How about a sneak peek inside my new book, Hair on Fire: A Heartwarming & Humorous Christmas Memoir? Can I entice you to buy it with a sampling of it?
Chapter 18: Give away a Christmas Tree?
Giveaway a Christmas tree? Why would anyone do that? When I first came to Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1991 as a middle school teacher, I started a tradition in my classroom. Each year, I put up a Christmass tree, then gave it away to one of my students before our Christmas vacation.
Early in December, I’d have my students put their names in a hat, and we’d draw the lucky winner. I taught in a low-income school and many of my students’ families struggled with the basics. A Christmas tree was a luxury and a fresh-cut one, a novelty.
In 1991, and throughout the time I taught, we could still put up a Christmas tree in our classrooms, and I dressed in my Christmas out!ts, starting the first Monday after Advent. Today, I know that teachers can’t do this, which makes me sad. That Christmas tree always brought a touch of magic into my classroom—the piñon pine smell, the twinkling lights, and the popcorn chain we threaded together in each class and laughed over.
Often, I would turn down the overhead lights and read to my classes with just the Christmas tree lights on. What a precious memory!
Because I put the tree up at the beginning of December, the anticipation grew about the contest. I teased them often with the possibility: who would win? All students were eligible!
I will never forget that first year of seeing the lucky student whose name I drew. He was the winner! Shocked, he and several students helped me un-decorate the tree after our class Christmas party. Then he convinced two friends to help him carry the tree home. As I looked out the window and watched this funny parade, the smiles and excitement the group exhibited warmed my heart. Even though they were middle-schoolers, they treasured this fresh-cut tree. After that first year, I knew I had found a grand tradition to continue!
HOW DID I come about having an extra tree each year to give away?
After I moved to Albuquerque, I often went home to Colorado for Thanksgiving. Like I mentioned before, my parents had a family ranch in southeastern Colorado and northeastern New Mexico. Growing up, we went out to the ranch and cut our own tree each year.
During that weekend home, we went out to the ranch and cut down three trees—one for my folks, one for my home, and one for my classroom. My parents loved the idea of providing a Christmas tree for my classroom and they loved the gifting to a student.
I loved those trips out to our ranch, cutting down a fresh tree. Dad, Mom, and I made a great excursion out of it. On previous trips out there, we had already decided where the best piñon pine trees were. During these years, Dad started the sawing, but because of his breathing issues and his age, I usually helped. And yes, we always got sap on our hands—what a delicious smell, but a sticky mess!
I felt privileged to give away a Christmas tree to one of my students, and this tradition continued for many years. What a rewarding experience it was!
Is a Christmas tree giveaway something special? I thought it was, especially after seeing my students’ smiles. Have you ever given a Christmas tree away? If so, what was the effect?
Larada Horner-Miller, Hair on Fire: A Heartwarming & Humorous Christmas Memoir, (2023): 85-88.
I hope this sneak peek whetted your appetite for more of my stories, poems, and memories! Have you ever given a Christmas tree away?
News, News, News!
~ONE DAY LEFT FOR FREE! Today’s the last day to get Hair on Fire: A Heartwarming & Humorous Christmas Memoir FREE on Amazon. Click here!
What Ties My Six Books Together? As I pondered this question this week, I wondered: three books about my rural childhood in southeastern Colorado, one about my grief in losing my parents, one a biography about a square dance caller and the last one about my reaction to the coronavirus pandemic. Then I saw the tie that binds them: relationships and connection to people. So, here’s how I see the tie that ties my writing together:
My First Book
This Tumbleweed Landed, a memoir written in poetry and prose, focuses on people, places and events in my small rural community during my childhood. I fashioned it after Cynthia Rylant’s children’s book, Waiting to Waltz, who wrote poetry about people, places and events in a fictional town. In my book, I celebrated my childhood relationships with many notorious adults in town—Virgie Firestone and the Warners. Also, what I wrote about many of the places and events, places and times I connected with my family and friends—Branson dances and stories my dad and his school years, told sitting at our round table.
