Christmas · family · Memoirs · My Thoughts

What are Your Christmas Traditions?

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

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

Santa & Reindeer Graphic

Christmas at the Horner’s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2014 Larada Horner-Miller
from This Tumbleweed Landed


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

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Blogging · Gratitude · Grief · My Thoughts

How Does Gratitude Work?

chicken close up dish food
Photo by Public Domain Pictures on Pexels.com

Thanksgiving, 2018 has come and gone. Gratitude takes center stage on this holiday. People recite their gratitude list that day–post cute animations and beautiful memes on Facebook and then what?

Could year long gratitude change our world? Where’s the power in gratitude?

We all know people who are negative, focus on what’s bad and are complete “downers” to be around. They have no understanding of gratitude because a dark cloud hangs over their lives–everything is wrong. Then there are those whose world view is positive, see the silver lining in everything, and I want to be with them. They see life as an opportunity, a joy to live. What makes the difference?

I think the practice of gratitude does. If we only knew the deep workings inside of everyone we see. Each person I pass today is battling something–disease, relationship or work issues, and/or spiritual unrest–but this attitude of gratitude makes the difference. I know peaceful warriors with gigantic loss and pain overflowing with gratitude, so I’m convinced it’s not what happens to someone–it’s something else.

Gratitude grows out of a heart and soul that has a deep connection with a Higher Power–Something or Someone more powerful and more loving than my finite self. In that connection, the negativity and darkness that consumed me changes, dilutes, and evaporates in the presence and power of eternal Optimism.

Yes, I do believe that gratitude can change my world. The moment I turn to my God through a beautiful desert sunset, a belly laugh at a child’s innocence or a dance in my husband’s arms, the world is right and gratitude oozes out of every pore of my being.

Gratitude heals all those deep hurts in my wounded heart: I’m so thankful for the times with my Mom and Dad over the years, my monthly visits with my Aunt Willie and her precious dry sense of humor, and my weekly phone call visits with Marshall Flippo this last year. All of these are losses for sure, but my gratitude for the richness each brought into my life moves me beyond the hurt to the healing.

Make a daily gratitude list this year and see how your year goes. Get back to me next Thanksgiving and we will compare the results. Here’s to a grateful year!

affection appreciation decoration design
Photo by Carl Attard on Pexels.com


For what are you grateful? I’d love to hear your gratitude list.


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family · Grief · My Thoughts · poetry

How Do You Mourn the Loss of A Loved One?

Program

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Aunt Wee Wee

By: Larada Horner-Miller

December 25, 2012

Revised: November 9, 2018

You will always be Aunt Wee Wee!

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

“Aunt Wee Wee,” and it stuck.

As I look back through my life,

You have always been there,

Aunt Wee Wee!

When I became an Aunt,

I followed your lead!

I wanted to touch my

nieces and nephews’ lives

the way you touched mine!

I have valued all the wonderful times

we spent together over the years.

You grace so many

of my memories!

As a toddler

I can remember

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

saying,

“Yeah, Larada,

I love you!”

In my childhood,

at Branson dances,

I remember watching

you and Uncle Hughie dance,

and the fun you had.

I remember 4th of July picnics and fireworks

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

You came all the way from Albuquerque!

As a family, we went to Albuquerque.

You shared your beautifully decorated cakes.

We went on shopping sprees to the mall.

Delicious Thanksgiving dinners shared!

Our fishing trips

Our time together at Springer lake

You sat religiously by the lake, pole in hand.

While Uncle Hughie and I set up our poles

and roamed!

My week stay with you in Albuquerque-

A visit to Old Town

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

As a young adult

You attended all of my major life events:

My 8th grade graduation

Princess at the TSJC tournament

My high school graduation

My TSJC graduation

We’ve continued that

precious relationship into my adulthood.

My weddings

You attended my first 2 weddings.

No one attended the third.

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

As our second anniversary approached, Aunt Willie repeated often,

WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?

Yes, Lin and I celebrated our second anniversary

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

I had several special visits while you

were in Logan, UT and now in Pueblo.

Some people I’ve known for a short time

and they only know me one dimensionally.

You have known me forever, and you know the many

sides of me.

You smile, and

you make me smile.

You know all about me,

and you make me feel good

about being me.

You love to laugh and enjoy life.

Often you catch me by surprise

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

In that laughter

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

We are young again, frolicking on the floor.

My Aunt Wee Wee!

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

To make me laugh and

To make me feel good about myself!

What a gift!

I haven’t called you

“Aunt Wee Wee” for years,

but you always will be — my Aunt Wee Wee!

Copyright © 2018 Larada Horner-Miller


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

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family · Grief · My Thoughts

Aunt Willie Almost Made 99!

Can you imagine living to be 98–a few short weeks of being 99? Think about all the changes you’d see in nine decades.

Me, AW, Jan & Mom Branson
Larada, Jan & Mom Standing & Aunt Willie Sitting

On October 12, 2018, my dear Aunt Willie Urbanoski passed away at 4:20 am at 98 years old. She wanted to make 100 but her God had different ideas. Over the last few years, we referred to her as “The Ever Ready Bunny” because she had been on the brink of death several times and came back to us full of vim and vigor, but when I got the text this time from my cousin, something inside of me shuttered–it didn’t feel the same.

As a child, my brother, Harold couldn’t pronounce Aunt Willie, so he called her “Aunt Wee Wee,” and it stuck. That was her name my whole childhood.

At twelve, I spent a week with her and Uncle Hughie fishing and then on to Albuquerque. She toured me around town to all the sights. I’m sure my love for Albuquerque began on this visit.

The Urbanoski’s attended very major event in my life and my brother’s–graduations,  marriages and more. When I was princess representing Branson High School at the Trinidad State Junior College Tournament, they came and supported me–always they were there for us.

Aunt Willie’s delicious humor kept us laughing right up to our last visit on Sunday, October 7, 2018. I had the habit of talking to Mom every Sunday night on my drive to a meeting, so when Mom died, I asked Aunt Willie if I could call her; she agreed with a twinkle in her eyes.

We anticipated our weekly phone date. We’d catch up on our lives and seasonally, we talked about the success or failure of the Denver Bronco’s. Aunt Willie loved Peyton Manning and wanted the offensive line to protect him more. Other times we’d talk about the dancers on Dancing with the Stars and moan and groan if our couple got kicked off. She loved to hear about Lin and my travels and dancing adventures. She also loved to talk about her three granddaughters and two great grandsons.

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She was my Mom’s older sister by nine years. She had no trouble telling my Mom that she had it made in their family until Mom arrived–Aunt Willie was the only grandchild until then. All my life, they had a close relationship, but I loved to watch these two sisters together, especially later in life after they were widowed–they lived about 20 miles apart for several years and spent as much time together as possible. I marveled at their mutual support during this part of their lives.

Aunt Willie had a special love affair with my husband, Lin. It started the moment they met with lots of flirting and carrying on and lasted even until our last phone call with lighthearted bantering going back and forth between them.

Her life was full and rich–she grew up in northeastern New Mexico in a small community, Des Moines, which she loved. For many years, she organized a yearly reunion for classmates.

She married the love of her life, Hugh Urbanoski and they raised the joy of their lives, Janet, in Albuquerque, NM. Aunt Willie worked and retired from payroll office at Sandia Base. As soon as they could after retirement, Uncle Hughie and Aunt Willie moved to Folsom, NM to be close to their daughter and her family.

For the last few years, I visited Aunt Willie monthly in Pueblo, CO and asked lots of questions because I enjoyed hearing her retell her stories–how she met Uncle Hughie, how she played basketball in school and was accused of drinking alcohol once, how much she enjoyed being a waitress in Raton, NM and so much more.

Losing her has been really hard. As I viewed her body this last Wednesday, I was reminded again that our bodies are temporary homes for our spirits. She looked peaceful, but that lifeless form wasn’t my Aunt Willie–vibrant and giggly and so affirming of me. I will miss her terribly–Sunday nights won’t be the same.


Death is a part of our lives. How do you handle it? I would love to hear your comments!

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Grief · Memoirs · My Thoughts

Excerpt from my book – A Time to Grow Up

A Time to Grow Up FINAL COVER

Check out Appendix D in my grief memoir, A Time to Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir for healing activities and ideas.

APPENDIX D –  Workbook

Healing from grief requires active participation if you want to get past the pain and the loss to the other side—to thrive more than just survive. Here are a few questions and activities to get the juices flowing after reading this book.

1. List the key people you have lost in your life and write out a short description of your relationship besides the name of each person. How did that loss affect you? How old were you? How did you handle your grief at the time? What did you learn about your grief process?

2. How do you feel about grief after reading this book? What do you know about grief? Where could you find more information about grief?

3. If applicable: how did your mother grieve the loss of her parents? How did your father grieve the loss of his parents? Which one are you more like? Write down three take-aways you learned from your parents about how to grieve.

 4. What resources do you have available when you lose a loved one? (Example: Friends, church, social support group, etc.) Write down names, phone numbers,and email addresses to have available.

 5. Be diligent about the following areas of your life because grief affects the whole person. Identify one activity you can do to take care of yourself in each of these areas:

         Physical —

         Emotional

         Spiritual —

 6. Buy a journal and/or adult coloring book and colored pencils/crayons and draw your feelings. Use this as a journal and dedicate time often to color and then describe the drawing.

 7. Buy a journal and write three pages (“Morning Pages” from Julia Cameron’s The Artist‘sWayevery morning. Just start writing and see what comes up.

 8. Create a sacred time and place every day to cry. Mark it on your calendar: when and where, and be dedicated about keeping that time.

 9. Get involved in a grief support group in your area. Examples: GriefShare, hospice, religious groups, Yoga, etc.

10. Look at Appendix A and start a “God Things” list for what you are going through right now. Be sure not to leave out what seems small and insignificant.

11. Look at Appendix B and identify the normal activities you do that soothe your soul and then add activities to support your grief process.

12. Look at Appendix C and select one book to add to your library and read it. Search the topic “grief” online and add any titles below that appeal to you.

 13. On the first anniversary of your loved one’s death, plan ahead to be prepared and make it a special day for you.

Share below activities/ideas that worked for you. We’re all different, and I’d love to know what you have done to heal after a major loss in your life.

Healing for the Broken Hearted

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Grief · Life Lessons · My Thoughts

Do You Dare Write an Emotional Piece?

I am at my Mom’s house in southeastern Colorado. She died four years ago, and I make a monthly trip here to check on things. 

Today I spent most of the afternoon and evening editing and revising a grief memoir I wrote about losing my Dad twenty-one years ago and my Mom four years ago. 

As I reread my work, I cried through Mom’s last days, sobbing when my husband, Lin, called. Reliving those grueling last days through my words and story brought it all back in vivid color and detail. I searched my old journals to verify I had dates and facts correct.

Do we dare write the personal, emotional piece that makes us vulnerable and bare? Do we risk ridicule and harsh words about our most intimate losses?

I’ve worked on this project off and on for four years and plan to publish it in June.  Yes, I dare to share this part of my life with the world because I really feel I have a message from my grief–I grew up to be the women I always wanted to be!

Grief · poetry

New Book Coming Out This Year

sunflower-close-up-more

I Grew Up To Be The Woman I Always Wanted to Be is my grief memoir, a collection of poetry and prose, about the loss of my Dad 21 years ago and my Mom 4 years ago. The majority of the book deals with Mom’s death and my process afterwards.

Here’s the poem the book is named after.

i-grew-up-to-be-the-woman-poem

Have you lost both parents? Do you feel like an adult orphan? Fill out the poll below and we will see the results–also leave me a comment about this topic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas

My Grandma’s Homemade Turkey & Egg Noodles and Popcorn Balls

I have two favorite Christmas memories about my maternal grandmother. 

Grandma made all the traditional sweets for Christmas time, but she made something really different that became my favorite. She made popcorn balls for a Christmas treat. I never made them with her because she had to prepare all those goodies before we arrived.

I found a great recipe in the Folsom Garden Club cookbook and have used it every year since. Every Christmas I make two batches of popcorn balls–a red and a green batch. I love making these sweet treats and as I munch on them, Grandma Dickerson comes to mind. I don’t have her recipe, but I have my memories.

The other memory I have is the day after Christmas, Grandma made homemade turkey and egg noodles. She would use the leftovers and the turkey carcass to create the soup. She was of the generation that did not waste a thing, so the carcass was boiled to get the good broth for the soup she was preparing.

Then she would make the homemade noodles. She never used a bowl; she poured out a mound of flour on the table, scooped out the center to make the bowl then started adding ingredients. She would roll out the noodles and cut them and leave them scattered on the table to dry for awhile.

Grandma was a short lady, so I stood at her elbow often watching the process, anticipating the finished product. She knew it was my favorite dish so she spoiled me with this treat any Christmas we were at her house.

The delicious smell of the turkey cooking and the knowledge of the dish coming had my mouth watering. The sampling of the broth, the aroma of turkey cooking and the warmth of the hot soup warmed my heart and soul.

I have never tried to make her noodles–again I don’t have her recipe. I’m not sure she had one. Maybe I should google a recipe for homemade noodles and try my hand at a batch. I’m sure all those years at her side would help me create something special.

Mom was always a part of this special time in the kitchen. Grandma was a great cook and these two Christmas memories warm me every holiday time. It was communal time in the kitchen–three generations enjoying each other around a tradition I miss today.

Christmas · Memoirs · Uncategorized

Christmas Caroling

caroling“Silent Night,” “Joy to the World!” I love to sing Christmas carols. As a child, we sang those precious songs at church and school. I never grew tired of them.

One year when I was in high school, Margie Miller, one of our multi-talented teachers, taught us “O Come All Ye Faithful” in Latin. It sounded so similar to the Spanish many of my friends spoke. In our small community, I heard Spanish often. We had Spanish in fourth grade so I had an early introduction to learning this language.

The sound of this familiar Christmas hymn mesmerized me. Fifty-plus years later today, I can still sing those Latin words to that wonderful old song.

I grew up at a time when church and state were not as separate as they are today. As a high school, we drove around Branson on the back of a hay truck singing Christmas carols for the community. This became my favorite caroling experience.

We knew everyone in town, so it was delightful to see the response from our friends and neighbors when we drove up to their houses. Most of the audience was elderly and their eyes shone with joy as they heard traditional songs they loved. At key points, someone served hot chocolate and cookies to us chilly carolers.

Yes, it was cold on the back of that flat bed truck. We dressed warm with layers of sweaters and heavy winter coats. A bright scarf and hand-knitted hat kept my head and neck warm. Warm mittens kept my fingers toasty and snow boots donned my feet. I have the worst time keeping my feet warm, so I remember cold feet no matter what I had on my feet.

After about an hour of singing, we would go back to the school for our annual high school Christmas party. The main focus of the party was dancing — country and western dancing.

I have so many precious Christmas memories in that small town and school, but this one rings strong and bright.

Lyrics to

O Come All Ye Faithful

O come, all ye faithful,

Joyful and triumphant!

O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;

Come and behold him

Born the King of Angels:

O come, let us adore Him,

O come, let us adore Him,

O come, let us adore Him,

Christ the Lord.

God of God,

Light of Light,

Lo, he abhors not the Virgin’s womb;

Very God,

Begotten, not created:

Sing, choirs of angels,

Sing in exultation,

Sing, all ye citizens of Heaven above!

Glory to God

In the highest:

Yea, Lord, we greet thee,

Born this happy morning;

Jesus, to thee be glory given!

Word of the Father,

Now in flesh appearing!

 

 

Latin Lyrics:

Adeste Fideles

Laeti triumphantes

Venite, venite in Bethlehem

Natum videte

Regem angelorum

Venite adoremus, Venite adoremus,

Venite adoremus, Dominum

Cantet nunc io

Chorus angelorum

Cantet nunc aula caelestium

Gloria, gloria

In excelsis Deo

Venite adoremus, Venite adoremus,

Venite adoremus, Dominum

 

Christmas

Cutting Down Our Own Christmas Tree

hometree Growing up in southeastern Colorado, we could choose any tree on our family ranch to become our star Christmas tree every year. We never bought a Christmas tree when I was growing up. Why would we? We could cut our own–free for the selection and lots of fun.

Mom and I would start looking for this year’s Christmas tree during hunting season in October.

“There’s the perfect one,” Mom pointed to a small three foot piñon pine tree that she wanted to put up on the coffee table. She went on and on about the virtues of a small tree. Dad, Bub, my brother, and I moaned and groaned. Oh, not this again, but we knew her–she always wanted a small tree.

Driving a little farther near the canyon, I spotted a regal six foot piñon pine tree and exclaimed, “Here it is! Let’s mark this one. This is it for sure–our Christmas tree for this year.”

Dad and Bub shook their heads in agreement. We continued our back and forth about small trees and big trees. Then we would continue our task of hunting for a deer to have venison meat for the winter.

This routine repeated itself throughout the months of October and November and into the beginning of December. Mom lost most often with the three of us outnumbering her on the big tree.

One year, the three “big Christmas tree lovers” overdid ourselves though.

The time had come to go to the ranch to cut down our tree. For some reason, Mom didn’t go, so the three of us knew there would be no argument and that the tree would be big this year. We scouted out familiar ones that I had mentally marked throughout the fall, but Dad and Bub spied one they wanted. The saw came out, and they cut it down as a team, laughing about how Mom would reacted. Yes, it looked fabulous out on the ranch against the deep blue sky. We admired our tree and laughed about Mom’s possible response.  What added to the joy of our selection was it was our first year in our new home with higher ceilings, so the taller the better.

We prepared for Mom’s comments–rehearsed our answers to her probing questions. We drove up out front of our house and backed the pick up into the driveway so it would be easier to carry it in.

I hurried up the walk to talk to Mom. She stuck her head out the door, quizzing me about the size. Kidding her, I replied, “It’s your size.” Her laugh told me she didn’t believe it.

It took both Dad and Bub to carry the tree up the walk and set it on the porch. Already I realized we were in trouble. The tree seemed to go on forever.

Dad took out the hacksaw and cut the bottom of the stump off evenly and slid it into the stand and tried to get it in the door. Bub and Dad wrestled with the tree and the door, trying to carry it up upright in the stand, but it wouldn’t fit, so they laid it out lengthwise and finally shoved it in the door.

Mom had cleared the area in front of the front window to showcase our tree to the world. Dad and Bub set the stand on the floor and raised the tree.

All four of us gasped at the same time–the tree reached the ceiling and curled down at least a foot! What do we do now?

Dad took control, “That’s easily fixed,” so he and Bub took the tree out on the porch and cut a foot off the bottom of the tree and brought the shortened tree in and set it up. The top of it brushed the ceiling but fit.

We stood back and admired our beautiful six foot plus tree and laughed. Mom said next year I’m for sure going with you three so we can get a smaller tree.

We all laughed, joyful at our selection and adjustment.