Dancing · family · My Thoughts · square dance

He’s a Winner!

Lin Miller, my husband, received a outstanding honor last night at the New Mexico Square and Round Festival in Roswell, New Mexico, They inducted him into the Hall of Fame for his work and support of square and round dancing in the state.

Lin’s Plaque and Badge

A friend nominated him two years ago, and I helped her put the paperwork together. Lin’s ex-wife contributed information about his dancing when they were together. We re-worked the application this year, because he wasn’t selected last year. My friend and I had secret meetings, telling Lin she had interests my books—he had no idea.

Just because someone is nominated doesn’t mean he or she is automatically in and in that year—sometimes it takes two years to actually receive this treasured recognition. I had won this award in 2007 and found out later that I had been nominated the year before, so it took me two times.

On top of that, the person in charge of the award this year didn’t let me know outright that Lin had won but hinted at it, so I wondered.

As we neared the festival, Lin and I ended up talking about the award some, speculating who might win, and I kept my reactions and tone as neutral as possible to not give it away.

This annual festival means a lot to me. It’s the one chance for our state square and round dance family to come together for a fun-filled weekend at various sites around the state. I always anticipate who’s going to be there and lament the loss of one of our dancers. I love our New Mexico state square and round dance members!

Greg Tillery calling with help from an Alien
Larada and Lin decked out the Alien Invasion!
Holly and Lin enjoying Roswell!

The theme this year for the festival, “Strangers Thing Happen,” ignited in a lot of us a frivolous, childlike celebration of Roswell’s claim to fame—the alien invasion. Many of us wore the festival’s lime green t-shirts on Saturday during the day with lights attached. Dancers played with the theme all weekend, and they talked about aliens, spaceships and other worldly matter—what fun! We blamed any mistakes made in the squares on “Aliens!”

The award ceremony was Saturday night. The anticipation mounted for me as the time drew closer. The Grand March started the evening’s activities, then it was time. The MC described the recipient without using his/her name, keeping us in suspense until it’s obvious who the recipient is. A dear round dance cuer received the first award, and my hands shook.

Finally the time came. I had told Lin before we arrived on Friday that I wanted to get lots of pictures this weekend, so he had my phone in his pocket. I didn’t want him to be suspicious when I needed my phone for the Hall of Fame awards. I had it out taking pictures of the first winner, so I caught him in total shock when he realized he was next.

Lin realized he won!

As he hugged me, he asked if I knew, and I had tears in my eyes when I nodded my head. His reaction was precious and priceless. In a rate moment of being speechless, he went on stage to receive a name badge and plaque.

Lin with his plaque and badge!

During the rest of the evening, dancers congratulated him. You may wonder what he did or does to receive this award.

For over ten years, he’s been the Promotions person for the Albuquerque Square Dance Center, sending out emails to notify dancers of up and coming events, so the state dancers knew what he does there. Also, he has been the treasurer for Hot August Nights for twelve years. But most recently, in 2013 Lin volunteered to be president of our square dance club, Duke City Singles and Doubles, when it was dying with only 27 members and no one wanting to take the leadership. In five years, he built it up to 92 active members. This changed the face of square dancing in Albuquerque because those 92 members went on to join other clubs growing square and round dancing across the city.

Lin ignites any event he attends with his high energy and positive attitude, and because of his friendly nature, he loves to visit with old and new friends during the breaks. His sense of humor and jokes keep people laughing, so he is an asset to this activity for sure.

The state honored this hard-working man this weekend, and he truly deserved it! You’re welcome to give Lin congratulatory comments here!


Check out my web site at https://www.laradasbooks.com

FATHER’S DAY SPECIALS: 25% off of 2 BOOK BUNDLE: This Tumbleweed Landed & When Will Papa Get Home? paper copies. Visit my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft, to purchase my books.

Would you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Interesting posts about Flippo’s life. https://www.facebook.com/groups/328325644382769/

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family · Grief · Life Lessons · Memoirs · Mom · My Thoughts · poetry

Does Your Heart Break on Mother’s Day?

Here it is six years after my Mom’s death and Mother’s Day smacks me in the face with fresh grief—I miss buying Mom a card and flowers and calling her up. I miss her infectious laughter and her practical jokes. The pain never goes away.

Many people face grief on this celebratory day—the graphic above shows those affected most. For many years before Mom died, I dreaded this day. Why? Because I am not a mother, and that hole in my heart pulsated to an overwhelming size on this annual day of remembrance.

I remember going to church one Mother’s Day many years ago (not to my present church for sure), and they had all the mothers present stand and gave them a flower. Again, I stifled tears being reminded of my lack.

Today my church gave every woman present a chrysanthemum and said a prayer for “Mothers, Potential Mothers, and Women Who ‘Mother’ in Any Way.” Today I stood, satisfied for sure.

