Ireland & England · My Thoughts · Scotland · Travel

Day 1 & 2- Flight Day & First Day at Sea

Lin and I left Albuquerque on Friday, July 19 and flew to Denver. On Saturday, July 20 we flew to Toronto, Canada and started our flight to London. We arrived at Heathrow on Sunday, July 21 at 11:50 AM! Whew! If you didn’t read my blog last week, you need to catch up and read that harrowing experience.

When we got off the plane (in travel lingo, is that deplaned?) and gathered our luggage, we had trouble finding the Norwegian Cruise Line representative to catch the shuttle to Southampton. As you actually enter the Heathrow airport, multitudes of travel companies, tours, etc. stand with signs designating their company on each side of a walk-way that passengers must pass through. We experienced this two years ago trying to find our transport to our hotel.

So, I stopped with our four cumbersome bags, and Lin wandered around one area and had no luck, then he went the other direction—again no luck. I asked someone standing near me, and they pointed out where NCL (Norwegian Cruise Lines) reps usually stand, so we crossed over to the other side of the walk-way and still no NCL rep.

Again, I asked someone standing near the walk-way, and the woman said, “He’ll be right back!” So, we found him. Overwhelmed the NCL rep rushed in like a whirlwind and let us know he was short-handed and many flights had been delayed, so he was doing the best he could. Lin and I were just relieved to find him. The responsibility of transport was on Norwegian now, so we could relax.

I found some snacks for us. We hadn’t come prepared on this trip with foreign currency, and it just now dawned on both of us! We came with American dollars and would be in places in countries that didn’t accept our money! They did accept it at Heathrow though, so I returned to Lin, and we waited patiently.

Finally, the NCL rep herded our group out the door to the bus. At this time, it had grown to a sizable crowd. We found our bus, boarded and headed towards Southampton. I was so exhausted from our flight but so excited to be back in London again!

Yahooooooo! We made it!

The one hour and a half trip went smoothly, and we arrived at the Norwegian Star at 4:30 PM. Usually when we board the ship, the terminal overflows with people and activity—only one or two Norwegian people worked behind the desk. That was it! No picture of us boarding the ship!

One thing they did that was strange: they took our passports and said they would stamp them and return them to us later. Really?

Lin and I boarded the ship, found our room–#5078–and relaxed a moment but heard an announcement that we had to attend the “Emergency Training” in the Stardust theater on Deck 7! We took a breath and ran up to the training. The review of what to do in an emergency reminded me of the danger of sailing on a ship, and interestingly enough, we learned on this trip that the Titanic sailed out of Southampton on its fateful voyage, just like us! We found our designated spot to go to in case of an emergency and went upstairs to the buffet, Raffles, for our first meal of the day.

When we got back to our room, we unpacked and relaxed until the entertainment show at 7:30 PM, fully aware we hadn’t left port yet. We were supposed to leave at 5:00 PM, so we thought the cruise director would explain our delay at the show—she didn’t.

The show was an overview of the talent we would see on this cruise and they all were exceptional! Lin and I especially like the magician.

After the show, we slipped back to our room quickly and went to bed—exhausted from this marathon day.

On July 22, I slept until 8:00 AM. When I’m onboard a ship, I always look out the window first thing to see what I can see—we were sailing. We found out later Norwegian crew worked in scuba gear for hours, and the cruise was almost canceled, but we finally left port about 4:30 AM. Lin and I were so exhausted we never heard the ship pull away from the port. Lin was gone when I woke up—out walking the deck and enjoying the sea. I never heard him leave!

When he returned, we had a leisurely breakfast in Raffles, the buffet on the deck 12, one of the complimentary restaurants on the Star. In wandering around deck 12 and getting oriented again, we found the Game Room, so we played a couple Cribbage games, and Lin won. We continued our tour of the ship and had a delightful lunch in Windows, one of the complimentary restaurants onboard ship.

Lin’s $20 Chocolate

Anyone who knows Lin knows he loves chocolate. We went by the Tourist Shop onboard, and Lin bought a HUGE bar of Lindt chocolate. Shocked after he bought it, it cost $20. He rationed it out the whole trip, and we finished it in the airport in London waiting for our flight home.

At about 2:00 PM, we participate in one of our favorite onboard ship activities: Deal or No Deal. Neither one of us was chosen to play, but everyone who participates has a chance to be a winner, and Lin won a free 8 X 10 photo.

Afterwards, we went to the Excursion desk to put our names on a waiting list for Conwy Castle at Holyhead, Wales. It was sold out when we booked our excursion, so we signed up for Penrhyn Castle & Gardens as a second choice. The agent told us they would create another tour if enough people asked—we both really wanted to go to Conwy Castle because of the pictures we saw, and it all worked out!

After all this activity, Lin and I retired to our room, and he napped. I experimented with getting on the Internet and had some problems. I also worked on my current book project: the authorized biography of Marshall Flippo. Yes, I took Flippo with me on this cruise.

We ate dinner at Shogun’s, another complimentary restaurant for certain dishes, then went to the early show and saw Danielle Williams—energetic pop music singer!

Lin had heard they had coconut ice cream up at Raffles, so we ventured up to see. They didn’t have it, but they had a piña colada that was delicious. We went by the lounge for a short time and listened to the band, Hot Wire.

When we got back to the room, we tried the Internet again. Lin had a lot of trouble, and it was slow for me, so we gave up and went to bed.

The next day we had our first experience in Scotland—Edinburgh and the castle! We were both excited about the four ports in Scotland! Also, the next day started our marathon of ports and excursions—ten ports, ten excursions and no at-sea days in-between to catch up and rest! None of our previous cruises had this intense schedule!

So, next week I will share our Edinburgh adventures! Stay tuned!


Check out my web site at https://www.laradasbooks.com

BACK TO SCHOOL SAVINGS END AUGUST 16, 2019: 50%off of ALL MY DIGITAL BOOKS at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft.

