Dancing · family · Friends · Holidays · My Thoughts

New Year’s Eve Memories & Shenanigans!

Happy New Year Ev'es

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

New Year’s Eve With Bub & Lela

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

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

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

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

Square & Round Dancing on This Night

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

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

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

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

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

Unique Night for New Year’s Eve

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

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

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

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

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

The Last Few Years on New year’s Eve

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

Finally,

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

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


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

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? New Year's Eve meme

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

EXCITING NEWS HERE!

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

The Day After Christmas—Now What?

Girl sitting sad the day afer Christmas

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

Looking Back

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

Christmas Eve

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

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

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

Christmas Day

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

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

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

The Day After Christmas

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

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

Extended Christmas Season

Twelve Days of Christmas - day after Christmas

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

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

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

Day after Christmas

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

Games - Day after Christmas

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

Finally,

The day after Christmas has arrived—enjoy it!

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

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

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? Christmas meme

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

EXCITING NEWS HERE!

Press Release - #1 in multi-genres
family · God · Gratitude · My Thoughts · Recovery · Thanksgiving

Try Gratitude—I Challenge You!

Gratitude tuns what we have into enough

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

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


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

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

Gratitude Log

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

Email Family Members and/or Friends

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

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

My Email Example

Dear (Name),

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

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

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

My Gratitude for My Recovery & My God

Gratitude is the best attitude!

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

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

Finally,

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

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


Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme

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

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

Holidays · My Thoughts · Writing

A Vampiress & an Alien Go into a Bar—Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween - vampiress

Not really! A vampiress and an alien became the subject of two writing practices in my writing practice group a couple of weeks ago to celebrate Halloween. I had so much fun with the topics (everyone in the group wrote wildly humorous pieces); I decided to share them with you. To enliven them a bit, I’ve doctored them up just a little!

Enjoy!

Vampiress under a full moon
Vampiress

A Vampiress: First Halloween Writing Practice Prompt

For my first ten-minute writing practice, our leader assigned me the following three items: a bakery, banana bread and a vampiress.


Halloween finally arrived! My lips crave your gorgeous neck, but I have to control myself. I move around behind the display case at our family bakery, Delicacies from Transylvania. We specialize in all kinds of exotic breads and pastries, but what’s surprising today is this handsome man-creature wants plain ole banana bread.

Vampiress' Bakery
Delicacies from Transylvania

I catch my reflection in the window and gasp at my pale coloring. Forgetting my bloodless appearance, I forgot to put on enough rouge to rosy up my cheeks. I have to stop licking my lips, too—it causes my fangs to grow!

As our eyes meet over the bread display, I’m having trouble controlling my cravings. We exchange casual words, but I feel a mutual attraction. We continue our nonsensical back and forth. I see him scan my left hand and ring finger. In its absence, he asks me, “How about dinner tonight?”

My heart jumps in my chest—I can almost feel my fangs growing, so I cover my mouth with a pasty hand and fake a cough. I nod my head yes. After settling down some, I turn back to face him and say quietly, “I have to work until 11:00 PM here because I’m one of the bakers. Can we meet then?”

He chuckles and replies, “A late night get-together—how romantic! Yes, I’ll come by and get you.”

“That works because I live downstairs.”

Banana Bread
Banana Bread

As he walked out with the banana bread in hand, he looked back over his shoulder with a knowing glance, like he was as excited as I was with our late-night rendezvous.

The rest of the long day went by uneventfully. I baked until 10:00 PM, then raced downstairs to shower. After a speedy spitz, I put on my best red, shiny, sexy gown, red lipstick and black eyeliner. I survey myself in the mirror, more than satisfied with my appealing results.

At 11:00 PM, the door to the bakery opened, and he walked in with white roses—how did he know those are my favorite!

He took my hand in his and reached over for a kiss. Before I knew it, my fangs came out, and his neck became my destination, and I savored his delicious blood! What a start to the night for this precocious vampiress! Now pizza!

