family · My Thoughts

Domestic Violence—My Experience!

Broken heart - domestic violence

Domestic violence is hard to understand and much harder to experience. For several weeks now, people across the United States followed the story of Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie. For those of us who are survivors of domestic violence, it brought up the horror we experienced all over again, igniting our PTSD. I know that our legal system supports Brian is innocent until proven guilty, but the facts resonated through my being, making me want to talk about this touchy subject that many want to ignore.

At the beginning of this week, a brave woman in a writing group shared her despair for Gabby and her personal experience, before we knew of Gabby’s death. I could have been Gabby and ended up dead, so here’s my story.

Stories matter - domestic violence

My Personal Domestic Violence Story

I experienced domestic violence at the hands of my first husband, starting in 1972 before we married, and it continued for most of our time together. We didn’t call it that then; in fact, there was no name for it. I never shared what he did to me with my family until many years after the fact.

During that spring, before we married, it started with him backhanding me for a perceived disobedience on my part. He was drunk. Then, he punched me in the stomach several times for not telling him where I was for an afternoon. Again, he had been drinking.

Next, the major horrific event happened. We were engaged, and he was ending his last year at Trinidad State Junior College. It was the Friday before his graduation and beer flowed freely all over campus. Because he was obnoxious when drinking, I had avoided him all morning. When I got back to campus after spending time with my parents, everyone I ran into told me he was looking for me. I found him and he was drunk—in the early afternoon.

After that, we walked back to the girls’ dormitory where I lived, arguing. About what? I’m sure he was quizzing me about where I had been—not doting on him. I took off my engagement ring and handed it back to him, disgusted with his drunkenness and controlling attitude. I wanted to end the insanity.

In a flurry of punches, kicks and pain, I hit the sidewalk. The next thing I remember I’m coming to and he has slipped the diamond ring back on my finger. Bent over me, he whispered in my ear, “You fell. We were messing around and you fell. That’s what you tell people” and ran off.

Right in front of the girls’ dorm! I looked up and saw groups of wide-eyed people gathered near the door who had witnessed his vicious attack. Blood covered my face and covered my clothes as my brother and best friend picked me up.

Then, they rushed me to our family doctor (before Urgent Care and easy Emergency Room access). I remember seeing people sitting in the waiting room gasp as I walked in. I passed a mirror and couldn’t see my face for the blood and my swollen nose. The nurse immediately took me to a room and cleaned up the blood. My family doctor came in and asked what happened.

Then, in the true form of a domestic violence victim, I responded, “I fell. My fiancé and I were wrestling, and I fell.” Deep down, I knew that was a lie. I knew he had beat the hell out of me, but those words came out automatically then and then again anytime someone questioned me.

After my cover-up, my doctor shook his head and instructed me to go to the hospital for an ex-ray of my nose. When we arrived, we ran into my fiancé with hands bandaged up. I gasped and recoiled. He broke my nose, cut my lip and I was black and blue from my shoulders down. He was being examined for his damaged hands, which he told people he had messed up punching headlights out of parked cars.

What I Did!

The insane part—Saturday morning I got up and had my hair fixed for the formal dance that night. I remember looking at my swollen face in the mirror, wondering what to do, but acting like nothing had happened out of the ordinary. I went to that dance that evening with him, my face swollen and black and blue—numb and lifeless in my beautiful pink dress.

On Monday, our families celebrated his and my brother’s graduation as if nothing happened. No one looked me in the eye and asked the hard question, and we didn’t offer any explanation. I acted as if nothing happened.

Yes, his violence continued throughout our marriage, but that event was the worst. After that I demanded he quit drinking around me, and he did for a while, but his dad always threw him a beer to drink when he got home from taking me to the bus depot in Denver. During our early marriage, I lived with holes in many walls in our first home because of his explosive temper when he was anger. Because of a specific outrageous outburst, I forced him to go to couple’s counseling, and he convinced the therapist his dad was the problem. So, I learned to be quiet and invisible.

Finally, why did I marry him and stay married for eight years? After many years of therapy and recovery, I realized I knew if I ever tried to break up with him again, he could kill me. When we divorced, it was his idea. I believe God intervened to save me, because my fear of him outweighed logic and safety. Today I am married to a gentle, loving man who would never think of hurting a woman, so healing happens.

So, what is domestic violence? Why do women (mostly, but I know of one man who suffered domestic violence in his marriage) stay with a violent spouse? How do you get out?

Domestic Violence Defined

Domestic abuse, also called “domestic violence” or “intimate partner violence”, can be defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. Abuse is physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure, or wound someone. Domestic abuse can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender. It can occur within a range of relationships including couples who are married, living together or dating. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels.
Sign post - domestic violence

Recognizing the signs of domestic abuse

Does your partner…

  • Embarrass or make fun of you in front of your friends or family?
  • Put down your accomplishments?
  • Make you feel like you are unable to make decisions?
  • Use intimidation or threats to gain compliance?
  • Tell you that you are nothing without them?
  • Treat you roughly—grab, push, pinch, shove or hit you?
  • Call you several times a night or show up to make sure you are where you said you would be?
  • Use drugs or alcohol as an excuse for saying hurtful things or abusing you?
  • Blame you for how they feel or act?
  • Pressure you sexually for things you aren’t ready for?
  • Make you feel like there is “no way out” of the relationship?
  • Prevent you from doing things you want – like spending time with friends or family?
  • Try to keep you from leaving after a fight or leave you somewhere after a fight to “teach you a lesson”?

Do you…

  • Sometimes feel scared of how your partner may behave?
  • Constantly make excuses to other people for your partner’s behaviour?
  • Believe that you can help your partner change if only you changed something about yourself?
  • Try not to do anything that would cause conflict or make your partner angry?
  • Always do what your partner wants you to do instead of what you want?
  • Stay with your partner because you are afraid of what your partner would do if you broke up?