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/

Be the 200th to pre-order the Marshall Flippo biography! 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/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42s

Ireland & England · My Thoughts · Travel

Why Is It So Hard to Travel to London?

Two flights to London in my lifetime: once in 2017 and now again in 2019–each time a nerve-wracking experience!

On July 19, 2019, Lin, my husband, and I started the first leg of our trip to London for a twelve-day cruise of the British Isles and flew from Albuquerque, NM to Denver, CO. We got our flight through Norwegian cruise lines, and the one catch was that it had to be through a major airport, so that’s why we had to go to Denver.

We live in the east mountains above Albuquerque and the drive to the airport takes about thirty minutes. Most of our travel is on I-40, and there was an accident in front of us, but –thank God—we saw the slow down and ducked off the Interstate at a nearby exit. If we had been further down the highway, we would have been caught there and possibly missed our flight. After breathing deeply, we both sighed and realized a near miss.

We both flew to Denver on Southwest Airlines for free which always makes the flight sweet. Also, we flew at 5:50 PM which meant no getting up at O’Dark Thirty to start our adventure.

We arrived in Denver at 7:00 PM, wondering if we needed to eat at the airport before finding the shuttle to the Microtel Hotel near the airport. So, I called the hotel and got a strange response when asked if there was a restaurant within walking distance.

 “There should be!” Lin and I both laughed and decided to take our chance there because food is so expensive in an airport. We maneuvered our bags to level five, island three to wait for the shuttle.

The warm Colorado evening invited us to sit and enjoy the beginning of our travels. It took the shuttle over thirty minutes to arrive, but we relaxed and anticipated our trip. We had originally planned a cruise around the Hawaiian Islands in November but had to cancel it because of the death of a dear friend. We reveled in the fact that nothing could go wrong this time—Norwegian cruise lines had booked our flights and they were professionals. They would allow enough time between flights–nothing to worry about!

When we arrived at the hotel, we saw a restaurant within walking distance, so we registered at the desk. I peered at the guy who had given me such a strange response, and he told the person in front of us that there was a restaurant within 10 seconds of the hotel. I laughed to myself at both responses. We ditched our bags in the room, ate dinner, and had a relaxed, restful night. We had come into Denver a night early so we could catch our flight easily the next day.

When I got up the next morning, I planned on wearing the same clothes, but I could smell BO on my top, so I hand-washed it and then dried it with the hair dryer.

The night before we had reserved a shuttle back to the airport at 12:30 PM and went downstairs to check out about noon, and the shuttle was already there, so we took it. We grabbed lunch at Pandora Express and enjoyed the leisure atmosphere.

Lin and I aboard the Air Canada Flight for Toronto–Excited about our adventure ahead!

Our flight to London started with the first leg to Toronto, Canada leaving Denver at 5:25 PM. Yes, we were early, but we found our gate, and I used the time wisely to work on my current writing project of the Marshall Flippo biography. Great uninterrupted time to work!

Before leaving home, Lin had checked the weather in Toronto, and thunderstorms threatened the area, but no one from the airlines had said anything, so we let it go.

We boarded the Air Canada plane and then sat and sat. For thirty minutes,  a flight attendant walked through the cabin counting the passengers, then one came and asked the person sitting across from us to move at takeoff to distribute the weight more evenly—I had never heard that before.

Awhile later, the pilot announced that they needed to check the air in one of the tires—oh, no! Here we go again! We just lost over thirty minutes!

When it finally took off, I relaxed and worked on my book project. We were to arrive at 10:29 PM and the flight to Heathrow took off at 11:50 PM—plenty of time, I thought. I hadn’t done the math. Lin kept his eye on the flight monitor on the TV and kept calculating and recalculating our arrival time, getting more nervous the farther we went. He shared his concern with me, and we talked to the flight attendant about our possible peril. She assured us there would be plenty of time.

When we got to Toronto, we had to go through customs. Then we had no idea where to go, no idea of the gate number for our flight, and no signage to point us in the right direction. We walked down a hall desperate to find help.

Then we found an Air Canada employee who told us to go to level three to security, so we found level three but had trouble finding security. The lights were dimmed and the only people there were the cleaning crew. Somehow, we found security. He let us through a back door and all I saw in front of me was a long corridor.

The corridor went on and on!

Lin started walking, half-running down the corridor, and I had to run to keep up with him. It went on and on. I tripped once and almost hit the ground, but I steadied myself and kept going. Now he was nearly out of sight rounding a corner. So it was a full-out run now.

When I caught him, we stood at an intersection; only two people were there. Lin ran over to a counter and asked where to go.

“Gate 75.”

The other two people yelled, “Go straight through there and turn right.”

So, we did, and the workers at that gate waved and yelled, “Are you the Millers? They are closing the door right now!” We sprinted over; they checked us in and we walked on the plane and they closed the doors behind us!

The plane had been delayed ten minutes because of a rain delay—oh, my God! That’s what saved us!

We found our seats, sat down and breathed. Sweat dripped down my back and I panted now because of the race we just did. Trembling, I said to Lin, “Why is it so hard to get to London?”

We did make it, and I will take you on our twelve-day adventure cruising around the British Isles over the next few weeks in my blogs.

Have you ever had a travel experience like this? Share yours in the Comments section below.

Check out my web site at https://www.laradasbooks.com

BACK TO SCHOOL SAVINGS UNTIL AUGUST 16, 2019: 50%off of ALL MY DIGITAL BOOKS at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft.

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/

Do you want to pre-order the Marshall Flippo biography? 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/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42s

Dancing · family · Hospice · Marshall Flippo · Mom · My Thoughts · Ranching · Retirement · Travel

What Does My Retirement Look Like?

