Coronavirus · My Thoughts · square dance

Will Square Dancing Survive the Pandemic?

Lin and Larada square dancing
Lin and Larada Square Dancing!

To date, the coronavirus has taken 555,296 lives in the United States. Losses continue to mount; loved ones have died. In the wake of this horrible pandemic, will we lose square dancing too?

In my heart and in conversations over the phone with friends, I’ve lamented the future of square dancing. I’m a firm believer that square dancing with survive, but in what form is the question. Before the pandemic, we saw pockets of successful growth across the square dance world, but our numbers have fallen off in most places.

Many years ago, CALLERLAB, the international association of square dance callers, created levels of dancing: Basic, Mainstream, Plus, Advanced and C. Each level adds new calls to the level before, enlarging the calls at that level. The push for years has been to move up to the next level, then the next, then the next, leaving Basic and Mainstream to be introductory stop overs for Plus, Advanced and C.

I’ve seen big beginning classes come and go and the retention of the dancers at any level has statistically been sad.

Now change can happen, a strange opportunity because of this year’s interruption.

In preparing for this post, I canvased several square dance callers/leaders on the subject, purposing this question to them, “Will square dancing become another casualty of the pandemic?” and this is what they had to say:

Jerry Junck: Nebraska & Arizona:

Jerry Junck, square dance caller
Jerry Junck

I do not believe square dancing will be a casualty of the pandemic. It will be different, to be sure, but square dancing is too good an activity to come to an end because of Covid 19. There is no doubt it will be smaller, as we resume dancing again. To be sure, there will be clubs and callers who will leave the activity for other forms of entertainment.  

However, there are many dancers anxiously awaiting the opportunity to resume dancing, and renewing old friendships. The need for social interaction is strong, and something we have all missed. The pandemic may actually have given us an opportunity to reflect on what we have been missing during this hiatus. My hope is that we will resume dancing with a kinder and more gentle spirit. That we will be more appreciative of what we had and make a sincere effort to make everyone feel welcome.  


People of all ages will hunger for any form of social interaction—square dancing fits the bill!

Jon Jones & Deborah Carroll-Jones – Texas:

Jon Jones & Deborah Carroll-Jones, square dance caller
Jon Jones & Deborah Carroll-Jones

I believe the square dance activity will come back real strong in the Fall of 2021. People have been staying at home for more than a year and will be looking for an activity they can get into that will be fun. Square dancing does just that and it is the very best mind changer for the dancers as they cannot think of anything else while dancing.

Deborah and I both believe the Social Square Dance Program (SSD) is the way to go. It is and easy program to learn and provides good variety in the choreography and it does not take very long for the new dancers to join a club. We believe this is a golden opportunity for the activity to grow. If the Associations, Clubs and dancers will advertise with demos and publications, we will see good participation.


After 2020, we all need a fun activity.

To learn more about the Social Square Dance Program (SSD), go to the CALLERLAB website:

Also, visit the Social Square Dancing Facebook page for active back-and-forth conversations about the SSD program and its effect on square dancing’s future:

Daryl Clendenin – Oregon:

Daryl Clendenin, square dance caller
Daryl Clendenin

“Will Square Dancing Become Another Casualty of the Pandemic?”

I certainly hope not. Will SSD become the activities “cure?” I have serious doubts. Actually, the patient was terminal long before contracting the pandemic. It was on a steady decline that in my recollection, began with the introduction of the Plus Program. That, in essence, not only divided the dancers, but the callers as well. 

The SSD Concept is not just a program, it’s a solution. Many folks think that following the SSD guidelines to the letter, is essential. I don’t agree. The concept, as I see it, identifies the problems, and leaves open a variety of ways to apply them.

The SSD concept is not new. The pandemic may have made it, to some folks, more acceptable. That acceptance in itself, is a positive. Square dancing is not a “goner” yet. It can be revived.


I totally agree with Daryl that we can revive square dancing!

Noah Siegman – Wisconsin:

Noah Siegman, square dance caller
Noah Siegman

Square dancing (as we knew it pre-2020) will definitely be a casualty of the pandemic. In order to rebuild and get it started again, there will need to be a shift to a simpler, more easily attained style of dancing that doesn’t require 20 or more weeks of lessons. Coming out of the pandemic, many people are looking for something to do to be social again, and I believe square dancing is something that fits the bill perfectly to satisfy their craving for community!


The social aspect to square dancing needs to be emphasized! Yes, we take lessons, learn to dance, and I’ve made lifelong friends all over the world through square dancing!

In Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo, “Flippo’s statement, ‘We took ten lessons, and we were square dancers’ demonstrated the evolution in square dancing.” We need to return to that mentality.

Tom Manning – Iowa:

Tom Manning, square dance caller
Tom Manning

I don’t believe square dancing will be a casualty of the pandemic. Square dancing has been on the decline for many years, and I believe this is our chance to renew it. I have said publicly that square dancing would have to die to survive. Many of us in this activity, including myself, have been involved forever, 50 years last month, wanted something bigger and better from the activity. Wanting more of a challenge, more nights a week, more conventions and plus weekends. Now is our chance to get back to the basics of square dancing, fun and friendship. I can see by using the Social Square Dance program, we can bring new people into the activity, show them a good time, and have our drop-out rate diminish. Show the dancers a good time using the SSD program and not rush them to other levels.

I have been using this program for the last 3 years. Our group went from maybe having one square every Tuesday night to having four to six. Along with the program, it does take some promotion, arm twisting and begging to get people in the door. I have kept in contact with all these new dancers over the last year, and it sounds like they are all ready to return to dancing when this thing is over. I think square dancing will survive, but now is the time to make some changes.


