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

Homemade Christmas—I Love It!

It's a homemade Christmas!

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

Homemade Stockings

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

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

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

Homemade knitted Christmas stockings
Stockings I knitted

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

Plastercraft Figurines

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

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

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

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

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

Homemade Annual Family Calendar

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

Each year I highlight whoever had a special event that year, like graduations or weddings. If a family member died the previous year, I featured him or her on the cover. I also featured our family ranch on the cover of several calendars. My second cousin married in England in 2017, and Lin and I attended, with me taking lots of pictures. Her new husband said, “I bet we make the calendar next year!” And they did—front cover!

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

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

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

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

2022 Horner calendar cover - homemade

Finally,

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


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

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? Christmas meme - homemade

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

EXCITING NEWS HERE!

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

Santa Dear: You Broke My Heart!

Santa Surprised!

Dear Santa,

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!

Thank you,

Larada

Did Santa ever disappointed you at Christmas? What did you do?


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 - Santa

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 · Memoirs · My Thoughts

Is a Nativity Set Important?

Stained Glass Nativity Set
Stained Glass Nativity

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.

My Tonala Blue Pottery Nativity Set
My Tonala Blue Pottery Nativity Set

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.

More Additions

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!

Native American Nativity Set
My Native American Nativity Set

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!

More Additions
My Outside Nativity Set

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.

Finally,

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!

Do you put up a Nativity set? What do you think?


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!

Christmas · Christmas · family · Grief · My Thoughts

Christmas Traditions or Not?

            Do you have repeated Christmas traditions in your family? We did—my Mom, Dad and I! During my lifetime, I often helped Dad shopped for Mom’s Christmas gift over the years, but this one was special.

Mom & Me in the mid-1980’s

In the mid-1980’s, Dad asked me to pick out a dress alike for Mom and me and started a tradition that continued while he was alive and after he died for seventeen years until Mom’s death.

Any time we wore of outfits alike with Dad, his chest swelled, and he smiled a lot and made a point of letting everyone around him know the history of this tradition—he was so proud!

            When Dad died, Mom whispered to me in her grief, “You don’t have to buy our look-alike outfits for Christmas anymore.” We both sobbed. I shook my head, and I never wavered. I continued this heartfelt idea.

            Our first outfit was a dress, then during the years Dad was alive I bought us dresses. After he died, I bought us a variety of outfits: slacks and sweaters, warm-up suits and dresses. One problem I faced when I bought slacks was my Mom’s height. She was short; I’m short, too, but she was shorter.  So, I always had to buy her petite size slacks so she didn’t have to cut them off. Often that forced me to have to look hard for outfits in two different departments or I would buy petite for me and just deal with shorter slacks than I preferred!

            So, we wore our outfits together proudly and often explained why we were dressed alike. We always gave Dad the credit for starting this tradition.

            When Mom passed away, getting rid of our look-alike outfits broke my heart! I couldn’t imagine seeing them on someone else. Then I had a brainstorm! I shipped them off to a girlfriend in Virginia, wanting her to have them, and I didn’t have to see them again. In fact, those outfits were the first of Mom’s clothes to go!

I did continue wearing mine, celebrating the connection to Mom. This tradition blessed my heart for many years. Do you have anything like it in your family? Share yours with me!


NEW Christmas ChapbookA Colorado Country ChristmasFull color paperback chapbook or digital version. Visit my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft to purchase: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaradasReadingLoft

~Whitey & Gladys Puerling were playful friends of Flippo’s who created a Fan Club. I thought it would be fun to recreate this group. Would you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Read interesting posts about Flippo’s life. https://www.facebook.com/groups/328325644382769/

~I HAVE OVER 200 PRE-ORDERS FOR THE MARSHALL FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY!  You, too, can pre-order this amazing story? You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like. Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways!  https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

Christmas · Christmas · My Thoughts

My Hair Was on Fire!

My childhood holiday experience included activities at our Community Church. Here’s a poem from my book, A Tumbleweed Landed, recognizing the place that church had in my life.

Branson Community Church

The Branson Community Church
small and quaint.
 
People that touched my life
Maynard Bowen,
Walt Graham
Ministers of God, who took the time for me.
The Loudens
The Gilstraps
The Smiths
The Warners
The Cummins
Mabel Survant
Mrs. Jamieson
 
Sunday School teachers
and family friends who let me sit with them,
singing my songs out loud
when I couldn’t even read.
Beautiful old hymns and singing.
They loved me, taught me,
and encouraged me.
A safe place to be on Sunday morning,
and a nice place to meet God.
 
