family · My Thoughts

A Mother-in-Law? Two I Cherished!

Grief at the loss my of my mother-in-law

During my life, I have not had the stereotypical mother-in-law. My two precious mother-in-laws have blessed me. My first, Lucy Prichard, became my spiritual mother, and my last one, Betty Daunt, healed not only my spirit but my body and soul. This tribute focuses on Betty because she died a couple of weeks ago.

I just attended the memorial service for Betty Daunt last Tuesday, January 18, 2022. I cried deeply that day, knowing I had such profound grief. At the service, one of her daughters hugged me, crying and said, “Mom thought of you like a daughter.” I knew that to be true, and I cried.

How Betty Affected Me

In 1993, I became deathly ill and doctors couldn’t explain what was wrong. After returning home after a ten-day stay in the hospital, Betty offered to do a weekly massage with no charge and I saw my brother-in-law’s partner for weekly acupuncture appointments. I left the hospital not able to go to the bathroom; after one week of these dual appointments I could go. Betty continued the weekly massages for months until I got on my feet again. I continued receiving massages from her for almost thirty years.

I divorced Betty’s son in 1994 and continued to see Betty monthly because she was my massage therapist. She handled the divorce admirably, seldom ever mentioning her son to me. And I continued to think of her as my mother-in-law. Because we had been close before the divorce, we kept up our relationship with my massage appointment and many dinners out and evenings at Popejoy Theater.

Betty filled every time out with her with lots of laughter and joy. I still hear her infectious giggle, which truly was a titter.

But Betty went beyond fun. She touched me deeply and respected my body in her massages, bringing new life to the wounded areas, especially focusing on the hurt little girl’s pain I had carried for my lifetime.

Massage by my mother-in-law

When she massaged me, I got to the point when Betty flipped me over on my stomach, I fell sleep, a deep renewing sleep and only woke when she finished.

Foot massage by my mother-in-law

Early in her treating me, I memorized all of her movements and areas she concentrated on—and yelped like a wounded pup when she did foot reflexology on my feet and hit one of my sensitive sinus points. Betty used a pencil to touch the various points on my feet, and I swore she dug into those areas until I watched her treat my ex-husband’s feet. She did not.

After every massage, Betty served me a cup of water and encouraged me to go home and not touch my computer. She knew I worked overtime on my computer.

With her hilarious sense of humor, Betty trained me to jiggle my breasts to avoid breast cancer. During each massage, she’d ask, “Have you jiggled her breasts today?” I laughed and promised her I had!

After Mom died in 2013, Betty consoled. She spent an hour before my treatment holding me and crying with me over my major loss. She loved my parents and enjoyed her trips to Branson, Colorado, and to our ranch. My favorite memory of her there: as Dad drove out of the canyon up a steep four-wheel-drive trail, Betty dove to the floor and said when we topped out, “Next time, I’m going to walk!”

During my massage and any time we were together, Betty shared her spiritual path and wisdom. She invited me to attend a conference in 1992 for Alternative Healers. We saw Deepak Chopra and Wayne Dyer. What a day that was for both of us and we often talked about the influence that day had on our spiritual paths.

A few years ago, Betty stopped doing massages, and I tried other massage therapists, but they didn’t compare. I haven’t had a massage in a couple years, and interestingly, I’ve had major sinus and stomach issues since. I wonder???

Betty always challenged me in all my thinking about self-care and repeated each time as we grow older, we need to stretch daily. Then she would ask if I did. She stayed on top of my health in all ways.

For our last time together, I joined Betty and her daughter at Betty’s grandson’s baseball game in the spring of 2021. We laughed and caught up on each other’s lives. What a wonderful time we had together. After that, we only talked on the phone.

As I ponder Betty’s influence on me over the last thirty years, I realize how big it was—much bigger than a mother-in-law relationship. Because of her, I thought outside of the Western medical world and sought massage and acupuncture. I took herbs and additives she suggested. I witnessed a devote Catholic woman who spoke freely of her beliefs and her willingness to embrace a wide spiritual path.

Finally, I have spoken mostly about my mother-in-law, Betty Daunt. Lucy Prichard touched my life deeply too, but I needed to honor the place Betty played in my life. Thank you, Betty, for your deep love of life, health and me!


~Do you listen to podcasts? Here are three Podcasts with my interviews about my new book & some Flippo stories:

~Buy a copy of Flippo’s biography on my website: https://www.laradasbooks.com or at Amazon.

~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? ad

~Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

Dancing · family · Friends · Holidays · My Thoughts

New Year’s Eve Memories & Shenanigans!

Happy New Year Ev'es

New Year’s Eve 2021 is here! I always get nostalgic thinking of past New Year’s Eves, so I’d like to share some with you.