Here’s the stereotype of what retirement looks like for many: an aged couple rocking chairs on the porch, relaxed, watching the world go by–no hustle, no bustle! Lots of people are retired and retiring, thanks to the Baby Boomers.

About 61 million people collect Social Security benefits each month, and they account for about one in five people in the United States.

https://www.nasi.org/learn/socialsecurity/who-gets

I’m 65 years old, retired and busier than ever, and I don’t fit that stereotype and many of you don’t either! I retired in 2013, so this is my sixth year of doing exactly what I want to when I want—that’s the luxury of retirement. I’ve always been a busy person and feared that I was a workaholic! I have to be busy. This goes back to my childhood. I started knitting when I was 10 years old and started the habit of knitting and watching TV. To this day, I have a hard time just sitting and watching TV—my hands have to be doing something.

Today my life is full and rich! My husband and my normal weekly dance schedule looks like this:

  • Wednesday – Round Dancing & Plus Dancing
  • Thursday – Advanced Dancing
  • Friday – Mainstream & Plus

Then, we usually attend an out-of-town square and round dance festival once a month that begins Friday night and ends Sunday at noon—lots of dancing! The dancing and friendships across the country feeds my soul!

When I’m home, I do Zumba two mornings a week. I love the movement to high energy Latin music–it feels like dancing to me!

I also am chairperson for two square and round dance festivals in Albuquerque:

  • Duke City Singles & Doubles Spring Fling in May
  • Hot August Nights in August

These festivals keep me busy hiring new callers and cuers for future events and planning the upcoming event. I’m so lucky to work with two great committees that make the work fun and effortless!

I attend Hope in the Desert Episcopal church and recovery meetings regularly when I’m home.

After my Mom died in 2013, my brother and I inherited our family ranch, so I visit our ranch and our small ranching community, Branson, once a month to check on things. I love staying connected to that part of my life and my dear friends there.

For the first couple years of retirement, I was busy as the Executor of Mom’s will, and probate kept me hopping.

In 2013, I volunteered to be treasurer of our square dance club, Duke City Singles and Doubles. Now that may not sound like too daunting a task for you, but I’m a “Word Person,” not a “Numbers Person.” I did it because my husband volunteered to be President and I knew his time would be dedicated to the club, so I might as well join him. The first financial statement took me eight hours to resolve, but the last one was about an hour, so I grew as a “Numbers Person.” I did that for four years and helped revived the club and grow it.

Since 2014, I’ve self-published four books and three cookbooks:

  • 2014 – This Tumbleweed Landed
  • 2015 – When Will Papa Get Home?
  • 2016 – Let Me Tell You a Story
  • 2017 – A Time To Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir
  • 2014- 2016 – From Grannie’s Kitchen: Volume 1, 2, & 3

I had two really positive experiences with hospice: when my best friend, Kathi Raver died in 2009, and when my Mom died. I knew that I would become a hospice volunteer, but I had to get some time and space from Mom’s death before I could handle it.

Last year, I started volunteering for Presbyterian Hospice, so I see a client once a week and have learned so much about the mission and importance of Hospice. My client is suffering from Alzheimer’s so it’s a roller-coaster ride of mood swings and communication issues, but what an education! My client’s daughter and husband so appreciate my time with her, and I love it. I’ve become part of their family.

I’ve also been a part of the committee that puts on the Branson-Trinchera Reunion every June in Branson. This is a celebration of the small country school I attended.

My husband and I love to travel, and we’ve done several cruises and trips in my retirement. My favorite was to England and Ireland two years ago for three weeks. What an adventure we had! (You can read about it here in my blog!) We have another cruise scheduled for this summer to the British Isle—back to England and Ireland and our first time to Scotland and Wales.

My current writing project has taken over my life! I’m writing the authorized biography of the most famous square dance caller in the world, Marshall Flippo, and I’m stressing out because I want to release it in September. As a self-published author, I’ve set up a timeline of production. Now I have to focus long hours to complete the writing by the end of April, to send it to a professional editor in May, to move the edited copy to a publication software and format it in June and July (our cruise is in July) and to order copies in August ready for distribution in September—WHEW!!!!

Someone said to me a couple weeks ago, “You’re not retired—you have two jobs: your books and your ranch. So, as you can see, I’m busy; I could never spend my days in front of a TV watching mindless TV. I may be retired; I may be 65, but I have energy and enthusiasm for life.

So, you may wonder why I’ve listed all I do in my retirement. I think many people have a skewed view of retirement. Yes, we anticipate the end of the grind—the 40 hours a week demands on our life and now the panacea at the end of the rainbow. I know many do retire and choose a much less active life than I have, but I wanted you to see the possibilities in retirement. You get to choose and the choices are limitless!

Curious about my books? Check out my web site at https://www.laradasbooks.com

50% Discount through the end of February – A Time to Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir–both paperback and e-book versions–at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft.

Do you want to pre-order the Marshall Flippo biography? Go here to order the version you want. https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

My Thoughts · square dance · Travel

What Happened at Hummingbird Hoedown This Year?

This Year’s Flyer

I created a schedule for my blog posts back in late November for 2019, and this Sunday’s topic is Hummingbird Hoedown, an annual square and round dance festival in Sierra Vista, Arizona with caller, Jerry Story. We weren’t able to attend this year because of my husband, Lin’s hip problem.

For the last couple days, I have vacillated back and forth on whether to write about an event I didn’t attend. I decided I would because I know what happens there–great challenging dancing with a fun-loving committee and dancers. It’s an unusual festival that has gained momentum over the years.

Hummingbird Hoedown is a weekend festival the last weekend in January: a dance Friday night, workshop all day Saturday and a dance Saturday night–sounds like a lot of dancing to the non-dancer but this is the usual format for weekend square and round dance festival.