Vampiress drinking blood
Vampiress

An Alien
An Alien

An Alien: Second Halloween Writing Practice Prompt

For my second ten-minute writing practice, our leader assigned me the following three items: a beach, poppy seed muffin, and an alien.


Beach scene

I’ve never seen a beach before, but those earthlings seem enthralled with it. That wet stuff moving along the edge of the gritty stuff called “sand” is “water,” or they call it, “Ocean.” How crazy is that! On my planet, “ocean” is a dirty word. My pals back home would be howling.

In our world, our law enforcers have outlawed water because wet stuff deteriorates everything it comes into contact with. In fact, I saw a friend of mine dissolve right before my eyes when he accidentally spilled some on his appendage.

Even though I’m still fascinated. That big orange thing hanging over the edge of the water we see often at home, but when we see it, it’s cold, not warm like it is here on Earth. What a difference our two planets have. In my earthly travels, I’ve learned some words, and it seems they call it the sun, but at home we call it “boomerang.”

I’ve disguised my skinny body today to look like an earthling beach bum with a wide-brim floppy hat and dark sunglasses, so I could walk along the beach with these earth people. So many shapes and sizes amaze me. Some of them don two pieces of clothing but very skimpy to cover their bodies. Those have two bumps on the top they try to cover, but it’s questionable, and the bottom barely covers anything. The others wear only one piece to cover their lower part, and they have hair growing where the others have those two bumps that vary in size. Strange attributes for each.

I see a group sitting down near the water but not in it. My curiosity gets the best of me, so I sit on the edge of the group, making sure I’m not near the water.

Poppy seed muffin
Poppy Seed Muffin

They’re putting a round piece of something crumbly into the hole in the top part of their bodies, right under a part that sticks out some. They’re making cheerful sounds and saying, “Delicious poppy seed muffins.”

As I watch, the part they put in disappears, and they then take more and put that into that hole. Its holding capacity seems bottomless because they keep adding more.

One of them realized I was watching and asked me something—I’m not fluent in earthling language yet, so I shook my head up and down which on our planet means “No.”

The person jumped up and gave me one of the “poppy seed muffins.” I followed their lead and put it in the hole under the sticky-out part. Suddenly, the flavor exploded in my mouth! How delicious! But back home, this would be sinful—that much pleasure! What was I to do?

I sat, mouth full of the piece—I did not know what to do. I watched more closely and saw them swallow, so I tried it and almost gagged! Aliens can’t eat food from this planet. What to do now?

I zapped myself over to New York City to avoid swallowing that gooey stuff and embarrassing myself. Let’s see what’s going on here!


A vampiress and an alien—two Halloween characters to enliven your day! I hope you enjoyed my playfulness with a couple of Halloween prompts. What do you think? Do you like to tell Halloween stories? (Scroll down below to make a ghoulish comment!)

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Holidays · My Thoughts · Patriotism

A Country Girl’s American Dream

American Flag - Dream

“The American dream is not that every man must be level with every other man. The American dream is that every man must be free to become whatever God intends he should become.”

Ronald Reagan

AMERICA’S ORIGINS

Happy Independence Day! America offered me the dream. Looking back over my life, I have realized some of my dreams, but not all. I became a published author, so I am one of the fortunate ones. Not everyone sees their dreams come true. But I always wanted children, and that never happened.

First, we need to see where this festival day originated and see how I saw my dream come to fruition.

“On July 2nd, 1776, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence, and two days later delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, a historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson. From 1776 to the present day, July 4th has been celebrated as the birth of American independence, with festivities ranging from fireworks, parades and concerts to more casual family gatherings and barbecues.”

https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/july-4th

MY DREAM

Celebrating the 4th of July - American dream
Me celebrating a few years ago

            I am a country girl who graduated in a class of four from a small rural school. My parents never asked about me going to college—I was going. Neither of them had college degrees and wanted a better life for me. Also, they demanded I go to Trinidad State Junior College for the first two years, so I became a beautician.