New Year’s Eve With Bub & Lela

My brother, Bub, and his wife, Lela were my favorite New Year’s Eve partiers! For a couple of years, we went out to a bar in Clearlake Oaks, California and danced to country and western music. They followed one band and became good friends with the whole band and their spouses, so it felt like family.

My sister-in-law, the perfect playmate, dressed up with me, and we sprayed glitter in our hair and out the door we went. After doing that a couple of years, we became known as the “Glitter Girls.”

When the bar closed, we often went to someone’s house to continue the party—being in our early thirties, we had the energy to stay up late, drink a lot and keep going. One year, we came home after the party at someone’s house and went through all their pictures. We finally went to bed around 5:00 AM.

One year, I rode out to California with a friend on Amtrak. We woke up New Year’s Eve morning in the party car, and we had a party day traveling to Sacramento.

Square & Round Dancing on This Night

When I started square dancing, I loved to dance on New Year’s Eve with the tradition of ending the year with a dance, then starting the new year with another one.

For a couple of years, my ex and I drove to Raleigh, North Carolina, to spend Christmas with his brother and then attend a round dance festival at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina that ended on New Year’s Eve. During the festival before the holiday, Charlie Lovelace and Wayne and Barbara Blackford taught us some gorgeous higher-level dances. I loved being on the beach, too.

I had gotten into the habit of calling Mom in Colorado on New Year’s Eve—so, not thinking, I called her from Myrtle Beach when we got back to our room to wish her a “Happy New Year.” I didn’t realize it was late in Colorado, but she didn’t blink an eye! She was so glad to hear from me.

For several years, my ex and I went to Green Valley, Arizona, for New Year’s Eve. They served a delicious sit-down dinner, and then we square and round danced. We have so many friends in Arizona; it was a delight to celebrate with them there.

After Lin and I got together, we celebrated many years at the Albuquerque Square Dance Center with our Albuquerque square dance family. They got into the habit of observing the New York time of celebrating the New Year at 10:00 PM, our time, so we became used to an earlier night on New Year’s Eve.

Unique Night for New Year’s Eve

The most unique New Year’s Eve was Marshall Flippo’s last square dance in Green Valley, Arizona in 2017. About twenty-five callers came from all over the United States to see their mentor and friend call his last dance.

Flippo called a fun-filled dance. During the night, I saw groups of callers watching him on stage, emotions mixed for everyone.

During the amazing night, Flippo handpicked his music. He sang, “Another Square Dance Caller.” He shared a heartfelt thank you to everyone in attendance and ended his final dance with the song, “I’m Leaving Here a Better Man.” I’m sure that’s how he felt that night!

Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo, (2020): 327.

What made that New Year’s Eve dance so unique—anyone there witnessed the end of an era with Flippo ending his square dance calling career. I felt honored to be there!

The Last Few Years on New year’s Eve

For a variety of health reasons of ours, we’ve been at-home the last few years on New Year’s Eve—not my idea of how to spend this holiday. And yes, during the pandemic last year we watched TV to ring in the new year.

Finally,

I enjoy celebrating the end of the current year and the anticipatory feelings of the new one coming. Putting on a silly paper hat, blowing a horn and throwing up confetti make me feel celebratory, but I love to observe this festive night dancing and being with friends.

Do you celebrate New Year’s Eve? If so, how? What is your favorite New Year’s Eve memory?


Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

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Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

EXCITING NEWS HERE!

Christmas · Christmas · family · Friends · Holidays · My Thoughts

The Day After Christmas—Now What?

Girl sitting sad the day afer Christmas

The day after Christmas is here! Santa needs a vacation. Now, what? As a child, I focused on playing with my new toys on this day. As an adult, what do I do?

Looking Back

Looking back on my Christmas preparations, I created a calendar for a family gift. I wrote, designed and published our annual Christmas newsletter. Then, I sent cards to friends far and near. During Advent, I took part in a group who read Richard Rohr’s Preparing for Christmas, then we shared comments and remarks on WhatsApp because we had an international group participating. What a rewarding group that was!

Christmas Eve

Lin and Larada on Christmas Eve
Lin and Larada on Christmas Eve

I had an errands day in Albuquerque, getting a prescription and some groceries. At 5:00 pm, Lin and I virtually attended my church’s, Hope in the Desert Episcopal Church, Christmas Eve service. It started with “La Posada,” a Mexican tradition of the pregnant Mary and Joseph going house to house and being denied any lodging. The last home welcomes them in. In its simplicity, it was beautiful.

After the service, we ate Costa Rican tamales from Lin’s ex-wife and watched two traditional Christmas movies—“Scrooge” and “It’s a Beautiful Life.” Then we watched a contemporary movie on Amazon Prime with a strong Christian message.