Yes, I have mothered many people’s children. I was a middle school teacher for twenty years. My brother and his wife knew my deep longing for a child—I had a miscarriage about the time they got pregnant with the first of their three children. They share their children with me in a deep meaningful way, and I am close to them and their children.

After the miscarriage, my first husband and I sought help from a fertility specialist in Denver, Colorado—the famous Dr. Bradley who pioneered a natural child method. We started with fertility tests with my husband and went no further because he had aspermia, a disease of weak sperm.

So we thought about artificial insemination. The thought thrilled me because finally I could get pregnant, but my husband didn’t agree. So we planned to adopt a child and were within six months of getting our baby. I had knitted booties, baby blankets and put together a nursery. We went through Lutheran Social Services in Denver, Colorado, and they did the work-up on the couple a few months before placement instead of at the beginning. They felt if a couple lasted the four year wait; they were a sure bet. We had waited our four years to get our baby, but as the great day drew near, the tension in our marriage increased and he walked out. I later found out he had unsavory skeletons in his closet, and I was heartbroken in my double losses!

My mother especially grieved with me over the loss of a child—I had been raised to get married, live happily ever after and have 2.4 children. The Horner’s celebrated children and grandchildren. After my divorce, Mom talked about artificial insemination—she even offered to help me pay the hefty price of $10,000 for it! (Remember, this was in the early 1980s.)

The battle raged inside me—I could finally have the baby I always wanted, but I labored over the fact of being a single Mom. In the end, I chose not to do it which looking back; I realized was a wise decision for me.

The next few years I drank away, numbing my broken heart and acting out! God’s mercy won in the choice I made. I would have injured a child with my crazy lifestyle at that time.

The years have healed that profound ache, and I am satisfied with my childless life today, but I will always be indebted to my Mom and her undying support of the need she knew I had!

Here are two poems I wrote in 1996 and 2005 while I was still lamenting the lack of a child in my life:

Childless – 1996

The pain of being without a child!  Eternally alone!
No child has burst forth from my womb
nor sucked at my breast.
Barren 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 pass 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, nothing!  Does a child define 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,
ME!

Aching, lonely, pulsating to the beat of life
missing what never was!

****************

Childless at 51 – 2005

I am childless
51
single!
Reality hit yesterday as life in
My 50’s sheds light on my life’s fact.

Who will carry on the stories I have –
A lifetime full of
Traditions?

Who will recall that
Grandma Horner demanded
I have a set of sheets
With yellow roses?
Her mark of innocence for me, her namesake.

Who will name their child Larada?
Will that meaningful name
Die with me?

Who will remember that Dad
Called me Shorty?
Who will share my travel escapades?
My love for the Mayas!

Who will know the story behind
Each Christmas decoration
Hanging on my tree?

Who will understand the
Spiritual voyage I took
By looking through my
Personal library of life?
Will you be able to stitch together
The words that formed the
Frame that I draped
My life over?

That gave me closure to
The search through
The pages, the beliefs,
The heart-wrenching self
That examined herself
Through various beliefs
and concepts.

Who will look at all
My belongings
And be able to define
The complex mystery
Of Larada?
No one, but me!


Are you sad this Mother’s Day? If so, tell me your pain so I can share it and lessen your burden.


Check out my web site at https://www.laradasbooks.com

MOTHER’S DAY SPECIAL UNTIL MAY 14, 2019: 25% off of A Time to Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir—digital & paper copies. Visit my Etsy Shop, Larada‘s Reading Loft, to purchase my books.

Would you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Interesting posts about Flippo’s life. https://www.facebook.com/groups/328325644382769/

Do you want to pre-order the Marshall Flippo biography? Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways! https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

Christmas · family · Life Lessons · Mom · My Thoughts

Why Knit?

A skein of colorful yarn, two needles and a knitting pattern–life is good! Yes, I’ve been a knitter since I was about 10 or 11 years old. I saw a friend knitting and was mesmerized, so I asked my 4-H leader to teach me and the rest is history!

My Mom and maternal grandmother both crocheted, but I fell in love with knitting. I’ve made a variety of items. I started with slippers, and I remember the pride I felt with the first pair I made. Then my whole family wanted a pair!

I graduated to sweaters, ponchos, vests, socks, afghans, dish rags, dresses, and Christmas stockings. It was my habit to knit when I was watching TV growing up, and I have continued this habit. I loved giving a knitted gift to a family member or friend because spent the whole time I was knitting thinking about that person. I filled it up with good vibes!

Often, my Dad would tease me, saying the sofa bounced with the rhythm of my knitting needles. He used to chide me when I ripped out a huge chunk that had taken hours to complete, thinking I was a perfectionist. In reality, with an intricate knitting pattern, a mistake threw the whole design off, so I had no choice but to rip. This taught me ripping was a part of the process.