My Second Book
When Will Papa Get Home?, a historical fiction, focuses on a Mexican immigrant family’s perilous times during the 20s in southeastern Colorado. Maria, the daughter, tells the story of her family’s plight. She weaves the tale of those people responsible for her papa’s false accusations.
I centered this book on familial and friend relationships and connection to people. Sadly though, this book also shows the prejudice of the time and the misconnection some people had with certain races. But her deep connection with her family wins in the end.
My Third Book
Let Me Tell You a Story, a nonfiction account of how my granddad put our family ranch together during the depression when many other ranchers lost theirs, focuses on the three generations of my family and our ranch. My dad, mom and I had previously released this booklet in 1992 at my dad’s 75th birthday party. It overflows with the relationship between my dad and his dad and my granddad, and the relationship my dad and granddad had with the ranch they loved. Yes, you can have a relationship and connection with the earth! Even though it focuses on the ranch, the underlying topic is our familial relationships.
My Fourth Book
A Time to Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir, a memoir about the loss of my parents, shows the foundation of my life and relationships: my parents. Of all my books, this book hurt to write, yet I love it the most! In talking about my loss, I feature the unique relationship I had with each parent. First, I connected with each of them, making it easier to connect with others in the world.
My Fifth Book
Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo, a biography of the most famous square dance caller in the world’s, first and foremost highlights relationships and connections with people. Yes, it tells Flippo’s life story from Texas to Japan as a young man and then later in life, but a major part of his life story was his connection with his family and friends. So much so, he required a section in the book telling stories about his square and round dance friends. After fulfilling that request, I connected with callers, cuers and dancers and featured their stories about Flippo. Yes, he truly understood relationships and how to connect with just about anyone.
My Sixth Book
Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?, a spiritual self-help book written in poetry and prose, focuses on many of the perils of the coronavirus pandemic with an underlying theme the opposite of my focus: isolation. Yet this theme emphasized the extreme need I had and many others had to connect with people, to be with people, to relate with people. Thankfully, Zoom met some of those needs—a monthly get-together with two women friends I knew in Loveland, Colorado, a Christmas concert with our local caller, and many recovery meetings. But I’ll never forget the first time I went out without a mask and actually hugged someone besides my husband. Something deep inside me healed.
The lack of connection truly became the hardest part of the pandemic for me, and I see now how that appears throughout this book.
This topic came up because I’m a multi-genre author which makes it difficult to market my books, my brand. Current training I’m attending wrestled with this dilemma. But I have no qualms about this! I love poetry and prose. Also I relish historical fiction. Writing Flippo’s biography was a privilege and an honor. I love the variety!
Relationships and connections with people feed my life and my writing. I did not know when I wrote each book that those themes laced their way through each work, hiding in a poem, a story, or my prose. Actually, taking the time to identify the tie between my six books opened my eyes! I’m so glad I wrote this blog to see the common tie that binds my work together. I have a feeling this meandering around and through my six books will help me in my future writing!
If you’ve read my books, did you see this theme? If not, did you see others? Let me know.
~For me, it’s Christmas all year long!Here’s a variety of Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When It’s Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A
~My new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? WON the 2022 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards in the Body, Mind & Spirit Category. Have you bought your copy yet?Vist my website: laradasbooks.com or at Amazon.
I love languages and was a Spanish teacher at the middle school level for fourteen years! Recently, I enjoyed learning Merry Christmas in many languages! Merry Christmas in Italian, in Spanish and in Portuguese and how they say it in the Philippines! What a welcoming worldwide greeting!
Lin and I just got back from a cruise touring Spain and Italy. It ended up in Portugal. Holiday decorations appeared at the beginning of December, so I decided I wanted to learn how each country said Merry Christmas. I added a couple of new “Merry Christmas” greetings to my repertoire. In each country, I practiced as much as possible and received lots of smiles, giggles and responses when I said Merry Christmas in their languages. I greeted shop clerks, workers at the airport and anyone I could! Practice was important for retention—the teacher came out in me.