The statistics about domestic violence are staggering

  • In the United States, more than 10 million adults experience domestic violence annually.
  • 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men experience sexual violence, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime
  • From 2016 through 2018 the number of intimate partner violence victimizations in the United States increased 42%
  • An abuser’s access to a firearm increases the risk of intimate partner femicide by 400%
  • Intimate partner violence is most common against women between the ages of 18-24.
  • 19% of intimate partner violence involves a weapon.

Use your voice - domestic violence

Can this happen to you?

I wasn’t raised in a household seeing domestic violence. I am an incest survivor and I believe that affected how I viewed men and relationships. If you are experiencing any of the signs listed above, please get help by calling 1-800-799-7233, text “Start” to 88788 or go to the website

If you suffer from domestic violence, you don’t have to go through this alone, like I did. You don’t have to carry the shame for over forty years. Today, you can get help.

Recent Blog Posts You Might Have Missed:

Ad for new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? Domestic violence

My new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?, is now available:

25% Discount on the Kindle version of Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? to celebrate my launch week. Good through September 28, 2021.

Just Another Square Dance Caller cover. Domestic violence
Read Flippo’s Biography in paperback, hardback or your favorite device!

~HAVE YOU ORDERED YOUR AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY? 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”:


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

~Drop by my Amazon Author’s Page:

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

family · Mom · My Thoughts

Cars—Does One Rank As Your Favorite?

Hands on the steering wheel - cars

Cars—do you have a favorite one? I say 100% yes! I’ve loved two cars, especially, in my lifetime: my first one and my mom’s last one—two extraordinary adventures.

My First Car

1966 Dodge Coronet 440 - cars
1966 Dodge Coronet 440

            In 1971, Dad bought me my first car—a bluish-green 1966 Dodge Coronet 440—to go to college. He bought my brother a light blue 1966 Dodge Coronet 500 at the same time and paid $1000 for both cars. They don’t make cars like them anymore. The sleek lines of that Coronet 440 created a beautiful picture. I was 18 years old and felt like a queen driving that car. I had fun in it at Trinidad State Junior College, but my brother’s roommate borrowed it often for his dates, promising never to leave Trinidad. One night I was twenty miles away in Raton, New Mexico with friends and saw my car sail by. That ended the roommate’s use of my car.

            The mechanics at our garage thought my brother and I shared one car because the colors were so similar. They kidded me when I brought my car in to be serviced, saying, “Why don’t you make your brother bring it in?” Repeatedly I had to explain we each had our own car, and what’s funny is Dad bought the two cars from the owner of that garage.

            As lovely as that car was, it didn’t have air conditioning, so I used what Dad called “Larada’s air conditioning” in warm weather—rolled down all the windows, especially the wing window and drive like hell.

            In 1973, I took that car into my first marriage, still loving everything about it. Because the upholster inside was shot, we redid that, matching the color outside, and it really looked sharp. As newlyweds, we bought a 1974 Dodge Dart off the showroom floor in Trinidad, but that was my husband’s car.

Many years later, driving in Windsor, Colorado, I stopped at a light, and a guy pulled up beside me and offered me a sizeable sum for my striking car. I laughed off the offer—it wasn’t for sale!

Somehow, we inherited a dilapidated Ford from my ex-husband’s grandmother when she passed, and then we had too many vehicles. Without my permission and before I had any gumption to say anything, he sold my car. I was heartsick, but I didn’t stop him. The crushing blow came a few months later when we divorced, and he left me with that lousy Ford.

I have never connected with a car since my first one—maybe the young woman and the mystique of my first can’t be captured again.

Mom’s Last Car

Fast forward to 2004—Mom was coming home from the post office in our small rural town and got hit by a semi-truck, totaling the car she had. It did not hurt her, thank God, but this accident stranded her. Being fifty miles from the nearest grocery store, doctor and everything, she needed transportation, so we went searching.

We found a 2003 Chevrolet Malibu and a Toyota Camry in Raton, New Mexico, fifty miles away. She test-drove the Camry and because of her petite size, she couldn’t see over the steering wheel, so that took the Camry out of the running.

Mom and her Malibu in 2004 - cars
Mom and her Malibu in 2004

Both of us fell in love with the Malibu and what made it more enticing is the owner lived in Cimarron, New Mexico. I called his niece, and we talked to him to learn about the car—it was a good fit.

So, Mom bought it and we have had no trouble with it at all mechanically. She absolutely loved her car and drove it to Trinidad weekly for her shopping needs. Mom’s driving history fascinated me. She married my dad at twenty-three years old and didn’t know how to drive, so he taught her. While we were at home, she drove very little. As Dad aged, his inability to drive sometimes forced her to drive, but she didn’t enjoy it, especially when she had to take over the wheel in Santa Fe, New Mexico once. After Dad died, she had no choice, so she became proficient, not venturing farther than her safe trips to Trinidad or Raton

Mom and I enjoyed several trips to western destinations, ending up in California to visit my brother and his family. When we were together traveling down the road, I drove and we talked endlessly. On one major trip we took to California in 2009, we had the radio on once for our three-week trip. The rest of the time we spent talking and laughing. That car held so many precious memories of those special times with her.

After Mom died in 2013, I inherited her car and drove it back and forth to our family ranch monthly. After my last trip to Branson, the air conditioning stopped as I pulled into my home in New Mexico—absolutely nothing. A trip to our mechanic cost us a lot. See, we live in the mountains east of Albuquerque and we don’t have a garage to store it in. A squirrel built a nest in the engine and chewed up the cables to the air conditioning, so that costly adventure made us decide to sell it. Because we don’t have a garage, this costly event could happen again and again.

As I cleaned it out preparing for the sale, I choked up several times, reliving the trips, the fun, and the laughter we shared. Yesterday we sold it to the son of a dear lifelong friend. I cried when they drove off.

Yes, I know cars don’t last forever, but their memories do! I will always have the special times Mom looped her left arm over the back of my seat, laughing at whatever our topic was and enjoying our time together in her car.