Sometimes change has to come to make something better. I love statistics and Tom’s movement from one square to four to six using the SSD program is exciting. If your club experienced the same ratio of growth from the SSD program as Tom’s, and prior to the pandemic you had four squares, you could have twelve to twenty-four squares! How about that for an increase! Even worst-case scenario, you could increase to double figures.

Mike Seastrom – California:

Mike Seastrom, square dance caller
Mike Seastrom

I’m excited about the future of square dancing after the pandemic. We have all been deprived of social connections during this pandemic, and square dancing is one of the best activities to socially connect.

It’s long been known that the key to happiness and to keeping from being depressed is the quality and quantity of our social connections. Square dancing is a perfect activity for being connected to people, fun, and exercise.

With our new Social Square Dancing Curriculum and the ability to start our new dancer programs 2-3 times a year, we can open our doors and make it easier for people to join us and bring their friends. 

This is a perfect time for our forward-thinking leaders and callers to seize the moment, reboot, and grow our activity!

I’m excited!


Mike’s enthusiasm is contagious. He stresses the social connection of square dancing and how we can increase the frequency of classes because of the SSD program which means more dancers!


What a variety of responses I received from these caller/leaders from all over the United States. Social connections, fun and the SSD program weave their way through many of them.

I’ll leave you with a parting comment: Are we as dancers more interested in saving our level of dance or saving square dancing? Or can we do both? As a person committed to the activity for years, I pledge my support to the activity, not to the individual levels I enjoy. I want square dancing to continue and flourish for generations to come.

What’s your thoughts on this? Do you have a favorite hobby/activity that the pandemic has threatened? What is it? What’s your prediction for its future?

Previous Blog Posts You Might Have Missed

Just Another Square Dance Caller cover

~HAVE YOU ORDERED YOUR AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY? AVAILABLE NOW! Go to the homepage on my website & pay for it there:

~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”:


~Visit my website for all the information you need about me & my books:

~My Amazon Author’s Page:

~ MARCH MADNESS SALE: 20% Discount my Etsy Shop for select paperbacks & digital copies:

~VISIT MARY ZALMANEK, A FRIEND’S BLOG: Cooking in a One-Butt Kitchen | Eating Well in Small Spaces:

Coronavirus · Life Lessons · My Thoughts

Waiting for the Vaccine?

Photo by destiawan nur agustra from Pexels

Are you waiting for the coronavirus vaccine? I am but not very gracefully! I want it NOW! My nerves feel frayed. I vacillate between understanding the delay and wanting mine now, no matter what!

Because of a suggestion of an older friend, I registered at the New Mexico website and received my number several weeks ago. My husband drug his feet, thinking he’d wait for the Johnson & Johnson one shot treatment.

Then he had a phone call with his primary care physician on another issue, and the doctor quizzed him, “Have you gotten the vaccine yet?” He questioned him because Lin has been reluctant to take any of the vaccines until this doctor convinced him of the importance of the flu shot, specifically.

In response, Lin said, “No, I’m going to wait for the Johnson & Johnson shot.”

Our doctor responded sharply, “New Mexico has bought the two vaccines. There’s no guarantee they’ll buy the third one. Sign up!”

When he got off the phone, I signed him up. He’s eighty years old and within a few weeks he received a text to set up a time. He did and has taken the first shot at the Pit, the basketball court for the University of New Mexico.

When he went to get vaccinated, I rode with him, just in case he had any reaction. He didn’t and was really impressed with the efficiency of the operation there. They set up his second shot for mid-March, so he sees a light at the end of the tunnel!

As always, I turned to poetry to express my exasperated feelings:

Waiting for the vaccine
Photo by Serkan Göktay from Pexels

I Hate Waiting!

February 28, 2021

 Here I sit
                                                 For the coronavirus vaccination!
 I’m 67 years old
             Old enough you’d think
                                     In a nebulous zone
 Caught between
             Not old enough
                         For the first priority group
             Not young enough
                         Not to worry
Shortly, we face a year’s anniversary 
             Since this pandemic started.
Quickly the talk of the vaccine began
             Questions arose
                         Too soon?
                                     Too quick?
                                                 Too everything?
 Tests held
             Thousands of willing guinea pigs
 More questions
             More waiting
 Then the day came!
 The vaccine roll-out started
             In the UK
                         December 14, 2020
             In the USA
                         January 14, 2021
             Yet I had some misgivings
                         At first
             Total acceptance
 And I keep waiting!

 I’ve been obedient
             Watched my P's and Q's!
                         Social distance
                         Wash hands religiously
                                     After trips to Colorado
                                                 To safeguard Lin 
At first,
                         Against my gregarious nature
             Tired and exhausted
 I see the vaccine
             As the pathway
                         To normalcy
             As the pathway
                         To perhaps
Instead I sit here
                         Is it tomorrow
                                     I get the long-awaited text?
                         Is it this week?
                                     Or the next?
 Waiting to go back
             To go forward
                         To do something proactive
                                     To undo what’s been
                                                 Ongoing a year!
 I realize
             The vaccine is not a panacea!
 We still have to be cautious,
             But when we both are vaccinated
                         We can think
                                     Of possibilities
                         We can dream
                         We can stretch
                                     Our shrunken imaginations
                                                 To venture forth.
 Will the new world
             Demand I show
                         My vaccine card
                                     At dances?                 
                         For sure on airplanes
                         For sure to travel
                                     To foreign countries
 Is this new sought-after card
             My entry
                         Back into life?
 I’m waiting
 A possible silver lining
             For my wait!
                                     Johnson & Johnson
                                                 Will be available
                                                 When my time comes—
 That means one shot
             Instead of two!
 So, the waiting
             Once again,
                         As is so often,
                                     Maybe the reward!
 I’ll wait and see! 

Right now, in New Mexico, I have to wait for Phase 1A and 1B, because I’m in Phase 1C—60 years old and older. When I look at the list of people in the two phases above me, I shudder, because there’s many crucial people who should receive it before me. See the document:

So I will wait!