I learned how to say “Merry Christmas” in Spanish years ago as a Spanish teacher—Feliz Navidad! And One of my favorite Christmas songs is Jose Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad.” However, it’s pronounced differently here in the United States and Mexico than Spain:
One of our waiters on the cruise shared with me how to say Merry Christmas in the Phillipines, so here it is. It sounds musical!
How to say Merry Christmas in several different languages
This is a worldwide holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, so I enjoyed seeing the decorations in the different countries that mirrored what we see here in the United States: twinkling lights, Santa Claus, Nativities, and season’s greetings, and I loved learning these greetings.
Can you say Merry Christmas in different languages? Check out these videos I’ve listed and share them with your family and friends.
Am I afraid of tough topics? Not at all! Two of my books touch very heavy subjects: death and the coronavirus pandemic, and I felt compelled to write them, no matter what the consequences. A Time to Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir addressed the death of my parents and my growth. Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? dealt with my experience with the coronavirus pandemic—another difficult concern.
Tough Topic #1—Death
A Time to Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir
When my father died in 1996, my mother told me, “Everyone grieves in their own way.”
I took these words to heart when Mom passed away in 2013. I discovered that writing poetry was the best way of working through my fresh grief. Eventually, I penned dozens of intimate, heartfelt poems about my parents’ lives and legacies and my deep sorrow and gradual recovery and growth. Yes, it was a grief memoir but a growth memoir, as well.
I discussed the emotional challenges of caring for my parents at the end of their lives. My words will strike a chord with any worried caretaker or child watching over ailing but fiercely independent loved ones.
As I explored the nuances of bereavement through my poetry, I provided inspiration and comfort for readers coping with the same burdens. While many of my poems explore the depths of my anguish, others exude humor and warmth—a reminder that there is still always light in the world.
Besides my poems, I included biographical sketches about my mother and father, as well as appendices that provide coping tips, suggested activities, and resources for others dealing with intense bereavement. These appendices offer a world of resources for anyone who has lost a parent or both.
This book received several awards:
2018 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards “Finalist” in 2 categories: E-book Nonfiction and E-book Cover
2018 Book Excellence Awards “Finalist” in the Memoir category
2018 Independent Press Awards “Distinguished Favorites” in the Memoir category
2017 New Apple Book Awards for Excellence in Independent Publishing ”Official Selection” in the Biography|Autobiography|Memoir category.
2017 New Mexico-Arizona book awards “Finalist” in 2 categories: Biography (Other) and E-book Nonfiction.
Tough Topic #2—Coronavirus Pandemic
Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?
I invite you to read, reflect and respond to the global pandemic of 2020 and successive months. I encouraged readers to think about how the pandemic affected them and how they adapted. The book is intended to be used as a journal, a safe keeping place to revisit 2020. I viewed the forced shelter in place as an opportunity for spiritual discoveries and renewed spiritual growth. The book incorporates what I learned during my year and more of solitude, a transformative process leading me to find a reconnection with my “God.” I struggled spiritually and emotionally. My emotions ran deep from fear, struggle, and despair going deeper into her faith, ultimately making me a better, not a bitter person.
Themed chapters with poetry and prose add depth to the book. I divided the book into chapters with content developed from my blog over the years. Each chapter begins with a carefully chosen thought provoking quote complementing the theme. My prose and poetry are creative and soul-stirring. Both are extensions of the chapter’s theme. Many of the poems deal with the anxiety and depict the universal struggles of uncertainty during this time. Readers will find them inspirational and comforting. Reflective questions at the end of each chapter encourage reader participation to share their personal thoughts and stories as well as process hidden fears and concerns during time spent in quarantine.
I felt this book offered a soulful looking back at this worldwide pandemic and then a step into the future, clear of the spiritual cobwebs of that experience.
But do readers want to read books about such tough topics? It seems the world’s fascination focuses on lesser topics of importance, a means of escape. Are these too scary? Too personal? Too intimate? Is it denial? Is there a major fear of feelings, tears and loss?