When I was in high school, I knitted my dream sweater for my last 4-H project. The project required more than one color and carrying the different colored yarn on the underside of the garment. I made my Dad a sweater with a Hereford bull on the back and his brand on the front. It was the most ambitious project I’d ever done. When I finished his, Mom wanted me.

My Dad’s Sweater

After high school, my life had gotten complicated—I was off to college and busy with my fun-filled college life, so I played a trick on Mom. The first Christmas, I gave her the back and two fronts because that’s all I had completed. The next Christmas, I gave her the sleeves. We enjoyed the craziness of that, and she loved it when I finished it and wore it proudly.

I took an evening class for advance knitting at Trinidad State Junior College and learned some amazing skills that took my knitting to a new level.

I took a break from knitting for several years after I was diagnosed with arthritis in all three thumb joints of both hands. The doctor put me in hand splints to save the joints, but they limited anything I did with my hands. I gave up on them and returned to knitting, and I have had less thumb pain now than then. The movement has helped my arthritic hands, not hurt them!

In 2013 after my Mom died, I returned to the hobby I love and made dish rags, a simple lovely pattern I could make without thinking. The rhythmic motion of the needles soothed my broken heart, and I ended up making more than 40 dish rags in the year after she died. I know it had a meditative quality for me with the repetition. It quieted in my mind and soothed my soul, and family and friends benefited from work.

Last year I had three family and friends having babies, so I made each one a baby afghan. Then for Christmas, I made them each a Christmas stocking with his name knitted into the stocking.

Recently I heard something that confirmed my belief that knitting has healing qualities. I listen to Dr. Bob Martin’s radio show driving to church each Sunday. On this one Sunday, he listed 10 ways to reduce stress and knitting was on the list. I chuckled as I heard him laud the hobby that had been a part of my life for over 50 years—what confirmation for me!

“According to new research by Knit For Peace, knitting could actually improve your health. The U.K. nonprofit organization published findings on the benefits of knitting based on extensive past research, as well as their own — and there are quite a few reasons to start stitching.
 
Health benefits were both physical and mental, and included lower blood pressure, reduced depression and anxiety, delayed onset of dementia. Knitting was deemed as relaxing as yoga, the researchers noted.”


https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2018/03/14/knitting-health-benefits_a_23385911/

One of the three sweaters I have knitted & I will use this pattern next!

My next project will be a rainbow-colored sweater made out of lamb’s wool and a fashionable pattern I’ve already made three times. I’ve had the yarn for a few years, and I’m anxious to get started!

After that—I bought several skeins of beige Aran yarn in Ireland at the Irish Store in Blarney two years ago, so I will be making an Aran sweater with all of its complexity! I love the history I found about the Aran sweater.

“From its origins, the Aran sweater has been intimately linked to clans and their identities. The many combinations of stitches seen on the garment are not incidental, far from it. They can impart vast amounts of information to those who know how to interpret them. Aran sweaters were, and remain, a reflection of the lives of the knitters, and their families. On the Aran islands, sweater patterns were zealously guarded, kept within the same clan throughout generations. These Aran sweaters were often used to help identify bodies of fishermen washed up on the beach following an accident at sea. An official register of these historic patterns has been compiled, and can be seen in the Aran Sweater Market on the Aran Islands.”


https://www.aransweatermarket.com/history-of-aran-sweaters

“As a craft, the Aran Sweater continues to fascinate audiences around the world. A finished Aran sweater contains approximately 100,000 carefully constructed stitches, and can take the knitter up to sixty days to complete. It can contain any combination of stitches, depending on the particular clan pattern being followed. Many of the stitches used in the Aran Sweater are reflective of Celtic Art, and comparisons have been drawn between the stitches and patterns found at Neolithic burial sites such as Newgrange in Co. Meath.
Each stitch carries its own unique meaning, a historic legacy from the lives of the Island community many years ago. The Cable Stitch is a depiction of the fisherman’s ropes, and represents a wish for a fruitful day at sea. The Diamond Stitch reflects the small fields of the islands. These diamonds are sometimes filled with Irish moss stitch, depicting the seaweed that was used to fertilise the barren fields and produce a good harvest. Hence the diamond stitch is a wish for success and wealth. The Zig Zag Stitch, a half diamond, is often used in the Aran Sweaters, and popularly represents the twisting cliff paths on the islands. The Tree of Life is one of the original stitches, and is unique to the earliest examples of the Aran knitwear. It again reflects the importance of the clan, and is an expression of a desire for clan unity, with long-lived parents and strong children.


https://www.aransweatermarket.com/history-of-aran-sweaters

I will finish my lamb’s wool sweater first. I have admired the Aran patterns for years but never attempted to make one because I knew it was a complicated pattern to knit. So, as you can see, the Aran sweater will take me a while to make, but I look forward to the day when I get to wear my two new creations!