I thoroughly enjoyed that career for fourteen years. At first, it uprooted me from the country life and I moved to Denver, Colorado to face life in a large metro area. After divorcing, I became a middle school English and Spanish teacher, the first person in my family to receive a four-year college degree. Then I persisted and earned a master’s degree. I enjoyed that profession for twenty-seven years—my students, team-teaching and my creative projects, yet my writing called.

I enjoyed my two careers, but my dream came true in retirement when I published my first book. Publishing that first book took thirty years. While teaching, I wrote it and put it away. My busy teaching life left little room for writing. Also, I traveled and danced a lot, so my book took a back seat.

            After retirement, I dusted it off and published it and felt like I had finally found myself. Five more books and three cookbooks followed, and each one satisfied a deep need I had to share my voice with the world.

UNREALIZED DREAM

            My parents and culture raised me to marry and have 2.7 children, but having children never happened. My students fulfilled that need for many years, and I’ve come to terms with it. I accepted it and moved on.

American Dream

YOUR DREAMS

           Never let your dreams die. I was sixty years old before I published my first book. What are your dreams?


~Pre-Order My New Book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? To be released this summer.  https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdJNjMivaCzk2YcNWHGMoxG4FPsfVEqEQEzYbcYr4tX9cDPVQ/viewform?usp=sf_link

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Holidays · My Thoughts

How Do You Celebrate Easter?

Celebrate Easter - bunny
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Easter eggs? Church attendance? A religious holiday? Chocolate eggs? Our secular world celebrates Easter in a variety of ways. How do you celebrate it?

As a child, I focused on the secular side of Easter—finding Easter eggs, my basket, and lots of chocolate. I attended church each year with a new dress, shoes and hat. Our family celebrated with a festive dinner and all the fun activities for children, but no focus on the religious significance. Here I am in 1960, all dressed up for Easter at seven years old.

Celebrate Easter, 1960
Larada dressed up for Easter, 1960

In 1966, one memorable Easter, I ended up with a broken nose. Our county 4-H group had a roller skating party in Trinidad, Colorado, the night before Easter, bringing together country children from all over Las Animas County. The owners of the skating rink decided to wax the floor before our big event, so we skaters had a terrible time standing up, much less skating., and we skated often, so it wasn’t new to us.

After I finally got the hang of skating on this slick floor, I skated with my cousin and a friend from Hoehne, Colorado, holding hands, laughing and enjoying our night of fun. Suddenly he fell first, and she fell over him. I flipped over the two of them and landed flat-faced on the floor, nose gushing with blood everywhere.

I had been looking forward to this big day for months, so I cleaned myself up and continued skating, cautious and careful, ignoring the pain in my face.

Next morning, I woke up with two black eyes and a swollen, sore nose. The unofficial diagnosis: a broken nose! Even though I hurt and looked horrendous, I proudly dressed in my new yellow seersucker Easter dress, white shoes and white hat that cradled my head. Here I am in 1966 at thirteen years old, but you can’t the black eyes or the swollen nose.

Celebrate Easter, 1966 with broken nose
Larada dressed for Easter with broken nose in 1966

Because I didn’t have children, I didn’t get into the egg hunts, baskets and such. I had a memorable time with my young niece, though, in 1974. At that time, my husband and I and my brother and his wife lived in Denver, Colorado as young married near each other. At nine months, my niece didn’t understand the whole egg dying business. Her mom and I prepared the multiple cups with the different dye in each one.

We wrapped a tea towel around the little one to protect her clothes from the dye and began our joyous adventure. We gently placed an egg in each cup of color and used a spoon to roll them around to deepen the color. The transformation from white to different colors captivated my niece: red, blue, green, yellow! She squealed with delight standing on the chair peering into the multi-colored cups.

Celebrate Easter - dying eggs
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Excited and before we could stop her, my nine-month-old niece grabbed an egg out of the cup with her hand—now her hand was red. We tried to stop her, but in her exuberance, we couldn’t. The red dye didn’t discolor her hand too much, or we didn’t notice it.