Youth group on Sunday night
games and talking about God
Youth group picnic and campouts at the Gilstraps
and the annual Christmas programs.
 
One year, at the Christmas program
I was an angel
with the other young girls.
Donned in our white robes, wings, and haloes,
we walked in a straight line
carrying lit candles.
The girl behind me got too close
and caught my hair on fire!
Our teacher quickly handled the situation, and
I wasn’t burned.
The program went on.
 
Copyright©2014, Larada Horner-Miller

NEW Christmas ChapbookA Colorado Country ChristmasFull color paperback chapbook or digital version. Visit my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft to purchase: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaradasReadingLoft

~Whitey & Gladys Puerling were playful friends of Flippo’s who created a Fan Club. I thought it would be fun to recreate this group. Would you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Read interesting posts about Flippo’s life. https://www.facebook.com/groups/328325644382769/

~I HAVE OVER 200 PRE-ORDERS FOR THE MARSHALL FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY!  You, too, can pre-order this amazing story? You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like. Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways!  https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

Christmas · My Thoughts

Bobby Pins & Christmas Ornaments?

Bobby pins and Christmas ornaments? What’s the connection? My Grandma Horner was ahead of her time! She used bobby pins to hang her glass ornaments up on a Christmas tree decades before someone invented those great little ornament hangers we all know!

My Christmas decorations resound with memories! Here’s a few of my favorites:

Grandma Horner’s Glass Ornaments with Bobby Pins

Grandma's Christmas Ornament with Bobby Pin
One of My Grandma’s Glass Ornaments with Her Bobby Pin

When Grandma Horner died, I waited until all the other grandchildren went through her belongings to make my selections. I chose her Christmas ornaments—three boxes of vintage ornaments which I had seen yearly on her Christmas tree. When I took them out to hang them the first year, I noticed her use of bobby pins as hangers! And I’ve kept those precious bobby pins attached to many of them every since!

I’m sad to say several ornaments broke one year when my Christmas tree toppled over! But I still have about fifteen I hang every year.

Santa Claus Dollar Bill

My Dollar Bill with a Santa Face
My Santa Dollar Bill

As a beautician, I received tips as a part of my pay, and gladly so! I had regular customers who came in every week and were like family to me. In 1979, I received a surprising tip from one of my clients, Tex White: a dollar bill with a Santa Claus glued on the face of it–it looked real!

Forty years later, I giggled as I placed it on my tree this year, remembering the joke that Tex had pulled on me with this dollar bill! I had never seen anything like that! Every year, it’s one of my favorite ornaments to decorate my tree.

Wooden Cut Out Ornaments

A Sampling of My wooden ornaments
A Sampling of My Wooden Ornaments

About 1974, in the first couple years of marriage, we had little money and no decorations for our tree, so I bought a set of wooden cut-out decorations and hand painted each ornament. Each year since then, I’ve enjoyed adding those simple ornaments to my tree and remembered how I felt when I finished with the numerous decorations.

Colorful paint spotted my hands, and I gathered up the newspapers every night when I finished and set the painted pieces on the porch to dry. I continued this routine for several evenings proud of the dazzling set when I finished. I painted Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus, Frosty the Snowman, an angel, Soldier, dove, and many other Christmas figures.

This year, I placed these ornaments near the bottom of my tree because I have a cat, Jesse, who loves to hide under the tree. If he knocks one off, it’s safe and won’t broke!

Santa Claus & Mrs. Santa Claus (Plaster Craft)

Mrs. Claus & Santa Claus (Plaster Craft)
Mrs. Santa Claus & Santa Claus

My Mom loved to do crafts, so I inherited her interest in working with my hands. I couldn’t afford ceramics when I was a young married woman, but I found plaster craft. I truly enjoyed the handicraft, so I did my Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus in the mid-70’s. I love their whimsical expressions: Santa’s wink and her focus on her knitting!

For many years, I stored this precious couple in my guest bedroom closet, up on a shelf safe and sound. I was so afraid something would happen to one of them, but 40 years later, they still look perfect even though he’s yellowed some.

Christmas Tree (Plaster Craft)

My Christmas tree (Plaster Craft)
My Plaster Craft Christmas Tree

After my success with Santa and Mrs. Claus, the next year I moved on to a lighted Christmas tree. The original tree was small, so I bought an extension to make it bigger!

I keep the small colored bulbs in a zip lock bag and enjoy putting them on the tree, making sure I spread out all the colors. This is another item I have kept stored safely, so it looks pristine!

Since Lin and I married, we put this tree up in our bedroom, and it’s a pleasant light to go to bed and see!