Are you a knitter? What have you made? How do you feel when you knit?

Check out my NEW and IMPROVED web site at https://www.laradasbooks.com

25% off of When Will Papa Get Home? — digital & paper copies. Visit my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft, to purchase my books.

Do you want to pre-order the Marshall Flippo biography? Go here to order the version you want. https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

Dancing · family · Hospice · Marshall Flippo · Mom · My Thoughts · Ranching · Retirement · Travel

What Does My Retirement Look Like?

Here’s the stereotype of what retirement looks like for many: an aged couple rocking chairs on the porch, relaxed, watching the world go by–no hustle, no bustle! Lots of people are retired and retiring, thanks to the Baby Boomers.

About 61 million people collect Social Security benefits each month, and they account for about one in five people in the United States.

https://www.nasi.org/learn/socialsecurity/who-gets

I’m 65 years old, retired and busier than ever, and I don’t fit that stereotype and many of you don’t either! I retired in 2013, so this is my sixth year of doing exactly what I want to when I want—that’s the luxury of retirement. I’ve always been a busy person and feared that I was a workaholic! I have to be busy. This goes back to my childhood. I started knitting when I was 10 years old and started the habit of knitting and watching TV. To this day, I have a hard time just sitting and watching TV—my hands have to be doing something.

Today my life is full and rich! My husband and my normal weekly dance schedule looks like this:

  • Wednesday – Round Dancing & Plus Dancing
  • Thursday – Advanced Dancing
  • Friday – Mainstream & Plus

Then, we usually attend an out-of-town square and round dance festival once a month that begins Friday night and ends Sunday at noon—lots of dancing! The dancing and friendships across the country feeds my soul!

When I’m home, I do Zumba two mornings a week. I love the movement to high energy Latin music–it feels like dancing to me!

I also am chairperson for two square and round dance festivals in Albuquerque:

  • Duke City Singles & Doubles Spring Fling in May
  • Hot August Nights in August

These festivals keep me busy hiring new callers and cuers for future events and planning the upcoming event. I’m so lucky to work with two great committees that make the work fun and effortless!

I attend Hope in the Desert Episcopal church and recovery meetings regularly when I’m home.

After my Mom died in 2013, my brother and I inherited our family ranch, so I visit our ranch and our small ranching community, Branson, once a month to check on things. I love staying connected to that part of my life and my dear friends there.

For the first couple years of retirement, I was busy as the Executor of Mom’s will, and probate kept me hopping.

In 2013, I volunteered to be treasurer of our square dance club, Duke City Singles and Doubles. Now that may not sound like too daunting a task for you, but I’m a “Word Person,” not a “Numbers Person.” I did it because my husband volunteered to be President and I knew his time would be dedicated to the club, so I might as well join him. The first financial statement took me eight hours to resolve, but the last one was about an hour, so I grew as a “Numbers Person.” I did that for four years and helped revived the club and grow it.

Since 2014, I’ve self-published four books and three cookbooks:

  • 2014 – This Tumbleweed Landed
  • 2015 – When Will Papa Get Home?
  • 2016 – Let Me Tell You a Story
  • 2017 – A Time To Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir
  • 2014- 2016 – From Grannie’s Kitchen: Volume 1, 2, & 3

I had two really positive experiences with hospice: when my best friend, Kathi Raver died in 2009, and when my Mom died. I knew that I would become a hospice volunteer, but I had to get some time and space from Mom’s death before I could handle it.

Last year, I started volunteering for Presbyterian Hospice, so I see a client once a week and have learned so much about the mission and importance of Hospice. My client is suffering from Alzheimer’s so it’s a roller-coaster ride of mood swings and communication issues, but what an education! My client’s daughter and husband so appreciate my time with her, and I love it. I’ve become part of their family.

I’ve also been a part of the committee that puts on the Branson-Trinchera Reunion every June in Branson. This is a celebration of the small country school I attended.

My husband and I love to travel, and we’ve done several cruises and trips in my retirement. My favorite was to England and Ireland two years ago for three weeks. What an adventure we had! (You can read about it here in my blog!) We have another cruise scheduled for this summer to the British Isle—back to England and Ireland and our first time to Scotland and Wales.

My current writing project has taken over my life! I’m writing the authorized biography of the most famous square dance caller in the world, Marshall Flippo, and I’m stressing out because I want to release it in September. As a self-published author, I’ve set up a timeline of production. Now I have to focus long hours to complete the writing by the end of April, to send it to a professional editor in May, to move the edited copy to a publication software and format it in June and July (our cruise is in July) and to order copies in August ready for distribution in September—WHEW!!!!