Then we moved on to the next cup and the blue dye had already darkened to a deep shade. Her mom held her back as I rolled it around a little to get a deeper blue, then my niece’s small pudgy hand darted past her mom and grabbed the blue egg!

Dripping blue dye from her fingers, I quickly snatched it from her chubby hand and giggled. I loved her enthusiasm! But now we had a problem: her hand with fresh blue dye with the red stain already present. We looked down at my niece’s hand and it had turned a horrible shade of murky blackish grey! My niece howled, shook her hand to no avail, and we laughed! She kept shaking it, but the color stayed!

Her mom and I laughed at this strange situation, scrubbed her hand with detergent. The unpleasant color stained her hand still. My niece would look at it and shake it repeatedly, whimpering. Finally, we returned to our task and finished the dying activity with the rest of the eggs dark and colorful. But my niece had lost interest in the whole thing and became a reluctant observer.

After my Dad died, I made it a point to celebrate Easter with Mom every year. One year, her Methodist church from Des Moines, New Mexico had a Sunrise Service at Capulin Mountain, which is a volcano. We drove to the Visitor’s Center, then rode up the mountain in a school bus. When we got to the top of the volcano, the group gathered in a sheltered area to keep warm, away from the wind. Deer grazed inside the volcano and peace filled the air. I remember little about the service or the sermon, but Fred Owensby had arrived early and walked down in the cone. At the end of the service, he played “Amazing Grace” on his trumpet, and I shivered with goosebumps, not the cold. It was glorious! Afterwards, we drove to Des Moines for a pancake breakfast and fellowship and fun—a memorable time for sure!

Capulin Volcano

After that fateful experience with my young niece, I didn’t have another notable Easter with children until 2013. My brother’s family gathered with me and my husband for my mother’s memorial service on April 1. Easter that year was the March 31, the day before Mom’s service. My niece in the story above now had her children there with us. Her brother and sister’s families joined us, too. My nieces and nephew did a remarkable job under dire circumstance to celebrate Easter for their children. They colored eggs, had baskets and made it fun! And it was!

During my lifetime, I have continued attending church on Easter, celebrating our risen Lord. This year, I felt a deeper meaning in the whole Easter story from Good Friday to the celebration of Easter. Today, as I attended my church on Facebook Livestream, I marveled at the wonders and the blessings of this day so many years ago. The Resurrection story still brings a tear to my eyes.

I hope you had a meaningful holiday this year—beyond the trifles this world offers and delved into the deeper meaning of the holiday.

How do you celebrate Easter? Did you gather with family this year? Did you go to church? How was it different to celebrate it this year from the past? The same?


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

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ALL FOUR E-BOOK FORMATS OF FLIPPO’S BIOGRAPHY AVAILABLE NOW:

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Holidays · My Thoughts

Valentine’s Day 2021! So Different Yet So Good!

Valentine's Day
Photo by alleksana from Pexels

Valentine’s Day 2021—a snowy frigid winter day in New Mexico! We’ve experienced a different celebration today yet so good! How have you spent your day?

Still we face coronavirus restrictions, so we had no choice of eating out to celebrate this day. Our marriage has spanned ten years, and Lin and I have been together for eleven. As the years rolled by, this celebratory day of love has changed.

Early in our relationship, Lin filled it with memorable times of special gifts and memorable nights. Now we comfortably celebrate in much less dramatic ways, yet know the depth of our love grows each year. Now, we exchange cards, flowers and nominal gifts.

As I pondered the whole impact of the holiday today, I found some really poignant and fun memes I’d like to share with you:

Valentine's Day
This is for Jesse, my cat!
Valentine's Day
That look!
Valentine's Day
Again those eyes!
Valentine's Day
Did it find you?
Valentine's Day
For my writer’s heart!
Valentine's Day
Another one for my writer’s soul!
Valentine's Day
The place where love is!
Valentine's Day
Oh, those precious memories!

