by the general public, partly because it is not extremely common (1-2% of the population). It is believed to be genetically-transmitted.

Like most diseases, physical and mental, there is a continuum of severity. I, fortunately, have a mild case. Robin Williams had a much more severe case. In my case, the out-of-kilter brain chemistry affects my emotional state. In more severe cases, one’s mood is often almost completely dictated by the brain chemistry. It is not unusual for people with bipolar to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol as they search for a way off this emotional roller coaster.

Most of the time I am mildly manic, which makes me an outgoing and cheerful person. But irritability, a symptom of both depression and mania, lurks close to the surface (ask my family; they’ll be happy to give examples). And if something happens in my life that is depressing, I plummet much faster and further than the average person would.

So I have had a taste of what Robin Williams must have suffered even before his PD diagnosis.

Unfortunately, a few people, shortly after his death was announced, insisted on showing their ignorance of mental disorders and their insensitivity to the man’s family by making obnoxious comments about his decision to kill himself. I can’t answer for Mr. Williams’ decision but I can tell you that if I were diagnosed with PD or some other debilitating illness that would eventually kill me anyway, suicide would certainly cross my mind as an alternative.

depressed woman huddled in a cornerCould I cope with having such an illness–probably if I wasn’t bipolar. But it takes a lot of emotional energy to cope with adversity, especially an adverse situation that you know is only going to get worse, not better. What I might not be able to cope with is that illness plus the depression it would inevitably trigger. Because when one is depressed, emotional energy is nonexistent!

Now before my family totally freaks out, I’m not saying that I would commit suicide, but I can certainly put myself in Robin Williams’ shoes and understand why he did what he did.

I will post more about bipolar disorder at a later date, but right now I need some time to mourn this wonderful man, who brought so much pleasure and laughter into my life and the lives of millions of people around the world!

One of the positives that has come out of this is that so many people are speaking out, sharing their stories and perspectives. Here are a few:

Depression: No Blame No Shame No Stigma – Pirkko Rytkonen

Losing Robin Williams—The Dark Side of Those Who Make Us Laugh – Kristen Lamb (no relation to me)

A good article on Williams and bipolar disorder at Psych Central.

And the man himself on the subject of drugs and sports (warning: foul language and hysterical laughter are involved)

Rest In Peace, Robin Williams. You will be sorely missed!

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun. Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses.)