Hopefully, you will take this opportunity to delve into one or both tough topics with me through reading my books and then grow spiritually. I offer them to console your wounded or broken heart. The choice is yours. We can face tough topics together, survive and grow!
~I’m not afraid of tough subjects like the coronavirus. Yes, I get people are tired of hearing about it, but. . . 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
~Wish You Were Here: A Novel by Jodi Picoult, one of my favorite authors, deals with the COVID pandemic in fiction as opposed to my nonfiction book. Check it out! Interesting story!
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 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!
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.
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.
The day after Christmas has arrived—enjoy it!
What are you doing today? Do you do anything traditional? If so, what?
Homemade Christmas decorations and gifts have always given me a lot of pleasure in the making! From knitting stockings to plastercraft figurines to annual family calendars, I have made quite a variety.
I started knitting in 4-H when I was ten years old and still enjoy this productive hobby. Many years ago, I found a fantastic stocking pattern and made my first. Then I branched out, making my nieces and nephew their own with their names on them. I also did great-nieces and nephew. Recently, I have made a great-nephew one.
I didn’t limit my production of Christmas stockings to just family. Because of my close relationship, I made my best friends’ children each one, and over the years, I have knitted so many I do not know how many!
To make these colorful holiday stockings, I always use red, white and green yarn or variegated yarn, but I don’t plan out the color scheme until I start. I have to graft out the name so it will fit on half of the stocking, so that takes some designing for sure. You can see my name almost doesn’t fit. I learned from mine a trick to make long names to fit!
What a truly wonderful experience it is to finish it, then add my label that says, “From the knitting needles of Larada Horner-Miller.”
As a young married couple in 1973, we didn’t have any Christmas decorations and not much money to buy them, so I found out about plastercraft, “. . .similar to ceramics, but there is no firing or kiln necessary. Simply use easy water based acrylic paints.”
The first year I made Santa and love the whimsical look he has on his face with his wink. The next year I added Mrs. Santa. Over the years, I have protected my favorite Christmas plastercraft figurines in my many moves. After Christmas, I always stored them on a shelf in a spare bedroom to make sure they survived any storage problem. So when Lin wanted to store them in trunks in a storage shed, I panicked, but he wraps them up carefully and they have fared well these last ten years.
My other plaster craft figurine is a Christmas tree with lights. Every year, I love putting the little light bulbs in the spots and marvel at how pretty it is lit up.
So almost fifty years later, I continue to enjoy these three items as they remind me of our many years together.
Homemade Annual Family Calendar
A couple years after my dad died, one of my team teachers, Rebecca Betzen, reached out to my mom and put together a calendar filled with a variety of pictures from my childhood to my graduation dinner for my master’s degree! Several pictures high‐lighted favorite places on our family ranch. Those pictures ignited fond memories as my mom and I flipped through the pages, and I needed that. The gift thrilled me so much that I decided to do the same thing for my own family the next year. The recipient list grew over the years, so I added my brother and sisters, my nieces and nephew, cousins and great nieces and nephews. And it’s a tradition I continued until the pandemic. We weren’t together in 2020, so I have no pictures to highlight.
Each year I highlight whoever had a special event that year, like graduations or weddings. If a family member died the previous year, I featured him or her on the cover. I also featured our family ranch on the cover of several calendars. My second cousin married in England in 2017, and Lin and I attended, with me taking lots of pictures. Her new husband said, “I bet we make the calendar next year!” And they did—front cover!
Over the years, these calendars have become keepsakes, logging the key events of each year.
My joy came when my family members opened this gift and leafed through the pages, laughing at certain pictures and making heartfelt remarks. These calendars have become a historic family document of our year together.
Larada Horner-Miller, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? (2021): 217-218.
So I didn’t make a calendar in 2020, but it’s back in 2021 and here’s the cover:
I love making homemade Christmas decorations and gifts. As I set out my decorations I’ve made, I get nostalgic remembering sitting at the table so long ago and making them. With each stitch I knit or photo I place, I have the joy of thinking about the gift and the person I made it for. How about you? Do you make anything for Christmas gifts? If so, what?