Years don’t lessen the love in a relationship—it doesn’t have to grow stale. In fact, we have deepened our relationship, especially with the intense togetherness the pandemic forced on all of us. As we went through this unsettling time mostly 24/7, I found a deep-rooted respect for Lin and his work ethics. His humor delights me every morning when he serenades me and Jesse, my cat, belting out a rhyming ditty he created on the spot. His deep care and commitment to me still leaves me breathless!

The routine we created during this time together comforts my soul: a leisure morning of Lin reading his current history book and me doing my Quiet Time then Cribbage and breakfast. We go our separate ways then lunch together and a thirty-minute comedy series where we laugh together. We spend our afternoons separate on our own endeavors. Then after his workout and my walk, we head towards the hot tub for warmth and again a leisure time to talk over our world’s matters.

After a shower and dinner, we sit shoulder-to-shoulder watching our favorite British detective solve yet another crime. Before the finale, we share our choices of the villain!

Then off to bed we go! Quite a different routine for us than our usual busy lifestyle of constant dancing and traveling. And the benefit yielded—wow!

Right now, Lin naps on the loveseat downstairs waiting for the Nascar race to restart after a rainstorm. This last week, he has worked hard in the yard, preparing for spring planting, so he needs the nap and refreshment.

I write at my laptop in the loft and I hear only his soft snores—the heartwarming music of my Valentine’s Day with a dear, dear man for many years, still so, so good!

Finally, I love the reward of time together in a relationship, and I value Lin Miller as much today as I did ten years ago—maybe more because of what we have experienced.

What’s your routine? How has your relationship grown during the pandemic? How did you spend Valentine’s Day?


Did you miss one of my recent blogs? Here’s a chance to see one from the last three weeks:

Just Another Square Dance Caller Cover

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

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

ALL FOUR E-BOOK FORMATS OF FLIPPO’S BIOGRAPHY AVAILABLE NOW:

~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me & my books:  https://www.laradasbooks.com

~My Amazon Author’s Page: https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B00LLQTXSM

~ HURRY! ENDS TODAY! Visit my Etsy Shop for all my books for a Valentine’s Day discount of 25% off select books and bundles:   https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaradasReadingLoft

 ~HURRY! ENDS TODAY! Enter the $400 Valentine Giveaway & WIN a $400 Amazon eCard! Only One Lucky Winner – Why not YOU? ~> http://ow.ly/L7Vn50DkYGN

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

Coronavirus · Holidays · My Thoughts · Thanksgiving

How About Pizza for Thanksgiving?

Photo by Ponyo Sakana from Pexels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Larada Relaxing on the Sofa with Jesse Warming Her Feet!

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

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

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

Jesse helping me Type!
Jesse Helping Me Type This!

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

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

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

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


~Visit my blog post from last week:

Merry Christmas from Flippo

~HAVE YOU ORDERED A PERSONALLY AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY FOR A CHRISTMAS PRESENT FOR A LOVED ONE OR YOURSELF?   AVAILABLE NOW! Go to the homepage on my website and pay for it there: https://www.laradasbooks.com

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

ALL FOUR E-BOOK FORMATS OF FLIPPO’S BIOGRAPHY AVAILABLE NOW:

~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me and my books:  https://www.laradasbooks.com

~ Visit my Etsy Shop for 25% off individual paperback titles. Good until December 20, 2020. Here’s the coupon link: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaradasReadingLoft?coupon=25OFFSANDIA1220INDIV

Holidays · Life Lessons · My Thoughts · Thanksgiving

What’s Your Favorite Thanksgiving Memory?

Pictures of Thanksgiving
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Restrictions, stay-at-home suggestions, don’t travel! This year continues to alter our reality with the danger of a traditional large family gathering at Thanksgiving becoming a super-spreader!

I have a possible remedy for what we face this year for Thanksgiving! How about a trip down memory lane to happier times? I’ve had so many wonderful ones, it’s hard to identify my favorite.

During my childhood in my country town, family surrounded me on Thanksgiving Day. We enjoyed the traditional fare of turkey and all the trimmings at noon time. Dad and other sports enthusiast watched whatever football game that came on. Usually the Dallas Cowboy played on this holiday. Dad hated them and rooted for Dallas’ opponent, no matter who they were!