Do you have cherished memories attached to any cars? Do or did you love a car? Tell me your memories—I’d love to hear them. (Scroll down below to the Comment section to respond.)

Recent Blog Posts You Might Have Missed:

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?

My new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?, is now available:

Join me at my Zoom Launch Party for my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? on September 22, 2021 at 7:00 pm. Go to my Facebook Event to RSVP, and I will send you the meeting info:

Just Another Square Dance Caller cover
Add Flippo’s Biography to Your Library!

~HAVE YOU ORDERED YOUR AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY? 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”:


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

~Drop by my Amazon Author’s Page:

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

family · Mom · My Thoughts

Clothesline—A Thing of the Past?

Towels on a clothesline

Clothesline and laundry day were a part of my childhood. Mom hung out the clothes weekly on our clothesline until her dying day. She loved the smell of sheets that had blown in the breeze all day, and I inherited the love for that sweet fragrance. Are clotheslines still a viable part of today’s world?

In the past, a walk through a neighborhood on laundry day showed so much about the families living there. Just an inventory of the clothes blowing in the wind told if a family lived in that house or a single, if the children were boys or girls. It depicted what taste in clothes the wife had or what kind of work the husband did. So, those people strolling by could glean much in a scrutiny of the clothes on the line.

In our small country town, jeans and cowboy shirts filled the clotheslines on wash day, which was usually Monday. The women wore dresses and aprons, so they blew freely in the breeze. The boys dressed like their dads and the girls like their moms, so miniature similar outfits identified children lived there. We didn’t have any exotic characters in our town, so the lines didn’t shock any of the passers-by.

What brought this topic up for me right now? I had some work done on my house in Branson, Colorado, a couple of weeks ago. The worker called me up and asked if he could take down the clothesline because he needed to get mechanical equipment into the yard. The line was in the way.

“Go ahead,” I responded quickly, but then I have been mulling it over for the last couple of weeks. Yes, it was okay to do, but it’s a part of my history I cherish. The many memories I have came rushing back, a real mixed bag, though!

One of the stories Mom told us growing up worried her as a young mother. She had heard a story about another family who had a newborn and a thirteen-month-old like my brother and me. I was the youngest. The mom was outside hanging out laundry (probably diapers with two little ones like us), and she heard the baby crying. Nearing completion, she finished her chores before going inside. Before she could get there, the thirteen-month-old had grabbed the newborn out of the crib and drug it outside to his mom, killing the baby.

So, Mom told us repeatedly the fear she had anytime she spent time outside hanging up laundry on the clothesline. She said she ran inside every few minutes to check on us and worried about it constantly. As an adult in hearing this tale, I could hear Mom’s anguish and concern still, years later.

Wringer washing machine - clothesline
Vintage Washing Machine with Squeezing Rollers – path included

As older children, about four and five, we loved to help Mom on laundry day. She had a wringer washing machine which fascinated us. Mom’s didn’t look like the image above—it was porcelain and a newer model. My brother, Bub, liked to help Mom push the clothes through the wringer, and she often cautioned him to be careful. I was young enough to be just his cheerleader and observer.

One summer day, Mom did the laundry outside like so many other days, and Bub neglected to be careful and pushed his hand too far into the wringer with the clothes. His hand got caught in the wringer. He screamed, trying to pull his hand out but he couldn’t; I screamed in unison with him. Mom panicked and ran next door to our neighbor, Edna Fry. They came running over, and Edna immediately hit the release and Bub’s hand fell out. The area around his thumb suffered the most damage, but he didn’t need stitches.

Here’s how a wringer washing machine works:

Those early sad memories have stayed with me for years, but the smell of clothes hung out on the line—that’s what I remember, mostly! That luscious fresh air smell of sheets can’t be beat—marketers today can’t bottle that refreshing aroma. Also, white clothes sparkled after being outside bleached white in the sun.

As a young married woman in Denver, Colorado, I continued what I Mom taught me—hang your laundry out on a clothesline. One evening, after making my bed with clean sheets that smelled delicious, I sat down when I finished and got stung by a bee I had wrapped up in the top sheet—ouch!

In 1980, when we moved to a new house in Loveland, Colorado, the covenants didn’t allow clotheslines, so I got away from using one. That has continued for me after that, but Mom continued using hers until she died.

Clothespins for a clothesline

After she finished washing her clothes, Mom hooked her bag of wooden clothespins on the side of her little cart and wheeled it outside. Quite a feat in the dirt! Any passers-by visited with her as she worked and she with them. It was a community time. Often, I came home, welcomed with something waving to me on the clothesline, and it felt inviting.

So, when I return to Branson this next week, Mom’s clothesline has disappeared, so no welcoming committee, but the memories live on.

Did you use a clothesline? Do you have one now? Can you describe the smell? (Scroll below to comment)

Recent Blog Posts You Might Have Missed:

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? promotion - clothesline

My new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?, is now available:

Flippo on a coffee table - clothesline
Add Flippo’s Biography to Your Library!

~HAVE YOU ORDERED YOUR AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY? 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”:


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

~Drop by my Amazon Author’s Page:

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

family · My Thoughts · poetry

Let’s Celebrate My Birthday Today!

My baby picture - my birthday
My baby picture taken August 1953

Today is my birthday—I turned 68. Hard to believe! Will you help me celebrate?

Here’s a poem I wrote about the day I was born:

 “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
 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!” 

            Whenever my mom was alive, she made my birthday a special occasion. When I was a child, it was a party with all my friends and family and a birthday cake she decorated. Just inviting my cousins and family made a sizeable get-together.

4th birthday - my birthday
I’m the smirky one to the left with long curls!

As an adult, she continued to celebrate me on my day, making every year memorable. In 1983, when I turned thirty years old, Aunt Willie decorated a cake with one foot on a banana peel. My nephew carried in a watermelon for a gift (my favorite summer food). Then they gave me a gift of survival tools for being over the hill: my grandmother’s dentures, underwear and other key helping aides.

