Tag Archives: mystery

When Does a Stressor Become a Stressor? (encore)

by Kassandra Lamb

I am in editing hell the process of polishing a manuscript, so I thought I’d re-run a post that was a hit a few years ago.

It seemed appropriate to go with a post on stress!  From May, 2013:

As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of the main factors in how stressed we feel is our own interpretation of the events in our lives. With a few exceptions, a stressor isn’t a stressor until we view it that way.

This is why something can be soooo stressful to one person and someone else thinks they’re nuts for worrying about it. The interpretation of a stressor is unique to each individual, influenced by personality and past experiences.

This used to be one of my husband’s biggest stressors:

airplane flying overhead

(photo by Dylan Ashe, CC-BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

When we were first married, he was a basketcase whenever we had to fly somewhere. We had to get to the airport extra early, so he could have a couple drinks in the airport bar to brace himself. But once we were on the plane, he wouldn’t drink. This was back in the days when alcohol on the plane was free (Yes, folks, once upon a time, airlines not only fed you for free, they would get you liquored up as well. No extra charge!)

So not only did I think the man was crazy, I was pissed that he was buying overpriced drinks in the airport and then not drinking the free stuff on the plane. One day, I confronted him about this and he explained that he couldn’t drink on the plane because he had to be able to concentrate.

“Concentrate on what?” I asked.

“On willing the plane to stay in the air,” he answered.

At that point, I truly thought I’d married a madman.

I later found out, as a psychology grad student, that this wasn’t an unusual fantasy on the part of folks afraid of flying. It’s their way of taking control of a situation where they feel out of control. (As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, control is often a big factor in stress.)

Fortunately, my husband finally figured out what was going on with his fear of flying. I won’t go into details since it’s not my story to tell. Suffice it to say that he’d had some bad experiences with people being in charge who were quite incompetent. So having someone else in control of his safety made him very nervous.

view from airplane window seat

(photo by Peretz Partensky, CC-BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

I, on the other hand, am one of those people who will run you over to get to a window seat. Then I squeal, “Look at the cute little cars and houses down there. It looks like a Christmas garden” as the plane is taking off. (My husband wears earplugs on planes; I can’t imagine why.)

My attitude is that since I can’t control whether or not the plane stays in the air, I might as well not worry about it and just relax and enjoy the ride.

Now, let’s talk about job stress. My husband handles it very well. Why? Because he doesn’t mind having bosses. He’s an easy-going guy (has to be to put up with me!) and he’s okay with someone telling him what to do as long as they’re not an idiot. And if his boss is an idiot (he’s had a few of them through the years), he just figures out how to work around the idiocy and moves on.

I, however, have no patience whatsoever for idiot bosses, and it seems like I have had way more than my share of them. Of course, the fact that my definition of an idiot boss is any boss who doesn’t leave me completely alone to do my job without any interference could be part of the problem.

Yes, I am cussedly independent! So much so that by the time I was 30, I’d decided that the only way I could function in the world of work was to be self-employed. I went into private practice as a mental health counselor.

coffee mug with "The Boss"

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

It was the best decision I ever made. For the first time in my life, I totally loved my job! There were plenty of other stressors involved in being self-employed, but they all paled by comparison to how I had felt when I was being micro-managed by others. So I was a happy camper!

Fast forward 13 years and I was starting to burn out on listening to other people’s descriptions of their stressful lives. I had done a little bit of teaching here and there and had really loved the interaction with students. So I decided to apply for part-time teaching positions at the colleges in my area. My goal was to teach half-time and cut my practice back to half-time so it wouldn’t be so stressful.

After papering the Baltimore-Washington area with my resume, I finally got a call from the psychology department at Towson University. I  liked the department chair and the whole atmosphere in the department, and I was reassured that there would be an ongoing need for my services as long as I did a good job.

Imagine my shock when halfway into the first semester I started having anxiety attacks any time I crossed paths with my department chair. Did I mention I liked him? I really did, so why was I so nervous around him? By the end of the semester, I was actually considering quitting teaching, even though I loved everything else about it.

To cut to the chase, I finally figured out that having a boss again, even one I liked, was pushing my control buttons. I wasn’t completely in charge of my own destiny anymore, as I had been for years. Indeed, when you teach college part-time your employment is completely at the whim of your department chair. He or she can choose not to hire you back the following semester and there is absolutely no recourse, because you are a contractual employee. This was the source of my anxiety, and no amount of lecturing myself about how everybody at Towson liked me and said I was doing a good job seemed to help.

After much thought, I hit on a solution, a way to reframe the situation to myself. I reminded myself that there were roughly fifty colleges within commuting distance of my home, and I should think of myself as a self-employed contractor, who was offering my expertise to these schools on a contractual basis. If I didn’t like the set-up at one school or they didn’t hire me back, I would just take my expertise elsewhere.

It worked! I felt so much better. I was able to relax and really enjoy teaching. I taught at Towson for 9 years, until my husband and I both retired and we moved to Florida. It turned out to be my favorite job ever!

Now if you’re thinking, “How silly. All you changed is how you thought about the situation,” you are exactly right. Except about the ‘silly’ part.

That’s the whole point. How we think and feel about a stressor very much affects how much it stresses us!

Back to my husband and his fear of flying for a moment. His fears dissipated dramatically when we started using a certain airline that had two things going for it. One, the crews are trained to be super friendly; the pilot stands at the door and greets the passengers as they board. Two, a friend of ours is a pilot for this particular airline and we know he’s a competent guy.

When my husband felt that those in charge of keeping the plane in the air were real people, friendly and competent like his friend, he was able to relax. Over time, his fear of flying completely disappeared. Today, he prefers flying over driving, whenever possible.

How about you? Any stressors come to mind that might not be so stressful if you were able to shift your interpretation of them?

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

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.

Men Are More Aggressive, Women More Emotional–Actually Not! (an encore)

by Kassandra Lamb

(Part 3 in our encore presentation of my gender differences series; See Part 1: Gender Differences in Relationships here, and Part 2–Men Do, Women Process here.)

Most people assume that men, in general, are more aggressive than women, and that women, in general, are more emotional. In fact, the genders do not differ with regard to their natural tendencies in these areas. You heard me right. These are not true gender differences.

Aggression:

It is true that testosterone, when injected into animals of either gender, immediately makes them more aggressive. This experiment, to the best of my knowledge, has never been done with humans because of ethical and legal issues. But my guess is the results would be the same.

Male Nyalas fighting

It is also true that men have far more testosterone in their bodies than women do. So logic says that men should be more aggressive, and they are, physically, but not when you consider other types of aggression. More on that in a moment.

In the 1970’s, researchers attempted to prove the testosterone/aggression link in humans by looking for a correlation between testosterone levels and violent crime. They compared the levels of this hormone in violent criminals in prison with those of non-violent criminals, i.e., those who committed “white-collar” crimes such as embezzling or insurance fraud. Sure enough, the violent criminals had more testosterone in their bloodstream. There was just one wee little problem with this study. It couldn’t be replicated. Several attempts to repeat the study did not get the same results. Some studies found no differences. Several found that the violent criminals actually had lower levels of testosterone than the nonviolent ones.

Here’s another piece of confusing data. If one just considers physical aggression, elementary-school-aged boys are more aggressive than girls. But guess what? They don’t have all that much testosterone in their systems yet. This hormone is not released in any great quantity until the onset of puberty.

Strasbourg porcelain ca. 1775, in Victoria and Albert Museum, photo by Valerie McGlinchey

There are several kinds of aggression. But first let me define aggression. It is the act of invading another person’s territory, physical or emotional, or of violating their rights. So here are the different types:

Instrumental aggression:
the goal is to get something the person wants or avoid something they don’t want. Examples would be a child grabbing another kid’s toy because they want to play with it, someone intentionally butting in front of you in line, or the little brats above fighting over a bunch of grapes.

Reactive aggression:
the person responds to something they perceive as a hostile act with their own aggression. One kid pushes in front of another in line (instrumental aggression); the other kid hits him (reactive aggression).

Unprovoked aggression: intentionally hurting someone, physically or emotionally, because the act of inflicting pain is pleasurable or rewarding for the aggressor. This ranges from the schoolyard bully to the sadistic rapist or serial killer.

And here is the one that levels the playing field gender-wise. Drum roll, please.

Relational aggression:
using ostracization, spreading rumors, withdrawal of friendship, etc. to punish, manipulate or otherwise intentionally harm others’ social standing.

Studies that only look at physical aggression–be it instrumental, reactive or unprovoked–will most definitely find that boys and men, as a group, exhibit more aggression. But when you include relational aggression, the gender difference disappears.

So despite the whole testosterone issue, level of aggression does not seem to be a true gender difference. What is different is the way girls and boys are socialized to express aggression. “Boys will be boys” while girls are admonished to “play nicely.” So the girls quickly learn to use other tactics to express their aggression.

Now, think about the men whom you know personally. How many of them are truly aggressive, physically, verbally or relationally? Probably just a few. Most men are as uncomfortable with anger and conflict as women are. Fighting is not fun, bottom line.

Now think about the women you know. How many of them are spiteful, or at least rather snarky when gossiping about someone they don’t like. You probably know about as many spiteful women as you know truly aggressive, ready-to-pick-a-fight men. Maybe more.

Emotions:
When writing fiction, the task of making my male characters’ emotional reactions both realistic and believable is sometimes challenging. Why is this challenging?

Because realistic and believable, in this case, are not the same thing. People believe that women are more emotional than men. While in reality, they actually feel the same emotions internally as women do, and at the same level of intensity. They are just socialized not to express them.

Say what?

Yup, you heard me right. Studies that tease apart how men and women actually feel from what they are willing to express find that the feelings are the same. One particularly good study asked both men and women to place themselves in the shoes of the protagonist in hypothetical situations. They were given several scenarios to read and then asked to identify what emotion they would feel if they themselves were in such a scenario, and then to rate the intensity of that feeling on a scale of 1 to 10. After they had done that with all the scenarios, they were asked to go back and describe how they would express those feelings.

Both the men and women identified the same emotions. The anger-provoking scenarios provoked anger; the sad scenarios, sadness; the scary ones, fear; and the you-screwed-up ones, guilt.

The more surprising finding, however, was that there was no significant difference between the genders in the intensity of the feelings!

But, boy, did the differences start to show up when it came to expressing those feelings. That’s where the learned gender roles came into play. These are called display rules–which emotions each gender is or is not allowed to express in any given culture.

Paris, 1940, the day the French army pulled out and the Nazis took over the city.

When I talk about gender differences with my developmental psychology students, I ask the question, “What emotions are women allowed to express in our society?” They list every emotion out there, except anger.

Then I ask, “Guys, what emotions are you allowed to express?” There is a long silence, and then one of the male students will say, “Anger.”

“None of the others?” I ask. They think about it for a minute or two, then the guys all shake their heads.

“What?” I say. “You haven’t heard that women like a sensitive guy? Isn’t it okay for you to cry now?”

At this point, the room usually erupts into a lively discussion. The guys cite examples of times when they’ve let their softer sides show to girlfriends, and it didn’t go all that well. Unless she was a platonic friend. Then it was okay, but not with romantic partners.

And some of the gals will admit that it unnerves them when their guys cry. That they might feel empathy for him at the time, but there is a subtle loss of respect. But more and more, in recent times, the female students tell me that they are more assertive, more comfortable expressing anger. And yet the guys still can’t admit to being scared or sad.

In our society, the gender roles for boys and men are actually more rigid than for females.

Are women still discriminated against in the workplace and a variety of other arenas? Sadly, yes, all too often. But when it comes to gender roles, we are more accepting of females exhibiting masculine roles than we are of males exhibiting feminine ones. Think about the different implications of “tomboy” versus “sissy.” And girls and women have been wearing pants since World War II, but how often do you see a man in a dress?

Times have changed regarding gender roles in our culture, but perhaps not as much as we pretend they’ve changed.

What are your thoughts on all this? What gender differences have you observed in how men and women express anger and other emotions?

(Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist and college professor turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington Mystery series.)

We blog here at misterio press once a week (usually on Tuesdays), sometimes on serious topics and sometimes just for fun. Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun!

The Music That Feeds Our Souls

by Kassandra Lamb

Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.  ~  Berthold Auerbach

All Saints Episcopal Church, San Francisco (photo by AJ Alfieri-Crispin CC-BY-SA 2.0 Wikimedia Commons)

(photo by AJ Alfieri-Crispin CC-BY-SA 2.0 Wikimedia Commons)

I finally got around to uploading a post to my own website. It’s one I wrote last year for Catie Rhodes’ Author Celebrity Playlist series on her blog. But instead of doing my own playlist, I did one for my main character, Kate Huntington.

It includes the songs that were meaningful to Kate at various turning points in her life. (If you’re a Kate Huntington fan, check it out; it gives a lot of her back story.)

Posting that playlist got me thinking about music, and how so often it can speak to us in ways that mere words alone cannot. Somehow combining those words with a beautiful melody makes the message so much more powerful.

My favorite song of all time is Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s Teach Your Children. I first heard it in 1970, the year I graduated from high school. It spoke to me then, but it’s appeal has only increased through the years. I can now relate to the song from both the perspective of a grown child and that of a parent of a grown child.

Listen carefully to the lyrics:

 

“And feed them on your dreams, the one they picked…”

There is one dream that has survived for three generations in my family: to be a writer.

My mother was a public relations specialist for a college. She used words all the time in her job, writing press releases and college catalogs. But it had always been her dream to be a “real” writer. The closest she came were a couple rough drafts of children’s books and some travel articles she wrote in her retirement for a seniors’ magazine.

I spent the majority of my working life as a psychotherapist. It was a very satisfying career and I have no regrets. I wrote professional articles through the years. But the demands of my job and family left me little time or energy for creative writing. My second career was that of college professor. Again I found an outlet for my writing lust as I drafted lecture notes and developed tests, but still there never seemed to be much time left over.

Finally, at age 59, the novel that I’d started in my mid-forties came to fruition and was published (sadly, six years after my mother’s death). Now I have several published works to my name. I have been well fed by my mother’s dream, the one I picked.

My son has a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and a masters in divinity. His full-time job is that of Episcopal priest. Like I did before him, he can satisfy some of his desire for writing through his profession as he drafts his weekly sermons. But he also carves out what little time he can for writing fiction–fantasy novels with a strong spiritual component. I have no doubt that he will be published, hopefully some day soon.

My mother is dancing in heaven. We have fed her with our dreams, the one she picked.

And then there is the chorus:

Don’t you ever ask them why; if they told you, you would cry.
Just look at them and sigh, and know they love you.

I get a lump in my throat every time I read or hear those lyrics. I have learned through the years that there are things we may never understand about other generations, the ones that came before us nor the ones that follow us.

Don’t you ever ask them why; just know they love you!

What song speaks to your soul? Do you share a dream with other generations of your family?

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.)

Like Detective Fiction? Thank the Metropolitan Police Act

By K.B. Owen

Ever wonder how the police came into existence?  We certainly wouldn’t have any detective fiction without them.

Although each country has its own history in that regard, the formation of the police force in England was what led to the birth of detective fiction as we know it.

Here’s where it all started:

The Metropolitan Police Act of 1829

Manchester Police, 1880s, from flickr.com

Sir Robert Peel, Home Secretary in the British Cabinet and a Tory, brought about a number of reforms in the area of criminal law and the gaol system, but it was the Metropolitan Police Act in 1829 that was most far-reaching and controversial at the time.  For the first time in Britain’s history, the Act established an organized police force in London, with 17 divisions of 4 inspectors each, its central base at Scotland Yard, under the purview of the Home Secretary.  (The Detective division was formed in 1842).

The early names for these policemen – “Bobbies” and “Peelers” – derived from the man who passed the reform.  They carried truncheons as their only protection, and dressed in blue uniforms (similar to the color of the Royal Navy uniform) with long tail coats and top hats (LearnHistory.org.uk says that the top hats came in handy as stepping stools for policmen to stand on and look over walls).

However, the idea of a government-instituted police force made people nervous.  It was an alien concept, in an age of  Bow Street Runners and local constables (poorly-paid and barely trained), hired individually by each town, walking a beat.  What if the government started using this new police force to get rid of its political enemies, or to spy on honest citizens?

But people also knew that their options were few.  The Industrial Revolution was crowding London quickly, and with more people came more crime.  Constables were notoriously unreliable, preferring to drink in a sheltered corner on a cold night, go to sleep, or visit a prostitute.  Even if every constable was reliable, there still weren’t enough of them.

Although it took a while for the general population to accept police (who were often jeered in public), the police force worked well in suppressing riots and bringing down crime in the areas they were allowed to go, driving crime, in a way, out into the neighboring boroughs, which experienced an increase (later Municipal Acts were instituted to address this problem).

One significant black eye for the police, however, came in 1888: Jack the Ripper. But that’s another post.

Punch cartoon by John Tenniel, Sept 22, 1888. Wikimedia Commons.

Want more info?

Text of the 1829 Act

Metropolitan Police Act of 1829 (Wikipedia)

History of the Metropolitan Police

Crime, Punishment, and Protest Through Time, c. 1450-2004

The Metropolitan Police

So, who’s your favorite detective? Do you prefer your protag to be an amateur or a professional, private eye or cop? I’d love to hear from you!

~Kathy

About K.B. Owen:

K profile pic 2014K.B. Owen taught college English at universities in Connecticut and Washington, DC and holds a doctorate in 19th century British literature.  A long-time mystery lover, she drew upon her teaching experiences to create her amateur sleuth, Professor Concordia Wells.

K.B. currently lives in Virginia with her husband and sons, and is busily planning the lady professor’s next adventure.

 

Check out the latest Concordia Wells adventure!

cover art by Melinda VanLone

cover art by Melinda VanLone

A deadly secret that won’t stay buried…

It is the fall of 1896, and Miss Concordia Wells is hip-deep in the usual tumult of a lady professor’s life: classes, clubs, student pranks, and the unending drama generated by the girls she lives with on campus.  Complicating this normality is the new Lady Principal, whom the students have nicknamed “the Ogre.”  The woman seems bent on making Concordia’s life miserable.

And then there’s the exotic spirit medium, Madame Durand, who has befriended Concordia’s mother and has started a “Spirit Club” on campus.  Madame’s prognostications of doom are at first only mildly irritating – until events take a sobering turn.  An ancient Egyptian amulet donated to the college mysteriously disappears, the donor is found murdered, and his daughter – Concordia’s best friend – confesses to killing him.

Desperate for answers, Concordia unravels a 20-year-old secret, closely guarded by men now dead.  But such secrets can be dangerous for the daughters left behind, including Concordia herself.  Can she make sense of the mystery that has bound together their fates, before it’s too late?

Where to buy Unseemly Pursuits:

Kindle

Barnes and Noble

Smashwords

Kobo

iBooks

Ready for an “unseemly” giveaway?

SwagKitDuring K.B.’s Unseemly Pursuits book tour, which goes through the first week of March, there’s a giveaway at each blog stop (including here!).  The winner, randomly drawn from the commenters at each stop, will get a free ebook copy of Unseemly Pursuits.  At the end of the tour, she’ll hold another random drawing from among the ebook winners for the final prize: a special Concordia Wells series swag package! It includes customized mug, keychain, JellyBelly mini-tin, and signed paperback copies of the first two mysteries: Dangerous and Unseemly and Unseemly Pursuits. You can read, sip your coffee, and snack on candy in unseemly style. Check the sidebar on the home page of kbowenmysteries.com for the full tour schedule and other info.

***

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.)

Beauty: A Matter of Mind Over Matter

This post is for the 3rd annual Beauty Of A Woman blogfest, sponsored each year by my beautiful friend, August McLaughlin. The BOAW festivities officially begin on Thursday, so make a note to pop over to August’s site then for a whole list of great posts about what really makes women beautiful. The posts range from serious to light-hearted and they are always fabulous! (Oh, and did I mention there’s a contest and prizes? Well, there is. YAY!)

BOAW logo 2014

So what is the main ingredient that makes a woman beautiful? Good genes that bless her with smooth skin, good teeth and glossy hair?

Well, those certainly don’t hurt. But in my experience, they’re not the main ingredient in beauty.

Dentists, cosmetic surgeons, expensive make-up and hair products to create dazzling teeth, glowing skin and glossy hair?

close-up of woman putting on eye make-up

(photo by Manuel Marin, CC-BY license 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Not really, in my humble opinion.

So what is the main ingredient? It’s confidence!

When I was a young teenager, I was a mess–dorky-looking and totally lacking in self-confidence. Not a day went by in middle school (the purgatory of the earth plane, IMHO) that I wasn’t teased by one of the mean girls, or sometimes by one of the guys, most often about my appearance. “Pimple face” and “ironing board” (I was flat-chested) are the taunts that stand out the most in my memory.

me in 8th grade

My 8th grade school picture (told ya I looked dorky)

During the summer between middle and high school, my mother sat me down and gave me a fake-it-til-ya-make-it pep talk. She asked me if I thought a friend of hers (we’ll call her Mrs. H) was attractive. Now what fourteen-year-old gives a moment’s thought to her mother’s friends’ appearance?

I just shrugged. My mother pointed out just how homely Mrs. H was. Now that Mom was mentioning it, I realized that the woman did kind of resemble those drawings of witches you see at Halloween, complete with a large mole on her chin. Mom went on and on detailing all the flaws in Mrs. H’s appearance. I was beginning to wonder what evil spirit had taken over my mother’s body, when she pointed out that Mrs. H was married to one of the handsomest men in their circle of friends. I had to admit, now that I thought about it, Mr. H wasn’t bad looking, for an old guy (he was probably 40). Then Mom said that when Mrs. H walked into a room, every man and most of the women would turn to greet her with a big smile.

“Why is that?” Mom asked. Another shrug from me.

Because Mrs. H carried herself with confidence and was always smiling and friendly was my mother’s answer. “Kass, you’ve got the smiling and friendly down. They’re part of your natural personality. Now all you need is the confidence.” That’s when she told me to fake it ’til I made it.

Well, it took several years of faking it, but gradually I did become more confident. Then in college, I got some counseling to dig my remaining insecurities out by the roots.

I’m still not the best-looking gal in any crowd, but I don’t worry much about what I look like. Oh, I’m not saying I don’t do the best I can with what the good Lord gave me. I do. But once I’ve put on my make-up and fixed my hair (my best feature, despite it’s tendency to frizz), I walk out the door and don’t give my appearance another thought. I go about the world with confidence, and the world treats me well.

I’ll bet if you asked my friends and acquaintances whether or not I’m pretty, they’d shrug, like I did when my mom asked about Mrs. H. And then they’d say, “Oh, she looks fine. She’s so______.” (Fill in the blank with friendly, nice, smart, vivacious)

A healthy dose of confidence compensates quite well for my lack of outer beauty, and it let’s me relax and be me wherever I am. And frankly I’d rather be remembered for being smart and nice than for being pretty!

Have you ever known anyone who was naturally beautiful and yet so lacking in self-confidence that it marred their appearance? How about someone who was quite average but could light up a room with their smile?

And we’re excited to announce a new release by bestseller Stacy Green.

Speaking of confidence growing, check out what her character, Jaymee Ballard, is up to in this last book in the Delta Crossroads trilogy, Ashes and Bone:

cover of Ashes and BoneJust when Jaymee Ballard’s life seems to be on track, a massive derecho attacks the Delta Crossroads sowing destruction in its path. Her boyfriend, investigative journalist Nick Samuels, comes up missing, and she fears the worst.

Nick’s abandoned car contains evidence of his involvement uncovering a controversial case mired in political power and greed. While her friend and local detective, Cage Foster, heads up the inquiry into Nick’s kidnapping, Jaymee finds it impossible to sit back and do nothing.

Enlisting the help of her best friend, Dani Evans, Jaymee discovers a trail leading to the dangerous and secretive Dixie Mafia. Facing a fraudulent Confederate artifact scheme, dark local history, and a powerful enemy lurking in the shadows, the two friends find themselves holding the key to not only Nick’s disappearance, but a shameful town secret someone will kill to protect.

ASHES and BONE is an action packed thriller with a shocking twist.

Check it out, then talk to me about how you see beauty influenced by confidence and vice versa. (And don’t forget to visit the BOAW blogfest on Thursday)

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.

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In Sickness and In Health

How blithely we say those vows when we are young and healthy and starry-eyed in love!

bride and groom axchanging rings
My husband and I have been blessed with better than average health. I have my share of chronic older-woman issues but the only time I’ve ever been in the hospital was when my son was born. My husband has an incredible resistance. He’s been lying-down sick with a cold or the flu, at most, three times in the 38 years I’ve known him. And the last time he was in the hospital (before this time) was at age 5 to have his tonsils out.

We are also both fairly independent types. We are “folks who like to do for themselves” as my grandmother used to say.

All this has made it a bit tough for hubs this past two weeks, as he’s started the long journey of recovery from hip replacement surgery. He’s been a good patient so far, but it’s been tough having to rely on me to even fetch him a cup of tea or help him into the shower.

hubs with his walker

Hubs taking his first walk outside. He has to use the walker for another two weeks.

He keeps saying that I’m a saint. I’m not.

But I think he’s realizing for the first time just what that vow meant, 37 years ago.

I’ve known what it meant for 34 of those years, ever since our son’s birth. Hubs was there for me through 21 hours of labor, toward the end rubbing my back to ease the pain until his hands were literally raw. He never complained, never hesitated to do whatever I needed.

Somewhere during that time–through the haze of pain, fatigue and eventually the drugs I begged allowed them to give me once the little bugger decided to get serious about making an appearance–I realized on a much deeper level that this man was meant for me. That he was the finest, most reliable man on earth!

Now the roles are reversed. He has to rely on me to take care of him, and he thinks I’m a saint for doing it.

I’m not. I’m a spouse.

Happy Valentine’s 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.)

Magic, Mysticism and the Paranormal

Magic, mysticism, and the paranormal. Figuring out what they are is confusing enough. But what’s the difference between the three?

As a paranormal mystery writer, these are questions I get to ask on a fairly regular basis. To smarten myself up, I’ve been taking a class on mysticism and modern psychology. And it’s getting me a bit closer to answering the above question.

So get ready to dazzle your friends at cocktail parties, because here we go:

1.    Magic is all about changing the world around you, ala Harry Potter. Well, maybe not quite so dramatically. But just check the Internet – people are buying magical assistance every day such as love charms, spells for wealth, etc. And at heart, the goal is to make something we want happen in the real world.

2.    Mysticism, on the other hand, is about changing our perception of the world. Mystics will try and change the way they experience reality. In turn, when we start seeing the world differently, we tend to start interacting with it differently.

And in case you’re wondering where the psychology comes in, this is it. In common with mysticism, psychology tries to change the way we interact with the world, perceive the world, and hold ourselves in the world. Like mysticism, psychology attempts to change our internal space.

3.    Paranormal abilities seem to almost combine magic and mysticism. Mystics believe that the mind transformed by mystical practice has different abilities than the ordinary mind, and this can grant them paranormal powers. But don’t call it magic. Mystical paranormal abilities are based on how the mystic has changed his or herself.

Of course, there’s another “magical” theory for paranormal abilities as well. Many modern day magical practitioners believe that amulets and spells and incantations are simply a method to… change the way they perceive and act in the world. And this in turn changes their world.

Because if you’re behaving differently, it’s a good bet that those around you are reacting differently.

I can’t get enough of this idea. In fact, it’s threaded through my Riga Hayworth series of paranormal mystery novels, including my latest, The Elemental Detective.

To sum it all up, magic and mysticism may simply be two sides of the same coin. What do you think?

If you haven’t already done so, check out Kassandra Lamb’s post over at The Dark Side of Love, on why some women are attracted to abusive men. Talk about needing to change something on the inside in order to change what is happening in the world!

Posted by Kirsten Weiss. Kirsten works part-time as a writer and part-time as an international development consultant. She writes the Riga Hayworth urban fantasy/paranormal mystery novels. (Riga is a Metaphysical Detective.) Kirsten is currently working on Book 6, The Hoodoo Detective.

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.)

Happiness Part 2: Self-Esteem

A few weeks ago I posted on the subject of happiness and how it is an inside job. That post focused on stopping periodically to make sure you are doing the things that make you happy, but there’s another aspect to happiness that also comes from within. Our self-esteem–how we feel about ourselves–has a huge impact on our happiness.

I’ve talked about self-esteem here before in the context of other things, from weight-management to dealing with shame and guilt. It’s really quite central to so much of our emotional life. How we esteem ourselves relates to two things–our general feeling about our beings (self-worth) and our belief in our ability to do things, to handle life (self-confidence).

Today I’m going to focus on self-worth. This can best be defined as our acceptance of ourselves as imperfect but nonetheless worthwhile human beings.

painting of a woman looking in the mirror

When you look in the mirror, do you like WHO you see? (“The Green Mirror” by Guy Rose, public domain)

If we don’t have good self-worth then happiness is going to be a fleeting thing. We have to believe we are worthy of being happy in order to actually feel happy on a regular basis. But what goes in to believing we are worthy?

Before I answer that question, let me ask another one. Is there any newborn baby on the face of this planet who is NOT worthy of taking up space and breathing air?

blakc and white photo of a babyIf your answer to that question is a resounding “Of course not!” then you must agree that all of us start out as worthy beings.

Whether or not we will feel worthy, however, will depend on several factors.

The first of these is whether or not we perceived ourselves as being loved unconditionally as children by our families. The key word here is “perceived.” Very few parents don’t love their children. But their ability to convey the message that they love their kids, and that this love is unconditional, that’s another story.

So perhaps you did not receive the message sufficiently as a kid that you were loved unconditionally, and thus grew up feeling less than worthy. If you can look at your parents now, through the filter of an adult’s mind, and know that they do indeed love you, that’s a great first step. But emotionally-charged beliefs from the past don’t let go inside of us just because we “know better’” intellectually now. It may take much more than this for your psyche to truly believe you are worthy. More on this in a minute.

If you had the misfortune of being born to people who are not capable of unconditional love (often because they never received it themselves), then we come back to that innocent babe who, like all other babies born into this world, was inherently worthy. The fact that this child (you) had parents who could not see his/her worthiness, well that’s not his/her (your) fault, now is it?

Another factor is the level of unconditional acceptance you receive as an adult. We can have pretty decent self-worth to start with, but if someone important to us–spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, close friend, etc.–is telling us we are not good enough unless we change in some way, then our self-worth may begin to suffer. Even a constantly negative boss or co-worker may eventually wear us down.

Yet another factor has to do with feeling bad about one’s being when one’s behavior is out of line. I have talked about this before in my posts on guilt and shame. When we have done something we are not proud of, it is okay, useful even, to feel guilty. The guilt is our motivation to change that behavior. But if we start beating up on ourselves in a shaming way, then we are undermining our self-worth.

So what exactly can you do about self-worth? Here are several things that can help improve your self-worth and your level of happiness.

1) One of the most important things we can do to bolster/maintain self-worth is to separate behavior from being. No matter how despicable our behavior, we are still good people if we are owning up to that behavior and trying to do something about it.

Ironically, having good self-esteem makes it easier to take responsibility for our bad behavior. Someone who feels bad about themselves is more likely to become defensive about their behavior. They are struggling to hang onto the few shreds of self-esteem they may have left. But someone who is solid in their belief that they are a good person can more readily say, “Boy, I really made a mistake here,” without fearing that their entire ego is going to fall apart. (Trust me, I recently had this tested when I royally screwed something up!) See my guilt post for more on how to do this.

2) Use affirmations and positive self-talk to bolster your sense of your worthiness.  I know this sounds like a simplistic cliché from the 1980’s, but it works. Tell yourself every day, throughout the day, that you are a good person. And pay attention to how you talk to yourself in your head (we all talk to ourselves internally a good bit of the time; it’s normal). If you notice that your self-talk is mostly negative, make a conscious effort to stop and rephrase your self-talk to positive messages. Turn “I’m a screw-up” into “I’m a good person even if I don’t always get everything right.”

3) Cultivate a nurturing relationship with the “child within.” Yeah, I know, another 80’s cliché. But again, it works! One way to do this is to carry around a picture of yourself as a kid. When you catch yourself beating up on yourself, take out that picture and tell that little kid that s/he is okay and loveable.

small child in old car

My all-time favorite picture of myself as a kid. I look like I’m ready to take on the world, don’t I?

4) Stop letting people put you down. This is easier said than done, and is a bit of a vicious cycle re: self-worth. When you don’t feel all that worthy, it’s hard to stand up for yourself and demand that you be treated right. But letting others dump on you will continue to keep your self-worth in the toilet.

Some role-playing with a trusted friend (or in front of a mirror) may help you practice politely telling people how you want to be treated. And there may be some people in your life that you need to get out of your life. Remember: No one has the right to put another human being down!

5) Cultivate the people in your life who do care about you unconditionally!

one cat licking another's face

(photo by Takashi Hososhima from Tokyo Japan, CC-BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

When we don’t feel good about ourselves, sometimes we dismiss those who care the most about us. If we aren’t worthy of love, then they must be crazy or stupid to love us, or maybe they don’t really know us like they think they do. These are the things we unconsciously believe about those folks who esteem us more than we do ourselves. Stop holding those people at arm’s length; instead accept that they see something worthy in you and let their love into your heart.

Nothing is more important than your sense of self-worth. Because without it, you will not be happy in life!

 

How’s your self-worth? Do you think it’s in good shape, or does it need some work?

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.)

Happiness is an Inside Job

Happy New Year 2014

(photo by Sridhar Gutam, CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia)

The beginning of a new year is a time to look at where we’ve been over the last twelve months, and where we’re going during the next twelve. Was 2013 a good year? Were we happy? If not, what will we do differently in 2014?

Because happiness is the bottom line!

During my career as a psychotherapist I saw far too many people who were waiting to live, waiting to be happy, until they had achieved a certain goal. “Once I make X amount of money/become vice president of my company/raise brilliant, well-adjusted kids, etc. then I can be happy.” But life is not just about the final destination when we’ve achieved our goals; it’s also about the journey.

Those years of helping others figure out why they were unhappy and what they needed to do about it taught me that happiness is an inside job. Don’t get me wrong. Achieving our goals, obtaining a certain level of success–in whatever way we define it–is important too. But that alone will not make one happy.

The happiness or unhappiness caused by external things is fleeting. Ongoing happiness comes from within and is strongly influenced by two things. One is self-esteem–whether or not we feel worthy of being happy. This is a big topic that I plan to talk about more on this blog during the coming year.

But today I want to focus on the other factor–taking responsibility for our own happiness and making a point of  doing what we want to be doing on a daily basis. This is the one that was out of kilter in my life in 2013

pciture of a happy man

(photo by Geo Pradeep–self-portrait of a happy man)

I used to be really good about stopping every few hours and asking myself what I really wanted to be doing at that point in time. Note: I am not advocating shirking one’s responsibilities. What I ‘had’ to do was always factored in there, but I would try to balance it with periods of time each day when I was doing what I really wanted to be doing, i.e., what made me happy in that moment.

Another way of putting all this is that while we need to plan for and work toward our future goals, we also need to live in the present. But in 2013, I got caught up in living for the future. I kept thinking that if I could just work really hard today, I’d get enough of the pesky ‘haftas’ out of the way that I could have fun tomorrow. Sadly, the next day would have it’s own list of pesky ‘haftas’ and I’d find myself working long and hard again that day, and the next day and the next.

As 2013 was winding down and I finally got a major goal accomplished, it dawned on me that I’d spent an entire year of my life waiting to be happy. I know better!

Last year, I made a New Year’s resolution that I’d do a better job of time management, so I would have adequate time to write and edit–the parts of my job as an author that I really enjoy. I was fairly successful at doing that. I finished a novel and a short story, got both polished and published, and wrote the first draft of a novella. However, I worked 12 to15-hour days, 6 to 7 days a week to do it. I was so focused on the goals I’d set for myself in my writing career that I stopped focusing on being happy.

So this year I’m going to back off a bit on those goals. They’re still important and I’ll get them done. But I’m not going to be able to hustle for a few days or weeks or even months and get them all done and then I can relax and be happy. There will always be a new list of ‘haftas’ related to those goals, so I need to take some time to be happy, to stop and smell the roses more often along the way.

This year’s resolution: focus on one goal at a time, spend a reasonable amount of time each week working toward that goal, and every day spend some time doing exactly what I want to do that will make me happy that day.

picute of a rose

STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES!!

There’s a reason why sayings like “today is the first day of the rest of your life” and “stop and smell the roses” have become clichés.There’s truth in them.

How about you? What are you going to do this next year of the rest of your life to make yourself happy? What’s your favorite way to ‘stop and smell the roses’ along the way?

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.)