Last year I asked for a desk and I was so very specific—a children’s roll top with drawers on each side and little cubby holes under the top for my pens and pencils and favorite notes. I could just see myself sitting in front of it doing my homework.
I saw it in the current Christmas catalog from Sears & Roebuck. Yes, I saw the price was more than you usually spend on me, but I’m getting older so I thought the price change matched my growing age.
I sent off my letter to you with a specific description and referenced the catalog number so you couldn’t make a mistake.
I started getting concerned when Mom and I talked one night after I sent off my letter. She brought up my request. How she knew about it was puzzling. She repeated several times that maybe Santa couldn’t afford such a pricey item.
I said nothing—just nodded my head. My stomach knotted up. Really? Santa had a budget! I knew we did. We weren’t the poorest family in town, but I knew Dad worried about money because I overhead him telling Mom his concerns for a happy Christmas this year.
But Santa had money concerns, too—oh, no! That caught me by surprise. I knew I was in trouble because Mom revisited this topic again and again in the next couple weeks, trying to protect me from a deep disappointment. She realized how much I wanted that desk—more than any doll or toy I had ever asked for before.
“Don’t be disappointed!” she repeated. How could I not! Until this point, you always came through each Christmas. I dreaded Christmas Eve last year because I knew that specific desk I’d dreamed of wouldn’t be under/near the tree for me. And it wasn’t.
You replaced it with a tacky metal desk with no drawers—only two shelves, one under the top of it and one near the bottom.
I hid my tears and broken heart last year, but I lost all faith in you, Santa. So, how do I write to you this year? Do I just make a general request? Can I be honest and say it doesn’t matter because I believe no more?
Help me out here on what to do? This is a pre-letter, so answer me please before I ask for something this year!
Did Santa ever disappointed you at Christmas? What did you do?
Nativity sets, trees, lights—what’s your favorite Christmas decoration? Mine is my Nativity collection that I feature on a buffet with white lights, and I want to share why I think it’s an important part of my Christmas decorations.
The Nativity is what Christmas is about—Jesus’ birth is the centerpiece with Mary and Joseph by his side. Three Wisemen bring their gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh. Shepherds kneel close to the Christ Child in humble adoration. And an Angel stands near Jesus glorifying his birth.
I have a fun collection of Nativity sets I’ve gathered over the years I’d like to share with you.
The Beginning to My Nativity Collection
The oldest one I have is a mobile I made in the 70s that I turned into a mobile we hang each year. I also made a set of three Wiseman candle holders made of plaster craft. I had them set up on the mantel one Christmas and a wreath fell off the wall above them and knocked two of them off, injuring them slightly. So, I’ve kept them and loved them every year.
In my early travels to Mexico in the 70s, I noticed a beautiful blue pottery and bought a cup, saucer and plate early on. On another trip, I bought a beautiful pitcher. I found out today on the internet this pottery is called Tonala blue pottery. In the 80s, I bought a fourteen-piece Nativity set of this blue pottery. I place in the center of my collection every year. From an older set, I add some animals to fill it out.
I remember bringing that set home in a carry-on bag. Carefully, I wrapped each piece and worked hard to make sure nothing broke. They arrived safe and in one piece.
So slowly over the years, I’ve added to my collection. I have a Native American set, a music box, a Peruvian candleholder, and a small happy kids’ set. In 2020, I picked up a small set in Spain that looks very Gaudí!
Why do I gather a multi-ethnic Nativity sets? Jesus was a dark-skinned middle East man, yet many people only see him as they are—whatever the color of their skin! His nationality doesn’t matter; therefore, He can be a Native American, a Mexican, a middle easterner, or an American!
I’ll end with one more Nativity set—our outside set I inherited from my parents. I love looking out our kitchen window and seeing it lit up every night on our patio.