In 2012, Lin and I were at the National Square Dance Convention for my birthday, so Mom left me a voicemail wishing me a happy birthday. I kept that voicemail and recorded it on my iPad. After she died in 2013, I’ve started each of my birthdays off with playing it just to hear her voice and her greeting.

            In 2017, my brother and his two daughters were in Branson, Colorado, for my birthday. They have their grandmother’s birthday spirit, so they provided the props, and we took these photos to celebrate.

Today I celebrate being 68 years old. My husband, Lin, made it a special day. He wrapped his gift a couple days ago and set it on the coffee table in the living room, enticing me to wonder about it.

Roses for my birthday
Bouquet Lin bought me for my birthday

            This morning a beautiful bouquet of roses and lilies greeted me when I came downstairs. Then he sang “Happy birthday” to me and encouraged me to open my gift immediately. He bought me a CD player to listen to during my Quiet Time. Mine died a couple months ago, and I was going to replace it, but. . .

            For breakfast, he fixed blueberry pancakes, and we played a couple games of Cribbage and I won—a gift he hadn’t planned.

My birthday cake today
Me with my birthday cake today

            Then after lunch, he put a “Birthday Girl” headdress on me and came in with lit candles on a carrot cake. He explained the lettering on the cake. He had bought a cake decorating tube and wrote my name in the middle but ran out of room, so the last A was underneath it. Then he successfully wrote “Happy” at the bottom, but he told me the tube malfunctioned so he couldn’t do “Birthday.” What a sweetheart!

Other family members helped me celebrate. This morning I received a text from my sister wishing me a happy birthday. This afternoon, I received a phone call from my niece and two of her children, my nephew and his two daughters, and my brother wishing me a happy birthday.

            Yes, today we celebrated in true Horner fashion. Lin, who celebrates so much like Mom, channeled her celebratory nature the whole day.

            Don’t stop celebrating birthdays, no matter how old you are—that special day when you were born! Do something outrageously fun and make it a day to remember! Lin and Mom always have!

            What do you do to celebrate birthdays in your family or with your friends? (Scroll down below to make a comment.)

Previous Blog Posts You Might Have Missed

~Pre-Order My New Book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? To be released mid-July.

Flippo's Book Cover & pelicans - my birthday

~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”:


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

~Drop by my Amazon Author’s Page:

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

family · My Thoughts

How Many Fathers Does It Take?

Uncle Tanky is third from the left, top row.

Happy Father’s Day, a day to celebrate father figures in my life and all they have done for me. The famous African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” rings true. Being raised in a small country community, I had several influential men in my life besides my dad. As I pondered this idea, I realized the men were quieter influences than the women I identified in my Mother’s Day blog post. They still affirmed who I was and showed by example how to live life.

Millard Warner

Millard was Dad’s best friend from high school. We lived next door to each other until Millard’s death, and he influenced my life with his quiet demeanor and steady presence. We did lots of activities as families and he truly was a second father to me. After his divorce, he ate meals with us regularly. I remember his quiet sense of humor and constant interest in my life, even as a youngster.

Reu Waldroup

Reu was another friend of Dad’s and a continual influence on me. Another quiet man, I had to listen closely to his soft voice because I never wanted to miss his wonderful tales about his ranching experiences or shenanigans he and Dad got into in school. I saw deep love and acceptance in his eyes for me.

Mr. Teague

Mr. Teague taught my eighth grade English class with enthusiasm and a desire to challenge us. His assignments captivated my interest: I wrote a Matt Helm story following that series that was so popular in the late 60s. He had us group-write a play at his kitchen table with his help. I remember our outrageous junior high humor he didn’t curb at all. We performed the play at the monthly PTA meeting and felt successful as playwrights. I’m sure his adventuresome assignments ignited the writer within me, so I’m indebted to him for sure.

He also had a very playful nature. During one of our winter snowstorms, he attached a car hood to the back of his Jeep and used it as a massive sled, pulling us around our little town. We had a ball that day, slipping and sliding over town. After getting more daring, he went out of town towards Trinchera with Billy Mitchell alone on the sled. When we came down the hill by Warner’s stock tank, the sled slid back and forth across the road, and Billy almost crashed into the rock guard covering the culvert. What a memorable day we had with a teacher who loved his students.

My Three Uncles

Throughout my life, I had uncles who touched me deeply. Uncle Gay, who lived in Washington state, always had time for me when they visited each summer, even though he had many other nieces and nephews to attend to. He always had time for me.

Uncle Tanky lived near me my whole life, and I had many interactions with him until he died. When I was in high school, he saw an essay I wrote and questioned me about my choice of studies at Trinidad State Junior College. He lovingly called me “Rada” which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Uncle Hughie entertained me my whole life with his fun-loving sense-of-humor. He lost a leg in a mining accident when he was eighteen and lived with a prosthesis, enjoying a normal life, dancing and doing activities like he had two good legs. Because my dad wasn’t a fisher, he taught me how to fish, and I spent many an hour with him beside a lake, waiting for a fish to bite and enjoying his tales.

My Grandfathers

Granddad Horner lived across town and was a daily father figure for me. Although he was withdrawn and quiet, he lavished me with affection because I resembled his beloved mother, Mattie Jessie. I worked with him on the family ranch and witnessed his dedication to the land, his cattle, and his family. He loved to get his family together, celebrating each one of his grandchildren.

Granddad Dickerson didn’t live close to us, but Mom made sure we saw them often. Granddad Dickerson was exactly opposite of my other granddad. He loved to wrestle on the floor and tickle us to death. He loved his grandchildren dearly, and I saw that lived out.

Don Ming

Don, another friend of Dad’s, helped me so much after Mom died. Whenever I needed his advice or help on what to do on our ranch; he stepped up. His affirming nature made me believe my brother and I could manage our family ranch and do a good job.