In closing, my turn will come. My life will change when it happens. Will yours? Are you getting the vaccine? Have you got it? Are you impatiently waiting like me right now? I’d love to hear from you.

Did you miss one of my blogs in February? Here’s a chance to see them:

Just Another Square Dance Caller

~HAVE YOU ORDERED YOUR AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY? AVAILABLE NOW! Go to the homepage on my website & pay for it there:

~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”:


~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me & my books:

~My Amazon Author’s Page:

~ Visit my Etsy Shop for all my books:


~VISIT MARY ZALMANEK, A FRIEND’S BLOG: Cooking in a One-Butt Kitchen | Eating Well in Small Spaces:

Coronavirus · Goals · Marshall Flippo · My Books · My Thoughts

What Does 2021 Hold For Us?

Photo by Vladislav Murashko from Pexels

2021 is here! Yahoo! Happy New Year! Whew! I thought it would never come! Closing 2020 with a quiet bang, I look to opening up 2021 with enthusiastic gusto!

But like so many others, I reminisced about meaningful past New Year’s Eves, and one repeatedly came to mind. In 2017 many square dance callers and dancers met in Green Valley, Arizona to witness Marshall Flippo call at his last square dance on New Year’s Eve 2017.

Flippo’s Last Dance 2017

Many national callers came out to see their mentor and friend end a 60 year+ career. Numerous dancers traveled from far and wide to hear Flippo call one last time. I felt the magic in the air that night—sadness mixed with deep love and appreciation. I will never forget that evening nor my dear friends in attendance.

This year, we celebrated a quiet one. We watched “Bells of St. Mary” with Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman and cried at the ending even though we had seen it before. After the movie, we prepped an elk roast and vegetables to cook in the crockpot overnight for our New Year’s Day dinner. Then we ended the year watching the celebration on the plaza in Santa Fe, NM—what a New Mexican party it was. I loved that they sang, “Las Mañanitas!” to bring in the new year!

So, let’s talk about this new year. 2021 is an empty book, a new chapter, today a blank page in my life! What will I do in 2021 with still so much uncertainty? Yes, we have the vaccine, but not many people have been inoculated yet. So, we need to be cautious and use those familiar safety suggestions:

  • Masks
  • Social distancing
  • Wash, wash, wash our hands

That just reminded me of a hilarious experience Lin and I had on cruises we have taken. Greeting us at the door of any restaurant onboard, two ship employees sprayed our hands with sanitizer and sang, “Washy, washy.” What made this so hilarious was the enthusiasm they did their task with—smiles and pure joy! I wish most Americans handled all the safety suggestions with such joy and enthusiasm!

So, as I ponder 2021, I think about a day in this year as being a blank page—the nemesis of many writers. I love the sight of a clean page, a new year, a new beginning. I choose what’s written there. I choose my attitude with which I face each day. I choose to be positive and proactive.

So, I spent part of yesterday and today reading book marketing ideas to prepare for this new year as an author. I jotted down several new ideas to incorporate into my plan for 2021. I also thought about how I want my life to be different, especially incorporating what I learned in my solitude in 2020.

2021 Goals
A Word Cloud of My 2021 Goals

So, here’s my list (more than book marketing stuff):

  • Publish a new book, Bitter or Better: My Year’s Coronavirus Journey
  • Do my daily Quiet time
  • Dance
  • Attend recovery meetings
  • Dance
  • Promote my books, especially the Flippo book at dance events
  • Dance
  • Exercise
  • Dance
  • Spend time outside in nature
  • Dance
  • Connect face-to-face or virtually with family and friends
  • Dance
  • Recreational Reading
  • Dance
  • Visit our family ranch in Colorado
  • Dance

As you can see, dancing tops my list of activities I want to add back this year.

As I face 2021, a year with possibilities, adventures and people, I wonder. I know I thought 2020 had all those possibilities. Will this year be different or more of the same? I’m sure the first part will feel very similar to 2020, but hopefully mid-year 2021 will take a turn towards normalcy.

What do you think?

I do want to end with some 2020 humor. This was shared our Next Door app before the end of the year, and I thought it was hilarious:

2020 – A YEAR IN REVIEW!!! I hope everyone can get a chuckle from this!

  1. The dumbest thing I ever bought was a 2020 planner.
  2. I was so bored I called Jake from State Farm just to talk to someone He asked me what I was wearing.
  3. 2019: Stay away from negative people. 2020: Stay away from positive people.
  4. The world has turned upside down. Old folks are sneaking out of the house & their kids are yelling at them to stay indoors! 5. This morning I saw a neighbor talking to her dog. It was obvious she thought her dog understood her. I came into my house & told my cat. We laughed a lot.
  5. Every few days try your jeans on just to make sure they fit. Pajamas will have you believe all is well.
  6. Does anyone know if we can take showers yet or should we just keep washing our hands?
  7. This virus has done what no woman has been able to do. Cancel sports, shut down all bars & keep men at home!
  8. I never thought the comment, “I wouldn’t touch him/her with a 6-foot pole” would become a national policy, but here we are! 10. I need to practice social-distancing from the refrigerator.
  9. 11. I hope the weather is good tomorrow for my trip to the Backyard. I’m getting tired of the Living Room.
  10. 12. Appropriate analogy. “The curve is flattening so we can start lifting restrictions now” is like saying: “The parachute has slowed our rate of descent, so we can take it off now.”
  11. 13. Never in a million years could I have imagined I would go up to a bank teller wearing a mask & asking for money.
  12. 14. The spread of COVID-19 is based on 2 things:
    1. How dense the population is;
    1. How dense the population is.