Someone said to me a couple weeks ago, “You’re not retired—you have two jobs: your books and your ranch. So, as you can see, I’m busy; I could never spend my days in front of a TV watching mindless TV. I may be retired; I may be 65, but I have energy and enthusiasm for life.

So, you may wonder why I’ve listed all I do in my retirement. I think many people have a skewed view of retirement. Yes, we anticipate the end of the grind—the 40 hours a week demands on our life and now the panacea at the end of the rainbow. I know many do retire and choose a much less active life than I have, but I wanted you to see the possibilities in retirement. You get to choose and the choices are limitless!

Curious about my books? Check out my web site at https://www.laradasbooks.com

50% Discount through the end of February – A Time to Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir–both paperback and e-book versions–at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft.

Do you want to pre-order the Marshall Flippo biography? Go here to order the version you want. https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

family · My Thoughts

DNA Testing—Why Do It?

I had toyed with doing the DNA testing on ancestry.com for years, but I didn’t know anyone who had done it, and I couldn’t see a reason to spend the money.

Lin and I with the driver of our bus on the Ring of Kerry Tour in Ireland, July, 2017

My husband, Lin, and I went to England and Ireland in July 2017 for my second cousin’s wedding in England. It was Lin’s dream to go to Ireland because of his Irish heritage, so we added the side trip to Ireland to this trip. I had no connections to Ireland, so I let Lin know before we left that the Irish side trip was for him; however, I enjoyed our trip through Ireland and loved the people.

When we returned home, we had a conversation with Lin’s brother-in-law and sister-in-law about genealogy. They oozed with enthusiasm over having just gotten their results from their DNA testing. As they described their experience, I grabbed my iPad, went to ancestry.com and ordered two DNA kits.

When they arrived, Lin and I did the tests at the same time—we each had to come up with enough spit to fill our individual container. As we continued, the vial seemed to grow bigger and my mouth dried up, but we finally finished it.

We had to wait for about six weeks, but finally, ancestry.com alerted us when the results were ready. I nonchalantly opened the file and deciphered the results. Lin did his at the same time—and mine shocked both of us!

I knew I had a strong English ancestry—my mom had done our genealogy for both sides of the family, and she had records for the Horner’s, my dad’s side, all the way back to our immigration from England.

I thought I had a strong German heritage. My Mom’s maternal grandparents were stow-aways from Germany, so I thought this would be the largest statistic.

No! My largest ethnicity group was England, Wales & Northwestern Europe with 36%, so that surprised me, but the big shock was the second largest group – Ireland & Scotland with 32%.

I shared my findings with Lin wondering what his were. Irish would be his biggest group for sure. His silence screamed his disbelief. I asked again. He hung his head and whispered, “I can’t believe this! You’re 32% Irish; I’m 25!”

My mouth fell open, then a belly laugh hit me hard! I was more Irish than Lin!

We have had lots of laughter about this new find, but I love the information I’ve received. We got our first results in August and then received an update in September—no the testing didn’t change. Ancestry.com came up with new data and refined our information.

There’s lots of new data. Ancestry recently announced that they have more than 10 million people in their DNA database. That large population allowed them to use 16,000 reference samples to develop their new ethnicity estimates (up from 3,000 reference samples from the previous estimates). This has allowed for refinements of the existing estimates, as well as the addition of new regions.”


https://www.legacytree.com/blog/6-things-you-need-to-know-about-ancestrydna-update

My DNA results changed from 36% to 70% England, Wales & Northwestern Europe, and but my Irish went down from 32% to 21%. My initial results cited Europe West (Germanic Europe, France) as 16%. The update lowered it to 9%.

Lin’s update erased any Irish heritage identified in the initial results. His original results listed twelve regions of ethnicity. Then his update did the same as mine. It shortened his list to four areas.; I had three.

I like the warning ancestry.com has, “Your results are up to date! Your DNA doesn’t change, but the science we use to analyze it does. Your results may change over time as the science improves.”

So, our laughter continued as we shared our new results. I playfully shared my newfound Irish heritage with family and friends any time I could.

Ancestry.com also chronicles the immigration of my families to the United States to two areas:

Central North Carolina, Southeast Missouri & Southern Illinois, more specifically the Carolina Piedmont Settlers, and Tennessee & Southern States, more specifically West Tennessee, Western Kentucky & Virginia-North Carolina Piedmont Settlers in 1700’s. Then our families migrated farther west over the years.

Another advantage to doing the DNA testing is I have had several new contacts with family members I didn’t know before.