My Father

Dad & me dancing - Fathers
Dad & Me Dancing at his 75 birthday party, Branson, CO 1993

Finally, my dear dad, a real live cowboy! Dad loved his family, his wife, and his ranch. He was always available for a hug and a kiss. He called me “Shorty,” and I loved that. I relished the hours we spent together on the ranch, either working cattle, preparing our 4-H horses for the county fair, or just riding around enjoying the land.

Because I lived fairly close to my folks for my adult life, I had the pleasure of multiple trips around Colorado, California and the Southwest with Dad and Mom, and he was always up for an adventure.

I inherited his love for dancing, and anytime I’m on the dance floor, I can feel him near, encouraging me to pursue the hobby we both love.

Any time we were together, Dad entertained us with multiple stories about growing up, school life, cowboy life, and just life. I always drew near, hanging on each word, even though I had heard the tale many times before. He told his story with such exuberance; I felt I was there—a true storyteller!

He was always there for me, supporting me emotionally through my divorces, multiple moves, and any crises that came up.


I know the importance of father figures in a child’s life, especially little girls, for our dads are the first men we fall in love with. I realized I was fortunate to have a dad who also loved me deeply. On this special day, I celebrate my dad and all the father figures who touched me deeply, helping to create the woman I became.

So, how many fathers does it take to raise a child? As you can see, many father figures played an important part in my complete life. Did you have other father figures in your life? If so, who were they and what did they do? (Scroll down a little farther below to make comments!)

Previous Blog Posts You Might Have Missed

Cover for Just Another Square Dance Caller - Fathers

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

~Pre-Order My New Book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? To be released mid-July.

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


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

~Drop by my Amazon Author’s Page:

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

family · Life Lessons · My Thoughts

A Graduation Address to My Two Girls!

Graduation cheers!

Across the country, it is high school graduation time which takes me back to my graduation fifty years ago. There were four in my graduating class, and I felt grown-up, scared, and not prepared to face the world before me. Fast forward fifty years, and I have two graduating seniors I love, but I am sad to say I wasn’t able to attend one great niece’s graduation on May 20 in Floydada, Texas, and I will miss the other one’s in Yuba City, California on June 4. I love these family get-togethers filled with storytelling, laughter and love. I have had the pleasure of participating in my two great nieces, Kaylea and AnnDeeClaire’s lives for eighteen years, so I want to share a graduation address with you.

Have the courage to follow

Your heart and intuition.

They somehow already know

What you truly want to

Become. Everything else is


-Steve Jobs

My two lovely graduates of 2021, you just experienced one of the worst tragic years we have ever faced, and here you are. You survived seeing the tumultuous end of one phase of your life and the joyful beginning of another.

Behind you are twelve years of education at the hands of many teachers, principals and educational assistants who helped form you. Both of you actively took part in extracurricular activities that broadened your perspective and enriched your lives. Remember to thank as many of the major people who influenced you as you can.

Graduation - tools
Photo by Adonyi Gábor from Pexels

Now, before you is your world! It might be daunting at this moment, but you have an arsenal of tools to help you get started now and for the rest of your lives. You come from a family who loves you dearly—parents who have stood beside you through thick and thin. You have extended family support from grandparents, aunts, uncles, great aunts and uncles, and cousins galore! Also, you are supported every day you live by those who have passed away. Never forget your family.

On that note, a couple wise sayings from your great granddad who would have been so proud of you two. I’m sorry he died before you were born, but his advice is timeless:

  • “Winners never quit and quitters never win.”
  • “Stay in there in and drink a lot of ice water.”

I’m so glad you knew, my mom, Grannie Horner and her quick wit and love of jokes. You were about ten years old when she died, but I know you have fond memories of her in California, Branson, and on the ranch. You may not have known a deep spiritual gift she would have passed onto you, so I’m sharing it with you: an acceptance of all ethnicities and beliefs, enjoying the diversity gifted you with a variety of friends. She grew up in Raton, New Mexico when it was a melting pot of immigrants working in the coal mines, and she celebrated the multicultural life she lived. When she was in high school, she worked for a Greek family at the Sweet Shop and often spoke of their dancing and food—adopt an open, loving heart like Grannie’s.

You two have faced loss and difficulties in your short eighteen years but have chosen to not let that hamper your dreams. Often, hard times make you bitter or better, and the choice is yours. I see you have both chosen the positive route and am excited about your choice of study.

You lost your grandmother, Grandma Lela, when you were young, and she cherished her grandbabies. I remember her infectious giggle and twinkle in her clear blue eyes. She had a deep religious faith, so I know she prays for you daily.

Your Poppa loves sharing our family ranch with you any time you come, and he celebrates the uniqueness of each of you.

So, here’s Auntie Mato’s (for AnnDeeClaire) advice to you today from my life experiences:

Graduation advice
  1. Spend your lifetime looking for you. Trust yourself—sometimes I hide from myself and it takes a conscious effort to keep looking, but look you must. The world tells us happiness is finding a partner. First, find yourself and then you will have something profound to share with a life partner. One of my favorite quotes about this topic is from Oscar Wilde, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”
  2. Find a spiritual home to grow in. Lucy Prichard, my first mother-in-law and spiritual mother, told us newlyweds, “Find a church, any church. Hang your hat somewhere.” Find a place where you can flourish spiritually and life will unfold much easier for you. In doing that, you will create a support system and have wise counsel if you need it (I guarantee you will need it).
  3. Be curious. Don’t be afraid to question the status quo. The curious mind sees possibilities everywhere instead of problems. In being curious, you become a part of the solution instead of the ongoing problem. Wonder and be in awe of what this world offers you.
  4. It’s never too late to embrace your passion. When I was in high school, Uncle Tanky read an essay I wrote and encouraged me to pursue my writing. Margie Miller, one of my teachers, told me in my late twenties at one of the Branson-Trinchera reunions on Mom’s front porch, “I want a copy of your first book.” Thirty-plus years later, I published my first book at 60 years old and sent her a copy. I loved teaching, but writing feeds my soul. Chase your passion for all you are worth, either now or later. It doesn’t matter, just identify it and go for it.
  5. Spend time in nature—the ranch. I know both of you have an attachment to the Horner ranch, and I thank you for your interest. It’s one of the best places to connect to God and myself. How can anyone look at Saddlerock silhouetted against a purple sky and not stand in awe? How about a laughter-filled ride around the ranch in the Bronco during the evening to celebrate being alive? A bumpy ride in the Mule and the chance to drive it, even when you were too young to drive? Obviously, I would recommend nature anywhere, but the trick is to be mindful of it—the birds, the trees, the horned toads and a Creator God who gifts us with such treasures.
  6. Ask for help. I wish I could guarantee you two lovely ladies a life free of pain and stress, but that doesn’t happen, as you already know. When troubles come, remember all the people who love you, pick up the phone, send a text or call, because we are all perched, ready to help.
  7. Failure to cry is a failure to live. As emoting human beings, we feel and sometimes feel strongly. A wise friend once told me that tears are liquid prayers, so don’ ever be ashamed of your tears.