It began five years ago. Harue and Slappy (Bryan) Swift started it with Jerry Story with a new format in mind: round dance party for one hour before the dance and then only one round during the evening dance, mostly mainstream dancing with a two minutes, two seconds break between tips. That program translated into an aerobic evening of dancing, attracting high energy dancers.

Immediately it was a success and has continued growing with this year’s record number of seventeen squares! Lin and I attended the first three festivals but weren’t able to go last year and sorrowfully this year.

The schedule has morphed over the five years, and this year’s alternated mainstream, plus, mainstream and two rounds during the evening.

Another innovative addition started at Hummingbird Hoedown by Lisa Wahl. During the round dance workshop on Saturday afternoon, Lisa taught a rhythm not a whole dance and was able to teach more moves per rhythm that way. During the evening’s dance, Lisa cued the moves taught instead of a song and many people participated. This has continued throughout the years.

Bob and Lin Van Atta have cued the rounds for the last couple years and make the rounds enjoyable for all!

The Hummingbird Hoedown’s lively committee has fun door prizes and schedules dinner out Saturday night at one of the Mexican restaurants in Sierra Vista, providing time to sit and talk and get acquainted. I love this special time to sit with dancer friends and talk about our lives.

Jerry Story, the featured caller, puts you through the drill the whole weekend. Jerry is the master of making mainstream dancing a challenge. Then during the workshops on Saturday, he teaches the dancers all the key items to dancing that are important to him–his emphasis helps dancers improve their dancing.

The weekend is fun-filled, and the committee welcomes you with open arms. Jerry makes the squares entertaining and challenging. After a tip at this dance, you run to the bathroom or grab a drink– you can’t do both, and you rush back on the floor for another tip full of great choreography and singing. It doesn’t get better than this!

Lin and I WILL be there next year ready to dance the weekend away with good friends, a great caller and lots of dancing!

Want to see what happened at Hummingbird Hoedown this year? Go to the Thunder Mountain Twirlers Facebook page for pictures: 5th Annual Hummingbird Hoedown

Have you ever attended Hummingbird Hoedown? What was your opinion of it? Share it here.

Check out my web site at https://www.laradasbooks.com

50% Discount of A Time to Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir–both paperback and e-book version–at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft.

Do you want to pre-order the Marshall Flippo biography? Go here to order the version you want: https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

Christmas · family · Gratitude · Memoirs · My Thoughts · Travel

A Christmas Memory–Sad & Precious!

My sick brother cut wood to sell!

It was in the late 1960’s. My Mom, Dad, teenage brother and I arrived in Poway, California for a special Christmas celebration. My brother-in-law had recently been diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and the future was bleak. This was only the second time we’d traversed to California for Christmas, and this trip had such a mixture of emotion.

As newlyweds, my sister and her new husband and two stepchildren came to Colorado a couple years before and we had a enjoyable time getting acquainted with my sister’s new family. Being from the city, the children delighted in a trip to our ranch to cut down our Christmas tree, and they enjoyed a truly country Christmas with snow.

My new brother-in-law immediately started picking on me, and we bonded deeply even though he forced me to try cranberries–I had never tried this dish before. With his humor and persistent influence, I grew to love cranberries!

My sister knitted beautiful Christmas presents!

Sunny California appeared gloomy and heavy. The festive atmosphere of Christmas felt tinged with a deep sadness and fear. My sister greeted us warmly, knitting like a crazy woman–she shared with me that all of their gifts this year were knitted.

The man we saw on arrival was a shadow of the man we met a few short years ago. The disease had ravaged his body, and he had lost so much weight, his clothes hung loose and limp on his frame.

But his spirit of love and laughter prevailed. Mom tried her hand at making homemade pie crusts, forgetting the affect of being at sea level on a recipe usually done at 6100 feet above sea level. She clamored about the gooey mess she kept trying to roll out, and my brother-in-law teased unmercifully. As he ducked out of the kitchen with his latest quip, she slung the ball of dough at him, hitting him in the eye–a magnificent bull’s eye. Our laughter filled the kitchen with joy in the ridiculous.

Christmas Eve morning came, and my brother-in-law slipped into our bedroom and whispered his plan for the day to Mom and me, “I’m going to go sell some wood so I can buy my loving wife some Christmas presents. Don’t let her know where I’ve gone. Can you help me wrap the presents when I get home?”

Mom and I both choked back tears, nodding our heads.

The impact of my brother-in-law’s health had destroyed their finances. He hadn’t worked regularly in months; my sister had a good job, but she was so busy and overwhelmed being a caregiver, too. Living in the wooded area of Poway, he did cut wood whenever he could and sell it to make some extra money and to keep active–this was not his nature.

Christmas Eve day went by uneventful except for my sister’s repeated refrain, “Where is my husband? What is he doing?” Her distress weighed on me during the day, but I couldn’t ruin his surprise. She continued to knit on the last project she was trying to finish.

Daylight slowly faded into darkness. Mom and I exchanged worried glances all day–Dad, my sister and brother kept wondering about the where-about’s of my brother-in-law.

Mom and I went to the bedroom to talk about what we should do–it was dark. He had been gone for hours. What if something went wrong? Quietly he opened the door of our bedroom with a couple bags of gifts in hand. He looked exhausted but pleased with himself. 

We wrapped the small collection of gifts–all kitchen utensils for my sister. We placed the gifts under the tree, and my sister was contrite in her reaction to her husband’s day-long absence.

I  knew deep in my heart that this was the most precious exhibition of love and gifting I’d ever seen. His generosity and spirit graced the rest of that holiday.

Forty-some years ago, and it still bring a smile to my heart as I remember his mission of love and the true spirit of Christmas.

Have you had a Christmas like this–sweet and bittersweet at the same time? I’d love to hear your experiences!

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM ME TO YOU! I have posted something from my 3 books. Download a free Christmas story or poem from my web site: https://www.laradasbooks.com

Visit my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft, for 25% off of two new bundles and 20% off of individual books–FREE SHIPPING! 