Here’s one of my favorite Christmas saying, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” That’s why I set up my collection each year—to honor who this holiday is about!
Surprised by wandering through my old sketch book/journal, I found a couple more poems to share. I captured my life in poetry in all its nuances—the sentimental and the grieving heart.
Surprised by a sentimental heart
Now, I’m That Generation
April 17, 2002
I’m that generation now,
The Oldies Station
I hear “Crystal Blue Persuasion”
And am transported back
30 years or more!
Could it be—30 years!
An innocent teenager’s heart
Touched by this song,
Then and now
I wandered down life’s path,
Lost for so many years,
Then recently re-found
And the song has the same power.
My heart softens
I cave in and wish
For all that wasn’t!
I used to watch for all that could be!
A song evokes that for me,
Transportation back to the moment.
Surprised by my grieving heart
Ever since Dad died, I thought I hadn’t written a poem about him and his death, but I found this one, a treasure for sure! The memory I describe surprised me—yet I can feel the security I felt in his arms every night as he put me to bed.
I Knew Back Then
August 24, 2002
Every night as a child,
I clasped your neck,
Not wanting you to leave,
The lump that’s in my throat tonight
Has sat their deep in my throat
For nearly 50 years—
Blocking my air, my thought, my life!
I didn’t want you to go!
I knew back then
Your slipping through my bedroom door
Would eventually be slipping out of my life.
I didn’t want you to go.
I knew back then
I’d be left.
The door that slam shut
The hollow slam of the door
with me inside and you gone.
I knew back then
I’d lose you.
That I’d grow up—
You’d grow old.
Then you’d be gone.
I didn’t want you to go.
But wanting didn’t stop it!
I lost you six years ago—
Death and cigarettes took you away,
I wanted to share today
The laughter with mom
My place I’ve created
DAR 2003 (Dance-A-Rama, 2003, square dance festival I chaired)
This story that is me
I didn’t want you to die.
I wanted to clasp your neck
And beg you to sleep
To protect me and
Hold me tight.
But you died,
And I have no one
to protect me
These two poems surprised me today. Just by chance, I grabbed my old sketchbook/journal and thumbed through. Do you have any surprises lurking in forgotten notebooks? Do you dare be surprised? Let me know what you find, if you dare!
Waiting? For a dream to come true? Waiting a long time? No answer? The wrong answer? A reoccurring heartache in my younger life came up last week: waiting to get pregnant. After reading a Bible study program on waiting, back I went forty years ago.
I married my first husband in September 1973, and in December I stopped taking my birth control pills, hoping to get pregnant, and it happened easily. Around three months pregnant, I walked into see my gynecologist’s office pregnant, thinking I would hear the heart beat for the first time and walked out not pregnant. I had had something he called a “mis-abort.”
In Googling it, I found “A missed abortion is a miscarriage in which your fetus didn’t form or has died, but the placenta and embryonic tissues are still in your uterus. It’s known more commonly as a missed miscarriage. It’s also sometimes called a silent miscarriage.”
After that life-changing experience, I have no memory of how I drove home to southwest Denver from downtown. At 20 years old, I had my heart set on having a baby. My brother and his wife had a baby; my friends had children. I had been raised to get married and have children, so it was in my DNA.
Monthly, waiting for my period became torture. When my period came, I sobbed and spent the rest of the month longing for it to happen. It had happened so effortlessly once. Why not now?
After a few more unsuccessful years and frustration, we decided to seek out the help of a fertility specialist, and we found the best—Dr. Bradley who started the Bradley Method of childbirth. “The Bradley method of natural childbirth (also known as “husband-coached childbirth”) is a method of natural childbirth developed in 1947 by Robert A. Bradley, M.D. (1917–1998) and popularized by his book Husband-Coached Childbirth, first published in 1965. The Bradley method emphasizes that birth is a natural process: mothers are encouraged to trust their body and focus on diet and exercise throughout pregnancy; and it teaches couples to manage labor through deep breathing and the support of a partner or labor coach.”