This morning I asked Uncle Lin for his words of wisdom for you two, and this is what he said, “It is ALWAYS in your power to eliminate negative forces from your life, and my hope for you is that as you go through life, you are successful in doing that, as it will enhance your life experience immensely.”

In conclusion, I leave you with one of my favorite sayings which includes one of my passions:

Graduation message - Lin and me dancing


As though no one is watching you,


As though you have never been hurt before,


As though no one can hear you,


As though heaven is on earth.


Congratulations, Kaylea and AnnDeeClaire on a job well done, and I look forward to the futures you created! I will be a witness to your endeavors, one of your cheerleaders for life. World, get ready for these two!

Graduation - I'll cheer you on!
Your cheerleaders are ready!

Do you have someone graduating this year? What is your best advice? (Scroll down passed the items below to the Comment section.)

Previous Blog Posts You Might Have Missed

Cover for 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:

~Pre-Order My New Book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? To be released mid-June

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


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

~Drop by my Amazon Author’s Page:

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

family · Mom · My Thoughts

How Many Mothers Does It Take?

Two women loving teach a youngster to night - mother and grandmother

Happy Mother’s Day to all today. As I’ve pondered this subject, faces and names of many influential mother figures from my past surfaced this week, so I’d like to offer a thought here. The famous African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” states the importance of a community of loving people to raise a child; therefore, it takes several mothers to raise a child.

my cheerleaders- my mother figures

Meet the many cheerleaders I had throughout my life who helped me become the woman I am today!


As a child, my other mother was Clara Warner, our next-door neighbor who had three boys. She could fashion long curls so beautifully Shirley Temple’s stylist would have been jealous. My mom could not! So, Clara became my surrogate mother and hair stylist, and we all won. Clara enjoyed playing with me as her “little doll,” I enjoyed the stylish long curls, and Mom loved what Clara did so effortlessly.

Clara lived close and was married to Dad’s best friend, so we spent a lot of time together. During the 50s and 60s, smoking cigarettes had a totally different connotation. I remember watching her smoke cigarettes and thinking she looked so elegant and sophisticated. Mom didn’t smoke. So, I bought candy cigarettes (yes; they had candy cigarettes), and I’d pretend I was Clara smoking! I never became a smoker, but I still remember how I admired Clara!


Another childhood mother came softly to mind this week—Millie Sheldon, our babysitter. Until the day she died, she called me “Laredo,” emphasizing the “O” at the end, and I thought nothing of it. My parents danced often on Saturday nights. Sometimes we went with them when it was appropriate, but other times Mille stayed with my brother and me. She joined us in watching our traditional TV shows for a Saturday night: Lawrence Welk and then the weekly boxing matches. I remember her as strict but loving.


In high school, one of my teachers/mother figures was Margie Miller. She taught typing, journalism and PE. She also was the cheerleading/pep club sponsor, so we spent a lot of our free time with her on long bus trips all over southern Colorado for the sport of the season: baseball in the spring and basketball in the winter.

During my school years, she said nothing about my writing (I was on the staff of our school newspaper for several years and was the editor for two years). Many years after my graduation, Margie and her husband, Lonnie, returned for one of our school reunions during the summer. They came up to our house during a break in activities, and she said she wanted a copy of the first book I published. This comment shocked me because I hadn’t thought of writing during this part of my life. Many years later in 2014, when I published my first book, This Tumbleweed Landed, I sent her an autographed copy.


In 1973, I married Dave Prichard and inherited a wonderful mother-in-law, the woman who became my spiritual mother. She worked at their family’s church, St. Philip and St. James Episcopal Church in Denver, Colorado, as a counselor and Sunday school teacher. She took me under her wing and raised me up in the Episcopal church. I quote her still today, forty-eight years later.

I loved her God, a forgiving God, and her view of Jesus. She saw Jesus as a personal friend and spent daily time with Him, reading her Bible and daily devotionals. I have continued that practice to the present.

We spent a lot of time together as a family, and I couldn’t get enough of her. When Dave and I divorced, Mom and I stayed connected for years, but time and distance ended that amazing relationship.


In 1992, another mother-in-law came into my life, Betty Daunt, when I married her son, Mike. We hit it off immediately. She introduced me to the healing power of massage, being a massage therapist. So quickly, I set up a monthly appointment with her and kept it up after Mike and I divorced until just a couple years ago when she had to stop because of health issues.

In 1993, I suffered a horrible virus which attacked all my major organs. The western medical world couldn’t diagnose my problem. They sent me home with a list of diseases it wasn’t, and I think to die. Betty stepped in and scheduled weekly massage appointments for me for free. That coupled with acupuncture and herbs, done by my brother-in-law’s partner, I recovered. I don’t think I would have survived that horrible episode without the massages and the acupuncture.

After Mike and I divorced, Betty and I continued our relationship, and it carries on still to today.