Blogging · Life Lessons · My Thoughts · Travel

Do You Love An Adventure?

adventure asphalt california country
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I love any kind of an adventure, but travel adventures and a great road trip are my specialty; however, I was a little apprehensive about this trip because I have some eye problems going on right now, and I worried about it–for weeks. As so often happens, my worries were unwarranted and I had a delightful trip.

My day started with a flight out of the Albuquerque airport at Thursday morning at 6:20 am heading to Walla Walla, Washington. Lin doesn’t like leaving as early as I do. I stepped up to my place in line at the gate just as the Southwest attendant called our group–whew!! My flight west veered off via Denver, Colorado with a short turn-around time. We arrived in Denver early so I arrived at the gate with plenty of time.

Often on flights, I have no conversation with the people near me. On this flight I worked on my Keynote presentation (Apple’s version of PowerPoint), and the woman seated at the window asked if I was a writer–she had read my presentation over my shoulder.

“Yes, I’m doing a presentation at a writer’s conference.”

“My nine year old daughter told me this week she wants to be a writer.”

I encouraged her and told her about some writing apps–a future writer. Those are the kinds of airplane conversation I enjoy.

When I arrived in Seattle, Washington, I had to jockey three bags on the shuttle to get the rental car–one of them transformed into a backpack, so that helped.

Getting the car was the easy part! These new fangled cars stumped me because I regularly drive a 2004 Saturn. To start, I couldn’t get the trunk open to put my suitcases away, but an attendant helped me with a smile. I could start it, but the GPS wouldn’t load because I was in a parking garage. I had to leave the garage and park somewhere to load the maps and away I went.

Now I had a four and one half hour drive to Walla Walla. My goal was to get out of the congestion of Seattle before I stopped. With a dry mouth and my stomach rumbling, I stopped at Snowqualmie resort area for water and a Lunchable. I sat in the parking lot of the gas station and ate, and away I went on I-90 through Snowqualmie pass. I never did figure out how to use the cruise control.

I had no idea I would be driving through the Cascade Range–pine, fir and spruce trees, standing tall and regal along the side of the road. At times, I felt I was driving through a tree tunnel.

Finally, I breathed a sigh of relief and truly enjoyed the drive through the fall colors, but it rained almost the whole way. At times, I had to slow down surrounded by trucks vooming by. I crossed the Yakima River several times and the Snake and Colombia Rivers–water everywhere it seemed to this dry land, desert dweller.

I couldn’t connect with my husband, Lin, because his phone was dead, so I felt I was on my own, but all was right. I wasn’t sure when I needed to arrive at the hotel, and the heavy rain stopped me from taking pictures of the majestic fall colors.

wrecked iphone
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

The conference last three days.

On Sunday morning I arose at 5:30 am because I had that four and one half hour drive back to Seattle and was told by the rental car clerk to arrive at the airport two and a half hours early because of the security lines. I had passed the crowd when I left the terminal for the rental car shuttle and saw the long lines, so I knew what she meant.

As I pulled out of the Marcus Whitman Hotel parking lot, I saw a gas station close, so I grabbed a coffee and another Lunchable, this time for breakfast. The dark morning made it hard to see, and I dealt with fog off and on the whole trip. I experienced a little rain but mostly fog.

I did stop to take the following pictures as I viewed a valley full of fog and a surprising rainbow.

IMG_6261
On my drive, coming down into a valley of fog & a rainblow!

IMG_9005
Valley full of fog!

I loved the fall foliage–an amplified collection of bright orange and yellow!

This leg of the trip, I phoned with Lin–to let him know I was on the road, then he texted me vital information–his football team, the Eagles were playing in London and the game started at 7:30 am, our time, so he was up and about.

The fall colors were the brightest along the river by Cle Elum, a gorgeous city by the Cle Elum river–orange and yellow leafed trees lined the river.

As I neared Seattle, I stressed over the amount of gas in the car. I bought the rental package where they would fill it up when I returned it, so my job was to bring it back as empty as possible. This new car’s gas meter chimed “Low Fuel” when it was on a quarter of a tank and I was 70 miles from Seattle–that was shocking! Then the needle moved slowly. I kept trying to figure out the cruise control and found a button that told me how many miles left to fill up, but I didn’t trust it, so I stopped and added $5 worth of gas and the gas gauge needle didn’t move at all.

black car instrument cluster panel
Photo by Mikes Photos on Pexels.com

The gas gauge needle moved. I sweated out the last twenty miles to the airport because the needle hovered almost at empty, and wouldn’t you know it–a horrible car accident happened one and a half miles before the Seattle/Tacoma Airport exit. I inched my way by thinking, “I didn’t figure this possibility in. I hope I don’t run out of gas.”

When I pulled into the Dollar rental return space, I breathed finally–my mind had imagined all kinds of horror stories of running out of gas a few miles away.

Before catching the shuttle, I found the bathroom to relieve myself in preparation for the long wait in line. I caught the shuttle back to the airport, checked my bags and printed my boarding pass. I started to get in the long line to go through security and thought, “Wouldn’t it be funny if I was TSA Pre boarding?”

I looked my ticket over and I was! I backtracked out of the long line and went down to check in at gate 4. One passenger stood ahead of me, and I saw no bins to put my laptop, iPad and my shoes in.

“Where’s the bins?”

The TSA agent smiled and said, “No need. Keep your shoes on and you don’t have to unpack your backpack.”

So what I feared all day–a two and one half hours wait in the line only took five minutes. That freed me to buy a Starbucks, call my husband and relax. I grabbed a quick lunch and had a enjoyable visit with an airport worker from North Africa. I was listening to the Bronco game on my iPad with my AirPods, and he thoroughly enjoyed my enthusiasm.