At this time, I felt encouraged after our first appointment with Dr. Bradley, and he invited us to his house that evening where women who had just given birth to their children through the Bradley Method showed them off. I reveled in the possibility.
Then he started fertility testing on my ex-husband first, simply because a man’s test is much easier than a woman—a sperm sample. After this test, we received the bad news. He had a disorder called aspermia, “inability to produce or ejaculate semen.”
When Dr. Bradley relayed this information to us, he also told my ex-husband that the miscarriage I had earlier was caused by weak sperm—hard news for a man to hear! He offered alternatives: artificial insemination or adoption.
Broken hearted, we isolated individually and grieved over this major loss. I toyed with the idea of artificial insemination until I found out it would be from a donor and not my ex-husband. He basically refused.
During a Christmas holiday during this heart wrenching time, my larger family unit met together to have the holiday with my grandmother on my dad’s side. Toddlers and babies abounded, and one proud cousin strutted around the house and repeated often throughout the evening, “Aren’t we a fertile bunch!” He had no idea what we were going through, but I cringed every time he professed our family’s fertility.
Being in our twenties, we continued to be surrounded by friends and family members pregnant with families growing. I ached to join the ranks.
After much thought and prayer, our only alternative became adoption. We decided on the Lutheran Social Services as the adoption agency to use. They handled the process differently than other adoption agencies. Instead of doing the deep investigation into our backgrounds immediately, they waited until it was closer to our adoption date. They felt if you waited three years or more, you had nothing to hide.
From then on, we attended meetings and learned about the process. We saw other couples see their dreams come true, so we waited, feeling positive about our chances.
After waiting three years, we finally received notification that we would receive our baby in six months. Excitedly, I started knitting booties and baby afghans. My Mom and I bought baby clothes and blankets. So did my mother-in-law. Everyone joined in our excitement. I just couldn’t believe it.
But with the notification of the baby coming, the adoption agency would start the background checks, and my ex-husband knew that. I knew my husband had a drinking problem and had been unfaithful to me, but I loved him and looked away. What I didn’t know was he had much more to hide than I thought, so he left me.
At the same time, we divorced and had to cancel the adoption, and that ended my hopes of having a child.
Over the years, I have grieved repeatedly the barren state of my life. In 1995, I turned to poetry to express the pain:
The pain of being without child! Eternally alone!
No child has burst forth from my womb
nor sucked at my breast.
Empty cavity deep inside waiting to be filled with life.
Waiting, waiting, waiting!
I have no child to pass my stories on to,
how Grandad created our ranch,
how special Branson Christmas trees are
because we cut them down from our ranch, our land,
how to do the Jessie polka and waltz,
how I was almost named Jessie.
My name, Larada, that should be passed on to my granddaughter,
like my grandmother passed it on to me,
every other generation for 7 generations.
Cheated, robbed, failed!
Does a child define a woman?
Does the lack of them define me?
Names and faces dance in circles in my mind--
Curly blond hair, blue inquisitive eyes.
Bright red hair, changeable hazel eyes.
A mixture of him and me.
I have no daughter that has my smile
nor a son with my Dad’s red hair.
No one to call me, “Mommy.”
The empty cavity waiting to be filled has grown larger
no longer just my womb,
but now my whole being,
my every thought,
Aching, lonely, pulsating to the beat of life
missing what never was!
In a way, it’s strange that this came up now; I’m 67 years old. God gave me lots of children in my classroom over the years. My brother and his wife shared their three children with me, and now they have shared their children, too. My cousin shared her three daughters, so God filled the void.
I ultimately believe my childless life speaks of God’s mercy and love. For many years after my first marriage, I had an unsettled life which would have been hard on a child. As I waited for the answer I wanted, God in his infinite mercy gave me different response to my prayer for a child and said, “No!” and I understand why today.
So, don’t take having children for granted. Many women’s hearts break every day for the lack of a baby suckling at their breast. If you have children, be grateful!
Did you have trouble getting pregnant? If, not, why are your children a blessing to you today?