On the original report, after the top three groups, I had 7% Scandinavia, 4% Iberian Peninsula, 2% Europe South, <1% Melanesia, <1% Europe East, and <1% Middle East, but these minor groups were eliminated with the update. Ancestry.com explains it this way: “More data and new methods of DNA analysis have given us a better picture of which DNA sequences are—or aren’t—associated with specific world regions. This means that some regions may not appear in your new estimate because:

  • a region has been replaced by a smaller region or multiple regions;
  • new data indicates that a region does not belong in your results.”

The updated report isolated my heritage to the three areas identified: England, Wales & Northwestern Europe, Ireland and Scotland and Germanic Europe.

All in all, I enjoyed the DNA testing and results. I look forward to how it might be updated and fine-tuned even more. I also anticipate finding new unknown relatives.

Have you done a DNA testing? If so, what happened?

Take a look at my 4 books and 3 cook books on my web site: https://www.laradasbooks.com

Stroll over to my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft, for 25% discount on all digital copies of my books.

Christmas · family · My Thoughts · square dance

Lin & Larada’s Christmas Letter

Our Christmas newsletter is one of my favorite traditions–I have been sending out a Christmas letter for 30 years. Here’s this year!

Enjoy!

Merry Christmas to you and yours! Feliz Navidad!

Check out my web site for information about my books: https://www.laradasbooks.com

Check out my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft for last minute sales!

Christmas · family · Memoirs · My Thoughts

Are Holiday Traditions Important?

I’m a tradition-based holiday person–I love the familiar and the repetitious. As a child, our home-spun traditions centered on our family. We cut our own Christmas tree on our family ranch when we used to have lots of snow, so it was cold and messy but joyful and an adventure. I often had sap all over my hands.

Because we didn’t have a lot of money, presents were few and heartfelt. I wrote letters to Santa and dreamed about my gifts, looked at a Monkey Ward’s catalog and dog-earred pages so I could revisit it often.

I dressed up in my Christmas outfit, and we ate Christmas Eve dinner at my grandparent’s house across town. When we got to the car, often Dad forgot something and went back inside to retrieve it (later I realized that’s when Santa came!).

My grandparent’s house filled quickly with our family and my aunt and uncle’s family. Often our two great aunts from Tulsa, Oklahoma joined us and gave us $2 bills because one of them worked at a bank. The highlight of the evening was Granddad leading a parade of children from the front door to the back after he shouted, “I saw Santa Claus!”

We would return home after eating a savory dinner and opening our presents to see that Santa had visited our home, and I realized my dreams.

Christmas Day was low-keyed and filled with hours of playing with my new toys.

This scenario repeated itself most years, so you can see the deep family traditions I love.

As an adult, the magic of Santa changed, but Christmas continued to be a magical time for me with my new grown-up traditions. From my first husband, I added Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve at an Episcopal church to my Christmas traditions, and church became a regular part of my celebration.

After my first husband and I divorced, Dad and Mom joined me in this tradition, and we drove to Trinidad, Colorado each Christmas Eve to the Lutheran church for Midnight Mass–some of our most memorable conversations happened on those late night 50-mile drives home.

As a middle school teacher for twenty-seven years, I put together a wild collection of holiday t-shirts, sweatshirts, pants and jewelry that I started wearing the Monday after Thanksgiving–I’m still adding to this collection today.

I love writing our Christmas letter that features what we’ve done for the year. This is my 30th year of writing this, and I enjoy the process of looking a back and summarizing the activity of the year.

I cherish baking Christmas candy and goodies because it reminds me of Mom and all the fun we had in the kitchen–I use a lot of her delicious recipes. And I love sending Christmas cards–I don’t receive that many anymore, but as I address each card, I’m flooded with memories of each person on my list, and it’s a celebration of my family and friends.

The last tradition I will share is one my Mom started in 1988. I was going to codependency treatment on December 22 and wouldn’t be home for Christmas. She put together ten Advent gifts–one to open each day before Christmas, starting on December 15th. I packed the remaining gifts to take with me to treatment but had the shock of my life. They went through my bags, opened each of the unopened gifts, thought a bag of potpourri was marijuana, and confiscated it.  Even though I lost the opportunity to open the remaining Advent gifts, I felt Mom’s presence in a special way that Christmas in those gifts.

We continued that tradition until she died, and I joined in the gift exchange and gave her little nonsensical gifts. We added Aunt Willie and Lin–they enjoyed this tradition.

For me, the various traditions have blessed me deeply and shaped me into the person I am during the holidays. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Are traditions important to you? Share your thoughts with me! I’d love to hear from you!

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Christmas · family · Gratitude · Memoirs · My Thoughts · Travel

A Christmas Memory–Sad & Precious!

My sick brother cut wood to sell!

It was in the late 1960’s. My Mom, Dad, teenage brother and I arrived in Poway, California for a special Christmas celebration. My brother-in-law had recently been diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and the future was bleak. This was only the second time we’d traversed to California for Christmas, and this trip had such a mixture of emotion.