I slept on the first leg of my return trip home. I sat in the Oakland airport writing the first draft of this blog. When I finished, I had tomato basil soup for dinner and then on to Albuquerque. I read and played games on my iPad on the Albuquerque leg. My husband picked me up at the airport, and the long travel day was done.

I have traveled a lot in my life–I flew all over the USA to meet my ex-husband for dancing. I taught for Lesley College and flew by myself for two years. Lin and I have traveled a lot too. Every trip has its memories. This one makes me chuckle when I think about all the worrying I did. Would I have trouble seeing and driving? Would I get to the Seattle airport early enough?

Once again, I did fine and enjoyed the serendipities of a trip!



Do you like to travel? Have you had an adventure flying? driving? Share your thoughts. I would love to hear from you.


The holidays are coming!

Visit my website:  https://www.laradasbooks.com

Discounts galore starting now at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft

My Thoughts · Travel · Writing

I’m Disappointed!

woman looking at sunset
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Normally I’m a very positive optimistic person and try not to admit disappointment–look for the sunny, bright side, am a Pollyanna, etc. ad nauseam. Yesterday, at the airport, I wrote a celebratory post highlighting the conference I attended over the weekend, void of my complete experience. Yes, I loved some of the conference’s offerings, but this morning, I decided to be honest.

I left disappointment and discouraged as a writer. I want to tell you why–maybe you’ve had a conference experience like mine.

I have self-published four books and three cookbooks in the last five years. No best sellers but I’ve enjoyed my “retirement job.” I’m also a genre-jumper. I’ve written two memoirs, a historical fiction and a nonfiction about the West. My next project is a biography, and the one after that is woman’s fiction. I write poetry; I write prose. Many writers pledge their allegiance to one genre, one topic–I don’t, but I am a writer–clear fact! This conference challenged that fact to my core.

Every year in October a group of writers who celebrate the west, women and girls through their writing converge on a city west of the Mississippi, connect and reconnect for three days. Last year was my first experience in Tucson, Arizona and was easy for Lin and I to drive to from Albuquerque. I felt this group was “My Tribe.” This year’s event was in Walla Walla,  which is in the southeastern corner of Washington state–not easy to get to from New Mexico. The conference paperwork suggested flying in to Seattle, so I did, but then it was a four and a half hour drive to Walla Walla. That added to the stress for sure.

I looked forward to this conference more so than my first year, because I submitted a proposal to do a workshop, my Memoir Workshop, and it was accepted! I had presented it several times at Albuquerque libraries and felt it was a strong presentation. I imagined selling all of my books–I lugged a second suitcase full of fifteen books and my handouts there and back! My expectations played a big part in my disappointment!

Thursday night, each of the winners and finalists of the Willa awards read a five minute snippet of their work–what an enjoyable evening. The Willa awards are given in memory of Willa Cather and has seven categories: Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction. Original Soft Cover Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, Scholarly Nonfiction, Poetry and Children’s/Young Adult Fiction & Nonfiction. Each of the winners and finalists’ work stood out as strong literary achievements.

I had submitted my latest memoir, A Time to Grow Up, in the Creative Nonfiction category, and it was not selected. I especially listened to those entries to compare them to mine–I understood the selection to a point but still wondered?

I sat next to the president of the organization at that reading. She was friendly and welcoming.

Friday afternoon I attended an agent panel and an editor panel to help the attendees become better acquainted with these powerful people in the publishing world. The sessions helped us decide which ones to pitch our work to during the scheduled pitch sessions. I had scheduled a pitch session with one of the editors, but many attendees wait until the conference to hear from the agent or editor personally at these panels before selecting.

After the panels, I hurried upstairs to the pitch rooms and surprisingly saw lots of openings with all the agents and editors on the schedule, so I signed up with everyone except one agent I met last year. To my credit, I did six pitches in about 1 and 1/2 hours to no avail.

I have self-published all my books, so there was little interest in my published work, and no one was interested in a biography about a 91 year old world famous square dance caller. One agent did give me a great slant to take on this book and then suggested a PBS project to consider.

The most startling rejection was a fiction story I wrote two years ago about two women friends, incest and their healing–an agent and an editor both told me that the publishing work isn’t accepting any work on incest! REALLY! The agent refused matter-of-factly; the editor vehemently refused. Her face flushed and she repeated several times she never accepts work on that topic. I walked away stunned and angry!

Yes, I now understand I was at a conference for writing about the west and women and girls, but the reaction shut me out. Afterwards I realized why there were so few writers signing up to pitch their work. Four of the seven did not do fiction and many of attendees are fiction writers.

This conferenced scheduled three banquets: Friday evening’s banquet celebrated the Laura winners, a short story contest named after Laura Ingalls. Again each author read a short section to give the audience a test of the story–delightful experience!

My Memoir workshop on Saturday afternoon went well even though I had some technical difficulties. The attendees participated, thanked me and seemed appreciative. I had thought that the attendees would buy my books because of me being a presenter–I did not sell one book.

Then add insult to injury, they have a Book Signing time Saturday from 5:00 – 6:00 pm. Supposedly shoppers could still buy books, but no one bought mine. I looked around the room and mostly the winners and finalists of the Willa awards sold books. The rest of us authors–the majority in the room–sat and watched the action happening away from us!

Then the evening ended with another banquet to celebrate the Willa winners–the third banquet of the weekend. Saturday noon’s banquet celebrated the finalists in the Willa awards. I was “banqueted” out.

Today I realize the conference is about celebrating the twenty-one winners and finalists of the Willa awards and the five winners of the Laura awards. I get that now, but it was an expensive lesson. In writing this blog, healing happened: I also realize I’m a successful writer because I write–pure and simple!

I always have to look at the positives in every experience: I met some wonderful, friendly people at the conference. I always learn something helpful at any workshop I attend. I made some connections which could possibly help me on the biography I’m writing. I will continue my membership in this organization and continue to submit entries into their contests because it stretches me.