Thanksgiving at this table often
Our Round Table in Branson, Colorado Has Seen Lots of Games!

The rest of us gathered around the round table in my parents’ home for an afternoon and evening of unending games, laughter and fellowship! At times, three to four generations gathered there for some of my favorite holiday memories. My family has always taken pictures, anytime we were together, so that was a part of the ritual, too!

As a young married, I offered to cook my first Thanksgiving dinner in Denver, Colorado with both of our parents in attendance. My parents came up early and stayed with us. I woke Thanksgiving morning sick as a dog, so Mom stepped in and finished the preparations! I wonder if it was nerves? My mom and mother-in-law were cooking giants!

Waiting for Thanksgiving guests

A few years later, my first husband and I moved to Loveland, Colorado and again we invited both parents for the big holiday. A massive snowstorm hit, starting on Monday of Thanksgiving week, and it came down for days. We had feet of snow, and my parents canceled because of the four-hour drive north. My in-laws and sister-in-law braved the hour and half drive from Denver, and we celebrated the holiday with no game playing but an enjoyable time. It was my first Thanksgiving without my parents, so it was hard for me!

After I divorced and while I was going to Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado, I spent all of my Thanksgivings with Mom and Dad, at my home. We started a new tradition. Dad and Mom drove to Loveland or Fort Collins, Colorado (I moved to Fort Collins later), and we had our holiday meal at different restaurants in the area. “The Old Farmhouse” became our favorite with seating in the various rooms of an actual old farmhouse. Then the Saturday night after Thanksgiving, we drove to Boulder to attend the Boulder Dinner Theater. My dad was this old cowboy who lit up with live music and performances! We did this for the four years I attended the university.

After graduation, I taught in Denver, Colorado my first year, then I moved to Raton, New Mexico, and another tradition began for my four years there. Dad, Mom and I drove to Alamogordo, New Mexico to share Thanksgiving with my half-sister and her family. We had memorable times of good food, laughter and lots of games.

When I moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, I returned home for Thanksgiving yearly, but the gatherings were smaller. We still enjoyed delicious food and fun game time around Mom’s round table with my aunt and my cousin’s family. The weekend after Thanksgiving, we would go out to our ranch and cut down Christmas trees for Mom, my classroom or friends and me. Our fresh cut trees lasted so well throughout the holiday season. We also cut fresh cedar boughs—I love their delicious smell!

Dad’s last Thanksgiving was memorable yet sad. My nephew, Andy, had come to help Mom with Dad’s care after his recent hospitalization. On the Friday after Thanksgiving and a snowstorm, we drove out to our ranch to cut down trees as usual. As we faced a sizable drift to get to the trees, I told a young Andy, “See where you need to get. Punch it and drive like hell!”

His eyes twinkled with my permission to speed and with a giggled, we plowed through the drift easily, cut down our trees and created a memory we reference often!

When Ted and I got together, he had a Thanksgiving tradition I adopted, with a heavy heart at first. He regularly attended a round dance festival in Dallas, Texas that began the Monday of Thanksgiving week with the local round dance cuers cuing each night and workshopping during the day. The official festival began on Friday and lasted through Sunday. On Thanksgiving night, Ted and I would dance with a square dance club we both loved instead of round dancing.

No family, my Mom alone—the first one I felt horrible, but she consoled me and said you have to live your life! I grew to love the festival but hated missing time with Mom.

After Ted and I broke up, it was Mom and me. We shared the holiday with my cousin and her family. On Friday morning after Thanksgiving, Mom and I drove fifty miles to Trinidad, Colorado early in the morning to take advantage of the Black Friday sales. She absolutely loved the crowds and the craziness!

Then Lin and I married, and the three of us started a delightful tradition: Thanksgiving dinner out at the High Noon Restaurant and Saloon in Old Town Albuquerque. We booked our reservation for dinner around Lin’s tradition of watching football games all day. This restaurant provided a complete meal at our table for our size party then sent us home with all the leftovers! Mom loved this special place.