Latch Hook Noel

My Latch Hook Noel Hanging
Latch Hook Kit I Made

I thoroughly enjoyed latch hook for many years. I bought the kits, finished the pattern and created ways to hang them. For Christmas, I did this Noel hanging and also a Christmas wreath. These two decorations adorned my living room and hall way.

As you can see, the majority of my decorations I either made myself or inherited. I have never wanted a perfectly trimmed Christmas tree; I prefer one loaded with ornaments and memories!

How about you? What are your favorite Christmas decorations?


A Colorado Country Christmas with Santa Claus
My NEW Christmas Chapbook

~ NEW Christmas ChapbookA Colorado Country ChristmasFull color paperback chapbook or digital version. Visit my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft to purchase: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaradasReadingLoft

~Whitey & Gladys Puerling were playful friends of Flippo’s who created a Fan Club. I thought it would be fun to recreate this group. Would you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Read interesting posts about Flippo’s life. https://www.facebook.com/groups/328325644382769/

~I HAVE OVER 200 PRE-ORDERS FOR THE MARSHALL FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY!  You, too, can pre-order this amazing story? You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like. 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

Christmas · Christmas · Dancing · My Thoughts

Straddling Two Years

Christmas, 2018 is behind me; New Year’s Eve and 2019 stare me in the face. Straddling two years during this time always makes me pensive. I remember past holidays–the people and the joy and the grief–and anticipate what’s coming with a brand new year!

The week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve has always been special to me. I remember being in high school and staying up ’til after midnight watching Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show. Seated on the sofa besides my brother, we laughed and enjoyed the opportunity to stay up late. I felt so grown-up!

As a teacher, I loved being out of school during this time of the year, so again, I stayed up late and enjoyed movies, Jay Leno on the Tonight Show, and the time off!

One year stands out in my memory. I was attending Colorado State University so this was probably 1985. I spent Christmas in Branson, Colorado with my parents and had a great time. I had a month off and decided to spend New Year’s Eve and time afterwards with my brother and his family in northern California.

So, my girlfriend, Eloise, and I rode Amtrak out to California. She had a friend in Oakland, so we were basically going to the same area. We left the Denver Amtrak station about 3:00 pm on December 30. I packed lots of goodies to stay us on this 30+ hour trip to California, and we didn’t get a sleeper.

Eloise and I found our seats, settled in and started this amazing train trek. We decided it was time to explore, so off we went to the Club car, and it was the best place to be going through the beautiful Glenwood Canyon with its massive views. We bought our first beers and returned to our car.

I had brought homemade fudge and goodies, so we nibbled. We read, we drank, we laughed and met our companion travelers in our car. This group wanted to party early, and we did, too.

We slept in our seats that night, stretched out. I wrapped up in an homemade afghan I brought with me. In the middle of the night, we went through Reno, Nevada which looked like a winter wonderland with snow and the beautiful lit decorations out our window. The black world sped by us that night.

New Year’s Eve Day, we woke up in the party car. I rolled over, and I had smashed my fudge in a Ziplock bag during the night. Sheepishly, I shared my goodies with our newfound friends. The drinks began early and continued until we left the train. The camaraderie in our car was festive and celebratory. I got off in Sacramento near to where my brother lived, and Eloise went on to Oakland. My family was waiting for me and ready to continue the party!

Coming from a dancing family, most of my New Year’s Eves have been spent dancing, so dancing was the plan for the night.

It was a memorable New Year’s Eve out dancing with my brother and his wife. She and I dressed up with glitter hair spray in our hair, and the guys at the bar called us the “Glitter Girls.” We danced the night away at a local bar with their favorite band, so we knew a lot of the people there. Many Navy guys on leave came out to celebrate, so I had plenty of dance partners. I flirted; I danced and I enjoyed my brother and sister-in-law.

This memory always comes back this time of year. What does 2019 hold for me? for you?

I’m the eternal optimist and believe 2019 will be great! My newest book will be released in September, 2019 which is the authorized biography of Marshall Flippo, a world-famous square dance caller. I have so much work to do between now and then, but I love this project!

Let me know what you think 2019 holds for you!

END OF THE YEAR SALE! 60% off – This Tumbleweed Landed at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft

Visit my website for more information about my books: https://www.laradasbooks.com

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!

Visit my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft for big discounts! You have time to download any of my e-books for stocking stuffers!

Visit my web site for more information about all my books–FREE DOWNLOADS AVAILABLE AS MY GIFT TO YOU!  https://www.laradasbooks.com

MY NEW WRITING PROJECT: Pre-order the authorized biography of Marshall Flippo, the most famous square dance caller at https://goo.gl/forms/buMf6zCG8Wen4muo2