A friend I worked with who went through all my marriages said once, “Larada, you know how to pick out mother-in-laws, not husbands!” And I would agree!


Throughout my life, I had aunts who touched me deeply! Dad’s sister, Helen, showed me how a woman could balance family and work. I enjoyed her enthusiastic personality, and my brother and Mom often said I reminded them of her. Helen died way too young in her mid-50s, so I lost many valuable years with her.

Mom’s sister, Willie, played a pivotal role in my life, taking part in all my major life events. I giggled often at her sense of humor and mischievous twinkle in her eyes. After Dad and Uncle Hughie died, Mom and Aunt Willie spent as much time together as possible. After Mom died, I visited Aunt Willie in Pueblo, Colorado monthly and relished her fun story-telling talent. She died at 98 years old—I miss her daily.

Dad’s youngest sister, Joan, is nearing 93 years old. She has been a strong cheerleader of mine my complete life. I grew up near Aunt Joan and spent holidays and much of childhood with her and her family. She stands on the edge of many of my childhood memories.


Teresa Larada Horner-Miller—I carry both of my grandmothers’ names. Dad’s mother, the Larada in my life, lived in the same town as us, so I saw her daily, and she became one constant in the fabric of my life. Mom’s mother, the Teresa in my life, lived away from us during my childhood, so we had the joy of visiting her. They moved close later in my life, so she became another steadfast woman.


Mom & I together at Christmas. My mother
Mom & I dressed alike for Christmas one year!

Finally, I saved the best for last—my mother! Mom loved to play with my brother and me as children. She celebrated our lives through birthday parties and holiday. Throughout my entire life, we were close and did so much together! After Dad died, I visited her often, and we traveled together enjoying several major trips. I loved her sense of humor and fun-filled attitude towards life. When she died, I felt like I not only lost Mom but my best friend.

So, how many mothers does it take to raise a child? As you can see, many mother figures played an important part in my complete life. Did you have other mother figures in your life? If so, who were they and what did they do? (Scroll down a little farther below to make comments!)

Previous Blog Posts You Might Have Missed

Flippo cover with yellow flower

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

~One-Year Anniversary of the Release of Flippo’s Biography! Join me to celebrate on May 10, 2021 from 7:00—9:00 PM Email me at if you are interested!

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


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

~Drop by my Amazon Author’s Page:

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

family · Grief · My Thoughts

My Agony of Waiting

Woman waiting
Photo by Felipe Cespedes from Pexels

Waiting? For a dream to come true? Waiting a long time? No answer? The wrong answer? A reoccurring heartache in my younger life came up last week: waiting to get pregnant. After reading a Bible study program on waiting, back I went forty years ago.

I married my first husband in September 1973, and in December I stopped taking my birth control pills, hoping to get pregnant, and it happened easily. Around three months pregnant, I walked into see my gynecologist’s office pregnant, thinking I would hear the heart beat for the first time and walked out not pregnant. I had had something he called a “mis-abort.”

In Googling it, I found “A missed abortion is a miscarriage in which your fetus didn’t form or has died, but the placenta and embryonic tissues are still in your uterus. It’s known more commonly as a missed miscarriage. It’s also sometimes called a silent miscarriage.”,is%20not%20an%20elective%20abortion.

After that life-changing experience, I have no memory of how I drove home to southwest Denver from downtown. At 20 years old, I had my heart set on having a baby. My brother and his wife had a baby; my friends had children. I had been raised to get married and have children, so it was in my DNA.

Monthly, waiting for my period became torture. When my period came, I sobbed and spent the rest of the month longing for it to happen. It had happened so effortlessly once. Why not now?

After a few more unsuccessful years and frustration, we decided to seek out the help of a fertility specialist, and we found the best—Dr. Bradley who started the Bradley Method of childbirth. “The Bradley method of natural childbirth (also known as “husband-coached childbirth”) is a method of natural childbirth developed in 1947 by Robert A. Bradley, M.D. (1917–1998) and popularized by his book Husband-Coached Childbirth, first published in 1965. The Bradley method emphasizes that birth is a natural process: mothers are encouraged to trust their body and focus on diet and exercise throughout pregnancy; and it teaches couples to manage labor through deep breathing and the support of a partner or labor coach.”

Woman holding a baby
Photo by Kristina Paukshtite from Pexels

At this time, I felt encouraged after our first appointment with Dr. Bradley, and he invited us to his house that evening where women who had just given birth to their children through the Bradley Method showed them off. I reveled in the possibility.

Then he started fertility testing on my ex-husband first, simply because a man’s test is much easier than a woman—a sperm sample. After this test, we received the bad news. He had a disorder called aspermia, “inability to produce or ejaculate semen.”

When Dr. Bradley relayed this information to us, he also told my ex-husband that the miscarriage I had earlier was caused by weak sperm—hard news for a man to hear! He offered alternatives: artificial insemination or adoption.

Broken hearted, we isolated individually and grieved over this major loss. I toyed with the idea of artificial insemination until I found out it would be from a donor and not my ex-husband. He basically refused.

During a Christmas holiday during this heart wrenching time, my larger family unit met together to have the holiday with my grandmother on my dad’s side. Toddlers and babies abounded, and one proud cousin strutted around the house and repeated often throughout the evening, “Aren’t we a fertile bunch!” He had no idea what we were going through, but I cringed every time he professed our family’s fertility.

Being in our twenties, we continued to be surrounded by friends and family members pregnant with families growing. I ached to join the ranks.

After much thought and prayer, our only alternative became adoption. We decided on the Lutheran Social Services as the adoption agency to use. They handled the process differently than other adoption agencies. Instead of doing the deep investigation into our backgrounds immediately, they waited until it was closer to our adoption date. They felt if you waited three years or more, you had nothing to hide.

From then on, we attended meetings and learned about the process. We saw other couples see their dreams come true, so we waited, feeling positive about our chances.