~Visit my Christmas blog posts:

Just Another Square Dance Caller cover


~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”:


~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me & my books:

~ END OF THE YEAR SALE: Visit my Etsy Shop for 25% off individual paperback titles & bundles. Good until JANUARY 15, 2021.

Coronavirus · God · My Thoughts

Good bye 2020, Hello ’21!

Good bye 2020, hello 2021

Good bye 2020, yes for sure! Hello 2021, welcome here! This afternoon, I wrote a couple poems to end this tumultuous year with my eyes on the next.

Standing on the Precipice

December 31, 2020

Stepping off - good bye 2020, hello 2021
Photo by @joagbriel from Pexels

Today I stand on a precipice

            2020 here

            2021 there

My heart yearns

            For the normalcy



                                                2018. . .

2020 stopped me

            in my tracks

The world stopped


Ten months shut-down



                                    Words I wasn’t familiar with

                                                Before 2020

The new normal


            Social distance

            Wash your hands often

The life we live now

            To protect us

            To protect you

Good bye 2020

            With your excruciating

                        Pain and loss

            With your deep lessons

                        Of spiritual changes

            With the coronavirus

                        Taking center stage

Hello 2021

            Can you be new?

                        The same?


                                                Just a little bit!

I stand here

            On the edge

                        One foot in 2020

                                    One foot reaching


                                                            For 2021

I extend my hands

            To the future

                        To the unknown

                                    To possibility

I still believe

            God is here

                        In this moment

                                    In the midst

                                                Of life

                                    In 2020

God will be in 2021


Today, He gently grabs my hand

            To jump into this next year

            To face the uncertain future

            To know the goodness of life

Yes, 2020 is over–Good bye!

            Thank God!

2021 is here! Hello!

            I’m ready!

We Get to Start Again!

December 31, 2020

Good bye 2020, Hello 2021
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

A new year

            A new beginning

Standing on the brink

            Of 2021

I revel in its newness

A new year

            With so many possibilities

Possibly more desirable

            Because it’s 2021

Hope abounds!

            A new day dawns

                        Upon a tired citizenry!

I smell anticipation in the air

            I taste joy in each bite

                        I hear hope in cheerful voices

                                    I feel kindness unfolding worldwide

Yes, we start anew


A fresh slate  

            To write my dreams on

            To sketch out my desires

            To scrawl and doodle my ambitions

It can happen

Yes, the coronavirus is

                        Still here,

The surge continues

            The cases and deaths mount,

But the vaccine provides a possibility

I must honor

            The place where I am,

Before I can move forward

But as I stand

            On the edge

                        Of 2021

For the first time

            In months

I feel different

A sliver of hope

            A dash of optimism

                        A smidgen of return to my old life

                                    A glimmer of hope

Join me

            Right now

                        In the universal

                                    Circle of hope!

Good bye 2020, hello 2021! Do take this time to be mindful of this year behind us and one ahead!

And here’s a little humor to start the new year!

Good bye 2020, Hello 2021

~Visit my Christmas blog posts:

Just Another Square Dance Caller


~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”:


~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me & my books:

~ END OF THE YEAR SALE: Visit my Etsy Shop for 25% off individual paperback titles & bundles. Good until JANUARY 15, 2021.

Christmas · Coronavirus · family · My Thoughts

Did the Coronavirus “Stay at Home” Ruling Affect Your Christmas Plans?

All I Want For Christmas is you: Stay at home
Photo by fotografierende from Pexels

“Stay at home.” We’ve heard that mandate repeatedly over the last few months, especially over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. We had the choice, and continuing a conservative mindset we’ve embraced since the onset of the pandemic, we stayed home! My husband and I both have some health issues. He is 80, and I am 67, so we stayed home and enjoyed our traditions, our decorations and connections with people through Zoom, YouTube Live, and the internet.

Even though we made the choice to stay home, did this “stay at home” order affect my Christmas plans? In some ways, yes it did; in some no!

Zoomin': Stay at home
Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

Zoomin’ Through the Christmas Holiday

Throughout the stay at home orders, Zoom has connected me to a variety of important people in my life. It truly helped me fight the horror of the isolation we’ve all endured. I have met with family members I had never met before. We planned a face-to-face reunion this summer, but we had to cancel it. So, Zoom took its place.

Through Zoom, I have attended weekly recovery meetings continuing my work to keep sane. I’ve attended my regular local meetings but have also found meetings in other parts of the United States. How that has broadened my view of the world!

Leading up to Christmas, I set up several Zoom parties to connect with friends all over the world.

  • December 15: Normally, every year I have dinner with Bec and Rhonda, the two teachers I team taught with and then later worked with at another school. We usually buy $10 of scratchers and while we’re visiting, we see how much we won. So, I proposed a Zoom Scratcher Party. What a delightful evening we had catching up. We won a few dollars and have plans for another Zoom get-together in January to celebrate Rhonda’s retirement.
  • December 16: From January 7 – 20, 2020 we went to Costa Rica with a group of people that we really enjoyed. On October 27, we did our first Zoom meeting with this group we lovingly call, “The Dirty Dozen,” and had a great time. Even our guide from Costa Rica attended. So, we decided then we needed a Christmas get-together. We had such a blast seeing each other, catching up again and seeing each other’s house decorations.
  • December 17: Our square dance club caller, Jerry Gilbreath, usually uses Christmas songs for his singing calls for the whole month of December, so we really get the opportunity to enjoy his beautiful voice. As I was thinking about missing his holiday songs, I thought, “How about a concert on Zoom?” So, we did “Jerry’s Christmas Concert” and had over 50 people attend! We’re talking about doing another one.

I wanted to host a Zoom Family Christmas party. My nieces and nephew are tech-savvy, but my brother isn’t, so I couldn’t do it without him.

Buying online: Stay at home
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Online Shopping

Leading up to Christmas, because of the coronavirus restrictions, I did almost 100% of my shopping online. Most of it turned out great.

