Tag Archives: Maryland

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. 🙂 )

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. 🙂 )

“Control Yourself!”

by Kassandra Lamb

Note: In light of the events in Paris Friday evening, I considered changing this post, which had already been written and uploaded. But I decided to leave it alone, as the topic is relevant. We are all reeling emotionally a bit right now. I will write a post soon on coping with the reality of terrorism. But for now, here is the original post scheduled for today…

Road rage, mass shootings, domestic violence… Self-control is highly valued in U.S. society, and yet we seem to be more out of control than ever.

Maybe that’s because we’re going about it all wrong.**

Now I’m not saying this is a simple issue–it’s not. A lot of different factors play into the escalating violence, but one of them is how we attempt to control our emotions.

We often try to do this by suppressing them, and this doesn’t work well over the long haul. Those feelings don’t go away; they just go underground.

The word emotion comes from the ancient Roman word, exmovere, which means “energy that moves.” Those Romans were wise beyond their century, because that is exactly what emotions are: energy that has to move. It has to move up and out of your system in order to dissipate. If you try to stuff it down in your subconscious mind, well, “energy that moves” just doesn’t stuff too well.

(by Jens Bludau CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

(by Jens Bludau CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

Suppressed emotions tend to act like volcanic pressure–they build up to a lava-hot temperature and then spew out of every available crevice.

(**Note: this post is the follow-up to my guest post on misconceptions about emotions over at Jami Gold’s blog last week.)

 

There are three things that have to occur for an emotion to go away:

1. The emotion needs to be acknowledged for what it’s REALLY about. This is tougher than it sounds because sometimes, often even, we don’t know the real reason! The emotion may have been generated by an unconscious reaction to something in the environment that never even registered consciously, such as a subtle edge of derision in someone’s tone of voice. Or the reason may be forgotten because you didn’t act on it at the time.

Remember the adage for couples, to never go to bed angry with each other. This is why. By morning, you may have forgotten why you are angry, but the anger is still in there unresolved. Now it will come out indirectly and most likely in inappropriate ways.

by Nasrulla Adnan (Nattu) from Malé, Maldives CC BY 2.0 Wikimedia Commons

by Nasrulla Adnan (Nattu) from Malé, Maldives CC BY 2.0 Wikimedia Commons

So when you find yourself tempted to stuff a feeling down, stop and ask yourself WHY you are feeling that way. Try to identify WHEN you started feeling that way. See if you can track it back to its source so that you’re aware of its true cause. Then…

2. The situation causing the emotion needs to be resolved. I don’t think most people would even say that this sounds easy. Lots of emotionally-charged situations are complicated and it’s not that simple to just “resolve” them.

But keep in mind that changing the situation or the people who are the source of the emotion is not the only option. Sometimes we can just get away from the situation/person. Or we may be able to shift our attitude toward the problem in a way that makes us feel better about it.

When I changed careers from psychotherapist to college professor, I found myself feeling very anxious for no apparent reason. Sure this was a new challenge, but I had taught the occasional non-credit course before, so why was I on the verge of panic? Then I noticed that I wasn’t all that anxious when going into a classroom to face students. It was mainly nervousness whenever I thought about my department chair.

I figured out that this was mostly because I was no longer self-employed. I had gotten used to being able to do things my own way with no one looking over my shoulder. To make matters worse, I was adjunct faculty, which meant the department chair could just not rehire me for the next semester if he didn’t like me or my teaching style. I no longer felt in charge of my ability to make a living, and that was pretty scary.

That first semester I discovered two things. One, I loved teaching, and two, the anxiety wasn’t dissipating all that much. I didn’t want to quit, so I reframed my attitude. I lived in the Baltimore area at the time and there were about 50 colleges or universities within commuting distance.

I told myself that I was still self-employed, that I was a “contractor” contracting out my services as a teacher to schools (which was technically true). If I didn’t like a particular school or a department chair gave me a hard time, Well, I’d just go elsewhere.

Poof, most of the anxiety evaporated. I now felt in control of my fate again.

3. The emotion needs to be vented in some fashion. Sometimes this occurs as we are resolving the situation (since the cause of the emotions is getting fixed in some way). But sometimes we still need to “let off steam.” This does NOT necessarily mean that we have to vent the emotion AT the person who caused it, however. That isn’t always a great idea. Marriages have ended and jobs have been lost over inappropriate venting.

There are a variety of ways to do indirect venting. You can write a letter to the person, then tear it up, or you can talk it out with a friend who can be trusted to keep your confidences.

Just don't let anyone catch you talking to the man in the empty chair ;) (photo by Fred J, CC-BY-SA 1.0 Wikimedia)

Just don’t let anyone catch you talking to the man in the empty chair 😉 (photo by Fred J, CC-BY-SA 1.0 Wikimedia)

Or you can talk to yourself, pretending that you are confronting that person (either in your head or out loud, as long as there’s no one around to think you are losing it).

I realized that one factor in my angst about teaching was that my department chair had acted kind of strange the day he hired me. And he continued to act that way. My assumption was that he didn’t like me very much.

Finally it dawned on me that he wasn’t real sure how to take me. (I’m a rather intense person.) And that made him tense and awkward around me. When I got it that this was his issue, not mine, I got a little pissed. But I wasn’t about to confront him. He wasn’t mistreating me; he was just a little weird around me. A confrontation would have made it far worse, assuming that he didn’t outright fire me.

So I pretended he was sitting in a chair in my kitchen. (I started this imaginary conversation in his office, but that was too intimidating, so I moved it. Hey, it’s my imaginary conversation!) I told him I was annoyed that he had made me uncomfortable because he was uncomfortable. Of course, people in your imagination always act the way you want them to, so he apologized. (In real life, he would have thought I was nuts.)

The rest of the anxiety dissipated, and the next time I crossed paths with the man, I noticed that I no longer felt uncomfortable around him.

I taught at that school for nine years and loved every minute of it.

There’s no getting away from our emotions, and as already mentioned, stuffing them down doesn’t really work (we just think it does). But those pesky feelings can be fairly manageable if we can remember these three steps: sort it out, resolve it, vent it.

How about you? How good are you at “controlling” your emotions? Or are you just stuffing them?

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. 🙂 )

Do You “Should” On Yourself?

by Kassandra Lamb

We didn’t get to one of my favorite places this year on our summer sojourn to Maryland. There’s a street of shops in Annapolis that I love to poke around in. Several of them have some pretty unique stuff.

One shop is devoted mostly to handmade pottery jars with cork stoppers and all kinds of interesting things written on the labels. Years ago, I bought a couple of those jars. Here’s one of them:

DSC01377

I used to use it in my therapy sessions, when clients were “shoulding” on themselves, i.e. telling me all the reasons they should do something that wasn’t in their best interest, because that’s what they had been taught to do.

Now before I go on, let me put this caveat out there. I’m not advocating that we should all engage in purely self-serving behavior and ignore the morals we were raised to abide by. We have to have moral codes in order to live in families and communities.

The problem comes in during the teaching of those moral codes to young children. Kids by nature are all-or-nothing thinkers. So the rules about what we “should” or “ought” to do tend to be absorbed as absolute truths rather than guidelines for behavior.

Then as adults we often feel we should do something a certain way even though it may not be the best approach in the current circumstances.

As adults, we have more of these.

As adults, we have more of these.

A friend of mine once got into a major financial bind herself because she kept bailing out her grown son when said son got in over his head with credit card bills and such.

I finally couldn’t stand by and stay silent any longer so I gently confronted my friend. “Why are you doing this? You’re draining your own savings, and all you’re doing is enabling your son to continue to be irresponsible with money.”

She huffed and rationalized for a few minutes and then said, “Parents should be selfless where their kids are concerned. They should always put their kids’ needs before their own.”

I suggested that she stop and examine that belief. It was one she had learned as a child and teen modeling her own mother, who put up with a bad marriage until all the kids were grown in order to keep food on the table because “at least he’s a good provider.” (I heard that phrase a lot from unhappily married women of my mother’s generation.)

Finally she got it that she wasn’t really helping her son by bailing him out. It was time for some tough love.

Then I went downstairs to my office (it was in my house at the time) and got my shoulds and oughts jar. I had her write down that “should” on a slip of paper, as I often had clients do. Laughing, she put the slip in the jar and smacked the cork firmly back into the top.

And the son… After he had his car repossessed, he got it that he needed to straighten out his thinking about finances. My friend paid for him to go to a financial counselor for several sessions to learn how to handle his money. Now he’s a responsible young man who is raising a couple of kids of his own.

As adults, we need to bring those all-or-nothing rules out into the light of day and ask ourselves if we truly “should” keep following them in such an absolute way. Now we have the ability to weigh the circumstances and the various options available. Often we can find an option that allows us to do the right thing but without harming ourselves in the process.

A funny addendum… One time, a colleague and good friend (who had a warped sense of humor) visited me in my office. As a joke, he grabbed my shoulds and oughts jar off the bookshelf, opened it and dumped all the little slips of paper out on the desk in front of me. I literally jumped back as if they were snakes. 🙂

How about you? Do you have some shoulds and oughts that sometimes trip you up as an adult?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series and has started a new cozy series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy series (coming soon).

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. 🙂 )

Can We Go Home Again?

by Kassandra Lamb

“You can’t go home again.” That phrase has become iconic. (It’s actually the title of a 1940’s novel by Thomas Wolfe, published posthumously by his editor — I looked it up.)

The question of whether or not we can “go home again” has been on my mind lately, ever since we returned from our annual summer sojourn to my native Maryland.

Leaving the harbor at Rock Hall, Maryland

The harbor in Rock Hall, Maryland

It was a good vacation. Unlike some previous visits, nothing drastic went wrong (if you don’t count the broken crown on my tooth the day before we were to return to Florida). Nobody got sick, no vehicles broke down or had flat tires, and all scheduled get-togethers with friends and family went off without a hitch.

We even survived babysitting our two rambunctious grandsons so our son and daughter-in-law could have a mini-getaway to celebrate their tenth anniversary (OMG, I’m old!)

Nonetheless we came home feeling like we might not be doing this quite the same in the future–not in the same way nor for quite so long. Until two summers ago, we owned a summer home on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. We sold it because it became a maintenance headache. The last two summers, we’ve rented a house there. It’s a very nice house and we’ve enjoyed our stays in it.

IMG_7910_tn

Our home away from home is the one with the van in the driveway.

But still, it’s expensive, and, well, you can’t completely go home again.

Things change over time.

The landscape is different. Houses have sprung up where cows used to graze. Businesses you frequented in the past have moved or gone bankrupt.

And people change too. Some friendships have waned, not able to survive long-distance status.

Others have, interestingly enough, become stronger. We savor our time together, knowing it is limited now.

We still enjoyed our authentic Maryland crab cakes (those produced elsewhere are never quite the same) and the mouth-watering sweetness of Silver Queen corn. But sadly the ice cream parlor on the corner of Sharp and Main Streets has lost a lot of business to the young upstart down the street with the clever title of “Get The Scoop” (they promise “from the cow to you in 48 hours”). We must confess that we probably added to the old ice cream parlor’s demise by “getting the scoop” quite a few times while in town; their ice cream really is delicious.

And we had two lovely sunset sails on the Chesapeake Bay with charter boat captain, Mark and his first mate (and wife), Suzanne. They were a delight as always.

But even they are talking about retiring in another couple of years.

Captain Mark

Captain Mark

 

 

 

 

 

My sister-in-law enjoying a complimentary margarita.

My sister-in-law enjoying a complimentary margarita.

Still, the drive on I-95 has become more challenging every year.

And really the bottom line is that WE have changed. We’ve pulled up our roots that were planted in Maryland for so long and have sunk them into the sandy soil of Florida.

(photo by Geoff Gallice CC-BY 2.0 Wikimedia Commons)

(photo by Geoff Gallice CC-BY 2.0 Wikimedia Commons)

The Sunshine State is home now.

And while it’s good to visit the people we care about in Maryland, can we really go home again?

Probably not, because after a while, it’s just not home anymore.

But we can still enjoy visiting.

How about you? Where do you call home? How successful have you been at “going home again” to your childhood home?

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. 🙂 )

The Blurry Line between Imagination and Reality

headshot of Susan Reissby Kassandra Lamb with guest blogger, Susan Reiss

I’m pleased to introduce today’s guest blogger, Susan Reiss. Susan writes mysteries set in St. Michaels, Maryland, an Eastern Shore harbor town near where my husband and I stay when we summer in Maryland. Her stories also feature antique silver pieces… but I’ll let her tell you about that. Take it away, Susan!

Resized stairway Susans post

 

“The vault is down the basement steps on the right.”

First line of a mystery novel?  No, it was the beginning of my adventure at the Talbot County Historical Society, where I discovered that the products of our imagination are sometimes more real than we imagined.

I love sterling silver pieces so much that they are the theme of my cozy mystery series set in St. Michaels in Talbot County, Maryland.

While doing research, I discovered that a London silversmith came to the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay in 1655 and bought an island that still carries his name. Instead of making silver pieces, Thomas Bruff became a real estate mogul, buying and selling land until he became a gentleman. In the local historical records, there was a whiff of a rumor that he made some silver pieces while here. His male heirs—nine of them—worked as silversmiths but only some of their pieces survive today.

For my new book, I “created” a silver spoon made by the original Bruff and placed it at the center of the mystery.

Imagine my surprise when the invitation arrived from the Talbot County Historical Society to visit their vault and see silver spoons made by the Bruff family, including one from the hand of Thomas Bruff, the patriarch of the family.

The society’s museum is under renovation so it was down the steps to the vault on the right… the vault that was the size of several huge living rooms! On a desk lay five small packages of white tissue and brown felt. After putting on clean cotton gloves supplied by the collections manager, the adventure of unwrapping the treasures began.

There was a large spoon made by a very busy Bruff descendant who ran an inn, operated a ferry and made silver pieces. It dates back to the early 18th Century and was an excellent example of a British desert spoon, about the size of our oval soup spoon. Maybe they didn’t want to miss a morsel!

picture of silver soup ladle

Soup ladle made in the Bruff family tradition

The manager found another package in a stray box and we unwrapped a gorgeous silver punch ladle, also a product of the Bruff tradition.

Another spoon was made by the rogue of the family. His trail of silver pieces goes from one Eastern Shore town to another, then across the Bay to Baltimore, then New York and finally to Nova Scotia, always one step ahead of the law.

The last package on the desk, smaller than the others, held the treasure I’d come to see–the spoon made of coin silver and attributed to the original Thomas Bruff. I thought the manager was going to faint when I mentioned the value was probably four to five figures because there are so few in existence.

silver spoon

English teaspoon made by Thomas Bruff in the 1600’s.

Why so valuable? Because coin silver was a similar grade to that used in British money and the pieces were often melted down for their monetary value at the expense of the craftsmanship. The same thing is happening today with the price of silver so high.

The society’s inventory labeled the piece a teaspoon, but the conservator mused that it must be a tiny serving spoon, for jelly perhaps. Gently, I disagreed.

delicate china teacupThe English always preferred to drink their tea from a cup.  The spoon was meant to rest on the saucer after stirring. If you’ve ever tried to place a teaspoon by a cup, you know it’s hard to get it to stay put. That’s because our American teaspoons are large and clunky in comparison to the original English design that nestles nicely in the space on the saucer.

As I held the spoon, I thought back to the time I sat at my desk and “made up” the story about a spoon made by Thomas Bruff. Not a product of my imagination, it was real. This was a spoon made by a man who braved the Atlantic Ocean and established his family just a couple miles from where I wrote my story. The spoon had escaped the great-melt-down-for-cash and survived more than 340 years of use and storage to come to rest in a dusty basement vault … and in a mystery book.

Have you every made something up, only to discover it was real? Has your family silver survived, or did it get melted down somewhere along the way by ancestors desperate for cash?

Posted by Susan Reiss. Trained as a concert pianist, Susan spent many years as a television writer/producer.  She now lives in St. Michaels with her black Lab, Cody who is remarkably like Simon, the puppy in her series. The Bruff silver is at the center of her latest book, Painted Silver. The other books in the series, Tarnished Silver and Sacred Silver are also available on Amazon. Check out her website for more more about silver and Susan.

Painted Silver book cover

 

Painted Silver, by Susan Reiss:

Accidental sleuth Abby Strickland goes to the Plein Air Art Festival where gifted artists compete for big prizes and fame, and elite art collectors eagerly search for their next acquisitions.  Tension between rivals runs high as all are drawn into a web of creative envy, greed… and murder.  And, for Abby, love is in the air.  It’s a charming summer event… until somebody screams!

 

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. 🙂 )

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Remember those dreaded first-day-back-to-school essays? 🙂

We just spent the better part of July in a vacation rental in Maryland, and I’ve gotta say that it’s kinda weird being on vacation when you’re retired. (Or semi-retired as my husband and I are; he still teaches part-time and I try not to let my writing totally consume my life).

picture of our summer rental

Our summer rental this year. It was so nice to not have to worry about maintenance.

This wasn’t an extremely exciting vacation–not one where you go someplace you’ve never been and do a lot of sightseeing. (We’re planning one of those for next year–to Europe. Yay!!)

We went back to the small town near where our former summer cottage is. So no new sights. Just the same familiar small harbor, tiny beach, homemade ice cream parlor, seafood restaurants, etc.

I did some writing, when I felt like it–finished a manuscript in fact. But I put the rest of my writing-related tasks on hold as much as I could. Tom spent most of his hours, as he would at home, glued to his laptop screen. (The rest of the time, he was out taking pictures.)

the local beach

The local beach–small but as you can see, definitely not crowded.

But somehow it still felt like a vacation. We gave ourselves permission to relax, to do what we felt like in the moment. Not that we don’t do that a good bit in our ‘retired’ status anyway, but there’s something about being away from home, away from your normal routines… And something about announcing to yourself and the world that you are “on vacation.”

We took long walks, read, visited friends and family, went sailing a couple times, gained some weight on restaurant meals. Oh and we went to a wine tasting. That was fun!

picture of Kass and her husband

A selfie after the wine-tasting. We were very mellow. 🙂

And we watched a lot of gorgeous sunsets.

The sun is beginning to set.

 

 

 

 

 

 

sinking lower

 

 

Then we came home when we felt refreshed and, as Tom put it, “vacationed out.”

It was low key, but definitely a vacation from our ‘retired’ life. It was good.

How about you? What elements of vacations make you feel like you’ve truly been “on vacation”? Is seeing new sights a requirement?

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.

Letting Go (Part 2)

by Kassandra Lamb (see Part 1, Pulling Up Roots here)

The Maryland house today

So my little summer cottage/writer’s retreat is sold. A nice young man now owns it, and I don’t. I’m having very mixed emotions about that.

I put a lot of effort into fixing that little house up, making it cute and cozy. And I wrote a lot of good words in my writer’s cave there. Also, letting the house go means one less link with my home state of Maryland. But I’m very, very relieved to be rid of the maintenance headaches that had gotten worse as the house aged.

This has gotten me thinking about why it is hard sometimes to let go… of people, but also of the places we have called home.

Herd of wild horses

 

We humans are innately social beings.
We are herd animals. Like horses and
wolves, we instinctively know that we
need to band together in order to
survive.

 

The need for connection to others is so important that the humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow made belongingness and love the third tier in his well-known hierarchy of needs. We need what he referred to as the three A’s of belongingness–affiliation, acceptance and affection. These needs take a backseat only to basic physical and safety needs.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

image by Anthony Beck (CC-BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

I’m realizing as I’m writing this that the need for connection to others is the reason people read fiction. We so strongly want to feel connected that we don’t even mind if the people we’re connecting with are figments of an author’s imagination! And many readers, myself included, particularly like series, so we can stay connected to the same characters book after book.

Woman reading in a library or bookstore

photo by Onderwijsgk, CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

But why do we connect with a place?

Most humans also feel a need/desire to have a “home.” This is not just a female thing. I know plenty of men who have a strong sense of home. We are not so different from the fox, burrowing into his den at night, snug and safe (Maslow’s second tier).

Now I have to let go of my little “den” up north. I will focus on my home here in Florida and on my friends and family scattered around the country. I have plenty of connections to replace the ones I’m losing. But still it isn’t easy, this letting go.

How about you? How strongly do you feel the need for connection? Are you a homebody who becomes attached to places as well as people?

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.)

PULLING UP ROOTS

With a few exceptions (Lee Child’s character, Jack Reacher, comes to mind), we human beings need a sense of roots, a place we call ‘Home.’ For the past decade I’ve had two homes. So if you’ve been wondering where I’ve been this summer, I’ve been in Maryland at our second home.

Before you turn green with envy, read on.

it hasn’t really been a vacation. My husband and I have worked our butts off this summer getting the place ready to put on the market.

I’ve fought the idea of selling the place for several years now, but this summer I was ready. More than ready. It’s an older house and it just needs too much work these days to keep it up.

I put my heart and soul into this little house. When we bought it in 2002, calling it a fixer-upper would have been too kind. It needed a lot of work, and I enjoyed fixing it up (most of the time). I like working with my hands.

Kass's summer house

The BEFORE picture. Note the big-ass AC sticking through the wall. How chic! (Don’t know why the bottom half of this pic is blank.)

With lots of assistance from my brother, and occasionally hired contractors, we’ve modernized the kitchen, finished off what used to be a sleeping porch into a lovely sunroom, plus re-tiled, re-carpeted, re-painted and otherwise refurbished it from stem to stern.

kitchen

Part of our remodeled kitchen. The rooms are so small it’s hard to get a pic of the whole space.

And it has served us well in so many ways.

When we retired in 2004 and moved to Florida, this little house made that transition go much smoother than it otherwise might have. I was born in Maryland and had lived here my entire life, and my husband had called Maryland home for thirty years. Knowing we still had a place in Maryland made it a lot easier to let go. As my husband put it, we didn’t have to pull up all of our roots all at once.

Also our son was in graduate school at the time, and planned to come back to Maryland to work afterwards. So every summer we would load up our van and make the trek up I-95, to see our son and his wife, my brother and other family members and our Maryland friends. And to relax in the somewhat cooler clime of Maryland for a couple months.

This little house has been a Godsend a couple of times. In 2008 when my daughter-in-law was pregnant with my eldest grandson, I came up a week before he was due and stayed at the house, just two hours’ drive (instead of two days) away from them. When the little guy made his appearance, I was able to be there to help the new parents out.

Kass's study at Maryland house

My writing cave in Maryland.

In 2011, I spent several weeks at the house, just me and the dog, doing some much needed projects (that were easier to do without another person underfoot). And in the evenings, I wrote. That summer I finished the first drafts of two novels, Celebrity Status and Collateral Casualties.

I threw my husband’s retirement party and also his 60th birthday party at this little house. It has many fond memories attached to it–trips to watch 4th of July fireworks in the nearby small town, eating Maryland crab cakes at the waterside restaurants, 4H fairs at the county fairgrounds…

But the time has come to pull up the last of our roots here.

I used to love the projects. Now the aging house is throwing problems at us faster than we can keep up. And many of the friends and family members we came here to visit have moved on. My son and family are now in Pennsylvania and my brother has moved to Florida, 40 miles from our home down there.

We’ll still travel north periodically to visit folks there, but we’ll stay in motels or rented condos like the rest of the tourists.

And I’ll probably sneak over now and again to the old neighborhood, and check on the little house that was my fixer-upper project, my roots in my home state and my writing haven for so many years.

The Maryland house today

The finished product of our efforts this year. I spent my birthday painting that shed!

How important are roots to you? Are you one of those natural nomads who doesn’t seem to need them (like Jack Reacher) or do you need a sense of ‘home’ somewhere? Where are your roots?

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.)