As newlyweds, my sister and her new husband and two stepchildren came to Colorado a couple years before and we had a enjoyable time getting acquainted with my sister’s new family. Being from the city, the children delighted in a trip to our ranch to cut down our Christmas tree, and they enjoyed a truly country Christmas with snow.

My new brother-in-law immediately started picking on me, and we bonded deeply even though he forced me to try cranberries–I had never tried this dish before. With his humor and persistent influence, I grew to love cranberries!

My sister knitted beautiful Christmas presents!

Sunny California appeared gloomy and heavy. The festive atmosphere of Christmas felt tinged with a deep sadness and fear. My sister greeted us warmly, knitting like a crazy woman–she shared with me that all of their gifts this year were knitted.

The man we saw on arrival was a shadow of the man we met a few short years ago. The disease had ravaged his body, and he had lost so much weight, his clothes hung loose and limp on his frame.

But his spirit of love and laughter prevailed. Mom tried her hand at making homemade pie crusts, forgetting the affect of being at sea level on a recipe usually done at 6100 feet above sea level. She clamored about the gooey mess she kept trying to roll out, and my brother-in-law teased unmercifully. As he ducked out of the kitchen with his latest quip, she slung the ball of dough at him, hitting him in the eye–a magnificent bull’s eye. Our laughter filled the kitchen with joy in the ridiculous.

Christmas Eve morning came, and my brother-in-law slipped into our bedroom and whispered his plan for the day to Mom and me, “I’m going to go sell some wood so I can buy my loving wife some Christmas presents. Don’t let her know where I’ve gone. Can you help me wrap the presents when I get home?”

Mom and I both choked back tears, nodding our heads.

The impact of my brother-in-law’s health had destroyed their finances. He hadn’t worked regularly in months; my sister had a good job, but she was so busy and overwhelmed being a caregiver, too. Living in the wooded area of Poway, he did cut wood whenever he could and sell it to make some extra money and to keep active–this was not his nature.

Christmas Eve day went by uneventful except for my sister’s repeated refrain, “Where is my husband? What is he doing?” Her distress weighed on me during the day, but I couldn’t ruin his surprise. She continued to knit on the last project she was trying to finish.

Daylight slowly faded into darkness. Mom and I exchanged worried glances all day–Dad, my sister and brother kept wondering about the where-about’s of my brother-in-law.

Mom and I went to the bedroom to talk about what we should do–it was dark. He had been gone for hours. What if something went wrong? Quietly he opened the door of our bedroom with a couple bags of gifts in hand. He looked exhausted but pleased with himself. 

We wrapped the small collection of gifts–all kitchen utensils for my sister. We placed the gifts under the tree, and my sister was contrite in her reaction to her husband’s day-long absence.

I  knew deep in my heart that this was the most precious exhibition of love and gifting I’d ever seen. His generosity and spirit graced the rest of that holiday.

Forty-some years ago, and it still bring a smile to my heart as I remember his mission of love and the true spirit of Christmas.

Have you had a Christmas like this–sweet and bittersweet at the same time? I’d love to hear your experiences!

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM ME TO YOU! I have posted something from my 3 books. Download a free Christmas story or poem from my web site: https://www.laradasbooks.com

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Christmas · family · Memoirs · My Thoughts

What are Your Christmas Traditions?

In my country childhood, we had many Christmas traditions: the fun and adventure of cutting down a tree from our ranch, hilarious Christmas programs at the church and school, and fun-filled Christmas caroling around our small town. Our family dominated this holiday’s focus.

My dad’s parents lived in the same town, so most Christmas Eve’s were spent at their house with family. See what a traditional Christmas Eve looked like at the Horner’s house!

Santa &amp; Reindeer Graphic

Christmas at the Horner’s

It was a big affair,
     especially when Granddad got all
     sixteen grandchildren together.
That meant a holiday house full.

Each year, my Christmas outfit was always special.
One year
     a white dress with a gathered skirt,
     trimmed in red,
     made by Mom.

Grandma, decked out in her festive apron,
      worried over the meal.
She made the best mashed potatoes,
     smothered in butter.
Granddad’s job came after dinner.

The table was set on the porch so
     we could all fit,
          a long line of smiles and laughter.

For those of us who knew the tradition,
     anticipation set in.
We tried to hurry the process,
     with no success.

Finally after a leisurely cup of coffee and a cigarette,
     Granddad would disappear to the front door.

His shout rang through the whole house!
     It had begun.

“I just saw Santa Claus fly over. Come quick.”

We’d race to the front door,
     and
he would race to the back door.

“No, no he’s out here now. Come this way.”