Christmas Day

On Christmas morning, we opened our gifts and ate blueberry empanadas from Pastian’s Bakery. After that we played two Cribbage games. Lin worked hard so I wouldn’t be skunked on Christmas Day—what a loving man! We ate a late lunch—honey-baked ham, cheesy cheddar potatoes, asparagus, and applesauce. Later, we enjoyed pecan pie. Lin added eggnog ice cream.

From that point on, Lin watched the two football games scheduled for Christmas day. That’s always shocking to me to have football at Christmas. I made a big batch of popcorn balls—my favorite Christmas goodies. I neglected to get my traditional baking in this year.

During the day, we both called friends we knew having a hard time this holiday: one who lost her dad this year and was alone, one who recently lost her husband of fifty-three years and another long-time friend in an assisted living facility. Sharing those calls made our day! We are so blessed to have each other!

The Day After Christmas

So, here we are the day after Christmas. Usually, mega commercials for after-Christmas sales dominate our TV viewing. I have seen none! Probably because the stores’ Christmas items were picked over weeks ago. I went to our grocery store on Friday, and there was hardly anything available. Is this because of shortages or supply chain irregularities because of the pandemic? Unusual, no matter what. Mom used to love to go to these sales, looking for great buys!

I’ve always enjoyed this day. As a child, I familiarized myself with my new toy. As a high school student, we stayed up late each night and watched Johnny Carson and later Jay Leno on the Tonight Show. Later, I savored the time with Dad and Mom, with stories and trips to the ranch. After my niece moved to Texas and came regularly to Branson, she arrived this day, and we looked forward to a few days of loud games at the round table with laughter and stories and trips to the ranch looking for wildlife.

Extended Christmas Season

Twelve Days of Christmas - day after Christmas

For me, just because Christmas Day is behind me, the Christmas season isn’t over. My church celebrates the “Twelve Days of Christmas” which ends on January 6 at Epiphany, “a Christian festival held on January 6 in honor of the coming of the three kings to the infant Jesus Christ.”

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/epiphany

So, I keep wearing my Christmas outfits and enjoy extending the holiday. We don’t take our tree down until after Epiphany. I love this longer holiday season.

Day after Christmas

Many people have a big letdown on the day after Christmas—holiday expectations not met, memories of better times haunted by the changes today, etc. You fill in the blank with whatever weighs on you today.

Games - Day after Christmas

This year, on this day after Christmas, try something different. Call someone who may need cheering up, family or friend. Ask a family member about what Christmas was like when they were children, listen and ask questions to draw out more specifics. Dust off your stack of games and have a marathon game day. Tonight, make up some hot chocolate, grab your coat and hat to look at Christmas decorations in your area.

Finally,

The day after Christmas has arrived—enjoy it!

What are you doing today? Do you do anything traditional? If so, what?

Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? Christmas meme

Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

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Christmas · Christmas · family · Friends · Memoirs · My Thoughts

Homemade Christmas—I Love It!

It's a homemade Christmas!

Homemade Christmas decorations and gifts have always given me a lot of pleasure in the making! From knitting stockings to plastercraft figurines to annual family calendars, I have made quite a variety.

Homemade Stockings

I started knitting in 4-H when I was ten years old and still enjoy this productive hobby. Many years ago, I found a fantastic stocking pattern and made my first. Then I branched out, making my nieces and nephew their own with their names on them. I also did great-nieces and nephew. Recently, I have made a great-nephew one.

I didn’t limit my production of Christmas stockings to just family. Because of my close relationship, I made my best friends’ children each one, and over the years, I have knitted so many I do not know how many!

To make these colorful holiday stockings, I always use red, white and green yarn or variegated yarn, but I don’t plan out the color scheme until I start. I have to graft out the name so it will fit on half of the stocking, so that takes some designing for sure. You can see my name almost doesn’t fit. I learned from mine a trick to make long names to fit!

Homemade knitted Christmas stockings
Stockings I knitted

What a truly wonderful experience it is to finish it, then add my label that says, “From the knitting needles of Larada Horner-Miller.”

Plastercraft Figurines

As a young married couple in 1973, we didn’t have any Christmas decorations and not much money to buy them, so I found out about plastercraft, “. . .similar to ceramics, but there is no firing or kiln necessary. Simply use easy water based acrylic paints.”

https://www.plastercraft.com/#:~:text=Plastercrafts%20are%20similar%20to%20ceramics,easy%20water%20based%20acrylic%20paints.