After Mom passed away, Lin and I continued that tradition for a couple years, but then I decided to cook our meal the last couple years. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and football dominated the day.

As, I stood at the counter to prepare the crust for my pumpkin pies, Mom joined me in my heart because I used her remarkable pie crust recipe given to her by our family’s doctor in 1953! Instead of grieving the loss of so many of my family as I moved around the kitchen, I remembered them all and the great times we’ve had.

Last year, my brother joined us for Thanksgiving, and we had a delightful time, our first Thanksgiving together in a long time.

This year, it’s Lin and me with the restrictions in place. So, yes, I’ve wondered about Thanksgiving 2020, but as I’ve remembered my previous celebrations, I am grateful for my family and the memories I will have forever!

So, my suggestion to you is take the time these next couple days before Thanksgiving, to walk back in time and remember those special celebrations and especially the people who made them so.  Then share them with me!


~Visit my two blog posts from last week:

Cover of Just Another Square Dance Caller

~HAVE YOU ORDERED A PERSONALLY AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY?   AVAILABLE NOW! Go to the homepage on my website and pay for it there: https://www.laradasbooks.com

ALL FOUR E-BOOK FORMATS OF FLIPPO’S BIOGRAPHY AVAILABLE NOW:

~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me and my books:  https://www.laradasbooks.com

~ Visit my Etsy Shop for 25% off individual paperback titles. Good until December 20, 2020. Here’s the coupon link: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaradasReadingLoft?coupon=25OFFSANDIA1220INDIV

Albuquerque · Holidays · My Thoughts

Día De Los Muertos, A Celebration of the Dead!

Women dressed for Día De Los Muertos,

Have you heard of Día De Los Muertos, the Day of the Dead? Right now, today and tomorrow, this celebration features skulls, painted skeleton faces, candles, food and cemeteries. It’s a popular Mexican holiday that has migrated into the southwestern states of the United States. So many mysteries reside in the Southwest: gorgeous sunsets over purple mesas, delicious Mexican cuisine, red or green chili and the Día De Los Muertos observance.

The traditional American culture avoids talking about death and grief, much less celebrate it. I wrote a grief memoir a few years ago about the loss of my parents and my growth in the process, and many who supported my other books have shunned it—too serious, too sad!

This Mexican tradition is a fresh approach uniting the living and the dead, celebrating the departed in a visceral way. They share a meal with their deceased loved ones as if they were here!

Before I moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1991, I had never heard of this celebration. I grew up in southeastern Colorado. I had studied Spanish at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado and received a minor in Spanish—never heard of it. When I arrived in Albuquerque, I worked at a school with mostly Hispanic students and soon learned about the importance of Día De Los Muertos to my students. They spoke of calaveras (skulls in Spanish) which is

“an ornately decorated representation of a skull, often featuring flowers, animals, and other decorations. During the holiday, this imagery is seen everywhere, from Ofrendas, to paper crafts, and even to cartoons on newspapers. In a way, the Calavera has become an embodiment of the holiday itself.”

https://dayofthedead.holiday/sugar-skull/

My students quickly identified another definition of calaveras with this celebration. When my students first mentioned calaveras, I only knew them to mean skulls in Spanish and they talked of eating them, so I knew I had something to learn. My students’ eyes lit up as they described this festive occasion, so I listened and learned first-hand. Calaveras are sugary candies eaten at this time. Obviously, as families and a community, they honored their dead in a much different way than I had ever seen.