After waiting three years, we finally received notification that we would receive our baby in six months. Excitedly, I started knitting booties and baby afghans. My Mom and I bought baby clothes and blankets. So did my mother-in-law. Everyone joined in our excitement. I just couldn’t believe it.

But with the notification of the baby coming, the adoption agency would start the background checks, and my ex-husband knew that. I knew my husband had a drinking problem and had been unfaithful to me, but I loved him and looked away. What I didn’t know was he had much more to hide than I thought, so he left me.

At the same time, we divorced and had to cancel the adoption, and that ended my hopes of having a child.

Over the years, I have grieved repeatedly the barren state of my life.  In 1995, I turned to poetry to express the pain:

Woman waiting
Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels

 The pain of being without child!  Eternally alone!
 No child has burst forth from my womb
 nor sucked at my breast.
 Empty cavity deep inside waiting to be filled with life.
 Waiting, waiting, waiting!
 I have no child to pass my stories on to, 
 my history, 
 our history,
 how Grandad created our ranch,
 how special Branson Christmas trees are
 because we cut them down from our ranch, our land, 
 how to do the Jessie polka and waltz,
 how I was almost named Jessie.
 My name, Larada, that should be passed on to my granddaughter,
 like my grandmother passed it on to me, 
 every other generation for 7 generations.
 Cheated, robbed, failed!
 Not woman, 
 not mom, 
 Does a child define a woman?  
 Does the lack of them define me?
 Names and faces dance in circles in my mind--
 Lael Marie
 Patrick Lawrence
 Curly blond hair, blue inquisitive eyes.
 Bright red hair, changeable hazel eyes.
 A mixture of him and me.
 I have no daughter that has my smile 
 nor a son with my Dad’s red hair.
 No one to call me, “Mommy.”
 The empty cavity waiting to be filled has grown larger
 no longer just my womb, 
 but now my whole being,
 my every thought, 
 Aching, lonely, pulsating to the beat of life
 missing what never was! 
Classroom with teacher - Waiting
Photo by Arthur Krijgsman from Pexels

In a way, it’s strange that this came up now; I’m 67 years old. God gave me lots of children in my classroom over the years. My brother and his wife shared their three children with me, and now they have shared their children, too. My cousin shared her three daughters, so God filled the void.

I ultimately believe my childless life speaks of God’s mercy and love. For many years after my first marriage, I had an unsettled life which would have been hard on a child. As I waited for the answer I wanted, God in his infinite mercy gave me different response to my prayer for a child and said, “No!” and I understand why today.

So, don’t take having children for granted. Many women’s hearts break every day for the lack of a baby suckling at their breast. If you have children, be grateful!

Did you have trouble getting pregnant? If, not, why are your children a blessing to you today?

Last week’s blog post:

~Did Democracy Win? Hell, Yes!

Just Another Square Dance Caller Meme - Waiting


~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:

~Larada’s Amazon Author’s Page:

~ Visit my Etsy Shop for all my books for a Valentine’s Day discount of 25% off select books and bundles:

💖 Enter the $400 Valentine Giveaway & WIN a $400 Amazon eCard! Only One Lucky Winner – Why not YOU? ~>

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

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 · Dancing · family · My Thoughts · square dance

What’s Your Favorite Christmas Memory?

Create a Favorite Christmas Memory
Photo by Nicole Michalou from Pexels

Favorite Christmas memory—I have so many, but one stands out that has affected my whole life in different two ways. It’s about a white dress!

When I was four or five years old, my Mom made me a beautiful white dress with red embroidery on the top for Christmas. I remember her laboring over it because sewing didn’t come naturally for her.  I tried it on, and the gathered waistline with the fitted bodice just didn’t please her. It didn’t lie the way it should, so she ripped it out several times. She didn’t have one of those fancy sewing machines they have today that gathers easily—she did it all by hand. She so wanted to complete it for our Christmas Eve get-together, so her efforts continued, and I continued to try it on, hoping this time it worked.

I felt so special in her choosing to sew this for me. I anticipated wearing it Christmas Eve to the Horner family celebration at my grandparents with a multitude of relatives in attendance.

After all her hard work, Mom finished my special dress. I donned my miracle dress and saw the relief in her eyes! She took me to the mirror. I saw Cinderella in my reflection! I loved it!

When Dad got home from the ranch, I had to model it for him and he oohed and aahed over it, solidifying the fact I had been transported into a magical princess!

Larada at the age of my favorite Christmas memory
Me about the age of this Favorite Christmas Memory

I don’t remember any gifts that year, but I do remember Mom’s efforts and tenacity, that precious dress and the feeling I had when I walked in the door at my grandparents’ house and the reception I received! That’s a gift you can’t wrap! This is my favorite Christmas memory!

One way this dress event affected me

As an adult, I have made many Christmas presents, whether I knitted a stocking or a sweater, painted a plaster-craft cowboy statute or crafted a family calendar. The joy for me is the giving. I learned this from my mother’s wonderful dress project.

I love to knit a favorite Christmas Memory
Photo by from Pexels

This year I knitted twenty+ dish clothes during the pandemic and gave them as gifts to my family—therapy while I knitted a rhythmic simple pattern that soothed my soul in the movement. Those dish clothes blessed me and hopefully will bless the recipient.

One of My Favorite Square Dance Outfits
One of My Favorite Square Dance Outfits

Another way this dress event affected me

As a square dancer, the moment I don my gorgeous square dance outfit, I’m transported back to that moment as a child when I put on my beautiful Christmas dress Mom made. I am Cinderella ready for the ball.

If you look at the square dance attire for women and think how crazy, let me tell, once I put on my outfit and petticoat and twirl in front of the mirror, I am transformed. My feminine side comes out, and I love it!

So, a delightful Christmas memory that touched me deeply as a child and continues every time I dance and every Christmas gift I create. You can’t bet that!

Do you have a favorite Christmas memory that has affected your whole life? How old were you? How did it affect you?

~Visit my Christmas blog posts:

Book 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: