family · My Thoughts

A Mother-in-Law? Two I Cherished!

Grief at the loss my of my mother-in-law

During my life, I have not had the stereotypical mother-in-law. My two precious mother-in-laws have blessed me. My first, Lucy Prichard, became my spiritual mother, and my last one, Betty Daunt, healed not only my spirit but my body and soul. This tribute focuses on Betty because she died a couple of weeks ago.

I just attended the memorial service for Betty Daunt last Tuesday, January 18, 2022. I cried deeply that day, knowing I had such profound grief. At the service, one of her daughters hugged me, crying and said, “Mom thought of you like a daughter.” I knew that to be true, and I cried.

How Betty Affected Me

In 1993, I became deathly ill and doctors couldn’t explain what was wrong. After returning home after a ten-day stay in the hospital, Betty offered to do a weekly massage with no charge and I saw my brother-in-law’s partner for weekly acupuncture appointments. I left the hospital not able to go to the bathroom; after one week of these dual appointments I could go. Betty continued the weekly massages for months until I got on my feet again. I continued receiving massages from her for almost thirty years.

I divorced Betty’s son in 1994 and continued to see Betty monthly because she was my massage therapist. She handled the divorce admirably, seldom ever mentioning her son to me. And I continued to think of her as my mother-in-law. Because we had been close before the divorce, we kept up our relationship with my massage appointment and many dinners out and evenings at Popejoy Theater.

Betty filled every time out with her with lots of laughter and joy. I still hear her infectious giggle, which truly was a titter.

But Betty went beyond fun. She touched me deeply and respected my body in her massages, bringing new life to the wounded areas, especially focusing on the hurt little girl’s pain I had carried for my lifetime.

Massage by my mother-in-law

When she massaged me, I got to the point when Betty flipped me over on my stomach, I fell sleep, a deep renewing sleep and only woke when she finished.

Foot massage by my mother-in-law

Early in her treating me, I memorized all of her movements and areas she concentrated on—and yelped like a wounded pup when she did foot reflexology on my feet and hit one of my sensitive sinus points. Betty used a pencil to touch the various points on my feet, and I swore she dug into those areas until I watched her treat my ex-husband’s feet. She did not.

After every massage, Betty served me a cup of water and encouraged me to go home and not touch my computer. She knew I worked overtime on my computer.

With her hilarious sense of humor, Betty trained me to jiggle my breasts to avoid breast cancer. During each massage, she’d ask, “Have you jiggled her breasts today?” I laughed and promised her I had!

After Mom died in 2013, Betty consoled. She spent an hour before my treatment holding me and crying with me over my major loss. She loved my parents and enjoyed her trips to Branson, Colorado, and to our ranch. My favorite memory of her there: as Dad drove out of the canyon up a steep four-wheel-drive trail, Betty dove to the floor and said when we topped out, “Next time, I’m going to walk!”

During my massage and any time we were together, Betty shared her spiritual path and wisdom. She invited me to attend a conference in 1992 for Alternative Healers. We saw Deepak Chopra and Wayne Dyer. What a day that was for both of us and we often talked about the influence that day had on our spiritual paths.

A few years ago, Betty stopped doing massages, and I tried other massage therapists, but they didn’t compare. I haven’t had a massage in a couple years, and interestingly, I’ve had major sinus and stomach issues since. I wonder???

Betty always challenged me in all my thinking about self-care and repeated each time as we grow older, we need to stretch daily. Then she would ask if I did. She stayed on top of my health in all ways.

For our last time together, I joined Betty and her daughter at Betty’s grandson’s baseball game in the spring of 2021. We laughed and caught up on each other’s lives. What a wonderful time we had together. After that, we only talked on the phone.

As I ponder Betty’s influence on me over the last thirty years, I realize how big it was—much bigger than a mother-in-law relationship. Because of her, I thought outside of the Western medical world and sought massage and acupuncture. I took herbs and additives she suggested. I witnessed a devote Catholic woman who spoke freely of her beliefs and her willingness to embrace a wide spiritual path.

Finally, I have spoken mostly about my mother-in-law, Betty Daunt. Lucy Prichard touched my life deeply too, but I needed to honor the place Betty played in my life. Thank you, Betty, for your deep love of life, health and me!


~Do you listen to podcasts? Here are three Podcasts with my interviews about my new book & some Flippo stories:

~Buy a copy of Flippo’s biography on my website: https://www.laradasbooks.com or at Amazon.

~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? ad

~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

Blogging · Blogs · My Thoughts

Eight Years of Blogging—So What?

Eight years of blogging

Eight years of blogging brings up some interesting insights. I love to look back over the previous year and compare it to past years and see what’s happened.

First, a big thank you to all my readers. I think of you every Sunday as I write my blog. The topic percolates during the week, and I have kept a list of topics and tried to keep up with my schedule, but serendipities make me veer off the path. I keep an imaginary snapshot of my readers in mind as I write and I write to you!

During 2021, I addressed the following topics:

  • Marshall Flippo—monthly
  • My new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?
  • Square dancing
  • My life during this continued pandemic
  • My poetry
  • Holidays

During the year, I posted regularly about Flippo, and I continued to address my experience in the limitations of the coronavirus pandemic. In my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?, I included the inspiration of these posts. In looking at my statistics, I realized how often I wrote about holidays. I love writing about any current holiday, featuring all major holidays and my experiences, traditions and beliefs.

On November 2, 2021, a writing friend told me about the Ultimate Blog Challenge, an opportunity to write a blog post every day during the month of November, so I succeeded but missed the first day. What a challenge that was! This challenge increased the “Likes” and comments on my blog posts, which has historically been a problem area for my blogs. I thoroughly enjoyed it and came up with an outline of what I would write about each week:

  • 1—A variety of writing topics
  • 2—Where my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? came from
  • 3—Gratitude topics for Thanksgiving week
  • 4—Feature some of my poetry and future poetry books
  • 5—Daily topics suggested by Paul Taubman, the organizer of the Ultimate Blog Challenge

Visitors vs. Views Stats

I watch these two statistics regularly and am happy to see an increase in visitors vs. views from 78% to 83% this last year. What does that mean?

Views and Visitors

The two main units of traffic measurement are views and visitors:

~A view is counted when a visitor loads or reloads a page.

~A visitor is counted when we see a user or browser for the first time in a selected time frame.

visitor is an individual looking at your site. A visitor can view many different pages of your site or view the same page multiple times. Therefore, the views number is typically higher than the visitors number.


https://wordpress.com/support/stats/#views-and-visitors

The significant growth of 5% tells me that visitors saw something they wanted to view in my blogs. Significant movement. But my total numbers decreased this year from last year. Last year’s high in views happened because of the pandemic and people being home more than this year. Also, Facebook changed their ads, making it hard to advertise to the world market, which limited the exposure I had enjoyed in previous years.

The good news about this year is the difference between my visitors this year was less than one thousand. I got all this data off of wordpress.com where I have my website and blog, but the numbers off of the Facebook ads surpass these numbers. With my Facebook ads, I reached 1,594,301 people and 44,836 clicked on the blog post, which doesn’t match my numbers from WordPress, so I’m not sure about that, but those are outrageous numbers to ponder!

Here’s how many posts I have published in eight years:

  • 2014 – 7
  • 2015 – 16
  • 2016 – 6
  • 2017 – 22
  • 2018 – 54
  • 2019 – 66
  • 2020 – 64
  • 2021 – 80

For a total of 315 posts in eight years! Each post is about 750–1000 words, so that’s over 236,250 words! Wow! That’s a lot of words!

My Audience Spans the World in eight years!

I continue to touch a worldwide audience, which is shocking to me! In 2019, visitors came from 154 different countries to my blog. My audience expanded to 176 countries in 2020! In 2021, 171 countries visited my blog, decreasing from the previous year. Facebook changed its selection of “Worldwide” for ads, so I’m sure this affected the number of countries who saw my advertisement.

The United States continued to be my biggest market, followed by these countries with the most to least visits: Philippines, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Algeria, Iraq, Pakistan, Ireland, Myanmar (Burma), Singapore, China, Mongolia, Venezuela, Turkey, Canada, Libya, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Egypt, Laos, United Kingdom, Bolivia, Peru, Cambodia, Brazil, Colombia, Armenia, Germany, Lebanon, Bhutan, Somalia, Albania, Sweden, France, Ecuador, Australia, Belgium, Vietnam, Tunisia, Netherlands, South Africa, Japan, Romania, Morocco, Ethiopia, Hong Kong SAR China, Switzerland, Palestinian Territories, Guyana, Serbia, Suriname, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Denmark, Yemen, Taiwan, Argentina, Nicaragua, Haiti, Guinea, Jordan, Timor-Leste, Paraguay, Spain, Fiji, Guatemala, Ukraine, Comoros, Honduras, Malaysia, Italy, Azerbaijan, El Salvador, Macedonia, Georgia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Maldives, Israel, Senegal, Russia, New Zealand, Uganda, Madagascar, Moldova, Burkina Faso, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Rwanda, Eritrea, Trinidad & Tobago, Nigeria, Dominican Republic, 95 Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Sierra Leone, Mauritania, Mali, South Korea, Liberia, Croatia, Portugal, Samoa, Norway, Austria, Greece, Mauritius, Malta, Kenya, Kazakhstan, Uruguay, Congo – Brazzaville, Kosovo, Chile, Tonga, Micronesia, American Samoa, Ghana, United Arab Emirates, Namibia, Cape Verde, Djibouti, Belize, Tanzania, Central African Republic, Kyrgyzstan, Hungary, Bahrain, Montenegro, Zambia, Andorra, Belarus, Burundi, Swaziland, Puerto Rico, Cote d’lvoire, Lesotho, Uzbekistan, Luxembourg, Finland, Tajikistan, Cameroon, Oman, Réunion, Guam, Gambia, Botswana, Norfolk Island, Panama, Congo – Kinshasa, Curacao, Cyprus, Jersey, St. Lucia, Qatar, Papua New Guinea, Chad, Palau, Lithuania, Aruba, Slovenia, Northern Mariana Islands, Dominica, Jamaica, Mozambique, Solomon Islands, Slovakia, Isle of Man.

Top Five Favorite posts:

The top five favorite posts of 2021 cover a variety of topics.

  • Haunted by a Favorite Poem
  • Vaccinated: Short, Sweet & to the Point
  • Writing Groups—A Best Kept Secret for Writers?
  • Will Square Dancing Survive the Pandemic?
  • Is a Nativity Set Important?

So, I’d like to share the take-aways from this in-depth look at my blogging history:

  • I continue to love writing my weekly blog.
  • Potential readers moved from just visiting my blog to viewing it. I like that.
  • I continue to have a worldwide audience.

Future Plans

I plan to be more selective about my topics this year. In the past, I wrote about whatever came up, and I will continue to address current events, but I have five areas I will focus on:

  1. Writing—my current project and writing topics
  2. Flippo & square dancing
  3. Poetry
  4. Baby boomer topics
  5. Holidays

If we return to traveling, I will add that specific topic because my readers love my travel tales.

Finally

After eight years of blogging, I’m proud of my results. Suggest any topics you’d like to hear about. Regular readers, please “like” my blog post, then leave me a comment. How about—read, reflect and respond! Then we could truly be an international community!


~Buy a copy of Flippo’s biography on my website: https://www.laradasbooks.com or at Amazon.

~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? 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

Marshall Flippo · My Thoughts · square dance

Flippo’s Last Dance: A Night to Remember!

Flippo's Lasr Dance
Flippo’s Last Dance

Recently we celebrated New Year’s Eve 2022, and I’m always taken back to one specific night, Flippo’s last dance at Green Valley, Arizona, on New Year’s Eve 2017.

Here’s an excerpt from Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo describing that memorable night:

Green Valley, Arizona—New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2017

At the end of November 2017, Jerry Junck asked me in a phone conversation if we were going to Flippo’s New Year’s Eve dance in Green Valley, Arizona. Lin and I weren’t sure.

He added, “I think Gary and I are going to drive down.” I had heard that this would be Flippo’s very last calling.

“That’s what he claims.”

I added, “It sounds to me like it might be the place to be on New Year’s Eve.” Flippo was asked four years earlier to sign a contract to do the Green Valley New Year’s Eve dance, and he refused a couple of times. Dean Capes, a member of the club, finally arrived with a contract in hand, so Flip couldn’t refuse any longer.

As Flippo signed it, he stated, “I doubt if I will be here in four years!” But he was, and what a wonderful celebration it was.

Ann Salwaechter, a dear friend, called him the Sunday afternoon of the big event to see how he was feeling.

Flippo told her, “I’m nervous with all these professional callers coming tonight.”

Ann exclaimed, “Flippo, you taught them all to call!”

When we arrived, Flippo met me at the door with a kiss, as usual. He always had a kiss for the ladies. He was greeting all the dancers as they came in and let me know about a man in attendance who wanted to talk to me about this book.

Numerous callers came from all over the USA, as well as many local callers. Larry Letson, a dear friend and caller from Indiana who had stopped calling, came in the door right after the announcements. It felt like a family reunion!

During the festive evening, the Green Valley square dance club gave Flippo a plaque thanking him for all his years of support.

Flippo receives a plaque from Kay Hill, Vice President, Green Valley Square and Round Dance Club, Flippo and Dean Capes, MC.
Flippo receives a plaque from Kay Hill, Vice President, Green Valley Square and Round Dance Club, Flippo and Dean Capes, MC.

Flippo called a memorable dance to faithful dancers and callers. Groups of callers gathered around the dance hall. Ken Bower, Gary Shoemake, and Wade Driver huddled together and shared a story (possibly a favorite Flippo), and belly laughs and deep laughter came from each of them.

Another time I saw Jerry Junck leaning up against a wall with eyes riveted on Flippo on stage. His expression stated everything—admiration and love for his mentor for decades, mixed with deep sadness. Often throughout the evening, the callers’ eyes were glued to Flippo on stage with admiring expressions. Their teacher was done.

During the evening, he announced this book from the stage and asked a question he’d wondered about often in our interviews, “Who would want to buy a book about me?” In no way did he ask this question in a solicitous manner—he could not imagine anyone wanted to read a book about him. The crowd roared!

Several people came up to me after his announcement, querying when it would be done, wanting a copy.

Patty Greene, then chairperson of CALLLERLAB, exclaimed, “How are you going to edit out the X-rated stuff?”

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

Here’s the chorus to his last song with a profound message:

Still, I’m leavin’ here a better man

For knowin’ you this way

Things I couldn’t do before now I think I can

And I’m leavin’ here a better man

https://genius.com/Clint-black-a-better-man-lyrics

When Flippo stopped calling and the music ended, people gathered around him after the traditional big thank you circle. So many wanted to thank him personally with a final hug and kiss. Flippo and his fans lingered, exchanging stories. No one wanted the evening to end.

Kim Oxendine gives Flippo a hug with Gina and Tom Crisp waiting in line

Kim Oxendine gives Flippo a hug with Gina and Tom Crisp waiting in line

I’m sure that a sizable group of callers and friends took Flippo to a local drinking establishment to end the night with drinks, camaraderie, and stories to mark the end of an era in the square dance world.

To see the caller list of attendees for Flippo’s last night, see Appendix G.

Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography: Marshall Flippo, (2020): 326-329.

Callers from all over the United States in attendance to Flippo’s Last Dance.
Callers from all over the United States in attendance to Flippo’s Last Dance.

APPENDIX G – LIST OF CALLERS WHO ATTENDED FLIPPO’S LAST DANCE, DECEMBER 31, 2017

National Callers:

  • Ken and Dee Bower, Palm Desert, California
  • Bob Lottie & Dee Dee Dougherty-Lottie, Mesa/Casa Grande, Sun City, and Florence, Arizona
  • Wade and Healy Driver, Spring, Texas
  • Patty Greene, Monroe, North Carolina
  • Jerry Junck, Mesa, Arizona
  • Vic and Shauna Kaaria, Redlands, California
  • Larry Letson, Lafayette, Indiana
  • Tony and Kim Oxendine, Sumter, South Carolina
  • Mike and Lisa Seastrom, Thousand Oaks, California
  • Mike Sikorsky, Apache Junction, Arizona
  • Gary Shoemake, Sevierville, Tennessee

Local Callers:

  • Glenn Condit, Tucson
  • Tom and Gina Crisp, Sonoran Stables, Tucson
  • Rick Gittelman and Patty, Tucson
  • Don Haney and Sandy, Voyager RV Resort, Tucson
  • Wendy Krueger, British Columbia, Canada
  • Juanita Portz, Sierra Vista
  • Janet Shannon, Tempe
  • Mike Smithers, Sierra Vista
  • Harue and Bryan Swift, Sierra Vista
  • Bill Reinders, Green Valley

Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography: Marshall Flippo, (2020): 515.

I hold on to this memorable night as a once-in-a-lifetime experience! What an emotional New Year’s Eve that was—tears and laughter overflowed! Flippo’s last dance was a historical night in square dancing with the ending of a legend. I felt privileged to be there to witness Flippo’s last dance. Were you there? If so, how did you feel?


~Buy a copy of Flippo’s biography on my website: https://www.laradasbooks.com or at Amazon.

~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? meme - Flippo's last dance

~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

Coronavirus · Dancing · Goals · My Thoughts

2022, Hello!

2022

2022 is here, and I’m ready! Each year arrives with new hope, new possibilities! Because of the last couple of years, I have mixed feelings. What does 2022 hold for us? With everything still on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic, join me in my wondering!

My Book Business in 2022

Four of my books - 2022
3 of my books - 2022

I now have six books and three cookbooks in my stable. I plan on focusing on my book business and becoming more proficient in the administering of it. My mission statement is “a baby-boomer with a purpose.”

I have five areas of focus this year:

  1. Writing
  2. Recording audiobooks of my books
  3. Online Memoir workshop
  4. Promoting
  5. Continued training

Today I wrote a plan for each area so I use my time more efficiently. Obviously, writing is my major focus. I have two books in the works: a description of my experience of writing Flippo’s biography and what I learned and the first book in a poetry series. Before the pandemic, I had a successful Memoir Workshop I presented at various libraries in the area. Now, I plan to host it online through Zoom.

Audiobooks are another major focus of this year. I will record, Let Me Tell You a Story, first. After that, I plan to record my newest book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?. Then, I will tackle This Tumbleweed Landed and then When Will Papa Get Home? Sounds ambitious, maybe, but I’ll let you know my progress.

Promoting takes so much of my time. I hope to be more systematic at my promotions this year. And last, I have bought some great training packages over the years, so I plan to incorporate training in my weekly schedule.

2022 Goals

My Personal Life This Year

Dancing

I want to dance! I’m getting cabin-fever and want my old life back. As I look at 2022, I see annual festivals we normally attended and yearn to go. Normally we’re in Arizona at the end of January at Hummingbird Hoedown, so I’m hoping we can make that this year.

Because we have a mask mandate, here in New Mexico, we haven’t danced since August—Lin can’t dance with a mask, so I’ve stayed home. But I’m going to go to a weekly Advance dance with a girlfriend because I can dance the guy’s part.

Hopefully, the three local festivals I’m involved in will not be canceled again this year: Duke City Singles and Doubles’ Spring Fling, New Mexico State Square and Round Dance Festival and 16th Annual Hot August Nights.

Dancing is my passion and I just have to dance!

Our Ranch

Recently, I went to our family ranch in Colorado, but I want to go monthly and spend more time there.

Our Response to the coronavirus

As a couple, Lin and I have been super conservative, staying home mostly for the last two years. We will continue being cautious, but hopefully activities will open up more this year.

My Spiritual Life in 2022

Because of such major changes in our lifestyle, we stayed home these last two years, providing me an opportunity to go deeper spiritually. I plan to continue the habits I’ve honed over these couple years of dedicating time to a Quiet Time in the morning to read devotionals and study Scriptures and write. I also plan to add more meditation to my daily habit.

Finally,

I always anticipate the best for each new year: a blank page where I get to decide how to fill it. What do you feel at the beginning of a new year?


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

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

~Check out a Gigantic End of Year Sale at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft. 25% off almost all bundles!

Dancing · family · Friends · Holidays · My Thoughts

New Year’s Eve Memories & Shenanigans!

Happy New Year Ev'es

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

New Year’s Eve With Bub & Lela

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

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

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

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

Square & Round Dancing on This Night

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

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

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

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

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

Unique Night for New Year’s Eve

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

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

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

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

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

The Last Few Years on New year’s Eve

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

Finally,

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

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


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

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

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

EXCITING NEWS HERE!

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

The Day After Christmas—Now What?

Girl sitting sad the day afer Christmas

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

Looking Back

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

Christmas Eve

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

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

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

Christmas Day

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

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

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

The Day After Christmas

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

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

Extended Christmas Season

Twelve Days of Christmas - day after Christmas

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

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

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

Day after Christmas

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

Games - Day after Christmas

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

Finally,

The day after Christmas has arrived—enjoy it!

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

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

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? Christmas meme

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

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My Thoughts

Our Christmas Newsletter

Merry Christmas - newsletter

Every year, I look forward to writing our Christmas newsletter because I have to focus narrowly on what the year was really about. Also, I feature pictures from the current year to give a visual added touch. I’ve written one for thirty-three years—that’s a lot of newsletters! But I’m a writer and love it. I also enjoy designing them and have used a variety of computer programs over the years because of the evolution of computers. Currently, I use Print Shop to design it, which provides a nice variety of templates and holiday graphics.

Here’s our for 2021! Enjoy!

Finally, I don’t know how you feel about Christmas newsletters. I enjoy writing them and truly enjoy receiving them to catch up on the lives of my dear friends. Do you write a Christmas newsletter?


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

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 about Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?
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!