The drives to and from Walla Walla were breathtaking and stressful. I will tell you about my adventure in my next blog.


Have you ever had an experience like this at a conference? If so, what did you do? Share your comment below.


Check out my books at my web site:  https://www.laradasbooks.com

Fall specials continue at my Etsy Shop:  Larada’s Reading Loft

My Thoughts · square dance · Travel

The Huntsman World Senior Games–A Life Changing Experience!

Every year in October, thousands of seniors descend on St. George, Utah for the Huntsman World Senior Games. All athletes must be 50 years old by December 31, 2018. This year 11,300 athletes from 32 countries will compete in 30 events, and we competed  in square dancing.

Our week started off on Monday with practice sessions all day to prepare for the square dance competition Tuesday morning. We had a set square with another couple from Albuquerque, New Mexico–Jerry and Mary Beth Gilbreath–and two couples from St. George, Utah. That evening we had a square dance with Gary Shoemake and Ken Bower calling the squares and Steve and Lori Harris doing the rounds. We danced the whole evening with our square to practice.

Tuesday morning we competed in three categories of square dancing: Mainstream, Plus and Random. We competed in our set square in Mainstream and Plus. In the Random category, couples put their names in and the square is formed randomly.

IMG_9567 WP.JPG
Our Square Danced in Red, White & Blue for Competition Day

Each square had two judges watching to see if the square broke down. When the square broke down, the timer started, and it stopped when the square formed facing lines at the head position–that’s what down time is on the scoring.

Each competition has three tips that are five minutes long with each tip progressively getting harder and harder. Whew! When it was over, I was exhausted. I wanted to do as well as the previous the year, so I felt the pressure.

Last year we took a square from Albuquerque for our first time, and we brought home Gold medals for Mainstream and Plus and one of our couples won a Gold medal for the Random square.

Tuesday evening was the Opening Ceremony at Trailblazer Stadium at Dixie State University. We marched onto the field with our square dance banner waving. We each carried a flag and I felt like a real athlete in a world competition.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The evening program was outstanding with entertainment by a local youth troop, the Diamond Talent Dancers. We were welcomed by the mayor of St. George, John Pike, and the lieutenant governor, Spencer Cox. Mr. Cox’s storytelling ability captured my heart. The guest speaker for the evening was Dan Clark, a renown author and speaker that held our attention with his motivational stories and humor.

IMG_5978 Flags
The 32 Country Flags Represented

Each competing country was honored with a person dressed in a flag of that country, then each country was recognized during the evening. The delightful evening ended with the lighting of the torch and a magnificent fireworks display.

Running concurrently throughout the week was our own Cribbage tournament with Lin and Jerry against Mary Beth and me. We played whenever we had free time and ended up playing about 22 games. The guys won with 14 wins to our 11, but they double skunked us Tuesday night after the Open Ceremony and that counted as 3 wins. We laughed and enjoyed the competition and the fun.

Wednesday morning we danced and enjoyed the awesome dancers in attendance, then we were free for the afternoon for a variety of health screenings, provided by the Senior Games. We danced Wednesday night again. One of the perks of attending the Senior Games is all the dancing.

That evening Steve and Lori Harris, the cuers and dear friends of ours, were inducted into the Hall of Fame for the Senior Games–so deserving!

Hall of Fame
Hall of Fame Recipients

Thursday morning was the celebratory brunch and medal ceremony–I was so nervous this year because the pressure was on after our first year’s performance.

It’s been hilarious over this past year as Lin and I have traveled to festival across the country because dancers knew we won and some solicited to join our square, if we needed someone!

The 2018 results are in: our square won a Gold medal for Mainstream with a down time of .32 seconds. Our square won a Silver medal for Plus with a down time of 8.75 seconds. And Lin and I won a Gold medal for the Random square with a down time of 8.73 seconds. We had dancers in our Random square from California, Washington, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

My Medals
My Three Medals – Yahoooooo!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Whew! How exciting! A big thank you goes out to Dave and Rose Marie Chapman for organizing the square dance competition!

More than anything, this event is about the people–the dancers–and the fun!

 


Are you 50 or older and would like to compete in the Senior Games? What sport do you play? Leave a comment below.


Visit my web site:  https://www.laradasbooks.com

Check out my Etsy Shop for Fall Specials, Larada’s Reading Loft

Visit the Senior Games web site: https://seniorgames.net

 

My Thoughts · square dance · Travel

How Do You Handle a Change of Plans?

Lin Driving In Front of Me Through Zion National Park

Today was an unusual day in the desert Southwest–rain and more rain. Heading towards St. George, Utah from Albuquerque, New Mexico for the Huntsman Senior Games,  we attempted to drive through Zion National Park in two 37-foot Class A motorhomes, each towing a car. Notice I said, “Attempted!”

Lin and I followed Jerry and Mary Beth Gilbreath all day yesterday and today. Up until this point, the trip had been uneventful–the way any veteran RVer likes. After our successful trip here last year and winning two gold medals in the square dance competition, we were jazzed to get our destination and sign in.

Driving along this morning, I was shocked when I saw the “Zion National Park” sign pass by because years ago I had driven through Zion with my ex in a smaller motorhome and it was tight fit–how could we do it today with these monstrosities and towing cars?

No warning signs said, “No big RV’s,” so I thought they must have changed the route–it had been over ten years ago. Things do change!

When we pulled up to the checkin station, the ranger curtly laid out the plan, “You have to unhitch the car, and someone drive it through. There are two tunnels. The first one, drive through as normal. At the second one, a ranger will stop the oncoming traffic, make it a one-way lane and you can drive safely down the middle. Do you understand the instructions?”

Lin took it all in and nodded his head. Our travel companions in the RV ahead of us had already pulled into a lot to unhitch, so we did the same. Talk about a change in plans–I now had to drive through Zion National Park with its winding roads, cars parked along the road and people walking from the cliffs back to their cars. Wow! What an adventure!

Jerry led the parade through Zion with Mary Beth following in their tow vehicle. Then Lin followed her and I brought up the rear.

Jerry in the Lead, Mary Beth in the Middle and then Lin

 

Lin Going Through the First Tunnel

 

Lin Making A Corner

What a gorgeous drive we had, winding our way through the red rocks, but I was sure that Lin and Jerry weren’t in agreement with me. I took pictures a long the way–our speed was extra slow so I had time.

The tight curves made you slow down. The road was lined with cars parked wherever they could and tourists walked back to their cars with cameras bouncing with each step. Families, singles and couples relished the view of the majesty of this canyon–smiles and satisfied faces everywhere.

I felt my God in this adventure–I have had a strong attraction to the Colorado Plateau for years and all of its expression of grandeur from Zion to Capitol Reef and the Grand Canyon–breathtaking vistas of hoodoos at Bryce Canyon and the curvatures of Arches and Bridges. So this was a respite for me in the midst of the chaotic world of today.

God often touches my life like this–an event that could be stressful and negative turned into a peaceful time of admiring His handiwork. I guess the years have tempered me to not react with a gasp and screech, “Oh, no” when there’s a sudden change like this. As a smile crept slowly across my lips and heart, I bowed my head thankfully and said, “OK, God! I’m ready for another adventure.”


Being flexible helps when you travel. Share one of your travel plans that suddenly changed.


Visit my web site:  https://www.laradasbooks.com

Check out the fall specials at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft

My Thoughts · Travel

What Did You Do For the 4th of July?

The Horner family had a change in plans. Because of the Spring fire in southeastern Colorado, all the roads into Cuchara, CO were closed–Cuchara has been our Independence Day destination for years.

So I remembered I got an email about WestFest in Red River, NM and Michael Martin Murphey would be there–doing a concert/dance at the MotherLode Bar the evening of July 4. I checked it out and there would be lots going on in that little mountain town—-that sounded like a great alternative.

One sad part for me was that Lin, my husband, was sick and couldn’t join us, so I updated our shenanigans to him with photos and texts all day and evening.

The morning of July 4, 2018, my brother, niece, her husband, their two sons and I left Branson, CO about 9:00 am, making sure we had our holiday wares to wear with us. My niece and her two boys and I love to dress up in our patriotic outfits!

IMG_2651
My Niece and I All Lit for the 4th of July!

We stopped in Raton, NM for gas and refreshments. Our hearts broke as we drove through the fire-ravaged mountains above Cimarron, NM because of the fire there earlier in the year. It came really close to the city and destroyed so much of the natural beauty in the mountains near Cimarron, but the town was spared.

We stopped in Eagle Nest, NM at my favorite jewelry store, Eye of the Eagle, and I added a T. C. (Tommy or Thomas Charlie) necklace to my collection of earrings and bracelet. People already lined the streets already at 11:00 am for the 2:00 pm parade–talk about anticipation!

We arrived in Red River, NM about noon and walked around the vendors in the park–seeing some unique handmade articles. We had a delicious late lunch at Texas Red’s Steak House.

Then we had fun shopping the stores and timed it to see the Cowboy Shoot Out at Frye’s Old Town. I loved the Native dancers from the Taos pueblo–I participated with the dancers and many others in the Friendship dance.

IMG_2591
Eagle Dancer from the Taos Pueblo

From that point, our afternoon became an adventure. During the Shoot Out and Native dancing, my brother spied the ski lift operating, so we headed that direction. We wanted to ride it up the mountain, but it closed just as we arrived. Change of plans again–we saw the Zip Ride and investigated that.

Four of us rode the ZipRide–my niece wasn’t too sure about it, but she did it anyway. She and I rode together, and her husband and oldest son rode together besides us in a separate ride. At the beginning, we screamed moving backwards up an incline, then it was full force forward with more screams and laughter. At the end, I felt like we were crashing through the building, but it stopped abruptly–whew! I loved it!! The price was reasonable at $10 each.

IMG_2603
The Zip Ride in Red River, NM–what a blast!

The two boys–one about eight years old and the other one about twelve-thirteen–were so patient with our shopping, so we turned the rest of the afternoon over to them at the Go Kart place. They had a blast there, and I got some really great photos.

IMG_2606
My Two Nephews Waiting to Ride!

We kicked back for a little while, and I had funnel cake and a corn dog–what a combination. We moved the truck closer to the MotherLode in case the kids wanted to crash early and investigated whether our two youngsters could go in–yes, they could. The bouncer at the door said, “It’s first come, first served,” but they had reserved almost all the tables around the dance floor for the VIP customers, people who paid more for the tickets. How disappointing! We ended up sitting on stools at the bar all night.

They had a bigger crowd than they anticipated, so they had to put 4 – 5 rows of chairs on the dance floor which made the dancing crowded.

Michael Martin Murphey and his band entertained us with old country and western songs and new ones–we enjoyed the old ones more. He had a Native flutist that resonated with my soul. Also a young singer sang and yodeled, “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart,” doing a fantastic job of the old standby.

IMG_2660
Michael Martin Murphey at the MotheLode in Red River, NM 

IMG_2676
A Close Up of Michael Martin Murphey 

IMG_2666
My Brother and Niece Doing the Horner Thing–DANCE!

 

We danced; we laughed; we celebrated the fourth of July like it should be–with family doing something you love!

And who knows–will it be Cuchara, CO next year or back to Red River?

flag of america
Photo by Sharefaith on Pexels.com

What did you do for the fourth of July this year? I’d be interested. Do you have annual traditions on this holiday?

Check out my web site: https://www.laradasbooks.com

Check out Summer Specials at my Etsy Shop: Larada’s Reading Loft