We’d race to the back door.
This would go on for
     what seemed like eternity,
     and I never did see Santa, a reindeer,
          or his sleigh.
               I was always a second too late!
But this also meant that it was time
     to open our gifts that had mysteriously spilled out from
          under the Christmas tree.

A traditional Christmas with the Horner’s meant
     cousins,
     aunts and uncles,
     sometimes great aunts
          from Tulsa, Oklahoma,
     good food,
     lots of laughter,
and
     traditions that filled my heart with joy and
          family connection!

Copyright © 2014 Larada Horner-Miller
from This Tumbleweed Landed


What was your favorite Christmas tradition? I’d love to hear from you.

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family · Grief · My Thoughts · poetry

How Do You Mourn the Loss of A Loved One?

Program

Grief is a topic that many people turn their backs on–I challenge you to answer the question because I will!

My Aunt Willie Urbanoski died on Friday, October 12, 2018, and because of family circumstances, we didn’t have her memorial service until yesterday, November 10. We did have a private family burial on Thursday, October 18, 2018.

Yesterday, the service was full of stories, pictures, laughter and tears–a real celebration of a woman who lived to be 98 years old–almost 99 because her birthday was Wednesday, November 7.

A second cousin stationed in England couldn’t attend to service, so her sisters did a live feed to her, so she and her husband could attend virtually–a 21st century way to handle loss.

How do YOU mourn the dead? For family? For friends? We all do it differently. My Mom’s sage advice: do it your way. I have a strong need to attend the memorial, view the body and get closure to the relationship. My best friend, Candy, died in 2012, and I was sick and couldn’t attend her service, and I have regretted it for years–no closure for me.

I wrote my aunt a poem for Christmas, 2012, and a week after my Mom died in March, 2013, Aunt Willie asked me if I would read that poem at her funeral. I said I would, but I’d cry all the way through it. She said she didn’t care because she wouldn’t be there!

So yesterday, I mustered my strength and read it–I got almost to the end before the tears came. Here’s the poem–I hope you enjoy it!

La's Poem &amp; John
Presenting My Poem–Some Humor for Sure

My Aunt Wee Wee

By: Larada Horner-Miller

December 25, 2012

Revised: November 9, 2018

You will always be Aunt Wee Wee!

As a child, Bub couldn’t pronounce “Aunt Willie,” so it came out

“Aunt Wee Wee,” and it stuck.

As I look back through my life,

You have always been there,

Aunt Wee Wee!

When I became an Aunt,

I followed your lead!

I wanted to touch my

nieces and nephews’ lives

the way you touched mine!

I have valued all the wonderful times

we spent together over the years.

You grace so many

of my memories!

As a toddler

I can remember

when I looked into your eyes, I saw a playful sparkle

saying,

“Yeah, Larada,

I love you!”

In my childhood,

at Branson dances,

I remember watching

you and Uncle Hughie dance,

and the fun you had.

I remember 4th of July picnics and fireworks

Bub and I couldn’t wait until you arrived with Black Cats!

You came all the way from Albuquerque!

As a family, we went to Albuquerque.

You shared your beautifully decorated cakes.

We went on shopping sprees to the mall.

Delicious Thanksgiving dinners shared!

Our fishing trips

Our time together at Springer lake

You sat religiously by the lake, pole in hand.

While Uncle Hughie and I set up our poles

and roamed!

My week stay with you in Albuquerque-

A visit to Old Town

The Tram and dinner on the top! I felt like a princess!

As a young adult

You attended all of my major life events:

My 8th grade graduation

Princess at the TSJC tournament

My high school graduation

My TSJC graduation

We’ve continued that

precious relationship into my adulthood.

My weddings

You attended my first 2 weddings.

No one attended the third.

Lin and I knew you were with us in spirit at ours.

As our second anniversary approached, Aunt Willie repeated often,

WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?

Yes, Lin and I celebrated our second anniversary

with you in Pueblo— pictures, cake, laughter and love abounded.

I had several special visits while you

were in Logan, UT and now in Pueblo.

Some people I’ve known for a short time

and they only know me one dimensionally.

You have known me forever, and you know the many

sides of me.

You smile, and

you make me smile.

You know all about me,

and you make me feel good

about being me.

You love to laugh and enjoy life.

Often you catch me by surprise

with your witty humor, and we share a belly laugh.

In that laughter

I am no longer 59; You are no longer 93.

We are young again, frolicking on the floor.

My Aunt Wee Wee!

That’s the power you have always had–to make me smile

To make me laugh and

To make me feel good about myself!

What a gift!

I haven’t called you

“Aunt Wee Wee” for years,

but you always will be — my Aunt Wee Wee!

Copyright © 2018 Larada Horner-Miller


How do you mourn the loss of a family member? A friend? I’d love to see your comments. Remember–there’s no right or wrong way to do it!

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