After their introduction, I did my own research and became knowledgeable about this important event. As an Episcopalian, I knew about All Saints or All Souls Day, November 1, but this holiday took it a step further. Here’s some interesting information about this delightful holiday:

Día De Los Muertos skeleton statutes
Image by dat7 from Pixabay

“Families create ofrendas (Offerings) to honor their departed family members that have passed. These altars are decorated with bright yellow marigold flowers, photos of the departed, and the favorite foods and drinks of the one being honored. The offerings are believed to encourage visits from the land of the dead as the departed souls hear their prayers, smell their foods and join in the celebrations!”

https://dayofthedead.holiday/

Día De Los Muertos Traditions

“Day of the Dead is a unique tradition celebrated every year across Mexico. It is a festival aimed at honoring one’s dead ancestors on the date when their souls are believed to return to Earth.”

https://dayofthedead.holiday/traditions/

Día De Los Muertos skeleton singer

When is the Día De Los Muertos?

 “Day of the Dead is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd. It is sometimes confused with Halloween because of the symbolic skulls but is not related at all.

It is said that on November 1st the children who have passed come back to visit and celebrate as angelitos and on the following day, November 2nd, it’s the adults (Difuntos) return to show up for the festivities.

Family members prepare for several weeks in advance for the tradition by creating altars, decorating burial sites, and cooking specific Day of the Dead food.”

https://dayofthedead.holiday/history/

5 Movies You Need to See about the Día De Los Muertos

  1. Coco
  2. James Bond’s Spectre
  3. The Book of Life
  4. Macario
  5. Día de los Muertos/ Day of the Dead

https://dayofthedead.holiday/traditions/5-day-of-the-dead-movies-you-need-to-see

10 facts to know about Día De Los Muertos?

1.     Day of the Dead is NOT Mexican Halloween

2.     The holiday has a rich and ancient history, dating back over 2000 years.

3.     Mexican families place Ofrendas to honor their deceased relatives

4.     Day of the Dead isn’t somber, it is a celebration

5.     Humor has played an important role in the holiday

6.     It is customary to visit cemeteries

7.     Marigolds are a key component

8.     Pastries and sweets are central to the holiday

9.     Different traditions exist in different parts of the country

10.  The Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City is a very recent addition

https://dayofthedead.holiday/traditions/10-facts-to-know-about-day-of-the-dead

La Catrina of Día De Los Muertos
La Catrina Image by Jae Rue from Pixabay

Día De Los Muertos has become so popular where I live! Stop in at many souvenir shops in Old Town Albuquerque and multi-colored skeletons in a variety of forms fill the shelves. One character I see repeatedly: a tall slender woman topped with a hat with feathers. Her name is La Catrina and she has been given credit for the skeleton-like makeup so associated with Día De Los Muertos. Learn more about her at:

https://dayofthedead.holiday/traditions/who-is-la-catrina

Día De Los Muertos pickup
Image by Please Don’t sell My Artwork AS IS from Pixabay

So, if you’re driving through a southwest city on November 1st or 2nd in the evening, look for a cemetery, lit up with candles placed around a grave and families gathered together to celebrate the lives of their departed. Think about how you remember your deceased love ones. Maybe, next year, don some bright skeleton makeup and join in this age-old tradition!

This morning, I went to the App store on my iPad, and it featured six Día De Los Muertos sticker sets!

Larada celebrating Día De Los Muertos!
Larada celebrating Día De Los Muertos!

A special thank you to Day of the Dead website for valuable information. Visit to learn about delicious recipes of food shared at this holiday and more about the Mexican culture.

https://dayofthedead.holiday/

Have you ever heard of the Día De Los Muertos? Have you ever participated in the Día De Los Muertos celebrations? How do you view death?


Just Another Square Dance Caller Cover

~HAVE YOU ORDERED A PERSONALLY AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY?   AVAILABLE NOW! Go to the homepage on my website and pay for it there: https://www.laradasbooks.com

ALL FOUR E-BOOK FORMATS OF FLIPPO’S BIOGRAPHY AVAILABLE NOW:

~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me and my books:  https://www.laradasbooks.com

~ Visit my Etsy Shop for 25% off individual paperback titles. Good until December 20, 2020. Here’s the coupon link: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaradasReadingLoft?coupon=25OFFSANDIA1220INDIV

~Visit my last week’s blog about my Siamese Silver Tip cat, Jesse: https://laradasbooks.com/2020/10/25/how-about-a-cat-for-a-pet/