The first year I made Santa and love the whimsical look he has on his face with his wink. The next year I added Mrs. Santa. Over the years, I have protected my favorite Christmas plastercraft figurines in my many moves. After Christmas, I always stored them on a shelf in a spare bedroom to make sure they survived any storage problem. So when Lin wanted to store them in trunks in a storage shed, I panicked, but he wraps them up carefully and they have fared well these last ten years.

My other plaster craft figurine is a Christmas tree with lights. Every year, I love putting the little light bulbs in the spots and marvel at how pretty it is lit up.

So almost fifty years later, I continue to enjoy these three items as they remind me of our many years together.

Homemade Annual Family Calendar

A couple years after my dad died, one of my team teachers, Rebecca Betzen, reached out to my mom and put together a calendar filled with a variety of pictures from my childhood to my graduation dinner for my master’s degree! Several pictures high‐lighted favorite places on our family ranch. Those pictures ignited fond memories as my mom and I flipped through the pages, and I needed that. The gift thrilled me so much that I decided to do the same thing for my own family the next year. The recipient list grew over the years, so I added my brother and sisters, my nieces and nephew, cousins and great nieces and nephews. And it’s a tradition I continued until the pandemic. We weren’t together in 2020, so I have no pictures to highlight.

Each year I highlight whoever had a special event that year, like graduations or weddings. If a family member died the previous year, I featured him or her on the cover. I also featured our family ranch on the cover of several 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—front cover!

Over the years, these calendars have become keepsakes, logging the key events of each year.

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

Larada Horner-Miller, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? (2021): 217-218.

So I didn’t make a calendar in 2020, but it’s back in 2021 and here’s the cover:

2022 Horner calendar cover - homemade

Finally,

I love making homemade Christmas decorations and gifts. As I set out my decorations I’ve made, I get nostalgic remembering sitting at the table so long ago and making them. With each stitch I knit or photo I place, I have the joy of thinking about the gift and the person I made it for. How about you? Do you make anything for Christmas gifts? If so, what?


Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? Christmas meme - homemade

Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

EXCITING NEWS HERE!

Press release for Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?
family · God · My Thoughts

Advice I’d Give the Teenage Larada

Advice

Wise advice to a receptive spirit can make all the difference! The bad news—teenagers think they know everything and rarely listen. My teenager, Larada, has a receptive spirit today and agrees to listen to the wisdom of the crone Larada. For the first time, I’m using the prompt suggested by the Ultimate Blog Challenge and feel it has lots of possibility.

First, my top advice

Be yourself! As a teenager, I got so consumed by the popular view of my friends. Our jeans had to be long enough to touch the ground in the back, and we had to wear Wranglers. Once Dad bought me Levis, and I hated them. I had to have long straight hair and wore it parted on the side. I had a little curl on one side, so mine never hung straight.

By being quiet and not being authentic, people never really knew the real me because I didn’t share her. It took years to find her, but the “me” I found is delightful, energetic and a strong leader. Trust yourself!

Second piece of advice

My social life isn’t everything! Almost every Saturday night found the Horner family at a local dance, so my normal was an active social life. Then, when a snowstorm hit and we had to stay home, I mourned the loss of not being out and about.

I continued this mindset for most of my adult life, but the coronavirus pandemic forced me to learn balance in that area. Balance provides time with others, then time alone to become acquainted with the most important person in the world, me!

Third nugget of advice

Teenager listening to advic

Not having a boyfriend is okay! AS a teenager, I obsessed about boys, boyfriends, not having one, having one but thought he was the wrong one!

After periods of being single, I realized the importance of being okay as a solo. Then when I remarried, I had lots to offer to the relationship. You are enough!

Fourth snippet of advice

Be proud of your heritage. I remember being ridiculed when we went to Trinidad, Colorado, to shop. The “towny” kids called us “Sh*t kickers” which embarrassed me. Over the last seven years, I have written six books and five of them celebrate my heritage and family. Embrace your history!

Fifth morsel of advice

Don’t sweat the small stuff! Younger Larada worried about everything, spending too much time focussing on the “what ifs?”

“Let go and let God” had become a mantra of mine today, a slogan from recovery.

Last bit of advice

Focus on your spiritual life! As a teenager, I believed in Jesus, but my faith took a backseat. Popularity and peer pressure ruled my life, causing me to make life choices not centered in my faith.

Today, I have a strong faith, seasoned over the years with lots of pain, disappointments, and struggles. As I processed all of this, I leaned in closer and closer to my God.

Finally,

Teenager thinking about advice

The teenage Larada did as well as she could with her limited knowledge. As a crone, I offer my advice, Larada, for your best!

Do you talk to the younger you? If so, what do you say?


Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme

Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

Cyber Monday/Black Friday Sales

Check out Cyber Week Specials at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft, on select books! 40% off of select Individual books, 40% off of select bundles and 50% off of digital copies! These books make the perfect gift for your friends and family.

family · Friends · My Thoughts

Two Special Friends I’ve Lost: Part 1

Three friends -one with umbrella. Two Special Friends

Two special friends came to mind today as I pondered who to write about in all my friends I have across the United States. These two precious ladies came up: Candy McMillan Vargas and Kathi Raver Miller. Both have died from cancer, but their influence in my life lingers years after their deaths. They both helped me soar and succeed in ways I never imagined! Kathi died in 2009, and Candy died in 2011. Here’s how Candy touched me so deeply, and tomorrow I will tell Kathi and my story!

Candy McMillan Vargas

Candy was born on July 8, 1952, and my brother, Harold (Bub) was born May 25, 1952. Our mothers enjoyed being young pregnant women together, telling hilarious stories about getting their car stuck in the mud with their enormous bellies. Candy’s dad and my dad were best friends. So, we grew up together.

For many years, Candy and I were the only girls in Branson, Colorado, a small ranching town. So, I remember my early playtime with her—donning our mom’s dresses, hats, and shoes. Then we threw purses over our shoulders. Those female items transported us to be Ethel and Lucy for sure.

So much of my childhood memories center on Candy and her family. They owned the grocery store in Branson, so we visited often. Also, back then, people visited each other’s houses in the evening.

Candy moved away about the time she was twelve, but we didn’t lose contact. One morning she arrived at our doorstep at 6:00 AM, having just jumped off the train to come and see us. We felt like she was family.

We ended up going to Trinidad State Junior College together her last year, then she moved to Pueblo, Colorado. Candy was maid-of-honor at my first and second wedding. I think I exhausted her out for the next couple.

She married Michael Vargas in Pueblo, and I was her matron-of-honor. Then they moved to Denver, just a few short blocks from where we lived. I celebrated with her and Michael when their children, Sonia and Shane, were born.

When I graduated in 1986 from Colorado State University, Mom and Dad hosted a major shindig at a bar I frequented often, and Candy catered the delicious meal. She also partied like a crazy lady with me to celebrate my big day.

Candy listened to all my woes about my first husband and our marriage. After our divorce and my graduation from Fort Collins, Colorado, I lived with her and Michael for six months to get established in Denver. She always came to my rescue.

When I moved to Raton, New Mexico, she continued having me cut her hair every six weeks and lined up enough friends to get perms and cuts to make my trip profitable. (I was a beautician for 14 years before becoming a teacher.).

In 2005, when Lela, my sister-in-law died, we had the funeral and burial in Branson. Candy brought a tent to set up out in the backyard because of the hot July weather and helped Mom and I handle the meal after the service.

Mom and I with our Team Candy t-shirts on. Two Special Friends
Mom and I with our Team Candy t-shirts on.

Diagnosed with kidney cancer, a group of her friends bought these “Team Candy” t-shirts to support her. She loved the idea.

Candy died September 13, 2011, and I had been experiencing some strange health episodes. The night she died, I had one of the worst ones yet. Needing to call 911, I went to the hospital. They found nothing identifiably wrong, but my doctor strongly suggested I not go to her funeral on September 19. So, I didn’t, but I took the day off from work and had a private ceremony I prepared at home by myself. That broke my heart not to honor her by attending! I will always regret not saying goodbye formally to her and her family I love so much.

Larada & Candy, Cripple Creek for Larada's birthday. Two special friends
Larada & Candy, Cripple Creek for Larada’s birthday

Candy’s hilarious sense-of-humor, her delicious home-cooked meals and her deep friendship remind me daily of my dear friend. I still see her sparkling eyes and hear her contagious laughter and know that I am a better person for having known her and loved by her. Thank you, Candy, for everything you did.

Do you have a best friend? Have you thanked him or her lately?

Here’s the Gratitude Log again if you need it. I shared a couple days ago.


Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

Check out Cyber Week Specials at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft, on select books! 40% off of select Individual books, 40% off of select bundles and 50% off of digital copies! These books make the perfect gift for your friends and family.

Dancing · family · My Thoughts

My Family—How I Appreciate You!

Thank you latte to my family

My family rates high on my gratitude list, and I’d like to focus on them and how they have supported me over the years. I have an extensive extended family, so I won’t be able to give the credit due to everyone. So, I’m going to focus on my parents and my brother.

My Parents

Dad & Mom's Wedding Picture - my family
Dad & Mom’s Wedding Picture

My parents encouraged me in whatever endeavor I pursued. Throughout my childhood in Branson, they attended church and school programs. They cheered me on as a cheerleader. They celebrated my academic accomplishments when I earned salutatorian of my graduating class. Mom worked hard at school to support my class activities, especially my senior year when she was our room mother and baked many pies for the concession stand for the basketball games. In fact, that’s when I learned to bake pies alongside her.

 When I wanted to become a beautician, Mom and Dad drove the fifty miles to Trinidad every week for me to practice my new skills on her. Then, when my state board tests finally came, Dad and Mom drove to Denver, and she endured the grueling day of being my model.

Later, they had to watch me do some craziness before recovery and still didn’t desert me. When I went to Sexual Trauma treatment in Los Lunas, New Mexico in 1993, they attended Family Week and took part in my healing intimately there.

I so appreciate their love of dancing and remember many times together at either country-western dances or square dances. I loved to dance with Dad, but when they danced together, I watched with amazement and pride. They glided across the floor as one, after dancing together for nearly fifty years. We shared this unique activity together, first with Dad being the square dance caller for our 4-H club. Then my brother and I often traveled to dances with our parents in our high school and college days and for our adult lives as well!

Since I have always lived close to them, we traveled together many summers and enjoyed our adventures. Mom and I always teased Dad about driving long days and not allowing us to soak in the swimming pools because we arrived at the motel after they closed. And he never changed!

As they aged, I had the privilege of being a caregiver for both of them, and I did it with honor, remembering how each of them had taken care of their aging parents.

My Brother

My brother and I, August 2021
My brother and I, August 2021

Next, my brother, Harold, who I call Bub, has been a major player in my life. He’s thirteen months older than me, so Mom and Dad raised us like twins. I loved playing Cowboys and Indians with him, then he would play dolls with me and made me promise not to tell anyone.

We supported each other with our interest areas in school: he played basketball and baseball. I was a cheerleader. During high school, he danced a little.

When we went to college, we both attended Trinidad State Junior College, and I shared his last year there with him. At this point in his life, he had become a dancer and what a dancer he became! We traveled all over southeastern Colorado and northeastern New Mexico, attending dances. Often, we would dress in the same colors. We danced together so much people who didn’t know we were brother and sister thought we were a dating couple.

When Bub married, I fell in love with his wife, Lela and we became close like sisters. The two of them blessed me deeply in a special way. I always wanted children but didn’t have any. They knew how much I wanted children, so they share their two daughters and son with me.

As a father, I watched him care deeply for his children and grandchildren. He truly is the best Dad.

Our hearts broke in 2005 when Lela died from breast cancer. I marveled at how my brother cared for her during her chemotherapy. He drove her and sat with her for every treatment. He took care of her at home with the aid of his youngest daughter, Cheryl, at long as possible.

Today, we co-manage the family ranch we inherited, and it is a pleasure to work with him. We agree on the management of this precious piece of land we love. He lives in Branson now, and when I’m visiting, we love to ride around the ranch and look for wildlife and reminisce.

He’s an ardent supporter of my writing and buys every book as soon as possible. We also share another passion: we’re both lifelong Bronco fans, texting during a game and then talking after a game about what happened.

Finally, my extended family goes out to my grandparents on both sides, aunts and uncles, and cousins and second cousins. I have a rich heritage, but I wanted to concentrate today on these three people—Mom, Dad and Bub! Thanks for making me the woman I am today!

Here’s the Gratitude Log again if you need it. I shared a couple days ago.

Who in your family is on your gratitude list? Why? Did you let them know?


Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme

Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

Check out Cyber Week Specials at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft, on select books! Individual books, bundles and digital copies! These books make the perfect gift for your friends and family.

Dancing · family · Gratitude · My Thoughts

Lin Miller Tops My Gratitude List

Lin Miller in his kilt
Lin in his kilt

My gratitude list is long, but Lin Miller, my husband, tops it for people in my life. We just celebrated our tenth anniversary, and what a ride it has been!

We come from two full lives: a small town New Jersey boy and a country girl from Colorado. As a boy, he loved to hide in the swamp and watch people walk right past him in his favorite hiding place.

And he’s still a boy at heart! He starts each day with a song and a smile. Often, he and my cat, Jesse, have a “Meow-fest.” They go back and forth and back and forth—what fun!

Why I Appreciate Lin

Lin proposing to me, Christmas 2010.
Lin Proposing to me Christmas 2010
  1. Lin asked me to marry him on Christmas Day 2010 in front of my mom and Aunt Willie. I will never forget his thoughtfulness of including those two precious women. Amazingly, Mom snapped a picture of him and me when he went down on his knee—shocking!
  2. His outrageous sense of humor amuses me every day. Some days, I wake up a little down and out. His quick wit catches me by surprise and I feel a deep laugh escape, and my world view changes immediately. He sings rhyming ditties he makes up on the spot, so I kid him about being a poet and not knowing it. That’s a joke to him because he doesn’t like poetry.
  3. Lin majored in history at Rutgers University and sees himself as an amateur historian. He’s also a voracious reader. I love history and relish our conversations about historical figures. His hunger for knowledge challenges me to learn more about Stalin, Churchill and other historical figures. As he reads his current book, often he shares the latest tidbit. Lately he’s been reading about Johnny Unitas and filling me in on his life.
  4. If you’re a Facebook friend, you’ve seen Lin’s gorgeous garden. When we first got married, he had three rose plants. Now he has over thirty and so many other flowers! I admire his dedication to gardening with an emphasis on plants that support birds, bees and hummingbirds. The upshot of living with an enthusiastic gardener: every morning, I look out the window to such an array of beautiful colors and plants and the wonder it provides.
  5. I love dancing with Lin. Before we got together, he did some round dancing (cued ballroom dancing). Since he knew how much I loved it, we danced weekly with our round dance instructor, and he improved drastically. He’s a natural, so it came easily to him.
  6. In 2013, Lin volunteered to be president of our square dance club, Duke City Singles and Doubles, a failing club with twenty-seven members. Through his daring leadership, he rejuvenated it with fun activities and a commitment to greeting every dancer every Friday night at our dances. When he quit in 2018, the club had grown to 92 members—what a feat!
  7. Lin is a football fanatic—a Philadelphia Eagles fan his whole life. I love football—a Denver Broncos’ fan. He runs a football pool with his best friend that he encouraged me to join, and what a kick we have! We talk football a lot around here. He’s so considerate. There’s one older guy in the pool who has computer trouble, so he calls Lin every week on Wednesday night about 7:00 PM to give Lin his picks. Lin patiently records them for him, visits with him and has a couple of laughs with him.
Collage of Lin and Larada, 10th Anniverary, 2021
Our 10th Anniversary Photo Shoot, 2021

Finally,

In reality, the list could go on! I think you can see how special he is! I truly thank God every day for this man in my life who makes each day an adventure!

Who tops your gratitude list for people in your life? Why?

Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

Check out Cyber Week Specials at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft, on select books! Individual books, bundles and digital copies! These books make the perfect gift for your friends and family.

family · God · Gratitude · My Thoughts · Recovery · Thanksgiving

Try Gratitude—I Challenge You!

Gratitude tuns what we have into enough

Try gratitude! My challenge to you is to be grateful this week—about all the blessings of your life. Thanksgiving always makes me think of gratitude. But do you really know what gratitude is? Have we heard it connected to Thanksgiving so often, it’s lost its meaning?

Positive psychology defines gratitude in a way where scientists can measure its effects, and thus argue that gratitude is more than feeling thankful: it is a deeper appreciation for someone (or something) that produces longer lasting positivity.


https://positivepsychology.com/gratitude-appreciation/

Gratitude changes people, attitudes and just about everything it comes into contact with! In recovery, I learned the power of gratitude. I often hear people comment about making a gratitude list. We have a phrase, an Attitude of Gratitude, I’ve heard often. For many, negativity supersedes positivity or gratitude habitually, so the habit has to be changed. And how to do you do that? Practice, practice, practice!

Gratitude Log

So, I created a Gratitude log to chart three things to be grateful for each day this week. Click here to download my Gratitude Log, and start today. It is a Word document, so you can record your list on your computer or tablet. Decide whether to do it in the morning or evening, then commit yourself to that time each day. Maybe put a reminder on your calendar on your phone or tablet.

Email Family Members and/or Friends

To go along with this log, if you are listing people, shoot them off an email. I provide a sample below. If that person doesn’t do email, drop a card in the mail. That would be a shock! Just imagine the double blessing it would be—to get mail from someone other than the ridiculous junk mail vendors and then to open it to a beautiful note about your thankfulness about him/her.

To make it easy for you this week, I know you’re busy, busy—copy this email and send it to people to brighten their holidays.

My Email Example

Dear (Name),

I have deemed this week to be Gratitude Week, and I wanted you to know you are on my list. As I focus on all the good things in my life, I think of you and here’s why:

  • Add one thing reason you are grateful for this person
  • Add one thing reason you are grateful for this person
  • Add one thing reason you are grateful for this person

Just know I love you dearly and felt like I needed to let you know. (Pass this email on to anyone and bless their day!)

My Gratitude for My Recovery & My God

Gratitude is the best attitude!

So, each day this week for the Ultimate Blog Challenge, I’m going to identify people, places and things I’ve grateful for.

My recovery, which led me back to my God, tops my gratitude list. After many years, I have been given, because of recovery, a life I could never had dreamed of. Because of recovery, I came back to a God of my understanding who blesses every day. I had turned my back on the God of my childhood and young adulthood for many years, but because recovery offered me a God I could work with, it all changed.

Finally,

I often need to add something to a holiday to ground me amid the insanity of our world. Being grateful always centers me once more as I head towards Thanksgiving and then Christmas.

So, can you join me in this challenge and be grateful this week? Email or write someone a note to let them know why you are grateful for them? Try it again next week and the week afterwards? What do you think? Let me know below.


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Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

Check out Cyber Week Specials at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft, on select books!

Dancing · family · My Thoughts · square dance

“Born Dancing”: More Poems

Dancing at Texas Stampede, Dallas, Texas
Dancing at Texas Stampede, Dallas, Texas
“Born dancing” describes me to the hilt! So, I wanted to share two poems which detail my birth and my love of square dancing. Here I reveal more of myself to you, my passion!

“She Was Born Dancing!”

On June 26, 1953, my folks left

their thirteen-month-old son with Millie,

the family babysitter,

to go to a square dance in Trinidad,

fifty miles away.

Mom danced one tip that night—

She was nine months pregnant

with me.

They left the dance early

feeling something was about to happen.

Early the next morning

Mom had labor pains

that made her stagger across the floor.

It was time!

The fifty-mile trip back to Trinidad

and the hospital

was made in record time.

At 10:30 a.m. I was born.

Dad went downtown to buy cigars

and ran into a fellow dancer

from the previous night.

Dad announced his good news—

a new baby girl!

Remembering Mom at the dance

the night before,

the only comment the stunned friend

had to make was,

“She was born dancing!”

Larada Horner-Miller, This Tumbleweed Landed, (2014): 9.


As an adult, I returned to square dancing in 1994 after an almost twenty-year lapse in dancing. This poem relates why I love to square dance.

Larada in Dance-A-Rama 2003 outfit. Born Dancing

Why We Square Dance—

Why I Dance

May 31, 2015

It’s a Friday night

            Or

                        A Saturday night

A dance night!

The week lasted for eons

            grueling

I had my work face on for five days

            and I kept going.

I finished this week

            Exhausted!

My family needs drained me

I am wilted,

            ready to dissolve into bed!

But it’s my dance night.

            I breathe deeply,

                        I know!

I select my square dance outfit.

            What do I feel like tonight?

                        Red or turquoise

                                    Southwest design or frilly lace?

The familiarity of my weekly routine

            takes over

Systematically, I put on my outfit

            As each layer goes on,

                                    my perspective and energy level changes!

First my hose

            With a deep breath, I release part of my stress

Then my pettipants

                        Oh my, it’s going—another deep breath

            my top and skirt

                        My goodness—a glimmer of hope

            my belt

                        A smile slowly crosses my lips

Next my matching petticoat and shoes

            Yes, I sigh with relief

Finally, my club badge

            To identify who I am—

            A square dancer!

A spray to finish my hair

            a touch of lip gloss

A final look in the mirror

A pirouette and a spin

            crinoline flowing

                        I am complete!

My exhaustion replaced with anticipation!

The drive to the dance hall

            becomes a time tunnel

                        a vacuum

                                    a timeless space

                                                void of the demands of this world

                                                            stress free

                                                                        relaxing

Either soft music in the background

            or

                        a compatible silence

            or

                        a casual conversation

A bridge between the world out there

            with its demands

and the dance world

            with its pleasures!

Friends greet me as I enter the dance hall—my dance family

The music starts

I step onto the dance floor

            and I am free!

                        The carefree child within me

                                    spins round and around

                                                claps her hands

                                                            and

                                                                        Shouts for joy!

                                                                        I am free!

                                                                                    The tip starts,

                                                                        and I am safe

                                                                        to spend two hours

                                                                                    In sheer joy and ecstasy!

I drop the world’s cares and concerns,

            at the door,

                        kicking them out of view!

So if you have problems in your world, join me

            and

                        leave them at the door!

If you are angry or sad

            The magic begins

                        when you show up

                                    and

                                                dress up!

            The music starts

                        and

                        I step onto the dance floor!

And then the real magic takes over!

Cares melt down my shoulders

            and flitter away on a breath

                        giving a lightness to my step

Sorrows cluster together

            and ride away on an angel’s wings.

Music playing

            I am surrounded by dear friends

I step onto the dance floor

            It is a safe place

                        and

                                    I am free!

That’s why I dance!


Born dancing has been my motto for life—many types of dancing but especially square dancing. It truly is my passion.

What is your birth story? What is your passion? Share your comments below.

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? mem

Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com