I had one mishap with in Ireland. I ordered Lin a sweater on December 1, and they tried to charge an old charge card they had on file instead of the current one I gave them that night, but they never let me know the order was declined. I checked back several days later to find that out. When I reconnected with, Lin’s first choice was sold out in his size, but we found one to replace it, and it arrived several days before Christmas! Wow!!

Another company duplicated the item I bought. I know I didn’t order two, so tomorrow I have to check my charge card and see if I was double charged.

Normally, I shop locally especially enjoying Southwest gifts from favorite Old Town Albuquerque shops. Otherwise, my Christmas shopping went without a glitch.

Flyer for Christmas Eve Service - Stay at Home

Christmas Eve Service Online

My church, Hope in the Desert Episcopal Church, has streamed online church services through Facebook Live since the beginning of the shutdown, then they added YouTube.

I dressed up in my Christmas Eve attire—a Santa dress, hose and heels. In fact, this was the first time I’ve had hose on since January. I also blew dry my hair and put on make-up. I went downstairs, and Lin and I attended a beautiful Christmas Eve service. Afterwards, we savored blue corn posole and watched Christmas movies.

Normally, when we are in Branson, we drive to Des Moines, New Mexico to go to church at Mom’s church, the Des Moines Methodist Church. My cousin and her family attend there, too, so it was a good time to sit shoulder-to-shoulder with relatives I love.

Round table in Branson, CO
The Round Table We Play Games on in Branson, Colorado

Location of our Normal Christmas Celebration

For several years now, I’ve gone home to Branson, Colorado to celebrate Christmas with my Mom and Aunt when they were alive, and recently with my niece, her family and my brother. We have spent many hours sitting around the round table playing games, laughing and enjoying each other.

I inherited my Mom’s joy in cooking and baking for big gatherings, especially Christmas. Since I was baking only for Lin and me this year, I did much less baking: only one batch of chocolate peanut clusters, peppermint bark, peanut brittle and popcorn balls.

Mom passed on to me a delicious pie recipe that our family doctor’s wife from Germany gave her in 1952 . I use that recipe anytime I make pies. Normally I make 3-4 pumpkin pies, 1 pecan pie and maybe a Hawaiian Fruit pie. This year I made one pie!

I did have fun with the one pie I made. Lin was diagnosed with diabetes a couple years ago. He immediately changed his diet. Since then he has lost 40 pounds and is no longer diabetic, but he still watches his sugar intake. Early on, his nutritionist, told us about Monkfruit sweetener, a natural sugar substitute. This year, I used it in my pumpkin pie—what a success!

Usually we attend several holiday dance events, and I make Christmas goodies for them too. The pandemic shut those down too, and I didn’t need to make any extra batches of goodies.

Lin and Larada on Christmas Eve 2020: Stay at Home
Lin & Larada, Christmas Eve 2020

How Was It the Same?

I had the pleasure of spending Christmas with Lin who makes any holiday special with his positive attitude and hilarious sense of humor!

No matter what’s goin on in the world, Jesus is the reason for the season any year, but I especially focused on it this year. Because I had extra time, I spent more time contemplating this special holiday and its importance to me.

Usually I’m rushed, splintered, and frantic. This year, I took the time to concentrate on Jesus’ birth and its importance in my life. I hope you did the same!

How did the coronavirus affect your Christmas plans?

~Visit my Christmas blog posts:

Just Another Square Dance Caller Cover


~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”:


~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me & my books:

~ END OF THE YEAR SALE: Visit my Etsy Shop for 25% off individual paperback titles & bundles. Good until JANUARY 15, 2021.

Christmas · Coronavirus · Life Lessons · My Thoughts

Charles Dickens’ Message for Christmas 2020

Photo by Nicole Michalou from Pexels

Is it “Bah, humbug?” or “God bless us, everyone?” Last night my husband, Lin and I watched Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, a tradition we enjoy each year. What message does Charles Dickens have for 2020?

As I watched it, I know the story by heart. I studied Charles Dickens as an English major. I taught it to my sixth-grade literature class each year. We’ve watched each year together. I love its message!

And how does it relate to 2020, the craziest year I’ve ever experienced?

Ebenezer Scrooge, the story’s central character, receives a visit from his former business partner, Jacob Marley, on Christmas Eve. Marley warns Scrooge of what’s coming: visits from three spirits.

The visits from the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come forced Scrooge to face the life he had lived, full of “Bah, humbug,” monetary rewards, and negativity since the death in childbirth of his sister, Fan. This reflected Scrooge’s own life because his mother died in childbirth with him and compounded his pain.

This story has strong implications for 2020: redemption and change.

Our Round Table in Branson, Colorado

Christmas Past

Year after year, my family met at our family home in Branson. I traveled there often in my adulthood. The attendees changed over the years. Years ago, Mom and Dad hosted Mom’s parents, Aunts and Uncles, cousins, and me.

Recently, my niece and our family joined Mom, Lin and I with Aunt Willie and my cousin and her family.

Throughout the years, we ate delicous meals, played lots of games around the round table, laughed and shared gifts. We caught up with each other’s lives—a memorable time.

Our family had its moments where we all didn’t get a long, but the people faced the adverse effects, offered forgiveness and we stayed connected.

Christmas Present

Lin and I will celebrate a memorable quiet Christmas here at home alone because we strongly support all the suggestions the CDC has issued about holiday gatherings. We will play Cribbage, open gifts and celebrate our lives together. It will be good because we have accepted the change we have to do to keep everyone in our family safe.

Many families face drastic changes this Christmas with a strong suggestion to not gather together. Sacrifice yes! Change, for sure! Can you do it?

The Future
What Does the Future Hold?

Christmas Yet to Come

I trust that next year we will again gather in Branson, sit around the table and play games with loved ones. We will visit the ranch we all love, looking for wildlife and reminiscing about all those special places we love. And I will relish next year more than ever because of the loss of time together this year! After this year, I will value my familial relationships more because of the stark lack of time with dear ones this year.

So much is different in 2020! Can we collective embrace Dickens’ lessons from the Christmas Carol?

If you’ve battled the mandates, could you change from “Bah, humbug masks” and rethink this and vow to wear a mask for your granddad or grandma’s sake? Your grandchild’s sake? To alleviate the load on our health care workers? Can you change to Tiny Tim’s prayer, “God bless us, everyone?”

If you’ve railed about everything that was canceled this year like your favorite square dance festival, could you say a quiet prayer for forgiveness and then pray for the families who lost someone to the coronavirus?

If you’ve put yourself in the center of this drama called life in 2020 and been so negative and selfish, could you bow your head and honor the health care workers who have placed their lives on the line for many every day in a selfless way?

Yes, change is possible! Redemption is possible, but the process is awareness, acceptance and action. The action is in the doing!

A Christmas Carol reflected Charles Dickens’ life. Because his father was imprisoned for debt, his life changed drastically, and his writing highlighted the brutal changes in his life. Can we take a breath and learn from Ebenezer Scrooge this Christmas? Not “Bah, humbug” anymore, but Tiny Tim’s “God bless us, everyone!”

~Visit my Christmas blog posts:

Cover for Just Another Square Dnce Caller


~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”:


~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me & my books:

Christmas · Coronavirus · family · My Thoughts

Christmas Shopping During the Pandemic?

Christmas Shopping the way it used to be!

Christmas Shopping Coronavirus-Style, has it been different for you? In New Mexico, we have restrictions limiting the number of people in a store, so if I do go shopping, I have to wait in the queue outside in the cold. I have to be near people who could be infected and so far, my husband, Lin, and I have been spared from this virus. So, for me, the answer is simple—stay home and shop online!

Over the last few years, I’ve bought many gifts online whether for my husband, my brother or the rest of my family, so I’m not new to this concept. One holiday tradition I’ve loved though is going to Old Town Albuquerque for regional gifts. I won’t be doing that this year.

So, for this year’s Christmas shopping, I’ve ordered online 99%. I did buy one gift while at Walmart this week.

Calendar - Christmas Shopping
Photo by Olya Kobruseva from Pexels

When thinking about Christmas gifts, I love making them and have done it for years whether it was a hand-knitted garment or a photo gift. This year I have had to cancel my favorite gift I have given my family for 23 years—a family calendar featuring photos from the previous year. We weren’t together in 2020, so I have none. Also, recently, I’ve had an eye problem with blurry vision which would make this project difficult, so no Horner Family Calendar 2021!

Here’s where the calendar idea came from! A couple years after my Dad died one of my team teachers, Rebecca Betzen, connected with my mom, wanting twelve pictures from my life. That was a sad Christmas, missing Dad, so Mom and I flew to California to spend the holiday with my brother and his family. Rebecca had been specific, “Don’t open my gift until Christmas Day,” so I did!

What a surprise! Mom had selected a variety of pictures from my childhood all the way up to my graduation dinner for my masters’ degree! Several pictures highlighted favorites posts on our family ranch.

This project thrilled me so much, I decided to do one the next year for Mom and me. We took a memorable trip to Eastern Europe, so I featured that trip in my first calendar. My ex-husband loved it so much, I made one for his family the next year, continuing the whole time we were together.

When we were just doing three or four, my ex and I printed the calendars ourselves. It was quite a job, but we mastered the process. When the number of calendars increased, I decided to outsource them to OfficeMax, and they have always done a great job!

At first, I put one picture on the page above the month, but after a few years and a large array of pictures to choose from, I created a collage of several pictures for each page and tried to highlight different people on each page. The time-consuming part was going through all of my photos and selecting which ones to use.

I first added my brother to the list of recipients, and the list has grown over the years. Last year I gave calendars to thirteen family members.

Several years when I first gave a calendar to my Aunt Willie, my Mom’s sister, I laughed at her response. I asked her if she liked it, and she answered, “Yes, especially November.” I spotlighted pictures of her on the November page because that was her birthday month.

So, yes, I take lots of pictures anytime we’re together as a family, and my family has come to understand that.

Horner Calendar 2011 Cover
Cover for Horner Calendar 2012

Each year I highlight whoever has shown that year like graduations or weddings. If a family member died the previous year, I featured him or her on the cover. I also highlighted our family ranch on the cover of some calendars. My second cousin married in England in 2017, and Lin and I attended, with me taking lots of pictures. Her new husband said, “I bet we make the calendar next year!” And they did!

A page from a calendar - Christmas Shopping
Photo Collage from 2020 Calendar

My joy came when my family members opened this gift and leafed through the pages, laughing at certain pictures and make heartfelt remarks. These calendars have become a historic family document of our year together.

So, Christmas shopping did change in 2020, but I’ve stayed focused on the joy and celebration of this precious holiday.

How has your Christmas shopping changed this year? What have you done differently?

~Visit my last three blog posts from last week:

Cover for Just Another Square Dance Caller


~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”:


~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me & my books:

~ Visit my Etsy Shop for 25% off individual paperback titles. Good until December 20, 2020. Here’s the coupon link:

Coronavirus · Holidays · My Thoughts · Thanksgiving

How About Pizza for Thanksgiving?

Photo by Ponyo Sakana from Pexels

Yes, it was pizza for Thanksgiving! We knew it would be a different holiday because of Covid-19 restrictions, but I had an eye procedure on Monday of Thanksgiving week, and my recovery didn’t go well, complicating the food preparation.

I had the same eye procedure two years ago, so I dreaded it, but I didn’t think anything about doing it on Monday before Thanksgiving. Last time, I recovered quicker. They drastically changed the procedure on my second eye which made it more painful and invasive. So, I spent much of the week in bed. I took serious pain medication, so I also had the effect of that to deal with, but I stopped it on Wednesday.

So, no cooking happened. I’ve baked homemade pumpkin pies for the last ten years, so that’s what I missed the most, but we enjoyed our pizza dinner and store-bought pie!

For most of my life, Thanksgiving has been a family-filled holiday with delicious food, lots of people and games. Gradually, it’s changed over the years as family members pass away and people moved away. After Mom died, it’s been mostly Lin and me.

Last year, my brother joined us, and we had a festive celebration. He loves football too, so we spent our day eating a traditional turkey dinner and watching non-stop football. On Friday, we ventured out to the new Cabela’s in Albuquerque to witness a massive amount of hunting enthusiasts out ready for the sales. We didn’t stay long.

This year, we started Thanksgiving morning with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and punctuated the day with eye drops for Lin and me. Lin is recovering from his second cataract surgery and had a great experience with both but still needs eye drops.

Lin & Larada wish you a Happy Thanksgiving after pizza
Lin & Larada with her sore eye!

After our pizza—really cheese breadsticks shaped like a pizza—I snuggled down on the sofa in my favorite handmade afghan—a rainbow-colored creation from my Mom’s nibble fingers. A content time of relaxation with Jesse curled around my feet!

Larada Relaxing on the Sofa with Jesse Warming Her Feet!

We watched the two football games, cheering on our teams we’d picked in a football pool Lin runs. It felt really strange not to have the third game in the evening, but we survived!

After a light dinner, Lin called me out to see the Christmas lights he’d put up a couple weeks ago on the garage—the Christmas season officially started at the Miller’s house. We also began another holiday tradition we love: we started watching Christmas movies on Amazon Prime. We both enjoy the predictable plots and the celebrations of regional traditions.

As I look back over the day, it truly was a blessed Thanksgiving Day! Yes, we didn’t have all the trimmings we normally have, but we enjoyed each other and our crazy traditions.

Jesse helping me Type!
Jesse Helping Me Type This!

As I worked on this blog post, my cat, Jesse, sat partially on my lap as I typed this out on my laptop. I didn’t think I would be able to do this post this morning. I had a horrible setback with my eye. When I got up and walked into the bathroom, the sunlight hit my eye, and I recoiled with the pain, but I couldn’t get away from it quickly enough because of the wide window and the location of the sun. By the time I grabbed a Kleenex, I had some blood in my tears—not good! I have had major pain in my eye all day.

So after this mishap, I spent the morning very low-keyed and with limited technology, but I couldn’t miss communicating with you.

I’ve thought a lot about how much the coronavirus changed this holiday for so many—the sacrifice many people made for the safety of others and themselves. My family followed suit and celebrated separately. Yes, it was different—pizza and lots of eye drops, but it’s onward to Christmas!

How did you spend your Thanksgiving this year? Was it different? The same? Let me know!

~Visit my blog post from last week:

Merry Christmas from Flippo


~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo and Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”:


~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me and my books:

~ Visit my Etsy Shop for 25% off individual paperback titles. Good until December 20, 2020. Here’s the coupon link:

Coronavirus · Dancing · Gratitude · My Thoughts · Recovery

Grateful Now? Why?


Why grateful now? The coronavirus has ruined plans for most of 2020, and now threatens to affect Thanksgiving plans! Many have died or lost family or friends. Irreparable losses! Cancellations, shelter-in-place, a world turned upside down! Is gratitude even possible in 2020?

For me, gratitude changes everything, but I’m not talking about an unrealistic Pollyanna attitude. Gratitude is a paradigm shift—a fractional shift one direction or the other off of the coronavirus to a larger, more glorious world.

So why is gratitude important now? For me, it’s an attitude that changes my perspective. I can focus on the negative, an easy choice. So the chaos and horror of the pandemic take over, and I obsess about today’s totals. Seeing what’s wrong comes naturally. Gratitude asks me to dig deeper and take a different route. Personally, I’ve had minimal losses, yet it has taken its toll on me but nothing like many with gigantic losses.

So what’s the power of gratitude? I concentrate on the positive, what’s right with the world, what I love about my life and suddenly I feel different!

The best way to be grateful: write a gratitude list. I learned about this tool in recovery. How do you do that? List two, five, ten things I’ve grateful for. Start small and increase as you practice this. In doing this, I take the focus off the problem and celebrate the solution.

Gratitude list

On November 19, 2020 here’s my gratitude list:

1. My sobriety

2. My God

3. My husband, Lin

4. My brother, Bub

5. My health

6. My family

7. My friends

8. My cat, Jesse

9. Our family ranch

10. My love of dancing

Today I sit in the waiting room at my husband, Lin’s eye doctor. He sits in an adjacent room, having his second cataract surgery in a month or so. The success of the first one prepared him for today’s ordeal. His natural grateful spirit often shows me the power of gratitude for the seemingly small things. His positive attitude contributed to the success of the other surgery, so I know the same thankful attitude will affect the outcome of this one.

Okay, it’s your turn! For what are you grateful? If you name someone specifically, be sure and tell he/she made your gratitude list today! I’d love to hear what you are grateful for during these hard times.

~My other current blog post, “Poetic View: Nine Months Later,” faces life after nine months with the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus · My Thoughts · poetry

Poetic View: Nine Months Later

Nine months later—exhausted

Nine months later! The world stands in disbelief of this current coronavirus’ surge! Is it the second wave or the third wave? I’ve lost count. Life continues but nothing is the same. I’ve changed my hairstyle. Covid-19 fatigue has become a reality for many, and as I contemplate my old life, I wonder?

Before coronavirus pandemic (BCP), I visited my favorite stylist every six weeks, and I loved his magic—a very sculptured hairdo, but I haven’t seen him since February. Why? For fourteen years before becoming a teacher, I was a beautician, so with my skills, I have trimmed the hair around my face and spiked the top, but I can’t cut the back easily.

After all this over, am I going back to my BCP hairstyle? Read my poem to find out.

My Hairstyles Before and After the Coronavirus Pandemic

November 10, 2020

BCP—Before Coronavirus Pandemic

            My stylish haircut

                        Manicured and neat

                        Six weeks regular appointment

                                    Worn spiked and short for seventeen years

The same stylist for years

            Slowly moved me into an isometric style

                        Super short on the left side

                                    Cut over my ear

Longer on the right side

                        Cropped close in the back

                        A strand of hair left longer on the left side

                                    In the back

At first I said, “No way!”

            But I gradually changed my mind.

I love this drastic statement!




                        “I’m different!”

Add to this

            Hot tamale red hair color

                        Started seven years ago

            Another strong statement





ACP—After Coronavirus Pandemic

            No formal haircut

                        For eight months

            No visit with Mark, my stylist

                        No laughter

                        No exchange of heartfelt topics

I am a beautician

            Have been since 1973!

So, to compensate, I’ve cut my own hair

            Around my face

            I’ve spiked the top

            Combed the longer hair

                        In the back

                        Up to my spiked top

                                    Like so many years ago

                         For Farrah Fawcett’s long shag,

                                    Popular during the 1970s.

Hair—I now have hair!

            Nine months later

“My tail” has grown

            shoulder length

I catch myself fiddling

            With it,


My reflection in the mirror

            I see curls


                                    Lots of them,

                                                An abundance!

Yes, the coronavirus changed


This last nine months

            Forced me to stop

                                    To slow down

                                                To change

So, I want my hair

            To reflect the change!

I’m no longer short-haired and manicured!

I’m still spiked

            But curly



                                                Not manicured



Also, these nine months of the stress and strain of the coronavirus pandemic has caused a phenomenon called “Covid-19 fatigue” for many. Here’s my thoughts:

Nine months later

Suffering from Covid-19 Fatigue

November 10, 2020

I’m tired!


Days of endless counts

            Record cases

                        So many deaths

                                    Serious, critical cases

Multiple concerns

The world

The United States

New Mexico

Swings, dips and dives

            On this rollercoaster ride

                        We’re on!

An apparent low

            After the first wave

                        A respite

                                    An optimistic view

                                                Of the future

Is it over?

Then the next wave

            The surge

Then the next

            I’ve lost count!

I’m tired


                        Worn out!

Personal choices

            For safety


                                    No dancing

                                                No face-to-face interaction

                                                            With friends

                                                No travel

                                                No break

Just the constant

            Staying home!

During the summer

            Lin’s garden provided

                        A respite

                        A paradise

                                    To distract

Luscious time outside



            Enjoying the warmth

                        The flowers

                                    The birds

The cold weather forced us


The mundane repeat of

            Every day

                        Not bored; I have too much to do

                                    Just tired of the same,


One trip to our family ranch in late August

            Since March

Restrictions stopped that!

Cancelations of

            Favorite square and round dance festivals

The virus surges

Winter and colder temperatures crowd in

            On me.           

                        I’m tired


An ah-ha moment

            I’ve held my breath

                        For nine months:

Lin and I have not gotten it

                        We’ve stayed healthy

                                    So far.

Yet, I’m tired of

            The stress

                        The fear

                                    The unknown

                                                The stupidity of


Will it end?

            Will we be able to resume life as usual soon?

                        When can I breathe normally again?

                                    In a month, two, or four?

                                                I’m tuckered out for sure!

In response to the duration of this pandemic, I stated to friends, “I want my old life back.”

One woman’s wise answer surprised me, “I don’t! I want to take what I’ve learned during the pandemic and make a lasting change!”

Here’s my thoughts:

Stop the rush nine months later

Do I Want My Old Life Back?

November 10, 2020

“I want my old life back,”

            I voiced to friends.

A response of one thoughtful woman

            Dazed me,

                        “I don’t want my old life back.

                                    I want to savor what I’ve learned and apply it.”

Her answer jarred me!

            Do I really want my old life back?

I miss my rich life





                        A positive lifestyle I’d chosen.

Looking back, I realized more

A life of


            Set schedule


A life of




A life of



             Extensive preparation

             Cat sitter for Jesse

             My travel list checked and rechecked

                                    Then the return

A life of constant




A life of. . .

These nine months

            Stopped me

                        In my tracks

                                    A total change!

Now my life is

            Daily Cribbage games

                        During breakfast

            Three shared meals

            Simple evenings

At home

Now my life is

            Leisure mornings

                        Lingering over my daily Quiet Time

            Finishing books

                        Repeated readings


                                                New discoveries

            Finally finishing

                        Long-standing To dos!

Now my life is

            Lin, my husband



                                                Hot tub time

                                                            Deepened love

            Jesse, my cat

                        Daily brushings

                                    Daily lap time in front of the TV

                                                Constant presence

Now my life is


            No pressure

            Finally feels like

                        I’m retired!

So, what I want to do

            When we return to our more normal life

Bring my relaxed atmosphere and attitude

            To my new life

Give up our hectic lifestyle

Keep closer to home!

After nine months, coronavirus surges.

Nine months and my life has changed forever! How has your life changed? Have you realized something special? Do you want to return to your life as it was or something different?

~Visit my blog from last week about Marsahll Flippo and Día de los Muertos:

Cover for Just Another Square Dance Caller



~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me and my books:

~ Visit my Etsy Shop for 25% off individual paperback titles. Good until December 20, 2020. Here’s the coupon link: