Category Archives: In Honor Of…

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.)

Add some Betsy to your Fourth!

by G. Liebscher, via wikimedia commons.

by G. Liebscher, via wikimedia commons.

 

by Kathy Owen

I’ll bet you haven’t thought about Betsy Ross since you
were in grade school, right?

With Independence Day almost here, let’s take a look
at some cool facts regarding America’s seamstress.

Interesting facts about Betsy Ross and the
creation of the first flag:

1.   Betsy grew up in a large family: she was the 8th of 17 children.

2.   In her teen years, Betsy was apprenticed to an upholsterer, and that’s the business she worked in the rest of her life, starting her own shop with her first husband, John Ross.  An upholsterer in those times sewed much more than furniture-related items, and tasks included flags and garments.

3.   In May 1776, the now-widowed Betsy was visited in her home by a secret committee from the Continental Congress:  George Washington (then head of the Continental Army), Robert Morris, and George Ross, the uncle to Betsy’s late husband.  Washington already knew the widow; she had embroidered ruffles on his shirts in the past, and their pews at Christ Church were right next to each other.  Along with her skill, she was the natural choice for making the first flag.

4.   The original sketch Washington showed her was of 6-pointed stars, but Betsy proposed using 5-pointed.  They thought 5-pointed stars were too hard to make, but she showed them otherwise, by making a 5-pointed star with a single snip of her scissors.  Want to learn how?  Click here.

Up until this time, each colony had its own flag, and the founding fathers knew the value of a unifying symbol.

5.   Betsy was married three times.  Her first two husbands were killed as a result of the war.

6.   In the winter of 1777 (well after Betsy had finished the flag and the Continental Congress had passed the Declaration of Independence), British soldiers forcibly occupied her home during the time their army had possession of Philadelphia.  This was the same brutal winter the Continental Army was spending in Valley Forge.

7.   Betsy lived to be 84 years old, and had 7 children, 5 of whom survived into adulthood.

"The Birth of Old Glory," by Percy Moran. Image via wikimedia commons.

“The Birth of Old Glory,” by Percy Moran. Image via wikimedia commons.

Want more info?

Betsy Ross Homepage

“Flag Day” – Library of Congress

Flag Timeline

To our American readers, Happy Independence Day, and to our readers from other parts of the world, have a drink on us. Freedom deserves to be celebrated, whenever we take the time to appreciate it!

How about you? What’s your favorite fun fact about the 4th of July?

Until next time,  Kathy

Posted by Kathy Owen (aka K.B. Owen). Kathy is a recovering former English professor with a PhD in 19th century British literature. She is currently raising three boys and working on Book 3 in the Concordia Wells series of historical cozy mysteries.

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 Big 6-0 (plus a new release)

by Vinnie Hansen

I just turned 60. Shhhhhhh. I received my first official senior discount at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague.

I’ve been told these are the wonder years as in, “I wonder where I left those keys?”

Or the “hereafter” years, as in “I wonder what I came in here after?”

Attack of the 50-yr-old Woman poster

The poster my friends made for my big 5-0 birthday

Like all decade birthdays, the Big 6-0 rears up and demands notice. What do the sixties hold?

I passed through remarriage, moving and menopause in my forties. I retired from my teaching career in my fifties.

In the three stages of womanhood, I skipped motherhood and went right from “maiden” to “crone.” Or, maybe that rich mid-section of my life was about motherhood in the sense of birthing my books.

So, what’s left? I’ve learned that the answer to my question is kan reki, sometimes spelled as one word kanrekiKan means “cycle” and reki means “calendar,” but my friend Yoshie told me that I could just think of it as “good year.” How lovely!

In eastern culture, sixty is the preeminent birthday. The lunar calendar has a sixty-year kan or cycle, during which the twelve animal signs—rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig—pass through the five elements—metal, water, wood, fire and earth. I have just completed my journey through one complete cycle of the reki, or calendar. We are now in The Year of the Horse and 2014 is a wood year, the same conditions that existed at the time of my birth.

What does this all mean? This is the year for me to take stock of where I am before beginning my second 60-year cycle of life. This is a time for transformation, the year for rebirth.

Japanese characters for kan reki

Yoshie sent me these Japanese characters for kan reki. On a 60th birthday a Japanese person often dresses in red for good luck, and the birthday celebration focuses on the theme of rebirth. The Japanese pulled this tradition from Chinese culture. The special kan reki celebration is also common in Korea and Hawaii.

Already this has been the year of the rebirth of my mystery series. Previously indie published, the books are being re-released from misterio press. The dazzling exteriors look professional. The interiors are more polished. Perhaps the books will prove a prophetic metaphor for my self—snappier exterior and smoother interior.

Even though my husband claims that I am mighty fine the way I am, I love the idea that now is the perfect time to create myself anew.

Vinnie and husband in front of Lennon Wall

The newly-minted 60-year-old me (wearing red pants!) with husband Daniel at the Lennon Wall in Prague.

This month, I’m also celebrating the re-release of Art, Wine and Bullets under the misterio press imprint. Please check it out below, and then talk to me in the comments. What was your last Big O birthday, and how did you deal with it?

book cover for Art, Wine and Bullets

An innocent visit to a premiere Santa Cruz gallery turns into a nightmare case for Private Investigator Carol Sabala. The strangled body of the gallery owner offers an opportunity to cement her reputation and to save her employer from insolvency. But precious time spent assisting her photographer boyfriend impedes her investigation while his sudden obsession with photographing her impedes their relationship.

When Carol plunges into an art world offering urban graffiti to paintings of polka-dotted cats, she confronts the age-old questions: What is art? What defines an artist? She also confronts what defines a successful private investigator as she unravels much more than a murder case.

Available on   AMAZON  and  BARNES & NOBLE

Posted by Vinnie Hansen. Vinnie is a retired English teacher who has received several awards for her stories and books. She is the author of the Carol Sabala 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. 🙂 )

Even if You Hate War, Honor the Warrior

by Kassandra Lamb

1000px-United_States_flag_waving_icon pub domain.svgWe had a different post planned for today but Memorial Day snuck up on us. It’s really early this year.

(Note: the following are the opinions of this author and do not necessarily reflect those of the other misterio press authors.)

 

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a pacifist by nature. I abhor violence. But unfortunately in the real world there are some evil people, and even more people who are willing to do evil things in order to achieve their goals. So violence is part of the human condition and probably will be for the foreseeable future.

One of the many things I learned from being a psychotherapist is that evil survives and thrives on fear and passivity. So I do believe that it has to be stopped. And the only force evil understands is just that, force.

So how am I any different from those I accuse of using evil to achieve their own goals? I guess I’m not completely different. My only defense is that I believe in the use of violence only in defense of self and others.

So in the real world, this country needs a strong military. It does act as a deterrent against a good bit of that evil. And the rest of the time, unfortunately, those men and women in uniform have to fight back the evil.

I was a teen and college student during the Vietnam War–probably the least popular war ever fought by this country. I protested against that war. But I was appalled by the treatment of the returning GIs at the hands of some of my fellow pacifists. They often were not welcomed as the heroes they were, especially since many of them had been drafted. They were sometimes spat on and called baby killers.

Humans have short memories and we don’t always learn from the past. But I think our society learned that lesson. By all means, hate war! But honor the troops who have sacrificed so much to protect our peace.

female soldier saluting

(public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Any particular soldiers, sailors or Marines whom you’re remembering this Memorial Day?

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 harvest, lend, sell or otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

On Aging and Mothers

by Kassandra Lamb

Happy Mother's Day(We’re posting early this week, in honor of Mother’s Day)

Mother’s Day is a bittersweet occasion for me now. I only have one card to pick out — for the awesome mother of my grandsons, my daughter-in-law. My mother-in-law passed away a little over a year ago, and last month marked the eleventh anniversary of my mother’s death.

There are many pros and cons to aging. One of the pros, of course, is that it beats the alternative. 🙂

There are others: wisdom, self-confidence, no longer giving a crap what others think, retirement and the freedoms it brings. And, believe it or not, less fear of death. That’s right, older adults, in general, fear death less than younger ones do. (I’m not making this up, folks; studies have been done.)

Somewhere in your forties, the reality that you are indeed going to die someday reaches out and smacks you in the face. By your sixties — sometimes sooner — you’ve come to terms with that reality. I no longer particularly mind the idea that I’m going to die, although I do hope it won’t occur for many years yet. But my getting closer to death means that many of the generation that came before me have already died. That I do mind.

My mother lives on, however, in me. That’s one aspect of aging that I can’t quite decide if it’s a pro or a con. I’ve noticed as I age that I am more and more like my mother. I look in the mirror and my mother is looking back at me.

My mother loved to figure out what made people tick; I became a psychologist. My mother loved to write; I became a writer. As the old saying goes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

My mom laughingMost of all, my mother loved life. She loved to laugh and was quick to put a positive spin on things. I like to think I follow in her footsteps there as well.

She also loved to work jigsaw puzzles, as do I. I stumbled on this today, on Jigzone.com, a poem about mothers from Edgar Allen Poe.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!!

In what ways do you feel that you’re like your parents?

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 harvest, lend, sell or otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses.)